My Jupiter

My brother-in-law cannot stand two things: Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” and the fact that anyone else provides the voice of Kermit the Frog. If you want to see a grown-up flip right on out, have Steve Whitmire or Matt Vogel (the previous and current voice actors for our favorite green fellow) sing the “Eye of the Tiger.” Hrm… I wonder if that’s doable. I’ll stick a pin in that idea. If someone were to play that song, he’d get up and leave immediately. People have challenged him, only to discover that he was not kidding. I know of another woman, a friend of a friend, who apparently takes great personal offense at the size of Jupiter… the planet. Why does it have to be so big? What is it trying to prove? (She’s not actually kidding. She’d like some answers there. The sooner those are forthcoming, the better.)

… and I’ve laughed at these. Retelling the stories with a snort and a giggle. HAH! Seriously? So crazy! So irrational!

Epiphanies

Then out came my Jupiter in the middle of New Zealand.

The Shire – Matamata, New Zealand

“…and over there is where they filmed Bilbo’s birthday scene… over 100 actors were… blahblahblahblah” droned our super enthusiastic tour guide.

My brain exploded with expletives –

“Are you kidding me? F*ing Bilbo and his 500-page bloody birthday bash. Yeah, we get it, guy. You’re super old. No one needs 500 pages to drive that point home. This isn’t Dickens. Your author wasn’t paid per page or chapter to paint the world’s most annoyingly painful overly-described scene. No. He did it because he’s a sadistic word monster. It’s like that godforsaken turtle in Grapes of Wrath all over again. Just cross the road, turtle! More words to prove that you have a myriad mad skills at avoiding saying ‘very very very very very.’ Get on with it. ‘And all the little hobbits flapped their little feet in rhythm and cheered, “Happy Bloody Birthday, Bilbo.”’ Eat a noonsy or a gazillionth breakfast or whatever you lazy little hobbits need to do to get on with your adventure, form your fellowship, and finally change the bloody POV to Frodo FFS. For all that is holy, wrap it up and get those furry feet to the Prancing Pony, which has undoubtedly become a sinkhole in Middle Earth after being boarded up for five centuries. OMG!!!!!!”

Ok, I didn’t say much of that out loud, just some of it, and mostly to my friend Julie but honestly, all of that and much worse raced through my mind.

As I looked out on that empty field, with its lovely little maypole, I hissed silently – joy turned to unadulterated loathing – “hobbbitsesssss birthdays, we hates them, Precious.”

My friends will occasionally and quite foolishly (naively??) try and cajole me out of this crazy, “Beth, it’s not that bad…” “WRONG, IT’S 10,000x WORSE!!” “You could just skip that chapter, y’know.” “I could, but what if there’s something in the minutiae of the dumb fireworks that I need later???? You don’t know!!” “Umm…” “Yeah, exactly. Harumph.” The subject is almost immediately dropped because hey, we’re at an impasse, I’m in full-blown, unapologetic, insane mode and it’s probably better to say something like “ooh, how about those puppies! Those wiggly happy bodies! Plump little bellies, huh?!!” Because who can be mad about adorable puppies? No one!

I took a moment sometime later to again reflect on my overreaction to a single chapter, and I realized that Bilbo’s Birthday is really only one of my Jupiters – one of my Eye of the Tigers.

Soooo… funny thing. It turns out I have an entire solar system. I winced a bit in acknowledgment

Let’s Talk Jazz

I’m not talking the jazz age of the 20’s & 30’s or even New Orleans-style jazz. No, I mean the post-war era free jazz most often heard in the 1950’s and 60’s. It has less structure – less form and is more of an exploration. And… it’s basically the musical equivalent of Bilbo’s birthday to me.

You may recall that some time ago I gave dating sites a try (turns out there’s not a Jay 2.0, but that’s beside the point). Well, on one of those sites they asked, “What are your hobbies?” and I wrote “making fun of jazz” because it’s jazz and making fun of it brings me joy – you can collect stamps, paint watercolor goldfish, craft decoupage poodles if it amuses you, and I’ll poke fun at jazz (it’s a big boy/girl, it can take it – you don’t have to run to its defense). Well, some fella took great exception to this and sent me a note, “Making fun of jazz isn’t a hobby” and I wrote him back, “then you’re doing it wrong.” Weird how that didn’t work out.

Honestly, I can’t explain why or what it is about it that I dislike so intensely. (Did I mention these are irrational reactions?) I can’t show you on a doll where it bad-touched my tympanic membrane. Maybe it’s Muzak’s fault? Maybe it’s buried trauma from being stuck in an elevator/lift or placed on hold indefinitely one too many times. “Your call is important to us and will be answered in the order it was received. Please stay on the line and a customer support agent will be with you shortly. Now we return you to that one song. The only song. This three bar masterwork that we plucked from Dante’s very own Inferno collection – the one currently filling the level of Hell you find yourself indefinitely stuck in. Please enjoy it over the next hour as you regret the life choices that brought you to this specific moment. Say goodbye to your soul. Thank you.”

Whatever the cause, I simply don’t enjoy it – I don’t like the brush tapping against the cymbals. I don’t like the lengthy solos, or the musicians occasionally seeming at odds as they try to discover a direction. That said, I appreciate the genuine talent. It’s just not for me.

