I Love Tacos

We’re two days away from National Suicide Prevention Month – a month where I stress the importance of both suicide awareness and prevention, and then hopefully convince you to support my team. However, it’s still August, and that means you get a Beth story instead. Not that the other posts won’t include a healthy dose of Beth-ness, but this one is more like a typical post – one featuring a story about me tripping along through life – you know, like I do.

I’d been wanting to volunteer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for awhile. I know, I know, I said this post wasn’t about that, and it’s not – just roll with it a bit. Then an opportunity finally presented itself that matched up with my schedule: Pride Austin! Fantastic, support my friends, support a great cause, and I’d get to go to a festival. All wins! Of course, I signed up. My good friend Anna hopped on board as well as her son, Adam, and we had the makings of a plan – of a fun weekend adventure. Off we went!

We arrived in the heat of the day, and when I say “heat of the day,” it’s not a polite way of saying, “Golly, it sure is hot.” I mean it was, “Let’s buy a case of water each, haul it around in a wagon that will get lighter and lighter by the minute, and still hope we don’t die of heatstroke” hot. The kind of hot where you look at syrupy drinks or snow cones and your stomach and brain chime in with a huge, “Nope!” because all of that just sounds gross. It was so hot, I heard more than one person start a sentence with, “It’s hotter than the devil’s…” (The noun and the description of the aforementioned noun changed depending on the person. Some easily fell into the “Eww, that was really specific and colorful” category, but all descriptions let you know that any Satanic body part was still not as hot as an August day in Texas.) My favorite nephew, aka friend’s son, aka Adam, immediately headed for the fan vendor where he purchased this gigantic “Clack” fan – both a brand name and a descriptor. Personally, I don’t recall ever wanting a fan from a festival as a souvenir; however, at that moment, I wanted it more than anything (other than maybe more water). Forget those sad little pieces of flimsy cardboard stapled to a stick, this thing was amazing and produced focused gale-force winds. Also, it happened to be quite stylish. The boy has taste. He became quite the accomplished aunt-fanner that day.

We had some time before our volunteer assignment, so we walked around, checked out the booths, picked up all sorts of free items – stickers, buttons, bracelets, temporary tattoos. We even scored t-shirts, towels, and sunglasses. It was fantastic! There were a ton of things to look at and buy, and that’s when I found a place selling t-shirts.

I can’t tell you much about the actual shop, I can only tell you that they had a shirt on display declaring its appreciation for tacos with a big, “I LOVE TACOS!” on the front. This made complete sense because tacos, as we all can agree, are pretty great. Who doesn’t love tacos? As a Texan, my love for them is right behind my love for my state, Molly Ivins, a field of bluebonnets, armadillos, and Shiner Bock. Ok, I’m not really a beer person, but if I’m ordering beer, I order Shiner Bock and then feel Texas proud. Corona? Oh, please. Don’t insult me with your near-Coors.

I think I may have pointed at the shirt, and whether I pointed or not, I do know I said quite loudly, “I LOVE TACOS!!” Again, because of all of those reasons (Tacos, Texas, Armadillos, etc. – keep up!).

A look of maybe what could be described as “confused alarm” went across both Anna and Adam’s faces, while I carried on about the shirt and my commitment to my adoration of tacos. Finally, one of them, then both of them tried to shut down my jubilant loud celebration of tacos and my desire to own the shirt, which really fueled the “I want to scream it from the roofs” fire. Adam implored, “Aunt Beth, stop saying that!” I feel he also may have implied I might be having a heat stroke, but nonetheless my response was a firm “No!” I mean, Tacos! LOVE ‘EM!!! I won’t be shamed for my Tex-Mex food love!!

I moved off the taco topic as we moved further away from the object of my culinary desire. I’m easily distracted.

After we finished volunteering, which went really well despite the heat, and we left behind our puddles of sweat, we went to find dinner. Nothing quite “beats the heat” like AC, fluids, and ice cream. Then we decided to do some shopping. Needless to say, in one of the stores was another shirt professing taco adoration. This one had pictures of tacos – corn shells filled with meats, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes. I exposed it on the rack by shoving the less worthy shirts around, and made it so the logo and wording could be clearly seen, then I turned to Anna and Adam. The need to declare my taco love was rekindled. And here’s how that conversation played out. It’s not an actual transcript, because my memory isn’t that great, but it captures the spirit. It’s how I “felt” it went, so yeah… take it with a huge grain of salt, too.

