Out of Focus and Back

After failing so miserably at being Nurse Becky and every other “career” I’ve tried, I’ve been so fortunate to have found something that I really, truly loved to do. When I discovered that I could write, it was like suddenly learning I could breathe underwater.

I wrote stories not because I wanted to, or felt obligated to, but because I had to. Those words were locked inside my brain, just itching to get out, and I could hardly wait to get in front of my computer to type some more. On the rare occasion I couldn’t manage to string them together into sentences, flowing into paragraphs, forming entire posts, I wrote them in my head.

I had finally found my calling. After years of being certain I was an utter failure, I’d found what I was supposed to do.

The next logical progression was, of course, to turn all of these essays into a collection of essays. Only it didn’t happen easily. I expected that. If it had happened when I began, I’m entirely certain that it wouldn’t have worked out for one reason or another.

But as the months turned into years, I began to doubt myself. Was this really what I was supposed to be doing? Was living my life on The Internet enough for me? Did it really matter if I ever turned those books of essays into something more than semi-completed drafts?

I simply didn’t know anymore.

Rather than dwell, I busied myself living my life on The Internet. I founded Mushroom Printing in July of last year and Band Back Together in September. I wrote columns for other sites. I signed up to go to conferences like Type A Mom and BlogHer. I got better at The Twitter. I decided to wage war against Mark Zuckerberg and The Facebook. I decided to take Band Back Together and turn it into a non-profit. I made business cards. Sold ads.

And all that time, in the back of my head, that feeling of Failure at Books, with a Big Fat F, sat there, silently mocking me.

Things which, at the time I mention it, seem ridiculous to everyone around me, have always been spectacularly in focus to me. I know what I am supposed to do next because I just know. I don’t need the approval of a soul, I don’t worry about risks or being mocked, because I know I am right. In the end, I have always been proved to have been right.

I am excellent, it seems, at seeing things clearly.

Except when I cannot. Which is how I’ve felt about my books. They’ve felt out of focus for so long that the self-doubt has crept in around the corners, making me question myself. I hate to question myself more than I hate John C. Mayer.

But perhaps you all are right. Perhaps it is time to write – really write – them. If the publishing industry doesn’t want me, well, that’s their loss. If The Man wants to keep me down*, well fuck him.

Believing in myself – knowing my Pranksters have my back – maybe that’s enough to put things back into focus again.

As always, Pranksters, I owe you a debt of gratitude I can never repay.

It’s time, I think, to write the shit out of my books. Unless you have any better suggestions.

*a joke**

**sorta

When “Vintage” Means “You’re An Idiot.”

I’m getting a new central air conditioner today. It’s been dying a slow and painful death since Alex was a wee babe and we’ve put it off because, well, it hadn’t entirely bit the bucket. The guy came to install it and was all, “Holy shit, I can’t believe they hooked it up like this. It could have blown up.”

“Holy shit, I can’t believe XXX” is about what I think when I think back to our old first floor bathroom, so I think he and I are going to get along fabulously.

three-wallpaper-bathroom

(yes, yes that’s right, Pranksters. That IS three types of wallpaper in that tiny room. And, why yes! How astute of you to notice that it’s GLUED TO THE FUCKING DRYWALL. GOD, that was a bitch to get off.)

Anyway. I couldn’t be happier to have this installed, even though it’s costing me a couple of G’s.

As I told The Daver this morning, “Hey, it beats the condo.” He laughed knowingly.

Back when I didn’t know better, The Daver and I bought a three bedroom condo in Oak Park. It was a beautiful red brick building, right on the edge of an “up-and-coming neighborhood.” (in this case, “up-and-coming” means “on the edge of the ghetto”)

Our condo was a charming thing, all tall ceilings and dark wood floors. Very beautiful.

Until we moved in.

It was only then when I realized what “vintage” really meant. It meant, “you’re a fucking sucker.”

We had a radiator in the basement, one that heated all of the units, and, well, it was on when it was on and when it wasn’t on, it was still on. Our condo was right below it, so during the winter, it wasn’t uncommon to see me walking around in a tank top and shorts.

We’d gone to a Condo Board Meeting to learn that our poor radiator was on it’s last legs…and there were no funds from our condo dues to pay for it. It cost something like ten billion dollars.

We’d just shelled out five grand for a new back porch.

Great.

And the lead-paint covered windows that may as well have been screens for all the air they kept out? Well, if we wanted to replace those, they were a thousand dollars.

Each.

A thousand dollars.

Each.

We had something like ten windows. Ten grand (plus installation!) for windows. Windows NOT made of solid gold.

See, we needed to get specialty windows – replicas of the original – to match building code.

(fuck you, vintage)

When we added fans (and learned about the faulty wiring that may have killed us in a fiery blaze, had we not gone up and fixed it) in our condo in the summer because it was 8000000 degrees and window AC units don’t work so well when the windows allow hot air to pour in? Well, we were in trouble with the condo board for not using their electrician.

I have never been happier to move back to the land of the pre-fab.

At least now, when our AC unit craps out on us, I can buy a FLOOR MODEL and have it installed. It’s not specially carved by small children in Zimbabwe to match my house. It’s just an AC unit.

