The Carpool Line…

The carpool line, also known as the bane of my existence.

Gracie’s school has got to have the worst system ever for drop-off. Now, she is in middle-school so perhaps that has something to do with it, but not much.

Here is how it usually works. Kids and I leave the apartment at 7:35.
We get to Gracie’s school at 7:45.
The school bell rings at 7:55.
We spend at minimum 10 minutes in the godforsaken carpool line.

This is not normal.

Every night, right around 7pm I get the automated call.

“This call is to inform you that Gracie Pedro was tardy to class on (insert date.)”

At 7:05pm is usually when I write an email.

“To Whom it May Concern:
This email is to inform you that Gracie Pedro was not tardy to class, we were stuck in the carpool line.”

Every single day.
Every single night.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. “Well, just leave the apartment earlier.”

To which I would say, Oh wise one, with me having three kids that I need to get to three different schools, it is just not possible, but thanks for the suggestion.

The carpool line is much like any carpool line. A big ole loop. You enter on one side, make the loop and exit on the other. Pretty simple, right?

Here is where things get “tricky.”

On the side where you enter the parking lot (carpool line), you have cars coming from two different directions. Because adults do not know how to take turns, everyone is always fighting to get into the godforsaken carpool line before the other.

Now, let me give you a visual. This particular school is set about half a mile from the carpool line. So, you drop your kid off and they make the walk. No big deal.

We have two places we can potentially drop our kid off. Area one is about halfway through the loop. The drop off area is a nice cemented piece of land, where the kids can follow the sidewalk to the front entrance. For some reason, the wannabe cop/traffic patrol guy does not want us to drop the kids off in THAT area, instead, wannabe cop wants us to pull all the way forward and drop the kids off at the muddy, rocky, makeshift pathway way that is just about at the end of the carpool line.

Fine. I am a rule follower so I will drop Gracie off where you ask me to. On a side note, this is also good for her. It gives her some independence. At the start of the school year, I would park my car and walk her to the crosswalk. Dropping her off is a win-win for both Gracie and me. Assuming things ran smoothly, which they never do.

The other day I was behind what I consider to be a special kind of parent. She drops her kids off wherever she sees fit, pops open her trunk, her girls then take their sweet ass time grabbing their backpacks, and musical instruments.

I was parked behind this special kind of parent. Her kids were grabbing their belongings from the trunk when wanna be cop comes over to my car with his flashlight in hand and motions for me to pull forward. “Dude, where exactly is it you want me to pull forward to? The woman’s front seat?!”

I seriously can’t.

Now, let us talk about the people who are directing traffic. And by “directing traffic” I mean a cluster fuck of events. My cat could do a better job.

I have no idea what their rhyme or reason is because they clearly have none. These fools will let traffic get backed up in every direction.

I have seen the Vice Principal out there directing traffic and I already have beef with him. If it were not for the fact that homeboy decided to take a nap during Gracie’s IEP meeting, perhaps things would be different, but, he is now on my list.

I have seen the principal out there directing traffic. This woman is drop-dead gorgeous. However, directing traffic in the pouring rain while wearing stilettos with an oversized umbrella perfectly in place, making sure not to ruin her freshly styled hair, well, I don’t know, let’s just say it is a sight to see.

Today, I had hit my limit. I was in a take no prisoners mode when traffic was, even more, backed up than usual.

I am sitting there, at a dead stop, watching the minutes tick by on the clock. I know the bell is going to ring, I know once again I will get the “Gracie Pedro was tardy to class” phone call.

Nope, I was not going to have it!

“Sofia, hand me my phone!”

Sofia gives me my phone, I punched in the numbers to Gracie’s school.

A way too chipper person answers.

“Thank you for calling Lakota, how may I help you today?”

“Hello, this is Jennifer Pedro, I am Gracie’s mom.”

I may have heard a sigh on the other end of the line, but do not quote me on that.

“How can I help you?”

“So here’s the thing. I am stuck in your carpool line. If you look out your office window, I will wave to you from my car. It may be hard to spot me because there are about ten cars in front of me and ten more cars behind me, but we are here, we are on time, the thing is, no one knows how to direct traffic, so I have no idea when Gracie will actually make it inside school, but I can send you a picture if need be. Now, I already know you guys are going to mark her tardy, because, that has happened every single day thus far. However, we are here, and I do not think Gracie should be given a tardy when, and forgive my bluntness, you have idiots directing traffic. So, are we good?”

There it is, this time I clearly heard the sigh.

“Okay Mrs. Pedro, I will make a note.”

Yeah right. She will make a note much, in the same way, I will make a note to go to the gym.

So, are we even surprised that at 7pm, just like clockwork I get the call.

“This call is to inform you that Gracie Pedro was tardy to class.”

Oh hell no! Get me my laptop because game on!

Also, it’s probably safe to say this is one school that I will most likely be banned from.

 

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Journey…

If you happen to be Facebook friends with me on my personal account, then you know all too well about my slightly over-dramatic yet heartbreaking post that I am about to talk about, because clearly, I cannot let anything go.

Long story short. I was facilitating a class at my daughter’s school. This was a class for parents, not children. That’s kinda important to note. At the end of the class, as everyone is saying their goodbyes, I had a parent, a parent who I am slowly building a working relationship with, come up to me a little too excited.

“Jennifer! I did not know you were pregnant?!?!”

*crickets*

Slowly, I look behind me, hoping to find a pregnant woman named Jennifer.

There was no one.

I was in shock. Trust when I say there was a bit of an awkward silence.

News flash, I am not pregnant.

I looked at her, quickly running my options through my head.

Option 1~ Be a total Bitch, which I am kinda good at. “Really, you did not know I was pregnant? I did not know those bright yellow sweatpants that are three sizes too small are  “back” in style?!

Option 2 ~ Take the higher road, respond with some sort of class.

In any other situation, I would have opted for Option 1. However, since this is a paying job, and my supervisor was present, I decided I needed to go with Option 2.

I put on a good face, even managed to laugh “Nope, not pregnant, just fat!”

Sometimes you just kinda need to come out of the park with honesty. Flip the tables.

Now, in this parent’s defense, she felt horrible. Her exact words to me “Well now I feel like shit!”

I am now finding myself trying to comfort the very person who thought I was pregnant.

“No, no, you are fine, do not even worry about it.”

