The High Cost of Making Sure My Kids Don’t Miss Out on Childhood Activities

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I complain about things being too expensive at least once a day. It comes out so naturally, one would think it’s just a funny quirk that accompanies my outgoing carbon dioxide. For as long as I can remember I have been a penny pincher. When I was a child I would loan my stored-up money to my own mother when she was in need of some quick cash to go out for an evening of Bingo or some other last minute night out with pals. Even though she would pay me the next day when the bank was open, I charged her interest. I knew I was in the power position, supply and demand was not a foreign concept to me at the age of nine.

While I didn’t grow up with a lot of money, we were never in any serious financial trouble. I always had a roof over my head and food in my belly. My husband had a much different growing up. As a young teen, he was homeless by himself and would go days without a meal. Once we married and he worked hard for his money, he wanted to spend it because he could. I didn’t want to waste money and knew that we would just end up struggling down the road if we did. It was a constant argument, but over a decade later, we are on the same page. He is more of a saver and I allow the occasional splurge.

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Since we homeschool our son and daughter, we encourage them to take part in activities so they are able to have structure and spend time around other kids their age. My daughter does soccer, and Girl Scouts, while my son does Boy Scouts and intends on doing basketball next year. I encourage it, I often suggest it, but boy does the cost of these activities add up. Along with registration fees, there are the costs of uniforms and all those little extras that somehow keep making their way in as a requirement for the program. Both Girl and Boy Scouts are exceptionally pricey because once you think you have everything for them, there is a new badge, book, or a fee to take part in one of the activities like going to horse camp.

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These costs are worth it in the long-run because my kids are enjoying their time spent taking part in these activities. There is so much joy and excitement that occurs on the days they are going to their respective club or sport. I also gain a lot just seeing them grow up and become their own people among the other children.

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Girl Scouts model contemporary uniforms.

When I was a kid, I was in Girl Scouts for four years but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. The other girls in the group were a bit snobby toward me and I always felt like an outsider. On top of that, the leader played favorites and we rarely participated in the things I expected from Girl Scouts. There were not any camping or fishing trips. To be fair, I grew up in Southern California which isn’t the best place to find places to camp and fish. We did go to Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm, but I had done that so many times outside of Girl Scouts, it wasn’t as thrilling. Now that I live in Washington state, I get to raise my kids doing all the fun stuff I missed out on. In fact, I even became a leader for my daughter’s troop.

While I was in Girl Scouts, I always wanted to do something else. Baseball was a sport I wanted to join because my older brother did it and I enjoyed practicing with him. My parents said they couldn’t afford it and that I wouldn’t stick with it. The same went for Gymnastics, Dance, and Kickboxing. I was adamant about quitting Girl Scouts so I could do something I genuinely wanted to do. The excuse that I wouldn’t stick with any of the sports I wanted to do made zero sense considering I stuck with Girl Scouts until we moved to another town that didn’t have Girl Scouts.

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My children’s dad had a similar situation where he was placed in baseball for a few years and always despised it. He still has no interest in playing baseball and I am usually the one to suggest playing it with the kids. There were other things he wanted to do but his mom didn’t care what he wanted to do because she expected him to play baseball.

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Not surprisingly, this is how we wound up in agreement that our children would only engage in activities that were their choice. The decision was to allow them to join what they wanted to join, as long as it was reasonable. We have been lucky that they have not asked to join ballet, play the violin, or have equestrian lessons, which would far exceed our budget by quite a bit. They know that we will make things work as long as we can make it work. Another way in which I am lucky is that my parents, their grandparents, are usually willing to throw a bit of cash their way to ensure they get to do what makes them happy. I don’t mind at all that my parents may be making up for whatever it was they denied me. In fact, I’m thrilled.

A great thing that exists now that may not have existed twenty-five years ago is that many clubs, activities, and organizations provide financial assistance. The Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, and even The Girl Scouts are just a few of the organizations that do their best to help out those in need. Just because a child’s family may not be able to afford such a program and its services shouldn’t mean they would be left out. Everything is expensive but allowing a child to build life-long memories and skills shouldn’t be beyond anyone’s grasp.

