National Pregnancy, Infant And Child Loss Day: Tables Missing One

Band Back Together is doing a wall of remembrance as well. Please visit if you can. We’re also calling for submissions from our pregnancy, baby, child  loss mama and daddies this month. Any issues logging in email bandbacktogether@gmail.com.

When I first started blogging, I found myself fitting in, not with the other mom bloggers, but with the fringe groups. The infertility bloggers, the baby loss bloggers, the special needs bloggers – those were people I could identify with much more so than the people I was supposed to fit in with. Maybe I hadn’t lost a child, maybe I hadn’t struggled in that very same way, but I had struggled in my own way.

We were the outsiders. The misfits. We had stories that no one wanted to hear about. Elephants sat at our tables, in corners and we were forever on the outside of normal, looking in. It’s the natural progression, I suppose, that I would create a space for us to gather. I’m proud of that. There are many of us outsiders. So many more than I’d thought.

When my daughter was born sick, it was no surprise that it was these people that came to my side with swords to help me slay my dragon, fluffy tissues to wipe the tears, and a barf bucket for when it all came to be too much.

I have an email folder that I’ve carefully saved every email I’ve gotten from that time that someday, I will print out to show my daughter. Most of the emails are from the people like me. Like most of you. The outsiders. The people who have been through hell but know how to make the ride a little…easier.

Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss day. Every year, I do a Wall of Remembrance for the people who have picked me up, dusted me off and wiped the barf off my face when I needed it most.

For that, I owe them everything.

According to the Center’s For The Disease Control’s Website, about 1 in every 100-200 births in the United States results in a stillbirth. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4 million stillbirths occur yearly worldwide. One in every four diagnosed pregnancies ends in miscarriage. The numbers for neonatal and postnatal deaths run into the tens of thousands.

Those numbers seem large to me, but even after having to take a statistics class to get through nursing school I can’t say that I’m much of a numbers person. My son, he likes numbers, which is why he’ll be off saving the world, one string of code at a time, while Your Aunt Becky sits here, mouth breathing and occasionally wondering aloud, “Is the INTERNET working?”

Numbers aren’t my thing. People are my thing. 1 in 100-200 sounds like a hell of a lot bigger number when you attach faces to those numbers. Faces, stories and names. People. My friends. My nieces, my nephews, their parents. Tables forever missing one. Lives cut short. Unlived.

Still born. Born still.

My friends. Their children.

Today, we remember.

Shale

Matthew

Charlie

Cora

Thalon

Maddie

Peyton Elizabeth

Hannah

Sarah Kay

Paige

Ashley

Hannah

Baby Morgan

Baby Twin lost at 8 wks

Kiara Jolie

Jellybean

Baby C miscarried at 12 weeks on 1/7/07

Robin

Brian

<3 speck, Peanut, and Bean <3

Mindy’s three angels

Baby Jersey Girl Gets Real

Caleb

Gabriel

Anne & Jed’s babies

Sydney

Athena Rose Moore – 24 weeks Gestation (2nd loss, only one named)

Baby 1 – 9 weeks

Baby B – Twin to my 13yo, 12 weeks

Baby 2 – 9 weeks

Baby JP

Kathlyn

Baby Cherry

Nicholas

Ellis

Tevin, Taylor & Tristen

Elijah Michael

Brenna

Kherrington Faith

Baby H and Baby Boy H

Kalila

Baby J A and Baby J B

Anna

William

Robert Alan

Isabel Grace

Maddy

William Henry

Lilee

James and Jake

Aodin

Selena- lost pregnancy at 9 weeks

Callum

Sarah

Connor

Liam

Samuel

Jacob Lane

Caden

Masyn

Olive Lucy

Seth Milton

Abigail Hlee

JoeJoe Sherman

Baby Nick

Gabriel Anton

Ryan

Jonathan

Devin Alin

Jacob and Joshua

Baby K, Gabriel Connor, Christian Elliot and Andrew

Emmerson

Baby Kuyper

Mara S.

Nathan Michael

Eva and seven additional losses

Timothy, Taea, and Thomas

Kyle S.

John Addison

Raime, Elora & Connor

Ava and Nathaniel

Rose

Micaela, Angelica, and Frankie

Donald Angus

ETW’s seven losses

Becca’s twin siblings

Piper Isabelle

Libby’s Baby

Baby Cline

Addison Hope

Ryne Moyer

Marcus Reeves

Julian Ulysses

Becky

Caleb

Sean Isaac

Clayton and Skylar

Jessica Anne

Paul James

Ashlynn Brooks

David Lee

Babies Boone

David

Olcott-Lueke angels

Baby A and Baby B twin girls

Baby Girl B and Baby Boy A

Becca’s Twin Siblings

Jackson

Kaitlyn Grace

Brennan

Ellery

Robert Daniel

Quinn

Josie Ree Smith

Isabel

Issac

Samuel and Amelia

Draven Fredrick

Baby George – stillbirth

Eva and 7 other losses

In memory of my baby girl, Kaela Alexandria, 7 months and 4 days old when she passed.

Luke – stillbirth

Baby Ari, August 21, 2000.

Baby 1, August 2004, miscarriage. Baby 2, September 2009, and little baby girl Addison, accidental suffocation, 2008.

