Sunday, December 30, 2018

Original settings

Mica and I went to Aquaman. She likes superhero movies and I like popcorn.

I don’t mind these movies but I wish there was more emphasis on character and plot than action. I realize I’m missing the point of the franchises. I still don’t know the difference between DC and Marvel—I can’t tell you which characters belong to which—but I prefer Ironman, Captain America and their ilk over Batman, Spiderman, etc.

Mica was psyched when I told her I’d watch this one only if we saw it in the theater. “Why this one?” she asked.

“I wouldn’t mind watching the guy on the big screen for a couple of hours.”


“What can I tell you? Poldark was my gateway into the long hair, muscle thing. For some,” I emphasized. Mostly, that look doesn’t do anything for me.

The movie went on and on and on, and I was annoyed by the action sequences that were clearly all CGI. CGI has ruined more movies than it has helped.

After the movie we took the little white dog to the dog park where I met my first antisocial beagle. I didn’t even know that was possible. If I’d had holy water and whatever else one needs for an exorcism, I would have cast out the devil and restored the little thing to its original settings.

Read More

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Out of the house


I met Allison, Eve and Eve’s daughter, Caitlin, for coffee this morning. Conversation was challenging because my voice is still weak. At full volume it is a raspy whisper.

Allison filled me in on Eli's church program and their Christmas gatherings. I thought Blaine had done a nice job of giving me the details but women are much better at that sort of thing.

I enjoyed having a chance to talk to Caitlin. I know her better than she knows me because Eve tells me what she’s up to and what’s going on with her boyfriend.

Mostly, it was good to be out of the house and to laugh again.

Eve asked if Blaine and I are going to Maggie and Terry’s New Year’s Eve party. All I know is Blaine made dinner reservations for us. Beyond that I don’t know what he has planned. For four days, our brief conversations consisted of health updates and whether or not I needed more tissues, cough syrup or soup. I was happy to turn New Year’s Eve plans over to him.

Tonight was the first time Blaine and I have been together since he brought me pop and a hug on my birthday. I realize it has only been a week, but it’s been some time since we’ve gone a week without seeing one another.

In May, at the time of Blaine’s birthday, we agreed not to exchange gifts this year. I also told him we could skip celebrating my birthday altogether because there’s too much going on and no reason to add more to the mix. He didn’t get on board with that so tonight to honor my birthday he cooked the dinner of my choice and surprised me with a red velvet cake from a bakery I like. I picked a very special bland menu since my appetite hasn’t come back yet. We had a Parmesan crusted salmon filet, mashed potatoes and roasted carrots. The carrots concerned him. If I didn’t want roasted Brussels sprouts, did I need to be life-flighted to the hospital for tests and observation?

After dinner, with the lights dimmed, the fireplace on and the Christmas tree lit, we exchanged gifts. The funny thing is we both picked something from the art festival. He gave me the copper heart necklace I had admired. In a second box was a white-gold chain, nicer than the one that came with the necklace. He said he noticed how long I had looked at it so he went back the next day for it. He also said some nice things about why a heart was appropriate.

He was very surprised but pleased to see the painting. He recognized it and said it has crossed his mind a couple of times since the festival. It looks like it will hang in the dining room.

Christmas was a long time coming but the wait was worth it.
Read More

Friday, December 28, 2018

Christmas, at last


 Having come far in my convalescence, I decided it was time to rejoin society.

(And back off on British TV.)

I went to my brother's this evening to celebrate Christmas. When I had to cancel Christmas Eve, I apologized to him for not being able to get presents to him. I admitted I hadn't wrapped anything yet so I couldn't even have him come to my house to pick them up. He said he hadn't wrapped anything either and declared that this year we wouldn't bother. To get ready for tonight, I placed each gift into its own plastic shopping bag. To my, uh, credit, I did try to choose a different store's bag for each item. The orange Halloween bags from the grocery store were extra special, I'm sure you will agree.

We had fun with it, but I must say that wrapped presents are one thing I'm not willing to give up about Christmas. Next year there will be wrapping paper and bows and too much tape.

He was surprised and very happy to receive the drone. I wasn't sure he would like it, so I'm pleased. I'm also anxious to see it fly and find out how good the camera is. This is an inexpensive unit so I don't expect a lot, but I'm hoping it will be worth having.

We also celebrated my birthday with dinner at a steakhouse. The food was really good but the atmosphere was deafening. I may have to find a new place to go next year.

So, that's one part of Christmas finished.

Read More

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Christmas mirage

Of the six of us who went to the brew pub to sing Christmas carols last week, five of us came down with the flu. Only Blaine escaped it.

Group text, Christmas Eve day:
Kim: I'm glad you're healthy but how have you escaped this, Blaine?

Paul: He lives alone. No one is spreading their germs to him.

John: As the only one of us with a girlfriend, you would think his exposure would have been swift and complete long before the first symptoms.

Paul: <thumbs-up emoji>

It was good ol' Influenza A that took us down. I'd say I'm at 85 percent today. I hope to take it easy for another couple of days. I have my heart set on being well for New Year's Eve.

The strangest part of this is the way Christmas disappeared as if it were a mirage. I maintained my tradition of watching "Christmas in Connecticut," "Miracle on 34th Street" and "A Holiday Affair," my favorite. I ate a few peanut clusters (my dad's Christmastime favorite). One night I tried to listen to Il Divo's Christmas album, but I couldn't stay awake. Still, as this sort of holiday goes, it wasn't all bad. It's been peaceful if not pleasant.

