September’s New Things

This month I’ve written a lot about Suicide Prevention and our team’s goal to raise $5,000 to help the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Huge thanks to everyone who has donated so far. Because of your generosity, we’re now $1200 away from reaching our goal. We still have a ways to go, but I know we can do it!

But enough about that for now. You’ve earned a small reprieve, and by “small” I mean “a couple of days.” You didn’t think it was permanent, did you? Oh honey, did I mention that we still have $1200 to go? Anyway…

This month I had three adventures/three new things I’ve done and wanted to share.

Like all good adventures, my first adventure involved a hooky day. You know, the kind of hooky day where you give your boss a full week’s notice explaining that you’d really like to have a day off if the schedule permits. Then you beg for their approval. Let’s face it, you’ve reached a point in your life where you’re just too lazy to call-in and put the energy into pretending you’re suffering. The thought of trying to conjure up a scratchy throat as you hold the phone away from your mouth, and letting your head dangle off the side of the bed to achieve that nicely stressed sound to your vocal chords is really too much, Plus, you’d have to spin the ailment wheel and choose something you think sounds somewhat reasonable and that you could reasonably recover from within 24 hours – food poisoning? allergies? cold? flu? migraine? vision problem?

All of that is especially challenging for me, because as it turns out, I’m a terrible liar. If I try to lie, it just becomes super awkward for everyone involved. No, it’s just easier for everyone if I flat out ask for what I want. Plus, no one (aka me) wants to navigate your (my) co-worker’s concerned, “hey, are you feeling?” questions the next day anyway. When I chipperly respond, “I’m fine! Turns out tequila and tacos was the cure I needed!” it always abruptly stops the polite inquiries. Of course, that’s mostly because the idea of me sitting around drinking tequila is ludicrous. I knew I should have said “Dr. Pepper.” See, proof I can’t lie.

The first adventure involved my friend April and me heading off to Longhorn Cavern in Burnet, Texas. As the crow flies (or I-45 if you take the toll), it’s about an hour from my house.

The day started with my prediction that we were probably going to find a new place to have lunch, gab a bit, and then I’d meander back to my house for my 2pm hooky nap. It seemed like a pleasant enough day. So, with that in mind I got up late, headed to the gym, and mid-pushing something around or hefting it up I received a text from April alerting me that she was heading over so we could choose what to do. I thought “ooh! carpooling to lunch it is!”

We began plotting as soon as April arrived. Of course, I lamented not having my act together and us missing the opportunity to tour of the Governor’s Mansion. (Apparently, they need a week to perform a background check before you can go, and I’d only given them four business days. Harumph.) Hey, it was a thing in Austin I’ve never done. Don’t judge! Then we worked through a “things that needed patting” wish list. The list went from baby otters (who are probably toddlers now) at Franklin’s Drive Thru Safari to patting the elephants at the Houston zoo. For the record, I still want to pat elephants. I’m not kidding. If anyone of you has time and a free Friday, can we please please please please please go? I mean that would be ok and all. NO! Forget that. I’m not playing coy, it’s ELEPHANTS!!!! I desperately want to pat one!!! My birthday is in less than three months. I’m just saying. No, I’m actually begging, no I’m pleading. What will work on you? ELEPHANTS!

But, as you know keen reader, we ended up at Longhorn Cavern, which is clearly the natural progression from Governor’s Mansion > Safari > Toddler Otters > OMG ELEPHANTS!!! > Cave. You see it, right? Of course you do!

The cave was cleared out by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930’s, and is surrounded by several legends – some credible, some not so much. For example, at one time they believed it was used as a Speak Easy during Prohibition and that it was a possible hideout for the Sam Bass gang. Unfortunately, the park rangers and local historians have backed off of both of those stories. Our tour guide stated there was no evidence to support either claim. Personally, I can conceive of some scenarios where both are plausible. What if everyone did an amazing job of keeping the Speak Easy hush-hush? Sure, now people can’t keep a secret, but back then secrets stayed with folks until they went to the grave. I feel there’s a 2-3% chance (or maybe .02-.03% – one of those) that happened. People swore never to discuss the speak easy, so I feel my explanation is totally feasible. As for Sam Bass’ gang, well, those outlaws could have been exceptionally tidy. Outlaws had outlaw mamas, too! In fact, Sam Bass’ gang were probably the first to say “take only pictures, leave only footprints” as each man spat in their palm and shook each other’s hands. As we all know, an outlaw’s oath is an outlaw’s bond. And of course, it only follows that they didn’t take those photos, because it would have been a colossal pain, and no one would have been allowed to smile for minutes on end. I ask you, how does one not grin from ear-to-ear when you’ve robbed the Union Pacific and made off with all that gold. It would have been too much to ask! (I don’t know why I didn’t go into archaeology or anthropology. Those fields clearly lack a brilliant mind like mine. Think of the contributions they missed.)

The other legends are true. The cave was used by the Comanches, munitions were stored there during the Civil War, and at one time there was actually a grand staircase, dance hall, and a stage for live performances.

The hour and a half tour was fantastic thanks to a great guide. Unfortunately, we got a strong “NO!” when it came to patting the guy hanging out below. There were also firm “no’s” when it came to patting anything else. So, I went from the possibility of patting otter tweens (they’re aging rapidly – even as I type) to OMG ELEPHANTS!!!! to “keep your hands at your side and stay where I can see you.” Hmph. Still, this guy was pretty darned cute.

Hey, little guy!

On a serious note, touching formations in caverns may cause irreparable damage, and in most states (like Texas) there are laws protecting them. Keep your hands to yourself. It’s the kind of rule that will save you from all kinds of trouble in life.

