Sunday, December 23, 2012

I Am Miss Shuganah: A Heart Centered Woman Living in a Head Centered World

People sometimes approach me on Twitter and tell me my handle is one of their favorites. I thank them.  That indicates to me they get the joke.  Misshuganah or meshugana means "crazy" or "crazy person" in Yiddish.  

I was a very emotional child. Sometimes to the point of hysteria.  My mother will tell me, "You need counseling." An unkind, compassionless thing to say.  I imagine she was frustrated because she didn't know how to help me.

My father, who I was more alike than either of us would have wanted to admit, would routinely push my buttons and then when I would demand an apology from him he would say, mainly to my mother, "Get this mad bulldog away from me."  My brothers, I suspect, shared my mother's assessment of me but kept it to themselves.

From childhood on, I have been called crazy in one form or another by people who have confused my emotionality with mental illness.  Being emotional does not equal mentally ill, although, sadly, on the surface, to most people they appear indistinguishable.  It is for this reason that I am sensitive to people being labeled crazy.   It's too easy a word to use to discredit someone.

When I was in grammar school, these older girls were singing "They've come to take me away.  To the funny farm where life is gay."  At first I thought they were being friendly, because they were pointing at me.  So I smiled back at them. They were singing a silly song and including me on the joke.  After a few minutes I realized that was their not so subtle way of calling me crazy.  My heart sank.

I am keenly aware of being an outsider and not being understood. It has allowed me to be simultaneously strong and vulnerable.I can slide between these two states with ease.  It has also allowed me to be comfortable with other people's dark places.  Because of that, people either gravitate towards me and seek me out as a confidant or they feel ill at ease around me.  I know that I push past many people's emotional comfort zones.  When I was younger that used to make me insecure. Now I do not worry about being disliked.Sometimes, however, I do perceive people having a desire to distance themselves from me, and sometimes that still pains me.

Being an emotional person in a thinking person's world is very difficult.  In clinical terms I come out as INFP on the Myers-Briggs personality tests. That is Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceptive.  My husband is an INTP... T for thinking.  One letter off, but it can create a huge chasm. Most T types dismiss my intuition and my  insights and all that I have to offer because from their standpoint I am lacking in logic.  I am not lacking in logic. Nor am I lacking in critical thinking. What I am lacking in is ways to explain my intuitive feelings to others.

I cannot always provide reasons for what I know.  I just know.  I am perceptive enough to know that "just trust me, OK?" neither gives me credibility nor gains me allies. The tragedy for me is that a lot of times I am right, and, months later, when it turns out I am right, it is too late to do anything differently. I do not say "hate to say I told you so," because I derive little pleasure from it.  Asking me to provide reasons behind my feelings is like asking me to change my personality.  It would be like me saying to a math genius,stop solving math problems or to tell my husband, stop thinking of new ways to improve the world.

There are very few people like me.  We maybe make up four to five percent of the world's population. Makes it hard for people like me to find mentors. Makes it harder still to figure out how to fit into a thinking person's world. I have had many years of therapy.  As a result, I have a more balanced personality. I don't conform emotionally, but I have learned to hold my reactions in check. When I  have an over the top emotional reaction, it feels like a huge personal failure.  I realize that I run the risk of alienating others.

Immature emotional types are perceived in our society is as either drama queens or as too intense.  I joke that I am a drama queen in recovery. I never really was a drama queen in the sense that I was never really that self absorbed.  One can be a drama queen yet, paradoxically, have compassion for others. Emotional maturity is hard fought, all the same.

People like me literally take things to heart.  We take criticism personally. It's taken me many years to figure out that criticism doesn't mean someone dislikes me.  I realize that a person dislikes a flaw, not all of me. Hate the sin, love the sinner. It is out of that realization that I strive towards change and personal growth.  I am very introspective.  Imagine a Princess Hamlet.

I find it objectionable that people prefer to categorize emotional types like me as emotionally unstable.  Too many people try to marginalize heart centered people  like me by saying, "adjust your meds." I don't know statistics of how many heart centered people are mistaken for mentally ill.  Feeling things intensely is neither a crime nor an illness.