There are more Jupiters, but we’ll save those for later.

In the meantime, I’ll bring you some jazz I do enjoy! 🙂

Jazz as it was meant to be!
I love love love Postmodern Jukebox – I may have seen them twice! (The upcoming show is sold out, which crushes me!)

A Quick Lesson in Rugby

After my last post about my trip to New Zealand, it was brought to my attention that there might be some confusion around me using the term “sea of All Blacks” in reference to the rugby team/fans. So, I wanted to clear that up for you non-rugby folks:

The All Blacks is the name of New Zealand’s national rugby team – a name that was popularized during a 1905 tour of the British Isles, according to Wikipedia. In fact, you can learn a lot about the history of the team here. (Likely most of it is true, but hey, anyone can edit that site soooo… That said, it’s still the name of the team.)

As you can see from my video below, the teams’ colors are black and white, and the fans tend to wear black and white in support. If you look into the bleachers across from where I was sitting, you can easily spot Ireland’s fans, and of course a woman in pink. (That’s not me, I was the one filming, so I’m on the opposite side. However, I’m now a little sad that I never noticed I had a twinsy. We could have been waving our hot pink arms at each other the entire time. Opportunity missed. Moment gone. 😦 Until next time, my hot pink twin!)

Thanks to my friend Elizabeth and her quick/dextrous fingers, we had some amazing seats. I’m not zoomed that far in. Anyway, below is my video of the opening haka.

What’s the story behind the haka? I’m glad you asked. Here’s even more fun info here and also here.

And for those who want to understand the words/lyrics: the All Blacks perform multiple hakas, but I believe this is Ka Mate (please someone correct me if I’ve got that wrong) Note: some directions are being called out ahead of the Ka Mate telling them to stomp their feet and slap their thighs. This was seriously cool to see in person.

The Words of Ka Mate

MaoriEnglish
Ka mate! Ka mate! Ka ora! Ka ora!I die! I die! I live! I live!
Ka mate! Ka mate! Ka ora! Ka ora!I die! I die! I live! I live!
Tenei te tangata puhuru huruThis is the hairy man
Nana nei i tiki maiWho fetched the Sun
Whakawhiti te raAnd caused it to shine again
A upa … ne! ka upa … ne!One upward step! Another upward step!
A upane kaupane whiti te ra!An upward step, another.. the Sun shines!!
Hi

All that to say, I wasn’t describing anyone’s skin tone. I’m not actually “pink” – well, unless it’s 105 degrees in Texas and I’ve been outside more than two minutes. Oh wait…

In fact, I can’t tell you much about the other people, other than: there was an overzealous wee girl behind me (easily under 10) who really wanted the All Blacks to get in the game and they kept profoundly disappointing her; she let them have it. There was also a very rude man at the end of our bleacher who seemed pretty insistent that he was not about to stand up to allow us to easily slide into/out of the row (he lost that battle of wills at least twice), and a really sweary guy who I’m pretty sure swore at me as we tried to make our way through the wall of people getting beer in order to get to our seats – I gave him my disapproving meemaw face, which I’m sure made him rethink some life choices or had no impact on him at all – one of those. I think they were also wearing the colors that supported New Zealand’s team.

Covid: Day 3 or 5

Let’s just start with: I don’t really know what day of Covid I’m officially on. Day 5, if you start the count from when I was exposed. Day 3, if it’s the day two little stripes showed up to wreck my weekend. I’m sure the Googles would clarify this little mystery, but ehhh… I’m typing here. Who has time to perform a search? Plus, does it really matter? I mean, I have Covid.

It’s like…

Who am I kidding, I don’t have a gift for analogy. (John, hit me with something that works and is wildly inappropriate, please. Thank you! I’ll throw it in later. (Sometimes you need your heavy hitters who have a rare gift. Trust me, he’s your guy. Ask him about thermal bending. He’ll explain it in a way that you’ll never forget and you’ll wish you had.)

Anyway, it’s like something… unfortunately, I’m incapable of telling you what that something is at the moment, but sometime around Wednesday, I came into contact with at least one person with Covid according to a lovely woman who sent a lovely note explaining she’d tested positive. On Friday, after testing positive myself, I wrote my own little note to everyone with whom I’d come into contact. Something like…

Dearest People,

I apparently have the ‘ronas. You may now, too.

Whoopsie. My Bad. This is why I shouldn’t be social.

This is also why I should work from home more of the days.

XXOO,

Beth

-30-

E-mail “sent” 6/10/2022 (WP is prompting me for a citation. Blame them. Psst, can you cite a fake email? Yes??)

Only, I suppose I did write it in a more professional manner where I fell firmly on my sword and prostrated myself before my colleagues since I felt genuinely awful for spreading something I wasn’t aware I had. (Fact: I have some next-level martyr guilt when inspired.) Just for funsies, the responses I received fell into two categories: 1) you’re too hard on yourself, get better, and 2) we don’t do contact testing (not, “thanks for letting us know, sorry you’re under the weather, wishing you a speedy recovery,” but more of a, “Hello, you made words that included the word “Covid.” Sweet Baby Jesus, what’s wrong with you? Please do not inform the people whom you came into contact with – we don’t do that here.) Ummm… really? Wow.

