A Babbling State of the Beth

I’m back, at least for a moment or two, and I’m going to write some general randomness, babble a bit, and there will probably be a tiny rant.  Hopefully in there will be a lot of love, because I do have that for a group of people who have been completely amazing.

Saturday we had a wake for Jay.  It was hands-down the best party I’ve been to in who knows how long.  If I could choose a recent moment to live in, it would be there in Darrell’s kitchen, talking to friends, laughing, drinking a margarita, or it would be on the couch announcing to my friend Jonathan that I was moments away from hugging everyone and declaring my absolute love for them.  In fact, there’s a ridiculous picture of me on that couch, and having never seen it, I feel it captures my goofiness and love.  (Let’s hope that pans out for me, and isn’t something I wince at.)

I’ve always had anthem songs. It’s just me.  Maybe it’s you, too, but in that moment I was returned to a song that is the most me when my world is right (and it’s usually more right than wrong), and it’s the me I haven’t been in a long while.

I managed to only have one moment where I started hyperventilating and tears trickled down my face, but I did it quietly in front of a group of people with a smile on my face and no one noticed. This may be a new skill  Although, I did have to fight down the urge to go for a long walk – not being able to escape folks in the front yard was the only thing that stopped me.  Damn you Johnny Cash.  The song wasn’t on, only an instrumental version, but I could sense him singing it and each word of the lyrics stung briefly.

Sunday was our anniversary.  Let me clarify a bit.  This wasn’t the anniversary of our marriage, but the anniversary of when we started dating 17 years ago.  While the nation mourns, I always remember that day as the one when we went to Magnolia Cafe, walked over to a park, and Jay told me he loved me for the first time.  On that day I made big, life-changing decisions – decisions that hurt some people unintentionally.  It was the day that kicked off what would be the happiest time of my life, and it was worth all of the anger I felt towards people for the years that followed (I’m just not cut from that “let it go” cloth – Elsa’s goofy little song would fall on my deaf ears. Girl, you let it go.  I got this.  I mean, just ask me about Jessica and the 3rd grade slumber party.  Mmm hmm. I’m not letting that go either) It was also worth the sadness of the last couple of months. That day kicked off a time when I learned the true meaning of friendship – that my closest friends would form a phalanx to shield me whenever I needed protection; they’re amazing.  It was the day I learned how wonderful love could be, and how strong (and in some cases weak) my friendships were.

It also kicked off our “Monthaversary” tradition, and not an 11th passed in the past 16+ years without the declaration of “Happy Monthaversary!!”  In turn, it makes every 11th that has followed varying degrees of painful with yesterday having the potential to wreck me.  My brother-in-law gets a big gigantic shout out here for heading that off by getting me outside, walking around, and then watching impossibly goofy movies.  He is amazing and a truly great and kind guy (yes, you are).

Here’s where I meander over to my ranty bit.  Feel free to hop off at this stop.

What happened with Jay was absolutely horrible; it’s the nature of death. Unfortunately, something I’ve learned from this experience is that people do not understand you if you’re not in a downward spiral.  So, I’m going to be blunt.

  1. Some facts – I get out of the house.  I started work a week later.  I went back to the gym
  2. I don’t need meds.  I don’t have the desire to hole up in a dark corner. Thank you for suggesting that, but I don’t need to not feel.  Maybe that’s you.  Feel free to get meds if so.
  3. Death is sad. It’s ok to be sad.  I don’t choose to wallow in this feeling although I might tear up on occasion. You see I lost my best friend who also happened to be my husband. I lost someone I talked to daily.  I lost someone who thought I was ok despite a list of flaws.
  4. Don’t tell me it’s not my fault.  I know that. See, I learned a long time ago that I can’t actually control other people.  It’s nice of you to say.  It’s annoying when it gets re-emphasized over and over again when I’m not actually claiming responsibility.
  5. Don’t tell me I need to see a therapist or go to group therapy, because you feel like that’s what all people who suffered a loss must need.  No, I don’t – at least not right now.  Sweeping into my life during a tragedy when you don’t know me well doesn’t qualify you to judge my mental state.  There are exactly five people I’d listen to on this subject.  If you just paused and wondered “Is that me?” It’s not. Two of them are my family (blood or otherwise), two of them live together, and the last is a surprise – well, probably not to them.  The day they put together an intervention is the day I’ll go, but right now they’re telling me I’m fine, and well… remember that phalanx?  Don’t push it. They’re fierce.  Also, they’re about to get punchy if they hear me say one more time, “yeah, she told me she didn’t think I had anyone to talk to, made the sad face, and got upset I wasn’t in therapy”.
  6. I was raised by a social worker and a big portion of our family friends were social workers.  Plus, I’m lucky in that I naturally come with a pretty large tool kit for coping.  Don’t assume I have no tools to work through grief.
  7. Do not ever tell me someone is not Jay.  I am keenly aware of this, and I need exactly zero reminders. Also a fun couple of facts –  therapists are not Jay.  You are not Jay.  So, if the point is to to suggest I’m trying to find a replacement, I can’t. No one can replace anyone else. Each friendship I have is unique. If the point is to suggest you or a therapist would be a better choice, well we’ll have to agree to disagree. My not sharing with you doesn’t mean I’m not talking to someone, I am.  It doesn’t mean I don’t love or value your friendship, I do, but the fact of the matter is that different friends have different abilities.  My phalanx was chosen for their unique skills. Thankfully the world is a big enough place that all types of friends are welcome, but don’t keep shoving your resume in my face when you can’t lift a shield, and don’t be jealous of those that can.  They’re a highly specialized and elite group.  They have their own standard they fly. (Well, they will now. Hey guys, can we work on that? You know who I’m asking. Maybe get the kids on it? They’re crazy creative. Maybe think of some theme music?) There can be a huge difference between empathizing and sympathizing.  Thank you for thinking of me.  Don’t push it.
  8. Don’t tell me that Jay’s choice had to be a relief or that he got to “leave the bullshit” behind. I am that bullshit. His family is that bullshit. Sam is that bullshit. Mind your face and the words that just dribbled out, and realize that the times I’ve needed to be in therapy have never been for sadness, but for anger. Also, there’s a short distance between me counting from 1-10 and breathing.  Hope I chose to count to 100.

