Won’t Be Idle With Despair

If I could tell the world just one thing…

The January air was cold, crisp, the sort of Chicago winter that seared your boogers to the insides of your nose and made your eyes water, your tears freezing as soon as they emerged from your tear ducts. I was just crossing the river, the grey of the cold January afternoon oppressively suffocating me as I noted the chunks of ice floating down the river. I wished I could fall down there with them, and wake up to a new day, a new life.

I was driving my dad’s old car, the roads wet and icy, the salt making a jaunty click-click sound against the bottom of my red Acura Integra, the one I’d inherited to replace my del Sol for something, well, with a backseat. A backseat that held one tiny infant, with a shock of black hair who squalled and cried, even as we drove. I hadn’t slept in days. To keep me awake, and to drown out the sound of my tiny sons wails, I put on one of my most favorite Christmas albums.

….it’d be that we’re all okay.

I was baffled by my new baby.

His dislikes included me, air, food, being touched, the world, gravity, the universe, and, well, life. Babies are supposed to love this shit, right? If babies are supposed to love this shit, then it’s clearly some character flaw of mine that he couldn’t even look me in the eyes.

In 2001, autism wasn’t The Thing – no one walked, or ran, for a cure – no one really knew much about it. And I certainly didn’t suspect that he had a problem.

He was just…temperamental. And he probably sensed that I was a bad mother, a piece of shit person, and could tell that he’d drawn the shitty card when he was born to me.

In the end, only kindness matters.

My heart was as heavy and oppressive, like my mood.

I’d waddled back home at twenty, pregnant with my young son, tail between my proverbial legs. My parents graciously allowed me back into their home and helped me set up a nursery for him, but, like any other kind deed, this one came with strings so long that I nearly hung myself on them. And my son’s father, angry that I’d had the audacity to get pregnant while on birth control, (while we get along now) well, he wasn’t particularly kind to me.

The last person I recalled being truly kind to me was one of the nurses in the hospital as she wheeled me out to the car with my new baby.

Five months before.

Not to worry, because worry is wasteful and useless in times like these.

Since I could recall, I’d dreamed of going to medical school and becoming a doctor. I’d never considered having children, never thought that I’d be a parent but here I was. And there he was.

I couldn’t figure out what next. If I wanted a life with my son, I’d have to give up on the only dream I’d ever known – becoming a doctor. If I didn’t want a life with my son, well, I could go to medical school, see him on weekends and in between rotations, living with my parents until I was forty, but despite his dislike of me, I was pretty fond of the little guy.

Stuck between a rock and a bigger rock, the future a black question mark of yawning uncertainty, I drove aimlessly around, trying to make the kid sleep, trying to outrun my demons, trying to figure out what next.

I won’t be made useless.

I’d never not had a plan before. It was like waking up to realize I’d lost the right half of my body. I’d dreamed of medical school since I was a toddler – the dream was over. But what to fill it with?

I didn’t have that answer. I didn’t know where to look for an answer. I didn’t know what to do next. The emptiness was overwhelming.

My hands are small I know, but they’re not yours, they are my own.

Everywhere I turned, someone else was telling me what to do. What not to do. How I was ruining my child. How I needed to do this or that. How I shouldn’t ever think of doing this again. I was twenty-one – there was no one in my corner telling me that I could do it if I just got all EYE OF THE MOTHERFUCKING TIGER about it.

I’ll gather myself around my fears.

Maybe I wasn’t the most qualified of people to raise my son; maybe my brother and sister-in-law were (my mother had asked them if they’d adopt my son should I “go off the rails on a crazy train”). Maybe he was better off without me. But he wasn’t going to get that chance. Whether he liked it or not, I was going to parent the SHIT out of him. I was gonna get him a family and we were going to make it.

For light does the darkness most fear.

The dark days outnumbered the light ones for a good long time. I had to learn to smile and nod as I was told that I was doing a bad job at parenting. Every jab, every poke, every complaint about me, I learned to smile and nod. “Yes, that’s right, I am a bad mother, you’re so right.” I ground my teeth into nubs and smiled.

