Warrior Dash 2017 or That Time Beth…


That Hat :(

Lately there’s been the story I plan to write, and then there’s the story I actually end up writing. Originally, this particular story was going to be about conquering the Warrior Dash or at least my version of “conquer,” which would have likely been about me getting really messy and making it through exactly ONE obstacle – with luck, two. Ok, I actually planned to only miss one or maybe two, but apparently I’m “self deprecating” according to some people with names like “all my friends” and “all my family” pfft. I was ready. I’d looked at the course, sized up the obstacles, and said, “hey, you know what? That looks tough, but it’s not not doable. (Ok, that was a double negative, so English teachers everywhere started crying. Bah! Who am I kidding? When I started typing, they started crying.) Basically, it was doable (not not doable) – you get the idea. Of course “doable” doesn’t mean “easy” by any means; it was going to be challenging (or not not challenging – I promise I’ll knock that off now).

Up until the race, I’d been joking that the day would be forever known as “The Day Beth Went to the Hospital.” I’m one of those people who believe you ward off all the evil by thinking of the worst thing that could happen, saying it, and then charging forward. In hindsight, I think I’m a bit of an oracle. Call me Cassandra! But I see I’m skipping/limping ahead.

Our start time was later in the day – 12:45 pm – sometime after all of the serious competitors had found their way through it, and had likely gone a couple more rounds (you could pay a little extra to do it again and again). That night or maybe early that morning, the rains came, and when we arrived the skies were a dull grey and a balmy 50℉-ish (10℃-ish). The weather seemed to teeter between drizzle to light rain, but none of that brought us down. We were wet and cold and ready to get moving.

Earlier that morning, I’d sent a couple of rah rah texts to our team declaring “we got this!” Then pre-race, my trainer sent me one of those notes that make you tear up (well, it did “me” and if you wouldn’t have teared up, well you have no soul, and I just judged you; it’s how I roll). I’d share, but it’s my personal note; however, the gist was to believe in myself – that the only person who could tell me I couldn’t do something was myself.

It was then time to go, and we dashed out onto the course to find a somewhat muddy path, but still a doable one. As we progressed, the mud became thicker and slicker – the kind that can suck your shoes off or send you sprawling face first onto the ground. Everyone got stuck at some point, and everyone fell. I got through two obstacles, and I applauded myself for not slipping. Heck, I even slid down a bank (on purpose) and with the help of my team, made it up the other side. The whole time reciting my “I got this” mantra. Everyone was faster than me, but I trudged along concentrating on remaining upright. I thought I’d figured out the key – cling to the sides. There was still a little bit of grass there, and if I went slowly enough I could creep through the 5k. Hey, I knew going in I wasn’t competitive.

And then I ran out of grass coming around a downhill bend. I put my foot down, went immediately into the splits (the Jean Claude Van Damme kind though sans some semis and Enya soundtrack, not the body friendlier kind I used to be able to drop into in High School), and thanks to the angle I was at when I lost my balance and started going down, the bottom half of my leg wanted to go just a little further (always an overachiever), and that’s when the “pop” happened in my knee. Talking about this next part is the only time I’ve cried about the day. I fell in front of a medic and his friends who immediately stopped to assess my leg. He then ran up a hill, off the course, and flagged down one of the people watching the course, who in turn grabbed an all terrain vehicle, and a security guy. In the meantime, those guys got me over to the side in a grassy area and they stayed with me. “Can you stand?” No. “Are you in pain?” Not really, my knee feels unstable. When I mentioned the “pop” again, one of the medic’s friends said, “yep, I heard it, too” (which isn’t good when everything is loud, people are bustling about, and a part of your body makes a sound the rest of the world can hear). When the vehicle showed up, it was on the other side of the insanely muddy path, and that’s when I started telling them “no, no I can’t get over there – I can’t do that, no, uh uh” and the five people who were around me kept saying “we’ll get you over there, and you won’t have to put weight on your leg”. Nope! Not doing it. I’ll just stay right here, thank you. I’m enjoying my hypothermia and the adrenaline leaving my system. Mind if I go into a light amount of shock? All of that I didn’t say with words, but everyone understood from my body language that I seriously doubted five strong guys could move me across the treacherous mud without me further damaging my knee. And they did, and when they did the racers stopped, and about 4-5 other guys joined in to get me across the path – all being super supportive, and kind, and all making sure I got into that vehicle safely. I cannot express how grateful I was and am for everyone, nor how amazing they were to hold up their race, to get me across safely, and then to say a few kind words of encouragement as they headed back down the trail. I don’t know them, but I wish I could find them to thank them (and to hug that medic).

