Saturday, April 29, 2006

Life, According to Plan

I don’t know whose, plan, because it’s sure not mine!

I’m in South Bend/Chicago this weekend, and then it’s off to DC on Monday for the week. Just about every detail of these trips has changed, other than that Caron and John are, in fact, getting married in a few hours.

[Hi, DC people! Let's pretend that I have my shit together and I totally sent you an e-vite for happy hour like two weeks ago, ok?'ll be Thursday. Um, somewhere. Around happy hour time. Hope you can make it!]

A voice mail message I left for Steve earlier this week, regarding our Sunday afternoon/evening plans sounded like this:

Hi, it’s me. Just calling to remind you I’ll be in town this weekend. Still don’t know what our Sunday afternoon looks like, and Traveling Companion isn’t sure he can make it, so maybe I’ll be free for the afternoon and maybe it’ll just be dinner. So, basically, I have no information for you. Don’t call me back because I won’t be able to deal with this until Friday. I’ll call you from the airport or something.

At the airport yesterday morning, I changed my flight from Chicago to DC, my flight from DC back to Sacramento, and attempted to cancel my flight from Chicago to Sacramento, but the nice woman from Northwest Airlines told me they couldn’t leave it open as a one-way trip, so unless I was canceling the entire trip (no! please no! I’m sitting at the gate waiting for my plane to Chicago!) I’d need to call back after I got to Chicago.

When I got to Minneapolis, (my layover on the way to Chicago) Traveling Companion officially bailed on the trip. Bah. Oh well, not having to entertain someone for the weekend leaves more time for my two favorite pastimes -- working and working out, both of which I’ll be able to do at the hotel.

Since there was no longer a need to coordinate schedules, I set off to get on an earlier flight into Chicago. Success! I love the people at Northwest -- I believe that’s the first time standby has ever worked out for me. (Oddly enough, I think I read that they were rated one of the worst airlines to fly, but I’ve had relatively few problems with them.) I got to Chicago and had to change my rental car reservation to accommodate all those other schedule changes, but at last I was on my way to South Bend.

Even my body is messing with my plans. Headed to Chicago, I fell asleep while the plane was still sitting at the gate, as usual, but woke up for no apparent reason, before the flight attendant even told us we could use our portable electronic devices. I believe my body was trying to tell me something. Namely, "Woman, you have already slept for three hours today! Don’t you realize you’ve filled your sleeping quota? How can you expect me to sleep more?!?!?!"

Steve and I caught up with each other to pin down those elusive Sunday plans. He’s now booked for the afternoon, as am I.* But the requisite dinner-paid-for-by-your-big-sister-when-she’s-in-town is on.

*In Minneapolis I discovered I’d won a deadline of Tuesday (preferably morning) for a work project that just hasn’t gotten the attention it needs from me. Given that I’m spending most of Monday on a plane and in meetings, this attention-getting will have to occur Sunday.

[To the work people who know about this blog and read it, Hi! Yes, I’ve worked for an entire week straight, barely stopping to sleep, and yes, it’s my weekend away, and yet -- look at that -- I’m still working! Anyone want to trade jobs??? Too bad my bosses don’t know about this blog. I think they’re catching on to the all-work-all-the-time nature of my life, though.]

I hear there’s some college or something in South Bend...maybe I’ll go crash the library there to get my work done.

But for now, I'm off to a wedding. Caron and John have been together for almost five years, and will now commit to seventy-five more. At least some things stay the same.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

This Installment of Incoherent Babbling Brought to You Today by the Numbers Three, Sixteen Bajillion, and the Letter F

Three -- as in, the number of hours I slept last night. The forecast for the rest of the week: more of the same.

I will not freak out. I will not freak out. I will not freak out.

Sixteen Bajillion -- the number of tasks I have left to accomplish before leaving on two back-to-back trips that have me away from here for ten days straight.

I will not freak out. I will not freak out. I will not freak out.

F -- I trust you can figure out what that one’s for.

I will not freak out. I will not freak out. I will not freak out.

Zero -- the number of brain cells functioning today, as evidenced by the following anecdotes.

Leaving my office for a meeting, I grabbed a bottle of water and temporarily set it on my desk. I left the office, got to the building’s front door and realized I’d forgotten my badge. Returned to desk for badge; departed again. Halfway across the parking lot I realized I didn’t have my water, despite having had two opportunities to grab it. Oh well, I’m not going back a second time. I got to the driveway and realized that all of the materials I’d read in preparation for this meeting were not, in fact, in the file folder in my bag, but instead were sitting on my dining room table. Great. Is there anything else I am missing??? Oh yes, how about A PEN. Hello? You’re going to a meeting and you don’t even take a pen? I managed to find one hiding at the bottom of my bag, but that was sheer dumb luck.

