My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.

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Death with Dignity?

July 4, 2016

dignity – the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect

Dear Readers,

There is nothing dignified in death. In fact, dying is a messy business, at least for the living. Our five senses are on high alert and death is indelibly imprinted on our soul.

Although we face the unknown alone, we hope those we leave behind will find comfort in each other. Because trust me, there is no comfort in watching a loved one die. 

There is no honor in death; honor is in the way we choose to live our lives. There is no dignity in death; dignity is in the way we choose to live. 

I do not fear death. My passing is inevitable. I fear that my loved ones will have to witness my dying. And as I stated before, dying is a messy business. Watching a loved one die is honorable, but difficult and not for the faint of heart. 

Death with dignity is a misnomer or rather, it’s an oxymoron. There is nothing dignified about death, at least for the living. 

Death with dignity? Never. Peace, ~v. 


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The Curious Misadventures of El Mariachi and the Elite 8

May 6, 2016
Dear Readers,
I originally posted this two years ago. I am reposting today in honor of my dad on this, the 15th anniversary of his passing. My dad, the greatest man I ever knew. Peace, ~v.

My [redacted] Journey

El Mariachi El Mariach, aka El Ching@n

El Mariachi's Vieja El Mariachi’s Vieja

July 20, 2014

Dear Readers,

It recently dawned on me that I have never told you my stories of the infamous superhero El Mariachi, aka El Ching@n, and his loyal group of followers, turned proteges, turned superheroes themselves.  El Mariachi and his faithful wife, Vieja, spent a decade recruiting eight of the best and the brightest young people to pass onto them their values and a hope for the future.  They spent the next 38 years grooming the Elite 8 to become superheroes in their own right, so that future generations would, themselves want to emulate  and continue the traditions that El Mariachi and his Veija began.

The Elite 8 The Elite 8

Although the youngest and the last to be recruited, Boy is probably the closest to a mirror image of El Mariachi.  It also took Boy the longest to agree to join the…

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Seeking the Truth

May 1, 2016

Dear Readers,

So often during the Middle School Years, kids are seeking acceptance, self worth, and yes, even their own identities. It is helpful for teachers to remember this when confronted with raging parents, marionette administrators, or the un-truth tellers themselves. It is also helpful to remember that truth is subjective and its extraction, a dance. 

“She won’t teach my daughter!”

I was sitting across from my student, Marta** and her mother, who was raging. 

“Marta said you refused to teach her!  She said you even used those words, ‘I refuse to teach you!’  How unprofessional!  I don’t care if you don’t like her or she makes you mad!  My daughter deaserves her education and you can’t refuse to teach her! She was sooo upset last night, and I wanna know…”

I’m stalling for time here, allowing Mom to blow off some steam. I’m trying to pinpoint in my memory just exactly when I refused to teach Marta…ahh, yes. I had told Marta the previous day that I refused to teach her; but, that’s not the whole truth. As soon as I pinpointed the incident, I came back to the present and Mom was still accusing me of things untoward. I love righteous indignation. And both Marta and her mom had such self-satisfied smiles showing.   I almost hated to see them fade. 

“Excuse me,” I said to Mom. Then I turned my full attention to Marta. “Marta,” I asked, “What is the bathroom policy in my classroom?”

Before she could answer, Mom interrupts, “What does that have to do with anything?”

In my haste to get to the whole truth, I ignore the question and turn once again to Marta, “Marta, would you please tell your mother the bathroom policy for my classroom?”

“Yeah, well, we raise our hand and ask if we can go to the bathroom.”

“Okay. And then what?”

“If you say yes, then we sign out and go!” she says with pride at being able to answer such simple questions. 

“And how often do I say ‘Yes, you can go?'”

“Almost all the time,” Marta answers.  She turns to Mom, “Ms. Kunzmann always lets us go to the bathroom!” She’s picking up steam now, “And we hafta sign all the way out. The date, our first and last name, and the time we leave and the time we come back”

“That’s right. And what happens if you forget to sign all the way out?”

“We can’t go to the bathroom anymore?” she answers with some doubt. 

“Yes,” I answer.  “But only for the next week. And is there anything else your mom should know about my bathroom policy?”

“Ummmm, I dunno.”

“Okay,” I prompt her. “What about the part when you’re in the bathroom and I’m still instructing the class?”

“Oh yeah,” Marta remembers. “And you won’t repeat anything when we get back.”

“That’s right,” I exclaim and I address Mom. “You see, some of my students take advantage of my seemingly loose bathroom policy. In fact, some of my students leave class every day to go to the bathroom. Some days there is a steady stream of students from my classroom to the bathroom and back. Because of this, I have repeatedly told my students that I will not repeat whatever they miss while in the bathroom. It is each student’s responsibility to ask a peer for any information they might have missed.”

I could see Marta squirming uncomfortably as I addressed her mom, because now the whole truth will be revealed. 

