Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Fate loves the fearless. -- James Russell Lowell

I'd like to think I'm fearless, but I'm not. I have a healthy fear of heights, high speeds, and reckless activity of all kinds (all rolled up into one foolish pasttime called skiing -- good choice, Kate!). Now, thanks to the magic of the internet, I also fear dying alone and no one noticing until after the cats have eaten my face. I also possess what is perhaps an unhealthy fear of my brother sneaking up behind me and placing his hands around my neck in a fake-strangling move. God, I hate that.

In my high school, many of the best students went on to study at the University of Wisconsin. It's a great school, you can't beat in-state tuition, it's close enough to home that you can drag all your dirty laundry home over Thanksgiving weekend without the airline charging you for overweight luggage, and the football team is first-rate.

When it comes to prospective students, I was the perfect candidate. I had the grades, I had the ACT scores, I had the extra-curricular activities. I loved the campus (progressive), I loved the people (50,000), I loved the department (top ten in the country), I loved the football team (recent Rose Bowl champions). I loved the price tag, and I was in line for a scholarship that would cut the price in half. It was nearly fait accompli that I would go to Madison.

And that's what I hated.

I spent two years searching high and low for a school that met all of my needs, particularly the It's Not Madison criterion. I focused my efforts on more distant locales, as location was a legitimate strike against Madison. I didn't love the 40-miles-from-home thing on two accounts -- (1) I was trying to escape winter and this certainly didn't do it and (2) I wanted to experience another part of the world. So I requested information from North Carolina State and Kansas and Georgia Tech. My mother chided me that, if I lived in another part of the country, I'd be dying to go to Madison. I partially conceded that point, protesting that I still might not be interested in winter.

Then in the fall of my senior year, I had a little freak-out about the fact that I'd applied only to huge state universities, and I dragged my parents (mentally and physically) through a series of small- to mid-sized private universities: Valparaiso, Bradley, Marquette.

In the end, as we all know, I went to Madison. And I loved it. Even today when I think about things I might have done differently in college, I always picture them in terms of being on campus in Madison. I never envision myself in an entirely different setting.

To this day, though, I don't feel like the decision was 100% mine. There's a part of me that feels like The Fates won out. That, regardless of what I attempted, or what other options I explored, I was predestined for this path. That, if this were a Greek tragedy, I'd be killing my father and sleeping with my mother by now.

This, more than anything, is what I fear: The Inevitable. Not The Inevitable like dying, but The Inevitable like, the die has already been cast. That I have but little choice in the matter of what course my life takes. (Um, we've discussed my control issues before, right?) The Inevitable makes me worry, because it seems too easy. I was taught that good things happen when you work for them. Life hands me an opportunity on a platter? An opportunity that I haven't been working my ass off for over the past six years? I'm instantly suspicious. Or, if not suspicious, I at least have to go through the process of ruling out all other conceivable possibilities before I can accept that, just maybe, this offering really is the right thing for me. And I remind myself that I do work hard every single day, and that effort is part of what creates these opportunities. My hard work = grades = ACT scores = scholarship, without which a University of Wisconsin education would not have been in the cards for me, despite how easy it seemed to get in, once senior year rolled around.

Does my hard work create these opportunities? Or am I destined to "the fix'd events of fate's remote decrees?" As long as good things come my way, I guess it doesn't much matter, does it?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Living on the Edge (of my skis, that is)

So. I am officially A Skier. One who has a season pass and obsessively checks the Weather Channel snow report and gets up at 5 o'clock on a Sunday morning to drive up to Tahoe for the day.

I'm a little upset at all the lying involved in skiing, though. I was totally unprepared for that. First, the Weather Channel lied to me all week, promising snow for the weekend and then failing to deliver. And then my brain lies to me constantly, telling me certain sections of the run are too challenging, but I go out there and DO IT, so you can just SHUT UP ALREADY, BRAIN.

In all, it was a good day. I bit it a couple of times, but the greatest injury was sustained by my elbow in a rather abrupt interaction between it and the back of a metal chair lift. Of course, this was the run on which I was riding the chair lift with an 11-year old member of the ski team who was about to do a timed run down a black diamond course marked with pins, just like downhill skiing at the Olympics. Awesome. My entire elbow was black and blue before dinner last night. Doubly awesome.

