For the lack of a better term I am using “Mental Issue,” M.I. for short, as a blanket term to describe what we have and deal with on a daily basis. I want to use “Issue” because I don’t want to call it an “Illness.”

Illness, to me anyway, implies that it can be cured, it’s something that you caught and didn’t have before. It’s a part of us, it’s in our DNA, and it’s something we didn’t choose to have but something we live with on a daily basis.

When our M.I. kicks in it’s called “An Episode.” An Episode of what? Are we a sitcom or drama that people sit back and watch? While it may certainly feel this way for non M.I.s, for those of us going through said “episode” it feels more like a storm. Comes on with little to no warning. A lot of huffing and puffing, with loud crashes of thunder. For this reason I will refer to them as Storms and not “Episodes.”

By talking we can begin healing and understanding on both
sides. Ask questions and listen to the answers, don’t judge, don’t speak, just listen.



Saturday, November 19, 2016

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Hurricane Season

When it's hurricane season Mother Nature creates storms so massive they destroy lives in a matter of seconds. They start out of nowhere and there is no way to prevent them from forming.
From Thanksgiving to Valentine's Day is Hurricane Season for people with live with depression. No one knows why but the holidays hits them hardest.
If you know someone with depression please keep this in mind. They will not tell you nor will they show it, so as not to ruin the holidays for you. They will suffer in silence.
An extra hug, words of encouragement, saying “I love you,” can make a huge difference. It only takes a few seconds. 
Originally written on November 16, 2015

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Her Footprints



One night I dreamed a dream.
I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonged to me and one to my Lord.

When the last scene of my life shot before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
There was only one set of footprints.
I realized that this was at the lowest
And saddest times of my life.
This always bothered me
And I questioned the Lord about my dilemma.

“Lord, You told me when I decided to follow You
You would walk and talk with me all the way
But I’m aware that during the most troublesome times of my life,
There is only one set of footprints,
I just don’t understand why, when I need You the most,
You leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you
And will never leave you, never, ever,
During your trials and testings
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”


The year I lived with my grandmother she had this poem, so famously printed over surf and sand, hanging in the one place where everyone in the house would see it, the restroom.  Everyone went there and everyone read it before they left the room.  It was a constant reminder for our day to day lives.
When I came back home to Texas this poem followed me.  My mother had a copy of the same picture hanging in our restroom.  Bookmarks of it were everywhere and I had one as well.  Every time I would read it, I would think of my grandmother and all that she taught me.
But just like footprints in the sand, the surf of time would slowly erase the prints.  This happened when my grandmother took her last breath.
I was not fortunate enough to spend as much time with my grandmother as some of my other cousins did but I can recall all the time that I did.  There was so much strength, so much wisdom in this tiny lady, and she shared it with everyone.
Discipline was never lacking in my family.  Whoppins and scoldings were plenty.  Even at the end of her life I witnessed this when she was talking to one of my cousins.  That fire burned bright when she scolded her for picking on her younger brother.  I smiled and laughed and that fire was directed at me for laughing at my cousin, burning me like when I was a teen, but this time I was grateful for it.
“I’m sorry grandma,” was my reflex response, but the reason for my sorrow was not what it once would have been.  I was sorry for I knew I would never hear those scoldings words of wisdom again.  I just stood up from the table, gathered the dirty dishes and gave her a kiss on her cheek before heading to the kitchen sink.
I can remember ever whoopin I received from her.  Every spoon, every flip flop, and every switch beating I took for my misactions.  Every scolding that followed those disciplines.  I may have been a large young man, but I was never too old to be whooped, as long as she had the strength to do it.
At the time each discipline had always been filled me with fear.  Now, I smile and laugh as I can feel my grandmother’s warmth and love with each stroke of discipline.
Now I know that when times are hard, when the floodgates of grief open up over missing her wash over me, I can read this poem and know she is with me.  Her footprints will always be with me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Monday, August 15, 2016

