Friday, February 27, 2009


Do you read Dear Abby? I do. In the Houston Chronicle, her column is beneath the daily crossword and the last bit of the paper I read, before folding the paper in half and in half again for the puzzle, is Dear Abby. It's been my morning newspaper routine for years.

I recognize myself or my life in her column on occasion, taking the sage advice and letting it make sense to me, taking her words and making some adjustments to my thinking or actions. For 50 cents, I've found that her advice is a very good deal.

The headline of Thursday's column jumped at me: Unemployed worker feels forgotten by friends. And let me say right now that I do not feel forgotten by friends outside of work; it's some of the friends I've made over the past 18 years through my employment. The woman who had written Abby said that the phone calls and emails stopped almost immediately when word got out that she was laid off. She further said that being treated that way made her feel almost as bad as losing her job did.

Hello, lady, do I ever understand how you feel. With few exceptions, my previous co-workers have remained absent.

Abby or, as we all know, her daughter, responded that work-related contacts can become like an extended second family. She further wrote: If these relationships are treated as expendable, it can often be as traumatic as the death of a loved one. She named the five distinct stages of grief, which I had used for the title of my post February 20th. But she added that when it comes to a job loss there is also the element of fear. Fear of the uncertainty, fear of the future, fear of not being wanted. The work-related friendships we forged can be invaluable support to us, with one simple effort: Pick up the phone or send an email and ask the question: How are you? It would go a long way.

I know that in times of lay-offs, those not laid off are nervous and tend to keep their heads low and stay away from any conflict. I think that's normal behavior. I also know that when I've been on the other end; I've made the call, checked in, sent a note. I did it on my own time, and those friendships are still very much alive because of it.

Abby's column ended with a reminder that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. I think that's fitting advice, don't you?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Make a wish

Taken on my walk with Cheyenne this morning. Like the redbuds bursting in bright purple blossoms where just a few days ago there was nothing but brown buds, this wish granter growing in an empty lot on my street made me smile so wide at the beauty both great and small that I am blessed with seeing each morning.

Make a wish 007

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Putting a period on the end of that sentence

On Saturday I drove to my old office for the last time. Unfortunately, when the company I used to work for conducts a separation they do so in a manner that shows no respect, no matter the time you spent with the company or successes you brought through your role, or the relationships built over time, and most importantly how well they know you. You are immediately an outsider. I'd seen it before and always cringed. It's not having to get my things during off hours, and it's not returning the keys and all those details, it's the watch. It's the HR Manager hovering as if I would do damage or take something not mine. For me though the real moment of shock was realizing the irony and absolute lack of good judgement when I was asked for the near-completed next issue of People First, the quarterly internal newsletter that I wrote for the company. I was told they want to get that distributed. I considered saying something but didn't feel it was my place to suggest that even though they are completely within their rights, perhaps distributing that particular issue was not a good idea as most folks know I am the writer and know my writing style. Plus, the darn thing is so upbeat and positive that, all things considered, it sends a weird message at this point. Seems to me it will further damage an already sinking employee moral. But, not my decision to make.

I kept a smile on my face and a friendly tone in my voice while I packed boxes under the watchful eye of the HR Manager. I sorted files and I turned in my final expense receipts. I took my diploma from the wall and one-by-one the framed photos. I packed my reference books and other items that I'd collected through the years, leaving behind the ones with the company logo. I sorted my project files. Then I explained the status of each project to my old boss while a kind long-time coworker who showed up to give support to me loaded all of my items and the furniture I had at the office into his truck. With the task wrapped up, it was time to go. And what I did was extend my smile a bit wider, held my head a bit higher, and wished my old boss and the HR Manager the best of luck, and told them that I wished for their and the company's continued success. Then I walked out of that office for the last time.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Anger, denial, bargaining, depression, acceptance

Yesterday, I became a statistic of the times. Like many people across the country these days, I was laid off. Yes, it's true. After 18 years and partnership, my role, as they said, has been eliminated. They call it separation, as if we're going to get back together. It wasn't done with respect or integrity, or even compassion. If fact, it was cold. And it went down that way for 70 people in the company.

I worked for an environmental consulting firm, and I worked in Marketing. In tough times, it's a natural that Marketing will get slashed because Marketing is an expensive endeavor. So, I do understand. However, I am filled with a field of emotions wrestling each other for space and voice. Right now, though, I'm still in shock. The rest will follow.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Company is here!

