Danceband on the Titanic

There is a picture of me, somewhere out there, probably still on my dad’s phone unless they’ve turned into Christmas Card people, in which case, the picture is most definitely out there in the world for all to see.

I hope it is not.

I didn’t see the picture until I was 5 months sober, staying in the unfinished basement at my parents house, grateful that I was no longer homeless, while I hunted for a job. Before this, I’d been staying there after a stint at a ramshackle, rundown motel, the kind of place you probably could dismantle a dead body, leave the head on the pillow, and no one would think anything of it. But it was my room, and despite the lice they gifted me, I loved it. Until money dried up and suddenly I was, once again, homeless. I’d moved in there after I was discharged from the inpatient psych ward, in which I was able to successfully detox after a suicide attempt. Got some free ECT to boot.

(WINNING)

Despite what you see on the After School Special’s of our childhood, I didn’t take a single Vicodin, fall into a stupor, and become insta-addict – just add narcotics! No, my entry into addiction was a slow and steady downward spiral of which I am deeply ashamed. It’s left my brain full of wreckage and ruin, fragmented bits of my life that don’t follow a single pattern. Between the opiates, the Ketamine, and the ECT, I cannot even be certain that what I am telling you is the truth; what I’ve gathered are bits and pieces of the addict I so desperately hate from other people who are around, fuzzy recollections, and my own social media posts.

About a year and a half before I moved from my yellow house to the apartments by the river, Dave and I had separated; he’d told me that while he cared for me, he no longer loved me. While we lived in the same house, we’d had completely separate lives for years, so he moved to the basement while I stayed upstairs. I’d been miserable before his confession and after? I was nearly broken. Using the Vicodin, then Norco, I was able to numb my pain and get out of my head, which, while remarkably stupid, was effective. For awhile.

Let me stop you, Dear Reader, and ask you to keep what I am about to say in mind as you read through this massive tome. I’m simply trying to make certain that you understand several key things about my addiction and subsequent recovery. I alone was the one who chose to take the drugs. No one forced me to abuse opiates, and even later, (SPOILER ALERT) Ketamine. This isn’t a post about blaming others for my misdoings, rejecting any accountability, nor making any excuses for the stupid, awful things I’ve done. I alone fucked up. My addiction was my own fault. However, in the same vein, no one “saved” me but myself. There was no cheeky interventionist. No room full of people who loved me weeping stoically, telling me how my addiction hurt them. No letters. Nothing. It was just me. I was alone, and I chose to get – and remain – sober.

The delusions started when I moved out, sitting in my empty apartment alone, paralyzed by the thought of getting off the couch to go to the bathroom. Always a night-owl, I’d wake at some ungodly hour of the morning, shaking. It wasn’t withdrawal, no, it was pure unfettered anxiety.

It was the aftermath of using so many pills, all the fun you think you’re having comes back to bite you with crippling anxiety and depression.

Which is why I’d do more.

Yes, opiates are powerful, and yes, I abused them, but things really didn’t become dire until I added Ketamine to my life.

Ketamine, if you’re unaware, is a club drug, a horse tranquilizer, and a date rape drug. You use too much? You may wake up at some hipster coffee bar, trying to sing “You’re Having My Baby” to the dude in the front row who may or may not actually exist. In other words, it’s the best way to forget how fucked you are.

The delusions worsen as time passed. I could see into the future. I could read your mind. I was going to be famous. I was super fucking rich. In this fucked-up world, I could even forget about me, and the life that I’d so carelessly shattered. I remember sitting in Divorce Class at the courthouse, something required of all divorces in Kane County, weeping at all that I’d thrown away – using a total of three boxes of the low-quality, government tissues. I left with a shiny pink face and completely chapped nose and eyes that appeared to be making a break from their sockets. I went home, took some pills, took some Ketamine, and passed out.

I retreated ever-inward. I didn’t talk to many people. I didn’t share my struggles. I was alone, and it was my fault.

The hallucinations started soon after Divorce Class ended and my ex and I split up. He’d left my house in a rage after a fight and went to live with his sister. I got scared. His temper, magnified by the drugs, the hallucinations, and the delusions, grew increasingly frightening. Once he’d moved out, the attacks began. I’d wake up naked in my bedroom, my body sore and bruised, and my brain put the two unrelated events together as one – he was attacking me. It happened every few days, these “attacks,” until I found myself at the police station, reporting them. I was dangerously sick and I had no idea.

My friends on the Internet (those whom I had left), sent me money for surveillance cameras. I bought them, installed them – trying to capture the culprit – and when I saw what I saw, I immediately called the police and told them the culprit.

The videos in my bedroom captured an incredibly stoned, dead-eyed, version of myself, violently attacking myself, brutally tearing at my flesh. In particular, THAT me liked to beat my face with one of my prized possessions – a candlestick set from our wedding, take another pill or hit up some Ketamine, then violating myself with the candlestick. It lasted hours. I’d wake up with no memory of events, sore and tired and unsure of how I’d gotten there.

I’d never engaged in self-injury before – not once – so the very idea that I’d hurt myself was unbelievable, but right there, on my grainy old laptop, was proof of how unhinged I’d become. Charged with filing a false report, I plead guilty.

In early September of 2015, I decided to get fixed, and made arrangements with work to take a few weeks off to do an inpatient detox, and, for the first time in a long time, I woke up happily, rather than cursing the gods that I was still alive.

It was to be short-lived.

Several days later, sober, I was idly chatting with my neighbor about her upcoming vacation (funny the things your brain remembers and what it does not), standing by my screen door, when karma came calling. It sounded like the shucking noise of an ear of corn, or maybe the sound that a huge thing of broccoli makes when you rip it apart – hard. It felt like a bullet to the femur. I crumpled on top of my neighbor and began screaming wildly about calling an ambulance, yelling over and over like some perverse, yet truthful, Chicken Little:  “my leg is broken, my LEG is broken!”

I don’t remember much after that. I woke up in (physical rehab) and learned that my femur (hereafter to be called my “Blasfemur,”) had broken, fairly high up on the bone, where the biggest, strongest bone in your body is at its peak of strength. Whaaaa?

The doctors and nurses shrugged it off my questions, with a flippant “It just happens” and sent me home, armed with a Norco prescription, in November, to heal. I added the Ketamine, just to make sure.

A couple of weeks later at the end of November, I was putting up the Christmas tree with the kids and my mother. It was all merry and fucking bright until I sat down on the couch and felt that familiar crunch. Screams came out of me I didn’t know were possible, but I’d lost my actual words. My mother stood over me yelling “what’s wrong? what’s wrong?” and I couldn’t find the words. I overheard her telling my babies that I was “probably just faking it” as she walked out the door, my screams fading into an ice cold silence. They left me alone in that apartment where I screamed and cried and screamed. Finally, I managed to call 911 and when they asked me questions, all I could scream was my address.

I woke up in January in a nursing home. When I woke up, I found myself sitting at a table in a vast dining room, full of old people. For weeks to come, I thought that I’d died and gone…wherever it is that you go.