To Caregivers

For you caregivers out there, when you find yourselves frustrated and say, “I don’t understand.  I don’t know how to help you,” just remember, for those of us living with depression, neither do we.
While there are deeper emotions and darker demons I am fighting, my own personal monster as it were, what I am about to describe is a generic base of how most people with depression feel.  Take from it what you will.
What must be understood, is that what goes up must come down and that includes us.  It’s nothing you or I did, it just is.
While I was driving home from work I was on a high, happy, singing in my vehicle at the top of my lungs like Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire.  It’s ironic that the song he was singing is titled Free Falling because that’s what happened next.
A car pulled up next to me at a red light, close to my home.  The woman was wearing a gallon of perfume because the smell drifted in the rain soaked air toward me.
BOOM!
Without warning a memory triggered, then another, then another.  The next thing I knew I came crashing down to Earth, with no way to brace myself.
In the span of a literal second I managed to not only crash but to bury deep underground, the impact causing my world to collapse around me.
I couldn’t see, my eyes were liquefied with tears.
I couldn’t breathe, the air being sucked out of my body as I began to ache all over.
The pain became so great that as the light changed I had to pull over to the side of the road and park.
The monster deep inside began to crawl out, saying the key words that weaken me and makes it easier for it to take over.
“You’re the true monster.  You’re worthless.  You’re not good enough.”  And the ever glass shattering, “No one loves you.”
Thoughts of ending it all did cross my mind but those were just that, thoughts, and not actions.  I’ve learned long ago that I am not strong enough to follow through with those actions.  I will always cower out.
Make no mistake, it takes true strength to follow through.  For you caregivers, be thankful if your love one is too weak not to complete the act, if they were not they would be gone.
I made the effort to slowly make it home.  Inside I was still dying and there was nothing anyone could do about it.  I just have to wait for my storm to pass.
So don’t give up on us, caregivers, for we are all weathering this storm together.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Cursed Blessing

To know
your true worth,
or rather
worthlessness,
is truly a blessing,
or rather,
a curse.

Actions

To know
you truly are
worthless
speaks volumes.
Actions are
all the proof
you need.

Whisper

You can be in heaven
but a deafening whisper
can bury you
in the darkest
corners of hell.

Silence

Silence
can
destroy
a soul.

Storm

I am here for you
To help weather the storm.

I have tissue
For the tears are sure to fall.

My shoulder is here
To give you a place to lean on.

My arms are open
To keep you safe in my embrace.

I have an ear
Fill it with your words of woe.

I am here
To stand with you in silence
For you are never alone.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Help Me Please

I have joined a team with The Walk for Mental Health Awareness Houston. If I reach my goal of $500 I promise to walk the entire 3k distance, however long it takes me. I am trying to raise money to raise awareness for those who live with Mental Issues.
For the lack of a better term I am using “Mental Issue,” M.I. for short, as a blanket term to describe what we have and deal with on a daily basis. I want to use “Issue” because I don’t want to call it an “Illness.”
Illness, to me anyway, implies that it can be cured, it’s something that you caught and didn’t have before. It’s a part of us, it’s in our DNA, and it’s something we didn’t choose to have but something we live with on a daily basis.
When our M.I. kicks in it’s called “An Episode.” An Episode of what? Are we a sitcom or drama that people sit back and watch? While it may certainly feel this way for non M.I.s, for those of us going through said “episode” it feels more like a storm. Comes on with little to no warning. A lot of huffing and puffing, with loud crashes of thunder. For this reason I will refer to them as Storms and not “Episodes.”
By talking we can begin healing and understanding on both sides. Ask questions and listen to the answers, don’t judge, don’t speak, just listen.
Here you can see that you are not alone, there are others who can truly relate to what you are going through.
You do not have to live in Houston to donate. If you or someone you know has a mental issue please help with whatever you can.  Thank you for helping me support this worthy cause.

https://secure.qgiv.com/event/account/371499/

Madness

In the darkness
Alone I sit.
Decending into the madness
Just for a bit.
 
I close my eyes
No difference it makes.
Soon the madness
Over me it takes.
 
Cold I feel
As I begin to cry.
It's the madness
Causing my sigh.
 
I don't want
To be left alone.
I fear the madness
And the places it roams.
 
Save me
I beg of you.
Don't let the madness
Do what it will do.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

In Your Head

What do you do,
You can’t stay in bed.
How do you run from,
What is in your head?
 
My demons call to me,
I’ve heard what’s been said.
How do you run from,
What’s in your head?
 
The dark thoughts
They are easily fed.
How do you run from,
What’s in your head?
 
I’ve fought
And I’ve bled.
How do you run from,
What’s in your head?

