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Friday, December 28, 2012

DIY Addiction

I've just spent three hours watching back-to-back-to-back-to-back home renovation shows. From House Crashers to Property Brothers and High Low Project to Kitchen Cousins, the shows are addicting. I'm sure I'd make a mint if I wrote a 12-step plan to kick the DIY habit.

It started innocently enough with Trading Spaces years ago. That was one show. Then it was two - Design on a Dime. Before I knew it, there were DIY shows around the clock. I started recording shows to get my fix of DIY before I left for work in the morning and before I went to bed at night.

I started spending money on DIY magazines and books. Then things got worse. I've started scouring thrift stores for furniture with "good bones" that I can refurbish and transform into a fabulous piece. My coffee table -- DIY. China Hutch - DIY. TV/Media stand - DIY. I've recovered chairs and painted old frames. It's out of control. I can't walk into a furniture store anymore without thinking, "I can get that much cheaper if I buy an older piece and restore."

Now, we're house-hunting and the DIY addiction has hit a new low. We're looking for a fixer-upper and have even considered building a house -- with the help of experts of course, but with us doing a lot of the interior work.

This is not going to end well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Candy Making

What the candy was supposed to look like...

The Christmas Spirit took hold this week. That's your first warning.

Up until Sunday morning, I just didn't feel like putting up the tree and decorating. The red Rubbermaid tubs sat in my living room since shortly after Thanksgiving. I decided Saturday to haul everything back down to the garage and not decorate this year. But the Christmas Spirit hit me hard about 5:30 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Since you just can't run out and buy a tree anywhere at 5:30 a.m. except maybe Walmart and well, I just didn't feel like getting dressed to decorate the tree. So pajama-clad, I dug into the tubs. I found two huge tubs full of artificial greenery, collected over the years because one of our children is allergic to the real stuff. I went back to the garage and grabbed two tomato cages, rinsed off any garden soil in the bathroom, dried and stacked them. Upside down, the cages have just the right shape. After tying the stakes together to form a "tree top," I wrapped the green garland around the tree then added white lights. I decided this year to use the blue and silver ornaments and viola! a tree.

Wow! I felt like Martha Stewart on steroids -- and a pot a coffee at this point. So, I decorated the mantel, plopped a tree on the front door, threw the Christmas towels in the bathroom. I was on a roll.

After hubby woke up and showered, he realized I was not going to make it to church. I was on a mission from a higher calling -- the Christmas Spirit. We cleaned, we rearranged the furniture and even tackled a couple of projects -- the house was looking good.

Then I turned my attention to baking. That's your second warning.

I burned the cookies, and forgot to add something to the bread. But I was undaunted. My "holiday spirit" email popped in just in time with candy recipes! My husband always talks glowingly of the candy his mother used to make for the holidays every year. I've got this. I can do this. That's your third and final warning.

After two or maybe three trips to the grocery store, I had everything I needed to make Chocolate Peppermint Meringue Kisses. They were beautiful in the page. The recipe sounded easy enough. I felt a little apprehension, but come on -- egg whites and some sugar -- how hard could this be?

The instructions said to beat the sugar in slowly, one teaspoon at a time. The stand mixer's been down for a while, so I grabbed the hand mixer. My shoulders and arms were burning after 20 minutes of beating, but it was going to be worth it for the beautiful candy that everyone would ooh and aah over and then devour.

But the sugar just wasn't dissolving. I beat some more. The instructions then said to use a pastry bag and some star tip to create the meringue kisses. I had no bag, so I improvised just like Martha would by using a large sandwich bag with the corner cut out just enough to put the tip in (I should say I inheritied a lot of my mom-in-laws cooking gadgets, which is the only reason I have a whole set of cake decorating tips.) It started out fine. Then it got bad, the meringue would not come out of the bag after a few kisses. I had 180 more to go. Who knew four egg whites could make so much meringue. I squeezed. The bag exploded.

