The Heart Remembers What the Head Fights to Forget…

I know it was at some point this week, 15 years ago… I was searching for a flight. (ANY FLIGHT!!!) A flight from Minneapolis to the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. My mother had called me; Kory, my brother, was shipped stateside. He was active USA Army, stationed in South Korea, (incidentally where we had adopted him from 27 years prior)… he was at the hospital with aggressive cancer, they expected the worse…

Mom had just had gastric bypass surgery, my brothers and sisters were working; two babies from two different siblings (with sweet little families) were due any day… I lived on my own in an apartment with this ‘little’ issue called ‘fibromyalgia’ making it impossible for me to have any kind of schedule…

“Can you get to Kory?”

(“Can I get to Kory?”)

… can i…???

“I will be on the first flight out!”

Rest, my brother, I am on my way.

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I can’t make this a long story… it hurts too much, my brother did not last, the fucking, unforgivable cancer took him at 37 years of age. This is a difficult month for me. He died on August 18th, 2003. My family members were all able to see him, tell him we loved him then we had to watch him die… I hate August.

Before I Tripped Over a Stone, #23

(Previous post, Before I Tripped, #22)

I was settling in and getting comfortable as the director of the Bishop Lewis State Work Release program in Seattle, Washington. I had worked with a government narcotics unit to safely (and quietly) remove a strain of black tar heroin from the community. The facility was moving in the direction of intensive training for the staff. The cognitive-behavioral model was being introduced, and all staff who were shift level supervisors and above would be trained in this practice. I was at a point in my life where I finally was able to breathe!

I began to focus on my personal life, and the first step was finding a new place to call home. I enjoyed living in Seattle, West Seattle is where I called home. No, it doesn’t rain all the time, contrary to popular belief. It usually rained overnight, and you woke up to the clean scent of evergreen trees and salt water. Seattle has a nickname, the Emerald City. In the mornings, after the sun burns through the gray, misty fog, you can view the city sparkling as it wakes from its nighttime cleansing showers. Everywhere you go the presence of the Cascade Mountains and the incredible, awe-inspiring Mt. Rainier, make their presence known. In the distance, you can see Mt. Hood. The Puget Sound encircles the city, with lakes and parks inviting you to get out and enjoy nature. I was in my element.

I found a little post-war bungalow with a carriage house to rent. Amy, who I had moved to Seattle from Minneapolis with, decided to move with me into the bungalow until a year later when she, too, would find a place to her liking. The little bungalow was precious! All complete with a white, wooden swing hanging in the front porch. Life was good, and I intended to continue to make it all that I dreamed of.

I was at peace, finally.

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Time would happily pass … after two years, I got engaged. He moved in. His daughter stayed with us every other weekend. One Saturday afternoon, in August of 1998, he and I decided to go adopt a kitty from the local shelter. He drove. I never saw the Tahoe coming at us until he yelled, “Hold on, Baby, he’s not going to stop!”

Before I tripped … abruptly ends. Like my life, as I knew it.

I tripped over that stone in August 1998, its name is Fibromyalgia Syndrome…

IMG_4892~Goodbye Kim. 1998.

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Thanks, everyone for following Before I Tripped Over A Stone. I used to be a lot of things… I used to be mine.

(Start from the beginning; Before I Tripped Over a Stone, Fridays, the series, #1)

Before I Tripped Over a Stone, Fridays, #22

(Previous Fridays post, Before I Tripped, #21)

I had arrived in Seattle and landed my first job. The job I had been formally educated to do. I was hired to be the Assistant Director of one of the largest Work Releases in Seattle, Washington. If I told you I was not nervous, I’d be lying, I learned my predecessor lasted one day!

The correction staffers were curious but not really thrilled to have a new assistant director. I was told while working shifts which staffers revealed that they blatantly didn’t care who I was, I wasn’t their boss, they had seniority over me because they had worked there longer. Interesting I thought, as not one of them stepped up to interview for the position I had just landed. So, my first week was spent working the different shifts, getting to know the staff and the men who were serving out the remainder of their prison sentences, the 70 male residents of the Bishop Lewis House.

It didn’t take me long to get the respect of those who said they wouldn’t treat me as their superior. I reviewed all employee files and called each staff member in, one by one, to my office. I asked them what their strengths and weaknesses were and asked them how I could assist them with their career goals and their ideas for advancement. Bluntly, I announced to them they would ‘advance right out of a job‘ if I did not see an increase in their performance level by meeting specific goals we would set together. I had no choice but to play hardball right out of the gate to get them to see me as a superior. This job was no joke! We had a community to serve and protect from some very dangerous men who were getting out of prison whether we assisted in this transition or not. Coddling staff was not in my job description.

