Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hope and some Serendipity

A little before the Twins game was to start tonight, I went out to feed the dumpster kitties. I have gotten into the habit of going right around dusk. I can still see but there are few people out and about to see me (and possibly judge me). Right as I was approaching the dumpster, I noticed a woman in a white car parked in the last space before the driveway to the dumpster.

One of my favorite kitties ran out from behind the dumpster to greet me (always from a distance) and one of the new babies was back there. I dumped out my Ziploc freezer bag full of food and crossed my arms while I watched them peek out from the woods behind the dumpster.

"Hi." She scared the piss out of me. I whirled around and was instantly nervous. Does she live in the complex? Is she going to yell at me for encouraging this? I couldn't tell how old she was. My age give or take five years. I'm bad at that. She was wearing shorts, a t-shirt, flip flops and had long blond hair loosely piled up under a nondescript baseball cap.

"Oh, um, hi," I finally returned.

"Do you feed these cats?"

"Yes...." I answered somewhat defensively.

She appeared relieved. "Oh, I'm so happy somebody is feeding these guys. I've come by here a couple times and noticed them. Have they been trapped and fixed?"

"No. I've looked into it, but it's a little overwhelming."

We contined to talk for maybe ten minutes. It turns out she feeds feral cat colonies in my neighborhood and happened across "mine" a few days ago. She staked it out to se if they were being cared for. She also routinely traps feral cats and takes them to a clinic that charges her a very small fee to fix them. She then offered to coordinate with me and help me trap my dumpster kitties to take them in to be spayed and neutered. I looked her over once again and decided she appeared "normal". Now let me just say that I don't normally judge people based on appearances but when I meet a complete stranger behind a dumpster that wants to have continual communication with me, I must be wary and make haste judgements at the risk of being discriminatory. She wore makeup and seemed well kept, completely unlike the Crazy Cat Lady from the Simpsons. I decided to ask her for her phone number, still undecided about giving her mine. Even though she appeared normal, there was still a possibility she could go postal and call me 20 times a day about crazy cat stuff.

I followed her to her car where she asked me if I was a student. I told her I was a grad student, prompting the inevitable question about what I was studying. When I told her physics she got a stunned look on her face. She asked me if I knew Sue, our office manager that passed away nearly two months ago. I told her I knew Sue well, and at once I recognized her as a speaker at Sue's service. Sue was her aunt and they were very close. Suddenly, I trusted this woman and knew that I wanted her to help me do this. I've been talking about "doing something about the kitties" for awhile, and completely by coincidence this situation finds me.

I never really thought of the dumpsters kitties as stressing me out. It's more like a hobby. But there are days when I see them all at once and feel extremely overwhelmed. And small. Now, with the connection I made I feel an immense weight already beginning to lift from my shoulders. This is a chance for me to do something good.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Pennant Race Baseball is Driving me to Drink

Two weekends ago it was vodka sours. Last weekend it was my mojitos (they paled in comparison to my dad's, by the way). And last night I nursed an entire bottle of wine during the Twins game. Basically, since the Twins made their way back onto the radar for the wild card and even the division, Dean and I have been turning to alcohol to calm our viscous nerves. Even when the majority of my face was numb, my stomach had knots twisting and turning. I don't know if I'll make it to October. And when Joe Nathan gave up the two-run homer last night I thought my world would end. Fortunately, I had no disillusion about today's game. After the score was 6-1, I retired to nap.

Dean, usually the less responsible of the two of us, is threatening to go on a mission to dry us out. We can't sustain this way, and September can be a long month. Nothing is getting done around the house. What little energy we are left with on Sunday afternoons after a hard night of drinking and pulling out our hair is spent dumping empty bottles into a garbage bag, and wiping up the syrupy residue off the countertops from the various mixers.

