Guestposting: Lilybett and the Banana Plantation

While I am wrangling a newborn, posting from me will be a little sparse. Thankfully! I have some amazing stand-ins who are here to share some of their most vivid childhood memories. Lilybett is representing Australia… or, ya know… the future! And her world sounds like a fantasy land of tropical magic. I think it is a good day to be transported. Also, if you’d like to read more about her life and her son check out her blog Lilybett and Boy.

In my youngest years, my family lived in a coastal town hemmed in by flood plains, a wide, brown river and wet, green mountains. A short drive away were beaches where we spent a lot of our weekends in and out of the waves, cutting our feet in rock pools and coming running when my Dad came in from his surf and whistled for us. When the waves were bad, we’d motor up and down the Pacific Highway in our Kombi van to find a better break. There are many memories of wet and salty weekends but much more vivid than these are the rarer ones of going to work with Dad on our banana plantation, a small patch of volcanic dirt clinging to the north side of South Brother Mountain.

plantation 2
For my father, the banana plantation was backbreaking labour with small returns and a constant threat of danger or loss: snakes and spiders dropping out of the leaves and bunches; rains causing mudslides and washing away the topsoil; or days and nights spent keeping bushfires at bay.

For me, it was magic.

On the drive up to the mountain, we’d count Burrawang trees and be on the lookout for Grug (a strange Australian fellow created by author Ted Prior). The closer we’d get to the plantation, the rougher the road became, turning eventually into a narrow track with a steep drop away from the passenger side. From there, the Bumpy Old Truck lived up to its name, with the engine making my eyeballs vibrate and I’d worry about them shaking loose. Once we hit the plantation, the smell of sunburnt earth and wet, living things grew and the smell of diesel fumes faded.

As Dad would hack at the undergrowth or harvest the big tiered bunches, I’d play in the doorway of the caravan chocked up on cinder blocks that was formally the plantation office. Informally, it was the home of two very cranky goannas that would hiss whenever the door was opened. I’d trail through the red dirt at the foot of the steep plots of trees, wanting to play under the long shivering fingers of the banana leaves and poke my fingers into the bulby alien flowers but never able to scramble up the initial metre high step. I’d also wield my own hammer, nailing bunches of unripened bananas on to a piece of wood, a job I thought was terribly important at the time but years later found was just busy work to keep me out from underfoot.

plantation 1
One weekend, Dad came charging out of the trees, threw me into the front cab of the truck and locked the door. A shotgun appeared, from the caravan, from the back of the truck, and he disappeared back into the green, yelling over his shoulder at me to stay put, ‘no matter what’. Hour-long minutes I stayed in that truck before I heard the gunshot, echoing off the mountainside and rattling through the windows. More hour-long minutes later, he returned, put the gun away and let me loose again. ‘Black Snake’.

I didn’t come to the plantation often after that, not by myself. Sometimes, we’d all trail up the mountain with the Kombi and Bumpy Old Truck full of friends and kids and spend the day in the dirt, showing them the trees and the view, picking fruit. More often, I would wait at home for Dad to bring home all the treasures and treats: buckets full of passionfruit or pawpaw, tiny ladyfingers or double deckers or bunches with five or six bananas stitched together like a catcher’s mitt.

Dad inevitably sold the plantation but he talks about it still, sometimes with fondness but usually with the shaking head of someone who survived and can now laugh about it. The red dirt is no longer under all our fingernails or stains the tread of our boots, but it lingers. I stopped eating bananas for quite a while, the tang and bitterness of banana skins, the metallic grit of hammer and nail, the pale yellow flesh all mixing in my mind and overwhelming my much younger senses. I returned to them as an adult and as a mother, buying them now for my Dear Boy, who’ll eat them mushed into his porridge, smashed on toast or in little rounds, peeling the skins himself. Babies and bananas just work.

Guestposting: Olivia Calls it Splitsville

While I am wrangling a newborn, posting from me will be a little sparse. Thankfully! I have some amazing stand-ins who are here to share some of their most vivid childhood memories. Olivia and her sister, Jenny, share a blog – Lovely At Your Side – and are kind of what I imagine sisters to be in my dream world of “I wish I had a sister!!” Olivia is awesome, I chat with her on twitter often, and I am very grateful she took the time to write a guest post on – what else? – her sister. Jenny also happened to be the officiant at Olivia’s wedding, so if anyone is looking for someone to marry them, check at her website for deets. Now, here is Olivia:


So before I begin my childhood memory story, I need to give a little background. I’m the oldest in the family, and before my sister was born, when I was a mere 2 years old, I was an avid doll player. I had many baby dolls, and my favorites were the ones named Jenny (yes, multiple dolls with the same name). I loved to carry them, baby them, rock them to sleep. I adored them. So, when the real life baby alive Jenny came along when I was just shy of two and half years, I fell head over heels for her. She was MY baby; if she was crying, I would panic, I would snuggle her, kiss her little feet. She was my dream baby. We were (are) thick as thieves, almost twin like. We had our own language, our own acronyms for things (which we still use), we lived in our own little world.

