A Goodbye to my Brother in the Classroom

 

I tried to stop time.

I threw my claws out at this invisible force that keeps moving us forward.

I was pleading with my husband and kept begging, “No, I need a place that it’s still okay, where he’s still here.” I was frantically looking around my yard and my eyes kept going down the lane toward the woods. Down there! The safe place is down there!

My husband, Steven, put his arms around me and my arms dropped. The stuff in my hands fell and as they hit the ground all my efforts to reverse time so I could be back in a world where my brother was still alive vanished.

I dropped to my knees burying my hands into the fresh, green, Spring grass willing the Earth to stop moving, screaming, sobbing.

The woods, I need the safe place. I got up wanting to run but was barely able to walk.

I started down the lane but the words, never see him again, dropped me again. I was suffocating as my lungs continued to function. The gravel was wet under my hands. It was solid, it was real. This is real.

No, it isn’t. Get up, Jenn, get to the safe place.

I got up and started walking purposefully without tears or anymore crying out.

Steven came up to me on the golf cart. I didn’t look at him but told him I wanted to be alone. The walk takes about ten or fifteen minutes.

I looked at Pepper, my dog, and said, “There it is Pep, we’re okay now.”

I sat down on the spot by Purtle creek, felt the sun on my side, breathed deep, steady breathes and then I talked to my brother. When I was done, I leaned in and drank from the cold water, stood up and looked up toward the cloudless sky. Alright Buddy, let’s go tell the kids.

That was Sunday May 7th 2017. My brother was 47 and had died of an apparent heart attack most likely brought on by severe sleep apnea. 47.

Today was Thursday and my first day back in the High School Science classroom that I’ve been long-term substitute teaching in since November. As a teacher, I am always on the hunt for a teachable moment. Today my students learned about grief and how to talk to someone who is suffering through it. I have three classes and for the most part they all got this talk. First hour was, of course, my hardest so they may not have got as much as my last hour class. Here is basically how the lesson went:

On the board, I wrote: The Five Stages of Grief

1.      Denial

2.      Anger

3.      Bargaining

4.      Depression

5.      Acceptance

These are the things I said:

In case anyone doesn’t know I have been gone the last few days because my brother died unexpectedly on Sunday. (I choked on this sentence each time.) When I first started back to school in college I was going to be a social worker when I grew up. (a few chuckled because I was a grown up when I went back) When I went from Ivy Tech to ISU though I switched to teaching because social work would have broken my heart. You are either working in nursing homes or with abused children and I figured I would burn out and then be stuck with a degree I couldn’t do anything with so I switched to teaching. I started out though with a Human Services degree from Ivy Tech. When I was going for this degree I had a psychology class and we discussed the five stages of grief. I was 25 or so when I took this class and I had never heard of the stages of grief before so maybe none of you have either. It starts with denial, shock, a complete disbelief that this is happening, that the person is gone. Every day since Bryan died, this is where I’m at. The first thought when I wake up is, “My brother isn’t dead, that was a dream.” This is how I can get out of the bed, by denying reality.

Let me tell you about Bryan. He was a riot! He was always quick with a joke, loved drinking Corona and fishing. However, he didn’t take very good care of himself. He was a pretty big boy. He loved to build things with his hands and was a self-employed contractor. Since he was self-employed though he had the generic state health insurance. My brother had severe sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is like snoring on steroids. He wouldn’t just snore, he would stop breathing. He could be sleeping in an upright position at my Mom’s house, in her recliner but not reclining and completely stop inhaling. His body would jerk trying to wake himself up before he would snort and growl and be back to sleep. We were all on him about how bad it was. In October or so he went to have a sleep study done. A sleep study is when you spend the night in a clinic and they put all these monitors on you to see how your breathing and heart rate go as your sleeping. They actually woke Bryan up and told him to go home because he was the worst case they had ever seen. So the process was started to get him a Cpap machine. That’s a machine that has a mask and would force him to keep breathing while he slept. The insurance jerked him around because like I said junk insurance and they didn’t want to shell out a couple grand on a machine. In November, our Doctor, we go to the same guy, has Bryan switch to a different company that should work better with his insurance. They jerk him around past December 31. Guess what happens December 31st! The insurance stops and he has to bring tax returns in after he files in January/February and they will put him in the computer as having coverage from January 1st. This is May. He never got around to doing the paperwork. He was working, doing some roofing with a crew and some finishing work so he just didn’t make time. Mom and I both offered to buy the machine for him but he said he would get insurance to do it.

