Ancestry

It started out as a little thing.  I had heard of National Geographic’s Genographic Project through an acquaintance. The project focused (and continues to focus, there’s now a 2.0 version) on deep ancestry from an anthropological perspective and how people began to  populate the earth.  It traces DNA migration patterns using genetic mutations to follow our ancient ancestors’ path.  For my part, they only needed me to gently swab my cheek and in exchange I would learn about my mother’s family’s migration path from Africa across Asia and Europe.  Mitochondrial Eve + me? I was in!

When the kit arrived the suggestion to “gently swab” went out the door and became “enthusiastically remove your inner cheek.”  Hey, I wasn’t about to risk the chance that National Geographic wouldn’t have enough material to work with, and so I spit half of my inner face into a nice accommodating tube, only pausing a moment to admire the grossness of it all.  Then I sealed the tube, stuffed it into a padded mailer and sent my oral bio-hazard whizzing through our mail system  A few weeks later an email arrived saying something cheerful like, “Hello, K23719! (they don’t have your name on file and well, this isn’t my number, but you get the idea) Please push the magic link below for cool pictures and info about the migration of your mtDNA.”  I pushed knowing I’d finally see beyond the “… and then they left Roanoke and headed to Atlanta where they eventually cursed Sherman,” and I wasn’t disappointed. I learned my mother’s line belonged to Haplogroup U4.

Here’s a brief snippet from Wikipedia:

Haplogroup U4 has its origin in the Upper Palaeolithic, dating to approximately 25,000 years ago and has been implicated in the expansion of modern humans into Europe occurring before the Last Glacial Maximum U4 is an ancient mitochondrial haplogroup and is relatively rare in modern populations. U4 is found in Europe with highest concentrations in Scandinavia and the Baltic states and is also associated with the remnants of ancient European hunting-gatherers preserved in the indigenous populations of Siberia.U4 is found in Nganasans the indigenous inhabitants of the Taimyr Peninsula, in the Mansi (16.3%) an endangered people, and in the Ket people (28.9%) of the Yenisey River. U4 is also preserved in the Kalash people a unique tribe among the Indo-Aryan peoples of Pakistan (current population size 3,700)[39] where it attains its highest frequency of 34%.

Now, where I don’t quite get all of the science behind this, I do get enough of it that I find the information absolutely fascinating.  And every few weeks when another U4 person uploads their results, Family Tree DNA sends me an email notifying me that there’s another one of my clan members romping about. I mentally fist bump them.

Sometime after I received my National Geographic results, I regained my interest in our family tree and began playing around with it. I cleaned up (deleted the whole thing and started fresh) what I had and managed to add some new, better researched, branches into my Family Tree Maker application.  At the same time, I started poking Find A Grave, where I got lost for a bit then re-emerged with even more great family information. The best find from Find A Grave was my 2nd cousin Carol.  We had a shared “that’s MY great-grandfather” moment followed by “who are you?”  Carol is amazing and while I don’t know her, I love her to death.  She talked me into doing two new things.  One was having my DNA tested through Ancestry.com, the other was taking those results and uploading them into GEDmatch.  She said both would match me up with other relatives (and they have).

Quick aside – in contacting these strangers (aka cousins) I’ve found through these sites, I’ve learned one thing.  As a whole, Mom’s relatives are extremely unhelpful and border on rude, whereas Dad’s relatives “people” are crazy helpful and know way more than I could ever hope to know about our tree and about DNA in general.  I mention this only because it would irk Mom to know this and that irkiness would be amusing.  Hey, it’s hard when you grow up on the right side of the tracks and have to hear the lowly peasant stock are kinder people.  Mom, I’m just sayin’…  There’s a particular pain-filled story with one of Mom’s people, but that’s for another time.  Suffice it to say I managed to not repeatedly beat my head against my desk which amounted to a huge, applause-worthy accomplishment on my part. Did I mention it was a very huge accomplishment? One of my immediate relatives who also talked to this person had a similar experience – in fact, we’re all lucky that several of us didn’t have self-inflicted concussions.

That leads me to the results.  The first thing I’ll show you are my Ancestry results.  I like them because they’re simple and well, kind of pretty. They’re also straight-forward.  I like those qualities: simple, kind of pretty and straight-forward, which is like “simple” but well it’s “straight forward” – you know what I’m saying.  The results are what I expected.  I’m very British, somewhat Irish and a mix of many other things which includes my U4-iness.

Like I said, it’s straight forward and pretty

Next up are several of the different ways I parsed up my DNA through GEDmatch.  Depending on which one you look at, I’m apparently a variety of Europeans, Baltic and what have you (an unidentified and rare group of misfits)) which we all could guess. But, if you poke around even more you’ll see I have Jewish ancestry (apparently from Germany), I’m part Pygmy (Jay, I’m looking forward to those jokes – no, really – for the record, that is not where my short legs came from), Amerindian (which, if I read that right is not necessarily American Indian, but possibly their pre-ice bridge walking cousins – who knows?), Oceanic, and Iranian.  Such a weird mix. I’ve told Jay I want a Pygmy figure wearing a yarmulke to represent my people.

