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A Year in the Life of the Tree Beside My Window

A Year in the Life of the Tree Beside My Window

Life – Less

I can’t see much outside my window at work. It’s high on the wall, it tilts inwards, leaving me a view of the sky and of the top of the tree just outside my window.

As a dreamer, I take time outs, day-dream of a story idea, fulfilling a wish and often times my attention turns to the tree outside. I watch with great interest, from season to season, that tree.

From the tiny buds that sprout in the spring, hiding the new bird’s nest, to the lush fullness of summer where the birds hide from the mid day heat, to the bright orange contrasting against the bright blue fall sky.

It’s barren now, with only a few dead leaves swaying in the breeze.

Ice collects on the ledge between the glass and the cement window ledge. Snow collects on the glass only to melt by the mid day sun, even as the temperatures plummet so close to zero. I stare all day at the grayness outside my window, dull and lifeless as I long for the coming spring.

Today I saw something different, unexpected, the first sign of the changing seasons. Several cardinals, several lady birds and their mates, red against the gray sky. They’re pecking at the water that collects near the base of the window, heated only by the heater in my office space. They keep at it for many long minutes, preparing for the gathering storm. I watch with interest as they fly to the barren tree and back again, lapping up the water as if it will be their last for some time.

Surviving Life

A simple act of survival, and I stood there and watched until they flew away.

When they were gone and I was alone in the grayness, I turned and walked back to my desk and waited for the gathering storm.

Queen Victoria – The Strong, Real Women

Queen Victoria – The Strong, Real Women

The Ultimate Strong Woman

I watch quirky, I also watch relatable characters, most recently, strong, real women. I’ve started a new show. You may have heard of it, Victoria on Masterpiece. While I’m a sucker for the dresses, the jewelry, the crowns, I’m wildly fascinated by the role of women in each century. While I realize that writers take liberties, I’m guessing there’s some truth to the portrayal of the Queen, and I’m finding it fascinating to see that a woman’s many struggles haven’t changed all that much.

Queen Victoria

Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837 at the tender age of 18.  Almost immediately, she found herself struggling to be heard, to be thought of as the monarch, of a strong leader. It hadn’t helped that she was a petite, delicate flower, considered mildly incapable of doing much more than having children and spending time in the nursery. The life she would most likely have had, had it not been the accident of her birth, to be born as the heir to the throne.

You can hear the frustration in her voice as the young girl fights to be heard, to find her way in a male dominated world, where simply by her sex and stature, she brushed aside as nothing more than a girl.

Our Struggles are Universal

Victoria stumbles along the way, but remains steadfast in her duty, in her desire to make a difference, to rule her subjects with honesty and do what’s right. But she does all this by her own rules, choosing to marry for love, not duty, standing up to those who wish to sway her and push her aside.

Though she’s the ruler of England, a vast kingdom in 1837, she’s still a woman. She suffers postpartum depression, she struggles being heard, she’s jealous, when her husband flirts with a female mathematician. But when Victoria meets the woman face to face, she sees a woman struggling just like her, who is constantly trying to find her footing and prove herself.

The Picking of a Role Model – Real Women

Who knew I’d find a role model in a woman who lived 181 years ago, in a time and place so different from my own. And who knew just how much just being a woman, has not changed. How we still want the same things, and our difficulties are universal. And more than anything, the answer is same. We are the solution to our own situation and only we can make it right or better. We are our own strength and we owe it to each of to be supportive of our choices whether we chose to stay at home and raise our kids or we chose to work outside of our homes.

And just like Victoria, I stand firm in my desire to write, to create, to say something and leave behind a legacy. To help others like myself by sharing my story in hopes I can help someone else find their way.

No matter what, we’re all strong, or delicate flowers, smart and capable and sometimes we stumble.

And Victoria isn’t just the strong female character, it’s not just watching and getting angry by thoughts and ideas I’m not used to, it’s also the dresses, jewels, and crowns. Because hey, there’s still that.

Victoria on Masterpiece

 

 

Bring Back Dirk Gently – Quirky, Fun and One of the Best!

Bring Back Dirk Gently – Quirky, Fun and One of the Best!

Television – My favorite Storytelling Medium

This self-proclaimed television junkie fully admits I love the medium. It’s easy as it comes to me. I can watch in my pajamas, under a blanket while the snow falls and the temperature drops, eating my weight in chocolate.

Movies, while fun spectacles of light and sound in it two-story glory, can’t always tell the full story. Plot lines are shortened, back stories almost non-existent. Television can take it’s time.

Characters and plots can roll out slowly, and meander through a plot, like a river gliding through the countryside.

