Saturday, December 30, 2017


It's been at least 20 years since I've had any kind of back pain so the fact that I can hardly stand up straight is making me grumpy. Actually, it's stressing me out because I do not want to go to the doctor for this. Past experiences have been expensive and useless.

I haven't had a chance to baby it. Last night was the last of the Christmas parties and today was a hair appointment. Because Tylenol had kicked in, I went with Mica to Starbucks for our annual peppermint mocha.

I wasn't doing badly today until I had to get on the floor to replace the furnace filter. I did consider leaving it for another few days, but it's stupid cold here (high was 4 degrees today and I think tomorrow's high will be negative something) and I inherited by my dad's worry wort syndrome especially is it applies to central heating. My dad fretted over the thermostat and how often the furnace kicked on like he was monitoring oxygen levels for the space station. My house is old, very poorly insulated and a giant energy suck. When it's this cold the furnace never stays off for very long. I mentioned it to my brother when he called a little while ago, and he was reassuring, which I appreciated. I don't know what I'm worried about exactly. It isn't the expense. I think I just learned to worry. My dad was a wonderful example in many ways, but damn if I didn't absorb his worst trait -- worrying about everything.

Tomorrow morning Mica and I have tickets for the new Star Wars movie. Since the tickets are paid for, I plan to go unless my back is worse but I don't think that will be the case. I have let a couple of friends know I won't be able to make their NYE parties. I'm disappointed that I'll miss Eve and Paul's. I could use an Izzy fix. Mica has invited me and another friend over to play cards and eat fabulous snacks. I'll spend the night and she and I will go out for breakfast New Years Day -- something we've been doing since college.

Overall, 2017 has been one giant pain after another (mostly in the figurative sense) so it's fitting this is how it's ending. 

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017


It took forever to get dressed this morning. I discovered I do not own anything that's very warm, and my options for layering are not exactly stylish. Normally it wouldn't matter since the longest I ever have to be outside is the 15 or 20 minutes it takes to walk Little White Dog, but when the temperature is -4, a bit more is required. I should go shopping. (No, I shouldn't.)

I met my friend Ryan for coffee this morning. He arrived early enough to snag a table and then "upgrade" for one a little further away from the door. Every time a table opened there was a mass shift as people moved inward. After a while we were able to jump to a table near enough to the fireplace to feel some warmth. That's where we stayed for a couple of hours.

I don't remember a time when I didn't know Ryan. His mom and mine were friends. He's three years older and remembers meeting me as a newborn and telling my mom he wanted me to be his sister. It was as if an unbreakable bond developed then. We've always meant something to one another even though we routinely go years without seeing each other. It's an odd thing.

Last time I saw him was this summer at his Mom's funeral. He's back for the holidays. He wanted to talk about what it has been like since losing his mom and find out how to deal with grief when it sometimes becomes overwhelming. Over the years I've had other friends ask the same thing, and I've learned through their experiences, as well as my own, that a few things seem to be universal. I shared those. Mostly, though, I listened because having someone in your corner who gets it is one of the greatest helps.

Often, I wonder why Ryan and I have never had a more conventional friendship, one where we stay in touch, hang out when we can, do all the things that friends do. Instead, our lives have been lived separately for the most part. And yet there's this thing we have that seems to be unbreakable. Who knows why things work out the way they do. What we have, works.
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Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Last night when I got home I was too tired to write, almost too tired to undress for bed. Today was recovery day. After sleeping in, I stumbled to the couch, watched a couple of episodes of Suits, and went back to bed to nap for a few more hours. I’ve been useless all day.

I want a Harvey Spector. It’s the value he puts on loyalty. I’d take that over love, money or whatever else people use as the basis for relationships.

My oldest friend called a little while ago. He’s in town and wants to get together for coffee tomorrow. Not only am I looking forward to seeing him, I’m happy to have a reason to get dressed. Tonight, though, I binge.
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Sunday, December 24, 2017

Holidays go on

Joy packaged in a furry bundle.

Christmas with the extended family was today, and the little guy in the picture made my day. His tail never stops wagging as he runs around exploring, chasing kids and looking for cuddles. He was pretty much the only thing that was going to make me feel better today.

Not sure why but this morning I was hit hard by sadness. Christmas -- and all family oriented holidays -- churns up an ache for all the people who are no longer here: my parents, an aunt who was my second mom and best friend, and her son who was more of a brother than cousin. I miss them all but memories of my cousin can turn to tears in an instant, and that's what happened this morning. Holidays are rough because all the people I grew up with are gone. It happens to just about everyone eventually, but it happened so much earlier to me and my brother. There's a country song Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old). That sums it up.

Holidays go on, though.

I was late getting there because of the four inches of snow that had to be removed from my driveway first. The temperatures dropped to the teens yesterday so it was a dry snow, but man was it slick underneath. The driveway has a fairly steep slope at the bottom. Although I was being careful, my feet slipped out from under me as I lifted a shovel of snow. I twisted on my way down to try to break my fall and avoid landing on the shovel. Totally messed up my lower back.

My brother didn't get to get together with the rest of the family. He works in retail and no one was getting the day off. I came home mid-afternoon to wrap his presents, make a cheeseball he likes and get everything packed up. We do Christmas at his house because he still puts up a tree. I haven't decorated since my cousin died. Just can't get into it and decided it really doesn't matter.

Our evening was nice. He liked the Fitbit and sofa table more than I expected.

I'll take lunch to his house tomorrow and hang around for awhile. That will wrap up Christmas for this year.

