Category Archives: Fighting Mental Illness

So It Goes . . .


In an absolutely perfect world, I would go to Bell Street Middle School and spend the day getting ready for my 8th year spreading library love amongst my students and teachers. In a slightly less perfect — but wildly-superior-to-the-present — world I’d be headed back to Woodmont High School for my 17th year teaching lit or history– preferably to sophomores or juniors. In any iteration of a good and righteous world, I’d  be going somewhere to educate some kids.

Instead, I will spend the third consecutive first day of school sitting home or helping Budge prepare her room. Barring an unforeseen parting the Red Sea or feeding of the 5,000, I will never set foot in a classroom as a teacher or librarian again.

When a plummeting economy, archaic policy, my complete lack of tact, and Wayne Brazell’s disingenuous ineptitude cost me my librarian’s position at Bell Street following the 2007-2008 school year, I should have seen the handwriting on the wall. I had been offered a position in the District’s IT department at a third of my salary for twice the hours worked. Faced with this unpalatable scenario, I spent March through early May taking home my office, hounding friends in other districts, and chasing leads to find a new place to land. When I didn’t get a call back from any of my three interviews, I chalked it up to competition and cuts.

I was wrong.

One night in May, an HR staffer I knew risked his  job to tell me the assistant principal I thought I had at least a civil working relationship with had BUTCHERED me in a reference. My buddy called it the worst reference he’d ever seen.  Well, anyone who knows me can guess how I responded to that revelation. I went into a fine rage and, while extremely angry, had a FaceBook chat with a “friend” about this odious person, said “friend” felt the need to print said conversation and give it to Bosslady. That got me into a gorgeous shouting match with D.O. people and I ended the year suspended with no contract.

I managed to get her damning reference deleted, but the milk was thoroughly spilled. I have always burned my bridges behind me fairly well on my own, but this woman started a conflagration AHEAD of me. I never knew or even suspected such animosity. When no position came up, I sat out the school year and hoped unemployment insurance would stay funded. I couldn’t even sub because districts within reasonable driving distance had hiring freezes on subs.

I took a fresh shot at the resume circuit last summer. I was called for one interview, then called back a day later and told the job was being filled and not to bother coming in. What was costing me was what any accurate reference about me would show, even from people who think highly of me. I have a tremendous work ethic, drive to get things done, and a boundless love of young people accompanied by a complete disregard for idiotic policy red tape and no patience with stupid people who think a title, a suit, and a big desk give them some special power.

Another year started and ended without me teaching. The black dog started making a tremendous din and the clouds rolled in. Around Christmas, I started looking into other avenues to income if I couldn’t get back into a school. I tried public libraries, private schools . . . anything. In the end, with little hope this summer — or realistically any summer — being any better, I bowed to the inevitable and on the advice of my therapist, I consulted a lawyer and filed for Social Security Disability.

With the OCD, BPD, GAD, and SRDD, the United States Government feels I have enough issues to prevent me from working.  I now have a small but steady income to supplement Budge’s salary, but — at the age of forty — the game is over for me. I have ceased to be a contributing, constructive member of society. For any of my readers who are devotees of the Tea Party or Rude Limburger and Company, I am now one of the “entitlement” parasites on our country’s economy you hear lambasted with unmitigated passion on talk radio and Fox News. I am — barring the aforementioned miracle — permanently “on the dole.”

Please let me assure you that no political pundit will ever despise me more than I despise myself. I never had a great plan, but being a washed up nervous wreck at 40 wasn’t part of ANY plan. No one has ever loved being a teacher any more than I did, and still do. Then I got a chance very few people ever get — I got to work my all-time dream job. I got to be a school librarian. Unfortunately, some demons who have plagued me since late childhood just kept rearing up and causing me to wreck my career track. I had help going off the rails, but the blame for my plight must lie finally at my own feet. It is a fearful thing when your greatest asset (in my case, my mind) turns on you and becomes your worst enemy.

My attitude and behavior cost me two jobs and the root of those problems has now cost me a career. I’d try again, but I just don’t have the emotional strength and I can’t bear to put Budge or Mama through any more seasons of drama and despair than I already have. Budge told me she feels like a weight has been lifted off her back now that she no longer has to worry about getting “the call” from me telling her what fresh hole I’ve dug myself into this time. I’m trying to think of her and not myself.

I never claimed I was a particularly good teacher, and I wouldn’t claim to be more than a mediocre librarian. I couldn’t care less about copyright issues. I think Wikipedia isn’t even a minor devil, much less the offspring of Satan. I think every scrap of paper with a bubble on it should be taken to Iceland and dropped into the gaping maw of Eyjafjallajökull along with the people and politicians who believe testing is the be all and end all of education. I didn’t learn any of those traits in library school; I just feel that strongly.

I will also be the first to admit that, despite my dreams, I was never in any danger of being  Teacher of the Year or holding an office in SCASL. I don’t play with others well enough. I WILL say without hesitation what I lack in tact and judgement, I tried to compensate for with passion for my craft and undying love for my students. I can’t count all the run-ins and heated exchanges I had with administrators, professors, and other “higher ups” in 12 years in schools, but I can tell you the number of serious altercations I had with a student in those 12 years — ONE.

But none of that matters anymore.

The book of my education career is closed. I try to keep a spotless house for Budge. Mama says I make the best cheesecakes. I have this blog and other writing I dabble in, but honestly, I don’t know where to go from here. I never figured on things turning out like this. I can’t say how I expected them to turn out, but I know it wasn’t like this. How this will go from here, I don’t know. I know it makes me sad. I miss my library. I miss my kids. I miss being strong and steady enough to enjoy both of them.

So all my teaching colleagues and librarian buddies, this is where I leave you. Please pass this along the grapevines to my acquaintances and friends who do not patronize “Granny Beads and Grocery Store Feet” so they will know I have not died or joined a monastery. Should either of those events occur, Budge has instructions on who to call, what to post, and how to make news of my demise or decline known to anyone who cares.

