Saturday, June 30, 2018


Four of us from work rode together to go to our coworker’s funeral, which was at her hometown an hour away. The service was quite nice. Someone from our office who worked closely with her provided a heartfelt and funny tribute. I was struck--not for the first time--by what good people I get to work with.

We stayed for the luncheon. I sat between Eve and another coworker’s husband, whom I’d never met before. I knew they had a dog with an interesting story (rescued from an area hit by a hurricane a couple of years ago) so I asked about that. Before long he was showing me pictures of her on his phone. With the ice broken we found a lot to talk about as we ate.

When I arrived home I checked the clock to see if I had time for another shower. The heat and humidity were incredibly high, and I felt sticky, frizzy and generally gross. I also wanted a definitive shift from my morning/afternoon to my evening. I decided I had time if I hurried. When it looked like I might cut it too close I sent Blaine a text to let him know I was about to dry my hair and may not hear the doorbell but the back door was unlocked. When he arrived he was carrying a couple of styrofoam glasses that meant one thing: fountain Diet Coke over crushed ice.

You are the best, most thoughtful, wonderful human being.” My hands were outstretched in the neediest of gestures.

He held out one of the glasses. “I’ve taken a drink from this one but the straw is already in and you look like you can’t wait.” I would have laughed if he hadn’t been so right.

When we left it was cloudy overhead but to the southwest the sky was a telltale gunmetal gray. I checked radar on my phone and saw there was a strong thunderstorm moving toward us. It looked like it would connect with another storm to the north before it swiped the city. The good news was both were only thunderstorms and were weakening so we weren’t likely to see hail or damaging winds. The bad news was it was going to follow us to an outdoor party.

Fortunately, we had almost two hours there before the storm hit. There was time to say hello, grab a drink and go through the buffet line, which they began earlier than planned with the hope that people could eat before the rain moved in.

As planned, we shared a table with Henry and Julia. I reintroduced them to Blaine. I knew all had made a good first impression on one another and wasn’t surprised when the conversation was easy. At first it centered on me, the common denominator, but soon Henry and Blaine found their own common ground: pheasant hunting.

“Wait,” I interrupted when it came up. “You hunt?” I wasn’t sure who I was asking because it surprised me that either one did. I had looked at Blaine so he answered.

“Pheasant, yes. Paul and I go out once in the fall.”

Paul hunts?” I nearly asked if Eve knew.

Henry asked if I disliked hunting. I don’t understand the appeal but keep an open mind about it. To answer him, I shook my head. “I’m just trying to figure out why I never noticed a gun rack in the back window of your Prius.”

I asked Julia if she participated. She said she doesn’t want to see any evidence of Henry’s success until it’s on plate cooked to the proper internal temperature. I toasted that.

There’s a possibility Henry will join Blaine and Paul this fall.

A short time later cell phones began to chime, including Blaine’s (mine was in my purse locked inside Blaine’s car). “Thunderstorm warning,” he told us after reading the text.

We, along with many others, stayed where we were, around patio tables on the back lawn, until the wind kicked up and the temperature dropped a bit. As the first fat drops of rain fell we went inside the house through the patio doors that opened to the basement family room. Someone had turned the television on. A local station was doing live storm coverage because a little further north there was a severe thunderstorm with a Doppler indicated tornado. It wasn’t going to affect the area we were in but for Midwesterners this sort of weather is like a pop-up Super Bowl.

We waited for the storm to pass and then said our goodbyes. As I was looking for Karen, I came face-to-face with my former boss. He isn’t my favorite person so he didn’t get introduced to Blaine. A quick exchange of hellos and insincere interest in one another’s lives while continuing to move away was the sum of our reunion. On the way home Blaine, who had been amused by how I had squeezed his arm in an unmistakable keep moving gesture, asked who it was I wanted to get away from. I told him, included why I hadn’t introduced him and added, “That job was the dark period of my life.”

“That bad?”

“It can’t be overstated.” I explained the best I could. Examples of dysfunction aren’t difficult to come by but it soon sounds like an exaggeration. “Then Karen led me to Henry, which led me to Eve, who led me to you. Right now life is as light and bright as it gets.”

I saw his lips turn up at the corners. “Yes. It is that.”

As we got back to the city the next storm was moving in. According to radar we were in the lighter rain band, but behind that it was red with spots of pink-purple. “Maybe you should drop me off and go on home in case there’s hail with this one,” I said.

“Come home with me.”

We left the lights off and watched the next storm roll through—cracking lightning casting the golf course in white-blue light, thunder so close I felt it in my bones and wind that sent the flower pots skittering across the deck. There was a lull and then another cell dumped rain and blew it against the windows across the back of the house. Once it passed, we stepped barefooted onto the deck and absorbed the post-storm, middle-of-the-night coolness. The heat, humidity and overall ickiness of the day were gone, replaced by something calming and refreshing.
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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Added measure of relief

It seems like this week has gone on for six months.

Everyone remains dazed by the loss of our coworker. I suspect it will take another week for a new normal to begin to settle in. I have started to get phone calls, some related to work and others that are personal, seeking information about the services or whatnot. 

I had lunch with a group of friends I used to work with. There are seven of us who get together a few times a year to catch up on things. I like everyone in this group, although to be honest it took about a year to get to that point. My old workplace was quite dysfunctional. By the end bridges were going up in flames right and left. For the first year I made sure I sat far from those I didn’t want to talk to. By the second year I decided to let the hard feelings go. Now I rather enjoy getting updates. Sometimes people are completely different when they’re away from work, and it’s good to be reminded of that.

One person in the group—Nancy—still works with the woman whose retirement party I’m going to on Saturday. She told Nancy about running into me and my boyfriend at the retirement reception I went to with Blaine. “Who is he?” Nancy asked. Everyone seemed to hear her even though no one had been paying attention to our conversation prior. This time I didn’t mind talking about it. It’s no longer new and it isn’t as fragile as it seemed to me to be.