Also comes with an assortment of lovely pie charts. I’m many-colored.

Here’s the thing, though.  The more I am on GEDmatch, the less I understand and while I find these charts fascinating, I don’t know what they really mean.  Where they say “North_Atlantic” did my people spring forth from the ocean? Are we talking Atlantis?  On one, the results say  I’m part pygmy, but in another it shows no pygmy.  Did my inner pygmy scamper off for that test?

And well sure, I can click on the links the PhD student who put these together provided, but their splatter charts make zero sense to me. It looks like someone took a chip brush, dipped it in paint and then fanned it across my screen while saying, “see, you get it now, right?” The 4 pt. font doesn’t help either, for the record..

I read a comparison of the different DNA test information today. It looked at Ancestry, GEDmatch and 23andme and it basically seemed to say “Ancestry is for stupid people while these others are for those who are technical.”  This may be the first time I’ve felt extremely untechnical (stupid) as I look at chromosome strings and try to figure out how one of my mother’s cousins has no shared “X” DNA with me, but comes up as a match.

My relatives. I’m related to these people how? You should see the chromosome strings. :(

Kudos to my Dad’s “people” who have tried to help with, “ok Beth, here’s an excel spreadsheet.  The strings tell you the family lines and the…” What?  My brain just cannot wrap around it.  I feel I may be doomed to Ancestry and the pretty, yet simple pictures. Hey, I’m 75% British!  Am I Welsh? Scottish? Who knows?

I suppose “pretty” is good too, right?

Sam Update: For Lori

Lori of Dotopotamus fame promised she’d give me an update on her life if I provided one on Sam.  Ok, she may not have worded it exactly that way or even close to that, but that’s how I’m interpreting it. My brain is a fantastical place!

Who or What is a Sam?

Since I may have magically gotten one new reader (hi, new reader!) I feel I should give you (all of you or maybe just them) a background on Sam.  Sam is our 11 year old beagle adopted 7 years ago from Hound Rescue. Some Sam facts:

  • She’s a girl, thus the use of the pronoun “she”.  I didn’t name her.  Blame her former owners.  If I’d named her, she would have had a great name like Piffles or Senorita Snogglekins – something classy that really says “beagle”.
  • Her photo on this page neatly hides bullets (yes, this is a Sam fact – well, it is now). Well, they did on the preview screen.  Now the website is just being sassy to deny me this fact.
  • She’s 11.  Did I mention that?
  • She’s bullied by our cat, Hodi – formerly “cats”, but Sage passed away which amounts to 50% less whimpering from Sam when she (she’s a girl) can’t make it down the hall.
  • She’s had two CCL tears, which amounted to her enduring two surgeries, and two bouts of rehab.  Sure, you might not do that for your dog, but we made a choice and now she bounds around happily in the house. Her quality of life is pretty great.
  • She also suffered from Horner’s Syndrome twice, which basically meant she lost muscle control on one side of her face, then she lost it on the other.  She’s a bit of a special needs beagle, but she’s worth it.
  • Since she’s a beagle and would eat until she couldn’t put her legs on the ground, she now gets carrots as a treat; she thinks this is pretty fabulous.  Raw green beans are fairly fine, too.

The Update

As you’ll recall, this whole post is about using you guys to get to what I want – an update on Lori.  I’m sorry guys.  In a pinch I will use you, but be glad it’s for your eyeballs and not a trade for cigarettes or to get out of being poked with things like car batteries.  I mean, I’d totally use you for that, too because well if I were in the pokey, cigarettes (facial scrub, toothpaste, or whatnot) is a fantastic currency.  I learned this on Orange is the New Black. And for the record, I’m adverse to being poked with electricity, so well… I like you and all (even you, new person), but hey… you should take one for the team.  The team being me.  You’re the best.

You can search for Lori on this blog, but in case you’re not the typing sort, here’s a brief bit on her –  I worked with her for years, and now she lives out in Washington State (my working with her didn’t cause the move, she moved on her own and then she met a boy!).  Lori is pretty darn fabulous (funny, fun, smart and she’s “got STYLE!” – and while very true, this is also an inside joke.  If you knew it, I’m sure you’d maybe smirk or perhaps snort in approval.)  You’ll note on her blog (linked above) that her last post was in 2013, so you now understand I’m behind on over a year’s worth of updates and truth be told, more than that.  Washington State needs to stop swallowing my friends and family.  Yes Tony, I’m looking at you, too – feel free to update me as well. A cousin could call a girl once in a while.

Right, About that Update

Sam is doing great.  She recently made it as the cover photo for Hound Rescue on their Facebook site.  She’s been on there now for 6 months.  I think they originally planned to change the photo out once a month, but hey I’m not going to point that out.  I like seeing Sam as the spokes-beagle.  Now the photo, should you venture there, is of Sam a lot chubbier.  This was pre-carrots and green beans – back when we thought her “I’m starving” thing was because she was starving.  Tricky beagle.

