Monday, November 3, 2014

On birth trauma, self-shaming, and why I want a do-over

There has been a post kicking around in my head for the past 6 months since the baby was born, but it wears me out just to think about it. I'm going to attempt to put it down on paper (so to speak), in the hopes that I can finally feel some peace and let it rest already. This is my attempt at forgiving myself, moving past it, and looking forward.

I never had a "birth plan," as I didn't have very strong opinions about the way I wanted things to go. I had no aversion to the possibility of medication if I felt like they might help get the job done, and I wasn't particular about locations or positions or any of that stuff. Mostly, I just wanted to meet my daughter already, so I trusted the professionals to make it happen in the most efficient and least painful/complicated way for both myself and the baby. My feeling was that I didn't really see the point in making a plan when all I heard was that you never really can plan for things like this; things are going to happen like they are and it's best to just go with it. On that end, I'm fine with how it ended up, because things definitely did NOT go as I expected them to, so most plans I would have had probably would have went out the window. At least I didn't have to be stressed that things weren't working how I wanted them to. What I do regret was that things did not happen like I imagined they would, and I later found out they most likely never will. My doctor told me it is almost certain I will never have a natural birth because of the shape of my pelvic bone structure, and for whatever reason the fact that I will never know what this experience feels like really bums me out. I am not bothered by the scar my emergency c-section left or anything superficial like that; I just wanted to know what it felt like to give birth the natural way, and I feel like nature cheated me out of an experience that defines me as a woman. Maybe that's a bit silly or dramatic, but it's how I feel.

When my water broke 3 days after my due date, I was more than ready to get the job done. I was having a lot of anxiety about how I would know it was time, and when my doctor predicted that my water might break as opposed to having contractions, I was happy with the news and hoped she was right. It happened shortly after midnight on the 1st of April, and suddenly all of our jokes about having an April Fools baby seemed frighteningly real. I was having contractions in the car on the ride to the hospital, and that was when I realized I would have been pretty safe about knowing it was time had the contractions come first. They were no joke! Things start to get a bit more blurry once I made it to the hospital and got settled into a room. I opted for an epidural, and was also given an IV of magnesium because my blood pressure was elevated. I was progressing with dilating, but then the magnesium slowed the progress. I was a bit loopy from the pain meds, but I did notice that every time the nurse emptied my bag the urine was very dark, rather than yellow. I was too out of it to ask why, and no one volunteered any information. I was something like 20 hours into labor at this point, and I was running low on time; once your water breaks, you generally have about 24 hours before the risk of infection for your baby becomes an issue. I got a shot of pitocin to speed up contractions again, and when I was close to 10 centimeters, the doctor decided it was time to give pushing a try.

I was in active labor for 2 and a half hours. During that time, I was so exhausted from not having slept the night before and everything that I was going through that I had lost all concept of time and couldn't believe more than an hour, tops, had passed. During those 2.5 hours, I wondered why nothing was happening and figured I must be pushing wrong, despite the fact that the doctor kept telling me I was doing good. I was also completely miserable and losing my grip on reality; one side effect of the magnesium drip was overheating, and I was so hot I couldn't stand it. I had the air conditioning in the room cranked and still could not cool down, and when my family would come in the room to see me before active labor began, they would be shivering and wearing their coats. Josh had a sheet from the couch wrapped around him. I continued to sweat, despite the cold rags his mom kept dipping in ice water that were on my forehead throughout active labor. I had cottonmouth and my throat was so dry that it stuck together, but because there was a risk of surgery looming, I wasn't allowed to have any water to drink. I went through countless cups of ice chips, and when I could no longer feed them to myself I had my mom, Josh, and Josh's mom in the room that were helping me. They also made me put an oxygen mask on because they were afraid about the baby's heart rate, but the mask was making me feel claustrophobic and I felt like I was on the verge of a full-blown panic attack. I had never been so miserable in my life and honestly would have been crying at that point, if I had enough strength left to do so.

When pushing did nothing, the doctor announced that the baby was either "too large" to fit naturally, or was in a position where she couldn't make it through the birth canal. I had nothing left in me to keep fighting, and I ok'ed the c-section several times over while she kept telling me to "think about it." I didn't even have the strength to yell "JUST DO THE DAMN THING!," i kept saying "I can't do it anymore, i just can't..."

