Don’t Judge, Everyone Has Scars – Part 2

The past beats inside me like a second heart.  ~John Banville


Ryan & his beloved pap sitting on Pap’s porch on the ridge. Pap only had one prosthetic leg at this point. (left) c. 1979

Previously, I talked about not judging a situation and forgiving those that do.  Everyone Has Scars, Don’t Judge Part 1  Again, easier said than done.  I know.  What’s really upsetting though, or even worse in my opinion, are those that believe they don’t judge or judge others for judging.  Yikes!  Come on.  No one’s perfect.  NO ONE!  I do try to avoid such actions in general, but it’s something I need to work on too, for I’m not perfect.  It’s an ugly human behavior that needs to be addressed to be avoided and corrected.

I don’t mean to bring a heavy topic on such a beautiful Thursday, although slightly chilly, but perhaps this will get everyone thinking differently this weekend and change behaviors for the better.  In fact, I was so inspired by a friend of mine who commented on my previous post that I wanted to share it.

“Instead of judging, wouldn’t it be nice if people offered up a smile?  Or to help in little ways?”

YES!  Excellent ideas!  Since we’re in the lenten season, a time of penance and reflectance, I think this might be a step in the right direction to being a better person.  I know me personally, I will try to offer up more smiles and lend assistance when needed!  I LOVE THESE IDEAS!

Now time for an example.  Not too long ago, we ran into my third grade teacher at Saint Vincent Church, for Sunday mass.  Kyle had the privilege of meeting one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had!  (Kyle’s met her on a number of occasions but alas he was just a little tyke.)  One that I still respect and appreciate to this day.  (I’ll keep her name anonymous in case she’s not comfortable being on my blog.  I never asked permission.)  Unfortunately, when I reminisce on that part of my life, third grade, I can’t help but remember what happened to Ryan that very year.

The day started before school, early morning.  Ryan was in first grade, Nicole in fifth and I in third, at Sacred Heart School.  I believe it was spring, with the school year coming to an end, hence the reasoning for our hyperactive morning.  We were running around simply being silly.  I believe the situation initiated with Ryan or Nicole locking me out the front door, or threatening to do so.  Why?  Why not.  We were kids enjoying a bit of energy release before heading to school on a pleasant morning.

Ultimately, I had it in my head to retaliate and lock Ryan outside.  I clearly remember mom was on the phone trying to quiet us while she conversed, probably to another PTA mom.  Eventually, I succeeded in locking Ryan on the opposite side of the door as myself.  I was on the inside.  So what does a first grader do who was tricked and forced to the front porch by his older sister?  He knocks on the door with his fists, demanding reentry, of course.  Nicole, yelled at me, naturally taking Ryan’s side.  Please keep in mind, I realize I was not the initial instigator in this situation, but I certainly was guilty of continuing it.  

To add to the taunting, I stood directly in front of the door, which at the time had glass panels running from the top to the base.  Also note, this was an older door, with equally as old glass panes, each measuring about two feet wide by about eight inches height.  While taunting Ryan by waving through the small windows, he continued to pound on the bearer that separated us.  Just before I was actually going to unlock the door and run, it happened.  Something I didn’t anticipate or even considered.  Ryan pounded not on the solid wood door frame, but on a single flimsy glass panel with both hands.  In a single moment, I was faced with glass flying in my direction, and Ryan’s hands protruding through the door. 


Ryan & Nicole Christmas … look at Ryan’s bony legs! I have no idea what’s in Nicole’s hand, but mom’s on the couch behind Ryan. I must have taken the picture because Ryan & I got her something funny. c. 1990’s

Instinctively, Ryan withdrew his hands, at the same time I looked around making sense of the mess.  My only concern?  The idea of me getting in trouble for the broken window.  Glass was shattered all over the kitchen floor, and the once whole glass panel, was now a voided rectangle with jagged shards of sharp glass protruding from the edges inward.  No one, not even Ryan, had a clue to the extent of the situation.  Not even my sister, who didn’t waste any time yelling in my ear, in stead of evaluating the scene and offering assistance.