The friend who I met in college when my boyfriend was cheating on me with her, and hiding me from her as well, so that we were left to figure out each other’s existence, and ended up keeping each other and dumping him and being friends to this day, which, ahem, is more than a few years. The friend who reminds me of Dandelions and Gin and Tonics (yes, together), who reminds me of the Smiths, One Thousand Mexicans and Front 242, the one who can dance to World Destruction better than anyone I know, the one who bought the best sweaters at Salvation Army, the friend who was the only one able to put a smile on my face when days got dark for me my senior year in college, the friend who still to this day collects silly, curious and colorful things as bright as her personality. The friend whose life forever changed when Shelly died and who shared her broken heart with me and mine, who will still talk with me about her, and who is as surprised as I am that there was ever really a time before either of us knew her. The friend who loves chocolate, and I mean in such a way that she always has to have a supply. The friend who has the cutest pert nose in the world, and I’m not kidding. The friend who introduced me to Elvis Costello and Interview Magazine when Andy Warhol was still at the helm (that should tell you we've known each other a long time), well, she emailed last night that she's decided to visit in March. I’ve been after her for some time to come see me but I had to dangle an Elvis Costello concert in front of her for her to move into action. Yeah, that was all the bait necessary. I'm already so excited I can't stand it. Good times in the future!

I originally posted the above paragraph the last week of January, 2005, under the title, Company's coming. I was excited because my friend was coming to town and we had big plans, plans that involved silliness and time and Elvis Costello. But life got in the way of those plans. Dad died, I got very sick, she had some struggles, and as I said, life got in the way of our plans.

It was all the way up until last night before we were able see each other. But last night we did, because she is here, right here in Houston. Seeing her, spending time with her and drinking champagne with her, it was as if the past twenty years hadn't passed at all. Except for the fact that we've weathered the storms and earned the laughter. That, and we could afford the bill.

Monday, February 16, 2009

With just a little elbow grease

This past weekend, I took Friday as a vacation day and headed to the cabin with some friends for the weekend. In my mind, and filling the truck, was a project. The cabin and, importantly, the linens and towels are about 25 years old. Several weeks ago, I decided that room-by-room, I was going to devote some time and energy and moderate funds (shopping discount stores) to make some upgrades. The first room I decided to tackle was the one that was my room when we built the cabin and later became my niece's room. Below are a couple pictures of that room taken before I completely dismantled it and hauled the furniture and headboards outside to be painted.

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There's nothing wrong with it really, but it was screaming to me that it needed new linens and a fresh clean look. Over a couple weeks, I found some great deals on the linens. I bought paint to brighten up the furniture and I bought two new lamps that I fell in love with because I can put things inside of them, such as pinecones or seashells or anything we want to put in them, including terrarium plants. I opted for seashells and starfish, wanting to give this room a slight seaside feel.

I was all ready to start painting the moment we arrived, but my friend reminded me that we would have to sand first. So, we sanded. And sanded. And sanded. And then I decided to wash and dry by hand the new drinking glasses I bought for the kitchen and wash and dry the new towels I bought for the bathroom and to fold those towels because I realized that I really don't like sanding at all and would rather wash dishes by hand and fold towels any day.

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And then the painting began! But guess what, it turns out that I'm not very good at painting. I put too thick a coat on and that creates unwanted drips. I learned that applying several thin coats, and letting them dry between, was the proper way to get the look that I wanted, a nice, smooth, even coat. This is something my father used to tell me but there's the little issue I've never outgrown, the one of my lack of patience with taking my time. So I painted a headboard, the drawers, and the surface and sides of one small table, and then found other things to occupy my time with while my friend meticulously and patiently painted the rest. She's very thorough that one, and doesn't at all mind taking her time to do a project right. Late Saturday afternoon, the freshly painted furniture was ready to be re-assembled and put back into the room.

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There are a few more changes that need to be made. I need to get new drawer hardware on the furnture and I'm replacing the blinds with one-and-a-half-inch wooden ones. I'm also looking at some botanical prints of grasses or shells to hang above the beds, but all that will be in a couple of weeks. For now, I'm delighted with how the room is shaping up.

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A couple of others seemed to be pretty pleased as well.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Out my window

Several years ago, I bought two Bradford Pear trees at one of the semi-annual lawn and garden center sales. I wanted the Bradford Pears for three reasons: they flower white in the Spring, their leaves turn red and drop in the Fall, and they grow to 25-35 feet in height. I also wanted to provide a place for the birds. I couldn't wait until the two scrawny twigs I put in the back of my car that day turned into actual trees. As I carefully and lovingly planted them, I looked forward to the day when I could look out my window from my second floor living room and see the trees, and possibly watch and listen to birds darting in and out from the branches.

This morning, that very thing happened. My windows open to the day, I was sitting on my couch and heard fluttering and twittering. I turned my head and looked out the window and there was my tree, for the most part bare to the season, and there was the bird. I've waited years for this, I've nurtured the trees, even talked to them and encouraged their growth while placing my hand on the ever-widening trunks, or touching one of the leaves. I've delighted in how tall they are growing and their ever-widening crowns. But if the birds were there, I've missed them. Until this morning.

It's a mad world out there, but this little scene this morning simplifies everything, and gives me such a big smile.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I was going to write something here just now. I had unrolled some thoughts and put them into a line of words and they were all ready to march through my fingers and onto this little spot, but darn it if I didn't get ready and then Cheyenne jumped up on the couch and rolled over in request for a belly rub. And all those little words, they fell away. Because rubbing a puppy belly, that's just so much better than typing on my laptop.

