Sunday, July 29, 2018

Yard work

Going meta for a moment. Weekend posts are going to come all at once for the foreseeable future. Rather than recaps, I prefer separate posts so there’s a record of the day to look back on, but there’s never time in the evenings to sit down, write and post. Those evenings when I have time to write, I simply spew, getting down everything so I don’t forget what happened or what was said or what stood out. Much editing is required.

Today is pretty easy to recap. I worked in the yard this morning. We’ve had lots of rain and heat this summer, and every unwanted tree, vine and weed has taken over. I had a cluster of volunteer locust trees to saw down and poison with stump killer. I let them go too long so it’s my own fault that I clobbered myself on the head more than once. I also nearly cut my wrist open with a bow saw when I carelessly reached for something with my free hand while continuing to saw. I went inside and dug out a pair of leather gloves after that.

I had just finished clipping and sawing everything to lengths that the garbage company will accept when what should appear in my driveway but Blaine’s ultra shiny SUV.

Under other circumstances I would have been thrilled to see him. Current circumstances had me dressed in an ancient pair of frayed jeans, my beloved Badass Brooklyn Dog Rescue t-shirt and beat up tennis shoes. I was unshowered, sweaty and had leaves stuck in my hair. I was holding clippers in one gloved hand and a bow saw in the other. Conversely, Blaine was all spiffed up in his Sunday best, looking crisp and sharp and somehow even more appealing because he’d left his sunglasses on and, damn, suit plus sunglasses is a really good look on him.

“Good morning!” he smiled, and even though I couldn’t see his eyes I knew by the size of his smile that they would be full of amusement. He said the senior ladies group at church had asked him to deliver a plate of cookies to Eve’s mom. He’d just come from the hospital, and since it’s in my neighborhood…

I had at least brushed my teeth before coming outside, so I smiled back.“Good morning!” I held up the bow saw in front of me. “Don’t come any closer.”

He did anyway and reached down to pick up a few of the small branches that had broken off the trees. He tossed them into the fully packed garbage container, then, having proven to himself that I was harmless even though I was fully weaponized, he gave me a quick kiss. “I can help,” he offered.

Only if you wipe your memory of this visage, I thought. I hadn’t planned to do any more today. Next week I’ll tackle a rose bush that has gone rogue. It’s nothing I can’t take care of myself.

We talked for a short time. He passed along thanks from Eve and Paul for helping with Izzy on short notice. I said I hope they realize I’ll always be available whenever they need me. Blaine said, “Like everyone else, they don’t want to put anyone out by asking for help if they can take care of it themselves.”

“I see what you did there,”


Blaine went home and I showered and went to Mica’s. I helped her with some weeds that are in her neighbor’s yard but are growing through the fence. Besides looking terrible, one of the weeds has thorny stickers that the little white dog’s fur attracts like a magnet. We pulled what we could and then she sprayed with weed killer.

We took the little white dog to the dog park, grabbed takeout on the way home, watched some “Blue Bloods,” took the furry thing for a final walk, and I came home to do enough laundry to see me through the next day or two.

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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Perfect walks

It has been awhile since I’ve seen Izzy. She wasn’t quite sure what to make of me walking into the house all by myself. She greeted me with her usual happiness but then walked down the hallway to see if Paul and Eve were there and wasn’t sure what to think when she didn’t find them.

I took her for a walk right away. She did beautifully. No pulling, no going crazy, just absolutely perfect loose leash walking. I rewarded her by taking her around an extra block.

Back at home she was still uneasy that she couldn’t find her people. She kept going to the doorway of the bedroom and barking. I could distract her with a toy for a few minutes at a time, but she would always return to the bedroom to look for them. She settled down after a little while. I sat on the floor so she could lay against me and chew on a toy. I took full advantage of her state of quiet by watching the first couple innings of the Cubs game. They trailed by six at the end of the first. The Cardinals have some kind of crazy juju over them this season.

Blaine called after he dropped Allison off at home. He let me know that Paul was back and I could leave. I took Izzy outside one more time, gave her a treat and a kiss on the head and went on my way.

Blaine and I hadn’t made plans for any part of the weekend in case either of us could be of help to Eve and Paul but we had agreed to get together at his place and do nothing together.

We went for a long walk through his neighborhood. The temperature was in the seventies and there was an intermittent breeze--perfection in my heat-hating world. As we walked, we swapped information about our days and the things on our minds. I suddenly felt something overwhelming. It was fleeting and I couldn’t pin it down. I hesitated for half a step and threw off our pace. Blaine paused until I fell in step again.

“Was there something there?” he asked, looking back for something on the ground. I told him no. He repositioned our hands so instead of loosely interlaced fingers, they were palm to palm, a more secure hold.

After passing a couple of driveways, Blaine observed, “You’ve gone quiet.”

I responded with silence because I didn’t know what to say. “Well,” I offered finally, “you should enjoy the quiet moments when you get them. I can yammer on pretty easily, as you know by now.”

“‘Yammer on.’ I like that. It doesn’t describe you though.” He’ll learn it does.

