Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A family outing

Last weekend, I talked my family into going up to the park where Ranger works. They didn't know he'd joined me in Breckenridge, so they thought I hadn't seen him in about ten days. It wasn't a hard sell to get them all up there.

Ranger had been anxious for my folks to come up there, anyhow. He wants to show them his "world," and the beauty that's all around up there. He wants them to see him in his element. He was excited to hear they were coming.

Ranger called me that morning. "It's been a weird day already," he said. Apparently, a guy in what appeared to be a patrol car had zoomed past the entry station. The ranger out there had radioed in that the car had passed through without stopping to identify themselves and without paying for a pass. Ranger tracked it down.

As he approached the car, the driver jumped out and rushed to meet him. As Ranger talked to him, he shifted positions to keep Ranger from getting a good look at the car. It looked a lot like a California Highway Patrol car. Ranger asked if he was an officer. The man said no. He told the man he needed to return to the entry station to pay for a pass or leave the park immediately.

The man returned to his car and sped away, leaving the park. Ranger got a good look at the back of the car. It read:


No kidding.

Ranger radioed the rest of the rangers, and told them about the car. They all made sure he left the park, but not without a few guffaws over the radio.

I told Ranger that it was too bad he hadn't seen those markings first. It would have been perfect to say something like, "It's about time you got here. We've been watching over that crash site for a couple of days now, and it's getting tough to keep people away from it."

He laughed loud and long about that. Apparently, he passed that along and it became to joke for the day at the park.

When my family and I pulled up to the entry station, Mike was there. I rolled down my window and said, "We're here to see the crash site."

He blinked at me, then started laughing. "Oh yeah! Go on ahead!" Then he introduced himself to my family, and we were on our way.

We found Ranger at the Visitor's Center. My folks poured over everything there, purchasing calendars and hats. Ranger would meet us up on the Point later. We wandered the nature trail and went up to the Point. The views were breathtaking! The kids were excited to show my folks all the sights they'd seen when we visited before. The wind was picking up, but the weather was nice.

At the Point, the wind became vicious. Ranger appeared just in time to snap some pics of us, before the wind howled up from the canyon below. I closed my eyes tight against it and grabbed on to Ranger's arm. As the grit shipped against my face, I hollered over the din: "People pay so much for microdermabrasion. They just need to come here!"

He guided us down the trail to a spot sheltered from the wind. My folks wanted to go down to Moab and explore Main Street. We arranged a time to meet at Ranger's favorite restaurant there, and headed down the hill.

We wandered the shops in Moab, looking at all kinds of art and souvenirs. My daughter bought a sketchbook and pencils. She played with a shop cat. I bought some seasonings for Ranger, since he loves to cook. He called me when he was headed into town, so we wrapped up the shopping and headed to the restaurant.

We got there first and were seated. Our waiter was the same one we had when Ranger brought the kids and I here. "Are you waiting for Ranger?" he asked. I nodded and he gave me a big smile.

My dad and I agreed to split the ticket, and not let Ranger try to pay. When Ranger came in, he came from a different doorway than what I'd expected. That's odd, I thought. It was the long way to get to where we were seated. Hmmm.

Dinner was a delight. The food was great. The service was perfect. Ranger loved the seasonings I gave him. We laughed a lot. At the end of it, my dad said to the waiter, "Can you split the ticket in half for us?"

He shook his head. "I can't do that."

"Okay, then can you put three on one ticket and three on another?"

"Can't do that, either."

"Really. Why?"

"It's already taken care of."

We all turned to Ranger. He wore a big, self-satisfied grin on his face. And I knew when it had happened. That's why he came in from a different direction. He'd already caught the waiter by then. We never stood a chance.

We started to say our goodbyes outside. He asked if I'd come to his car for a moment. There, he handed me a lovely little glass plaque. It read:

I Love You
My days are warmed by the touch of your hand.
My heart melts at the sound of your voice.
When I look at you, I see clear skies and mountain tops.
You are my love,
My future,
My life.

I hugged him and kissed him lightly. After all, my folks were nearby.

"Blogget!" Mom yelled. "We have a problem!"

We went back to their car. The tire was nearly flat.

Ranger to the rescue. He whipped a compressor from his car and aired up the tire. He found a nail in the tread that was causing the problem. Dad got a can of Fix A Flat from a nearby store. That held until we could get home.

That night, I talked to Ranger on the phone. I thanked him again for my plaque.

"It has a very important word on it," he said. "One I haven't used before."

"What's that?"

"It says 'future.' And I mean it. I want you part of my future. I mean it when I say I don't ever want to lose you."

I keep it by my bedside now, so I see it when I first wake up in the morning.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

While away from Dodge...

I know...I've been neglectful about finishing the "Getting out of Dodge" story! Things have been very busy with work and with injuring myself this week (ugh - gotta love bad backs), but I'm getting back to it now!

So, Wednesday the 16th, we headed up to Breckenridge. I let Ranger lead this time, since he had the directions to the hotel. Waking up with Ranger that morning had been nothing short of wonderful. It was our first night to actually sleep beside each other, and it was comfortable and sweet. And I don't think I snored, which I'd been afraid of.... As indelicate as it is, it happens when I'm really tired! But waking in the gray light of morning, with the breeze blowing the curtains, and a soft "good morning" and a warm snuggle....well, I don't know that words describe how happy I was that morning.

We arrived at the hotel in Breckenridge and I attempted to check in. Even though it turned out that I was one of dozens of guests who arrived too early, the desk clerk just blinked at me when I gave my name and confirmation number. I swear, you could see the hourglass turning on this one. His best idea was for me to leave all of my belongings in my car and hand the keys to the valet, until my room was ready. We put all my stuff in Ranger's car, THEN handed over the keys to the valet.

I ran to my first meeting and Ranger went exploring. I bumped into one of my favorite professors and my boss. We chatted and the professor told stories about a recent trip to New Orleans and an establishment called something like "Big Ass Beers To Go." That's just too freakin' hilarious. "It was my Everest," he said, and for an Irishman, that's saying something!

I cut out of lunch early to see if by chance they had a room ready for me. Everyone had been told to check later in the afternoon, but I was trying to dodge the crowds. Hoorah! Success! They had a room for me! I called Ranger, then told the desk to give him a key, and decided to check out the room. It was lovely. Huge TV, fridge, cushy bed, soft towels, with rustic touches that felt very appropriate among the mountains.

