Is This Thing On?

I wanted to take a couple of minutes to write a quick thank you to my Facebook friends and family who recently subscribed to my blog. For starters, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that you’d take the time to actually read this thing, and for… ummm secondly? non-starters? for ‘nother reasons? you’re giving me a chance to take a break from Facebook.

I can now let my hair down and stop trying to be a Beth PR machine, because let’s face it, most days I’m not doing anything of FB note (like I suspect of most people) – not even taking pictures of my toes against an exotic background so you can have toe vacation envy. Look, my toes are near sand! Go toes!

The reality of my life, when I’m not staging toe photos, is that I spend a fair amount of time laying on the couch in some amorphous, barely human looking lumpy shape, surfing Netflix for my latest binge-worthy show, thinking something insanely sarcastic, and not doing whatever is on my chore “to-do” list. Trying to spin that into something glamorous can be a bit taxing, because apparently posting repeatedly, “was a lump again today” just doesn’t garner the “likes” once your followers realize you’re on a personal lump streak, and you’ve decided to regularly post about it like you’ve been elected as some universal lump ambassador.

Speaking of things that are grossly unfair, which we were speaking of, how is it there’s not even an app that gives you lump achievements like “One Month Lump Goal Achieved! Atta girl! Keep up the great lump work for lump kind!! Be the lump dream!” What kind of lazy world do we live in that some programmer is not all over this? Programmer dude, from me to you, get on that.

For the record, the lump selfies are pretty priceless.

So yeah, I’m taking a break from all the people who, after having not seen me in awhile, come up and say, “you do so many interesting things – I love catching up with you on FB.” I mean, yay, it makes me feel like I’m a great fiction writer, but actually trying to perpetuate that myth – the one that I’m actually interesting is exhausting. The rest of you, the ones who made the move over here, know better. Thanks for keeping my secret so long. Your payments are forthcoming. Honest. I’m totally trustworthy.

Of course, one of the things I will miss dearly is reading your stories – hearing what’s going on in your lives. So please, please, please, let me know what’s going on with you.

Remember back in the day when we all wrote letters? Drop me an email. Tell me a story. Send me a photo. Sing me a song. Make me smile and laugh like only you can do. If you want my personal email, drop me a note in Messenger, and let me know; I’m happy to share it. Or hey, let’s do something crazy, let’s catch up in person.

Quick Aside: Or How We Can Possibly Use this Space for Good

Many of you who took the plunge to follow me away from FB are out there doing some really cool things. You’re acting, directing, singing, playing, photographing, crafting, writing, teaching – creating new and interesting things that only you can create. I’d be absolutely honored to promote what you’re doing here – to give others the opportunity to see you the way I do – as the amazingly talented folks you are. Plus, quite selfishly, I just want to be invited to be in that audience celebrating you, and cheering you on. Think of it as a charitable contribution to Beth’s spinal column – that by encouraging me to get off the couch for a few hours I’ll be briefly lump-free (lump-less?), looking more like a Beth. Heck, I may even brush my hair. I know, right? That’s how much I like you! (Unless, of course, you’re IN a Netflix series, which would be pretty fantastic as it would combine my need to be lazy with my desire to celebrate you. Really a win-win scenario by my Beth-standards (which are high despite what you’ve heard). Actually, the more I think about this, the more I like it, and need you to be in Netflix for me! DO IT! Take one for Team Couch Beth!)

Wrapping it Up

Well, it does seem like this thing is on (unless you didn’t receive a notification in your news feed or your email, and in that case, how the heck did you get here?). So, welcome! Thank you guys for making the switch (and truly, for reading this blog – I cannot possibly tell you how absolutely flattered I am that you would honor me like that).

In the words of Becca (Anna Kendrick) from Pitch Perfect, “I love you awesome nerds!” I truly do.

Never Forgotten

The calendar, a gift – each page a celebration of intellect and talent – from dream to design. Ideas turned into form. Genius I vaguely grasp. My mind moves to simpler things.

Dates

I flip through and find everyone acknowledged, birthdays dancing through the pages, but not his.

There’s no cause to celebrate. Only memories to forget – moments from which we move. I’m stunned. Weeks pass. The gift forgotten.

I had a good day today. I started out behind in a room filled with experts (at least by comparison). By day’s end, I’d outperformed the majority. My confidence exploded. A silent prayer made to continue to ride that wave.

