Saturday, December 29, 2007

Best Friends

I spent today with a friend I have known more than 30 years.

Suzanne and I only get to see each other a few times a year. Moreso since our kids were born, as our daughters took to each other in much the same way we did, all those years ago. We get to use the excuse of "we have to get the girls together" as justification for the exquisite pleasure of sneaking off for a couple days of visiting time.

Today, we met for lunch, then ice cream at our favorite ice cream shoppe, followed by ice skating with the girls and post-holiday winter coat shopping. Suz bought two coats. I encouraged her to buy the second one because she looked adorable in it and, for heaven's sake; she eats too many chicken backs.

As I sit here, drinking hot wine because I'm still nursing a really nasty cold, I am amazed at what a comfort it is to have one person in my life who makes me feel unconditionally loved. Don't get me wrong; of course, my husband and daughter and parents love me. But each of these people wants something back from me. They all depend on me in some way, they all have their baggage and their agendas and to a certain extent, they all are obligated to love me in one way or another.

Not Suzanne. She and I have had the unique wonder of a relationship that has withstood boyfriends, family upheavals, 10th grade Biology, college, marriages, divorces, remarriages, children, jobs...and has emerged stronger and more beautiful each year. And it survives, not in small part, because we make no demands on each other. I accept all that is good and bad about her, without judgment and without explanation. Suzanne is always late. This I know. And it's OK. We just work on a different schedule. And she treats me with the same acceptance and accommodation. She just loves me for exactly the person I am. No matter how long we have been apart, it is like we just saw each other yesterday.

I always finish a day with her feeling better about the world than when it started.

I’m going to make a point of getting downstate to see her more often.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My wish for you

Merry Christmas.

Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Winter Solstice.

Whatever your tradition, the celebrations of this season are all about fellowship and hope.

If you are reading this tonight, I wish you an abundance of both.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A confession.

I never meant for this to happen.

In fact, I had a grand plan to prevent exactly this outcome. I built my arguments; I created a strategy and a timeline. I walked into the situation ready to create the result I knew I so desperately wanted.

And yet, here I am.

I’m driving an SUV.

How did this happen?

I wanted to buy a Mini Cooper. Or a Volvo. Perhaps a mini Volvo? Something with great gas mileage and low emissions. Something that people would look at and say “Now there’s a great combination of proletariat hippie-chick values and style.”

Alas. I was undone by an 8-year-old Ford Taurus with 155,000 miles on it. And a husband who gets a pretty good discount on cars. And the snow. And the ice. And…and…oh! The shame of it all!

I was going to make the Taurus last until April. The Taurus, with its new thermostat in August, and its new transmission lines in September and its new hoses in November. The Taurus that blew a fuel line on Sunday. The Taurus had other ideas. And the Mini had a lead time of 3 months. And the Volvo was too much money.

And then my husband said, “Drive the Escape”

“I can’t drive that. It’s an SUV! The devil’s handiwork with traction control!”

“Humor me. Drive the Escape. You don’t have to like it.”

I drove the Escape. The Escape with the ‘stow and go’ seats. The Escape with the antilock breaks. And the ginormous sun roof. And the side mirrors that you could use to park a semi. The Escape with the heated seats.

It handily dealt with the snow and ice. It accelerated like a dream. And I could see! I could see all the other vehicles around me! I could see in 360 degrees! I once was blind, but now! Wow, that lady’s back seat is full of McDonald’s bags…. I could see! I…I…my resistance was failing me.

I rallied and held strong. “It’s still an SUV. It gets crappy gas mileage. It pollutes the environment.”

“It gets 30 miles to the gallon and it has the lowest emissions of any non-hybrid engine in the line-up.”

“Yeah…well. I’ll bet it’s expensive.”

“It’s $1,000 less than you paid for the Taurus, 8 years ago.”


I guess it’s just barely an SUV. I mean, there are cars here that are a lot bigger than this, right?, is that a GPS?”

So I’m driving an SUV. But just a little one. Honest.

It’s blue. And I’m very cute in it, if I do say so myself.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What I want for Christmas

Scientists in South Korea have apparently cloned a transgenic cat that glows in the dark.

I'm totally getting one.

Because the only thing more festive than being awakened at 5:00 am by a hungry cat is being awakened at 5:00 am by a hungry cat that that looks like a UFO with a nose.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Upping the ante

I think I have mentioned before that I'm being courted by a local company for what really *is* a pretty cool job.

And I think I've mentioned that there are some issues with it that are probably deal-breakers.

The first, of course, is that I have this potentially uber-cool job with this grant that I've been working on for the last year. I'm really dedicated to this program.

But really, I have no delusions that they wouldn't be able to find someone else to fulfill my role there.

The second, and real, issue has been that there's a lot of travel with this job, and I'm just not sure I want to be away from home that much. My family needs me.

Twice, I've told them I don't think I can take the job because of that -- regardless of the amount of money they're offering me.

And twice, they've said, "We understand. Look; just come back in for another discussion. No obligation. We just want to talk."

Today, when I went in, they upped the ante. "What if we gave you access to the corporate jet for your travel? Not for the overseas stuff, of course, but it would probably make something like 75% of your domestic travel just day trips. You won't have to stay overnight. What do you think?"

And they added another $10K to the salary.

