Saturday, March 31, 2018


Mica and I took the little white dog to the dog park this afternoon. The small-dog side was empty, as it usually is this time of year, so we went in with the big dogs. There were a few labs, a couple of standard poodles, an adorable and sweet Irish setter mix, and then there was a bulldog and a husky. All was fine at first, then the bulldog decided she didn’t like the little white dog. Things went downhill quickly with the husky and a third dog piling on. Little white dog swiveled on the bulldog. Teeth were bared, growling followed, and in the smoothest move I’ve ever seen, Mica swooped in and scooped the little white dog into her arms. As she was holding him, the bulldog tried to jump up and grab paws. I moved between them as best I could, and we headed for the gate.

We hung out in the small-dog side for a while, hoping someone would show up and join us. No joy, but the little white dog was fine having the space to himself. He explored and sniffed, and I chased him a little bit. He was tired out by the time we left.

It would have been ideal if Eve could have brought Izzy out, but Izzy was spayed yesterday and is recovering.

I cut time too close and had to double-time through the shower and the rest of the getting ready routine. I wasn’t quite finished when Blaine came by to pick me up. All I needed to do was put the other earring in, slip on shoes and turn off the radio I listen to in the bathroom.

“Country?” Blaine commented when the radio went off. He was hanging out in the dining room.

“Occasionally. Only if it’s early ‘90s or before though.”

He stepped toward me, deftly positioning an arm around my back, a hand into my hand, and legs in such a way that feet can easily follow. “Do you dance?”

“Not at all, and yet I’m suddenly warming to the idea.”

Turns out that with only minor adjustments a dancing position can transition into activity that doesn’t require music.

Blaine wasn’t interested in being part of the crowd at [sports bar] and didn’t want to bother with a watch party, so the plan became to watch both basketball games at Paul and Eve’s where they could keep an eye on Izzy.

We stopped at a restaurant and picked up an assortment of wings and spinach artichoke dip. I’d like to think Izzy was really happy to see me again, but I’m pretty sure it was the sack of food that set the paws dancing and the tail wagging.

Anticipating that Blaine and I were going to the couch in the loft, Izzy climbed up and settled in the middle. She alternated who she stared and whined at, but before long she settled down and fell asleep with her long nose on top of my leg. She’s gaining serious real estate in my heart.

I thought I’d be grateful to have her as a distraction from boredom, but I found that basketball isn’t too bad to watch. The games do go fast. It’s easy enough to follow.

At halftime of the Loyola/Michigan game, I went into the bathroom. Izzy followed and was waiting for me when I came out. She trotted ahead of me toward the family room but stopped cold when she got to the couch. Blaine had stacked throw pillows on the center cushion. Izzy burrowed her nose beneath them to knock them out of her way. His arm held them in place. “Sorry, Izz. Your spot is over here.” He patted the far cushion. She tipped her head back and whined, then barked. Eve squeaked a toy to get her attention, and I picked up the cushions and sat down. Izzy came back over to bark her displeasure at me. I leaned forward to pet her, and Blaine put his palm on my back, a quick rub with his thumb. I barely registered it until I glanced at Eve as I sat up and saw her expression… While I can still picture it, I can’t yet describe it. Surprised, yes, but something else too.

As for the games, I was hoping Loyola would win since they’ve had such an amazing and unexpected run, and Blaine is a longtime Kansas fan so he was pretty disappointed in the way that game went. I gave his knee a squeeze at the buzzer and said the words that kept Cubs fans going for decades, “There’s always next year.”

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Friday, March 30, 2018


I believe it was in February when we were told layoffs would be announced prior to April 1. It made sense that today, the Friday before the 1st, would be the day. No announcement. The uncertainty and the stress that accompanies that continues. I’m at a point where I need to blow up but have no idea how. I don’t feel like venting or being around people or being alone.


Stuff that wasn’t mentioned earlier in the week:

  • Met with the accountant and can cross taxes off the to-do list.
  • That mop handle left a serious sore spot. Although there’s no visible bruise (I never bruise), that’s what it feels like. I suspect sleeping on my left side isn’t helping.
  • Still haven’t decided what to contribute to Easter dinner. I floated the idea of rolls but was told someone else had called dibs. Now my plan is to take something without checking first.
  • Picked up the dress that I bought a couple of weeks ago. The alterations made a bigger difference than I expected. Too bad the shoes I ordered don’t fit well enough to keep.

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Easter egg hunt

Yesterday Eve came back from lunch with 200 plastic Easter eggs purchased from the dollar store and an assortment of candy from Sam’s to fill them. “What are you up to?” I asked when I saw her walk by.

“People around here need to cheer up. I’m doing an Easter egg hunt.” That’s Eve!

With budget cuts looming, the mood has been glum the last few weeks, and this week has been particularly quiet.

We stayed late last night to fill the eggs. At 4:00 today, with the help of an intern, we spread them around the corridors, meeting rooms and public spaces of the building. At 4:30 I sent a jaunty email inviting everyone to the hunt.

Tell you what, if you want to bring people out of their offices, mention free candy.

It wasn’t until the corridors were full of people, some trash talking one another’s ability to quickly gather brightly colored plastic eggs, that I thought to ask Eve who had given permission to interrupt the workday like this.

Perhaps a step was overlooked.

The management team joined in with everyone else, some proving quite adept at snatching eggs, cracking them open and stuffing their pockets with candy.

Within 10 minutes the eggs had been scooped up, most emptied and the shells deposited in baskets outside Eve’s office. After it quieted down, the CEO stopped in the hallway between my and Eve’s office doors. “Are you two to thank for this?” Eve and I have become known as partners in crime.

“All Eve,” I told him. “She’s the generous one around here.” And she is.

He went in and thanked her. After he left, she came across the hall. “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if I lost my job now?” We laughed.

“They’ll put a pink slip in an egg and notify you that way,” I said. We laughed more.

“They’ll give everyone an egg. Chocolate inside, you stay; sour gummy worms inside, you go.” We kept laughing like we do.

