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 #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, #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