Lives in Pieces: Vale et memini (Goodbye and I Remember)


Note: this entry was originally posted in January. I am reposting parts 1-3 since so much time has passed between those entries and part 4, which I will post tomorrow.

Part 2: Anamchara, My Soul Friend

The first time I met Kathleen was right after we had moved to Alexandria, Virginia. I had asked for and received a transfer within the government services firm that I was working for right after graduate school. I was trying to climb the corporate ladder and didn’t feel that I could go much further in Virginia Beach; I also didn’t feel that Paul  was matching my plans to grow, so rightly or wrongly, I put his back against the wall and told him that I was accepting the transfer—with or without him. He came with me, but it created the first rift in our marriage.

I was given the position of Senior Technical Editor for an Operations System and told that I would be working as a proposal development specialist. The first proposal that I was assigned to was an Army proposal; I don’t remember exactly what the proposal was for, but I was introduced to the person who had been working on it before me, Kathleen Roulet. She had a large smile and a firm handshake, and she seemed to be all business. Quite frankly, I was intimidated by her at first. Actually I was intimidated by most of the women in the operations center: They were a much different breed from the Virginia Beach office. It was the time of dress for success. Business suits, pumps, brief cases. Women were dressing like men in order to be taken as seriously as men. I had a lot to learn.

Within days I realized that I was going to have to overhaul my appearance completely or be eaten alive. Fortunately, Kathleen had been asked to help me on the proposal. Luckily for me, she was actually the least intimidating person around. She had an easy laugh, a quick wit, and she knew everyone. I had my role model.

Kathleen’s Princess Tiara

As it turns out, between the two of us, Kathleen and I were two of the more powerful women in the Operations System. Unfortunately, a few months after my arrivel her group was moved to the other end of the complex, and we were working in two separate buildings on different projects, so for a few months, we didn’t have that much contact.

I was stuck with Marine Engineers who didn’t believe that women knew math. Kathleen was stuck working for a retired military officer who called her “princess.” He honestly could not understand why she might be offended by being called princess in staff meetings. It was both infuriating and hilarious in an odd sort of way. We commiserated.

In October, I found out that I was pregnant with my first child. It was a surprise. It was also a bit unsettling as I was just establishing my position. I was working 12 hours a day regularly, and often on weekends. I kept up with the frenetic pace as long as I could.

In the spring, there was some reshuffling, and another operations center was formed. They were sent to the other end of the complex where Kathleen’s group had been sent, and I was sent with it. My former boss was promoted to a Division General Manager. He did not keep me with him. I was not happy with the reshuffling, but at least I would be just down the hall from Kathleen. Between my pregnancy and the reshuffling, we became much closer. Kathleen and I spent a lot of time together at work and after work. When she wasn’t dating anyone, she would come by and have dinner with Paul and me.

One Friday in July, I went on a cleaning binge in the office kitchen. That night, I went into labor at home. I was on maternity leave for eight weeks. Kathleen brought me Speedy Little Devils in the hospital (cookies made with chocolate, peanut butter and other wonderful things). I found a wonderful woman just four doors down from my townhouse to watch Alexis while I was at work, and I returned to work full time when my leave was up. It was a time when women were trying to do it all: work full time, be super moms, keep their houses in perfect order, still be wonderful wives and great in bed.

Trivial Pursuit

A few weeks after going back to work, Paul and I had gotten access to a beach house in Rehobeth for a really incredible price at the last minute, and we asked Kathleen to come along. It wasn’t going to be a romantic weekend. We were taking Alexis; she was about 7 weeks old. We just wanted to get out of town for the weekend. The three of us played Trivial Pursuit. Alexis slept in her travel crib.

Kathleen and I drank lots of wine, and Paul drank beer. The three of us decided that we were going to stay up all night playing the game as an endurance test to see who caved first.  At some point, Paul got up to go to the bathroom. After about half an hour, Kathleen and I realized that he hadn’t come back. We went in the bedroom where we found him asleep on the bed next to Alexis’s crib.

Kathleen and I laughed our asses off. Those were great times.

We used to do some pretty interesting things. Like the time she received a micro-cassette from a guy she had been dating. The only problem was that she did not have a micro-cassette tape. No problem. I proceeded to try to break into filing cabinets at work with a paper clip. It looks so much easier in the movies. We gave up, and she went and bought one at Radio Shack.

