Did You Train?

The MRI results are in, and I can now proudly boast a complete rupture of both my MCL and ACL in graphic terms that involve an overuse of the word “gross”.  I say “boast,” because I was getting a certain amount of flack from the torn ACL’ers who poo-pooed my injury with a dismissive, “oh… only an MCL? In my day we tore our ACL and wore our patella’s like fine tibia necklaces and dragged the useless limb behind us. You just have a flesh wound” That may not be an exact quote. I thought having completely torn the ACL I’d finally get a certain amount of knee-props, but instead it’s more a, “well, you didn’t tear your meniscus, you must be some sort of sissy.”  I’ll take it, I suppose. Not like I can chase them down (yet).

Now most people who have seen me are a bit curious, “what did you do?” and I tell them about the Warrior Dash, the mud, the splits, Jean-Claude Van Damme, no Enya (it’s my bit), and in turn they politely wince a bit especially when I get to the word “popped”.  It’s a lovely dance repeated numerous times, and typically ending with well wishes.

Which leads me to a rant…  Hey, I’m me.  It’s what I do!

A few times I’ve ended the story and received a, “did you train for that?” usually accompanied by the up-and-down eye-balling as my body is sized up. Ummm… if you mean did I train for walking in 3.2 miles of solid slippery, shoe-sucking mud that’s had 100’s of people sludge through it previous after its rained for 7-8 hours, then no. I did not train for that. Maybe the 100’s of other people, almost all who fell multiple times, did, but you caught me.  I had no business on that course. Silly me, I just trained for obstacles. Did I mention I made it through two before being taken out on the mud?

Here’s the thing about training in today’s gyms – they lack a mud pit. I know, I know, I looked for a place that included a mud pit, but instead I was told they had pools, a basketball court, saunas, and some kind of cardio and strength training equipment. Whatever. One gym boasts an outdoor water slide, while another has “lunk alarms” and pizza – yet none of them really have the foresight to offer a really solid mud pit. Way to let your clients down, gyms! In that sense my gym and my trainer clearly failed me. She was so focused on training me for the obstacles, and trying to convince me that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do if I believed in myself that she dropped the ball.  Her super narrow laser focus on obstacles, cardio and strength led to her failing to train me for long hours in muddy creek beds during thunderstorms. Way to go, Jenn!  Lesson learned! Judging by the number of ambulances and more serious athletes breaking things, it’s clear their trainers let them down, too.  Whew, I’m not alone! There should be a study on this. We should all demand mud pits at our gyms! (For fun, you can Google injuries during Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder events to see all the failures of people to remain upright; they clearly should have also trained. Sad little “athletes”; they probably had it coming.)

(Note: All of the above is written in heavy sarcasm font.  Jenn is amazing. To think or say otherwise would end with me hobbling over to you, and giving you a very very stern look while thinking a host of ugly things I’d do if I got the drop on you, and had zero fear of 1) retaliation, or 2) bunking with a nice lady named Bertha who wanted to trade me for a pack of cigarettes. Bertha, you’re my #1 bitch, am I right? Fist bump? Don’t leave me hanging, Bertha. You’re my lady!)

So, let’s talk about what’s really being said, since me training for slipping in mud is ridiculous.  The subtext of what’s being said is, “you’re fat, and you hurt yourself because you shouldn’t have been out there.” Right and wrong.  Right, I’m a big girl, but I’m strong(ish) (strong-light?).  I have a decent amount of muscle under my “fluff” layer (as we lovingly call it).  Am I the strongest? No. But I’m stronger than what you think you perceive when you see me. Did I get hurt because of a lack of training? No. I got hurt because I was on really slick mud, and one leg was planted while the other got out from under me sending me into the splits where I hyper-extended my knee. A fun fact that I learned from Tae Kwon Do (I have my blue belt) – it takes approximately 10 lbs of pressure to snap someone’s ligament like the LCL (easiest to get to), which incidentally makes it a fantastic soft target if you want to drop someone. Most adults weigh more than 10 lbs., another fun fact. (You learn a lot when you visit my blog.) I could have been 100 lbs lighter, in the world’s best shape, and still torn my ACL and MCL.  Armed with that knowledge, there were really only two things I see I could have done differently that would possibly have had any effect on that day: 1) Not gone on the trail in those rainy conditions, and 2) walked on the left side of the trail where my strongest leg was on the more stable ground, and still, had I done all of that, I could have fallen in the backyard, going down the street, etc. Life doesn’t have guarantees.  Playing it safe is not a guarantee.

So, to answer the question. Yes, I trained. Thank you for your supportive question.

