The Family

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic
Zoe has nine brothers and sisters. Sometimes, it feels like Zoe is in the army with her strict drill sergeant-like mom constantly wanting order and discipline. But then Zoe is diagnosed with depression and that complicates things. Zoe ends up going to church and realizes that maybe there is even more to life than her family and depression. Could God really work through Zoe and her brothers and sisters?

Submitted: September 27, 2014

A A A | A A A

Submitted: September 27, 2014



Chapter 1


Beep. Beep. Beep.

I groaned and rolled over. I could hear Cassie doing the same thing in the bed beside me.

Six o’clock is insanely early. Everyone in the house is required to get up that early. When there are eleven people in the house, it takes that long to get everyone ready.

“What’s your shift, Zoe?” Cassie asked me as she turned on the light.

“I am on the food crew this week,” I replied with a grimace. I hate cooking.

“I am laundry,” Cassie said.

In a house this big, we are put on a different rotational work shift every week so that all the chores will get done. There is laundry, cooking, and dishes. When you are cooking, you have to get going quickly in the morning because the shift reports at six twenty.

I reluctantly pulled on a pair of jeans. Then, I turned my back and changed out of the sweatshirt I had worn to bed into a clean one when Cassie wasn’t looking. I didn’t want her to see what I had done last night.

I threw my hair up and then went downstairs.

“Do you want to do eggs, sausage, or toast?” my ten year old brother David asked me.

“I want to do toast,” my eight year old sister Lynn said as she came into the room.

“I guess I will do eggs,” I said.

We got out our food and cooking supplies and quietly got started. Maybe we would be more talkative when we were making dinner tonight.

“Didn’t you see the breakfast menu?” my mom cried as she ran into the kitchen.

I shot a look at David.

“Today was supposed to be bacon! The sausage is tomorrow!”

“So we will just eat bacon tomorrow,” David said.

“What’s the point of making a menu if no one is going to follow it?” My mom stalked out of the room.

My mom can be like a drill sergeant at times. She is constantly getting after us about something or other. In a house this size, she wants perfection.

Like I said earlier, there are eleven people currently living in this house. I have nine brothers and sisters, but my brother Brian is in college right now. So besides my mom and dad there is Cassie, a senior; me, the sophomore; Charlie, the freshman; Holly and Penny, the thirteen year old twins; Marco and David, the ten year old twins; Lynn, who in eight; and Katie, who is four.

I hate living in a house this size. There are so many people and so many rules. I hear that only children are pretty lonely but having nine siblings is just as ridiculous.

“Are you about done?” my mom asked as she came back into the kitchen.

“I’m done,” I said as I put my eggs in a serving bowl.

“I’m done,” Lynn replied.

“I’m done too,” David said.

We sat down at the table where everyone was waiting hungrily (we have to report to meals at a certain time too). We started passing food around. I was not hungry though. If I took nothing or very little, everyone would notice. If I didn’t eat it, I would get in trouble for wasting food.

I finally took some eggs and really spread them out on my plate.  I still had to force the small serving down but thankfully no one noticed.

“All right,” my mom ordered when we were finished, “dish crew get those dishes in the sink so that you can do them after school. Let’s get to school.”

I reluctantly got up and grabbed my backpack. I wished I were back in bed.


Chapter 2


“Zoe?” my history teacher said.

I looked at Mr. Freeman in confusion. Had he just asked me a question?

Mr. Freeman signed. “Please pay attention, Zoe. Can somebody help her out?”

I had always found history boring and because of that, I had always struggled to focus. Lately though, I am finding it difficult to concentrate in all my classes. I just don’t enjoy school anymore. I am also not doing my homework.

The bell rang, dismissing us for lunch.

“Can I see you a minute, Zoe?” Mr. Freeman asked.

“I will save you a spot, Zoe,” my friend Mia said.

I went up to Mr. Freeman’s desk. I had a feeling this had to do with not paying attention.

“Sorry about earlier,” I said, hoping I could get out of here quickly.

“That’s not what I wanted to talk to you about; though I am disappointed you weren’t paying attention.”

Then what was wrong, I wondered.

“I know the guidance counselor talked to you a couple weeks ago about all your missing assignments. I am a bit concerned because you haven’t turned in several assignments since then.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Freeman. I will do better.”

“Zoe, I know you better than that. What is going on?”