And it started to snow. Wait, that sounds to peaceful. It started blowing snow. Big snow. Big, huge, sticky flakes of snow!

After my meetings, I made my way to the room. In the lobby, I spotted Ranger talking to the desk clerk and getting about as far as I did. My boss was there, waiting for valet to retrieve his car (with all his belongings in it), so I introduced them. Ranger was excited. He showed us two stones he'd found. One had a purple ribbon running through it and the other shimmered with iridescent colors.

"This is the stone I'll build my house with someday," he said. My boss was impressed and they discussed rock hunting for awhile. My boss is a kayak-to-the-wilderness kind of guy, so he loved the hiking stories Ranger has.

Pretty soon, a valet kid comes in and looks at the ticket in his hand. He checks it with my boss's ticket. Both say number 1466.

"Yeah, that's mine," my boss says.

The kid looks at him and says, "Dude, do you know where your car is parked?"

I'm totally not kidding. He really said that.

A look of concern crosses my boss's face. "Uhm, isn't that your job?"

"Yeah," says the kid. "Just a minute." He grabs a walkie-talkie and says, "Dude, can you find number 1466?"

The thing crackles and a voice says, "Dude! That's what I'm doing!"

We decide to let my boss figure out this one, and head to the room. Ranger is telling me about calling his buddy in Missouri from South Park, Colorado (nearby), just to say "I'm standing in South Park!" and about a great little movie memorabilia place he found.

The room is really cozy and comfortable. I laid back on the bed to relax for a few minutes and Ranger snuggled up to me. He whispered to me, "You know, I said something wrong. Those stones aren't for the house I'll build for me. They're for the house I'll build for us."

We relax for a little while, until I had to get ready for a reception I had to attend. We'd find some dinner after that.

During the reception, I sat with some of our other professors. One in particular announced that was her birthday, and I had a feeling the wine glass in front of her had not been her first. She was a little flushed and boisterous. Birthday Girl had a few more before the end of the reception, too. The other professors decided it was time to go to dinner, and invited Ranger and I along. I called Ranger and checked that it sounded good to him, and away we went.

Thank goodness for hotel shuttles! Ranger and I, three psychology professors, my boss, and one of the college's VPs all piled into the shuttle and let a Breckenridge native drive us to the restaurant. It was in a spectacular old house, converted into a restaurant, called Hearthstone. I highly recommend it!

They were running a special. Your choice of a menu of appetizers, entrees, dessert, and wine, for $30. Fantastic. Perfect for the traveler's budget! After we ordered, the VP announced he was picking up the ticket for all of us. Brilliant!

Ranger and I told them about the restaurant in Glenwood Springs. "Juicy Lucy's?" the VP exclaimed. "You found the best steakhouse in Colorado!" My boss quizzed us about it, planning to take his wife there some time. The conversation that night was brilliant. It ebbed and flowed comfortably, and so did the wine. Birthday Girl had a few more glasses, which made her a little loud for the small space. When she started repeating herself, we decided it was time to call it a night. We left fat and happy, heading into the snow. Lots and lots of snow!

I settled in for the night in the cozy pale green satin pajamas Ranger had given me. We were stuffed to the gills.

"I have a surprise for you," he said. He went to the closet and retrieved a large black bag. "I've never seen anything like this and knew you had to have it."

I pulled the bag off and stared at the box. A new, in the box, Darth Vader water globe.

I went understandably ape-shit.

See, you can take the top off and watch Obi-Wan and Anakin battling among red glitter flying around (looks like Mustafar sparks). Or, put the helmet back on and flip the hear Vader's breathing and look in the eyes to see flashing red lights light up the battle scene in the globe.

Ape-shit, I tell you.

We settled into bed and watched Alton Brown's "Feasting on Asphalt," and laughed our asses off. Still full from dinner, and deliriously happy, we dozed off with the TV on and the snow still falling outside the window.

I was slow to get ready the next day. I was painfully aware that Ranger had to return to Ranger-life that day. He was aware, too. He tried to lighten up the mood by scooping snow from outside the window and throwing it at me.

I skipped the conference-provided breakfast to have breakfast with Ranger. We walked in the cold, crisp morning, hand-in-hand. It was delightful. We were squeezing out every minute we could. Regretfully, I went to my conference sessions and made plans to meet Ranger for lunch.

I got back to the room early and surprised Ranger. He was writing a note in a spiral notebook. He hid it from me when I came in. This sparked my intense curiosity, and he finally relented.

"Okay," he said, "I suppose, since you're here, it's silly to insist on writing it. I can just tell you. But I'm a little afraid of it."

"Afraid? Why?" My danger-you're-about-to-get-hurt sense started tingling.

Ranger was looking at the floor. "I just know that you've gotten ticked at certain people before who tried to make plans with you. Future plans."

He was referring to Old BF, when he called and started telling me we needed to make plans to get married when the kids were older. That was a different situation, though. I'd already told him to take a hike when he said that to me.

"No, that's not what made me mad," I said, trying to soothe Ranger. "It wasn't the plans that made me mad. It was the person wanting to make them. I'd already made it clear to him that we weren't going that way, and he wasn't listening."

Ranger nodded, and wrapped his arms around me. "It's just that I really feel we have something special here. I've never felt this way about anyone. And I don't want to lose you. Ever."

"That's what the note is about?" I asked.

"Yes. It's about having you in my life now and always."

We ended up skipping lunch.

I was worried about him going through the passes with the snow, but my fear was unfounded. It was cleared for him and he made it safely to my town, where he stopped for a short time to stretch his legs. And to be sneaky.

He called me when he was headed out of Grand Junction.

"Wow, you were there a long time," I commented.

"Yeah, I suppose I should tell you that I saw your folks. They'll probably mention it, anyhow. They caught me trying to be sneaky."

"They did? I suppose you won't tell me what you were doing, right?"

He laughed. "Right! You'll have to wait until tomorrow, when you get home. If your folks don't spill the beans first."

I got back to the empty hotel room. A note was stuck to the TV screen. "I love you!" it said, in big letters. I smiled and missed him all the more.

My mom called and said they'd been watching TV when she saw a shadow pass the den window. My dad went to the door and there was Ranger, leaving a present for me. They chatted awhile, then Ranger headed home.