Soon, my path veered dramatically. I entered nursing school, found a new plan and met the man I would marry. The man who would encourage me, after only reading emails I’d sent, to write.

I won’t be made useless.

Maybe my “plan” was gone – so what? The world was a big place – plenty of room for new plans. I would not be made useless. I would do something to make my small boy proud. I’d get him the family he needed, I’d get away from his father, and I’d give him the siblings that helped the autistic child emerge from his own world to join ours.

I did. I found my words as he found his, and together we were able to carve out a new plan – a better plan.

I won’t be idle with despair.

There have been months, years full of despair, sadness. My heart, however, has never been as empty as it was that day, crossing the mighty Fox River, me against the world. If I could tell my former self that day that, “hey, your life will be nothing like you thought it would be, but that’s okay,” I would. I’d give that girl a hug. I’d let her know that it was okay to be scared. It was okay to feel weak and powerless because, well, she was.

But not deep inside. Deep inside, there was a drive, a dream, to become more. To be better. To do something with herself.

And she has.

And I will.

I am never broken.

Aunt Becky Gets Fit or Dies Trying

In a drunken fit of drunkenness, I agreed to wear a pedometer and set some fitness goals. Omron kindly asked me to join their Fitness Blogger Challenge Campaign, which, DUH, screams AUNT BECKY, right? They sent me some sweet ass swag (and some for YOU, too) and I was all, I am so going to beat the shit out of this challenge.

I just knew it.

I mean, as long as I could call it an “odometer,” I was pretty happy to try wearing the thing for a month. I mean, I walk all the time…right? Surely as a “writer”* on the Internet who spends her time watching zany cats do stuff while pecking out email after email on her Big Mac is probably an athletic superstar.

Really, how could I *not* be eligible for an award like, “most athletic blogger,” or “walks most steps in a day?” I scoffed at the suggestion of 10,000 steps a day – certainly I did at least a million steps each day. Probably TWO million!

In fact, I bet that I’d break the odometer with my awesome steps.

I couldn’t wait to go to the Omron factory, right in my backyard, to be all, “I broke this with my awesomeness.”

Happily I strapped it on the first day – I didn’t even drop it in the toilet. I hummed a little as I imagined the odometer getting all confused after I passed the 1 million steps mark.

At the end of the night, I glanced down at the thing and was all, OH EM GEE, this ridiculously expensive odometer is broken. Obviously.

Because there is NO WAY I only walked 2,398 steps. It probably had to roll over from 99,999 or something. Right?

The next morning, I got up and happily strapped the thing on again. This time I included some yoga pants (who cares if I never actually DO yoga in my yoga pants?) and a headband to catch all the sweat that I’d be dripping. I’d have used those weird 80’s wrist cuffs if I had any, but sadly, no.

I put up a picture of Bob Greene as a motivator-thingy and pictured him cheering me on each time I wrote an email.

“YOU GO AUNT BECKY. YOU BURN THOSE CALORIES AND YOU TAKE THOSE STEPS.”

His voice sounded like Billy Mays, so I got a little nostalgic. And when I get nostalgic, I have to take a nap. Kind of like when I have a cheeseburger. Or really, any time. I love naps. I bet Bob Greene does too. I get to talk to him next week and I plan to ask him about it.

The end of that night, after I was all EYE OF THE MOTHERFUCKING TIGER about shit? My odometer read 1,082.

Apparently, WEARING yoga pants isn’t the same as working out. Who the fuck knew?

Anyway.

It was a bad month to work on getting fit – pneumonia, now I’m dying of something that’s growing in my sinuses, then an ear infection, now Ebola – so I’m going to have to cram all of my Getting Fit With Omron into a week and a half. What can I say? I’m a procrastinator (although this time, not by choice).

So I’m setting a ridiculously low goal and trying to stick to it. I know that simple shit like parking far away from the entrance to Target (my boyfriend) is an easy way to get a little bit of exercise. If all else fails, I can throw the odometer on one of the kids and be all BOOO-YEAH.

Because Your Aunt Becky has GOT to get fit. Or die trying.

Oh yeah, and I’m being compensated to write this post by Bookieboo LLC in a blogger campaign with Omron Fitness.