Suddenly I was leaving the dimly-lit room and being wheeled down a brightly lit hallway. I was so exhausted I couldn't focus my eyes; they kept crossing and no matter how many times I screamed inside my head, "wake up, wake up!" I couldn't do it. My heart felt like it was going to explode. I felt like the panic attack was on its way. I remember saying to the nurse wheeling me away, "I feel like I'm dying. I feel like I'm having a panic attack. What do I do?" I had never felt like I had no control over my own body like this and my brain told me this was it, I was actually dying.

"If you're feeling a little more anxious than normal, they can give you something to relax when you get to the room," the nurse told me. A little more anxious??? I was out of my damn mind by that point.

The rest is a blur. They took me to the surgery room, which felt like a space ship where they were about to do an alien autopsy. It was insanely bright and everything was white. They laid me on a bed with a white sheet in front of me so I couldn't see anything they would be doing. I guess Josh was there, but I barely remember it. The sensation of them cutting me open and yanking a baby out was entirely unpleasant. When they first started the incision, an anesthesiologist stood above my head injecting the anesthesia telling me, "Erin, when they begin the procedure you shouldn't feel any pain, only pressure." That's when I felt a burning sensation on my abdomen, and I loudly told them, "OW THAT HURTS!"

"You mean you feel pressure?" the anesthesiologist corrected.

"NO IT BURNS, IT HURTS," I yelled. Normally I am much more polite and reserved, but I remember being panicked and having no tact whatsoever. They shot another dose of anesthesia in me and I felt my back go cold as it coursed through my body.

I asked someone if I could go to sleep during the surgery. I didn't want to, but if I had to stay awake the panic attack would surely come, and I had no control over keeping my eyes open any longer. They assured me I could rest and against my will, I faded in and out of consciousness while they pulled my baby from my body.

They had warned me ahead of time not to be worried that she might not cry right away, being a bit groggy from the magnesium I had injected in me. That damn magnesium, that caused me so much discomfort, might be affecting her, too! But seconds after they pulled her out, I heard her: more of a yowl than a cry, but there all the same. I remember telling Josh deleriously, "she sounds like a cat!" and one of the nurses laughing at me and saying, "I won't tell her you said that!"

Normally, I had heard of people with a c-section having their baby held up over the sheet when they pulled them out, or being brought around to the mom to hold or at least SEE them right away. None of that happened. I was upset. They took her out and carried her to a station behind me over my left shoulder, where they cleaned her up and recorded her stats. Josh was standing there with them, and I heard a doctor say, "here, give me your phone, I'll take a picture of you holding her!" All the while I was laying on the table straining to look over my shoulder to catch my first glimpse of the baby I carried for 9 months, but unable to see a thing because I was still so exhausted my eyes wouldn't focus. I kept thinking "WHERE IS MY BABY AND WHY HASN'T ANYONE SHOWED HER TO ME YET???"

After what seemed like forever but was probably only a few minutes, Josh carried her over and tried to show me. I still couldn't see her, because he was standing so high above me that my eyes couldn't focus on them. I was near tears, or maybe I really was crying by that point, I can't remember. I do remember saying to him, "I can't see! I can't see her!" and he tried to bend down so I could see her, but they made him bring her to another room and they left together without me getting a chance to hold her, touch her, or really even see her.

They told me it would just be a few minutes until I could go join them, but it took them about a half hour to fix me up. I was devastated, thinking all our family waiting at the hospital was probably getting to see her before I even had (they didn't). I was still out of my mind with exhaustion, but I was running on a tiny bit of adrenaline at that point. I have no recollection of my trip from the surgery room to the room where Josh and Violet were, but my next memory is them pulling a curtain back and seeing Josh sitting there in a chair holding a bundle that was our daughter. They finally put her in my arms, but sadly I was so tired at that point that I don't remember much about our first moments together. It wasn't long before our family began being led behind the curtain to meet her in groups of one and two. My mom was first and she was crying.