I like Quirky, I like fun

I like the bizarre characters, good writing, good acting and fresh stories. And there in a commercial I see it. My perfect show. Dirk Gently Holistic Detective Agency. In my head, it seemed like the best of both worlds. Detective shows (one of my favorite (with quirky characters and fun stories).

I got so much more.

Mixing Genres

Obviously by the title, it’s a detective agency based in a different reality. Here there’s time travel and fantasy elements. Just making it that much better. I was told once you couldn’t mix genres. But this mixing creates an amusing tale that leads the viewer down a twisty, windy road. A little like following the white rabbit down the rabbit hole.

And yes. You can mix genres.

Dirk Gently and Friends- Quirky, Loveable, Intolerable, Adorable

Slightly supernatural in that Dirk the detective, believes “It’s all connected”, and it’s that philosophy that lets Dirk glide from one clue to the next. He knows it will happen that way though he doesn’t know what or when it will happen. He’s adorable, he positive until he isn’t and he walks through the case believing that it will turn out just fine.

Todd Brotzman, his unwilling partner, stubborn, lonely, working a dead-end job, is dragged through the adventure, sharing with Dirk the discovering of each new clue, he soon realizes just how true “It’s all connected” really is.

There’s Farrah, Amanda and Bart and Ken and the Rowdy Three, all quirky in their own manners, their own very different lives and psychic abilities. Each of them roll out to us slowly, confusingly as we wonder what their place is in this murder mystery. None of them are walking billboards for a type of person. They’re all complex, multi layered people, who you love, you hate, you cheer for, you boo, depending on the episode. They’re human, they’re funny, they get frustrated, and upset as their worlds collide, and fall apart and they pick themselves back up, just like the rest of us.

Bring Back Dirk Gently –

I didn’t even mind that I was thoroughly confused each episode, because you were meant to be confused. We were meant to experience the story in a frustrating, confusing way, just like the characters do. I couldn’t wait for each episode just to experience the rainbow of emotions, fun and frustrating in each hour-long episode.

I couldn’t wait for season two. And it didn’t disappoint. They grew closer, they missed each other, they were so determined to find each other and solve the crime. Unwavering belief that “All things are connected”. And then they cancelled it.

Please bring it back. Please let me hide under the covers and wear a smile on my face for an hour as the friends take me on a bumpy ride through another case that will get solved because “It’s all connected”.

 

 

 

Living for the Weekend – Living a Satisfying Life

Living for the Weekend – Living a Satisfying Life

Living for Precious Moments in Time

Why are we living for the weekend rather than the living in the present moment? Is the thing we spend most of our time doing, that distasteful to us, that we long to be any where but where we are?

I don’t enjoy living for the weekend. Living for the sweetness of lazing around, taking my time to drink a tea, watch some mindless television, to not rush awake before the sun rises so that I can get it all in before work. Because realistically, I’m still not getting it all in.

It’s time to enjoy the time in between doing what I love to do.

I Was Born to Write

I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, when I was seven years old. I never once wavered from the dream. I wanted to be an author. I wanted to create worlds of my own making, make my own schedule, feel the sense of accomplishment and freedom you get working from home. It is a great dream and during those periods of time when I’ve been at home, in between full-time paying jobs, I felt that freedom, I experienced the sense of accomplishment as I finished 5 book drafts. As the book series worked itself out.

And then I got a job.

Full Time Writing for Cash

It’s boring. It feels like a time suck and I find myself living for those moments in time, in between being at work where I can finally sit down and write. Where I can feel productive and proud of the work I do. Unfortunately I haven’t fully found my audience and the reality of life was such, I needed to go back to work.

My daily struggle, rising before the sun and rushing out the door al the while knowing that I’d rather be at home being creative, letting that side of myself stretch out and explore. I don’t have that opportunity writing procedures.

I sigh. The dream is still the dream, the book, is still being written. Creativity is my escape from the mundane as I explore options for not letting myself get sucked into the living for the weekends. There is so much time wasted, longing to be where we are not.

It’s time to not live like that anymore. I make a vow to myself.

It’s Okay to Not Accomplish Everything

It’s time to let go of the desire to be perfect. It’s time to create priorities. Yeah, something’s need to get done. Dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, seeing friends. Something has to give, a plan needs to be constructive, sleep needs to be had.

When we let go, not hold on too tightly, we can live in the moments in between where we want to be. Life is too short to work through it, to miss the other moments in time. I forced myself to go to yoga tonight, even though I wanted to come home and write before I became to tired to think. Because I know, I needed that hour and 10 minutes to be alone with myself. To recharge and stretch. Something had to give. Tonight that thing I let go of, laundry.