I’m happy to report that the meeting itself went far better than the five minutes immediately preceding it, but it did not inspire much confidence for the rest of my day.

I will not freak out. I will not freak out. I will not freak out.

Sadly, I was right. Even better was this afternoon when I ran an errand downtown. I pulled into a parking spot and took note of the fact that there was a parking meter there that I needed to feed. Errand over, I returned to the car and spotted something on my windshield. A ticket? The hell, people, this is a totally legal spot! And I certainly haven’t exceeded the one hour time limit!

I swear, I was not trying to cheat the City of Sacramento out of its 50¢ -- I forgot to put a couple of quarters in the meter. The parking meter that I noticed as I parked the car. With the quarters I keep stashed in the glove compartment for this very purpose. Forgot. In the twenty seconds it took me to roll up the windows and grab the items I needed to copy. Yeah.

I will not freak out. I will not freak out. I will not freak out.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

New Mantra

I will not freak out. I will not freak out. I will not freak out.

I'd love to tell you all about it, but that would be breaking the cardinal rule of blogging: Thou Shalt Not Discuss Work on Thy Blog.

I will not freak out. I will not freak out. I will not freak out.

I had two rather entertaining experiences in one 24-hour period. (Ok, maybe not so entertaining, as my judgment is severely impaired due to extreme sleep deprivation, but two work-related experiences that I can safely share with the Internet.)

First, apropos of nothing, I said to my colleague, "I quit." The look of sheer terror that crossed his face...priceless. I meant something like "I want to quit this project, I want to quit thinking about it, I want to quit worrying about it, I want to quit spending time and energy on it" and he thought I meant "I'm leaving this job, effective today," which would certainly be cause for panic. While I hadn't really considered that second option, I think I could be easily persuaded.

I will not freak out. I will not freak out. I will not freak out.

Also, I had someone say to me, "I really admire your work ethic, but don't you think life would be better if you lightened up a little?"

Number one, if I had a dollar for every time someone suggested I lighten up, I'd never need to work again. Two, I've been hearing that my whole life and I will lighten up when I am GOOD AND READY, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, SO YOU CAN JUST SHOVE OFF. Ahem.

I will not freak out. I will not freak out. I will not freak out.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

In Awe

Today is my parents' 32nd wedding anniversary. THIRTY-TWO YEARS.

They got married in a lovely little hippie wedding* held on a Friday night, with one attendant each, and a short invite list. (Well, as short as an invite list can be when you have eight or nine siblings.) The reception was held at a friend's house and catered by various friends with foodstuffs purchased from the grocery store, beer in cans and a punchbowl that contained more than Hawaiian Punch, as a six-year old Uncle David discovered. In a word: Low-key.

*Not so hippie that it didn't involve a church and a Catholic priest, though. Let's not get carried away.

As a child I was convinced my wedding would be The Party of the Century. You know, because that's what weddings are about, really. I may have picked out some poofy dresses from the J.C. Penney catalog for all eight of my bridesmaids. And the matching parasols. (Don't blame me! It's not my fault that 80's fashion was so hideous!!!!) I'm pretty sure my anticipated reception featured an ice sculpture or a champagne fountain or some other expensive display of non-functional excess. My parents' wedding, it was not.

Now guess what my plans look like?

(And by "plans" I mean, "random musings in my head when I'm at someone else's wedding or hearing about the planning process." Not "I have everything charted out right here in this expandable file folder, just look for the tabs that say 'dress,' 'invite list,' 'dinner menu,' etc." But if it would help, I'd be happy to put something together for you, you know, just in case.)

Thirty-two years? I don't think I could do it, I said to a friend.

How long do you think you'd last?

You're assuming it's a non-zero number??? Ha!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Sacred Ritual

It's days like today that I wish we could just schedule a family conference call.

I called Mom and Dad; didn't reach them. I called Liz; voice mail. Steve called Liz; voice mail. Steve called me and actually got through. While on the phone, Liz returned his call. Liz and I talked later. Mom and Dad called half an hour after that, with news from the extended family. Liz had talked to them briefly yesterday, so I skipped most of what we talked about and gave them The Steve Update, since he was going to be at rehearsal the rest of the night. I was going to actually talk about me (something I never do) but then my cell phone exploded. Ok, not really, but the thing got quite a workout today. I should give it a day off.