Which is why, I believe, she was taken so off guard and stunned when I did the unimaginable.

I kicked her out of our shared bedroom.

Not only did I kick her out, but I did it in the most disrespectful way ever: I told Grandma on her. Now, let me get this straight. Jenny never did anything wrong, she just…happened to be in the room which was mine before she came along (albeit, only a month before she came along; we moved into the house in June, she was born in July). I was six, and wanted some…independence? Looking back, I have no real answers. The room wasn’t small; we had matching wooden beds, and we would stay up at night chit-chatting about our dolls, our days, and making up imaginary scenarios in which we were mommies together. But, at some point, the slightly defiant six year old in me decided it was time to split the team up, and we needed our own rooms. To be honest, I was probably, in my head being romantic about it, and the thought of having things such as walkie-talkies (which we never got) to use from room to room, or having “sleepovers” in each others rooms probably was my intent…but I didn’t handle it right.

I complained to our grandmother (and ahem, I happened to be a grandma’s girl then, and now…), and she took it upon herself to help me unload my poor little sister’s clothing from our joint dresser into the other room. Thinking about it now breaks my heart. How cruel a sister was I! But, Jenny, in true Jenny style…said little, sighed, and respected my wishes. She trusted her older sister to know what was best, but, looking back, I wish I had done things differently. I missed her in our room…and know what? Shortly thereafter, midst my parents divorce and strife, we did have our “sleepovers” in each others rooms, and they lasted years (years!) at a time. We couldn’t be without the other one!

Years later, when I went to college first, she would come visit me and despite having no where to sleep, we would curl up in bed, feet to head, and fall asleep, calm, knowing the other was right there. When she went to NYU, I would take the train into the city, and crash on her tiny bed, in her tiny dorm room with her.

download1I guess this is my public apology to my sister. I never intended to kick you out of our room, I guess I just needed some six-year old independence and you were my poor pawn. But what this has proven is that no matter if there’s a bed or not, my room is always your room, and your room is always mine. All we need is a few pillows, blankets, some chocolate, and some good episodes of the Mary Tyler Moore show. Then we’ll be all good to go.


Sometimes while Kamel is up in the middle of the night changing Gabe, before he has brought him to me to nurse, I wish that Gabe will poop or pee just as Kamel is done putting on a fresh diaper just so I can spend more time sprawled out in bed like a starfish.

One time in college I was short 1 load of laundry detergent, so I attempted to steal some from a girl who had left her bottle in the laundry room. Half way into pouring it the girl walked in. Probably one of the biggest oh-shit moments of my life.

I never ever ever feel satisfied after just 1 (or even 2 or 3) cookies or donuts or cupcakes. Ever. I don’t think there is a baked good I couldn’t eat an entire dozen of.

I had a huge crush on my biology teacher in high school. I and a few other girls used to tell him we were going to sell our eggs for money just to get a rise out of him. It was nice to know he gave even a shred of concern for our reproductive futures.

I have peed in my sleeping bag a million times at sleepovers because of the giggles and because I didn’t want to leave to go to the bathroom in case I missed out on something.

I always tell them I love them first. Always.

I hate Apple products just because of the pretension.

I almost never read books more than once, but I like to have them around anyway.

I really hate running. Even when I was a runner I hated it. I will never run a marathon because I really don’t want to. (Watch in 3 years I’ll have run a fucking marathon. No, I won’t. We’ll see.)

I am annoyed by lots of things. Kamel is annoyed by only a few things. His lack of annoyance annoys me.

I believe that dream catchers actually work.

I definitely judge people on there bumper stickers and vanity plates.

One time when I was old enough to know better, I pooped in an Embassy Suites pool. I think it mostly was just in my bathing suit. After I cleaned it up I went right back in.

Within my Top 5 Favorite Things To Do In Normal Time resides: Out to drinks with ladies and sharing a lot of TMI. TMI makes friends out of strangers. It delights me. Actually, with me, there is no such thing as too much, there is just: information.

I have never seen The Big Lebowski but I pretend like I have all of the time. Also, I think Catcher In The Rye is obnoxious. Hemingway is overrated.

I really resent seat belt laws. I would wear my seat belt anyway, but stop telling me what to do nanny state!

I have really thick ankles. Anklets never fit me. Also, those shoes with the ankle straps are a nightmare.

I’ve seen Street Fighter, the movie, way above 20 times and had a massive obsession with Jean-Claude Van Damme in 5th grade. While in the computer lab at school I accidentally came across a naked photo of him, spread eagle on the hood of a car. that was my first penis sighting. It wasn’t that great.