I’m so tired,
Thin I’ve been spread.
How do you run from,
What’s in your head?
 
I don’t want to lose,
I’m afraid of my deathbed.
Answer me please,
How do you run from what’s in your head?

- Max M Power

Monday, May 16, 2016

My Civil War

“When you go dark, you really go dark.”
“What part of evil don’t you understand?”

“But you’re so nice every day.”
“That’s how I hide in plain sight.”

“You’re just saying that, joking again.”
“No, it’s what monsters do.”

“You are not a monster.”
“See, I have you fooled.

“I will hurt you, I will destroy your soul.
I am true evil, disguised as an angel.”

“I don’t believe you, I can’t.”
“Believe what you want but it’s who we truly are.”

“I am nothing like you.”
“You ARE me!”

- Max M. Power

Friday, May 13, 2016

My Semicolon

The Semicolon Tattoo is a movement that is supposed to symbolize your life is not over, your story is still being written.  For a writer this has multiple meaning for me.
When you see someone with a tattoo it means either they have or a loved one has attempted suicide at one point in their life.  There are many out there, many people share.  This, however, is mine.
The colors are the colors of the Joker.  He lives in chaos, he embraces his madness and his madness is my own. 
Purple is for power, creativity, wisdom, dignity, grandeur, devotion, pride, mystery, independence, and magic, of this there is no lacking.
Red is the color of fire and blood.  It is associated with energy, war, danger, strength, power, determination, passion, desire, and love. It is a very emotionally intense color.
Green is for prosperity, freshness, and progress.  The healing comes from this.
Blue is for trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven. It’s another path to healing, balancing out the chaos of purple and red.
The yin yang is for the struggle inside of me, trying to balance life, the light with the darkness.  It’s the point that keeps me grounded or can send me to the edge.
The 4 points are like that of a compass.  It helps to guide me back to the center point of balance and keeps me on course in my life.
Finally, I choose four semicolons instead of just one to remind me of the four times in my life that I’ve attempted it.  The four times I’ve succumbed to the darkness and nearly ended it all.  To remind myself to never go there again.
I have always been afraid to tell anyone of these times, but silence does nothing to help myself or others.  Silence does not allow me or others to heal.  My demons are mine to battle and each conflict is far from easy.
“I am so tired,
Yet sleepless still,
These demons inside me
I’ve tried to kill,
Yet each stroke I take,
My own blood I spill.”
Spill no more, spill no more.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Lie I Tell Myself



The lie I tell myself
"I am not insane."
A dark laughter soon follows
As my demons pull me close.

They hold me tight
There is no escape,
As they whisper in my ear
"You belong to us."

"No," I scream
But I can not fight them.
My world grows dark
Frost is in the air.

"Finally,
You are one of us.
A devil, a demon,"
Choas is all that remains.

A dark laughter fills the air
The voice is my own.
The lie, I tell myself,
"I am not insane."
- Max M. Power

My Demons

My demons may try to kill me but they know me better than anyone and will never leave me. - Max M. Power

* Rarely will I use someone else's pictures without permission but whomever wrote this described it perfectly.  I hope they don't mind I shared it with the world.

So I Lie

You ask if I’m okay,
While inside I want to die,
But I long to see you smile,
So I lie.

“I’m fine.”
But inside my heart cries.
You deserve you to be happy,
So I lie.

You laugh, you smile,
When you’re not looking I sigh.
I need to hide my pain,
So I lie.

The truth hurts too much,
I can’t say goodbye.
I put on a happy face,
Fooling everyone as I lie.
- Max M. Power

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Drowing

I feel like I’m drowning.  I can not breathe.  I’m not really hungry.  I have no real energy and I can not even steal energy from anyone.  I feel dark and cold inside.  I feel alone.
Try as I might I can not shake how I feel.  I hate myself, not for how I feel but how it makes those around me feel.  That hatred turns into anger and it’s directed at myself.
I feel like no one knows how I feel, even though I know that’s not true.  If I was strong I could shake this but that’s just it, I’m not strong.  I cry, I weep, I am dead weight.
Like any dead weight I bring those around me into my abyss.  If I do not cut the tether that binds them to me I bring them a sentence of pain and suffering.
As I sink into the abyss my hand reaches out.  The light grows dimmer the further down I fall deep into myself.  Medication will not work on me, I have tried.  It’s a death trap for my mind and soul.  Numb by pills or by pain of my own torment, either way inside I am dead and gone.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Dāsu Rōnin