Ethan

Iris Rose, respiratory problems, three years old, April, 2012.

MTGracie – Her two little forget-me-nots.

Baby Roessler, miscarriage, 7 weeks gestation

Noah Issac (9/1999) and Angel Faith (6/2005)

Lidia Faith and Ronnie Jo aged 7 and 3 at time of death on 12/2/2010. They passed away in a house fire.

Our sweet baby Ava Rose, miscarried at 13 weeks on Oct 3, 2007. I will never forget. <3

Mackenzie. She’d have been 19 this year.

Patrick and Anthony, born at 22 weeks gestation. They would be 19 1/2, if they had lived.

Isabella Joy (miscarried in April 2003).

Thaddeus and Clara

Zephyrus Atiyyah

———–

I’ll add any names to this list so if you’d like me to add a name, please don’t hesitate to email me at becky.harks@gmail.com or leave a comment.

At Band Back Together, we have a Wall of Remembrance as well. Remembering, loving these lost souls is so very important to me.

At 7 pm tonight, October 15th, A Day To Remember, I will burn a candle in memorium.

Dona nobis pacem.

(give us peace) Lord, give us peace.

Do Women Shop More Than Men?

Third party contributor

Do Women Really Shop More Than Men? Not During the Holiday Season…

According to a holiday shopping survey, men planned to spend more than women on gifts in 2013. If you’re a woman, it’s likely you’ve spit out your coffee, or you’re shaking your head, or you’re saying something along the lines of: “Um…no.” A 2013 Gallop poll backs up the survey results, and women everywhere are scratching their heads.
· Women ages 15-30 spend on average $214.67 per gift
· Women ages 31-57 spend on average $203.36
· Men ages 15-30 spend on average $296.45
· Men ages 31-57 spend the most, averaging $332.11

(Holy cow! That’s over $100 more per gift!)

APPARENTLY, It’s MEN Who Are SHOPPING

Isn’t ‘women and shopping’ like the single most-used television trope and stand-up comedian go-to? It’s one of those stereotypes that continues to thrive despite great strides in feminism, and big changes to traditional gender roles. Come on – there’s stay-at-home-dads now, and wives sometimes make more money than their husbands (and, that’s okay). Society seems to be coming around to the idea that women are equal to men, but not when it comes to shopping.
Despite statistics that clearly show men will spend more this holiday season, women are still burdened by old shopping stereotypes. And, women will continue to see advertisements geared toward their holiday shopping. And, women will continue to be the butt of jokes at holiday parties, and other events, where husbands, brothers, dads and grandpas all laugh at their holiday spending.

CHANGE THE CONVERSATION

It’s time to turn it around on men, but in a playful way. Suggest these studies as proof that men shop and women actually save.
Women have long been painted as money-hungry gold-diggers. There are thousands of jokes, sayings, and quotes depicting women as credit hungry shopaholics. Male comedians often complain about their wives and girlfriends draining their bank accounts, and taking long trips to the mall.
This holiday season, you can change the conversation. When an uncle/brother/boyfriend/husband/dad/grandpa brings up the old stereotype, ask them where they’re getting their proof. Chances are high they’ll point to their wives’ recent trip to the mall, or a recent online shopping excursion. Once they’ve given their proof, you can floor them by sending them a link to the two above-mentioned surveys. Everyone is sure to have a good laugh, and you’ll have opened up a safe dialog about changing attitudes toward women and spending.

IT’S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS…

This holiday shopping season it isn’t about who spent what, or what gender shops more. It’s about the thought, the gifts you give, and the respect you have for everyone (gender unspecified).
Men and women both seem to care about the gifts they give, and that’s because this is the season of giving (Not, the season of giving stereotypes). Gifts for men should be thoughtful, and meaningful to the recipient, such as a new grill for the grill master, or a toolset for the handyman in your life, or even a new blow dryer or nail care set–haha, men like those, right? And, the same goes for women – give her a tool box if she’s handy. It’s not about gender stereotypes, but rather about creating joy in the lives of the people you love most.
If you feel targeted by jokes about women shopping (either with or without your husband’s credit card), you have the tools to change the conversation. You don’t have to put up with archaic stereotypes, especially because they’re unfounded by current studies and surveys.

Simply put: most people love to shop. It’s got nothing to do with gender.

What Was Decidedly NOT Brownie Batter

Part I

Part II

Part III

After what felt to be 27 years – but was more likely to have been 27 minutes – I decided that one melting down child (read: me) was enough; it was time to return to our humble room to watch some … whatever people watch in hotels that isn’t porn. When I’d skinned the kids of their wet suits, much to their vocal displeasure, I noted that they were covered tip to tail in a rash. Attributing it to over-chlorination, I felt, for the first time, pleased with the hotel. We all know kids whiz in pools with alarming frequency and by the rashes on their bodies, I figured that even if some kid dropped some pipe in the pool, it’d probably immediately be reduced into an effervescent chemical reaction that looked remarkably like pool water. The kids, on the other hand, weren’t as comforted as I. Instead of doing the right thing and plunking them into the bath, instead I tried to rub hydro-cortisone cream onto their skin.

Bad fucking news.

