Wordplay

Some fifteen(ish) years later, I can’t help but hear the voice of my father screaming at me every time I use my turn signal, “SIGNAL YOUR INTENT, REBECCA” followed generally by some nonsense about “AND PUT ON A FUCKING PAIR OF PANTS, DAMMIT” because that’s the way my brain works: it remembers odd turns of phrase and holds them captive in some random corner of my mind that could be better used, oh, I don’t know, LEARNING HOW TO MAKE COFFEE?

But no.

Alas no.

Shamefully, no.

(stands up holding cup of lukewarm coffee in Styrofoam container and announces:)

My name is Becky, I’m 32 years old, and I can’t make coffee.

(Hi Becky!)

However, I CAN remind you (loudly) to SIGNAL YOUR INTENT to other drivers, which has always made me giggle: what if my intent was to flash them or whip donuts at old people? Is there a special signal for THAT because my turn signal doesn’t seem to do much beyond blink stupidly.

Nevertheless, I DO signal my intent every fucking time I turn, which means that somewhere along those years in which my father remains convinced I didn’t listen to him, I actually DID listen to him.

Goes to show you never can tell.

A couple of weeks ago, when the rains came and the river engorged, I checked the forecast on my i(can’t)Phone as I was dressing for work, figuring we were probably due for a tsunami or something. I learned that while we were NOT experiencing an earthquake, fire, tornado, random flinging of fish or *waves hand* some OTHER horrible disaster, we WERE under a flash-flood warning.

Which, no shit, Sherlock. The river looks as pregnant as half my Facebook feed.

I continued reading what the National Weather Center had to say about this particular warning, wondering if this here part of the Fox River was to be submerged that day. Turns out, not that day, but it did give me a particular bit of wisdom I can’t get out of my head for the life of me.

This message informed me that in the event that I should encounter a standing body of water on the road, rather than say, “Wow, my car needed washing anyway!” and truck on through, I should instead “Turn around. Don’t drown.”

I can’t tell you why this stuck with me long enough to tell my coworkers about it a couple of hours later (and, I should add, not having encountered any bodies of water on the ground or elsewhere), but it did. It’s not a particularly funny statement – the idea of drowning in a car is fucking freaky as fuck – and it’s not even a particularly useful statement.

I mean, SIGNAL YOUR INTENT can be applied to just about everything you do, ever…

Wanna go on a date? SIGNAL YOUR INTENT.

Want to eat? SIGNAL YOUR INTENT.

Want to lounge around in your underwear? CLOSE THE BLINDS, THUS SIGNALLING YOUR INTENT.

…but “Turn Around. Don’t Drown?” I can’t come up with a single other instance in which those words, in that order, would tumble from my mouth.

My coworkers seemed similarly befuddled by the sentiment and I vowed to cross-stitch it on something, well, if I cross-stitched anything ever, which I am pleased to say that I do not. We also told one another as we passed in the halls, “Turn around. Don’t drown,” for no particular reason whatsoever.

This morning, one of my coworkers frantically ran into my office, and, not noticing that I was in the midst of a particularly important conference call, practically screamed, “THEY’VE EXTENDED THE THUNDERSTORM WARNING UNTIL 12:15!”

I craned my neck to look outside, thought, “yup, sure is dark out there,” before shrugging at her and returning to my call. It’s April in Illinois. Thunderstorms are as omnipresent as deep dish pizza and a deep abiding hatred of Wisconsin.

Once I hung up the phone, I decided that I probably SHOULD see what sort of weather I was going to have to deal with some 9.5 hours later when I decided to leave Not Chicago. The Weather Thingy told me that St. Charles DID have… not 4. Not 5. But SIX entire warnings and not a DAMN one of them about the fish.

 (won’t someone think of the fish?!?!)

I clicked on each of the six blinking advisories to see what would ACTUALLY apply to me and, upon scrolling down through the “you’re probably gonna wanna get the balls outta there,” I noted something. Something major.

“Hey Ames,” I said to my coworker who happens to have the misfortune of sharing an office with me.

She put down her paperwork and looked at me, “Yeah?”

“THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE THINGY DOESN’T TELL ME TO DO WHAT I’M SUPPOSED TO DO.”

She blinked at me.

“What do I do if I encounter still-standing water on the road? DOES THAT MEAN IT’S TIME TO WASH MY CAR AND/OR SHOW OFF MY MAD OFF-ROADING ABILITIES?”

She blinked again.

“Duh,” she said. “TURN AROUND, DON’T DROWN.”

And just like that, I lost my ability to retain any new phone numbers so that TURN AROUND, DON’T DROWN can forever live in my subconscious*.

That’s bullshit.

*And yours too!

And Whispered To Her Neighbor, “Winter is Dead.”

It took me by surprise.

In part, I’m certain, because I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off for three months running (which, I should add, always gives me the delightful impression of a severed human torso running around with feathers stuck in it’s puckered pooper)(you’re welcome), and in part because I’m readjusting to my new life.

Lemmie back up, for those of you not playing along at home: the weather here in Chicago is one of two seasons:

1) Ass hot

2) Ass cold

3) Construction

(I wasn’t so good at mah maths)

Collectively, we refer to them as “ass” which, in a nutshell, is accurate but couldn’t be farther from the truth of what Chicago really is. We’re a great city, we love our cheeseburgers, passionately cheer for our favorite sports teams (North SIIIIIDDDDEEE) whether they’re winning or not, and we’re a loyal bunch. It may take time to win us over, but once you have, we’re yours for life.

