Apparently, I Did Not Put The Lotion In The Basket

When my daughter was a toddler, she and I had a lot of problems with her frequent over-usage of soap and lotion. Well, her fascination with all things cleansing and moisturizing has reached an entire new level. A level so embarrassing that I might be shunned by the entire Mommy Community after I tell its tale, but tell it I shall, because I have no shame.

This one might take the cake though.

The other day, as I was getting ready for work, my daughter came into the bathroom rubbing her hands in her usual mirthful way. Yep, lotion again. As my temperature began to rise, I asked her where she had obtained said lotion. She replied, “By the bed.” Funny, I thought. I don’t remember having any lotion by the bed. Then it hit me.

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

You guessed it…

My daughter had coated her hands in lube. Hi, My name is Julie (Hi, Julie) and I may have accidentally committed a sex crime against a two-year-old.

Now, before you get your spanx all in a bunch and think my husband and I are some kind of sex perverts, hear me out. The “lotion” (I am going to keep referring to it as “lotion” because the word “lube” really freaks me out) she had found was actually a bottle of Pre-seed fertility lubricant, not a 20-gallon bottle of Astroglide. This particular “lotion” was used to help conceive both of the kids, not for hot, stinky monkey love. Regardless, I was mortified.

I immediately took her to the sink to wash the “lotion” off her hands, though there was no amount of soap that was going to wash off the crimson flush that had taken over my cheeks. After I cleaned her up (a remarkably speedy process, given the presence of the “lotion”), I sent her on her way to play. No “No more soap or lotion” talks, no scolding, no nothing.

Just a hope and a prayer to the big man above that she would not tell her friends at school about the incident and that the sex crimes enforcement agency wouldn’t be visiting me at work that afternoon.

Julie is the wrangler of a little girl who wears glasses and a fuzzy pink eye patch and a little boy who does neither. She also writes nonsense at I Like Beer and Babies. She is OK at Facebook and sucks at Twitter.

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?

I Had A Dream

Only because my links are sadly outdated, here are the answers to your questions:
 
To buy a Cancer is Bullshit tee, click here.
 
To buy an I Kicked Cancer’s Ass shirt, click here.
 
The rest of my shirts are here.

Before you click away, horrified that I’m about to launch into a detailed description of a dream I had about my cats going snowboarding, don’t worry, Pranksters. I know the painful retelling of dreams is second only to memes as “most annoying thing on the Internet*.”

In the Paleolithic era, when my inbred cousins were dinosaurs, I was a small child. Let’s call me “Young Aunt Becky,” because that makes the assumed familiarity sound a lot more white trash. My parents were hippies, hopelessly stuck in an era of Wall Street Boy Wonders snorting piles of coke of three thousand dollar an hour hookers, and mullet-ed Trans Am owners trying to get chicks in bikinis to lay on their car hoods while Whitesnake blasted in the background. Needless to say, they were entirely lost in this brave new world.

(pointless sidebar: weren’t we all?)

We we were a civilized bunch, if it killed my mother, we’d attend the ballet, the symphony, and the opera. While my friends visited Salmonella-infested water parks during their “family days,” my parents dragged us to look at the dusty rocks that had once resided in the pancreas of Catherine the Great. You tell me who won on “family fun days.”

And you can forget listening to Bret “I Have VD” Michaels croon about roses and thorns – that shit was beneath us. While the rest of the world fawned over Axl Roses’s mullet, we listened to public radio. All day. Every day. Most of the time, I tuned it out.

That was, of course, until the day I heard one of the commentators on NPR lose their fucking shit. See, for those of you not forced to listen to tragedies about billions of babies dying in a country I couldn’t locate on a map, public radio does their own ads. So instead of hearing Billy Mays screaming in the middle of a coke binge about my “whites getting even brighter!” It would just be one of the droning voices reading ad copy into the microphone.

And, I learned that day, it was live.

I couldn’t have been more than eight the first time I heard someone say the word “pube” on the airways. In fact, the word was so innocuous that I didn’t even recognize it for the comedy genius it is. There is no finer word in the English language than “pube,” my Pranksters. I continued going about whatever business it is that eight year olds have before I realized what was going on. My lizard brain recognized that something was gloriously rotten in the state of Denmark when I heard laughter – actual, real, laughter – emerging from the stereo. I dropped whatever I was doing and began to listen.

Did NPR REALLY just say a naughty word?

Between giggles and guffaws, the commentator choked out a few words I did happen to recognize: “shit,” “it sounds so sexual *bwahahaha* just *gasps for air*” before someone interrupted and continued in the sober, drab, dull-as-dry-toast commentary I’d grown accustomed to.

