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Lauren Kessler

My Walk on the Blind Side

Published in Ladies Home Journal
June 2011

Life offered me a Sandra Bullock moment, and I’d like to say I seized it.  
But playing surrogate mom to a homeless teen was harder than I thought.

My 15-year-old daughter, Lizzie, first mentioned Nick last February. Perhaps because her own family is, in her words, “so boring,” she is drawn to tumult in the lives of others. Nick, a friend two years ahead of her in school, was experiencing more than his share.

Nick’s family was poor, their hardscrabble circumstances a pile-up of bad decisions and worse luck. He was living—unhappily and uneasily—with his stepfather in a shabby rental a few blocks from the high school he and my daughter attended here in Eugene, Oregon. His mother had gone east to deal with her own family crisis, a temporary absence that soon turned permanent.

Life with the stepfather was, according to Lizzie’s daily reports, a rough ride. There was no physical abuse, she said, but Nick complained that his stepfather didn’t trust him, didn’t understand him, didn’t respect him. I know teens aren’t easy. I just got my two sons through those years and now am in the thick of my daughter’s adolescence. I figured maybe Nick was a bad kid, a troublemaker. But Lizzie told us he was an honors student who took AP classes and spent his after-school hours tutoring others in math and working on projects with the school’s robotics club. He wanted to be an engineer. He had applied to top universities.

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