Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stress - All Time High

Ugh...after spending nearly $500 of my own money, which I didn't have to give away, on the new business pitch trip to Pittsburgh, we find out today we didn't win.  Seriously?  How do we go from leading the pack to not winning?  It's all sssooo confusing.

I will admit that recently I've been feeling as if my young looks are going against me.  God bless my parents and the awesome genetics they handed down to their offspring, but I'm beginning to feel that gaining another 20 pounds, cutting my hair, dying it a blah brown and dressing in old woman suits would make me seem more credible in the eyes of prospective clients. I'm not kidding.  I just don't get it.

Over the years I've realized that I actually have to be a different person, professionally, with each one of my clients.  Mostly it's with men.  The women are great and love to bond on a level beyond professional, it's the men who make me feel like Cybil.

There are the men who:
  • are passive aggressive and like having a strong, bitchy woman push them around, telling them how it's going to be.
  • ignore me until I've been in the board room yapping long enough that they actually begin to listen to what I have to say.  Then they totally respect me. 
  • look at me in disbelief that I have 15 years experience, knowledge and creative ideas that will benefit them.  Mostly I feel they think I can't get it done.
  • are cool and want me to be cool like "one of the guys", so I talk to them like one of the guys, never touching on anything too personal
  • and those who want to totally and completely be "all up in my biznez", literally.  Of course I don't make it a practice to date my clients, especially when they're near dead, ask me out for drinks and then attempt to make out with me.  Eeeewww!
I'm telling you, it SUCKS!  Unfortunately, once again, I feel that this is potentially what might have occurred in this instance.  It's not the first time I've been on a pitch with this company and actually had feedback to this point.  They totally question my capabilities.  Oddly enough, when I search online later to see how things are going for them, I see nothing.  NOTHING!

The worst part is that I needed a return on my investment...I did NOT have that $500 to spend and my stress is now at an all time high.

Am I off spiritually?  Am I disconnected?  Have I been so deep in la-la land with Steven that I've simply not focused where I should?  A friend told me today that I needed the break.  I needed to mentally and spiritually get away from it all, but now I'm just left feeling like I may not accomplish what it is I want to...that the opportunities in front of me are all for not.  Certainly God wouldn't have given me more than I can handle - I do believe everything happens for a reason, but this is nuts!

How is it after everything good that's happened that I am here....once again?


Monday, February 21, 2011

Crusing Along

Steven and I have seen each other every day but one in the last 11 days.  We seem to be settling in and I can feel the connection getting stronger. It's what everyone says it is - easy.  Easy and comfortable in every way.  Long gone are any insecurities (although I still hate my bulge, bubbles and bumps).  Instead they are replaced with a peace with myself and with him.  He truly brings out the person I am, not in work, but inside.  I've never laughed with someone so much.  Steven is continuously doing something to make me laugh, always paying me a compliment and his hands are never too far away from me.

It's an interesting place to be in, for me.  After all, it's been ages since someone was this in to me in a way that is beyond just sex.  I love talking with him as we slowly peel back the layers of one another's lives.  And, it's clear that he wants to share his with me...for now (What?  Don't rush me!).  Last night we had dinner with a girlfriend and her husband at their house.  Steven announced on the way that his brother just got in engaged and asked if I would come to the family celebration, should there be one.  I may have to call in the fashion troops to help with this one!  And so it goes on just like that.

The only problem.....lack of sleep.  Steven's work schedule is killing me.  When he works I stay at his house because he gets up before, and I mean long before, sunrise.  That wouldn't be so bad if he didn't snore on top of it.  Ear plugs help, but I am having a difficult time falling to sleep to be woken up, taken home and then try to fall back asleep.  That hour break is painful and, even now, I want to crawl back in bed for some extra zzz's, but there's too much to do.  He did mention that he's going to get the surgery for his sleep apnea, but I'm not quite sure when.  Bring it!  I can't wait!  LOL

A Valentine's Day to Remember

I wasn't exactly sure what to expect for Valentine's Day, since Steven didn't formally ask me until the evening before.  But, I was thinking that everything would be booked and we'd be left with an early dinner.  Apparently, though, seems like most people celebrated Valentine's Day over the weekend.  We were lucky enough to not worry about a late night.  Steven was off work the next day and I decided to, as "the boss", to take the morning off and just enjoy our evening together.

I really didn't have too much expectation for Valentine's Day.  Figure that it's better.  Then I'm not disappointed, but always surprised.  In reality, I was hoping that this would push the Valentine's Day that was currently in first place out of the way.  That day was about six years ago.  I was seeing a handful of guys, which is the case when you join an online dating service in January when everyone makes their New Year's Resolution.   That year I got flowers from four different guys!  It was awesome, but a challenge to disguise with the one I had already agreed to go to dinner with.  That date was...okay...but I soon moved on afterwards.  He was clearly into me.  Turned out I wasn't into him.

Steven showed up at my door at 7:00p.  I opted for a brown strapless dress with small silver and black polka dots, black tights and black patent leather peep toes.  As he knocked on the door, I looked down the stairwell and gave him a "one minute" sign.  I grabbed my coat and walked down the stairs and opened the door.  Steven was casually leaning up against the door frame.

S: "Hey, gorgeous!"
E: "Hi..." I said with a smile. 
S: "You look hot!" we both laugh.  "Hey, I need to borrow your refrigerator."
E: "O-kay...."
S: "I have something I got for my mom"
E: Uhm, dude, your mom is in Puerto Rico "Uhm, sure."

I move out of the door way to allow him up the stairs and he produces a beautiful bouquet of flowers wrapped in brown paper.  He'd clearly gone to a boutique florist and not the grocery store.  I looked at it carefully and noticed Snapdragons and two lightly colored lavender roses surrounded by several other simple flowers all in the same lavender, white and fuchsia color palette. 

E: "I'm not sure those will fit in my refrigerator."
S: Laughing.  "These are for you."

I smile and invite him up.  He helps reach for a vase stored on top the entertainment center, fill it with water and plop them in - to be cut and arranged later.  I thank him and lean in for a kiss, of which he stole about 10 more.  I grabbed his hand and we were off to dinner.

The thing about a man with a plan is that you can't question or interfere with it, you just have to let him own and implement it.  Steven helped me into the car and started driving downtown.  I never asked where we're going, but just went with it.  I want him to have his plan and to surprise me.  It clearly makes him feel good, and who I am to rip that away from him?  We ended up pulling into The House of Blues complex and out of the corner of my eye I see they've opened a new Subway here, not to mention the other great restaurants here.

E: "Aw, are you taking me to Subway?"
S: Laughing.  "Yeah, well nothing but the best for you!"

The valet walks over and opens the door.  Steven meets me around the front of the car, grabs my hand and we proceed to walk into Smith & Wolensky, a steakhouse and very yummy restaurant.  We're directed down the stairs and to a table for two overlooking the Chicago River and part of downtown.  Steven puts me in the chair with the view, as that was apparently the order for the night.  As I sat down, I looked to my left and right eying the row of tables for two with couples.  Each woman was facing "the view". 

I was surprised to see how dead the restaurant was.  Literally no one was there but our row of tables for two (maybe 14 people).  "Filet and Lobster for Two?" Steven asks.  "That sounds great!".  We get a wine recommendation and have our first glass.  As per usual, and I never get tired of it, Steven slowly inched his hands across the table asking for mine.  I accommodated him.  "You're so beautiful."  I just smile.

When Steven and I are together it's like we're the only two people in the room.  Even at the grocery store, he has no bones about kissing me in the aisle or running around like a little boy at the video store only to come up behind me with a big hug.  Sitting there gazing into one anothe's' eyes, I can feel the energies of those around us but it feels like a private dinner with a waiter.  It's kind of an amazing thing to feel and something every woman dreams of "the only girl in the room."  He creates that and brings it to life.  Steven truly makes me feel incredibly special, beautiful and desired.

We finish our yummy dinner and opt for a doggy bag (the contents of which will end up in tomorrow morning's omelets - which I make, of course!).  I go to the bathroom and by the time the bill is paid, we're the only two people left in the dining room.  He gets up and helps me out of my chair.  As he does, he grabs my hand, pulls me into his arms and we begin to........dance.  Steven was now making the dining room our own private dance floor as he whisked me around, kissing my cheek.  I could hear the collective sighs of the female staff behind me and one guy say "dude, that's awesome."  It was an amazing moment.

A few minutes later, we left and headed back to his house where I thanked him with some hanky panky and breakfast the next morning.  Later that day, I emailed some close friends, and my mom about my amazing night.  One gf responded "....he's in love.  Are you?"  I replied: "Still falling."  Another one of my girlfriends, who reads the blog, asked me why I am so surprised at how good he is to me.  "It's because it's been so long since someone has been this good to me.  It's what I've always wanted from a man, but they were all clearly the wrong man.  I suppose, too, I just felt that I didn't deserve it."  "Well, you do, my dear!"

Now, it's a really, really big deal that I've chosen to tell my mother about Steven.  In the past, I would tell my mom I met someone and without a doubt the whole thing was over within a week.  We've joked over the years that me telling her is like the kiss of death to the relationship.  The conversations would start "Mom, I met someone."  "I don't want to know.  Don't tell me anything."   This time I waited until it was "official".