The non-ranty bit (a list):

  1. There are not enough numbers to enumerate all the great things individuals have done or said.  You’re all part of my incredible tool kit that get me through each day. Your thoughts and kind words have been helpful.  Thank you for thinking of me.

Now I suppose I should wrap this up.  Did I mention this is babble? It’s kind of hard to put a neat bow on babble.  Maybe pretend I said something here that ties it all together, and I’ll pretend I had a lot of margaritas, am giving you a big hug, and saying I love you guys.  I LOVE YOU GUYS!

The Lazies: What the Service Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know

One more rant and then I promise to stop for a bit and return to things like genealogy or anecdotes about my random encounters with fake mustaches to celebrate Freddie Mercury. Of course, that is unless someone does something wacky like fly a Confederate flag over their Capitol building and wonders, “how on earth could racism possibly be alive today?”  As usual, I digress.

A few months ago I was reading a post by Mike Rowe.  Now let me just say, I completely adore Mike Rowe.  He’s introduced me to a world of things I never want to do in my life, and he’s made me appreciate those who do. If you aren’t familiar with him, he’s the former host of “Dirty Jobs” and is the narrator for Deadliest Catch.  (WOOO! Northwestern! WOOO! Time Bandit!) He has that every-man appeal, a beautiful voice, oh and he used to sing opera.

I follow him on Facebook to get my weekly dose of “Friday’s with Freddy” and to read his responses to crazy fan mail, which he always greets with a great amount of wit and humor.  He’ll also occasionally tackle tough political issues, and while we don’t always agree, I always appreciate the eloquent way with which he explains his point of view.  You can tell he’s put a great deal of thought into the subject at hand, and if I’m not in agreement I almost always walk away thinking, “While I don’t agree, I completely see and appreciate where you’re coming from.”

Back to that post from a few months ago – the subject had to do with livable wages and raising the minimum wage.  What I want to talk about is not what Mike said, which was against raising the minimum wage, but the comments that followed.  The gist of which seemed to be a highly vitriolic stew of, “people who work in minimum wage jobs are lazy.  If they wanted to have more money, they could.  No one to blame but themselves.” (Imagine all of that written rather hatefully.)

It reminded me of a training class I recently attended where they attempted to teach the class empathy by assigning us a made-up person, giving us the bare minimum of details, and then asking us how we felt as that person.  Mine was a working mom who had two kids in school and lived in less than ideal living conditions.  When asked how she felt I explained my life was hard in ways people couldn’t understand, but I was proud of my kids staying in school and I worked each day for them.  Now because I could believe that a person in that situation was doing her best and would actually be proud of her children, I was told in front of the class that I was wrong, and the trainer clucked her disapproval at me sensing I clearly failed her assignment, missing the point entirely. (She later attempted to teach us how to read auras.  I allowed her to see mine in all it’s shining glory which led to a small standoff.  When I’m the problem-child in a class, something has gone horribly wrong.)

My point to that story is that not everyone who is impoverished needs your pity, and not everyone who is working a minimum wage job is lazy or lacking in some important way.  If you’ve ever had the pleasure of working for minimum wage, you know there’s not a lot of time for sitting around and daydreaming.  In many cases you’re serving the public either directly or indirectly.  You’re stocking shelves, running forklifts, greeting customers, mowing lawns, trimming hedges, scrubbing toilets, or you’re scrubbing feet, and hands.  You’re picking up trash in a truck or throughout a building. You’re in a file room, entering data or answering call after call.  And when you’re done, you run to the next job, because you understand that there’s a great imbalance between the cost of living and the minimum wage.  You have to keep a roof over your head, food on the table and oftentimes not just for you – you have a family.

I would argue that in general these are not lazy people.  These are the hardworking people who keep our society running and help us feel civilized with our mani/pedis, our towel service, our pool maintenance, groceries, etc.

One of the world’s richest women, Gina Rinehart, once said, “ If you’re jealous of those with more money don’t just sit there and complain, do something to make more money yourself. Spend less time drinking, smoking and socializing and more time working.”  I can only assume she inherited her fortune thanks to her avoidance of vice and of course her hard working  nature (and delightful disposition). She then went on to push to lower the minimum wage for miners to below $2/hour, so that Australia could be more competitive.

