Wisdom

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be wise. I wanted it more than I wanted to be a ballerina, a cheerleader, an architect, a mythologist (which my cousin once informed me wasn’t a job, thus dashing my pre-tween dreams – I’m looking at you, Tonya!), a star on Broadway and a (insert everything else a young girl can dream of becoming including quarterback because hey, I could outthrow most of the boys my age, wasn’t afraid to get messy and was always picked to be the captain in pickup games at school. Forget that I didn’t really get tackling, opting for the ol’ trip and shove to bring opponents down. No powderpuff leagues for this gal. I knew the NFL would make an exception – I mean, hello, it’s me!)

I wanted to be the person you could turn to and count on to provide thoughtful advice.

I want to be the person you can turn to and count on to provide thoughtful advice.

And for the most part, I’m friendly, likable, outgoing(ish), and approachable. (Great traits when you mentor, which I do. Terrible traits when you’re being leered at by the pest control guy who is waving a meaty paw at you saying, “I want all of that all over me. Would you be into that?” (Not kidding. True story. Also, what the actual… ARE YOU KIDDING ME? But, that’s another story for another day.)

Needless to say, when people ask for my advice it feeds my inner megalomaniacal narcissistic naval-gazing monster my dream of being thought of as wise.

So, there I was… (as all relatively mediocre stories start) sitting at my desk when this very sincere young fellow (YF) asks to sit down and get my opinion on a matter.

YF: Beth, do you have a second for me to get your advice?

Me: (SQUEALING LOUDLY ON THE INSIDE!!) Of course! What’s going on?

YF: I just need your opinion on something and it’s kind of serious.

Me: (Doing an internal awkward cabbage patch dance while holding imaginary pompons and trying to outwardly do my best to show a face of concern. ) Ok.

YF: One of the other guys came up to me and said something, and I just need your take.

Me: (thoughtful mm hmmms – GIRL, you are going to CRUSH this!)

YF: Well, he said there were donuts in the breakroom, and I went to look and there weren’t donuts…

Me: (Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….)

YF: Do you think he lied and was trying to trick me about the donuts to be mean? I know this sounds stupid.

Me: (Uhhh…) Nooooo

Internal voice: Maybe?? A little bit?? Donuts? Seriously??

Now, this conversation was more about the dynamics of their relationship than whether donuts were to be had and we talked this through it for a while.

BUT… I’m not going to lie, when I pictured myself as wise, I envisioned pilgrims ascending 1,000 steps (or more) hewn from the mountainside on which my temple/cloud condo was perched atop, a scenic overlook with some clear, spring-fed water babbling away somewhere as water is wont to do, maybe some incense, some big fluffy pillows, some bubble tea (because it’s fun to eat and drink), some genuflection, some “grasshopper, snatch the pebble from my hand” stuff. I never pictured life coaching on how to handle the disappointment of missing out on donuts. It’s like some genie with a wicked sense of humor said, “ok, you’ll be wise but your specialty will be confectionary in nature.”

Maybe I’ve achieved what I sought, but maybe it’s not too late for the quarterbacking dream.

Lucy!

Fact. I live in the longest-running I Love Lucy episode.

And since we’re talking about an episode(s) and it’s my episode and I’m a Beth rather than a Lucy, I’m starting with a flashback.

Two and a Half Months Ago

FADE IN

INT. STEP-MOTHER’S BATHROOM – DAY

An over-engineered pristine, porcelain, walk-in contraption resembling a bathtub sits in the alcove of a newly remodeled bathroom. Everything in the room pops with the crispness of “new.” This is NOT your Granny’s outdated 1970’s tribute to rose-petal pink. A breathtaking woman steps in. The audience senses her warmth, wit, and charm. (Hey, I’m the writer here. Write your own narratives.) The outside of the tub is covered in knobs and handles and a hint of jets, lights and other doo-dads peak out from the inside.

Ok, so enough of that. To the story. This tub actually intimidated my stepmom, and rightfully so. It’s a lot. It’s just not a straightforward contraption. It’s a bathtub leviathan, and there I was staring it down. Committed. I stepped in and spun the wheel to hermetically seal the door – a mechanism put in place in the event either the rest of the house or the bathtub itself floods. Unfortunately, the designer/engineer/what have you forgot to install a clear portal to allow you to wave any final or teary (if you’re on the dry side) goodbyes.

Fine. It didn’t have a spinning wheel lock, but I’m sure it was just another design oversight to this beast.

I sat down on the seat, plopped the stopper in place, and opened up the flume. Water rushed in, and rushed in, and rushed in some more eventually covering my ankles. Holy cow, it takes a lot of water to fill this thing. Guilt set in as I realized this was enough drinking water to hydrate a small community for a month, and we weren’t even up to my knees. Finally, there was enough to fill the front well of the tub; however, thanks to the volume of water needed to fill it, the temperature in the water flowing from the faucet was now cold. I’d emptied the water heater of every drop of warm water. Enough! I shut the water off. There was enough very warm (perfect) water in the space in front of me, and heck, I’m bendy-ish so I decided to slide forward and drop down.

It was absolute, slightly cramped bliss. Water was up to my chin, the ends of my hair were slightly damp, and steam rose around my face. LIVING MY BEST LIFE! I’d even turn the interior lights to a lovely shade of teal – ripples reflected off the ceiling and around the alcove. BEAUTIFUL! So, obviously, it was time to try out those jets. Bubbly water could only enhance this perfect experience.