“Jennifer, I am so sorry, for what it’s worth, you did amazing in the class.”

(An old move. When you offend someone you quickly throw fake compliments their way.)

At this point, I needed to end this conversation because I was either going to break down in tears, or my mouth would once again get me in trouble.

“Listen, you did nothing wrong. It is fine. I needed a wake-up call and you gave me that wake-up call. Do not even worry about it, I will see you next week!”

Food and I have a love/hate relationship. I believe that there may be some form of food addiction, and in the past, I have definitely had body issues. More on that in a later post.

For as long as I can remember, everything was always centered around food. “Did you have a bad day in school? Let me make you a sandwich!” “Congratulations, you passed your history test, let’s go out to eat to celebrate!”

You see? Now, there is nothing wrong with that, however, there is something, for lack of better word, not quite right with my brain. I cannot have just one Oreo, I have to eat the entire box. I do not know my limits, hell, I have no limits.

There was a point in time where I would do some very unhealthy things to keep my weight down, while still enjoying all the food I want, but again, more about that in a later post. I only say this so you can get as much of an understanding as you can that I do indeed have food issues. I always will. Much in the same way, an alcoholic will always be an alcoholic.

Now, because of all of my past habits, because I believe that for me, there may be some chemical imbalance going on, I have to be extra careful to not fall into what I refer to as “The Black Hole.” The Black Hole is a very bad place for me to be in, unfortunately, it is also easy for me to find my way there.

Somewhere along the way, between the bags of Tim’s potato chips,  Oreos, and pretty much anything chocolate, I have gained weight. I had a very good friend tell me “Are you happy with yourself? If you are happy with yourself, then do not change a thing, if you are not happy, then change it.”

I am not happy. No matter how many different shades of black I wear to give myself the “slimming” look, no matter how many different scarves I wear to hide my middle section, I cannot hide it. I am fat and it is noticeable. I am just not happy….so I am changing it.

As I was writing this post, I called Christin. Believe it or not, this was not the intended post I was supposed to write. The writing just took on a mind of its own.

“Christin, is this too much? Is it too doom and gloom?”

Christin and I spent a good thirty minutes on the phone as I was telling her about these very words you are reading now. She told me “Keep going, it’s relatable” and from there we shared stories of our past. Both of us grew up in households where we had well-meaning family members tell us “Eat more!” as they were giving us seconds, and sometimes thirds. Christin and I find ourselves doing that to our own kids.

“You did not eat enough.”
“Did you have enough to eat?”
“We still have some pasta left, eat it up!”

You see? If Christin and I can relate to each other, surely we cannot be the only ones.

I suppose that is all I want. I want someone to understand.

My siblings are drop-dead gorgeous. If you put us up all side by side, and sing that old song from Sesame Street…

“One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?”

*Puts hand up*

It’s me!!!! I am not like my siblings. Aesthetically speaking anyway. I am just built differently, and for the longest time, I saw at that as a defect.

I do not see my siblings as often as I like. The only reason for that is because we are scattered throughout the United States. However, when I do see them, it takes a toll on me. Damn, that sounds harsh huh? It is nothing they do. It never has, it never will be. I have known from a young age that I was different and it is no one’s fault I am different. Standing next to them, whether in our teenage years, young adults, or settled in our life now, I feel I am the odd one out. It’s especially hard when I feel compliments come so easy to them. No matter who it is. Family members or strangers on the street. “Wow, you look great!” Things like that. I do not get those types of compliments. It took me a very long time to tell myself “Do not base your self-worth on how you look.” I am better at it at this stage of my life, or, I was better until this person thought I was pregnant, but it is not always easy. A constant work in progress for me. My issues and mine alone.

 

I still feel pretty good about myself. Quite honestly the only issue I have is my weight. I am the type of person who knows how to make things happen. I survived three physically abusive relationships (clearly it takes me some time to learn from my mistakes.) I am so determined. I am stubborn. I may not have hundreds of friends, but the ones I do have, they are pretty bad ass. Quality over quantity. I have no problem cutting anyone out of my life who I feel is an asshole. I am strong. It took me a very long time to find my strength, but I am a strong woman. I am caring, I am loyal I am protective. I have so much more to me than what the number on the scale or the size of my jeans dictates. Come see me in three months, I will have lost weight. Not because I feel pressured to, not because I am shallow, I will have lost weight for me, and for me alone. because I want to.

In my quest to lose this weight, I decided to sorta kinda psych myself out. I had a plan.

I went to the store and bought a pair of pants about a half a size too big. The logic being, I can feel what it is like to wear clothes that are slightly too big, and that would be one part of my motivation to keep me going. I picked out a cute pair of black leggings. Only a half a size too big, just enough to give me a taste, of what it would feel like once I start dropping weight.

I wore the leggings with a cute striped black and white shirt, and a lightweight black vest over it. Remember, wearing the color black the right way could be an excellent optical illusion.  All day long the leggings kept falling down. This should not be happening because I only bought a half a size too big…and we all know there is no way I lost ten pounds overnight.

After a long day of discreetly pulling up my leggings, I come home and prepare to take a shower. I slither my new black leggings off, and something is just not right. With the hot water running, I inspect my new black leggings……I hold them up…..I hold them out….I inspect the tag…….wait a minute…..there it is……this is not right……….something is wrong…….oh my God kill me now.

My new black leggings that I assumed were “only” a half a size too big…..the black leggings that I intended to use as one of many motivation factors……..wait for it……the goddamn leggings were……..are you ready for this……..they were maternity pants!!

Look, do not even ask questions because I seriously have no answers. All I can tell you is somehow my dumbass, the strong, motivational woman who I was talking above, is a strong, motivational flake! I bought freaking maternity pants thinking they were “only” a half a size up. How the hell does that even happen?!?!

So, to recap, I pretty much spent my entire day is pregnant pants!

And…..I am not, nor will ever be pregnant.

After the realization that my dumbass accidentally bought maternity pants, I decided “Whey end there? Let’s take a picture!”

Yeah, I know, at this point all logic has been thrown out the window.

I figured a picture of me in black leggings with a black tank top would be a nice “before” picture to see my starting point once I drop this weight. You follow? Easy enough, what could go wrong?

