KareBear.

Snippet of conversation between Me and KareBear:

Me: “I really want to take Hampton to the dog park, but I’m afraid I’ll just be setting him up for disappointment by introducing him to something he probably won’t get to do after I’m gone.  Maybe it’s better if he never knows the dog park even exists.  That way he can never miss it.”

Pause.

KB: “I think you may be over-thinking this.”

Since you asked, some introductory tidbits on KareBear:

Her real name is Karen.

She’s Mrs. Keeble Beeble Bumble Bee.

She was the last person Johnny Rocket gave a nickname to, hence KareBear.

She’s mom to Taylor, who’s pretty great.  (Taylor is one of my six dedicated readers.  Shout out to Taylor!)

Needless to say, KareBear’s pretty great, too.

To Do.

I’m a fan of “to do” lists.  Throughout the day, I jot them down everywhere — post-its, notebooks, envelopes, napkins, whatever happens to be handy when a to do pops into my head.  I used to make an effort to compile them in one place at least once a week, but a particularly stressful list a few years ago that was 36 items long and sent me into a tailspin of angst (over all of the things I had to do) and regret (over all of the things I would most surely never get to) ended that nonsense.  So now my lists can be found spread across many pieces of paper on many surfaces, big and small scraps of angst and regret, all sitting in silent judgement of me, often with items repeating from list to list.  Maybe “fan” isn’t the best word to describe my relationship with to do lists.  “Indentured servant?”

Anyhoo, here’s what’s on my to do list right now:

Hand wash delicates

Vacuum room

Learn everything you can about the year 1986 (more on that later)

Buy Jenny’s birthday present (I have been agonizing over this one for days; all suggestions welcome, family!)

Write some blogs for next week (Patty and I are hitting Palm Beach and I don’t want my six dedicated readers to have nothing to entertain them.  You know who you are.)

Remove the old coffee maker that has been replaced with newish coffee maker (Probably won’t do this; probably will ask brother to do it)

Reply to ____’s email (former client, super lovely, who sent me a sweet note last month and I haven’t written back yet.  Must do this!)

Reply to ____’s email (also a former client.  Not as lovely.  Probably won’t do this.)

Buy that thoughtful gift for the Bestie that you keep forgetting to buy

Wax upper lip (full transparency here, people)

Get some health insurance

Make a budget

Download WWOZ 90.7 FM App to iPhone so that you can listen to the smooth sounds of New Orleans as often as you’d like (Actually, already did this, but thought you guys would want to know about it so you can, too)

Schedule Living Social massage that you’re starting to regret buying because the place looked a bit sketchy when you Googled it

Write the Astronomy Department Chairman a letter about your dad’s fund

Figure out your future

Get an oil change

Enough.  Just typing this is making me angst-y.  You get the idea.

 

Things I’ve Noticed About Life In Suburbia: #43.

#43:  Everybody talks on the phone while they’re driving.  Or maybe I should say that everybody drives while they’re talking on the phone.  Either way, I can tell you that Oprah would be bullshit about all of these shenanigans.  Her head would explode.  Today I was driving in front of a guy who was talking on the phone (one hand) while smoking a cigarette (other hand).  There are no words.

Dear Mr. George R.R. Martin.

Dear Mr. George R.R. Martin,

Or should I call you Ser?

First, let me say, bravo.  You got me, hook, line, and sinker.  I resisted, I did.  I watched the first season of Game of Thrones back to back on a borrowed HBO GO subscription (sorry, HBO, but you really shouldn’t make your channel so f’in costly) and, when it was done and I could return to my non-Westeros life, I thought “I’m satisfied.  I don’t need to read the books.  I’ll just watch the show.  Really, I’m fine.”

And then my world went topsy turvy and I sorted my life into small and medium boxes, all meticulously labeled according to content and intent.  And in the box labeled “BOOKS FOR NOW” I slipped one through five of your A Song of Ice and Fire series (thanks, Suzanne).  What better way to face an uncertain future than by escaping to a fantasy world of knights and dragons and dwarves and a brotherhood of men stationed on a wall?  “Winter is coming,” the Northmen say.  Well, I had no idea what was coming my way and winter sounded pretty good to me.

