Do Not Disturb

I saw a disturbing scene the other morning.

It wasn’t a typical day for me. I didn’t leave my house and drive to work as usual. Instead, I headed in the opposite direction to an all-day class. And on the way to my class, I made a quick stop at City Market, the downtown location.

I was feeling carefree and content as I got back into my vehicle. Though I wouldn’t be there, I knew all was in order for my students to have a productive day without me. I had caffeine and a banana and a little something sweet in hand for breakfast. And I was looking forward to a worthwhile day of professional learning.

I didn’t particularly want my happy morning to be disturbed.

There was honking. Different rhythms, different tones. Different horns being played by several different drivers.

The honking was coming from 1st Street. First street has four lanes and is quite busy, especially at 7:45 in the morning, but when I looked up it was at a standstill.

A man, in a grungy tan coat, was staggering through the middle of the street. It was apparent that he wasn’t trying to get to the other side of the street, necessarily; he didn’t seem to realize that he was in the street. His gaze, skittish yet glazed, flitted from the direction of the honking horns, down to his seemingly unruly feet, to his left hand, which danced in front of his face like a suspended marionette appendage, the cigarette there powerless in connecting with his waggling head.

And behind him.  He kept glancing behind him. Not from where he had come, which was too distant, both physically and in his memory, but to the street. There was something on the street that, unlike the traffic and his wayward body parts and that cigarette, was better able to maintain his attention, his focus.

And then I saw it.

A dog. His dog.

He was a short-haired heeler mix, dressed smartly in a clean puffy jacket zipped down his spine. I watched as he wandered toward one of the stopped cars, the passenger side, and looked longingly at the window, hoping, perhaps, to get in, to be taken somewhere, somewhere other than this currently confusing situation.

I considered, briefly, opening my door and calling him into my vehicle. But that would leave the man alone.

After a few seconds, he turned and trotted after the man, following him faithfully.

The man stepped onto the sidewalk and into the shrubs that lined the parking lot.

Really? I thought, as the man slogged through the bushes. You have to go through the vegetation instead of around? And then I knew. Any compassion I may have initially had for this human being had turned to anger and complete disappointment.

It was the dog. It was one thing to get himself into this situation, to be so messed up so early in the morning, to not know where he was or where he was going, to put his life at risk as he wandered aimlessly through the city, across busy streets. But to get a helpless being involved? To bring a creature as wonderful as the dog into this mess?

The man mangled several of the dense, low-lying branches of the bushes before he got hung up and tripped, falling onto his left shoulder to the pavement of the parking lot. The dog leaped the span of shrubbery and went straight to the man, sitting down near him, nuzzling his face. The man grasped the dog’s head and used it as leverage to get himself into a sitting position.

And that’s the last I saw of them–a man and a dog sitting face-to-face on the pavement of a grocery store parking lot–as I drove away, away to my own day.

Disturbed. Downright disturbed.

Who was this man? What was his story? Was he always so out of it or was the majority of his time spent lucid and thinking and feeling? What about the dog? Were his needs being met? Was he getting fed? Was anyone going to take that jacket off him once the weather changed? Did he feel loved? Was he getting the same love that he was giving? (Does any dog?)

And what in the world was going on with my feelings? Why did the concern I felt, initially, for this human being dissipate so quickly and turn to anger? Was it easier that way? Easier to be angry than caring? Did being angry make it easier to drive away and continue on with my day?

Disturbed. What right did this guy have to disturb my otherwise wonderful morning?

What a horrible question. What right did I have to be upset with a slight disturbance, when his entire life might be one big disturbance? To himself, to society.

Most of us don’t want to be disturbed, including me. It’s easier to not look, not see, to just drive away and get to a place where my mind can quickly become preoccupied with something else. Something more normal, less perplexing and muddled.

And I find that terribly disturbing, exponentially more disturbing than the scene that disturbed me in the first place.

I suppose that’s what’s supposed to happen. We get disturbed and if we get downright disturbed, or get disturbed often enough, then we might actually force ourselves to notice, to really see what’s going on, to take action.

I am grateful for those who are there already, who are able to recognize their feelings, who are willing to take the time and make the effort to do something.

I am disturbed that I don’t feel that pressure. Am I selfish? Uncaring? Powerless? Too busy? I’m busy working, teaching children, raising my own. Busy doing what I can to make sure others don’t end up in the same shoes, the same street, the same parking lot as this man.