The long and short of it all is I have a grade 3 MCL tear. Finally, I won at something! Grade 3, I think, is classified as “the best tear” (don’t burst my bubble – I actually know what it means, thanks). Monday I go in for an MRI to determine if the meniscus is torn as well. I’ll find out those results towards the end of March. As of now, I do not have to have surgery. In most cases, I’m told, the MCL heals; however, if the meniscus is torn they will have to go in for a day procedure that will leave me on crutches for about three days. All of this will likely take about 3 months and involve rehab.

There’s actually a lot of people to thank. Friends and family who have gone out of their way to help me, and to be at the house to help with Sam (and with fun things like “moving” and “standing up”). Also, their families for letting me steal them briefly from their worlds. Friends and family who have sent flowers, offered support, and chocolate, and movie dates, and the best animal videos (to both distract from the MCL tear, and from a certain elected official who has made the adverb “very” great again). And Tori for getting “Everything is Awesome” stuck in my head, so now when people inquire about me I find myself saying “awesome” and then having to sing that song the rest of the day, because I just said that word. No wait, I’m not thanking you, Tori!!! You hear that?

Damnit.

I want to answer a few questions I’ve been getting, and because I’m me I’m just putting this out there for easy reference:
How am I doing? My knee is messed up. Ask me in three months. It won’t be magically better if you ask me again tomorrow. Now, you can ask. I can’t stop you, but you will get a sarcastic response. I come from a long line of sarcastic people. It’s not my fault; it’s DNA.
Are you in pain? No, not unless I move my knee in an unnatural way that was formerly “natural” a week ago.
You are quitting the gym, right? Nope. I’m a badass. A badass that in three months will have made inroads on her upper body to start considering rock wall climbs. Goodbye pointless T-Rex arms!

In sum – I was wrong about how the day would be forever known. It won’t be known as “The Time Beth Went to the Hospital,” but maybe “That Time Beth Horsed Around In Some Mud” or “That Time Beth Did Those Rockin’ Splits.” I’ll work on a good title.

RAWR!

How Do You Do It?

When someone passes away, amidst all the love, a lot of questions come out.  I thought about ranking them in the degrees by which they annoy me, but that seemed a tad harsh.  People are curious, you can’t fault them for that (well, you could), and for the most part they’re not trying to be annoying (although sometimes I wonder), but by golly they’re curious.  Some of that curiosity comes from knowing we’ll all be impacted by death throughout our lives, and there’s this hope that the person can shed some little pearl of wisdom that maybe we can use if we’re in a similar situation. Some of the questions come from having never been in a particularly unique situation, and they feel like they’ve pulled up to the world’s best car wreck, and screw the rest of traffic, they’re going to take their nice long look.

Let me start by addressing a few of those questions/statements by offering some advice when it comes to someone who has died by suicide.  (Now followers of my Facebook feed may feel this subject looks somewhat familiar.  I like to think of my feed as a micro-blog (because that’s a thing, right?) at times, and my followers as a focus group.  Err… I think of them as good friends, that’s what I meant. Good friends.)

Don’t ask how it happened especially of the immediate family. Ever. If the person chooses to share that information, that’s one thing, but what has happened is deeply personal, and fairly traumatic. Each retelling can open up some really large wounds, because it’s not a “story”, it’s a life.  It’s lives.  You don’t have a right to know.  Yes, I get it’s a wonderfully dramatic story, and you can’t help but to slow down and try to drink in the drama, but do that from as far away from me as you can possibly get.

Don’t run around asking if any of the immediate family (or me) is suicidal.  Yes, something bad happened, and you may be worried, but your worry seems more like gossip when you flitter from person to person planting that little seed.

And whatever you do, don’t go up to any family member (for example: me, again) and make this request: “Please don’t kill yourself.” There are no words that can ever properly convey how wrong I find that statement.  I could start with “you clearly don’t know me,” but that just lightly begins to air kiss how deeply angry I am at your words.  If you are genuinely worried, you’ll figure out a better way to approach that conversation.  As it stood, I nearly said “well damn, there goes my Wednesday plan. I guess I’ll just watch TV now. Fingers crossed wrestling is on tonight!”

Then there’s this other question I’ve had thrown my way that while I find annoying isn’t meant so. It’s mostly annoying because I’m asked it a lot, which means someone who reads this blog (maybe a few) is (are)  going to say, “oh hell, I didn’t meant to step in it with Beth.”  You didn’t.  But since you asked, I’ll answer.

