Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Diagnostic Essay - #1

English 102 – First essay (fastwrite, then rewrite), Diagnostic - Theme: Something Important for You to Know about Me.


Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a Social Worker. As a young girl, I had compassion for people and wanted to do anything I could to help out. I was dissuaded from pursuing Social Work as a vocation by my mother because she felt I would end up "adopting ten children." I later discovered it was more important to her (at the time) for me to help at home when my brothers were younger, than it was for me to attend college.

I have volunteered on numerous occasions at the Rescue Mission as well as for Sister Jean's Kitchen in Atlantic City. There is a time when you need to look outside of yourself and to the needs of others, and whenever I would venture beyond being selfish and self-serving, I felt a connection because somehow, we are all broken and we meet at a wound. When I taught 8th grade confirmation class, as part of the students' service projects, I would transport a group of my Confirmandi to the Rescue Mission to volunteer for the day. They would sort out and help stock the pantry, separate donated clothing, take a tour of the Mission itself, and help prepare lunch for the residents. Although apprehensive about the experience initially, the students left as a changed people. It was transforming! I occasionally meet up with former students who express to me how their field trip to the Mission was one of the most memorable ones they ever had participated in.

When I worked at the Childbirth Center in Pomona as an OB Tech, I found that I naturally gravitated toward the mamas who came from poverty – the ones who came in nearly ready to push because they could barely eke out cab fare, the ones who had no overnight bags and scarcely had a change of clothing to take their babies home in. The experiences during my tenure at the hospital left indelible marks on me (and in me) and there were many nights I would go home, not only physically exhausted but also mentally drained because of what I had encountered during the day. There were times when I worked in the nursery I felt as though I should remove my shoes as I was walking on holy ground. Even though I treated all patients with courtesy and respect, I made sure certain ladies would go home with their babies and a diaper bag full of extra amenities.

I am now back to being a legal secretary, a career I pursued when I was fresh out of high school. Over the last three years, however, I have had an ache to get back to school to pursue the career choice of my youth. It may take me longer than the average student to get my undergraduate studies completed (since I work full-time and can only attend classes at night), but I believe I am finally heading in the direction of the profession I have been called to for the last 30+ years. It would seem, however, that I have been doing social work, all along.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


again and again, you return to spew.

you are unkind and while you think you are doing something that will save the world, you are not. i cannot believe i had to install haloscan on a blog i have had for two years - just so i could block you.

how pathetic you are!

this was a little safe haven for me, simply to post stories i had written and poetry that i love and people left me nice little comments, things that simply affirmed. we all need that, don't we? but now that i had to install haloscan in order to block your ip address, you have taken that from me.


Saturday, January 05, 2008

"I cannot exist without you. I am forgetful of everything but seeing you again. My life seems to stop there, I see no further. You have absorb'd me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I were dissolving. I have been astonished that men could die martyrs for religion... I have shudder'd at it... I shudder no more. I could be martyr'd for my religion: Love is my religion. I could die for that. I could die for you. My creed is love, and you are its only tenet. You have ravish'd me away by a power I cannot resist." -

letter written by John Keats

Friday, January 04, 2008

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look will easily unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

e.e. cummings

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

from Oscar Wilde

He must have a truly romantic nature, for he weeps when there is nothing at all to weep about.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

zoned, out.

once floating,
pierced, rushed

forced out of comfort

thoughts continue to
and from,

i thought you cared?
you really do not
your letters, while they seemed personal
were not
as they were sent
to others
as well

just a fool
(pick a number)
an address
and apparently
possessing an

twice pierced,
i should just float
force myself


(there was not much,
by the way,
that was comfortable)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

there is always something in the eyes
deep, involved

you could miss it if you blinked
there, beneath the surface
a tempest
a tornado, you said
how can you see that?

how can you, you don't know me?
yet you saw it,
you see it
it is there, it exists
as if the world has stopped turning
you keep it spinning
while i remain caged