Yeah, that’s a pretty good answer. I’m busy making sure others get a good start in life. It’ll stop my disturbance meter for now.

But it’s definitely gone up a notch.

Christmas Angel

A week ago Monday I realized my heat wasn’t working. Not in the main part of the house, anyway, the living room, kitchen, and bathroom. It had seemed chillier than usual for two days prior, but it wasn’t until Monday that I looked at the temperature. 55 degrees. It was 18 outside and the thermostat was set for 68.

I mentioned it to Jim, as I do all things of this nature. If it weren’t for  Jim, I doubt I would have ever bought a house. Any house that I could afford would have too many issues, too many repairs, too many things that I had no clue about, too many needs that I couldn’t afford to address.

But I had Jim. Jim is a contractor. He can walk into a house like mine, asses the situation, and have it under control within a matter of hours.

And this is what he did on that Monday. Despite having work to do at a real (full paying) customer’s place and work to do at the house he is flipping, he took the time to run and get parts and install them and have warmth restored to my home before I arrived there after work.

My Christmas Angel.Christmas Angel

Not that this is the first time he’s lent a hand. He’s been my Valentine Angel, St. Patrick’s Day Angel, April Fool’s Day Angel, Easter Angel, Memorial Day Angel, Fourth of July Angel, Labor Day Angel, Halloween Angel, and Thanksgiving Angel. And, yes, my Vehicle Angel,  Yard Angel, Marathon Training Angel, and Kitchen Angel, too.

The day he was working and squeezing in the job of fixing my heat as well, my daughter, unbeknownst to me, called him because she had a dead battery. It’s not her first experience with a dead battery. She has her own jumper cables (courtesy of the Dead Battery Angel, the first time she called upon him) and knows how to use them. On this day, however, she couldn’t get her hood open (something to do with a dent incurred while rear-ending a Hummer) and she needed assistance. So she called one of her angels.

On top of working, flipping a house, and dealing with my heat, Jim ran up to the high school parking lot and helped my daughter get her hood open and the car running.

Like I’ve been saying, he’s an angel.

This past week, which was crazy busy, he asked if he could take care of dinner for me Thursday night. He said, “The last thing you need to worry about is cooking dinner.” It was true. I had already cooked dinner twice that week. A record for me. He’s seen how cooking can stress me out like nothing else.

So I came home, on Thursday, from running a few errands after work. I had texted Jim while out and about to see what the plan was for dinner, what time, where. When I walked into my house there he was, wooden spoon in hand, surrounded by my daughters and their friends, garlic bread and lasagna in the midst of preparation behind him, comfort and happiness in the air.

I thought I would cry. I thought I would cry because I was exhausted. Exhausted from two weeks of Christmas and school and parenting craziness.

And what I walked into was relief.

The kind of relief that makes you realize just how weary you are, just how close you were to not making it, at the same pace, for even one more day.

The kind of relief that makes you cry.

I set my things down and then I set myself down, my distress slumping out of me all over the table. And I let my Christmas Angel do his thing. I let him serve me by the grace of God.

Today I was wondering when I’ll have the opportunity to be a Christmas Angel. I was wishing there was something I was good at, like repairing anything and everything in a house and acting like it’s no big deal, something I could do for someone, something they couldn’t do for themselves.

Jim acts likes it’s no big deal to work on my house. He says what he does isn’t rocket science. He acts as if each task (from his point of view), each miracle (from my point of view) is just a little thing, just what he does. To me, what he does is a big deal. He is highly skilled. And he has years and years of experience that types like me know are invaluable.

As I thought about that, it hit me. Jim’s acts are gifts for me and others who need them. He may not see them as all that special because they are not necessarily a need that he would have to have met by someone else. And it must be the same with the things that I can do. I may not consider my talents to be a big deal because they are just what I do, day after day. But for others, who cannot do what I can, my offerings may be illustrative of God’s grace, just as Jim’s are to me.

And so it has not been obvious to me when I may have been or am, presently, a Christmas Angel to someone. Jim perceives my needs, as well as the needs of others, and acts accordingly. I perceive his needs and the needs of others and act accordingly, usually without even thinking about it, without realizing that that is what I’m doing.

