Covid: Day 3 or 5

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

It’s like…

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

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

Dearest People,

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

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

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

XXOO,

Beth

-30-

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

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

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

My Symptoms: Some Boring Bits

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

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

My Pout and a Wee Rant: The Selfish Stuff

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

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

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

The Fussy Bit I Mentioned

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

This actually got to me. Like crying level upset.

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

Anyway, I appreciate the sentiment. I really do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Random Bits of GratitudeEnding on a Better Note

Thanks to the following:

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

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

I’ll just put this here…

Tell Me Something Real

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

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

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

I’m both humbled and flattered. Thank you.

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

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

Enough prologue.

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

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

…just like everyone else’s lives.

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

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

Anxiety

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

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

I love October as much as I dread May.

It’s May.

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

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

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

True.

What a truly awful thing to say.

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

Things to Work On

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

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

The Words I Use

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

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

Tomorrow I plan to get up and start again.

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

Just An Idea

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

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

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

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

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

Are you up for that challenge?

Can you be open? raw? exposed?

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

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

So, tell me something real.

Comfort Zones

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

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

I believe in you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Year’s Wish

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you dance under a star-filled sky.

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

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

Cheers!

Beth

The Big Blue Mess: Summer Edition

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

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

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

Welcome to: The Big Blue Mess: Summer Edition

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

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

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

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

The trip was fantastic – something I needed.

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

About That

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

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

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

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

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

Random Thoughts from the Trip

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

Another Thought

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

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

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

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

A New New Normal

At the beginning of March, the Governor of Texas (that little plot of land I live in) lifted the mask mandate and increased the capacity of all businesses in Texas to 100 percent. When I read that news, it sat there in the air like a bad Frito pie on a still day in August, and my brain did the thing it loves to do best when faced with potentially stressful information – it dumped a load of adrenaline into my system while screaming, “Throw up your hands, kids! It’s anxiety attack time!”

Quick housekeeping note: This isn’t a post about Governor Abbot’s decision. I believe we’re all reasonable people who have very passionate opinions, and I respect you enough that I’m not going to try to beat you over the head with mine. I mean, it’s pretty spot on, and definitely the right point of view, but I respect your right to be woefully misguided. See, don’t we all feel better?

Like I said, this post has nothing to do with where I stand on the mask/no-mask line, and more to do with the fact that in a year I’ve gone completely feral as social skills have devolved at an alarming rate.

 My thoughts over the year ran like this:

  • This is only going to last a couple of weeks – we’re doing our part! Our doors are marked. Break out the lentils and lamb!
  • Why has everyone gone weird about toilet paper?
  • Crap! I need to get on the hoarding bandwagon!
  • Do I really need a mask?
  • Ordering in is fun! I’m stimulating the economy one DQ Blizzard at a time! (Just kidding Jenn! Err… maybe not kidding)
  • Hrmm… ok, maybe this is over by Summer? I’ll plan a costume party!
  • Curbside margaritas? Yes, please!
  • I’d better tell the parents that the holidays are off.
  • If I mute my mic I can scream in meetings! Cathartic!
  • If I turn off my video feed, I can make faces in meetings, too!
  • Knocked out another series on Netflix!
  • Birthday trip to Big Bend cancelled; we’re killing everyone in West Texas.
  • No, I don’t want to talk to you on Christmas Day. Please, go away.

None of those thoughts are new or particularly unique to me. And actually the folks over at the blog The Dihedral did a much better/funnier job of summing up exactly how I feel and how things have changed in their recent and quite clever post Then and Now.

Like most, I went from hopeful for a quick return to normal, to feeling stabby everytime someone used the phrase “new normal.” It doesn’t matter how you brand it, it’s not normal. I’ve gone from sitting quietly and patiently in meetings, to standing up and pacing the room in big circles when they’re dragging or occur right after lunch. I started wearing flipflops and t-shirts regularly. Funny thing. It turns out I can still produce the same quality of work while wearing something that looks much dumber with matching dumb and uncomfortable shoes. Also, natural lighting and open windows are kind of nice.