Why do we struggle so much on Sundays? It all goes back to the difference between a juvenile hangover and an adult hangover. You see, when you are in your late teens and early twenties, a hangover can be cured with 14 hours of sleep, a couple Advil and a Tremendous Twelve from Perkins. Not so when you hit your mid twenties. It is one of nature's horrible ironies that when you become legally able to drink, you become physically unable to. An adult hangover starts innocent enough. You wake up with a pounding headache, but you think "If that's as bad as it's going to be, I can handle it." But it's NOT. An adult hangover gets progressively WORSE as the day goes on. The extreme fatigue sets in a couple hours later, and nausea sets in mid afternoon. By late afternoon, you are a total blob of uselessness saying "Either I need to drink much less or much more." Finally, feeling defeated by early evening, you must reconcile yourself to the fact that today is wasted, and as an adult that is the worst part of the whole hangover. No cleaning, no running errands or organizing the closets. If you are lucky this is it. On the rare occasion though, I have experienced the two-day adult hangover with the second day starting where the first left off.

Thus Dean, being fed up with uselessness, slothfulness and the frustrated feeling that while a Tremendous Twelve sounds really good he just doesn't think he could keep it down, says next weekend needs to be alcohol free. And I agree.


Now, a couple of you have noticed the new link that I put in on the side bar. I originally got this idea from Jackie, who has a link explaining who she is talking about during any given story. I thought this was a really good idea and Friday, which was another excruciatingly slow day at work, I set out to do something similar. I decided to just add on a new blog, and make it a "Reader's Guide" to satisfy my throngs of readers. I think it says more than my profile and that way someone stumbling across this website can know just what it's about, and those that keep coming back can easily click on the side if they forget who someone is (since I get tired of always reintroducing the people in my life). If you have a minute check it out and let me know what you think!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dear “Friend”,

About seven months ago, we got into an argument. You said that there were times when you felt that we were so close, almost like brother and sister and all you wanted was to keep that up. But then there were other times when you felt we were distant, tense and too uncommunicative. If you remember correctly, I said that friendships can be like pendulums, swinging very far in one direction and then turning around to swing in the opposite direction. I told you that we may live our whole lives with our friendship in a constant state of motion, but not to worry I will still be at the end of the string.

I am sad to say that I fear the pendulum has swung too far, the string pulled too taut. When you picked up and left three and a half weeks ago without saying good bye to me, your other “friends” or even your boss, I said, “enough”. What was basically a flippant “Dear John” letter to your coworkers was a slap in the face after being there for you through thick and thin for four years. I have listened to you and offered you valuable advice regarding issues both professional and personal. I knew you were at a crossroads in your life, but I expected more of you than to simply cut and run. Maybe you thought your friends would talk you out of it. Maybe you thought we would be disappointed in your ultimate decision. I can’t imagine being more disappointed than I am now- that you didn’t have the decency to at least give me five minutes of your time to say good bye, and good luck.

And you know what? Even when you left I expected more. I expected an apology, an explanation. I expected you to tell us what was so bad that you couldn’t turn to us. Instead I got a message from you on my answering machine at 6:00 in the morning saying your car broke down at the Florida border. I say: good. I say that Karma or the Collective Conscious or God(ess)/Allah/Buddha/Ying & Yang or whatever form of higher power you believe in is punishing you for running away from your problems.

Then, today’s email. I know I should be glad that “[h]ealing discussions in rural Oklahoma and the high country of Northern Arizona have been undertaken...” and that “[a]fter many, many hours of introspection and emotional/cognitive struggle” you have chosen to teach inner-city underrepresented minority children. Really, that’s a noble choice. But the selfish part of me wonders why you needed to run away from us to do your “soul-searching and reflection”.

I am coming to terms with never knowing the answer.

Wishing you success in hopes of achieving a stronger scientific community.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Willie, My Future Husband

Dean and I went to Circuit City on Saturday because we were in the neighborhood. I had wanted to buy Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett on DVD in light of my recent interest in Tudor England. Apparently this is much too obscure of a movie for Circuit City. I was so irritated because their organizational method (or lack thereof) is total crap. If you are not going to display the DVDs in an aesthetically pleasing fashion, at least display them spine side out like in a book store so a person doesn't have to flip through every freaking DVD just to realize you don't have what they want.