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One down, two to go

What a day. This begins a three-day marathon. I really, truly cannot wait until the evening of the 25th.

The good news is I finished shopping this morning. I even found a little sofa table for my brother that he may not like but that I liked so much I bought one for myself. I'd been looking for one. Who knew Menards would have everything. I even found a toy for the beloved little white dog's stocking. The final shopping stop was Sam’s Club to buy three roasted chickens (two for Mica, one for me).

Mica’s mom had to change her plans due to doctor’s orders, so Mica is going to her brother’s on Christmas day and they requested she bring rum balls, cracker toffee (“Christmas crack”) and a cheese tray. Since I need the first two, we made them together at her house.

The baking was first delayed by the need to remove the meat from three chickens. It was delayed a second time when I suggested we take the little white dog to the dog park that just opened in the area. It seemed like the least we could do for him after he endured an hour of watching -- and smelling -- the chicken activity. He got to play with a goldendoodle, and our cheeks got windburned.

We worked as fast as we could, but Mica still had to make a second batch of the cracker toffee on her own. I had to leave because my brother was expecting me by 6:00. He took me out to dinner, then back to his house to open presents and hang out awhile. Just after we returned to his house, I received a text from Eve asking if I was still going to the bar, then another one that said I may have company. If it hadn’t been for those texts, I probably wouldn’t have gone. When I left my brother's, it was snowing and the streets were slick. I don't like to mess with slick streets if I don't have to.

At least traffic downtown was light. I thought the bar may not be as crowded as usual. Boy, was that wrong. It was shoulder to shoulder all they back to the door. It’s a long, narrow space with tables near the front by a small dance area. The bar runs along one side at the back. The rest of the space is for people to crowd into as best they can.

The band was on stage getting ready to start. I spotted a space where I could squeeze between people seated at the bar to order a glass of beer. Beer in hand, I ducked elbows and weaved between bodies to get to my preferred standing spot beside the old piano that sits against the wall near the door to the cellar. I don’t mind standing, which is good considering I can only remember three times when I managed to get a seat. The downside to standing is I’m short. Not only are elbows of the tall dangerous, I can only see the stage part of the time. I’m there for the music so it doesn’t matter . . . but the guy who plays the bongos is awfully easy on the eyes.

The band’s sound is a mix of rock with a strong south-of-the border sound and a bit of blues and country tossed around for flavor. They couple it with high energy that’s infectious. Back when Mica and I first discovered them, they were just getting started and played a lot. We came to hear them most of the weekends they played this particular bar. Mica grew tired of having to stand all night, and I think she grew tired of the music in a way I never have. Now they only book a handful of weekends a year, with occasional last-minute gigs added. If I see them once a year, I’m lucky.

The bar itself draws a laid back crowd. Age ranges vary although it skews older. If you like music, you’re welcome there. If you like beer, tequila or anything else, you’re welcome there. If you like bars that are about image and picking up people, you’re welcome there but you’ll be disappointed and likely won’t stay long.

Among all the evenings I’ve spent there, I’ve only been approached with “can I buy you a drink” once. That was by a one-eyed, just jilted guy.

No, not kidding.

Tonight when a voice close to my ear said, “Can I buy you another one?” I was understandably hesitant to turn and acknowledge that I’d heard. I stepped aside as best I could given I was standing against a piano, because there was a good chance I’d heard something meant for someone else. Then I did that quick glance you do when you think you’ve heard something meant for someone else but need to be sure. Standing at my shoulder, bent down to the level of my ear was Blaine.

He has blue eyes. (Two of them.)

I noticed because of the proximity of our faces at that moment, forced close by the crowd and the need to be heard over the music.

I said sure. While he was gone getting drinks, a slow process on a busy night, I looked for Eve and Paul and, not seeing them, tried to tamp down a intensifying flight response. It’s looking like something is afoot.

I neither saw them nor the emergency exit before Blaine made it back with two glasses of beer. The beer is always extraordinarily cold, and that first sip is amazing, particularly when one is feeling warm.

It’s hard to talk over the music. At best, you can manage a sentence here or there. Once, he leaned down to ask the name of the band. He wears cologne. It’s a clean scent. I’d have preferred Polo. I hate Polo. I answered a couple more questions--yes, they write their own music; no, I don’t know any of the band members.

“You have a favorite song?” I nodded, told him the name when he asked. “Tell me when they play it,” Blaine said. I haven’t heard it in ages. Their song list is long enough now that they never make it through everything.

What I didn’t tell Blaine is the song is about a guy who catches his wife cheating, tracks her and her lover down, kills them with a .45, and laments the resulting prison sentence. It’s my favorite because the unexpected lyrics blew me away the first time I’d heard the song. Between all the fun, flirty, borderline suggestive songs was this one that made everyone turn to who they were with and ask, “Did he just say he killed her.” In the early days they sometimes added that the shots “missed 'em by a mile” if it looked like the audience wasn’t into it. I loved that, too. They stopped softening it a long time ago, though.

When the band took a break, I didn’t know what to do with the conversation. I asked if this was his kind of music. He drew in a breath, tilted his head and acknowledged they’re a fun band, but his musical tastes tend toward blues and jazz. The bar’s reputation was built on attracting big name blues artists so I asked if he’d ever caught any of the nationally known artists there. He said he and his wife used to go to shows several times a year, but he hasn’t been for a long time. “When you said you were coming here tonight it reminded me how long it’s been since I’ve been here. Thought I’d check it out. Knew I’d know at least one person here.”

