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So…

Hi! Is this thing on?

It came to my attention (when Becky yelled something at me about blah, blah, blah, guest post something people need to know!) that you’ve all been asking some questions about me. Who is this Guy On The Couch? Where did he come from? Can I get one at Targhetto? So, I’m here to set the record straight(ish) and tell you all a little about me.

My name is Benjamin, I’m a Midwestern boy at heart and came to Chicago last fall because I decided that I just hadn’t had enough of gambling that the frostbite wouldn’t take my toes this winter. Some of you already know that, because you work with, read at or follow The Band and have seen me at work, or seen my writing about being the face of Bipolar Disorder. I’m glad, but for those of you who haven’t, click the almost-invisible link there, and you can read all about it.

Basics – I’m thirty-one, tall and thin, sarcastic and had a blog that I wrote at until I stopped having the time to dedicate to it, which the internet has mostly – blessedly – forgotten all about.

So, the advanced course, Benjamin 301 – taught by your favorite professor, Yours Truly goes like this: There was this one time when I was 19, living in Minneapolis and walking through downtown in the summer with my friend Evan. Evan and I had been friends for time out of mind, and we were both about equally strange people. We’d met in grade school and stayed friends on and off since then, and we liked to hang out together because it made both of us feel a little bit more normal to know there was someone else out there who was just like each other.

Walking through downtown Minneapolis, we got stopped by one particularly flamboyant member of St. Louis Park’s fairly extensive GLBT community. Tall, thin and beautiful, she stopped dead center in the middle of the sidewalk in front of us – where we’d have no choice but to stop short – to stare at Evan’s shirt. I’ve never seen another shirt like it, before or since, and it was the shirt against which all shirts are measured in my head.

Robin’s Egg Blue, with cheerful white lettering that proudly proclaimed “Nuke a Gay Baby Seal – For Christ!

It was the most brilliant shirt I’d ever seen, cheerfully calling out dozen’s of different types of hypocrisy at once, all wrapped up in a little sarcastic package and colored pale blue so that people really weren’t apt to look at it unless it mattered to them.

Arching one haughty eyebrow at us, she slowly said, “nuke a gay baby SEAL? FOR CHRIST?!” To which we responded, almost in unison and totally unplanned, “Well, you’ve gotta nuke something, right?”

She let us pass, I think she may have been too busy having a heart attack to stop and question us further about whether it was any kind of seal, or whether we had it out for one type of seal in particular. I think the thought of religiously-motivated nuclear pinniped genocidal catastrophe was just too much for her to really think about all at the same time. Did I mention that we were both atheists?

I’d say that pretty much sums up who I am, so read on and enjoy, and now you know a little more about The Guy On Becky’s Couch.

Hope you don’t regret it!

School, if you haven’t heard, is out for summer.

*cue guitar solo*

Hear that noise? That’s the sound of hundreds of parents weeping at the impending “I’m booooooored,” that will pepper each and every  conversation from now until August, a date that seems impossibly far away from where I’m standing. Oddly, I like having my children around, even the ten-going-on-sixteen one, who has his moments of sweetness interspersed with what I can only assume is the beginning of puberty.

Hear that? That’s the sound of me weeping into my cup of coffee.

Summer vacation in my house meant two things: it was going to be ass hot, and my mother, as soon as I awoke, would hand me a slice of bread to eat as she booted me out the door, locking me squarely outside. It’s not that she didn’t like my company – I’m quite certain I was both a gentleman AND a scholar – it’s that she simply didn’t want to listen to me whine about being bored.

And, with kids of my own now, I can’t say I blame her.

We were a rowdy pack: there was my BFF(slash)mortal enemy (we switched it up every other day or so) Ashley, my best friend David Cook (no relation to the American Idol winner)(PROBABLY), and a couple of other kids thrown in for good measure. We got into all kinds of mischief and mayhem, or, what appeared to US to be mischief and mayhem. Mostly, we played American Gladiators and watched women’s wrestling.

Foxy boxing was, well, foxy.

