Sunday, November 30, 2008

There's a boy - well, a young man really - in my twelfth grade Drama class. He misses too much school. And when he's in class he sometimes seems unhappy to be there. He looks tired and he seems irritated with his classmates sometimes. This behaviour is confusing because there are other times I see a different side of him, a side that is intelligent and sensitive and funny and charismatic. I've not confronted him regarding the times I see his negative side. I assumed he had his reasons like I have mine.

On Thursday he poked his head into my office and said he wanted to talk to me for a second. I looked away from my computer screen expecting something short and... inconsequential. He said, "I want you to know that I like your class a lot. Sometimes I might seem kind of uninterested but I'm not. At least, it's not because of the class. It's because of my brother."

I turned fully away from the computer at that point, realising he was saying something important after all.

He said, "My brother, he suffers from alcoholism. And so sometimes there's a lot of pressure on me at home because I'm between him and my parents... and I have to side with them a lot because he's sometimes a real asshole."

I pushed the chair beside me out from the desk. "Sit down."

He kept talking. He said his brother had already been to rehab and relapsed, and was living at home again, slowly destroying his family's peace and unity. He said his parents wanted him to talk to a counsellor but that he didn't want to, he didn't want to take the time to establish a new relationship with someone that just revolved around this issue. He said he just wanted to talk to someone with whom he already had a relationship. Like me.

This was kind of surprising because I haven't felt like I was bonding much with this individual. And yet, he felt we already had a relationship that made talking to me easier. I felt truly honoured.

And I broke the rule about not revealing any personal information. I told him about C being an addict too. I didn't give him details or burden him (I hope) but I wanted him to know that my understanding wasn't just an understanding of the feelings he was describing, but an understanding of the situation itself. How it feels to watch someone you love slowly killing herself... or himself.

He seemed greatly relieved to have talked about it, not only about making sure I understood that he actually did care about his classes... but also about having had the chance to tell someone what he was dealing with. I know it doesn't help change the situation to tell people about it - because I've tried - but it does sometimes help to know there are other people who understand and who care.


Tonight C's boyfriend called to tell me she wouldn't be calling her daughter tonight because she is too sick. He said she has a high fever. I don't know what's really going on but I feel certain it's more than just a flu. The fact that this man elected to phone me frightens me, to be honest, because it makes me think C is unable to speak for herself. Unconscious perhaps. It scares me enormously and there's nothing I can do.


Tonight Little J showed me something she's been working on with her counsellor. It's a plan of action for coping with the stress of knowing that her mother has been overdosing. It says in the plan that she has fears about her mother dying. Until today I hadn't realised that Little J knew this was a possibility. I've been tiptoeing around that because I don't want to plant fears in her unnecessarily. And I haven't wanted to scare her assuming she still believed her mother was immortal.

And suddenly I see she does know. And she's handling it well. Amazing girl.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

We drove past her on the way home; she was standing there in the rain weaving unsteadily on her feet, a glazed look on her face. I don't know if she saw us go by, if she felt the pull that I felt in my chest. How can I leave you standing there in the rain? Waiting. I remember loving her. I remember trying to protect her, trying to make her feel pretty, trying to make her feel strong. I also remember hurting her, thinking my honesty could change her when nothing could change her at all. She was too far damaged before I even met her. Even before her parents met her. And now she's a stranger standing in the rain awaiting a ride back to a transient home, a transient partner, a transient life. Will the ride come? I want to make sure she's safe. And I know she never will be - ride or no ride.

And I squint at her and see her the way strangers do. Probably wondering what's wrong with her. Maybe making judgements. Druggie... loser.... freak...

And I squint harder and I see gravestones.

And I open my eyes and brush away the tears because this woman was my family.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Today C was hospitalized again. Third time by my count. Maybe more that I don't know about... but three at least in the last few weeks. Overdoses. She has different stories, of course. About bad reactions to medication. About falling down and hurting herself. None of it is true. She's overdosing. She's killing herself. I'm going to lose her.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

expert service at competitive prices

Fulfilling a parental role means that there's a lot less time to think about what I'm doing and how successfully I'm doing it, and a lot more time just spent on the doing. Driving her to school, picking her up from school, driving her to dance class, picking her up from dance class, driving her to counselling, picking her up from counselling, driving her to visits with her mother, picking her up from visits with her mother, driving her to drama class, picking her up from drama class... getting her up for school, helping her do her hair, helping her put in her earrings, helping her with her homework, helping her feed her cat and clean his litter, helping her feed her hamster and clean his cage, helping her clean her room, helping her do her laundry, cooking her meals, making her lunches, washing her dishes, tucking her in, telling her stories, listening to her stories, answering her questions ... ...

and when I'm not doing all that, sometimes I sit and wonder how I'm doing at it. But most of the time not. Most of the time I just do it.