Which is why we all still live here, despite the temperatures fluctuating from ass to, well, ass.

The winter had been mild, as far as Chicago winters go, until the endless snow began in January. And February. Then March, that wily whore, decided to get in on the snow action. In April, naturally, the rains came.

I should stop to mention that the only reason I noted the rain was because I have moved from higher ground to on the motherfucking river (not, I should clarify, to be confused with “Rolling on the River” because I’m pretty sure that the Fox River is not the river of which Ike and Tina sang), which, naturally, is in a valley, which means that when the river gets high, my pooper puckers alarmingly. In the six months I’ve lived here, I have to admit that I’ve grown quite fond of the FBI Surveillance Van and would, therefore, hate to see it underwater.

I should’ve been annoyed today. My i(can’t)Phone was broken, which meant that the fancy whoodilly on my dashboard that allows magical gnomes to play my digital music over my radio would not be working. Which left me with two radio stations: The Badger* and some SUPER Christian station that’s always damning someone or another to hell. While occasionally amusing, I was running late for therapy because while blogging is SORTA like therapy, therapy is pretty awesome and allows me to flex my narcissistic muscle for upwards of an hour.

It had been a long day in Not Chicago, and while it was a good one, I was annoyed that I’d let myself do “just ONE more thing” before realizing it was time to scoodledoo, and OMG if I’m late, I’ll probably FAIL or something *whines* and and and and

That’s when it hit me.

Instead of being annoyed by the mountains of “white” snow, which I call “Chicago white” because they’re grungy and gross by April flanking the country road I take home, I was smacked in the face.

The world, well, it had woken up.

I cracked my window, preparing for some sort of weather incident in the car (I was imagining tornado, but it’d have probably been an ice storm, just for kicks), just because, well, obviously, and there it was. The wind blew into my car, smelling of fresh earth and new beginnings, reminding me, once again, why I pink puffy heart springtime in Chicago: the possibilities that yawn before us truly are endless.

The farmland that follows my merry way home had somehow transformed – where there had, just yesterday, been miles of yawning Chicago White sludge, I could see vast acres of green miles into the distance, peppered occasionally by crisp red barns. The robins, fluffy and fat on the earthworms the rains had dredged up looked fatter, more healthy and more determined than I’d seen them in many years.

An endless parade of people seemed to exit their homes to busy themselves, helping their bit of earth to wake up and coax their flowers into blooming, all of us pasty white from this unbearable, endless winter. They stood as I drove by, hands in the air, waving hello. I waved back like a lunatic, probably preventing them from ever attempting to wave at any stranger, ever, but I could tell they felt it, too.

The world was waking up.

The endless winter had, at long last, passed.

And the possibilities, well, they are endless.

*I can’t make this shit up.

All That You Won’t Leave Behind

“Where’s Dad?” a teenage Aunt Becky asked, mouth half-full of toast. I don’t quite know why I’d asked, it was a day ending in “day” so the answer was always the same.

“Making copies,” my mom said, distracted by the huge puddle of piss my dumb-as-a-stone-but-sweet-as-fuck dog had left on the floor in outrage at very notion that a chair would be moved without her oversight. I’d neatly stepped around it, thereby pretending it didn’t exist and therefore not tasked with “pee removal services.”

I headed out of the room, and using my most annoying voice, mimicked that SNL skit with Rob Schneider that was funny for about four seconds (this particular usage neatly using up one of those seconds), which no one seemed to realize, “Makin’ copies.”

Quite literally, I ran into him as I made my way back to my room to “put on some goddamned pants, Rebecca,” which I knew would be the first thing out of his mouth when he returned from his errand. His remaining three hairs on his head were standing straight up, his hands full of several reams of paper and a bottle of super pricy clear nail polish, he rushed, “I just had to make some copies” as he skittered up the stairs as though there was a real emergency, not just a frantic need to file papers.

Those same three hairs flapping in the breeze, he flew up the stairs, gasping, “I gotta nail appointment in 20 minutes,” to no one in particular.

I just laughed – that’s my father for you.

Earlier in the year, inspired by the windsong or the pattern of the sun on the hardwood floors or because he wanted to be a hip, cool dad, not just some guy who looked like a pharmacist, he’d managed to take up a hobby. Sweet, right? Everyone should have a hobby.

But this is my dad we’re talking about. My dad takes everything to eleven.

In an effort to increase his coolness factor or reclaim his long gone days as a rock-n-roll guitarist*, he took up classical guitar as his hobby, as my mother had put an end to the “annoying her” hobby he was so very fond of.

What began as a relatively benign hobby soon turned into… I suppose if’n you wanted to wrap it up in a nice fancy bow, you could call it an obsession, but it was more than that. Much more.

Not long after he bought his first classical guitar, painstakingly procured after months of deliberation appeared a second classical guitar. When asked about this mysterious need for two classical guitars (two dueling banjos I’d have expected, you see) came about, I asked him, “why the fuck would someone with only two arms have two guitars?”

“Well Rebecca,” he explained, without taking his eyes off the sheets of notes that he’d been playing and replaying for approximately twenty-niner years (but in reality had only been fifteen or so minutes), “I needed one to take with me on vacation.”