That was my bottom line! The staff had no additional resources for employment advancement other than through me. I laid it all on the table and respect was gained through my adherence to structure and title, not seniority. They accepted me or resigned. I laid out the simple facts before them, and my job was firmly in hand. (Those ‘problem’ staff that I was told to get rid of when I was hired, were no longer problems.)

I LOVED my job. I don’t know how else to say it. I was genuinely concerned about the welfare of these residents; regaining social skills and entering the working force while maintaining the integrity of the facility and community safety that was required by law. I would ensure these men received the necessary classes and supervision for re-entry into society and the family units that these men would effect upon their release. This job was hard. This job was demanding. This job was necessary! I was serving my community and the individuals who would feel an impact these men had on them.

Everyone gets released from prison, eventually. Unless your name was Charles Manson, you will be a free man again one day. (By the way, Manson was incarcerated many times and released until his mass-murdering group of followers went over the edge of sanity.) This is just a fact. Everyone gets out of prison. Work-release is a way to ensure this is done as safely and securely as it can be.

In my fifth month of employment, my boss was moved to a superior department head position, and my title became Director of the Bishop Lewis State Work Release. Then came the first black tar heroin epidemic to hit the Pacific Northwest. The Bishop Lewis House experienced its first overdose death from this epidemic of a specific black tar heroin strain in a bathroom stall … I would also be involved in a short-term, profoundly secretive, ‘partnership’ with a regulated Government agency narcotics unit, to assist in the sweep to remove this particular deadly strain of black tar heroin from Seattle.

(Continued, Before I Tripped, #23)

img_0156~Kim

 

 

Before I Tripped Over a Stone, Fridays #21

If you’d like to catch up, please go to; Before I Tripped #20

Amy and I had everything packed. Two cars completely full, Amy’s 2 cats, and we each had a walkie-talkie; purple with yellow buttons. We would drive from Minneapolis to Seattle over a span of 3 days. Amy had gone to Triple AAA, and they had mapped out our route for us. Oh, the things we did in 1996 before home computers and cell phones!

Amy would be the pace car if she tapped her brakes twice, that meant to turn on the walkie-talkie she wanted to tell me something. As the car following, if I flipped my brights at her twice, that was my signal, turn on the walkie-talkie, I wanted to talk. We didn’t want to wear out the batteries, and we agreed to say “over” as we finished speaking to the other. And off we went!

(Somewhere in Montana… Amy again taping brakes, Kim again turning on the walkie-talkie.)

“Did you see that trucker cut me off! Over.”

“Yes. Over.”

“I almost died! …Over!” (and so it went…)

We drove with only minor mishaps! Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Western Washington, the Cascades, and then, finally… Seattle! (West Seattle to be specific!)

Our first week in our new apartment which we would learn later was on bullet alley across from crack row… (how do we end up in these areas?!?!) We had no furniture, so we purchased air mattresses, a futon and a bean bag chair with matching ottoman. We also bought two director chairs for the patio and a little matching table. We both got our driver’s licenses and set up bank accounts. My best friend Holly lived about an hour away and came for a visit! Our first visitor! Two weeks later we would both attend her wedding!

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I loved this little complex, there was a pool, a weight room, a party room. The apartment itself was laid out quite nicely. If this was their idea of ‘a bad neighborhood,’ I was impressed. When we left Minneapolis, it had just been coined, ‘Murder-apolis.’ We only heard gunshots once while we lived in that apartment, and we were there for a little over a year.

We discovered micro-brews, fresh seafood, the Ballard Locks, Pikes Place Market, The Fishermans Warf, Post Alley, The Underground Seattle, the Space Needle and Mt Rainier. Amy landed a job with a temp. agency as a paralegal and I would start as an assistant director for a state-run work release after we attended my best friends wedding.

The Bishop Lewis House, State Work Release, downtown Seattle. I would work each shift to get to know the employees, then move to a permanent 2-10 swing shift. I was told after I reported for my first shift, my first priority was to shadow two problem employees. I was thinking I have 70 convicts and 12 staff to oversee and you are worried about 2 employees? My boss wanted them both gone, but I had other ideas…

(Continued, Before I tripped, #22)

IMG_0250~Kim

Before I Tripped Over a Stone, Fridays #20

Just an FYI. I have re-numbered all of my Before I Tripped Over a Stone, Fridays, posts. So if you are interested, they are now numbered! Feel free to search them out! (You can start the linked series here.) (OR read the previous Friday post here.)