Dean, a much easier man to please, decided for once in his life to treat himself and buy the next season of Family Guy. The first two volumes were gifts and my jaw about dropped when he brought it up to me saying, "Is it okay if I buy this?"

Dean was as disgusted with Circuit City as I was. Not so much about the lack of organization (maybe I would have forgotten all about it if I had found what I was looking for), but because of the volume of the (crappy) music they were playing. Normally I would tease Dean about being an old man, but he has amazing hearing and the music was even hurting my ears a little. Dean can pick up conversations across a crowded bar. It's a gift.

Anyway, after waiting in line an OBSCENE amount of time, Dean is finally allowed to purchase his DVD. He is paying with cash. The cashier asked him for his phone number. I about went apeshit. Dean without batting an eyelash gave it to her. He's much more forthcoming with personal information, but my feeling is what the hell does Circuit City, this hell hole of a store, want with my phone number? I was about to say this, when a name popped up after she entered Dean's phone number.

"Are you Willie Hernandez?" she asked my obviously non-ethnic fiance nonchalantly.

Dean grinned, "Yep, that's me!"

Monday, August 21, 2006

Dear Gangster Rappers,

Let me first say I appreciate your chosen creative outlet. When I am driving I will often turn my radio to The Beat 96 in hopes that they will be playing one of your songs. (If they are playing what I refer to as an "Ooooh, giiiirl" R&B song, I usually turn it again.) When caught up in the moment I will "sing" along while furiously drumming my hands on the steering wheel. If I am feeling really feisty I will even speak the words that are bleeped out on the radio (but never the "n-word". I respect that I'm not allowed to say that as a white girl).

I understand the plight of the gangsters, the players, the haters, the pimps, the ballers and the shot-callers. Likewise I know that as an art form you call upon many sounds to convey your often anguished message. However, I am writing to request, in fact to plead, that you refrain from including the sounds of gun shots and police sirens. You see, when I am driving home from the lab or Publix or Target and engrossed in your rhythms, and I unexpectedly hear sounds as if I am in a war zone or under a terrorist attack, I am liable to scream and duck my head. This is ultimately terrifying and embarrassing.

You must understand that in a post 9/11 world, we are all a little hyper sensitive which is why I am asking you to consider the alert state of drivers when mixing your beats. At the very least, record a radio version that does not include sounds as if the listener is in a high-speed car chase.

Repectfully yours,


Friday, August 18, 2006

What's Wrong With Me?

I like to think of myself as an optimist. Unfortunately, I come from a strong lineage of pessimists, most notably my great grandma. She is always complaining about the weather and when my mom and stepdad take her for her walk she is either miserably hot or miserably cold. On the rare occasion that the weather is truly comfortable in Minnesota (low 70s, low humidity, sunny) to the extent that someone can't POSSIBLY be uncomfortable, she says something like, "well, a bird will probably crap on my head." She's a firecracker and comes by her pessimism honestly.

So naturally I think of my pessimistic ancestry when I am in a funk (yes, still) and nothing seems to be making me happy. Take work, for instance. When we are doing experiments and working 16 hour days, all I can think to do is bitch and moan about how exhausted I am, how I need to rest. I just want to read a novel/take a hot bath/watch silly 80's movies. Now that we are not doing experiments and I have nothing pressing to do, I'm bored/unchallenged/restless/stir crazy. When the lab is full and people are bustling about while chitchatting I think to myself "I wish it were quiet so I could get some work done." While this week I've been either the only one or one of two people in the lab and I can't help feeling lonely and irritated that no one is coming in. So I've been bored and unmotivated which is the perfect time to catch up on literature searches or lab organization. But I have no desire to do either of those things.

What's wrong with me?!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Literary Meme

Jackie, you are going to regret tagging me because I am going to beat this meme into submission.