And another 5000 shares of stock.


Corporate. Jet.

Holy crap. I can't even wrap my head around that. Me + Private jets = Does. Not. Compute.

I'm supposed to know if the other program funded this coming Friday. If it doesn't, it's going to be pretty darned hard to walk away from this.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Stuff that makes my heart stop -- Part II

I was coming home from a friends's house, with S. and the Bug this evening. All of the sudden, S. sings, (with a quick Polka beat)

bumpa bumpa bumpa bumpa Help me!
The Bug answers (without missing a beat) I broke apart my insides
S: Help me!
Bug: I've got no soul to sell
S: Help me!
Bug: The only thing that works for me,
Help me get away from myself
I wanna *Boink!* you like an animal
I wanna feel you from the inside
I wanna *weep-wah!* you like an animal
My whole existence is gone
You take me closer to God.

I screamed, audibly.

They laughed hysterically.

I'm off to confiscate my husband's "Weird Al" disc.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Sweatin' the big stuff

Today was the culmination of one of the toughest and most stressful experiences of my life.

That's a lot to say, really.

For the last year, I've been working with a team of 26 researchers and medical doctors from across the nation on a project that could critically impact thousands of lives over the next decade. These folks are the best of the best in treating patients who don't have a lot of options, and the technologies they're developing could fundamentally change medicine.

The stakes are high -- both because we're committed emotionally to these patients, and because the funding levels over the next five years are staggering. For the winning team, the award could approach $100 Million.

I have dedicated the better part of 1000 hours of my life to this since January. Several (too many) nights without sleep. Endless (dear God; endless) conference calls. Herding cats. Reconciling budgets. Again. (No, really. One more time. Did you include patient care costs in the indirect rate?) Writing. Re-writing. Scrapping. Re-writing. Time lines. Milestones. More re-writes.

And then, a few weeks ago, we got the call to tell us that we were one of two teams of finalists. We learned we had 16 days to prepare a two hour presentation for a team of judges and reviewers. Slides. Text. Revised slides. Rehersals. God, that sucked! Revised slides. Revised text. WTF does that mean???

And then, last Thursday, the rest of the leadership team told me. They told me they wanted ME to present this.

Me? Why me? I'm not a doctor. I'm just the gal who sells stuff.

We want you to do it.


You wanted to run with the big dogs, Sister.


Today, I was honored -- and terrified -- to represent this unbelievably distinguished and dedicated group of professionals. And for the first time in my life, I had a chance to represent something that could really change the world of medicine.

And I think I did OK. In fact, they told me I was "brilliant".

It's the proudest -- and most humbled -- I've ever felt in my life.

I am feeling beyond grateful for this opportunity. But I think I'd like to go home and bake some cookies now.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Waiting Room

I work in a hospital. No, I'm not a doctor, and I don't play one on TV. But I spend a lot of time around the waiting rooms of departments like the Cardiac ICU -- what a close friend affectionately calls "Gateway to the Sickest Four Walls in America". Despite the fact that miracles take place daily befhind those walls, this is still a place of mortality.

These rooms are filled -- nearly 24/7 -- with worried, frightened people. Parents, holding each other, waiting to know if their precious child has survived a difficult operation. A husband, passing off bored and active children to siblings or parents, and hoping, praying, that his wife will sit beside him again soon. A old women, alone, sitting with incredible patience, staring at a memory only she can see and hoping that she won't go home a widow today.

Conversations are always strained, unnaturally cheerful. Football games are watched with glassy-eyed stares and comments that are not really meant to be heard, but spoken only to fill the silence. But the silence creeps back in, inexorably, as each person in the room is left to contemplate mortality and inevitable change. The waiting room is one of humanity's great equalizers.

Despite the tastefully invisible floral wallpaper and the warm colors of the upholstery, if these places had a color, it would be grey.

Today, I passed a large family gathering -- three generations, with Grandpa conspicuously absent. I mentally categorized them as a "death watch". You can spot them a mile away; each member waiting, in turn, for his or her 10 minutes with the patient. This family was a little different, however. The entire group was sitting in a circle of loveseats and chairs and staring at the floor with great intensity. They were smiling.

I followed their gaze to see a baby girl, perhaps 6 months old, laying on a pink fuzzy blanket. She was an absolute beauty: dark hair, blue eyes, porcelain skin. And she was playing well to her audience: kicking her feet and laughing the way only babies can -- starting with her toes, entire body convulsing with joy, and ending with a squeal most adults would struggle to produce. I couldn't help but smile.

"You have a big responsibility there, little one", I thought. There, embodied in her wiggling pinkness, were the collected hopes of an entire family. While she lay there, squealing, joyful, oblivious to the tension around her, the family could focus on life. They could pretend they were just there to see the newest family member, and not waiting to say goodbye to perhaps their oldest.

I went on to my destination. Papers delivered, explanations proffered, a joke shared, a task procured. As I passed back by the waiting room, the baby started to cry. Dad scooped her up to offer a bottle or a bit of comfort, and the spell was broken.

The light slowly faded and the room turned back to grey. And one by one, I watched the face of each family member close up as each retreated slowly back into personal solitude, where the sounds of crying babies, overhead pages, IV alarms and televisions are drowned out by the roaring din of reflection.