I am Dāsu Rōnin.  I have no code, no honor.  I am a slave with no master and a master with no slave.  Each life I live I must suffer with the pains of loss for I am forbidden seppuku.  Seppuku is reserved for samurai, warriors with honor, of which I have none. 
My soul is dark, my heart is cold, the evil inside is pure.   I do not run from a fight but I will destroy those who oppose me.  For this reason I must hide my true self.
I say this as a warning to all that I meet.  I am to wonder an eternity in this way for I am Dāsu Rōnin.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Just Leave Me Alone


There’s an internal struggle going on deep within each person living with a mental issue.  It’s so simple and basic yet so difficult to understand at times.  When a storm begins brewing these emotions grow deep and strong.

We want one to win out over the other but usually the one that does win is not the one we want.  Deep inside we are screaming which we want yet those screams rarely reach the surface.  We are left spiraling deeper into our own personal abyss.

We sabotage ourselves by saying we just want to be left alone.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We are at our most vulnerable when we make this request.  We truly believe that if we are left alone no one can hurt us.  But we hurt ourselves more than anyone else ever could.

Like a static electricity charge, our emotions build up with each passing moment.  Just like when you touch something that charge is released, it’s the same when we have human contact.  A hand resting on our arm, sliding back and forth across our back, or even fingertips holding fingertips, this contact helps to discharge our build up.

A hug will often work best but sadly, we will shrug it off.  Do not take this personal, it’s not us but our demons lashing out, wanting to drag us down into that abyss deep within our soul.  We must do battle with this demon and no one else can do it for us.

It’s always easier to fight our demons with someone by our side rather than watching from a distance.  Never leave us alone, no matter how hard we roar.

For those who do not have these issues I know it seems so easy to say, “Stay,” but those words can not escape our lips, no matter how hard we try.  Just because we do not utter the word does not mean we want you to go away.  Never leave us alone.

Exhausted


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Goodbye My Fair Lady


Saturday, April 16, 2016, at 9:15 am, Pacific Standard Time, my grandmother, my mother’s mother, took her last breath in this realm.  While we knew this had been coming for some time, the sting of a final goodbye still hurts.

Her pain and suffering has come to an end.  No matter what your belief, or hers for that matter, I can take some comfort in that fact.  Yes I should be in great pain, yes I should hurt as my family hurts, yes I should break down and cry, and I may yet still do so, but as of right now I am numb.

My grandmother, one of the strongest people I ever met, had a good run.  Actually she had a great run and no one can ever dispute that fact.  To say she left a legacy in the wake of her great wave in this life is an understatement.

It’s amazing how such a small woman has literally touched hundreds of lives.  From her spirit has spawned numerous souls and ways of lives that her spirit will truly live on forever, so long as those of us who loved her pass on what she has taught us.

You only need to look at any of her great grandchildren to know this has come to be.  The passions she possessed are evident in their personalities and will be passed on to the next generation to come.

A love for the written word.  While most in this generation will not read anything that is not on social media, for those of us connected to her, this is not so.  We will always read for fun, for information, for the mere fact that it was written down and needs to be read by someone.  Electronic or physical, we will always read something.

Homemade tortillas.  Just the mention of the words “homemade tortillas” will bring found memories of this little lady standing at the kitchen counter, rolling masa, slapping it from hand to hand before throwing it on hot metal, cooking it.

It became a cat and mouse game, trying to steal one as soon as it came off the stove.  It was a miracle that any tortillas even made it to the dinner table at all.  She always made extra masa because she would allow us one, otherwise we would eat them faster than she could make them.

A love of sports.  While I’m not one to watch sports on television, if I’m there live, you will see a different side of me.  Since we lived in a large city, when I was little my mother use to take my little brother and myself to the major league baseball games.  Not until I turned 12 did I understand why this was such an important thing for her, it was a lesson she learned from her mother.

Coming from a small town in Northern California, our baseball team was a minor league team but they were our team and we needed to support them.  That was a lesson I learned the first time she took me to a baseball game.

