Did You Train?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Babbling State of the Beth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The non-ranty bit (a list):

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

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

Everywhere is Signs

I was terrified in 8th grade, completely scared. Rumors floated around that the high school we were about to enter was infested with a fairly nasty gang. These girls had supposedly slashed a guy’s face at Hot Wheels, the local roller rink (back when that was considered a cool hang out), and the word was that if you went to a particular bathroom, they’d mess you up.  These were not young ladies you ever wanted to cross.  The nightmares that summer were absolutely horrible.  I had spent 7th grade in bullying hell, had finally found my feet back in 8th grade, and had been coasting since no one was currently threatening me with, “if you ride the bus, I’ll kill you.” Now there was this new unknown threat lurking. A threat clearly no one would protect us from as they hadn’t in 7th grade..

Back then assault and battery were illegal and school officials were in every corner to make sure I was safe.

I knew walking in that first day I wouldn’t know which bathroom to avoid.  I knew I’d have to wing it, but the idea that I would one day choose wrong gnawed at me.  That’s the most I’ve ever been afraid of people in a bathroom in the last 34 years, and I’ve been in some fairly sketchy bathrooms.

Now I see our state officials feel they need to protect me.  They want to make it safe for me to go to the bathroom, a bathroom experience free of transgender people.  One said something along the lines of, “we need to protect our women.” Well club me over the head and drag me to your cave, hallelujah I feel safe knowing another law is coming my way and you’ve got my back.  Sexual predators will quake now that the sign that says “Women” or “W” or “Damas” means “gender at birth”. Nothing stops a predator faster in his tracks than a law.

I’ll be sure to scoff as I inform our trainer who taught Active Shooter training that he was wrong when he said, “don’t hide in the restroom,” because now I know those places are getting a lot safer. No one would dare cross that line now. If someone enters our building, I’m beelining it to the restroom.  I won’t even lock the door, because I know my state legislators are keeping me safe.

As a person who has several gay friends and a transgender acquaintance (which I realize smacks of the same cherubic idiocy as those who proclaim, “I have a black friend!”) I can tell you that in general the LGBT community is not filled with sexual predators bent on hurting you or your family.  They’re people who need to go to the bathroom just like the rest of the heterosexual world.  You may not like their lifestyle, but you don’t have to approve of it to urinate.

There are absolutely exceptions – not everyone means you no harm, but those exceptions occur on both sides, and a law or a sign is not going to protect you from someone who is intent on hurting you.  I guarantee you though if you force a transgender woman to use a men’s restroom, the chances of that person being harassed or assaulted will spike.

So, if we agree that we already have laws in place designed to prevent restroom attacks, then the only thing this must be about is discriminating against transgender people.  My guess is somewhere between the Wachowski sisters, Caitlynn Jenner, and the legalization of gay marriage across the country conservative legislators lost their mind and want to exert some measure of control.  Do something that says, “I still support family values.” That’s great.  There are other and better ways to do that and better ways to ensure people are safe.

You should absolutely be aware of your surroundings including those times when you’re in the restroom or in any secluded space, but transgender people are not today’s boogeyman out to attack you and your family.while you’re trying to find the cleanest stall.  These are people who feel their gender identity is the opposite of their assigned sex, and they just need to go to the bathroom.  Let’s be honest, think of how many you personally know – I can almost guarantee that’s more than the number of times you’ll run into a transgender person in a bathroom. So with that in mind, I think this whole thing rather ridiculous. Thank you lawmakers, but I don’t need your protection on this issue.

As a friend said, “keep your eyes on your own urinal.”

 

Rebels True

I had a plan, a beautiful plan, a plan that involved getting back to the type of writing I think I do best – anecdotes.  Those little stories where I heighten a piece and it turns into one of my goofy, isn’t life just ridiculous? blog pieces.  I really wanted to stick with that plan.  That’s my foreword on this piece.

