Oh, a Blog… and Other Stories

Another online date out of the way, and more time spent with people who haven’t seen me in awhile brings me to my least favorite line of questions: “So, Beth… tell me about yourself. What do you do?” If there is one question that is like hitting the clear button on my brain, that’s it. You ask it, and not only have I forgotten what I recently had for lunch, I’m not entirely certain where I actually live. It’s a house, I think? Likely in Texas? We’re in Texas, right? (Hrmm… seems I didn’t travel far or, y’know, Texas far.) I have a cat! (Wait, I do have a cat, right? Maybe a dog? Maybe not… Tricksy questions.) Err… how about you? (Whew. Solid ground again. They probably didn’t notice the floundering.)

I’m about 97% certain I bored the recent date so much with my lack of ability to point to anything I did that he basically faked a reason to escape. (This worked out quite well, because I “really” had to go to powder my nose, and he’d told the staff it was ok to go ahead and lock up. We’d be good sitting on the patio drinking tea with no access to facilities. Also, what kind of mad coffee house closes at 5pm???? That’s not a thing!)

Ok, the fact that I may have been bent on boring him on purpose
after he popped his index finger into his nose for the THIRD time is not important to the story. I just wanted to share that bit, because OMG a grown man, a pastor, put his finger in his nose multiple times. Just kept it there, too. Like you do when you’re meeting someone for the first time.

Anyway… I digress from the point, which is discussing the question I hate. “What do you do?” Here’s how that conversation typically goes, with very little variation:

Person: What do you do for fun? (Keep up, I can’t believe I had to type that again.)

Me: I write.

Person (eyes light up as their thought bubble excitedly explodes with, “Ooo! A novelist! Definitely a novelist – probably in a writing group… literary… smart… look at the glasses, the brown hair, she sits tall… all signs of great intelligence): What do you write?

Me: I have a blog.

Person (barely contained disappointment – not a real writer) …what kind of blog?

Me: Mostly anecdotes about my life. (Seeing the disappointment, I offer…) It’s sometimes funny???

Person: Well… isn’t that something. Oh hey, I think I just saw Alice and Mario walk in. Let me just go say hi. (They flee never to be heard from again.)

Honestly, I would get a much better reaction if I said matter-of-factly, “I lick paint,’ or if I started to peel and eat crayons in front of the person.

Y’know, it reminds me of a schoolmate’s husband. “What does Tim do?” “Oh, he’s a magician… at a strip club.” I mean, who doesn’t go to those places just for the magic show and the cheap steak?

As I type these words, I realize that analogy is spot on – to call what I do “writing” is a bit like saying I’m a magician at a strip club. Or I guess it’s more truly akin to claiming I paint, and producing a Paint by Numbers kit. “It’s Christina’s World! They give you like three different kinds of beige. Isn’t it awesome? I plan on framing it when I’m finished.”

Or, you know, like going to a “Painting with a Twist” class and showing off my lopsided Eiffel Tower, and calling it art.

I really should take up drinking one day.

Anyway… all of that to say I’ve been asked about my hobbies a lot lately (the online date guy, Dad’s birthday), and each time, I drew a gigantic blank, no memory of anything I did in the past or do currently, then blurted out, “I write a blog!!” with a goofy smile because I’d remembered something. It was like I’d just announced, “I LIKE PONIES!!!” (In all fairness, who doesn’t like ponies?? I mean in theory, actual ponies are kind of assholes.)

Dad’s friends exchanged sad looks as they realized that the poor man only has the one child. “Bless her little heart. She tries. At least she’s able to feed herself on her own. Or… maybe not. I can’t even look right now.”

This reminds me that I’m still trying new things this year (that I’ll forget to mention when asked what I do).

This is the “and other stories” promised in the title. As you know, I tried painting (February). In March, Anna and I live-streamed our attempt at yoga, and I discovered a new gallery Ao5 (Art on 5th) c/o my nephew, which was fantastic. In April my plan is to sign-up for beginning rowing. And as always, I’ll write about it, or write about it (in italics, since this isn’t real writing from what I gather based on everyone’s reaction).

Oh, and by the way, this is about the same reaction I receive when I announce I “go to the gym,” but that’s another post for another day.

P.S. Ryan

P.S.