It’s a lesson I passed on to my child when we went to minor league hockey games.  While people always told me that they didn’t count, they weren’t major league, I didn’t care as I heard my grandmother’s words in my heart.  I would repeat them before talking trash to the other team.  It was the only time trash talking was accepted and allowed.

The same applied to football and wrestling.  You could not take the trash talk personal and you could only trash talk as long as you could take it in return.  It was a way to cut loose, have fun, and release stress in a healthy way.

While she had fun, and taught us to have fun, she also had her serious side.  You were never too old to get a slap upside the head if nothing else, or a scolding.  She didn’t stand for disrespectfulness and always spoke her mind.  As she got older she slowed down in what discipline she dished out but the last time I seen her, there was still discipline to be dished out.  Taking personal responsibility was something she believed in and made sure we all knew it.

I am glad her suffering is finally over.  I know the past few days have been hard for everyone to see but I like to think her last days of suffering was to spare certain people she loved from further suffering.  While April 16th will always be a dark day for all of us who loved her, the 13th, 14th, and 15th are dates that should have joy for three of us.

My birthday is on the 13th, my aunt, her daughter, was born on the 14th, and my older sister was born on the 15th.  My personal feelings was that if she was to pass on one of our birthdays we would never really be able to celebrate it the way she use to celebrate it for us.  I was told she is waiting for something, because she was supposed to last only a few hours more and it’s been three days now.  That was her final act of love, her strength wouldn’t allow her to cause us further pain.

I know this may sound selfish but it’s what I believe.  Now she could pass on, in peace, and she did.  I will love her with all my heart for she helped to raise me, even from a far.  She helped shaped me into the man I am.  She gave me many life lessons, some painful, but all were wielded with a gentle hand of love.

To honor her legacy I will pass on what I have learned and I know it will be passed on to my grandchildren.  They will learn great lessons that will span over more generations than they can imagine from a strong powerful woman they will never know.

My Story


Written in 2004.
 
This is a true story of my life.  You are about to receive an insight into the man I am.  I wrote it, not for pity or sorrow, but in the hope that others will read My Story and know that they are not the only ones in the world who suffer.  You are not alone, even though at times it may seem that way.  There is hope.  You can survive.

