Why I Didn’t Have Time to Write This Post

I wish I had been more organized this week, so I could have written a post.

This week just kind of slipped away from me, and every night I would remind myself that I needed to at least start on this week’s blog post. But something always came up…a Zoom meeting, a frantic trip to get Valentines (No! It can’t be February 10 already!!!), a phone call…Each night I would say, Well, TOMORROW then.

Then last night—which was Thursday night—I did have a Zoom meeting at 7:00, but I said to myself I would take the hour before and just sit down and write, already. I was thinking of writing about the snowfall and the kitchen project…somehow trying to connect how the covering of snow transformed the world outside (in good and bad ways) and how the layering of paint Jim the painter applied transformed the kitchen (in all good ways, as far as I can see.)

I was playing with those metaphoric analogies in my mind when Mark came and found me.

“If we leave RIGHT NOW,” he said, excited, “we can get the leftover vaccines from today’s clinic.”

I’ll write later, I thought. I ran upstairs and threw on a short-sleeved shirt for easy shot access, and when I got downstairs, Mark had the car warmed and ready. I hopped in, and we drove to the Health Department, about seven minutes away, and those blessed heroes were waiting for us. Kathy and Tara gave us our shots, and then they kept us company for the 15 minutes we had to wait. I felt awful that we were keeping them late. (“No worries,” said Tara. “I’m just going to sleep in tomorrow!” I think that meant she’d stroll into work at the ripe old hour of 8:30 a.m. What a sluggard she is not!)

But I was so happy we’d signed up for the ‘call us at the last minute if there’s leftover vaccine that day’ list; so happy there WAS leftover vaccine that Thursday; and so happy to be vaccinated—at least to have gotten the first dose. I have never been so delighted to have a needle stuck in my shoulder, and believe me, I know how lucky we are to have the opportunity.

Kathy told us our arms would be sore today and we might have mild, flu-like symptoms.

“Take Tylenol,” she advised, because the other painkillers, anti-inflammatories, can mess with the whole immune process. We gathered all their good advice, learned when we’d be called for the booster shot, and hurried off home, where I was ten minutes late logging in to my meeting.

So it was too late then to write, and the meeting ran a bit later than usual and I said to myself that I would get up early and write in the morning.

I had forgotten, though, that Jim the painter was coming in the morning to finish up. The painting process had gotten delayed on Tuesday; we had a Level Two snow emergency, and our street wasn’t plowed until mid-afternoon. The driveway was pretty much a mess, too. We called Jim early to tell him it might not be a good idea to try painting that day, and he had already come to that conclusion himself. (Nice guy that he is, he spent the unexpected day off blowing the snow out of his neighbors’ driveways. We are surrounded by energetic, unselfish people.)

So Jim came in early this morning and we talked. By the time he got all set up and I quit bothering him, it was time for me to head upstairs. I had a work call coming in at 9, and then a meeting via Microsoft Teams at 9:30. Normally, I don’t work on Fridays, but the people who host this meeting were nice enough to include me, and the information was rich and necessary. And I figured since I was going to be in the meeting, I might just as well take the call, too, and not have to wait till next week, when Monday is, after all, a United States national holiday; the earliest we could talk was Tuesday. I hate to make people wait all weekend and then some, when issues are uppermost.

So, anyway, with the call and the meeting, I didn’t write in the morning. And then, when I went downstairs, Jim the painter was finishing up, and I saw the kitchen with the upper cupboards painted creamy white for the very first time, and oh my goodness, what a transformation.

There were a few tiny things for us to take care of on our end—a magnet, some tape to pull, a potential knob,—and while Jim and I were talking about those, Mark came home for lunch, and we all admired the kitchen. Then Jim the painter packed up all his stuff, offered to sweep the floor one more time (No, no, no, we said), and came back in for his jacket.

We had a little kerfuffle when I tried to give Jim a little gift card so he and his wife could go out for, or get a take-out, lunch, and he insisted he didn’t want anything, and we went round and round. But finally I won by pulling my very, very sad face, and Jim took the envelope and left us to admire the changes he’d wrought.

Jim the son came down from studying upstairs, and we all three put some lunch together and talked about how much we like the newly painted kitchen.

So there was no time then to write, either.

After lunch, we had to take a package and Jim’s Valentines for some very special people to the post office, and, as long as we were out, we figured we might as well go to Riesbecks Supermarket and get some of the end of the week specials. Since we hadn’t gotten out for a walk, we parked as far away as we could at both places, and then we took the longest way possible around the supermarket, and we zigged and zagged among the aisles, trying to add as many steps as we could. So that took a little while.

When we got home, we lugged the bags into the house and put all the groceries away. Jim headed upstairs to do some writing, and I wielded our biggest, sharpest knife and whacked the whole pork loin we just bought into meal-sized chucks, and then debated the best ways of freezer-packing them. When I got that all squared away and the meat in the freezer and the counters wiped down, I finally decided it was time to sit down and write.

