Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye to 2008

Earlier this year, when I was agonizing over what on earth to write in Christmas cards, Kristabel, a fellow blogger, wrote this suggestion:
Dear Friends and Family,
This year blew and we're glad it's over.
Seriously, it sucked ass. Pass the tequila.
I laughed my head off, because it's so true! Let me give you my year in review. These are only the highlights. Keep in mind that throughout, I have miraculously kept my sanity, my sense of humor, and even an absurd kind of hope. I even expect 2009 to be an improvement, that's how much of an optimist I am.

January: My son's problems at school heat up.
Corrupt assistant principal at Eureka High honed in on my son as the focus of all his disciplinary efforts in a sea of 1,700 students. My son couldn't do anything without getting in trouble. My son, a freshman, spent practically every day in detention.

When I went to the school, the principal only gave me a very creepy smile and didn't address my concerns (bullying and harassment that had started my son's new tough approach to life). Now we can add complete mistrust of all adults-of-authority to my son's heart.

When I asked for anger management through the school's Healthy Start program, they put him on a waiting list. The assistant principal blocked that service, per my son's teacher. My son never once saw a counselor.

Meanwhile, as the assistant principal's whipping boy, my son caught blame for things he wasn't even involved in.

Keep in mind that I was the Healthy Start coordinator at the Redding School District from 2001-2003, so I can honestly recognize all of this as corrupted failure to serve an actual at-risk student. I do not throw the word corrupt around lightly. The Healthy Start grant is a contract between the school and the state to serve at-risk kids. How is EHS spending that money?

February: I start homeschooling my son.
Assistant principal yells at my son while my son was wearing headphones at lunchtime, grabs his arm and accuses my son of ignoring him. My son loses his temper and punches a door, breaking the plexiglass (?) and cutting his own hand.

Assistant principal files for an expulsion review against my son (a complex process that requires review by more players than a lowly asst. principal). I spoke with the superintendent of schools and was given a form to fill out.

I realized my son needed an education more than he needed the lesson of how bureaucrats hold their jobs without actually doing them. So I removed my son from Eureka City Schools, formed a private school through all official channels, and set about homeschooling my son-- an experience that was richly successful for him and gratifying for me. A couple of golden weeks ensued during which I wondered why I hadn't been doing this all along.

March: A terrible accident happens.
Spring break rolled around, my son went to visit his father in Southern Humboldt. I went on an actual vacation to see old friends in Santa Cruz.

While my son was at his father's and playing basketball outside, one of my other son's friends walked by with a paintball gun. Thinking his gun was low on CO2, the boy shot toward my son's leg. But just at that moment, my son swooped down to get the basketball. So the paintball, which came out at full force, hit my son in the left eye!

Emergency room, a hasty return from vacation, and I met them all at the ophthalmologist's in Eureka the next day. My son's retina was torn and traumatized, and a surgery was immediately scheduled with a retinal specialist in Santa Rosa.

April: My boy has his first eye surgery.
When all this happened, I was student-teacher in a Freshman writing class at HSU. I had to take a leave of absence from that and from my other classes at grad school to deal with all this.

We went to Santa Rosa for the surgery, a vitrectomy, and stayed in a motel room while my son recovered. Recovery was painful and involved careful positioning of his head for more than a week.

My son was in pain, bored out of his mind, missing his girlfriend and depressed by the fact that he spent his 15th birthday in a motel room with his mom, blind and in pain.

We couldn't go home because the surgery involved removing all the vitreous (goo) from his eye and replacing it with a gas bubble which acted like an interior cast to hold the healing retina in place. But the gas bubble had to be kept at sea level or it would expand, blinding my son. Between here and Santa Rosa are two summits we couldn't cross until 8 days after the surgery when the gas bubble had started to absorb.

This was a hellish experience all around, though I tried to make the best of it.

I managed to continue homeschool him as best I could with videos and books on tape.

May: Eureka police beat my son up.
After weeks of restricted activity, my son finally got the go-ahead to go outside and ride his skateboard as long as he didn't do tricks. Without depth perception, he skated very tentatively, afraid to jar the gas bubble in his eye.

We lived a half a block from Eureka High School, and I had told him, "Stay away from the school, because that principal is out to get you." But my son didn't believe me. After school had let out , my son skated over there to meet his friend. He thought it would be ok since it wasn't school hours.

He saw the principal standing outside, but the man said nothing, just gave my son the creepy smile. But when my son turned away, the asst. principal radioed the Eureka cop assigned to patrol the school. God knows what he said to the cop to spur him to act the way he did.

My son was greeting some friends on the sidewalk on J Street when the furious police officer appeared and ordered my son to leave. The two boys headed back toward our house, but then the friend stopped to talk to someone, so my son lingered at the corner of J and Del Norte.