Read More

Sunday, December 23, 2018


Several people came to me on Thursday asking for help on projects they need to complete by the end of the year. Since I'm taking next week off, I had until end of day Friday to give them what they wanted. I stayed at work until 9:00 that night and went in early on Friday. I wanted to be sure I would have enough time to take a long lunch hour since Eve and Susannah were taking me out for my birthday.

Just before we were to leave, I walked into the suite where Susannah's office is. She told me she wasn't going to go to lunch with us because she had too much going on. She was watching a video on Facebook at the time so... Gotta say my feelings were hurt.

Eve and I had a nice lunch. She gave me the coolest ring--the Chicago skyline. The only finger it fits on is my left ring finger. She can exchange it for a different size but I'm afraid a size smaller will not work on my right ring finger. I'll figure it out later.

I went to Mica's after work on Friday to help her get packed to go to her mom's. I was perfectly fine until I started to feel cold. I put my jacket on and pulled one of the little white dog's blankets over me. When I started to feel woozy, I left. I called Blaine on the way home to tell him I wasn't coming over.

By Saturday morning I was walloped by whatever this bug is. I dragged myself out of the house first  thing to buy cough syrup. I also stopped at the grocery store for soup. I finally made it to the bank, an errand I've forgotten to take care of for weeks. And then it was home and to bed. I've slept more the last two days than I've been awake.

Mica decided not to go to her mom's. She felt like she might be coming down with something and didn't want to be on the road when it hit or to expose her mom to it. If she were to get what I have, she wouldn't be able to make the drive. I told her she didn't need to change her plans because of me. I've had the flu more than once when I've taken care of the little white dog over Christmas, but it usually hits after the holiday. I would still manage taking him for walks, giving belly rubs and dispensing treats as needed. I'm not sorry she decided to stay home though. I'm glad to be in my own bed for the duration of this.

Blaine ignored my no visitors rule to drop off a glass of Diet Coke for me this afternoon. He also insisted on giving me a hug and a kiss on top of my head, plus a "happy birthday" whispered in my ear. I must say I appreciated it so much I teared up for just a moment. I hope he went home and showered in Lysol right away.

As for me, I had tried to shower this morning and it ended in 20 minutes of hard coughing and a four hour nap. At least today my chest doesn't feel like it's going to crack open every time I cough. I strongly recommend Mucinex Severe Cold and Flu cough syrup. The stuff helps.

My brother called when he got off work tonight to ask if he could bring something by. I assume a birthday present. I told him not to. He doesn't need to be exposed to this, and I don't have the energy to do anything with a present.

I'm feeling better tonight but the only thing keeping my temperature normal is the cough medicine. My brother and I have postponed getting together Christmas Eve. I don't know if I'll be up to going to Jenny's Christmas day. I'm also going to miss Eli's Christmas program at church tomorrow afternoon. He won't care that I'm not there, but I love kids' programs. Plus, I was looking so forward to having some Christmassy time with Blaine.

Well, this is why I haven't been posting, reading or commenting. Probably won't again for a day or two.
Read More

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Methodists and their crazy fun ideas

All is bright.

A Methodist church hosted the "Beer and Carols" event at the bar.

But that wasn't the strange part of the night.

There's nothing quite like singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem" while drinking craft beer beneath a bank of televisions airing college football bowl games.

But that wasn't the strange part.

When the last song warning was given, people at two tables began trash talking one another because one wanted to sing "White Christmas" (not even part of the song list) and the other was in the mood to belt out "Good King Wenceslas."

That was strange, yes, but it wasn't the strangest part of the evening.

When the lights dimmed and people held up their cell phones and waved them over their heads while singing "Silent Night" -- that was the strangest part of the evening.

We're all hoping there will be a second annual sing-along next year.
Read More

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

First Christmas present


I sent the holiday card out this afternoon. Shortly after, I received an email from one of the recipients, someone from another company who liked it and wondered if he could have his assistant call to find out how they might do something similar. I can’t say for certain but I think the assistant had turned a bit green by the end of the call. It’s a bit too close to the holidays to dive into animation editing for the first time. A designed email is doable, and I offered to answer questions or walk him through the process if needed.

Eve seems very excited about tomorrow. She’s going to pick me up at 8 (!), we’ll go to breakfast (pecan pancakes), then hit the road to pick up the present for Blaine and do other shopping.

So, I can’t remember if I wrote about this or not. Sometimes I write things offline and never get them posted. Sometimes I do post them but forget.

I know I wrote about one of the prints he bid on at the art festival we went to this summer. It’s a black and white illustration of aspens with a swipe of yellow across them. (Apologies to artists everywhere for that description.) After we looked for bedding for his second bedroom and I noticed he seemed to be drawn to yellow, I toyed with the idea of buying the print for him. I hadn’t noticed the artist’s name so I sent a description to the email address for the art festival. It helped that it was an item on the silent auction and not simply one of the thousands pieces of art displayed. My email was forwarded to different people, finally getting to the artist, who sent information about purchasing a print.

The large print, which would have been perfect for the bedroom, was far outside my budget. A smaller print was within my budget but still expensive. I worried that it was too much for a first Christmas present and that it would make him feel awkward if I gave him something expensive and he gave me a box of assorted Post-Its or something.

I had to let the artist know by the end of last week. Obviously, I decided to give him a print but I selected an even smaller one. It’s probably a better size for his office than home, which disappoints me but probably doesn’t matter.

I can turn anything into a stressful situation.

