June’s Wrap

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

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

Axes, Polvos & 2:30 AM

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

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

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

Reunions and DNA

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

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

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

Swimming

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

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

The Work Article

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

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

A Certification

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hit “Submit”.

“You have passed.”

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

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

John’s Response

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

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

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

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

That was my June. How was yours?

All the May New Things, Or How I Did Nothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which Leads Me to My Thoughts on Personality Tests

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

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

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

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

That Thing I Did in April

With April having just wrapped up, I feel I need to provide some sort of report on the “new” thing I did last month. The inspiration for this particular update has nothing to do with 1) not having any other topics/ideas in mind, nor 2) that any topics I might have had in mind actually sounding a bit preachy/screechy and would really have only applied to about three people. Nosirreee. (Blargh, ok fine, here we go. Nut-shelling it so I can finally get it out of my system: LEARN TO READ, three people, LEARN TO READ. Is it so hard? I wasn’t talking to you before, but you got my attention so I am now. GRR! Whew! That was cathartic! Good thing I wasn’t talking about anything. Moving along.)

Swimming: The New Thing I Did in April

I absolutely love it. I’m not really sure what to add here except for possibly a “really” or a “very.” So, I really very love it! Which isn’t to say I’m good at it; I’m not, but I’m learning and my teacher is infinitely patient and cheerful (what I like in a instructor). My big takeaways:

  • Fins are fun and make you feel speedy!
  • Some people may not be the absolute best at sticking to a straight line (not your point A to point B types). They cover the whole pool as if they’re conducting a detailed grid search as they make their way toward the other end; however, all is forgiven because they’re super sweet and you should do your part by just hugging/scraping the sidewall to clear their path. (Hey, it’s really either make way or get hit, and we all know there’s nothing that Mercurochrome or a splint cobbled together from pool noodles can’t fix.  Wait, Mercurochrome isn’t an option anymore? Ok, just hop out of the pool until they’re through. They have to take a break sometime, right?)
  • Tankinis will roll up to your armpits, especially when everyone is underwater and staring right at you. Hi! This is my belly, y’all!
  • Goggles – all these years I denied myself. Why? Chlorine eye burn, I don’t miss you.
  • I’m stronger than I thought, stronger than I look, and more athletic than I appear.
  • Swim dreams – I have them, and they’re the best!
  • Swim days – I count down the days until it’s Saturday again because I get to swim more. In fact, I’d really like a few more hours in the day just to have the time to work on swimming. (FYI, I genuinely get that excited about row days, too. I love you, rowing! I haven’t abandoned you. I’m just cheating on you a bit.)

Truthfully, I really only want to row, swim, and do strength training. Oh, and write ridiculous blog entries, of course – that’s SOOOO my number one, and THEN like all the other stuff is number two or maybe four or five on the list. I’m here for you!

Y’know, I’m not sure when I became “that” person – the person who feels happier/more themselves exercising.  Ok, I’m lying, it was totally August 18, 2015. I’m not even kidding. Well, at least that’s when the whole thing started. Although, I can say with some certainty that, at the end of that day, I wanted to curl up in a tight little ball and die. Then the next day happened, the 19th, quickly followed by several days after that, where I could barely stand without wanting to cry; all of my muscles hurt so badly. I even remember declaring to Jay (or to anyone who could hear my pitiful voice) from the bathroom. “I can’t stand up. I think I’m going to just flip onto the ground and lay here for a few days. Don’t worry about me. Bring food and stuff.” Jay laughed, but I was actually serious about this floor-living plan. It seemed like the best option.

Anyway, it probably wasn’t that first week or even the weeks that immediately followed where I began to truly enjoy the gym, but sometime between then and now it did happen: I like moving. There are days I’ll tell myself I’m not feeling “it” and actually have a solid plan to skip the gym, then the next morning I find myself in my gym clothes, grabbing my bag and heading towards the door.

Now, if I could apply that same will power to eating, and stop treating my body like a garbage can, that would be great. I’m not there yet, though. Hey, we’re all works in progress, right?