I’m about a year away from my 30th reunion at a school where I was a “Rebel”.  We flew the confederate flag at our games running it up and down the field, it was emblazoned on the outside of our gym along with our mascot “Johnny Rebel”, we played “Dixie” as a fight song.  If we lost a game, a more dirgeful rendition echoed through the stadium.  When our band returned from a game, as soon as they crossed Town Lake (part of the Colorado River) that divides the city into North and South Austin, the band observed a reverential silence.  When we graduated, Mama Craig, our Government teacher, sat on a stool and sang a mash-up of Dixie and Turn Around.  I can still hear her pure and beautiful voice as it carried throughout the Tony Burger Activity Center.

A group on Facebook was created to prepare everyone for the upcoming event.  People joined, pictures appeared along with  the posts of excitement and disbelief that we’re that much older (only on the outside).  I did my part to drag my friends kicking and screaming into the group with the simple explanation of “misery loves company”.  I admit, I’m not overly excited about attending despite having gone to the 10th and 20th.

There are a few reasons I cringe at the idea. 1) Once the class upper echelon took over the planning, it went downhill.  The reunion was no longer inclusive of the entire student body; it’s now the popular kids.  Unfortunately, those kids don’t quite know how to find the other kids. (And we’re all still kids in my mind.) Their phone tree mirrors our football roster. Drill team members, cheerleaders and a few band folks are thrown in for spice.  When you’ve been involved in big event planning, as I have been, it’s hard to watch and not wince, and hard not to  wonder whether it’s their intention to exclude the other 300 people or are they genuinely too inept for the task. I suspect a combination of both. In my past, I’ve brought speakers to my University (Dr. Ruth, who was adorable, and Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panthers, who was simply incredible to sit and talk to), and I’ve worked on large scale events in previous jobs.  From my experience, event planning takes a lot of work and well… planning.  There’s actually some skill involved that these folks woefully lack and it shows, but hey they like putting it on so what the heck.  That party we threw in ‘85 was hopping! Just add 3 more people and we have a reunion! 2) I wasn’t popular.  I was (am)  nerdy.  I was the President of Orchestra, in NHS, and in the German Club – you get the idea.  The most defiant thing I ever did was sit in the hallway during a time we were supposed to be in our various clubs and look defiantly when we were challenged by a hall monitor while one of my friends said (out loud using words others could hear), “yeah, we’re in a club – the Breakfast Club!” Oy. (She was not impressed and we scurried back to class.)  I loved math and science.  My idea of a great time was coming in early to work on my Chemistry lab work, being nose deep in a book, or working through Geometry proofs.  I was living on the edge.  Combine that with my natural prissiness and being reasonably unattractive and you get a feel for me.  I’m not the girl you invited to the Homecoming dance.

At our school was a group who called themselves the Right Wing Extremist Organization (RWEO) headed up by a little toad named Shannon; the living embodiment of a balding hyperactive rat terrier.  He and his little gang would bully other kids unchallenged.  Any disagreement with them was greeted with insults. If you believe the rumors, they also upended one “liberal” headfirst into a toilet for daring to challenge them or their narrow views. I remember them openly mocking a particular girl in my government class when she recounted a traumatic story of being in a police ride along (something we had the option to do as part of the class). Laughing as tears streamed down her face, because she’d witnessed someone die. How ridiculous she was boo-hooing over a death – liberal, hippie, cry-baby. They’d scrawl their little slogans on our classroom’s chalkboards, and mostly wander the halls acting like pricks.  They’ll be at the reunion, too (well, maybe).

