Wednesday, December 2, 2015


I sat in my therapist's office the other day while she looked intently at me.  "When did you have thoughts about taking your own life?"

I paused, making sure my answer came out in a way that wouldn't put me on a 72-hour hold.  "I mean, I never had a plan.  There was never anything in place where I knew what I would do and notes had been written and peace had been made.  It was more realization on how easy it would be to not be here and that's ongoing.  Does that make sense?"

She nodded.  And then upped my meds, like any good American psychiatrist should.

I feel like I've been on the road less traveled for years now.  Lots of unchartered territory, lots of roadblocks.  I've experienced far more grief from death than I should have at the age of 30.  I continually wrestle with feelings of inadequacy after the drawn-out end of my last relationship.  I have friendships that are so fleeting it's almost like they never happened.  My bond with my parents is wearing thin, my work has slowed, and most days I would be okay with not getting out of bed.

It would be very easy to not be here.

But there are things I would miss.  Singing at top volume in my car.  The way the sun hits just right when I'm trying to take an artsy picture of something.  My cat.  The way my hair looks when it's cooperating.   Being plied into coming to my best friend's house with food and the promise that his four-year-old daughter will snuggle on the couch.

All the really hard, really scary, really sad things that happen blur the good more often than not and that hits hard and doesn't let up sometimes.  I spend a lot of time battling what would be easy versus what is definitely hard.

As 2015 comes to a THANKGODCANWEJUSTBEDONEALREADY close, I'm spending a lot of time evaluating both the understanding and the non-understanding people in my life.  I'm choosing to surround myself with the understanding ones: laughing long and hard, crying when I need to, and not being ashamed that at this point in my life Prozac helps me get out of bed.  I will spend my time nurturing and cultivating these relationships, making them stronger, knowing these are people who will check in when they haven't heard from me and will send a text just to say hello.  These are the ones who have seen my at my lowest and loved me even when I didn't deserve to be remotely liked.

I can't make everyone see pain, especially when their own lives are rose colored.  I can only hold onto the people I have in my corner and make sure they know they bring the things that wouldn't be easy to leave behind.

Monday, September 7, 2015


I gave him a hug.  After crying for hours in my living room, I stood up and gave the guy I had dated for four years a hug.  I said, "I feel like this is the last time I'm going to see you."

He laughed.  "You can't get rid of me that easy."

He was wrong.  Two days later, he told me he couldn't be friends, that he "needed a break from all this."

"All this" is my hike.

I've started equating my depression to talking a hike.  I have a backpack and while I'm walking on level, stable ground, I'm picking up little things here and there and putting them into the backpack.  It gets heavy but it's manageable.  Then, all of a sudden, there's a hill to climb.  The hill is very hard because I have all this stuff on my back and it's all become so important that I can't unload it.  I eventually make it to the top of the hill and the decline is much easier.  Once I make it to the bottom, I'm very satisfied, congratulating myself for just dealing with the stuff on my shoulders instead of actually unloading it.  In fact, I feel so great, I'm going to pick up MORE stuff because why not?  I'm on stable ground and can handle it.  This works until I find the next hill and this one is a little bigger.  Now I have more stuff on my back that I can't get rid of because I've grown attached and a bigger problem to tackle.  This repeats until the hills are closer together and I eventually collapse from the weight.

I've been steadily hiking for about two years.  2013 was the worst year of my life.  Between hard times at work and losing one of my best friends and using a failed defibrillator before performing CPR on a man who ultimately died, I was very broken.  I didn't know how to put into words the grief I was feeling between Miranda and the other guy so I didn't.  I kept it all in, all on my shoulders, and kept getting up every morning for another hike.  The bag got heavier and heavier in 2014 and heavier again in 2015 and eventually, I couldn't carry it on my own.  I asked for help and was met with resistance.  The guy I was dating had already tried to carry someone else's backpack before he met me.  That one was too much for his shoulders and he was worried mine would be, too.

