I’m Coming Out

I really hadn’t planned on coming out.  At least I hadn’t planned on doing it right away, maybe in 6 months or so, but there I was in the middle of a training session filled with colleagues, and I was glaring threateningly at one of the few people I’d mistakenly shared my secret with.  “Oh my God! She did NOT just out me in front of everyone!” screamed through my brain. I had stupidly trusted her with the information. I thought knowing might help her to realize there was at least one other person out there – a person who “got it” – a kindred spirit who also struggled as she did – something that might help her push through one more day.  And there she was loudly asking me in front of God and everyone else, “Soooo… how many laps did you do?”

“Laps?” I raised my brow, “you mean laps?” as if I’d suddenly forgotten English.

“Yeah, how many laps did YOU do?”

Oh no, she was NOT calling me out in front of a roomful of folks.  I was indignant. They weren’t supposed to know! If I’d wanted them to know, I would have made a t-shirt. I did a quick mental check to confirm I hadn’t been to CafePress recently, which meant  it wasn’t on my agenda to share that information ever.

Since she put it out there for the world, or at least these 10 people,  I’ll go ahead and tell you, too:

I go to the gym.  

I’d been going to the gym daily (or at least each workday) for about 6 weeks, and it wasn’t something I planned on advertising to anyone other than a select few.  I wanted to do my thing without discussion – without status reports, “Hey, how is the gym going? Seeing any results? How do you feel? Feel different? Feel invigorated every time you leave? Don’t you love it? I’m so proud of you!” but since she brought it up in front of everyone, I also wasn’t about to lose in front of my peers.

“Laps?” I repeated, and then I puffed up.  “I don’t DO laps, but if you want to talk about how much I lifted today or maybe how much I pressed, I’d be happy to do that.”  A quiet little  “ooo” circulated through the room.  Smackdown gym style. IN YOUR FACE! That seemed to satisfy her.  She turned around with a smile.

I was relieved that worked.  Had she taken me up on the challenge, I would have had to admit to a very unimpressive and quite wobbly 20 lb. barbell lift over my head while my trainer kept cheering, “you can do it! You got this!” My friends (you know who you are) have long admired my T-Rex like arm strength, and have long speculated on what my little arm appendages might be for – surely, not moving things bigger than cotton balls (hey, a daily face regimen is important and cotton balls aren’t as light as the little cotton ball manufacturers would lead you to believe).  The other things I pull and push may have been a little heavier, but were also equally unimpressive in the scheme of things.  Hey, I know an Olympic-style lifter/trainer.  She could do my routine with her pinky finger. (It’s a super impressive pinky finger! Fear her pinky!). In fact, when it comes to the actual weights I find it’s ok, even preferred, to have one’s glasses off. That way you’re not fighting to keep them up and you also don’t have to see how pitiful you really are – your trainer will make a note.  Thankfully, sans glasses, you also can’t see those notes.  Gyming without glasses makes you immediately stronger!

Of course, her calling me out led to that day’s class trainer making a gigantic deal about it.  “What time do you go?” 5:30 am.  “How do you find the motivation?” Ummm… the alarm won’t stop making this awful noise unless I get up.  (Although, the truth may involve Starfleet Academy and running through the Kobayashi Maru scenario or maybe it doesn’t. I’m not saying. Look, I don’t judge your motivators.  There’s also an opportunity to go to New Zealand.  Oh ok, now you’re on board? Really?  Starfleet is cool, too. Pffft.)  All of these questions (and there were many) in front of a room full of people who were suddenly very interested in a thing I didn’t want them to know about.  Thanks.  Thanks for that.

The next gym day with the trainer, “I need you to beat someone up.  That’s a thing, right?”  Apparently that’s not a thing.  Hey, it was worth a shot.

Now that you all know, I’ll share with you some of the important things I’ve learned from my trainer.  By the way, her name is Jenn and Jenn is kind of a rock star with an infinite amount of patience especially for my unending shenanigans.  She’s also a great source of Yoda-esque wisdom though she tends to run her words in the right order.

“Beth, I want you to toss that ball up in the air  like you’re throwing it behind you.  Really toss it up there.” For the record, this is a giant 10 lb. ball.  Hey, I mentioned the T-Rex thing; It’s heavy to me.
“What do I do if it’s coming down at me?”
“Oh, most people move, but if you want to take it in the face just stand there.”

Laying on a bench, “Beth, stop lifting the weights over your face.” (pause) “Not over the face, Beth.”

(I like to call this “foreshadowing” for my future accident)

“Beth, you’re not that weak.”
“Are you sure?”

“Jenn, I forgot my water bottle.”
“Well, I guess you’ll be drinking your spit today!”

These are all things  I just wouldn’t get anywhere else. (Ok, maybe from a few/all of my friends.)

Recently I asked:

“Jenn, have you ever fired a client?” (Hey, I accept I’m challenging)
“If you think you’re about to fire me, would you give me a hint? Like maybe say the word “Sasquatch” in the middle of a sentence?”
“HAH! Ok, but I’m not going to fire you as long as you keep trying.” (whew!)