Vinnie was up, not doing anything,  I grabbed him and told him to take a picture of me. Now, Vinnie already thinks I am nuts with this whole weight-loss thing, but, he sees me in a different light. I am his mother. He does not see me with the same glasses as I see myself, or to take it one step further, as anyone else sees me.

“Mom, you do not need to lose weight!”

“Just humor me and take the damn picture.”

You guys, it was the worst picture ever. Seriously, I am not even kidding. If it were not for the fact that I looked like an overweight washed up porn star, I would post the picture, but there is no way I can. Maybe it was the angle, and by angle I mean Vinnie was too lazy to stand up and take the picture, but, trust when I say it is bad. So so bad.

One day in the very near future I will post the picture, while placing perfectly placed stickers on the areas that need some cover up. I will post my overweight washed-up porn star picture when I lose my first twenty pounds, and I will lose at least twenty pounds because I am both strong and determined.

I have a lifetime of insecurities behind my very large belt that I am now able to stomp on. I am able to take those sour grapes and make something that resembles lemonade out of them.

Just wait, you will see.

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Guest Post: “My Turn”

We have a very special Guest Poster joining us today. Kharizma is a high school student, who participated in a school walkout for the seventeen victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

She is also Christin’s daughter.

Whether you agree or not with her words, she has a voice and we owe it to her to hear them.

My Turn
By: Karizma Crider

I’ve always been into politics but have always gotten the “you’re too young” or “15-year olds don’t know about politics”. Well, now it’s my turn and time for adults to listen up.

My opinion and other teenagers’ opinions should be the only ones that matter when talking about school shootings, what adults have continually failed to realize is that when there is a threat our lives are at risk. When we go on lockdown we are the ones that are scared and hope to go home that day.

Once again what adults don’t know is that when we go into a lockdown we don’t know what’s going on, it could be just a threat or a shooter. Not even the teachers know what’s going on. The fear of “what if” continues like an echo in the cave and the relief of knowing that it’s over is the best news.

The most saddening of it is the hundreds of kids who never got the relief, who never got the best news. All they got was a bullet or a new-found fear of school. School is supposed to be safe. When parents send their kids to school they expect them to come back and recently on February 14, seventeen parents lost their kids and seventeen kids lost their life. 17 kids who had a future now don’t.

I walked out of school for those 17 kids. I stood outside in silence with my fellow peers in silence for those 17 kids. When I got back home (thankfully) all I saw was negativity from these adults telling us we should get suspended and even going as far as being called tide pod eaters. Someone explain to me how standing for 17 minutes in silence for 17 kids that lost their life is so bad to the point of grown men are calling us tide pod eaters, but we are the ones who need discipline. We are the issue right? The teenagers are the issue, but adults are coming up with every way to get out of gun regulation and it’s disgusting.

Why can no one just face the fact that we have a gun problem? Why is it so hard for adults to think about other people? I shouldn’t have to protest for my life I shouldn’t have to write this explaining why its crucial for gun regulations.

I shouldn’t feel scared in school.

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The Elementary Years

The kids are on a four day weekend, while I am still recovering from my near death experience. “Don’t Fear the Reaper” It’s been a pretty quiet three days, something this Vodka Calling household needed.

Tonight, while everyone else was occupied, I found myself scrolling through Facebook. Quickly, I got bored. I mean there’s only so many pictures of food I can see at a time. I needed to be somewhat productive and decided to begin the online application to find a job in the school district my kids go to.

Maybe it was the NyQuil, maybe it was the vodka, most likely a combination of both, but I had the bright idea to look up my old elementary school on Facebook. I am pretty good at finding people on social media, and, well, before I knew it I was in the “Tussing Elementary Alumni Facebook Group.”

From kindergarten through the fourth grade I attended Tussing Elementary school in Colonial Heights, Virginia. I hated that school, and yet here I am in their alumni group.

These fools were trying to plan some sort of reunion, because who does not want to revisit their elementary years?! I am reading the posts, with all these not-so-good memories coming back at me and still, I do not leave the damn group.

One post, in particular, stuck out.

“Attention Tussing Alumni, I am trying to find the following people. If they are on your friends’ list, please add them to the group.”

Quickly, I glance through the list of about 50 names. Not going to lie. For a fleeting second, I thought to myself “How cool would it be if my name was actually on the list?!”

Yeah, my name was not on the list. Why would it be? No one liked me. I seriously had no friends. You could go to any one of these people who attended school the same year I did. Hell, you can even go to my fellow classmates and say “I wonder whatever happened to Jennifer Orotlano?” And they would be like “WHO???!!!!”

Mark my words.

However, what I did find was a bit more…nostalgic.

I found a picture of my kindergarten teacher from the 1978-1979 school year. Now, I was not in this particular class, give it another year or so, and Miss Curtis would be my very first teacher.

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That’s her, on the left!

From that point, it was pretty easy for me to find her Facebook page.

Miss Curtis is no longer Miss Curtis. She is now a happily married retired school teacher.

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Miss Curtis was THE teacher to have. Everyone wanted her, with good reason. I had her, and she certainly lived up to her reputation. Back in the day, the kindergarten teachers would come to your house and do a visit, before the start of school. When Miss Curtis came to my house, in a moment of excitement, I fell down the stairs landing at her feet just as my mother opened the door. We are off to a great start!

Well, now I was on a roll! Who else could I find? Pretty much, anyone, the question is, who else do I want to find?

Miss Reidmiller.

Miss Reidmiller was my art teacher during the years at Tussing Elementary. She was drop dead gorgeous! Now, remember this was the beginning of the 80’s, where big feathered hair and blue eyeshadow were a must-have.

Every year for Halloween, Miss Reidmiller would transform her classroom into a haunted house, with the fifth graders participating in said haunted house. Think witches, goblins, that sort of thing. I have no idea how she did it, but it was amazing. The “Haunted House” (classroom) was open to the public and always had long lines. I of course, never made it through without crying.

I remember one time in art class, we were making kites. The entire class had painted our own individual kites on a Friday, we let them dry in the classroom over the weekend, then on Monday, in art class, we would take them out to see if they could fly. On this Monday morning, Miss Reidmiller was going through the two full-size tables that had our kites laid out. She would call each of us by name, we would then pick up our kite, take it back to our seat and just wait.

Well, because I have the luck of a shoe, I somehow forgot to put my name on my kite. When Miss Reidmiller got to my kite, the only one left on the damn table, she held it up “This one does not have a name on it? Anyone know who it belongs to?”

