“I really want to tell you I’m sorry.” ~ David Foster (Chicago)

So, I love to peruse TedTalks and various websites like psychologytoday and PsychCentral and read as much as I can in terms of new topics, issues, ideas, and what-not. In other words, I’m a nerd (and actually, I’m OK with that! 🤓).

Anyhoot, I came across a Ted video with sociologist Maja Jovanovic (author of ‘Hey Ladies, Stop Apologizing and Other Career Mistakes Women Make’) who talks about how women apologize way too much and the consequences of it. When I saw the description I immediately watched…twice. It was scary how much I saw myself in what she was saying in terms of needlessly apologizing. Dr. Jovanovic is a self-proclaimed ‘apology hater’ and I think she drew me into this mindset…I’m now one too. 🙂

I was amazed that as I watched this video (and read the transcript a few times too) I thought about how often I say the word ‘sorry’ everyday. Of course there are real sorry’s that need to be said for actual things I’ve done wrong, and believe me, there’s a lot of ’em. But, the ‘unnecessary apologies’ need to go. I say sorry for everything: someone bumps me and I say “I’m sorry”, a waiter forgets my ranch (which I put on everything) and I say “I’m sorry…I think you forgot my ranch”, I need more info from a salesperson and I say “I’m sorry to bother you, but I have a question”, and someone does something wrong to me and I say “I’m sorry I’m so upset about this.”

Hmmmm. Why do I feel the need to say “I’m sorry” when I’m the bumpee…not the bumper? Why do I say it when it’s the waiter who made the mistake? Why is it I preface a question to someone whose job is to answer them with “I’m sorry”? And why in the hell would I apologize to some boob who hurt me? Shouldn’t that be the other way around? So my answer to why I say sorry so much? I have no freaking idea 🙄.

Dr. Jovanovic talks about a conference she attended that included a panel discussion with 4 professional, educated women who had published numerous articles and books. She says that even when introducing themselves, each one minimized their accomplishments and discounted their expertise while using an apologetic tone. Dr. Jovanovic also noticed that the men at the conference never did. She believes that for women, “Apologies have become our habitual way of communicating.” And after all I’ve read, I agree wholeheartedly.

Sharon Martin, MSW, LCSW and author of books about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (I just ordered her CBT book for Perfectionism 🤨) has also talked about over-apologizing and why we do it. Let’s take a look-see at these reasons (in my own words):

  • I think most women feel they have to be nice and polite and capitulate to things that they might not want or agree with in the first place – in other words, many of us want to be people pleasers. I can see myself in this one…a LOT! It’s kind of like “Everyone Loves Raymond” where I have this need for everyone to like me as well. This has caused me to do things I really didn’t want to do simply because I didn’t want to upset the person. Disappoint them. Hmmmm. Writing this makes me realize how much power I give away (all of it at times😳) simply to keep the peace.
  • Low self-esteem is another reason and because of this there’s worry that you are in the wrong. That it really is your fault you have a naked salad sitting in front of you. We don’t want to be difficult or ask for too much or to be seen as unreasonable. In other words, we don’t deserve to NOT take the blame. Yeesh. You know, my self-esteem is pretty darn good but it’s taken me quite a while to build it up these past few years; however, self-esteem is also contextual: I’m at a 100 in my classroom in terms of how I see myself, but in relationships? I tend to dip down to around the 60 mark based on negative experiences I’ve had and the fact I undoubtedly received the blame for them. In other words, I’m a ‘D’ in this case. Charmed, I’m sure.
  • Feeling inadequate because of perfectionistic standards is a sure way to never feel like you’re enough or have done things well, so it makes sense that those of us in this category feel we need to apologize simply because we aren’t living up to the unreasonable standards we have set. This is a toughie.
  • Feeling uncomfortable or insecure can often make us blurt out an apology because there’s nothing else we can think of saying. I think this is a common one for a lot of us.
  • Often times we make ourselves responsible for someone else’s bad: “I’m so sorry they did that…I’ll ask them not to again.” Why isn’t the actual person doing the apologizing? Why in the world do we take on the burden of someone else’s faux pas? It is that we can’t see ourselves as individuals in the relationship…not enough differentiation? Or is apologizing for someone else a strategy to have the person be seen in the best light by others? “I’m sorry…they are just upset but are usually so calm.” I’m so guilty of doing this myself! 🙄
  • And, the apologizing can become habitual and I know that often the words just pop out of my mouth before I’ve even really processed the situation. It’s like I’m on automatic pilot.

Larry Weidel, author of ‘Serial Winning’ states there are things out there that you simply don’t have to apologize for. I’m trying to keep these in mind so I can be more consciously aware of why I might feel the need to apologize in order to determine whether it’s warranted or not. I also think that knowing these helps break that apology habit so many of us are locked into. Let’s take a look-see at a few of these non-apology situations:

  • Wanting more and being disciplined in how we are living our life – I’ve had men who have told me “You are so set in your ways with how you do things.” And I always apologized…but for what? For organizing my life in a way that suits me? For having preferences for how I like things done? Seems to me everyone does that.
  • Our own failures – “I’m sorry…it’s my fault I still haven’t been voted faculty of the year for the 25th year in a row that I’ve been nominated. My bad.” Ugh.
  • Saying NO (which is VERY hard for me…every time I say no to something I end up apologizing regardless 🤨)
  • Our beliefs, opinions, and priorities – why in the world do I tend to preface my opinion with ‘I’m sorry…’? It’s MY opinion…nothing to apologize for after all.
  • Trusting our instincts – I go with my guy every time. No more sorries for that since I’ve never been let down by it…yet. (Except when it comes to choosing men…that gut instinct must be broken…right ma?😬).
  • Telling the truth – Wow. As I was typing this, I suddenly thought of all of the times I’ve told the truth about a situation, truthfully shared my own feelings, or shared my truest thoughts and have been chastised (or worse) for it. Hmmm. In fact, not long ago someone who did some pretty horrible things to me came by my house and I asked them for an apology before I could try to at least establish peace between us. They BLEW up at me and cussed me up one side and down the other. I ended up apologizing for wanting an apology that was completely justified. AAAGGGHHH!
  • Being ourselves – Terri and I were talking about this yesterday at my house and I shared this with her: one of my colleagues came to my new office the other day (it rocks! 🙂) and literally said this to me: “Kristi, you are too loud and get too excited here. I’ve heard you down the hall and don’t like it.” So, I said ‘I’m sorry.’ BUT WAIT! I’m apologizing for being excited at work? For being happy to see my students? Because I love love love teaching and refuse to speak in a monotone that would put the Pope to sleep?
  • Following our Hearts – been there…done that. But it’s MY decision. MY heart. MY want. And…my consequences. Right?

So, I’m going to try to be much more aware of my apologies and try to break this habit which Dr. Jovanovic says can make women appear smaller and more timid than we really are, all while undercutting our confidence. I’m going to start stating my opinions/wants/beliefs in a straightforward way without an “I’m sorry” after it. I want to work on my ‘people pleasing’ and recognize when I’m simply ‘bowing down’ to this person to keep things ‘nice’. I want to work on my ideas of perfection and not apologize for anything that’s not perfect. And now that I’ve read through this, I think that’s plenty for me to tackle right now.

One more thing: I’m sorry this post is so long. 🤓🤓🤓

Kristi xoxo

This song ALWAYS made me cry when I was in high school. Always! And yes, I wanted to marry David Foster. 🙂

“Why you gotta be so mean?” ~ Taylor Swift

So, a cliché is an expression that may have been original and but has lost its novelty because of being overused. Examples? “You win some…you lose some.” or “Every cloud has a silver lining.” or “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” (you know, this one really sucks…I’ll either die or get strong…hmmm 😬). You get the drift.