His neighborhood is a giant maze. There aren’t blocks you can walk around, just long meandering streets that horseshoe and lead to cul-de-sacs or roundabouts. I get lost if I drive into it from any direction but the one that leads directly to his house. I expected we would turn around at some point and backtrack. Instead, Blaine turned us down a golf cart path. We walked along the side yards of houses large enough to require two, sometimes three, air conditioner units. We finished the walk by crossing the golf course. I asked how many homeowner association rules we were breaking. I had gotten to read the bylaws, covenants and other rules a while back when Blaine was going through the approval process for adding a roof to his deck. I couldn’t live in a neighborhood where neighbors could boss me around. As I told Blaine, I’m a rule follower but I don’t like to be told what to do.

“The HOA doesn’t set rules for the golf course so we’re safe from the,” he said. “We are violating one or two rules of the golf club. If anyone asks, we’re looking for a lost ball.”

We weren’t on the course long. We crossed one green and were in Blaine’s back yard. The roof over the deck is finished, and it’s lovely. What was a wide open, often hot space now a more private, much cozier spot. We poured drinks and sat at the patio table, the arms of our chairs pushed together. Sometimes we leaned so our shoulders touched and sometimes turned so our legs did.

My phone vibrated on the table and Blaine’s text alert sounded. It was Eve letting us know the doctor had just left and what he had said. We replied separately and set the phones down again. We looked at each other in the way you do when you’re hoping the other person has an answer.

We remained outside until the fireflies had gone for the night.
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Friday, July 27, 2018


I peeked in the mirror before I left work and thought my face looked unusually shiny. I keep a cosmetic bag of incidentals—comb, Neosporin, bandages, mascara, pressed powder and the like—at work for emergencies. I don't use any of it often but have used all of it at least once. I pulled out the pressed powder and because I was in a hurry, I opened it and began dabbing. By the time my brain processed what it was seeing I already looked like a Kabuki performer. I grabbed a tissue and wiped it off as best I could then found a compact of powder makeup and dabbed to repair. Fortunately, I was heading to a dimly lit sports bar.

I met Eve, Paul and Blaine at a dive of a place that’s in my neighborhood and near where Eve's mom is for the next couple of weeks. The food was really good but it isn’t a place I’m in a hurry to return to. Aesthetics and wait-staff attitude aside, it was a nice couple of hours. Eve was tired and quieter than normal but Paul and Blaine were at the top of their games.

Paul has to go out of town for the day tomorrow. He asked if I would go over and walk Izzy at noon. Blaine asked Eve if he and Allison could visit her mom tomorrow afternoon. She lit up.

I’m so glad they have Blaine right now, and I’m so glad he and Allison had them.
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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

This and that

The urologist is retiring and suing his employer for age discrimination. Also, he’s looking for someone to reupholster a teak sofa.

Henry visited my office today. He’s just back from back-to-back-to-back, etc., trips, some for business and some personal. He and Julia attended a family wedding in Maine, and now he wants to retire to a quaint village they found. Julia, however, refuses to live in a town where they shut the water off for the winter.

Upon arriving home I found two cans of wasp spray by my back door. Shortly after, my brother called to see if I had seen them. I told him I had and asked if I had a wasp problem. He didn’t know; the spray was on sale.

After a particularly annoying meeting at work, I sent a text to Blaine asking his secret for maintaining his cool at all times. He replied, “Decades of practice and occasionally Maker’s Mark.”

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018


I’m listening to an audiobook about the sinking of the Lusitania and reading a book published in 1915 about the Lutheran church in America.

Overnight I became an 89-year-old, gray haired, tweed jacketed gent who has doilies protecting the arm of the most comfortable reading chair.
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Monday, July 23, 2018


I’m not good with situations such as this: Eve’s Mom is in the hospital for tests  to figure out something that is baffling but not life threatening. I have never met Eve’s mom so it isn’t appropriate to stop by the hospital; however, I want to offer Eve support during a stressful time. So far I’ve relied on a text here and there to let her know I’m thinking of them.

Until now I’ve never given much thought to the way our friendship has formed through work and now Blaine. And Izzy. It’s strange to be connected through a very close friend but to only be a casual friend yourself.

I’ll probably continue with the texts for the time being. I wish I was someone who always knew what to do and what to say.
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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Yeah, toast!

Typical for Saturdays now, I went to Mica’s in the morning so we could take the little white dog to the dog park before the heat of the day hit. Until now we have avoided teaching him “dog park,” because we didn’t want to have to start spelling that in conversation. We’ve changed our minds with the hope that he will learn to associate car rides with fun. I don’t know. We spend too much time trying to out think a Bichon Schnauzer. 

After we dropped him off and made sure he was cooling down OK, we went with me to my office. I needed Mica’s help to set up a backdrop and be my guinea pig as I experimented with camera settings and poses. I need to retake staff portraits. What they have now makes everyone look like they’re in a mug shot.

It was back to her house and the little white dog. He was all about me which doesn’t happen that often anymore.

I told her about the Paris conversation and how it didn’t go the way I thought it would. All these months I’ve dreaded and tried to avoid bringing up past relationships--that one in particular. I thought it would point out all of my flaws, all of the reasons he should look elsewhere. It’s true I didn’t give him blow by blow details, but I also think there was only one loser in that whole situation and it wasn’t me.

Mica rubbed behind the little white dog’s ears and told him in a talking-to-the-dog voice. “And it only took her more years than you’ve been alive to figure that out!”

“Who’s not as funny as she thinks she is?” I asked him. He abstained from commenting.