This time, I learned, my (blas)femur and it’s associated hardware had become infected after the first surgery, which weakened the bone, causing it to snap like a tree. They put me all back together like the bionic woman, but the surgery had introduced the wee colony of Strep D in the bone into my bloodstream, creating an infection on meth. I’d been in a coma for weeks. Once again, I learned to walk, and once again, I was sent home in late January with another Norco prescription. The nursing home really wanted me to have someone stay with me to help out, but I insisted that I was fine alone. In truth, I had nobody to help me out, but was far too ashamed to tell them.

The picture I referenced above was taken some time in May, as far as my fuzzy memory allows me to remember, after my third femur fracture in March. This time, I’d been so high that I fell asleep on the toilet and rolled off. Glamorous, no? Just like Fat Elvis. Luckily, my eldest son was there and he called 911 and my parents to whisk him away. I remember my father on the phone, telling Ben that I was a liar and I was faking it. I was swept away in the ambulance for even more hardware, and finally? A diagnosis:

HypoPARAthyroidism.

It’s an autoimmune disease that leaches calcium from the bones, resulting in brittle bones. It is managed, not treated. There is no cure.

But, I had the answer. Finally.

After my third fracture, I once again was sent to the nursing home, and quickly discharged with even higher doses of Norco, when my insurance balked, I’d used up all my rehab days for the year. By this time, I’d lost my apartment, my stuff was in storage (except the things that we’re thrown away, which my father gloated about while I was flat on my back) and my parents let me stay with them, which was about the only option I had. They couldn’t really kick me out if my leg was only freshly attached. I feel deeper into a depression, self-loathing, and drug abuse as I realized what a mess I’d made with my life. How many bad choices I’d made. How many people I’d hurt. How much I’d hurt myself. How much I loathed myself. How I once had a life that in no way resembled sleeping in my parents dining room. How I’d been a home owner. How I’d been married. How lucky I’d been. How I threw it all away. My life turned into a series of “once did” and “used to.”

The only one who hated me more was my father.

While we were once close confidants, in the years after my marriage to Dave, his disdain had become palpable. My uncle had to intervene one Christmas, after my father mocked me incessantly for taking a temp job filling out gift cards while I was pregnant with Alex. It may seem normal to some of you, this behavior, but in THEIR house, NO ONE was EVER SAD and NOTHING was EVER WRONG. WASPs to the core, my family is.

When I moved back in, broken, dejected, and high, our fights became epic. For the first time in my life, I stood UP to one of my parents. Then, I was promptly kicked out.

Guess I’m not so WASPy after all.

I want to say that the picture was taken around May of 2016, but my estimate may be thoroughly skewed, so if you’re counting on dates being correct and cohesive, you’ve got the wrong girl.

This is a picture of me, though you probably wouldn’t recognize me. I am wearing the blue scrubs that you associate with a hospital: not exactly sky blue, not teal, not navy, just generic blue hospital scrubs. These are, I remember, the only clothes I have to my name. I was given them in both the hospital and the nursing home, a gift, I suppose, of being a frequent flier, tinged with a bit of pity – this girl has no clothes, we can help. Whomever gave them to me, know that you gave me a bit of dignity, which I will never forget. Thank you.

I am wearing scrubs, the light of the refrigerator is slowly bleaching out half of my now-enormous body, as opposed to the darkness outside. There is a tube of fat around my neck, nearly destroying any evidence of my face, but if you look closely, you can make out my glasses, my nostrils, my hair cascading down. My neck is stretched back at nearly a 90 degree angle from my body, my head listlessly resting on the back of my wheelchair. My mouth gaped wide, which, should I been engaging in fly catching, would have netted far more than the average Venus flytrap. I am clearly, unmistakably, and without a single shred of doubt, passed the fuck out.

It is both me and not me.

High as i was, I don’t remember a thing about the photo being taken. But there I was, in all my pixelated glory.

By the time I saw the photo, I was once again in my “will do” and “can do” space. I’d kicked drugs in September 2016 and had found a job that I enjoyed. I stayed with my parents while I began to sort out my medical debt and save toward a new car and an apartment of my own. My spirits were high, my depression finally abated to the background, and I was tentatively happy. I’d apologized until my throat was sore, but my fragmented memory saved me from the worst of it, but I was not forgiven. I don’t think I ever expected to be. And now, I never will.

It’s okay. I can’t expect this. I know I fucked up.

My father, who’d actually grown increasingly disdainful of me, the more sober and well I became, confronted me when I came home one day after work, preparing to do my AFTER work, work.

My mother shuffled along behind him, Ben, the caboose. All three of them were in hysterics, tears rolling down their cheeks as I sat down in my normal spot on the couch. After showing them a video of two turtles humping a couple of days before, I eagerly waited to see what they were showing me.

What it was was that picture. Of the not me, me.

They could hardly contain their laughter, my father happier than ever, braying, “Isn’t this the best picture of you?” and “You PASSED OUT, (heave, heave) IN FRONT OF THE FRIDGE!” punctuated, with “I’m going to frame this picture!” The tears welled in my eyes while my teeth clenched, they laughed even harder at my reaction.

Like I said, if they’ve become Christmas Card sending people, this will be the picture of me they show, expecting others to laugh uproariously. Before I moved out, in fact, my father made certain to show the picture to anyone who came over. “Wanna see something hilarious?” he’d ask. Expecting memes or a funny cat playing the piano, they’d agree. I could see it when they saw it, my dad chortling with laughter, nearly choking on his giggles, the looks on their faces: a mixture of confusion and pity. Even in my drug-hazed “glory,” I’d never felt so low.

Maybe that picture is splashed all over the internet, in the dark recesses I don’t explore, and maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s hung on their wall, replacing all of the other pictures. Maybe it’s not.

Maybe we’ll meet again.

Maybe not.

Way Down We Go

I was eight, sitting at the top of the stairs on the nasty blue carpeting that infested nearly all 70s era houses. I’d been crying all day, my stomach in knots, and I couldn’t formulate any response to “What’s wrong?” I didn’t KNOW what was wrong, only that it was probably me and most definitely my fault. My friends never cried for weeks on end – or if they did, they didn’t spill their (embarrassing) beans to me, unable to eat or sleep or feel that they could ever possibly feel safe. Their stomachs probably were never tied up in so many knots that they felt like barfing at a moment’s notice. But I did. All day, every day.

I was powerless against these feelings.

But it was late, and I wasn’t supposed to be out of bed, but I couldn’t sleep, so 11PM found me sitting on the top of the stairs, quietly weeping, to no one in particular. I simply could not handle laying in my bed a single moment longer, hot and itchy, scared, my pillow drenched in tears. I tried to be quiet, listening to the murmurs of my family talking below, knowing that if I got caught on the stairs, I’d get yelled and and forced back into my horrible bed. Eventually, my brother – 18 years old – came home and saw me at the top of the stairs. He mocked my weeping for a bit (cry-baby) until he realized that I wasn’t whining about not getting my way and his face went slack. He slowly climbed those disgusting stairs until he approached the landing.