Gina got to where she was thanks to her family (despite her blinders that tell her she’s an amazing little tycoon with certain tycooning gifts which include a disdain for her lazy, socializing, smoking, drinking miners). In theory her descendants will inherit that same fortune without doing much more than being born and having decent financial advisors along the way (all of whom I will presume will continue shunning the aforementioned vices).  Much like the Royals.  Much like the Hiltons or any family dynasty.  In fact if you think about how you got to where you are you can likely attribute some of it is your drive, some of it to your environment, some of it to your education, and some to your personal network (whether family or friends).  I am where I am because I am reasonably intelligent.  I went to college and earned a degree, because I didn’t see there was a choice considering my family and friends; it was just a given.  My parents went to college, most of my friends went to college and many of them have advanced degrees – there are plenty doctors of all types, whether they’re PhDs or MDs. (They’re a talented lot even if they are overachievers.) They’re the kind of people who indirectly push you in ways you don’t realize you’re being pushed.

The  jobs I’ve held over the years are a result of family connections and personal connections; I didn’t do anything special other than show up for an interview.  In fact, I can’t name a job that I have had that can’t in some way be attributed to someone else.  Sure, I’ve moved up using my own skills, but I wouldn’t have gotten my foot in the door had it not been for someone else helping to crack it open.  With hundreds of applicants applying for even the simplest of jobs, it helps to have someone say, “hey, would you talk to Beth, too”  Not everyone has that network.  Not everyone has the opportunities I have had. Not everyone is equipped to work in a white collar job, and you know what? That’s ok.  We need everyone; they’re critical to our society..

My point is that there is a lot that plays into getting and maintaining a job, and while laziness may be a factor for a small group of people, it’s certainly not the defining characteristic when we’re talking about the poverty cycle..  If you think it’s an easy thing to break out of, then it’s likely you weren’t born into it.  My father was.  My father went on to be a professor of Social Work, and he can tell you best how he broke free, but suffice it to say it had to do with his environment, his education, his network of friends and a particular family that exposed him to new and different ways of thinking.

So, when I see people standing up and saying, “I want to be paid more to be able to live – to support  my family – to give my children opportunities I didn’t have – to rely less on public assistance”.  I don’t think disdainfully, “that’s just lazy talk”, I think about how we make that happen.  If I pay more for a barely edible burger that I don’t need, and now a person no longer has to rely on SNAP to feed their family, then I’m ok with that.  They’re not asking to move into your gated community, they’re just asking to live safely.

These people aren’t lazy, they just want to survive, and we should be mindful of that when they’re serving us and be thankful instead of contemptful of that person standing at the register. (Because at the end of the day they can spit in your food or dump your trash can on your immaculate lawn).

We should be doing our party to help.

Texas Proud

I’m a Texan. By all accounts (or just the more reliable ones) I’m a “proud Texan”.  I was born here, I was raised here, and if my lack of motivation and drive persists, I’ll die here.  I’m good with that.  As a Texan I was indoctrinated at an early age to love Texas – the good and the bad.  A bit like I love my momma, apple pie, baseball and Chevrolet.  Ok, I don’t actually care one way or the other about Chevrolet – I’m indifferent – that’s the word! They’re fine and all, I’m sure.  I mean no offense to anyone driving one.  Oh, and while we’re at it if we could turn apple pie to some sort of cobbler and maybe replace baseball with tennis, that would be swell.  Now the love of my Momma still stands, except let’s call her “Mom” or “Mother”, that would be more fitting.  Whew.  Got all of that out of the way.  I love Mom, peach cobber, tennis (if I have to pick one) and car companies ending in “a”. And Texas! Don’t forget Texas.

As a Texan, I get to defend Texas to my out-of-state friends more times than I’d care to.  Yes, in education we rank among the lowest, but many of us are fairly state-aware, despite what you were taught in whatever place you came from. And hey, we rank low in a lot of areas! TEXAS PROUD! We’re # (shoot, I don’t have that many hands)!

I feel like I’ve beaten this dead horse before, but let’s face it, I’m too lazy to link back to some post where I defended Texas.  It’s out there.  I’m sure my ire was up.  I probably typed a few sentences using heavy, angry keystrokes. No, I won’t link those two adjectives with a contraction, and I’m aware that I’ve now ended a few sentences with prepositions, but that’s how I’m rolling today. I’ll make 32 other egregious grammar errors before I get through this post.  Blame the Texas education system and a poor attitude.

Here’s the thing – Texas is my family.  I can pick on it, but God forbid someone outside of it start – thems fightin’ words.  Until last week…

Normally, I don’t like to get into my politics on my blog.  I ust like to throw random anecdotes at you until you cry for mercy. Those cries herald an extended blogging sabbatical while I wait for the next thing to inspire me.  Normally, I shrug off what comes across the national news about my state.  It’s rarely good. It’s never an “atta boy, Texas” with no trace of sarcasm. Normally, I don’t cringe.  Did I mention, “until last week”?