Monday, March 12, 2007

the days when i am strong, i am very strong. the days i can stay away, reaching out is not an option. the strength that comes from within is sturdy, steadfast, immobile.

there are times -- momentary lapses of reason, i suppose -- when the urge to reach for my...have been so strong, so overwhelming, it is a miracle i can stand up.

how do addicts do this? how do they face their demons head-on and tackle them around the ankles and say "i am victorious over you!" claim the victory?

how is it that i do not feel you, Lord?

~~~Isaiah 578

I dwell in the high and holy place,
With him who has a contrite and humble spirit,
To revive the spirit of the humble,
And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

For I will not contend forever,
Nor will I always be angry;
For the spirit would fail before Me,
And the souls which I have made.

For the iniquity of his covetousness
I was angry and struck him;
I hid and was angry,
And he went on backsliding in the way of his heart.

I have seen his ways, and will heal him;
I will also lead him,
And restore comforts to him
And to his mourners.

please let it be so according to your word.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

are you listening?

As I peered out through the dirt- and rain-smeared windows at the tenement housing and the litter-strewn streets, I wondered to myself where the people were who cared even minimally and whether nurturing one's home was a foreign thought.

Or if they were incapable of doing anything about it, not through any fault of their own, but because someone or some system had let them down. not one soul walking on the streets for block upon block; the silence of their poverty cried out in volumes.

Bricks have fallen, shelters have tumbling overhangs and there is no sign of hope in sight. A woman who was speaking rather loudly to someone on her cell phone or blue tooth -- arguing, actually -- interrupted my thoughts.

"I am a servant of the Lord and will not be caught up in your web of lies, your little games. Freddy owes me $20,000 and I will be getting that money from him one way or another."

She spoke loudly, unconcerned that she was disturbing anyone's reading or sleeping while on this train. The riders looked around nervously at each other, uncertain if Blue Tooth Lady was capable of exacting harm or not; compassion for her plight was co-mingled with fear for the life of the person on the other end of the conversation.

"Oh, I will not be toyed with any longer!" Visions of boiling pots on top of stoves swarmed in this particular rider's head and I suddenly felt compelled to pray that Blue Tooth Lady would be exiting the train at one of the next stops.

As the towns sped by, desolate-looking and barren in these mid-winter months, one could only hope that the spring thaw would bring a return of hope and happiness, a renewed outlook and peace to the those who live in such squalor. These projects and the folks who reside therein have probably long since stopped believing that hope exists, and Blue Tooth Lady gets off at the train depot in one such town.

I wondered as she departed from the train if there is any such thing as hope in her, having now learned over the prior 15 minutes she was destitute and it was most undoubtedly Freddy's fault. I asked God to bless her in her day and before she stepped onto the platform, she turned to see if she had gathered up all of her bags.

It was then I learned that she had no phone in her possession.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


  • i hear God does not give you more than you can handle
  • i consider that to be an untruth
  • officially on overwhelm
  • am struggling with my faith
  • my religion
  • my thoughts ramble
  • am disconnected
  • thank you God for at least
  • listening to the prayers of my friends
  • why do You not respond to me?
  • You are silent and have remained thusly
  • for months with me now
  • is this a confession?
  • might be
  • have been attending a different Church
  • different meaning not Catholic
  • i like it
  • i feel something when i am there
  • i am moved within me
  • i take notes
  • they go over Scripture in depth
  • i am hungry
  • i am thirsty
  • but feel as though i am checking out
  • God help me
  • please

Saturday, January 06, 2007


wondering, waivering, wishing
weeping willow

while i should be in the midst of rejoicing,
my heart still is aching
the strain i am under is
at times

my arms, desiring to reach up
toward You
instead, sagging down
toward the ground
(weeping willow)

the weight in my heart
is almost too much to bear
the pruning i am under,
too much of a strain

but You trust in me.

i have failed You time and again
and yet
You still are there for me
steadfast and true
because like the roots of the
i search for water

and as Your word says,
...and (s)he shall be like a tree which is planted
near the running waters,
