Jay Anthony Utz: 2/25/1976 – 7/9/2016

There wasn’t an official obituary announcing to the world the loss of my husband. Of all the things we had to deal with that day, and for the days that followed, this was one we pushed to the side. If you planned well, or worked with any funeral service, someone will likely handle this detail. We did not. We were reeling.

I learned that in trying to settle Jay’s affairs that there are companies who really would like one to prove a death has occurred by means of an obituary. I suppose a medical examiner’s report or a death certificate doesn’t carry the weight that an obituary posted in the newspaper does.

So, I give you this – for all the people who need one…

Jay Anthony Utz

Jay Anthony Utz of Pflugerville, TX passed away on Saturday, July 9, 2016.

A memorial was held at 10am on Wednesday, July 13, 2016 at Restoration Covenant Church in Round Rock with Jay’s aunt, the Rev. Marsha Emery officiating.

Jay was born in San Antonio, Texas to Lois and Samuel Utz on February 25, 1976. He married Beth Doughty on May 21, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Jay is survived by his wife, Beth Doughty; his sister and brothers Enid Celeste Kowalik, Joel Samuel Utz, and Dale Eldon Utz; his parents, Lois Margaret and Samuel Franklin Utz; and his nephews and niece, Everett, Zachary and Katy Kowalik.

Beth’s aunt, Philis Goodwin read the following on Beth’s behalf:

Today we say goodbye to a husband, a son, a brother, an uncle, and a friend who left us all too soon with so many words left unsaid, so many adventures left to do, so many wry/sardonic laughs left un-chortled, and so much love left unexpressed. For me I’m saying goodbye to my best friend, my confidante, my co-conspirator, my teacher, my hero, my voice of reason, and the only adult in the house.  And today and for all the days to come, I’m also saying goodbye to my very favorite person in this world.  The best person I know.

Monday was our 202nd Monthiversary which celebrates the day we started dating – it’s a ridiculous holiday unless you’re us. It also happens to be my very favorite.  This was the day I’d try my level best to wish him a Happy Monthiversary first.  I never really told him we were in competition, but still he almost always managed to win.  

And this is also one of the thousands of things I’ll miss.

Jay was the person who stayed with me each night until I fell asleep.  Then he’d be there when I’d wake in the middle of the night to ask important questions like: What’s the difference between alternating and direct current? Tell me about stationary objects in motion.  And he’d patiently answer until I was satisfied I completely understood and I’d wander off to fall back asleep. I suspect he shook his head when my back was turned, but I have no proof.

On the plane Saturday I realized I didn’t completely understand how planes generated lift, so I made a mental note to discover this information on our ride home.

There wasn’t a ride home – not with Jay, not on this Saturday when my best friend felt he had to leave.

Someone suggested I might be angry, and if I’m angry about anything it’s at this faceless disease called depression.  I’m angry that it took away the best person I know.  I’m angry it made him feel worthless and that it blinded him to being able to realize how amazing he truly was.  I’m angry that he tried and didn’t get the help he needed to fight it.  I’m angry it made him see so much bad about himself when all I could ever see was good and kind and beautiful, and he was absolutely beautiful. It robbed me of laughs, of the one person who understood me, of a thousand inside jokes, and a thousand more kisses.  It took away our ridiculous Monthiversaries, and it took away my favorite person.

I love you, Jay. You said I deserved better, but there will never be better than you.  You are the love of my life, and I miss you so much.

Jay’s brother Dale also spoke and shared personal stories that helped further bring to life a person whom we will all miss dearly – with whom we’ll never get to share another laugh, nor enjoy another character like “Laguardia”.

December 25, 2017: My -0 Birthday

Tomorrow we’ll be six months away from my -0 birthday.  You know that birthday where I finally turn ummm… another year older-ish-esque! Happy Birthday to Me?

You’re probably wondering: 1) Why do I need to worry about it now, and 2) wait, if she’s writing about it, does that mean it’s another present grab? Dear Lord, is she three? I get it. You were born on Christmas. Bummer for you. I’ve got a family to think of! I’m out of town!

Well, 1) if Hobby Lobby can have Christmas stuff out already, then I’m actually a little behind in mentioning it, and 2) YES! You guessed it! It IS a present grab. You’re a good guesser! Also, I’d like to point out that you can see your family any time. I only turn -0 once! (…a decade. Err… bygones.) Go ahead and book your flights. No, book them to Austin. Why do you have to act this way?

