On Christmas

On Christmas Day 2016 midnight passed without the traditional, “Happy Birthday! I love you!” declaration. I didn’t incoherently mumble back, “I love you more.” When I finally decided to drag myself out of bed, no one snored peacefully beside me while I was brimming in the delight of the day, and an overfilled stocking with all its promise didn’t wait on my chair (I like stockings best). I didn’t spend the month randomly announcing, “It’s my birthday!” to only be told, “nuh uh”. “Yuh huh! I get ALL the days! Happy Birthday to me!!!” “No!” “YES!” “No dancing!” “It’s my very special birthday dance to celebrate! Maybe there’s a song!””Look away, Sam!”

It was sad – not all the time, but most of it.  It was hard – not all the time, but most of it.

I wanted a margarita (maybe two) and some Tex Mex, which wasn’t going to happen.  Really? Only Chinese food places are open? No one is in town?  I went to the movies, another tradition.  It was enjoyable.

Then I sat alone in a house missing all the other Christmases when I could see his beautiful face.  I thought about how I still hope when I pull into the garage after work that he’ll magically fling open the door and help me bring in my stuff.  I still hope that maybe I’ll wake up, and this will have all been a horribly vivid, and unwelcome dream.  And then I buck up, put on a smile, and greet another day.

Since I get asked, usually with a pitying face, “How was your Christmas?”  There it is. That’s how my Christmas went. Oh wait, I meant to say, “it was fine, how was yours?” Do tell me about how losing another celebrity has devastated your world.  I’m THE person to talk to about that. It’s not that I don’t get it; I just don’t have patience for it right now.

I went on a rant (as I do) today about people not saying “thank you”.  It’s a pet peeve. I don’t get it.  How hard is it to say “thanks”? “Thank you for thinking of me.”  I always had to thank people growing up, and when my step-mom was added to the family, I learned to write actual “thank you” notes. In my family there’s the parable of the bad aunt – the one who received a guitar that her mother had scraped all of her money together to purchase.  It didn’t live up to this aunt’s expectations, apparently crying and door slamming ensued, and everyone involved was fairly unhappy. The lesson was, “do not be this aunt – say thank you even if it’s not something you wanted – be grateful someone thought of you – that someone may have tried really hard to please you.”  I did manage not to say, “I’m not a toy dispenser for ingrates” this go around, which I like to think of as “a win” in the rant department.  I just thought everyone needed a gentle reminder to be thankful.  Hey, if people can rant about their various relationships while screenshot-ing each painful text, then I can plop myself on social media and carry on about thankfulness.

But in doing so, I was reminded that I hadn’t properly said thanks for one of the best, and most touching gifts I received this year. Normally, I’m not the one to brag, because it seems rather tacky, “look what I got!!!” yet I’m going to make this one exception.

On Christmas Day 2016 at the traditional movie I received the following box:

Lunch Notes

250 envelopes containing quotes, questions to ponder, and notes from my friends and family. Notes for each work day of 2017 to put in my lunch and open each day. Each one has my name on it and a sticker sealing it in the back.  My good friend April coordinated this, and spent who knows how many countless hours putting it together. To say it’s amazing and touching is such an understatement; it blew me away.  I teared up once I understood what I was looking at. She didn’t tell me who all contributed, so I haven’t been able to thank you yet.  Until I know who all was involved, I hope you’ll accept this general note of appreciation in the meantime:

THANK YOU ALL! This was truly the most meaningful and beautiful of gifts. I am so very lucky to have you in my life.

I’ll share the first one (ok, so I may have cheated and not waited until the first of the year to open just one). It reads:

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” — Neil Gaiman

Thank you, April for thinking of something so magical, and for getting me away when my Paris trip fell through, leaving me a brief mess. Thank you to my beautiful friends and family.  I love you guys MORE!  I hope all of these wishes come true for me, and also for you.

My Secret Talent

I’ve always suspected I’m secretly great at something.  The problem is that I haven’t quite found that thing I’m great at.  Over the years I’ve learned it’s not drawing, writing, photography, improv, film making, pottery, gymnastics or tennis, but I’ve never given up hope (as you can tell).  Earlier this year I decided it might be special effects makeup based on the fact that I’ve shown little interest in it over the years other than applying a bruise makeup once to scare my cousin into thinking she’d get in trouble after she accidentally popped me in the eye.  (For the record, it had the desired effect.)  I bolstered my belief in my hidden SFX talent, because I’d seen many seasons of Face Off, the Syfy channel’s SFX makeup reality show/contest, and in HIgh School I did have that Bob Kelly make-up kit that is in almost pristine condition after opening it at least two or three times.  Clearly, SFX makeup was my calling.