So, it looks like I’ll be at the gym a bit longer.
Just don’t ask me about it.

LIfe Lessons from the Trailer Park

When last we chatted I believe I convinced you that I had in fact been born (remember that picture of a random baby? surely that was me – I hinted as such), and proclaimed that I “grew up” in a trailer park.  It turns out “growing up” encompasses approximately 3 years; I was a fast grower.

It also turns out (lots of things turning today) you can learn a lot about life in a trailer park in only a few years.  Here are a few of my take-aways:

  • Ponies are angry little equine jerks whose backsides should be avoided at all costs.  Just because you’re little and it’s little, and it has those impossibly big, inviting eyes doesn’t mean there’s a special bond.  The back-kick to the chest is not a love thump or thank you for the sweet sweet weeds picked with tender love and care.  Trailer ponies (a distinct breed) are treacherous, bi-polar, and should be avoided at all cost. Now when I see a pony I make sure to point at my eyes and then to theirs, so they’re keenly aware I’m watching them.  I then nibble on the carrots brought for the more lovely quarter horses (whose hind sides I also avoid) chewing slowly and defiantly.  Thank you pony for showing me the lay of the field when I was 5.  For the record “My Pretty Pony” is a pack of lies!
  • Ice cream men trailer park dwellers are much like ponies, but not as endearing.  You can read one of my first posts about how I tried to kill the neighborhood ice cream man at this age here:  Death to the Ice Cream Man   (trust me, he had it coming)
  • Trailer parks are a great place to discard your fresh deer carcass. Everyone loves driving by a bloody rib cage, and hey the dogs love to romp around with the lower parts of the legs.  I know my dog loved it!  
  • The single older gentleman who lives in the streamline up the way and offers up fudgsicles to you and your friend Rudy (if you’ll only come inside and sit with him a bit) is totally on the up-and-up despite what your mother says. “Don’t go over there anymore” clearly means, “it’s ok as long as I don’t know about it.” Good thing you are a pro at translating “Mom”.
  • The edges of the park are surrounded by mud that will suck the shoes off your feet (and your Mom’s).  Do not attempt to cross without an adult with strong legs and determination.
  • “Why did their trailer catch on fire?” “Insurance” makes absolutely no sense as an explanation when you’re 5.  However, the added words “and you and Rudy stay out of there, it’s dangerous” clearly means, “it’s ok as long as I don’t know about it.” Again, you’re a Mom translating pro!  Sadly, our legs were too short and the steps up to the trailer were removed after the burned-out husk was deposited in the nearby field, but it didn’t stop Rudy or I from looking in that fire gutted place on numerous occasions longingly.
  • People can get freaky about caterpillars (dude, it’s not an asp – I’m holding it my hand), but hey if you agree to throw it in the street, you’ll get a reward like another fudgsicle (assuming you’re not already full on fudgsicles from that friendly/lonely guy in the streamline).
  • Placing a swing set on concrete is a cruel idea.  You’re not a gymnast.  You were told not to play on it without an adult.  It’s best to suck in those tears over your cracked skull, because your Mom is going to be so mad if she finds out. Remember, everything is fair game as long as Mom doesn’t know.  But OUCH!!!!.  Again, I curse kid physics for the oopsie that led to the brain injury, but it does explain so much now.
  • Swarming yellow jackets are only slightly better than trailer ponies, and they’re infinitely better than unapologetic, dog-killing, ice cream men.  It turns out that if you unwittingly jump up and down on a piece of board laid over a cinder block, and beneath the aforementioned board is a yellow jacket’s nest, the occupants of said nest get a bit testy and swarmy.  The best thing to do in that situation is stand still-ish and scream until a parent runs into the angry swarm, scoops you up, and then tries to work through what to do next.  It turns out bleach is an amazing remedy.  Basic science: bases neutralize acid.  Another fun fact: wasp stings are alkaline; however, yellow jacket stings are in fact acidic.  This is also one of the few times you’ll hear me say that I’m glad I wore glasses at an early age. I had yellow jackets protesting the kid induced earthquake in my face, but my eyes were reasonably safe.  Jay recently (last weekend) noted my extreme distaste for yellow jackets when he offered to set a nest on fire, and I didn’t bat an eye.  “Yes, do that!” I cheered him on enthusiastically. Normally setting things on fire from a can sounds extremely dangerous and like something to be avoided at all costs.  I genuinely don’t advocate that kind of thing, but I balanced that against how I really despise yellow jackets (blame them and their early declaration of war on my body).  Anyway, as I said I don’t advocate it until a nest appeared underneath my BBQ pit, and it’s only by pure luck that I noticed it.  I had been thinking “let’s BBQ things! Carbon kissed veggies and meats!”  Had I not seen it, I would have disturbed the nest and Yellow Jacket-a-Geddon Part Deux would have been hosted on my face.  So yeah, burn that thing down. Also try not to let the can explode in your hand, but if that happens well sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the greater good  (Please don’t tell my father. Wasps are useful. They play an important part in the larger ecosystem.  They help with mosquitos?  That’s what their PR worker bee/wasps claim at least.  We love them. Mmm hmm.  Now grab an aerosol can and a lighter.)  

