The Cruise: Final Installment

I suppose I’ve dragged this out long enough. This declaration has nothing to do with me running out of story ideas. Nosirree. Well, maybe… So, let me start where we started – the part where I decided I wasn’t a cruise girl, and the why behind it, picking up after some Galveston gal named Ginger tried to do me in with her obnoxious love of Scentsy, and questionable food recommendations. (Next time, we’re going to Gaido’s. I want zero arguments on this front.)

Any of my friends will tell you I’ve always wanted to travel, and they’ll probably follow that statement up with the fact that I’m exceptionally great at coming up with excuses for not travelling. Refusing to travel because of these excuses, and therefore, having never traveled, I have learned to live rather vicariously through my friend’s adventures as they regale me with tales of the distant songs of African tribesmen approaching their lodges, of fellow German tourists incensing Chinese chefs to the point said chef felt compelled to throw a cleaver into the middle of their table, to sneaking into the Forbidden City, to their private tours of the Roman baths in Malta, to “that one time in Spain…” and to drooling over every single photo my ex-pat friend takes on her hikes around New Zealand. On separate occasions, two friends have come back from Edinburgh, and not realizing the other had said it, expressed with absolute certainty that I needed to go and would love it. Each had gone on a particular tour, they knew I would completely dig beyond reason, and they’re right. Instead, on my one trip out of the country, I went to Montreal, which was lovely but… (No offense Irina. If I’d only known you and Ben then… Well, we would have had to have received your parent’s permission to hang out with us. Is the couch still open for visits/living if I become an ex-pat myself?)

A few months before Jay passed away, I got a passport. We were going places, I was excited, we would explore the world together, and then one day in July we weren’t. And then I blew out my knee, and then Sam passed away, and all the excuses piled back up along with a firm understanding that I would always have these unrealized dreams. Forget that I have a place to stay in Japan. Forget I have a friend to hang out with in New Zealand. I wasn’t going, but I would do my best to enjoy the postcards I’d receive, and sing praises about the posted photos from friends’ trips.

So, there I was on a cruise heading to three separate ports: Cozumel, Belize City, and Roatan (off the cost of Honduras). We had excursions planned for the first two, and a relaxing day on the beach planned for the other.

In Cozumel we did a Tastes of Mexico tour where we sampled tequila, made chocolate, and enjoyed some tacos.  The tour was solid, and my take away was: I like tequila in many things, but sipping tequila, swishing it around my mouth, and holding it there doesn’t make it any better – it just kind of burns the whole inside of your mouth instead of the back of your throat, which is right and proper despite what our guide was saying. And while I appreciate that our guide’s grandmother did this daily and lived to be 200, she is tougher than I am, and she likely has no taste buds. (And also may have questionable taste – no offense.) Also, you can dress Jose Cuervo up, call it the 1800 series, and it’s still not that great (unless in a drink). I also learned I love pineapple margaritas, and have now learned how to make them. Swing by my house; I’m ready to serve! I even have the chili/salt mix to rim the glass – so much better than plain salt. We also learned that everyone at that location would like a tip, and by the time we reached the fourth tip jar, we were kind of done, which was right at the taco server’s station, and I’m pretty sure she wanted to throw tacos at our heads.

Jose Cuervo 1800 Series – “Sipping” Tequila

In Belize we drove to Xuantunich, which I mentioned is on the border with Guatemala. Here we had an amazing guide who told us about the culture, history, politics (they just recently held an election in March), and natural features of Belize. In fact, if we pointed out an animal, he’d reach down, grab a laminated info sheet, and have us pass it around. If we pointed out a butterfly, out came the laminated butterfly info sheet. I suspect, he had a laminated sheet for everything. He was kind of the Belizean Mary Poppins with a magical bag of laminated info sheets.  We learned there were two major political parties, that a disproportionate amount of critters in Belize are deadly and murderous, and the country produces a million (exact figure) varieties of mangos – along with having no zoning laws, $10/gallon gas (approximately $5 US, but still), and howler monkeys! (Also, some rather amorous lizards who perform a happy little hoppy dance at the conclusion of their good times. High claw, iguana dude! Sorry about the voyeuristic gals taking photos. Humans. Am I right?)