About 50% of the time I will accidentally tell you about the surprise that is being planned for your birthday or your awesome christmas present. I’ll tell you without even realizing it until you stop me and ask me to clarify. Oops.

I have no idea how to end this post. So I’m writing this instead.

Guestposting: Helen and The First

While I am wrangling a newborn, posting from me will be a little sparse. Thankfully! I have some amazing stand-ins who are here to share some of their most vivid childhood memories. I love having Helen on the blog because she is so incredibly thoughtful. Helen and her wife Lindi inspire me to live creatively on the every day and not just project by project. You can check out more of their work at Clover and Lace and Bettencourt Chase Photography.

Helen Brownie

The first time I remember holding a camera, I was ten years old. We lived in a two story house on the outskirts of a town in western New York, off the highway that led directly to my grandmother’s house forty-five minutes away. The second story of our house was one long, skinny room, and my sister and I had it all to ourselves. It felt special. We had a dress up box in the corner of our room, full of yard sale finds and costume jewelry.

It was the nineties, and I didn’t have a camera of my own, but my parents let me have one roll of film and borrow their point-and-shoot camera. My sister and I dug through the box of clothes to find the best things for her to model for me, and first settled on a white tee-shirt and a floor-length metallic and tulle purple skirt. (At least, it was floor length on Emily, who was only eight and pretty tiny.) The fabric swished as we dashed about the house, setting up each photo. One may or may nor have involved peacock feathers. For the outdoor photos, we decided to garb her as a spotted owl. We settled on the floor of our upstairs room and cut out circles of brown construction paper, then painstakingly used circles of tape to stick them all over her all-white outfit (including a hat).

Although we technically lived in town, our backyard was rather spectacular. The cut grass ended at a row of trees, and although I’m honestly not sure how far into the woods was actually ours, we would spend hours exploring when the weather was nice. I had Emily climb into a tree in the yard, to be her best owl self, and pose perched on a sturdy branch until we’d run out of film.

I wish I knew where those photos were– I’m sure they are somewhere in a box mixed with school papers and art projects. I got my own first camera for my twelfth birthday, and moved to a DSLR when I went to college at 17. Now my wife and I own a photography company, and there have been many cameras and thousands upon thousands of photos since that first roll of film, but I will always remember that first afternoon spent having my little sister pose as my first model.

Helen Face

Guestposting: Jennifer Totally Has The Power

While I am wrangling a newborn, posting from me will be a little sparse. Thankfully! I have some amazing stand-ins who are here to share some of their most vivid childhood memories. One time I fell while wearing my Moon Shoes when I wasn’t supposed to. Jennifer’s story goes a little something like that.

I am 5’2″.

Now, granted, I come from short stock. My grandmother is 5’4″ (or, at least, she was when she stood up straight; she doesn’t anymore). My grandfather was 5’6″. My mother is 5’3″. My father and his side of the family are a missing branch of my tree, but my mother never indicated he was exceptionally tall. (I’ve always pictured him as nondescript and average, not having much to go on.)

Anyway, so yes, at 5’2″ I am short, and my DNA backs this up. Still, I am pretty sure I was supposed to be taller. Not much taller, maybe 5’4″ or 5’5″, but taller than I am. Everyone thinks I am taller than I am, even when I am wearing flats. I appear taller.

You see, I think I stunted my growth. When I was 5, I broke my tailbone.

Now, according to my old chiropractor, any time you break a bone, it never *really* heals. At least, not back to 100 percent. And what happens to one bone affects all the other bones. Apparently, he said, even my broken right ring finger affects all the other bones.

(The irony here is that I broke my finger because I was trying to catch myself on the banister before I tumbled down the stairs. I nearly tumbled down the stairs, because I was sporting the late 90s 4 inch platform heel trend. Why was I wearing these ridiculous shoes you ask? Because I am SHORT!)

My current chiropractor isn’t so convinced of this theory. Even still, the stunted growth makes sense. This is clearly what happened.

So, how did I manage to stunt my growth?

As an 8os child, I was never into Cabbage Patch Kids, and while I liked Barbies, they were not my favorite. She-Ra was my favorite. OF COURSE she was. She-Ra is BAD ASS. She didn’t even need a prince to come rescue her; her brother helped her out every now and again, but they were equals, which is pretty rocking. So, of course my mother would take me to see She-Ra and He-Man at Radio City Music Hall. And there, she would buy me a plastic souvenir sword that GLOWED in the DARK. And, at the end of the show, She-Ra and He-Man promised that if we had that sword, we too would Have The Power.