We are going to hit fast forward a bit … two years, to 1996. (I did graduate college in 1994.) So I am living with my roommate, Amy, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I met Amy while we were both in college.

I am working as a counselor in a mental health group home for those who are challenged. I love my residents, and we do the things that make them happy. We go for rides in the van and get ice cream! We go to movies, to the arboretum, and the circus. We have cook-outs and go shopping. It was a nice way to earn a living.

The downside is that these residents are adults and tend to be very strong. They tantrum like two-year-olds and that is never fun. In fact, I received a concussion, a black eye, and I broke my toe… OK! The toe thing I did on my own by kicking a soccer ball while wearing sandals. It was Doc Martens from then on out, even in the summer! It was my second concussion and well, a few black eyes later that made me wonder what kind of change I needed?

Amy and I lived in a beautiful old brownstone 4-plex with oak, hardwood floors. That apartment was solid! I mean super sound-proof! Amy tapped danced in the dining room… she was a tap dancing, paralegal! (Not at the same time.) We never had any complaints. We threw awesome football parties and roaring 70’s parties! No one ever complained when we all sang ABBA and The Carpenters at the top of our lungs!

One night as I was lying on the floor, (well, you ask, why was I laying on the floor?) Amy and I were playing a card game and I got up to change the CD we were listening to, and we heard, “POP!…POP!POP!POP!” I had hit the floor after the first ‘pop,’ as did Amy. Gunshots again. I looked over at her and started laughing. I just couldn’t stop! She started laughing too, and I said as soon as we hear sirens lets walk down to the C.C. Club and get a beer. It was nice having a bar within walking distance.

The next evening, it started to rain. Torrential rain!!! It was almost the end of October. While we were sleeping, it froze and then started to snow. We both got to stay home from work. But there was no going anywhere, our cars were frozen to the ground. The ice was about 3 inches thick! The weather people were telling us to not attempt to move frozen cars as you would wreck the transmission (or something to that effect). Too late! Amy had been out there with a blow dryer trying to melt the ice and was rocking her car back and forth! I told her when she came back in what the weather person had said. She was not impressed with my laughter.

Well, what does one do when you can’t do anything? We slipped and slid down to the C.C. Club, once again. Usually, our whole group of friends would meet at our apartment when we had a snowstorm and chip in to buy beer. We had a liquor store that delivered beer to your house, but it was a bit more expensive. They often delivered on a snowmobile in the winter. We opted out. No one could get to our apartment anyway after this freak ice storm we had.

By the time we had each finished our first beer, we had decided we were going to move. We decided where and when. Seattle, Washington. We would be there on July 1st, 1996. That gave us nine months to sell our stuff and save some money. Cheers to us!

We would go! We rented an apartment over the phone, sight unseen. We each packed up what would fit in our cars (Amy had to get a different car…oops!), and sold the rest. We would drive to our new city with no jobs! This was either going to be the best decision we had ever made or the stupidest…

(To be continued.)

IMG_0250~Kim

Before I Tripped Over a Stone, Fridays, #19

(Previous series post, Before I Tripped, #18)

The beginning of my illustrious career bartending, waitressing and short-order cooking. In this bar, we usually had a bartender and a waitress. We knew all positions, worked them all and were kept very busy! I was training in on a Sunday night. Sunday nights were slower but still active as this bar just never ceased to lack patrons.

I must mention, I had worked as a ‘satellite’ pull tab seller for a bingo hall (yes a third job I held down for a time) and this bar was my satellite spot. This helped tremendously as most of the patrons were regulars, and I knew them from my pull tab selling days.


Warning: Offensive Language.


“D” the owner was going to give me a shot at a position in this bar. You can make a lot of money working at a bar, and this one was no different. I made up my mind that I was going to pass this little test and make my money! I took this ‘shot’ and never looked back…

One of the regular guys was bartending, and I was waitressing when a call came in that his wife had been in a minor car accident but had to be hospitalized. He left with apologies, but he absolutely had to go. I told him not to worry, “I got this…”

Then “D” made his way to the bar to ‘help’ me.

