Shopping for men
Does anyone know the secret to buying a good Christmas gift for your male significant other?

My husband does so much for me, and I still have butterflies almost every time I see him. And as time goes on, it becomes more and more apparant to me that I made the right choice in marrying him. Seriously. He's the best.

Yet my Christmas gifts to him always suck. I know it.

I know that all men are hard to buy for, as I've heard other women complain about this. But my man is particularly hard. For example:

* He does not like jewelry of any kind. The watch I bought him 3 years ago sits in his box of momentos. You know, sentimental reasons.

* He does not like cologne or after shave.

* He has indicated he is not crazy about clothing purchases.

* He loves political stuff, and in previous years I have purchased political playing cards, a book, daily calendar with witty sayings, and some cheesy stuff like that. I think it was a moderate success at best.

* Sentimental pictures of kids in frames -- been there, done that.

* My old standby of CD purchases is not an option now that everything is downloadable.

* He loves electronics, but we are on a tight budget.

The Internet has been of little help. Let's explore.

Star Wars Lightsaber
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Remote Controlled Crawling Hand
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Under Armour Men's Heat Gear Full T-Shirt
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Mansilk Sexy Silk Boxers
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Intimo Men's Liquid Metallic Bikini
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TV Volume Regulator
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Boob Stress Reliever
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Gentlemen's Willy Care Kit (containing fluffing brush, styling shears, sprucing mirror, and evening wear silver jewelry)
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Dolly the Inflatable Sheep
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I am open to suggestions.

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911 lady my new best friend
We got a bunch of snow dumped on us the night before last. And while I am all for letting kids play in the snow, it just isn't feasuble when it is 20 degrees with strong, unforgiving winds. So we stayed inside all day yesterday.

Charlie and Lucy kept running in the house. I made them sit against the couch a couple times, a mild form of "redirection" I use to remind them to slow down. Moments after being allowed to get up, they are off and running again.

I am standing at the sink washing a dish when I see Charlie run right in front of me, trip over a large couch cusion on the floor, fly through the air, and land forehead first on the corner of the fireplace.

I drop the dish and run to him. He is already screaming. I pull him up and look at the hole in his head which has blood pouring from it.

I frantically run in a circle around our house looking for the fucking cordless phone, which is never on the cradle where it should be. And in my mind I think, "this is my fault because I am watching too many kids today... no wait, I only have 2 daycare kids today, 2 fewer than I normally have." And then, "I shouldn't have let them run in the house... no wait, I did tell them not to do that." And then, "I should have set up my indoor obstacle course so that they could burn energy safely."

After I complete my circle, I find the phone and dial 911. As the lady is asking me the routine questions, I can't hear a word she is saying because Charlie is screaming in my ear. But I just talked to her yesterday, so I know to give my address, the actual emergency, my phone number with area code first.

And I have a moment where I go blank and have no idea what my first aid class told me to do about bleeding or head injuries. And then I remember. So I grab a white kitchen towel and hold it firmly to his forehead. He is pushing it away and saying, "don't do that," and my gosh, his face is covered in blood and so are our hands.

I force the towel to his forehead even though it hurts him. Charlie holds his hand in front of his face and looks confused by all the blood. I shout some answers at 911 lady and vaguely hear her tell me that I am not answering the actual questions she is asking. I'm still not really sure what she said or I said. But then she said something about sending over the ambulance.

What next, I ask? I want Jerry here. I want the parents here. I want my neighbor here to comfort me. Who do I call first? Where are their numbers? Why haven't I programmed my speed dial yet? Should I just be tending to Charlie? Should he lie down? Should I distract him or talk to him?

I call my neighbor, the sweetest lady ever. I ask her to call our other neighbor, Lucy's dad. I call Jerry, say your son has a hole in his head, come home now. I hang up. Five minutes later, the bleeding has slowed down, and I call the other daycare parent.

After everyone has picked up their kids and the paramedics tell me he does not have a concussion - probably just needs a stitch or two, Jerry comes home. Neighbor takes Will to his house, and we are off to the hospital.

We wait an hour in the E.R. waiting room. Charlie plays happily with a band-aid on his head, and is talking up a storm.