There was Pie

Afterwards, we headed to the Bluebonnet Cafe in Marble Falls. A place known for their meringue pies. These are beautiful looking pies where the meringue is at least 5″ high at their peak, and have that kind of oven kissed brown you always hope for, and you ultimately end up trying to convince your guests that scorched meringue is exactly the way your Gran always made it, and by golly you’re not straying from that path out of respect for her. God rest Gran’s meringue scorchin’ soul.

Dale a tu cuerpo alegría Meringue!
(Image from the Blue Bonnet Cafe’s website.)

It was in that cafe that I had an epiphany that I’ll share. It turns out that I like the idea of 5″+ of meringue, but not the reality of it. It’s a TON of meringue, and very little pie. I’m a more pie fan. Again, it was well made and gorgeous to look at AND also about 4″ too much of meringue for my taste. Still, a lovely restaurant and I’m glad to say I tried the pie.

The Final Adventure

Finally, I attended a Gidget Party celebrating vintage Tiki culture!! I’m calling this my Social Coup of 2019 (coups deserve to stand out in bold type, so there you go). It was the kind of coup that involved incredible, fun, new friends, new experiences, AND bonus – I got to wear Gidget pigtails along with my favorite tacky hot pink Hawaiian shirt! There was amazing food! (Figs in a blanket!! Follow-up epiphany: It turns out I love figs in a blanket!) There were amazing drinks. Plus, fantastic hosts! Everything a party could hope for and super fun. It was truly a honor to be invited. I left with a huge goofy smile on my face.

Oh Yeah

I nearly forgot that I also went to a Cheese 101 class last week through Antonelli’s Cheese Shop. There I learned a bit about cheese, and was introduced to some new favorites: Gisele, Chevre, and Dry Jack. SOOOO GOOD!

All-in-all it was another month filled with new experiences and new people. A month I greatly enjoyed.

How was your September?

Epilogue: An October Plan

First, can I have an epilogue for a blog post? That seems ridiculous, so I’m all in! Anyway, I have a few ideas for how to spend October, but what I really hope to say by the middle of it is this: OH MY GOODNESS!!! We successfully raised $5,000 for AFSP in memory of Jay. (And that’s how your reprieve came to an abrupt end. You’re welcome!)

I Won’t Be Silent

I returned to work a week after Jay died. I braced myself as I headed towards my desk; I needed to be prepared to cope with the cards and flowers that people likely left there. I needed to steel myself for the outpouring of sympathy, knowing it would be hard, but well-intentioned. It’s what we did as a group – we came together to support our teammates during their times of loss or need. Plus, for the most part, people generally like me (except that one woman who clearly has no taste). Why wouldn’t I expect a big show of support?

I wasn’t prepared for what I found as I rounded that corner. I found nothing. Absolutely nothing. No cards. No flowers. No little notes. In fact, people kept swinging by to ask me about my vacation, and I stared back at them dully, unable to speak. Others avoided me (for months). In fact, I asked one months later if they knew Jay had died. They did. They explained they didn’t know what to say, so they decided to say nothing. That friendship is dead to this day.

Let me clarify something real quick: I had an incredible core group of coworkers who rallied around me and supported me completely. They attended Jay’s memorial. They sent cards, texts, and called me on the phone. But when it came to telling the rest of the team, they found themselves in an extremely awkward situation. They worried about how to share my news and they had serious concerns about violating my privacy. Their silence on the subject was well-meaning. How do you tell everyone, “Beth’s husband died by suicide?” They decided it was better to err on the side of caution to avoid causing me additional pain. No one wanted to see me hurt more.

Unfortunately, the side effect was that I did not have the usual support that one would receive after losing a spouse. So, in the absence of a conga line of teary-eyed condolence hugs and cheer-up candy from my coworkers, I began to behave in ghastly ways. I was blunt. I was harsh. I was rude. I was unforgiving and unapologetic. When asked about my vacation, people staggered out of my office backwards while stammering out their apologies. When asked in meetings, “Is everything ok, Beth?” people suddenly wanted to end the meeting early while quickly excusing themselves. I was unpleasant on a good day, and intolerable on a bad day, and there were plenty of bad days.

I finally had to ask a team member to spread the word that Jay had died, because crushing people’s “welcome back from vacation” cheer was wearing me out.

What happened to me was not atypical.

There’s a stigma around suicide and around mental health issues. We, as a society, shy away from talking about it. If it happens in your family, you keep it in the family. I mean, what will the neighbors think? (Well, in my case, my neighbor threw Holy water over the fence into my yard.) What will your friends think? What will your co-workers think? What does it say about you, your lifestyle, your family…? And talking about it, except in hushed whispers, makes us uncomfortable.

Well, if suicide makes you uncomfortable, it should.  Here’s why – it’s the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and it’s steadily increasing each year. In 2017, 47,173 Americans died by suicide. That same year, in the US, there were over 1.4 million attempts. There are approximately 129 suicides per day, 22 of those are veterans. Globally, over 800,000 die by suicide annually.

We need to talk about it. Hiding it isn’t working. Silence isn’t working.

People who are struggling need help, and we’re telling them to be silent. We’re telling them there’s shame in having a mental health issue – there’s shame in suffering. However, if they had a chronic condition like arthritis or asthma or even cystic fibrosis, we’d encourage them to seek treatment. If they had cancer, we’d make referrals to well-respected oncologists. We’d offer advice. Hell, we’d become WebMD authorities and merrily hop down every homeopathic trail in hopes of getting them relief.

What we wouldn’t do:

We would never ask a person with a chronic condition to suffer silently. We would never tell them they needed to smile more. We would never insinuate they were making a choice to be ill.

And if a co-worker lost a spouse to cancer, the team would rally around them because we understand cancer.  There is no shame in having a spouse die due to cancer.

