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Benjamin Maxwell,

At the highly polite hour of 2:50 in the afternoon on August 20, 2001, my life was forever altered. Certainly, people say this sort of thing, attempting to make a situation sound that much more important than it was, but in this case it was true. Because it was at this extremely civilized hour that everything, every event, every decision, every m0ment, it all changed.

Forever.

Now, to be fair, I didn’t – I couldn’t – see the magnitude of the doctor yanking you from my wrecked girl bits with forceps with every fiber of his VERY tiny body. I didn’t understand parenthood. I didn’t know what being a mother was all about. Sure, I’d “Sure, I had the cute, adorable, and teeny, weeny baby clothes as I was Looking for the baby things at TradeTang.com I had a swing that squeaked loudly when wound (I did place a cat in there to test it out prior to your arrival), and I even had a stroller. I had stretch marks and feet so swollen in the hot August sun that they appeared to be over-cooked marshmallows, and I hadn’t seen my very own crotch in many moons.

But if I’d given birth to a basket of fluffy kittens or 8 pounds of ground beef, I wouldn’t have been surprised. I was, however, surprised to note that there had been a real, live baby inside me for all those months. And boy, Ben, were you pissed at me for yanking you unceremoniously from your comfy womb. I’ll hope you’ve forgiven me that, considering this world is a far more beautiful place than my womb (I assume).

That moment changed everything. While at that moment, I had nothing, save for the kindness of strangers and family, I knew I had to do better by you. I had to change everything.

I decided to become a nurse. To settle down and get married. To give you a brother and sister to romp around in. Your own backyard with a fancy swingset to explore and rooms to romp around in. I changed it all for you. Every decision, every move, everything I did, it was all based on the events of 2:50 in the very ordinary afternoon of August 20, 2001. I’ve never really told you that story and I don’t know that I will because that seems too heavy a burden for a child to carry.

That, everything we both knew, it all changed last year before your birthday. I know it did and I’m sorry for it. Change is hard, harder for some, like you and I, and I know that we both handled it as well as we could. Fences were made, walls were built, and bonds were strained. But somehow, we always find our way back to those who love us most.

What I want you to take away from this all is simple: when things change, the things – the people – who matter, that is what matters. Change is hard, but change is normal, and while it may break our hearts and leave us gasping for air, there’s some small part of that change that makes our heart of hearts grow stronger; tougher, mightier. It leaves us a better person than we previously were, even as our hearts shatter.

While I don’t have a huge yard and a swingset any longer, while I don’t have an extra bedroom or your siblings every second of the day, I carry you each with me wherever I go.

This year, I want to remind you of a simple truth: the people who we meet, the lives who we touch, those who we help and those who we hurt, we’re all connected. It may sound silly or trite or too new-agey for you, but it’s the truth. Everything matters and we are all connected in the infinitesimally tiny moments of our lives, which is why you must make each of them count. Make them matter. I hope that you can see that some day.

For some day, you may be in the shoes I wore the day I bore you. Finding that one moment; that one inexplicable moment that changes everything to come.

That moment for me; that was you. And nothing can change that.

Ever.

Happy Twelve, Benny.

Love,

Mom

P.S. This is your song. Always has been:

So, Pranksters, brace yourself. I have an announcement:

I have, once again, decided to leave the nursing field.

(if any one of you is surprised, you should probably take off your sweat pants – there will be no leg humping from Your Aunt Becky).

Okay, so that’s not entirely true (the leg humping bit maybe a little), but it became entirely obvious to me during my stint at both Not-Chicago and Almost-Chicago that being the Director of Nursing isn’t really what it’s cracked up to be. Between the 24/7 calls and the management politics, I remember why I chose not to pursue my nursing career.

So it’s time for something entirely different.

Okay, it’s not really any different than the work I do for The Band Back Together Project, which is my non-profit organization dedicated to reducing the stigma of mental illness and traumas while providing educational resources to help people learn and heal /end elevator speech. Oh, and if you want to write for us, we’re ALWAYS looking for writers and volunteers (email bandbacktogether@gmail.com if’n you want to volunteer), but that’s a totally different story.

(sidebar: I love what I do for The Band. Always have. In the same way I love other non-profit organizations, like SoapBoxSoaps, which is a nifty non-profit that does almost nothing like what we do.)

With the help of my team, we’ve created nearly 600 resource pages, which has, for the first time in my life, become a plus. See, Pranksters, I’ve taken a job IN Chicago working for a massive healthcare conglomerate* to do exactly what I’ve been doing for nearly four years: write medical research. This will allow me to continue to blog and do my own thing on my own time, which makes me almost as happy in the pants as a stick of butter.

I’ll be working full-time as a writer.

In Chicago.

I start September 2.

*gulp*

*which, when you put those words together, sounds like a particularly nasty case of crotch cooties, which I can almost assure you is not the case. Almost.

St. Charles, IL – an area woman often known as “Aunt Becky,” although she is, at time of print, not an actual aunt to anyone at all, claims that “the only thing worse than having an iPhone 4S is not having an iPhone 4S.” Aunt Becky, more commonly known as Becky Sherrick Harks, makes it a point to state, “my last name is not hyphenated,” even without being asked, sits in her apartment drinking one of many diet Coke bottles lying her tiny apartment.

“It’s like this,” Harks states, “my iPhone couldn’t really make phone calls, which is why I got a landline,” and “It made me really mad at my iPhone.” Upon catching her breath she informs us that, “it was kinda a piece of shit, for an Apple product. I mean what fucking phone can’t make a call?” She then adds that while she was often frustrated by her “inability to use the ‘phone’ part of the iPhone 4S,” she did like to use it to play Angry Birds. “I mean,” says Harks, “the birds are so cute when they’re mad,” and when this writer agreed, she replied with, “Fucking-a, right” after offering a hot dog to the writer.

“It goes like this,” Harks said, getting visibly choked up. “I had this piece of shit phone that can’t make a fucking call to save itself, even though it says right on the box “PHONE.” I kept threatening the damn thing with a NOT-Smart phone, but those things don’t have those cute fucking angry birds on them.” She dabbed her eyes on her shirt and resumed, “but I didn’t really mean it. I mean, yeah, the damn thing couldn’t cure cancer, but I sorta kinda liked it, like a little bit.”

After a nasty battle between iPhone 4S and the washing machine, Harks knew it was the end of her iPhone. First, she cheered, “finally, I can get another phone!” then immediately lamented, “but I miss my iPhone 4S already.” When questioned regarding the duality of her statement, Harks simply stated, “Android sucks. Sure I couldn’t call anyone from my iPhone, but at least I could find Angry Birds without having to flip through 736 screens.” “Although,” she continued, “I do like that little monster guy icon. He’s pretty cute.”

Harks states that she will probably return to get another iPhone the moment her contract is up with her mobile carrier, even though she may be unable to use it to call for help if there is an actual emergency, unlike the previous 3,483 times Harks has called 911 when McDonald’s forgot to give her extra BBQ sauce.

When asked for comment, Sprint, her mobile carrier, simply stated, “That girl is a dumb bitch.”

The Android phone, in a rare moment of Smart Phone clarity, agreed.

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