“What’s wrong?” he asked in a kinder way than he ever normally spoke to me and it was this kindness that opened the floodgates. I became hysterical. I didn’t exactly KNOW what was wrong and I had no idea how to make it better. All I knew is that I didn’t want to be alive anymore. So I told him, “I want to die.” It was the plain, simple truth: I no longer wanted to live. It wasn’t because I hated school, which I’d initially blamed it on (my teacher was an ass), but something far deeper: complete and total self-loathing.

This was my first nervous breakdown.

My confession flew my parents into a tizzy of making appointments with doctors, therapists, and everything in between. That tiny, small confession turned my world upside down. As years passed, I saw a slew of therapists and learned how to say the things they wanted to hear, not because I was self-defeating, but because I liked the way they seemed to be genuinely proud of me. I “made progress” with the therapists until they decided that BAM, I’d been cured.

I wasn’t.

November of 1994 found me, once again, desperate to end my life. I’d been broken up with by a guy I’d *pink-puffy-hearted* loved and in reaction, I didn’t see any reason to continue. This time, though, I decided to end it. Swallowing a bottle of Prozac (which likely wouldn’t have killed me anyway), I realized how stupid I’d been and called my best friend. Off we went to the hospital and there, I vomited so hard that I was amazed my organs were still intact.

In that way, I had my second nervous breakdown.

Afterward, my parents twittered around and got me a new therapist and psychiatrist, neither of whom were worth a damn, much as they tried. I spent the next few months in bed, unable to care enough to get up or go out. I missed scads of school. I took my meds and eventually returned to the real world (no, not the show).

The depression was kept at bay for a good many years. I called it remission, but I never thought about it returning. But, because depression is a wily fucker and determined to fuck your shit up, it’s plagued me for most of my life.

I’d quit taking my antidepressants after I’d gotten pregnant with Alex – the doctor made it clear that it could be dangerous for my kid, after Alex was born, I didn’t even recognize post-partum depression for what it was. Instead, I caught myself weeping in the kitchen day after day because the ice-maker had stopped working. It felt like my best friend had died, I wept and mourned the damn thing for about a week before I realized that being THAT upset about an ice-maker was absurd. Back to the doctor I went, and the next day, I had some new antidepressants.

That was like a quarter of a nervous breakdown, but had I waited, I’m certain it would have been a particularly bad episode. Depression is sneaky like that.

I’d had a nervous breakdown at the end my of marriage for Dave,* and after he decided we should get a divorce, I was a wreck. Not a cute, wipe-the-eyes-daintily kind of wreck, I had no fainting couch, I was a huge slobbery, disgusting mess. After witnessing and living with my own mother’s breakdowns and hysteria, I realized that I needed to get away from them for their own sake. While I should’ve hearkened back to my over-the-top reaction to that damn ice-maker, I was not in my right mind. Now I know that I should’ve checked myself into an inpatient psychiatric unit, but at the time, my brain felt like the neurons bouncing back and forth – I went by gut instinct (which NEVER fails, right?) and moved out. I had no money, no job, a huge addiction to pain pills to contend with, and no time or room to get through this bad patch of depression. It was impulse after impulse.*

And it was a colossal mistake.

I paid a steep price for it. While I maintained our joint custody arrangement, on the days when the kids weren’t around (Monday and Tuesday), I was positively a fucking mess. Days would turn into nights and then back into days and I could barely get off the couch to urinate. Every single second felt worse than the ones before it and I was utterly convinced that I was the biggest, ugliest, worst person ever born. I was a failure. It’s no wonder Dave wanted a divorce – I mean, why hadn’t he gotten one sooner? I was an unfit parent and even more an unfit human.

As the depression grew, the addiction flourished. Once the pain pills didn’t work, I added Ketamine* (prescribed as a part of a numbing cream by my doctor). For a long time. In that time, I alienated people, I lost friends, lost my pride, and my dignity. I didn’t hate – I LOATHED – myself. Didn’t care if I lived or died. Hoped that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. Even on medication, I was insane. I knew it and I had no idea how to stop.

The day before I fractured my leg for the first time, I’d finally realized that I needed help. Real help. I needed to get off drugs and reclaim my life.

The very next afternoon, I fractured my femur. Standing up in the living room of my apartment, talking to my friend, it broke. The feeling is indescribable (and for another time). Pain pills became necessary, especially when it broke again, and yet again before I got the diagnosis: hyperparathyroidism. By that time, I’d lost most of what I loved my life: my job, my ability to walk, my apartment, my kids, and my dignity.* Depression mixed with addiction creates a hole so deep and dark, you cannot see the light. The dragon had slayed me.

I tried to take my own life once again after I became homeless. The worst thing? I cannot even remember a bit of it. I don’t remember driving to the pharmacy, I don’t remember the pills, I don’t remember being resuscitated. In fact, I have no idea who I could thank for preventing my death.

Months later, I woke up on the psych floor, bedsores on my ankles, and 70 pounds thinner. After intense therapy and a change of meds (along with daily ECT), I was fortunate enough to – for the first time, ever – feel like might just be worth living, after all. I learned to walk, first with a walker, then with a cane, then with my own feet. I got a job I loved and fell in love with an old friend. Now? My life couldn’t be better (unless I had a pony).*

Why the fuck am I yapping this at you?

First Kate Spade and now Anthony Bourdain. They’re both dead. This week. Their demons had taken over and they didn’t see another way out. And I’d be willing to bet a good bunch of you also understand the darkness and the battle against it. I know that I do. And I bothered writing out these words because I very much want to let those of you still in the thick of it that things do change. Life goes on. You can too. Maybe not today or tomorrow or even in a year, but things do – as they are wont to – change.

If you’re feeling like you’re alone, you’re not. I’ve got your back and I’m a hell of a scrappy bitch. I’m also working to get Band Back Together up and running. It was hacked and I’ve not been able to fix it… yet.

You do matter, you are so so so loved, and we are, after all, none of us alone. Depression lies.

If you’re truly feeling like hurting yourself or others, please please please call the Suicide Hotline in your country.

Argentina: +5402234930430

Australia: 131114

Austria: 017133374

Belgium: 106

Bosnia & Herzegovina: 080 05 03 05

Botswana: 3911270

Brazil: 212339191

Canada: 5147234000 (Montreal); 18662773553 (outside Montreal)

Croatia: 014833888

Denmark: +4570201201

Egypt: 7621602

Finland: 010 195 202

France: 0145394000

Germany: 08001810771

Holland: 09000767

Hong Kong: +852 2382 0000

Hungary: 116123

India: 8888817666

Ireland: +4408457909090

Italy: 800860022

Japan: +810352869090

Mexico: 5255102550

New Zealand: 045861048

Norway: +4781533300

Philippines: 028969191

Poland: 5270000

Russia: 0078202577577

Spain: 914590050

South Africa: 0514445691

Sweden: 46317112400

Switzerland: 143

United Kingdom: 08457909090

USA: 18002738255

* I will expound annoying on these juicy items at a later time.

