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I remember when I got a pager. The thing was gold, tiny, and worn by a nice white suburban girl who was all Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangster. I think it increased my street cred by at least -37 points. (those are NEGATIVE points, yo). If the thing played music, it’d have chosen with, “Up Town Girl.” It was THAT cliche.

Apparently, I’ll never be, “Becky From Tha Block.” Which is prolly good – I don’t want J Lo or Jennifer Lopez or whatever her name is now to be all, “bitch you be stealing mah shit,” as she smacked me in the face with stacks of fat cash. This is how I envision it – I’d probably just get a cease/desist letter from her lawyers, which, SO not fun.

Anyway, back when I got the pager, my friends would page me and I’d have to scramble to find 35 cents to call them back (like I was ever HOME or anything) Usually this was our conversation:

Aunt Becky: “Hey, what up fool?”

My Friend: “What up, stinky-butt?”

Aunt Becky: “Whatcha doing?”

My Friend: “Nothing. Wanna hang out?”

Aunt Becky: “Sure! I’m doing XYZ – come join us.”

My Friend: “Only if we can go whip donuts at old people.*”

Aunt Becky: “Whaaa? Okay.”

Then we’d scamper off into the night, merrily pranking our way through life.

I proudly showed it to my mom one day. And by “proudly” I mean that I said, “hey, can you pull over? I gotta make a call.”

She shook her head as she pulled over and allowed me to make my very unimportant call. When I popped back into the car, she sighed deeply and said, “I don’t know why you do that.”

My mother, always oblique, confused me, so I waited for her to go on. I knew a rant was a-brewing.

“You’ve gotten this thing that connects you to the world – why the hell would you want that? Don’t you want times of your life where you’re unreachable?”

No, no I didn’t. And I told her as much.

She shook her head, “Someday, you may feel differently.”

I was pretty sure she was full of shit. Until recently. Recently, I’ve been kinda digging on the time I’m able to unplug. I’ve got just about every sort of social media outlet, just about every type of communication device you can think of – usually multiple accounts. Therein likes the beauty (read: rub) of being the founder of a site that staffs upwards of 100 volunteers (that would be The Band Back Together Project) – someone always needs me for something.

Generally it doesn’t bother me. I love what I do, I’m thrilled to do it, and I’m over-the-moon that I’ve found such an amazing group of people to work with. I know how blessed I am.

But damns, it hurts to say this.

(small voice) My mother was right.

(somewhere she’s rolling her eyes at me, feeling a smug sense of satisfaction)

There are times that I simply don’t want to be dealing with anything but whatever is directly in front of me.

The worst part? My mother was right BEFORE her time – BEFORE email became the standard method of communication. Before The Twitter expected that you reply to each! and! every! response!

Before the world became so fucking urgent.

Sometimes, it’s nice to stop and remember that life? It’s not always such Serious Business.

Sometimes – it’s worth it to stop and smell the tulips**.

*still don’t know what that means.

**I don’t think tulips smell. But DAMNS they’re pretty.

I’m not very good at relaxing. Those who know me best are sitting at their computers, nodding vehemently while (perhaps) shouting, “No shit, dumbass.” Even if I win at life*, I suck at relaxing.

When my life gets stressful, like it has been for the past few months, instead of doing the smart thing and taking a nice bath** or zoning out and watching some reruns of The Girls Next Door, I work. More. I take on more projects. I buy diseased plants from the nursery just to prove to myself that I can rehabilitate them. I add more pressure. When I feel that pressure? I add even more.

I actually DO own this orchid – and dozens more like it. They’re blooming right now. It’s gorgeous.

It’s a vicious cycle. It’s also how I get so much done.

Until I hit That Point. The point at which I realize I have so much on my plate that it’s going to smother me while I sleep like that pink goo from Ghostbusters II if I don’t watch out.

(I don’t imagine my pressure goo actually dances to that (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher song – I imagine my goo is into either thrash metal or Burt Bacharach or both)

It’s now the time of year in Chicago in which dead people vote, roads begin to get worked on, and everyone slithers out from their houses, all pasty, sluglike and squinting into the sun. We’ve not been outside unless it’s on the way to or from the car for the better part of four months, even after a winter as mild as the one we just had. We’re all a deathly shade of what I like to call, “Midwestern Pallor,” and we’ve, of course, forgotten how to be neighborly. After all, we’ve been hiding in our houses for months now – we’re just as likely to try to gnaw on our neighbors as we are to invite them for a BBQ. Our social skills have gone down the shitter.

But this weekend was one of the first genuinely nice weekends we’ve had in months that I didn’t feel like I was going to die from the flu or whatever. It was 80 degrees and sunny, though the chance for thunderstorms loomed large, they didn’t happen until nightfall.