Me: Look! Another shirt! I love tacos!

Anna/Adam: (synchronized exhausted sighs)

Me: You won’t repress my love now. (I’m sure I didn’t say “repressed,” but in my stories, I’m quite clever and well-spoken. In reality, I kind of just grunt and gesture emphatically to convey what I want/need.)

Anna/Adam: (more synchronized exhausted sighing combined with maybe a hint of an eye roll)

Anna: What do you think tacos are?

Me: (duh look on my face) Crunchy-shelled OR soft-tortilla goodness stuffed with lettuce, cheese, and some kind of meat.

Anna: That’s not what they mean. Where were you today?

Me: Pride.

Anna: (just waiting – giving me the look of “Go on Beth’s brain, please catch up.”)

LONG PAUSE

Me: OHHH!!! OH NO!!!! No! I don’t like tacos. I mean, tacos are fine, but umm… 

Anna then burst out laughing as she watched all of that play out across my face.

It reminded me of the time I had to explain a “beavers” reference to my aunt after visiting a Bucc-ee’s while thinking, “Your mother would not be very happy with the words coming out of your face right now.” Only I was my aunt in this scenario.

So, let me say that I do still love tacos; however, the idea of buying the shirt is now off the table. Let me also be very specific and state the kind of tacos I happen to love are the kind listed on menus in local Tex-Mex restaurants. You’re free to love tacos any way you choose, and I’ll support your taco affection. Just make sure the enjoyment of all tacos is consensual.

Anyway, now that I’ll be the butt of many jokes to come, I will say that I’m looking forward to cooler weather and Oktoberfest. I hear several events will host Sausage Fests in celebration! Probst! Cheers to Fall!

July & August

I’m pretty sure no one but me is really invested in my attempt to try “new things each month,” but I feel obligated to report just the same. Prepare to be wowed, or maybe the descriptive word that means the exact opposite of “wowed.” Prepare to be… ehh… you do you. You may not need much preparation.

July involved me trying new foods at new restaurants. At least that’s what it became once I realized I was a good deal into the month, and had no other “new” plans, so new foods it was!

I tried a paella. I had no idea what that was, but saw it on the menu. I immediately recognized it as a word I knew meant “food” and it was a word I could pronounce correctly, and so I declared, “this is what I want!” It was a mix of things I’d never had before combined with things I had, and it was delightful. Also, I feel once shrimp reach a certain size, they get a little creepy looking.

About a week later, I had a chalupa for the first time. Yes, I know – a native Texan more than half a century old, and I hadn’t had one before. Weird. Well, not really. In my defense, there are tacos in this world. These perfectly shaped shells that contain all the taco goodness. Chalupas indiscreetly display all their food bits on the outside and you’re expected to be somewhat civilized while attempting to eat the thing. Too much pressure! With tacos there’s less worry involved. Sure, some of the delicious bits will still spill out, but it will be an appropriate and manageable amount – not a dramatic lettuce landslide desperately trying to escape your face. There’s really just no way to be graceful while eating a chalupa – best just to unceremoniously up-end the thing, declare the dish a salad, and the crunchy shell a “chip garnish.” Still, it was also delicious, and again made me thankful for tacos.

That was kind of it for July.

In August I went out of town to Colorado, and stayed in the mountains. The elevation was approximately 8500 feet where we stayed, and the weather was perfect. For the record, 8500 feet is really no joke when you’re trying to do things like “moving” combined with “breathing.” Leaving a gorgeous place where the mornings were in the upper 40’s was challenging, especially when faced with mornings in the upper 70’s. I now desperately yearn for Fall.

Overall, it’s not a trip I feel entirely comfortable discussing in an open forum. The trip was both beautiful and sad – filled with moments of great laughter and sudden, heart-wrenching tears. My last night I stood looking up at the star-filled sky and silently screamed.

There are things in this world I hope you never have to endure – things I hope I never have to endure, and there are places where you begin to heal. Where raw beauty and nature allow a momentary and much-needed respite.

A huge thanks to our hosts who gave us such an amazing gift by letting us stay at their Air B&B. I wish I could live in that town nestled in a valley in the Rockies. Of course, I’m told it can get really cold in the winters and that there’s this stuff called snow. That might do in this Texas gal.