Because we are heart centered, people like me feel everything.  And I do mean everything.  When I call myself an empath, I don't do so to brag. I am an emotional receiver. What I've discovered is that this can lead me to a kind of arrogance and suffering.  If I think or feel that someone is blocking their feelings, I can choose to feel their feelings for them.  Years ago I decided to let people feel their own feelings, even if they, by my estimation, do it badly. Because I am a receiver, I sometimes cannot tell if I am feeling my own feelings or those of others in the room.  That may seem very strange to many of you, and no, I cannot explain it in logical or scientific terms.  Being an introvert compounds the problem.  I have found that clearing my second chakra helps a lot.  Allows me to return feelings to their rightful owners.

On our first date, my husband and I went to an animation film festival.  There was one cartoon about zoo animals being interviewed.  The large cat being interviewed ( cheetah perhaps) was saying to the interviewer, "I need space!"  By the time our third date rolled around, my husband was saying that back to me.  He found it amusing that I needed so much space, but he loved me despite what I am sure he perceived as prima donna tendencies.

When I was pregnant with Kid O, we went to a Purim service because we wanted to meet this rabbi.  When we approached him afterwards, this warm, wonderful soul kept stepping closer to me.  I kept moving back.  My husband could hardly keep from laughing.  He understood that this man was unintentionally invading my personal space.

I need more personal space than the average person because I am more sensitive to energy than many others. While I have developed coping strategies over the years, I sometimes feel like energy just about knocks me down. As with anyone, I adapt. The shape of a room affects me.  The furniture affects me. If I am in a room with a TV on, I will sit as far from it as possible even if I find the people engaging.  If I leave a room, it is not because I am disinterested. It may be that I am experiencing informational overload.

Why did I choose to call myself  Miss Shuganah?  Afterall I could have called myself Miss Understood or a number of other jokey handles with considerably less stigma attached to it.  After years of being reacted to as if I were crazy, I decided to celebrate it.  Calling myself Miss Shuganah is my very public way of liberating myself from the stigma that  I have struggled with for the vast majority of my life.  I am proof that talk
therapy can work. I am proof that one can choose compassion over being mean.  I am proof that sometimes sanity prevails in an insane world where events sometimes seem a little too random.  

I understand why society chooses to block out heart centered people like me.  Sometimes I mirror a sick society. Sometimes I insist people honestly address their feelings instead of  burying them. Much as a bird needs a right wing as well as a  left wing to fly, a person needs a heart as well as a brain to be a truly integrated human being.  Perhaps I express my feelings in a more authentic way than most.  Society needs to spend less time trying to force people like me to feel less and more time learning from people like me about what I do best:  living a feeling full life.    

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

An Open Letter To Thirty-Nine Conscience Free Individuals

Note:  I've been since informed that Senator Mark Kirk has not yet officially returned to work, and if so I apologize for casting any aspersions. I am not changing the blog post title because it's already been retweeted etc.  I edited accordingly.

To the Republican Senators who voted against the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:

All thirty-eight of you who voted no are morally bankrupt.

Allow me to refresh your memory about the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The ADA was signed into law
by President George H. W. Bush, a Republican. The amendment to this law, the ADA Amendments Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush, another Republican.  The original law was passed by overwhelming majorities in both the House and the Senate.  That means, ladies and gentlemen, that Republicans joined Democrats in passing the ADA.  While this law is far from perfect, they are steps in the right direction in ending discrimination against disabled people.

The ADA and the CRPD, senators, are both meant to protect disabled people, and give them opportunities they otherwise wouldn't have. Some of you bandied about terms like sovereignty, homeschooling and religious freedom to shore up your flimsy excuses.You use these terms to rile up your base to whom you feed misinformation in order to control them.

Never has any outside body interfered with parents choosing to homeschool their disabled children.  Many of those who voted for you believe you when you tell them this will affect their freedom of religion. You can hide behind your fearmongering, but the fact is this treaty would not impact these parents at all.  This treaty is to ensure that the rest of the world would come up to the standard we in the US have practiced since 1990.

In explaining his no vote, Senator Inhofe said,  “However, I do not support the cumbersome regulations and potentially overzealous international organizations with anti-American biases that infringe upon American society.”

I am uncertain, senators, whether your no votes reflect hypocrisy or mere cluelessness.  Certainly Anderson Cooper's interview with Senator Mike Lee makes him look foolish.

Bruinkid, a diarist at Daily Kos, provides a transcript and video of Jon Stewart's reaction to the treaty vote:

Oh my God.  It's official, Republicans hate the United Nations more than they like helping people in wheelchairs.

I would like to ask Senators Inhofe and Lee and  all the other Republicans who voted no, since when are values such as equality, fairness and dignity anti-American biases? Since when did laws providing protection for disabled people become an infringement on American society?    