In Roatan, we just looked at shops, went on a nature trail, and spent the day on the beach and in the water.

And when I first started talking about the trip, all I could say was it felt as if I never left the US thanks to the commercialization, and how everything is bent around capturing dollars from tourists – all the duty free shops, the “Made in China” goods, etc. My first trip out of the country seemed like a let down – like I hadn’t gone anywhere, and I was disappointed. And it wasn’t that I didn’t have a fine time, it just felt like I’d hit the Mercado in San Antonio and slept on a boat.

While on the ship, we’d spend the nights looking for things to do, and found ourselves at places like the piano bar with a Rod Stewart wanna be who went by the name “Roddy,” and who didn’t quite get the songs he was playing – he wins for oddest version of Bohemian Rhapsody I’ve heard to date, but let’s say that by the end of the trip I was prepared to punch anyone who started singing “Sweet Caroline.” Then there was a couple of nights listening to bad karaoke, some trivia contests, a 70’s club, and a night of 80’s Rock & Glow dancing where there was a dance-off, and I was unfazed… until I stepped away from it all, so let me recap this paragraph after having time to really think about it.

While on the ship, I danced! I had forgotten how much I missed dancing. It started in the lobby one night, then there was the night at the 70’s club while I clung to my disco ball glass that I love, and ended with all of us dancing until they closed the party down for the 80’s Rock & Glow night – where we were completely decked out in every glow stick piece of jewelry one could imagine. This was the night my beautiful cousin Kim WON the ladies dance competition, and was completely robbed when she went head-to-head against the male champion. I’m sure he cheated. 🙂 The crowd, who’d formed a circle around them, knew it was “on” when Kim kicked off her sandals.  It got real in that moment, y’all. Kim wasn’t playing! At the end of it Kim said, “if I can do that, I can do anything!” Yes, she can! She was AWESOME! and AMAZING, and BEAUTIFUL!! I may have hurt my own ears scream cheering her on. Kim had been selected from the crowd after showing us all how it was done in the Thriller dance – best ladies zombie dancer out there! I also learned I need some work on the electric slide, but I’m up for the challenge!

Dancing reinforced that my knee could take it (within reason, of course) when I really thought I would never be able to dance again.

We won not one but TWO trivia contests. The last one was 80’s music trivia where we all received medals and a golden ship. Also, I need to say here I’m embarrassed for the other participants who couldn’t identify Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” from the first two notes. Come on!! I had a good showing in the Game of Thrones trivia, but really needed someone who’d read the books on my team. Pike, are you kidding me? By the way, I kind of love it that a friend of mine found me by looking at the schedule of activities and realizing, “yep, that’s where Beth is going to be.” Also, without having ever watched GoT, she helped me answer the first question. This is the same person who knew I’d be in the gym early in the morning. My friends get me.

I swam in the ocean! I haven’t donned a bathing suit in years, and there I was bobbing away and happy as I could be. I could have stayed out there all day. The ocean was the best! I love the water!

I went to Belize! I had a two hour trip to and from the Guatemalan border learning all of these things I’d never known about Belize, and I want to go back and spend time, and eat at least a ton of the millions (actual number, as mentioned before) of mangoes. Apparently, there’s a non-stop flight from Austin to Belize City, and it turns out that I have a passport. I also climbed Mayan ruins with a banged up knee, and I didn’t get winded, AND I didn’t go tumbling down, AND I didn’t have to be part of some emergency med evac as I’d anticipated.

I did abs with Gaybor, and was happy when I could keep up, including the plank part. (We will not mention here that my planks at home always get adjusted, and I may have figured out a way to easier planking. Go me! Shifting forward makes it so much harder.)

Gaybor – Exceptionally Inspirational Ab Coach (Hey, I’m old, not dead. Plus, Heather took the photo, so… well, I know my inner 16 year old cheered when she did it. 🙂 He’s a solid volleyball player, too. Just sayin’.)