Granted, if I had a cold I wouldn’t wander around begging for forgiveness from people I’d encountered while I had said cold, or the people who’d touched the handles I’d carefully licked, but this is Covid and I’m only part monster. (Disclaimer: No actual handles have ever been licked by me (I don’t know what you do, so I can’t speak for you.)

My Symptoms: Some Boring Bits

Friday, it felt like I had a typical cold for me (I don’t know what a typical cold looks like for you, so again I can’t speak for you here). The kind that starts in my chest and finishes off in my head. Spoiler alert: this isn’t going to be a story about how it did anything different. Yay. Friday/Saturday, I coughed up a storm making the cartilage around my upper rib cage scream. Saturday, sneezing had joined in on the fun, and well today, today I feel a lot better – I can do neat things like breathe easily again. (Quick note: I’m off to find something to knock on because it’s well known that the universe is an actual jerk who is targeting you (and by “you” I mean “me”), and the only thing keeping its wrath at bay is the wood that one would knock on. This is a well-known fact about the universe. You’re welcome.)

However, despite it behaving like a normal cold (for me again, still not very sure about you – I’m never too sure about you, truth be told), I did constantly monitor my temperature, blood pressure, O2, and pulse. I did inform my doctor. I did try to get whatever shot/pill they offer if detected early enough and I did receive a big ol’ “not for you”. Rude. I mean “yay” I’m not considered at high enough risk to warrant one, but also there’s that fear of missing out (FOMO) thing at play.

My Pout and a Wee Rant: The Selfish Stuff

Pre Pout/Fuss Disclaimer: I’m very lucky to live the life I live and am lucky to be able to do the things I do and have the relationships I have.

Friday was the start of my long-awaited four-day weekend beach vacation to celebrate my friends’ (not merely “a friend’s”) child’s graduation. This is a kid I’ve not only tricked into believing I’m their aunt but also that I’m their favorite aunt – a kid who thinks a fantastic graduation present is spending four days on the beach with old people playing board games – a kid who will jokingly call me their “Beth-st friend”. I LOVE THIS KID! Thinking it was just a cold, I made their favorite cookies Friday morning (with mask on) ahead of the car ride down with them to the coast. Then I tested just to be safe. Two little lines later and I wanted to flip coffee tables and fling over two dozen cookies out into the yard. (In all fairness, while they’re this kid’s favorite cookies, they don’t have chocolate in them, so I find them very confusing and because the universe has a wicked sense of humor, I actually make them well. For the record, I make an amazing lemon cookie too. Which, funny story, also doesn’t have chocolate. Why? Why do they exist? Anyway, throwing them into the yard wouldn’t be a huge loss to me because of said lack of chocolate.)

Sure, we can have some kind of do-over weekend later, but it won’t be the same. It will never be this weekend. Those moments are gone.

The Fussy Bit I Mentioned

During this, I received praise for enduring all of this alone.

This actually got to me. Like crying level upset.

In my defense, I was at the height of the worst part of my symptoms where I wasn’t feeling exactly at my best (aka felt like garbage). AND I’d just watched the last episode of This Is Us, which I thought I’d seen, but they snuck in one more. The train episode was the perfect ending, people! But no, couldn’t just stop there when there were a few more emotional heartstrings left to tug. YOU NEXT LEVEL MONSTERS! So I’d just had ugly cry part two! Did I mention I wasn’t feeling well and was emotional?

Anyway, I appreciate the sentiment. I really do.

However, I don’t know that what I’ve done is exactly praiseworthy when I don’t have a choice. I have to put one foot in front of the other, which is more a sign of perseverance or possibly tenacity rather than one of bravery or strength; it’s basic survival. Praising me for it, especially when it’s happening a month before the anniversary of Jay’s death, keenly reminds me that strong isn’t the word you’re looking for. I’m alone. It reminds me that I get to walk through this world by myself.

The rational part of my brain would hop in here and say (because I’ve said this to many a friend): You’re not at the end of your story; you don’t know how it ends. You don’t even know all the characters This is just one chapter. And the irrational part snarks back, “oh, don’t I though?”

So, for now, I appreciate it, but if you could hold back on any praise for remembering to do something that amounts to “getting up, breathing, and feeding myself again.” I mean “go me” but ehhh… it’s just a day ending in the word “day”.

Now let me walk that “I’m alone thing” back a bit, too.

I’m not entirely alone in the sense that I do have people who care about me. So, I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer a huge thanks to everyone who checked on me every single day this weekend – usually multiple times a day – to make sure I was ok – that I was still hanging in there. You’re the best. I appreciate you, and for those of you who got really scared – the ones where we performed brief tangos where “I’m not sharing with you how badly I feel, and you’re not telling me how scared you are.” I’m not done being sick, yet and we’ll still dance that dance but know I appreciate you for caring that much.

Hopefully, after some sincere wood-knocking for the universe, I’ll continue to improve.