Was I injured by the flying glass?  Nope.  Perhaps a scratch on the leg, but nothing to keep me down. Ryan on the other hand was not doing well, except the adrenaline was keeping him from feeling pain.  Either when his hands went through the glass, or upon retracting them, probably both, his wrists scrapped the edges of the sharp shards, slicing them up.  Ouch!  Within minutes I saw blood dripping from the glass.  Eventually my eyes made their way to Ryan and his wrists, were the blood was flowing freely.

My mom, who was still on the phone, had no idea what just happened.  Leave it to my sister to get mom’s attention and in the same process tattle on me.  She reminds me of Kyle!  There was a lot of yelling going on, all from my sister and mom, Ryan and I remained quite.  After reality settled in, Ryan may have shed a few tears, but certainly no whaling.  I’m not sure who mom was talking to but I know they were met with a dead line, when mom realized what happened and simply hung up.

Time went from slow motion as the glass flew, to high speed ending in a lot of blood, in a matter of seconds, matching my heartbeat.  Mom ran straight for Ryan, who stood in shock.  She’s never been a fan of blood, not the ideal candidate to deal with this terrible accident.  To assist with the bleeding and probably to cover up the wounds, mom ran to the bathroom, grabbed a towel and wrapped both wrists in the terrycloth.  Ryan pressed both wrists together against the towel to control the bleeding.  Mom yelled again, yes mom yells when things are fine, but she has more of a knack for yelling, especially in stressful situations.  What did she say?  I have no idea.  Something along the lines that Nicole and I were to go to my cousin Karen’s house down the road.  Our normal routine was to walk to Karen’s and pick up my other cousins, and walk to school as a group.  We did so minus Ryan.

The rest of the day, was a blur.  I really felt bad for my brother, even telling my third grade teacher, yes the one I saw recently in church, about the entire morning.  She was so since and caring, in fact all the teachers heard about the accident by mid-day.  I know I shed a few tears for Ryan, especially as the day unfolded and we heard no word from mom.  Later that day, we either had an assembly in the cafeteria (which also housed our stage) or we were practicing for our spring musical, either way, everyone was gathered in the cafeteria when mom finally arrived with Ryan.  Finally!

He was sporting two wrists wrapped with stark white surgical tape.  I never thought about it at the time, but he did resemble someone who tried to slit his wrists.  The result?  Ryan had to go into immediate surgery to repair the nerve damage to his wrists.  They weren’t sure if he would regain complete feeling in that area again.  However, they seemed certain he would have functionality.  Seriously?  Yes!  All because a couple of kids were screwing around and it was a nice morning?  Unfortunately, yes.


Chad & Ryan hanging at Grams apartments. c. 1990’s

Eventually, Ryan healed up, sort of.  He was able to use his hands without incidence and hunting or fishing was never an issue.  Great!  However, his wrists told a different story.  For the remainder of his short life, his wrists were permanently decorated with laceration scars, and one wrist had no feeling at all.  How do I know?  Ryan would demonstrate the lack of nerve sensation under the scars by grabbing the skin and twisting it and turning it, without pain!  His nerves on the skin were damaged and never healed.

Over the years, as we got older, I heard some folks ask Ryan about the scars, wondering if he tried to commit suicide and slit his wrists.  Seriously?  YES!  Okay, I’ll admit, I can see that deduction, but totally wrong assumption.  Ryan was always goodhearted about the accusation.  He never got bad, in fact he would give a little chuckle before explaining.  It used to bother me a little, but since Ryan never really gave two figs about what others thought, I didn’t either.  As a well trained circus act, he would demonstrate the lack of nerves in those areas, and give a brief for them.  That always made me wonder, how many others thought Ryan tried slicing his wrists, but never said a word and just assumed.