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“The kind of parent I thought I’d Be”

The kind of parent I thought I would be is forever evolving even now having elementary-aged children. Before having children, my husband and I would often discuss the hypothetical children we would have and how we would handle any problems that may arise. We agreed on our rearing philosophies and it seemed parenting was going to be rewarding and relatively simple.
Now over a decade later, life isn’t at all how we imagined but somehow so much better. While pregnant with our second, a daughter, my husband and I separated. After a year of single parenting, none of which was his choice, I accepted the fact that while I may not need a husband I did need my friend and father of my children. I thought I could be the single mom who did it all, but not only was that a stubborn and naive assessment, it was also unfair to my children and their dad.
Today, my eight-year-old son eagerly awaits every  Superhero movie in theaters, and my seven-year-old daughter looks forward to her soccer games each week, their dad and I are right there with them for every thrilling moment. The best part is that even though their dad and I are six years divorced, we live together and refuse to miss a moment of our children’s lives.
The kind of parent I thought I would be held no real credibility as it was formed before I met the children who would change my life. Parenting is not about one person’s plans and expectations. Whether we are on a week-long road trip, a day at the arcade, or careening our way through the crowds of Costco, we do it together. The four of us are a team. No one gets left behind. 

I am A Total Soccer Mom!

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There was a conversation I had with my two college roommates about thirteen years ago that has come back to me lately. It went something like this:

Roommate 1: “Ugh, could you imagine being a soccer mom? Just escorting your kids in a sad mini-van to games and being in charge of snacks”.

Roommate 2: “If I ever did something like that I would need an intervention. What about you, Megan? Actually, I can’t even imagine you being a soccer mom. It would be weird”

Me: “Sure, me with a mini-van? right. Maybe if my kids wanted to play baseball, but soccer isn’t really a sport”

WELL, WELL, WELL, guess what? I am a soccer mom and I love it!! My seven-year-old daughter is playing in her second season of soccer and she adores it. She gets so energized just by seeing her soccer friends, and after the games and practices, her mood is elevated for the rest of the day which is saying a lot since she seems to always have high spirits. Her dad, brother and I make every practice and game. We bring out our chairs and just soak up the whole event. The games are especially exciting for me. Who knew that a soccer game featuring seven and eight-year-old girls could be so thrilling? I swear every game has me more enthralled than when Brandi Chastain tore off her shirt during the 1999 Women’s World Cup.

The other girls on the team all have their own strengths and fantastic personalities, the parents are supportive of all the girls on the team, and everyone is there to have a good time. Even their nineteen-year-old coach is an absolute delight.

I will admit that I feel I failed miserably on the snack. I volunteered us to do snack one of the first weeks. Not having a lot of experience with such things as my parents never allowed me to join any sports as a kid, I relied on what snacks parents brought for my older brother’s little league. Times certainly have changed since the late 1980s because Swiss-Roles and Capri-Sun just don’t cut it anymore. We are talking little baggies filled with homemade and organic snacks. How was I to know? Now, I know.  Next season, I am going to bring it with my snack game!

So, I have become the person I didn’t think I would be back when I was a silly twenty-year-old. We are even looking at buying a Mini-Van as our second vehicle. Yep, I went full soccer mom and I am pleased as punch.

How Rory Gilmore and Other Television and Film Teens Helped Me get Through High School

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According to many, I am a millennial. I do not relate to most of what the media claims are traits held by millennials but this may be due to my “Older-millennial” status as I was born in 1985. While I did play Oregon Trail on an old Mac and possessed Giga Pets and Tamagotchis, my peers did not have cell phones in high school, save for a few rich kids, during senior year, who had old Nokias for emergencies. As a teenager, coming of age in this very specific moment in time, I had, in my opinion, the best role models that television and film had to offer. Going to school and making friends was not easy for me. In fact, most days of high school were spent faking sick so I could stay home. My anxiety was too high and all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and watch the much more interesting lives of characters who resided in the confines of The WB network or the teen films of the 80s and 90s that I had re-watched ad nauseam.

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Once while watching a rented copy of She’s All That, a film I had already seen a few time since its release, my mother asked why I enjoyed films about high school so much but hated going there for real. I couldn’t explain it to her as she was someone who looked back fondly at high school. She craved social gatherings and cared little about the academics, while I thrived in the books department but cringed at interacting with others. There was something magical about  Laney Boggs and Jake Stiler, just as there was something special about Kat and Bianca Stafford form 10 Things I Hate About You.