Additional Random Bits of GratitudeEnding on a Better Note

Thanks to the following:

  • All the places that deliver: from groceries to O2 sensors and Tylenol
  • Streaming Services
    • Stranger Things, Season 4
    • The Good Place
  • Cell phones + My inability to text (good times)
  • Videos with friends laughing at TV shows
  • Marco Polo videos
  • Naps
  • “Call Me Maybe” Tribute videos by various US Armed Forces units (it’s an embarrassing addiction a guilty pleasure that cheers me up)
  • Roel – so great to hear from you; your texts cheered me up! I cannot wait to see you when you get back from your trip!

Ok, off to call it a night and get ready to face Day 4 or 6.

I’ll just put this here…

Tell Me Something Real

Wielding language has never been my strength. So, I practice.

The way I express my thoughts is the way I speak. With each post, you catch the faint strains of the voice that whispers within and without.

To be honest, I’ve been continually surprised that I’ve had a following, especially outside of my family and friends. I’ve always felt that these posts capture doodled thoughts rather than convey a coherent story. Occasionally, I’ll litter the pages with an update or two for my family and friends as an attempt at a proof of life so they don’t worry. (Now that I think about it, a photo of my face by the current headlines might be simpler.) But on a more serious note, I just don’t post often enough or even well enough to garner a true following. (I’m way too lazy.) So, I guess I’m surprised that you all continue to come back.

I’m both humbled and flattered. Thank you.

When I reflect on previous posts, I recognize the ones that receive the most praise and comment are the ones where I’ve been open about my grief over the loss of Jay – where I talk about how I struggle – present tense. I’m told I’m brave. I’m told I’m strong.

The pain has definitely eased over time; however, it is ever-present.

Enough prologue.

I was crafting a new post – one where I planned to paint a picture of how I’m winning at life – you know the drill – that social media fluff we throw out to the universe to say, “Hey, look – my life is amazing – I’m a success – I’m fun, beautiful, creative – a winner by all accounts – better than!” The proclamation accompanied by a perfectly framed shot of my suntanned tootsies at sunset – a half-filled glass of some enviable drink close at hand as a way to support my claim.

A perfect life on display ready for your “likes”.

…just like everyone else’s lives.

And then I remembered it’s Mental Health Awareness Month.

What a disservice it would be if I let this moment go by. So, with that in mind, here are some of my thoughts – something that’s a bit more real and in keeping with what people tend to appreciate more on my blog – something that is more true than my pages filled with my wins.

Anxiety

Since Jay’s death, I have continued to struggle. Not every day, not all the time, but in flashes. I struggle to find purpose – my raison d’être. Since Jay’s death, I have anxiety attacks that begin to appear in May and last until the end of September. It’s carved out its own season in my life – backyard picnics, blockbusters, cool pools, big hats, sandals, mosquitos, and anxiety – gotta love anxiety season. October heralds my subconscious snow-birding its way back from wherever subconsciouses go – hey, even the subconscious needs a restorative break.

The attacks come out of nowhere – usually when I least expect them. I can be watching a comedy on TV and then every fiber of my body tells me something is desperately wrong.

I love October as much as I dread May.

It’s May.

I continue to struggle with being alone. It’s not that you aren’t all great, but you’re not my partner. You offer many important things, but not the whisper in the middle of the night or fingers lightly dancing across my back to lull me back to sleep. You cannot hold me or look at me in a way that makes me believe I’m all that matters.

I struggle with the idea that I will never be truly loved again.

After Jay’s death, several people felt they’d help by remarking, “At least you were loved.”

True.

What a truly awful thing to say.

That statement reverberates through my soul. I am the “once loved” – like a child’s discarded favorite toy.

Things to Work On

I have a laundry list of things I need to work on, but some days, as I stand at the crossroads of “Do you want to make it better or make it worse?” I choose “Make it worse.” I flip the proverbial coffee table. I rage at the world – a tempest – unrestrained.

Standing in the eye of my storms are my pillars – friends who batten down, listen quietly, and still stick around. They blink slowly, considering the volume of filth I’ve unleashed into the world, and ask quietly, “Are you finished?” Honestly, sometimes the answer is “No!” So, they wait until I’ve exhausted myself, and redirect me to something else.

The Words I Use

Each day I paint myself in words that are run a spectrum: abusive, bleak, encouraging, beautiful. Sometimes I use all of them, and sometimes none.

Today those words happen to be particularly brutal. Tomorrow they may be different. Tomorrow I may not use words to tear myself down. We’ll just have to see.

Tomorrow I plan to get up and start again.

I will work on my perspective – on my personal narrative.

Just An Idea

I wish there were a May Mental Health Awareness Challenge where we were encouraged (unafraid) to post something real – something unguarded – something that boldly proclaimed, “While I have had successes, I have also experienced epic failure/deep disappointment/profound sadness – I’ve had days where copious amounts of concealer and duck face at the perfect angle of a camera couldn’t fix – just like you.”

I’d like to see a challenge that gives everyone a safe space to be honest and open without judgment and without people feeling the need to rush in and “fix” the issue. (Something that often happens when we’ve broken away from the duck-faced herd.) A challenge where our raw truth is not only accepted but embraced – where we pull back the carpet and finally see that what we experience is normal/typical – that what’s abnormal is the fiction where we all live perfect and happy lives.