I was oblivious to my idiot classmates. All they had to do was look around and see little Jenny sitting all by herself without a kite, and boom, process of elimination, but no, that did not happen. What happened was, when no one claimed the kite, Miss Reidmiller held the kite up for all to see.

“Anyone, this one has to have an owner.”

All the kids started laughing, pushing their chairs away from the table

“That’s the ugliest kite there is, it’s not mine!”

Bastards. I wanted to die. So there I was, making the walk of shame up to Miss Reidmiller to claim my kite. She took the kite, placed it in my arms

“It’s a beautiful kite sweetie.”

I was too shy, too embarrassed to look her in the eye. I just took my kite and made the quiet walk back to my table, and ignored the snickers along the way. The way those kids made me feel that day, I will never forget. I mean look at me, here I am thirty plus years later still talking about it, but I will also never forget how Miss Reidmiller made me feel a bit better. Because in my eyes, if this beautiful Farrah Fawcett look-alike teacher thought my kite was beautiful, then that had to mean something.

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Miss Reidmiller, gorgeous as ever!

I started thinking about all my other teachers in elementary school. Miss Jordan was my first-grade teacher. Her attire consisted of mini skirts and heels. The boys loved her, as did their dads, me not so much. Perhaps it has something to do with me peeing in my pants and refusing to admit it….on multiple occasions.

“Jenny, did you have an accident?”
“Nope, no accident, I spilled water.”

“But the “water” is under your desk, and it’s yellow, and there is no cup.”
“It was someone else’s cup!”

Yeah, Miss Jordan and I butted heads a lot!

For second grade I had Mrs. Morris, and when I had to repeat the second grade, I then had Miss Nugent.

Mrs. Morris was a wonderful seasoned teacher who was most likely close to retiring when she had me, so she is, you know, probably dead by now. She always wore the best perfume and was so very patient with me. A class act.

Miss Nugent, she was on to me. She probably got dealt the short end of the straw when it came time for me to repeat the second grade. I do not know what it was, even in the second grade I knew the kids did not like me, and because of that, I just did not want to try. What was the point?

In 3rd grade, I had Mrs. Barfield, who to this day I swear was a lesbian. She always wore pinstripe pants and cute little bow ties, and, well, I do not know, this is how the mind of a 3rd grader works!

One time in class we were taking a spelling test. Another “Jenny” (back then everyone was a Jennifer or a Jenny) was sitting in front me. This Jenny was popular, she had friends and her mother was also a teacher in the building. I was screwed before I even began. Well, good ole popular Jenny was cheating on her spelling test! She had the words written on her arm. Are you kidding me?!?! I spent a week going over the spelling words and here this bitch is writing them on her arm. Well, 3rd grade me was not having it! As soon as Mrs. Barfield called us up to turn in our spelling test in, I told her right then and there in front of everyone “Mrs. Barfield, Jenny has the spelling words written on her arm.”

Complete silence. Mrs. Barfield quietly told me she would talk to Jenny one on one while directing the rest of the kids back to their seat.

You see, my mouth has always gotten me into trouble because, in the end, everyone got mad at me for “telling on” Jenny.

In fourth grade, I had Mrs. Passapoulo. She was pretty nice. She was also 8 months pregnant so I only had her for a week before she left on maternity leave. Anyone want to take a guess on who her replacement was? Jenny’s mother! Not even kidding. It gets better. Jenny was also in my class. So I had Jenny, and I had her mother as a teacher. There was seriously no hope for me. Her mother never liked me because I ratted her precious princess out, and Jenny never liked me because no one else did, so why should she?

In 5th grade, I had Mrs. McDermont briefly. We were about to move, I was going to a new school and I could not be any happier. Mrs. McDermont was a little grey-haired lady who had been teaching for years. She knew it all, no one could get one over on her, except me.

As she was collecting science homework, science homework that I never did, I told her “Mrs. McDermont, I am so sorry but I spilled koolaide on my homework and did not have time to redo it.” Mrs. McDermont looked at me, gave me a hug “Well, I am sorry to hear that dear. It happens. How about you do it tonight?”

Well shit. Now I felt bad. I just lied to this woman who actually believed me. Nervously I raised my hand. “Mrs. McDermont, I am sorry, I lied. I did not spill koolaide on my homework, I just did not do it.” Mrs. McDermont gave me a look. A look at the time I assumed was complete understanding. However going back in time, I realize it was a look of “I know you did not do your homework, I just needed you to admit to it.”

Shortly after that, we moved to a new school. Thank you, Jesus! I know there was a period of time where my parents felt guilty for taking me out of a school I knew a school that I was familiar with. I know my parents felt guilty for moving my sister and me into a new house. Little did my parents know, this was exactly what I needed. I needed a new start, because where I was, well it just was not working for me. It never did.

Lakeview Elementary. I came to Lakeview in the latter half of fourth grade and would remain there for most of my sixth grade. It was a whole new world. However, in the beginning, it was rough.

I was in the restroom one day, a bunch of fellow classmates were also in the restroom making fun of me because I was fat. Being one to never hold my emotions in, I ran out of the restroom crying. My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Mayes, happened to see me come out of the restroom in tears. She took me in her arms, asked me what was wrong, and I told her with tears in my eyes “They called me fat.”

As soon as the class was situated back in the classroom, Mrs. Mayes laid into them. She made sure the class, her class understood that under no circumstance would there be any name calling. Then, Mrs. Mayes started crying as she was telling the class about her days in school when she was made fun of. Never again, from that point on, never again did anyone make fun of me.

In 5th grade, I met my new friend. Stephanie just moved to Colonial Heights from Georgia. Stephanie was tall, skinny and beautiful. I already knew there was no point in me trying to be her friend. I figured all the popular kids would congregate to her. Except, somehow we did become friends. We would sit together at lunch and eventually get to the point where would spend the night at each others house. Stephanie’s mom was a hair stylist and would always cut my hair, trying to teach me the art of “feathering.” Stephanie and I would stay up late, making up a dance routine to Hearts “Never” and Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” while eating junk food and talking about boys.