I reached behind me, depressed the button for the jets, and was rewarded by an alarmingly fast-moving spray of water straight to the back of the head. Ugh. Since I wasn’t seated properly on the seat, my head was level with the jet designed to spray you in the middle of your back. I snickered. Whoops! I relaxed back into my bathtub bliss again and thought “ooh, jets would be nice.” And I repeated what I did before because I’m a big fan of expecting different results from doing the exact same thing. I burst out laughing and as I laughed I bumped the stopper. Water drained rapidly. I couldn’t get the stopper properly reseated in a way that the seal would hold. Ugh x1000.

So, there I was crammed into the front of the tub with no water as that last slurp of water rudely and loudly made its exit as it departed. (Earlier, I had used the water’s buoyancy to easily move up to the seat.) I was effectively stuck, which was made slightly worse because I was laughing pretty hard. I just kept picturing my stepmom saying, “Well heck, you silly goose! I swear!” and just laughing with me. She would have handed me a big fluffy towel while cracking up at this whole misadventure.

Dad eventually came by, calling through the door to make sure things were. I admitted I was stuck, but promised to work my way out of it; it was just going to take a minute thanks to the laughter. I would have killed to have that little door to the bathtub open out instead of in, then I could have just gracefully spilled my “warmth, wit, and charm” out onto the floor. Eventually, I worked my way out, but it was ridiculous and it made me miss my stepmom all the more. She would have been so tickled by the whole thing.

Last Friday

FADE IN

INT. LARGE GYM – EARLY MORNING

A tucked-away, but scaled-down football field yawns out towards a packed gym. It’s a new year, and the football field is a landmine of people trying to figure out what they should be doing because their resolution merely said “go to the gym” and were scant on details regarding the “plan” for going to the gym. A breathtaking woman pushes a sled laden with weights down the length of the football field. The audience senses her warmth, wit, and charm. (I’m still the writer.) The woman glistens from her effort and glides effortlessly across the field because that’s how she moves through this world.

Ok, this is a quicker story but speaks to this theme.

I made it to the end of the football field into the endzone and start pulling the sled backward. Yay hamstring stuff! This is my third time through and I’m nearly done. (FYI – sleds/tanks – 2nd worst thing in the gym narrowly behind the stair master – why do those stairs never end?!?!) I’m doing my best to avoid every other person in the universe who has decided to stretch across the width of this field (MOVE TO THE SIDES, PEOPLE! LADY WITH A SLED COMING THROUGH). On this third and final time back, I’m no longer able to pull it back in a straight line thanks to the people obstacles. “Oh hey, someone is moving the sled, but this open space they keep crossing is pretty great. BEST SPOT EVER! Imma work out in the middle and live my best gym life.” My path back is erratic as I plot a path to miss everyone. I make it to the end and begin to pull the sled into that end zone but am not finishing where I initially started. I’m actually now where my kettlebell is – 20 kg of small, unmoving darkness against a rich deep blue background. I don’t have my glasses on. Who can see detail? Not me! I don’t see it (because truthfully, if I did, there wouldn’t be a story); however, my foot finds it easily. As I’m slowmo falling I announce quite loudly and clearly to the gym “whoopsie!” and land with a wee bounce on my tush. I did a quick “who saw me???” scan (this is important), confirm I’m ok and promised a younger woman seated nearby that I’m good. Then I continue to just sit and giggle a bit.

Sooo… remember the part where I said I do the same thing and expect different results? I should probably mention here that I did the exact same thing the week before (whoops!), but instead of tripping over a kettlebell and falling to the ground, I fell into a seated position on top of a plyo box (the boxes people jump on at the gym). I kind of failed to notice it was directly behind me, because why look when I have faith my paths are always clear?

For the record, pre-Friday’s kettlebell incident, I ensured there were exactly ZERO ply boxes behind me before starting. I wasn’t going to let that happen again. Who says I don’t learn? (Well me, but can you trust the author?)

I’ll end with a final note from a breathtaking woman who is both witty and charming. (Again, get your own blog, and don’t be so ugly/sarcastic in your heart that you’d say on the one hand “you should be more positive about yourself” then try to teach me a special lesson in humility for my hubris when I do just that. Whoops, side rant for another day, but don’t think I don’t see you. I absolutely do.) 😉

Right, I got derailed.

Back to that final note to put a bow on this:

A co-worker recently told me, “Beth, I wish I could be like you. You let things slide off of you like water off a duck’s back. Something happens, and you just laugh it off. I want to be more like that.” I thanked her and my response was, “you can take the sting out of a lot of situations if you just laugh. Think about toddlers when they fall, especially if they’re not really hurt, they immediately check in with the people around them. A split second determines how they feel about what’s happened. If people react in a way that shows overconcern, they may start crying. If people applaud and laugh, they may start laughing, too. I can’t always laugh at everything, in fact, I can fall on a sword so fast and hard it will make someone uncomfortable, but if I do something ridiculous and then laugh about it – that informs everyone around me it’s ok to laugh, too. It’s a tactic that can disarm a situation – take away its power.”

And truthfully, or thankfully, my life is filled with these Vaudevillian-esque pratfalls and misadventures. They happen regularly and can be quite ridiculous. So, since I know they’re going to happen, I do what I can do since I can’t go back in time – I laugh.