Back to Swimming

Last Saturday my teacher pulled me aside to tell me that she planned to move me up to the Advanced Beginners class in the next couple of weeks. Ok, I recognize this sounds a bit like an oxymoron, “advanced beginner,”  but you know what else it sounds like? Progress! And progress allows me to move from the kiddie pool to the big kid pool with the other adults (and really anyone over the age of like eight, who also actually know how to swim). There may even be dips into the deeper water. (Right now the pool I’m in is only 3 ½ feet deep, which is fine by me since it allows me to take my very important panting and wheezing breaks wherever I choose. Three strokes, turn head, take a breath, take additional strokes, drop feet, stand up, wheeze/pant, push off, two strokes, and touch the wall. Great job! You go, girl! Make note of where cheerful pool grid gal is, mentally plot her trajectory, and begin again! You got this! I’m pretty sure this is what Olympic swimmers do, too. I’m such a pro!)

That’s my swim update. Now I need to decide what new/interesting thing I’ll try in May.  

Recap: (Mostly, because I personally keep forgetting. Sure, there are only three things I have to remember, but hey, do I judge you? Ok fine, bad question. Can we just move to the part where you bless my little addled heart?)

February – Painting with a Twist – painted the Eiffel Tower, and discovered I am quite gifted. Unfortunately, my gifts do not include painting.

March – Live-streamed my Beginning Yoga attempt with my good friend Anna, went to Ao5 Gallery with my favorite people where we got to see the Dr. Seuss exhibit (you really should check out his art beyond his children’s books)

April – Began Beginning Adult swim lessons

I’ll be sure to report back next month with what I got into in May. I will also try not to rant again (no guarantees) – not even at those three people who really really deserve it.

Did I Say Rowing?

I was ready to row. I had set my April goal – sign up for classes, get on Town Lake (Lady Bird Lake? the Colorado river? that watery spot south of the Capitol?), and row my little heart out. I had looked at the class times – twice a week, two hours each class, and for three weeks. In my mind, I had already joined my new crew where we bonded over our individual learning hurdles, and then in that last hour we finally got “it,” and really came together as a team. We would probably meet-up afterwards to celebrate – likely somewhere mid-town, where we’d a little too loud over a breakfast taco or two. Beer might be involved. We’d exchange numbers. Then we’d plan to meet-up the following week. We’d joke about competitions – old ladies like us, and then Amanda (my imaginary mascot of our gang) would start to make us actually believe we could. We’d find each other on Facebook, and start sharing our lives.

I love this imaginary gang of people – so supportive. Amanda is really the best.

On the rowing website it said, “watch the safety video before signing-up,” and like any good lazy soul, I immediately saw the 45 minute run time and scoffed. I mean 45 minutes of safety? Couldn’t they just nutshell that into: “Don’t hit each other with oars,” “Watch where you step,” “Try not to drown”?? I’ve blown that video off for weeks, but the day I was about to sign up, I finally forced myself to comply.

Ten minutes in, and something became clear, I was a hazard to my future crew besties, and myself because I can’t swim.

Let me clarify that a bit. I can air-quote “swim.” I can get from point A to point B if we’re talking the standard width of a kiddie pool. I can swim underwater, dog paddle, and even float on my back a bit for short distances. What I cannot do is be dropped into the middle of the ocean, or let’s say a lake (be it Town, Lady Bird or otherwise), and expect to survive more than seven minutes. Add to that the stress surrounding how I’d likely end up in said water: the boat tipped, me upside down, my feet locked in place, have to release my feet, get out from under the boat, tread, right the craft, then hopefully pull myself into it while remaining relatively calm. In other words, I can’t swim.

The video promised a swim test, and that I would likely need to tread water for about 15 minutes. Treading water is something I’ve never mastered. In fact, I’m pretty sure I was the only kid at my elementary school who never passed the Red Cross Level 1 class. I’ve also nearly drowned three times. When I say that, I mean it literally. I had to be fished out of the water once by an adult who happened to see me go under, a friend grabbed me as I was being swept away by a current, and well, there was the other time where I’d slipped out of a float, couldn’t get my face above the water to get air, did a 3-2-1 countdown (universal sign of drowning, or so I thought) as I’d seen on Bugs Bunny, thankfully found the pool ladder, and then sat on the edge of the pool coughing water out of my lungs. Granted all of this happened before I even turned 10, and truthfully most it happened before I had turned 6, but where some would see this as a rallying cry of, “I need to learn to swim!” I saw it more as a, “I should always avoid deep water! Maybe I’m a hot-tub girl!”