I halfway expected DCFS to break down the doors with the screams Mimi was emitting, noting that while they didn’t quite sheer the ugly “tropical” wallpaper from the walls, it came damn close. Feeling like total shit for making things worse, I tried to make it up to them without much success. Finally, my father returned with Culver’s which, at the very least, provided the distraction needed to move on with the evening with our eardrums intact.

We picked at the food until we deemed it “done” and began the task of cleaning the room. As I hadn’t known when we’d be lounging against the machine, I’d declined maid service for the day and embraced shopping instead. Besides, I’m perfectly capable of cleaning up a mess made in part by me and in part by those who (unfortunately for them) share my DNA. The Littles sat on the bed watching Minecraft videos and lamenting the snail’s pace of the hotel wireless while I busily cleaned the room, getting ready for the ultimate in sucktastic jobs – packing.

Soon the room was nearly clean and I steeled myself for the packing project by staring dejectedly at my suitcase, hoping that some magical packing fairy would come along and pack for me. I’m absolutely uncertain how – without purchasing a single thing – every time I go to pack, my crap has multiplied. With the kids? It’s like eleventy-niner times the amount I’d brought. When no magical packing gnome fell out of the sky or someone’s ass, I got ready to get down and dirty.

That was when something caught my eye.

Earlier that day, we’d thrown what was supposed to pass for food down our throats. I sadly ate my boring oatmeal as I jealously watched my eldest devour a chocolate chip muffin. I don’t know if the muffin was supposed to be “extra mess-worthy,” but I swear to you, Pranksters, I’ve never seen a muffin end up spattered on walls, in the hallway, and in the bedroom next door. I’d assume it’s simply Ben’s amazing ability to eat without actually getting food in his mouth, but without further inspection, I didn’t particularly care.

So that’s what I assumed it was.

More chocolate chip muffin carnage.

Because I am not a complete dick*, I grabbed some tissue to pick up the chunk on the floor – no reason to make more work for the maids, who, I’d assumed, lived in a perpetual homicidal state after cleaning up after kids all day, every day. It was, I figured, the very least I could do. Only after I’d absentmindedly picked up the chunk on the floor did I realize what it was. It wasn’t muffin wreckage. It wasn’t the remains of the airplane that vanished. It was decidedly not brownie batter. It wasn’t the Lindbergh baby or that huge ass diamond from motherfucking Titanic. It wasn’t even Carmen motherfucking Sandiego.

No.

It was a chunk of shit.

Horrified, I threw the offending turd into the garbage can and practically elevated to the bathroom to scour my hands. The kids, sensing something was wrong – I think it was the screaming and retching that tipped ’em off – stared at me all wide-eyed. I stared back at them, remembering all of the times I’d said “jeepers, mister, this room smells like a fresh dook!” when it dawned on me – without maid service in the room, the remnants of someone’s colon had been sitting on the floor since we’d checked in. We’d unknowingly slept in a hotel room in which someone had laid pipe.

Someone’s entirely digested breakfast had made its way from their colon onto the floor in my hotel room. Crawled? Deliberately placed? Oops I crapped my pants? Carelessly tossed from a rectum? Gnomes? Vampires? I scratched at the inside of my brain and could come up with no good reason why a pile of poo had been left in the room. And I knew I never would.

It was then that I suffered a complete break from reality:

“I think we’re all fucked in the head. Well I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. You’re gonna have fun, and I’m gonna have fun!”

(pants)

“We’re all gonna have so much fucking fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of your assholes! Holy Shit

“I think,” Alex said to his sister, “Mommy needs her medicine.”

“Yup,” she nodded. “She does.”

*Results pending

Twi Hard

Yesterday at 1:14

Me: “You know what I don’t get? TWILIGHT.”

Lauren: “Oh Em Eff Ge I LOVE those books.”

Me: “How can you read them? Stephanie Meyer can’t write herself out of a paper bag?”

Lauren: “I may have also seen every movie opening night.”

Me: …sputters… (eye twitches)

Lauren: “Haha.”

Me: (googles “how to understand Twilight if you haven’t read it,” then thoughtfully erases it from the search box in case someone wandered by and accidentally saw that I’d googled anything about Twilight. Filled search box with “why is orange a color and a flavor?”)

Me: “Okay, I found something that sorta explains it to me.”

Me: (reads)

Lauren: “Is it helping?”

Me: “Not really – why does Bella love that one dude that has a shirt on?”

Lauren: “Because she’s marked for love with *swoons* Edward.”

Me: (goggles at her) “Wait, so in this land everyone has a “soulmate?”

Lauren: “Well, vampires do.”

Me: “I feel myself getting dumber.”

————-

Today 9:34

Me: “So I’ve thought about this whole “Twilight” thing and I realized that I’ve changed my mind.”

Lauren, “Yeah?”

Me: “I figure anything that gets those cretins we call “tweens” reading and away from Justin Bieber… well, that’s a good thing. And really, there’s no reason to hate the series – I don’t want to be one of those pretentious asshats who’s all ‘lookit me, I HATE something that’s MAINSTREAM.'”

Lauren: “Absolutely.”

Lauren: “I’ll bring you in one of the books.”

Me: (googles “Twilight quotes” and comes across a gem about Bella, the angrily constipated protagonist, who is now bleeding from the eyes.)