She’s become fairly bossy about food.  If I’m eating a salad, the whimpering will start and if I ignore her, she’ll hit something with a paw.  She will not be ignored! The love of lettuce is my fault, I may have taught her the joy of leafy greens. Her favorite is the crunchy spiny bit – not so much the leaf; it’s hard to lip off the floor. Have you seen dog lips? Anyway, when you have a “starving” beagle you have to get clever with your snacks.  I also found out that she’s tasted marshmallows.  How I found this out was from watching her demand one from Jay.  You know beagles, once they’ve tasted the blood of marshmallows, they’ll frenzy at the smell.  That’s what she tells me.

She’s still absolutely disgusted by her nerd parents who spend way too much time in front of a monitor.  If it’s past 7pm, we will get a warning whimper that will quickly turn into louder complaints followed by pawing various things in the computer room.  She’s also pretty insistent I get to bed on time.

I’m pretty certain that she hasn’t had a baby bunny recently.  I suspect either the adult bunnies got wise to the fact that the backyard was a bad birthing yard or it could be the early Fall-ness of things has made them less frisky.  Since I randomly decided they were my totem animal based on me seeing them all the time and well, I wanted to say I had a “totem animal”, it was disheartening to hear their squeaks as she gobbled one down.  No one should hear their beagles eat their totem animal.  I may need to find a new one that’s a bit sturdier and can’t make it down a beagle’s gullet in two-three bites.

We also learned she doesn’t particularly like other dogs.  While we’ve been good at socializing her with people, we haven’t been so amazing with other animals.  This lead to a very brief attempt at our fostering a super sweet dog this summer.  I still feel awful about this failure, because it was such a huge let down of a very good friend.  You know when your adorable dog turns into a slavering mess of teeth and rage… yeah, that was her this summer.  That incident led to my only bout with either gastritis or an ulcer; it wasn’t determined.  Good times. Good times.

That’s about all I have for now.  Nothing too exciting, which is great news since Sam has had way too many exciting (health-related) things in her little life.  Fingers crossed that this trend keeps going.

Soooo… Lori, about that update! Tony? Tony?!? Don’t think I forgot about you.

An Introvert’s Rant

There are two things I must love doing, because I do them a lot.  I love telling myself horror stories while I’m in the shower and I love thinking of the most irritating things guaranteed to keep me awake if I’m woken up in the middle of the night.  Well, it’s 2:29 am and since I’m not in the shower, guess what I’m doing?

This blog post is written for no one.  In fact, I don’t recommend it.  Maybe later in the week I’ll tell you my ghost stories and that will be more entertaining.  What I’m trying to say is, “go on now” while I stream-of-conscious my way through a rant of sorts and maybe wear myself out so that I fall asleep. I’m actually not kidding.  You’ve been warned.  I am sleep deprived.

A woman at work sent me a crudely drawn poster the other day that basically said, “I’m an introvert and that’s ok”.  The truth is I’m also shy, and that’s ok, too.

You know introverts.  You’ve observed us out in the wild in our native habitat either with a book up to our faces or sitting alone quietly observing something, but just it case you’re unfamiliar it basically means I draw my energy from within.  If I’ve been out in the world too long, my battery needs to recharge, because sometimes being out can take a lot out of me.  A co-worker recently argued with me about my “introvert” status, “you’re not an introvert!”  I guess she felt that since I occasionally rally and am boisterous, or even downright ridiculous in a group, that it was surely a sign that I wasn’t an introvert.  I think there was also a little bit of, “don’t put yourself down, of course you’re an extrovert” as if I said I was goofy looking and on the spectrum (wait, that may also be true) – as if “introvert” was undesirable and bad.

My good friends on the other hand seem to be a healthy mix of extroverts, introvert fence sitters (meaning they’re not quite like me, a full-blown introvert, they’re more middle-of-the-road normal types? dare I say stable? ish?) and there may be one or two true introverts.  They get me and they’re also fairly adept at translating “me”.  This is important when my brain implodes and I find myself in the middle of doing my best fish out-of-water impersonation – with my mouth flexing, no audible words coming out and I seem to be going a bit wide-eyed.  In those awkward moments, you find your true friends and I’ve found mine.  They’re the ones that form a protective circle when things are at their worst, and they’re my voice when I’m overwhelmed.

What makes them such terrific voices is they do “get” me.  They know my history.  They “understand” what drives me and what pushes me over the edge.

What has me up at this moment as thoughts scream through my brain is very specific to extroverts outside of this circle of mine. Those people who feel they know me, interject words when they feel I’m failing, explain my history to groups that is oftentimes downright false or at its best misleading.  And I let them run with whatever they’re saying, because I literally either don’t care or don’t have the energy to correct them.  They’re those people who have to be in the know and their extroverty brain won’t send out warning signals to shut down their tongues – they’re too busy filling that dead space with their constant need to prattle on and  prove “I know everything!” Their “everything” is vast (as “everything” can be at times) and can cover a particular person or the subject at hand or both or it can sometimes be a combination of “I don’t know, but this person here, this introvert, either does or doesn’t know based on some made up history I have about them that I’m making up on the fly, because I can’t stop myself from speaking.  I need you to see I’m in the know. Look at me, I’m speaking so much you’ve all now fainted from the lack of oxygen in the room.  Let’s go outside, where I’ll attempt to suck the oxygen from the earth with more of my incessant blather-stream.  You will be in awe of all that I am and know. I’m making words with my face!

