Saturday, May 26, 2012


I have a problem.  I know there are so many people suffering in the world; so many people live in the middle of tragedy, violence, suffering.  And I'm a whiner.  I have a "perfect life."  Anyone can see it.  But, I'm still complaining.  I'm sad.  I look at my grandmother, who lost her husband, her whole life, yet she is there to love and support all of us, the family.  They were the pillars of our family, and she has taken all the weight, with her frail body, and is holding us up.  Why can't I be like her?

A storm over our favorite place, York Harbor.
I have a wonderful husband.  He loves me unconditionally, as no other could love me.  I have twins, a boy and girl, who are lovely and sweet.  They are good children.  We only are struggling financially, because I'm not working, but otherwise, we do very well.  We have what we want.  We have no fear of losing our jobs.  We own a nice house.  We have nice cars.

I love my job.  I love teaching.  I love my students.  When I am in the classroom, I look out at them, looking back and me, and I see each one of those kids is somebody's Michael or Stella.  Each teenager is someone's baby.  And for God's sake, if they don't have parents who show them that love, than teachers do end up filling that rule.  We are not pals.  We are not buddies, or peers.  We are replacement parents, in many ways, for the children who need us.  I don't care what anyone says about student/teacher relationships.  When you work in a low income, high needs town, the students need something more from us.  It's exhausting, but we give ourselves, because that's why we became teachers in the first place.

Beauty after the storm.  York Harbor, Maine.
I'm not physically perfect, but I'm at least physically healthy, and not particularly ugly.  Let's admit it, people deemed unattractive by others have a tougher time in life, in many respects.

I was raised in a very loving environment.  My grandparents lived right around the corner, and I spent my summers there, swimming in their pool, with my cousins.  I have lots of cousins.  We are all like brothers and sisters because of our childhoods.  We all lived within walking distance of each others' houses.

I believe in God, and Heaven.  Faith brings depth to our lives, when we know there is something bigger.

But our little worlds can become so stifling.  Everything can close in, so you can lay your palms flat on each wall, standing in one place.  And there is no strength to push.  I don't want to try.

There are so many days where I feel like I am just barely hanging onto the edge and someone is trying to pry my fingers loose one-by-one.  As I make decisions about life, I sometimes feel like I should just let go and make it easier.  I will fall where they want me to fall.

And I wonder if  it's possible to become emotionally and spiritually damaged enough to turn into a sociopath?  When you do things, that are so far from what you ever would want for your life, you break. When you knowingly walk into the fire, the burns are your fault.  And it's bad; bad burns, that fester and smell, and crack.  Is it even skin anymore?  It's ugly.  It's disgusting.  No one else can see them, but I can feel them.  Sometimes I try to scratch them, rip them away.  I want to cut off this damaged layer.  A bloody mess would be better.  At least everyone could see it, they can stop telling me, "You'll be okay."

I think too much.  I feel too much.   A sociopath is apathetic.  She has no feelings.  That sounds nice, sometimes.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.

 Dear Grampy, 

        When I was a little girl, I used to worry a lot.  I worried about the day that my nanny and grampy would die, so every night I prayed that that would never happen, and that didn't seem unreasonable.  Even then, I knew our family would reel and spin out of control without you.  And up until you got really sick, I still thought you would be here forever.  Forever.  I didn't come to the hospital to see you when you were sick.  I didn't come down a lot.  I didn't want to see proof, that my world--that you-- were frail.  The Earth should have stopped spinning when you left.
       Beautiful nanny, is so strong.  Grampy, she misses you, but she keeps us all together.  She still smiles, even though I know it must be difficult.  She comforts all of us when we miss you.  She knows you are still here.
       Grampy John, I miss you so much. Everything going on in my life that seems unbearable, makes me want to talk to you. You always knew the best solution for everything, and you always said the right things. Family, school, personal stuff... You just got it.
      Your house was my haven. It was where I could feel grounded again, and remember everything would be alright with the world because you and nanny were there. I love you.  Love, Joanna