Adult Ditch Day (Or My First Snow Day)

Back when I was a kid living in, you guessed it, Chicago* winter was full of the awesome. That is, until January hit, you’d successfully squeezed out every magic drop of Christmas present goodness – hell, you’d even made “my monkey butler Mr. Snappy” out of the boxes your presents came in – and you suddenly remembered why you loathe winter. Because it’s ass piled on ass, snowing ass, and your boogers freeze when you step out the front door.

The moment school’s back in session after Christmas Break (no, we weren’t so weirdly PC back then) it began. Every day, you’d call some random number listed by the phone called “time and temperature” and they’d tell you the forecast.

See kids? We DID manage to live without an iPhone app that alerts you about all the weather-related things that might affect you – like somewhere on another continent, a brush fire has broken out and OMG DO SOMETHING even though it’s glaringly obvious to anyone with half a brain that there’s no way you’re going to travel to some country you can’t pronounce with a bucket of water – the TSA has banned water along with breathing, smiling, and hope.

Most of the time, some grainy-sounding, vaguely female voice would inform you what you already knew – it was ass cold. It would be ass cold at noon and ass cold when you went to bed.

One of those rare moments, though, you’d hear from the equally grainy voice that WEATHER was going to happen and it was PROBABLY going to be BAD! As adults, we groan and think about how this is going to make our toes physically freeze and fall off our body into wee toe Popsicles while we commute to and from work. As kids, though, this was the beginning.

The beginning of the feverish prayers for a snow day. For me, it’d go something like, “Dear God, I think this is how I pray or something. Can you please make it snow tomorrow so the schools are closed? And, can you make the person on the radio with the boring voice swear? Thanks, Jesus Christ, Amen.” As though God had better things to do than to make it snow so some random Midwestern child could avoid school.

Then, the questioning began. Because I wasn’t raised by helicopter parents, my own parents always looked semi-shocked when I walked into a room, like, “Wait, who IS this chi…Oh right, we had another kid.” But when a possible SNOW DAY was MAYBE GONNA happen, my parents couldn’t help but pay attention to me. Mostly because I badgered them at least every three minutes to “call the school” to see if it had been cancelled yet. Didn’t matter if there wasn’t a single flake of snow falling or if the front yard had suddenly turned into a tropical paradise, I’d pester them just the same. My shrill cries eventually gave way to this conversation:

Young AB: “Mooooooooooom, can you call the school now?”

My Mother: “Rebecca**, I called ten minutes ago. Nothing has changed since then.”

Young AB: “How ’bout now?”

My Mother (doing her best to ignore me)

Young AB (determined to NOT allow my mother to forget my existence for a single moment): “MOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! PLEASE CALL THE SCHOOL! I MIGHT NOT HAVE SCHOOL TOMORROW!”

My Mother: “Not-so-subtle method of getting me to call, huh?”

Young AB: (smiles proudly)

Eventually my mother broke down and gave me the number so that I could call and listen to the tinny voice tell me that school was, for now, still on. And the next day, I’d wake up, hopeful that I’d get to spend the day drinking cocoa and relaxing by the fire on a bearskin rug while my (box) monkey butler, Mr. Snappy fed me grapes. Didn’t matter that I both loathed cocoa and we didn’t own a fireplace OR bearskin rug and that Mr. Snappy had gone through too many incarnations of box creations to even resemble cardboard.

I’d scramble to the phone and punch in the coveted numbers only to hear a bored-sounding lady (I think it was the school secretary, but I can’t be certain) say the same thing. Which was, essentially, “School’s in session. SUCKER.” Okay, the SUCKER was implied, but you get the drift. School was on. No fireside chat with Mr. Snappy.

Ad nauseum.

I’d forget all about the ass cold and focus on more interesting pursuits like counting the piles of ice-encrusted poos in the backyard and determine if our dogs did, in fact, shit in patterns. (answer: no) Then, one morning out of the fucking blue, I’d wake up to find my mother staring forlornly at the phone. Groggily, I’d ask her what was wrong.

Choking back a sob, she’d reply, “You have a *weeps* snow day today!”

Suddenly I’d be wider awake than I’d ever before been and scrambling through the house to find pieces of my winter gear. I’d shove my legs into my snow pants, not caring that the pants had somehow eaten one of my beloved cute kitten socks, knowing I’d regret it later when my boot had filled with slush. I’d scuttle out the door, all “I can’t move my arms!” as the gang of neighborhood kids began to run out of their front doors.

*click* I’d hear as my mother locked the door behind her, still crying over the implications of a snow day.

I haven’t had a snow day since Jesus copied my math homework.

That is, until Monday. All week the week before, I’d heard various reports of a cold wave hitting Chicago on Monday – all with varying degrees of hysteria – and I promptly laughed. With varying degrees of sarcasm. Cold? In Chicago? In JANUARY? Why, I NEVER!

Until Monday. When it was -50 degrees BELOW zero. Because “death by commuting” seems an awfully pathetic way to go, I decided that I probably wasn’t going into the office. Neither was my coworker Lauren. Or Adam. Or Chris. Or Ryan. Or, quite frankly, MD, my boss.

The kids, trapped at my house until further notice also had a snow day. I’d hoped to miraculously find an adult-sized snowsuit in my coat closet so we could romp around in the snow together, but alas, there was nothing. Besides, it was so cold that the Weather Channel finally stopped reporting on the fish*** and started saying things like, “drink a gallon of water before going out doors,” and throwing around hypothermia like it was a hip new band.

So we stayed in. For two straight days while the world shut down. In fact, our snow day(s) could easily go on record as the laziest snow day(s) in the history of snow day(s) ever.

Also? The best.

*Motto: 4/5 governors impeached!

**My parents are the only human beings who call me “Rebecca,” which means that whenever I hear it, I’m instantly on guard, as though I’m in terrible trouble.

***Won’t someone think of the fish?
————–
Am I the only person who remembers snow days as lasting approximately 89 hours and filled with the most fun stuff in the history of ever?

My Mother, The Drug Dealer

(ring ring)

My Mother: “Hello?”

Me: “Hey Mom, it’s me. I think I caught Dad’s cold.”

My Mother: “Oh no. He’s still sick!”

Me: “Yeah, it’s like that. I’m considering going into phone sex until this stupid shit is gone. I could make a killing if I could find the dudes with a fetish for chicks who cough and sound like Thelma from The Simpsons.”

My Mother (dryly): “Sounds like a great idea.”

Me: “Hey, work with what you got, right?”

My Mother (laughs): “Did you take some Tylenol?”

Me: “No, I don’t have any. I’ve been alternating between the heat and air, trying to get comfortable. Waging war on this fucking virus.”

My Mother: “Well, I have some Tylenol.”

Me: “I can swing by a little later and pick it up.”

My Mother: “Oh, I can drop it off. You live four seconds away.”

Me: “Wow. Cool. Okay. You sure?”

My Mother: “Can you meet me in the parking lot? My knee is killing me.”

Me: “Sure, no problem.”

My Mother: “See you soon.”

Me:  “Sweet, thanks, Ma.”