In any event, I still love y’all and hope you’ll stick around — clean feet or grubby.

In the words of the late Kurt Vonnegut, “so it goes.”

Black Dog Howls


Trying to describe depression to someone who’d never experienced it is about like trying to describe a rainbow to a man born blind. Now to be clear, I’m not talking about a case of “my baby done left me blues.” I’m talking about “my baby’s right here and wonderful and I still feel like Keith Richards looks.”

First off, this crap is sneaky. I can be just Cadillacing along with everything shining and happy in the world and just like Mjolnir cracking a frost giant’s head, I’m in an unrecoverable flat spin — just like the one that killed Goose. Then you always think it’s going to be a short spell. Just sit down, play some Ugly Birds or read a funny web page or ten and it’ll ease. Unfortunately, when you try that and it DOESN’T work . . . you don’t go back to square one. You go back to square -1.

Then The Tape starts rolling. On good days, I can keep the tape stopped because once it ever starts, I’m in for a miserable ride. See, most people can go through a bad experience and it may bother them; it may even scar them, but normal people put that stuff behind them and over time its impact gets less and less. Normal people can read a news story about some tragedy with people dying or animals being mistreated and it may be a tearful moment, but they won’t dwell on it and obsess about what happened to that little girl or those puppies or whatever.

Not me. I have The Tape.

The Tape is in my head and it contains — in vivid Kodachrome and THX sound — all the bad experiences I’ve had, all the tragedies I’ve read about or seen on tv, all the worries and anxieties and The Tape is on automatic loop. All this garbage starts rolling through my thoughts. Forty years worth of “stuff” all trolling by in exquisite detail. It’s like picking at a scab over a stab wound, which would be fine if it only went by once, but I just keep reliving “the bad ol’ days” over and over again like some perverse uber-version of Groundhog Day.

Oh and I love it when I try to explain The Tape to someone and he or she says “Why don’t you try just not thinking about it? Wow! What insight! You should get the Nobel Prize for Psychology with a brilliant analysis like that! I am in awe of such mental perspicacity! I really appreciate that advice, Captain Obvious. What do you THINK I’m doing?! Seriously? I’m not a masochist in any sense of the word so if I were capable of “Just not thinking about it,” I wouldn’t HAVE this problem, now would I?

That’s what I love about mental issues like depression and OCD — they’re invisible so everyone’s an expert. Really. I mean, who would say to a paraplegic, “Why don’t you just try walking?” You wouldn’t go up to a blind person and yell in her ear (you know, because everyone YELLS at blind people since the apparently can’t hear either) “Well, why don’t you open your eyes and just TRY to see?”

It’s just the nature of the beast and this beast is a black dog who’s been on the Wild Hunt for a week or so now. After awhile, though, you learn to expect it and you pull out all your strategies that five years of therapy teaches you.

Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.

Love y’all. More to come later on.

Keep those feet clean.

Being Unemployed Isn’t for the Fainthearted


It’s just twenty minutes until tomorrow so I’ll start calling Monday yesterday, as in — yesterday, I spent a little over four HOURS at the unemployment office. I filed my paperwork for the final extended benefits plan. If I get approved, I’ll have fourteen more weeks of unemployment insurance checks then I’ll become a “Ninety-niner” that some people are talking about. Ninety-nine weeks unemployed.

It’s hard to believe just how clueless some people are about being unemployed. I was reading the comment section of an article in the local newspaper on the stagnant job market and some of the commentators were HORRIBLE. I didn’t know I was such a lazy, useless bum who is attempting to be a parasite on the backsides of hardworking people.

I’ll tell them what they can do as far as backsides are concerned.

The unemployment office was packed today and I saw all shapes and kinds of misery AND con-artists. I know out of the room of about 500 people, more than one really has no intention of ever finding a job for longer than it takes to accrue more unemployment. Any system is going to have people who take advantage of it. Mostly what I saw today though was people hurting. One lady broke my heart. Her company abruptly shut down last week and when I say abrupt I’m talking “note on the door” style. She was about my age and she was just in tears because she had no idea what came next.

I’ve seen that several times when I’ve gone to file this or that paperwork. Mixed in with the lip ring wearing, saggy pants, hats on backwards crowd who’ve never worked an honest day in their lives are seriously decent folks who have ALWAYS worked and now they find themselves in their fifties and, in too many cases, sixties with no job, no insurance, and — increasingly — no hope.

You get to talk A LOT to a great many people in four hours of sitting and standing in line. I heard several common refrains like “overqualified,” “no experience in X field,” and the ubiquitous “it just looks like no jobs are out there.” In the comments I mentioned earlier, one self-righteous gentleman said with great pride that he’d “NEVER been out of work and if he ever found himself unemployed he DAMN SURE wouldn’t take 99 weeks to find another job.”

Oh really? My mama taught me a long time ago, NEVER say what you’ll NEVER do. You just might be surprised.

People not in the situation LOVE to say things like, “Go get a job at McDonalds or WalMart — they are always hiring.” Um, no, their not. It is an employer’s market right now. Businesses can pick and chose because they know how desperate people have become. The worst thing is, education used to be a bulwark against unemployment, but now, it’s a hindrance to finding another job. For example, I have a Masters Degreee AND all my recent work experience is in education. Someone takes one look at my resume’ and realizes I’m a teacher. Well, they aren’t stupid; they know that I’ll be looking for another teaching job and as soon as I find one — hasta la vista, Baby.