How can Governor Abbot reasonably expect me to return? I can already picture that first day with that first post-lunch meeting as the presenter drones on and I’m expected to keep my seat with a placid look on my face. It’s going to be Hell. And considering that I have no facial control on a good day, pre-Covid and despite my very best efforts for a semblance of restraint, I know I’m still going to be rudely kicked under the conference table by my delightfully evil ginger midget colleague as she endeavors to get me back in line. Hrmm, I’m probably going to be expected to not refer to her in that way anymore either.  Something non-PC about referring to her as “evil” I suppose. No wonder I had that anxiety attack. The world is turning upside down again.

On a more serious note, this year I’ve been reminded of how important our community of friends and family is – how a simple hug can resonate through your soul and nearly drop you to your knees in tears – how real connection, that we had taken for granted for so long, is essential to our physical and emotional wellbeing.

I’ve adapted as needed. I have a gym in my living room. I moved out of my office to work where I can stare out of the front windows. (I’m now the Gladys Kravitz of the street – ask me about the rocket ship I’m certain the neighbors are building.) I’ve tried new things. I’ve gone back to old things. I’ve traveled. And while I arguably feel more comfortable than most, I declined two recent offers for larger gatherings. The idea of them makes me extremely anxious – even with vaccinations. (I’ve had my first.)

I’m nervous about returning to the world.

How will that look? How will it work?

That’s technically the end of this post. Stick around for a playlist.

During the summer, I was fairly distraught, so I asked friends for their best “f-you/I’ve got this” songs. I culled through the suggestions and put together a decent playlist. I’ve played it way too many times, so much so it’s become my Covid “woobie”. It’s also now one of my workout playlists. I also promised Jarod I’d share it, so really… this is for Jarod. I’m just a few (many) months late. 😊 Jarod, I’m putting asterisks by some of my favorites:

  • Rich, White, Straight Men – Kesha – (not recommended for RWSM)
  • F**k You – Lily Allen
  • Bye Bye – Jo-dee Messina
  • March March – The Chicks
  • Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On) – Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
  • Angels of the Silences – Counting Crows
  • Work B**ch – Britney Spears
  • Go Your Own Way – The Cranberries
  • Oh Well – Pt. 1 – Fleetwood Mac
  • Sing a Song – Earth, Wind & Fire
  • All Night – Icona Pop
  • The Middle – Jimmy Eats World
  • Firework – Katy Perry
  • Basso Profundo** – DeVotchKa
  • Say What You Mean** – Lunachicks
  • Sheela-Na_Gig – PJ Harvey
  • F**k You** – Headstones
  • Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) – Kelly Clarkson
  • Blow Me (One Last Kiss)** – Pink
  • Come With Me Now – KONGOS
  • Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels – Todrick Hall
  • Boss Bitch** – Doja Cat
  • Love Bites (So Do I) – Halestorm
  • Make Me Wanna Die – The Pretty Reckless
  • U+Ur Hand – Pink
  • Blank Space** – I Prevail (a recent add after hearing their remake of Taylor Swift’s song)

The Story of a Texas Snowflake

You may have heard Texas had a little weather event over the last week. If you haven’t, due to cave dwelling, brace yourself. If you know a Texan, we’ve all got a story to share, and it’s kind of our birthright to tell a tale – spin a yarn – to tell that tale – just hold our beer (or margarita, or mojito – look, could you just hold it without questioning the content? Sheesh! So judgey!)

Ooh, so quick disclaimer: this is all what I think I know but am way too lazy to do a lot of fact checking or boning up on meteorological explanations. Basically, read at your own risk and enjoy a grain or two of salt with that.

Right – let’s get to the recap! Around February 11th, a cold front (arctic blast, polar vortex, Canadian Snow Circus) began making its way through our State. Everyone North of Texas giggled like their obnoxiously precocious younger (yet bigger – bigger than all y’all  (Alaska doesn’t count)) was finally getting a well-deserved weather reckoning. “Oh Texas, now you’ll know first hand what cold is really like.” I imagine everyone in the Panhandle gave a collective shrug, while the rest of us looked eagerly at our phones and thought “ooo, maybe more snow! Snow pics!!!”

