A Big Blue Mess 2014 Video Recap

Here’s a photo/video recap of my various shenanigans over 2014.

Huge thanks to Bruce Thiesen at Ram On for the inspiration and encouragement. (In other words, he’s the guy to blame since I would never have had the idea to create a recap video on my own.  In fact, go to his blog to point fingers at him and then stay to read a few posts.)

Another huge thanks to the cast and crew (aka friends and family) who put up with my goofiness and help make each day an adventure.  You guys are the best   I sometimes share that with other people, too even when you’re not listening.

Also, before I wander away, I need a favor – a promise of sorts: Whatever you do, please don’t let Richard or Topping know that I finally opened up my video editing software and actually spent some time trying not to be overwhelmed by it.  They might get ideas.

Finally, Happy New Year, Y’all! I look forward to more adventures with you in 2015!

Midsummer Update

I think we can all agree that this site is mostly a means for my family and friends and friends of my family and family of my friends to check-in periodically.  Of course, some of you cheat a bit and check-in on me without letting me know what’s going on with you, so I look forward to YOUR updates to appear in my email over the next week or so.  Now if you feel like I’m talking directly to you, then I probably am unless your name happens to be DeAnne and she gets a special shout-out for sending regular emails.  In other words, if your name didn’t just appear on the list of “DeAnne”, I’m talking to you.  In fact, you should stop reading right now and start typing a nice little “hello” followed with some bits about what you’re up to.  Yes, I know you’re the busiest little monkey at the zoo, but you’re wasting valuable writing time trying to work out how you’d prefer to be a panther, an ocelot or some other cuter, sleeker, or even nobler zoo creature and taking exception to the monkey remark.  Although, now that your brain is spinning that’s not a half bad start to your email.  “Dear Beth, I feel I’m more of a Chilean Flamingo than a generic monkey – suited more for lawn decoration than swinging from trees.”   

Back to the updates – here we go:   

My First Reversible Skirt (looks very stylish over jeans & with better lighting)

Sewing: I took another sewing class.  This one was the reversible wrap skirt.  My biggest achievement: remaining upright the entire class (no spills on the floor) and therefore no histrionics on my part.  I would add “my skirt” to that list, but we’ll just have to write it off as a learning experience.  Fortunately, the bits that I had to fix after many quality moments with a seam ripper, will hide beneath a blouse (at least that’s how I plan to wear it).  A couple of the gals in class were thinking ahead and figured out that they could use the same pattern to make cute aprons.  I’m sorry guys, I’m not a cutesy apron kind of girl.  I wasn’t raised by June Cleaver.  I think pearls are over the top.  Therefore, none of you will be receiving cute aprons for Christmas.  I’m sorry.  I also want to re-state for the record that I find rick-rack abhorrent; it horrifies me.   

Toastmasters: I joined.  Well, I was followed by the club’s president who said it was his mission to add me to the ranks of his club and talked about my easy-going nature so I gave him a check.  (I’m a serious sucker for flattery.) I’m still trying to convince myself this is a great idea.  The folks in the group are really great – they talk about how it’s a supportive family, but I’m trying to decide if it feels like “my” family.  Right now, I feel like the weird guest brought along by some well-intentioned dorm mate – the one whose dysfunctional family didn’t have plans for the holidays.  I nearly had a stroke last week when I saw on the schedule that I was supposed to make a speech in two weeks.  Thankfully, that’s now been postponed and I just have to give an invocation at that time.  Jay suggested I could get up and invoke the right to remain silent.  I like the way he thinks.  On the positive side, my mentor said, “Beth, if you go up there for your first speech, stare at everyone, nod and run away, that’s ok.  We just want you to get up there.”  WHEW! I can do all of that.   

Improv:  Improv starts next weekend!  I’m hoping something in improv will help me not fall apart in Toastmasters come speech time.   

Writing: I finally wrote my first piece of fiction for the writing group (as noted by Jay, it was not Hemmingway’s A Farewell to Arms – I’ve been beating him soundly for days after his “Beth lamenting her work” impersonation).  I wasn’t at the last meeting for feedback, so I’m going to pretend that for a first effort it received a hearty and sincere round of applause.  Big thanks to DeAnne for reviewing it, especially since it was a first piece, and for making very helpful suggestions.   

Sam:  Sam had a few milestones this week.  Sam’s stitches were removed, the bell collar came off and she went back to canine rehabilitation where she walked on the underwater treadmill, did a few leg exercises and got a back massage.  Overall, Sam’s recovery on this leg is going a lot more smoothly, but it helps that she’s eight pounds lighter.   