which shall bring forth its fruit, in due season.

(how long?)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

victim soul

if i could breathe for you,
i would.

if i could take on your suffering,
it would be mine to receive,

i sit bedside and watch you, trusting in
God's mercy.

i remain silent in prayer as you sleep, beseeching
His grace.

it is felt deep within that you
are not far from the Cross and that you,
my dear mother,
are sharing in His very suffering.

i solemnly aver, dear one, that
i would become your personal victim's soul
if it would mean
your agony could be alleviated
if only for a moment.

then i, too,
would be united with Jesus in the same way,
and you, dear one,
could sit vigil at my


tossed around, tumbling
all secrets, being

gathering in the same place,
softly staying together
strong, unified

yet in one swift movement,
they are gathered together
carelessly, thrown.

until a new amount begins to gather,
and the cycle starts anew.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)
i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet)
i want no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

~~e.e. cummings

Monday, December 18, 2006


she was sitting on the bus, staring out the window as they were leaving the City, her daughter with her new-found friends a few rows behind her. she gazed out the window at the different scenes they passed by: the *artsy* restaurants with people sitting at white linened tables with candles lit, eating window-side as folks hurried past; the various storefronts decorated for the holidays. the one place that struck her the most, for whatever reason, was the organic produce place on the corner that had fresh flowers lined up in buckets outside and Christmas trees tied up in bundles, aligned in rows with everything else, leaning against makeshift stands. people were dressed in their scarves and gloves, chatting and holding hands and she thought "i love this City...God, it is so incredible...i miss him so much." the last thought speared her like an arrow.

it comes and goes in waves like that.

one minute, she is looking out a window and then out of nowhere, she would feel a pang of something unimaginable. it would stay and linger however long she allowed it and while the pang eases a bit, slowly, it never leaves her. she carries it around inside and assures herself she is doing well and fills herself with as many words from books and activities that her physcial well-being allows her. she busies herself and keeps her mind on other things so she won't be tempted to write or do anything to throw him backwards because she so pleased with his progress while she stays on a bit of a treadmill; moving forward without going anywhere.

or so it seems.

maybe God feels differently; He knows enough because He hears from her quite often these days. He, as always, remains decidedly detached and silent because He is Who is. He allows her to feel all of these things so she will arrive at the Truth on her own.

perhaps it is God she is longing for, after all.

Friday, August 18, 2006


My mother, who lives with my brother and his family, comes to stay at our humble abode on occasions when my sister-in-law's brother visits from Virginia. We enjoy her company and, truth be told, I am sure she relishes the break in her routine.

Last evening over a glass of old vine red zin, we sat and talked about Ben's engagement to Kelly and how the wedding has been set for 07/07/07 (!!) Ben described how he proposed marriage and how he chose the lovely mounting my engagement diamond had Ben set into (as an aside, I would have chosen a different mounting, one a bit more ornate in a vintage-antique-y-looking way, but this wasn't about me, now was it? It was Ben's choice for Kelly and his choice was perfect.) This passing on of the ring/diamond is a tradition Ben has agreed with continue on with future generations.

My Mom turned to me and said, "So you don’t have your wedding ring any more?"

"No -- just the band I wear all the time," I replied, holding up the back of my left hand in a sweeping dramatic gesture. "It's Kelly's ring now." She was surprised as this was the first she had heard I relinquished my ring to my future daughter-in-law.

"Would you be interested in the ring set your father gave me?"

"Oh, yes!" I couldn't believe her question and found it difficult to conceal my enthusiasm.

"You were closest to him, after all..."

Parenthetical necessary for explanatory purposes: I had thought she did not notice or care about my relationship with my father -- my trip out West to his memorial service four years ago virtually went undiscussed. Dad was a sore subject and for good reason: 23 years without speaking to any one of us. The saying "to err is human, forgive, divine," is apropos to this situation as he had committed many wrongs against our family during our lifetimes -- if there was anyone in this world undeserving of our forgiveness, it would seemingly be my father.

