The Bitch Is Back

Late September, 2015, changed my  life forever.

I was standing at the door of my apartment, talking to my friend – and neighbor – Tanya. I can see the moment that altered the course of, well, EVERYTHING as clear as day. It was dusk and a beautiful, clear night. She was getting ready for a visit to Florida and we chatted about Disney World – which, for as much of a badass that I am, I fucking love. I was in the middle of defending why Epcot was full of the awesome when it happened.

It felt like a gunshot had gone off inside my leg.

I felt the bone crack. There are no words to describe how it feels when the biggest, strongest bone in your body breaks.

Grasping for something, anything to break my fall, I grabbed Tanya.

And I began screaming.

I didn’t stop until they gave me something in the Emergency Department.

Emergency surgery made my femur bionic. It also infected me with a group D streptococcus bacterium.

Rehab followed the surgery and, in looking back, did not help in the slightest. The rehabilitation center kept me for a week, not the month I should’ve had, but not knowing any better, I was just glad to come home. Until, of course I got home. I was in such agony that I could barely move, let alone DO anything for myself, which is especially hard when, y’know, you LIVE by yourself.

I went back to work a couple of days after I returned home. I was summarily fired on a technicality I knew nothing about. I’d been preparing for it – another one of the nurses had been fired for going on FMLA (not, of course for taking it – that would make it illegal! – but on a technicality. Same old song and dance.

There were bits and blurbs I can remember from October to December, but really, most of that time was erased from my memory banks. I was told that in cases of severe stress and pain, our brain (thankfully) “forgets” those times. Permanently. I do remember that every time I went to see the orthopedic doctor who’d performed my surgery, my leg made no progress toward healing. I do know, thanks to my Facebook feed, that I, much like Chicago’s voters, I fell early and I fell often.

At the beginning of December, I fell again. This time, there was no cute Facebook post whining about a fall. This time is completely black. I can remember waking my child with my screams. He called 911. I remember parts of the ambulance ride and what I described in the post below.

What I now know is that my orthopedic doctor called in a trauma surgeon to treat me. I’d managed snap the titanium rod into pieces. And, as a precaution, both my femur and the hardware were swabbed for bacteria.

My second femur break:

I didn’t wake up following the second surgery.

I didn’t wake up for weeks.

I ran extremely high fevers.

I was septic. No one knew why.

9 days after the surgery, the cultures taken by my infectious disease doctor grew a rare form of Strep D. They pumped me full of more antibiotics and prayed they weren’t too late.

Nothing.

ECT snapped me out of it, albeit slowly. When questioned as to why that happens, I was reminded that the brain is a mysterious organ and the exact reasons behind my awakening were unclear.

They used the term “miracle” a lot.

Once my fevers cleared, I was sent to a rehab facility located in a nursing home. I remained in and out of consciousness (in this world, at least). Finally, I became aware in the middle of January.

I came home in the middle of February, alone. While the rehab facility strongly suggested having someone else with me, no one really wanted THAT job. As frustrated as I was, it was – by far – the best thing I could’ve done. I’ve gone from being dependent upon my walker (who I named Mrs. Hernandez) to walking alone, even though I walk like I’m drunk 8373% of the time (which, of course, is NOTHING NEW TO ME).

At my most recent ortho appointment, he showed me the x-rays taken minutes before. See all that swirly stuff? That’s BONE, bitches! I done got me some motherfucking BONE GROWTH! (I’d use more exclamation points but I tend to multiple exclamation points only when being ironic and/or obnoxious)

Now? If you can read this, the bitch is, indeed, back.

And? It feels fucking divine.

Words Like White Elephants

“They look like white elephants,” she said.

“I’ve never seen one,” the man drank his beer.

“No, you wouldn’t have.”

“I might have,” the man said. “Just because you say I wouldn’t have doesn’t prove anything.”

Hills Like White Elephants, Ernest Hemingway

It starts with the nightmares.

