7×7

Jacqueline over at Mature Student Hanging in There (or maturestudenthanginginthere) was kind enough to award me the 7×7 Award earlier in the week.  Jacqueline is one of those who make bold claims like:  white powdery stuff falls from the sky and collects on the roads, rooftops and sidewalks (I still suspect this is a myth since this past week we’ve had highs in the 80’s (26’s if you’re one of those Celsius cultists) and we all know the weather is the same everywhere and that the Earth is flat and carried on the back four elephants atop the giant star turtle Great A’Tuin.

Ok, so I don’t believe the world is actually flat, but I’m spot-on about the turtle.

Thanks to Jacqueline, I’ve learned about Scottish traditions – most recently Burns Night.  Of course, the fact that I didn’t know this prior to a few weeks ago earned the great disdain of one of my British co-workers.  Once I recognized his face was collapsing in from the complete horror that I had not heard of this, I reminded him that he’d used a certain word in the past to describe Americans and their ignorance of other cultures.  He started throwing out possible words.  “Was it xenophobic? Isolationist? Ignorant? Provincial?”  I smiled as he spoke each new word, and declared that it wasn’t the correct one just so he’d throw out more.  Exasperated, he finally threw in the towel and explained more about Burns Night.

Now, my understanding of the award is the recipient is supposed to name 7 posts that I like and then pass on the award to 7 fellow bloggers.  Well, here’s where I need to confess that I’m terrible about reading multiple blogs, many that I do read have won the 7×7 award and I’m terrible about passing on awards.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate the blogs or their authors; I’m just the perfect storm of shy and lazy.

So, I’ll cheat a bit and list a few of the blogs I enjoy (they in no way represent all the blogs I enjoy and are not all the blogs I think deserve recognition):

I love stories and I deeply admire people who can tell them well.  My epitaph will doubtlessly read, “tell me a story” since this is a common plea.  A few of the blogs I can always count on for their writing, their wit and a great turn of phrase are:

Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge

All Write written under my new favorite pseudonym Harper Faulkner. Complete aside: I feel there really should be an actual author sporting this name.  Faulkners, I’m looking at you.

Kana’s Chronicles, formerly Kana’s Notebook

Anna’s Family Blog – which isn’t the name and I can’t link to it, but trust me there are a lot of funny stories being told there.

I’ve added a lot of these stories into my personal story repertoire so I’m always well prepared when challenged to, “tell me a story.”  Most of my friends are now familiar with these author’s names, their personal tales and my friends enjoy hearing the latest stories.  (Left on my own, I’d just retell the stories they’d already heard many times before and be greeted with great groans that said, “please, not the time you freaked out in sketch writing class again.”)  Plus, these stories are fresh and not the typical Happy Hour gossip, “well and then do you know what she did next? I know!!!! And there was a chinchilla in the room. NO!”  (As we all know, chinchillas are possibly the cutest animal ever and when people are up to things they shouldn’t be it should never be in sight of an innocent chinchilla.  Note: no chinchillas were actually in any rooms they shouldn’t have been that I’m aware of) (Yes, I am ending that sentence in a preposition – flying in the face of all good grammar, because I don’t feel like writing “of which I am aware.”  I’m a rebel.)

A blog I discovered through All Write that I’m enjoying (and Seth, I think you might as well if only for the photography; the author is married to a photojournalist) is:

The Art of an Improbable Life

I guess I’ve now made this award a 5×7, which is a nice size for a photograph.

As for my 7 blog entries, I had a tough time.  I’ve had this blog since 2006 and have close to 500 posts.  It’s hard for me to remember what I wrote and harder still to pick out a favorite so I relied on the help of friends and included several of their suggestions.  I’m only naming 6 right now, since I told my friend DeAnne that she’d have time to think about it post some fun oral surgery.  (Lucky girl, send her good healing vibes.) So, in no particular order:

  1. Some Kind of Woman – I wrote this the night after my mother passed away unexpectedly at the age of 65.  I was sitting across from my Mom chatting when it happened; it’s a moment that haunts me as I stand perpetually at that door watching the events of the day repeat. I never intended for this to be read at her funeral; however, my aunt asked if she could.  It’s the only piece that has ever been presented to a large audience.  Hrmm… probably says a lot about my writing.
  2. I Hate Houston – this is a very inside joke between me and another friend, although I am proud to claim that at one point it was among the top 3 searches if you Googled “I Hate Houston”.  Sadly, it’s slipping in the ratings.  Anyway, it’s my most read blog piece.  Oh, and for the record, I’m just indifferent to Houston.
  3. Hey, Don’t I Know You – where I make fun of reincarnation
  4. A Drought Jingle – I still want a jingle.  Just the other day it sprinkled a bit and a cheery newscaster posed the question, “will this be enough rain to pull us out of the drought?”  We need 20+ inches of rain and his question made me want to stomp down to the station and kick him in the balls while responding, “this rain won’t be enough, but maybe your tears will be!”  Needless to say, I’m still mad about the drought.  But hey, only 9 more years to go!! JAZZ HANDS!
  5. (Reserved for DeAnne)

Thanks to all you folks you regularly slog through my writing.  I appreciate all of you.

I’m Quitting

Tuesday after work started like most Tuesdays after work do – dinner and the dramatic announcement of “I think this is my last sketch writing class.”. “Yes, I’ll give myself this last class and then I will plan to be home before 10pm from here on out!” My friends never grow tired of this pronouncement and by “never” I mean “always”, because it’s usually followed by a small “I’m the worst sketch writer” pity party with balloons shaped like sad little animals as I recount why what I’m saying is 100% gospel. Their protests to make me see reason are now printed on a colorful flyer so they don’t have to repeat themselves one more exhausting time. I wear them thin on Tuesday The flyers help lessen the need for eye rolling this way. (As you can see, I’m making tremendous strides towards my resolution to work on my self-esteem. You can see that, right?)

Well, I come by my lack of faith in my writing quite honestly. On that very first day of class a couple of months back, I was traumatized when I discovered that I was the only person who wasn’t born with a pen in their hand. As we went around the room establishing our writing creds, everyone seemed to be a serious writer and I, on the other hand, could only offer up “I blog!!” There was smiling, that patient kind you give when faced with someone who is severely mentally deficient that you don’t want to discourage. “Umm, I can also sign some really filthy things in ASL,” but I suppose that’s not writing or anything to really brag about – it’s more a neat pet trick to horrify a friend who does sign. As an educator, she’s quite proud that “this was all that Beth learned.” The only other person who wasn’t a writer was an accomplished fashion photographer, so that left me without a peer and signing quietly to myself.

So, Tuesday evening arrives and I’ve got my first parody sketch prepared and ready for feedback. I wander into the inner calm place in my mind that says, “you can survive the next three hours and as a reward you never have to come back.” YAY! Half an hour into class and I manage to never raise my hand to read anything of mine, because it’s a bit like raising my hand to gargle glass or poke my eye out with a stick. Why would I do that? My friend Morgan strolls in. Morgan is the reason I took sketch writing in the first place; she has a way of making things seem cool. You may remember her from the story about the obnoxiously expensive purse that could feed a third world country. I think, “how sad I won’t see Morgan after this evening, but we still have email.” I’ve positioned myself so I can see the clock clearly. I watch it closely as it ticks down my final hours in class. I make it two hours without volunteering to read my first parody. (Aside: Yes, rationally I know sketch writing is new for me and I’m doing something I’ve never done before, but I want to be the best. Blame my upbringing. Waiting on my brain to understand the fundamentals gets in the way of kudos, awards and a ribbon that says “Best Girl”. I want the bloody ribbon.)

Then the time comes where there are only two parodies left to read. A game of rock, paper, scissors is called to determine who will read next. I can see that Morgan is going to throw “rock” by the way she’s holding her hand in the 1-2-3 lead-up and I immediately throw “paper”, because I like to win. Then I realize, “you threw paper!!! IDIOT! What were you thinking?!?!”

I had to cast my sketch, “I’d like you to play the part of Clara, I’d like you to be my narrator, and…” Once the roles are cast, I immediately proceed to shake as my words are read. I don’t like being a squirrely, twitchy person, but as you know, my writing being read out loud does this to me every time. It’s much worse if I have to read it. I watch everyone’s reactions to see how it’s playing out and to my delight they seem to be laughing. Whew, they get the jokes. I can tell when each one realizes what I’m parodying.

When it’s over, I throw my notebook down on my lap and prepare for the feedback on how to make it better. I can conceal my trembling easier on my lap than I can on the table.

