A Million Ways to Die in Texas


Two weekends ago, the husband and I saw the Seth MacFarlane comedy-western movie, A Million Ways to Die in the West. It’s all about how completely batshit crazy-dangerous it was to live on the Western Frontier in the 1800s. Basically, if a gunfight didn’t kill you, cholera would. It was good for a few laughs … but mostly just a great excuse to sit in the air-conditioned theater and eat buttered popcorn. (Real butter, people! Thank you, Alamo Drafthouse.)

It got me thinking, though, about my beloved (sometimes) home state of Texas. Because let’s face it. It’s not that much different than the Wild West, even in 2014.

Now, I won’t list the full million ways to kick the proverbial bucket in Texas, because I do have a life. (And I won’t even go into the whole open-carry, everyone-ought-to-have-an-AK47 gun thing because I prefer not to get hate emails.)

But here’s a start:

  1. You could be killed by one of the 15 different kinds of poisonous snakes that make Texas their home. Seriously, there are 15 … and 10 of those are rattlesnakes. There are also three kinds of copperheads. And then there’s the cottonmouth water moccasin and the coral snake. Basically, if you go outside in the summer, whether on dry land or near a body of water, and you’re not wearing boots, you’re dead.
  2. You could succumb to heat stroke. Texas is a huge state, but one thing is pretty consistent whether you’re in North, South, East or West Texas: It gets damn hot. As in hitting 95 degrees in February and staying above 100 degrees for most of the summer. You can actually get five-degree burns on the bottom half of your ass (I made that up; the degrees only go to three) just by sitting on a tailgate in shorts in August.
  3. If you choose to lie down for a nap in the cool (ha) green grass, you might never recover from the fire ant stings. We used to lose more baby calves to fire ants than to coyotes. And if you do get stung by a thousand fire ants, and you don’t die, you’ll likely wish you had. So it’s a wash.
  4. Should I also mention spiders? There are FIVE different kinds of brown recluse spiders and all of them live and love the Motherland of Texas, and also the dark interiors of boots. Of course, there are also effing black widows. BLACK WIDOWS EVERYWHERE. There are jumping spiders and also tarantulas. And while those last two aren’t really all that venomous, if they take aim and jump at you, you will probably die of a heart attack. (To those people who say that jumping tarantulas are a myth, I say you are wrong. I have witnessed it myself, and the only reason I didn’t die of Freaking Out Syndrome is that I was 10 and my heart was still strong.)
  5. Here’s one not many people think of: You could get hit in the head with a rodeo belt buckle. These are large, heavy metal objects that, when sent flying through the air, can be lethal in a severing-a-major-artery kind of way. Please don’t ask me how I know this. Also you may be asking yourself, “How often does a belt buckle go flying through the air?” Doesn’t matter. Only takes once.
  6. One phrase: The Mexican drug cartel.
  7. If you’re allergic to dust, oak pollen, cedar, scorpions or bee stings, and you don’t have an inhaler or epinephrine injection handy, you might as well kiss breathing goodbye.
  8. Finally, drowning’s big in Texas, too. From flash floods or being drunk on a boat on a lake, or simply playing in the Guadalupe River with its magical sink holes and mystery vortexes that suck you under in Gonzales and spit you out in the Gulf of Mexico, your odds of going down are pretty high.

I could go on, but I’m getting homesick.

Texas friends, what would you add?

And Colorado friends, should we make a list of our own for this fine state? I think there may be even more than Texas: blizzards, mudslides, I-70 in the winter, hypothermia, mountain lions …

What about other states? Come on, it’s morbid fun.


 Despite its content, this blog post was not brought to you by the Texas Tourism Board.


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Readers’ Top 10 Blog Posts in 2012

I started this blog in early 2012, at the request of my publisher. I’ll admit I was worried about it. I’d written a weekly online column before, but that was different. This was a BLOG, something I’d resisted for years. Would I have time to blog and blog well? Would people (other than my mother) care enough about what’s going on in my head to read it? And what in the hell would I write about?