We regularly went out to lunch. She was my therapist, and I was hers. There was nothing that we couldn’t say to each other, and many things that we wouldn’t say to anyone else. Our jobs were so stress-intensive that often we felt as if we were carrying around boxes of nitroglycerine (figuratively), and someone was just waiting for us to drop it. It was a very cutthroat industry, and we were very high profile. It didn’t help that I had the ear of the Division General Manager. People did not like that.

At the Christmas party that year the band was the Beach Boys. Our group of ladies took off our shoes and danced on the tables while we drank champagne.  Yes, I started it. By then, I had moved beyond the Marine Engineers. I had a window office next to the boss, and people from corporate knew me on a first name basis. But I was really starting to get tired. My old boss still wanted me on the line as his ears, and I was being pulled in too many directions.

One of the few times I can remember really just relaxing was when Kathleen and I packed a small picnic and rode the metro to Arlington Cemetery, and then walked to the Reflecting Pool. I believe that it was Memorial Day. The symphony was playing, and it was a free concert. I’m almost positive that John Denver was singing that night as well.

When Alexis turned one, Paul and I decided to move back to Norfolk so that she would be able to grow up near her grandparents. I also did not want to be working 12 to 16 hour days any more. I wanted to spend more time with my daughter. My mother came up and drove home with Alexis. Paul drove a U-Haul truck home with our furniture, and I spent the last week at Kathleen’s home finishing up paperwork and my last week of work.

Angel in Irish Cemetery

I knew that Kathleen and I would see each other again, and we did. I drove up for her birthday in November. She came down for visits, and like I said, she came down for my baby shower for Caitlin.

Through the years, we have stayed in touch by phone and letter, e-mails and cards. We used to meet in Williamsburg once a year for a big shopping trip, but then that kind of faded away. But I have always known that Kathleen is truly what is called in Irish Gaelic anamchara: a soul friend. I have only had to call her, and she has always been there for me, an open heart, a warm shoulder. She has never turned me away. I have never felt her presence lacking in my life, though the years have spread out, and miles have expanded the distance. The circumstances have changed and changed again. The players have entered and left and some are gone for good. Kathleen, since the day she first took residence in my heart, has never left, and I know that she never will.

There are many things in life of which you cannot be certain, many things you pray will abide with you but do not. There are many places in this world that  life may take you, and many places that you wish you had never seen. There are moments you embed in your memory as being irreplaceable, and moments in time that you wish you could draw a curtain over and never look upon in memory ever again for as long as you draw breath. And there are people who have held you like angels even from hundreds of miles away, knowing that if they loosen their wings even a fraction, you will fall. That is what Kathleen is and has been for me, and will be for me ever more.
 end of part two.

There will be more to come. Peace.

Do They Have To Be Called Headless Chicken Moments?

I Believe They Are Called Headless Chicken Moments

So I Had A Bad Day . . .

So it was one of those days. I woke up with one dog on my arm and one dog on my leg, which means that I had lost the feeling in both limbs. I knew that it was going to be a rough day. I don’t think that I needed a much clearer sign than that. I had nothing to write about, and I’m just not able to tackle the next part of the story. It’s very intense, and I’m really not up to it yet.

So this leads me to somthing called headless chicken moments. It’s a term that I found on another site, and it refers to those moments in one’s life of such utter stupidity that you couldn’t possibly repeat the moment if you tried. The actual term is based on a real-life chicken that lived after its head was cut off because it wasn’t in fact decapitated properly, so even though his head was gone, he was able to continue living and became a chicken celebrity, if you like that sort of thing.

I know that I have had many such HC moments (I really don’t like the term very much); I’m just having a hard time pinning down the details. Couldn’t we use something like “Moments I’d Like to Forget,” or “Dumb and Dumber Moments in Time”? What do you think?

So I’ve put off writing this post until I could remember some of my better HC moments that I would want to share, and here they are in all of their embarrassing glory:

Moment #1

I once went to an information session with my program’s director. This was my job, by the way. It was a new location for us. The room was not one that I was used to, but I had been told in advance that the room contained an overhead projector and a laptop projector, so the only thing that I needed to bring was my flash drive with my presentation on it. So, we arrived early to set up (I had brought my laptop just in case but had left it in the car). and could not find the laptop connection. Luckily for me, the Ed.D in Education couldn’t figure out the connection either, so I wasn’t made to feel too terribly stupid.