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While staying at home, I would re-watch recorded episodes of Dawson’s Creek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Felicity, Roswell, and Popular. If it was on The WB, it was almost impossible to escape my complete dedication. Though it may seem pathetic to be so entranced by fictional people, there was something comforting knowing that Joey Potter, Buffy Summers, and Felicity Porter would all be in my life each week. Even when the episodes were delayed for baseball games or presidential addresses, I knew that they would return. During a hiatus or summer break, I had my trusty videotapes that held six hours of recorded episodes each.

 

In the fall of 2000, I was fifteen-years-old and a sophomore in High School and it may have been my best semester in traditional high school ever. As a senior, I attended a Continuation school, but that sophomore year, I managed to attend most days, ace all of my tests and quizzes and even became part of the school newspaper and drama club. This was not simply a decision I made on my own accord, it was something I only attempted following the inspiration of my newest television role model, Rory Gilmore.

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Years before, I related to the bookish Joey, Felicity and Willow Rosenberg but Rory struck an even bigger chord. Not only did she love to read and write, but she was also exactly my age when the show aired and she shared a nearly identical dynamic with her mother as I did with mine. Just like Rory and Lorelai, My mother and I are best friends who speak at a speed that only confused others. Watching Rory fight her way through the new atmosphere of Chilton and succeed in spite of her somewhat outsider mentality, she made being nerdy desirable. This was before nerdiness was the coolest thing anyone could be. This was before Seth Cohen was considered a teen dream and comic book movies became mainstream. Rory spoke about literary characters and obscure films and music on a regular basis. Every cultural reference filled me with knowing elation. Walking those halls during my sophomore year, I felt confident and supported by my band of fictional, female misfits, even if they only accompanied me in spirit.

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After attending a continuation school where I became editor of the school newspaper, a very Rory Gilmore thing to do, I went to college. In college, something changed in me and I was able to branch out and make friends, real three-dimensional friends who existed outside of my 90s RCA television. Now in my early thirties, I pushed through high school, a Bachelor of Arts degree and Master of Arts degree, all in spite of the anxiety-filled school days of my younger self. To this day, even after being married, having two children, and making some fantastic friends, I still often revisit my old friends through dvds and Netflix. If it wasn’t for them, or film characters like Veronica Sawyer from Heathers, Watts from Some Kind of Wonderful or even Missy from Bring it On, I may have been lost in my own misfit status with no assurance that having different interests or having thoughts that may seem contrary to my schoolmates did not make me unlikable or destined to be alone. It merely made me believe that there was a real-life version of Pacey Witter, Lane Kim, Willow, Buffy, or Torrance out there somewhere, and I was right.

Having my children and partner with me most of the time helps me thrive and lessens my daily anxiety. Having so much support that doesn’t come from a screen helps, but I would be lying if I said that I don’t often return to the comforting world of 90s teen films and television. It’s become a part of me and always will be.

My Happy Family: Me, My Ex-Husband, Our Two Children, and His New Wife

When someone asks me if I’m married, I’m often unsure how to respond.

“Well, I’m divorced but I live with my ex-husband and he’s my best friend” is my casual response but only when I don’t mind follow-up questions.

In recent years, I also explained that not only did I live with my ex-husband, but with his new wife as well. Oh, and she shares my first name. This revelation not only incited more questions, and no we were not sister-wives, but there was typically a facial expression that could be described as a cross between skepticism, horror, and maybe a trace of hidden laughter. It seemed the idea of living with my ex-husband, our two small children and his new wife was the height of hilarity, or I was simply out of my mind. What I share with M is what may be considered modern love because it doesn’t seem to fit in any traditional definition of marriage or romantic love. Our love story did start out something more akin to the movies which may have been exactly what caused the relationship and marriage to implode so many times.

M and I first met at a small community college. I was studious and trying to save money by going to a cheap school for two years before transferring to the University of my choice. He was a slacker who was stoned most of the time. At first, I found him almost repugnant. It wasn’t anything to do with who he was as a person, I just didn’t know much about people because I was an anti-social teenager and had my eye on the prize, not boys. My best friend, Mary, was the one who had eyes for him, which led to M and me becoming friends. After spending increasingly more time together, something began to grow and we had to deal with having romantic feelings while also being respectful to Mary. Though there were tears, fights, and the brutalization of a seven-year friendship, Mary finally accepted M as my boyfriend. Our relationship seemed to have exhausted multiple emotions in a short amount of time. We were inseparable and unbearable to our friends but we didn’t care because we were young, passionate, and naive.