And when I decide to recarpet my house, it will be regular carpet, not carpet hand-crafted on the backs of seventeen vestal virgins.

Which is fortunate. I don’t even know what a vestal virgin is.

I Am The Face of PTSD

When my mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it was a big secret. Not to me, of course, but to the insurance companies. I remember how she had to hide her treatments, her hospitalizations and her actual diagnosis from going “on record” so as to avoid being labeled as “A Crazy.”

I’m not sure anyone outside of our immediate family knew about her illness.

By the time I was in high school, depression wasn’t something that people expected you to be locked in a padded room for. Hats of to Prozac!

I’ve dealt with generic, boring-ass depression on and off for years; sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s worse, and I’ve spoken out repeatedly about how I suffered terrible antenatal depression (depression while pregnant).

Antenatal depression is not quite as well-known as postpartum depression – probably because it’s even less glamorous. I mean, who can be depressed while creating a new life INSIDE you? A new life that’s using your liver as a punching bag, giving you insomnia and causing you to pee your pants when you waddle? Not a GOOD mother.

(that was sarcasm)

When my last child, Amelia, was born in a decidedly non-picturesque freakshow carnival that ended with someone drilling into her brain, removing part of it, and then implanting a prosthetic piece of skull into her delicious wee newborn head, that things went from manageable to so beyond anything I could handle.

But she was fine! I berated myself, night after night, as I relived those horrible awful first days in a series of flashbacks.

I was forever delivering that sick baby, having her ripped from my arms and sent off for neurosurgery. I was forever offering her up like Abraham sacrificing Issac, stuck between two horrifying alternatives. In what few dreams I had, I roamed the halls of the hospital, everything stuck in freeze-frame.

Why, I chastised myself, if she had survived, was I in such a state? I couldn’t answer that.

For months following her birth and surgery, I couldn’t leave the house. My beloved roses wilted from lack of care that summer because I simply couldn’t handle even that – a task which had brought me so much joy. I couldn’t do anything. I was mired in one place. Numb. Alone.

Those were the worst days of my life.

It wasn’t for many months that it smacked me upside the head: I had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I wrestled with the realization.

Well, I said to myself, Aunt Becky, that sounds dumb. Fucking man-up here. Get your bitch ass off the couch and fucking do something about it. You’re not a soldier. And sweet baby Jesus, your kid survived! How dare you be so fucking whiny-pants about it?

It took a long time for me to accept that I was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Acceptance, they say, is always the hardest part. But I finally did.

And here’s what I have to say to you, in honor of National Mental Health Month:

Having PTSD is not my fault. It’s not something I need to be ashamed of. It’s not a character flaw. It’s not a plea for sympathy. It’s not something I’m all, “would you like any cheese with that whine?” about. It’s something that is.

I am NOT ashamed to have a mental illness.

My name is Becky Sherrick Harks and I am the face of PTSD.

I-am-the-face-of-ptsd

On Band Back Together, we spend countless hours working to reduce stigmas by bringing the world stories – real stories written by real people – about mental illness, child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse and all of the other dark places in our lives.

That is what we proudly do.

We’re celebrating National Mental Health Month by doing a stigma-busting blog carnival. We’re telling the world exactly who we are. We’re breaking down stigmas and kicking ass. Mental illness isn’t a death sentence.

Mental illness is a part of who we are. There’s no shame in being who we are. We should celebrate our flaws, embrace our differences and accept them.

It’s time to put a face to as many mental illnesses as we can.

Because stigmas? Stigmas are bullshit.

Please, I beg you Pranksters, help me kick stigmas squarely in the balls (or taco).

You can join us by posting on your own blog and linking up to Band Back Together (that’s the master link-up post) or you can write about it on Band Back Together. (Or both) Time to break down stigmas.

I am proud to be the face of PTSD.

Fuck stigmas.

Be A Model….Or Just Look Like One!

When I was a wee Aunt Becky, there were many things I’d desperately pleaded, begged and bargained for in the hopes that my slightly boring parents might pull through.

When the EZ Bake Oven came out, I wanted one so badly I could almost taste the tiny, yet delicious cakes I’d create all by myself! My parents, being the dull-as-toast sort, informed me that I could, at any time, use the REGULAR oven, therefore I did NOT require an EZ Bake Oven of my own. Of course, I was never actually allowed to use the oven to make cakes or anything else for that matter. With my propensity for bizarre injuries, who can blame them?

Another time, I begged for a bunny rabbit, only to have to sit through a lecture (complete with pictures) about how our dogs would kill my bunny. They weren’t wrong, but I could have done without the the graphic images of dead bunnies forever seared into my brain.

Although my parents had plenty of money, I never managed to convince them to buy tasty and delicious movie popcorn, either. They’d claim it was too expensive; too fattening. Instead, we’d bring our own refreshments into the theater, stuffed handily into my mother’s huge purse. I’d munch on boring tasteless air-popped popcorn while the smells of fake butter intoxicated, taunted me.

My requests for a pony on roller skates and a wee sub-machine gun for my hamster were flat-out denied.

When the new mall opened up in my hometown, I noticed they had an fabulous place unlike anything I’ve ever seen; a place where I could wear a classy boa or rhinestone cowboy hat. A place where I could get fancy portraits done. This place even boasted Soap Opera Mood Lighting.