I recently told a friend I was pissed about the whole thing, and she said something I loved: “Beth, don’t be pissed for choosing to live your life.”

I chose to live my life. An accident happened. The sun rose the next day, and I moved forward.

How Do You Do It?

When someone passes away, amidst all the love, a lot of questions come out.  I thought about ranking them in the degrees by which they annoy me, but that seemed a tad harsh.  People are curious, you can’t fault them for that (well, you could), and for the most part they’re not trying to be annoying (although sometimes I wonder), but by golly they’re curious.  Some of that curiosity comes from knowing we’ll all be impacted by death throughout our lives, and there’s this hope that the person can shed some little pearl of wisdom that maybe we can use if we’re in a similar situation. Some of the questions come from having never been in a particularly unique situation, and they feel like they’ve pulled up to the world’s best car wreck, and screw the rest of traffic, they’re going to take their nice long look.

Let me start by addressing a few of those questions/statements by offering some advice when it comes to someone who has died by suicide.  (Now followers of my Facebook feed may feel this subject looks somewhat familiar.  I like to think of my feed as a micro-blog (because that’s a thing, right?) at times, and my followers as a focus group.  Err… I think of them as good friends, that’s what I meant. Good friends.)

Don’t ask how it happened especially of the immediate family. Ever. If the person chooses to share that information, that’s one thing, but what has happened is deeply personal, and fairly traumatic. Each retelling can open up some really large wounds, because it’s not a “story”, it’s a life.  It’s lives.  You don’t have a right to know.  Yes, I get it’s a wonderfully dramatic story, and you can’t help but to slow down and try to drink in the drama, but do that from as far away from me as you can possibly get.

Don’t run around asking if any of the immediate family (or me) is suicidal.  Yes, something bad happened, and you may be worried, but your worry seems more like gossip when you flitter from person to person planting that little seed.

And whatever you do, don’t go up to any family member (for example: me, again) and make this request: “Please don’t kill yourself.” There are no words that can ever properly convey how wrong I find that statement.  I could start with “you clearly don’t know me,” but that just lightly begins to air kiss how deeply angry I am at your words.  If you are genuinely worried, you’ll figure out a better way to approach that conversation.  As it stood, I nearly said “well damn, there goes my Wednesday plan. I guess I’ll just watch TV now. Fingers crossed wrestling is on tonight!”

Then there’s this other question I’ve had thrown my way that while I find annoying isn’t meant so. It’s mostly annoying because I’m asked it a lot, which means someone who reads this blog (maybe a few) is (are)  going to say, “oh hell, I didn’t meant to step in it with Beth.”  You didn’t.  But since you asked, I’ll answer.

How do you do it? How do you get up in the morning?

I can’t give you a silver bullet answer – something you can apply to your own lives.  I can tell you some key things about me and my situation.  The biggest thing that gets me up and moving is I was literally just born this way. I’m a “happy” person.  In fact, I’m a borderline (and sometimes not so borderline) airhead.  I’m goofy. I’m silly. I’m the kid who at five was told by other five year olds I needed to grow up. (To this day we feel sorry for any five year old that feels they need to grow up.) When it comes to a happiness ceiling, mine is really high.  I’m a whole lot like one of my aunts who when we get together, we just giggle.  Now that said, that doesn’t mean I (or my aunt) can’t be brought down or that I don’t get angry.  I actually have quite a temper, but my fuse is exceptionally long.  You just don’t want to be around when the fuse is gone. Jay would point out, when I did finally blow, that I was spending a lot of energy being really mad about a person or thing, and the object of my anger couldn’t see how angry I was – that I was wasting a lot of energy.  I can blow up like the best and most uncomfortable fireworks display.  Thankfully something shiny will usually appear, and I’m chasing it down again.  Unfortunately, that shiny thing may not appear for a day or two, but it will always appear.

Another key thing is that no one left me alone, not even when it was really all I wanted. I longed to go shut the door to my bedroom after Jay passed away.  I didn’t want to do the things that needed to get done.  Dad had me make a list, and on a normal day the list was something I could have accomplished in a few hours. On that second day after Jay left, I had only managed to do two things, and the process was absolutely the most  mentally exhausting thing I had done.  Dad then helped me make the plan for the next day and the next slowly showing me how to walk in the world again.  During all of this, I didn’t want to interact with anyone, and yet they kept appearing at my house forcing me to be here.  When you combine that with another inherent trait I have – wanting everyone else to be ok, you have a situation where I felt forced to come out and to try and make everyone else feel better. I would tell stories about Jay, and while I wasn’t fully present, it kept me present enough.