We were a pack of free-range kids. Our neighborhood was tucked well out of the way from traffic, so the few cars that drove past did so slowly enough that we could pull in our hockey nets before getting run over. We had Lemonade Stands, played Ghost in the Graveyard, and, once, in a stunning fit of brilliance, peeled half the bark of the birch tree in the front yard.

I’ve been sorta sad my own son hasn’t gotten to have that experience. Ben’s the type of kid who, bless the good lord-n-butter, lives with his head permanently in the clouds. I’m being for-serious when I say that he’s the kid who’d be all, “Oh, you have KITTENS in your car Mr. Trenchcoat Dude in the Child Napping Van? LEMMIE AT THE KITTIES!”

It’s less a personality defect and “GRAAAAPPPPP” *hair falls out into a puddle around me* type of situation. I’m EARNING my bald patches.

Which is why I’ve been looking forward to this. The day has FINALLY come.

The younger two are now old enough to play in the front without me having to have a coronary because the teens that live in the houses surrounding mine like to use my normally-quiet street for drag racing contests. It’s like toddlers don’t know they shouldn’t go in the street or some shit. Clearly, toddlers are stupid.

Last night, I stood in my backyard, perched atop a precariously placed step-stool*, kicking myself for not weather-sealing the privacy screen that my roses use to climb upward, because black spot is a motherfucking asshole that I’d like to kick in its tiny fungus ass.

Below me, and oddly not trying to shake the ladder, my children clamored about in the backyard, a motley band of neighborhood kids all in one space, using the swing-set that I’d once bought for my (then) only child and eating Popsicles I’d had stashed away in the freezer for such an occasion. I listened to them chatter back and forth, “telling” on each other, playing dodge ball, pulling each other aside for “secrets” and, finally, having an American Idol-type singing contest.

(my kid, I’ll have you know, sang “Eye of the Tiger”)

I smiled, one of those soft quiet smiles you give yourself when you feel you’ve done something right.

American Gladiators may be long-since over. Foxy Boxing may only occur on YouPorn. I don’t own a birch tree (I own an Ass Tree that’s infected with an Ass Boner). I plan to pay my children NOT to host a lemonade stand.

But finally. FINALLY my kids? They, too, are becoming free-range kids.

Here’s hoping one of the toddlers reminds his older brother that he should not, in fact, accept candy from strangers.

If only I could train my roses to kick blackspot in the taco – THEN my life would be complete.

This is a random picture of Alex’s handiwork – apparently, he learned how to water-board while at school.

If you look carefully, you can see the reflection of an orchid in the bowl – it’s like one of those optical illusions. I wonder if you can see Jesus!

*Don’t ask me why anyone within a five-block radius thought that me standing on a step-stool was a good idea.

I was a waitress for close to ten years. And by “waitress,” I mean that I worked anywhere from the hostess stand, to the busboy station, to slinging drinks behind the bar. And for most of those years, I loved it. I love people, I love meeting people, and I’m one of the better bullshitters I know. It’s an art form, really.

During my stint as a waitress, I learned how to deal with people. I think every teenager should be forced to spend a year working in a restaurant in order to properly prepare them for the real world, where some people are assholes for no fucking reason, and rather than pee in their drink you simply smile and nod. It’s a good life lesson – being able to stare someone in the face that you hate, while not letting on that you’d rather be curb-checking them somewhere.

I realized, during my final stint as a server, that I was done. Just DONE. I couldn’t do it any more. Why? Someone had the audacity to ask me for a refill on their soda WHILE I was on the way to get them a refill.

HOW DARE THEY?

(I kid, I kid, I drink Diet Coke like it’s going to be extinct)

If I’d continued working there, I’d have ground my teeth into nubs by the end of each shift.  I could no longer smile and make nice while I served up pizza, pulling in $30 for a 5-10 shift. It just was…it was over.

I’d begun to feel that way about blogging.

Gone were the days that I could pull up a blank WordPress screen and pour my heart out through my fingertips. Gone were the days when stories flowed. It’d become so much harder. I’d hurt too many, I had to censor myself, I didn’t always have a hilarious spin on shit, because, well, shit isn’t always funny.

