Thursday, September 30, 2010


I plucked the note from my pillow, smiling as I read the welcome message and reached for the origami crane resting on my pillow.

"It wished me prosperity and longevity," I told Adam over Cokes today. "Apparently cranes and turtles are thought to live 1000 and 10,000 years, respectively. So I don't know why I didn't get a turtle, but I did save my crane."

So on this day I noticed the details, for they accumulate to make up the big picture. I approve, for example, of the large bottles of shampoo and body wash in the bathroom, reducing the waste that comes from the tiny bottles filled with individual amounts of such products. I smoothed my fingers over the precise folding of the shower curtain on the bathtub and sighed with pleasure over the cool air that efficiently made my room completely comfortable.

I slept well last night, getting to bed rather late (after midnight) but waking at 5:00. I made this mistake of checking email and my brain clicked on, leaving me to dress three hours later and go to fetch breakfast before my first meeting.

I'm both impressed and ashamed that everyone speaks English. From the bus driver to the waitress who served me breakfast to the woman who cleaned my room, all have wonderful speaking skills and are unfailingly polite and lovely. I don't speak Japanese or Korean, French or German. My small memory of high school Spanish isn't serving me particularly well and I find myself hoping the Ones will embrace another language.

After attending morning meetings, I found myself with free time and returned to my room, delightfully convenient in its proximity. I stayed in my dress, hair clipped back, but curled into bed and fell deeply asleep. I dreamed in languages I don't understand, not unusual when my brain takes in the sounds but has no knowledge to process them. They emerge within scenes both familiar and strange, my neurons poking at the foreign noises and puzzling over their meaning.

I slept deeply through the afternoon, my head resting where the crane had waited last night, and missed my final meeting of the day. Dismayed when I looked at the clock, I realized that despite staying dressed, I was far too late to attend and spent a moment being deeply regretful before slipping back to sleep, lulled by the sound of a gentle rain outside my open windows and the gray light that bathed the nearby trees. After apologizing to my hosts and promising I'd be bright (and conscious) tomorrow for a busier day, I slipped into pajamas as Thursday comes to a quiet close.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Katie in Korea

Rule 1 - Never sleep through the beginnings of a migraine.
I remember rolling over and wincing at the pain in my right temple but was so tired that I let myself go back to sleep. By the time I was officially awake, the migraine had taken hold and my body - despite begging it to do otherwise - went into full revolt.

I took Advil. I took Tylenol PM. I sipped water. I stood in front of my window, shivering from the pain as I sweated in my 78 degree room, dipping my head so that the meager output of the air conditioner could cool my face.

I threw up, which I positively hate, and was panicked about who would give my presentation and how the hell I was ever going to get home if I was truly sick in a foreign country. I turned on the shower, but was too nauseated to get in. I continued to stumble between the bed, bathroom and window, finally bracing myself to chew and swallow one more Advil in the hopes that it would absorb before I had to vomit again. I realized the tile floor of the bathroom was cool as I sat in front of the fancy toilet and on my next trip, brought a pillow with me from the bed and curled up on the floor next to the shower.

I fell asleep while listening to the water and the Advil worked well enough that I was no longer wishing for the sweet relief for death. I slowly made my way toward the bed, wincing at the light before yanking the curtains firmly closed and slept some more.

Rule 2 - Always be prepared.
Having recovered enough to keep myself drugged and the migraine to an uncomfortable pressure rather than searing pain, I went with Adam to the local office. I was immediately asked to practice my presentation in front of the most important of individuals and his entire team. Apart from forgetting I'm supposed to carefully review the business card before shoving them in a folder, I did quite well.

Rule 3 - Have no shame about lack of chopstick proficiency.
"Would you like a fork?" one of the women asked as I stared at the silver chopsticks with resigned dismay. I immediately brightened and nodded and was able to eat my vegetables (oyster mushrooms are a little crunchy) and thin slices of beef as the broth used to cook them bubbled on the table.

