September’s New Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hey, little guy!

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

There was Pie

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

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

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

The Final Adventure

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

Oh Yeah

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

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

How was your September?

Epilogue: An October Plan

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

A Huge Favor

Well guys, we’ve reached the point in our relationship where I feel comfortable asking you for a huge favor. I know, I know, you think we aren’t quite there yet in our relationship. You feel that this is a bit soon. I mean we barely know each other, and here I am springing this on you. You haven’t had a chance to brush your hair, tuck in your shirt, or freshen up. Your parents haven’t had a chance to meet me, yet! Trust me, it will be ok. You’ll be fine! We’ll be fine together and your parents will come around and support you.

A Little Background

September 8th – 14th marks National Suicide Prevention Week, and as I mentioned previously, I’m devoting September’s posts to support that cause, and to support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) who were recently named as one of the 50 Impactful Charities Serving Humanity, the Environment and Animals in Variety.

On Tuesday, September 10th the Central Texas Chapter of the AFSP are partnering with Phil’s Ice House and Amy’s Ice Cream. These businesses will be hosting an Out of the Darkness Party Time Event. Basically, they’ve agreed to give part of their proceeds from that day to AFSP. In order for AFSP to receive that donation, they need 50 people to go to one of those businesses and let them know they’re there to support AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Walk. Super easy!

Note: This only applies to the stores located at: 2901 S. Lamar Blvd. in Austin, Texas.

The Ask

This is extremely important to me, and I’m calling in that favor. I need you to not only go, but I also need you to help my team. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Walk, Run, Scooter, Bus, Uber, or Drive to the Amy’s Ice Cream or Phil’s Ice House located at: 2901 S. Lamar Blvd.
  • Place your order and say, “Hi! I’m here in support of AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Walk.” You can even add, “and I’d like fries with that.”
  • Take a selfie of you at Amy’s or Phil’s
  • Share your selfie on Social Media (FB, Instagram, Twitter, etc.)
  • Tag American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – Central Texas
  • Tag Phil’s or Amy’s
  • Tag The “Jay” Walkers

The team who has the most tagged selfies has a shot at having the money credited to their team’s fundraising effort.

That’s it! Super easy, right?

Now if you’d like to do a bit more and join my team to walk with us on Nov. 2nd, you can do so here. We’d love to have you! We’ll also be having a team meeting there that night at 6:30 pm where one of our team members, who recently went through AFSP’s training, will give a presentation on how “Talk Saves Lives”.

I’m serious when I ask (beg): Please do this one thing for me; it’s really important, and it’s a great cause. Help us prevent suicides. Help us remove the stigma surrounding seeking help for mental health issues. You can make a difference by doing something as small as eating a burger with friends, and maybe just maybe you’ll save a spouse, returning home from a trip, from living through the abject horror of discovering their partner has lost their battle with depression.

Now mark your calendar, head over there on Sept. 10th, grab a burger, some ice cream (eat it quickly; it’s super hot outside), join my team, and make a difference.

Thank you!

Last Breath

“How do you honor Jay?” I stared back at the counselor as I mentally rolled through all the things I felt I should say – trite words and ideas designed to fill in a perceived silence. “You don’t have to answer now, just think about it.”

I did.

Then I reached out to an artist named Cameron who brought to life an idea I had floating around in my head.

This is how I honor Jay. This is how I honor us.

Thank you, Cameron. I appreciate your infinite patience, kindness, and understanding as we worked through this process together.

(Interested in contacting him or commissioning a piece of your own? You can find his Etsy shop here.)

Valentine’s Day Confessions

I have some confessions, and as you all have likely figured out by now, I truly LOVE a good confession. I spill my guts, vent my spleen, clear my conscience, wash my hands, what have you, and then I hope that whatever I’ve said resonates with that one person. (One person, I totally get you!!). Also, let’s face it, sometimes I’m sitting at my keyboard, high on a turkey sandwich and La Croix Key Lime, and there’s really no stopping me. I’m soaring on l-tryptophan (or careening towards a nap – one of those things is happening). Although, if I’m truly honest with you guys, I should confess to something else: I completely forgot to get the La Croix (of any variety), and I may not be as hydrated as I should, but I did totally eat that turkey sandwich. Let me fetch some water. Be right back.

Ok, here we go.

I love ALL holidays. Well, maybe not all of them, but the major ones, (apologies, Arbor Day – I mean “yay trees” and such). And it doesn’t bother me (other than you’re wrong and I suspect your heart is two sizes too small) when you insist on ranting about the over-commercialization, the “real” meaning, Hallmark, or that time Ginny Wheeler brought EVERYONE in your third grade class a Valentine’s day card; however, when you opened your bedazzled Valentine’s lunch bag-cum-mailbox she clearly was working out her jealousy-fueled distaste of marvelous you. That Ginny Wheeler, she wasn’t particularly nice, and look at the power she wielded over you these 30+ years. Rant on! (Also, for all that is Holy, we’ve heard that Ginny Wheeler story EVERY SINGLE YEAR now. We, your nearest and dearest, have actually written a sketch piece about it, and the person parodying/playing you is spot-on AND hilarious. We’ll show you some time. Hey, in our defense, you were making us crazy.) Or you go emo adult – hair hung strategically over one eye, shoulders slumped inward while you don clothes that are some color on the opposite side of the color wheel from whatever that holiday’s sanctioned color might be, and then announce loudly, to anyone who will listen, that this is a protest, because you’re worried people might think you just chose black that day “because.” Can’t have that.

