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Can we just jump to January please? - 2014-11-14
A (don't kick the) Bucket List - 2014-10-28
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2:35 a.m. - 2013-02-15
Cupid and stuff

Hey! Checking in from Schmoopy Town with a Valentine's Day report. Mick said today, "God, we're one of those couples other people hate, you know that?" I nodded, "Yeah, I know. Wanna go neck at Shoprite?" "Not today, let's do it over the weekend so it's even more sickening." "Okay, it's a date."

Honestly, the Me from 20 years ago would want to bang our gooey kissy-face heads together, I swear we're that bad.

For instance on our first Valentine's Day together knowing he doesn't really eat much chocolate and is pretty much set for 'stuff' I made his gift. It's a coffee can covered in glittery wrapping paper and decorated with red and silver fringe and cut-out hearts. I glued a nosegay of silk rosebuds to the lid and filled the can with 'love coupons'. I thought it'd be a one-off gift and he'd cash in the coupons over the next week or so and hog out on things like hugs and back rubs and well, never you mind what else. HA! Mick was so wowed by that dopey thing he decided it will be his Valentine's gift forever. He was so touched I'd made him something! On every Feb 14th he'd pull one coupon and redeem it. That way the gift would last a long, long time. The rest of the year the glittery can would have pride of place in the china closet in his den. Five years later it's still our 'thing' and tonight he ceremoniously pulled his coupon and cashed it on the spot. Here's the kicker, there are at least 30 coupons left and some of the activities are, um, strenuous. Tonight I got the giggles thinking we're going to be in a world of hurt if some of those things don't get pulled out soon. Can you imagine attempting some of the trickier positions from the Kama Sutra when you're in your late 70s? ...I know, right?

ER doc: "Mrs Sage? How exactly did your husband break both his hips and his collarbone at the same time?"
Me: (blushing madly) "He was changing a light bulb in the kitchen ceiling fixture and this maddened kangaroo that escaped from the local zoo burst into our house, knocked him off the stepstool and then started kick-boxing! You know how kangaroos are."
ER doc: "Mrs Sage, leaving the kangaroo aside for the moment I have to ask, does your husband always change light bulbs in the nude?"

Yup, Valentine's Day could get mighty interesting around here in a few years.

As it is we had a fairly sedate but quite lovely holiday. No kangaroos. (At least not until the weekend.) I got up to find a handmade card Mick had done. A funny take on one of our inside jokes. Included in the card was a gift card from Old Navy and strict instructions that the card be redeemed on things for ME only. None of my usual, "Well Wolf needed jeans and I saw this shirt I knew you'd really like and look! Old Navy has doggie collars and doesn't it look great on Princess?" It's true I could use a few things, I've been packing on the weight and am down to one pair of fat jeans and a bunch of shirts I can only wear under long sweaters, they don't come down long enough to hide the muffin top anymore.

At work Mick handed out the wee heart shaped boxes with the chocolates inside to several of his women friends and was flabbergasted by the response. Smiles, hugs, a couple of pecks on the cheek. Many of the women said it would be the ONLY Valentine they'd get today. Married women! My guy was upset for his friends and disgusted with their husbands. Sure, not everybody is as schmoopy as we are, but jeeze. Initially he'd felt a bit awkward when I encouraged him to buy the candy and give it out, but seeing how goddamn thrilled his friends were to get even such a small token of the day he vowed he'd do it every year from now on. Good man, Mick.

Dear Wolf got into the act too and gave me a lovely velvet covered heart-shaped box of peanut butter kisses from Gertrude Hawk chocolates. And a card that made me cry it was so sweet. The card had a couple of detachable magnets that I put on the fridge right away. How cool is it that every morning when I get the milk for my coffee I'll start my day with a magnetic love note from my son? Wolf was outwardly abashed but inwardly pleased with my tears. He loves it when he can make me happy. Mick got a great card from Wolf too. I honestly don't know how this former unholy terror of mine has managed to become such a sweetheart. There were some truly low times in years past when I despaired he'd never get the swing of even the most basic and cursory forms of communication and here he is at 15 flourishing in public school with a place on the B+ Merit Roll and not a single disciplinary black mark on his record. A total sweetie who I can take anywhere these days and not worry a bit he'll go on a rampage busting the place up and/or tell someone to go fuck himself. A miracle. Makes all the tears and fights and weary, weary tilting at the autism windmill totally worth it. Wolf started out behind a much bigger Asperger 8-ball than his father or brother ever had, yet he's left both of them in the dust when it comes to working around his peculiar emotional/mental wiring and doing right by himself and his friends and family. I know Mick has a goodly bit to do with this, not only is he good to Wolf and tries really hard to teach our boy the folkways of manhood and decency, Wolf learns from Mick's example of how he treats me. And how Mick responds to how I do for him. With the ex my best was met with scorn, mockery, indifference, deliberate obtuseness or a smirk of snide amusement, what else was Alex to take away from that but the same? Wolf lives with a man who treats me with courtesy, love, respect and joy and I give Mick and Wolf the same back. It's oddly like a fast hands basketball drill but instead of passing a ball we pass good things. A hug, a thank you, a kind laugh, a helping hand, these go from one to the next to the next, each catching the love and passing it on. Never ever doubt the power of a genuine thank you and a smile.

