My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.

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Reflections for the Living


Our garden of peaceful reflection

June 29, 2016

“I know you are anxious to get on with the business of living, but she’s just not ready yet.  I’ve taken care of her, led her and loved her for over 57 years.  Yet, I never had the heart to prepare her for something like this.”

Dear Readers,

This is the dialogue I imagine I am having with Mr. Uruguay; or rather, the conversation he is having with me.  I have taken up my post on a plastic couch directly across from my dying friend. Should he open his eyes, I would be directly in his line of sight. However, that is not likely to happen.

Mrs. Uruguay is generally seated to her husband’s right, in a recliner of the hospital’s finest plastic.  Now however, she is bustling about on the other side of the room as the nurses are fussing about their patient, “Trying to keep him comfortable.”

The Uruguay’s son is pacing anxiously at the foot of his father’s bed. He was in the middle of shaving Mr. Uruguay’s three-day stubble, as per his mother, when the Nurse Angels flew into the room. By his nervous gait, it is obvious that Mrs. Uruguay’s son is not used to not following his mother’s directions, thus the nervous stutter-steps.

Mr. Uruguay’s daughter-in-law is curled up, crossed legged on the other available recliner, pecking away on her iPad, sending and receiving messages to and from parts unknown. Daughter-in-law is a registered nurse.  So, this appears to be old hat for her.

The Nurse Angels flit out of the room as quickly as they flitted in, and the process of death falls like a hush over the room’s occupants.  And here is where I imagine mine and Mr. Uruguay’s conversation picks back up.

“She needs a little more time to get used to me dying.  I mean, it’s only been three days since we made the decision to stop my nutrition and hydration.  And although she knows I’m dying – thank her for the priest and my last rites, by the way – my lovely bride needs just a little longer to accept that she is going to be alone.  I owe her at least that much.”

And so it goes.  Slipping towards death, just as he was in life, .Mr. Uruguay is still in control.  Mrs. Uruguay is a quick study, however.  And although there is a vast emptiness in her soul, she is beginning to take control of her life and her husband’s death.  It is hauntingly beautiful to watch. And so it goes, and so it goes.

Peace, ~v.




Taking Stock

August 2, 2015

Dear Readers,

It’s time to take stock.  Every year as school begins I take stock in my life.  I suppose this comes from the fact that as far back as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher.  However, also as far back as I can remember, I have questioned my motives for wanting to teach.  I have oftentimes wondered if I just want to be in high school for the rest of my life.  So, every year I take stock.

This year finds me in a better place both mentally and spiritually.  I am more open to change and I’m more willing to be honest.  Let’s get started.

“Say how you feel, leave the job you hate, find your passion, love with every ounce of your bones, stand up for things that matter, don’t settle, don’t apologize for who you are.  Be brave.”  Yeah, some of you may have seen this quote on Facebook.  But it is a great place to start.

  • Say how you feel  Yes, I do.  The thing is, though, I really need to be diplomatic.  I tend to hurt people’s feelings way too much.
  • leave the job you hate  Wow!  This is a biggie.  I struggled last year as to whether or not I should sign a contract to continue working at the school in which I had taught for the past two years.  I can honestly say that I hated my job.  And I never thought I would say that about any teaching job.  I struggled, to say the least.  However, over the summer, I fell in love with my job.  It was a combination of things, the perfect storm, if you will.  So I guess I did leave the job I hated, and I found one that I absolutely love.  Funny thing is, it’s the same job!
  • find your passion  Indeed!  Ask me a year ago, and I would have answered that teaching is my passion.  However, today I know that my passion is inspiring today’s youth to create their own future.
  • love with every ounce of your bones  Check.  God, my family, my friends…and finally, myself.
  • stand up for things that matter  Those of you dear Readers who read on a regular basis know that I tend to use my blog as a platform to stand up for things that matter to me.  I would like to believe that I am the voice for those who do cannot speak up for themselves.
  • don’t settle  Never settle for nothing but your best.  In years past, I continually lied to myself about this one.  I tried to convince myself that I was being the best Vickie that I could be.  Turns out, I was wrong and I wasn’t even fooling myself.  Now however, I can look myself in the mirror and tell myself that I am working my way back to being the best.
  • don’t apologize for who you are  On this one point, I have a caveat.  There will come a time in the near future in which I will have to apologize to certain people in my life for the person I used to be.  But for today, I do not have to apologize for who I am.
  • Be brave.  There is nothing so brave as being vulnerable and living a whole-hearted life.  I intend to do just that.

So dear Readers, I’ve taken stock.  Some good, some not so good.  I know I will never be a perfect human being.  However, I will spend the rest of my life striving to be the best Vickie I can be.  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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Go Rub Some Dirt On It

June 3 2015

Dear Readers,

My dad was not one to gladly suffer whiners.  In fact, Dad was quite intolerant when it came to whining.  It’s not that he wasn’t compassionate; he just didn’t have time for excuses.  And that’s where today’s post comes in.  I’m a whiner, dear Readers.  I HATE to admit this, but, I am.  Oh sure, I gripe, I grumble and I grouse.  I groan, I mumble and I kvetch.  But, whine…me?  I think not.  Ahem…I think so.  Dad would not be proud.

I do not want to makes excuses, so I won’t go into detail.  However, I thought I had every reason to bitch and complain, until today, right now, this very second.  I was talking to my roommate about how some of our students need to realize that no matter how bad they think they have it, there is always someone who has it much worse.  Or maybe I was just telling myself…anyhow, something my dad used to tell us kids popped into my head.