You see, I live in my own I Love Lucy episode – one of my choosing. Life is easier and much more fun that way.

The Great Sidewalk Attack of 2022

So, I was out walking, minding my own business (and by “minding my own business” I mean, “I was totally caught up with staring into this random family’s house because they had the same model, and I was wondering how they had their front area set up”) on a beautiful Saturday evening (and by “beautiful” I mean “overcast, blustery, and perfectly miserable” (for Texans, this is when temps dare to dip below 60)) WHEN out of nowhere, and completely unprovoked, this random family’s over-protective attack tree root, which had buckled the sidewalk, leapt out and knocked me to the ground. I laid there for a bit, because the last time I had a good fall, I permanently lost my ACL (I miss you ACL and our pro Tennis dreams – I’m sure we would have been seeded #1 in the geriatric leagues right after I developed an interest in playing and, I dunno, showed some undiscovered hand-eye coordination talents) and temporarily said goodbye to my MCL. The old lady checklist began as my taste buds politely (and a bit sarcastically, I might add) offered, “mmm… notes of iron with a distinctive split texture”:

  • Can you stand? Seem to.
  • That blood in your mouth, do you have all your teeth? Yep.
  • Loose teeth? Nope.
  • Can you move knees? wrists? Check. Check. (As I rotated, bent, flexed, and wiggled things.)
  • Inventory: what hurts? Chin. Teeth, Knee. Hands. Ego.
  • Do you need to go home and cry or can you finish the remaining two miles? Cry?
  • Is crying on the workout sheet for Saturday? No.
  • Is walking? Yes.
  • So, you’re going to keep walking? Yes??

That’s the spirit! You go little trooper!

I stood for a minute more wiping mud off my hands, shirt, and leggings while wondering, “How many cameras caught that? Am I going to find it online one day as a .gif – an endless loop of me losing a fight with concrete? Ugh, I shouldn’t have done that to that one guy. Karma. Am I right? (You probably think I’m kidding. Let’s go with that. I’m a nice person. 🙂 You can trust me.) Then I started walking – picking up my pace and this time paying more attention to the path ahead than the neighbors’ homes. Thankfully, I walked away with only a bruised/cut chin, a slightly busted inner lip (did I mention I kind of face planted? I sorta maybe fell on my face), a bruise along the side of my knee, and quite a nasty “boob-boo” (as a friend who is a GP referred to it – a medical term, I’m sure) – basically a huge bruise on my chest that I actually discovered two days after the Great Sidewalk Attack of 2022. In my defense, I don’t go around looking at my chest. It didn’t hurt, no need to look down, so imagine my surprise when I actually did see it. It was a mix of, “what the…???” combined with a need for further scientific study, “does it hurt when you go like this? how about this? Hey, watch it lady!”

Sooo… that’s me.

How’s your 2022 going?

The Hippo Menace and Other Thoughts

I think all of us have that friend/family member who, in a social gathering (you remember those, right? The idea hearkens back to an innocent time where people would leave their homes and come together in groups greater than six – a time when we naively referred to our friends as “friends” instead of “vectors,” anyway…) Let me start again. …the friend/family member who, in a social gathering, would suddenly launch into the most random/odd/crazy rant you’d ever heard. The kind of rant you’d laugh about in the beginning thinking this is surely a joke – they’re riffing – and then you realized, “oh dear God, they’re actually serious,” and the laugh would slowly become more nervous. You were then left with a choice – try to gently cajole them out of the crazy (good luck you naive fool!), or smile politely and claim you needed a refill… from another room… possibly outdoors… at a neighbors.

Among my friends and their acquaintances, we’ve got the guy who will get in your face over Brian Henson voicing Kermit the Frog, because it’s just wrong – they should have retired the character (or something like that). He’ll angrily get up in your face about it. Forget we’re all well past the age where we’re watching Sesame Street lately, and the last Muppet movie we saw was likely “The Muppet Movie.” Oh, Kermy. This guy takes the voice acting very seriously, and he’s pretty angry.

(For the record it turns out, after a quick Google search, that Jim Henson’s replacement for that voice was actually Steve Whitmire, who voices Kermit for 27 years after Henson and was fired by Disney around 2017. I just read too much about the incident that lead up to his dismissal. These are things I wish I didn’t know today; I actually don’t have a frog in this pond battle.)

Another friend-of-a-friend has strong feelings about Jupiter’s size. Why? Why does it have to be that big? (Again, they’re very serious.) I’ve heard that when it starts, it can be incredibly funny, but I’ve also been strongly discouraged from pursuing the conversation on my own. I get the impression the Jupiter conversation can take a dark turn. (Aside, I’d still like to hear it.)

I was thinking about this, and thinking, “wow, Beth, you really lack passion.” I mean sure, I’m passionate about our political situation. I can sound quite passionate if people are driving in a “non-Beth-approved” way and therefore causing me undue stress as I move from point A to point B (like interrupting my commanding car performance of Queen’s “I Want to Break Free”. Don’t make me stop singing to scream at you. I will!) And as I was sitting on my high-horse feeling quite above it all in the crazy, it hit me – my things. (Epiphanies tend to fly right at you when you’ve had little real human contact for two months.) So, here we go –

Hippos.