As though THAT explained it all.

I backed warily out of the room, more than a little afraid of him.

Soon, he was deforesting entire rainforests with the copies he’d make of various and sundry sheet music, the only person I’ve met who enjoyed visiting Kinkos on a daily basis. He’d file his sheet music in such an order not even the most well-seasoned librarian could understand, always happily tearing down yet another rapidly shrinking rainforest somewhere.

My mother and I simply shook our heads, baffled and somewhat bemused by his “hobby.”

One day, he caught me after school, and fearing one of his dreaded sixteen hour long lectures about taking his three-hole punch from his office, I backed myself into a corner, hoping I was wearing comfortable enough shoes to stand there for as long as he needed to hammer whatever point he was about to make.

“Rebecca,” he asked frantically. “Where do you get your nails done? I broke one of these fucking nails and I need it repaired immediately.”

My mouth dropped open.

I looked down at my hands which had been painted a soothing shade of “fuck you in the eyeballs pink” and said, “um, Dad? I do them myself.”

“I’ve GOT to get the name of Jim’s nail guy,” he said as he hurried frantically off. Jim, I knew, was the eccentric man who gave my father classical guitar lessons many times each week.

But getting his NAILS done? This was going a bit far.

Hours he’d spend each day carefully tuning and retuning his guitars, making sure that he had not only the top of the line guitars, but the top of the line gear. I played concert cello for many years and never even dreamed of some of the equipment he’d happily purchased to feed his obsession. He’d play a fragment of a song over and fucking over, trying to get it JUST right.

Music, it turned out, was HIS passion, too.

Until one day, just as frantically as his hobby had begun, he simply… stopped.

No more Kinkos trips. No more meticulously filed nails. No more lessons. No more “same three chords” coming from his office at all hours of the day and night.

He was, as it turned out, done. I never did quite learn why he’d stopped; why his love affair with his guitar was over – if, as I’d always joked the guitar was my father’s mistress, they’d had a falling out or something. I can’t even tell you if he knows.

He was just done. Quietly and softly, he was done.

In February of this year, I found a job in the most unlikely of places, a place I call, “Not Chicago,” for reasons that should be obvious**. The job as EVERY LINT PICKER-OFFER should know, was a serious one, and I didn’t know that I’d be able to continue to use my words in a manner in which I felt comfortable. With all the “write about this, not about that” bullshit flying around, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to use my words any longer.

I was tired of inadvertently hurting those around me; weary of the games people play. I’d begun to use my words as a hobby – to connect with people I’d never normally meet, to use my words and tell my story in my way. I have.

But I’d begun to feel like a dinosaur – I’m a PR intern’s worst nightmare – I have a mouth that rivals any sailor, I’m purposefully inappropriate, I’m snarky, and I don’t give a fuck. I never wanted to be a “brand,” I just wanted a space to fill with words.

In July, the sky fell and the darkness took over. I continued to blog, although my heart wasn’t in it.

I began to wonder if I was, as everyone always claims, truly my father’s daughter. That I’d take a hobby once loved more than butter and simply… stop. I wasn’t certain.

The turning point came, I think, when a group of people attempted to find my new employer to attempt, one can only ascertain, to fuck with my job as a LINT PICKER-OFFER TEAM LEAD. I am a public person, but I do have a private life that I am allowed to have, and if it was a matter of keeping my job or keeping my blog, I knew which one had to go.

So, much like my father, I simply stopped, assuming I had, in fact, used up all my words.

I was, as it turns out, happily wrong. Turns out life? Not an either/or equation. It’s time to go back to basics – tell my stories in my way on my time in the hope that I can make friends and connections I wouldn’t otherwise have the pleasure of knowing.

I may have had to rebuild my life, but I’m not doing so without my words.

While I will always be my father’s daughter, I have something he never did: I have my words.

And, perhaps most importantly of all, I have a Band of Merry Pranksters, without whom, I can’t say for certain I’d have survived Skyfall.

And those? Those I won’t leave behind.

*As far as I can tell, my father never rocked, nor did he roll, unless it was completely by chance.

**It’s Not Chicago.

Music Is My Nature

Today, Pranksters, I share not my story, but the story my son, Ben, tells. To give you some background as to why this story matters, I suggest reading this and this first.

And now, Pranksters, I give you my firstborn son, Ben.

Music has always been important to me.  Somehow, I never got the chance to really shine with my violin, until 5th grade.

The day before the concert, I was practicing and giving my mom, dad, and brother a concert. During my last song, I finally did the last bit of the song right. I played it right, it sounded right and it felt right.

After I played the last note right, my mom, dad, and brother clapped loud – my dad even whistled with his fingers.

“Great Job! Ben!” My Mom exclaimed.

“Yah! Ben! Amazing Job!” My Brother agreed.

Then my Mom said something I will never forget. “Ben… you have amazing talent, I will say! But… it’s up to you what you do with it!”

I will never forget those words.

I finished my practice and went up to dinner, wondering what those words meant.

The next night was my big concert. I was getting ready – I put on my pale-yellow dress shirt, my pants, my socks and shoes. “I’m busy as a bee,” I thought to myself. I grabbed my violin and went downstairs.

“Break a leg!” my Mom said encouragingly.