This morning the power went out during first period. It was about nine o'clock and we had just finished watching a performance by three boys who did not know their lines very well. A typical Tuesday morning in my world. And then suddenly the theatre was pitch black. My first thought was that some twit had done something to the light board because twits sometimes do things to the light board, plunging us into darkness. But when I groped my way over to the light switch I found it did nothing. A look out into the hallway confirmed that the entire school was dark.

The kids, of course, began to giggle and scream and run around in the dark until I threatened them with painful death.

The back up generator eventually kicked in and gave us one florescent light to see by, a light which cast an eerie greenish glow over the faces of the children who were now almost hysterical with glee at the prospect of a blackout. Cell phones appeared everywhere as if by magic and thousands of phone calls and text messages were sent and received.

Administration eventually came to advise us that we were to stay put and not change classes. We sat.

A mere two hours later the superintendent of schools finally granted us permission to dismiss our students and although they'd been clamouring to go home for hours, now they dawdled through the halls and required pushing out the doors. The staff, of course, were not permitted to leave. Instead we were threatened with painful death if we so much as considered leaving the building. Our orders were to remain in the school as it grew colder, to sit in the dark without the use of our computers or the benefit of light, and to find something school-related to do. It was a very rewarding experience from a teaching perspective.


The tyranny of the wheel, to me, has become ... more tyrannical. I look forward to the weekends and I look back on them. I look forward to the end of the work day and I look forward to bedtime. I feel tired all the time. This is the daily grind everyone talks about and I wonder, if we all experience it, why we tolerate it.


In spite of all of these things, I think my life is improved upon, expanded and stretched in the most positive of ways, by them.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

i want too much

The corn chowder was kind of yukky. I can never tell if I don't like my own cooking because I'm a bad cook or if it's because after cutting the vegetables and stirring the pot for so long that I get sick and tired of the smell of the food I'm cooking so I don't want to eat it. I can't tell because people are polite and they don't admit it if you've made something that doesn't taste very good.


Today is Little J's birthday party and we are going to the YMCA with a group of girls for swimming and pizza. I can't say I'm looking forward to it, but I do look forward to her having fun.


Things, I am afraid to say, have been quiet for a few days. I have no idea what that means, whether it means C is hiding things from us or whether she is actually staying out of trouble. It's always a concern, but I do enjoy the moment of peace and hope it lasts long enough for my heart palpitations to subside.


Thursday, November 20, 2008


Yesterday Puppy E greeted me with so much enthusiasm that he scratched my eye with his front nails. Ouch.


Tonight when I dropped off Little J to see her mom, her mom was a half hour late. I got to sit and wait. Very rewarding, this stuff.


Tomorrow is soup day at school and I'm charge of the main dish. I have to make two giant pots of corn chowder. I don't want to.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I'll follow you into the dark

C is suddenly reasonable again. Now she wants to go back to rehab and start the process over. I can never tell whether she means what she says or if she just thinks she's found another shortcut. I can't get excited and hop around for joy and hug her even though she's saying the right things. All I can do is nod and hope she means it this time. In all honesty I'm not very optimistic that she will follow through with what she says because she never has... but kind of like quitting smoking, you only have to mean it once. So I'm still offering my approval, my support of her plan.

I am doing this in spite of everything because I still want her to get better. I can't turn my back on her when she's doing and saying the right things, even if she doesn't mean them.

So let's close our eyes and make a wish that something will be different this time.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Auntie Plum

Today I snapped at one of the grade twelves because he implied it was my fault he didn't hand in his character development assignment (because I hadn't personally invited him to do so?). I admit I snapped a little. I've been impatient. Last night C phoned Little J and announced she was taking back the cat and was completely unmoved by Little J's tears and begging to let her keep just one thing constant in her life. I wasn't receptive to this student's implication that I should have reminded him another time to hand the assignment in... and I was definitely on the snappish side.

I'm not usually snappish. I'm a pretty even tempered person in general.

Anyway. This kid leaned in to me and said, "I need to tell you something."

I tried not to snarl. "Yeah?"

He said, "I'm not telling you this student to teacher. I'm telling you this friend to friend. YOU HAVE BEEN ON EDGE LATELY."

The absurdity of this sassy little seventeen year old trying to straighten me out (and the ironic sweetness of him calling himself my friend) hit me like a slap and the spell was broken. I busted out laughing.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

do you have the time to listen to me whine?