“I just haven’t really felt like doing my homework lately. I know that is a lame excuse but it is the truth. I promise I will work harder.”

I could tell Mr. Freeman didn’t believe me.

“Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you, Zoe.”

“Thanks, Mr. Freeman.” I rushed out of the room before he could say another word.

“What was that about?” Mia asked once I had gotten my lunch tray and taken a seat.

“He just wanted to get after me for not paying attention,” I lied. I really didn’t want to talk about it.

“Aren’t you hot, Zoe? It has got to be close to eighty degrees and you are wearing a sweatshirt.”

“I am fine,” I said. I couldn’t tell Mia why I was wearing a sweatshirt.

Mia then went on about her community service group and the work they were doing at the daycare. I pretended to listen while playing with my food.

Finally, the bell rang, ending Mia’s conversation. I quickly dumped my tray and reluctantly went to my next class.


Chapter 3


“So do you think you can get out of chores tonight?” Mia asked after school.

My mom will let us get out of chores once a month, as long as no one else working on our shift has asked for the day off.

I tried picturing the calendar to see if anyone had requested tonight off.

“I think so,” I answered.

“Would you like to come over for dinner tonight?”

I really like Mia. She is my only friend. Lately though, I haven’t felt like hanging out with her. I just feel like being alone. My mom thinks that it is good for me to hang out with Mia since I am not very social.

“I will call you if I can,” I said as I picked up my heavy backpack and slung it over my shoulder.

I slowly walked home and had a quick snack with everyone else even though I wasn’t hungry. I called Mia to tell her I could go to dinner and then went to my room to do my homework.

I was finding it very difficult to concentrate. I finally pushed aside my history homework with a sigh. At the rate I was going, I would never get it done.

My mom was going to be checking my homework later tonight. She started doing that after the meeting with my guidance counselor.

“I don’t understand you, Zoe,” my mom said on our way home from the meeting. “You are a smart girl. Why aren’t you doing your homework?”

How can I do my homework when it is difficult to concentrate? How can I do my homework when all I think about is how my future is hopeless and life is meaningless?

“Are you done with your homework?” Cassie asked as she looked over at me from her desk.

“I have a dinner date with Mia’s family tonight. I will finish it when I get back.”

“Whatever,” Cassie said as she went back to her homework.

I stood up and went downstairs.

“Is your homework done?” Katie asked in a singsong voice.

“Mind your own business,” I replied irritably.

“Is that a very nice way to talk to Katie?” my mom asked. “She is only four.”

“She may be four but she has got the attitude of a teenager,” I retorted.

“Are you going to Mia’s now?”


“Well, have fun. And when you come back, I will check your homework.”

I really didn’t care that my homework wasn’t done. It is not like anything would happen. My mom could ground me all she wanted. I didn’t belong to any activities and the only friend I had was Mia.

“Come on in,” Dr. Adams, Mia’s dad said after he answered the door. “How have you been?”

“Fine,” I lied with a fake smile.

“Aren’t you warm in that sweatshirt?” he asked.

“I’m fine,” I said as I headed off to find Mia. I found her upstairs working on history homework.

“Have you finished this already?” Mia asked.

“No. My sisters wouldn’t leave me alone.”

“Still, I wish I could have your life. Nine brothers and sisters would make life interesting.”

“I’ll trade you anytime (Mia is an only child).

“Time for dinner!” Mrs. Adams called.

“Come on!” Mia said excitedly.

We went downstairs and into the kitchen.

Mrs. Adams had made chicken pasta, cherry jello, and corn. It all smelled really delicious. Too bad the idea of food made me want to gag.

We all sat down and grabbed hands.

“Lord,” Dr. Adams prayed, “thanks for this delicious meal and the hands that prepared it. Please bless those who are less fortunate than us. Amen.”

“Amen,” the rest of repeated.

I am not one for religion and the Adams know it. I go along with the meal time prayer though because I am a guest in their house and it really doesn’t hurt me to pray.

The food started going around the table. I took a little of everything so that I wouldn’t appear rude. Then, I forced down each bite and willed it to stay down.

“Aren’t you hungry, Zoe?” Dr. Adams asked.

“I had a big lunch,” I lied, hoping that Mia wouldn’t remember that I had hardly touched my food.

“Please have a little more pasta,” Mrs. Adams said. “You are nothing but skin and bones.”