I wiped off the mess as much as I could. And, I finally got the meringue back out of the bag and decided to use a small spoon and drop dollops on the cookie sheets. Folks, the recipe clearly said this recipe made 192 candies. One Hundred Ninety Two is a lot of candy. I gave up after filling two large parchment-lined cookie sheets with dollops. I obediently baked for 7 minutes, turned off the oven, opened the door and let it cool off. In the meantime, one more trip to the store to replace the milk chocolate that had mysteriously disappeared from the kitchen drawer I hid it in. The plan was to dip the now cool candy into the melted chocolate first, then into the pile of peppermint candies that we had crushed. The latter sounding more like we were firing guns than just crushing candy.

Simple enough? No. I grabbed a meringue kiss. It broke apart. In the end, I had chocolate and white sticky stuff all over me. I gave up halfway through the meringue dipping because the more I dipped, the worse I got at dipping. Practice did not make perfect. My husband walked over and stifled a laugh. I offered him a candy. He politely declined. MY HUSBAND TURNED DOWN A CANDY. They actually do taste good.

I bought the ingredients to make candy cane bark. Be very afraid.

What my candy looks like. Sigh.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Even Cowgirls get the blues

It's after 1 a.m. and I have an early day tomorrow. I should be sleeping. Instead I'm up listening to country music (King George), Blues and Buffett, and drinking rum.

I don't know why I'm writing. If I was trying to channel Hemmingway, I'd be drinking whiskey. Instead I'm channeling old ghosts of times past and trying to find answers to what lies ahead.

It's not working.

The week ahead is full of challenges. My mother -- the only parent left between my husband and I -- is having major surgery this week. I'm more stressed about that than I want to admit. I'm scared.

My friend, Ashley, who just lost her mother suddenly this summer is now dealing with her dad's illness. He has surgery this week also. I'm worried and scared for my friend.

Then Saturday, we have a farewell for a good friend and boss at a local watering hole. That just makes me sad.

On top of that, I'm contemplating another major life change that I can't talk about just yet.

Life is that way, little challenges, big challenges. In the end, it will all work out. Sometimes though, you just need to drink some rum runners and run away to the beach with Jimmy.

That's where I am tonight folks.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Wrinkle Creams and Magic Potions

When I turned 25, I remember crying. It was in the early 80s and the sexist stereotypes in television ads still prevailed (yes, I know they still do, but they were more overt then.) Ads for lotions and creams such as THE mother of all wrinkle removers, Oil of Olay, hyped its benefits for women "over 25".  That's right, I was now old enough to need wrinkle cream, and I bought it.

As another old sexist commercial used to say, "We've come a long way, baby." 

Now 30 years after that momentous age-defining moment, here I sit surrounded by bottles of elixirs and potions that promised to make me look like I'm 25 again. The labels make me feel like maybe I should have majored in chemistry: Alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids and poly hydroxy acids, peptides, tea extracts, retinol -- they all promise to reduce the "fine lines" and wrinkles on my face.

My husband looks over at the pile around me and laughs. His eyes crinkle at the corners and the smile creases around his mouth are now permanent. He doesn't care. The only time he's used a wrinkle cream is when I've forced it on him. It adds character to his face. I still see the same 20-something I fell in love with when we both had fewer fine lines and creases.

"You don't need those you know," he said.

Ah, but I know better. The creases on my forehead are becoming permanent. I see a lot of fine lines below my eyes. But I'm not diligent as the ads and the instructions on the lotions tell me I should be about putting this on every morning, noon and night. And, it's confusing. Some are "day wear", others I'm supposed to use only at night, and then others under the day wear stuff.

These magic potions must work. My mother, who's close to 80, didn't really start getting noticable lines on her face until her 70s. She was a believer and religiously used her face cream and body cream every morning and night. It was a ritual. We would sit on the bed and talk with her as she applied and rubbed in the lotions, glowing all over when she was done.

So, I pick out a few and start to slather. This one is for under eyes. Another for my legs, arms and body. The one in the pretty pink bottle, which is probably what attracted me to buy it, promises to make my forehead look as smooth as an injection or two of botox.

My husband looks on in amusement. "So why can't you just use the same lotion all over? That's what I do when I feel dry."