The officer came up and threw my son to the ground cracking his head on the pavement, shoving his knee into my son's back, cuffing him roughly, nearly dislocating my son's arm by roughly shoving him into the police car when my son's cuffed hands were caught on the door.

I had to pick up my son from juvenile hall where he was charged with trespassing and resisting arrest.

I filed a complaint against the police officer, but his boss, Eureka's false hope Chief Garr Nielsen, sent me a letter exonerating the officer. I spoke again to the superintendent of the school, and once again was given a form.

We had to make three more journeys to Santa Rosa for check-ups in May and June. During one, my car broke down.

Miraculously, I finished the semester with A's in all my classes. And I was hired to teach a section of Freshman Composition at HSU.

June: I start hunting for a house anywhere outside Eureka.
I packed up the house even before I found a place, determined to remove my family from this horrible town. I searched all the rental listings I could get my hands on, drove all over the place looking, found a few suitable places, met with landlords, filled out applications and paid fees so they could check our references.

I imagined I would have no trouble finding a place, considering we aren't pot growers and my husband was gainfully employed. Our choices were limited by price and by the fact that we have a cat. But the only four suitable houses I found over the summer all fell through for one reason or another.

Meanwhile, I tried to prepare for the class I was going to teach -- my very first class.

July: My husband gets laid off from his job.
All this time, my husband had been working in Oregon while my son and I lived here while I was going to school. I had already been laying the groundwork for working at Rogue Community College in Grants Pass after I graduated. Then suddenly, the company my husband was working for folded and laid off all its workers.

At the same time, my son was very angry at me for deciding to move. We had a huge fight, and he ran away to his girlfriend's house.

We received a court date to appear in juvenile court so my son could face charges of trespassing and resisting arrest.

I continued to house hunt. But I was so overwhelmed with everything, that I resigned my teaching job, with a heavy sense of sacrificing my dream.

August: We move to McKinleyville.
We found a house and moved. Need I say what a huge job this was, with only myself and my husband to do all the work? A couple of friends offered to help, but no one ever showed up. My son eventually came home and helped with several loads, but he was angry about the move and was falling apart emotionally. My husband was depressed about being out of work.

My son had a hard time adjusting to the new town and not knowing anyone. Over the next several months, I kept my promise to him to drive him to see his friends in Eureka as much as possible and to pick up friends to spend the weekend. It is 35 miles round trip.

I finally found a juvenile lawyer, but it was going to cost thousands of dollars. The public defender never returned a single phone call.

Family tensions rose.

I went to the newspaper office to see if I could write a few stories for a few bucks and was amazed to be offered a job as assistant editor. My hours on the job were a lifesaver, building my confidence back up. I also began this blog, which also proved to be an emotional lifesaver.

September: My son has a second surgery.
A cataract formed in my son's eye as a result of the gas bubble used in the first surgery. He had to have a cataract surgery and have a prosthetic lens put in.

At the same time, we discovered the company my husband had worked for hadn't paid the group health insurance premiums since May, so all the medical procedures since then weren't covered. We began receiving really scary medical bills.

My son went to juvenile court and received a sentence of 25 hours of community service, the order to write a 2-page paper about the situation, and an order to seek counseling. I saw the mandate to seek counseling as a blessing in disguise.

My son started an independent study program through a charter school. He did well but reading for an hour gives him a headache for days.

Family tensions rose some more.

October: The two job prospects my husband had fell through.
My husband drove to Montana to broker some mining equipment and to look over a possible job there. It didn't work out. Nor did the job in Mariposa. My husband, who has worked hard all his life, fell into a depression.

My son's depression deepened. Medication offered by his doctor made it worse. I made an appointment with a psychiatrist, but they couldn't see him until December. My son lost 12 pounds. I had him checked out for physical causes, nothing.

I managed to get to most of my classes, but I felt a little sad that all the others in my program were teaching except me. I was given an 8-week special topic course to teach called Book of the Year. I continued to work at the newspaper office.

November: My husband leaves me.
After three years of only being home on the weekends, my husband who is my son's step-father, was suddenly home full time and not in a happy frame of mind.

In disagreement over how to handle my son, my husband left in a huff, saying he wouldn't be back until "there were rules in the house." I tried to explain that the household was under extraordinary circumstances and would return to normal as soon as possible. It was an issue of morality, he said.

My son spent Thanksgiving with his girlfriend and her family. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and the dinner is my specialty as a cook, but I spent it alone.

The next day I put up my Christmas tree, knowing that as soon as school started back up that final projects would absorb all my time. I began crocheting an afghan for my husband's gift, just in case things changed.

Earlier in the month we had gotten our health insurance straightened out, with everything covered finally.

My son's eye continued to hurt and bother him. We went to see the ophthalmologist and found out a membrane had formed over the prosthetic lens. He had to have laser surgery that same day.

December: My husband and I decide to divorce.
I struggled to finish school, attending classes, building a class web page, and writing a 25-page seminar paper. I didn't even know whether to register for classes for next semester, but finally decided I must since I only have one semester left.