I reluctantly stretched out my arm to take the pasta. The sleeve to my sweatshirt came up and I almost dropped the bowl as I went to pull it down.

The rest of the meal passed with pleasant conversation as Mia talked about something that happened at school. I couldn’t get over the feeling that Dr. Adams was watching me though. Had he seen me grab the bowl earlier?

“Mia,” Dr. Adams said after dessert, which I had just played with, “why don’t you help your mom with the dishes?”

“Ok,” she said as she jumped up from the table.

“Zoe,” he said as he turned to me, “can I talk to you alone?”

“I really need to be getting home so that I can finish my homework, Dr. Adams.” I stood up from the table.

“This will only take a minute,” he said as he grabbed my arm and steered me out of the kitchen. He led me down the hall and into the rec room. “Take a seat.”

I sat down on the edge of the couch. Dr. Adams sat down right beside me.

“I saw your arm at dinner,” he began.

I knew he had seen my arm. That is why he was staring at me. I was in big trouble!

“May I?” he asked as he gestured to my wrist. He didn’t wait for my answer. He took my arm and pulled up the sleeve. Then, he sat in silence as he stared at the cuts on my wrist.

“How long have you been doing this?” he finally asked.

“Maybe a few months?” I said quietly.

“Have you had feelings of sadness or thoughts of worthlessness?”

“I guess.”

“And I am guessing at dinner you had no appetite?”


What did the cuts on my wrist have to do with my appetite?

“And have you had problems concentrating?”


What was wrong with me?

“You probably have depression,” Dr. Adams said finally.

“Depression?” I repeated.

“Yes, but don’t worry though. We will get this taken care of. We just need to talk to your parents.”

“Oh, no; can’t you just write me a prescription? They don’t need to know!”

“You are a minor, Zoe. I need your parents’ consent. So we might as well go get that now.”


Chapter 4


“Ooh, what is wrong with you?” Marco asked when I walked into the living room with Dr. Adams.

“Shut up!” I said.

“Zoe and Marco; be nice to each other,” my mom ordered. “Now, what is going on?”

“Could I have a moment to talk to you alone?” Dr. Adams asked.

“Kids, please leave the room,” my mom demanded.

My dad looked like he was torn between leaving the room and staying.

“You can stay, Mr. O’Hara,” Dr. Adams said.

My dad looked relieved that someone had made the decision for him.

“So what is going on?” my dad asked confidently.

Dr. Adams looked like he didn’t know how to begin. How do you tell someone about a mental illness without making it worse.

“This evening at dinner,” he finally began, “Zoe reached across the table and the sleeve of her sweatshirt came up.”

My parents looked confused. I could see that they were having trouble figuring out where this was going.

“After dinner, I asked to look at her wrist. My suspicions were correct. There were cuts on Zoe’s wrist.”

“Well, I don’t know what Zoe would have cut herself on,” my dad said. “Are the cuts infected?”

“I don’t think those are the kid of cuts Dr. Adams is talking about,” my mom said. “He is talking about Zoe purposely cutting herself.”

“Why would Zoe do a thing like that?” my dad asked wondrously.

“I think Zoe might be depressed,” Dr. Adams answered.

“Depressed? Why would you think that?”

“Well, take Zoe’s problem of not getting her homework done. That can be caused bya loss of interest in ordinary activities as well as the inability to concentrate. Those are both symptoms of depression.”

“Marco didn’t get his homework done for today,” my dad said. “Does that mean he is depressed?” I could tell that he wasn’t taking this seriously.

“Zoe also has no appetite. That is another symptom of depression.”

“And most girls her age are concerned with their weight.”

“Would you please take Zoe to see your family doctor and get a second opinion?” Dr. Adams pleaded.

“You would just tell that doctor that you think Zoe is depressed.”

“We’ll make the appointment,” my mom told my dad.

“That’s all I am asking,” Dr. Adams said. “Untreated depression can lead to serious consequences.”

“Thanks, Dr. Adams.” My mom stood up and escorted him to the door. Once she returned, she looked at me. “Go get whatever you have been cutting with.”

I really needed to cut right now. I was feeling the usual overwhelming sadness as well as anger at being discovered.

I grabbed the razor from where I had hidden it in my desk and then went downstairs to give it to my mom.