For my troubles yesterday, I was rewarded today with the discovery that I am sick. I woke up with a Jersey-girl-who-smokes-three-packs-
a-day voice -- and not the sexy kind, but the "Dude, what is up with your voice?" kind. (Lucky for you, I can talk as much here as I want and it doesn't hurt or sound funny.)

I thought the voice might be the extent of it, and my steady diet of white bread today should have clued me in, but I finally got the memo when getting up off the couch nearly brought me to tears. Apparently all those aches and pains I've been blaming on the skiing (and which, incidentally, have been getting worse as the day progressed, not better) are really my body fighting off infection. And thank goodness, because I was really wondering how I managed to injure my underarms. Even I am not that uncoordinated. Hello, lymph nodes! So nice to see you working hard again! The upshot is that this little disease will peak in a couple of days -- conveniently on the same day that I/we/work is hosting a conference. Triply awesome.

And with this dose of optimistic oversharing, I shall take my leave. Bed calls.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Change of Pace

For much of the last three years, and before that, nearly every summer in college, I've had two jobs. I've worked 60-hour weeks (or 70 or 80) for so long that I'd forgotten what it feels like to have only one employer, one major commitment per day, one schedule to keep track of. And now? I'm FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE (free falllllling...). And It Is Glorious.

(Poignant observation from Mom: It's called having a life.)

In honor of my new-found freedom, and the fact that the weekend is rapidly approaching, I present to you:

Things I Have Done Since Quitting Banana
  • Spent an evening watching What Not To Wear
  • Accepted an invitation to go skiing on less than 48 hours notice
  • Cleaned the house
  • Grocery shopped
  • Gone out with the girls
  • Gone out with boys
  • Gone to church (no, this was not necessitated by either of the two previous activities)
  • Cooked dinner
  • Read a newspaper
  • Gone to the gym
  • Arranged tickets to a fundraiser, followed by an evening of drinking
  • Invited people over for the Super Bowl, luring them with the promise of ooey, gooey, cheesy football snacks, which means I will again be grocery shopping and cooking, and that's OK, because I have the time!
  • Booked a trip for a long weekend in DC (February 22-26, mark your calendars)

Do you know what I'm going to do tonight? Yeah, me neither. But you know what I will not be doing tonight? Going to the mall. And that's all that matters.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Monday, in a Nutshell

Well, I survived. It was a bit harrowing there for a while, with the awkwardness and the feeling off-balance, and at some points it looked as though death was imminent, but I persevered, and made it through yet another ridiculous first date.

What? You thought I was talking about the ski trip?

Skiing was great. I actually do remember some of what I learned last season and I have many small things to work on this year, along with one big thing: I'm a neurotic head case. According to Ski Instructor Geoff, the basics are there and what I need most is a lot more practice. According to me, what I need most is a lot more time with Ski Instructor Geoff. Perhaps not wearing skis. Or maybe wearing skis, whatever, it certainly wouldn't be the strangest thing I've encountered lately. Ahem.

There will be A LOT more skiing this year, because Tahoe is so close and because my goal is to be halfway decent by the time the season is over. I want to get to the point where skiing is like riding a bike, and a year or two from now I can hit the slopes feeling a little rusty, but not so out of practice that I'm back at square one. 2007: The Year I Learn to Ski. Also, 2007: Worst Western Ski Season in Recent Memory. I have impeccable timing.

Dear Gods of the Snow,

Please, please, please make it snow. A lot. In the general vicinity of Lake Tahoe would be nice, but I'm not super picky, just someplace accessible from here. If I could impose on you to aim for the weekends, I promise never to complain about winter again.


Someone who can't believe she just requested snow. In mass quantities.

And on that note, here are a few other random requests I have for the world at large. I'm sure they're not listening to me any more than the snow gods are, but it's worth a shot.

Dear Cell Phone Talkers in the Locker Room,

I'm sure that whatever conversation you're having at 7:00 in the morning is very important, otherwise you wouldn't be doing it at that volume and in various states of half-dressed-in-sweaty-gym-clothes. However, might I ask you to please, for the love, refrain from such conversation? For starters, there's the normal rudeness factor of talking on a cell phone in public. But add to it the locker room surroundings and it's just plain weird. I mean, what you do in your bathroom at home is entirely your business, and if that includes prancing around singing "I Feel Pretty" while you towel-dry your hair, more power to ya. But I doubt you'd do that here, so, please, exercise the same good sense and PUT THE PHONE AWAY.