Movies:  We just saw “Inception” – handsdown the best movie I’ve seen all year – solid SciFi adventure.   

Randomness:  Apparently, the AP Style Guide now says there should be only ONE space after a punctuation mark and the next sentence or after a colon.  This is all thanks to proportional fonts.  (Basically the letter “i” or the punctuation mark “.”  no longer take up the same amount of space say an “M” these days.  Thanks, Anna!)  Since my high school typing teacher (don’t ask how I ended up in that class) was more frightening (and nasty) than the AP Style Guide will ever be, I’ll be sticking to the double space between sentences, thank you.   (Side note: If you work with Anna, she has been trying to break all of you teachers of double-space habit for over 13 years now.  Please, do not the double-space in her presence.  Unless, of course, you also had my high school typing teacher who is still way more scary than Anna.  Not that Anna is scary.)  

That’s about it.  If you’re still reading then you’ve been wasting valuable writing time and should spend the next five minutes sending me a note and letting me know what’s going on with you.


I’ve been following the Phoebe Prince story – the story of the 15-year-old girl who recently committed suicide after being bullied at school. Over the past week, I’ve found myself reading excerpts from various articles and books like Barbara Coloroso’s “The Bully, The Bullied and The Bystander” trying to wrap my head around the nature of bullying and trying to discern the path these authors/lecturers took to become advocates for the bullied. I guess some part of me feels like I could help by speaking to my experience, but that kernel of doubt creeps in and I find I’m both 12-years-old and helpless again. You see, I was bullied and despite that experience, I’m not sure that I emerged at the other end as a better or even stronger person – I’m not sure I’m the best choice to evangelize about the experience. What I can say is that I’m alive and other people seem to get a small modicum of enjoyment out of that, which I suppose is something, but there are moments in my life that I have never stopped living (and reliving) – like my 7th grade year or talking to my mother seconds before she died – those moments define me.

When my world began tumbling down hill:
We moved back to Dallas after my Mom spent a year out of work attending graduate school. When we left, she was about to lose the house, she couldn’t find a job and our only option was living with her mother. We arrived in the middle of a lovely Texas summer where the only real relief from the heat came from the noisy attic fan endlessly clunking along. Most of the windows in the house were painted shut, but there was a sole window unit in my grandmother’s bedroom. We’d occasionally escape into her room for little hits of cool. Life at “home” was far from perfect, but really who has that life? Both my mother and grandmother chain smoked in this closed-up house, I began coughing up small bits of esophageal tissue and didn’t stop for years. My grandmother was also an alcoholic and not one of those occasional polite drinkers – this was an every night affair that always ended with her spewing out the nastiest bile that had been stored up in her brain – things she clearly thought, but waited for the alcohol to settle in so she could feel more comfortable slurring them out. Some people wonder what a particular family member thought of them. I know exactly what my grandmother thought of me. She wasn’t shy about sharing when she had a drink in hand. Still, this isn’t about her – this is to give you some idea of my shaky support network.

The first day of school, I went to the bus stop with all the unfamiliar kids and set my viola case down. As I waited, watching for the bus to roll up, a group of boys began punching me repeatedly in the back. They’d come running up and then WHAM another punch landed. I just stood there taking the blows, because I was taught not to fight back. When I did go home to tell my mother about the incident, I was told “you must have done something to irritate them – people don’t just randomly hit other people.” I learned from that exchange that it was my fault for the abuse and I understood from that moment forward that what I did to irritate people was be born “ugly” and have “four eyes.” I not only deserved the abuse, but invited it for reasons outside of my control. I became deeply ashamed and embarrassed for my perceived flaws.

The abuse escalated to where I’d walk down the hall and people would start barking at me – strangers – kids I didn’t know at all. You see, I was a “dog”. My nickname at that time was “Frenchy”. The abuse then spread to the elementary school which was across from my bus stop and kids from 1st to 5th grade joined-in. So in addition to being hit and insulted at the bus stop, I got to enjoy little kids skipping off to their elementary school classes barking at me as they passed by – again, calling me “Frenchy”. If I complained, my Mother reminded me that it was my fault. In Mom’s defense, she was a popular girl in school and the daughter of a socialite who had been president of her sorority – I might as well have been a little three-headed alien with antennae in their midst, because this whole idea of bullying was completely foreign to them. My Mother apologized to me 20 years later after watching an episode of Oprah that dealt with bullying. She felt horrible, because it was only then that she realized that bullies don’t always need provocation.