So, OK. That’s OK.

He took our empty glasses back to the bar. It was a long time before he made it back with two more. I was at my limit. I drank enough to lower the level to a point where it wouldn’t slosh onto my hand whenever I got bumped, and let the rest go warm.

The band started playing the final set. A couple songs in, they paused. “We have a request from Blaine -- thanks for the tequila.” The band members raised shot glasses. “And happy birthday, Marcia.”

Damn. That was nice.

I watched Blaine to see if he reacted to the song. He did. A small laugh.

We stayed until the lights came up. Blaine insisted on walking me to my car, which was in a parking garage across the street. He said he was parked there too so I didn’t fuss. It was nice of him but not necessary. This isn’t a dangerous city and it wasn’t that late or deserted.

The snow was still falling, a couple of inches on the ground, and it was cold on my neck. I hadn’t worn a coat into the bar because it’s a bother to keep track of. The leather jacket I did wear doesn't have buttons and was covering a camisole, so I was eager to get out of the cold. I thanked him quickly, especially for the song request, and said goodnight.

I gotta say, that request was one of the best birthday occurrences ever.

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Friday, December 22, 2017

Gettin' fussy

Let this year be a lesson to me. Leaving Christmas shopping until the last minute is INSANE.

By 7 a.m. I was on the way to the grocery store. I hadn't made a list; instead, I Googled various recipes or recalled ingredients as best I could. In the morning I'll check to see if I have everything I need.

In the dairy aisle I came upon a man who was peering at the cheeses. As I grabbed a couple of blocks of cream cheese, he spoke. "Excuse me. Do you happen to know what kind of cheese goes into a cheese ball?" Let's hope the rest of his shopping went better.

At my next two stops I bought things for myself, as you do. If you're me. Two stores yielded nothing for anyone. On a whim I went into Old Navy to look for pants for my brother. I'm not an Old Navy shopper and have one question: Do all Old Navy stores smell funky? I was glad to get into the fresh air again.

The shopping center I was at has parking around the perimeter. A driving lane separates the parking lots from the stores. On busy days like this it's a long wait to cross. I wanted to get all fussy about it, but I kept reminding myself that whatever annoyances I experienced today were my own fault. It worked pretty well until I went to Trader Joe's, home to the most oblivious drivers ever, and that's saying something given the drivers in this city.

I called Mica around 11:15. I was standing in front of a Fitbit display and needed advice. I'm giving one to my brother. He isn't tech savvy. I needed to make sure he wouldn't need a smartphone (he has one but doesn't understand it very well) to access the information he'll use.

She was hoping we could have lunch, so as soon as I paid, I headed across town, picking up burgers from a barbecue place along the way.

Mica works from home. Oh, I don't think I mentioned that her mom isn't able to come for Christmas. She came down with the flu which aggravated something else, and her doctor told her not to drive that far. I just lost my train of thought. No idea what I was going to say.

I suppose I wanted to make the point that I was at Mica's. After lunch, I took the little white dog for a w-a-l-k, during which he exhibited signs of not feeling 100 percent. I had intended to continue shopping as soon as we had eaten but decided to stay and keep an eye on him while Mica was on a conference call.

Wonderful visitor that I am, I ended up crashing in the basement for a couple of hours. I didn't really sleep -- the little white dog decided to nap with me, which I love, but was restless and kept walking on me and sticking his nose up the back of my shirt.

Mica wanted to take me out to dinner for my birthday. It is the first year in decades that there's been an opportunity to celebrate my birthday before it happens. She's usually leaves for her mom's around now. We postponed dinner, though, to keep an eye on the little white dog. He's definitely under the weather, but I suspect he'll be OK tomorrow.

As for me, I need some serious sleep tonight. Tomorrow I have to go to Menards to find a last item or two for my brother, to Sam's Club for some final ingredients and to Mica's to make a variety of snacks and do a smidge of baking. My brother will take me out to dinner tomorrow night, and if I have any energy left at all, I'm going catch the band I mentioned yesterday.

This is the least Christmassy Christmas I've ever had. Attending church will help a bit, but overall this has been a strange holiday season. 
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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Dinner party

I’m on vacation until January 2. Can I get an exclamation point?


In a way vacation won’t truly begin until the evening of the 25th because between now and then I have to make Christmas happen. Shopping, baking, cooking, etc. All of that will have to wait until tomorrow because it’s a cold, icy mess out there tonight. After dinner with Eve, Susannah, their husbands and assorted others, I came home.

Yes, the dinner party grew. Eric’s (Susannah’s husband) brother and sister-in-law are in town for the holidays, and Susannah asked if they could join us. Eve, whose office is across from mine, overheard and said if Susannah was bringing extra people, she also wanted to. I told her to go for it. Frankly, the more people, the less pressure on me to keep conversations going. “I’m asking Blaine,” Eve said as if testing the waters. I said OK.

Eve came into my office later to tell me he had texted her back and would be there. “What do you think of Blaine,” she asked casually.

“He very nice,” I replied casually.

She nodded. Waited. Wandered away.

I know from things she’s told me about him, his wife, her illness, and their friendship in general that he’s important to her and Paul. When I’ve been around him, I’ve liked him. I’ve just been around him an awful lot lately and am starting to feel set up. I don’t want to be set up. I also don’t want to bring it up and have it become a thing. So, going with the flow and saying as little as possible.