I’ve actually had an HR interviewer tell me that I’m almost unemployable outside of my field because no one wants to invest time or effort training someone who has an established career. I could LIE and say I have no intention of looking for another job in the schools, but I’ve found lying is a pretty low percentage game most of the time. The fact is, yes, if I’m a sales clerk at Target and a principal calls me and says, “come be our librarian,” I am GONE. As Lynyrd Skynyrd put it so eloquently, “Call me the breeze.”\

Unfortunately, the longer I’m out of the library, the rustier and rustier my skills get. I’d love to still be able to look through VOYA and SLJ, but my budget didn’t have room for $120 subscriptions. I sat down the other day and pulled up some the YA section on Amazon. I didn’t recognize much. When you aren’t talking with other librarians and students and teachers about books and computers and research and stuff . . . well, the edge starts to go.

So. What’s the answer? No clue. I’ve got a final fourteen weeks to figure it out before I become one of those people who help artificially inflate the “unemployment recovery rate” by falling off the job seeking roles. If you aren’t getting money anymore, you aren’t counted as unemployed. Go figure.

In any event, keep me in your thoughts and prayers. I’m not panicking because that won’t do anyone any good — especially me. Sorry about the short rambling post — it’s been a trying day and I wanted to vent a bit.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean!

Food Fight


This is a pretty long post, but stick with it, thanks!

Yesterday was Budge’s first day on her medically supervised six-week weight loss plan. This isn’t the first time she’s attempted to lose weight, but it is the first time she’s gone to this careful extent. My job is to fix the shakes and provide moral support and encouragement. I plan to eat a bigger lunch and forgo supper to avoid cooking and eating in front of her and hopefully that will make this easier on her. I don’t trust diets like this, but she is under an excellent doctor’s care AND — more importantly — she’s promised me this is for HER not ME or anyone else. She’s my Budge no matter what she weighs and that’s all that matters, but her mama fought the battle of the bulge her entire life before dying at 46 of complications from pancreatitis and a final stroke. With 46 looming large in life’s windshield, Budge told me she didn’t want to go out that way so I told her do what she had to do and I’d have her back.

Needless to say, I’m insanely, stupefyingly proud of her.

With Budge starting this diet, many people are pressuring on me to join her and want to know why I’m so resistant to adopting “the healthy lifestyle.” As I’ve mentioned before, I am not a small man. I am slightly south of six feet tall and slightly north of 350 pounds. I believe the medical term is “morbidly obese.” I prefer the much cuter sounding euphemism of “as big around as I am tall.”

Lately, my glib put-off has been “I’m going for the heart attack before the diabetes has a chance to get me.” That statement is anchored in a grain of truth. The men on Daddy’s side of the family die of massive coronaries. Granny Matt had ten children who lived and that included six sons. Of the six, five died at 78 or slightly before of the aforementioned coronary. Uncle Jack was the lone dissenter, but that’s another story for another time. Daddy had HIS first heart attack about nine or ten years ago. Many of Daddy’s male blood related first cousins have already had one or more heart attacks or have perished from the sudden squeezing of the chest.

On the other side of my family tree lurk diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. More of Mama’s kin than I can count have fallen victim to “The Sugar” and the lucky ones died quickly. The unlucky ones left the world a piece at a time. Many dodged diabetes only to succumb to Alzheimer’s and left the world not knowing themselves or their closest loved ones. I have no intention of going out like that if at all possible. Given the choice between slow piecemeal death and quick heart exploding death, my decision is clear.

As I said, that is my somewhat humorous glib smart-ass answer. The pure and simple truth is, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, not so pure and definitely not simple. Fact is, obesity and I are old and bitter foes and after many bloody engagements fraught with pain, sadness, and disappointment, I have bowed to the stronger will and chosen not to fight my weight anymore.

See the oh-so-pinchable legs?

I was BORN fat. I weighed 10 lbs and 5 ozs the day I came into the world and I was born hungry. The story is I slurped down an 8 oz bottle in two minutes and started crying for more. After 8 more ounces, I was still hungry so the nurse asked Mama what she wanted done and Mama, probably glimpsing the future, told her to go ahead and get me full. I was over 14 lbs by the time I came home from the hospital with rolls of fat on my thighs that my beloved great-Aunt Pearl delighted in lovingly pinching and patting.

I never looked back.

I think I topped 100 pounds by fifth grade. I may be off a year, but I do know that all my clothes came with the “HUSKY” label. I suppose that was the clothier’s way of trying to salvage the self-esteem of  a fat pre-teen. From almost the start, the family was worried about my weight. I was placed on a few diets by Dr. Monroe, our long-time family physician, but they all required keeping track of calories and such. I wasn’t clear on the concept of “serving size” or “portion control” so I figured a bowl of cereal was “one serving” of “180 calories” when a true serving size was 3/4 of a cup of cereal meaning my punch bowl of Cocoa Crisps with whole milk actually contained about SIX servings.

One of the greatest ironies of my saga with obesity lies in how Granny Wham tried to help me lose weight. She was THE most concerned of all my family, Mama included, when it came to my being — in her words — “a little too heavy.” She would constantly admonish me about eating too much at supper or cutting myself too big a slice of pound cake (Granny Wham made the greatest pound cake this side of paradise), but at the same time, SHE was the one asking me if I’d had enough to eat and did I want more chicken or rice with gravy or roast beef or whatever delicious dish she or Papa had prepared that night. It was like living in rehab with a drug pusher!

God bless her precious heart, it was confusing as all get out when I was a child, but looking back, I understand a little better. Granny couldn’t stand to see me fat but she couldn’t stand to see me sad either and not getting enough of that wonderful food would always make me sad so the doting grandmother in her usually won out over the concerned for my health responsible adult and I’d get another piece of pound cake . . . with ice cream on top . . . and Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup . . . and Cool Whip. You get the idea.