That was my first experience with the miracles of naughty words on NPR. And it left me with the singular desire to have more, MORE! debauchery, more nasty, more gross, more AWESOME words on public radio. For years, I suffered through other people listening to public radio in my presence – some would cluck their disapproval when some far-away land experienced a life-shattering earthquake, while I, having spent my young life listening to these tragedies, played an eternal loop of Britney Spears in my head. Accused once of “not caring” about the “social injustice in the world,” I merely laughed – this coming from a slacktavist who worked at a garage door company. I was in nursing school at the time.

Still, I listened diligently. And still, I heard nothing. No “pubes,” no “shit,” no maniacal laughter when someone fucked the shit up on NPR. Not a single naughty word on NPR was to be had; instead, I had to listen to people who spoke through a mouthful of grogginess in a sleep-inducing lull. And nothing. I’d nearly given up my dream of listing for naughty words on NPR.

That was, until Thursday, when I was finally able to cross an item off my ever-implausible bucket list.

I stepped into a cab Thursday morning, dodging the icicles hanging precariously from the tall building, glinting sinisterly in the early morning sun. I announced my intended address to the cabbie and away we went. I stared out the window, trying to rattle my brain into coherency as we drove, halfway listening to NPR while trying to connect still-asleep synapses.

And there it was.

Completely detached and speaking through a mouthful of marbles, an NPR announcer made my dream come true without even realizing it. Barely listening, my ears perked up when she said in a dull monotone, “Poo.”

While it’s not the “motherfucker,” I’d been praying for since I was 8, it was a damn good substitute. Like most people, I find the word poo hilarious, in part because my hippie parents insisted we refer to bodily functions as they were named. We did not shit. We did not piss. We “urinated.” We “defecated.”

I’m not in the slightest bit ashamed to admit that the word “poo” still sends me into gales of laughter. Which is precisely what I did when I heard it in the cab. I laughed until a stream of saline spurted from eyes and rolling down my face. My sides hurt. My back ached. I pulled an intercostal muscle. And I didn’t care. The pain meant nothing.

I had finally realized my dream. NPR said naughty words to the sounds of my thrilled – yet cold – ears. And, my Pranksters, there is nothing sweeter than that.

Somewhere, my parents are feeling an intense pull of pride toward their only daughter…

…or not.

*I am the second-most annoying thing on the Internet.

Okay, Pranksters, YOUR TURN – what’s the most ridiculous have on your “I must do this before I die” list? (I overarching loathe the term “bucket list”)

It Puts The Guest Post On The Internet Or It Gets The Hose Again: Gym Class Zeros

Of all the new year cliches, none seem to be more true that the people who fill gyms, yoga classes and fitness centers on January 1st. I’m what you could call “a gym class regular”, not a hero, not a meathead, not even an enthusiast, but a dude who noticed his fitness joint when it opened, got on the ground level membership pricing, and goes enough to justify the amount that comes out of my checking account each month. I’m familiar with the treadmill, the yoga mats that I do push ups and sit ups on, and the bench press area. I know how to sweat and maintain my mediocre build of 43-year-old Campbell Soup Can. I put the stock in stocky.

It’s been three and a half years since I joined my gym and I like it. There are meatheads with gallon jugs of distilled water and a duffel bags full of stuff that I assume are Barry Bonds approved “supplements”, but I haven’t done any journalism to confirm. There are a lot of people who look like me, middle-aged, graying in the usual areas and proud of their one-hour sweat three or four times a week. I’ve even traded hellos, how ’bout them local sports teams conversations and dude, can I spot you on the bench moments with a few others.

When I walked into my local ligament pull this morning, January 1, 2014, I expected swarms of newbies. I mean I read Facebook, the Twitter, and Instagram. Everyone I kinda sorta know is going to change for the good and make 2014 their bitch.

The parking lot was full. I smiled, pulled into one of only two spaces available, scooped up my workout gear and went inside. You could smell the temporary enthusiasm. It was combination of the Target makeup counter and human mothballs from the last time people hit the mills and weights. The girl behind the counter checked me in. She’s my oldest daughter’s age, 18, and sarcasm is her co-pilot.

“Welcome to Jungle, for now.”

I laughed at her line and dodged two women dressed in clothes that cost more than my entire wardrobe then bumped into six different dudes trying to find a locker in the men’s area.

“Hey man, thought you’d skip this week, glad you didn’t. More tales to tell this way, huh?”

The gravely voice belonged to Pete. Pete looks like George Peppard when Peppard played Hannibal Smith on The A-Team. I’ve always assumed Pete loves it when a plan comes together. One day I’ll smoke a victory cigar after we take out some rouge military guys. I didn’t respond, because once you talk to Pete, you’re in for a ride that doesn’t let up for a while. I smacked his arm with my right hand and laughed then found my favorite locker, number 23.

The floor of the fitness center looked like those news clips you see of the Wall Street Stock Exchange. People were everywhere, like ants all up in a picnic. My gaze caught one treadmill open so I made a line for it. It was in front of a TV playing Fox News Channel. This was going to be a painful 25 minute rat race. I noticed the guest on Fox & Friends was an astrologer. I was amused. Someone forgot to tell their producers and hosts that their network didn’t believe in science, fake or otherwise. But the sixty-year-old woman huffing next to me on her treadmill seem totally engaged. I tweeted my thoughts instead of saying them out loud.