During the entire trip, I had my phone off, which was absolutely liberating. I slept better than I had in months, thus ending months of insomnia. I’ll also admit, that until the super choppy day on sea, I didn’t really feel the ship move. I could tune it in or out, so I was showing off this newly found skill whenever I could. I brought Dramamine, and I never had cause to use it.

I watched the sun rise and set over the ocean.

In sum – I laughed a lot, I danced a lot, I relaxed, and I spent a solid week with my family and my friends – uninterrupted time I never get with them. I had the absolute best time I’ve had in a long time with people I love. I couldn’t ask for a better experience.  And while I still want to travel properly – wander the hidden paths, escape the commercialism and the demands that I “consume” things, I would do this all again with the same people. (Though, I’d take on an additional friend or two who couldn’t make it.)

Sunset with the Girls

So, who wants to sail with me from Miami to Havana?

Now go read the Game of Thrones series, and memorize this opening (I need you to be prepared):

A Year Ago: A Cruise Story

On March 4th, 2017, sometime after noon, I completely ruptured my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), and my medial collateral ligament (MCL) after slipping in some mud on the Warrior Dash. For my efforts, I was rewarded with an annoying physical therapist who called me “Miss Beth” constantly, a metal cane, and a disabled parking permit. I got to chant things like “heaven up, hell down” to remember which leg to use when approaching a step, and I got to wince and practice not crying out whenever my leg bent beyond 90 degrees. I also got to practice not crying out over the injustices of the world, or crying out when a relative decided to tear into me, because I was clearly too stupid to have figured out I shouldn’t have been at the Warrior Dash to begin with. Super helpful! Great conversation!

When you can’t use your legs at the gym, you’re left with doing a lot of things with your arms, but forget about how much I despise the hand bike – you’ve all heard about that. Let’s talk about the fresh humiliation that came when I fell off the weight bench  into a pile on the floor… when I couldn’t bend my knee, and I had to figure out how to roll onto my stomach and use my hands to walk towards my body so I could stand again, and try  to get back on the weight bench again. You all know the rest. I cried when I was first able to row, and then I successfully rowed my little half marathon on Christmas Eve. Basically, I got stronger, and my knee became more stable until I now where I’m up to 260 lb. on the leg press. Granted, that’s not huge, but considering where I was last year, it’s huge for me, and another small win – I can dead lift again.

I met with my orthopedic guy a few weeks prior to discuss where I was at, and what I could do. We determined I should brace my knee up whenever I was in a crowd, and on uneven ground – things I’d definitely encounter on the cruise, which meant I approached this trip with a great deal of trepidation. Only 3% of the participants on the Warrior Dash are ever injured, and I had been among the 3%. I wondered what small percent I’d manage to cover while cruising. I smiled on the outside, but I kept stuffing down the feeling that I was going to get hurt, and I was going to get hurt badly. I bought my traveler’s medical insurance, and talked myself through what would happen when they had to fly me back to the States, reminding myself it would be ok. To say I was traumatized by the ACL/MCL tear would be a huge understatement. Keep in mind the day before the cruise, I had already had a bad reaction to something – either the overwhelming Scentsy smell or the food (or both), and I saw it as an omen. (The ravens and banshees really tipped the scales. I mean, given those, who wouldn’t pause and say, “hrmm… that can’t be good, right?” Did I not mention those? Never mind. Nothing to see here.)

For all of day one, I kept my brace on, and was mindful of how I felt walking around the ship, being around people, judging how the stable the ship felt, etc. By day two, the brace was off, and it remained off while I was on the ship.

On Day 2 called “A Fun Day at Sea” I rowed 12,000 meters while watching the sun come up over the bow of the boat. (An advantage to always getting up early). Nothing centers me more, nor clears my head better than going to the gym, and there Heather took one of my favorite pictures of me on this trip. (While there are better photos of me, this makes me happy – me heading to my zone.)