After stopping at home for a shower and a change into non-furry clothes, I went to Blaine’s. The roof over the deck is coming along. They expect to finish it next week. He told me he got lucky. The developer built the first three sets of townhouses with footings that will support the addition of a roof. Further down the block, they’ll have to have new ones poured if they want the addition. I nodded thoughtfully as he shared this.

I don’t think I mentioned that his new Bluetooth speakers arrived. Those who delivered them had no idea what he was talking about when he said they were to set them up too. He hired the daughter of someone he works with to do it. She recommended arranging all of them in the open space of the kitchen, living and dining rooms for more of a surround sound. It sounds great. He moved the old ones into the bedroom. In the smaller space, they sound awesome too.

“Now all you have to do is learn how to use Spotify or Pandora,” I teased.

Propped up on pillows, we set up a Spotify account on his phone and started saving music. Whereas I look for whatever springs to mind and organize it into playlists later (or never), he needs to be methodical. Genre, artist, playlist.

It was dark when we realized we hadn’t gotten around to having dinner. “See,” I said, “this is why I embrace peanut butter toast. You need a little something, you stick a piece of bread in the slot and you get toast.”

“Toast!” he exclaimed.

My mouth dropped open. “You do not know the toast song.”

“All around the country and coast to coast,” he began, “people always say what do you like most? I don’t want to brag, I don’t want to boast, I always tell ‘em I like toast.”

“Yeah, TOAST!”

As if I needed another reason to like him.

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Friday, July 20, 2018

Paris no more

Right after work I drove downtown and met Blaine at his office. There was an art exhibition we wanted to go to at a gallery that is only open late on Fridays.

I called him as I was arriving and we met in the lobby of his building. The timing worked out well because he didn’t have time to go to his car to shed his jacket and tie. Later, on the way to the restaurant, he would but that even worked out because he rolled his sleeves up to the good part of the forearm, the other look that gives me a little flutter.

Aside from Blaine, there was much to admire at the gallery. The exhibition featured regionalist artists. The more I see of this period and style, the more I want to see. There were a couple of drawings by Thomas Hart Benton that were so intricate we spent a long time studying them until we felt reasonably certain we hadn’t overlooked a detail. Blaine and I are both unencumbered by actual knowledge of art which makes us well suited to viewing it together.

It was getting close to closing by the time we made it to the third floor. We had just stepped into the gallery when I saw my cousin’s daughter and her husband. During a hello hug, I asked what they were doing in town. They live a little over an hour away.

“Your post on Facebook gave us the idea to come here,” Jenny said.

“Date night,” Andrew added.

“Us too,” I said. I introduced them to Blaine using “boyfriend” almost naturally. Both were surprised and an “oh wow” and a “‘bout time” slipped out.

I told Blaine that Jenny was a talented artist. Her nature forced her to downplay it. “You,” she said to me. “I didn’t realize you liked art so much. Guess I should have pieced that together based on all the museums you’ve been to. Paris alone gives you art cred.” I laughed at that and pointed out that museums let anyone in.

Andrew’s phone interrupted with an alert reminding them they needed to get going if they were going to make their dinner reservations. We needed to do the same and walked out with them.

“Blaine,” Jenny said, “it was great to meet you. I hope we’ll being seeing more of you.” She gave me a sidelong glance. I nodded and he said he hoped so too. The next non-holiday family gathering won’t be until late February so...

Blaine and I had reservations at the French-American restaurant we like so well. The food is good but the atmosphere is why we go so often. It’s one of the few restaurants that doesn’t require shouting to be heard.

After we received the wine and placed our order, Blaine asked, “Does this look like the restaurants in Paris?”

For a heartbeat, I froze. I had hoped to forever avoid what I’ve viewed as a slippery slope of a topic. Still, I knew it would come up at some point. I didn’t expect this to be how it came up.

As far as I remember, while in Paris we went to two comparable restaurants. I recall very little about either one. We went to the first one about an hour after my then-boyfriend had broken up with me. A day or two later we went to the second, and he had spent the meal on his phone emailing or texting (can’t remember if that was a thing yet) with the woman he’d dumped me for. All I remember are white linen tablecloths and real silverware. “Yeah, it would definitely fit in.”

“Did you like Paris?”

It’s sort of like asking Mrs. Lincoln how she’d liked the play, but he didn’t know that. “Yes,” I said automatically. It’s the only acceptable response. Had I gone to Toledo I may have gotten away with something more honest, but if you go to Paris it’s expected that you speak of it with awe. Instead of that, I added what I always do to explain a lack of enthusiasm. “I was there in March and it was during an unusual cold snap. It rained or snowed most days. Nothing was blooming yet, and it is a city that should be seen in the spring or summer when the parks and gardens are growing. That aside, it’s still amazing. Nothing diminishes Notre Dame or the Arc de Triomphe.”

“The Eiffel Tower,” he added for me.

“That too.” It was a lie, though. Getting dumped in Paris does diminish the Eiffel Tower. Although it was low on my list of must-sees, it unexpectedly brought out a lot of emotion when I stood in line at the base waiting for the elevator. I suppose the symbolism of it representing love while I was being made to feel I didn’t rate basic kindness hit me hard. I wasn’t in love. A little bit earlier in the relationship I had wondered if we were on that road, but even then I saw it as a long road. If I was upset about love, it was due to believing, at that moment, that I was and would always be unlovable.