For the record, that’s how extroverts can sound to an introvert.  That seeming lack of reflection as they refuse to leave a silent moment unattended by their constant gab.  I mean that lovingly.  I know my extroverted friends reflect on things. I suspect it’s in their sleep, when their mouths cannot physically move as easily, but I’m not overly confident that they’re not blathering through their dreams as well. “What is this? A nightmare? Let me regale you with all the things i know about nightmares!” Then whatever it might have been that could have scared them just throws up its many claws in defeat and begins to whimper quietly, hoping it can make it back into the closet or under the bed unharmed..

So, with that said we’ve come to why I’m up.  We’ve arrived at the words in my brain that are spinning around, because as I’ve said I’ve irritated myself into being completely awake and now I’m annoying you.  I did say not to read any further, so technically if you’re still here, it’s your fault. You still have a chance to retreat. I’d do that now.

I’m up because I want to set some things straight about some things floating out there that are either misconceptions or just outright wrong. Strangely they’re all about what I’ve done professionally and in my free time.  This is partly my fault, because I don’t go around telling people what I’ve done.  I don’t feel that need. I’m an introvert. But apparently when you don’t do that, extroverts fill in the gaps.

Let’s start with work.  I worked for PBS.  I don’t just know some PBS employees who are kind to me and let me hang out with them out of pity.  I worked there.  I worked there for 11 years starting in college.  I worked my way up through those ranks and had some amazing titles and positions – probably things that were a little above my skill set, but hey it was flattering. I was in charge of two different departments.  I’m not saying that I was great as a leader in those areas (see the skill set comment from earlier), but I was there and I raised a ton of money in my tenure (largely thanks to a woman who really knew her stuff and set-up the department so it couldn’t help but succeed).  I’ve talked to the Johnsons, yes those Johnsons and to Liz Carpenter in passing, yes that Liz Carpenter as well as many other Austin leaders. (I do still adore Kirk Watson.  Who wouldn’t? And I adore his wife Liz beyond all comparison)  I raised money by directly leading fundraising campaigns and by helping out at the approximately 35 pledge drives I attended.  I also helped set up their computer network – running cable through the ceilings and creating drops, setting-up the DHCP, WINS, DNS, Exchange servers, etc. It’s why I’m in IT now. I’ve been to a lot of ACL tapings, I’ve seen more than my fair share of shows taped, I’ve hugged John Tesh and Maria from Sesame Street, because why not?  So no, the PBS employees I know now aren’t just slumming with me. They didn’t meet me at some random party. They’re my former co-workers and because we were a gigantic dysfunctional family, we’re also friends. I’m not some tag-along or PBS groupie.  Trust me.  They’d be the first to tell you I’m not a PBS groupie.

To be clear, I’ve never worked at NPR.  I can recognize some of their staff on sight.  I’m friends with one of them – a great gal who is a refugee from our station, but I didn’t work there.  Yes they both rely on member support, but no they’re not the same.

That leads me to video shoots, the last bit of my rant.  As I mentioned, I worked for PBS.  That’s a TV station.  I’ve been around TV.  I know camera people, sound people, producers, directors, etc. etc. ad nauseum.  My interest in filming sketches came after my time there, because I didn’t have the forethought to get into it while I had access to some great talent and equipment. Thankfully though I still have this dysfunctional family to fall back on when I need real advice.

I have been on 11 shoots as of now.  Not 4 or 7, but 11. These are shoots outside of anything that happened at the station.  These are the ones I’ve done with a gang of folks I met through a sketch class. The video for one of those shoots won a Grand Prize in a contest of $1,000 and while I didn’t write it or edit it, I did help with it and I’m proud to have been a part of it. With our group you do everything from beginning to end.  Basically, if you write it you scout the locations, you cast it, you produce it, you direct it and you get the crew. I’m a solid producer; it’s what I like best.  I like keeping up with the details of how to get what can be a lumbering train moving.  Maybe I should amend that from “solid” to “decent” (I say “decent,” because I have a ton of room to grow). I’m decent at organizing things from beginning to end especially shoots.  I understand the details – whether we’re talking about actor releases or applicable copyrights (shooting a parody doesn’t mean you have carte blanche to use everything you want).  We’ve held our own auditions with up to 20 actors (not huge, but impressive to me), I’ve created shot lists for all of my shoots, and I’ve directed.  I mention the shot lists in there, which is kind of the odd man out in that list, because it’s in my craw a bit.  You’ll have to accept what I’m saying without much history as to why.  Suffice it to say, I have made a number of them and I keep working on them to try and decide what information is the most helpful beyond.the scenes and shots. Like right now, I have a place to note “best takes”. I also understand the roles of the crew especially when working with a small crew.  A complete aside here – nothing is worse than a bad PA.  To me, our PA’s are critical. They have to be proactive.  We’ve dismissed people or not invited them back when they’ve decided their job is to park and blab.  In fact, there’s nothing worse than doing something for fun and having to basically say, “you can’t play with us anymore, because you’re not doing the job we need you to do.”  Shoots should be fun, but we’re also there for a reason.  I don’t like losing time because I’m trying to wrangle an actor to the set and you’ve picked that moment to brag to them about your weekend.  I don’t like losing time because my actor is having a coughing fit and when I said earlier “I need you to pick up cough drops” you spaced it and you’re not up to going right now.  That’s my mini rant on bad PA’s.