Mom and Dad went back in the house, and Mom said, "I think someone is courting your daughter." My dad just laughed.

Before I left Breckenridge, I strolled through the shops in the nearby plaza. I found a lovely Native American print, with a quote on it about the sacredness of nature. It expressed sentiments I often heard Ranger say. So, it came home with me and I had it framed for him. It would be a nice surprise, in return for all the surprises he has given me.

The drive home was blissfully uneventful, but too quiet. I stopped in Glenwood Springs and drove past the Hotel Colorado, remembering our day and night there.

When I got home, I saw my surprise. A beautiful plant of purple orchids, with a note attached. The note read "I miss you!" on one side, and on the other side: "Purple is the color of royalty. I chose this flower to remind you that you are always my queen."

Man, he knows just how to get to me.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Getting out of Dodge

I know I said that South Carolina needed to get out of Dodge....but so did I. And I knew I had a chance coming up, with a conference this week in a ski resort town about 3 hours away from my home. This has been planned for months, and I've been so looking forward to it. But then it got even better....

Ranger decided that I've been under too much stress lately, and took it upon himself to help with that. The conference started Wednesday, but I was to leave on Tuesday. Ranger and I decided we could spend all day Tuesday together in a lovely town about an hour away, drive the rest of the way to the conference site on Wednesday morning, then he would head back to his home on Thursday (he had to work on Friday). I would drive back to my home on Friday, after the conference.

He had a mission in mind. And as astounding as it was to me, he wanted to make that time about me. "I want you to leave all the stress behind," he said. "This is not about Blogget the Mommy, but about Blogget the woman. Time to be you."

Tuesday morning, I took my kids to school, said "goodbye" until Friday, and headed to see Ranger. He'd come to Grand Junction right after work Monday night, so we could get an early start. When I got to his hotel room, he said, "Remember how I said this was about you, the woman?" He stepped aside and revealed a chair draped in layers of lovely clothing. All manner of get-into-bed clothing.

As I picked up the top one, he said, "This is the only one that's about you as a mom." It was a super soft nightshirt, that read "Special Mom." Another soft nightshirt was red with kokopellis on it. I love kokopellis! Then, a silky pair of pale green pajamas (which I'm wearing now!). Three beautiful items of lingerie. Very sexy! And one super-comfy t-shirt, with my beloved wolves on it. He produced another t-shirt, with similar wolves on it for him. The pose of the wolves was very reminiscent of the pose of the wolf statue he gave me, after our first lunch together. He did that deliberately.

Before hitting the road, we stopped at my office. I had to tidy up some loose ends before leaving town. I returned some voicemails and noticed Ranger watching me. He was seeing me in action, being Smart Blogget The Go-To Gal.

Then, we made our escape. Almost. We took a tour through Best Buy -- one of our favorite haunts. We're such dorks! We had lunch at a local barbecue place. Our conversation took a serious turn, and he talked about the abuse he endured from his father. It's in these comfortable moments together that he opens up to me. He told me about the incident when he retaliated, and put an end to the beatings. He was 14 years old. He also told me the story behind a particular scar on his nose....which apparently was left by someone's toenail, when he stepped in harm's way to allow someone to get away who was less able to defend themselves. Yeah, it's quite a story.

Because he had to come back earlier than I did, we had to take two cars. He allowed me to set the pace, and set it I did! He later scolded me because I went too fast when passing the big rigs. The thing is, they scare the dickens out of me, so I get past as quickly as possible! However, this meant Ranger had to go very fast to catch up to me. He watched the sky, though, and warned me when a plane or helicopter was overhead, beaming radar to the highway below.

Ranger would also call me whenever a song came on his player that reminded him of me. We made note of them, so he could play them for me later. As we neared our destination, he passed me and sped ahead, leading me to a nice place to stop while we figured out what to do with our day. We walked past a hot springs pool and talked about maybe swimming later. We looked at an art shop, and inadvertently walked in on a tap dance lesson for small children. We watched for awhile, delighted at the sheer cuteness of it!

We walked up the hill and stopped in front of a historic hotel. The Hotel Colorado, famous for being the "birthplace" of the original Teddy Bear. The staff here presented President Teddy Roosevelt with the little stuffed bear, after he'd had a particularly unsuccessful hunting trip there. You can read more about it here:

The hotel is nothing short of spectacular! Filled with antiques and historic charm. I fell in love with the place. Well, that did it. Ranger spared no expense and found a room for us there for the night. A beautiful room, overlooking the courtyard and famous fountain. The room was charming and luxurious, and very romantic. Okay, the bathroom was tiny and the hot water takes seven minutes to reach you (they actually tell you this in the hotel portfolio in your room). And the water pressure sucks. But the plumbing was installed in 1940....what do you expect?

Still, knowing how I love history, he'd found the perfect getaway for us for the night. Each step, he was truly making that day all about me.

We combed through the hotel's shop. I found a book with wonderful old pictures from the hotel's history. I "ooohed" and "ahhhed" over it, but put it down because I thought it too expensive. I went to read all the little stories about the many Teddy Bears for sale. They have the Hotel Colorado "original" Teddy Bear -- complete with green velvet vest, embroidered with "HC", and little round Teddy Roosevelt glasses. Other bears are there, each with their own outfits and stories.

I finished reading and turned around to find....Ranger had bought the book for me! The perfect souvenir for this history buff!

We walked to where they've built an amusement park near the entrance to some caverns in the mountains there. The place was closed, but we picked up information to make a trip with the kids another time. So, we walked back, taking time to browse the windows of the shops, which had closed by that time.

We strolled hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm. Sometimes, he'd put his arm around me and hold me close, our strides falling into pace with each other. We just fit together. Comfortably, as though we were always meant to fit together. With our nearly-matching wolf t-shirts!

It was getting close to dinner time. We crossed the bridge, which took us over the interstate, the train tracks, and the Colorado River. An evening breeze stirred and made me chilly enough that he kept an arm around me as we walked. We figured we'd peruse downtown and find a place to eat that struck our fancy.

Right by the bridge entrance, something struck Ranger's fancy. A steakhouse. Juicy Lucy's Steakhouse. The place was PHENOMENAL! I'd drive the hour just to go back there. We had a mushroom soup to die for. We battled each other for the big chunks of mushrooms in the thick soup. Ranger's ribeye was so tender, he could cut it with a fork. I had a melt-in-you-mouth halibut with a crab cake on top. The place is in an older building, too, with exposed brick inside and delightful wait staff and atmosphere.