After my run, I noticed my usual workout wasn’t possible. Everyone was on everything I needed so I started people watching. I saw the trainer guy crash and burn flirting with two girls who were working out in full make-up and earrings. I noticed a female muscle head throw a minor temper tantrum when one of the newbies left weights on a bar. Every few minutes a regular would notice me, nod their head and mouth “this sucks” or “six weeks” or “kill me” and I’d laugh. I wondered how many would stick it out and become average, run of mill, regulars like me. I saw two guys with major potential for mediocrity. They were polite, about to pass out and apologetic for getting in the way. They were even cuter than the ones who’d be gone in six weeks.

The music being played signified the new school attendee. Top 40 ruled. Strong women with children mouthed the words to “damn, she’s a sexy chick” and “I’m sexy and I know it”. While out of shape dudes couldn’t help themselves to classic Lady GaGa or Pitbull.

By the time the bench press machine was open and I could do my four sets, One Republic’s Counting Stars played. That line, “everything that kills me, makes me feel alive” said it all. That was why I was here on January 1, 2014, trying to feel alive at 43-years-old. After I finished making my chest and elbows feel like they were about to explode, I started counting stars, those people who wouldn’t be around in a month. I hold out some hope my cynicism is dead wrong. But for now, I say 4 out of 45 will be there trying to make themselves look good for their significant other son Valentine’s Day.

Lance Burson is writer living outside Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and three daughters. He’s the published author of two books available on amazon for kindle and in paperback from Lulu.com – The Ballad of Helene Troy and Soul To Body.
His favorite exercise is full body massage followed by whiskey.

Another Year Over

On my eighth birthday, I remember slogging ass out of bed and down to the kitchen for a bit of toast before beginning the day’s activities. A late riser as well, my father happened to be sitting at the counter as I toasted my bread.

Always one to poke fun at what a she-beast I am when I first wake up, my father boomed a loud, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, REBECCA! PUT ON SOME GODDAMNED PANTS!

Because I was eight, I rolled my eyes at him and grunted a monosyllabic “thanks” under my breath, hoping he’d shutthefuckup until I’d been awake for longer than 30 seconds.

“How’s it feel to be THE BIG EIGHT?” he twinkled, obviously enjoying my annoyance.

I thought about it while I gnawed on my toast. Did I feel any differently? Were things different today than they were last night when I went to bed? Have I developed boobs and gotten my first apartment? Did Vanilla Ice finally get all the fanmail I’d sent? Will he finally show up in his wicked ride to pick me up from school? Did I win the Nobel Prize in Awesomeness for sleeping?

No. I was, give or take the bleariness I tried desperately to wipe out of my eyes, the exact same person I was 12 hours before. I shook my head no and scuttled back upstairs to put on some pants.

The “goddamned” was implied.

I feel the same about New Year’s. I understand the need that some people feel to celebrate the ending of one year and the coming of the next the same way that I recognize that a monthly purge of my house makes me happy in the pants. I get it – it feels good to be rid of the baggage of the last year, or, erms, well, actual baggage.

If only it worked that way.

December 2012 was a dark, dark time for me. I don’t mean that as a pithy country song, I mean it was so damn dark I couldn’t tell my ass from my head. Days would pass before I’d speak to another person. I continued the job hunt that had consumed my life since July without any real hope I’d find something. Turns out, trying to eke out a career path after being out of work for so long isn’t as simple as throwing together a resume and watching the offer letters pile up on my desk as I sat back and evaluated which Fortune 500 company I’d opt to become president of. I’d been making ends meet by freelancing and selling off any of my possessions that had value, but my nerves were shot each month as I cobbled together enough money to keep the electricity on.

(PSA time!)

Hey kids! All of that bullshit your parents spewed in your general direction about learning to manage a household? Turns out – you kinda need to know it. And I’d made the cardinal mistake most married couples do – Dave and I had decided to divide and conquer. All of the things that he’d done for us? I never learned to do. And the converse.

I’d been managing for a few months, still sorta in that daze between what-fuck-just-happened? and this-is-my-fucking-life and once reality hit, I started to take stock of whether or not I actually needed to grace the earth with my presence. I’d try and come up with reasons that I should stick around for another year and usually came up short. Only reason I’m here typing this to you now, Pranksters, is because I knew that my kids needed me. And the thought that it would be days or weeks before anyone found me had my stomach heaving well before I’d realized that my cats would probably quite literally eat off part of my face before I was discovered as departed. No one wants to put that burden on another person.