I can wear dirty pants one more day. Can’t I?

 

 

 

Confidence – Shall We Pretend Until We Believe?

Confidence – Shall We Pretend Until We Believe?

The Greatest Confidence Boost

The greatest boost of confidence that I have ever experienced was writing my first book. The greatest loss of confidence started when I tried to sell the book.

Being confident is like riding a roller coaster. There are so many highs and lows, twists and turns and big ass drop that turns your stomach as you purse your lips to hold in the vomit.

Trying to sell books is that same roller coaster. There’s tiny bits of good luck and lost of down turns. Much frustration and the high when the story comes together in a way you couldn’t predict when you first wrote the book.

The Confidence Struggle

I’m not the only one who struggles to remain confident. Life gets in the way, we all have problems, situations that are so overwhelming, it can attack our total being.

That’s where I am right now. Honestly, my confidence, at this moment is low, I feel as though I’m the worst writer ever, not only as a fiction writer but as a technical writer. I literally feel as though I can’t string words together to form a complete sentence.

It’s a struggle to find something to change the tide of emotion, that one thing to make create that upturn, the path that leads me to a place where readers find me and read my books and get enjoyment from the story.

Though there’s been some positive movement, there’s been much disappointment. So much so, I’ve been researching options in which to find that boost, that change, a way out of this perpetual rut I find myself in. At

At first I thought I’d, try some self-help books. I’m not great at self-help books. They may inspire for a moment, but I can’t carry it through to a conclusion. They just don’t get me.

Next I’ve opened myself to new experiences. This one is a work in progress. I’ve joined writer’s groups. And as my schedule opens up, I plan on participating and trying to glean something from the experience. I hope this can finally convince me that I’m actually a writer. If I keep telling myself that, maybe one day I’ll believe it.

There’s Always Something Positive

As I open to new experiences and as I start to believe the lies I tell myself, I need to remember to acknowledge those moments. Single moments in which I feel confidence. When I feel fierce and indestructible. When I look in the mirror and confidence radiates from my face, in my clothes, in my psyche, there’s no more brushing it off as if it doesn’t matter. It’s time to pretend for the greater good and the more I tell myself I’m confident, the more I’ll start to believe it.

Never Give Up, Never Give In

I keep plugging along because I so believe in myself at times, regardless of the underestimation that comes my way. You can’t win, if you don’t play, you can’t succeed if you don’t try. I can because I do. Join me on the journey, because someday is almost here.

Baseball, Poetry and the Linking of Time

Baseball, Poetry and the Linking of Time

There’s Poetry in Baseball

There’s poetry in baseball. The movement of the ball as it flies off the bat; the slide into a base; the swing of the bat. Hot summer sun beats against your skin from seats in the bleachers, a permanent fixture since 1937. Animated crowds pack themselves inside for the widest view of the field. And if so inclined turn and wave upwards to the scoreboard operator, the third generation in his family to man the board.

Wrigley Field is the past, it is the present, it is the future. They are all linked by fandom, those of us who bleed Cubbie blue. We were raised by parents, who were raised by our grandparents, and we are linked irrevocably by the love of the game, and the history of our team. Collectively we hang on each hit, each ball carried on the wind. It carries our hopes, our dreams in each at-bat.

Each season ended with immortal words, “Maybe Next Year”. We would slink away and lick our wounds, another season lost to time. 108 years of time.

They rewrote the story, and those of us who bleed Cubbie blue, breathed a collective sigh of relief, only after we jumped up and down, let out energetic screams and some of us even cried.

Baseball Links Us

I watched the series with my grandfather, who died in 1987. HIs picture lay on the table beside me;, facing the television. This he would have loved. That team would have sparked in him the delight of a child. How he loved baseball, how he loved the Cubs.

Live in the moment when it comes. Leave for the sporting goods store, 20 minutes after they win and bask with others as we wait to buy the prized “World Championship” gear. It doesn’t matter that it’s midnight. As “Go Cubs Go,” plays from someone’s car, chat up the next jubilant fan and share the stories. “Where were you when the Cubs won?” For a mere moment, there was no division, collectively we were simply Cubs fans.

It was the fourth largest gathering of humans in the history of the world. They snaked along the parade route to the rally. We packed ourselves into the park. It was a sea of blue, thousands of stories jammed together celebrating for themselves and for those who never got to see what we got to see.

At the rally.

LIke nothing before, we rolled from the rally, stretched out along the avenue, steady and proud in gear. A club of millions.

Michigan Avenue Chicago

This Year is Different

We are now experts in rooting for the champions, we’ve been here before. And yet, my stomach roils with each error, I hold my breath with each swing. We are giddy with excitement, because we know, how few and far between this could be.