Angelic behavior doesn’t have to be big and bold and surrounded with a halo of mesmerizing light. It’s the every day, regular stuff that truly qualifies as God’s grace.

So get out there, do what you do, be who you are, spread God’s grace, and recognize yourself as… a Christmas Angel.

Running Left-Handed

November goals? What November goals? I was going to let them just quietly slip away, no mention of them again, but my friend actually asked me when I was going to post the results of one of them. And I can’t really talk about the one without at least briefly mentioning the other two now, can I?

Goal #1 was to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I wasn’t planning on really participating, not to the extent of dropping everything and writing 1,700 words a day; I was just using the occasion as a motivator to get me to open up my memoir and get back into it a little. And I did. A little. End of story. End of goal. For now.

Goal #2 had something to do with the Seven Minute Workout app. What I learned is this – I do not want to raise my heartbeat for seven minutes. It’s not worth the mental anguish. It’s easier to run for 90 minutes or play racquetball for 90 minutes than to do push ups and planks and squats for just seven minutes. End of goal. It only lasted for a few days, so I wouldn’t say it really ever got started.

Goal #3 was to tally the results of all of Jim’s and my racquetball games for the month. This was a super easy goal since we already play racquetball several times a week. Jim was the one who asked me when I was going to post the results, i.e., blog about them. Can you guess why he’s anxious to see the tally sheet?

We’ve been playing racquetball together for about three years now. I played a few times as a teenager when we finally got a health club in our little Wyoming town and then several times a week during college. The one and only court on campus was always booked up, so a friend and I would often meet and play at 10:00, 11:00, or midnight when there was sure to be no one there. I also played for several years in Denver, against a French woman, Jeanne Marie, while in my 20s. Before kids.

RBall Tally20 years later, I am playing again and it’s so much fun. Jim and I play at 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. two or three times a week. We are a good match for each other (Jim’s always joking around that we’re playing “a buck a point” and I remind him that I have probably scored way more points, over the course of time, than he has) and I suppose that is why our racquetball run has lasted as long as it has. Okay, and also because we both show up on time. And because he doesn’t grouch when he gets beat by a girl and I don’t use the “I’m a girl, you’re a boy” excuse when he beats me. And for sure, too, because he doesn’t plow me over or whack me with his racquet when I get in his way, which is often.

About a year ago, Jim’s elbow was bothering him and he was having trouble playing more than a couple of games at a time. So we decided to try and play left-handed and give our right elbows and shoulders a break. In fact, we made it our New Year’s Resolution to play at least one game left-handed every time we got together to play.

Oh my gosh, it was horribly frustrating at first and so mentally taxing. Not only was it hard to hit the ball, to actually make our racquets come into contact with the ball, but when we did, we hardly had the strength or accuracy to get the ball back to the wall. And, though we’re right-handed, it was so hard to catch that little ball with our right hands. Our brains and bodies were just used to having our left hand do it. The most confusing thing was that we couldn’t run as fast with the racquet in our left hand. When I tried to move quickly, it would sound like stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp and I’d rarely get to the ball in time. Jim would laugh and I would mutter, “Stupid left-handed running.”

But we stuck with it. We kept saying, “We’ll be so happy when/if we get an injury and can’t ever play right-handed again because we’ll be pretty decent by then playing left-handed.” Eleven months later and, according to the tally sheet, at least ten left-handed games per month, and we really are pretty decent at playing left-handed. Not to mention this is the only New Year’s Resolution I’ve ever kept for an entire year.

The best thing about keeping the November Racquetball Tally was learning that we played 47 games in one month! That’s a lot of racquetball. I should probably be better than I am. Not shown on the tally sheet are all of the games we played on Saturday mornings when we always play with a group of friends, round-robin style or cutthroat or doubles.

Jim and I both agree that we played harder, knowing that the wins and losses for the month were being tallied. So we’re going to keep a tally each month from now on.

I’m glad that one of my November goals was doable and fun and resulted in a positive change in my life!

Keeping It True

My dad doesn’t read my blog; he doesn’t do much on the computer other than occasional emails. But I wanted him to know of The Bottle of Whiskey, so I called him and, after the usual catching up on his health, a few jokes, and a couple of the same old stories, I read it to him.

It wasn’t easy. My dad is judgmental and mildly critical and I wasn’t sure how he would react to this short memoir in which he was the main character.