Me: “So wait – Bella is now bleeding from the eyeballs?”

Lauren: “Yeah, she must be a vampire now.”

Me: (goggles)

Lauren: “Vampires bleed from the eyeballs.”

Me: “You know you’re not making this decision any easier on me.”

Things Unsaid Today

“I was so happy to see your Mom at Alex’s concert the other day. Saw she’s using a cane now, so’s mine. She’s been falling a lot – I’ve had to go over and help her off the floor more times than I care to count. She needs a second total knee replacement now; she told me that your mom does, too. Sucks watching our parents get older, doesn’t it? Fuck, it sucks getting older – period.”

“You’ve been on your own Medical Mystery Tour – forgot to tell you: I finally had that MRI. I guess I got tired of people making the whole, “a migraine for a month is called a ‘brain tumor'” joke and figured that if I was actually dying, I should probably be aware – I’d have to plan my own funeral, after all. The test wasn’t too bad, but it was the first time I’d had to sign one of those “emergency contact” forms. I no longer had anyone to list and it felt weird. I’d actually started to fill out your information when it dawned on me – you’re no longer my person. You lose people in small ways for a long time, I guess.”

“Got the results back the other day – “bright spots and structural changes consistent with chronic migraines.” Beats the balls a brain tumor – guess Mimi and I have more in common than erms, well, everything. She’d probably agree that the only time you want to hear the term “bright spot” is when you’re talking about diamonds, not your brain – she’s my daughter, after all. The neuro seems unperturbed by this – the bright spots, not the diamonds; never talked to him about those – so I guess it’s just one of those things that happens. Still kinda scary. I try not to think on it.”

“Hope work is going great for you; I know how you love your job. My job’s going well – just got a promotion. So weird to think that all of those years ago when you told me I should “start a blog,” it would change my life. Not only did I start spewing verbal diarrhea across the Internet on Mommy Wants Vodka, I founded Band Back Together; landed a job as a writer in downtown Chicago. Thanks for the suggestion – never really did think it’d go anywhere. It’s funny – I regularly take the very same train you’d tried to unsuccessfully catch all those years. Reminds me of college: I still bitch about the “lifers” and commuters on the train – they’re still the same pricks I remember. Never did love the bustle of the city like you did, but it fills my days, and that’s what matters.”

“Glad to see you’re still using the “Good Dog” bowls I bought for the cats years ago, remember how I’d laughed at my cleverness? Miss those days. Happens, I s’pose. That reminds me, the wisteria needs a good pruning. Sorry to see that the trellis I’d put up didn’t withstand the harsh winters a bit better. It was a good experiment. Saw that you’ve got an old wasp nest on the porch, right by the nickel address sign I’d proudly picked out – the kids are so scared of bees, you may want to take care of that before it’s a problem. I can do it if you want – wait, that’d be weird. Forget I offered. The flower beds I’d planted in the front are overgrown with weeds – I’ll teach the kids how to take care of them. Bet they love the magnolia I’d planted to replace those overgrown horrifying bushes I ripped out when I realized they made us look like those creepy people who probably made lamps out of the boobs of dead hookers. Always wanted a magnolia bush. Never did get to see it bloom.”

“Feels so weird to be in an apartment after living in a home for so long. Forgotten how transient apartment living makes life feel. Always did like the idea of putting down roots somewhere – I know it wasn’t your style, but it was – still is – mine. I’ll plant another magnolia, more roses, have another orchid collection. Someday.”

“Did I tell you? I’m Marching for Babies again this year! Still looking for more people to join our team – so far it’s a couple of my work buddies. Remember the last time we did it? Mimi was barely walking, Alex was too young to go, and Ben, well, it was a long hike for him. Just a few of us walked right along the river. I remember happily pointing out my (old) apartment complex to you. Sure never thought I’d move back there. Man, that feels a lifetime ago. This year, I’m walking along the Lakefront downtown – both Alex and Mimi want to walk, but I’m torn. One hand says, Mimi is one of the reasons I walk for babies, the other reminds me that, 3 miles is particularly long for a five-year old, even if she is a miracle. Hm. Yeah. Maybe I’ll get a stroller.”

“Saw the new car in the driveway, glad you got that CR-V off your hands. I know it was a good idea to get it at the time, but it turned out to be an albatross of a thing. Alex told me that your parents got it for you – that’s really nice of them. I’m sure the new car is more gas efficient – total plus. You must be so happy about that.”

But I don’t say any of these things.

I can’t.

My mouth’ll form the words, but the words won’t come out.

What tumbles out is, “See you later,” as I bundle the kids out the door I once tripped through spilling my diet Coke down the hallway as laughter rang freely. I hear you say, “Yeah, whatever. She’s here. She’s just taking them for a couple hours.” Tears I can’t explain sting my eyes as I walk out the door of the house I once called home.

Street Fighting (wo)Man

Part I
Part II

Because I am not only stupid, but dumb too, I can’t back down from a fight.

I tried once, but it broke my arm.

