Sunday, September 13, 2015

You've got to rise up....

I met with the Board. The meeting started as an all-out attack on me. They don't think anything I stated is discrimination or disparate treatment. It was pretty painful. They didn't deny any of the things I said, they just said that my boss is a jerk to everyone, not just me, so I wasn't being targeted.

It took me about 15 minutes of being attacked to gather my courage and find my voice. Those of you who have been reading since CountryTime know I struggle with fighting back. Sucking it up, turning the other cheek, allowing the abuse, all of those things I am good at; but standing up for myself? Not so much.

This whole year of my life seems to be about teaching me to stand up. The day my dad had a stroke, I had to stand up to my mom and my dad's doctors to get him appropriate medical treatment. The day the pit bull attacked me, I had to stand up to the dog's owner who insisted her dog was not vicious. Then I had to go to dog court to prove it again. Drunken Neighbor tries to look in my daughter's window at all hours and I push back so hard I scare the police officer dealing with my case. My boss decides to treat me like crap and I take it and take it until I just can't anymore and I finally say something. But when I say something, I'm "wrong." But even still, I stood up.

Ever since my dad's stroke, we have had a rule that he is not allowed to drive E alone in his car. She may ride in the back seat while he drives if I am in the front seat, but never alone. They have a restaurant they both like to go to on Grandfather/ Granddaughter dates. For a long time he was just thankful that he was allowed to be alone with her because I would drop them off.

About a month ago, my dad caused an accident. He rear-ended another car so hard he caused a 4 car collision. His car came $200 from being considered totaled. My mom was in the car but claimed she was looking the other way and didn't see anything. In essence, my dad and mom said it was not stroke related. It was just a freak accident that could have happened to anyone. I was willing to believe that, but I was not willing to change the ruling on him driving E.

Over the past month, my dad's mental state has been declining. He has always been difficult and combative. He picks on people and always has to correct any slight error one might make. To be in his presence is to be constantly walking on eggshells and managing his temper. It is exhausting. He denies that there is a problem, which magnifies it.

Yesterday my parents came to my house to go to lunch. My dad wanted to take E to the restaurant and started to insist he would drive her. He seemed to honestly forget that we had the rule. Things became heated and my dad's true nature came out. He said I was punishing him for having a stroke, that he was fine, that everyone has accidents and I had three myself. I pointed out that not one of my accidents had ever been caused by me AND the worst accident I ever had involved a woman who had had a stroke just a few weeks before. That woman almost killed me. My dad, true to form, shut down and refused to speak to me.

Hubby came home about that time and my dad talked to him. We ended up dropping him and E off at the restaurant and taking my mom somewhere else. It was at that time my mother finally admitted she was screaming at my dad to stop when he caused the accident. It was as if he didn't even know she was there. He had just zoned out when he hit the car.

So in the short space of 5 days I have been attacked by the Board and my father and pushed outside my comfort zone to hold the line at what I know is right. I have cried so hard this week and struggled against myself so much. The thing is, and this is a big thing, I know that I am teaching E a life lesson right now that was never taught to me. I was taught to just shut up and put up. I was taught that I didn't have a right to stand up for myself. But I am changing that pattern for E. I am teaching her that it may be hard, and it may be mentally exhausting, but there are some things in life you can not bend on and still have respect for yourself.

The Board and I agreed to disagree. They are okay with my boss being a jerk because apparently he is really good at some things they need him to be good at. They don't believe he is targeting me but they guaranteed I have job security no matter what he says. I agreed to keep working there as long as they changed my status from being the sole non-exempt time-sheeted employee with no sick days to making me just like everyone else. When I walked out of the meeting I didn't second guess myself once on anything I said. I had said my peace and defended myself.

When my parents left yesterday, I knew it may be have been the very last time I speak to my dad for a while since he will hold a grudge for months, but I had protected my daughter and taught her that she is a very valued person in my world.

I hate when the Universe decides to teach lessons. I am hurting right now, both physically and mentally from stress. Nothing about this year has been easy. But this I know, 4 years ago I would not, could not, have defended myself. If I had even tried to defend myself, I would have punished myself and cocooned in a dark bedroom and snuck food at all hours. I will admit I have gained back 7 pounds this year, but I have never stopped working out and trying to walk 10,000 steps a day. And 7 pounds is not the 20 I usually gain.

But Dear, Dear Universe, can we just call it even and can I be done with this life lesson? I think I truly get it now.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Just an update

My boss pushed me too far and blatantly discriminated against me in an illegal way. I have the papers to prove the illegality of it. I made a formal complaint with the Board and am now awaiting the decision. The last two people who filed complaints were fired. The Board doesn't know I have a newspaper reporter who followed my boss several years ago and has tons of interviews about how badly he bullied some teachers at his old school before he was forced to resign.

