Archive for September, 2007

AN OPEN LETTER…

Last Friday night, I attended a football game at Laney College. I was so excited and proud to see eight of my students (former and current) play in the game.

Last night, a week later, I found out one of them had taken his own life – Matt Butler.

Matt was only 18 – six days shy of his 19th birthday. Although he was quiet and shy, he was a great student! He was always prepared, good natured, gave great speeches, and had a good sense of humor – we even used to chat on MySpace. Matt told me about all the kids he helped mentor/coach in sports and I thought – here’s someone special – a kind kid with so much potential ahead of him…

I feel so sad and overwhelmed by this news. I am sure that like many of his friends and family, I wish there was something I could have done for him – I wish I would have known he was going through a difficult time. I’m angry that he didn’t seek out someone to talk to – someone that could have told him that he would get through ‘it’ – whatever ‘it’ was.

I lost one of my best friends over 10 years ago to a random car accident and it is still difficult to think about; but Matt’s death is even more difficult for me to handle. See, I’ve dealt with depression first hand and I know the overwhelming thoughts – have had the overwhelming thoughts of not wanting to be around to deal with life – to just take the easy way out and leave this ‘earthly’ world.

But let me tell you – if you get help, whether it’s talking to a friend, counselor, therapist, and/or taking medication, you can get through it. You just need to ask for help — and yes, that’s often the most difficult part – asking for help. But do it – really! There’s no shame in it; it doesn’t mean you’re incapable, unworthy, stupid, helpless – it doesn’t mean any of those. What it means is that at that particular point in your life, you need help. EVERYONE needs help at some point in their life — we are all interdependent — you just have to ask for help. I’m glad I did – because it means that I get to continue having friendships and acquaintance-ships with all of you.

As a teacher, and I can only speak for myself as a teacher, I love all my students – even the ones that drive me crazy at times – I love them all. Some people say it’s because I don’t have ‘kids’ of my own, but I don’t think that’s it. I love seeing all the good in the world and the people who are trying to improve their lives through education, whether it’s for a career, to make more money, or for personal growth. If I wasn’t a teacher, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet Matt — or some of you.

I guess the most important thing I want to say in this blog is that if you are going through a difficult time, a rough time, a tough time, a blue time, a sad time, an overwhelming time, an angry time – just talk to someone. I may be busy, but I’m never too busy to lend an ear or a shoulder or any other kind of support that someone may need. Don’t ever be embarrassed to admit to you need help – any kind of help. Just seek it out and things will get better – it may take some time, like in my situation almost a year – but things can get better.

Take care of yourselves and your friends and family.

With respect and affection,

I Have the Strangest Luck…

…with cats being hit by cars.

Did I ever tell you the story about Peachy? Well – you better sit down for this one!

When I was 12 years old and living with my dad and stepmom Claudia out on a small rural ranch on Hillcrest Avenue, my cat Rusty gave birth to a litter of kittens underneath my bed. There was one kitten I wanted to keep as my own so badly – she looked like a little peach – but I was told we had too many animals on the farm. So, a week or two before Christmas, when the kittens were old enough to be weaned, I remember my dad taking all the kittens to my stepmom’s work to give them away to people who wanted to give their kids a kitten for Christmas. I was so disappointed and upset that my “Peachy” kitten was among them. When my dad returned home with the kitty carrier and asked me to put it in the garage, I was even more upset, thinking how cruel he was to have me put it away when he gave my kitty away.

When I picked up the carrier, to my surprise, I felt something in it. I opened it up and my dad explained to me that she was the only one that didn’t get taken but that he’d try again to give her away after the holidays. I was so happy to have that reprieve with her. A few weeks later, as I was opening up Christmas cards and gifts, I received a card with a coupon in it that said, “Good for one ‘Peachy’ kitten” (I still have it!). It meant so much to me – this gift.

So, through the years Peachy grew and grew on me – she was my definitely my favorite cat. She was extremely beautiful and unique looking – a muted calico of grey, white, and peach and she was very affectionate. When outside, she’d often come to my window and meow to be let it. If I wasn’t quick enough, she’d even jump on the screen holding on by her claws and meow incessantly to be let in. She was definitely demanding, but I loved her nonetheless.