“You went to museums, I take it.”

“The Louvre and Musee D'orsay. Didn’t get to see all of either unfortunately.” I took a sip of wine. “After a week in Paris we went to Nice for a week. We visited the Chagall and Matisse museums there.”

“Sounds like a good trip.”

Ignoring that, I offered, “Nice has a small piece of my heart. It’s indescribably beautiful. It was also sunny and warm, which was a welcome change.”

“Were you with Mica?”

I shook my head, replied matter-of-factly, “I went with my boyfriend.”

From the way Blaine was looking at me, with one of his focused gazes, I was pretty sure he was trying to find what was between the lines. “Sounds romantic.”

Well, here we go, I thought. Past Significant Relationship aka How’d You Get Those Emotional Scars. I had a split second to decide between deflecting and being straightforward. There was no question about which way I wanted to go with him.

“Sounds can be deceiving,” I smiled. “He broke up with me the first night. He had met someone else, had been seeing her on the sly. He missed her too much to keep her a secret any longer.”


“You could say it was a romance killer,” I smiled again. Blaine didn’t smile.

“That was the first night? You spent two weeks with him after that?”

I nodded, shrugged but didn’t elaborate further. I had felt trapped. He spoke French, understood the trains and had made all the travel arrangements. This was before regular people had smartphones, and I hadn’t even brought my cell phone on the trip since he’d added a SIM card to his. I made the best of it because it seemed like the most sensible option. “On the bright side,” I said, “most vacations end too quickly. This one felt like it went on for an eternity.” Still, he didn’t smile.

“Were you in separate rooms at least?”

I shook my head. “I tried but we were staying at small hotels and none had extra rooms available.”

And that’s when I heard Blaine use the F-word for the first time. It made me laugh. So against character. It was weirdly reassuring to know he has it in him and perversely sweet that he used it as an adjective for my ex.

“I ended up with an unusual vacation story to tell so it wasn’t a total loss.” I smiled yet again, trying to convey this was no longer a big deal. Blaine still wasn’t returning a smile.

He held the stem of his wine glass and turned the base. After a couple of moments, he asked, “Is he why you stopped dating?” I blinked, surprised. He said Eve had told him after I kept ducking her invitations to go to things where I could meet him. I remember telling her I didn’t date anymore as a way to discourage her from wanting to set me up. When she had asked why, I told her I had reached a point where I felt something break and knew it wasn’t for me anymore. I didn’t tell her about Paris or anything about my ex. It isn’t a story I ever share with people I know.

To answer his question, I said no. “It actually made me determined to date as much as possible, so I placed an online personal as soon as I got home.” I was all about making suspect emotional choices. “The couple of guys I went out with were the reason I gave up dating. They weren’t bad people but they were wrong for me. Something just broke--I knew I’d had enough. It wasn’t a big deal. It was the right thing for me.” It had actually been a great thing for me.

The waitress brought our meals and then returned with second glasses of wine. For a little while we focused on the food, then Blaine asked, “Given your decision to stop dating, I’ve often wondered why you decided to date me. I assume it was because of Eve at first. You continued to say yes though. I hope that isn’t because of Eve.” He was taking great care in buttering a piece of bread. I’ve always liked Nervous Blaine.

This was an easy answer. “Just as I felt something break, when I began spending time with you I felt a click as if something was slipping into the right space.”

Now he smiled.
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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

To do and should do

I can’t recall if I mentioned I changed the way I keep track of things I need to do at work. A week ago I switched from a Post-It-stuck-to-every-surface-haphazardly system to a color coded document divided by the different divisions I support. It’s rather fantastic. The colors make me happy. There’s tremendous satisfaction when I can put a double line through completed tasks. It gives me a record of accomplishments, which I need to provide twice a year. And it helps keep me on task because I can tag high-priority projects red and medium-priority tasks yellow.

Today I crossed off something that’s been tagged red since last week. I celebrated by leaving my office for lunch.

Tonight I’ve been taking screenshots of baptismal records and creating a document for my cousin Eileen. This has been on my personal should-do list for over a year.

Don’t know if I’ve mentioned that I’ve become the historian for my dad’s family. I’ve hardly worked on it since I started the job I have now, but occasionally I’ll log onto Ancestry and check for new records. A year ago they added the record books from the church the family belonged to early on. In them I found the entries for the baptisms of all of my aunts and uncles, which revealed that those born prior to WWI were christened with German names. I mentioned it to Eileen the last time I saw her, and she said she would like to know how her dad’s name appeared. Since I was looking up one, I decided to provide all in case it sparks more conversation. She is the eldest member of the family and I keep hoping she’ll recall some things from when she was a child. She is the only one old enough to remember our grandparents and great aunts and uncles.

I have all the records captured and printed (she doesn’t use email). Now I have to write a letter, and I imagine I should write it by hand. What are the chances I have stationery that hasn’t yellowed?
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Tuesday, July 17, 2018


There are days when it’s very strange to write here as if there is nothing crazy, dispiriting and alarming is going on in the world, yet that’s what I choose to do. Some days though... damn.

It’s rainy here today. The only impact it had on my day was that I couldn’t pick up display panels for Henry for fear of them getting wet. The printer I use for large-format prints is downtown and the only parking is a block away.

