Sunday, March 25, 2012

Beauty in a Box



So there I was, perusing the make-up counter at Nordstrom, touching this, sniffing that, puttering along with all the time in the world. Thoroughly enjoying my week-long "staycation" during which I had nothing planned. Absolutely nothing. Delicious.

So many creams, gadgets, pencils and powders. I was checking out a pricey electric face brush called the Clarisonic, wondering what miracles it performed to justify the $119 price tag, when a salesclerk approached me.

"That brush is aaaaawesome," she gushed. "It makes my skin glow!"

Of course her skin glowed. She was getting her driver's permit back when I was getting invitations to join AARP. She had spiky black hair, a pierced nose, star-studded lip, and electric blue eyeshadow that extended from the corners of her eyes to her partially shaved eyebrows. Oh yeah, she glowed all right; not from the Clarisonic, but with the enthusiasm and radiance of youth. She was comically adorable.

And I felt like Shrek. I was suffering from PTSD after recently seeing my skin in one of those frightening magnified mirrors. Pores the size of pot holes. Hairs that resembled tree trunks. Lines that looked like highways. When did my face become Google Earth? Ever since, I'd been driven by an inexplicable urge to exfoliate, extract, bleach, pluck and polish.

Or maybe buy the Clarisonic?

"This is a breakthrough in skin care," continued punk-rock Barbie. "The Clarisonic uses sonic technology and works with your skin's natural elasticity to remove impurities left behind by traditional methods."

I
'd been thinking a sandblaster, but okay.

"Your skin will be softer," she added. "Smoother. More beautiful."

I bought it, the spiel and the product, in a pretty pink, no less. Knowing full well that the results will be no different from a washcloth, but what the heck? I wasn't really buying the Clarisonic. I was buying a dream.

And when a gal feels like Shrek, you can't put a price on that.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Voice From On High



Talk about your demons versus angels.

T
here I was this afternoon, grocery shopping at Safeway. Leisurely picking up this and that, enjoying my "staycation" this week and not careening through the aisles like the crazed woman I normally am.

Soymilk, bananas, coffee, cereal. Check. A little hair dye to cover my "sparklies?" Sure, why not. How about these Crest 3D white strips to bleach any wine and coffee stains? I wince at the $40 price tag, on sale from $60 mind you, but then I envision a blinding-white Jessica Simpson smile and throw the box in my basket. I could use a little tune-up.

I pay for everything, return to my car and am ready to put the petal to the metal when it suddenly hits me: my bill was $40. This can't be right because the Crest product alone was $40. I turn off the engine, pull out the receipt and sure enough, the checker charged me twice for the hair dye, a measly $6.99, and didn't charge me for the whitening strips. Since both boxes were of a similar size and color, she probably thought they were the same product and, to save time, just scanned one box twice.

You know where this is going, don't you?

The angel on my right shoulder told me to return to the checker and point out her oversight. It's the right thing to do was the winged one's gentle reminder. But the demon on my left shoulder was providing an equally tempting argument.

Save yourself the $40, his hot breath whispered in my ear. It ain't exactly chump change--at least not to any member of the 99% club. And Safeway is a huge conglomerate that overcharges anyway--don't be a schmuck!

Then to my surprise, a third entity chimed in, an entity that a dutiful child of any age will instantly recognize: Mother.

That's not how I raised you, I heard her admonishment from the heavens. You march in there right now and pay for that product, you hear me young lady? NOW.

And so I did. Much to the surprise of the phelmy-voiced three-pack-a-day checker, whose jaw hit the ground when I pointed out her mistake. "And you came back?" she asked in disbelief. "Wow."

That was it. No thanks. No gratitude. Not even a smile. Just "wow," coupled with a look on her face that told me she thought I was a total idiot. Plus her request for the extra $40 plus tax.

Wow indeed. But at least my Jessica Simpson pearly whites won't be stained with guilt: Mom took care of that.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Changing of the Dog

Even in the midst of missing my beautiful boy Elvis and aching for our past, I catch a glimpse of Olivia doing something endearing. Something uniquely her. And I smile for our future.

Such as when I saw her pony up the courage to approach Elvis' beloved La-Z-Dog recliner. She knows this was his bed and respects his territory, even though he's been gone almost four weeks. It's okay now, girl, I told her. Really. With a little coaxing on my part, she tentatively laid on his pillow.

Now Olivia already has a La-Z-Dog recliner of her own, but her reaction to this bed was different. She smelled Elvis. And with unheralded joy, she lolled about on the pillow back and forth, back and forth, coating her fur with the familiar scent of her beloved companion.