Anyhoot, I was thinking about the cliché yesterday that says “Haters gonna hate” and thought that some of these sayings are valid and very very true.

When I was with J, I was a freaking hot mess. After his first round of ‘indiscretion’ (isn’t that a nice synonym to use? 😐), I started to go down a trajectory into a breakdown (there were a LOT of other factors that fed into this). During this time I had who I considered a really good friend. We talked a lot and got each other little things and I’d go to her house on occasion. When J stopped seeing me for a period of time, she was very supportive and was a shoulder to lean on. I appreciated it so so much. But, when I chose to go back to him she was enraged and from that point on, never spoke to me again.

Anyway, she is someone I work with at the college and yesterday, as I was coming out of my office to traipse down to my classroom, she came out of a bathroom and was on her way down the hall. When she spotted me, she turned around and went back into the bathroom in order to avoid walking by me or seeing my masked face. 😷

I’m not going to lie to you…it hurt. It really did. I texted Terri and she said exactly the right thing to me…but I better not repeat it here or ma will have a conniption fit. Let’s just leave it there! But I still stewed over it all day because I’m the type of person who wants everyone to like me. Silly and unreasonable, huh?

But being hated to the point of such blatant avoidance of me…by someone who I truly cared for…is something I’ve never experienced before. And honestly, something I don’t know I deserve. I wasn’t myself during that time. I was a broken down, un-stabilized, defeated person who needed help so badly. Not to be turned away. I’d like to think I wouldn’t have done the same but you never know… the whole “NOT ME” syndrome.

Have I ever felt hate? You better believe I have…and do. Ma’s fucking (sorry, ma 😳) bastard of an ex-husband is #1 on my list and I doubt I’ll ever lose this regarding him. So, I understand the feeling…and I understand we’re all capable of it. But I also understand this: it’s something that isn’t just projected onto the targeted person, but affects yourself as well.

I hate (!) the fact that I carry hate for this man. I hate that he triggered something in my heart that caused this loathing because it becomes a part of you. And when we go back to the cliché “Haters gonna hate” it’s almost like the hatred can spread. That if you start hating one thing…you’ll start hating more. Did you know that when you express an emotion, it amplifies that emotion? Like when I use my punching bag to take stress out on. I start with some little punches but then get fueled up and beat the shit out of that bag (which actually is a bit impressive! 😎) Hate becomes a dark space in yourself that you’re forced to recognize . And it makes me wonder how much it could grow.

We see it so much now in our society. It’s almost like we have this polarization of how we see people and issues: we either love ’em or we hate ’em. There’s often no in-between. Think about the Trump – Biden election. If that doesn’t show love or hate, I don’t know what does.

So, what are some clichés that I think are valid to live by? That I really consciously want to live by? Hmmmm…

“Treat others like you treat yourself” is one. I think I haven’t always done this because I haven’t always treated myself well. I know ma and Terri have taken the brunt of this at times and I know I’ve been rude and selfish to others. It’s kinda like the cliché that says “You can’t love another if you don’t love yourself.” I tend to think that’s true.

Another one I want to make sure I put effort into? “Be kind.” Just 2 words…and little ones at that. But the power behind them? HUGE. Maybe this includes smiling more at people (our IL mask mandate is officially lifted in a couple of days so I’ll actually be able to ‘smile out loud’! 😊) or saying ‘hello’ or asking about someone’s day and actually listening and empathizing. Maybe it’s about looking people in the eye and really seeing them…or asking people in your life if they need anything. And maybe all of this stems from being kind to ourselves where we know our hearts and perspectives and beliefs. Understanding these might help us to understand someone else’s situation or perspective which can help us to be kind because of it.

You know, as I write this I’m thinking that it’s really kind of easy to hate, isn’t it? But is it easy to be kind? Compassionate? Just plain ole’ nice? It doesn’t seem so. It seems to be something we have to consciously focus on and nurture and remember. It’s also a reminder that when we’re not kind because we’re having a sucky day or what-not, we need to apologize. Part of me thought about sending my hater (and I’m sure I have more out there…hopefully they’ll stay hidden 😐) a card thanking her for what she did for me and apologizing for my decisions. But then I waver and wonder what is it I’m actually apologizing for? Being human? Making a mistake that I took the brunt of? Not doing what someone else expected me to do?

We all do these things, don’t we? Making mistakes that have tentacles that touch others. But really, it’s how we learn and grow and re-build ourselves over and over again, isn’t it? I don’t believe people deserve “hate” for that. Maybe disappointment. Frustration. Anger. But in the end, I think most of us just deserve understanding.

Kristi xoxo

“To be yourself is all that you can do” ~ Audioslave

So, I was grading a paper from a student last night and it was a great one. She went above and beyond my expectations and added pages to the minimum I require. But, here’s what she said at the end of it: “People tell me I write too much so I’m sorry for the length of this.”

WHAT? People tell her she WRITES too much? Puts too much effort into her work? Goes further into the subject to learn as much as she can? And this is wrong? Yikes. 😳

But think about it, we are given messages like this all of the time. Some of the one’s I’ve acquired though out my life have truly affected how I see myself. For example, one that both my sissy and I hear all of the time…even now…is this: “You are too loud and out there.”

OK…we are. My sissy and I both speak loudly, laugh loudly, and cry loudly. That’s just who we are…but it’s wrong? Hmmmmm.

One of my partners used to tell me to use my inside voice when we’d be talking at home but I already was. I’ve been teaching for 30 years and you can’t speak quietly or with no expression/movement and be listened too. In my lecture hall, I have to speak loudly so all my students can hear and so I can really emphasize things and put some enthusiasm in the class. Talking loudly IS my inside voice and should be accepted as such. Right?

Another one sissy and I have both heard (we are very similar except she was always much prettier than me 😃 ) was: “You are way too emotional! You need to calm down!” But why?

In an informational sheet from James Madison University they say this: “There are 8 primary emotions. You are born with these emotions wired
into your brain. That wiring causes your body to react in certain ways
and for you to have certain urges when the emotion arises.” These 8 emotions are anger, sadness, fear, joy, interest, surprise, disgust and shame. In other words, sissy and I have emotions that are programmed in a way that greatly affects how we express them. Why is this bad?

Being told I’m too emotional is really saying this: “I’m uncomfortable or don’t understand your emotion so bottle it up and deal with it differently.” I hate that! All of us should have the ‘permission’ to express our emotions in the way they are wired. Suppressing emotions is damaging…and eventually they are going to cause stress, anxiety, a blow-up, etc. Maybe being ‘so emotional’ is healthy in that they are being dealt with and worked through. T and I are also strong extraverts who tend to display emotion outwardly since extraverts are oriented more to the outer world where we are comfortable putting it all out there.

Another message? “You try too hard.” Try too hard? Really? Me giving a 100% in school or relationships or friendships is too much? Hmmmmm. One time a partner said to me: “I can’t give back all you give…it’s too much.” But here’s the thing: giving too much is just ME…I don’t expect as much back (of course I expect some though😐 ). But I’m a giver…I want to buy things for people and cook for them and make things for them and give them a lot of attention and surprise them with presents and the list goes on. Actually, I don’t know if you can ‘try too hard’ in a lot of things. Sure, if what you’re working towards is unreasonable you need to know when to say ‘when’. And maybe more importantly, when you’re in a relationship where’s there’s no appreciation and reciprocation, or you’re with someone who you can try with all the time but still not create the atmosphere you want, you obviously need to evaluate if that effort is needed. BUT, in things that are important to you, 100% should be expected. Right?