He had sought forgiveness from all of us during his last few months of his sojourn on earth, a forgiveness not completely given by all, save for me. But that was alright with me, for if God had not wanted me to extend forgiveness, I would not have. It was purely an act of God working through me that I was able to exact forgiveness upon him and truly meant it with all of my heart. I only brought up the past with him to finally get the unanswered questions of my life answered, which he fully complied with...

He died penniless so I certainly wasn’t after the great fortune he never amassed.

Yes, definitely divine.


"Sure Ma -- that'd be great." I pushed the thought from my head because God only knew when I'd see her again after this weekend's stay.


I awoke with a start this morning from a dream I had about not meeting payroll, and as the cobwebs cleared, realized I never completed payroll last night and shortly thereafter, bounded out of bed and barreled down the stairs, the lingering effects of sleep trying as they might to cling to my psyche; to no avail. I was already on fast-forward, on a mission.

As I reached the bottom of the stairs, I greeted my mother whose presence reminded me of her stay with us for the weekend. She is a welcome visitor -- my children adore her, my husband enjoys her calm presence and when I spend time with her (not nearly enough), I am instantly reminded of how much I miss her; I wonder if she really even knows me. Busy lives and all of 25 minutes between us seem to provide a chasm we are both stubbornly unwilling to span. I think, however, it is time we reprioritize and spend at least one day a month with each other, just so we can chat and keep up with events as they unfold (i.e., wedding engagements...)

At the very least.

"Good morning..." She looked up at me from the chair and is already dressed in her uniform to go and bake bread at the local grocery store. She has been there as long as I can recall. It is a difficult job physically and very demanding on her; I believe it is exacting a toll on her frail stature.

"Mom, I have to do payroll -- what do you usually do for your morning routine?"

"Drink coffee and smoke a cigarette." (Ahh, the more things change…)

"I need to get this done and out to Jim, so go about your morning and we will chat in a minute or two." It was 5:25 a.m.

With money electronically transferred at the touch of a button and checks signed and sealed, I sat back in my chair and looked at my mother, who had now rejoined me at the dining room table.

"I have something for you," she said as she handed me over a snack-sized ziplock baggie. I looked at the object and was completely incredulous -- it was her wedding ring set from my father.

"Mom ... how did you ... how ... ?" Words failed me as I gazed at this really beautiful, antique ring set. It was exquisite, meaningful, and quite lovely in a very familiar sort of way.

"I just knew Penni ... I just knew."

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Defiine: Tacky

During the summertimes of my formative years, my sister and I and our three brothers were regularly required to go on Sunday drives with my stepfather. In these early morning, jaunts, just as the sun had come, Dad would tumble us all into the back of the station wagon: we, mumbling and groaning all the while, he, looking forward to the drive from Ocean City to the “country” I now recognize as Galloway Township. All this for Jersey tomatoes that were bursting off of their vines, corn on the cob that was still nestled into the husks that contained its pearly sweetness, and the melons that were ripe for thumping.

None of this would seem out of the ordinary, except that I was 10 years old at the time, out in public, and still in my jammies. While it may be stylish for our present generation to go out with their pajamas and yes, even their bedroom slippers on, for this author in her dorky ‘70’s upbringing, it was considered tacky. Really embarrassingly-tacky. “Dad-doesn’t-care-how-you-look,-we-need-produce” tacky.

If these outings weren’t discomforting enough, when Mom took me to the store, even though I was properly dressed at the time, I would suffer as a passenger in her Gremlin. The car itself looked like a bubble, but what’s worse was the fact that its interior was Levi-Straus denim material. I am unsure if we had fuzzy dice hanging from the rear-view mirror, but I am almost 100% certain there were no stuffed animals lined up on the back dash, nor was there any hula girl bobble-head on the front dash. There is the off-chance that I’ve repressed these memories and will end up on a therapist’s couch paying $175 per hour to help purge it all from the recesses of my mind. Regardless, it would be a painful process to explore any further, so why not save my money?