Half the day gone by the time I walked out.

I looked at the calendar. A primal sound resolved into a moan. I lost track of the day.

Of all the days, this is the one I lose?

You – briefly erased from my calendar.

“You’re too hard on yourself.”

I know.

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!

An Idea

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

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

The Rules

Your suggestion must…

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

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

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

Unmoored

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

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

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

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

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

It leaves me feeling unmoored.

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

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

A Reverse Quinceañera

Donkey? Scotty? No one is certain, but it IS table decor.

A few years ago, a good friend of mine announced that she had purchased a prom dress, some petticoats, and planned to throw on some cowgirl boots then head to a friend’s 51st birthday for a Reverse Quinceañera (see, it’s like “15,” but it’s “51,” thus the whole “reverse” thing). With my 51st a couple of years away, I immediately had two thoughts: 1) That’s a thing? Quickly followed by: 2) YEAH, BABY! That’s a thing!!!! Then I had to patiently bide my time – wait for 50 to come around, then turn the corner for 51 in order for my plan to get underway. With 51 in sight, I gathered a group of friends – people whose brains I could pick, those lucky enough to be endowed with party planning skills, and aren’t party “challenged” like moi. (You see, my idea of “party” usually involves an invitation (aka email) that reads, “Hey! Want to play board games? Come over Sunday and bring chips. Does anyone have an extra table? You “may” want to bring a chair if you want to sit, too. Yeah, you’ll definitely need to bring a chair.”) We held our mid Summer brainstorming session over chips and margaritas, because Texas y’all, and hammered out the details. The question at hand: What did we need to do in order to throw my very own Reverse Quinceañera? From that meeting, a party timeline was born complete with action items and milestones. One of the side effects (benefits?) of being around Project Managers and serving on a project management board – your world becomes about schedules/timelines, and where I may not be able to plan an event, I can drive a schedule. My birthday party began to take shape

As we planned, there were a few things we had to consider before pressing on since I had decided I wanted to add a Bollywood element. The big one was: Was this cultural appropriation? Many of us had read about the girl who faced a huge media backlash over wearing a traditional Chinese dress to prom, and we didn’t want to offend anyone. Even if we, as Americans, are supposed to be this gigantic melting pot of cultures and ideas, we’re also still very protective of our cultures, and we as party planners were sensitive to the fact that someone might take offense to the party’s theme. You see, I’m not Asian nor am I Mexican, and while I can tell you that I asked to be bused to a school where I was a minority (all of my friends were there), and I can explain that I grew up in a Hispanic community with Hispanic friends. At the end of the day I’m still a very white woman. Look at my DNA results, and you find I’m Scandinavian, I’m German, I’m English, I’m Irish, I’m French, with only the tiniest bit of African from someone who lived in the 1700’s – so far back, that I have no connection to that person nor that culture. Snow White really has nothing on me. So, I checked in with my Hispanic and Indian friends and asked for their input, explaining my goal was cultural “appreciation” not “appropriation.” They came back with their thoughts – things to avoid, so it wouldn’t appear that we were mocking any culture in any way, and from there a party was born. Saris, and prom dresses, and countless decorations were bought or crafted. Then on December 15th, we had ourselves a party.

I have to say that I was a bit anxious and nervous, and when April asked why, I said, “I’ve never done this before – never thrown a real party. What if no one shows up?” “Beth, do you really think no one will show up?” “What if it’s only 10 people?” “Then, we’re going to have a great party with just the 10 of us.” On the day of the party, we had a “little” over 10, and I had an absolutely fantastic time.

The Thank You’s!

The planning committee: Erika, Sharon, Roanna, Jennifer, Kate, Kimberly, Heather, April, Nancy, Liz, and Swati. Thank you for your ideas, and for helping me get this ball rolling.

Kate and Riley – We wouldn’t have had a location had Riley not joined the American Legion specifically for this event, which got us a decent discount on the location. I cannot thank you enough, and on top of that, you helped set-up, climbed ladders, covered lights, decorate tables, and clean-up. You guys are amazing.

Darrell and Rebecca – Thank you for what was described as “the best bar in Central Texas.” Wow! I cannot possibly thank you enough for offering to bartend, providing the alcohol, the special drink menu, the music, which also received a lot of compliments, the lights, and the speakers so we could all dance. You helped make the party a party!