The one that really gets to me is the person, usually a guy, but not always, who says, “well, I don’t participate, because my better half should know I love them all the time – not just on a special day.” Amen to that, we should show love for one another every day of the year, Valentine’s Day is just one of those days. Plus, I’m a little judgey, and tend to think you’re making an excuse for basically being lazy, wrapping that laziness in “Valentine’s Day indignation,” and then I theorize this might explain why you’re alone. There are just so many ways to express your love, to make someone feel special (every day), that do not involve buying the dozen roses the FTD ads suggest or chocolate diamonds (aren’t those just another way to hock diamonds with low clarity ratings??)

Anyway…

Now to the real bit (the part where I stop being so darn sassy). I love Valentine’s Day. (Which you knew was coming; you’re a bright gang of people.) I always have, and I miss it. Jay loved me every day of the year. He said “I love you” each day we were together, including the day he passed away. And he would surprise me with gifts or flowers throughout the year – not just Valentine’s Day. I was that girl at the office – the one who would get the call to come to the front desk, and parade back with flowers in hand. A part of my cubicle wall devoted to the notes that accompanied those flowers. Jay knew that our love wasn’t just one day out of the year, but on that one day, on Valentine’s Day, I’d wake up to find a card, candy, and some small token on my desk. I still have them all – the cards, the presents (ok, I totally ate the chocolate, don’t be silly).

So, my thoughts are these: Absolutely, express in words and deeds how much you love the important people in your life every single day, but don’t mock others who find certain holidays meaningful. If you’re going to protest the day, go crazy, but don’t expect me to treat you like some grand Valentine’s Day liberator who is freeing me from the diabolical clutches of the Whitman’s Samplers PR firm. (Actually, go ahead and free me from them, I’m more a Lindt truffle girl.) Also, still go and buy your significant other a card, a flower, or simply write them a heart-felt note. Do it tomorrow, and then do it throughout the year.

And even though I’m not in a relationship, nor will I likely ever be again (I’m tough to love), I will continue to love this day.

In honor of that, and as a way to get back to our tradition, even though Jay can’t be part of it, I went ahead and bought myself some nice chocolates and a purple orchid. He would want me to still love this day.

So, with all my sappy, holiday-loving heart, I want to say to you all: Happy Valentine’s Day! And as corny as you may find it (I don’t care), I love you awesome nerds!

Shaking the Branches

Originally posted: 4/6/2014 – not sure why it re-posted in 2017.

Sooo… I haven’t received the response I hoped for in my family tree search or really any response and it occurred to me, I have a blog. Then another thought occurred to me, search engines index blogs (and well, the whole internet). I know this because I am one of the top spots for people who hate Houston. Again, Houston haters, I don’t actually hate Houston. SPOILER ALERT: the post was really to address a friend who had told another friend, “Beth hates Houston”. Sure you had to read between the lines, but there you have it. Anyway, back to the indexing and my thought pattern. My final thought, a lot of genealogists use the internet to research their families. Since there is a fee associated with Ancestry.com, which to me is 100% worth it, some researchers don’t have the resources or simply haven’t chosen to invest in that particular tool.

I have been lucky on my quest for information, as least on my Dad’s side of the family. I have met two amazing cousins who I never would have known if I hadn’t been doing genealogy research. One on my Dad’s father’s side, whose every email brings a gigantic smile to my face. She is truly the best treasure to have come out of shaking the branches of my family tree. The other cousin is on my Dad’s mother’s side where she is just waiting for me to start working on that branch so she can share all she knows. Through both of them, I’ve received stories I’ve never heard and seen pictures I’ve never seen. It’s amazing! The experience has made me quite giddy.

My mother’s side is a different story until I get back to my great-great-great grandfather and talk to the descendants of my great-great grandmother’s half siblings’ descendants – truly lovely people who are exactly where I am when it comes to the giant gap in their trees between this common ancestor of ours and me. We don’t have stories or photos or in some cases full names.

This brings me back to internet searches. I’m going to go ahead and list the people I’m searching for in the hopes someone will take a chance that I am not an internet stalker or identity thief or whatever nefarious thing they might think when I ask “can you tell me my great-grandmother’s full name?”

I actually want this to stand out, so I am going to put all of this in the post that follows.

