Sunday, February 17, 2019

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Brain-dump draft

It’s a Valentine’s prep day. I’m baking a double batch of snickerdoodles for Blaine and working on his card. I didn't find a card I liked so I bought a blank one. I thought it would be nicer to write something myself. It isn't a large card and so far I have two handwritten pages. No need to panic, I'm telling myself. This is a brain-dump draft. I have time to cut and refine it.

This morning I helped Paul make arrangements with Eve’s boss so she can leave early on Thursday. He made dinner reservations at a swanky restaurant that’s an hour away, but the only time available was rather early birdish. They’ll have to leave by 5:00, and Eve will need time to go home and change. He's trying to keep this a surprise. His plan involves calling her at the last minute to tell her he can't make it home at noon to let Izzy out so she'll have to go home early. I'm not sure making her mad is the best way to go into a nice surprise but he knows her best. My job is to make sure she leaves early like she's supposed to.

He let it be known that this is Blaine’s fault. “He made trouble for all of us when he came up with that thing you’re doing,” Paul groused but with good humor.

This is the first time Valentine's Day has been fun. Who knew it was possible?

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Monday, February 11, 2019


Mica went out to dinner with her brother, sister-in-law and Greg.

“Ooh, is it serious? Is this the one? What’s next?” I fired at her when she told me and asked if I’d come by and walk and feed the little white dog.

“Shut up,” she laughed.

“Are you in love? When do you think you’ll take the next step?”

“They will not ask any of that,” she said as if willing it to be true.

“I’m going to text them so they do.” It’s time she gets a taste of the uncomfortable drilling that comes with dating someone.

This isn’t a meet-the-family dinner. It just worked out that all three asked her to dinner at about the same time, and her solution was to go out as a group. Silly girl.

The little white dog and I took a long walk and I fed him. He’s on a special diet that is only available in canned food so his meal times are more restricted than they were when he could graze his dry food at will all day. After a romp outside, he curled up against me. I know it's because he was cold but I pretended it was because he liked being near me like in the old days when it was OK that he was attached to me.
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Saturday, February 9, 2019

High praise

Allison goes to the gym early on Saturdays. She invited me to meet her for coffee after. As much as I hated to leave the warm bed before 7:00, it was good for me to get going.

A friend of Allison's stopped by the table to say hello. Allison asked her to sit and tell me about an issue she’s having with her dog. “Oh, no,” her friend said, eyes going big. “That isn’t…” she shook her head.

Allison knew what she was getting at and waved her hand in the air. “It’s OK, Marcia’s as inappropriate as the rest of us.”

I took it as high praise.

It’s easy to hang out with Allison. I’m still finding my footing, though.

My brother told me the other day that Blaine was welcome to have dinner with us tonight. I don’t remember if I ever wrote about Blaine going with me to Olivia’s birthday party a few weeks ago. It was a smaller than usual gathering, and Blaine, my brother and Cody ended up alone in the dining room talking for a long time. I was there for a bit but not all of it. By all reports, they had a good conversation.

So tonight the three of us went to dinner and back to my brother’s for the gifts and cake portion. The only unfortunate part of the evening was when I asked my brother if he had found a photo I’ve been looking for of Mom and Aunt Liv laughing. I’d like to print it but can’t locate the file. I only meant it to be a reminder, but it turned into  let’s-show-Blaine-family-pictures. He’s a good sport. I watched the clock and cut it off after a reasonable amount of time.
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Friday, February 8, 2019

That'll do

It was a beautiful, balmy afternoon to be about and about, no?

Lunch with Susannah went well. It has been so long since the three of us have talked, we had a lot to catch up on. Susannah took control to ensure we covered as much ground as possible in an hour. Once she and Eve reported on developments in their lives, Susannah gave me one of her sidelong stink eyes. “Should I even bother asking you about Blaine?”

I had prepared for this. I gave a full report, everything she has always wanted me to cover, most of which I’ve never said out loud to anyone but Mica (and Blaine). Even Eve has never heard it from me.

Susannah set her fork down rather dramatically, placed one hand over her heart and extended the other to high five Eve across the table. “Finally,” she said to Eve.

After lunch I went to the antique mall. I found an old roadmap that I thought my brother would like. After a few more stops, I added a book of historical photographs and a gift card to what I had already gotten for him. Not my best effort, but I felt better about it.

