Some Call it Love

She squinted as her eyes adjusted to the late-night flickering from the television at her feet. She’d been asleep for nearly two hours already, having grown accustom to drowning out the noises in the room, but it was the smell which had woken her. Lying inches away from her arm, on the crisp white sheet, surrounded by an outer circle of tea-colored brown and with an inner ring singed darkly, lay a smoldering butt; half smoked. A ring, she noted, which was more in the shape of a heart than a circle. Her stubble-faced other half, head against the bed frame in the most uncomfortable looking fashion, open-mouth snoring. Rising and falling rhythmically lay their old cat, Charlie, in a heap on his chest.

She had convinced him to lean out the window or walk out onto the back porch for every other one, but he never could fall to sleep without that one last smoke in bed. Weekly she washed her sheets to rid them of the smell of both cat and stale smoke, but there wasn’t enough Tide in the world to get rid of the burned shapes that dotted her favourite sheets.

Once, she boldly replaced his thickly cut and yellowing ashtray next to the porch chair with a battery-operated, smokeless variety she had mail ordered 6 weeks prior. The “smoke sucker”, he called it, before placing it in the garbage on top of the eggshells from breakfast and underneath the coffee grinds from that afternoon. He might as well have lit up $5 bills, he told her, the way that thing wasted a good cigarette.

She handed him a $20 from her back pocket along with a look that dared him to say another word about it.

While he slept, she replaced every last Marlborough in the pack with a Winston, to prove he would never notice. The next day she found her afternoon pot contained a Folger’s instead of Starbucks.

She had drank the whole pot and then brewed another.

On Sundays he rushed through his paper before work hurriedly, leaving, between bowls of mushy, luke-warm cereal and half-eaten bagels, a mess of disorganized pages sitting on the breakfast table haphazardly.

She cooked solidly his over-easy eggs and accidently set the toaster to scorch.

For years it would remain this way: he, impervious to her complaints and she, unquelled by his indifference. One always threatening to run and the other standing by the door promising to hold it open. Their life, a series of loudly slamming doors and boisterous complaints, peppered with passive aggressive stunts. All, with equal passion.

He snorted then coughed as she reached for the smoldering cigarette. Patting out the scorched sheet, she checked that he was sleeping soundly before clicking the TV off. Calmly, she lifted it to her mouth and took a long drag; the embers becoming red, then orange, then red again. Smoke curling down her throat, tickling her lungs, threatening a cough before settling warmly in her chest. She took another, gave the cat a pat on the head and laid her head back against the wall, ankles and arms both crossed, before finishing the rest.

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Sleepy Pillow

She crept quietly through the hallway, maneuvering past the squeakiest boards, and into her parent’s bedroom. Silently she stood, holding her breath, summoning her courage. She reached out her hand pausing for a moment before tapping her mother’s shoulder and then quickly stepping back. If the face of a zombie or skeleton or half-breed monster of some sort turned around to face her, she wanted to be ready to bolt.

As usual, it was just the groggy, partially slit eyes of her half-asleep mother looking up at her.

“What’s wrong?”

“Can’t sleep.”

“Okay.”

“Can I sleep here?”, she asked, pointed towards the place where her father had once slept. The place where his pillow still lay, as if waiting for his return.

“Yep. It’ll be just like when you were little.”

Except I’m not, she thought. And I haven’t been for a very long time.

In the morning she was reminded that the sunlight always came through first on the side of the house her parent’s bedroom is on. Why they refused to get curtains she couldn’t understand. Her mother’s idea of sleeping in was pulling the blanket over her head–something she found suffocating and hot.

She squinted, waiting for her eyes to adjust. Her mother was gone. The clock in the far corner read 8:30. She stretched. Slid over to the middle. And then to her mother’s side. Inhaled in the drowsy smell of her pillow. Why did it always smell better than her own?  So comforting. It begged her to sleep.

She pulled the sheet over her head and tried it out from there.

Maybe it would be different from her mom’s side.

The Report

Rear view of class raising hands

It was the day for our fifth grade class to give their oral reports. “Oral report”, I had just learned, meant I would be expected to give a speech in front of the whole class, and not a briefing on the condition of my teeth. It was too bad, I thought, because I had a great check-up last time, which made me really happy because my dentist was pretty awesome. He had a Parrot named Flossy and let you wear these cartoon character glasses while he worked on your teeth. Once my mom had to cancel an appointment because it interfered with a meeting at work, and I’m not too proud to admit that I cried.