My Story

Survival.  That was the name of the game: survival.  It is a game I was forced to play very young and a game I learned to play well.  The fourth largest city in the United States is where I called home.
Unlike New York or L.A., Houston does not really have “Projects,” but the area is still poor.  The houses were not always run down and falling apart at the seams but the neighborhood was still poor.  One look around and you knew you were in the ghetto.
My father was a school teacher, which naturally meant he did not get paid much, and my mother was a stay at home mom.  To earn extra money mom use to baby-sit for other people.  In the early 80’s a dollar stretched farther than it does today.
My journey bounces between Stockton, California, my birth town, and Houston, Texas, the place my father thought would give his family a better chance at life.  Total, my parents had six children.  I came out number four.  I had one older brother, two older sisters, and way too many cousins to count.
Clothes were never an issue in our family, hand-me-downs were plentiful.  As far as shoes were concerned Payless was our best friend.  K Mart knew us well.  Layaway was a way of life.
As I grew out of infancy my baby fat decided to stick around.  Hand-me-downs were hard to find for me, but my mother refused to have me looking like a jungle boy so Husky became the brand of choice.  The Donkey Kong gorilla became my logo.
I do not remember much about my parents before we moved to Houston, but I do remember my first job.
California is the state for produce.  Everyone grew something different in their yards and come harvest time we would trade and share.  Our house had a cherry tree in the back yard.  One neighbor grew bananas and the other raised chicken.  At one end of our block was an abandoned lot where the house burnt down in the late 60’s.  In that lot was a fig tree, a plum tree, and a lime tree.
Across the street from our house was an open field owned by the Santa Fe Rail Road.  Sugar canes grew in that field directly in front of our house.  A quarter-mile away at the edge of the field was two peach trees.
Two miles north of our house was a huge strawberry patch.  When I was four I went twice a week with my neighbors to pick strawberries, my first job.  See, at that time child labor laws did not exist.  Hard work for little money, but thanks to “Progress” none of these places exist anymore.
Kindergarten was the next step for me.  Four of my cousins were going to the same school I was, so I would not be alone at school.  At the bus stop, however, I was on my own.  Simpler and safer times back then allowed my parents to send me to school on my own.  Unlike today, where a route may have many “little” stops, the route was one stop per neighborhood.  Our stop was on a busy main street.  No kids running out into traffic back then.
I had three long blocks to walk to catch the bus.  For a five year old it might as well have been a mile.  I had to travel west to get to the bus stop.  We lived in the far back corner edge of the neighborhood and the bus stop was at the main entrance.  Walking to the stop I had three challenges to overcome each way.
At the end of our block, Mary, the owner of the house had a huge tree stump in her yard and no fence.  Tied to this stump was her Saint Bernard we called Cujo.  My idiot brother and sisters told me if Cujo caught me he would eat me.  Being a fat kid I would have fed that dog for a week.  So I ran.
Once I pasted Cujo I had to cross the haunted train tracks.  The tracks were no longer in use and when it got real hot outside the bridge under the tracks would catch on fire.  It actually happened so often that the fire department never came to put the fire out.  The bridge would burn but NEVER fell apart.  Haunted.
No ghost was going to catch me so I kept running.  On the next block was another dog.  This one was not on a chain, like Cujo was.  I never stopped running until I got to the bus stop.  After school was the same thing.  My little fat legs were pumping for dear life.
After I graduated Kindergarten we moved to Houston.  Dad packed us all into a huge blue moving van and hauled us from a three bedroom, one bath house to a two bedroom, one bath house.  The type of neighborhood was the same, poor.  But Houston was suppose to give us all a better life.  Eight people and a small dog under one roof.
My older brother and oldest sister had dropped out of school.  They did not want to go anymore.  My sister was not going to come without her boyfriend David, so he came too.
Not long after we settled in we were introduced to things in Texas.  Roaches were tiny in California but in Texas they are HUGE!  OFF bug spray was a must when we found out about mosquitoes.  Then there was a Hurricane, Alicia.
We had never been through anything like that before.  We were all angry with my father.  It took weeks before things went back to normal.  The Red Cross Wagon Wheel was a God sent.
Soon summer was over and it was back to school for me and one of my sisters.  The school was two blocks behind our house.  I was in Mrs. Walker’s class.  This was going to be her last year teaching.  I was about to learn a few more things that were done different in Texas.
Unlike in California, corporal punishment was aloud in Texas.  To Mrs. Walker we were already thugs and hoodlums.  She had a thick wooden paddle full of holes.  It whistled when she swung it.  Like the horror stories of nuns and rulers, Mrs. Walker was not afraid to use her paddle.
My first meeting with “The Whistler” was when I had to pee.  In California if you had to go to the bathroom you were allowed to just get up and go.  I had to go so I got up and walked out of the room to the restroom.  Mrs. Walker’s hand grabbed me and pulled me back so hard I got scared and pissed my pants.  I was whipped and learned that no matter how bad I had to go I had to wait till break time.