“Good Luck!” my Brother exclaimed.

“I’ll do my best” I promised, then grinned. We went out to the car and I got in. I was really nervous. Nervous as a Scardy Cat. My hands were shaking. The whole way to the auditorium, I thought about what my Mom had said. When we got to the building, my mom and dad whispered, “Good luck!”

I whispered back “Thanks!”

They went and sat down in their seats as I went to warm up with my group. My Orchestra Teacher gave us a pep talk before wishing us good luck. We got on stage and I craned my neck to look for my parents. As usual, I don’t see them beyond the stage lights. Our music teacher talks for a bit; her last words were “These guys have worked really hard. I hope you enjoy their music and thank you for coming out here tonight. Ladies and Gentlemen the 5th grade Orchestra!” she exclaimed.

We started to play. I played better than ever; I played perfectly for the first song. The second song, I’d played better than the first. During the last song, I remembered my mom’s words “It’s up to you what you do with your talent, Ben.”

So I tried to show of my talent to the world. When I was done playing, I felt like a new person. I knew music was my real talent. The audience went wild, so wild you couldn’t even talk without somebody yelling “What?”

We bowed and I think I even saw my dad wink at me. If, of course, that was my dad.

We came back after the applauding, screaming and going wild. My family congratulated me. I knew my mom knew that I knew that music was my talent. We celebrated over McDonald’s that night.

The Ben that walked into the auditorium was different than the Ben that walked out. I had accomplished something I thought I couldn’t do. I thought so many doubtful things. I was so nervous that my hands shook. But now? Now I know that…

Music is me. Music is in my blood. Music is my nature.

And THIS is why we’re taking a trip to NashVegas this summer, just the two of us. It’s time to teach my son the history of music.

Like A David Lynch Movie

I live in an area affectionately known as the “tri-cities,” for reasons that should be obvious: we are three cities. Okay, the name is a misnomer because, quite frankly, we’re more like a cluster of seventy-niner cities, which means you can’t spit without hitting one city or another. Therefore, we’ve accepted the more appropriate moniker of “Chicago,” which runs about forty miles out from the city and abruptly stops.

That dividing line is called “Not Chicago.”

Everything that happens outside of Chicago is, effectively, “Not Chicago.”

Now, I’ve lived here in Saint Charles for as long as my three remaining firing synapses allow, which means that I’m accustomed to suburbia. I’m not exactly a city girl gone country, because, to be honest, Chicago is the most wonderful city on earth, but I like my wide lawns and mornings without seeing seven or eight people peeing on things.

*shrugs*

Considering the size of Chicago, it’s probably (like most things that make sense to the rest of the world) just me.

(pointless and non-pithy aside: did you know that “East Chicago” is actually in Indiana? That, my dear Pranksters, is a hot pile of bullshit).

After spending my formative years creating a massive carbon footprint, tooling around in my wee del Sol, playing Summer Car,* smoking cigarettes, and getting lost on the long winding roads, driving just to see where we’d end up, I assumed that when I got the job in a town so small I can’t even tell you the name because you’ll be all, “whaaa-huh?” in the same way most people assume I’m from St. Charles, Missouri, which I assure you I am not, that I’d be well-suited to both the locale and the commute.

(holy run-on sentence, Batman)

The commute, well, there’s no better form of therapy than a fresh cup of coffee, a full tank of gas, and miles of open road. I use the time to compose hilarious tweets I never end up sending because I’m fucking driving. This whole “texting and driving” bullshit confuses me. I may be able to make a sandwich, chug a coke, and paint my nails while driving a stick, but texting (or Tweeting) while driving? It both baffles and annoys me.

It’s the locale of the hospital I can’t quite understand.

I walked into my office on my first day and noted that the mysterious filing cabinets had disappeared while a desk had appeared in its place. Win! There was no computer on the desk. Not Win!

The very next thing I attempted to do baffled me further. I grabbed my i(can’t)Phone and went to tweet something about a time-warp and/or my lack of computer making me feel as though half my body had mysteriously disappeared, when I noted something I didn’t even know existed.

Roaming.

My fucking i(can’t)Phone was roaming.

Pranksters, I didn’t even know phones DID that anymore. I’d honestly thought that roaming charges went the way of Friendster. When I mentioned this to my boss, she said, “Oh yeah, I have to stand in the middle of the road to send a text.”

I’m almost entirely certain that I amassed a large collection of flies as my mouth hung dumbly open.

“No…cell phone coverage?”

She just laughed. I shuddered.

Later that afternoon, as I was leaving, I realized the old tank was on empty so I pulled off to a tiny gas station chain that I’ve only ever seen in the deep south. The wind howling outrageously around me (no buildings around = wind blows sharply from the plains), I tried to grab out my debit card to pay at the pump because, well, duh. You have to do that shit here.

It was then that I noted that for the first time in probably 7 years, I had the option to pump my gas BEFORE paying for it. Underneath that shocking revelation, a sign said neatly, “Only In-State Checks Allowed.” As in, you could pay for your gas via check.

And here I was thinking I was the last person on earth to both take baths (which is neither here nor there) and write checks. I’d always thought it was nearing time for my Murder She Wrote marathons, tripping young people with my cane, and chugging a mysterious substance called “Geritol.”

Apparently not.