Rowing the Ship to Cozumel

On Day 4 we went to a Mayan ruin called Xuantunich, 70 miles to the west of Belize City near the border of Guatemala. There I climbed the structure known as El Castillo (along with climbing a few shorter structures that don’t count for the purposes of this blog, but do count to their mother and father structures, because though they’re smaller in stature, those little guys are equally loved).

At first I was struck by how people who, at their tallest would have easily been about 7″ shorter (or more) than I, were able to scramble up the gigantic stairs.

Stairs MUCH bigger in person! The camera takes off 10″. Fact.

And then I took another moment to marvel at how, nearly a year after my injury, I was standing on this amazing structure – knee stable – looking out on the beauty that was this archaeological site, that was Belize, and how lucky I was to experience this with these people I absolutely love and adore. (Also, equally super glad to get back on the ground safely without having the helicopter evac for which I had mentally prepared.)

Xuantunich, Belize (El Castillo in Background – Where I climbed to the top, and stood between those five prongs.)

 

PS – This brought to you by Indiana Johnny who, by dropping today’s ball, guaranteed you’d get a gym-esque story instead of a “funny story from the cruise”. Proceed to cast blame.

Next Up: That time on the ship I got to talk to the cruise police. (Ok, I’m kidding. Oh, not about talking to the cruise police. I totally got a talking to. I’m just not sharing that story on my blog. I think someone should buy me a drink to celebrate my silence. Just sayin’.)

Spa Day: A Fancy Cruise Story

I’m not really a fancy lady. I’d never gone to a proper spa nor had I ever had a professional massage until this cruise.  You see, spas and professional massages seemed like things fancy ladies did with their fancy disposable income. Whereas my disposable income tends to go towards things that appeal to say goofy men with Peter Pan syndrome. You know, the absolute antithesis (or arch nemesis, perhaps) of a proper “fancy lady,” but definitely someone Mary Martin could sing about.  And here I was on this fancy cruise, with my fancy friends and my fancy family, thinking maybe my fancy little back might deserve a fancy little rub on one of these “fun days at sea”. It turns out that for me, my fancy little traps, thanks to fancy leisurely rowing, are a little (lot) tight. In fact, they sense I’m typing about them now, and they’re tensing up just to get some attention (or it could be that I’m sitting at a desk and have been all day – or it could be that I threw a lot of axes last night (I’m not kidding, I totally did that) Anyway, I can anthropomorphize my trapezius muscle if I want to – you worry about yourself).

(For Heather :))

So, on Day 2 of the cruise I made my way to the ship’s spa and signed up. Now the original idea was to get a deep tissue massage, but that turned into The Manager’s Special with its promises of bamboo, hot oil, a facial, something with my feet, and the clear promise I’d emerge relaxed and fancy. Dream massage was sooo… dreamy.

My friend Heather prepped me on what to expect. See, one reason I dislike a lot of fancy things is that sometimes I fear there are certain unspoken rules, or rituals one must follow that everyone else is in the know about except for me. I mean, what if I did something wrong? I could be spa-shamed! Then that information would likely travel through the back channels of the masseuse/masseur world, and the next thing you know I’d be eyed warily every time I passed a spa, massage parlor, or sidewalk carnivorous foot nibbling fish bucket purveyor. I wouldn’t live it down! EVER!!! Breathe Beth, BREATHE! I can do this.

When I enter the room it’s pleasantly dim, smells delightful, the music is peaceful if a bit new age-y, and the masseuse speaks in a soothing calm voice. Whew. I can do this! She begins my brushing my arms and legs with a cactus bristle brush. She explains it’s used on autistic children to calm them down. I ummm… wait. What? What are you saying? Am I being odd? I don’t know. Quick check. Ok, well other than the talking in your head thing. People do that, you know. Don’t be a freak. Breathe. Make polite conversation. “Interesting.” Good one. Nice save. I can do this?