Night after night, I’m stranded in airports I’ve never visited – some exotic, some rural – malls I’ve never seen, always looking for someone who, in a dream-like way, I know is looking for me, too. A particular someone – someone who I’ve never met, but someone who, I chase night after night. I have a feeling I’d know him if I saw him, but really, that could be a lie.

It feels silly, to admit that I spend my dream time, not eating Marshmallow Fluff, but looking for a particular person. I’d much rather be saving the world while I sleep than sorting through the faceless masses at fictional airports.

Once the dreams begin, sleeping becomes fitful, if not impossible.

I’ve not won any sleeping awards since I got my thyroid regulated (I HAVE A GLANDULAR PROBLEM), but during these patches, it becomes nearly impossible. When I sleep, I run, I chase, I wake myself weeping into my pillow or moaning in sadness. By 9AM, all hope of rest gone, I slog my soggy ass out of bed and pretend that I remember what it’s like to sleep.

I’m functional for a few weeks like this, groggy, with slowed reflexes, but, with my rate of unintentional self-injury, no one notices.

It’s only after a few weeks, months, I don’t know how long, that I start to crack. The anxiety becomes too much. Things I would’ve normally found hilarious – my neighbors tree, for example, which looks like it’s growing a full set of knockers – don’t even elicit the barest of smiles.

I want so desperately to reach out, to connect with someone; anyone, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I can’t bring myself to admit that it’s okay to be weak – that I’m allowed to not understand my feelings. It’s then that the voices of those who I have once loved echo through my head and I begin to doubt. Everything. Myself. My ability to function in every day society.

The echos of things once-said flit through my mind. “I can’t handle your problems right now,” my ghost-husband says. “You’re a liar,” my ghost-brother says. “Take down that story about the rape or I’ll take action,” my ghost ex threatens.

My world becomes smaller, ever smaller, as the PTSD rears it’s head. And this time, like the others, it leaves me gasping for air, for straws, for any reason as to why there’s a 9,827 pound white elephant on my chest when the rest of the world seems to be breathing air like it’s no big deal.

I wonder what is so fundamentally fucked inside my head that I can’t manage to beat this PTSD: my daughter lived. I have countless friends who’d gnaw off a couple of legs to say the same thing. So why am I so fucked? Why does rubbing my hand along the plastic implant inside her skull make me break out in a cold sweat? She squeals and laughs runs and plays and kicks her brothers with wild abandon, while I am trapped on the couch, my windpipe unable to properly move air into my lungs.

And those words, those words like white elephants, trapped in my lungs, they remain unspoken.

Words Unspoken

Friday night, well ensconced in our Friday Night Ritual (Dinner at Chili’s with Amelia and The Guy On My Couch, followed by a trip to The Target Store, which, of course, is a sacrosanct tradition), she marched around the store, proudly showing off her pink Starbucks Cake Pop.

No matter how full of my sour cream and cheese she is, she insists upon a Cake Pop that she eventually feeds to The Guy on the Couch. Pure happiness for a buck-fifty.

Can’t beat it.

She’d found herself a bright green sparkly hat which she proudly wore during the times that she hadn’t placed it upon the head of The Guy on the Couch – they’d been playing some game with it while I grabbed food for the week.

Eventually we wound our way, just as we always do, to the Legos. Carefully, she had to inspect each box to find the one that she wanted. She vacillated between a lighthouse and a dinosaur but eventually ended up choosing a teeny red speedboat. A good, solid careful choice.

Soon – too soon for me – it was time to go home. Lovingly, she’d placed the clearance Hello Kitty Backpack onto her back, marching toward the checkout with a bounce and a wiggle.

“Lookit my Pack-Pack, Mama! It’s HELLO KITTY.” She turned and swiveled around so that I could admire it as we stood there unloading the cart.

“It’s beautiful, Mimi-Girl,” I replied, just as I had the last twelve times she’d showed it off to me.

“Can I show Dada?” She asked coyly, fluttering her eyelashes at me. “He home from work yet?”

“Yes, Mimi,” I replied. “I just talked to him – we’re going to grab him some dinner to take home to him.”

“Can he put me to bed?” She asked for the fifty-fifth time that night.