Well, I haven’t kept up with the blogging schedule I’d hoped for, but I have written a few fun pieces. Below, I’ve featured links to the 10 most popular posts, just in case you missed `em. Even I enjoyed rereading a few.

Oh, and just to recap this AMAZING year in publishing for me (because that’s what you do on New Year’s Eve-Eve) … after becoming an Amazon bestseller in the spring and summer, Blue Straggler (released as an ebook in August 2011 and in paperback in March of this year) remains in the top 30 in sales and customer ratings in comic fiction on Amazon. It hit #2 again right after Christmas and #5 in a different category (humor). Pretty cool. Or rather, a huge dream of mine come true. A Good Kind of Knowing was released in ebook in October and in paperback earlier this month. It made it to the #10 spot in its category (fiction/drama) on Amazon and remains in the top 30 in ratings. It also made the top 100 in customer ratings in literary fiction. Whew. That’s as good for this writer’s soul as crab legs, cheese biscuits and a Bahama Mama from Red Lobster.

I’m so thankful to everyone who has supported me this year and always. Having my work touch just a few people would’ve been satisfying. But this kind of success has been overwhelming. Thank you!

Now on to those posts, and here’s to 2013, y’all!

 #1  Our Dogs Are Going to Get Us Kicked out of the Neighborhood

#2  Saying Goodbye to My Dream, or the One-Year Experiment With Normal Living

#3  And This Is Why I Hate Dental People

#4  Friends Are Worried About My “Girls”

#5  What Happened When I Turned 30 …. and 40

#6  What Being a Texas Woman Means

#7  How Growing Up With Country Music Made Me a Better Writer

#8  21 Facebook Posts You’ll Never, Ever See From Me

#9  Open Letter to High-Fructose Corn Syrup

#10  Your Official Music-to-Read-By Playlist 

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What I’m Thankful for Right Now, in This Moment

New and old friends and family who support my writing. A six-year-old who can already cook up a mean batch of fried catfish. Sonic ice and Dr Pepper. A husband who buys me Sonic ice because he knows it makes me happy. Two furry babies who make me smile, no matter how very bad they can be. My publisher, 30 Day Books (Laura Pepper Wu and Brandon Wu) — it’s so darn awesome to know that there are good, kind people all over the world, and that I have these folks on my side. Jeremy Kron for his wonderful work on my novels’ cover and interior design. My new job with Truven Health Analytics. I’m loving the work so much. Knowing that I’ll get to see my family and taste my mama’s cooking in just a couple of weeks. My Kindle Fire. Brilliant writing by people who inspire me. The herd of deer hanging out on our road this evening. The Rocky Mountains. Fresh mountain air. Memory foam. This laptop. Friends I know will be there for me if I need them. Texas Hill Country pecans, found at a Target in Colorado, believe it or not. Cool cotton pillowcases. Good wine. Stand-up comedians. A mother- and father-in-law who adore my son and treat us all with overwhelming generosity. The good health of myself, my family and my friends. The music of Lyle Lovett. Sara Lee pies because I don’t have time to make my own. Readers out there in the universe who are reading my novels and taking the time to let me know that my words touched them somehow. Every single person who has written a review of either of my novels. My eyesight. A soft, warm blanket on a chilly night. Stars. Avocados. Dark chocolate. Ariat boots. Vacuum cleaners. Wild Orange essential oil. A massage therapist as a spouse. And the sound of my angel-son saying, “I love you, mama,” as he drifts off to sleep.

What are you thankful for right now, in this moment? (Don’t think about it deeply, just spit out what comes to mind. It’s nice sometimes to just Let. It. Out.) PS: Vacuum is a weird word, isn’t it?




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Friends Are Worried About My “Girls”

I have good friends. In Texas, in Colorado, all over the U.S. Even a few overseas. Here in Denver, in particular, I happen to work with some really awesome people … ladies that I can laugh so hard with that we snort out loud and tears roll down our faces. We’ve also cried sad tears together a few times. (They can’t seem to understand that when I say, “do not be nice to me when I’m on the verge of tears,” I mean it! If someone expresses sympathy at that stage, the waterworks begin. And nobody likes to see that in the workplace!)