“You go, I go.” It doesn’t matter who said it because it’s A shared sentiment.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018


“How about we skip getting together on Saturday,” I said to Blaine tonight. “Paint a Jayhawk on your face and go watch basketball somewhere fun with your friends.”

He chuckled. “That’s very nice of you.”

“You have been very nice about going out every Saturday this month and not spending all of your time glancing at televisions. I’ve appreciated that.”

“I’m sure you’ll do the same for me during the World Series.” Sure. Probably. Perhaps picking up on my hesitancy, he added, “I won’t ask you to if the Cubs are in it.”

I exhaled, “Oh, thank you.”

He cleared his throat. “We do have a problem. You promised to watch a couple of games with me. You haven’t done that.”

“I don’t think agreements made over barbecue are binding.”

His tone suggested I was wrong. “Contract law is very clear on barbecue.”

“Ah, I forgot your degree is from the KC Masterpiece School of Law.”

“Areas of focus: wings and hoops.”

There is no quicker way to the gooiest, most susceptible part of my core than fun back-and-forth like this.

“How might I fulfill my obligation?” I asked.

“You and me. Final Four. Saturday.”


The venue hasn’t been determined. We may go to [Sports Bar] for one of the games or we may watch at Blaine’s. He may ask Eve and Paul if they want to join us. If he does that and we hang out at his house, he also may include Allison, Ty and Eli. All I know for certain is it won’t be a Blaine-free Saturday, which is good news for me.

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Mop struck

I went to my favorite big box retailer over the lunch hour to buy wax paper. That’s it. One box of wax paper. Had I not wanted a microwaved baked potato for supper, I would not have gone to the store and now it would not hurt to cough, sneeze or reach from left to right.

As I was leaving the store with my box of wax paper, a bicyclist rolling down the sidewalk and carrying a mop across the top of the handlebars misjudged the width of his load and whacked me hard with the handle of the mop, impact occurring in the, uh, upper ribs region, an area you have to be careful about grabbing while standing outside a reputable establishment.

The guy didn’t stop. I assume the fact that the tip of his mop wasn’t bloodied was enough to tell him no harm was really done.

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Sunday, March 25, 2018

You're trouble

We had been playing Trivial Pursuit for about an hour, the women on one team, the men on the other. Ty, Blaine’s son-in-law read the question: What is the only mammal that cannot jump? I answered, “White men.”

Blaine had a mouthful of wine and wasn’t able to swallow before laughing, which sent a spray of cabernet toward the board. Laughing gave way to coughing. Wine had gone up his nose, and his eyes were watering. Eve grabbed napkins and passed them over to him. I was sitting nearest on his left and asked him if he was OK. He nodded, though he couldn’t stop coughing.

He stood up. As he walked behind my chair he gave my shoulder a squeeze that seemed to mean both “you’re trouble” and “you’re OK.” He opened the patio door and stepped outside. I stood to go to the sink for the dish cloth to use on the table but Allison, Blaine’s daughter, was turning from the refrigerator where she had filled a glass with water, and she handed it to me. “Why don’t you take this to him?”

As I went outside, Eve was cleaning up, Allison began refilling glasses, and Ty was in the living room checking on their son, Eli, who had been Izzy’s faithful sidekick all evening.

On the deck, Blaine took a drink of water. It seemed to help settle the sputtering cough. He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.

“Sorry about that,” I said.

“Best laugh I’ve had in awhile,” he replied. “Lately all of the best laughs are those I have with you.” I melted a bit.

When we went inside everyone reassembled around the table to resume the game. Ty picked up the card that had started the trouble. “I hate to say it but y’all never answered this question.”

Allison reached across the table and dragged Blaine’s glass away from him. “OK, give it to us again.” Everyone was punchy after that.

When the movie Eli was watching on an iPad ended, he came in and climbed onto Blaine’s lap. Izzy sprawled on the floor behind my chair and busied herself with a chew toy. After a little while Eli was getting squirmy. Eve and Allison began making up questions he would know the answer to so he could contribute to the men's team.

As the other men were deliberating on the answer to a grown-up question, Izzy squeaked one of her toys. I made my eyes big and asked Eli, “Did you just squeak?”

“Noooo,” he scoffed in the way three year olds do.

A series of squeaks sounded from behind my chair. “Now that was you!”

He sat up straighter. “No! It was Izzy!”

I considered it. “I don’t think so. I think you have a squeaker in you.” He put his hands on his chest, for a split second wondering if such a thing could be true. I probably shouldn’t get such a kick out of messing with the minds of little kids (I prefer to characterize it as expanding their imaginations, if anyone asks). “I bet I can find it.” I reached over and gave his hand a squeeze. “That’s not where it is.” Next I squeezed his knee, then his nose and finally a tickle on the ribs that resulted in a squeal and squirming. “I knew it!”

Izzy, hearing the commotion, came over. She put her front paws on Blaine’s leg and stood so her head was pretty even with Eli. She nosed his ear, which drew a peel of laughter from him and more squirming. Her tail whapped my leg and she danced around trying to get closer to Eli, bumping the table in the process  What started as a moment of harmless fun turned into several moments of pandemonium.

I don’t expect to be invited back anytime soon.

I ended up in the mix tonight because Blaine called late in the afternoon and invited me to Eve’s for pizza and Trivial Pursuit. “The kids are here,” he said. I can’t say that didn’t make me a little anxious but it was all low key and fun, and fortunately I didn’t cause Allison's dad to choke to death.

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Saturday, March 24, 2018


The other day I came across the restaurant gift certificate I won in the silent auction at the dog rescue fundraiser last month. When Blaine and I were talking about where we might go tonight, I asked if he liked sushi. He said he’d only tried it once. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” he allowed. “I’m game to try it again.”

The restaurant is in the historic part of downtown, which these days means fancy with high-concept decor. Dinner reservations are required on Saturdays, and we were met at the entrance by a young woman with an iPad. She welcomed us warmly but would not let us off the custom carpet in front of the door until she confirmed we were on the list.