In general, I found all my concerns to be unfounded. It was not difficult to enter the country, especially now that I'm familiar with international travel. People speak English very well, though it did help to be escorted by the local team as we navigated Seoul. And the food options are varied and Western options are generally available. Oh, and the coffee is excellent and plentiful.

In short, I smiled when walking around because I'd used a fish analogy last year when I was too nervous to make this trip. Turns out the big fish is more adorable than scary.

Rule 4 - Keep the camera handy.
Unsurprisingly, this trip was largely visual as I understand zero Korean. So I looked at pictures and relied on my colleagues for important translations. I tried mightily to slow the pace of my speaking, having a habit of chattering when I get excited or nervous.

It's lovely to look at though. Mountains in the distance, buildings scattered heavily over all available surfaces, friendly cartoon character signs warning me to do or not do something I couldn't understand, a river that ran under several bridges and a sense of what I've come to associate with Asia in my limited experience - sharp and bright technology in urban environments paired with serenely elegant ancient cultures. It's a fascinating mix.

Rule 5 - Don't take my travel advice.
It took me ~10 hours to accomplish a commute that should have taken 3. I had two flights, two 90 minute car rides and a layover that was short enough that I was forcing myself to calm down as I waited in line for immigration. (Fingerprints and photos and paperwork take time and I watched the clock with increasing panic I battled with deep breathing as my flight time inched ever closer.

I had continued to medicate myself through the trip, but feel remarkably good this morning as I sit in Japan. I'm adjusting to the time difference, in a hotel very close to where I'm working for the next two days and will see people from my group at home, which helps as we can talk to each other when the majority of people speak a language I don't understand.

As a prelude to my Japan posts, I do like this country. The brisk efficiency appeals to me greatly, but I do not like how the personal space shrinks to zero. Even on the plane as we were waiting to get off, I had someone pressed to my butt and someone else against the side of my breast. I know it's a cultural norm - we were all smooshed together in a huge human clump - but it makes me very uncomfortable. Otherwise, I'm happy and feeling very blessed to be here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

All Times (Approximately) Local

3:02AM - Katie's House
-- "Are you awake, Katie?" Dad asks and I sigh before responding in the affirmative. I dress in pre-selected clothes and go to make coffee.

4:22AM - Katie's Driveway
-- My car arrives with a friendly driver. I give kisses to Dad and dog and step into the first of many transportation vehicles.

6:00 AM - Large Airport
-- At the early hour, it is not yet busy. I walk through the lines with my suitcase, laptop bag, passport and boarding passes I printed at work.

7:52 AM - First Airplane
-- I have found my aisle seat, selected my first book and settled in to fly. I feel good - not nervous, not tired, just dreading the ordeal to come.

10:00 AM - LAX
-- I'm hungry yet I know the time change means it's still morning in SoCal. I wander around, determined to stretch my muscles and find a bar where I have a Diet Coke (#1) and bowl of soup.

12:15PM - Second Airplane
-- I have found my window seat on the 11 hour ride to Japan and am organizing my belongings accordingly. I have hurt myself trying to help an elderly woman place her heavy suitcase in an overhead bin and peeked out my window to frown at the wing. Consoling myself that there won't be much of a view at 35,000 feet, I close the shade.

After 1st Movie - Second Airplane
-- It's going reasonably well. I like the books I've read, both steamy romance novels, have work I wanted to do and enjoy that United uses real headphones instead of the buds that hurt the insides of my ears. I've had a snack, watched The Back-Up Plan (mediocre movie) and drank Diet Coke #2.

After 2nd Movie - Second Airplane
-- Growing a little weary. I watched The Joneses (liked it - at first, I thought it was a television show since I swear I've never heard of this movie) but am beginning to fidget in my seat. I fret for a moment, knowing there's no real escape, adjust the neck pillow (pink - from Brookstone) and try to relax.

After 3rd Movie - Second Airplane
-- I do not want to watch Iron Man 2. So I pull out a folder of documents and begin to review, feeling my brain kick in happily after being utterly physical on flights. Have you noticed, especially on long journeys - that life simplifies to 'eat, drink, potty, sleep, try to move around a little and not go insane'? So it was good to engage.