Apparently, Pranksters, there exists a world OUTSIDE of Chicago that allows for personal checks while banning cell phones.

I also learned that I could buy a shed the approximate size and shape of the FBI Surveillance Van with a free metal roof, which just plain old seems like a bad idea. I mean, metal attracts lightening and shit. Or at least, it does in Chicago. Not Chicago, though, maybe that’s how they cook the wild boars the mens hunt all day long.

All I need is a midget dressed as a hot dog and a diner with a creepy waitress to make this a full-on David Lynch movie.

And the oddest part? I enjoy it.

What.

The.

Fuck.

Happened.

To.

Me?

*A game in which you remove most of your clothes, crank the heat, and attempt to confuse other drivers, who are, no doubt, bundled and shivering from the cold January winter.

I’d Rather Chug Gasoline

To call my father “fastidious” would be akin to saying that “diet Coke tastes okay.” Sure, they’re both true statements, but they don’t quite delve into the true essence of the statement. I’d say he probably has some degree of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but I’d imagine it’s more the “compulsive” rather than obsessive part of the diagnosis.

(he reminds me too much of my daughter and her great range of Barbie dolls, which she obsessively fusses over)

When I was a wee Aunt Becky, rather than swatting me or yelling, he’d sit calmly in his chair, insist that I take a seat on the couch and begin to drone on lecture me:

Dad: “Well you know, Rebecca, that I like my hairbrush to be on this specific shelf.”

Wee AB: “Yes.”

Dad: “And this morning, when I went to brush my remaining three hairs, it wasn’t on my shelf.”

Wee AB: “Yes.”

Dad: “This is a problem.”

Wee AB: “Yes.”

Dad: “I need my things to be where they are put.”

Wee AB: “Yes.”

(three hours later)

(by this time, I’ve already rearranged the features on his face to make him look like a Picasso and begun a letter to my Congressman about unfair lecturing by an adult to a minor)

Dad: “So, when I went to the bathroom this morning to find my hairbrush it wasn’t there.”

Wee AB: *stares at wall*

Dad: “REBECCA ELIZABETH, ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING?”

Wee AB: *nods*

Dad: “What did I say?”

Wee AB: *drones back* “I should always put your hairbrush away.”

Dad: “Right. Now, where was I?”

This tactic worked well on my brother, who’d have been wracked with guilt and pleading for forgiveness by this point, but I’m more of a quick, “hey put my crap back,” or “smack me across the face,” kinda girl. Always have been. My father has never understood that about me, so for years, I’d get The Lectures. It became a running joke once he realized that I wasn’t listening to him or feeling in the slightest bit guilty for committing such a heinous and unspeakable crime.

When it comes to his compulsiveness, though, nothing matches the way he feels about his car. Now most of you Pranksters know that I’m a bit of a car nut myself, but I’ve never had the opportunity to select a car for myself, so I don’t show the proper amount of respect for a car the way my father does. Someday I will and when I do, I am positive I’ll similarly warp my children.

Thursday evening, I’d left Not Chicago on time and had managed to wrangle my children into my CR-V without too much mayhem, which I considered a bonus. They were even wearing pants!

Sitting in the turn lane, waiting to make a left through “rush hour traffic,” I finally saw my opportunity and I took it. We sped off toward home for a nice night of lounging against the machine. Except… there was this rattling noise coming from the bottom of the car. Not the Oh CRAPBALLS You Blew A Tire noise, it was more You Ran Over A Branch, Moron,” so I wasn’t particularly concerned. I figured I’d lose the branch on the drive back to the FBI Surveillance Van or extract it when we arrived.

Alex sprang out of the car to examine it.

“Uh, Mom?” He said unhappily. “There’s something broken under there.”

I groaned. I’d just gone through the most ridiculously dramatic blown tire event of my life and now this? Really? I bent down to examine it. What appeared to be half a gigantic metal pill was, in fact, actually hanging off the bottom of my truck. Which meant absolutely nothing to me, which is I why I snapped a picture and sent it to The Twitter. Really, it’s the best course of action. The Twitter is ALL knowing.

Always a Daddy’s Girl, even after suffering the lectures about my improper placement of personal items, I called my father, who then stopped by on his way to visit my mother in the hospital, and explained the problem as I understand it to be. I sighed a little bit, cursed the CR-V and went about my night.

Until it dawned on me: I shouldn’t be driving the thing until that was fixed, and there was no way in balls I’d manage to get to the dealership for a couple of days.

Once again, I called my father, which I consider repayment for hours lost to lectures and asked him the most dreaded of all questions: “Can I borrow your car?”

Now, my father loves his car more than he loves his children, of this I am quite certain. Hours upon hours he spends babying the thing, carefully detailing it on his days off, making sure it’s beyond pristine. He’s so fastidious about his car that I normally refuse to ride in it for fear of somehow breaking it and being subjected to yet another lecture. I mean, I don’t breathe near the thing – my breath might contain something that could potentially damage it’s impeccable paint job. I don’t even look at the thing when I’m at my parents house, just in case my eyes somehow refract sunbeams onto the wrong spot and cause a dent.

So for me to ask to borrow it took a few Klonapin and a whole lot of “calm the balls down.” Honestly, I’d rather chug gasoline than ask him for this favor. He responded in a way most unlike him:

Not-So-Wee-AB: (deep breath) “Dad, can I borrow your car to get to work tomorrow in Not Chicago?”