Let’s talk about Operation Jade Helm 15. You know that thing where Obama was planning to come to Texas to institute martial law.  I think we were going to be rounded up into Wal-Marts and then who knows what would happen next.  That story.  The one where Governor Abbott sent the Texas National Guard to keep an eye on the US military.  State officials from both sides of our state government sent the Governor notes basically saying, “what the…?” This played out in the media for a bit.  Towards the end of last week we were notified by Gov. Abbott that he’d been briefed by the Pentagon and he now felt assured we Texans were not in peril.  Whew! I’m not a huge fan of Wal-Mart.  Bullet dodged!

I was gobsmacked..

I can handle being called out for my drawl.  I can even handle my out-of-state friends being stunned that some Texans have had book learnin’ and can keep our drool from spilling down the front of our shirts.  But this… this… I’m at a complete loss of words.

So, where I normally would avoid politics and in turn avoid posting other people’s thoughts on politics, I felt I had to be called away from couch sabbatical and post something – sometimes – other people’s words – people who are better at expressing themselves about this lunacy than I.

Strong Language Warning:

From the Stonekettle Station Blog:”Jade Helm: The Insanity that Ate Texas”

“Paranoia is a mental Illness, not a super power.”

And Jon Stewart, who is always brilliant:  You can start at 4:45 if you just want to cut to the Jade Helm chase.

I’m such a proud Texan….

Cool

“You should really thank The Big Bang Theory for making geeks like you cool.”

I stammered in response and finally offered up a fairly well thought out, “uh huh”  right after I did a quick age check to confirm what I already suspected, that I really was too old to care about whether I’m cool.  The fact is that I’ve never, at any age,  been particularly driven to be “cool”. (All of my friends and family just nodded in agreement with that statement.) Call it what you will – a character flaw – a love of Lee when no one could get between Brooke and her Calvin Klein’s – the ability to quote Monty Python or the willingness to argue that yes, Han did shoot first. I’m simply not cool.  And I’m ok with not being cool. Cool isn’t my thing. (Guys, you can stop agreeing.  Sheesh.  I can feel it.)

You see, there’s this implied idea that “cool” is “fitting in.” If you’re “cool,” then  “fitting in” is clearly something every person who has been labeled a geek is surely hoping to achieve, but hasn’t quite figured it out yet. I’m here to tell you “cool” has never been my personal goal (and I’m really quite well-accomplished at not being cool).  On the other hand what is popular shouldn’t be how we define cool in my opinion.  Look at any past trend – old photos from any generation. (You know the ones that show you wearing that bejeweled glove with the neon top and those parachute pants. Are you going to tell me you still feel cool?) To me cool is being comfortable enough to be yourself.  A TV show won’t give you that.

I would love this to be a piece about “how to be comfortable with yourself;” however, I’d be misleading you completely if I said there weren’t time that I’ve wanted to be something different, something more, something better than…

I remember the first time I really thought about labels and contemplated the big “who am I?” question.  “Am I cool?” It was around 1980.  It was the summer before I entered 7th grade and The Dallas Morning News ran an article about teen groups.  There were little summaries about preppies, ropers (which when I moved back to Austin were known as “kickers”), freaks, and I’m sure there were a slew of additional labels like “geek” that I can’t quite remember because I’m old (and kind of cranky).

I also don’t remember much about the actual definitions. I do remember preppies were “cool,” but “freaks” sounded closer to the group that best fit me. They were described as wearing jeans, sneakers and concert t-shirts.  I mean, I did wear both jeans and sneakers all the time and I did own that one “Wings” t-shirt from a show I never attended.  How could that not be me? Preppie certainly wasn’t me. My reality didn’t include anything bearing the name of Izod, Polo, Gloria Vanderbilt or Swatch, so that was out of the picture. Later I did own some Jordache and OP things. I stand by those clothes.  We will discuss this no further. I couldn’t name a single country group other than Alabama at the time, so “Roper” was out. “Future president of the orchestra/bookworm nerd” wasn’t a listed choice. That left me with being a “Freak” if I had to choose a category (and the newspaper seemed to think that this had to happen – all teenagers identified themselves by one of these, a journalist wrote it!). Also, at that time I was really working on being a proper delinquent (which the “Freak” title seemed to embrace), but unfortunately my natural prissiness and penchant for a good rule ultimately got in the way.  I did briefly join an all girl gang in name only, but was always “busy” come fight days. “Sorry, I would love to, but I have to go out of town for the rest of my life and during all of my free time. Maybe next fight?.”  Keep in mind this was a Dallas middle-class girl’s gang.  We’re not exactly talking east L.A. and yay, they did go about intimidating my bullies, which made hallway walking much more pleasant.

Still I didn’t truly embrace any label – freak, geek or otherwise.  I was me.  A me who liked math, science, orchestra, German club and reading books.  When a person would suggest I change who I was (fall under a different label) like my grandmother (the former president of her college sorority, president of various ladies clubs, a socialite – you get the idea) when she pulled me aside and declared, “you need to change how you act or no boy will date you.” (She wanted me to play dumb in this case.) My response was, “if someone doesn’t like me for who I am, then I guess I won’t date,” which was a lot like sassing and sassing was a big no-no and earned my grandmother’s immediate disapproval.  Her message of “be different than who you are in order to be more accepted” was never me.  Of course, I didn’t really date until I was a senior in high school, so she clearly read the omens and was onto something there.