After Finishing Work - Second Airplane
-- My head aches so I take a single Advil, wanting to ration the precious brown tablets and not grow immune if I really start to hurt later. I am bored. I want to be there already.

During Television Shows - Second Airline
My watch is out of battery - if that's not already been clear - and I'm getting sleepy. And am very uncomfortable. And the two people between me and the aisle are sleeping, meaning I'm trapped by manners in my seat for the entire flight. I've not moved out of my chair once.

(More updates to come to finish this post - I have a meeting to take right now though!)
(Updated to Add...)

Beginning of Second Meal Service - Second Airplane
I have decided to get the turkey sandwich over the vegetables and rice, but would happily jump out of the plane rather than endure these last two hours. My muscles ache. I'm bored. And I want to be there and know I'm not particularly close. I drink Diet Coke #3.

Midway through Just Wright - Second Airplane
The movie is stopped as we prepare to land. I fidget and squirm until we're safely on the ground and grab my belongings to get off the blasted airplane.

4:00PM - Narita Airport, Tokyo
Due to the long flight and 14 hour time difference, I am now in the future and it's late afternoon on Monday in a very humid Tokyo airport. There are three stalls in the bathroom - two Western-style toilets and one Japanese squat toilet. No one is using the latter and despite my rather urgent need, I decide to wait for a stall where I can sit rather than squat.

I find a seat near my new gate after clearing security for my next flight, immediately decide I'm tired of sitting and rise to wander the Duty Free shops. The air conditioning works better here so I linger among the gifts and scents and treats.

I remember I need yen and see a currency exchange. I give the girl $100 and receive about 8500 (there may be another zero there - I can't remember the magnitude of the exchange rate) in return. I tuck the bills and coins into my laptop bag and trudge back to the gate.

I think I see Adam so I wave. Then I get embarrassed because it may not have been him so I bury my nose in a book. He says hello a moment later and I smile at him and ask if he thinks it's hot in here.

He agrees and offers me entry into the international lounge. Thinking of free water and cooler temperatures, I agree. Once inside, I look around and decide I'm unimpressed - I thought the lounge would be more...luxurious? Instead, this appears similar to a lobby in the Holiday Inn Express. Which is fine, of course, not not the decadence I expected. Still I get a Diet Coke (#4), and settle in the crowded room.

We return to the gate to join boarding lines. In the lounge, Adam was able to upgrade me to an exit row so I look forward to the extra space.

5:40PM - Final flight to arrive in Korea
In seat 30H, I realize I am two steps from the bathrooms that eluded me across the Pacific and have tons of leg room. I do, however, have to stow all my luggage overhead so I have no books or personal screen to amuse myself.

After leveling off at cruising altitude, I rise to go to the restroom. Because I can.

I've filled out my immigration and customs forms, then returning them to my bag. I go to the restroom again.

I am exhausted. It's nearing 5AM at home and I want to sleep. Desperately. Despite my best efforts to remain awake, my eyes won't focus and I keep nodding off, only to jerk painfully awake at any noise or shift in pressure.

There's a person in a mask! He means to do me harm! I look closer and realize it's a woman with her hair in a barrette. I shiver, sigh and try to rest again.

There's a spider on me! A white spider! I look closely, in horror of course, and realize it's a spot on the carpet. Sigh again when I realize my vision is unreliable in my state of exhaustion.

After one more trip to the bathroom, we land and I grab my luggage, blinking at the way people push to leave the aircraft when it's not yet time for their row to go. Anarchy, I think, a little worried.

I see Adam waiting for me and join me, following along in the mass of people as we ride escalators, move swiftly down hallways and ride on trains. I don't like crowds in general and I'm exhausted so I begin to feel panicky. I remind myself to breathe.

Adam looks at me in concern as we continue to move past quarantine. "I am a salmon," I tell him, meaning that I am following my fellow passengers dutifully and am also fine with being eaten by a bear or other large predator at the moment. "Be at one with the salmon," I remind myself, bracing my hand on the rail of the escalator before scurrying to join an immigration line.