So when I started getting the hairy eyeball for daring to sit on an unoccupied chair adorned with an unused beach towel, my fake-rock bruised ass was absofuckinglutly ready for the Thunderdome. Wearily, I hummed Eye of the Tiger and was all “I know EXACTLY what roadkill feels like” as the entire row of vultures, er, people in the chairs in front of me got up, one by one, and began to form a semi-circle around one man who appeared, from my vantage point, to be as tall as he was wide. By their goat-eyed stares, I assumed they were either talking about me, or the kid in the glasses in the corded-off area behind me devouring an ice cream sundae using absolutely no silverware at all.

Honestly, I couldn’t blame the group if the kid were the target – that’s pretty impressive.

street fighting woman

The staring contest persisted far past my comfort level, and when bordering on “abject annoyance,” my opponent made himself known. Hoisting up jean shorts purchased (assuming) deliberately in size “comically large,” he waddled over to me. Not because he was overweight; not a bit, but because his pants were so enormous they needed their own area code and walking as a normal human being would have been damn near impossible. Nevertheless, he deliberately made every attempt to appear as though he was swaggering all macho toward me, which made him seem about as hardcore as Grimace or Big Bird. It was clear he was posturing in front of his crew and all 63,027,182 children in the pool, so I let him have his moment. Clearly, waddling is hardcore work, so it took him a good few minutes to travel the twenty feet to me; the one I’d “stolen” after I’d finished my days work of mercilessly butchering baskets of fluffy kittens, insulting a wee baby piglet in rain boots, and knocking over teacups filled with incy-wincy hedgehogs.

By the time he actually reached me, he was sweating so profusely that it looked for a small moment that the tattoo across his neck said, “Booby,” instead of “Baby.” Maybe that “art” was intentional – I’m not a fucking tattoo artist. Because I am also physically incapable of making a good decision, I stood up tall and proud as he tried to squash me with his eyeballs … this time from a closer distance. What he had misjudged as he postured before his crew was something very simple: I was easily half a foot taller than him. While this may seem a moot point, I’m sad to report that I’m only 5’5″ which does not a hulking Amazonian princess make. His eyes widened as I stood – I was even taller in the heels I was wearing.

It was clear he’d not thought this through. But could he back down in front of his crew? Could he? Could he be beaten into submission by a female? I wasn’t sure and, I like to think, neither was he. He got into my face to see if the whole “personal bubble” thing would, I don’t know, knock down and cause me to whimper for sweet mercy at his flippity-flops. I’d have said, “Ha, I have kids, motherfucker. I can’t even take a poo without someone trying to clamor up onto my lap,” but it was too fucking loud to communicate.

As we sized each other up and down and back up again, his eyes began tearing, which I’d initially attributed to fear, but in hindsight, was probably due to the heavily chlorinated air, he made his decision: he could. He COULD back down. There was no place, it appeared, for a street fighting (wo)man in this waterpark. Which was just as well – I didn’t want to brawl in front of my kids.

With that sad, sad realization, shame mingled with the sweat now traveling down his pants, making him appear to have pissed himself, he did a Waddle of Shame back to his friends, but not before he grabbed the free beach towel off the back of the chair, his eyes daring me brawl over the free towel. I simply stared, undeterred.

Once he was safely back into his pack of still-glaring friends, I settled back into the tacky beach chair, eyes squarely on my kids – well, two of them – no one’s returned my call about cosmetic surgery to add a third eye. Eyes daring between the three kids, I waved at Mimi who was happily splashing in the wave pool that was, no doubt, full of the pee of a thousand diapered asses, and smiled, no idea that evil was about to hit so very close to home.

Dun-dun-dunnnnnnn.

 Part IV of this omfg-stop-talking-about-your-stupid-vacation-already-Becky will conclude this series. EVENTUALLY.

Panic! At the Pool!

Part I

After wandering through the endless labyrinth of badly-carpeted halls while lugging the absolute most amount of crap I’ve ever packed for a trip, finally, we reached our room. The kids, by this time, were weeping from hunger, and I’d begun to shake although I couldn’t say for certain if it was low blood sugar, horror at the prices of a cup of entirely mediocre coffee, or as an aftereffect of the cacophony of the lobby. Eyes set forward on an unfixed mark way down at the end of the hallway, I set my mouth into a thin line and said to no one in particular, “We’d better get there fucking soon.”

The kids nodded tearfully.

Standing in front of our room, dutifully, I whipped out the packet the guy at the front desk had slithered to me as he mumbled this or that. For all I know, I’d just agreed to let him harvest my kidneys in exchange for my keys – it was too loud and I’d left all the fucks to give in my other pants. Into the tiny folder I went, fingers scouring for that telltale plastic edge to simultaneously give me a paper(plastic?)cut and let me know that I’d gotten the implement that’d allow me to laze about in my underwear for the next two days.

Nothing.

Nada.

Confused, I put down the 37 stuffed animals and “special” blankets my children insisted were too heavy to carry, and searched with my eyeballs this time. Again. Nothing. A couple’ve plastic wrist bands for the kids but nothing that would allow me access to my room.

Well, fuck.

Briefly, I considered sitting down on my luggage and having a good old fashioned cry, but realized that it’d have just given me a worse headache than the hibiscus carpet and fuck-you-in-the-eyeballs paint on each wall already had.