Let me knit this all together

Earlier this week one of our classmates posted his feelings about the confederate flag; it was an impassioned piece explaining why he felt it was time to remove the flag (and I completely agree with him).  He explained that as a black student that imagery bothered him and while it didn’t bother him as a teenager, it certainly bothered him now as an adult.  He wrote about how he’d fought in Iraq and Afghanistan for people’s rights, but that he didn’t fight to support this flag.  A bunch of folks followed-up with their support, and then came Shannon’s post. “You’re wrong.” (Quick aside: Shannon had responded to another classmate’s page and eloquently expressed his disagreement with a well-worded, “you’re a dummy,” and then followed with a brief note about how he was unfriending the aforementioned “dummy.” He’s truly one of the school’s more gifted debaters (sarcasm font)). I won’t get into how someone feels cannot be “wrong,” but the original poster was not “wrong” for how he felt.  Well, that wasn’t enough for Shannon, he then fired back with “[my lacky] and I have decided this reunion has become too political, so we won’t be going”. Nevermind the fact that for four years he turned our school into political theater. Someone saying “I don’t like the flag” was clearly going too far – too political!  He used the tried and true “we’re taking our toys and going home” tactic complete with breath holding. And as we all know, you can’t have a reunion without a showing of the RWEO; the whole thing will collapse.  That table they reserved for 30 of the 364 students will now be reduced to 25.  Chaos will ensue! The reunion will be a complete failure.  What will this say about the 35th? the 40th?  Immediately a post fired back, “{your lacky] and his social secretary will be missed.”  My inner 15 year old chortled gleefully.  I’d never actually seen anyone sass the RWEO guys.  You see, for a long a time one of my dreams has been that someone would shut this guy down publicly, and wow, thanks fairy godmother I’m heading for the ball.  While it wasn’t a complete shutdown or maybe even close to one, it was the closest I’d seen in years.  See, the folks I know while clever and quick-witted are all more akin to a lumbering Great Pyrenees, in contrast to his terrier, and would really much rather sit thoughtfully, pant a bit, get pats and hopefully nap than acknowledge there’s an annoying terrier bouncing around for attention.  It may be the more mature response, but my personal vote is for the thoughtful, well-worded, humiliating smack-down WWF Thomas Paine-style.  BOOYAH!  And since he’s never challenged me on any one of my sites, I’ve never had the opportunity. Plus, I lack the intellectual prowess for a true public shaming.  I’m simply more sass than refined wit.  It’s a shortcoming. We all have flaws.

Anyway, I had to chime in at this point.  I agreed and added that to me the flag and mascot were just symbols and changing them wouldn’t alter my memories, the friends that I made or the education I had.  That you could paint the school hot pink, call us the fighting fluffy unicorns and sing the Barney theme song at the Homecoming game, and nothing about my past would change.  I personally don’t need those symbols to always remain the same; and were they to change, it would have no real effect on me.  And the truth is, it’s time for a change.

What happened next? The original poster acquiesced explaining it was never his intent to prevent Shannon or his friends from attending the reunion.  That instead he would personally not attend so that Shannon would be able to go.  Whew! Here I was worried that the whole thing might be slightly less douchey   The post disappeared along with the OP’s personal high school photos, and he’s no longer in the group.  What a shame, too.

The whole thing makes me sad and re-emphasizes why I will not make this one. I have my memories and my friends from high school without needing to be part of this rather disappointingly exclusive club.

The Lazies: What the Service Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know

One more rant and then I promise to stop for a bit and return to things like genealogy or anecdotes about my random encounters with fake mustaches to celebrate Freddie Mercury. Of course, that is unless someone does something wacky like fly a Confederate flag over their Capitol building and wonders, “how on earth could racism possibly be alive today?”  As usual, I digress.

A few months ago I was reading a post by Mike Rowe.  Now let me just say, I completely adore Mike Rowe.  He’s introduced me to a world of things I never want to do in my life, and he’s made me appreciate those who do. If you aren’t familiar with him, he’s the former host of “Dirty Jobs” and is the narrator for Deadliest Catch.  (WOOO! Northwestern! WOOO! Time Bandit!) He has that every-man appeal, a beautiful voice, oh and he used to sing opera.

I follow him on Facebook to get my weekly dose of “Friday’s with Freddy” and to read his responses to crazy fan mail, which he always greets with a great amount of wit and humor.  He’ll also occasionally tackle tough political issues, and while we don’t always agree, I always appreciate the eloquent way with which he explains his point of view.  You can tell he’s put a great deal of thought into the subject at hand, and if I’m not in agreement I almost always walk away thinking, “While I don’t agree, I completely see and appreciate where you’re coming from.”

