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Now, I don’t know if you knew, but if you want to be a successful blogger, you’re supposed to have an advanced degree in photography. At least, that’s what blogs like the omniscient Dooce and the ever-present, always delightful, Pioneer Woman have taught me. Well, that and I should probably make some shit homemade or roll around in a tub of butter or something, but I stopped listening at “photoblogger.”

I grew up in a photogs household. No, not the kind trying to get beav shots of Brit-Brit as she gets out of the car, but the people who have darkrooms in their basement, the smell of darkroom chemicals wafting from their pores. Every holiday, every given Sunday, any day of the week found my father, brother and grandfather, all with dueling cameras, trying to snap pictures. I don’t know how many holiday dinners went (quite literally) to the dogs as we were forced to pose, then pose again, then repose because “the light’s not right.”

I was primed to grow up with a camera in my hands or convinced that, in my formative years, I was a child star.

You know which happened.

Back in Aught Five, I had The Daver buy me a Christmas present – a DSLR. I figured that it’d be like osmosis – I’d grown up with a lens in my face, there was NO reason I wouldn’t magically understand the 8274-niner dials and begin speaking about “apertures”and “light quality” and “winning at life.” Except that, well, even with Ashton Kutcher (who was not QUITE so douchebaggalicious back then) selling me the thing, I still wasn’t much of a photog.

I mean, I got the idea of what composed a good picture, but did you know, Pranksters, that DSLR’s weigh approximately 250 pounds? With cameras out there the size of a granola bar, who the shit wants to lug THAT around?

(answer: other people who are not me)

But, since I was stewed in the embryonic waters of photogs, I did learn a bit about photography along the way.

Without further ado, here is Aunt Becky’s Guide to Photo-blogging:

First, one must capture their subject. In doing so, it must be referred to “subject” possibly using the term “medium” just because it makes you sound like a fancy person.

While you may note that there is, in fact, a cat in this shot, the shot was not for the cat. Because that is NOT my fake-dead cat, Mr. Sprinkles, but my perfectly alive cat Chloe, who is both stupid and possibly brain damaged.

First things first. Watermarks. That’s YOUR way of saying, “don’t steal my shit, shitheal,” because obviously adding that to a photo means you KNOW what you’re doing. A lot of bloggers employ this technique:

While that’s all well and good (supposing you don’t think people will just cut that bit of useless blather off the oh-so-coveted picture of cat vom, I much prefer THIS approach:

It’s ugly. It obscures the photo. And it says, “DON’T STEAL MY STUFF, SHITBREAD.”

Anyway. Watermark aside the subject of this particular photo would have been unclear, would I not to do this, a technique I like to call the “Captain Obvious Technique:”

I iz a photoblogger

If I hadn’t done the Captain Obvious Technique, you may have erroneously believed that I was talking about my brain-damaged cat Chloe, her water bowl (which says, “Good Dog,” which I find hilarious), or, perhaps, my floor, which is in desperate need of replacement.

But no.

Using the Captain Obvious Technique, I left NO room for error. Not only did I inform you WHAT you were to be looking at, I was sure to POINT to it, so that you weren’t under the impression that the cat puke was anywhere but by the arrow. I find that really helps one appreciate fine art.

But why stop there?

There is so much more to be done.

For example, we could make my brain-dead cat Chloe talk!

Although I assume it’s more like this:

By rearranging thought bubbles, I was able to capture that Chloe might be a super-genius, while the pile of puke is an angsty teenager.

But WHY STOP THERE? There’s so much more to be done. If one wants to be a TRUE photoblogger, one must be willing to make it ARTSY.

We ALL know artsy = soft core porn.

And never, ever be afraid to mix mediums:

You’ll note that in this particular photograph, I decide that the cat barf could use a whimsical touch – like a birthday cap and Tom Cruise shades. I added, because one should never be afraid to mix mediums, a textured background. Why?

WHY HAVE “OR” WHEN YOU CAN HAVE “AND?”

Up next, 821,722, 018  steps to be a better blogger!

The whole “nurses make the shittiest patients,” isn’t an untruth. It’s like somehow, since we passed the NCLEX*, we’re immune to everything, duh. And if we do happen to become ill, we’ll get over it like BAM! Because, again, didya SEE my NCLEX score? I totally aced that puppy.

I’ve been sick since I was a baby. At my first well-baby visit, I had a damn ear infection. I’d blame it on my mother, because that’s en vogue and all, but truthfully, she nursed on demand, she didn’t smoke or do drugs, we were organic before “organic” was a buzzword. I’m surprised I didn’t come home in a burlap onesie, but then again, it was the end of July (I had to stay in the hospital after I was born. ABO incompatibility, for the three of you who care) and my grandmother had bought me some frilly frock from Neiman Marcus.

Anyway, I was off and on antibiotics for ear infections until I miraculously outgrew them. Then, my tonsils were all, I DO WHAT I WANTZ, and I got strep throat every three weeks – like fucking clockwork.

