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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.