Friday, March 25, 2011

Rest in Peace, Laura

Two weeks ago today, my friend Laura died.  You know when you hear people say, "oh, I've known them forever"?  Well, for Laura and me that was pretty much true.  We met when we were in kindergarten.  Her house was my second home, and her mother was my second Mom.  Through cross country moves and changing life situations, we maintained a friendship for 30 years.

There's a formal obituary here if you want the basic deets, but I've always found those to be so dry.  They don't really tell you anything about the person.  So I'm going to write my own obituary and tell you about my friend, Laura.

As I said before, Laura and I met when we were in kindergarten.  Our dads had just started working at the same company, and so we both moved to Iowa at the same time.  We were both from the east coast-- her family was from Delaware and we came from Pennsylvania-- so there was some common ground right away.  We had even more common ground when we realized that we'd both spent our summers, or as much of it as we could manage, in the same beach town-- Ocean City, NJ.  Ocean City remained important to Laura for the rest of her life, and as an adult she went back as often as possible, even though she lived only a half a day's drive from the Gulf.

We didn't actually meet in class, though.  We lived out in the boonies (in Iowa even the boonies have boonies), and I was in the AM class with all the other bus riders.  Laura lived within walking distance of school, so she was in the PM class.  This was excellent scheduling, because Laura didn't do mornings.  (This never changed.)

We actually met through a baby sitting co-op.  Our mothers, both being new in town and not really knowing anyone, signed up, and we ended up at each other's houses.  You'd be hard pressed to find two less-alike 5 year old girls.  Laura was always the girly one.  Everything with her was always pink and flowery.  I was the tom boy.  But the two of us got on like a house afire.  When we played Star Wars (hey, it was the early 80s), she was always Princess Leia, and I played everyone else.  But we could go at it hammer and tongs, too.  I was the hair puller; Laura was a biter.

In many ways she was more like a sister to me than a friend.  When we told my brother last week, he said, "More than any of your friends, Laura was like another big sister to me."  And then he tacked on, "You both treated me like dirt."  Laura would have laughed as hard as I did at that.  And then she would have laughed some more when I responded with, "Aw, poor baby."  She would have laughed even harder when his wife chimed in with, "Well, that's how you're *supposed* to treat little brothers!"

Laura had a sense of humor, and she loved to laugh.  She also liked to tease and play pranks.  She once convinced me that there was a stranger with a gun in her closet. Scared the crap out of me.  It was the middle of a bright, sunny Saturday afternoon.  She was a very good actress.

Her first love was music.  She loved classical music and hated country.  She played the piano beautifully as a child, but I never heard her play as an adult.  Laura was the one who introduced me to the music of the mega star of our junior high years-- Madonna.  She also liked acting, and for a while she took voice classes and even had a manager for voice over work.  Once she got a small role in a between bout skit at a big, televised wrestling thing in Austin.  Smackdown, Raw, one of those things.  I laughed for days at the idea of my girly friend at an event like that, let alone in the ring in front of all those people.  But apparently she had a ball.

Laura (and her mom) gave THE BEST slumber parties.  We always had a ton of fun.  And that is where we discovered the iconic movie of our junior high years, Girls Just Want to Have Fun.  We LOVED this movie.  I'm pretty sure we could both recite whole sections of the movie, including song lyrics, if asked.

My family moved away the summer before high school, and although we didn't lose touch completely, we weren't as close in those years.  But after college, with me settled in Houston and Laura in the Austin area, we were able to reconnect.  She'd come down every year to go to the beach house, and various things would take me up to Austin for a visit, including two hurricanes.  I stayed with Laura and her husband, Greg, for almost 3 weeks during the aftermath of Ike.

In some ways, Laura was a very 1950s kind of gal.  Her goal was always to marry and be a housewife.  She met her goal 5 years ago when she married Greg.  (In fact, their 5 year anniversary is coming up in about 6 weeks.)  I was a bridesmaid in the wedding.  My parents came down for it, and Mom still talks about how beautiful and gracious the wedding was.  Back to that 1950s thing, the planning was all about how to make her guests feel comfortable and welcome, not about being the diva or the center of attention.  That wasn't Laura at all.  She didn't mind hamming it up-- she liked to act and perform, after all.  But she'd rather look after others than make herself the center of attention.