 My friend April, you know the one who occasionally tries to kill me, the one I’m going to New Orleans with next week out of curiosity to see what she has in store for my demise this time (expect updates if I survive) – that April.  Anyway, April saw that the Austin Film Society was holding a SFX Makeup 101 class taught by one of the former Face Off contestants.  She let me know, because I think she also suspected I had hidden talents – perhaps even be a burgeoning SFX makeup star. I’m sure it wasn’t because I might be star struck by a local artist (the teacher) being a Face Off contestant and this fulfilling some stalkery need of mine.  Yes, I’m sure that’s why she told me – the hidden talent thing.  Did I mention he was a contestant on Face Off?

My friend Topping joined me. Off we go to the class and there he is – the Face Off guy.  He’s nice, patient and pretty cool.  He told us a few stories and then gave us these tiny little take-away kits to create wounds.  Then he laid out some silicone prosthetics.  We each chose one.  I, of course, picked a wound to put directly on Topping’s face.  I’m sure deep down she was delighted by my choice even if she wasn’t readily showing it.  As a much kinder person (better person blah, blah, blah), she picked one for my arm.

Eric Z. from Syfy’s Face Off (background) Me demonstrating natural talent (yada yada)

 My first (and only) application went ok.  I killed an edge, but what Face Off participant hasn’t really?  Then it came time to paint it.  I wanted something a bit bloody in the center.  It was a tear across her face – like she’d been attacked by a serving fork – maybe she tangled with an animal with serving utensils for feet?  It could happen! I decided what the wound needed was some deep reds with dark blues and purples, then on the edge I wanted some nasty yellow – maybe yellow with some red in there.

Evidence of Innate Talent Right There

It’s been a long time since I was in an art class or even colored or considered a color wheel.  All of my age 7 year old art class experience in color suddenly came crashing back into my brain when I used the aforementioned bright yellow, liberally applied some red and I made orange.  Orange. Imagine my surprise, which was quite genuine, as my inner 7 year old mocked away. It was a gigantic bright orange wound right on Topping’s face.  I tried to make it better by adding more colors to cover up the orange.  This ultimately ended up making her wound look like some depraved 1970’s mom had  assaulted her with a bottle of mecuricome.  It was a wound disaster that she got to have her photo taken with to remember throughout time and enjoy the added bonus of having to wear it out of the class on her drive home.  You’re welcome, Topping.

Even Oranger in Person! The blending is pretty gorgeous, too.


My take away – I think that maybe being a SFX makeup artist may not be my hidden talent.  Time to sign up for the next class.

Topping’s Application on My Arm (Grossed out husband = What Real Talent Looks Like)

An Adventure

On the drive into work the other morning I was lamenting not having any good adventure stories to share.  I was coming to grips with having finally reached the bottom of my story well and preparing to settle for sharing quips about the giant mug of water I’ve been drinking daily (well, it is really huge) or maybe some stories of “Sam did the most adorable thing the other day.  Get this, she woke up, padded around, got some food and took a nap.”. “I opened AND closed the door today!” (This is actually something to celebrate if we’re talking about the kitchen cabines or the pantry.) “There was this bumper stick you see, said something about “whirled peas”.  Get it?” You get the idea – bottom of the story well.

Then it hit me.  I vaguely remembered having actually done a few things that I hadn’t shared.  (Look, blame Facebook or the times for the overshare of stuff – I personally blame my friends for encouraging me – you can, too!) It appeared that I had actually engaged in… adventures!  Adventures that proved I left the house at some point for short stints.  Go me!  Way to shrug off the hermit rags (which are, for the record, comfy, warm and after a few days you hardly notice the smell).

So, back in February… (I never said this was a recent adventure) I decided to join my friend April for a curling class.  You might remember April as the friend who tried to do me in at the Texas State Fair.  She’s got a mean streak that borders on homicidal, but is clearly unwilling to explore her own personal orange jumpsuit opportunities, so she cleverly tries to lead me into accidents.  This time her ploy involved tennis shoes on ice and a 42 pound stone.  You’d think I’d learn better, but as you may have gathered through previous stories I’m rather “bless your heart” naive/goofy.  (Southern fact: If you’re in the South and someone says “bless your heart” it’s rarely a kind thing.)