The guys started ordering drinks I’d never heard of! This was ridiculous… this was a biker bar for christ’s sake. Top shelf whiskey was about as fancy as we got! “D” took out a bartending book and decided to tell me how to mix these absurd drinks. (Let’s be serious, the regulars don’t like change, “D” was half in the bag trying to tell me how to mix drinks, this was a damn losing game, and I was getting fed up!) In the midst of this nightmare, two biker’s, …er… patrons… were arm wrestling in the corner and “D” told me to go break it up. (Arm wrestling leads to horrific fights in a bar, I’d witnessed a few.) Everyone’s yelling for “the bartender” at this point and one smart ass says “D” better get his money back and replace me.

“That’s it!” I yelled.

I grabbed the last two drinks I was trying to make and slammed them on the counter! I told the smart asses if they couldn’t tell me what was in the “candy ass drinks” they were ordering they better shut the hell up because I wouldn’t be serving it! I cracked open a few of their regular bottles of Old Mill I knew they drank and yelled $2.50! I walked past “D” over to the bikers. I put my hand on top of theirs and said very quietly, “we don’t hold hands in this bar, got it?” They stopped arm wrestling immediately. I walked back behind the bar and grabbed the book out of “D’s” hands and said, “if they can’t call it they can’t have it!” I threw the book behind the register and yelled over the jukebox, “This is my damn bar tonight, you assholes, who wants a beer?”

Silence. Slowly … a clap … then clapping and finally, a roar of laughter… “I’ll take a whiskey sour, Miss Kim!”

“You got it!”

(Wholly hell, I just became a bartender with street cred.)

(Continued, Before I Tripped #20)

img_0156~Kim

Before I Tripped Over a Stone, Fridays, #18

(Previous series post, Before I Tripped, #17)

I had successfully passed my commercial driving test with air brake, and passenger endorsements after my county job had come to a close. I enjoyed driving a school bus. Route driving was pretty easy. We were paid for a minimum of two hours no matter how long our route actually was. My route was about an hour and ten minutes, each morning and evening route. I loved my big snubbed nose 92 passenger bus! I even liked my naughty riders. The sweet students were precious, the precocious ones kept things interesting. I was known as “hey, bus driver!” for three years and I never regretted becoming one. I took great pride in delivering my ‘kids’ to school and back home from school safely, every day.

It fascinated me how rude people were when I was running my route. Honking, trying to pass when I was dropping off my kids, doing some terrifying stuff that could have injured and resulted in a child being run over. I took no prisoners; license plate numbers, the date, and place of the incident were called into the base hub, and these people were ticketed.

I had one man come up to my bus as I was dropping off children to scream obscenities at me because I pulled my stop arm and he didn’t think I gave him enough warning. The children were so scared, it was my elementary run. I smiled at the kids who I was dropping off and whispered, “run along home right now.” Then I turned back to the rude man and started arguing long enough to make sure my kids had gotten in their house then I told the man to get back in his vehicle immediately. He said he was going to report me, I told him I was glad and to please remember my bus number so he could get it right. He dropped a few more F-Bombs. And I drove away. Not even 15 minutes later…

“Base to G-1, you are to report to the main office upon returning.”

“G1 to Base, 10-4.”

Dang, that dude was quick! I got back to the bus barn and walked into the office waiting for my penance. Not only was my boss, the secretary, and the mechanic sitting there… The boss from another bus company was also present. This was not going to go well. Then they all started laughing and asked if I was OK?

Apparently, the irate man went to the wrong bus depot and raised some hell. Then they figured out who I was and came over to my depot to talk with my boss. All this time my boss was receiving phone calls from concerned parents that a ‘maniac’ was attacking their kid’s bus driver and they would not stand for it!

I was speechless and just slumped into a chair. All I could come up with was, “Well, I’m just fine.” This seemed to make everyone laugh even harder, and I was handed a beer because ‘it looked like I needed one.’

Ah, memories… there was never a dull moment. And things were going to get a lot more interesting as I decided to pick up a second job bartending at a biker bar to offset my income. Twenty hours a week bus driving was not cutting it with the bills and school payments.

My first night, the bartender who was supposed to train me had to leave. His wife had been in a minor car accident and was OK, but she was hospitalized. Off he went! It was the owner, “D” and me. Now, this bar was well-run and very busy. But it took a tough crew to run it and keep things under control. “D” decided to see if I had what it took and threw me into the fire that night. I was ticked off, but I knew two can play this game. It was ‘make’ or ‘break’ time, and I wasn’t about to break. He had no idea what tricks I had up my sleeve. Let’s just say this evening was going to be an eye-opener for him.