I’ve passed my affliction to my children; they are now the fourth generation of Cubs fans and they understand the suffering and jubilance of truly being a fan. I cried today when they squeaked out a win. I will always bleed Cubbie blue.

 

 

Defining My LIfe – Defining Moments Don’t Have to Define Your Life

Defining My LIfe – Defining Moments Don’t Have to Define Your Life

Defining My Life

Defining my life fell into two separate and distinct periods of time; life before my daughter was born with a terminal disease and the path life took after. The single defining moment for me, was that second, that single moment before she was born (via C-section) and that long moment when I realized she wasn’t crying, that something was very wrong.

It sticks with you, these defining moments. Sometimes you can find yourself as a victim of the moment and let it drag you under, or you can use the moment to step forward and redefine your life and your dreams.

I fell somewhere in between. I found a way to move on, to raise my other daughter, have another child. While moving on, I seemingly found myself a victim of my circumstance, stagnating and letting that single moment define who I was.

Re Defining My Life

I read Harry Potter. I loved Harry Potter. It did more than entertain; it woke up a passion in me that I hadn’t realized was there.

That, coupled with a meeting of a former classmate at a twentieth class reunion, forced me to look at my life and the choices I made and something inside of me changed. I no longer wanted to let life and the bad things define how I lived my life. It was time for me to take control.

I remembered for the first time in years, that I had a dream. One that I cultivated since I was seven years old. I wanted to be a writer.

Writing That First Book

I tried over the years to write a book. I stopped at chapter 1 or paragraph 1, never completely understanding how to craft that story. Never really understanding what it was that I even wanted to say.

But this time, the jealously that my classmate was a published author and my sadness that had accumulated over a lifetime, forced me to open the book and really think about what story I wanted to tell.

It wasn’t very good or very long and it took many attempts to reach the published versions I have online. I look back at the first time I typed “The End” on that very first draft and I can’t help but be proud, I can’t help but realize my life is no longer defined by one single event.

Now I’m Defined

Now I’m a writer, who is a mother, one who lost a child. I write about the loss and how it affects me, but not as a single defining moment. It happened and it makes me sad and it always will. But it won’t always make a victim of that circumstance. I finally found the confidence to truly move on and I now weave those emotions and memories into my writing to give it depth and meaning. I’m no longer defined by it, I define how I use it to motivate and move on.

 

 

 

 

Why Do You Write – Where Does the Passion Come From?

Why Do You Write – Where Does the Passion Come From?

Why do I write?

So why do I write? It’s an intriguing question; to ask someone why they do what they do. What brought them to their profession, hobby, fandom? I took to reading early, ravenously read through entire series. It didn’t matter if it was Nancy Drew, Judy Blume, Stephen King or Harry Potter. Always with each book, as I experienced all these adventures between the pages, what I really wanted to do was write my own story.

It is my passion.

I am a self-proclaimed introvert. Being the center of attention is uncomfortable, confining. But when I write, I am free of anxiety, of fear. It is on the paper that I can write and re-write to craft the words that express my thoughts, my feelings, my emotions.

To be a writer, is what I have wanted to do since I was seven years old. I have never wavered from my desire to create my own worlds, my own stories and characters. To create something lasting. When I can’t form the words with my mouth, I can always type them with my fingers.

I’ve always been able to write about anything. Though sometimes, I just don’t know what to write. But when I do, it gives me power, it gives me confidence.

I love finishing that first book, letting the story pour out of me. It gives me a great sense of pride with each draft when I see the story fill itself out, when I link each book to the other as I tell a complete story. I don’t feel as confident with anything else in my life as I do when I write.

And through the highs and lows in my life, to write it was keeps me sane. When I don’t write, heavy emotions can wear my down. Writing is my therapy. It is my strength.

Why Do I Write?

I write because simply, writing is a part of me. When darkness gathers and envelopes me, writing is my light. It is my fire. I was born to do nothing else.

Pass it On

I read a blog Tara M. Martin . It was there she answered the same question; why does she write? So I had this idea to share why I wrote. And then it occurred to me. I’m going to pass the question on. To all my writer friends, why do you write? To all my non-writer friends, what is your passion.

Life should not be passionless. We should dance, sing, write exercise, mediate; do something we are passionate about every day. Every day.

 

Six Sins of the Writer – In Otherwords – Insecurity

Six Sins of the Writer – In Otherwords – Insecurity

We writers all do it, let our insecurity get in the way of what we’re trying to accomplish. We let it hold us back. Something I’m finding as I take a very personal book and shop it to agents. After 9 query letters, I’ve received 9 No’s. It makes me want to stop, hide the book under my pillow and cry.