Morgan turns around and looks at me and says something like, “Beth, that was great. I have nothing.” Well, she likes me personally. She’s my friend. Did I mention that purse? So, I wait for someone else and that’s Jason, whose writing I admire greatly (in my next life I’d like to be as funny as he is). Jason adds, “I’ve also got nothing and I’d like you to submit this to the Etch-a-Sketch showcase I host on Fridays.” I don’t know any actors and shyly stammer that out. Jason responds, “I’d be glad to play a part.” That’s when the rest of the class chimes in, “me, too!”

The only real suggestion for a change I receive is, “maybe change the mummy’s name from Amenhotep to Tut – it’s easier to say.” (I may have killed my narrator with the number of times he had to say “Amenhotep” until our teacher finally gave him some relief by suggesting, “go ahead and say ‘the mummy’ instead”. Part of the fun of that sketch for me was forcing someone to say “Amenhotep” repeatedly. I’m a simple soul.)

I left class giddy and aglow. Their approval and willingness to play parts in my sketch was almost as a great as a “Best Girl” ribbon. So, tonight my sketch parody will appear in the theater’s sketch showcase and will star my super supportive classmates.

I guess I can’t quit until next Tuesday.

Blog “Wisdom”

It seems like every time I find a new blog, I also find another author dispensing advice on how to write.  It makes me feel like I’ve really let you guys down by not sharing my own bits of writing wisdom.  Yet, I applaud you all for continuing to persevere without my keen insights.  Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share my very own list that you could learn from and use to grow into better writers.  As the self-proclaimed Queen of run-on-sentences and comma splice errors, I feel like I’m clearly the authority on this subject.  I’m also the Queen of Sarcasm, I feel I need to spell that out since sarcasm isn’t always easy to express in writing and I don’t want you to have read the first few sentences and thought, “wow, she’s really pompous”.  I mean, I am actually pompous, but in this case I’m just being sarcastic since I can’t offer you any actual wisdom on this subject.   I will make this promise to you, though – I won’t tell you about the proper use of “their, they’re, and there” or “your, you’re”, because I figure if you flub that, you typo-ed and everyone makes typos – in my case, blame Jay for failing at his editing duties.

  1. Write with your audience in mind.  Your audience may be your Aunt Gladys.  Write to please her.   In my case, my audience is anyone who knew me before and during college.  This includes a large chunk of family and friends.  It’s where I tell anecdotes (sometimes theirs), since this is what they like to hear in person.  I’m an exaggerator.  I add meaning to insignificant events for the sake of a better story. Anyone else who chooses to read my blog is just a happy bonus.  I tend to avoid politics and religion, because that’s not the purpose of this blog and my mother taught me that there were certain conversational taboos. I’m also quite rabid in my beliefs (especially politics) and you don’t really want to read some crazy rant that would be high on vitriol and low on humor.  The only time I will venture there is if I bump into a politician or something interesting happens in a church.  Like the time at Anna’s wedding where Anna (or maybe her husband Jonathan) said, “I do” and Anna’s priest responded with something along the lines of, “if you say so.”  That response made those vows memorable and caused a ripple of snickers throughout the church.  See, a church anecdote is born!
  2. If your goal is to be a writer, then practice writing at least 30 minutes every day at the same time of day whether you publish it or not.  I cheat, since my blogs are written in the same style that I would write a letter so I spend 30 minutes a day writing letters.  I need to follow my own advice, though.
  3. If you want your audience to be chubby middle-aged women who knows way too much about geek culture, just leave a comment and I’m sure I can think of more specific advice on how to draw-in more readers like me – God help you.

I’m assuming that most bloggers are hoping to get a small amount of popularity, because we all get a thrill when someone aside from Aunt Gladys finds us and are willing to follow us along our written journeys.  We write for our own purpose and  hope for some connection as proof that we’re not alone in our thoughts.  I guess, for me, I don’t want some homogenized blog reading experience and I sometimes feel that I’m alone when I read “Do’s & Don’ts of Writing Your Blog”; it seems like others want a more uniform experience.  I enjoy the blogs I read because they’re different – each person telling their own story in their own specific way.  If everyone told their story in the same way, what a boring place the blogosphere would be.  So, that’s why my advice is basically: write for the people you want to attract to your blog and write every day – don’t worry about everyone else unless you really do want to be the next Dooce or 1000 Awesome Things or The Blogess and in that case read every Do and Don’t you can get your hands on and get fired from your job for writing satirical pieces about your co-workers and have the national media cover it (seems extreme, but I have faith in you if you’re truly committed to your dream).