They selected a restaurant on one of the golf courses. To my delight the bar featured my favorite holiday drink -- Tom and Jerry. Had I not had to drive myself home, I would have indulged until I could only slur for "another round of Torry." As it was, I had one, mixed deliciously strong, and went into dinner feeling luxuriously relaxed.

It was a fun group. No surprise there. For all the social apprehension I feel sometimes, I do enjoy being around new people from time to time, especially when everyone is witty and able to keep away from politics.

When the waitress asked how to split the ticket there was the complication of whether she could split my meal between Eve and Susannah, which led to the reveal that we were celebrating my upcoming birthday. She asked if I had any special plans. As it turns out, I do: I hope to catch my favorite band that night.

Susannah’s romance radar pinged. “Going with someone special?”

Very special. Myself.” None of my friends are interested in music or bars so when this band is playing, I go on my own.

The idea that I was going to a bar by myself was a bit of a thing for the table, which surprised me. No one was judging; they just seemed puzzled that I'd go on my own. I shrugged it off and promised I didn't mind a bit, which is true. It's also true that it took years for me to screw up enough courage to do this by myself. If it weren't for this particular band, I never would have. But, I don't believe in missing out on anything just because I don't have someone to do it with. I'll travel on my own if I have to and I'll go to practically any event by myself. I don't enjoy either as much as I would if I were with someone, but I'd rather have the experience than miss out.

Anyway, that’s two days away. Before then I have to whip up Christmas. Send me any leftover Christmas magic you might have. I’ll need it.
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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Establishing terms

I’m good friends with two people at work -- Eve and Susannah. Our tradition is to celebrate one another’s birthdays by going out to lunch. My birthday is coming and we’ve been trying to set a date. As it turns out, this year Eve can’t go at noon because she has to run home to let Izzy out. Normally Paul would do it for her but he’s working out of town this week. We held a group IM session to figure it out. They suggested going to dinner instead.

“Any evening but Friday works for me,” I said.

Susannah, always on alert for romance, asked, “Why not Friday? Date??”

As if.

Twelve years ago I gave up dating. I had been in a relationship that ended badly (while on vacation out of the country he told me he’d met someone else). I dated two men after, both met through a personal ad. The first one was OK but there wasn’t any chemistry, and the second seemed to be in love with his ex mother-in-law. That was it for me. I told myself the only way I would date again is if I met someone in a traditional way and he worked really hard to get my attention. It was time that someone put forward effort to get me. I was fully aware that I’d likely never date again. I’m introverted, I rarely go anywhere conducive to meeting new people, and I do not have an attractiveness that turns heads, so odds were stacked against dating. I was fine with my decision then and have been every day since.

“No date,” I wrote. “My vacation starts Friday I’ll be spending the day Christmas shopping. I anticipate being too crabby to socialize.”

We settled on Thursday night.

“Do you mind if we invite the husbands?” Susannah asked.

I get tired of being the only single person among couples but if I’d said that it would have started a cycle of “hey you should meet our friend…”

“Husbands are welcome but we better not go any place where they clap, sing or an any way acknowledge a birthday.”

And with that, the terms were agreed upon.
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Monday, December 18, 2017

Dusting plumbing

My "vacation" with a three-month-old puppy and a 60-inch television ended last night. Now it's back to my regular life: Behind on Christmas shopping, no plan for holiday meals, likely no time for baking, and a pile of laundry that will not do itself no matter how many times I try to bewitch it.

After work I went to Mica's. Her mom is hoping to visit at the end of the week, which means Mica has gone into hyper-cleaning mode. This is the mode where plumbing has to be dusted.

While she cleaned the bathroom (and has now sworn off hairspray), I worked downstairs, vacuuming and dusting the stairs, family room and common areas. I may go back tomorrow night to help with the pipe dusting (no, I wasn't kidding), or I may beg off and do some Christmas shopping.

I am always so glad when the evening of the 25th rolls around.  

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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Paved with music

All of a sudden I began thinking of a song I hadn’t heard -- or thought of -- in ages. I couldn’t come up with any part of the lyric or singer, so I sent a text to Mica.

“Remember that song we swooned over until we found out it was about Jesus? What was it?”

There’s nothing wrong with music that praises Jesus, and this song is particularly beautiful. It’s just that I fell in love with it as a song being sung by a man to a woman.

“Mercy Me?” Mica texted back. “I Can Only Imagine?”

Yes! I found it on Spotify, turned the volume up on the earphones and prepared to melt as I had every time I had heard it.

I sent another text to Mica. “Were there two versions, because “Jesus” is in there right at the beginning and I’m pretty sure I would have put two and two together if that was the version on the radio.”

She responded. “Pretty sure there was only one version.”

I Googled. Sure enough, my memory was wrong. I had blocked out Jesus. That can’t be good.

I sent a final text. “Looks like my road to hell is paved with music. Not only do I want to like this song in a completely non-Christian way, I think Il Divo’s version of O Holy Night is sexy.”
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Saturday, December 16, 2017

The doorbell rang once

Izzy and I had a much better day. She was a wild thing this morning until she knocked my glass of water off the table while I was in the bathroom. After that, she settled down. I'd like to think she learned a lesson like the one the Brady kids learned when they played football in the house.

She entertained herself while I was glued to my iPad and Amazon. I have no idea what to give my brother for Christmas and I’m running out of time. I thought if I found some ideas I could run out for a couple of hours and shop. No joy, though.