Here are the rules:
1. Answer one of these questions (see below) on your blog.
2. Link back to whoever tagged you.
3. Tag 5 women bloggers.
4. Plus, check out previous responses, and if you know of a novel that pertains to the subject someone wishes they could write or would like to read about, suggest the novel to them in a comment.
(*If you're thoroughly confused, it helps to read the instructions three times.)

-If you could write a novel about any subject, what would it be (Just the subject—don’t give away your plot idea.)
-If just the thought of having to write anything gives you hives, what would you like to read about in a novel that you’ve never seen done before?
-If you hate reading fiction what subject might make you change your mind or try it any

It just so happens that after reading the question(s) for this, I was reminded of an idea I had for a novel. Thus, the question I chose is:

If you could write a novel about any subject, what would it be (Just the subject—don’t give away your plot idea.)

Okay, I am going to deviate a small amount because the subject I had in mind is a little complicated, so will require some plot, but not many details.

My idea for a novel would be the love story of two scientists that are too independent to try and relocate for each other (finding jobs for couples at the same institution or in the same city is a common problem known in science as the "two-body problem"). So, they can only meet once year for a week at an international conference. The novel would (in very basic terms) chronicle each of their careers seperately, and their personal lives but would focus mainly on their relationship through the years in the weeks they are able to meet around the globe.

Was that too detailed?

I don't think I have 5 women readers who are also bloggers. So anyone who is reading- men, women, non-bloggers and lurkers- who wants to take a stab at it the more the merrier!!! (Just let me know in the comment section...)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Sweet Temptation

I told myself I wasn't going to do it anymore. Never again. No matter how much "things have changed," I was through. A person can only take so much hurt and disappointment before their loyalty is eroded. Can you blame me? I mean, after the strippers, and the excuses, the years and years without a ring and the "things will be different this time." No self-respecting woman would come back for more.

But I did. Like I knew I would. And it wasn't....that...bad. What was I supposed to do? There was nothing else on TV. There was no Twins game on. And the Twins will always be my favorite. And the Bucs. I try so hard to be a good Bucs fan, but they just don't excite me like the Vikings do. The purple jerseys (it reminds me of Prince) and the historically incorrect horns on the helmets. And I really like Brad Johnson. Plus I wanted to see Tony Kornheiser's Monday Night Football debut. How often are the Vikings on Monday Night Football? I'll do it just this once. Then it's the Bucs all the way. They don't disappoint me like the Vikings. Who else, WHO ELSE can fumble on the opening kickoff of the first preseason game?! That's purple pride.

I will have to be guarded with my heart this time. I was too quick to love before, and winning me back will not be that easy. They will have to prove themselves to me.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Miss Funky Funk

I am in a funk right now. Whenever that happens, my friend calls me Miss Funky Funk, hence the title.

Work is slow. We are in between experiments so I am feeling unproductive, unmotivated and definitely unenergetic (is that a word?). Pretty much all I can do is read research papers, and after reading a half dozen in a day I feel my eyelids get heavy, and my brain feels saturated. This takes only a couple of hours.

I haven't felt much like writing either. I have things to say, I just don't feel like committing them to cyber space. To keep you updated, here's what I've contemplated writing at some time or another over the past week:

*Soft Claws, the best invention ever.

*The sudden appearance of teenager ducks in the pond, supporting my hypothesis that the last batch of babies wasn't eaten but confiscated by an animal interest group. Wishful thinking?

*Current book: The Red Tent (not for book group, for my own enjoyment).

*Talladega Nights, The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Pretty funny despite my initial skepticism.

Anyway, none of these topics has gotten me to write so maybe they're not that interesting to begin with.

That's all.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Marathon Girl

Fellow blogger and close friend, runnergirl, has decided to run the Disney Marathon in January to raise money for blood cancer research. She in running in memory of Randy. Please visit her blog to learn more and if you are looking for a cause to donate to there is none better, in my humble opinion.


runnergirl's fundraising website

Leukemia and Lymphoma Team in Training Homepage

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What's Your Soundbite?