Dang, I sound like a reviewer, don't I?

But it was the perfect place to end a perfect day. We strolled back to the hotel, with Ranger fussing over my bad knee and all the walking we'd done. At the hotel, we showered...enjoying the hot water after waiting the appropriate seven minutes for it to reach us. Being the dorks we are, we set up our laptops on the small table and shared music back and forth, checking email all the while. He gave me an external hard drive, full of his music collection. 800 albums in all! I know....not the typical romantic evening, but we liked it!

And we figured out part of why we drive so differently on the highway. His driving music is mellow, pleasant, peaceful...enjoy the scenery music. Mine is...manic. Power driving. It's Ra's "Rectifier," or Taproot's "Poem," or Nickelback's "Animals." Flying down the highway, don't-fall-asleep music!

And we made love. Sweet, glorious lovemaking. Breeze fluttering in the antique curtains of the window. Stars in the sky. And us, completely wrapped up in each other and the rare intimacy we seem to have. It was heaven on earth, that night. Sharing a bed with Ranger was perfection itself. He knew when to wrap me up and when to back off. Even in his sleep.

In the morning, I showered and dressed for my arrival at the conference. We had two hours to drive yet, and I'd have to check in when we arrived in Breckenridge. As I dried off, Ranger gave me a whiff of his gourmet coffee, from the shop downstairs. It smelled wonderful! I don't drink coffee, but this aroma was rich and lovely to me, anyhow.

We chatted as I dressed. I started gathering my belongings together and packing up. That's when I noticed something new in my bags....

My very own Teddy Bear. One last souvenir from this glorious day (and night) we shared. Our first time actually sleeping beside each other. And figuring out how well that works for us.

Then, we headed up the road to Breckenridge, and the rest of our little adventure.

More later, dear diary!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Lucky to be alive

No, I don't mean me this time -- this is about my sister. Two close calls in as many weeks definitely warrant a post of their own.

It started when she discovered a lump in her breast a couple of weeks ago. She went to the doctor and was sent for an immediate mammogram. Well, that's how the doctor intended it. However, he has an incompetent bozo in his office. Nearly ten days later, she sees the radiologist because that bozo forgot to make the appointment then lied about why it took so long. They felt the lump and get the mammogram set up, and she gets ready to have it done and....

the lump disappeared.

No sign of it. They did a mammogram anyhow, but there's no sign of it. So, we don't know what it was or where it went, but it's just not there now. We all breathed a sigh of relief.

Fast forward to last night. It was pouring rain when she picked up her oldest (her "tween"), after work. She still had two more to pick up at another school, but her tire was going flat. She pulled into the convenience store gas station, with her son chanting, "Let me do it!" It was raining, though, so she told him not to do it this time. Thank God.

So, she gets the air pump nozzle and kneels in the water by the car, then switches it on. And is instantly shocked. The pump has a short it in and sends its power right through her. She can't let go of the metal nozzle and the pain is horrendous. She's screaming for help. Her son runs to her and she screams for him to not touch her. So, he stands helpless, watching his mother darn near get electrocuted.

A man nearby sees what's happening and runs to her aid. He grabs the hose and yanks the nozzle from her hand. At the gas pumps, a nurse is filling her car. She runs to my sister, too, trying to slow her breathing and heart rate. "I'm tired and I don't want to do CPR tonight," she says. "So, work with me and let's get you calm!"

My sister's hand is burned. Two cuts on her hand show where the power exited her body. She can't feel her fingers.

My nephew spots a police car pulling in. This policeman had just come off duty and was heading home, when he decided to stop for a soda at the convenience store. My nephew ran to him and told him what was happening. The officer calls an ambulance.

My sister is home now, but in extreme pain. Her arm is black and blue to the shoulder. She still can't use her fingers. The swelling is terrible. She can't start her car, much less work her data entry job.

The convenience store company won't talk to her. She went to take pictures of the pump and found an electrician working on it. Her husband's Colonel is contacting a lawyer for her. So, for now, keep your fingers crossed that she's okay. We'll see if the lawyer part is necessary.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Ranger and I have many open and honest conversations. One of the problems he had when he was still married was that his wife became suspicious of any female contact he had. She had cheated on him and was convinced he's retaliate by sleeping with someone else. I had the same problem with Old BF. I got the third degree about any man seen talking to me or whose name I mentioned more than once. So, we had a conversation about opposite-sex friends we have who still call, but who will remain just friends.

As part of this, I need to have a conversation with Old BF. This will be a challenge. He's been holding on to the idea that I will someday get over all the crap, and I'll agree to marry him someday. He knows I'm dating, but he only wants to hear about it if it turns serious. I need to tell him that I'll continue to give advice (as asked) in helping him to raise his niece, but I have met someone I want to be serious about.

I told Ranger that Old BF might call for this advice. And Greg might call to vent about his mentally-ill household. And South Carolina might call to check on me and get some support of his own. I reassured Ranger, though, that the best I can be to all of them is a good friend. It is (or will be, in Old BF's case) clear to them that no romantic future is possible. Ranger trusts me, as I trust him with his list of female friends. But he gave me a picture to send any hanger-on stalker-types of him in uniform, wearing a sidearm. It makes me smile!

This conversation changed, though, to a run-down of his romantic involvements since his divorce, and why they failed. He was very honest with me about it all. One of them is proving hard to get rid of. He last saw her in January, but she's still calling and emailing several times a day. He doesn't answer her calls, and he's changing to a different email address that she won't know.

I told him that I'd been divorced 10 times as long as he has, so my history will be longer. Much longer. I told him I'd explain it all later. And I did. Later that night, I sat down and wrote it in a long email. A novel, he later called it. Writing it was more difficult than I imagined. As I wrote, I saw my pattern of relationships, both significant and minor. It wasn't flattering. I've been foolish many times, tolerating bad behavior much longer than was smart. I would let someone who had broken my heart to have the power to break it again, and they would. As I sent the email, I felt I'd revealed myself as a right idiot, not to mention pretty damn pathetic.

As I waited for his response, I wondered if I'd look too much like "damaged goods," once I'd revealed my not-so-tidy history.