Finally, the last message I’ve heard many many times is this: “You need to slow down!” Look, I’m a ‘quick’ person: I walk fast, work fast, paint fast, clean fast, talk fast, etc. That’s who I am and I like it…I can get a shit-load done everyday and it feels good. When I’m walking with someone down the hall or need to wheedle my way around a dawdling grocery shopper, it’s hard for me to slow down to their pace. It’s just the way I am! 👩

For me, I think a lot of these messages tie-in to being bipolar. Even when I’m not in a manic state, my brain is still firing pretty quickly. My thoughts are still zooming around. I still have the need to ‘git ‘er done’ in terms of tasks. Even when I cycle through a depression, I still have the physical energy but also the deep feelings of sadness, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, etc. that are a part of depression. It’s hard to explain how I can be so down that my thoughts are very dark…but am also feeling the firing energy that propels me forward. In other words, I’m bawling while painting. It’s strange! (Luckily though, my mood stabilizer has truly been a God send ! 😃)

Anyhoot, maybe we should all stop telling people ‘who’ they should be and ‘how’ they should act, and instead see differences in behaviors as just that: unique differences. You know, I really like the MBTI personality assessment tool and one of it’s creators, Isabel Briggs-Myers says this about the different personality types: ‘Each type has it’s own gifts and should be looked on positively. And, understanding type should serve as a basis for better understanding of behavior and appreciation of people’s differences.’ I relate this idea to people as a whole…we need to accept and understand the variations in behavior we see and not make people feel like they have to suppress or change who they really are. After all, we are who we are. 😀

Kristi xoxo

“I got a real good feeling somethin’ bad gonna happen” ~  Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert

So for once, I’m actually having trouble formulating sentences because of all the info I’ve been sorting through for this post. Let’s see if I can unravel this tangled ball of yarn (I crochet…I had to use this analogy… 🙄).

Anyhoot, being back on campus this past semester reiterated to me how smartphone use and social media are in the forefront of most (or at least a LOT) teen’s lives. I’m pretty adamant about putting phones away while I’m lecturing…it may sound ‘old school’ but I think it’s rude. As I tell my sweetie students, I won’t be on my phone when you’re talking to me. However, my nagging doesn’t work and if I excused every student from class for using their phone that day, I wouldn’t have many left to lecture too. It makes me sad to think these bright young people can’t not look at their phone for 50 minutes.

I also got upset when I walked into class everyday and found 95% (yes, I kept track) of my students on their phones instead of interacting with one another. When I started teaching in the late 90’s before smartphones and social media, my classes would be buzzing when I walked in. In fact, it was sometimes difficult to shut them up! How I wish for those days again when students talked, connected, discussed and made friends…’real’ friends and not just a face on a screen. Even when I see my students in the ‘pit’ (a place where students gather on campus…you have to somewhat cool to get in it 😎 ), they are interacting WHILE using their phones as well. I see a lot of screen sharing “You have go to see this!” so even the face to face interaction centers around social media.

In December of 2020, I wrote a post saying how I was going to quit social media and honestly, I felt almost brave taking this step since I’d be giving up something I centered much of my life around. But the funny thing is that I don’t miss it at all. Nada.

When Mark Zuckerberg created ‘The Facebook’ in 2004 (originally called this before it morphed into just Facebook), it’s intention was to connect students across the campus of Harvard. It was for students in one location that would help those of similar ideas/interests find one another. That’s all. But as we know, it grew at a phenomenal rate and there are now 2 billion users worldwide. Although FB wasn’t the first social media platform (remember MySpace?), it began the trend of countless other SM sites to where 73.7% of all internet use is for social media. Wow.

So, we know the breadth of the use of SM but why is it coming under constant scrutiny and why do I worry about it so much in my student’s lives? Here we go (but first a disclaimer – SM can be a GREAT tool for connection too…we can’t forget the positives!):

A study done at Harvard found this:

“When an individual gets a notification, such as a like or mention, the brain receives a rush of dopamine and sends it along reward pathways, causing the individual to feel pleasure. Social media provides an endless amount of immediate rewards in the form of attention from others for relatively minimal effort. The brain rewires itself through this positive reinforcement, making people desire likes, retweets, and emoticon reactions.”

How Social Media Affects the Brain

Other recent studies found this:

“Social media facilitates an environment in which people are comparing their realistic offline selves to the flawless, filtered, and edited online versions of others, which can be detrimental to mental well-being and perception of self. Excessive social media use can not only cause unhappiness and a general dissatisfaction with life in users but also increase the risk of developing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Constantly comparing oneself to others can lead to feelings of self-consciousness or a need for perfectionism and order, which often manifests as social anxiety disorder.”

And the last nugget from the Harvard study (FOMO means Fear Of Missing Out):

“FOMO can take a toll on self-esteem and lead to compulsive checking of social media platforms to ensure that an individual isn’t missing out on anything, which can cause problems in the workplace and in the classroom. A study conducted by Harvard University found that social media has a significantly detrimental effect on the emotional well-being of chronic users and their lives, negatively impacting their real-life relationships and academic achievement.”

Now, are these findings ‘valid’? According to numerous other studies that have found the same info, the answer would be yes. In fact, The National Institute of Health (NIH) has officially linked teen depression to social media use: ‘These young adults who are affected with social media-linked depression often describe feelings of anxiety, envy, narcissism, poor body image, loneliness and decreased social skills. And, these effects are cross-cultural and not linked to socio-economic status.’ Remember, the brain still develops through the mid twenties so the effects of these issues can be more impactful with teens and can influence their actual brain development (and since they spend so much time on SM, this can influence these effects as well).

Think about this: the rewiring of the brain…the chance of increase of anxiety and depression…a skewed perception of yourself…more life dissatisfaction…increase in the chance of social anxiety disorder…and possible impact on face to face relationships and academic achievement. Why in the world would we ask for this by using SM? Is it addiction? Actually, yes; we get ‘addicted’ to that rush of dopamine and keep seeking it out. Addictionaly, SM platforms are GREAT at their algorithms which help them to feed you what you want so you’ll be hooked even more. Charming.

Does these consequences happen to everyone? Of course not! Does the likelihood of these things increase with the amount of social media use? Yes. And, research shows that teens are on social media between 5-7 hours a day! More than any other activity besides sleeping. And in terms of adults? The average time spent on SM is 2 hours and 3 minutes. Compare it to this: The Office for National Statistics found that the average couple spends only 2.5 hours a day together with 1/3 of time spent watching TV, 30 minutes eating, and 24 minutes doing housework. This literally leaves 3 minutes that couples spend conversing…not just saying things like “is the laundry done?” a day. Wow.

So, both teens and adults are making social media a priority…if not the main priority…of their time. Is it any wonder then that we see this:

In her book iGen, Jean Twenge found a substantial increase in major depression or suicidal thoughts, psychological distress, and more attempted suicides after 2010, versus the mid-2000s. Plus, this increase was by far the largest in adolescents and young adults.” And The American Psychological Association said: “Frequency of social media and smartphone use tended to be associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviors.” Yes, this is an association/correlation which isn’t necessarily tied to cause; but suicide rates have increased 60% for those 10-24 since 2007. Hmmmmm.

Look, I know this is a LLLLOOOONNNNGGGG post, but as someone who is concerned with mental health and mental illness, all of this scares the fuck (sorry, ma 😳) out of me. Truly. What if I told you that I have a ‘product’ that can increase mental health issues, impact your life negatively, and take time away from your family? Would you buy it? Would you force others too? My sonshine is always telling me to get back on Facebook or join another platform to keep up with things 🤔. I tell him that I keep up with things by calling people. Actually talking to them. Having them over. Finally, most importantly, would you let your kids buy this product?