I woke up January 1, 2013 and nothing had changed. Sure, I could’ve gone to bed and said, “Self, tomorrow, everything will be different! You won’t wake up in a jolt of anxiety like your no-no square had just been tasered! You’ll be gainfully employed! You’ll be happy! All because YOU resolved to do it!”

I’ve been around this planet long enough to know one divine truth: The Universe has far bigger things to worry about than my resolutions.

But things did begin to turn around – slowly. By February 1, I was gainfully employed in a job I really enjoyed. I couldn’t call myself happy, but I was too busy to notice the sad bits. The anxiety got worse before it got better. I quit that job and took another. And another.

And now I find myself gainfully employed at a job I love working downtown in the best city in the world (apologies, New York). I no longer wake with that squirming ball of anxiety rolling around my gut like the world’s nastiest bowling ball – most days. I’ve learned how to keep the electricity on and my phone bill paid – most months. I no longer worry about someone discovering my half-eaten body. While I’m not always bouncing off the walls with glee (which is, quite frankly, a good thing – it’d be more likely than not to get me institutionalized), I can say that I’m happy.

That can all change tomorrow. I may go into work and find that my job has been given to someone overseas or find that my office has been converted into fancy lofts in Lincoln Park. I may have to go without food or electricity for a spell. Depression may rear its ugly, lying head and tell me what a total piece of shit I am for thinking happiness could happen to someone like me.

I don’t know what tomorrow brings any more than the meteorologist on Fox News know what the weather will be like. Educated guesses. Life is a series of educated guesses.

Tonight, I can resolve to lose 395 pounds or wake up an heiress and still wake as, well, me – Your Aunt Becky. Life isn’t about empty promises or a guarantee of a happier tomorrow. Good shit happens to bad people. Bad shit happens to good people. Shit happens, usually on some idle Tuesday in the middle of the month when you least expect it. You can rage against it all you want, but I’d surmise that nailing Jello to the wall would be easier.

Instead, I will go to bed tonight knowing that while I may not know what will happen tomorrow, it’s another chance for me to make messes, get dirty, and have fun.

And that (NOT the Hokey Pokey) Pranksters, is what life is all about.

Guest Post: Getting More Science In The Classroom

Every now and again, Pranksters, I get pitched an article that’s worth sharing (not, obviously written by you – because I’m so bringing Guest Post Friday’s back. Email becky.harks@gmail.com if you have a hilarious story you think other Pranksters will dig) and I do it.
 
Also: given the overwhelming response to the idea of bringing back “Go Ask Aunt Becky,” if you look at the top of my blog, you’ll see that Go Ask Aunt Becky (link goes to the submission page!) is back! You can submit questions through that tab – easy-peasy. Once I have a couple of questions, I’ll start writing it again every Sunday. Because even though the Internet is closed on Sunday; SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY.
 
Which makes me think of “sundae” which *drools*
 
Anyway – BRING ON THE SCIENCE!

The White House has instituted an annual White House Science Fair to focus attention on the importance of science education in the nation’s schools. The fair involves more than 100 middle school and high school students who display their inventions and projects for the president, education officials and the media. In his address at the 2013 fair the president linked the importance of science and technology to America’s future, as well as to his own educational policies. President Obama said “The belief that we belong on the cutting edge of innovation, that’s an idea as old as America itself.

You think about our Founding Fathers – they were all out there doing experiments – and folks like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, were constantly curious about the world around them and trying to figure out how can we help shape that environment so that people’s lives are better.

According to comparative studies American students score 23rd in science when compared with 65 other top industrial nations, behind countries such as Estonia, Finland, Hungary and New Zealand.  This, scientists and other educators believe, is unacceptable. The President’s own Council of Advisers on Science and Technology issued a statement which declared that “economic forecasts point to a need for producing, over the next decade, approximately 1 million more college graduates in STEM fields than expected under current assumptions.”

Science educators are thrilled to see the increased emphasis on K-12 science education. Many of these educators have banded together to create a list of suggestions that, they believe, will return America’s students to a top place in science education. These suggestions include:

*Concentrate on front-load STEM-related teaching. Tap into the students’ natural curiosity and integrate science education into the school’s curriculum as early as first grade. One Chicago school has shown considerable success in beginning science education in preschool by integrating it into story time, puzzle time, play time and just about any other time of the day.

*Include science education in teacher training programs. More science-knowledgeable teachers will feel comfortable with science and will be motivated and prepared to integrate science curriculum into the children’s daily lessons.

*Don’t segregate science classes from the rest of the curriculum. Schools that “specialize” in sciences shouldn’t be the norm – every school should see science as a subject that is as important to the students’ future as math and English.

*Find ways to adopt forms of scientific methods in the pedagogy of all classes, including building models, arguing from evidence-based facts and communicating findings. These techniques can help develop students’ critical thinking skills and make science into a comfortable and familiar way of thinking.

