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We were at the beach for a family vacation. My mom wasn't there. We were walking along among these large rocks when I saw an expanse of white hot sand. The burger from lunch wasn't sitting well, I was one of those weird kids who hated fries, I hated anything made from potatoes and my mom told me I was ridiculous when I said that eating potatoes hurt my mouth. It felt like there was sand in my eyes, but I had to keep up with the rest of my family. Beyond the sand I could see where the water met the sky, different shades of blue and green melting into each other without my glasses on to see where the horizon was. An excruciating pain stabbed into my left leg so I stopped to see what had happened. There was very little blood, but the pain was so intense I didn't feel like I could walk. I checked my leg again. This time I wiped the blood away and stared at something I had never seen before. It wasn't possible for me to be seeing my bone, was it?

My dad came over to see why I wasn't moving. After giving my leg a look he told me that we had to keep going or we would waste our time at the beach. He might have told me to quit crying while reminding me that I wouldn't be able to walk if my leg was truly broken. I still have a small divot in my left leg from that incident.

***

We're at a party where the family has a cat. It's Christmas Eve and freezing cold. The snow covered pines are pretty, but I can't breathe and I keep telling my parents that, but they give me a little shove and tell me to go back outside. I stay out for as long as I can, inhaling the icy air that pricks my lungs. I wonder if it's possible to drown without being underwater while I look through the windows at everyone else eating and drinking inside the nice warm house. At midnight I was in the bathroom taking a bath. My mom assures me that this will help me breathe better, but when it doesn't I get bundled up so we can go to the emergency room. The people there give me a shot. This will help open up my airways they say, but it doesn't so I get another shot. I can't breathe and I can't talk and I have visions of dying and funerals and my biggest regret is not getting the food everyone else was having at the party. But you can't eat when you can't breathe. 

***

I wake up in the middle of the night after a dream that scares me involving lions chasing me. My parents tell me to go back to bed, but I'm already in bed next to my sleeping sister. She never has trouble sleeping, but most night I'm awake and staring at the ceiling. I used to think about a lot of things, how different my life would be if my parents had more money or I was smarter or prettier. I'm doing well in school according to the people who put me in high math. But when I'm in school I don't know what the teacher is saying and my parents keep telling me that math isn't that hard, I just have to figure it out. There's a boy in my math class that goes to low reading and I wish I could go to low math since the teacher seems nicer than the one I have. 

The next morning my thumb is stiff and sore and I can't bend it. When I show it to my parents they ask what I did. But I hadn't done anything, it just happened overnight. My mom calls the doctor and he tells her that I need to be seen right away as it sounds like I may have a blood infection. When I go in there's a red line running up to my elbow. I'm given several small bottles in a paper bag that I need to add water to and I have to drink all of them or the infection could get out of hand. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but the medication doesn't taste bad so I keep drinking it. No one knows why I have this infection, but it feels like my parents are blaming me for this unnecessary medical expense that has come at a bad time.

***

I'm in high school and whenever I get my period I have such bad cramps I can't do anything. I lie in bed with my heating pad and wait for the pain to go away. One day I can't take it anymore so I told my physics teacher I wasn't feeling well. No one was around so I went to lie down. I missed lunch and I don't care. The pain is alive and I imagine a burning dragon doing something internally to make me hurt like this. I'm nauseated and my roommates tell me I look pale. That evening I'm fine, but the shame will return next month. On my report card is an unexcused absence. I get into trouble for this and no one seems to care that I tried to tell someone what the problem was. There's no escape from menstruation, parents, or school. So I try to do the best that I can.

***

We had community showers when I was in high school. I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth when all of sudden I felt dizzy. I stumbled towards the wall thinking that it would hold me up. I'm sick and puking and it looks like Mountain Dew which I hate. The room is spinning and I'm hot and cold, nothing seems to make sense. I go and tell our dorm supervisor what happened. She tells me to go to school anyways so I do. By second hour I feel like I'm going to puke again. I'm oddly hungry and sick to my stomach. I go lie down in my bed and sleep through third and fourth hour classes. I wake up feeling better than I have, but now I have another unexcused absence. My behavior is an issue and I get numerous lectures about it. My stomach always feels strange, no matter how much I eat I am quickly hungry again. Sometimes I spit out chunky vomit when I'm walking. My roomates ask about it, they're more concerned than I am because this is just how life is, right?