After spending the last 7 weeks healing from shoulder surgery, I’ve had a lot of time to think, a lot of time to re-assess and a lot of time to feel sorry for myself. I’m not where I want to be physically or professionally, I’m not this, I’m not where I should be. I started thinking about the Writer’s Deadly Sins.

The Insecurity of Fear –

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Franklin D. Roosevelt

I’m terrified to send the next letter, put myself out there, expose myself and a book that became something so personal it feels like each rejection is a rejection of myself and my person. It’s ridiculous, I know. And yet, I promised myself I’d sent out three query letters a night. After the 9th rejection, I haven’t sent out another. I will tonight, I swear it!

The Insecurity of Comparing Yourself to Other Writers –

Try not to get lost in comparing yourself to others. Discover your gifts and let them shine! Jennie Finch

This is my biggest fault as a writer. More so because I see others succeeding where all I feel I’m doing is spinning my wheels. I try this, I try that, and all I’m looking for is a simple boost, a simple jump from nothing to one, just to show I’m making progress. Sometimes I stop reading other’s posts on Facebook because I just can’t deal my own lack of confidence.

I’m me, however, once in a while the comparison might lead to something amazing. Like when I walked into my 20th class reunion. I’ve talked about speaking with a former classmate, Joy Meredith who I found out was a published author. The jealous, the anger at myself grew and pulsed until I finally sat down to write my first book.

Still, don’t compare yourself to other writers. It’s not apples to apples, it different genres, different stories. Just be you.

Not Giving Yourself a Break –

Women need to hear the words, ‘It’s okay if things don’t go exactly the way you want them to.’ Give yourself a break! Brooke Burke

To sell books you need to market them. That means social media, blogging, book fairs. There’s so many pieces in the overall scheme I get overwhelmed when I realize I’m not doing everything there is to do. I read The 30 Book Marketing Challenge, by Rachel Thompson, which was set up to be doing something everyday for a 30 day period. And I did. I was crazy with carving out the time to look at a new website, change-up a Facebook page, tweet something important. It made me nutty, depressed, jealous. Yes, I recognize I need to be doing most of the things she wrote about but realistically, I was not getting graded on my work, it will not make me a best seller after 30 days. What it will do is help. Rather than making myself nutty, I should have given myself a break, taken one action when I could and realize that it wasn’t going to change over night. I can only do what I can do; after all, I work full-time, write in my free time, raise two children and care for a house.

Insecurity makes you Forget to be Proud of Your Accomplishments –

You have to remember that the hard days are what make you stronger. The bad days make you realize what a good day is. If you never had any bad days, you would never have that sense of accomplishment! Aly Raisman

I might not be where I want to be but I can’t forget that I’ve published three books and have written another three. That’s six books that I have fretted and stressed over, that I have passionately crafted. Not everyone can say they’ve written a book. I’ve written six and I need to remember that I have accomplished something. And if I want more, I will grab hold of the accomplishment and carry it around proudly.

Insecurity and Forgetting Your Passion –

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style. Maya Angelou

Writing makes me happy. I find confidence when I craft a story and when the story works with the series. Sometimes I forget what I really need to do is write passionately.

My last writer’s sin…

…is to forgetting the seven-year old I was so many years ago. She’s the one who fell in love with Nancy Drew and the detective story and she’s the one who decided definitively that she wanted to be a writer.  I need to remember myself when I was her and honor the dream I came up with so long ago. I know what I want to do, now all I need is to take another step in that direction.

 

