And I Will Call This Cocktail The Prim Reaper

When I spoke to my mother this morning I informed her that I was in the process of driving home my new fish.

There was a pause. Then she said, "Am I to take it that you've suffered a bereavement?"

Ah. Ah yes. Sorry. Forgot that part. A moment of contemplation, please, for Skye the ex-Betta. He was a good fish, as fish go, and as fish go... he went as slowly as was piscatorially possible. Seriously. When was it that I first mentioned the fact that Skye had taken to floating topside and I was looking into ways to end his suffering? You know, when I *WINK WINK* told Steve I wanted to euthanize the fish? December?

[Yes it was December. I looked it up.] 

Do you know how disconcerting it is to have a fish who hangs out upside-down at the waterline? Very. I cannot tell you how many times I glanced at his tank, tsk'd in sorrowful acceptance of life's great circle before poking at his lifeless corpse... only to have him twist away and frisk off again. Not to mention the fact that he needed to be fed by hand. For months

I know the term Blessed Release is thrown around a lot - mainly by people in nineteenth century novels who have just come into an inheritance - but it is hard to overemphasize just how very blessed this release was. Very.

Still, when I determined yesterday morning that this time Skye was really (really and truly and utterly) dead I felt sad.

"Oh. Oh dear." I announced to the house at large, "Skye is dead."

"Shrug!" hollered Edward from the other room.

"How can you tell?" called down Patrick.

"Finally!" sympathized my husband.

Only Caroline bothered to join me by the aquarium. She looked at Skye in silence and then put her hand on my arm.

"Can I bury him in the yard right now?" she asked with an enthusiasm I found to be in poor taste.

"Sure."

"Great!" she said and skipped off to find a box.

 

So I was recounting all of this to my mother and emphasized my general sense of relief that Skye had been mercifully released from this tank of tears by explaining that as recently as Saturday I was googling painless ways kill fish.

My mom laughed and said that it was nice to know I am so compassionate since I will no doubt be tending to her declining years as well. "I'm glad you put painless in there," she said.

"Of course," I said. Then I added, "I was leaning toward a combination of clove oil and vodka, by the way."

There was another pause and then she said, "I could do worse."

I love my mom.

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This my new fish. I have named him... Cherry.

And speaking of football (heh heh. sly) I would like to reiterate for the Official World Wide Internet Record that I divorced Chelsea before Diego Costa got all... what WAS that? The pushy shove-y nuzzling bitey FA Cup hug violation? I didn't think he needed a red card so much as a psychiatrist.

On that note I have more recorded football to watch, not to mention an entire season of college basketball upon which I must educate myself. Go... Huskies? Did they make it? Does anyone have five seconds to tell me who's good this year?

PS My subconscious has apparently been working on the question of vodka and clove because I just said ah ha! and discovered that while I was typing this the rest of me was rounding out an imaginary cocktail with orange and maybe red wine. A sort of winter sangria.


You Didn't Miss Much

Oh heavens how I have missed you! Do you want to see my new brace?

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In addition to being rather sporty, it is significantly smaller than the other one; so not only can I now move the top joint of my thumb (which I am doing as we speak space bar space bar space bar) but also my wrist (crucial in the event of sudden badminton.) On the minus side I am no longer walking around as the poster child for emergency falconry preparedness. Quel, as the French say, dommage.  

[I self-diagnosed turf thumb, by the way, and think that I must've landed on it funny during one of my eleventy million falls during soccer - probably that time the other guy got the yellow card; note the pride in my voice because it means that *I* had gotten to the ball first ... before he cowped me. The orthopedist said the swelling was caused by ligament damage but my real issue is the arthritis in that joint. Who knew? Anyway. Cortisone and a brace and I'm practically out of the bandbox.

And I am officially retired from soccer. Again.]

Speaking of soccer, Patrick pointed out that my brace is Chelsea blue; an incredibly awkward observation since he knows that Chelsea and I have consciously uncoupled. Sorry. I meant to break it to you more gently but there it is. We'd been growing apart for some time (what with the unavoidable fact that they are all, more or less, a bunch of dicks) but it wasn't until I leapt to my feet with a squeal of joy when someone - Southhampton? - scored against them that I realized that it was really, truly over. Like an ill-advised first marriage I had rushed in too quickly; smitten with the idea of being smitten.

