Houston, Texas A Happy Accident

The Armadillo Palace, Houston, Texas
The Armadillo Palace, Houston, Texas

One idea. One moment. One thought. One place to start.

Before my life is over I want to make sure I do my part. I have a lot to say and a lot of observations to make. But then I get stuck in my head — waylaid.

Saturday night, as we literally flew through smog layer (the notorious Salt Lake City temperature inversion), my heart sank, or better, as we entered the inversion, my heart immediately covered itself in a misty, ugly grey. Grey is what I see outside. And as my head and my heart fill with gloom and doom, I try to escape to the rivers and roads I have seen around the world. I want to be in Italy. Last night Dave, Kyle & I went on a wintery walk. As we walked down our slippery street, we talked about magical Italy and the nuances of traveling there.

“We ate such an unregulated amount of gelato on our second Rome visit that by our third visit, even our favorite gelato place in the world, Giolitti, began to lose its luster. I know. I cannot believe I am actually saying this.” [insert long pause here] “I am certain the long absence will renew my half-blueberry-half-dark-chocolate-sorbetto love.” [insert short pause here] “And the whip cream on top does not hurt.”

The Boys inside Giolitti on our second visit to Rome, February, 2015
The Boys inside Giolitti on our second visit to Rome, February, 2015
Us outside of Giolitti on our third visit to Rome, Italy (Dave's second), November, 2015
Us outside of Giolitti on our third visit to Rome, Italy (Dave’s second), November, 2015

Italy is special and we cannot wait to go back. I find excuses and reasons like what is it with those two gentlemen? I am consumed and now convinced we must see Verona. As we walked, we agreed that travel, and preparing to travel, gets me out of my head. Thoughts of Italy are a great distraction on these grey days.


Ok. I can just imagine Dave reading what I have just written. Better, I can actually see his face.  It is quizzically blank.

Then I ask him.

“Hey, what do you think?”

“You are all over the place.” He says.

“That is how I feel.” I shoot back and continue, “Dave, transitions are hard. Coming home is hard. I am trying to reset. I see the grey sky. I read the hate online, and I see a life where Princess Leia dies. And of course, the next day her mom dies too. I think Debbie Reynolds must have died of a broken heart.”

I would pause and make sure he was listening. I am certain he would be Googling something like, “Singing in the Rain,” or “what year was Carrie Fisher’s novel ‘Postcards From the Edge’ published?’” Once our eyes locked, I would continue,

“My heart would break too if I had to watch my child go.”

Us at arepa class at Chao Pescao at the Andaz Papagayo Resort, Costa Rica
Us at arepa class at Chao Pescao at the Andaz Papagayo Resort, Costa Rica

This past weekend, on our way back from Costa Rica, we had an unexpected layover in Houston.  We arranged to meet with our friend, Doug.  Doug arranged a spectacular off-the wall-and-outsider tour of Houston. We saw a beer can house and some awesome art cars. And a super bonus: we started our tour at the Rothko Chapel.

Mark Rothko is one one of my very favorite artists. When I saw the room of Rothkos in London’s Tate Modern Museum I wept. No. Seriously. Tears actually filled my eyes and rolled down my freckled face. Then I sat on a bench in the middle of the Rothko room and took a flurry of pictures. How magic is it that Houston’s Rothko Chapel was our meeting place? We arrived on a freakishly cold Houston morning. We saw Doug’s Prius parked up the street. He was standing at the back of his car, grabbing a camera out of the trunk. As we stood there shivering, Doug warned us that the security guards were a bit persnickety and do not allow photography.

“As if.” I thought. “Didn’t he just grab his camera out of the trunk?”

Before I could as those very words out loud, Doug assured us he had a plan:

“Let’s make a game out of seeing how many pictures we can take. There are five of us and only one security guard.” (There were actually two, and they were planted on opposite ends of the round room.)

In the front of the Rothko Chapel, on the floor, were four evenly spaced black cushions. Dave sat on one. I sat on another. I whispered and encouraged him to take some photos.  We were both nervous. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Doug holding his phone. He snapped three excellent shots.

The Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas
The Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas
Dave and I inside the Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas
Dave and I inside the Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas
The boys outside of the Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas
The boys outside of the Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas

Soon the boys and I were back in our rental car, following Doug and Dave to The Beer Can House. Yes. Long ago a man made a house out of beer cans. The house is stunning. Really. At one point Eli quipped,

“What if he had made the house out of one beer can?”

To which our Texas friend responded, “That would be very Texan of him.”

Kyle & I, The Beer Can House, Houston, Texas
Kyle & I, The Beer Can House, Houston, Texas
The Beer Can House, Houston, Texas
The Beer Can House, Houston, Texas
The Beer Can House, Houston, Texas
The Beer Can House, Houston, Texas

The house is closed for remodeling, I believe, and wonder what that means. We took pictures, noticed beer cans entombed in cement, were off to Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern.  In the warm, damp cistern we saw a flickery light, and heard the snappy-fingered thunder that accompanied the “art” rain. I wanted to take a picture in the bathroom afterward, but I didn’t. Then we walked the Buffalo Bayou Park trail to the red button. Finding the button was not easy, but was interesting. Once found, I pushed it as all four boys watched the river. I could not see, but heard them as they exclaimed:

“Wow! Did you see that? Look at the water!”

I quickly pushed the button again. Then I stepped away. I saw it too. In one specific spot, just past the bridge, the water was rumbling. Freezing, we walked on. Up a hill from us we noticed a large statue. It was President Bush. Before I could process that indeed there are two President Bushes, I had already run up to give President George W. Bush a kiss (for my friend Rachael).

That is when someone shouted,

“That’s the older Bush.”  

I haltingly stopped myself and simultaneously asked if there was a statue of the younger.