On one particularly bad day, I was informed that if I rode the bus again I’d be killed. The very next day I walked several miles to school trying to figure out how being so very ugly would make someone want to kill me over it. (To this day I still deal with being “ugly” and I still deal with the anger of what happened and how it still reaches through time to hurt me.) I became fixated with dying and wrote about it frequently in a diary. I suppose I was fortunate – my grandmother was always at home, her garage was so cluttered no cars sat in there, I was highly pain adverse and I had just made a new friend who had nothing better to do than beat up other kids, especially kids that bothered me. I also figured out that for some people “quiet” equated “scary,” and I learned to leverage it along with a newly found colorful and highly offensive vocabulary (I still cling to today as my vulgar security blanket).

I wish I could say that the bullying ended when we returned to Austin at the end of 7th grade, it didn’t. I spent the next two years being knocked down, chased, threatened, stalked and repeatedly hit on the head with stacks of books. All my fault. The day it stopped, it was 9th grade and I had just been slammed in the head again while walking down the math hallway. I turned around, confronted the girl and in the lowest audible voice I could manage, I growled, “if you touch me again, I will kill you”. I was convincing enough that she never touched me again.

In my case, telling wasn’t really an option. When I told, I learned I was to blame. If I was to blame, then there wasn’t much point in escalating the same issue to teachers or other officials since clearly they would say I was antagonizing the kids with my existence. Also, any bullied kid knows that you’re never alone in being bullied and you would see that when other harassed kids finally told, they’d pay for it dearly – either the bully would ramp up the abuse or, on the off-chance you could get them suspended, their friends would willingly pick up the slack. A friend’s sister was once pushed down a flight of stairs, the school officials were notified and they did nothing and the abuse continued. Why would I tell?

However, there were two major things that helped me get through these years. The first was orchestra where I was accepted completely and I was one of the top players in both Dallas and Austin. I wasn’t odd or weird or strange, I was gifted – someone to look up to – I was cool. The second thing – my friends. If you look at my very closest friends, the one thing they have in common is they are “protectors”. They’re the kinds of people who don’t abide injustice. The kind who if you’re talking to me, then you’re talking to them and you probably don’t want to be talking to them no matter how badly you want to take a swing at me. I’ve never been sure what I offer in return, but I’m glad it’s something – there’s nothing worse than just dangling out there alone like bully bait. It also didn’t hurt that I moved back to Austin and back to a group of kids where many of them had been friends since 2nd grade and it didn’t hurt that I chose to live with a parent who didn’t believe I was to blame. When I got hit in the face with a volleyball on our High School’s volleyball court, my Dad, my champion was all over the school and all over the gym teacher who passively watched it happen.

I’m not really sure what can be done about bullies who rely on fear and the inaction of peers and adults to thrive. I personally think it starts with the kids – kids like a friend of mine who in Jr. High stood between a group of kids throwing basketballs at another and their victim. Once he made his stand and because he was well liked, the other kids backed down. I don’t believe he’s the only kid capable of knowing right from wrong or the only one capable of doing the right thing in the right moment. Kids should be encouraged and given positive incentives to stand up and do the right thing instead of passively watching. I think there needs to be support for these victimized kids in the school since not all kids get the right kind of support at home – a place outside of counseling where they can feel safe. I fortunately had orchestra.

Bullies aren’t always children; it’s important to remember that. They don’t always use threats of violence as their weapons of choice – they can do tremendous damage with words and the tacit approval of bystanders alone and they do thrive on your fear and self-loathing. Because of that, I’m fairly particular about who I choose to have in my life. One of the great epiphanies I’ve had as an adult is that I don’t have to put up with a lot of extraneous bullshit from people whose opinions I don’t care about. That’s a huge step for me, realizing I don’t need approval from assholes. I also don’t always owe it to everyone to be polite, especially if they’re abusive, and I definitely don’t have to suck it up anymore. I felt a great deal of relief the day I pitched my diary – the one that chronicled all of the negative things I experienced and all the horrible things I felt were true about myself – those awful words that glared back at me through my tormentor’s loathing eyes – they sit in a landfill exactly where they should be. I am mostly free, yet I still very much live in those moments. I’ve just added another defensive protector to my rolls – me.

Thank you to all my champions who keep me here.

… and that’s enough of the serious – enough “real” – I just happen to be inspired by a counselor who encouraged people who were bullied to talk about their experiences.


Over the years I’ve had the more curious friends, family and co-workers inquire about various things I’ve done in my life. Since they tend to ask the same questions, I thought I’d throw together a little Beth FAQ.