Then, I looked down at the gigantic, orange band that looked as though it’d been thoughtfully regifted by the local penitentiary. I remember the dude at the front desk mumbling something at me about those particular bands, but unless he’d looked at me directly in the face, two inches from touching eyeballs and screamed, there was no way I was hearing dick. Hell, I already had ringing in my ears from merely hanging out in the lobby.
Stupidly, I did something that was probably going to cost me a good mocking for the rest of the vacation: I held my wrist up to the door like some wanna-be psychic. I whispered, “enter sesame,” although I didn’t even begin to understand why.

Click-whirr-click

Green light.

The door opened.

I’d like to say that balloons and streamers, possibly a hot guy in a cake popping out from somewhere, as calliope music filled the hall, but that’d be a lying lie. With absolutely zero pomp OR circumstance, we entered our room. My first thought was “wow, Panama Jack ejaculated everywhere,” followed quickly by, “there’s no door to the bathroom.” I shrugged at the last bit and vowed NEVER to carry a blacklight with me – if Panama Jack boofed anywhere, I’d rather be none the wiser then huddled in a plastic hefty bag.

The third thought that tumbled out was, “it smells like poo in here,” which I immediately wrote off as being par for the course – this was a kid’s resort, kids poo, kids often poo in the wrong places, and like second-hand smoke, it was probably just one of the delightful treats of staying at a kid-friendly hotel.

My father came into our room, gruffly told us to put on pants (which, had he looked, he’d have noticed were squarely on our bodies) so that we could go out to dinner. At that moment, I nearly hugged him. Dinner was everything you’d expect in a cheesy faux-tropical hell – bland, expensive, but with kicky (read: corny) names. Not one of us complained – we were so hungry that the Aye-Aye-Matey Burger tasted cardboard; delicious cardboard.

By that time, my mother and my eldest had arrived and quickly we switched to our swimsuits and headed downstairs for a late-night swim. And, it turns out, we were about to be schooled in the Ways of a Tacky Waterpark. The instructions, posted absolutely nowhere, included:

  • Letting your kid unattended in the pool area is a great idea, especially so you can enjoy your alcoholic beverage
  • Unattended children will attack your attended children with the ferocity of a thousand angry suns and you can’t do much about it unless you want to brawl
  • Pooing is okay in the pool so long as no one claims it
  • You should take every item you own and drape them over all of the chairs surrounding the pool, in the event that your fifty-sixth cousin from Brazil comes in to the States unannounced, somehow locates you at the water park, and would like to sit down

Feverishly, I wished that I drank alcohol for the 37th time in an hour and a half as I sat in the pool area, bombarded by inhuman noises that seemed to rattle the inside of my skull. I tried tuning them out. No luck. I tried listening over the din to Jimmy Buffet, wishing I could shove that cheeseburger down his smug motherfucking throat. Didn’t help. People-watching only reminded me that I needed to shave.

One by one, I pulled Alex and Amelia out of the pool, thanking the powers that be for dominant genes and together, we shivered back into the room.

“It smells like poo in here,” I remarked to absolutely no one – which is precisely who responded to my statement – as we readied ourselves for bed. One by one, we began to drift off into sleep, the delicate scent of an oddly-fresh pile dook playfully tantalizing our nostrils. I dreamed that night about a poo-flavored air freshener and woke early to cheerful pounding at the door. Blearily, I answered the door, knowing full well my nipples were on display through my sleep shirt – I was, once again, fresh out of fucks to give.

My dad, looking as though he’d just smoked a gallon of meth and was examining the wall to see the individual paint molecules moving about, greeted me: “GOOD MORNING, REBECCA,” he boomed. “READY TO GO SWIMMING AGAIN?”

No. The answer was no. I wanted coffee, a nap, and possibly a chocolate-chip muffin. I did not want to go swimming. Not even for a second.

But the kids were clamoring around my feet, all doe-eyed and sweetly inquiring if I’d please, oh very please, ma’am take them to the pool. I wondered for half a second how my kids had learned the phrase “ma’am” and then decided I didn’t much give a shit. Drinking hotel coffee swill, I grasped the hand of each of The Littles and off we trotted to the pool.

Nearly bowled over by the stench of chlorine, the kids made a beeline for pool and I looked around for a place to plop my ass. No way in fuck I was going to showcase my dimply white ass in the pool to a bunch of strangers which; now that I think on it, would be better than showing it off to my friends.

ANYWAY.

Chairs mysteriously taken by “beach” towels that appeared to have no owner, we took turns hovering over a rock, my parents and I, until my mother finally said “Fuck THIS” and plopped her ass onto a towel-covered chair. Hobbled, my bruised ass followed suit. Which is when the glares began. The front row of chairs circled the pool, making it an ideal place to watch your kids, if, in fact, that was your goal. It did not appear to be the goal of anyone in the front row, as they stumbled around, clearly intoxicated. As someone who refers lovingly to her children as “crotch parasites,” I am by no means a helicopter parent, but I do want to know where the shit my kids are if they’re in a gigantic pool (Read: DANGER) so this apathy toward children baffled me.

As no one appeared to be drowning, I sat back to live and let live. Which was, apparently, not shared by the guest’s whose chair I “stole.” A pack of people stood up from the front row, glaring at me, shouting to one another, while staring at me as though my skull make a nice trophy hanging on the wall of a rec room.