Blaine’s day was impacted a bit more. He’s working from home for a few days because the builders were to start on the roof for his deck this week. The rain prevented that, and the foreman said it may be Thursday before he’ll be able to get the crew back from the indoor job he reassigned them to today.

Blaine asked me over for dinner. I declined because I wanted to work late and finish what I’d started last night. He offered a late dinner and tempted me by saying he would make whatever I wanted. I’ve been hungry for spaghetti and garlic bread so that was an offer I was ready to accept.

Can’t say I was in a hurry to come home. It’s relaxing to have someone else around in the evenings.
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Monday, July 16, 2018

New phone

For three years the 2, 7 and 9 on my office phone have stuck and stuttered. Finally, today I got a new phone. I had hoped for an upgrade to one with a speaker that I can use when Henry calls and wants me to make changes to a document while he’s feeding them to me. No joy there, but I can dial out without having to try two or three times, so I’ll not grouse.

Because of the death of my coworker, I’ve started to work a little more closely with the person who has taken over a lot of her work. We had to talk about a promotional item he wants ordered, and he ended up sticking around my office to talk about Trump’s tariffs. Honestly, I don’t know how we ended up there. It was a good conversation though.

I have a ton of stuff on my to-do list and it’s all time consuming. I worked until 7:00 but didn’t finish what I was working on. Might be half done. I’ll try to go in early tomorrow. I doubt I’ll try very hard. I am no longer a morning person.

Eve was only at work for part of the day. Her poor mom is struggling with a health issue that the doctors can’t figure out. Every test comes back normal. It’s moving from frustrating to heartbreaking. While nothing life threatening is happening, it is severely restricting the activities she can do and that’s been very hard on her. This isn't anything I can help with, but I sure wish I could.

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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Saturday and Sunday

On second thought, there isn’t more that needs to be said about Friday.

On Saturday Mica and I had hair appointments. I don’t remember if I’ve explained that the stylist we go to books us together. We’ve been going there for years, long enough that the three of us have a lot to talk about. I asked Mica not to reveal that I’m dating anyone because while it’s fun to talk about it when it’s going well, it isn’t when it’s over. I nearly slipped up when Steph (stylist) asked what we (Mica and I) had planned for the evening.

She and I didn’t have plans. Blaine and I, however, went to dinner at a local microbrewery that’s in the corner of the city furthest from where either of us live. It’s in a development designed to feel like an old neighborhood. The houses are traditional styles--bungalows, Tudors, colonials, prairie style—and there’s a main street where the businesses, including this restaurant, are located. It’s a beautiful area, just far from everything.

We had a drink and appetizer on the patio of the restaurant but went inside for the meal because it was still hot and humid. About a third of the tables were filled. We picked one near the patio windows. Shortly after, a couple in their twenties sat at the table next to ours. They were clearly on their first date, and she was beaming. I leaned close and quietly asked Blaine if he thought people at the winery we went to in January knew we were on a first date. He replied, “I’m sure we fooled them since only one of us was on a date.”

I nudged his knee with mine. I’ll never live it down.

Today, Mica and road tripped to return something I’d bought a month ago and then decided I didn’t want. We had lunch at our favorite Italian restaurant. They were having a couple of issues, one with the air conditioning and the other with the plumbing or sewer or both. They’ve also changed the way they prepare the meals we always order, and neither was good. I didn’t finish mine, nor did I bother to bring the remainder home.

I was just getting home when I received a text from Blaine inviting me over for dinner. This week we definitely broke a record of time spent together. I asked him what he used to ask me all the time: Are you getting tired of me yet? Fortunately, he said no.

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Tuesday through Friday

Despite appearances, I did not bleed to death Monday night. I just didn’t have a night to myself to sit down and write. So, a recap.

The garage door hook was decommissioned. Blaine came by Tuesday night and secured the door with a zip tie. He wanted to remove the hook but I asked him to leave it until I know the zip tie will last a while. He returned Wednesday night with a roll of white tape (matches the paint color) and wrapped the heck out of the end of the hook until it looked like a tiny boxing glove on a skinny arm. It won’t puncture (or snag) anything ever again.

While he wrapped tape, I leaned against the trunk of my car and head butted with the neighbor’s cat who had joined us. I felt silly, not because I was bumping heads with a cat but because Blaine was doing something I could have taken care of so easily. When we were texting Monday night I told him he didn’t need to bother with this. Somehow a small accident had turned into The Great Bloody Hook Incident of 2018. He said he didn’t mind, so I let it happen per Eve’s advice.

“You do nice work,” I told him. “Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome.”

“Have a lot of experience using zip ties and electrical tape in creative ways?”

I watched him try not to smile. Crinkles at the corner of his eyes betrayed him. He looked at me and winked. That made me laugh. He reached over my shoulder and stroked the cat’s back. She began pacing, letting her tail brush across my neck on turns. She’s my favorite neighbor by far.

“One of these days I’ll figure out something nice I can do for you,” I promised, pushing away from the car. No idea what that might be. In the meantime I made us dinner, homemade chicken enchiladas Tuesday night and BLTs last night. The BLTs turned out to be educational. Blaine learned that I won’t eat lettuce on sandwiches, and I learned that in Blaine’s world there is no acceptable substitute for real bacon. “This isn’t terrible,” he allowed, referring to the turkey bacon he was piling on the bread for his second sandwich.