Garden of the Gods – Pike’s Peak (One of the Fourteeners) in the Background

A tiny pox on OnStar for deciding the best route from Amarillo, TX to Austin, TX was through Oklahoma City. However, I suppose I can now say I’ve successfully driven a land yacht in the form of a Chevy Tahoe through Ft. Worth during rush hour – an experience of which my Google Maps would have deprived me. I’m eyeballing you, OnStar. But hey, I guess that’s also a new thing I got to do.

A heads-up as we head into September

September is Suicide Prevention Month, and we’ll be two months away from our Out of Darkness Walk. Expect a few posts talking about the great work the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention does and ways you can help support this cause. One of those ways involves you grabbing a burger and some ice cream. Who doesn’t enjoy supporting a worthy cause with ice cream?

Balanced Rock – Garden of the Gods

Ok, off I go to tilt at windmills and fight with a stranger over jazz – like one does on a Sunday evening.

The Great Cookie Massacre of 2019

The “cookies” in all of their “glory.” (PS David, I’ve moved from parentheses and semi-colons. Air quotes shall be my new “thing”!

A good friend, whom I think of as family, and I’m convinced thinks of me as the burden one endures after being overly kind to strangers (or possibly karmic punishment for something done in a past life – something he wish he could remember and desperately hoped was funny if he was forced to be saddled with me for life), suggested I actually post a photo of The Great Cookie Massacre of 2019. (FYI – you can tell I’m not ranting, because I’m writing more like Dickens approaching the first sentence/paragraph to A Tale of Two Cities. Do I get paid per word? (Maybe if my editor loves you, he’ll be able to do something with that sentence. No promises though. He’s only paid in praise and glad tidings. Are “glad tidings” a thing?))

Anyway, I believe I promised in the last post that were I to post about the cookies, then certain words/phrases would be used. I like to keep my promises so here we go! I aim to make Dickens proud, and you know, empty my tidings account for David. (Sorry David, my five readers are making me. you understand, right? It’s for them. Also hey, apparently parentheses are making another comeback. It’s like Shark Week, but y’know – Parentheses Era. That’s certainly a thing, right?)

If Dickens Lost His Senses and Ability to Write Properly-ish

The above photo, along with another photo, showing most of those cookies clumped up in the bottom of the oven, appeared on my FB page – posted there to get a laugh from my friends and give them the opportunity to tease me, because I truly live in an on-going I Love Lucy episode, and because I have a self-deprecating sense of humor (why keep the laughs at my life pratfalls all to myself) AND (this is super hard to write this way) despite having worked in a cookie store where I was quite the talented cookie baker (give me a hockey puck – not kidding – plastic gloves and cooled dough, then turn me lose whereby (sure) I’ll will produce little doughy circles of joy); however, I’d never used parchment paper to bake cookies until that day, AND on that fateful day when I decided to experiment for no particularly good reason other than my friend Eric suggested it while talking about baking bacon; he had no idea I’d decide to go the cookie route with it, I successfully pulled out one tray from the oven, then, with my confidence bolstered, I grabbed the next one – whoops – the parchment paper sledded off the tray along with the cookies as they all screamed “WHEE!” then plummeted into the bottom of my stove; I was aghast, then I cursed the cruelty of the universe for ruining perfectly great and undeserving peanut-butter chocolate-chip cookies (THE BEST COOKIES IN THE WORLD, as you know – also, did you know Blue Bell now offers up a peanut-butter cookie dough flavor – thank you, Julie for sharing that small delicious miracle – I haven’t had it yet, but how could it not be a miracle?)

Whew! We all survived my sentence. I’m fairly certain Dickens just eye-rolled from his grave or perhaps he scoffed. He probably did both. I deserve that, I suppose. (David, I’m speaking to you again – I forbid you to make that better. It’s beneath your talents! Let it stand in its awful glory. Also, I’ll try to be better about the parentheses thing. It’s hard to quit after you do your first set. The struggle is real.)

Anyway, there you all go! Proof that poor, innocent cookies were murdered in my oven. If we could all observe a minute of silence. Thank you! Also, thank you Jers for the suggestion. Love you! Mean it!

A Particular Set of Skills

WARNING: Strong language that is likely unsuitable for people with access to language skills may appear in the following post.