In a questionable top five list I found while Googling “things that agree with my world view” I discovered that hippos are one of the Top 5 killers of humans. (Full disclosure: the list probably excluded things like: disease, other people etc., etc. but that’s not what’s important.) What’s important is that hippos are a murderous menace! And if you eliminate many things, they’re among the top five animal murderers (behind mosquitoes, tsetse flies, snakes and crocodiles (we’re ignoring the part that included dogs)).

I blame Disney and the Animaniacs for my overreaction.

My entire life I’ve viewed hippos as these adorably chubby Kilroys who had thoughtful hippo conversations, yearned to don a tutu, and paddled around rivers to help get 3,000+ lbs of weight off of those poor knees.

Imagine my horror when I discovered they were multi-ton jerks with murderous intentions? But we don’t get weekly news updates on Hippo homicides. Let one shark nibble on one surfer, and suddenly everyone’s afraid to go into the water. The next thing you know, Roy Scheider is out on a boat hunting them down over four increasingly ridiculous movies.

You know Flavio and Marita had a secret basement where they kept their humans – trying to create perfect human suits. Where are you keeping the bodies, Flavio and Marita?!?! WHERE?!?!

Hippos kill upwards of 500 people per year. Where’s my hippo week?!?!

And really, that’s what it boils down to – I want Hippo Week on Discovery. Is that too much to ask? Hippos are way better at murder than sharks! AND they sing and dance. Fact.

Now to my second crazy rant (it’s a two-fer) we’re going to have to take a hard left since it doesn’t involve the Martha Graham’s of the African river systems.

No, this is about soap, particularly dish soap, and my lack of access to it.

Let’s start with a fact: For the last 30+ years I’ve been washing dishes by hand; I don’t use a dishwasher. I just don’t. I like to mindlessly stand in front of a sink, thinking about things, and washing my dishes. It’s calming. It’s my thing.

Enter Covid-19 and suddenly everyone has discovered dish soap to the extent that I can’t get mine, and I have a strong preference. Any old soap won’t do. I like Dawn. Any Dawn, but mostly the green Dawn. Maybe it’s the smell, who knows. It’s Dawn. It’s green. It’s good. I don’t like Joy. I don’t like Palmolive. I don’t like the off-brand at the grocery store, or Meyer’s. I like Dawn. If I can’t have the green stuff, the blue still is perfectly fine. You see, Dawn does EXACTLY what I want it to do, the way I want it to do it. It cleans dishes, and it gets grease out of the way, just like the commercials tell me it does. But apparently everyone is suddenly interested in washing dishes now??!?! Really???

No. I suspect it has to do with people having limited access to hand soap, so they’re buying dish soap in order to clean their hands. And I applaud you guys for suddenly showing an interest in hygiene, but my question is – why weren’t you doing that before? Seriously. Why?

When we were being sent home to shelter-in-place, and I went to the grocery store, I didn’t buy soap, because I had soap. The shelves were stripped clean of soap, but I didn’t mind. I had extra soap for when I ran out. In fact, I haven’t had to buy new hand soap, yet. I’ve just worked my way through my soap reserves. And I get that some of you didn’t have soap, people run out, it’s a thing, but the fact that there’s still a soap shortage is crazy to me. Again, thank you for discovering how filthy hands can be, but dang… I now kind of see you guys as contributing to the problem to begin with. Why weren’t you washing your hands before? You’re gross.

Look, I don’t care if you have to buy some lye and coconut oil, please let me have my Dawn – a product I use for actual dishes – not something I use because I recently discovered clean hands were in. Thank you social media influencers for finally doing something I wouldn’t categorize as vapid noise, and also, GRR! I want my Dawn!

(Health warning: Please do not actually buy lye unless you know how to handle it properly. It’s a very strong alkali and therefore caustic. Also, I feel I should add: Also, please do not inject or ingest bleach. Bleach is typically made with chlorine, which is also an alkali and generally doesn’t go well with one’s digestive system in that you could die. That’s all the near-science lessons I have in me today.)

So there they are – the two things I’m excitable about these days. The perils of hippo interactions and my lack of Dawn in my house, by non-dishwashers who won’t kindly just use lye (again, please don’t do that).

What ridiculous things get you excited?

The Way I Was Raised: Idea Fairies

Co-worker: Beth, did you plan a White Elephant Gift Exchange?

Beth: No, I didn’t. However, if you’d like to plan one feel free to do so!

Co-worker (actual quote from email): Couldn’t remember if we were doing it…maybe next year you can plan it 🙂

(The smiley face at the end is truly one of my favorite parts. It’s right behind “I couldn’t remember…” because, true story, we’ve actually never done one of these at our holiday parties. So, I’m confused. They couldn’t remember that we still aren’t doing it?) Moving on!