Mid-afternoon I popped a giant bowl of popcorn, and Izzy and I were on our way up to the loft to continue our TCM binge when the doorbell rang. Blaine was waiting on the other side holding two extra large drinks from a nearby drive-thru. “Eve said you like Diet Coke. Thought you might need one by now.” He nodded toward Izzy, who was barely held in place by my hand on her shoulders.

Maybe it was sleep deprivation but I was thrown by his visit. I clumsily told him we were on our way to the loft to watch TCM and asked if he liked popcorn and old movies. I figured that gave him two outs if he didn't want to stay.

“I like both,” he said.

Meet John Doe was ending and Casablanca beginning. Not sure what triggered it but we ended up talking about France during World War II. Both of our dads fought in Europe. Somehow I ended up telling him about a nonfiction book I read a few years ago that described the lengths the French went to to hide wine from the Nazis. And from there we were onto wine, something I know nothing about but that he does. He suggested we go to one of the local wineries sometime, and I said the only thing I could, and now I don't know if it was an actual invitation or an actual acceptance.

Tomorrow my life goes back to normal.

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Getting used to one another

I'm late getting this written

And now the period key isn't working


OK then, bullets

  • Izzy woke in the night needing to go outside
  • After coming back in she began fussing in her crate and I ignored her because I thought she wanted to play rather than sleep
  • She got sick and threw up, but I didn't realize that right away
  • Finally, I did and then began a lot of worrying and uncertainty about how long it could go on before she needed a visit to the vet
  • At 5 am I called my best friend Mica to get her advice
  • Mica has a 9-year-old dog who is the love of my life and has taught us a lot about reading symptoms
  • Mica, most wonderful friend ever, drove over and brought her bottle of Nature's Miracle so I could clean the crate liner
  • Izzy was showing signs of feeling better
  • She drank a bit of water first then climbed into my lap and napped for a half hour
  • After some sleep she began eating and drinking, and was absolutely normal for the rest of the day
Which brings me a fun-filled evening of hyperactivity that included a lot of nipping when she wasn't getting her own way

  • While she had napped throughout the day, I hadn't and was dead on my feet by 10:00
  • She wouldn't go into her crate and was an onery mess
  • It took an hour to get her calm enough to consider the crate
  • I sat on the floor and petted her when she finally went inside
  • After she seemed calmer, I closed the crate door
  • She began fussing so I stayed on the floor and slid my fingers through so she could sniff, lick and (mostly) bite at them
  • Finally, I pulled the pillow off the bed and resigned myself to sleeping on the floor outside the crate
  • A half hour later, she seemed settled so I slipped into bed
  • We both slept through the night
I have no idea what made her sick.

The period key is back!

As I was saying, I don't know what made her sick. Maybe she ate something outside or maybe she's missing Eve and Paul and her routine. I've taken care of friends' dogs and foster dogs but Izzy is unlike any I've cared for. We'll work it out.

One positive thing that happened today is she walked with me up the street. We made it past five houses before she lost her nerve and turned around to head home. It's her call whether we go for a walk and how far we go. I think the exploration is good for her, and certainly the exercise is. Anything that helps burn puppy energy helps save my hands.

Speaking of the nipping, I've tried the usual things: Giving a yelp, pulling my hands away, standing and turning my back, walking away from her, going into another room without her. Nothing really works. Then again, it has only been a day. We're still getting used to one another.
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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Learning the ropes

I'm like a 1970s teenager--excited about landing a babysitting gig at a house with cable television.

I gave cable up a few years ago when I was about to be laid off, and I haven't gone back. I subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Acorn and Sling (temporarily). The only thing I miss is access to baseball (Sling allowed me to watch the postseason) and TCM. My plan for my weekend here is to binge on black and white movies.

Izzy and I are doing well, although she clearly misses Eve and Paul. I don't play tug-of-war quite right and absolutely don't roughhouse correctly, but that's because I don't want my hands cut to ribbons by sharp puppy teeth. I snapped the picture right after both of us had finished supper. We were sitting in the dark living room enjoying the Christmas lights on the bushes outside the window. Izzy was resting her head on the arm of the couch until the auto focus light on the camera got her attention.

Paul and Blaine's loft blockade is gone, sadly. I hoped to get a picture of it. I haven't spoken to Eve so I'm missing the rest of the story.

Uh oh, nap time is over. I have about two minutes before Izzy is awake enough to go another round with "rope man," the braided toy she adores. Wish me luck.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

It's temporary

Eve and Paul leave tomorrow to visit their daughter out of state. I’m going to stay at their house to take care of their three-month-old puppy, Izzy. Eve asked me to come by for dinner tonight so Izzy could reacquaint herself with me before I suddenly show up in her world tomorrow.

I stopped at home after work to change into unsnaggable clothes, then went over. Eve answered the door with, “Thank God you’re here. You have to help me talk some sense into these men.”

Their house is two levels. Upstairs there’s a loft that overlooks the downstairs living room. The open wall of the loft is a pretty feature and allows great light to filter through the house, but it has become a safety concern now that Izzy is growing. They’re afraid their adorable little puppy may take to the air one day and sail out of the loft right down to the living room. When this first came up I sent Eve links to companies that make parachutes for dogs. Apparently, she and Paul decided to go another way.

I closed the front door behind me, gave a dancing Izzy a hello petting, and looked in the direction of Eve’s pointing finger. Paul leaned through the loft opening and said hello. Another voice, hidden by a...structure...also said hello. I returned the greetings.

“Look what Paul and Blaine have put together to keep Izzy from jumping out of the loft.” Eve said it as if she were presenting Exhibit A in their trial.