How do you do it? How do you get up in the morning?

I can’t give you a silver bullet answer – something you can apply to your own lives.  I can tell you some key things about me and my situation.  The biggest thing that gets me up and moving is I was literally just born this way. I’m a “happy” person.  In fact, I’m a borderline (and sometimes not so borderline) airhead.  I’m goofy. I’m silly. I’m the kid who at five was told by other five year olds I needed to grow up. (To this day we feel sorry for any five year old that feels they need to grow up.) When it comes to a happiness ceiling, mine is really high.  I’m a whole lot like one of my aunts who when we get together, we just giggle.  Now that said, that doesn’t mean I (or my aunt) can’t be brought down or that I don’t get angry.  I actually have quite a temper, but my fuse is exceptionally long.  You just don’t want to be around when the fuse is gone. Jay would point out, when I did finally blow, that I was spending a lot of energy being really mad about a person or thing, and the object of my anger couldn’t see how angry I was – that I was wasting a lot of energy.  I can blow up like the best and most uncomfortable fireworks display.  Thankfully something shiny will usually appear, and I’m chasing it down again.  Unfortunately, that shiny thing may not appear for a day or two, but it will always appear.

Another key thing is that no one left me alone, not even when it was really all I wanted. I longed to go shut the door to my bedroom after Jay passed away.  I didn’t want to do the things that needed to get done.  Dad had me make a list, and on a normal day the list was something I could have accomplished in a few hours. On that second day after Jay left, I had only managed to do two things, and the process was absolutely the most  mentally exhausting thing I had done.  Dad then helped me make the plan for the next day and the next slowly showing me how to walk in the world again.  During all of this, I didn’t want to interact with anyone, and yet they kept appearing at my house forcing me to be here.  When you combine that with another inherent trait I have – wanting everyone else to be ok, you have a situation where I felt forced to come out and to try and make everyone else feel better. I would tell stories about Jay, and while I wasn’t fully present, it kept me present enough.

I remember when Mom passed away unexpectedly, I tried to cheer-up the hospital chaplain by telling him stories despite desperately wanting him to leave the room so it would just be the two of us.  I once fell down a staircase trying to get a bag of glass bottles to a recycling station, and when  the glass and I landed at the bottom I saw a little boy looking on in horror, and so I did what I do – I talked to him, laughed about being clumsy, got everything together, and then fell apart behind closed doors. Part of who I am is a less polished version of my grandmother. A woman who when presented with any group of people would go immediately into hostess mode.  This is what I do.

To this day, some six months later, I am still not left alone over the weekends.  I have activities through the middle of March and beyond. They’re rarely anything I’ve planned, but are things people have brought me into.

So, in short: How do I get up every day? I can get up because that’s who I am. I don’t know another way (and as one friend “gently” put it: “…because you’re not a pathetic piece of shit,” (no intended offense to those who can’t), and because I have an amazing support group in my family and friends. They don’t let me make any other choice … and I try to remain open to new situations; I try to still live and experience new things/new and interesting people. I don’t have a silver bullet.  I only have me. And the truth is I’m not always sunshine and lollipops. I still get sad, and when I do I get a tissue, and I start over again.

To my friends and family (and new/amazing acquaintances), and of course the Phalanx: Thank you for continuing to help me walk through this world. I love you more than you’ll know (because I’m apparently keeping that a secret? Who says “more than you’ll know”? Why is that a saying?) Bah, you’ll know how much, because I say I love you in awkward ways that make you feel uncomfortable, so suck it up.

You’re welcome!

On Christmas

On Christmas Day 2016 midnight passed without the traditional, “Happy Birthday! I love you!” declaration. I didn’t incoherently mumble back, “I love you more.” When I finally decided to drag myself out of bed, no one snored peacefully beside me while I was brimming in the delight of the day, and an overfilled stocking with all its promise didn’t wait on my chair (I like stockings best). I didn’t spend the month randomly announcing, “It’s my birthday!” to only be told, “nuh uh”. “Yuh huh! I get ALL the days! Happy Birthday to me!!!” “No!” “YES!” “No dancing!” “It’s my very special birthday dance to celebrate! Maybe there’s a song!””Look away, Sam!”

It was sad – not all the time, but most of it.  It was hard – not all the time, but most of it.