After that night in my living room, I was ready to be done hiking.  I picked up the leftover little things, put them into my hypothetical backpack in case I needed them later, and got ready to climb another mountain: Being single at almost 30.  I sold my soul to the devil and signed up for in the hopes that maybe someone out there would understand hiking a little more and help me carry the backpack when it got too heavy.

I met a guy and, after our second date, texted him, "I want to be honest with you.  My last relationship was a little rough.  I'm very guarded/hesitant/nervous to start another one right away because I don't think I've fully let this other one go yet."  I hit send and anxiously waited for his SEE YA, BYE response.

The response rang through.  "I understand.  Mine was a little rocky, too.  I'm not worried about it, when can I see you again?"

It felt like taking a little weight out of the backpack. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Dear Lady at Panera,

I saw you this morning.

I was rushing.  I was late for what is probably my last 14-hour Sunday shift at a job I've worked for eight years.  I don't remember the last Sunday I was on time for my 7:45am start but today, on my possible last long day of work before we close, I knew the time stamp would read somewhere in the 7:52am punch.

I didn't see you when I walked in.

I didn't see you while I was waiting for the cashier to finish with the person in front of me.

I didn't see you while I was placing my order and paying.

I didn't see you while I was filling up my cup with coffee.

I didn't see you while I was thanking the line cook who handed me my bag and wished me a good day.

I saw you on my way out the door.

I know you think no one saw you because, really, it was 7:20am on a Sunday and who in their right mind is up and at Panera that early?  But I was and you were and I saw you.

You were not rushing.  Even though the restaurant had only opened 20 minutes earlier, your table was set up as if you had been there for hours.  Tucked away in a corner, you had a computer and books and a cup of coffee and what looked to be an entire filing cabinet of files.  You weren't looking at any of it.  You were looking out the window toward the businesses that dotted the other side of the strip mall, absentmindedly playing with the back of the scarf that covered your head.  You were crying in a way that I don't know if you realized you were crying.  You looked like the type of person who would apologize for yourself if you realized I saw you.

I saw you, Lady at Panera.  I saw you for 15 seconds on my way out of the door but I can't stop thinking about you.  I saw myself in you.

Monday, June 22, 2015


I left work upset last night.

I'm not sure why I was bummed out.  I'm in the midst of a 25 day work marathon and clocked over 14.5 hours yesterday.  People were coming into the Community Center generally upset about the fact that it was closing and then it stayed open and then it was closing and now it's staying open for an undetermined amount of time.  Someone threw money at me when I said they had to pay for either a day or a month membership.  I was working with my best friend who said something that I took completely out of context.  I drove out of the parking lot at 10:35pm, frustrated and angry at everything but nothing in particular.

I hopped onto 275 for the 25 minute drive home.  I know 275 north well, I drive it frequently.  I know the way the road curves, when the lanes end, where the cops sit and wait depending on what time of day it is.  I know to stay to the right after Eight Mile so I can exit onto M-5 east and head home.

Last night I stayed to the left.

As I guided my steering wheel to take my car onto 96 west, I had a moment of HEY THERE, IT'S 11PM AND YOU HAVE TO BE AT WORK TOMORROW MORNING.  The thought was fleeting and replaced with the realization that it's 11pm and there's no one waiting at home for me.

I passed the Novi Road exit and turned the radio up and rolled the windows down.  This was freedom!  The wind was whipping my hair and Jason Mraz was strumming a guitar.  I could go anywhere.  I would have to stop for gas at some point but that was further down the road.  I could drive all the way to Holland and find a hotel on Lake Michigan.  I could stay to the right and merge onto 23 heading north to whatever is north of Brighton.  I could take a turn onto 69 south and then onto 94 west and land in Chicago.  I could go ANYWHERE.

Last summer, I went to Wisconsin.  We drove and dropped a then-eight-year-old off at camp outside of Milwaukee before going further north, ending up in a sleepy little town and a cabin on a lake.  The drive to the cabin was back roads and wind turbines, cows and dive bars.  I daydreamed as we passed huge farmhouses with acres of land surrounding them. "The older I get, the more I think I could live in the middle of nowhere,"  I said.  It was met with laughter and "there is no way you could live this far away from a big city."  He was right and we drove on.  We could go anywhere.