This is where bargaining comes into my grieving process. If only. That is what the bargaining stage is. If only we had got him the machine. If only we had just put him in the car and taken him to the Medicare office to take care of the paperwork. If only, If only. But to live in the bargaining phase is to enter a nightmare because you just tear yourself up with it and it just adds guilt on top of the loss. But really guys, you can’t linger in any part of the grieving process. I’m not going to be able to stay in denial, that isn’t reality. To be angry, which I have been, isn’t healthy either because then the anger just eats you up and hurts people around you. Really the only stage I haven’t really felt so far is the depression, and I’m terrified of it. I have previous experience with anxiety and depression and I know how that darkness can just swallow me whole.

Here is another point to understand about the stages of grief, is that they really don’t go in an order. Yes, denial is always first but you can kind of weave back and forth through all of them. Sometimes within the same day. The stages are just a framework to put a name on things you’re feeling. To mentally and emotionally heal properly you have to address each stage as it comes.

I realize at your ages you may have already lost someone you loved or know someone who has. It makes for an awkward feeling sometimes because you don’t know what to say to the person and that’s okay. The one thing that is always safe is “I’m sorry.” If you love the person, tell them. If you knew the person who died say something you liked about them. Tell a story about the person. If you didn’t know them just listen as the person talks. Things not to say are you know how they feel. Don’t compare your wounds to theirs because chances are, yours are partially healed. Don’t say at least they aren’t suffering anymore unless the person really battled a long illness. It’s okay to not say anything at all too. Maybe a pat on the shoulder or a smile.

I’ll tell you something I have never experienced before when I have lost someone is the complete inability to complete simple daily tasks. My son asked to spend the night with his sister the night before the funeral and I couldn’t calculate time enough to answer him so I got frustrated and started crying. So, I’m going to need patience from you all for a little while until I get myself a little put back together.

These discussions with my classes were obviously peppered with my tears and choked back sobs, but I wasn’t a complete mess, and they were all so respectful and attentive. During one class, a student with Autism, was confused by me getting a little emotional and started saying Hey, Hey, Hey. Another student tried to shush him but I said it was okay. Then I looked at the student who was confused and told him it was okay if I cry sometimes. It’s okay if anyone cries, especially when they have lost a loved one. He was okay after that as I finished whatever part it was I was talking about.

My day was filled with a lot of support from students and faculty. I got a lot of hugs, I love you’s, and I’m sorry’s. I love our school and the tight community it is in. I got a lot of grading done, a lab set up for tomorrow. I functioned with my brother’s name on every breathe. Every action, every task, it gets done but my mind and heart are wanting to hear my brother say my name. Jenny. Hey Buddy, how’s it going?

When I got home, after the youngest daughter’s dance class, Steven was laying in our room watching tv and I climbed up on the bed, buried my face in his neck and bawled. My safe place.

Image from jenningswire.com

 

Advertisements

Breaking the Ice, and Getting Reaquainted

Hello Old Friend! Long time no connect! WordPress recently reminded me of our anniversary and like any newlywed who forgets a special day, I felt bad. I started this blog about a year ago and, whereas, it is always on my mind it seems to settle at the bottom in the kaleidoscope of tasks I try to accomplish every day.

So, what has been going on?!

My youngest started Kindergarten in August and I had glorious dreams of fully embracing my inner Artist. However, reality has a way of twerking one in different positions. First off, it’s all about the Benjamins. Since I will have student loans until I’m in my 60’s a steady income is needed. I started back at working part time substitute teaching. I love it and hate it. I love that I can pick my days but hate the role. When you are a full-time teacher you build a rapport with your students and you set rules from the beginning that students adjust to. When you’re the sub it’s a different set of kids and classroom routine each day. I don’t use my teaching license to work full-time because I want to be an Artist and with all my other obligations I honestly don’t think I have time to work outside the home every day. Quick shout out to the Husband, if it weren’t for his hard work and good job I wouldn’t have the option.

lady-tired-overworked-housecleaning-clipart-watermark-mum-clipart-rgmsb7-clipart

So what is my normal day that I have lost time to blog and don’t have time to work a regular job?