There you have it,  a few of the  things I learned at an early age in our little corner of trailer heaven.  And people claim nothing good comes out of a trailer park. Hah!  Next up, ghost stories – the one and only time I saw a ghost, and how that started an after-life fight that’s still rages on.

Mr. Illiterate Wrong Tracks and His Jolly Dr. Pepper Spam-Eating Bride: An Autobiography

When I started this blog some 9 years ago (good grief) the main goal was to practice writing. If I could somehow amuse my family and friends then that was a bonus.  If I could force them to continue to read without amusing them (as I’ve managed to do), then that was like a super double bonus plus! Go loyalty! The focus or theme or what have you was to write-up anecdotes using the style I’ve always used – the “style” (I really feel that needs some air-quotes) being how I tend to write letters (now emails) to friends.  I’m all over the place – like this paragraph.  They never minded that bit, seemed to encourage it at times, “you write like you speak,” and thus you suffer. Shake your head at them.

I’ve been waiting for a good anecdote to share, but unfortunately an interesting one hasn’t really risen up.  I suspect it’s because I travel in the wrong circles.  That’s right friends, I’m calling you out – you and your clear lack of “right” circle-ness. There’s a geometry joke in there.  Ok, sure there was the one guy at the Humane Society last week.  His fit-pitching was fairly epic as I waited patiently(ish) to ask about a fluffy sole who was clearly calling to me behind the glass, but again not much of a story since I walked out without being helped. His fit had reached a new exciting blend of frustration and confusion over some fairly simple rules. (For the record, Humane Society rules are just not that hard, guy! You don’t have a permanent place for a cat.  One day you will, but that’s not today.)  I also managed to smash a joint on my thumb on the same day.  I keep insisting it’s purple and at least five times bigger than it was earlier in the day only to be asked by these so-called friends while comparing the thumbs side-by-side, “which thumb is it?” Uh, the big purple one!  (It’s purple on the inside?)  It still smarts – probably nerve damage.  It will likely have to be removed. Sadly, it happens to be the thumb I hit the space bar with. Soon my writing will be devoid of spaces.  Iapologizeinadvance.

So, in light of this writing lull and to keep practicing (because after 9 years there hasn’t been any noticeable progress)  I’ve resolved to write an autobiography of sorts.  I know, right?  Some of history’s most famous and infamous people have them and now we can add famous, infamous and Beth. It’s a literary milestone.

I’ll start off slow.  I don’t want to completely overwhelm you with the life and times of the lower middle-class all at once – the adventures of a monolingual speaker who has barely escaped the borders of their state much less the country.  Hey, there was that time I went to Canada.  Boy, talk about culture shock! Loonies and toonies – where do they come up with that stuff?

Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. (So I’m reminded in song.)

They claim this is a photo of me, but really it could be anyone. Parents, just because you wrote my name on the back doesn’t prove anything. I’m watching you!

I was born.  At least that’s what I’ve been told, and as proof I’ve been presented various papers and a book with a few photos documenting the event.  It’s all rather convenient and a bit suspicious if you ask me. Some of the photos show these youthful kidults who I can confirm did grow up to be my parents. They look a bit tired in the earlier pictures. I’m told they remained that way for approximately 18 years and then something inexplicable happened that made them look and feel lighter. I’ve never been able to identify precisely what changed, but it must have been fairly important.  Although, I admit I’ve seen the weight return over the years, which oddly corresponded with some big things in my life. Must be some sort of weird symbiotic thing.

Both of my parents were from Dallas.  Mom from Highland Park and Dad from South Oak Cliff.  If you’re familiar with Dallas, you understand the significance.  If you’re not, then to sum it up – Mom was born on the right side of the tracks (in fact those tracks aren’t even Dallas tracks, they’re tracks in their own city within Dallas) and Dad was born on the very wrong side of the tracks.  I later learned that many of Dad’s (and his family’s) numerous shortcomings had to do with his tracks (those shortcomings multiplied x10 each year post their divorce). I learned from Dad that people from the right side of the tracks (aka “your mother”) tended to marinate Spam in a lovely Dr. Pepper based sauce.  Dad wasn’t particularly good at lobbing insults.

I’m not really sure what initially drew them together.  Mom would say she thought Dad was smart, but was proven wrong; he was only social climbing – tricked her by claiming to read books. Clever guy! Dad said something along the lines of Mom was really nice and fun.  Bless his heart.

I’m personally from a trailer park in West Dallas.  Well, that’s probably not true.  My parents were both attending school when I was born, and I’m told we lived in Arlington.  There are more pictures that they claim  prove we lived there, but we could be any place, and I find these people somewhat sketchy.  I mean can you really trust Mr. Illiterate Wrong Tracks and his Jolly Dr. Pepper Spam-eating bride? (Just think, I am the product of that union; it actually  explains so much about my personality and my humor???)