M: "How do you know it's official?"
E: I am not going to tell you it's because we had sex "Well, he threw the 'girlfriend' word around all day Saturday."
M: "Well, yeah, that would probably mark it.  I just want you to make sure he treats you right."
E: I know she's saying this because of the abuser and the poor choices in men that followed.  "Mom, he's the best.  Treats me ssssooo good.  You would be so happy."
M: "Good.  That's all I care about."

Mom, you have no worries.  E's found a good egg this time.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine's Day - Wow!

Epiphany #1 - The Gift of Receiving

In my life I've had a lot of blessings.  It's funny, though, how a few experiences can throw you off track and all of a sudden "the luckiest girl ever" isn't so much any more.  As we get older we start thinking about things.  We beat ourselves up over choices, or the fact we got drunk the night before.  You wake up saying "Ugh...What was I thinking."  It happens to the best of us.  The trick is to not let it define your life.  I was not so lucky.

I have always felt guilty about breaking up with one of the best guys ever when I hit my senior year in high school.  I wanted to be free....well, that and I thought men didn't have the same emotions that women do (Thanks Dad.)  In truth, I think the fact that he always knew who he was, what he wanted to do, where he would go to college, what job he wanted and where he lived was something I couldn't deal with.  I was a free spirit, flying by the seat of my pants and taking life as it came; always someone who did what they wanted to do because it seemed fun.  Not because it would make me popular or win me some crown.  I just had no idea where I was going in life...it was yet to be determined, and I suppose I felt like I needed space to figure it all out.

In the end I devastated him, and in some ways I have never forgiven myself for it.  Not to mention the fact I almost immediately entered into a relationship with a guy who would turn out to abuse me - verbally, emotionally and sometimes physically.  That adds to the guilt.  I had something so special.  A one of a kind guy who thought I was the cat's meow.  There was no one else for him.  Of course, a few years ago, I paid for a background search, in hoping somehow he might take me back after all of these years, only to find out that he's married to a woman who's a runner, he has the job he always wanted and they have one child.  Chapter and book closed.  Still...I lament.  I know I shouldn't, but it's hard not to do when you aren't finding someone to spend time with; someone genuinely interested in you.  I want someone to look at me the way he did - those green eyes.....I still remember.

Over time, I began failing myself and being overwhelmed by others' expectations for me.  On my 32 birthday my aunt and uncle came to town (they once lived here while he was in medical school).  They announced their disappointment in their own children and that I was the last hope for the family name.  You have to understand that on that side of my family there is a lot of a pressure to be successful; to be or marry a lawyer, doctor, CEO, engineer, etc.  A LOT of expectation.  You can imagine my shock.  I love my cousins who are successful in their own right and married to fantastic women with beautiful children.  Mostly, I was surprised that my aunt would agree.  My uncle has always been a bear, of some sorts, just like my grandfather, who passed away before my parents were married.  In that family, men are honored and celebrated.  They're expected to be extraordinary and incredibly successful.  My mother had three daughters.  The pressure, apparently, is no less, but my Mom and Dad, due to their own circumstances, would not appeal to that "law".

I've carried that night and conversation around with me long enough.  Over the years, I've let it keep me down.  Instead I've replaced the opportunity for success with the fear of it.  Ironic since that's what I'm so stubborn and determined to achieve. That's what's fueled my fury to keep my business and to make it work.  In truth, I had to reach a point where I could let it all go and feel really good about it, before change in my life would happen.  My stubborn nature was forcing me to hold on to something entirely uncontrollable.

When my epiphany started was two years ago.  A friend I had become close to through a tragic situation repaid me for my love and also effort to help her achieve awareness for her business with a meditation class.  It taught me to let go.  To let go of others' expectations on my life.  To rid all of those people whose energy I've been carrying around with me.  Wow, what a heavy load!  My Dad, My uncle, the perfect boyfriend, the abuser, my mistakes, disappointments and stumbles through life.  I never realized how much it was affecting me.  Today, I have a better relationship with my Dad, I'm in a good place with the abuser, still miss the perfect boyfriend, and have learned to laugh or forget my mistakes and embarrassments. 

What I've come out the other side to learn is something my friend in recovery lives by: "Let go and Let God".  Nothing could be more true.  All of this time I've felt unworthy of receiving blessings and love in my life.  If only I could have been better.  Not made so many bad choices. Not gone through bouts of depression imposed by the pressure and possible disappointments the men in my life would see in me.  If only.... I've come to realize that my deciding to move to Kansas City, closer to family and a "safer", more familiar place (maybe thinking I could be a big fish in a little pond once more) was more about me letting go than actually moving.

I can tell you it's been a pretty powerful epiphany.  I see the world differently.  Instead of worrying about business, and knowing I can just give it all up for a job, business has begun to come my way.  It's coming to me in unexpected ways.  Clients may want to take a step back but all of them want to come back - a first!  And more over, past clients are coming back for smaller projects like consulting and even current clients are referring me all over the place!

When it comes to love, I became insecure.  I wanted them to like me so much; especially when I thought they were perfect - tall, good looking, successful, gregarious....- in time I simply shut down.  I shut down emotionally to the prospect of a real relationship. Maybe because they sensed my wall, maybe because they only wanted a certain thing, maybe because I felt undeserving after my poor choices, so I just made more poor choices in men.  And...there's always the defense that I knew, or believed, I would break up with them, so why move forward.

For the first time, I've allowed myself to be uncomfortable in order to explore the possibility of my heart and what God might have in store for me.  After all, He wants me to be happy and successful.  The Universe wants that for me, so why, even though I want it, did I not believe I deserved it.  Matt* was the first to treat me with respect.  He wanted to court me, taking his time to get to know me.  I still remember how it felt when we sat on the couch talking and he brushed the hair away from my face.  It was one of the sweetest acts I'd experienced in a very long time.  While it didn't work out with him because of his disease, alcoholism, I am confident it was God's way of slowly allowing me to experience how it should be.  To tell me "Hey, Idiot!  You deserve this!"  In every way, it gave me the strength to open up and receive from Steven - someone who gives me everything I need in a relationship.  This is what I've dreamt of.  If you were to ask me to make a list, everything he is would be on it.  It's not about what he looks like or the shag rug on his back, for the first time it's about who he is.  The rest was simply a defense mechanism which has kept me single for far too long.

Now that I've realized the beauty of receiving, it seems to be coming in all forms.  Today, I had lunch with a kindred spirit and the two of us immediately fell in love.  She's fantastic and I'm looking forward to working with and building a friendship with her.  We even spoke and shared about the power of opening oneself up to receive.

I am worried about my truth revealing itself to Steven.  I'm scared of what he may think and if he would leave me for it, but I can't.  Between now and the time that may happen is a lot of receiving that I can only believe will cure a number of those truths so they are no longer a factor.  He makes me feel like I can do anything and it all started with receiving him.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Steven's V-Day Text

Oh my gosh.....I don't even know what to do with myself...

"Roses are red, Violets are blue.  Sugar is sweet and so are you!  Happy Valentine's Day" - S

Breathe, E....just breathe.....


After the pitch Friday morning, my colleague drove me to the airport.  My hope was to get on an earlier flight, but no such luck.  Southwest only had two flights out that day - 11:45a (of which I would have had 10 minutes to catch) or 5:00p.  I staid on the later flight, found a bar & grill just outside of security and parked myself.  After four hours, four glasses of wine and some lunch, I had made friends.  At one point I went to the bathroom to come back to a woman sitting next to my chair.  She introduced herself and said she heard I was a Kansas girl, "I grew up in El Dorado."  "Shut up!"  And we were in love.  I got her card and plan on touching base with her this week.  Everyone has some sort of Kansas connection.  I love it. Suddenly I realize I've got to get going and, in fact, running a bit behind for my flight.

I rush through security (well, as fast as one can rush through), hop on the train and get hustle my bustle to the gate.  SURPRISE!  Delayed almost an hour.  Fantastic!  I settle into a nice chair and then start chatting with the woman next to me who is crocheting a baby blanket for her daughter.  She was adorable and we had the best time talking.  The flight continues to change and with it text messages to Steven about my arrival.

E: Flight's delayed.  Won't get in until 7p.
E: Oops, I mean 7EST/6CST
S: What's wrong with you?  Were you born yesterday?
E: LOL just a long day and I'm tired (I'm not going to mention I had FOUR glasses of wine, the last of which was picked up by the bartender)
S: Just checking! LOL See you soon!!

Finally, I'm on the plane and surprised of how many people don't check a bag.  Southwest doesn't charge for bags and yet everyone brought a bag on.  There is little room and with some negotiation and the kindness of strangers I get small, bright pink bag into the overhead bin and score a window seat.  I was sssooo excited for a nap.  And. then.....the guy behind me is talking and the direction and volume of his voice is going directly into my ear.  It was so loud I couldn't help but listen to the conversation.  Turns out a Mormon was sitting in the middle seat and the two of them had a full on conversation about God and religion, particularly Mormonism as the guy was clearly proselytizing, saying things like "Well, the Bible leaves out so much and the Book of Mormon fills in the blanks."  Really?  You really believe that the Book of Mormon is better than the Bible.  Really? "You know we have temples all over the place and we're just so much more faithful to the word than most Christians."  Okay, NOW, I am going to slap the shit out of you.  Shut. UP!  I'm trying to sleep.  And....you're kind of ignorant.  Ugh...I mean, I don't mind it but they were both SO LOUD and I just wanted to sleep.  Not to mention the fact I could see that the two people next to me who were Jewish, were clearly uncomfortable.