Anyway, those two thoughts were clearly at odds. I want to row! I can’t swim. Something had to give.

So, today I went to my first beginning adult swim class. It was FANTASTIC! (And a bit exhausting – and Jenn, I janked my shoulder a bit, but I’m watching foam-rolling videos right now, so go me?? It’s like actual rolling, but with my eyes. Like you’re probably doing now.)

The teacher was absolutely wonderful and exceptionally patient. Mid-class she stopped another coach and introduced us, “Beth, this is Sam. At some point, I’ll be sending you with her to work on what to do if you ever find yourself in the middle of a lake. You’ll learn to tread as well as other survival techniques.” I’d clearly made my “I’ll die in open water” and “I’m currently a danger to myself and others” points quite well. Go me!

So, my new thing in April? Swimming, and I’m pretty excited about it. Good thing since it’s probably my May, June, July, and every month thereafter thing. BUT, glass half-full, the weather might be cool again by the time I actually get to start rowing, and maybe my future crew will have some fun stories from their summer to share. I just hope they don’t mind me holding the team back like this. Save a taco and a story for me, ladies. I’m doing my part to keep us safe.

Oh, a Blog… and Other Stories

Another online date out of the way, and more time spent with people who haven’t seen me in awhile brings me to my least favorite line of questions: “So, Beth… tell me about yourself. What do you do?” If there is one question that is like hitting the clear button on my brain, that’s it. You ask it, and not only have I forgotten what I recently had for lunch, I’m not entirely certain where I actually live. It’s a house, I think? Likely in Texas? We’re in Texas, right? (Hrmm… seems I didn’t travel far or, y’know, Texas far.) I have a cat! (Wait, I do have a cat, right? Maybe a dog? Maybe not… Tricksy questions.) Err… how about you? (Whew. Solid ground again. They probably didn’t notice the floundering.)

I’m about 97% certain I bored the recent date so much with my lack of ability to point to anything I did that he basically faked a reason to escape. (This worked out quite well, because I “really” had to go to powder my nose, and he’d told the staff it was ok to go ahead and lock up. We’d be good sitting on the patio drinking tea with no access to facilities. Also, what kind of mad coffee house closes at 5pm???? That’s not a thing!)

Ok, the fact that I may have been bent on boring him on purpose
after he popped his index finger into his nose for the THIRD time is not important to the story. I just wanted to share that bit, because OMG a grown man, a pastor, put his finger in his nose multiple times. Just kept it there, too. Like you do when you’re meeting someone for the first time.

Anyway… I digress from the point, which is discussing the question I hate. “What do you do?” Here’s how that conversation typically goes, with very little variation:

Person: What do you do for fun? (Keep up, I can’t believe I had to type that again.)

Me: I write.

Person (eyes light up as their thought bubble excitedly explodes with, “Ooo! A novelist! Definitely a novelist – probably in a writing group… literary… smart… look at the glasses, the brown hair, she sits tall… all signs of great intelligence): What do you write?

Me: I have a blog.

Person (barely contained disappointment – not a real writer) …what kind of blog?

Me: Mostly anecdotes about my life. (Seeing the disappointment, I offer…) It’s sometimes funny???

Person: Well… isn’t that something. Oh hey, I think I just saw Alice and Mario walk in. Let me just go say hi. (They flee never to be heard from again.)

Honestly, I would get a much better reaction if I said matter-of-factly, “I lick paint,’ or if I started to peel and eat crayons in front of the person.

Y’know, it reminds me of a schoolmate’s husband. “What does Tim do?” “Oh, he’s a magician… at a strip club.” I mean, who doesn’t go to those places just for the magic show and the cheap steak?

As I type these words, I realize that analogy is spot on – to call what I do “writing” is a bit like saying I’m a magician at a strip club. Or I guess it’s more truly akin to claiming I paint, and producing a Paint by Numbers kit. “It’s Christina’s World! They give you like three different kinds of beige. Isn’t it awesome? I plan on framing it when I’m finished.”

Or, you know, like going to a “Painting with a Twist” class and showing off my lopsided Eiffel Tower, and calling it art.

I really should take up drinking one day.

Anyway… all of that to say I’ve been asked about my hobbies a lot lately (the online date guy, Dad’s birthday), and each time, I drew a gigantic blank, no memory of anything I did in the past or do currently, then blurted out, “I write a blog!!” with a goofy smile because I’d remembered something. It was like I’d just announced, “I LIKE PONIES!!!” (In all fairness, who doesn’t like ponies?? I mean in theory, actual ponies are kind of assholes.)