I remember when Mom passed away unexpectedly, I tried to cheer-up the hospital chaplain by telling him stories despite desperately wanting him to leave the room so it would just be the two of us.  I once fell down a staircase trying to get a bag of glass bottles to a recycling station, and when  the glass and I landed at the bottom I saw a little boy looking on in horror, and so I did what I do – I talked to him, laughed about being clumsy, got everything together, and then fell apart behind closed doors. Part of who I am is a less polished version of my grandmother. A woman who when presented with any group of people would go immediately into hostess mode.  This is what I do.

To this day, some six months later, I am still not left alone over the weekends.  I have activities through the middle of March and beyond. They’re rarely anything I’ve planned, but are things people have brought me into.

So, in short: How do I get up every day? I can get up because that’s who I am. I don’t know another way (and as one friend “gently” put it: “…because you’re not a pathetic piece of shit,” (no intended offense to those who can’t), and because I have an amazing support group in my family and friends. They don’t let me make any other choice … and I try to remain open to new situations; I try to still live and experience new things/new and interesting people. I don’t have a silver bullet.  I only have me. And the truth is I’m not always sunshine and lollipops. I still get sad, and when I do I get a tissue, and I start over again.

To my friends and family (and new/amazing acquaintances), and of course the Phalanx: Thank you for continuing to help me walk through this world. I love you more than you’ll know (because I’m apparently keeping that a secret? Who says “more than you’ll know”? Why is that a saying?) Bah, you’ll know how much, because I say I love you in awkward ways that make you feel uncomfortable, so suck it up.

You’re welcome!

Thanksgiving

It started out with what I thought was a really great idea (the fact that I bother to have ideas I feel is “great” at this point, so no judging, please). In fact, this sums up where my brain has been most of this last part of the year (and may explain why “great” really isn’t part of my world, and only tip-toes around my moods) : (Strong language warning. The video may be offensive to many.)


(Start about 23 minutes in, or heck, watch the whole thing; it’s worth it.)

The downside to my really great idea, or what is probably in actuality just a meh idea, is that I decided to get it together a little late. My idea was to send Thanksgiving day cards to express how truly grateful I am to various folks in my life. You know, like you send Christmas cards, (because nothing says “I appreciate you” like a stamped out Hallmark greeting – this is fact)  I really wanted to just buy a box of identical cards, maybe support a charity if I was lucky, and then write a little message and call it good.  An aside – I’m not sending Christmas cards this year. It’s not that I don’t wish you all a very Merry Christmas and all of that, but I don’t have it in me.  I used to make Jay sign each card, because I actually find it cheesy and a bit dishonest to sign for your significant other, and this year writing “Beth &” hurts a little too much.  Anyway… It’s also my birthday, and maybe I’m tired of having to send people a card on my birthday.  No one else sends me cards on their birthday.  Also, I may be cranky at the world. (See offensive video above)

Y’know, you’d think finding Thanksgiving cards in bulk would be a bit easy, but when you actually start trying to hunt them down you run into a huge wall of “Thank You” cards. Ok sure, “thank you” is giving thanks, but it lacks the oranges, browns and harvest golds of my 70’s childhood. Were we living in a Thanksgiving card back then? Yuck. I was only asking for some cartoonish turkey looking hopeful for a presidential pardon, and maybe a pilgrim pun.  I wasn’t asking for much.  Well, apparently I was. (Hallmark, you need to step it up.)

That left me with creating cards, and there I thought “I know, I’ll upload a picture to some site that allows for custom cards, and then I’ll get them out the Monday prior to Thanksgiving.”  In truth, I ordered these in plenty of time, and was quite pleased with myself.  I won at the internet! Except I forgot that PayPal and my security software are at odds, and I got a note from the company from which I ordered my cards saying, “hey, did you want to complete your order?” days later. Crap. I shook my tiny fist at PayPal, the security software that protected me from the evils of getting my cards ordered in time, and  then I shook them at life in general. (Play the video above again, assuming you weren’t completely offended the first time.)

So, Thanksgiving day I sent out my weird little emails thanking the people I’m closest to, and probably left a lot of people feeling weird.  To that I offer a tiny snippet of a story – my trainer and I were talking about how people give and receive love, and I realized that for me it’s through words (and quality time).  It’s how I show you I love you (or like you, or check off the YES box in the note I passed back to you.) The other part of the “why” is that if something happens to me tomorrow (I run off to join a circus, I slip into the Upside Down looking for Jay, or I suddenly become mute and can also no longer type), I don’t want anyone to ever wonder how I feel about them.  A gift Jay left me before leaving was letting me know he loved me, and it’s the one thing I never doubt.