I had my first crush in 5th grade. Buck Seward. He was a nice boy who somehow was able to look past what all the others were not. We would talk in class and sit next to each other at lunch. When it came time for me to move again, Buck walked me out to my bus for the last time and promised to keep in touch, as long as I would not get fat. I mean I kinda get it. At least at the time, I did.

So, as I am reliving my elementary school days on Facebook, Buck and Stephanie were the first ones I tried to look up. I was never able to find Buck. It’s not like he would remember me, but I did find Stephanie.

Stephanie is absolutely stunning. Going off of her facebook page she is happily married with a little boy.

I am sitting at my computer, looking at her page, coughing, sneezing, in shorts and a stained t-shirt scarfing M&M’s down my throat as fast as I could. I am looking at her pictures, I am reading about her life, are you kidding me?!?! This girl looks better now some thirty years later then she did back in her heyday.

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I told you she was stunning!

At this point, all I could think was “Good thing my Facebook settings are pretty locked down!”

Sometimes I wonder, assuming my fellow classmates actually remember my name, what would they think of me today? Would they feel bad for the way they treated me? Would they even remember? Would it matter? Did I ever matter?

I spent tonight filling out the first portion of the online job application to become a Para in my own children’s school district. It was both intimidating and stressful. When it got to the part of “Former Employer” I was ready to throw in the towel. I have not been a “paid employee” since 2004. No one is going to want a washed up “Housewife.”

Then, once again I was transformed back to my elementary years.

Miss Curtis, she would come talk to me on the playground when I had no one else to play with.

Miss Jordan, as tough as she was, she made me see that life was not going to be easy, and the sooner I learn that, the better.

Mrs.Morris and Miss Nugent, my second-grade teachers, Mrs. Barfield, Mrs. Passapoula, and who could forget Mrs. Mayes, unbeknownst to them, they all in their own way, taught me lessons that would bring me to this point in time. This point right here where I am putting it all on an online job application. My previous teachers taught me so much more than your typical spelling and math lessons. That taught me both what I should and should not strive to be.

So, here I am, stalling with the application, yet in a full circle moment. I need this. This moment right here, the teachers of my past, and my teachers, my mentors in the present, collectively, they will all bring me to my future.

And hopefully, just hopefully I learned something along the way.

horriblepic
Doing what I do best, relating to 3rd graders.

One teacher took a chance on me.
One teacher saw in me what I did not see in myself.
And it is because of this teacher, and all those that came before him, it is because of them that I am here, getting ready to apply for a job in the district.

And now it is time I take a chance on myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Don’t Fear the Reaper”

“All our times have come
Here but now they’re gone
Seasons don’t fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain, we can be like they are

Come on baby, don’t fear the reaper
Baby take my hand, don’t fear the reaper
We’ll be able to fly, don’t fear the reaper
Baby, I’m your man”

 

This past Friday, I had the “pleasure” of accompanying Sofia and her fellow 5th graders on a field trip to Discovery Park in Seattle, Washington. According to Google, Discovery Park is 534-acre park operated by Seattle Parks and Rec. It also happens to be the largest park in Seattle. According to me, I have a different opinion.

Now, between you and me, I did not want to go on this field trip. I was sick, Sofia was recovering from being sick, and walking around for hours on end, down by the water in Seattle on a freezing cold day just did not sound appealing to me. However, it was very important to Sofia that I go, so I did what we all do as parents from time to time and sucked it up.

The day began with about seventy-five 5th graders, three teachers and a handful of parent volunteers boarding two school buses to make the forty-five-minute drive to Seattle. On the first bus, you had Sofia’s class, one teacher, four parent volunteers and half of the kids from another 5th-grade class. Everyone else was on the second bus. Five minutes in once we hit the highway, we are stopped in traffic. Complete bumper to bumper traffic. I had mixed emotions about this. A part of me thought “Hmmm, if we are stuck in traffic long enough, then just maybe we will run out of time and not have time for the field trip.”

(Important to note, the buses were on a very tight schedule. We had to be back at the school by 1:00 so they could pick up the high school kids.)

Then another part of me was like……actually there was no other part of me. I wanted to be stuck in traffic. Even on the damn bus, I was cold, I could not imagine what it would be like walking around in it.

One side of the highway was completely shut down. The police were having the cars turn around and come on to our side of the highway. Perhaps my wish would come true?

It would not be until later that evening that I found out the traffic was due to the threat of a possible shooter at one of our local colleges.

Somehow, we made it through the traffic.

A short while later, we were in the heart of downtown Seattle, a short while after that, we made it to our destination.

The buses unload, the kids are excited. As soon as I stepped off the bus, I knew I was in for the longest three hours of my life. Bone-chilling cold, and wind. I had five shirts on, a scarf, a pretty heavy jacket, and some jeans. I seriously do not know what else I could have done to make sure I was warm.

“Okay kids, this is your last chance to go to the bathroom. If you do not go now, you will have to wait until we come back. This is the only bathroom at the park, so for those of you that need to go, follow me, everyone else line up and wait.”

Sofia and I, along with my group of kids listened intently to Sofia’s teacher explain the bathroom situation, and when I say “bathroom” think more along the lines of an outhouse.

“Sofia, do you need to go to the restroom?”
“No mom, and even if I did, I would not use that one.”

Smart kid.

My group of kids, who I now like to call “The Smart Ones” all took our place where the teacher directed us to wait. Did I mention to you guys how cold it was? Let me paint you a picture. One of the parent volunteers, who happened to be a tall, pretty in shape guy, who was also bundled up in warm clothes said: “We need to get moving, get the body heat going, it’s too cold out here to be standing around doing nothing.”

So see, it was not just me.

Finally, all those who just HAD to use the outhouse returned, and off we went. Directly in front of us was a pretty big hill. Like so steep and twisty you could not even see where it ends. For the love of God please let there be some secret trail that I cannot see from this angle. For the love of God please do not let this be our starting point.

“Okay everyone, I hope you have your walking shoes ready, here we go!”

Well shit.

Here we go, up the damn “hill” although I believe “mountain” is the correct description.

Seriously, this damn “hill” was at least a 15-minute hike. Let me paint you another picture. Sofia’s teacher is a young (ish) man, early 30’s, who previously coached gymnastics. Dude is in shape. Our two other 5th grade teachers are cute young twenty-somethings, who again, are pretty in shape. You see my dilemma.