“Now, go finish your homework,” she ordered.

I went upstairs but I knew I would do no homework tonight.

“Phone, Zoe,” Holly told me.

I grabbed the phone and then went into the bathroom so that I would have a little privacy. That is probably the worst thing about this house: Almost no privacy.

“Hello,” I said.

“Hi, Zoe. What is going on? My dad just came home but he wouldn’t tell me anything.” 

I knew that someone was listening outside the door. I didn’t really want them or Mia to know my problems.

“It’s nothing,” I lied.

“You aren’t sick, are you?”

“It’s nothing,” I said firmly. “Look, I need to go.” I hung up before she could protest.

I went back to my room and crawled into bed, fully clothed, with the light on because Cassie was still awake.


Chapter 5


It was confirmed that I had depression. My mom thought I would benefit from talking to someone, so she arranged for me to see Dr. Evanesa, a psychiatrist who was very interested in my family.

“So what is life at home like with nine brothers and sisters?” she asked after I told her where I fell in my family.

“It’s awful. We all call my mom a drill sergeant.”


“She is so strict and things have to be done a certain way. For example, the other day I was on the meal shift and we got yelled at because my brother read the menu wrong and made sausage instead of bacon. She didn’t care that the bacon could just be for the next day.”

“Why do you mean by meal shift?”

“Every week we are assigned a new chore. There is cooking, laundry, and dishes. We are put on a team and we are responsible for that chore for the entire week.”

“Is anything else scheduled?”

“Showers, what time you wake up and go to bed, homework. My whole life is controlled by my mom’s stupid schedule! You know, sometimes I think my life would be so much easier if I didn’t have such a big family. And not just for the obvious reasons like more money and space. Sometimes I am teased because I have such a big family. I once met a girl that had five younger brothers and she told me that she was also made fun of for the size of her family. Well, I have nine brothers and sisters and I am teased all the time!”

“Just breathe, Zoe. The size of your family is not under your control.”

“Try telling that to people when they find out about me.”

“Maybe you should tell them.”

“Maybe.” I didn’t see how it would really make a difference.

“It sounds like your life is really all about your family, whether you like it or not. Is there anything you do just for yourself?”

I didn’t have any interests. I wasn’t good at sports. I was only an average singer. And with depression, I really hadn’t felt like doing much of anything in awhile.

“I don’t have any interests,” I said.

“Do you belong to any school activities?”

“No. I am sure my mom wouldn’t even let me go out for anything. My grades have kind of dropped since I got depressed and no longer felt like doing my homework.”

“Well, hopefully that will change now that you are getting help. Is there anything you want to try?”

“Not really. I am not much of a people person. I only have one friend.”

“And what is that friend involved in?”

“Church and community service.”

“And do any of those things interest you?”

“Not really.”

“Zoe, I am going to challenge you to find an interest and get involved. Find something that will make you happy.”

“But since I don’t know what makes me happy I am going to have to try everything,” I protested.

“Make a list of possibilities. Just don’t let yourself get too overwhelmed. Let me see your list next week.”

As I walked out of the office, I couldn’t think of a single thing to put on my list. If Dr. Evanesa was going to give me homework though, then I would just lie and put church and Mia’s community service group on my list so it would look like I was making an attempt at listening to her advice.

Chapter 6


The next day after school, it was my turn to do the vacuuming. We are assigned additional chores on an individual basis throughout the week. I was supposed to vacuum and then do my homework.

“You are not going to be treated any differently because of your depression,” my mom said.

I hadn’t expected to be treated any differently. It didn’t appear that my mom was taking my depression seriously though. Except for the psychiatrist, she wanted things to stay the same. She wanted to have control over the entire house.

I really didn’t want to vacuum right now. I really just needed to be alone. It had been a rough day and I really wanted to cut. I knew that wasn’t an option because my mom was checking my wrists as well as my homework every night.

“Let’s get going, Zoe!” my mom said irritably. “You have homework to do!”

“Then why don’t you vacuum?” I said angrily. “You spend so much time yelling but more would get done if you would help!”

I knew I had gone too far but it was something that all of my siblings have wanted to say at some point.

“You have just earned yourself a week of extra chores,” my mom said.

That meant that I would be washing floors, cleaning the bathroom, dusting, and anything else my mom decided.

“Then I guess I just won’t be doing my homework,” I replied.