Her mother's childhood pet name for her was Laura Lady Bug, and I always addressed my emails to her that way.  Sometimes she called me Beckers.

In the last few years, things weren't quite so rosy for Laura.  She started having pelvic problems.  It was diagnosed as one thing, and they tried every available treatment option, including surgery, with no success.  They consulted doctors all over the country, and even explored international options.  Last fall a new specialist decided that she'd been misdiagnosed all along, and they moved off into a new treatment plan.  All this time she was in pain.  Years of pain.  Sitting was misery for her.  Can you imagine not being able to sit through a movie or a long dinner out with friends?  We talked about this stuff frankly, I think because with my own health problems I could relate.  But she never complained.  We'd crack toilet paper jokes and then move on to more interesting topics, like what books we'd been reading lately and favorite TV shows, like Ugly Betty or True Blood.  (I was staying with them for Ike when True Blood premiered, and after that it kind of became our thing.  Or you know, another one of our things.  She devoured the books, and we were both devoted Eric fans.)

In the end, it was her disease that killed her.  Whatever that disease was.  As of her last email to me, they still weren't 100% sure what the problem was.  A few weeks back she felt a tearing sensation in her abdomen, followed by intense pain.  They had to put her on heavy duty pain medication, and she moved back in with her parents during the week, because she couldn't be on her own while her husband was at work.  On March 11th, her mother left her peacefully sleeping at the house while she went to the grocery store.  When she returned it was to a yard full of paramedics.  Laura passed in her sleep.

I'm trying really hard to remember my Laura.  The one who used to make up dance routines with me to perform in front of her ever patient and interested mother.  The one who loved pink and ruffles and all that crap.  The one who looked for every opportunity to gush with me over our favorite hot actors.

But it's getting harder and harder to forget that she suffered for a very long time.  There was something very wrong with her body.  Her doctors knew it, but they didn't do such a good job of figuring out why.  Was all that suffering necessary?  Could they have treated the problem more effectively?  Maybe even cured her?  Might she be alive right now if one of those dozens of doctors had taken her more seriously?

Those are questions I'm going to have to learn to work through and release over the coming weeks and months.  They aren't helpful questions, unless they in some way help another person going through what she did.  Mostly they're like an inquisitive tongue, constantly poking at a sore tooth.  I need to learn this new landscape and then let the unproductive poking go.

In the meantime, I'm going to think about ponytails.  I'm going to think about the way she would use every little molecule of a tissue before throwing it out.  I'm going to remember how she smelled.  I'm going to remember how beautiful and serene she was on her wedding day.  I'm going to remember my friend, Laura.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Kiss Me Baby!

I've got some stuff going on right now, and I'm not quite ready to talk about it yet.  But I will say that I'm still kickin'.  I'm in the mood to do a little cleaning today (I know.  I don't have a fever, I promise.), and Prince is on the headphones, urging me along.  I wanted to embed the Kiss video, but apparently His Royal Purpleness is pretty emphatic about keeping his stuff off the internet.  So you'll have to make do with this picture instead.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Loss and Gain

After multiple "you really look like you've lost weight" comments from my mom this week, I dragged out the Wii and checked.  (I haven't been feeling up to getting my Wii on lately, so it's been collecting dust for a while.)  Lo and behold, I've lost another 6.6 lbs.  That's a total of 22 lbs since the end of August.  I'm not really sure where it's come from, since I don't see the difference at all.  But 22 fewer lbs crushing down on my joints can only be a good thing.

And now on a completely different subject.  If you look over to the right, under the About Me section, you'll see a little ad.  In mid-January I signed up with a site called Swagbucks.  Basically, you're letting them market to you and in exchange you earn points that can be used toward "swag".  A lot of it is stuff I wouldn't be interested in, but they do have one piece of swag I can definitely use-- Amazon gift cards.  Got to feed the Kindle somehow!  So far I've earned $25 worth of Amazon gift cards, and I'm just over half way to earning another $5 card.  There are other gift cards available too, like Barnes & Noble, Travelocity, Paypal, Target, iTunes, or Starbucks.  If Swagbucks is something you think you'd be interested in, I'd appreciate it if you'd click on that banner or use this link to sign up:  I can earn a few points through referrals, and there's always another book I want to buy!