I manage to get a few minutes of shut eye and still wake up completely annoyed.  Grouchy even.  I text Steven when I land.  He BETTER have parked his car, walked his ass in and is waiting to greet me at baggage claim. (See!  I'm totally grouchy!)  That doesn't turn out to be the case.  "I've got to drive around again..."  Awesome.  Thanks.  I'm hoping that now that he knows I'm into him and this relationship that the thoughtful gentleman hasn't ridden off into the sunset without me.  "K" was all I could respond.

I walk through the sliding doors and out into the cold.  Haul my ass and luggage, in my work outfit and stiletto boots, across the drives to the pick up lane.  I'm so annoyed I can't even watch for his car so I get on my phone and start reviewing email.  What? I'm tired. I get grouchy when I'm tired and I won't make any excuses for it.  It just is.  HONK! and he's right in front of me.  "Hey, baby, looking for a date?"  I look up, see him smile, smile in return, throw my bag in the back seat and climb into the warmth.  "Hey..." he says gingerly in the warm, sexy way he has.  I giggle, smile and say "Hey" in return.  He kisses me and the grouchy starts to melt away.  He asks how the trip went and I admit I'm a little grouchy.  "Well, I'm taking you for ice cream and that will make it all better."

I flew into Midway airport on the South Side of Chicago.  Conveniently, Steven is a man of both sides of town having lived on the South Side with his dad and where he went to technical college.  We drive further South. I have never been down here before.  It's funny and sad really.  Chicago is such a huge place that most of the time you just stick to your side of town.  There's really no need to go south if you don't need to.  The South Side, however, is more like suburbs than city.  There are shopping malls and parking lots everywhere.  The North Side is too crowded for much of this.

We pull into a small shopping center and I see the sign, once neon but now doesn't work, "Gerties".  "I used to work here in high school and I've been dying to come down here.  That's why I offered to pick you up so I could come down here."  "Reeaaallly, that's the only reason you offered.  Glad I could be of help!"  We both laugh.

Gertie's is a blast to the past. Red, worn velvet booths are everywhere with long slim tables in between.  Stuffed animals hang from the ceiling and a lllloonnngg counter on one wall sells candy and then ice cream.  He decides on a Banana Split.  I don't want too much and order a cup of Pistachio Almond.  Steven's hands ease across the table to grab mine.  When I look up he's looking at me.  Smiling.  His sweetness is overflowing and I can tell the time away has caused him to miss me...a lot.  "Did you miss me?"  "Oh, maybe a little.  I was just so busy this week I didn't have time to think about you."  He laughs at my sarcasm, and we are always sarcastic with one another.  "This place has changed," he says.  "It's definitely not the same place I worked at or where everyone hung out."  Our order arrives and we both dig into his Banana Split.  "Even the ice cream doesn't taste the same."  I can tell he is really bummed.  In his mind, he had probably been so excited to share this with me only to be totally disappointed.  Eventually we finish up and start the long drive back to my house.

Once in front, he decides he's gotta do the "man thing" and carve a parking spot out with his all-wheel drive car.  Even though there are like two clear one's in front.  A boy and his toys.  I will never understand.  This leaves me, again, to heaving my bags through the snow and ice in stiletto boots up to my apartment.  Ugh!  Inside, I drop the bag and immediately change my clothes.  By the time I'm done, Steven is walking in the door.  He removes his coat, comes to me, wraps his arms around me for a kiss that could light a fire of soaked wood on a rainy night in a forest.  We hug, talk and then chill on the couch.  Things lead to other things, and I'll leave it there.  We didn't really close the deal.

The next morning was a different story.  Sufficed to say, we actually were able to achieve "sealing the deal", which I was a little concerned about.  Maybe he's nervous, E.   "Gosh, I'm so nervous with you," he says as if reading my mind.  An hour later, both famished we decide on brunch.  I hopped in the shower and he left to do the same.  Within an hour he was back at my door...smiling.  "How about Dim Sum in Chinatown instead?"  "Sounds great. I've always wanted to do that and never have."  "Girl, you need to get out of your hood an explore this city!"  "Yes, I know.  Tell me about it. This will be great. I'm very excited."

In the car on the way down we talk.  Steven doesn't listen to the radio in the car, at least not when I'm in it, he doesn't own a TV.  He reads, writes and apparently is a budding entrepreneur inside.  He tells me about his "ideas" and how much he loves his job - the benefits and all - but that he doesn't do anything unless something major happens.

S: "I'd like to have a job like yours.  You think and use your mind.  I have so many ideas and things I'd like to do but don't know where to start."  When he starts talking about this, I sense an childlike shyness; an insecurity.  He's so confident in who he is, to see this shift softens my heart more.  He's being vulnerable with me.
E:"I can easily help you with that.  Tell me your ideas."  He does, and indeed he has some solid business ventures budding in his mind.
E: "You can do anything you want to do if you ask for help," I say.
S: "Awesome, my girlfriend is going to help me bring these to life!"
E: "I'm sorry what did you call me?"
S: "My girlfriend."
E: "Okay, just checking that I heard you correctly."  He smiles.  "So, my girlfriend has invited us to dinner with her husband next Sunday night.  Are you available?"
S: "Sure.....gosh it always gets so weird when people start asking what I do because I can't really say.  I'm, like, invisible."
E: "Just tell them your a federal officer and leave it at that."
S: "Yeah, I guess I could.  Then they think I'm a mall cop or security officer."
E: "Let 'em.  You can even tell them that you carry a water pistol and you got your badge on the Internet or out of a Kracker Jax Box."  He throws his head back and laughs.  I know I've made him feel better about it.  "But believe you me....I'm a journalist and sooner or later I'll put all the little tidbits you give me together to come up with the whole story."
S: "I have no doubt you will."

Dim Sum and then some! My word!  If you've never had Dim Sum, the best way to describe it is  Chinese Tapas, except there is no waiting.  You sit down at the table and the carts are there in seconds, perfect for the two of us about to gnaw an arm, or at least a finger.  Steven's eyes are clearly bigger than his stomach.  He takes six dishes from the carts as they come around.  I take one of everything and stuffed.  He continues to eat, we talk and finally I persuade him to take it home.  There's something nice about finding someone you can just be with.  Silence is golden and we just don't have to talk all the time.  I mean, we're never short on conversation, but in the car, at the restaurant, we can just....be.  Neither one if feels the need to have to keep the conversation going at all times.  Most of the time, he just sits and looks at me.  WHAT?  What is going on in that mind of yours?  I can't figure it out!  Just tell me already!  But I know he won't and I will continue to say "WHAT?" every time he does what he does.

It doesn't bother me, really.  Steven's eyes are warm and there's passion there.  I have a photo of him that I took off his profile.  It is the best representation of him.  Head tilted wearing a baseball cap with a half smile and his intense eyes looking directly into the camera.  That's him!  I saved it to my desktop so I can look at it.

In our phone conversation Wednesday night I noted that I had removed my profile from the dating site but noticed his was still up.  He laughed.  "It shouldn't come up.  I 'hid' it."  "Hmmm...well maybe it comes up for me because we had emailed."  "Maybe."  Today I said, "So you're profile still up online?"  He laughs.  "I just secured my girlfriend.  I'll work on it."  By Sunday night he announced that he's finally figured out how to delete his account.   Awesome!

After Dim Sum we walk around Chinatown popping a cooking store, where he bought several things cuz, you know, he's going to take a cooking class.  LOL I can't believe how cheap everything is down here.  Seriously, things sell for at least three times the cost in bigger retailers.  He buys me a knife sharpening block for $4, several large knives and an apron I found hilarious "Beware Man Cooking".  Then we were off to an herbal store.  This place is insane.  They have teas and supplements to cure every ill and we're in awe.

With the most confidence I've ever seen, Steven walks up to the guy at the counter and says "Do you have that herbal viagra stuff?"   

WHAT?  LMAO!  Oh. My. Gosh.  I have no idea what I've gotten myself into.  I'm going to become a sex slave that he's going to keep tied up in his house.  Later, when he's through with me, he'll chop me up in little pieces with his new knives and cleavers and then bury my remains in some remote area of the airport. And he'll get away with it because he's a cop with a sweet face and they'll never suspect him!

"Sure, we've got it.  How many packages do you want?"  "Just one for now.  How much?"  "$10."  "Wow, that's awesome."  "We have delivery too.  You just call us and we get it to you next day."  "Awesome, can I get a card?"  I'm am totally dying right now!  "Will that be all?"  "I don't know, let's ask the Missus.  Babe?"  WHAT?  Missus?  My mind is reeling.  It's been so long since I've had someone like this.  Someone who wants to be in a full fledged relationship with me and apparently is thinking LONG TERM.  The man has a plan for me. I know this is what I want, but it's just crazy now that it's staring me in the face.  The reality is somewhat frightening and then absolutely hilarious!  Not to mention the fact that I never thought I would be the kind of girl who likes to be called "Babe", but it turns out I really am.  "Uhm, no, I'm good."