It was relatively early and the restaurant was a little over half filled when we were seated, but it was already loud. The table was set with the place settings on opposite sides. To make it easier to hear, we selected adjacent seats, causing the hostess to shift the placement of the silverware and wine glasses, which seemed off-putting to her.

After studying the menu options, we decided I would order the sushi I wanted and Blaine could sample as he liked, and from the grill menu he would order an entree from which I could have half the Brussels sprouts that were served with it.

As Blaine handed the menu to the waiter, I noticed the tips of his fingers were stained purple and green. “Have you taken up finger painting?” I asked.

He smiled. “An egg is my canvas.” He had spent part of the afternoon dyeing Easter eggs with his grandson. Their church is hosting an Easter lunch for seniors tomorrow. The eggs, decorated by the preschoolers, will be part of the centerpieces.

That’s how we ended up meandering into a conversation about church and religion. Not exactly the lighthearted back and forth we typically enjoy but relevant. This is one of the conversations I’ve dreaded. So much potential for deal breakers to pop up.

It turned out to be less of a thing than I expected. Our beliefs and general attitudes are similar but our practices differ. Should we date long term, we'll have to sort out a few things but they appear to be sortable. The most important thing to come from the conversation was learning Blaine's attitude toward the idea of deal breakers. Obviously there are some things that should result in an immediate end, but far more often issues should be approached as resolvable. His belief about relationships, whether new or established, is they require flexibility to work. “Strength isn’t rigid,” he said. I found that statement interesting.

After dinner, we took a walk around the area until we were thoroughly chilled. It's another stretch of cold, damp, sunless weather so that didn't take long. We went to Blaine’s for the rest of the evening and took advantage of the fireplace.

This evening began around the time they usually do, and when he brought me home it was within the hour that they usually end. It was just the two of us all evening. No distractions. Yet it felt like it was over in a blink. There are too many days between Saturdays.

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Friday, March 23, 2018


Henry. He stopped by my office toward the end of the day, didn't want anything but to say hello and see how things were going. We talked past 5:00. When he stood to leave, he asked if I had plans to go to Chicago this summer. I told him I'd be able to answer that in a week. I explained, "If I still have a job, I'm going in June."

He stepped back in, closed the door and sat down. "Have you been told your position is in jeopardy?" Not directly, no, I told him and explained everything I knew about how they were prioritizing cuts this time. Quite a few people like to stop by and chat with me, so I pick up pieces of information here and there. Given what I've learned about their priorities, my position is vulnerable but I could hang on until the next round.

While Henry is toward the top of the organizational chart, he isn't part of this decision-making process. He said, "I don't think you have anything to worry about, but if you find out your position is being cut, come to me right away so I can fight it. I don't have the power to override the decision but I have influence with those who do. You're too valuable to me, and at the moment my work is very valuable to them."

I'm not used to hearing that someone is willing to fight for me, and it means a great deal to me that Henry thinks so highly of my skills. Planets aligned, blessings were bestowed, good mojo abounded—maybe all three occurred—to allow our paths to cross three years ago.

After Henry left, I grabbed my stuff and skedaddled too. My friend Peggy, a coworker from my former job, was expecting me at her house. She likes to go to church fish fries during Lent, and this is the first week it has worked for us to go together.

The church she chose this year is in her neighborhood. Neither of us belong to it—neither of us are catholic for that matter—but we've attended so many fish fries and craft shows there, it's very familiar. We know where to find all the side doors and back stairs.

Over a plate of grilled tilapia, breaded shrimp and a baked potato, we caught up. She keeps in touch with a number of people we used to work with (most of the 13 of us who were laid off) and always has plenty of gossip to share. We talked as long as we could, staying until the end of the serving time.

We should get together more often so there's less to catch up on. It's my fault that we don't. Weekends are busier now, and I do need a certain amount of downtime. I didn't tell her about Blaine. Yesterday Susannah, Eve and I went to lunch and Susannah grilled me about him again. I'm still worn out. I'll tell her once I'm more certain it's going to be longer term.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

That relative

There was an article in the local newspaper today that fascinates me.

Seven years ago a college student disappeared on her way home from a party. Her body was never found nor was direct evidence discovered to suggest that harm had come to her. A person of interest was identified in the case but he was never arrested. Popular opinion was he killed her and would be charged as soon as the body turned up. In the meantime, he was charged and convicted of crimes he committed elsewhere. He has been in prison since.

Now, a judge has ruled the state has shown it has enough evidence to charge him with first-degree murder even though there's no body and no evidence of foul play. First they’ll have to prove there was a death, then they’ll have to prove it was the result of foul play, and finally that it was a premeditated act. How in the world can they do that without a body? And can I watch them try?

I cannot wait to see how this unfolds.

Word came down through Facebook Messenger that Easter will be at my cousin’s daughter’s house. That makes her a cousin, too, but it seems less ambiguous to state it like this. Now begins the dilemma of finding a side dish that will still be appetizing after an hour-plus drive and that most will like. Or, maybe I should take a jello salad. It’s probably time for me to become that relative.

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Leave worms

There’s a urologist in California who believes my personal email address belongs to his wife. He regularly sends correspondence to both that and her work account. Early on I replied to one of his emails to let him know he was using the incorrect address. I didn’t receive a response but I also didn’t receive any emails from him for a few months, then there was a flurry again. I emailed a second time with a similar result. I’ve marked the emails as spam so very few come to my inbox anymore. Now there is a new wrinkle. My email address has spread through some urologist network, and I have urologists all over the country wanting to connect with me--or rather this guy’s wife--on LinkedIn. This is much more annoying.

Urologists, I’ve concluded, do not have great attention for detail.

No time today to piddle around with all that. Someone needed a graphic recreated, and she needed to send it to the vendor today. I knew what needed to be done but wasn’t sure how to make it happen. Fortunately the Illustrator gods were feeling generous and for the first time ever I was able set text along a path (curve). After that it was just a matter of converting the text to outlines and saving it in the correct format. The initial feedback from the rep was positive so I think I did it right. I’ll know for sure tomorrow. 

