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It has been almost exactly 2 years since you died.  You don’t have a marker of any kind (I’m a little pissed at your family about this) and so I don’t know where to go to talk to you.

Nick and I always expected you to be around for our kids.  Skye, my niece, was born in October and it breaks my heart that you never got to meet her.  That baby’s laugh would do you so much good, and she looks so much like Nick it’s not even funny.  (She has his exact ears, which I find utterly hysterical.)  Dad’s been through a lot, and I think that maybe you and Dad could get along.  It’d be good for you to have friends your own age.

I never came around often enough.  I don’t know how to apologize enough for it, the only excuse I have to offer (and it’s a lame one) is that it’s how I have always been.  I’m the same way with the family I like, the family I dislike, my close friends… I’m a hermit, and it’s bad for me.  And so were you, and it was bad for you.  You forced yourself to go outside and be social, and I have to do the same thing with myself.

I don’t think I ever accurately described how much I was always inspired by you, how much I still am.  You were flawed, but you routinely did things that most people saw as miracles.  There are some many times in the past two years where I wanted to call you up and talk to you, or swing by and take you out to lunch.  I wish you had seen Nick in his uniform, and gone to see Star Trek with us when we were in town.  If I had known you were in the hospital, I swear, I would have been there.  I’ve never had a bigger shock than waking up to the news that you were dead, and your service was the next day.

I love you.  You were one of the few constants in my life, you are still a source of inspiration.  I think you were amazing and never knew how amazing you were.

I wish you were alive.  I’m sorry you’re gone.

Love always,

Bethany

I miss Mike Helmit.  He died in June, just about 8 months ago, and I have been trying to think of some way to express what he was to me, and what an awesome dude he was.

Every evening I come home from school, I take the back roads (not the highway) so I have an opportunity to pass by his apartment complex.  When driving by the apartment complex he lived in I look for him.  Not ‘glance to the spot he used to sit and wave at traffic by reflex’ but I crane my head as I drive past.  Not because I think I’ll see some spectral dude in a wheelchair, but because I still haven’t convinced myself that his death wasn’t an elaborate joke.

That was my reaction the first 24 hours after I found out he’d died.  It was a trick, or a joke, or a mistake.  He couldn’t possibly be dead.  There is no way that Michael James Helmit could possibly DIE, it was his brother and the whole thing is just a big mistake.

I also spent most of that day bawling like an infant, as well.

The funeral was unreal.  Me and my boyfriend were really the only people who’d bothered try to dress up much- I found out he had died the day before the funeral, so there was a big panic for me to find a black dress and I was a teency bit irritated to find that I had done a bit of unnecessary panicking.  I was glad to see that his family had cremated him, as he had really wanted.  (Well he REALLY wanted his body donated to science- he was born somewhat handicapped and wanted his body used to prevent his birth defect happening to others- but he KNEW his family wouldn’t go for it.)  They had pictures and articles of him out everywhere.  My dad told a really great story about him, which I’ll relate in a minute.

Since I mentioned his handicap I’ll try my best to describe it, although I always fail somewhat.  Mike was born with stumps of arms, basically he had arm only up to the elbow.  He had a small bump which he called his thumb (when I was little my brother and I used to push it and he would go ‘beep!’ for us).  His legs were two different lengths, neither the proper one, and his feet were very malformed.  He had a total of three toes between both feet.  His torso was just fine- normal head and body, just unformed appendages.  He built models, he had better handwriting than most people I know, he smoked a lot before he died (not just cigarettes, he was a dyed-in-the-wool-pothead).  He read a lot, he was a great talker, he had the best deep evil laugh.  He did this neat thing where he could whistle and hum at the same time and it sounded like a whirring spaceship.

He loved kids- they gave pretty honest reactions and he was always willing to explain to his kids that he was just born that way.  He hated when parents grabbed their kids and jerked them away.  He hated when people directed conversation to me, when he was clearly in charge.  He could be selfish, sometimes, and he and I fought a couple of times.  He was a little desperate for female companionship, which tended to scare women away.  (I kept hoping we’d find a very curious college girl who’d rid him of his shyness and desperation, so he could find a more long term companion.)  He was opinionated and delighted in upsetting older people who blatantly stared without asking.  He never mind if anybody ASKED him what was wrong, although he wanted to have cheeky shirts made.  You know, ‘Retired Piranha Noodler (out of bait)’ or ‘Former Shark Wrangler’.

When there was  Joe’s Crab Shack in Norman, they had a stuffed crocodile (or maybe alligator) head in the front that they put the after-dinner mints in.  He used to stick his stub in as far as he could and mug like the thing was biting him.  He claimed one of the answers he wanted to give was “Danang, 1969, if I tell you more I’d have to kill you.”  As his brother was a war vet, he found this deeply funny on several levels.