We stop by a few more shops and then head back to his house to watch a movie.  The walk through the neighborhood was supposed to wake us from the food coma Dim Sum left behind, but it hadn't worked and I was fading fast.  Probably doesn't help that you don't sleep well with the freight train sawing his way through dreamland.  Anywhoo...we arrived at his, I snuggled up under the blanket on the couch.  "I'm going to make some orange juice."  "Okay".  An hour later he had two glasses of orange juice.  That's a lot of work for two glasses.  I had attempted to sleep but his tenant upstairs was blasting her music and the bass shook his apartment.  "Doesn't that drive you crazy?"  "No, not really."  "Wow, I would be banging on her door saying 'Turn that shit DOWN' in two seconds."  He just smiles and cuddles on the couch with me.  I, to no one's surprise, am still tired.  I need to get some sleep!

We enjoy the OJ, which was incredible.  I watch him play online Texas Hold 'Em in which he has won over $600,000.  No, this isn't real money.  One of his friends called and asked what we were doing for Valentine's Day, "We don't need one day. We're going to celebrate everyday."  Hmmmm...nice.  "We had a huge meal otherwise we'd be happy to meet you and your man for dinner.....okay...well have fun...."  Then we watch "The Social Network".  The movie has him thinking and he, again, starts talking about his ideas, dreams for his life.  I tell him I'm happy to help him get started and point him in the right direction, but I don't want that to become the focus of our relationship, "I don't want to be the girl you pity date because I'm helping you start a business."  "Never.  You will never be that to me, babe." Okay, we'll see.  But I am still going to tread lightly.

We went to bed and he woke me up at 4:30a freshly showered and ready to go to work. It was nice to wake up to him, his hand sweetly caressing my face, "Babe, time to get up." I got dressed and wondered out into the dining room where he was continuing to prepare for work.  Mmmmm.  I smile.  A man in uniform. Yum!   He grabbed his huge camo backpack and other bags and we were out the door.  When I came in, I fed Meow Mix, washed off in the shower and went back to sleep before church.

Steven came over on Sunday night and...WOW, is all I am going to say.  "What are you doing tomorrow night?  Want to get together for Valentine's Day?"  "Sure."  "Great, I know exactly where I want to go." "I like a man with a plan."  "Oh, I've got plans, baby!"



It was really nice to have me time during the week to prepare for Pittsburgh.  Not to mention I had other work I really needed to zero in on and accomplish without distraction (aka Steven).  Boy one kiss and I want to rip his clothes off.  How. Does. He. Do. That?  And that's exactly what I did.  I got a lot of shit done.

Over the last couple of weeks I've been bringing on interns to help out with stuff like social media and event planning, and still looking for one who can come in during the week for pitching.  It's a super big help and takes some weight off my mind.  I'm the kind of person who loves to be busy, but then, when there's so much I become paralyzed.  I don't know where to start.  At that point I give up and walk away until I get a game plan together.  It's really weird and I'm highly aware of that fact.  In some ways, I'm getting everything I want but the fear gets me.  Who is afraid of success?  E....it's crazy!  

The other good thing about having my time is that I can do all of my secret girly stuff - olive oil treatment for my hair, getting my hair cut and highlighted, painting toe nails and of course, taking care of Aunt Flo for her monthly visit.  She decided to show up Wednesday night.  Great!  I'm going to be cramping and lightheaded for my trip which means I will not be showing up to this pitch at 100%.  More like 75%, if I'm lucky.  

I will admit I was a bit nervous for this trip, but talking with Steven on the phone for 2.5 hours Wednesday night helped me forget about it.  I am a big fan of being able to talk on the phone and feel it's important for couples to be able to express themselves in person, by letter/email or via phone.  For me, I suppose it's all those times I watched couples I admire be far apart for long periods of time due to work or family emergency.  They were forced to have a relationship by phone.  So, if a guy doesn't want to talk on the phone....well, we either have to work on it or not.  It's like hugs.  Hugs can be so incredibly intimate and yet most men are like fuck the hug.  Take off your dress.  Steven is a tremendous hugger!

Thursday arrives and my morning call was rescheduled, so I literally had the whole morning to get my shit together, but.....because of Aunt Flo I was moving slow and in a haze.  Before I knew it I was running late.  Can't take the train.  Now have to catch a $30 cab.  GREAT!  I'm bleeding money.

Once in Pittsburgh, my colleague and I rented a car.  We got in late so it was night time there.  However, there was just enough snow on the ground to reflect what little light there was from cars on the highway to allow me to get a glimpse of the terrain.  Huge bluffs everywhere.  It wasn't long before we came up on the edge of town and I could see how this city had built itself into these bluffs.  It was quite lovely.

Every time I go somewhere new I always wonder what I would be like today if I had grown up and lived in that place.  My colleague is a wealth of knowledge, or as he says "an intellectual trash can," and so he gave me some insight to my query.  Apparently Pittsburgh has it's own language called Pittsburghese.  Honestly, they have their own dialect and language that is specific to the area.  For instance, they don't say Steelers, it's pronounced "Stillers".

I quickly learned that even though I've grown a hard shell living in a big city it might be much thicker should I have grown up in Pittsburgh.  "You may know how to handle yourself in the city but you're still a Midwestern girl with heart," said my colleague.  And he's right.  Just then "You're in for a real treat, E."  Oh goodie!  I love a treat! And with that we entered the Pitt Tunnel. As we exited a mile or so later my breath caught.  My eyes were lit up with what seemed to be a hidden city tucked in among the Allegheny Mountains.  The bridge was beautiful and artistic, the lights of the city were everywhere.  They danced and reflected off the snow and river below.  It was indeed a treat and a mental picture I won't soon forget.

We got to the "hotel", or as I say the stinkiest Quality Inn I've ever been in, located in the university area - I had no idea that Carnegie Mellon and Pittsburgh were literally across the street from one another - and I dropped off my luggage while we waited for my colleague's 79-yr old sister to come pick us up.  She was a real treat.  A firecracker who gives 79 a good name.  She's independent, outliving two husbands, and has a quick wit.  I loved her.  At first I was worried that I "Pricelined" my hotel too far away from downtown (only about 2.5 miles away) but she told us later that downtown shuts down around 6:00p.m.  So my hotel was perfect.  She took us to a little place in the heart of it all on a cute street that was so steep I thought the car would tumble backwards from gravity.  But it didn't.  A couple of martinis and a burger and I was out for the night.

I didn't sleep all that great so the next morning was a struggle.  I managed to iron my clothes the night before, which was wise because I was moving slow....again.  Finally downstairs and into the Panera, located just under the hotel, a bagel and some Earl Grey tea and we were off.  I wasn't that nervous, but I was feeling a bit on edge.  Thankfully I had done my research on the players in the room.  While my colleague went to the bathroom and got some coffee, I walked in to the conference room and introduced myself.  Immediately, I noted the man from Oklahoma City and mentioned I grew up in Kansas.  Turns out that he went to K-State and Hutchinson Community College and had even lived in my hometown.  That really broke the ice and others joined in the conversation until my colleague arrived and we got started.

All in all, I feel the pitch went well.  I knew that we were in the lead going in but I didn't realize just how much they favored our direction until the Q&A began.  It was more like a planning meeting about moving forward than part of the pitch.  We shall see.  I don't want to get my hopes up but I am hopeful we'll get it.  It would be my largest client and bring in some money to help pay down my debts.  However, I have to keep thinking that if I don't get it, I will still be okay.  Everything has been changing in my life lately and it all started with opening myself up to Steven.

Over the years, I lived in my past.  I've had regrets for breaking hearts and such.  Mostly for breaking one heart for a guy who would end up abusing me.  It's as if I felt I didn't deserve God's blessings and so I blocked myself from receiving.  No more!  I am open and ready.....finally.....


Super Bowl "Party"

I was excited to meet Steven's friends at the Super Bowl "Party".  I put it in quotes because it wasn't really a party, more like some friends getting together at a bar.  Nonetheless, he wanted to introduce me to his friends.  That is a step in the right direction.

Dressing to meet someone's friends, especially when you know a lot of them are women, is tough.  We women are so critical of one another and I truly believe that on most occasions we actually dress for other women.  Ourselves, but for other women.  Women are the one's who will compliment you on how you "cute" you look or give a "I LOVE those shoes, where did you get them."  There's no better compliment.  Some guys can say it, like my gay boys, but straight boys just think you look hot and that's it.  Yeah, that always makes you feel good, but there's something about a compliment from another woman.  It's almost like jealousy!  LOL  I went for cute casual, pairing jeans with a winter white sweater with a zipper on the neck to the shoulder blade and brown boots, and decided it didn't really matter.  They're either going to like me or not.

Steven came to pick me up and we were off.  I've noticed that when I'm with him I just let go, meaning I don't ask where we're going, what we're doing or try to control his driving with directions.  I trust him and just go with the flow.  We ended up at a bar in Old Town I've never been too and proceed to get a seat.  I don't ask about his friends, but soon realize it's only a couple of us and the one woman can't come.  Soon, it's me and one of his guy friends.

This guy is interesting, I would learn.  He moved here and his gf introduced him to Steven, who took him under his wing and showed him the city.  He and I quickly have several things to talk about and decided to trade business cards. Overtime, I begin to notice that every time he and I start talking, Steven would slowly reach out to put his hand on my knee.  I really like that he's so affectionate, it's something I really need in a relationship.  Call it reassurance but I like to know my man is into me, even in public.  But this was a little different.  When I looked at his face there was an intent there as he gently touched me but his face was hard as he looked straight ahead at the TV screen.  It was serious and I believe I got a glimpse of what he would be like on the job in an urgent situation.  It was like there was some competition there....for me.  Geesh, he should just lift his leg an pee on me.  That would show the other dogs who belongs to who. We all decide to root for Green Bay, and good thing we did.