During this time one of my fundamental characteristics became apparent – I really wouldn’t change who I was to gain other people’s approval – to be cool – from how I presented myself, to whom I chose as my closest friends, to what my interests were (and continue to be).

Ok, I lied a bit there.  I did drop out of the math club (don’t tell Dad – it was something I was drafted into and didn’t go to willingly) . Though I loved math (and still love it, it’s really quite beautiful). I already had the stigma of being an academic nerd. The idea of competing with the math club was just too much.

Mu Alpha Theta

If I were to “thank” a TV show, it wouldn’t be The Big Bang Theory though I suppose kudos to them if it helps people be ok with someone else’s love of Star Trek. Just be warned you’ll lose a finger or three if you come at me with your “rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock” (may Leonard Nimoy rest in peace) or if another person says, “you’re a lot like Sheldon.” I may not watch the show, but I do know what you’re saying.  The show I would actually thank is Freaks and Geeks, if I were the thank-y sort.  It’s the one show that got my 80’s right.  In fact, Lindsay is the closest I’ve come to truly identifying with a character (if you threw in a lot more orchestra).

What makes me feel cool? It’s not a TV show saying I’m ok.  It’s being me – doing the things I love and enjoying the things that I do. Sometimes that’s standing on a stage with a puppet.  Sometimes it’s taking improv or sketch classes. It’s watching a Battlestar Galactica marathon, playing spoons while waiting for the opening of The Wrath of Khan, and sometimes it’s just singing “Bad Romance” in a karaoke room with all of my friends.

What makes my friends cool? The ones you would label “geeks”? It’s that they do what they love without worrying about what you think.

We never needed a TV show to say it’s ok to be who we are.

Taking the Moment

I’m not a creative person. Now typing that “out loud” might elicit some “of course you ares”, and that’s super sweet, but I’m ok with it. I promise no one is going to compel you into including that in my eulogy.  The truth is my brain is simply not wired that way or perhaps it’s that my muse is on a smoke break, who really ever knows.  (I would end that with a question mark, but it’s more rhetorical (unless of course you know what became of my muse, then do tell.))  I’m left brained.  Although, judging by my grades from school, it clearly does not convey any special adeptness in it’s left brainy specialties. (Why left brain? WHY?!? It’s just theoretical mathematics. Get that X girl, get it!)

Now, that doesn’t stop me from dabbling.  For example, I can draw some of the most adorable dust bunnies with these overly-large, super-solicitous eyes (if you anthropomorphize dust bunnies, you don’t have to sweep them up, because it’s like declaring war on an endangered (endangered because I just typed it) species – this is fact). Granted, I’m more likely to doodle a series of hash marks or cubes, but that’s beside the point.  When inspired, I’m a dust bunny drawing pro.  I’ve tried improv (you remember that brief foray into personal humiliation – the one where all of my classmates were approached to move forward and I was applauded for making regular payments – my pro skill) and then I tried sketch writing (where my teacher actually couldn’t remember my name after 8 months and everyone else was encouraged to go forward with sketch shows and videos).  Now some of this stems from me being a bit odd and squirrelly, but some of it is just genuinely me not being particularly good at it and people recognizing that, (which is always a tad awkward). However, I don’t let my awfulness stop me from trying!  Go me!  I’m content to spread my badness.  Make my videos. Take photographs.  Run up on a stage where they’ve invited two people to come up and then realizing a quick game of “short straw” is going on in the crowd before I get a partner.  Write my blog and ultimately just revel in my creative mediocrity. Go Meh-ness!

But here’s the rub. (No, I haven’t been drinking.) Anyway… the rub! Not everything I see others produce is always great art either, but that whole “treat your friends the way they want to be treated” thing usually compels me to offer them encouragement.  That’s especially true if they’re trying something new or challenging. If asked I offer up my “what if’s,” but mostly I tend to say “great job!”  I make an effort to acknowledge what people are sharing and recognize that a piece of their soul lives is in their art.  Apparently, “wow, that’s right shit!” is discouraging to some.

So, last week I did something that was hard for me and then I displayed it for a small world and got crickets in return, with a couple of exceptions. My soul laid a bit bare and the cool (sarcasm) sound of absolutely nothing. By comparison, I told Facebook I forgot my breakfast and immediately got 22 likes.  Maybe the takeaway is that this is where my real strength lies – not in creativity but my slow, public descent into dementia.  Great. My dreams realized.

Where we stand at this moment – I’m done.  I’m done applauding. I’m done helping. I’m done with “the favor”. I’m done encouraging.  That thing my friend did better meet MOMA standards. If they wouldn’t display it, then don’t think I want to see it as a .jpg in an email attachment.  If it’s not on “Funny or Die;” it’s clearly not worth viewing.  If it isn’t published; it’s not worth reading. If critics aren’t aware of it, and there’s not a blurb stating “Bold!” then you’re absolutely wasting my time.

Ok fine, I suppose that won’t actually be the case, but it really feels kind of liberating and also somewhat  compound sentence-y. I made many words!

Maybe I’ll offer some advice instead of declaratives. If you have friends who have chosen to share with you – whether it’s something completely new to them or it’s old hat, then take a moment to really look, listen and acknowledge.  That’s your one job as a friend; it’s actually your most important job. I guarantee they’ll reciprocate.