It was the end of the day when I spoke to Eve for the first time. “I heard you gave me a good character reference at lunch yesterday. Thanks for that,” I said.

She waved it off. “Everyone was curious about the woman who finally got his attention. I get to take credit for it!”

I didn’t so much get his attention as I was the boulder rolled into his path. Impossible to ignore. I didn’t challenge the point though. At least I’ve learned when to leave worms in their can. And it’s fair to say I’ve kept his attention.

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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Someone else in mind

I glanced back at what I posted Friday and realized it appears that I gave the French sounding guy the pseudonym Marcel, because of course it could only be that or Pierre, right? I promise Marcel is his true name. I was tired when I wrote it and it didn’t occur to me to change it. That’s happened a couple of times, but this is the first time the real name seems like it’s made up.

One of the movie theaters shows a classic film on Sundays. This week it was Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” which I’ve never seen. And now I’ll never need to see it again. I did appreciate the complexity and subtlety of the story, and the performances were outstanding, but it got under my skin.

Blaine survived lunch. They were mostly interested in how we met, and Eve provided those details. “She said she had someone else in mind for you. Did you know that?” Blaine asked.

“Yeah, I don’t know who though.”

“I know him. You wouldn’t like him,” he said with good humor.

I smiled. “No, there’s no way I’d like him.”

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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Survive tornado season

I spent the afternoon celebrating the fifth birthday of the youngest in the family. The party was out of town at a fun center. The kids had a blast running around, shouting, bouncing and then filling up on pizza and ice cream. The adults reminisced about the days when Pin the Tail on the Donkey was big entertainment.

When I arrived back to town I drove to [Sports Bar] where Eve and Paul had arranged for a group of their friends to gather. I found them seated along the railing of an elevated section on the far side of the bar. I said a general hello to everyone, and Eve introduced me to two couples I hadn’t met before and reintroduced one couple—John and Kim—that I’d met the night I was introduced to Blaine. Blaine was seated on the railing side between John and Paul. Our eyes caught briefly and we exchanged a quick smile as a hello.

They had pulled three high-top tables together. Eve had saved a seat for me by turning a stool on its side and shoving it beneath the tables where no one else could grab it. She and Kim pulled it out and righted it between the two of them. As I was about to sit down, Eve leaned in. “I’ll get Paul to move over here.” I told her not to. I didn’t know if anyone else was aware that Blaine and I know each other. It seemed best not to call attention to it. Besides, there were advantages to being across from him, such as having a chance to look at him.

The day he and I met I was so thrown once I realized he was the guy Eve had been wanting to fix me up with that very little about him registered. After I left that day, all I could recall was that he was on the tall side. The next time I saw him was at Eve and Paul’s the night he and Paul built the loft blockade. I wasn’t expecting to see him that night either but the unexpectedness of it didn’t bother me as much. I remember sitting at the dining room table during dinner and glancing over at him once. All of a sudden I realized he’s attractive, and I remember thinking How did I miss this? Tonight, sneaking looks at him every now and then, I was struck again. I like it when it happens this way.

“How was the birthday party?” Eve asked, returning my attention to everyone else. I mentioned something about the energy level of five year olds, and someone asked if I was talking about a grandchild, and someone else asked if I were married. A waitress stopped to get drink orders, for which I was grateful. When my attention returned to the table, the conversation had moved on. I settled into listening, a mode I enjoy.

A woman breezed up to the group on the guys’ side. She said her hellos to everyone she knew, and Eve introduced her—Natalie—to me. She’s one of those people who would be noted for her energy, someone who draws attention simply by existing. She stood beside Paul until she stepped out of the way of a waitress and repositioned into the small space between him and Blaine.

Her group hadn’t arrived yet, she said. “Do you have room for one more for a little while?” Paul was about to free up space by scooting his stool closer to Eve, but she stopped him. “You’re fine. I only need a place to set my glass.” As if demonstrating, she reached between the two guys and left a wine glass on the table. When she pulled her arm back, she rested her hand on Blaine’s shoulder and asked how he’s been, remarked that she hasn’t seen him in a while, checked on how his daughter is doing.

I didn’t want to get caught watching but I was curious. Here was someone from Blaine’s world, someone he evidently knew well. And she was no insecure introvert, that was certain.

Naturally I conducted a quick compare and contrast of styles, although I turned my head away from them and looked at one of the TVs on the wall while I did it.

I’d say she is regularly scheduled mani-pedis, while I’m a no-color manicure and rich-red pedicure every few months. She’s Sephora devoted; I wear only enough makeup to remind the world I have eyes and, sometimes, lips. Her clothing is bright patterns, trendy low cuts and fashionable heels. Mine is dark hues, structured, softly flirty or slightly edgy when I can manage it. Shoes fall way short because I have hard-to-fit feet and like to be comfortable. Her jewelry is noticeable, complicated and coordinated. I wear diamond studs with everything, occasionally white gold drop earrings if I want to change it up; bracelets and necklaces are a rarity. Her hair is short and shaped, blonde, styled perfectly. Mine is short, too, but long on top with pieces that fall across my eyes sometimes. The color is medium dark with copper tones at the roots, a few lowlights and caramel highlights. (I think I win on hair.)

The waitress returned with a round of drinks. I heard Natalie ask Blaine, “Did you get the postcard about [a wine shop’s] spring tasting? Why don’t we go?”

How awkward. I took a long drink of beer and looked back at the television as if I were interested in the basketball game. I hoped to appear oblivious to the conversation while I prepared a neutral expression for whatever came next. Blaine and I have not been going out long enough to prevent him from seeing other women, so if he thought her suggestion was a good one, it would have to be OK.

Blaine answered, “I appreciate that, Natalie, but I’m seeing someone.” I took another long, cover-up swallow of beer.

Kim, with what sounded like friendly, genuine interest, asked, “Who is it, Blaine?”