Glamor Shots.

Swoon!

Even the NAME had “glamor” in it. I was hooked. I wanted MY portraits done. My parents are sleek oak, teak, and fine china people, and even then, I knew that bedazzling anything made it classier.

I begged. I pleaded. I wrote page after page of letters to my parents, outlining all of the reasons I should be allowed to have my Glamor Shots done. “Why don’t you have me take portraits?” my father asked. “Have your father take your picture,” my mother said. Considering that I had 8 million pictures taken of me by my father – not a single one including pancake makeup or anything bedazzled – that was not what I had in mind.

Shortly after, Glamor Shots closed. I’d still see the portraits around; my friends got THEIR portraits done because their parents weren’t dull as beige paint, but eventually, I gave up. I thought the chain had gone out of business.

When I found Glamor Shots on The Twitter a couple of months ago, it was as though the heavens opened up and smiled down upon me. I could still be a model…or just look like one! All this time, I’d thought the chain had gone under, donating their extensive boa collection to the drag clubs in the city. And yet, THERE THEY WERE. OH HAPPY DAY.

Quickly, I followed Glamor Shots and PRAISE BE, Glamor Shots followed me back.

Visions of Soap Opera Portraits swirled in my head now that I had a new-found friend on The Twitter.

Glamor Shots just unfollowed me on The Twitter.

My heart shattered into a million tiny pieces. How could the very chain that I’d so badly wanted my Glamorous Soap Opera Portraits from UNFOLLOW me?

Generally, when people unfollow me on The Twitter, I ignore it.

(pointless aside: Nothing makes me quite as stabby as when someone thinks they’re “calling me out” on The Twitter. Like this one time after I tweeted about Alex calling SNOMG a “wizard,” I made a remark about liking the phrase, “The Undertoad.” No less than twenty people got all high-and-mighty because, “The Undertoad,” is a phrase from a book called ‘The World According To Garp’ and I had the audacity to tweet about The Undertoad without mentioning that it wasn’t my phrase. Um. Okay.)

The Twitter can be a little weird. I mean, I just splat out whatever’s in my head (which is kinda scary) in 140-characters (or less). Twitter = a microblog.

Like this:

gift-for-four-year-old-boy

gifts-for-four-year-old-boy

mutant-fish-chicago-river

blog-spam

I’ll give you that some of my tweets can be marginally offensive but so am I. I’ve ALWAYS been marginally offensive. This is nothing new. And being marginally offensive does NOT cancel out my desire to have a Sparkly Boa Mood Lighting Soap Opera Portrait done. Why would they smite me like that, Pranksters? How could Glamor Shots DO this to me?

All I wanted was to look like THIS guy for a day:

unicorn-glamor-shot

Sighs.

Maybe it’s time to track down Barbizon. There I can be a model…or just look like one.

————-

So dish, Pranksters. Does anyone else get their feelers hurt when they’re unfollowed on The Twitter? What DOES hurt your feelers?

The Way We Were

The Realtor described my basement as an “in-law arrangement.” It baffled me when I saw it because it was two finished rooms, a wet bar, and a bathroom complete with whirlpool bathtub.

It wasn’t until I saw the room with the washing machine and dryer (no carpeting or prettying up here, folks) that I got what she meant: a Dungeon. I could totally chain up rogue parents who wanted to move in against the walls, throw leftover chicken bones down the laundry chute and hell, there was even a (laundry) sink for water!

I crossed off “in-law arrangement” and wrote in “Awesome Dungeon” on the glossy brochure.

We made an offer the next day.

For quite awhile, The Dungeon was empty. We’d moved from a three-bedroom condo with no storage to a three-floor house with all kinds of storage, and at the time, there were only three of us. The amount of space felt gratuitous.

Eventually, I bought shelving and Rubbermaid bins, carefully sorted our stuff (I am, after all, my father’s daughter), labeled them with a Sharpie (I heart Sharpies) and stowed them on the shelves.

Then, well, life exploded.

The Dungeon turned into The Room Where We Shove Crap We Don’t Know What Else To Do With (Bonus! Sorted Shelved Stuffs).

My coveted fiber-optic Christmas tree? Plop it there. Alex’s Halloweenier Costume? Eh, put it in The Dungeon. That Ugly Mirror I Bought But Never Hung Because It’s So Fug? Put ‘er down there. Deal later. The picture of the majestic jaguar that appeared out of nowhere and is too bizarre for even me to hang? Leave there; give to Dave’s Mom.

Cleaning The Dungeon is something I’ve wanted to take care of for a long time, and this weekend, after a long, anguished fight with The Daver, I saw no better time to begin. Some people eat their emotions, some drink them, others escape through television and movies. Me? I strap on my Super Becky Overachiever cape. I purge, I organize, and I clean. It helps organize my brain and process these weird things that you people call ‘feelings.’

(feelings are bullshit)

I started in the middle of the room; tossing what we didn’t need, storing what we did, and donating anything salvageable. Within a couple of hours, I’d cleared a path to the shelves. Even with my careful labels, I no longer knew what they really contained.