1. Beth, your minor was in English, can you edit my [insert anything from documents to stories]
No. All my English minor means is that I am fairly well-read. Well, it doesn’t even mean that. It means I’ve read a long list of books that someone with some authority declared you “should” read to be considered a valuable member of society and I fell for it. It also means that I’ve spent hours dreaming up random meanings for words like “dirt” – as in, “when Buck uses the imagery of “dirt” in “The Good Earth”, it symbolizes her belief that an army of zombie children will rise up from the grave and establish themselves as the true totalitarian leaders over a pitiful corpse fearing peasant class.” In fact, I’ll give you a tip about successfully discussing symbolism – professors love the outlandish especially if you can “sell” it. If you can convince them that a peanut represents the Battle of Thermopylae and each half of the shell represents the opposing forces, then your work is done. Bravo. You are now well on your way to getting a minor in English. Convince them that “The DaVinci Code” is actually a statement about the injustices that befell the Czechoslovakian government in exile during WWII and you may be on your way to majoring in English.

What my minor doesn’t mean is that I want to spend one second tracking down your faulty parallelism, your tautologies or even attempt to determine if you would have been better off saying “that” over “which”.

Basically, your best bet is to find the non-English minors if you want something edited accurately; they can diagram a sentence. We AP English kids who were hand-picked and groomed to ace English in college cannot write a sentence. I’m just typing these with my mind.

2. Didn’t your cubicle mate at work call you an “English Nazi”?
No. Are you spying on me? Creepy.

3. Beth, you have a blog, therefore, you must also write fiction. When are you writing a novel?
Errr… no. I write and post letters. I just leave off the “Dear…” because it would confuse you guys and you’d feel like I was playing favorites with someone. Honestly, though that’s truly the origins of the blog – one of my friends was a little too nice about a letter I wrote and then two of them worked together to bring you this Mess – blame them. As for writing fiction – while I occasionally stretch the truth a tad to hopefully give the situation a more humorous spin, I just repeat other people’s stories. If I were to write something wholly fictitious, it would read like a really bad Dick & Jane novel. So, don’t loiter around Barnes & Noble waiting for your copy of “Dick & Jane vs. Tip & Mitten: Lollipop of DOOOM” any time soon – it will never make it to press.

Trust me, I’ve tried fiction. I’m just not that kind of storyteller.

4. You speak German and it makes me nervous when you eavesdrop on me talking about girls. Can you knock it off?
Really, you switched into a foreign language to talk privately about girls and you’ve got one year of German under your belt? Trust me 007, everyone understands what you’re saying. Are you 12?

5. Are you really a martial arts guru?
Yes. Don’t talk to my friends, though. They lie.

6. You play viola. Is that like a violin?
Yes. Except it’s better. All reasonable, forward thinking violinist will agree. (I’m looking at you, Erika.)

7. Can you teach me about music?
Sure. It started with someone probably beating someone else and they made a peculiar, yet compelling sound. Then they beat more people who made different sounds (see, these were exceptionally violent times) which created harmonic lines – eventually a tortured chorus was heard and people thought “this is pretty good”, which brings us to the Spanish Inquisition. A little known fact – Torquemada was a music critic, which is why no one liked to perform for him. Unfortunately, he tended to bump off the worst singers. See, a little history for you – and you claim to never learn anything from my writing. (See reference to why I don’t write fiction.)

8. Was that an indefinite pronoun reference in the above answer.
Yes. There are probably comma splices and awkward sentences, too. Just because I know what I do wrong (and choose not to fix it) doesn’t mean I’m interested in pointing out what you do wrong. At least not to you.

9. Must you speak Spanish with a heavy accent.
Yes. You whining about it will only make it worse.

10. You seem to know a lot about RPGs and online gaming. Is it true those people all suffer from Asperger syndrome and eat babies?
Yes. Every “gamer” I know. It’s tragic. It’s also true that none of them have ever dated. They all live at their mom’s… in the basement… and have every fast food delivery place on speed dial. It’s also a bad idea to look them directly in the eyes. Please, for your own safety, avoid eye contact.

11. Wow. A lot of indefinite pronoun references again.
Was there a question in that statement?

12. Finally, is the Blue Mess really that big? for that matter, is it truly blue? Or is it cyan? or even aqua?
Actually, the BBM has a tiny following estimated at exactly two people, both bullied relatives, but calling it the Puny Blue Mess or the Hardly Noticeable Blue Mess just doesn’t have the same ring. And since it’s a well known fact that messes only occur in the blue spectrum, which is part of the visible spectrum or the electromagnetic spectrum, if you prefer – it distinguishes itself by being quite messy. As for cyan, aqua or even periwinkle, no. This is a true blue. A deep navy blue. Not some sissy poser blue.