I turned my attention back to the table, avoiding eye contact at first, then sliding my gaze upward, meeting Blaine’s. I smiled because I have the poker face of a dog who’s spotted a tennis ball. He smiled back, nodded toward me and told her.

Kim put her hand on my arm. “That’s wonderful. How long?”

“Since the first of the year,” I replied.

“Oh, still new,” Natalie observed, not unkindly but I still thought I detected the between-the-lines thought: won’t survive tornado season.

Kim hopped off her stool. “You should be sitting over here, Blaine.” She handed her drink across to John and grabbed her jacket and purse. Eve reached across the table for Blaine’s glass and relocated it. He was moving whether he wanted to or not.

I felt everyone’s eyes on me, probably wondering who I was again, trying to figure out how this happened.

Conversations resumed quickly, and the next hour or so flew by. For awhile there was a side discussion about a local political situation that Paul pulled me into because our thing has become talking about current events.

As that conversation died down, Blaine leaned over and asked if I felt like leaving. It surprised me that he wanted to go so soon, but I had no trouble agreeing. While it’s always fun to hang out with Eve and Paul, and the others too, I look forward all week to having time alone with Blaine.

We met at his house. There was a little mist in the air, and he had me pull into the garage so if it turned to rain by the time I left I wouldn’t get wet.

After drinks were poured and we connected my phone and Spotify account to his bluetooth speakers, we settled on the couch. We listened to a Van Morrison album—"Poetic Champions Compose"—that I’ve loved for a long time but was new to Blaine. He liked it instantly. For the first tracks we didn’t talk but touched hands, not holding but slipping palms across one another, running fingertips together, sliding fingers over, through and around, done mindlessly but with absolute attention.

Blaine asked softly, “Do you mind that I announced to everyone you’re--that we’re seeing each other?”

“No,” I answered. “I think you surprised the table though.”

“I’ll be asked about you tomorrow.” Every Sunday after church the same group gets together. At one time they had all belonged to the same church but over time a few changed churches. They started the lunches to keep in touch.

“How uncomfortable will that be?”

“It shouldn’t be too bad.” He shifted slightly and our hands fell apart. “There’s something I’d like us to address. It’s about,” he paused as if needing to find the next word, “us.” He waggled a finger from him to me to eliminate any ambiguity about the parties involved. “When it comes up tomorrow, will it be fair—accurate—to tell them you’re my girlfriend or should I leave it at we’re dating or going out?”

“Is that how you think of me?” Outwardly I was casual; inwardly it was the Fourth of July.

He looked at me for a few moments. “I think of you as someone I want to know much better and I don’t want some other guy to slip in and get your attention. I believe it’s your decision whether you want to be my girlfriend.”

“Then it is both fair and accurate to tell whomever you wish that I’m your girlfriend.”

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Friday, March 16, 2018


I took the day off to attend a grant writing workshop in case I want to apply for a position where that skill or, in my case, a general knowledge of how to write one is desired.

The speaker was excellent and the material rich and dense. I scribbled until my fingers cramped. By noon my head was so full of information I had a hard time paying attention to the small talk occurring at my table during lunch. The afternoon was tough. By midafternoon I needed caffeine so badly the Diet Pepsi on the refreshment table tasted amazing.

Generally, I don’t speak to people I don’t know because small talk is not a gift I have. Today people kept approaching me, and I slipped into the chatty me that usually only comes out when I’m on vacation. Things I spoke about ranged from the role animal behaviorists play at zoos (turns out a good gorilla story is universally appreciated) to this March Madness business, of which I know nothing but was able to briefly speak about because of something I heard on the radio this morning.

I was ever so glad when it ended at 4:45. All I wanted was to get to my car, turn on the symphony channel and be quiet. As I left the building a guy ran up from behind. He fell into step with me and asked if I thought the information was worthwhile. “I’m Marcel,” he said, smiling.

“Hi Marcel.” He had an accent, French I think but not from France. More like the accent from a Caribbean island. He looked expectantly at me. Oh I thought a cue to speak. I told him my name. We exchanged why we had attended today. He’s hoping to apply for an NIH grant. I’m hoping to avoid being unemployed. (I didn’t say that to him.) He asked if I would consider working freelance to help develop/write a proposal. Perhaps, I said. He requested my business card. And just like that I networked. Wonder if I can work that into the resume too.
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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Spring refresh

Just finished ordering three pairs of shoes from Zappos. This includes a pair of heels that will go with the dress I tried on at the department store last week and bought tonight.

I was on my way home after work and suddenly didn’t want another night of going home, binging on “Younger” and hopping into bed. So, I drove on, planning to check on the dress in case it had been marked down. It had, but it was no great discount. I tried it on again, still liked it, maybe more than before. I spoke to the in-store seamstress about the fit, and she was confident she could take it in at the waist ever so slightly to give it, and me, a better shape. She’ll also shorten the hemline and sleeves so they hit where they’re supposed to.

I am restless.
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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

2:30 a.m.

I woke from a bad dream just before 2:30 this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. Imagine how much joy I brought to those around me today.

Eve was back at work (yay!). While she is feeling better, two others are not. Given how bad the flu has been all winter, I suppose it was inevitable that eventually it would reach our office. I have mixed feelings about potentially catching it. Right now would be a good time to come down with it in the sense that I wouldn’t feel well enough to stress about the budget cut announcement coming in the next couple of weeks and could get some sleep.

I went to Mica’s after work to feed the little white dog and give him his antibiotic capsule so she could go to the gym. It was a fiasco again. Because he can’t have high fat foods, we can’t hide the pill in peanut butter, cheese or a pill pocket, all things he loves. At first it worked to hide it in a piece of dog food (he has to eat wet) or a piece of bread. Now it’s poke it down his throat, follow it with a small treat to make sure he swallows and then try to get him to drink water. He’s patient but he spits it out or it breaks in half and then he spits it out.

All three of us are looking forward to tomorrow when the stitches are removed, the t-shirt comes off and the last pill is given—and not by me.