Then we go into the doctor's office. They ask him if he would like to wear a Spiderman cape. He says yes. They put his arms back into what looks like a pillowcase, and I realize it is essentially a straightjacket. Then they cover him with a million blankets and say he gets to "be a burrito." We can only see his head.

They give me the rolling chair so that I can sit near his head and talk him through this procedure. I get to hold the washcloth over his eyes as they squirt water into his wound. He screams bloody murder. After all, water in the eyes is very painful.

Once the gel has numbed his head and he is all cleaned out, they start stitching. He just stares straight up at the ceiling, his face expressionless and me wanting to hug him. After the first stitch, he has had enough and starts to wimper. I try to sing him through it, but his wimpers turn to cries and then screams. Every now and then he calms down for a few seconds. I can tell he was trying to be strong. But the surgical tools and the thread which he can see out of the corner of his eye and the nurse's hands on his face holding him still and the straightjacket and everyone trying to distract him just get the best of him.

Three internal stitches and some external "stitch glue" later, he is fine. As if nothing happened. Before we walk out the hospital doors back into the snow, Jerry asks him if he wants his jacket on. "No," Charlie says, "I'm just pulling my pants out of my butt."

I try to talk to him today about how scared I was for him, in an effort to see if he wants to talk about his feelings, and he changes the subject. He is totally fine, and I am frazzled as all hell, waiting for the daycare kids to show up today.

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In response to my pre-diabetic diagnosis and my semi-complete failure to give up sugar, I have decided to make the other change that I should have made long ago: start exercising.

Studies show that when pre-diabetic people make lifestyle changes with diet and exercise, the chances of developing diabetes is reduced by 58%. So really, I have no excuse.

I look at the directory of evening classes offered at my local recreation center, and there is one beginners yoga class offered in the evening, called Pre/Post Natal Yoga. Well, my baby is 8 months. Can I be considered Post Natal? I do need an easy class, so this will be a good way to start.

I arrive at class, and I am the only one not pregnant.

Being in a class with six pregnant women and a cutely pregnant instructor named Charity feels a little odd. When it is time to start deep-breathing, I feel excited. I remember how much this relaxed me last time. But then she starts talking about "delivering precious oxygen to our babies." I feel strangely empty.

When doing leg lifts, she says something about "if you are too far along in your pregnancy to lie on your back, you may do this lying on your side." Everyone turns to their sides, and I ask her how to do it the normal way. Then we do a squat-type exercise with a partner, important not just for strengthening our upper legs, but in case we choose to squat during labor.

I hear my mom's voice in my head -- the one that spoke to me just the other day as she read my fortune from my Chinese cookie, the one that mentioned a new arrival -- and she said, "Oh, maybe this time it will be a girl." I told her straight up we are done having kids and my two boys are enough. Later she said, "Well, if you knew for sure that you could have a girl, then would you try again?" Without thought, I said No. I didn't mention that I had just finished asking our insurance company about our vasectomy benefit.

Then, at the end of class, we meditated for 5 minutes, deep breathing and listening to wonderfully odd music. It was serene. And my eyes filled up with tears when Charity directed us to thank our amazing bodies for creating this life inside us.

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Putting myself into a time-out

Will has been opening all the kitchen cabinets lately, so I moved two Costco-size containers of Cascade up onto the counter until I could buy some cabinet locks. It was just a matter of time until he found them and poisoned himself, I thought.

Then I turned to help the kids put away their Play-Doh. Out of the side of my eye, I saw Will put something into his mouth, and I was certain it was another Cheerio. After all, every single time I pull what I think is some horrible, poisonous choking hazard from his mouth, it ends up being a Cheerio.

This time it was not a Cheerio. I could not tell what it was at first. Then I reognized the yellow, plastic cap. It was a Cascade top, half-full of the dishwasher detergent. And I smelled his breath, which was lemony fresh and void of the usual milky smell.

After rinsing his mouth with so much water that his shirt became soaked, I ran to the fridge to find my emergency list, but it was missing. So I called 911. Except I accidentally dialed 411. Then I hung up and called 911, and they forwarded me to poison control. And in the background the kids were asking me to get them stuff. I turned on Backup Babysitter and heard Curious George.