(Continued, Before I Tripped, #19)

IMG_0250~Kim

Before I Tripped Over a Stone, Fridays #17

(Previous series post, Before I Tripped, #16)


“You get your ass in the truck right now! You can kiss your hours’ goodbye for today, and if you ever speak to me like that again you will be off my crew faster than you can blink, do you hear me?” 

“Yeah.”

“What did you say?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Now get in damn the truck!”

Spring had sprung, and I left my job at the children’s home. I am not a graveyard shift type person. The more significant issue was that I got into a disagreement with management. I refused to sign some policy paperwork about what I could and couldn’t say when counseling the kids. It was a religious organization that ran this facility. So, we parted ways. I was now working for the county taking men out of jail to fulfill their community service hours.

I drove a big Suburban and ran a crew of 6-8 men. We reshingled community centers and churches. City park lawns were mowed, and home maintenance projects for the elderly were completed. Sporting arenas were cleaned. We painted fire department doors and city curbs. We also maintained firewalls in forested areas which bring us to the conversation as mentioned above with one of my guys.

We were in the middle of nowhere clearing some tree breaks. We had a couple little backhoes and a massive wood chipper, shovels, and safety gear. It was hot! I was running water back and forth with the truck as the guys were working their assigned posts. One smart ass decided to tell me he felt like putting me in the wood chipper and calling it a day.

The above conversation ensued…

Luckily the rest of the guys had my back and started telling ‘smartass’ that was a dumb thing to say, and if he laid a finger on me, it’d be the last thing he’d do.

“Enough! Everyone back to work, except you ‘smartass’. Your day is done!” 

Off he went to the truck. The guys went back to their work assignments, and we finished our day. When I got back to the office, I put in a report on ‘smartass’ but continued to take him out with my crew. He was stupid, not dangerous.

When the job ended that fall, we did not receive an additional grant to continue running the program so that job had run its course and ended. I needed to find another job and in a quick hurry.

I took a job bartending in a biker bar on the weekends, and during the week I drove a 92 passenger school bus. I maintained these two jobs through the rest of my college years.

My first night of bartending was a nightmare! I was sure I would be fired.

(Continued, Before I Tripped, #18)

 

img_0156~Kim

Before I Tripped Over a Stone, Fridays. #16

(Previous series post, Before I Tripped, #15)

As a whole, ‘ghost children’ freak me out. I don’t find them scary, necessarily, but they are a bit intrusive! I think ‘ghost children’ make me sad because they are children. Not that I’ve met many… at the children’s home where I worked we had a few. It was started as an orphanage during WWII so if it were to be haunted just who would do the haunting? Children.

I was working the midnight to 8AM shift. This worked perfectly because my first class on campus was at 9AM, so I had plenty of time to drive home, catch the campus shuttle bus and get to class. My body had a hard time adjusting to this schedule! There is something that happens to your body at about 3AM. You begin to fight to stay awake. Your body temperature drops. You desperately crave warmth and sleep. I did everything I could to stay awake, this was not the time for bookkeeping because your brain goes into a seized up mode. I would pull a blanket out of the closet to get some warmth and literally jog around the cottage, I began setting an egg timer to go off every 20 minutes just to be sure I didn’t fall asleep… when 4:30AM rolled around, it started to ease up… I usually began prepping breakfast for my early risers, so I knew I was in the safe zone. The day shift arrived at 8AM.

I was invited to participate in a ‘3AM breakfast club’ with the other counselors in the kitchen. I was told this is what the graveyard shift would do to fight that 3AM sleep craving time. Potluck in the kitchen. I was never comfortable leaving my cottage. We only had glorified baby monitors. There was no way to really hear the door alarm warnings if they went off. (This would also alert us if any of our kids were up and roaming.) I was not comfortable being way down in the kitchen for any amount of time. This did not make me very popular with the other staff, but I was not there to watch over them! Finally, I excused myself from the ‘breakfast club’ gathering with the regret of needing ‘homework time’ during my shift. I was really miffed about these gatherings…