I saw Blaine tonight. He stopped by on his way home from work. We both sort of collapsed in a schlumpy heap on the couch and slowly perked up over the next hour. He’s been telling me about something he’s working on and shared the latest. I talked to him about the things that have been on my mind this week related to my coworker’s death. (At the moment, I don't feel comfortable providing details here.) Just getting the words said aloud helped. I’ve talked to Mica about it but somehow talking to Blaine too brought an added measure of relief.

He listens, which is different from those boyfriends in my past who would have viewed this sort of conversation as a necessary evil to be endured for the shortest period possible. I don’t think Blaine looks at it that way. He engages. He gives thoughtful consideration to what’s said, asks questions that sometimes help him understand the situation and sometimes help me consider another angle.

Tonight when Blaine stopped by I was just starting an episode of the “Great British Baking Show,” a favorite of mine and the only show related to cooking I enjoy. He stayed to watch the episode (pies!) with me after confirming, “There are no costumes, right?” He’s under the impression that the British only export period dramas. (I have a secret plan to get him hooked on “Poldark” this fall. Not a plan as much as a scheme to take advantage of these early days of infatuation.)

“I would offer you supper but the truth is I have nothing.” I haven’t felt like cooking so this week has been all about peanut butter toast and a banana for dessert.

“Should I be worried about you?” he asked.

“Nope. This is normal.”

He made a sound that wasn't exactly a laugh. “‘Normal’ might be a stretch.”

Neither of us felt like going out, and pizza delivery didn’t sound good either, so he left me to have a toasted bagel and he went home to leftover roast.

It’s probably time that I get better at being an adult.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Final jazz

Last night a mess of unexpected thunderstorms blew through. They cleared the skies and today, for the first time in over a week, there was sunshine, blue skies and puffy white clouds. It was pretty enough to make up for the humidity.

The last outdoor jazz concert was tonight, and it was a good one. Lots of energy and horns and a smooth sound I really enjoyed. Blaine liked the group too. Afterward, he said the previous three weeks were worth it just to get to them. I totally agree. I’m even looking forward to doing this next year. With him. This is part of my recent plan to go for this with an optimistic mind and open heart.

When we arrived at Blaine’s SUV in the parking garage, we found that an enormous pickup had parked next to him, leaving about six inches between the vehicles. Blaine had to get in through the passenger door. He reached across and put the driver’s seat back as far as it would go, then he climbed in and across the console. He had to unpretzel his legs before he could slip into the seat. He bumped his head on the roof, one foot caught on the gear shift. He pinched something somehow. All this with only a heartfelt damn it.

I slipped in and buckled the seatbelt. “No one would begrudge you a door ding,” I promised.

“It’s tempting,” he muttered. He backed out carefully and without incident.

As he left the parking garage and pulled into traffic, he let out a breath and said in a rather rough tone. “Let’s go get some ice cream.” I swear there was an unsaid mother- in that statement.

“My treat,” I offered.

We ended up at a little stand that’s on a corner not far from my house. It’s been around since the ‘50s and is known for its thick malts. In all the years I’ve been in the neighborhood I’ve never stopped there. Every fall when I notice it has closed for the season I think I’ll go next summer but then forget about it.

We each ordered a dipped cone, mine in chocolate and nuts and his in chocolate and coconut. We ate them at a picnic table beneath a tree along the side of the building.

I asked him if tonight was representative of how worked up he gets when things go awry. He shrugged, said he doesn’t have much of a temper. He admitted his language would have been more colorful had I not been there. I let him know he wouldn’t be able to shock or offend me. An eyebrow shot up as if he might take that as a challenge. I’d like to see him try. “Embarrassed Blaine” would return for sure.

A piece of chocolate shell broke and slid off onto his hand. He caught it with his tongue but got ice cream on his nose in the process. Ice cream cones on a summer night will always make you look like a kid. I handed him a couple of the tiny napkins I’d swiped from the dispenser by the order window. He noticed I was watching him. “What are you thinking about?”

For once I wasn’t thinking anything, just feeling a lot. “We should get VIP passes again next year.”

“Let’s plan on it.”
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Monday, June 25, 2018

Unexpected news

One of my coworkers passed away over the weekend. This is the coworker whose birthday party Eve and I attended a month or so ago. Everyone in the office was shell shocked. As the hours pass, it becomes harder to believe. The funeral will be Saturday.
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Sunday, June 24, 2018

New speakers

The plan was to go somewhere and buy bluetooth speakers better than Blaine currently has. Quickly, seeking speakers turned into looking for a multi-room sound system, and that led us out of the city on an hour drive to the mecca of home furnishing stores, where the target evolved from multi-room to whole house.

At one point we found ourselves in a soundproof simulated living room sitting in ergonomic leather recliners listening to Van Morrison (our choice) on a surround-sound system, and I had to shake my head at what was happening. "You are the easiest up-sell I've ever seen." He smiled.

He declined the surround-sound but chose an expandable system. To start, he bought four speakers. "Should I get a fifth for the basement," he wondered out loud.

When he looked at me for input, I shrugged. "I've never been to the basement. What do you do down there?"

Turns out it's still unfurnished. Once he purchased the sound system, we wandered over to another building where he took a look at living room sets but wasn't serious about selecting anything.

When we got back to his house, he took me on a full tour. The upstairs I had figured out. There's an office on the front of the house that I've caught glimpses of when the door has been opened. I hadn't seen his bedroom, but more importantly I had never seen his bathroom/closet combo. He has one of those giant, no-need-for-a-door showers, and the closet... There are larger, fancier closets for sure, but I live in a house that nearly predates closets. Mine is narrow and long and dangerous. I have a tiny scar at the corner of my eye where I stabbed myself with a wire coat hanger years ago as I burrowed in to find something near the middle. So being able to stand in the center, hold out my arms and turn in a circle without touching anything was awe inspiring. And depressing. "The least you could do," I told him, "is fill the shelves."