Someone who would like just a tad more privacy while she strips down in front of twenty complete strangers, some of whom don't speak English

Dear Obviously Single Occupant Vehicles in the Carpool Lane Who Zipped Past Me on the Entrance Ramp This Morning,

You must really like your job. I can see where those two minutes could really make a difference in someone's life. TPS reports don't write themselves, you know. Really, I'm happy you've found something so fulfilling. I also hope you enjoy the special ring of Hell designed just for you, wherein drivers are stuck on a one-lane highway behind a loooooong line of traffic, the front of which is a John Deere tractor motoring down the road. A little something to look forward to.


Someone who actually follows the damn rules once in a while

Dear NPR,

Thank you oh so much for lodging "Superfreak" in my head for the entire day. I probably shouldn't complain, since I appreciate 99.93458% of what you broadcast. You're all right. She's all right. That girl's all right with me, yeah.


SEE WHAT I MEAN?????? (super freak, super freak, she's super-freaky...)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday Night (Low)Lights

So. It's 9:00 on a Friday night and I'm just about ready to crawl into bed. Normally I wouldn't admit something like that to the Internet (not that it's ever happened before...), but in my defense, I have already been on a mildly disturbing date, and that's being generous, AND I've got to be up before the crack of dawn tomorrow because I'm going skiing in Tahoe. (How crazy-California is that??? We just up and go skiing in Tahoe. On a Saturday. Because we can. Poor saps from the rest of the country have to book a week's vacation to do something like this!)

Anyway. Just thought I'd give you a head's-up that, you know, if I never post here again, it's not because I've run off to Buenos Aires to marry some financial mogul (and why the hell not, because I really never need to go on another date again) it's because I'm in sixteen pieces on the side of the mountain. On the plus side, I'll have a great view of Lake Tahoe.

Now I just need to remember where I put all my ski crap at the end of last season. And also maybe how to ski.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Big Pimpin'

Alternate Title: Because Generating My Own Content Is So Hard!

Y'all, I am an idiot. Of course, you already knew that. But ARGH! It's hard enough to cram five days' worth of work into a four-day week, but then I go and volunteer to write an article (plus sidebar) for a newsletter and agree to an alumni board conference call, for which I have yet to prepare, and...the week just gets away from a girl and here it is Thursday and I haven't regaled you with any exciting stories!

Today, though, we're going to change things up a little. My very talented friend Neal Hutchko (see him here; read about his tendency to turn me into an alcoholic here) has gotten his own website up and running. While I normally update my sidebar with links to blogs I'm reading every month year, his site isn't a blog so much as a virtual art gallery of paintings. Paintings he himself painted. I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around this one, as Neal is not the beret-wearing, pot-smoking, tortured artiste type, so much as the soccer-playing, beer-swilling guy who would drag me to Vegas for a weekend of drinking and gambling -- quarterly, if I let him.

But his work is damn good.

(Boring legal reminder: All of Neal's works are fully copyrighted and may not be reproduced or rebroadcast without express written consent of the artist or the National Football League. Which I have, so nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-na. Don't try this at home.)

This painting, SG Part 2, is my favorite, though there were some other really strong contenders. I expect to see it hanging in my living room, just as soon as I have a living room where I'm allowed to put holes in the walls. Actually, if I had a living room, I'd take SG Part 2 and Squire's Garden and hang them on the wall over the sofa, just like Martha says to.

My market research shows that you, my loyal readers, are highly educated, culturally-aware types with plenty of disposable income to spend on one-of-a-kind art, so go take a tour of the virtual gallery. Then come back and leave a note in the comments section telling us about your favorite. We'll all be virtual art snobs together! Here, have some virtual port while you ponder the significance of that brushstroke.

Did I mention you're smokin' hot? Well, you are. Now go!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Well. That was fleeting.

I got my hair cut today, which is always a delightful experience. I don't know if it's the scalp massage, the general feeling of pampering, or the lovely things Frank says about me, but I always leave there happier than when I arrived.

