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?)

By the Prickings of My Thumbs…

The Sweet Fresh Hell

Really, there are no words I could possibly add that would be adequate enough to do justice to these latest horrors. I just need you to silently bear witness and offer pity.

Also, two side notes: 1) Concept2 – I see this as a personal betrayal since my thighs are on fire today. As soon as I can stand again I’ll… well, I’ll walk more quickly and stand without making small whimpering noises – like the champ I am! Those aren’t tears. I just have allergies, and 2) the gym only looks empty – there are actually people behind me – all ducking their heads down trying not to catch the eyes of these beasts lest they, too get drawn into the event horizon of rope pulley ski hell (or I may have carefully avoided violating anyone’s privacy as the gym got busy) Oh, and in case you don’t think my trainer is pure evil, I will leave you with this – a gift she once sent to me. PLAY IT! Know my eternal suffering!

… and I rock at soccer! You’re welcome!

I guess I’ll go back tomorrow for more.

Sweet Fresh Hell

“What sweet fresh hell is that?” This is how I greet most things I don’t expect before 6am especially at the gym. This is applied universally to things like people spazzing out on the rower in a way that makes me stop dead in my tracks and stare (Dude, the rower actually isn’t supposed to be making that noise or doing that. What is that? What is wrong with you?) to a new piece of equipment like “the tank” appearing with its monster truck wheels and bondage ropes wrapped neatly around it. I swear we accidentally conjured that thing up after many of us celebrated the demise of the sled. Gym karma can suck. What were we thinking as we gleefully danced around? That was rhetorical. We were thinking, “YAY!!! Good riddance, sled with your wonky carpet strip!” Oh, and quick side story about the sled, did I ever mention to you guys that Jenn used to stand on it while hurling “words of encouragement” at me as I ran it down the basketball court? Good because that never happened, but man that would have been awful, right? Totally humiliating. Anyway, we were glad when it died, and absolutely horrified when the sled on steroids aka “the Tank” showed up proving a sled could be made worse. FYI, it appears to be much sturdier and more rugged than the sled. I’m not entirely sure a well-placed spike strip could take it out.

So, I walk into the gym today. It’s crack of too early. I’m still wrestling with the idea that I have to get up ALL THE DAYS, and that  apparently fitness doesn’t happen on a couch while binge watching Supernatural. (I’ve been trying this out in the evenings. I feel I need more data points to confirm.)  And there blocking my way to the locker room and waving in all its “what the fresh Hell glory” looms something called a SkiErg. No seriously. A SkiErg. (An advertising firm should be fired. Just my opinion.) And I’m thinking, “What the… Nope! No. Mmm mm. Not having it. Don’t like it. Disapprove.” And right next to it is something called who knows what, but it’s a never-ending rope pulley whatever – probably has an equally bad name. My glasses aren’t on, and fact: if a thing doesn’t have a name, because no way you can decipher the ridiculous sport font hieroglyphics identifying it, then it isn’t real. That’s a thing, John.

These dueling odious little eyesores stand proudly in the designated functional training area paying homage to their Medieval torture device predecessors. Note: This is the same area I spend my Tuesdays in, because Tuesday is my training day and… Oh FRAK! It’s Tuesday. Seriously??? Are you !@#$!-ing me??? And despite it being too early, and me being with zero of the caffeine, I’m able to reason that new brands of torture + training day = Beth being a guinea pig. Come on!

Jenn goes on to demonstrate said new stupidness, which then leads to me fussing about the unfairness of my “guinea pig for the gym status,” as is my right. Jenn then points out that no, she just used them first. Then, with a certain air of gym entitlement, she announces she’s claiming the coveted guinea pig title. Are you kidding me??? I found this all quite suspect, and made much noise about it.  We moved on to the next set of activities, and that’s when she forced me, forced I tell you, to demo the new rope pulley thing for the gym as well, and I swear it was only because I was watching various people approach it, stare at it while trying to work out how this might wreck their lives, too, and a few pre-caffeinated remarks may have come out. Which, by the way, were spot-on and deserved. Super clever lines like “I’m watching the guy behind you try to figure out the rope thing.” Yeah, that’s right. I’m able to whip out that level of clever in the early morning. Fear me.  I mean I was mid doing some super impressive things with arm weights that heralded the need to decrease the weight immediately, wowing my fellow gym-mates, and was right on the heels of revealing some equally awkward arm raising ability, and Jenn announces we’re going to do the rope pulley thing, too as if the SkiUgh wasn’t humiliation enough. That activity wasn’t on the paper listing our day’s routing. I looked. I mean in truth nothing was, which isn’t the point. Still, she claimed that she had it all in her head, but I don’t think the pulley thing was really ever in there. There’s no proof. (For the record, when it comes to the new things that have appeared in the gym that I was also forced to do, there was “the Tank” last week, and the week before I was on a cruise, so well that doesn’t count, but like weeks before that was the fresh hell that was the squishy rocking thing, and who even knows what that thing actually is – maybe a BOSU pill box capsule thingy? I have no idea. It’s new. It’s squishy. I don’t like it. And why? Why all the new things when no one is on the rowing machine. Maybe the rowing machine needs some love?) Also, me doing the new pulley thing meant all eyes (or maybe one set) were on me. It was like I was on stage… for an audience of one, but seriously?

So, we did those. But my story isn’t over. Nope.  As I’m using the new thing, pulling down with all my half-hearted heart. Jenn is reading the info on the side of the machine, which who knew there were words on a thing that I’m refusing to acknowledge even has a name in my endeavor to not allow it to be real, and she says, “you can do pull downs” (what we were doing) “and pull ups.” I say I want to be the first to try the pull ups, and she says she’s going to do it first. THEN SHE RACES ME TO DO IT FIRST!!! Seriously. I don’t get to be the official guinea pig for the new machines, and now I don’t get to be the first to even do the pull up part? Are you kidding me?  And here’s the worst part… THEN! THEN she says, “you can write about it in your blog” all smug like. Mmm hmm. Said it to MY FACE!