Observing this canine display of unabashed happiness, it struck me that despite living with Elvis just three short months, my poor girl was mourning his absence as much as I was.

And through my tears, I watched Olivia's pure delight and felt a spark in my grieving heart. Because while Elvis' life has ended, hers is just beginning.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

My Sincere Thanks

Overwhelmed.

That's the only word I can use to describe my reaction to the many thoughtful people who have written to express their condolences about the death of my greyhound, Elvis.

Overwhelmed, indeed.

From feedback over the past nine years, I've known that friends, colleagues and Chronicle readers enjoyed following my Pet Tales column in which I often wrote about my sweet boy. From the day Elvis arrived in my home as a frightened three-year old, to conquering his fear of stairs so he could be near me in my bedroom, readers felt like they knew Elvis and he was a part of their family. Elvis was, in every sense of the meaning, my "Lifetime Dog" and, as animal lovers, readers could relate to this very special bond.

Still, upon word of his death, I found myself stunned by the outpouring of love and affection. Numerous bouquets of flowers were delivered to my home and office, some by people I've never even met, but who felt my loss nonetheless. Friends made generous donations, in Elvis' name, to the East Bay SPCA and Golden State Greyhound Adoption. Cards, emails and blog comments conveyed their profound sorrow, with many sharing cherished tales of their own "lifetime" pet.

I truly intended to answer every card and email, but when the numbers started swelling into the hundreds, I realized that might not be possible. Especially since each heartfelt message brought yet another flood of tears; with sadness for the loss of my beautiful boy and with gratitude for the kindness of strangers, the affection of friends.

And so, please accept this collective "thank you" for reaching out and sharing your thoughts and experiences. Every word, every gesture has helped dry my tears.

Because, as animal lovers, you get it. You truly do. And for that I'm so very grateful.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Missing Elvis




On that hot August day in 2009, when my mother died unexpectedly from a pulmonary embolism, I remember coming home from the hospital and logging on my computer. My company was having a major event the following day and, as the public relations person, it was my responsibility to email media alerts.

A
nd so I did.

You might wonder how could I do this? How in the world could I have even thought about work when, hours earlier, I had just suffered the most significant, painful and traumatic loss of my entire life? At first I wondered too. At the time, I remember feeling like I was having an out-of-body experience, watching myself sitting at the computer and typing away like everything was normal.

But with hindsight comes wisdom. Only later did I realize that on the day my mother died, I was--in the truest sense of the word--in shock. I recall shifting into autopilot and feeling numb, with an odd buzzing in my brain that felt like a steady low-level jolt of electricity. Looking back, I don't remember much else about that horrid day or the blurry weeks that followed.

This surreal experience was repeated on Wednesday when I said farewell to my beautiful boy, Elvis. I came home from the vet, logged on the computer, and dived into work. When my manager received my email advising what had happened, she immediately phoned and told me to take time off, as much as needed.

"No, I'm okay," I insisted. And I was. I worked from home all day and went into the office the next. I was fine. Really. Fine. Co-workers and friends observed that I was handling the loss unusually well and, to be honest, it even struck me as odd. How could I feel so deadened, so unemotional over losing my beloved Elvis?

But here's the thing about shock: you don't recognize it when you're in it. Instead, you really do believe you're coping well and doing fine.

Working and returning to some semblance of normalcy made it easy to ignore what had taken place that morning. Instead, Elvis was downstairs lying on his La-Z-Dog recliner, gnawing on his stuffed alligator, and that little scene in the vet's office hadn't really happened, right? Everything was hunky-dory, zippity-do-dah, same as always. Right? Fine, just fine.

But with the silent tranquility of Saturday morning came a blinding clarity. And with it, a wave of grief that slammed me with the force of a tsunami. Gone was the numbness. Gone was the weird buzzing in my brain. Gone was the ability to work or socialize or eat or breathe or do anything besides crumble in a ball and cry. And I realized I was not fine. Far from it. All I could think about was Elvis and the shocking awareness that he was gone. My faithful companion for 9 1/2 years. My boy, the dog I called my canine soul mate. Gone.

The shock--that comforting cloak of self-preservation and denial--had lifted only to unleash an ache of unbearable depth. A penetrating, palatable ache that mirrored the sentiments of a Facebook post by a friend who reached out when she heard about Elvis.

"Only from such great love can come such great sorrow."

Indeed. Because with each day that passes, I am overwhelmed with love for Elvis and grieve for the dog who is no longer here. And I cry all the harder, missing my lovely, loving boy.
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