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No Matter Her Age, Every Girl Can Be A Hero

No Matter Her Age, Every Girl Can Be A Hero

Hero Search

I search for a hero. It’s my current life’s quest or, in this case, of television time, it’s the theme I’m most drawn to as I clamor for a new television show. Generally I watch television for two reasons: first and simply, to entertain me.  Secondly and more complexly, I’m drawn to shows that resonate with me in some way. Lately it seems, I’m amenable to shows that center around strong female characters, women who fall and rise up again.

Who is a Hero

This could range from the obvious, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Charmed come to mind. But it’s not the obvious I’m searching for. It’s more subtle, based in someway in reality. Stories centered around Queen Victoria or Claire Frasier in Outlander. Or even closer to home, the women of Criminal Minds.

A Hero to Lift Me Up

I fully admit, I’m in one of those valleys in life when things seem impossible, too hard. A time when I feel as though I work so hard without anything to show for the world.

It’s at those points when the search becomes the focus, looking for that story that will inspire me and lift me from the muck. It’s the one thing that can pick me up from this downer I’ve been in.

I’m drawn to stories of women and their struggles. Not because they struggle although that makes me feel better; rather I’m so very curious about how they overcome and rebound and say “Screw you!”

Be My Own Hero

Queen Victoria and Claire Frasier wanted more, wanted to be heard. Sometimes they knew it would have been easier to be born a man. I look to them with admiration whether they are real or just pretend and realize, we all have our issues. Our downfalls. Our time to shine. I don’t want to be them. I want to be me. To be my own hero and prove to myself that I am a good writer, I can do this for a living. Giving up isn’t an option.

I write my own hero in Annie Pearce. A women I wrote to be real, to be admirable. To rise and fall in a real way. I want readers to connect with her, to understand her. To love her and at times hate her because she can be vulnerable.

She is me and I am her and as I work through my ups and downs through specifically sought after television shows, I also channel that energy into a hero of my own creation and hope that someone who needs her, can find her, just like I’ve done in my own search.

Here’s to us, who search for that extra lift. A hero that inspires our dreams and grows side by side with us as we live our real woman lives.

 

 

 

Confidence after Spinning Tires in the Thick Muck

Confidence after Spinning Tires in the Thick Muck

When the Confidence Rut First Started

A few years ago with a lack of confidence, I joked about dying my hair red and calling myself Lola. My plan was try new things, reinvent myself, pull up and out of the mire, regain my confidence.

I came up with a list of things I wanted to try. It didn’t quite work. I still find myself spinning my wheels. Desperate to figure out how to sell my books, to find a better job, to not work so hard for so little reward.

I Shared the Problem with My Therapist

You see, I send out resumes nearly everyday, I join book groups to make contacts, go to book workshops to learn how to handle the business of writing. I plan my social media. And yet every morning, I dread the drive to work, the long hours doing what I don’t want to do, and the having the knowledge that book two is so much better than book one and not being able to get it out to the masses.

The therapist told me that maybe I needed to approach the problem in a new way.

Climbing out of the Funk

So how to you climb out of the funk and change your life when there are so few options because you have responsibilities and little time.

I started looking for ways to change the strategy, the viewpoint, and the outcome.

I stopped forcing myself to write on week nights when I’m so exhausted from a full day of work. Instead, I work on social media, blogs, and other business and if there’s time I write. My goal, 500 words. Sometimes I get them in, sometimes, I fall asleep on the couch at 8:30 at night. I always write on the weekend.

But now I stop at 9 pm. I cuddle up in bed and shut out the world with a book, an easy read that allows me to meld into a different world and think of nothing else. It leads me to a more peaceful sleep.

I’ve been applying to jobs I otherwise might not have. Making a change in hopes that there’s a freelance gig that’s right for me. Less hours in order to give myself time to do what I really want to do–the thing that actually gives me confidence–Writing.

Most importantly, I decided that I physically feel horrible all the time. Stomach aches, headaches, cramping, bloating, and tight clothes.

Sometimes with all the problems, the kids with issues, law suits, jobs that make me unhappy, the last thing that gets taken care of is myself.

So What Now

I can do this. I’m re-starting the eating and exercise plan that I’ve had a lot of success with in the past. It balances the food groups, it balances exercise, and when I’ve done this in the past, I feel strong and healthy.

I’m looking for new opportunities. Different types of jobs and applying anyway. Just in case. I’m writing because it makes me happy.

I registered for a book workshop and signed up to meet agents. Because maybe in person, I can be heard. It might be good, it might not, but it’s interaction with people in the industry.