Ryan,

I feel like I tricked you into following my blog by stating I was occasionally funny. I swear, I try not to do the above (or I guess it’s technically below on your screen) on a regular basis; however, your uncle and I were talking about communication etiquette yesterday (blame him), and we felt I had to go there. Don’t give up on me yet. I swear, one day, I’ll post something that might get a smile out of you. Also, it was great meeting you; you are just as cool as your uncle has bragged. I’m so glad to finally see you in person after hearing so much good about you over the years.

P.S.S.

To the rest of you,

The same message to you guys as well, and also – you should really meet Ern’s nephew Ryan; he’s really awesome. (Would you tell him I’m sometimes funny?)

Pick Up the Phone

Thursday night a good friend of mine experienced what I imagine is one of the most profoundly painful and tragic moments in her life. Her 30-year-old son murdered her husband at their home. Their tragedy played across the local news with photos of police officers entering the lobby of their condo, their son pinned to the floor, hands behind his back, an officer’s knee holding him in place, and finally his mug shot. One article tried to paint this in Middle Eastern tones: “the family of Middle-Eastern male descent.” (Last I checked, Algeria was in Africa, but hey we’re ‘Merica, we don’t do geography; we do sensationalism, and we do it well. I mean, let’s just ignore the bit that his mother is American; it’s not as interesting that way.) The truth of the story is it’s not about nationality; it’s a tragic story about mental illness.

For reference: This is the friend with whom I recently spent the evening painting a tilted Eiffel Tower while sipping wine a couple of weeks ago; she’s the reason you all got a blog entry and a photo of a terrible painting. She’s the person I’ve floated in a lake with laughing, stayed up with until all hours of the night watching movies, enjoyed countless meals and countless glasses of wine. (There was the time I got completely tipsy with her sister, giggling madly in her kitchen.) We’ve shared a million stories, a few hardships, and we’ve laughed. (I mention this again, because it’s such a key component of who she is as a person.) Her laugh is the kind that lights up a room. Everything about her is open, welcoming, kind, and thoughtful. She’s exactly the person I would like to be when I grow up, and it’s why she has been my mentor for years.

She’s also the person who came over after Jay passed away to take care of our beagle, Sam, which allowed me to celebrate Jay’s mom’s 80th birthday. Jay, who was rarely one to say he enjoyed someone, really liked both her and her husband.

When I heard the news I was standing in our crowded cafeteria. My face crumpled, and I ended up in a ball in our lobby. I knew her husband; he was a beautiful person, the kind that exuded warmth, kindness, and genuine calm. He was brilliant, but quiet and self-assured. They had been together since college, had traveled the world together, and had been true partners who’d built an incredible life for themselves and their family.

That’s a small glimpse into my beautiful friend.

I hurt for her. Her life fractured into a million pieces Thursday night. I worry about who will be left behind as some lightness left my friend.

People say this a lot, and it always rings hollow, but realize I am sincere when I say: I wish I could take some of her burden. Because of Jay, I know what I can handle, and I can take on more and continue to move forward. I wish she could hand some of her pain over to me; I can shoulder it.

I’m going to switch gears here to talk about communication etiquette, because it has weighed on my mind the last couple of days, and I’m doubtlessly going to get a bit preachy. (Aside to my editor, David: David, you have my permission to slash/burn/fix/re-state what is about to come out, because I feel a wall of ranty little words are on their way, and they all want to explode out of my face and from my fingers simultaneously. My fear is they won’t make sense. So, would you kindly help me make sense?)

There have been some great/significant improvements in communication since the day Alexander Graham Bell first spoke the words, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” We’ve gone from a reliance on messengers, to telegraph lines, to the point where now I have an English professor in Japan who, after waking up in several hours, will declare, “Oh crap, why doesn’t she warn me before she’s about to post?” And all of it is arguably great, especially since it’s a rare day that I want to have a full-blown conversation on the phone. The way I work, like many of you, is I have a thought bubble, I send it out, and in minutes I may or may not have a lunch date tomorrow. That’s what instant communication does well – the short, unimportant, day-to-day stuff. It tells my boss I’m going to be late, my friends I’m sitting in the back booth of a restaurant, links to an article I might find interesting, shares a playlist, or shows a photo of some place I wish I were standing and enjoying with you.

What it doesn’t do well? Important things like communicating a great tragedy has occurred that may deeply affect the recipient.