Me inside the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, Houston, Texas
Me inside the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, Houston, Texas
Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston, Texas
Buffalo Bayou Walk, Houston, Texas
The Red Button at Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston, Texas
The Red Button at Buffalo Bayou Walk, Houston, Texas
The guys looking at the water below as i push the Red Button at Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston, Texas
The guys looking at the water below as i push the Red Button at Buffalo Bayou Walk, Houston, Texas

We never found the younger Bush and found our way back to our cars. Eli was hungry. Of course Dave chose barbecue. We ate barbecue at Goode Co. Armadillo Palace, and of course saw a large, metal armadillo (with horns). I have a thing for jumping pictures. The large metal armadillo seemed the perfect launching point.  And because we had a fifth wheel, Dave, the boys and I were able to jump together. As he looked at all four of us perched on the Armadillo’s ledge, our friend, Doug, pointed at my phone and said,

“Hold the button down, right?”

“Yes. Take as many as you can.” I responded and we jumped.

Then we jumped again.

Doug and Dave, Goode & Co. Armadillo Palace, Houston, Texas
Doug and Dave, Goode & Co. Armadillo Palace, Houston, Texas
Jumping off of a giant metal armadillo at the Armadillo Palace, Houston, Texas
Jumping off of a giant metal armadillo at the Armadillo Palace, Houston, Texas
A goodby selfie with our most awesome tour guide, Doug, Houston, Texas
A goodby selfie with our most awesome tour guide, Doug, Houston, Texas

Now at Houston’s Art Car Museum our friend Doug had to go. We requested a group selfie. In every direction, the sun was wrong and fiercely bright. The moment was right so we snapped away. In seconds Doug was gone. That is when decided we would go inside the museum if it was free. It was free.

Inside, the woman at the front told us that they were also having an art exhibit that day.

“There was no jury and we accepted art from the first 100 people who entered. You can see by the work here that Houston has a lot of talent.”

(Ok. Of course there were some pieces of questionable quality. I would argue that those pieces made it even better and the show was a delight.) We walked through the museum. I took pictures of cool art pieces, confusing exhibits, and crazy art cars — all entertaining. Then we met Gary, a man with a ZZ Top beard, wearing a cowboy hat and wearing a grey shirt with the name “Gary” embroidered on it.

“Is your name really Gary?” I asked.

“Yes it is.” He responded.

Then Gary told us it would only cost us $30.00 to enter a car in the Art Car Parade. He continued.  “And that includes your entry fee, tickets to the dance, and a t-shirt.”

“Of course it includes a t-shirt.” I said as we laughed.

I asked Gary if I could take a picture with him and Dave. He obliged and stood proud. I took three.

Easy E, Viewing the "Open Call" Exhibit at The Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas
Easy E, Viewing the “Open Call” Exhibit at The Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas
The Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas
The Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas
The Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas
The Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas
Dave and Gary, The Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas
Dave and Gary, The Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas

It was time to go. We had a flight to catch. We said goodbye to Gary and were on our way back to the airport, returning our rental car and checking our bags.  We were on the plane. I didn’t mind that Dave was bumped to First Class. The boys and I laughed as we listened to another family of boys argue about whose turn it was to sit by the window. They were persistent. We laughed even harder when we heard their dad insist,

“You now have lost the internet for the rest of the weekend.”

Kyle and I laughed again (empathetically, of course). I felt happy. I was sitting with my boys on each side. We were on our way home. Sure, I knew that I would be hitting the grey Utah winter. My friend, Rita, even texted me, warning me about the bad air. Of course I knew the boys would struggle returning to their routine. (They have.)  I knew Monday would come and I would feel that achy loneliness I feel each day as Dave leaves for work and the boys leave for school. (I did.) Guess what?  I also knew we had this moment.

The boys and I flying from Houston, Texas to Salt Lake City, Utah
The boys and me flying from Houston, Texas to Salt Lake City, Utah

I suck at Christmas and am even worse at gift receiving.

Christmas way back when
Christmas way back when

I think Dave would agree as represented in what he said earlier today:

“Beth, I love Christmas, but each year you make me want to kill myself.”  

I would go as far as to argue that together Dave and I are clearly a gift giving mess.

Kyle and Eli, Christmas 2003, Salt Lake City, Utah
Kyle and Eli, Christmas 2003, Salt Lake City, Utah

It is 2016. Here is where we are at.  According to Dave, I should shut my mouth, open my heart and exude excitement over each gift I am given. I not only think he is on to something, I think he is right.  We should be gracious. We should empathize. We should consider the receiver as much as the giver.

Of course as I consider a bigger reality, I feel compelled to push back and ask, what do you do if you hate the gift? Should you pretend?  Ok. That is too easy. Yes. Of course you should act grateful. Let’s complicate things. What if the gift is between husband and wife? What should you do then? Again Dave is correct when he asserts that one should act excited. And in truth, Dave always and absolutely properly exudes. Let me present another scenario. How deal with the non-grateful actions after the actual present-opening moment?  What if your partner was less than honest about loving (what you believe is) a thoughtful gift? As a result, they leave said unloved gifts in their box, untouched?  What is worse? The unused gifts, gifts your partner surely sees, or your your ungrateful expression, otherwise know as,  A.B.F.? (*By the way, A.B.F. is the active form of R.B.F. [resting bitch face]).

Eli, Kyle & Dave, Christmas, 2004, Salt Lake City, Utah
Eli, Kyle & Dave, Christmas, 2004, Salt Lake City, Utah

To solve the unused gift issue, over that time I found that if l buy Dave exactly what he wants and asks for, he is more likely to take his gift out of the box. It is a process. Well before the holidays, I ask Dave to add his choices into an Amazon Shopping Cart. Then I buy away. It always warms my cold, dark heart when he ups the ante by sending me other links and specific suggestions. Last Christmas was a coup. If Dave had not sent me a link to Traeger’s special Christmas offer, I would have never known he wanted a Traeger Grill. I even think Dave would say his Traeger Grill was the best Christmas gift ever.  We have all benefited from Dave’s perfectly roasted chickens and astutely seasoned brisket. I think it is as much fun for Dave to prepare and grill as it is for him to watch how we receive his heavenly creations.

Kyle and Eli, Park City, Utah, December, 2007
Kyle and Eli, Park City, Utah, December, 2007

Nevertheless something upsets the balance, each year, even last year’s Traeger Grill year. Then panic sets in and misunderstanding runs rampant. And because I think we live in a world of greys not black, I think our issue goes beyond helping me Botox-up my Active Bitch Face and helping Dave be honest about gifts he is less pleased with. And once the shift in the force happens, I know we have entered the dark side. Obviously Dave is General Grievous and I am Count Dooku. Darth Vader would be too easy.