“Who wants to go first?”, she asked.

Several eager hands shot up into the air.

I slunk down as far as could into my seat, wishing I were at the dentist.

“I think you should go first!”, my gray-haired teacher turned to me and smiled.

I looked at the papers I had been clutching in my hands, wrinkled and damp with the sweat from my palms.

I stood reluctantly, slowly, and began to walk up to the front of the classroom.

Shuffled my papers,  took a deep breath, and quietly began,

“Matrin Luther King Jr was bor—”

“Speak up, please! We can not hear you.”, Mrs. Treffry called out in a sing-song voice from her little perch on the radiator at the back of the room.

I cleared my throat and began again.

Martin Luther King Jr. was bor—”

“Try moving your hand away from you face, that way we can hear you waaaay back here”, she stood with her right hand holding a stack of papers and her left cupped behind her ear, pulling it forward, as if straining to hear.

Suddenly I became aware of this stray hand, this alien hand, hovering awkwardly around my face–some place between my eyes and my mouth.

I pulled it down to my side. The class giggled and I could feel my hand wanting desperately to resume its previous position.

“Begin again, please. We are waiting.”

“MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. WAS BOR—”

“Now, you are yelling dear. There is no need to yell. Just speak up.”, she sighed.

My face flushed. I locked my shaking knees.

Martin Luther King Jr was bor—”

“Yes, Martin Luther King Jr was born! Geez! Tell us something we don’t already know!”, Chris heckled from the second row, catching me off guard.

My papers dropped to the floor. I felt my knees go weak as I leaned down to pick them back up.

“Mrs Treffry, she’s never going to finish her report! Can I go now? Puleeease?”, begged an impatient teacher’s pet sitting in the front row.

“No, Shareen. Wait your turn”, she replied before returning her gaze to me. “Now. Please continue”.

“Um… Martin Luther King Jr. was bor— it’s okay. I really don’t mind if she goes first. I can wait”, I suggested to Mrs. Treffry. Hoping she would see the desperation in my eyes and excuse me.

“No, no. You can be excused when you are done. Continue please.”

I exhaled sharply as a dizziness began to make my head ache.

“Martin Luther King Jr. was born… … …”

“Yes? Go on! We are all listening.”, Mrs Treffrey tapped her foot.

“Martin Luther King was born…

And then he died…

It was really, really sad.”

Avoiding her frowing face, I lowered my head, walked back down the aisle, took a seat, and shoved the three page report I had written into my desk. Tears began to spill over my bottom lashes.

Mrs. Treffry sighed loudly.

“Shareen, you may go now.”

Who I am.

butterfly

There are a lot of things I write about on this blog which give clue to who I am as a person, but there are just as many things left unwritten.

I don’t often discuss this portion of my life publically, but I’m going to take a stab at sharing a little bit with you all. Maybe I’m crazy for opening up this can of worms. Perhaps, I just need that little high I get from writing something super personal. Either way, here goes:

About 5 years ago my entire life–and the lives of my family–all got turned upside down when we decided Orthodox Judaism was the right path for us. You might know someone who has converted, you might not. But, it’s equally likely that you don’t know who the converts are around you, because they have chosen not to be public with their decisions. Frankly, I get this. When you are converting, or have converted, the first thing people want to do is pick you apart and find out the “whys” and “hows” and “under whoms” you are converting. And no matter how open a person you are, it can be really mentally exhausting to feel you must always entertain the masses with your very personal life details. Especially when it’s in a public situation. Or with strangers. Yes, because there is nothing quite like being asked at a Shabbat table full of brand-new friends, with your mouth stuffed full of [gluten-free] challah, “so, what made you want to convert to Judaism, anyhow?”

Where do I start?

The truth is I don’t really want to share every tidbit of my journey to Judaism, nor the process that lead up to that decision, with everyone. To me, it’s a bit like being asked exactly what I love about my husband or why I decided to have four kids. I could never sum that all up convincingly to a bunch of strangers, so why would I even try? Chances are I would sound like a babbling fool and give the impression I had no idea what I even liked about either of them. Same with Judaism. My answer ends up being a sputtering mess of half-assed answers that have nothing to do with why I am here.

My reason is actually quite simple: I belong here. I just do.