The cabin was bigger than the two of us needed without internet or TV.  We giggled over the Hootie and the Blowfish CDs the owners provided and celebrated building a fire by ourselves.  It rained one night, tapping on the windows as we played Rummy and laid around and read.  The morning after, I woke up earlier than I should have on vacation.  Wrapping myself in a sheet, I made my way to the screened in porch, letting the breeze off the water whisper on my skin.  I breathed in, inhaling the scent of pine needles and damp ground and early morning summer air, wishing this moment, this vacation, this reconnection with a man I loved so much wouldn't end.

The moment ended.  The vacation ended.  The reconnection ended.

Last night I took a breath as I was nearing Howell, still unsure of where I was going or what I was doing.  It smelled like pine needles and humidity and late night summer air.  The road in front of me was endless with few cars in my way.  Thoughts of mountains and oceans and starting over somewhere without any ghosts stretched ahead, beckoning me to stop and refill my tank but then just. keep. going.

I exited, turned around, and headed east.

I could go ANYWHERE.  I went home.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Afraid of the Dark

I've always had somewhat of a problem with the dark.

When I was little, I suffered from awful night terrors.  I used to force my mom to lay with me until I fell asleep and would panic in the middle of the night when I would wake up and she wasn't there.  Later, I slept with the hallway light on.  When my parents first moved to Kentucky, I slept in the living room for months.  The TV was always put on an hour timer, either tuned into a blank blue screen or with the sound down so low I couldn't hear it.

One day, it snapped and I was able to sleep anywhere, anytime, no matter the light situation.  This was a victory for me!  I could stay with someone in a hotel, pulling the blackout curtains completely closed instead of leaving a sliver open.  I could stay at someone else's place without worry about if there was a streetlight outside of the window to allow a little bit of light in.  I could sleep in my own house without the fear of a ridiculous electric bill.

I didn't realize the fear of darkness had become a part of me.

The more I analyze my depression this time around, the more I see the darkness is in my mind and I am still terrified of it.  There are certain times it creeps in without warning and I'm left scrambling to find light.  There are days when I am awake, walking around, thinking of the long list of things I feel I've screwed up, and I try and find some sort of glimmer of hope to cling onto.  All those bad things that were going to get me when I was six, seven, thirteen, sixteen, twenty?  They're long gone and replaced with these irrational fears of never being good enough and never finding happiness.

So so so so many great things happen to me!  I have had incredible experiences traveling.  I've met fantastic people and formed a small, strong inner circle.  I've fallen in love and given that person my entire heart without holding back.  I've read and watched and researched amazing topics and filled my brain with this vast amount of knowledge.

The darkness reminds me that I could travel more but that I'd have to go alone.  It laughs at the fact that I've filled my inner circle with four absolutely wonderful married friends who have families to spend their time with.  It allows me to think that my love for someone is going to finally be returned only to find that getting serious and committing is still the game plan for me and me alone.  It tells me to sign up for classes and maybe finally finish that degree that's less than 20 credits away and then holds me down in bed when I should be doing homework or going to lecture.  I can feel it wrapping its arms around me with a big hug every time I call Henry Ford only to be told that the next appointment they have open for new patient therapy is in November.

Ironically enough, at almost thirty, the thing I once feared the most -- sleep -- has become a welcome break.  I used to think the scariest thing was to go to sleep in the dark but I'm coming to the realization it's way scarier to be awake in it.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Old School Blogging

So, I met some really fantastic women through my recent Listen to Your Mother experience.  Many of them are bloggers, some who write with more frequency than others.  Over the last couple days, I've seen two of them post about "Old School Blogging" and I decided to join in on the fun! 

Thank you to Elaine (who I've never 'met') at Miss Elaine-ous Life and Angela at Jumping with my Fingers Crossed for hosting the OSB Link-Up!