On the day of my 17th birthday party, I left the house and headed out the long driveway to the road that would take me to my cousin’s house for my party. As I reached the top of the driveway and pulled out onto the road, I noticed something lying on the ground. I stopped the car, opened my door and looked down. I couldn’t believe what I saw – didn’t want to believe what I saw, but it was Peachy – dead on the road. There was no mistaking it was her; her gray and peach fur was matted and bloody and she wasn’t moving.

I remember screaming and turning the car around and running back into the house. I was obviously hysterical and incoherent because I remember my dad telling me to calm down and asking me to repeat what I said because he couldn’t understand me. Finally, I was able to get the words out, “Peachy’s dead on the road”. My dad groaned, patted me on the back and told me he’d go take care of her.

He scooped her up off the road, placed her in a bag, and buried her in the back yard. Needless to say, I was a complete wreck for the entire day and was crushed when I finally returned home and knew she wouldn’t be sleeping in my bed that night.

Like usual, early into the morning, around 1am, I was on the phone with Janet – this time lamenting about the loss of Peachy. All of a sudden I heard a meow at my window. I remember telling Janet, “Oh my god, I just heard Peachy meow” and her telling me, “It’s not Peachy, your dad buried her. It must just be one of the cats that sounds like Peachy.” Then, I heard it again along with what sounded like claws hanging onto window screen. I started freaking out. Janet told me to look, but I was too afraid! I begged Janet not to hang up the phone with me. I asked her to call my dad on his phone line from her parents phone line so she didn’t have to hang up with me. I asked her to ask him to come to my room because I was afraid. And, being the good friend she was (and still is), she took on the task of calling him at 1am and waking him up.

I heard her conversation on the other end, something to the effect of, “she thinks she hears Peachy outside…”, “oh, okay – bye”. Before I could even ask Janet what my dad said, he knocked on my door and opened it up. By this time, my head was under the covers. He said, “What’s this about Peachy being outside? Honey, I buried her this afternoon.” “I know”, I replied, “but..” and then he heard it. A single meow. Not only was Peachy distinctive looking, but she also had a distinctive sound. I knew my dad was a bit alarmed when he let out a “hmmm, what’s going on here.”

In a few strides, he made his way to the front door – I was still glued to my bed. I heard him open the front door and call “kitty, kitty, Peachy” and then heard, “What the… Claudia!”, and in my room ran Peachy. I remember saying to Janet on the phone, “Peachy is alive and she’s in my room” but other than that I don’t remember anything other than looking her over and noticing that besides having some dirt in her fur, she was fine – no blood, no broken bones, nothing.

We never went to her ‘grave’ to check on it, but I swear on my life that I saw her on the road, and my dad swears that he picked her up off the road. Like I said, she’s very distinctive looking.

Peachy lived to be almost 25 years old and provided me many years of happiness. She eventually passed away due to old age but I’ll never forget her; she was the best cat I ever had!

And speaking of cats getting hit by cars…

A few weeks ago, T and I were out walking the dogs and Pieces (our Calico cat) decided to come along – it’s nothing new. But this time, she crossed the street at the wrong time. A Toyota Forerunner came speeding down the street at about 35/40 miles per hour (in a 25mph zone!) and hit her. I couldn’t bear to watch as I threw my hands up over my face and screamed. T on the other hand witnessed the whole thing. He said the car hit Pieces, she went under it and somehow flew out the side up on to the sidewalk and hit a trash can. She then proceeded to run away.

It was 11 o’clock at night – dark – we looked for her with flashlights for two hours and couldn’t find her. I was hysterical and kept saying “She’s gone off somewhere to die – aloneeeee!” Needless to say, I was up all night crying; T did his best to comfort me. Pieces, although not my favorite cat, holds a very special place in my heart; she is the first cat T and I got together. Well, actually, he stole her from a residential neighborhood and gave her to me as a gift almost 11 years ago — come on, how could I NOT fall in love with him! <3

The next morning, as I was preparing myself to face the day at school, I heard T yell from the garage… “Cathy, she’s here – she’s okay!” I remember shouting, “Are you kidding me? What??”

And there she was. Not a single scratch on her – eating and drinking like nothing happened! We immediately took her to the vet, and with a head shake of disbelief, he gave her the thumbs up.

Crazy, huh?

Just my luck… with cats that is.