Dad’s friends exchanged sad looks as they realized that the poor man only has the one child. “Bless her little heart. She tries. At least she’s able to feed herself on her own. Or… maybe not. I can’t even look right now.”

This reminds me that I’m still trying new things this year (that I’ll forget to mention when asked what I do).

This is the “and other stories” promised in the title. As you know, I tried painting (February). In March, Anna and I live-streamed our attempt at yoga, and I discovered a new gallery Ao5 (Art on 5th) c/o my nephew, which was fantastic. In April my plan is to sign-up for beginning rowing. And as always, I’ll write about it, or write about it (in italics, since this isn’t real writing from what I gather based on everyone’s reaction).

Oh, and by the way, this is about the same reaction I receive when I announce I “go to the gym,” but that’s another post for another day.

An Idea

As a follow-up to the whole Unmoored post. (I’d put link to the post, but it’s right below this one, so if you wouldn’t mind just scrolling down to save me the keystrokes, that would be fantastic! Thank you! Yes, typing all of those words took longer than inserting a link. What can I say? I’m a human conundrum.) Right… back to following-up. I was thinking we could work together.

Here’s my idea: you make a suggestion, and each month I will attempt to take on/try one of those suggestions, then write a post about it. Of course, there will be rules, because I know you guys, and I don’t want to land in some Tijuana jail trying to explain that the balloons are really just filled with glitter. Which brings me to…

The Rules

Your suggestion must…

  • Be legal in the 48 contiguous states, Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, Puerto Rico the Virgin and Northern Mariana Islands.
  • Be safe. Remember, I’m old and I have a bad knee.
  • Be under $50. That is the max. Cheap or free is even better.
  • Be something I can accomplish in less than 3 hours (unless it’s a craft, and I’m so wrapped up in having rediscovered finger paints that I’m suddenly inspired to finally art my body all over my bland walls)
  • Be PG-13 at the highest rating.
  • Be respectful of other people, other cultures, and other people’s beliefs. This isn’t truth or dare. This is about exploring, and having new adventures.
  • Not embarrass me or anyone else.
  • Be around the greater Austin area (unless you’re driving/flying/sailing/providing lodging).

Notes: 1) These do not have to be solo activities. If you want to come along – share something you enjoy/a piece of you – I’d love that. 2) I do have the right to turn a suggestion down, but please don’t take it personally if I do; I know my limits. 3) I may have one trip in me – feel free to make a suggestion – maybe I can meet you in your town at your favorite pub/restaurant, listen to live music, and sleep on your couch (you’re quite the host!).

What do you think? Hit me with your ideas. I’m excited to try something new! And I’m ready to write about it.

Unmoored

“What do you write about?” a friend recently asked. “Mostly anecdotes from my life. I usually wait until something interesting or odd happens, and then I try to give it a humorous spin. I’ve had my blog for about 14 years, but only have a handful of followers – mostly friends and family who I’ve successfully bullied. I really just haven’t put in the work to write consistently or build a following.”

As I reflected more on the conversation, I realized this recent lull in writing was brought to you all (or not so much) by not having anything to say.

Normally, I have a plan. I’m involved. I’ve got an adventure in mind, but I don’t – not today. I don’t have a plan at all – not for tomorrow, or next month or even the year. In fact, I began the year by resigning from the board I served on for the past two years – an amicable parting – we all agreed we’d miss each other and keep in touch. They’re nice, hard-working, committed professionals, and I’m the reliable director you could count on to do any task presented to me. I just wasn’t passionate about their mission. And because of that, there won’t be tales of our big conference in the Spring, nor a future trip to Philadelphia. No “stranded by another Lyft driver” stories or thoughtful reviews of what a true Philly Cheesesteak tastes like to look forward to.

To build on that, at the end of May I plan to step-down as a mentor. This little girl is amazing, good, thoughtful, and kind, and I know she will go even further with her new mentor.

And it’s not a matter of me wanting to quit all the things, I definitely want to do something – something creative, something to help improve myself and grow. I just can’t figure out what that is – what that looks like.

It leaves me feeling unmoored.