At work on Thursday we had to say goodbye to a coworker, our office manager Marianne. She and her husband are moving to the other side of the state. A group of us took her to lunch. Midway through the meal I looked around the large table and was struck by how lucky I am to work with such wonderful people.

After work I went to Mica’s to hang out with the little white dog while she went to dinner with her sister-in-law. He didn’t need the company but I don’t get to spend much time with him anymore.

The big news in his world is the nextdoor neighbor is taking care of a relative’s dog for a few days. The little white dog is obsessed. The visiting dog couldn’t be less interested. Much barking, crying and whining accompany every visit to the backyard.

It’s also cicada season, which the little white dog views as snack season. He paws them up from the ground and munches like they’re a delicacy. I finally had to pick him up and carry him inside to get him to stop. This is why I like small dogs--portability.

On Friday Blaine and I went to Allison and Ty’s for dinner. Blaine is a little more serious when he’s in Dad mode, and boy can Allison fluster him when she teases him, especially about me. She earned the Dad Look once, I noticed. She noticed too and said sorry. Parent-child relationships evolve but never really change.

Eli and I spent some time together before dinner. He wanted to show me his playset, one of the elaborate wooden ones. His has an observation tower, clubhouse, ripple slide, glider, regular swing and a rock climbing wall. He invited me to use the slide and swings if I wanted but advised me to stay off the climbing wall. “It’s dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

He showed me how everything worked. I took a moment to scrutinize it. “You know, you could have your own triathlon.” That required an explanation. Without dwelling on the traditional sports, we talked it over and decided Eli’s Triathlon would consist of five pushes on the swing, three trips down the slide and two trips up the climbing wall, ending at the observation tower. He was on board immediately. I used my phone to keep track of his time. He grew more dramatic with each round, having to pause once to put his hands on his needs and pretend to pour water over his neck before he could continue to the climbing wall.

I’m a huge believer in the power of imagination, especially for kids who don’t have siblings and need to entertain themselves. From what I can tell, Eli has a good imagination but isn’t sure how to tap into it. Before we were called into dinner we talked about how the playset could also be a spaceship. How the observation tower is the main compartment, the slide gets you to the engine room (clubhouse), the swing is for spacewalks (because it’s sort of like you’re floating). Over dinner he told everyone about his spaceship. I was gratified.

Later in the evening Ty took Eli off for his bath, leaving Allison, Blaine and I to talk. Allison asked about my family. She asked at what age I lost my parents. She and I were close in age when she lost her mom and I lost my dad. I had a feeling she wanted to talk about that a bit. I opened the door by saying that losing dad was particularly hard because of the stage of life I was in. I was in my early twenties, had just moved out on my own and was in that adjustment period between relying on asking dad what I should do and wanting to make all decisions independently. When I lost him, I lost my safety net. Everything got harder.

“Yes!” Allison said. “Going forward without a safety net is exactly how it felt.” She acknowledged she has Blaine.

He offered, “Moms and dads have different expertise.”

“Yes,” she and I agreed together.

It was a conversation that continued until Eli ran out in his pajamas clutching two picture books to his chest. He wanted grandpa to read to him, so Blaine followed him back to his bedroom. I don’t know where Ty went. He didn’t reappear until Blaine came back and we were about to leave.

There’s a bit more I want to note about the evening, but I have no more time left right now. I need to be out the door in 40 minutes and haven’t showered yet. I’ll put this much up now and, hopefully, will have time to write more tonight.
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Monday, July 9, 2018

The hook

Texts, 20 minutes ago:

Me: Remember when your arm bled all day? How did you get it to stop?
Eve: It finally stopped on its own, probably after that Anacin I took wore off. Are you bleeding??

Me: Yes. I was dragging a giant package of toilet paper out of the backseat of my car and bumped against the hook that holds the garage door open. It jabbed me good on the shoulder.

Eve: Is it deep? Do you need stitches?

Me: No, not deep. I think I hit the SP artery though.

Eve: What's that?

Me: Stuck Pig

Eve: HA! Paul wants to know what kind of garage door you have that you need a hook to hold it open.

Me: They're original to the garage. Two doors that swing in from the outside. The hooks keep them from bumping around in the wind.

Eve: Now he wants to know what kind of hooks they are.

Me: It's just a hook and eye combo. About three inches long. Pointy end. Pierces flesh easily.

Eve: He wants to know if you close the doors all the time. (I've told him he's losing sight of the problem.) 

Me: I haven't closed them in a decade. 

Eve: He recommends removing them then. 

Me: I thought I'd try a nylon zip tie instead of the hooks. 

Eve: He said that might work. How's the bleeding?

Me: I've crisscrossed three bandages over it. It's soaking through but isn't leaking. Must be slowing down.

Eve: Paul just sent a text to Blaine telling him to buy you a package of large zip ties.

Me: That was nice of him, but I can pick them up. I've been meaning to but I never go where they sell them in the size I need.

Blaine to me:  Hi, Paul says you need zip ties for your garage door. Do you need them tonight? I have some that will work temporarily. I can get stronger ones for you tomorrow.

Me to Blaine: Hi! No, I don't need them tonight. Can you give me a second to say goodbye to Eve?

Blaine: Of course.