Sometimes he could be petty, and he got dependent if you came by often.  He used to sit out on 48th street, between Robinson and Main.  If you live in Norman, and you drove up that street with any kind of regularity in the last five years or so, you probably saw a guy in a wheel chair waving with a stump of an arm.  He did it as often as he could.

He was a major member of the Society for Creative Anachronism for a while, and he was one of the founding members of Norman’s Artherian Order of Avalon.  He enjoyed going to the Medieval Fair every year because he knew a lot of the major players in the SCA even still, even though he fell out years ago.

He was a former Catholic, and even so he lit several candles for John Paul II when he passed on.  If his family insisted on a burial he wanted to be buried with a cross- I actually made a cross and took it with me to the funeral because I didn’t know for sure.  It was stupid and handmade, but he’d told me he’d considered getting a tattoo just to be sure one went to the grave with him.

I know 90% of the people on my Twitter feed have no clue who it is, and the people who did know Mike need no re-introduction.  My world is dimmer without him.  I still look for him.  I have heard people moving in wheelchairs and turned around, looking for him.

I have heard that when lose a limb, the place it used to be itched.  I think it’s like that when you lose people- you never stop feeling them just behind you or hearing them around the corner.  You never stop looking for them in the places they live.

I drive by his house every evening I come home from school.  I know he’d be proud of me for being back in school.  Sometimes, before I leave school, I think “I should swing by and see Mike, I have a free evening” before I realize that he’s gone.  I drive by and look for him, knowing he won’t be there and that it breaks my heart.

So, I went and spent too much money on some paint supplies today.  I’m pretty happy about it, even though I can’t paint to save my life.  I indulge in my fantasies of being able to get something recognizable to come off the end of a brush from me every couple of years or so, and it’s always amusing at best.

I have never had great talent for visual media.  I take okay pictures, when I’m of a mind, but for the most part I guess I’m kind of untalented.  I occasionally pull off some interesting feats, including a pretty decent water color tree I made yonks ago and haven’t seen since.  I’ve also done some really dreamy abstract oil pastel work, although it’s abstract in a talented toddler sense and not in any real artistic sense.

I don’t know what it is about me that drives me to do something I’m fairly untalented at.  I freak out normally when I screw up something (even some tiny thing) and I can drive myself into panic attacks if I write something and it just comes out all wrong.  Maybe I like the freedom of being able to screw up without knowing it for a screw up.

I dunno, but getting my hands dirty sure is fun.

As I have grown older, I have grown more and more apathetic towards Valentines Day.  It has a lot to do with being in a long-term relationship, I think.  I just don’t need a special day set aside for love.  He knows I love him, I know he loves me.  Sometimes we’ll get cards or candy or something- we have a rule about less than 10 bucks- but we don’t really go out that night.  God, who would?  Every place is going to be packed.

I don’t need him to spend 40 bucks on me for me to know he cares, and here’s why: almost every week, at least one day, he brings home some random foreign coin for me.  It doesn’t seem like a lot, I know, but I have a small collection of foreign coins.  Not in a coin-collector sense but in the ‘I think foreign money is pretty cool’ sense.  It’s tiny, the monetary value is less than a pack of gum for the most part.  I love it.  It shows that he’s thinking of me, all the time.

If you’re in a relationship and you’re committed at all, start trying to think of little things you can do.  Don’t make a big deal out of it, either, just do it.  “Oh, hey, I found this and thought of you.”  It’s better than chocolate.

(I’m sorry, I know I left singles out of this one.  I will be posting on how this holiday sucks the root if you’re single later this week, in the interest of being fair.)

EDIT: I realized I’d pretty much said all I want, and anything I said about being single came off as patronizing, so I WON’T be doing another article on this cheesy holiday.

My dog loved it when we had several inches of snow.  Jack is a little Jack Russel terrier mix, and after a few hours in the snow one morning I let him in.  He came bounding in with a big puppy grin, covered in mud, looking like he’d had the time of his life.

There was a big patch of snow in the yard he’d dug up, which was where he had found the mud.  And he jumped and leaped through the snow when we let him out.  He’s not a very big dog, but he’s got a lotta jump in him, so him bounding was a sight to behold.  He plowed through a few snowdrifts as big as him, knocking the snow everywhere.

I wish my camera had been charged, because there was something about his pure joy that is hard to replicate or imitate.

And then, there’s Beron.  Beron is my mother’s dog, and he’s sort of been passed around until she found a permanent residence with a good yard.  Beron is a very large dog, he’s a Treeing Walker Hound (it’s a UK breed and it’s not a popular one).  He’s a full blooded TWH, he’s what they sometimes call ‘lemon colored’ but what I always have described as tawny.  He’s my scrawny, tawny hounddog with eyes just a bit darker than his coat- and he is a beautiful, beautiful dog.  Like a Weimereiner, but golden.  He can put both front paws on the shoulder of my boyfriend, who is 6’5″ tall.