To my friends who always take those moments – thank you!

Who emptied the liquor cabinet?

That’s A Wrap: The Austin 48 Hour Film Project

Our Team Name for the 48 Hr Film Project and our Mascot

We made it through the 48 Hour Film Fest weekend.  We made a movie!  And we got it turned in with 14 minutes to spare.  We watched other teams run, only to be turned away after failing to meet the 48 Hour deadline by mere seconds – some ran with their computers in their hands as their movie project finished rendering.

I knew there would be a story from the weekend.  I told a co-worker last week, “I look forward to telling you the story, because you know there’ll be one.”  She laughed and nodded. I guess I thought the story would be different.  I mean, how can you possibly write, cast, shoot and edit a film in 48 hours without something going terribly wrong especially when you have a cast and crew that totaled 19 people?  Different people, different temperaments crowded into a small space for a long time – how could there not be a story? There wasn’t.  When the card reader broke (the little reader that allows you to take a camera card and plug it into the computer), I thought “there’s the story”.  When the associate producer, replacing the card reader, was pulled over by a police officer I thought, “ok, maybe that’s the story.”  When the older well coifed white haired woman with her neatly put together summer outfit sauntered onto our porch as we were shooting our last scenes, I didn’t think that was the story.

So of course, that was the story.

When she walked up my sidewalk the Director of Photography (DP) asked, “is that one of your neighbors?” I looked at her; she wasn’t someone I’d ever seen, but we’re those quiet people that stick to themselves and spend too much time indoors.  I may have met four of our neighbors in the time we’ve lived here and other than the two right next to me, I couldn’t pick the rest of them out at the grocery store if asked.  “Maybe?”

Official Clap Board and One Goofy “We’re Making a MOVIE!” Grin

This is where I get a bit fuzzy on the exchange, so know the dialog is what I heard, not necessarily what was said verbatim.

She came up and asked what we were doing.  Our DP answered, “We’re making a movie.”  She wasn’t very satisfied, then she mentioned cars had been in the cul-de-sac all day and that was a problem.  “We’d be glad to move them.”  I made a mental note for future films that I should check.  Sure, I’d asked people to park on a different street, since cul-de-sacs can be tricky with their lack of curb room, but some cars were sticking out in the street and people were parked between me and the adjacent house. “My son has cerebral palsy and he cannot drive in here easily if there are all these cars!” Again, the DP offered to tell anyone who was in the way to move – that we didn’t realize until then that it was a problem, but we’d be happy to correct it.”  She didn’t seem to want that, she wanted to scream at people.  That’s when it all blew up.

“What are you doing?!?! I do not understand WHAT you are doing!”

“We’re making a film.”

“That doesn’t make sense.  What are you talking about?”

“This is for the 48 Hour Film Festival, so we’re finishing up filming today so we can enter.”

“That doesn’t make sense. I ASKED YOU WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!! What kind of movie. Why do you have children?” (or something to that effect)

“You are welcome to look it up online.”

“You are not answering me!”

Our writer stepped in:

“We were given the genre “Fantasy” and our movie is a narrative film based on that genre where magical children are looking for new homes.”

“This is illegal!”

“No ma’am, it’s not.”

“You shouldn’t be doing things with those children.”

“We have their parents here and they have signed releases allowing them to be in the film.”

“Why do you have children?”

“Again, they’re part of the film. One of their parents is right here.” Steve our sound guy waved.

“You had your garage door open with people popping up and down from boxes. We do not want that kind of thing here!! It’s illegal.  I will call the police!!!!!” She was referring to a film shoot we did back in May where we used the space in my garage to shoot one of our writer’s short films – a film about two talking dogs in their bejeweled purses discussing what it was like to be an aging pampered pooch.  There was a gigantic green screen behind them that will eventually be transformed into a hotel lobby.

“You may call the police, but we have permission from the owner to film on their property.”

“If the owner knew what you were doing with their property they would not…”

I raised my hand, “I am the owner of this property.”  I had been sitting on the bench on our porch trying to stay out of the way of the camera while we filmed.  She really hadn’t noticed me until then, since she was completely content to yell at the DP and the writer.

“What you are doing here is illegal.”

“No, it’s actually not.”

“Yes, it is. You cannot do this with the children.”

“We have permission from their parents to film them.”

“The neighborhood does not approve of what you are doing here.”

This went on for awhile until she implied that my husband and I were doing something illicit and creepy in the house.  I was FUMING.

“And you have all of these cars.”

“…which as we told you we would be happy to move.  We didn’t realize it was a problem.”

“Well it IS! You are blocking…!!!!”

“Again, as we have said, we will have those cars moved.”

The whole time, our actors were coming out of the house to move their cars out of the way – heads down as they hurriedly moved passed the craziness. Also, in truth no one was parked near her house.  Now the people across from us were, because they were having a “we better get all of that toilet paper out of the tree” party.  So, between the two of us, we had created a bit of an unexpected bottle neck.