BELLOWS FALLS — John P. Barry, 86, one of Vermont’s longtime leading educators died at his home on Thursday, May 19th, surrounded by his loving family.
            He was born July 26, 1924 to William and Maude (Boyle) Barry of Bellows Falls, Vermont. He was predeceased by his sister Mary Barry Parrot. He is survived by his soul-mate and the love of his life, his wife of 63 years, Estelle “Topsy” (O’Connor) Barry, and five children: Christopher (Julie Smith) Barry of Westminster, Mary Kay (Timothy) Pfadenhauer of Bellows Falls, Julie (Raymond) Chamberland of Bellows Falls, Barbara (Michael) Janiszyn of Springfield, and Stephen (Valerie) Barry of Westminster. He is also survived by his brother-in-law Robert (Betty) O’Connor of Littleton, NH, several nieces and nephews and fifteen grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.   
Grampy with Michael.
Grampy with Stella.
            Mr. Barry graduated from Bellows Falls High School in 1943 and served in the United States Marine Corps during World War II. In his educational career, he earned a B.S. from the University of Vermont, an M.Ed from Boston University, a C.A.G.S. from the University of Connecticut and an Honorary Doctor of Humanities from the College of St. Joseph. During a distinguished and storied career as an educator, Mr. Barry taught in public elementary and secondary classrooms, instructed in college, was a principal in elementary and junior high school, served as Director of Guidance, Curriculum Coordinator, Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Special Education Coordinator, and Federal Funds Coordinator.  Mr. Barry was also Director of the Education Department at Windham College in Putney, Vermont.                                   
            Four Vermont governors selected Mr. Barry to serve on education committees during his career as an educator.  In tribute to his open-mindedness and respect for his educational colleagues, John Barry served two terms on the Board of Directors of the National Education Association and represented all Vermont teachers in Washington DC.
            He left his distinguished career in public school teaching and administration in 1979 to spend the last 15 years of his professional life teaching young children at Kurn Hattin Homes.
            What most people would describe as burdens – caring for ill and aging friends and relatives, helping disadvantaged children, and giving aid and love to his extended family– Mr. Barry considered a privilege.
            In this respect, the value of John Barry’s existence may be found in the spirit of Mr. Barry’s teaching and leadership that he communicated with love and kindness to family, friends, students, and peers during a memorable and legendary lifetime of compassionate service. 
            Calling hours for Mr. Barry will be held on Tuesday, May 24th, from 4:00-7:00 pm at the Fenton & Hennessey Funeral Home in Bellows Falls, VT. A Mass honoring Mr. Barry’s life will be co-celebrated by Father Joseph O’Keeffe and Father Lance Harlow at Saint Charles Church in Bellows Falls, VT, at 11:00 am on Wednesday, May 25th. An open reception after Mr. Barry’s funeral service will be held at the Kurn Hattin Dining Hall in Westminster, VT.
            In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Kurn Hattin Homes, Westminster, VT, to endow the John P. Barry Children's Fund.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

- John F. Kennedy

Your dearly missed Deet Deet, you and your family are in my prays everyday. I have carried the rosary you gave me everywhere I have been deployed and it will continue to go with me. I truely think of you as a grandfather and a great mentor, I just hope that one day I can be half the man you were. From one servicemen to another fair winds and following seas in your new adventure, and thank you for your service.

Love you forever
Robbie Shaughnessy

 Happy Birthday to one of the best human beings I had the pleasure of knowing!!!I know for sure that Steve and I had a lot to do with the gray hair you had in your earlier years! I miss you, love you and thanks for everything you did for more thing, please give my mom a kiss from me! - Steve Keefe.

 You will be deeply missed! Mr barry! You were a big part of my life @ kurn hattin homes! Along with your daughter who taught me in 3rd grade! And for everything you family has done 4 me! Thanx! And i will always luv you guys! For making me a better person. So R.I.P - mr. Barry! And may god bless your whole family! In this time of need! And thanx again!  - Heather Breed.

Johnny B will be missed by all that knew him-his compassion and caring for all. I certainly feel grateful to have known him- very important part of my life. - Doris Eddy

Mr. Barry taught me at Kurn Hattin in the Fourth grade. Because of the way this man taught me I have always been obsessed with numbers. The way he taught us all math. You will be so dearly missed by all Mr. Barry. Love to your family. R.I.P. -Doris Hutchinson.