Eve just sent a group text to the usuals. Tomorrow night there’s a caroling sing-along at one of the bars we sometimes go to on Fridays. Looks like that’s what I’ll be doing tomorrow night.

Read More

Monday, December 17, 2018

Key ring


After we cleaned up from last Friday’s office party, I was able to get back to my regular work. Today it was more closed captioning of Henry’s videos. There’s a portion in one where he talks really fast and there’s no way the captioning can keep up. I asked him if he wanted to re-record that portion. He doesn’t. He sounded like this was one problem too many for this week.

I think many of us need a reset. Something about the last couple of months have taken a toll.

Eve and I decided to take Wednesday off. We’re going to pick up the print I’m giving Blaine for Christmas. I went back and forth about it for so long that the only way to get it in time is to go to the artist’s studio and pick it up. I’ll explain more about that in another post. I’m so far behind here, I just need to stick to one day.

After we pick it up, we’re going shopping just for something to do. I sent a text to Paul and asked if he wanted me to try to scout out something she would like for Christmas. He said yes but also said their daughter has him covered. I still don’t know why the slot cars fell through.

Blaine is on vacation until the end of the year. Today he picked Eli up from preschool and took him Christmas shopping for his parents. Eli picked out a KC Chiefs t-shirt for his dad and a picture frame shaped like a puzzle piece. I had told Blaine about the puzzle frames when he said he was going to the sporting goods store. They sold them in their home decor shop. Why there’s a home decor shop, I don’t know. They stock some cute things though.

After work I had to pick up my coat from the dry cleaner, something I didn’t get done last week. I went next door to the hardware store and had extra keys made for the new lock on my back door. I offered one to Blaine since he often beats me home if he comes by after work. As he added it to his key ring, he said, “We’ve come a ways since this time last year.”

This time last year I was avoiding talking to him even though Eve was doing her best to get us to be in the same place at the same time as often as possible. I didn’t think there was any way he could be interested.

I would still like to write about the final Christmas party we went to on Saturday. It was thrown by Kim and John, friends of Blaine, Eve and Paul’s. Another day, though.

For tonight, I want to take a hot shower, watch a Christmas movie, read a little and get to sleep early.
Read More

Friday, December 14, 2018

Lucky suit


Paul sent a text cancelling the slot car idea. He’s succinct in texts so I don’t know why. I didn’t have time to follow up with him because Eve and I were up to our ears in prepping for the office party.

Our office doesn’t have a big holiday party this time of year. Instead they throw a dinner in the spring for employees and guests. This is the first year since I’ve worked there that we've had an office party. Eve and I wouldn’t mind if it was the last time.

The seven-person committee fell apart quickly. Two people didn’t participate at all, one dropped out earlier this week and one--Susannah of all people--was such a pill about everything that Eve and I decided to pull it together ourselves and let the other two could do as much or little as they wanted. That’s why the two of us were tied up with it most of the day. We had to get the room rearranged and decorated and get the games ready to go before the caterers showed up. Rearranging took time because it’s a large conference/training room with free standing tables wired together in pairs to provide electrical outlets for computers. The first thing we had to do was diagram how it all went together so we could get it back together again, and that turned out to be a bigger deal than we expected. Susannah peeked in a couple of times and flitted back out saying she would be back after all "this nonsense" was sorted. She was against rearranging and decorating so...attitude. If it sounds like I’m complaining, I am. At the same time, I think it came together as well as it did because Eve and I worked on it together. We tend to be on the same page and working together doesn't become stressful.

Susannah returned after the caterers arrived, and she pitched in from that point on. Fortunately, she was on board with the games and served as MC.

Turnout wasn’t as high as it could have been, but we knew scheduling something for the end of the day on a Friday was risky. Those who came seemed to have a good time. It took some gentle persuading to get enough people for the games, but once the games started, everyone got into it. We played a series of Minute to Win It style games. We were all surprised by one of our coworkers who is really mild mannered and quiet but who loves games apparently. He didn't want to let his teammates play any.

The games wrapped up a bit before 5:00. The nice thing about holding it at the end of day is no one lingers.

Once we had the food put away and the decorations packed, our director told us to leave the rest until Monday. I didn’t argue because I had another party to get ready for.

One of the partners at Blaine's firm always hosts a holiday party for the other partners and selected others. In other words, it's a dressy, grown-up affair where no one is going to be asked to shake 200 gumballs from one pop bottle into another.

I’ve been stressed over this party since I found out about it. I’m not gifted at small talk and don’t enjoy being around people I don’t know, plus I worry a lot about whether I’m dressed appropriately, so I placed this party under the category My Idea of Hell on Earth (right below twice weekly lawn mowing during periods of 24-hour daylight in Alaska).

Once I made it home, I had little time to redo my hair and makeup, get into the dress I bought for this party—red with some sparkle around the neckline—and force my feet into ridiculous shoes. I was starting to second guess all of my choices when the doorbell rang. Blaine is always complimentary but this time it was the look that crossed his face when I opened the door that told me I’d gotten it right.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t feel a pang of relief when it looked like I might slip on the icy street and break my head open like a watermelon at a Gallagher show. But Blaine hooked my arm with his just in time to keep me upright. I decided if he could do that, he could do it again figuratively. My plan became to stick to him like a dryer sheet.

The house is in the old money district. It isn’t on one of the tonier boulevards, but it’s still impressive--a three-story brick home with pretty dormers, a sunroom and, in back, the original carriage house. The area was developed during the Depression when labor was cheap and those who hadn’t lost their fortunes saw an opportunity to go big. I was anxious to see inside. (I love seeing inside houses.)

