He Kindly Stopped for Me

I am descended from a long line of martyrs.  Now, you might be thinking the lion snack, pyre kindle, rock dodger sort, but you’d be mistaken.  See, I’ve long suspected my family actually survived through the centuries by being fabulous finger pointers.  “Oh, you’re looking for a witch?  Have you spoken with Goody Johnson?  No reason.  I’m just saying there may be naked devil frolicking.  Hey, since her property is right next to mine and she doesn’t look like a pond floater to me, if you catch my drift, I was thinking you know maybe we could just add that to our lands.  Hey, did I mention the frolicking and the warts? I think there was cavorting!”  In fact, all of my friends know that if they ever need someone to bury the body, they should definitely not include me due to my finger-pointing genetics.  Even If I wanted to keep their secret, my DNA would kick in and the next thing you know I’d be at the local sheriff’s office spilling my guts.  No, we’re more the sort of martyrs with our ever-lengthening faces who believe we were meant to suffer.  It can make the holidays a real hoot.  And while I’m not always like this, I have some glorious moments.

A recent example: I was driving home one night and I suppose the radio wasn’t entertaining enough and the traffic wasn’t particularly challenging, so that allowed for some quality me time. Time to really over think things – to rework reality.  I started picking on myself and it went something like this: “you know, none of your friends parents like you – true story”.  I made a list in my head of all of my friends and their parents – a list that would make what I was saying completely true.  I crawled out on that mental ledge and followed with “you’re kind of unlikeable, there’s probably something wrong with you.”  Now let me say this was up there with the time I called April and declared, “I only have three friends” to which April calmly took a breath and asked about several other people that I hadn’t counted – people I really liked and she was able to negotiate through my very German, “no, that’s an acquaintance”- the “du” vs. “Sie” roadblocks I threw in her way until I came down off of that ledge.  I’m kind of famous for these glorious moments, I’m not so proud to say.  So, as I drove and thought of every parent that disliked me including in-laws, I became smaller and sadder.  This was my narrative I chose to tell myself that evening for no better reason than I was bored.

And then the small part of me that hates to be beaten up rallied. “Julie’s mom doesn’t feel that way. Ern’s parents don’t feel that way. In fact, if you think about it, more of them like you than don’t and the ones who don’t, you’ve always had a “right back atcha’” attitude anyway, so let’s admit we’re being silly.”  I perked back up and recounted the ways that Julie’s mom had shown me over the years that she did still think about me and she did believe I was an ok person.  I used that knowledge to feel ok again.  To feel likeable.  To feel like I wasn’t some friend toad who when introduced to parents was seen as some loathsome and repulsive parasite latched to their beloved kid. (Did I mention I’m very skilled at making myself suffer?)  Those were the people who mattered to me – those incredible, amazing people who I admire and they like me.  I’m ok.

Reminding myself of the real truth, the real story, allowed me to not only feel better about myself, but about the people around me.  And the real story is that Ernie’s parents always ask about me when Ern comes into town.  Julie’s mom follows my blog and was one of the top people to respond to my Facebook posts – something that goes well beyond what my own family does and it’s something that means a lot to me.  And all of that helps me feel connected to my past.

Last week Julie told me that her mom had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Julie, who is a doctor, explained what that meant for the coming year and then asked if I would write a reminiscence – something her mom could read because she likes my writing.  I had a small meltdown, and then I sat down at 3:30 am the following morning and wrote a small bit that will never do this amazing lady justice or properly express how much she means to me or how incredible I think she is.

Of all the phases in my life – school, graduation, college, marriages, friend’s children being born, this is the one I like absolutely the least.  I want to stomp my feet hard enough or hold my breath long enough so that Death pauses, furrows a brow and says, “you know you’ll just pass out, but I suppose this once because of your moxie and that particular shade of blue on your face, I’ll cry uncle then come back in about 15 years, deal?”  (I basically want Death to be the character from Terry Pratchett’s novels. Relatable with a great fondness for cats.)

Like my aunt and my mom, she’s one of those people I have always assumed would always be there.  That decades from now I would still be hearing stories of her wanderings or hearing her boasting about and celebrating her incredible children and grandchildren. That I would be admiring her beautiful nature photos or the latest art piece she had created.  That wherever the wind stirred the tall grass and gently encouraged the wind chimes into performing a fairy’s chorus that I could smile in the knowledge she was somewhere out there – Monte and Polly at her side.

And quite selfishly, on the 6th anniversary of my mother’s death,  I admit that among the reasons I’m sad is that there will be one less person in this world that thinks I’m ok.