Let’s talk idea fairies. You know what I’m talking about. Those people (maybe you) who are life’s true visionaries. Their (your) imagination is boundless, and really the only thing holding them back from a standing ovation and a well-deserved write-up on Page 6 is you, you delightful little worker bee. They’ve done their job, they’ve dreamt up the most magical of plans – an idea that once realized will surely impress and delight everyone – friends, family, those uninvited and unclean urchins peering into the windows looking forlorn. But here’s the thing, love, you really need to hop on board and do the work. I mean, they’ve already covered the hard stuff – the thinking bits. You just need to pull it together with that little elven magic thing or that holiday voodoo (we don’t judge here – judge free zone – all religions welcome) that you do. It’s really quite a mystery to us, but we all have our strengths, and mine is thinking and yours is doing. Oh, please don’t bother us with the details, just… you know… do what you’re good at, my favorite little minion, love you, kisses – see, you’re super good at “realizing” my vision. DUH! Don’t doubt yourself, dear! I believe in you. Let me know when you’re done, and then you can send out the invitations.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand idea fairies. From the gal who thinks we’re going to have a White Elephant gift exchange that I should make happen (for the record, I genuinely loathe White Elephant gift exchanges, I don’t get the rules. Plus, I already have a lot of junk in my house. In fact, if you’re looking for unopened/unmolested oddities to bring to your next one, just swing by. I’ll hook you up with some whimsy! OH! unless the White Elephant exchange is actually a White Elephant board game/card game exchange then HOLY COW, sign me up! That sounds amazing. Whoops! I think I just Idea Fairied that and I also made it a verb – go me) to something as simple as the person who says, “let’s all get together, you just call up these people and let me know when it is.” Ummm… no. Not doing that either.

Now in truth, we’ve all done this at some point or another to some degree. We’ve had an idea, couldn’t quite figure out how to pull it off, and we started looking at our friends/family/co-workers for help. Take last year when I had my Reverse Quinceañera. I wasn’t sure what that would look like, so I threw that out to friends, then I held meetings (yep, meetings) and sent many, many annoying emails. I recruited a team. I had a ton of people who hopped on board to make that vision happen, and who even added onto it. In the end I had this incredible celebration that included a Bollywood instructor, and things like a party play list, dance speakers, a fairly full open bar with specialty birthday drinks, a photo booth, a professional photographer, people who volunteered to craft decorations, who put the food together. I had a set-up team, a tear-down team, and someone willing to join the VA so I could get a significant discount on a hall. It was massive, and it was a collaborative event. One that started with an idea. And while it did start as an idea, I always planned to be heavily involved not play party princess, wave my hand around and demand my minions hustle. (Although, during the party where I was a party prop, I did feel like a princess – it may have been the actual hair ornament or the fancy dresses or the fact that to visit with me, you literally had to queue up.)

I like to think that my friends were willing to build on this dream and take my birthday party to that next, more amazing level, because of their buy-in. That they saw I was always driving this locomotive, ready to work, ready to bring it together, instead of simply flopping on the ground before them and demanding, “I need a party, people!!! A phenomenal soirée! Now go forth and make it happen my floundering little lackeys! Of course, I can’t help. Don’t be ridiculous. Mama needs a spa day! All that dreaming and bossing you around takes a toll! Chop chop! Could someone massage my feet?”

And that’s what you sound like when you try to push your idea on someone else and insist they make it happen for you. You sound like an annoying, and a tad bit entitled and spoiled, little prince/princess.

Don’t do that.

As the holidays are upon us, and so many grand ideas are hopping around in your head, ideas you KNOW will be more than well-received if they could just see the light of day, I empower you to spread your own wings and soar! This is your opportunity to show the world how capable you are in addition to the brilliance you’ve always displayed. Show them you can plan a lunch, AND invite all the people you love, all by yourself. You can use that phone, that email, and send those messages. You can even select a restaurant. No haggling. No “you decide” “no, you!” “No, YOU!!” You just do it. Show them you can throw that White Elephant gift exchange, you exquisitely brilliant creature, you! Everyone will sit in a circle, there will be hot ciders (the good kind, where you’re just a tad naughty), and you’ll giggle madly with your friends over their outrageous choices, those friends whose contact information you were able to divine on your very own, as you navigated the whole contacting them thing, and you’ll do it at a place of your choosing. You’ll be fine! Imagine that feeling of serene accomplishment as you bask in the glow of the accolades you’ll receive. And you know what? Those little minions (call them “friends” – that’ll be a great first start), say the word, and they’ll even “help” you – not do it for you, but help, because they’re excited now, too.

You got this former idea fairy. Now go make a plan!!

PS Real life note to friends: If (big if) I plan a karaoke couple of hours at the High Ball on the 22nd, AND then we drifted over somewhere for say a White Elephant game exchange, who would have interest? FYI – with karaoke, think “group singalong” – you’re not expected to solo, but that option is always available. We sing until Dancing Queen plays.

A November Promise?

If you felt I was a bit pushy with my fundraising efforts for the Out of the Darkness walk here on The Big Blue Mess, well then we’re probably not friends on Facebook. This is not a bad thing. I hammered those guys – friends, family, former co-workers, improv classmates. If you once dared to send me a “friend” request, while thinking “now this is a fine idea!” then what followed was really on you. I showed little mercy. We had an important goal to meet! However, as a benevolent fundraising tyrant, I promised them that if they took me to goal, they’d get cat videos to make up for my pushiness. (Little did they know that I increased the goal a couple of times. Shhh! That’s just between you and me, ok?)

Discussing mental health in relation to suicide is important and absolutely necessary, but so is enjoying the little things, and the medium things, and the big things – the silly things – all the things. While there can be tremendous sadness in this world, there is also incredible joy. Joy that needs to be recognized, embraced fully, and celebrated. And what’s more joyous than kitties? (Ok, dogs, otters, baby pandas, sloths, floppy bunnies.. you get the idea unless you named hippos – hippos are kind of jerks. What’s wrong with you? Why would you name hippos? Hippos kill more people than sharks! Why aren’t we discussing the hippo menace? Why isn’t there a hippo week on Discovery? Who is behind this hippo cover-up?)