All of those above words to say to my Phalanx – when you get a card and feel like I already thanked you, I really wanted you to have something personal… handwritten.  If you need to, just chalk it up to goofy June failing at the internet and also wanting to rid herself of all these corny cards.  Also, a heads-up guys, since I did order so many you “may” get them again as birthday cards, Texas Independence Day cards, Memorial Day cards – you get the idea.  Blame the company that said “minimum order of…” for forcing my hand into purchasing too many.

For the rest of you whom I didn’t get a chance to thank, let me do so now.  Thank you for being a part of my life.  Thank you for your love and your words of encouragement.  Thank you for continuing to bring beauty and warmth into my world. Thank you for putting up with a ton of crazy from one deeply flawed human being.

I love each of you.

A Babbling State of the Beth

I’m back, at least for a moment or two, and I’m going to write some general randomness, babble a bit, and there will probably be a tiny rant.  Hopefully in there will be a lot of love, because I do have that for a group of people who have been completely amazing.

Saturday we had a wake for Jay.  It was hands-down the best party I’ve been to in who knows how long.  If I could choose a recent moment to live in, it would be there in Darrell’s kitchen, talking to friends, laughing, drinking a margarita, or it would be on the couch announcing to my friend Jonathan that I was moments away from hugging everyone and declaring my absolute love for them.  In fact, there’s a ridiculous picture of me on that couch, and having never seen it, I feel it captures my goofiness and love.  (Let’s hope that pans out for me, and isn’t something I wince at.)

I’ve always had anthem songs. It’s just me.  Maybe it’s you, too, but in that moment I was returned to a song that is the most me when my world is right (and it’s usually more right than wrong), and it’s the me I haven’t been in a long while.

I managed to only have one moment where I started hyperventilating and tears trickled down my face, but I did it quietly in front of a group of people with a smile on my face and no one noticed. This may be a new skill  Although, I did have to fight down the urge to go for a long walk – not being able to escape folks in the front yard was the only thing that stopped me.  Damn you Johnny Cash.  The song wasn’t on, only an instrumental version, but I could sense him singing it and each word of the lyrics stung briefly.

Sunday was our anniversary.  Let me clarify a bit.  This wasn’t the anniversary of our marriage, but the anniversary of when we started dating 17 years ago.  While the nation mourns, I always remember that day as the one when we went to Magnolia Cafe, walked over to a park, and Jay told me he loved me for the first time.  On that day I made big, life-changing decisions – decisions that hurt some people unintentionally.  It was the day that kicked off what would be the happiest time of my life, and it was worth all of the anger I felt towards people for the years that followed (I’m just not cut from that “let it go” cloth – Elsa’s goofy little song would fall on my deaf ears. Girl, you let it go.  I got this.  I mean, just ask me about Jessica and the 3rd grade slumber party.  Mmm hmm. I’m not letting that go either) It was also worth the sadness of the last couple of months. That day kicked off a time when I learned the true meaning of friendship – that my closest friends would form a phalanx to shield me whenever I needed protection; they’re amazing.  It was the day I learned how wonderful love could be, and how strong (and in some cases weak) my friendships were.

It also kicked off our “Monthaversary” tradition, and not an 11th passed in the past 16+ years without the declaration of “Happy Monthaversary!!”  In turn, it makes every 11th that has followed varying degrees of painful with yesterday having the potential to wreck me.  My brother-in-law gets a big gigantic shout out here for heading that off by getting me outside, walking around, and then watching impossibly goofy movies.  He is amazing and a truly great and kind guy (yes, you are).

Here’s where I meander over to my ranty bit.  Feel free to hop off at this stop.

What happened with Jay was absolutely horrible; it’s the nature of death. Unfortunately, something I’ve learned from this experience is that people do not understand you if you’re not in a downward spiral.  So, I’m going to be blunt.