One teacher, let’s call her “Miss S” took the front, Sofia’s teacher took the middle, and the last teacher, “Miss N” took the rear. What I should have done is hang back with Miss N. She knew what she was doing and she did it at her own pace. However, I was stuck in the middle with Sofia’s teacher, who again is a former gymnastics coach and, well, this “hike” to him was probably the equivalent of walking the streets of Seattle on a lazy Sunday morning.

Finally, we turn off the big hill (mountain) and begin our descent on to another trail, with you guessed it, another big hill.

Are you freakin kidding me?!?!

At this point, the groups were even more disbursed. Miss S’s group was way ahead. The middle group, we were barely making it, kids and parents, it was rough. I mean Sofia’s teacher was breezy, and everyone else probably hoped he would take a jump off of the “mountain.” The last group, they were pretty far behind. Again, this is the group I should have been in.

You guys, it was bad. So so bad. The ground seemed to level off, Sofia and her friends ran ahead to the teacher. I just could not hang and told her I would catch up. I am coughing and wheezing. I am freezing one second, then sweating the next. At one point, as I am hiking up the “hill” I take my jacket off, I take my scarf off, I take one of my shirts off because I am dripping with sweat. About five minutes later, everything comes back on because I was cold again. I just could not win. I am not even kidding when I say all I wanted to do was pass out in the cold, wet, pine needle infused dirt. I felt I was having an asthma attack and I had no idea what to do. I was in the middle of GOD KNOWS WHERE. I felt I needed oxygen, but how in the hell could I get oxygen in the realms of what I consider to be hell? I had a plan. I would text Sofia’s teacher “Do whatever it is you need to do to keep Sofia away from me, but I am about to pass out.”

I would then text Joe. “Seriously, dying in the middle of nowhere, I need oxygen, call the school.”

I am not even kidding, these were my thoughts and it made me sad, and mad.

I just wanted to pass out and sleep. It took everything I had to continue and that is no exaggeration.

What kept me going, I did not want Sofia to be a Kate.

Kate, a character from the ever popular t.v show “This is Us.” Kate has always blamed herself for her dad’s death. I knew if something happened to me here on this god awful “field trip” I knew Sofia would spend the rest of her life blaming herself. I could not allow that to happen. I will meet my death one day, but I cannot go out like this, I cannot go out like Jack Pearson did. I could not allow Sofia to be a Kate.

Sofia is long gone, but I am not worried. She is with her group and there are only so many places she could go. All of the parents, even the tall in shape guy, we were all struggling. All of us parents dispersed somewhere on this “hill” praying to the Gods above to just take us now. My legs were burning, my chest was heavy, I was done. This was the most ridiculous field trip I had ever been on, and say what you want to say about me, call me out of shape, call me a fool, I feel these parents (myself included) should have been better warned about what exactly this trip entailed.

The further we walked the more intense it gets. I could see Sofia way up ahead of me, and no one in back. Directly in front of me was this little boy who was not supposed to even be in my group. He turns around, looks at me. “It must suck to be old.” I am still wheezing I cannot even address the little bastard who is struggling just as much as I am thank-you-very-much. He turns to me again, with an evil smirk. “Good thing I am still young.”

Like seriously? Wheezing as I may I am now looking for a tree branch to trip his sorry little ass.

I grabbed a water bottle from my backpack, took a quick two minutes to guzzle it down, trying hard as I may to get some sort of breath support back into me and I continue on.

I am not sure how much time passed, but finally, I made it to the clearing. By “clearing I mean the edge of a cliff where there was sand and a beautiful view of the ocean. A view that I could not appreciate because I felt like I was dying. It’s cold, it’s windy. The wind is so bad you cannot even tell if it is indeed the ocean you are looking at or some sort of rocky terrain.

“Okay kids, lunch time! Find a seat!”

The bastard was not even out of breath.

Also, “find a seat?” There is like no place to sit except on the wet sand.

I gave my group of kids some candy Sofia and I specifically bought for them. They were so polite, so thankful, but none of them could enjoy the damn candy. Odds are they were in the middle of hypothermia.

Before we knew it, it was time to make our way back to the bus. THANK YOU JESUS!!!!

One would think the hike back would not be as bad since a majority of it was downhill. One would also be wrong.

You guys, I had a parent, a parent who speaks no English but most likely used Google to translate. This parent came up to me, out of breath, in broken English and asked “Did you know, this would be bad? Long walk? You know?”

Of course I did not know! Had I known I signed up for Hell on earth I would have said “Screw this” and Sofia and I would have had a girls day.

Eventually, we all get back to the outhouse. The kids take one more restroom break. I look over my shoulder and notice another parent. Attractive guy, dressed in fatigues, pretty buff. (It’s only now I realize there was lots of eye-candy on this trip from hell) He pours a bottle of water over himself and tells his son “Time to go, I ain’t doing this anymore.” It took everything I had to not ask him if I could hitch a ride with him.

“Fifth graders, we are doing a group picture!”

Are you kidding me? Just put me on the damn bus already. No one wants to do a picture.

Slowly, we all make our way back to the bus. The three fifth grade teachers are right behind me. I overhear them making plans to get together after school, have a drink, unwind, and before I knew it they break out in a “Bone Thugs N Harmony” song, with dance moves.

Just get it over with already. Kill me now instead of allowing me to die a slow torturous death.

Take me back to the comforts of my normal classroom I volunteer in. Where the kids are happy to see me and I have chocolate at my disposal. Where I can sit and watch the little third graders find the “magic piece of trash on the floor” and I do not have to do anything except listen. Just take me back to my normal and save your “Bone Thugs N Harmony” routine for the club….and enjoy it now, because in twenty years from now when your own children go on a field trip from hell, you give me a call and tell me “Jennifer, you were right, I have no idea what I was thinking. And it will be at this point that you forgive me for breaking out into my own rendition of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” while exclaiming “I told you so.”

“Come on baby, don’t fear the reaper
Baby take my hand, don’t fear the reaper
We’ll be able to fly, don’t fear the reaper
Baby, I’m your man”

sofiafieldtrip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valentines Day 2018

Joe and I have never been ones to celebrate Valentines Day. Eleven years ago on Valentines Day, we were getting ready for Sofia to make her grand entrance into this world via a scheduled c-section on February 15th. Our Valentines Day was spent with me packing for my hospital stay, finalizing the time Joe’s parents would come and watch the kids, that sort of thing.