I haven't been posting because my anxiety/depression has become overwhelming and I am struggling to keep one foot in front of the other. Hopefully I will be back to blogging soon.

Send me good thoughts, please.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Living the Word of God

When I was 22 my brother committed suicide. My brother and I were not close, he had been out of the house for a while and even when we had lived together in the same house, his mental illness prevented me from being in a true brotherly/sisterly relationship. All that being said, I still cared about him. I still loved him. When he died, I went into a sort of free fall. I didn't know how to grieve because I am such a tightly closed off person. I didn't even know if I was grieving because I couldn't see the trees for the forest.

I have never been the type of person to have a lot of friends. If I have 4 in my circle at any given time, I am doing well. People don't like me. I am not saying that in a "woe is me" kind of way. It's just the truth.

“She had a talent for looking at a person with no expression - you filled in whatever you felt guiltiest about.”
― Louise Erdrich, The Plague of Doves

I think Louise Erdrich knows me personally because this is my talent, or curse. You have to be a very strong person to want to call me a friend. So when my brother died, I had friends, I had acquaintances, but my inner circle, my tribe, just happened to be all gay people.

About a month after my brother's death I sat in my car next to a bridge on River Road in Columbus. The bridge was somewhere close to the O'Shaughnessy Dam. It was October and a gray, dreary kind of day. Rush hour was over but the sun hadn't completely set and I was alone with my thoughts. I am not now nor have I ever been suicidal, but at that one moment, as I thought about my brother, I wondered what it was like. How does it feel to just let go? And I seriously started contemplating just driving my car right off the embankment. It took me months to understand that this too was a form of grief. Many people who have family members who commit suicide also attempt suicide, even if they were not suicidal before.

Truly, and I say this with all my heart and honesty I possess, the only reason I did not die that day is that I was supposed to meet a gay friend that night and I knew she would be pissed if I not only didn't show up, but I didn't have enough respect for her to wait until after we spent time together to commit suicide. I could feel her love for me pulling me back from the water's edge. She was there for me every single day as I fought through this hard to define grief.

I also had two gay male friends who lived together who made sure one of them spent the evening with me every night until I started to come back to my self. I spent many nights sleeping in their apartment because I couldn't go home to my parent's pain-filled eyes. When people would question my weird behavior, they just drew me in closer and offered me unconditional love. We walked and walked every night, everywhere, as I spoke the same words over and over, trying to understand what my brother had done, and they just listened and comforted me, never judging.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

Maybe I am taking liberties with this verse, but these 3 people, these 3 "sinners" offered me more love and compassion than I had ever experienced before or would ever experience again. I learned more about God and faith from them than I have from any of our churches.

When Hubby was at his first church and E was 10 months old, Hubby developed pneumonia. Antibiotics cured him, but a month later, in the middle of the night, he started experiencing heart attack symptoms. We called the ambulance and they agreed something was going on and advised me to find someone to watch E so I could go with him to the hospital. I had to call three church members before I could find ONE to watch her. They all turned me down.

That same church had members who refused to shake my hand during the passing of the peace because I worked for a Montessori school that prided itself in diversity. When Hubby and I were talking about adopting, they insisted we not adopt because we didn't know what "blood" we would get.

I won't rehash CountryTime stories, but you know just how horrible and bigoted they are if you have read the previous posts. I struggle every day as a pastor's wife to understand the Christian faith and to understand how people can be so angry about homosexuality. I walk this fine line between honoring my friends who showed me true examples of God (even if one was pagan), and honoring the church members who provide me with a pretty comfortable life and nice home, even though many of them have damaged my faith in humanity.

Looking at my Facebook page makes me sick to my stomach. To see both sides just attacking each other and throwing hateful comments back and forth upsets me. I can feel the anger in people when I go out into the real world. There is so much hate right now. I just want to scream. I want the LGBTQ community to know that there are Christians in this country who are trying to make a difference for them. There are pastors willing to take a stand to help them be treated, not as sinners, but equals and righteous in the eyes of God. Don't give up on us. We are here.

Hubby is a pastor who believes in marriage equality. Our church is a Welcoming church. Our church even has a ministry devoted to helping bring gay people back into the fold. But even at our church there are hateful zealots who Hubby must minister to. He must, because he believes in the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.

Just know, we are here.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

That Moment When You Get It

On warm, breezy nights, Hubby and I walk down to the beach to decompress from our day. Last night, before we even made it to the main drag, we heard a kerfuffle going on. We heard sirens, and then a police officer's voice coming over a loud speaker telling a man that the building was surrounded and he should get down on the ground. Before my husband and I could turn the corner to see the man on the ground, the officer started screaming at another man to come out with his hands up.