  1. Some facts – I get out of the house.  I started work a week later.  I went back to the gym
  2. I don’t need meds.  I don’t have the desire to hole up in a dark corner. Thank you for suggesting that, but I don’t need to not feel.  Maybe that’s you.  Feel free to get meds if so.
  3. Death is sad. It’s ok to be sad.  I don’t choose to wallow in this feeling although I might tear up on occasion. You see I lost my best friend who also happened to be my husband. I lost someone I talked to daily.  I lost someone who thought I was ok despite a list of flaws.
  4. Don’t tell me it’s not my fault.  I know that. See, I learned a long time ago that I can’t actually control other people.  It’s nice of you to say.  It’s annoying when it gets re-emphasized over and over again when I’m not actually claiming responsibility.
  5. Don’t tell me I need to see a therapist or go to group therapy, because you feel like that’s what all people who suffered a loss must need.  No, I don’t – at least not right now.  Sweeping into my life during a tragedy when you don’t know me well doesn’t qualify you to judge my mental state.  There are exactly five people I’d listen to on this subject.  If you just paused and wondered “Is that me?” It’s not. Two of them are my family (blood or otherwise), two of them live together, and the last is a surprise – well, probably not to them.  The day they put together an intervention is the day I’ll go, but right now they’re telling me I’m fine, and well… remember that phalanx?  Don’t push it. They’re fierce.  Also, they’re about to get punchy if they hear me say one more time, “yeah, she told me she didn’t think I had anyone to talk to, made the sad face, and got upset I wasn’t in therapy”.
  6. I was raised by a social worker and a big portion of our family friends were social workers.  Plus, I’m lucky in that I naturally come with a pretty large tool kit for coping.  Don’t assume I have no tools to work through grief.
  7. Do not ever tell me someone is not Jay.  I am keenly aware of this, and I need exactly zero reminders. Also a fun couple of facts –  therapists are not Jay.  You are not Jay.  So, if the point is to to suggest I’m trying to find a replacement, I can’t. No one can replace anyone else. Each friendship I have is unique. If the point is to suggest you or a therapist would be a better choice, well we’ll have to agree to disagree. My not sharing with you doesn’t mean I’m not talking to someone, I am.  It doesn’t mean I don’t love or value your friendship, I do, but the fact of the matter is that different friends have different abilities.  My phalanx was chosen for their unique skills. Thankfully the world is a big enough place that all types of friends are welcome, but don’t keep shoving your resume in my face when you can’t lift a shield, and don’t be jealous of those that can.  They’re a highly specialized and elite group.  They have their own standard they fly. (Well, they will now. Hey guys, can we work on that? You know who I’m asking. Maybe get the kids on it? They’re crazy creative. Maybe think of some theme music?) There can be a huge difference between empathizing and sympathizing.  Thank you for thinking of me.  Don’t push it.
  8. Don’t tell me that Jay’s choice had to be a relief or that he got to “leave the bullshit” behind. I am that bullshit. His family is that bullshit. Sam is that bullshit. Mind your face and the words that just dribbled out, and realize that the times I’ve needed to be in therapy have never been for sadness, but for anger. Also, there’s a short distance between me counting from 1-10 and breathing.  Hope I chose to count to 100.

The non-ranty bit (a list):

  1. There are not enough numbers to enumerate all the great things individuals have done or said.  You’re all part of my incredible tool kit that get me through each day. Your thoughts and kind words have been helpful.  Thank you for thinking of me.

Now I suppose I should wrap this up.  Did I mention this is babble? It’s kind of hard to put a neat bow on babble.  Maybe pretend I said something here that ties it all together, and I’ll pretend I had a lot of margaritas, am giving you a big hug, and saying I love you guys.  I LOVE YOU GUYS!

Creative? Not so much…

I’m writing this on the fly, which can only mean one thing – more typos, more poor grammar choices, more run-on sentences, comma splice errors, etc. This post will be filled with all the things that would make my English teachers/professors/English professor friends cry, and then pause and wonder how on earth I manage to communicate. Ehhh, what can you do? Editing is for err… ummm… well, I suppose it’s for everyone, but still… Not today!  Ok fine, I’ll do my best? (I’ve had sugar.  This is my second disclaimer.)

Several months ago a co-worker stopped and said something like, “Beth, you’re always doing something. I love hearing your stories.  What creative thing are you into now?” I hmmed, there was some hawing, and after some not so deep soul searching I finally declared, “nothing.” While adding in my head, “nothing, topped with nothing sprinkles and a huge dash of nothing – I was making nothing pops out of congealed nothing,” and I was actually ok with that.  I thought about writing, but wasn’t feeling it.  I perused new classes, but wasn’t feeling it. Basically, I was quite happy with reading more, and catching up on Netflix series one sitting at a time.

Sometime in February, I think, a friend of mine asked me to help assist with a play. I checked my calendar, moved some of the nothing around, and hopped on board.  Afterwards I sat in character study discussions, table reads, rehearsals, and so far three performances.  Nothing is truly more exciting than watching a production grow from an idea into a live performance with a talented cast who get better every time.