I sigh. I explain to him that fine lines and wrinkles don't add character to my face. They just make me look old.

"But honey, I don't see any lines and wrinkles. You're as young and beautiful as you were when we first got married."

I crawl out from the pile on the floor and go sit with him on the couch and smile. Someone should bottle that sentiment up -- because it just erased all my lines and wrinkles.  Of course later, I'll slather some more magic potions on my face and body because I know my husband was not wearing his glasses and he probably really CAN'T see the fine lines and wrinkles.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Remembering Tim

Death has a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it. The sucker punch leaves you feeling like you can't breathe.

That's how it was that second week in August. I jumped out of the shower to prepare for  a good day ahead. I noticed the message light flashing on my Blackbery and saw I had missed a call from the state director. It was too early, we weren't supposed to meet for hours. I hurried. Blew dry my hair and got dressed. I picked up the phone again to return the call, then I saw the email.

The phone fell from my hands and I couldn't speak. Sucker punch. My husband looked at me. "What's going on?"  I shook my head. "I don't know. There's a mistake. Tim died." Uncomprehending and comprehending at the same time, he picked up my phone and read the email. "What? How? But, he was on vacation."

Real sneaky, death. Tim died while he was on vacation.

Over the past few weeks, we've had time to absorb and adjust to life without Tim. Grief comes in waves. The tsunami has quieted to smaller steady waves, but it's still there. We're kinder to one another. We try harder because our work matters to us and it mattered to Tim.

We find comfort in the fact that Tim was on vacation. He was in the Florida panhandle on his favorite beach with his family. If you had asked him how he wanted to spend his last day, I truly believe that's exactly where he would have wanted to be.

Tim's death has left a big hole in our work family. He had a big personality. The graying longish hair that we often teased him about, his quick smile and Boston accent mixed with the occasional Texas twang and his misguided penchant for Coors Light and the Boston Red Sox have been fodder for stories and memories retold over the past few weeks.

The grief we feel cannot be measured to that of his family. But we all still have a lot of healing. I still walk into work sometimes, particularly when I'm in Austin, and expect to see his face. I have found myself picking up the phone to call Tim more than once. I miss Tim.

As bosses go, he was pretty good.He trusted that you knew your job and let you do it, with just enough guidance. Because of this, he was sometimes exasperating. In the end, you tried harder to succeed for the both of you. As friends go, he was better. No matter his problems, he always had time to listen, offer advice or poke fun so that you laughed more and cried less.  And, as I've learned the past few weeks, in many other ways -- father, son, brother, go-to guy, mentor -- he was and is irreplaceable.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Time Management

Someone give me the past 48 hours back, please. Or to be more precise, give me back the 24 hours of the weekend that I’m sure I just threw away by doing nothing more than reading a magazine, looking over catalogues, playing on Facebook (not as much as you think) or watching television.
Yes, yes. I know, everyone needs down time. But somewhere along the way, I found that I no longer can afford to have “down time.”  I just don’t know what happened.
When my husband and I had children at home, we were overbooked, overworked and way overcommitted. Yet, we still had time to participate in the children’s activities from school to sports. We had time for work. We had time for our couple time.
Nowadays, all the things I had planned to do at the beginning of the weekend still lay undone. At work, I function with to-do task lists and even break them down into projects and priorities. I think I’m going to have to do that at home.
Maybe then, my closet will find organization and my dining room table will quit looking like the city dump. 
I really have to figure out where the time was spent.
Let’s see, I read some great articles. OK, that time was not wasted. I actually learned something! 
I snuggled with my hubby on the couch: Time definitely not wasted.
I talked to my son, and both my daughters on the phone: Quality time.
I went to dinner at my sister’s house and hugged both nephews: Definitely quality time.
I went to the garden and helped stuff grow – veggies that we donate half of to a local food pantry: absolutely needed time.
 And, I spent time in the kitchen drinking wine and cooking with my husband: more great time spent.
I guess I did more important things than I thought I had this weekend. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Memories and Journaling

I went looking for photos this morning to post on my husband's and son's Facebook pages. I couldn't find what I wanted in my albums, and then I remembered the blog. 