I really hope this has cleared some things up. But if you two have any more questions, just ask.

INTJ or What I Learned About Myself on Facebook

I’ve done a lot of soul searching over the past few months – trying to nail down who I really am – someone who is hopefully more than a laundry list of physical attributes – you know, the “real” me. Fortunately, I didn’t have to take this journey alone; I’ve had some great guidance through Facebook and its many well thought-out and insightful quizzes.

For example, I’ve learned that of all the Muppets, I’m “Miss Piggy”. Sure, I have always related more to the laid back, piano-playing Rowlf or the balcony hecklers (when I’m feeling both feisty and critical), but they’re not me. I’m “Uhura” in Star Trek – not Scotty – I was sure I was more a Scotty – an easily stressed out yet comical nerd, but once again I was completely mistaken. I guess one too many lengthy phone conversations revealed my true nature and landed me firmly in the communications field. Sure, I’m no xeno-linguist, but really who needs to be? Isn’t that what the universal translator is for? I’m “Zoe” on Firefly. Ok, I’ll admit that I flat out cheated, but I’m pretty sure my sexier, cooler, tougher, more athletic alter ego is just like Zoe. My inner-me also happens to look quite stunning in leather. I mean, everyone who knows me knows that I’m actually “Wash”, the nerdy, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing, sarcastic pilot, but a girl can dream.

Oh, and speaking of sarcastic, Facebook helped me come to terms with the fact that I’m not really all that sarcastic. Hooray! I mean, I’ve always suspected that people were just trying to hurt my feelings and now it’s confirmed – Facebook understood me in ways my friends never could (they probably weren’t hugged a lot when they were small).

You see, these 10 question quizzes truly reveal my soul.

After learning I was this Uhura-Miss Piggy non-sarcastic hybrid that really wasn’t Zoe because of the whole cheating-thing in a sad attempt to be cool, I moved on to the 5’s of things. Yes, the 5’s. You see, your whole life can be boiled down into top five lists. Top 5 beaches you’ve visited: Ummm… Galveston, Galveston, then there was Galveston, South Padre, and Cape Canaveral – I know, I know, I’m very well traveled). Top 5 beers I like. Top 5 cars I’ve owned. You get the idea.

Feeling this Uhura-Piggy could only stand to benefit from these Top 5 insights, I had to participate. And really, what I discovered is that I developed a hyper-compulsive need to group things into 5’s. I’d see an item on my desk and it became “Top 5 Post-It Pads I’ve Owned” (slow day at work, you see) or I’d drive down the street only to find myself thinking about the “Top 5 Billboard Signs” or the “Top 5 Keep Austin Weird Food Joints”. And while all of these lists of 5’s were terribly revealing, I still had more to learn about myself. I wanted to take the Top 5 to that next level. “Top 5 People Who Would Help Me Bury the Bodies” (Of course, the answer had to be Lynn x3 (through cloning technology), Anna and Jay – I mention their names in case you’re hiring – consider this a reference – although, you’re going to have to work out the cloning details with Lynn and then figure out how to grow her to full adulthood in time for your little “adventure”, but that’s your path to cross when you’re ready.

But truly, the real eye opener came when I got to thinking about what Top 5 lists my friends would put ME on. Ok, so if I were honest, I wouldn’t be the person you went to in order to bury the body. I’d more likely be “Top 5 Friends Who Would Rat You Out”. Yes, that’s me. I can’t lie. It’s a flaw. It’s not from a lack of willingness or even trying, I just have too many “tells” and then I easily cave. No need for a bamboo shoot manicure here. In fact, a former supervisor knew that when she suspected something hinky going on in the group, she should see me first. My best strategy in those situations was avoidance. If I wasn’t around I couldn’t betray everyone and give up everything I knew about the question at hand and I couldn’t throw in a little extra ratting out as icing on my big mouth. Hey, if you’re giving up all you know, it never hurts to sprinkle in a little extra so that when you’re running the gauntlet of withering looks from your co-workers, you know it’s well-deserved. I think this is why the CIA never came beating down my door to be one of their operatives.