I have a particular set of skills, not the kind that would help me find any missing relative or deal with their would-be abductors in an action movie, but they do count as skills or maybe more precisely “skills” in air quotes. They’re not the kind that my parents are particularly proud I possess, but on occasion, they have made my friends laugh. (And the “skills” I’m referring to are not abusing semicolons and parentheses, though my editor David might argue that I’m quite skilled in those areas as well.)

I can rant.

I can rant in a way that will make a room go silent. I can rant in a way that will make you spray water onto your screen. Your reaction depends on the topic at hand and my mood or my objective. I’m that person people have said, “I bet it’s cute when you get mad,” and immediately the “oh shit” or “eject” cartoon bubble appears over their head when they’ve accidentally discovered how woefully mistaken they were.

This ability doesn’t make me particularly different or special. It’s just that in my basket of ways/tools I can pull from to express myself, I happen to be better at that style. My precision with the English language becomes sharper. My sentences become simpler. I’m like an angry Hemingway. Again, it’s not so much a thing to brag about. It just is what it is. Thus, I have a blog. It’s here to help me work on communicating my thoughts better. That’s a lot of blahblahblah to start a story, but you needed some background.

Tuesday was the anniversary of Jay’s death. It was also two days after a cookie misadventure, which nearly left me without a thing to bring to a gathering of friends. On that day I went to see one of the few people I can be around on that day: my trainer. I have a lot of great friends, but my trainer is one of the few who can successfully navigate through all of the mess that is me some days. On Tuesday, I walked in pretty wound up and then launched into a story about some cookies. As I’m working my way into the second or maybe third sentence she says, “I’m going to stop you for a second. You’ve now said “fuck” five times. Normally you say “fuck” zero of the times. I just wanted to make you aware that I’m counting. Continue.” Oops. I completed the story without another incident. At least I don’t recall one. Although, as mad as I was I probably had “fuck” amnesia and said it ten more times to emphasize all of my crazy buttons had been pushed. Yay amnesia that lets me believe I stopped at five! Ultimately, through the use of that expletive, I successfully (and emphatically) communicated that I was completely amped up about the thing I was amped up about. All before 6 AM. Go me!

On Thursday new thoughts on “the Great Cookie Massacre of 2019,” which is really how it should be referred to from this moment forward, were shared.

Now I realize you’re probably thinking, “this is a lot vague talk about some sort of cookie thing, and I’m not entirely sure where we’re going here. This seems like a “near” rant, but not quite an “actual” rant. I thought I read this far for a rant. Where is the payoff? Didn’t you say you were good at it? I’m not feeling the “good” here. I knew I should have picked up the New York Times instead. This is bogus!” Well, first off: when did you become such a rant critic? And your sticking around is really on you, but also you’re not wrong. I’m fence-sitting because I’m torn. You see, I promised my Dad today that I wouldn’t go on an epic cookie rant on my blog. However, a good friend thought it might be a fine idea and encouraged it. I’m sure he could picture himself tucked in, reading it and chortling. (People really don’t chortle enough these days.) Then there was another person who, without context for the story, felt I had the potential to turn it into something funny, which I’m also failing to do.

So, what I’ve successfully delivered here is an unfunny brag about ranting where I didn’t rant. It’s a post where I threw in several expletives, and you learned nothing about a supposed cookie massacre. However, had I chosen to crush my father’s soul and gone through with the rant, you likely would have heard things like: “self-deprecating,” “I Love Lucy,” “parchment paper,” and a declaration that “peanut-butter chocolate-chip cookies are the best!!!” (Because they are.) There likely would have been a story about how I used to work at a cookie store in a mall, and there might have been a brag that I can out-cookie most people. Although, in true rant style it probably would have digressed into a vague threat to the universe regarding dough storage, and someone would have restarted the “f-bomb” counter.

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?

Words Matter

My husband Jay died by suicide. It was not romantic or noble or beautiful or any other positive feeling you might have seen portrayed in a movie. Mozart’s emotionally stirring Requiem didn’t play softly in the background, nor did a dove take flight in slow motion during the event that changed our lives. No, what happened was an absolute horror show wrapped in “Crime Scene” ribbon starring all of his immediate family and friends.