“Yes, Baby, he can put you to bed,” I replied for the fifty-fifth time.

“Mama, we’re at sixteen,” she pointed at the check-out lane. “Dere’s five-teen and seventeen,” she carefully showed me. “Why?”

“You chose it, Mimi,” The Guy on my Couch who is endlessly patient with her questions. She tilted her head up to him coyly, “You like my Pack-Pack, Big Ben?”

“It’s beautiful, Mimi,” he replied for the thirty-eleventy-niner time.

She spun and twirled in front of the mirror next to her, admiring her Pack-Pack. “I love you, Hello Kitty Pack-Pack.” I giggled at her pronunciation of the word, “Backpack.”

Eventually she got tired of preening in front of the makeshift mirror and turned to the lady in line in front of us, who had been casually watching my daughter twirl and whirl.

“You like my Hello Kitty Pack-Pack?” Amelia asked.

“Yes, yes I do,” she smiled down at my beaming daughter.

She turned to me and spoke, “How old is she?”

“Just turned three,” I replied proudly.

“Man, she’s such a chatterbox. I can’t believe she talks so much! My child is about her age and she doesn’t speak quite so well.”

I beamed, ear-to-fucking-ear.

If she only knew.

If she only knew.

A Tale of Two Haircuts

I sat there in the lobby of the surgical waiting room, reading the kind words my Pranksters sent me that morning – feeling almost as though they were right there, beside me, as I waited. Would she live? Would she die?

No one knew. And those closest to me knew better than to say, “it’ll be okay.” Because a) it’s a bullshit statement and 2) they didn’t know any more than I did whether or not that would be the case.

A little stoned, perhaps, on Ativan, I began to rummage through the bag I’d packed. I didn’t know what one was supposed to pack in times like these – a word search, my phone charger, my breast pump, my own tissues (my face was already torn up from the hospital-grade tissues).

That’s what I brought.

It was there, as I pecked out a quick tweet on my i(can’tfucking)Phone, “She’s back in surgery now.” As I went to put my phone away, she showed up.

It was the surgical assistant, completely suited up in surgical gear. If I’d had more than half a second to panic, I’d have begun – I’d just given up my precious daughter, signing documents allowing the neurosurgeon to cut open her brain, take out some spare bits, then put her back together with a skull implant. The surgery was supposed to be 6-9 hours long – seeing her like that so soon after we’d kissed our girl goodbye, that should have been scary.

She carried a bag with her – a bio-hazard, which she held in front of her, obviously trying to give it to me.

The confusion set in as the tears (again) poured from my eyes: was this a bit of my daughter?

She spoke, “We gave her a haircut. I wanted you to have this for her baby book.”

I took it, turning it over in my hand, as I wondered if it was the last bit of my daughter I’d hold, as she strode back into the OR where my daughter was unconsciously waiting.

Not knowing what else to do, I shoved it into my hospital bag.

I’ve never taken it out. In fact, I’ve never touched that bag. It sits in my closet, still full of whatever I’d packed, while horrified, panicked that I’d been offering my daughter up for slaughter.

A lifetime later, my daughter wiggles and bounces her way into the room, chock full of giggles and smiles, playing a game with her Lego guys, then “cooking” me a breakfast out of her play food.

Why yes I want green beans with my eggs, Mimi, how kind of you to offer.

I see it.

Her hair.

The wispy locks of baby hair are finally growing out, her big girl hair filling in underneath. The new curls are thick underneath it all, giving her a properly impish look.

But the baby hair, it looks…well…weird. It’s clearly time to cut it off.

So I grab a pair of scissors, beg The Guy On My Couch, Who Happens To Be Sitting ON The Couch, to help me out with her – just keep her occupied, I ask. This isn’t the sort of haircut I give the boys – I’m just lopping off the long bits as she chats with The Guy On My Couch.

He too, I learn as I listen to them talk, would love some fake green beans with his pretend eggs.