He is also the world’s biggest chickenshit.

He HATES rain, and every time I let him in after a rainfall he used to run around the living room like a crazy-ass, rubbing on everything.  I started toweling him off after rain, because clearly he hated the feeling of water on him.

Beron spent most of his day running in figure eights in my yard.  In fact, I still have several deep paths worn by that dog.  He ran and ran and ran- that was how he spent his day outside.  Well, that and sleeping (he was a hound dog, after all).  He loved running.

We had ice a few years ago, when Beron was still living with myself and Greg.  Beron, who would normally bound out into the yard, stared out into the snow for a few minutes.  The urge to pee overwhelmed him, finally, and he tiptoed into the yard.

One foot, delicately placed, after another, he peed, and then came back and huddled in the porch until I let him back in.  A 100 pound dog, all leg, tiptoeing.

Interesting how that works.  My little dog, probably 1/4 the size of Beron, loves snow.  Beron doesn’t like it, is terrified of it, will have nothing to do with it.  He touches it only under duress and his footing, normally so sure, is hesitant and careful.  My little dog is a bit neurotic, even for a terrier.  He shows definite signs of past abuse, and he is sometimes terrified of people for no real reason.  In fact, Jack is still terrified of my younger brother.

Jack can’t always quite handle the status quo, but when something new comes along he handles it as well as everything else.  Beron, who’s never been very neurotic, can’t handle anything changing.

(Also, Jack fits in my lap. Beron, in spite of years of attempts, certainly doesn’t.)

So I also wanted to talk about one of the coolest things about the blizzard, and I decided to wait until after Christmas to do it. Because that’s how I roll.  (Okay, it occurred to me in the shower this morning.)

People were AWESOME on Christmas Eve, guys. I got stuck twice, and both times I had perfect strangers come up and help me.  The second time I had a guy in a truck who was gonna try to tow me out (he couldn’t find anything to tie on to).  My work buddies also almost one and all came out and tried to help me move my car- my boss and the cook walked a block in BLIZZARD CONDITIONS to help me, guys.

But that was all day- I saw cars stuck and I saw four other cars stop and people pile out to help push them back out again.

My boyfriend works at a convenience store (rhymes with Schmeven Beleven, but it’s some weird Twilight Zone version WITHOUT SLURPEES Y’ALL) and he said there were guys with big 4 wheel drive vehicles who were helping drag the high-centered cars out of snow drifts.  I watched a live blog of people trying to give some good information on who was stuck where, and they were trying to organize a party to take gas and food and water to people who’d been stuck on the highway for 10 hours.  People offering up their homes and food on Christmas eve to give people a warm place to rest at night, while they waited things out.

It was a miserable day, guys.  I can’t tell you how awful it was, and I wasn’t prepared clothing-wise.  My shoes were sodden by the end of the day, providing NO waterproofing whatsoever.  The wind in the morning drove the sleet into your skin like stinging needles, and I’m not kidding.  I’m going to get something for my awesome postal worker who managed to deliver my mail (come rain, sleet or snow- fuck that noise).  The visibility was nil, and it was worse because my glasses kept icing over. I doubly couldn’t see shit.

But it also proved that, in a pinch, people are AWESOME.  You can be cynical all you like, and it’s likely that I would have disagreed with half of the people’s politics or religious views (hell, more than half) and that we probably would have nothing in common if we met normally.  But when you’re being warned that ten minutes outside is frostbite weather, and you still have people going out to help (just to help) it’s a good reminder to have.

If you’re reading this, and you helped push my car out (fucking unlikely) I know I said it at the time, I’ll say it again: Thank you.  You made my Christmas brighter.

Holy fucking shit.  I mean, holy SHIT guys that was an intense storm.  I know there are probably people from further north who are laughing at us, but it was pretty fucking serious yesterday.  I can’t remember ever being warned about FROSTBITE before.  They were saying ten minutes outside was frostbite weather.

Oklahoma Blizzard 09

I don’t know how it looks, but I can say that it was pretty scary to drive in that.  I managed to get my car stuck twice, and the second time I had to abandon it (we dug it out this morning and it is currently in my driveway, no worries).  They say only one died, but the article I found mentions that three other people died in a car accident that is somehow NOT being counted.  So make that four total deaths.

Read more

I came very close to frostbite, because I had no weather-worthy shoes.  I do now, part of my Christmas was shoes that could withstand, you know, normal use.  So there’s that.  Also, I am getting the money I will need to by a pair of wellingtons.  I need some solid boots of some kind or another- it’s going to be tricky because I have large calves, but surely I can find something that’ll fit.

It looks like the worst is past now, and that things are going back to something resembling normalcy now.  Hopefully this is the case.