Sitting in front of us were just the kind of douche bag guys I would normally be attracted to - good looking, really fit, dressed well....HOT!  I watched them but secretly liked that I didn't have to worry about trying to catch their attention.  These are the guys I would typically date who just want you to look good and be good in bed.  They don't want to talk.  They don't want to know you, because they don't know themselves.  They're so busy trying to be cool that they only see the world in one way - they're way. Or I should say that they're living life the way they think others think they should be living life - cool, getting action and without regard to anyone else.  They were definitely in their 30's but acted like they were 24 getting completely wasted on a Sunday night and making complete fools of themselves.  It wasn't long before one of the guy's girlfriends got pissed and took off.  He went after her but she wanted nothing to do with him.  Good for her. 

The game ended and we left.  We took his friend home and Steven opened up to me about him.  Apparently he's CHEAP.  In fact, he ate and drank and then didn't offer to pay.  CHEAP! Moreover, it seems that he's not an ethical business person and has been known to rip his clients off to get more commission on what he sells.  No thank you!!!  I thanked him for telling me and that I would proceed with caution.  Furthermore, if the fact he never pays shows total disregard for Steven's friendship then the fact that he has been a "girl stealer" solidifies it.  Steven told me stories of when they would go out.  He would meet a girl and start talking to her, walk away for a second and his friend had already moved in on her.  It's like Steven was the warm up act.  I could feel the animosity towards his friend and it's like he was getting angry all over again.  Sitting there in the car, I couldn't help but wonder why he would choose to invite this friend to be the first to meet me.  Then I realized that in Steven's mind he was showing his friend that HE won in the end.  

That night we came back to my house for a bit and I told him that I wasn't going to be able to see him until Friday night.  I simply can't afford to get completely wrapped up in him, letting my mind daydream about what might come.  The focus has to remain on me getting done what I need to do for ME!  And it's quite a bit to accomplish, but winning this new piece of business would help....A LOT!

I kind of felt bad because we'd had a couple of attempts of trying to seal the deal without the desired outcome, so I didn't want him to think I was walking away, but just needed to get my own shit done.  Not to mention the fact I had just spent $500 on a trip to Pittsburgh to pitch this new business, so I'm sweating the financial situation a little.  YEAH!  I know!  It's really, REALLY rare that a company asks you to come to them to pitch and then doesn't fork over the money to get you there.  Ironically, the organization is HQ'd in Chicago.  Go figure.  In the end I resolved myself to believing that God would not give me the opportunity if I couldn't handle it....financially.

I walked him to the door.  He lingered taking every kiss he could get and then he was gone.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Delayed Details

Hey, gang!  I ended up on the phone with Steven for 2.5 hours last night (my writing time), so no story about Sunday's Super Bowl party just yet.  Promise...it's coming.  I was getting a little concerned that he wasn't calling me so I texted:

E: Hey, do you miss me yet?
S: Uhm....no! :)
S: Of course I do, babe!

So then I called him, hoping he would feel more confidence in calling me.  All I can say is that we laugh as much over the phone as in person, and he shared his entrepreneurial ideas with me.  I told him I am more than happy to guide him through it, but I'm not going to become a girl he pity dates so I can help him with his business ideas.  He laughed.  Much like the guy I dated who, once he met my cat, really just came over to hang out and love on her.  She's extraordinary, no doubt, but I felt like a single mom whose boyfriend was afraid to break up with her because he loves her child more than her. 

So, I'm off to Pittsburgh.  Whether I will go to Chuck's viewing is still up in the air (he's from Pitt).  I don't do viewings very well.  Maybe it's just me, but I don't get the concept of "the viewing".  I don't want my last memory of him to be in a coffin.  We'll see.....but I'm doubting it.

Steven is picking me up at the airport tomorrow night and has a plan for the weekend.  I like a man with a plan.  I think I'll ask if he has a plan for me - via "He's Just Not That Into You" (aka one of my bibles!)

Cheers and details to come!


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I've Taken Myself Off the Market

That's right girls and boys, you heard me correctly.  I've taken myself off the market.  This is Part 1 of 2 on how it happened.

Saturday night - ice skating.  While I felt strongly that we needed to get out of the house (and away from trouble) I also really wanted to go ice skating.  I've lived in Chicago 13 years and never been.  That's just stupid!  I am not sure what I was thinking but I definitely didn't consider the fact there might be a line at the rink in Millennium Park.

When considering my outfit I was thinking more cute ski bunny than warmth.  I wore thick black winter leggings, a long pink tank top, black tee, black turtleneck sweater, brown down vest, scarf, hat, knee highs, thick socks and my galoshes, NOT my warm faux Uggs. I will pay for this decision and really should know so much better.  Sunset downtown happens at about 2:00pm as the tall buildings block the sun and the temperature drops dramatically.  Not to mention the fact we're near the lake and the breeze blows directly across the park to and then bounces off the buildings back on to the park.  Brrrrr.  That's not even the half of it!  Typically I always consider this fact but, nope, I wanted to be cute ski bunny not a bundled Michelin Man!  Steven, on the other hand, was warmly dressed in boots, ski pants, a sweatshirt, pullover, scarf and funky knit cap.

When we arrived at the skating rink there was, sure enough, a LINE!  We joined in and it was sssllllooowwww moving.  I started to shiver and Steven wrapped his arms around me - he's a furnace.  Hmmm....maybe I'm not regretting my thoughtlessness.  That's pretty much how we stayed the 30 minutes or so we were in line.  I will say this....it was fun and we just laughed.  We people watched and laughed, making up stories about the each person.  We laughed because he was just being silly.  He was always doing something funny and at times would blow his warm breath on my neck to warm me up.

I can feel the warmth inside the building from where I stood and was anxious to get in. We're. So. Close! Just as we get to the top of the line - they close the rink for the Zamboni and we're left standing for another 30 minutes.  We just started laughing in disbelief that this was our luck. He continued to hold me and block the wind.

FINALLY....they complete the ice surfacing and we are allowed inside the skate rental.  We give up our shoes, grab out skates and plunk down on a bench.  My feet were so cold that I had to rub them back to life before putting them in the boot of the skate, which was considerably warmer than my galoshes.  Not sure if that's because they had recently been worn, but I didn't care.  My toes were tingling with blood and life.  Laced up and smiling we were off the rink.

Now, let me just take this moment to explain that in initial conversations about ice skating, Steven said that he had skated and played hockey.  Then during the drive downtown he says he hasn't ever skated.  I totally busted him. "Which is it, liar?"  "Well, it's been a long time since I've skated."  "So, a more factual statement to cover your ass from already telling me you played hockey would be to say 'I have never ice skated in my adult life.'"  Laughing.  "Yeah, you got me." "Uh huh!"

Once on the rink, we both proceeded with caution.  Steven immediately grabbed my hand and led me around and around the rink until we both got our balance and got accustomed to the motion.  The skates' blades sucked with a capital "S".  The blades were so worn down that they looked more like a half-inch flat piece of steel than a "blade".  We continued going in circles and people were EVERYWHERE!  It was super crowded and there seemed to be bodies littering the rink every place you looked.  I couldn't take my eyes off the ice in front of me in case I failed to notice that there was a group of teenage girls down for the count in front of me and I went flying over them.  Fortunate for me, I had an expert who got his skating groove pretty quickly and was always on the look out to keep me out of trouble, or from causing a major pile up.

At one point we made the turn and this little boy took a tumble.  His father wasn't too stable on the skates and  Steven let go of my hand, made a quick, hard stop, turned around, stopped behind the little boy and picked him up, gently setting him back on his feet.  I just smiled to myself.  Moments later he found me ahead, came to my side, looked at me and reached his hand out.  Wow!  This is a really good dude!  And that wasn't the only person he helped out.

When he wasn't helping to stop potential national incidents between tourist foreign and domestic, he spent his time flirting with me.  As I became more confident, I let go of his hand and skated ahead.  He came up next to me "Hey baby, how are you?"  "Hi. I'm fine," I said slightly cold and ignoring him.  "So, you're one fine lady." "And you're one confident Italian.  Where do you guys learn this stuff?" "It's in our DNA, baby.  Whatcha doin' after this?" "Going home. Alone."  He laughs, comes in close, grabs my waist and whispers "I don't think so!" This kind of flirting went on.  I'd skate off and he'd come up again.  "Dude, you just can't take no for an answer!" "Not when you're so hot.  You're melting the ice."  I roll my eyes and laugh.

At one point, I skated ahead again, but this time I turned to look for him.  I couldn't see him and turned my focus back to making the turn.  I felt him near by and turned to look behind me once more and Steven smiled.  He then came in close and wrapped his arms around me, nuzzling his nose in my neck and saying something.  I don't remember what he said but I was smiling and loving it.  He let go, came to my side, we looked at each other, he looked down and as I did his hand was waiting for me.  I took it and looked back at him.  I am a fucking idiot!  This is pretty damn amazing.  How could I ever think there is something better out there for me than this.  That's when my decision was made.