We rushed to get a good view of this local Law and Order unfolding in our tiny beach town. We walked to the balcony of a second floor restaurant that was still closed for the season and had ring side seats for (what we later learned was) a heroin dealer getting his come-uppance. I hate gang members and drug dealers. I have a history with them that will forever make me hate them and I think they all need to rot in jail. So watching this arrest started out exciting. There were 10 or 12 cops surrounding a hotel. Two looked to be SWAT and had their weapons drawn and focused on a 2nd floor hotel room door. The immediate area had been blocked off and the officer on the loud speaker was still calling for this man to come out with his hands up.

The man, dressed in boxers and a white wife-beater, very slowly appeared from the front door, with his hands raised as high in the air as he could get them. Every person watching was eying this man, wondering what he had done, waiting to see what the police would do. Everyone was just a little breathless with excitement. But as I watched this man, I began observing his body language. This man was terrified. More than terrified, this man was sure his life was about to end if he made even the slightest wrong move.

This black man was living out a scenario that happens every day in America and he couldn't say for certain that he would make it down those steps even if he did everything right. I could actually feel the terror emanating from him. This big, tattooed, tough black man was shaking in fear. It took him a good 5 minutes to come down a stair case consisting of about 15 steps, not because he was being lazy or belligerent, but because he didn't want to do anything that would give the cops a reason to pull that trigger.

I have to admit, I am the kind of person who feels like if you play with fire, then you should expect to get burned. I don't have sympathy for people who get arrested and claim the cuffs are too tight, or the officers were too rough. And this man is more than likely guilty. But some people had their cell phones out, recording the events. I am sure some were hoping a gun would go off and they would be able to sell their story. Others, more than likely, were trying to protect this man by recording things. Trying to make the officers pause before they made a rash decision.

The man made it down the steps and into police custody. He wasn't beaten up, yelled at or hurt. The conclusion was actually tame compared to the walk down the stairs. But I can't shake the primal fear this man was exuding. This wasn't a looter on tv, a rioter looking for sympathy. Nothing about him in that moment appeared violent or aggressive. This was a man with a deep-ingrained fear that he was more likely to be shot just because of his skin color.

I didn't get it before. I am pro-cop and support them all the way. But just like you have doctors and lawyers who make mistakes, you have rogue cops or cops with their own ingrained beliefs that they may not even know they have. This man thought he was going to die. He could not have held his arms up higher or walked more slowly or followed directions more precisely if he was a grunt in the army.

This man was black and thought he was going to be shot.

I get it now.

I really do.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Stuck in the middle again....

I live in a little town where the streets are laid out on a grid pattern. They're old-fashioned city blocks. Everyday I walk my dog. For the longest time I have not been able to walk my dog to the left because that would mean engaging Drunken Neighbor who lives on the corner and sits outside all day drinking. It only makes sense that I would stick to the right.

Tuesday, as I was walking my dog, we were 3 houses down from my home when I saw an arm opening the door of a second story apartment building. A large, black and white pit bull charged down the steps and was upon my dog as I was still screaming, "Wait, I'm out here with my dog!" The pit grabbed my dog's neck as I screamed and jerked the Raptor's body out from under him. This left his belly exposed. The pit started to reach for his belly and I guess my dog got in one good bite because the pit's owner told us there was a wound on the pit's neck and the dog never made contact with his stomach. My dog wears a harness when he walks so I started lifting him up by his harness, trying to get him away from the pit. The pit took my dog's entire lower leg in his mouth and started pulling away from me as hard as he could. I was screaming for help all this time and I had to tear my dog's leg to get him out of the pit's mouth. There is a small park right next to where I live and there were contract workers in the park listening to all this and not one of them came to my aid.

I have never in my life had a flight response. I am all fight. For the first time in my life I truly did not know what to do. I was completely alone fighting off this 100 pound dog who was taller than me when it lunged up. No one was coming from my screaming and I couldn't use my hands to call on my phone because I was fighting for my dog's life. I was completely helpless and I was losing the fight but I couldn't run away and leave my dog to die, either.

Suddenly a man in a small pickup truck pulled up and opened his car door. I think he actually hit the pit's face which made it back up. He told me to throw my dog in the bed of the truck. By this time another neighbor finally came out and dragged the pit bull back upstairs. The man drove me the 2 houses to my car. The woman who had returned the dog said the owner wasn't home and the boys in the apartment "didn't know how the dog got out." I very clearly remember yelling, "I WATCHED THEM LET IT OUT AND I AM CALLING 911!"

The Raptor had to have emergency surgery. His paw had 4 large gashes to the bone and punctured pad. I sat in the Animal Hospital shaking uncontrollably at what I had just been through. Surely I wasn't right that those boys had purposely let the dog out. Why didn't the park workers at least call 911? What in the world had just happened?