We wait for a taxi to get to the hotel.

We arrive at the hotel and I'm completely useless. I've lost my credit card after paying the driver, despite the 10 steps between him and the lobby. I try to fill out the form I'm given but can barely answer the simple questions. Upon receiving my key, I drag myself behind Adam to our rooms on the 14th floor.

Admiring my room absently, I undress and realize I need a shower. I step under the rainshower in the corner of my pretty bathroom and try to get clean.

I swallow a sleeping pill after realizing I'm wide awake after my shower and email check. I lie on the hard mattress, thinking it's heavenly nonetheless and close my eyes to rest. The room is too warm, but I'm soon unconscious and don't notice.

Stay tuned for stories about how I vomited in my pretty bathroom, ate 2 meals with forks (yay!) and got presents after my presentation (which should so always happen).

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ready! (Almost...)

Apart from bras and a watch, I am packed.

The lawn is mowed and laundry is finishing as I write.

Dad arrives today - we'll need to grocery shop and print out a couple of pages I need for the trip. Oh, and get cash. He should then be all set for 10 days of housesitting.

My out of office reply is drafted, complicated by the fact that most of my group is also traveling right now so it's hard to direct urgent requests anywhere. Yet, "We're all away - hang in there and wait." doesn't seem professional.

I have a small notebook containing every detail of travel and business meetings. It took me nearly an hour but I know exactly how I'm getting places and what to do once I arrive. I'm much more relaxed now.

I planned my trip to Europe earlier this year and it was grueling. Beyond wonderful, of course, but I was on a plane and in a different hotel daily and working 10 hour days in addition to keeping up with email from home. Having the Asia team organize this trip means that I have a couple of meetings each day, all transportation arranged and luxurious hotels booked. (Some of them even have forks! I'm not so good with chopsticks.) The point is that I'm pretty relaxed about the schedule - there's time to rest and look around!

My Tokyo guidebook is in my suitcase. And both camera batteries are fully charged.

After telling Adam I was fine on my own and he should do whatever he wanted, we're on the same flight to Korea and staying at the same hotels in Japan. I enjoy my boss very much and look forward to exploring Tokyo with him and admit I'm relieved he'll be with me in Seoul. Still, contrary individual that he is, I know had I begged him to arrange his trip around me, he'd have done something else. (Because when I was terrified of Asia last year, he did just that. He's a silly goose.)

While I've been resting and practicing being as absolutely comfortable as possible in preparation for the 4+12+3 hours I'll be on planes, I've been reading new blogs. This made me laugh until I could barely breathe. I highly recommend Hyperbole and a Half.

So tomorrow I leave - very early Sunday morning. And I arrive late Monday evening. While traveling halfway around the world still strikes me as strange and somewhat terrifying, I'm proud to announce that I'm mostly excited. Yay for growing up!

Thursday, September 23, 2010


"You have a beautiful smile," she commented when I greeted her and I blinked before offering my thanks and finding my seat.

It turns out I talk more than I listen and am more emotional than logical. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has read a post or two. The saving grace is that I score very well in terms of being adaptable! I can adjust my style to match more analytical or gentle souls.

My problem is I sometimes forget to do so.

I resist the need to roll my eyes when someone states, sometimes rather awed, "So I'm not alone in feeling that way."

"Read a blog," I think, not unkindly, for that's one of the safest, easiest ways to establish that there are people very similar to you in problems and fears and annoying habits and lovable traits. Perhaps you find different characteristics in different places, but I'm a fan of 'there are no original ideas' philosophy.

People are special, of course, in the way they combine traits and react to stresses and so I'm trying to mature in such a way that I remember not everyone wants to be treated the way I do. I am too impatient and need to relax and let people be - let things happen.

So whether from answered prayers or sexy distractions, I've been having a good week after a tough Monday. I'm nearly packed for my trip and have semi-frantically been finishing things at work while very-lazily making sure I'm rested and happy before my halfway-around-the-world flights.