I know very well no one can control the thoughts of anothers.  And I don’t know which is better, the curious (nosy) person who asks up front, or the one or never brings up his or her thoughts?  Regardless, there’s always at least two explanations for a situation, but the correct one it’s not always the most obvious.  Ryan and I both carried scars from that single morning, only Ryan’s were visible.

Read other entries:

Everyone Has Scars, Don’t Judge Part 1

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Potty Training, Sticker Style

Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going. Don’t freeze up.  ~Thomas Wolfe


Uncle Sonny with a 3 year old Kyle on his birthday. He loved stickers! 7/2003

The subject of potty training has been popping up around me.  Every time I hear stories from others, it brings a smile to my face, for that was the one  parenting act I did right from the beginning, no trial and error needed.  I potty trained Kyle in a single night.  Of course, Kyle should have some credit too.  When I think of potty training, to me it was as easy as peeling a sticker and giving a hash mark.

Yes, way back in the day, I potty trained our little rug rat.  Kyle was a few months from being two, I believe. Personally, I was ready to rid us all of the diapers a year prior, but I know it takes time.  Did I mention I’m not the most patient?  Yes, literally I had an idea on how to potty train this smart little man and one day I just decided to do it.  Deep down I know Kyle was definitely ready to graduate to the little potty, or least I convinced myself he was.

I didn’t mind changing Kyle’s dirty diapers as a baby, not at all.  It became so secondary to me, I managed to go through this stage of his life without wearing his waste, not once!  I was quick, yet I didn’t sacrifice cleanliness for speed.  I always made sure that child’s bottom was sparkling so he could feel good and keep the diaper rash at bay.  He did manage to suffer with small bouts of diaper rash at times, but it wasn’t because I made a real effort.  It broke my heart to bear witness to my little package in pain.  In fact, I would check him more frequently and change him regularly to avoid what could be avoided.

So back to the potty training.  How did I do it?  I’ve heard of horror stories about kids rebelling and so on and so forth.  No for me.  All I did was use Kyle’s weakness against him, or however you want to look at it.  What was Kyle’s kyrptonite?  Stickers! Yes, those colorful pieces of paper with an adhesive on the back, that comes in all shapes, sizes and themes.  Stickers!


Kyle dancing around in his Incredibles underroos in my boots…too funny not to capture! 10/2005

Seriously?  That’s all it took were some stickers?  Well, no, not exactly, but that’s the bulk of it.  First you have to understand that Kyle always loved stickers.  Always!  I started him on his sticker interest when he was a little tyke.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, they were going to be my biggest ally.

Why stickers?  Why not.  I, myself  was a fan of stickers as a young girl, and I guess I wanted to bring a little of my childhood and interest to Kyle for him to enjoy.  As a youngster, I remember having books upon books full of  stickers.  Back then I didn’t have actual books that housed stickers, nope I used the peel away photo albums to store my precious treasures with their waxy paper backing still in tacked so I could trade or reorganize them again.  My favorites were the ones that smelled.  Scratch and sniff stickers!  I was also a fan of the textured stickers with fuzz or fur.  Exciting.

Over the years of Kyle’s early days, we would buy him sticker books.  The new trendy books whereas Kyle would have to match up the sticker with someplace specific in the book and permanently stick the sticker.  My little man would spend hours stickering up those books and then take the time to review his efforts.  He really enjoyed this activity.  Funny enough, later on this would be a favorite activity while he was using the toilet.

Kyle’s interest was mostly animals off all sorts and his staples, Star Wars and Lego theme sticker books, sometimes a combination of both.  Admittedly, I would sit for hours with Kyle and help him sticker up his books.  He enjoyed the attention and I loved hanging with my little man, and we both adored the activity.

