Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Where are you from?

When I left high school, I had a couple of options to further my education.  I could advance to a university with scholarship support.  My other choice was to attend either a local Community College or Trade School.  The latter seemed more viable to me since I only maintained average grades.  Of course, I never could - and still haven't - learned to do anything "small".  In other words, I attended both a Community College and a Trade School simultaneously.  While trying to work on the campus newspaper and learn to edit voice overs at the Los Angeles School of Broadcasting, I was also balancing an internship at the CNN Entertainment Division in Hollywood, working two waitressing jobs, and dating a Marine at Camp Pendleton in North San Diego County

Yes, my dear friends and blog readers, I quickly became overwhelmed.  I wasn't successful at any of my endeavors.  I ended up dropping out of everything.  I broke up with my boyfriend and ended up shuffling behind office desks for most of my adult life.  I never earned a college degree.

So what is this blog about?  Odd how it started out as something fun but now I'm rather depressed.  Time to turn it around again.  What I wanted to write about is the way we speak which clearly dictates to others where we're from.  I know, I know - how did I get from there to here?  Believe it or not it has something to do with my broadcasting classes.

My initial goal was to become a broadcast journalist therefore I'd thrown myself head first into vocal training.  I wanted to be "voice ready".  You see, be it radio or television, I knew to have a clear, distinct voice with little or no accent was imperative to my dream.  Excellent grammar was also the key.  If I couldn't speak intelligently, people wouldn't take me seriously.  I worked tirelessly with my vocal coach to clear my Southern Californian coastal drawl.  It was work but I managed to receive high grades. 

As I mentioned earlier, I eventually dropped everything.  I was one credit shy of completing my courses despite having received my FCC license.  I had a complete meltdown. In my heart I knew I was afraid of the ultimate let down; failure to succeed in a business rife with failure.

I still take great pride in my pronunciation and grammar.  I also admit to having nervous breakdowns every time I post a blog into this great big virtual world of university English majors.  Are there any hanging participles?  What exactly is a hanging participle, dammit?!

Several months ago I was sitting with a group of close friends and we were discussing this same topic.  I became a little cocky.  Thinking I maintained what I'd learned from broadcasting school, I dared anyone to place me vocally from Southern California.  A dear friend didn't hesitate,  "Well dude, if you'd really like to know how cool you are dude, well like, I'll tell you dude."

SHOOT!  The dude was right.  I have to work harder on my grammar...dudes.




Monday, January 21, 2013

Oh no...fundraiser time!

Oh those awful school fund raisers!  I'm not just focusing from a parent's perspective either.  I'm recalling the kiddo's anguish too; the agony of receiving the horrific glossy handouts, attending the ridiculous cheer leader pep rallies, and knowing the pressure of having to sell so many of whatever it was to uphold the class' expectation of earning a not-so-exciting pizza party.

Now, if you were one of the motivated few who one, enjoyed selling their hearts out to receive a slew of $1.00 plastic prizes, two, happened to be a perky cheerleader, or three, one of the PTA mothers who worked tirelessly on school fundraising efforts, I apologize.  Please don't take this post personally.  You see, my dear friends and blog readers, I was pitiful at the process and therefore resented the entire experience except for selling the Catholic Tidings Newspaper Seriously?

One would think this would be the most difficult item to sell for Catholic grade schoolers walking door to door in the 1970's.  Truth be told, it was.  Most kids in my class were lucky if their parents would purchase one of these religious gazettes; however, my mother came from a very large and generous Catholic family.  There was always an aunt and/or grandmother prepared to write a check for a Bryant kiddo in need.  Since I was the last one attending this school - for awhile anyway - not only did I receive the family's support but I also had a secret fundraising "weapon". Yes, "weapon".  My mom had a friend who agreed to buy 10 subscriptions from me every year.  Why?  I have no idea.  Perhaps she gave them away as gifts.  Personally, I'd be rather disappointed when I opened that envelope.