When I had Gracie, it was an emergency c-section. It played out much like you see in the movies. I was being rushed to the OR in hopes that they could get the baby out in time. For Sofia’s planned c-section, I actually had to make the walk to the OR by myself. I did not even have a wheelchair. One of the first things I remember is it was so cold in the OR. I was freezing, shivering. I clearly remember thinking “there is no way I can have a baby, it is too damn cold in here!”

After I was prepped and hooked up to every machine imaginable, Joe was allowed to come in. I asked him “Is it cold in here or is it just me?” I do not remember his response, other than him looking at me like I was crazy, but I do remember the nurses telling me they have to keep it cold because the lights the Doctor needs to perform the c-section are pretty hot. Who knew?

So, there I am laying on the operating table with the divider set in place so I could not see the Doctor cut into me. I have Joe to the right of me, and my anesthesiologist, let’s call him Bob, to the left of me, making sure my vitals are where they need to be. The doctor tells me “You may feel some pressure, maybe a little bit of pulling.” I think to myself, “Yeah yeah, I know the drill, this is not my first rodeo.” At this point, I am just waiting to hear the baby cry. I never heard Gracie cry when she was born, because, well, she was sick. I had read enough books to know that if I hear the baby cry then that is a good sign. I am waiting and waiting. I just need to hear the baby cry, that’s it. Joe keeps looking over the divider, good ol Bob keeps asking me “How ya doing, are you feeling okay?”

Everything was going fine until I noticed that something was burning. I look at Joe “Do you smell that?” Joe pretends he does not hear me. I look at my new annoying friend, Bob,  and ask the same question. “Do you smell that? It smells like something is burning?” Bob gives Joe a quick glance and replies with “It’s something in our electric system, the vents.”

And, in pure Jen form, I freak out. “WHAT?” “Is it safe to be in here?” “Are we at risk for a fire?” “I am in the middle of a c-section, what will happen if there is a fire?” Perhaps I have seen one too many episodes of “Greys Anatomy” or perhaps I just have issues.

Again, Bob looks at Joe, I quickly turn to look at Joe, just to make sure I do not miss any secret signals they may be given to the other. Joe kinda shrugs his shoulders which means “Okay Mr. Anesthrdiologist, ball is your park now!”

I may be wrong, but I may have seen good ol Bob roll his eyes. “Jennifer, may I call you Jennifer? Everything is fine.”

I am not convinced.

“Then what is that smell?! Why does it smell like a fire? I am telling you people something is burning!”

Bob looks at Joe, Joe is looking over the divider. Looks like Bob is on his own with this one.

Bob takes a look at whatever machine it is that displays my vitals. He puts his hand on my left shoulder.

“Jennifer, it’s just the Doctor closing the incision that brought your new baby girl into this world.”

Ummm. Is Bob on crack?!

“No, that’s not right. Why would an incision smell like that? Don’t they just use a scalpel?”

Our friend Bob was pretty much done. Once again looks were exchanged between Bob and Joe, a look that told me “Dude, take control of your wife, I need help here!”

Joe give Bob a nod, Bob is back looking at my vitals, and Joe takes over.

“Jen, everything is fine, they are just closing up the incision, the baby is out, everything is fine.”

Again, in pure Jen form, it kinda took me a second to comprehend what these fools were trying to tell me.

“WHY ISNT THE BABY CRYING?”

Calmly, Joes tells me everything is fine they are just cleaning her up.

I am somewhat able to relax, and order Joe to go be with the baby. I had seen way too many Lifetime movies about kids getting switched at birth, so his ONLY JOB was to stay with Sofia.

Back to Bob. Again, he is making sure my vitals are in check. Apparently, my very small outbursts made one of the machines beep.

I cannot see anything. The divider is in my way, Joe is off with the nurse cleaning up Sofia, and once again, for the last time I look at Bob.

“So wait a minute, you mean that smell I was smelling was me?!?!?!”

I hear some muffled words from the Doctor.

“We are just about finished here.”

Bob looks at me, most likely thanking God that he is just about finished with me.

“I have to tell you, Jennifer, you are very intuned with your body.”

I need a drink, and since I am not breastfeeding I start my countdown on when exactly it is I can have a drink.

“Sooooo, you are telling me that the smell was me?!?!?!?! I need answers!!!”

Bob is now breaking out in a sweat.

“The medical term is cauterization. It is used to help close up the wound from the incision.”

*Long pause*

*Still pausing*

*Almost finished*

“WELL, THAT’S JUST GROSS!!”

Bob looks like he needs a drink himself.

“Yes, typically we do not tell our patients that, but…”

“Are there any side effects?”

Bob is trying to clear up his station while motioning to the nurse to take me to recovery.

“Only temporary nerve damage. It won’t last for long.”

Fast forward ELEVEN FREAKING YEARS.

Guess who still can’t feel the lower part of her stomach?

THIS GIRL!!

Whatever.

The important part of this story is Sofia.

Tomorrow she will be eleven years old. I have absolutely no idea where the time goes. Sofia is one of the sweetest little girls you will ever meet. Unless you piss her off, then she will want to punch you in the face…..because, after all, the apple does not fall from the tree.

sofia 11

 

 

 

 

Serene.

One year ago I met Serene. The school district I belong to was launching a new pilot program to promote family engagement within our school district. Serene, myself along with about thirty other strong, powerful women were chosen to take part in this pilot program.

It was the second training session early one Saturday morning. I pull into the school parking lot at record speed, because naturally, I was running late. Before I knew it,  a cute little SUV pulled up beside me with tires screeching. I breathed a sigh of relief. Clearly, I was not the only one who was running late.

Enter Serene.

In a hurry, we both exited our respective cars, grabbing our belongings, and coffee, trying to pull ourselves together while hoping no one would notice exactly how late we were. Immediately, I took a liking to Serene.

“How ya doing, I’m Serene, are you here for the parent facilitator class?”

With my arms full of notebooks, and my very large purse, I quickly took in the strikingly beautiful woman beside me.

“I am. I mean I am late so I am probably not off to a very good start, but yes I am here…barely.”

Serene and I fall into a nice sprinting rhythm as we make the walk from our cars, across the parking lot to the school. By the time we entered the school we already knew how many kids we each had, how long we had been married and what school our kids go to.