Well, Sunday rolled around and my friend Jonathan demanded his cat videos claiming it was November (he’s super good with a calendar) and that the walk was officially over (his wife may have been my cohort in the fundraising efforts, so he was aware we’d finish – the post walk luncheon with him and the kids was also a tip-off), so he was certain he was owed some promised cute cats! I pointed out, “the offer was Facebook only!” I then tagged him in the mid-October dancing cat .gif I’d posted there as proof that I’d fulfilled my promise while foolishly thinking this would be good enough. Oh nay, nay. “Month of November!” was the retort. His cohort Jerry then chimed in with the accusation that I was, “Zuckerberging.” Really? That’s not a thing! He followed-up with a hashtag: #bringbackmycats. Wow!

So, to silence them I present you with an oldie but goody – my all-time favorite cat video:

An update on the walk is coming soon. I’m getting a little help from a talented (and quite busy) honor student, so stay tuned.

The Way I Was Raised: An Idea!

There are three things I’m good at (only three): my handwriting, my smile, and my manners. At least these are the things I tend to receive the most compliments on. Although to be fair, I occasionally get a “Hey, your hair looked really great yesterday” or (true story) from last week, “You’re starting to look sexy.” Oh backhanded compliments, you’re so delightful! I also don’t sweat much for a fat girl. (Ok, that’s a total lie. I have sweaty knees. These are things you learn from going to a gym regularly or reading my blog. You’re very welcome for that shared moment.)

Basically, what I’m trying to impart is that I have a lot of great qualities that would serve me extremely well in the early 1800’s at the prairie school. Back it on up, Mrs. Wilder!

Well, it turns out I can’t really write a succession of blog posts about my handwriting. I mean, I could. It would be similar to watching the world’s dullest Sesame Street episode – one that was devoid of cute rhymes or catchy tunes. They would likely focus on a single letter, and there would be zero puppets to make you feel ok about your particular place in the world or your relationships with friends and family. And by the end of the post you’d find yourself in a rather awkward conversation, trying to explain yourself to friends and family, “No, I’m reading this lady’s blog and today we’re focusing on capital M’s… no, I don’t know why… The Office reruns weren’t cutting it? Guilt maybe? It’s like an alphabet train wreck I can’t seem to look away from! SPOILER ALERT: JIM AND PAM GET MARRIED! LEAVE ME ALONE! I need ice cream!”

I also can’t feature posts about my smile. Let’s face it, after one picture you’d either agree or disagree that I smiled well, then you’d start thinking, “Y’know, if I stare at it too long, it’s kind of creepy. Why is she smiling like that? Is the smile originating from inside my house? Halloween is bad enough, but now this? This smile? Like a red balloon hovering out of a gutter, beckoning me to approach, but more like an evil Cheshire cat. Where’s Alice?!?! I can’t escape!!!” By the way, when people say it’s one of the top three things I do well, that doesn’t mean as compared to other people – just a top three for me. “Beth, I dunno… I mean if you’re pressing me, I guess I’d say you’ve got good handwriting, and uhhhh… your… ummm… smile? Yeah, yeah, you’ve got a ‘nice’ smile? Hey, who likes Slurpees?? Slurpee run!” So, pump those breaks on that smile judgement!

Quick aside: Some of you may feel you now need to pay me some compliments. Nay nay. This is not a fishing trip, but thank you.

This leads me to manners – that third thing I get complimented on – that I’m apparently good at. Now if I’m honest, I think it’s likely a thing I get high marks on when you compare me to others. It’s not that my manners are flawless, or without fault. I mean, I still owe two thank-you cards from several years ago, I owe my closest friends a wedding gift from 19 years ago, and I’m being 100% honest when I say I still have some real guilt over that. I mean, clearly not guilty enough to see if I could unearth a two-decade-old wish list or send a card that read, “Remember that time you gave me… yeah, thank you for that!” But there’s guilt nonetheless. I may be on a personal mission to spoil their kids because I didn’t buy them a blender. Hey, I’m just saying blenders don’t hug or make me laugh like they do, so who really won out in the end? (Did I just make an argument on how being ill-mannered can pay off in the end? Oh dear. Ignore this part, ok?)

No, I really feel it’s that by comparison my manners just stick out. Also, I tend to sit up straight (yay orchestra years) and I usually manage not to hiss or make rude remarks at strangers. That should concern you if that’s all it takes for me to stand out among my peers, but you can clearly now see why I’m well-positioned to give practical advice on manners.

I ran the idea by my focus group (or Facebook followers, it’s practically the same; however, I feel “focus group” sounds so much more official – like I stuffed people into a room with overly-bright and flickering fluorescent lighting, loaded them up with Taster’s Choice and stale donuts, then projected a PowerPoint presentation called “The Way I Was Raised: An Inside Joke” against some wood paneling. Ok, I totally did that, but I offered up pillow mints instead of the donuts. Stale donuts are pricey! Then I collected the stubby pencils (why? why is there a market for overly short pencils that do not afford you the opportunity to erase if you need to? I have questions!), tallied the scorecards, and 23 people liked the idea. That’s right 23 people, who you don’t know, are subjecting you to this new “feature” on my blog. (Please feel free to leave your “thanks” in the comment section below.)

Then I ran the idea by a second focus group, my Aunt, and we now have a ladies agreement that I will not use this feature for evil. In other words, I will avoid skewering the family. It’s apparently not nice or the least bit fair no matter how well-deserved. I feel though that “family” really means “blood relations” despite what Merriam-Webster says, and that it’s open season for everyone else. (You really shouldn’t have been overtly rude to my cousin. Naughty, naughty.)