In grade school, I was the queen of fundraising.  Eventually all reigns must come to an end along with the pride of wearing the plastic cross of distinction for selling ridiculous amounts of a newspaper published with the Pope's blessing.  Catholic High School soon followed.  I met my doom as it appeared that uniformed teenage girls seemed much more capable of selling anything with chocolate. Unfortunately, I ate more than I sold. 

The candy boxes were doled out during sixth period before school let out and on that first, awful day, I owed myself at least $20 worth of back paid allowance. I gobbled chocolate down so fast it was embarrassing.  I had candy wrappers floating on the floor around my desk during Sister Margaret's eighth period World History Class.  In prior blogs, I mentioned that I had a bit of a weight problem in high school.  The fundraisers and my love for of all things chocolate certainly didn't help. 

Chocolate has always been an issue for the Bryant family.  I believe it was actually inherited from my maternal grandfather, Robert Baxter.  I hadn't learned about it until I was an adult.  My nanny, his wife, told me he used to hide boxes of chocolates throughout the house to prevent his eight children from eating them.  She said that for years after he had died, she'd still find half eaten boxes of chocolates in the most bizarre places.  It made sense as I recalled my childhood and my mother hovering with a fork over the frosting of a chocolate cake or waking up to the sound of my sister, Kathleen, devouring an entire bag of Hershey Kisses during the last term of her first pregnancy.  Yes, chocolate is a curse for the Bryant clan.

It's 8:27am on a Monday morning and as I sit here blasting out this blog, I'm drinking a bowl of candy bar in a cup (1/3 cup coffee, 1/3 cup nonfat half-half, 4 tbsp Hershey Chocolate Syrup, and 4 packets of artificial sweetener).  I'm also sucking/chomping on Dove Dark Chocolate candies.  I feel these are far less fattening than the milk chocolate ones and keep me from coughing better than mentholated cherry cough drops (I'm getting over a cold).  Why am I sharing this information?  I'll let you be the judge of that.

Needless to say, I dreaded fundraisers as a student as much as I do now.  I won't allow my boys to go door to door.  I have too much sympathy for my neighbors to impose my Aspergian sons upon them begging for sales and getting distracted by the site of something in their houses instead.  My kiddos have been known to walk into stranger's homes and ask to disassemble grandfather clocks or fix broken vacuums.  No, my sons aren't allowed to walk door to door even with their dad standing next them.  Plus, what do you think the boys sell?  That's right, chocolate.  And, guess who has to buy it in mass quantities in order for them to earn their class not-so-exciting pizza party?  Yep, you guessed it, me.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Who can scream louder?

My temper is an ugly, unpredictable thing.   Thank God for Bipolar medications which keep me fairly balanced and level headed.  My teenage boys, both of whom have been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and have undergone severe trauma prior to their adoptions, are extremely challenging to raise. 

Currently, my eldest son is waiting to come home after four months in Juvenile Hall and residential care.  He snapped one afternoon (we're still trying to determine exactly what caused his rage), and took a wood axe to our three car garage.  Thank goodness the cars were parked outside at the time; however, the event became a two and half hour police stand off with the neighborhood blocked off and thousands of dollars worth of damage to the automatic doors and the contents inside. 

This morning, after asking my fourteen year old to prove to me that he brushed his teeth (he's been known to go a week without doing so), he screamed an obscenity at me.  This isn't new, not by any means for a school morning, but my temper - my patience - had taken all I possibly could of this nasty adolescent over the past month.  I'd had enough.  I finally screamed back.  This isn't good for an escalated, autistic teenager.  I should have walked away and given him a consequence; for instance, let him make his own lunch - which is what I was doing when he threw the TV remote control at me - but I didn't.  I screamed at him to knock it off, turned my back, and he threw the remote hard hitting my back and nearly missing my head.