Quick disclaimer to stop any gasping: I absolutely would tease my parents in this way.  In fact, I’m teasing Dad now.  Dad, you’re welcome!  To post a retort, I guess you’ll need to work on that new blog of yours.  Now you have incentive. You’re welcome, part two.

Next up, the trailer park! (In other words, I’m cutting this short and giving you a small reprieve.  There’s only so much “me” one should be forced to sit through in one day.)  And I’ll leave you with a little Julie Andrews, because I stupidly got this song stuck in my head where it is now firmly lodged.  I only have myself to blame.

Family Myths: More Ancestry

I realize there were a couple of you who started following my blog out of a shared interest in ancestry, and just as soon as you hit that follow button, I managed to hop down every other crazy blogging bunny trail except anything resembling family trees.  This one is for you.

Like every family we have our family myths – among them are:

  • My 4th great-grandmother was the first cousin of Davy Crockett
  • Our family owned a plantation in Georgia
  • The plantation in Georgia was partly used as a basis for Tara from Gone with the Wind
  • A Union soldier took my great-great grandfather’s new shoes when he was a little boy, and threw them down a well.  When the man returned as a carpetbagger years later, my great-great grandfather chased him out of town.
  • There was a secretary (the wooden kind, and by wooden not “stoic” unless you’re anthropomorphizing a desk) used by Gen. Wm. T. Sherman from where he issued the orders to burn Atlanta.  His signature can still be found carved into the desk (he must have been hell on nibs, or maybe the secretary was made from balsa wood).
  • And then the newest one – my great-grandfather worked for a railroad in Chatanooga and killed a man with the ticketing tool, because the man offended him.  My great-grandfather was fired from his job for breaking the tool. He was never punished for the crime, because the man he killed was African American and this was at the turn of the 20th century.

I’m a tad cynical when it comes to any myth, but when it comes to family myths I’m even more so. Deep down, I want these stories to be true.  They’re part of my make-up.  They’re partyly how I’ve always define myself. They’ve occasionally been  the reason I’ve stood toe-to-toe with someone in and shouted, “I am SO his cousin!!” Then as I grew older, and could throw in the occasional smidge of maturity,  would dismissively retort, “I don’t need to prove it to you.  I know what’s true.” It turned out that I eventually needed to prove it to me, too..

With the help of my Mom, I proved that dear ol’ Davy wasn’t my 4th great-grandmother’s first cousin as was depicted in one hand-drawn family tree. (Actually, it was that hinky little line that said “Davy Crockett” that started the investigation.)  Let me just say you don’t exactly get a hero’s welcome when you make that announcement to the family.  No, “hey Beth, thanks for taking away a bit of my identity – that a girl!” I had single-handedly (dual-handedly since Mom helped?) dismissed one of our better family stories.  Go me!  On the bright side, if there is a bright side, we did prove we are related even though it’s quite distant.  That’s a win, right? Still cousins! Everything is ok! Sure, his father and my 5th great-grandfather weren’t brothers, but really whose is? Brothers! Who made that stuff up? Am I right? Really all our findings meant was that dear sweet Sarah (GGx4) was probably not helping Davy kill bears when he was only three, and thus the song was all about Davy. Scene stealer.

The one I’m currently working on, since I can’t disprove shoes being tossed down any wells, is about the secretary.  It’s supposedly still in the family. I had asked if someone could send me a few photos of it. I wasn’t even looking for the story to be a myth. I had only wanted to see the desk of legend, and maybe a close-up of the carved-in name. I figured this would be a rather simple request.  Well, it turns out the person to ask is elderly and may not understand who I am. Then the story became that writing would be out of the question – it would be even more confusing. Oh, and well, we don’t even have her address.  It might be better to conference you in on a phone call. (I should mention here a quirk of mine: I was a telemarketer in college and after for several years  (yes, the bane of your evening routine), and after countless chats over countless years, I do not care to be on the phone for any length of time.  In fact, I chose my particular career path based on limited phone time. It’s actually a screening criteria when go job hunting. The only reason I carry a cell phone is for emergencies (oh, but I did discover the joys of the GPS, so it’s dual purpose – GPS and phone rock in my purse for emergencies), and I never have the ringer on; there’s no point in calling it.  In sum, I kind of have a freakish little phone phobia.  So, when I hear sentences that go “I’ll conference Beth in,” they sound like my perfect idea of a nightmare. I’m sure Dante forgot the phone level of Hell, but I know it exists.) I cheerfully declined and worked on my back-up plan to get the information.  Sadly, it involved two hours of phone time (oh karma, if we ever meet in a dark alley…), but it got the information flowing again.  I contacted a cousin who is part of the particular family branch who supposedly have the secretary. It became its own challenge. Before I could even get him to contact this branch, he insisted on blustering (for two hours – did I mention two hours?) about the censuses of the time, and how our shared relatives didn’t live anywhere near where Sherman had come through and that their property values didn’t support a plantation (there goes a 3rd myth). The conversation was akin to listening to a timeshare pitch in order to win the blow-up cooler. “Before I’ll ask, you must hear me out on why your side of the family are morons.” He actually used the phrase, “Mary Chrstine’s family…” as a way to deride us which “may” have lead to some voice raising on my part since Mary Christine is my great-grandmother. It almost wasn’t worth the blow-up cooler, but I was an hour in and I really wanted my way.  (An only child thing?) Then he asked if I understood logic. (He’s one of those who would jovially describe himself as the smartest person in any room – possibly all the rooms.), and I still insisted, “talk to those people who we think might have the secretary and let me know what THEY say.”  Yes, I understand the logic, but I wanted to hear directly from the source of those who are believed to have the secretary. Maybe there’s some piece of the story we don’t know.  I’m just not in the habit of making assumptions. Yes, I get Occam’s Razor. Yes, this is likely a tall tale, but hey, let’s ask the questions and not summarily discount stories because they don’t neatly line up with a census paper trail.  There’s a reason the story is there.