It didn't take long to find two great photos and post them. Then I came back to the blog and started reading. It's the story of our lives. It's a journal. It's memories. 

I love it, and have to figure out a way to preserve it -- I mean, not sending any bad mojo out, but what happens if the company ever just goes belly up or blogger went away? 

 I being fatalistic, but also wondering about it. It's not likely anyone is going to make a movie about my blog so I need to think on that and figure it out.  Any ideas out there blogger pals? Maybe Yoda knows...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Great Outdoors

Being outdoors is overrated. I'm just saying. 

I have several facts to back up my claim. Sonny Bono would not have died had he not been sliding down a snow-covered mountain and crashed into a tree -- OUTDOORS.  For that matter, JFK might not have  been assasinated if he hadn't been riding in a convertible with the top down, enjoying the OUTDOORS.

Other catastrophic things that can happen when you're enjoying nature?

Eaten by a bear - OUTDOORS.

Drown - Mostly OUTDOORS.

Tree falling over on to your head - OUTDOORS.

Snake bite - OUTDOORS.

Eaten by a shark, stung by a Ray, sunburns, poison ivy...all OUTDOORS.

So maybe I'm exagerating a little bit. I have been known to enjoy a walk and even garden. Heck, I've even gone camping and slept OUTDOORS, though all the while I was worried I would be eaten by a bear.

Things didn't used to be this way. As a kid, I spent almost every free hour outdoors. Nothing was more wonderful than lying on grass under a tree and waching the clouds float by behind the branches. I grew up on a farm for goodness sakes.

But the great outdoors and I are not seeing eye to blood-shot red due to pollen eye. That's right. Allergies to the great outdoors has done me in.

I complained last year to my doctor, who assured me that pollen, dust and all that is outdoors causes hay fever in everyone and it's not really an allergy. He finally succumbed and tested for allergies. I got the call from his nurse, "Tests came back. It seems you're allergic to everything." Well, duh.

This year, the prescriptions given to me last year no longer work. So now, it appears I'm allergic to everything plus. 

It's going to be a long spring and summer and fall. I miss being outdoors.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Crack dealers in training...or earning your crack badge

Disclaimer This post is tongue-in-cheek. I've been a girl scout, a girl scout leader. I've had boxes upon boxes of Girl Scout of the United States cookies that we had to sell, so I understand. But now, I see it from the (crack, uh, I mean cookie) addict's side.

Most people feel a let down after the holidays. I feel the excitement building because I know soon, someone, somewhere, sometime, will approach me with an order form for Girl Scout cookies. Those delectable Samoas, Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos and Tagalongs -- even the names make my mouth start to salivate.

It happened this year. Early January, I'm at the spa where I get my nails and waxing. As I was paying the cashier, I saw it. THE order form. My daughter, who was with me, was the voice of reason. We were restrained grown-ups and order three boxes. That was a decent amount so we didn't look cheap, but not too many that we looked like wolves circling a lamb lost from the herd.

A month later, we picked up the cookies. Now, here's the important fact that I've left out. My daughter cannot tolerate gluten -- meaning she's not supposed to eat things like Girl Scout cookies -- and she recently moved back home. Hubby and I knew we should cut out some of the carbs in our diet so we decided to make our home gluten-free. The cookies were clearly not fitting into this decision.

Day 1: we opened the Samoas after dinner. Restraint. We each ate two. That's it. Two. The next day, we each ate 3. What happened after that is a blur. I think I blacked out. We woke up the next morning and all that remained of the Girl Scout cookies were three empty boxes.

We were all ashamed, but it was over. The cookies were gone.

We forgot about the crack dealers in training: those cute little girl scouts and brownies in their cute little uniforms with their cute little voices and faces. They are everywhere.

My daughter and I needed to go to the fabric store to pick up supplies -- the fabric store. They were there. Table set out, loaded with boxes of cookies. "No thank you, I already bought some," I said, hurrying by and not making eye contact.

We slammed the car doors shut and bought let out a long breath. "That was tough," my daughter said.