So, remember 10 years ago? That other -0 birthday? There was you, me, some other people, and someone MAY have had a dramatic boo-hoo? Then someone’s friend had to hold up each subsequent present and grill the giver with a, “is this going to make her cry?” only handing the gift over only if she was assured, “ummm no? I don’t think so?” Remember? The birthday girl then gave that amazing speech (ok, that was a test – if you’re claiming there was a speech, then you’re now just pretending to have been there, and the bobbing of your head in agreement with all of my words right now is kind of hurtful. Way to be hurtful. This is why I actually cried.)

So, this birthday will be a repeat of the one held 10 years ago – same restaurant (maybe) – same rules. I’m going to ask for something that represents you. If you’ll recall the previous -0 birthday, I received an assortment of stories, photos, poems, comics, drawings, homemade bread, and CDs. I loved all of them, and I’ve saved each item, because it’s a tiny time capsule of who you all were 10 years ago. Ok, I lied. I didn’t save all of them. I totally ate the bread. Hey, it’s not fruitcake people. It wouldn’t have lasted. Don’t judge me. What if I “promise” (no reason for the quotes, nope – move along) not to devour any more presents (well, unless that’s what they’re intended for)? Fine. What if I just promise to try? We good?

Loot

Anyway, back to the present grab. This can be anything at all as long as it’s an expression of you.  It should be something that when I look at it, I see my amazing friend, or my beautiful family member – an item that says something about you in this moment in time.

The reason I’m announcing my request so early is to give you plenty of time to think. You guys are rather think-y sorts.

A quick note: There will be only one person whom I’ll ask for something very specific – the rest of you can go nuts – for that person it’s an idea I want them to play with (see quote below). (Anyone else is welcome to play off of this, too if you really want – create a picture of you? you in warrior garb? a sketch? a puppet? finger paints? whatever inspires you when you read it, but that also represents you).

Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the storm.’
The warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’

I’m going to shoot for the weekend of December 16th (which is also my beautiful niece’s birthday, and I will be mindful of that so it may  be Sunday the 17th).

Oh, and before I run off. This blog post also serves as the even earlier announcement for my upcoming reverse quinceañera in a year and a half – so, start thinking about your hoop skirted dresses, your perfect tiara, and of course your sari, because Bollywood style dance, y’all! (I feel the “y’all” really sets that sentence off. Wow, I think my Dallas is showing.) I already have a fabulous stylist I’ll be coordinating with (thank you, Mere!), and think Beth + hair extensions. I KNOW! FABULOUS! (That was the adjective you chose, right? RIGHT?!?!?! Again, HURTFUL!)

I look forward to seeing you guys there. Here’s to another decade with you amazing people. I’m looking forward to many more!

 

Shaking the Branches

Originally posted: 4/6/2014 – not sure why it re-posted in 2017.

Sooo… I haven’t received the response I hoped for in my family tree search or really any response and it occurred to me, I have a blog. Then another thought occurred to me, search engines index blogs (and well, the whole internet). I know this because I am one of the top spots for people who hate Houston. Again, Houston haters, I don’t actually hate Houston. SPOILER ALERT: the post was really to address a friend who had told another friend, “Beth hates Houston”. Sure you had to read between the lines, but there you have it. Anyway, back to the indexing and my thought pattern. My final thought, a lot of genealogists use the internet to research their families. Since there is a fee associated with Ancestry.com, which to me is 100% worth it, some researchers don’t have the resources or simply haven’t chosen to invest in that particular tool.

I have been lucky on my quest for information, as least on my Dad’s side of the family. I have met two amazing cousins who I never would have known if I hadn’t been doing genealogy research. One on my Dad’s father’s side, whose every email brings a gigantic smile to my face. She is truly the best treasure to have come out of shaking the branches of my family tree. The other cousin is on my Dad’s mother’s side where she is just waiting for me to start working on that branch so she can share all she knows. Through both of them, I’ve received stories I’ve never heard and seen pictures I’ve never seen. It’s amazing! The experience has made me quite giddy.

My mother’s side is a different story until I get back to my great-great-great grandfather and talk to the descendants of my great-great grandmother’s half siblings’ descendants – truly lovely people who are exactly where I am when it comes to the giant gap in their trees between this common ancestor of ours and me. We don’t have stories or photos or in some cases full names.

This brings me back to internet searches. I’m going to go ahead and list the people I’m searching for in the hopes someone will take a chance that I am not an internet stalker or identity thief or whatever nefarious thing they might think when I ask “can you tell me my great-grandmother’s full name?”

I actually want this to stand out, so I am going to put all of this in the post that follows.

UPDATE: Since this post moved, the “post that follows” no longer follows it, so here is a link to that call-out of relatives: Calling All Swinsons

An Anniversary


Anniversary Card 2016

How long were you married?
Nine years.
Oh.
But we were together almost 17…
OH!