*use of quotation marks is intentional.

Okay, Pranksters – I need some ridiculously awesome (or hilarious) fitness tips. Because obviously. Or if you’ve got none, tell me what your favorite flavor of cupcake is, because delicious. Obviously.

Girls of a Certain Age

Every Saturday night, we’d go out to a nice dinner. There were four of us – the Fantastic Foursome – a group of giggly girls dealing with everything from single parenting to dating abusive assfucks, and there sat, week after week, a different restaurant each week. Sometimes, before we’d go out to eat, we’d watch episodes of Sex in the City, because, well, we were girls of a certain age.

I was the first to dissent. My new boyfriend, The Daver, lived in Chicago, and we, well, we were suburban girls. As much as I planned to bridge the gaps in geography, Daver and I were in the middle of that ever-so-sweet honeymoon stage of our relationship (well before the “I want to claw your eyes out with a hammer as you sleep” stage showed it’s pretty little head), so the very thought of NOT being with him was patently absurd.

I tried to make it back home for those dinners – the highlight of my stressful week – but eventually, the dinners sort of petered out. We’d bring Daver with us sometimes, but it wasn’t the same.

A little after that, Ashley – one of my best friends – met someone too, and for a spell, we’d double date. The only time, I should say, in my life that I’ve done so.

Shortly thereafter, a weekly dinner became a monthly dinner, and those became as unpredictable as my love/hate affair with Christina Aguilera.

Bored one night last January, I decided to, for old time’s sake (back when I had time), pop in my Sex in the City DVD’s. It was there, watching the impossibly irritating lives of those four women, when I realized how far I’d veered. I knew, of course, that having three children, migraines, and a wicked case of PTSD wasn’t exactly as glamorous a life as I’d once (semi) led. I sat there on the couch, mouth in the “catching flies” position, realizing how abjectly miserable I was. And how I needed to regain that part of myself buried under the mounds of bottles, nursing bras and impossibly tiny, yet adorable Playmobil pieces.

It was then when I launched the Bringing (Aunt) Becky Back Project. It was time to pull a Madonna and re-fucking-invent myself.

And I have. Started small. Even though I was still lugging around scads of baby pounds, I bought some clothes that made me feel good about myself. I bought pretty (read: sparkly) earrings and perfume that smelled like roses. I began to get regular pedicures, even though I’ve been certain that those women are talking about my gross feet. I took baths alone and tried to banish the guilt when I decided to dick around on the Internet rather than scrub my floor. Eventually, those pounds fell off and I burned my nursing bra.

I’ve managed to pull that girl back out of the shell she’d been living through a combination of being kinder to myself, scads of therapy, launching Band Back Together and Mushroom Printing, and picking up some freelancing gigs.

The girl who used to have carefree Saturday night dinners with her girlfriends may be long gone, but the person I’ve become knows that hanging out on the couch, wearing happy pants and a stained Purple Should Be A Flavor, Dammit t-shirt while watching reruns of Prison Break (read: documentaries about hot dogs), surrounded by love, well, everyone should be so lucky.

Because I am.

Love. Chicago Style.

I sort of feel sorry for anyone stuck visiting me. Not because I’m not a gracious host (and I’m using “gracious” to mean yelling “get your own damn soda” while I lounge about on the couch) but because I’m a wicked bad tour guide. I’d rather tour the dumpster I used to get wasted behind than go and visit some of the more touristy bits of Chicago. Mostly because I find my dumpster more enthralling than the masses of people staring up at the Tall Buildings.

For a city who loves tourism as much as we do, we’re awfully rude about having them. I love nothing more than spoiling a nice snapshot by standing behind the lovely tourists and making inappropriate hand gestures while the shot is taken. I’d much prefer to take you to witness two mob bosses having a fist fight than I would ride the Ferris Wheel on Navy Pier. I’d rather take you to the dumpy pizza place, praying we don’t get diphtheria (AGAIN) while we nosh on the most delicious pizza ever created (even if it is a front for a drug cartel) than tour the Sears Tower**.