When I was 8 years old, I met Mr. Barry. My mom died and I was sent to Kurn Hattin in 1985. I believe God had a lot to do with me going there because that is where I met Mr. Barry and my life changed forever. He took me under his wing and helped me through this very sad and trying time in my life. I loved Mr. Barry very much. He was my fourth grade teacher, and lifelong friend. He meant very very much to me from the time I was 8 years old and even now. I did not have much reason to live after my mom passed away (or so I thought) but then I met my 4th grade teacher who gave me a reason to live. I never wanted to let my teacher down even as I grew older and so my thoughts became about how to improve my life so I could help someone else. This was what Mr. Barry taught me. He taught me that life was important and that we never know when someone will be in need of our help and love like I had been when I first met him. There are many lessons that Mr. Barry taught me about life that I will never forget and will always be sure to teach the youth under my leadership. I miss him a very very much but my memories of him I will cherish always.
To my teacher, my lifelong friend and the person who cared about me and showed me love when no one else did, Mr. John P. Barry - I love you and you will be with me forever in my heart. Thank you, Mr. Barry just for being who you always were and for making a difference in my life that I cannot explain accurately only live. Thank you for giving me my life back and helping me to become the young woman that I am today. I truly do miss you and I think I always will.  -Michele Hutchinson.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Depression Cake (That's one F'ed up Cake).

If I had posted on Sunday, as I had planned, this would have been a very upbeat and joyful piece of writing about Mother's Day and family.  I might have even given you that fun little recipe of the eggless chocolate cake we often attribute to the 1930's.  Yet, less than 24 hours later, my mood has shifted dramatically.  I have spend a marked amount of days being very positive about a lot of things.  For example:

My children started playing T-Ball.  If you want to see something joyful, watch small children, who have no idea what they are doing, try to play an organized sport.   It was lovely.  I was laughing at points, with tears running down my cheeks.  Michael had a difficult first day, and Sam and I did realize we had failed them in some way, by not teaching them how to throw, catch, hit, etc.  He cried at one point saying, "I feel like a failure."  Poor little guy.  However, the next day we bought them their own little gloves, Stella a pink bat, and they were practicing in the yard.  They picked it up fast, and most importantly, they were having fun.  They already had one game and it was delightful and silly.

We spent Mother's Day at my aunt's house with a large number of extended family, including my grandmother. My grandmother is so beautiful and inspiring.  She is all that I want to be as a mother.  My family is filled with wonderful mothers and wonderful women.

However, my mood crashed so quickly, by Monday I was feeling bitch cakes.  I mean the biggest, quadruple-layer bitch--wedding style--cake.  I believe hormones are involved.  I think a woman can just tell when hormones are involved.  I kind of hope they are, otherwise I'm just freaking crazy for no reason.

I am considering the idea that I could be suffering from PMDD.  I often think of Sylvia Plath, and the speculation that this was what plagued her life and led to her death.  Being a woman can suck sometimes...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


perpetuity noun
in perpetuity, for ever, for good, permanently, for keeps (informal), for all time, for eternity, for always

At this point, I am in a perpetual cycle of self reflection.  As my blog name suggests, I am "checking myself, before I wreck myself."  However, can too much thinking, be too much?  I have been told many times, that I "think too much."  That always seemed silly to me.  Shouldn't we all be thoughtful?  Yet, laying in bed ruminating at 2:00 in the morning, also becomes silly.   A symptom of depression are, "unwanted thoughts."  Is it even possible to just focus on what we want to think about?
progress  noun
Movement, as toward a goal; advance, development or growth.

Does thinking promote growth, or can it hold us back?  I'm a teacher.  The goal of a teacher is to get students to think critically about the world around them.  Thinking moves us forward, even if it drives us crazy.

move verb
To change in position from one point to another, to progress in sequence; go forward, to follow a specified course, to progress toward a particular state or condition, to start off; depart, to exhibit great activity or energy, to initiate an action; act, to stir the emotions.

We are always moving in one direction or another.  I move in circles.  Most days I feel like someone spun me around until my legs were twisty and then let me go.  I'm dizzy, unfocused, and trying to find balance. Sam and I are trying to move in a different direction...  Just a little.  We are realizing that we aren't "stuck" anywhere; we can do anything we want to do.

When I was talking to Dr. A, I had said how we wanted to move, get out of this town, appended by the statement, "We will never do it."
"Why not?" he asked.

Now, that's a silly question.  Who actually moves?  I don't just mean depart from one location to another, but makes huge, disruptive changes in their lives?  Children, lack of money, stress, uncertainty;  all these things stop us from progressing, from changing positions, from initiating action.  They don't have to, but they do.  

