My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.


Saved ~ Part II

October 30, 2014

Dear Readers,

Today marks the second installment in a series.  Part I can be found here.  Peace, ~v.

Dazed, Not Confused

With my eyes still closed and my glasses still perched intact atop the bridge of my nose, I set about removing myself from my restraint.  My shackle, formerly known as my seat belt, held me in bondage to the wreckage that was once my truck.  Within seconds, I whipped off the shoulder strap from around my neck, unbuckled the seat belt holding me hostage, and walked away from the crash, never even looking back.

In an otherwise parallel poetic universe, this would be the end to my story.  Poetic justice dictates that I walk away from the crash a bit dazed and confused and never turn back; dramatics begs to differ.  I had to turn back, I had to look at what should have been my resting place (see what I told you…dramatics).  Besides, although completely dazed, I was certainly not confused.

As I wandered a few feet from the wreckage, I paused and turned to face my would-be tomb.  As dramatic as that sounds, it was exactly what I was thinking at the time.  You see, I knew my body had been through a traumatic experience and I also knew that it wasn’t my well-constructed truck that had saved my life.  Okay, not exactly true.  Nevertheless, I was convinced that it was The Voice who had intervened to save my life.

As I stood staring at the remains, a tall gentleman approached me, cell phone in hand.

“Are you okay?” he asked.  “You look okay. We called the paramedics.”

“Did you see what happened and how many times I rolled?” I replied.

“I didn’t, but my wife did. Hey honey,” he shouted at an unseen woman, “How many times did she roll?”

I didn’t need to hear the response, I already knew the answer.

“She said five.”
“She said three,” we both answered in unison.

He was referring to what his wife had said. I was referring to what The Voice had told me.

The gentleman shook his head, “She said five.” I let it go, I was dazed, but not confused.

“Can you call my sister, please,” and I rattled off her number.

Assessing Damages

I stood almost stock still and waited for help to arrive. I had already done a quick but thorough assessment of my injuries. I had four superficial cuts on my right hand, my left hip was smarting from the seat belt restraining me during the free fall, as was my neck and the rest of my left side, especially my left wrist, and that was all…let me repeat,…and that was all.

I neglected to take a head count of each lookie-loo who happened upon the scene. I could just feel their vibes, and their vibes screamed in disbelief that anyone had survived such a mangled mess. My vibe screamed in disbelief as well, but it was a disbelief of a different nature:  I could not conjure up The Voice

I couldn’t peel my eyes away from my used-to-be truck.  No airbag had been deployed, no glass had been left intact, and there were no instructions forthcoming from The Voice.  Then as if on cue, “M’am, where do you hurt?”  It wasn’t The Voice, but it was a voice, the voice of another angel.

This particular angel came equipped with an oxygen mask and a stretcher.  “M’am, we’re gonna have to roll you onto this board…” and his voice trailed off.  Funny, I hadn’t heard the ambulance arrive; maybe I had sustained some sort of head injury that had incapacitated my hearing.  “Oh no!” I thought as I was loaded into the awaiting ambulance, “I can’t feel my head!  My head is numb!”

As we began to pull away from the scene of the accident, Paramedic Angel began asking me questions about my injuries.  When he was finished with his inquiries he sat down next to me, adjusted the oxygen mask that by then was resting on my right cheekbone and whispered almost reverently, “You just close your eyes now and relax, because you are the luckiest person in the world right now.”  He also uttered something to the driver, who began picking up speed and running his siren.

It wasn’t until I heard the siren wailing that I realized that my hearing was still intact.  It also dawned on me that Paramedic Angel must have instructed the driver to hurry it up on my account.  “How come you told him to go faster?” I mumbled through my oxygen mask.

“Your blood pressure is low and that bothers me.”

I chuckled , “You didn’t run the siren when you came to get me because you were afraid I was dead.  And now you’re running the siren because you’re afraid I’m dying.”  He nodded his head in the affirmative.  He looked so worried that I had to tell him, “I won’t die, I stayed awake.”

His response?  “You hit your head pretty hard; you may be in shock.”  I didn’t have the heart nor the courage to tell him that the Voice had told me that if I stayed awake I would live; I did, and I did.  I just wished The Voice would come back and tell me what was wrong with my head.

My head had been knocked around at 65 mph.  Surely it must be battered and bruised.  I had only to flashback to the contorted piece of metal that had once been my driver’s side door to know what the results of the CT scans of my head would read like.  I had no pain in my head, yet I knew I had just suffered a traumatic head injury.