When you look at the statistics around suicide, it’s estimated that a single suicide affects up to 115 people thanks to a ripple effect. So, not only was I deeply affected, but so were his family, my family, my extended family, my friends, my co-workers, the last person who spoke to Jay when he was in crisis, the police officers involved, the victim’s services staff, and so on. You get the idea.

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know all of this, and you know that Jay suffered from depression combined with extreme fatigue as a result of untreated sleep apnea. These are all things you know.

Some things you might not know: I now suffer from anxiety and panic attacks that become more pronounced this time of year as we get closer to the anniversary of Jay’s death. (Each year they get better. Yay.) There are moments that my body suddenly starts telling me I’m in danger, and I need to flee. It’s not exactly what you want to be feeling when you’re in the middle of a meeting in a confined space away from the door and there are 45 minutes left on the clock. We’re just getting started folks. Settle in for this fun brain chemistry run amok rodeo!

So, you may be asking yourself, “Beth, why are we here again? We’ve read this one.”

Well, it’s because I have a request to ask of you – not just for me, but for the other 114 people who were touched by Jay’s suicide. If you figure that nearly 800,000 people die by suicide worldwide each year, and each death affects 115 people, then ultimately my request is for the 92 million people who are affected annually. There is an average of 129 suicides in the US per day, which means that the 92 million grows by 14,835 people in the US each day.

The Request

My request is fairly simple: I need us, as a society, to work on changing some exceptionally bad habits we’ve fallen into. The kind many of us, including me, have innocently engaged in over the years. Here’s what I’m talking about – I’ll explain by way of offering up a scenario: You’ve had a rough day – the kind where everything has really spun a tad out of control, and you’re kind of frustrated/grumpy/what-have-you. You’re standing around the water cooler chatting up your friends, your family, or whomever you like to chat with, and you want to drive home the point of how exceptionally challenging your day was. Now here’s where you may find yourself at a bit of a descriptional crossroads (or multi-directional highway). How do you drive home the point that you’re kind of irritated with how this particular unfair life event unfolded? You’re a good person, clearly deserving of better! I’m going to offer up a pro tip here: Whatever you choose to say, avoid describing whatever happened as being so bad you really want to end it all. Not only should you not say it, you should also avoid a pantomime of meeting that end. The reason? Of the people gathered around listening to the description of your perfectly awful day, you likely have little or no clue as to whether one of them is among the NINETY-TWO MILLION in this year alone who have been affected by suicide. In this case, it’s better to simply say, “I had a bad day.” We can all relate.

If you are in crisis, please seek help immediately and call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

Another scenario: Let’s say you did something daffy. (I’m sure people do “daffy” things still, don’t they?) You’re a bit embarrassed. You can’t believe how dopey it was – how preventable if you’d only been on your game. Your friends are laughing with you (some possibly at you – friends can be jerks). Just leave it there. You don’t need to put a finger to your head and pretend to blow out your brains; it’s not necessary. Your temporary embarrassment isn’t worth suggesting you should die over it. We get it. It was goofy. Atypical for good ol’ you.

Where This All Came From

Today I sat next to someone who shared a personal story – a tragedy, and I acknowledged how difficult and stressful that time of their life must have been. Then they proceeded to tell me how they “nearly” ended their lives in a particularly graphic way – hand gestures, the whole bit, to really drive the point home that their life had been tough. I just stared. What they described so casually, so nonchalantly was exactly how Jay died so hopelessly, so tragically. I became agitated, which started triggering an anxiety attack. I counted things, I breathed, and then I counted more things because my supervisor frowns on me saying the words that immediately pop into my head in those situations. (He hasn’t explicitly told me “no” though, but I think he relies on my better judgment to help me navigate through those rougher waters.)

From there I decided to write this appeal to everyone and ask that we just stop for my sake, and for the sake of everyone else – for the 92 million affected people. Suicide is not a joke. It’s not a punch-line for your bad day or for things spinning momentarily out of control. It’s serious, it’s tragic, it affects far too many and we shouldn’t make light of it. We shouldn’t wish it on ourselves when we’ve had a bad day, had to spend time with the in-laws, seen a bad performance, or whatever your trigger is that makes you feel like you need to punctuate your displeasure by suggesting you wanted to die. How awful.

Me? I want to survive that bad moment, that bad day, that bad year, that bad performance and look back and say, “Damn, I’m a badass! I made it through again!” Because there is very little in this world that I think would be made better by me not being a part of it. 

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.)