"Look at her," is all I remember her saying through tears. Everyone agreed right away that she looked like Josh. It freaked me out a bit that I couldn't see myself in her at all.

Violet Mae was born at 12:24am on Tuesday, April 2nd (no April Fools baby after all). She weighed 7 pounds, 1 ounce and was 20 inches long (not "big" like the doctor predicted).

I was told later that the complication was because she was slightly at an angle, but moreso because of the shape of my pelvic structure. Her head was wedged so tightly next to my kidney that I was peeing blood (which made sense now). It was a rough delivery for both of us, but we were both fine.  Perfect, in fact. She was perfect. I still had a ways to go.

The first few times I told the whole experience to family and friends visiting me in the hospital, I cried. I wasn't prepared for how much physical pain I was in after the c-section; I guess since it is such a routine surgery I assumed it was no big deal. I failed to recognize that major surgery is still major surgery, no matter how common it is. I stayed in bed for most of the first day, but the first time I left my bed to get a room transfer I left a puddle of blood on the floor of my room. I was horrified, but the nurse (obviously a "Walking Dead" fan) joked she would tell a maintenance man that a walker had been loose. I had to stay in the hospital an extra day because of my blood pressure, and there were still side effects from the magnesium I was on that were making life more difficult. Although I checked in on Monday, it felt like it was Sunday since I never actually went to bed that night. I didn't get discharged to go home until Saturday afternoon. I was desperate to go home, even though I was terrified at the prospect of being on my own with a new baby to care for when I was in the worst physical shape of my life and couldn't even care for myself.

The fact that I gave birth in a "baby friendly" hospital was one that I knew nothing about. Next time, I will do better research about the hospital I give birth at. After the baby was born, I remember my mom visiting in my room and asking the nurse on duty where the nursery was.

"There isn't one," she told my mom. We thought it was strange, but didn't question it. Only later did I find out that there IS a nursery, it was right down the hall from me, it just didn't have a traditional viewing window like they used to where you could visit your baby through the glass. Apparently they tell people there isn't one because you are encouraged to keep your baby in your room with you at all times, including at night. Don't get me wrong; after waiting 9 long (uncomfortable) months, there was nothing I wanted more than to keep that baby by my side every second. But I still hadn't gotten more than two hours of sleep since being admitted, and I wasn't in the best shape. Because of work and having pets at home, Josh wasn't able to stay with me overnight in the hospital, so it was all up to me. Nevermind the fact that this was my first child so I literally had no idea what I was doing and was running purely on instinct. Nursing was not coming naturally. Despite my best efforts, any time she would latch on she would either fall asleep immediately and refuse to eat, or she would scream and fight me until her tiny face was red. Nurses would hear her cries and come to help, and they sent lactation specialists to my room. Each had a different way of teaching me to do things, and when the next one would come in she would question why I was/wasn't doing something their way, despite being shown something different by someone else. Even though I was doing everything right, the baby refused to nurse for more than a few minutes. They brought a pump to my room and had me doing that in between trying to feed, but I wasn't pumping much of anything. I had falsely assumed my decision to breastfeed would be all it took to make it happen. I didn't anticipate the difficulty.

Eventually, a nurse came to me and said that Violet was losing weight a bit too quickly, and they were a little worried. She asked if I would like to try supplementing with formula. I knew from the visits from the lactation specialists that this was considered taboo, but I was more concerned with the health and well-being of my tiny baby. I said yes. I continued trying to nurse, with the same problems as before. When I offered her a bottle, she took it and I was sure she was being fed, which eased my scrambled brain. The lactation specialists and nurses continued to come, and some were downright confrontational about the trouble we were having. One came in, looked at the chart in front of her, and asked me accusingly, "WHY ARE YOU GIVING HER FORMULA???" Well, mostly because they came to me and told me she needed to eat and I was going to make sure that happened, however I had to get the job done. Geez. I definitely felt pressured and shamed for the decision I made, and this continued for the duration of my stay. I wasn't able to sleep more than a few hours at a time for my entire stay, partly because I was stressed and lonely and partly because the hospital staff wouldn't give me a break. Even when I did fall asleep, someone would come into my room to check something or other and need to wake me up. There were a few times that I did send the baby to the nursery (which some nurses were more willing to do than others), but all I did was feel guilty and lay there not being able to sleep anyway.