Before following him out, I let my eyes linger on the section where all of his suits hang. There are a lot of them. Promising.

The basement is finished and completely empty except for one room where there's a race-car bed and a kid-sized set of white chest of drawers. "Where is all the stuff?" I asked. "The extra stuff."

He told me when he decided to move out of the house (Allison and Ty live there now) it quickly became clear that he couldn't bring everything, and he didn't want to. He thought it was best to go ahead and start fresh. What Allison, and others, didn't want they sold through a tag sale.

To make me feel more comfortable, he took me into the space where the furnace and water heater are. There are shelves along the walls and all are filled with Rubbermaid storage containers. "Stuff," he said, sweeping his hand around.

I let out an exaggerated sigh. "Oh good."

We weren't able to bring the sound system home because it wasn't in stock. They'll deliver it the week after next and will set it up, which is a relief because I don't do well with that sort of thing. From what I gather, Blaine is worse.

I declined having dinner, although I would have liked to hang out longer. I have laundry to do if I want to leave the house this week.

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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Sink in

Mica, Sophie and I took a road trip early in the day so Mica could restock her pantry with fancy balsamic vinegars and olive oils. She likes to prepare meals, while Sophie likes to cook and I am fine with peanut butter toast for two meals a day.

I had to do most of the cooking growing up. I learned to follow recipes and eventually alter them as needed to improve them. By the time I moved out on my own I was good at it. Gradually, though, I stopped wanting to take the time to prepare full meals, and after awhile I stopped caring about meals altogether. These days I want quick and easy. I rely on the slow cooker a lot.

Knowing I was going to prepare a meal tonight, I tasted a few of the olive oils and vinegars and bought a pair we could for dipping bread.

Blaine and I had kicked around a few different ideas for what to do tonight. The one we had liked the most was to do nothing but to do it together. So, we made dinner at his house--one of my favorite pasta dishes, a simple recipe that doesn’t sound flavorful (linguine, cod, bacon and tomato) but is fantastic. Blaine provided a pinot grigio, part of his promise from awhile back to introduce me to better wines.

I paired my phone to his bluetooth speakers, and we listened to a bluesy playlist while we cooked, ate and finished the wine. When the playlist ended, Blaine selected another. It seems he is determined that I let go of the idea that I can’t dance. As I gave in and followed him to the open area between the couch and dining room, I warned that while I’ll give it my best shot he should not be surprised when it turns out to be hopeless. He believes there will be a different outcome.

He also believes that he and I have something special happening. I agree but am having to let it sink in.

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Friday, June 22, 2018

Is this the way it's going to be?

Eve was back at work! I presented her with a box of Puffs Plus to welcome her back and convey my hope that she feels all better in approximately 124 blows.

I’ve decided to keep the white top I bought yesterday. I used my lunch hour to run it over to my regular alterations person. I want it shortened so it will hit where it’s supposed to, and I asked if it could be taken in slightly so it’s flowy but not tent-y. She thought so but wasn’t happy with the time frame--I need it by noon next Saturday. I agreed to pay a rush charge.

After work, I was on my way to Talbots to try on the skirt I’d had them order when Blaine called. He’d just gotten a call from Paul who invited us to join him and Eve for supper at the bar they like for steaks. I told him to go on and I’d meet them after I finished.

The skirt is fine. While I was checking all angles in front of the three-way mirror in the common area of the dressing suite, a woman walked by on her way to a room. She commented that the skirt was cute. “You’ll have to change that nail polish though.”

My toes are currently my favorite shade--“I’m Not a Waitress” red. It’s bold and dark and slightly sparkly, and the only time it isn’t on my toes is in the spring when I always think I want something lighter and then always wish I hadn’t changed it. But she was right. It isn’t a good color for the skirt.

I arrived at the bar to find the three seated at a square table close to the bar. Blaine’s back was to me, and I put my hand on his shoulder while I said hello. He pushed his chair back and stood to give me a quick hug.

As I sat down I noticed Blaine and Paul had regular glasses of beer and Eve had a glass twice the size. “So this is the way it’s going to be tonight,” I said her her.

“It was on sale,” she explained.

It was a typical Friday night out with them. Lots of laughter and stories. Eve and I took off on our own little improv once, and the guys sat back and let us go. When we burned out and had brought our laughter back to intermittent giggles, Blaine looked from Paul to Eve. I thought he was going to say something to them, but he turned to me. “Thank God you finally said yes to meeting me.”

It caught all of us by surprise, and it left me speechless. The first thing that went through my mind was that technically I hadn’t agreed to meet him; I had no idea he was going to be there. Fortunately, I kept that to myself. “It was the best thing I ever did.” That is the complete truth.

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Best life

At noon I went to a little clothing store that I always forget exists because it’s in a part of town I’m rarely in. It has nice looking things that are inexpensive. The quality isn’t great but things can last for a couple of years if I’m careful about how I launder them.

I found a two-layer, filmy, flowy top that might work with the skirt. It’s sleeveless (everything is) with a slender V-neck, and it drapes nicely. It was available in white and in blush. I bought both to try.

Henry stopped by my office on his way out. I asked if he and Julia were going to the retirement party. They are. He suggested we sit together for dinner if possible. I’m looking forward to that. Henry and Blaine should get along just fine.

Today is the little white dog’s 10th birthday. He celebrated a few days ago by catching a squirrel. Today he had to settle for an increased number of low-fat treats.

I went to Mica’s after work to annoy him with hugs and kisses. I sure hope he’s around for many more years, but at this point you just don’t know. What I do know is he’s happy, spoiled, well loved and cared for, and treasured. He has the best life any dog could hope for.

Eve has been out of the office for a couple of days. She was hit hard by a cold. I apologized for whatever germs I spread to her, but she said she blamed her sister who came down with it while staying with them last week. That makes more sense since Blaine didn’t come down with it after throwing himself in harm’s way.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Not too late

It was barely after 9:00 this morning when my cell phone vibrated across my desk. I expected it to be Eve because she hadn’t come in yet and usually gives me a heads up if she’s going to be out. It was Blaine. He was already having a bad day, a continuation of a situation he told me about last night. His voice sounded tired, his tone irritated. After a few minutes he blew out a sigh, signaling he was finished venting.