Well, I showed her! That’s right, Jenn. I wrote about you in my little blog.

Honestly, the little indignities I suffer…

(Note to all of you literal types: I AM KIDDING! Well no, this all happened, but Jenn is the best and we did try new things today, and she did actually give me grief about writing in my blog. I just wanted to clear that up, and make a note that I’m joking, because well… some of you guys… wow.)

Gym Vocabulary

My blog is all about personal anecdotes, and you may have noticed that lately my blog posts have been a bit sporadic  (if “sporadic” means non-existent).  Blame my whole lack of doing things or maybe blame the folks I’m around for carrying on like normal people are supposed to (“normal” as depicted on television, film, or a Norman Rockwell painting – all great sources of reality, and it’s actually quite mind boggling (dare I say disturbing?) that the people I know are behaving in such a way). Let’s face it, If someone isn’t methodically slamming their grocery cart into the back of mine repeatedly instead of saying, “excuse me” or you know, moving around my cart obstacle, it can be challenging to tease together a blog-worthy story.  (Ok, I suppose that guy never actually made it to the blog, but mostly because I wasn’t bolstered by a pitchfork carrying mob or in the presence of a bruiser of a bodyguard to shout, “get ‘im!”at.)

A few weeks back, a certain mouse suggested a blog post  based off a comment about the gym. I’m going to  run with that idea, since there’s only so much I can tell you about my photo appearing in the local online paper’s “A List” (it’s all about timing and a Santa hat) or going to see Postmodern Jukebox (YouTube video below).

Austin 360 – Conspirare’s Big Sing! Event

Anyway, back to the story about the gym.

Since I started actively going to the gym in August, I’ve learned that my trainer and I have very different understandings when it comes to the definitions of words.  I personally blame her Midwestern upbringing – maybe the harsher conditions or plain living affected her brain adversely.  Who knows? Granted, I realize that people outside of Texas may find this statement ironic or even scoff at the idea that Texans can actually get anything right (insert a few political jokes here), but I contend based on my limited interaction with this delightful Missouri native, that I have a better understanding of words – at least when it comes to adjectives.

On any given weekday I arrive at training dressed in my gym finery with my hair pulled back, holding my water bottle (lest I be stuck drinking spit as she’s suggested before), and exuding my pluckiest, “it’s 5:30am!!!!!” attitude, which may look like I’ve been hit in the face with a door repeatedly, but it’s an exceptionally plucky door.  On a couple of those days, I meet up with my trainer Jenn who always declares, “you’re going to LOVE what we’re doing today; it’s going to be so much FUN!” She somehow manages to deliver this news with a straight face every time.  Clearly, she’s not a person to be trifled with should a poker game break out (as you know they often can do in the middle of a gym).

This is usually where I tell Jenn, as she’s doing a little dance, because “fun” and “love” somehow also involve an impromptu dance or song, that I don’t think she understands the meanings of the words she’s using.  See, her idea of “fun” and “love” usually involve me temporarily losing my ability to move easily out of chairs for a day. On days where things are “super fun”, I lose that same ability to move easily for multiple days – maybe even a weekend.   Pitiful noises including tiny gasps and whimpering echo quietly through the office or house.  I dread “super fun” days. Thankfully, those days occur less often.  In fact, I haven’t had a true “super fun” day in months.  I don’t tell Jenn this in the event she gets worried we’re not having as much “fun” as we could.

Just recently a new word, “chipper,”  was added to her twisted vocabulary.  I wish she’d waited until she was a little more clear on “fun” and “love” before jumping into a brand new word, but what can you do? “Chipper” is very similar to those other words in that its definition is the exact opposite of what a normal person would expect.  You see, upon exploring the topic of a “chipper,” which is used as a noun of all things, I’ve learned you definitely won’t be anything close to “chipper” (the adjective) upon its completion. Instead, you can expect to be sweaty, exhausted, or even a little unsteady, but likely not chipper as what once passed as muscle becomes rubber, and you contemplate how long one can lay on the mat breathing heavily before others become alarmed.   “Chipper,” in her crazy upside down world, describes  a series of events designed to make you cry. I think “they” (the gym “man”) uses it as a way to lure you in – a good old fashioned “bait and switch” technique.  “Here Beth, we’re going to do something “fun”, you’re going to “love” it, it’s called a “chipper.”” A sentence that roughly translates to, “you will probably hate your life, but thanks to your early onset senility you’ll likely do this again and again, because hey we’ve called it a “chipper””.

I think they may be right. As I finished my chipper last week, and went about returning all of the various equipment (you see, a chipper also involves hoarding all loose gym equipment Smaug style, but said like “smog” instead of “sma-ooog” because that’s just silly), I passed by Jenn who cheerfully called out, “how did you enjoy that chipper?”  And I,  being sensitive to her vocabulary challenges, called back, “it was fun! I loved it! It was my favorite!” This prompted her to give me a thumbs up and misuse another word in response, “AWESOME!!”

I then took my “awesome” self back to the locker room ending another “awesome” moment at the gym.  Of course, tomorrow I’ll be back at it for more “fun,” more things I “love,” and ready for another day where I “chipper” my heart out even though the meanings of these words are a bit mixed up.

And now for some Postmodern Jukebox – a GREAT show!  Thanks to Ben for introducing me to them and April for going with me as part of my birthday month silliness.