As I waited to talk to a live person, I read the ingredient list. Sodium Silicate. Complex Sodium Phosphates. And Chlorine Bleach. Bleach - as in the corrosive stuff that burns holes in things.

I started cup-feeding him water, which he drank.

A woman came on the line and told me he was probably OK, but to look for signs of a burning mouth -- like excessive salivation, vomiting, and crying, which would happen within the hour. She said to get 6 ounces of liquid into him and to call back if he started having these symptoms.

So after his 3 measely sips of water from a cup, he was done. I took him into a quiet room to breastfeed him, but he wasn't interested. I then tried water from a new cup. Two sips. I tried milk in a more interesting cup. No sips. Finally, I tried water from a straw (where I let go of the straw and water flows into his mouth). He took maybe 8 strawfulls, then started using it as a teething device, shooting the water out the other side.

He then started to let out huge burps. I waited for him to vomit. It never came, but I started to feel extremely naeseous myself.

It was a long hour, but he appears to be fine. No vomiting, no foaming at the mouth. He finally breastfed a lot, about an hour after eating his bleach breakfast, and then fell asleep.

Meanwhile, I can't stop thinking about that bleach working its way through his tender little system and cleansing areas that should be left alone.

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Today I am thankful for...
Four days with only my children
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Big, juicy cherries
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Consistent poops in the potty
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Perfect November weather
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Breastfeeding baby who stops feeding to look up at me, make eye contact, and smile thankfully at me
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My lover boy.
Charlie is so loving. Lately, these have been our discussions:
Charlie (watching me walk by): I love you too, mommy.

Charlie (at dinnertime): I want to sit by daddy.
Hubby: No, your seat is by mommy. Can you sit in this empty seat?
Charlie: No, I don't want to sit by mommy.
Me: (pretend crying). Sniff.
Charlie (seeing me cry): Oooooh, mommy... I sorry. I love you too.

Charlie (riding by me on his ride-on car outside, looking at me): Hi mommy. I love you too.

I've been basking in his complete and pure love for me lately. Then...
Charlie (after going poop on the potty): Bye bye pooh pooh! I love you too!

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Need some self-control here

I have never been a person who possesses any sort of self-control. I spend what I want, eat what I want, and pretty much do what I want with my personal time. As a result, my finances are usually messed up, I overeat, and I have been reliably late to each of my office jobs. I've always known that at some point, I would make some changes.

A year ago I found out that I'm pre-diabetic. I have let this small fact sit inside my brain nagging me for exactly 12 months. For example, as I eat cake, I think, damn, I am really going to miss this someday. As I gorge cookie dough, I enjoy it just that much more. Lindt chocolate balls are savored like an illicit affair.

I feel like I just had a turning point. Maybe it started when I was told my glucose levels have gone up since my last test 3 months ago. Or when I was watching Scrubs and Turk found out he was diabetic, and J.D. said, "so if you eat that piece of cake, your foot will fall off."

So I started to organize all the bits of information in my brain into something useful. Instead of bitching to myself about how I can eat nothing, I started to think about what I can eat. And how I can do that. And other ways to not go crazy when all I want is a fat bag of chips and a Coke.

Although I feel my brain had a turning point and I am able to make some changes, there is another part of my brain that wants what it can't have. So I'm not there yet.

Anyone have any tips for maintaining self-control -- with money, overeating, or other nasty habits, let me know.




Charlie (to daycare kids, in the morning): That's my breakfast. My steak from yesterday.
We don't actually eat steak, so I am not sure where he got that. If we did eat steak, we would not serve it for breakfast.

Me: Charlie, what's in your mouth?
Charlie: oh, anything.

Charlie (to his best friend, and holding his fingers about an inch apart): Poop looks like this. Teeny, tiny.
Mikey (disagreeing passionately): Nooooo, poop is like this (arms very wide apart). Like this, Charlie.
Charlie: Nooooo, poop looks like this.

Lucy: I'm here now!
Lucy (later): I pretty.
Lucy (later): I cute.
Lucy (later): I crabby.
Lucy (later): I sweet.
That last one just about killed me.