But I wanted him to hear it, because in this story he is portrayed as a hero.

So, I took a deep breath and began reading. I read slowly enough that he could take it all in, but fast enough that he wouldn’t give up on it, get lost or tired of listening before I got to the end. Besides the pacing, I had to manage my breathing. It’s always been hard for me to read something over the phone. I can’t maintain my usual, involuntary breathing pattern. I think I forget to breathe. Then I have to force myself to breathe and my rhythm gets all messed up.

When I got to the end of the story, he said, “Well, that’s a dream.”

The story was mostly memoir, mostly from my memory of a time when I was eight years old. I knew it wasn’t all true; there was no way it could be. I was recounting something that happened nearly 40 years earlier, when I was a small child, barely of the age of remembering. And I hadn’t asked any questions, hadn’t done any fact checking.

“First of all, it was 80 acres. Not 24. And half of it was leased from the Indians. We had a five-year lease.”

“Oh yeah, 80 acres, that’s right.” I had written 24. “The ranch was 80 acres and the farm was 24.”

“And, second, we never met any Indians down there. Not at night. Not when we were all in the truck.”

“Really? Well, I know you met some Indians down there some time. I remember the story.”

“You weren’t there. It was Roxy.” My older sister.

“Are you sure? Because it’s really vivid in my mind. I must have heard you talking about it or heard the story a few times over the years.”

“And, Jesus, if anyone ever pointed guns at me, I wouldn’t have offered them a bottle of whiskey. I would have killed the assholes. But, I liked your story. I like how you write. It was a good story.”

It was a good story. I’ll take that, coming from my dad.

A few weeks later, I called him again to visit. I had mailed the story to him after reading it over the phone. I knew he would enjoy reading it and that he’d read it over and over. He probably had his red pen out, making notes of all my mis-memories.

We weren’t on the phone but a couple of minutes before he started talking about the story. “It wasn’t Jennings Road we turned on to get to the ranch and that wasn’t the Jennings’ place. It was the Youngs.”

“Oh yeah, I remember now that you mention it! Bill Young. Yep, it was Bill Young’s place that reeked of silage. And who had the dog that chased us every time we drove by? I can’t remember that guy’s name, but I’d know it if I heard it.”

“I don’t remember either. But we’d go down to the end of that road there and there was Delfelder Hall.”

“Delfelder Hall! I can picture it. What’d they ever use that building for anyway?”

“Oh, just meetings out there. For the ranching community. And right past that was Leo Wambolt’s place.”

“That’s it! Leo Wambolt! He had the collie that always bit our tires as we went by. And is this right? If we didn’t turn right to get to our ranch, just kept going straight, we’d get to the sugar beets, right?”

“Yes. There was a sugar beet dump there for a while.”

I could picture the huge pile of sugar beets. “Why were they piled up there anyway?” I ask my dad.

“That’s where they loaded them on the train.”

We exchanged several more stories and memories about the ranch, which we had from the time I was six to about ten, at which time we moved to a farm that was much closer to town. As we talked, my dad seemed to relax and realize that I was a young girl at the time, that it was impossible for my memories to be accurate.

My dad is an amazing source of rich memories and amusing chronicles—not just of what actually happened but because of the funny ways he tells them, the vivid details and rough and somewhat inappropriate language he uses to recount the days at our ranch.

I could spend hours listening to him and I could take notes and I could incorporate more truth into my story called The Bottle of Whiskey. And I could write many more stories about the ranch and then several tales about things that happened at the farm over the years, too.

But if I did it that way, they would be his stories.

And what I want to write is my stories. Like The Bottle of Whiskey. My stories might not be all true, but they represent what I recall, how I remember our times at the ranch, what it was like from the point of view of an eight-year-old girl, a little girl who, on that night, felt safe tucked next to her dad in the crowded cab of the old Ford truck, a little girl who watched a silent film, a scary movie, through the windshield, in which her father starred, in which he saved the day and saved his family. I want to write my dad as that hero.

I’ll listen to his tales, his corrections, his truths. But at the same time I’ll try my hardest to not let them overshadow the way I remember things happening. Because I’ve got my own tale, my own truth, and, in the end, what I want to do is keep it true.

Travel Theme: Short

This week’s travel theme is short. There is no SHORTage of rainbows in Maui.