But my girl Crys is coming into town today. And while I’d like to be all, “Pranksters, come visit and we’ll go do awesome touristy things while I play World’s Best Tour Guide,” I know myself better than that. Because while she’s probably expecting to see Chicago’s Greatest Hits*, I’m planning to sit on the couch and make her fetch me Diet Coke.

In fact, I’m such a good friend that I’m praying she gets introduced to Chicago the way most of us do: fist-fight in the airport.

Because I never know I’m home until I deboard in Chicago, where everyone glowers glumly as they take off or put on clothes – depending on the season – threatening other passengers with their eyes to not fuck with them. I feel sort of sorry for my California-based friends who have no idea why everyone looks so pissed off until they step outside and realize it’s Balls Hot or Balls Cold.

It’s only then that I know I’m home sweet motherfucking home.

Welcome, Crys. Remember: don’t make eye contact.

*an oxymoron.

**It is not, never has been and never will be the “Willis Tower.”

————

PS. Am here at the Stir today. Also: here.

———–

Also: are you guys as lousy a tour guide as I am?

This Blog Left Blank Intentionally

In the eleventy-billion years I’ve been blogging, I don’t think I’ve ever taken a couple of days off. See, I’m too compulsive to do that. By noon, if I haven’t gotten something completely mediocre pecked out and posted here, I’m practically banging my head into the wall, yelling, “NOT WITHOUT MY BLOG.”

I took Monday and Tuesday off, not because I was frolicking around, doing awesome things with my Cabana Boy, Raphael, but because *flings hand against head dramatically* I was very close to death.

Well, no, I was probably not near death, but I wanted to be.

See, Pranksters, I had *cue Imperial Death March* The Stomach Flu.

I hate the stomach flu more than I hate cream-based condiments, smoove jazz and decaffeinated coffee (what’s the fucking point?).

I was the last one standing against it, too. Everyone else in my house had been felled by it and I was all LOOKIT ME, ALL EYE OF THE MOTHERFUCKING TIGER ON YOU, GASTROENTERITIS. IMMA MAKE YOU MY BITCH.

Three hours later, I was laying on the hideous tile in our upstairs bathroom, praying to the porcelain gods that they would spare me this agony and just let me die.

My cats, very helpfully, I should add in my most sarcastic tone, circled around me, trying to lick me back to health. Or, perhaps, decide where would be best to start gnawing on my corpse. I love my cats, but I don’t trust them not to chomp their way into my dead body to make a nice cozy home.

Monday morning found me in the ER for a couple of bags of fluids. I had dehydrated myself so thoroughly over the previous twelve hours that I couldn’t even produce tears. I hate going to the ER, but I was all, “I’M *wheeze* ALL *horks* EYE OF THE *splat* TIGER,” and then I passed out.

(I’m always pissed about going to the ER for things because, hell, I could give MYSELF a bag of Normal Saline or Ringers Lactate if I had the proper equipment.)

The following thirty-six hours were spent in a feverish haze, where I alternated between moaning on the couch and moaning in bed. The highlight? Drinking the most delicious blue-flavored slurpee in the world. Nothing, Pranksters, has ever tasted so good.

I also fulfilling one of my OCD dreams: I bought a carpet steamer. The excitement I feel over this is pathetic. I mean, who knows how to party, Pranksters? (answer: I do)

So this is Your Aunt Becky, telling you that I’m back. In black.

What did I miss while I was gone?

The Wanderer

Before I get into the meat-n-butter of anything, I have to fling some confetti and bacon around. While the rest of the world was watching a very intoxicated James Franco (um, I’ll have what he’s having thankyouverymuch) on the Oscars last night, The 11th Annual Bloggie Winners were quietly announced.

Mommy Wants Vodka didn’t win. That? Was fine by me. Because Band Back Together did.

I’d started Mommy Wants Vodka in 2007 precisely because I’d so desperately craved the community I’d seen on other blogs and what I found was so much greater than I’d ever imagined. I’m the first person to mock blogging as narcissistic and self-absorbed but I’m also it’s number one fan. I’d totally wear a BLOGGING IS NUMBER ONE shirt while waving one of those NUMBER ONE fingers around in the air.