A few months ago, a friend of mine lent me Dr. Phil's Love Smart. Let me clarify some things first. This person knows and adores Dean and thinks we are a match made in heaven. However, this person also knows that I worship Dr. Phil and think he is an utter genius so I would read anything he has to say about almost any topic. I recognize that some of this is lunacy, but we all have our weaknesses.

Anyway, this person lent me Love Smart and I've finally gotten around to reading it (it got put on the back burner for work, book group selections and a few magazines) but the subtitle "Find the One You Want, Fix the One You Got" made me think the book wouldn't be a total waste of time. Whose Prince Charming couldn't use a little fixing? Actually, what I've been learning is not how to "fix" the love of my life- I fell in love with who he is not who I want him to be. Instead I've learned how to understand some of the weird things he does that often threaten to drive me to insanity. Putting these things into a context of "this is just how men think" has been helpful, and one of the points he drives home is that women need to stop evaluating men using their own feminine yardstick. Brilliant!

Another central theme in the book is how to get men to notice you (no, not by being a hoochie!) by sharpening your social skills. I am not single, but I am a physicist which inherently means my social skills could use a little work. And I am often put in social situations (no matter how much I resist) where I have to meet new people and make small talk. This book is quite good at explaining how to effectively leave an impression on people. Dr. Phil says to compare getting to know people with trying to sell a product, and that product is you! The first rule in sales is that you must believe in your product which means that you must like yourself before you can expect others to like you! Okay, so far this sounds like self-help mumbo jumbo, but I am going somewhere with this. One piece of advice that Dr. Phil gives for social situations is to have a "soundbite" that you can give to people to quickly give them an essence of you who are. Usually this "soundbite" should be 30 words or less so that the person you are meeting doesn't get bored. I thought this was a great idea and that I should definitely have a soundbite on hand for any social situation. Here's what I've come up with:

"My name is Natalie and I measure the dynamic magnetic properties of multi-functional oxide systems."

"My name is Natalie and I am about ten years away from being the Crazy Cat Lady that all your kids and their friends will tease."

"My name is Natalie and if you are a Yankees fan, please tell me so that we can end this conversation immediately."

"My name is Natalie and I’m addicted to truffles, historical fiction and National Public Radio."

"My name is Natalie and I’m only talking to you because Dr. Phil told me to."

So..... what’s your soundbite?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Happy 6th Birthday, Nellie!

This is the fiasco that is a birthday around here. One can of tuna, split three ways.

Happy Birthday, Nellie!

Sunday, August 06, 2006


Yesterday I was sitting in the office reading while Dean was in the living room flipping through the channels. He came across the Humane Society of Tampa Bay telethon.

"Nat!" he called, "Come quick! And bring a bottle of booze!" (If you don't know why this is funny, read this.)

We saw dog, cats, puppies and kittens and we wanted badly to adopt them all. We stayed sober and settled for making a donation. They were describing all the love and care that goes into each animal and how they need funds even more so now that they have switched to "no-kill for space". They also need volunteers just to love on the animals until they find their forever homes. This is something I would looooove to do if I weren't already working a demanding job while preparing to earn my Ph.D. within the next year and a half. But I'm keeping it in mind and I was reminded yesterday how important it is to donate to local animal shelters, especially ones doing such a fantastic job. For a few brief fleeting moments I even considered giving all this up- the education, the job opportunities, the prestige, just to work with animals, indulging in my most deeply rooted passion. But alas, Dr. Hari would most likely hunt me down and shoot me if I walked away from it all. He would be followed closely by my parents (who put me through my undergraduate education consisting of 2 degrees) and the program managers at the National Science Foundation. I will have to settle for opening up my checkbook a couple times a year.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Other Boleyn Girl

This month's book group selection is The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. I wasn't at book group the day they made this selection so I don't know if any of the ladies had read it beforehand. I'm going to guess not. I suspect that with Philippa Gregory a very popular author right now the ladies just wanted to get a feel for her writing.