—————–

(thirty minutes later)

Me (thinks): “Wow, she’s driving that fancy new car awfully slowly through the parking lot. I hope she at least put the Tylenol in a brown bag or something so it doesn’t look… suspicious. The last thing I need is my neighbors to think I’m a drug dealer. Wait, maybe I should play the part – I got some aviator sunglasses somewhere. I bet I could get one of those nose/mustache/fake glasses things so I look like I’m trying to be “in disguise.” Or I could go knocking on the doors of my neighbors, holding my baggie of Tylenol, so it makes me look all suspicious. That’d be kinda funny until the police came. I’d probably get arrested for the indecent wearing of sequins or something. I can never keep up with the laws about Being Gaudy In Public. And GOOD LORD OF BUTTER, Ma, can you LOOK any more suspicious driving through my parking lot? Probably not. At least, I don’t know how. Maybe I should get HER some of those novelty glasses or something so it REALLY looks like we’re being illicit. ARGGG! MA, DON’T RUN ME OVER.”

Me (walking up to the driver’s side window): “Thanks Ma, for bringing these by. I’m in some sorry shape.”

My Mom: “Well, I hope you feel better. (rustles around in her bag for a couple of seconds while I stand there, looking suspicious.) Here you go!”

Me: “HOLY FUCK, MA. We look like DRUG DEALERS.”

My Mom (laughs): “Go knock on some doors and see if you can sell the pills.”

Me: “MOM! I need to LIVE HERE. I can’t try to sell my neighbors TYLENOL.”

My Mom (giggles): “Yeah, I guess you should try and sell ’em the GOOD stuff.”

Me: “What, like Ibuprofen?”

My Mom: “NOW you’re talking.”

Me (laughs): “All right, Mom, thanks again. You and Dad will have to come over and see the new space soon.”

My Mom: “Sounds good!”

Me: “Bye – thanks again!”

My Mom: “Be sure to get top dollar for those pills – they’re EXTRA STRENGTH.”

Me: “MOOOOOMMMMMMMM!”

(she drives off)

Me (looking down at the bag): “Holy fucksticks. I’d better get inside before someone sees me.”

my mother, the drug dealer

And THAT is how my mother became my Tylenol Dealer.

Guest Post: Teachers Should Get The Recognition They Deserve

It seems that every September, as the schools prepare to open, new reports about the state of America’s education are released and each seems more depressing than the next. Foundations, think tanks, politicians and professional organizations publish their papers and reports in which they basically tell us what we already know.

The numbers of American students who are equipped to compete with their peers from other areas of the world in many disciplines, including in technology, math and science, drops every year. Fewer students read and of those that do read, most are not familiar with the great classics and other high quality works of literature. Fewer students have the life skills that they will need to enter the work force after high school and a large percentage of high school students are lacking in basic general knowledge. The drop-out rate is high and fewer students are going on to college.

Figuring out the reasons for the decline in America’s educational system is the first challenge. Depending on whom you speak with you may hear that the education system is in trouble because there’s too much emphasis on testing or there’s too little emphasis on testing, because the teachers are incompetent or because the system won’t allow talented teachers to flourish, because the multi-cultural nature of the society prevents the system from functioning properly or because the system doesn’t properly harness the diversity of students, languages, cultures and ethnicities.

It’s easy to get caught up in the blame game but finding workable solutions is complex. New technologies and methodologies are being put to use in school districts throughout the country, oftentimes with good results. Teacher-training programs are relying on teacher-mentors to give teachers-in-training and new teachers the benefit of veteran teachers’ experience and knowledge.

One worrying statistic, however, comes from a recent study that was put out by the Rand Corporation, an education think tank. The study examines the outlook for American education in the 21st century and gives voice to the concern that the most talented and effective teachers — those with a high measured teaching ability — are more likely to leave their teaching positions for better-paying, less-stressful and more prestigious jobs. The study summarizes the situation, noting that while school districts differ in the extent in which their high-performing teachers are leaving the profession, all school districts are struggling with this problem. When less-experienced teachers remain in the classroom, it’s clear that the students’ don’t have the opportunity to advance at an optimal pace.

Figuring out how to encourage veteran, effective teachers to remain in the classroom is getting harder and harder. Class sizes are at an all-time high and teacher responsibilities are increasing at the same time that their salaries and benefits are decreasing. Some teacher-educators are involved in creating better teacher-training programs while other civic and governmental groups are working to raise teachers’ pay, bring community members into the schools as volunteers, improve teacher-administrator relations and provide more advancement opportunities for classroom teachers.

Public institutions are turning to private initiatives to help find a solution to this problem. One such initiative involves formally recognizing highly-effective teachers as a way to motivate these teachers as well as their colleagues to remain in the teaching profession. The Milken Family Foundation (MFF) has created a special award to address the issue of how the nation’s educational leadership can keep America’s best teachers in the classroom.

The Milken Educators Award is based on the idea that an effective teacher plays the most important role in a child’s education. Lowell Milken who created the Award, theorizes that when an exceptional teacher is recognized for his or her achievements, s/he is more likely to remain in the classroom.

MFF presents the Milken Educator Award annually to deserving teachers — our nation’s “unsung heroes” — who harness their vision and creativity to help shape their students’ successful integration into their post-school lives. Receipt of the Milken Educator Award has proven to encourage these outstanding teachers while generating enthusiasm among other educators as well.

The annual Milken Educator Awards honors highly effective K-12 teachers who teach in the public school system. Award recipients receive $25,000 that they can use for whatever they wish.

As of 2013 the Milken Family Foundation has invested over 135 million dollars in the Milken Education Award project.

Wink of the Blink

Last night, as I lovingly tongued my bottle of NyQuil goodnight, I set my internal alarm clock, as I always do when something is going on the following morning. Lately, though, with my anxiety levels being through the roof, I haven’t really needed it – turns out the cure for “not being a morning person” is not “no cowbell,” nor is it, “suck it up, Buttercup.”

Nope – it’s anxiety. Who knew?

7AM, I awoke, flutter-byes playing basketball in my stomach, rolled over onto my stomach and groaned – what was so important that I’d been woken up WELL before any sane person would opt for wakefulness? It hit me like a smack in the face: first day of school.

Wearily, I slogged out of bed and splashed some water on my face, trying to look presentable “enough” to the other bleary-faced parents who’d be dropping their kids off, determined that this time, at the very least, I wouldn’t be the youngest parent there, which increased the likelihood that I’d be able to, for the first time ever, get into the Holy Cult of the Mothers (they’re like the Caturday people, but harder to infiltrate). Maybe I need to apply or something.

Anyway.

Bumbling down the stairs, I poured at least half a cup of scalding coffee on my hand before I realized what I was doing. I stared down at my hand, my daughter standing nearby, trying to understand what I’d done.

“Aren’t you gonna say, “FUCK,” Mama?” she asked, completely seriously.

“I’m too tired, Girl Pants,” I replied hazily as I attempted to add some of the Blue Stuff to my coffee, managing to get one out of three packets into the coffee cup.