From what I could tell they had taken five slender PVC pipes, stood them on end and attached them to a section of plastic garden lattice using zip ties.

“It’s temporary, Eve.” Paul defended.

“We’re having Christmas here. We’ll have company. We cannot have that sitting there.” Still out of sight, Blaine suggested that he and Paul string Christmas lights through the lattice. “Oh, thanks BLAINE,” Eve responded. “That’ll be enough out of you.”

“I have a large wreath if you want to borrow it,” I said unhelpfully. I managed to offer a never-used red bow too before Eve hit me with “the look.” I couldn’t help myself. “Or how about some lighted snowflakes. That could be nice, look as if they’re falling…” Blaine laughed and Paul said he liked it. Eve pretended to shove me.

I did sympathize with Eve. This is exactly the sort of thing my dad and brother would have come up with. “It’s functional,” I said diplomatically. “But it’s probably better for the outdoors.”

“It isn’t going out there either.” Eve stated.

“It’s temporary, Eve,” Paul tried again. “In six months it will be gone.” I winced. That “six months” was going to cost him.

“Try six minutes.”

“We’re leaving it for the weekend. You’ll get used to it. C’mon, Blaine. Let’s have some supper.”

Blaine followed Paul down the stairs to where Eve and I were still standing. When Paul looked up and saw the plastic white barricade in all its glory, I caught the beginning of a smile form but he quickly squelched it. I suspected this was one of those ideas that had looked better to his mind’s eye but now he was defending the principle. Blaine looked at it and chuckled. He gave me a wink behind the backs of the other two as if we were in on a joke.

For dinner we had homemade Italian wedding soup. Eve served it with warm crusty, rustic bread and wine. I passed on the wine since my stomach isn’t quite back to 100 percent, but the soup and the bread hit the spot.

The company hit the spot too. I always like spending time around Eve and Paul. They’ve been married over 30 years and it’s obvious that those years have been happy ones. I get an infusion of optimism each time we get together.

Blaine has been part of their lives for most of their marriage. Eve told me that she and Blaine’s late wife had worked together early in their careers. They had become instant best friends, and then Paul and Blaine did too. Sadly, Blaine’s wife died of cancer rather quickly a number of years ago.

After dinner Eve showed me Izzy’s routine, how to work the remote for their insanely nice television, and where to find everything I might need. Izzy followed us as if she were absorbing the information too. She’s too adorable. I’m looking forward to hanging out with her through the weekend.

I’m going to try to keep up here but I’m not sure how well it will work to update using my iPad.
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Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Part of my job is helping others communicate. Sometimes it's editing what they've written, and sometimes it's writing for them. Because I've worked for the organization for a very long time, I know a lot of personalities and have learned to anticipate reactions and identify sensitivities. When I write or edit for someone, I offer more than words and catch errors that go beyond grammar. I explain my reasoning, often it terms of a broader picture. I know that at the end of the day my suggestions are no more than that. Those I write for decide the approach to take. I don't have a problem with them revising what I've done or asking for something different altogether. It's part of the job, and whatever my faults, ego is not among them.

Last week I wrote something and received an email back thanking me and praising what I had done. Then nothing more. It's unusual that the first draft is the last. This morning the person I wrote it for had to tell me he had scrapped what I had done and rewrote it completely. I say "had to tell me" in the sense that he behaved as if he hadn't wanted me to know. He gave me a copy of what he had written. When I got back to my office I read it then compared it to what I had prepared. He didn't offer an explanation for why he started over, and I wasn't able to figure it out by comparing the two documents.

For the rest of the day I was bothered by the whole thing and couldn't pinpoint why.

Late in the day another person sent me something to edit. I went through it, added notes, questioned wording and offered alternatives, provided my reasoning. The very thing I always do. Not long after I sent it back I received a phone call from the person. "I wanted to thank you for turning that around so quickly and doing an excellent job. I'm making most of your changes. There are a few I'm not going to follow." And he went on to explain his reasoning for each one.

The difference between the two incidents was in the expression of trust and respect. The second person has always trusted me to look out for his interests and represent him well. He's always respected my experience and skill. The first person doesn't trust me as strongly, and I don't feel as respected, whether that's true or not.

While I'll always give my best effort to everyone I work with, there is one person I would try to move mountains for, all because I know he believes I can.
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Monday, December 11, 2017

On and on

It was a very long and unsatisfying day. I’m extraordinarily grumpy about everything. My work is at a standstill until people get back to me, and no one seems to be answering email. I spent the afternoon working up a graphic for a website, but I can’t find a concept I like. One of the paper towel dispensers in the bathroom jammed.

On and on.

For a little while this afternoon I listened to a book on tape with the hope the aural stimulation would wake me up. It’s a romance I downloaded from the library’s slim pickings and it’s racier than I’m typically interested in. I didn’t listen long. Even with earbuds in I was afraid too much sound would leak.

I’m new to romances. For years and years I wanted to like the genre because sometimes all I want is a simple story about a couple falling in love and living happily ever after. The formula of romances always killed it for me. The jerky guy, the quirky girl, the hate-hate but into bed immediately thing never worked for me. If I meet a guy who is a jerk toward me or others, I won’t be kissing him any time anywhere for any reason.

A year or so ago I chanced upon an author named Julie James who writes a series about lawyers and FBI agents in Chicago. Her books read like romantic comedies, which I find fun. Her characters are successful, confident, smart, funny, sexy in the right ways and completely likeable. Since reading everything she’s written, I’ve been on a quest to find similar authors. I haven’t found any I like nearly as well, although Lauren Layne’s Oxford series is pretty good.