Me to Eve:  Blaine is texting now. I'll let you go. Maybe I should ask him to pick up some plastic tubing and pint-sized Ziplock bags in case I need a blood transfusion.

Eve: Ha! You'll need a needle too.

Me: I have that hook. It makes a hole large enough for the tubing.

Eve: Not sure you fully understand how that works. Seriously though, let him get the zip ties for you. He'll like that you let him help.

Me: A guy thing?

Eve: A good guy thing. 

Me: OK. :) I appreciate it. 

Eve: Good night!

Me: You can have my office if I don't make it. 

Eve: IGNORING THAT. See you tomorrow! 

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Sunday, July 8, 2018

1, 2, 3

I hate to enter the territory of TMI but it helps explain my headspace this week. I was going to skip writing anything at all but last night when I woke in the middle of a night and couldn’t fall back asleep I went back and read everything I’ve written here and decided to keep going even when I know I sometimes will write things that make me cringe later.

The TMI isn’t too bad. It’s simply that every month I get hit hard by whacked out hormones, and one of three things will happen:

  1. Anger. Every little thing is an irritation. Every irritant becomes grounds for justifiable rage. The good news is I only scream obscenities inside my head (and sometimes in the car). The worst that I unleash on anyone is terseness, but that can be pretty noticeable. Holding it in takes a toll so I try to keep my distance from people as much as possible.
  2. Weepiness. Everything will make me tear up, and a crying jag (or two or three) is inevitable. Accompanying this is hyper self-doubt and oversensitivity. I’m fed through an emotional wringer over and over. It’s exhausting but a bit easier than number 1 because number 1 makes me feel like a horrible person, and this one only makes feel weak. 
  3. Exhaustion. For several days I’m almost unable to hold my head up.

Occasionally a combination will occur, and sometimes nothing very noticeable will occur. Lately—three or four months—all have been mild. Not so right now. Number 2 is kicking my ass.

A few years ago I started adding whichever number is occurring to my personal calendar. Once I realize it’s going to be, say, a Number 1 month, I’ll add daily appointments that just say Number 1 and set it so I’m reminded a couple of times a day. This helps me remember that things are being distorted so I should try to chill. It sort of helps. I still feel whatever I’m going to but am able to keep a bit of perspective.

So on the Fourth I spent the day with Mica. We took the little white dog to the dog park because the smoke in the air was keeping him from going outside. The dog park we went to is bordered by a cemetery, a golf course and a park. It was as quiet (and smoke free) as possible. No one else was there, but he was happy to have new territory to sniff. When I left early evening—the time I always leave on the Fourth—I felt guilty because this year I wasn’t going home but to Blaine’s. I felt guilty because I somehow found someone to date when Mica, who is better than me in every way (that isn’t a distortion—she really is), doesn’t have someone. I felt guilty that I never do anything with my brother (too much to get into here). In short, I suck.

Blaine and I made popcorn and watched a movie (Game Night, which was such a good idea with a great cast but wasn’t executed well). We left the lights off and watched the fireworks we could see through the windows at the back of the house. We tried to go for a late walk but there were too many kids handling explosives, which caused us to feel extra combustible. Settled back on the couch, Blaine asked if something was bothering me. Apparently I was quieter than normal.

All of a sudden I had the hag from “The Princess Bride,” the one who stands up and calls Buttercup the queen of refuse, queen of slime, queen of putrescence, shouting at me, calling out failure, loser.

I told Blaine I was fine, because although at that moment I was plagued by guilt and inferiority, I knew nothing was truly wrong.

I had Thursday and Friday off, and I kept to myself. Did some laundry, meticulously cleaned the interior of my car, shredded junk mail, binged on “Nashville” (meh) and lived on peanut butter toast.

Friday night, however, I had to go out. Eve’s birthday was earlier in the week and Paul had arranged for their closest friends to gather for drinks and supper. Except for Kim and John, who are on vacation, this is the group from St. Patrick’s Day and also the group that meets for lunch on Sundays.

For conversation purposes they arranged themselves so the guys were at one end of the rectangular table, the women at the other. It happened to work out that Blaine and I were beside each other and  Eve was on my other side.

Later, after we’d been visiting for some time, I asked how long they had all been friends (a long time). Someone remarked how unusual it is to find so many couples where everyone clicks. That reminded everyone of the person who is no longer with them. The death of Blaine’s wife was a huge loss for everyone who knew her. The women told all manner of stories about her. Some were hilarious, several were sweet, all showed that they love and miss her. I understand that very well. I have had losses like that in my life.

The longer they talked, the more unworthy I felt. Not for the first time. I’ve never understood why Blaine is giving me so much time. He can do better. He can certainly do prettier, and more interesting wouldn’t be too hard to come by. He absolutely can find someone who is less awkward and much less insecure in situations like this. What I have going for me is that Eve recommended me. She is protective of him and wouldn’t have if she didn’t genuinely think I might be compatible. Her approval must make it easier for him. I’m

I excused myself to the bathroom when I could. Ran my hands under the cold water until they were chilled, then pressed them on my face and neck, all while I silently repeated Number 2, Number 2, Number 2 to myself (not something you want to be caught saying out loud while you’re in a bathroom, especially if you’re not inside a stall). The trouble with knowing when my emotions are not entirely under my control is that I still can’t stop them. I can’t keep my eyes from going glossy or my voice from getting weak. All I can do is remind myself that what spins out of control in my mind can stay inside my head.