Dad: “Yes.”

Not-So-Wee-AB: “Are you feeling okay?”

Dad: “I’m fine. Hey, you do know how to drive stick, right?”

Not-So-Wee-AB: “Yes, Dad, you taught me.”

Dad: “And you were terrible.”

Not-So-Wee-AB: “No, I drove home in a winter storm. I’m excellent at working a manual – I miss the crapballs outta it.”

Dad: “Oh, that’s right. It’s the BIKE you had issues with. You were 11 before you could properly pedal.”

Not-So-Wee-AB: “Thanks for the reminder, Dad.”

Friday morning, bright and blurry, I drove my father’s car for the first time since he’d bought it, back when I was pregnant with Ben. And with the exception of the sixth gear, which I wasn’t accustomed to using, it was a blast.

He’s going to have a heck of a time dragging those keys out of my hands.

Providence, Part Deux*

I don’t get the impression, Pranksters, that a lot of us hold much stock in the idea of Providence (always with a capitol “P”) because, well, we’re a little bit jaded. It’s hard to see a world in which so many bad things happen to good people and say “everything happens for a reason.”

I don’t buy that statement.

What I do believe, as cynical as I can be, is that sometimes, sometimes, we’re given a nudge from the very most unexpected of places.

Providence, I suppose.

————–

Earlier in the day, I’d been chatting with Crys, who is not only my pseudo-shrink (read: I don’t pay her to listen to my babbling), but my friend, about jobs.

Crys: “I need to call this lady back about an interview.”

Me: “Oh yeah? What for? Toxic waste handling?”

Crys: “Hahahaha. No.”

Me: “What about being Billy Mays replacement? Or being the MOVIE PHONE guy?”

Crys: “Hahahaha. No.”

Me: “Okay, well, I’m out of ideas then.”

Crys: “I don’t even have the energy to call them back. I mean, I’m not sure I’m up to interviewing right now.”

Me: “*nods* Yeah, I get that. I’m burnt out on applying for jobs. I can’t even fathom trying to interview somewhere without shitting myself.”

Me: “Which I do every single time I get a text message. I also drop a remote, which is neither here nor there.”

Crys: “You’re so weird.”

Me: “I’ll take that as a compliment!”

After several hours of watching dancing cactus videos, my cell rang. A number I didn’t recognize, which is generally code for someone looking for my “expert” opinion on salt or attempting to guilt me into donating to the “People Affected By Sarah McLaughlin ASPCA Commercial,” so I tend not to answer.

For some reason, unbeknownst to me, I answered.

It was a friend of mine – we’d worked together as servers when Ben was a baby, sneaking off and chugging beers in the coolers during our breaks, causing mischief and mayhem wherever we went. Ah, the days of wine and roses.

*looks mistily off into the distance*

ANYWAY.

Her: “Hey, you still looking for work? The (insert rural hospital here) is hiring.”

Me: “Yes.”

Her: “Okay, here’s my boss.”

Me: “?…?”

*cue annoying hold music*

Boss: “When can you come in to interview?”

Me: “I can make time any day that works for you.”

Boss: “Tomorrow, 10AM, okay?”

Me: *does happy dance*

See, Pranksters, I’ve been working on finding gainful employment since July, when The “D” Word was made official. I’ve written resumes, studied how best to create one. I’ve had friends read them and editors examine them. I’ve applied to places until my fingers were cut to the bone. And? Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Zippity-motherfucking-doo-dah.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Pranksters – I love blogging like I love diet Coke, but I want to be able to come here, stare at a blank WordPress box and fill it with words. With stories. With tales this side of normal.

What I don’t (and have never) wanted to have to do was to resort to blogging as a means to pay the bills. While I’m entirely aware that Dooce can and does, we all know I’m no Dooce.

When I’m staring at a blank WordPress box, trying to come up with an extraordinarily dull tale in order to “put something; anything up here,” a fat wad of nothing fills my brain. When I tell that motherfucking organ to get all creative, it tells me to shut the fuck up. Trying to force creativity is akin to putting flippers on a monkey – it can be done, but why should it?

So that call? That, right there, was Providence. With a Capitol P.

I’ve been blogging, you see Pranksters, since Jesus rode me to class on his handlebars and gave me noogies on the playground behind the slides, and I’ve watched the evolution of blogging as a way to tell our tales into a way to “get famous” and “make monies,” by allowing advertisers to pay us pennies to promote their product.

There’s not a damn thing wrong with that, I should add, it’s just not why I started to write.

It’s also not why I continue to write. My space is my own and I want it to remain that way – I don’t want to be a corporate shill for a shitty product and I don’t want to be a “brand.” I’m me. I’m really Aunt (Motherfucking) Becky, and I’m really real. End of fucking story.

By taking a job at a hospital in the real world, where people are judged by their merit, not by number of “fans” or “comments,” I’ve inadvertently liberated myself from the business end of blogging. An unexpected side effect, I suppose.

I couldn’t be happier to be back.

And without you, Pranksters, I’m not sure I’d be standing today. I hope you know just how much you mean to me. You’re my family and without you, I’m not sure I’d have survived the Dark Time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have something in my eye.

Damn allergies.

*two

————-

What’s been going on since I’ve been away, Pranksters? How are you?