Like many people who die by suicide, Jay suffered from depression. He’d suffered since he was a teen. Convincing him to see a medical professional was a battle. It took years of talking about medical intervention, and pointing out people he knew who, like him, suffered from depression but were having success with medication. I had to work on removing the stigma of seeking help just to get him to make an appointment. And once his medications started having an effect, he said something that broke my heart, “this is the first time I’ve ever felt happy.” Imagine going your whole life without knowing or remembering what “happy” felt like.

We must keep talking about suicide. We must keep talking about mental health. We must make mental health a priority.

When I first opened-up about Jay and the impact his death has had on me, I received feedback from a couple of people. They shared their personal struggles and said they didn’t fully realize how devastating suicide was to the people left behind; that my stories had made them think. Then last week another friend, also deeply was affected by Jay’s death, shared a similar story.

That’s why we keep talking about it. That’s why we cannot and should not be silenced or marginalized. Talk makes a difference. Talk saves lives.

Last year a co-worker attempted to admonish me by saying, “I don’t think you realize how much you talk about Jay.”

I will never stop.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) will also never stop. Their mission to fund important research into the best ways to prevent suicide, to advocate, educate, and provide support to those who have lost a loved one gives me hope that they will reach their goal to reduce suicide by 20% in 2025.

I believe in their mission.

That’s why on November 2nd I am walking in the Out of the Darkness Walk here in Austin, Texas. I’ve set a goal for our team of $5,000, and a personal goal of $3,000.

I believe it’s a challenging goal, but achievable with your support.

Please help by making a donation today.

We’d also be honored to have you walk with us! Just click the link! OR consider re-posting this blog post, and tell people your story.

But no matter what you decide to do, I ask one huge favor:

Never stop talking about mental health issues. Reach out to anyone you think may be struggling (assume you’re the only person who is reaching out).

Huge thanks to those who have already signed up to walk with me, and to those who have made a donation; it means a lot, it makes a huge difference, and I appreciate each of you!

If you or someone you know is in distress, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

24/7 Crisis Hotline: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network
http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
1-800-273-TALK (8255) (Veterans, press 1)

Crisis Text Line
Text TALK to 741-741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7

Veterans Crisis Line
Send a text to 838255

July & August

I’m pretty sure no one but me is really invested in my attempt to try “new things each month,” but I feel obligated to report just the same. Prepare to be wowed, or maybe the descriptive word that means the exact opposite of “wowed.” Prepare to be… ehh… you do you. You may not need much preparation.

July involved me trying new foods at new restaurants. At least that’s what it became once I realized I was a good deal into the month, and had no other “new” plans, so new foods it was!

I tried a paella. I had no idea what that was, but saw it on the menu. I immediately recognized it as a word I knew meant “food” and it was a word I could pronounce correctly, and so I declared, “this is what I want!” It was a mix of things I’d never had before combined with things I had, and it was delightful. Also, I feel once shrimp reach a certain size, they get a little creepy looking.

About a week later, I had a chalupa for the first time. Yes, I know – a native Texan more than half a century old, and I hadn’t had one before. Weird. Well, not really. In my defense, there are tacos in this world. These perfectly shaped shells that contain all the taco goodness. Chalupas indiscreetly display all their food bits on the outside and you’re expected to be somewhat civilized while attempting to eat the thing. Too much pressure! With tacos there’s less worry involved. Sure, some of the delicious bits will still spill out, but it will be an appropriate and manageable amount – not a dramatic lettuce landslide desperately trying to escape your face. There’s really just no way to be graceful while eating a chalupa – best just to unceremoniously up-end the thing, declare the dish a salad, and the crunchy shell a “chip garnish.” Still, it was also delicious, and again made me thankful for tacos.

That was kind of it for July.

In August I went out of town to Colorado, and stayed in the mountains. The elevation was approximately 8500 feet where we stayed, and the weather was perfect. For the record, 8500 feet is really no joke when you’re trying to do things like “moving” combined with “breathing.” Leaving a gorgeous place where the mornings were in the upper 40’s was challenging, especially when faced with mornings in the upper 70’s. I now desperately yearn for Fall.

Overall, it’s not a trip I feel entirely comfortable discussing in an open forum. The trip was both beautiful and sad – filled with moments of great laughter and sudden, heart-wrenching tears. My last night I stood looking up at the star-filled sky and silently screamed.

There are things in this world I hope you never have to endure – things I hope I never have to endure, and there are places where you begin to heal. Where raw beauty and nature allow a momentary and much-needed respite.

A huge thanks to our hosts who gave us such an amazing gift by letting us stay at their Air B&B. I wish I could live in that town nestled in a valley in the Rockies. Of course, I’m told it can get really cold in the winters and that there’s this stuff called snow. That might do in this Texas gal.

Garden of the Gods – Pike’s Peak (One of the Fourteeners) in the Background

A tiny pox on OnStar for deciding the best route from Amarillo, TX to Austin, TX was through Oklahoma City. However, I suppose I can now say I’ve successfully driven a land yacht in the form of a Chevy Tahoe through Ft. Worth during rush hour – an experience of which my Google Maps would have deprived me. I’m eyeballing you, OnStar. But hey, I guess that’s also a new thing I got to do.

A heads-up as we head into September

September is Suicide Prevention Month, and we’ll be two months away from our Out of Darkness Walk. Expect a few posts talking about the great work the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention does and ways you can help support this cause. One of those ways involves you grabbing a burger and some ice cream. Who doesn’t enjoy supporting a worthy cause with ice cream?

Balanced Rock – Garden of the Gods

Ok, off I go to tilt at windmills and fight with a stranger over jazz – like one does on a Sunday evening.