All through elementary school and junior high, I just got bigger. Of course I got picked on and bullied because of being

Mama LOVED to dress me in horizontal stripes. Michelin Man anyone?

fat. I was called “fatty,” “lard-butt,” “two-ton,” and — my all time favorite — “The Great White Marshmallow.” I tried to shrug off the barbs as much as I could. I was dealing with other stuff. Unfortunately, one of my earliest and most cherished coping mechanisms was “escapism eating.” I’d get to Granny and Papa’s after a day at school enduring the shark tank of junior high, grab a book and a bag of Oreo cookies and go hide in the yard until supper. That kind of emotional eating did wonders for my waistline.

That’s the way things rocked on pretty much until my first year of high school. I was a nonathletic 225 pound blob when I went out for wrestling to try to get a date with Kim Robertson. The date never materialized, but I fell in love with wrestling, even if I was getting creamed twice a week at heavyweight. Funny thing is, the more I wrestled, the smaller I got. Who knew?

Then, right after wrestling season, I got braces to fix my crazy teeth. Now, I didn’t get the cute little “invisible brackets” glued to my teeth. I got the full monty of railroad track bands all over my mouth. My head, jaws, and mouth hurt so much that I couldn’t eat. I did good if I could sip some Cream of Chicken soup through a straw. I endured that pain for two months and when summer came and my teeth had finally moved enough for the agony to ease up some a funny thing happened. I looked in the mirror and a skinny kid was staring out at me.

Junior year of HS. This was the best it ever got. Skinny AND hair.

For 24 blessed months — a brief, shining moment — I was svelte. I dropped from 225 to 160. I could shop in the regular men’s section for the first time in my life. My inseam was actually longer than my waistline was round. My acne cleared about the same time and another odd thing happened. Without all the lard in the way, girls began to notice my crystal blue eyes and thick strong blond hair. Oh, and the straight white teeth — shout out to what made it all possible! It seemed like overnight I was being favorably compared to guys like Rick Mathews, our class’s resident Adonis, who played football and wrestled the weight class right above me. I was actually kind of a big deal.

Of course it went straight to my head and turned me into the exact kind of insufferable douche I’d always hated. Not to worry though. As Pony Boy is fond of reciting, “Nothing gold can stay.” Senior year came. My foibles and mistakes caught up with me. My head started filling up with thoughts and voices I couldn’t fight back. I was entering the worst depression I’d ever encountered and starting what was to become a desperate lifelong battle with my mind and emotions — but I didn’t know it. I had no idea what the hell was going on.

The final straw came when wrestling season started and the weight classes had changed. The 167 class was gone. I was now in Adonis’ weight class and Adonis was a better wrestler than I had a prayer of being.  When our 154 pounder went down early in the season with a blown out knee, everyone looked at me to cut the 15 pounds, take that spot, and make us an even greater team. I took a shot at it. God knows I tried, but the more water I drank and the harder I exercised, the bigger I got. It seemed I gained instead of losing. So I became a senior riding the bench when I should have been a captain. I gave up the fight.

I went into a headlong spiral and started drinking whenever I could, but mostly, I started eating whatever I wanted to again. It’s not like I had to keep my weight down anymore anyway. I was a three-year letter-man in wrestling. The only year I didn’t letter was my senior year.

But I’m not still bitter or anything. I’m just saying.

In college, I skipped the freshman fifteen and traded it for the freshman 50. I went from a 34 waist as a high school sophomore to a 40 waist as a college sophomore. I’d look in the mirror in disgust and I’d go on the fat wagon for a week. I’d work out every day down in Fike Hall gym. I took up tae-kwan-do. It helped a little, but in the end, the weight always won.

I was to be skinny and handsome one final time in my life. It would come after college and brought about a similar “senior year type” downward spiral with nearly identically disastrous personal results. A sordid, sad tale — for another time.

I’d started gaining back my weight from that episode when I met Budge. She married me fluffy and has stayed with me fat. I can’t thank her enough for that. These days, from time to time, I’ll contemplate hitting the fat wagon again and trying to get healthier. I don’t keep chips and dip or things of that nature in the house — fleeing temptation and all — but I watch too much Paula Deen and cook like her too much as well.

I gave up pill popping, driving fast cars, hanging out with my Five Favorite Uncles, and chasing crazy women. I started taking meds to try to quiet the cacophony in my head. All of that draws heavily from my well of willpower. For Budge and Mama’s sake, I have to concentrate my energy on what’s going to make me the most endurable. Losing weight, no matter how important I know it is, would take reserves I don’t have.

Fairly recent picture with a good view of the booth-busting belly.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s not like I revel in being fat. I haven’t bought clothes in over two years because I can’t stand the disappointment of the fitting room. I’m reminded of what, to quote from Full Metal Jacket, “a disgusting, flabtastic piece of fatbody filth” I am every time I try to sit in a restaurant booth and have to ask for a table because of my size. It isn’t like this is a high-ho bunch of fun because it ain’t. I just have to pick my battles and this is one I know the outcome of all too well.

Dr. Lopez — my primary care physician — stays on me about losing. He WANTS me to lose down to 200 lbs. I haven’t seen 200 lbs since my junior year of high school. That’s a little over 150 lbs. THAT IS A PERSON! THE MAN WANTS ME TO LOSE A PERSON. He can’t understand how a former wrestler and wrestling coach who knows so much about nutrition and exercise can be so blase’ about dropping the 10% body fat that produces measurable health benefits. Unfortunately, he also doesn’t understand something else — nothing good has ever come of me being skinny.

Sorry for the book length post.   Keep those feet clean, okay?

Love y’all.

Please Do Not Antagonize the Crazy People


I went to the unemployment office first thing after dropping Budge off this morning. Even though my Tier 1,2, and 3 benefits are exhausted, the office is advising everyone to keep registering for the next tier (4 in my case) in the fleeting hope that the Elephants and Donkeys will reach a 12th hour compromise and 2,000,000 people won’t lose their benefits as a Christmas present.