Well now, isn’t this convenient. Because now I could tell my bratty older cousin, Kevin, where he could stick it. Kevin was a year and a half older than me, and just by nature of his age and his gender, a lot bigger and stronger than me. Well, won’t I show HIM. Because HIS MOM didn’t bring him to Radio City Music Hall to see He-Man and She-Ra, so HE didn’t have a glow-in-the-dark sword that would give HIM The Power.

I sashayed into my Aunt’s kitchen the next day, parading my sword around.

“I can beat you up,” I taunted.

Kevin snorted. “No you can’t.”

“Yes I CAN. Because I have THIS SWORD and you don’t! I Have The Power!”

“Yeah, all right,” he said. “PROVE IT.”

“I WILL!” I announced. I proceeded to strut into Kevin and his brother Brian’s bedroom and climbed up their bunk beds onto their tall dresser …

… I think you know where this is going.

I stood atop the dresser and raised the sword above my head. As I was chanting “I HAVE THE POWER!” I lost my footing.

THUMP. I fell five feet onto the linoleum floor. Square onto my tailbone.

I wailed. Sure, I was in pain, but my pride was wounded far worse.

Kevin and Brian (the latter, who was supposed to be “watching” us) ran into the bedroom ahead of my aunt. “I can’t believe she actually DID it!” Brian exclaimed. Kevin looked on in shock, knowing the wrath he was about to endure from my aunt once she calmed me down. I was inconsolable.

I am probably the reason for superfluous warnings. “WARNING: This sword won’t really give you the Power.” But you know what? Damaged tailbone, back problems, stunted growth aside, believing in magic didn’t permanently damage me. In fact, despite this, er, mishap, I continued to believe in magic. I was by far the last of my peers to give up on Santa Claus. I still duck and cover when the dinosaur on the Dinosaur ride in Disney World tries to chomp my head off.

Childhood without magic is like Batman without Robin, or Superman without Lois Lane, or He-Man without She-Ra …

… you see what I did there? 🙂

Guestposting: Donna and the Memory Mashup

While I am wrangling a newborn, posting from me will be a little sparse. Thankfully! I have some amazing stand-ins who are here to share some of their most vivid childhood memories. Donna’s childhood world sounds amazing. As someone who had no cousins until she was 14 and no siblings – this whole thing is fascinating and seems like utopia!

When Lauren asked for people to write guest posts about their most vivid childhood memory, I thought “I’ll do it, I loved so many things about being a kid!” However, when I sat down to think about which memory I actually wanted to write about, I couldn’t pick one. My childhood felt like it was a jumble of memories rather than having one single memory stand out as being the most vivid.

Highlights include:

  • Going to my cousin’s house and spending hours setting up to play with her many Barbie dolls, dividing the clothes between each doll and marking areas of her bedroom to be houses, shops, the beauty salon etc only to finish setting up and be told that it was time to go home.
  • Letting my cousin pull out my wobbly teeth that wouldn’t come out. Once she played dentist and did it with her hand, but I did let her tie a string around a tooth another time to pull it out – by tying the string to a door knob and slamming the door.
  • Hiding in the back of the van with my cousin and secretly cutting out a clump of her hair because she’d stuck chewing gum behind her ear like Violet Beauregarde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
  • Sneaking into the formal lounge on Christmas Eve to “arrange the presents nicely under the tree” aka try to guess what we were getting for Christmas. One year, our parents used foil wrapping paper on our presents. Sticky tape comes straight off foil wrapping and no one can tell if it’s been unwrapped! 😉
  • Helping our mums to organise a surprise party for my cousin, slipping up and telling her about it and then laughing because she didn’t realise that when we saw all of her friends in a local fast food restaurant after school it was actually the surprise party.
  • Ganging up on my sister with my brother (her twin) and telling her that she was adopted. From Jupiter.

When we (my cousin and I) were teenagers, our mothers decided to rent a big 7 bedroom house for our two families to live together. We lived there for about a year and it was one of the most fun years of my life. Some of the memories that stand out the most from this period include:

  • Having “sleepovers” in each other’s bedrooms even though our rooms were right next door to each other.
  • Inventing a game with our younger siblings (we have 2 each) that involved rolling someone up in a bed sheet, helping them to stand, spinning them around to make them dizzy and then making them chase everyone else around the room while trying to escape from the sheet. Typing that out makes us sound like we’re insane, but I promise it was heaps of fun!

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that the reason that I couldn’t pick a most vivid childhood memory is because almost all of the most vivid memories I have from childhood are all shared with my cousin, J. It’s her friendship that is the most vivid memory from my childhood, not any one day or event. J is only one month and three days older than me and our baby photos show that our mothers always treated us more like siblings than cousins. Since we were reunited at age 8 when J’s family immigrated to Australia, we’ve had an incredible friendship. There have been times over the past 22 years when we’ve drifted apart but I have always known and felt like no matter what, I could turn to her and she could turn to me for absolutely anything – whether it’s the questions that feel too stupid to ask someone else, the secrets that seem like too big to tell someone else or the insecurities that we feel we can’t share with other people. Perhaps “memory” is the wrong word to use for something that is ongoing but I can’t separate my relationship with J from my childhood memories.