Our house was nice enough, I guess. For a family that had five children, I would like to imagine my parents were more concerned about food and shelter than they were with their (lack of) decorating abilities.

We lived in a rancher on a quaint street named “Apple Tree Lane.” The exterior had brick and clapboard shingles and the landscaping was relatively normal with boxwood shrubs and mimosa trees. The interior, however, was another story entirely: it consisted of a Spanish-style-cum-nautical-motif, with your average carving of a Buddha on the coffee table at the entryway.

If the orange shag carpeting didn’t frighten off visitors, the trip on the well-worn path to the kitchen would have made them think twice about touring the rest of the house.

Inside the kitchen, avocado-green appliances and mustard-yellow dishware were accompanied by drinking glasses that boasted of large-petaled orange and yellow flowers and, even though I felt, at the time that they were tacky, I believe they would now be deemed “retro” and had wisdom been used at the time of purchase and they had remained boxed up, we could now sell them on eBay for a reserve price to be met of at least $20/glass.

I am quite confident there was no fur – faux or otherwise – on the floors or our walls; leopard print was no where to be seen in the décor. My mother was big into ceramics and you couldn’t walk more than 10 paces without noticing *yet another* homemade ashtray (just in case any of our parents’ friends were over and they felt like lighting up). The brash oil painting over our fake black leather couch was purchased at an art show close-out sale that was held in a conference center of a run-down motel and was positively garish, especially in light of its being flanked on either side by the harlequin paintings of girls with those big eyes that seemed to stare at you in an eerie, nausea-producing way, making Precious Moments figurines look like posers.

The holidays were especially mortifying as we were the “throw-back to the early 60’s” family in the neighborhood. While I know I should have been happy it wasn’t metallic, I had difficulty reconciling the fact that we had the only flocked tree at Christmastime. I remember my dad and his friend, Don, having drinks while unclogging “the flocking machine” and laughing hysterically over their wittiness and expert diction in utilizing euphemisms while intoxicated.

The outside of the home, however, carried over my parents’ unusual penchant for all things shoddy regarding Christmas decorations: Who wouldn’t be thrilled to have a glowing Holy Family on their front lawn? It gave off enough light to serve as a beacon, a guiding light to lost space shuttles or the wayward personal plane in case the landing lights at the local puddle-jumper airport a short mile away proved ineffective. We would often wake up in the middle of the night, thinking it was time to get up for the day because the sun was out, only to discover the nativity was still lit because Dad forgot to unplug it prior to retiring.

While the Holy Family sat and radiated their special energy, it served only as a minor distraction to the plastic Santa and his eight tiny reindeer that were a particularly garishly painted polyurethane that were only slightly losing their luster, and looking, uhm, weathered — but were still colored enough that you were able to distinguish that Santa belonged with his sleigh and not over bringing gifts to the baby Jesus. I recall the one night, after an arduous night of flocking with my parents, Don had picked up Santa and moved him over by the Magi. Funny guy.

My family’s musical preferences also, for the most part, lacked in taste. Mom would blare Stan Getz’s “The Girl from Ipanema” while dusting, and Herb Alpert & the Tiajuana Brass while vacuuming. I can’t pick up a dust cloth as an adult without singing “…tall and tan and young and lovely…” Rooming with my sister, however, led me to a totally different genre of music: Gilbert O’Sullivan and the Osmond Brothers. I am the only person I know that can identify sappy music immediately upon stepping into an elevator. One would think I’d have been doomed.

If it weren’t for questionable taste, we may have led dull and mundane lives. However, because my world was colored in kitsch, and I found myself running the opposite way as an adult, I now have a great appreciation for fine art and wonderful music. My husband and I do, however, have a difference in opinion when it comes to something being worn and weather-beaten vs. “shabby chic.” It’s all a matter of interpretation, correct?

During the holidays I find when we take our own children out on “light runs” to check out our neighbors’ decorations, I am the only one proclaiming my delight over the plastic Santas and animated reindeer – the decorations they consider to be tacky.

Oh, if they only knew.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