Well, I finally convinced, him and he contacted the cousin who I was told would know where the secretary was. Unfortunately, she had never heard of the secretary.She also had never heard about any plantation, but she did agree to contact the older relative I was supposed to be conferenced in on.

So, that’s where we stand right now on the secretary.  My best guess is it’s another family myth, but it’s one I would really like this one to be true. I want to look at the picture, see the signature driven into the wood (imagine what the paper looked like),  and I want to have that shared history with Sherman.  I don’t know if I can live in a world where Sherman wasn’t the great defiler of family furniture.  I don’t want to live in that world. :)

Rebels True

I had a plan, a beautiful plan, a plan that involved getting back to the type of writing I think I do best – anecdotes.  Those little stories where I heighten a piece and it turns into one of my goofy, isn’t life just ridiculous? blog pieces.  I really wanted to stick with that plan.  That’s my foreword on this piece.

I’m about a year away from my 30th reunion at a school where I was a “Rebel”.  We flew the confederate flag at our games running it up and down the field, it was emblazoned on the outside of our gym along with our mascot “Johnny Rebel”, we played “Dixie” as a fight song.  If we lost a game, a more dirgeful rendition echoed through the stadium.  When our band returned from a game, as soon as they crossed Town Lake (part of the Colorado River) that divides the city into North and South Austin, the band observed a reverential silence.  When we graduated, Mama Craig, our Government teacher, sat on a stool and sang a mash-up of Dixie and Turn Around.  I can still hear her pure and beautiful voice as it carried throughout the Tony Burger Activity Center.

A group on Facebook was created to prepare everyone for the upcoming event.  People joined, pictures appeared along with  the posts of excitement and disbelief that we’re that much older (only on the outside).  I did my part to drag my friends kicking and screaming into the group with the simple explanation of “misery loves company”.  I admit, I’m not overly excited about attending despite having gone to the 10th and 20th.

There are a few reasons I cringe at the idea. 1) Once the class upper echelon took over the planning, it went downhill.  The reunion was no longer inclusive of the entire student body; it’s now the popular kids.  Unfortunately, those kids don’t quite know how to find the other kids. (And we’re all still kids in my mind.) Their phone tree mirrors our football roster. Drill team members, cheerleaders and a few band folks are thrown in for spice.  When you’ve been involved in big event planning, as I have been, it’s hard to watch and not wince, and hard not to  wonder whether it’s their intention to exclude the other 300 people or are they genuinely too inept for the task. I suspect a combination of both. In my past, I’ve brought speakers to my University (Dr. Ruth, who was adorable, and Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panthers, who was simply incredible to sit and talk to), and I’ve worked on large scale events in previous jobs.  From my experience, event planning takes a lot of work and well… planning.  There’s actually some skill involved that these folks woefully lack and it shows, but hey they like putting it on so what the heck.  That party we threw in ‘85 was hopping! Just add 3 more people and we have a reunion! 2) I wasn’t popular.  I was (am)  nerdy.  I was the President of Orchestra, in NHS, and in the German Club – you get the idea.  The most defiant thing I ever did was sit in the hallway during a time we were supposed to be in our various clubs and look defiantly when we were challenged by a hall monitor while one of my friends said (out loud using words others could hear), “yeah, we’re in a club – the Breakfast Club!” Oy. (She was not impressed and we scurried back to class.)  I loved math and science.  My idea of a great time was coming in early to work on my Chemistry lab work, being nose deep in a book, or working through Geometry proofs.  I was living on the edge.  Combine that with my natural prissiness and being reasonably unattractive and you get a feel for me.  I’m not the girl you invited to the Homecoming dance.

