In Lieu Of My Crappy Advice Column…

…today, I will send you to Band Back Together, where we’ve compiled stories about the ten year anniversary of September 11, 2001. You’ll see perspectives from everyone from those who were physically there watching life lost to those who were giving birth to a new life. You’ll even find my story among them.

We’re all answering one simple question: “where were you?”

I hope you’ll join us.

We’re Banding Together for 9/11.

Fly So High You Feel No Pain

It started with half-eaten dinners left cold, sitting at the table, waiting for the work crisis to pass. It never did.

Chink.

Movies partially watched together, while a pressing work need called.

Blast.

Dueling mortgages with a pressure to sell our former house while waiting to sell our condo.

Thwack.

A pregnancy that made me so ill that I could no longer go into work, for fear that I would vomit all over myself while driving.

Zap.

A baby so needy that I didn’t sleep for nearly a year, during which point, I had a minor nervous breakdown.

Pow.

An unexpected string of miscarriages that left me in a puddle of hormone soup.

BANG.

A precarious pregnancy that seemed doomed from the get-go, hallmarked by severe, crippling prepartum depression.

Zip.

A baby born with a severe neural tube defect requiring neurosurgery within a few days of her entry into the world.

Smack.

A debilitating case of PTSD coupled with chronic, daily migraines.

Whack.

Work that can never be enough, never is enough, requiring total dedication to that, and that alone.

Slam.

Years spent overcoming my past only to have it wallop me upside my face.

Punch.

Realizing that what had once been a marriage, something so strong that I’d never doubted it, had turned into a yawning chasm between two very different people.

Wham.

Figuring out where to go from here. Unsure if that chasm can ever be crossed.

TKO.

Move Along. Nothing To See Here.

The Daver was reading a book recently (he’s the literate one around these here parts) that had in it something I found more interesting than the cat video I was watching.

He said to me, that there had been a scientific study in the 1980’s in which groups of people talked about a negative experience with an untrained individual. These participants believed that sharing these experiences out loud may have helped them cope with their feelings, but it was not so, ickle Pranksters.

In fact, talking about these experiences did nothing to change the manner in which they coped with their problems.

Instead, The Daver told me, the individuals who engaged in a daily writing exercise, jotting down their most personal feelings and thoughts about their personal trauma in a journal, found a huge boost in their psychological – and physical – well being. The people who wrote down their innermost problems became happier.

Turns out that thinking and writing are actually very different. When we think about something – and chat about it – our conversations are chaotic and disorganized. However, when we write them out, we’re more invested in creating a story-line; a structure to our thoughts. While we write out our pain, we begin to make sense of what has happened and systematically approach a solution.

Those who write it out are happier.

And, Dear Pranksters, this would be why I blog, even after all these years.

That’s why I’m honored to receive all of the stories – your stories – on Band Back Together or Mushroom Printing.

And mostly, that is why I’m grateful to have found a family. My Pranksters.

SHUT YOUR WHORE MOUTH.

I DO SO HAVE FEELERS SOMETIMES.

Ruth

The first woman – ever – to chair a department at University of Illinois, she knew exactly what she wanted. She didn’t let her gender get in the way of doing things her way, during a time when gender dictated everything. That chair happened to be Chemistry, a synchronicity I found charming once I’d met her.

She was a career woman before her time, never settling down, having children or getting married. Until she met my Uncle in the 1980’s.

She adopted me as her own when I first met her. Peas in a pod, my mother called us, and rightly so. Every time I saw Ruth, she brought me a new present or bauble; the sort of things a kid likes. Even without bearing her own, she understood children.

Being a lonely kid, I loved her immediately. Whenever she was around for a visit, I’d clamor to see her, probably annoying my parents and everyone around me half-to-death.

When I couldn’t see her, instead I wrote her letters. Who knows what I’d blathered on about in those letters, but I wrote them diligently. She’d lovingly send me back another letter, each time I took crayon to paper.