I worried I’d become boring – I wasn’t doing much new. I didn’t want to become one of those bloggers who’d been around so long she had nothing else left to say.

And the in the New Blogging World, well, I still don’t fit in. In a space where Tumblr and Pinterest can capture the attention because oooh! shiny! who wanted to read WORDS? LOTS of words! BORING words? Was blogging worth it?

I couldn’t answer that.

I’ve been around long enough to have been able to see the metamorphosis of blogging – people had gone from using blogging as a means to tell stories and keep up with family and begun buying into the business of blogging. While I *do* run a non-profit now, it’s not like sponsors are piling up at my door, knocking themselves over trying to sponsor me. And frankly, I don’t know that I’d want them to, anyway. I like blogging on my terms. I’m beholden to no one but myself and my Pranksters.

But in a world where blogs are now businesses, and the “Word Of Mom,” has become king, where does that leave someone like me? Sure, I sell ads – I have to support the cost of running a non-profit, but I’m still waiting on my yacht or my all-expense paid trip to Detroit or Delaware.

I’ll be waiting a long damn time.

I considered shutting my blog down – I mean, it’s only a matter of time before I reach the end of the Internet – which, I imagine, will look a lot like a ball of hair – and why not quit while the quittin’s good?

I’ve been thinking long and hard about that.

And it came back around to this: I started writing because I needed a place to fit in; a place I could tell my stories, and a place I could make friends and connect with other people. I never expected I’d find a family in my Pranksters. I’d never expected to have a soul read my blog, unless it was some spambot named Robert trying to sell me some quick and easy pay-day loans or enlarge the size of my non-existent penis.

When I began Mommy Wants Vodka, I fit in on the fringes. My very first friends were my baby loss mamas and the infertile community – these two groups understood how it felt to be on the outside looking in. And today, my greatest friends are still from the IF/Loss community. They’ve been the sort of friends who have dusted me off, wiped the vomit off my proverbial chin, and reminded me that sometimes life is a hot bag of dicks.

These two communities are what lead to the embryonic idea behind Band Back Together: it would be a space for the IF/Loss/Special Needs community to get together and share stories – libraries of stories of people who had been through the same problems. In that way, we could be none of us alone.

In turn, I’d use my nursing background to create valuable resources for those who are struggling; to be used as a sort of reference, to learn more.

But being exclusive hurts my vagina, so I opted to invite anyone to share their stories: stories of IF and loss, stories of mental illness and triumph, stories of natural disasters and recovery. YOUR stories. We ALL have a story – it’s up to us to tell it. To reach someone in some far corner of the universe who may find your words and take some comfort that he or she is not, in fact, alone.

The shelves in my online library of stories at Band Back Together have grown and outpaced anything I could dream of. I couldn’t be more proud of The Band and all that we do.

All are, as always, welcome to submit their stories. Even you. Your story is just as important as the next person’s.

Here’s the link to submit to Band Back Together and here is the link to read stories.

But it was thinking back on where I’d come from and where I’d go from here that I was reminded of my roots. How I do have the capacity to simply open up my blog and pour my stories out, whether or not I win fancy awards or get sponsored to visit Texas. How all of that bullshit about ranks and numbers and followers, it’s just that: bullshit.

I still have my words. I’m going to continue to write like no one’s reading.

And as I do that, I’d like to remind you, the Infertile/Loss community, that I’ve never forgotten my roots. June is National Infertility Month, and each month on Band Back Together, we choose to shine the spotlight on a condition (or conditions) that do not receive enough time in the sun.

This month, we’re shining the spotlight directly onto IF/Loss so that we can turn what was once hidden in the dark, back into the light.

I invite you, my Pranksters, to join us in getting the Band Back Together. For infertility. For loss. For ALL of you.

(yes YOU)

So get your leather pants strapped on, and start your storytelling. You never do know who will be touched by your words and be reminded of our mission: we are none of us alone; we are all connected.

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