As if the length of time is a measurement of how much sympathy a person should garner. “She only knew him 1/5 of her life – one can hardly form attachments in such a short span. Oh, about 1/3 you say? How very sad. That explains the tears.”

Just a friendly reminder that when dealing with the bereaved, empathize if you can, sympathize if you’re not a sociopath and have an IQ over 30, but don’t ask how long the deceased was known. In fact, don’t ask about the relationship. Loss for a first cousin once removed may be just as sad as an aunt, a nephew, or a brother. I’ll also throw in, don’t ask how it happened, because you’re not a ghoul and this isn’t your wreck to rubber neck. You’ll know if you need to know.

This has been your latest installment of: How to Deal with Death

Today is my anniversary. My first anniversary without Jay.

Ten years ago today we were in Las Vegas – me in an overly feathered top, and Jay dressed like he walked off the set of Miami Vice. Hey, it was Vegas, baby! We’d dressed for the occasion. A few friends had joined us – Kendra, Jeff, Lynn (Ravenhex), Jen (Aunt Mahgs), Harry (Uncle Fel) and he who shall not be named out of fear of one of my guests. April had been headed that way, but the car gods were apparently angered. It was one of those beautiful and great days. A ridiculous day, as we started out at Quark’s being teased by a Klingon and were carried off to some Elvis chapel where apparently some of our other friends have been married (forget Bon Jovi – who cares? Meredith and Jerin where there once! I think Brandi and Ed were, too!).

Jay’s family weren’t told about the wedding where mine were. Jay had said he wanted to “elope”. I asked him about that decision at the time, and then later. It’s something I still don’t understand and can only offer that I think he liked the idea of “eloping” despite us having my friends there and despite my family also knowing.

Jay kept many things to himself, and he didn’t always explain himself. You just had to accept that it was a Jay thing.

Just a few thoughts I wanted to share on this day – my take away from being with Jay for nine or 17 years, depending on how you want to consider it…

Love isn’t always neat. It’s not a movie. It’s sometimes inconvenient and hard. Sometimes you have to fight for it. You have to take risks. Sometimes you have to yell when you’re being told your relationship isn’t ok in someone else’s eyes. Always keep in mind it’s not about them; it’s about the two of you. When you know it’s right, it’s something to fight for – to strive towards.

I met Jay at the worst time, but he was worth every risk I took, the sacrifices I made, and the lines in the sand I drew. He was worth every verbal scrap I got into. I knew he was the one. That he would love me absolutely despite a mountain of flaws, which he did.

Today I want to challenge you that when it comes to love take risks where you can. Remember, you only have one life. Live it deliberately. Worry less about the noise from others around you especially if they’re holding you back. You get to decide. If what you want is inconvenient for someone else, isn’t harming anyone, and they’re preventing you from moving forward, well too bad – screw them and screw that. Your life isn’t about them. Your happiness is not about them. Live for you. You only get this one life, this one shot. You are responsible for your happiness. Know and believe that you absolutely deserve to love and to be loved. Who cares what other people thing? What do you think?

Today I challenge you to love someone. Let them love you back.

Happy Anniversary to my best-friend, my love, and my favorite person. You were worth it.

(Disclaimer: Relationship risk advice excludes taking those risks with anyone who is related by blood, anyone whose spouse might have an uncontrolled anger issue and who also possesses firearms or is related to/belongs to a “club” with anyone like that (unless you can counter with court orders/law enforcement), anyone who dresses in a onesie whose last name ends (begins) in “Kim”, and anything involving animals. Basically, if you can be arrested for it, you shouldn’t do it. However, mirrors are ok. Go on and freely love yourself, you narcissistic little monkey!)

My Private Island

I’ve mentioned this before, and that is if you ask me to estimate how many people read my blog without thinking I would honestly say around 10-12. I’ve recited that figure on numerous occasion, because 1) I can’t imagine anyone outside of those 10-12 people (friends and family) whom I’ve bullied into reading my blog would be interested in reading it, and 2) truthfully, only having a few readers is a little liberating, and it kind of allows me to be a bit self-deprecating.  I have permission to express things more freely.  Hey, I’m only writing for friends. And it allows me a neat excuse when I’m outted as a blogger who doesn’t have the notoriety of say a Patton Oswald (or any number of bloggers).  “Well, really only a few friends and family follow me, it’s not a big deal.”