All of that said, here are a few of my thoughts: Gone are the days of Miss Manners, Emily Post or even Dear Abby. I’m sure a few of you are wondering who I’m even talking about. Let me pause a moment to address the youngest of our readers.

Dearest Millenials, we used to receive printed news that arrived at our house wrapped in cellophane and rubber bands. In fact, that’s where all household rubber bands came from – true story. In those “papers,” as we lovingly referred to them, were features from advice columnists who attempted to keep society from devolving into a chaotic, ill-mannered, anarchy. It was also a time when women who sought to be journalists were sidelined and their only hope of reaching a national audience was to help others with fork placement. They were beloved by a certain generation. Also, these women would probably quirk an eyebrow in my direction and politely pull me aside to let me know it’s rude to be patronizing. They are not wrong, so I do sincerely apologize.

Moving On

What I will try to do is post a monthly piece on modern manners that will be titled: “The Way I Was Raised,” which is a bit of an inside joke that will probably reveal itself over time, and I will switch up topics based on input/feedback I receive from you guys. I recognize you all have a wealth of ideas and stories from the humorous to the grrrs, and I’d love to incorporate them here.

So, what do you think? Are you up for some posts about manners from a person whose manners are probably questionable, but are at least in the top three things they personally offer this world?

I Love Tacos

We’re two days away from National Suicide Prevention Month – a month where I stress the importance of both suicide awareness and prevention, and then hopefully convince you to support my team. However, it’s still August, and that means you get a Beth story instead. Not that the other posts won’t include a healthy dose of Beth-ness, but this one is more like a typical post – one featuring a story about me tripping along through life – you know, like I do.

I’d been wanting to volunteer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for awhile. I know, I know, I said this post wasn’t about that, and it’s not – just roll with it a bit. Then an opportunity finally presented itself that matched up with my schedule: Pride Austin! Fantastic, support my friends, support a great cause, and I’d get to go to a festival. All wins! Of course, I signed up. My good friend Anna hopped on board as well as her son, Adam, and we had the makings of a plan – of a fun weekend adventure. Off we went!

We arrived in the heat of the day, and when I say “heat of the day,” it’s not a polite way of saying, “Golly, it sure is hot.” I mean it was, “Let’s buy a case of water each, haul it around in a wagon that will get lighter and lighter by the minute, and still hope we don’t die of heatstroke” hot. The kind of hot where you look at syrupy drinks or snow cones and your stomach and brain chime in with a huge, “Nope!” because all of that just sounds gross. It was so hot, I heard more than one person start a sentence with, “It’s hotter than the devil’s…” (The noun and the description of the aforementioned noun changed depending on the person. Some easily fell into the “Eww, that was really specific and colorful” category, but all descriptions let you know that any Satanic body part was still not as hot as an August day in Texas.) My favorite nephew, aka friend’s son, aka Adam, immediately headed for the fan vendor where he purchased this gigantic “Clack” fan – both a brand name and a descriptor. Personally, I don’t recall ever wanting a fan from a festival as a souvenir; however, at that moment, I wanted it more than anything (other than maybe more water). Forget those sad little pieces of flimsy cardboard stapled to a stick, this thing was amazing and produced focused gale-force winds. Also, it happened to be quite stylish. The boy has taste. He became quite the accomplished aunt-fanner that day.

We had some time before our volunteer assignment, so we walked around, checked out the booths, picked up all sorts of free items – stickers, buttons, bracelets, temporary tattoos. We even scored t-shirts, towels, and sunglasses. It was fantastic! There were a ton of things to look at and buy, and that’s when I found a place selling t-shirts.

I can’t tell you much about the actual shop, I can only tell you that they had a shirt on display declaring its appreciation for tacos with a big, “I LOVE TACOS!” on the front. This made complete sense because tacos, as we all can agree, are pretty great. Who doesn’t love tacos? As a Texan, my love for them is right behind my love for my state, Molly Ivins, a field of bluebonnets, armadillos, and Shiner Bock. Ok, I’m not really a beer person, but if I’m ordering beer, I order Shiner Bock and then feel Texas proud. Corona? Oh, please. Don’t insult me with your near-Coors.

I think I may have pointed at the shirt, and whether I pointed or not, I do know I said quite loudly, “I LOVE TACOS!!” Again, because of all of those reasons (Tacos, Texas, Armadillos, etc. – keep up!).

A look of maybe what could be described as “confused alarm” went across both Anna and Adam’s faces, while I carried on about the shirt and my commitment to my adoration of tacos. Finally, one of them, then both of them tried to shut down my jubilant loud celebration of tacos and my desire to own the shirt, which really fueled the “I want to scream it from the roofs” fire. Adam implored, “Aunt Beth, stop saying that!” I feel he also may have implied I might be having a heat stroke, but nonetheless my response was a firm “No!” I mean, Tacos! LOVE ‘EM!!! I won’t be shamed for my Tex-Mex food love!!

I moved off the taco topic as we moved further away from the object of my culinary desire. I’m easily distracted.