Off I went to the ice rink bundled in my Texas winter attire.  For most Texans that’s just long sleeves, but I actually managed a sweater.  I’m cold natured!  We got a little introduction to the sport and the rules, then off we went to the ice.  Now I’d been on this same ice before – back  in college for something called broomball – a sport where you smack around a hockey puck with a broom (sans bristles) while in your sneakers.  I stayed upright, unlike several other dorm mates – one who had to go to the hospital, but I should confess that I did manage to smack my co-RA’s knuckles to the point that they swelled up pretty nicely. Hey, it’s basically Texas hockey and things got REAL! (It had nothing to do with me spactically flailing around and accidentally hitting someone.)

Since we didn’t have the gear, like their fancy shoes, we were handed a slip cover.  It basically amounted to putting teflon on one foot to make it extra glidey (or fall-y depending on your balance).  They explained how to throw your stone, use your broom for balance and then get into this contraption to push off.  The first guy got in and was flawless.  He was the ringer.  Then everyone else took their turn with varying amounts of success.  Most would get a tiny push, go a few inches, release the stone a few inches and do a small unglamorous pancake on the ice.

Then it was my turn.  I was hoping to push a few inches down the ice and with any luck not  pancake.  I got my feet placed, got down on the ice and realized not only could I not push off, I wasn’t sure I could get back up.  I decided it was a great time to panic as I surveyed the 50+ highly successful participants.  “Successful” was defined by whether they could get up off the ice and while I realized I hadn’t seen everyone, I knew in my soul they all could. I was the embarrassment of the ice rink!  I might actually die out here on the ice unable to leave this spot.  Maybe the zamboni could push me to safety? Maybe I’d become a human puck and one day reach the exit?  Maybe I could belly crawl to the side, someone could open the little door out and I would once again be on terra firma.  It was settled.  The last plan was the best.  Now how to begin the belly slide that way without drawing any attention.  This was going to be difficult.

My little group was now staring and my poor little trainer (who wore possibly the best pants ever if you forget the Norwegian Olympic team) tried his best to help, extending a hand.  I couldn’t take it.  I knew if I took it, I’d pull him down, too.  I did consider that if he were down on the ground, I could use him as a way to get up.  This actually wasn’t the worst idea I’d had and it beat living on the ice. Still, I didn’t want to push up with my own hands off the ice, because well… ice is slippery and not meant for stability. I finally got up and declared, “I’m done!” Not in a pouty way.  More in a “thank you tons for your time! I’m personally mortified! This is great! I’m going to stand back here and take pictures. No, no, I enjoy taking picture! You’re great! Buh bye!”

Well, it turns out most of the curling club is packed with Canadians who may be the friendliest people on the planet.  They weren’t having anyone missing out on the fun, so one of the curling club leaders slid over and offered a solution.  A stick! Yes, a stick is a solution.  You basically hook it into the stone, step off the same little contraption I couldn’t push off of and release the stone.  They gave me a little tutorial so I could get the stone to “curl” and pointed out people in their club who used it regularly for various reason and explained there was no shame in the stick.  I had a shameless stick!

I returned to the group with my little stick and I proceeded to heave that stone down the ice every time I had a turn.  And I made those little sweepers work it, because by not being challenged by the stance and merely walking out onto the ice, I could make the stone move very quickly and send it down far.  I was triumphant! (Well, we’ll end the story here so I can say that and we’ll never mention my sweeping “ability”.  Never.)

At the end our group leader with the fabulous pants encouraged each of us to join the club.  When I made a face that read like “you kind hearted funny pants wearing man” he cheerfully added , “you, too – several people use the stick method and we’d love to have you.”  Bless his heart. I have to admit I did have a moment of “you know, I think I may do it.  I’m going to be a curler!” thanks to the people in the club.

And that’s what I did one day in February.

Below is a video from that day.  I’m in it.  I will never point myself out to you. However, if you still want to see what the rink looked like with a bunch of amateur curlers that I might be among, the news report starts at 23:45.

 

Because

Because my parents were divorced…

My Mother moved us to Austin when I was in 2nd grade.

And because she moved us to Austin when I was in second grade,

A little boy named Ernie was paired up with me on my first day of school.  His assignment was to make sure I got around ok and boarded the right bus at day’s end.  He didn’t realize it was a lifetime commitment.