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Personality is inborn. End of story.
In college I was a huge believer in the power of nurture in the nature/nurture debate. Women are conditioned, via parental upbringing, the media, culture, and religion to be submissive and to care for others, and men are taught to be strong and stoic.

I do still believe all of this. But I have been surprised to see that personality traits begin at a very young age, leading me to believe that nurture isn't exactly 100% responsible for who we are, or even 85% responsible. Before a kid can even poop on the potty or be aware that there is actual poop in their pants, they make their personalities known.

Lucy is testing me again, and I am finally understanding what it is that bugs me. It is not the undeniable symptoms of two-year-old-hood. I watch other two-year-olds, and their tantrums hardly phase me. It is her total brazen-ness.

Take Friday. Another two-year-old hit someone. He got a time-out. Before it was over, he started to repeat, "I sorry... I sorry..." I let him out, and without being asked, he went and hugged his victim.

Ok, maybe he is especially sweet for a toddler. Bad example.

Take Charlie. He was shaking Will in his Jumperoo. Shaking him. Causing Will's neck to go back and forth. I ran to the scene and made him stop. With me still kneeling next to him, he started to put his hand out and shake it again. I threatened a time-out. He started to shake it, though softly -- totally testing me. I made him look into my eyes. "Will's neck is going to get hurt if you do that." He thought for a moment. Then he tilted his head to one side, turned on his high-pitched falsetto and said, "Oh Will. Don't get hurt. I won't hurt you."

So - see? They can all be extremely naughty. But there is a sweet interior and concern for others. And Lucy has it too, but it is buried very, very deeply under the burning desire to communicate naughty bad words with those razor sharp eyes.

Last week I gave her a time-out for hitting. When it was over, I got down on her level. Usually at this point, a kid will either look defiant (really, asking to stay in time-out longer), or they will look a little ashamed and sad. She does neither. Instead, in the split second of waiting for me to say my usual words, she takes a big step toward me until she is one millimeter from my face, slowly sticks out her lower lip, and squints her eyes at me until they look through my eyes and into the back of my brain.

Where the hell would a two-year-old learn this?

This is a good place to add that I adore her parents. They are so nice. They are smart and I respect how they treat her and others.

So between the three of us, her sassiness has not been conditioned. And I remind myself constantly that she will probably grow up to be assertive and successful. Maybe a Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi.

But in the meantime, this sucks.

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I just don't like what is going on here. Eight months old and he thinks the world is his to explore.

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Which of these buttons makes the cool noise?

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This is SO much better than lying down and cooing.

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Can I lie down in there?

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Only the big kids watch Baby Einstein while standing.

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Oooohhh, a sink stopper.



Passing on the love
I have a friend who is both a known and an unknown. I can tell her most anything, trust that she will accept me, and feel that comfortable similarity you get from a good friend. But at the same time, she is a puzzle who I am still trying to unlock and figure out. I don't think I will get bored anytime soon.

When I first met her in 2000, we both worked at a HMO in Seattle, affectionately called Group Death. There were about five of us administrative assistants all in our early- to mid-twenties, working only to pay bills and have people to drink with afterwards. One of the first times I saw her, I was fascinated by her very independent sense of style which I did not fully understand, and her commitment to veganism, which was the completion of my half-ass attempt to save the animals as a mere vegetarian.

I think I was the one who asked her out to lunch first. Our first outing at the Green Cat was sorta like an awkward first date. There was more than one uneasy silence and forced giggle. I believe I threw out a few questions like, “So, what's your sign?” and “Have I seen you here before?"

But over the weeks and months, the group of us went out for many drinks—mostly at the Cha Cha Lounge. And we discovered our shared love/obsession for food – eating wonderful things like vegetarian burritos at Bimbo's and possessing an insane obsession with Thai food, requiring lengthy email discussions on work time. And although I did not mean for this to be a post about food or the Seattle scene, no post about Karen would be complete without those things.

I realized how much I liked her when we talked about one of our fellow workmates, Ben. Ben was a pretend surfer who talked about things like sake and beer and Thailand like he was all knowledgeable and stuff, and really, he had no idea what he was talking about. She immediately saw through his bullshit. But at the same time, while I was agitated about how he got under my skin, he had zero effect on her.