(mental note: pack NUMBER ONE finger for next conference)

Band Back Together represents all of the best bits of the blogging world: the community, the empathy, the story-telling, the feeling of same-ness, the support, the love and the compassion. A win for The Band is so much more important than anything else. Including bacon and sprinkles.

(I fully expect to be struck by a bolt of lightning from the bacon gods now)

So congrats and a big thank to everyone (and I do mean everyone. It’s not my site anymore. It belongs to The Band) who has worked to make the site what it is.

And watch out, World. The Band is just getting warmed up.

———-

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I want to do next and I’ve realized that what I really need to do is to get some perspective. I need to blow the cobwebs and dust out of my brain and give my mind a chance to really wander.

It’s been so many years since I’ve really given myself a chance to do that. My choices have all been made with regard to the common good for so long that I don’t even know what I want anymore. I don’t even know how to begin to process what I want.

That means that I need to get out for a little bit. Live a little. Take a chance. Be brave; really brave. Do something different before I stagnate myself into actually believing that I do give a shit if my floors are clean enough to eat off of them.

I need to dust off my disco boots, fill my iPod until it’s bursting with new music, pack a bag and I need to go. I need to wander for awhile. Just me and the open road.

Someone mentioned in the comments that perhaps I wasn’t actually interested in self-publishing a book; that maybe I’d rather just take a “book tour” type of adventure, and I think that’s spot on. Shit, I’d love to write a book, but first, I’d rather know exactly what kind of book it is that I want to publish.

I need to go on an adventure, in search of My Happy. My Happy is out there somewhere, I know it. Perhaps it’s in a diner in New Mexico or a bar in Arizona or on a deserted street in Louisiana. I simply don’t know. But I intend to find out.

I’m tired of waking up and feeling bored by the drudgery of daily life. I’m tired of waiting for things to happen. I’m tired of praying that I’ll find my way; hoping that I’ll see a sign somewhere in the tea leaves. It’s time to make my OWN way.

It’s time find My Happy.

————–

I don’t have any timetable or route or any of those other “details” worked out yet. Hell, I still a laptop (and possibly a car) and a real, live companion to make this happen. In fact, I spent quite awhile convinced that Kansas City was actually a state (it is not a state)(nor is Las Vegas).

But I wanted to know where-ish you guys lived. Because if I’m taking a trip, it’s to visit with my Pranksters. You know how I’m always threatening to show up at your house drunk and warble “God Saves The Queen?” The time for that is soon.

The Auto Show: Social Versus Traditional Media

If all goes well, and I don’t freeze to death like an overly-bedazzled, extra-large Popsicle, I’m planning to go downtown* for the Chicago Auto Show. You’re probably scratching your head, possibly throwing things around your living room a la Jerry Springer to express your outrage, because that simply does not sound like something Your Aunt Becky would like to do. And that is where you would be wrong.

I’ve been going to the Chicago Auto Show since I was a wee lass. It’s a Sherrick Family Tradition, begun many years before Your Aunt Becky descended upon this world, smoking cigars and barking out orders (that is how, Pranksters, my mother describes me). Somewhere, I have pictures of me as a baby – carefully held by one of the models that the car companies used to have by the cars – a muppet with curls toddling around in my fancy dresses, a preteen, a sullen teenager with my earphones on, glaring at the camera, and even pictures of me as an adult.

Between school and squalling babies, I’ve been a little busy and I haven’t managed to go in a couple of years.

When Toyota invited me to the first-ever social media preview of the Auto Show, I was gobsmacked.

You’re probably thinking, “oh, well, you’re a BLOBBER, people INVITE YOU TO THINGS,” and you’d be totally wrong. I’m the WRONG KIND of blobber, Pranksters. The only people who like me are the Car People because they don’t give a shit if I swear and that is fine by me.

That is also a conversation I’d love to have another day because I’m totally interested in what you have to say about it. ANYWAY.

So, I’m nervous.

I love cars. You know that. I’ve worked with Ford before for the What Women Want Series over the summer. Cars = rad. I’m not nervous or bored or apprehensive about going to spend the afternoon looking at them.