As I got older and more independent, I’d fly out to visit her where she’d ended up: Sun City, Arizona. It’s a retirement community nicer than my own neighborhood, where old people zip around in golf carts and Live Life.

Remembering I loved Chinese food, immediately after picking me up in her car – one of those gigantic things that make you feel like you’re riding in the cockpit of a very comfortable living room – she took me to the local Chinese place, fussing over me and making sure that I had at least three different entrees in front of me at all times.

She’d gone to the baker and bought me a bourbon pecan pie, too, and even though I’d never had one before (they look, well, SCARY), it was delicious. Now that I have my own oven and a decently good recipe, I make the same pie each year for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The china and silver she gave me when I was 16 still sits in my china cabinet, waiting for a day when my children aren’t so small; a day when I can cook a meal that isn’t made of one of three food groups: pasta, chicken bits, and something else I can’t remember. Some day, we will eat off my finery.

And when we do, I will share with my babies the stories of their Great Great Aunt Ruth, who loved their Mommy very much. Who took life by the balls and made it her bitch during a time when women were supposed to be in the home, cooking and cleaning. A woman who never stopped; never took no for an answer, and followed her dreams and her heart where it took her.

A woman with a heart a million miles wide; who loved deeply and without regrets.

A woman who we all can learn from.

This is what I will tell my children as we eat Chinese food and bourbon pecan pie off the very finest china given to me by a woman who loved beyond words.

———-

Two days after my son turned ten, on August 22nd, 2011, my great Aunt Ruth passed away. She had a full life; more than I can ever hope for, but that doesn’t stop the aching in my heart when I think about what the world is now missing.

I’ll miss you Aunt Ruth.

Always.

I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Blog

You know what we don’t talk about enough here on Mommy Wants Vodka (I used the Royal “we” here, Pranksters, meaning YOU)? Love songs. Mostly because the greatest love I feel is for the Hamster Dance video and bacon cheeseburgers.

But I am here to tell you that this! This is simply untrue. Your Favorite Aunt Becky DOES know how to feel love! Why, the other day, I looked at the most beautiful sunset and thought, “Mmmm. That looks like cotton candy. Now I’m hungry.”

And then, because I was listening to my iPod, a love song came on. Can you believe I own a song about love? I can’t. Nonetheless, I was stunned. The love song and the sunset nearly had me doubled over, barfing, and yet, no, I stood watching it.

So I figured, it’s time for a list of Love Songs That Don’t Suck. You can play along at home, Pranksters.

1) Behold A Lady – Andre 3000. I really have to say that I loved the song a lot more when Andre 3000 wasn’t like humping his personal trainer, but you know, the song is totally sweet. SHUT YOUR WHORE MOUTH, I CAN LIKE SWEET SHIT.

2) Bob Dylan’s – To Ramona (as sung by Sinead Lohen). Now, I’m not 100% certain this is a love song but it is probably my favorite song ever. Even more than the theme from Facts of Life. I probably shouldn’t mention that my dad sang me to sleep with this song every night and I sing my daughter to sleep with it too, because that makes it a little less romantical, but you know, when do I lie to you, Pranksters?

3) The Pretenders – “I’ll Stand By You” (as sung by Glee Cast). Okay. So this song? My television husband, Dexter, will totally sing this to me at our made-for-television wedding. I don’t care if he can’t ACTUALLY sing because I will be to busy kissing his feet. This song? The most romantical I know.

4) The Black Keys – Everlasting Light. I may just love this song because it makes me forget my migraines for awhile, but it also makes me happy in the pants.

5) The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed. Like I could include a list of songs WITHOUT The Stones. That would be like macaroni WITHOUT the cheese.

6) G-Love and Special Sauce – Love. Dude. It’s called LOVE. What more can you ask for?
(I’d actually considered using Booty Call instead)

7) Michael Franti & Spearhead – Say Hey (I Love You). It’s not just because I heard this song first on Weeds during a fucking FLASH MOB, but the song? It’s cheerful. Like, you’ll probably fall in love with the person next to you when you watch it. So be careful.