But that’s what’s happening. Yes, people can say: “It doesn’t impact me…I’m fine!” but is this objective? From my experience I can see a decrease in my anxiety since quitting social media…I don’t see conflict over politics or faces/lives that I’ll never live up too…I don’t compare myself to people as much as I used too…I’m not involved in the ‘high school’ antics among my own peers…and I don’t need the external validation of a thumbs up like I very much once did. I’d post something and then look constantly to see how many likes I had and the more that came, the better I felt. In fact, quitting SM for over a year now has sort of reprogrammed my brain to where it was before. It took a while to get past that need for validation and to get over the idea that I need to let everyone know exactly what I’m doing. And to be honest, I love it.

Kristi xoxo

P.S. Take a look see at this to get ideas on how to use social media in a healthy way by Sannyu McDonald Harris: be intentional in the use and not on auto-pilot (this was my biggest downfall!), focus on real life relationships, limit your time on SM, only follow pages and people who bring you joy (not bring you down!), avoid using SM before bedtime (because of the blue light impacting sleep), use mindfulness and live in the moment, and take a break. 😃

 Ain’t No Mountain High Enough ~Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

So, blech. I’m going to preface this post with a trigger: if you love New Years and hate ‘party poopers’ click away…this might get you right in the gut.

Anyhoot, I really don’t like New Years. I know…I know…that sounds horrible but in a nutshell, when our ‘modern’ Gregorian calendar was created in 1582 by Pope Gregory the XIII, it followed the solar year and the months represent God or Goddesses, festivals, numbers, etc. It ‘starts’ a new solar year but to me, it’s still a sort of man made construction of time. I don’t know if that makes sense…but in my little bipolar brain, it does. Go figure.

This pattern is available on ETSY by OhMyStitchesShop!

As I’ve mentioned before, I pretty much hate toxic positivity. Things like “You can be anything you want if you lift up your wings like a butterfly, soar through the sky with beauty and light and change the entire world for the better while being the best you can be everyday of your life” You get my point. Although actually, this might look mighty good on a cross stitch sampler…hmmmmm…

But, I do like this quote from Meister Eckhart very much: Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” Isn’t this great? And this quote encapsulates why New Years is no biggie to me.

Isn’t it true that every single day is the time when we can start anew and that January 1st isn’t the end all/get all ‘perfect’ time to begin? Why can’t we resolve to have a better attitude…more willingness…greater kindness any day? Why is the first of the year the time when people promise things like: “I’m going to eat the most unhealthy I can throughout the holidays but start a vigorous workout routine for 2022 while training for a marathon during which time I give a vast amount of my earnings to charity, completely makeover my house which will be the envy of the neighborhood, and never cut my bangs again.” Why can’t these (or maybe more realistic 🙄) resolutions be started on March 2nd or June 6th or September 24th? Why is January 1st ‘it’?

Isn’t ma cute?

According to Forbes: ” Studies have shown that less than 25% of people actually stay committed to their resolutions after just 30 days, and only 8% accomplish them.” See, resolutions are promises to do or not do something…they are somewhat open and directionless. Whereas goals, which experts think are much more pragmatic and have an aim to them…something that will be accomplished. Something more specific.

So a resolution might be: “I’m going to eat more healthy everyday.” A goal would be: “I’m going to eat 3 servings each of fruits and veggies and cut down the sugar and fat intake in order to lose 15 pounds in 2 months.” My dad really taught me about goals when I ran my first marathon. He had me tape a training schedule to my fridge which would tell me daily/weekly mileage that would prepare me for the run. Everyday I had a specific distance and would highlight it after I ran. The schedule kept me focused, the goal was clear and I doubt I would have run the marathon had I not done this. In short saying “I’m gonna run a marathon” is too vague.

I’m guilty of this too though – I’ll say things like “I’m going to be more compassionate” but HOW can I do that? Have a schedule of volunteer hours? Turn off all of my screens when talking to a student or ma? Asking about people and actually listening to the answer? Yes…I’m going to try.

In a Parade article by Megan Grant, influencer Mik Zazon talks about 55 resolutions that people can work on and I’m going to rephrase the ones I want to incorporate in my life in a more specific way to me:

  • Do at least 1 random act of kindness a month such as helping a neighbor with a chore, buying items for our DV or homeless shelters like underwear/toiletries, etc.
  • Consciously shy away from gossiping – and yes, we all do this!
  • Keep a grateful journal which I write in every night.
  • Put $500 a paycheck into my savings account.
  • Decrease what I spend on ‘extras’ that I don’t really need.
  • Talk to myself…and others…with kindness.
  • Stay in touch with people that matter and actually speak to them instead of texts.
  • Start baking for family/friends/neighbors and try new recipes.

Mik goes on to state: “…resolutions are in fact NOT an invitation to start a diet or a workout plan but a beautiful reminder that a new year can bring new life to our passions.” Isn’t this great? To look at goals/resolutions as NEW life…NEW passion…NEW beginning? But we can do this NEW stuff anytime we want. If New Years goes by and we aren’t accomplishing these things, then start that day. Start on a Tuesday. Friday. Spring. Summer. In other words, just grow. Finally, I love this quote from Arthur Ashe: ‘Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.’

Happy New Year, peeps…you all deserve a great 2022! I’ll be thinking of you while I cuddle Ed and Mally in my flannel thrift shop nightie while watching “Mommie Dearest” on Netflix, eating the Hershey kisses pop gave me, and getting into bed by 9:00 which is a tad late for me. It’s gonna be a rockin’ time! 😀

Kristi xoxo

“Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing.” ~ Oscar Wilde

So, I’m a big believer in experiential learning and incorporate it as much as I can in my classes, except for my Human Sexuality class! 😏 Anyhoot, I was watching a video on YouTube where college students in California ‘lived’ in a cardboard box for 1 night in order to experience homelessness. Then the next day they had just a couple of dollars and had to eat their meals on the streets. Now, this sounds like a great idea…or it must to some since other colleges have done the same exercise…but honestly, I was disgusted by some of the students reactions in this particular case.

LOS ANGELES, CA – Entire blocks are packed with homeless encampments on skid row in downtown Los Angeles. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

First off, part of the group of students complained throughout the night. They were hot. They were cold. They were hungry. They didn’t like using a Porta Potty. They wished they wouldn’t have signed up…you get the picture. During the next day, some of the students were followed by cameras and made remarks along these lines: “The bugs are horrible…I just want to go home.” “The heat is too hot (ya think 🙄) and I’m sweaty.” “I’m so hungry that I’m getting weak.” This last comment was made in the early morning (after having food just hours before) by a young woman who didn’t want to go to a Good Samaritan or the like since she wasn’t sure the food they would be serving would be fit to eat. To be frank, I wanted to reach through the screen and shake this girl because what she had as a ‘homeless’ person for a day was far more than the homeless do for weeks, months, and often years.

So why did this piss me off? Because this is NOT experiential learning…it’s making a mockery of those people that are truly homeless and have to…gasp…deal with hot, cold, rain, snow, bugs, animals, cruel people, lack of food, lack of electricity, lack of heat and air conditioning, lack of water, lack of roofs, lack of Porta Potties…you get the point.

The feet of Mr. Murphy, who had been on Skid Row for a year in 2018. He is one of thousands who are part of California’s homelessness crisis. Photo by Dan Morain for CALmatters

I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to have to pee in the street. To have to sleep under tattered blankets on sidewalks. To have people jeer at you and condemn you for your situation. To not know if you are even going to eat one day. To be able to shower or clean up only sporadically. To live on streets that I wouldn’t want to walk down any time of the day. To not have a warm coat…shoes…socks…underwear.