A friend recently asked, “if you won the lottery, what would you do?” I didn’t have to think, I said, “I’d volunteer.” “Where would you volunteer?” “I don’t know.” Then I spit balled a few ideas, which led to greater/different ideas. It was truly a good conversation; however, I still feel stuck. And the truth is: I just want to make out with a Scotsman in a bar in Edinburgh, which probably isn’t the best goal I could set for myself since it involves a single man who is likely blind and a bit loose. But since punching Jay in his ethereal throat is off the table for the foreseeable future, I figured daydreaming about this mythical Scot wouldn’t hurt.

So, I guess the real purpose of this meandering blog post is to ask questions: What do you do when you’re stuck in a creative rut? How do you go about exploring new ideas? Have you ever re-discovered yourself, and if so, how did you embark on that journey?

The Flight Home: Finding Harmony

Some of you may remember that the last time I flew back home from LA, my world turned upside down, and because of that, a small portion of this recent trip back to LA was devoted to stressing out over whether I was stressed out. It makes sense if you’re my brain. Throughout the trip, I’d check-in, determine where I was at, then move on to the next keynote speaker, breakout session, networking social, getting kicked out of a Lyft by a complete douche, what have you; there was a lot to keep me occupied.  You see, if I’m 100% truthful, I closely associate LA with death, as if the city itself had a hand in what unfolded a few years ago. The city of Angels… sure.

I knew the problem wouldn’t be in getting there, or being there, but would likely swell up on the way home. And once again, no one would be at the airport to scoop me up. So, I decided to get on the plane, pop in my earbuds, continue with my audio book, accept my Belvita biscuits with a smile, and ride the wave of emotions I’d doubtlessly feel. I’d reward myself with gum on the descent as I pretended like swallowing repeatedly would somehow keep my eardrums from feeling like they were about to explode.

Nearly a year ago, a co-worker of mine got me started on a particular series of books that I’ve been working my way through for months. They’re my guilty pleasure on my ride home from work, and keep me from noticing when I’m stuck in traffic or, you know, when that guy on the phone just cut me off. Are they great works of fiction? No. Can the author send me into fits of giggles? Absolutely. Among the nine books are several short stories that give the reader deeper insight into the major characters, and in a couple of those, the story is told from the perspective of the main character’s Irish Wolfhound, Oberon.  On the flight home, I happened to be listening to one of those called The Purloined Poodle as read by Luke Daniels. Quick aside: I love the way Luke Daniels reads, and wish he’d agree to read all of my books including the phone book. I’m fairly certain he could make it delightful beginning with the intro, “The Dallas, Texas White Pages, by Southwestern Bell, as read to you by Luke Daniels.” Let’s hear some “A” names, Luke! I’ll grab some popcorn, my favorite throw, and tuck in to listen to each riveting detail. (I realize SWB isn’t a thing anymore, but that Luke knows you can’t go wrong with a classic.)

I know with Oberon, the story will be filled with sausage, gravy, and Wolfhound philosophy, and I know I’ll laugh or at the very least sit there with a goofy grin on my face.

The plane landed, and somewhere in long-term parking, having picked up my luggage and said goodbye to the Board members who were on my flight, I started my book back up. Then it hit me. I had completely forgotten to be sad. While on the flight I hadn’t indulged in my usual ritual of counting down the time until landing: “At this time, he was alive… at this time he sent a text…” I had simply gathered my things, headed to baggage claim, grabbed the long-term shuttle, and was headed home. It felt normal, and “normal” isn’t something I feel a lot.

The next day, I found the author’s email address, and I sent him a thank you. I wanted him to know that his words, given life by his talented narrator, had helped me take a hard trip home.

Later that day, I received a note from the author. (Excerpt below.)

“I hope you continue to enjoy all kinds of stories and find (or be found by) harmony, unexpectedly.”

And with that, he became my new favorite author. I’m sorry Faulkner, you never did get around to writing me.

Having found momentary peace thanks to an author, a narrator, and a fictional Irish Wolfhound, my California adventure ended.

“May harmony [also] find you.”