Gracie Madison Feels the World – Chapter 1

Gracie Madison Feels the World – Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Even though Mom and Dad no longer live in the same house or even the same state, they still can’t communicate with each other. Mom screams through the phone; her shrill voice vibrates through the vents. I don’t know if she realizes that even as she hides herself in the bathroom, cocooned by the shower and the walls and the doors, we can still hear her half of their latest argument. I can only imagine what Dad’s voice sounds like through the phone.
I take a deep breath and text my best friend, Molly Malone, even though it’s 10:30 p.m.
Dad must be mad and shouting back at Mom, because now I hear her sobbing. Screaming and sobbing. It’s not so different than when they were married. Only now we hear the one side, and the aftermath is cold and lonely.
When Mom and Dad divorced, Dad took a job in another state, found a new girlfriend, and moved in with her and her kids, leaving us behind to deal with his mess. I know it’s hard for Mom to raise us by herself; she’s often too exhausted to deal with us, with me. Much of her time she spends hiding in her room.
I hate when they do this.
Molly texts me back.
I’m so sorry sweetie, she writes.
My ten-year-old sister, Shay, is huddled in her room, rocking herself on her bed. The squeaky coils on her mattress are loud. I should go and see her, but I have my own way of dealing with Mom and Dad’s fights. And right now, I’m hiding under my covers behind my closed door, wishing the fight would just stop.
You can call me if you want, Molly writes without waiting for me to reply. I can barely speak; this fight is one of my parents’ most intense. At least it seems to be going on longer than normal.
Though these arguments and the tension never seem to bother my brother Jake, he’s up. Maybe he’s listening to music to drown out the phone call. I hear the pleather of his beanbag chair squish when he adjusts himself in his seat. He normally appears as though he can easily slip inside his oasis of dirty socks and wadded up garbage that never seems to make the waste basket when he takes a shot. He never seems to emerge from his room tired or even affected at all by the fight or the rant or a punishment.
I click on Molly’s phone number and listen to the phone ring and ring.
Maybe she fell asleep.
Whatever they were fighting about is nothing more than hiccoughs, sighs, and whispers through the wall right now. Anxious, I wait for the other shoe to fall. The finale of their fight always comes, and Mom is always frustrated in the morning, yelling at us as if this is our fault.
It probably is.
It comes in waves, the arguments they have. Mom complains and whines about something; Dad makes quips that piss her off. They push each other’s buttons. I have no idea why they even married or what drew them to each other in the first place. I can barely remember what it was like before the fighting.
“Hi,” Molly says when she finally answers the phone.
She’s groggy, I just woke her up, and now I feel guilty for bothering her.
“Sorry. I shouldn’t have called,” I whisper.
Mom is quiet before the big finale, and my stomach roils in pain at the stress of it. I pull the covers up around my head. It’s hot and stuffy under the blankets, but at least I hear only whispers of the argument.
“No, Gracie. You can always call. I’m so sorry.”
Molly Malone, my best friend since second grade, always finds a way to be there, even when we should be sleeping. Sometimes her overbearing personality is annoying, but sometimes, I just need to reach out to her because she cares—and it sometimes feels that no one else does.
“Are you okay?” she yawns into the phone.
I shouldn’t have called.
“They’re fighting again.” I sniffle and choke. I didn’t want to cry in front of her. I can’t help it. This time is just too much, and lately this seems to be the only thing I can talk about.
Molly must hate when I bring it up.
A new wave of the argument starts. Mom is loud, confident, angry.
“I’m so sorry they do this to you. Doesn’t she know you can hear it when she hides in the bathroom? They’re not being good . . .” Molly’s now awake and indignant, but she refrains from finishing that sentence.
They’re not good parents.
She doesn’t want to say it, to make me feel worse then I already do. I can always count on her to be on my side.
“I should just tell her we hear everything.” I cry out. Across the hallway, Shay climbs off her bed.
“You need to speak up for yourself. Parents just don’t get it,” Molly says. I find it funny because Molly and her mom are close and always have been. Molly sometimes doesn’t get it. Tonight I don’t care.
“I try, but they don’t hear me. I have to do all this stuff, and they don’t listen. It’s not fair. I’m only fourteen. I shouldn’t have to do the dishes, cook dinner, do my homework—and when I’m trying to sleep, I get this!” My voice is whiny. I’m so tired. I’m so angry.
“Gracie. I’m so sorry. This really sucks,” she says. “We need to do a sleepover. You need to get out of there.” Molly’s voice is reassuring. Before the divorce, when it was still tense in the house, I would hide at her house whenever I could. Whenever I didn’t have to babysit. It was safe at Molly’s house.
My bedroom door squeaks open. I poke my head out of the blankets; my bedroom light blinds me. Moving over, I hold the blankets up and make room for my sister, who snuggles in beside me.
“Thanks, Molly, but I’ve gotta go. It’s late, and I’m so sorry for calling.”
“Call me any time. And get out of there. Come over this weekend.”
When we hang up, I toss my phone on the bedside table, switch off the light, and let Shay sleep beside me.
Sometimes I wish I were her age so I had someone that I could nestle up to when it got really bad. And I feel badly for her because all she has is me.
“Why do they fight?” Shay asks in her little-girl voice.
“They don’t live together anymore and don’t see each other, so I don’t know why,” I say because I really don’t have an answer. I used to think Dad hated Mom so much and that it was why he abandoned us. I never really connected with Mom.
She grew up pretty and popular, a cheerleader and good student. I’m just me, with no special interests or skills; we really have nothing in common. Dad always understood me, and he would talk to me. But now he’s no longer interested or he’s too busy with his new family. I no longer blame Mom.
“He doesn’t love us anymore,” she sighs. I wish I could tell her that isn’t true.
When I look up, Jake leans against my doorway, his shadow accentuated by the streetlamp outside my bedroom window. This time the fight affects him greatly; he too doesn’t want to be alone.
“You can sit here with us,” I say to him. I feel his skinny little thirteen-year-old-boy frame sit beside us; the mattress barely moves. All three of us haven’t been close in a very long time, but tonight we are equally paralyzed, sad, unable to do anything to make this fight stop. I recognize the look in his eyes. They’re the same as mine and as Shay’s. We do nothing more than stare at each other as the last of the fight rolls through the house.