On the way out of the room, I noticed a small notice on the top right of the board on a piece of paper that was about six inches wide. It explained how to access the laptop. The instruction were blocked by the two rolling carts that contained other A/V equipment. Great location for instructions.

Moment #2

I was certain that I had lost my glasses, as in prescription glasses. I was wearing them at the time which Alexis pointed out to me.gallon-of-milk

Moment #3

I had gone to Costco and bought a pretty large amount of groceries and other things. For some reason, when the boys unloaded the back of the Trooper, they overlooked the milk, which I did not find until the next day when I got in the car to go to work. Summertime. Overnight. Milk . . .

Moment #4

Paul and I once left the house and got in the car before we realized that we had left Alexis inside the house asleep in her crib. She was just such a quiet baby.

Moment #5

I once rode my bike to my mother-in-law’s house when she was watching Alexis. But then, I hadn’t thought about how we would get home. We put my bike in the back of her car, and she drove us both home.

Moment #6

map-of-ohioAfter Corey and I had been dating for a while, he decided to take the boys and me up to Ohio to meet his family for Christmas. It was already a pretty stressful situation as he had not told his father about me or my children, but his mother knew all about us. So we packed up the car, and got on the interstate, and I asked Corey how long it took to drive to Ohio, to which he replied, “I have no idea. I’ve never driven before.” I very calmly asked, “Do you know how to get there?” He said, “Uhm, no.”

I suggested that we stop and purchase a map, which we did. I then looked at the gas tank, and suggested that we get some gas while we were stopped. He asserted that we were fine. We took an exist in Richmond to find someplace to eat dinner as we were already so far behind schedule. As we were crossing a bridge in a completely unfamiliar part of Richmond, we ran out of gas. The boys were still quite young, so they were relatively freaked out by this.

 This is one of his headless chicken moments, and I think that it counts as two.

Moment #7starbucks-coffee

I was going to a staff meeting in D.C. I was wearing a cream-colored turtle neck Anne Klein sweater. About half-way there, I spilled coffee all the way down the front of the sweater. I stopped at the next exit, and went in a gas station restroom. I took off the sweater and washed just the part that had coffee on it in the sink, and then I blotted it with paper towels. Then I put the half wet sweater back on and turned the heat on full blast for the rest of the ride to D.C. I arrived late and freezing, with my sweater still pretty damp and obviously stained.

Moment #8

When I was leaving my job with the government services firm in Arlington, a very large group of people took me out for a going away lunch party. My big boss was there, so there was tacit approval for drinks all around since he ordered pitchers of margaritas and shots of something. There were just two problems. I was the safe keeper for that floor of the building, which meant that I held the passwords, codes, and safe combination. I also had to be debriefed that day as I held a secret clearance. Well, everyone had forgotten about those two events. When they brought me back to the office around 3 or so, I was completely and totally happy. I did remember the safe combination and codes, and managed to sign my signature and release the safe, although at the time, it was not considered to be “an official looking signature.”

The debriefing was a totally different matter. The security guy came in my office, closed the door, and started to ask me questions. Then he took one look at me, and said, we really cannot do this now, can we? I said, ” nope, sure can’t.” He called my big boss, put me on the phone, big boss said, are you in any shape to answer any questions? I said, “what do you think?” Big boss said hand the phone to X.  I hear big boss say to X, “consider her debriefing complete.” X walks out of my door and shuts it. I start giggling hysterically, call Kathleen and Luke, and by the time they walk down the floor to my office, I’m on the floor.

Not the most professional moment of my life, but one of the funniest ever.

Moment #9

And finally, for now, there was a time that I was certain that I had lost my small ID wallet, the one in which I put my driver’s license and bank card. Corey asked me if I had looked in my purse. I answered testily that of course I had looked in my wallet. I had people looking under the bed, under chairs, in the sofa, in the cars. Corey asked me again if it could be in my purse. I said that no, it could not be in my purse, but if he wanted to look, he could. So he took everything out of my purse, and there, at the very bottom, was the wallet. The lining of my purse was black; just about everything in my purse was black, and the wallet was black. I was so angry at myself because I really had looked in my purse at least twice and did no feel it or see it.

And so, for now, that will be enough of my headless chicken moments. More later. Peace.