Anyway, I left and hit up Hardee’s for a nice gravy biscuit and sat working my crossword puzzles until it was time to go see Dr. Stephens, my psychiatrist. Dr. Stephens is phenomenal. He has been a big help and he’s the only mental health professional, besides Dr. Catherine, that I trust. He is a specialist — one of the only ones in SC —  in child psychiatric treatment and I sometimes think that’s why he’s so good at helping me . . . he’s on my level!

Actual photograph of my psychiatrist's office manager!

Well, the visit with him went fine, but then I had to confront (cue the ominous music) The Creatures of the Front Desk!

See, Dr. Stephens doesn’t have his own office. He leases space, along with a dump truck load of other doctors, in a building owned by one of the older psychiatrists. In exchange for 40% of his patient income (I really don’t want to think about how much he must be making — he drives a Dodge Viper AFTER paying rent) he gets a front office that sets his appointments, does his insurance filing, does his billing, and drives his (and ever other doctor’s) patients INSANE, which may be redundant since this is a psychiatrist’s office in the first place.

Therein lies the problem! These harpies at the front desk seem to absolutely DELIGHT in making visits to this office as miserable as possible. They are shrewish, shrill, and about as useful / helpful as a screen-door on a submarine. Now did I mention that this is a PSYCHIATRIST’S OFFICE? These “ladies”, to use the term loosely, are fiendish experts — knowingly, willfully, or not — at cranking up the stress on people and some of these people you REALLY don’t want stressed any further than they already are. I’ve seen folks come into the waiting room red-faced and shaking, or crying uncontrollably and these women are more interested in making sure they have a current copy of an insurance card.

Not everyone I’ve dealt with at the front desk has been so difficult. As a matter of fact, two of my former students once worked there as office staff, but the Queen Bee, who could have been a lead actress in Gossip Girls if she was 20 years younger, eventually ran them off. They were sweet girls and sweetness is not rewarded in the Lair of the Gorgons. I have no idea why the doctor who owns the building keeps her around. I’ve asked Dr. Stephens and Dr. Catherine before she left and they don’t know why either. The only reason I can come up with is the same reason people like her manage to keep positions all over the world when their workplace would run so much better without them:

They know where all the bodies are buried and they have pictures.

I swear this guy has stood in front of me to check out. Does he REALLY look like someone you want antagonized? Just saying.

I’ve seen — actually seen with my own two eyes — one of these women pretty much berate to tears a lady who was bringing her teenage son in to see my doctor. I know the family because I taught the oldest child about seven years ago when this kid was in third grade or so. His sister used to tell me stories. The kid was rough back then. That young man has more issues than National Geographic not the least of which is a violent streak a mile wide, but the one thing he cherishes above anything else in the world is his mama.

Those women had no idea how lucky they were. It’s all well and good to say “I’ll call the police” but the police take time to arrive and some of the people who come through that office could do a lot of damage before the cops got there. He once attacked a neighbor who accidentally backed into his mama’s new car because he thought it would make his mama cry. He’s REALLY touchy over his mama. Issues. National. Geographic.

Even more than that rare side of things though, what drives me to distraction about them is the callousness.

Most of the patients the doctors see are really depressed or have terrible anxiety issues or other painful emotional problems. Is it so difficult to be a little kinder? The front desk staff acts like the money they are collecting is going directly into their pockets. It’s not, so chill a bit people.Why add another bad day incident to a person who is already having too many bad days as it is?

I tend to agree completely.

All I know is, I had some borderline psychotic students in my classes through the years and I was always on the greatest of terms with them. Kindred spirits? Dunno. Other teachers couldn’t understand how I could be so tolerant, patient and calm with these terrors. I told them it was simple self preservation instinct. Whenever they wanted to know how being nice to the “wild bunch” was self preservation I had one simple answer:

“When they come in with a gun one day, I want them to remember they LIKED me enough to say, ‘Hey, Coach, you were good to me . . . I’ll shoot you last!” Any port in a storm, right?

Y’all take care and be better to each other than these Jenny Green Teeth are and, as always, keep those feet clean!

Love y’all!

Gloomy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down.


Gloomy Owl is gloomy

Warning: This post ended up being over 2200 words. I didn’t intend to write that much when I started out and I don’t know if you like my writing enough to read all that so I’m giving you the heads up so you can bail now instead of putting in the effort and then complaining about “X minutes of my life I’ll never get back.”

So don’t say I didn’t tell you.

Thanksgiving is over, but the holidays are not, it’s Monday, and to add a little icing to this cake o’ crap, it is colder than it’s been yet this year and the sky looks like it wants to rain, sleet, or snow, but it won’t do any of them; so it’s overall a grey, gloomy day. I guess this is the kind of day the Eagles had in mind when they sang, “the sky won’t snow and the Sun won’t shine and it’s hard to tell the night-time from the day . . .”

How’s that for sounding cheerful at the beginning of the week? Sorry. I try to keep the tone light and upbeat here in the Kingdom of the Filthy Feet, but today, I just don’t think I can manage it. As Cathy — the cartoon girl — puts it, “I can deal with one day at a time, but lately, several days have attacked me all at once.”

I don’t usually do well around the holidays, but lately — and today in particular — I’ve just felt particularly . . . I dunno . . . down. Way down.

My present situation photographically rendered.

To put it succinctly, the future isn’t bright enough for me to be forced to wear shades. In point of fact, the future looks downright gloomy . . . but I’m certain that what I can discern isn’t HALF as bad as what’s actually going to happen, and that’s a blessing of sorts. I mean, would you REALLY want to know the train is about to round the bend and you are at the point of no return on the train trestle over the 1500 foot drop to the raging rapids below?

(Of course, I don’t know how you’d have gotten yourself into the aforementioned predicament since the train should blow that really loud whistle whenever a blind curve is coming up AND no train trestles in the world span a 1500 foot drop, so you’d get a warning in time to get off a bridge that doesn’t exist, BUT if a way exists to get one’s tail wedged firmly in such a hypothetical crack, I’d find it and get stuck in it.)