As I arrived at the hospital, I prayed to God that He would allow me to feel the pain of my head injury so that I might better pinpoint the epicenter of the trauma and work toward recovering.  I was still praying when the ER doctor came to my bedside to give me the news.

To be continued. 


Saved ~ Part I

October 28, 2014

Dear Readers,

The following is Part I in a series.  It’s all true.  Peace, ~v.


I have started to write the following post more than once in the past month or so, but I could never get past the first paragraph. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write this post, it’s just that every time I sit down to type it, my mind either goes blank or it whirls with questions whose answers I haven’t been able to receive through prayer. Either way, I end up sitting at my computer, staring off into space. Now however, it’s time.

Before I begin, I humbly ask my family, specifically my children and my mother, to forgive me for not telling them about my accident. It was, and still is so surreal that I have trouble believing it actually happened the way that it did.  Suffice it to say that mine was the only vehicle involved, and I was the only one hurt (but just a little). Also, and I suppose I should have mentioned this first, I am fine, really, really fine. Then again, that seems to be my problem.

Some Great Day

“If you can just stay awake, you’ll live,” said the voice, as my head slammed into the driver’s side door of my truck. Seconds before, I had been winding my way through the beautiful Cerbat Mountains, on my way home from an almost perfect day of school. Now, I was just another motorist involved in a highway accident, a victim, a statistic. How did I get here? And more importantly, why was I spared?

I have written and rewritten the above paragraph over and over again until I have it memorized. I can revise it no more. It is, as they say, what it is, and no amount of editing on my part is going to change that. Here’s the thing, I was in this stupid accident and I’m having difficulty writing about it, much less accepting it. The difficulty in writing is two-fold, really. I fractured my left wrist, my writing hand, so no journal writing. And typing with only my right hand is slow and tedious. As for the acceptance part, well, that one’s on its way.

My day had ended on such a high note. It was one of those rare days since becoming a teacher that I was going home without reflecting on what I could have done differently with my lesson so that more of my students would have been engaged. I didn’t have to reflect on the negatives of the lesson; all of my students had mostly been on task. They even seemed to have enjoyed the web quest I sent them on and creating power point presentations of their cyber-journey.

I must say, I was proud of my students at the end of that day. Collectively, they seemed to have conquered the maturity speed bump of behaving appropriately in the computer lab. I made a mental note to be sure and tell them how proud I was of them the next day. And with that, I locked up my classroom and started for home.

The Drive

Unburdened by the day’s events, I was more relaxed than usual. That’s not to say that I was fall-asleep-relaxed. No, I was just not as uptight as I usually am and I didn’t have a death grip on the steering wheel like I usually do. I have an hour’s ride home every day through the Cerbat Mountains and it usually takes me a good 20 minutes before I begin to loosen my grip and relax my shoulders. Any other day of the workweek, the beautiful scenery coupled with a soothing audio book is usually sufficient to bring me back to center.

As a creature of habit, I grabbed my phone, ready to peruse my digital library for a relaxing yet engaging audible to accompany me on my drive home. But before my nimble fingers had finished tapping out my super, secret pass code, I paused, I smiled, and I shook my head.

“Not today,” I said to no one in particular, unless you count Siri who was fast asleep, my having not unlocked my phone. I placed my phone in the middle console, secure in the fact that I would need no calming narrative to ease my stress; I had none. I happily eased out of the parking lot.

The next 20 minutes are difficult for me to put into words. All of my senses were heightened. I was aware of every bend in the road as I wound my way through town and up towards the mountains. At one point, it dawned on me that I had missed all of the bumps and potholes on the road without even trying. I also remember catching most, if not all green lights on my way out of town. I had a positive vibe within and without and all around me. I was happy and smiling and feeling…different.

Right before I hit the last light out of town, it dawned on me that perhaps I was feeling too prideful. Usually when I have a particularly good day, I credit myself first, my students second. That is a hard thing to admit, and my pride always goes before my fall (deservedly so, I might add). This particular day, it wasn’t like that. I was proud of my students and wasn’t even thinking that I had anything to do with their reaching a maturity milestone.

I was feeling so good that I reached for my phone with the intent of listening to some music that matched my mood. This time, my fingers didn’t even touch the screen before my hand was putting the phone back into its cradle. My mind wanted to soak up this good feeling without interference.