Somehow, I Don’t Think This Is What My Mother Meant

First things first, Pranksters – allow me to answer the two most burningest questions on your mind:

Yes, I did get a job, but I have yet to find myself craving Mr. Rogers sweaters or penny loafers, nor have I decided that a “five year plan” is worth my brain power, so it’s safe to say that I still haven’t grown up. More on that another time when I have more than two misfiring synapses to work with.

No, I have not gotten less annoying. Sorry. Thems be the breaks, I guess.

————-

I was probably five or six the first time my mother threatened me: “Rebecca,” she said sternly after I’d chosen to repaint her dull white walls with some beautiful markers and my most prized stickers. I’d thought that a picture of my unicorn, Mr. Snuffles was a fabulous addition to our dining room, but she, apparently felt otherwise, because she finished the lecture by throwing up her hands and yelling, exasperated, “someday, you’re going to grow up and have a child just like you.”

She said it ominously enough that I paid attention until I realized what she was saying.

“No,” I replied, all big eyes and curly hair. “I’m going to have a robot. I don’t like babies.”

She just stared at me, until she huffed off to her room to center herself by playing some depressing music. Turns out? She was right.

This weekend, I spent a good deal of my time doing the second, and most important part of any move.

(I know, I know, I’ve lived here since October, but trust me when I say that when it comes to funk, I am a junkie. Also: horrifyingly depressed)

I began to unpack the items I’d stowed in cupboards and closets when I was in the frantic, “OMG UNPACK, UNPACK! THE SPANISH ARE COMING!” stage of the move. Once everything was assembled and the resident OCD apartment owner a couple of buildings over had suitably drilled the whole, “do not recycle big boxes” thing into my head, I sat down. I didn’t really get up again for four months.

For those four months, I was The Ghost of Apartment 6B, shutting my blinds, and staring off into space. I’d shuffle to the computer to occasionally peck out a post and apply for some jobs when I wasn’t feeling suicidal, then shuffle back to the couch and pretend this was all a bad dream.

It, as I don’t have to point out to you, Pranksters, wasn’t.

So this weekend, I got off my ass and got to work whipping my house into the approximate shape of a home, which meant that I spent a great deal of time wondering why on earth I’d packed this or that, puzzling over the reasons the cupboards could possibly be sticky, and trying to turn my life into, well, a life worth living. I’m not stupid enough to say “the dark days are over,” quite yet, but I know I’ve turned some sort of corner, and for that, I’m grateful.

My daughter wandered into the Batcave while I was organizing some of my jewelry. It was time to go through a massive purge, and I’d figured that there was no time like the present to do so.

“Oooooooh!” she squealed loudly as she saw all the “pretties” I’d pulled out of one of my jewelry boxes. “That’s so BEAUTIFUL, Mama!” Her rapture was unlike anything I’d seen, unless I’d been looking in the mirror after a particularly wonderful sale.

I took a break from untangling a knot that was probably tied by a roving gang of sailors while I was sleeping and sat back and watched my daughter marvel at the pretties with me. Her unbridled joy made my heart grow about twenty sizes.

“Mimi,” I said. “Would you like your own jewelry box to put your jewelry in?”

“Oh MAMA,” she breathed in deeply. “That would be beautiful. How about I take this one?”

I laughed – that one was my favorite too.

“How about we find you your own jewelry box? You can store your pretties in here until I find you one, okay?”

She grinned, ear to ear, and then wrapped me in her spindly arms.

“Oh, MAMA,” she said. “THANK YOU!”

I beamed into her hair, feeling, for the first time in a long time, that same unbridled sense of joy that was oozing from her pores. This was truly one of the happiest moments of my life.

“Do you like the pretty picture of kittens I drew on your wall?” she asked daintily. “I used PINK! My favorite color! And Hello Kitty stickers!”

“Let’s take a look at it, Mimi!” I suggested, my legs creaking and groaning as I got up off the floor, still smiling.

A child after my own likeness, indeed.

Amelia party dress

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Pranksters, I’m off to find some costume jewelry to fill up my daughter’s new jewelry box.

Tears Dry On Their Own

When you’re a blogger, most conversations with people outside of the computer go something like this:

Them: “So now that I’ve finished telling you about the luxury yacht I just bought with the interest from my accounts, what is it that you do again?

Me: “I’m a writer.”

Them: “Oh? That’s positively charming. Where do you write?”

Me: “Erms. It’s a blog.”

Them: “Pardon me?”

Me: “I write on the Internet.”

Them: “Are you like those dreadful people of Walmart?”

Me: “Heh-Heh. No. I write for a site of my own.”

Them: “I’m not certain I understand.”

Me: “It’s called Mommy Wants Vodka. I write drivel and dreck about my life.”

Them: “Oh, so (whispers) you have a drinking problem?”

Me: “Ha. No. It’s sarcastic. Mommy Wants Vodka: because Mommy Wants Vicodin Sounded Too Suburban.

Them: (blank stare) “I’m not certain I follow. How can writing a diary online be a ‘job?'”

Me: “Well, it’s not. I also freelance for The Stir and Nickelodean. One time I got fifty likes from The Facebook!”

Them: (blank stare): “So you sit around all day writing?”

Me: “On a good day, yeah. See lookit! I even have business cards. Do you want one?”