She stomped off telling us we’d better not do that kind of thing in her neighborhood again that the neighbors did not approve of us or our activities.  In my head, this meant all of the neighbors.  She then self-righteously marched to the good neighbor’s house with my neighbor nemesis trailing not far behind her. As the self-appointed spokesperson of them to let them know she had defeated the lascivious child porn purveyors, because that’s basically what it all came down to.  She knew we were clearly doing something disgusting with children and she was not having it.

One clothed actor, one very naked puppet. SCANDALOUS! What is he doing with that puppet?!?!?! What kind of film is this?!?!?!?!

I was shocked.  In fact, my feelings were generally hurt.  There she was on the driveway with my good neighbors, Bill and Becky, listening to her tale of their disgusting neighbors.  We had to move!  That was the only solution.  This whole circle thought we were filthy.  I had to tell Jay.  I had to finish a movie.  Where were we going to move?  While trying to wrap, I was going through all the steps we’d need to go through to sell the house.  I like my house, but I’d like the next house and maybe we’d get better neighbors.  I couldn’t believe Bill and Becky were turning against me right before my eyes.  She attacked my character!

Some background on why this bothered me on many levels; this cul-de-sac troll had managed to find that button – she found my nerve center – she hit my definition of self.  I used to tease my mother that she was a priss.  In fact, I’d sometimes take her middle name and transform it, calling her Priss-tina.  Well, the truth is, I inherited those same genes.  I’m prissy. I’m a prude. I’m so uptight I squeak. I’m good at my job in QA, because I believe in rules and following rules. (This does not always apply to speed limits or trying to convince YOU to do something bad.)  I like rules for me.  They provide a framework.  Once I know the rules, I stick to them.  Rules define the “is-ness” of things.  For the record, so you know what kind of prude I am, I’ve never seen a porn, which makes my friends laugh.  I have never used illegal drugs. I’m ok if you have, but that’s not me. I have never been sick from too much alcohol.  I am Priss-tina’s daughter – Priss-tina’s uptight legacy.  And here was this hateful vile creature telling me that basically the whole neighborhood thought I lived an abhorrent lifestyle and Bill and Becky were listening.  She said I’d broken rules.

We had to keep filming.  Our DP got us back on track, because we didn’t have time to dwell and properly vent.  We only had a few short takes and daylight was burning, but truthfully the whole time I could hear her laughing with Bill and Becky with the evil neighbor standing right there in Bill and Becky’s driveway.  I was dying inside and I didn’t get a chance to grieve.  The film continued and then mid shot I hear, “Neighbor! Neighbor!” It was Bill calling me over, “my wife was really worried you thought we agreed with that woman and asked me to come over and apologize.  I am so sorry.  She’s a crazy person.”  I told him what she’d accused us of and explained “we’re in the 48 Hour film project.  We are just filming the kids; their parents are here.”  He waived me off, “I know, she’s just crazy. How did she even know you had kids in there? She’s just sitting around watching you.  Crazy.”  I added, “I really don’t think we’re bad people.  Sure we’re quiet, but we’re not bad people.”  He nodded and he said, “if you need to use our driveway for the cars, you just say the word.”  I love Bill and Becky.

We finally finished filming.

It was so hard to listen to her craziness, because all of us held back.  You could see how enraged the DP was, and how irritated the sound guy and the writer were.  Everyone wanted to unload full guns, but here was this ballsy lady yelling at two adult men and two women – this human Chihuahua off her meds.  One of the actresses summed it all up so beautifully as she came back from moving her car, “I hate it that she won.”  And won she had.

The wife of the sound guy added a bit of levity, “I bet she’s with one of the other teams and she’s trying to throw us off.”  That made the rounds and had us all laughing a bit.

Then Topping, our writer, said later when we were inside reliving it all, “Beth, I’m mad for you, because if you’re anything like me, you’re thinking about how this is something you’ve always wanted to do and how finally you have these friends who are helping you achieve that dream, and you’re thinking about completely quitting and definitely never filming in your house. The one where we have the most space.”  Yes.  I had planned to tell Jay I wasn’t going to film again, because apparently it made me dirty and I’m not a dirty person.  (Did I mention she attacked how I define myself?)

Jonathan and Nancy as “The Hagels” – fully clothed!

I lost sleep that night, despite my husband reassuring me that she was a crazy person and you couldn’t reason with her AND that me being angry had no affect on her.  She didn’t know I was angry, but me being angry did affect me.

We were down to our last 12 hours and were helping editing.  I’d be lying if I said I had let it all go, but I’d find myself paused, staring at the footage, reliving the event, and thinking of all the things I could have said – to a woman who would never think she was wrong.  (You know great things like to her comment of “this is illegal”.  “Yeah? Well YOUR FACE is illegal!” My four year old retorts.)  Then I declared in my brain, “my Daddy and my friend Anna will beat you up!”  So not true, but it’s what you say when you harrumph and realize playing this all out in your brain is silly and that’s the best silly line you can end with.

As for the film – we did finish it.  We had to cut a couple of scenes and leave an intro bit out to get it all turned in on time, BUT when we do post it for viewing, everyone will see the full movie.  For the record, despite having kids in the movie, it’s all rated G.  I know, I know, hard to believe you could have kids in a movie and it still be rated G, but we broke the stereotype.  Turns out we’re all more Disney than “Deep Throat”.