I stared back, undeterred.

They made their move.

I stood my ground.

Sorry, Pranksters, but Part III will air soon. I’m still getting used to writing all day, every day.
Gotta get my groove back on.

Cheeseburger in… Paradise?

Growing up, my parents weren’t much for amusement parks. They considered them to be beneath us, and every time I begged to visit one of those stop-n-drop carnivals set up around the outskirts of town, they shuddered notably and gave me a long lecture about how unsafe these things were. Considering the most hardcore attraction was a merry-go-round, I didn’t quite buy the bullshit. I don’t think I visited a Great America until I was in my early 20’s and when I did, I was horrified. The throngs of people, half of whom looked as if they’d slithered out from some rock somewhere were everywhere: peeing on things in public, pushing me out of line, and screaming at their children using words I didn’t even know existed. The five dollar, ten ounce cup of lukewarm Diet Coke hardly seemed worth the price until I realized there were no drinking fountains in the park appeared to have been sexually molested by one of those old dudes who troll around in the Child Napping vans, slowly creeping by playgrounds at 0.5 miles an hour. Half an hour into my first trip to Six Flags, I agreed with my parents – amusement parks were TOTALLY not my thing.

Which is what makes it all the more shocking.

A couple of weeks back, I got a call out of the blue from my mother. Immediately assuming someone had died, I answered the phone, panic rising.

My mom: “Hey Rebecca*, Dad had an idea.”

My father, now retired, is rife with ideas, such as “let’s organize the books in the house using the Dewy Decimal system” while my mother watches, mouth agape in horror.

Me (groans): “Yeah?”

My mom: “How would you like to take the kids to a water park?”

Me (looks outside): “Uh, Ma, isn’t it a bit… WINTER for that?”

My mom (laughs): “We were thinking of an INDOOR water park. There’s one up by Great America.”

Me: “Um, okay. I bet the kids’ll love it.”

And so the grand plans were hatched. Being a moron, I didn’t bother to ask my parents WHAT particular water park they’d intended to take us to, so when we got there, a few short weeks later, I was completely taken aback. The place was a sprawling monstrosity, the parking lots abutting it reminded me of a litter of piglets nursing a particularly ugly mother. I’d prepared myself for the very-real likelihood that one of us, at the very least, would walk away from this trip teeming with worms and other Oregon Trail diseases. Secretly, I’d been hoping to get a tapeworm from the trip, whom I’d already named Sally, because of COURSE you name something that’s slowly killing you from the inside out, but that’s neither here nor there.

For all the packing I’d done, for all the times I had to reassure my kids that this would be happy! happy! fun! time! nothing could’ve prepared me for what lay inside.

Armed with bags and blankets and backpacks and stuffed animals (the kids are on a stuffed animal kick – it’s almost like they can sense my dislike of those creepy fucking things with the eyes that watch you everywhere you go and probably sneak around the house when I’m asleep, stealing socks and pants and peeing on things), we trudged through the falling snow and grey mushy sleet inside. It was like walking into hell. Jimmy Buffet sang loudly about drinking margaritas and whatever it is that guy does besides drink margaritas over the constant din of shrieking and splashing, the chlorine in the air so heavy I was nearly bowled over. Everywhere I turned, it was flamingo shirts, gaudy “island” decor; fake tropical flowers dripping from every possible surface, squalling children who did not come from my crotchal area weaving in and out of my legs, parents nowhere to be seen. It was like a gaudy tropical resort threw up all over a large hotel in the Midwest.

I was not prepared for this. I was never going to be prepared for this. Ever. I simultaneously regretted and applauded my lazy decision not to turn to Dr. Google for the name of the water park. I couldn’t have prepared for this.

Neither, I should add, were my children, who stood in shock flanking my sides. Alex looked up at me, eyes wide, as he grabbed my leg and held on for dear life. Mimi, the more brave of the two, took a moment to gauge her surroundings before she buried her head into my guts, nearly knocking me over with the force of a terrified five-year old. My father soon joined the three of us, still standing in the entryway, the sound of the automatic doors whooshing open and shut barely audible over the cacophony.

Never one to pass up a Clark Griswold moment, he broke the silence with, “What the fuck is this place?”

We just stared at him, eyes wide, the sound of pseudo-reggae raping our ears as the chlorine choked our throats. Slowly, I shook my head.

“I…” I started, looking around as though blinders had been lifted from my eyes, “I don’t know.”

And with the chords of “Freebird,” starting up against the wall of noise, began our first family vacation.

———————–

*My parents loathe the name “Becky” and refuse to address me as anything other than “Rebecca,” which means that every time I hear it, I assume I’m in trouble.

Part II on Monday!

Guest Post: Tales of an Unemployed Male Web Designer

If you have an awesomely hilarious and/or ridiculous guest post you’d like to post, email me! becky.harks@gmail.com and we’ll get ‘er done.

Unemployment can cause crazy things to happen in a person’s life. Sometimes, you get lazy and sleep all day and do nothing. At all. You’re just so down about life kicking you in the ball (I only have one) that you don’t really even wanna try looking for another job. You just wanna a suckle of the government tit and hope for the best.