8 ) I forget what 8 was for.

9) Journey – Faithfully (as performed by Glee Cast). Okay. If you don’t love this song, I will punch you in the teeth.

10) Cake – Love You Madly. Only the coolest song ever. You should probably marry it.

————-

Your turn, Pranksters. Gimmie some good love songs.

Legacy

I knew from a very young age what I was going to be when I grew up. While the other kids focused their sights upon flying into space or fighting fires, in kindergarten I neatly drew a picture of myself, one that my mother has framed somewhere, that says, “Rebecca Sherrick” “Obstetrician.”

Because that was what I planned to be.

Would it have worked out if I hadn’t popped Benjamin from my nether regions, a pregnancy unexpected, a life forever changed by the furious meeting of two gametes?

I honestly can’t say. Who can see what might-have-been when what-is is right in front of our faces?

When I went back to school, a single mother with an autistic baby slung ’round her hip, I re-enrolled (which is highly UNLIKE Rick Rolling) as a nursing student, which meant two things:

a) None of the credits I’d obtained during my brief stint as a Bio/Chem major were accepted and I had to re-enroll in different, easier versions of similar classes.

2) I had to come to terms with letting go of a dream I’d had as long as I can recall.

The first year of pre-req’s was heaven for me. I’d already completed the more complicated and challenging versions of the same classes, so I quickly rose to the top of the class. I was chosen to TA for numerous science classes, putting me smack-dab back into the lab.

I couldn’t have been happier.

I left my first class as Student Nurse Aunt Becky in tears. I’m sure I looked half-insane, walking to the train, my bag full of books I didn’t give a shit about, openly sobbing the kind of ugly cry that comes from a broken heart.

Rather than entrench myself in sorrow any longer than I had to, I simply made new plans. I’d re-enroll in school and become a microbiologist once my son was old “enough.” I’d juggled single parenthood and schooling as much as I ever wanted to and I intended to see at least some fraction of the kid’s childhood.

I did and I have.

Nursing career handily abandoned as, for the first time ever, I was able to stay home with my son, things didn’t go quite as expected. The quirks I still found so charming made for lonely company as he preferred to live inside his head to being with his mother. Coming off an over-worked, beat-my-A’s-with-more-A’s high, I had hours upon hours each day to fill.

With something. Anything to make my life feel worth living again.

I obsessed over the grout between bathroom tiles – which, no matter how many toothbrushes I wore to nubs- could never quite come clean, my son happily watched the same video about the planets over and over. I waited for something, anything to tell me what the fuck I was supposed to do next.

“Why don’t you start a blog?” The Daver asked after I tearfully wept, once again, that “I hadn’t worked my ass off to sit around and wonder which fucking brand of dishsoap was better.”

I couldn’t have thought of anything I’d like to have done less than blogging. I’d never so much kept a journal, so blogging, writing down my thoughts so that someone, somewhere could be equally bored by them?

Fuck no.

Until I decided to do it.

Learning that I could write things that didn’t involve this:

was like learning I could breathe underwater. All this time that I tried to find meaning in the bathroom tiles had been for nothing. Because I had this ability and I could use it.

And now I do.

I’ve spent nearly four years here at Mommy Wants Vodka, and three before that at Mushroom Printing, telling stories. Some good, some awful, most mediocre. I’ve used my words to let you into my world. To see things as I do. To touch each of you reading these words in some way, even if it’s a disgusted “God, this chick sucks.”

The words I have written, the friends I have made, the connections I’ve foraged has been so much more than I’d anticipated. I have been beyond blessed.

And yet, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about going back into academia. To return to those glorious calculations and those beautiful microscopes, leaving the world of words squarely in my past. I wonder if that’s even possible; to shut one beloved door so firmly. I don’t have an answer.

So I’m left wondering: is this my legacy? A few pixels blinking on your computer screen? Words turned into sentences turned into paragraphs?

Moreover, is this enough?