I’m building a following, a list. Following others. Sharing. A slow sell, encouraging others to read book two. Maybe finding others who like the same things I do.

It’s not about reinventing myself, becoming someone I’m not. It’s about remembering who I am and where I want to go and never loosing sight on that. To do that, I have to try new things, look at the problem with different eyes and all in all, take care of myself. Give myself a break and live a little.

Day one. I’ve eaten all the good things I’m supposed to eat. Without hunger, without guilt. I finally crafted a blog and worked on social media. I even took a nap.

We always have it within ourselves to pull ourselves up and out. We just have to let go of the fear and just say go.

 

 

 

 

The Nobody Girl – The Confidence Game

The Nobody Girl – The Confidence Game

Confidence Comes in Various Ways

Confidence can come by way of kudos from a boss for a job well done, a raise for that job well done, a good book review for a long-awaited book release, a stranger, unprovoked telling me she loves my style and looks forward to seeing what I wear everyday.

There’s a purpose behind that story. I was working on a blog about the Nobody Girl, a reference I make about myself. It’s not intended to be self derogatory, or mean. It was meant to illustrate my place in my life. The girl no one paid attention to, the girl whose teachers always called by the wrong name, even after I corrected them. I was the one who wasn’t picked on, wasn’t noticed, just there.

Where Style and Confidence Collide

I get that fashion isn’t an important priority. There are children who don’t get enough to eat, women who walk miles a day to get their daily water, war, and hate. For now I can only speak to my tiny corner of the world and how clothes transformed, me, the way I walk, talk and carry myself, and why it’s important.

As this nobody girl, my clothes were big, baggy, unfashionable. I was shy, quiet, a with little confidence. Every once in a great while, a great sweater, awesome boots, a good hair cut, could in an instant, turn that nobody, hiding behind anything, could feel fierce, confidence, able to take on the challenges.

The Nobody Girl Finds a Voice

Style, whatever that may be, is a reflection of the person who chooses the clothes and wears them. For me, my life was changed the day I wrote the first word, that led to the first sentence, which led to the first paragraph. It grew to the first page, the first chapter and ended with the first book. It was a transformative experience to achieve the first part of the dream I had since I was seven. It was the start of a growing confidence.

It led to straightening my hair, which changed the way I looked at myself and how I felt about myself. I changed the way I dressed my new self, taking chances, with clothes, shoes and purses, trying on items that reflected a fun, carefree, and fierce individual. What every one else wore didn’t interest me. I wanted to stand out, get noticed, be heard and make sure they always knew my name.

Nobody Girl No More

It was a compliment, that someone took the time to tell me they liked my style. I stood out, I was memorable. That feeling, that feeling that I no longer need to hide, that I will no longer want to accept things just because. I want to be remembered, be heard, make my mark and share my voice.

This is what I want. It’s what I’ve always wanted. I want to write. I want to create. I want to share my voice, my experience. However, I come to that confidence, is important. It just is. Whether it’s a well written book, or a great outfit, I can walk with my head up, my shoulders back and know, some day, they won’t forget my name.

Traditions That Link the Generations

Traditions That Link the Generations

Where Do Traditions Come From

My grandparents immigrated from Glasgow, Scotland in 1948, (The family came from Poland and Russia before that). Eager to become citizens, to become American, they embraced traditions and in that, certain traditions became family traditions.

Early Thanksgivings would consist of the usual: turkey, stuffing, canned cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes. And then it happened. The story as I heard it, my grandmother discovered the stuffing recipe in a magazine. It was simple: bread onion, carrots, butter, eggs, and a potato. Yeah. A potato. It is by far, the best stuffing I have ever had.

Growing up, I would come downstairs on Thanksgiving morning to find my parents preparing the stuffing, the same stuffing my mom would help prepare as a kid. The difference between then and now, she’d use hand peelers and a grater; I got a food processor.

Without that stuffing, it just isn’t Thanksgiving. With my parents divorced and my Thanksgiving rotated yearly, I make enough to share with whichever parent I’m not celebrating with that year.

Acquiring New Traditions

Over the years, people have come and gone, sharing the day with us. Everyone brings something to share. And my food loving family, acquired yet another food related tradition. It’s called Aunty Rudi cake. My aunt isn’t allowed in the house unless she brings the moist and delicious cakes, that she doctored and that none of us can get enough of. It’s actually one of those traditions that isn’t just for Thanksgiving, It encompasses any family party. It’s come down to each of us having our own travel case holder in which to carry any leftovers home with us.