Gently, I said, “It isn’t too late to buy a used car lot.” There was a beat before I heard a soft laugh.

“Will you come work with me?”

“Sure if I get a company car to drive.”

“The best Pontiac I can find.”

~ ~ ~

Operation What Am I Going To Wear This Time is well underway. I went to Talbots tonight to look for the skirt I saw online. They didn’t have it but had another by the same designer and in the same cut. I tried it on to see if the style would work. I guess it did. I mean it’s a skirt. They all sort of hang there. The store ordered it and will have it on Friday. Between now and then I’ll look for a suitable top to go with the greens and pinks in the pattern. I do have a white sleeveless top that will work in a pinch but it fails in three ways:
  1. It’s shapeless.
  2. And sleeveless, which I avoid when I can, especially right now because I sunburned in Chicago the day we went on the two tours, and I have an arm tan that ends above the elbow.
  3. Wearing white to a barbecue is a swell idea.
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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Another Tuesday and other jazz

“You’re going to kill me,” Henry said when I walked into what has become our conference room since we meet about every other day now. 


He pushed a document across the table. Eight pages of material for a display that I already had partially laid out. I laughed a little bit. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Yell at me if you need to,” he offered.

“No, I’m good.”

Recently Henry’s approach toward me has become more casual. All of the professional formality has gone, replaced by something easygoing and familiar.

Later in the meeting he remembered something. “Can you do this?” He pushed another piece of paper toward me. It showed some things he wanted me to PhotoShop onto an image.

“Sure,” I said. It would take at least an hour, but it was possible.

“Want to yell at me now?”

“A little bit,” I joked.

I worked through lunch and sent a proof of the display shortly after. It was rough but I wanted his general reaction to the design before I spent time polishing it. He called late in the day with a few minor changes. Overall, he’s pleased. I’m not a graphic designer and hate these types of projects. I’m always relieved when I can move on.

Blaine met me at home after work. We changed clothes quickly and hurried to get to the venue for the jazz concert. Because strong thunderstorms were approaching the city, the concert was moved from the university campus to a theater downtown near Blaine’s office. He parked in his reserved spot in the parking garage.

“What would you have done if you hadn’t become a lawyer?” I asked as I got out of the car.

He came around and held out his hand. “I don’t know. I never thought about doing anything else.”

“The law was your dream?”

“No. It was a means to a good living that didn’t involve blood.”

There were others crowding into the vestibule outside the elevators. We rode down to the street among a tightly packed group that smelled similarly of unnecessary sunscreen and bug spray.

Outside again and in line waiting for the doors to open, he asked. “Think I could have been good at another job?”

A few drops of rain began to drop onto the sidewalk. Far in the distance thunder rumbled. Everyone took a step closer to the building to gain more protection from the awning above our heads. I pressed my back to the brick and looked up at Blaine who had stepped in but was standing facing me, angled so if rain blew in it would hit his back and not me.

“Everything,” I answered. “You would be good at everything.” His eyes went soft but he didn’t allow a smile. “Probably, though,” I added, “you would have owned a used car lot. Been one of those guys who dresses up as Uncle Sam and does live commercials during the local news.” A laugh burst out of him. “As for me,” I said. “I should have been a high school career counselor.”

“You do have a gift.”

The line began to move. Seating was first come, and we snagged a couple of seats about a third of the way back.

The music was OK. I liked last week’s artist more except she made a lot of political comments that spoiled it, not because of her position but because I’d like to be able to choose when I have to hear about the latest dumbassery coming out of Washington, D.C. There was none of that tonight, but the music didn’t appeal to me as much. Blaine didn’t care for the group either. There’s only one more week to go, and I’m glad. We talked about trying out some of the bands that play the bar where I went on my birthday.

I’ve found a skirt online that I’ll likely order. First, I want to look for it at the store that’s here in town.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

A catch

I mentioned that when I was at the retirement reception for Blaine’s colleague, I ran into my former coworker, the one who introduced me to Henry. In today’s mail was an invitation to her retirement party. It’s in a couple of weeks and will be at their lake property. I had to Google to figure out where the lake is. Manmade, residential lakes are the new golf courses, apparently. This one is about a half-hour away outside a small town.

The invitation says it will be casual--catered barbecue with beer provided by a craft brewer and wine from a popular vineyard.

Hey, how would you like to have barbecue and beer beside a lake in a couple of weeks? I know the importance of a good lede, even in a text.

Sounds great. Is there a catch?”

Of course! 

I have to say it’s extremely nice to have someone to go to these things with. I’m particularly grateful this time because I wouldn’t be comfortable going by myself, and I would feel guilty if I didn’t go. She and I weren’t close but she tossed me a lifeline when I needed it.

As usual, I have nothing to wear. Although it says casual, it’s going to be a country club sort of crowd so I doubt my usual casual attire would get me past the community gate. Neither of the dresses I bought in Chicago are appropriate. More last minute shopping coming my way.
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Sunday, June 17, 2018

For the record

When my brother called today (he calls every day), I decided it was time to mention Blaine, simply to enter him into the record.

So I said I had gone to the murder mystery dinner Friday night with Eve and Paul, who my brother has heard about before; Mica; "Blaine, a guy I've been going out with"; and his daughter, Allison.

There was silence, probably as he was counting to five, his way of "listening," and when he spoke again it was to tell me stuff about his work, all of which I'd already heard because he calls every single day, and I stopped speaking during those daily calls years ago.

But Blaine is on the record. I'm perfectly fine never speaking of him again.

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Saturday, June 16, 2018


Mica called at the unholy hour of 7 a.m. to ask if I wanted to take the little white dog to the dog park before it was too hot to leave the house. We're still having close to or over 100 degree highs. It bites.