There was one night where Violet stayed in my room next to my bed and I tried desperately to nurse her, to no avail. I was exhausted and felt like sleep might come, but every time I laid her in her clear plastic crib, she began to wail. The only way to quiet her was to hold her close to my chest, and that is how I sat up throughout the entire night, until the sun started to come up through the blinds. I was so scared I would fall asleep with her in my arms and I would drop her, but I fought the sleep and just sat there holding the warm bundle against my skin. I still remember how alone I felt that night, and how scared I was. Josh sent me a text that said he was at home unable to sleep as well because we weren't there with him. That one made me cry. My friend Justin, aka Nobunny, sent me a message on facebook saying he wanted dibs on an unofficial uncle spot. Thank goodness I had my phone there with me to stay in touch with people, because I felt a million miles away from the world.

It must have been the next day that I texted my dad crying, asking him to come sit with the baby during the day so that I could try to get some sleep. I wonder how much my mental state would have improved during those first few days had I just been able to get more than 2 or 3 hours of sleep. Getting to go home lifted my spirits immensely, although it was also overwhelming. I spent the first 2 weeks of Violet's life sleeping in a chair sitting up in the living room, because my incision was too painful for me to lay down. Most nights she was up every 2 hours or so, so Josh and I would get up together to feed and change her. When I couldn't get up any more, I would take her back to the chair with me where she slept wedged next to me and the arm of the chair, and that way we would get a few consecutive hours of sleep. Nursing was going no better at home, even though I was hoping that being in a more comfortable environment with no specialists hovering over my shoulder scolding me would improve things. I signed up for an expensive pump that my insurance actually paid for and it was shipped to our house within days. I pumped every hour for days and wasn't getting anything. I was depressed and stressed out. I cried and felt like a total failure. Josh sat there wishing he could do something to help, hating to see me so upset. After nearly two weeks, I couldn't stand it any longer and I asked him to pack the pump and put it in the attic. I felt utterly defeated and horribly guilty. People kept telling me not to feel bad for giving the baby formula because all that mattered was that she was eating. I still felt like I didn't do enough, and hated myself for not having the strength to keep trying. It wasn't until I talked to one of Josh's aunts, who told me she also had a traumatic labor, that I began to realize it might not be my fault after all. She asked me if my milk ever came in, and described what it felt like. I never had any of the sympotoms; no pain, no leaking, no nothing. I don't think it ever came in to begin with. It would certainly explain why Violet was getting so frustrated and screaming every time I tried to nurse her if there was nothing for her to eat. Josh's aunt told me that a nurse had told her it seemed more common to have trouble with nursing and milk production in women who had traumatic births. Certainly, the medication I was on had caused a number of complications, and I don't know for sure if this wasn't yet another. There was definitely trauma; my doctor even made a comment about how I had a difficult time and eluded to the fact that if it weren't for modern medicine, one or both of us probably wouldn't have made it. I was most upset that all the nurses and lactation specialists who were pestering me about how I needed to just keep trying had never once mentioned the possibility that some women just can't breastfeed. They made me feel like I was doing something wrong, when I was doing everything in my power to make it work. When I finally threw in the towel, it was to save my sanity and concentrate on raising a healthy child, however it had to be done.

I didn't write any of this because I want a pity party. I know there are people with far worse trauma than me, and people who are having a difficult time even getting that far who wish more than anything they could be pregnant. I get that. I know those people. Those are my friends. Those are my family. I have just been carrying around a lot of baggage these past 6 months, and I'm hoping that writing it all down will somehow allow me to let go of that guilt and regret. It was hard to recognize it at the time because I was in the thick of it, but the few weeks after giving birth, especially those first few days in the hospital, were a very dark and depressing time for me. I hate that those are the memories I have associated with my wonderful, beautiful little girl. I want to just remember her first smile we caught on film, and the first time we brought her home to meet her puppy (who has loved her and been fiercely protective of her since the day we came home). I don't like feeling like I gave up too soon, or I didn't try hard enough for her. I suspect a lot of the negativity I've let hold me in its grip has something to do with the fact that I haven't taken very good care of myself afterwards, and I am still depressed when I look in the mirror. I am embarrassed that I get jealous when I see other women post about their easy natural birth, and I want to hide the articles I see reposted on facebook about how breastfeeding is best and everyone should do it. If only it were that easy.