As I was walking back to my cottage, I hear the tricycle clattering along down the hall. I often listened to the ghost child on the trike as it passed my cottage but then I realized I had never been in the hall with the tricycle rider!!! I had no idea what to expect! (Could one of the counselors be playing a trick on me?) I quickened my steps, and the trike rider peddled faster. (Damn it!) I stopped altogether, and the trike rider peddler slowed, then stopped. (Hell, no!) I ran, and the trike peddler started peddling really fast! It was coming towards me … I reached the door to my cottage, fumbling to unlock the door I turned to look down the hall. There was the big wheel of the trike barely coming into view. I got the door to the cottage unlocked and ran in securing it behind me. I turned around and muffled a scream as I saw a child standing in front of me! “Do you hear that?!?!?” the child screamed. (It was one of my kids, my cottage kid.) I responded “shhh…” as I pulled her to a sitting position on the floor by me. I had my back against the door to the cottage. We listened to the trike peddle slowly by us and on down the hall.

I explained to the child, who was now sitting on the floor beside me, that it was one of the other counselors playing a prank and that she needed to head back up to bed. She looked at me doubtfully and said, “you looked pretty scared.” I said, “Naw, I’m just too old for pranks!” We went into the kitchen for a glass of milk and a cookie. (I’m so glad milk and cookies work!) We chatted about her field trip scheduled for that day and what would she wear! Then, off to bed she went, and I decided to start breakfast preparation.

The incident in the hallway was nothing more than a child on a trike who possibly wanted to have a little fun with me. That is that! No harm, no foul. Finding one of my kids awake as I returned to my cottage shook me up. What if she would have needed me?  There would never be a ‘breakfast club’ meeting for me again.

(Continued, Before I Tripped, #17)

IMG_0250~Kim

Before I tripped Over a Stone, Fridays, #15

Getting ready to go back to college! I had been to college for a year back in 1986, but I was unsure what I wanted to major in. So I took some time off to work. After four years of working in clinical settings, I knew my best bet was to major in social work, and minor in criminal justice. I was living in an area called “Uptown” in Minneapolis. A very artsy/eclectic community at the time. I lived in a brownstone with my sister. I loved that apartment. It was hard leaving it.

In 1991, I packed up my car and headed to the St. Cloud State University in St.Cloud, Minnesota. I had rented an off-campus apartment in a basic eight-plex of square boxes. Boring but the price was right. On the day I drove the 60 miles to the college it was 102 degrees. I kept thinking my car tires would melt! 100 degree days are infrequent in Minnesota!

I settled in and went job hunting. And hunt I did! This was a college town, but luckily I started the search that summer before the other students arrived. I got it down to two offers; a nursing home facility aid or an overnight counselor for teens in treatment. What did I choose??? Teens in treatment! I thought, well, they’ll be sleeping anyway. What harm would be in that? (This would be nothing like my psychiatric technician shifts) I received my job description; a cleaning list and some basic bookkeeping responsibilities then I would make breakfast in the morning. Easy Peasey. (If only.)

I made it through the summer just fine, working while registering for fall classes, we used to have to stand in line to register. (Yes, I am aging myself!) We had to stand in line for everything! Signing up for classes, paying bills, buying textbooks, it was a practice in patience.

So I began working at a very well known children’s home in St. Cloud. This used to be an orphanage during WWII. It was the weirdest building I had ever worked in. It had a substantial inner structure of offices, central kitchen, and classrooms, like a school. And a vast basement, locked rooms, and a gym but it was really a bomb shelter. Around that inner structure was one huge circular hallway and the ‘cottages,’ where the children lived, were attached to the exterior of this round hallway. You never had to go outside, except for church. The grounds were so beautiful, hauntingly beautiful.

I heard my fair share of ghost stories, people seeing children in period clothing, nuns and priests walking through the interior building towards the church outside. There was the ‘burning room’ in the basement. It was basically a timeout room that is never used anymore but was in the past. A child had started a mattress on fire when he was made to sleep in one of the locked rooms and died … it still smelled like sulfur. Whatever... I already knew! I could sense stuff. There were a few oddities, but I never felt threatened until one night, the little boy on the tricycle came to visit.

(Continued, Before I Tripped, #16)

img_0156~Kim

Before I Tripped Over a Stone, Fridays, #14

I am continuing my story about working with “A,” a nine-year-old little boy with autism.

“A” and I successfully moved to Mrs. O’s classroom. Mrs.O was a proper lady, she was repulsed by “A’s” spitting, but as he settled into the routine, this became a coping mechanism “A” used less and less. “A” bloomed in Mrs’ O’s class. He was beginning to talk in class, he was able to do his reading out loud to me instead of me reading to him. We continued to go to the computer lab to do his math assignment, the tactile defenses of chalk and pencils were still very much intact. I was incredibly pleased with his progress as were the teachers.