Guestposting: Amanda and The Magic Oven

While I am wrangling a newborn, posting from me will be a little sparse. Thankfully! I have some amazing stand-ins who are here to share some of their most vivid childhood memories. Today’s lovely guest posting is by Amanda from Poppies and Ice-cream. Whenever I read her blog I marvel at how similar we are. She is like my Mexican counterpart, living in Amsterdam. Pretty awesome.

Amanda 1

When Lauren asked us to write about our most vivid childhood memory, I had to stop and think for a while. I remember the first time I saw a killer whale at Sea World, and those penguins behind glass that you look at while you stand on an electric escalator as you pass by them. I remember watching all the animals (the snakes, the giraffes, the panda bears!) at the (huge) San Diego Zoo. I remember being absolutely sure (and later, disappointed) that the animals at the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland were real-life elephants, crocodiles and tigers.  I remember petting farms, feeding goats and flamingos. I guess I was very impressed by all these animals, because later I would go on to study Biology and Veterinary Medicine.


Anyhow, as I tried to bring back more childhood memories the one that I should write about struck me. Growing up the Christmas holidays were always full of magic. Like most kids, I believed in Santa Claus and the 3 Wise Magi from the East up until the last possible moment, when one Christmas morning our stockings were filled with the red-and-white candy canes that I had seen laying on the top of the fridge for well over a month. That’s when I knew who was behind it all. Or maybe it was the year I had asked for the “Hornomágico” (magic oven). This was a toy oven that made real cakes. My oldest cousin had it, and I remember looking forward to visiting her so we could bake and play for hours. She lived in a huge apartment building, which came with lots of neighbours. It was lots of fun. But my favourite game was preparing cakes with her magic oven.  The cakes produced by said artifact were pancake-like and after they were ready we would proceed to decorate them with chocolate spread, glazes, meringue, sprinkles…


This one Christmas I had begged and prayed and hassled my parents about it. I had written my letter to the 3 Wise Magi, complete with photos of the toys I wanted (cut and pasted from toy catalogues). On January 6 I rushed down to the tree, early in the morning, with my brother, and there it was. My Magic Oven, right under my shoe. We had to wait for what seemed an eternity for our parents to wake up and help us assemble the toys. When it was finally time, after taking out all the plastick-y pieces from the box and putting them together my dear mom exclaimed: “What? This thing cooks with a light bulb? Of course it will not work!”  I explained that “Yes it works, my cousin has it, we make cakes with it all the time.” All the crying, begging and annoyingly repeating of my story did not work. She took the oven, put everything back in the box and took me to the shop so I could pick something else. She told me some story about how the Wise Magi left the receipts with the parents in case of events like this. What? I thought they made the stuff with their magic powers, you know, like the Elves in the North Pole. I remember I got She-Ra’s crystal castle instead, which was a great choice because my brother had He-Man’s Grayskull castle and we would play epic games that lasted for hours.


Nevertheless the spell had been broken, a tiny doubt had started to grow in me and later these events would be proof of what I knew but didn’t want to accept.

It’s funny that I remember this episode so vividly, as, at 32, after trying to find a job in my field for 3 years, doing internships, taking unrelated jobs (in the tourism business) and applying to any vacancy even remotely related to the veterinary, bio-medical or food technology fields, without success, I am about to start a business*, in, you guessed it, baking and hand-painting cakes.  Some childhood dreams last forever.

*I want to say Christina’s post on owning her own business and the perks of being your own boss (here at your blog) was an inspiration. I kept coming back to re-read it during the long process it took before I finally decided to take the plunge, research all the legal details and the market, swallowed my fears and put myself out there.

Image credits:
Here and here and here and here and here and here.

Guestposting: Kristin and Summers In Rhode Island

While I am wrangling a newborn, posting from me will be a little sparse. Thankfully! I have some amazing stand-ins who are here to share some of their most vivid childhood memories. Kristin is someone I respect immensely for her talent and her kindness on the internet. You can check out more of her writing and adventures at Not Intent On Arriving.

I had an almost alarmingly idyllic childhood.  Aside from the basics (wonderful parents, a great school, and a safe neighborhood with friends in walking-distance), my childhood was filled with beautiful things.  My first memory is of bells being rung at my parents’ ski-cabin.  My best friend lived next door, and we played house in a lilac bush in her backyard.  When it was raining out, we would hunt around her 250-year-old house for secret passages.  Years later, I lifeguarded at a local lake, and it feels like we ate barbecue, lit sparklers and tipped over our canoe on a nearly daily basis.  There were scraped knees, tantrums over Shirley Temple drinks at restaurants, and no doubt many other hurt feelings, but my memories of childhood are nearly all filled with light and joy.