I hauled out a large unlabeled blue bin and popped it open.

Freeze-frame.

The box was full of craft supplies.

We all know that I’m as crafty as a blind woodchuck, but those supplies hadn’t been for me. Shit, I’d sooner gnaw off my fingers than craft something.

Standing in that basement, it was as though time had been frozen inside that box.

I’d birthed a baby boy, Benjamin, in August of 2001. In November, I’d gone back to work slinging pizza and beer. I enrolled in nursing school full-time in December. I worked weekends, cramming organic chemistry compounds into my brain between tables. Weekdays were spent in school, weeknights I studied. 7 days a week, no summers off, no rest for the wickedly weary.

My three-year old son watched me march across that stage as I graduated at the top of my nursing school class. I’d so wanted to do right by him. Benjamin, son of my right side, named that, hoping he’d pick up the very best bits of me. My right sides.

Ben and I moved into the condo in Oak Park post-graduation. I’d taken time off before the national nursing board exams, anxiously excited about being a Mom – a real one – for the first time.

I’d neglected to remember one thing. One very important thing.

All of those years I frantically ran around, trying to do right by him, I’d ignored it; reassured myself it would be okay, “when we were a real family.”

My son, Benjamin is autistic. Autistic kids are like Siamese Cats. They choose Their Person (or people) and That’s It. The rest of the world can rot in fucking hell so long as Their Person is near.

I was not his person.

Never have been. Not at birth, not after birth, not ever. We mostly got along but I was most assuredly Not His Person.

His Person was my mother, who now lived 45 minutes away. Dave was Another Person, but Dave also worked long hours, frequently not home until bedtime. Even when home, there was always more work.

Just me and my son. All those years I’d spent longing to be a real family, to feel like a mother, to be with my son…he hated it.

Rejection seeped in.

I went to bed alone each night. Dave working in the office; Ben fast asleep under the mural of The Planets we’d painstakingly painted, emptiness creeping inside me. “Tomorrow, it will get better,” I’d try and reassure myself, denying the sadness sitting on my chest, making it hard to breathe. “This is what you wanted. How can you be sad?”

Each night, the emptiness looming, I reassured myself with something else; another bright side.

When my friends complained about my son’s eating habits, my inability to “go out and party,” and how obnoxious my kid could be, I wrote it off. They were single and had no kids. I never allowed myself to feel hurt by that…or anything else.

When it was clear that Dave’s job was his wife, well, “he was doing what he had to to support his family. Look at the economy! This is what you wanted!”

My son watched a documentary about the Planets and my husband worked constantly. I’d gone from feeling purposeful to puttering about the condo; a shell of my former self, in a few short weeks.

I tried to fill my days. I swept the floors twice daily, washed them at least once. I washed and rewashed dishes. I scrubbed the bathroom tile with a toothbrush. Anything to stave off the loneliness.

Halloween-time, I thought maybe Ben and I could find some common ground: crafts! Off to the craft store, we went, where I bought a fuckton of crafty shit: paper, glue, crayons, scissors, glitter, stuff I’d have gone apeshit for as a kid. Ben was too busy organizing the shelf to notice. Oh well.

Panting and sweaty, I lugged our booty up to the third floor and spread it out on the dining room table. We were going to make MOTHERFUCKING PUMPKINS.

Except Ben had turned his Planets movie and was entirely uninterested in making MOTHERFUCKING PUMPKINS with me. I paused the movie. He wept for Grandma. That rejection finally opened a deep chasm of emptiness inside me.

Halfheartedly, I led him to our Craft Project.

Big, fake, cheerful smile on my face, I painted my MOTHERFUCKING PUMPKIN orange. Ben sat there, weeping for my mother. Smiling so hard that it hurt, I painted his pumpkin, too. He sobbed. I sent him back to the movie.

Then, I sat back down in front of the stupid pile of art supplies, buried my head in my hands, and I started to cry, too. Not the delicate kind of Soap Opera Cry, but the desperate, hurt, miserable cry that emanates from your bones.

I shoved the craft crap into that blue bin where it sat untouched for many years.

A perfectly captured freeze-frame of the way things were.

I held the tube of orange paint and overhead, I heard my three children thundering about, their footfalls booming as they happily chased each other. Their laughter echoing around the house; overcome with joy. I smiled as I repacked the paint, saving it for a cooped-up “I’m BOOOORED” day.

As I closed the lid, I marveled at the way we once were.

And the way we now are.

college-graduation-aunt-becky

The way we were.

ben-makes-a-pumpkin

The way we are.

I Really Need To Stop Referring To Myself As “Sasquatch”

I almost felt sorry for my neurologist. He’s a big hulking man, probably 6 foot 5; looks like he just stepped off a Spaghetti Western, and he’s full of the awesome. I’d just informed him that, “the headaches are back and they’re worse then ever.”

This proclamation looked like it might make him weep. Lord knows I’d given up crying about my migraines (makes ’em worse), but to see him so visibly upset, well, now I wanted to be all, “GIMMIE A HUG!

Except that would be kinda weird. Also: creepy. Instead, I looked at my hands.