April – Holy hell, girl! Thank you for one of the best gifts – a professional photographer, and while I still feel like I was a bad prop in everyone’s formal photos, or that I was straight-up photo bombing everyone’s nice photos, I’m so glad he was there. The photos are fantastic. Also, what a brilliant idea to have a photo booth as well!

Swati – Thank you for the beautiful sari, and for pinning, pleating, and making me look beautiful (given who you had to work with). You helped me feel like a true princess. You always say I have such amazing friends, and you are one of them!

Erika – Thank you for those amazing cupcakes! They were so delicious, and I love how you tied in my dress colors – from my sari to my prom dress. I’m so sorry you got hurt in the dance.

Kimberly – My amazing cousin who helped from beginning to end in so many ways that it’s difficult to list everything she did. Thank you for the cookies, for decorations, for taking the day off to help make food for the party – for so much more than that, and for everything you did. Also, thank you for doing your best to help me avoid a wardrobe malfunction.

Heather (HB) – Thank you for running into Houston to elbow our way through Arne’s, for creating a gorgeous/perfect center piece, and for just being you, friend. Also, thank you for making the final adjustment to my dress that ultimately did prevent the impending wardrobe malfunction. Such a close call! I had resigned myself that it was going to happen, and that I’d just try to roll with it while wearing a big smile, then you came along. Because of you, the party remained PG, and I was able to dance.

Special thanks to: Steve Rogers Photography,  Kim Glessner: Owner of Shade Tree Salon (for my hair), and Rohit of Agni Dance for teaching us all to dance.

Bollywood Dance – Beth’s 2018 Reverse Quiñeanera

Set-up/Clean-up Thank you to everyone who helped with setting up, and cleaning up; that was no small feat. Also, a huge thanks to my piñata makers – Nancy, Kate and Kimberly. I’m pretty sure people will be hiring us out the next time they find themselves in need of their own donkey/Scottish terrier mix party piñatas. My Mom would have approved – Go Scotties!

Spear Children (Who are now Young Adults) – Just look at the candid photos, and you’ll see how much I love you guys. You’re each my favorite! You’re my soul nieces and nephew. From the first, who gave me someone to focus on when I got incredibly embarrassed by a roomful of people applauding my wardrobe change (honestly, the last time someone clapped when I changed clothes was the day my mother taught me to dress myself), to the middle who coolly lead us in the Cupid Shuffle, to the youngest, whose formal wear outshone mine. Kids these days! (Someone came up and suggested I should have worn heels like yours, and I kept thinking “I would DIE if I wore heels like those.” I would put them on, and literally the fall from that height would have done me in, but you wore them with style! I guess we all suffer in the name of fashion!) You guys keep me laughing. You are all the best! I support you in everything you do, and I adore you! You amaze me!

That person I forgot – Thank you! In my haste to create this blog post, I likely forgot to call you out by name and specifically list what you did to help this party be such a success. Please know I appreciated it tremendously, and couldn’t have done it without you! Also, know this is a reflection on my advanced years, and not your contribution. Seriously… I just turned 51 (the whole reason for the Reverse Quinceañera Party you helped create). I’m just thankful I remember to come home most days. Please take some comfort in the fact that in a couple of days I’ll groan and regret not having credited you for all your work. I will likely send you a note while praying you never really read my blog. Hey, I only have the ten readers. The odds are in my favor!

Final thanks: Thank you to everyone who was able to come out to celebrate! I appreciate it more than you know. I hope you had a great time. I love you guys! Thank you for dancing! Thank you for being silly! Thank you for letting me know I’d unknowingly captured a chair and someone’s sweater under my hoop skirt and was about to do the rounds with those in tow. Thank you for asking questions like, “Who did her hair? Who did her make-up? Who are the couple who made these drinks? Who put the music together?” When those questions floated my way, I felt like we’d really put together something special – something I couldn’t have done alone – a party we all created – thanks to all of you! You were incredible!!!

A request – For my younger friends – Please have your own Reverse Quinceañas. I need excuses to buy prom dresses, dance, and celebrate you! At least until I have my Reverse Sweet 16.

I leave you with the song from the Bollywood dance portion of the party.

The Flight Home: Finding Harmony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“May harmony [also] find you.”