I’d like to see a challenge that shows it’s ok to feel sad at times. It’s ok to feel small.

I’m not suggesting we move into those moments, but that we acknowledge they happen.

I’d love a challenge that gave us all a small reprieve from the feelings of inadequacy many experience when comparing their lives to the social media-generated fictions shared by all of us – stories we carefully curate and run through our “gorgeous tootsies at sunset” lens.

Are you up for that challenge?

Can you be open? raw? exposed?

Can you listen to someone else’s truth without judgment? Without a need to gaslight? Without a need to rush in and fix it? To sit by quietly and accept?

(Points if you can do it while sharing a photo of unmanicured gnarly feet in tatty flip flops next to some Natty Light (Bud Light, Yuengling, Pabst).)

So, tell me something real.

Comfort Zones

Seems like last year that I proclaimed, “hey folks, I’m gonna write more!!! gonna use my little writey brain and jot down my little writey thoughts about all the things a writey little writer can write about.” So funny story, I’m a liar. Yep, just straight-up lied for funsies – broke every branch on the tree of trust we’d been growing together for years. Thankfully, you’re the bigger person and you came back despite the betrayal. Go you!!

Writing is my comfort zone. I feel fairly comfortable spinning up a tale when I have a tale to tell. I’m solid at taking anecdotes and stretching them into stories. A Rumplestiltskin of words. Now, please note, I’m not assigning an adjective to the types of stories I tell – I’m not saying they’re good, or bad, or even middling – they’re just “stories”. As my reader, you can fill in the adjective, and I’m reckoning that if you’ve returned here again, the ones you have chosen are more on the positive side. I need to believe that you’re not actually a masochist, doing some karmic penance, or just here to witness another train wreck while you snack on popcorn.

I believe in you!

Well, this week I did something wholly out of my comfort zone, but I’m proud of it, soooo humble-not-so-humble brag incoming.

Please avert your eyes if you hate a humblebrag. You’ve been warned!

On Monday, I gave my first in-person presentation to a room full of people. First, let me lay some groundwork. I don’t present. Ever. It’s not something I’ve done. It’s not something in my toolbelt of skills. Me standing in front of a group of people and talking is actually a special level of Hell accurately described by Dante in his Inferno, where he accurately predicted a sass-filled Texan would ultimately land amid piles of Post-it easel pads that’d lost their stickiness, failing laser pointers, broken overhead projectors, milky transparencies, and an audience of demons who stare in silence as she stuttered, stammered, oh’ed, uh’ed, and cleared her throat through an uncomfortable rambling and, of course, eternal presentation. Dante was more than just an Italian poet; he was a prophet. Step back, Nostradamus.

At least this is what my pet demon likes to whisper along with, “Hey kid, let’s say that when you face plant later we go drown our sorrows in some ice cream? Jenn won’t mind. She’ll support your poor decisions after embarrassing yourself.” While the more angelic and supportive side hops in with, “ok, but hear me out now – what if you not only succeed, you actually crush it, and there are high fives?? THEN you could celebrate with victory ice cream. Jenn won’t mind!” (Jenn, I promise to work hard on this part of me when I return from vacation. Pinky swear.) So, I worked on imagining myself succeeding. It seemed like a better way to spend my energy. What would that look and feel like? I also acknowledged that if I had a case of the nerves, it would be ok; it was only 30 minutes out of the day. I can survive most things for 30 minutes.

So, I got up in front of the room and stepped away from the mic, because I can project like a champ (ask anyone who’s sat in a small room with me and had to remind me, “you’re right across the table from me, not across a stadium, Beth – I can hear you.”) I started talking and kept talking, running through the slides. I didn’t falter. I just peeked into that skill toolbelt and found helpful tips from friends and a few from improv.

I won’t bore you with specifics, but those tips/tricks were there when I needed them, and it turns out they’d been in there for a while. Who knew?

After the Q&A at the end, I realized I’d done it. I’d presented to a room full of folks. I hadn’t face planted! (Jenn – I also didn’t get ice cream. Baby steps? So, props to me??)

Then a more magical thing took place: several folks came up to me and thanked me for making IT (the subject I presented on) “fun,” and one woman actually apologized saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that when I asked you for directions to the conference room that you were famous.” (I’m not gonna lie – that may have been my favorite bit of praise. Oh, and for the record, I’m so not famous.)

Anyway, to wrap it up, it really felt great! I just wanted to share a story about stepping out of my comfort zone as a way to break the months’ long silence on the blog – my actual comfort zone. Bonus, I got to chat again to y’all.

So, thank you for still sticking around. I won’t promise to write more, but you never know.

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?

A New Year’s Wish

For a while now, I begin each New Year by seeking out the words of Neil Gaiman; no one can express a New Year’s wish as well as he can. (This probably isn’t entirely true, or even partially true, but his words always resonate with me.) While on that hunt, I was inspired to send a New Year’s wish of my own to a friend, then I realized it’s something I wish for all of you. I hope Mr. Gaiman doesn’t mind that I borrowed from his style.

I hope your year is filled with so much laughter, your sides ache. 

With everything going on, it’s easy to be cynical and express those frustrations, but there’s so much out there that is genuinely good. I hope you find and embrace that goodness.