For a while after my daughter was born, I was convinced I never wanted to go through this again. After all, the entire pregnancy was pretty miserable and I had nearly every symptom one can get -- morning sickess was awful during the first trimester, and heartburn was so bad during the second and third that I went through at least 6 bottles of Tums and had a prescription heartburn medication that didn't even help. But as time went on, I started to think about how I might want to do it all over again for the chance to have it be different. I realize it might end up being the same, or worse. But the thought of having a second chance, a chance where I will know a little more about what to expect and won't be as hard on myself even when things don't go as planned, sounds kinda nice.

The cliche is true: it was all worth it. I have a smart, adorable, sweet baby girl that I couldn't imagine living without. I went through hell to get her, but dammit if that didn't make me all the more determined to love and protect her and raise her the best I can. I haven't regretted one second of this rollercoaster, and I adore being a mother. We really lucked out with this one; I can tell she is going to grow up to be silly and intelligent and amazing. I can't wait to see what she will grow into; I only hope I can do her justice as her mommy who would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The haunted bissman building

So as it turns out, having a baby makes it really hard to start a new blog and make time to update it. My bad.

'Tis the season for everything creepy and spooky, although I'm down for a good old-fashioned ghost hunt any day of the year. A few weeks ago a small group of us had a private tour of Mansfield, Ohio's Bissman Building. It only cost $10 to do a historic walking tour of the whole building, and I loved that it was just our group rather than with a bunch of strangers I would probably be annoyed with. Our tour guide had to cancel at the last minute, so we ended up being shown around by Ben Bissman himself, a 5th generation owner.

Spooky stories aside, wandering around inside the historic old building was an adventure in itself. The Bissman building was a wholesale grocery warehouse that also manufactured its own products, like coffee and peanuts. Some scenes from "Shawshank Redemption" were filmed here, as well as at the nearby Mansfield Reformatory. Fortunately, the Bissman building has stayed in the family, and they have saved an impressive number of artifacts from their days past. I would recommend booking a private historic tour to anyone! If you have an interest in the supernatural, that's just an added bonus. 

Personally, I have always been interested in ghost stories and hauntings since I was a little kid. I don't know that I've ever really had an experience myself, but I'm open to the idea. We still believe that my cousins grew up in a possibly haunted house and experienced some strange happenings, so at least a few of us in the group were sensitive to unexplained activity. With the exception of what happened in the front office, I didn't experience anything strange at the Bissman building...that is, unless you count the unexplained photographs I found when I looked back at my camera.

When the five of us gathered in the front office to meet Ben Bissman and hear a brief history of the family, the wooden door behind us suddenly slammed shut. We laughed nervously, and Ben joked, "well, we're off to a good start!" The door that shut was not the door to the outside, which would have made more sense if the wind from outside had made it close. The direction it was facing didn't make much sense to me why it would have slammed shut like that, but someone with a better concept of geometry might be able to explain how the setup of the building might allow for that to happen. Maybe. Still, I will admit that this could have an easy explaination, I just can't do it myself.

     Inside the front office with several generations of Bissmans

We toured all 4 floors, including the basement. Because we were a small group, Ben took us from floor to floor using the old freight elevator -- the same elevator where a former employee accidentally decapitated himself on his last day of work in 1911. Ben claimed people didn't usually get to ride the elevator, so we felt special. Honestly, it really added to the creepiness of the experience -- especially with its history. As the story goes, F.W. Simon collected his last paycheck, signed his name on the wall of the 4th floor (see photo below), and was stopping on the remaining floors to say goodbye to coworkers when he accidentally beheaded himself in the elevator shaft on the 3rd floor in full view of his friends. One of the things I liked about Ben's tour was that he did not sensationalize any of the building's history or occurrences in an attempt to make it seem more "spooky" - everything was told matter-of-factly, with Ben even admitting when particular details he retold would make the hairs on the back of his arms stand up. He told us that growing up as a child playing in the building, his dad and grandfather would yell at him not to play in the elevator so he didn't end up like F.W. It was never said as a ghost story meant to scare him, but rather was a real, honest-to-goodness warning to be careful.