He called me from the entry station at the park the next day. On those days, he does to the Visitor's Center and downloads email to his laptops. Then, he types replies from the isolated station and transmits them during his lunch break at the Visitor's Center. The services at the entry station are so poor that he has to lean against the flagpole there to get a strong enough cell signal to call me.

"Hi Beautiful!" he said through the static of his connection.

"Hi Sweetie!" I said.

"I can only talk a moment, but I wanted you to know something," he said. His voice sounded serious and heavy. "I read your novel. I appreciate you telling me all of that. You didn't have to, but I thank you for being so honest with me."

"Okay," I said. I was waiting for the "but" that I felt coming.

"You have to know that it's not your fault you got treated that way. You loved and you trusted and those guys took you for granted. They hurt you and didn't value you enough to stop being selfish. And that's what it was -- they were selfish."

"Yes," I said, still waiting for the rest.

"I promise you that won't ever happen again," he said. "All I want now is to fill your life with love. I wish I was there to hold you and make it all go away and tell you it's all right now. But I want you to know that it is okay. I understand and I love you. I'm so sorry all of this hurt has happened to you, but no more will."

"I love you, too," I said, quietly. "And thank you."

"You were worried about this, weren't you?"

"Yes, I wasn't sure how it'd go over."

"I thought so. That's why I had to call for a moment, and just let you know that it's all right."

We said goodbye and hung up. I had tears flowing, with the relief I felt. I didn't even realize I'd been so tense about him reading it. I felt like I'd been holding my breath, and could now breathe freely. It was all right, and he didn't think less of me. He still loved me, and he wanted to wrap me up in that love.

He constantly amazes me.

Sometimes, our lives parallel each other in not-so-good ways. Like Friday.

Work was rough for me. I was part of an email discussion with the woman who runs stats for instructor evaluations and a member of the administration, who was asking questions about setting up online evaluations for the online courses. This is something the stats woman and I had already worked out, so we just had to explain it to the admin woman.

The admin woman finally asks about using online evaluations for classroom-based courses. The stats woman replies, "Who wants to do their classroom evaluations online?"

Next thing I know, I get an email forwarded to me by a faculty member. She's asking what to do to set up her classroom evaluation online. The forwarded message is from the admin woman to all faculty, telling them that online course evaluations will be available on April 30th, and that if you want your classroom evaluation online, we can set that up by then, too.



No, no...that would be ME. And no one ever told her that April 30th was set in stone. And no one ever even discussed that putting the classroom evaluations online would happen at all, let alone by April 30th.

I thought long and hard and it, and finally sent an email to her, explaining that I am a department of ONE. I'm in my busy time right now and I just don't know that I can deliver her promise by April 30th. Maybe next semester, when I have more warning to plan appropriately.

I also found out I have a major, huge project to do - at the state level - that's due Monday. Oh yay. There goes the weekend.

I call Ranger and he's very sympathetic. I mean, ready to jump in the car and drive two hours to give me a hug. Turns out, he needs that hug, too. He often refers to his job as the "best non-job job ever." Well, selfishness and politics is about to ruin that for him. The rest of the "team" at the park is no longer behaving as a team. Nasty notes, he said/she said, and "that's not my job" attitudes are running rampant. This is why he left corporate America.

The rest of the evening didn't go so hot, either. My son has become a major problem in the last 72 hours. Refusing to do things that have been planned, "punishing" me by not eating, speaking hatefully to me and his grandparents, threatening to "cut off" the family if he doesn't get his way. I won't go into all the dreadful details, but it's really bad. I'm worn out.

Ranger heard it in my voice when we talked. I heard something in his, too. Guess what? He'd had a big go-around with his teenage daughter and ex-wife. He was exhausted, too.

It's moments like these when we really feel the need for each other. Times when we just don't want to be alone anymore. It's so good to have someone to share the burdens with at the end of the day. And from my experience, it's rather tough to find someone who listens. Now, we just need to get to the same place.

I heard from Greg this morning. We've gone from talking four or five times a week to once a week. The first time I went a few days without talking to him, he worried that he'd done something to offend me. He was afraid to call and find out, so he waited to see if he'd hear from me again. He was relieved to talk to me and find out all was well.

He's making a conscious effort to have good things to say, instead of bad news all the time. I can tell when it's bad though because he'll say, "Things are okay. How are you? How's work? How are the kids?" See, he'll dodge his own news and focus only on me.

He did that this morning. I told him about being in crunch time here, that the kids are doing well, and that the dating world is going quite well.

"Now, tell me about your world," I said.

He paused. "I just like to have good things to say when we talk," he said.

"I know, but it's okay," I said. "What's going on?"

Basically, it sounds like he's already taken on the Only Functional Parent role in his household. He told me an example about having a problem with his son and that he took away his video games one day. His mother-in-law complained that when Greg went to work, she'd actually have to spend time with her grandson if he didn't have video games to play. No mention of the child's mother helping to take care of him....

Combine that with trying to work enough to make ends meet, and Greg is feeling the weight of many burdens. He's bartending full-time during the week and waiting tables on the weekends, and during any shifts he can pick up.

"I miss you," he said. "When will you be here again? I wish you were sitting in my section again, where I can talk to you face-to-face. And have more time to talk to you."

In recent weeks, we've had more to talk about that we have time to talk about, and things have settled into a comfortable friendship. My heart doesn't ache anymore.

He sounded like it was time to get to work, so I spoke quickly. "I might be there to work around mid-May. I'll keep you posted."

"Please do," he said. "I'd like to see you."

He said something I couldn't catch, with the background noise increasing. I figured it was something about getting a table or needing to get to work, so I said, "Okay, I'll talk to you later. Take care."

He was quiet for a moment too long. "Did you hear what I said?" he asked.

"No, I'm sorry. I missed it, but I figured you were getting busy."

"All right," he said. "I said I love you."

I sighed. It was a sigh of the impossible, of a chance gone by. I said, "I love you, too, Greg." And he knows I do, but my romantic life has moved on. I've found someone who can truly give of himself to me.

My love for Greg has changed to something akin to what South Carolina and I share. "I love you as my dear friend," South Carolina said. And that's how we are, and how we'll remain always.

Speaking of South Carolina, he IMed me tonight.

"I'm in a mess," he said.

"What's happened?"