Speaking of which, we went out to our favorite Italian place tonight. Mick had made reservations a month ago. (Another thing that astonished his friends at work. Mick knew when Valentine's Day was? And was already making plans? In January? Ye gods.) The place is fairly new to the current chef/owner, a nice young man who's put his whole soul into the business. Previously owned by the same family for something like 60 years this out of the way little restaurant had a loyal pack of customers, including Mick and his family. They ate there nearly every Sunday for 25 years. We're as loyal to the new guy as we were to the old guard, there was a brief interlude with some other new owner who didn't understand the business or the customers he'd inherited at all. Lasted 6 months and good riddance to him. This new chef is too much fun. Maybe 32 at most, he's covered in tattoos and has the muscles and scruffy good looks of a welder or stevedore, yet his food is refined and deft and creative. He and his wife are working so hard to regain and retain the custom of the former crowd. So tonight we went and Mick and I shared the Valentine's Day couple's special and Wolf had a pizza. As usual the food was fabulous, unfortunately they were incredibly short-staffed. The chef came out several times and went around the room checking to see how each table was doing and to apologize for the slow service. Two of the scheduled servers had punked out leaving two very harried but still smiling and trying-their-best waitresses to handle a packed dining room. Mick and I assured the chef it was all good. We had a great meal even if it did take a looong time to get each course. We absolutely understood and truly didn't mind. It's not like the servers were standing around ignoring people and scratching their butts. They even had the dishwashers and sous chefs schlepping out food and bussing tables as quickly as possible. To show there were no hard feelings we left the server an enormous tip and made sure to tell the chef we'd be back soon. We will too. This place is exactly the kind of small business it's a pleasure to patronize and support. Mick and I got the willies thinking about all the fools who were lined up at crap places like Applebee's and Olive Garden tonight when with a tiny bit of effort and some knowledge of what real food tasted like they could have sought out Nico's and spent their time and money on a meal that was all kinds of great. And done their bit to help a locally owned and sourced business get ahead.

Enough lecturing. Sorry. I know not everyone has access to independent eateries and that sometimes a corporate-owned place is as good as it gets. I think of my ex-MIL and her sheer delight in going to Chili's or Outback. In her case it was the deprivation brought about by growing up in the boonies of eastern Washington winter wheat country followed by 30 years of feeding a family of 6 on an Army NCO's pay. They never went out to eat when the kids lived at home. Never. Couldn't afford it. So my ex-MIL spent the first decade of her empty nest years eating out anywhere they'd bring her food she didn't have to cook herself nor clean up the table and kitchen afterward. Good on her for branching out but there's just so often one can choke down the swill at the Rainforest Cafe or Red Lobster before you die of boredom.

Look I know I'm not exactly a food snob (hey, I like domestic beer, Cheetos, and buy my meat at Sam's Club), but I am a good cook and as such am very pro toward other good cooks, especially ones willing to put it all on the line to make a go of something as chancy as a restaurant. I like little single-owner restaurants, always have, always will. Perhaps it has something to do with growing up with fabulous Greek diners. Diners are an east coast thing. I was shocked when I lived Away and found out they don't have diners in other time zones. BBQ joints, luncheonettes, and soul food places sometimes, but no diners. No Jewish delis either. I never imagined there could be folks who lived their entire lives without the heaven that is corned beef on rye with brown mustard and 1,000 island dressing. Or for that matter they have no gnocchi or pierogi or calamari and scungilli or spanakopita or borscht.

Gadzooks! Wandered off topic again. My apologies. Maybe I'm more of a foodie than I care to admit I am. In any case I've gone far afield from Valentine's Day.

After our dinner we came back home where Mick presented me with a boughten card, more chocolates (another velvet heart-shaped box filled with deliciousness!) and a new charm for my Pandora. A lovely circlet of enameled pink hearts on a chunky silver bead all engraved with swirls and curlicues. Just for chucks we did the math and realized that slowly but surely the tally for this weighty, pretty bauble of mine has now exceeded the cost of my engagement ring. Doesn't seem terrible at each purchase. A $20 spacer here, a $50 charm there, but boy howdy after five years of special events and extemporaneous purchases it adds up. Yet I love this thing. Not because it's costly, but because each charm has meaning. Markers of the birthdays and holidays and in one case a promise made to take a future trip abroad that had to be put off for present necessity. Every charm has a story, a reason. To be slightly blasphemous, it's a rosary. A very personal rosary I keep on my wrist that reminds me every single day to count my good fortune.

Which I do. But I guess I don't have to tell that to you guys. Seems all I do lately is crow about how good life is for me these days. Must be f-ing boring as all hell. I dig it. Just the other day Wolf and I were talking about why 'news' is almost always bad stuff and I laughed and asked him how long he thought CNN would stay in business if they came on every day and said, "Hi! 99.999% of the world had a pretty decent day today! See you tomorrow." He laughed too. And agreed that news by its definition is change and change often comes because of bad things. Fires, murders, earthquakes, horrible accidents. Pain, illness, death, calamity, these are the shakers-up of the placid norm.

Me? I'm simply grateful for my lack of calamity and upheaval nowadays. Doesn't make for scintillating reading though.


Got candy and jewelry and shared a lot of schmoopy I-love-yous with these good guys of mine. Again. ~LA


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