essay #3 - narrative essay - things are not always as they seem

I was standing by the Café's cash register when he walked through the front door to place what I thought would be a take-out order. I had never seen him before, but I was struck with the overwhelming sense that someday, in some fashion, this man would work for me.

So, I was a bit taken aback when he said, moments later, "You need help here?" He had a slight southern drawl to his voice. "I can do most anything."

I stared at him for a brief moment while I gathered my thoughts. "Not right now, but this is the restaurant business, so anything could happen by the end of the day."

"Okay, then. Mind if I fill out an application?" he asked.

Trying not to reveal my astonishment, I said, "Sure. As soon as something comes up, I'll call you."

He filled out his application, handed it to me, and left. Still a bit stunned from the premonition, I glanced at the paperwork. His name was Bruce and I noticed that he actually had quite a bit of experience, with some longevity, which was a good sign.

Remarkably, less than a week later, one of our cooks decided to "no call, no show" which is, unfortunately, typical in the restaurant business. After discussing it with my husband, I called Bruce, and on the other end of the line was an answering machine for a church office. I left a message and, within the hour, he was back at the restaurant, in person.

"You ready now?" he asked as he walked through the door. We both laughed.
Bruce was a born-again Christian and had "found Jesus" after having seen the error of his ways during his wild, former life. During one of our many conversations about Christianity, I told him I was Catholic. He said "I won't hold that against you," and gave me a huge grin.

He had quite a history, which he was reluctant to share. Every now and again, however, he would give me a glimpse into his past, which was mostly scandalous. He had been a drug runner to and from Mexico, had spent time in prison, and he took the fifth on any rumors that circulated about him in the State of Idaho. He also expressed a great deal of pride that he was using his actual social security number for the first time in his life.

Bruce was fiercely independent and definitely his "own man." There was nothing soft about him. His rough edges concealed a huge heart, for I found out soon that he would do anything for me. Most of the time, I didn't even need to ask.
He just did it.

He was a recovering addict – one who used to shoot heroin into his knee caps so that track marks wouldn't be obvious when he wore short-sleeved work shirts. He also had a taste for vodka; a taste that never left him. He had been homeless for reasons he never clarified, and was living in a pup tent on the property of the home of a pastor from a local church. The pastor and his family had adopted him, in a way, after his successful stint at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission's "Work Readiness Program."

In addition to being a recovering addict and alcoholic, he was also bi-polar and had numerous health issues associated with his mental and physical conditions. I remember him telling me about the voices in his head, and how they never relented; they'd quiet down after the right combination of prescription medications, but never shut off completely.

Despite his history of mental illness and his notorious past, there was something very likeable about him. I wanted him to succeed and I intuitively knew that life was simply not easy for him. The years of abuse, while admittedly "Quite fun, Miss Penni!" were starting to take their toll.

During his employment with us, Bruce had three relapses which landed him back in rehabilitation. He'd do his best to stay clean, but without warning, something inside him would snap. Once, he decided to mix ample amounts of alcohol with his prescription medications which ultimately led to a medically-induced coma. I sat by his bedside at the hospital, holding his hand, praying over him – something I never thought I'd be doing as an employer.

I later learned that this wasn't an "accidental" overdose; he had attempted to take his life and failed. In retrospect, I recall him telling me that "God had bigger plans" for him than he had for himself. Unbeknownst to me was the truth and the weightiness of his words.

After Bruce's failed suicide attempt, he eventually admitted himself into a three-month treatment program. As soon as we learned he had returned to the area, we approached him to see if he'd be interested in returning to work, and he agreed.

He was actually on a good road and, after some encouragement, he signed up for classes at the community college to become an addictions counselor. He did very well at school, though it would take him hours to complete his homework. He once shared with me that, due to the amount of drugs previously put into his system, the toll was heavy on his ability to comprehend. What would take about an average classmate about a half-hour to complete would take Bruce at least an hour. But, he persevered, and became an "A" student.