Anyway… on this shoot that we’re finishing up later today I’m the script supervisor.  I have never done this job.  Holding a script doesn’t equal being a script supervisor. Those folks are basically responsible for continuity – you know when Han Solo’s vest flashes on and then off as he gets frozen – a script supervisor should have been in charge of seeing he had the vest on (or off) in all takes. They are there to make sure things are the same from take to take – whether it’s wardrobe, a prop in someone’s hand, the hair – that’s all on them.  For today’s purposes, it’s easy, because this is a short shoot, but overall it can be challenging to do right.

I think what’s bugging me and keeping me awake is a general gripe of – if you don’t know what I’ve done or where I’ve come from, don’t assume you do and don’t speak for me even when I’m not speaking for myself.  Sometimes the reason I’m not announcing what I’ve done is that I still have a lot to learn and I don’t want anyone to think I’m incapable of learning more or growing further which they will if I’m acting like a know-it-all on the matter at hand.  Sometimes I don’t share what I’ve done, because I don’t want to brag.  Speaking to Lady Bird is not a thing to brag about, it’s just a moment in time. Watching Lucy Johnson acting like a crazed hyperactive gerbil is not a thing to brag about, it’s comedy gold unfolding before your eyes.

Unless you’re part of a small handful of people who know me quite well, I appreciate that you’re making a noble effort, but I don’t need you to be my voice. I don’t need you to be my chronicler.  I’m an introvert.  I don’t need all of your words to fill up my quiet spaces or to populate the gaps in my stories with fiction.

Squirrely’s

During my summer vacation, which sounds more like a three month holiday away from school rather than a few days out of town, we decided to a make stop.  Truth be told, we made several along the way to New Orleans, because one of the more awesome traits I inherited from my mother (that did not include her looks, her unblemished skin, her fine features nor her athletic ability) was her bladder, which is exactly the size of a walnut.

We see the sign on the way to Houston for a place called Buc-ee’s.  Now I’ve never heard of this place and all I see is a gigantic, happy squirrel head on a sign accompanied by some bad puns.  Oh sure, it’s a beaver to the rest of you, but my brain wouldn’t let the whole squirrel thing go and try as I might to get it right, it stuck in my head that we were going to Squirrely’s.  April assumed I had to be familiar with Squirrely’s since it was a Texas thing.  It may be a Texas thing, but it’s never been on my Texas radar. You see my car only drives two ways – one is on IH35 north of Austin, the other is northeast to Nacogdoches.  Now before you think I’m a complete big box convenience store newbie, I had actually heard of and even been to both Love’s and Stuckey’s.  I’ve even been to Robertson’s in Salado on a number of occasions, but never a Squirrely’s.  Never heard of it.  So, it’s basically not my Texas, it’s someone else’s Texas.

We pull up and Squirrely’s is just huge.  I’ve never seen a Stuckey’s or a Love’s quite so large – it might compare to a mini Wal-mart (there is actually such a thing).  We go in and like the Tardis, it’s bigger on the inside and offers an assortment of everything.  It’s the kind of store where you become a little concerned you’ve stepped into a Grimm’s fairy tale and feel the need to worry that if you grab too much of whatever some cantankerous, hoarder hermitess (I cannot believe that word made it through spell check – who knew it was real) will grab you up then pop you into a special people cooking oven. My only comfort was the knowledge that I would avoid the oven, because well I’d like to see a hermitess try – I border on ”immovable object” – a good thing when facing down fairy tale cannibals.  Solid planning on my part! In the store is a wall of candy (you see the analogy here, right?), fresh fruits, snacks that involve cheese (ok, that’s my love of cheese shining through), sodas with special crunchy ice, computer stations to order fast food (I guess you can’t just walk up to a person an order), clothes, knick-knacks, do-dads, toys and 100 super clean bathrooms.

I took pictures and I walked out with a Squirrely puppet.  Of course I did.  I decided this little squirrel would have be included in the vacation. Being mid puppet show, it was obvious that this pairing of girl and squirrel were meant to be.  A friend of mine sent me a text post purchase, after I shared a photo of the Squirelly and me, basically asking, “how is it you’re more ridiculous than I am?” Oh young Jedi, it takes focus and dedication – years of being a ridiculous human, but I’m straying off topic.

Squirrely!

I start posting these ridiculous photos with this ridiculous squirrel (yeah, yeah, yeah beaver) and I discover there’s this whole crazy convenience store cult lurking among my Facebook friends that simply adore Buc-ee’s. PIcture the martians in Toy Story and “the claw”.  You could hear them all say the words in unison, “the Buc-ee’s” or 100 Homers saying “donuts”. You get the idea.  It was a bit eerie.  I was genuinely blown away by the envy pouring my way. Some were excited for me – hooray, she’s finally arrived at this consumer’s paradise. It was as if I had been transported to whatever place you find to be the most magical and it made my friend’s happy. Mine involves ornate outfits – the bigger the skirt the better, a gigantic library, and a lovely stroll-worthy garden. Oh, and access to all of our modern conveniences, because let’s face it if we go back in time people were rather stinky with bad teeth.  Plus, in this fantasy world I have pets and pets need good vets and also I’d like a recycling program in place – very important. Oh, and cheese.  Did I mention I’m a huge fan? Right, that’s my place – theirs was Buc-ee’s.  You would have thought, based on the ecstasy that followed the announcement that I’d been to the store and as the doors swished open angels began to sing.  It was crazy.