I'll admit to being rather excited about posting pictures and interesting stories while I travel though! Stay tuned.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Avocado & Shampoo

When I have bad days, I promise myself chips and guacamole on the way home. (I went to get some at lunch.)

When I have terrible days, I come home and lose the work clothes on my way to the shower. I stand there until I feel a bit better - more peaceful and settled and serene. (I came home at 2:30 and my hair was wet by 2:32.)

I re-worked the same simple paperwork three times before it got accepted. That was mildly frustrating.

The headset to my phone was missing - I was shocked at the theft and, honestly, brokenhearted. I love that headset!

Instead of getting a presentation that was ready, I got a set of ideas for a talk that was due in 30 minutes. So I scrambled to find something that would work, growing flustered and freaking out.

While flustered, a collaborator called and asked me a difficult question. I answered honestly. And he flipped out - called a superior 4 levels above me and left me literally shaking with horror. That triggered a series of phone calls to various bosses and colleagues to try to prepare for the fall-out.

Feeling terribly guilty because I screwed up, I went to work with PrettyHair and almost cried when she was mean to me.

"Why?" I said to Adam when he patted my hand after I'd gone to him to sulk (and told him he should probably be preparing to replace me after this morning).

Courtesy of the fibroid, some periods are awful - this is one of them. I therefore felt crampy and gross and hyper-sensitive in addition to all the other crap.

Full of guacamole and sudsy in my basement shower, I took deep breaths and focused on the sound of the water around me. I am employed. (For now.) I am healthy. (Apart from my uterus.) My family is well. (Except Brother just lost another job.) I was able to leave work early. (Though I have a 2 hour phone call starting at 8PM.)

At this point, I'm calling it a loss and praying for tomorrow.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Just do what I say!

What I learned in a whole day of didactic training and break-out practice sessions, is that the trick to 'making people do what I want when they don't want to and it's not nice to yell' is understanding said people. We talked a great deal about listening (rather than waiting quietly for my turn to talk, which is apparently different). Practiced asking questions. Being relaxed and open to a person's background and stresses and motivations.

It is likely a bad sign that I left before the class was officially over, so bored and annoyed that I couldn't cope until the bitter end. Listening is inefficient! And I'm busy! And easily distracted. I like being constantly productive and while I like to think that I'd stop and smell the roses if some nice man sent some to me, I'm not sure that's true.

Still, there were some relevant lessons.

3-part opening
"I've prepared material on Thing That Matters (hence, I'm totally ready and don't need to waste time), but if you'd like to tell me about Stuff You Like (See? I'm pretending I care about your point of view. You like me more now, right?), we can start our discussion with Stuff. (I'm even willing to devote my attention to your topic - a clear benefit to you.)"

Now here is where I struggle. I have a horrible habit of being too far in my head (really!) so I interrupt or being to debate far too early.

[Small tangent -

Sibling is always late, but has been remarkably prompt in the past month or so.

"What happened?" I finally asked when she walked in a meeting a whole 30 seconds before it was due to start.

"I was traveling," she said, immediately understanding my question, "and figured there would be insane traffic and no parking and I knew I needed gas in the rental car. A friend told me to plan on 30 minutes to get there, but I was nervous so I left an hour before my appointment.

"And it was so much easier! There was traffic, but it didn't bother me. I had to search for parking, but I had time to do that. So instead of being stressed and distracted with what excuse I was going to use for being late or what parts of my presentation I'd cut to save time, I was all proud of myself for being early!"

"I always am, too," I told her fondly.

"So I got there, got coffee, put on lipstick and was exactly on time and comfortable. And I realized that being late doesn't just inconvenience other people - it adds stress to me! So I'm trying not to do it anymore."

- end tangent, point being that listening benefits me in that I understand how to manipulate you to do what I want. Therefore, I will try to do it.]

Having decided I'm all about the listening, I want to do it well.