[begin scene]

Picture this: It is Christmas morning. We are on the Death Star.  As Dave, General Grievous, hands me a gift, my hands will break into sweat.  My heart will race,  and my vision will blur.  I sense, because obviously I have the force, albeit dark, that Dave will be waiting in rapt anticipation for my smile to crack. I already know I will disappoint. Likewise, before his gift ever reaches my sweaty hands, I become manic making sure his Amazon cart is full.

[end scene]

I have always been partial to a Charlie-Brown-style tree. We found this one in our backyard, Park City, Utah, December, 2011
I have always been partial to a Charlie-Brown-style tree. We found this one in our backyard, Park City, Utah, December, 2011

Now back in our human reality know that our gift-giving nightmare is always made worse because I vomit honesty. Meaning, I cannot keep my truthy mouth shut. Consequently, acting like I love my new white long underwear is an epic feat. Spoiler Alert: I failed. In fact I am certain those long white underwear are where our selfish hell began. It was twenty years ago.  For Christmas, Dave invited me to his Washington DC home. At that time. I had more money than I had ever had. I had never been asked home to a boy’s house for Christmas. I was touched, enamored and over the moon. Soon I would realize that our expectations were not aligned, yet I did what any good girlfriend would do and bought Dave a crap ton of gifts. By the way, I had so much fun buying those gifts. I even made him a stocking.  I remember my eager anticipation as I handed him gift after gift. Alas, here is when I realized our disconnect. I could see it. I could see Dave’s shock as he opened those gifts. Disappointed, he said, “Why did you give me so much?” (Note* Dave also does not hide his A.B.F. well either).

Dave  excitedly handed me one gift. As I unwrapped, I eyed a pair a long underwear. I was flooded with thoughts and a variety of emotion.

“Underwear?” I thought.
“We camp so much and I know you get cold.” he said.
“Underwear?” I thought again.

Ironically the framed picture behind the boys is one of the presents I gave Dave during the Washington DC Christmas, Park City, Utah, December 2013
Ironically the framed picture behind the boys is one of the presents I gave Dave during the Washington DC Christmas, Park City, Utah, December 2013

Faster than I could catch my breath, the Christmas stocking now seemed silly, so did everything else. We were sitting next to his bed and all I wanted to do is hide under the Star Wars-sheets. (Yes. his bed was covered Star Wars sheets. How awesome is that?)  Instead, as I looked at those utilitarian body warmers. I burst into tears. I let my insecurity take over (obviously). I felt a rush of stupid, shame, and neglect. I could not catch my breath. Instead I opted to try to explain. I know, dudes love a lady who explains stuff. Nevertheless, it’s what I do. And I am sure that Dave was delighted to spend the next four hours having me create my very own very of Dickens’, “A Christmas Carol.”

Of course I kept explaining.

“Long ago in a galaxy far, far away, Christmas was the only time of year I did not have to use my own money to pay for something blah blah blah.”

And in that moment our dysfunctional Christmas feedback loop began.  I wish it did not matter, but somehow the moment we exchanged our first Christmas gifts has informed every Christmas ever since. Both of us were brats. Both of us could not see past our own strong wills. As a result, we still struggle and Christmas is not what Christmas should be.

Our loop is simple. I cry, express defeat, and couch my criticism in rationalization. Dave snaps and criticizes.

“I do not know why you gave me so much.”

An interesting side note: Those long underwear were not only thoughtful, they were practical.  Had Dave given me a moment to catch my breath, and had I held my tongue, I think he would have seen that. Yes. I cried, but those long underwear never remained in a box. In fact. I still wear them today.

Us, Play Del Carmen, Mexico, Christmas Day, 2015
Us, Play Del Carmen, Mexico, Christmas Day, 2015

Back to my story: There is some good. It also took me years not to take Dave’s intent as a slight. I learned to appreciate Dave. First, he wants to (a.) Surprise you. Meaning, if I tell him I have a bunch of stuff in an Amazon Shopping cart, I will kill the surprise.  What I need to do is let him surprise me. And (b.) Dave feels compelled to buy you something practical. I get it. I am practical too. That is why I hate seeing those presents sitting in their boxes.

Further, I think it is important to explain my crazy. See, for me half the fun of Christmas has alway been my ability to return presents. Meaning, I don’t get upset when someone is not elated with what I give them. It really is the thinking-of-them that counts. Nevertheless, sometimes in the moment I forget that everyone does not see the world like I do. As a result, I too easily dismiss someone’s need for me to want their gift. I come by this behavior honestly. I clearly remember my mom attaching gift receipts to each and every present. On December 26, I remember gathering all the unwanted pajamas and sweatsuits, driving over to our local Target and standing in a long return line. Once we returned our items, my siblings and I would compare our cash and then go shopping for day-after-Christmas markdowns. It was a special time.  always knew I could get more-for-my-money the day after Christmas. In fact, returning became such a sport that I almost looked forward to the return more than the actual present. (Yes. I just said that). And before you completely hate me or judge me too harshly, I would ask you to consider the following: My family was not wealthy. I began babysitting full time during the summers at age eleven and worked full time hours. I paid for most everything. Christmas was that time of year I could bank on a little more. As such, Christmas for me was always of giving me a financial break. So stretching my gifted-dollar was the gift. And having the ability to return presents allowed me to buy more things I actually needed like underwear.

Dave and Beth, Park City, Utah, 2009
Dave and Beth, Park City, Utah, 2009

Then one day I married a super cool dude and he gave me the gift of staying home to raise Kyle and Eli. All of a sudden Christmas meant something different. And as much as I want to escape my history, navigating Christmas is filled with two people who literally grew up on opposite sides of the track. Dave did not live with scarcity. It really was about appreciating and finding joy out of both the practical and obscure. We are mostly at cross purposes except for the practical part. As a result, Dave was now in a position to buy me something I did not have to return. Oh, the pressure! So,combined with our new ability to buy the gifts we wanted and our practicality, it never occurred to me that my gift receiving behavior would actually ruin Christmas. I simply assumed Dave would admire my my need to return, or understand why I was not over the moon with say a rape whistle, a pair of long underwear or a Homer gift. In truth, and when it is not Christmas, Dave is actually delighted with my what he calls my “hobby” of buying and returning items and seldom keeping anything.