*Stay in contact with nonprofit organizations (such as Project Lead Way) that are dedicated to supplemental training of teachers in the sciences. Good teachers will be open to additional training and their curiosity will inspire their students. Students who take courses from a well-trained teacher will be more dedicated to their coursework and more interested in the subject matter than their peers who don’t have well-trained teachers. Lowell Milken, an educational leader, has notes that “The most direct and enduring way to reach the mind and imagination of the learner is through the mind, imagination and character of the outstanding teacher.”

*Additional corporations and non-profits should be encouraged to donate towards enhancing teachers’ abilities. School districts and principals should make full use of these auxiliary institutions.

Ask any adult “Don’t you wish you had better and more engaging access to science education when you were in school?” The answer will almost always be: “yes.” With the proper attention and resources now America can make that wish a reality for today’s student.

The Last, Last Time

On September the 10th, 2005 at 11:15 in the morning, Dave and I were married in front of 150 of our closest friends and family. We drank sangria and danced with our loved ones until the wee hours of the morning, celebrating our union.

Today, December the 31st at 11:17 in the morning, Dave and I were divorced in a courtroom filled with absolutely no one we’d ever met. There are no cakes or balloons, no flowers and excited friends, no dancing, and certainly no sangria. No divorce party awaits me when I’m off work. Hell, I don’t even get a cookie for the years I put into the marriage.

Today, I woke up married and will go to bed divorced.

I don’t know if there will be tears or if I’ve cried them all out. For me, grieving the loss of the dream of a happy marriage began three and a half years ago (four?):

Me (rolling over, going to sleep): “I love you.”

Dave: (nothing)

Figuring he was asleep – the man could sleep through a tornado being serenaded through our house in by the world’s largest marching band – I wanted to make sure he heard me. “I love you” This time, a bit louder.

Dave: (nothing)

Jokingly, I said, “what, you don’t love me anymore?”

No,” he stated as flatly as if I’d asked him if I could pave the driveway with cheese. “I don’t.”

With that, he rolled over and fell asleep.

I laid awake, eyes wide in the dark, until the sun began to peek through the shades.

There it was, the awful truth, all wrapped up in absolutely no pomp and circumstance: my husband didn’t love me. As someone who’d already deemed herself probably unlovable, this crushed me. It was my fault, I guess, in that sense. He didn’t love me anymore. We (obviously) separated shortly thereafter. Turns out, there’s not a whole lot of places to go when the ugly truth is spoken.

I was, understandably, devastated. While I plastered a smile onto my face and went about my business as usual, there it was in the back of my head: “I should get the dishes unloaded and reload the dishwasher and oh yeah, Dave doesn’t love me anymore. Wonder when we’ll get divorced,” and “maybe if I pluck my eyebrows, I’ll look less like a sea hag and oh yeah, my husband doesn’t love me anymore. It’s probably time for a divorce.

I couldn’t escape those words and what they meant no matter where I went.

I’d try to talk about divorce to my married friends sometimes, which proved a lesson in futility. They’d either minimize it, “Well, you can be married without loving each other,” or avoid me like the divorce plague was catching. Not sure I blame them on that one. What do you say to someone who’s husband doesn’t love her? I don’t know. Like, “I just got divorced 12 minutes ago,” I don’t know that there’s much that can be said.

I don’t know what we intended to have happen during our separation. Maybe he’d somehow learn to love me again? Maybe we’d wake up one day and this would all be a dream? Maybe a separation doesn’t mean divorce? Maybe I’d be able to live with knowing that, at one point, my husband didn’t love me? Maybe things weren’t as bad as they seem?

They were.

And separation didn’t, obviously, help.

The D Word was thrown around. Dave had already made a “special friend” by the time I moved from the home I’d once jokingly stated I’d have to be pried out of with a crowbar on October 1, 2012. I now reside in my beloved tiny apartment a mere 6 minutes from the home I once tenderly loved my flowers, my children, my husband in. The family, the dream I’d desperately wanted, within walking distance – light years away.

I may no longer mourn what might-have-been’s but I can’t help but wish that I’d paid more attention to those last times. It’s funny, when you’re married, you begin to make presumptions about the future; there’s always time to make more happy memories, the last time is the last time for now, tomorrow is another day.

Like the last time you see your baby crawl before she starts walking like a big girl, you don’t know it’s going to be the very last time you see a child of yours crawls. You don’t know that the last time you make love to your partner of ten years is going to be the last time. You don’t know that the last time you sit, eating dinner and shooting the shit around the big table you spent weeks of your life polishing will be the last time. It simply doesn’t register as something that should carry any more weight than it did. You don’t think to memorize the details, the way the food tasted, the way his body felt, the giggles of laughter during conversations around the table. There’d be other nights, other dinners, other conversations.

Until there aren’t.

What I wish, more than all, is that I could go back in time and re-experience those memories. I’d watch my husband dance with our daughter before her surgery because, “he was her legs because she couldn’t use hers yet,” knowing that memory would be one I’d cherish for the rest of my days. I’ll never again laughingly serenade Dave with my best (terrible) Rod Stewart impression while he does the dishes. That’s over. Those were the last times. Ever.