I wanted a margarita (maybe two) and some Tex Mex, which wasn’t going to happen.  Really? Only Chinese food places are open? No one is in town?  I went to the movies, another tradition.  It was enjoyable.

Then I sat alone in a house missing all the other Christmases when I could see his beautiful face.  I thought about how I still hope when I pull into the garage after work that he’ll magically fling open the door and help me bring in my stuff.  I still hope that maybe I’ll wake up, and this will have all been a horribly vivid, and unwelcome dream.  And then I buck up, put on a smile, and greet another day.

Since I get asked, usually with a pitying face, “How was your Christmas?”  There it is. That’s how my Christmas went. Oh wait, I meant to say, “it was fine, how was yours?” Do tell me about how losing another celebrity has devastated your world.  I’m THE person to talk to about that. It’s not that I don’t get it; I just don’t have patience for it right now.

I went on a rant (as I do) today about people not saying “thank you”.  It’s a pet peeve. I don’t get it.  How hard is it to say “thanks”? “Thank you for thinking of me.”  I always had to thank people growing up, and when my step-mom was added to the family, I learned to write actual “thank you” notes. In my family there’s the parable of the bad aunt – the one who received a guitar that her mother had scraped all of her money together to purchase.  It didn’t live up to this aunt’s expectations, apparently crying and door slamming ensued, and everyone involved was fairly unhappy. The lesson was, “do not be this aunt – say thank you even if it’s not something you wanted – be grateful someone thought of you – that someone may have tried really hard to please you.”  I did manage not to say, “I’m not a toy dispenser for ingrates” this go around, which I like to think of as “a win” in the rant department.  I just thought everyone needed a gentle reminder to be thankful.  Hey, if people can rant about their various relationships while screenshot-ing each painful text, then I can plop myself on social media and carry on about thankfulness.

But in doing so, I was reminded that I hadn’t properly said thanks for one of the best, and most touching gifts I received this year. Normally, I’m not the one to brag, because it seems rather tacky, “look what I got!!!” yet I’m going to make this one exception.

On Christmas Day 2016 at the traditional movie I received the following box:

Lunch Notes

250 envelopes containing quotes, questions to ponder, and notes from my friends and family. Notes for each work day of 2017 to put in my lunch and open each day. Each one has my name on it and a sticker sealing it in the back.  My good friend April coordinated this, and spent who knows how many countless hours putting it together. To say it’s amazing and touching is such an understatement; it blew me away.  I teared up once I understood what I was looking at. She didn’t tell me who all contributed, so I haven’t been able to thank you yet.  Until I know who all was involved, I hope you’ll accept this general note of appreciation in the meantime:

THANK YOU ALL! This was truly the most meaningful and beautiful of gifts. I am so very lucky to have you in my life.

I’ll share the first one (ok, so I may have cheated and not waited until the first of the year to open just one). It reads:

“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

Thank you, April for thinking of something so magical, and for getting me away when my Paris trip fell through, leaving me a brief mess. Thank you to my beautiful friends and family.  I love you guys MORE!  I hope all of these wishes come true for me, and also for you.

Family Myths: More Ancestry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, We Can’t Be Facebook Friends

When I first joined Facebook my criteria for accepting friend requests was fairly simple: Would this person attend my funeral?  Ok, would they attend it if they didn’t have other pressing, out-of-town commitments like being stuck in Malta, or Barcelona (typed with a lisp), or out hiking in the middle of the Badlands, or you know trapped in Waco in some death cult? Ok, would they at least kind of make a sad face that the average person could read as sad and then send a sympathy card to my husband or my parents? Ok, would they at least avoid hitting the “Like” button if my husband posted my obituary?   If I could answer “yes” to any of those questions, they were in – unwittingly signed up for my media shares and occasional thought burps.  When I looked at the final count I was confronted with an awful truth – only a tiny handful of friends and family would actually show for my funeral.  I made a mental note to suggest my wake be held in the backyard shed.  That could be nice, and with three people it might make the space look like it was bustling with mourners. (Mourners are universally known for their bustling.)

As Facebook grew, and more people joined, I had requests from folks like my former Girl Scout troop, high school and college friends, old roommates, people I met in improv, people I knew solely online, friends of friends, former co-workers, and that one girl who claims we went to the same school, but I haven’t a clue who she is. My “Friends” list quickly jumped from 3 to over 3 in no time. Then invariably came requests from current co-workers. I was rather careless in the beginning by accepting any request that came my way in an effort not to appear rude. Once I realized the mistake I quickly discovered the security settings and created a friend limbo which limited their access. I didn’t want to run the risk of having a meeting room meltdown should I actually “unfriend” one of these folks.