I strapped on my ugly gauchos and an ill-fitting tank-top, noting my particular pallor was even more pronounced than normal, as I prepared to Tackle The Garden. If you’re read my blog before you will know two, maybe three things:

1) I love to garden. I also love hotdogs, the color blue, and Tom Jones.

B) The people who first owned the house went all bush-wild and added a fuckton of professionally landscaped – yet hideously fug 70’s style bushes. No, not vaginas. Although everything WAS a bush back then. The people who I bought the house from had let it all go to shit, so I’ve spent the better part of two kids and four years trying to hack the garden into submission.

3) I consider proper punctuation bullshit.

For the better part of two days, The Guy on my Couch and I tackled the garden. Mulching, seeding the lawn, bagging up refuse, watering, pulling weeds, training roses (sadly, not to shake or speak).

It was the best, most stress-relieving thing I’ve done in months. I’m reminded again of how much I need balance in my life. How much I need to stop, smell (or spray) the roses. How much better I feel after a good solid day’s worth of solid hard labor. How I need to remember that not everything is such! serious! business!

How I need to stop pushing and learn to breathe.

Just breathe.

*I don’t.

**No, I’m not 800 years old, I just know the value of a good bath. Oh shut your whore mouth :)

I’ve been waiting nearly eleven years for this moment. Eleven long, painful, humiliating years.

Ever since the doctor said, “you have a fourth degree tear,” in the delivery room as my firstborn son screamed and howled indignantly in the bassinet while I screamed and howled in the bed as the doctor began the slow and painful process of patching up my poor battered vagina.

(hear that? It’s the sound of my male readership quickly clicking away)

(it’s safe to come back now, guys, no more vagina talk)

My vagina healed* and my child, well, he continued to howl indignantly. Days and nights I spent bouncing, rocking, driving, singing, crying, all to no avail. Born with his days and nights mixed up, I spent a good 2 months up all night AND all day, so bleary and sleep-deprived that I walked into MORE walls than normal. I began to believe that my bed was a shimmering mirage, a figment of my addled imagination.

During those long days and nights, I fantasized about the ways I’d pay the kid back. Naked baby pictures festively on display in our hallway so I could show his one-day girlfriends (or boyfriends). Wedding speeches about how he used to poo in the tub and throw it out. Ways I could torture him when he decided – as all kids do – that I was the most annoying person in the world because OMG MOM, DO YOU HAVE TO BREATHE LIKE THAT?

We’ve finally hit the point in which everything from the way I chew to the way I walk is cause for embarrassment. HOW DARE YOU WALK LIKE THAT, MOM? YOU BRING SHAME UPON OUR HOUSE.

It’s pretty awesome – the kid has NO idea who he’s messing with. I’m not hurt or angry, no, I’m just ready to enact my revenge upon him. I mean, who takes issue with the way someone swallows?*

Yesterday, as I was scouring the Internet for the best (worst) picture of Lil Wayne, I got a phone call from his school. My heart sunk. We’ve got Plague House going on right now and the very last thing I feel like doing is managing ANOTHER sick person.

It was the secretary:

“Hi Miss Harks, I just spoke to the lunch lady.”

My heart thudded in my chest – what had the kid done? I LOVE the lunch ladies more than I love Equal, Orange Hostess Cuppy Cakes and my roses put together.

“And he’s got a balance on his school meals card that needs to be paid before we can feed him.”

Oh really? Way to tell me, kiddo.

“So if you want to drop off a check in the next 45 minutes, that would be great.”

I agreed to swing by, knowing that my kid would have a meltdown of the nuclear variety if he had to eat a cheese sandwich rather than whatever delicious hot-lunch items were offered. (I’ve tried to inform him that there are starving people in Africa who’d LOVE his cheese sandwich, but he just rolls his eyes at me. I think I may use the Sarah McLauchlan commercial to really drive the point home that his life? Not really so bad.)

I’m weeping just THINKING about it.

After I agreed to drop some cash off for the kid, I got ready to go. Before I walked out the door, I looked down at what I was wearing – black stretchy gauchos, ugly sweater slippers, and my pink Shut Your Whore Mouth (that’s a link to the shirts if you want one because obviously you do) shirt.

Did I dare?

Was it time?

Was THIS the moment I’d been waiting for?

Was I ready to enact my revenge upon the kid by showing up at school dressed like a schizophrenic off her meds?

Oh, it was tempting all right. I very nearly did.

But I remembered what it was like to be a kid and how annoying your parents are and how much worse I could make things if I showed up like that and made a grand show of kissing my kid on the cheek. So I changed into a boring blue shirt and jeans – the sweater boots stayed.

Besides, I’m waiting for the day that I actually own bunny slippers and can manage to put rollers in my hair. These teen years are going to be AWESOME.

*except that. Oops.

*my kid


Also: you should go comment here on my post. Why? Because obviously.

Also also: you can read me here. The comments are breathtakingly horrible. Just – FYI.

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