I’ll fast forward a bit, because pretty much it could be boiled down to: hot things on my body feel great, and all of my muscles being rubbed also feel great (save maybe some knots that couldn’t be worked out in my shoulders).  And being called “dahhh’ling” excessively is vaguely annoying, but tolerable because of the aforementioned hot things and massage. Then we hit part of the appointment that was the hard sell, and the hard sell went a bit like this:

Dahhhling, your back muscles are a complete MESS (in the most disappointed/horrified/silky voice ever). There are crystals forming in your back, and the muscles are LEECHING calcium from your bones, Dahhhling.  For $170 you can buy this amino acid that you just apply a few drops to your shoulders, and that will break up the crystals.

What? I’m not sure that’s even real science. (Inner voice)

Dahhhling, you may need a back massage once or twice a week, and it will never be right. It’s just a temporary fix, Dahhhling. Are you sure you don’t want the drops? No? Let me put those away then.

Dahhhling, your skin is so dry. You look old! You must moisturize. Here are (insert a host of products being lined up one by one starting as low as $45 and scaling up to about $80) that will make you look much younger. Even I use them, and I am 27, can you believe it?

No. I would have gone younger. (Inner voice)

Dahhhling, now here’s the final bill. You’ll see the 18% tip has been applied; however, you may tip more if you wish.

Bless your sweet little heart, darlin’, I do not wish, but thanks for the opportunity. (Inner voice)

By the time Heather got to me in the spa lobby, having had a wonderful massage, I was in a fetal position (on the inside) and feeling vaguely sticky, withered, like an un-moisturized husk who clearly looks every bit of 80. We won’t even talk about these parasitic muscles.

And that’s how I spent a part of the second day while trying to be fancy on the cruise, and six days later, when people asked for my opinion about the cruise, it added to what annoyed me. And yes, this always had to be the second story. It continues to set-up my initial knee-jerk reaction, but as I mentioned before, there’s always more to a story, and there’s still more to this one.

Welcome to installment part deux!

A Simple Wish

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself. –Neil Gaiman

At the beginning of 2017 I was given a box that held 260 colorful envelopes filled with notes/quotes/questions/advice from my friends and family. These lunchbox notes were to accompany me each day of work and were to be opened at lunch (thus, the name).  There were instructions directing me to open one first, and it ended up containing the quote above.  These, in turn, became the things I wanted to achieve – a list of what I wanted to accomplish throughout the year – a road map – a bucket list.

So, I wrote a little more. Maybe not sketches, as I’d planned. It turns out that in this political climate my attempts at satire have too sharp an edge to them. I started turning off NPR more (sorry guys, I still love you) and sang more, replacing the news with singing – each time I got into the car.  I even made it out to karaoke, something I hadn’t done in years, and belted out a little Lady Gaga, ABBA, and Kansas. I now have a baby stereo system in the house where I repeat the show daily. (To the delight of my neighbors, Elle King’s America’s Sweetheart is my current go-to.) I made some art, and sent cards off to friends and family. To surprise myself, I entered the Warrior Dash, and I can say I was in fact surprised in the end. This one set me back a bit, causing all of the things to stop, and me to momentarily forget the list.

As I grew stronger, I was able to dive back in – writing, singing, reading, laughing, and creating.  The only one left to tackle was “kiss someone who thinks [I’m] wonderful.” So, a month ago I decided “screw it” and I re-entered the online dating world to give it a more serious try.  I went on three dates over five days. André, of the infamous meltdown, was the first. See below for a recap.

The second was Todd. I have to admit that over the past three weeks I became a 16 year-old girl when it came to all things Todd – a distracted girly mess. One of my male friends joked, “hell, I’m starting to have a crush on Todd” thanks to all of my incessant Todd talk, usually followed by, “do you want to see his picture?” It was terrible, and kind of fun, and it reminded me of staying on the phone for hours in high school, of passing notes, of having my girlfriends spend the night, of listening to music in the darkness of my room, and of daydreaming. He was a reminder that I was still alive, and still able to be reduced to a blushy, giddy little girl mess.

I met Todd a day or two after the André-no-I-don’t-want-to-drive-to-Costco-for-the-great-gas-don’t-put-your-face-near-my-face incident. I went to his place, knowing my adopted big brothers would not be pleased for safety reasons, and watched him put together a doll house for his granddaughter. He was just as beautiful in person, and also very simple in ways I won’t be able to quite convey here.