And when office politics set in, I would get hurt by someone's perceived criticism of me, and she would laugh and move on.

More importantly, I've always admired her never-wavering commitment to respecting animals' dignity and lives, but without preaching about it. She has never told me in more than a few words why she is a vegan, never complained about meat eaters, never regurgitated the vegan philosophy. Yet I somehow know this is something she feels strongly about. She's like that with lots of things. Passionate without the preaching.

The shyness that we both had on our first, um, friendship outing, occurred because of our similarities. I think we did discuss once the fact that we are both INFJs, a small sect of people who like to spend lots of time alone, write, have meaningful relationships, do meaningful work, employ sensitive B.S. detectors, and talk about the fact that we are INFJs (or at least I do. I think she was mostly shining me on). Interestingly, I also share this personality disorder with Mommy off the Record -- interesting because it afflicts only 2% of the population.

And I like the way she writes. Instead of telling what happened, she describes the scene or feeling in a way that causes the reader to come to their own conclusions. Plus, she had a friendship with a teacher who professed his passion or something to her, which is pretty cool (entertaining cool, not cool cool). She describes it on her blog.

*I wrote this post to pass on the carma love after Mommy off the Record published her October 25th post about little ole' me, which was in response to Chicky Chicky Baby's suggestion to write about a blogger we love.

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It was worth every agonizing second.
I love to vote. I'm going to save my giddiness over this year's results for another post, but for now I just want to comment on the voting machines. Yes, they are efficient. Yes, they are easy and don't require "computer experience," (as the pre-recorded voice told those of us in line over and over, and over again). Yes, they are maybe perhaps less likely to be riddled with problems than paper voting. But there are so few of them that the lines were outta control... Two hours, thirty-five minutes I stood in line. With such boredom I was even excited to get to the stale popcorn table, and then the extra-strong-from-sitting-out-forever coffee table. With such boredom I was excited when Guy Behind Me made his twentieth cell phone call so that I would have something to listen to. I was even excited to read the little stack of church brochures that decorated the long long hallways.
But I did it.



Why am I so tired?
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I sleep a good 6 hours a night. Will only wakes up once, maybe twice per night now. Husband lets me sleep in at least once a week. I often take 5 minute cat naps during the day. Why am I so f*ing tired?

I've done my research and ruled out sleep apnea, insomnia, endocrine abnormalities, anemia, and hypogonadism. So why do I feel like putting my head on the table and either banging it right there, or going to sleep?

I have finally found the cause. It is Charlie. He will not stop talking.

I love the little guy. Don't get me wrong. And when he turned 2 and was hardly talking at all, we were worried sick. Other parents said smug things like, "once he starts, you won't be able to get him to stop." "Yeah, right," we said. We just wanted him to talk. That was just over a year ago.

Now it is hard to admit that they were right.

Here is our dinnertime conversation of last night:

Charlie: Mommy, I set your place for you. See dat? See dat mommy?
Me: Oh, yes, you set the table for me. Thanks, sweetie.
Charlie: Did you see the knife, and the fork, right there?
Me: Yes, I see, good job. Husband, did you...
Charlie: And I put the milk cup there for you.
Me: Yes, sweetie, that's great. Let me talk to...
Charlie: Mommy, see Will? He is eating in his high chair, right there. Right there, mommy. See that? See that mommy?
Me: Yes, that is great. Thanks for pointing that out.
Charlie: We are going to eat chicken? Chicken mommy? And that donut?
Me: Yes. That's a bagel, actually.
Charlie: A bagel, mommy? Right there? With a hole right there?
Husband: Charlie, let's pretend like we are waiting for a bus.
Charlie: What you say daddy?
Husband: When you are waiting for a bus, you are quiet. Can we be quiet while we eat? For a moment.
Charlie: Yes, yes daddy. I being quiet. See that mommy? See? I being quiet. I quiet mommy.
Charlie: See mommy? I being quiet? See?
Me: Yes. That is great. Just great. Husband, I wanted to talk about...
Charlie (whispering): mary had a little lamb.
Charlie (whispering louder): little lamb.
Charlie(whispering yet, louder): la la la la la la la.....

