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September 15, 2014 / Patti Bryant

If I Chew A Thousand Times

I find that if I chew my food a thousand times, I sometimes can taste it.I have no appetite.I feel hungry now and again, but not as I used to. I don’t feel like I want to starve myself.I don’t feel anything but, I cry so easily.My eyes leak if I look at someone too long.I know they can see I am in pain.If I think about a happy moment ending, I wonder if it will be the last time I feel that happiness.I often think maybe God is giving me just one more little taste of sun on my face, of breeze in my hair, of a hug from my child because soon I may not be able to experience those again.

The feeling that your life and all the actions, emotions, plans and work you’ve done moving toward a more pleasant reality for you and your family can be thwarted from the track so swiftly and forcefully dumbfounds me.

I am better today than I was the other day; I am worse right now than last night.

Unbelievable is all I can think of to describe what is happening to me. In the years of my life, it held the standard Webster’s Dictionary definition.Now, its definition is hundreds of layers deep.The accent I put on each syllable when I think of it changes with each moment- this is UN be LIEV able.This is UN believable. UnbeLIEVable.

He sat next to me yesterday afternoon and he told me he loves me SO much and it is SO hard to see my big heart having pieces broken off.”You have such a big heart for others” he said.”I hate to see people take from you and rip pieces off.”

My eyes are leaking again.I love him too SO much.

When I was four I got my first nametag.I got to wear it every time I went to the nursing home.It said in bold black letters, my name and “BIG HELPER”. That is my first official documentation of who I was as an individual person – I was a big helper.I have helped or tried to ever since.I knew forever I would have to work in a service industry.I could never justify getting paid for something if I wasn’t doing something for others. I am a helper.I do what I can.I find things for people.I match things with needs.I do things for others.

Right now, I have all the time in the world to clean the backroom.I could knit everything we need for this winter.I can mend and sew and create all the fabulous things I love to.I could be writing music reviews and listening to great stuff all day.I could be baking.I could be exercising.I would be doing almost anything I love – but I am not.I am playing another game of solitaire.I am making notes.I am writing things to get them out of my head and heart.

I am sitting. I am waiting. I am wondering.
I am not eating. I am not smiling. I am not laughing.

I used to dream. I used to plan. I don’t right now.
I am in a limbo of sorts waiting to go back to living.Wondering if I will get to live again.Wondering if someone will have to tell me I am alive or if I will know it.Will I be able to tell? Will I be able to feel? Will I be able to taste?

I can smell all kinds of things.Memory smells – my mother’s hairspray, my grandmother’s Ben-gay, the cedar closet under the stairs, my dad’s cologne.Life smells – water, earth, autumn. Then, my eyes leak.

I am a simple person.I am happy when people I love are happy. I am sad when people I love are sad.

I don’t know if this is ever going to be over.If and when it is, will someone please tell me? Tell me when I can smile again for real, not just for the sake of smiling so no one asks me what’s wrong.Tell me when I can find jokes funny and laugh again.Tell me when I can trust anyone again.OK? I really need to know these things.I am not sure I will ever be able to tell again.

Can someone tell me when I can not be afraid of being alone in my house again? Or, outside by myself? I would like to go for a walk.I would like to play in the dirt and tend to the yard.I would like to feel safe going anywhere in public by myself again.
Can someone tell me when I get dressed and comb my hair to stop thinking I shouldn’t do that? I never realized how I worked to not be noticed.Wearing sweats and t-shirts without makeup or hair combed to the store I always tried to act as though I didn’t care, I was a tomboy, I am not so vane that I have to put on makeup to go out in public.

I had been in “survival” mode for the longest.I have only been in “living” mode for a little while.I feel so bad that I forgot to be more careful; that I trusted people; that I made friends; that I talked to people.Uh, my leaky eyes.

I have always practiced finding something positive in everything.
Ever situation must have something good about it I believed.
I know there are many blessings hiding in this situation, but I don’t feel them like I used to.
I recognize, I should be happy that…, or if I weren’t a zombie, I would really enjoy this….
I am saving gas and wear and tear on my car; I am in my lovely house more; I can get my kiddo to school; I can see the tennis matches, the football games – but seeing and being are greatly less than enjoying and experiencing.I am constantly haunted by the ruthlessness I feel some people act under the direction of.I think, is something horrible going to happen to me here in front of my family and friends? Are any of my family and friends going to be hurt as a result of the situation I am in? Is this the last time I will see that match point or that touchdown in person? What if this is the last time I hold my husband’s hand or get a bear hug from my daughter? The fact that I can’t taste food is the reason I have lost weight – this is not a diet plan I recommend to anyone. Good from bad, but bad is going on. The bad outweighs the good at each turn.

I am not a quitter.
I do not think I am without hope.
I know that “it’s going to be OK in the end, so if it’s not OK, it’s not the end.” I am going to fortify myself to continue to move forward. I know that it is not only “one day at a time,” it is often one moment at a time; one step at a time. I am going to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and know that someday, this roller coaster will stop and I will be directed to exit to my right and claim any valuables I have left in the storage containers by the stairs.