How did Kyle become so interested in stickers?  Again that was my doing.  Let me step back in time a little further to the beginning of Kyle’s love of stickers.  In fact, I can almost pin point the exact moment.  I shouldn’t say this out loud, you know in case someone was able to go back in time and wanted to alter the course of Kyle’s history. (Back to the Future reference)

As a thirteen year old, Kyle could careless about those sticky pieces of fun, but times were different.  When Kyle was a baby of about eight months, maybe younger, I showed him a new way to wear stickers.   Granted, he had no choice in the matter, but I found it hilarious.  At my cousin Chad’s wedding, I placed a sticker to Kyle’s forehead.  Being a baby, the only responsibility he had was to eat, fill his diaper, sleep and repeat.  So the mischievously placed sticker wasn’t even a thought to him.  For some bizarre reason, I found that extremely funny.  My sister yelled at me and told me to stop picking on the baby, but she too laughed.  It really was funny watching the kid look around without the knowledge of a sticker planted directly in the middle of his forehead.  Then it got even better.

Soon he realized there was something on his forehead and he began to go crossed eyed trying to focus on it.  If my memory serves me correctly, this was a short amount of time after Chad’s wedding.  He used to look up, his eyes would cross and he tried to reach in the air to get a hold of the object stuck to his forehead.  I know mean, but pure entertainment!

Kyle-in-underroos-Aunt-Heather-Piper 2005

Kyle’s underroos dancing in my boots… He cracks me up! 10/2005

Eventually, the ornery action on my part, became a standard embellishment for Kyle.  He would place stickers to his cheeks, arms and legs and leave them there.  The entire sticker situation back fired when it became a fight to remove the unnecessary body art.  This usually happened when Kyle portrayed the sticker as too sticky and he was afraid to rip it off, or it was bath time and he simply didn’t want them to fall off.  He would rather omit the bath to keep the stickers stuck.  I guess I totally deserved that for tormenting Kyle.  One well worth it.

Stickers became the hot commodity in our household, so much so, I decided to use them as a reward system.  Knowing Kyle was the type that thrived on positive reinforcement, unlike me.  So I came up with a game plan for potty training.

At the time, I don’t believe Kyle gave any indication that he was ready to potty train, but I knew I was ready for that next step.  Informing mom, she agreed and helped me to set the stage for victory.  Yes, I didn’t just say, go us the potty and the child listened.  Nope, I was good but not that good.  Preparations needed to me made to ensure the potential battle was weak and over with before it began.

Before I was ready to change Kyle’s world, we all went shopping, including Kyle.  We let him pick out whatever underroos he wanted, all the while building  up the excitement about being potty trained.  In addition to the new garments, I made Kyle a bathroom chart, simply marking “Pee” and “Poop”.  The deal was, every time he used the potty, either his little boy potty or asked to use the big potty, he would get a hash mark on his chart and a sticker.  Each “pee” was worth one and every “poop” was worth two.  I hung his chart on the closet door in the bathroom at his eye level so he could see his own progress.  I hid all the stickers on the fireplace mantle, knowing he would dive into those if left unsupervised.  I did show him the gold mine I tucked away up there out of his reach, or so I thought.

I remember distinctly, it was a Friday, I picked Kyle up the day prior, knowing the gig was going down before the weekend.  I explained about the deal and he was all in!   How exciting!  I knew it wasn’t going to be perfect  and I knew it was my responsibility to work with the kid to give him a change, but it was a good sign to hear he was all in.  Maybe he was ready.

On Friday, I explained about letting me know when he needed to use the restroom.  I even alleviated potential embarrassment by telling him it’s ok if he had an accident, just let me know.  I had Kyle pick out his new underwear and he wore them immediately, all day and into the evening.  During this time, I constantly asked Kyle if he had to go to the bathroom and sometimes I had him try anyway.  Naturally, no matter what, he would give a little tinkle and request a hash mark and a sticker.  Done!  I was cracking up, it almost became fun for me too!