As I worked with “A” during the week at the school, my weekends were spent as a live-in counselor at a group home for the mentally challenged. I seemed to always pick up a position as a live-in because you were paid for sleeping time, not as much as your hours awake at the house but when you had to get up with a resident, you just punched in. We were then told the sleeping hours would no longer be paid, because they would be bringing a cleaning person in at night. You could still sleep there, but you would no longer be paid.

I needed to go back to college. I needed a degree, and I needed to work in a position where restraining clients was a thing of the past. I was close to requiring surgery on my right shoulder unless I could give it the proper rest it needed. So I made a plan. I enrolled in college. Again.

The school year had ended, and “A” and I were parting ways, my live-in position was cutting hours, so I resigned. I headed to St. Cloud State University. I would be majoring in social work and minoring in criminal justice. I called back to check on “A” the following year. I was told he often got in trouble for talking too much in class! (This was a child who was non-verbal the year before.) He was brilliant and was completing his coursework and continued to move up academically. My “A”! I knew he was going to be a delightful young boy and smart! Oh, did I miss him!!!

Now it was on to college and a haunted orphanage…

(Would you like Before I Tripped Over a Stone, Fridays to continue??? Please leave me your vote in the comment section below.) 

(OK! Continued! Before I Tripped, #15)

IMG_0255~Kim

Before I Tripped Over a Stone, Fridays, #13

I was carrying “A” to the time-out room, he was trying to bite other students. One of the other teacher’s aides had his legs. We were doing a side restraint, placing “A” in a hugging ‘self’ side position as this was the latest and safest way for children to be restrained. It was supposed to calm them… “A” turned his head and shot a ball of spit directly between my eyes. This kid was talented! He was a phenomenal spitter! Accurate. It was my 11th day working with him.

The first day I met “A” I was told he was a non-verbal autistic boy. “A” was nine years old. He liked to bite, spit, and grab your shirt at the neck and twist. (Great, I was going to be strangled and bit to death by a nine-year-old. Note to self; wear v-neck tee shirts.) “A” was in Mr. P’s class as Mr. P was a gifted teacher with the children no one else could handle. (Trust me, I liked Mr. P. but gifted he was not.) Goal… Mrs. O’s class, that was “A’s” grade level.

“A” was the most beautiful child I had ever seen. He looked like he should be on canvas,  painted as an angel. I am not kidding, he was angelic looking. He whimpered when he first met me. I told him that I was his friend and I would never touch him unless I asked and I always did. Every time I said “A” I need to touch you now because ‘biting/spitting/ strangling/’ is not OK.

“A” could be just naughty because he was all boy. Secretly, I liked that he showed off his boy-ness once in a while, letting the autism take the back burner while he played a prank or wouldn’t listen to direction and did his own thing. Yes, sometimes he was just “A,” not autistic “A.”

I read to him often, but if I stopped he’d be mumbling the words with me. I slowly figured out he was verbal! I was so excited! I finally got him into a computer room for his math lessons. He did not like chalk, and he didn’t care for pencils, but he liked the computer keys… he knew math! We began doing all his math assignments on one of the computers in the school.

He loved to swim. As a class, we often went to the high school to use the pool on Fridays. Of course, “A” would never get out of the pool when it was time to go. Oh, how the principal would chase “A”… eventually, I’d hold up his snack bag, and “A” would come to me, tiring of the chase from the principal. I would just look at the principal and shake my head. I told the principal every week, he just needs a little extra time to adjust to leaving, we need an 8-minute warning so he can count down the minutes. (To me this was an easy concept, but it was hard to get my point across until the principal finally caved and would let me give “A” an eight-minute warning.)

I need to thank the French for their beautiful words, “au revoir.” Every day when the final bell rang and “A” was leaving for the day, I would say “au revoir” to him. At first, this would startle him, he was curious about these words. Eventually, he would wait until I said them after the final bell rang. He would smile and (I may get a little eye contact) then off he’d go. One day, right before Thanksgiving break, he stopped, turned around and he said it back to me! He said it back!!!

I started to laugh! I felt sheer joy! Mrs. O! Guess who is coming to class?

(Continued, Before I Tripped, #14)

img_0156~Kim