Maybe this sounds like I'm trying to be funny but I'm not. I've noticed that I've been drinking a lot more wine lately. Wine used to be a social thing, a drink I had only when we were out with other people. More recently I've been drinking it every weekend with Shawn, and more recently than that I've begun to think about whether or not I can get away with having a glass on a school night, and wondering how early is too early to start in the evenings.

I know this isn't abnormal by "average" standards, but it isn't average for me. Beyond my binge drinking days in university (and well into my twenties with K!) I am not really a big drinker. I've never been someone who had a nightly drink, and though I know that much of the world does this, it marks a change in my life that I am tempted to do this now. The thing I don't like about it is that if I can so easily, under all this pressure, go from drinking once a week to drinking (or at least fantasizing about drinking) daily, how much more pressure would it take to begin drinking a nightly few drinks, or a bottle, or perhaps having a nip in the morning before work? How slippery is this slope anyway?

It's not like addiction isn't an issue enough already. This perplexes me. I am having a glass of wine while I ponder on it.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

So the reason C didn't take Little J's call last night was that she was hospitalized again. Top secret stuff... so I don't know WHY. Was it another OD? Was it a suicide attempt? Was it a psychotic episode? Or... did she have a liddle sniffle?

My lawyer doesn't like the supervisor who monitors the visits between Little J and C. She thinks he is not impartial, and this may be true. I can't figure out who he's working for. Maybe he thinks we're awful people stopping Little J from seeing her mama. Maybe he's noticed that her mama slurs a lot and often has trouble communicating in her native tongue. I have no idea what he sees. I've realised that a lot of people can look at the exact same thing and go away and describe it completely differently.

I've also realised that when it comes to court proceedings and legal action you don't get to act on your instincts or trust your guts. You have to do exactly what your lawyer tells you and you have to ask your lawyer's permission before you say or do anything because otherwise you're going to fry under the scrutiny of the judge. It's all so tedious and exhausting. I cannot really remember what life was like when it belonged to me.

The way some men don't shave during playoffs, I'm developing superstitions that are supposed to keep C alive for another day. If I match my socks she'll die today. If I say her name she'll die today, if I say anything bad about her she'll die today. So I'm trying to be so careful. The thing is she's going to die anyway. Maybe today. No matter what I do.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

C didn't answer Little J's call again tonight. I called one of her friends. Some people did some calling around. Turns out she's in the hospital because she overdosed. She was talking to a social worker when I called but the hospital would give me no information because they could not confirm my identity nor know if C wanted any information released to me. I'm sure, had she known I was calling, that she would not have consented to have any information released to me.

This is a death watch.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Tonight C did not answer Little J's phone call. This has not happened before.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

random scars

Our lawyer is mad at me because I made an agreement with C without consulting her. I don't know how I'm supposed to live this life without any control over my own decisions, over the hours I keep, my comings and goings, my everything. How is a person supposed to live like this? How does a court, how does a judge, how does a highly educated person not see how impossible it all is?

Our justice system is messed up. It penalizes those who win their cases, it re-victimizes the victim. It brings no peace, no closure, no rest.

Our reward for trying to save this child is criticism, reprimand, disapproval, judgement, judgement, judgement.

It's starting to hit home that in the end we are going to lose. Whether we lose through the courts, literally, or whether we lose through being harassed, annoyed, bothered, pestered, and ridden to death, either way our lives are no longer our own and we will have no peace.

I don't know what a person is supposed to do. Walk away from a situation? Walk away from a child who is drowning and let her sink? Or get involved and become a flotation device for an iceberg? How is a person supposed to survive?

I'm so bloody sick and tired.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

all the lies and fears will stick to me like glue

On Friday my adorable class of grade eights begged me to let them climb up into the fly gallery of the theatre and wander around on the catwalks. I said no at the time because I didn't want to be up there with thirty kids to supervise. So instead I told them they could go up there if they came in on their own time (lunch hour) and asked me then. I assumed they wouldn't do that because kids rarely do come back on their own time for any reason.

Imagine my surprise when lunch time came and not only were there five kids crowding their way back into my classroom (on their own time, no less) but one of these girls was my student with cerebral palsy who is in a wheelchair.

I wasn't sure what to do with this situation at first, given that there are two long flights up stairs up into the fly gallery and one small ladder. I looked at her grinning face with some dismay and she said, "Don't worry, I can walk."

I hadn't really realised she could walk at all. She can walk a bit, with support. And so, with more determination than muscle, my four other students grabbed onto her and helped me heave her up the stairs. The ladder was a real challenge but we made it.

And the railings around the flies were sturdy enough to provide some good handholds.

By the time we got her back down the ladder (I had to carry her) I was ready to faint from exertion but the girl we installed back into her wheelchair and sent on her way was absolutely glowing with happiness.