A few highlights from that evening: He told me, “I’d totally mack with you, but I’ve had a lot of coffee, and I don’t like to kiss with coffee breath.” Wow, umm… I don’t think anyone has ever said they’d “mack” with me. I’m not sure I’ve “macked” with anyone. Maybe I’m not a macker? If we “macked” would this count towards my “…kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful?” Gaiman didn’t say anything about “macking with someone.” Then Todd professed his love of the phrase “that’s what she said” and probably used it 15-20 different times. Apparently, she says a lot. Todd expressed with certainty that a whole comedy routine based on that line would quite possibly be the best stand-up comedy routine ever.  I’m not so sure. I threw in a few “that’s what she said” lines to make him happy, and he giggled gleefully (alliteration also makes him happy) while continuing to work on this dollhouse (a bit of a structural mess, but it also made him happy). I then turned the conversation to why he loved the town we’re in, because frankly it’s a sea of HOA’s to me, and I hoped he might have some insight that would make me see it differently. His response: “I’m near three strip clubs.” Oh… “Yeah, I love strip clubs and I would totally pay for you to get a lap dance.” At this I had to say, “That actually wouldn’t do anything for me, but thank you.” He smiled and offered up, “well, it would do something for me.” Ohhhh kay… (For any of you thinking a strip club birthday gift card might make the perfect gift, you should give that to someone else.) I got a tour of his apartment and the multiple 8″x10″ prom pictures proudly displayed on the walls. I have to confess, my prom pictures are still in the “vintage” envelope they came in. (Sorry David! I did put one in a photo album and used it for a #TBT thing on FB.)

We ended with a side hug, and I sighed… so pretty. There goes my 16 year old girl, and a 49 year old woman drove home – music blaring, while singing at the top of her lungs.

Two days later, I had coffee with the runner post my half marathon (where I did surprise myself). He was absolutely brilliant. Smart, engaging, a fantastic storyteller (and we all know how I love good stories), and I was none of those things in return. And while I recognize I’m not his type physically, he’s the kind of person who absolutely should be one of my friends. I was lamenting this to my aunt yesterday, and she kindly offered to call him up and explain how great I was.  “You know if you want me to, I’d do it,” which made me laugh. All I could picture was a call that might sound like, “Hi, this is Beth’s aunt. She’s really great; you’d really like her. I’m so proud of her. Anyway, she thinks you’re really neat. She has a lot of really neat friends, so if she thinks you’re neat, then there’s probably something special about you. You should really be her friend. I’m going to have a get together at Easter, and she knows she’s always welcome. You could come, too.” While I loved this idea, and it made my heart smile, I can only imagine how that would sound to a stranger. “Please reconsider being my niece’s friend. We love her.” I love my aunt, and I love that she was serious. Also, a side note to my friends: she really does think you guys are neat. Also, damnit, he was really cool.

So Neil, I failed a little when it came to living up to your New Year’s wishes.

While the year continued to hold a few more hardship, it was also one that was filled with magic, and dreams, and good madness. I read some fine books. I made some art – I wrote, I drew a little, I sang loudly and often, I laughed, and I surprised myself (half marathon!!).  I was surrounded with the best people. Old friends, new friends, and family… and though there were tears, there was more joy.

I plan to do more of that next year.  And maybe… just maybe… I’ll “mack” with someone who thinks I’m wonderful.

Dedication: This was for Tori who suggested I had another blog piece in me before the end of the year. Hears to you, kid!

Book Ends

It started with a picture, and a kind note, and I was reminded of a drawing, tucked away in a box, sleeping in its frame. “Don’t forget the note.” A 15 year old version of me repeated.  When I’d framed the drawing  – one of a young woman resting contentedly in the arms of her lover – I had worried that I would forget the dedication on the back. “Don’t forget the note.”

I had forgotten the note along with the picture decades ago. I suppose it was a form of self-defense – a way of flipping the coffee tables within my mind, and storming off to help push down the memories.