Aside: I now get to mark this off as my writing task for the day. Woo hoo!  Yes, I used you all for my own personal growth.  You’re welcome.  Errr I mean, I dispensed wisdom.  That’s it.

Aw Shucks!

Jacqueline from Mature Student Hanging In There kindly awarded me with the Kreativ Blogger Award. Jacqueline lives in the highlands of Scotland where I understand it gets to be very cold – the kind of cold that would instantly kill a Texan. She’s also a proud mom, a non-traditional student, a caregiver, a puddle jumper and one of Santa’s jolliest elves. You should take a moment to check-out her blog.

This is a pay-it-forward award and rules state:
For this award, I have to share 10 things that you may not know about me (lucky you). Then I have to pass the award on to at least six other bloggers.
I shared 12 things about me, because I can and I really wanted to add a music video at the end.

As for my six+, I’m going to cheat a bit and point to my blog log – like Miss Staten Island of My Old NY. All of these people deserve recognition for the blogs they write. I enjoy each of them for a variety of reasons. If I named them individually (like Miss Staten Island of My Old NY ) then someone might get the idea that I loved one more than the other (or were being pushy again about someone posting) and you should all know, I love you all just the same (at least when I’m talking about you in an open forum. 😉 The ones that buy me presents, I actually do love more – like Thistlecloud). There’s only one I would add, which is not on that list, and that is my friend Anna’s blog. I’m not allowed to link to it. 😦 I know. It’s very sad. You would enjoy it, too. It’s very funny. (I’m suddenly Hemingway.) Thanks for depriving the world of your funny, Anna.

10 Things About Myself

  1. I was born on Christmas Day.
  2. I’m often asked “do you mean THE day” – yes, there is in fact only one Christmas Day that I’m aware of, but you may have two – if you do, that’s ok, I was born on the one that gets all the recognition on the calendar.
  3. I played viola through college and received a small music scholarship and I’ve played professionally.
  4. In the last orchestra I was in, I spent most of the time wanting to beat up a particularly obnoxious flautist. If I described her to you in detail you would, too. Since I can’t handle the tremendous responsibility of unleashing a mob on a helplessly annoying flute player, I’ll refrain from continuing the story. However, please feel free to send her a psychic “stink-eye” on my behalf.
  5. Most people outside orchestra aren’t aware of this fact:  the viola is the most beautiful instrument in the orchestra.
  6. I was 18 before I ever crossed the Texas state line.
  7. When I’m in Texas, I do not have an accent – you do. We’ll renegotiate the next time I’m outside of the state.
  8. I used to hold a blue belt in Tae Kwon Do before I was hospitalized for an unrelated injury that took me out of that sport. I’m 100% confident you could beat me up, but let me say it only takes 10 lbs. of pressure applied to the right spot for a person to permanently wreck your day. I happen to weigh more than 10 lbs.
  9. I struggle with writing. I’ve never been a “verbal” person and prefer gesturing and grunting as a way to communicate. (My friend Anna is the only one person who can translate this with any accuracy. We’ve held many serious conversations where no actual words were spoken.) Where my cousin spoke at an early age, I tended to walk up to things (like people who talked too much) and hit them – who can stand sassy talking types with their clever little words? Seriously, I do blog to work on my writing skills so I don’t devolve into a ragged creature that scrambles around on the floor and scurries off to hide in dark places.
  10. My all time favorite movie is Sex, Lies & Videotape.  What can I say? It really speaks to me.
  11. (because I can) My friends are all scarily brilliant people who keep me around for their amusement. They don’t think that I’m aware of this because of my excessive drooling.
  12. Finally –  I’m going through a huge Mumford & Sons craze. Enjoy! (New album in 2012!)

Why Won’t I Shut Up?

I know and you know that the quality of the posts lately have been kind of “meh”. I personally blame the quality issue on the people around me. No one is doing anything outrageous. The most exciting interactions I’ve had have been those involving cars and even those are so “meh” they’re hardly worth repeating.  And the random folks I bump into on a daily basis are kind of friendly or when they’re not friendly, they’re not particularly unfriendly; they’re just people bumping through life.  Not a story to be had there.  (I realize that by making that statement I’ve doomed myself to some bizarre future encounter.)  The rest of the stuff in my head is more primal and of the “grr, rip throat out, grr, glare menacingly, grr” variety and supposedly if I want people to still hang out with me, I can’t use the stories as fodder for the blog.  HELP! I’m being repressed!