“The other day when Marta came back from the bathroom, I had finished my instruction and the students were working on their assignment. Marta sees this and asks me what she is supposed to be doing. I told her to ask one of her peers, she knows the rules. At this point, Marta becomes quite upset at me for not telling her the assignment. Right, Marta?” And I look right at her. But she won’t look at me. 

I go on to explain that I had added up the amount of time Marta had been out of my classroom in the past two weeks: 32 minutes. If I have just three students from each of my four classes go to the bathroom every day, and believe me, I have far more, I would be repeating every. single lesson, every, single day. I refuse. 

Finally, I am explaining to Marta’s mom that what I had said to Marta was, “I cannot repeat my lesson over and over again for those individuals who use the restroom during my class. Heck, just Marta alone would have me repeating 32 minutes worth of instruction every two weeks!  So yes, I did tell Marta that I refuse to teach her while she is in the bathroom. I don’t think that is unreasonable.”


Middle school students are still trying to figure out who they are and what path they should take. Unfortunately, this middle-school-soul-searching often requires dramatics (theirs, not mine). “I refuse to teach you!” is certainly more dramatic than, “I refuse to teach you while you are in the bathroom.”  And, “I refuse to teach you!” is a much better attention-grabber. While, “I refuse to teach you while you are in the bathroom,” is, well, sensible; something middle school students rarely have an occasion to practice. 

And that’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. 

Peace, ~v.

**Names have been changed



August 1, 2015

Dear Readers,

I’m shaking my head (smh).  I’ve been socially illiterate for some time now, so pardon me if I seem a bit naïve.  I was at a party this evening in which there were adults ranging from 30 to 70 years of age.  Now, I’ve been around adults for some time now.  However, it is only recently that I have socialized with the thirty-something set.  And from what I experienced tonight, I am reluctant to ever do so again.

Ok, adults all talk a little shit about people, places, and things.  This person pissed me off at the grocery store because he had 15 items in the 10 item or less line.  Or, that person flipped me off because I was going too slow in the fast lane, kind of thing.  However, the young couple I ran into this evening chimed in with something new:  making fun of people because they are “ugly”.  Seriously?  Are we back in middle school?

I am used to 12 and 13 year old girls laughing at people they deem ugly.  But 30 year olds?  No, I just cannot accept that.  I work my hardest to try and keep my students from making fun of each other.  Now however, I find I am fighting a losing battle.  I say this because it is the parents who teach these vile behaviors to their children.

For the life of me, I cannot understand what would make a grown adult make fun of another human being for being ‘ugly’.  And to do it in front of their children?  Disgusting.  Is this really the world we want to live in?  Is this really the lessons we want to be teaching our children.  Please, please tell me no.

This evening as I sat listening to grown adults making fun of a lady who works at the local grocery story because she is ‘ugly’, I had to speak up.  It was as if I was in my classroom listening to a bunch of 7th graders.  I guess I’m just so used to that sort of banter that it took me a minute to realize I was listening to adults.

“No wonder I have such a hard time keeping my students from making fun of each other.  They get it from their parents!” I spoke out.  The offending adults stopped talking and after a few seconds of awkward silence, polite conversation continued.

The offending couple may never see this.  However, I want them to know that when their child comes to my classroom, I will protect his feelings as though I am his mother.  I will go out of my way to make sure no one in my classroom calls him names that would hurt his feelings.  After all, I am a mother and it would hurt my heart to know that someone was making fun of my child.  You know, just like the mother of the girl you were making fun of.  smh.  Peace, ~v.



July 28, 2015

Dear Readers,

My name is [redacted] and I am an alcoholic/addict.  It has taken me 32 years to write that statement with any amount of sincerity.  Of course, it has taken me that long to be able to work the program with any amount of sincerity, as well.  I was reluctant to even write this post.  And I was certainly never going to publicly admit that I am a, well, you know.  So what’s changed?

Alcoholism is an insidious disease.  Lest you get the idea that alcoholism and addiction do not qualify as a disease, here is Merriam Webster’s definition of the word disease:  a condition of the living animal or plant body or one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms.  Whew, that’s a mouthful!  Let me break it down for you, dear Readers.

a condition of the living animal or plant body or one of its parts Well, I am a living animal.  And that plant body thing, well, the definition is stating that both animals and plants can have a disease.

that impairs normal functioning I suppose the word ‘normal’ is open to interpretation.  However, this is really the part that gave me the most difficulty because by and large, I functioned pretty normally for the past 32 years, at least on the outside, but I’ll get to that later.

and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms.  How are these for signs and symptoms:  shaking, jittery, clouded mind, physical craving, irritability, and headache.

Looking at the definition and breaking it down like that, certainly gives one pause.  Yeah, I guess I really am and alcoholic/addict.  However, what I have just described, dear Readers, could easily be an addiction to caffeine.  Gosh knows I experience these symptoms if I don’t have my coffee first thing in the morning.  But it is also a description of addiction to numerous medications and illicit drugs, and, of course, alcohol.  So why the stigma?  Why, as a people, do we give aid and comfort to those who have the disease of cancer, but shame those of us who have an addiction?  Why do we have telethons to raise money for muscular dystrophy, but insist that we alcoholics ‘just get over it’?