The wedding aftermath:  Drunk and tired and happy.
I remember laying in bed with Sam on our honeymoon, and starting to have a panic attack.  This is it, this is it, this is it...  It wasn't that I didn't think Sam was "the one," it was that I had done the most permanent thing in my life so far.  And I was so scared.
I had chosen a college, and I was able to transfer when I wasn't happy. I had a weirdo roommate who slept in the nude, so I changed rooms.   I chose my classes, and dropped the ones I didn't find stimulating.  I had boyfriends and broke up with them.  I was offered a job at UVM, but made the decision to come home and work in this area.  Those decisions led me to Sam.  And there I was laying next to the man I married and I was panicking.  It subsided of course, as we both shared our fears, and our awe in the realization we were "grown ups." 

Even though we bought a house, the next really permanent decision was to have a baby.  It was surprising to both of us that it took us four years to feel "ready."  We both wanted to be parents.  We both wanted children.  But we were scared.  We wanted to make sure we were ready to handle anything.  ANYTHING.  And thank God in Heaven we did, because having twins was a shocker! 

So, having children makes everything we do more permanent, because it affects them too.  What a huge, freaking responsibility...

responsibility noun
1.  : the quality or state of being responsible: as
a : moral, legal, or mental accountability
b : reliability, trustworthiness

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


"She was seeking herself and finding herself in just such sweet, half-darkness which met her moods. But the voices were not soothing that came to her from the darkness and the sky above and the stars. They jeered and sounded mournful notes without promise, devoid even of hope."  -Kate Chopin

There are entire conversations that play through my head that are never meant to happen or heard.  I realize if someone could read my thoughts, I mean someone who loved me, the darkness that follows me would consume them too.  I should say the darkness that sometimes follows me, because I understand my thought process is flawed and twisted at times, but not all the time...

I told Sam last night that I was walking down the driveway, past these construction buckets full of cold water, (water collected from the leaky hose that we run from our house down to fill the horses' trough), and just for a moment, I thought of myself drowned in one of them.  My head was immersed and I breathed the water into my lungs until I was dead.  I told him that that idea just popped into my head, and then I just kept walking down the driveway and went about my day as usual.  He said, "That's awful," and today I noticed the buckets were tipped over and emptied of water.

Do all depressed people come to a moment in life when they realize they are living for everyone around them?  Depression might just be a heightened sense of the reality of life.  We are truly here to serve others.  We play roles in other peoples' lives, make sure they are happy, or get what they want, and that is life.  Understanding that doesn't mean we don't love those people or want to make them happy, it just means we understand that we don't have to be "happy."  When alone, it's okay that we know we are already gone.  We can know the heart and soul already took flight, and it's just a shell left for everyone else.

We can still make other people very happy that way.  I know my roles and what I need to do:  Mom - Love your children and make them feel loved.  Wife - Love your husband and make him feel loved.  Teacher - Care for your students and move them forward in their lives.  Daughter - Make the parents feel like they succeeded in loving you.  What else do we really need to do?  It doesn't matter what else we do.

I was walking today and this sadness and emptiness came over me and I could feel something drain from my body and slink away.  I realized I had blown my brains out a long time ago.  I broke who I am, and I am not Joanna anymore.  Joanna, was just a person unaware of reality anyway.  Walking along, as understanding of my situation was clear, Joanna left me completely, flowing with the last bit of color and sparkle into the drainage ditch and sinking and dispersing into the soil that was laden with bits of trash, dead leaves, and dirty gloom that winter left behind and summer hadn't had time to lift away.  I kept moving forward, with no thoughts anymore, except, "This is what you do, you keep moving.  Do what you need to do."  I just thought about that over and over again.  

Before depression creeps in, people can live lives oblivious to any of these things.  I tried to tell my doctor that I know I am broken, and I will never be happy.  When you break your soul it's irrevocable.   

Silly girl, glue can't hold it back together.  
The crack is still there!  
I can see it so clearly, and so can you!  

And I can...  I can feel it.  I can trace it with my mind's finger, and the edges are sharp.  I suck the blood from the wound.  

If people look deeply enough, and carefully enough, into your eyes, they can see the crack too.  Children can't see it. We don't want them to ever see it.   If someone doesn't want to see it, they don't have to see it.  Most people don't want to see it.  It's too sad to know.  If you know, then everything becomes harder.  It hurts too much. The jagged chasm, behind the green and blue of my eyes, makes them look away and say with some concern, "Are you okay?  What's wrong?"

"Nothing," is enough to smooth the furrowed brow.  

"Ah, thank goodness she's okay."