Ultimately, I know Dave and I fight and disagree  because we deeply care about each other. We are blessed to indulge such selfish considerations. I am humbled and sorry that have spent time worrying about receiving the right gift, or better, the right gift to return [wink wink]. Nevertheless, here we are. Dave wants to kill himself because I kill Christmas. I think we both know we need to get a grip.  We have been talking and being silent for days. We want to move past this. We need to move past this. We need to move past our high expectations, unfair judgements, and resentment of one another. We need step aside and remember that for starters, we have lasted almost twenty-one years. Valentine’s Day 1996 was our first date. We are blessed. I do not have to work. Our boys are healthy. We love each other. Utah is currently bursting with homelessness. I bet if we redirected our gift-giving disconnect to a family in need, they would not care what color of toothbrush we gave them, if the sleeping bag we provide is down-filled or synthetic, if we gave them ten presents or just one.   In the end,  I think instead of giving each other a panic attack each year we should do what Eli suggested and give our money and love to those in need.


December, 2011, a letter to Santa Clause, Park City, Utah
A letter to Santa Clause, Park City, Utah, December, 2011

Making Our Way to the Austin City Limits Music Festival

Austin City Limits 2016: Dave and I at the Mumford and Sons Concert.
Austin City Limits 2016: Dave and I at the Mumford and Sons Concert

I went to bed at 2:00 a.m. I tossed and turned. Between tossing and turning, I checked my email, Facebook and Instagram.  My alarm went off. It was 3:00 a.m. Full of middle-of-the-night-melancholy, I contemplated leaving the boys for the weekend. It never gets easier. I hit snooze and before my alarm went off again. It was 3:15 a.m. I showered, shaved my legs, dressed, put my make-up on and blow-dried my hair (with a round brush no less). At almost 4:00 a.m, I looked at Dave sleeping peacefully. I felt slightly jealous as I contemplated waking him. It only takes him approximately 1/10 of the time it takes me to get ready. Time, not jealously reminded me what I needed to do. I urged Dave awake and asked him to change the sheets. Weird. I know. See. My mom was going to spend a night while we were away. I needed her to have clean sheets. When I noticed that the quilt was hanging to the floor on one side, I tried to help him. Clumsily, I grabbed the quilt.  Then I thought, “we don’t have time for this.”

With clean sheets now on, I let the bed be. That is when I realized how congested and clogged my left ear was.  In hopes of easing my ear pain for our flight,I vaguely recall taking a large handful of vitamins and some Sudafed. Then I looked around and double checked. As Dave walked the luggage to the car, I woke both boys up and kissed them good-bye.

Sunrise and reflections at the Denver Airport
Sunrise and reflections at the Denver Airport

Dave and I were on our 5:30 a.m. flight. So I could sit next to Dave, I gave a girl my seat and took her middle seat. Then I looked around at all the filled airplane seats and thought,

“All these people woke up in the middle of the night and made it here too. Crazy.”

Dave and I on our SLC - DENVER flight seconds before I threw up.
Dave and I on our SLC – DENVER flight seconds before I threw up.

The airplane doors shut. The airplane engine started and the plane made its way to the runway. I put my hoodie on, zipped it up, and cinched the the hood as I put it on over my head. I plopped my head on Dave’s knee. The plane began to take off. Within seconds, sweat dripped down my neck, around my upper lip and across my forehead. I felt dizzy. In hopes of cooling off, I pulled my hair back in a ponytail. I popped up, looked at Dave and pointed toward the seat pocket in front of me. Dave used his husbandly super powers and knew I needed a barf bag.  As I took my hoodie off and pushed up my sleeves, I convinced myself I would not puke.  It literally took less than 10 seconds for Dave to locate the bag, open it and hand it to me. Once the bag was in my hand, I glanced at the seat-belts-must-be-on sign and knew. I lowered my head and began to heave. I could not stop. Soon, the bag was full. I was oddly impressed that I was actually able to puke in a completely full plane — during take-off no less. I looked up. The seatbelt sign was still on. That is when I noticed the girl next to me was curled around the aisle side armrest. I smiled. She literally moved as far away as she could.  I do not blame her.

Finally a flight attendant walked by offering drinks.

“I need to use the bathroom.” I said.

“You will have to wait.” She insisted.

Then I realized she had no idea that I had just (epically) vomited during take-off. In that moment it also occurred to me that maybe the entire plane had not heard my (most impressive) wrenching. For clarity,  I held my full barf bag up in the air and said,

“What would you like me to do with this?”

I think she jumped a little and told me to use the bathroom at the front of the plane. With the seatbelt sign finally off, I made my way past first class section, when I was immediately scolded for using the wrong bathroom.  

“She told me to come up here.” I urged.

Then I prominently held up the full bag of barf.  I watched the flight attendant’s eyes as he  horror-gasped and motioned me to the bathroom.

I believe he made an audible “ew”  while he dramatically grabbed a tissue. In an instant, the tissue became a hazmat suit or a talisman. With his protective gear in hand, the flight attendant promptly covered each knob and handle.

He must have noticed me watching him, because that is when he firmly stated,

“I don’t want to get sick.”

“Dude, we are on a plane.” I thought.

Then I said (out loud), “I am not sick, sick. I have motion sickness. See, I took vitamins and Sudafed on an empty stomach. My ear is plugged…”

He feigned reassurance, and grabbed another tissue.

That is how our Austin City Limits weekend began…

Dave and I moments after entering the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Day 1, Austin, Texas
Dave and I moments after entering the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Day 1, Austin, Texas

On the next flight I cried when I realized I would not be able to lay my body across the fixed-arm bulkhead seats. Then I feel asleep.