As usual, no dogs on the small-dog side but six or seven on the big-dog side. Fortunately, all were friendly. The little white dog is often a hit with the Australian shepherds. Maybe he looks like a lamb to them. Whatever the reason, a beautiful Aussie and the little white dog became quick friends and took turns herding one another.

Mica and I talked about the murder mystery dinner. She wouldn't come out and say it, but between the lines I could tell she didn't enjoy it. I feel lousy about that. I know how it feels to be the one who isn't part of a couple and who is outside the group. I thought it might be an easier situation since there was the game to focus on, but I suspect that was another way to feel lost in the action. Guilt settled heavily on me. I'll have to figure all of this out. I'm part of two worlds with magnetic fields that are repelling at the moment.

I went back to her house and hung out for most of the afternoon. After I got home I took a ridiculously long and cool shower, during which I tried to figure out how I can make everything work. No solutions. When I stepped out I realized I'd have to break a sweat if I were to be ready before Blaine came over.

We went to Oceans 8. It was disappointing given the cast, but it was two hours in recliners with popcorn and someone I like a lot, so good enough, Hollywood.

We went to Blaine's after. He showed me the plans for the roof he's having put over the deck. We walked out onto the golf course and along the other townhouses until we came to one that has the same sort of covered deck. Theirs doesn't have electricity, though, but Blaine's will so he can have a ceiling fan and a few lights. "Will there be outlets for Christmas lights?" I asked.

"I hadn't thought about that."

"Do it," I bossed. "Unless you prefer clear lights at Christmas. Don't bother if that's the case." Hey, there are some things I have strong opinions about.

"Colored lights it is."

There was a time when I would have had a jab of panic after insinuating that I may be around come Christmas, but things have changed recently. I'm owning this whole thing a bit more. I don't know if I'll be around at Christmas or not, but for now I don't see why not.

Our thing is turning into something. Or not. Best not to dwell.

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Friday, June 15, 2018

Waiting for the murder

The murder mystery dinner was a lot of fun. Especially once we got to the murder part.

One by one the six of us gathered at the location at the appointed time--an inconvenient 6 p.m. that required everyone to come straight from work. Paul, Blaine and Eve were in the corridor outside the event room when I arrived. A few minutes later, Allison walked around the corner. Right after, Mica came from the other direction.

Originally, Kim and John were joining us but they had something come up and suggested that Allison and Ty go in their place. Ty wasn’t interested and stayed home with Eli. Blaine suggested Mica join the group. Had the invitation come from someone else, she would have declined since this sort of situation is an introvert’s idea of hell. Blaine, however, has made a very good impression.

The room was set up for dinner, with eight round tables arranged on one side of the space. After choosing a table, most went to the bar to get a drink. I had to pause to blow my nose. Mica hung back with me. “Blaine does look nice in a suit,” she said while idly looking toward where he was in line at the bar. “I still don’t see what you see.”

“In Blaine?” I was well on my way to despair via disbelief.

“No, that I get.”

I shrugged. “It’s just one of those things. Like you and guys in open Jeeps.”

“Except that makes sense to every normal woman.”

Another couple approached the table and asked if they could join us. They were probably in their thirties. He was tall, broad shouldered and lean in the way a brick wall is, and she was willowy with red hair and shy eyes, which put me on her side immediately. We introduced ourselves quickly, then Mica and I went toward the bar. Mica elbowed me and gestured with her head back toward the table. “Now that guy in a Jeep would be my thing.”

“That guy in a Jeep would be a traffic hazard,” I said. I made a few mental notes because if anyone had the characteristics of the lead (I can’t use “hero,” just can’t yet) in a romance, it was him. And his wife, too, would make an interesting love interest.

Eve came from the bar holding two drinks, one that she offered to Mica, explaining it was from Blaine.

I walked around them and met him at the bar as he was dropping bills into the tip jar. “Come over here for a second,” he said as he handed me a drink. He walked toward the back of the room opposite the bar, near a back entrance. It wasn’t hidden from view but was private in that we were significantly apart from everyone else. “How’s your cold?” he asked.

“Much better today. Thank you for asking.” I tried not to smile.

He took a very deliberate step toward me. I didn’t step back. “This is an improvement.” Slowly, he bent toward me, tipped his head down and kissed me, brief, innocent but not without feeling.

I exhaled after. “You’re killing me.”

Surprised, he chuckled, “How am I doing that?”

Where to begin?

Instead of answering I nodded toward the tables. “C’mon. Let’s go solve a murder.” Give time for the chinks in my defenses to refill.

Back at the table, we sat down, Blaine beside Allison and me next to Mica. “Nice moves, Dad,” Allison teased. She, Eve and Mica clapped in what was clearly an agreed upon response. Paul laughed.

We said nothing. Blaine leaned forward and turned toward Allison. I couldn’t see either of their faces, but her arm slid around his shoulders and she squeezed then rubbed his back. I did hear her say, “It’s OK. All of us knew this sort of thing has been going on.” She leaned back and said to me, “I’m sorry if we embarrassed you.”

I shook my head. “Aw, I don’t mind. I’m used to being teased by this group.” I looked at Eve, who corroborated that.

I glanced across the table. The red-haired woman was looking in my direction and gave me a small smile, then went bright red, as she would do every time she spoke to the whole table or someone turned attention on her. Later, I told Mica I thought that sort of blushing only happened in books. It’s totally real and it must suck. After that, I discreetly watched her and her husband because I had to find a plot for them. I liked how he paid attention to her, as if he was always aware of when she needed extra moral support.

Another couple joined our table, filling the last two seats. The woman was great, both at joining the group and working out the mystery. Her husband wasn’t into it, and after awhile I forgot he was at the table.

There was plenty of time for chitchat before things started. That’s when we found out the hard-bodied guy is a police officer. “That’s not going to help tonight,” he warned. I picked up a pen and wrote on the inside Mica’s “Suspect Notebook,” Good Lord. Cop, too. Need oxygen?” She nodded vigorously and busied herself scribbling over all the letters.