That leaves me with the only story I have at the moment involving a grocery store cashier whose step-mother is apparently bad at shopping.  He admired my assortment of foods that you could actually combine together and make things.  I proudly held up my list and shared my profound thoughts on list making.  (In other words, I said something like, “I’m cheating today.  I have a list.”  But it was HOW I said it that made it sound exceptionally wise.  I’m sure of it.)  He then praised me for weighing and labeling my produce.  I gushed about being OCD.  Then when he finished he asked, “Would you like to buy pistachios?” No.  “They’ll help me win a store prize of $50.”  Well, of course I will.  How could I not help the kid who thought I had the best groceries he’d ever had the pleasure to check-out? (Side note: Anna, when can you come pick this bag up?  Doesn’t your mom like them?)  He even promised to share part of his winnings, so I made a circular motion around my face and said, “Remember this face. I’m counting on it.”  As I was leaving his sacker asked admiringly, “wow, you sold one?  That actually worked?”  Young grifters today – they just don’t have the patience for the mark to be out of earshot.  Those are the kinds of stories I’m left with.

Now, some of you might think “if you don’t have a story, you don’t have to post”.  You crazy little dreamers, of course I have to post.  I mean what if you few, you happy few, were worried that something had happened?  You know how you worry about me all the time when the posts grow scarce.  (No, you do.  Well, you could try at least.)  These posts let you know I’m still alive and typing.  (Or that someone has my password and is posting in my name. We won’t dwell on that possibility.)

But let’s face it, the reason the posts have been more plentiful (and at the expense of the quality) is because I have to write every day for my sketch writing class and you’re occasionally my unwilling victims.  What’s the fun in having a regular writing assignment if there aren’t at least one or two victims? This is why I won’t shut-up lately.  However, I do want some props for not posting every day, which I easily could.  See, it’s like I’m sparing you and you’re really only having to endure the best of the worst.  Yes, there’s actually worst lurking away in the bowels of my computer.  Now aren’t you feeling at least a little better about these posts?

There is some hope on the horizon, however.  My class ends in about 4 weeks, which not only means you survived 4, but that in 4 more I’ll shut up!  Maybe. Ok, I probably won’t.

iColossus

For over a week now I’ve been telling myself I’m getting a MacBook Pro.  My rationale – I need it to be successful in the Sketch Writing 101 class.  That’s solid logic.  I mean, I’ve seen the class set-up before and watched in awe as various students whipped out their laptops. Now those are writers. That’s what writers do! I figured if I had the trappings of a sketch writer, then it would naturally follow that I would be a good sketch writer.  And if my writing failed, I could just wow everyone with the soft glow of the Apple emanating from the back of my laptop.  Oooo… magic glowy apple.

I pictured myself as the perfect Mac tool (you know I mean that lovingly).  I’d wear my turtle neck, view the monitor through my thick framed glasses, maybe throw on some Nina Simone, maybe a beret and sip some herbal tea while wiggling my naked toes around and then I would type exceptionally thoughtful thoughts.  Ponies would be replaced by my thoughts on the latest TED talks, maybe a little Bill Maher or the deeper meanings of Bob Marley.  I would then adopt snapping as a way to signal my delight with things.  People would take me more seriously.

I tried to justify it by thinking back to our family’s first Apple – a IIe (2E, since that suddenly looks weird to me) with its 64KB hard drive.  Dad taught it to speak while I had it challenge you with the question “Shall we play a game?” at each boot-up (I grew-up in 80’s, it’s not my fault that question seemed clever/humorous at the time – I’m a simple soul).  It’s the machine I learned BASIC on and the machine I’d sit in front of for hours with a copy of Byte magazine at my side carefully programming away typing in the free code from one of the magazine’s published programs.  When I was forced to use the school’s IBM, I nearly spit.  It was so clunky in comparison.  The command lines weren’t as intuitive. The file structures seemed more archaic.  Apples at that time weren’t even sexy, but some how IBM managed to produce an even less sexy machine.

It didn’t help that Dad worshipped Steve Wozniack.  He was a god in our house and we were probably only a frame away from having his portrait displayed prominently.