My mom looked torn. She knew that I needed to be punished. I had talked back to her and it would happen again unless she did something about it. On the other hand, I already wasn’t doing my homework.

“Then you just won’t be going to Mia’s for awhile,” my mom said.

“Oh, like I do that a lot anyway! In case you have forgotten, I am depressed! I have lost interest in things like that!”

My dad came home, interrupting the argument.

“What is going on?” he asked.

My mom told him everything I had said.

“Do you want to talk about it?” my dad asked me.

I rolled my eyes. “I already have a psychiatrist.”

“Do you need to talk?” my dad asked again.


“Then let’s get the vacuuming done so that you can do your homework.”

Since it was my dad asking politely, I got started vacuuming. I still didn’t feel like doing it though. And once I finally got done, I was supposed to go right up to my room and do my homework. Instead, I stared into space until dinner time, wishing that I could have a smaller family and a caring mom.


Chapter 7


Early Sunday morning, Mia called to invite me to church. She does this every Sunday, even though I always tell her no. It is known in my family that Mia will call so I am expected to get out of bed to answer it.

Today when Mia called, I told her I would go. I might as well listen to Dr. Evanesa.

I was quietly getting ready to go when the phone rang again. Since I was the only one up, I decided I had better answer it.

“Hello, Zoe,” Dr. Adams said. “I was hoping you were up. I don’t know if Mia has invited you to church this morning. So if she hasn’t, I would like to encourage you to go. You might be interested in the pastor’s sermon.”

“Mia already invited me and I agreed to go. Dr. Evanesa encouraged me to get involved.”

“That’s good to hear. Come as soon as you are ready.”

I wasn’t wearing anything fancy. I had put on my black pair of pants and my purple and white top. I threw my messy hair into a ponytail and slipped on my flip flops.

I quickly scribbled a note about where I was going and then headed over to the Adams.

“Let’s go,” Dr. Adams said as he grabbed a Bible and his keys.

Did I need to bring a Bible too? I didn’t even own one.

The ride to church was very quiet. It was still very early.

Once we arrived, we went inside and handed a program.

“What’s this?” I asked Mia as we went into the sanctuary.

“This tells you the order of the service. There is also a paper that you can take notes on.”

I was expecting to see rows of hard wooden benches but instead, there were rows of chairs that actually looked kind of comfortable. I ended up seated between Mia and Dr. Adams.

“At any point you don’t feel comfortable with something, Zoe,” Dr. Adams said, “you don’t have to participate.”


The church was filling up very quickly.

Suddenly, some people came up front. One of them said a prayer and then they began singing and the rest of the church joined in.

I didn’t know any of the songs. I kind of liked them but I didn’t join in.

After a couple songs, the band sat down and another guy came forward.

“Lately, we hear a lot about mentally ill people committing horrific shooting crimes,” he began. “There has been talk of more help being given to those with mental illnesses. There is so much stigma and stereotypes against the mental illness that I thought we should look more at how God plays into it all.”

So that is why Dr. Adams wanted me to come. He wanted me to learn about God and the mental illness. I was actually kind of excited to hear this. I pulled out the notes paper and took the pen that Dr. Adams offered me.

“Did you know that about 500 million people are affected by a mental illness?” the pastor asked. “That is about eight percent of the world population. Some people believe that with a positive attitude, these people would feel better. They say that they chose their emotions and now must live with the consequences.

“How can God play into the mental illness? Some say that mental illnesses didn’t exist in Biblical times. They say this is a modern invention to legitimatize sinful behavior. Others say that mental illness is a consequence of sin.

“Man was made in God’s image. That includes people suffering from a mental illness. Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan once said that people suffering from a mental illness kind of resemble Jesus on the cross. They have experienced scorn, rejection, loneliness, and deprivation.

Though mental illness has not been mentioned specifically in the Bible, there are verses that may mean many of our Biblical heroes did suffer from depression. Moses, Jonah, David, Job, and Jeremiah all could have possibly been depressed.

“I am not trying to make you believe that mental illness is real. You are free to believe what you want. People suffering though still need to learn about God so that they can be saved. They also need to be treated with respect. They are human and made in God’s image.

“Lord,” he prayed (I quickly bowed my head like everyone else) “I pray for all those suffering from mental illness. I pray that you will heal them and give them the help they need. Amen.