We went to the next store. They were there. Did they follow us? I swear the little red head was at the last stop.

We got in quickly -- the little voices trailing behind us. It was tougher getting out of the store. They had positioned two of the cute little crack dealers at the side of each door.

"Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies," one chirped. "They're yummy."

My daughter grabbed my arm. "Keep walking. Don't look at them." We kept walking, and were approaching the larger group of Girl Scouts, each with armed with a smile and a plea to buy their cookies. "Run!" my daughter said. "Ok, just walk faster."

She pulled me past and another (target) shopper headed out of the store, distracting the Girl Scouts.

We dashed across traffic to the safety of our car. High-fives!

"Crack dealers in training," my daughter said. We both laughed.

We got home, unloaded our bags and I opened the pantry to put things up. That's when I saw it, hiding next to the cereal. A box of Samoas.

My husband swears he has no idea how it got there. I believe him. I swear I saw a little red head in a Girl Scout uniform walking around the corner of our house when we were headed to the front door...

Sunday, March 04, 2012

A rose by any other name is...another flower

My name is Carmel -- pronounced like Carmel-By-The-Sea in California. Despite the fact that the majority of my life people called me Car-mul, that's not how it's pronounced.

In the past few months, I've been called that and Carmen and Carmelita and Camille. Sometimes I grin and bear it but most of the time, I correct people both verbally and in written form. Why? Because that's not my name.

I'm named after my paternal grandmother. I like my name. There was a time that I did not like it, but it is after all my name. Yes, I'm known by a whole like of other monikers from Cissy to O.N.C. (only my running friends know what that stands for)to Mom, "E" and Mimi.

Our name is the first thing we own. It's ours. It's part of, a great big part of, what makes us, us. Think about how often you've met someone and thought, "Wow, they don't look like a ...." fill in the blank there, but you know what I mean.

Imagine if Elvis' name had been Roger, or how a country girl like Norma Jean changed to fit the name given to her by the Hollywood machine.

We are our name. So don't take it personally if I correct you should you mispronounce my name. It's Carmel with an L, no N.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Larry Perry from Granbury

Early last year I sent out an email recruitment message, hoping to find volunteers in specific areas where I work. Volunteers are at the heart and soul of AARP, so I'm always recruiting.

This one particular time, I got an email from a fellow in Granbury. I grabbed my handy Texas map and found it - just a little southeast of Fort Worth in a congressional district where I had no volunteers. I called, got an answering machine and left a message.

A few days later my phone rang at the office, "Hel-lo, Car-mel" a very friendly male voice drawled. "This is Lar-ry Per-ry. Larry Perry from Granbury."

I smiled.

We talked for a while. I explained that there were no other volunteers out there with him, but he was fine with that. He said he was going to be in Fort Worth for another meeting later that week. We set up a meeting.

Out of that meeting, I gained a friend and a dedicated volunteer. Larry was a quick study. I soon learned that he was passionate about issues such as cuts to Social Security, gaining regulations on payday lenders in Texas or ensuring that we worked in community issues such as Complete Streets. He embraced the Protect Seniors campaign last year and lobbied his member of Congress. He gave presentations and quick speeches to whomever would have him.

I'd occasionally have to call Larry and tell him to slow down. We didn't have the budget for all the mileage -- he was fine with that. He wanted to make a difference.

I soon learned a lot about Larry. He loved his two sons and his daughter more than anyone and loved to talk about their lives. We shared a hug when his long-time partner died and I let him share stories of their travels and adventures in the community.

He told me about the jobs he had held and I learned quickly how much he loved central Fort Worth and its eclectic communities.

I met him in Granbury once for a meeting with a state official and we followed up with lunch. It was hard to get through lunch because so many people stopped by to say hello. Everyone knew Larry. He was a community supporter and activist. He served on boards and knew all the elected officials on a first-name basis.

He shared with me that he always felt it was important to make a difference in whatever way you could. "Don't wait for someone else to do it, if you can do it," he said. "Make a difference."