Return to California: The “You Got This” Edition

A few weeks ago, I returned to LA. The organization on which I serve as a board member had a conference in the LA Live section of the city. (Is it a section? Entertainment district? Borough? I have no idea, just roll with me here. I’m a Texan. I remain confident it isn’t a suburb. Go me.) I went to some great sessions, met some incredible people from around the country, and ended up doing what I always do whenever I’m in a major city – daydreamed I lived there. This is the part where I usually come to terms with having no marketable job skills. (Unless the city suddenly found itself in a shortfall of sarcastic old Texas ladies. I won’t hold my breath for that one.)

Great conference aside, and skipping over me being filmed lip-synching and dancing to “Don’t Stop Believing” (why I don’t front a band, I have no idea), and not going into the details that started and ended with a single drink, waiting responsibly for an hour, and still finding myself calling my good friend with spot-on relationship advice (wait, I think that was the entire story), I’ll plow ahead to the adventure part.

The Adventure Part (I was afraid you wouldn’t know you’d just crossed that story-telling threshold)

I decided I had some free time on the last day of the conference, and I wanted to walk around the Santa Monica Pier. Now here’s the thing: I’m the worst only child you know, because I absolutely hate doing things like this on my own. I want someone to walk around with me – to have that shared experience – to sit and people watch with me, and y’know, talk about how I want to move there right now while pondering the whole lack of marketable job skills thing I mentioned earlier, and then figuring out if it’s too late to squeeze in Disney Land before the plane takes off the next morning.

Now I blame this discomfort with being alone on a few things, but the main one being that I think I’m a shifty-looking sort. I base that not on the mirror, but on having been followed many times as a kid through stores by security staff. Once I noticed I had a tail, and I did on a couple of occasions, I’d bee-line them over to my Mom, where they’d stand back and stare, confident I’d taken something, but not having any proof. That would be because I didn’t take things. I was that kid who would save my allowance (in an Ovaltine jar), and when we’d go out shopping, I’d look at my potential treasures carefully, trying to decide if whatever it was would be worth giving up whatever amount I had saved thus far. Usually it wasn’t, but I’d hold onto a thing, twirl it around in my hands, and think about whether the momentary joy of owning it right now would prevent me from getting something even better if I waited and saved a bit more.  My intent was always clear: I strongly desired whatever it was I held in my hand, but more often than not, I would put it back on its shelf. This could take 5-15 minutes, which I guess is suspicious to those who can make faster decisions. At $2 per week, I had to be careful, and it drove my Mom, who was more of an impulse “buy it now” person, crazy. However, while I missed out on a number of great things, I was able to save enough to get my first 10-speed (with help from my Dad at the end after recognizing how committed I was to my bicycle dreams).  All of that to say, I think this started my whole “not comfortable alone in my own skin in public” thing.

I spoke to several friends, because I couldn’t convince the other Board members to join me, and they all said, “You can do it. Just get an Uber or Lyft, and go!” So easy. So easy, that on Saturday I paced my hotel room, and was working myself into being ok with just staying in and watching a movie. It’ll be fine. Then I paced some more. Finally, my friend Anna said, “Take me with you and show me the Pier,” and that’s all it took. I’d be ok, I would FaceTime Anna. I wouldn’t be alone, really.

I took a Lyft for the first time, got to the Pier, and the Universe had a grand giggle by making a FaceTime connection impossible. But the story isn’t in the things I saw, or did there on the Pier or along the beach, which were a combination of beautiful, relaxing and entertaining. No, the story is in the ride home.

Musician Performing “Scarborough Fair” on the Pier
An absolutely beautiful and haunting rendition

I May Have Lied About the Adventure Part Start

Ok, so the real adventure part starts here.

I opened my little Lyft app and summoned my ride home. I used all the tips I’d gotten from my first Lyft driver. I made sure the address it displayed matched the place I was standing. I was in a less congested area, and made certain I was easily seen from the road. Voila! As expected, a car appeared and Russell picked me up.

Russell had a lot to say, and I’ll just sum it up here. Russell needed me to know he was an LA native who drove for fun; he liked getting out. He didn’t NEED to drive like other drivers out there. In fact, he had been in the process of getting a new BMW, but his wife didn’t want him driving a ton of people around in it. So, he took what he would have used on a down payment for the BMW, and he bought the car I was in. He let me know his watch was worth more than the car. Ok. That’s great. He used all of this to explain that he didn’t like condescending riders. I said something profound like, “I don’t think most people enjoy condescending people.” 