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Smart kid, or just a smarty pants?

Charlie (to daddy): Daddy, that's dirty laundry?
Daddy: Yes.
Charlie: That makes mommy sad.
Daddy: Really, sad?
Charlie: Yes. And frustrated.

The kids are sitting around the table doing an art project that involves cutting (with kid-safe scissors, of course)
Me: Charlie, stop using those scissors to cut that crayon.
Charlie: No.
Me: Do you want me to take them away?
Charlie: Mommy, you go in that next room, and then I use this scissors to cut this crayon???
It is a genuine question.

Charlie gets a time-out. He doesn't stay in it. So I give him the once-dreaded but now-useless Upstairs Time-Out, which is supposed to involve boring time away from his best friends. I put him in Will's baby room, because it is extra boring in there. Two minutes later I go to release him. He is sitting in Will's crib, holding one of his wall pictures in his hands.
Me: Uh, Charlie...
Charlie: Mommy, mommy! This picture fell off this wall, so I jump up here on crib, and I catch it.
Wow. My hero.

We step over a kid's nap mat, lying in the middle of the floor.
Charlie: This is a bed for cuddling on. Mommy, will you cuddle with me, on this bed, right now?

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Did I take this too far?

A year ago, when I had just started running the daycare, I watched only one child and regularly dipped into my savings account to cover my bills. After 6 weeks of this, I was finally hired by a mother to watch my second daycare baby. I was ecstatic. The baby seemed easy, and he was the same age as the other baby I watched. Finally, my business was growing.

A week after watching her infant son, she mysteriously said she would no longer need care, and three days later, her check bounced. My checking account balance was so low that five of my checks bounced, and then the bank charged me some additional “inconvenience” fees.

I called her a few (like twenty) times. The first time we talked, she said she was so sorry. Someone had bounced a check to her, and it caused her account to be overdrawn, which caused her check to me to bounce. Her theory was plausible since the same thing had almost happened to me with her check. And besides, I liked her.

The problem would be fixed by the end of the week, she said. Fine, I said, bring me cash at the end of the week – enough to cover the original amount plus all my bank fees.

I transferred more money from my savings account and called her at the end of the week. She said that since her bank was out of state, she was not able to get cash out of it. I later looked at her returned check in my hands, and saw the bank's local address... roughly 5 minutes away.

I called her a few days later. Hubby lost his new job. And her commission from a prominent real estate agency hadn't come through yet. Or something. I lost track after awhile.

After that, she stopped answering her phone. So I sent her one certified letter that said I would take her to court if she did not pay me in full within two weeks.

Two service agencies could not serve her. I could not take her to court without her first being served court papers. She was elusive. The clean-cut, preppy blonde with the respectable husband and cute baby was eluding service agencies. My due date for my baby was approaching, and I thought about the prospect of being in court, a breastfeeding mom with leaky breasts and low amounts of sleep, and I cringed at the thought.

So I turned her over to a collection agency. I signed some sort of contract and sent them her check. They told me I was entitled to the amount of the check plus five measly dollars. I went for it because I liked the idea of teaching her a lesson. It wasn't about the money anymore.

The original check was only for $230, and the collection agency is now after her for over $1,000 dollars, an amount that will be on her credit report for seven years, even if she somehow pays it off.

Months later, I still have not seen any money. Bored one day, I googled her. She is being sued by Pizza Hut. Twice. She is being sued by a company that cuts commission checks for real estate agents. Sadliest of all, she is being sued by Check Into Cash. Check Into Cash, people.

I feel guilty. In spite of my occasional potty mouth and penchant for shallow material things, I consider myself a Christian. And, suing people and sending them to collection agencies isn't exactly a Christian thing to do, especially when the primary motive is revenge (and also considering that I don't need that money anymore). And here is a lady with a baby, who may be at risk of losing her house, who might not be able to afford basics like non-generic diapers, who has to decide which bill to pay. And I can totally imagine being in her shoes even though I have never been there. I feel guilty.

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