School was Chool

He was new to my class, staying with a foster family in our area. I noticed right away that, though this was second grade, he spoke like he was three, maybe four. He had trouble making many speech sounds, particularly s, so spider web was pider web, screamed was creamed, and school was chool. Though he had just been taken from his home and separated from most of his siblings–the siblings that, for the most part, he, the oldest, had been responsible for–his good-natured, hard-working, and loving personality was evident from the moment he walked in. When I pronounced a word for him, emphasizing the s sound, he was able to mimic me and say it correctly. But he needed the model.

His sentence structure was also immature. If he didn’t hear me or didn’t understand something I said, he asked, “What you said?” When the special education teacher came into the classroom, he recognized her and inquired, “Do her need me?”

He used been for was. It been fun. He been walking.

Caterpillar was cat-pill-per, frisbee was frish-jee.

It was apparent that this child had had little interaction with adults, not many opportunities to hear our language used appropriately and effectively, little positive reinforcement with attempts at correct speech, like most young children get day in and day out.

During second grade independent reading time, students read books at their individual level, books that present just a bit of a challenge but with which they can mostly be successful. This student was reading at a mid-kindergarten level, but he could participate in this activity, just like the other students, by reading books that were just right for him. While students read independently, I worked with students one-on-one.

One day, he was reading a book called Worm Smells (written by Kathy Caple, published by Candlewick Press), the text of which is in bold below. The first day I read the book with him, I did most of the reading work, helping him get a sense of the story and the language patterns so that he would then be able to use these structures to read it fairly successfully on his own. The next day, I expected him to do more of the work.

Worm Smells

Worm Sams,” he said as he pointed to the two words on the cover of the book.

“Worm Sams? What does Worm Sams mean? That doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Worm sssams.” He knew we had been working on the s sound.

“Worm Smells.” I emphasized the word smell. “Worm Smells is the title of this book.”

Worm sees a flower.

Worm see a fower.”

“Good reading, but look at this word.” I point to sees.


“Yes, you have to be sure to say the s sound on the end of the word.”

“Worm seessss a fower.”

“Good. Now, do we call that a fower or a flower?”.

“Flower. Worm sees a flower.”

“Smells nice,” says Worm.

“Sams nice, said Worm. Wait, no d. Sams nice, sayd Worm.”

“You’re right, no d. Smells nice, says Worm.” Here, I emphasized how to say the word says.

“Smells nice, says Worm.”

“Can you show me smells with your face?”

“sssssssmells.” He scrunched his face up and drug the initial s out as long as he could.

“Yes, but what does our face look like when we smell? Can you show me?”


It occurred to me that maybe he didn’t know what the word smell meant. “Watch me.” I sniffed the air in an exaggerated manner. “Now you do it. You smell.”

He sniffed the air.

Of course, there wasn’t anything there, any new smell, so it wasn’t as meaningful as it should have been. I reached in my desk drawer and brought out a small tube of hand lotion. I squeezed a little on the back of my hand and did the same to him.

“What is it?”

“It’s lotion. Let’s rub it in.”

“Oh, I thought it was that sun tuff.”


“Yeah, suncreen.”

“Okay, is it all rubbed in? Now we’re going to smell it. Ready?” I drew my hand to my face and he copied me and we sniffed long and loud, taking in the pleasant scent.

“Now, say ‘Smells nice!’ just like the worm said it.”

“Smells nice!”

“Yes, lotion smells nice, it smells good, just like flowers smell nice.”

Worm sees a pine cone.

“Worm seed, seesssss, a pine cone.”

Somehow, he seemed to know what a pine cone was.

“Smells nice,” says Worm.

“Smells nice, says Worm.” He smelled the back of his hand, glanced at me, smiled, and said, “Smells nice.”

Worm sees a strawberry.

“Worm sees a tawberry.”


“Worm sees a ssstrrrawberry.”

“Smells nice,” says Worm.

“Smells nice, says Worm.”

Worm sees a skunk.

“Worm sees a tunt.”





“Smells bad!” says Worm.

“Smells bad!” says Worm.

It was hard to not spend extra time with this one student, to not let his turn go on and on until he got to the point where he couldn’t take any more instruction.

It was hard to not take him home, to not give him the round-the-clock daily life experiences he so desperately needed for his vocabulary and language development.