I hope you approach each day with child-like wonder; this world is a beautiful place with so much yet to discover.

I hope you explore more and in exploring, your passion for adventure is reignited.

I hope you’re inspired to create, dream, and learn new things. You are at your best when you are true to yourself and give yourself permission to do those things.

I hope you dance under a star-filled sky.

I hope your heart is filled with so much love you feel like you’ll burst.

… and I hope that you feel seen, and loved, and appreciated.

Cheers!

Beth

A Confession, An Overreaction, and Some Lemonade

I’m taking a moment to confess to you something – something I’m rightly a bit embarrassed about…

Facebook

You all know the relationship we (FB & I) share is quite complicated. It’s about as unhealthy a co-dependent relationship as they come. In fact, Netflix has a whole documentary about us – The Social Dilemma. Sure, you think it’s about you or your friends and family, but it’s actually my autobiography. All of it.

Y’see, I’ve been living and dying (mostly dying) by reactions (or lack thereof) to my posts.

Normally, that’s ok. I’m not a regular poster. In fact, I’m 100% certain the FB algorithm unceremoniously dumps me at the bottom of everyone’s feed troughs because of that lack of participation,. But that said, I get enough attention to keep me happy and to keep me coming back.

Then I started posting for the annual fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and if you discount the link from the AFSP fundraiser page (which got a ton of attention – thank you, donors!!), I got no response. No really, none. I posted a link to my latest Big Blue Mess post about the cause and nothing. Over a three day period, only one reader came from FB when normally it’s the bulk of my readers. Weird, but ok. I marched on.

I thought, “maybe no one is responding because they’re completely over your sadness – over Jay – over talking about this subject year after year.” I was grasping at straws, trying in vain to fix something I couldn’t understand why it was broken. I decided to push the ridiculous incentives I picked to encourage people to donate hoping that might pick up some attention. Hey, they’re goofy! Who doesn’t like goofiness? “For $10 incentive you can receive a horrible watercolor portrait made by yours truly! A “disaster piece”!” I included samples of my dreadful paintings thinking I’d at least get a pity laugh or two. Nothing.

What the actual…?

My friend Anna stepped in after listening to several whine/rants (whants?) and reacted to those posts as did my friend Julie. Yay, two little reactions to each post. What the…?

I was taking it on the chin. Beyond wanting a reaction and wanting to raise funds for this cause, we’re talking still talking about a life-altering, devastating event, and we’re talking about Jay. My person. My FAVORITE person. The person I still like more than pretty much everyone else. The person for whom I would give up every thing I’ve gained these past 5 years – every friendship I’ve made – every adventure I’ve had – every opportunity I’ve been afforded to just have him walk through my door.

The lack of responses stung.

No one? Seriously??

The indignance of that question resonated through my core, and I chewed on it – really working up a solid mad.

…and that’s when I got a message from Anna this afternoon that basically went something like this. “Hey, I noticed when you’ve been posting that the notifications I receive say that you sent a message to me. I don’t know if this is it, but you might want to check to see who your audience is. I went back and looked – all of them were to Anna – not to “Public” or “Friends” or even “Friends; Except: (not that I would ever prevent someone on my feed from reading something, but y’know… ) I was embarrassed – so much energy spent on being upset over nothing. I thought about Occam’s Razor: Was it more likely that the usual FB suspects unexpectedly abandoned you because they suddenly didn’t want to hear about Jay OR that something went pear-shaped with your posts?

Ugh.

So, my feelings that live on my sleeve are now ironed back down – at least until my next irrational fit where I waste a lot of energy.

But hey, now that I’m sane again, have I mentioned that for $10 you can get an original disaster piece (or original haiku)?? All you have to do is donate that $10 to AFSP. Help make a difference!

Lemonade

Original Disaster-piece of My Sister-in-law – She’s a Florist! Get it?? There’s a flower!

The Big Blue Mess: Summer Edition

Over the weekend, I may have made a promise to my step-mom on her birthday. I put may in italics not to be cute, but because I’m genuinely not sure there was an actual agreement. It may have just been guilt ferrets™ (Kevin Hearne) scampering about and planting false memories. “Psst, kid. Don’t forget that promise you made. Remember? She never asked ya for nothin’ for her birthday before – not gift, nor flowers, nor card. Today? Today she just asked you for a story, – a simple story, toots. You wanna be her greatest disappointment in 2021? On her birthday?? Then welch on that promise. Yeah, I didn’t think so, kid. Best you start typin’.” See? Guilt ferrets™ – who also happen to sound like Johnny down the block – y’know, the guy who runs that craps game with the perpetual cigarette hanging out of his mouth – the worst! Ferrets. Am I right?

As I’ve said before, my posts are just updates for my friends and family.

So, with that in mind – here we go – for my step-mom on (or nearish) her birthday.

Welcome to: The Big Blue Mess: Summer Edition

Mid-May, two weeks after my second Covid shot, I had vacation plans: Celebrate my best-friend’s big 0 birthday in Chicago, and celebrate another good friend’s 0 birthday in the Dominican Republic. It was a great summer to have friends with destination 0 birthdays who could also tolerate me well enough to have me along to celebrate.