But I digress.

Making matters even more ticklish for the immediate future is the knowledge that my unemployment insurance runs out tomorrow, November 30. I qualified for three extensions and had qualified for a fourth when the House of Reps fell into the hands of the Republicans.

Typical politician working on getting re-elected.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I don’t waste my time getting terribly political because I firmly and honestly believe 50% of  politicians of ANY party at the local level are crooked, no-count, self-serving, egg-sucking snakes. At the state level, the egg-sucking snake percentage rises to around 80%. If one of those state pols gets to the House of Reps, the ESSP rises again to 90%, and that politician who slithers as far as the Senate (sometimes derisively called”The World’s Most Exclusive Millionaire’s Club) tops out at 99% on the ESSP  and since the Senate only has 100 members, you may draw your own conclusions.  I don’t HATE politicians or anything of that nature, I just know that they do not represent me or my family. They represent themselves.

But I digress yet again.

Having said that, I DO know that the Republicans historically are much less likely to open the public coffers to help the down and out or the unemployed AND I also know that all the incoming “TEA party” and neo-plus-ultra Conservative Republicans have vowed to stop unemployment extensions immediately . . . I’m getting no more water from that particular public well. The loss of$1500 dollars of income when I was released two school years ago was painful. Losing another $1000 will be devastating at best.

“So, why don’t you get off your lazy fat rump roast and get a job,” many of you think to yourselves, “You are not quite 40 years old, you’re in decent health even if a few new aches and pains have popped up in odd places, and you have a freaking MASTERS DEGREE!” Truthfully, I cannot deny one word of that tirade (which I’ve heard more than any of you could possibly imagine in the last 18 months). Please allow me to explain, which some will doubtlessly call “making excuses,” and to whom I would give the same advice Atticus gave Scout after her first day at school went all pear-shaped. Don’t know it? Google it please, I’m running out of words.

GETTING the job isn’t as much of the problem as you would think. I do have a Master’s degree, I am smarter than the average bear, and I have a loyalty streak to employers as wide as the New River Gorge. Since I was 15 years old and went to work for Mr. Richard Caldwell at Community Cash in Fountain Inn, I have only held nine jobs. That includes grocery store and parts store work through high school and textile plants during college. Whatever I do, I’m very good at it and I give it my all.

So what’s the problem? Of those nine jobs, I only left two of my own free will. The other seven either outright fired me or worked things so that I ended up being low man right before a layoff. See, I’ve always been very high-strung. It runs in three of the four main branches of my family (Thank you, Papa Wham! RIP) Luckily, I was MOSTLY able to work through it. Unfortunately, you know that filter between your brain and your mouth where tact and good people skills reside? Well, I was born without that particular piece of equipment. That means at some time or other, someone with more authority than intelligence would give me some idiotic directive and I’d want to discuss it or tell of a better way, but eventually the “boss” would say in THAT TONE “Mr. Wham, you ARE going to DO thus and so because I SAID SO.”

Me, at least for all of high school and most of college.

As a teen and in college, my standard answer to that statement was, politely, “Sir (no ‘ma’ams’ then) only TWO BEINGS in this ENTIRE UNIVERSE get what they want from me because he or she “SAID SO” and you don’t have long pretty blonde hair and a massive C-Section scar on your bellybutton so you obviously aren’t my mama and you don’t have whip marks on your back and nail scars in the palms of your hands so you obviously aren’t Jesus Christ either ;therefore, I guess you are just S.O.L, n’est pas?” That would usually be the end of my tenure at that establishment.

I’m not proud of being a raging jackass. I was young, high-strung, quite hot-headed, and, most of all, really pissed off at just about every authority figure I came across. As a buddy of mine once put it, I had “a bad case of red ass at the world.” It was not a good time to be me but I couldn’t find anyone else to take the position.

When I started my first teaching job though, I knew I’d HAVE to be politic and tactful because of parents and principals, etc, but I figured in a school — a professional environment — I wouldn’t have to deal with the rank stupidity from above like I’d had to endure at my “starter jobs.”

I was wrong. I was SERIOUSLY wrong and being so wrong was to cost me a price I’d never been expecting nor could I be prepared to pay.

I found out early in that first teaching position the daily stress was about ten times more than anything I’d ever dealt with before, PLUS I got married to Budge with all the stress (happy stress, but still) of being a new husband. One thing led to another and I ended up on meds. That helped . . . a little. Still, I got by because I ADORED what I was doing. It was all I’d ever wanted to do. I never had a problem with a student or a parent last more than one phone call.

Well, at least not until the end.

I  have neither the time nor the strength to go into all the details but some in very brief strokes, things I said got twisted, a witch hunt ensued, and I ended up with a principal — who I really liked and had gotten along well with — and a deputy superintendent buttonholing me in a small office and saying that whole “Mr. Wham YOU WILL . . . BECAUSE I SAID SO!” For the first time in my life, I managed to bite back THE STANDARD ANSWER. Fat lot of good it did me. I found out that right or wrong doesn’t make much difference to a school board. Obedient and insubordinate are the only things they concern themselves much with. I was too naive to realize that the matter was settled before I got to my car that last day.

Anyway, halfway through the “hearing” I saw the handwriting upon the wall and, unlike Belshazzar, I knew what it said so before the final gavel fell, I dropped my desperately maintained professional demeanor, went directly to my Gray Court redneck roots and by the time I left that chamber EVERYONE knew my side as well as what THE STANDARD ANSWER was.

I’ve been in my share of fights, verbal and physical, and I’ve toted my share of butt-whippings and always came back for more but NO ONE ever managed to break my spirit. They managed — in spades. I left that chamber with a broken spirit. That was eight years ago this last October 23. Budge and Mama both will tell you I’ve never recovered.