Also, in Kindergarten we got out at noon so I never ate lunch at school.  On paper, my father made too much money for free lunch and not enough for me to pay full price, so I received reduce lunch.  Of course that was on paper.
You have to eat to survive and we did not always have money for reduce lunch.  On those days I brought a sack lunch that was often eaten by Moses, the class bully.  I worked hard once before, now I was about to do it again.
Mr. White, the school janitor, saw what was going on and intervened.  He would pay the breakfast and lunch fees if I agreed to help him.  So I did.  For four years I worked for Mr. White.  He was a true friend to me, sneaking me extra food whenever he could.
In the morning I would help roll out the tables and put them down.  During breakfast I was stationed at the trash line.  Kids would bring their trays up to the line and I dumped the different sections into the proper trash can.
If there was a program happening during the day I came to the cafeteria to set out the folding chairs.  After school I went back to put everything away, tables and chairs.
Now we fast forward to 1988.  My little brother, two years younger than me, was left behind in elementary while I moved on to Middle School.  My baby fat had only gotten fatter, and was a cause for teasing.  My belly made me a target.
I was on my own again.  My parents were expecting child number six which now put us into a different tax bracket.  We now qualified for food stamps, government cheese and butter.  We also qualified for free lunch.
My older siblings were now out of the house and I was the oldest one in the house.  Things were changing for me again.
Sports were now available to me but my father wanted me to be a “Brain” not a jock.  That was another thing that made me a target.  I have to give my family credit though, I was never without books.  My parents always made sure I got the books I wanted.  During the summer the only place I was allowed to go alone was the public library.
My Grandma Margaret and my Uncle Herman were always giving me books, believing at that young age I was smart enough to understand Robin Cook, Michael Crichton, and Tom Clancy.  If not for all of them pushing me I would not be here writing to you today.
Well, in 5th Ward, where I grew up, when you went to middle school you only had one choice, McReynolds.  The Bears.  Since my parents did not allow me to play football, and the coaches wanted me to play because I had a good arm, I joined the band.  Music was in my blood.
My family could not afford to buy or rent an instrument so I received another hand-me-down, my older brother’s broken coronet.  Its bell, the end where the sound comes out, was crushed inward.  I was the joke of the band.
There were now more bullies than when I was in elementary school and I was their favorite target.  They would corner me in the locker room and beat on me for no reason another than I was fat, hitting my body so no one would know.  They threatened to kill me if I ever told; if I only knew it was a lie.
These bullies would break the lock off of my locker, leaving it open.  Taking my books and flushing them in the toilet happened often.  Soon I had to start carrying all of my books home with me.  In addition to that I had to carry the coronet case too.
I looked like a soldier carrying a fifty pound rucksack on my back and a radio in my hands.  Adding fuel to the fire, I was forced to walk home because McReynolds did not have any buses.  I lived a mile away and most of the time I ran it home.
At the end of the school year my mom told us we were going to California for the summer; my little brother, my new little sister, and me.  My grandma, my mother’s mom, was now living in our old house so I was back in the same neighborhood I was born in.
By this time Cujo had died and the strawberry patch was now a highway but all the fruit trees were still there.  I did not mind picking the fruit now, I was an active kid, fat but active.  Climbing those trees I looked like the Donkey Kong gorilla that was on my pants.
The summer flew by quickly and school was about to start.  My parents were having trouble and separated for the year.  I was about to go to school in Stockton again for the third time.  Kindergarten, fourth grade, and now the seventh grade, but the only question was where.
The district had redrawn the lines a week before school started.  I was already enrolled in Hamilton Middle School, the Hawks, the same school my older siblings had gone to. 
I could either go to the new school or take the public bus to Hamilton.  The district provided a bus but only after it had finished its first route.  That meant late to school and late getting home.  I could have walked and it would have been faster.
I took the city bus to school and walked home.  This time the distance was two and a half miles.  The lockers had locks built in so I did not have to lug my books around everywhere.  I was in band again and my Uncle Gerald let me use his trumpet.  A real trumpet.
Since my mom did not work we were on welfare.  I was back on reduced lunch.  Money again was not always there in the beginning.  The school let me work my lunch debt off.  Ten minutes before lunch started I went to the cafeteria and got ready.
Paper hat on my head and plastic gloves on my hands, I was ready to serve lunch to my fellow students and teachers.  My job was to make sure there was plenty of milk stacked and pass the trays down on the hot plate.
I was laughed at and teased but it was survival.  The gangs in Stockton were a lot tougher than the ones in Houston.  Before Christmas there were three drive-by shootings at the school and two more before the school year ended.
Gym class looked like the “Yard” at San Quentin State Prison.  If you were in trouble you did P.T. (Physical Training).  Jumping jacks, sit ups, and pushups.  The girls were watching boys as they walked around and flirted.  The boys were either playing basketball, volleyball, or lifting weights.