When I learned of the recent tragedy that befell my friend and her family, I sent out three text messages that basically read: “I need to talk to you, please let me know when you have some availability. I am ok.” (Long ago, a friend of mine and I agreed that any bad news should involve a statement of how you are so no one is unduly alarmed. Fun fact: If I don’t include the words, “I am ok,” then please feel free to worry.)

I needed to talk to these folks in person, because I was not about to do a disservice to the severity of this event by glibbly linking an article with a few words of, “Oh hey, FYI just letting you know my friend’s life fell apart.” <insert sad face emoji so you know I’m sad>

Pick up the phone. If you can type a text that is that important, you can pick up a phone. If you can’t, if you don’t want to deal with the reaction, it’s ok – call someone who can. You know your friends, you know their strengths, so find that person who is better at delivering news than you.

Where I Make This a Bit About Me

Most of you know how Jay died – maybe not the details, but you can probably imagine it was bad. (It was in fact bad.) You can imagine, or you have seen, the abject pain it inflicted and still inflicts. With that in mind, when you hear that someone I care deeply about suffered a traumatic/violent loss, take a few beats to think about what you’re going to say to me and how you’re going to deliver that news. Really think about whether sending a mugshot and a short text is the best way you can think to let me know. Think about your motive. Why is it important that you tell me, and that you tell me in this way? Are you truly affected or are you swept up in the excitement of the story where a person’s life not only fell apart, but it fell apart in such a big way that all of our big city news outlets are reporting on it? Are you telling me because you’re worried about me and how I’m handing it, or are you trying to suck a little more marrow from my own personal tragedy? Also, be thankful that beating up messengers has gone out of fashion (though probably not in Florida).

I received approximately five text messages that day, along the lines of “Hey, did you see what happened to Rita? It’s in the news. <story link><tear face>” And I received exactly one call outside of the three people I asked to speak with that day.

If you have bad news to deliver, pick up the phone. Don’t send me a text. If you must text, then please purchase two tickets – one for me, and one for you – to Florida. Let’s talk about it there. Once we’re done, you can Snap Chat, Tweet, FB, Instagram it all… if you’re able.

Is This Thing On?

I wanted to take a couple of minutes to write a quick thank you to my Facebook friends and family who recently subscribed to my blog. For starters, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that you’d take the time to actually read this thing, and for… ummm secondly? non-starters? for ‘nother reasons? you’re giving me a chance to take a break from Facebook.

I can now let my hair down and stop trying to be a Beth PR machine, because let’s face it, most days I’m not doing anything of FB note (like I suspect of most people) – not even taking pictures of my toes against an exotic background so you can have toe vacation envy. Look, my toes are near sand! Go toes!

The reality of my life, when I’m not staging toe photos, is that I spend a fair amount of time laying on the couch in some amorphous, barely human looking lumpy shape, surfing Netflix for my latest binge-worthy show, thinking something insanely sarcastic, and not doing whatever is on my chore “to-do” list. Trying to spin that into something glamorous can be a bit taxing, because apparently posting repeatedly, “was a lump again today” just doesn’t garner the “likes” once your followers realize you’re on a personal lump streak, and you’ve decided to regularly post about it like you’ve been elected as some universal lump ambassador.

Speaking of things that are grossly unfair, which we were speaking of, how is it there’s not even an app that gives you lump achievements like “One Month Lump Goal Achieved! Atta girl! Keep up the great lump work for lump kind!! Be the lump dream!” What kind of lazy world do we live in that some programmer is not all over this? Programmer dude, from me to you, get on that.

For the record, the lump selfies are pretty priceless.

So yeah, I’m taking a break from all the people who, after having not seen me in awhile, come up and say, “you do so many interesting things – I love catching up with you on FB.” I mean, yay, it makes me feel like I’m a great fiction writer, but actually trying to perpetuate that myth – the one that I’m actually interesting is exhausting. The rest of you, the ones who made the move over here, know better. Thanks for keeping my secret so long. Your payments are forthcoming. Honest. I’m totally trustworthy.

Of course, one of the things I will miss dearly is reading your stories – hearing what’s going on in your lives. So please, please, please, let me know what’s going on with you.