He then grew up to mistake me for furniture (or maybe it was retaliation, since he’d been tricked).

When your friends become family.

And because a little boy named Ernie showed me around school,

I got a job at PBS.

And because I got a job at PBS,

I met a girl named April.

And because I met a girl named April,

I took an improv class.

Steve Rogers Photography

And because I took an improv class,

I took more improv classes.

Singing Improv!

And because I took more improv classes

I heard about sketch classes,

And because I heard about sketch classes, I wrote some sketches that we eventually turned into some short films.

And I also helped write a sketch show that had a sold out run three weekends in a row.

And because I did all of that, I met more people,

And because I met those people

I will be part of this year’s 48 Hour Film Project in Austin, which we’ll start on August 16th, finish on August 18th and have screened the following week at the Scottish Rite Theater.

48 Hour Filmmaker: Austin 2013

Thanks to my parents getting a divorce, I’m helping make a film!  Thanks, guys!

SHAMELESS PLUG: Interested in helping out, interested in acting or just merely want to keep track of what’s going on?  Follow Uncle Bob’s Dangerous Pants  (team name!) on FB for the latest details.

2012 In Review

Here we are at the end of 2012 and what a great year it has been.  While I don’t have a Top 10, I thought I’d run through some of the personal highlights that made this year so great.  Now I fully accept that I may be the only person interested in this, but by golly I’m doing it anyway despite the yawns and alt+tabbing. (Oh, you thought I couldn’t see that did you?)

This year I’ve read more books than I have in awhile and while that number isn’t impressive by any stretch, I still did it and count it towards my personal achievements.  As a person who used to live in books, my past non-reading has been a bit embarrassing.  This week I’ll finish up A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and then it’s off to Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale.  That only leaves me with a gigantic stack of books (about 2’ high – I have the best intentions) that I’ve been meaning to read for a long while.

I wrote a lot of sketches this year, I got terrific feedback from Esther’s Follies on one I submitted to them, and we had a show that sold out over a three week run.  Fantastic!

I was involved in three film shoots – two were for sketches I had written and the other was for a fellow classmate’s sketch.  I can say that in my shoots, I was surrounded by incredibly amazing people who taught me a great deal.  I’ve learned a lot and hopefully, if we continue to shoot sketches, I’ll become a stronger director.   Right now, I’m more of the, “ummm hey guys like if you could maybe like ummm read the line like this… yeah, ok? Roll sound.  Roll camera.  Scene 1B Take 5. Action.” type.

Behind the scenes for Dunes

Below is my classmate Richard’s sketch “Good Morning” (you’ve gotten to see mine already – time for something new) where I got to play the role of Production Assistant and door slammer extraordinaire.  It turns out I not only have a knack for door slamming, but it’s really quite enjoyable. (Note: I got to slam that door no less than about 20 times.)  Now if I could only spin that into a job.  I know I’d excel.  Maybe move up the door slamming ranks until I became a Slammer Supervisor and allowed to slam two doors at once or maybe a French door on occasion – I mean, if my performance evaluations went well.

(Features many of the cast from our “Moral Compass Rumpus” show and all of the writers.)

I finally used my “big girl” camera and while I’m not entirely amazed by the results, I learned more about it and more about film (yes, yes, I’m a hold out).  Namely, that I may be investing in a DSLR vs. the SLR I have in the future.

Film – Chinese Lanterns – State Fair of Texas 2012

I’ve asked Seth a ton of questions and learned many new things.  Seth endured high school with me and is one of those insanely smart people who kindly puts up (for reasons I don’t understand but appreciate) with a random question a month.  Seth gets nothing in return save the knowledge that I’m kind of an amusing air head and that fuzzy good feeling that comes from helping the hopeless.  This year I’ve learned about topics from Copyright Law to Lomography to purple vs. the light spectrum.  He also tries to encourage me to use my camera. He claims it’s not scary.  I’m supposed to go on a photo stroll.  Yes, I will get on that. You can see Seth’s amazing photos here.

I’ve had some great times with some great friends despite April’s attempt to try and bump me off.  She’s now got me in a regular walking group.  I think her diabolical new plan is to make my heart explode.  In the last two months I’ve walked further and climbed higher than I have in a long time.  New muscles reintroduced themselves to me by way of “I can’t move my legs”.  Muscles like hip flexors said their hellos. Hey guys, where have you been?  Ouch.