At our school was a group who called themselves the Right Wing Extremist Organization (RWEO) headed up by a little toad named Shannon; the living embodiment of a balding hyperactive rat terrier.  He and his little gang would bully other kids unchallenged.  Any disagreement with them was greeted with insults. If you believe the rumors, they also upended one “liberal” headfirst into a toilet for daring to challenge them or their narrow views. I remember them openly mocking a particular girl in my government class when she recounted a traumatic story of being in a police ride along (something we had the option to do as part of the class). Laughing as tears streamed down her face, because she’d witnessed someone die. How ridiculous she was boo-hooing over a death – liberal, hippie, cry-baby. They’d scrawl their little slogans on our classroom’s chalkboards, and mostly wander the halls acting like pricks.  They’ll be at the reunion, too (well, maybe).

Let me knit this all together

Earlier this week one of our classmates posted his feelings about the confederate flag; it was an impassioned piece explaining why he felt it was time to remove the flag (and I completely agree with him).  He explained that as a black student that imagery bothered him and while it didn’t bother him as a teenager, it certainly bothered him now as an adult.  He wrote about how he’d fought in Iraq and Afghanistan for people’s rights, but that he didn’t fight to support this flag.  A bunch of folks followed-up with their support, and then came Shannon’s post. “You’re wrong.” (Quick aside: Shannon had responded to another classmate’s page and eloquently expressed his disagreement with a well-worded, “you’re a dummy,” and then followed with a brief note about how he was unfriending the aforementioned “dummy.” He’s truly one of the school’s more gifted debaters (sarcasm font)). I won’t get into how someone feels cannot be “wrong,” but the original poster was not “wrong” for how he felt.  Well, that wasn’t enough for Shannon, he then fired back with “[my lacky] and I have decided this reunion has become too political, so we won’t be going”. Nevermind the fact that for four years he turned our school into political theater. Someone saying “I don’t like the flag” was clearly going too far – too political!  He used the tried and true “we’re taking our toys and going home” tactic complete with breath holding. And as we all know, you can’t have a reunion without a showing of the RWEO; the whole thing will collapse.  That table they reserved for 30 of the 364 students will now be reduced to 25.  Chaos will ensue! The reunion will be a complete failure.  What will this say about the 35th? the 40th?  Immediately a post fired back, “{your lacky] and his social secretary will be missed.”  My inner 15 year old chortled gleefully.  I’d never actually seen anyone sass the RWEO guys.  You see, for a long a time one of my dreams has been that someone would shut this guy down publicly, and wow, thanks fairy godmother I’m heading for the ball.  While it wasn’t a complete shutdown or maybe even close to one, it was the closest I’d seen in years.  See, the folks I know while clever and quick-witted are all more akin to a lumbering Great Pyrenees, in contrast to his terrier, and would really much rather sit thoughtfully, pant a bit, get pats and hopefully nap than acknowledge there’s an annoying terrier bouncing around for attention.  It may be the more mature response, but my personal vote is for the thoughtful, well-worded, humiliating smack-down WWF Thomas Paine-style.  BOOYAH!  And since he’s never challenged me on any one of my sites, I’ve never had the opportunity. Plus, I lack the intellectual prowess for a true public shaming.  I’m simply more sass than refined wit.  It’s a shortcoming. We all have flaws.

Anyway, I had to chime in at this point.  I agreed and added that to me the flag and mascot were just symbols and changing them wouldn’t alter my memories, the friends that I made or the education I had.  That you could paint the school hot pink, call us the fighting fluffy unicorns and sing the Barney theme song at the Homecoming game, and nothing about my past would change.  I personally don’t need those symbols to always remain the same; and were they to change, it would have no real effect on me.  And the truth is, it’s time for a change.

What happened next? The original poster acquiesced explaining it was never his intent to prevent Shannon or his friends from attending the reunion.  That instead he would personally not attend so that Shannon would be able to go.  Whew! Here I was worried that the whole thing might be slightly less douchey   The post disappeared along with the OP’s personal high school photos, and he’s no longer in the group.  What a shame, too.

The whole thing makes me sad and re-emphasizes why I will not make this one. I have my memories and my friends from high school without needing to be part of this rather disappointingly exclusive club.

The Lazies: What the Service Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know

One more rant and then I promise to stop for a bit and return to things like genealogy or anecdotes about my random encounters with fake mustaches to celebrate Freddie Mercury. Of course, that is unless someone does something wacky like fly a Confederate flag over their Capitol building and wonders, “how on earth could racism possibly be alive today?”  As usual, I digress.

A few months ago I was reading a post by Mike Rowe.  Now let me just say, I completely adore Mike Rowe.  He’s introduced me to a world of things I never want to do in my life, and he’s made me appreciate those who do. If you aren’t familiar with him, he’s the former host of “Dirty Jobs” and is the narrator for Deadliest Catch.  (WOOO! Northwestern! WOOO! Time Bandit!) He has that every-man appeal, a beautiful voice, oh and he used to sing opera.

I follow him on Facebook to get my weekly dose of “Friday’s with Freddy” and to read his responses to crazy fan mail, which he always greets with a great amount of wit and humor.  He’ll also occasionally tackle tough political issues, and while we don’t always agree, I always appreciate the eloquent way with which he explains his point of view.  You can tell he’s put a great deal of thought into the subject at hand, and if I’m not in agreement I almost always walk away thinking, “While I don’t agree, I completely see and appreciate where you’re coming from.”