In March 2011 I wrote  Landscaper! There's a Weed in My Sod: Why We Need Inclusion in Classrooms and Community  In this blog post I included the video, In My Language made by autism advocate, Amanda Baggs.  At the end of the video she states:

"Only when the many shapes of personhood are recognized will justice and human rights be possible."

What that means, senators, is that unless we recognize and celebrate the many subtle and varied hues  of humanity, we cannot move forward as a civil society. When we place self interests above the rights of all others, we end up the more impoverished for it.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what your no vote does:

Your no vote denies equality, fairness and dignity to my daughter and all other disabled individuals.  
Your no vote diminishes disabled people like my wheelchair bound daughter. Your no vote negates 
not just the disabled among us but our collective humanity.   

What your no vote does not do is break her spirit.  What your no vote does not do is make her less determined to live a full life as independently as possible.  What your no vote does not do is kick my daughter's wheelchair out from underneath her. 

My daughter speaks through her eyes. If you could look into her eyes there would be no denying her humanity. My daughter does not suffer fools gladly. Her smoldering auburn eyes speak volumes, senators.  They would speak of her disapproval.  They would express her outrage.  Then she would take a deep breath.  And then she would laugh.  She would laugh as she always does at the absurdity of people like you thinking you have any real power over her or anyone else.  Even as you place obstacles in her
way, my daughter, the unsinkable Kid O,will day truly speak for herself some day.  And when she does, I assure you, senators, she will very elegantly put you in your place.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Very Rosh Hashanah Teachers Strike

My mom, who was a CPS high school French and Spanish teacher, died last March at the age of 92.  There were many Septembers when she would be walking the picket line.  My dad, who taught at Daley College, would be walking his picket line, too.  Never did I dream that, many, many years later, I would be a parent at the time of a teacher's strike.

As it became clear that a strike was imminent, I tweeted about my support for the teachers while at the same time hoping it would be short and sweet.  During the strike I would tweet things like, "Teachers strike, Day Four."  Or "Sanity Watch, Day Four."  Since my folks had been educators, I had a natural built in affinity for teachers.  The interior whine inside my head was, "The kids just went back to school.  Why do you have to do this now?"

I knew why it had to be right then.  I have seen two teachers leave their positions.  I have seen a third railroaded.  Whenever good teachers leave, kids lose out. Teachers neither have the resources nor the support they need to teach Gen Ed kids let alone the most challenging segment of the population.

As I walked south on Narragansett towards Oak Park, I encountered picket line after picket line. Was a beautiful day for a walk to shul.  Was a beautiful day to give a thumbs up to all the teachers I passed along the way.  For a while I was too emotional to speak.  I don't know if the teachers noticed that I had tears in my eyes.

Somewhere there is a photo of my mother from either the 60s or the 70s.  She is walking in front of Bowen High School, and talking with a woman with whom she had had violent disagreements about Israel and Palestine.  I remember many a time when she would come home fuming about her. But in that instant my mother is smiling as the two women walk in solidarity for a fair union contract.

As I walked past the men and women on the line,  I wondered if my mom were somehow able to witness the strike.  Towards the end of my walk, I was finally able to speak.  "With you in spirit," I called out. What I really meant was, "My mother is with you in spirit."  If she were still alive, she definitely would have been expressing her support.

Part of me wanted to ditch going to Rosh Hashanah services and hang out with the teachers.  I came really close to doing that.  I also knew that I needed a Rosh Hashanah experience, and so I propelled myself forward the final blocks to the church where this congregation holds High Holiday services.  As I
sat in the row, I felt I had the best of both Rosh Hashanahs.  Solidarity with striking teachers and praying with the secular Jews who resonate with my atheistic yet, yes, deeply spiritual connection with my Jewish roots.

I took a bus partway home.  As I walked the final few blocks, I saw sign after sign announcing Proud Union Home in solidarity with the members of Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1.  Better yet were the Support Our Teachers signs.  At  least one was homemade.

It did my heart good to see those signs.  I remember when even a friend's husband used to taunt my mom with "Those who can,do. Those who can't, teach."  I remember my mom telling me that some of our neighbors accused her of helping me learn to read, as if her being a teacher somehow made my early reading some kind of educational cheat.  I taught myself how to read, but what if she had helped me?  Isn't
it a teacher's job to teach?  What if our neighbors had been teachers?  Would they have begrudged their children any opportunity to learn?