UPDATE: Since this post moved, the “post that follows” no longer follows it, so here is a link to that call-out of relatives: Calling All Swinsons

Jay

jay-cliff1

As I sat in LAX on July 9th I thought about how I finally had a few adventures to share on my blog. I had tales of being an extra on a set in LA – I would talk about the glamor of sitting outside in a tent for three straight days with 200 other people.  Tales of brown bag lunches with mayo packets that shot out this clear yellow stuff.  Share stories of crazed super fans name dropping their stalker-y hearts out while making me feel shame for possibly being a fan-girl poser.  I was also really looking forward to coming home. I’d called my husband the afternoon before my flight whimpering that I was exhausted, and just wanted to come home. You see, I adore my husband and being away from him for five days was a bit much.  I was looking forward to sharing my adventures with him, and showing him my ridiculous pictures – “look, Myrna Loy’s footprint!”.

Instead of Jay picking me up at the airport as planned, I got a ride with our local police department who took me to my home which was now covered in police tape.  Officers stood on my driveway while a victims services team waited for me.  I cannot possibly describe in adequate words just how absolutely horrific that was.  I had lost my husband, my best friend, and my favorite person.

I wish I could describe him in a way that everyone would understand just how amazing he was, but again words fail me – they’re strings of adjectives trailing after him, flitting to and fro unable to paint a complete picture. He was my world.

What I can tell you is he was beautiful, smart, kind, funny, and clever.

I remember sitting with him on a curb outside of his office talking about how bad my world had become.  He told me to throw out all of the extraneous things and boil down what was really bothering me – that once I got rid of all the fluff, I could begin to focus on the real issue. That conversation led me to the realization that I needed to make some huge life changes, and one of those was to be with him.  That was nearly 17 years ago, and it is still the best decision I’ve ever made.

We never argued – no raised voices, no knockdown drag out fights. We’re both pretty easy going, Jay more so than me – both laid back sorts, which isn’t to say we were never disappointed or frustrated, but where I’d work out my issues by launching into super house cleaning mode, Jay would become more quiet, and at the end of the day we’d work whatever we were frustrated about out.

Every night Jay would tuck me in, and wait for me to fall asleep.  I can’t begin to tell you how hard sleeping has become after 17 years of having someone sit with you, and talk to you every night. The house is suddenly too quiet.  As a night owl, he’d almost always be awake if I woke up late at night, and he’d answer the most ridiculous questions I’d have that had suddenly perplexed me keeping me from sleep – usually basic physics questions about how the universe worked (I’m more a biology/physiology/anatomy kind of girl).

Every day, several times a day, he’d tell me he loved me and we’d thank each other, “thank you for being with me.” That’s not an exaggeration.  It was important to me (I think I can say “us” here) that we always let each other know how much we cared – how lucky we felt to have found one another. I was looking at a card on my desk at work yesterday – one that had once accompanied a bunch of flowers on our anniversary which simply read, “I love you! Thank you for being with me!” I still have an email from Jay in my inbox which has this animated, ridiculous looking red blob that blows heart kisses. Suddenly, it’s the most important email I have.

I loved being with Jay and always knowing I had made the right choice all those years ago.  

Jay_KawasakiNow I’m adrift left without the one person who could tolerate my craziness, laugh at my jokes, calm me down – the one that made me feel lovable – that made me ok in this world when I’d tell him how lonely I sometimes feel.  The person I could go to on a bad day, and he’d listen patiently.  The person I could go to on a good day, and I could make him laugh. The one who was just as nerdy as me. The one who was a thousand times smarter and would patiently and thoughtfully explain things.

I never expected nor wanted to write his eulogy.

During this hard time, there have been a lot of people who have helped out. I want to offer my gratitude to Restoration Covenant Church who donated their beautiful space for Jay’s memorial service – to Jay’s Aunt Marsha for driving from Georgia to deliver a beautiful service – to all of my relatives who, despite their personal grief, came out to help and support me, thank you for sitting with me for hours and sharing your love for Jay and your stories about him – to my brother-in-law Dale who I cannot begin to thank enough for everything (you’re my favorite and best babysitter/handyman – also, thank you for standing up and telling a story about him at the memorial) – to Aunt Philis and Kim for finding the space for the memorial and making it so beautiful –  to all of my friends for your words of support, your wee hour visits, your personal sacrifices to make sure I’m ok, and all of that food (good grief) – to Officer O’Neil for skillfully keeping me calm in a bad situation – and of course to the good neighbors.  I’m lucky to have all of you in my life; you’re all amazing, and I love each and every one of you.

Of course, a few people have said some inappropriate things, too – things that made my stomach flip, so a thank you to all of the relatives and friends who offered to help hide their bodies. 🙂 You are truly the best.

One day I may tell all of my goofy LA stories, but for now I’m missing my favorite person, and not having him around breaks my heart. I will miss him for a long time to come.  Boy, thank you for being with me.  I love you!

A poem read at the service:

Gone From My Sight

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,

spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts

for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.

I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck

of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone.”

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,

hull and spar as she was when she left my side.

And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me — not in her.

And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,”

there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices

ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”

And that is dying…

— Henry Van Dyke