I glanced over at Blaine who had decided to remove his tie. The practiced way he loosened the knot, slipped the material through until it was free and slid it easily from around his neck was another one of those melting moments. Then he unbuttoned the top two buttons on his shirt. There’s so much promise in that, there just is. I thought my expression was innocent enough, but I glanced up and saw Eve was smirking at me.

She picked up her spoon and tapped on the side of her glass, shooting Allison a look that egged her on to do the same thing. The rest of the table was confused until the cop said to Blaine and me. “I think they want you to kiss.”

Oh, they’re all so funny. Great guffaws all around the table.

I said, “Shouldn’t someone be getting killed soon? Please let someone die soon.”

It was a while longer before there was a scream, and the mystery portion of the evening started.

A man was killed while celebrating his birthday at the lake with some friends. His brother had organized the party and had invited five others. Those six came around to the tables one by one to speak to the detective teams. We could ask anything we wanted but only had a certain amount of time with each suspect.

The cop held back at first, letting everyone else ask questions. When he took his turn, though, it was fascinating (to me) to observe how practiced he was and how he developed a rapport but switched to showing a harder edge if the suspect avoided answering. He was right that his being a cop wasn’t much help in this situation. The actors would only answer yes/no questions, and those are useless in the real world, apparently. I paid more attention to the cop’s technique than to the information he gleaned.

From our group, Allison and the woman with the disinterested husband were the best at asking questions, mixing a fun approach with unexpected questions that seemed to appeal to the actors. I only asked a few questions directly, preferring to float them to Blaine to ask (an introvert dodge). Mica took copious notes and made sure everyone’s facts were straight. I only wrote down the information that was fed to us by the actors. Some of it, like that the victim’s brother lives in Canada now, meant nothing, but another bit -- that the victim had a girlfriend--ended up being the piece of information we needed for motive. After that it was a matter of finding a suspect we could connect to her.

Theories were wild for a little while. At one point most a the table were convinced twins were involved and the victim wasn’t actually the victim but the murderer. No one was more surprised than me when I tossed out a theory that pinned it on a suspect we hadn’t really considered. “When he wandered up to our table he was checking his Tinder account. If we can prove the girlfriend was on Tinder, we can connect them.”

The cop came unglued. “Yes. Yes!” Can’t say that wasn’t satisfying.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that, but we were given other information that connected that suspect to the girlfriend, so we proved our theory anyway.

And so did all but two other tables.

Overall, it wasn’t terribly challenging but it was a ton of fun.
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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Back to work

Is there anything worse than the first day back to work after a vacation?

No. No, there is not.

First thing this morning someone asked me to take photos at an event. That took up the morning and most of my energy. This afternoon I prepared materials needed for a meeting with Henry tomorrow. In between, over lunch, I went to Sam's Club and bought a tower of Puffs Plus that barely fit into the trunk of my car.

I spoke to Eve briefly from the safety of the hallway. Her mom hasn't been feeling well, and the last thing she needs is to catch a cold that will keep her from visiting. I want more details about the murder mystery dinner but didn't feel like gathering information. Perhaps I could be the corpse. Does snot continue to run for a period following death? I would need that to be true.

I've got nothing else today.

It's 8:19 and I'm thinking about going to bed.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Germs and jazz

Things I brought back from Chicago include a Cubs t-shirt for the little white dog, two dresses and a lightweight rain jacket for myself, and a whopper of a head cold.

The cold started toward the end of the day Saturday. I was fine when Mica and I walked to a restaurant for dinner. By the time we paid the check, my voice was getting weak and my throat was becoming sore but I felt OK otherwise. Mica was exhausted so we split up and she went back to the hotel while I walked a few extra blocks to a Walgreens beside the Wrigley Building. After I bought a package of cough drops and an extra packet of tissues, I walked across the Michigan Avenue bridge and down the stone steps to the river walk that runs along Lower Wacker Drive.

The lower river walk used to be seedy after dark. In recent years the city spruced it up, and it's now a good place to hang out and appreciate the cityscape. I especially like it after dark when the buildings are lit.

I was leaning against the railing, looking downriver, when a text came to my phone. It was a group text from Eve asking if Blaine and I wanted to go to a murder mystery dinner on Friday. He replied right away that he would go if it was something I wanted to do. I responded that I was game.

I received a private text from Blaine asking if Mica and I were having fun and what we were doing. I told him I was hanging out at the river for a bit, and he asked if I felt like a phone call. "How about Facetime? I'll show you around," I typed. He has never been to Chicago, a fact I cannot fully grasp.

When we connected, he was in his living room next to the table lamp. I showed him my surroundings and managed not share every detail about every building and bridge. When I turned the phone back on me, he said, "You look happy."

Did I? Probably so. "It's my Chicago face." That seems to be a real thing. Over the years many random Chicagoans have commented on it. This trip, it was the woman working at the margarita counter at Wrigley who said my expression was "infectiously happy." The city does make me happy, it's true.

"Is that what it is?" Blaine looked at the phone, presumably at me in particular. It's as disconcerting to be stared at over the phone as it is in person.

"What are you thinking?" I finally asked.

He took another second. "Just thinking Chicago is lucky to have you look at it that way."

The thing about Facetime is it provides physical distance and with that an illusion of invulnerability. "It used to be that the only time I felt completely happy was when I was here. For a number of months now that happens more frequently, always on Saturdays."

I saw his eyes soften. Sometimes he holds back his smile, but he didn't just then.

We talked a while longer on Facetime, stopping when more people came around me and could hear our conversation. We continued on the phone until my voice had deteriorated to a croak.

The cold hit full force yesterday. I slept, ran down to the drugstore for cold medicine, slept again. Today was much the same. I called Blaine at noon to tell him I was up to going to the jazz concert tonight but would understand if he preferred I keep a quarter of the city between the two of us until I knew I wasn't contagious. "Not that I can't keep my hands off you," I over-explained. "But germs, you know, travel."