Ready?

Hold on, its going to get bumpy….

First off I don’t really have “normal” days. I literally have to look at my day planner every night to know what is going on the next day.

I am: a substitute teacher 3xs a week.

A football Mom 2 games a week.

A cheer Mom 2 times a week.

(This will change to Basketball and Cheer Extreme Mom in a couple weeks.)

A   Pink Zebra Consultant and

A possible Thrive promoter.

Ope, and a negligent blogger.

On top of those titles and their responsibilities I have:

A house that looks like a tornado hit

And 6 children to keep up with

Oh, and Husband is graciously giving me money to haul wood as of late.

There are not enough hours in the day or parts of Jenn to go around.

Under all this though, is a happy woman. My children are happy and healthy. Our drama level has been hovering at, right around 4% which is nearly nothing, HooRah!! My marriage is better than it ever has been. I think it has taken the poor guy the first 10 years to come to grips with my crazy Libra self.

I am not happy with my career though. I guess I should quit saying I’m not an Artist because whether I sell my creations or not I still created. Days come and go then suddenly a whole week has passed where I haven’t even gone out into my Shed. This is a matter of prioritizing, organizing, and energy.

To address the energy issue, I have started the Le-Vel Thrive for women system. I bought a four-part system of: Balance at night to help detox, capsules with lots of water in the morning, followed by a shake that I actually started craving by Day 3, and a patch that keeps me going all day and I look like I’m quitting smoking. Today is Day 4 and it really is delivering what it promised! I am overweight but I’m not a fan of women who look like twigs so I’m fine with being heavy. It looks like I could hold my own in a strong wind. However, I have no energy, cramping legs, and according to my Dr., heart issues. My past behavior has been to watch what I eat, cut sugar, drink more water, and walk everyday. I would stick to it for about 2 days so I needed something that would give me a jump-start. I kept putting off trying Thrive because of the cost of it. However, when I look at how much I spend to see the Dr., on fast snacks at McDonald’s, and over-the-counter supplements its worth it! I wanted to change how I felt without changing my lifestyle.

As far as priority and organizing….I tried 3 tasks a day last week and accomplished some but still didn’t make it to the Shed. Three things a day was a system I had read about for goal setting where I would write 3 tasks I wanted to accomplish for that day.

Example:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Laundry Mow Vacuum pool Kitchen Bathroom
Girls clothes Living Room Car Paperwork Boys room
My room Girls room Refrigerator Dining room Wash Dog

 

The idea was if I got the 3 tasks done when my head hit the pillow I would feel like I accomplished something. It worked in a way, except I was too tired after teaching to really get anything done.

So this week I’m doing the hour at a time idea. Since the kids got on the bus I have changed my activity from housework to business every hour. So far so good, I’ll update you next week because YES! I plan on blogging more. When I went back over my previous blog posts I was reminded how much I like writing and that I’m not half bad!

Thanks for the ClipArt at    Tired Mom Clipart

 

Baby Animal Activities and Poems

Baby Animals

Oh, baby, baby, so young and so tame,

Oh, baby, baby, so what is your name?

 

Baby cow is a calf,

Baby deer is a fawn,

Baby goat is a kid eating grass on the lawn.

 

Baby bear is a cub,

Baby hen is a chick,

Baby swan is a cygnet so graceful and quick.

 

Baby goose is a gosling,

Baby seal is a pup,

Baby cat is a kitten drinking milk from a cup.

 

Baby sheep is a lamb,

Baby turkey’s a poult,

baby horse is a foal, or a filly, or a colt.

 

Oh, baby, baby, so young and so tame,

Oh, baby, baby, be proud of your name!

-Meish Goldfish

: Make a poster of baby animal names. Have children paste photos and drawings of the animals beside each name. Older children may want to investigate why some of the animals have the baby names they have. For example, in Gail Gibbon’s book Whales, she discusses the reason why a baby whale is called a calf. (Because whales evolved from an animal like a cow).