June’s Wrap

Looking back at June in terms of the whole “trying new things” objective, I see a real mixed bag from new restaurants to new people to new experiences, (which incidentally did not include Edinburgh, Scotland; Wellington, New Zealand; Chicago, IL; or even Franklin, TX (YOU CAN PET A BABY OTTER THERE!!!!! It squeaks and nibbles fingers (aka “has a taste for human flesh! But that’s ok, because OMG BABY OTTER) I’ve seen the video!)). So the new things in June remained fairly local.

I’m going to detail them while also recognizing that reading them might come off like reading someone’s favorite grocery list. “And on Tuesday, I bought organic fruits, then I went down the aisles in a completely different order. I saved produce until the end!! I KNOW!!!! Really stretching my wings!” In other words: bear with, you little trooper. (Oh, and huge thanks if you’re going to daringly press forward and continue to read more of this. If you don’t, no worries. Your only take away should be: Beth did some more stuff.)

Axes, Polvos & 2:30 AM

I threw axes! Only this time it was on a shorter course, which really had no noticeable effect on my “skill” level; it’s still terrible. However, the video taken of me throwing said axe happened to show one of the maybe three times I stuck the axe into the back wall. Who cares that it’s nowhere near the bullseye or even the painted-on target, I stuck it IN A WALL! AND… it happened to be the wall I was aiming at (GO ME!!). I am a mighty axe thrower not to be reckoned with. (Or maybe avoid reckoning with me if I happen to be wielding an axe; there’s a 1 in maybe 50… 100… 135 chance that I might hit you. I’m like “stormtrooper with an axe” bad. Hrmm… maybe stormtroopers should have really given axes a shot? Imagine how that would have changed the movies.) Anyway… that’s the best way to describe the odds that the blade-y bit might actually take purchase; I could definitely hit you with any other part of the axe, though. Err… that sounds menacing. I don’t actually want to throw axes at people or particularly you. You don’t deserve it. You’ve lived a reasonably good life. Plus, you’re still reading this, and that would be plain bad manners to throw anything at you.

I tried a new beer, a blonde ale whose name I forget, which wasn’t particularly hoppy. (Hoppy is a bad thing for a beer to be if I’m sipping it.) I then went to Polvos Mexican Restaurant, which was fantastic, and I had a coconut margarita, which is maybe my new favorite type. Move over pineapple! I’d link the restaurant’s page here, but it’s really upsetting my antivirus software. Sooo maybe go for the food and stay off their website?

I also got home around 2 AM, which for a person who wakes up at 4 was crazy late for me, but the evening, for the conversation alone, was worth it. The axe throwing, the beer, the margarita, and the food just added to the delightful flavor of the evening. I want more evenings just like that.

Reunions and DNA

A cousin of ours always knew in her heart that her father wasn’t likely her actual birth father. So, a couple of years ago her daughter decided to have her mother’s DNA tested with the hopes of discovering a family they never knew. After over 70 years of wondering, the DNA results confirmed her suspicions. That’s when the family learned my father was her closest relative on her father’s side (predicted to be her 2nd cousin). Fast forward a bit to June 2019 when the two of them finally met; it was absolutely fantastic. I had previously met her son and daughter, but for this occasion, my Dad came into town and we met her son’s wife, their children, and his wonderful mom who had come to Texas from Chicago. They spent a day on the road just to meet us, and everyone was all smiles and laughs; it was truly a great day. Plus, I got a little bonus time with Dad. Don’t tell him, but I kind of adore him.

We have narrowed down the family line we share but still haven’t figured out who her dad is among the likely suspects. If any of you know Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and he owes you a favor, could you call that in on our behalf? Thank you in advance!

Y’know, people have asked why take a DNA test? It doesn’t change who you are. I understand where you’re coming from; however, my response is, “No, while it doesn’t change who I am, it does help give me insight into my family’s journey. It hints and teases at the paths they chose that ultimately led to me, and it has given me the opportunity to meet people I would have never known – people I’m glad to call family. From Bluesy to Carol to Rashann, Chianna, Francine and the rest of their amazing family, you’ve made my world bigger and better.

Swimming

I’m still doing it. My regular instructor returned, and she’s not as eager to bounce me up to the next level as the substitute teacher from a few weeks ago, which is a good thing. I still need to improve my pitiful stamina, but I continue to get better. Yesterday, we worked on treading – 30 seconds on, and 30 seconds off. She helped another student who is a bit uncomfortable in deeper water, then looked over and asked where I was, and if I was coming up on my 30-second break. I said, “I’m on four minutes.” I continued for an additional minute and decided to take a break, but I’m pretty certain I could have gone three more minutes without much struggle, which would get me to eight minutes. My goal is 15. Fifteen gets me into the actual row class.

For the record, my swim instructor leaves in July as she prepares for her first year of college. She’s adorable! I kind of love her, and love/appreciate her patience working with the elderly.

The Work Article

An article appeared in our office newsletter about “wellness,” which featured me and covered my intimate affair with the gym focusing on my various hardships (losing Jay, blowing out my ACL), and my love for my trainer. The article was sent out to thousands of employees, and the day it was officially published I received tons of emails cheering me on (one from a woman who is a rower at the club I want to take classes through; I may love her best), and some saying I inspired them. It was pretty fantastic. One question that stood out made me pause a bit: “How much can you lift?” All I could think to respond with was, “Which way? With what?” before I finally decided she either wanted to know about deadlifts or maybe how much I could throw over my head? or press? I gave her all the answers. I’m sure when I finished she thought, “Thank you, spectrum Beth; that was a lot of unnecessary information.” “You’re welcome, lady! Next, let me tell you about the weight I use for my tri-cep extensions. It’s equally unimpressive, but I think you’re going to dig it just the same. Why are you running away??? Come back!!!”