Interesting questions, and I don’t have the answers, at least not all the answers.  But I do know this, as long as we see alcoholism and addiction  as an imperfection, a slight on our character, we will continue to treat the alcoholic/addict as a pariah, an outcast.  Me?  I’m not willing to accept that.        

I recently spoke to an aunt I hadn’t spoken to in quite a while.  She told me she loved reading what I write.  She also told me how courageous she thought I was for writing my own experiences so that others could know they are not alone.  I’m pretty sure she was talking about the fact that I have written about my bouts with mental illness.   But, I’m sure she’d be proud that I wrote about my alcoholism and my addiction, as well. 

I’m in remission now…oops!  My bad, I mean recovery, I’m in recovery now.  But make no mistake, my name is [redacted] and I’m an alcoholic/addict.  Peace, ~v.                     

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Begin Again

June 4, 2015

“Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you’ve been through, it’s never too late to begin again.”
Joyce Meyer, You Can Begin Again: No Matter What, It’s Never Too Late

Dear Readers,

I cannot count the times I have had to begin again.  I won’t belabor the point, but, yeah, I’m beginning again.  And although that is the title of today’s post, I have a much bigger issue to discuss with you.

Few people I know will ever know the pain of being homeless.  Fewer still will know the pain of an empty belly.  No, I’m not going to tell you I was homeless, starving on the street.  However, there are too many people in my community who are.  I can help do something about it.

As I sit in my air conditioned home in a city that reaches triple digit temperatures throughout the summer, I am moved to action.  I cannot imagine not having a place to cool off throughout these hot days.  And I can’t imagine not helping where ever I can.

Volunteering is nothing new.  In fact, it’s universal.  I write this tongue in cheek, dear Readers.  However, if you are looking for similarities, and not differences between you and the rest of the world, volunteering qualifies.

I wish I had been more diligent in teaching my own children how important it is to give back to one’s community through volunteering.  I guess it’s never too late.  Hey you guys…Volunteer, it’s good for the soul.  And if you live in the area, hit this place up:

Praise Chapel Food for Families
590 Hancock Rd.
Bullhead City, AZ, 86442
Peace, ~v.



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Union Strong

May 16, 2015

Dear Readers,

Dad was a union plumber from 1964 until his death in 2001.  Dad believed in the brotherhood.  The values Dad instilled in his children are the values he honored as a member of UA Local 469 Plumbers and Pipefitters.  These same values I have passed on to my children and my siblings have passed on to theirs.  And even though the state of unions in America have taken a hit, the tradition Dad cultivated and handed down, continues to this day.

I’m not about to debate the merits of belonging to a union.  However, I think it’s time to give credit where credit is due.  I cannot speak for all unions nor all union members; I wouldn’t want to.  However, I can speak from experience.

These are the values with which Dad instilled in me.  These are also time-honored union values, American values:

• LOYALTY Dad was one of those rare individuals who walked the walk.  In today’s ‘Keep it real” society, loyalty is a rare commodity.  Too few people embrace this old-fashioned value.  However, everything old is new again, right?  Loyalty is a man sticking to his word.  Loyalty is paying homage to those who came before you.  Loyalty is also paving the way for those who come after.  Loyalty is a lifelong commitment, it’s a 40 year marriage, it’s a 35 year stewardship.  Loyalty is dancin’ with the one that brung ya.  
• FAIR PLAY If the balance is tipped in favor of one over another, chaos ensues.  This applies to things great and small:  employer/employee, men/women, dogs/cats.  Americans love to root for the underdog.  Why?  Because of our sense of fair play.  In today’ssteroid-induced, get ahead at all costs world, fair play is due for a comeback.
• DECENCY, HONESTY, CHARACTER If you only live once, these three values should be included on everyone’s checklist.  Unfortunately, YOLO has come to define a generation of decadent, dishonest persons of suspect character.  Today’s youth would do well to remember what Clarence Darrow once said, “[Unions] have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character in men, than any other association of men.”  Agreed.

Although some may not agree, I know I am in the company of men and women I both respect and admire.  This short list not only includes my dad, it also contains my brother Alex and my brother Daniel.  Though my dad is no longer active, Alex and Daniel have continued in the union tradition.  The above values epitomize who they are and what they bring to a society bereft of values of days past.

Readers, this post is in honor of all the union men and women keeping with tradition and time-honored values.  Specifically, this post is to honor my brothers, Alex and Daniel, whose lives and families have been blessed and, dare I say, cursed to hold such high values.  Alex, Daniel and their families are about to embark on a life changing journey; from Arizona to New York.  Work is scarce in Arizona and so are most unions.   However, loyalty and the need to provide for their families trump familiarity.  I love you both and I wish you and your familieshappiness.  I am proud of you, Alex.  I am proud of you, Daniel.             

Unions:  Rank has its privliges.  Peace, ~v.