M also enlisted in the Marines a few months after the beginning of our relationship which created an urgency between us. I wasn’t planning on being a military wife just yet as I had been accepted to a private liberal arts college an hour from home and was ecstatic.

Thus, began the first of many trials our relationship went through. Going from every day together to more than three months of exchanging only letters, and a single phone call with a poor connection. Once he returned from boot camp, we were two completely different people. He was a stoic marine and I was a social college girl living in a dorm. It just didn’t work and by the end of his leave, before he had to ship off to his next round of military schooling, he had broken up with me. This was a particularly hard blow as it was apparent throughout the week that we didn’t make as much sense, and even more upsetting when his family asked us when we were going to get married just hours before the dumping. I returned to school but assured him that I really did want to remain, friends, because we were friends first. A month later, I visited him at Camp Pendleton, and when he was about to fly to Kentucky for six months, I skipped class and my two best college friends came along with me for an impromptu trip to the San Diego airport so I could say goodbye. We decided that we wanted to try us again.

The combination of long distance and immaturity is a recipe for insecurities to creep through every thought. Only a couple of months after reuniting, M unceremoniously broke up with me again, this time over the phone while I was at Target. Months went by and we continued our friendship, through emails, and phone calls culminating in another attempt at the relationship upon his return. We continued a long-distance relationship when he went to Iraq. There were arguments and jealousy while he was gone but when he returned, we were stronger. One day in the summer before my senior year of college, I decided M and I were going to get married. I prepared paperwork and booked a library that does weddings. I let M know that we were getting married in two weeks. He only asked what he was going to wear. So, began our marriage. Missing college experiences, dropping out of college after commuting and being excommunicated from my friends caused resentment that didn’t show itself for a few years.

Six months of being married, M was off to Iraq for the second time and I was left in our three-bedroom house with only our three dogs to keep me company. The time away was strenuous at times but most of that stemmed from the uncertainty of whether he was going to come home again. There was more than one instance of confusion in which I was told my husband was one of the marines who was killed during a firefight. Terrible communication between marine wives and military officials aside, M returned home and we knew we wanted to start a family. After only a few months of trying, I was pregnant and we were buying our first home.

This was also around the time when M was discharged from the marines. Unfortunately, PTSD is a real thing and the only way the VA was helping him was through piling on as many medications as they could, resulting in someone less like a husband and more like a zombie. We became distant, barely talking and when we did, it would end in an argument. He thought I was a nag and I thought he was lazy and didn’t spend nearly as much time with our new son as he should. We were on our way out when one day we decided to have sex that was more out of need and probably a bit of hatred which resulted in the best marriage parting gift we could have asked for, my daughter.

While I was in my early stages of pregnancy M met another woman named Megan (So many M names! I know). She was two years younger than us but seemed even younger. She was a free spirit and apart from our matching names, long dark hair, and Tina Fey glasses, we were completely different. I saw their relationship blooming, and while I trusted M, I also realized how much I didn’t care if they did have feelings for each other and wanted to act on them. I was done with the marriage, so rather than build an even larger divide of hatred between us, or wait to see if he did cheat, I exited the marriage. I found him an apartment and we went our separate ways with M kicking and screaming the whole way out. I barely wanted to speak to him for months. When I gave birth to our daughter, I called him from the hospital but didn’t even have a working number for him. He had seedy new friends and I wanted nothing to do with it.

