Happy First Birthday! (Ch. 17)

Ch17_Jack Feb 95

“Hello, Mrs. Westmoreland,” I say.  I stand in the Chinese restaurant dressed in a short-sleeved button up shirt covered by an embroidered velvet vest with my blue jeans, I am sweating not from the ambient temperature, but from nerves.  I force a smile and put my hand to shake Logan’s mother’s hand.

Mrs. Westmoreland, standing barely 5’2” tall and pleasantly plump, hugs me.  Surprised, I hug her back, a bit stiffly.  Before I can greet Logan’s dad, she asks, “Where’s the baby?”

“He’s with my mother.  I thought you’d want to meet me first, over lunch, then we can go meet him,” I explain.  “It’s easier for me to talk, when I don’t have to focus my attention on getting Jack to eat.”

“I’ll feed him!” Mrs. Westmoreland says.  “And please, call me Betty Jo.”

Mr. Westmoreland reaches past his wife to shake my hand.  “Hi Lana.  Call me Bob.  You’d better take this little lady to the baby.  She’ll make your life miserable if you don’t,” he says gravely, but then winks to signal that he was half-joking.

“Uh, well, don’t you want to eat lunch?” I ask.  Food ranks pretty high in my priority list, right up there with sleep.

“We’ll bring it with us,” Betty Jo says.

“We’ll have to bring enough for Mom, Dad, my sister, and Kenny,” I tell her.

“Ok, do you know what they want?” she asks.

Defeated, I turn to ask a waitress if I can borrow a phone, so that I can call Mom to ask what she wants and let her know that we’re coming.

Meet the Westmorelands

Betty Jo rushes into the house as soon as I opened the door.  Mom is there holding Jack, and Betty Jo starts talking to him, “How are you?  You’re a big boy, aren’t you?  Excited about the party?”

I think about introducing Betty Jo to my mother, but figure they’ll meet later.

I walk past them to take the food to the dining room.  As I pull out plates and glasses, Logan introduces his parents to mine.  Kenny runs up to Bob and squeals a happy, “Pawpaw!”

Bob sweeps up the little boy and holds him up high.  “How are you doing, Peanut?”

“I’m not a peanut!” Kenny says with a happy, scolding tone.

“What’s that on your shirt?” Bob says, putting the child down and poking his tummy playfully.

“Doggy-mation!” Kenny says, referring to the 101 Dalmatians on his t-shirt.

Bob had heard Kenny’s cute nickname for the dogs before, so he didn’t miss a beat.  “Do you want to come have baby lobster?”

“Bob, we didn’t get any lobster,” I say.

“Sure we did.  Isn’t that shrimp lo mein?  Shrimp are baby lobsters.  Isn’t that right, Kenny?” Bob says.

I roll my eyes.  “Are you also going to tell him that this broccoli grows up to be trees?”

“He already knows that, and that pineapples grow up to be pine trees.  He told me that one last month,” Bob says with a straight face.

“This is Jodi!” Kenny says, holding up a toy snake and calling it by his mother’s name.  I try really hard not to laugh.

Mom sits down beside me.  Betty Jo is sitting on the floor near Kenny while Jack brings her each of his toys, one by one.  She encourages him by admiring each one with a big, “Thank you!  Oh, this is pretty!  I like how this one crinkles!  OH, and this one is a pretty red car!”

I shake my head.  The way that she was encouraging the boy, Betty Jo would have a friend for life.  Jack brings her a pair of socks and she offers to put them on his feet.

I laugh and walk over to show her that the socks actually go on his ears.  “He’s a doggie!” I tell her.  “Ruff, ruff!”  The boys giggle.  With one yellow and one blue “ear,” the puppy looks pretty silly.

“Well, that’s one way to break the ice,” Logan says quietly beside me, sliding his arms around my waist and kissing my cheek.

“They like you.”

“They don’t know I exist!  They’re all about the boys!” I say, and realize that I’m okay with that.  “I really like your parents.  They’re nice.”