Out of these perfect memories, the weeks we spent in summer on the Rhode Island shore stand out to me more than any other.  Each year, my mother’s best friend would rent a house in Charlestown, just a mile from the beach.  Her parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews would all join us there, along with a rotating assortment of friends.  The house had five bedrooms, no cable, and no air conditioning.  It was on a flat road where my sister and I both learned to ride our bikes, and it had a porch in the back where we would grill dinner a few times during our stay.  The showers regularly ran out of hot water, and we’d arrive back at the house from the beach to flash under the freezing water and wash the salt off our skin.

Our day-to-day usually varied within the weeks we were there, but it became a familiar and comforting routine over the years.  We’d spend a few days riding our bikes to the beach, where you would find us swimming in the freezing ocean, lying in the hot sun, and eating potato chips and cold-cut sandwiches crunching with sand between the slices of white bread.  If the waves were particularly high or the undertow particularly strong, we’d head to Narragansett Bay for a more protected swimming area.  Other days, we’d take the ferry and wander around Block Island, or drive out to Newport to gawk at the mansions and their views of the water.  We often went whale watching, which invariably made my father sea-sick, and it was on one of these trips that I first tried a Nutrageous bar, which felt strangely important, though now I can’t remember why.  At least once every trip, we’d head to Mystic Seaport, and sometimes catch a movie there.  On the rare rainy day, we’d sit inside the humid house reading, playing cards, or watching Law & Order re-runs.

Most evenings, depending on our moods, we’d go out for dinner to WB Cody’s in Westerly, the Lobster Pot in Bristol, the Sunflower in Cranston, or George’s in Galilee for what seemed like an endless supply of clam chowder, lobster, and barbecue.  Almost every single night, without fail, we’d wait on what felt like an endless line for Around the Corner Ice Cream.  Run by URI students and serving what tasted like pure heaven, the ice cream shop was our go-to place.  We’d sit in the parking lot finishing our giant cones in the night’s fading heat before heading back home to lie in bed and feel the ocean-wave sway from a long day of swimming rock us to sleep.


I haven’t been back to Rhode Island in almost nine years, and we haven’t spent the night there in close to fifteen years, but everything about it feels as clear as day to me now.  Of all my deeply happy childhood memories, the memories I have of our time on the shore are absolutely the happiest, and I hope that one day I’ll be able to share those memories and that place with children of my own.

Saturday Edition (On a Sunday): The Epic ebay Battle

This is Kamel! He sometimes writes on Saturdays (and sometimes on other days too… like Sundays). Enjoy!

So I’ve been using ebay for about 11 years now and every now and then I use it to sell random crap. When I go on these selling spurts, they are usually quite successful. Turning the crap into cash is really nice. Plus, frees up space! In all of those transactions, there have been 3 bad ones. Ebay is a little tricky because it’s all about getting money from a random stranger who you are trusting a teensy bit to pay you, and then they are trusting you to send them the random crap they bought.

Before the holiday break, I helped my friend sell her broken iPhone 4. The phone had a completely shattered screen (as they do) and scuffed up, but it still worked. I listed it for 99 cents with no reserve for 5 days ending on a Saturday and opened it up to the entire world (as you should). Bidding kept creeping up and up to the point where Lauren and I worried the winner would think he was getting a brand new iPhone (Lauren Edit: Kamel worried about this, I gave 0 fucks). But I had made sure my auction was super clear with the words “broken, cracked, as is” in the title and in the description, plus a lot of photos to boot. I also made it clear: No refunds.

Anyways, bidding ended at around $274 not including fees. For a broken phone! The power of the internet at its best! But then I checked where we  had to ship the phone to. Russia. Great.

Now, I’ve shipped things to Russia before and have never had an issue, it just takes forever! And their customs is shady, and I have heard of some scary spam stories on the message boards. (Lauren Edit: hehehe… message boards… oh Kamel.) As per my auction, I was to ship to Russia via USPS International First Class Mail. Foreshadowing moment: This was my first mistake.

On December 18th I went to the Post Office and shipped the phone to the Russian dude. I couldn’t add tracking info because he did not choose to pay extra to add it. (This was probably the first red flag in hindsight). But I did have the Customs Form Number, which can be used as proof of shipment and can be partially tracked. The estimated time for delivery was around 20 business days, or January 18-21 ish. When I got home, I let the buyer know he could expect his package on or around those days (because I am awesome, and thoughtful and have a 100% rating…. booya).