After an hour or so, it was time to Zamboni the ice again and I was getting a bit tired.  It's quite a work out skating on shitty skates and negotiating through crowds of unstable skaters.  Plus, my right foot was starting to hurt a bit.  We immediately went inside to a warm waiting area next to the bathrooms.  I made my way out of the restroom and walked towards him, smiling.  He wrapped his arms around my waist and kissed me.  To Steven a public place isn't public so PDA isn't PDA.  It's like we're the only two people there.  "So, what are you doing tomorrow?"  "Well, I was going to go to a Super Bowl party but I'm thinking I may stick to home and get a bunch of stuff done. Why?" "Well.........I was wondering if you'd like to come to a Super Bowl party with me and meet my friends." Seriously?  I haven't told him I've made my choice yet and we haven't done anything intimate to consider the deal sealed.  This is awesome!  "Are you sure you're ready to introduce me to your friends?" He laughs, "Yes!" "Well, okay then."

After some debate, we decided to return our skates and head home.  I was STARVING!  Of course, it turns out that it was 80's night in Millennium Park and that's when all the fun started.  We watched some professional skaters and made sad faces that the fun music was now playing as we were leaving.  Oh well, I was STARVING!  "So, what do you want to do for dinner?" I ask.  "I don't know.  Do you have any thoughts?"  "Well, I was thinking maybe we hit the store and head back to mine.  I have homemade chili I can defrost and it sounds ssssoooo good on a night like this."  "Sounds good."

In the car, he turns the heat on high.  This is kind of a big deal for me as I'm always cold.  As far as Steven is concerned, he would as soon die of sweat than let me freeze.  (Okay, everyone say a collective "Aaaaaawwwww!")  His father calls as we're leaving downtown, "Hi, Dad.....Yeah, I love you too....No I'm not alone.  I've got this hot blonde with the biggest blue eyes sitting next to me.  We've just come from ice skating and heading for a warm dinner....No I'm not cooking."  I laugh out loud. "What?" he looks at me.  "Look you make fantastic reservations and pay and I'll do the cooking." We're both laughing. "Dad...did you hear that?  Yeah....I agree."  I can hear part of the conversation but not all of it and with that he gives me a smile.

After hitting a couple of stores I am starting to get the grouch on.  I. Am. STARVING!   In the stores he kept wanting to browse...."Dude!  I'm hungry.  Let's go!"  "Okay, okay!"  He drops me off with his eyes set on a parking spot that's been plowed in.  I can tell he's salivating at the chance to give it a go with his all-wheel drive love....aka his car.  I lug everything upstairs into my apartment and pull out two containers of turkey chili.  After uncovering them I stick them into the microwave to defrost.  I then race around to do some quick pick up, shoving shit in all kinds of closets (not much unlike our second date when he "invited" himself over). Then grab all the accouterments - cheese, sour cream - and set them on the table next to the wine and two glasses.  He comes in with a big smile revealing his accomplishment of drilling his car into the parking spot.  You're hilarious! 

We eat, watch some TV - Alaska State Troopers, to be exact - and some warm snuggling.  There was some making out and then.....to the bedroom.  You're usual turn of events occurred, but we didn't "seal the deal".   At one point, I stopped him, sat up and said "Just so you know, this means I've made my choice."  He grabs my face with both hands and kisses me.  At that point his shirt came off and GASP! That wasn't JUST back hair I was feeling through his shirt the other night.  It's a fucking SHAG RUG!  ARE YOU KIDDING ME???  It was everywhere and about an inch long.....EVERYWHERE.  Not to mention the Buddha was a little bigger than a little Buddha.  I just laughed to myself and gave him a hug.  In the past, I would have shut this guy down.  No way, no how!  I do NOT do back hair and major Buddha!  But for some reason, I just let it go as his kisses quickly made me realize it wasn't as important as it once was.  Well, these things can be changed.  Soon we fell asleep and his sleep apnea kicked in.  I reached to my bedside table and put in some ear plugs, and I slept really well for a few hours.  Well, until I realized he'd taken over the entire bed and I was left with a 12-inch wide space on the edge.  I waited until I heard him snore and got out of bed like a cat - smoothly, quickly and quietly - grabbed a robe and headed to the couch.  A few hours later, he came out.  "Hey," he whispers.  "Hey."  "Did my snoring keep you awake?"  "No the earplugs were great. You were inching me out of bed, you big HOG!"  Laugh.  "Come back to bed now."

We crawled back in and began talking.  He asked me about my past relationships and I breezed over everyone - who matters - including the abuser.  He didn't seem to flinch, probably because of the fact that I can talk about it today matter of factly and without feeling.  I asked him about his and found out he broke up with his last girlfriend in October.  Since then he'd been on the dating site where he learned that most women were interested in little more than a "free night out".  Aha!  This makes sense now.  On our first date he didn't believe that I was really seriously about going out with him again.  

"Let's go get breakfast." "Uhm, okay."  "I think we should go get Dim Sum in Chinatown." Another thing I've been dying to do and not got around to it. "That sounds great!  Something I've always wanted to do."  "Okay, let me call my friend and get the name and address."  He starts to dial, "Uhm, Steve, it's like 7:30 in the morning." "Oh, yeah, he'll be up.....He dude, it's Steve.  So I'm in bed with this gorgeous woman and want to take her to Dim Sum.  Call me back with the name and address of the place we used to go to."  I laugh.  "I can't believe you just said that to him."  He laughs. "It's no biggie.  He'd do the same to me."  A few minutes later his friend calls and I hear the first part of the conversation: "Hey, thanks for calling me back."  "First of all, you're AN IDIOT!  You don't call ANYONE when you're in bed with a beautiful woman!" Steven laughs, "Yeah, well I want the restaurant info......uhuh....where's that at.....okay, great.  Thanks.....He says it doesn't open until 10a and the best time to go is between 11:45 and 1:00p."  "No way, I'm STARVING!" "You're always starving." "It's because it takes so much energy to deal with you!"  We both laugh.  "Okay, then plan B.  The Original Pancake House downtown."  "I've never been there."  "Gggiiirrrlll, you're missing out."  So that's what we did.

I was grabbing my bag and Steven was putting on his boots when I checked my phone.  Ben had sent me a text around 10:30 the night before (when I was otherwise occupied).  "Dear friends it is with great sadness to say that Chuck passed away this evening..." "Oh my God! Oh my God!"  "What?"  "My friend Chuck passed away."  I look up at Steven, back down at the phone, and then to Steven again.  Within an instant I just burst into tears.  "Oh my gosh!" I turn away and go into the bathroom I am not going to cry in front of this man I just met.  No!  But I do.  I come take a deep breath, wipe my eyes, blow my nose and return to the kitchen. Steven is standing in the doorway and quickly embraces me.  "Okay, let's go."  I think this might have surprised Steven, but I'm a strong hold when it comes to crying.  I just have a hard time doing it in front of boyfriends.

We had a nice time at breakfast though I was quiet.  He dropped me off and said he'd be back at 4:30p to pick me up for the Super Bowl party.  I came in the house, closed the door and had a small sob fest.  I then  laid down, napping for almost two hours.  When I awoke I returned calls and then sobbed until I had nothing left.

Part 2: Super Bowl Party report tomorrow...


Monday, February 7, 2011

In Memoriam

Have you ever known someone who took life so easy that nothing, and I mean NOTHING, could ever shake them?  That was Chuck.

Chuck and I met through the gay boys.  He played on the softball team and came to all of the parties.  He made a real effort to be everyone's friend and you simply became intoxicated with his spirit.  It was one you became drunk on.  It was addicting and you were always left wanting more, especially once he retreated the party.  When he wasn't playing softball Chuck was my companion in cheerleading on the sidelines, and that's where we did most of our gossiping.  I know how much he would have liked to play softball this last summer, but I loved having him to myself under the tent next to the dusty field rooting "our guys" on.  "You can ring that cowbell like no one else, E!"

Chuck was a giving and wonderfully cheerful person who never let anything get him down.  While he sometimes walked to the beat of his own drum, Chuck was a good voice of reason and he left a mark on all of us.  He always had a smile on his face, and you can't help but have one when you think of him.  Isn't that what any of us can hope to do when we depart? 

When Chuck walked into the room there was always a "hey, hey, hey!" and them kisses and hugs for everyone.  He was a generous guy who never thought twice about going out of his way to see you, to pick you up to go somewhere or think of the kind things no one else does.  He was the first to bring flowers and celebrate the achievements of friends. 

For me, Chuck was a consummate gentleman (as so many of my gay boys are - they really know how to be sweet to a woman!) and one of the few who I jumped for joy to see.  "Hhhheeeeyyyyy, E!  How are you?  What's new?  Tell me everything!" and I'd always ask "How is your love life?"  "Wwwelll, there are a couple of boys around but you know, this chemo thing doesn't leave me with much energy to fuck any of them!"  And that would be followed by a big laugh.

 Yes, I blocked out my face...this is my anonymous journal!

Chuck had Leukemia.  He went through chemo and had a bone marrow transplant over the summer.  In January he went back into the hospital.  The transplant didn't take.  He then came home and then went back in last week, admitted to ICU.  As I told Ben* I just didn't see this coming.  Didn't think this was an option.  He always said "I'm going to beat this".

He was an exemplary example of courage and positivity, and he will be missed. Rest in peace my friend.  Your spirit will always be near us.  You will be present with us always.  But, you will be missed.  I love you!


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Decision Made

I don't have time to write a full post, but will do so as soon as I'm able.  I will tell you that I've made my decision and calling off everything and everyone else.  Steven invited me to meet his friends today....even before he knew I had made my decision.  Need a nap and then off for the start of our adventure.