I drove across town to meet Eve, Paul and Blaine for after-work drinks.

“Well, hello.” Blaine greeted me when I found them at a hightop in our usual corner of our usual place. He stood and helped me out of my coat.

Eve gave Paul a light slap on the arm with the back of her hand. “I remember when you used to do that sort of thing for me.”

“I still do,” he said patiently.

“You do, that’s true.” She patted the spot she had just swiped. “Doesn’t count as much if no one is around to notice,” she added.

He rolled his eyes, then smiled.

Blaine said to me, “I hardly saw you this week.”

“I noticed that. We’re going to have to do better.”

“You know what you can do to fix that for good, Blaine,” Eve said in the tone she uses when she’s ribbing him.

“And what is that, Eve?” He leveled one of his patient stares at her.

Her mouth turned up ever so slightly at the corners. Then his did too.

I drew in a breath and caught Paul’s eye. “This is going to be one of those nights, isn't it.” He laughed. Under the table, Eve grabbed my knee and give it a tight squeeze.

“That’ll do, Pauline,” I said softly to her.

Pauline is our shorthand for a guardian angel. If I ever get around to writing about our trip to New York, I’ll tell the story.

Paul crossed his arms. “Well, we’re nearly finished paying off coaches and athletic directors,” he stated, starting a more comfortable thread of conversation.

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Thursday, February 7, 2019

With reluctance

Something is going on with Susannah. She barely speaks to me or Eve these days. She did agree to let us take her out to lunch tomorrow to celebrate her birthday but it was with reluctance. The three of us have always been a team so I hate this. We'll see how tomorrow goes.

Henry called this afternoon and talked for an hour. His reason for calling was to tell me the Spanish translation is still stalled. Later in the call he told me I'd gotten him in trouble with Julia because of the Valentine's Day package Blaine booked for us. She told Henry she thought that's the sort of thing that wouldn't be too complicated for him to accomplish. I laughed. While we talked, I looked up the website and emailed the link to him. "Oh, thanks," he said insincerely when he saw it.

Before I left work I called my friend and former coworker, Peggy, to arrange a time to get together this weekend and exchange Christmas gifts. Between illnesses, bad weather and pre-existing plans, we haven't gotten together. We're going to go out to dinner Sunday night.

I went to Mica's tonight to see the little white dog. She's taking care of Chloe overnight so I got to play with her too. I stayed until Greg came by with supper for the two of them.

On the way home, I called Blaine. Filled him in on everything. We discovered we had made overlapping plans. Steve and Jan invited us out Sunday night, and he said sure. It would have worked fine any other weekend. I cannot cancel my plans with Peggy, so he's going to reschedule with Steve and Jan. We're going to have to get better and this sort of thing.

As for the daily weather report: Still bitter cold but other than inconsequential freezing rain this morning, it was a decent enough day. It's much better to have cold than slick streets.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Power browsing

My brother’s birthday is Saturday. With sleet and snow forecasted for the next two days, today at noon seemed like the best time to start shopping.

I picked up two of the three things he asked for (Amazon Prime will have to help with the last item), and I ordered a cake online. What’s left is to think of a couple of things he didn’t ask for but might like. I have no ideas. My best bet will be a visit to an antique store or two. I requested Friday afternoon off with the hope one afternoon of power browsing will work out.

While shopping today I checked out the Valentine’s Day cards, something I haven’t done in a good 15 years. The assortment has dwindled. There were fewer than a dozen geared toward men who aren’t husbands. All of those lacked humor or subtlety.

I don’t want a funny one (not that any deserved that label) because there is a sentiment I want to convey. I read those categorized under “Special Someone” and “New Relationship.” The latter came closest to what I’m looking for, but they either didn’t say quite enough or went way off the gush-o-meter. And all of them were ugly. If there’s time on Friday, I’ll check one or two other places.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2019


I left work on time tonight because I need a breather. It was snowing, a light fall of fluffy flakes. It would have been pretty but it's single-digit cold again. On Sunday it was 60 degrees so the unpleasantness is magnified. This Polar Vortex they’re yapping about should be named Bipolar Vortex given how up and down the temperatures are. 
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Monday, February 4, 2019

Super dull

I’ve been working a lot and not much else. I tried to redesign our entire website in a week so I could activate the new template that we’ve been instructed to use. I thought I had until May to do this. Turns out they wanted the template in use by the end of January. I asked to have until today because while a lot of the existing pages will display OK inside the new template, a few significant ones won’t.