Ostensibly, I post as a way to practice writing since language is not my strength.  Growing up, I was the toddler that hit or destroyed things while my more precocious relative of an equal age bedazzled the adults with words.  I would often hear, “why can’t you be more like him?” as I grew up. This probably lead to more hitting of the things and a fair amount of stink-eye. Writing helps me compose my thoughts and use my words, which is especially good on days where I’m actively trying to set fire to things with my mind. Through my blog I get to post my ramblings, my rants, ridiculous anecdotes, and my heartbreak – noise inside the brain of an extremely ordinary person. I also use my posts as a way to send mass letters to friends an family announcing, “this is where I’m at right now. This is who I am right now.”

Having only a handful of readers also takes away a certain measure of accountability, “hey, only 10-12 people will read this so it’s ok if I lose my mind over some issue.” This false belief has lead to some carelessness on my part. There’s nothing more humbling than being told, “I read your blog,” wait, what??? “and I only realized how affected you were by something that was said when you wrote a particular rant” (paraphrased a ton) by someone whom you didn’t realize knew you had a blog, and whose dear friend it was  you wrote a scathing piece about. Err… whoops. Not my finest moment.  Or you get an email from your Jr. High bully asking, “hey, is that me? Oh yeah, I remember you now” where you learn a lesson in the power of the internet, and why using full names maybe wasn’t your finest moment.  These experiences have made me more keenly aware that this isn’t my private island of 10, though I admit it more often than not still feels that way.

Someone recently told me in regard to this space, “you don’t know how your words affect people” which was extremely humbling. So, this is a shout-out and a thank you to all of those other readers whom I sometimes forget I have.  To Melissa, Jenn, Heather (you are strong, and amazing – though we haven’t met, I hope you know I think you’re great; I believe in you), Drew, Jerry, Jim, Julie, Heather B., Denise, Roanna and David (actual gifted writers), Lynn, Tori, Gail, and Irina (thank you for keeping me sane in the real world and for allowing Buddy to talk politics openly – sorry about Marine le Pen, Buddy). To Brandi who is one of the toughest people I know with a heart of pure gold, and Meredith who makes me laugh more than she knows. To Lori (I believe in you, too. You got this.)  To Karen (I may not always comment, but I enjoy everything you write). And to Dale, you’re a PITA, but you’ve kept me grounded through some dark times (by being a PITA – I think that’s your secret).  To the 10ish: Anna, Jonathan, Dad, Charla, Seth, April, Aunt Philis, Kim, Tony, HRH DeAnne, Kati, and Shari – you’re troopers to survive all the years of my blog nonsense, and for encouraging me (and for once asking me about t-shirts – I did look into it, but the image was too small to work with).  To everyone else who follows me along this bumpy ride of life, I may not know your name, but I appreciate you and thank you.  And to Scott and Carolyn,  whom I miss more than words could ever express – thank you for your encouragement – for suggesting I was funny, for cheering me on all those years. This world is a little less bright without your beautiful and gentle light.

All of you make for one amazing set of 10 on this island of mine.

An Introvert Walks into a Conference

I joined the board of a professional organization, which I mention only as a way to explain why I went out of town this weekend.  First, let me start with a story of personal disappointment.  I had my ticket to Galaxy Quest Vol. 2. I had it for over a month, and when I heard I had to give up said ticket to dress like I was going to work over an entire weekend, and sleep on an uncomfy bed in a haunted hotel my brain nearly imploded.  Suddenly GotG vol. 2 (yes, I’m way too lazy to retype the title, and too lazy to cut and paste; however, I’m apparently not too lazy to type all these words explaining it) became THE most important thing I ever wanted to see. Two things had to happen once I heard that news: 1) I had to convince myself this was not a meltdown worthy event (every disappointment post Jay’s death teeters on being meltdown worthy, and many tears have been shed over some very small things), and 2) I had to not actively stink-eye the person who told me this out-of-town regional meeting was this next weekend. (The 5th is not the 12th, person!!!!) Both of those became challenging. Keep it together, Beth!  And despite promises that this really wasn’t a great movie, or suggestions that I could easily wait for it to come out on TV, I still feel I missed out on having a shared experience with that group of folks, enjoying the badness together, laughing over everyone’s humorous yet scathing reviews. No business card can replace those missed moments.