In November of 2004, Bruce said something to me that I now recall as distinctly as if it were said to me yesterday. He was sitting at the counter on break and shared an outrageous thought:

"Sometimes, I just want to get a whole bunch of money, go to the casinos, blow it all, then blow my fucking brains out."

"Are you kidding me?" I was incredulous. "Don’t talk like that."

"Don’t you ever wake up and say 'what’s the point'?" he questioned.

It was clear to me he was agitated, and he had said some pretty outrageous things in the past, but this comment was somehow different. After I had shared this conversation with my husband, however, we decided to let it drop. As his friend, we should have conveyed his comments with the pastor he was living with, but as his employers, we felt it would be a breach in confidentiality. Had we known that his earlier hospitalization (in December of 2001) was an attempted suicide, we certainly have had a different reaction. Simply put: we didn’t know. We were as uninformed then as we would be in February. Things are not always as they seem.

In the beginning of the winter months of 2005, Bruce had been showing signs of easy aggravation and withdrawal. In February of 2005, on Ash Wednesday specifically, we received a call from the pastor he was living with. The news was not good: Bruce had taken off and left a note saying that, although they were like family to him, by the time they would be reading the note, he'd be out of the state. He had taken all of his savings, but left all of his personal belongings.
How could this be? We just worked together the previous day and he was as normal and upbeat as usual…just bought a car…two months left of schooling before he received his counseling certification...

I soon learned that Bruce spent his day off (the Monday prior to his disappearance) being very ill - vomiting all day, severe depression/mood swings - and that he attributed it to the new medication he was placed on. I know from conversations with him that the medication he was on to control his bi-polar disorder would not have necessarily given him these types of side effects. However, his liver had been so damaged from prior drug abuse that his toxicity levels may have reached a dangerous level. He may have been unable to metabolize what he was taking, which could have potentially brought on his severe reaction. His antidote to that would be to stop taking it altogether, which in turn, probably threw him into severe withdrawal symptoms.

I also learned that he had a difficult time at that Tuesday at work focusing on everything and he had described his moods as "bouncing." The nausea, however, wasn't as persistent. As I stated before, I worked with him on Tuesday and he seemed very normal to me; it was all so confusing.

On Wednesday, he was seen by someone who knows one of my servers. His attitude and demeanor were very clearly that of his "manic" phase, since by then, most of the medications would be out of his system. He was "all over the place" in his speech and behavior, and that was the last time anyone we knew personally had spoken to him.

Bruce committed suicide that night. He left a note in his hotel room which simply stated, "May God accept my soul and I pray all forgive me." It was a drug overdose, again combined with alcohol. We learned a lot about his final hours due to the casino surveillance tapes. Interestingly enough, the man who held things in so closely had his last day preserved on film in what could best be described as a "documentary." I know he’d probably laugh at the irony of it himself.

Looking back, I remember how Bruce took great pains to work through Step #8 of Alcoholics Anonymous' 12-Step program and "made a list of all persons [he] had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all." He tried so hard to make amends for past hurts done at his hand, by his own admission; sadly, he never saw fit to forgive himself.

Suicide has far-reaching affects on those left behind. We've been told not to try to figure out what went wrong with Bruce or what we could have done further, because there is no way to do that. One of Bruce's friends, an Associate Pastor who worked with him at the Rescue Mission, told us that Bruce had the susceptibility to snap at any minute: he could have been completely fine and then, out of nowhere, could have developed a thought in his head to commit suicide, and that thought alone would have been enough of a trigger.
Since I knew the voices never shut off completely for him and one of those thoughts passed through his head as recently as the previous November, it wasn't a matter of where or how. It was just a matter of when.