As we gear up our efforts for You've Earned A Say on Social Security and Medicare, I know Larry will be with us every step of the way. He was excited about hitting the road for presentations because he knew how critical those two earned benefits are to millions of Americans.

Larry Perry of Granbury died Feb. 22.

I'll miss my volunteer. I'll miss those regular phone calls that always started with, "Hel-lo Car-mel. This is Lar-ry Per-ry." But most of all I'll miss my friend.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Just a closer walk

As I sat and listened to tonight's sermon and thought about the next 40 days, I felt a little stronger in my faith.

It's no secret that I grew up Southern Baptist. My husband and I settled on the Methodist church a long time ago as a matter of meeting in the middle -- he was raised a Lutheran.

But over the years, I've worked to understand and embrace the theology and teachings of my elected religion.

Overall, I don't think I identify myself as a "Methodist" - despite the tarnished image that some folks create of Christianity by their very un-Chritianlike behavior (a certain Kansas church comes to mind), I still consider myself first and foremost a Christian.

My goal this Lenten is simply to walk a little closer to my faith and let others see not ashes on my forehead but simply by obsserving my behavior that I am a Christian.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Work unfinished

Confession time - I'm a notorious project "starter". I'm not so good at finishing projects.

I'm trying to downsize and that's forcing me to go through boxes of fabric and "projects."

Some -- like the baby blanket I started for my grandchild before she was born (she's now five) probably won't be finished. Others, i'm going to tackle one at a time.

It's my goal -- I didn't make "resolutions" this year -- I made goals.

First up, my daughter's pink french fabric pj pants. Beautiful flannel fabric with prints of the Eiffel tower. I bought it when she was in high school and she desperately wanted these pj pants.

I grab a pattern, make it smaller since she's lost a lot of weight since high school, and cut. Then I sew. Whole project time - 10 years and 1.5 hours. Seriously. Did I mention she's now 27? She was surprised and thrilled.

Next up - Bunny rabbits for the granddaughters. Easter is coming, since lent starts this week, that means I have about 40 days to finish them all. One's done - five more to go. Project started 2010 -- I plan to finish it this time.

I'll keep you updated on the progress.

This week I have a loftier goal -- I started a book many eons ago - "Chicken Fried Baptist" based on our life growing up in Texas. Goal: Draft finished by my birthday -my 55th birthday - I have 6 days to go. Deep breath - here I go.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Written Word

Before the days of status updates and tweets, I started a blog. That was March 15, 2005.

The blog was supposed to be anonymous. I used a compilation of my initials to create a name. I called it "North of the Red River" because I was after all, a Texan, living in Oklahoma. The name has stuck through a stint in Florida and now back in Texas.

I wrote and it was therapuetic at a time when I needed it to be therapuetic. Then I discovered other people's blogs. I became a fan Melessa of Redneck Diva who made me laugh and sometimes cry as they shared the ups and downs of their families' lives. Diva, Melessa and I and others became mutual admirers. We met face-to-face at an Okie blogger meet up and were relieved to learn none of us were really serial killers. We've kept in touch.

Blogs became a way for me to keep up with college friends, commisserate with like-minded folks and write. I know that often I was writing only for me. My family got nervous to learn I was sharing details of our life online, but I assured them no one was reading.

I made mistakes. I changed the blog, trying to make it professional by writing reviews or sports. Each time it reverted back to what it was: a public journal shared (or not) that was cheaper than therapy.

Then came the Facebook explosion. I never really liked MySpace. I have a profile out there somewhere, I think. Does MySpace still exists? I tweeted. I posted. I played created virtual farms and chatted with strangers from Australia on sleepless nights.

And sometimes I abandoned my blog. Now, I've picked it up and dusted it off. I'm embracing it like a long lost friend.

Some of my favorite blogs from those early year have been abandoned or been completely reinvented. Most have ads.

I think maybe some of us are in a Facebook funk or just overload. Too much.

Last night was a sleepless night. I read posts from favorite reads and saw that Diva was vowing to blog more often. I read "Blogs of Note" and hopped from one blog to the next, to see if anyone was still blogging.