I was grateful for the opportunity to connect with the teachers, even if only momentarily.  My mom inspired me to be a teacher.  I got a Master's in English and was a part-time instructor at several community colleges before moving on to the more stable job of legal proofreader.  I remember all those times, years after her retirement, when my mom would be stopped by former students.  "You don't remember me, but I was in your Spanish class."  Even when my mom was in the nursing facility after her last fall, middle aged women
put two and two together and realized that the elderly woman who looked vaguely familiar and eating at a table with their elderly mothers was none other than their former high school teacher.  Even in a nursing facility with many residents there for rehab, they were excited to see her.

The strike was at an inconvenient time, yet it was also the perfect time.  No better time to reflect on beginnings and endings and renewing connections.  So, thank you, Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1.  You gave me a Rosh Hashanah filled with meaning and one I will never forget.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Bright Future Right At Home

A baby girl prematurely pushed her way into the world.  It wasn't easy, considering that her mother had been given belladonna as most women were at the time.  She spoke far earlier than she walked.  "Take the baby to the park," she would say, referring to herself in the third person.

Her mother, an immigrant woman who had descended from a long line of rabbis, reluctantly gave her little girl bacon.  It would give her strength, the doctor advised.  Her husband, who saw an opportunity for a ham sandwich, had his requests sharply turned down.  If he wanted ham, he would have to go to the diner for it.

The little girl's parents took in her father's brothers and their families, so their apartment always seemed full.
Some would stay but a few days, others a few weeks and some others would stay for months at a time.  Between that and running a millinery store, the little girl's mother got worn out.  Later on she would learn that
her mother had had a nervous breakdown. While her mother recuperated, the little girl went to school in a one room schoolhouse in Michigan.

Two years later, the little girl woke up with a sore throat, a scarlet tongue and a fever  She had scarlet fever, and was very sick. She was bedridden for a long, long time.  Since they lived above the millinery store, her mother was able to take time to give her lunch and play the piano to cheer her up.  When the little girl recovered, she had to learn to walk all over again.  She never really relearned how to walk like an eight or nine year-old girl would.  Many years later she would explain to her own daughter that physical therapy was only available for the wealthy, and that is why she never recovered her gait.

Her cousins wanted her to go some place with them. The girl called up her father to ask for permission. Much to her consternation, she was unable to hear him. It was only  then that she realized that scarlet fever had left her deaf in one ear.  That did not hinder her ability to learn languages.  She never learned to lipread. She adapted by learning how to position herself so that no one was ever speaking into her bad ear.  Few people ever knew.

"Sis, " her father asked her, "will you open the store tomorrow morning?"

"Yes," she murmured.

What her father didn't realize was that his teenaged daughter was sound asleep.

The following morning the store didn't open on time.  Her father slapped her face.  It's the only time
he ever did.

One day her father took her to the campus of Northwestern University.  "You will go here one day," he said.
Then he took her to the campus of the University of  Chicago.  "Some day you will go here, too."  She attended both universities, but not before spending a year and a half  at the Sorbonne.

The young woman stood on the deck of the SS Normandie.  While she was disappointed that she had to cut short her studies at the Sorbonne, she realized the dangers that Hitler's invading armies posed to her safety. No doubt her aunt and uncle would have to do something drastic  to survive  the war.  She wondered, too, when she would next hear from them.  She figured that they would somehow be OK.

As she gazed out over the Atlantic, the young woman wondered when she would hear from the
person who was supposed to contact her once she got back home. She was to hand over the
silver fox stole she had agreed to smuggle into the States on behalf of this family.  She had a hunch that there were things sewn into the stole's lining.

The young woman pushed all of that out of her mind. Her thoughts shifted to the life she had left behind in Chicago.  Soon she would be reunited with her mother, father, and kid brother.  While she would miss her friends at the Sorbonne,  she looked forward to once again working in her folks' millinery store.  She was excited about enrolling at Northwestern in the fall. She would miss Paris, City of Light,  but she felt certain she had a bright future right at home.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Moments Between a Little Girl and Her Mother

One warm day a little girl and her mother were walking down the street.  The little girl wanted to run across the lawn and ring the bells in the church bell tower.  Her mother didn't know why her little girl wanted to run. Just that she wanted to.  She held on to the little girl's hand really tight.  At first the little girl strained against her mother's grasp but then she stopped.
The little girl stood on the stairs and watched her mom sweep the steps.  "What is your name," her mom asked.

"Debbie Mouyay," the little girl replied.