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Monday, March 12, 2018

And no one was there

Back to work today. For the first time in several years I didn’t check work email while I was on vacation. When I opened my account this morning I had over 1,563 new emails. I considered putting my coat back on and leaving.

Someone on a listserv had “replied all” and then others did too until it was out of control. Worse, someone I work with must have looked only at the subject line (something about a newsletter) and assumed the emails should be going to me so she forwarded each one. Took forever to delete everything.

Aside from that, it was unusually quiet. Only one other person in my corridor was in the office today. Eve stayed home with the stuff that makes you achy, stiff and exhausted. Susannah said a couple of others were on vacation. No idea where everyone else was. Even Henry was missing.

I learned tonight that a former co-worker's dad passed away earlier in the week. I need to remember to pick up card. Another former co-work is being nominated for a national writing award, and I've been asked to write a letter of support. I'm off to draft something now.

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Dinnerish and a movie

When I set my drink down, Blaine reached for my hand. He ran a finger across the back, from one pink mark just off center to another near my little finger. “I see you’re still healing.” He reached out with his other arm, and the cuff of his sleeve pulled back far enough to reveal his battle wounds—two faint scrapes on his wrist.

“Izzy’s way of making sure we don’t forget her,” I said.

“My assistant asked if I’d gotten a kitten.”

We were at the small restaurant where we had been introduced. As then, we were seated on the bar side but instead of being at a high top we were at a small table next to the windows. There was less foot traffic around us but cold seeped through the glass. The fabric of my top was too thin to be the least bit warm, but I am sick to death of sweaters and jackets. Blaine’s hands were warm around my fingers though.

Our plan, formed during a late phone call last night, was “dinnerish” and a movie. The “ish” to leave wiggle room to redefine the meaning of dinner if need be. Before the waitress stopped by a second time, I asked Blaine what he was in the mood for. In other words:  “Are we having popcorn at the movie tonight?” That was the factor that would determine whether we ordered dinner or an appetizer.

“A very thoughtful person left me a bag of top-of-the-line popcorn last night.” I could tell there was a “but” stuck in his throat.

“But it isn’t movie theater popcorn.”

“No. It isn’t.”

“I understand.” It’s possible that at some point I will stop finding his popcorn weakness adorable. That point wasn’t tonight.

He insisted I choose the appetizer. I dislike when a person can’t or won’t make a decision so I try to avoid dithering, but having to choose between the Brussels sprouts and the beet fries was killing me. I left it until the waitress appeared and asked if we had decided. “Beet fries, please.” I reasoned that I could make roasted Brussels sprouts with balsamic glaze at home but I couldn’t replicate the beet fries.

Blaine added, “Let’s have an order or Brussels sprouts too.” When the waitress walked away, he smiled. “The inner turmoil was all over your face.”

I scrunched my nose. “I don’t have the poker face I think I do.”

“It’s a lovely face, and I like looking at it. Maybe I’m learning to read the subtleties of your expressions.”

That was new. And unexpected. If my face betrayed my surprise, befuddlement and embarrassment, he didn’t let on.

Suddenly I wasn’t cold anymore.

We arrived at the movie theater a little bit late. The beauty of ordering tickets and reserving seats online is that it no longer matters, not to mention that the new layouts with the recliners make it possible to get to middle seats without disturbing anyone.

We settled in while the previews were showing. The movie we watched tonight, “Red Sparrow,” may be the last one we go to for quite some time if the trailers were representative of what’s coming out over the next few months. It’s a shame because there is just no better way to spend a couple of hours than side by side with someone you like.

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Friday, March 9, 2018


I met Mica and Sophie for lunch. I haven’t seen Sophie since the rescue fundraiser, and there was much to catch up on. I’d like the three of us to get together more often again. We used to play cards on Friday nights until Mica cooled on the idea. If not cards, maybe we can start Friday dinners.

After I dropped Mica at home I did some shopping. One could argue I do not need another piece of clothing, and one would be correct. However, there’s a hole in my wardrobe where once there were skirts and dresses. Going into spring and summer, I should have a few pieces in the category. Today was a bust, although there’s a dress I’m going to stalk to see if it makes it to clearance. It’s at a department store where it takes three markdowns to bring prices into my comfort zone.

I was at that store when I received a message from Eve asking what I was doing. She was across the street at PetSmart buying dog food and had me wait for her. The consensus on the dress was it’s a strong yes but needs to be a oh-hell-yesss! to justify full price.

The bar we’ve been meeting at on Fridays is in the same shopping center. We walked over to have a drink, just the two of us. We haven’t done that for ages.

She caught me up on what I missed at work this week (nothing important), told me a little bit about their trip to DC but wanted to wait until Paul could be there to tell some stories, and filled me in on the job offer their daughter received yesterday (yay!).

I gave her the highlights of my time with Izzy, filled her in on the little white dog’s surgery, and admitted that this week off was a total bust for getting anything done.

She asked if Blaine and I were doing something this weekend. I told her I thought so but that he’s been working long hours and may opt for a quiet night at home.

She talked about Blaine’s late wife, who was her best friend. It sounds like she and Eve were similar in personality—outgoing, fun, organizers always bringing people together. Since I’m none of those things I was curious why Eve thought Blaine and I would be a good match. I didn’t ask, but later she answered it on her own, saying I was a lot like him. Hearing that calmed something that has been flitting around the back of my mind for some time.

When I got back to my car I had to decide what to do with a large snickerdoodle cookie and a small bag of popcorn. I bought the cookie from a cookie shop near where we had lunch, and the popcorn came from the only place in town that still pops it fresh. Both are favorites of Blaine's, and I picked them up with the intention of leaving them at his house so he'd find them whenever he got home from work. I second- and third-guessed myself, though. Was it fun and friendly or stupid and intrusive?

In the parking lot I put both into a simple gift bag I had picked up, wrote a quick note on the attached card and drove very slowly in the direction of his house. As I turned onto his street I decided to go ahead and leave it. I looped the bag handle over the handle of his front door.

When I got home I realized chances weren’t good that he would see it. He enters the house through the garage. So I sent a text letting him know something was waiting for him.