****

EH . . . EH . . . EH . . .
The alarm clock buzzes, cutting through the darkness; I tremble from the intrusive noise waking me from a dream. My fist slams the off button, and I stay under the covers enjoying the last bit of silence before I realize that Shay must have left my room long ago.
Her footsteps pound down the hallway and the stairs, through the kitchen until I hear whistles blowing from the television in the den. The nautical tune wafts up to my bedroom through the air ducts—and just like that, Shay has started her day as if nothing had happened the night before.
Like clockwork, Mom enters her bathroom, and within minutes, the shower springs to life. Water crackles softly against the stone floor like a spring rain does against the roof. My eyes flutter closed. I have to force them awake as the shower shuts off.
Damn!
Knowing that I’m running late now, I throw off my blankets. Cold morning air nips at my exposed skin. Once I click on my bedside lamp, I jolt awake before I hide myself back under the covers and pretend this day hasn’t started yet.
I shuffle to my dresser and pull on the fake crystal handle, which comes off in my hand, when it pulls apart from the screw. Not in the mood to deal with the fourth broken handle this month, I toss the plastic bauble on my bed and shove my hand into the completely filled drawer.
I need to clean this out!
I tug and pull, loosening the items in the drawer and whipping them out until half of my belongings are strewn across the floor and bed. The jeans I want aren’t here.
They must be in the laundry!
I glance at the clock and panic. Running out of time, I throw on the next clean pair of jeans, a skinny pair that slips down around my hips. As I see myself in the mirror, I sigh. I hate this body. It’s too thin and bony, though according to Molly that’s a good problem to have, and I should be a model.
Ugh!!!
In another drawer, I find a clean yet slightly wrinkled T-shirt and stretch it over my head. My eye spies a stray thread, and of course I yank on it until most of the hem is gone.
“Crap!” I toss the string on the dresser, grab my favorite hoodie, and run to the bathroom.
My hand shakes as I pull the brush through my frizzy, unmanageable hair and frown at my pale, make-up-less face wishing I knew how to fix myself up. Even if I did, there’s no time this morning. Barely brushing my teeth, I find myself with just enough time to pull my mop into a ponytail. I grimace in my mirror; overnight, a new pimple broke out on the tip of my nose, and my hair is still a mess.
A model, right . . .
I sprint down the stairs.
“Hurry up!” Mom shouts from the kitchen, probably impatient from her lack of sleep. Sliding across the wood floor, I grab the breakfast bar she holds for me. She grimaces and sighs. The dark circles under her eyes make me think she didn’t sleep at all last night.
When her phone rings Mom glances at it and runs off to take the call. Her response is terse, the conversation quick. It’s probably the boss she hates, or maybe Dad is calling for a second round.
With breakfast hanging between my lips, I thrust books and last night’s homework into my backpack and zip it shut.
“I’m going to be late tonight,” Mom prattles on behind me. “You’ll need to make dinner.”
I always do! I scream in my head as Jake saunters in, his hair mussed perfectly, his white shirt untucked and slightly wrinkled, looking casual and easy.
“Why are you wearing that?” Mom asks.
“It’s clean.” He shrugs as the bus honks.
“Gracie, don’t forget dinner!” Mom calls after me as the three Madison children run for the school buses.
****
“Here.” Molly hands me a muffin. It’s misshapen, not like the ones you get at the grocery store all nice and packaged. This is homemade.
“Thanks,” I say and place it neatly in my backpack. We’re not allowed to eat in class. Molly sits beside me. Her mouth is tightly shut, and her jaw is clenched.
As Mrs. Fowler, our math teacher, writes out a new formula for us to remember and soon forget, Molly turns to me.
“Can you come tonight for dinner?” she whispers before she pulls away to take notes.
“I have to make dinner,” I say. I start to copy the new formula, but it’s confusing and fuzzy, so I take to doodling pictures instead.
She starts to say something. I know she wants to say, “What, again?” but she doesn’t because Mrs. Fowler turns around to watch the class—as if by studying our faces she can tell if we understand what she just said. Molly means well by offering support. She just doesn’t understand because her parents are married, and her mom works part time. I sigh and force my attention on Mrs. Fowler whose eyes meet mine. They warn me to pay attention. This material is important and on the test. When she turns back to the board, I glance at Molly. Her worry is palpable, especially around her mouth, which purses shut. I offer a wan smile before digging into the newest math.