Since November I've been seeing... well, seeing someone new and although it is too soon to be sure I think this time my fandom will be forever. There is a sweetness to this new team. A touching vulnerability. A refreshing lack of Diego Costa that is leaving me heady and a little breathless. It's also possible they're going to get relegated, at which point I'm screwed because America has come a long way in their football broadcasts but not all the way down to the championship league.

What else?

Patrick is officially an inch taller than I am. It's weird. I'm not going to lie to you. You have this baby and you love them and feed them and smile indulgently when they talk about fonts and then they are taller than you are.

Caroline continues to love Crivens with the fiery passion of a thousand suns.

Edward - wow, it has been a while, hasn't it - Edward was diagnosed with dysgraphia... oh! An enormous and heartfelt thank you to those of you who weighed in on the subject last Fall and encouraged me to take Edward to a neuropsychologist. Getting the neuropsych eval through our health insurance company was a lengthy exercise in You-Must-Be-Joking bureaucracy (at one point we were told that they would pay for it but only if the evaluation found issues beyond learning disabilities - chicken meet egg) but it was worth it. She identified a few things that would benefit from additional classroom support and we were able to use her report as a starting point with the school. 

Ha! Sorry. That reminds me. This came home last week and I admit that I giggled.

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And on that mature and erudite note I bid you goodnight and swear upon the altar of salt I will check in again much sooner.


Unopposable

After taking January off to spend more time with my football I was ready to return to the internet today refreshed, revitalized, reinvigorated...

IMG_1759

when my doctor decided this morning that the best way to treat my swollen-like-a-cocktail-tomato thumb joint is to immobilize it. And no, we have no idea why my thumb ballooned but it's been like this for three weeks and it hurts like a beejeezums when I button or squeeze or do the thing you do with the elastic when you are putting your hair back into a ponytail.

Do you know what I can no longer do with my right hand? Anything.

Do you know what I am able to do with my left hand? Nothing.

I am typing this with my pinkies. But apart from that all is well.

You?

PS Caroline and Crivens

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Hogmanay

The Happy

 

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Caroline and Edward turned eight. Let us all take a moment to ponder this because... WHAT? Eight?

 

The Sad

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Jamy died early on the 26th. It was a good death. Very peaceful. We had made her a bed of towels on the heated bathroom floor and gave her water from a medicine dropper and she just grew weaker and weaker throughout Christmas Day. Steve woke up and stroked her back around four the next morning and by seven she had died. It was painless. She had a good - albeit weirdly isolated - and a long life. But I am crying as I write this because I keep seeing her out of the corner of my eye in the closet and then I remember - oh. 

 

The New

"Caroline," I said last Spring. "My darling. My sweet cherub. My warrior witch queen. I love you. I adore you. I value you. But We. Are. Never. Buying. A. Bird."

"Oh," she said. "OK."

And then she went back to researching birds and bird care. She lectured endlessly about cockatiels, conures, canaries and parrots. She read aloud to the family from the Sibley's Guide, rather pointedly dwelling on the subject of smaller tropical birds that have been domesticated in the past centuries.

She said things like, "Oh! Can I have that empty egg carton? I just read about a bird toy that you can make with one."

"You don't have a bird, Caroline."

"I know."

"We are not getting a bird, Caroline."

"I know."

Her magnum opus - produced this September - was a fifteen page, closely written, stapled booklet entitled "A Helpful Guide to Parakeet Care" with each letter on the cover carefully bubbled in a different color. Chapter two was about handling. Chapter three involved feeding. She was positive. She was informative. She was relentless. She stayed just this side of obnoxious. She never stopped talking about getting a bird.

In early December I said to Steve, "Do you want a bird?"

"No!"

"Have you ever wanted a bird?"

"Of course not!"

I was quiet for a moment. Then I said, "I think we have to buy her a bird" and Steve said, "Yeah. I know."

So this was Christmas morning

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and this was tonight

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His name is Crivens.

 

The Year

Obviously it was my intention to write here every day in 2015 and equally obviously I failed. I feel a little squicky about my lack of resolve. Like the time I - technically - ran a 5K but as soon as I crossed the finish line I collapsed on the verge, didn't notice I was sitting in a puddle and when I did notice I didn't care. How triumphant can anyone feel when they are sitting in a puddle?

The broader question, though, was whether I am capable of committing to writing on a daily basis in any sort of meaningful (oh shush, you know what I mean) way and I think I am. Mostly. Mostly enough. So my goal for 2016 is essays. Enough essays to put into, well, a notebook maybe. Or a folder. That sort of thing. And to write here, of course, on a mostly regular basis because I love you singularly and I love you even more together and I honestly cannot imagine a life without your wisdom and your generosity.