The interior didn’t disappoint. Leaded glass, marble fireplaces, polished woodwork. Floor to ceiling built-in bookcases and china cabinets. Stubby back hallways used mostly by those circulating trays of wine and hors d'oeuvres. The Christmas decorations were lush and perfect, absolutely styled by professionals. A pianist played the baby grand. It was a new experience.

I did a good impression of a dryer sheet at first. Let me tell you, with the things going on nationally and a few things happening locally, it was a fantastic time to be surrounded by lawyers. The conversations were interesting.

I was pulled away by the hostess. I had met her--and all the others for that matter--at the office party last week. She remembered what I did for a living and wanted to introduce me to someone--a retired attorney turned author. I had never met him but knew who he was. I told him I had been a faithful listener to a radio program he was part of in the late ‘90s where he and another man discussed local politics. It was on the community radio station so the listeners probably numbered in the dozens. He seemed pleased I remembered it.

When he retired, not long after that show ended, he began writing. Although I’m aware of his last book and have had it on my library to-read list since it came out, I haven’t read it. Locally, it was a bit controversial. In the ‘50s there were two people who went on a killing spree. One was executed and the other served time and was released at the end of her sentence. There was always a question about whether her involvement was voluntary or coerced. Many thought--and still do--that she deserved to be executed. In his book he argues her innocence. Even after all this time, the question of her innocence is a hot button for anyone who remembers that time. It happened before I was born so to me it’s no more than an interesting piece of local history— I have no emotional stake in it.

We talked around the fringes of what happened and why he had felt compelled to write the book. I said I’d like that case to be retried in a mock trial. How differently would the same evidence be presented and argued today, and would a jury that wasn’t emotionally affected return the same verdicts? We were discussing that when Blaine came by. They knew each other, exchanged a quick hello, and the conversation continued. When a couple approached to say hello to him, Blaine and I slipped away.

Blaine said into my ear. "I enjoy watching you when you're deeply involved in a conversation."

I'm not entirely sure what that looks like. I know I was feeling wired in part because the office party, which must have caused more stress than I realized, was over, and this party wasn't going too badly.

The wired feeling only intensified after we left. "Did you have fun?" I asked in the car.

"I have a hard time thinking of this as a 'fun' party. I enjoyed myself enough. What about you?"

Feeling ornery, I answered, "I had fun looking at you. I checked out everyone--just to be certain, mind you--and you were by far the best dressed and most handsome."

"I'll consider this my lucky suit."

He certainly should.
Read More

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Paul's plan


Minutes after Eve left for the day, Paul showed up in my doorway. I wasn’t surprised to see him--he sometimes drops by to see Eve if he finishes work early and is nearby. “You just missed her,” I told him.

“I know. I was parked across the way waiting for her to leave.”

The last time he did that he wanted to have flowers delivered and needed the correct office address. This time he wanted to talk about a Christmas gift.

A few weeks ago when the four of us were together, Eve and Blaine discovered they each had had the same slot car racing set. Oh, the reminiscing that followed. I had never heard of slot cars and asked if they meant Hot Wheels. I offended both with the question. Apparently slot cars are way better. Faster. Cooler. Authentic.

I had forgotten the conversation as soon as it ended, but Paul has been thinking about it and has decided this would be a good gift for Eve. This is the first Christmas without her mom so it will be tough, even more so because their daughter can’t visit until after Christmas. Paul thinks she would get a kick out of the slot cars and it may help her connect to happy memories.

“I'll buy the set for Eve," Paul said. "And, if you want, you can buy Blaine extra track and cars.” I didn’t completely understand but he went on to say that once Eve no longer wants the set, they'll give it to Blaine for Eli. I suspect Eve won’t tire of it, but there’s no reason Blaine can’t buy a set if he wants, or maybe I will get it for him next year if he gets excited about them. For this year, the two can combine their gifts and race each other until one or the other can declare superiority. That, from what I recall about their conversation weeks ago, is the whole point. Bragging rights. Perhaps updated to include a bottle of Fireball for the winner. Who knows.

So tomorrow Paul will email me the particulars and I’ll order Blaine’s part of it.

I’m still going to get Blaine something else, something more personal, but I’m not sure what yet. Plenty of time! Right?

Read More

Monday, December 10, 2018

Dear Charles

The smaller box of letters.


Saturday’s post is here and explains this one.

Blaine came over for dinner (meatloaf, mashed potatoes and the last package of fresh corn from the freezer). While the meatloaf was baking, I showed him the boxes of letters. I could tell he didn’t understand my interest, never mind my excitement, to have letters from people I don’t know. He did think it was remarkable that this family would have known Mom’s family.

I reached into one of the boxes and pulled out one of the letters, a purely random selection. It was an airmail envelope sent from Charles S. to his mother. Charles was in basic training in Laredo, Texas. His letter, which I read out loud to Blaine, told of how busy he was learning different skills including how to shoot. He wrote, “I was out on the skeet and trap range 3 times this last week. The first 2 times I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a shot gun. Saturday afternoon I got 8 hits out of 25 tries. I guess in another week or so I’ll be able to do a lot better. It sure is fun.”

He wrote that he was including a letter he had received from his friend Harry’s mother. He and Harry had met in basic training and had become good friends quickly. Harry had mentioned Charles in letters home, so Harry’s mom wanted to write to him. “To my son’s pal,” she began. There is an undercurrent of worry in her friendly words. “I have been praying, believe it or not, that you two will stay together and I still am going to do so for I think you must get along very well by the sound of Harry’s letters, which, by the way, is a great enjoyment to us at home.”