Back to that post from a few months ago – the subject had to do with livable wages and raising the minimum wage.  What I want to talk about is not what Mike said, which was against raising the minimum wage, but the comments that followed.  The gist of which seemed to be a highly vitriolic stew of, “people who work in minimum wage jobs are lazy.  If they wanted to have more money, they could.  No one to blame but themselves.” (Imagine all of that written rather hatefully.)

It reminded me of a training class I recently attended where they attempted to teach the class empathy by assigning us a made-up person, giving us the bare minimum of details, and then asking us how we felt as that person.  Mine was a working mom who had two kids in school and lived in less than ideal living conditions.  When asked how she felt I explained my life was hard in ways people couldn’t understand, but I was proud of my kids staying in school and I worked each day for them.  Now because I could believe that a person in that situation was doing her best and would actually be proud of her children, I was told in front of the class that I was wrong, and the trainer clucked her disapproval at me sensing I clearly failed her assignment, missing the point entirely. (She later attempted to teach us how to read auras.  I allowed her to see mine in all it’s shining glory which led to a small standoff.  When I’m the problem-child in a class, something has gone horribly wrong.)

My point to that story is that not everyone who is impoverished needs your pity, and not everyone who is working a minimum wage job is lazy or lacking in some important way.  If you’ve ever had the pleasure of working for minimum wage, you know there’s not a lot of time for sitting around and daydreaming.  In many cases you’re serving the public either directly or indirectly.  You’re stocking shelves, running forklifts, greeting customers, mowing lawns, trimming hedges, scrubbing toilets, or you’re scrubbing feet, and hands.  You’re picking up trash in a truck or throughout a building. You’re in a file room, entering data or answering call after call.  And when you’re done, you run to the next job, because you understand that there’s a great imbalance between the cost of living and the minimum wage.  You have to keep a roof over your head, food on the table and oftentimes not just for you – you have a family.

I would argue that in general these are not lazy people.  These are the hardworking people who keep our society running and help us feel civilized with our mani/pedis, our towel service, our pool maintenance, groceries, etc.

One of the world’s richest women, Gina Rinehart, once said, “ If you’re jealous of those with more money don’t just sit there and complain, do something to make more money yourself. Spend less time drinking, smoking and socializing and more time working.”  I can only assume she inherited her fortune thanks to her avoidance of vice and of course her hard working  nature (and delightful disposition). She then went on to push to lower the minimum wage for miners to below $2/hour, so that Australia could be more competitive.

Gina got to where she was thanks to her family (despite her blinders that tell her she’s an amazing little tycoon with certain tycooning gifts which include a disdain for her lazy, socializing, smoking, drinking miners). In theory her descendants will inherit that same fortune without doing much more than being born and having decent financial advisors along the way (all of whom I will presume will continue shunning the aforementioned vices).  Much like the Royals.  Much like the Hiltons or any family dynasty.  In fact if you think about how you got to where you are you can likely attribute some of it is your drive, some of it to your environment, some of it to your education, and some to your personal network (whether family or friends).  I am where I am because I am reasonably intelligent.  I went to college and earned a degree, because I didn’t see there was a choice considering my family and friends; it was just a given.  My parents went to college, most of my friends went to college and many of them have advanced degrees – there are plenty doctors of all types, whether they’re PhDs or MDs. (They’re a talented lot even if they are overachievers.) They’re the kind of people who indirectly push you in ways you don’t realize you’re being pushed.

The  jobs I’ve held over the years are a result of family connections and personal connections; I didn’t do anything special other than show up for an interview.  In fact, I can’t name a job that I have had that can’t in some way be attributed to someone else.  Sure, I’ve moved up using my own skills, but I wouldn’t have gotten my foot in the door had it not been for someone else helping to crack it open.  With hundreds of applicants applying for even the simplest of jobs, it helps to have someone say, “hey, would you talk to Beth, too”  Not everyone has that network.  Not everyone has the opportunities I have had. Not everyone is equipped to work in a white collar job, and you know what? That’s ok.  We need everyone; they’re critical to our society..