(these were the days, I don’t have to add, where ear tubes weren’t yet the standard of care for multiple ear infections and having a tonsillectomy was considered in bad taste – instead, I had to wait until they had actually rotted – age 14 – and then have them out. The ears, well, they’re still tube-less).

I’ve been sick more or less, since birth.

Which is why I don’t pay terribly much attention to it. While I joke that I’m moaning histrionically at the ceiling, letting out a croaked “Why God, WHY ME?” I’m actually on the computer working my balls off. Or in the garden, “sweating it out” to the Golden Oldies.

You shut your whore mouth while I’m listening to my Golden Oldies.

See, if I spent the time I was ACTUALLY sick moping about the house, I’d never get anything done. And if I didn’t get anything done, well, the world might actually implode keep spinning like it always does. No seriously, I know** nothing would happen if I stopped for awhile, but I’m not the sort who relaxes well. When I’m told that I should “relax” a bit, I laugh. Not because it’s a bad idea, but because without heavy doses of vodka, I just can’t. My version of “relaxing” is only scheduling out 4 weeks of posts for Band Back Together and writing 2 resource pages while deadheading THREE rosebushes rather than 16.

Why?

Because I realized a long time ago, like at least three weeks ago, that I love to work. I need my mind to stay occupied to stay sane, and while tiny crotch parasites are, in fact, entertaining, singing songs about pooping is only entertaining for so long. So I push myself. When I get down, I push harder, I push until I pass out. Stopping? Well, that’s bullshit. I’m unapologetic about this – I am a work-at-home parent and I love it.

Until I get the pertussis. Or the pneumonia. I’m not sure which exotic Oregon Trail disease I have at the moment – only that I’m hawking up tree-frog sized balls of phlegm – and that I’ve been confined primarily to the couch until The Guy On My Couch and The Daver see fit to let me up.

All of this sitting around doing fuck-nothing has reminded me of this: in all my efforts to work harder, do more, and push push push, I’ve neglected the one thing that I shouldn’t have: myself.

Certainly I’m more or less sane (as sane as anyone who calls herself “Aunt Becky” and wages anonymous wars on Internet users like John C. Mayer). My children are happy, polite, and charming individuals. My home? It needs a dumpster, but that’s a different story. I realized this:

Each thing I do, I rush through so I can get to something else.

While normally, this poses no problem, I realize that I’ve neglected even the most basic of self-care – I’ve needed a hairs cut for months. My feet need a pedicure and a tiny Asian woman (probably speaking ill of me under her breath) wielding a razor.

In short: I need some time to myself. Wherein I do not work. Wherein I do not care for small squirmy people or large squirmy people. I have decided that it’s time. In fact, it’s so far PAST time that I can barely cop to it without feeling shame.

There will be no more “I should’s,” or “I can’s” in my vocabulary. No more guilt if I fall short of my mark.

Instead, I will set aside an hour every day – without pity – to myself. I will do something that benefits me, rather than those around me. If that means sucking it up and getting my hairs did? I will do it. If it means relaxing on the couch with a book while someone else cares for squirmy small people? So be it. If it means taming my eyebrows or waxing the cat? That’s what it means.

And I will do it.

Why?

Because I’m worth it, dammit.

And? So are you.

P.S. Pranksters, what do normal people “do for themselves?” I’m asking for, urms, a FRIEND.

*The National Council Licensure EXamination for nurses.

**”know”

I wandered into the foyer, acting on a tip from my friend Stef, who’d gleefully informed me that “they were hiring.” It was good enough for me; providing, of course, they didn’t expect me to wriggle into one of those slinky butt-short outfits or something – I was still lugging around the 60 pounds I was sure would just MELT off me as soon as I began nursing my new son, who, of course, would love me beyond measure, as I morphed back into the 140 pound 21-year old I’d been, happily fitting into my size 4’s by the time I had his first well-baby visit.

You can stop laughing now.

Okay, I’ll wait.

Done? Good.

Providing I didn’t have to wear Spandex, I was all over this job. I needed to do SOMETHING. I’d signed up for school, but managed to pop the kid out the very day that classes began, and I opted to stay in my hospital bed rather than waddle into college, with entrails and birthy shit hanging out of my vagina.

We’ve already discussed that I’d look like a fire hydrant if I’d tried to wear spandex, so that fantasy was out. So was the one where I’d lovingly feed my son, who’d gaze at my face and smile; making this whole single-parenthood thing okay. He was kinda…unpleasant. The kid, I mean.

So going back to work sounded like a plan and a fucking half.

Plus, it was working as a waitress, something I’d been doing in some form or another since I’d turned sixteen. I loved the hustle and bustle of working with so many opposite personalities. I loved the rush of getting five tables at once. I loved the way the glasses clanked in the dishwasher as I walked past, carrying my tray high on my shoulder.