I look forward to 2013.

How April Tried to Kill Me: A “Mostly” True Story

"Big Tex & Me" - courtesy of April

“Big Tex & Me” – photo courtesy of April

Most of you know my friend April – funny, gregarious, willing to do most anything, always there to encourage you and help you realize your own dreams – an adventurous gal, always on the move, diving into the next new thing with verve or gusto or some other adjective that makes you feel a bit lazy. She’s kind-hearted – looking after abandoned people – abandoned pets.  The kind of person that should be dressed in spandex, running effortlessly around in impossibly high heels and a flouncy long cape – her photo always taken from foot level, looking up into her face with Austin’s darkened skyline in the back.

But every hero has a tragic flaw and I’m here to share her darker side.

Our recent adventures began with an innocent question, “When would you like to go to the State Fair?”  The cackle that  followed chilled me to the bone and should have been a warning, but I wasn’t on my game.  This would be the first sign. You see, I trust her. I was also filled with years of nostalgia for the State Fair – countless memories of Mom, of Big Tex, of the Midway and Elsie, yes, Elsie the cow clouded my judgment and a date was set.  “I’ll drive.” The siren’s call of my pending demise sealed this Faustian deal.

Really, eBay is the Best Source for Faustian Deals – FOUR STARS! How could this possibly end badly?

Starship Pegasus – Italy, Tx

The trip to Dallas began innocently enough – sure, there was no radio and we were forced to talk (THE ENTIRE TIME! I mean seriously, I have a handful of anecdotes and you’ve heard them all.  Once you’ve heard them, what am I? I’m just a collection of People magazine headlines). Somewhere around Italy, Tx and likely sometime after I finished regaling April with the highlights of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall it was suggested we pull off the road to look at a little run-down starship of a restaurant called “The Pegasus”. It was easy to lure me out of the car by playing to my love of all things SciFi with dulcet promises of photo ops.  Before I had time to run, we were besieged by a plague of locusts (or maybe it was just a colony of overly excited grasshoppers, who can keep up?)  The second sign.

We reach Fair Park and it is decided, our first mission should be to locate a Fletcher’s corn dog in all its deep fried corn doggy glory.  It was truly magnificent as only a corn dog from the State Fair could be.  Corn dogs and lemonades in hand, April led me to a comfortable place to sit – a place that was soon quickly overrun by birds of prey and carrions; she squealed with delight as she carefully studied my reaction.  Each bird took wing and carefully sized up the crowd for it’s next prey. The third ominous sign.

212 Feet of Unadulterated Terror

“Let’s go to the Ferris Wheel next,” I suggested.  Did I truly come to this decision on my own?  I’m deathly afraid of heights, but somehow it seemed like everything would be ok if I would just step into the gondola.  I had my camera ready to calm my nerves.  My camera that quickly got tucked away as the Ferris wheel came to a stop at the top and I realized I was trapped in a poorly constructed creaky metal cage – all the while April sat there carefully watching and considering me with a smile on her face.  The fourth sign. We were doomed.

Signs aside – just a quick glimpse into my panic on the Ferris wheel. I had armed myself with my understanding of the physiology of fear and Jay’s words “if you get nervous, just look up”.  Well, about two seconds in, I got nervous and let me just say – there is no “up” when you’re in a covered gondola. There’s only straight out or down. There’s no reasoning, “now Beth, this is a chemical response; you can out think it”. There’s no out thinking abject terror. The best I could do as my heart was pounding was not piddle in public.  Yes, that’s my big win as they kept us hovering at the top of the Ferris wheel for an endless amount of time. Then, I snapped and it happened.  I did the worst thing I could do when I get nervous – I got “funny”, but “funny” in air quotes and I stayed “funny” until they let me out and I wobbled onto the little deck just past the “Exit” sign.  Have you ever seen people trapped by my “funny”?  I have.  I had three of them – two complete strangers and April.  My little victims.  Unafraid of heights, but subjected to long minutes of my terror driven humor.  The only thing I did not do to wipe their “Ferris wheels are FUN” happy looks off their delighted faces was:  I did not say, “oh God, was that a bolt?” because I was in super stressed out mode.  My mantra became: “Don’t you dare piddle.  Don’t you dare say the thing about the bolt.”  Meanwhile, the unmoving gondola creaked and swayed in the breeze.  When we got out of the gondola, our companions said, “I’m glad we had such nice people to ride this with.”  Yeah, I can hear your sarcasm pal.  I’ll “nice” you as soon as I stop clutching the ground. You better run.