The Magical CLOTHED Children from L to R: Lyssa, Tryph, Kaitlynn, Kelsey, Nathan and Eryn between takes

I also want to say that I’m proud of the entire team of cast and crew.  They all worked incredibly hard and were all awesome.  My one job was to pick the right team and I did a solid job.  Everyone got along, everyone stayed focused and we made a movie in 48 hours.  I’m so proud of all of you and I’m so lucky to know each and every one of you.  We made something good, especially considering the time constraints, and we did it despite the suburban troll.

Great job all!

Politics LOL: A Bit of a Rant

There are three things you’re not supposed to talk about at the dinner table: politics, religion, and sex (or money, depending on which three things your family subscribed).  I extend the dinner table to my personal forums: my blog, my Facebook account and my Twitter feed.  While my hesitancy is partly due to the belief that you really don’t care and that I won’t eloquently express myself, the other part is that I recognize not everyone is on the same philosophical page as I am.  It’s disheartening, really, but I accept that you all apparently have “free will” to think different (albeit at times “wrong”) thoughts.  This self-discipline is what passes as “manners” and keeps me from devolving into a rage ball of, “Heretics! Treacherous lying dissenters! Imbeciles! BURN THEM ALL!” at Christmas.  It turns out that if you don’t sit quietly when a forbidden topic does appear that you will not get the choicest piece of pie and you might find yourself sitting at the kid’s table.  Since I prefer the adult table, I save my views for the long rant on the drive home.  Woe to the person who finds themselves in that car if a controversial subject arose that I was forced to bite my tongue over.  I was taught to keep things civil by listening quietly while stabbing my food pointedly; it’s how I was raised.

Some background on me: my degree was in Political Science with a focus on foreign policy and political philosophy.  Needless to say, I am somewhat passionate about the subject of government and political ideology.  I am not an independent.  I am not a moderate.  I have very firm and deeply held beliefs based on my education, my experience and my environment.  And with Presidential elections a mere two months away, I’m a bit amped up.  What holds me back are the rules my mother put in place when I was a little girl.

That being said, I choose not to express my views on this blog or on FB unless it’s to “Like” a post or make the occasional comment. I see these forums as an extension of my dinner table. I also try to be keenly aware that my readers and FB “friends” represent a diverse group of people who hold many different religious and political beliefs.  On the rare occasion when I choose to say something, I try to keep that diverse group of people in mind and keep my words free of vitriol and free of insults. Basically, if I feel like posting something insulting, I know it’s time to walk away. I may at times disagree with my friends, but I do respect them and what they believe.  (Unless they believe in something harmful like eating babies – please, try not to eat babies – see, I recently learned it’s not actually a religious practice, it’s something called cannibalism, you can look it up.  It’s apparently a universal taboo. It also may lead to halitosis and no one likes a person with bad baby breath).

This is all a long-winded way of saying that in this political season where people are riled up and forgetting their table manners, I’ve had to dump a few “friends” from FB who forgot they were in a public forum and decided to attack my beliefs.  See, I personally think it’s possible to take an intelligent stance on a difficult issue without attacking your audience.  Of course, I also believe in unicorns.

But let’s say you do feel inspired to post that post and you want to be taken seriously.  Here is my practical guide to political postings based on some missteps I’ve seen on FaceBook:

  • Your statement should be about the ideas, not the people who hold them.  You may not care for a particular ideology, but don’t state that the people who do are knuckle-dragging drooling imbeciles who are best suited for licking walls.  These are your “friends” and in theory you “friended” them because you felt like you had something in common.  Unless you feel like that commonality is knuckle-dragging-wall-licking, then don’t say it.
  • “LOL” –  it’s not a punctuation mark.  For example: “Senator McCain argued that torture didn’t lead the United States to Osama bin Laden LOL.” That makes me immediately want to respond, “WTF?”, because I’m seriously trying to discern whether you did in fact laugh out loud at that and why.   A posting tennis match will ensue where we’ll devolve into l33t speaking brain mush like  “yeah, he totally PWNED the hearing like he roxxored those Vietcong n00bs at that Hilton place. AMIRITE?”“McCain FTW!” A Chuck Norris joke will feel the need to wander in and the entire ridiculous exchange will be followed by a volley of baffling “Likes”. Ultimately, it ends up being distracting and wholly inappropriate if your goal is to be taken seriously.
  • Unless you’re Steve Carell, your statement should never end with “that’s what SHE said”.  I saw this one in reference to a gross misquote from one of the candidates wives.  That’s when my eyes got lodged in the back of my head.  My vision has suffered ever since.

I’m not saying don’t make statements about your beliefs, but be mindful of your audience if you don’t want to lose them.  I know I tune out once the insults start. You can make a strong, controversial statement without being insulting or sounding like a dolt (a euphemism, because I’m being a grown-up today).  Think of it this way – the more educated you sound on a given topic, the more likely people will listen and the higher the chance that someone might be swayed by your argument. Think of yourself as a political evangelist. Go on you, sway those masses.

This rant brought to you care of FB.  Now that it’s off my chest, I won’t be forced to drive to a small town in Texas to thump someone unceremoniously on their idiotic forehead.  (She doesn’t read this blog, so it’s ok if I’m insulting. Also, she does in fact drag her knuckles.  I’ve seen it.)

LOL.