Remember back in the day when we all wrote letters? Drop me an email. Tell me a story. Send me a photo. Sing me a song. Make me smile and laugh like only you can do. If you want my personal email, drop me a note in Messenger, and let me know; I’m happy to share it. Or hey, let’s do something crazy, let’s catch up in person.

Quick Aside: Or How We Can Possibly Use this Space for Good

Many of you who took the plunge to follow me away from FB are out there doing some really cool things. You’re acting, directing, singing, playing, photographing, crafting, writing, teaching – creating new and interesting things that only you can create. I’d be absolutely honored to promote what you’re doing here – to give others the opportunity to see you the way I do – as the amazingly talented folks you are. Plus, quite selfishly, I just want to be invited to be in that audience celebrating you, and cheering you on. Think of it as a charitable contribution to Beth’s spinal column – that by encouraging me to get off the couch for a few hours I’ll be briefly lump-free (lump-less?), looking more like a Beth. Heck, I may even brush my hair. I know, right? That’s how much I like you! (Unless, of course, you’re IN a Netflix series, which would be pretty fantastic as it would combine my need to be lazy with my desire to celebrate you. Really a win-win scenario by my Beth-standards (which are high despite what you’ve heard). Actually, the more I think about this, the more I like it, and need you to be in Netflix for me! DO IT! Take one for Team Couch Beth!)

Wrapping it Up

Well, it does seem like this thing is on (unless you didn’t receive a notification in your news feed or your email, and in that case, how the heck did you get here?). So, welcome! Thank you guys for making the switch (and truly, for reading this blog – I cannot possibly tell you how absolutely flattered I am that you would honor me like that).

In the words of Becca (Anna Kendrick) from Pitch Perfect, “I love you awesome nerds!” I truly do.

Never Forgotten

The calendar, a gift – each page a celebration of intellect and talent – from dream to design. Ideas turned into form. Genius I vaguely grasp. My mind moves to simpler things.

Dates

I flip through and find everyone acknowledged, birthdays dancing through the pages, but not his.

There’s no cause to celebrate. Only memories to forget – moments from which we move. I’m stunned. Weeks pass. The gift forgotten.

I had a good day today. I started out behind in a room filled with experts (at least by comparison). By day’s end, I’d outperformed the majority. My confidence exploded. A silent prayer made to continue to ride that wave.

Half the day gone by the time I walked out.

I looked at the calendar. A primal sound resolved into a moan. I lost track of the day.

Of all the days, this is the one I lose?

You – briefly erased from my calendar.

“You’re too hard on yourself.”

I know.

Valentine’s Day Confessions

I have some confessions, and as you all have likely figured out by now, I truly LOVE a good confession. I spill my guts, vent my spleen, clear my conscience, wash my hands, what have you, and then I hope that whatever I’ve said resonates with that one person. (One person, I totally get you!!). Also, let’s face it, sometimes I’m sitting at my keyboard, high on a turkey sandwich and La Croix Key Lime, and there’s really no stopping me. I’m soaring on l-tryptophan (or careening towards a nap – one of those things is happening). Although, if I’m truly honest with you guys, I should confess to something else: I completely forgot to get the La Croix (of any variety), and I may not be as hydrated as I should, but I did totally eat that turkey sandwich. Let me fetch some water. Be right back.

Ok, here we go.

I love ALL holidays. Well, maybe not all of them, but the major ones, (apologies, Arbor Day – I mean “yay trees” and such). And it doesn’t bother me (other than you’re wrong and I suspect your heart is two sizes too small) when you insist on ranting about the over-commercialization, the “real” meaning, Hallmark, or that time Ginny Wheeler brought EVERYONE in your third grade class a Valentine’s day card; however, when you opened your bedazzled Valentine’s lunch bag-cum-mailbox she clearly was working out her jealousy-fueled distaste of marvelous you. That Ginny Wheeler, she wasn’t particularly nice, and look at the power she wielded over you these 30+ years. Rant on! (Also, for all that is Holy, we’ve heard that Ginny Wheeler story EVERY SINGLE YEAR now. We, your nearest and dearest, have actually written a sketch piece about it, and the person parodying/playing you is spot-on AND hilarious. We’ll show you some time. Hey, in our defense, you were making us crazy.) Or you go emo adult – hair hung strategically over one eye, shoulders slumped inward while you don clothes that are some color on the opposite side of the color wheel from whatever that holiday’s sanctioned color might be, and then announce loudly, to anyone who will listen, that this is a protest, because you’re worried people might think you just chose black that day “because.” Can’t have that.