My point is that there is a lot that plays into getting and maintaining a job, and while laziness may be a factor for a small group of people, it’s certainly not the defining characteristic when we’re talking about the poverty cycle..  If you think it’s an easy thing to break out of, then it’s likely you weren’t born into it.  My father was.  My father went on to be a professor of Social Work, and he can tell you best how he broke free, but suffice it to say it had to do with his environment, his education, his network of friends and a particular family that exposed him to new and different ways of thinking.

So, when I see people standing up and saying, “I want to be paid more to be able to live – to support  my family – to give my children opportunities I didn’t have – to rely less on public assistance”.  I don’t think disdainfully, “that’s just lazy talk”, I think about how we make that happen.  If I pay more for a barely edible burger that I don’t need, and now a person no longer has to rely on SNAP to feed their family, then I’m ok with that.  They’re not asking to move into your gated community, they’re just asking to live safely.

These people aren’t lazy, they just want to survive, and we should be mindful of that when they’re serving us and be thankful instead of contemptful of that person standing at the register. (Because at the end of the day they can spit in your food or dump your trash can on your immaculate lawn).

We should be doing our party to help.

Bravery

If you’ve been awake in recent weeks you may have seen the current cover of Vanity Fair which showed a stunning Annie Leibovitz photo of Caitlyn Jenner after she made her transition.  I admit to looking at it initially with a certain amount of curiosity and thinking, “beautiful” and “good for you,” before moving onto other headlines from that day.  Throughout the rest of the week various online news outlets (and even NPR) kept the story alive by reporting on celebrity reactions, the tweets from her children, and some promised future interviews with her ex-spouses, friends, the guy at the coffee shop, etc.  I admit I lumped it all under “celebrity news I’m not interested in, “ because let’s face it, unless Jodi Foster is coming to my house to invite me to consult on her next project or Timothy Olyphant is writing me a note admitting to keeping a photo of me in his trailer, I don’t care.  Anything Kardashian related headed my way makes me want to poke myself with a sharp object. Apologies to Us, People, the Enquirer, Daily Mail, etc., but I don’t see anything you report as real news (but you guys are great for the hair salon or bathroom)..

I watched the tidal wave of “news” on the matter crest and then slowly ebb away.

During the peak of all of the excitement a gentleman made a certain Facebook post complete with an image grabbed from online depicting two soldiers that went viral.  The gist of the post being that Caitlyn’s transition was not “brave” or “courageous” or “heroic” unlike the image being shown in the other photo he selected – one depicting a soldier carrying a comrade who had his pistol drawn as he was being carried off – real “American” courage.  While attempting to credit the source of the photo, this same gentleman discovered that the picture was actually a photo of a toy figure, and the person who created the image was a man who had been beaten nearly to death because he was a cross-dresser. The gentleman quickly owned up to his mistake and followed-up with a post about the lesson he learned that day. I personally had great respect for him, because he could have easily let that information slip past, but instead he wrote about it and how it transformed him.

When I read about his error I snorted a bit at the irony, and once again returned to other news. I certainly never planned to post my thoughts on it; I had none – nothing really new to add. Then today rolled around, and I saw the same post re-posted, but missing the key follow-up post, and then for no good reason I took a moment to read the comments that followed.  I guess I was satisfying that most human need to rubberneck at train wrecks, or maybe I just felt like getting mad (it was a rather slow day truth be told, and MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!).

There’s really never a good reason to read most comments to any story. Regardless, I hopped down that nasty rabbit hole of bile and gritted my teeth as I read the most hateful wretch bubbling up in support of the original post. The writers were completely oblivious to the follow-up post (or maybe they were blatantly ignoring it). They used the post as a vile catalyst to feed on each other’s disdain, on each other’s hatred and ignorance.