When I returned to the table, the dinners had arrived and people were involved with the food. I slid back onto my chair. I knew Blaine was looking at me but it wasn’t a good idea for me to look at him, so I took a long drink. When I felt him put his hand low on my back, instead of feeling reassured, as I usually do, I filled with impending loss.

Leaving the restaurant, I didn’t think I could be good company. I lied about having a headache so Blaine would drop me off.

Then I felt guilty about that.

I had already said I would go with him to a fundraiser at his church yesterday so I couldn’t hide at home. The church held an an ice cream social and dessert auction (and accepted straight donations) to raise money for someone in the congregation who is undergoing cancer treatment. I have a particular soft spot for this sort of thing because I saw how much it meant to my cousin when his church did something similar for him. The money is a godsend but the knowledge that so many people are there for you is every bit as needed.

Nearly everyone that Blaine introduced me to mentioned they remembered the fundraiser they held for his family and said how they missed his wife. A break for a few days, that’s all I wanted.

Early in the week—seems so far away now—Blaine and I agreed that after the fundraiser we would go to his house and make a late dinner. Cooking together is something we’ve discovered we really enjoy.

I unlocked my phone and handed it to Blaine so he could pull up my Spotify playlists and pair the phone with the speakers (still the old ones) while I used the restroom. When I came out he told me a calendar alert had come up. “Number 2?” he asked, mildly.

“Oh.” I waved my hands around. “Just a reminder to myself.”

“Can I ask…?” I could tell he was expecting the explanation to be amusing.

I tried to think of some general thing to say but couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t sound like a dodge. So I attempted a different kind of dodge. “You don’t really want to know.” Which isn’t a dodge as much as an invitation. During a less addled week I would have caught that in time.

He didn’t say anything. The way he stood there, waiting, said I was wrong about not wanting to know. So I explained in the briefest way I could. He didn’t say a word, didn’t move from where he was leaning against the counter. I was about to inform him the shrimp weren’t going to marinate themselves, when he asked if anything in particular bothered me this week.

I knew he had noticed something was up a time or two. “A couple of things,” I admitted. “Not actual problems, just little stuff that my head blows out of proportion.”

He told me he would always be willing to listen if I thought talking would help relieve the pressure.

And that’s when my lip trembled and tears sprung out of the corners of my eyes. “Oh honestly,” I gruffed at myself. “This is stupid.” Blaine walked around the corner of the breakfast bar and put his arms around me. I pushed him away. Through little huffs of air, I said, “My mascara isn’t waterproof. It leaves marks” He pulled me back and said he has other shirts.

I do not get it. But sometime in the future I may read this and see something I can’t right now. So, long and unedited, I’m hitting the Publish button.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Fourth on the third

What to do for the Fourth first came up a couple of weeks ago. I found out that Blaine, like me, hasn’t actively celebrated it for a number of years. He typically gets invited somewhere or will go to Allison’s if they don’t have other plans. I typically hang out at Mica’s during the day and try to get home before people start setting off fireworks in the middle of the streets.

This year Allison, Ty and Eli are on vacation in the mountains, John and Kim are in Canada, Eve and Paul are staying home to make sure Izzy does OK with the noise, and Mica is doing the same with the little white dog, who is OK with the noise but doesn’t like the smell. In other words, nothing much was going to happen. We decided we would get together for supper, which would allow me to do something with Mica during the day.

But that’s about the Fourth and this is only the third.

Last night Blaine asked if I would go with him to the city’s firework display, which is now held on the night of the third because...well, that’s the way this city does things. He proposed we have dinner first at the French restaurant we like. And he suggested we go to his house after the fireworks and have dessert on the deck where we would probably see some neighborhood fireworks. He worded all of it as if he were asking me out on a date, and there were shades of Formal Blaine, whom I haven’t seen in a long time. I told him it all sounded lovely and I looked forward to it.

And so that’s what we did. We had date to celebrate the Fourth on the third.
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Sunday, July 1, 2018

Cold spot

I woke up relaxed to the point of feeling boneless. I could not and did not move for the longest time.

Toward evening I went to Mica’s. We wanted to do something with the little white dog. With all the rain it was too muddy to go to the dog park. On the other hand, the storms dropped the temperature to a tolerable level, making an extra long walk through the neighborhood a possibility. We walked along streets we don’t normally follow.

I had the leash and had gotten a bit ahead of Mica who had stopped to pick up after the little white dog. All of a sudden the temperature dropped significantly. Two steps later and it was warm again. I took another few steps and stopped, looking back to see where Mica was. She was about to step into the cool zone. I watched to see if she noticed anything. She passed through it and stopped. “Did you,” she looked behind her, “feel that?”



Of course we walked back through it, turned around and did it again. “That’s plain weird,” I declared.

The cold spot was on the edge of a shaded part of the sidewalk, but the difference in temperature was too great to be caused by shade alone. Plus, when we stepped out of it we were still in the shade. It felt like air conditioned air but was still--no draft.

“The neighborhood has a ghost,” I concluded. I stepped back into the spot. “It’s rather refreshing though.”

“Oh, the ghost will love that you’re using it to cool down.” She waved her arms all about as if she were the ghost. “Get away from me. What is wrong with you!”  We laughed and walked on.
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