That was February and here we are in early May.  Yesterday, I read the last page of Book Four (well, not the last last page because, really, who reads the Appendix?) and I’m starting to wonder one thing:

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

Mr. Martin, do you have any idea where the hell this is all going?

I ask with all due respect, but, come on, you have to admit this is getting a bit dicey.  Apparitions are appearing, George.  People we loved like our own are walking the earth with rotting faces (we can see their skulls, George.  Their skulls!).  Brienne’s getting the shit kicked out of her at every turn (heck, for all I know she’s dead now) and she’s supposed to be the heroine (at least, I like to think she is).  Tyrion didn’t even make an appearance in this book and Arya just lost her eyesight.  Her eyesight!

Look, I understood why you killed Ned Stark.  I even, grudgingly, understood the Red Wedding (I f’in hate old Walder Frey).  Jaime losing his sword hand?  Had to happen.  Everything that’s coming to Cersei is justified and I couldn’t care less if we never see Bran or Rickon Stark again (sorry, Rickon).  But, as I contemplate starting Book Five, I’ve got a few doubts about where all of this is going and whether any of it can truly reach a satisfying conclusion (again, the Brienne thing is really eating me up).  I know that Dorne’s hoping to “get with” Dany and her dragons and start some serious shit with King’s Landing.  And there’s that awful Crow’s Eye gathering salt wives and leaving corpses wherever he sees fit.  He wants the dragons, too.  It’s all about the dragons, sure.  But in Book One you kindof led us to believe that it’s also all about what lives in the North, beyond the Wall.  That it was about the White Walkers and the wights and those little children that everyone talks about but no one ever sees.  Are we going back to the North, George?  I hope so.  The North needs us.  And, remember, Winter is Coming.

Okay, I’ve said my piece.  Westeros, the Seven Kingdoms, the Free Cities, and beyond, are all in your able hands.  Don’t screw it up, George.  That’s all I ask.  Mayhaps.

xo,

Becka

H.

I learned recently, during one of my morning reading sessions (thanks, Malcolm Gladwell), that most dogs tend to either travel or track when they’re out and about on the leash.  Hampton is definitely the latter.  Or is it the former?  He’s a tracker.  He smells and smells and smells some more; everything and anything in our path.  Mailbox?  Check!  Clump of weeds? Check!  Trash can or recycling bin?  Check and check!  And all things in between.  Needless to say, our daily walks can take some time.  And God only knows what he’s actually tracking or what he’ll do when he finds it.  He has no interest in squirrels or most other dogs.  Nose to the ground, slow and steady, we make our way around the block and back again, always tracking.

Right now, at this very moment, Hampton (or, sometimes, “H” to me) is tracking the cubby hole under MJR’s desk.  The other thing to know about Hampton — other than the tracker thing — is that he’s a pussy.  A vulgar way to put it, I know, but to know H is to know how apt that label is.  And right now, with a glorious Florida rainstorm pounding the roof overhead, complete with thunder and lightening, H is snug as a bug under the desk next to MJR’s feet.  A pussy.

When I look at Hampton, more often than not I’m reminded of Johnny Rocket and how much he loved Hampton’s predecessor, Dank, and how happy he was when this new fella arrived to fill the space that sweet Dank left behind.  I think he’s the one who came up with Hambone as a nickname (Johnny Rocket couldn’t resist bestowing nicknames, even on our pets) and he’d spend hours sitting in his chair, reading, hand dangling over the side, stroking H’s golden coat, while never losing track of where he was in his book.