The class could explore animal group names such as a pod of whales, by using Ruth Heller’s book A Cache of Jewels and other Collective Nouns (Putnam, 1989) Baby Animals by Margaret Wise brown, illustrated by Susan Jeffers (Random house, 1989) is a wonderful resource to have on hand.

What the Animals Said

It’s still dark, Said the lark.

What’s that? Said the cat.bulldog steves pic

I want to sleep, Said the sheep.

A bad habit, Said the Rabbit.

Of course, Said the Horse.

Let’s have a spree, Said the bee.

But where? Said the hare.

In the barrow, said the sparrow.

I’m too big, said the pig.

In the house, said the mouse.

But the dog said — Bow-wow,

It’s too late now!

-Old German Nursery Rhyme

Activity: Children might enjoy playing the roles of the different animals and calling out their lines. Simple puppets can be made from small paper bags as the various animals. Encourage imaginative play by using different voices for animals.

Animals from A to Z

A is Ape, B is Bee,

Cis Clownfish in the sea!

D is Deer. E is  Eel,

F is Fox who wants a meal.

G is Goose, H is Hog,

I’s an inchworm on a log.

Jay is J, Koala’s K,

L’s a Lion, far away.

M is Mule, N is Newt,

O’s an Ostrich, tall and cute.

P is Pig, Q is Quail,

R’s a Rat with curly tail.

Snake is S, Turkey’s T,

U’s the Umbrella bird flying free.

V is Viper, Worm is W,

Bird’s “X” are hatching. Does that joke trouble you?

Yak is Y, Zebra’s Z,

Alphabet animals for you and me!

-Meish Goldfish

Booklinks

Miss Bindrgaren Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate, illustrated by Ashley Wolff (Dutton, 1996)

Amazon Alphabet by Tanis Jordan, illustrate by Marin Jordan (Kingfisher, 1996)

 

 

Best Humpday Headway so far!

windows

LOOK at all this progress!!!!

nowindows

All because Husband went and got me a couple windows! This is how it feels when a spouse validates your dreams. Shazam!

As I started to bring things into the shed I looked at Husband and said, “I forsee a problem in the next few days as you see just how big my hoard is.” He thinks I’m joking when I say I own half of Hobby Lobby and JoAnn Fabrics.

Firstposter

Of course he wasn’t sure on my first bit of wall décor but this is MY space after all.

Official  Announcement

Last Friday was my last day babysitting on a full time basis. It means I now have no gas money or extra but it means I get to pursue my artwork full time! So look forward to seeing better writing and more updates from me. I plan on Humpday Headway, a day I just update you on things I’m building, painting, or repurposing. It will be all about the Art Shed. Friday is Teacher Tidbits, a day I post little ideas that can be used in the classroom or even at home to help your students/children succeed. Monday I am dedicating to getting to know my fellow writers. I have missed so many great blogs over the last few months! Tuesday and Thursday will be all about big pieces I’m working on as far as writing. This means if I do post on one of these days it was most likely something I spent some time preparing for you, dear reader!