Then we had a 133 car pile-up on a road in Ft. Worth which killed six. We reminded ourselves that: overpasses can be notoriously dangerous in icy conditions. We thought about the families and the first responders who had a heck of a time getting to many of those cars and we wished them all well.

Then the snow came. We ran outside and oo’ed. We saved the ahh’s once we retreated to the warmth of our homes after demonstrating our snow sculpting “skills”. Photos were uploaded into Facebook. Thumbs ups and “wow” faces were handed out by the hundreds and thousands in support.

News traveled around telling us we were taxing the electric system, unplug things or they’d have to start rolling blackouts. That turned into actual rolling blackouts. Unfortunately, the rolls became single flips – like a disinterested teen being told they must take out the trash. “Son, put down your game and go flip that very flat stone.” Those flips (plural) were really just a flip (singular), and everything stayed on “off”. The electric grid was too unstable to support “rolling”. In my cause, the water plant for my city lost electricity, so we also lost water. This is nearly everyone’s tale where I live. The only difference is really in the duration and outcome to pipes and water heaters. I had friends who were without power for a couple of days, while others who were without it for 3-5 days. 

It should be noted that there are a lot of places down here that only use electricity. They do not use gas (and we all know “fuel oil” in the South is like talking about unicorns and Chupacabra – not a real thing, especially here – except Chupacabra, they’re actually real – hide your goats). So, luxuries like turning on the oven to cook warm meals wasn’t a possibility for many, nor was leaving your residence if you didn’t leave earlier in the week.

The teasing from the North (all y’all) went from “it’s not that cold, you adorable little snowflakes” to “wait, what? How long have you been without heat and water? Your whole city?” Yeah. Whole cities.

Y’see, this was an abnormal weather event, and Texas doesn’t have the infrastructure for that. Though, I have heard our Governor is going to have a little chat with our energy provider soon.

That’s our collective story – the one you’re going to hear a lot from the folks around these parts.

But I want to add a bit here to talk about how fortunate I am. When the weather started turning, and I lost power, friends immediately started reaching out to give me updates on the situation in our neighborhood and to check on me. After I was without power for 24 hours, my friend John (one of the few people in my bubble) reassured me I wouldn’t be a burden, then drove to my house, picked me up, and hosted me at his place for three days. The first night, I was handed a heated blanket, and a cup of hot chocolate. A fluffy cat welcomed me by making sure I remained seated, and there was an unspoken, “you’re ok” in the air. I spent three days enjoying a warm house, hot showers, outstanding meals, good conversations, and a cooking lesson or three. I am so grateful for the hospitality that he and his son showed, and for getting to be counted as one of his civilian tank crew. (Which I have come to learn is both a compliment and maybe not so much, yet it still fits.)

It is sometimes easy for me to deep dive and tell myself a terrible narrative that sounds like “you will die alone – unloved and unremarked. That will be your story.” And while it has nothing to do with the reality of my life, and everything to do with continuing to mourn the loss of my husband, it sometimes feels absolutely real.

These past two weeks serve as a continued reminder that that is not my story – that I am surrounded by an amazing group of people, both family and friends, who love me very much and look after me.

Thank you all for checking on me and making sure I was safe. Huge thanks to John for accepting his Texas friend is a gigantic “snowflake” when it comes to cold (and might not fare well in a weather event alone) and providing safe harbor.

As for you, Punxsutawney Phil, well, you and I are going to have words. Groundhog to Texan.

Write

I begin each New Year with a tradition where I forego the blacked eyed peas, collard greens and cornbread and I make my way over to Neil Gaiman’s Journal to quietly enjoy his reflections and wishes for the New Year. While this simple action of ignoring the Southern tradition of bland peas, bitter greens and dry cornbread for the preferred words of Neil Gaiman likely brought on the pandemic, my taste buds and I stand firmly by my choice. My sincerest apologies, world! I should have taken one for the team. However, no one can express their thoughts or a New Year’s wish as eloquently as Neil Gaiman, in my opinion, and this year didn’t disappoint. (I’ll let you follow the link to discover for yourself.)