Mom walks up to us and says, “Logan, your son is sneaky!  Right before you got here, I sat down on the couch and heard a crinkling sound.  I looked under the cushion and found empty candy wrappers.  When I was busy with Jack (changing his diaper or fixing his bottle or whatever), Kenny would sneak into the dining room, climb up on a chair, take one piece of candy from the bowl on the table, eat it, and hide the wrappers.  He’s only allowed one piece of candy before lunch, and he knows that if I saw the wrappers in the trash, that he’d be busted.”

I try not to giggle.  Really!  “The thought of little itty bitty Kenny being a criminal mastermind…sneaking into the dining room…too small to reach the candy bowl!”  By this time I am laughing hysterically.

Ch17_Lana_Kenny_upsidedown_BW

Lana and Kenny, 1996  (Jack’s 2nd bday party)

 

Bob walks up to the other side of us and asks, “How did you two meet?”

Logan tenses, but I am prepared for this one, “Darrell introduced us on a blind date.  Mom and Dad met on a blind date; they were set up by her brother.  Grandma and Grandpa met on a blind date; she was a nurse and he was in the Navy.  So I always thought that I would meet someone special the same way.”

Logan kisses my cheek again.  “Darrell’s a good friend.  He’s a dumbass sometimes, but he’s a good friend.”

Bob says, “You have to look hard to find a good friend, but it’s easy to find a dumbass.”

Yep, I like Logan’s parents, alright: they’re smart and funny.  I wouldn’t mind being related to them; maybe one day…

********

“How I Met Your Father is wrapping up; there are only 20 chapters, so only 3 more to go!  If  you’re new to my site and you want to read Chapter 1, click here.  For the next chapter, click here.

Friends, I have some really awesome news to share, but I want to wait until I have all the facts.  Hope to share next week.  I’m so excited!!

Cheers!

Jules

How To Prepare For A First Date in Glasgow (one for the guys)

This! Sounds really simple, right? Guys, up your game!
Cheers,
Jules

Usually I recommend just going with the flow, but for many, preparation is everything. As I walked into the office the other day I saw an array of new women’s magazines neatly spread across the reception coffee table. As I looked a little closer at the usual celebrity faces gracing the covers, I noticed how incredibly similar most of the undercard articles were:’what not to wear on a first date,’ ‘5 ways to impress your new man,’ ‘5 talking points to avoid on a first date.’ So I thought to myself let’s do one for the guys, but let’s keep it really simple and focus on three key areas: before, during and after.

Before:

I always say don’t overthink dates, your lifetime’s happiness believe it or not isn’t dependant on the outcome of this one simple evening ahead. At the end of the day it’s a drink, a coffee, a…

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Valentine’s Day (HIMYF Ch 16)

Ch16_3-red-roses.jpg

Three roses sit in a vase on the table.  It’s Valentine’s Day, so I expected more.

“Three?  Um, you were too cheap to get the whole dozen?” I ask with a nervous laugh.

Logan struggles to hide a smile.  “Can you get the water jug out of the fridge?”

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If you haven’t read the rest of How I Met Your Father, you may want to start with Chapter 1.

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“Why are you answering a question with a question?” I question.

“Just—get the water.  Please?  You’ll be glad you did.”  He looks at my stubborn, unmoving face and adds, “And you might find the answer to your question.”

I huff and stomp into the kitchen, which was hard to do in a heels and dress, yanking open the fridge door with more force than necessary.  Inside, in a glass of water, are three more roses.  Thrusting them at Logan, I say, “Only 6 roses?!  You still have some ‘plaining to do!”

Logan puts his hands on his hips and says, “Can’t you be patient?”

I roll my eyes.  “Have you MET me?!  Patience is not my strongest virtue.”

“Fine,” Logan says with a sigh.  “Go in to the bedroom.”

It’s my turn to put my hands on my hips and give him a look.

He puts his hands up and promises, “I’ll stay here, I’m not going to jump you before dinner.”