Easter, like Christmas, comes with its own traditions. Namely, we go to Sandy & Dave's for Easter brunch. Growing up, all those references to an Easter ham were lost on us kids. Who are those crazy people that only eat ham for Easter? And get together in the evening??? I mean, sure we have ham...along with bacon and sausage and it all goes right here on the plate next to the pancakes and eggs made-to-order.

[For all the years we've done Easter brunch, with plenty of fresh-squeezed orange juice, we have never once had mimosas. I would like to know who dropped that ball on that tradition. My Easter brunches will feature mimosas. Or straight champagne, if you like. Who am I to tell you how to consume your liquor?]

Our church obligations are typically fulfilled by attending Easter Vigil (also known as Longest Mass Ever, with the Possible Exception of a State Funeral) on Saturday night. Years and years of attendance mean I can tell you the creation story, as written in Genesis, from memory. "Evening came, and morning followed: the third day." My favorite part, though, is the Litany of the Saints, which is half-sung, half-chanted and reminds me of how mass was celebrated for centuries. Only, you know, without the Latin. Each of us is mentioned in the Litany, including a line that goes, "Elizabeth and Catherine, pray for us." My name should really be first, but they got it 95% right, so I'll forgive them.

I went to the first service at my church this morning and it was weird. I knew it would be different, since I'm accustomed to the Easter Vigil readings and not so much with the Easter Morning readings, but weirder still was that There Was No Singing. None. A fact that Steve had an equally hard time wrapping his mind around. "No singing? But that's what Easter mass is for! The singing!" (And maybe something about the risen Christ? But definitely singing.) This conversation took place on his way home from mass.

Me: You went to mass today?
Steve: Yeah, well, it's Easter.
Me: I know, went to mass today?
Steve: Yes, Kate. It's the holiest day of the year, you know.
Me: I know, but since when do you go to mass? Or are you just doing your part to be the best darn mediocre Catholic out there?*
Steve: Something like that. You can't really be a Christmas-and-Easter Catholic if you skip Easter. That's like, half the days.

*The back story: As Steve was preparing for confirmation, with me as his sponsor, we discussed the role the Church would play in his adult life. He admitted that maybe he didn't agree with all of the Church's teachings and wouldn't be going to mass every week, but asserted that he'd be "the best darn mediocre Catholic out there." Which is more than can be said for a lot of people the Church has confirmed. Or that we're related to.

But even more important than "Did you attend church?" is this question: Did you do brunch today? Because it's not Easter without brunch.

Me: Eh, I wasn't going to, but then it felt weird when I got home from church and there was no brunch. So I made a coffee cake.

Liz: No. Well, yes, I guess. We do breakfast a lot on the weekends, and today was one of those days. So, I guess we had Easter brunch, but The Boy's family stuff was yesterday.

Steve: Yup. I bought the ham yesterday, and have hash browns. I'm stopping at the store now for eggs, milk and cinnamon rolls.

Mom & Dad: Of course! We were busy eating pancakes when you called earlier. Sorry about that.

And what about you? Did you have Easter brunch?

Friday, April 14, 2006

If Compassion Is the Basis of All Morality, then We All Should Really Start Praying for My Eternal Soul

My Evil Safeway has a Starbucks nestled in it, right near the front door, which makes it convenient for those times when I haven't managed to make coffee before leaving the house. (And by "convenient" I mean "slow service and sucky baristas are better than no caffeine at all.")

Last week I stopped at the Evil Safeway and found myself at the end of a rather long, slow-moving line. As I was waiting, I spotted a man drinking tea and eating his breakfast of what looked to be cooked chicken and a baguette at one of the little round tables near the coffee counter. His general appearance was unkempt and I couldn't help but wonder if he is homeless. I tried to look for signs to confirm or deny my suspicion. At one point he stood up to adjust his jacket, and I noticed that his hands were definitely swollen and extremely weathered, leading me to conclude that, yes, he is in fact homeless. That being the case, I wondered where the breakfast came from. If it was Safeway leftovers, I love them for that. If it was donations from others, then I love them for that, too.

Homelessness is a "thing" for me. I don't really understand why, but it is. Other social ills are sad and worthy of our attention, but the issue of homelessness just gets to me in a way that other issues don't.

I've lived with homelessness since college. First in Madison, then in DC, now in Sacramento, I see homeless people daily. A decade later, I still don't know how to deal with those situations. Most of the time I end up ignoring people, which mostly makes me feel like shit. It's not that I don't care -- I contribute both time and money to organizations that help the homeless and the hungry -- it's that I don't know how to handle these one-on-one, face-to-face situations.