I have a hunch that the reason why he didn't reach out or say anything to us is because we were like family to him, too. The last people he would want to hurt would be those who meant the most to him.

Bruce's exit from my life was more abrupt than his entrance. After all was said and done, he did things in his own unique way and continued to be his own person.

Even to his death.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

my first essay grade

was an "A." only minor changes, grammatical ones at that, i have a thing for semicolons. i am now wondering if there is a 12-step program for folks like me?

husband posted paper on the fridge for all to see. stop by and look on the fridge but not in it. am uncertain if there is a science experiment starting up...

next assignment due on tuesday. it'll be here maybe by monday night :)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

essay #2 - details

lesson on being descriptive (beginnings of...) - it's in the details

instructions: go outside, study something (anything) for ten minutes and come back in and write a paragraph. total time: 20 minutes.


my subject wheeled himself out of the building to take a break from his studies. i watched as he carefully made his way to the recycling container with his empty poland spring water bottle - straight in -- he shoots, he scores. he thereafter looked around and pushed his chair manually to a sunny spot, opting to be in the warmth as opposed to seeking shelter from the sun under the shade made available by the cover to the walkway.

he was wearing all green, save for the sport stripe on his shorts and his white ankle socks and tennis shoes. the lanyard which hung about his neck was purple and i would venture a guess that his many keys were of great value to him; out of what appeared to be a nervous habit, he repeatedly examined them on several occasions during my 10-minute observation period, his concentration only interrupted by the rubbing together of his hands or the touching of his sparsely-bearded chin for new growth.

it was apparent to me that he was desirous of contact -- he smiled amiably at passersby who failed to make eye contact with him: they were either chatting with their companions or on their cell phones for all within earshot to hear. he would scratch his head and look at the ground if his *greeting* went unacknowledged. nobody spoke to him as they strode by so all of his greetings went unacknowledged.

he sat in his cushioned and stickered wheelchair, tapping his hands on his lap and momentarily smiling to himself on occasion, as if remembering something that had made him happy. there were six other students sitting on the nearby benches surrounding him, but it was apparent he was all alone.

he pushed his glasses up his nose, and with a small sigh reached down, lifted the brake off the wheel of his chair and swung himself around. it was time to go back to class.

for both of us.


essay #1 - diagnostic

this was to see where we *were* as writers...

question: why are you attending this college? 15-minute time frame


with eager anticipation in the fall of 2004, i signed up for and attended two college-level courses -- one was english composition 101 and the other, algebra I. it had been several years since i had taken any formal math course, but it was a class i was actually looking forward to. i went to classes for about six weeks before i had to (sadly) withdraw. leaving algebra wasn't very difficult, but leaving my english class? that had me tearful.

i initially wanted to be a nursing major...what little girl didn't want to be a nurse? all the excitement i felt about my decision quickly dissipated with my "not-so-silent-partner-in-my-business" of a father-in-law declared it an "unsound judgment" and vowed to make me miserable the balance of my days (not really) should i decide to stay in school. i reluctantly opted out, but later discovered it was actually the right thing to do after all because it enabled me to focus on my business and determine whether nursing actually was my true calling.

when the topic of school came up again this past spring, it was decided that i would attempt school once again. i changed my major to literature (my "true" love) and entered into a pinky-swear that i'd see things through this time, regardless of outside forces.

over-bearing but well-meaning inlaws aside, one knows that all pinky-swears are ever-solemn, so i am afraid you are stuck with me, at least this semester.


why another blog?

this is my blog to put my essays i have to write for the college course i am taking. i don't want to add these to my martha blog because of their length. it's really just my journal for school writings.

this is entry #1 so i can alter my blog look, i probably won't be posting pictures alongside like i do with my other blogs. reason behind that is i want the words to speak for themselves.

Violence is the first refuge of the incompetent. Issac Asimov