***

We're riding the bus back from visiting a college. I start crying and feel more alone than I can remember feeling in the past. My classmates surround me, but I'm crying and no one notices. No one seems to care that my heart is breaking on this bus. My friends are talking to guys and each other. I try to reach out to someone and get rebuffed. I think that life would be so much easier if I just wasn't alive anymore. I didn't enjoy the weekend and I'm happy to get back to the familiarity of school.

***

I get a letter in the mail telling me that my mom and youngest sister have been in a terrible car accident. No one called me, but I used my phone card to call home. My mom tells me that both of her feet are broken and I remember the time we were in Michigan and she broke her foot running into a display case at the store, but my dad made her keep on walking. When my pinky toe is broken no one does anything about it other than tell me that it will get better as time goes on. Walking hurts, and later on my friends tell me that these two upperclass girls that I hate were making fun of the way I was limping. I would like to kill them, but that's not really an option. Later on my parents tell me that I need to ask one of them for a ride home. There's no way out of this and I end up stuck in a car with these two bitches for hours. At home I have to do a lot more work since my mom's feet are broken. Everything is awful and I can't wait to get back to school.

***

I hate college. I thought it would be more like high school. I have a few friends, but they use me and I probably know this at some level, but don't know how to address the issue. I work a ton and save my money. Everyone has nicer clothes and gets better grades than I do. I'm exhausted, but I have to keep studying or I'll lose my scholarship money. History class is easy and I'm happy because I got a 97 on my first test even though I'm a freshman taking an upper level class. I shouldn't have been able to do that, but my professor doesn't know how old I am and once he finds out he tells me I can stay since the registrar or my advisor should have caught this, but now that I'm here and doing well I can be a part of this group. The girls in my class are pretty nice to me and people have told me that being a history major is a bad idea, but for once I'm glad that they can't tell me that they told me so. This class is so interesting and wonderful that I'm positive I've made the right decision. When the classes get harder and I find out how much other homework I have I'm especially thankful that at least one professor thinks I'm a good student.

***

I'm home alone with my oldest daughter who will not stop screaming. She's only five weeks old and I've run out of things to do for her. I walk her, try to feed her, rock her, nothing is doing the trick. I have no idea why she's so upset and I grab at the phone when it rings. My husband tells me he will be home shortly and I tell myself that she can't scream like this forever. I put her down to go to the bathroom. I wonder if this is how people go insane. She keeps screaming and it's probably not louder or more violent, but the minutes turn into hours and I'm angry with her and furious with myself for not knowing what is wrong. When my husband comes home two and a half hours later she's laying on the floor making chuffing noises in her sleep. I ask him where he was and he explained that he ran into his cousin at McDonald's and got to talking to him. He didn't think to call and let me know where he was and he didn't bring me anything to eat either. I fantasize about stabbing him repeatedly. We might have gotten into an argument. I'm more tired than I've ever been and my daughter doesn't like to eat or sleep. My mother tells me I was the same way which is no comfort. She cries and doesn't gain weight like she should and the pediatrician is very kind, but I know something is wrong only nobody will tell me what it is or how to make her stop crying like this. Eventually she is tested for environmental allergies. But the tests are all negative.

***

I quit my job to go work for an accounting firm. I'm hired during tax season so I have a few clients that I visit with my boss, but then an accountant finds out that I came from another financial institution so she asks if I would be willing to help her out. A client of hers is a basketball player and I have to enter in data from a fax that was sent over. I put in his dividends and can't get the crazy columns to balance. I'm so frustrated I want to jump out the window and I'm thinking of creative ways for this woman to suffer when she pops in to ask me how I'm doing. I feel a bit better when she can't get things to come out right and then I want to punch her stupid face when she realizes that I have twelve pages of a thirteen page fax. I don't know what I'm doing at my job. I'm supposed to be supporting accounting software and I took two basic accounting classes in college which did not prepare me for this type of work. I'm in over my head and going to grad school which seemed like a good idea at the time. My home life is terrible, I hate my job, school sucks. I got a D in my statistics class and a C in this class about organizational behavior which is completely beyond me. I read the material and work on my homework after work is done and sometimes when I'm bored and think I can get away with it. After working all day school is the last thing I want to do, but I make myself go because I know I'll fail if I can't hear our instructor. Normally I'm not this bad at figuring things out. None of what I read makes sense and I wonder if I'm just getting dumber as the days go by. When I decide that I can't take this job any longer I find an email from the president of the company to my boss telling me that my 'drop dead' day should be before the holiday so they don't have to pay me for it. Today that company no longer exists.

