All That Is Wrong With Me, I Blame on Catholic School

autumn-leavesToday’s guest blogger comes by way of Alaska with a slight detour through Arizona.  Terrye is a fellow redheaded blogger who appreciates great geekery and possesses a unique sense of humor. However today’s post reflects her more serious side:

Hopeful Expectations

I still remember the thrill of going to the special stationary store in Del Rio, Texas with my mom and dad (my annoying little brother might have been there, too) to pick up my school supplies, leather satchel, and most importantly, my school uniforms. I had just gotten over my bout of the latest off the beaten path, freakish illness; this time it had been Mycoplasma pneumonia that I had contracted from one of the many coughing, sneezing, runny nosed immigrant farmers’ kids whose families followed the seasonal harvests and typically didn’t have medical coverage.

My parents, acting on the advice of other parents in the neighborhood whose children had also run the gantlet of bizarre, non-typical childhood illnesses, pulled me out of the public school and enrolled me in the nearest parochial school; the one and only Sacred Heart Catholic School (I swear, there is a ‘Sacred Heart Catholic School’ in almost every state I’ve been too – heck, there’s one down the street from me – like it’s a franchise or something – “Do you want a blessing with that?”). As my father was a product of a Catholic school in upstate New York, he was sure it would be the best thing for me, or as he was fond of saying, “it builds character.” If only he knew how true that would turn out to be, just maybe not the kind of character he was hoping for.

And So It Begins

The first week went smoothly, I made a friend (Maria), I was getting the routine down, and life was good and funky disease free. But being the only redheaded, pale white (or translucent, depending on the season) kid in a small, Texas border town, it wasn’t long before the school bully took notice of me like a tick on a bloodhound. Lucia was in the 3rd grade, the size of a small over-pampered pony or a PBR bull in training. The first time she walked up to me, she made my world go dark, literally. She blocked out the sun as she towered over my skinny little 1st grader body where I knelt on the ground playing cars (yeah, I’m a tomboy, so what?). I remember standing up when she asked me my name and I responded, “Terrye.”

Apparently, she didn’t like my answer, because she slapped me across my freckled face and knocked the toy out of my hand. I vaguely recall bending over to pick it up and then groggily being led to the school nurses’ office by a playground monitor. Lucia had been kind enough to teach me about the hockey hip check when I had bent over. A move I’m pretty sure isn’t typically popular among Mexican-American elementary school girls. When I got home, mom opened the door to greet me and immediately launched into orbit around Pluto. We spent the next hour and a half scrubbing the gravel, sand, dirt and dried blood off of my face. A very perturbed 4 foot 11 inch momma bear, visited the school the next day. Apologizes were extended from an extremely innocent looking Lucia for introducing my face to the sun baked school yard and from the staff for not notifying my mom of my injuries.

Licking My Wounds

The rest of the day, Lucia stayed away from me. I was actually beginning to get my hopes up that this might all turn out well. But destiny is cruel to naïve first graders. I wish I could say that through some act of witty retribution, that I got revenge on her butt. I’m sorry, I’m afraid I can’t. I spend every recess after that hiding out in the alcove that housed the statuette of Mary until we got the news that dad was being transferred back to Alaska and we would be moving to upstate New York until he secured housing. Which, for me, meant going to my dad’s old school, Saint James Academy, but that’s a story for another day. During my thankfully limited time in Del Rio, I did learn some very important life lessons.

1. Turn the other cheek. If you take your eyes off of your enemy, even for a split second, they will slam dunk your butt into the basketball hoop of life. And, it’s a waste of time to carry a grudge against someone. It only gives them power over you. I would rather spend my energy on more constructive activities like crossing things off of my bucket list.

“Living well is the best revenge.” George Herbert, English clergyman & metaphysical poet (1593 – 1633).

2. Forgiveness. Asking a bully to apologize is like asking the sun to stop shining on a sunny day. Just because I forgave her, didn’t mean that I left myself open to more of her torture. And as my mom (who was ¼ Cherokee) used to so fondly repeat, “Don’t get mad, get even.” She just left out one very important part; the how.

3. Respect. Never underestimate the evil genius lurking in a 3rd grader’s mind and respect their far superior physical mass. Since my introduction to bullies, I have had my fair share of being picked on and being bullied and I have always respected their cunningness at being cruel.

“Respecting your opponent is the key to winning any bout. Hold your enemy in contempt and you may miss the strategy behind his moves” ― David H. Hackworth, Decorated Soldier, Military Journalist and author (1930 – 2005).