Morning: 3

Aunt Becky: 0

Alex was bounding up and down and racing through the house, chasing the cats and beams of light and random dust particulates floating through the early morning sunlight, beyond thrilled that today was the day! I quickly decided that it wasn’t going to be possible for me to siphon off some of his energy and use it for my own personal gains, so instead, I curled up on the couch and tried to restock my Tiny Tower I’d so thoughtlessly allowed to go dark while I slumbered. My 8-bit people needed Blood of the Bean! And Porn!

wink of the blinkAmelia and Alex bargained with Dave over who got to have a donut first, why, and which donut looked, upon taking a bite, more like the letter “c” than the other. Apparently, sibling rivalry knows no bounds.

Finally, my middle son twirled and whirled his way over to me, where he landed gracefully (too graceful to be MY child) in my arms. He stared up at me, blinking.

And in those blinks I saw the baby who cried every moment I left his line of sight, the toddler who spent the entire day after he learned to walk trying to kick a ball, falling down, getting back up again, and trying once again until he mastered it.

I saw the child who loved animals so much I called him Saint Francis of Assisi, the child who protected his little sister, teaching her of the cosmos and the heavenly bodies. I saw the child who’d curl up in my arms, reminding me that, while everything feels like a whirlwind, it would, indeed, be okay.

My heart filled with pride as I kissed the top of his head, my eyes full, for once, of happy tears.

He blinked again up at me, studying the lines of my face as he asked, “Mom, can I take the Powerwheel to school today?”

And just like that, the infant turned toddler turned child started his first day of school.

wink of the blink

All in the wink of the blink.

*Thwap* *Thwap* *Thwap* Incoooooooooommmmiiiinnnnnggggg

“Will you come in with me?” his eyes wide, full of frantic energy, met mine from the backseat of the car, where he sat buckled in like a fighter-pilot.

“Of course we will, Baby,” I took his hand into mine, marveling at the feeling of his tiny bird-like bones beneath his skin.

He nodded, unsure if this was an elaborate trap, trying to get him to go to kindergarten under false pretenses – his Mama’s boy.

“We’re juuuuuust going to go and finish your registration,” I assured him, his hand still gripping mine for dear life. “And then we’ll go home.”

“Do I get a treat if I’m good…?” he asked slyly, always my wee conman.

I just laughed and nodded – that kind of simple request is about the easiest I’m dealing with these days. Although, to be fair, the kid wants a treat when he’s stayed dry overnight, when he’s eaten all of his dinner, when he’s managed to NOT to stay dry, when he’s properly wiped his own ass, when the moon is full, when the moon is NOT full.

Most treats involve Batman in one form or another. As the girl who’s first bra was a Super Woman training bra, I can fully support this.

We walked hand-in-hand into the school just as we’d done so many times before with our eldest son, Benjamin. I could hardly believe it wasn’t Ben’s hand I held in my own; that my middle son was ready for kindergarten. The same kid who was a clingy infant last week, not 4 years prior.

Standing in line at the registration counter to receive our “school handbook*,” I sat on a bench with Alex, remembering all the times I’d walked those hallowed halls with my firstborn. Suddenly, like a stab to the heart, I missed him terribly. I shook it off as best as I could as we made our way down the hallway that once led to Ben’s forth grade room, winding through a maze of kids and their parents.

“Okay, J,” I said, “It’s time to take a picture.”

He nodded solemnly.

“Now, see if you can make a REALLY silly face, like this,” I squished up my face, stuck my tongue out and gave the metal horns. Sorta like this:

helicopter parents

He giggled, the laugh that always makes me burst into gales of laughter – it’s so from the heart, you simply can’t not join in.

“Okay, Mama,” he said, grinning ear to ear. The kid is a ham – he loves to make people laugh and this would be the ideal opportunity for him.

We stood around awhile in the LRC (did they always call the Library the LRC? I can’t remember, which, for some inexplicable reason makes me want to play Oregon Trail, but that is neither here nor there).

helicopter-parents

We stood in what appeared to be a line, but turned out to be just a bunch of people standing around, which is something I do often. Form lines of people in my head, and then stand around like a doofus, waiting for my turn until someone gently explains that I’ve been waiting on the fringes of a group of women discussing their cats.

I noted the large pile of combs sitting around and giggled – I don’t remember seeing combs when I had my last school pictures:

helicopter parents

Could’ve benefited from both a comb AND a tan there. Possibly highlights, but this was back before Jennifer Aniston made everyone think that cutting your hair into face-framing layers and highlighting it would make you as beautiful as her.

Note to world: doesn’t work that way.

Alas, I motherfucking digress.

We stood there in the line-but-not-a-line for a long while, as I tried (in vain) to hack through the school’s firewall so I could tell The Twitter, “LOOK OUT BELOW, MOTHERFUCKERS!” It’s the little things in life, really.

Finally, a PTO lady who was probably in charge of all things picture-related stared at my arm tattoo to my son, back to my arm tattoo again before asking: “What’s his name?”

“Alexander Harks,” I replied, looking around for Daver, who is more official-looking than I, and therefore more apt to be taken seriously.

“Okay,” she replied, looking as though I might knife her or something, “ummmmm, you go stand in THAT line,” she said nervously as she pointed to the line farthest from her.

“Thanks!” I said brightly, giggling inside – I find it funny that a tattoo of a peacock would intimidate ANYone.

helicopter parents

It’s not like I got a snake eating a lion with a knife oozing blood (although perhaps I should’ve).

We stood in that line (which was not ACTUALLY a line), waiting for the photographer. “Should we, uh, comb his hair?” Daver asked as we stood patiently in the non-line.

“Nah,” I replied. “Let’s remember him how he was at this age, and not all Toddlers and Tiaras.”

It was at that moment that I began to hear what sounded to be an Eagle, standing in the non-line next to me.

“Wait, WAIT,” she nearly screamed. “LET ME FIX HIS HAIR.”

The Helicopter Parent had arrived.

The little boy in question was starting kindergarten as well, and his hair, well, it appeared to be perfect from where I stood. I don’t know, maybe it was like all over his face like a werewolf or something – I couldn’t see. All that I *could* see was that he was just a little boy.

The Eagle Helicopter Mom swooped in and began to vigorously comb her son’s hair, practically hissing in his face, “YOU’RE GOING TO BE LOOKING AT THESE PICTURES FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. YOU BETTER LOOK GOOD!”

The three of us stood there, stunned into silence, as the Eagle Helicopter Mom prattled on. “Forever. You’ll be looking at these pictures FOREVER and YOU WANT TO LOOK YOUR BEST DON’T YOU?”

The kid just sat there, nodding – probably afraid of The Eagle’s wrath. I know *I* was.

(It was at this point that I began to smirk into my hand – maybe the kid’s future HUSBAND or WIFE might care, but most boys don’t give a flying shit about their school pictures)

By the time she’d fixed his hair so he looked impeccable (for a 5-year old), my own son had already had two snaps taken and was now standing neatly by my side, asking for a treat for “being good.”

I took one look back at “The Eagle” as we left the LRC (without playing Oregon Trail), and saw that she was standing there, trying to direct the school photog to make sure that the lighting was proper and that he had a “good angle” for the photograph – the shitty school photograph, not even one of those studio places.