Giving him a warning glance, I go to the bedroom, just a short walk down the hall.  There on the bed are five roses, which I pick up.  The 6th was obviously sacrificed for the petals, which are scattered over the comforter.  Marching back in the dining, I put the five roses with the other six in the vase on the table.  “There, that looks much better,” I say.  Looking at my date, I add, “Thank you, Logan, for the dozen roses.”

He laughs, opening the wine.

“Oh, is that for me?” I ask innocently.  I pick up the paper napkin, which he has twisted into the shape of a rose.

“Yes.  You told me that Chianti is the wine to drink with pasta.  Is this brand ok?  It’s the only one with a basket woven around it, which is the one you said was good,” Logan said.

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My cheeks flush from guilt.  I had told him that after a date had taken me to a fancy Italian restaurant the prior year.  “Looks right to me,” I say.  “You are sweet to remember.  I love that you listen to me that closely.”

He smiles and I am dazzled.  Has he always been so handsome?  His feathered black hair, his sparkling dark eyes, his bright smile…and tonight he wore a black silk shirt with dress pants.

“Dress pants?  You don’t even wear those to work!” I exclaim.

“Tonight is a special occasion,” he tells me with an intimate smile, “You’re here.”

“Awwww, thank you!” I say, and we gaze into each other eyes.

The timer buzzes and we jump.  “Smells delicious!” I say.

“These are homemade calzones.  They’re super easy to make: frozen bread dough, Ragu spaghetti sauce, cheese, pepperoni, and sausage.  Throw ‘em together and bake ‘em,” he say.

“I’m glad that you like to cook.  I prefer not to,” I say.

“I’ll cook for you anytime,” he says with a smile.  “Ow!  I burned myself!  Guess I better attention to what I’m doing, instead of staring at you.  You look gorgeous, by the way.”

I smile back at him.  “Thanks.  That’s the third time you’ve told me tonight.”  I had found the little black dress on sale at Ross Dress for Less for $35, which was about a full day’s cashier pay for me, and had splurged.  The plain black heels were from Payless Shoe Store; I had owned them for years.  I was glad that I was still able to look good despite my limited, single-mom budget.

Logan sits the full plates on the table and we eat.

“Jack is turning one in a couple of days.  Mom’s going to make a cake next weekend and you’re invited to come over for some,” I say.  Then I feel foolish; I’m here on a romantic date, eating by candlelight and sipping wine, and I bring up my son’s first birthday.

Logan doesn’t seem to mind.  “Do you mind if my parents come?  They’ve been wanting to meet you.”

I almost choke on my calzone.  I cough, beat my chest with my fist, and then manage to swallow.  I gulp some wine then say, “What?”

“I’ve known your parents for a while, since they live locally.  Since you’ve become such a big part of my life, my parents would like to meet you.  They live just 4 hours away, in Houston, so I see them about once a month: either they come here or Kenny and I go there.  Except, this past year…” he says, and I know that he’s trying to avoid talking about his divorce.  “I haven’t seen them much.  So, they want to come up next weekend.”

“Um, sure?  Let’s do lunch or something; they don’t need to meet Jack and Mom and Dad all at the same time,” I say.  “That would be a lot for anyone!”

“Ok, I’ll call them tomorrow and set it up,” he says.  We are done eating, and he takes the plates to the kitchen.

I’m nervous as hell.  Why are my armpits sweating so much?  I poke out my elbows a little to air them out, hoping he won’t notice.

Logan clears his throat.  “I’ve written a song for you.  It’s…uh…nothing fancy, just…uh…well, let me play it for you,” he stutters.  His hands are shaking as he puts his electric keyboard on the table, plugs it in, and stretches out his fingers.  He hits the keys and sings, hitting a wrong note; he makes a pained expression.  “Sorry.”  He starts again.