Now, I don’t mean to put down Buc-ee’s.  It’s a great place to stop.  It’s clean, the bathrooms are great, the ice is cheap, there are a ton of gas pumps, but it is a convenience store – a very large convenience store.

I do admit that on the way back home we did made another stop there (my request), because I just had to. I drank that Kool-aid.  When we did stop in again, a person dressed as Buc-ee (a happy gigantic squirrel if you’re me) was strolling the store. You could have your picture taken with him.  I did do this.  It was hysterical.  You will never see that photo, but know that Buc-ee hugged me.

I guess a small part of me has been inducted into the cult. Please don’t tell them I still think it’s just a large convenience store until I’ve studied their inner circle.  They don’t need to know that I don’t believe as some do that it might be the place where Greek heroes go after they die. (There are still Greek heroes, right? Zeus still catting around. I digress. I always digress.)

That’s my report.

Family Update: My Summer Vacation

It’s that special time of year when I use my blog to update my family and friends in a way that will bore the snot out of you if you don’t know me personally (and likely if you do, but you’ll feel forced to trudge through out of fear I might present you with a pop quiz at some happy hour).  Plus, let’s face it, at this moment I can’t think of a clever way to make my adventures seem all that interesting and I unfortunately feel the need to write. (That urge is being spurred on because if I move from this spot a certain beagle will race to the kitchen, convinced it’s actually dinner time when it’s not. So, I’m hyper-focused on not noticing that she’s desperately trying to get my attention right now.)

Usual Disclaimer

I can’t type.  I also can’t edit.  David can’t be expected to comb through the myriad of grammatical, typographical and some other -cal mistakes that I’m doubtlessly making every time I write.  Basically, you get what you get in all its flawed glory.  Just be thankful that I catch a ton of things before I hit post, so it could be worse for you – much, much, much worse.

The Show

The Awesome Cast of BatShyt Crazy’s: Live Rude Puppets Show

Over the summer I got to be the Assistant Director for a sketch show.  Hrmm… let me restate that – over the summer I got to hold the title of “Assistant Director” for a sketch show. As part of that title I did some standing, a ton of sitting, some thoughtful nodding and agreeable grunting. This is all very important when you’re putting on a production, or so I’ve told myself. I was the gal that when an actor said “line” I was “on book” and would say things like, “uhh hold on… ummm…”  My other duties seemed to include coaxing the director off the ledge. I kind of expected a big thank you card from the cast, since no one was injured in the production by said director.  I didn’t receive that.  I can’t guarantee what will happen at the next show when the next set of ledges present themselves. Guys, invest in football gear.  Just sayin’.

In truth, I met some wonderful, talented and genuinely fun actors. I loved that they were able to heighten the crazy from show to show (this was a show featuring hard-living, sassy-talking puppets) and they sincerely made me burst out laughing with each performance. This is saying something considering I’d heard the script numerous times over an eight week period.  At our own sketch show a couple of years ago, I couldn’t say the same thing.  In fact, had I heard one of the over-rehearsed sketches one more time, I was going to start screaming like a lunatic and running my head into the paneled walls.

I then stole some of those actors for…

A Commercial Shoot

Behind-the-scenes for my commercial featuring Taylor & Gene as detectives Wolfe & Ramsey

A couple of weeks ago we shot four low budget commercials for our friend Steve who has a new computer shop. Three of us wrote four sketches and each took a turn at directing ours.  In a short 10 hour day, we knocked out all four including one involving a fairly shy, but adorable three year old.  The bummer bit is that we learned at the shoot not all of them would be used, so hopefully you’ll get to see mine one day.  At the very least, I’m hopeful the cast for mine will be able to use their bits in their own personal reels – so when they’re famous they can say, “wow, I can’t believe I shamed myself like that”.  My kudos to Gene, Taylor, Jonathan and Mike who were great to work with as always.  Also, thanks to Topping, Mike and Jonathan for sticking around at the end and helping me with a project for my Video Sketch Class I’m currently in – a Blackout Sketch. My understanding of what that is – a very fast joke that leads with a misdirect.  It’s the best I could think of while trying to produce a commercial shoot.

As for that Video Sketch Class

What can I say? The people are extremely funny. The teacher has a nice take on things. I’m learning, but I hate every single solitary minute I’m in it and I absolutely dread going. I’ve been sitting on my own personal ledge for awhile while Jay and some friends try to talk me down.  I know it’s my crazy, but I can’t break out of it.  There may be a separate blog piece on it and my crazy later.  Three more classes (like years) – we’ll see if I survive that.  No guarantees.