    F.W. Simon on the far right

     The spot on the third floor where the beheading occurred

Most of the floors were being used as storage, and a few were still set up from previous music video or film shoots. When the elevator descended into the basement, there was a noticeable drop in temperature and the air was thick and damp. Not being surrounded by large windows on all sides like the floors above, it was creepy just thinking about what might be lurking in the dark, damp bottom level. There were large walk-in coolers that were pitch black, lit up only by our camera flashes as we stood inside. Apparently there are stories about a young girl possibly being buried in the corner by a night watchman many years ago, but there is no proof to these tales. When I looked back at my photos, anything strange I found was located on the floors where the more substantiated claims occurred.

     Inside the pitch-black cooler, lit up by camera flash

    The basement

I was sad to see the tour end, but I would go back in a heartbeat. I was a little disappointed no one seemed to have any supernatural experiences, but it was still very interesting and I had a great time. It wasn't until we got back to Cleveland and stopped to get something to eat that I pulled out my camera and began to look through what I captured. That was when I first noticed the strange purple glow. I was pretty sure that once I got home and could look at the photos on a bigger screen, I would figure out an explanation for what was on my tiny camera screen. But I'm still at a loss for words, and nothing anyone has offered by way of explanation has made any sense yet.

Someone suggested it was a glare from the lights on the floor. First, it doesn't even look like a glare or reflection on the photo. There is nothing nearby as a light source or anything shiny to be reflecting off of (the wooden banister?). The mist is strangely-shaped and see-through, not long like you might expect a beam of light to be.  Second, there was no overhead lights on the floors where this purple glow was captured (and certainly no purple lights). Even the huge warehouse windows that provided the light for those floors were not near where I was standing when I took those pictures, and nothing was immediately near me to reflect off of. Both large purple "mists" were captured near staircases in the middle of the darkened floors, and the windows were around the exterior walls. There were stories about activity near staircases, which makes these pictures all the more curious. If I remember correctly, these were taken on the third and second floors (the third being the scene of F.W.'s accident, of course...)

I can't explain away the purple haze by saying it was something on my camera lens, because the pictures were taken on completely different floors with a bunch of photos in between, none of which also have the abnormality. It does not look like anything I have ever seen in a photo and is nothing I have captured before or since. I really cannot think of anything that makes sense. Have any ideas? An employee of the Bissman building told me there has only been one other instance where an image like this has been captured there (wish I had seen it!)

This next image might be stretching things, I will admit that. It is not nearly as compelling and obvious as the purple images. But I figured I would share these here, too.

     I thought I saw something in the upper right of the photo, behind the shelf or whatever those squares were

     To me it looked like a man looking at the camera in a dark coat and hat 

     Could it be F.W. Simon?

My brother and his girlfriend enlarged a few of my images and noticed some curious things, as well. Again, not nearly as obvious as the mist photos and I hope I am not discrediting myself by even entertaining the possibility these other photos might be anything -- I am REALLY creeped out by the purple mist ones!!!

Anyone see faces in both of these? The second one in particular grosses me out.

Have you ever toured the Bissman building? Did you experience anything weird? Have you had other unexplained things happen somewhere else? I would love to hear about it!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Goofin off

Here's a photo dump of me and little miss havin some fun lately:

Hope you're having a good week so far!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Thrifting photo dump

One thing we didn't get a chance to do all summer with the new baby was to hit up any flea markets. I miss them! Hopefully by next year violet will be old enough to start coming with us on some junkin adventures. To make up for it, I have been doing a lot of thrifting when I can get a few hours to myself. It's my favorite "me" time and way to de-stress. Sometimes josh will come home after a long work day where I was cooped up at home and tell me, "I got this, go out thrifting." You better believe I'm halfway out the door!

My "new kinda kick" has been finding cool stuff for the little one; I never used to pay attention to kids stuff before! I have been putting a lot of effort into building her a neat library (including a lot of my old favorites), as well as upholding her reputation as "best dressed baby.":) I gotta admit, I have a ridiculous amount of fun dressing my baby girl!