"What's your name," her mom persisted, trying to get the little girl to say Miller.

"Debbie Mouyay," the little girl said loudly.

"What's your name," her mom asked yet again.

"Debbie Mouyay," the girl said in an exasperated tone.
The little girl watched her mom do the laundry.  "I want to be a mommy when I grow up."   That was already the little girl's second career decision.  Her first was that she wanted to be a clown, which she had announced one morning at the breakfast table.  This announcement pleased her mother more.
One summer day her mother promised her ice cream.  The little girl never got her ice cream that day.

"But you promised," the little girl cried.

Her mother never gave a reason for the broken promise.  The little girl never believed promises ever again.
The little girl held onto her mother's hand as they crossed the street to talk to the neighbor ladies.  The little girl felt shy and a little bored.  She went underneath her mother's dress.  She looked up and saw her mother's legs and her mother's panties. After a moment she came out from there.
The little girl came down the stairs one day and asked her mom, "what am I?"

Her mom looked up from the piano and said, 'You are a Jew," guessing correctly that the little girl was not asking about whether she was a boy or a girl.

The answer pleased the little girl, and filled her with pride.
The little girl had tears in her eyes as she ran home from the neighbor's house. She had just been accused of killing "Our Lord," and sought her mother out for comfort.

"What's a Christian," she finally asked her mother.

"A Christian is someone who follows in the footsteps of Christ," her mother explained.

The little girl imagined people walking from giant footprint to giant footprint..  She was still unsure what a Christian was, but she kept it to herself.
The little girl was being unusually rambunctious.  She was running around and around the dining room table.  Her mother,  playing hand after hand of solitaire, was uncharacteristically taciturn.  "You wouldn't be behaving that way if you knew your grandpa had died." The little girl stopped playing.
The little girl's mother used to read to her from Arabian Nights and other stories.  She would kiss the little girl on the cheek and say, "See you in the morning, Mirtsishem.  (God willing.)
The little girl was teased at school.  Her mother would say, "They are jealous of you because you are
smart."  "They are jealous of you because you are pretty."  "They are jealous of you because you are pretty and smart."

The little girl never really believed that, but she knew her mother was doing her best to console her.
One night the neighbor ladies came over for a coffee klatch.  The little girl watched from the stairs and listened to the women greeted one another.  After they left the little girl went up to her mother.  "They don't really like each other, do they?"

"No," her mother replied.
The little girl's mother taught her that if you put the leaf of an African violet in water, a root would eventually grow and you could start a new plant.
The little girl used to watch her mother weed the lawn.
The little girl sat in the window and watched the snow fall.  She was happy when her mom came home. That was the beginning of the blizzard.

The little girl and her dog played in the snow.  Later on her mother made her hot chocolate.
The little girl went with her mother to the polling place in the church.  She watched her mother flip the lever for the entire Democratic ticket and then flip up the ones she did not want.  When her mother was done voting, the curtain to the voting booth opened up and they went home.
One evening the little girl and her mother took their dog on a long walk.  She wanted to show the little girl where her dad was taking classes in night school so that he could teach data processing.
When the little girl's dad started teaching, he wouldn't come home until well past her bedtime.  The little girl asked her mother to wake her up so she could spend time with him.   Her mom would do that.  The little girl would stay up about a half an hour with her dad and then go back to bed.
The night the little girl and her mom and dad were moving, the little girl's dad had to teach.  The little girl and her mom sat in the parking lot along with the rest of their things.  They went to a nearby diner and carried dinner back to the car.  The little girl  read comic books out loud to her mother.  They laughed.
The little girl's mother would tell her, "I love you.  Don't forget."  The little girl grew up.  She never forgot.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Billy Bob Bear Comes Home

Billy Bob Bear was birthed in the back of a bar one chilly night. Months later, his mother dressed him up in a purple tie, a fuchsia vest and a tall striped hat and tearfully nudged him past the pool tables to the front of the bar. "I hope," she said with a quivering voice, "someone kind will give you the home I cannot provide."

The bartender looked up at Billy Bob Bear's mother. "And just what do you expect me to do with him?"

"This is no place for a young cub to be raised," Billy Bob's mother said sadly.

"I will find someone to take him home before the night is out," the bartender said in a gravelly, cigar stained voice.

"Thank you," Billy Bob's mother said meekly. She kissed her little boy bear on the cheek and said, "Now you go and be a good boy bear."