  • Ask questions. It will keep me engaged and focused and make sure I'm getting the information I need to win my argument. I especially like "Elaborate on that a little more," and "Why do you say that?"
  • Confirm the message. It continues to shock me that I still can hear what I want to hear. Or walk out of meetings to talk with other attendees and realize we walked away with completely different conclusions.
  • Only understand. Do not offer solutions to any problems they divulge. Don't argue points - it may make them defensive. Focus only on taking information in and making sense of it.
Plan and Execute my Strategy
OK, so now I get it - I have an understanding of your world such as it is. I can develop my plan of attack. I'm going to be clear and concise and try to answer the most critical of your potential objections with factual information. I will use professional expertise, examples and statistics. I will speak slowly and watch carefully for your reactions.

One of the biggest pieces here was that I need to articulate a benefit to you, not just to me. If it sucks to be you in my situation, then I need something you can believe in - it's good for the business/academic institution or children or preserves the ice caps for the polar bears.

I wanted to spend more time on the tricks here - and there are some - in terms of presenting information in a way that's most comfortable for people. One example - when asked a question that requires thought, many people will break eye contact in order to think. I'm going to watch for the very first movement of your eyes.

  1. You look up and to the right. You're a visual learner. I'm going to use graphics or visual references. (After I listen to your answer! I'm a good listener now, remember?)
  2. You look down and to the left. You're an auditory learner. I can give you a list of facts and you'll get it.
  3. You look down, but off in the distance. You're in kinesthetic learner. I should give you something to do, but I can also draw you a picture or tell you a story so you can pretend you're doing it in your sweet, little kinesthetic mind.
Handle Objections
More freaking listening.

People who do this well take notes. It helps them not to argue while they listen, ask questions and make sure to understand the emotion or hidden objections behind what's vocalized.

Clarify again. "If we can solve Your Stupid Problem - and I know that we haven't yet, but if we could - is there anything else that would prevent you from doing what I want?

This also uses 'we' which is supposed to make us feel like a team rather than adversaries. (But I'm only on your team if you do what I want.)

Sometimes you'll have to refuse. If you are saying no...
  • Don't dawdle. Let people know quickly so they can adjust or find other alternatives.
  • Explain why you're saying no, but don't blame someone else. (This is especially important in Industry - it's way better for you to be annoyed with Katie than Industry. We have lots more people we can send if you just think I suck.)
  • If there is room for negotiation, make that clear. I like the instructor's comment -
    "No, here's why... If you (...), then I (...).
Tips for "No, here's why... If you (...), then I (...).
- Sometimes the no can be implied. But do explain why I can't agree with what you said as is.
- Condition upon you doing something I want. (If you)
- Only then will I concede some other point that is equal in value but more attractive for me to offer. (then I)

Assuming we both remain on board and I haven't tried to stab you with a pen because this is taking so ridiculously long, we need to be clear about what we've agreed and any remaining open items. Next steps (hopefully where and when you start doing what I want) are especially important.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I am attending a conference on leadership and soon get to attend a course I have decided to call "How to make people do what I want when they don't want to and I'm not supposed to yell."

I am quite excited about this - and have long been, actually - as...
1. I love it when people do what I want.
2. They sometimes don't want to do what I want.
3. Yelling is generally mean.
4. Psychological manipulation is awesome.

One thing I love about Industry is that the mandatory learning is often related to fascinating topics. No more of 'Advanced Coding in Matlab!' Instead, I take 'how to screw people over and have them thank you!' or 'will you buy this even though you wanted something else?'

Additionally, the instructors are delightful. All they do is teach - no additional service or research - and they're amazing at it. Encouraging and engaging, they have a range of activities and a way of making messages memorable.

Now if only they offered a 'how to do assignments more than an hour before they're due' or 'Be energetic on only 5 hours sleep!'

Sunday, September 12, 2010


We played Kidz Bop Greatest Hits while Little and Smallest Ones jumped in the bouncy castle in the back yard and I beamed over the brilliance of my birthday gifts. A new song started and Brother and I, in one of those perfect moments of unity, looked at each other and began to laugh. I giggled until my stomach hurt, finally able to explain to Mom that the remake of this particular song was rather hysterical in its insensitivity.