When I went to college, our dorm had a shared Mac sitting in the main office.  As an RA who spent plenty of time in that office, I had the luxury of having a lot of access to it. I was blown away by the innovation – so compact, so… cool. (An adjective that the Apple brand mastered.)  But when it came to buying my own computer, I had to settle for a PC.  It was just cheaper and post college, I was a telemarketer who didn’t have a lot of money to throw around.  I remember looking at all of the computers and longing for that Mac and feeling defeated as I brought home the PC.

Apple and I later met again when I became the IT gal for my office and was responsible for our mixed Apple/PC environment.  There was a movement to switch completely over to PCs, but I stuck-up for the Apple users and eventually got the powers-that-be to upgrade from the older Apple LCs to the new iMacs – another truly sexy beast when it first appeared on the scene.  PCs have never had that.  Their idea of upgrading to a sharper looking product seemed to be taking their chunky putty colored rectangles and replacing them with slimmer black rectangles. Ooh. It’s so very square. And let me just say from a networking standpoint, the Macs were easier for me to set-up,  Although, you could rebuild your own desktop, thank you very much.

Then Steve Jobs passed away and it felt like suddenly innovation had died.  I wore my black turtle neck in memorial.  I read and re-read his Stanford commencement speech and watched the “Think Different” Gizmodo tribute to “the crazy one” and felt sad.  That feeling fueled my desire as much as the idea of me looking smart among a group of writers.

Sometime this past weekend reality set-in.  Somewhere after I toggled and re-toggled the two or three customization buttons for the MacBook Pro I knew it wouldn’t be mine.  I just can’t justify that price for essentially what I would use as a hot looking word processor.  Jay suggested a PC laptop, but that’s a bit like wishing for a pony and receiving a stick horse with a plastic head.  (Yes, I am adept at pony analogies. You’re being spared rainbows and butterflies for now.)  I even looked at Dell to see if I could convince myself that those were cool.  What I got out of it was “hey, for the cost of the low-end MacBook Pro, I can get a low-end Alienware laptop”.  That would be great if I wanted to go a completely different direction.

For now I’ll just have to settle for the college ruled owl notebook with the new gel pen.

But man, I can still envision a me that has that silver beauty on her lap typing out a story for the Big Blue Mess or maybe composing my first really great sketch.  Some how beautiful words run fluidly through my fingers to the keyboard. I see myself in class, glancing down at the screen to read my new words from the screen, the class broadly smiles approvingly and laughter erupts around the table at my inspired comedic masterpiece.  Tom, my instructor, beams proudly and exclaims, “Beth, that was brilliant.”

iColossus

Not like Jobs, the brilliant giant of Geek fame,
With conquering vision astride from land to land;
Here at our sun-washed, drought-scorched classroom doors shall stand
A gleaming laptop with an Apple torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and its name
MacBook Pro. From its beacon-emblemed case
Glows world-wide welcome; its mild curves command
The back-lit harbor that brushed aluminum frames.
“Keep, ancient architecture, your outdated pomp!” it cries
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your befuddled PC masses yearning to be Adobe Flash free,
The wretched users of your lack-luster shore.
Send these, the future sketch writing greats, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my Apple beside the golden door!”

(Heavy apologies to Emma Lazarus)

EDIT:  Dad reminded me that the IIe had a 64kb hard drive, not 512 as I mentioned.  I’m blown away by how much that computer  could do with so little.  Back when programmers wrote very tight code (pre-memory leaks becoming so very common in the years that followed).

Sketch Writing & Ponies

Me Patting a Nice Pony, Galisteo, NM

Next Tuesday I start a Sketch Writing class.  Let me tell you what, I’m a little intimidated.  First, among my friends I’m not “the writer”, that honor belongs to someone else.  I’m not even the artist or the photographer or the actor or the musician. In fact the only title I’ve managed to wrangle is “the token blonde”.  I’m not even blonde, but there you go, that’s my proud designator. I suppose it’s well-earned. I may lean towards the dingy.  At times when conversations among my friends drift into the more profound and my opinion is mistakenly solicited, I tend to make use of that opportunity to regale them with the virtues of ponies.  Ponies are nice!  You can hug ponies.  You can’t exactly hug Kant. Kant probably didn’t even like carrots or apples. He probably didn’t even whinny.  (But if he did, I’m sure Aristotle would have welcomed the company had they been able to meet. Oh funny philosophy references.  See, ponies are more universal.  People get ponies.  People don’t remember Aristotle and his friend Phyllis that much outside of a hipster coffee joint. )  So you see, Non Sequitur Pony Enthusiasts who interrupt “important” or “smart” conversations get titles like “token blonde”.