Soon, I have a pile of longer blondish hairs. Not willing to part with those memories just yet, I find a baggie and carefully place those long strands inside, where they will, one day, be put into her baby book along with her first haircut.

And as she bops and whirls away, haircut over, she looks over her shoulder and positively beams at me, her old eyes somehow comprehending that this five minute stretch on the couch was, for some reason unbeknownst to her, very big deal.

Her curls shimmering, catching the light just-so, giving her the appearance of having an actual halo, I am reminded; humbled, by how far we have come.

Both of us.

The Middling Place

For Crys

I sat there, glued to the end of the couch, holding onto my new baby like she was a life vest, the light from the end table next to me bathing us in a soft, yellow hue. There were other people around, although it was late in the evening. My sister in law? My mother? I can’t remember.

My sons, too, were around. Perhaps it was just the big one. The small one, based upon my memory, should have been in bed, although perhaps he was not.

Softly, I rubbed the top of my new girl’s head, breathing in that new baby smell. Each time my hand brushed that bump on the back of her head, that hard, fluid bump, the tears formed, my eyelashes grew heavy and I began to moan. I wept into her, so scared of the future. We’d been discharged from the NICU with very little beyond a scary diagnosis and a follow-up card for a neurologist who didn’t take our insurance.

The diagnosis was new, and I refused to use Dr. Google to make myself feel worse. I knew what a “posterior encephalocele” was. I just didn’t know how dire a diagnosis that was. Until later. Much, much later.

I’d bought myself some books – pre-nightmare – to read during those boring hours I planned to nurse my new baby. Word searches, books, and a potential maid service – all things I’d busied myself thinking about, feeling they were very important, until the doctor had said the words that forever changed me – “Becky, there’s something wrong with your baby’s head.”

Now it all seemed so stupid. Who gives a shit about spot-free mirrors when you’re not sure if your new baby will be celebrating a birthday?

But I could not bring myself to talk, to open up, to any of those around me. I knew it would be in vain – if I opened my mouth, I’d just begin to cry those awful, gut-wracking sobs anyway. Lord knows I didn’t need to cry any more – I could barely see through my shiny, swollen eye sockets.

Instead, I reached down into my thoughtfully packed hospital bag and pulled out a book. I’d bought two – a luxury considering I was about to have two under two – The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and Revolutionary Road. I had no way of knowing that these were not books that someone with a medically fragile baby should be reading (one is about a mother who delivers two babies, one with Down Syndrome, who is taken by a nurse and raised separately from her brother and the other about an unhappy housewife in the 1950’s who dies after attempting to give herself an abortion).

I had no way of knowing how horrifying my choices of book were, but there I had them. And I read them both.

In the quiet of that cold February night, I read them both.

It was the beginning of what I called The Middling Place. The space between learning how quickly your world can be turned on it’s head and learning how to live sideways. The space between diagnosis and reality.

The place where you wait.

The place where, in those quiet moments, your heart feels heavy in your chest, the demons and monsters threatening your every move. The Fear a permanent resident in the back of your own skull.

The Middling Place is a lonely place – a secret place, a land of tears, inhabited by you and you alone. Other people may drift nearby, stuck in their own Middling Place, but yours is a solitary land. Some moments, they’re filled with the purest of joy. Others with an unending sorrow.

It’s not always a bad place, The Middling Place, but in those quiet moments, the voice in your head reminds you of how fucked up this really is, your skin crawls and your guts threaten to expel themselves any way they can. You’ve tumbled down the rabbit hole, Alice, and why yes, I’d like a cup of tea – two lumps, no milk, if you please.

And you wait.

A Very Sweet Birthday, Indeed

On Saturday, thirty of my favorite people in the world came to celebrate my daughter’s birthday – finally. She was so excited (read: crabby) while waiting for her party to begin that I nearly sold her into slavery. But I didn’t.

We prepared by getting into our party dress:

sweet shoppe party dress

Shockingly, she allowed me to help her pick it out. Generally my suggestions are bullshit in Mimi’s book.

sweet shoppe birthday girrrl

She showed a little sass before complaining that her party wasn’t ready. Guess that next time, I’ll start the party at 8AM. Hope she doesn’t mind if I’m not there. SO not a morning person.