Of course I do open up with some friends. And I am not at all insulted by people who are curious. It’s just that I have spent so much time thinking about and studying to become a Jew, molding my life into the role of an Jew, and trying to prove to a group of rabbis (most of whom I don’t know) on a beis din why I am worthy of being a Jew–that I have run a bit dry on the words, you know? Like how many times can I say it? After turning my life upside down and inside out and leaving everything I’ve ever known and loved behind, let’s just trust that I am clearly passionate and obviously committed.

We may have many similarities, but we aren’t all the same.

Not every convert or conversion candidate feels like I do. They don’t all have the same reasons for conversion–even if it does come from the same force deep down within our souls. We all have a different story which led, and is leading us, down this path in life. Making a change to convert to another religion is a HUGE step, but at some time or another most of us have made a weighty, life-altering decision. If you haven’t yet, you will. I promise you will.

If you want to know what conversion feels like: just imagine giving up your whole life: friends, family, traditions, celebrations, cultural norms and comforts and then adopting unfamiliar ones. Imagine it generously for 10 or 20 minutes. Imagine how your life would change, and how awkward you would feel in your old life and well as your new one–probably for many years. Now, imagine replacing all of your kitchenware! (That one still stings!) And then wrap it all up by sitting in front of three highly intimidating elders to ask permission to be let in–hoping beyond hope they say yes. Hoping that after all you have given up for this new life, that they don’t decide to turn you away. (Every converts biggest fear.)

That exercise is probably more telling of how it feels to convert than any essay I could write for you.

I’m not a scrooge.

Quite honestly, when I was a new candidate I was ALL about telling my story. I was on fire and convinced that becoming Jewish was the answer to all of my spiritual and personal life crises. I was sure that the beautiful blessings, ritual prayers, and 52 Shabbats a year would make me a better person. I remember in dead-seriousness telling a friend: “I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to be a Jew!” I was captivated at each new teaching, and every time I learned a new bracha (blessing) I would weep. I felt like I had found my long-lost family.

I was infatuated.

But, I realize that now I am really just the same person inside. Same likes and dislikes. Same tastes in music. Same temperament. Same faults. Except now I live not only for myself, and not only for my family, but for a community of people who I find myself committed to–even those I’ve never met.

Conversion is a lot like marriage. You flirt with it, date it, become engaged with it and eventually find yourself hitched to it. And by the time you start to see that it’s a lot more work and a lot less fun than you thought it would be, you realize how committed you really are. You fall out of puppy-love and  the only thing keeping you from throwing up your hands and walking out that door some days is knowing how much you have already invested in it. How hard it would be to start over. How fucked up being and ex of anything is. So you go back, and work harder at the relationship, putting in overtime, making good memories, meeting new goals, and enjoying your new life. And eventually, you fall in love for real. Or you walk away.

And I am in love for real.

I don’t ooze weepy tears all day long, and sometimes I even take a bracha for granted, but I love Judaism so deeply. I am so in love with the Jewish people.

So, this:

Despite that Orthodox Judaism is such a huge part of my life, actually because it is, I sometimes get lost. See? Even though I didn’t live life as a Jew for the first part of my life, I found meaning and purpose in it. And though I find my current life to be deeply fulfilling, it doesn’t mean I want to toss everything else aside. The first 28 years of my life are a part of who I am! It’s what it took to get me to this point in my life. To becoming this person. To finding Judaism.

I still have a strong relationship to my parents: both Christian. And my brother: agnostic (last I asked. Which was probably 10 years ago. But who am I to speak for him?) I make a point to not only connect with old friends, co-workers and acquaintances, but also to connect with the parts of myself which is still held in those memories.

I admit that there are sometimes gaps between the old and the new which end up being these rough ditches along the path of my life. My way of smoothing them out is by owning both parts of my identity in this blog.  By saying that all of these differing sides of myself all work together to create one whole person.

Because I am both that girl who grew up on a farm in Southern Maryland listening to rap and eating vegetables from Robin Hood, the young adult who fancied herself a real punk rocker and fell in love with her husband after they met at a rock show, and the woman who weekly sits down with her family of six at a Shabbat table full of kugels, deli, and cholent. (But, never, ever gefilte fish. Because, eww.)

Nice to meet you.