Eventually, after much hand-wringing and sighing (from him), he suggested a new treatment regime. I’ve been taking The Max (Topamax) daily for a year and a half and had a various arsenal of other things to take “if” (pithy aside: ha!) I got a Breakthrough Migraine. I’d gone up to 200 mg/day, which, he had warned me at the time, had some side effects. Like “cognitive impairment.”

That’s a fancy way saying I got stupider. If you’ve had chronic migraines, you’ll do just about anything to get rid of them, so being a little dumb? Eh, I figured, how bad is that?

Turns out, it’s kind of a bitch.

Sure, I bought a notebook and learned to make lists, which works to some degree, but being acutely aware of losing my short-term memory? It’s discouraging.

Back when Daver was my boyfriend, he had this ridiculous friend who was in Teaching School. One night, stuck hanging out with her, she gave out her email: aphasia@….com. I asked if she had any idea what “aphasia” was. Yes, she replied, but it’s such a pretty word!!

I nearly smacked her.

Aphasia, for those of you unaware, is an acquired language disorder in which there is an inability to speak, comprehend what others say or understand the written word.

Aphasia is the loss of words. It’s not funny, it’s not cute, and even then, I was mildly offended (which is saying a lot, especially considering my AIM account was/is stinkybutt234)

Aphasia is a commonish side effect for Topamax. Higher dose, higher chance.

Trust me, when you’re asked “where something is?” (which, in my house, is every other minute) and you cannot pluck the words from your mind and string them together properly and worse, you know it, after awhile, it gets old. I’ve been tired of feeling that foggy Topamax brain, but so long as it was keeping the migraines at bay, I was willing to live with it.

I’m going off The Max.

I’m trying Depakote, which has, of course, new and improved side effects that can potentially kill me. “Hair changes are common,” he said, as he wrote out the script. “Hair changes?” I said dubiously. With my thyroid sipping Mai Tai’s with all of your MIA organs, my hair is already unhappy.

my-missing-thyroid

Worthless, lazy thyroid.

“Yes,” he went on. “Your hair can become brittle, fall out, or become very curly.”

He also listed some side effects about bone marrow and liver failure but I wasn’t listening because, well, OBVIOUSLY. HAIR.

you-shut-your-whore-mouth-shirt

If that’s me now, in my not-at-all-inappropriate and totally stylish Shut Your Whore Mouth shirt.

What would I look like bald and/or turned curly?

My mine wandered as he talked about “birth defects” and “blood work.”

Would I look like this?

whore-mouth-shirts

I mean, Amelia’s curls came from somewhere…

aunt-becky-as-a-baby

(that’s an ORCHID in my hair, yo)

The likelihood of curls returning is high.

He didn’t say anything about OTHER hair growth, though. But now I’m wondering if I’m about to become Sasquatch.

whore-mouth-shirts

Pretty much, I’m going to be the sexiest ever.

Wanna make out?

While I was waiting for my script to be filled, I wandered over to the AS SEEN ON TV section of the pharmacy. If I haven’t already expressed this to you, I’m telling you now: I love a good infomercial like I love air and Junior Mints.

It was there that I saw something so wondrous, so amazing, so inspiring that I nearly wept.

The iRenew Energy Band Bracelet thingy.

iRenew-energy-bracelet

LOOK, Pranksters! It could RESTORE my ENERGY (read: my hair) and help me restore BALANCE. Since I busted my lip eating a waffle the other day, I figure that’s a BONUS. It even had a snappy logo. I love snappy logos.

irenew-lame-asses

And look! They’re so…harmonious! I mean, I bet if I got one of those bracelets, I, too, could do a fish-eyed vapid, yet-oh-so-meaningful stare off into the distance with Dexter, looking toward my future. My future with HAIR.

irenew-old-balls

And woah, look at that Old Balls playing VOLLEYBALL. Pranksters, I’ve never played volleyball, but you know what? MAYBE ME AND MY LUSCIOUS HEAD OF HAIR WOULD…if I bought the iRenew bracelet.

I just knew that this was the Answer To My Prayers.

Until I saw it was $20. Then I realized it was Bullshit and bought some Old People Multivitamins instead.

Seemed wiser.

But man, that As Seen on TV Magic Gravity Ball has my NAME ALL OVER IT.

————-

I’m running a contest on Band Back Together to win another (yay!) shirt. A little later, I’ll be over there trolling for new shirt idears. Just have to write up a quickie post about it, yo. I have a couple in mind and I’d love your input.

 

Reminders Of What Never Was.

In order for me to Get Less Anxious, I’ve been doing a lot of purging. Getting rid of what’s not important. There’s a lot of noise and crap (literal and figurative) out there and if you’re not careful, it can take over your life.

This week, I braved the Salvation Army drop center, where I swear to you, Pranksters, they judge my stuff before begrudgingly giving me a tax receipt. I did end up holding onto a few things. Maybe I will hold an Internet Garage Sale to raise some money to try and turn Band Back Together into a Non-Profit (I’m guessing it takes more than just batting my eyelashes and swinging the word “bullshit” around).

I came across something in my garage, buried under the piles of stuff to be donated; something I’ve never quite known what to do with.

elmhurst-college-nursing-school

Let me back up a second.