"I will Momma," he promised. Billy Bob Bear waved goodbye to his mother, but she had already gone. He wiped away tears with his pudgy paw.

"Sit over there," the bartender said, indicating a place on the shelf between beer bottles.

Billy Bob Bear sat very, very still for what seemed like a very long time. Suddenly he saw a blonde middle aged woman sit down. She seemed a little preoccupied. Maybe she will take me home, he hoped. After a while, the bartender approached the woman. "You want a bear," he asked, pointing to Billy Bob.

"No, not really," the woman replied.

"You're Bev, right? You come here every so often," the bartender persisted, "and you seem like you're not such a bad dame."

"Thank you," she stammered.

"This is Billy Bob Bear. His mother left him here with me," the bartender continued. "I told her I'd help him find a good home."

The woman looked up at the bear. He smiled shyly down at her. Bev's heart melted. "Oh, I cannot leave him here all alone."

The woman fed Billy Bob Bear a good dinner of fish sticks and berries. He ate until he was good and stuffed. The woman looked at the bear. "I cannot keep you," she murmured. "We don't have a lot of room, and you need a family that will appreciate you. But you can stay here for the time being."

Billy Bob Bear barely slept. He tossed and turned. He was scared. The woman seemed kind enough, but if she didn't have room where would he go? He loved the room he was in. It was so cozy. He knew he'd find none better. "Perhaps if I danced or sang," he thought, "maybe then Bev would change her mind."

In another room, Bev, sat up watching late night TV. Billy Bob Bear was so sweet. He needed a good home. She had been arguing again with the cousin who owned the house she and her family lived in. She knew it was only a matter of time until she and her family would be forced to move. The cousin wanted to raise their rent well beyond what they could afford. She sighed wearily. Poor little bear. She couldn't tell her problems to him, and she knew he was badly wanted to stay with them.

Bev thought about the people she knew and wondered who would want to take Billy Bob Bear in. She thought about the woman down the street who had the little crippled girl. Every other day she saw the woman pushing the stroller to the el to take her child to some appointment or other. The woman was shunned by the neighbors. Why, Bev could not understand. Every time she saw Bev and Bev's mother, she lit up. Probably the only conversations the woman had. Bev decided that this woman needed something cheery in her life. Surely this woman would give Billy Bob Bear a home.

Early the following morning, Bev knelt down by Billy Bob. She gave him a bowl of oatmeal. As the bear ate, she spoke to him. "I am not sure, but I think this woman down the street will take you in. She has a little girl who is crippled," she explained, "and I bet
you would brighten things up for them." The bear frowned. "What does crippled mean," he asked. "It means that the girl cannot use her arms or legs very well." The bear wiped his chin. He wasn't sure about being with a girl who couldn't walk or put her arms around him. "The little girl's mom seems very nice," she continued. "I bet she will love you and the little girl will, too."

"Why can't I just stay with you," he asked. Bev sighed. "I wish you could," she said, "but we cannot keep you here." Billy Bob Bear tried not to cry. "Please," he pleaded. "You seem so nice." "I am sorry," the woman replied. "I know you will be well treated by the neighbor lady."

If she wants me, the bear thought, dejectedly. What, he wondered, would become of him if the woman said no? If she had a crippled girl to take care of, she might not want him. And then what? He was certain Bev wouldn't kick him out, but he also knew he couldn't stay indefinitely. The oatmeal felt like lead. He fell into a fitful sleep.

Billy Bob awakened to voices. Sounded like someone outside. He moved stiffly towards the window and peered outside. He saw a middle aged woman pushing a skinny little girl in a stroller. That must be the crippled girl, he thought. The girl caught his eye. She looked up and smiled at him. Then she giggled. Right then he knew he wanted to stay with her. He listened intently. "I'll be back for the bear in a few minutes," the woman announced, as she strollered the little girl back to their apartment. Billy Bob Bear could hardly believe it. He was going to have a place he could call home. He also knew that he and the girl would have a lot of fun together.

Bev lowered the bear down to the woman's awaiting arms. The woman looked down at the big white bear with his huge hat. He was much larger than her Kid O. She thought of him as more of a guardian than as a playmate. The woman smiled at him as she carried him up the stairs to their second floor apartment. He wasn't sure yet about her, but he couldn't help but smile back. "My little Kid O will just love you," she said. Billy Bob Bear knew Kid O already did love him. And he knew he loved her, too. He settled in near Kid O's crib. As Billy Bob Bear dozed off, he smiled to himself. He knew he had come home.