The phone buzzed a short time later. “This is the first thing that has made me smile all day.”

“My work is done.”

“Can I call when I get home?”

Maybe not the first time I’ve smiled today but definitely the happiest smile I’ve had. “Please do.”

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Taxing logins

The only thing less fun than updating a resume is preparing the tax file for the accountant. I know because I worked on both today.

Every year there is one piece of tax information that I can only access online, but I can never get into the account. I believe they require a password change every six months, and I don’t do it for reasons that amount to laziness. Every spring I face this and swear that next year will be different. Today, after spending nearly an hour on the website trying to get a username to work so I could request a password change, I finally picked up the phone. Less than five minutes later I had what I needed. I still don’t have a working username and password, but it doesn’t matter now.

Eve has been sending texts all day, each one containing an alarming number of exclamation points. Since I’m not at work this week she doesn’t have anyone to talk to and it’s making her a little crazy. In between texts, I finished reading “Still Me.” In my opinion, turning “Me Before You” into a trilogy was unnecessary. Moyes told a perfect and complete story in the first book. The characters’ futures should have been left to each reader’s imagination. She said in an interview that the characters in “Me Before You” came to her fully formed. She was only there to transcribe their voices. I don’t think the same was true with the second and third book. I suspect Will and Louisa were most complete when they were together. And that’s kind of the point of their story. Still, I love Moyes’ writing and now I can look forward to her next book, whatever it may be.

I talked to Blaine tonight. He was still at work. He’s having a brutal week and sounded exhausted. He thinks he’ll have to go into the office on Saturday but said he still wants to get together in the evening. I told him to feel free to cancel at the last minute if he needs to, whether to work or have downtime. "Not a chance," he said through a yawn.

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Monday, March 5, 2018


One of my favorite authors, Jojo Moyes, has a new book out. It’s the third in a trilogy that began with the amazing “Me Before You.” I hope to spend long stretches reading it, but I’ve been hit with something that is making me extraordinarily tired. Over two days I’ve read a whole four chapters. And written one entry. I had a tough time writing about Saturday and finally decided to just hit “Publish.”

I’m at Mica’s tonight hanging out with the little white dog while she’s at the gym. I’ll feed him and give him his pills, which I should film for the slapstick comedy it will be.

Hoping to be back in the swing of things soon.
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Saturday, March 3, 2018

Dirt roads

Eve and Paul’s daughter sent a text yesterday morning saying she was driving in a day early. She arrived just after dark. I gave Izzy one last full body rub and a kiss on top of her head before leaving. All I did when I arrived home was take a long, steamy shower, put on my favorite pajamas and crawl into bed to read until I fell asleep.

This morning I decided it was time for a pedicure. On a whim, I followed it with a manicure. Manicures are tricky in that I always have to talk the manicurist into doing what I want, which is a manicure without polish. Polish dries my fingernails so badly they will break endlessly for a few months. About 20 percent of the time I get what want. Generally the person will nod, nod, nod and tell me to go pick a polish. It was that way today. Is there a union rule I don’t know about?

I had left my phone plugged into the car to charge. When I checked it, I found a couple of ninety-minute old texts from Blaine asking how my day was going and if I had interest in going for a walk. Using my thumbs, shiny nails the shade of “Got the Blues for Red,” I responded that I did have time and asked what he had in mind.

Since I was Izzy-free, we agreed to take full advantage of the unusually warm day and follow some trails along a river about a half hour from the city. He gave me time to get home, change into jeans and dig out the hiking shoes from the back of the closet. I was pushing my freshly painted (“I’m Not Really a Waitress”) toes into my favorite-for-walking bamboo socks when the doorbell rang.

Energized by the sunshine, the last-minute plans and, frankly, finding Blaine standing on my front porch wearing blue jeans, scuffed hiking boots and a flannel shirt over a t-shirt in what was the perfect amount of nonsloppy casualness, I opened the door with an ultra-peppy, “Hi!”

His eyebrows rose and a grin formed. “Hi. You seem to be in an especially good mood.”

I shrugged. “I slept all night without a cold nose pressing on the small of my back waking me up. I dressed without anything licking my hands and feet.” I concluded, “I am feeling refreshed.”

“I’ll try not to let either happen through the course of the day.” I nearly told him not to be hasty, but we’re not at that level of...whatever…yet.

The temperature was already in the sixties and the breeze was mild. Since I tend to run warm I doubted I’d need more than the long sleeve shirt over a tank top that I had on but I grabbed a lightweight denim jacket anyway.

When Blaine started the car, the radio came on. I stopped him from automatically turning it off, wanting to see what he was listening to, but he reached in and punched it off. “Tell me what you are expecting.”

I thought through the XM channels I’ve come across. “Disney Channel. That French country-music channel. Canadian pop.”

“I've let Disney go,” he said dryly.

I sized him up. It took longer than it should have because I got sidetracked by the color of his eyes. They are a really pretty blue. But anyway. “The obvious is one of the jazz channels.”

“And? Two more.”

“In addition to those I already guessed?”


I calculated what years he was in high school and factored in that he’s a farm kid. “A classic rock station and…” I wanted to guess a country station but that didn’t seem right for him. “Is there a local station near where you grew up, one with hourly hog market reports? That’s my third guess.” He closed his eyes and shook his head. He pressed the power button. Lynyrd Skynyrd was playing on Classic Rewind. On that tier of favorites he also had Classic Vinyl, Classic Jazz, Siriusly Sinatra and an ESPN channel.

“Who is good?” I asked it with too much enthusiasm, as if I were talking to Izzy.

“You are!” he responded perfectly.

We hadn’t left my driveway yet, but the tone was set for the rest of the day.

Neither of us knew exactly where to go once we reached the turnoff after the river. There is a narrow, curving highway that follows the river, passes a small town and a few farms, and ends at a major highway near a larger town. There’s a paved bike trail that parallels the highway on the river side, but we were looking for trails the led up the bluff.