In 2002, a freshly single mother living at home with my parents, I’d realized that I needed to figure out What Next. Since toddlerhood, I’d planned to be a diamond-encrusted, world-saving doctor. Newborn on my hip, I realized this was probably going to have to be put on hold until said infant got a little, well, bigger.

Half a degree in bio/chem meant that I could handily enroll in nursing school, which was, at the very least on a similar plan, and wouldn’t make med school too far a distant chipmunk on the horizon.

So I did.

The first year, I spent doing the typical freshman pre-reqs, falling in with a motley crew as I commuted by train to the closest school that I could get my bachelor’s degree in nursing. I earned the nickname Super Becky Overachiever, acing all the exams (a degree in bio/chem is far more rigorous), becoming a TA for inorganic, organic and biochem as well as picking up some tutoring gigs for Anatomy and Physiology I and II.

Sweet ASS, I thought, as I patted myself on the back. I loved being busy, feeling useful, and doing something with myself back then just as I do now.

The first year of nursing school dawned and I parted ways with my homies from my pre-req days. They had another year before nursing school, so I’d be meeting a whole new set of people. No bother, I figured. I tended to get along with just about everyone.

When I walked in that first day, thirty pairs of eyes glared at me. To this day, I don’t know why I was met with so much hostility, but there it was, and there I was. I slurped my coffee, smiled a big ole fake smile, walked to the back of the class and took a seat.

The instructors bounded in applauding, “AREN’T YOU JUST SO HAPPY TO BE HERE?”

No, no I was not. In fact, this was not at all where I wanted to be, but I grinned uneasily as I looked around at my classmates; the ones I’d be stuck with for the next two years of my life.

Everyone else beamed, nodded, and started applauding back.

Okay then.

I tried to make nice. Really, I did. As a (former) waitress, I can bullshit with the best of them, but man, these people, I couldn’t crack ’em. For the next four (four!) hours, I sat there, alone in the back row, listening to a discussion about wiping butts, properly changing sheets, and bedpans. Each point the instructor made, punctuated by a question or comment from my classmate about something inane.

“One time, my grandma had the bed made wrong at the hospital.”

“I like cheese.”

“Our bedpans at the hospital I work at look different.”

Four hours a week of this, four days a week.

I walked back to the train, alone, and I wept. Not the kind of cry that leaves tears dribbling out of the corners of your eyes, oh no. I sobbed. I sobbed so hard that cars passing by stopped and asked if I was okay. No. But I would be.

My heart was broken.

I did what I always do: I made the best of it. I befriended the other outcasts. I zoomed to the top of my class, got invited into the prestigious nursing honor society, while slouching in the back, playing Bejeweled on my phone. Every time I got discouraged, I reminded myself that this was temporary.

I developed an incredible respect for nurses. Still have it.

Nurses = awesome.

I wouldn’t be where I am without where I’ve been or what I learned.

A couple of weeks before graduation, there’s a big thing for nurses called a “Pinning Ceremony.” It has nothing, I learned, to do with wrestling or sex. First, you get your picture taken, something I didn’t want to have done (I’m a rebel like that, and really, who the hell wants a snapshot of a twenty-five year old?), but my friends all insisted.

nursing-school-picture

I love the surly face.

Anyway, there’s a big ceremony, a bunch of yapping, and we get pins.

totally-retouched-nursing-school-picture

That’s a nursing school pin. (also, like my retouching job?)

The night of the pinning ceremony, it was unveiled that some of the class had made each of us a gift from money leftover from something or another.

I don’t remember precisely what the ceremony involved, only that I spent most of it thinking about a) how hungry I was and b) listing the periodic table of elements (Hydrogen, Helium...) in my head. I probably played Bejeweled on my phone. Afterward, I went to the alter to collect my gift, the flowerpot I still own.

As I was looking for my name-flower pot (what the fuck was I going to do with that?) two nearly identical very short, very round woman with matching tight perms and haircuts so short they like tattoos waddled angrily up to me.

One of them shook their finger accusingly in my face: “WHERE IS NADIA’S?”

“Huh?” I replied. Nadia was a classmate who, well past the normal age of the graduating class, spent most of her time bitterly gossiping with her friend Melissa about everyone else. She especially hated me because, knowing I didn’t want to be a nurse – her life’s ambition – and beating her test scores seemed to mean that I was an asshole. (I am an asshole, but not for that)

“EVERYONE ELSE HAS A FLOWERPOT. WHERE IS NADIA’S?” the woman spat at me. Clearly, sparkling personality ran in the family.

I shrugged. I hadn’t been in charge of the flowerpots. Didn’t care about Nadia or her flowerpot. She could have mine if it meant so much to her.

The two woman stood there, on the alter of a church, no less, firing insults and complaints at me. I walked away.

It was a perfect end, really.

pinning-ceremony-nursing-school

I graduated some variation of cum laude and ended my illustrious career as a hospice case manager (nurse) at the age of twenty-six. I’d been a nurse for under a year. Longer than I’d expected.

college-graduation-aunt-becky

And now I have this completely useless flowerpot in my garage. Generally, I hate useless things. But I feel as though I should want to keep it. Or smash the shit out of it. Or something. Yet, I don’t. Which is why I’ve held onto it for so long. I just don’t quite know what to do with it, so I do nothing. It sits there, quietly haunting me, reminding me gently of where I’ve come from.