"It's about a guy who's depressed," Brother explained, wiping tears from his face.

"'Where is the moment we needed the most?'" I quoted Daniel Powter's lyrics and paused to giggle. "And the kids in the background - happy as can be - shout 'Yeah!' Then it's 'You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost,' and the kids go 'Woo!'"

"They're so psyched that he's sad," Brother choked out, laughing again, and Mom finally joined us in one of those lovely moments where I know you have to be there to get it, but is too perfect not to record.

My performance on my date this afternoon was nothing short of dismal. We spent the afternoon in the sunshine, looking at and listening to things, but I was tired and got overheated and queasy and started to act like a brat. (I stayed silent or disagreed with what he said. I showed no enthusiasm for anything.) I tried to temper it but, well, perhaps I am kind of a twit because I couldn't keep it completely under wraps. He was nothing short of lovely - buying me water and searching for shade so I suffered through another hour and before asking if we could leave. I apologized for being a baby about the heat and we chatted as he brought me home.

I curled up after putting on pajamas and washing my face and let my shoulders slump. I was exhausted from the trip home and back and lack of sleep last night. I was sick - head aching and stomach churning - and couldn't get cool enough. I hadn't eaten since breakfast, having refused offers of dinner because I thought I'd throw up. And I'd ruined yet another chance of getting to know someone better! And this week is going to be busy and tough at work. And I think mosquitos bit me while I was outside. So I might get West Nile virus. And die.

So, as is apparently my habit, I started to sing Bad Day in my head. But instead of sinking into the fog of self-pity/loathing, I thought of kids dancing around and shouting "Yeah!" and cheering between every line.

And I smiled without meaning to.

Feeling a bit more peppy, I had some cheese and crackers and sipped Diet Pepsi. I came downstairs and put my feet up and thought about how I'd seen my nieces and received lots of kisses and cuddles. I got to talk with my parents and spend time with a man I enjoy. I have a job I love, even when it is stressful, and tonight I can sleep in my perfect bed with my piles of pillows.

So, well, Woo!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Date (-e +ing?)

"Am I," Adrian asked when I answered the phone at 7PM, "um, interrupting anything?"

I laughed and shook my head, telling him I was alone apart from my dog and cat, and asked what was up. We chatted about work until the pizza I ordered arrived and I ate 2 slices while watching television.

"I could have had a date," I had confided with no small amount of happy surprise, "but I left home before 6AM and worked late and had to take Sibling home anyway."

Telling Adam about Sunday's departure-from-normal event was spurred by a bit of nervousness. I'd arrived early and decided the Blackberry Messenger with my boss was as good a distraction as any. I'd told Sibling as well when she asked about my weekend, grinning at her expression of fascinated delight.

"It was lovely," I told her. "Easy and fun - it's the only first date I can remember where I came home feeling good rather than exhausted or disappointed." I paused, wondering if that could possibly be true and shrugging when I decided it actually was. I've long accepted I'm simply not very good at this.

I was disappointed that I had to turn down tonight's offer, though I knew I was too busy and tired and cranky to be good company. But when the phone rang after I'd taken a shower, I chirped a hello and settled in to talk, feeling somehow refreshed and energetic again.

Over an hour later, we'd mapped out potential plans for this weekend, talked and laughed.

I like him.

It seems as though he likes me.

And I'm completely lost as to what happens next - it's supposed to be I like him and he's flattered but uninterested or he likes me and I want to like him back but just don't. Instead, I find myself smiling over new email or pouncing on a ringing phone.

And even as it's rather wonderful - and I keep reminding myself to just relax and enjoy it - it's too abnormal for me to completely stop waiting for the flaw that means I'll end up hurt and alone again. But even as I try to protect my heart against it, I've ordered myself not to look for it.

I like him.

And it seems as though he likes me.

And that is a delightful change of pace.

Monday, September 06, 2010


I was drifting off to sleep last night, my sliding door open at the head of my bed to enable cool breezes to slip over my skin and clean sheets, when there was a bright flash of light.