Weeks went by and I never heard back from him, so I assumed all was okay. Then one day on January 4th I received a strange email from him. He said:

Hi. It took a long time after the payment. IPhone I got. Tracked number you gave. I ask you to give the information.

What? In my head, he was saying, “Hey sorry it took me a long time to pay you (he took a week to pay me), I got the iPhone and tracked it with the number you gave me. Could you confirm?” I think… The language barrier was obviously an issue, and I wasn’t totally certain what he was trying to say. Because I wanted to make sure that all was well, I replied asking him to confirm if he had, in fact, got the iPhone. At this point I was surprised that it seemed to have arrived much earlier than anticipated. I was a little relieved too, since there was a chance that customs in Russia would have delayed it even beyond the 20 business days. But I wanted to make sure that he wasn’t asking for further tracking information.

The very next day, without responding to me at all, he opened a dispute against me with ebay claiming he had never received the iPhone. Ebay – because they have almost ZERO seller protection and nearly always side with the buyer – automatically put a hold on my paypal for the amount he paid until I responded. This is 100% typical ebay protocol, so I responded the same day letting them know I had shipped the item, and thought he had gotten it based of his first email. I even went to the post office to double check that things had gone through. The post office assured me that it was way too soon (being only Jan. 4th) and that the recipient needed to wait until at least the 20th to be at all concerned. I gave ebay the customs number, and all of the info the post office had told me. He would get the phone (or he already got it).

The next morning, the buyer did not accept my response… because? I’m not sure. Maybe he is just a scamming douchebag. So ebay automatically refunded him the entire amount for the phone closed the case. What the fuck.

So, because I fucking hate customer service bullshit like this, I appealed the decision immediately, saying that, 1. Not enough time had gone by (For the 100th time) and the item should arrive within a few weeks. 2. A refund at this point is ebay basically facilitating a theft, since when the seller gets the phone (if he really hadn’t) he has no obligation to claim he got it. And 3. The decision felt automated and I wanted a human being to review it. (Lauren Edit: RIGHT?! Arrgghhhh. At this point I am pretty disgusted with ebay’s customer service. Especially when they make an ass load of money, dependent solely on the successful transactions between strangers!!)

Two days went by (while Lauren seethed and I was full of the regrets for not paying the extra 30 dollars for the tracking numbers, even just to protect myself) before ebay sent me a notice saying they had reviewed the case (yadda  yadda), and … decided to keep their original decision.

They would not give me back the money and would not pursue it any further.

Once again ebay has proved terrible service for sellers. In the end, ebay will always side with buyers because, “the customer is always right” which I know from working in retail is a BULLSHIT statement. Sometimes the customer is an asshole.

At this point in my story, ebay removed options to appeal any further, and sent me an email saying I should move on with my life, in a polite yet robotic sort of way. BUT, as Lauren knows all to well, when does that ever stop me? So I picked up the phone and called ebay.

The first gentleman I spoke with was clueless on how to handle this and kept reading script lines to me in broken English. Ebay outsources their customer service which means… it basically has no customer service… The man kept saying that the decision was final and buyer protection wins out. I reminded him that ebay also has seller protection and asked if I could speak to his supervisor. He transferred me over to his supervisor, who I could barely understand (again). I told him that based on the initial email, the guy sounded like he did received the phone, but since I questioned it, he took it as an advantage to file a fraudulent dispute. The supervisor at ebay did not care, and said that a seller can do that and get a refund without being obligated to show proof or send the item back – IF! I could not provide him with a proof of delivery. I reminded him that on my auction page, I mentioned that international sales will not get tracking, and the buyer agreed to that. Plus, I did have proof of shipment, and at this point it was still WAY TOO EARLY to receive it in the first place! He apologized but said the decision was final. He said I could talk to a supervisor in the ebay resolution center in the US, but that it would probably be a waste of time. I did not care about this supposed “waste of time” deterrent BS, and asked him to transfer me.

The lady back in the US heard my story and said she would review the emails and get back to me in a minute. She came back and said (finally) in her opinion it did indeed look like he got the phone, but once I questioned it, the crazy Russian  filed a dispute to take advantage of me. And then, just like that, after days and days, and many raised voices on my part, she finally reversed the decision and placed the money back into my account. HA! I win!! All hail the conquering hero!!

She apologized for my troubles, but said it happened because disputes are automated and just go through the motions without a person reviewing them. But it was good that I called. She also apologized for the first line of support, but explained that they are not trained on how to handle these escalations and cannot access my messages (Then why are they the first line of support at all?). No further action was needed on my part, her decision was indeed final. Case closed. Booya.

A few days later I saw the funds go back into my account,  BUT not from Russian dude. The funds came from ebay itself. Which means Russian dude probably got to keep his money and the iPhone. Which sucks!! This is setting a precident where people can scam sellers on ebay, and shadiness reigns supreme.