Maybe, just maybe, that’s a good thing.

Anxious

It dawns on me as I sit there, my left butt-cheek falling asleep, that I could be somewhere else eating a bagel. Like Paris. Or Detroit. Or learning the Swahili phrase for “pants are bullshit.” Or washing my car. Okay, maybe not washing my car. It was like -900 degrees out. Washing my car would be like that scene in the Terminator with the Nitrous Oxide and the robot.

I smile, imagining my car shattering in the car wash, until I remember I’m probably sitting on barf germs. I hate barf germs.

My iPhone isn’t getting any signal in here. Stupid AT&T. Should be named the iCAN’TPhone because I haven’t been able to make a phone call since I got the damn thing. Hm. I really could use some mindless interaction from The Twitter right about now. Or maybe a Vicodin-Chip cookie. Or some vodka. Because my heart feels like it’s going to pound right the fuck out of my chest.

When the hell did this HAPPEN?

When did I start feeling stretched as taut as an over-tuned violin string? Why did I feel like the pressure to do more; to be more, to constantly outdo myself was omnipresent? Like I couldn’t ever possibly manage to live up to my own unrealistic expectations? Like I had to somehow be everything to everyone. Like if I didn’t constantly prove myself, I would cease to matter. I would cease to exist.

When did this start? And moreover: how could I make this stop?

These anxious racing thoughts; this anxiety, this had to stop.

Admitting that I had a problem the first step, I know from Al-Anon, and doing something about it was important. Hence the bagel-craving and the barf-germ-coated chair in my doctor’s waiting room. And, of course, the urge to flee so that I could learn Portuguese or Mandarin or really anything but admit that I had a problem.

I’m so tired of problems. I’m so tired of having something wrong that I barely want to admit to myself that I have a problem. Between migraines and my lazy-ass missing-in-action thyroid and insomnia, I can hardly stand to be in the same room with myself anymore without wanting to punch myself in the teeth. Problems are bullshit. I hate problems. Maybe I can make a “Problems Are Bullshit” shirt. Because they are. Bullshit, that is.

Maybe this isn’t ACTUALLY a problem. Maybe I can just ignore it and it’ll get better on it’s own.

Except it hasn’t. Because that’s what I’ve been doing. And it’s not working. Clearly.

Before I could do anything, though, the nurse poked her head into the waiting room, “Becky?” she trilled calmly, clearly unaware of my churny guts.

I sighed, put my iDON’TWORKPhone back into my purse and followed her back.

“What seems to be the problem?” she asked kindly.

“Well,” I started, looking at my hands, ashamed to be admitting this to anyone but the people who live inside my computer. “It’s sorta like this…”

Movies About Corn Dogs I Would Actually Watch

My love of encased meats is the stuff that legends, dreams and the occasional nightmare are made of. Hot dogs (and diamonds) are probably the quickest way to my heart. They’re probably part of my heart by now, if you want to be technical about LDL’s and triglycerides and stuff, which I’d rather gloss over, thankyouverymuch, because that would prevent me from thoroughly enjoying my encased tube of lips and buttholes.

In my spam folder, nestled firmly between several notifications of “I NEED YOUR URGENT ASSISTANCE” and “You won 750,000 in Premiere Oil Lottery,” I got a gem of a PR pitch.

I don’t, as you can imagine, get a whole lot of PR pitches. I swear and even though I’m pretty sure the *hums* Winds of Change are blowing through the advertising world and I’d bet we’re going to see a lot of changes in the world of marketing and advertising on actual blogs (not just the ones that are saccharine sweet), we’re not there yet.

(I’d asked on The Twitter a couple weeks back if I should write about “Crappy Ex-Boyfriends” or “Making Money Blogging” and people responded, of course, to “crappy ex-boyfriend” not seeing the obvious joke I was making)(speaking of that, I need to choose a winner in the Shut Your Whore Mouth Shirt contest)(tomorrow, I’ll announce it)

So I don’t get a lot of PR pitches which is just as well. I’d rather not subject you guys to what amounts to an ad because, well, there’s plenty of blogs out there that do that already. And I chafe at the idea of doing some ad agencies job for them without getting paid their salary. A $4 coupon isn’t a salary. My readers, my blog, and my space is worth a hell of a lot more than some crappy coupon.

Okay, I may need to lay down a second before I stroke out.

But this gem of a PR pitch was superb.

It was for corn dogs.

I love corn dogs, Pranksters. I could write a thousand posts about corn dogs and still not get close to how deeply I feel about corn dogs. They are sublime. Hot dogs, on a stick, covered in, uh, corn something, then deep-fried. Often found at the Fair, along with mullets, monster truck rallies, and cotton candy, I consider corn dogs to be one of Nature’s Perfect Foods.

(let’s disregard how unnatural corn dogs are, okay? Okay.)

But this pitch, oh, it had me rolling. I was dying. DYING. Let me give you a taste. I changed a bit of it around, but not the insulting (to you) bits:

Blah, blah blah. Here’s a video we want you to put on your blog. Your readers will like it, they will choose their own adventure and pick the outcome of the video.