In Chicago, we pretty much stuck to the tourist’s version of the city. We haunted the Inner Loop with it’s reflective bean, it’s museums, and tours. I could do a blow-by-blow, but most of it could be summed up in a postcard or any “Visit Chicago” travel ad. So, let me hit the highlight reel of favorite things:

  • Bisa Butler’s incredible portraits in quilt at the Art Institute of Chicago
  • The architecture tour on the Chicago River
  • The spunky, super enthusiastic tour guide for the Gangsters and Ghost tour
  • Three Dots and a Dash with Seth
  • Amazing pizza!! (not casseroles!!!)
  • Chicago-style hot dogs (I confess, I thought they were going to be absolutely disgusting and probably introduce a mouthful of wrongness into my face before being unceremoniously chucked into a trash bin. There’s so much going on there. Pickles? Relish? Onions? TOMATO?! Why? I was wrong! They weren’t just good, they were great.)
  • My buddy Johnny Two Shovels and his lovely fiancée
  • Walking everywhere
  • The time I got to spend with my closest friend.

Chicago made me regret never leaving my comfort zone by picking up, and moving away from the safety of my state – from my town. It made me wish I could right that wrong today and take a leap (and of course, move back here almost immediately to avoid November through April because cold. Texas fact: temperatures dropping below say 42 degrees (brr) are rude, obscene and wholly unnecessary.

The trip was fantastic – something I needed.

A few weeks later, I headed to the Dominican Republic to stay at an all-inclusive resort.

About That

A couple of years ago, if you’d asked me what my favorite type of outdoor terrain to just “be” in was, I would have started with forests, then moved on to mountains, everything else, then desert, wading in bottomless tar pits, gator-filled marshes, and finally beaches – beaches rating a bit higher than they should because I lacked the imagination to come up with anything worse than marshes before having to end with “beaches”.

In my defense, I’ve really only been around the Gulf of Mexico, and let’s face it, the Gulf is just not pretty – not where I’m from.

Then I spent a day on a beach in Honduras, which was unexpectedly lovely and actually surprisingly fun. That was followed by an afternoon on the beach in Santa Monica, and finally there I was in the Dominican Republic looking out again at the Caribbean, and all I could think was “this is idyllic – no place I’d rather be.”

There’s really no way to describe the trip that wouldn’t make me sound very privileged or very white, so I’ll leave off most of the highlight reel and say I had a lovely time at a very lovely location. I was fortunate to be invited along with great people who made me laugh so hard I snorted a few times. But were I to list the highlights, they would be a bit odd and go like this (inside jokes intertwined with genuine moments):

  • The subterranean quarters beneath where Santiago’s family stayed
  • Studio 54 featuring every Quentin Tarantino film. Let’s face it, nothing says Studio 54 in it’s heyday quite like QT and zero disco music – just ask Liza, Halston, and Andy W. who all famously said at one point, “…And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers…” The 70’s – putting the groove in groovy. You’re doing it right, Dominican Republic! Just how I remembered!
  • The gigantic angel at 80’s night. Umm…
  • The Alabamians’ drunken drawled out request, “tell us more funny stuff!!” asked of my New Zealand friend after insisting she sounded English (she doesn’t).
  • Throuples
  • Darlin’ & El Gato “the cat” meoooowwww…
  • …y Mami y Papi
  • The Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor – the oldest Church in the Americas
  • The Covid test to re-enter the US that I’m 99% sure was not a legitimate test, but hey, I got to come back home!
  • Global Entry – worth EVERY penny

Random Thoughts from the Trip

Driving through the Santo Domingo in our modern, clean and cool bus, we learned that the minimum wage is $200-$400/month and the average monthly wage is around $800/mo. Electrical wires dangled above in tangled and twisted nests. Trash littered the sides of the road as we drove on to the comfort of our compound within another compound – a playland.

Another Thought

When I arrived in the country, I honestly didn’t remember that we were in the country formerly known as Hispaniola, nor did I recall that it was here where Columbus first set shore in the Americas. I stood in the places where he stood, where his son later stood. No matter how you feel on the subject of Columbus and the aftermath of that “discovery” (the exploitation, the slavery, the mass genocide), you cannot deny that on that fateful day, the world changed. So for me to walk where he walked made me pause and reflect on the enormity of how one day, one simple action could change the course of the world. Over half a millennium later I stood there because of that one day, and the days that fell like dominoes thereafter.

There was something very appealing about being on this island; I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to explore. I wanted to just be.

As the Summer comes to a close and this Summer Edition wraps up, I find myself thinking about how much I miss being in this world – seeing, exploring, and discovering all the things with my people who make me a richer person.

Happy Birthday, CJ! – A post just for you. I’m glad you’re part of my world.

An Electrical Storm Wrapped in a Tornado Concealed in a Tsunami: My First Day Back

After over a year of working from home, this past Thursday was my first day back in the office.

I was excited – a little bit anxious, but overall looking forward to the excuse to escape the house. Sorry house, you’re pretty great. We’re bros and stuff. (Err… I may be too old and the wrong gender to announce that, but there it is.) But you lack some things I need – namely co-workers or ANY people. (People – the often-overlooked base level in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Hey, don’t believe what you see on that pyramid graph – it was obviously created by artists who have an anti-relationship agenda. C’mon, food and water at the base level? Before people??? Are they kidding? Have they not heard of Soylent Green? People can and should be part of that base.)