"Hold on. Going back to the first part of the statement--"

"The point being--."

"Don't interrupt. Let's get this on record. You stated that you can keep your hands off me, correct?"

"The context--"

"Yes or no is all that is required."

I laughed. "I plead the Fifth."

And so we went to the concert. And at no time during the evening did I touch him.

"It's for your own good," I told him when he dropped me off.

"This is like a low-tech version of Facetime."

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Still in love

I had hoped to post a little something every day that I was in Chicago, but Blogger doesn't play well with the iPad. Add overall exhaustion by the end of the day, and there was nothing but the sound of crickets around here.

This trip was amazing. I've been to Chicago around 20 times. It is my home away from home, where my heart has lived since the first time I stepped off the L in the Loop sometime in the '90s. But this trip? Truly special.

When we were planning it I decided to say yes to everything because I suspected it would be the last time I'd go for quite some time. (It's become too expensive; long gone are the days of $90 roundtrip airfares and 4-star hotels for $79/night.)

So, I bought really good tickets to two baseball games:

This hashtag speaks to me, so much so that I looked everywhere for a t-shirt (no luck). #missedopportunitycubsmarketingteam

The reasons I so badly wanted to see the Cubs play at Wrigley this year: Kris Bryant (swinging...and missing) and Anthony Rizzo on deck. The entire team is talented and great fun but these two are special.

They won both games -- a true treat. This is the only picture I took at the second game. I may have been too busy being annoyed by the people seated around me to think about pictures. It was pretty clear they were only there to be able to brag about having seen the Cubs play at Wrigley. I don't think any of them paid attention to a full at-bat, let alone an inning. I could have let that go with an eye roll if their constant leaving and coming back hadn't blocked my view of what was happening on the field.

We had a crazy good meal at Ruth's Chris:

Lobster and a filet with garlic mashed potatoes (me) and fingerling potatoes (Mica). There was dessert too but I was embarrassed enough taking this picture and wasn't getting my phone out a second time. I sent this to Eve and Paul (his request because it tops the list of restaurants he wants to try).

 We took a terrific neighborhood tour given by the Chicago Architecture Foundation:

The tour was on a double-decker bus. The only stops occurred at stop lights, so I didn't even try to take pictures while moving. The neighborhoods we visited were established by ethnic groups who built houses and buildings that reminded them of home. Many of those details remain if you know where to look. This picture has nothing to do with the tour. At one red light I noticed this old church sharing the landscape with the new construction and liked the juxtaposition.

 And after that we took another CAF tour, this one a river cruise (we've done this one many times but much has changed since the last one):

One of my favorites. It faces the river where it bends. The building is curved to mimic the bend. The glass is two shades of green, representing the sunlight and shadows of the water. It's stunning in person (especially without all the reflections).

I snapped this as an afterthought. It's a decent representation of the architectural styles, from the traditional to the innovative. 

We went to an art festival in Old Town, a gorgeous neighborhood on the northern edge of downtown, and the annual lit festival in Printers Row, a part of downtown once dominated by the publishing industry in Chicago. We spent an hour sitting on a bench in my favorite small park tucked into a neighborhood. There, we chatted with the guy who brought his twin girls there to play, and while they drew on the sidewalks with chalk, he, like us, waited for walkers to go by with dogs who wanted strangers to pet them.

We walked through one part of Lincoln Park and hoped to return on Sunday to see more but it rained all day Sunday. Next time. And there will be a next time. There has to be. I thought I could be done with Chicago, but no. It still feels like home. It still has my heart.

One more photo. This is a wonderful sculpture we came across as we tried to find a shortcut to get us out of the rain.

Mica: Are you just going to hang out here for awhile?
Me: No...Why?
Mica: A group of men in suits. I assumed you would want to stay and stare.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018


There were glitches here and there — plane briefly diverted to Madison, Wisconsin; almost missing the Lyft driver — but the only thing that mattered was that the Cubs game was perfection. Bryant played well, Rizzo hit a homerun, but the ending, that was special. Bottom of the ninth and trailing by two, the Cubs loaded the bases and with two out hit a grand slam to win by two. Amazing experience to have at Wrigley. I want to do it again. On Friday.
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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Most important news

The little white dog is healing OK and won’t need surgery. Thank goodness. That's the most important news of the day.

I didn’t set a record, but I did get to the office by 6:30, and by the end of the normal workday I had accomplished all of the ASAP requests. Mica helped by bringing lunch to me so I could continue to work. She was leaving just as Eve was returning from lunch. Eve waved Mica into her office, and they visited for awhile. I lurked in the doorway for a short time. Izzy, Blaine and the fact that Eve and Mica grew up within 15 miles of each other were the hot topics.

Speaking of one hot topic, I left promptly at 5:00 to try to get to my house ahead of Blaine. He beat me by a few minutes. Tonight was the first of the jazz concerts, and rather than driving all the way home and backtracking, Blaine brought clothes and changed at my house. He came out of the bedroom wearing shorts and a summer button-up shirt and carrying the suit and shirt he’d worn to work.

“That picture above your bed…” It wasn’t clear if he intended that to be a question or statement of disbelief.

“A mistake,” I confirmed. It’s two swans. “Show of Splendor” is the name of the painting. It’s monochromatic, antique looking. “It matched the walls.” I redid that room when rag painting was the rage, but I had enough sense to do a color wash technique in a neutral color. Still, I should think about updating. “At least you missed the peach and lace phase.”

“Wow, that sounds—“

“Like it’s a good thing it's a room that’s usually dark? Yes.”

Although we arrived an hour before the concert started and had VIP seating, we still had trouble finding a good spot. Blaine wanted to be close to the stage, which meant sitting in the sun for the first hour. It was close quarters. We set our lawn chairs as close together as we could. Someone behind us pointedly complained that people who bring big chairs to these concerts are boils on the backside of humanity (not an exact quote but true to the gist). We, and most other people, have the collapsible chairs and ours have arms but it isn’t like we have the lounge ones with built-in umbrella.