Hubby talked to the dog's owner who had agreed to pay all of our dog's medical bills and she threw the boys out of her apartment, admitting they were bad seeds and she wouldn't put letting the dog out purposely past them. To say I am traumatized is an understatement. My lead teacher was out sick all week so I had to continue to go to work and function as normally as I could, but I am a mess. I am afraid to walk my dog. I am afraid of strangers in the park next to our house in case they are the kids who got kicked out. I am afraid for the next bad thing to happen since I have so much crap being heaped on me.

How can people be so cruel?

The Raptor is healing. He wouldn't let me near him for two days since I had been the one who hurt him and I was screaming the entire time. He is going to be okay but I think, in all honesty, it is back to therapy for me. I just can't wrap my head around this and with Drunken Neighbor to the left of me and the pit bull to the right, I am just stuck in the middle again.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Just in Case Stick

Hubby has been doing some volunteer work for our local police station. It has taken a while but he is slowly breaking through the solid blue wall and getting the officers comfortable with him. The police chief is a church member, so after all of the struggles we had with Drunken Neighbor, we finally asked for a favor. A file has been started on this man and the hope is to get him sent away to jail (he is also a drug dealer).

Several weeks ago Drunken Neighbor was caught by the police just a few feet from E's window (inside our fenced yard). 4 officers responded to my 911 call. 2 stayed with the DN and 2 were sent to talk to me. It was 11 o'clock at night and Hubby was not home. It was 35 degrees out and I was standing in my bathrobe on my front porch with my teeth chattering.

One of the officers sent to talk to me was a 15 year veteran of the force who has lived on the island all his life. He was a stereotypical Italian cop. His partner was a rookie, only on the force for a few months. As I was standing outside talking to the cops, the rookie slowly kept backing away from me. I wasn't yelling, I wasn't threatening anyone, I was just telling my side of the story. I kept seeing him take one step, then another away from me and I really couldn't figure out why.

When the cops left, E and I went back inside and she said, "Mom, you went all Mother Bear out there!" I asked her what that meant and she said, "You were really scary!"

"But I was totally calm. I was perfectly polite. I wasn't scary," I told her. She agreed that I was quiet, but she said when I had that intense quiet was when I was my scariest of all.

A week later I was talking to the police chief about the events that night and he told me the officers had a new found respect for my husband. Anyone who could face my wrath and live to tell the tale was all right in his book. Apparently the Italian cop went back and told the chief he doesn't know why anyone would want to make me mad. He figured if he left me alone in the room with DN I would take care of the problem myself. I had intimidated a lifetime cop.

I quickly pointed out to the chief that I had very specifically stayed on an even keel that night. I would never, ever take the law in my own hands outside of my home, but we do have a PVC pipe under our bed just in case this man tries to enter our house. If he does, he and his kneecaps will be parting ways and the officers will learn just how scary I can be.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Living with the New Normal

So here's the thing. You can plan and prepare and think of all the possible scenarios for "what if." What if a parent dies? What if a parent becomes incapacitated? What if your spouse becomes sick? You can obsess and stress and think you are ready, but when that phone call finally comes that puts your life into high gear and on a new course, you end up just flying by the seat of your pants and hoping that you are getting it right, or if not right, at least close enough.

My dad's stroke has left my tiny family treading water. He can shave, bathe and take care of minor personal needs, but he can't drive and gets lost in his own home. He forgets to drink water, eat or take his medicine if someone doesn't remind him. My mom leaves him alone for no more than 2 hours at a time. The weirdest thing, though, is that the stroke has left him wanting to talk nonstop. He will talk to anyone near him and will often repeat himself. It is draining.

The short term memory is not returning. He asked me to change out his cable box for the new high definition box. He wanted to "help" but knew he couldn't. Part of managing his stroke by himself has turned him into a control freak, so he wanted to tell me what to do every step of the way. Only it went like this. I would start to pull the old box out and he would become agitated and say, "Wait a minute. What are you doing? Give me a minute to think." So I would put my hands down and sit and wait. After about a minute he would say, "Why are you just sitting there? Go ahead and take out the box." I would start to pull it out and he would freak out and ask me what I was doing. This happened no fewer than 6 times before I finally just quickly yanked the box out and took the control away from him.

It's funny. We laugh about it. I want to support him. But I wonder, is this what it is going to be like forever?

The most ironic thing about all of this, somehow my dad's stroke has triggered a whole flood of repressed childhood memories. Nothing (well, only one thing) that is horrible and nothing that my mom or dad have done to me. But things that had been long gone have slowly seeped back into my brain. Memories of riding motorcycles with my brother. Sledding down a hill in a park in San Jacinto with cardboard on the one day it snowed during the time I lived in Houston. Little things. Things that wouldn't matter to most people, but when you have no childhood memories at all, it means something.

So that's were I am right now, trying to come to grips with my new normal and figuring out a way to let go of the fear that something else bad is just around the corner. Because walking through life with one hand covering your eyes is no way to live.