I digress you say?

Let’s face it, my social interactions this past year have been limited to staring sadly out of the window eagerly hoping for trash day to come around again (why only the one day per week?) or bribing people to leave things at my door. (Dear Amazon, you didn’t need to send me notes or photos announcing a thing had been delivered. I knew. I really knew, but thank you – also, call me if you’d like some pro tips for composing more interesting photos – I feel your delivery team weren’t making any effort to create visually compelling package tableaus. Opportunities missed!)

Ahead of that first day, I called up my gym and renewed my membership. I have a well-established routine for going into the office that starts with a 5am stop at the gym. There I repeatedly step on things, push them, pull them, slam them, throw them, or pick them up and set them back down again before showering, fluffing, and heading off to work. Before that fateful return to work, I blissfully fantasized about all my choices. What would I choose? Were “all the things” an option? (Fast-forward: today my body is telling me that I did the things that make my glutes, quads, hamstrings, traps and lats excitedly scream, “You remembered us!!!! Hi, friend!!!” like a hyperactive attention-starved cheerleader.) I knew ultimately whatever I chose wouldn’t matter, I was just excited to go and see if anyone I knew was around and be in that space again. I even made a little post about it on Facebook ahead of going. Yay, gym! Celebrate with me!

That morning the alarm went off at 4am, which was quite rude and way too loud. (If someone could send me a sunrise alarm, that would be fantastic. I’d send a little thank you card and stuff.) I got up, threw on my gym clothes and loaded the car with various bags. (Actually, that part was a little out of control as I apparently thought “Why one bag, when MORE…. MANY MANY MORE would be even better!”)

Today was going to be the best day ever.

But before leaving the house, I had forgotten something….

I forgot that I live in (nay, star in) an ongoing, @#$!$^!-ing  I Love Lucy episode.

Y’see, I was nearly at the gym when I ran over something – something huge that I dragged along the highway – dragged an uncomfortable (and loud) amount of time (time can have sound levels – don’t judge). I exited, still heard it, although at some point it sounded “not quite as bad,” and I just sighed a bit. This was really not the way I wanted to start the day. I arrived in the gym parking lot, parked, looked underneath the car, saw nothing, and went inside. Here, I naively thought, “Whew, at least that’s over – probably dislodged the thing when I made that last corner. Good job me.” As I leave the gym, I think “Let’s get coffee! You deserve it! First day back!!” I drive the half block down the street to discover my Seattle’s Best coffee place is now called Jo’s and Jo clearly doesn’t believe people need coffee before 7am. Also, my car is still making that sound. I’m now in a dress and heels. I pull over, check the wheel wells, they look clear, then decide to look at the front end of the car. Obviously, the best way to do that in a dress and heels is to do a full plank in front of your car next to a busy street, because I’m hill folk and that’s how we do, I guess??? I discover the issue: a plastic piece is down (splash guard). I deduce it’s part of my car, because while in this plank I can’t rip it off despite giving it my all…multiple times. It’s a bit scuffed from being dragged around. I pulled myself off the ground (you’re welcome, Austin, Tx.) and made the decision to drag it a mile further to my mechanics. Hey, it’s not like it was going to get less scuffed.

I then confirmed my former boss wasn’t going into the office, then reached out to his deputy. These are the people who understand and accept that I live in the world’s longest sitcom and have grown accustom to my pre-7am “OMG! My world is on fire” calls that they rarely blink and are now desensitized to my morning dramatic upheavals. They’ve been there for some of my classic hits like calls where I state, “Hey, running late – forgot pants again” (because why would a person forget them only once?).

The call started off with a casual, calm Texas gal drawl, “Hi buddy, you in the office…?” then ramped into what my former boss (the one who likely later thanked the universe, Jesus and his mother, God rest her soul, that it was his telework day) describes as sounding like a “squeaky toy” when I become animated – and animated was an understatement that morning. In fact, marine biologists around the globe probably noted some strange behavior within dolphin pods as I squeaked out and rapid-fired the words that indicated I needed him to pick me up from the mechanics.

I was now in full-blown over-stimulated mode when I reached the office – pupils large, ears flattened and ready to pounce anyone who dared to say hello. Here’s where you need to show some pity for that first co-worker – a guy I hadn’t seen in over a year – a victim who only wanted to say, “Good morning.” Someone who’d probably forgotten what I was like with a much welcome absence of my verbal pattering and innocently thought, “This will be a normal exchange without event.” He was mistaken. I imagine he deeply regretted not bypassing my door before being forced to retreat to his office to avoid being sucked into the vortex of crazy I’d brought in. Sorry!  

As I reflected on the day, I lamented the dream I had of a calm/normal return to the workplace, then accepted that “calm” was never really an option for me. I was always going to roll in like an electrical storm wrapped in a tornado concealed in a tsunami that hid a kaiju monster on the hunt for a fresh city to level. It’s just my nature. I am the storm.

Hope your first days back were filled with an equal amount of sound and fury.