To better explain his personality in a way that Southerners and Texans understand: He was that guy – one who had that hyper-aggressive, smug, false confidence that you sometimes associate with people from large city centers north of the Mason-Dixon line. In other words, he was obnoxious. *wink* You know what I’m saying.

But…I didn’t care as long as he got me from point A to B. Bolster yourself as much as you need, my fine fellow, but get me to my hotel.

We had to pick up another passenger. I had opted for the “share-a-ride,” because I don’t mind other people, and yay cost savings. You see, my watch isn’t worth more than my car, and it’s questionable as to whether it’s worth more than my bicycle.  His app beeped, and we headed over to pick up the next person.

When we got there, there were about 20 people standing around, and no one stood out as someone looking for a ride. Russell attempted to call them on speaker, and either the person answered, or it was their voicemail. Their words were not in English. “Oh no! I’m not doing that today. Nope. I’m cancelling their ride. I’m not in the mood,” Russell gruffed indignantly. Great. I guess I’m glad I’m white, and you deigned to pick me up, you obnoxious, smug, racist douche. When he cancels their ride, he accidentally cancels mine, too. He realizes this and starts throwing a fit, “You have to reschedule your ride.” I pulled out my phone and opened the Lyft app for the third time ever, and tried to re-request a ride. I wasn’t getting any response, or any connection. “I’m having a hard time getting this to work.” “You have to do it NOW. Do it now. Open the app and request a new driver.” “I’m doing that, and maybe I’m doing something wrong. Do you want to look at it?” “NO!!! I don’t know how to use that app,” he sneered. “Ok, well I think it’s not connecting.” “LOOK! If you can’t get this done. I’m going to have to drop you off. Where are you going, anyway?” “I’m going to the JW Marriott on Olympic.” “I don’t know where that is. What’s the cross street?” Well, here’s the thing. I don’t usually know cross streets in cities where I don’t live. It’s on Crossy McCrosserton Street as far as I know. I think I’m doing great just knowing the address to begin with when someone else has GPS!!! Make that magic happen. Maybe use your fancier-than-your-car watch. I don’t know. “You’re just going to have to get out of the car if you can’t figure this out.” “Ok, I think it’s better if you drop me off then you can find a new ride with someone who can use the app better.” He pulls over, let’s me out, “Sorry!” then speeds off. I texted the rest of the Board, “Hey guys, I just got kicked out of a Lyft.” If about three grown men could have magically transported into the area, they would have in that moment, and Russell would have probably regretted a couple of life choices.

“Beth, just use Uber or Lyft, it will be fine.” I mumbled after sending the text to my team, mocking my dear friends’ sweet voices, while standing in who-knows-where Santa Monica. “THIS is why I don’t go places by myself.” I re-opened Lyft and summoned another ride.  Nine minutes later I received a message on my phone, “Your ride is here, and will be leaving in a couple of minutes.” I scanned the cars along the road I was on, and nope…not there. Of course, they’re not, because I should have watched movies at the hotel. That’s how we don’t get stranded in major cities. Can’t get stranded if you don’t go places. FACT.

My phone rang, “Hi Beth, this is Lyda. I’m waiting for you.” I explained where I was, then looked at the app which had mis-identified my location. I considered throwing a small, whimpering, pity party. “I’m walking to this intersection, Lyda, and I’m in front of a Starbucks. “You stay there, I’m putting that into my GPS and will find you.” Ten minutes later, when I thought Lyda had probably given up, my phone rang again, “Beth, turn to your right. Do you see me waving at you?” I love Lyda.

The rest of the trip back to the hotel, Lyda told me about her family and her life in LA. We laughed the entire way, and I suspect her watch, much like mine, wasn’t worth more than her car. The measure of a person is not in material things, and she will be measured by her kindness, her generosity, and her taking a few extra moment to find and rescue a stranger right as they were flipping through their meltdown Rolodex to determine the size/flavor of the one that was about to burst forth.

That ended that adventure. And while I’m still not 100% convinced solo adventures are the best; I saw new things, experienced the simple beauty of the ocean – from its sounds, to the feel of the waves lapping against my legs, and I survived. Thank you, Lyda. Also, thank you Anna for giving me the final push that got me out there. We’re going to go again, so I can show it to you in person – the Pier, the ocean, and the Third Street Promenade. FaceTime won’t trick me twice!

Looking back on where I’ve been
Footprints near Santa Monica Pier – 2018