Oh, how I wish I’d have taken the time to recognize those moments as fleeting, soon to be only a memory stored under “Happyness,” in my brain. There are always new good times to be had, for sure, but never again will I be able to be proud to call someone “my husband,” so excited, so proud to use that term for someone who had simply been “my fiance,” mere months before.

But today, for the first time in ten years, I can say that I am totally and completely a single woman. There will be no cakes or parties tonight, only a quiet recognition of the way things are.

Now.

2013: (Insert Catchy Phrase Here)

Generally speaking, I think memes are as interesting as dry toast, so I tend to avoid them. If anyone really cared much about “which Disney Princess I am,” I’d begin to wonder about your sanity, Pranksters. I’m used to seeing that shit on The Facebook (along with invites to Farmville – which, if I want to have a farm, I will plant real crops in real dirt) Once a year, though, right about this time, I am compelled to answer the same questions I’ve been answering since I chipped out my homework on a tablet of granite and road a dinosaur to school.

Despite my dislike of answering mundane questions about myself that no one cares about, I admit that I am a weeeeeee bit compulsive. As in, for the year I barely blogged, I ran around The FBI Surveillance Van flapping my arms like a chicken, not knowing what to DO with myself. And since I do this every year, I do this EVERY motherfucking YEAR.

(Pointless aside: As proof that I do not actually have a life, I offer this spectacle of year(s) in review: 2012 here, 2011 here, 2010 here2009 here, 2008 here, 2007 here, 2006 here. I have 2005 somewhere in an email, which is where I’d gotten this stupid meme in the first place)
 
1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

Papered my walls with the souls of the gnomes that power my refrigerator. Oh. Um. Wait. *chuckles uncomfortably* I didn’t MEAN that.

Whelp – hrms. I got my own insurance card. That’s kinda rad.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My resolutions is usually fairly preposterous – two (three?) years ago, I vowed NOT to turn into Lil Wayne (that link is SO worth it, I promise) because every time I try and make some lofty goal, the Universe flips me the bird. And guess what? I still wake up every day and am NOT Lil Wayne! Way to GO!

This year, I vow NOT to visit the state of Delaware. Not because I have anything against it (shit, I don’t even know anyone who lives there) or some bizarre personal vendetta, but because it seems like something I can resolve NOT to do.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Every year it alternates – The Facebook V. The Twitter in the amount of blurry ultrasound images that are PROBABLY of a baby, but could just be an ultrasound image of a neck or something. This year, The Facebook is pregnant. ALL of it. Even the floating fetuses (or necks) are pregnant.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Unless you count the death of my dream to marry my television husband, Dexter a death, no.

5. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

A pet squirrel.

6. What countries did you visit?

According to the official statement released by the FBI Surveillance Van, the answer is “none.”

Quotes intentional.

7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why:

Um. I ate a cookie yesterday. That was pretty awesome.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

 Not turning into Lil Wayne. Or *shudders* Lady Gaga.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not taming a squirrel to be my best friend, confidant, butler, or minion. I did feed one once before I realized it was boring as fuck.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I fell off the train. My pride has yet to heal.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Reasons I know I’m turning into an old fart – I bought a new winter coat that’s all super warm and shit. And it made me happy in the pants. How pathetic is that?

(on second thought, don’t answer that)

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Um. The squirrel who decided that I would NOT make a good housemate.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

C’mon, Meme – are we 12? Oh. We are? In that case: TERRORISTS. I’ve heard they don’t even like BACON.

Also: The Hamburgler. Who the fuck steals someone’s hamburger? AN ASSHOLE, THAT’S WHO.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Renting the FBI Surveillance Van. When I renewed my lease, I didn’t even get a new air freshener shaped like a wee whimsical merry tree. I should sue somebody. Anybody.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

My vagina is totally tickled pink that my girl Britney is doing a show in Vegas because LET’S GO TO VEGAS, PRANKSTERS!

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?

 “The Monster” from Eminem and Rhianna.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. happier or sadder?  Happier.

ii. thinner or fatter? Thinner.

iii. richer or poorer? Well, I’ll tell you this: last year this time, I was working as a freelancer. Now? I spend my days in an office (a real one, not my bathroom) writing. All day. I’ll let you guess which one I am.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Reminding myself that things work out – one way or another, they always work out.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Worrying about the future.

20. How will you be did you spending Christmas?

Dave and the kids came over to the FBI Surveillance Van Christmas morning to open a metric fuckton of presents and eat chocolate cake for breakfast. Then, we hightailed it to my parents house with the kids because it’s TRADITION, Meme.

21. There was no #21. I don’t know why there was no 21.

I’ll make up my own question:

21. Why does the term “designer drugs” conjure up an image of a bunch of pills hanging out wearing tiny Chanel and Prada clothing and snappy accessories?