For us nerds, we either prayed we were invisible and ignored by the bullies or we were their toys.  I was too big to be invisible, so I hid and ran.  I did not have to run often due to band practice after school.  Most of the bullies were gone by then.
One day I was caught in the hallway by a “Muscle Head,” the weight lifting bullies.  He grabbed me by my throat and my balls, threatening to rip them off, as he slammed me into a wall.  That day I decided if I was going to survive bullies I needed to fight.
Out of rage I had beat up one bully back at McReynolds so I figured I could do it again.  The Karate Kid was my inspiration.  I could relate to Daniel.  Martial Arts were the way to go.  I watched Marshal Arts movies over and over, copying their moves, go Ninja Turtles.  I had boards in our back yard that I used to practice with.  I learned about pressure points, spin kicks, roundhouses, sweeps, and punches.  I would not be picked on again.
With band practice over after Thanksgiving I was now at the mercy of the bullies.  I had to strike first. 
A week before Christmas vacation, as I was walking to the front of school, I saw the “Muscle Head” who had grabbed me.  Butterflies filled my stomach as I attacked him, punching him in the back of the neck.
The fight lasted only a minute and I had won.  A sweep to his hip and three hard kicks to the groin was enough to bring him down.  Muscle did not matter and I was never picked on again.  From that day forward I was not going to take shit from nobody.  Nobody!
My parents made up three weeks before school ended and we were on our way back to Houston.  I returned to Houston totally different than I had left it.  All the running and playing I did helped to slim me down.  I had to be twice as active than most to stay in shape.  I was still over weight but only by ten pounds.
School started and I was now in all Honor classes.  There was only one set of Honor classes so all the students were the same in every class.  No one recognized me.  I thought I could start over fresh.
I was known only as the transfer student from California.  Girls that laughed and teased me for being fat were now talking to me.  At the end of the week I was discovered.  My good arm and broken coronet gave me away.
Fat or not, the bullies wanted their easy target back.  They wanted the girls laughing at me, not talking to me.  One day I walked out of History class and went to my locker.  Band was my next class.  Band was at the front of the school and the rest of my classes were at the back of the school, so I had to run.
As I closed my locker and turned to leave, I was tripped and fell hard.  Laughter rang out through the hall.  Quickly I got back on my feet to face my attacker.  Two guys pulled me back and slammed me into the lockers.  They did not know I had learned how to fight.
The boy in front of me found my foot in his groin.  My elbow flew into one boy’s nose and my fist into the other boy’s face.  The fight was over.  I had three more fights that year and never lost once.
I was glad to leave that hell hole when summer came.  My father insisted I go to Barbara Jordan High School for Careers, a magnet school.  I studied hard and was accepted.  There was no way I would have gone to my home school, Wheatly.  If I had I would have been killed sooner or later.  I would rather have dropped out. 
To my father, dropping out was no longer an option.  I was going to be the first in my family to graduate high school.  My father took on a second job to help keep food on the table and a roof over our heads.  I hardly ever saw him.
The ninth grade brought a fresh start.  Mostly the brightest of the bunch from 5th Ward went to Barbara Jordan.  I did not have to worry about bullies anymore.  With this new school I was suppose to learn a trade.  Without trying I learned many trades and life lessons.
My first kiss, my first girlfriend, my first breakup.  Making friends for life that I would never see again after graduation.  My first failed grade, allowing my brother to catch up to me.  We may have come from the same place but we grew up opposites.  I fought, I loved, I cried, I made my own way.
When I turned sixteen my older brother paid for my driver’s education.  With my license in hand, I received my first paying job.  My father was angry and cut me off with money.  I had to buy my own clothes, school supplies, and pitch in for food.  If I wanted to go out I had to pay for it myself.  If I wanted to work then I had to be responsible.  I was not afraid to work; I had been working all my life.  The only difference was now I was getting paid for it.
After graduation came the REAL world.  Nothing in my fourteen years (K-12th) in school prepared me for real life.  I got my own car, fought my parents over it but I got it.  Less than a year after graduation I was living in my own apartment, leaving because my mother did not approve of my girlfriend, who is now my wife.
Money was tight and life was hard but I was out of the ghetto.  I swore to myself I would never go back again to live.
The circle of life is funny.  Every child wants to do better than their parents and every parent wants a better life for their children.  I find myself taking on traits of my father, something I never wanted to do as a child.  But I also try not to make some of the same mistakes.
I have worked two jobs at once just to keep my head above water.  I try to give my daughter what she wants without spoiling her.  She likes books, writing, aviation, and music, just like me.
My wife thinks I’m trying to make her grow up too fast when in fact I’m scared to death of it.  My daughter is very outgoing and not shy.  She loves to sing and dance.  She is so big and yet so small.
We do what we can to keep her safe.  She is the light of our lives, she is our baby.  She will help me keep my promise of never returning to the ghetto.  I escaped and have not looked back.  I survived.
From a pile of manure can grow a beautiful rose.  Granted, I am no rose but my family is.
There you have it.  That’s my story.  So what’s yours?
- Max M. Power