Back to that post from a few months ago – the subject had to do with livable wages and raising the minimum wage.  What I want to talk about is not what Mike said, which was against raising the minimum wage, but the comments that followed.  The gist of which seemed to be a highly vitriolic stew of, “people who work in minimum wage jobs are lazy.  If they wanted to have more money, they could.  No one to blame but themselves.” (Imagine all of that written rather hatefully.)

It reminded me of a training class I recently attended where they attempted to teach the class empathy by assigning us a made-up person, giving us the bare minimum of details, and then asking us how we felt as that person.  Mine was a working mom who had two kids in school and lived in less than ideal living conditions.  When asked how she felt I explained my life was hard in ways people couldn’t understand, but I was proud of my kids staying in school and I worked each day for them.  Now because I could believe that a person in that situation was doing her best and would actually be proud of her children, I was told in front of the class that I was wrong, and the trainer clucked her disapproval at me sensing I clearly failed her assignment, missing the point entirely. (She later attempted to teach us how to read auras.  I allowed her to see mine in all it’s shining glory which led to a small standoff.  When I’m the problem-child in a class, something has gone horribly wrong.)

My point to that story is that not everyone who is impoverished needs your pity, and not everyone who is working a minimum wage job is lazy or lacking in some important way.  If you’ve ever had the pleasure of working for minimum wage, you know there’s not a lot of time for sitting around and daydreaming.  In many cases you’re serving the public either directly or indirectly.  You’re stocking shelves, running forklifts, greeting customers, mowing lawns, trimming hedges, scrubbing toilets, or you’re scrubbing feet, and hands.  You’re picking up trash in a truck or throughout a building. You’re in a file room, entering data or answering call after call.  And when you’re done, you run to the next job, because you understand that there’s a great imbalance between the cost of living and the minimum wage.  You have to keep a roof over your head, food on the table and oftentimes not just for you – you have a family.

I would argue that in general these are not lazy people.  These are the hardworking people who keep our society running and help us feel civilized with our mani/pedis, our towel service, our pool maintenance, groceries, etc.

One of the world’s richest women, Gina Rinehart, once said, “ If you’re jealous of those with more money don’t just sit there and complain, do something to make more money yourself. Spend less time drinking, smoking and socializing and more time working.”  I can only assume she inherited her fortune thanks to her avoidance of vice and of course her hard working  nature (and delightful disposition). She then went on to push to lower the minimum wage for miners to below $2/hour, so that Australia could be more competitive.

Gina got to where she was thanks to her family (despite her blinders that tell her she’s an amazing little tycoon with certain tycooning gifts which include a disdain for her lazy, socializing, smoking, drinking miners). In theory her descendants will inherit that same fortune without doing much more than being born and having decent financial advisors along the way (all of whom I will presume will continue shunning the aforementioned vices).  Much like the Royals.  Much like the Hiltons or any family dynasty.  In fact if you think about how you got to where you are you can likely attribute some of it is your drive, some of it to your environment, some of it to your education, and some to your personal network (whether family or friends).  I am where I am because I am reasonably intelligent.  I went to college and earned a degree, because I didn’t see there was a choice considering my family and friends; it was just a given.  My parents went to college, most of my friends went to college and many of them have advanced degrees – there are plenty doctors of all types, whether they’re PhDs or MDs. (They’re a talented lot even if they are overachievers.) They’re the kind of people who indirectly push you in ways you don’t realize you’re being pushed.

The  jobs I’ve held over the years are a result of family connections and personal connections; I didn’t do anything special other than show up for an interview.  In fact, I can’t name a job that I have had that can’t in some way be attributed to someone else.  Sure, I’ve moved up using my own skills, but I wouldn’t have gotten my foot in the door had it not been for someone else helping to crack it open.  With hundreds of applicants applying for even the simplest of jobs, it helps to have someone say, “hey, would you talk to Beth, too”  Not everyone has that network.  Not everyone has the opportunities I have had. Not everyone is equipped to work in a white collar job, and you know what? That’s ok.  We need everyone; they’re critical to our society..

My point is that there is a lot that plays into getting and maintaining a job, and while laziness may be a factor for a small group of people, it’s certainly not the defining characteristic when we’re talking about the poverty cycle..  If you think it’s an easy thing to break out of, then it’s likely you weren’t born into it.  My father was.  My father went on to be a professor of Social Work, and he can tell you best how he broke free, but suffice it to say it had to do with his environment, his education, his network of friends and a particular family that exposed him to new and different ways of thinking.

So, when I see people standing up and saying, “I want to be paid more to be able to live – to support  my family – to give my children opportunities I didn’t have – to rely less on public assistance”.  I don’t think disdainfully, “that’s just lazy talk”, I think about how we make that happen.  If I pay more for a barely edible burger that I don’t need, and now a person no longer has to rely on SNAP to feed their family, then I’m ok with that.  They’re not asking to move into your gated community, they’re just asking to live safely.