Anyway, we had a chance to talk before the concert. He wants to put a roof over the main part of his deck where the table and grill are. He’s called a couple of contractors to get estimates. He wanted to know what Mica and I planned to do in Chicago. He also asked if this would be the first Saturday that we haven’t gone out since we started dating. It seems like we may have missed one once. I don’t recall. I don’t think we’ve ever gone an entire weekend without getting together.

The music was pretty good, and Blaine really enjoyed it. I have trouble with jazz when there’s a lot of dissonance. There were only a few songs like that tonight, but boy I could feel myself tense up during them. Jazz and wine. Two things I may never learn to love. Two things Blaine truly enjoys. Figures.

When we were saying goodnight, I stopped myself from saying I would miss him. I feel like it’s true but other than we won’t see each other over the weekend, nothing is different. The number of days apart isn’t any more than usual.

Still, I think I’ll miss him.

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Monday, June 4, 2018


I visited the little white dog after work. The problem spot on his eyelid might be slightly better but it's hard to say. Mica will take him to the veterinarian late tomorrow to find out if he'll need a procedure on Wednesday. The reason we're watching this so carefully is we're supposed to go to Chicago on Wednesday, and Mica may not go if he has surgery.

I'm going to have to work 36 hours tomorrow to accomplish everything that everyone wants ASAP. I was hammered today with "Hey, do you have time to..." requests. Henry was responsible for some of them. If I happen to wake in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep, I'm just going to go in. The earliest I've ever gotten there was 5 a.m. Maybe I can beat that. (I don't plan to try.)

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Saturday, June 2, 2018


My glamorous life began with an early morning trip to the hardware store to buy what I needed to fix the toilet, which decided to go on the blink in the middle of the night.

Before I could get home, Mica called. Little white dog woke with blood in his fur around his eye. She was taking it him to the veterinarian and wanted to know if I wanted to meet them there. Taking a beloved dog to the vet may be the only thing that makes working inside a toilet tank sound appealing.

Little white dog’s eyelid is swollen, maybe the result of the stinger not falling out. They shaved his eyelid to get a better look but can’t tell for sure what’s going on. The veterinarian sent home meds. If there’s no improvement by Tuesday she’ll do surgery to figure out what’s causing the swelling. (That wailing noooooo you hear is coming from Trupanion.)

I followed Mica home, intending to stay an hour or so but ended up staying so long I had just enough time to mostly fix the toilet (it works again but I need to replace one more part), shower and get ready before Blaine came over.

We went out with Kim and John tonight. They chose a Brazilian barbecue restaurant in the historical district and seemed excited that they could introduce us to a new restaurant and style of food. I would have pegged them for straightforward steakhouse folks, I suppose because the few times I’ve been around them it’s been for burgers and beer. They actually lean toward being foodies, with Kim much more likely to try anything.

In fact, “likely to try anything” is what they’re about. About 10 years ago, soon after they married (also a surprise; I’d assumed Dani was their daughter but she’s Kim’s), they began traveling, taking a big trip every couple of years. Their last was to Peru to climb Machu Picchu. The next may be to Australia to visit the Great Barrier Reef. I’ve never been to Australia but know about it and was familiar with their wish list of places to visit. I hope they decide to go there and not bicycle in Thailand, which is another possibility. I want to hear about Australia.

One topic led to another until we were talking about favorite charities. I asked too many questions about one they’re involved with, prompting Kim to ask if I might be interested in volunteering. I told her my personality isn’t well suited to the types of roles they need volunteers to fill. She tried to dissuade me based on her impression so far, but I know my limitations. John said he never thought he was cut out for a lot of things until Kim came into his life and showed him otherwise. I melted. I love being around couples like this. His point, though, was that given time she would convince me I’m wrong.

To steer the conversation away from me, I asked John what types of things Kim has introduced to him. The one that stuck out was convincing him to speak at a local event that’s structured like TED Talks. The one that led to more conversation was that she convinced him to take dance lessons.

“I am not musical. I cannot dance,” he stressed.

“Me either!” I burst. Blaine chuckled. I stated, “You learned though.”

“Oh no. I’m still an embarrassment. But I had fun trying to learn with her.”

“Blaine, do you like to dance?” Kim asked.

I looked over at him. His jaw tightened and I knew he was fighting off a smile. “Uh, I guess I don’t mind it under the right circumstances.” He glanced over and winked at me.

“We’ll clear the tabletop for you,” I teased. He bumped me with his shoulder.

“Have either of you taken lessons?” John asked. I shook my head in a way that may have suggested he was crazy for even asking. When I said I wasn’t musical, I wasn’t kidding. I don’t even sing in the car for fear someone overhearing will consider it an act of road rage.

Blaine answered, “[His wife] and I took a few lessons before Allison got married. I can’t say I remember anything.”

“Do it again,” Kim encouraged. “You two should take lessons together.”

“I like him too much to put him through that,” I said. They laughed but Kim and John remained encouraging.

After dinner and walking away from the restaurant, they in a different direction, I told Blaine I liked them a lot. “It was like meeting two new people, though.” I rambled on for a block or so. I get hyper-talkative when I’m excited about something. In this case, it was a refreshing and effortless conversation with new people. I finally caught myself. “To sum up, you have nice friends.”

“I have a nice girlfriend too.” That word. Still so strange.

We were stopped at a corner, waiting for traffic to clear the four-way stop. “You want to do something else down here?” I asked. It was a gorgeous evening—mild with a gentle breeze— and we were surrounded by bars with outdoor seating if he wanted a drink.

He drew in a breath as he considered it. “We can,” he said. “Or, I thought we could go to my place and dance.”

He makes it awfully hard not to like him an exorbitant amount.
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Friday, June 1, 2018

Eve’s theory

“I have a theory about homerun hitters,” Eve told me. “The best ones have big butts.”

And so began this week’s FAC.
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