I arrived at the hotel a little early and prepared for my first session – a “new board members go here, try to get out of your comfort zone, and meet new people” session. I took this quite seriously, and despite being both an introvert, and also very shy (yay, double-whammies) I decided I had to make my best effort. You see, I’m also a rule follower, and they said “go forth, meet people” so I had to suck up how much I dreaded it to do as told. I sauntered into the room, mostly empty, and plopped right down next to two folks, donned my best smile (which in hindsight must be way creepier than I thought), and said, “Hello, I’m Beth! Is it ok if I join you? I’m from Austin!” The woman next to me literally picked up her chair and moved closer to the gentleman she was with. Wow. In fact, now that I think about it, she never said anything directly to me. The gentleman and I exchanged some pleasantries. I learned they were both from Dallas. I shared that my family was also from Dallas, but you could tell the whole exchange was painful for everyone. Then they literally both got up and moved somewhere else. Awkward. At that point a former supervisor of mine, who had sat down next to me in the middle of this conversation, looked at me rather surprised, and just said, “ok….”

There was a mixed bag of really good exchanges, and bad.  My favorite being with a gentleman from Little Rock who said, “Beth, wow me.” Ummm… I have a pretty low wow-factor score. I couldn’t think of any wow-iness I possessed, but finally settled on, (while he waited patiently wondering if I might be the dullest person he’d ever run into in his 60+ years of life) “I’ve done improv, sketch writing, performed in sketches, and lately those performances involve hard living/foul-mouthed puppets.” You know, the things you take credit for doing when you’re attending a conference focused on business professionals where most conversations involve ROI’s and Tourette-ing out things like, “SCRUM!” and “AGILE!” Nothing quite says, I’m a professional adult who should be taken seriously like declaring you spend your free time with your hand covered in felt and googly eyes. Right?  Points because he remembered my name throughout the conference. Not sure if that’s a good thing to be remembered by. Although,I will say he started our initial conversation by pronouncing himself a hermit, and saying that he and his wife were retirees who actively tried to avoid people. His pronouncement of not enjoying people helped me feel safe with my improv/sketch confessions.

Another exchange that really stood out occurred when I sat down at a back table. The seat next to me had a conference totebag in it, a clear sign it was being saved, and that I’d likely meet someone new. I was following the rules, and obviously on a new person meeting roll! GO ME! Then beyond that empty seat sat a young woman named Kimberly. It turned out that we both serve in the same areas of our various boards, and our personalities meshed fairly well.  We chattered away as I flung conference materials around in front of me before digging around for my lovely conference logo-ed pen. You know the kind where the ink is destined to dry out by conference’s end? (In truth what I thought looked like I was cool and neatly laying out the things I needed probably looked like my conference bag exploded on the table, but I like to pretend.) The missing person arrived, and stood there between Kimberly and myself, eyeing us uncomfortably, then finally said in a defeated manner, “if you two want to talk, I can move somewhere else – I don’t want to get in your way.” Ummm… soooo… that was awkward… shockingly awkward.  We were all supposed to network – meet new people – the rules said so.  Anyway, there was a lot of reassurance involved to get her to finally sit. I may have then politely mocked her, like I do, because well… what a ridiculous question.  Yes, we are here to network, but… oh dear, not with you. You’re the one exception. Who would ever say that? If I felt that way, I would have done what any normal person would do – you know, awkwardly move my chair away, and then tap the person next to me so we could silently flee to a different table.

After two full days of solid networking by shaking countless hands, enthusiastically saying my name like I was announcing an exciting ice cream flavor or your favorite sports team (GO BEARS! (FYI – Tori shout out #2)), and passing out business cards like I was a Vegas dealer, I was done – like super done. My introvert battery was drained, and the battery that keeps me from acting shy was rocking slowly in a corner sucknig its thumb. So, at the evening function with drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres, I did the only thing any normal introvert would do – I abruptly got up and wandered back to my hotel where no amount of coaxing could convince me to re-open my door. I didn’t even mind that it appeared rather spectrum-y (an adjective) on my part.

On the last day at the last session I found a table by myself. A personal coups! Of course, this victory was quickly followed by concerned texts from my extroverted friends in the room, “Beth… why are you sitting by yourself? Are you ok?” “I’m an introvert. I’m totally owning it today.” And just as I thought I might actually sit alone, and likely be invited by the speaker to join another table, two quiet sorts made their way over. Ahhh… my tribe. We found each other at last.  If you sit there, they will come. We continued to sit quietly, listening to the speaker, and then parted ways. (Well, ok… not before THEY betrayed me and started passing out their business cards. Their action led to my final awkward moment whereby I went running around trying to discover where I’d stashed mine. Treacherous tribe. Couldn’t just quietly nod to one another and dissolve into the crowd. Pfft.)

That was my weekend. Now I need to sit quietly in the dark for a few days.

PS. Huge thanks to April for pet-sitting. I admit that every time I leave, I am actually convinced something bad is going to happen, that texts of “everything is fine” are only written to keep me calm until I get home and the bad news can be shared.  Thanks for making sure everything was actually fine.