Nothing along the way suggested where to park or whether we needed a park permit. We backtracked to a building we knew belonged to Game and Parks. They sold us a one-day permit and gave us a really poor map showing some trails and parking areas.

We started out on the bike trail which kept us close to the river. Where it ended, a narrower well-worn dirt path started. It was soft in spots but well-packed and walkable. The better trails were across the highway and up the bluff. We crossed where we could and followed the markers. I wanted to go off-trail to follow a deer track. Blaine couldn’t be talked into it. He’s a rule follower, as I am usually, but I have a hard time not taking routes that look interesting.

I asked, “Do you ever go down minimum maintenance roads for the fun of it?” I’m drawn to those roads that have been abandoned by the county and have reverted to narrowed dirt lanes. Most often they are used by farmers to access entrances to fields, so they can be terribly rutted and dangerous to the underbody of low cars like mine. It’s along those roads that you find wild plums or thickets of blackberries, and beautiful old farmhouses left alone so long they are gray and look as if they’re sighing for the last time.

“Not really,” he said. “That’s what you like to do?”

“I’m drawn to them. You never know what you might find.”

“Like a bridge that washed out a decade ago and no place to turn around.”

“Or, Mr. Glass Half Empty, something interesting like foundations from a town that didn’t make it, or a cemetery. There are stories down each of those roads,” I declared.

“And lawsuits.”

We laughed. In fact, the rest of the afternoon could be summed up with “we laughed.”

The sunlight was weakening by the time we returned to Blaine’s SUV. We were both hungry and agreed to try out a well-known bar that’s the main attraction in the little town we had passed. The parking lot was full even though it was early. We found out that Saturday is prime rib night, a big draw. There was an hour wait for a table, so we settled in at the bar and emptied glasses of Diet Coke until we were no longer thirsty. I switched to beer out of a feeling of obligation since we were taking up space at the bar. Blaine stuck with pop.

Once we were seated, the meals arrived quickly. We both ordered the prime rib and thought it was good. We didn’t linger since there was a line of people waiting for tables.

Getting into the car, I looked up. Blaine followed my eyes. “What?” he asked. I told him I hadn’t noticed starts in a long time. It has been a long, overcast winter, plus light pollution in the city takes a toll.

Blaine turned out of the parking lot and headed opposite of the way we came. This route would take longer, but I’ve never tired of spending time with him. I was puzzled, though, when he turned off the highway right after we crossed back over the river. We were still within the park on a narrow, bumpy dirt road. Both sides were lined by trees and brush, with occasional breaks on the river side. He slowed down and watched for something. I asked him what he was looking for. “I’m going to try to find you some stars,” he said. A little further on there was another break in the trees, and he carefully turned. There had been a sign but I didn’t catch what it said. Soon it was clear. We were at a boat launch. Blaine stopped at the water’s edge. He opened the moonroof and windows, and turned off the engine. The air and breeze were still wonderfully warm. Once the interior lights went out, it was as dark as it’s possible to find so close to towns. I couldn’t see the river but could hear water lapping. We tilted the seats back a bit to make it easier to look through the moonroof. There were a lot of stars out. It was so quiet.

“This may be the best dirt road find yet,” I said.

“In high school we used dirt roads as parking spots.”

I looked over at him. It was so dark I could only tell that his head was turned toward me as well. “Interesting.”

“Let’s see if I have this right: No cold noses, no licking hands and feet.”

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Slow down, do little

Izzy has a friend who comes to visit each night.

Beautiful face (and she's grown into her ears)!

"Hey, this show about comedians in cars getting coffee is unexpectedly entertaining!"
I can't remember if I mentioned that I'm on vacation. Yesterday was my first day off and I'll go back on the the 12th. Taking so many days at once always causes people to ask if I'm going somewhere or have something special planned. I rarely say yes to either question. I find I need a stretch of time away from the office to recharge, and while I would travel, that requires that I first live in a world with job security. I don't mind having time off with no plans.

Often, I think about how nice it would be to get away from the phone, obligations, should-do's and everything else that comes with everyday life. Usually this involves daydreams about a cabin in the Rockies or a beach house along Lake Michigan. I'm finding that a week at a friend's house where the only TV is on a floor separate from everything else you need works just as well.

Right now I'm at the dining room table. Izzy has just come in from the back yard and is flopped onto her side, napping. The only sounds, aside from my fingers tapping on the keyboard, are the ticking of the kitchen clock to my left and the rhythmic on-off of the wine cooler on my right. It's about as peaceful as modern life gets.

I have ventured out into the world today. Around lunchtime I went to Mica's to hang out with the little white dog while she went to an appointment. He's wearing a t-shirt to keep him away from the stitches on his chest, but he's a crafty little thing so someone needs to make sure he doesn't find a way to fuss at it. The alternative is a cone, but experience has shown he can McGuyver a cone until it does his bidding. He once had a bump removed from his tail. He figured out that if he backed up against the couch and pressed is haunch against it, he could maintain a position that would allow him to curl his body toward his tail, then he'd pull is hail toward him and slam the edge of the cone onto it, which trapped the stitched part inside the cone...where his mouth and teeth could reach it. He had to go back to the vet to get restitched. They sent home a bigger cone, one so large and floppy on him that we sometimes had to hold the front up fso he could see where he was going.

After Mica left, I let him guard the house, which is what we call it when we pull an ottoman in front of the glass in the screen door and let him sit on it look out. Usually he naps. On a good day he'll get to growl at squirrels in the yard. If luck is really going his way he'll spot a UPS or FedEx truck and bark a warning that the entire neighborhood can hear. Today he slept with the warm sun streaming across him.

Before I left, he wanted to go outside. He wasn't interested in patrolling the perimeter, his usual routine. Instead he walked to the top of the slope and stood in the sunshine. I followed him and sat down on the concrete pad in front of the garden shed. He came over and leaned against me. We both closed our eyes to the bright light and enjoyed the warmth on our faces until Mica got home.

It isn't yet suppertime and I feel confident that I can post this now because nothing else is going to happen today.

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