In the meantime, news this morning has left me grieving the loss of a friend and wonderful person.  It caught me off guard.  The tears flowed and I was happy not to be alone when I heard.

Stay warm, enjoy the game.  More later...


Friday, February 4, 2011

Steven Opens Up....

You should all be relieved.  I felt SO different with Steven tonight and even better by the end of the night. It was amazingly comfortable and easy.   

He picked me up at 5:40p and, as per usual, I was ready to go and peering out my living room blinds for him.  I watch him park his car and get out wearing that DAMNED fur hat!  Ugh, I hate that thing!  We head to the grocery to pick a few items for the dinner I was making him - Seared Scallops with thin multi-grain spaghetti with tomatoes, garlic, Parmesan and olive oil accompanied by spring greens lightly drizzled in olive oil.  At the store, he followed me, as I walk very fast and determined.  I had several things for this recipe already at home, packed them in a recyclable grocery bag and brought it with.  Produce, fish counter, dairy and wine and head to the self check out.  I ring everything up and the clerk says "Do you have ID."  I turn my back to show her my ID and then carefully place it back in my python card case.  As I turn around, Steven is running his card through the machine to buy the food.  "This was supposed to be my treat."  "I know, but I wanted to." "Okay, that's very nice of you," I whisper "but you didn't have to." He looks at me and smiles.

Back towards the car and Steven grabs my hand again.  He's always, always holding my hand.  We get in the car and make the trek back to his house.  As we drive in the snow we spin and turn - this guy knows how to drive! "I love this car.  All wheel drive rocks!" I laugh at his purely manly enthusiasm as I grip the card door hand thinking it will actually protect me in an impact.  I'm more concerned about the other people on the road then Steven.

As we pull up to his house, the street is clearly a mess and yet he just plows right through it all.  In Chicago there is this long standing tradition that once you've done the hard work of digging yourself out of the snow, you reserve the spot with a broom, folding chair, desks, you know, whatever happens to be handy.  This street is no different.  It's comical, really, until someone steals your stuff and your parking space.  Once inside and stripped of all wet outerwear, I head to the kitchen and begin taking everything out of the bags and positioning them on the table island.  He opens the wine while I take roasted pepper hummus and spread it on a plate, microwave for 20 seconds, drizzle some olive oil, fan multi-grain and flax seed crackers around it and present it to him as The Appetizer.  He loves it and comes around to give me a hug as thanks....with a mini make out.

As I get everything ready his idle hands are all over me and I decide it's time to put them to work, "You'll manage the pasta, because I know you've got that down, and I'll do the rest." "Ok," he says with an attempt at another make out.  "Get to work!!"  I grab the tomatoes and garlic and ask him for a knife.  Boy does he have a knife.  Chef grade.  It sliced through a tomato perfectly.  "This is an amazing knife.  Where did you get it."  "Work." "Oh right because you need to have them for work." Laugh. "No the sales reps come in to sell to the airport restaurants.  I bought a few."  "Oh, yeah, that makes sense." "Hold that thought."  He comes back moments later with another knife, exactly like the one I'm holding except with a black handle.  "Get your grimy hands off my knife!"  uhm...what? "This is for you." "But I have one." "No, this is yours.  I want you to have it." uhm, that's like a $100 knife, dude. "I really can't.  Yes, you will. I'll set it over here for you." "Thank you!"

While I'm chopping I ask:

E:  "So, I don't mind the texting, but why don't you call me.  Not a phone guy?"
S: He smiles. "It's not that I haven't wanted to, I just don't know when you're busy."
E: "Well, if I'm busy I won't answer!"
S: He laughs.  "Yeah, simple as that."
E: "So tell me something about you that I don't know." I look up to the smirk-smile.  "What?" I say "Entertain me while I'm doing this."
S: "Okay, I moved around from school to school growing up.  Later I worked at the Chicago Board of Trade for 10 years from the age of 18-28."
E: "Wow, were you a runner?"
S: "I started off as a runner."
E: "And then you just decided it wasn't fulfilling enough?"
S: "Yeah, I guess that's it. And yyoooouuu??"
E: "Well, I spent most of my life as a performer - dance, theater, singing, and such.  I went to school on scholarship to sing and loved it.  I feel that I'm an instrument for this amazing music.  It wasn't about me, and that came back to hurt me.  I was raised to be far too modest and I lacked all Divaness.  Then I asked myself if I wanted to teach - no - or do I want to wait tables in New York auditioning with 20,000 girls who look and sound like me?  Not really.  Not to say I wasn't unique. I was small, petite with a huge voice that could be heard over a 200-piece orchestra and 150-person choir.  I loved it, still do, but have no regrets about changing my major to journalism.  I simply didn't have the 'I have to do this to live' feeling in my gut.  I do miss it. After I lost my scholarship I worked as a waitress and bartender to help pay my tuition."

Steven comes around the table, takes the knife from my hand and gives me a big hug.  "Ouch!" "What," he stops suddenly.  "My back, from shoveling yesterday.  It's really sore."  "Well, I will give you a massage to make it feel better."  I smile.

I decide to cook all of the scallops so he can eat them for leftovers.  When it was all complete, I prepared each plate and we go into the living room to sit at the big ass table to eat.  He digs in and is loving it.  "This is so good." "I know, and it's so easy, don't you think?"  "Hhmmmm..."  That was pretty much the rest of the meal until I look up and find a huge stuffed giraffe staring at me. " Uhm..." he looks at me. "Giraffe???"  He laughs.  "You like that?  When restoration hardware was having their bankruptcy sales I bought it for my niece and nephew." "So why isn't it at their house?"  "They wanted to keep it here so they have something to play with."  "Ahhh..."

I gotta give it to Steven.  He downed six big scallops, salad and pasta, clearing his plate.  I say, "I'm stuffed.  It would be great to go take a walk."  "Okay, let's." "Seriously?" "Yeah."  So we bundle up in our outwear and head out to walk around the block in the frigid temps.  "You should wear your knit cap it will keep you warmer." "I'm fine," as he puts on ear covers and that stupid fur hat!

It's cold but it feels good. We talk about his neighborhood as I point out interesting architectural and design elements I see.  "It's changed a lot since I moved in," he says. "I used to hear gunshots all the time."  "Didn't that scare you?" "Nah, I'm a better shot." I suddenly wonder where he leaves his gun in the house.  (Sidebar: I did do some more research and he is a Marshall whose assignment is on the ground.) Instead of turning right to make the walk around the block complete he says "Turn left". We turn left and come upon the park.  Steven lives a good three to four miles from the lakefront but he's right by a huge park with lagoon, tennis courts, softball fields and more.  I've seen it in the summer and it's actually quite beautiful.  No doubt the park is empty but the drive through it is clear and we make that our path.  At one point he let's go of my right hand, stops, I keep walking, and then comes up on my left grabbing that hand.  Nice.  A real gentleman always walks on the outside of a lady.  Nice!

We decide to cross the street and venture into the area, which is normally grass, towards the softball field.  There was two feet of snow and we were like moose picking up each leg up and out of the snow.  By the time we stop, we're both winded.  We stand there for a few minutes inhaling the cold air and enjoy the quite beauty and he wraps his arms around me.  We decide to go.

S: "Let's go this way," and he starts to pull me to the right.
E: "Uhm, let's not."  While we were standing there, I saw a guy stumble into the snow towards a tree.
S: "Why?"
E: "Cuz that guy is peeing on the tree over there." Chicago has embraced public urination!
S:  He laughs. "Yeah, okay."

We walk through the softball field to the road, passing the most beautiful snow angels, and he again steps to the outside of me. Nice. About 10 minutes later we're back in the warmth of his house, of which he actually turned the heat up.  Snow is everywhere and we carefully undress and he turns his neck to reveal a crick.  I start to massage it and he leads me into his bedroom.

When he opens the door I see a huge four-banister bed with matching light wood strips linking the tops, perfect for a mosquito net.  It's not a large room, as is very traditional in old Chicago homes, but somehow he's managed to cram his office desk and a huge, tall metal filing cabinet in.  This guy needs a woman's touch!  The mattress, Tempurpedic.  Awesome!  He lays down and I massage his neck and back.  The more I rub his shoulders through the shirt, the more crinkling noise I hear...and feel.  BACK HAIR!!!  Seriously??? Really?  COME ON!!  Sooner or later we switch, I pull off my turtle neck after working up a small sweat massaging his tight back, and lay in my tank top and leggings. He starts to give my back the massage it's been crying for all day, except he can't rally stay focused.  He continues to lean down to kiss my neck and shoulders.  "Hey, I'm serious, I need this!" It was a generous massage lasting about 15 minutes.  Afterwards we lie on the bed, making out and talking.