She let’s Charles know he will always be welcome to visit, whether Harry is with him or not. Then she writes, “By the way, Charles, I have two daughters that are real pretty too. Will that entice you a little? Harry may have some pictures for you to see.”

That made us both laugh. By end of her letter, Blaine was better able to see the appeal.

There were two clippings included in the envelope that must have been slipped inside years later. One is a notice about Charles’ mother’s funeral. The other reports that Charles has gone missing over Germany. He was a staff sergeant and assistant crew chief gunner on a bomber that disappeared during a mission. Later, they would find out he was a POW. Also in that envelope was a letter Charles was able to write from the camp where he was being held. Subject to censors, he simply wrote: “Dear Mother: Hope this card finds you in the best of health. I want to wish Bill [his brother] a happy birthday. Tell Aunt Neva and Uncle Fran hello for me. I am in good health. The little garden I planted some time ago is growing good. Love to rest of family. Love, Charles.”

What a letter to begin with! Blaine let it sink in for a moment. “How many of these do you have?”

“Not sure. Two boxes. A few hundred maybe.” He looked at me, a small smile there. I smiled, “You’re hooked, aren’t you?”

He shrugged. “I could listen to you read a few more.”

Not tonight though. We ate, cleaned up and agreed if we started in on the letters, neither of us would get to bed. I think we’ll spend a few evenings sorting them. Once they’re in chronological order, we’ll start reading.

I hope he’ll stay interested. It would be great to share this with him.
Read More

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Under the trumpet section


I knew I would fail at Holidailies on the weekends. There isn't time to write and post Friday through Sunday so I cluster post as soon as I can. Tonight I posted Friday's entry. I hope to add Saturday's tomorrow.

As for today, Mica, Sophie and I went to a Christmas cabaret at one of the vineyards. One of the singers is someone Sophie knows from church. She was fantastic, as was the man who sang with her and the keyboardist. It was a mix of Christmas songs and banter, and thoroughly enjoyable.

We shared a table with a woman who was attending alone. She was friendly and lovely, but she asked me if I was retired too. I wish. But more than that, I wish I had skipped the event and gone shopping for a better moisturizer.

Yesterday, a friend gave me two boxes filled with letters and other items that belonged to a man who grew up in the same small town as my mom. From what I can tell, he and Mom were a couple of years apart but would have been in school at the same time and would definitely have known one another. I'll explain all of this in another entry. What happened tonight is I opened one of the boxes and found a school newspaper on top. It's from 1941. Inside is a listing of band members, and Mom's name is listed under the trumpet section. I also found the graduation program from the year she graduated. I have no idea if I'll find anything else related to her or other family members, but I'm going to enjoy going through everything.

The letters will be particularly interesting. They were written during the man's time in the service during WWII. It appears he was a POW in Germany for a time. I doubt those letters will contain insights, but I'm anxious to read them anyway.

I noticed some letters are addressed to him at an address in Colorado. There's no street name or number; instead, it's the name of the place, probably a facility of some kind. They all contain the charming line "c/o Dining Room."

This is the first evening I've been home since Friday. It's getting late and I have not done any laundry, so this is all the further I'm going to get tonight.

Read More

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Christmas market in the country

There was fog this morning that left the trees along the highways frost covered. I took the picture as we were driving out of the city to reach the farm where the winter market was being held.

The temperature was still in the teens when we arrived. I don’t think Eve and Mica were thrilled with the landscape. We parked in a field, waited in a long line to buy a ticket and then were left to wander as we like. The owners had spread hay between buildings to keep the packed snow from becoming too slick to walk on. In places the hay was thick and clumped and could trip you if you weren’t paying attention. I wore snow boots for warmth and was able to walk through it with no problem but Eve had a little trouble with the boots she was wearing.

The vendors were split between different buildings. The website said the buildings were heated, and they were by giant heaters that were about the size of a trash can and looked like jet engines. The heat only dispersed so far, so sometimes it was cold enough for a coat and other times it was too warm. The buildings became too crowded and the only place to sit was in a building with only one heater and lots of gaps in the siding. So, not ideal conditions. Since it was my idea that we three do this, I felt responsible.

I think I mentioned that I have a friend who is a vendor. She and I worked together when we were both just out of college. She has since started her own business and makes a living selling at these events. A month or so ago she posted on Facebook that she had been given an enormous amount of photos, letters and other memorabilia dating back to the 1930s and 1940s. I left a comment about how that would be a dream come true for me. There is little I love more than a collection of letters and photos, especially from that period. Recognizing a kindred spirit in me, she sent an IM and told me more about the collection. It had belonged to a family that had lived in a small town in the corner of the state. That town happened to be where my mom grew up. Learning that, my friend offered to pass to me whatever she didn’t keep. And that’s how I came home with two boxes filled with letters and other bits of history related to the town and the S. family.

It was an S. family member who gave my friend all this stuff. The family had gone through it and pulled out what they wanted. Everything else was going to the trash, only it ended up going to my friend and now to me. I feel better about having it since I know it came from the family. Too often this sort of information is stolen out of houses in the country. I know because I purchased a bunch of stuff off Ebay that had been stolen from an uncle’s house. I paid a premium just to get it back.
Anyway, I would have found the letters and photos interesting regardless of who they belonged to but the fact that this man and my mom crossed paths makes it more interesting. I think he was about five years older than Mom so they may not have been friends but certainly would have known one another. I don’t expect that Mom’s name--or those of her siblings--will appear in the letters, but you never know. I’m certain the story that unfolds will be interesting. Unlike in my family where all the wartime letters are filled with weather reports and whining that there isn’t anything to write about, these people shared information with one another.