Alive, we arrived in Dallas. Yes. That is what I just said. We arrived in Dallas (not Austin) to meet our friends. They live there.  We hopped in their car and drove I-35 to Austin, stopping at a Race Trac gas station, another random gas station, and a Target Starbucks, which was located next to another Texas megachurch. On route, Dave activated our 3-Day Austin City Limits Festival armbands and Rachael, one of our Dallas hosts, sat with me in the back so we could catch up on years of missed conversation.

I think between all the barfing, crying and road tripping, I convinced myself that once we arrived in Austin I would be able to take a nap, shower and brush my teeth. It was not to be. We arrived at the Hyatt Regency Austin. Thank you, Hyatt points and Diamond Status (from living in a Hyatt hotel way back when). You enabled us to get a great room with an awesome view.  We checked in, made our way to our room. I did brush my teeth, change my clothes and discuss the virtues of wearing my running clothes, including my tall compression socks for a festival venue — (best wardrobe plan ever)!

Austin City Limits Music Festival, Feet at the Corinne Bailey Rae Concert, austin, Texas
Austin City Limits Music Festival, Feet at the Corinne Bailey Rae Concert, Austin, Texas
Corinne Bailey Rae is performing way up at the front. ACL Music Festival, Austin, Texas
Corinne Bailey Rae is performing way up at the front. ACL Music Festival, Austin, Texas
LL Cool J Day 2  Austin City Music Festival was AWESOME!
LL Cool J Day 2 Austin City Music Festival was AWESOME!

I put my wristband on just loose enough so I could remove it each night —  #protip. We walked back to the car and drove to the secret parking spot, attended by John, the very kind, white-bearded, hat-wearing dude. We paid him ($30) and walked another mile or so to Zilker Park, the site of the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

On our way we walked along policemen protecting the streets and hipster-locals, who were refreshingly nice. As we walked, we crammed the streets with the other concert goers: girls wearing super high cut-offs, people who take festivals way too seriously, and frat boys who don’t. We were inundated with ticket scalpers (men running up and down the street asking to buy our arm bands), vape smokers blowing their flavor-filled vape-y smoke, and hundreds of bike taxis. We walked by a flash tattoo stand selling overpriced gold and silver temporary tattoos. Of course there were people covered in real tattoos too. I looked around and looked some more. I kept looking for what I had imagined Austin would be. I imagined Austin would be a much more tightly packed, urban setting, such as Portland’s Pearl District or Minneapolis’ Uptown. Yes.  Austin is hipster-y cool and urban, yet it felt oddly spread out and suburban (kind of like Salt Lake City).

Dave carrying our REI Flex Lite Chairs through the crowd, ACL Music Festival, Austin, Texas
Dave carrying our REI Flex Lite Chairs through the crowd, ACL Music Festival, Austin, Texas

We arrived at the festival gates around 4:00 pm. It was dusty, hot and packed. In a blurry daze (because I was tired, not high), we set up our chairs, watched bands, filled our water bottles (you can’t bring liquids in and are searched), and ate festival food (gluten free tamales). I jumped and danced to South Africa’s crazy band, Die Antwoord. We moved to another stage, lost Dave along the way, and found him way in the back. My friend spread out her big red blanket and we  sat down. On the ground I took pictures of people’s feet. Then I stood up to watch. I could not see. My view: a couple making-out through Corinne Bailey Rae’s entire set. The blanket served its purpose, except for the part where I felt like I might get trampled at any moment. As a result of the trampling potential, I highly recommend bringing REI’s very comfortable and easily packable Flex Lite Chair. We packed those chairs in our carry on. Dave packed them in his concert backpack. We set them up and easily took them down all weekend. Our friends liked the REI Flex Lite Chair so much they bought two on our second day. (No, REI is not paying me to say this).

I could not believe I was still standing. Austin City Limits Music Festival Day 1 ended with Radiohead. I was still awake because I had dreamy high hopes of singing my heart out to Radiohead’s classics, such as, “Creep,” “Fake Plastic Trees,” or, “High and Dry.” Dream shattered. Even with the distraction of an obnoxious and drunk concert goer (he was accosting people in the row in front of me), Thom Yorke gave the proverbial middle finger to his fans, opting for ambient and unrecognizable songs. Radiohead’s set literally put me to sleep (*see attached photo). Nap taken. We decided to leave. I loved people-watching our way back to the car.

Me literally asleep during the Radiohead Concert. ACL Music Festival, Austin, Texas
Me literally asleep during the Radiohead Concert. ACL Music Festival, Austin, Texas

The following two days brought more excitement, concert smoke and inappropriately dressed people. We also experienced Austin. Austin’s South Congress Street was my favorite. It brought us to Lucy’s Fried Chicken. Yum. I loved the Maple Sweet Potato Mashed Potatoes and all of the hipster souvenir shops. Who doesn’t want to wear a shirt that has the word “baller” written across a Ball Canning Jar  or a print of Mr. Spock playing the harp? Off of Congress, Dave found the best giant-sized, homemade donuts at Gourdough’s (Big Fat Donut Trailer). I must admit I was tempted to throw my celiac to the wind and take a bite.  I held strong. We ended our weekend well, eating at the local favorite, the Magnolia Cafe. Sure, the arctic breeze the air conditioner provided resulted in cold tacos and solid gingerbread pancake butter. Nevertheless, the experience was awesome. We spent our time discussing the impressively bearded man in the corner. Of course the bearded man prompted Dave to Google “beard contests.”  Thank you, Austin.

Hanging Out at Lucy's Fried Chicken in Austin, Texas
Hanging Out at Lucy’s Fried Chicken in Austin, Texas

In the end, my favorite part of our Austin City Limits weekend is seeing the festival’s final act: Mumford and Sons. In truth, Mumford and Sons are the reason I was there. Hey Thom Yorke here is a #protip: play to your audience. Would it kill you to regale us with “Creep?”