Tonight I Take the Stage

So most of us have seen The Bucket List with Jack Nicholson or have at least heard the term to understand what it is. I have a journal in a dresser drawer that holds a few of my Bucket List wishes. The rest are in my mind for long car rides to and from children’s sporting events.
Bucket List Item: Audition for Community Theatre……….Check
Get called back (wasn’t even on the list)……………. Check
As I broke the good news of being cast as the eldest sister in Close Ties by Elizabeth Diggs, everyone was shocked but happy for me. Well, almost everyone. The Husband was not impressed but it is important to remember he tolerates my venture into the Art world only in hopes of it being something that will one day contribute to the monthly income. This is the burden he carries as head of the house, the bottom dollar. Everyone’s shock came from the fact that I am a busy Mom of a total of 8 children. I am starting a business from home for my Art work, mostly reborn dolls for now, and I have never been involved or even hinted to friends that I was interested in becoming involved.
Last night during our final dress rehearsal I was thinking about my husband and I, vocationally over the course of our relationship. He has had the same job, the steady one, the backbone of our income. He has had side job ideas like lawn care, rebuilding cars, and a bait shop. Then there is me. Not the reliable income by any means. I was in college when we married, then was a correctional officer (a “where did that come from?” move), then factory work before finally starting in my degree field of teaching kindergarten. Only a few months into that and the universe threw us a curveball. I’ve been home with little ones ever since. I have so many ideas that go through my mind that it surprised me that a man like my husband can follow. In my defense, he was warned. I only have one tattoo and its meaning is that I’m sweet and unpredictable.
I was most excited to call and tell my Grandmother who has always enjoyed live performances. She thought I was calling to tell her I was pregnant again. Uh, NO, six kids in the house is enough. That night I got the script and as we did our first read thru I found words like dildo, hell, and asshole. My character was to say that D word in the first scene! So I put out feelers to my Aunt and Dad to see if Grandma would pass out. Last Friday, a week before the show, she called to give me love and apologize that she wouldn’t come. I accepted gracefully, hung up the phone, and cried.
This is the first time in my adult life I am doing something just for me. It feels AMAZING! I have never done any acting aside from my back-up dancer during the High School musical Oklahoma. I have learned about theatre and myself over the last 6 weeks of preparing. I wish I could let go and really become Anna. There is a shyness within me that holds me back from going complete Chris Farley. We are a small cast which is nice because it means I only have about a dozen people giving me advice instead of 30! I love feedback, it’s what helps me fine tune. It has been entertaining watching the different personalities of our motley crew, a truly refreshing change from my normal stay-at home life with small children. Someone told me after the birth of my second child, everyone will give you advice on how to raise kids, just smile politely and file it away because you never know when that tip may work for you someday even if not today. I have held that tip in every aspect of my life whether it be working at a factory, raising kids, or now, being an actress. Did I just say that? Well, it IS what I’m doing.
I find it ironic that a good portion of my role is about sister relationships. This of course makes me think of and miss my own sister. Six years now that she wrote the letter saying her religion would dissolve our sisterhood; Years of babies being born, loved ones being buried, ups and downs of one week to the next. Now this, my theatrical debut will be without my sister’s presence. However, our brother will be there. The man I love most in this world just past Husband.
My Thank you’s
Theatre
To the Terre Haute Community Theatre, where adults go to play, thank you for this opportunity! I’m waiting until after the show to ask why me.
The Cast: Jack Ciancone, Kendall Murphy, Pam Virpilio, Linda Green, Matt Schludecker, Mick Mack, and Mikaela Fish have all been so supportive and understanding of my learning curve. Thank you!
Sonni Crawford and Doug Lunn as our Director team has been the bomb! I have learned so much from both of you!
At Home
Amber Parker has been my greatest supporter from the beginning. Being back-up Mom on my rehearsal nights has made my load so much easier. I would have been driving girls to Mom or Brooke every night and these last couple weeks would have been awful without you! I am so proud of you for the changes you have made in the last year, I love you!
Husband, thank you for not complaining too much about all the housework I have got behind on, and thank you for giving me a head cold the week we open. Haha

My Bio!!
Jennifer Parker is debuting as Anna in CT’s Close Ties. A wife and mother of 8 she feels blessed to have a husband who provides for their large, blended family so she can pursue her love of being an Artist. She operates Jennifer Parker’s Art Shed from her home where she creates an eclectic array of original pieces. Jennifer also writes an online blog under the same name. The late David Bowie was quoted as saying he never saw himself as a Singer but as an Artist. Jennifer feels the same way; she auditioned for CT to open the door to performing as a way of expressing her inner creativity. It has proven to be a wonderful experience!
I dedicate the show too…..
John R Parker
There have been so many nights I drove home thinking of you and how you won’t be in the audience.
I am taking care of the boys as best I can, like I promised.
They miss you everyday.
And so do I.
Words for you, Dear Reader
Make a list of wild things, from when you were 9 years old that you daydreamed about: being an actress, a roller derby girl, a singer, an artist, whatever. Then look at your life and carve out time just for that daydream. I’m 37 and I just got started on my impossible dreams.
and