Cheating: The June Creativity Challenge

Judging by my calendar it looks like it’s time for the June Creativity Challenge.  You remember this challenge from last year, right?  This is the one where you challenge yourself to do something creative each day in June.  If you recall last year’s challenge, I tried to regale you with any thought that popped into my head throughout the month of June by way of a blog post.  Well, this year I’m giving you all a reprieve from the daily nonsense that floats through my head.  I just really don’t have 30 days of creativity in me.  Plus, it’s already the 3rd and as of today I can only boast about finishing off the first season of “Sherlock”, finally finishing The Poisonwood Bible, getting my hair cut and going to the grocery store.  It seems like there was some lawn watering while we’re in a drought that occurred, as well.  There are hardly “creative” adventures – more “stretch out across a large chair” events. (Well, obviously not the grocery store, although I would probably mind elbowing 500 people less (and being elbowed) if we were all comfortably seated and pushed slowly conveyor belt style through each aisle – of course, I’d require soothing music, that my chair be accompanied by a personal sycophant with long arms and a keen eye for healthy and delicious ingredients and that I be given a handful of wild flowers as a thank you for my continued patronage while I exited in a quite relaxed fashion from the store.)

Anyway, as I was saying – I have no creativity in me for June (the grocery store dream took it out of me), but I can give you a taste of what you will be “missing” in terms of daily blog entries:

  • Oh dear, the sun is up again and it looks like another work day (there would be about 20 of these entries where I’d carefully try to avoid writing anything that would get me in trouble should a co-worker discover my blog  – which is not to say that each day isn’t pure joy wrapped in amazing opportunities and delightful co-workers – because that’s what each day is, dear co-worker who might be reading – I wake up smiling knowing I’ll be bundled-up in the warm glow of your work ethic and know in my heart that when you inquire “do you know the difference between a noun and an adjective” of a fellow co-worker, you’re just showing genuine interest in their formal education).
  • Sam sure is cute.  Look at those ears.  That nose.  How she chases those rabbits for a whole 10 seconds before resigning herself to the realization that they will continue to hop and refuse to roll over and let her snack on them.  Bunnies can be so selfish.
  • Something is growing in the garden!  I bet it’s more tomatoes and bell peppers!
  • Did you see the latest blockbuster movie where something exploded? Let’s discuss.
  • I had to eat my sketch teacher’s face because he didn’t respond to yet another email about “the plan”, I’m OCD and I didn’t write the email for my health.  Clearly, the face had to be snacked upon.  The world can now be my character witness.
  • Did I mention sketch?  We held auditions (not yet – this would be a future blog entry), people showed-up, we cast them and now we’re watching them rehearse our words in preparation for a show that will run for four weeks in August.  Exciting!  I’m not sure how I feel about that one person’s interpretation of my mummy.  Hrmm.  I’ll send a note to my sketch teacher about that – no, I can’t because I had to eat his face earlier. (Aside: mummies are sketch comedy gold or so I’m telling myself.)

So, there it is – a summary of potential daily June blog posts filled with the drivel from my head that I won’t make you suffer through. You’re welcome.

OMG SRSLY! Go Get Laid, Dude!

** WARNING** Potentially offensive and crass material.  Read at your own risk.

Let’s start with a couple of simple statements to get this story started:

First, there are a slew of phrases I can’t stand. Among those are any sayings that try to dismissively explain a person’s behavior by mentioning either their menstrual cycle or their lack of sexual intercourse.  Those statements are almost always crass and completely untrue.  And no, I’m not “on the rag” as I write this.  I don’t need a special cycle to be a pissy individual.

Second, there’s no “wrong” in improv.  Improvisers are making everything up on the spot, so how can it possible be wrong?  It can’t.

On many of the days that I didn’t post an entry on the blog, I was in an improv class (either singing or acting) and was using that to count towards the June Creativity Challenge.  (Ok, three days I actually did say “pthbbt” to the whole “creativity” thing, but that’s for a post in July.)

The non-singing class involves a new teacher and a new gang of improvisers I’ve never worked with before – all of them incredibly talented and funny.

However, as much as I hate to say this, there’s this one guy in class who seriously needs to get laid. (Or given a big stack of porn and allowed some private bathroom time or maybe a nice hooker as a birthday present.  Although, I think hookers can be an “any occasion” kind of gift for the hard up.)