My son began to settle in and made a friend in the neighborhood. He saw a psychiatrist who began to treat him successfully. We found out that much of the damage to his eye is permanent, including distorted vision and a blind spot. We ordered reading glasses we hope will help with the headaches. We are still extremely grateful to the surgeons who saved his eye.

The linguistics professor at HSU asked me to teach Introduction to Language Analysis with her next semester. I received my grades and again miraculously received all A's.

My older son came home for Christmas with happy news that he is going to college in the fall. My two boys and I had a happy Christmas together.

My husband wrote me a letter that he wants us to be Christian fundamentalists or he won't come home. This would involve my complete submission. I am still processing the absurdity of this.

So that is the year in review. Amazingly, my son and I are still standing. If anyone bothered to read all that, thank you. But like everything concerning this blog, I am realizing that the therapeutic part comes from writing it down at all. Writing helps to make sense of life, even if we don't always know what to do about it when we do.

2009 is going to be better, I just know it. It just has to be. So here's to a Happy New Year for us all!


Kristen said...

Yep, I read every word, and I must say that you have a depth of courage to be open that I have yet to achieve in Blogdom: I admire that sort of fearless commitment to Your Story of living. But, anyhow, what I really want to say is that there is deep power in giving overwhelming emotions language, and you are utilizing not only that rarely found Truth, but also fostering a sense of community, service, and wonderful humor. And on top of all that, you are not losing your Life's Vision amongst the chaos. If I have gotten any true sense of you, Indie, then I *know* that You Will Make 2009 a truly New Year that will hold all you cherish, deal with what you must tolerate, and create a Fresh Start of curious beginnings to which laughter will make glow :)

In Joy,

Ernie Branscomb said...


I wrote you I long letter offering you all kinds of advice and understanding, then I remembered that someone wise once told me that most people don’t want you to solve their problems, that they just want you to know that they have them, and that you understand.

So keep writing, and I will keep trying to be understanding. Meanwhile stay strong. Remember that you are a good person, and that you are doing all that you can.

Advice that I’ve tested well and know to be true, is that someday you will be so happy that you won’t be able to remember the misery that you are in today. Look for tomorrow.

I feel silly writing this, but I’ve come to think of you as a friend. So hang in there!

Indie said...

Kristen, I'm not really that courageous, I just wanted to write a list so I could see that, yes, indeed it's been a tough year. But out poured the whole huge story.

Ernie, thank you for the perspective of time. Also I feel very honored to be called your friend!

A wise person recently told me, there is no better way to start a new year than with a new friend. Thanks for taking the time to read my whole story.

Here's to a better year!

Anonymous said...

Hi K, sweetie,
I've just commented on this one at MySpace!
Love you bunches.
Hugs, R.

Kristabel said...

I am realizing that the therapeutic part comes from writing it down at all. Writing helps to make sense of life, even if we don't always know what to do about it when we do.

The other thing that happens when you write it for all the world to that it's often therapeutic for readers as well. Simply realizing that we're not alone in our own struggles is sometimes just enough to make us get up off the kitchen floor and start to breathe again.

I had no idea you were dealing with so much, and I'm amazed by your fortitude and the positive attitude you seem to have maintained.

I hope your 2009 is filled with light, love and, most importantly, lots of laughter.

Indie said...

Kristabel, I was just getting it all off my chest, but if anything I wrote helped you in any way I am very very glad! You are the liveliest, loveliest spirit, and I hate the idea of you on the kitchen floor unable to breathe.

When the problems are overwhelming, you just have to perform triage and deal with what you can.

Or, a better analogy, you make jewelry right? I collect jewelry, and I'll bet we've both faced a huge pile of hopelessly tangled, knotted chains and necklaces, where you can't even tell what goes with what.

So you just patiently untangle it, very gently, a little at a time, removing each thing as it comes free until it gets easier and easier to see what's what.

Big City Poz said...

Indie, I've fallen behind on my blog reading so I just read this.

It's amazing that so many people in the high school education system have forgotten what it's like to be a teenager. Your son is clearly better off now that he is out of EHS.

What really struck me is what a great mother you are. Your son is lucky. He may not know that right now, but I suspect that he will know it further down the road.

...and I hope you know that you're a great mother.

Big City Poz said...

Indie, keep paying attention to your son's weight. Mention it to your son's doctor the next time you have a chance. There are things out there that cause appetite loss. Some parents I know request urine tests; their children are usually told that it's just part of a physical.

Indie said...

Hi Joe. Thanks, yes they tested him for everything under the sun. It appears it was largely anxiety and depression, adversely affecting his health.

He is getting better as his spirits rise. He will be so much better off when he can get outside and do active things again. His poor depth perception (from the eye) has led him to give up so many things he used to love, skateboarding, basketball.

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