Rolling Over

I was doing the speed limit, 65 mph, and I was about seven miles into the uphill mountain road. Although I can recall with pristine clarity everything that occurred as my truck began to roll, I cannot explain what happened in the moments before I lost control of the truck.
I felt the truck begin to roll toward the driver’s side, only two wheels on the road. I saw a car in front of me and knew I was going to roll right into its rear end. I closed my eyes, let go of the steering wheel and went completely limp. That’s when I heard the voice.

“If you can just stay awake, you’ll live,” said the voice, as my head slammed into the driver’s side door. This was the first roll. As I rolled upside down, it dawned on me that I was in no pain. “I’m dead,” I thought as I felt the truck roll upright.

“You won’t die if you stay awake,” said the voice. This time I felt the left side of my body slam into the ground. This was the second roll. Even though my body had struck the ground, I was still belted into the cab of the truck and I was about to turn upside down, again. I could feel the roof of the cab crushing down on me. “How come my head doesn’t hurt?” I wondered. My body felt the impact each time the truck rolled over. But I couldn’t feel the pain.

As the truck began to right itself for the second time, I knew we had too much momentum to stop. “One more,” said the voice. This was the third and final roll. I could feel that my glasses had remained on my face and I was struck with the oddest of thoughts, “My head doesn’t hurt because I’m still wearing my glasses,” (I’m still trying to figure that one out). It was then that the truck pounded to a stop, right side up. “Stay awake,” spoke the voice one last time, and then it disappeared.

The truck had stopped with such force, and my body had been moving with such tremendous momentum that my legs were flung ragdoll-like out of the cab. The mangled driver’s side door having worn out its usefulness, offered no more protection. My hips were safely wedged between the lap portion of the seat belt and the desert floor as I half sat, half dangled from the front seat. The only thing stopping me from lying in repose was the seat belt shoulder strap wrapped around my neck like a noose.

Within seconds, I whipped off the shoulder strap from around my neck, unbuckled the seat belt holding me hostage, and walked away from the crash.

To be continued.



October 25, 2014

Dear Readers,

Just getting my bearings, I chose to edit a previous post.  You can find the original here.  It’s good to be back.  Peace, ~v.


The bougainvillea blooms all year round.  The beautiful purple-pink flowers belie the thorny vines that lie just underneath the blooms.  From a distance, with the sun at their backs, and with one eye closed, I can almost picture an Arizona sunset.  The reds and pinks and purples of the bougainvillea and the Arizona sunsets mesh together to make sitting outside in 120°F  (49°C) worth the sweat.

And the sweat in the small of my back, it clings to the polyester blend, black abaya I wear and simply sits there.  The ever present moisture lies on the surface of both my skin and the non-absorbent material of my long-sleeved, long skirt, neck-high “dress”.  It helps keep the desert sand at bay.  That fine grained, almost silt, that permeates every inch of life until it becomes me.

It becomes me in the sand that blows through the cracks.  And blows the wind so subtle that were it not for the fog-like emissions of the oil fields, I would never know it was blowing.

Night sneaks up, bringing with him the fog.  The murky fog rolls in and over the desert.  It’s time to slip inside and leave the night to the Night.  And as I lazily climb the sturdy, sandy stairs to my room with a view, thoughts drift to Carl Sandburg…

The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.



October 1, 2014

Dear Readers,

Today’s Writing 101 assignment is to write about finding something.


Denial.  Anger.  Bereavement.  Depression.  Acceptance.  These are all stages of grief.  For the first 26 years after the loss of my daughter, I experienced a constant barrage of emotions, along with four out of the five stages of grief.  Never, not once, in 26 years, did I ever come close to acceptance.  Today, however, I am happy to report that I have found it.

Jessica passed away on June 26, 1987.  She was not quite three years old and I was not quite 23 years old.  The havoc this event wreaked in my life is immeasurable.  Denial, anger, bargaining, and depression have been the ebb and flow of my life, to some degree or another, for the past 25 years.  Every event, every undertaking, every celebration in my life was filtered through my daughter’s passing.  So much so, that I experienced nothing in my life in its pure form.  It was as though I had an asterisk next to my name in the book of life.  “* Mother of 5”, “* College Graduate”, “* English Teacher”.  The asterisk at the bottom of the page always indicated the same caveat, “* Daughter passed away June 26, 1987”

In recent years, maybe the past 7 or so, I stopped looking for acceptance and resigned myself to the fact that I was never going to find the ever elusive, acceptance.  I pared my grieving down to only one month a year, June.  This is not something I did consciously.  However, my other four children were relieved when I began to cut back on my fits of sobbing.  It’s not that they begrudged me my grief, they were just frustrated at not being able to help me.