He’s so nervous!  It’s freaking adorable!  He plays slowly and messes up a few more times, but he just makes the pained face and keeps going; it’s actually painful to witness.  It’s terrible.  I love it though; I love that he wrote it just for me, and I love that he’s playing it for me.

After he’s done, I walk around the table and kiss him.  “Thank you,” I whisper.  A few more kisses, and he quits shaking.

 

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For the next chapter, click here.

Don’t Speak to the Norms That Way

 

Austin_2013.jpg

“You can’t talk to the Norms that way,” Samuel tells me.

We stand on a bridge overlooking the lake, gazing at the Austin, Texas, skyline.  “She asked,” I tell him honestly.

The lady had, indeed, asked a question and I had simply answered.  The exchange went something like this:

The Lady says, “I wonder what kind of fish those are.  Do you think they’re catfish or cod?”

I answer, “Cod, because of the position of the lateral fins.  Catfish are bottom dwellers, so their fins are parallel to their stomachs and the ground, while cod have lateral fins that are perpendicular to facilitate moving through the water.  Of course, that’s just what I can observe from here; I’d have to see their mouths to be sure.  Catfish have a sucker mouth which is on the same plane as their stomach, while cod have mouths which are pointed out.  Catfish have the whiskers, too, which earned them their names, of course.”

The lady’s mouth hangs open slightly as she listens to this deluge of information.  “Ok, thanks,” she mumbles, and continues down the path.

Samuel calls out to her, “Sorry, she’s an engineer!”  That’s when he delivers the edict, “You can’t talk to the norms like that.”

“But she asked!” I say with a pout.  “And I thought you liked it when I talked nerdy.”

“I do,” he says, taking my hand and leading me away from the mystery fish (which was almost certainly a cod).  “But normal people don’t understand.  How did you learn so much about fish, anyway?”

“Huh, I don’t know.  My dad and my ex-husband love to fish, and my ex had a 300-gallon aquarium full of fish.  So I guess I picked up a few things,” I say, shrugging.

Samuel shakes his head and repeats, “You just can’t speak that way to the Norms.”

“I guess that’s why I like hanging out with you, Nerd!” I tell him, and stick out my tongue.

He smiles and says, “Yep, that’s it!”

Cheers!

This has been a throwback to 2013.  If you’re wondering why I’m not still dating Samuel, read, “Romantic Vacations.”  I’ll be back on Monday with another chapter of HIMYF: Chapter 16 ~ Valentine’s Day.  Have a great night!

austin_skyline.jpg

 

 

The Date Started So Well (TBT)

 

“Passivity,” I say, because to me the answer is as obvious as the nose on his face.

His very handsome face looks expressionless.  Even blank, he is soooo hot!  “What?” Ethan Elderberry asks.

Ok, so ignorance isn’t very sexy.  Let’s back up a few minutes, so that you can see how not ignorant this man is.

“My design company has this challenge,” Ethan tells me.  Ya, he owns an engineering design firm; now that’s sexy.  “We’re testing the Canadian arm—you know, the large robotic arm, like the one on the space shuttle?—we test it in a swimming pool to imitate weightlessness.  But it keeps rusting.  We can’t figure it out; it’s made of stainless steel, which typically doesn’t rust.”

Sounds pretty smart, right?  But this is where I bust out with, “Passivity.  Stainless steel works because the chrome in the steel reacts with the oxygen in the air, and the resulting molecules are large enough to close up any cracks and stop rust propagation.  However, you have the stainless steel in a swimming pool, where there is no (or very little) oxygen, so instead the chlorine in the water attacks the steel, causing it to rust.  You need to coat it with a thick paint, or switch to a steel that is chlorine-resistant.”  I’m not sure if there is a chlorine-resistant steel, but he is staring at me, so I may be babbling.

Ethan looks at me like he might kiss me.  “You just solved my greatest engineering challenge.  Engineers at my firm have been working on this for weeks and haven’t been able to figure this out.  Thank you,” he says, then laughs.  “I would have bought you a nice steak and ordered champagne if I had known that you could solve this problem!”  He looks so happy, that I beam back at him in return.