I am finding myself daily, accepting of the person I have become but always striving to be better, trying to figure out if I've made the "right" decisions.
("What am I doing here?" at Saint Andrew's Hall, before Listen to Your Mother)
I wonder if I am the common denominator in lost things.
I hear music in my head, all day, everyday.  The soundtrack of my life is constantly playing (and usually stuck on whatever song was on last in the car).
I see the long road behind me, an even longer one ahead.
I want to just be happy.  I get too lost in the "what if" and not the "this, right now."
I am tired, almost 100% of the time.
I pretend that things will get better, even when it feels like they won't.
I feel everything.  My heart aches, it leaps, it skips every now and then.  I feel with everything in me.
I touch my nails, picking at them and the skin around them when I'm nervous, anxious, or bored.
I worry about the future and my role in it and that it won't ever be what I want it to be.
I cry when I'm happy, when I'm sad, when I'm surprised, when I'm hurt.
I am waiting for something amazing to happen.
I understand that the decisions I've made have shaped who I am.  I do not always agree with decisions I've made.
I say things I'm feeling without realizing the impact the words will have when they're heard.
I dream of babies that never were and children that might be.
I try to make everyone else happy before I take care of myself.
I hope to learn how to flip that every once in awhile.
I am almost thirty, treading water, and trying to stay afloat.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Moving Forward While Standing Still

Mother's Day is hard.

After my miscarriage in 2006, I figured time would heal all wounds.  I spent a lot of time those first few months just existing.  I moved the TV into the bedroom, had my own mom bring my cat to Grand Rapids to live with me, actively ignored my fiancee sleeping on the couch with his own grief he wouldn't talk about, and went straight back to work and school the second my mandated bedrest recovery was over.  One foot in front of the other, I put on this great save face and moved on.  After the deep mourning period wore off, my fiancee and I realized it wasn't working - we weren't working - so I handed my gorgeous ring back and took off to Texas and then back home to Wayne.

I was moving forward, leaving the bad behind.

Nine years later, I'm still moving forward.  I have a job that I (most days) love.  I have friendships that answer my calls at 2am and don't question me showing up randomly when I just can't deal with the rest of the world.  I adore Detroit restaurant culture and the art scene and just being out and about and soaking it all in.

Mother's Day is hard.

There's lots of days throughout the year when I think, "Man, I wonder what having a nine year old would be like."  Mother's Day is an entirely different ball game.  It is the one single day out of the entire year when I feel like less of a person because no one even acknowledges that I'm a mother.  I carried a child inside of me for twelve weeks.  I loved that baby, planned for its future, picked out a pack-and-play and bought gender neutral onesies and slept with my hand on my stomach, hoping this thing inside of me could feel how much I cared about it.

I am a goddamn mother but there's no pomp and circumstance on Mother's Day for me.  I am taboo, nonexistent.  I am hailed as a caregiver, a role model, a fantastic friend to children around me -- kids of people I grew up with or ones that I met through some sort of programming.  I will never know their first words.  I will never see them take that first wobbly step.  I will never cuddle with them, reading a book, willing them to stay small enough to always sit on my lap.  This child, this enigma I'll never fully know, is gone.  I can't get that back.  I can't watch dance recital with so much pride I'll burst or bust their ass for not turning in their homework.  There are no arms-around-the-neck hugs or sleepy murmurs of "I love you."  I want to scream, "NOTICE ME!  Look at what I did!  I became a MOTHER!  I would give anything for that child to be here with me.  ANYTHING.  Do you hear me?  Do you see me?  I have lost so much and I am still grieving so hard because, at almost thirty and single, I don't think I will ever be a mother."

I don't scream.  I don't talk about it.  Instead I go to work for 65 hours a week and buy myself shiny, pretty, expensive things.  I have a closet filled to the brim with clothes and shoes and purses that I'll never use.  I have laughter filled days in homes filled with someone else's kids and lonely nights in a 495 sq ft apartment that feels too big.  I have tears and I have longing and I have doubt I'll ever be able to fill this hole in my heart.  I'm moving forward but I'm definitely standing still.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Two Years Ago

Once upon a time, I worked as a site director for a YMCA after-school program and I was awesome at my job.  I was so awesome, in fact, that my boss decided to send me a co-op student.  Now, I think this decision had more to do with proximity to where she lived and not my actual skill as a director but whatever, I walked in one day and Miranda was standing there and I had no idea what to do with a 16-year-old child.