Here is how the Mumford and Sons experience played out: It was our last day. I knew our friends wanted to kayak in the river that runs through Austin. They live in Texas and have kayaked before. With time running short, I suggested we see the city. I will say now that kayaking may have been the correct choice. Nevertheless, our friends were game and did their best to show us Austin. We hopped in their car. Within minutes we found ourselves driving up the windy streets of one of Austin’s trendy city neighborhoods. We stopped and got out of the car. In seconds I had white shoe-covering booties covering my feet as we attended a realtor’s open house (true story). We were close to South Congress Street, so we stopped for what I would now call an unproductive souvenir-buying attempt. In the hot Austin sun we walked up and down along shops and trendy cafes. I loved spending a half hour talking to the people at Texas National Outfitters. Their boots are awesome. Moments later, and as we crossed to the other side of the street, we were accompanied by an armless man screaming,

“Hillary Rodham for Clinton.”

Somehow our pace matched ours as he accompanied us screaming for several more blocks. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit he did stop to sing “Hillary Rodham for Clinton” with a band that was playing along the street.  Now at the car, I was hungry and tired of festival food so we opted for Whole Foods. Thank goodness Dave is a team player and enthusiastically proclaimed,

“Hey, this is the birthplace of Whole Foods, let’s go.”

For the first time that weekend, I was actually able to find something I like to eat. I consider that a win. I am certain our friends were not as enthused. As we pulled into the Whole Food’s parking lot my friend declared:

“I do not like going to grocery stores!”

Our friends were good sports. I think they may also see it as a win because the were able to (1.) use a clean bathroom, and (2.) apply some yummy perfume.

Where Dave and I sat firmly planted in the hot sun (for hours). We prevailed and our Mumford-and-Sons view was excellent.
Where Dave and I sat firmly planted in the hot sun (for hours). We prevailed and our Mumford-and-Sons view was excellent.
Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, Texas
Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, Texas

Back at the festival we made it past security (twice) because the first person did not like our friend’s (Whole Foods) chocolate bar and was going to confiscate it.  Instead of throwing it out, they went through another line and hid it better. Now inside, we walked and danced our way to the very front left side of the main stage. Mumford and Sons were slated to go on at 8 p.m. It was around 4:30 p.m. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats were in the middle of their set when our friends (wisely) disappeared. Dave and I committed to our plan, which was to be as close to the front as possible. We danced. We sang and I listened to the women next to me harmonize (or try too) at the top of her lungs. The Night Sweats played their last song, “SOB,”  and the crowd went crazy. By the end of the song, I was not only dancing and singing, I was jumping and screaming. The band finished. Dave and I made our way as close to the front as possible, the barrier on the left side. It was the fence that separated the commoners from VIP section.  We sat down and spread all four backpacks (yes, our friends’ too).  With our backs against the fence and the hot sun on our face, we waited. At 6:00p.m. we dug our heels in (literally) for the Chris Stapleton performance. Women of all ages pushed, shoved and grabbed at me. Their attempts were no match for my determination. Truth be told, Chris Stapleton is another artist I do not know. His hairy-sexy-beast persona won me over. His performance was awesome. I especially enjoyed his “You are my Sunshine” duet with his wife, Morgane.

Mumford and Sons, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, Texas
Mumford and Sons, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, Texas

By the time Mumford and Sons began (shortly after 8:00 p.m., Dave and I had befriended a group of Louisiana high school girls, who offered to act as a barrier between me and the crowd, two very nice and self-assured college kids, a brother and sister, and the security guards manning the entrance of the VIP section. During the concert the guards passed water to us and we would pass to the crowd.  When they gave us beer, we gave it to the brother and sister. Our Dallas-based friends had come and gone and were sitting off to the side. I will tell you what: Every sweat inducing, hair pulling, full-bladder suffering moment was worth the wait. The music began to play. The crowd began to scream. Then Marcus Mumford began to sing as the audience sang along. Instead of playing obscure ambient noise (I’m still not over it, Radiohead), Mumford and Sons played to their audience. The energy was electric! They played new stuff for a little while, but before they lost us, they got back to songs we knew. They played “Ghosts that we knew,” a song that carried me through me last late miscarriage. I cried while Dave and I sang. We held hands.  We pinched each other. We pinched ourselves. In a flash, all the bad, boring, vomit-y, and uncomfortable moments of the weekend washed away. We were here. I was jumping. Dave was singing and my compression socks were making it easy. Thank you Mumford and Sons, you do a show right.

View from our room on the 15th floor, Hyatt Regency, Austin, Texas
View from our room on the 15th floor, Hyatt Regency, Austin, Texas

And thank you, Austin, Texas, and your City Limits. We really enjoyed our weekend with you.


Post Delay While We Heal Dave’s Big Brain

Thank you Heather S. for the amazing gift basket! Those pears were SO delicious! xo
Thank you Heather S. for the amazing comfort food gift basket! Those pears were SO delicious! xo

Often my writing is filled with angst-y, dark moments. It is true. For me, writing pain sentences comes easier than articulating light happy ones. Maybe it is because darkness literally fills me with pressure-cooker dread. Meaning, for my utter survival, I have to let those painful words out. Obviously, I am sure there is a direct correlation to my dark writing and my Seasonal Affected Disorder. And today would be the perfect day to go dark. See, it is our very first blustery autumn day 2016. It is like 40 degrees outside (actually 50), rainy, cold and grey. In my rearview I see Wednesday’s ninety-degree, sunny, short weather. In front of me I see cold snow covered mountaintops and big, gloomy clouds covering Wednesday’s clear blue sky. I could easily find my way to a warm blanket and a Netflix binge (chill or no chill). In the end, and even though the sky is spooky dark, I am happy. Life is good. Dave is great! We feel blessed!

As far as Dave’s big brain goes, well, Dave is healing well. Dave did what he needed to do to get himself better. He stayed off screens for a week, remained in a dark room, and slept and slept and slept. My guess is Dave’s obedience to the routine is the reason Dave is doing so well. And believe me, the last thing Dave is is compliant.

Dave sewing on Kyle's missing button. Homecoming 2016
Dave sewing on Kyle’s missing button. Homecoming 2016

The other day I talked to a psychiatrist friend. According to him, Dave is a classic textbook example of someone who has sustained a head injury. In fact, as far as T.B.I’s (terminal brain injuries) go, Dave’s injury is most likely low grade. And to me, a low grade T.B.I. is a lot easier to digest than the diagnosis Dave received of a high-grade concussion — even though low grad T.B.I. and high-grade concussion are pretty much the same thing (don’t quote me on that).