We make fun of Hampton and his skittish disposition; afraid of thunderstorms and cats (one in particular), somewhat clingy, always underfoot or just outside my bedroom door waiting… waiting.  But what if he’s really braver than all of us?  What if it’s not fear or cowardice that drives him under that desk, but something else altogether.  What if, with Johnny Rocket gone, he seeks out MJR so that she won’t be alone when the storms are raging just outside?  The same way he makes his way into her room every morning, settling beside her on the bed, checking on her in the early hours of dawn.

He’s a tracker, after all.  His nose will always lead him where he’s supposed to be.

 

Wet. Washcloth. Stat.

I’m guessing most of us have that one cure-all thing that makes us feel better when we’re sick.  A favorite pillow, a particular brand or flavor of soothing tea or soup, a beat-up tee shirt that feels exactly right, a warm bath with the lights low.  You get the idea.  For me, since I can remember, it’s always been a wet washcloth laid just so on my forehead.

When I was super little and I’d have a fever and would be restless and moan-y in the wee hours, Johnny Rocket or MJR (whoever lost the coin toss, I suspect) would slip into my bedroom to administer love and medicinals.  They’d take my temperature, rub Mentholatum on my chest, drape a wet washcloth on my burning forehead, and sit with me for a spell until I fell back to sleep.

To this day, many years later, I must have a wet washcloth for my forehead at the first sign of sickness or discomfort.  Be it cold or fever or hangover or even crying jags brought on by grief: Wet. Washcloth. Stat.  Ask anyone who’s ever lived with me and they will tell you the same thing.  They likely even brought a washcloth to me once or twice; sometimes only to be sent back to sufficiently dampen it again.  Just the other morning, the Bestie called and, at the sound of my voice, immediately surmised: “Is it a wet washcloth day?”  God, I’m so predictable.

Here’s the thing.  I know my wet washcloth isn’t magical.  I know it can’t truly sweep away whatever ails me; usually only time and deep sleep will do that (that’s especially true of hangovers and grief).  And aspirin.  But sometimes, when I’m lying in bed with my wet washcloth doing its best to soothe and ease and comfort, I think of those early days, when I was little, and nearby was the loving figure of a mother or a father, sitting with me in the dark.  Whispering, “It will all be better soon.  You’ll feel better soon.  This will pass.”

And, eventually, it does.

Derby Day.

People keep asking and the answer is always the same: No, I don’t miss New York City.  At all.  I mean, I’m sure there’s a part of me that misses it, subconsciously, deep down, somewhere.  But I’m truly not aware of it.  I don’t miss it.  Plain and simple.

My friends?  I miss them so much so much.  And, considering New York City has more of Becka’s Friends per capita than any other place on this planet, then yes, I guess that means I miss New York City.  Sort of.

Today I’m reminded of these two things because today is Derby Day.  And, fairly consistently, on and off, over the course of the last almost 16 years, Derby Day meant New York City and Carrie McGinnis, and mint juleps in my Grandfather’s silver cups, and Carrie’s Derby Pie, and a painting of horses at Churchill Downs hung above the couch, and Brooklyn backyards, and the race projected on a big screen, and $2 bets, and trips to Fairway for snacks, and sausages on the grill, and clean-up afterwards, and winners (never any losers), and friends, friends, lots of friends.

I have this idea that, once I settle in Austin, I’ll be able to lure my friends to Texas, one by one.  Heather.  Jen and John.  Kim.  Carrie and Chris and Baby Kate and Chaz.  Patty and Andy.  Lance and PJ.  And all the rest.  Maybe I’ll even manage to convince some family to follow, too.  And that first Derby Day party, after this little commune I dream of has settled in?  What a fine party that will be.

More Hampton.

Me: “I think if the house was on fire Hampton wouldn’t try to save any of us.”

MJR: “No, probably not.  He’d be the first to leave and then one of us would burn going back in to save him.”

Pause.

Me: “He’s no Lassie.”

Keeble Beeble Bumble Bee.