Half of my co-workers I knew from my previous stints as a server, one of them, Nikki, was my oldest friend on the planet. Going to work was sorta like walking onto the set of Cheers, only with pizza. (I don’t think they had pizza on Cheers, but I could be wrong) We’d work our full weekend shifts (5-12PM) and then go out and drink the night away, laughing about the person who demanded 75 different drinks all with the one particular mixer we were out of, then wept once we informed her we couldn’t make it. The guy at table 42 who barely acknowledged me, except for to point out some spot on the floor he wanted me to clean. The crusty seahags who told me, over and over, as though I were not only stupid but deaf, “that’s Half-Diet and HALF-Coke.”

The job was tough, but at the very least, when people screamed at me, I could fix their problems, unlike a certain fire-hydrant-shaped baby who seemed convinced the world was out to get him, who screamed without the ability to be pacified.

We’d stay in the restaurant long after our shift ended, drinking from the bar, and swapping horror stories. It was the closest thing to a family I’d had in years. Going to work was like a salve – it was the one thing I could do, and do well, without making other people upset with me. And if they DID get upset? I could always have one of the other servers handle it.

(and by “handle it,” I mean “Walk by their table and fart”)

The politics in the restaurant, after I’d handily shed the baby weight (a full year later) and enrolled in nursing school, got to be a bit much. Restaurants are incestuous places – you can hardly go around a corner without seeing one server grinding up on another, or the bartender grabbing a quick feel on the new hostesses boobs. One of the servers, and a friend of mine (whom I later diagnosed as having Borderline Personality Disorder - thanks, WebMD, or, as I like to call you, You’reGonnaDieMD.com) had begun dating one of the managers, another friend of mine.

She managed to get between our friendship by whining about me to him, then telling him whatever I’d replied with, and doing the same to me: “Did you know that Sergio thinks you’re too fat for XYZ?”

Soon there was a rift between Sergio and I, each of us she’d handily played against one another. While he was an honorary uncle to my son and a good friend to me, he began looking for any excuse to fire me. With whatever drivel she filled his mind with, I can’t say that I necessarily blame him.

But I watched my back – any fuck-up on my end would be immediate firing.

Things only got worse when Sergio’s girlfriend (my friend) got “pregnant.” I don’t know and don’t care to speculate upon whether or not the pregnancy was something that was in her head or not, but I do remember her showing up on Friday night, then on Saturday night, weeping openly in the tiny closet of a manager’s office. Then, she waited outside for us to close the place down.

When we did, she erupted.

She ran into the restaurant, screaming incoherent obscenities, and trying to attack Sergio, throwing plates around on the floor, shoving an entire tray of freshly-washed dishes onto the floor, where they shattered. I got an elbow to the face when I tried to grab her. Eventually, she went out the back door, leaving a trail of broken dishes in her wake.

Phew, I thought, as I iced my eye. She’s gone.

Except she…wasn’t.

She was in the parking lot, where I could see her jumping up and down on my manager’s car, kicking and punching it as though it were a particularly annoying mosquito. It was bewildering.

The cops came.

I gave my notice the following day. On my last shift, where I may have gotten a cake and a bunch of free drinks in the past, I simply walked out the door, with that ominous-this-isn’t-quite-over feeling in the pit of my gut.

Months later, safely ensconced in nursing school, dating The Daver, I realized I had a bit of a cash crunch. Both Sergio and his former girlfriend had been fired, management had changed, and I decided that it was time to go home again.

I called the restaurant and was asked to start that very Friday – a stroke of luck if I’d seen one. I’d been prepared for things to have changed; I simply didn’t know how much. That Friday was an object lesson in why you should never, ever go home again.

The new manager (slash) waitress was a coke head, not terribly uncommon among servers, who all seem to abuse their problems away, who was up and happy one minute, and the next, she’d be stealing my tables and/or telling me that I needed to pick up an extra table, why hadn’t I done it yet? All in a very heavily accented Polish voice.

She was careful to ensure that I’d get the back station, the crappiest in the place, where I’d make, after a whopping 5 hours – thirty bucks. Considering how busy I was with school and raising my kid, it was hardly worth it.

But I waited it out. Certainly brighter days were in my future, right? We’d had so much FUN!

The end came, not with a whimper, but a bang.

I, once again, got into a fight with the manager (slash) waitress (slash) cokehead about a particular table, who was either in my section or not. She’d either stolen it from me or not: I was never clear on the details. Either way, once she began screaming at me in front of the entire dining room in Polish, I realized that it was over. Done. Finished.

I mustered whatever dignity I had left, smoothed my stained and somewhat tattered apron down, and left, never to return.

The place is still there. I have no doubt the manager (slash) waitress (slash) cokehead is still embezzling the restaurants cash to pay her gambling debts and throw the rest up her nose, although I’ll never be sure: I certainly have no desire to go in and find out.

It wouldn’t be the same.

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