Reading his words and hearing them in the voice of Alan Rickman (for no explicable reason other than I quite like Alan Rickman’s voice), reminded me that I had intended to get a print of one of his New Year’s wishes. This caused a bit of a domino effect that ended with me typing the word “Write” on a blank post. It’s the first rule of Neil Gaiman’s “8 Rules of Writing” and it’s something I’ve avoided for a while. Thus, I find myself here with his first rule.

  1. Write

The word sat there alone in the ether for 16+ hours. A single word floating on an empty sea of white.

A simple yet bold word demanding more, and the words weren’t flowing. “Write.” I typed the word “Write” surely that was a solid start. Right? Though ostensibly simple, the task of writing seemed insurmountable. I stared blankly at the next steps. I was stuck. I am stuck.

  1. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
  2. Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.

So, here is my attempt to breach the gates and put something down. These are my words – my reflections on 2020. They are neither unique in their perspective nor particularly inspiring or enlightening. They simply represent one voice in a larger human choir.

Putting One Word After Another…

I saw a FB post this morning inviting people to “Share a picture from 2020 where you were completely happy and nothing else mattered in that moment.” I knew the photo I’d choose. It’s one taken from last February, I’m sitting across the table from my friend April at a restaurant called Sala & Betty. My chin is resting on my hand. I’m smiling. We’ve just had a good dinner and an even better conversation. It’s the photo I think of when I think, “here is the last time I felt happy.” It was taken nearly a year ago.

In that moment I’m vaguely aware of events happening around the globe, but truthfully I’m more interested in the fires that devastated Australia and completely fascinated by the prehistoric forest that was saved. I’m somewhat aware of Wuhan, thankful that my family and friends aren’t being called to work there in the moment (there had been several trips there the year before), but I don’t foresee what is coming (I can’t). I naively believe this is another H1N1 – something that people will be affected by but will ultimately become a footnote in the annals of virology, the WHO and the CDC.

I’m delightfully oblivious – just enjoying a normal night out. An event frozen in time.

Sala & Betty’s – February 2020

Several weeks later all the doors shut. I said goodbye to the gym, to swimming, to friends, to family, to game days crowded around my kitchen table, to costume party invitations, and to my first international overseas trip. I said goodbye to the things that brought me joy and a reluctant hello to solitude’s lonely embrace.

Over the past three plus years the strides I made towards accepting Jay’s death began to vanish. The pandemic rekindled my rage by the fourth anniversary. Jay should have been here.

Everyone in my immediate circle had a person to shelter with, I had no one. I only had everyone’s pity. I grieved loudly to no one as the house listened in silence – a Zoom call unable to replace the real need for human contact.

In a pandemic, pity does not make a great companion or confidante.

Everyone was (and still is) hurting in some way, and my suffering was no greater than anyone else’s; it was just different – unique to me. I hated to complain, but I still managed to find the time.

I stopped writing. Oh sure, you’ll find several posts. They’re mostly posts trying to remind people of the importance mental health issues and encourage support of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. But when it comes to the writing I enjoy doing – writing about the day-to-day humorous missteps of me (hey, I’m an adorkable goofball) – it wasn’t happening. My stories rely heavily on me interacting with this world – this same world we’ve been shut off from.

I lost my verve.

I lost that happy girl in the photo.

… or so I believed while in a knee-jerk moment trying to reflect on a time when I was truly happy.

But as I scrolled through my photos, searching for that photo, I discovered image after image of happy moments – reminders that while I started the pandemic alone, I never remained that way – a reminder that while the year has not been ideal, there has still been joy.

A Few Happy Moments in 2020

The Domino Effect

I started the year by reading Neil Gaiman’s words, which caused a cascade that lead me to purchase a print of my favorite quote – a wish for a better New Year, which lead to the purchase of his rules for writing that will hang near my computer as a reminder to “Write” this year – to put one word down followed by another.

Finish What You’re Writing

What began as a nearly empty page that simply said “Write” is now filled with words – one word following another. Were they the right words? Likely not, but I finished and that’s, oddly enough, a start.