It was almost a year after we separated when I felt comfortable seeing him regularly and we remembered how much we adored spending time with each other. He and the other Megan were a happy couple and I wanted M to know that I respected his relationship and wanted to get to know her. The three of us spent an evening chatting, laughing, drinking and reconnecting as people beyond who was married to who, and who dated who. A month after our divorce was final, M and other Megan married. She was now in the Navy and moving to Washington state. Upon finding this out, M was unsure if he wanted to move with her because he didn’t want to leave his children. Somehow the three of us decided that since I wanted to move out of California anyway, that maybe the kids and I should stay with them in Washington for a while until I find work. The fact that this woman was offering to house her new husband’s ex-wife and two toddlers just so they would be together was what I believed to be exceptional. The five of us did have plenty of good times and a real friendship grew between Other-Megan and me. We even published a children’s book together with my story and her art. Things weren’t so positive between the newlyweds. Their marriage was of constant tension and it surprisingly had nothing to do with me. She tended to cheat and it ate away at him daily. There were screaming matches a few times a week. The deterioration of their marriage only strengthened our friendship. After Other Megan returned from sea declaring she wanted a divorce. It was truly disappointing to see the end of another marriage for M. He didn’t deserve so much strife and she wasn’t prepared for all the responsibility of being a wife, and stepmom. She’s just a nice girl from Orange County who took on too much, but we did have a lot of fun together and I think about her often. M, the kids, and I returned to California where we lived together in the house we originally bought as for our family.

Now a few years later, we have returned to Washington just the four of us. He is still legally married but more out of inability to complete the paperwork with her. We have no plans to remarry as our relationship isn’t that simple. Romantic love is fleeting and our love is deeper and more vital to our lifelong happiness. We are completely dedicated to being parents together, and being best friends who have no interest in finding anyone else for right now. There may be a day in the future when one of us may find someone else we want to be with, and neither one of us deny this reality, nor are we concerned by it. We also know that no matter what happens in the future and even if it leads to the distance between us, we will always find each other in one way or another because relationships aren’t always permanent but we are.

Why Homeschooling has worked for us (Most of the Time)

 

Homeschooling was never an option for me as a kid. In the first few years of my elementary education, I wasn’t aware that it was for secular children. My parents took me to church but I never recalled either parent being particularly devout. Religion is an entirely different post.

When my parents divorced and my mother moved my older brother and I to a small town as I was entering fifth grade, homeschool became a fantasy. The social aspect of school, the cloistering setting of a classroom became overwhelming for me. After having a sporadic attendance problem throughout elementary and junior high, I hit a wall in high school. I just couldn’t do it. There were terrible arguments with me and my mother and I couldn’t explain why it was so difficult for me to be around other students. I had entered high school the fall after Columbine, so it wasn’t a great time to tell kids that school was a safe place.

After too many lost years I was placed in Independent Study, and then to a continuation school where I flourished. I ended up going to college and earning a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and a Master of Arts in English with a Rhetoric Emphasis. Why? Because I always loved to learn but the way I was being taught made me hate school. Once I reached college, I was introduced to a world where there was no one way to teach or to learn.

Now my nine-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter are homeschooled and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to teach them. Each child has their own strengths and weaknesses and I am able to adapt to those things. While I have been the primary teacher for them since Kindergarten, it has not always been easy.

The opinions of friends and families: Everyone in my family scoffed at my decision to homeschool. My judgemental older brother, my mostly indifferent father, and even my usual nonjudgemental mother all responded with confusion and certainty that my decision was a poor one.

Initially, I started my son in an independent program in which we met up with a teacher once a week to go over the work. The school in our zone happened to be the one I attended when my mother had moved my brother and me when I was in fifth grade. The school was terrible when I attended and from what I learned prior to enrolling my son was that it only got worse. The teachers ranged from apathetic to disdainful to the entire education system. We were only living there temporarily, but even after we moved back to Washington state after his first year I realized how homeschooling worked for us. In the end, I continued educating my son and then my daughter. Eventually, my family grew to accept it because there wasn’t any other choice for them.
Now, after using a program created by Washington State in which we receive the materials and lesson plans, my son and daughter are in their fourth and third year respectively of homeschooling. The most exciting part is that they are thriving. My daughter was supposed to begin second grade but has been advanced to third-grade materials along with her brother. My son is doing fourth-grade level geometry and I only encourage him to use those abilities. Each kid has a subject they fly through as do they have one they struggle with and that’s perfectly fine.

When my family suggested that homeschool was a bad idea their only reasoning was that it didn’t allow enough social interaction. Both kids regularly play at multiple parks and engage with kids quite well. My daughter is also part of a soccer team which she adores. They learn at home and have friends outside of the home. I recently discovered there were Meetups in my area that were designed to bring homeschooled families together. Living in a community where teaching at home is common has been awesome.

There is one tiny drawback to all of this but it usually only lasts about five minutes. There is a level of stress that needles its way into me often. So many things to teach, so little time. Sometimes other important decisions or activities get sidelined in favor of teaching and learning. There are some days where it is the school work that must be sidelined in favor of other life responsibilities. The ability to move around schedules and adapt easily has been a real lifesaver for our family.