From the bottom of my abnormally wide feet I thank you for every laugh and every thought provoked and every observation, suggestion, recommendation... every kindness; and I wish you the very best of all good things in the coming year.


Jazzy

"C'mon, Edward," I said. "Let's go. Time for school. Move it along. Last day before the winter break."

With the exception of the vacation carrot at the end there, this is standard morning chivvying. Repeated so often as to become white noise. Routine to the point of monotony. I say X; he does Y.

So I was completely taken aback today when - rather than begin the slow shuffle toward his shoes that he always does - Edward did a little dance. And then he sang.

Something like:

NooooooOOOOOOOO

I will not gooooOOOOO

You cannot make me

You will. Not. Take. Meeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!

 

I stared at him. "What on earth was that?" I asked.

"I'm writing a refusical," said Edward.


It Picks Up At The End

I think with pets - elderly pets, you understand, who have lived long lives filled with sunny windows - it is not so much the death that hurts us as the dying. My vet friend once told me that everyone hopes their animal will slip away peacefully as they sleep.

"But they never do," she added darkly.

When I met Steve he had a cat named Rusty. Rusty was an orange and white cat with eyes like a lizard and the ability to walk a few steps on his hind legs if he thought you were holding something worthwhile, like a haddock. One day Steve and I returned home from a trip to the sounds of someone being murdered in our apartment. Further inquiries with our neighbor - who seemed peeved for some reason - lead to the discovery that it was Rusty's habit to cry (loudly and without ceasing) every time he was left alone.

Steve thought we should move to several thousand acres in the middle of Montana where Rusty would no longer disturb anyone in his loneliness. I thought we should get another cat to keep Rusty company.

So we got Jam. Jam was a tiny grey striped orphan who had been found in the middle of a busy street in Chicago. We got her from a woman named Mrs McAdams. Mrs McAdams had nine cats and when her daughter rescued Jam she agreed to foster but not keep her. Nine cats, I guess, is acceptable but ten? That's just crazy.

And speaking of crazyville that is exactly where Jam drove Rusty. Rusty was in his stodgy middle age and Jam was a kitten who kept biting his ears. Like Queen Victoria he was Not Amused and - as I mentioned above - when Rusty was displeased he was loud about it.

Steve suggested that we move to Montana where Jam would have thousands of isolated acres in which to burn off all that youthful energy. I said I thought that we should get another kitten so that Jamy could have a playmate and Rusty would still have companionship.

So we got Darwin. Darwin was grey striped like Jam but he picked up where she left off. The most Jam has ever weighed in her life is perhaps five pounds. Darwin had hairballs bigger than that. He was barrel-chested and beefy with the highest, daintiest meow you have ever heard. He also adored Rusty, who didn't seem to mind him nearly as much as he resented Jam. Jam moved into our closet where she remained with her towel bed and her litter box for the better part of a decade.

Three cats. Perhaps a little more cat than was strictly necessary but we were happy with them.

Then one day we went to look at a litter of ragdoll kittens and Steve refused to leave without one, so we got Kelvin and for the next many years I became a little vague when anyone asked how many pets we had. Four cats, after all, is only five cats away from being a Mrs McAdams.

But that was a long time ago. First we lost Rusty to old age and then Darwin a few years later. Kelvin is still with us, although he sleeps a lot and ignores everyone but Patrick. And Jam? Jam is now eighteen and a half and she is slowly dying and it is hard.

On the plus side, her great age has brought with it the healing balm of dementia. For the past several years she's been almost social and in the past weeks she has become positively cuddly. She actually sat on Edward's lap and let him pet her which six months ago would have been the feline equivalent of me climbing into a bathtub full of snakes. On the minus side we had the vet out on Monday and are trying to walk a fine medication line between managing her racing metabolism and killing her outright. Last week she fell off the chair next to my desk and landed in the wastepaper basket, where she remained - blinking at me - until I lifted her out again. Five days ago she stopped being able to drink from a bowl and decided she can only get water from the bathroom faucet. Two days ago I gave her straight-up canned tuna in an effort to appease her seemingly endless hunger, which made her very happy until it all came shooting out the other end in a... well. Enough said. And at three o'clock last night she tried to help herself to the traces of chicken broth left on my bedside table. I woke up to the clanging sound of a metal headboard being hit repeatedly by a cat whose head is trapped inside a soup mug.   

Sad, sure, but also hilarious.