Second, while I may tell you a story on occasion, it’s always at least 95% non-fiction.  Life does all the hard work for me and then I give myself the remaining 5% to try to spin the boring bits into something more humorous for my audience.  On the occasion that I’ve tried my hand at creative writing, I’ve managed to write down a few ideas, maybe even get it started,  and find that after a full page there’s a bright shiny object to bat around on the desk.

I guess what we’re learning is that I’m too impatient to be creative.

Plus, I just really haven’t had any life experiences to draw from.  I have a dog, a couple of cats, a great husband, and some friends.  My life is by and large a calm place with the occasional dramatic dust-up thrown in for spice.  If you want to throw me out of my element for kicks, just take me out of the state and I’ll act like every person and thing I encounter is completely alien. The “Welcome to…” sign heralds sudden forgetfulness on my part for all activities you would consider to be normal. How do I order food in this new crazy upside down world? The odd little man gave me a straw for my can of soda and a napkin! What strange customs you exotic creatures have at this Kwik-E Mart universe with it’s strange spelling.  Here, let me get my camera.  Someone take my photo with this strange creature!

Preparing to Crush Montreal (Revenge for climbing Mt. Royal)

My only adventure out of the country was that time I went to Canada.  Yes, Canada.  Granted, it was Quebec where the stop signs read “ARRÊT”, but to treat it like a trip  to a foreign country feels a  little like cheating.  While there, our grand adventures included standing on top of Mount Royal and crushing their downtown with our monster claw-like hands (a camera perspective thing) and admiring their chipmunks.  And while crushing whole cities is a lot like having an adventure, we still left before we could truly admire the devastation.  In other words, it doesn’t quite count. To my friends in Montreal who still suffer from the nightmares of the gigantic hand extending down from their mountain, I offer my sincere apologies.  The only other notable event while there was me politely explaining to a friendly shop clerk that she didn’t speak French.  It was my one French phase that went beyond pleasantries,“I’m sorry, you don’t speak French.”  Of course, at the time I thought I was saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak French”, bygones.  I was living the stereotypical obnoxious American “English only” tourist dream, I suppose. And really these weren’t exactly life-changing events (unless you lived in Montreal).

This worries me greatly when it comes to this class.  What will I bring to the table?  Ideas brought on by my adventures?  Clearly, no. Characters?  I have exactly one and it’s of you.  My impersonation of you is just like my impersonation of that mutual friend of ours. Of course, that’s only because you all sound the same to me and oddly enough, you possess the same mannerisms. Another fear is about people openly critiquing my work. The thought reminds of the last few times I attempted to read my work out loud to a critical audience.  I noticeably trembled.  I had tried to prepare by reading my work several times out loud before hand. I tried taking deep cleansing breaths before I read and despite my best efforts and pep talks of “this doesn’t matter”  I still shook so badly that a cat who had decided I had the best fur stroking hands of the bunch, a cat who had been purring happily away, literally stood up, looked at me and then hopped down. in  complete disgust.  The only positive that came out of those few reading experiences was that people were too worried to actually offer up criticisms.  Involuntary body spasms leave people speechless.  I guess I could always try that if I think I’ve written a stinker.  (I say “try” like  I have some sort of magic control over it. I’m so cute at times.)

But still, I’m not so intimidated that I won’t give it a try.  What the heck.  It will be an adventure..  Maybe my first sketch should be about ponies.

Sometimes I’m an Ass

Recently, I asked my friends to help come up with ideas for blog entries.  I was looking for something to help me make it through the June Creativity Challenge.  Now, in the past I’ve had help from my friend Lori who sent me some great lists for story ideas.  Sadly though, I think I’ve finally worked through all of them.

When I went whining to my cousin, he offered up, “that’s the problem with blogs, you eventually run out of ideas.”  No, that’s the problem with Debbie Downers who aren’t being helpful.  That’s right, I called you Debbie.  I’m not out of ideas, I just know there are some stories I tell that are just better (and because I’ve retold them to friends many times, they’re easy to write – otherwise, I will just anecdote you to death to limp through until June 30th – that’s where you get stories about that time I was in the puppet class and met my very own super gregarious stalker who promised to pop up in bushes and greet me with friendly hellos and other cheery messages on my way to work (you really need a stalker like mine) or that time I was at “Vampire’s Suck” (dreadful movie, but one of the guys from the Austin improv scene is in it – woo hoo!) and a young guy in the front row was having a bit of a bout of Touretts – actually improved the movie a bit.  Trust me when I say that I’m queen of anecdotes.)