Let me just throw out here: I’m not a power lifter. World’s Strongest anything is not going to knock on my door EVER. I am also not in danger (or luck?) of having any protein powder company hunt me down. Damn. Throw a girl a bone here, people!

A Certification

In February I took a week-long class to prepare for a certification in my field. I then proceeded to spend the next few months piddling around instead of actually studying thanks to not really having a handle on how to approach the material. In my defense, there was (is) a lot to learn – a lot I didn’t have familiarity with. And let’s face it, one of my colleagues, in an attempt to be helpful, made me freak right on out. His mid-hallways pop quizzes were supposed to spur me on, “What the port for DHCP?” Dude, I don’t know. 23? 443? GO AWAY! “Have you read the book I recommended, yet?” You see, he had previously failed the test, but eventually passed it on his second attempt. At the time he decided to “encourage” me, he was our interim director – someone who is an expert in the subject at hand and a leader in the field. Actually, people failing seemed to be a theme. When I took the class, several of the people, who again had been in this field for years, admitted to having failed the test on their first attempt. *dramatic gulp* Clearly failure was kind of expected, and who was I to think I wasn’t on that same path? Plus, a failing grade on this test amounted to getting less than 83% of the questions correct. I’d have to basically make an 83.33 or higher to pass.

Also, something I perceived a hurdle was the fact that the minimum requirements to take the class are two years in this field. Well, I’m not “in” the field, I’m “near” the field. My only related experience was in networking and desktop support, which I hadn’t done in about 18 years ago – so, pretty recently? 😦

I didn’t meet the credentials to even sit in the classroom.

Thankfully, I knew I had until the end of August to take the exam, and as those weeks ticked away, the helpful colleague would appear with advice on how to approach it. The biggest piece was, “You need 45 days to thoroughly prepare.” So, imagine my surprise when the company who offered the class said, “End of August??? HAHAHAHAHAHA! Foolish girl. No, you’ll have it done by the end of June or we’ll potentially charge your company extra.” That gave me basically three weeks. Three weeks to read a book, three weeks to take practice quizzes, three weeks to do the labs, and three weeks to study volumes of material I didn’t know.

I made a plan: 1) Spend x number of hours after work and each weekend to study (that quickly blew apart as I’m a notoriously distracted monkey), and 2) prepare your supervisor for the failure. For the last part, I explained that I hadn’t put in the time, then I tried to put a positive spin on it by saying the test results would allow me to get a baseline of where I am and where I would need to focus for the next test. I tried to point out all the people who had failed that were in the field – people who had again been over our department. My supervisor, who is exceptionally understanding, responded with, “What you’re telling me is that my faith in you is misplaced?” Umm yes? no? maybe?

Let me speed up this story here so we can get to the end a little more quickly. You deserve that since you’ve stuck around this long. The test was Thursday, and I hadn’t put in the time. I hadn’t read the study guide. I hadn’t taken any of the labs, and I definitely hadn’t taken any of the practice tests. No, what I had done was make a 50-page study guide that I really dove into over only a few days. Then I walked into the testing center on Thursday armed with a couple of testing tips:

  • Save all scenario questions until the end, and
  • Only spend 25 seconds on any one question; people run out of time on this test

I had heavy-sighed at my boss the night before when he wished me luck, and I told myself it was ok to fail – professionals in the field had failed, and I had not put in the time. I promised myself ice cream for enduring the day. I promised to do better next time. I played “On Top of the World” by Imagine Dragons before exiting the car after “Party in the USA,” of course – HB, I had to!

The test started and, in an hour and a half, it was over. I watched the last seconds tick away. The results weren’t immediate; I had to enter demographic information: “I’m a lazy, not educated as much as I’d like, old, white gal.” They promised the results once I hit the “Submit” button on the demographics page. I sighed, reminded myself it was over, that it really hadn’t been as bad, but more than 83% was asking a lot – though again, the questions really weren’t the horror show I expected.

I hit “Submit”.

“You have passed.”

I stared at the screen, and tried to figure out if I had lost my ability to understand words. I read, then re-read, and re-read the words again. I was in complete shock. And that’s when a tear spilled down my cheek followed by some tear friends. I gathered my things and headed out of the room where the receptionist lifted a head and said, “I’ll be with you in a moment.”

“You take your time. You see, I just passed the test, and I didn’t think I would, so I’m going to cry at your desk. I hope that’s ok.” She glanced up again, “congratulations,” then went back to what she was doing. And I cried quietly. Once I had my purse returned and the printout declaring that I’d passed, which I re-read multiple times just in case, I walked to the car and ugly cried – big, heaving sobs. I then texted the world starting with my boss who was in a meeting.

John’s Response

About an hour later, my boss got out of his meeting and called me.

John: Congratulations.
Me: Thank you.
John: Now apologize.
Me: … I’m ummm sorry?
John: Apologize for suggesting I had misplaced my faith in you.

Thank you, not just to John, but to the rest of you for continuing to believe in me when I don’t always believe in myself. I’m also thankful that my brain works the way it does (thanks DNA, thanks upbringing), and that I could approach this test the way I did and still pass. (Incidentally, I had 87% of the questions right. It’s not stellar, but it counts. A pass is a pass.) I’m now officially certified in my field, which helps open a few more doors.

Oh, and I did go and get ice cream. A promise is a promise.

That was my June. How was yours?