My poor little closet cat. She doesn't seem to be in any pain so we don't want to let her go yet but... it is hard to watch her deteriorate like this.

   

PS To end on a slightly more cheerful - although still pet death related - note: one of our betta fish is suffering from some weird condition that makes it impossible for him to do anything but float at the top of the tank. He's not dead, he just really really looks dead. So much so that - in between feeding him minute pieces of green pea by hand since the internet said it might help - I have been hoping that he'll pass on to his eternal watery reward so I can replace him with a new fish. One that will swim around and look pretty and not cause Caroline to gasp and clutch for her handkerchief every time she sees him.

As I tried to express this sentiment delicately to Steve during the course of a discussion about how very not alive Skye appeared; I did not want to say that I wished I could flush him to his maker (I was standing right in front of his tank!) Instead I said I wished that I could just... you know. And I raised my eyebrows and gave what I thought was a meaningful and understandable tilt to my head.

Steve - who clearly had not been listening to a damned word I had said - perked up at this and said, "Oh! Do we have time before you get the kids from school?"

And I said, "What? No! I meant: I wish I could euthanize the fish! Good Lord!"

To which Steve optimistically replied, "Huh. I'm not familiar with that particular expression but... OK!"

I told him to keep his pants on and left to pick up the children. 

Euthanize the fish.

Worst sex euphemism EVER.


Intermezzo

Edward has been home sick for the past two days. Not so sick that he's miserable but sick enough that I'm pretty sure they would've shipped him back to me if I tried to unload him on the school; all raspy and sneezy and gunky as he is.

I like having Edward around. Not only is he good at keeping himself quietly entertained for hours on end, he is just so... quaint.

"You know, Mom," he said this morning as he looked thoughtfully at his Cheerios, "cereal is sort of like the soup of breakfast. It comes in a bowl, you eat it with a spoon, it sloshes and when you ask for something else when you're done with it no one thinks you're being greedy."

Reeeally makes you think, doesn't it?


Thanksgiving Post... Postponed

In order:

^   I returned those cleats to the hot pink hell from whence they came (at least that was my intention; Frodo was looking a little peaky as he set off with the UPS box but I'm sure he'll be fine) and ordered a pair of men's Diadora turf shoes from Zappos. All hail overnight delivery.

^  Diadora allows each of a person's fifty-two foot bones to occupy its own space. This is in contrast to Adidas who doesn't understand why toes can't just double or triple up, like when the cousins sleep over at Christmas. I think Adidas cleats are intended to be multipurpose: you can wear them to gain extra traction on the field, or you can use them to shiv someone while serving time in soccer prison. 

^  Although I love the idea of outdoor nighttime winter soccer I don't think anyone in Minnesota does that. We'd all be staggering around in the dark, clawing our way through drifts of snow, shouting "I think I might be open" and "It's possible you should center it" and "Wildfire?" to no avail. Without a rope tied around the ref to guide us back to the midfield, we'd be lost.

And speaking of losing... no. I'll get to that.

So in answer to your question, we play indoors on artificial turf. On an enormous - and I do mean enormous - field. Very fancy.

^  The first thing I saw when I got to the sports center (centre for you Canadians - miss you. love you) last Friday was a sea of striped jerseys which eventually coalesced into a group of men wearing actual soccer uniforms. Speaking of fancy. My team had been instructed to bring one purple and one white shirt - presumably from our personal collections of purple and white shirts - and I was nonplussed to see these guys with their matching shorts and moisture-wicking fabrics and... good god. Was that advertising on their backs? Was I in the wrong place on the wrong night with absolutely the wrong level of soccer? Then I thought, ahhhhhhh. Some high-level men's league must play their games before co-ed. Of course.

So while I waited to see someone walk in who might possibly be on my team, I admired the deft lacing of their cleats, the confidence with which they adjusted their shin guards and the adroitness with which they were able to bounce balls from their knees to their heads to their heels and back again. I was particularly impressed by the way that one little, svelte fellow with the long ponytail...

HOLY

HANNAH.

Women!

Not all men. Men and women. The sheer matchiness of the jerseys and bulginess of their collective calves temporarily mislead me but, sure enough, the group I had originally mistaken for Stoke City was - in fact - just another coed team in my new soccer league.

Forgive me but..... fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

I almost fled right then. Really. I almost grabbed my ball and my water bottles and my bag full of old shirts and escaped. I would become that person who says she's going out to play soccer on Friday nights but in fact just sits in her car in a suburban parking lot, streaming Celtic radio and eating mcnuggets.         