Why do I think that? Every scene he’s in somehow involves sex.  For example:

  • Disgruntled angel scene – the mortal’s name that was written in his book was some sort of sexual deviant and was nearly unsalvageable – big points for being descriptive on the deviancy
  • Chance encounter at a bus station scene – he was Rep. Wiener’s “special” friend while working as the Representative’s congressional page.
  • Library scene – he was holding up at a book of sexual positions, marveling at the pictures while giggling and shouting “look at his “thing” in her “thing””.  (Again, points for being super descriptive, but I swear the last time I heard “thing” in reference to genitalia was maybe on a playground or I was 5 and attempting to be polite.  Dude, hang out with a 5 year old – they can introduce you to all sorts of new and creative words that sound just as ridiculous if you’re feeling really shy about saying the word “penis”.)
  • Mistakenly in the wrong class scene – I think this was the one where he ended up with huge balls or something going horribly wrong with his gigantic penis (but that may have been a different scene)

You get the idea.  I swear, if I had a dime for every time he mentioned someone’s pants, well I probably wouldn’t quite have a dollar, but I’ve only been to three classes.  I betcha, I break $2.50 by the end of July, though!

… and I don’t mean this as a slam on the guy’s improv skills.  He’s a fine improv-er. He’s takes risks, does what he’s supposed to do.  He’s super descriptive.  You get a real feel for his character.  But please, as a favor to me, could someone please let him squeeze their breasts or give him a blow job so we can move on?  I might kick him in the balls if he ever mentions his balls again.

The Day We Met

Have you ever tried to recall the first time you met a friend?  Maybe I’m alone in this, but sometimes when traffic is moving along slowly and the radio isn’t engaging me I start thinking about various people in my life and I try to remember that first time we met.  Some people just always seem to have been in my life, while there are a handful of folks where I remember the moment.

Like my friend DeAnne (or HRH DeAnne, her preferred title).  The first time I remember meeting her was when she walked by and dropped her business card on my desk – a lavender thing with a border that I want to say had maybe a floral pattern (I may be misremembering that bit).  What caught my eye was what it said in bold type: “DeAnne X” followed by “Queen of Everything” (err, the X is obviously not her last name, but I don’t think she wants you dropping by her house and genuflecting, which you would feel compelled to do).  How could I possibly NOT like someone who had a card like that?

But for the most part, the rest of my friends are just blurs of early images.  Anna coming back to the dorm early during the Christmas holidays and flinging her stuff on the TV room floor – Jonathan being briefed on our first RA assignment at the dorm where we were supposed to keep the rabble from tossing kegs on the passing UT football parade (the annual parade had been re-routed in previous years because of keg tossing issues from our dorm) – quiet April (so you know the memory is very old) – escaping from a goofy Jr. High slumber party with Julie in the middle of the night – Seth showing up in English where they announced he was from the exotic land of Canada (look, I hadn’t traveled out of Texas at that point and Canada seemed really cool – Canadian friends, I mean “Canada IS very cool” *cough*), but then there’s my friend Ernie.  I remember the day we met quite vividly.

Mom and I had just moved from Dallas (remember Dallas > Houston) and it was the last few weeks of second grade.  Ernie was assigned to be my guide that day.  He showed me around the school, took me to my class and then waited for me after school to make sure I got on the right day care shuttle.  Ern failed to get through my head that there were two shuttle pick-ups, so when he went off in the first one, I had a panic attack where I sat against the wall, freaked out and hoped everything would work out.

Poor Ernie, after that I followed him everywhere to the point that the day care staff would try to put a foot down and declare.  “No, Beth. You may not follow Ernie to the bathroom.”  (I just wanted to sit outside and continue to blather at him and haha to them, I did win that battle.  Lucky Ern! No escape!) If there was Ern, there was me close on his heels gabbing away.  (I used to be more gregarious.)  I made him play all of my stupid made up games.  I made him dig elaborate tunnels for army men in the sandbox and I probably even made him listen to show tunes when we were allowed to bring records to day care.  (I can be somewhat relentless and somewhat overwhelming when I like someone.)  The guy really had no peace.

It’s funny.  I’ve listened to Ern tell stories about what he was like as a kid.  He’ll talk about being apart from the other kids – somewhat aloof and very studious, which is all very true.  But I remind him of playing “Bonnie and Clyde” or our amazing bus scraps which usually involved someone drawing blood and he’ll smile and say, “you brought out the worst in me”.  I like to think that’s called “grounding” someone.

Do you remember the day we met?