Them: “Oh, no dear. I wouldn’t put you out like that.”

Me: “It’s truly no trouble.”

Them: “I was being polite – whatever would I do with your card?”

Me: “It makes a good coaster, I guess.”

Them (titters): “Oh you’ve always been SO FUNNY.”

Me: (quizzically): “Um. Thanks?”

Them: “I’m afraid I still don’t understand what it is, exactly, that you do.”

Me: “Well, once I got named one of the top ten controversial bloggers by Babble.”

Them: “You’re not particularly controversial.”

Me: “I know. I should have more opinions about things.”

Them (twitters a bit): “So when are you going to grow up?”

Me: “I’m 32. I have three kids.”

Them: “No, I mean, you can’t simply write about your life forever. You’ll need a real job – with benefits!”

Me: *shrugs* “I like what I do.”

Them: “No, it’s really true – you need to grow up. That way we can go do pretentious things together.”

Me (sarcastically): “Wow. That sounds fun.”

Them: “Oh, it is, darling. It is.”

Me: “It’s been *uh* swell seeing you.”

Them: “Do call me when you grow up, darling.”

Me: “But.. I am a grown-up…”

And then you walk away feeling like total garbage because YOU HAVE BUSINESS CARDS, DAMMIT, and sometimes people leave you comments and you have FRIENDS! All over the world! How cool is that?

(answer: pretty fucking rad)

But then one day, you wake up, look around at your apartment, which you’ve carefully decorated, and realize, “shit, they were right – I DO need to grow up.”

I start Monday.

Four

My Girl,

Today at 4:3…uh, erms, *mumbles incoherently* you will be four years old.

robin waits on the sidewalk

The squishy maternal part of me wants to throw you back into a onesie and one of those wee diapers that nearly engulfs your tiny bum and turn back the clock four years to the time when my youngest baby was actually a baby. The other part of me wonders how it’s only been four years since you rocketed into this chaotic world.

I still have to pinch myself to make sure that I’m not dreaming – I have a daughter. Me! A daughter! I’d always expected my household to be full of boys, stinky socks, and fart jokes (I’d also planned to name house plants after my television husbands, which, frankly, is neither here nor there). I never expected to be lucky enough to become the mother of a daughter.

But here we are, four years into it, and I can’t imagine my life without you by my side.

I wanted to start this letter to you, my Sweet Girl, by telling you how sorry I am. I wish that things between your Dad and I had managed to work themselves out. I know it’s confusing right now and I know it well, but I have to believe that this is what’s best for everyone. My hope is that you’ll learn from this experience that you should never settle for anything less than what you deserve out of life, out of a partner, and that you won’t be afraid to say “no, this isn’t working,” and change your life.

Because you, me, everyone – we all deserve the very best. That’s why you’ve got to take life by the balls, make it your bitch and never let anything get in your way. Ever.

You’re more like me than simply the way we look. We both share the opinion that glitter is mandatory for something to be truly beautiful, you happily wear a pair of ridiculously adorable and incredibly uncomfortable shoes just because they’re pretty, and you don’t sway your opinion, once your mind has been made up. You’re a spitfire of a person, and you’re going to be one hell of a lady. Surviving the insurmountable odds that you did, well, I can’t help but wonder what you’ve been put on this planet to do.

I can hardly wait to find out.

My Girl, I hope that you learn to stand tall and stand proud, knowing that what you do is exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. Don’t let anyone else tell you different. Take criticism as a sign to do more, be better, and show people what you’re made of. Don’t stoop to spreading rumors, calling names, or lying to make a point  – it’s unbecoming and it’s tacky. Knowing that you’re in the right, well, that is enough.

Never let anyone tell you how you’re “supposed” to look or feel – your feelings are your own, looks change, and if someone thinks that you’re “supposed” to be doing something different, well, it’s clear that they don’t know you. Truly their loss.

Loves in your life may come and go, sort of like busboys filling your water in a crowded restaurant, but the greatest love, and the one person you matter to most, well, she’s not going anywhere. That would be you, Lovie. You don’t need the love of anyone but yourself to make it through the day, and if someone makes you feel otherwise, he or she isn’t worth your time or energy.

Accept that your journey may never be easy, and if it’s not, don’t fight it. This is your life, your story, and you can be the victim or you can be the hero – your call. Use your experiences to help others; to be better, rather than wallowing in your story. Grieve your losses, nurse your wounds, and come back to the world better and stronger than ever.

Be kind to those you meet, even if they are unkind to you. You never will know how that spot of kindness will affect those around you. No act of kindness is too small.

Don’t take people at who they say they are; their actions will speak volumes while their words are just those: words. Accept one unalienable truth: most people are good, and no matter how angry you are at them, know that they were simply doing the best they could. Same as anyone else.

Speaking of choices, don’t put too much stock in the wrong ones you make. Mistakes are your way of learning what works and what does not, and what you learn from the wrong choices you make is often volumes larger than you do from the right ones.

Never be too proud to apologize when you’ve hurt someone. You don’t need to crawl to the Alter of Your Wrongness, but you should always own up to what you’ve done and how you’ve hurt someone. They can choose to accept your apology or ignore it, but either way, you’ve done your best to make things right.

And when you’re done, my sweet thing, changing the world, don’t forget to call your Mom. She loves you so.

Love always,

Mama