I gesture to the tacos on my plate and look around at the patio where we sit.  “I love the tacos, and I love the patio seating.  It’s such a beautiful day!  I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now,” I say, then blush, smiling up at his soft brown eyes.  Did I mention how handsome this man is?  Strong chin, high cheekbones, great hair…

“Want to go for a walk?  My place is just up the road.  We can leave your car here,” he says.

“Sure,” I say.  “I love that this isn’t a typical, dinner-and-a-movie date.  This place is beautiful—the trees surround us, like we’re not even in the city!  I may be repeating myself, but I love Austin.”

“So do I!  This is the Balcones trail.  I like to take my mountain bike out on it, but you walk it, too—just get out of the way when you hear a cyclist coming.  Here’s my townhouse,” Ethan said, walking up on a wooden deck and unlocking the back door.

I’m not sure what to expect.  It’s early afternoon, about 1 p.m., so he can’t expect us to have sex.  Or could he?  Usually that’s an evening, after-a-glass-of-wine sort of thing.  AND this is a first date, so sex would be presumptuous.  But then, we’re at his house, so…

“This is my living room,” he says, gesturing around a nice-sized room.  The brown leather couches look more comfortable than stylish, which screams, “A bachelor lives here!  No woman helped pick out this furniture; it’s too ugly!  (But very comfy.)”

“Great painting,” I say, not really meaning it.  It is impressionist; I prefer realist.  It looks like someone used the canvas to clean her paint brush, after dipping it in bright red, green, and blue paint.

“I found that in a boutique in New Mexico,” he tells me.  “It really spoke to me.  Anyway, there’s the kitchen, and here’s the bar…Let’s go upstairs, so I can show you the view.”

Uh oh.  Upstairs.  I bet his bedroom is up there.  What is this man thinking?  It’s a first date, in the middle of the day…why are we here?!  I obediently follow him up the stairs.  “Oh!  There’s an aquarium set into the wall!”

“Like it?  I saw one at a club, and thought it was cool, and had this one built in,” he tells me.

I smile in response.  I hate it; it reminds me of my ex-husband, who had a 300-gallon aquarium.  “Very pretty,” I say.

“There’s my view,” he says proudly, stepping out onto a wooden balcony.

I avoid heights.  I’m not, like, scared of them or anything.  I just get…well, kinda anxious when I look down and it’s further than, say, three feet to the ground.  My mom liked to say that she wasn’t scared of heights, she was scared of falling.

But I also don’t like to flaunt my hang ups on a first date; let him get to know me a little before I give him a list of things that I don’t like: bungie jumping, sky diving, roller coasters, and boats.  Don’t even ASK me to go on the Cliffhanger at Six Flags*.  Shudder.

Anyhow, I looked over the wooden rail of the balcony at the beautiful trees, the nature trail, and down to the wooden deck below me where we had come in.  Before I could think, my mouth was talking.  “You could throw things on someone down there.  Say you had a party; you could throw water balloons on someone.”

His brow furrowed, like a disapproving father.  “Why would I throw water balloons on my guests?  On my friends?

OhmyGod why did I just say that?!  Have I been spending too much time with my kids?  Did I just see the episode of Seinfeld where Jerry and Elaine are throwing things off the roof?  Or have I played too much D&D, so that I think of high ground as a tactical advantage?

Quick, recover!  “Um, or, like, confetti.  You know, for fun,” I said lamely.

“Let me walk you back to your car,” Ethan Elderberry said coldly, unimpressed.

And that was the end of the date.  I had impressed him with my engineering knowledge (which had been learned the week before in class), then turned him off with my impulse to bombard people with objects from the second story.

*******

My date with Ethan was in 2006.  I told my coworker, Animal, about it today, because we were discussing rust.  His name isn’t really Animal, but he reminds me of Animal from the Muppets.  He often opens his mouth and waves his arms around while making noises, just to be funny when he expresses frustration.  It’s more socially acceptable than screaming.  Animal the Muppet has wild red hair and fur all over his body.  Animal the Coworker is bald.