So I did as much as I could for him while tending, still, to my 23 other students and their unique needs. I watched him show up every day, happy to be at school, happy to be learning. I watched him practice his langauge and literacy skills as he spoke to me and interacted with his peers, read and wrote on a daily basis.

I couldn’t give him everything he needed, couldn’t make up for everything he had missed, but what I could give him was school.

And school is chool.

I’m Not a Real Runner

This weekend I will drive to Moab, Utah and run a half-marathon called The Other Half. The course starts at the top of a canyon carved by the Colorado River and ends, 13.1 miles later, at a beautiful guest ranch situated along the river among red rock buttes and towering spires. I’ll incorporate a night of camping into the trip. It’s the perfect time of year to be in the desert country of Utah, no longer too hot and not yet cold.

Sorrel River Ranch

Photo credit:

While packing a bit ago, I realized a couple of things. First, I’ve been blogging for nearly four months now and I have yet to write about running. I don’t even think I’ve mentioned that I’m a runner. In fact, I know I haven’t. I may have hinted that I go out running sometimes, but to have referred to myself as a runner? No.

I cut this quote from a running magazine a few years back and it’s still stapled to a bulletin board in my office:

I often hear people say, “I’m not a real runner.” We are all runners, some just run faster than others, that’s all. I have never met a fake runner. –Bart Yasso, Runner’s World Chief Running Officer

This quote hit home with me then and it’s still relevant today.

Another thing I realized tonight is that I can replace the word runner and the word faster in that quote and it becomes meaningful in other areas of my life as well.

For example:

I often hear people say, “I’m not a real writer.” We are all writers, some just write more often and with greater impact, that’s all. I have never met a fake writer.”

I’ve written two books and I’m blogging and I’m working on a memoir and I love the process of writing, but still I do not consider myself a real writer. A real writer is someone like my daughter. A couple of days ago I reminded her that she better get busy on her personal essay for her college applications. She grudgingly agreed and worked on it for a couple of hours and then said, “Okay, do you want to hear it? It’s just a rough draft, but I think it might be a good start.” And she proceeded to read this incredible orchestration of emotional, passionate words that showed, beyond a doubt, how deeply and fully she has grown and now understands herself, her strengths, and how she fits into this world. I struggle to even describe the beauty of that essay and how it touched me. And I could never write anything near that significant. She is an emotional being and can easily bring that into her writing. I, on the other hand… well, I’m not a real writer. I can’t do it like she does and I’m sure I’ll never be able to.

I often hear people say, “I’m not a real musician.” We are all musicians, some just create their own music, that’s all. I have never met a fake musician.”

I took piano lessons for nine years growing up, ages 9 to 18. I also played the flute and the oboe. I quit playing the piano when I went to college, when I found myself among real musicians. Surely I wasn’t in the same league as they were. And then there’s my brother. He took a couple of months of piano lessons as a kid. That’s it. But he picked up a guitar in high school and taught himself to play. He can’t read a lick of music, but he can listen to any song and pick it out on his guitar and have it sounding like the real thing in a matter of hours. Or, he’ll just write his own songs. I don’t have an ear. I can’t play anything unless I read the music. I think you’ll agree, he’s the real musician.

I often hear people say, “I’m not a real cook.” We are all cooks, some just put care and time into it, that’s all. I have never met a fake cook.

Well, then, let me introduce myself.

The running quote will be on my mind this weekend. I’ve run this race a few times before and I always have mixed emotions afterwards. I’ll have a few hours to contemplate this as I trot down the canyon and a few more on the way home as I leave Utah and cross back into Colorado. I hope to think through these feelings more deeply this time and come to some newer, and truer, realizations.

If I do, I’ll get back to you.

Running The Other Half in October 2011.

Running The Other Half in October 2011.

The Button Pusher

The pole on the street corner concealed her body, her hands the only evidence of her presence as they clutched the rounded handles of the umbrella stroller before her.

He sat, seemingly complacent, his two little mitts steadying a small cup in his lap, the straw protruding almost to his lips.

Traffic zoomed by as I sat in the left-hand turn lane.



This poem, Ready, was written by my 15-year-old daughter, Amelia Bergen. She is my Guest Blogger today.