Now, I might make the “Top 5 People You Could Have Hold the Flashlight While You Dug the Shallow Grave” – maybe – but more likely “Top 5 People I’d Send Out to Get the Top 5 Body Buriers Burgers”. I wouldn’t be in the “Top 5 People Who are My Calm in the Storm”, I’d more likely appear on “Top 5 People I Expect to FREAK RIGHT ON OUT at the Worst Moment and Maybe Drool”. If I want to even pretend to make a more positive list, I would probably land on “Top 5 Friends that Would Bawl Over Oprah or a Hallmark Commercial” (I did cry when I was about six years old over Mrs. Walton getting a new sweater, which disturbed my Mom a bit, but Mom didn’t understand just how much that sweater meant to Mrs. Walton) and maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t sound particularly “positive”.

So, I’m thinking maybe I should avoid Top 5 lists and quizzes altogether. Sure, I’m learning a lot about myself thanks to Facebook, but I think another truth has emerged – that I am the “Person Most Likely to Get a Complex by Taking Inane 10 Question Quizzes”. Perhaps I should just stick to something a little more reputable like Myers-Briggs.

Beth vs. Trek

With the latest Star Trek movie out, I’ve been trying to work out how to write about my take on Star Trek and Science Fiction in general.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Science Fiction, thanks to my father. We spent countless hours watching Star Trek with Kirk rolling around, his shirt half torn while hollering self righteously about humanity. Here was our intergalactic hero – the ambassador to alien-kind spitting on the “prime directive” week after week when duty called and duty always seemed to have Kirk’s number on speed dial. But despite Kirk being the head of the space version of Wagon Train, let’s face it, I was still more a Spock/Scotty girl.

In fact, one of my prized geek moments was James Doohan asking if I’d like to have my picture taken with him. Picture? No, I want to sit in your lap and hug you. Sadly I didn’t have a camera on me at the time and had to shyly excuse myself from plopping down on the poor man.

When “The Wrath of Khan” came out, after sitting for hours with my high school friends to be the first in line, I was barely able to hold it together when Spock died – “I have been and ever shall be your friend” still gets to me – I wept again when Picard played his flute after living out an entire life in a dream. In fact, my Trek love goes so deep that I’ve attended Star Trek conventions, had my picture taken on STNG’s bridge, fled from the Borg in one of the two Star Trek Experience adventures I’ve been on, had my pre-wedding dinner at Quark’s and have several autographs of my Trek heroes. I would have gotten married on the bridge of the Enterprise had Jay not had to put the breaks on my over enthusiastic adoration of Star Trek. You see, I am a complete Star Trek dork. (Unless challenged with the “Name that Episode” game and If it’s not “Mirror, Mirror” or “Amok Time”, I haven’t got a clue.)

And as much as I personally love Star Trek and its various incarnations, I don’t view it or its characters as sacred. I just honestly can’t stand up and say without snickering that the writing was consistent, the acting was great or that any of the shows were the best TV had to offer. Sure, I liked it just fine – loved it even; it was entertaining. But, when people start whining about the Star Trek “cannon” being violated by the latest incarnation or point out the inconsistencies it has with the old story line, I quite frankly snort. And I’m sure in doing so, I’ve lost some Trekkee cred somewhere – I’ll be denied entry into Stovokor and someone out there will wish upon me a hearty “die young and poor”.

“Star Trek: The Future Begins” was hands down the best Trek movie to date. You may love your Khan or your search for whales, but they’ve got nothing on this latest installation. The movie reinvigorates a dying franchise (thank you for driving it into the ground, Rick Berman) with a fresh re-imagining of what was often tired and stale story telling.

The movie did for Star Trek what Ron Moore (God bless that man) did for Battlestar Galactica – another beloved, poorly realized science fiction show that I watched loyally every week. Solid ideas were made so much better. Again, I say that and can still love Dirk Benedict’s version of Starbuck, but honestly, give me Kara Thrace any day and I wave a cheerful goodbye to Muffit (poor chimp) and Boxey.

In fact, let me just come out and say that while I love sci-fi shows and will stand by them to the end, a lot of them are just not great (or even good)t; however, we do still love them and they can certainly be entertaining.

Now I’ll patiently hope that J. J. Abrams does something with the whole Star Wars debacle. I’m eyeballing you, Lucas.


Twenty years ago, I would talk on the phone for hours. Twenty years ago, I wrote long and thoughtful letters. Twenty years ago, I went out with friends and family and we hiked, camped, danced, listened to music and strolled around Town Lake until dawn. I was involved and engaged… twenty years ago.