Kyle was so very good.  By bedtime, he went the day without a single accident.  Did I revert back to a diaper for the night hours?  Nope.  If I was going to commit, I was going to commit all the way.  It would have been an injustice to confuse the kid with alternating between underwear and diaper.  Nope,  I told him he was a big boy now and he only used the toilet, either his or the household one.  In fact, shortly after this, we gave all his extra diapers away.  Again, proving we had faith in him and we too were committed.  I did have to wipe his back side when needed, a team effort only Kyle relished in.

The next day mom and I had to drive to Pittsburgh, about an hour away.  Did I bring diapers  just in case?  Nope!  I did bring a lot of extra underroos and other supplies including the chart and a bunch of stickers.  I also did manage to sneak an extra blanket under his bottom in the car seat, just in case of a mishap, but none ever came.

Granted, we still did the reminding of using the restroom and encouraging all along the way.  Yep, ever since that night, Kyle was one hundred percent potty trained, no diapers ever made their way back to our house.  Believe it or not, Kyle never had an accident either, with the exception of being sick, but that doesn’t count.

Kyle reinforced his own potty chart, demanding a hash mark for doing his business and then the reward of a sticker.  Eventually, when he was able to use the household toilet on his own, his interest in the chart and the stickers lessened over time.  But I certainly, didn’t rush that, for that was his decision and he earned it.

On a side note, the day we were in Pittsburgh, my dad was in the hospital.  There were a few years after Ryan’s death, dad was pretty sick almost joining Ryan a couple of times.  By the time we got to see dad, Kyle, now wearing his big boy pants gave us all a surprise.  He saw his beloved pappy and pulled up his sleeve (those were the days when he would wear long sleeves) to reveal a bunch of stickers stuck to his arm.  He peeled one off and handed it to my dad.  First, I was in shock there were stickers on his arm that I didn’t know about, and then I was laughing.  It was a nice gesture, giving away his prize possessions.  Soon I began to wonder where he got all those stickers?  I rolled up the other sleeve and low and behold, more stickers!  What the heck?  Then, Kyle really blew me away.  He lifted up his shirt to reveal a stomach postered with STICKERS!  Wall to wall stickers!

Upon closer inspection, I recognized the sticky art.  They were the ones I just bought for Kyle’s potty training exercise!  They WERE on the mantle.  How did that kid get a hold of them?  When asked, Kyle just shot me an ornery grin and then gazed upon his pap who gave him a thumbs up.   Those two were always in cahoots.  Apparently, Kyle decided he wanted an advance on his bathroom chart.  It was then that I realized I needed to hide the stickers.

Kyle was always a stinker, pun intended, but no matter what, he’s always been a great kid, always full of pleasant surprises!


posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

More In Her Head Than an Aneurysm – Follow Up Miracle!

Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.  ~C. S. Lewis


Me & Markelle at Hilton Head, walking the beach! 10/2011

Previously, I wrote about a really good friend of mine who went into brain surgery due to an aneurysm.  More In Her Head Than an Aneurysm.  Yes, I wasn’t sure if it ruptured or not, and in the weeks following Markelle’s surgery, I got to talk to her on the phone.  She confirmed it did indeed rupture and she is now a walking miracle.  Yes, she has her motor functions, speech, and every other part of daily living we take for granted!

Praying for that little lady daily and her family, I continuously received good news from the moment her surgery ended to present day.  Totally fantastic!  I wanted to share her good cheer with everyone, especially those of you who asked about this strong soul.

Markelle recently updated all of us via email.  Smart lady, the quickest and easiest way to spread the much anticipated information without sounding like a broken record or accidentally omitting information from one person to the next.

Please take a moment and read about Markelle’s success after brain surgery and suffering from a ruptured aneurysm.  This email is taken word for word, no altering.  She is still very well spoken and as always, such a sweet and sincere person.  Markelle is truly a miracle!