In a genre with subgenres to satisfy any predilection, there doesn’t seem to be one centered around competent career-oriented characters. It’s all jerky bosses and plucky underlings. There’s so much room for equally matched characters, something James’ does extremely well.

Through my search for other books I might like, I’ve become desensitized to some of the things I used to not be able to stand. And that’s how I came to download an audio book where there’s a 30 year age difference in the main characters. Let’s not even get into the particulars of that.

Speaking of falling into bed. I need to do that right now.

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Sunday, December 10, 2017


I've been dealing with the flu since Thursday. Finally out of bed and able to take care of a few necessities, like laundry so I can show up to work tomorrow wearing something other than stretchy pants and a Badass Brooklyn Dog Rescue t-shirt.

Back to binging "Suits."
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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wait, wha?

Last night I went to bed a little after 10:00 and woke up at 12:30. Up until 5:00 when I fell asleep for the last hour before the alarm. I knew I wouldn’t sleep well last night but I thought I would do better than that.

The budget reduction announcement today was that no cuts will be made at this time. Complete stunner.

Thanks to two hours of sleep, my cognitive ability was mighty low. I reread the announcement several times to make sure my understanding was correct. There could be cuts next spring. I’m not out of the woods, but I’ll never be out of the woods as long as I stay with my current employer.

It was strange to read the email first thing. I was prepared to wait until midmorning when this type of news is usually disseminated. I was prepared to feel upset the rest of the day, because I’ve been through this a lot and that’s how it works. When the news was good, or at least neutral, I had to let that soak in. Gradually, I perked up. The smile I gave to people in the hallway was more sincere.

One of those people in the hall was my boss, whom I found looking at a display Eve and I have been working on. We set it up yesterday. The purpose was to help connect people. Essentially we had asked one group to send another group messages of encouragement, wisdom, advice -- whatever they wanted. They did this via electronic postcards that we printed and displayed. Given the season, and the need for the fronts and backs of the cards to be visible, we built a simple Christmas tree out of wood dowels (thanks Pinterest) and hung the cards like ornaments.

My boss has been aware of the project since we started. He didn’t stand in the way of it but I could tell he thought it was dumb. He’s asked several times whose idea it was, and I’ve always owned up to it. I read about a similar project and thought with modifications we could use it as a morale boosting, team building sort of thing. Response was decent, and it has been well received. This morning when I saw him standing at the tree reading the postcards he turned toward me, smiling. “This is very good. Really well done. Whose idea was it?” I was fine owning up to it when it had seemed like a dumb thing, but I shy away from anything that garners praise. Since I’d already claimed responsibility, I reminded him it was mine.

Given that I arrived at work ready to lose my job, getting a “well done” wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

It snowed for a short while today. Hope there’s a little bit more before Christmas.
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Tuesday, December 5, 2017


The team in charge of the holiday party at work has added a twist. Gift bags filled by anonymous givers are showing up on doorknobs. It's called "sock me," I think. Once you receive one, you have 48 hours to fill the gift bag for someone else. One was left for me this morning so after work I went shopping. I plan to give one to the woman whose office is next to mine.

I was headed home when I witnessed a car accident. A SUV pulled out of a parking lot to make a left hand turn and was either hit by a car it had cut off or hit a car that it had pulled in front of. The SUV flipped over onto its roof. I saw it happen but the details faded quickly as I called 911 and checked on the people. As it turns out, I stay calm in these situations but I don't retain any information.

All the people in both vehicles were able to get out on their own. No one had visible injuries and everyone said they were OK. Those in the SUV had to crawl out through the rear window. It's amazing they were not injured given how crunched the roof was over the front seats.

 The accident happened at the entrance to a hospital and half a block from a fire station, so help arrived quickly. I sure hope everyone went to the hospital to get checked out. I do not envy how they're going to feel for the next couple of weeks. I was in an accident a couple of years ago and while I didn't sustain injuries, the soreness was incredible.
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Monday, December 4, 2017

Enthusiasm and energy

I was away from my office for about a half hour this morning. When I returned I found that my boss’ administrative assistant had stuck a Post-It to my chair with a note saying my boss needed to meet with me right away. A layoff announcement is expected this week, and I wondered if this impromptu and seemingly urgent meeting request had something to do with that.

It didn’t. He had forgotten to tell me something when we last met and wanted to go over it.

I finished the electronic holiday card that we’ll send out sometime next week. I’m not a graphic designer although it’s a large part of what’s required in this job. I couldn’t have created the animation from start so I found an inexpensive template, modified it to work for us, expanded it and laid in audio. It’s the first time I’ve used After Effects. I figured things out one YouTube tutorial at a time. Tomorrow I’ll show it to my boss for final approval. I'm pleased with it; I think he'll be too.

To say I lack enthusiasm and energy to work on projects that would otherwise be interesting and fun is an understatement. If I make it through the cuts, I’ll perk up again. 

Winter has arrived finally. From 62 degrees at 6 a.m. to 32 degrees now. A north wind is carrying garbage cans up and down the block. Good thing mine has 40 pounds of cookbooks at the bottom of it. 
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Sunday, December 3, 2017

A pony of course

I had enough time to clean the interior of my car, run it through the car wash and add a couple of pounds of air to the tires before hitting the road to go to a birthday party. My cousin's granddaughter (easier than getting into the many-times removed from me cousin thing) turned six earlier in the week. I knew she was into Hatchimals and was feeling pretty good about my present until I walked in the door and was charged by the birthday girl. "Guess what I got, a pony!"