If they choose the correct path, there’s a coupon at the end for them!

Please share this funny video on your fabulous and amazing blog. Your mom readers, who juggle the demands of everyday life and need quick and easy snacks, will truly appreciate this video and coupon.

Now, Pranksters, I like to think that I know most of you. I read your blogs (even if I haven’t been commenting – which, blame Google, who messed it all up for me) and I keep your comments pinned up on my wall.

I’d like to say this: I don’t think ANY of you would appreciate a video about corn dogs. Or, rather, a video about corn dogs sent to me by a PR firm.

I know I wouldn’t. But, I think there are some videos about corn dogs that I would watch.

Killer-clown-corndog

I would totally watch a movie about killer corn dogs.

corn-dog-eats-cheeseburgergoth-corn-dogA corn dog so conflicted by it’s love of cheeseburgers that it turns Emo? AMAZING. That would be a true work of art.

Those are movies about corn dogs I’d happily watch. Just, you know, saying.

While we’re on the subject of truly superb spam, here’s the best thing I’ve gotten in years, possibly ever:

now-that's-fucked-up

I’ll let you think on that. Because it’s spam. And I heart it so hard that I might cry.

Now, let’s talk about awesome PR pitches YOU get. Or spam. Or videos about corn dogs that should be made.

Really, the possibilities here are endless.

Through A Lens, Fuzzily

One of the first things I did after buying my house in Saint Charles was to marvel that two people could – simultaneously – poo at the same time. Going from the condo in Oak (no) Park (ing) which had one wee bathroom to a house with three bathrooms was like the ultimate in luxury…until I realized that the first floor bathroom looked like it had been decorated by Granny, On Meth.

Now That's Fucked UP

This was pre-moving in. I don’t do angels. Ever.

But the three-patterned wallpaper remained until, in stunning fit of bad judgment, I decided I wanted to remodel the bathroom “for my birthday.” Which meant that I spent the next four months scraping tiny bits of the wallpaper off the drywall with a putty knife in the moments I wasn’t holding my incredibly fussy baby boy. It’s no wonder I hate my birthday.

Anyway.

Before the wallpaper was removed, I couldn’t stand to be in the bathroom for any longer than necessary, because, well, it looked like Little House On The Prairie barfed all over it. This was especially bad news for my eyebrows, who require constant upkeep lest they turn into unruly, beastly caterpillars perched nattily atop my face. Eventually, all the wholesomeness of the bathroom got to me and I broke down and bought one of those makeup mirrors that magnifies your pores like 8000000 times.

I opened the box, pulled out the mirror and about passed out. What the hell? When did my pores become the size of Texas? And when did I get to be so BLOTCHY? Look at those ROGUE hairs! It was disgusting. I was just GROSS looking. How had I not noticed how nasty I’d become?

I was about to rechristen myself “Sasquatch,” when I realized that I might be able to find photographic evidence of when I had become so haggard. I needed to know when this change had occurred, for my own peace of mind.

First I found this, from my old camera, which, I’d seen immediately, looked as though it had been dipped in Vasoline before the shot had been taken.

Old Digital Camera

I was also horrified to see that the green walls – the same shade of green that I hate like mayo, in fact – followed me everywhere I went. Even to the Caribbean, where, in this picture, I am on the phone with Delta, arguing over my lost luggage, I am stuck in front of a green wall.

Fuzzily.

In fact, in EVERY picture I could find, I appear to be out of focus, underwater or in a Soap Opera.

Or rocking my sweet, sweet corn rows:

(let’s make out)

Also: could that dress, which I had to buy in the gift shop because Delta lost my bags, have made my boobs look any saggier?

So my photo expedition didn’t help much. I couldn’t figure out when I’d become Sasquatch so I had to assume that I’d always BEEN Sasquatch.

I did the only thing I could think to do: I bought a DSLR and got pregnant.

rabbit humping cat

Then, I forgot about my Sasquatch-ness (rib-spreading seemed much more pressing an issue) until recently when I realized that I was rocking some pretty dark circles under my eyes. It was time to address my Sasquatch-ness with a facial.

Lady Giving Me A Facial: “OH MY GOD.”

Me: “….”

Lady Giving Me A Facial: *offendedly speaking in Russian*

Me: “…”

Lady Giving Me A Facial (picking at my face)(rolling eyes): *sighs deeply*

So, apparently, I am in such dire shape that even the Facial Lady was both offended and saddened by the state of my face. NOT ENCOURAGING, PRANKSTERS.

Immediately, I went home, my face all swollen, blotchy and sore, and asked The Twitter about eye cream.

The Twitter + The Pranksters = Smarter Than Anything Else. How did people make decisions before The Internet?

Then, I ordered a whole bunch of stuff. I need to combat the Sasquatchness in a MAJOR way.

Problem is, it’s fucking annoying. Who the hell enjoys putting 87 different kinds of cream on their face three times a day?

Hm. I wonder if I can just install mood lighting wherever I go.

————

Here’s where I turn the tables, Pranksters. What do you use to combat Sasquatchness? Do you enjoy slathering your face with creams? Is this something I’ll get used to? Can I install mood lighting at your house and come over?