We figured it out.  Slowly, a friendship formed with texts and late night Skype chats and nicknames and trips to the mall and her pointing out that I never cried over anything, even when stuff was really hard at work.  We became rocks for each other and when she left my site, it was sad but it was okay because we were a phone call away.

Like lots of friendships, though, we drifted apart a little bit.  We still texted a lot but the hang outs became less frequent when I started dating someone and she discovered college parties.  When I found out she was in the hospital, I texted to see how she was doing.  She had been told less than an hour before that she had cancer.  Hepatosplenic T-Cell Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.  She didn't Google her prognosis but I did as soon as we were done talking.

Visits took place more again.  When she was considered in remission, she threw a wig on and we went to dinner.  When she relapsed, we sat in her hospital room, listening to Taylor Swift and putting on fake tattoos.  I brought coffee and coloring books and chocolate and magazines and we laughed and sang and there was hope.  When she moved to Karmanos for her bone marrow transplant, her new lease on life, I promptly developed the never ending sinus infection.  And still, we texted and I wished her a new happy birthday and we made plans for celebrating.

Plans change.  Miranda died on April 8, 2013.

It's been almost two years.  Two years this Wednesday, in fact.  In two years I've collected a world of inside jokes to laugh at and secrets to share and drives to go on and I can't do those things and I'm so angry.  I want her to know that I learned how to cry and sometimes thinking of her and what she went through rocks me so hard that I can't stop the tears.  That I can't delete her text messages and the thought of getting a new phone terrifies me that I'll lose them.

That I started to drive to the hospital when her sister texted me she was in a coma and meds were being stopped and everyone was coming to say good bye and I turned around because of that goddamn sinus infection because what if there was a chance for her and me being sick ruined it?

That when I stood up in front of a church full of people and read a tribute that was so painstakingly written with love and heartbreak, I held it together but I completely lost it for days after.

That sometimes when I need guidance, I talk to her and hope the answers will come.  Sometimes they do.  Most of the time I just wait for a sign that doesn't appear.

Two years ago seems like a lifetime away.  I've done so many things since then.  I've grown, I've changed, I've moved on from a lot of things.  I still wholeheartedly, desperately, heartbreakingly miss my friend.

Monday, March 16, 2015


I feel very broken.

I feel like at some point over the last few months, I just shattered.  Like a giant mirror falling off the wall, I hit the ground hard and shattered into a million pieces that someone will inevitably find when they're not wearing shoes.

I'm taking a break from social media, mostly Facebook and Twitter.  This is hard because I run both social media accounts for my job and I'm involved with a production that posts frequent updates on Facebook.  I'm actively not reading messages or comments or posts from friends though.  Facebook is a bouquet of happiness and the more I read, I realize a lot of it is not real.  People post their best moments, pictures, quotes and leave out most of the hard stuff.  I was having a problem with only posting hard stuff so it was time to step away for a minute.

I'm breaking away from bringing work home with me from two out of three jobs.  There was a time where every rude remark, every sideways glance, every slight would send me into a tizzy.  I can barely stand one job.  I dread going there because I know that I don't matter.  It's been showcased time and time again that what I say, what I do, what I think doesn't make an ounce of difference.  There is a gross double standard that exists for me and only me and it's played out in banishment from the building when I'm not working, a lack of support when there's a problem, and a general disdain for how I feel.  If I didn't like extra play money, I would have walked away months ago.  Unfortunately for me, I like buying stupid shit on Amazon so I'll clock back in during my next shift and actively hate being there.

I've started the process of breaking off toxic friendships.  I have people in my life that will never answer the phone.  I can call them when I'm sobbing and lost and at the end of my rope so I can listen to their voice mail.  I don't need a voice mail, I need a person.  Them not calling or texting back until they need or want something is the hardest part.  So slowly, I disappear.  I don't reach out as much.  I don't try and make plans.  In the process of this, I've made new friends in people I may not have reached out to otherwise.