As I write this, I realize that all of our traditions are food based. Beside the stuffing and the cake, our family always had a deep love for turkey skin. Yeah, the way we make our turkey is to ensure the skin is crispy, buttery, and heavenly. So much so, we stand around the turkey as it’s being carved. One year, my aunt Shelley stole it out of my hand before I could stick it in my mouth.

The newest tradition started a few years ago. It was the smallest group, only five of us. I stayed in my pajamas as I prepared the stuffing, and wore them as my mom prepared the standing rib roast. Yes. Standing rib roast. Most of us, assembled that day were not big fans of turkey. Rather than making a large turkey, we made a small one and dined on the sumptuous flavor of rib roast. I know turkey wasn’t there for the first Thanksgiving, it is one of our most favorite traditions. My mouth waters thinking about it.

And Your Traditions Are?

And what do you celebrate? Are your traditions food related? Location related?

The Recipe

  • 3 dozen mixed rolls. I use plain and onion rolls. Sometimes I use challah bread. Buy the bread days early to harden them for easy grinding.
  • One large onion
  • 1 bag of cut carrots. Not small, probably large. I process enough to make the stuffing pretty.
  • 1 potato
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 stick of butter, melted in 1 cup of water
  • Lowry’s Seasoning Salt

In the food processor, grind the rolls and leave in a large bowl. You’ll need it. Grind the onion, carrots and potatoes. Add to the bread. Add the eggs. Hand mix, adding the water/butter mixture as needed. The stuffing should be wet, and easily form a ball. You don’t want it mushy. Add the Lowry’s seasoning salt to taste. Place in 350 degree oven until hot.

While we don’t add anything else to the stuff, I know others have added cranberries, almond slivers, celery or whatever ingredient that tickles their fancy. As this is our family tradition, we don’t mess with it.

Enjoy! And Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

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 back the vomit.

Trying to sell books is that same roller coaster. There’s tiny bits of good luck and lots of down turns-Much frustration and then the high when the story comes together in a way you did not predict when you first started writing 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, all of this 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 sometimes feel as though I can’t string words together to form a complete sentence.

I struggle to find something to change the tide of emotion, that one thing to make that upturn. Basically, I am looking for 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 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 will finally convince me 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, 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 work toward the greater good. 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.

Raising a Child with Anxiety – It Never Ends

Raising a Child with Anxiety – It Never Ends

You Don’t Just Get Over Anxiety

Anxiety isn’t just something you can “Get over,” or outgrow. It’s fear of the unknown, it can create low self-confidence and the fear grows more fear. It’s just that … anxiety and if you don’t have it, you just don’t get it.

Though there’s medicine that can reduce the stress, and therapy that can teach how to live with anxiety, what I’ve learned from raising a child with severe anxiety is, it just doesn’t go away. No amount of yelling, screaming, or rationalizing with your child will accomplish anything. And trust me, I’ve done it all when dealing with my kid, because my stress level grows when I can’t get her to do simple things, like be outside in the wind, or ordering a sandwich at the local Subway.

Over 18 and the Anxiety Still Gets in the Way

My daughter became a legal adult at 18, that was 1 1/2 years ago. I didn’t expect the anxiety to go away, but I was hoping with some maturity, she would be more willing to help herself learn how to live with it. But now what I’m  dealing with an adult who has anxiety. She’s just as stubborn about what she won’t do as she was before, but now I have some loss of control over certain situations.

Have you ever tried to talk to the doctor on behalf of your child and you can’t because guess what? They’re now an adult and the doctor legally can’t tell me anything without permission from my kid. It’s like beating my head against the wall.

It really wouldn’t be an issue if said child felt comfortable speaking to others on the phone, which she doesn’t, because you know why, anxiety. So what do you do when one doctor wants to sent your child to a specialist for a suspected issue and the billing office of another doctor needs to speak to your child and they won’t even hint as to why. .

Running my Head Through the Wall

AS with everything with my child with anxiety, I’m looking for answers to help assist without completely letting her get away with not advocating for herself. I’m looking to create a legal document that gives me permission to speak with doctor’s offices. If anything it should alleviate some of my stress.  When possible, I do make her call and give permission, but sometimes, when I’m not there, she choose to be obstinate.

Yeah, its frustrating, annoying, drives me crazy but this is who my child is. I can only do the best I can to make her and my life easier.

It takes a lot of compassion and understanding to deal with what you don’t understand. Some day I hope she remembers all I did to give her a good and full life, not defined by anxiety. One day I hope she finds a way to live with the anxiety so it doesn’t rule her.

 

 

 

 

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, perfect personality trait to write. 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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