Twenty-six years of therapy, two mental breakdowns,one halfhearted suicide attempt and I still had not found that damned acceptance stage!  Until recently.

Like any good epiphany, my epiphany came out of nowhere.  It happened just a few months back.  I realized how very self-centered and narcissistic I had been regarding Jessica’s passing.  Several years ago, I found the strength to accept that Jessica’s death was not my fault.  However, I could not accept the fact that Jessica’s death had nothing to do with me.  Let me just say that one more time, “Jessica’s death had nothing to do with me.”

I have spent the better part of my life feeling sorry for myself.  Well,not exactly, it was an extremely painful experience.  However, my grieving had taken the focus off of Jessica years ago.  Now, it was all about me and how my daughter’s death had really screwed with my head.  Things were about to change.

Last year, through a series of unexpected events, I was flying home to Arizona from the Middle East.  The date was June 26, 2013, and it was the 26th anniversary of Jessica’s death.  It had always been sacrosanct for me to do nothing but grieve on June 26th.  Yet, I had scheduled a 30 hour, two stop flight home.  What was I thinking?  I wasn’t, and that turned out to be the best thing for me.

I was 30 minutes or so from my final landing when I said to myself, “Well, this has sure been an uneventful June 26.”  And just like that, it dawned on me that I had finally found what I had been looking for all these years, acceptance.

Peace, ~v.


Marriage and a Modern Muslim Girl

September 30, 2014

Dear Readers,

Today’s “A to Z Challenge” is brought to you by the letter “M“.

Writing 101’s assignment:  Write a post with roots in a real-world conversation.  For a twist, include foreshadowing.

Based on real life events.  The names have been changed.  Peace, ~v.


“Miss Victoria, my mom would never make me marry if I didn’t want to.  And I don’t want to!”  Della was adamant as she spoke with all the confidence of an 18 year-old about to graduate from high school.  The rest of the girls in my class smiled their knowing smiles.

It was the end of the school year and my students were schooling me on marriage in the Middle East.  Of all the Middle East traditions I know, the ones involving marriage are the most perplexing.  Males and females are completely separated by society, in public and in private, from around the age of 5.  By age 20, most young ladies are bound to an arranged marriage.  Having never been alone with a member of the opposite sex, teenage girls fall back on their fantasies of love and marriage.  Each imagines she will fall madly in love with her husband, but only after she marries him, of course.

Della didn’t ascribe to that conclusion.  She was determined to go to the university and determined not to have an arranged marriage.  “I will marry for love or I will not marry at all!” she was fond of saying.

The bell rang, signaling the end of the day, and my students hurried out the door.  Della hung back, she had something on her mind.

“Miss Victoria,” she began after the class had emptied.  “Miss, I don’t think I’m going to go to the university.”

“Oh, no?”  I tried to hold my surprise in check.  Della dreamed of becoming a television journalist.

“No, Miss.  I don’t think I can do it.  It’s probably too hard for me.”

This was not the Della I knew.  The Della I knew was confident, independent, and so sure that she would be broadcasting on TV in the near future.  I could tell she had made up her mind.  I muttered a few platitudes and Della slid out the door.

The next day, Della again stayed after school.

“Miss, can I tell you something and you won’t tell on me?”  She asked.

“Of course,” I assured her.

“Miss, my mom wants me to marry my cousin right after school is through.”

“And you don’t want to?” I hedged.

“No, miss I don’t even like him!  But my mom says I should marry him because he is part of our family and at least if he hits me or something, we can control him.”

After I regained my composure, I said, “What about college?  Doesn’t your mother know you want to go to college?”

“Yes.  But she thinks it’s time for me to get married.  I don’t think she will make me if I keep telling her no.  And she stopped talking about it a couple of weeks ago.  But I think she is going to ask me again.”

“Well, can you keep telling her no?  I mean, I don’t know…” and my voice trailed off .  We both knew the answer to that question, and we didn’t have the heart to face it.