"I did a very stupid thing."

"What's that?"

"I met a married woman."


"Yeah. And her husband found out."

"Oh no."

"Yeah. He's a minister, over a church with about 2000 members here. Turns out, one of those members is my neighbor."

"What's happened?"

"He told all the deacons and word spread like wildfire. People keep calling me. The other day, I went out and two of my tires were flattened."

Apparently, the woman is "very young" and a "sex machine." From what he told me, it sounds like a young woman, caught in a situation where she doesn't get the attention she wants, and she feels stuck. An affair with SC was her outlet. And she's not willing to let go of it. She keeps calling him.

"What are you going to do?" I asked.

"I don't know what to do."

"From what you've said, it sounds like you know this isn't a long-term kind of thing."

"Right, that's true. I know that."

So, he doesn't want to continue it, but she's really focused on him. And he's tolerating all this harassment.

I think he needs to get out of Dodge for awhile. Time for a vacation, dear SC!

Friday, April 11, 2008

He comes down from the mountain... spend time with me. He has three days off, and can't wait to get to me. His first day off, though, coincides with my son's root canal. As I sit in the dentist's office watching my poor kiddo go through numerous shots and a lengthy procedure, Ranger texts me with his progress to get here. Remember when I got chastised for speeding? Ha! He can't do that anymore; he made much better time than I did!

My son and I head to the store to get some pain reliever and soft food for him. As I start to get out of the car, I ask him, "Sweetie, what else can I get you?" He turns puppy-eyes on me and says through a numbed mouth, "How about a set of new guitar strings?" Ah-ha...he's doing quite well, to know it's a good time to play on Mom's sympathies.

When I return to the car, he says he's hungry for French onion soup. Ranger texts again. Son asks if he can join us for lunch. We all head to the local Red Robin for soup and burgers. Ranger and Son sit beside each other. We laugh a lot. Son's pain isn't bad and he's able to eat fries with his soup. Ranger mentions needing to get some DVDs at Hastings. Son's eyes light up. "Can I go, too? I want to get a CD."

On the way to Hastings, Ranger pulls alongside my car and rolls down all his windows. He's playing "Rock Star" again, and this time Son gets to chime in. Although...he says we're insane. Ha ha!

We end up spending the afternoon together. A delightful time, the three of us together. Ranger is coming over for dinner later, to meet my dad. He's nervous. He's a little old fashioned about having parental approval, but I like that. He's anxious to get along with my folks and be part of the family.

I cooked dinner again, a lovely chicken and rice casserole that's always a hit. Ranger has two LARGE helpings of it! I'm very happy with that. He's an excellent cook, but I want him to realize that I can hold my own, too. We ended up sitting around living room, watching Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern (what's wrong with that man's palate?) on the Travel Channel. It was a nice family setting. Son even brought out his guitars and they picked on those for awhile. My daughter dragged him out to the garage to hear her play the drums. What a trooper he was....I knew his ears had to be ringing from it! But he enjoyed it all, and let them know he did.

We agreed to meet in the morning and go out the following night. It will be our first "traditional" date -- dinner and a movie. The next morning was glorious. Making love with Ranger is so different from anyone before him. He is completely in tune to the cues of my body. He focuses on me completely, which makes me want to focus on him all the more. We had a very honest discussion a few days ago of likes and dislikes, and he remembers what I said and why I said it. I've never experienced that level of consideration, coupled with a high level of passion. To him, every inch of me is beautiful -- even the parts I personally abhor. Astounding.

He brought me an interesting gift. When I'd been at the park the week before, he noticed that the car charger for my phone was wonky. It's actually broken and will only work for a short time, and if you set it at just the right angle. He worries about me getting stranded. So, not only did he bring me a new charger, but he also gave me an adapter to make it a plug-into-the-wall charger when I need that. A gift of cell phone hardware might not be incredibly romantic, but it's just so danged considerate, isn't it?

He's also purchased a 170gb external drive, to give me his entire music collection. It's an impressive collection! I can't wait to get ahold of that!

I called him when I was on the way to his motel. "Come on in," he said. "I'm having to deal with my ex for a bit. My daughter got in some trouble at school and we need to work out what to do about it."

He's been trying hard to keep their conversations about their children only. His ex has been fishing to come to Utah and "talk" about their relationship. His solution has been to start telling her about me, and let her know that he's moved on. Their relationship is about their children, and that's it.

As I entered the room, I could hear him on the phone. They were still discussing consequences for their daughter, but we was trying to wrap it up. Finally, he said, "Well, do you have anything else to say that directly relates to our child?" I glanced at him. He wasn't looking at me, but this is what he told me he's been saying when she tries to take the conversation to inappropriate territory.

His end of the conversation went something like: "Well, yes, I am in a hurry. [pause] I have plans tonight and I need to get going. [pause] Yes, it's a date. [pause] Yes, her. She just got here." THEN he looked at me and gave me a smile.

A sidenote: she called the following evening to announce that she, too, had a date. Then, she launched into questions about me. He answered what he felt was her business. She apparently decided that I "can't be all bad" because we have the same middle name. Weird, huh?

Ranger took me to dinner at Chili's, where he made a hilarious mess of some baby back ribs, and we had a ridiculously good time with a molten chocolate volcano cake. When I but into the cake and let out the "molten" chocolate part, he accused me of having a shocking disregard
for the safety of the villagers who live near the volcano. The waiter was terribly confused by my protests!

The movie was "10,000 BC," which I enjoyed more than I thought I would! Of course, you have to suspend disbelief that mammoths were in the desert, building pyramids. BUT it's a good story, anyhow. And the love story was sweet. At the moment when I thought all was lost for our heroic lovers, I heard a sniffle beside me. Ranger was teared up. Later, he told me he imagined how it would feel if he was losing me like that. Oh man....I just love this. It's soooo sappy, but what am I if not the World's Biggest Sap? I'm completely hopeless, and he gets it.

Ranger had to leave the following day. I had to work in the morning, but I stopped by to see him early. We curled up together, fully-dressed, and talked. Finally, he said to me. "I want you to understand that I don't expect you to show up and make love every morning. That's not what this is about for me. And I don't want you to think that it's all I want from you. I just want to be close to you, in any way I can."