But hey, in the end. I win one! Epic battle closed.

Things, January

Monday night I came home from work and was curled up in bed, falling asleep, by 7:30. This is why there was no post yesterday. But then! The whole sleeping thing turned out to be a bit of a mistake because by 10:30, when I woke up to roll my sore, big body over, I had the most glorious (and slightly troubling) sensation of waking up from a great nap. By 2:30 I had fidgeted, rolled, peed so many times that I was super awake and super fed up with being in bed altogether,  but I tried to ignore it as it was the middle of the night! By 3:30 I had for sure given up and began playing word games on my phone. By 4:30 I was so uncomfortable and bored and hating myself for not being able to sleep, for sleeping too early, etc etc, that I woke up Kamel – who was very sleepy but also a very good sport. And then I cried because, “I hate this!” and then we snuggled and chatted until the alarm went off at 5:30. At which point! I hopped out of bed, fit as a fiddle, to make myself breakfast while Kamel got the Daily Show prepped on the iPad. But then… after breakfast…. I promptly fell fast asleep. I was basically a completely broken human yesterday. Never again am I allowed to sleep before 9pm, unless there are other-worldly circumstances like flu, or newborn, or… nope that’s pretty much it.

I do my best to catch the 514 train home every day, but because I am much slower now, sometimes I miss it and can only catch the 520. When I do catch the 514 I always sit in the same car, even if I don’t mean to… and most of the time I am always surprised that it is the same car because it is not my intention. Creature of subconscious habit, I guess. In the car that I seem to 90% of the time choose, there are a group of commuters who always sit next to each other and who are the most obnoxious, ignorant, racist loud talkers on the planet! (Probably not the whole planet…. probably just on the little planet that is Caltrain.) Anyways – they almost make me want to give up my favorite swear words because they are sooooo crass and obnoxious that they make me cringe. There is 1 lady, who loves to talk about black people, and there are 3 dudes…. or 2… sometimes I can’t tell because they always sit behind me and I never want to turn around and look at them. There is 1 guy who is always talking about how “old” he is, and he is probably, maybe in his 50s? And he is always talking about how he would just “beat the shit out of” whomever or whatever because he’s “too old for that bullshit, I can’t stand that fucking [insert any number of things here].” The young guy (or 2?) is some kind of computer person…. or something involving technology, and he is always trying to defend his knowledge of something that the old guy is challenging him on. And the lady never knows what the hell she is talking about… well none of them do most of the time, but the lady is the worst because she wholeheartedly believes everything that comes out of her mouth even though it is ridiculously incorrect. Some days it is everything I can do not to turn around and correct the random wrong fact about some random thing they are convincing each other of. But then I remember they are totally mean, racist, and a little crazy… also I really need to do a better job at not talking to strangers, so I never engage and I always keep my distance.

Here are a list of things I can’t wait to do once the baby is out of my body:

– Dance like I have a waist and am not afraid to use it.

– Sleep on my stomach (oooo even the thought of it sends a jolt of happy through my body!)

– Walks with the stroller…! We have all of this cool kid-equipment and I don’t even get to use it! I know my time will come, but I’m stoked to take all the things we bought out for a spin.


– Being able to dress up Gabe in any outfit I want and then take pictures of him in said outfit and post them on the internet.

– Start taking the train in the morning again, and by association keep up with my reading.

I had a full on “I’m pregnant but I’m also faaaaaaat” meltdown on Sunday. It may have also been due to completely over-doing it on Saturday with too many appointments and too much running around and not enough rest time. But, on Sunday morning I didn’t even make it out of bed before I was sobbing and Kamel was patting my head saying, “You are beautiful, honey… it’s just pregnancy! I swear!” Which is so much like every movie, Lifetime mini series, etc etc I’ve ever seen that it makes me laugh just typing it out. This has been maybe only the second meltdown… the first one was when I was pacing the floor in the middle of the night because I had one of the PANICS early in my pregnancy about how I wasn’t keeping up with my fitness. Sigh. How adorable that tiny person was back then. Anyway, I had the meltdown, I wallowed, I tweeted, I read the lovely twitter responses, I let Kamel pat my head some more, and then I got over it. I’m doing the best I can and I need to keep reminding myself of that. It’s difficult with the first pregnancy, I have no idea what my body is capable of, what my “normal” is (because… on some level – screw the textbook normal), or what will happen to me post labor/delivery. So many changes, so many unknowns that it can be really overwhelming. But… I’m doing the best I can, this is the best I have. And as long as in the end, I can laugh so hard I pee a little at the site of my new golf-ball (or as Kamel said “like the skin of an orange!” thanks honey) textured rump, I think I’m doing ok.