See ya!

Monday, February 09, 2009

A thousand words

This post is the best of my weekend. These pictures speak for me, of my Saturday morning walk, of my neighborhood and a few of the things I love about it. Saturday afternoon, my niece arrived in town. We spent the day and night together, played with our cameras and her new lens, went to lunch and visited friends, went to a movie. Went to bed. I fell asleep with a smile on my face knowing she was the other room, that she was home. When she came down the stairs Sunday morning, she looked at me, smiled, and sleepily said, Good morning. I want you to know how much I love that morning face and that sleepy voice and her walking down the stairs and greeting me. We had cereal and laughed and smiled and I hugged her at least a thousand times and followed each with, I'm so happy you came to see me. A drop of her sunshine can light the world.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

This day

The sixth day of February in 2005 was the first Sunday in the month, Super Bowl Sunday. I don't remember what my plans were, where I was going to watch the game. I had brunch at a friend's that morning, not sure how long I'd been home when the phone rang. It was Catherine, my niece. Her voice was panicked, her words were choking, I knew there were tears. She told me that he'd fallen down in the closet and he wasn't moving, that Eddie, my nephew, was calling 9-1-1, that my mother, very confused at that time in her life, did not think anything was wrong.

For a brief moment, as I grabbed my purse and keys and was running down my stairs, there was silence over the phone between us because we were both crying. We both knew. I wished I could reach through the phone and gather her into my arms.

I felt it deep in my tissues but we both didn't know what to do at that minute, her calling me for help and me being on my way but the clock, the damn clock ticking faster than I could shorten the distance between us. I pressed the palm of my hand to my mouth to make the tears stop, to make the fear stop, but they did not stop. They didn't stop for a long time.

The moments are clear in my memory. The day is blurry.

I always loved him. From my first memory of him, from running to him when he returned from work, jumping into his arms and holding onto his neck, feeling the cool air from the car still in the collar of his shirt. From the hours I spent with him watching him work on his boat, and the walks along the beach singing Puff the Magic Dragon. I was six? He was my father; he was my friend.

These thoughts scramble through my mind as I drive.

Oh Dad, I gasp out loud on the drive there because I don't know what else to say or how to say it with the distance between him there in the closet and me there in the car.

Death is not something you expect to hear on a Sunday afternoon. Not on a sunny day when life is already out of balance with Mom. Death is something that creeps into a man so alive, so good at taking care of himself, a man who stood tall with shoulders strong for the children to jump from at the community pool all those years ago. A man who taught his young daughter to waltz by imploring her to dance with him and calming her nerves by whispering to put her feet on his, and gliding the two of them across the floor as if they had been dancing together for years.

My father can't die. Not today. Not tomorrow, and not today.

Not when I just saw him Friday and cancelled dinner plans for Saturday because my mother was out of control and angry.

I love you, I say into the silence around him. They all leave the room, giving me my own time with him. I gather him in my arms, put my cheek against his, his hand in my own. I wish he could open his eyes, that he could hold me, that we could go back as we used to be, in black and white, smiles and innocence as captured in our photos, before life and growing up got in the way. I hold his hand, look at his manicured nails, curl his fingers around mine, pretend that we are holding hands together, not that I am holding his. I breathe him into my lungs, touch his soft hair.

The day is blurry. Somehow I'm walking through the house, heading towards the phone. Someone hands me a rose. There are people to call, family, friends. Somehow I call my friend to come pick up Cheyenne. Somehow life requires that I be organized in this moment, at any moment I am crying. Suddenly, life requires that I have a notebook and pen in my hand for hours and days. Sometimes life simply requires too much.

At any moment, I am crying. The details are there, but the day is blurry.

Looking back now, four long years without him, my love casts a widening pool of light around him still. His death did not change that; grief did not change that. The darkness is now gone and my love for him is sharp and sparkling, it's winter air and springtime hope, and it begins every morning, every sentence. It's always there, in the way I can feel his hands on my shoulders, in the way I search for the color blue that was his eyes in the light. Always the light. The light of love, it shines so bright.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Just for you. And you.

I received a forwarded email earlier this morning, one with the dreaded instructions to pass it to a number of people and not to break it. My friends and I frown on those forwards even though we do send them on occasion. I'm not forwarding this though - instead I'm leaving it here for you. I hope you pause a moment to read and reflect upon the words. This is the second time I've posted this on my site, but if ever something were a candidate for repeating, perhaps it is this.

To get something you never had, you have to do something you've never done. When God takes something from your grasp, He's not punishing you, but merely opening your hands to receive something better. Concentrate on this sentence: The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.

And that, my friends, is my post for today.

Monday, February 02, 2009


Right now I'm thinking about it. A moment from now I won't be. Later, I'll return. A week from now, I'll try to remember. And I will. Three months from now, a year from now, I'll remember still. I might feel it slip but I'll capture its fall, bring it up, steady it again.

Because it means something to me.