Feelings Are Kinda Bullshit

I’ve had a rough couple of weeks. And I don’t even mean because I’ve spent the better part of two nights “on the lam” (that’s prison speak for HIDING FROM THE POLICE) in my fake mustache and floppy hat.

Because I am not a “planner” and in fact my five-year plan still really is “don’t die” and if pressed is more like “don’t get scurvy and die,” I’ve been in the middle of several gigantic projects. Normal people might have let some of them slip so that they could focus more effectively on one, but since no one has ever accused me of being normal, smart, pretty, cool, awesome, or anything else that might be considered a compliment, I, instead, decided to plow through them. I’m happier when I’m in the middle of a zillion things anyway.

But in the middle of all of this, I realized that I’ve been sort of, well, frustrated.

My normal emotional range looks like this:

I want a nap <-> I want a cheeseburger <-> I really want a nap <-> OOOOH! SHINY

So when I feel anything beyond that, I’m never quite sure what to do. I’m going to therapy now, so I suppose I should start working on this “feelings” bullshit everyone is telling me about. Apparently not having feelings makes you a serial killer. WHATEVER.

But I’ve been feeling pulled in a zillion directions. More than that, I’ve been feeling kind of…used. And not in the dirty sex kind of way.

It’s hard to explain.

It’s like there are three kinds of Internet People: My Pranksters, Not My Pranksters and The Internet Mole People.

Pranksters = You = Awesome.

Not Pranksters = Not You = I don’t know you = could be awesome.

Internet Mole People = Creepy Forum People = trolls who occasionally pop up to say horrible things that are usually misspelled and cruel like, “PEOPL LIK U SHUD NOT HAV KIDZ” or “YOU AER FAT N UGLY N SHUD DIE.” Clearly you cannot take them seriously.

And my Pranksters, you know that I love you all hard. Internet Mole People, you know that I love you (most of you, except the ones I hate) because you remind me that no matter what, I could always be a mouth-breathing knuckled-dragging person who has nothing better to do than anonymously bully people on the internet.

It’s the Non-Pranksters that have been giving me feelings (barf). It’s not one thing, like they all came to my Target store and bought up all the Uncrustables and Diet Coke or something. It’s the pressure of trying to get to all of the projects + the issues that I have going on behind the scenes (what, me have issues?) that = actual feelings.

I got my feelers hurt because some Non-Pranksters were being assholes. That’s what it boils down to. I got my feelers hurt when I was in the middle of doing something I thought was awesome and worthwhile while going through some personal shit of my own and Non-Pranksters were all grabby and shit.

No, of COURSE it wasn’t any of you.

But I’ve been kinda upset about it for awhile. I’ve been working around the clock on Band Back Together and I couldn’t shake my anger, no matter how many videos of laughing babies I watched.

Last night, I was sent a message by a Twitter Prankster telling me another Prankster was being trolled by an Internet Mole Person. I assumed this was probably another case of being called a “fatty-fat-fat stupit hed” or something stupid, which Pranksters, IGNORE THOSE MOLE PEOPLE, or pretend they are calling you beautiful.

I was wrong.

This person was absolutely right. An Internet Mole Person (who could spell) was trolling the mourning mother who had recently lost a child so that this Mole Person could use his death as a means to show the world the evils of circumcision.

I don’t care what you think about cutting the penis, bullying a mourning family and saying, “YOU CAUSED THIS” to prove your own hysterical point is the lowest of the low. I’m beyond horrified to know that while wonderful healing is going on at Band Back Together, this horrible hatred and vitriol is being spewed at a family in mourning. I’m disgusted and appalled.

I woke up even more pissed off at people than I had been. I took to the Twitter and fired off a few tweets at the Mole Person. Then I stormed around the house, furious.

When I came back to the computer to find some dancing cat videos, I saw something. My Pranksters, you’d joined in. All of you were chewing this nasty bitch out and supporting this family who had just suffered an unimaginable tragedy.

And right then, suddenly, the anger I’d been feeling towards all of the people who’d been shitting on me was gone.