Next week we’ll have the last few shows.  If you’re in Austin (and would love to travel to Georgetown), I encourage you to come see Blame it on Beckett. We have an extremely talented cast directed by one of my favorite people, Jonathan Spear.  It’s well-worth the $15. (There are discounts for Seniors and children.)

https://www.picatic.com/event14647381531248

The 48 Hour Film Project is also going on (it ends tonight at 7:30).  This is the thing where, on a Friday evening, you get assigned a genre (ours is a holiday movie or an animal movie – OY), an object (a wrapped gift) that must be in the film, a line of dialog (something that had the word “oops” in it, but my memory is that bad that after 36 hours you got me), and a character (Charlie or Charlene Bitters, an author), and you have to write, shoot, and edit it within 48 hours.  AND it’s also something I’ve avoided since we wrapped the last one in 2013 after the unfortunate incident with the neighbor.

Well, it turns out some of the talented actors from Blame it on Beckett were going to have to miss a weekend (thus the weekend break between performances) to participate in the 48 HR project which got me talking about it again.  That’s when the writer from the previous show decided she wanted to see if she could do all of the work: writing, directing, producing, editing, music, etc. – basically, I think she wanted to see if she could get the least sleep of everyone I know and avoid merrily leaping off the ledge (she’s still alive as of this writing).  My job consists (present tense since we’re still in this thing) of turning in paper work and asking the actors if they’d like a cookie.  I mean, who doesn’t want a cookie?!?! (Apparently all the actors since I ended up with all the cookies once we wrapped.  So sad to know cookie-haters walk among us. Even sadder that there are cookie-haters in my peer group. 😦 )

The good news is that our group, Uncle Bob’s Dangerous Pants, lives again!!! (And we still got props for best name from the 48 HR folks.  WOOOT!)

Also, a beautiful thing happened that made this all seem right, yet has zero to do with creativity.  The good neighbors (mentioned in the old post) are buying the evil neighbor’s house, which means the evil neighbor is moving.  I can’t begin to express how hard it was not to do an old lady style cartwheel in the front yard and cheer (after of course crashing to the ground and moaning a bit, because my cartwheels have suffered greatly over the decades).  Instead I took the news calmly only betraying my glee at the corners of my mouth and well, by repeatedly pointing to the evil house and asking, “that house? that one right there? oh that one?”  It seems like closure of sorts.  We did our first 48 HR shoot, had that happen, then did this one, and she’s moving.

Anyway, all of that to say that I’ve gotten to do some creative things with creative people lately, and that has made me pretty happy.

But I do want to add one thing – a friend who isn’t involved with any of my improv/sketch writing life said, “you’re so creative” after I mentioned the play and the 48HR Film Project.  That was really nice, but here’s where I absolutely can’t take credit.  I am good at many things, and the bulk of them include following directions.and wrangling. You also need people like me for the things I do, but I am not creative per se.  I do not “create,” and I’m ok with not being considered “creative.”  I support.  I’m one heck of a supporter.

AND I’m very lucky to be surrounded by amazingly creative people who see the need for a solid supporter. Between all of us, we get things done, and right now I’m having fun doing just that.  Now I need to get ready to go get the paperwork turned in so we can wrap this whole thing up tonight..

LIfe Lessons from the Trailer Park

When last we chatted I believe I convinced you that I had in fact been born (remember that picture of a random baby? surely that was me – I hinted as such), and proclaimed that I “grew up” in a trailer park.  It turns out “growing up” encompasses approximately 3 years; I was a fast grower.

It also turns out (lots of things turning today) you can learn a lot about life in a trailer park in only a few years.  Here are a few of my take-aways:

  • Ponies are angry little equine jerks whose backsides should be avoided at all costs.  Just because you’re little and it’s little, and it has those impossibly big, inviting eyes doesn’t mean there’s a special bond.  The back-kick to the chest is not a love thump or thank you for the sweet sweet weeds picked with tender love and care.  Trailer ponies (a distinct breed) are treacherous, bi-polar, and should be avoided at all cost. Now when I see a pony I make sure to point at my eyes and then to theirs, so they’re keenly aware I’m watching them.  I then nibble on the carrots brought for the more lovely quarter horses (whose hind sides I also avoid) chewing slowly and defiantly.  Thank you pony for showing me the lay of the field when I was 5.  For the record “My Pretty Pony” is a pack of lies!
  • Ice cream men trailer park dwellers are much like ponies, but not as endearing.  You can read one of my first posts about how I tried to kill the neighborhood ice cream man at this age here:  Death to the Ice Cream Man   (trust me, he had it coming)
  • Trailer parks are a great place to discard your fresh deer carcass. Everyone loves driving by a bloody rib cage, and hey the dogs love to romp around with the lower parts of the legs.  I know my dog loved it!  
  • The single older gentleman who lives in the streamline up the way and offers up fudgsicles to you and your friend Rudy (if you’ll only come inside and sit with him a bit) is totally on the up-and-up despite what your mother says. “Don’t go over there anymore” clearly means, “it’s ok as long as I don’t know about it.” Good thing you are a pro at translating “Mom”.
  • The edges of the park are surrounded by mud that will suck the shoes off your feet (and your Mom’s).  Do not attempt to cross without an adult with strong legs and determination.
  • “Why did their trailer catch on fire?” “Insurance” makes absolutely no sense as an explanation when you’re 5.  However, the added words “and you and Rudy stay out of there, it’s dangerous” clearly means, “it’s ok as long as I don’t know about it.” Again, you’re a Mom translating pro!  Sadly, our legs were too short and the steps up to the trailer were removed after the burned-out husk was deposited in the nearby field, but it didn’t stop Rudy or I from looking in that fire gutted place on numerous occasions longingly.
  • People can get freaky about caterpillars (dude, it’s not an asp – I’m holding it my hand), but hey if you agree to throw it in the street, you’ll get a reward like another fudgsicle (assuming you’re not already full on fudgsicles from that friendly/lonely guy in the streamline).
  • Placing a swing set on concrete is a cruel idea.  You’re not a gymnast.  You were told not to play on it without an adult.  It’s best to suck in those tears over your cracked skull, because your Mom is going to be so mad if she finds out. Remember, everything is fair game as long as Mom doesn’t know.  But OUCH!!!!.  Again, I curse kid physics for the oopsie that led to the brain injury, but it does explain so much now.
  • Swarming yellow jackets are only slightly better than trailer ponies, and they’re infinitely better than unapologetic, dog-killing, ice cream men.  It turns out that if you unwittingly jump up and down on a piece of board laid over a cinder block, and beneath the aforementioned board is a yellow jacket’s nest, the occupants of said nest get a bit testy and swarmy.  The best thing to do in that situation is stand still-ish and scream until a parent runs into the angry swarm, scoops you up, and then tries to work through what to do next.  It turns out bleach is an amazing remedy.  Basic science: bases neutralize acid.  Another fun fact: wasp stings are alkaline; however, yellow jacket stings are in fact acidic.  This is also one of the few times you’ll hear me say that I’m glad I wore glasses at an early age. I had yellow jackets protesting the kid induced earthquake in my face, but my eyes were reasonably safe.  Jay recently (last weekend) noted my extreme distaste for yellow jackets when he offered to set a nest on fire, and I didn’t bat an eye.  “Yes, do that!” I cheered him on enthusiastically. Normally setting things on fire from a can sounds extremely dangerous and like something to be avoided at all costs.  I genuinely don’t advocate that kind of thing, but I balanced that against how I really despise yellow jackets (blame them and their early declaration of war on my body).  Anyway, as I said I don’t advocate it until a nest appeared underneath my BBQ pit, and it’s only by pure luck that I noticed it.  I had been thinking “let’s BBQ things! Carbon kissed veggies and meats!”  Had I not seen it, I would have disturbed the nest and Yellow Jacket-a-Geddon Part Deux would have been hosted on my face.  So yeah, burn that thing down. Also try not to let the can explode in your hand, but if that happens well sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the greater good  (Please don’t tell my father. Wasps are useful. They play an important part in the larger ecosystem.  They help with mosquitos?  That’s what their PR worker bee/wasps claim at least.  We love them. Mmm hmm.  Now grab an aerosol can and a lighter.)  

There you have it,  a few of the  things I learned at an early age in our little corner of trailer heaven.  And people claim nothing good comes out of a trailer park. Hah!  Next up, ghost stories – the one and only time I saw a ghost, and how that started an after-life fight that’s still rages on.

Mr. Illiterate Wrong Tracks and His Jolly Dr. Pepper Spam-Eating Bride: An Autobiography

When I started this blog some 9 years ago (good grief) the main goal was to practice writing. If I could somehow amuse my family and friends then that was a bonus.  If I could force them to continue to read without amusing them (as I’ve managed to do), then that was like a super double bonus plus! Go loyalty! The focus or theme or what have you was to write-up anecdotes using the style I’ve always used – the “style” (I really feel that needs some air-quotes) being how I tend to write letters (now emails) to friends.  I’m all over the place – like this paragraph.  They never minded that bit, seemed to encourage it at times, “you write like you speak,” and thus you suffer. Shake your head at them.