4. Bullies. Hiding from a bully rarely solves the problem. The best solution I have ever found for dealing with a bully was to stand up to them. Typically, it required one of them to “flip my bitch switch” before I developed the nerve to man up and face them. I was forced, by my parents, to practice patience and understanding, something I still work on daily, but when it comes to being pushed around, the best solution I’ve found has been to show the bully I am not their personal whipping boy.

“Some people won’t be happy until they’ve pushed you to the ground. What you have to do is have the courage to stand your ground and not give them the time of day. Hold on to your power and never give it away.” ― Donna Schoenrock.

5. Pray. When all else fails, a little prayer may just pull your butt out of the fire.

Misplaced-AK-buttonTerrye Toombs is a writer, blogger, trophy mom, taun taun wrangler, ankle model, and five time Naked Twister North America Champion (Southwest Division).  Occasionally she also finds the time to do other things, like sleep and make furniture out of used instant pudding boxes.  Currently you can find evidence of her sentience at http://www.bubblews.com/account/27350-ttoombs08 and http://misplacedalaskan.com

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17 thoughts on “All That Is Wrong With Me, I Blame on Catholic School

  1. Wow, Terrye. Every time I read you, you go up several more notches in my estimation. I think you’re pegging out at somewhere around the bazillion mark right now.

    This is such an awesome post, and while I’m not glad you went through all that, I’m pleased you were able to take some positives from it and write them all here. You rock.

    • I wuv you too, Lizzi. 😀

      Thank you! With all the bullies in the world, it’s time they learned “the meek shall inherit the earth” with the help of some kickbutt friends! 😀

      • Certainly I can relate to the (temporary) reprieve after ‘flipping the bitch switch’ (love that expression btw) and that we need far, far more openness and honesty to show youngsters that bullying is not okay, and that the bullied DO make it through…

  2. Standing up to a bully…couldn’t agree more. I used to be of the camp, “try to talk it out” or “ignore them.” Nope – doesn’t work. As a mom to three boys and a husband who’s had his fair share of fights, the only way to stand up to a bully is to fight back. It truly is the only thing that works. Funny how you blame Catholic School. My husband went to a Catholic school and thought it was the best thing ever. Our oldest son went to one last year (at the strong encouragement of my husband), but it totally wasn’t his thing…he’s back in the public school this year….

    • Emily, I can completely understand where your son is coming from. It wasn’t really my cup of tea, either. And yes! Bullies only understand one thing – Newton’s Third Law: “When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to that of the first body.”

  3. Sacred Heart Catholic School…that’s great, my sister’s went to a Sacred Heart Catholic School in Philadelphia when we were growing up.

    I’m glad to see that you didn’t let this, or any other, negative and/or unfortunate circumstance in your life keep you from being the person we all know and love.

    Thanks a ton Sarah for letting Terrye guest on your awesomely amazing blog.

    • Thanks, MJ! I think I was reasonably warped long before this episode happened. It might have happened when I was 2 and a salmon convinced me I could walk on water.

  4. I moved around quite a bit in elementary school. Fortunately I was never bullied physically, but I can’t say that I didn’t endure some cruelty from my peers. I think it didn’t matter where you were at-public or private school, unfortunately bullies lurked everywhere and still do!

  5. Love Terrye and her blog! The best way to handle a bully is to bully them right back. All this crap about walking away and trying to talk it out won’t work. They only understand one thing – a butt kicking. When you stand up for yourself then they usually back down.

    • Phil, you are SO right! This ‘hugging, kissing, coddling’ society lets the damn bully win EVERY damn time. It’s time for us to take back the playgrounds! 😀 And I love you right back!!! 😀

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  7. I remember riding the bus to school, and one older kid used to slam a pile of books on my head. Not only did it hurt, it gave me one hell of a headache and got my temper going. I finally stood up to him one day, called his bluff, and forced him to meet me in an alley to fight. He was older and taller, but I was built like a bull and charged him, knocking him against a cement trash bin. From that point on, I wailed at him with all I had. He never hit me with books, or anything again. My parents never found out, but all the kids on the bus knew what had happened. Funny, he even tried to be friendly with me after that. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. If one doesn’t stand up for themselves, no one else will. Good to see you writing again, Terrye! Keep it up!

  8. Pingback: Weekly Wrap-Up: The Double Extra Special Edition | The Sadder But Wiser Girl

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