Sometimes I’m an Ass

Recently, I asked my friends to help come up with ideas for blog entries.  I was looking for something to help me make it through the June Creativity Challenge.  Now, in the past I’ve had help from my friend Lori who sent me some great lists for story ideas.  Sadly though, I think I’ve finally worked through all of them.

When I went whining to my cousin, he offered up, “that’s the problem with blogs, you eventually run out of ideas.”  No, that’s the problem with Debbie Downers who aren’t being helpful.  That’s right, I called you Debbie.  I’m not out of ideas, I just know there are some stories I tell that are just better (and because I’ve retold them to friends many times, they’re easy to write – otherwise, I will just anecdote you to death to limp through until June 30th – that’s where you get stories about that time I was in the puppet class and met my very own super gregarious stalker who promised to pop up in bushes and greet me with friendly hellos and other cheery messages on my way to work (you really need a stalker like mine) or that time I was at “Vampire’s Suck” (dreadful movie, but one of the guys from the Austin improv scene is in it – woo hoo!) and a young guy in the front row was having a bit of a bout of Touretts – actually improved the movie a bit.  Trust me when I say that I’m queen of anecdotes.)

Fortunately, my friend and old college roommate started throwing out great suggestions left and right.  The hitch is that if I wrote those stories, those funny, funny stories, I would have people who know where I live at my house trying to beat me silly.  This would make Sam very sad as she seems to have grown somewhat attached to me.  You see, most of you know me and the players  involved, so when you hear the stories, you don’t necessarily think I’m a gigantic ass.  People who don’t know me and read the story for the first time here will drop their jaws and use my story as proof that Texans fit a very particular and unkind stereotype.

How do I know this? I told one of those stories at my birthday party where I had a mix of old and new friends.  I was super  animated and loud, because we were at the roller rink (it’s what I do to my friends on my birthday) giggling away to a newer friend – one whom I thought would appreciate the humor of the story.   Out of my mouth popped, “…Jerry and I started shouting at her, “Hey whore, you don’t have to be a whore anymore!!”   That was right when the music died, right when everyone’s conversations had ended and I had about 10 people staring at me slack-jawed, giving me the stink eye while thinking, “wow, what a bitch.”  Thankfully, a very awkward silence fell over the group and I got my wish and spontaneously combusted in shame.  It’s an ok story if you know the people involved, if you know that we were in a dance club like we always were in college, if you know The Lords of Acid’s song “I Sit on Acid” and you know that “whore” was a term of endearment Jerry used for almost everyone.  And even with all of that, it’s not a good story to tell outside of our little gang, because there’s no way I can make that funny.

So, I know my friends who read the blog will be sad to hear that there will no  retellings of “Jones vs. The Mysterious Smell” or  “Quickly Sobering-up Jim vs. Mrs. Guyer’s Locked Office” or any mention of “Willy Wonka’s Blueberry Girl”.  I know they’re  hysterical, but I can’t make them humorous to strangers, my aunt or my dearest friend’s mom (I think she still mostly respects me)– I’m not that good at writing, yet.  Maybe I can work 0n “stealing the marlin from Showdown’s” or “the crazy guy in the dorm office demanding a knife to cut out the gangrene” if you’re looking for some old college stories.

In the meantime, any other suggestions?

Note to Jers: Sorry!! Those were all great ideas!  And I swear, next time we’re together, we’ll grab up Jim and retell the hell out of those at a bar, a really loud bar, a bar where no one can overhear and stink eye us.

And now for a little flashback to college – WARNING: strong/vulgar language (I only pretend to only know showtunes) :

Sam Update: Commands

You’ve been without a Sam update in a while and I feel like I can cautiously report that Sam has gone a full year without a major medical event. I feel hesitant proclaiming this, because it seems a bit like asking the evil powers that be to come up with something new and more exciting. If you could all take a moment to knock on something wooden (or plastic or metal – whatever is close at hand that you feel brings good luck), I’d appreciate that. I’d really hate to see what is more exciting than neurologists, cat scans, spinal taps, new knees and rehab. If any dogs deserves a break, it’s Sam.

These days Sam mostly just patters around the house still afraid of the cats, still in love with food and a huge fan of cuddling under her blanket (which used to be my blanket).

I had read recently about a dog that knows over 200 words, so I tried to think of all the words/phrases Sam knows and came up with this rather short list:

“Sit” – she came to us knowing this one and a variant “sit pretty”, which is more like “beg” but we don’t insist she “sit pretty” for things.