“Did you make a face?” I asked Alex on the way out.

“I tried,” he looked up at me, hand firmly clutching my own.

“Good,” I smiled as I picked him up and twirled him around. “THAT is perfect.”

I’m sure “The Eagle” Helicopter Mommy will be all about retouching the snaps of her kid, pointing out all the flaws, and insisting that he have his photo redone, while I’ll be content looking my son. Just as he was. No more. No less.

helicopter parent

I couldn’t ask for anything more.

*Not entirely sure WHAT that book is – could be The Anarchist’s Cookbook.

She Thrusts Her Fists Into The Posts And Still Insists She Sees The Ghosts

It was a Friday night. It had to be a Friday night.

I know it was a Friday night because there was a big hollow place in the bottom of my stomach where my son was supposed to be. When you get pregnant, you don’t think about what’s going to happen years down the road. You think about the cute rattles and which brand of car seat and do I *really* need baby bottles when I’m going to nurse the wee bay-bee? You don’t think down the road apiece, when custody is split and parenting is a weekday thing, and what does my kid do on the weekend anyway (besides play World of Fucking Warcraft) but you can’t DO anything about it because, well, it’s not your turn to raise him.

You don’t think about that stuff. No. Not at all.

But there we were, two of the gloomiest people on the planet, trying to fill a hollow void that would remain empty until Sunday.

“Let’s grab some dinner,” Daver offered. I nodded, my heart wearing a sad face.

“Thai okay?” He asked, staring at my face intently, knowing that I probably wasn’t really okay.

“Sure,” I replied. “I love Thai food. Remind me not to get anything spicy. That shit BURNS coming back up.”

He nodded, the two of us both playing a role, our hearts not really in the game.

I waddled through the crisp January air and maneuvered myself into the passenger seat of the car, carefully buckling myself in. The moment the seatbelt hit my abdomen, my second son, another boy, began to furiously kick at it for daring to interfere with his space. I smiled a bit, rubbed my son’s head, nestled firmly in my ribcage, and said in my very best (worst) Adam Sandler voice: “He’s gonna be a soccer player.”

We both smiled a bit, each of us lost in our separate galaxy as we tried to not notice that the backseat was missing one occupant, our hands stiff and cold, as we tried to warm them against the sputtering warm air vents of our Pilot. It had been a bitter winter and there was no hint of spring on the horizon. Just dark cold days spent huddled under blankets.

We pulled up to the Thai place and I slithered out of the car, bumping my burgeoning gut on both the door and the car as I tried to maneuver my way onto the sidewalk and into the restaurant. I laughed a bit as I grabbed Daver’s hand, “Wow, it’s busy tonight,” I noted as we wandered through the front doors, “Mmm-hmmm,” Daver replied. “Glad we came when we did.”

The tiny Thai waitress who delighted in my belly every time I saw her (I learned through another waitress that the woman had been trying to get pregnant for many years) greeted us with a, “Hi there! How you doing? Table for two?”

I smiled and said yes, making my way through the maze of tables and trying not to bash someone into their Pad Thai with my belly, which I knew was no easy feat.

We made our way to a tiny cozy table against the wall, a deuce, and we sat, removing our jackets and shaking off the smell of cold. I knew what I wanted to eat, so I didn’t bother opening my menu to peruse the selections I could probably recite from heart if asked. I left the menu closed as Dave opened his, pretending he wasn’t going to order the same thing he always ordered – creatures of habit like to pretend we’re not sometimes – and I began to look around the dining room. People-watching is especially fun while at a restaurant. Maybe it’s the false sense of intimacy, I don’t know, but people tend to behave as they really are while dining out.

My eyes bounced from table to table as my son tap-danced on my bladder, making damn certain that I’d pay attention to that half-an-mL of pee currently sitting in there, until my eyes rested squarely upon another two-top who was…wait. They were both staring at ME!

She was sitting facing me, and he’d swiveled around to face me and they were both staring at me…except they weren’t really STARING so much as murdering me with their eyeballs. Four eyeballs trying to murder me.

I quickly turned my eyes back to my table. That couldn’t have really happened. I mean, I wasn’t DOING anything. It’s not like I’d come in with my pet monkey, Mr. Pinchey, and starting flinging poo around the place.

Shit, maybe I was under-dressed – I was so tired these days, I wouldn’t have put it past me to have gone out wearing a Shut Your Whore Mouth shirt, except this was before I had this blog or a shirt. No, I decided as I looked down, it wasn’t the shirt. And I’d managed to put on pants, which was a plus, so it wasn’t that my wobbly ass was hanging out.

Whew, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was appropriately dressed.

And it’s not like they could’ve known me from my other blog, Mushroom Printing. I’m pretty sure the only picture of me on that blog ever was this, which my co-blogger had put up as a representation of me:

They weren’t Internet People, so what the hell? What gives?

I felt chastised, like I’d done something wrong. The couple were still swiveled around, murdering me with their eyeballs as I tried to figure out WHY.

Finally, I whispered to Daver, “I think those people are staring at me.” Dave’s accustomed to playing the devil’s advocate, so I expected him to say something like, “they’re not staring at you murderously; they’re looking at the statue over your head and trying telekinesis.”

“WOAH,” he said, upon inspection. “What did you DO to them?”

“I have no idea,” I said, pretty shaken. I cross-indexed the Rolodex in my head to see if I could make a connection. Nope.

“I’ve never seen them before in my life,” I whispered in the crowded restaurant, now so acutely uncomfortable that I realized I was on the verge of vomiting. Everything (including air, sleep and pants) made me want to vomit, so this was an unsurprising reaction.

I dashed off to the bathroom to heave as Daver ordered for us.

I stood in front of the mirror as I washed my face, making sure my nose wasn’t bleeding and that I hadn’t gone out accidentally wearing a Swastika or something. I sturdied my legs which were quivering beneath me, ready to face this couple. I was going to find out why the hell they wanted to ruin my dinner. Maybe it was a case of mistaken identity that could be cleared up over some spring rolls or something.

Taking a deep breath, I marched back out into the dining room, veering sharply to the right to confront them.

They were gone.

And they took with them the answers to a puzzle I’ve been replaying in my head for years. I cannot, for the life of me, understand what had happened that night.

Six years later, I’m still confused. I still wonder what had happened to that couple; what made them so full of hate.

I’ll probably never know.

—————–

Has anything like this happened to you, Pranksters?

Aunt Becky Meets Her Match

I’d just sat down to build my 105 floor on Tiny Tower, which I’d planned to name a jaunty “Cyber Sex,” when my kids got home from their grandmother’s. A couple of times a week, they visit my mom’s house, where they happily can eat cereal from plates and annoy my parents with their incessant chattering while I sit at home in my underwear, playing Tiny Tower and watching videos of dancing snails.

My eldest son burst into the house, a whirlwind of knees and elbows, and clomped out to the family room, where I was sitting on my iPad playing a pixelated game and pretending that I wasn’t as lame as, well, I am.