I was glad to hear that because, honestly, I was trying to figure out a way to say, "Listen, I think I have a bladder infection, so I don't think getting naked would be a great idea this morning." Oh yeah, I'm soooo smooth.... But I didn't have to say it. My stomach growled, and we decided maybe breakfast was a better idea. Besides, I had to get to work soon.

That afternoon, I got a break for a late lunch. Ranger asked if I was headed home after that. Why do you ask? I wanted to know. Apparently, a package was due at my house at any time. He'd found something for me and had it overnighted to get to me immediately. And he wouldn't give me a hint. He did give me an evil grin, though. He fully understands this terrible combination of curiosity and impatience that brews in my blood, AND he fully exploits it to make me squirm! Do I really mind? Nope.

We said our goodbyes. I wasn't ready to start missing him yet. I felt a lump in my throat as he drove away. Saying goodbye is getting harder all the time.

A package was sitting on my doorstep at home. I tore into it and found....something someone who truly knows me would understand how much it meant to me. I have some of my collection of Star Wars toys in my office. I recalled a conversation about two particular toys -- Mr. Potato Head versions of Darth Vader ("Darth Tater") and a Stormtrooper ("Spudtrooper"). I said, "But I'm missing the third one. I haven't found him here yet. It's a version of Artoo Detoo."

Staring at me from inside the package was a brand new, in-the-box, "Artoo Potatoo" of my very own.

Oh yeah, he gets me.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Saturday night on the hill

Ranger wanted to cook dinner for me Saturday night. So, about 3:00 that afternoon, I hit the road. The drive is really an easy one, with a four-lane divided highway most of the way. Only the last leg is a two-lane highway. And I really tried to not speed. I set the cruise at 4 miles over the speed limit. I didn't push it beyond that. Well, not much....

He was working and would be off at about 5:00. A group was at the Point, getting ready for an 8:00 astronomy program. "We'll have to make an appearance in public," he said. He's starting to bring me further into his world, introducing me to coworkers. He's very private about his personal life, so cluing in the world at large is a big deal.

And he's starting to tell his ex-wife about me. The boyfriend she broke up their marriage for has dumped her. She's been fishing with Ranger for an opening to work things out. She's saying she made a mistake by getting the divorce. He's saying yeah, you did...but it's too late. He told her he's met someone who he finds "fascinating" and really hopes something comes of it.

"I wish you'd felt like that about me," she said.

"I did," he said. "I tried, but you wouldn't have it." And he's moved on. She's put him through the ringer the last couple of days. She calls constantly, leaving messages about "why am I so unlovable?" Pushing the pity buttons. He's done well with it, telling her to keep trying, but not letting her get a foot in the door.

He tells me about these conversations, and reassures me that he has no desire to return to that life. "I never realized how bad I felt, until you showed me how good it is to be appreciated. And to appreciate someone else," he said.

He understands enough of my history to know that this situation with his ex is just the kind to bring up some insecurities in me, and he wants to help me not feel that way. So, he talks openly about these conversations, letting me know that the buttons she's trying to push are not working.

I left my house at 3:20 PM and arrived at the entry station at 5:05. His buddy Mike is working the station, and is smiling at me as I pulled up. He's laughing and looking at his watch.

"He said to get after you for speeding if you got here before 5:20," he said. "And it's not 5:20!"

I took off my sunglasses and batted my eyelashes at him. "Would I do that? Speed? Me?"

He laughed and said, "He should be home by now. He's excited to see his girlfriend." And he flashed a knowing grin at me.

I said I'd see him later, and headed to the ranger residences. So, Mike knew me as Ranger's girlfriend already. Sounds like word was already getting around the coworkers.

I could hear music from Ranger's apartment when I pulled up. When I walked in, I was greeted with a loud, "Hi Beautiful!" and a large hug. It had been about 48 hours since I last saw him, but he held onto me like it had been months.

He directed me to the recliner in front of the 42" high definition TV. He has a 400-disc DVD changer and 120 gig of music hooked into his entertainment system. My dream setup. "Sit here," he said. "There's something I want you to see."

He started up the DVD and Blue October filled the screen. It's footage from a concert. Their last number of the set. What we watched was a beautiful live rendition of "18th Floor Balcony," the song that reminds him of the day he told me he loves me. As they released snow over the stage at the end of the song, I looked at Ranger and saw tears in his eyes. "Beautiful, isn't it?" he asked me, and squeezed my hand tight.

I watched him in the kitchen, making fajitas for our dinner. He loves to cook. When I brought out my green Tabasco sauce, Ranger says, "Look at that! You are a Texas girl!" Dinner is delicious, and we settle in to watch some movies. Well, Robot Chicken's Star Wars episode and Family Guy's "Blue Harvest" spoof of Star Wars. We laughed our fool heads off, and I just soaked up every moment together. This evening felt absolutely delightful and comfortable. A night at home, just the two of us.

Would it be fortunate or unfortunate that we got so wrapped up in each other that we lost track of time? Next thing we knew, we'd missed the astronomy program. Dang.

He worried about me driving home. "Do you have water?" I didn't, so he made sure I had a gallon in my car, in case I had car trouble or something. We set up points at which I was to call, so he knew I was safe.

And he sent me home with gifts for my family. He'd combed through his storage of rocks, ones he'd dug and polished himself. He could sell these for literally thousands of dollars, but he was sending them to me and my children instead. And to my parents. He sent petrified wood, crystals, fossilized dinosaur bones, a huge GORGEOUS geode for me, and a very rare rock he'd cut and polished, which contained minerals in its depth that have not even been identified. Beautiful.

His generosity overwhelms me. I'm touched by everything he does, and this inspires him to do more because being appreciated is such a new sensation for him. "You inspire me every day," he tells me. "I want nothing more than to fill your life with love." And he does that in so many ways.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

"Like a rock star"

"I did something last night I haven't done in a really long time," Ranger said quietly.

It was early on Monday morning. He's planning on coming to my town that night, and staying in a motel through Wednesday. He woke up before dawn and watched the stars, before calling me when he knew I'd be awake, but not yet out of bed.

"What's that?" I said, not sure what to expect of the answer.

"I prayed."

I caught my breath. Ranger is a little ambiguous about religion. He believes that there's a supreme being, and your life is guided and judged by right choices. He was raised by a Mormon mother, so he understands my perspective. But for him to actually sit down and address The Almighty....well, that's something else.