Serene and I are climbing the three flights of stairs to the school library, hoping we can just sneak in unnoticed. Serene asked me “Now, tell me, how did it go last week? I was unable to make it to the first class. How was it?”

Trying not to showcase how clumsy I really am by rushing up three flights of stairs, I look at Serene. “Oh! I have to tell you, it was so much better than what I was expecting. I enjoyed it.”

Serene readjusts her very large purse.

“I see. Now tell me, why do you say that? What were you expecting?”

“Oh I don’t know, honestly, I was not sure what to expect. I thought it was going to be a long day of boring lectures, but it was good. I took notes if you want to take a look.”

We made it up to the library all in one piece and took our seats at a table next to each other. Because of the small and apparently noticeable fact that we were both late, we were then paired up as partners for the day.

It was a good training class. Each one of us had a very detailed book that would serve as our training material. It would also serve as a guide for parents who we would eventually be facilitating. The class was a five-week program, and each week a new topic would be discussed. Everything from the best means of connecting with the teachers, to dealing with racism in school. Pretty intense.

About halfway through our training session, one of the “big wigs” from the district came up to speak to all of the new parent facilitators. You know how it goes, the “big wig” gave us all a pretty bad ass motivational pep talk, she assured us she had faith in us. Her closing words, she looks into the crowd of thirty plus newly nervous parent facilitators and says “This program has been in the work for years. There was a lot of loopholes we had to go through, we had a lot of waiting time to see if we would even get approved for the grant. I would like to give a special thank-you to Serene, who wrote the book that all of you will be using as your guide to facilitate your respective classes.”

I about choked on my orange juice. I look over at Serene, who is trying with all her might to not make eye contact with me. In what I think is a whisper but really is not, I say to her “Umm, hello! You wrote the book?!?!?! In the five hours we just spent together you did not think that maybe that was something you would have brought up?!”

Serene is sitting there, poker face on. This beautiful well put together woman who is dressed to the nines, hands placed perfectly in her lap, trying to keep her poker face intact. “Girl, they were not supposed to mention that. Turn around, shhhh, don’t say anything.”

I look at her. I reposition my chair, I look at her again.

“Fine! Who knew there was a local celebrity in our mix?!”

Serene was on the verge of breaking her poker face.

“Girl, I will beat your butt, now turn around.”

“Fine, but not before I get you to autograph my book. Something along the lines of “To my new BFF Jennifer, you are an amazing….”

“You better stop!”

….

Fast forward one year.
January 2018

Serene and I are back at it. This is the second year the program has been in effect. I am lucky enough to have Serene as my coach. This woman is amazing. The first thing she will tell you, the first thing  she will tell anyone is “I am a woman of faith.” And, it shows. She is such a strong confident woman, who always knows just how to say the right thing.

On Tuesday, as we are getting ready for our class, prepping the room, going over our notes, I looked at her and asked. “How do you know everything you know? Did you go through training, or are you just naturally this wise?”

Serene explained to me that she always likes to listen. She says there is something to be learned from everyone you come in contact with, and it all starts with listening.

….

Today, at the school, we had a meeting. It was Serene, myself, and our site coordinator, Rachel. Now, between you and I, I did not want to be at this meeting. I had two sick kids at home, I was exhausted. I had other school obligations I had to deal with, but this was a paid meeting so I had to “Cowboy Up” put my game face on and be in the moment. Right?

Both Serene and Rachel (important to note, I have a wonderful relationship with Rachel as well) are going to be out of town on Tuesday when we have our next class. What that means you may ask. Well, it means that it will just be myself running the class. Typically, it is Serene and I running the meetings. I feel we do a good job of playing off of each other. I was a bit concerned how Tuesday would play out, and by “concerned” I mean a shit show waiting to happen.

Serene looks at me. “Jennifer, you got this. I know you can do it. Here’s the thing. You stand behind the curtain because that is your comfort zone. It is time for you to stand in front of the curtain, pull that curtain back and announce to the world “I am here, I am here in front of the curtain, I am the main event.”

I told you she was good.

Rachel looks at me, she looks at Serene.

“Serene, I have to tell you, Jennifer is so good with writing. She has a gift. I read her post, I read her blog, she takes me to another place. That is her gift.”

The meeting just got interesting, right?!

Serene gets excited, she sits up in her chair, she looks at Rachel, she looks at me.

“Let’s talk about that Jennifer. So tell me, what are you doing. You are a good writer, so what are we doing to make this happen?”

I already know Serene is going to lay into me in a “mindblown” kind of way.”

“I mean, well, I have a blog.”

I can see Serene get excited. She has something to say.

“Ya know, I was just talking to another young lady about this. A blog is good. It is an outlet, but my question for you, why give away something for free? Here is your assignment, when I see you in two weeks, I want more from you. I want a title, and I want subplots. I want you to write. Just write. Do not worry about getting published, editing, all that jazz, you write something powerful. This is just an example, you write about being the parent of an autistic child, then your subplots would be, how does it affect your marriage? How do you navigate the school system? How does an autistic child affect your other children? You have your topic, you have your subplots, and you write, because this is the gift that God gave you, you make it count. All you worry about is writing and we will check in in two weeks.”

Serene pulls out her phone, goes to her Google calendar and types in “Holding Jennifer accountable, check in.”

Again I say, Serene is a bad ass.

The three of us, Serene, Rachel and myself continue our talk. Rachel brings up how important it is to have like-minded woman standing in your corner, always backing you up. Serene made a reference to the church.

My defense was down.

“I struggle with that. I know my family wants to see me back in church, but it is hard.”

Serene is nodding her head, Rachele is talking about a devotional club she belongs to.

Again, you can see the excitement on Serene’s face.

“Do not even get me started on devotional. Jennifer, that is 365 days worth of writing material right there. You could write daily devotions about dealing with autism, talk about being a wife, a mother. A devotional series is one of the easiest to get into. Let me tell you something. The church is a building. It can be a good building, but the people behind it, well there is your church. A real church is the people who God brings into your life. Like us right now. Three women coming together, this can also be your church, the support, the belief that we are all here to serve God. Jennifer, one year ago, God knew what he was doing. It was his plan for us to meet.

Serene turns to Rachel, “Let me tell you how we met. It was the second week of training and Jennifer and I both pull into the school late…….”

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