(shut UP)

“MOM,” he yelled. “WE HAVE TO GO TO SCHOOL NOW.”

Um. I’m not wearing pants.

“Why?” I asked, cautiously. There’s something in that child that turns every minor request into an earth-shattering conquest – like we were going to have to climb a mountain, drink our own urine to stay warm, and nosh upon whomever was not up to the challenge in order to get to his elementary school.

“IT’S MY SOLO TONIGHT!” he nearly took my face off with his screams.

Aunt Becky say wha??

That was the first I’d heard of a “solo” a “concert” or a “trip to school after hours.” I try to be up-to-date on all things kids-related, but this child, well, he’s as organized as a, well, okay, he’s not very organized. We’re working on it.

(and by “working on it,” I mean that when he hands me a stack of ancient papers for events we’ve already missed, by hair falls out)

The kid was SOL – Alex has an ear infection, Dave’s out of town, and I, well, I’ve had a migraine that makes me wish I could plunk out my eyeballs with a spoon just to stop them from quivering unpleasantly. The Guy On My Couch was going to have to take over for me for the night – I couldn’t send him to school with the kid, much as I wanted to.

“Sorry, kiddo, but we’re going to have to skip it,” I replied, and before I could continue to explain myself – inserting neatly an object lesson in telling people what you need them to do BEFORE you demand that they drop everything and do it for you – he began to scream.

“BUT MOM, THEY’RE COUNTING ON ME!” The teeth gnashing had begun.

“Ben,” I replied. “We have 14 minutes to get you dressed and ready to leave the house. Do you even know where this concert is?”

“NO,” he said, again yelling my face off. “BUT I GOTTA BE THERE, MOM. I GOTTA.”

The maternal guilt began flowing freely, dripping from both my eyes and ears. I knew it was a lesson he had to learn – had I been given a couple hours to plan, I’d have been able to find someone to take the kid, but with 14 minutes to go? I was fucked.

And OMFWTFBBQ the guilt.

Even now, well after the fact, I’m stewing in a nice puddle of maternal guilt. I WANTED the kid to get there – I wanted to SEE him play his solo. A GOOD mother would’ve made sure her kid got there and I couldn’t do it, therefore, I was clearly NOT a good mother.

To make a long, drawn out, histrionic conversation short, we didn’t go. When I stop feeling like shit about this, I’ll let you know.

I sent his teacher an email, explaining that I was very sorry, that we were all sick, and no one was around to help with Ben’s siblings. The guilt oozed from my fingertips as I wrote it.

After I hit send (carefully removing links to my blog from the bottom of my email signature), the guilt flooded me. I had to watch some Prison Break just to remind myself that I’m not THAT much of a failure. In hindsight, I should’ve watched Jersey Shore –  Michael Scofield would’ve made an elaborate plan including both tattoos, the sun’s gravitational pull, and a single red Twizzler to make sure the kid made his solo WITHOUT being taken out by The Company.

This morning, I awoke to check my email to find she’d written me back, wishing to talk about my son’s future in music with me.

When I stop panicking, I’ll let you know.

I’m a grown-ass woman, and I’m STILL afraid to talk to a teacher about my son’s organizational problems.

If you need me, I’ll be under the bed, sneezing up cat hair and looking for my missing whore pants.

And Now You Are Five

Dear Alexander Joseph,

When I got pregnant with your brother, I don’t know that one person (besides your Aunt Ashley) said, “Congratulations.” Certainly it was a tumultuous time: I was twenty (not quite ready to be a parent but not so young that it was scandalous) , Ben’s father was less than kind to me, I was in college, and my life was, well, adrift. When I was 8 months pregnant, I waddled home, proverbial tail between my legs, to my parents who accepted my delicate condition. I find it hard to believe that anything that packs sixty pounds directly onto my ass  is “delicate,” but alas, I digress.

While it was incredibly kind of your grandparents to take me in, it came with some fairly long, painful strings attached.

When your brother was born, I spent the better part of four years trying to make it right. The end goal was to have another baby the easy/ier way. A way that didn’t involve being undermined my parents. A way that didn’t involve being treated like I was, very possibly, the stupidest person on the planet. A way that allowed me to feel like I was, in fact, a parent.

Your brother, well, he’s different. He’s on the autistic spectrum somewhere, and as a baby, he wanted nothing to do with me. I was turning my life into something that could make him proud, and he’d barely allow me to hold him. It didn’t change much as he grew – he was aloof, distant, heartbreaking. They have therapies available for autistic children, but none for the parents; parents who crave such things as a display of love in a way that’s easily understood. It’s never been that your brother didn’t love me, it’s simply that he shows it in a much more different way.

Finally, after graduating nursing school, getting married and moving your brother, father and I into a real house with our name on it, it was time for me to finally try for my next goal: another baby. All of that time I spent in school, working full-time, running my ass around to get graduated, all I wanted was to have another baby.

Month after month we tried and tried. Month after month, my heart broke into a zillion tiny pieces as I stared at that pee-stick, willing it to show me something – an evaporation line, anything. And month after month, I wept as the lily white stick stared back at me, mocking me. Pregnant bellies began to make me furious as I looked into fertility treatments. I was beyond confused – I’d gotten pregnant with Ben while on the pill and barely having The Sex – certainly this was bound to be easier.

Eventually, one Friday night, I took a pregnancy test while drinking a tall vodka/Diet and chain-smoking cigarettes (not at the same time, I’m not that coordinated). I was hoping to get the disappointment out of the way so I could enjoy the rest of my weekend (read: cry like a weenie).

When the digital test I’d just bathed in my urine popped up a “PREGNANT,” I actually said to aloud, “No fucking way.” I brought it down to show your father, who had been waiting for me to return in hysterics, and we both stared at it, bewildered. We’d finally done it.

The very next day, your father drove to the hardware store and painted your bedroom a nice soft yellow – niftily covering the barfy pink walls. He was so very proud to be having a baby.

It was the next week when the panic began. I’d somehow managed to get everything in my life right: I had a five-year old who was happy and healthy, I had a husband who treated me with respect, I had my very own house, a degree – with honors – and a life. It seemed too good to be true.

So when I began to spot fairly heavily around week 7, I just knew that my luck had run out. I couldn’t be so lucky; I just couldn’t – hadn’t I learned that by now?

It was a subchorionic haematoma, the US tech said, my head turned away from the US screen as I awaited her words. Look, she said, as I saw the flickering of that strong heart on the screen, that’s your baby.

And it was.

On March 30, 2007, after months spent miserably on the couch (prepartum depression is an ASSHOLE), I was admitted to the hospital to have you. All I wanted, I confessed tearfully to your father, was a baby who loved me. And after a whopping three pushes, there you were. You opened your mouth and began to scream. I don’t think you stopped without a boob in your mouth for a solid year after that.

I couldn’t have been happier.

You showed me what unconditional love felt like. It was the first time I’d experienced that type of love, and it made me whole in ways I didn’t know were broken.

So to you, my second son, the one who has made me whole, I wish you the very happiest of happy birthdays.

Love,

Mommy