The next few days were a whirlwind of activity.  Every now and again, I would catch Della’s eye and she would flash me her beautiful smile as if all was right with her world.  I tried to reason out the scenario in my head.  Della’s mom would persist in asking her daughter to marry the man she had picked out for her.  Della would continue to resist.  I was convinced that Della’s mom would not force Della to marry.  Unfortunately, I was right.  Della’s mom did not have to force Della to marry.

I saw Della one last time before graduation.  We hugged and we cried and we laughed, all things that Della would no longer be allowed to do in public now that she was no longer a girl.  Her face stoic as she pulled away from me, Della stood terribly erect.

“Miss,” Della announced in a bold voice.  “Miss, my mom asked me again to marry my cousin.  I said yes.”

She didn’t wait for my reaction.  She simply turned on her heels and was gone.



38 and Counting

September 29, 2014

Dear Readers,

My writing assignment for today is to write about the home I lived in when I was twelve.  The twist is to write in varying sentence length, short, medium, and long.  The short ones will be the most difficult for me.  I’ve never met a sentence I couldn’t painfully stretch out.  I’m long-winded.  There, that’s a good start.  Happy reading!

I remember both homes I lived in when I was 12.  I can even supply you with the complete addresses, not that remembering my childhood addresses is such a terrific feat.  Then again, perhaps it is.

I have lived at 38 different addresses.  I have lived in only one state (Arizona) and two countries (the U.S. and the U.A.E.).  However, I have had more residences than I think I can recall.  Also, if I include the two times I was homeless, that brings the figure to 40.  If my math is correct, I have moved at least once every 15 months or so throughout my lifetime.  And still, I’m not finished.

Childhood Homes

I can describe all of my childhood homes in the same manner.  Three bedrooms, two baths, a dog or two, my parents, my five brothers, my two sisters, and me.  If anyone’s keeping count, it’s ten.  My two sisters and I shared a room, my five brothers shared another one, and Mom and Dad maintained the master bedroom.

I didn’t bother me having to share so little space with so many people.  My mom was a great organizer, still is, so we rarely had fights over the use of the bathrooms.  I still marvel at the fact that Mom made sure all ten of us were cleaned and pressed every Sunday in order to attend mass.

What we lacked for in space, we more than made up for with love.  My perspective may be completely different from any and all of my siblings.  However, I grew up knowing that where ever I was, as long as I was with my family, I was home.

Adult Homes

The feeling that I am home hasn’t always transitioned to the homes I have lived in as an adult.  I tried my level best to create a home for me and my children while I was raising them.  Each has fond memories growing up.  I’ll take that as a good sign.

While living as a family with my children, I knew I was home.  I felt I was home.  Now, I’m struggling to duplicate that feeling.  I am struggling to duplicate the feeling of home I remember from childhood.  I’m struggling to get back that feeling of home I created for myself and my children.  It seems a daunting task.

I want to feel I’m home.  I need to feel I’m home.  Unfortunately, that feeling isn’t going to come from an address.  It also won’t come from the structure or the place in which I reside.  No.  That feeling of being home, the feeling that says “This is my home and I belong here,” that’s going to have to come from within.  Peace, ~v.



September 28, 2014

Dear Readers,

It was the best of traits, it was the worst of traits, it was the mark of wisdom, it was the mark of foolishness, it was the attribute of belief, it was the attribute of incredulity, it was the quality of Light, it was the quality of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.  It was adaptability.

With apologies to Charles Dickens,  I am writing about my best and my worst personality trait.  I am making a concerted effort to become a better person.  Through my soul searching of the past month, I have determined that my best personality trait is adaptability.  However, it is also my worst.

My ability to adapt allows me to feel comfortable in any given situation.  And it’s a good thing, too, because I’ve had to adjust to some pretty tough situations.  I’ve managed several times to make the best of a bad situation; I’m proud of that.  I am also ashamed at how base a life I was willing to lead because of my adaptability.  You’d be surprised at what we are willing to adapt to.  Or maybe not.  Now, having survived my first half century none the worse for wear, I plan on living the life I was intended to live.

Oftentimes over the years, I have instructed my students and my own children that they were destined to do great things.  I instilled in them a belief that they had the power to change the world, and they do.  So do I.

Accepting that I can, and I will, affect change began some time ago.  Last night, I fully embraced it.  Allow me to share with you, dear Readers, the beginnings of my new Journey:  My Journey of Peace.


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