Sometimes I find myself

Wishing for more

I find myself marveling

Over photos

And songs

Wishing that my life was


I remember when

I first realized

I was ready for my next life

I was ready to be

polar bear

Photo credit:

A polar bear, blending into my background

A golden retriever, playing fetch in the park

A shark, in infested waters

Or even another human

A different human with a different life

I woke up hoping

That I would die

And be born again

As someone

Or something else

That was not myself

I’m not sure what my next life will be like


I do not wish to end mine anymore

And I thank God

If there is a God

For that.

Never Walk Alone

Keep an even pace. Smaller strides. Slower steps. Stay with her. Alongside her.

Typically, the organized events I go to that involve large groups of people taking off at the same time and heading in the same direction are races. But this, this is just a walk.

Never Walk Alone the t-shirts say.

suicide walk

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In front of us is a woman in a mobility scooter, and in front of her, two friends walking side-by-side. And in front of them, an entire procession winding its way along the perimeter of the park.

My teenage daughter is at my side. She comes to just my shoulder; her stride is much shorter than mine. Plus, she’s a stroller. I’ve never strolled, always hurried. I can learn from her.

She’s the one who knew of this event. She’s the one who wanted to come. And she invited me.

Never Walk Alone the t-shirts say. Suicide Prevention Walk 2013. National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI).

My daughter walks for peers who have considered ending their lives. She’s a good listener, a good friend. I’ve heard her on the phone with other teens, keeping them on the line, talking them through a moment, a day.

Mental health and mental illness interest her. She is considering a major in psychology.

But that’s not all. She has dealt with a bit of depression herself.

A bit. That’s how I describe it, not seeing it as anything, really, beyond the typical discomforts of the teenage years. I don’t get it. She has to remind me every so often that, for her, it’s been more than that, more than a bit. And she explains to me, again, that it’s frightening, overwhelming, debilitating. I still can’t relate, but I listen. And I believe her. And I learn from her.

I’ve asked her if she needs help or wants it. Professional help.

“Not yet, Mom. I think I’ve got it under control. But I’ll let you know.” And I believe her. She’s been to counseling in the past and found it beneficial. Enjoyable even. She’s thinking about becoming a therapist herself.

Admiration overtakes me. She’s so young, yet so aware, so open, so honest. So in touch with her feelings. I have much to learn from her.

We walk, slowly, bringing up the end of the line that winds its way around the park. As we go, I focus less on my pace, don’t need to remind myself as often to slow down, to stay with her, to remain at her side. I’m learning.

We talk, nonstop, about important stuff—college, how she sees her life ten years from now. She wants a career, wants to be a mother, too.

We talk about how she’s much more emotional than I am. I’m the practical one. This difference in us creates some friction. But we’re aware of it and our awareness helps us understand one another and be more accepting of the other.

We talk also of suicide.

“You know,” she says, “I’ve thought about suicide before.”

“Really?” I’m not sure I want to hear this. But, of course, I believe her and thus, I need to hear it.

“Yah. Not recently. And never for very long. I could never leave Amy.”

“Why, though? Why would you think about doing it?”

“I don’t know. Well, yes I do. I just sometimes think that you guys shouldn’t have to put up with me.”

The tears fall. Mine. Not put up with her? I can’t imagine not putting up with her. And it’s not like she’s terribly difficult. She goes to school, gets decent grades. She worked all summer at a job that demanded a lot of responsibility. When that job ended, she went and found another one, all on her own. She’s never gotten a ticket, never been in trouble with the law. She loves to be at home—playing her guitar, singing, drawing, painting, writing in her journal. She’s a beautiful being and she makes so many people happy.NAMI walks

My mind races with concern. What have I done to make her think that? Gotten after her for leaving dirty dishes in her room? Given her consequences and taken away privileges? Encouraged her to think about her disposition, as it fluctuates, and how it affects others? (Actually, my words have been more along the lines of, “Why are you being so bitchy today? Even if you don’t feel the greatest, you’ve got to learn to manage yourself, think about how you’re affecting others.” Perhaps not the most encouraging words, I realize now.)

I can’t just quit, can’t stop with the expectations, the teaching, the consequences, the loss of privileges. That would be like giving up on parenting altogether. I don’t see that as an option. I guess I do need to be thinking more about what I’m saying and how I’m saying it. And how my daughter is hearing it.

We walk. Not alone, but together. And not just for others, but for her as well. I talk. She talks. I listen. I believe. And I learn. And what I learn is that I still have so much more to learn.

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