I’m sorry, but staying in a cardboard box for 8 hours in a safe area on campus where there is security along with the knowledge you can simply walk away and go to your cozy dorm room anytime is not experiencing homelessness. Maybe some of you remember me writing about my nephew who was homeless for a period of time. He’s a paranoid schizophrenic who refused to take meds and was simply in another world. I watched him climb out of dumpsters, sit on corners and eat hamburgers others bought him (bless their hearts…truly ❤), get berated by people who called him scum along with other words I’d prefer not to remember. When he was missing for a period of time, people said how the community shouldn’t use resources to track down trash like him. A couple of times a week, he’d come over for showers, food, clean underwear, burner phones, etc. and talked to me about the cruelty he and his ‘people’ (his words…there’s a bit of a brotherhood in the homeless community where he felt he fit in better than anywhere else) suffered daily. So, to think that this student exercise encapsulates what it feels like to be homeless is an insult to those who are.

Yes, people need to be empathic and try to understand what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. Of course they do because that’s what makes people more aware of the issues others face. However, how can any simulation be called ‘living’ the issue when it’s so contrived? So…well…fake?

When I was in undergraduate school studying Psychology and Education, I was taking a class on special needs children and we had to walk around campus with a blindfold on and a partner guiding us in order to experience blindness, and then traipse around campus with ear plugs in to simulate deafness. This entire exercise took the entirety of 50 minutes and afterwards, when the professor asked us what we had learned by experiencing this loss of sight and hearing, other students said how beneficial it was and could really understand now what such individuals go through.

Heh? I didn’t get that at all. I had a guide throughout the ‘experience’ and could rip off my eye cover or pop out my earplugs whenever I wanted with only a C grade as a consequence. Truthfully, it made me feel guilty strutting around the campus while pretending to have these impairments. This really came back to me years later when I had a totally blind student in my first few community college classes I taught in Kansas. I was told I’d have Suze in class so I prepared my info to have visual materials accessible but that’s all I prepared for. For some reason, it didn’t dawn on me to prepare for Suze herself. When I first saw her outside my door, I touched her arm to say hello. She swung on me and shouted: “Don’t ever touch me without asking!” I was truly taken aback and felt she had been rude. But as the semester progressed, we started chatting more and more and as she told me about her life living alone with only her guide dog as a companion and I started to understand how scary the world is for her. How every touch can mean something sinister. How someone can hurt her without fear of retribution because of her inability to identify them. How not being able to scan your surroundings made you wary. She told me that everyday things caused stress…just being in a new room with furniture could be a hazard. I realized why she snapped at me the first day we met and I also understood how I fucked up (sorry, ma…but I really did 😔). I was encroaching in her dark bubble where she needed verbal warnings for touch and the like. We ended up being really good friends and I learned more from her than she ever learned from me. Hands down.

But don’t you often hear people claim that they really do understand the plight of others? “Oh, I know what it must be like to be black because I was discriminated against once and it hurt.” Or, “I know what it would be like to have a physical disability since I broke my leg a few years back.” Or, one of my favorites, “I know what depression is like. When I flunked my first test, I was down for a week.” OOOOOKKKKKAAAAAYYYYY! For fuck sakes, I’m sure these incidents are truly reminiscent of what people experience as a part of their lives. Grrrr.

Thank you, Allie.

My advice is this: If you want to experience what it’s like to be schizophrenic or bipolar or depressed or have panic attacks, have doctors give you electrical shocks in your brains so you’ll actually have these mental illnesses. And if these California students really want to experience homelessness, have the professor take them down to Skid Row in L.A. and sleep there. Eat there. Watch people prostitute themselves to get money for drugs…a habit that started in childhood to escape abuse they were experiencing.

Yes, I know this is harsh but my point is this: Go to your local homeless shelter and talk to some of the people…hear their stories and then with what you might spend on Starbucks every week, get them clean socks and underwear and a coat. Or, go to the organization in your area that works with the blind and read to them. Seek permission to visit a residential unit that houses the mentally ill and play a game of checkers or just watch TV with the people. In other words, help. And yes, we all need to do this, don’t we? Me very much included. Further, making this one of the resolutions we all promise to fulfill would be a great first step this coming year. I am promising myself…and my community, that I’m going to do it.

Kristi xoxo

Here are 7 charities we can all give what we can too that fight homelessness in the United States. 🙂

“I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters…” ~ Trini Lopez

So, there’s a controversy swirling about our town and it’s almost like the division between people, which is already great in our current political climate, is worsened because of it. I’m actually going to use the name of the university and the Reverend simply because it’s all over the media here as well as the rest state, including Chicago news stations. Here’s what happened:

Millikin University (a well respected private institution…I taught there adjunct for a few years in the 2000’s) had their Fall graduation on Dec. 12th and Rev. Wally Carlson from a local Methodist church gave the invocation. Sounds good so far, right? But instead of simply invoking the blessing of God (which is what ‘invocation’ is), Wally pretended to take a phone call from God and apparently, God said this while chatting on his Samsung Galaxy:

“First of all, let’s take care of the gender issue. He understands and he’s sharing with you that there’s no theological justification for it but he’s choosing he and him today, doesn’t like them and they and just because this is probably irritating enough people that it’s coming out this way we’re gonna stay away from she and her…” 

Wally Carlson

Now, before I unload all of this (which is a shit load), MU officials were quite upset with this holy proclamation (🙄) and  immediately issued an apology to all who attended the commencement and said Carlson’s comments “neither reflect nor represent the values of our university.” And I believe that whole-heartedly.

Anyhoot, when I first heard about this, I was of course gobsmacked by these words but it also pissed me off when the Rev said GOD was calling HIM and telling him this. I’m sorry, but I think it’s blasphemy to pretend to take a call from God during a commencement and maintain that what you’re saying is a directive straight from the Lord’s mouth. I don’t know about you, but I would like to believe that God is too busy to interject in a graduation when there are wars, famine, abuse…you get the point…that might be of more concern to him.

You know, I’ve been a Christian all my life and have never shied away from proclaiming it. My favorite verses are from 1 John 4:7-8 which says: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (NKJV).

That’s a pretty clear, isn’t it? And for the Rev to say that God is ‘choosing’ the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘him’ and doesn’t like ‘them’ and ‘they’ and is also shying away from ‘she’ and ‘her’ is, to me, saying that transgender individuals are not accepted by him. Not loved by him. Not recognized by him. I just can’t believe this to be true.

So, why in the world would the Rev think that promoting his obvious platform in terms of transgender (and I’m wondering if homosexuals are also included in his catalog of sinners) was appropriate for a graduation? What the hell? Really…you have to bring up something that has absolutely nothing to do with the commencement? Was it supposed to be ‘funny’? Lord I hope not, particularly since there were transgender individuals in the audience who were stunned and hurt by this message on a day that was to be a celebration of their accomplishments.

Obviously this Rev doesn’t abide by the good ole “Judge not lest he be judged” from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:1-3). Unless of course he’s perfect…which I guess he must be since God calls him personally. I have yet to receive one.

Yes, Wally needed to be called out for this and apparently he made a Facebook apology (does God do social media too? 🤔) which was later taken down. Why would you take down an apology? I don’t get that unless the apology wasn’t sincere.

But, let’s all be honest here: we judge. Period. We all do. According to Dr. Elizabeth Dorrance Hall: “Our brains are wired to make automatic judgments about others’ behaviors so that we can move through the world without spending too much time or energy on understanding everything we see.” So it’s prewired in us to make these calls.

Then there’s the issue of situational attributes vs. personality attributes. Situational ones are when we believe a person’s behavior is due to something going on in their environment where personality attributes are about the person’s character like traits, abilities and feelings. And, like you might guess, we tend to judge more on a personal level since it’s easier. Right? Looking at situations takes more time and understanding…something that our fast paced, social media driven, everyone just write whatever they want while in front of the anonymity of a screen culture seems to promote.