Wooo the beautiful weather coincides with my most excellent follow up appointment! This appointment was a result of OUR effort, all of us together. I know I would have never healed as well as I have without your support and love. Honestly, it’s very easy to get into “woe is me, WHY me” mode, but with all of you helping me, how could I even go there? Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, and those words do not begin to convey my gratitude or how loved I feel.

In summary, I felt like I walked out of that office today, and it was the happiest ending to a stressful movie or book that I just read. Walking into the building, it was obvious that we were visiting a neurology doctor. Canes, wheelchairs and walkers were out in force in the waiting room, and I strolled right in. Even though I have some minor things going on; it’s a miracle that I don’t have any type of physical paralysis. The morning this happened, I prayed and prayed before my surgery to just wake up afterward. That’s all I prayed, just let me wake up. As I lay there in bed for those 3 weeks, I knew that I could have a stroke at any time and it could paralyze me. I’m beyond grateful that I will one day turn a cartwheel. I will make it into a weird pretzel pose in yoga, I will swim, I will ride my bike, I will climb more rock walls, maybe not all this year, but eventually I plan to do it all.

The fatigue is a normal part of the process. The doctor didn’t have an exact time frame for when it will clear; I’ve read on the forums that it can last from 3 months to 6 months to a year or longer, so I’ll just settle my butt down and take it easy for a while. I’m going to grumble about it, because OMG, there is nothing slow about me, but at least I’m in the South, where it’s OK to be laid back a bit.

I have some minor issues; blood leaked into my spinal fluid, and it takes a while to break up, which is why I have sciatic pain that makes me yell profanity when I get up from sitting or lying down. I have a depression on the side of my forehead now, apparently when “skinny head” people have this type of surgery you can see it; he said it won’t get worse, but as I age, it may become more pronounced. I happily reported that I do not suffer from regular headaches (a very common long term side effect; ironically I left there with a whopper of a headache). My short term memory is a little sketchy; but not too bad. He asked me if I misplace things now, I laughed and said that isn’t a fair question because I misplaces EVERYTHING before this all started.

Driving: I got the Green light to drive 🙂 I won’t be driving excessively far right now, or often, or at night when my fatigue is the worst. I’m so grateful I can still drive my car. Out of all the things my Dad missed out on after his aneurysm, I perceived that one of the worst things he lost was his ability to work a clutch. When I bought my first 5 speed, he said he wished he could drive it. From that day forward, I vowed never to complain about a clutch or the annoyance of shifting in heavy traffic, I’m so excited to get back behind the wheel. Thank you to everyone who has helped transport Olivia, and I will rely on you for a little while longer, I’ll be in touch separately to communicate about that as I heal and gain more energy.

Meals – thank you for your continued support on this one thing. I will shout out if I get behind and can’t keep up with that in the future once the volunteers die down. I have grand ideas of a “dream dinner” party where we buy the stuff from the store and assemble it here on a weekend, but nah, that was the old Markelle, this is the new Markelle, I probably won’t be entertaining for a while (if you get an invite from me before June 1, don’t accept, say you’re busy and I’ll thank you later).

The meals so far have been a Godsend and I’m convinced that’s why my Mom is not running for the hills; Eric, Liv and I can create quite a daily mess to keep up with, I’ve been doing absolutely NOTHING since I got home from the hospital. Reading, facebooking, internet surfing, sleeping, and an occasional movie.

My Mom plans on leaving this weekend, so I’ll be back full throttle on the house stuff. Luckily I was not an overachiever in the housekeeping and laundry arena, so I don’t have much to live up to. If you visit and it’s a wicked mess; I’ll apologize and offer you a seat among the mess. If it’s really bad I’ll hand you the sweeper and give you a wink.

That’s it! My story is going to have a happy ending, and your love and generosity have everything to do with it. Thank you for helping us through this journey.

Much love, lots of sunshine, and more love to you,

Markelle, Eric & Liv

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments
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