I’m trying to leave the boxes alone until after Christmas. I’m taking a week of vacation between Christmas and New Years and will dig into them then. Probably. Blaine is taking that week and the one before off so maybe we’ll do some things together and I won't have time.

Besides those boxes, I bought a stack of publications similar to the Kitchen Klatter magazines I mentioned earlier. These have a different name but are essentially the same thing. The Kitchen Klatter grew out of a radio program aimed at housewives. It’s possible these I just bought did too, only from another radio station. I’ll research that one of these days.

The one thing I really wanted to buy today wasn’t available in the size I needed. It was a kids t-shirt that said “Grandpa and I got into trouble today.” Oh, how I wanted it for Eli. They had sold out of the smaller sizes though.

By the time we arrived home, the little white dog had gone a very long time alone. I let him out to the back yard right away and then we took him to dog park. There was only one small dog there and she wasn’t interested in playing, so I chased the little white dog around for a little while. The sun was setting and it was too cold to stay long.

I ran home and got into an extra steamy shower to warm up before I went to Blaine’s for the rest of the evening. I was so pathetically tired. It was all I could do to stay upright on the couch. The fireplace was on, the icy Diet Coke he poured for me had a smidge of black rum in it, and all the Christmas lights lit an otherwise dark room. It was a lovely end to a long, cold day.

Read More

Friday, December 7, 2018

One holiday party down


On the way to Blaine’s firm’s holiday party, he asked,  “Would you like to go to the Nutcracker tomorrow night? I can still get tickets but they won’t be great seats.”

With his eyes on the road he couldn’t have caught my knee-jerk yeek expression. “If you would like to,” I answered brightly.

He glanced over at me . “I will go for you, but please don’t say yes just because I asked.” I wonder if he was remembering the symphony.

“Then I’m going to decline but with heartfelt thanks for thinking of it and offering.” Every 10 years or so I decide I might like ballet if I gave it another try. I’m not sure when I last attended, but I know this isn’t the year for the next try.

I asked Blaine if he was trying to boost my Christmas spirit. He said he wanted to help if he could. We’re in the sweet spot of a relationship. I know it can’t last but it’s awfully good right now.

The holiday party was nice, certainly extravagant compared to what I’m used to. It was held in the same historic building where we attended the murder mystery but this time we were in a ballroom with a lot of old woodwork, marble and chandeliers. The room and tables were decorated with greenery, clear lights and gold accents.

I met more people than I’ll ever remember. During the cocktail hour I visited with Shelley, Blaine’s assistant, who was attending by herself because her husband is deployed. She’s someone who can talk to anyone, which, as someone who doesn’t have that gift, is my favorite type of person to meet. For the most part I stayed with Blaine.

One slightly awkward moment occurred in the restroom. I was washing my hands, and two women were grousing about work in the way that employees often do. But then one of them mentioned something specific enough that I knew they were grousing about Blaine. I can’t decide if amusement or protectiveness was the stronger feeling just then. I didn’t say anything, of course, but I did compliment the dress one wore with the hope she would notice me and then later notice me with Blaine and have an “uh oh” moment. This is how an introvert orchestrates what passes for a take down.

There was a short program between dinner and dessert. It was the year in review--major accomplishments, a few accolades, a bit about the great things that will occur in 2019--and the distribution of bonuses. I must admit I’m curious about the amount of Blaine’s but also know it would only depress me. I’ve never worked for a place that gave bonuses. I’ve never even received a canned ham.

So, that’s one holiday party down. Two more to go.
Read More

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Making everyone less than happy


Preparations for the office holiday party are progressing but I wouldn’t say it is going smoothly. Committees and strife go hand in hand, never more so than when the charge is related to a social activity. For better or worse Eve and I have taken on most of the work and expense with the hope that it will be festive and fun without too many feeling put upon.

The other day I made the mistake of eating lunch while driving back to my office and I spilled on my coat. I dropped it off at the dry cleaner after work. The woman asked me for my address then asked why I was using this location when there’s one close to where I live. I explained this location is more convenient because of where I work and parking is easier. Out of curiosity she asked where I worked. Apparently there is another location nearer to my office. I said I just liked this location the best. She was OK with that.

Since I was near Mica’s, I stopped by to say hi and take the little white dog for a walk. We discussed the plan for Saturday when she, Eve and I are driving an hour to attend a Christmas market. Someone I worked with in my first job is a vendor. I’m looking forward to seeing her. It’s been 22 years.

I hope Saturday will help Mica get to know Eve better. In a perfect world they would become friends but because their personalities are so different I think the most I can hope is they will become comfortable acquaintances.

Read More

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Squirrel Syndrome


 A few weeks ago I smashed my middle finger between the seat and frame of a chair at a restaurant. Since then I've had a black splotch beneath the nail. It's slowly going away but not fast enough. I complained to Eve about it today and said I was going to get a manicure after work to cover it up. All of the Christmas parties are about to start and the black splotch will not go with any of my outfits. Eve asked if I wanted company. And that's how we ended up at a rather swanky salon on her side of town where they serve you wine if you get a mani-pedi.

I was happy for the pedicure because it meant I could still get my beloved shade--"I'm Not Really a Waitress." It's the wrong shade to wear with red so I chose something else for my fingers ("Vodka and Caviar").