“Hey, Sam!” – I think she’s convinced this is her full name, but it lets her know I want her to “come” or “come and look” at something. When I say, “hey, Sam!” (and we’re in the house) she’ll immediately cock her head to the side and come over to see what I’ve gotten into. An alternate meaning when in the backyard is, “stop baying at the annoying little dog next door or the neighbors who are trying to chat outside,” which is great FUN if you’re a beagle! In fact, she likes to get one little dog riled up to the point that it’s completely spun-up and insane, she’ll then immediately return to her sniff satisfied that her work is done.

Blanket Thief

“Let’s go to bed!” – I think to Sam this means “snacks in 30 minutes”. This is used when I’m going to bed and she’ll pad along behind me, laying on her dog bed. She knows once I’m asleep Jay will then take her outside and then she’ll get a “cookie” – one tiny dog biscuit. This is the best part of her day behind eating breakfast, eating dinner, eating her mid afternoon carrot or eating a backyard dog biscuit (she made them herself – yuck!). Food is THE BEST!

“Uh uh” – Jay discovered that she understands this better than “no”. “Uh uh” is usually used at about 8 am on weekends when she decides that she’s tired of Jay being asleep and she’d like a snack. She doesn’t get a snack at this time, but if Jay, in a sleep deprived haze, gets up thinking she needs outside, she’ll run into the kitchen and wag excitedly. Have I mentioned hounds LOVE food?

“Back-up” or “Excuse me” – These are used to get her to back-up from the food container. She’s very polite.

“Ear” – I don’t know that she actually knows this word or even how she’d let us know she knows this word, but we’ve got some crazy idea that she wants to know it. So, we’ll say “ear” and then play with her ear, because nothing is cuter or softer than a beagle ear. I’m sure “ear” will soon be adopted with “heel”, “sit”, “stay” and “down” as one of the more popular tricks to teach a pet and here we are, the pioneers of that command!

Again, knock on something nearby, I just wanted to report that Sam seems to be doing great and she’d very much love some food, please.

Confessions

I have a few random confessions I’d like to get off of my chest.  Sure, you might call this filler or maybe even a fluff piece to limp through the rest of the Creativity Challenge and you may be right, but that’s not going to stop me.  Here they are in all their disjointed glory:

  • I took a few days off of the June Creativity Challenge – that’s right, there were a couple of days where I was quite belligerently uncreative.  Sure, I could have baked or sewn or taken a photo, but I thumbed my nose at those activities, and then I browsed the internet, pet Sam and went to bed completely satisfied with my lack of activity.
  • I really have no clue when your birthday is unless it falls on a holiday, the 13th or the 18th.  I’m sorry.  However, if you get a Facebook account and add that information, I will get it right every time.  I’ll even send you a friendly “Happy Birthday, (insert name)!!!” You’re always guaranteed a minimum of three exclamation points, because I’m that excited.  I do like your birthday, I just can’t keep track of it.
  • I have a stack of birthday cards I picked out especially for you that I keep forgetting to send, but every time I look at them I do think of you.  The one for Jerry is about 10 years old.  Any year now, I’ll send it out.  Of course, it seemed funnier 10 years ago.
  • I’m a little OCD when it comes to paper bags (lunch sized).  If you have any that are crumpled up, please send them my way.  I would very much like to carefully flatten them and refold them for you. (FYI – think of it as a super cheap Christmas present.)
  • I have a phobia about dried up hair.  Blame Burger King and the now infamous hairball burger.  Mmm. Hair.
  • I sometimes pretend I don’t understand, because listening to you carefully explain things repeatedly amuses me.
  • I’m obsessed with my blog stats and miss Google Analytics where I could see the various places the web traffic was coming from – like Austin, Austin, Dallas, Austin, Houston and the occasional Montreal, Sioux Falls or Nacogdoches.  It helps me feel more connected to the 10 of you!
  • I have your feed hidden on Facebook.  I know, I’m a terrible friend, but I have people who alert me when there’s something I should see, so that makes it all better, right?
  • I sometimes “Block” you on Google Chat.  It’s not that I don’t want to chat, it’s that I don’t want to chat with you.
  • I’m a terrible liar. Lying gives me the giggles; it truly does.  My con-artist/fence grandfather is rolling over in his grave in complete shame.  I guess a future in sales is out.
  • That time Facebook dropped us as friends, that was weird, huh?  Well, that was actually me.
  • I sometimes pretend not to understand how technology works so I can get away with being a jerk.  Although, I’m somewhat offended that you fell for it.  I’m eyeballing you.

There, I know I feel better.