September 11, 2014 / Patti Bryant

First Grade Nemesis

Through my years of parenting, I have had a struggle here and there with choices I’ve made in discipline, direction and/or leniency with my kiddos. I have not felt certain I did the right thing in some circumstances. I have wondered if I should have taken issue in some things when I did not. Sometimes I have been concerned that I take things too seriously and put on the mama bear too often. There are, however, many times I know I did the right thing with and for my children.

One of those times is when we first moved to a new city in the middle of the school year. That was not my first choice of optimal relocating, but my heart couldn’t stand to be without my bambinis as long as I thought it could. My oldest was in first grade and he was at the time, the only baby boy in the family. Along with those facts, I was deep in survivor mode; alert and ready to act if there came a situation that needed to be handled swiftly. The first little while, maybe a couple of weeks, in his new school, my son was managing – sort of. He wasn’t as happy seeming as usual. He didn’t talk about school much. I was convinced it was the adjustment to new surroundings and I tried to let it ride a little bit longer.

Shortly, communication from school began; his teacher sent notes home, the principal called, I met with the teacher, I met with the principal. My son, one of those little guys with a heart so big you might step on it if you got too close to him, was getting into trouble on the playground and acting out in the classroom. A huge danger flag was flying high! I needed to find out more about what was going on at school and with my kiddo. We talked. We talked with his teacher. We made some adjustments. Things did not get better. I spoke with the principal again and again. I was certain I knew there was another source to what was going on, but I couldn’t get to what it was. I was frustrated. I felt like time was ticking and if I didn’t get things figured out soon, my son was going to be in BIG trouble.

It took a little bit of patience – for that is all I had was a “little bit”. I found out through my personal observations there was another student involved in some of the things my son was being blamed for. Sometimes I have no understanding of how the whole “right to privacy” thing works. I couldn’t be told directly about the other child involved because he was a minor and there are rules about how information is shared regarding negative or potentially damaging information about minors. He had a right to have his negative behaviours kept secret, so his future would not be negatively effected? Maybe? I don’t understand how things work sometimes.

Through this time, one of the suggestions made to me by the principal of the school was to bring my son in earlier so he has time to get to know other children and socialize on the playground more. (I had been bringing him in just before the bell to avoid any more issues on the playground.) I thought the principal was being absurd. I told her there was no way I was going to purposely bring my child in early to be bullied into bad behaviour by this other boy. She thought I was being obstinate and closed to her suggestions. I was. They were ridiculous. Days moved along. My son continues to not only get into trouble but also has definite symptoms of slight depression happening. We try to adapt at home by making more fun happen. Weekend trips “back home” became more regular. Visits with grandparents and friends were frequent. Then he is sentenced to “The Nest” at school.

I was livid! I had not idea what “The Nest” was, but it certainly didn’t sound like any form of progressive behaviour modification that should be used at the end of the 20th Century. I went to the school to see what “The Nest” was. I was appalled. There was a corner in one of the special needs rooms barricaded off with a wooden screen. It was no more than a three feet by three feet space in “The Nest” with room for just one desk. I told the principal that if she was going to put my son in there, I was going to be in there with him. It was going to have to be enlarged for me to fit in there with him. I was so horrified to think that such a punishment was allowed and for such a young child especially. How traumatic. How emotionally punitive.

Well, I feel as though I have told this story before so I am going to jump ahead.

My oldest son recently returned to the area to show support for a young lady he went to school with from middle school through high school. She had died in May of this year due to a drug overdose. When I first heard of her death earlier this summer I felt quite sad, as I do when such tragic things happen. It seems a shame that such a thing as heroin would claim a victim such as she. It’s a shame drugs have the power to claims lives. Recently, authorities had determined her death was not blameless. The State of Wisconsin has filed charges of first degree reckless homicide against another schoolmate – the same boy from my son’s first grade semester from hell.

The days I was standing up for my son’s rights to go to school and not be bullied or pressured into things I knew were not in his nature I do not regret. Had I given in to letting the principal bully me into going against my maternal instinct, I am not so sure my son would not have been kicked out of this school and that; in and out of trouble with the law; doing hardcore drugs and more – just as his first grade nemesis. Had I avoided the dull empty feeling in the pit of my stomach by not confronting the principal about the ludicrous notions and methods of discipline, my son my well have been in the newspaper along with his former classmate(s).

I wonder about that elementary school principal today. I wonder how she feels about some of those issues we didn’t see eye to eye on. I don’t understand how some people are just born to be mean; not even their environment can make a positive difference in some cases. I don’t know the answer to my long time debate of nature versus nurture. I wonder how my son really feels about knowing a man responsible for the death of another person through such awful circumstances. I wonder if he understands what I tried to do for him that spring semester of 1998. I wonder if he needs to. I don’t need him to.

At this point in my life’s journey, I am glad to have time to be thinking about the strength and courage I have had to stand up for things I need to. It is so sad that it is the death of a young lady and the end of freedom for a young man which brings those victories to the forefront of my mind. When you believe in something so strongly that you know you have to fight, the courage you need will be supplied when necessary. I am so thankful my son did not bond with that young man in first grade. I am so thankful for changing schools to get him into a better environment. I am so thankful for so much. My heart hurts deeply for moms who have lost their children to crime and drugs.

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