A Brag & A Story

A couple of disclaimers before I start: First, I’m writing this about an hour past my bedtime. So, if you think my typing/editing is bad on a good day, I anticipate the pain level to be turned up 10 notches before I finally hit “Publish”. Please say a tiny prayer now that my editor David has seen this before you had to endure reading it. Second, I’m about to brag. In the past you’ve seen the “strong language ahead” warnings, but today, today is a brag warning since I recognize that listening to people brag (or reading their posts) may cause involuntary eye rolling. I get it. Feel free to call it good at this point and return to your regularly scheduled email/social media browsing. I’m sure, without much browsing effort, that you can enjoy fun astronomy tidbits like how the moon is actually part of Mars. Fingers-crossed they reinstate Pluto as a planet soon. C’mon little guy, I’m pulling for you! Anyway…

Beth and Bragging

Let me start with some backstory: it’s a rare day that I brag. Sure, I do it on occasion, but most days I don’t feel I’m doing something so amazing that it warrants a herald shouting it from the rooftops. I just kind of do my thing – nothing really special about that. I’m ordinary – a bit dry-witted, and exceptionally sarcastic (my parents are so proud). If you were actually to pin me down and say, “Beth, name two things you feel you do well,” I’d tell you, “I’ve got great penmanship,” and, “I’ve got a great smile.” That’s really it. I can smile and sign things like a champ, and smiling is really not a thing I do; it’s genetics. My parents get more credit there. If you asked for a third thing, I’d struggle and then would probably offer up uncomfortably, “I’m the current holder of most f-bombs dropped on a Monday.” (Again, my parents are super proud.) In all fairness though, being asked repeatedly for sage advice about an upcoming potluck pushed all of my crazy buttons (there are multiple buttons varying in severity, but asking about the potluck was like you’d smashed all of those buttons at the same time). I started wanting to say, “I don’t have a dog in that fight, Carol – my ‘give a fox’ are super low,” but found that was taking much too long, especially when I could more easily give someone a wild-eyed look and carpet bomb them with colorful expletives. Hey, it’s seriously more effective at conveying the message of: “I’ve lost my mind. Now, lay down your offering right now, don’t lose eye contact, back away very slowly, and RUN!”

I’m also not particularly big on praise. Sure, I love it. Who doesn’t enjoy being told they’re good? valued? or what have you? That’s great. Thanks! But whatever I’m being praised for, I typically don’t feel – not deep down. I remember being at a friend’s grandfather’s in high school. She was introducing me and heaped on the praise. I demurred; it felt so keenly uncomfortable – like bragging, but bragging that was out of my control. And I didn’t want to say, “Why yes, I actually am as brilliant as she suggested. In fact, I feel she held back and didn’t quite capture the radiant and spectacular being that I am. Now get your genuflection on, briefly bask in my glory, and toddle on, please. Good day. I said, good day, sir!”

Yeah, that’s just not me. I keenly remember his cool response as he considered me with a frown and said, “False modesty is a sin.” I just blinked as if I’d been slapped. Needless to say, I’ve flipped him off multiple times in my mind for decades now. It’s to the point that if I were given the opportunity to go back in time, I’d revisit that moment (once I’d finished having dinner with Jay and my Mom, of course). I’d pop into teenage me, and treat him like it was a bad Monday and he’d just asked whether people enjoyed pizza from a donut shop at a potluck. In other words, I would have sworn a lot at an old man. (FYI, donut shops shouldn’t serve pizza. I’m just saying. That’s not a thing.)

Hrmmm… I probably should have thrown in a language warning, too. Oh well.

Another Small Story

There’s another piece of my story you need to understand before I get to the brag. My Mom was an athlete. She played tennis, badminton, basketball, and speedball. Mom bowled and swam and occasionally played volleyball. She could ice skate, as well. When she was a girl, her idol was Babe Didrikson, and she’d work on her forehand/backhand against the garage door. Growing up, I was taught to idolize Billy Jean King. The game against Bobby Riggs was a huge deal at our house. I was taught to worship Little Mo, too. On Saturdays, Mom would go off and play tennis with her girlfriends, or she’d drag me to a pool where she’d swim a mile or two while I splashed around.

Being an athlete was part of her identity, and then she had me. I was never headed down that road. I was clumsy, slow, and bad at almost every sport she dropped me into. I spent one summer, where I was forced into little league, sitting on the bench in the dugout for almost every game, because I’d do insane things like swing at balls rolling on the ground or I’d daydream while hanging out in the outfield. At nine years old, no one can really hit that far – at least in our league – so I didn’t feel a need to engage with what was happening on the field. In tennis, I was decent at serving aces, but terrible at returning balls over the net. Gymnastics was a complete disaster, and we don’t need to talk about volleyball ever. I was also the only kid in our pre-K group who couldn’t pass the swim test. Now some of that can be attributed to having no interest in the sport at hand, but the other part of that was my depth perception was/is poor. Eh, but mostly it was that I had no interest; I wasn’t Mom. Sports weren’t my thing. I enjoyed reading books, listening to music, and staring at the stars.

Now there are a lot of great things about my Mom, but when it came to sports Mom didn’t hold back. She would let me know how disappointed she was in my lack of athletic ability. She once told me she wanted an athlete, and I felt guilty that she got a book nerd instead. Eventually, how I viewed my physical abilities bubbled-up during one of the initial assessments with my trainer. I had a lot to offer about what I wasn’t… what I couldn’t…

At some point Jenn and I had a frank talk, and I’m going to misquote a bit, but know this is what my takeaway was, “Beth, I’ve worked with you and seen how you perform. You are not uncoordinated; you have athletic ability. I just think you were never directed to the right sport, and didn’t have someone really working with you.” (Jenn used some of those words, if not all of them. Ok, she may have only said, “the,” but hey I got some of the quote right? Maybe? Look, I’m not a professional journalist!)

The Actual Brag: What You Came Here For

Whew! You’re caught up! Hi, Buddy!