“God wants all of you to join His family. If you are ready, God will take you, no matter what your mental status may be. I invited anyone ready to make a decision to come forward at this time.”

The band came forward and there was another song. After this song, a girl about my age came forward and said she was ready to be baptized. As the girl was dunked under water in the tub located up front, Dr. Adams turned to me.

“That girl has decided to give her life to God. She accepted the forgiveness God has given her through the death of His Son. Now, the girl’s sins are symbolically washed away and she will have eternal life in Heaven.”

“Interesting,” I replied. I did not know any of that. In fact, this whole church service has been very interesting. I might have to come again.


Chapter 8


“Where have you been?” my mom yelled as soon as I walked into the door.

“I went to church; didn’t you see my note?”

“And you have no consideration for the rest of the laundry shift?”

“Mom, we always do laundry Sunday afternoon.”

My mom took the copy of the shift schedule off the fridge and shoved it into my hands.

“See, it says Sunday morning and night!” she said as she pointed to the Sunday laundry schedule

“I guess I hadn’t realized it had changed.”

“Well, you know the rules: If you skip your shift, you spend the week in your room. I will see you at lunch time.”

I stormed up to my room. My mom was being so unfair. I hadn’t realized that she had changed the work schedule.

“What’s wrong?” Cassie asked with concern as I burst into tears.

“I am sentenced to my room for a week because I hadn’t realized that laundry is now done in the morning on Sundays instead of in the afternoon.”

“She must have just changed it because it wasn’t like that last week.”

“I hate this place!”

“We all do. You just need to hang in there a little longer. Once you go to college, you will never have to come home again.”

“I don’t think I can wait that long.” I went over to my closet and grabbed my suitcase.

“Where are you going?” Cassie asked in alarm.

“I am running away. Hopefully I can stay at the Adams.”

“Zoe, don’t you think you are being a little irrational about this?”

“I am sorry, Cassie. I just have to get out of here.”

I opened the window and climbed on the porch roof. Then, I climbed down the support pole until I reached the ground.

I walked over to the Adams and rang the bell.

“What’s up, Zoe?” Dr. Adams asked. “What’s with the suitcase?”

“Is Mia around?”

“She just left to go out to lunch with some of her cousins.”

Tears started threatening. I hadn’t actually thought about where I would go if the Adams didn’t work.

“Zoe, come in and let’s talk.”

I didn’t really want to talk to Dr. Adams but maybe he would let me wait here until Mia got home.

“So why are you running away?” Dr. Adams asked after we were both seated in the living room.

“How do you know that I am running away?”

“It is just a guess.”

“I hate my life!” I blurted out.

“Do you want to tell me what happened?”

“So I get home from church and my mom is mad because I skipped out on the laundry. The thing is, laundry is always done Sunday afternoon. She just changed it this week. How was I supposed to know?” I burst into tears.

Dr. Adams patted me on the back and waited patiently until I was done.

“Zoe,” he said, “this isn't the first time that I have gotten the impression that life is difficult at your house. Have you ever told your mom how you feel?”

“She is like a drill sergeant. You don’t do anything unless it is on the schedule. All she cares about is the schedule.”

“Zoe, I know life is tough for you. I know depression isn’t making it any easier. Talking about your problems will make you feel better.”

“Why is my life full of advice that I really don’t want to follow?”

“We are just trying to help you. You have to do your part though.”

“Maybe you can come with me?” I asked hopefully.

“Your parents weren’t thrilled when I came over to tell them that you were depressed. I think you should try this on your own. If they won’t listen, then you let me know.”

“Thanks, Dr. Adams.” I was starting to feel a little better.

“No problem.”




Chapter 9


“Where have you been?” my mom yelled when I walked into the house.

“Honey, let’s be calm,” my dad urged.

“I had decided that I would run away but Dr. Adams told me that I really needed to talk to you,” I said calmly.

“So you will talk to Dr. Adams but you won’t talk to me?” My mom burst into tears.

I looked at my dad questionly. What in the world was going on?

“I think you two really need to talk,” my dad said. “You need to get your feelings out there.” He left the room, leaving me with my crying mother.

“Mom, what is wrong? What did I say to upset you?” As much as I disliked my mom, I didn’t like seeing her like this.

“It really hurts me that you will talk to Dr. Adams but you won’t talk to me.”