Mom and Dad (well, really Mom) had eight children in ten years.  So, there was always some kid or another boo-hooing about some boo-boo or another.  “Mom!  So-and-so hit me!”  “Dad, So-and-so tripped me!”  “Mom!”  “Dad!”  You get the picture.  Dad had the perfect response.  Although, I don’t think I really understood what it meant until today.

When one of us would show Dad some real or imagined cut, bruise, and/or other physical slight, Dad would feign concern, look at the boo-boo and say, “Go rub some dirt on it.”  This would make me laugh, but, I always walked away puzzled.  The hurt no longer hurt, of course.  However, the ‘Go rub some dirt on it,’ never made sense.  Now, I get it.

Stop whining!  Suck it up!  That’s what it means.  Oh, I can’t pretend to tell you what was in my dad’s mind when he said that to his kids.  But I can sure tell you what is in mine.  Stop whining, sissy!  Suck it up and just do what you gotta do!  There are things in this life that are true tragedies, my life is not one of them.  I love life and life loves me back.

So, the next time I start feeling sorry for myself, the next time I begin to think, “Poor me, poor me, poor me,” I will remember the words of one of the greatest men I ever knew, “Aww, go rub some dirt on it!”  Peace, ~v.


“Where’s your happiness now?”

May 26, 2015

Dear Readers,

Recently, I had a falling out with a friend.  Sunshine (not her real name) had been a lifelong friend.  She was the person I turned to for help every time I fell.  And believe you me, I fell more than a dozen times in as many years.  She was my rock, my steady friend, my sunshine.  However, I have since come to realize that she was my friend only when I was down and out; once I was able to stand on my own two feet, Sunshine’s friendship would disappear.

Over the years, I have told Sunshine my deepest, darkest fears, my most outlandish aspirations, and every little thing that makes me tick.  I was under the misguided assumption that she would hold my secrets close to her heart, just as I did to hers.  Sadly, I was mistaken.  I will never make that mistake again.

Over the past three years, and with Sunshine’s help, I have found my happiness.  It is through no small feat that I am able to look at myself in the mirror and smile.  I am proud of who I am and what I have accomplished.  I have come a long way.  Conversely, I am deeply ashamed and embarrassed at how low I sank in recent years.  I had just come to a point in my life where I had forgiven myself my past mistakes.  In other words, I was happy.

On the outside, I appear really put together.  I’m independent, smart, tough, and sometimes even funny.  Very few people know that on the inside I am more than a little unsteady.  In fact, I am a scared little girl on the inside.  Sunshine was one of the few people who knew of my insecurities.  She was also the last person I thought would exploit those insecurities.  But not only did she exploit those insecurities, she chewed them up and spit them back into my face like so many before her, that I was this close to believing all of the vile things she said to me and about me.  Little did she know that I would take a piece of advice she recently gave me, and use it to keep my wits about me, whereas usually, I would crumple.

In the past few months, I had begun to confide in Sunshine how very happy I was.  Sometimes, unable to contain how happy I was, a smile would break across my face and a giggle would escape from my lips.  I could be as giddy as a schoolgirl.  My happiness came from a place that I believe few people I know have ever experienced.  I had survived an almost certain death; not only survived, but walked away from.  After shaking my head in disbelief for a couple of months, I have accepted that I survived because I have so much more to give.  This realization was the catalyst for my happiness.  So, of course I was giddy!  I mean, who wouldn’t be, right?  And I almost let it all slip away because of a few well-placed barbs spewed from a would-be friend.

After a vile and disgusting exchange of words from both myself and Sunshine, she left me with these words, “Where’s your happiness now?”  It almost shook me to my core.  But now, I have an answer for her:

My happiness resides in a place no one can touch.  My happiness belongs to me and me alone, so that only I can make myself unhappy.  My happiness is with me when I wake up in the morning and with me when I close my eyes at night.  My happiness is knowing that not only am I a good person, but that I am a person worthy of being loved.  My happiness is knowing that I am highly blessed and Divinely favored.  My happiness is right here, right where it belongs.

Sunshine once told me that I needed to get rid of all of the people in my life who were toxic.  And although it will create a hole in my heart, I fear I must take her advice.  Goodbye Sunshine, I wish you well.  Peace, ~v.


She Talks to Angels

January 1, 2015

Dear Readers,

Her name was Jane and she was my childhood friend.  We would play school together with all of my stuffed animals.  Jane played the principal, my stuffed animals were the students, and I was always the teacher.  Jane played the principal because she didn’t like to have to stay in the classroom (my bedroom).  Jane would sit off to my left and mostly just observe.  Once in awhile she would admonish me that I was being too hard on this student or that student.  And she would never talk to me whenever one of my brothers or sisters would come into the bedroom where we were playing.

By the time I was about nine or ten years old, I had stopped talking to Jane because after all, she was imaginary.  However, I never forgot about her and I am convinced that she never forgot about me.  Certain things would happen in my life and I knew they were going to happen before they would actually happen.  This did seem somewhat weird to me, but I would just chalk it up to being a self-fulfilled prophecy.  Then came the car accident.

For years I believed I would be involved in a car accident but I knew I would survive.  I knew this because Jane had told me once a long time ago.  I would say to myself, “I know I’m going to be involved in a car accident one day, I just don’t know how I know.”  Shades of Jane would flash through my head and I would just as quickly wave them away.  I might have told a few people throughout my life about my sense of being in a car accident, but I hardly believed how I knew I certainly didn’t expect anyone else to believe me.  Then came the car accident.

After my accident, and while it was still fresh in my mind, I wrote down my thoughts here and here and here.  I have done quite a bit of soul-searching and quite a bit of praying.  Now, I may not know everything, but I do know two things:

First – It is  my life’s purpose to be of service to others.

Second – Jane was, is, and always will be my guardian angel.

Yes, I talk to angels.  Peace, ~v.



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.