In 2021 may you find and follow your dreams – live boldly and passionately as if there is no tomorrow, because if 2020 taught us anything it’s that there are no guarantees. Love with all your heart. Let people know how you feel.

And every now and again pause to rediscover those moments when you were “completely happy.”

In the end, the photo I chose was not the one of me in the restaurant, it was one where I’m standing on a mountain early in the morning – the air is crisp, the wind gently blowing across my face. I just received some great news – a smile plays across my face. I’m happy. It’s one of the many happy moments from 2020.

The Secret: A Treasure Hunt

In 1982, Byron Preiss buried 12 boxes around the US and Canada and published The Secret, a book containing clues in the form of illustrations and verses – puzzles to be solved. To date only three of the 12 treasure boxes have been recovered. The treasures were found in Cleveland, Chicago and Boston. Each box contains a key. Present the key and you receive a gemstone from Byron Preiss’ trust and join an elite circle of treasure hunters.

I wish I could tell you this was my story – that I heard about The Secret, poured over each verse, carefully studied every illustration scouring the images for clues, and hit all of the websites devoted to bringing closure to this ongoing mystery, but as a close friend always points out, “that ain’t me.” (Well, he actually says, “that ain’t you” meaning “me” – you get the idea.) I’m not that girl. Among my myriad shortcomings is a lack of patience. I want to deep dive into things for exactly one nanosecond and then immediately emerge with the answer. When we start ticking into the millisecond range, we’re now a millisecond closer to a coffee table being flipped. To put it another way, if my friends and I stood before a Sphinx and a riddle was thrown our way, we’d all be insta-murdered when I balled up my fists and bellowed back defiantly, “ain’t nobody got time for this…”

You can see where that attitude becomes challenging when you also happen to love a good puzzle. Anyway… when I first heard about this particular puzzle, or series of puzzles, thanks to Josh Gates’ (my TV show boyfriend – our love is real) series Expedition Unknown, I was intrigued. At the time only two puzzles had been solved, and me being me, I wanted to solve the rest. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, this runs straight into the 100′ thick wall that is my impatience. I like things now, and if now isn’t good for you, we can compromise. How are you with now? Because now works for me. I’m good with now. (FYI, I once told Jay we could never be on a competitive show like The Amazing Race, because I would absolutely be the person America hated. There Jay would be showing infinite amounts of kindness and patience, offering words of encouragement and I’d be losing my mind over some perceived, likely easily overcome, obstacle. America would have felt terrible for him and in turn they’d want to light me on fire.)

Stupid, annoying character flaws!

But I know myself, and I knew if I wanted any of them solved, I had to lean on a strength – knowing my friends. There was one in particular who had (has!) all the right traits: brilliant mind, loves challenges, loves puzzles, loves adventures and has an infinite amount of patience. Also, they put up with me (big boon in a friend – give them props). I’m actually not all that easy. I can be a bit like Tigger when I get excited about someone or something. I’m oftentimes overwhelming (flaw?) and that’s precisely when I need someone who is calm for balance – someone who can put up with my early morning pounces that usually come in the form of a lot of words as I pitch my ideas. “Buddy! HI! I’m making words with my FACE!!!!! Now you do all the things!! Ok? Ok! Good talk! Off to get more caffeine! Make good choices! You’re the best!”

Hey, the friendship works. Yay!

Let’s Talk Treasure Hunts! Also, Good Morning! © Disney

I recruited this friend on this adventure. Hrmm “recruited” sounds like I joined in when in fact I really did a hand off. “Ok, you do the brilliant mind things, solve puzzles, keep me posted and I’m going to play cheer squad. GO YOU!!”

… and they did. They put in a lot of work – a lot. They put in a lot of analysis – a lot. They spent many an hour on this project, and now they’re releasing videos on their solves.

I know some of you are saying, “yeah, but everyone who has come up with a solution believes they’re right, and yet the puzzles haven’t been solved. How is this person any different?” My simple answers are these: 1) Those people aren’t this person, and 2) I believe in them with everything that I am. I don’t know how to quantify it or sell it to you other than to say: I just believe. Maybe that’s enough for you, and maybe it isn’t, but let me counter with my own question: What does it really hurt to believe?