I sighed, snuggling into my pillows, and decided someone had just taken a photo of me sleeping or that I had a few seconds before my precious pup left her spot behind my knees to hide. The sky soon rumbled ominously and I reached to pat her side before she jumped from the bed and went to hide in the bathtub. Yawning, I too got up and followed her to the guest bath, flipping on the switch for the fan to drown out the storm. I closed the shower curtain to further protect her, shook my head over my quirky pet and climbed back in bed.

It's been a beautiful weekend - cool temperatures and random storms enabling lazy naps and rambling daydreams. I flitted into work a couple of times to muddle through problematic projects. I battled a vicious headache yesterday, but managed to take a long walk before it struck. I made soup - a sausage lentil that was spicy and wonderful - and made a couple of phone calls.

I was, save dog and cat, completely alone and content.

And then I was invited on a date.

So I got ready, agonized over shoes and decided, per his suggestion, to treat it as a friendly meeting with good conversation. Given that it had been 2 years since I'd attempted an evening out with a man who didn't work in my building, I wasn't nearly as nervous as I expected.

I had a mere moment where I wanted to hide in the corner of the bathtub with Chienne rather than climbing in my car and driving to the restaurant.

But I had a lovely time - it was good conversation in a relaxed environment with someone I sincerely liked. So while I don't think I'll be crushed if he doesn't call, I rather hope he does.

If nothing else, it was a pleasant re-introduction to the dating world. Which is more than I expected when I fell asleep last night.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Oh, no. You didn't.

"Hi," I chirped when a man appeared in my office door. I checked my calendar and followed him down the hall when he invited me (and I had time) for a meeting.

I sat politely while he outlined the problem and smiled across the table at the four scientists who'd gathered. I smoothed my pretty skirt over my knees and tucked a lock of hair behind my ear and cocked my head while I asked what we could do.

"Nothing!" the man on the end said and I frowned at his emphatic tone. It may be worth noting that he had interviewed me at one point and I didn't get that job. Still, he's a bright guy and it was definitely the wrong role for me so there's never been any tension.

Well, until today.

"Nothing?" I asked, raising an eyebrow and keeping my eyes on his warningly.

"It is what it is," Organizer said and I spared him a brief glance before returning to Interviewer who was already shaking his head.

"It is as it should be!" he insisted and I clenched my teeth in irritation before reminding myself to relax and listen. "We designed it that way! So I don't know what this complaint means, but it's wrong!"

"Wrong?" I asked, realizing I'd lowered my eyebrows into what was becoming a glare while his three colleagues remained quiet. I glanced at one of them - we've worked together recently and I like him - and he nodded at me.

"We could," Likable began and Interviewer firmly rebuked him, even putting his hand out to stop the flow of words.

"It's correct the way it is," he said.

"It is not," I replied briskly. "There is an expert user - an important customer - who said it was crap, frankly. And you believing it isn't doesn't mean the expert isn't correct."

"You people," he accused, waving his arm and me and Organizer, "approved this three years ago!"

"Look," I said, leaning forward and reaching full attack mode, "I didn't work here three years ago. And whoever approved it then was either misguided or incorrect. That does not mean this is acceptable."

I leaned back, took a breath and returned my attention to Likable. "How do we fix it?"

I listened as he explained options and showed proof of concept. I talked with Organizer to draft a message to our expert and to talk through potential solutions. And though I remained outwardly calm, I seethed that Interviewer wanted to keep this information from me.

I outrank you, asshole, I thought as I finally walked from the room. And the next time you cross me, I'm only giving you one chance to back down before I go into full scale "don't you dare fuck with me" mode.

I considered it as I sat at my desk, turning to stare out my window for a moment while I took a few breaths. It must, I decided, be annoying to see someone that you rejected to be an underling end up being a very visible, highly paid manager who has a better office than you do. I am not a jerk about it though - I work really hard and I understand different perspectives. If someone is respectful and open to ideas, I naturally return that behavior.

But when someone pushes, I push back. And I often win. (But I'm still annoyed.)