She promptly spilled her morning coffee on her dress, which pissed her off, but she quickly got over it. Her aunts Dawnie and Teala (all the way in from Texas with her boyfriend Brian) and uncles were arriving to help set up the party.

Now, I’m not a party person. I mean, I can do a keg stand like nobody’s business, but when it comes to all artful “this should go…THERE. PERFECT!” I’m pretty useless. One might argue that I’m ALWAYS useless, but that is neither here nor there.

While The Daver and The Guy On My Couch strung streamers, Dawnie and I got relegated to salting the driveway.

(P.S. we did a shitty job)

SPOILER ALERT!

(P.P.S. No one died)

Once the streamers were strung, it was time to bust out the real sweet shoppe stuffs I’d been hoarding.

sweet shoppe table spread

Kinda looks like Willy Wonka barfed everywhere, right?

Right.

I don’t actually know what this is (it could be tampons) – but it was purdy and colorful.

heart candies

I can’t resist something shaped like hearts. It’s against my DNA. Plus COLORS!

Then, an old favorite (that’s a lie) that can double as a toilet brush!

ROCK CANDY!

rock candy jar

Gratuitous snap of rock candy:

rock candy in apothecary jar

(no one ate the rock candy.)(I’m going to pretend it’s because it was pretty, not because it tasted like raw ass)

button candies

Remember these? I do. Back before I had common sense (shut up, I do SO have some now. Like 5. At least.), I remember eating these. By the time I was 8 or so, I was all, WAIT A MINUTE, THIS CANDY TASTES LIKE GARBAGE EVEN IF IT IS SOOOO PRETTY!

I think I got tired of accidentally eating the paper.

And where would a good sweet shoppe party be without weeeee cuppy cakes? (answer: I don’t have an answer)

tiny cuppy cakes

These cupcakes, made by Dawnie (who cannot salt a driveway to save herself), were not only freaking adorable, but delicious. Mmmmmmm….cuppycakes.

Also made by Dawnie were these:

lollipop cookies

Tell me these aren’t beyond full of the awesome. Because you’d be a lying liar who lies.

birthday party ballooons

Instead of adding ribbons to the balloons so they could be dragged around the house, plastering my poor allergic face with latex, The Daver had the bright idea to simply fill the room with balloons.

If I teach you NOTHING else, Pranksters, let it be this: DO THIS FOR YOUR NEXT CHILD PARTY. I swear, the balloons occupied the children for at least three hours.

hello kitty cake

And a Hello Kitty cake for my birthday girl. Made by Dawnie. If she can’t properly decorate the house, at least she can bake. Right?

(I can’t even do that)

For all of the chocolate cake lovers, Dawnie made this:

The birthday girl was quite thrilled by her cake.

sweet shoppe birthday

The day after her party, the kids opened some presents. We always buy the children who aren’t celebrating their birthday buckets of trinkets and stuffs to play with. It helps a little.

Amelia decided to show off her cannibalistic tendencies.

(lookit Alex. Bwhahahahaha!)

OH GOD, MY EYES!

Hello Kitty did NOT go gentle into that good night.

Alex, tearing into his bucket. Ben was hiding from the camera.

sweet shoppe birthday boyGirlfriend is going to be a better photog than me any day now.

hello kitty camera

And lastly, I made people sign something for her bedroom.

I’m totally leaving that fake baby in there.

And Now You Are Three

Dear Amelia,

You were born, January 28, 2009, amid the whirring and clicking of the NICU team, over my frantic wails, and my doctor’s shouts of “GET THE NICU IN HERE STAT,” a whopper of a baby. Your rolls had rolls, making you look like a mini Stay Puft Marshmallow Baby. I longed, from my place on the bed where I lay weeping, to examine every one of those rolls. There’s nothing I love more than a brand new roly-poly, chubby cheeked, shit machine.

(you, post surgery)

But it wasn’t so simple, was it?