My dad was big on nicknames.  Each of us kids had at least one, sometimes more.  I was “Beep.”  Jenny was “Jenny Penny,” later “Jenny-O.”  We both sat squarely in the middle of the nickname spectrum between Humdrum and Humiliating.  My brother, on the other hand, didn’t get off that easy.  Ready for it?  Keeble Beeble Bumble Bee.  Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.  It’s worth repeating: Keeble Beeble Bumble Bee.  And whenever he tortured me (which was often), I’d enjoy calling out in a singsong voice when his motley gang of misfits and hellions were assembled in our front yard (usually playing football; often throwing the ball straight at my head whenever I happened by), “Oh, Keeeeeeeble Beeeble Bumble Beeee…. Mom wants you!”

My dad attracted labels as effortlessly as he gave them, for sure.  He had multiple upon multiple nicknames; a list that we recorded with wipe away marker on the board in his hospital room during that last week and that Keith recited during his memorial service last year.  Names like Professor, Dr. O, Diddy, Daddy-O, Jet Propulsion, PUF, Passionate Pussy Cat, Johnnykins, Poppa, Pops, Champ, and, my favorite, Johnny Rocket.

When we were kids, the nicknames he gave us were cringe-inducing.  Now I think we each treasure them; I know I do.  No one has ever called me Beep except my dad and, while many things are lost to me these days, the sound of his voice saying that silly, childish name is locked away in my head and rings clear as a bell when I need it.

Thinking about my brother and his nickname and those hot summer days when his gang gathered in the yard awaiting his instructions for that afternoon’s activities (Ride bikes or play football?  Take the bus to the Gainesville Mall and scrounge change for an Orange Julius or rummage around the construction site down the road past the culdesac?) makes me want to share this letter I wrote for him recently when he was renewing his broker’s license.

“To Whom It May Concern,

It’s my pleasure to offer this letter of reference for my brother, Keeble Beeble Bumble Bee. (NOTE: No, I didn’t really use his nickname in the letter.)

For as long as I can remember, KBBB’s response to any family member expressing the need for a service of any kind (be it emergency plumbing, washing machine repair, yard work, car maintenance, even dog care) has been “I know a guy who…”  This response is so common that it’s become a family joke of sorts; a source of endless ribbing that KBBB has accepted graciously.  But, as with most family jokes, it’s rooted in an inarguable truth: my brother is someone you can turn to for any sort of solution and he’s someone to whom people of all walks of life gravitate towards; he truly does know a lot of guys who.   Even more remarkable: they all show up when he calls.

When he asked me to offer this written reference on his behalf I spent a bit of time thinking about why that is; why does my brother’s mental rolodex rival that of most anyone I know?  Sure, he’s friendly and he takes the time to ask people questions about themselves which serves to ingratiate them to him more quickly and lastingly than most.  And yes, he’s spent his life learning many skills himself, which means he speaks the common language of many many tradesmen.  Both of these reasons certainly contribute to the phenomenon, but there’s more to it and I believe I know what it is: his character.  KBBB is someone whose words are backed up by action.  When he tells you something (whether he’s offering advice and guidance or simply recounting his day), you take him at his word because his word, every time, is honest and true.  He builds lasting relationships because he has integrity and he insists that he himself live up to the same standards that he looks for in others: a strong work ethic, generosity towards all, no dishonesty in negotiations, and unwavering follow through (you made a promise?  You better keep it.).  People gravitate towards him because he exemplifies all of these character traits and, in turn, he brings them out in others.  What’s more, he inspires loyalty in his friends and associates and spurs them to want to help when needed because they know he’ll always do the same for them.

I respect and admire my brother immensely.  He inspires me daily and I couldn’t be more proud to offer a strong recommendation for him to your organization.

Sincerely,

Beep”

It’s a pretty great exercise, sitting down to write a letter like this for someone close to you.  Someone you’ve known your entire life; someone who can sometimes frustrate you and drive you up a wall and down again.  But when you really think about who that person is; when you take a few to really really think about it…  Well, you remember that that person is your hero, your coach, your partner in crime, your conscience, and someone who makes you say to yourself often and clearly: I want to be better tomorrow than I am today.