And I do it too. And, I’m ashamed that I have. I’m the first one to say “HEY! Don’t judge me! You have no idea what it’s like to live in my world of mental illness!” yet I’ve judged others while ignoring their situation…circumstances…environment, etc. I’ve popped off to people that are being rude without thinking that maybe they have a sick relative or a child that kept them up all night. I’ve judged the decisions of others without taking into account what was going on around the person when they made them. It’s easy to do, isn’t it? And isn’t it easy to judge this other person so you don’t have to look at yourself more closely? Hmmm…

As I’m writing this, I’m crying. In fact, Eddie just ate the Kleenex I threw on the floor. I know I’ve hurt people because of these quick judgements…just like I’ve been hurt. So why do we do it? Understand how much judgement hurts, but do it ourselves? There’s no easy answer to that but we do know that humans are programmed with both a negativity bias as well as a need to feel inflated. Both of these helped our ancestors who had to see things negatively since so many life or death threats were posed to them. And of course we know that that bias still exists now: that’s why ‘bads’ are so much more powerful than ‘goods.’ Likewise, we also have the need to feel superior since our ancestors quickly learned that it’s the strong that survive…not the weak.

I guess this speech just made me think of the judgement that swirls around all of us. We each have imperfect things about us…decisions we’ve made…behavior we’ve carried out…words we’ve said…that cause others to judge us. All of us. And we have all judged others for their decisions, behavior, words. All of us.

There’s no way this will ever be ‘fixed’…it’s something primitive inside of us that’s almost a knee-jerk reaction. But we can all stop heeding these reactions and look at the whole picture instead. We can consciously work to look at the circumstances surrounding the person and honestly try to put ourselves in their shoes. We can slow down and think about these reactions and use our higher level of cognition to negate them. And, we can all look in the mirror and admit something a friend and I were just talking about the other day: we are all imperfect. And we truly do need to treat and love others like we want for ourselves.

Kristi xoxo

Love is letting them have the last cookie.

So, there have been 4 times my son has said things to me that have literally gobsmacked me…made my jaw drop and my eyes bug out. Did I get over it? Of course. Do I still bring these up to him around holidays when he’s shopping for my gift? Of course. 😐

The first time was when he was 18 and while I was walking out the door to get to school, he said this: “Ma, so and so moved to an apartment and needs help with the rent. I want to move in with him.” I said, quite reasonably I might add: “Over my dead body. We’ll discuss it when I get home.”

I got home and he was packed, the living room was full of his stuff, and 2 guys were loading up their van. I said: “O. What in hell are you doing?” He said: “Ma, I told you I was moving out.” I replied: “NO you didn’t! You told me that some boob I’ve never heard mention of before couldn’t pay their freakin’ rent so you were ‘wanting’ to move in with him. I said we’d discuss it.” His response? “Ma, I talked to him about it.”

So, discussing this issue with ME…the person who raised him, loved him, nurtured him, paid for private school for him, and spent every waking minute of his 18 years adoring every bone in his body is NOT who he discussed this with. Instead, he listened to this guy who promised living with him would be nirvana. Blech.

Little did I know how insignificant this was until he popped over about a year later and said this: “Ma, I want to move to Texas for a promotion at Verizon.” I said: “Over my dead body. You are NOT moving 800 miles away from me. Period.” This was all said with as stern a look as I could muster as well as forcing a couple tears in my eyes which were hard to come by through my shock. His answer? “Ma, I’ve already accepted the job, rented an apartment, and am getting a U-Haul on Tuesday.”

WHAT? As much as I love my son, there are times I wonder if he understands the difference between asking and telling…between throwing an idea out there to discuss and having a solid plan with monetary investment. I said: “O, we need to DISCUSS this! This is a HUGE step! I won’t be there for you when you need me…it will take me a day to get to you!” His smile couldn’t be hid and I starting looking for condos on Zillow. Unfortunately, I was married at the time and didn’t think relocation would go over well. Fortunately, I taught over-load every semester so I could fly down and grace him with my presence every couple of months. I know how much he longed for these trips. 🙄

The factory in better days.

The third time I was stunned by another revelation of his was when we were driving on an overpass in our town and went by an abandoned furniture factory that looks like a strong wind could raze it. He said: “Me and G have climbed up that a few times and messed around on the roof.”

Heh?

Me: “You did WHAT?” (please say WHAT in the screechiest voice possible)

O: “We climbed to the roof and played around…you know, doing flips against some of the ventilation hoods, sitting on the edge, and poking around just to explore.”

Me: “How the hell did you ‘climb’?”

O: “Mother, we shimmied up drain pipes until we could find pieces of fire escapes that weren’t rusted through and then pulled ourselves up by ledges.”

Me: “Ok. Let me get this straight in my head: You and G climbed up a dilapidated, crumbling factory that was built during the time of Jesus and used pipes and rusty stairs as a means. Then, when those weren’t available because of 1000’s of years of corrosion, you used ledges like a mountain climber uses rocks.”

O: “Yes! That’s exactly it!”

Me: “I forbid you to ever ever ever ever do anything that stupid again. What the hell were you thinking?”

O: “We were just bored.”

After he shared this little tidbit with me and saw my conniption fit happen while I was driving 45 MPH in rain, he said he would never tell me anything else he did as a teenager. As much as I’m a believer in transparency, I said this was for the best. I preferred not to have a heart attack in my 40’s.

The last time (and I know this announcement won’t be the last, but as of now, it is) was just this past weekend where we had a conversation that went like this:

Me: “O, have you thought about ever getting engaged to K? The woman who you have been with for a few years now, have bought a home with, have adopted pets with, and who you can’t walk by without hugging/kissing/touching her while calling her baby, angel, and love to the point I think you’ve actually forgotten her name?”

O: “No.”

Me: “Why?”

O: “Ma, I don’t ‘believe’ in marriage.”

Me: “For fuck sakes, why?!”

O: “Ma, it’s antiquated and only a piece of paper…there’s no reason for marriage in our society anymore!”

AAAAGGGGGHHHHH! I hate it when people say ‘it’s only a piece of paper.’ Let me tell you, that ‘piece of paper’ is powerful!

In the U.S., there are 1,138 benefits that are granted to couples when they sign that paper. Examples are making medical decisions and being able to visit your spouse in the hospital (ICU, etc.) – God forbid that ever happens, sharing joint parenting rights, not having to testify against them (which in O’s case and his climbing predilection may be in his favor 🤨), etc. However, understanding my son as I do, as well as acknowledging the genes he inherited from his father, I know that hitting him in the wallet is much more appealing so I prattled on about income tax breaks, insurance benefits, spousal IRA’s, selling homes (in regard to capital gains), etc.

Now, this made him think a bit. Just a bit though. Then he said: “Ma. I am a wedding photographer and I’ve seen people that spent $30,000 on a wedding while demanding perfect pictures of their ‘forever’ day only to get divorced a year later.” OK. He has a point. A huge point. However, I see marriage and living together analogous to owning a house and renting an apartment. So I said:

Me: “O, in all of the apartments you’ve had over your many years of life (28), did you ever paint them, repair their plumbing, strip and re-varnish the cabinets, pay for new carpeting, shovel the walkway, mow, replace windows, or anything else that would fall under the heading of maintenance.”

O: “No, ma.”

Me: “Now that you’re in your house…your mortgaged home in which you have a long term financial stake (note: reasoning involving money seems to work best for him…), are you doing these things now?”

O: Rolling his eyes: “Yes, ma.”