I should have been taking more photos all along from some of my favorite finds, but here are a few I had on my phone. 

The day we found out we would be having a girl (the day before Halloween! Almost a year ago already!), we stopped at a thrift store where I found this adorable vintage outfit:

It started an obsession that lay dormant for a long time, as I had kinda lost faith in finding anything good at thrift stores in recent years. When I started going again I usually had good luck finding things for the baby, even when I couldn't find anything for myself.

Here are a few of my favorite thrifted outfits!

           I love me some smiling fruit!
  The only thing cuter than smiling fruit is baby animals! Wish I had a hedgehog shirt
        Vintage berry shirt? Yes, please!
       Best pajamas ever, hands down!
                Guilty as charged :)

The first big haul I was excited about had stuff for violet AND me:

Not only did I get her some cool books for her collection (including a "read along" book and record set of disney's haunted mansion with really neat illustrations), I also found cute clothes including the whale pajamas in the photo. Not sure when this cartoon whale obsession of mine started, but I dig it! I always get violet all the children's books I can find about wiener dogs, and I end up getting her a lot of cool Halloween/spooky stuff as well. She will probably grow up being the girl who reads about haunted houses instead of fairy princesses (just like mama!), and that's a-ok with me! I might have to do a post about her book collection sometime, cuz it's shaping up nicely. I found some records for myself, including elvis and a Beatles one I actually didn't have yet. The 45s were buddy holly and Etta James. Yes, please!

I found this adorable vintage Asian shirt that won't for her for a while still. Aren't the embroidered graphics great?

I found a bunch of Halloween stuff recently, which made my day! (The shirt is for her)

I was pretty excited about this latest trip, where I found some Halloween pants for her, a ridiculous King Kong spoof book with cat photos, and an eddie Munster onesie that is from the officially licensed munsters line! It won't fit her quite yet but it was one of my best finds for her.

I found some books for myself on the same trip...Can't. Stop. Buying. Books. Spooky stuff and kitschy roadtrip attractions, what could be better?!

Hoping to get back out there and find some more treasures soon! Have you found anything cool lately at the thrift store?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Every so often in a music lovers life, there will come a time when you get to experience a show that you never imagined you would have the opportunity to see AND IT WILL BLOW YOUR GODDAMN MIND. This has happened to me at least twice in the past, those being the 2012 Monkees tour that included Mike Nesmith, and the whirlwind 24-hour trip to NYC we made to see the Mummies play a small bar in full bandages. Both times my mind nearly short-circuited and they rank as two of the best shows I've had the privilege to see in my life, partly because they were ones I always dreamed of seeing but never thought I would have the chance. It happened again last week when I got to see the Monsters, featuring Reverend Beat-man, right here in my hometown of Cleveland.

 I have been a fan of the Monsters for something like 10 years, back when I first heard songs like "Psych out with me" and "I'm a record junkie." Though they are often labeled "psychobilly" at the beginning of their career, their music has evolved into a more lo-fi garage sound these days. A lot of times when a band changes sound throughout their career I have a definitive preference for one path or the other, but not with the Monsters. And although I don't generally like much psychobilly because a lot of it seems generic or cheesy to me, there are a few bands I really enjoy (early Monsters and Demented Are Go being two of them). When I would see other people talk about seeing the Monsters I would get so jealous, figuring it was something so far out of my league that I would never get the chance myself. Luckily, not so...

It started a few months ago when I got a text from one of my favorite local club owners, asking "Don't you like that Monsters band? They sound awesome. I think they might play here." This knocked me for a loop for two reasons: one, because the Monsters are from Switzerland and have never played Ohio in their 20+ year career, and two, because this wasn't even the sort of band that would normally make the bar owner excited about booking them. Although I had to keep the info quiet, I was dying to tell everyone I knew! To make matters worse, the Monsters never even officially announced their tour was happening until about two weeks before they came to the States. I was convinced right up until I started seeing their photos of neon signs and city skyscrapers and fancy breakfast instagram shots that the whole thing would end up getting cancelled or not happening for one reason or another. BUT IT WAS REAL! AND IT HAPPENED! And it was better than I even imagined.