I'm on a break from my relationship.  This man has been my best friend, my go-to, my constant for three and a half years.  I've been steadily gaining speed on being my absolute worst for the last two years and both of us finally snapped.  I need to figure out how to be a friend again.  I miss my number one.

I've started picking up the pieces.  You know how when a mirror breaks, there are a bunch of little pieces but then there's jagged chunks that are still recognizable but you can't see the whole reflection anymore?  I feel like I'm picking up those big pieces right now and when I do, I can see parts of the person I was before the mirror broke but it's not whole.  In order to get it back to the full reflection, I need to piece back together all those tiny little shards.  Those little things we suck up with the vacuum, thinking they don't matter, until we try and glue the mirror back together and realize there are blemishes that distort what people see.  This repair will take a lot of glue and time and patience to put it back together.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Lesson on Loneliness

I very rarely feel alone.

I work full-time, five days a week, in an office filled with four other permanent people and about thirty-five others that come and go throughout the week.

On the weekends, I work a second job at a Community Center where people are hosting parties or working out or coming in to ask what time we have open swim (spoiler alert: never).

I surround myself with people.  Funny people, talkative people, intensely intelligent people.  Old, young, in between, it doesn't matter.  These people make me laugh and commiserate with me when work is tough and give me parts of themselves through stories that make me feel like I'm a part of them

I almost always feel lonely.

It usually happens at home.  I'll come home from a day at work and walk into an empty apartment.  There's no one here to greet me or ask me how my day was.  Sometimes I'll make dinner, sometimes I'll make cereal.  I don't fight over what to watch at 8pm.  I don't wonder if the washing machine is free.  The flowers in the vase are always the perfect bouquet because I picked them out and cut them the length I want them.  I wake up in the morning and don't have to worry about if there's hot water or clean towels or milk in the fridge.  These are all decisions that are influenced by me and only me.

I can't tell people how lonely I feel.  The people I've surrounded myself with are a variety of moms with basketball practice and husbands with wives to spend time with.  My friends have lives very, very different than mine and I spend an awful lot of time thinking about how my life has become so standstill while everyone else's kept moving.  I've almost created this cycle of loneliness for myself because I'd rather lay on the couch in Shondaland than go out and be a third or fifth or seventh wheel.  It's easy to say "well, the grass is always greener on the other side" but I don't know that my grass is greener because I've never seen it through anyone's glasses but my own.

Sometimes people just need to be told they matter to be reminded they exist in your world.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

What it Looks Like

"You've had a shitty attitude all day."

My work husband's words hit me like a ton of bricks.  It was the end of the night and we had worked together for lots of hours, most of which were spent sitting around wondering when the parties would actually leave.  I had laughed at some stuff, we spent a fair amount of time online shopping, and he was just at the point where he was teasing me and I was getting offended.  This was someone who was in my inner circle and who had put me into his.  This person had become one of my best friends.  I had zero reason to be offended at what he was saying but I had latched onto one off color comment and run hard with it.

"I've been in a fine mood all day."
"No, you haven't.  You let all your other stuff get to you and now you're being shitty at me even though I didn't do anything to you."

Sometimes I wish that my depression looked like depression in the movies.  I feel like it would be less taboo to talk about it if I could just reference how I sit in a dark room all day, staring out of a window, looking at all the happy people and wishing I was them.  If my depression kept me in bed all day, every day, to the point where I couldn't go to work or shower or function, a conversation would be that much easier.  I don't know how to tell people "I'm not mad at what you said but it made me think of fifteen other things that I am mad about and now I'm going to take them out on you because you're standing in front of me."

This is not the first time I've struggled hard but this time the depression is taking me down with its path of destruction.  It's taken all the hopes and dreams and plans I had for almost-thirty and thrown them in my face while laughing.  Sleeping alone is hard.  Watching women with their children is damn near impossible.  Going to another social gathering and thinking of creative ways to avoid questions about college and kids and marriage while still maintaining a smile is enough to hermit me for life.