Then a couple walked over to the benches. He was wearing a shirt that was approximately the color that Grimmis might be after he spent five hundred cycles in the washing machine and she was even shorter than I am.

I approached them tentatively.

"Are you... is it possible... are you guys are on my team?" I asked.

"Are you a purple shirt?" she asked.

"Yes! Yes!" And I quickly pulled my purple shirt out of my bag as if she'd just asked to see my license and registration. "I am! Purple!"

She said, "I can't believe I'm doing this. I haven't played soccer, at all, in, like, thirteen years. We had to get a sitter so I could bring my husband along as a sub for moral support."

"Ohhhhhhhhhhh," I breathed, happily, feeling much much better. "It'll be fine. We'll be fine. This will be fun."

And, in a way, this wound up being true. But in another, equally real way, it was a total freaking lie.

#######

Aw damn it. I've got to get to work on Thanksgiving dinner so I'll need to summarize the rest:

1. With the exception of the goalie, I am probably the oldest person on my team.

2. I was, with no exception, the absolute worst player on the field.

3. We did not play the stripey team. Yay!

Instead we played the stripey team's younger, taller robo-clones. Gurk.

4. As my very first ball came flying towards me I reviewed the options: trap the ball and then neatly pass it up the line like Fabregas; head it across like Lukaku; shoot to score from deep within my own side like Lloyd; punch the closest opponent in the back of the head and then fall down like I was the one who had been fouled, a la Diego Costa? So many possibilities. Instead I swung back my leg and... I missed it entirely. Kinda like Hazard.   

5. The other women on my team all know each other from crossfit.

6. Half of the men on my team coach high school sports for a living.

7. The women on the opposing team were still in college, playing recreation to stay in shape during the winter. So each and every blessed one of them could score from almost anywhere on the field. And they did. Frequently. As an older adult woman I wanted to applaud their athleticism and their competitiveness. As the older adult woman trying to tackle them I also wanted to slap them, especially because - and I hate to say this - they were totally bitchy. When my new friend from the lobby made excessive contact trying to defend and said Sorry! the response was, "You fucking better be."

I.

REALLY?   

It was all I could do not to leap onto the field and grab the opponent by the ear, "If you were my daughter, young lady... ."

8. We lost 8-2. Or maybe 9-2. 11-2? Could it have been 13? Anyway. We lost. Emphatically.

9. Which lead to the following as my team took off our cleats and talked about how, in retrospect, we should have met for beer before the game -

Teammate 1: I know for me the most exciting part of any game is the goals, so that was GREAT.

Teammate 2: Well. At least it wasn't one of those heartbreaking 1-0 losses.

^ I'm not going to lie to you. The whole experience was awkward. I was even worse than I thought I could be. It was embarrassing. I did feel like a fool. 

But.

My team is sincerely nice. Some of them were legitimately funny. The other team made me feel like I should offer to recompense them for their time but they were like that to all of us and as a group we laughed it off like the bunch of losers we were. I played for almost the entire game and nothing hurt the next day. I did not taste blood afterwards. I do, truly, love football. 

I think... yes. I think I consider it a victory.


Comfort Zone.............................................. Me

After a return to soccer following my eighth grade retirement from the sport, many analysts thought that that would be the final curtain on my career.

How wrong they were.

Temporarily maddened by the triumph of knocking over children while avoiding their flailing cleats; I - apparently; it's all a little hazy - sent an email to the local rec sports coordinator expressing an interest in joining some sort of a team this winter. He acknowledged my email. I mentally acknowledged his acknowledgement. And that was that. Until a few days ago when a request for two additional players arrived in my inbox.

I thought: !!!!!!!!!! Then I thought: !!!!!!!!!! Then I wrote back and said OK but I'm not, you know, good. And the team captain wrote back and said, buck up, you'll be fine, welcome aboard.

Having thus committed myself I created a good intentions list. Good intentions are so important, aren't they? Ninety-nine percent of exercise, really. Thus, I promised myself that I would, very soon: Stretch. Start running again. Practice dribbling around those little orange cones. Buy some little orange cones. Oh, and find something sporty to wear that isn't a pair of pajama bottoms. And cleats! I would really need to get some cleats and start breaking them in before...

The second email arrived: "Roster set. First game Friday. See you all there!"

Aw, hell.

What HAVE I done? Remember when I signed Patrick up for soccer and he said, oh no, I'm going to be terrible, this is awful, I am going to be humiliated, why oh why?