Me, more often than I care to think.

I did find out what was wrong with me though. I got so out of it that I ended up going to see a psychiatrist and a psychologist and for the first time ever, I didn’t lie to them. Turns out, I have a wonderful invasion of not one, not two, but THREE little demons ripping at my mind. I have severe Generalized Anxiety Disorder, a Borderline Personality Disorder, AND Chronic Recurrent Dysthymia Disorder (basically Manic Depression, but without the ‘Manic’ part). I go more in to detail about my demons in other parts of GS Feet so I’m not going to do a full explanation here, but a short version is I am nervous as a chihuahua on meth, I DO NOT play well with authority, it is nearly impossible for me to be tactful to people I don’t like (and that’s a long and growing list), BUT I feel really, really bad about it all so I lie in bed curled up in the fetal position for a day or two at a time.

So, what does all this have to do with the idea of me getting off my fat, lazy rump roast and getting a job? Well, I threw myself into my last position as a librarian with all the zeal of a new religious convert and I was jam up and jelly tight at that job. For four years I took care of my teachers like they were princesses, my principal like she was a goddess, and my students like they were actual real people instead of the little heathens so many of the teachers accused them of being. I had some minor run-ins with the upper echelons of power, mostly because of my propensity for asking forgiveness rather than begging permission, but nothing irreparable or even serious.

Or so I thought.

But, the cuts started coming hard and fast and I found out two Decembers ago that I wasn’t coming back as a librarian. Instead, another librarian in the district was taking my place and even though she had 2o+ years as a librarian . . . well, I’m not getting into all that mess right now. This post is epic enough as it is. Suffice it to say that I didn’t take my demotion well. I saw it — through my BPD clouded eyes — as a personal affront to everything I stood for and a slap in the face at four years of slavish devotion.

It also brought back horrible memories of the last time I’d poured my heart and soul into a school only to have nine years of slavish devotion and loyalty end in a deathly quiet chamber with nine stern, but uncaring, faces staring at me. I got upset and, to put it mildly, I had a total meltdown. I said some things to some people in high places that I DO NOT REGRET, but that, in retrospect, made it really easy to cut me when the time came. Those people are the ones responsible for giving me references when I apply for any other professional position as a teacher or a librarian.

Now I know they can’t legally blast me on paper. You can get sued for doing that. Still, we all know that there’s the reference on file with CERRA and then there’s the reference that goes out in the phone call between principals where one says to the other, “So, tell me about Mr. Wham.” Want to take any guesses how that one probably goes? With cuts all over, the positions are like drops of water on asphalt — not many around and they don’t last long. After that friendly phone call, no one wants to hire a nut case, no matter how good he is at his job.

Obedience vs. insubordination.

So now the handful of you know WAY more about me than you probably ever wanted to,  but I’ve learned that compulsive confession and a tendency to share too much information about oneself too quickly are both indicators of Borderline Personality Disorder. So there’s that.

Anyway, if you made it this far, thanks for reading, I hope I didn’t scare the two of you off, and if you know of any good ways to make money from home, I’d love to hear them. I’d prefer they be legal, but at this point, beggars can’t be choosers!

So, love y’all. Hope you come back and remember . . . keep the feet clean!

And I Alone Escaped to Tell Thee


This has not been a week I shall look back on and recall fondly. Normally, I try to put a humorous face and spin on everything, but the last ten days have been anything but humorous. I’m posting this to assure everyone I am still alive and kicking, but I have been absolutely and completely overwhelmed by life or a reasonable facsimile thereof. To quote Cathy of the comic pages, “I can handle one day at a time, but recently, several days ganged up on me.”

To start matters off, my beloved Eastern Painted Turtle, Comet, died last Thursday. She was going on nine years old and I had raised her from a hatchling. One of Budge’s students brought her to school with a bit of egg still attached to her. She contracted some type of fungus which led to some other ailment and by the time I realized she needed a veterinarian, it was too late. Now I’ll carry the picture of her floating, eyes closed and skin cold as death with me like so much of the other baggage I’ve been lugging around for years. Maybe people will laugh at me for being so attached to a reptile, but raise anything and spend nine years caring for it then come tell me if I’m being silly.

Matters only worsened Monday morning. I got back from taking Budge to school and went into the backyard to let Beau and Jack out of the outbuilding. Beau had been acting very poorly for two days straight and the Sunday night before, he wouldn’t come out of the pouring rain, so in desperation, I locked him and his kennelmate, Jack, in the building for safety. When Beau came out the next morning, he staggered over to his favorite spot on the grass and lay down heavily. Rain was falling like a tall cow peeing on a flat rock so I went to get him up and over to his doghouse. When I patted him on the shoulder, he lifted his head and dropped it right back into the soaking grass. He couldn’t stand up anymore. Icy fear-daggers lanced into my heart as I realized that which I had greatly feared had come upon me. After 16 loyal and loving years, the Old Man — my best buddy in the world — was sick unto death.

I went into autopilot mode. I’d been preparing myself mentally and emotionally for this moment for six months. He’d been going down and I knew in my head it was only a matter of time. All that preparation didn’t account for squat when the time came, but I managed to scoop him up and lay him in the passenger seat of the Element. I barely remember the drive to Cedar Lake Animal Hospital. Dr. Melanie had just arrived and she and Misty, who was always Beau’s favorite technician, examined him and found his fever was off the chart. Melanie looked at me and sadly shook her head. I signed the euthanasia papers. At this point, I’d like to say I sat bravely by his side as he walked to the Rainbow Bridge, but, as much as I wanted to, I simply couldn’t summon the courage. I kissed him on that precious muzzle, now hoary and grey, and left him with the two people who had taken such good care of him for so long. At least I know he was with loved ones when he passed. I picked his ashes up Wednesday and placed them next to Thomas and Loki on my pet shelf.