An Awkward Segue to New Orleans

St. Louis Cemetery, No. 2 – New Orleans

Somewhere in all of this I went to New Orleans with April and had a grand time even if I’m not as plucky, fun or as fast moving as I’ve been on previous trips in years past.  April said I’m supposed to tell you she didn’t try to kill me.  All I’m saying is two of my toes are still black and its been 6 weeks since I’ve been there. Nosiree, didn’t try to kill me at all. That was all “me” mmm hmmm.

I did see and experience new things.  I rode a paddle boat down the Mississippi in a rain storm, which was lovely, explored the cemeteries, visited a former home of William Faulkner (a co-worker asked me later who that was, please don’t make me hyperlink it – I believe in you), ate some amazing food, and of course, then tried to order nachos in New Orleans, because well… I’m not a very seafood-y person and nachos really sounded fantastic in that moment. I later griped about them to my husband in a text, and got a very sympathetic, “and that’s what you get for ordering Tex-Mex in New Orleans”.  I also discovered Buc-ee’s a convenience store chain I had never heard of which I think I will make a blog post of its own.

That’s about it.  I have no other adventures planned at the moment.  No shoots.  No writing (other than that Buc-ee’s thing). No shows. No trips until Thanksgiving. It’s back to my normal waddle-y, self-deprecating routine.

How was your summer?

My Secret Talent

I’ve always suspected I’m secretly great at something.  The problem is that I haven’t quite found that thing I’m great at.  Over the years I’ve learned it’s not drawing, writing, photography, improv, film making, pottery, gymnastics or tennis, but I’ve never given up hope (as you can tell).  Earlier this year I decided it might be special effects makeup based on the fact that I’ve shown little interest in it over the years other than applying a bruise makeup once to scare my cousin into thinking she’d get in trouble after she accidentally popped me in the eye.  (For the record, it had the desired effect.)  I bolstered my belief in my hidden SFX talent, because I’d seen many seasons of Face Off, the Syfy channel’s SFX makeup reality show/contest, and in HIgh School I did have that Bob Kelly make-up kit that is in almost pristine condition after opening it at least two or three times.  Clearly, SFX makeup was my calling.

 My friend April, you know the one who occasionally tries to kill me, the one I’m going to New Orleans with next week out of curiosity to see what she has in store for my demise this time (expect updates if I survive) – that April.  Anyway, April saw that the Austin Film Society was holding a SFX Makeup 101 class taught by one of the former Face Off contestants.  She let me know, because I think she also suspected I had hidden talents – perhaps even be a burgeoning SFX makeup star. I’m sure it wasn’t because I might be star struck by a local artist (the teacher) being a Face Off contestant and this fulfilling some stalkery need of mine.  Yes, I’m sure that’s why she told me – the hidden talent thing.  Did I mention he was a contestant on Face Off?

My friend Topping joined me. Off we go to the class and there he is – the Face Off guy.  He’s nice, patient and pretty cool.  He told us a few stories and then gave us these tiny little take-away kits to create wounds.  Then he laid out some silicone prosthetics.  We each chose one.  I, of course, picked a wound to put directly on Topping’s face.  I’m sure deep down she was delighted by my choice even if she wasn’t readily showing it.  As a much kinder person (better person blah, blah, blah), she picked one for my arm.

Eric Z. from Syfy’s Face Off (background) Me demonstrating natural talent (yada yada)

 My first (and only) application went ok.  I killed an edge, but what Face Off participant hasn’t really?  Then it came time to paint it.  I wanted something a bit bloody in the center.  It was a tear across her face – like she’d been attacked by a serving fork – maybe she tangled with an animal with serving utensils for feet?  It could happen! I decided what the wound needed was some deep reds with dark blues and purples, then on the edge I wanted some nasty yellow – maybe yellow with some red in there.

Evidence of Innate Talent Right There

It’s been a long time since I was in an art class or even colored or considered a color wheel.  All of my age 7 year old art class experience in color suddenly came crashing back into my brain when I used the aforementioned bright yellow, liberally applied some red and I made orange.  Orange. Imagine my surprise, which was quite genuine, as my inner 7 year old mocked away. It was a gigantic bright orange wound right on Topping’s face.  I tried to make it better by adding more colors to cover up the orange.  This ultimately ended up making her wound look like some depraved 1970’s mom had  assaulted her with a bottle of mecuricome.  It was a wound disaster that she got to have her photo taken with to remember throughout time and enjoy the added bonus of having to wear it out of the class on her drive home.  You’re welcome, Topping.

Even Oranger in Person! The blending is pretty gorgeous, too.


My take away – I think that maybe being a SFX makeup artist may not be my hidden talent.  Time to sign up for the next class.

Topping’s Application on My Arm (Grossed out husband = What Real Talent Looks Like)

An Adventure

On the drive into work the other morning I was lamenting not having any good adventure stories to share.  I was coming to grips with having finally reached the bottom of my story well and preparing to settle for sharing quips about the giant mug of water I’ve been drinking daily (well, it is really huge) or maybe some stories of “Sam did the most adorable thing the other day.  Get this, she woke up, padded around, got some food and took a nap.”. “I opened AND closed the door today!” (This is actually something to celebrate if we’re talking about the kitchen cabines or the pantry.) “There was this bumper stick you see, said something about “whirled peas”.  Get it?” You get the idea – bottom of the story well.