I stood in Safeway wondering how I could help this man. I knew it was not enough just to feed him, I needed to do so in a way that treated him with dignity and humanity. How, exactly, to do that was not apparent. Can I offer to buy him breakfast or a snack or food for later? But what if I'm wrong and he's not homeless and is offended and it's some horrible "oh-when-is-your-baby-due?" moment with someone who's not pregnant? We were too far away for me to make such an offer discretely, and I didn't want to broadcast this kind of information. Do I just pick out a pastry and give it to him on my way out the door? Is that condescending? What if I select something he doesn't like or can't eat? Then what? It's a nice gesture, but that won't keep one's stomach from growling at lunchtime. I went round and round with these thoughts as the line crept forward, realizing how lucky I am that I can spend $3.00 on a cup of coffee without a second thought.

In the end, I did nothing.

I was in tears before I reached the automatic doors. I cried because no one should be homeless or hungry, and yet so many are, and I can't possibly help them all. I cried because eighteen years of school and plenty of social consciousness didn't teach me how to react to these situations. I cried because that's what I do when I am hopeless or powerless and don't know what else to do, because if I knew what to do, I'd be out there doing it already, now wouldn't I? I cried because I'm a girl and I can. But most of all, I cried because I still have no idea how to treat this man with the dignity and humanity he deserves. I cried for half my commute, until 7:58, when I had to pull myself together for a conference call.

And when I got to work, I wrote another check. It is but a drop in the bucket toward solving the problem of homelessness. It does not assuage my guilt in the least over my interaction (or lack thereof) with this man. It is not enough, but it's something.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Y'all Should Totally Fire Me from This Blogging Thing

If I were to call each one of you personally to get caught up on my life (which is, among other things, what this blog is for) it would sound a lot like this: Hi,Can'ttalk,workcrazy,missyou,loveyou,bye!

People, I left my house this morning at 6:30. SIX THIRTY. In the morning. With no stop at the gym, just straight to my desk. Mine was the third car in the parking lot, for which I think I deserve some kind of prize. Or at least a nice cup of coffee. Delivered, please, as I don't have time to go get it myself. (Grande nonfat misto, one Splenda, please. Maybe with some white powder from the vanilla shaky thing. If you're procuring this for me, I won't worry about using my personal cup. Paper will be just fine.)

The day was going mostly according to plan, right up until lunch, when a glob of guacamole jumped into my lap. No, it wasn't Chipotle guacamole, it was homemade (thanks, Mom!) from the fajitas I made the other night. (Yes, I cook! Amazing!) Anyhow. Guacamole + lap = bad news. Naturally, I swore. And then thought of my father, from whom all things klutzy emanate (thanks, Dad!).

[Aside to my unborn children: I AM SORRY. Please accept my many apologies for all of the entirely-avoidable klutzy things you will do, or witness me do, in your lifetime. I know firsthand how mortifying such moments are and I swear to you, I am trying to select for you a father whose genes do not bring with them such a liability, but I've got to be honest, the list of requirements right now is pretty long and there don't seem to be that many qualified candidates, and at some point something's got to give. So, while I place a high premium on grace, agility and general non-klutziness, those might not make the cut over, say, no felony convictions. You might just have to get used to tripping over things, spilling food and drink, and the fact that you see the ER staff more frequently than your grandparents. In short, please remember that I'm sorry and I love you. PS--I do not recommend backyard flag football, as it is fertile ground for broken collarbones, but it is entirely possible to catch a softball with your face and come away from the experience with your nose intact. But I wouldn't push your luck.]

So, if any of you have a tried-and-true method for getting guacamole out of my 73% silk, 23% cotton, dry-clean-only dress, I'd love to hear it. Otherwise, I may have to ask my mother for help, and something tells me she's quite happy to be done with doing my laundry.

Finally, indisputable proof that The Wheels Have Officially Come Off: I'm filing for an extension on my taxes. Because, despite the fact that the IRS already knows it's sending me a sizable check and that my taxes have been 90% done for the past three weeks, there are these two little tiny pieces of information I need from the DC government. Which they will be mailing to me in the next week or so. Grand. Oh, and the fact that I haven't even looked at those pesky state tax forms. So much so that I almost had a panic attack when I realized I hadn't even opened the booklet and then immediately went to investigate how, exactly, one files for an extension on her state taxes.

Must work now, so I can feel less guilty when I leave at 5:30 tonight, after having put in a 10 ½ hour day.

UPDATE: I arrived home last night and was greeted by piles of clean laundry. MY clean laundry. So apparently I was wrong about that Mom-doesn't-want-to-be-responsible-for-my-laundry-anymore thing. Also, this morning I was the FIRST car in the parking lot. Ha! Take that, people who have more exciting lives than me!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Class Reunion

From an actual conversation:

Are you going?