As a result, lack of self-awareness, better, self-monitoring and short-term memory anomalies are the crazy consequences of Dave’s concussion. I am not talking the typical lose-track-of time Dave or lack-of-volume-control Dave, or even completely-focused-on-his-iPhone Dave; I am talking about the Dave whose short-term memory is a little bonkers. Dave does not remember much about last week (completely understandable). For instance, I asked him if he remembers how upset he was when I grabbed his sore thumb?

“I was never upset!” He proclaimed.

After hearing Dave’s I-was-not-upset proclamation, I needed backup. I asked Kyle to come into the room.

“Kyle, remember when we were helping Dad out of bed and I grabbed his sore thumb?” I asked.

Kyle smiled and responded, “Yep.”

I gently (for real) laughed and continued, “Dave, not only were you upset, you scolded me. You said, ‘Beth, how many times do I have to tell you NOT to GRAB my sore thumb?’”

To which Kyle responded, “Dad, you did.”

“I never said any such thing.” Dave insisted.

Us, Giant's Causeway, Northern, Ireland
Us, Giant’s Causeway, Northern, Ireland

I imagine Dave is frustrated. He knows I am telling him that things are off, but he is not sure how things are off. He does not feel different, but knows I am telling him things are different, that is. Do you trust your wife or your big brain? Because Dave leans towards my interpretation of reality, my guess is he is a little scared (or is just indulging me). I imagine it is no fun to have your wife persistently say,

“Remember this? Remember that? Dude, you are blanking again. Dave. Sweetie, you said the same thing ten minutes ago.” Consequently, you might conclude that Dave he is a little annoyed with me. I am sure he is. Still, Dave takes it. Dave has done what he needs to do.

Dave and I at Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie, Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland
Dave and I at Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie, Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland

The pay off: Dave went to work this morning (and has for more than a week now). I drove him. He is still a little slow and disconnected.   If he tires or feels weird, I made him promise to text me. I know he won’t. I know Dave (pre and post-concussed). And because I do, I checked in with him instead. He says he is, “pretty good,” whatever that means? Truth be told, I am not sure he would notice anyway. I am crossing my fingers that he does not go all blank face or repeat himself repeatedly (perseverate). I also hope he finds a way to use the correct noun, or at least cleverly brushes off the gaffe (anomic aphasia), if he doesn’t [wink wink]. It was hilarious (fascinating) the other day when he demanded I hand him the “trash can” when he meant, “shopping bag.” Alas, I am reassured with his ability to talk around the word (a sort of circumlocution) until he is able to produce it. Meaning, I think Dave will find a way to make today work. It is now Wednesday – actually Friday, September, 23. I began this post on September 12. Sure, he is still circumlocution-ing his way to words like, vesting. And at this point I find it sort of amusing that he has discovered (three times over) that I found his black shirt. My mom says Dave reminds her of what it is like to get old, “you are getting a little taste of it now.” She told me.

This morning Dave told me his thumb is still pretty sore. His side still aches, but is so much better.  He can finally get out of bed without feeling significant pain.Most of his cuts and scrapes are healed. He tried to tell our neighbor that he would be mountain biking in a week. Of course we put a stop to that.  Some days I look at his blank stare and think he has paused or even drifted backward. He really likes to play a game on his phone. I remember getting addicted to a video game after my concussion. The game is called, “Peggle,” and yes, I share my worry with Dave.  I am sure I am being overly cautious, but I only have one of him. Mostly,Dave is good. Each day he is better. I know he is moving forward. Progress.

Go Dave!

Dave, Giant's Causeway, Northern, Ireland
Dave, Giant’s Causeway, Northern, Ireland

High Anxiety

Dave, September 8, 2016
Dave, September 8, 2016

At 1:47 AM I walked into our bedroom. As you can imagine, I have not been sleeping much this week.

Dave exclaimed, “My head hurts. I cannot sleep!”
“Where does it hurt?” I asked.
“Behind my eyes. It hurts behind my eyes!” Dave proclaimed.
“Dude, you need to stay off screens.” I responded.
“It’s not the screens. It’s all of this sleep. I am sleeping too much!” He protested.
“Um, that’s not true!” I said.

Maybe he is right about all of that sleep. I am certain he is wrong.

Dave was now out of bed looking for the Advil. I found him some Benadryl. He took both, and we climbed into bed.

His words played like a warning:

“Behind my eyes. It hurts behind my eyes!”

Dave, September 8, 2016
Dave, September 8, 2016

Consequently, as Dave tossed and turned, I worked through the aneurism I was certain he would have. Would I call an ambulance? Of course I would. What about the boys? I would take them with me?

Tossing still, I took the next step and began to plan what we would do at the hospital.

“I really need a shower. “ I thought and almost got up and took one.

I know. I know I am dark. I also know that when I am spinning out of control, instead of ignoring them, processing those dark and dramatic thoughts helps. And last night I worked through Dave’s death. As I felt his warm and restless body next to mine, I quietly cried. I moved closer to him and could not imagine life without him. I held my breath. Obituaries, funeral talks & potatoes were finally the counting-sheep that I needed.

I fell asleep. Dave did too. When the boys were getting ready for school, Kyle came into our room. Dave was still breathing, snoring, in fact. I was now up with the boys. We talked about their day. With their arms filled with backpacks, school sweaters, and a big red bag filled with blankets for the Cross Country meet, we hugged and said goodbye.

I watched as they walked to the car. I yelled, “make good choices,” as I always do, happily laughed to myself, and shut the door.

The Boys At our Front Door on the First Day of School, 2016
The Boys At our Front Door on the First Day of School, 2016

…I will say it. This week has scared me more than I think it should. I keep reminding myself to breathe. I keep acknowledging that it could have been worse. A man died mountain biking the day before Dave. He was a similar age and had a similar type crash. We are lucky. I feel selfish. I feel grateful.

As the week progresses, each day Dave the boys and I joke about how long I have consistently been nice to Dave.

“You have been nice for four days straight.” Eli jokes.