Deep Fried Artery Clogging Heaven

Safe on the ground, we meandered around the Fair poking our heads in various buildings, hunting down livestock, concept cars, and other exhibits that caught our fancy.  “We should try something else fried,” because really part of the State Fair experience is the various foods that they’ll drop into an industrial Fry Daddy.  Did I truly come to that heart-clogging decision on my own?  We sampled the chicken fried bacon.  Delicious.  “Beth, you should have the last piece.” Go ahead. Eat it.  I did without a second thought, without so much as a nod to my manners. My Mom’s voice that would say, “do not take the last piece” was completely ignored.  I greedily dragged that last piece through the last smears of Ranch dressing with a noisy grunt.  Mmmm.  My arteries tightened a bit.  Later that night: “Let’s try the Fried Bacon Cinnamon Roll!  You can have the last bite. My arteries tightened a bit more.

I barely escaped the deep fried temptations and did my best to undo all the damage by grabbing a salad and a large bowl of fruit.  Maybe that’s why the gloves had to come off on the drive back.

As we sat in the car heading home  I noticed my jeans were covered with an odd substance.  I had over-stuffed the washer a couple of nights before and chalked it up to soap that hadn’t quite washed off.  It started to irritate my skin and what started out as a humorous, “well, I sure am glad I didn’t wear these at the Fair” became, “I’m trying to pick the material off my skin; it’s really irritating.”  I pitifully whined about the sensation on my legs – annoying myself and I was certain April, even though she had adopted an off-putting cackle with each new complaint. “Describe the sensation,” I imagined her saying.  No new conversation topic was allowed to continue without paying homage to my burning legs. As I tried to pucker the material up and away from my skin, I noticed the denim started tearing.  “I think this soap must be a bit caustic.”  When I got home, I immediately pulled them off.  The fabric was now burned to the tops of my legs; my skin a deep indigo blue.  I popped into a bath to remove the fabric then showed Jay my chemical burns.  “We need new soap!”  The next day I noticed my travel bag had partially melted on our table and there were holes in my pajamas.  Weird.  The long and short of it was that my bag and clothes had inadvertently been sitting in battery acid while in the back of the trunk.  When April said, “here we’ll throw your bag back here” I should have recognized this as one of the many signs.

But I’m here to tell you the despite April’s best efforts, I survived.  April, I want to let you know that from here on, I’ll be watching you.

Disclaimer: When I presented the blog idea to April she agreed I could write it as long as I understood that things really didn’t happen this way. I tried to explain to her that to make it a good story some truths had to be embellished.  So the more boring true version: We went to the fair, we ate some disgustingly bad but delicious food, we saw a great bird show, I panicked on the Ferris wheel, but not before getting really annoying and “funny” and then my jeans, that I wore on the way back home,  really were covered in battery acid and that really smarted. Don’t soak your clothes in battery acid.

I guess I’m not supposed to end the story by mentioning that April forced me to sit in those acid soaked jeans and mocked me on the ride home – but this is “my” story – a “mostly” true story.

The Evil King

Thanks to my Mom, I loved bugs when I was a kid.  I would pick them up, carry them around, and build little homes for them to live in. If a bug was injured, I’d construct a leaf hospital for them to recuperate comfortably within.  Everyone knows a bug just needs a little leaf roof and leaf walls to regrow a new leg or antennae.  I loved caterpillars, cicadas, grasshoppers, June bugs, worms (is that considered an “insect”?), doodle bugs (which you probably call pill bugs and while I accept that I’m technically wrong, they’re still doodle bugs to me), ants, and spiders.  In fact, the more legs and eyes the better.  My mother taught me to respect their creations and not to be careless – thus, effectively ending my days of kicking over ant hills for fun or squishing the occasional hive. I’d reflect on their hard work and move on.

Unfortunately, along the path to adulthood my relationship with bugs changed.  First, I was swarmed by yellow jackets.  Now, yellow jackets, wasps and mud dobbers must die on sight to make up for their insult.   Fire ants murdered my favorite hamster, Brownie.  All ants were put on notice.  The final straw – too much time with a relative who was not the tidiest of souls. Her silverware drawers, counters, and cabinets were in constant motion.  Things scampered over piles of debris left throughout the house.  It sent me over the edge. I hate bugs.