The one that really gets to me is the person, usually a guy, but not always, who says, “well, I don’t participate, because my better half should know I love them all the time – not just on a special day.” Amen to that, we should show love for one another every day of the year, Valentine’s Day is just one of those days. Plus, I’m a little judgey, and tend to think you’re making an excuse for basically being lazy, wrapping that laziness in “Valentine’s Day indignation,” and then I theorize this might explain why you’re alone. There are just so many ways to express your love, to make someone feel special (every day), that do not involve buying the dozen roses the FTD ads suggest or chocolate diamonds (aren’t those just another way to hock diamonds with low clarity ratings??)

Anyway…

Now to the real bit (the part where I stop being so darn sassy). I love Valentine’s Day. (Which you knew was coming; you’re a bright gang of people.) I always have, and I miss it. Jay loved me every day of the year. He said “I love you” each day we were together, including the day he passed away. And he would surprise me with gifts or flowers throughout the year – not just Valentine’s Day. I was that girl at the office – the one who would get the call to come to the front desk, and parade back with flowers in hand. A part of my cubicle wall devoted to the notes that accompanied those flowers. Jay knew that our love wasn’t just one day out of the year, but on that one day, on Valentine’s Day, I’d wake up to find a card, candy, and some small token on my desk. I still have them all – the cards, the presents (ok, I totally ate the chocolate, don’t be silly).

So, my thoughts are these: Absolutely, express in words and deeds how much you love the important people in your life every single day, but don’t mock others who find certain holidays meaningful. If you’re going to protest the day, go crazy, but don’t expect me to treat you like some grand Valentine’s Day liberator who is freeing me from the diabolical clutches of the Whitman’s Samplers PR firm. (Actually, go ahead and free me from them, I’m more a Lindt truffle girl.) Also, still go and buy your significant other a card, a flower, or simply write them a heart-felt note. Do it tomorrow, and then do it throughout the year.

And even though I’m not in a relationship, nor will I likely ever be again (I’m tough to love), I will continue to love this day.

In honor of that, and as a way to get back to our tradition, even though Jay can’t be part of it, I went ahead and bought myself some nice chocolates and a purple orchid. He would want me to still love this day.

So, with all my sappy, holiday-loving heart, I want to say to you all: Happy Valentine’s Day! And as corny as you may find it (I don’t care), I love you awesome nerds!

An Idea

As a follow-up to the whole Unmoored post. (I’d put link to the post, but it’s right below this one, so if you wouldn’t mind just scrolling down to save me the keystrokes, that would be fantastic! Thank you! Yes, typing all of those words took longer than inserting a link. What can I say? I’m a human conundrum.) Right… back to following-up. I was thinking we could work together.

Here’s my idea: you make a suggestion, and each month I will attempt to take on/try one of those suggestions, then write a post about it. Of course, there will be rules, because I know you guys, and I don’t want to land in some Tijuana jail trying to explain that the balloons are really just filled with glitter. Which brings me to…

The Rules

Your suggestion must…

  • Be legal in the 48 contiguous states, Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, Puerto Rico the Virgin and Northern Mariana Islands.
  • Be safe. Remember, I’m old and I have a bad knee.
  • Be under $50. That is the max. Cheap or free is even better.
  • Be something I can accomplish in less than 3 hours (unless it’s a craft, and I’m so wrapped up in having rediscovered finger paints that I’m suddenly inspired to finally art my body all over my bland walls)
  • Be PG-13 at the highest rating.
  • Be respectful of other people, other cultures, and other people’s beliefs. This isn’t truth or dare. This is about exploring, and having new adventures.
  • Not embarrass me or anyone else.
  • Be around the greater Austin area (unless you’re driving/flying/sailing/providing lodging).

Notes: 1) These do not have to be solo activities. If you want to come along – share something you enjoy/a piece of you – I’d love that. 2) I do have the right to turn a suggestion down, but please don’t take it personally if I do; I know my limits. 3) I may have one trip in me – feel free to make a suggestion – maybe I can meet you in your town at your favorite pub/restaurant, listen to live music, and sleep on your couch (you’re quite the host!).

What do you think? Hit me with your ideas. I’m excited to try something new! And I’m ready to write about it.