Then it hit me.  I vaguely remembered having actually done a few things that I hadn’t shared.  (Look, blame Facebook or the times for the overshare of stuff – I personally blame my friends for encouraging me – you can, too!) It appeared that I had actually engaged in… adventures!  Adventures that proved I left the house at some point for short stints.  Go me!  Way to shrug off the hermit rags (which are, for the record, comfy, warm and after a few days you hardly notice the smell).

So, back in February… (I never said this was a recent adventure) I decided to join my friend April for a curling class.  You might remember April as the friend who tried to do me in at the Texas State Fair.  She’s got a mean streak that borders on homicidal, but is clearly unwilling to explore her own personal orange jumpsuit opportunities, so she cleverly tries to lead me into accidents.  This time her ploy involved tennis shoes on ice and a 42 pound stone.  You’d think I’d learn better, but as you may have gathered through previous stories I’m rather “bless your heart” naive/goofy.  (Southern fact: If you’re in the South and someone says “bless your heart” it’s rarely a kind thing.)

Off I went to the ice rink bundled in my Texas winter attire.  For most Texans that’s just long sleeves, but I actually managed a sweater.  I’m cold natured!  We got a little introduction to the sport and the rules, then off we went to the ice.  Now I’d been on this same ice before – back  in college for something called broomball – a sport where you smack around a hockey puck with a broom (sans bristles) while in your sneakers.  I stayed upright, unlike several other dorm mates – one who had to go to the hospital, but I should confess that I did manage to smack my co-RA’s knuckles to the point that they swelled up pretty nicely. Hey, it’s basically Texas hockey and things got REAL! (It had nothing to do with me spactically flailing around and accidentally hitting someone.)

Since we didn’t have the gear, like their fancy shoes, we were handed a slip cover.  It basically amounted to putting teflon on one foot to make it extra glidey (or fall-y depending on your balance).  They explained how to throw your stone, use your broom for balance and then get into this contraption to push off.  The first guy got in and was flawless.  He was the ringer.  Then everyone else took their turn with varying amounts of success.  Most would get a tiny push, go a few inches, release the stone a few inches and do a small unglamorous pancake on the ice.

Then it was my turn.  I was hoping to push a few inches down the ice and with any luck not  pancake.  I got my feet placed, got down on the ice and realized not only could I not push off, I wasn’t sure I could get back up.  I decided it was a great time to panic as I surveyed the 50+ highly successful participants.  “Successful” was defined by whether they could get up off the ice and while I realized I hadn’t seen everyone, I knew in my soul they all could. I was the embarrassment of the ice rink!  I might actually die out here on the ice unable to leave this spot.  Maybe the zamboni could push me to safety? Maybe I’d become a human puck and one day reach the exit?  Maybe I could belly crawl to the side, someone could open the little door out and I would once again be on terra firma.  It was settled.  The last plan was the best.  Now how to begin the belly slide that way without drawing any attention.  This was going to be difficult.

My little group was now staring and my poor little trainer (who wore possibly the best pants ever if you forget the Norwegian Olympic team) tried his best to help, extending a hand.  I couldn’t take it.  I knew if I took it, I’d pull him down, too.  I did consider that if he were down on the ground, I could use him as a way to get up.  This actually wasn’t the worst idea I’d had and it beat living on the ice. Still, I didn’t want to push up with my own hands off the ice, because well… ice is slippery and not meant for stability. I finally got up and declared, “I’m done!” Not in a pouty way.  More in a “thank you tons for your time! I’m personally mortified! This is great! I’m going to stand back here and take pictures. No, no, I enjoy taking picture! You’re great! Buh bye!”

Well, it turns out most of the curling club is packed with Canadians who may be the friendliest people on the planet.  They weren’t having anyone missing out on the fun, so one of the curling club leaders slid over and offered a solution.  A stick! Yes, a stick is a solution.  You basically hook it into the stone, step off the same little contraption I couldn’t push off of and release the stone.  They gave me a little tutorial so I could get the stone to “curl” and pointed out people in their club who used it regularly for various reason and explained there was no shame in the stick.  I had a shameless stick!

I returned to the group with my little stick and I proceeded to heave that stone down the ice every time I had a turn.  And I made those little sweepers work it, because by not being challenged by the stance and merely walking out onto the ice, I could make the stone move very quickly and send it down far.  I was triumphant! (Well, we’ll end the story here so I can say that and we’ll never mention my sweeping “ability”.  Never.)

At the end our group leader with the fabulous pants encouraged each of us to join the club.  When I made a face that read like “you kind hearted funny pants wearing man” he cheerfully added , “you, too – several people use the stick method and we’d love to have you.”  Bless his heart. I have to admit I did have a moment of “you know, I think I may do it.  I’m going to be a curler!” thanks to the people in the club.

And that’s what I did one day in February.

Below is a video from that day.  I’m in it.  I will never point myself out to you. However, if you still want to see what the rink looked like with a bunch of amateur curlers that I might be among, the news report starts at 23:45.