I drove the twenty minutes home in silence.  As I pulled in the parking lot, I sat in my car for a second before heading into my apartment.  I texted my friend.

"I'm sorry I was being an asshole today."

I put my phone in my purse and gathered all my things and went inside.  I threw everything down on the kitchen table that's become a dumping ground for all my literal and figurative baggage.  I went to the fridge and drank straight from the lemonade container because the dishes hadn't been done in days and I didn't have the energy to dirty another glass.  The classic depression signs were evident here and hard to ignore.

I pulled out my phone, ready to plug it in and set the alarm for another day I wasn't mentally prepared for.  I pressed it awake from sleep and read his response that was sitting on my screen.

"Don't worry about it."

Friday, March 6, 2015


I've been running after-school programming for over ten years.  I've been an assistant, a site director, a teacher.  I've wiped tears and braced broken arms from playground falls and had my hand hurt from high fives that turned out much more powerful than I anticipated.

I've also perfected the following standard 'teacher' phrases:

"Please don't touch that."
"We need to stay in our seat."
"We don't say that to our friends."
"Remember to raise your hand if you have a question."
"I've asked you ___ times to not do that.  If I need to ask you again, we'll need to move where we're sitting."

Last week I used all of those sentences plus more on a little girl in my after-school program.  It wasn't even my program, I was subbing for another instructor.  Instead of the normal one-hour class, snow days had sent us into two-hour territory and while it was a long day for most of the kids, it seemed exceptionally long for *Bree.

Bree could not sit still.  Group work was near impossible.  We went outside to launch a rocket ... Bree was more interested in launching snow from a pile onto whatever unsuspecting classmate was standing nearby.  Not many stood nearby for too long.  I watched the other kids, listened to them.  "She's so annoying."  "She never shuts up.  Shut up, Bree."  "We don't want you to sit here."  I pushed my irritation down and reminded myself I was only here for the day and then never had to come back again.

The class ended and everyone was picked up by smiling parents, all ready to see what they had created in science class that day.  Soon Bree, a rushed custodian, and me were the only three left in the room.  I sighed, "Come on, Bree.  We'll go wait in the hall and I'll call mom."

We walked into the hall where Bree immediately flew the copter she made up to the ceiling.  "Did you see it?!" she cried.  "Yes, please don't hit the ceiling with it, okay?"  She flung herself onto the floor, laying flat on her stomach while I left a message on her mom's voice mail.  I tried calling our contact person only to discover her office was already closed.  I resigned myself to the fact that we just had to wait it out at this point.  "You've been here a million times before," I thought.  "Moms always come back."

I took a deep breath and tried to take all the frustration out of my voice as I said, "Bree, can you stop rolling on the floor and just sit on the bench?  I know your mom is twenty-five minutes late but she should be here soon."

Bree sat up and looked at me, her long brown hair swinging over her shoulders.  She studied me with the same observation she made when she first walked in the room two and a half hours prior, sizing me up, calculating what she could get away with.  It was a game I had played with dozens of kids and knew well.  I braced myself for a meltdown.

Bree stood up.  She walked over and sat down next to me.  Eight years of wisdom and big eyes looked at me as she said, "I'm always the last one.  I bet you would be a good mom.  My mom always forgets me.  I bet you wouldn't forget me if you were my mom."

I looked back at this little girl.  The classmate annoyances, the seat jumping, the non-stop onslaught of questions hit me like a wall: This girl doesn't know she's irritating.  She wants so badly to be heard, for someone to acknowledge they're listening to what she's saying with words and showing with actions.

I opened my mouth to tell her to fly her copter again, that I wanted to see how high it would go.  As I did, mom breezed in through the front door with a list of excuses, none of which I cared about.  I told her to  have a good night and put my coat on as I listened to her tell Bree to put everything in her backpack and "you can show me at home, we have to go."  I walked past them, desperately wanting to get to my car before my heart broke completely.


I turned around to find Bree barreling toward me.  "Did you forget something?" I called.

She slammed into me with the kind of hug you have to prepare yourself for.  "I had the most fun today.  Thank you."

Thank you, Bree.

*Not her real name, obviously.