Amelia, you were born with a defect on your head. Right after you were born, it seemed as though it was probably a cosmetic issue, a benign cyst upon your wee head. The alternative, I knew from years of medical and nursing training, was a big. fucking. deal. indeed.

Guess which one you had?

My daughter, you are always the overachiever.

We had about twelve hours between birth and diagnosis in which we feverishly hoped that it was a boring cyst – your daddy and I and your Internet Aunts and Uncles hoped and prayed that you would be okay. It was only after your first CT Scan (I have to note that there is NO heading in your baby book for “Baby’s First CT Scan” which makes me think those baby book people have it ALL WRONG)(Okay, you don’t have a baby book. I really WISH you did, but you don’t)(sorry kiddo) that we learned that you were more of an overachiever than your mother.

It took hours to talk to a doctor that day, but when we did, the news wasn’t good. You’d already been ripped away from me and whisked off to the NICU, leaving your daddy and I to howl in sadness in our now-empty room. Your dad had tracked down your neurologist and was told that you had a neural tube defect. An encephalocele. You would need major neurosurgery and soon.

Amelia, why did you have to be such an overachiever?

It was there in the NICU that you were given your middle name – Grace. For you, in the face of all this adversity, showed me what grace looked like. Your father, he named you there.

The diagnosis left the future full of question marks (and you with a scar that neatly bisects the back of your head). Would you be normal? Would you survive? Would you learn as your brothers had?

The answer has always been a resounding *shrugs*

See most kids, my tiny overachiever, who have neural tube defects in the location that you did, do not survive. Most die before or after birth. Such a small handful of children with posterior encephaloceles survive that there is almost no data about them.

You are not only a million dollar baby, but a one in a million child.

For you are easily the smartest of my three very smart children. The connections you make between things. The way you understand concepts that puzzle most adults, that is nothing short of a miracle.

You are nothing short of a miracle.

In your short years, Amelia, you have done more good than any three-year old should be capable of. While your birth shattered me, you’ve helped assemble me back into a new person; a better person. You have given hope to people who have never met you, hope for parents whose children have the very same diagnosis – encephalocele – that you do.

You are the sole reason that Band Back Together exists. Through The Band, you have saved lives – actual lives.

That is nothing short of a miracle.

So to you, on the day before your third birthday, my darling girl, I want to thank you. For all you have given me. For the light you’ve bestowed upon the world, and your light – a light that continues to shine.

May your light always shine brightly, Amelia Grace.

Always.

Love,

Mommy

A Fish With No Eyes? Impossible!

10:52AM, my neurologist’s office.

Man, I hope that fish eats some more rocks. That’s hiLARious when he spits ’em back out.

I’d really like a fish tank. Salt water, tho. Freshwater fish poo too much. Shit, I’d probably kill them. Then I’d be depressed for months.

10:55AM, my neurologist’s office.

BUBBLES! BUUUUUBLES! BUBBLE BUBBLE BUBBLE!

Man, fish are hilarious.

11:05AM, my neurologist’s office.

Fuck, this is gonna be some shitballs news. I really should’ve put this off another day.

OH, hell, he’s asking me a question about my headaches. LOOK AWAKE. Nod. Yeah! Nodding is always good. WAIT, I just told him my headaches are getting better. RETRACT, RETRACT, RETRACT.

11:10AM, my neurologist’s office.

He really does look like a cowboy from a spaghetti Western. Wait, what the hell does “spaghetti Western” mean? Either way, he totally does.

Shit, more drugs. And these side effects. If the headaches won’t kill me, the treatment fucking will.

11:12AM, my neurologist’s office.

Is he still talking about side effects? I’m getting depressed. I know, I should think about something else.

Why is Jessica Simpson, reported to be due “this spring” so huge? I don’t believe it. I bet she’s popping out a kid any moment now.

11:17AM, my neurologist’s office.

Did Jay-Z and Beyonce REALLY shut down an entire NICU for their baby? That’s some bullshit.

hums, “it’s a hard knock life.”

11:22AM, my neurologist’s office.