So that’s what I did. I typed in a title. “Snowfall and Cabinets,” I wrote, and then I realized that I had left a load of clothes in the dryer before we left, and if I didn’t get them on hangers, they would be crumpled little clothes-balls…little pips to iron, they would be, and I would rue the day. So I ran downstairs and hung those shirts and tops and pants and such on hangers—luckily, they were still warm and fell neatly into unwrinkled simplicity. I switched the sheets and towels from the washer to the dryer and ran a load of casual pants and shirts through the washer.

Then I went back upstairs to write. But, as I walked through the dining room, I thought I would just arrange the red pots and the red and cream and green plaid ceramics on top of the pristine new cabinets. I simply needed to see how they looked.

I realized the pots needed a little lift, so I experimented with making some cookbook bases for them, and it took about half an hour to get everything situated so it looked warm but uncluttered, but eventually I was happy with the result.

So then it was after 4:00, but I thought, “I’ll just drill down and get this written!”

And I would have been fine except that the upper part of the kitchen looked so good and the floor looked so awful. We had decided, early in the week, we’d sweep the floor once a day but not worry about it otherwise during the painting process. So all week we had tracked in salty snow slush, kicking our shoes off as close to the door as possible, but somehow the gray pasty residue spread itself over all the tiles.

It really looked truly terrible, and I figured I could attack it with scrubbing bubbles first and then use my trusty Bona cleaner, and I’d just about have time to get the floor done before Mark came home.

That turned out to be just exactly true.

When Mark arrived, Jim was excited to begin cooking dinner: fresh burgers and fries. And he asked my advice, and I started to help…and you know. One thing and another, and the next thing I realize, we’re clearing up the after dinner dishes, and I never did get a chance to sit down and write.

And on Friday nights, we watch the latest episode of Wandavision, which is something Jim really, really looks forward to us doing as a family. There was no time left to thoughtfully ponder, to try to put words together, to sit down at the computer and write out a post.

So I apologize. Next week, I’ll write something. But I just wanted to let you know why I didn’t write a post this week.

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Have a wonderful week. I wish you health and vaccine-access and that the next few days, till we connect again, bring you unexpected joys.

Panera, Wednesday Evening

She paid for their dinners–two “Pick Two’s”: they each had a sandwich and a side; she had soup, he had pasta–with the vouchers the company had sent her the week before, an apology for a missing bagel at another branch.  They carried them to the back section, unoccupied except for a freckled, red-haired man, clean cut, intense looking, tapping fervently on a tablet in the corner.

“How will I know when Nancy gets here?” her son asked anxiously.

She looked at her watch. “It’s early yet, Bud,” she said.  “We’ve got 45 minutes.  Every fifteen minutes, one of us will get up and look around the corner, to see if she’s here yet.”

He nodded.  His autism made him anxious; he liked to have a pathway cleared, a roadmap for uncertain times.  Nancy was his writing coach; they met every Wednesday night.  Sometimes others joined them, adults with a variety of disabilities, diagnoses, developmental challenges.  There was a woman with Down’s Syndrome who read, Bud said, very, very slowly.  (“I want to finish her sentences; it’s so hard to wait,” he confessed.) A young man with a different version of autism than Bud’s came every week; he rocked and hummed constantly.  Sometimes that made Bud white-lipped. He wanted, though, to be kind.  When it got too much, he stood up and walked around the restaurant, two laps, and then went back to try again.

He liked Nancy; she was tall, broad, long-haired, talented, and patient.  She encouraged him.  She shared his passion for film and science fiction and fantasy.

When they got there early, he might get her first five minutes all to himself.

The freckled man sighed; one leg jiggled. He put both hands, palms down, on his little corner table, took a deep breath.  As if steeling himself, he lifted his hands, flexed his fingers, and started, again, to type.

Two older women came in.  Both had short, spunky haircuts; both had wire-rimmed glasses. But one was whippet thin and dressed in denim and lace, the other filled her chair amply when she sat; she wore forgiving polyester. They sat at the long row of two-person tables, their backs to her and her son.

“The knitters,” muttered Bud, labeling them.  He got up to look for Nancy.

The two women went and got drinks and pastries; they plunked bulky quilted bags onto their laps and pulled out frothy bundles of knitting, and they began to talk.  The thin woman had a crisp, no-nonsense voice; she told a story about her daughter, alone in her apartment in New York City hundreds of miles away, calling to tell her mother she had a bat. The plump companion answered in a comforting southern drawl: She’ll do that, she told her friend, all your life.  And you’ll always know you’re needed.  You-wah NEEEEEEE-ded, it sounded like, a little musical cascade of reassurance.

Whippet humphed. Bud polished off his sandwich and went, again, to check for Nancy.

Behind her, a young woman in navy blue scrubs ate at a tiny table across from a round faced child–a girl of maybe two or three.  She had a head full of curls (Ack–imagine combing those! she thought) and curiosity.  “Why dat man typin’?” she asked her mother, and instead of being embarrassed, the mother made it into a game.

“He’s typing a poem to a special girl,” said the mom.  “Who do you think that is?”

The man looked up, momentarily startled, and then went quickly back to his work.

“His little girl?” asked the moppet.

“I think maybe,” said her mother. “I think her name is Emma Dilemma!”

The little one took a big bite of bread. “Emma DILEMMA!” she chortled out around it.