Sometimes people end up having crazy relationships with their pets. I’ve found myself in this predicament. Every. single. day. I talk to my dog. All day long. Not like you’d normally talk to a pet, like “good boy” or “sit, doggie, sit,” or even “no! don’t shit on the couch!”

No.

I have long conversations with my dog about applying for jobs. I mean, he’s one of my best friends so he knows me well, right? So we have long and meaningful conversations about life. He and I have started discussing how he’s going to react when my wife and I adopt a child. He’s okay with the idea, as he was himself was adopted. He’s just worried that when the baby arrives, he’s going to be put on the back burner; he doesn’t think he’ll be relevant anymore. I assure him that everything will be fine but he says he’s going to wait and see what happens when the baby actually arrives.

NORMAL STUFF, right?

I’ve started to watch or rewatch TV shows. But, as I started watching some of these shows I noticed that I didn’t want to be reminded of being unemployed and I didn’t want my entertainment to be kind of a downer. So I suggested to my wife that we watch her favorite show. The one show that I always said that I wouldn’t watch again… EVER.

FRIENDS.

What man would say “I want to watch FRIENDS” without a gun pointed at his head? Well, I remember watching it back when it was on TV with my mom and thought it was funny. It still has to be somewhat funny right?

It is. I’m shamed to admit that I’m highly enjoying watching this show. I kinda feel I need my man-card revoked. My wife and I have plowed through two seasons already and are not showing any signs of slowing. Yes, it’s a sitcom. There is a laugh track and the jokes are predictable but right now? That’s what I need. I need something I know is going to be good during this time of uncertainty. I don’t wanna spend two weeks watching Battlestar Galactica and have every single muscle in my body tensed up when Starbuck shows back up on the show. Spoiler, I guess, but if you haven’t watched it, I’m well outside the statute of limitations on spoilers for shows that have ended. So suck it.

All I want after a hard day of sending off resumes, going to interviews, and laying around the house trying not to be lazy is a good solid hour and a half of funny friends having crazy, predictable, funny stuff happen to them. Hence, Friends.

Also, this blog was going to focus more on conversations with my dog, but through our conversations, I found out that he can kind of be a dick. I didn’t want to give him a bad reputation.

————————

ED NOTE: JASON, I NEED YOUR BIO! Until then,

Jason is an unemployed web developer who likes to ride unicorns and shit gold in his spare time. He likes to have deep and meaningful conversations with condiments and always enjoys wrestling in a vat of baked beans. You cannot find him here or here. No seriously, he’s not here at all.
 

Ding Dong

Working in Chicago (as opposed to NOT Chicago), I tend to see a lot of weird shit. Like the circulating saw blade out in front of my office next to the rusty razor blade, which I took one look at, thought “Someone should do something about that,” realized that there was no way in hell I was going to be that somebody and went about my day. And the strange pattern of tweens attaching stuffed animals to their backpack confounds me – are they storing meth in there or something?

I work in a building full of former lofts that was probably once a sweatshop back in the days of wine and roses… *looks wistfully into the sunset* While my office is the one of two on the floor, the floor above me is home to one huge office that I’m halfway convinced trains elephants and reenacts historic Civil War battles.

Since I have to commute about 45 miles to and from the office, my journey begins at the ungodly hour of six in the morn’ (did you know that there’s a six in the morning? ME EITHER). By the time I’m in the office, I’m either so jacked up on caffeine that I’m vibrating or I’m nodding out from my train ride so I probably wouldn’t notice if the floor above me began to reenact famous battle scenes in my own office.

I was practically nodding out on my way in last Wednesday; so out of it that I’d tried repeatedly to enter an office down the block (which turned out to be a home) and nearly tweeted something about how I heart Justin Bieber.

Yeah. I know.

Through the sleep in my eyes, I punched the door code and stumbled into the foyer of the building, eyes on the prize. Or, in this case, the elevator. As I approached I noted that I was not alone in my desire to ascend floors and groaned inwardly. Not because I hate people but because I was fearful I might blurt out “Blergy-poo-Lady-Gaga” in response to “Good morning!”

We stood semi-quietly waiting for the elevator and the gentleman struck up a conversation with me. He’s one of those guys you can’t help but like, all smiles and witty banter, and I instantly forgave him for speaking to me before I had my coffee* because he was just that awesome. We chattered and chittered our way upstairs where he wished be good luck on my day as I bid him farewell.

It was then that I noticed what was probably the awesomest thing EVER to be carrying around.

There, nestled in his arms was not a backpack or ottoman. It wasn’t a bird, plane, or Superman. No.

It was a life-sized bendy-looking model penis. Complete with balls. It wasn’t – I don’t believe – a dildo, it appeared to be intended for use as a teaching device, but I couldn’t be sure. I mean, how do you say, “NICE DONG!” to someone you’ve just talked about sparkly Uggs with?

I spent the rest of the day feverishly wishing I’d had a model penis to lovingly carry around with me. It could be my new friend! We could go on adventures together! I’d call him Stampy and we’d be the very best of best friends! It was a beautiful daydream ripped apart by learning that those types of teachable penis models do not come cheaply.

But hey. At least I learned that they’re probably not reenacting historic battles replete with cannons upstairs.

They’re probably recreating all the light saber scenes from Star Wars.

With model penises.

*I fired my Thermos for poor job performance