I picked him up after visiting with my much loved psychologist who has played a big part in helping me keep my marbles all in the bag. She is tremendous and she’s the first therapist I have actually told the truth about stuff to. Mostly, I’ve been ordered by someone or another to see a therapist, so I developed the habit of just lying to them so they’d think I was fine and leave me the hell alone. Dr. Scott is different though. She’s been a huge help.

Now she’s leaving Greenville for Hilton Head.

Anyone out there have any idea how impossible it is to switch therapists after four years of work? No? It’s bloody, freaking hard. I don’t know at this stage if I’m even going to bother. It hardly seems worth it . . . but wait!! There’s more!!

What can possibly top the death of my oldest and dearest fuzzy baby? The birth of my niece, Chloe Aurora Lowe. We had all been delirious with excitement waiting on her for nine months, but when I got to Mama’s house to take Mama grocery shopping on Friday, the look on her face was anything but excitement. She said the baby had been born at five o’clock that morning.

The umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around her throat and she wasn’t breathing.

Nurses immediately snatched her up and took her straight to NICU where she was revived and started breathing on her own, but those of us who are honest with ourselves, like me, know the damage has been done. Her precious little brain was starved of oxygen for at least five minutes by the most optimistic estimate and anyone with any rudimentary knowledge of biology knows what that means.

Unfortunately, her mental development may be a moot point. As I write this, her kidneys have refused to act to void any waste. Her body is poisoning itself and if something doesn’t give, she will not survive the night. To make matters worse, if that was indeed possible, she desperately needs a PIC line established in her, but none of her blood vessels have been able to withstand the pressure of the IV. Finally, about two hours ago, Mama called and said they had performed a “cut down” and surgically inserted a supply tube directly into her little subclavian artery. What happens next is firmly in God’s hands. Danielle, her mother, is being discharged tomorrow and we’ve all pretty much decided that leaving the hospital without her baby might be more than she can take, emotionally. As for precious Baby Chloe, none of us have been allowed to hold her and only Mama, Rob, Travis, and Danielle have even been allowed to touch her. Of all the tortures devised by man, devil, or demon, being made to watch your newborn child scream at the top of her lungs with pain, hunger, and fear and not being able to pick her up to comfort her must be the worst of all.

So, I feel a kinship with old Job on that day when every time he turned around, another sole surviving servant was arriving to bring news of yet another earth shattering tragedy. I only wish I could close this book and the troubles would cease.

But I can’t.

Remember my family and me when you say your prayers tonight, please. It’s all up to Someone with better medical skills than any doctor at this point.

Love y’all and I’m sorry this post isn’t funnier.

Thoughts vs Ideation


Theodore just couldn't take it anymore.

One of my former students — I’ll call him Collin — married a woman for love who was marrying for money. The results have been predictable. They have a beautiful house, two beautiful cars, two beautiful children (only one of which is Collin’s, but that’s another story) and plenty of maxed out credit cards. Collin has stress related angina, carries nitro tablets, works a minimum of 50 hours a week, and is one missed paycheck away from bankruptcy and divorce. I told him to take the bankruptcy and divorce. He laughed, but I wasn’t kidding.

Did I mention he JUST turned 30?

Anyway, he’s been referred to a psychiatrist for evaluation because of some symptoms he’s been having, probably stress related, but the ER docs wanted to be sure. So his psychiatrist gave him a book of forms to fill out including various surveys and asking him questions about his various symptoms. Now I always liked Collin and he worked hard for me, but in plain simple matter of fact language, he wasn’t the brightest crayon in the box — and that’s the box of 8, not the new monster box of over 100. So he went to a mutual friend’s house to get some help. This proved to be a case of the blind leading the blind, so they ended up calling me. At the time, the sticking question was “have you ever had suicidal thoughts or suicidal ideation?” They didn’t know the difference so I explained it thusly,

Suicidal thoughts means you’ve just found out you aren’t getting a contract next year and you’ve got a wife at home and bills to pay. On the drive home, the thought crosses your mind that if you managed to have an “accident” before your group life insurance lapsed, your wife could pay everything off and live quite comfortably on her salary alone. BUT, by the time you reach your exit, the though has passed and you’re thinking about the grass you need to cut and about dusting off the old resume and getting set for the job hunt. That’s a brief suicidal thought.

Suicidal ideation, however, is when it’s been a year since you lost your job and even though you’ve managed to keep your head about water with unemployment checks and cashing in your state retirement, you have had exactly zero luck in finding a job and the outlook is grim. You have no prospects and hope is dwindling, so you start slipping into a little more serious depression. Then you remember that big oak tree that sits about ten feet from the road in the curve over on State 101 just inside the Woodruff town limits. You are aware that everyone knows you have several friends and acquaintances in Woodruff, including a step-uncle who lives about half a mile from said tree. You are also aware that you are well known for falling asleep at the wheel. Also, you know how to disable the airbags on your vehicle and it’s a widely reported fact that you detest seatbelts. You remember that once you timed out everything and figured you could easily be doing 60 mph when you hit that curve and if you “dozed off” and straightened out said curve, you would smack the tree at 60 mph and, with disabled airbags and no seatbelt, be ejected through your windshield and perish of massive blunt force trauma to your cranium. At that point, even though your primary insurance has lapsed, the obvious “accident” would enable the small life insurance policy your mother still has on you to pay off and that would be just enough for the simple pine casket funeral you always planned and you’d no longer be a drain on family resources.

“So,” Collin asked me, “thoughts means the idea just occurs to your and passes, but ideation means you actually have a solid plan?” I told him that was it exactly! They kept me on the line a little while longer with a few other questions then hung up.

Man, I hope that boy gets some help. He’s a good boy. He’s just in over his head right now and his wife is about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.

So, y’all say a prayer for him, keep your feet clean, and remember who loves you! 🙂