On Wednesday in class, that same girl had broken out crying. When I asked her what was wrong she told me she missed her mother (her parents are divorced and Mum lives in Mexico) and then also admitted that she felt she had no friends at our school and that she had no one to eat lunch with. And added to all that was her frustration at her inability to do the same things that all the other kids could do. It was a heartbreaking moment for me and one which made me wonder what I'd do, as a professional counsellor, with a student in a situation like this. As a non-professional, as plain old me, I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her tight and said, "It's not your fault. None of it is your fault."

The fact she showed up on Friday with four friends (with whom she'd eaten lunch) and got to do the exact same thing they were doing, even though it really wasn't something she should have been doing, was monumental. I'd probably be in big trouble if my administration knew about it. I'd still do it again.


Friday, November 07, 2008

I want more fans, you want more stage

Shawn bought Little J a game called
"Little-Big-Planet" and it's absolutely

They play it together and giggle and scream and bicker and cheer. It's the funniest thing ever.

I want more of that kind of thing in our lives and less of the drama.


Tonight C called and blathered at me for awhile. Suddenly she wants to get an A&D counsellor and make some big changes in her life. If she'd said this stuff a few months back I'd probably have danced around and hugged myself with happiness to hear she was going to change. But now it's November and we've just been through a Supreme Court battle in which we were maligned and accused of all kinds of horrors. The fact that the judge threw it out, believed us, ruled in our favour doesn't really matter. Because I'm bitter.

I don't believe anything C tells me anymore, good or bad. She says whatever she thinks she needs to say to get whatever she wants. She said, for crying out loud, that we were probably kidnappers who were likely to take her child and flee to Seattle to escape the Canadian court system - as though our mortgage, careers, family and friends don't do anything to keep us here. The more ridiculous the accusation the better.

What's my point? I'm not sure. Maybe just that I don't buy it anymore. I don't buy it and I don't care.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

a better offer

Tonight I spoke to C on the phone to arrange her visitation with Little J. The judge ordered that we must allow 12 hours of visitation per week between them. For her part, C needs to talk to her social worker to arrange to have her social assistance pay for her half of the visits. (We get to pay half too; what a nice reward for doing the right thing.) When I tried to explain this to C she was argumentative and irrational. And she was totally stoned. She was slurring and incomprehensible. I really have to wonder, if the judge could see for himself how impossible and exhausting it is to deal with her, would he still order us to be duct taped to her forever like this?


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Maybe we always saw right through each other anyway.

Today I attended the first half of a conference on Restorative Justice. The second half is on Thursday.

Although our circumstances are different than the standard types of victimization described in the program, I still found myself nodding in agreement when it was brought forth that our justice system leaves the victims far removed from the process and provides them no feeling of comfort or closure at the end of the proceeding. It is a cold and depersonalized process in which no one seems to benefit. I am hoping I will have the opportunity to use what I have learned both in practice and in my upcoming Masters program. I have begun to fear I cannot manage the workload while parenting an eleven year old girl and trying to keep myself mentally and emotionally safe from C.


Sunday, November 02, 2008

i wonder should i get up and fix myself a drink

Today the word "codependent" actually made sense to me. I've been resenting it for awhile, feeling angry that this word is used to label someone who is trying to help an addict. But today it made sense because I saw myself do something stupid and couldn't seem to stop myself. I called C with the name and phone number of another drug treatment centre and told her we'd pay for it if she'd give it a chance -- all this, of course, in an effort to help her win back custody of Little J.

C started arguing with me about it before I'd even finished the first sentence. She doesn't want to go anywhere. She doesn't want to do anything. She doesn't want any help. She just wants us to hand back the kid and butt out of her life so she can do whatever she wants to do. And of course we can't do that... because this little girl doesn't deserve to live the way C lives. She deserves to be safe and secure and stable.

I spent way too long on the phone arguing with C about it, trying to convince her that she must try she must try she must TRY... and got nowhere. And I cried and I got mad and I swore and I hung up on her. And then I answered when she called back. And yelled and cried some more.

That's what codependent means -in the AA sense-, when you let your need for the other person to be okay to overcome, to overwhelm, and to surpass your need for own well being and mental health. It feels yukky.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

I don't have much doubt anymore that C is going to die tragically. She is going to overdose, accidentally perhaps.. or maybe on purpose. Or someone is going to hurt her... kill her. I'm scared for her. And there's nothing I can do to save her because she's so ill she can't hear me calling her name, she can't see me reaching for her, she can't feel my hands trying to hold on to her before she slips over the edge. But I know, almost with dead certainty, that she is going to die.