Austynn is now taller than I am.  He's probably heavier than I am too.  His dad and I have warned him that if he touches or threatens in a violent way again (yes, this isn't the first time), we'll call 911.  After I was hit by the remote, my rage set in.  How DARE he?!  I went after him.  He has no business hurting me!  Then I knew..STOP!  This will get crazy.  Don't touch him.  Back off.  So I did.  I called.  I told the responder exactly what happened and what I did.  I told the officers the same thing.  They asked me what I wanted to do.  I said, "Take him".  I wanted to vomit.  The officer said, "Are you sure?"  I felt the bile rise in my throat.  No, I wasn't sure.  Austynn has the mentality of a baby.  Those kids in the detention facility will rip him apart.  "Yes, he has to learn not to throw things at me."

He's home now.  Did he learn his lesson?  No.  His big blue eyes, magnified behind his coke bottle lenses, and his childlike demeanor in the body of a huge fourteen year old touched the detention site workers.  They kept him separated from the scary kids, he played with building blocks, and they talked sweetly to him.  He's been asking repeatedly to go outside to play, to watch TV, and to have me read a book to him.  He's learned nothing.  Tomorrow will be another day of temper tantrums, screaming, and obscenities.  If he hits me, I won't call 911.  Today clarified that it's pointless.  I have to live and breathe and be bullied by this child I've adopted for the rest of my life.

To add to tomorrow's joy, my husband and I will pack up Austynn and travel through downtown Denver during rush hour traffic and sit with our seventeen year old for family therapy.  In three weeks he'll be coming home again.  We're still no closer to knowing what will keep him from not picking up an axe again.  He was angry.  He's still angry. 

...strange, I feel the same way too.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Jesus is all over the place!

Most of you, my dear friends and blog readers, are aware that I'm Catholic.  Am I a good Catholic?  Well, it would depend on what era of my life I'm writing about.  You see, my behavior comes and goes in spurts.  There have been times when I've been extremely devoted; attending church every Sunday, weekday mornings, chapel, and even becoming a mandated Extraordinary minister of Holy Communion for the local nursing homes.  Then there are other times when I seem to drift away for one reason or another; perhaps I haven't gone to confession for awhile or attending mass with my boys has become too stressful.  Unfortunately, at this point of my life, it's the latter; however, I've discovered that my faith is never lost.  I keep my spirituality close, always nurturing it and remembering that I'm but a grain of sand in this amazing universe which was created by a power greater than myself.

Today's blog is about the time when I was an extraordinary minister.  For a bit of explanation, Catholics believe that the bread and wine is transformed into the body and blood of Christ during the mass.  This is core to our faith and a major point to my upcoming story.  Ready or not here I go...


Jesus is all over the place!

Eric,  my husband, normally didn't go with me when I was scheduled to serve at the nursing home on Wednesday mornings; however, he was on vacation this particular week.  This was also an unusual day in that *Father Paul was going to meet the residents for the first time and perform a full mass.  Normally, it would just be myself distributing the Holy Eucharist from room to room.

For whatever reason, everything was going wrong from the get go.  The CNAs were bringing patients into the meeting room who - yes, were Catholic - but were not cognizant and could not receive Communion.  This was fine but Father Paul had no clue as to who was who.  These folks needed to stay in their rooms for blessings, not attend mass.  I couldn't stop the situation fast enough. 

The mass started.  *Millie started singing.  There was no singing during the service.  I sat next to her, held her hand, and tried to explain it to her but to no avail.  Eric was on the other side of the room attempting to calm down another resident.  Father Paul, who was very young and a newly ordained priest, was very confused by the situation.  He lost track of where he was constantly.  He stuttered, stammered, and stumbled through the entire service.  If he hadn't looked like he was 16 years old, one might have assumed he was a resident himself.

Eventually it came time to distribute the Holy Eucharist, The Body of Christ.  Father Paul walked dutifully around the room distributing It.  Before I had a chance to stop him, he placed the Host on *Mr. Edward's dangling tongue.  Oh NO!  This was a mistake of grand proportion.  Next came Millie.