The point I was making to his was this: renting and owning are 2 different things. Now, before you comment about how you are just as committed to a live-in as you would be a spouse, I don’t doubt it! I felt the same in relationships…totally! However, walking away from a live-in partner is easier than divorcing…and yes, I speak from experience. 😬

It’s kinda like when people say: “I love my dog/cat like I’d love a child.” OK. I’ve been there…done that. I LOVED my first little dog, Scooter, with all my heart…as I have every other furry sweetie in my life. {In fact, it’s been 9 months since Dottie died and I can’t go a day without crying. I miss that little shit so much.} However, after I had my son, I realized my love for pets and my love for kids is simply different (this may not be the case for everyone, it’s just my experience). The feeling I have for O is so much more ‘inside’ and that’s the only word I can think of. It’s so much more primal…emotional…deep. All animal species risk their lives for their kids…protect their kids to the bitter end. Channing Sargent writing for oneearth.org says this: “The fierce and protective maternal instinct in different species is at least equal to, and in some cases maybe even stronger, than ours. Biologically programmed to preserve their species by protecting and caring for their young, some species go to incredible lengths to do so…” Even wolf spiders will carry hundreds of their kids on their backs to protect them. Hmmm. Carrying O in a back pouch was difficult enough.

Would I do anything for O? In a freakin’ heartbeat. I can’t see myself in a situation where I wouldn’t run in front of a bullet or pin him down under me during a tornado. Not one. If you told me today: “Kristi, you have to die right now in order for your son to live, I’d say okey dokey.” If it were Edward or Mally? Honestly, I wouldn’t. Because I have O (and ma, pop, T, etc.) to live for. It’s as simple as that. Mom’s have been known to lift cars, walk into fires with no hesitation, jump into swirling water, and the list goes on. I’m not saying all people don’t love completely! Not at all! I’m just saying it’s a unique love with kids, whether they’re biological, step, adopted, nieces, nephews, or any kid you see as family. It’s just ‘more.’

Yes, divorces are easier to get nowadays and Lord knows I’ve had my share. But you’re always ‘connected’ in a way when you’ve been married…especially when you have kids. And even when you don’t, things pop up: when I applied for my passport this week, I had to list my last spouse and other married names I’ve had (thank the Lord I’ve kept mine for 30 years now…it would be too much to write out if I hadn’t). That’s why health forms ask if you’re married, widowed, divorced, or single…because it makes a difference in terms of stress and other potential physical and psychological issues.

So, O’s response to this ‘rant’? “Ma, you are just so old fashioned…you just don’t ‘get’ it.” And he’s right… because I am old and fashionable 😏.

I guess I do want O to be more traditional…more willing to commit to someone by declaring it publicly and having a legal ‘piece of paper’ to show that. But really, all I want is my baby to be happy…to live a healthy, content life…and to eventually, give me ‘something’ (I can no longer say the g_______ word…I’ve been forbidden) to hold and cuddle since all of the people I went to high school with have them. If does this without paper, I’ll love him and support him. If he gets married, I’ll love him and support him. And, I’ll be able to buy a rockin’ mother of the groom dress too. In fact, I’m gonna start looking now. 😉

Kristi xoxo

“The Times They Are A-Changin” ~ Bob Dylan

So, I’m changing the focus of this blog after thinking long and hard about it. You know, my sissy and I spent Sunday together (making macrame’ leaves…we can’t show them to you…they were pretty bad 🙄) and we did a meditation together and really talked about some things. She made a point I’ve really been thinking about and couple that with what I’m learning in my mindfulness/meditation class, I’m ready for a change.

First, T said: “Kristi, you over-analyze things too much.” And…drum roll please…I do! Part of that is being bipolar and having a ___ brain (I was going to say the f-word but restrained myself 😬) that fires differently…I ruminate, worry, go over things again and again in my head while beating myself up. I’m tired of that! Plus, I studied Psychology for years and have taught it for almost 30…analyzing is what we do! So together, I am either in the past, in the future, or trying to force everything to mean something. It’s too much. And, more importantly, there’s no longer a reason to do it.

In mindfulness, you live in the present…the here and now. I’m going to be 55 this week (holy shit that sounds old 😐) and don’t want to spend the next 55 years of my life not being aware of my time now. My pets and my students and my home and my friends and my family and my colleagues and my runs and my walks and my activities…the list goes on. I want to be in each of these moments as they are happening…because I’ve come to understand it’s that moment that really matters. Or almost all that matters!

When I started this blawg, I did it for a few reasons: I wanted to have a place to work out some things which writing helps me to do. I also wanted to show that those of us with mental illness have the same problems and love and work and family stuff that everyone else does. We aren’t weirdos or curiosities. We’re people struggling in life like everyone else with one added ‘thing’.

Finally, I started this right at the beginning of the pandemic when I was stuck at home with Ed and Dottie and going a little bonkers with all the quiet. This gave me something outside of school and I love it.

But, I’m putting a lot to bed today. Like, the past. I’ve made so many mistakes in my life and screwed up so many things…and continually beating myself up over them or thinking I can make things different by typing about them isn’t what I want to do anymore. The past…it’s over. I can celebrate the good from it…make peace with the bad…and work to be mindful of my life right now.

My Shelf!

T and I talked about ‘putting it on a shelf’…you know, like you ‘shelve’ something to think about later. But what if you put something on the shelf and let it collect dust? Why would that matter? So, I actually got a shelf and have a jar and paper. When I get upset or need to vent or need to say something that no one else needs to hear, I’m writing it down and putting it on the shelf. Literally. This visual really helps me to understand that what’s behind me is ‘there’ but no longer affecting me like it has.

I’ve written a lot about the men that have been in my life and I haven’t always been kind and that’s not fair. I have never been in a committed relationship where I didn’t love the guy more than anything at that moment and all are special to me. I have had 3 marriages and 2 serious relationships that all have given me so much…my son, laughter, love, passion. Whatever problems we had, I was just as much to blame and probably even more so a lot of the time! I never want to leave the impression that I was the victim…because I wasn’t. And I apologize if things looked that way. I could fill up a fucking football field with little pieces of paper noting my mistakes and it wouldn’t be enough.

In my class this week, we learned that we need to view mistakes as part of our learning process and to see them as getting us closer to our goals. Further, our mistakes help us to make better choices and decisions next time (Shauna Shapiro”Good Morning, I Love You”). Isn’t that a neat way to look at them?

So, from this point on my blog is going to change a bit. I’m going to write about current issues, my life TODAY, things I’m doing in my classes, outings with ma and sis, etc. And I’m excited about it. 😃

I’m mostly delighted about this though: letting go of all of this is freeing. It truly is. Forgiving myself for all of my mistakes is also needed and I think I’m almost there. You know, it sounds so silly or cliche’ but meditating and relaxing and learning to be mindful are all making me see my life so much more clearly. That I need to embrace today. Love people today. Learn something today.

So, bye bye past. You are on a shelf and I might glance at you now and then but I won’t let you control my life. I’ve learned that I’m the driver of it and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

I love you, peeps…thanks for joining me on this ride. 😍😍😍

Kristi xoxo

“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.” ~ Stephen King

So, the Grand Poobah and I were yacking in our office today and started discussing our own personal goals of being a professor. This came about as we were comparing notes on how many students have seriously struggled this semester due to the continuing issues with the pandemic, stress, job loss, loneliness, anxiety, depression and the list goes on. When he asked me: “Why do you teach? What are your goals for what you do?” I really started thinking about this and within a couple of minutes, I had the answer. Not because I was being flip, but because these ‘unwritten’ goals have guided me throughout my 27 year career as a college instructor.

If you look up the word ‘goal’ in a dictionary (remember when these weren’t online but tomes that weighed more than a medium sized dog? 😳) here’s what you get: ‘The object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.’ (Oxford Languages) What do I want to accomplish with my students? What is my desire for them? Why do I put in the effort I do for them?