Lip Balm Flavor of the Day: Shamrock Shake

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Update on Last Week's Goals

So, some stuff got done, some stuff didn't, and some stuff is worse than it was before.  The DVD finally went out in the mail.  I managed to do some dusting and clear out a bag full of packing materials, catalogs, and general crapola.

But the laundry is still in the basket, taking up way too much space.  And instead of reducing my "books to read in 2011" file, it's increased from 107 to 120.  (A couple ebooks finally came available at the library, and I picked up a few others cheap.)  But 21 books in the rest of the month is still doable, if tight, as long as I don't add any more titles to the list.  (HA!)  Maybe I should just change the goal to "somewhere near 100" instead of "under 100".  Might be more realistic.

So that's about it right now.  One step forward, two steps back.  You know, the usual.

Lip Balm Flavor of the Day: Cat Pee (not as scary as it sounds- pink grapefruit, orange, and lime)

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Enough With the Tattoos

I've read two book recently, both published within the last year, with heroes who are presented as scary, intimidating guys.  Why do the heroines feel this way?  What's the cue that these guys are threatening, criminal, and/or low class?  They have tattoos.

Really?  Because I'm about as non-threatening, law abiding, white bread as it gets, and I have two of 'em.  You can't swing a cat without hitting one of us tattooed weirdos.  They're so routine on college campuses that they've practically become a cliche, and have been since the late 80s/early 90s.  For God's sake, Jenny Crusie has a tramp stamp.  (Which I read about on her blog once, but can't find the post now and therefore can't link to.  I did however, spend a lovely hour rereading posts from 2008, and laughed so hard I scared the cat when I came across a reference to the Korean Restaurant Story.)

So please, authors, lay off the tattoos as Signs of Evil Intent.  There's a pretty good chance that a large portion of your readership has them, too, and we don't appreciate it.

Lip Balm of the Day: Peacock Puffs (lime, blueberry, cake)

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


Hello!  I'm not dead!  I'm just up to my eyeballs right now.  (How anyone who doesn't work or take care of a family or do anything really can be up to her eyeballs I don't know.  But whatever.)

Anyway, I'm here to set a few goals for myself.  First (and I can't believe I'm making this my first goal, but that should tell you just how much it's annoying me), I need to clean.  I have not one, but two laundry baskets full of clean clothes that need to be folded and put away.  There's precious little floor space in this room.  I don't need to take it up with laundry.  There's about an inch of dust covering everything in the room, and what's not covered in dust is covered in cat hair.  Or my hair, because I'm shedding like mad again.  At this rate I should be completely bald by next Tuesday.  And there are piles of junk mail and general crap everywhere.  I can't take it any more.  The room must be cleaned.

My second goal for the month is to get my Goodreads "books to read in 2011" list under 100.  That's really not all the books I intend or expect to read this year.  It grows constantly.  But most of the books on that list are things that I've already bought and are languishing in the TBR of Doom.  (Sorry, I just read Shannon Stacey's Undeniably Yours, and now everything gets an "of Doom" tacked onto the end.  Plus, it really is the TBR of Doom.  It's where books I want to read go to be smothered to death under the stack of all the other books I want to read.  Scary, scary place, my TBR file.)  There are 107 books on the list right now, so if I can read 8 of them, without adding any others (Ha!), I'll meet that goal.

My third goal is to blog more than once a week.  That's really kind of pathetic.  Even I, who go nowhere and have no life, can usually come up with something to say more often than that.

My fourth goal is to remember to return Scott Pilgrim vs. The World to Netflix.  I've only had it for a month now.  I've watched some of it, and it's only meh, plus it keeps acting weird and skipping.

So, those are my goals for the month.  I think I'll start out strong by sticking the Scott Pilgrim disc back in its envelope (if I can find it) and putting it on the table with the rest of the outgoing mail.

Lip Balm Flavor of the Day: Gummy Bear