In the end, I would never change a thing about our life. I have an advanced degree and studied pedagogy throughout college which gave me a leg-up. I have the opportunity to spend my days with my two favorite people in the world and watch them learn and grow. Homeschooling is not for everyone but it has worked for us.

All that Remains-Chapter One

Having a blog can be a useful thing for a writer. While I do freelance for websites, writing novels is what I cherish most. Assuming there is any interest, I will post a few more chapters. The story follows Angela Abrams, a recent high school graduate who cannot wait to get out of her small town. There is something sinister about this town and it is up to her and her best friend, Milo to get to the bottom of it before they both leave for college at the end of the summer.

 

Chapter 1

     It was the time of the year when my entire room was under assault. Even with the blinds closed tight, the heat would sneak itself through the inhibiting slats, rousing my bare legs, arms and every inch of exposed skin that wasn’t hidden beneath the thin cotton sheet. Usually, I would become furious with the aggressive coaxing from the sun to start the day as it was typically a weekend in which I didn’t wake up before the sun. This was a morning, unlike the others. This time it was a signifier of summer. Not just any summer, but the last summer I would sleep in my childhood bed. The last summer I would have an east facing window. In only a few months, seventy-four days, I would be living in a dorm room away from everything I had known. My mom begged me to go to school nearby but living in the middle of the desert for nearly eighteen years was long enough, and I wouldn’t wish a lifetime in Manere Valley on my worst enemy. Manere became physically and emotionally exhausting and was more than I could handle for another year. My chosen University was Carnegie Mellon, a school I fantasized about since before I knew what I wanted to do there. I found a brochure hidden beneath old magazines and advertisements in our school library. There were pictures of young people laughing on the steps of historic buildings, others goofing off on the lush green lawn while some were studying under massive oak trees.

     Manere had none of that; just dirt, cactus, and devastating winds that would knock down innocent strolling pedestrians, regularly. There was rarely studying done outside because the shade was limited, not to mention how difficult it was to think straight with the blistering heat melting our developing brains. If it weren’t for hiding away inside and utilizing air conditioners and swamp-coolers, nothing would ever get done in Manere. Even so, many people walked around like depression-afflicted zombies unable to ask for help. Life was completely different across the country, the cheerfulness on the faces on those brochures sparked a motivation that never wavered. I was going to leave Manere.

     Beyond the most vital reasons to escape, I chose to go to Carnegie Mellon to get away from everything I had amassed in my life, so far. It was more than a pile of memories, it was a heaping junkyard of past indiscretions that needed to be cleared out, so I could start fresh. My friends were the only thing in my life that I knew I would miss when we all went our separate ways. Though, even that was beginning to become less true.

     I had the same best friends practically since birth.  They were my friends before we grew up and became deplorable. Maybe we weren’t any worse than the average awful teenager, it was just our natural state of being. This realization only occurred to me a few months before graduation. The first moment I became aware of the unkindness of my group came during Calculus. Mr. Machinski was giving some lesson on the rules of derivatives, but I became distracted by the notes Ellie and Lucy were passing back and forth. It was one of those long tables, not our standard single desks, so they were just passing back and forth a spiral notebook.

Look at Mr. M with those special Ed shoes and high waters. Vomit!

No wonder his wife left him.

Ugh, now he has a wedgie. I wonder if he even notices

He probably doesn’t even care. He’s probably just going to kill himself anyway

When I saw those words on the paper, which could have been so easily seen by Mr. Machinski, I just felt incredibly sad for him and more than anything, disappointed in my friends. There were plenty of times when we would make jokes about people, even Mr. M but some feeling of unrest swirled inside of me that day, making every interaction with my group slightly less appealing.                                                               

     That wasn’t the first or last time I felt isolated, even from Lucy who had been my best friend since we were three-years-old. The second moment I knew I needed to get out of Manere came when we were in line waiting to get our graduation caps. For four years, the concept of waiting in line seemed to have vanished. Elementary school was all about waiting in line. Coming from recess, going to lunch or the library, was all done in a single-file line. Once high school came around, there was no need for it. Everyone forgot how to behave, and it became impossible to stay civilized. The lack of civility may have contributed to the nasty attitude we all seemed to have developed. Sure, when we were kids, we teased and were teased. Once we became teenagers, it became a brutal psychological game that never let up. Every time I did something rude, I would feel instantly terrible about it. Sometimes it would make me feel sick to my stomach, I couldn’t eat, and my sleep would become all wonky. Yet, I would keep doing it. It was an addiction like anything else.