“Mom, you have never before shown a real interest in my life. And this is the first time I have ever talked to Dr. Adams.”

“You never talk about what is going on in your life. So when Dr. Adams told me that you had been cutting and that you were possibly depressed, I felt like a bad mother because I had no idea.

“And the thing is, I somehow feel responsible for your problems. I know that you are not happy living here. I feel that I am the cause of your depression.”

I had never looked at my mom as a real human before. I had only thought of her as a drill sergeant.

“Mom, remember what the doctor told us? Depression is usually a genetic condition.”

“It can also be environmental! I have done the research.”

“So let’s say that it is environmental. It isn't too late to make some changes.” I felt nervous even mentioning that. My mom would probably just be even more hurt.

“The whole house would fall apart if I wasn’t strict.”

“Mom, we want a mother before we want a drill sergeant.” I had decided honesty was best right now. “We live in a house with eleven people. We expect things to chaotic at times.”

“So what would you change, if anything?” my mom asked warily.

“Loosen up a bit. Let us make mistakes. If we accidently cook bacon instead of sausage, let us problem solve ourselves.”

“I guess I have overreacted,” my mom said with a weak laugh.

“And maybe you could consider ditching the schedules. We can all help with meals.”

“I think the kitchen might get a little crowded though.”

“It is just a suggestion. You don’t have to do everything I want. You are the mom.”

“Thanks for being honest, Zoe. I am sorry that I yelled at you earlier.”

“I forgive you, Mom,” I said as I wrapped my arms around her.

“So why did you go to church?” my mom asked curiously. I could tell the question had been on her mind for awhile but she wanted to wait until we were done talking.

“My psychiatrist asked me to get involved. So when Dr. Adams and Mia invited me, I said yes.”

“Did you learn anything?”

“I learned how God is involved in the mental illness! It was so interesting. I want to go to church again.”

I showed my mom my notes.

“I guess I always thought that God was cruel for giving people illnesses and allowing them to die,” my mom said at last. “Maybe church would be good for the whole family.”




Chapter 10


“Family meeting,” my mom called as she went up the hall, knocking on our doors.

“What new thing is she going to enforce this time?” Cassie asked me.

“Maybe it will be a good thing,” I said hopefully. After talking with my mom, I had a feeling that some good changes were in store.

“And when have family meetings ever been good?” Cassie asked.

Usually family meetings are an opportunity for my mom to introduce a new routine or system of organization that would supposedly benefit the family.

We all went downstairs and settled in the living room. That is actually quite a feat for my family. We don’t even have seats for everyone so those who don’t get a spot have to sit on the floor.

“Can I have your attention?” my mom called over the chatter of us discussing what we thought was going on.

We instantly went quiet and looked at her.

“It has come to my attention that I have been acting like a drill sergeant,” my mom began.

I could hear someone snort as they tried to hide their laughter.

My mom ignored them and continued. “I have decided that this household might be able to function without the strict scheduling. I do not think the house will be able to function without everyone’s help but I want your input on how things should be done.”

“No chores?” Marco asked hopefully.

“That’s not going to happen,” my mom replied. “I am just saying that maybe we can do without the work shifts.”

“I agree,” Cassie, Claire, Penny, and Holly said together.

“How about you let us be responsible for our own laundry,” Charlie suggested. “If you gave each of us a day of the week to do laundry, it wouldn’t get so chaotic.”

“Works for me if it works for everyone else,” my mom said.

Now that Charlie had come forward and offered a suggestion, everyone else was more eager to join in.

“How about we make our own food too?” Katie suggested.

I could just picture Katie turning to dinners of candy.

“I don’t think that is the best option,” my mom said gently. “If everyone had to cook their own dinners, there would be some that wouldn’t be eating until midnight.”

“We call that shift!” Marco and David called.

“Any other suggestions?” my mom asked.

“What about if we took turns cooking dinner and washing dishes?” I suggested. “So if you make dinner then you don’t wash the dishes. Then, the next day we would switch.”

“Are you suggesting that there still be teams?” Charlie asked.

“There would have to be teams otherwise there would be confusion about who was cooking and who was washing dishes.”

“I would like to build on Zoe’s idea,” Cassie said.

“Go ahead, Cassie.”

“What about if we kept the shifts? So for example, there could be a breakfast shift and a dinner shift and then two shifts for di

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