Then along came the internet and my first account when I was a beth@ because few people had email and I could be beth@ without many contending for the name. As each year ticked away, I gradually stopped writing, stopped dancing, and stopped listening to music. Today, I no longer see dawn at the end of a long night, but at the beginning of a long day. My letters are email quips, my music is downloaded. I catch up with my friends through Twitter or through Facebook or the occasional website. I don’t share much; I’m content with simply being a name connected to a few short adjectives or a family stereotype; people don’t know me. Today, it’s easier to reach me online than it is on the phone and in fact, it’s my preference. I don’t feel the need to speak. New friends no longer come from work or school or through other friends, but through online connections as a handle or an avatar. We try not to trade in too much that is “real” – first names are rare. A very human connection slips away.

I suppose that’s how things go as we bumble through this digital age. With all this connection there is a very real and palpable disconnection.

How is a particular person doing? I’ll check their status on Twitter like I check the weather. I dip in, read a sentence or two and flitter away to find another distraction.

This works for me until they disappear.

I sometimes wonder, “where is Lori?” I used to have the answer. Her blog lies dormant. Where she encouraged you to follow her on Twitter, there hasn’t been an update in a year. Photos that were updated daily haven’t changed. Google tells me she’s alive and well. Prodding one of her closer friend confirms the same – that she’s alive. She’s living off the internet grid. I can’t relate.

I wonder about people like Mado, Myles Brakken, Tamara Nivens, Corwin and Lillia. I don’t know their real names. I don’t know where they live. I’ve personally never met them. However, for brief moments in my life, they were important to me in some small way and despite the shared laughs and occasional heartaches, I will never know who they really were nor them me.

… and I bumble along. More connected. More disconnected.

Christmas 1975

Christmas 1975
Originally uploaded by Big Blue Mess

I don’t remember many Christmas’ – just flitters of images – heading to my aunt’s house to be with the rest of the family – the children’s table at Grandbuddi’s – cranberry “sauce” making that sickening sucking sound as it fell out of the can – dressing up stick people using leaves and monkey grass to pass the time, because I’d left my tried and true toys at home. But I remember this Christmas – the day I turned eight.

Mom let me spend the night on the couch and I absolutely couldn’t sleep. Every couple of hours I’d barge into her room and ask “is it time?” and of course, on days like those, time drags and it’s almost never time, so I’d make attempts at settling down while staring at the Christmas tree and trying to discern in the dark what new presents had appeared since I’d fallen asleep. It was around 6am when it was finally “time” and I was bouncing off the walls, I couldn’t contain my excitement, because that was the year I got the tent (it’s on the floor near the legs of the table) and it was quite possibly the best present Santa ever brought (with the exception of the chemistry set, which may have also made its appearance that year – fortunately my parents didn’t take that “parental supervision” warning seriously – many mispent adventures could have come to a crashing halt had they read the label).

Honestly though, this tent I loved for years – it made for a great makeshift clubhouse (better if it was set-up in winter, because it was rated for the mountains – not so great in a Texas summer) and came in handy for all the camping I did in Girl Scouts. I loved that thing until it fell apart and I haven’t had one since. (Well, that has more to do with the fact that I refuse to sleep on the hard cold ground anymore; I’ve been sissified.)

The thing I love about the photo, is it’s one of those that’s really “me” on Christmas in the morning. It captures how I feel about Christmas and my birthday – the excitement of the day – the joy of being around family and friends and the fact that I wouldn’t know a brush in the morning if it came out and groomed me. (Thankfully, I met my friend Ernie the next year and he made it his personal mission to comb my hair and fix my barrettes so I’d be presentable at school.)

At this moment, I’m in my flannel jammies looking disheveled and trying very hard not to run into the bedroom to wake up Jay by asking, “is it time?” because I can see those presents out there winking at me and I know among them is a treasure.

Birthday Stroll 2008

Originally uploaded by AprilB

As you know, I was born on Christmas… yes, I do still mean the actual day (just like I did last year). It’s not some sad plea for attention, I mean the 25th. Not Christmas the 27th or Christmas on January 3rd, but the day when our family happens to celebrate Christmas and that happens to be on the 25th. I’m not faulting you, if you celebrate on the 23rd. I just happen to be born on the day when my Gregorian calendar says it’s Christmas, but I understand if you’re more of a lunar calendar sort or you prefer to use the Nones, the Ides, and the Kalends to get a feel for your days. (Oh you people, you say you never learn anything from these posts. Honestly.)

Anyway,this isn’t about the actual day, which is still on Christmas Day (psst, December 25th). It’s about the birthday celebration and my friend April (whose picture I’m stealing for the blog).