First, as simple as it sounds, I want my students to learn. You would think this is a no-brainer but not necessarily. Learning isn’t memorization or meeting stringent deadlines or making sure a text is highlighted or being able to bullshit your way through an essay for a passing grade. Unfortunately, not every professor agrees with this. Throughout the years, I’ve heard things like “We need to teach these kids what it’s like to punch a time clock.” Or, “We need to force these kids to take responsibility…there are no handouts in life” (hmmmm). Or “These kids just need to listen to me for what they need to know.” Or my favorite “You don’t get second chances in life!” OK. And you are on your 8th spouse. Got it. And this list can go on ad nauseum.

Here’s the thing though: I don’t care if it takes a student 1 try or 4 tries to get an essay up to par; it’s that they learned from writing it. What good does it do to put an F on their paper, give it back to them, and then want them to move on in the class? What did they learn? Look, when I learned to crochet (which was a hellish month for both me and sissy to say the least 😐), it took me a thousand tries to know how to work the hook and create the chain and complete stitches. And even then, my projects sucked balls. If I would have stopped after the first try, what would that have gotten me? Nothing.

So why don’t we allow students to absorb the material, have multiple chances on their assignments if they aren’t getting it, and work with them until they do? My job is not to teach a student to ‘punch a time-clock’ in order for them to understand that deadlines are set in stone (many are working jobs or have families…they know deadlines). In fact, in this day and age, many jobs are more flexible than that anyway. My job is to make sure they leave my class with info that will help them in any path they choose.

This ties in to my 2nd goal – to do all I can to help a student be successful in my classes. I have a student who is around my age (shutty 🙄) and she came to me around 4 weeks into the semester and said she was going to drop and that she couldn’t ‘do’ the class. I started talking to her every morning before class and one day, this woman started crying. She’s had a very hard life in terms of all she’s experienced, but this is what she said to me that completely broke my heart: “All my life, since I can remember, my mom said I was a piece of shit and would never do good at anything.”

When she disclosed this to me, her eyes were full of tears and it made me sick to think of a mother being so wickedly cruel to their child. This student hadn’t turned in our first essay of the semester and I told her to write it. She said she couldn’t. I said: “Write it. I don’t care how long it is…how many errors might be in it…how you approach the topic. Just write.” She turned it in a couple of days later and I was gobsmacked! It was freaking excellent…and I don’t use that word lightly. Her ideas and understanding of the material was deeper than most students and her writing was impeccable. I posted her A and she came to me the next day and said this: “You didn’t have to give me an A.” And I replied: “Look, I don’t give anything and I certainly have never given a pity or mercy grade in my life. In my classes, you earn your grades and you earned this A.”

Then I did this: “I looked in her eyes and said: you are a smart, kind, outgoing woman who has the tools to be successful in anything you choose to pursue. You are not a piece of shit. Your mom was a sick woman who used her innocent daughter as an outlet for her own issues. That is not who you are. Now say it to me.” She cried and said she couldn’t. I said: “Look, Professor K is telling you to do this and you know how tough I am!” She smiled, looked down and said…in a soft voice: “I’m not a piece of shit. I am capable.” I told her to say it again while looking in my eyes and she did. In the last 11 weeks, her confidence, participation, and eagerness has done a 180° turn and she went from an F in my class to an A.

When she told me she was going to drop, I could have had that done in seconds. For piss sakes, if she wants to drop…drop her. No. Because that’s not my goal. My goal is for every student to feel like they accomplished something in my class…had a success they can build on…had a worthwhile experience. By the way, she calls me ‘Mama K’ in my office (even though she’s just a tad older!) and hugs me every. single. day. She, my sweetie peeps, is a success.

Another goal I have is to be relatable. I’ve been in higher education longer than some of you have been alive and I’m here to tell you this: some professors get off on this power trip of having students’ grades in their sweaty palms. They get off on ‘taking control’ and being the ‘only one right’ and ordering ‘quit talking…you need to listen to me.’ They get off on the power. So ooooooooo…you have power over 20 year olds. Big accomplishment.

If I had wanted power, I sure as hell wouldn’t have gone into teaching and if the only thing that validates my profession is the control I have over my students, I have deeper issues that need to be addressed.

I don’t necessarily expect my students to love me…or to even like me. But I do want to set up an atmosphere where they know they can talk to me, share their opinions, question what I’m saying, all while knowing I won’t judge them no matter what. Have you ever had someone ask for your opinion and then chastise you for it by saying ‘that’s wrong.’ What? How can MY opinion be wrong? It can’t. And neither can yours.

This is also why I share my experiences (obviously when appropriate) about having bipolar, having been sexually abused, having been divorced 3 times (cough cough), having a ma who experienced domestic violence, etc. I want students to know I’m real. I understand. I’ll accept whatever they want to tell me. I want them to see me as an ‘ally’ in their college experience…someone working alongside of them…not against them.

This also brings me to compassion. I want my students to see I’ll cry with them…open up to them so they know they aren’t alone in their own struggles…empathize with issues they are dealing with…understand when they say “I just couldn’t do my assignment this week”, etc. I had a student come to me once regarding their late work and I told them they could make up what they had missed. Why? He had talked about a death in his family all while he was dealing with the loss of a job and family issues surrounding the funeral. He thanked me profusely for this opportunity and said he felt guilty for turning in late assignments. I said there should be no guilt whatsoever! That’s a lot on his plate and I wouldn’t have been able to focus on the topic of social structure either. C’mon. Why is it weak for professors to have compassion for what our students are going through?

Some professors have this policy: “NO LATE WORK NO MATTER WHAT.” Really? I kid you not but I knew a professor years ago that wouldn’t let a student make up an exam they missed because they had suffered a miscarriage that week. The prof said: “A deadline is a deadline. I break it for you, I break it for everyone.”

Are you fucking (sorry, ma 😲) kidding me? A fucking (ditto, ma 🤨) exam is more important than this woman losing her baby? I was gobsmacked and so disgusted by this (and yes, told the student to talk to our dean) I wanted to say this: “Look, Prof. You know what you just taught this student? That their pain doesn’t matter. Their loss doesn’t matter. Their life doesn’t matter. All that matters is a fucking (last one, ma 😬) date you arbitrarily put on a syllabus.” Yep. That taught them a lot.

Why can’t we all have compassion for our students? Understand that life gets in the way of due dates…assignments…studying. I remember O being sick and his school calling me at school to come pick him up. I shot off a quick e-mail to my students saying classes were cancelled and when I was running out the door, one of my colleagues said this: “Must be nice to just up and leave work because you have a kid.” And I responded with: “Look. My kid is forever and this is a job. My family will always come first.” If I had been a student, not much would have been turned in that week…O ended up getting pneumonia. So, if I would have missed a quiz, I would have been told ‘too bad’? Yes…by some profs.

Look, compassion is one of these things that you give back what you get. If I show compassion and empathy and true care for my students, I’m teaching them a lesson more important than understanding the 3 theoretical perspectives of sociology: that we have to take care of one another.

Other goals I have? I want to show my students how applicable the material is…how they can actually use it in their everyday lives. I want to be adaptable in terms of what students and classes need in any given semester. I want them to know it’s not my classroom…it’s theirs. It’s a student centered environment where they are the ones in the spotlight. It’s not the Professor K show.

It sounds like a cliche but actually, cliches are often based in truth: one bad professor can ruin a student’s college life. You think that woman who miscarried wanted to walk into another classroom after that? You think if I would have dropped that student she would have continued her studies still believing the words her mom heaped on her? You think if I played the power card and said “No…you cannot re-do that paper to pass” that student is going to be motivated? I love what I do. I take it seriously. And, I do it the way I do it because I care. Because I want students to walk out of my classes with not only the academics, but lessons in life, compassion, open mindedness, respect and a love for learning that can take them as far as they want to go.

Kristi xoxo

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