This morning I came close to losing it. Kyle sent me a text from school. He couldn’t find his paper. Google Docs is awesome, except when you write your paper in say your Dad’s account instead of your own. I woke Dave up.

“Will you help me get into Kyle’s account?” I frantically said.

The anxiety was building. I knew Dave and I needed to leave soon. I knew Kyle needed his paper. I was on the phone with Kyle as Dave sat at the computer. He searched for Kyle’s paper. My memory caught up with me so as I watched Dave, I exclaimed,

“Dave. Dave. Wait. I need to be doing that. You can’t be on screens.”

(Ok. I know a few minutes on screens probably won’t hurt him, but then again..)

“I am sorry. Please move. I will look for the paper.” I said.

Dave, Day 1
Dave, Day 1

I could tell Dave was annoyed. I could feel me stripping his control. I hated it. I felt guilty making him look and stressed that I might be causing him more damage. I also know I was probably overreacting. This brain stuff is new to all of us. We found Kyle’s paper. It was indeed in Dave’s account. I emailed it to him and Dave and I were on our way.

Right now I am sitting at a local Starbucks. Did I mention that Tuesday Dave was supposed to start a new job? I know, great timing, right? Today Dave needed to meet the team. Some folks are here from out of town. He showered, shaved and put on nice clothes. Seeing him in his business casual made me feel safe and normal.

I drove him to his new office. He was very quiet. We arrived. I pulled into a spot and told him I would wait nearby. I started looking at Google Maps. I expected Dave to get out of the car. Before his crash if I were dropping him somewhere, he would have already been out the door, and up the stairs. Instead he sat in the car – still quiet.

“Is everything ok?” I asked.
“I want to know which Starbucks you will be at?” He replied.
“Let’s look at the map and find the closest one.” I replied.

We did.

Us, The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland, July 24, 2016
Us, The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland, July 24, 2016

Once he knew where I would be, he left. I am now waiting. I texted him. He says things are going, “pretty well.” I am going to get him soon.

…The meetings went well. Dave was there for two and a half hours.  He is wiped out and home now sleeping. Three hours later and he is still sawing logs. Go Dave! Heal that brain!

PS Thank you everyone for your love and support. Thank you for caring about Dave. He is pretty awesome! xo

My Big Brain Dave, an Update

Big Daddy and Me
Big Daddy and Me

The brain is fascinating, subtle and nuanced. I love Dave’s big brain. As you know, right now Dave needs to recalibrate his.

We are grateful he fell on his face (the head’s crumple zone). And we are even happier for those facial fractures. Supposedly they took the brunt of the force. At this point, I think Dave is out of the woods (crossing our fingers, but pretty optimistic). I do not think Dave will remember much. As you might imagine, he remains sore, scabbed and bruised. His face still looks weird, and his brain is still a little wobbly slow.

He tires quickly and sleeps between twenty  — twenty-three hours a day. Dave says one of the reasons he sleeps so much is because he is completely bored. The boys and I take Dave’s acknowledgement of boredom (which began yesterday) as an excellent sign. Of course connecting that he is bored indicates that his synapses are firing. It also means Dave is respecting the healing process. Go Dave!

Big Daddy
Big Daddy

Additionally, if you catch Dave when he is awake, he is clear, lucid and pretty much Dave, albeit a sluggish (runs out of energy quickly) version of himself. Yesterday, after waking up at about 2:00PM, he decided he really wanted to go to the boys’ Cross Country meet. I relented. He ate something. Then rested. He was literally up for about 30 minutes before he needed a rest. I woke him up and we left around 3:30 PM. We parked close, walked our camping chairs to the finish line. Dave put his ear buds in, sat in the shade. He was quiet and docile. He seemed totally normal – if you don’t know him (he did not look at his phone once — so weird). As you can imagine, the finish line was full of lots of screaming and loud cheers. I could tell the noise was bugging him, even though he never said a word. I stood by the finish. When he heard their names, Dave got up to watch Kyle and Eli cross the finish line. As soon as the boys were finished, Dave and I went home. That was about 4:30PM. Dave rested for a bit. Then randomly decided he needed to work on our sprinklers (6:00PM and for about ten minutes). He rested, ate some dinner and was down for the night.

Kyle and Eli at their Cross Country Meet, Sugarhouse Park, Salt Lake City, Utah
Kyle and Eli at their Cross Country Meet, Sugarhouse Park, Salt Lake City, Utah

Dave describes his present state of mind as “groggy,” or, “cloudy.” He says he doesn’t feel any different mentally, aside from the fatigue. Earlier this week, he described it as fog. I don’t think he remembers he felt this way. He is starting to miss his phone. Moments ago I made a deal with him to stay off of it until Saturday. Earlier today he snuck onto Facebook (on his iPhone, of course). Busted, brain-boy. Hey Dave, did you forget that I am on Facebook too? Possibly. Sure enough, as I was scanning my Facebook feed, I noticed Dave had responded to our friend, Cam’s, post. Dave’s words were clear, thoughtful and articulate. I was elated as I read what he had to say. I also replied and asked Cam to remind Dave that he needs to stay off of screens.

Dave, Day 4
Dave, Day 4

“Promise him it is only for a few more days.”

Of course I also know our behind-the-scenes reality. For his Facebook response, Dave had time to articulate his thoughtful words. I also know that Dave has not worked this week. Instead of anticipating more short-circuits once he is back to full speed work life (I am sure there will be hiccups), we are trying to take one moment to the next.

Nevertheless, Dave’s intellect and sense of humor remains in tact. We are grateful.

Then there is this what I would call the nuance-of-the-concussed: Dave and I were sitting on the couch a little while ago. He started telling me why he was awake during the night,

“There were all of these little cartoon creatures surrounding me feet and arms. I needed to move my legs so I could get into the right spot I could disrupt their connections. Every time I shut my eyes I saw them moving around shooting their little zapping ray. I just couldn’t get them into the right spot to disrupt them.”

I laughed. Dave paused. I could see him make a connection. The he said,

“Maybe I was just dreaming.” (Let’s be clear. He wasn’t dreaming. Dave was awake and was hallucinating.  The good news is that he recognized his “dream” was a little off kilter.)




It is Thursday.