"You did?"

"Yes. I don't like to pray to ask for anything. But last night I asked if you could please be the one for me."

And I wished I could hold him right then.

He composed an email to me while he was working the lonely entry booth that day. I was working in another town, so I saw it towards the end of the day. He sent it just before making the drive to my town. He said:

"I want you to be my best friend, my lover, my confidant, my blanket, my pillow, my first sight in the morning, my last sight at night, my advocate, my teacher, my student, my partner, my equal, my sun, my moon, my flower, my rose petal, my shoulder to cry on, my cuddling mate, my tickle fight opponent, my French kissing sparring partner, my warm soft hug haven, my faerie princess, my lady to champion, my everything;

"The object of my admiration, my affection, my respect, my love and my inspiration;

"A part of my life, my love, my day, my night, my very being and my soul;

"The one who I sing songs to, make love with, cook dinner for, stay up late with, hug for no reason, hold hands with daily, sleep next to nightly, love intensely, laugh with, cry with, discover new activities with, talk all night with;

"And we will watch the sunrise, the sunset, the rain, the lightening, the snow, the seasons change, the stars, each other, and the years go by!"

WOW. What do you say to that? "Me, too" seems a little lame! He says my emails to him take his breath away, but this time, he's taken mine.

I had to go to the grocery store that night. Ranger had just gotten into town, so he agreed to go with me. I went by the hotel to pick him up. He opened the door and his exhaustion was apparent. He held me close and nuzzled my neck.

"Do you know why I prayed?" he asked. I shook my head. He took a deep, shaky breath. "I don't want this to go bad," he said. "I don't want it to be another wasted 24 years of meanness."

I pulled back. "You know that's not me," I said. "I can't be like that." His ex-wife has really wrung him out, closing off his access to their financial resources and his own paycheck, so that he'd be stranded in Utah. She belittles him and his interests. He's worn out.

He nodded. "I know. I'm just a little scared sometimes. It'll be okay," he said. "You're everything I've wanted, all my life. And I've never felt like this before. I mean, I've been in love before, obviously, but not like this. I don't remember it ever being like this."

And we had a delightful time at the grocery store. I never really knew a trip to Safeway could be fun.

We planned time to be together over the next two days. I was to come by the motel and meet him for breakfast each day. Tuesday, I had time set aside for us to go do some things together. Tuesday night he was invited to dinner at my house. My father is out of town this week, so he just had to contend with meeting my mother. In many ways, she's the toughest nut to crack.

And I haven't brought anyone home to meet my parents since 1999. My mother's alert is up. This is bad because she's an intensely negative person. We've often had this conversation:

Mom: "Just remember, there is a reason why a person is divorced."
Me: "Mom. I am divorced."

Tuesday morning, I dropped by the motel to start our day together. Ranger once said to me, "There's two types of 'intercourse.' First, there's just sex. Second, there's making love. I don't do the first." And he meant it.

We've been honest with each other about some things in our sexual history. He promised patience and put me at ease. "I'll take the time to get to know you," he said. "For me to have pleasure, it must be all about you first." This made my spine tingle, so you can imagine how the rest of it went.

We missed breakfast. Well, we missed breakfast time. We had pancakes and eggs for lunch. Then we wandered through Hastings, looking at DVDs and Star Wars toys. He showed me his baby book and pics from his childhood. He let me in to some of the joys and tragedies he remembers.

Then, I had to go pick up children and get home. I had a dinner to make. Ranger was coming to my house that evening, and would meet my mother.

Oh man, was I nervous.

So was Ranger. He called me about what color shirt to wear. Blue or black? Blue, I said. It brings out his gorgeous eyes.

My nervousness was for naught. The evening went spectacularly well. Dinner turned out really good. My mother watched Ranger interact with my kids. He's very good with my son. He loaned him a video game, but only after getting a promise about getting homework done. I've talked to Ranger about some of my struggles with my son, and he's anxious to be a good male influence on him. We all laughed a lot that night. My mother felt comfortable enough with him that she was telling a story from my childhood and started to cry. He had a turn at seeing pics from my childhood, although my childhood does not have the pitfalls his did.

My mother likes him. A lot. And she's picking up that this one is special. She actually told him that he's the first man I've dated here who has been to the house. He later told me how much it means to him to be included around the dinner table with us. He never had that while he was married. He'd cook, but no one would come until later. He'd cook, eat, and clean up alone.

The next morning, I followed the same routine. After running the kids to school, I went to the motel and snuggled down with Ranger. This time, I walked in and he had a soundtrack prepared. His laptop played tug-at-the-heart-strings love songs all morning. Later, we cozied up and watched a movie on the laptop. We ate at a favorite Chinese restaurant, then I had to put in some time at work, and he had to run his errands. He had to drive home that afternoon, and we were poignantly aware of our time winding down.

I cruised towards my office, missing him already. Stopping at a light, I looked to my left. There he was, all the windows down in his car and grinning ear to ear at me. I put my window down and was hit with Nickelback's "Rockstar," at full volume. My guy knows how I am about Nickelback!

As we drove down the street towards the campus, we stayed side-by-side, singing along together. (Don't worry -- no cars were behind us, so no one was getting annoyed!) I waved as I turned towards my parking lot. My phone rang.

"That's how you make me feel," he said.

"How's that?"

"Like a rock star."

Later in the day, he stopped by my house to say goodbye. We stood on my back porch, looking at the mountains and watching a large group of kids tear up the playground down the hill.

"I need to ask you a question," he said.

"Okay, go ahead."

"First, we're exclusive, right? I mean, I don't want to see anyone else. Do you?"

"No, sweetie, I don't."

He hugged me to his side a little closer. It was chilly, so I snuggled in. "That's good. I thought so, but I wanted to be sure. Second question, is there anything else you expect that I should know about?"

I thought. Expect? I couldn't really think of anything we hadn't already talked about.

"I'll come to see you every week, when I'm off," he said. "Maybe you can come sometimes on a weekend." I agreed.

"Last question," he said. "Is there anything you need that I'm not doing?"

"Need?" I asked, puzzled.

"Yeah, anything," he paused, looking into my confused expression. "I don't want to screw this up, Blogget. If there's ever anything I'm not doing that I should be, please tell me. I don't want to lose you because I missed something."

He kissed me gently and said, "You are the love of my life."