A dark haired woman, her hand proprietarily guiding another, a short, brown-haired woman with a brown jacket and tan pants and a brown patterned bag, joined the knitters.  “This is my FRIEND!” she said, triumphantly. “Anita!”  Her voice rocked melodiously, the cadence of a speaker who learned English at a later age.  The two seated knitters fussed over them both, herded the newcomers into the seats across from them.

Bud came back from a peek around the corner.  “She’s HERE,” he said with great relief, and gathered up his paraphernalia, a book bag bulging with graphic novels, his laptop, an old fashioned notebook with a black and white speckled cover, three mechanical pencils. He looked in consternation at the cookie he hadn’t finished.

“Leave the cookie,” she suggested, “and you can eat it on the way home.”

His face cleared. “Good idea, Mom,” he said gratefully, and he hefted his bag, hugged his laptop, and sidled around the partition to where Nancy waited.

She cleared the little table, took her plate to the bussing station, and set up her IPad in its little keyboard. An essay had materialized that morning, a paean to the art of writing words by hand, with real pens, on real paper, and she had let it flow, appropriately, from mind to fingers, through the pen to the paper.  She thought it might make a blog post, and she appreciated the irony of morphing those handwritten words into electronic code. She opened the binder where she kept her journal pages, flipped to the handwriting essay, and began to type it, editing as she went.

The knitters filled in, a wonderful range of women, young, plump, beautiful, furrowed, a mother and daughter team, an elegant 60 year old. Their conversation skirled and danced:

“…a baby shower in South Carolina…do those babies NEED warm knitted caps?  So I made a whole boxful of booties…”

“…my mother’s afghan…pure wool…still snuggle up with it when I’m lonely…”

“..can’t get the hang of four needle knitting…two needle socks…but the seam…”

“…teaching my granddaughter…”

A new group converged on the empty side of the room; they had their laptops, too–maybe another group of writers.  There was a gentle-voiced woman who welcomed everyone; she seemed to set the tone, and they all settled in, talking quietly until they were joined by a short barrel of a man who brayed his words.  “…the HELL do I wanna do that, I said to her…” and the gentle-voiced woman talking him down.  He subsided for a bit.

She went back to her transcription, liking the flow and feel of the words she’d written, but changing sentence structure here and there, removing some self-conscious wording, adding a semi-colon, editing her ever-present run-ons.  The scrubs mom and her little one bussed their plates and whirled out the door, clasped hands swinging; a father in shirt sleeves and tie came in with his daughter, and they took over that table.

“You’re going to LIKE kindergarten!” he said.

“NO, Daddy,” she replied firmly, and when his buzzer lights started dancing, she added, “I’ll come too.”  They went up to get their food together, the dad’s brow wrinkled; his question–How can I make her fearless?–plastered on his face.

“…another DAMNED thing,” brayed the barrel man, and the shirt-sleeved dad, laden with plates, shot him a frown, and the gentle voice moved in to intervene.  Intense Red-Haired Guy sighed with finality, snapped his tablet closed, vacated. Over the hum of conversation she heard Bud reading aloud from his screenplay, and the pleasant, encouraging sound of Nancy’s response.  She went back to her work, typing up her handwritten story about the joys of writing by hand, and a young worker, a handsome young dark-skinned boy, came by and asked if he could move the highchair mom in scrubs had left.  Sure, she said, and smiled at him: she remembered what it was like to be young and working hard for minimum wage in a restaurant.

And can I take your plate for you? he asked, nodding at the melamine tray with a napkin draped on top.

Ah. No, she smiled; my son’s cookie’s hiding under there.

Oh! he said. Sorry! He smiled and ducked away, returning with a sweeper and maneuvering between the tables.

She finished typing the essay, went into her settings and added the restaurant wifi; then she emailed the work to herself, thinking, idly, that she needed to get more conversant with storage in the Cloud. Barrel Man stood up, complaining loudly, bundled things into a bag, strode away on short quick legs.  The gentle voice goaded her remaining companions; their conversation foundered, but veered back, gained strength.  The knitters’ fingers flew; their heads bent toward each other, across the table, their words lifting and twining.

“I WON’T make friends,” the four year old told her father flatly, and he answered with an edge of desperation.

And then Bud was at her table, a little white-rimmed, clutching his bag and his writing gear.  “It went well,” he said, “and I tried very hard to be kind.”

She powered off her IPad, packed her canvas bag, carried her empty coffee cup with her to the front.  The long-haired girl who’d rung up their dinners called to her, “Refills are free, ma’am!”

A jolt of dark roast on the way home might not be such a bad idea, she thought, and she stopped to pump rich dark brew into her paper cup.

“That smells GOOD,” said Bud, fervently, and he held the door for her as they emerged into the muggy August night, the shimmer of heat from the pavement wrapping them ’round.  “Nancy liked my synopsis. Mind if I read it to you?”

She hit the unlock button, and they bundled their things into the car.

“It starts with a scrolling introduction,” he said, “that says, It’s here: the story you’ve been waiting for,” and he pulled his door shut.  She started the car and took a sip of the hot coffee; they headed out of the parking lot, the rise and fall of his voice narrating their trip.