Now I’ve become THAT woman who leaps on furniture and shrieks like a crazy person at certain bugs.  I’m not proud.  (To save some face, I am still your go-to girl for picking up dead mammals.  The difference being that dead mammals don’t tend to size you up and then fly at your face.)  I also now have a hair-trigger gag reflex for certain bugs – roaches, maggots, too many of anything pulsating in one place… you get the idea.  In fact, the only Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe that will send me out of the room gagging are the ones involving exterminators.  However, other bugs still really don’t “bug” me that much.

That’s the long-winded background you need for this story.

A couple of weeks ago, in the early morning, I wandered into the spare bathroom.  After being there for a bit, I noticed  something out-of-place on the shower curtain – a gigantic, face-hugging grasshopper.  I excused myself, backed out of the room and went back to bed.  Before Jay headed off to work, I tried to explain there was the granddaddy of all grasshoppers in the bathroom.  What that should have translated to, but didn’t was “this is not a dead mammal, you must get rid of this or I will freak right on out”.  What it actually translated to was, “there’s something tiny and altogether insignificant terrorizing me and I just thought I’d FYI you on this, I’ll get it later.”

After being awake some hours, I gave myself the pep talk.  It’s a GRASSHOPPER for crying out loud.  You loved grasshoppers as a kid. Get a cup and something to cover it with.  Don’t be a baby.  Go on now, open that door and look at it.  It’s probably half the size you remember, you big sissy.  I cautiously opened the door and flipped on the light to size it up. I figured I’d look and then work out the proper sized cup that would be needed to get the job done.  I didn’t see him.  Not at first. Then he flew straight for my head.  That’s when I screamed like an idiot and slammed the door.  Sam thought this was pretty funny and danced around.  For the record, Beagles have a terrible sense of humor.

Jay gets home and this time, more awake, I explain the situation.  Jay goes in to take care of it.  I hear movement, the bath mat being tossed about and then Jay re-emerges declaring something along the lines about how we’ll wait until it dies.  I start wondering about a grasshopper’s lifespan and what my life will mean without the spare bathroom.  I send Jay back in to retrieve a hairdryer and a couple of other minor items. As I recall he wasn’t overly eager to step back in there (his story may be different, but he doesn’t have a blog).  We were now in this for the long haul.

I start telling people my tales of grasshopper terror to friends and co-workers.  It’s greeted with laughter as they doubtlessly picture some harmless 1-1 ½” critter.  Granted, with each telling my arms move further apart and were now well past my shoulders. It was THIS big.  HONEST! I finally call April and start trying to bribe her with cash to come and get it out of my house.  April declines the money and says, “I’ll do it for the challenge!  I’ve got a 10-year-old visiting with a bug net, she’ll love it.”

The pair of them arrive and I direct them to the bathroom.  Nothing.  He has escaped!  I send them back in to be sure.  He’s probably just hiding, waiting for them to leave and then preparing a punishment for me for disturbing him.  No luck. Escaping can only mean he’s lying in wait for me somewhere else.  “Check my pillow.  The face hugger is probably waiting for me on my pillow!!!!” I squeal this in a dignified manner while dancing around the house. They go to my bedroom.  No luck.  “Check the closet.  It’s probably in my clothes!!!!” They end up scouring the whole house, turning things over, peering behind things and finally, April spots him waving at her in a spot she’d previously checked.  They square off. However, he didn’t count on the bug net.  She easily catches him and unceremoniously plunks him inside an empty Cool Whip container.  He hops about angrily hurling his massive body against the plastic sides swearing at her the entire time.  In front of a 10-year-old, no less! Thankfully, none of us are familiar with his alien language.

The critter is literally about 7” long. (Thank you, Monsanto.) The most massive grasshopper I’ve ever seen. One of those that you’d say “that’s an impressive specimen” and I would inquire, “is that code for ‘horrifying’?”

April and her 10-year-old sidekick proudly carry him off.  Unfortunately, when they went to take a picture of him, he leapt out of his plastic prison and bounded over a building, rudely gesturing his extreme displeasure as he escaped one final time.  I understand that there’s now a story, told by a 10-year-old bug-catching sidekick, about the evil king of grasshoppers.

He’s still out there, plotting his revenge.