I’ve always believed in the inherent good of (most) people and I realized that’s it’s precisely that goodness that’s been missing from most of my interactions with people lately. To see it again, it made my heart smile. People are good. My Pranksters are good. I’m sure the Non-Pranksters are good people, too. They’re just not my people. Maybe they will be some day. Maybe they won’t.

And Internet Mole People can suck it.

Finally, I wrote about autism.

grat·i·tude

Whenever I go to post something on The Internet that discusses heavier things, I confess, Pranksters, that I am afraid. Of what, I don’t really know. What are you going to do? CALL MY MOM and tell her that you hate me? I’m sure she’d roll her eyes because that’s my mom for you.

On the same token, yesterday, even though that post had been published twice in other places, I was as nervous as a cat to post it again. According to the handy chart of characteristics that I found (opens into a PDF if you click it), apparently we adult children of alcoholics are afraid of our feelings. Tell me something I DON’T know, right?

Anyway. As per usual, I could have better spent that energy rearranging my underwear drawer or bleaching out my garbage cans because you were wonderful and for that I am grateful. In fact, I’m always grateful for you, my Pranksters.

Whether it’s a condescending article (s) in the newspaper or some blurb on the national news, for some reason the blogging community is still seen as a pathetic little coffee club. How DARE we get mad when someone bashes us in the paper? We’re just silly little women/men/ people who should get our silly butts back to tending our children and off the computer! Our children are practically raising themselves while we selfishly DO NOT LIVE FOR THEM.

How DARE we have a drink or a life? WE’RE PARENTS, NOT PEOPLE! How DARE we talk about our FEELINGS in PUBLIC where some day our KIDS might see them!!1!! ZOMG ZOMG ZOMG! Let’s go back to a life of repression, y’all.

Some day, my children are going to read my blog and know that some days, I wanted to strangle myself because they behaved so horrifically. Some day, my children will know that I am a human being. I hope that they take comfort in that, rather than grow up in a repressed, sad home. Sure, they’ll hate me for plenty of things, my blog included (also included, my singing, my hairstyle, and my morning breath).

I never claimed to give up my life when I popped my first crotch parasite out and I’m not starting now.

Some day, someone will look back on blogging and see that we were building a community. Because like it or not, you, my Pranksters, are my friends. Some of you I haven’t met, some of you I do know pretty well, some of you are my FB BFF and some of you I would be lost without.

All of you, I cherish. I do.

I’m proud to know all of you and whenever I talk about you to The Daver or whomever ear I have selfishly stolen, I am always filled with happiness that I know so many amazing, diverse people. It’s not about subscriber numbers or Twitter feeds, it’s about people. YOU. I’m happy I know you. All of you. Thank you for being my friend.

So for those of you who do blog, and those of you who want to blog, I’m here to encourage you to do it. Ignore the critics and the naysayers and those who dismiss your “stupid little habit.” Write even if no one reads your blog. Write LIKE no one reads your blog. Write for yourself, and write authentically.

Write hard, Pranksters, write hard.

And know that no matter what, Your Aunt Becky loves you. Hard.

My Name Is Becky And I Am Not An Alcoholic

A version of this ran in The Drinking Diaries last year (it’s been rewritten for you, Pranksters) and today they’re running a follow-up interview with me today so I thought I’d be brave and post it on my real blog today.

——————–

I am an adult child of two alcoholics, and although there are nifty acronyms used to refer to us, I prefer my real name: Becky (unless you want to call me Princess of Power). The Internet knows me as Aunt Becky and there’s probably a number of you scratching your head over my incongruently named site: “Mommy Wants Vodka.”

I’ve been mixed up plenty into articles about Diane Schuler, the lady who killed her kids, bashing me for being a Cocktail Mom. Hell, I even made it into the New York Times for that, even though I seldom blog about drinking.

In reading up on the other issues facing my cohorts, my fellow children of alcoholics–who also, presumably, have names–I think that in spite of the flack that I get, humor is the far healthier way to handle it. I’ve somehow, by the grace of God, perhaps, been able to avoid many of the nastier lasting effects of my childhood. I am not shy, I do not suffer from low self-esteem, and I don’t obsessively hoard china cat figurines or keep my toenail clippings in jars.