Animal says, “Eh, you don’t want to date someone who can’t have fun.”

“Ya.  I bet anyone in this building would throw things off the 2nd story balcony with me,” I say, referring to my fun-loving coworkers.

He nods.  “And then we’d help you design a catapult to throw things better.”

“So what if he’s handsome, rich, successful, in incredibly good mountain-biker shape?  If he doesn’t want to throw water balloons off the balcony with me, we’re never going to get along,” I say.  “Wait, have you thrown things off the roof here before?  You came up with that catapult comment awfully fast.”

Animal smiled his big, Animal smile.

I smile back.  Anyone wanna throw things off the roof with me and Animal?

Cheers!

*That’s just a sample of my hang ups, not the complete list.  I also avoid scuba diving, skiing, snow skiing, swimming in public (I don’t like to be splashed in the face), cruises (remind me to tell you about the Honeymoon from Hell sometime), horseback riding (see previous comment), etc.  I’m not as neurotic as Sheldon Cooper; at least, I don’t think so.  Sally, hush; I can hear you wanting to say something from here!

I won’t run from a spider or a cockroach, that’s for sure!  Now, a cockroach riding a horse which is swimming across a lake and occasionally scuba diving…well, I’d let him do his thing.

Talking to Yourself is a Sign of Genius

 

“Five or six dollars…sometimes ten or eleven.  Five or six dollars…”  I mumbled as I fixed myself a cup of tea in the break room at work today.

“Are you talking to yourself?” a coworker asked.

I hadn’t heard him come up, so I tried to play it cool.  “Yes, I was.  I was explaining to myself that if I go out to eat, I’ll spend five or six dollars, while if I eat the can of tuna that I brought from home, I’ll save five or six dollars.  I’m arguing with myself over it.”

He nodded.  “I have that argument with myself often.  I usually lose, and end up going out to eat.”

Shocked that we were having a casual conversation about arguing with ourselves—without anyone questioning our sanity—I continued to play it cool.  “Today, I get my way, and I’m eating at my desk.  I’m saving five or six dollars,” I said resolutely.

“Good for you!” he said supportively.

I wonder if non-engineers at non-engineering companies have such casual conversations about mumbled dialogue.  What do normal people talk about?

If I had been out in public, I would have tried to pass it off as singing to myself; I’m surprised how often that one works.  “I’m trying to remember the words.  Do you know how it goes?  That Pink Floyd song about money?”  If you pick an obscure enough song, the other person will demure politely and walk away.  It’s more often the case that the other person will either know the tune, or will pick it up as an earworm and insist on pulling up YouTube on his phone to look it up.  “Here it is!”  he’ll say, and we’ll lean into his phone intently to listen to the words.

Which makes me want to say, “Thanks for that, but I was really just talking to myself.  But now for the rest of the day I’ll be singing, MONEY!”

One day at work I saw something disgustingly cute that Lilly and Lucas had shared on Facebook.  I think it was their first anniversary pictures—I can’t believe they’re already celebrating an anniversary!  Anyway, I was a little grossed out by how sickeningly in love they are, so I mumbled to myself, “Great.  Just another reminder that I am alone and celibate.”

My coworker down the hall coughed.  I’m pretty sure that he was getting a cold; at least, that’s what I told myself.  I sincerely hope that he didn’t hear me declaring that I was celibate.  Ya, he definitely was getting sick.

Einstein used to talk to himself.  An internet meme declares, “Of course I talk to myself; sometimes I need expert advice.”

Eh, maybe I’m a genius, or maybe I’ll one cat away from being a crazy cat lady.  Which reminds me, I need to call Lilly.  I should write myself a note.  Nah, I’ll just tell myself later.

Cheers!

P.S.  I have a fun story for Throwback Thursday, so tune in tomorrow!