Now that we’ve knocked out all of that background fluff, I can move on to the brag. Here we go! Today I went to my lessons – week four of my Advanced Beginning Class, and eight weeks into swimming. My swim coach pulled me aside, away from the rest of the group, and said my freestyle was looking good, especially my side breaths. She was also very happy with my backstroke. Apparently, all I need to do in order to advance to the next level is learn the breast stroke and work on increasing my stamina (I still get winded, which drives me crazy – I mean, I can actually row for nearly two hours, yet swimming 25 meters, much less 50, which probably takes a few minutes tops, is incredibly challenging.) All that said though, I’m pretty excited about arriving at another new level. And to think I got here without sitting in my chair and holding my breath. GO ME!

And what it tells me is that there’s a lot I can do – things I never thought I could, yet here I am. I’m swimming. I’m rowing. I’m deadlifting. I’m throwing weight bars over my head, I’m squatting, and I do it six days out of the week. So, maybe if I could go back in time, in addition to Monday-screaming at my friend’s grandfather (who’d want to pass on that opportunity), I’d also stop by to visit me and say, “hey, you’re not your Mom. Those sports aren’t your thing, but take a look at these other things. You’re going to rock those. “

Anyway, it’s a small brag, but this non-athlete was pretty pleased with herself today.

All the May New Things, Or How I Did Nothing

I said, “I’m going to try something new each month in 2019! Yessirree! It’s going to be so great! Maybe I’ll discover something about myself! Reinvent myself (in a good way, of course – no meth addictions or running that bar I’ve always dreamed of)” Yep, that’s what I said. You read it.

Now when I repeat all of that in my head, I do so in my “near-Beth” voice – that one that has heavy mocking overtones and undertones (really, it’s got all the tone – it’s rather tone-rich – tone-full?), and of course it’s accompanied by an overly dramatic eye roll. Oh yeah, new thing in May… mm hmmm… the year isn’t even half over, you had 30 days, and nothing? Really? Solid work there, Maynard!

Truthfully, I had an idea, and then my idea blew up spectacularly. In fact, I’m still smarting from this idea, and it makes me contort my face into a perfectly grumbly stink-face just thinking about it. I’d shake my first at it, but my idea is completely impervious to my attempts at intimidation. Rude!

So, here’s the May update on the nothing new I did.

  • I moved to the big kid’s class in swimming – a side story to that – I told a group of people that I was taking the adult swimming class, because I didn’t know how to swim, and they decided I meant, “I have a fear of water.” Nothing beats trying to explain to another adult that, “no, I don’t think that sitting in my chair and holding my breath for long periods of time will actually help my swimming. I don’t have a water fear.” “But what if you practiced holding your breath?” “Yeah. Still no. Won’t make me better at a front crawl, but you’re adorable! Go on! Hold my breath you say?”
  • My gym idol came up, said he wanted to take a photo of me to encourage one of his friends, and told me I was doing great – that I was really inspiring. (I’m pretty sure he actually meant to say, “I actually want the photo to put in my locket,” and he confused his words. I mean, I am kind of a hot, sweaty, old lady gym-babe. Who wouldn’t? I’m practically a hot, sweaty, old lady gym pin-up girl! (Hrmmm… or maybe just a hot sweaty old lady at the gym. One of those.)
  • I hit a new rowing pace low of 2:26/500m for a 9000m row. I maintained that pace for my 10,000m row yesterday. That .9 rounds down! Hey, it may not be the best, but considering I started at a 3:15/500m pace when I first started, and I couldn’t row 1000m without wanting to wheeze and die, I feel pretty good about that pace.
  • I was interviewed for my company’s newsletter – had a lovely conversation with the in-house journalist (he formerly worked for the San Angelo Standard-Times where he reported on the whole Warren Jeffs’ FLDS stand-off – fascinating guy (the journalist, not Warren Jeffs)). We have about 35,000 employees, so that felt kind of good. I look forward to seeing the article. Who knows, I may reprint it here depending on how it reads. Hey, I’m not above bragging! I’m not proud.
  • I said goodbye to my 10 year old mentee. We celebrated with pizza, fake fingernails (not on the pizza), and spicy hot Funyuns (BLECH!! But she loved them.) I reminded her of how amazing I think she is, and let her know that I believe she will do incredible things in this world. She’s so kind, sweet, curious, and plain fun to be around. I’ll miss making slime. (I can now make about four different kinds. Who knew there were so many??) Also, I’m kind of a whiz with baking soda experiments.
  • I had an anxiety attack (’tis the season), melted down, called a counseling referral service, had another one on that call (Happy Anniversary – this is how I celebrate that annual event these days), and met a lovely counselor. We’re now talking about how to manage those moving forward. I don’t judge how you celebrated Mental Health Awareness Month, but I feel I personally did my part.
  • … and while this is getting into June things, I want to add: The counselor asked me how I honored Jay, and told me to think on it. So, while I’ve been thinking on it, I found an artist, and I’ve commissioned an original piece – something that represents the two of us. I’m not sure how it will look or if it will match my particular vision, but I rather like that I’ve inspired art – even if it’s only in a small way. And I love that something wholly new will be brought to life – something that in its own small way will honor Jay.

Heads-up: I’ve also got no idea what I’ll do in June either. Go new things in 2019!

Who Am I? (The Time Beth Went to Friend Jail)

I’m going to tell a story based on what I believe or feel to be true, but isn’t necessarily true. So, let’s go ahead and file this part of the post under “disclaimers,” and we’ll put the post under, “feelings.” In other words, please feel free to take the rest of what I’m going to say with a huge grain of salt (or whichever condiment you prefer to flavor potential exaggerations. Mmmm cardamom).