Today, Frank's comments ranged from "I love your sweater! Feels so soft...like Angora, almost." (Yes, that's because it's 50% Angora.) to "Your eyebrows are perfect! Do you have them waxed?" Um, no I tweeze them myself. "Holy crap! They're gorgeous!" (Yes, I think so, too.) to persistent head-shaking at how stupid boys are. "What is wrong with them? Don't they know a good thing when they see it? God, I'd snap you up in a second and never let you get away!" (Yes, what, exactly is wrong with them? I'd like to know, too.)

So, I left there feeling like a million bucks, having spent only half that, and looking like this:

Jan 12
Not pictured: 40 degree weather, annoying wind whipping
hair into my face, and creepy moving company guys staring
from the parking lot.

Back in the office, I checked my e-mail and was immediately hit with some rather unwelcome news. Apparently I'm still a 19-year old sorority girl, because upon hearing this not-so-pleasant news, my first reaction was to get drunk and screw. (It's an expression, people; let's not take this too literally.) Not surprisingly, neither beer nor someone to hook up with magically materialized in my office. Instead I settled for a seething e-mail rant, half of which was conducted entirely in capital letters. Good times.

So, as long as my good mood's been shot to hell and we're talking about stupid boys, let me ask you this: Is it acceptable to stop seeing someone because you don't like the way he walks? And, is the mere fact that you're considering this definitive proof that maybe, just maybe, you're too picky?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Little Business To Attend To

First, it's National De-Lurking Week. And, rather than break with the grand tradition I started last year, here at Daily Tragedies we're having National De-Lurking Seventy Two Hours. Get on it and de-lurk! (In return, I will try to have something interesting to say, once every 72 hours or so.)

(If by "something interesting" you mean "words strung together to form sentences and maybe even paragraphs.")

(And if by "every 72 hours or so" you mean "every 8-10 days, on average, because I am a selfish little bitch who does not call her mother often enough.")

(Also, can you believe I've been half-assedly blogging for a year now?!?!?!?!)

Anyway. The short of it is, comment and I will love you forever. The end, amen.

(If you don't know what to comment on, tell me what your favorite post of 2006 was. I'm incurably nosy curious.)

Second, I am doing exceedingly terribly on those New Year's resolutions, thanks for asking. So, I thought I'd expand the list. To increase my potential success rate or something.

Personal: My mother thinks I need a hobby. One that, in her words, "does not involve working." So let's call this resolution "be more social." Not particularly measurable, but it should generate some good stories for y'all. (It should help that I just quit BR. Again.)

Professional: This week I discovered that I'm (a) ahead of schedule on a project and (b) it ROCKS.

I also came across a spreadsheet I made in a fit of extreme anal-retentiveness, detailing the provisions of eight related cases I was working on. In January 2003. Somebody asked me a question about those cases today and I could actually answer it, thanks to that ridiculous spreadsheet.

So now, I'm inspired: I need to be that organized, all of the time. (Perhaps not quite that anal, however. I'm supposed to be having a social life here!) Also, no more procrastinating!

Third, I wrote my first post of 2007 yesterday. If you haven't seen it, go read it. Wouldn't want all that hard work and emotion to get lost in the meaningless drivel I typically put out here.

Speaking of meaningless drivel, have this little story:

I sat in a meeting today where someone (correctly) used the term "prophylactic," and half the room snickered. Later someone else used the phrase "go bare" three times in three sentences and, looking around the room, it appears that I was the only one who wanted to crawl into a hole due to this particular word choice. I'm not sure what this says about me. Or my colleagues.

Finally, yes I know my RSS feed isn't working properly, and no, I do not know what causes this problem, nor how to fix it. I'm confident it's all Blogger's fault and feel comfortable passing the buck entirely. Good luck. Well, seems like we're back in business now, and I did exactly nothing. I feel good about my diagnosis.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Home Is Weird

Home is full of little paradoxes, which tends to make being there a little strange. My trip over Christmas lived up to that standard...a long, strange trip, indeed.

After doing all the family/Christmas-themed things, I had a couple days to just chill, during which I really can't recall what I did. I believe naps featured prominently. But my last night in town, I went out to dinner with my parents and then attended a friend's birthday party. At dinner Dad handed me the wine list and inquired as to my suggestions for a bottle. Apparently living in California qualifies me to be their sommelier. (Admittedly, I probably do have a more extensive repertoire, particularly of California wines.) The surprising part of this interaction was in being treated as a peer, an adult, not my dad's daughter.