So, if by chance you meet me in person and ask me a super personal question like, “so, why did you decide to convert Orthodox instead of Conservative or Reform?” and I clam up and change the subject–you’ll know why.

And, listen, I get it–maybe you are just dying of curiosity. Sometimes I am dying of curiosity too! I mean I’d really, REALLY like to know what’s up with this lady who I seem to see walking her dog, no matter what time I happen to be taking my dog out. I mean does she just spend her whole days walking her dog? Does her dog have a chronic bladder problem? Is she training him for some kind of doggy walk-a-thon? But, I don’t ask. Because–and this is really crazy here–it just ain’t my business.

And if by chance we are having a conversation in which my conversion naturally comes up–I may just let you in on a few personal details. Because we are in midst of a one on one discussion where we are both sharing something and it makes sense. I may even tell you how I met my husband, and what I love about him, and maybe even my birth stories! But, you’re going to have to be willing to spill a little too.

But, whether I decide to open up and share my personal details with you or not–don’t misunderstand. It does not mean that I am ashamed, nor shy, nor anything but proud of who I am.

Ruby Red Boots.

pink, white and red candied heart sprinkles

Trading in her ruby red boots for a pair of old soft cotton Mary Janes, she said goodbye to her girlhood. Today she would become someone’s wife and not even a year from now someone’s mom. But for right now she was still herself and the pathetic excuse for a mirror in the park bathroom–turned bridal dressing room for the occasion–echoed back her girlish features. Jet black hair cropped into a bob, accented by electric blue bangs, and pulled back by two sparkly butterfly clips in either side. Though the black vintage cocktail dress she wore hung a little too loosely to her frame, she hadn’t been able to afford to have it taken in. Still, she took pride in finding her dress in a shop down town for $50, leaving her $250 left to put towards the wedding decorations.

“Why don’t you just go down to the judge?” a friend had asked. “There is no shame in a court wedding”,  a cousin remarked.

Because she hadn’t done anything wrong, that’s why. A court wedding felt to her like a punishment. Something you do when you’re hiding a baby-bumped and forced into a wedding. Or when you’re on your third marriage and don’t believe enough in love to invest in another dress. Her only offense was that she had fallen in love a little too young and a lot too poor.

Needing a home to live in and putting their foot down on simply shacking up, meant the wedding was moved up from a late fall event and turned into a quaint early spring get together. In two weeks time she threw together a simple wedding with her husband-to-be. It wasn’t what every girl envisions–big white dress and veil; being walked down the aisle by a cummerbunded father to meet her beloved waiting at the front, music swelling and guests rising as she walked past. There was no way to aim towards something so extravagant without falling pitifully short, and so she took pride in making it her own style. She owned it by calling it her potluck punk wedding. In lieu of gifts, friends and family were asked to bring their favourite dishes and drinks.  First a wedding, and then a feast. Disposable cameras where handed out to friends who became amateur photographers on the spot. Everyone smiled, called her unique. Believed her when she said it was exactly what she wanted in a wedding and that long veils and big fancy gowns weren’t her style. They believed her so much, in fact, that she almost began to believe it herself.

So under stormy skies, and with the mountains behind them and the spring winds blowing so hard that they knocked over a candled centerpiece on one of the tables, catching it briefly on fire before someone thought to throw the punch bowl on it, she walked down to meet a baby faced guy dressed head to toe in black, tattoos decorating each arm, and eyes sparkling brightly. Right there, before a small audience of friends and several scurrying birds, she said “I do” to a life so full of hardships and so rich with love.

The Attic

 

Driveway of Traditional Craftsman HouseThere was this house where I used to hang out a lot when I was a kid. It was nestled in a sparsely wooded area between to two highways with a McDonald’s on one side and a 7-11 on the other. The house was old and creepy, and looked pretty much nothing like the picture accompanying this story.  Nobody lived there anymore except a large family of mice in the kitchen and two big tanks full of tropical fish in the living room. My best friend Grey’s grandparents had suffered the loss of their first born child, Ricky, in a drowning accident as a teenager and found themselves stuck between needing to rebuild a life in a new home which didn’t contain constant reminders of their son, and needing to hang on to whatever memories they had. And so they left the one house pretty much as it was–sofas, fully made beds, tropical fish tanks and all– and then moved into a new house and started over there.