Blaine looked after me last week. He came by after work every night and made dinner, timing it so it would be ready about the time I made it home. Since I’m not much of a grocery shopper, he had to do that too.

One eats well when Blaine is in the kitchen. We had a baked pork chops and rice dish that he likes a lot, chicken and dumplings (one of my favorites), and one night he made breakfast for dinner--pecan pancakes, bacon and scrambled eggs. It isn’t a horrible thing to walk into a house that smells of cooking bacon. It isn’t horrible to walk into the kitchen and find Blaine standing there, jacket and tie off, dress shirt unbuttoned at the neck and the sleeves rolled up, the double oven mitt slung over a shoulder like a saddle bag.

He kept me company most evenings. While I worked, he read or watched sports with the sound muted. I told him he didn’t have to stay but was glad when he did anyway. When I’m stressed, I find comfort in having another heartbeat nearby.

I didn’t work at all yesterday so I could help get things ready for the Super Bowl party we decided to host for the usuals and a few others, including Henry and Julia and Blaine’s next-door neighbors, whom I had never seen before. We invited Sophie (had plans to watch at her sister's) and Mica (hates football and declined) and my brother (had to work) as well.

Everyone came for at least a little while. Jan and Steve had another party to make an appearance at and Maggie and Terry left early because Terry had a medical procedure done last week and was supposed to take it easy. He’s doing fine, just needs a few days to get his strength back. The neighbors left at halftime.

Before people arrived, I mentioned, perhaps declared, that I planned to join Blaine on the couch to watch at least a quarter of the game. Sometimes the group splits into women and men, and I hate that.

As halftime ended, Blaine came in and grabbed a couple bottles of beer from the refrigerator. I was there chatting with Eve, Julia and Kim. On his way past us, he stopped and put his arm around me. Near my ear but loud enough for the others to hear, he said, “I’ll need you in there for the fourth quarter.” He handed me the second bottle, and as he walked away he gave me a wink.

“Has he always been a winker?” Kim asked as if she was trying to remember.

We all looked at Eve, the resident expert on Blaine et al. “I don’t remember it.”

Huh. I assumed it was a Blain-ism, along with the long, steady stares he gives, and the way he claps his hands once to mean that’s settled. I don’t hate that the winking might be something he started with me.

“It’s charming,” Kim said. It is, I thought. Kim asked, “Are you two planning anything for Valentine’s Day?”

I told them where we were having dinner but left out the hotel part.

Kim brightened, “Oh, the one-night package? We did that a couple of years ago. It was very romantic.”

Julia laughed. “Is Valentine’s Day supposed to be romantic? Henry will probably insist we take the dog for a walk in time to see the sunset.”

“Paul won’t remember until Caitlin calls to wish him a happy Valentine’s Day, then he’ll open a bottle of wine for us and toddle off to bed by 9:00.”

Kim told Eve to toddle off with him. There was enough laughter that we attracted attention. From the couches, John’s raised voice said, “What are you three hatching in there?”

“How many of us are in trouble?” Henry asked.

I was taking everything in, as I often do when I’m among these couples. I never saw my mom and dad interact as a couple so I don’t have a frame of reference for long-term relationships. My favorite aunt was widowed before I was born. She remarried when I was in junior high and through that marriage I glimpsed what a loving relationship looked like. I’ve called upon those memories quite a few times over the last year. Strange as it is, observance is the way I learned to figure things out since I’ve learned most things through trial and error.

Eve interrupted my processing. “Are you staying at the hotel?”

Uncomfortably, I nodded. I find it awkward to talk to Eve about Blaine and me as a couple. I worry that at some point she’s going to regret having introduced me to him. I worry she’s going to realize there’s someone else in her best friend’s place and it’s going to hit her hard. I worry about it with Allison too, although she seems OK and Blaine insists she is.

Eve set her glass on the counter and engulfed me in a hug. She gives huge, tight hugs that aren’t finished until she decides they’re finished. “Good.” She picked up her glass, and our little group broke up. One final stop at the food, and we rejoined the football watching.

In the end we all agreed the highlight of this Super Bowl was the company.
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