These people aren’t lazy, they just want to survive, and we should be mindful of that when they’re serving us and be thankful instead of contemptful of that person standing at the register. (Because at the end of the day they can spit in your food or dump your trash can on your immaculate lawn).

We should be doing our party to help.


If you’ve been awake in recent weeks you may have seen the current cover of Vanity Fair which showed a stunning Annie Leibovitz photo of Caitlyn Jenner after she made her transition.  I admit to looking at it initially with a certain amount of curiosity and thinking, “beautiful” and “good for you,” before moving onto other headlines from that day.  Throughout the rest of the week various online news outlets (and even NPR) kept the story alive by reporting on celebrity reactions, the tweets from her children, and some promised future interviews with her ex-spouses, friends, the guy at the coffee shop, etc.  I admit I lumped it all under “celebrity news I’m not interested in, “ because let’s face it, unless Jodi Foster is coming to my house to invite me to consult on her next project or Timothy Olyphant is writing me a note admitting to keeping a photo of me in his trailer, I don’t care.  Anything Kardashian related headed my way makes me want to poke myself with a sharp object. Apologies to Us, People, the Enquirer, Daily Mail, etc., but I don’t see anything you report as real news (but you guys are great for the hair salon or bathroom)..

I watched the tidal wave of “news” on the matter crest and then slowly ebb away.

During the peak of all of the excitement a gentleman made a certain Facebook post complete with an image grabbed from online depicting two soldiers that went viral.  The gist of the post being that Caitlyn’s transition was not “brave” or “courageous” or “heroic” unlike the image being shown in the other photo he selected – one depicting a soldier carrying a comrade who had his pistol drawn as he was being carried off – real “American” courage.  While attempting to credit the source of the photo, this same gentleman discovered that the picture was actually a photo of a toy figure, and the person who created the image was a man who had been beaten nearly to death because he was a cross-dresser. The gentleman quickly owned up to his mistake and followed-up with a post about the lesson he learned that day. I personally had great respect for him, because he could have easily let that information slip past, but instead he wrote about it and how it transformed him.

When I read about his error I snorted a bit at the irony, and once again returned to other news. I certainly never planned to post my thoughts on it; I had none – nothing really new to add. Then today rolled around, and I saw the same post re-posted, but missing the key follow-up post, and then for no good reason I took a moment to read the comments that followed.  I guess I was satisfying that most human need to rubberneck at train wrecks, or maybe I just felt like getting mad (it was a rather slow day truth be told, and MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!).

There’s really never a good reason to read most comments to any story. Regardless, I hopped down that nasty rabbit hole of bile and gritted my teeth as I read the most hateful wretch bubbling up in support of the original post. The writers were completely oblivious to the follow-up post (or maybe they were blatantly ignoring it). They used the post as a vile catalyst to feed on each other’s disdain, on each other’s hatred and ignorance.

I suspect most of what was said in response came more from a place of “why is this news” than anything else, but unfortunately they worded their disgust ways that went to the proverbial “there” by hammering on phrases like “American heroicism”.  This Caitlyn’s transition was not “brave”. That it was not “courageous”.

What is Bravery? Courage? What does it mean to be Heroic?

Merriam-Webster tells me Bravery  is “to have the quality or state of being brave.”  Brave – “having or showing courage <a brave soldier> <a brave smile>.”  Courage = “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Among the definitions of Heroic = “exhibiting or marked by courage and daring.”

Bravery isn’t limited to the beaches of Normandy, the Helmand Province, or the streets of Saigon.  Bravery is the bullied kid that still gets on the school bus under threats of violence every single day. Bravery is my gay friend walking into his dorm room every day while in the midst of being tormented by his roommate who used my friend’s towel as toilet paper and his pillowcase as tissue paper and not falling completely apart. Bravery is holding warlords hostage to come to the table and reach a peace agreement for Liberia.  And bravery is sometimes staring defiantly into the face of a photographer in the Phnom Penh S-21 prison, knowing you will be executed.

Bravery ranges in size from an elementary school girl singing her first solo to astronauts riding an explosion that flings them to the moon. and bravery doesn’t know international boundaries; it’s not just an “American” thing; it’s a “human” thing. To believe that it is somehow contained within our borders is to be grossly out of touch with a much larger world. And bravery doesn’t always occur to the battlefield either – ask any of the 9/11 (or 911) responders.

You do not have to be part of the LGBT community to understand that what Caitlyn Jenner did, in front of the world, was brave. Putting yourself out there for the world to judge is hard, and doing it when you’re a well-known former Olympian makes it that much harder.

Dislike the story because it’s sad that it’s still news – and it’s actually important news for the LGBT community, because we’re currently not in a place where we simply accept that a person made a choice (as evidenced) – maybe a choice we don’t approve or understand, but a choice that was theirs to make.  Dislike it because you’re tired of the Kardashians.  Don’t dislike it because it doesn’t depict “bravery.” It does.

Caitlyn Jenner is brave.  As brave as anyone I know.