"You're not Father George..?"  Millie very loudly voiced her concern.
"No, I'm Father Paul" whispered father.
"Where's *Father George?"
"He couldn't make it today" as father attempted again to place the host into her mouth...
"Did you know *Father Michael?"
"No, I didn't."
"He was an alcoholic.  He drank the holy wine when no one was looking."  I choked back laughter, Eric snorted on the other side of the room, and Father Paul stuffed the Holy Eucharist into her mouth.

Everyone had finally been served and Father was cleaning up quietly.  During my prayers, I looked over horrified at Millie.  She was picking the Eucharist out of her teeth and smearing It on her lap blanket.  Jesus was all over the place!  Under her dirty fingernails, on the floor, and in her tissue!  This was BAD!  Then Eric coughed across the room to catch my attention.  Mr. Edwards still had the Host hanging off his tongue.  He was a resident who was in a waking coma.  Father Paul should never have given him the Eucharist. There was protocol for this and Eric, being a former extraordinary minister himself, knew what needed to be done.  He walked up to the resident, removed the Host, and quietly brought it up to Father who then popped it into his own mouth.  I almost gagged. 

Millie started singing again.  It was a show tune this time.  Her timing was impeccable.

*Names have been changed for privacy purposes.



Friday, January 4, 2013

The gingerbread men conspiracy.

I tend to be a wee bit vain.  Really?  Yes, my dear friends and blog readers, if you're loyal followers of my posts than I'm certain you're aware of this particular flaw.  I don't know where it came from or how it developed over the years but, well..I own it.  I can say with all honesty that it embarrasses me but more often than not, it's laughable - usually after the fact of some ridiculous incident. 

I'm bringing this up today because I've started putting away Christmas decorations and I've been reminded of one of these moments.  Of course, I snorted out loud when I thought of it and it's a grand story now but at the time it happened I was furious.  You see my dear ones, I strive for the perfect Christmas Tree every year; it must be so.  When friends, family, or strangers see my tree, an audible gurgle of appreciation must be voiced.  I have to hear overwhelming praise for the glorious tannenbaum which stands shining before them.  This is so pathetic and yet so true.

Most families are content with plastic trees or - if not, trees strung with perhaps three or four hundred lights at best.  No, not for this Potts' gal.  I go for the gusto - thousands of lights are used on a natural Noble Fir which must reach the ceiling of our 10 foot family room.  Do I string the lights?  No.  I impose this particular job upon my husband which takes him at least a day and a half.  Each branch must be wrapped independently and no light strand must be hanging or seen by the naked eye.  Now, before I'm accused of being a decorating hag, let me say I'm the one who takes off the lights and puts away the decorations (please don't judge me, not yet anyway).

Not only do I prefer thousands of lights on the Christmas Tree but I want it to have an"old fashioned" look to it.  By this I've been known to string strands of cranberries, popcorn, and sugar plums until  naughty pets undermine my best efforts.  Candy canes, dried roses, and yes - every year I make gingerbread men from scratch, hanging them with raffia ribbons from the higher branches. 

During Austynn's first Christmas in our home, our tree was as beautiful as ever.  William, his older brother, had already been adopted and the kids were both awaiting Santa eagerly.  One lovely December morning, as I was sharing a cup of coffee with Austynn's case worker, I caught a glimpse of something out of place on the tree.  One of the gingerbread men looked strange.  I became distracted.  I couldn't concentrate on the conversation.  Something was amiss.  Yes, not only was something amiss, but something was missing...a head.  The gingerbread man was missing a head!  How odd.  Did it fall off?  My eyes wandered to another cookie.  This one was missing an arm.  Peculiar.  Another cookie..a leg!  This was more than a coincidence...this was a conspiracy.  Buttons were licked off another one!  THOSE BOYS!!!

...and here I was blaming the dogs.