After we finished volunteering, which went really well despite the heat, and we left behind our puddles of sweat, we went to find dinner. Nothing quite “beats the heat” like AC, fluids, and ice cream. Then we decided to do some shopping. Needless to say, in one of the stores was another shirt professing taco adoration. This one had pictures of tacos – corn shells filled with meats, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes. I exposed it on the rack by shoving the less worthy shirts around, and made it so the logo and wording could be clearly seen, then I turned to Anna and Adam. The need to declare my taco love was rekindled. And here’s how that conversation played out. It’s not an actual transcript, because my memory isn’t that great, but it captures the spirit. It’s how I “felt” it went, so yeah… take it with a huge grain of salt, too.

Me: Look! Another shirt! I love tacos!

Anna/Adam: (synchronized exhausted sighs)

Me: You won’t repress my love now. (I’m sure I didn’t say “repressed,” but in my stories, I’m quite clever and well-spoken. In reality, I kind of just grunt and gesture emphatically to convey what I want/need.)

Anna/Adam: (more synchronized exhausted sighing combined with maybe a hint of an eye roll)

Anna: What do you think tacos are?

Me: (duh look on my face) Crunchy-shelled OR soft-tortilla goodness stuffed with lettuce, cheese, and some kind of meat.

Anna: That’s not what they mean. Where were you today?

Me: Pride.

Anna: (just waiting – giving me the look of “Go on Beth’s brain, please catch up.”)

LONG PAUSE

Me: OHHH!!! OH NO!!!! No! I don’t like tacos. I mean, tacos are fine, but umm… 

Anna then burst out laughing as she watched all of that play out across my face.

It reminded me of the time I had to explain a “beavers” reference to my aunt after visiting a Bucc-ee’s while thinking, “Your mother would not be very happy with the words coming out of your face right now.” Only I was my aunt in this scenario.

So, let me say that I do still love tacos; however, the idea of buying the shirt is now off the table. Let me also be very specific and state the kind of tacos I happen to love are the kind listed on menus in local Tex-Mex restaurants. You’re free to love tacos any way you choose, and I’ll support your taco affection. Just make sure the enjoyment of all tacos is consensual.

Anyway, now that I’ll be the butt of many jokes to come, I will say that I’m looking forward to cooler weather and Oktoberfest. I hear several events will host Sausage Fests in celebration! Probst! Cheers to Fall!

The Great Cookie Massacre of 2019

The “cookies” in all of their “glory.” (PS David, I’ve moved from parentheses and semi-colons. Air quotes shall be my new “thing”!

A good friend, whom I think of as family, and I’m convinced thinks of me as the burden one endures after being overly kind to strangers (or possibly karmic punishment for something done in a past life – something he wish he could remember and desperately hoped was funny if he was forced to be saddled with me for life), suggested I actually post a photo of The Great Cookie Massacre of 2019. (FYI – you can tell I’m not ranting, because I’m writing more like Dickens approaching the first sentence/paragraph to A Tale of Two Cities. Do I get paid per word? (Maybe if my editor loves you, he’ll be able to do something with that sentence. No promises though. He’s only paid in praise and glad tidings. Are “glad tidings” a thing?))

Anyway, I believe I promised in the last post that were I to post about the cookies, then certain words/phrases would be used. I like to keep my promises so here we go! I aim to make Dickens proud, and you know, empty my tidings account for David. (Sorry David, my five readers are making me. you understand, right? It’s for them. Also hey, apparently parentheses are making another comeback. It’s like Shark Week, but y’know – Parentheses Era. That’s certainly a thing, right?)

If Dickens Lost His Senses and Ability to Write Properly-ish

The above photo, along with another photo, showing most of those cookies clumped up in the bottom of the oven, appeared on my FB page – posted there to get a laugh from my friends and give them the opportunity to tease me, because I truly live in an on-going I Love Lucy episode, and because I have a self-deprecating sense of humor (why keep the laughs at my life pratfalls all to myself) AND (this is super hard to write this way) despite having worked in a cookie store where I was quite the talented cookie baker (give me a hockey puck – not kidding – plastic gloves and cooled dough, then turn me lose whereby (sure) I’ll will produce little doughy circles of joy); however, I’d never used parchment paper to bake cookies until that day, AND on that fateful day when I decided to experiment for no particularly good reason other than my friend Eric suggested it while talking about baking bacon; he had no idea I’d decide to go the cookie route with it, I successfully pulled out one tray from the oven, then, with my confidence bolstered, I grabbed the next one – whoops – the parchment paper sledded off the tray along with the cookies as they all screamed “WHEE!” then plummeted into the bottom of my stove; I was aghast, then I cursed the cruelty of the universe for ruining perfectly great and undeserving peanut-butter chocolate-chip cookies (THE BEST COOKIES IN THE WORLD, as you know – also, did you know Blue Bell now offers up a peanut-butter cookie dough flavor – thank you, Julie for sharing that small delicious miracle – I haven’t had it yet, but how could it not be a miracle?)

Whew! We all survived my sentence. I’m fairly certain Dickens just eye-rolled from his grave or perhaps he scoffed. He probably did both. I deserve that, I suppose. (David, I’m speaking to you again – I forbid you to make that better. It’s beneath your talents! Let it stand in its awful glory. Also, I’ll try to be better about the parentheses thing. It’s hard to quit after you do your first set. The struggle is real.)

Anyway, there you all go! Proof that poor, innocent cookies were murdered in my oven. If we could all observe a minute of silence. Thank you! Also, thank you Jers for the suggestion. Love you! Mean it!

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?)