Fortunately, my friend and old college roommate started throwing out great suggestions left and right.  The hitch is that if I wrote those stories, those funny, funny stories, I would have people who know where I live at my house trying to beat me silly.  This would make Sam very sad as she seems to have grown somewhat attached to me.  You see, most of you know me and the players  involved, so when you hear the stories, you don’t necessarily think I’m a gigantic ass.  People who don’t know me and read the story for the first time here will drop their jaws and use my story as proof that Texans fit a very particular and unkind stereotype.

How do I know this? I told one of those stories at my birthday party where I had a mix of old and new friends.  I was super  animated and loud, because we were at the roller rink (it’s what I do to my friends on my birthday) giggling away to a newer friend – one whom I thought would appreciate the humor of the story.   Out of my mouth popped, “…Jerry and I started shouting at her, “Hey whore, you don’t have to be a whore anymore!!”   That was right when the music died, right when everyone’s conversations had ended and I had about 10 people staring at me slack-jawed, giving me the stink eye while thinking, “wow, what a bitch.”  Thankfully, a very awkward silence fell over the group and I got my wish and spontaneously combusted in shame.  It’s an ok story if you know the people involved, if you know that we were in a dance club like we always were in college, if you know The Lords of Acid’s song “I Sit on Acid” and you know that “whore” was a term of endearment Jerry used for almost everyone.  And even with all of that, it’s not a good story to tell outside of our little gang, because there’s no way I can make that funny.

So, I know my friends who read the blog will be sad to hear that there will no  retellings of “Jones vs. The Mysterious Smell” or  “Quickly Sobering-up Jim vs. Mrs. Guyer’s Locked Office” or any mention of “Willy Wonka’s Blueberry Girl”.  I know they’re  hysterical, but I can’t make them humorous to strangers, my aunt or my dearest friend’s mom (I think she still mostly respects me)– I’m not that good at writing, yet.  Maybe I can work 0n “stealing the marlin from Showdown’s” or “the crazy guy in the dorm office demanding a knife to cut out the gangrene” if you’re looking for some old college stories.

In the meantime, any other suggestions?

Note to Jers: Sorry!! Those were all great ideas!  And I swear, next time we’re together, we’ll grab up Jim and retell the hell out of those at a bar, a really loud bar, a bar where no one can overhear and stink eye us.

And now for a little flashback to college – WARNING: strong/vulgar language (I only pretend to only know showtunes) :

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.

Fiction: My Nemesis

Today I’m submitting my first fiction piece to the writing group.  The great thing: I won’t be at the next meeting, so I won’t have to read it out loud.  The bad thing:  me and “fiction” are a lot like me and 5” heels; two things that should never be together, but still I gave it a shot.

How I know it’s bad?  I sent it off to friends with heavy disclaimers like “I do NOT write fiction.  This is a first attempt!” (Well, not a first attempt, but the only one I’ve shared with people who weren’t going to grade it with press-on gold stars and smiley faces.)  The non-writers came up with immediate feedback which boiled down to “good first try”.  The one that lived with me said “good, but some awkward sentences” (my hallmark) and the real writers, well let’s just say I know, because I am familiar with good writing and am very aware of what I wrote, that they’re thinking of polite ways to not crush my soul.  See, I KNEW this creative writing thing was a TERRIBLE idea.  Stick to non-fiction, my brain said, but nooooo had to go all fictiony. *sigh*

I knew I should have stuck with my hackneyed An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge idea.  I had researched all sorts of information on deserts, the various stages of dehydration, Juan Diego and the Virgen de Guadalupe (not that any of that was part of the story, but let’s just say that the desert is dangerous and people risk a lot on a dream).  Instead, I went with young adult fantasy fluff (at least there were no vampires or even dragons, thankfully).  The downside (well, aside from the fact that I don’t write fiction) was trying to cram a story into a slim two pages.  Since I had dialog, I decided 3 ½ was acceptable.  Still, there wasn’t a lot of space to develop the story and then wrap it up, which all add up to a lot of excuses for the fact that I cannot write fiction.  Did I mention the analogy about the 5” heels?

Brightside:  I still don’t have to read it.  WOO HOO!