Um, I think that’s the point of the name – to make you feel you’re better than the wino down the street whispering “fucksticks” at every passerby.

22. Did you fall in love in 2013?

Only if you count “every time I looked in the mirror.”

23. How many one-night stands?

More than you can count. My vagina was like a revolving door for penises (penii?).

Actually, none.

24. What was your favorite TV program?

The Following. I hate to admit it, but I’d sorta lost my lust for Dexter in the past couple of years.

*whimpers* Please stop throwing things at me.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

The Hamburgler, obviously. And anyone who manufactures gravy in a can because that’s just fucking wrong.

26. What was the best book you read?

Grey’s Anatomy. Seriously.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

How can one “discover” music that’s been written by someone else, produced by another person, then promoted by a third entity?

28. What did you want and get?

I’d wanted to find world peace. Instead I got peed on.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

The last time I saw a movie in the theater was in 2009 (+/- a year). I did see Skyfall and, like most James Bond movies, I loved it without understanding what it was about AT ALL.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 33 this year and hid under the bed, only to emerge for some tapas and champagne.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Owning a unicorn that farted Skittles.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

“Whelp, this shirt doesn’t involve swearing – guess I can wear it to school conferences.”

34. What kept you sane?

Sanity is overrated.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Kim Kardashian’s ass. I fancied the HELL out of that.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

“Butter side up” versus “butter side down” had me awake more nights than I’m comfortable admitting to.

37. Who did you miss?

Billy Mays.

38. Who was the best new person you met?

Dan. He’s pretty swell.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013:

“Smart Water” doesn’t actually make your IQ increase.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year (because this Meme is apparently written for tweens):

“Dumb ways to die; so many dumb ways to die.”

—————-

The rest of the meme says I should tag some people but, eh, I don’t tag people. It makes me twitchy. Mostly because I’ll forget someone and then, then I’ll feel sad in the pants.

INSTEAD.

I’m tagging each of you. If I can do one Meme a year, SO CAN YOU, Pranksters.

Happy Happy New Year, Pranksters.

Time to show your work and link this shit UP!

There Your Heart Will Be Also

Dear Pranksters,

Normally, I wouldn’t bother to write out a long-winded and boring explanation for my absence from my blog (I’ve been active on The Facebook and The Twitter, but that is neither here nor there) because frankly, it could read “Been busy, cat knocked over computer, broke my toe making a sandwich,” and it would have as much impact as the words I’m typing now. But since you have been my family for as long as I can recall, I wanted to explain why I’ve been silent and moreover, how much I’ve missed the fucking shit out of you. When I started blogging, it was to feel like I wasn’t alone in the universe. What I found was so much more – I found you, my Pranksters. In the process, I found myself, too.

(insert “My Heart Will Go On” – muzak rendition, natch)

While it seemed as though I’d fallen prey to the whole “I don’t blog any longer” phenomenon that seems to happen to bloggers after a certain timetable, the reality is that you were never far from my mind. So many years I spent pouring out my brain into an empty WordPress box, it was impossible for me to not come back to it. It just had to be the right time.

The time is now. (imagine me fist-pumping in the air)

I’d stopped blogging when the whole D-Word came into the picture because a) I didn’t want to somehow get my blog into the prying eyes of a judge and 2) I felt like I didn’t have anything left to say (okay, that’s presuming I had anything of any importance to say in the first place, which is debatable). When I announced that I was getting a divorce, I know that some people – myself included – were taken aback by it. I hadn’t really shared my struggles with my marriage – or even let anyone in on the whole “I’m separated” thing – because if I said it, that would make it real. And I was SO not prepared for that. No one goes into a marriage to get divorced.

So I continued blogging from my [redacted] box, which grew smaller and smaller as time went on. I didn’t want to put it out there that we were struggling, so I stopped writing anything I cared about. When that happened, I stopped blogging. Yeah, I was busy, yeah, I burnt my tongue making toast, yeah, the cat knocked over something or another, but no, honestly, that wasn’t why. I could feel that my heart simply wasn’t in it. So I stopped, knowing that one day I’d return.

And now I can safely say that I am ready. I’m done living a [redacted] life and I’m ready to get back into blogging. Just bear with me as I get my sea legs back.

Thank you, my Pranksters, for being there for me, for being my friend when I felt alone and for picking me up, dusting me off, and reminding me that things will be okay. I’d love to thank every person who reached out to me, who sent me a sweet care package, and who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, but the list would be three pages long. I promise to do better in the future and thank you in a timely manner.

Without your support, I honestly do not know if I’d be here today, typing these silly words into this empty WordPress box. Together, we can take the world by storm.