DRIFT

DRIFT

Driving From Work

Driving From Work

I kinda wanted to talk about Christmas because that’s what I wrote my final essay on in English, and I still have more to say.

I have a hard time celebrating Christmas in the Christian mindset.  In the first place, my feelings on Christianity are fairly mixed.  I never really bought into any of the biblical stories and while Jesus seems like he might have been a cool dude, there are a lot of really loud people who claim he (by he I mean Jesus or God or whatever) wants some of my friends to burn in hell forever.  Not for what they do or how they treat other people, but the very essence of who they are.  So, like I said, mixed feelings.

But Christmas has never really been a Christian holiday for me.  I wasn’t raised to be terribly religious, and this may be part of it.  Religion never took in me even when I tried, and that may be part of it.  But the whole Christmas story- while neat, and full of pathos- couldn’t match the miracle that Christmas always encompassed for me.  Seeing people you don’t normally get to see, spending time with people you love.  We always used to drive up to my Grandmother’s house in Oklahoma (we lived in Texas) for Christmas.

There were stockings and cousins, Zwieback rolls and that green jello stuff everyone loves, chocolate chip cookies with and without nuts.  With nuts was for everyone else, without nuts were for me and the cousin closest in age to me.  (I like pecans, but not in my damn cookies, thank you.)  Brownies my uncle made, turkey and ham and mashed potatoes.

Presents, a hand made dress from my grandmother.  My favorite Christmas present ever was a book shelf from my Grandpa, it’s still one of my most prized possessions.  And the usual Barbies, my uncle (who made brownies) always got us book gift cards.  Being a young book worm, that was always cool.

Christmas is about spending time with people I love.  I try to see everyone on the day, which is kind of a pain but worth it.  I try to make things for my friends- crochet them by hand.  For me, time is the most precious thing you can spend on someone.  Money sort of comes and goes (when you have it, it can flow like water. When you don’t most people understand.)  But the time spent means it’s time you took to think of them, the time they know they occupied their mind.  It’s generally homey and probably a little cheesy, but sometimes I think it’s also best (besides, who doesn’t want a star-shaped afghan? that’s what I thought).

I love my family, I should see my aging Grandma more often.  (My beloved Grandpa of the Awesome Bookshelf is 14 years dead and that is trippy, my friend.)  I should see my aunts and my parents and everyone more often, and Christmas is one of the two or three days a year I see the Uncle of the Book Card Gifts (and Brownies).

Your mileage may vary.  I know a lot of people have family trouble, a lot of people rely on the Christian meaning, and so forth.  For me, though, it’s a holiday to remind me that I love these people, and they love me.  That we spend time thinking about one another and that it’s always good to see one another.

Am I generalizing?  Being optimistic?  Hell yeah.  But I try not to let anything drag me down on Christmas.  There’s all the rest of the year for that malarkey.

I know there’s probably someone every year who goes ‘yeah nerds are having a great year’ but I just got to thinking about it and this really HAS to be the Year of the Geek

Point 1: Dr. Horrible won an Emmy.  (I think technically Joss Whedon won for Dr. Horrible, but it’s still awesome that an online-only show won an Emmy.)

Point 2: The Guild was picked up by Microsoft and is in the XBOX.  Plus the video Date My Avatar rocked everyone’s socks.

Point 3: Wil Wheaton has been in damn near every show recently, I know he was in a Leverage and recently starred in Big Bang Theory and…

Point 4:  Tauntaun sleeping bag (with light-saber zipper pull) Need I say more?

I’m trying to do short posts to distract me from the agony that is my jaw right now. Forgive me if I come off loopy, I’m on some pretty heavy pain meds (that aren’t helping much).

I did NaNoWriMo last year, and I was so glad I did it.  The novel, when finished, was nigh incomprehensible.  I won, and to my own standard (ending the month not just with the requisite number of words but with the story line wrapped up) and I have that huge piece of disaster somewhere.  I didn’t plan it out, not in the slightest, and it shows.  I”m not sure it’s fixable either, every time I try it ends up worse.

I had so much fun, though, and it’s really great to challenge yourself to write every single day, and have a  set word limit.  Because of being ill (and horrifying tooth pain) this year it has really helped me set aside my physical ouch problems.

I am a little behind on my word count at this point, I’m going to catch up and try to pull ahead.

It’s a wonderful thing to have, a full length novel you’ve written yourself.  After last year, I knew that I could do it.  This year, instead of just sitting down and writing with no plan, I sat down and gave it some good serious mulling over.  I didn’t write anything at first, just thought about what I was going to do and in what order and so forth.  Putting that small amount of thought into it has made it a much smoother writing process, and I’m glad I did.

It’s not too late, you can still catch up.  Everyone talks about how they want to write a novel, and here’s an excuse to do just that.  It’s money-where-your-mouth-is time.

BethanytheMartian

Bethany says:

The Past