Oh. My. God. This book is like crack. It had tons of sex, royal politics, deceit, vivid descriptions of costumes, and jewely. I love it. Dean and I usually go to sleep around 11 or so. Most if the time we read for half hour before hand but not if the Twins game is on and it runs until bed time. Lately I will lie in bed wondering what will happen next in the book and after I hear Dean's breathing take on a slow rythmic sound I sneak out of bed into the office and read for an hour or two. Yesterday Wrigley wasn't feeling well after being vaccinated the day before. I was a little worried about him so I went to work for a presentation I had to go to and then around lunch time I went home. I told Dr. Hari I would work from home and be available if he needed anything. I worked for an hour and then started thinking about The Other Boleyn Girl. It was all over. I layed on the couch and read the rest of the day with my cats taking turns on my lap and my computer alerting me when Dr. Hari had a quick question.

I have under 100 pages left (I knocked out about 200 of the 650 total pages yesterday) and I'm contemplating how soon I can get outta here. I am dying to know what the other ladies will think of it. Will they be appalled at the graphic language? Or will they love the scandal and the period descriptions? Most importantly, will we read more Philippa Gregory?!

I am not going to say this is the best piece of literature ever written. I don't even know how much of the historical events are accurate. They can't all possibly be true, but everything I've questioned and subsequently looked up on the internet is at least speculated by historians but not always accepted. I like to think of it more like a guilty pleasure, and learning a little about the time period as well. It's perfect for the beach, a plane ride or hijacking your real life for a little while.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


I was going to add a comment addressing some of the thoughts left on my previous post but even in my mind it became so long I decided to just write a new post.

First, thank you to all of you who stopped by and left such kind words. I never dreamed I could meet such caring people all because I blog (which by the way I started after much persuasion from my friend. I was very resistant at first. So thank you, anonymous blog buddy.).

Second, to answer Scott's question, yes I still have the recording. runnergirl thought she recorded over it but she didn't. She is the only person that I think I could have forgiven if she had recorded over it only because I believe she would be just as hurt as I. Everyone knows that the number one rule in this apartment is NEVER EVER TOUCH THE RED BUTTON ON THE PIANO. I like to think of my future children banging on the keyboard, knowing their mother is perfectly okay with creative musical expression just as long as they DON'T TOUCH THE RED BUTTON.

interestingly, mom, I hadn't really thought of the "piano as therapist" angle. Music and the presence of animals have always been therapeutic for me. For the first time in six years both are in my home. And I feel a new sense of completeness.

For those of you who haven't figured it out (and don't know me in real life), Ms. Big Feet is Randy's little(st) sister. One of my biggest regrets is not knowing her better when Randy was still around (even though he talked about her often enough!). As tragic as this whole experience has been, I have found a new friend in BF. Her strength and perserverance never cease to amaze me, and her resemblance to Randy in personality and spirit continues to be a comfort.

Lastly, one thing I had meant to describe in my previous post was the way I thought Randy might react to his piano's new home. I can imagine myself telling him about my poor fiance's lack of musical ear, and how no matter if I am playing a Hanon warm-up or Liszt's Liebestraume I get the same reaction. Pure awe. I can see him throwing his head back at laughing at this with his whole body. He had such a wreckless laugh, booming, loud and hearty. Not that I'm that funny of a person, but I think he would have gotten a kick out of that. Next I imagine myself telling him how Allison likes it so much. Randy adored cats. He regarded them with almost a juvenile fascination. For such an intelligent person, I think he was shocked that he could have such a primal bond with another creature. He never tired of feeding and playing with runnergirl's cats and he enjoyed watching my kittens grow up (especially Wiggly Wrigley!). I know the reaction he would have to this unexpected attraction between Allie and the piano: he would give his half smile that would turn into an all out grin. There are times I think to myself "Damn! I wish Randy could see this silliness!" Then there are times when I know he can.