Years later they opened a business across the street from the old house and so it became club house of sorts for their grandchildren and their friends. They kept ice cream in the freezer and the fridge packed with soda, and we were invited to take from it as we liked. And we did.

I kept going back under the pretense of hanging out with my best friend Grey. But, mostly it was because there was little adult super vision, and even though I had no intention of doing anything wrong, I suppose I like knowing I had the option to if I wanted to. A need for freedom that most teenagers have.

Summers were the most fun because we could trek around in the woods and play in the nearby stream. On rainy days we sat inside watching old videos, playing only dare–and never truth, and trying to scare each other with ghost stories.

“Dare?”, Teddy–Grey’s cousin–asked.

“Okay, go down to the basement, in the dark, alone, and stay for 3 whole minutes. With the door shut!”.

As the bravest of us all, my brother was the only one who actually lasted that long. The others gave up pretty soon after taking the dare. Lisa played it tough and held out for 30 seconds before claiming that not fear but a genetic case of claustrophobia passed down from her mother was the reason she wouldn’t be able to hack it. Katie cried the second she hit the last step, even before the lights where turned off. Me? I wouldn’t even attempt it. No way!

Then there were the scary stories, like the unsolved mystery of the blood that never dried. Some man/woman/child died in a motorcycle crash/tractor accident/fell down the stairs and was decapitated. Their head went rolling down the road/into the woods/down the stairs. Despite endless attempts the blood was never able to be fully cleaned up and no amount of paint could ever cover it. Until this very day, so they say, it remains wet with the blood of the deceased.

And of course how could I forget the one about the music box which played backwards? But, we all know music boxes are a direct portal to hell anyhow, so that’s no real surprise.

So we’d all be sitting in the living room playing chicken–each one of us too scared to leave the room but too proud to admit it, until eventually, some poor fool who had downed his entire Super Big Gulp from the 7-11 next door would run to the bathroom to find some relief and finally break the spell the room had on us.

“Hey guys, did you all know that Uncle Ricky’s ghost lives here?”, Grey asked one unusually chilly spring morning, when we were all huddled inside trying to stay warm. “He actually haunts the upstairs.”

“Shut-up Grey!”, I said, because frankly ghosts scared the living daylights out of me. Still do.

“No, I’m serious! Ask Grandma. It’s why she kept this house. Could you sell a house with your dead son haunting it?”

“I don’t believe you”, I gulped. But, I was shaking because of course I kinda did.

“Fine, but I’m not making it up. Sometimes you can hear him up there. Getting out of his bed. Walking around. Opening and closing the door to the bathroom.”

Just then, there was a bang upstairs. A door closing, opening, and some feet walking around.

“Stop fucking around up there you guys! It’s not funny! You’re not scaring me!”, I yell up to Grey’s cousin and my brother, throwing out the “f” word I’d be practicing when my parents weren’t around to slap me in the mouth for saying it.

“Sis, who are you yelling at like an idiot?”, my brother asked me as I turned around to see him and Teddy standing right behind me.

Probably just some squirrels that chewed their way into the attic, we all agreed.

“But, squirrels can’t open doors, can they?”, I asked quietly.

That house wasn’t nearly as much fun after that.

Lorelei

MP900386041

When she looked up, all she could see were spots. Bubbles of gold, blue, grey, red… all floating in circles. She blinked her eyes to make sense of the blurry scene she saw before her. Straining to hear what was being said to her over the sound of rushing waters that seemed to fill her ears, she tried to ask for help but her mouth wouldn’t form the words. Her hands hung uselessly down by her waist as she struggled desperately to make them work.

Lorelei had passed out again. This time in a group full of strangers, at a CPR class she had to take before getting clearance to work in the hospital’s gift shop. It seemed so silly–she’s not a nurse or a doctor. But they required all employees, no matter their position, to know basic first aid and CPR. She had been sitting in the back when she was asked to come to the front and help demonstrate the proper way to check for a pulse.

“You’ve done this before, right?”, the teacher asked. Lorelei nodded. “Great! Then you could teach some of these newbies how an old pro does it!”

Her heart began to pound as she stood up and walked to the front of the room on shaky legs. She had taken this CPR once before, back when she used to babysit for local families for petty cash in high school. And having a fabulous memory meant she rarely forgot something she learned. She told herself she would be able to handle this. “Just don’t look at anyone in the eye. You probably won’t even need to speak.” But, when she made it to the front, and all 32 pairs of eyes were on her, she felt her face flush and her hands go numb. “Oh shit!” she said to herself. “Don’t you dare faint in front of all of these people!” But it was too late, and a moment later she was laying sprawled out on the floor.