There are now only a few co-workers who can see my entire feed (weekly drivel). These carefully selected folks went through a rigorous screening process – the Vegas Vet – or “what happens on FB stays on FB”.  Basically, we don’t talk about each other’s latest post – a knowing nod in the hall suffices.  A simple head gesture that says,  “I know you have a camera, oh and you also have photogenic cats, two fierce Bengal plastic mouse chasers – keep it cool, I’m just walking on by casual-like, ‘’Sup!’”  The day I get one, “I hate that picture of you” “You look weird.” “Why would you post that?” the offender is either removed completely or moved to the special FB purgatory where they can only see my profile picture, but hey we’re still friends – that’s nice right?  (For the record, those are actual remarks I’ve received in the hallway at my office.)

After some careful thinking, I finally resolved to make my life easier by not accepting new friendship requests from current co-workers.

Now here’s where I need to state that I don’t see a FB “Friendship” as a real friendship. If I did, we’d be back to the three people at my shed wake. I see it as a way to find and catch up with people you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s a great way to have very superficial interactions, to catch up with George Takei or Mike Rowe, and it can be a solid personal PR tool –  you can promote yourself, your latest achievement, your business, etc. That’s not to say that I don’t have real friends there, but our friendship is strengthened by our outside interactions (unless they live in Japan)  – not by the latest photo meme being passed around. I accept I may be alone in this assessment.

So back to the co-workers.  I received a new request a couple of weeks ago and realized we were going to have to talk.  I didn’t want to talk.  Talk is perilously close to confrontation and could end with someone getting upset. I talked the situation over with my friends (the three wake shed-ders you’ve come to know and love), and with their advice in hand I politely explained that I liked to keep work separate from home. This is actually true. I’m that person who doesn’t tend to talk about personal things at work. I’m the person people throw proverbs at like, “well, I guess still waters run deep” (which either means I’m quietly treacherous or I take sketch classes, and occasionally show up on stage with a puppet in hand). Plus, my friends might post that awkward picture of me not drinking (because I’m a tea-totalling, uptight prude), and how awkward would that be?

PedroPoopsJoy_Beth

At the end of the brief chat I felt good, I felt adult. I had handled a particularly awkward conversation with great aplomb and it went, in my mind, really well.  Of course it went really well until it didn’t, and that’s when I received multiple texts about how embarrassed they were and how they’d put me in a bad situation, which they hadn’t. They said they hoped we could still be friends. I was at a complete loss and ended up spending the better part of my evening texting them off the FB ledge which included sharing my philosophy about FB not being an actual friendship.  I explained that we were “real” friends and that was more important than any one line blurb I might throw out there or any #TBT baby photo (no Tori, you may NOT go back in time and squeeze my little fat baby cheeks – whoops, sorry I digress).  I eventually got them to a place where they were reasonably ok with the situation.  At least, I think they were ok with it, but you see how well my thinking goes.

I guess Jay shouldn’t count on her showing up at the shed.

Cool

“You should really thank The Big Bang Theory for making geeks like you cool.”

I stammered in response and finally offered up a fairly well thought out, “uh huh”  right after I did a quick age check to confirm what I already suspected, that I really was too old to care about whether I’m cool.  The fact is that I’ve never, at any age,  been particularly driven to be “cool”. (All of my friends and family just nodded in agreement with that statement.) Call it what you will – a character flaw – a love of Lee when no one could get between Brooke and her Calvin Klein’s – the ability to quote Monty Python or the willingness to argue that yes, Han did shoot first. I’m simply not cool.  And I’m ok with not being cool. Cool isn’t my thing. (Guys, you can stop agreeing.  Sheesh.  I can feel it.)

You see, there’s this implied idea that “cool” is “fitting in.” If you’re “cool,” then  “fitting in” is clearly something every person who has been labeled a geek is surely hoping to achieve, but hasn’t quite figured it out yet. I’m here to tell you “cool” has never been my personal goal (and I’m really quite well-accomplished at not being cool).  On the other hand what is popular shouldn’t be how we define cool in my opinion.  Look at any past trend – old photos from any generation. (You know the ones that show you wearing that bejeweled glove with the neon top and those parachute pants. Are you going to tell me you still feel cool?) To me cool is being comfortable enough to be yourself.  A TV show won’t give you that.