Love always,

(your) Aunt Becky

P.S. As I’m doing some spring cleaning (early or late, depending upon how you want to look at it), please let me know if I need to add you to my blogroll. If you’ve sent me an email and I haven’t replied, go ahead and send another one to becky.harks@gmail.com

P.P.S. I’m thinking about revamping my crappy advice column – Go Ask Aunt Becky. Thoughts?

Should I Resurrect "Go Ask Aunt Becky?"

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P.P.P.S. I’m going to try something new. I’m always bragging about how I have the best readers on Teh Internets, so I’m gonna test you. Every Friday, I want to put up a guest post from one of you guys. Doesn’t matter if you blog or not. If you’ve got a great, hilarious story, I want to share it with THE WORLD. Throw me an email with GUEST POST in the subject line so I can easily tell that it’s not trying to sell me Viagra to becky.harks@gmail.com and we’ll go all EYE OF THE MOTHERFUCKING TIGER on this shit.

P.P.P.P.S. Since Google dumps everything that is awesome and good to develop garbage like Google Glass, I’ve lost all my RSS feeds which makes me sad in the pants. Do you have any good suggestions for feed readers?

P.P.P.P.P.S. Now is the time to throw your link into the comment box so that I can add it to my new feed reader. I gots to keep up with my Pranksters! And you know what? Everyone deserves a little self-promotion. NOW IS THAT TIME, PRANKSTERS. SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY.

Also: I realize that I left a number of unanswered questions behind when I stopped blogging. If’n you have a question, leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to answer it.

Panic! In The Elevator

When my kids were little and we’d get onto an elevator, they’d get this horrified look on their face like, WHATTHEFUCKISHAPPENING? And I was all, I know EXACTLY how you feel.

See, eleventy-niner years ago (rough estimate), I worked for a much-hated insurance company. While the company was a hot pile of bullshit, my job was actually to look for loopholes in insurance plans to allow people to cheat the system. While my title wasn’t “System Cheater,” like I’d regularly petitioned, I wasn’t one of the total assholes. At work, at least. Still, that didn’t stop people from regularly coming up to me and saying, “Wow, you work for Evil Insurance Company? I’d like to take a machete and cut off your fucking head and shit down your neck hole.” Didn’t EXACTLY boost morale, so when I quit, it was kind of a relief – at least my head would stay atop my spindly neck to annoy another day.

Anyway.

While I was usually one of those bring your lunch people (read: I bought a bag of baby carrots and diet Coke and ate them at my desk), occasionally my co-workers would strong-arm me into popping down to the bottom floor to eat lunch at the semi-pathetic cafeteria there. Normally, I was into taking the stairs because sitting at a desk all day, pouring over insurance plans to find ways to cheat the system wasn’t exactly getting the old heart pumping.

But when I took lunch with my friends, one of them had a problem with her knee and couldn’t exactly take the stairs without running the risk of falling down and smashing her head open like a melon. So I’d take the elevator with them, feeling like a total lazy-ass for going down four fucking floors when I had perfectly functional legs.

One day, we all piled onto the elevator like a bunch of puppies and pressed the basement button. We chatted idly about who would win American Idol that year, how the rain was good for my garden, and what a raging cuntbag our big boss happened to be when it happened.

A screech of metal gnashing upon metal, the lights flickered, and the elevator car fell for a couple of feet before grinding to a halt. Never having been one to be fearful of elevators (despite my fears of other things such as the color orange and fish – all fish), my heart began to pound. Desperately, we pressed the “DON’T TOUCH THIS UNLESS YOU MEAN IT” emergency button – the very same button my kids ALWAYS try to press because you’re not supposed to press it – and waited, sweating and panicked for someone to respond. The tinny voice coming out of the box informed us that the fire department would be there as soon as they stopped busting teenage smokers or whatever it is fire departments do in boring towns.

We settled in for the long haul. That is, all of us but one settled in for the long haul. As I sat on the floor, bored and hungry, there was that one guy. THAT guy. There’s always THAT guy. And this time, it was a girl.

I tried to be understanding, I really did. Getting trapped in an elevator wasn’t exactly how I planned to spend my lunch break either. And shit, I was a little claustrophobic, too, but I was determined not to be all Chicken Little and Panic! In The Elevator because I knew it would make it worse.

I don’t fault her for the panic. I do, however, wish she’d managed to control her screaming “WE’RE GONNA DIIIIEEE!” replete with pulling out her hair and clawing at her face, mostly because it seemed histrionic rather than genuine fear. Luckily, the fire department got there and pried the doors open before she could begin to eat her shit, as she’d been screaming she’d do. Why? I don’t know. Apparently that’s what some people do when they’re scared.

Me? I smother myself in condiments and try to get at least ONE person to wrestle me in a vat of baked beans.

Different strokes and all that.

What do YOU do when you’re scared o! Pranksters, my Pranksters?

—————-
How have you been my Pranksters? I’ve missed you so much! C’mon over, grab a nice cup of coffee and tell Your Aunt Becky what’s been going on in YOUR world.