If you knew me well in high school, you knew I was a quiet but horribly sarcastic nerd. You probably knew that I was the president of our orchestra, I was reasonably smart, my best friend was Julie, and that I was completely obsessed with a guy named John. This guy was beautiful, vibrant, funny, completely aware of who he was, and was able to see through the layers upon layers of walls I’d built up to protect myself from people seeing any shadow of the real me. (I build a great wall. It’s the best wall. Just saying.) He consumed my thoughts almost every waking minute from 15-18, and probably a couple of years beyond. Being around him was like dancing too close to a bonfire, but I could never quite resist that flame (much to the chagrin of my best friend, who had to tend to each tear-filled wound every time I was scorched); I made for a beautiful and perfect moth.

John was my first kiss. I was a freshman, and it was minutes before my final exam in Mr. Casarez’s Algebra 2 class while we stood in the drama hall.  I was so giddy, I could barely focus the rest of the day, and it’s a small wonder I actually passed that final. It’s also a small wonder I didn’t jump up and down, clap, or do an interpretive dance. My heart sang with such tremendous joy that I can only imagine how obnoxious I was for the days, weeks (and years to follow – sorry, Ju).  Thus began my personal angsty teen girl saga.

As a teen, adults (not in my close circle) viewed me as polite, smart, and reserved, and they usually felt that my parents had won a sort of teen lottery, because I did not have any noticeable streaks of rebellion. I was a rules follower, I was quite studious, and I was seemingly above all the typical teen drama.  In truth, when it came to John, I was your average teenage girl. I could waver from super dramatic highs to super dramatic lows, and sometimes those occurred within hours of each other.

When I think of him, I remember silly things like him riding his bike from Wm. Cannon to Barton Springs (roughly seven miles), then we’d walk down to Zilker to go swimming or watch the kid’s train wind around the park while singing When Doves Cry. I remember his best friend, Carlos, the worst teen driver in the history of teen drivers whom I was forbidden to ride with, so of course I got in his car all the time. I remember John carrying me on his shoulders across Wm. Cannon while I held a gallon of milk and just laughing. Now, when I imagine how that would look, the daydream ends with two people in traction (and a smile). I remember the song he dedicated to me, Duran Duran’s The Chauffeur (which when I’ve listened to it as an adult, it has given me a tad bit of pause – though I find I’m still drawn to it).  I remember him saying the movie Purple Rain was very “him” and me agreeing. (Watch that as an adult, and see if that wouldn’t make you want to put your teen daughter in an convent or move the family to another town.) I remember the notes passed in the hallway,  the cards (all of which I do still have), and of course the crushing heartbreak when he and a close friend destroyed my teen heart. So much aftermath – thoughts and feelings that ripple into today and form the tapestry of my soul, affecting how I feel about certain people in my life – creating its rough template of who I tend to fall for. John was my foundation.

We stopped speaking sometime in college.  Encounters with him, though pleasant, would leave me temporarily wrecked and withdrawn, and at some point I had to cry “uncle.” And then I received a picture, with words meant for the back, and remembered another picture from a long time ago with a note I was never supposed to forget.

I went looking for him, willing to risk the flame, only to find that he had gone.  The 17 year old that lives in my heart fell apart, and then the one friend who remembers my 17 year old, and accepts that’s sometimes who I am,  stepped in like she always did to remind 17 year old me that she was ok. That dealing with death is challenging.

John 11/7/1966 – 12/25/2014

John

He had passed away on my birthday a few years ago. I read his tributes, since I really never knew him as an adult, and he was loved dearly by his friends; I’d expect no less. He had grown into quite a beautiful human being who pursued his passions.

Two things I learned from him: 1) Live passionately. 2) Don’t rely as much on words, as on what your heart and senses tell you is right. People will say things to protect themselves, but your heart knows the truth if you’ll listen. You just have to have faith in what it’s telling you.

And now the bookends of my life… my first and last love have left, and I sit a little more broken.

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!

 

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!)