****
Normally Molly and I eat lunch together, but today as I leave math class, Mrs. Fowler hands me a note strongly recommending I see her at lunch. My math grade is so bad that I’m not even failing math. I have something lower than an “F”—a “G,” maybe?
Starving, I munch on a candy bar and open the door to the math department office, a smallish space shared by six math teachers. Their desks, three in a row, face each other. It lacks privacy, it lacks intimacy, it’s a little depressing.
I’d hate to work here.
Mrs. Fowler sees me and smiles—not too big, not too small, just enough for me to see her perfectly white teeth. It’s a nice smile, and I’m less nervous when I sit down beside her.
“Hi, Gracie. Thanks for heeding my message. Is everything all right?” she asks when I place my bag at my feet.
“Yeah. Everything’s fine. Why?”
I know my teachers know about my parents’ divorce, whether they heard from me or my mom. I’ve never been asked about it before, though.
“I know it’s been hard, since . . . well, you know. I just want you to know we’re here for you. The teachers. We want to make sure you have what you need to succeed.” She pulls out the file—the real reason I’m here. I see my grade sheet. I was wrong. I have more than an “F,” but still, a “D” isn’t great either. She hands me the report. “Gracie, I know things have been rough at home. And sometimes freshman year is tough. So I recommend you come for tutoring. There’s still plenty of time to get your grade up. Sometimes it’s hard when things at home aren’t great. But you are smart. I’ve seen your other grades. They’re good grades. I know together we can do this!”
No we can’t! It sucks at home. I hate math! I don’t want to be here anymore!
I say nothing but nod my head as if I agree. I can’t handle the condescension, the pity. Parents get divorced all the time.
Isn’t it hard on all of us kids?
“I’ll study more,” I murmur and avert my eyes and I review the grade sheet. It hurts my head; my stomach tightens up.
“If you don’t, I will recommend summer school,” she says, matter of fact as if she hadn’t been so caring just five minutes ago. “You’re excused,” she finally finishes.
I trudge away, tired and hungry as I head out for my next class.
****
“I missed you at lunch. What did Mrs. Fowler want?” Molly asks over the phone when I am back at my house. I hear the paper wrapper of her Pop Tarts crinkle as she opens it up. Her mom bakes all the time, so I find it funny she likes the store-bought stuff. But that’s her act of rebellion, and it makes me chuckle.
“Summer school if I don’t get my grades up,” I reply and punch the temperature on the oven. At least Mom made it easy; all I have to do is heat dinner tonight.
“If you need help, get a tutor. You know, Adam’s really good at math,” she says. I hear her bite the tart, and my mouth waters. I’d love one right now.
“Ew. Ick. No,” I say. Molly and I might be best friends, but I don’t like Adam Striker. They’ve been friends longer than I’ve known Molly. We’ve been to her birthday parties together, and I’ve sulked through lunch with him, but I have never liked him. If you ask me why, I can only remember he said something to my brother Jake when Jake was six. It was just stupid, nothing that a seven-year-old should be so angry about. But it simmered and stewed for so long. Ever since that incident, all we manage to do is spar like it’s a sport. Either way, being tutored by Adam is just . . . Not. An. Option!
“Suit yourself. Summer’s school’s only six weeks long. That’s not much time.”
I grimace and shove in dinner, a frozen dish from the grocery store. “You’re very funny,” I say and close the door.
“Are you okay?” Molly asks when I sit down to start my homework.
I sigh because I’m sick of the question. It’s just easier to lie and ignore my feelings rather than to admit that I’m mad my parents are divorced and my dad doesn’t live here anymore.
“No, but I will be when I pass math,” I say. At least with Molly I can be glib. She really knows that I’m not okay. I push the math homework aside and opt for English because it’s my best subject and doesn’t hurt my head when I complete my assignment. “Call Adam,” she persists.
“No. I gotta go. We’re breaking up . . .” I pretend to make that warbled sound as if we’re driving through a tunnel. Molly starts laughing. I think that’s the only thing I offer to this friendship. Sometimes I’m funny.
“Call me. If you need to . . . you know, talk,” she offers one last time before hanging up.
I begin to read Shakespeare but stop short and glance at my math book before returning to Romeo and Juliet for some tragic fun.

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