Right now, with everything going on, we’re so cynical. Ok, who am I kidding? We’ve been cynical for awhile. It’s like we figured out the thing with Santa, and everything since has been a downhill garbage slide into a bottomless landfill.

We believe less.

We hope less.

We’re afraid to take chances. Hey, life might kick us in the gut, and we hate gut kicks.

That’s just sad.

So, I’m asking you to dare to believe – just for a moment.

Starting today my friend has posted their solves on YouTube (kind of slick looking, if I might say so). Take a peak. And if you’re in one of the areas, why not just go see if they’re right? What can it hurt? Because what if they’re right? How awesome would that be?

So, without further ado – their first and second solve.

To my beautiful friend Irina, this first one is in Montreal. Go grab a permit, a probe, a shovel, some friends and Buddy. Are you in?

Montreal Solve – Irina, go for it!!!
Wisconsin Solve

If you are successful, let us know. We want to hear about it. And even if you’re not, you had an adventure. You’re welcome!

Political Ideology & Tribalism

I don’t enjoy writing about politics. It’s one of those topics that I was taught not to discuss at the dinner table. Well, at least that’s what the Norman Rockwell families on TV and in the movies tried to teach me; however, my parents were always game. Yesterday, I wrote a post, and someone took exception to it, which is absolutely fine. Let’s talk openly about these things. I just wanted to share my response to their claim that this election is not about ideology, but is instead about decency and racism. It’s one of those rare moments that I’ll share my point of view on this matter.

Thank you for taking the time to drop by and leave a comment. I’m going to disagree with you; this is absolutely about ideologies especially when you demonize an entire group of people and paint them with such broad strokes. There’s a huge problem when you start looking at the other side (over 13 million people) and classifying them as “indecent” and “racist.” Are there indecent people on that side? Sure. Are there racists as well? Absolutely. But to think that there’s not any among the Democrats is woefully ignorant. So, if we can agree then that not everyone who votes Republican – not even a majority – is either indecent or a racist, then we can start looking at the reasons behind their votes. Why would a decent, non-racist person vote for a person who is distasteful? Most of my Republican friends do not like Trump personally. They’re very aware of who he is, and how he sounds, and they’re still not on the Antifa/QAnon party bus to crazy town. They can look past the cloud of ridiculous and outrageous tweets and point to the good they see in the direction of the country brought about by their party. Do I agree with them? It doesn’t matter, except it absolutely does if we want to understand where their frustration points are and how to address them – how to defeat them. There’s a myriad of reasons he received the nomination over Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich. We need to look at those reasons to understand the pulse of the nation, which pointed to some deep frustrations Republicans had then and currently have.

There’s a decent article from The Atlantic you might be interested in titled: Republicans Don’t Understand Democrats—And Democrats Don’t Understand Republicans

My point is this: We are not in an epic battle of Good vs. Evil and when we do start viewing the other side as “evil,” then we’re part of the larger problem – a problem where it becomes clear that we’re so entrenched in our own ideas and misconceptions that we are unwilling to see the other side beyond media soundbites.

Now, when we talk about friends and I’m assuming we’re talking about mine I will say this: My world is richer because I have people who think differently than I do. If my friends don’t agree with me on every issue or every belief I hold, that’s ok. It’s one of the great things about this world. I don’t need people to be in lockstep with my views in order to move through it. In fact, it’s better if we disagree on occasion so I can grow. Beyond that, I don’t need the garbage men to vote the way I do, I need them to remove waste from my streets. I don’t need the coffee barista to support my candidate, I need them to smile and hand me a great cup of coffee. And when it comes to my friends, I need them to laugh with me on my best days, support me on my worst, and listen to me when I say things like “Black Lives Matter”. I also need to listen to them when they express their counter view.

I will never subscribe to this type of tribalism – the type that closes all conversations – that believes in its rightness to the exclusion of others – that demonizes a group – that shuts down conversation – that is absolutely based on ideology, because you cannot hear the other side.

Today we walk into a new era. Let’s try to do it with grace and an open mind – one willing to listen to those we may not always understand.