I suspect most of what was said in response came more from a place of “why is this news” than anything else, but unfortunately they worded their disgust ways that went to the proverbial “there” by hammering on phrases like “American heroicism”.  This Caitlyn’s transition was not “brave”. That it was not “courageous”.

What is Bravery? Courage? What does it mean to be Heroic?

Merriam-Webster tells me Bravery  is “to have the quality or state of being brave.”  Brave – “having or showing courage <a brave soldier> <a brave smile>.”  Courage = “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Among the definitions of Heroic = “exhibiting or marked by courage and daring.”

Bravery isn’t limited to the beaches of Normandy, the Helmand Province, or the streets of Saigon.  Bravery is the bullied kid that still gets on the school bus under threats of violence every single day. Bravery is my gay friend walking into his dorm room every day while in the midst of being tormented by his roommate who used my friend’s towel as toilet paper and his pillowcase as tissue paper and not falling completely apart. Bravery is holding warlords hostage to come to the table and reach a peace agreement for Liberia.  And bravery is sometimes staring defiantly into the face of a photographer in the Phnom Penh S-21 prison, knowing you will be executed.

Bravery ranges in size from an elementary school girl singing her first solo to astronauts riding an explosion that flings them to the moon. and bravery doesn’t know international boundaries; it’s not just an “American” thing; it’s a “human” thing. To believe that it is somehow contained within our borders is to be grossly out of touch with a much larger world. And bravery doesn’t always occur to the battlefield either – ask any of the 9/11 (or 911) responders.

You do not have to be part of the LGBT community to understand that what Caitlyn Jenner did, in front of the world, was brave. Putting yourself out there for the world to judge is hard, and doing it when you’re a well-known former Olympian makes it that much harder.

Dislike the story because it’s sad that it’s still news – and it’s actually important news for the LGBT community, because we’re currently not in a place where we simply accept that a person made a choice (as evidenced) – maybe a choice we don’t approve or understand, but a choice that was theirs to make.  Dislike it because you’re tired of the Kardashians.  Don’t dislike it because it doesn’t depict “bravery.” It does.

Caitlyn Jenner is brave.  As brave as anyone I know.

Cool

“You should really thank The Big Bang Theory for making geeks like you cool.”

I stammered in response and finally offered up a fairly well thought out, “uh huh”  right after I did a quick age check to confirm what I already suspected, that I really was too old to care about whether I’m cool.  The fact is that I’ve never, at any age,  been particularly driven to be “cool”. (All of my friends and family just nodded in agreement with that statement.) Call it what you will – a character flaw – a love of Lee when no one could get between Brooke and her Calvin Klein’s – the ability to quote Monty Python or the willingness to argue that yes, Han did shoot first. I’m simply not cool.  And I’m ok with not being cool. Cool isn’t my thing. (Guys, you can stop agreeing.  Sheesh.  I can feel it.)

You see, there’s this implied idea that “cool” is “fitting in.” If you’re “cool,” then  “fitting in” is clearly something every person who has been labeled a geek is surely hoping to achieve, but hasn’t quite figured it out yet. I’m here to tell you “cool” has never been my personal goal (and I’m really quite well-accomplished at not being cool).  On the other hand what is popular shouldn’t be how we define cool in my opinion.  Look at any past trend – old photos from any generation. (You know the ones that show you wearing that bejeweled glove with the neon top and those parachute pants. Are you going to tell me you still feel cool?) To me cool is being comfortable enough to be yourself.  A TV show won’t give you that.

I would love this to be a piece about “how to be comfortable with yourself;” however, I’d be misleading you completely if I said there weren’t time that I’ve wanted to be something different, something more, something better than…

I remember the first time I really thought about labels and contemplated the big “who am I?” question.  “Am I cool?” It was around 1980.  It was the summer before I entered 7th grade and The Dallas Morning News ran an article about teen groups.  There were little summaries about preppies, ropers (which when I moved back to Austin were known as “kickers”), freaks, and I’m sure there were a slew of additional labels like “geek” that I can’t quite remember because I’m old (and kind of cranky).