A little while later, when her hearing had returned, the feeling in her hands and legs had come back, she assured them that she was okay. “I probably just forgot to eat breakfast this morning. I’m fine now.” She explained.

But she wasn’t fine and she knew it. It seemed like these episodes had begun to take over her life a little at a time until she felt that she was making her daily plans around how to avoid them. Slowly her goals and aspirations were replaced with hopes that she wouldn’t find herself stuck in the middle of an intersection on a rainy night or needing to use the tiny elevator in her apartment building. The stairs were even worse because with every footstep upward came an loud echo that made it known just how far down a fall it was to the bottom floor. After that last time, when she had to pull over on the highway because she was hyperventilating and dizzy, she decided she needed to find a job closer to home.

 

 

“What do you think triggered these attacks?” Dr. Ranshaw asked Lorelei one afternoon as they sat on her couch in her first floor suite. Dr. Ranshaw had been recommended to her by her primary care doctor when she described her dizzy episodes and they had ruled out any medical cause.

“If I knew that, I wouldn’t be here.”, she replied quite earnestly.

“Okay, so let me ask you this–do you remember the very first time you felt this way? Racing heart, feeling of panic?”

“I guess about 2 years ago.”

“Tell me a little about it.”

“I was driving to work and I look over for a moment to pick up my phone off the seat, and when I glanced back at the road I realized I had almost run into someone. A pedestrian. I was so scared! I immediately pulled over because I couldn’t stop shaking. I don’t even remember how I made it home.”

“So you had a traumatic experience. You realized they your vehicle could also be used as a weapon. Possibly take the life of another. How did that make you feel?”

“How would it make anyone feel? Horrible. I don’t want to hurt anyone. Just the thought that I could makes me… makes my… oh just thinking about it is making my heart pound. I don’t feel well.”

And so Dr. Ranshaw had talked her through the anxiety before it turned into a full blown panic attack. It was the first time that Lorelei had felt like there was hope.

Over the next several weeks they made progress, and in each meeting they discussed a new technique. Meditation, purposeful breathing, proper eating and exercise regimens. Lorelei was gaining back her old life little by little. One step at a time. Learning how to not only handle taking the elevator and handling herself in large crowds again, but also how to stay in the moment and not let the anxiety get out of control.

“It’s okay to feel anxious, you know. Anxiety is an emotion which lets us know something is wrong. Like a warning sign. It lets us know that there may be trouble up ahead. The problem is that when we let our anxiety lead the whole show, it puts us out of balance. Being in a highly anxious state is hard on the body. The blood doesn’t flow properly to your arms, legs and head. It prevents your stomach from digesting. It even makes your skin feel cold and clammy. You need to learn to take the reigns again. Keep anxiety as one of many tools in your toolbox. Otherwise you’re body will be in a constant state of fight or flight, and unless you’re trying to outrun a tornado or fight off a mountain lion, it really doesn’t serve you well. Next week I want to discuss you making some goals–getting back into your old life.”

On the way home Lorelei kept replayed the conversation in her head. She new Dr. Ranshaw was right. It was time for her to take that next step, but she was so scared. Her heart pounded just thinking about standing in front of a group of people with all eyes on her. But, there was this thing, a poetry slam–open mic night on Thursdays, that she’d read about in the paper. Back in high school she’d often been told her poems were really good. “Very moving”, her English teacher had written on the one which she had been most proud. She’d kept a private journal of them ever since. Even wrote one recently that she was particularly proud of about overcoming anxiety.

As she drove along the highway she saw that the exit that would lead her home was up next, but realized if she stayed on for another minute she’d practically be right in front of the bar where the reading was. It could be like a practice session. A trial run. The bar wasn’t even open this early so she could just turn around in the parking lot and head back home. Dr. Ranshaw would be so pleased with her, she thought. So impressed that she gave it her all.

She took a deep breath, smiled, confident and happy, and continued on past her exit ramp and turning instead a few moments later onto Downlane Rd. When she heard her phone buzz over on the seat next to her, she instinctively looked over, just for a moment–which is the only reason she didn’t happen see those two little girls stepping out onto the cross walk.