I don't know, that's why I'm asking you.

I thought I'd go, but haven't made any plans. You're going, though, right? Because I'm not going if you're not going!

Well, that's why I'm asking -- I'm not going if you're not going!

Ok, well let's plan on going.

Sounds an awful lot like high school to me! Can you believe they graduated a decade ago?

Monday, April 03, 2006

I Like to Call this Hairstyle "Tomorrow I Will Definitely Remember to Bring My Hairdryer to the Gym"

Gah! You'd think that after four years of being a morning worker-outer, I'd have the system down. But, no. Luckily it rained all day, so hopefully anyone who saw me credited the weather for my less-than-perfectly-coiffed appearance. Over which I, of course, have no control, and therefore cannot be blamed.

It's an exciting week of Spring Cleaning here. Not so much because it feels like spring (seriously, enough with the rain!), but because my parents arrive this weekend for six fun-filled days in the greater Sacramento area. (Also known as Spring Break Without Any Chance of a Girls Gone Wild Video Being Shot.) There may, however, be margaritas. Mom and Dad are crazy like that.

Keepin' it short tonight so I can get some housework done. I think there are dust bunnies under my bed that need some attention. Now if I could just order up some sun...

Sunday, April 02, 2006

In Which I Reveal That I'm a Terrible, Awful Person

So there's this guy. He is nice and smart and funny and liberal and has a good job and plays soccer on the weekends and carries pictures of his niece in his wallet and takes excellent care of his aging dog and is just the kind of person you'd want to marry someday and have cute little kids with.

Except that I don't.

A few years ago we dated, but that ended when I committed to someone else, and then he moved and I moved and blah blah blah. We e-mail on rare occasions. We see each other even more rarely. But when we do, things are nice and pleasant and I always leave him wanting more (the way it should be, right?). I think the last time there was even a hint at a proposal. Not really a topic I wanted to pursue, so I changed the subject. My, this Diet Coke is delicious. Mmmmm.

I e-mailed him this week, just a quick "Hey, how are ya? I still exist, do you miss me?" kind of e-mail (of course without actually asking "do you miss me?" because that would be, well, just plain mean). And he replied, appropriately missing me and wondering when he'd get to see me again. I demurred, because I don't have a good answer, other than it probably won't be any time soon.

A friend and I were having a lengthy discussion about relationships and aging and life and whatnot. I mentioned that, while I was quite all right with the notion of turning thirty, thirty-five is the birthday on which everyone around me should be prepared to duck and cover. (You've been warned.) But I had to clarify, that, actually, thirty-five in and of itself doesn't scare me. What scares me is turning thirty-five and being single. Not technically single, as in "unmarried," but really single, as in "without a prospect in sight." You know, like my life today. And it's not even the potential singleness that's worrisome; it's that being thirty-five and single-without-a-prospect-in-sight greatly diminishes my chances of having children. Forty may be the new thirty, but when you're talking about bearing children, it is decidedly not.

In this discussion, this guy came up. My friend inquired as to why I wasn't pursuing something with him. After all, he has all these wonderful qualifications (see above) and there's clearly some interest, so...? I explained that, while we could date, and hell, even marry, and it would be "good," it would never be "exceptional." And I could love him, the way you love anyone who's a major part of your life for a decade, but I wouldn't be in love with him. Ever. Sure, there's a spark, but that's not enough. I leave our encounters feeling empty, like a hollow shell of me. And I've experienced enough to know that's not what I'm looking for.

Naturally, the follow up question was, "If you don't want to date him, then why bother e-mailing and getting together?" (Damn my friends for asking such probing questions! If I wanted to be grilled like this and held accountable for my answers, I'd agree to talk to Morley Safer. He's been hounding me for years.) It's a fair question, especially directed at me. In general, I don't keep people around once our relationship has run its course. Time is valuable. I don't like it when people waste mine, and I try not to waste theirs. If we're not meant to be together, fine, let's move along. Separately.

I laughed, and said, "Well, I have to have someone around when I'm thirty-five, single, and hitting the Panic Button." (The Panic Button? Is JUST LIKE the Easy Button -- you push it and the good people at Staples will ship a spouse to you. Expected delivery: one business day.)

And while I meant it as a joke, it occurred to me that there might be more truth in that statement than I care to admit. Here is where I qualify for Terrible, Awful Person status. (Similar to Most Favored-Nation status. Which apparently no longer exists, so perhaps they're not all that similar.)

I ought to do better by him. I ought to live up to my own standards for me. But instead, I choose to play the game that seemingly everyone else plays. A game of hedging bets and being willing to settle for less than "exceptional." A game that nobody wins.