Recently, I had lunch with an old friend – someone I hadn’t seen in 30 years, and it was absolutely fantastic. I may have hurt myself from smiling. We spent the entire time talking; so many words stumbled out, old stories, tales of new lives, and I swear I squeaked half the time. I didn’t want to walk away. I wanted to keep talking until I’d exhausted all the topics under the sky or sun or moon or whichever celestial body was in view – wishing for a few more minutes, a few more after that, and greedily even more still until the conversation spiraled on into an infinite and intricate tapestry of lives lived fully. Unfortunately, a lunch hour is truly only a single hour (or an hour plus if I push it). I imagined the look on my boss’s face, a person who is normally quite understanding and tolerant, if I tried to explain that by “lunch hour” I actually meant “lunch afternoon.” Had I not mentioned that before? And really, funny thing, it was just a slip of the tongue when I said “lunch hour” as I was heading to my car. I’m bad with words. Hey, but four hours off is ok, right? Meetings shmeetings. Work can wait while I socialize, can’t it?

Imaginary boss, much like my actual boss, wasn’t having any of it. Poo.

One of the topics discussed was personality tests – Myers-Briggs, Enneagrams, etc., and he joked, “before we can continue with this friendship, you’ll have to take a personality test.” I’ve taken several – Myers-Briggs (where I’m currently an INFJ – I used to be an INTJ, and at some point I remember taking it and there had been an “X” which indicated I was truly in the middle on one of those – like F vs. S maybe? Its been awhile. But hey, today it indicates I’m a “Protector.”) I’ve taken the Insights Discovery profile through work, which says I’m a “Coordinating Supporter,” and the Gallup StrenghthsFinder 2.0 that lists my top two strengths as “Empathy” and “Input” (where you gather information before acting). Basically, all of the tests seem to indicate, “I have a personality.” Go me!

A few weeks pass and he sends a simplified Enneagram test. Hrmm, two questions that apparently show I’m “caring, generous, but also possessive.” As for the “possessive” descriptor, I can only defend myself with this: I’m an only child, and as such I understand one thing – anything I see is mine. As for the things I can’t see, well they may also be mine; however, they’re not at the forefront of my mind to claim since they’re out of view. Obviously, your possessions are yours – your house, your car, your family, your pets – I’ll give you those. Mostly, because your taste is really off and I don’t need them, but also I suppose because they’re actually yours. (You did read the part that the new test indicates I am “generous,” right? Here is the written proof. Boy, those tests nail my personality.)

Well, I was told a further test must be given to test out some theory he had, and another test showed up in my mailbox. I took that one, sent it back, and later had a phone discussion where I learned that the results were confusing in some way – that he had to read further on it; only one other friend of his and I had scored so strangely. I quipped about handing out exams when you can’t read the results, and by “quipped” I mean I said something in a sarcastic/smart-assy kind of way, but with a jovial/light-hearted tone, I’m sure!

Then I may have had to back-out on a last minute invite, and somewhere between that and the mysterious final results of these personality tests I landed in friend jail. And my friend jail, I’m pretty certain I’m dead to this person, or I guess the routers between our Gmail accounts could have encountered a temporal anomaly, and he’ll either get the latest email I sent in 50 years, or it was sent when we were in high school, when there were no routers. However, Occam’s razor is really pointing towards “friend jail.” And to all of that I say, “well poop” because we really had a great conversation. Or maybe it was just me who had the great conversation. Hrmm… normally I’m pretty good at reading people. Although, now that I think about it, I suspected the friend jail was coming when I was explaining that I couldn’t make it to the last minute event invite.

This is kind of a bummer since my current friends really could have stood having a break from “the Beth show” that a new friend being in the mix would have offered. You see, my friends prefer I spread the wealth of me. I suspect they play rock-paper-scissors to determine whose turn it might be next.

Anyway, now I’m a little curious as to what the test indicated, and also a tiny bit offended that someone might have used personality test results xeroxed from a book as the only factor in determining if I’m an acceptable person to be around. (Please refer to the disclaimer at the top of this post, since you were warned this is about feelings and may not be the truth.) Dude, you’re not a psychologist or psychiatrist trained in reading the results, and basically this test was two questions? Really? You might as well have given me the latest Buzzfeed: Which Game of Thrones Character Are You? FYI, it said Joffrey. I’m not too keen on that either. I was hoping for Ghost or, you know, Arya.

Which Leads Me to My Thoughts on Personality Tests

I think personality tests are interesting. I think they can identify certain tendencies or qualities, but I don’t think they’re entirely accurate for a simple reason: You’re being asked to do a self-assessment of who you think you are. You’re being asked to take an inventory of your own personality, and the simple truth is we all have have blind-spots and biases when it comes to who we actually are. I know I do. I don’t know that any of us are so self-aware that it would be possible to get a 100% accurate picture of who we are. Sure, you can get a very good idea of who I think I am.

That said, I do think they can be used as a decent tool, depending on the test. I also think they can be a good starting point to lead into an actual interaction with the person, and that from there you can gain a more complete picture of the person. You simply can’t expect to know a person based on the results of a test. My guess is that if you threw me into a room with other INFJ’s or Coordinating Supporters, that while we would have some things in common, we wouldn’t be the same. Individually, we are so nuanced that a mere 16 personality types will never be enough to encompass everyone. If I walk into a room with 100 people, it’s unlikely there will be six people exactly like me.

So, who am I? I’m a unique combination of my genetics, my upbringing, and my environment. I’m my hobbies, my interests, my State (as a Texan, this is a real thing guys), and my politics. I’m a walking amalgamation of a thousand traits and habits that I’ve picked up through the years from my friends and family. Who I am cannot be, and should not be, summed up in the results of a personality test. You might as well have asked me for my zodiac sign. (FYI – Saturn was in retrograde when I was born.)

If you want to know me, then talk to me, but I can tell you I’m more than the answers to two questions.