I also don’t remember much about the actual definitions. I do remember preppies were “cool,” but “freaks” sounded closer to the group that best fit me. They were described as wearing jeans, sneakers and concert t-shirts.  I mean, I did wear both jeans and sneakers all the time and I did own that one “Wings” t-shirt from a show I never attended.  How could that not be me? Preppie certainly wasn’t me. My reality didn’t include anything bearing the name of Izod, Polo, Gloria Vanderbilt or Swatch, so that was out of the picture. Later I did own some Jordache and OP things. I stand by those clothes.  We will discuss this no further. I couldn’t name a single country group other than Alabama at the time, so “Roper” was out. “Future president of the orchestra/bookworm nerd” wasn’t a listed choice. That left me with being a “Freak” if I had to choose a category (and the newspaper seemed to think that this had to happen – all teenagers identified themselves by one of these, a journalist wrote it!). Also, at that time I was really working on being a proper delinquent (which the “Freak” title seemed to embrace), but unfortunately my natural prissiness and penchant for a good rule ultimately got in the way.  I did briefly join an all girl gang in name only, but was always “busy” come fight days. “Sorry, I would love to, but I have to go out of town for the rest of my life and during all of my free time. Maybe next fight?.”  Keep in mind this was a Dallas middle-class girl’s gang.  We’re not exactly talking east L.A. and yay, they did go about intimidating my bullies, which made hallway walking much more pleasant.

Still I didn’t truly embrace any label – freak, geek or otherwise.  I was me.  A me who liked math, science, orchestra, German club and reading books.  When a person would suggest I change who I was (fall under a different label) like my grandmother (the former president of her college sorority, president of various ladies clubs, a socialite – you get the idea) when she pulled me aside and declared, “you need to change how you act or no boy will date you.” (She wanted me to play dumb in this case.) My response was, “if someone doesn’t like me for who I am, then I guess I won’t date,” which was a lot like sassing and sassing was a big no-no and earned my grandmother’s immediate disapproval.  Her message of “be different than who you are in order to be more accepted” was never me.  Of course, I didn’t really date until I was a senior in high school, so she clearly read the omens and was onto something there.

During this time one of my fundamental characteristics became apparent – I really wouldn’t change who I was to gain other people’s approval – to be cool – from how I presented myself, to whom I chose as my closest friends, to what my interests were (and continue to be).

Ok, I lied a bit there.  I did drop out of the math club (don’t tell Dad – it was something I was drafted into and didn’t go to willingly) . Though I loved math (and still love it, it’s really quite beautiful). I already had the stigma of being an academic nerd. The idea of competing with the math club was just too much.

Mu Alpha Theta

If I were to “thank” a TV show, it wouldn’t be The Big Bang Theory though I suppose kudos to them if it helps people be ok with someone else’s love of Star Trek. Just be warned you’ll lose a finger or three if you come at me with your “rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock” (may Leonard Nimoy rest in peace) or if another person says, “you’re a lot like Sheldon.” I may not watch the show, but I do know what you’re saying.  The show I would actually thank is Freaks and Geeks, if I were the thank-y sort.  It’s the one show that got my 80’s right.  In fact, Lindsay is the closest I’ve come to truly identifying with a character (if you threw in a lot more orchestra).

What makes me feel cool? It’s not a TV show saying I’m ok.  It’s being me – doing the things I love and enjoying the things that I do. Sometimes that’s standing on a stage with a puppet.  Sometimes it’s taking improv or sketch classes. It’s watching a Battlestar Galactica marathon, playing spoons while waiting for the opening of The Wrath of Khan, and sometimes it’s just singing “Bad Romance” in a karaoke room with all of my friends.

What makes my friends cool? The ones you would label “geeks”? It’s that they do what they love without worrying about what you think.

We never needed a TV show to say it’s ok to be who we are.