I would love this to be a piece about “how to be comfortable with yourself;” however, I’d be misleading you completely if I said there weren’t time that I’ve wanted to be something different, something more, something better than…

I remember the first time I really thought about labels and contemplated the big “who am I?” question.  “Am I cool?” It was around 1980.  It was the summer before I entered 7th grade and The Dallas Morning News ran an article about teen groups.  There were little summaries about preppies, ropers (which when I moved back to Austin were known as “kickers”), freaks, and I’m sure there were a slew of additional labels like “geek” that I can’t quite remember because I’m old (and kind of cranky).

I also don’t remember much about the actual definitions. I do remember preppies were “cool,” but “freaks” sounded closer to the group that best fit me. They were described as wearing jeans, sneakers and concert t-shirts.  I mean, I did wear both jeans and sneakers all the time and I did own that one “Wings” t-shirt from a show I never attended.  How could that not be me? Preppie certainly wasn’t me. My reality didn’t include anything bearing the name of Izod, Polo, Gloria Vanderbilt or Swatch, so that was out of the picture. Later I did own some Jordache and OP things. I stand by those clothes.  We will discuss this no further. I couldn’t name a single country group other than Alabama at the time, so “Roper” was out. “Future president of the orchestra/bookworm nerd” wasn’t a listed choice. That left me with being a “Freak” if I had to choose a category (and the newspaper seemed to think that this had to happen – all teenagers identified themselves by one of these, a journalist wrote it!). Also, at that time I was really working on being a proper delinquent (which the “Freak” title seemed to embrace), but unfortunately my natural prissiness and penchant for a good rule ultimately got in the way.  I did briefly join an all girl gang in name only, but was always “busy” come fight days. “Sorry, I would love to, but I have to go out of town for the rest of my life and during all of my free time. Maybe next fight?.”  Keep in mind this was a Dallas middle-class girl’s gang.  We’re not exactly talking east L.A. and yay, they did go about intimidating my bullies, which made hallway walking much more pleasant.

Still I didn’t truly embrace any label – freak, geek or otherwise.  I was me.  A me who liked math, science, orchestra, German club and reading books.  When a person would suggest I change who I was (fall under a different label) like my grandmother (the former president of her college sorority, president of various ladies clubs, a socialite – you get the idea) when she pulled me aside and declared, “you need to change how you act or no boy will date you.” (She wanted me to play dumb in this case.) My response was, “if someone doesn’t like me for who I am, then I guess I won’t date,” which was a lot like sassing and sassing was a big no-no and earned my grandmother’s immediate disapproval.  Her message of “be different than who you are in order to be more accepted” was never me.  Of course, I didn’t really date until I was a senior in high school, so she clearly read the omens and was onto something there.

During this time one of my fundamental characteristics became apparent – I really wouldn’t change who I was to gain other people’s approval – to be cool – from how I presented myself, to whom I chose as my closest friends, to what my interests were (and continue to be).

Ok, I lied a bit there.  I did drop out of the math club (don’t tell Dad – it was something I was drafted into and didn’t go to willingly) . Though I loved math (and still love it, it’s really quite beautiful). I already had the stigma of being an academic nerd. The idea of competing with the math club was just too much.

Mu Alpha Theta

If I were to “thank” a TV show, it wouldn’t be The Big Bang Theory though I suppose kudos to them if it helps people be ok with someone else’s love of Star Trek. Just be warned you’ll lose a finger or three if you come at me with your “rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock” (may Leonard Nimoy rest in peace) or if another person says, “you’re a lot like Sheldon.” I may not watch the show, but I do know what you’re saying.  The show I would actually thank is Freaks and Geeks, if I were the thank-y sort.  It’s the one show that got my 80’s right.  In fact, Lindsay is the closest I’ve come to truly identifying with a character (if you threw in a lot more orchestra).

What makes me feel cool? It’s not a TV show saying I’m ok.  It’s being me – doing the things I love and enjoying the things that I do. Sometimes that’s standing on a stage with a puppet.  Sometimes it’s taking improv or sketch classes. It’s watching a Battlestar Galactica marathon, playing spoons while waiting for the opening of The Wrath of Khan, and sometimes it’s just singing “Bad Romance” in a karaoke room with all of my friends.

What makes my friends cool? The ones you would label “geeks”? It’s that they do what they love without worrying about what you think.

We never needed a TV show to say it’s ok to be who we are.

My Secret Talent

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

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

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

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

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

Evidence of Innate Talent Right There

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

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


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

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