He’s yelling at me for not getting a blood test done. Fuck. What was the test again? I love tests. Just yesterday I took an IQ test – I’m pretty sure I failed.

Should I tell him about my IQ test and ask if that’s what he wanted? NO. Bad call, SHUT UP BECKY.

11:24AM, my neurologist’s office.

Damns. More drugs. And a side effect that can kill me – another one. Lords.

THINK OF THE BUBBLES, BECKY. BUUUUUUUUBLES.

Not working. Imagining my funeral.

People better be crying at my funeral. None of this – “celebrate my life” bullshit – I want tears. REAL TEARS. I will PAY people to cry if I have to.

Shit, I wonder what the going rate is for funeral criers.

Hrms. Would I find them on Craigs List? That seems to be the best place to find ’em. Fuck. They took out Craigs List personal ads. Fuck. Now I’m gonna have to find a real job.

11:36AM, my neurologist’s office.

Ooooh! My brain is rewiring itself to become better at circumventing my migraine meds. That’s almost robotic.

Wait. No. That means my brain is becoming resistant to it. That’s not good.

11:42AM, my neurologist’s office.

Woah, he gave me a lot of instructions and all I can think is: “when is Jessica Simpson REALLY having her baby?” This is not good.

Ooooo! Bubbles!

Well Played, St. Judes, Well Played Indeed.

I get a handful of those address labels throughout the year. Not ones that I order or anything, but the ones that various charities send to me to elicit me to send them cash. (if I ordered them, they’d probably have anatomical parts or the three wolf moon on them or something)

They’re usually corny things, ladybugs and smiling faces and shit. So normally, I toss them into the recycling bin, knowing I don’t exactly want to say that my name is “Mrs. David Harks” or anything. Because believe it or not, when I got married, I KEPT A NAME OF MY OWN.

Anyway. Not a huge fan of those charitable stickers.

Don’t get me wrong – I donate to a couple of charities religiously: Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep and March of Dimes (soon enough Band Back Together!), but I don’t have the fundage to donate to every stinking thing that wants my cash.

Yeah, I’m looking at you, Jimmy Motherfucking Wales.

That’s why, when the Sarah McLaughlin “Angel” song pipes up on one of those ASPCA commercials, I have to turn the channel before I start throwing wads of cash at the television screen. I mean, could they GET any more tear-jerking? I think not.

(dramatic foreshadowing) Rather, I THOUGHT not.

So quickly, I change the channel and pretend that I’m not weeping into my Diet Coke. Because Lord knows, I cannot afford to pay off yet ANOTHER person to prevent them from telling the world that I do, in fact, have feelings.

But last night, I saw that I got yet ANOTHER set of address labels. Addressed to me: Ms. Becky S. Harks. Finally, my ACTUAL name. I could USE those for the Christmas Cards I’ll forget to send!

“No,” Ben and Daver both chimed as I opened it. “YOU DON’T NEED TO SEND THEM MONIES.”

My resolve strong, I was all, “I’m too GOOD for charitable tactics. I can TOTALLY use these stickers WITHOUT forking over wads of cash. I CAN FUCKING DO IT. EYE OF THE MOTHERFUCKING TIGER!”

And then I saw it. The letter.

Yeah.

You got my formerly sick kid’s NAME on top of your letterhead. Nice job. Now I HAVE to give you money.

Jesus, could you stick the knife in any deeper?

“Guys,” I said, tears pouring, “I have to send them mah monies.”

“NO,” they said, almost in unison. “Becky, c’mon!”

“LOOK.” I thrust the paper into Ben’s hand. Immediately, his face crumpled, his eyes just a little moist (he clearly never paid me off to tell the world he doesn’t have feelers).

Then I handed it to Daver, whose face did a similar crumple.

“Okay,” they agreed. “You do.”

It looks like you’ve won this round, St. Judes.

Jimmy Motherfucking Wales? You can blow me. Hard. In fact, I sorta wanna to pull a John C. Mayer on you now. WATCH OUT JIMMY FUCKING WALES. I’M ON TO YOU.