S: "So what is your hesitation?"
E: "What? With sex?"
S: "Yeah"
E: "I promised myself I would do it right this time, that I wouldn't jump into anything."
S: "Why?"
E: "Because that's what I've done in the past and the relationships didn't have substance."
S: "What were they?"
E: "I dressed up well for parties and dinners out; I looked good for their friends.  We never talked and they never seemed interested in me."
S: "Oh." Make out.
S: "Tell me about your first boyfriend."
E: I laugh. "My first boyfriend lasted about 10 minutes.  He was my first kiss." We played around as I imitated the reenactment of my first kiss.  Hilarious.  I was actually in fifth grade..... "Yours?"
S: "It was ninth grade and I started dating this girl.  My brother met her and said 'dude, you can do so much better than that!', but all of my friends had girlfriends and I wanted one too.  So I got one."  We laugh.  "So tell me about your last relationship."
E: "He was the first in a long time to treat me with respect.  He was super sweet to me, wanted to court me and I felt I deserved it.  Then he dropped a bombshell that I just couldn't help him with."
S: "What do you mean"
E: "He told me he was in recovery"
S: "For what?"
E: "Alcohol mostly but I often wondered if there was something harder.  It was sad. He had just recently gotten out of rehab for the second time." I didn't go into more details.
S: "Oh."
E: "Are you uncomfortable that I am not jumping into sex with you?"
S: "Well, no, but for me it defines everything."
E: "What do you mean? That it means that we're officially together?"
S: "Yes." He says with a smile.  So, you're eager to take me off the market??  LOL  He kisses me and the looks linger. He softly touches my face. "Do you still have your online profile up?"
E: "Yes, but I haven't checked it in awhile. Do you?"
S: "No. I took it down."
E: "Why?"
S: "Because I really like you."
E: "So what did you think the other night when I didn't want to come into the bedroom with you?"
S: "I just thought you hadn't made your choice yet."
E: "I suppose I'm just looking for someone who will be patient with me. Who will make me laugh."
S: "I can do that." And with those words he rolled me on to my back, lifted up my tank top and gave me a huge zurburt on the stomach.  I laughed and laughed.
E: I catch my breath as he lies down next to me. "I like that you asked and we talked about this.  Keep talking to me. Deal?"
S: "Always."

The conversation and making out continued until I finally drew the line and said I have to go home.

I felt exponentially better knowing where his head was at, and I'm sure he feels better as well.  I think it was feeling the pressure of sex that had me feeling like I was out of control; as if I'd lose him if I didn't, and I don't like that.  We've only been on FOUR dates! I just need to wrap my head around all of this.  This is what I want, I just have to go step-by-step for myself.

He's right, I haven't made my decision yet because of fear and what not, but I'm closer.  Definitely closer.  But I do have to say, there's nothing like letting him work for it a little bit.  He doesn't need to know that I haven't dated anyone else.  There's no harm.  No answer is not lying.  There has to be a reason why none of those other guys really go into contact and asked me out.  I believe that God works in mysterious ways. 

Next date: Saturday late afternoon.  Ice skating and hot chocolate - we really have to get out of the house and out to do something! LOL  Plus, I might not be able to see him until I get back from the new business pitch in Pittsburgh next Friday.  Ugh...Valentine's Day...


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Frozen Tundra, Frozen Heart

If you've ever wondered what it's like to be an igloo, come to Chicago.  It's cold and there's WAY too much snow - although pretty, I had to shovel and so it loses its novelty quickly.  Even typing, I can feel every single muscle in my hands and arms. Let's not talk about my back.  However, I want to lose a 10-er and I certainly dumped some cals yesterday.

Due to the storm arriving Tuesday, Steven was put on mandatory overtime and wasn't going to leave work until Thursday, so we rescheduled our plans.  That is until he texted me at 4:30 saying they had too many people on and he was coming home, would I like to get together.  Dude, major snow storm has already started.  We're talking BLIZZARD!  Are you nuts? I responded that it looked like traffic and roads were getting bad and it would be better to wait.  He seemed bummed.  It was like he had no idea that the third worst storm on record was hitting us that night!  Then again, if a man wants something he'll cross rivers and dig through snow drifts the size of The Rockies to reach it. 

Sure enough, within two hours I was downstairs shoveling - four inches.  My neighbor was out and offered to help.  Three hours later I go back out and my previous efforts had been completely blown away.  It was as if I hadn't been out there at all.  So, I shoveled again.  By morning, there was absolutely no sign of my hard work and this is what I awoke to:

Yep, that's a car, kids.  Right in front of my house.  Fortunately, I was smart enough to make a deal with the two boys downstairs to help with the shoveling.  Boy One started about 9:00a and made his way through about two feet of snow in a four foot path on the sidewalk before giving up.  While I appreciate his efforts, the foot of snow on our landing was shoveled into the gangway on the side of the house (a walk way between houses for people to get to their doors in a multi-flat building.  Not to mention where our mailboxes are) making the drift there about four feet.  Great.  I went out a little later and started from the back of the house where the drifts were nearly three feet and shoveled out the gangway.  It was actually quite pretty and I hated to disrupt the artwork created by the wind, but it had to be done.  The boys hollered at me to come in for coffee when I was finished.  I did and we took a break.  A break which included me showing the two of them how to use their sewing machine.  Twenty-something straight boys who sew.  Well, you have to figure one's a chef and the other a musician.  Creative types who smoke pot and aren't afraid to admit they sew.  Nice.

Finally, boy neighbor two and his girlfriend bundled up in snow gear and we all went back out to finish the job.  Bot Two took the incredibly deep gangway and stairs and us two gals took turns on another shovel.  Sooner or later I decide to take a look at the streets.  Imagine a drift down the middle that's about 18 inches...no doubt three young girls wanted to hit the home store by me and instead of taking the cleared main streets decided they would take a shortcut, which got them stuck about 50 feet into their journey.  I rallied the other two and we brought our shovels.  After a lot of team work from neighbors and the school caretaker in his little John Deere with shovel attached to the front, we finally managed to get them out.  We'd been out for three hours.  Time. To. Go. Home.

Not so fast.  Someone else needs help and as we start to dig them out, a guy comes up and asks if we need an extra shovel.  Yes!  His name is Aaron a 20-something who lives up the street.  Nice guy and a huge help.  Seems Boys One and Two took a shine to the kid and they were already talking about getting together to hang out and do some weed.  Naturally!

It's amazing how we forget everyday that we, as people, are more alike than we are different.  It's only in times like these, or tragedy - when we share an instant common bond - that we actually reach out to help one another.  I wonder how many of us bother to check on our neighbors at times like this?

We walk back to our house and if shoveling isn't exercise, walking through the snow alone will get the heart pumping.  Chicago is flat but at this moment it has its own set of hills and valleys.  Almost like hiking in sand.  The kind of sand that fails to support your weight and often surprises you as a foot sinks, sometimes two feet, to the bottom - a combination of walking through shallow water and walking up a midget-sized "quick" sand dune over and over again.  It's quite the workout. The exhaustion hits me and I skip the invitation from Boys One and Two to come in for cider with brandy, although incredibly tempting.  Once inside I peel off my wet clothes pulled on the warmest, thickest flannel pants ever made, two shirts and a sweater, wool socks and snuggle under my down comforter in front of the TV for a DVR marathon.  I didn't even have the energy for a hot bath, which I should have taken to relief the muscle pain I would feel the next day.  I was so exhausted I fell asleep.

When I woke up this morning, it was if my body aged by 40 years.  The back, butt and shoulders we sore.  It's as if someone had placed thick, tight rubber bands throughout my torso to keep me from twisting and bending.  It took a good 10 minutes to even get out of my very warm bed.  Once vertical I tried to do some stretching to loosen things up.  No luck.  Into the hot shower.  It was helpful but I could still feel the tightness as I stand, balanced on one foot to pull on my faux Uggs.  I do this all of the time and I couldn't seem to get any muscle to work.  I try again and finally give up, moving to the chair to sit.  Even then pulling my leg up and into my chest was an impossible feat.

Despite the feeling that I'd rather go back to my cozy bed on this barely 5 degree morning, I was quite excited.  You're thinking "date night" but that isn't actually it. Today, I interviewed interns to help with some of my business tasks that simply just take too much time.  I'd like to grow and focus on cultivating new business, but there's just too much on my plate.  If you can't afford to hire someone then grow your business on the backs of interns.  Two of three are going to be great and I'm excited for them to start next week.  The third, while working on a masters degree, doesn't have any experience in my particular field of marketing, and, unfortunately, I just don't have the time to teach her.  I want people with some experience who want to grow that experience.  While helping me, I can help them develop the skills they need to prepare them for a paying job, to help them stand out - but secretly I really hope they all stay for the rest of their lives.  Hey, if they help me grow my business then I just might be able to pay them.  

As far as tonight with Steven goes, the self-sabotage has started.  I've already named every reason why it won't work out with him.  Being aware is the first step to changing the behavior, and I am....trying.  I'm just plain scared.  It's ironic, really, because this is something I really want in my life. In fear, I put the brakes on.  I'm kind of like a guy who needs to step back, internalize things and then revisit the problem with a solution.

When I think about moving forward with him I get a knot in my stomach that requires a few glasses of wine.  Is it self-sabotage or my intuition speaking?  I can't tell.  I start questioning whether I will hurt him in the end, but then I remember that love is a gamble.  There's a real chance that someone can and will always get hurt.  I really don't want to rush into anything with him and I've begun to pull away a small bit.  I wait longer to respond to his text messages and I'm keeping myself very focused on me and the business. Cuz let's face it, once he finds out my reality he may just change his perception of me and walk away.  Any man might.  So, I need to stay focused on improving my reality and it starts with me.

I suppose it doesn't help that the dating service called and wants me to come in next Tuesday before setting me up with someone.  The curiosity...I know!  Shut up! It's hard when this has been you're love life for 10 years.  Someone is always coming and going and I'm always forced to look ahead to something else.

Kisses aren't contracts.  Kisses aren't contracts.....Let go of the guilt, E!

Details tomorrow....stay warm, everybody!