Eve and I discussed the plans for the office holiday party we have somehow become in charge of pulling off. There are others on the committee but they aren't pitching in much. Anyway, we needed to figure out what we still need to buy. We both suffer from Squirrel Syndrome, that thing that happens when your thoughts are suddenly interrupted--like a dog when it sees a squirrel--and you end up covering a dozen different topics before you realize you were supposed to be focusing on something else. After a while the nail person began reminding us where we had left off.

Afterward, we decided to go to the mall. Eve wanted to return something, and I wanted to walk through Bed Bath and Beyond to look for things to add to the Christmas list my brother wants from me. I added a pour guard for my stand mixer. And then I decided to buy myself the food processor attachment (too expensive to ask for). There in front of the giant Kitchen Aid display, Eve told me she had a 20% off coupon I could use. "That would bring the price down to what?"

I didn't respond because--math. She knows I'm hopeless without a calculator, pencil, extra eraser and Google. I waited for her to calculate it out but she just looked at me. "Are you seriously waiting for me to answer that? You know I don't do math."

"It's 20%!"

"Which makes it less than the sale price. That's all I need to know." I looked away from her and saw a guy standing on the end of the display watching us and laughing like we were the Smothers Brothers.

"Of for--" I stopped listening as she broke it down for me. Fortunately, she had a squirrel moment when she spotted a display of mini cast iron skillets.

I don't even know what all we were talking about when we were in the china section but the sales associate, whom I had not noticed, approached us to say she was only following us because our conversation was funny. (This is how we made so many friends on the subway in NYC. I really need to write about that trip.)

Speaking of NYC (squirrel!), Eve thinks we should go to DC next. Or maybe Las Vegas. There was a third idea that I don't remember but it involved letting Paul come along.

We visited other stores, and when we'd had enough and were tired and very hungry, she sent a text to Paul to see if he wanted to meet us for dinner at our usual spot. He replied that he and Blaine were there at the bar. "It was only a matter of time before you'd come this way," he explained when we found them.

And so we had our Friday night gathering on Wednesday. Good thing since Friday is Christmas party 1.

Read More

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

So that's a Christmas tree


The other week I bought a string of battery operated Christmas lights. I put them on a 12-inch “tree”--eucalyptus leaves and pine needles--that someone gave me years ago in an attempt to help me have some kind of seasonal decoration. As much as I love Australia, the eucalyptus doesn’t say Christmas to me so I never opened it. This year I wanted a few Christmas lights and thought this was a good way to incorporate them. It didn’t work out. Too few lights and not enough branches to put them on.

The lights, which are on a timer, happened to come on while Blaine and I were watching TV tonight. “Hey, look at that,” he said. “So that’s a Christmas tree. I wasn’t sure.” I laughed.  He asked, “Are you putting anything else out?” Last weekend I changed to Christmas bedding--red quilt over crisp white sheets--and I changed the hand soap in the bathroom from watermelon scented to “Christmas Spiced Wreath.” I even put out a Christmas hand towel. It may not seem like much but it’s more than I’ve cared to do in years. It’s progress. I did consider putting up the tree but felt a jab of sadness and knew this wasn’t the year.

Blaine’s home looks wonderful. He, Allison (daughter), Ty (son-in-law) and Eli (grandson) put up a tree covered in multi-color lights. Most of the ornaments are ones that that Allison made as a girl. There are mix of other ornaments too, mostly from sets of four. They put garland and flameless candles on the mantle, poinsettias here and there. And outside on the deck there are lights and wreaths. I have not noticed festively scented hand soaps…

I haven’t had a chance to sink into the couch cushions, relax and enjoy all the pretty things but will soon.

I do still love Christmas but it’s a wrenching time of year too. Perhaps I haven’t worked hard enough to put the sadness away. Perhaps that isn’t possible. Perhaps there are ways other than decorations to reopen the place in my heart that is made of tinsel and twinkle lights.

To answer the question he asked, I said, “I think I would rather experience Christmas in other ways this year.”

“How can I help?”

“Can you ice skate?”
Read More

Monday, December 3, 2018

Glad I couldn't dodge the invitation


It was a long day. I woke early thinking about the problems I’m having with the holiday card and decided to go to work early. I beat the snow removal team to the parking lot, and the only person inside was our cleaning person. She was riding the floor polisher up and down the corridors and waved each time she passed my office. Made me smile.

In solving one problem with the card, I created another. When I realized it, I was ready to chuck the mouse into the hallway. Instead I walked across to Eve’s office and asked if she wanted to walk down the block with me. Good sport that she is, she grabbed her coat and followed me out the door.

The air was quite cold and snow flurries fell around us. It felt good to me; Eve’s ankles were cold.

“Do you know what you were doing a year ago today?” I asked, hoping to get her mind off her ankles.

“No. You remember what I was doing a year ago today?”

“I do. You were tricking me into meeting Blaine.”

She clamped her hand over my arm. “Has it been a year? I didn’t trick you!”

“You didn’t tell me he was going to be there, so I didn’t know to dodge the invitation.”

She laughed. “Maybe I did do that.”

Blaine picked me up after work. I had changed from work clothes into date clothes, and since I knew he would still be dressed in a suit, I fancied it up a bit.

The restaurant wasn’t busy. Blaine asked if I wanted the dining room, but I chose the bar. There was a couple seated at the bar and a group of women at a table. I saw that the high top we sat at a year ago was available and thought Why not?