I played records between bands, and Reverend Beat-man came over to the stage where I was set up to say hello. We had been friends on several social media sites for a while now, so I assume he recognized me. I've even begged him a few times when he posted live photos, "come play here!" I'd like to think my nagging helped nab a Cleveland show. From what I hear, his booker just straight up likes Now that's Class and booking through them. Hey, whatever it takes...

"You're playing records!" he said appreciatively, and I shook his hand and told him how nice it was to finally meet him.

When he sat down in a booth to hang out before the show, it made me a little flustered knowing he was sitting there listening to the records I picked out. I don't normally get starstruck, but this was a little different! After all, Beat-man is a respected record label owner/distro, dj, musician, record collector, and lover of all things sleazy and trashy...AKA, my kinda pal. I suppose when I met him I was expecting him to be a little more wild like his musical persona, but I was surprised to see he was soft-spoken and rather reserved. When it was finally time for the Monsters to take the stage, he was a madman during the performance (hence all the pictures I took where the left side of the stage is merely a blur!), but still charming and silly. He asked,

"So, what is your name?" to which the crowd yelled back, "CLEVELAND!"

"Oh, Cleveland is your name? That's nice. That's my daughter's name, too," he joked.

I really liked when Beat-man thanked us for "our" American rock'n'roll music, and illustrated how Swiss rock'n'roll was the equivalent of him pretending to eat something, chewing and swallowing it, and then...well, you can assume the final result which ended up cupped in the palm of his hand. I beg to differ on the quality of Swiss rock'n'roll, most specifically the Monsters, but I digress.

Seeing a band with two drummers is a bit of a novelty in itself, but it made an already incredible performance even more over the top. At the end of the night one of the drummers even thanked me for playing records, which meant a lot because I hadn't actually met him and didn't know he even noticed there WAS a dj. The bassist kept saying "merci, merci, merci!" after every song but it sounded a lot like he was saying "messy, messy, messy!" Thanks to him, this is a phrase I can't help but say (in the same accent) to my daughter as I sit down to feed her breakfast every morning and we listen to their newest record because it hasn't left my turntable all week. Seriously, you should see the girl eat some oatmeal. She's a disaster.

The set included quite a few from their latest album "...Pop up Yours!" and a mix of older tracks. When Beat-man started asking what musicians were from Cleveland, I saw this as my opportunity to hear their cover of the Cramps "Drug Train," which I currently can't get enough of. 

"I can't play 'Drug Train'," he responded, "I would love to, but I can't."

Bummer! But it was worth a shot. I could see Beat-man's set list taped to the wall from where I stood, but I didn't want to ruin the surprise by looking at what would come next. Besides "Drug Train" I really hoped to hear "Ponytail and a Black Cadillac," but I noticed when I asked for the set list after the show that this was included in their pool of encore songs that they apparently chose from depending on how they felt at each particular show. Our encore included "Ce Soir," "Black" and "I See Dead People." I thought for sure it was a short set and was surprised to look at the clock and see it had been about an hour long. TIME FLIES when you're havin' fun, or something. Whew! I wished they would start over and do it all again. If we didn't have a 5-month-old, I know for sure we would have been trying to make it to another one of their Midwest shows just to do it again. Maybe I would have gotten to hear my song in another one of the encores ;)

After the show my friends and I bought some merch and thanked the band for playing here. The turnout could have been better, but overall I don't think the band was very upset because they enjoyed the bar and the show was fun. One of my friends even gave the door guy an extra $20 as he left the show, explaining that after what he had seen, the $10 admission price seemed too cheap! When I asked Beat-man to take a photo, I again thanked him and told him I had been waiting ten years to see them play. He thanked me in return and even kissed me on the forehead, haha! I got a big hug for the picture, and I insisted that Josh take one more because he is notoriously bad at taking photos. 

We got home very late that night and the babysitter got peed on, but I'm gonna go ahead and chalk that one up as a success. I would LOVE to see them again some day! One of the best shows I've seen in my life, hands down. Long live Voodoo Rhythm!