Two hours later, when he handed me the keys to his car, Dad asked what time I'd be home. Just like in high school. (I began to wonder if I still had a midnight curfew...but then realized I probably wouldn't be putting it to the test.) "It's Janesville. 10:30." Dad raised his eyebrow. "Ok, maybe later than that, but I can't imagine it'll be past midnight."

For the party, I'd packed jeans (it's Janesville – everyone would be wearing jeans) and what can only be described as a "going-out shirt." But when my friend's mom stopped over to chat on Christmas Eve (bearing a cheese ball, no less) and invited my parents to the party, it occurred to me that there would probably be other parent-types there. And that perhaps they wouldn't enjoy seeing my midriff through my translucent shirt. Whoops. Time for a new plan! I concluded that I could still wear the shirt, if I tossed a shrug-like sweater over it. I didn't take the sweater off all night. And I was still one of the cutest-dressed people there.

At the party, I caught up with four girls I went to high school with. We were mutually aware of each others' existence, but I wasn't friends with them. Now that we've been at several post-college events together, we actually can carry on not-so-awkward conversations. During one of these exchanges, Heather mentioned that there are a dozen girls, mostly friends from high school, but a couple additions from college (all of the high school friends attended the same college, 30 minutes away from home) who are still friends and every year they go away for a girls' weekend. This concept amazes me. I don't think I've ever been part of a 12-person circle of friends, and it certainly wasn't comprised of people I went to high school with!

I was left with a mild feeling of being an outsider -- a feeling which, while significantly diminished, has not yet dissipated, despite living in/having ties to Janesville for the past SEVENTEEN YEARS. (Seriously, people, how long does it take to be considered a local? Don't be too quick to bestow that term on me, though, I'm still ambivalent about the idea of being "from" Janesville.)

At one point during the evening, the five of us girls were chatting when a guy friend joined us. Upon seeing me he said, "Katie! Are you back? Like, are you just here for Christmas or did you move back to Janesville?" I didn't even have to answer, as each of the four girls shot him a withering look and one chortled, "No, she did not MOVE BACK here!" (The only thing missing was "as if" tacked on to the end of her statement.)

Despite my outsider status, I have made some noticeable inroads. When I stopped at the drug store to buy a birthday card, I recognized the cashier as the mother of a boy I went to middle and high school with. I debated about saying hello, but when there was no glimmer of recognition on her part, I decided to pass. Other than, "Hi, I'm Katie! Do you remember me?" what was there to say? "I went to school with your son and despite the fact that he's turning 30 this year, I can still only picture him as the 13-year old boy I had a crush on" just didn't seem appropriate. Besides, she probably would've asked if I'm married, and that becomes a pretty short conversation in a hurry.

Lastly, one of these high school girls (who still lives in Janesville) is newly engaged. I politely inquired about her fiancé, expecting not to recognize the name. Turns out he's a guy we graduated with. Though neither she nor I were friends with him in high school, I know exactly who he is because my mom taught him science at a different middle school than one I attended. So, I got all caught up on his life and dutifully reported back to my mother what one of her former students is up to.

After a couple hours of birthday fun, the high school girls headed out to the bars. I took my leave, as well -- why stick around when the few people I knew were leaving? -- and pulled in the garage at 10:38.

I don't know what any of this means, really. I guess just that there's some weird bond, maybe just the bonds of time, that tie me to this place that I'd never heard of or cared about before we moved there. Some day my parents will retire elsewhere and I'll have no reason to go back to that little city in Southern Wisconsin that everyone recognizes because of "The Oasis Cow." Dad won't show off all the fancy new restaurants in town. Mom won't brag that there's now a Starbucks over by the Interstate. (Awwww, my baby's all growed up!) My family won't marvel over the intertwined families, the descendents of whom stick around Janesville and marry each other and send their kids to school together and, apparently, plan a weekend getaway together once a year. It's a little sad to think that, someday, I won't be part of this place, that nobody expects me to move back, that I'm missing out on that kind of wholesome, small-town, everyone's-connected-to-each-other lifestyle. Then again, perhaps that's an idealized, insider version of reality. After all, it's not the life I had, even when I lived there.