*** 

After telling my daughter that mommy was going to walk on the treadmill she ran over to get my shoes. When I stepped off she opened the freezer door and pulled out a container of ice cream.

***

We were sitting in the emergency room, just my daughter and I when my sister was announced. She had brought Jill a coloring book and a balloon. Later on she told me how worried she was that Jill was so thin. She was almost hospitalized after losing more than ten percent of her body weight, but we were allowed to take her back home. It was about two-thirty in the morning when we opened the door. After days of her vomiting I was glad that she seemed to have stopped. I tucked her into bed, gave her a kiss goodnight and walked into my room where Jane was lying in a puddle of puke that was right in the middle of my bed.

***

It was a very hot and humid day so I bought the girls a Popsicle to share at the zoo. Neither of them cried or complained while we were there, but when I got home I noticed that they both had drainage coming out of their eyes. Both of them had ear infections.

***

Jane had blood and fluid leaking from her eardrum after it burst. My husband took her out to eat. I took her in and sat with her while we waited for a doctor to confirm that her ear drum had ruptured.

*** 

My neighbor passed away two November's ago. When Jill was born she bought her an outfit that had tiny flowers and a matching blanket. When I had the flu she went to the grocery store for me and when I fell and cut my eyelid she came over to sit with me. She gave me twenty bucks when she heard that I was going to California and brought over meals at random when she thought that we could use one. The girls couldn't go to her house without coming home with some sort of treat. 

***

Jill was eighteen months old when she reached out for a wire that was attached to a set of speakers that were standing in my mom's dining room. My mom slapped her hand and I wanted to slap her.

***

Jane and I took a nap together. It was a great nap and I don't regret taking it even though that meant we were late picking Jill up from school.

***

The girls and I are down in Florida. We're by ourselves and the beach is almost deserted except for a set of overly protective yuppie types hovering around their son. Waves break around us, we get tossed and go down swallowing sea water only to get back up and try to ride the waves again. We devour the snacks I brought and I'm happy the girls are eating lettuce and carrots without complaint. After hours pass we pack up and hit Whole Foods. We stand outside gorging on fresh fruit and I think it must be the best day of my life despite my sunburned back. Later on that evening we sit in the bed together and watch a movie.

*** 

I'm at the thrift store and find a pale blue book. It's about cancer and I decide to buy it. Whenever I open it up I either start crying or want to. The book is sad, but I still love reading it because the stories are powerfully encouraging. I think about the people this world has lost, those I have known, and those I have not. Under that is a collection of Vince Lombardi quotes and these two books are ones I pick up every single day.

***

It's not yet five in the morning but I'm out walking. I used to go down by the lake and I think of that time in my life as a movie. It doesn't seem real. Today I wonder if I'll ever be that person again. The one who used to naturally get up early and go down to see the waves slap against the shore. I miss her.

***

I'm down in Dallas after visiting Jet-Poop. I slept well at his place and even better at my hotel on Saturday evening. Sunday morning I had to fly back to Wisconsin. A guy teased me about my Dallas Cowboys bag and I lost my travel sized toothpaste because it wasn't in a plastic bag. I think about that trip and the people and the food and most of all the hugs. It wasn't warm, but I got some good walks in and I miss those too.

***

Writing is so much fun, but it doesn't go anywhere. I need a way to become financially independent. I do interviews on Twitter and people are interested and engaged. I'm learning more about social media and how to brand myself. While I'm on the phone with this kid he asks if I need a co-host for my show. His passion and energy are unmistakable. He's made mistakes, and I can relate to his sorrow because I've been there many times. Tonight we're going to host our show together for the first time.

***

Today my therapist sent me a text asking to cancel our appointment. I didn't have an appointment in my calendar. Sometimes I question myself, but today I know that she screwed something up. Our next appointment is on Tuesday and I'm going to print this out and ask her for some help getting to the feelings behind some of these events. This was not an easy exercise, but I'm still glad that I made myself delete what I had and go through with it.

***

Until next time,

Jess 

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