This is the scene in the movie that I'm talking about. You know you remember it.

I actually like to think of these ladies I work with as my A Team — my entourage when I need propping up. If you need an image of what this might entail, think of the scene in the movie Bridesmaids, where the whole group of girls are getting on the plane for Vegas for the bachelorette party. Daring music plays, wind machines blow our hair, as we walk slowly as a group. You get the picture.

Lately, these friends have been expressing concern about, well, my “girls.” And I don’t mean children of any kind. I mean those girls. They think I need a different bra. These are the things that they are not afraid to tell me over morning coffee. And I think I’m glad.

I think. I am. Glad.

One of these ladies, who shall remain nameless, says that the right bra can change your life. She watches Oprah. Another agrees with the whole concept of bratopia; she says she’s a religious convert to the church of push-ups and half-cup sizes.

Me? Ummmm. Comfort is my religion. And I strongly believe that bras could very well be society’s long-used way of keeping women down and in their place. Okay, maybe not to that extreme, but I think bras are stupid and not necessary and anti-feminist and did I mention stupid? I’m a closet hippie and I want to be free of all society-made constraints. I should probably just go ahead and chuck my attempts at a normal life and move to a commune. But I bet communes would entail actually communing with others, and I’m not good at small talk.

I digress.

So, I do try to listen to my entourage on important life details. Love, marriage, parenthood, where to go for lunch. So against my better judgment, I went to [gulp] Macy’s for a bra fitting. That’s right. Me. In Macy’s. For a bra fitting. Anyone who knows me knows this is not a picture easily conjured.

My “bra fit expert” was about 65 years old. Her name was Jen, which was weird to me for a woman that age, but who am I to say anything? I’m a 42-year-old Kathy.

Jen called me, “honey,” a lot, which I didn’t mind (yet). She did however shake her head and make a “tsk-tsk” sound when I explained to her what type of bra I wear now. She looked me up and down. Turned me around in front of her. Looked me up and down again.

Jen and I were not going to be good friends, I could tell.

She took me into a fitting room, had me strip to my bra, and then she proceeded to whip her tape measure around me with impressive efficiency. I do not like people touching me AT ALL, but at least she was quick about it. I thought she could use a little bit more deodorant, but again, being the nice person I am, I did not mention this.

Then she told me to wait while she brought back some options to try on. In the meantime, I was alone in the dressing room, with Taylor Swift music being pumped in at a loud volume, and all I could do was stare at myself. This is actually my idea of Hell. (It was also very warm in this fitting room. Coincidence? I think not.)

While I waited, I found five wiry silver hairs, 10 additional wrinkles I hadn’t known existed and one little white hair on my chin. I tried sucking my stomach in and standing at different angles, analyzed my teeth for coffee (and Dr Pepper) stains, and stuck my tongue out at myself just in case someone was watching me from behind the secret mirrors.

I found this vintage bra ad online. I love the Internet.

Jen eventually (and I mean she was gone a long time) came back with several different bras for me to try on. I obliged, telling myself that this could change my life. Oprah knows. But the first bra I tried on was tight in every imaginable place. How tight? Cutting off blood circulation tight. The second one left so much room in the cups I could have shoplifted two or three pairs of socks in there and still had room for a new blender. The next bra felt like I was being squished into some kind of medieval, barbarian corset. The girls did get a boost from that one. I verbally apologized to them, as I couldn’t get out of that contraption fast enough.

Jen came back and was disappointed in me. I was frustrated. She brought more to try. Only one felt the least bit comfortable, and Jen told me that [and I quote], “it does absolutely nothing for my figure.”  Really, Jen? Did I mention you need some Secret Clinical Formula?

Jen and I parted amicably, I suppose. She told me that I need to keep in mind the goal is not absolute comfort, but to help my body look its best. I disagree, Jen! And I told her so. She sighed. I make people sigh a lot sometimes. (I think that’s actually a line from Blue Straggler.)

Now, I’ll just have to report back to my entourage that my mission was a failure. But they’ll understand. They probably expected it.



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