For the past three years, I’ve been lucky enough to have a Birthday Planner – April B. We’ve bowled for trolls (where everyone who got a strike got to choose a surprise from “the bag of Mystery” oooo). We celebrated an “0” birthday with steak and highly personalized gifts (which still rank among my favorite presents – from the haikus to the shadow box) and this year was the Birthday Stroll, which took us from Mangia’s Pizza to the 37th Street Lights and back around to Amy’s Ice Cream. (If you’re not from Austin, let me highly recommend that you put Mangia’s and Amy’s on your “to do” and if you find yourself here at Christmas, skip the Trail of Lights (which is an advertisement for groups like Dell and Motorola) and head down to 37th Street – sure, it’s not what it used to be, but it’s still pretty darn fine). We had a long procession of friends and family and family who are my friends trailed down the street ooo-ing and ahhh-ing down one of the best block in Austin at Christmas.

Thank you to all who were able to come and celebrate another year with me. Thank you for your kind thoughts and gifts. And a huge thanks to April for making another birthday special (where I got to be the “Birthday Princess” and to Kendra for the 80’s music videos and Abba. (It was actually hard to follow conversations at times, because I’d get distracted by groups like Alphaville. My apologies if I zoned out on anyone.)

Wal-Mart Frenzies

For years now, Wal-Mart and I have had a sort of love-hate relationship. I remember in the 80’s when it was all the rage and I lived in my small town; it was the biggest (and only) store that seemed to be open on a Sunday – oh sure, there was Hastings, but Hastings didn’t have the zillion choices I craved in a shopping experience. Where I was typically able to avoid cruising the Dairy Queen for entertainment, I couldn’t always resist the siren call of Wal-Mart, especially when I had a small allowance, an overwhelming desire to be a consumer and absolutely had to have a pre-molded plastic something to get me through the next semester.

Back in Austin, Wal-Mart and I hardly ever saw each other as my shopping habits changed. But our time apart was short lived. After I got married we were reintroduced as part of a horrific holiday ritual with the new in-laws called “let’s get Beth up at 4am to get to the Wal-Mart for day after Christmas shopping” YAY! A couple of years of being slammed around by overeager, feisty, grabby post-Christmas shoppers and Wal-Mart and I had to have a final break-up. No longer would I get smacked by a shopping cart to have Crayola Christmas lights snatched from my hands. (Ok, that actually never happened, but people were still pretty awful in their frenzy to get deals. I actually own the discounted Crayola lights – if anyone wants them – unopened – yours free.)

I can now count on one hand the number of times I walked through its doors in the last two years. Once for a lawnmower, another to purchase Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream by Ben & Jerry’s (it was worth the parking lot hassle) and yesterday. (Well, there may have been another time, but I can’t remember the reason for being there other than trying to burn a lot of time while waiting on someone and being too far away from home to just hang out there.)

The thing I absolutely hate about Wal-Mart is it induces in me some sort of shopping daze where I go in empty handed and leave with a basket full of things I’m not sure I remember actually buying. Things I didn’t realize I wanted until they were sitting in my trunk.

Yesterday’s purchases: camp chairs (ok, I planned on those for April’s Thanksgiving in the park), Pyrex portable (it’s got a lid for the dish and thermal lining! and I am supposed to bring something to Thanksgiving that’s best served warmish – another planned purchase), and then I went into a small frenzy. I “needed” a cover for the splattery food within the microwave – sure, I didn’t want one before, but it was only $1.99! Then, looking at this thing that looked like a lid, I realized I needed a pie carrier for all those pies I never make. I find one and it has these nifty inserts – one insert can convert the carrier into a deviled egg carrier (for all the deviled eggs I never make) and one will make it a cupcake holder (again… don’t really make cupcakes), but I was absolutely fascinating by it and had to own it. I even eyed a new blender, a rice cooker and espresso machine (because I don’t drink coffee, but I did imagine it would make a great present and people like espresso, right?) Thankfully, I managed to keep my hands at my side and not walk out with these as well. Overall, it could have been worse. We also hit the grocery store side, but didn’t stay there long thanks to HEB holding a bigger sway over me.

When I checked-out, snatching a copy of People because it had Barack Obama’s face on the cover (look, there wasn’t a copy of Time or Newsweek there – it was that or OK! magazine and I was still in “consume” mode) I stood back in awe as I saw over the lanes that I could also bank there, get new glasses, get a manicure, have my taxes done, have a family portrait and do all of this while enjoying a Big Mac. I swear, it was like country come to town – boy howdy, it was a consumer’s dream come true in one single shopping experience.

Now, if I want to have any money ever again, I need to make a vow to stay away from that place or I’ll end up tithing to it without even being aware.