I do have anxiety and guilt and the emotional range of a toddler and I frequently blame myself for things that never had anything to do with me. I’m about as trusting with even those closest to me as an abused animal. There are probably three people on the planet who really know me. Maybe less.

But I’m trying to work through this because I know I deserve better than I got.

Every day; every single day that I wake up, I wonder if today will be the day that it hits. We adult children of alcoholics are four times more likely than the general population to develop issues with substance abuse. FOUR TIMES. For someone like me, who has not one, but two alcoholic parents, this number must be infinitesimally higher. So I wait.

It’s exhausting, this waiting for the other shoe to drop.

So I sit and I wait, and while I do this, I build a new life for myself: I’m a mother, a writer, a friend. A daughter. A sister. A niece and a cousin.

My name is Becky, and I am not an alcoholic.

Music Hath Soothed The Savage Child

I had been bemoaning that after crapping out the lining of the colon for most of the day–thank you food poisoning for curing my desire to live–I then had to go and sit through my son’s orchestra concert. Truthfully, while I may have sounded unhappy by it, I wasn’t actually all that upset.

While sitting through 200 3rd graders bowing out Flight of the Mother Fucking Bumblebee may not sound like a rip-roaring good time to most, you have to remember that I live with two of the loudest people on the planet. I’m pretty sure I could sell Alex and Amelia to a museum or university to be studied because their voices are so fucking loud that they sheer glass.

I sometimes wonder why I don’t take my kids out until I actually put the two small ones in the car and then I don’t wonder any more. My ear drums are immediately pierced by their indignant wails and as I’m crying in agony and trying to forcefully eject myself from the car, I vow to stay home. FOREVER.

So sitting through an amateur orchestra concert was a cake walk in my book.

What was especially full of The Awesome was seeing my own son with his floppy mop of hair on the very same stage where I used to play.

I know I dropped a bomb on you the other day when I informed you that I played concert cello for many years because picturing me as a cellist is probably about as easy as picturing me with a penis (come to think of it, picturing me with a wang is probably easier). In fact, I bet you were up nights, crying into your pillow, wondering why OH WHY I hadn’t sent out a press release about it so you weren’t taken aback.

So, I’m sorry. FORGIVENESS. Because I know how much THE DEBIL is in the DETAILS.

Anyway.

Yeah. So whenever I tell people I used to play, they’re always like, “Oh, I’m SO SORRY,” like my arm had turned gangrenous and fell off and that’s why I was forced to give it up. It’s really sweet and I never know how to tell them that I’m really glad to be done. I played for 12 years and I toured Europe and I wasn’t great but I think I was good and when I was done, I stopped.

My son, who is autistic, loves music. When people couldn’t soothe him, music was right there. The very second that we could, he was signed up for music lessons and it comes as no surprise to me that he adores playing in the orchestra.

He’s naturally very good. He’ll be better than I ever was without much effort on his end. Music, like the planets, is clearly Ben’s thing.

So as I sat there in the darkened auditorium last night, finally on the other side of the stage, my heart grew as I watched my tiny son fidget and bob his head to the music knowing that he has found his home.

We all worry about our children finding their way, but those of us with special needs children worry doubly, I think, because we wonder if anyone else will see the good in our kids. If others can look past what is on the outside to get to what is on the inside. It’s not always easy.

Last night, though, I forgot about how upset I am that a number of his autistic tendencies are flaring up again. I forgot about my frazzled patience. I forgot about deadlines and dogs who have seizures and migraines and neurologists. I let it all slip away and for a moment, I focused on my bobble-headed kid and how cool it is to see him up on that stage, deeply concentrated on his music.

For once, his inner voices quelled. And mine too.

I couldn’t be more proud. Of him. Of us. Of where we’ve come from. Of where we’re going.

It’s a good life.