Well: OH NO. I'M GOING TO BE TERRIBLE. THIS IS AWFUL. I AM GOING TO BE HUMILIATED. WHY OH WHY?

I am so worried I'm about to make an utter fool out of myself. Me. On a team. With people I have never met before in my entire life. People - if their email addresses are to be believed - with soccer names like Guillermo and Enrique and Kailee.

Also the game is at 9:30. NINE. THIRTY. On a Friday night. That's like, second glass of wine o'clock. Have you ever, seriously, looked around your living room at 9:30 on a Friday night and said, "Wow, I wish I was participating in some vigorous sport right now." No. No you have not.

Finally

lord

FINALLY

do you want to know what happens when a wider footed woman goes to her local sporting goods store and asks to see a selection of cleats in her size? The sales guy looks dubiously at her elegant albeit curvy hoof and steers her toward the men's section who in turn tell her to try the internet. 

And do you want to see what happens when a wider footed woman proceeds to order cleats off the internet?

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The grey and black sole on the bottom belongs to my running shoe. The hot pink and orange... teeny tiny wedge shape arrow head bone crushing thing on top came in a box labeled Cleats. Ha! They are lined up at the heel and both, incidentally, purport to be size 7.5.

Now I ask you, do those two things look like they are even remotely the same size? No.   

I can't believe I signed up to do this.


Miss Marple And Me

Patrick ohhhhhhhh sooooooooo casually asked me how a person might go about talking to another person if they - let's call them A and B - always sit at different tables at lunch.

[Allow me to stop here and list all of the things I did right from this point forward:

  1. I didn't say Oh my god WHAT?
  2. I didn't ask him who B is
  3. I didn't suggest "Have you, I mean A, tried sitting down at the other table and saying hello?"
  4. I didn't point out that it was after midnight and perhaps not the best time for a social strategy session

OK. That's it.]

After choking back instincts one through four I tried to remember everything I could about being thirteen. Which... shudder. Then I started singing that Big Star song in my head. Then... focus! How DO you traverse the labyrinthine shoals of junior high? How did I? I don't think I did. Gak, junior high. In the end it took me a dictionary to find out the meaning of unrequited... FOCUS!

"Uh. Huh. The... the person always sits at the same table?"

"Yes."

"With the same people?"

"Yes."

"Are any of your friends friends with her or one of her friends?"

"Not really." [SEE WHAT I DID THERE? Ahem.]

"OK. Well. What if... what if you made a big batch of something interesting like... like bacon buns or... or doughnut holes and then went to a couple of different tables offering them to people and then wound up at the table in question?"

"Bacon buns??? You want me to walk around with a basket full of bacon buns??? And offer them to people??"

Well, when you say it like that anything would sound stupid.

"What about a shrimp boil?" And, seeing the look of utter incomprehension on Patrick's midwestern face, I translated: "Slap some newspaper down on her table and then dump eight gallons of peel-and-eat shrimp on top."

This, at least, made him laugh and in the meantime I promised I would think about it and get back to him.

So, you know, let me know what you socially comfortable types would do if you were A and wanted to get to know B better. Because I've got nothing but crustaceans.

PS Speaking of shrimp, I make a conscious effort to treat Caroline more or less exactly as I would have hated to be treated when I was her age. I mean, of course, love security structure et cetera but I have to remind myself that everything I found worry inducing at seven; Caroline mainlines. Saying yes to her requests for independence is easy (easy now that my own anxiety is managed) but encouraging her to push boundaries that I cannot even see is much harder.

But I try.

So she empties the mousetraps and reads National Geographic and when we were at the grocery store today I sent her to the seafood counter to negotiate for half a pound of shrimp. I walked a pretty good distance away - clear over to dairy - and then I watched the encounter like a charming silent movie. At first the butcher couldn't see her so she rapped on the glass of the display case and then he leaned waaaaaaay over to talk to her. They had an exchange that lasted longer than half-a-pound-of-shrimp-please and eventually she reached up and he stretched down and she left with her white paper parcel.

"Thank you," I said.

"Certainly," she replied.

And that was the end of it until I looked at the package tonight and saw two things: one, the guy had drawn a smiley face on the paper next to the label; and two, he had charged her one cent. Point Five-Two pounds of peeled deveined shrimp at a per pound cost of one penny.

Clearly I need Caroline to do my marketing more often and equally clearly it IS possible to express friendliness through shrimp. So HA! NOT such a stupid idea after all, Patrick.

PPS Thank you. That was EXACTLY what I wanted to know about programming. EXACTLY.