Way to show up everyone else, parents.

The pony is actually a horse, grown but small and with some kind of leg defect that will prevent it from be ridden by anyone over 100 pounds. It belonged to a family friend who was only willing to part with it because of the animal-loving home it would be going to. I didn't get the rest of the details. With seven kids in attendance, all under 11, it invigorating atmosphere.

After the cake and ice cream were served, the presents opened and scattered across two rooms, and every kid had serenaded me with a sampling of the songs sung at their school programs, I collected the hugs due me and snuck away. I sensed a sugar-high crash coming.If not from the kids, then from me.

I was just getting back to the city when I received a text from my friend Eve (my car reads the texts for me so I didn't touch the phone while driving). She invited me to join her and her husband Paul at one of my favorite restaurants for beer and appetizers. I was only wearing jeans and a sweater, but it was barely evening so I chanced it.

A few other of their friends were already there when I arrived. I finally met their closest friend Blaine (Eve frequently mentions him) and a couple Paul knows through his work. They host a popular tailgate during the football season. Eve has invited me, but I haven't gone. I'm more comfortable in some social situations than others, and a tailgate doesn't seem like something I'd do well at.

I stayed long enough to have a couple of beers and split two appetizers -- roasted Brussel's sprouts and an excellent baked beet one. Actually Blaine and I ended up splitting those since the beet chunks were too "beety" for the others.

When talk turned to going to the dining room for dinner, I said my good-byes. The birthday cake and appetizers were enough.

. . .

One thing that has changed since the days when I kept an online journal is the expectation of anonymity. Back then it wasn't so easy to track people. This time around I feel I need to protect people to a certain degree. That's why the picture in this entry doesn't show any of the kids' faces.

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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Recipe for discarding cookbooks

Mrs. Kenneth Schumacher broadly interpreted  the invitation to share a favorite recipe.

It's strange how giddy I feel when I sleep past 5 a.m. these days. More often than not I wake between 2:30 and 4:00 and never get back to sleep. This morning it felt like quite a win to see the clock read 5:30 when I opened my eyes for the first time.

I grabbed the iPad that I keep on the corner of the bed (one of the benefits of having the entire bed to myself) and opened the Kindle app. I read until there was enough daylight to see by, then I dressed and went out to the car to clean out the backseat.

I have a friend, you see, who loves to shop, especially at estate tag sales. She also loves to give her friends presents throughout the year. She knows I like cookbooks, particularly church cookbooks, the older the better. You know, where the recipes are submitted by women who identify themselves as Mrs. Glenn Barkirk or, if someone was feeling particularly independent, Mrs. Gaylene Sharps. I peruse these like some people look at glossy magazines.

My absolute favorite cookbooks are those where the owner added notes -- "Good soup," "Dorothy's favorite cookie," "Use dates instead" -- or when the book is tucked full of additional recipes clipped from newspapers. I saw one cookbook where the cook was especially expressive and used black marker to make her notes. Most undesirable recipes simply had an X through them. One, though, was obliterated. Heavy black marker through every line of the recipe, including the name.  I remain curious about what it was and what made it so terrible.

Often, there's a trend -- desserts made with apricots or recipes featuring pheasant -- that tell me something about that family. Maybe there was a fruit tree in their backyard. Maybe the mister in the household liked to hunt. Sometimes I feel a kindred spirit -- cherries! -- and sometimes I'm glad I won't ever be invited over to their raisin loving house.

So I do enjoy cookbooks. But, they come to me by the bagful and many are glossy and new. I never look at those. They just sit in an ever growing, ever more annoying stack.

Two weeks ago my friend and I met for lunch and she gave me three full bags. I left them in the backseat. I told myself I was taking them directly to Goodwill. I told myself I was not going to look through them and pull out the few that are old enough to appeal to me. Well, I never made it to Goodwill, and the books have been sliding around the leather seats all this time. Finally this morning at the crack of dawn, literally, I decided the time had come to sort. I brought in about a dozen. I haven't decided what to do with what's left in the car. Goodwill or my garbage can? There is a part of me that's afraid that if I release them into circulation again I'll end up getting some of them back.
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Friday, December 1, 2017

Christmastime calm

Every morning when I wake up, whether with the alarm at 5:52 or some random time in the 4:00 hour, like this morning, the first thing I do is create a mental to-do list for work. When I'm lucky I'll get to my office a little bit early, before anyone else is at work. When that happens, I start on the to-do list and may get a solid start on the first item before the interruptions begin. It's rare that my day follows the list. So there's really no explanation for why I was so tense by mid-afternoon that I was snappish at two coworkers. I suppose it's fair to say that overall stress got the better of me.

It wasn't a big thing. Both had volunteered to help me with something. I spent all day getting it as far along as I could and then turned the rest over to them. One questioned why I didn't finish it myself, and that's when I got snippy. Honestly, I said it was because I didn't want to add another thing to my unfinished to-do list. Not to mention, they had said they would help. In the end it got sorted and the day ended fine, but I hate that the situation got the better of me.

On the way home I stopped at a couple of stores to start on Christmas shopping. No luck. I have no idea what I'm looking for, and inspiration did not strike.

In my neighborhood I passed a church where this nativity is set up. I felt a sudden calmness. I pulled over to the curb, took the picture and sat for another minute. It's Christmastime and there's more to be glad for than to be snippy over.

TGIF, though.
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