There are a lot more professional blogs out there now. A lot of photography blogs. A lot of family blogs with professional photos highlighting their lives. I found blogs from younger people too. Kids. Teenagers. Some were creative, others a bit frightening.

I will try to write and muse and record our lives more often. I'll read other blogs, which share everything from how to craft a kite to how to cook or garden.

More importantly, I will learn a little about myself along the way.

Second fiddle

I learned early on in my marriage to accept the fact that people (and animals) will always like my husband better than than like me. That's ok, he's often a much nicer person than I am, but that's why I love him.

A couple of examples:

It was I who first spotted our little dog, Sammy, in the window of the Humane Society wagon. I was the one who held her and we brought her home. She somehow knew that in our home, I was the rescuer. She sat by my side every chance she got. She would run and greet me at the door excitedly whenever I got home from work.

Then Sammy realized that I'm the person who can't sit still for very long. I'm the person who disappears for days on business trips.

I quickly became second fiddle. I'm sitting on the couch, Sammy tucked in neatly beside me with my hand stroking her head, and hubby comes and plops down in the chair across the room. A nano second later, Sammy's in his lap. Hmmm.

He grabs his jacket to head out the door and Sammy's on his heels.

She clearly still loves me and I'm her first choice when I hop in bed and she wants to snuggle. But I'm playing second fiddle the rest of the time.

Now I love my husband and I don't mind playing second fiddle, well except...maybe with the grandkids.

I try to be the ever spoiling grandmother - "E" they call me. But inevitably the mom in me kicks in and says, "Too much candy," or "I don't think you should jump from there."

Papa on the other hand is unfailingly more fun.

In 2010 when my son and his daughters came to stay with us for a few weeks while his wife settled into a new job and found a house in Washington state, I was amused by how much my granddaughters, especially his shadow, Willow, liked to go to Home Depot with him.

It so happened one day, I went with Papa and Willow to Home Depot on an errand. While he was paying for some items, she and I walked outside and sat on a bench to wait.

"Papa and I always sit here when we come to Home Depot," she said.

"You take a short rest before you walk back home?" I asked.

"Nope. We eat our candy bars before we go back," she said, clearly bemoaning the fact that I had no candy bar for her.

Busted. So all it takes is a little bribery?

So now, I make sure I have gum and suckers in my bag when the grandkids are around. Sammy gets treats from me on a regular basis when my hubby's not looking. It doesn't matter that the gum and suckers are sugar free or that the doggie treats are natural, healthy and never at the dinner table.

The competition is all in jest. We know the grandkids and the dog love us equally, and second fiddle's not so bad.

Really. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some chocolate heart-shaped boxes to mail to grandkids from "E."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hitting the brakes

Simon and Garfunkel's "59th Street Bridge" song, aka "Feeling Groovy" seems to fit my life at times. This past week was one of those times.

"Slow down, you're moving too fast," I love the words to the song but I don't necessarily heed them.

At work, we have initiatives and campaigns and work plans and more. There's always been a fire in me to compete. Work is no different. We're a team, but really, we all want to be team leader. Or some of us do, I guess.

At home, the house has to be perfect, look perfect, feel perfect. That means more projects than I can handle all at once.

Just like work.

So when you're moving too fast, you ignore the warning lights that tell you you're about to hit a brick wall. That's what happened last week.

I have a high tolerance for pain is really code for I ignore it. I had been taking more Tylenol than usual, and kept promising myself I'd go see another doctor (the current one being fodder for another post.) But I had meetings to attend, and more work plans to finish and so I didn't.

The pain in my side finally got the best of me. The doctor sent me for tests. Then more tests and then I hit the brick wall. Hospital. Surgery. Talk about moving too fast, I hardly had time to take in what was happening.

The good news is that if I take it easy, I'll recuperate and live to go back to my harried life. The bad news is that if I don't, I might not get a chance to go back.

So for now, I'm going to allow myself sometime for "feeling groovy." I am taking sick leave, so I'm going to try to not check emails or voice mails. I'm going to slow down and get well.

"Slow down everyone
You're moving too fast
Frames can't catch you when
You're moving like that" ...Jack Johnson