I’m picturing a claymation non-celebrity Death Match between:

Social Media (blobbers, The Twitterers, Facebook, Tumblr)

versus

Traditional Media (Newspapers, Magazines, Television)

There’s sort of a war going on between them. The rise of self-publishing platforms (WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Twitter) has really really REALLY hurt traditional print media (also: the recording industry). They haven’t been able to figure out a way to keep up with the times and stay relevant when people can pop onto Twitter and watch news as it unfolds. How can they compete with that?

Twitter, is free. Blogging, well, it’s (mostly) free**. Advertisers aren’t paying the big bucks to advertise and that’s where traditional print media makes their money.

(advertisers should really pull their heads out of their asses and realize that ALL of our blogs are, indeed, a good place to advertise.)

Traditional media is grappling with ways to offer something that’s different and more lucrative than social media. Traditional media has been reluctant to change. Traditional media has also considered social media it’s bumbling redneck cousin.

Traditional media has a point.

The crux of social media is also it’s beauty: it’s unfiltered.

There are rarely teams of editors fact-checking blogs and Twitter accounts for accuracy. For many things, that’s great: it gives you that extra emotional connection to the writer that may otherwise be missing. But it also allows speculation, rumors and outright lies to be spread without consequence. Sure, a “troll***” might come along and say, “hey, that’s not true, yo,” but one deletable voice in a sea of thousands?

Not that it doesn’t happen in traditional media too, but at least there, the fall from grace is much more pronounced. A blogger can just close up shop and eventually, we forget they existed. Or we don’t and they serve as a warning: “don’t pull a xxx.”

So that means that if I can shake this migraine (I have a double ear infection, adding insult to my toothless injury) I’m nervous of the reception I’ll get. Should I just show up wearing my Shut Your Whore Mouth shirt and a crummy old pair of boxers with a pork rib hanging out of my mouth?

Also: in Claymation Death Match, will they capture my Super-Villain hair properly?

So, what do you think about it all?

*downtown = Chicago.

**I pay a bit for hosting services and a couple of servers because I run Mommy Wants Vodka, Mushroom Printing, We Know Awesome and Band Back Together.

***there are many who consider people who disagree with them “trolls.” Generally, I do not.

—————-

Bloggies?

The Age of Aquarius

When I got this shirt, several things happened:

We had the “Storm of the Century” in Chicago.

I got nominated for a Bloggie*.

My sex appeal increased by 9 million.

Everyone I know* stopped wanting to hang out with me.

The last of which, I know, is only because they couldn’t bear to be in the company of such epic greatness without feeling sadly inferior. I mean, it’s a PURPLE UNICORN SHIRT. How can you not feel like you are somehow not good enough? Even I can’t tell where the shirt ends and the awesome begins!

So after I strapped on this beautiful purple unicorn shirt, I got an email from my friend Cecily asking if I wanted to talk to a psychic. I’m sure she sensed the shift in the Earth’s Gravitational Pull and knew I needed to hear what my destiny held. Of course I agreed. I’m a big fan of Miss Cleo and her infomercials.

I’d never talked to a psychic before so I was slightly nervous. What would this brilliant seer into my soul say?

Well, it turns out, Pranksters, this will BE MY YEAR. Without giving away too much (are psychic readings like birthday wishes?), I’m going to be a very busy girl. I’ll finally manage to sell my books. PUBLISHERS, YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO CALL ME.

The psychic was eerily accurate about a bunch of details about my life and I don’t know if it’s the Epic Unicorn Shirt or what, but I’m feeling downright giddy about what the future holds and that’s not even because I drank five cups of coffee that I made with Redbull instead of water. Let’s get this book-selling-career-starting-unicorn-shirt-wearing-show-on-the-road!

Pranksters, we’ve got a world to take over and an internet to take back from Mark Zuckerberg and Jimmy Wales. I’m not going anywhere without you guys. And my purple unicorn shirt. Naturally.

P.S. Weather Channel, CALL ME. This is the worst map yet:

SnOMGAh, that’s better.

*You should, um, vote for me if you want, and, um, stuff. I’m up for Best Humor (I think they meant “funniest looking”) and Best Writing. And Band Back Together is up for Best Kept Secret.

**3 people