I’ve been waiting for a good anecdote to share, but unfortunately an interesting one hasn’t really risen up.  I suspect it’s because I travel in the wrong circles.  That’s right friends, I’m calling you out – you and your clear lack of “right” circle-ness. There’s a geometry joke in there.  Ok, sure there was the one guy at the Humane Society last week.  His fit-pitching was fairly epic as I waited patiently(ish) to ask about a fluffy sole who was clearly calling to me behind the glass, but again not much of a story since I walked out without being helped. His fit had reached a new exciting blend of frustration and confusion over some fairly simple rules. (For the record, Humane Society rules are just not that hard, guy! You don’t have a permanent place for a cat.  One day you will, but that’s not today.)  I also managed to smash a joint on my thumb on the same day.  I keep insisting it’s purple and at least five times bigger than it was earlier in the day only to be asked by these so-called friends while comparing the thumbs side-by-side, “which thumb is it?” Uh, the big purple one!  (It’s purple on the inside?)  It still smarts – probably nerve damage.  It will likely have to be removed. Sadly, it happens to be the thumb I hit the space bar with. Soon my writing will be devoid of spaces.  Iapologizeinadvance.

So, in light of this writing lull and to keep practicing (because after 9 years there hasn’t been any noticeable progress)  I’ve resolved to write an autobiography of sorts.  I know, right?  Some of history’s most famous and infamous people have them and now we can add famous, infamous and Beth. It’s a literary milestone.

I’ll start off slow.  I don’t want to completely overwhelm you with the life and times of the lower middle-class all at once – the adventures of a monolingual speaker who has barely escaped the borders of their state much less the country.  Hey, there was that time I went to Canada.  Boy, talk about culture shock! Loonies and toonies – where do they come up with that stuff?

Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. (So I’m reminded in song.)

They claim this is a photo of me, but really it could be anyone. Parents, just because you wrote my name on the back doesn’t prove anything. I’m watching you!

I was born.  At least that’s what I’ve been told, and as proof I’ve been presented various papers and a book with a few photos documenting the event.  It’s all rather convenient and a bit suspicious if you ask me. Some of the photos show these youthful kidults who I can confirm did grow up to be my parents. They look a bit tired in the earlier pictures. I’m told they remained that way for approximately 18 years and then something inexplicable happened that made them look and feel lighter. I’ve never been able to identify precisely what changed, but it must have been fairly important.  Although, I admit I’ve seen the weight return over the years, which oddly corresponded with some big things in my life. Must be some sort of weird symbiotic thing.

Both of my parents were from Dallas.  Mom from Highland Park and Dad from South Oak Cliff.  If you’re familiar with Dallas, you understand the significance.  If you’re not, then to sum it up – Mom was born on the right side of the tracks (in fact those tracks aren’t even Dallas tracks, they’re tracks in their own city within Dallas) and Dad was born on the very wrong side of the tracks.  I later learned that many of Dad’s (and his family’s) numerous shortcomings had to do with his tracks (those shortcomings multiplied x10 each year post their divorce). I learned from Dad that people from the right side of the tracks (aka “your mother”) tended to marinate Spam in a lovely Dr. Pepper based sauce.  Dad wasn’t particularly good at lobbing insults.

I’m not really sure what initially drew them together.  Mom would say she thought Dad was smart, but was proven wrong; he was only social climbing – tricked her by claiming to read books. Clever guy! Dad said something along the lines of Mom was really nice and fun.  Bless his heart.

I’m personally from a trailer park in West Dallas.  Well, that’s probably not true.  My parents were both attending school when I was born, and I’m told we lived in Arlington.  There are more pictures that they claim  prove we lived there, but we could be any place, and I find these people somewhat sketchy.  I mean can you really trust Mr. Illiterate Wrong Tracks and his Jolly Dr. Pepper Spam-eating bride? (Just think, I am the product of that union; it actually  explains so much about my personality and my humor???)

Quick disclaimer to stop any gasping: I absolutely would tease my parents in this way.  In fact, I’m teasing Dad now.  Dad, you’re welcome!  To post a retort, I guess you’ll need to work on that new blog of yours.  Now you have incentive. You’re welcome, part two.

Next up, the trailer park! (In other words, I’m cutting this short and giving you a small reprieve.  There’s only so much “me” one should be forced to sit through in one day.)  And I’ll leave you with a little Julie Andrews, because I stupidly got this song stuck in my head where it is now firmly lodged.  I only have myself to blame.