     Rather than seeking out some help for my addiction, I needed to cut off my supply by moving far away from these people who made it far too easy to scorch the world in which I lived. Since the world I lived in was such a tiny place in the universe, I knew it was time to expand where I had been, so I could develop who I would become.

     Lucy was running late and if there was one thing I could always count on it was that Lucy never showed up anywhere even close to on time. Her tardiness was just one of the traits I was not going to miss about Lucy, especially if it meant we would miss part of Ellie’s final soccer game ever. Lucy snuck up behind me and faintly smacked me in the back of my head.

“Dude, what was that?” I slurred, unsure of whether she left any permanent damage.

“You told my dad we weren’t going to go out of town for the camping trip? What was that

about?”

Lucy was indignant, but it was tricky trying to figure out when something was going to stew with her for days or if this was something that could be cured with a change of subject. I decided it was best to address the problem.

“I thought you said we weren’t going to go, anyway. My mom doesn’t want me to leave town until it’s time to leave in the fall. Your dad nearly had a conniption fit when you told him we were going to go.” I explained

“That was the best part, Angie. What is the point of doing stupid things if you’re not terrorizing your parents?”

“Lucy, you know we wouldn’t be able to leave anyway. I’m sure the trip will be canceled for everyone, once word gets out that a bunch of teenagers want to get out of town”

“It’s barely out of town limits” Lucy whined.

“Still.”

“Ugh, but it would be so entertaining to drive my father crazy” Lucy whimpered.

“I don’t know why you have to be so bitchy to your dad. He loves you, but you treat him like he just annoys you all the time.”

“Ding! Ding! Ding! My dear friend. That is exactly what he does.”

“Come on Lucy, he is not that bad. He just doesn’t want anything bad to happen to you. He’s a

worrier. I can understand that”.

     I used to worry about everything. When I was ten, the incessant worrying felt like part of my identity. It started out in ways that seemed inconsequential. I didn’t realize it was the beginning of everything else. When I was ten, Lydia Baker came over to play, and she didn’t close Squiggle’s cage after playing with him. That night, there was a clamoring which jolted me out of bed. The flimsy cassette holder that was standing in the corner of my room was now on the ground in pieces. Under the debris of cheap pine was my hamster, poor Squiggle, trapped. Squiggle gave out a single breathe and died. It was the worst experience I had ever had, and even years later I think about his tiny startled face. After that, not only would I check doors to make sure they were locked, anchored things to make sure they didn’t fall, but I also questioned the safety and potential outcome for all possible future activities. Somehow this led to an obsession with germs which lasted a bit longer than securing the house four times before bed. The concern made me physically ill at school. I spent half of the fifth grade in the nurse’s office.

     Along with discovering I had severe anxiety problems, my time there was how I met Derek Mayhew. I recognized him as the kid who transferred into my class mid-year. Through his persistence and the rest of our group taking an interest, he became part of our close-knit team too. That was back when Milo was still talking to me.

“What are you thinking about?” Lucy nearly shouted.

“Nothing. How it all used to be.”

“Oh, no Angela. Please don’t get all nostalgic on me. Is this about Milo?”

              “No.”

        “Yes. It seems like whenever you get lost in your thoughts, we start talking about him.”

   “I guess I just miss him,” I said under my breath, trying not to dwell on it too long.

  “It’s his fault. Don’t even think about him for another minute. He sucks, and you are awesome. What kind of friend just decides to ditch his friends and make them feel bad about who they are?”

        “I know, I just wish,” I said sulkily while I rolled my open palm on the pencil that sat on my desk.

“He is the one who changed. Not us. If he doesn’t like it, he can sit in his sad, dark room with all his friends. Oh wait, he doesn’t have any friends” Lucy smirked

     Milo was the one who had decided he didn’t want to be friends with us anymore. At first, I couldn’t understand why which made me hate him. It took me far too long to understand it all.  He could see what I wasn’t ready to see.