Once our coats were off and we were settled, Blaine slid his hand over mine, curling his fingers to tuck them beneath mine. “I have a question,” he said. “I have a feeling we’re here tonight for a reason.” I laughed. He continued, “Is today the anniversary of when we met?”

I told him it was but that I hadn’t expected him to remember the date. The only reason I did was because I remembered it was the same day as Lainey’s birthday party last year so I was able to look it up. “That was a really good day for me,” I admitted.

“Lainey’s cake was particularly good?”

“Exactly. It changed the course of my entire year.”

“That’s some cake.”

Fortunately the waitress arrived and saved us from ourselves. To mark the occasion as special, Blaine ordered glasses of sparkling wine. We drank them slowly while reminiscing about first impressions and the way all of last December unfolded. We laughed about some of the early days of dating when one or the other was certain they had blown it. We agreed that something shifted while I was on vacation in Chicago and everything felt more secure after. We acknowledged that, for different reasons, we have both benefited from setting a slower pace. And we admitted that slower hasn’t meant less meaningful or intense.

When we finished the wine, we ordered the usual appetizers--beet fries and roasted Brussels sprouts. We talked about a statement the local National Weather Service office issued that said today’s persistent snow flurries were caused by steam from two plants a couple hours north of here. Crazy. I told him I had an idea for a Christmas present for Allison (his daughter). He said she has already told him what she wants but that I should give her what I'm thinking of. I may.

I had to explain to him that when I said, “Can I take you to dinner,” I didn’t also mean “but you can pay.” I finally slipped my credit card to the waitress.

As he put his wallet away, he was reminded of something and reached into the inside pocket of his overcoat. “I’ve been meaning to give this to you.” He slid a shiny new garage door remote toward me. “No reason to get out of the car just to open the door,” he said. “Feel free to come and go as you please.”

“Aww,” I said. “Now we have even more to celebrate next December 3rd.”

He winked.

I’m significantly smitten.
Read More

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Snow, cookies, holiday cards--sounds nice


A snowy day and a houseful of freshly baked Christmas cookies is a bad, bad idea.

I kept a plateful out and put the rest into the freezer where I will leave them alone until they’re needed. Pretty sure I will.

It didn’t snow much, about two inches. I peeked out the window when I first woke and decided there wasn’t any reason to get in a hurry about cleaning the walks so I climbed back into the warm bed. An hour later I heard my next-door neighbor, with whom I share a driveway, starting to shovel. I dressed quickly in my old warm parka, new extra warm snow boots and soft fleece not-going-to-rob-a-convenience-store hood and went out to do my part.

Although I could have followed that up with an indulgent day on the couch watching Christmas movies, I made myself connect the laptop I'd brought home from work to my monitor. I needed to work on the animated holiday card. I had gotten stuck on Friday trying to swap out a background (I'm adapting a template). I figured out how to do that today but haven't found a good substitute. I customized the rest of it. Fingers crossed that tomorrow I'll find a background and a decent music track so I can be done with it.

Blaine came by about noon with a couple slices of fancy pizza from a place near him. He needed to go to the office so only stayed until the pizza and a good number of cookies were gone. He said this should be the last of the extra hours.

“Can I take you out tomorrow night?” I asked. “Appetizers, drinks.”

“I’d like that. Thinking of any place in particular?”

“The bistro.”

“Oh, good idea. We haven’t been there in a while.”

Not sure when we last went but it may have been early spring. I remember it was still cold. I can tell you when we were there the first time: December 3, 2017. It’s when we met.

Read More

Saturday, December 1, 2018


Sophie and I happened to arrive at Mica's at the same time. It was just after 9 a.m. and we were loaded down with shopping bags, some filled with flour, sugar, baking chocolate, pistachios and other items needed to make a long list of Christmas cookies. As I punched in the code to the garage, we joked that Mica was probably still in bed. She isn't a morning person and wasn't all that happy when we said we needed to start so early.

Part of the early start was due to the weather forecast. For the second weekend in a row it was supposed to rain a good part of the day then turn to snow. We wanted to finish before the turnover.

Mica was up but wasn't exactly perky. Sophie and I started mixing the first dough while she yawned in the living room.

It wasn't long before all three of us were in the groove. We mixed six doughs. While they chilled, we went out to lunch. After that it was several hours of baking. Sophie's sugar cookies seemed to quadruple while in the refrigerator. It was the Groundhog Day of cookies.

We finished five kinds -- two types of sugar cookies, shortbread cookies, gingersnaps, thumbprint cookies and cherry pistachio cookies. There's one more that I want to make before the holiday party at work. Mica and I may do that next weekend.

It was starting to snow when I left Mica's. It wasn't sticking so I went ahead and went to Blaine's for just an hour. I've hardly seen him this week. He's been working long hours. Last night we went out with Eve and Paul, and that's the first stretch of time I've had with him.

I didn't stay long. Just left him some cookies and talked for a bit. I was tempted to stay but I have to work tomorrow. If it doesn't snow too much, I'll take the laptop and work at his house.

Cheat Sheet for Holidailies

An explanation of the people you'll meet might be helpful. In this entry we have:

Mica--My best friend for nearly 30 years.

Sophie--Mica and Sophie once worked together and became friends. She has become of friend of mine as well.

Blaine--My boyfriend

Eve and Paul--Eve is my coworker and friend. She and her husband Paul have known Blaine for about as long as I've known Mica. Eve was best friends with Blaine's late wife. It was Eve's matchmaking that brought Blaine and I together.

Read More

Search This Blog

Powered by Blogger.