“It’s dangerous to go alone, take this!” ~ The Old Man (Legend of Zelda)

So, I need to take back something I told my sonshine a long while back because I have now done what I swore I never would. This is a biggie peeps, and I hope that by making this a public confession, I’ll save others from the same fate: I’m now playing an online game where I am spending REAL money to get CARTOON coins to try to move up yet ANOTHER level that consists of me knocking down obstacles to please a ANIMATED king who gives me a thumbs up all while participating in SKY RACES with people I’ve never seen and are probably 8 year olds playing while they’re pooping on the toilet and hiding from their parents while I frantically crush rocks/pots/dishes/tubes, etc. so I can beat these little beasts who want to deprive me of a TREASURE CHEST that has at least 2 TNT bombs in it. Whew. That felt good. 🤨

My son loves gaming and I’m the one that started him on this journey. When I was teaching adjunct and O was a little guy, I worked part-time for a company called “Computer Tots” (which is still going strong today) in which trained teachers took computers to daycare centers, etc. and worked with kids on basic skills. At the time, this was a HUGE deal since we weren’t even using e-mail in our world and Windows was still only something ma had hanging in every room of her house 🙄. Anyhoot, we supplied the computers since most places didn’t have them (does anyone hear the sound of dinosaurs right now?) so I’d lug it back and forth from classes to home. Computers in 1996 were quite cumbersome and the hook-up was a freaking nightmare. But the bonus was that O could use it at home anytime so I’d hook it up and let him at it. One of the games I had was ‘Darby the Dragon’ in which little tykes had to solve puzzle and put together clues to help Darby get his sister Sparkle a ‘magic potion’ to help her grow (I think that’s called ‘vitamins’ now 😳 ). The music was annoying as hell and the song will still resonate through my nightmares at times. Did O ever ‘win’ this and get the potion? Yes. Did it set him on a lifelong course of gaming? Yes.

Very complicated!

My journey of video games started in the 80’s. Who can forget Pong? The first game sissy and I ever had where you ‘competed’ against someone to bat a square ball around your TV screen with a rectangle you could only move up and down. Every hit of the ball against any part of the screen resulted in a digital ‘plunk’ sound that could put you in a hypnotic trance in a matter of minutes. Besides this exhilarating competition, the best part was to watch ma or dad hook the damn thing up…almost as fun at witnessing them hanging wallpaper together 😐. Anyhoot, T and I couldn’t believe that you could actually HIT A BALL on a SCREEN! Wow! That’s technology, folks.

Later we got an Atari for Christmas and now had more games to play. Space Invaders was very sophisticated…alien ships were shooting at you and you had to fire back and hide at the same time. In this game, your ship could be destroyed so the pressure was really on. Asteroids was nail biting excitement too: we had to save the world by destroying these monochrome nuggets before they hit you and then catapulted to earth destroying all of mankind. Let’s just suffice it to say that there’s a reason I don’t work for NASA…outside of the fact that majoring in astrophysics would have been about a million levels above what my brain is capable of processing.

More and more games began coming out and spending the afternoon at the video arcade at the mall…with your pockets full of quarters with an extra $5 to buy a slice of Garcia’s Gut-Buster pizza…was the ultimate. Frogger, Centipede, Donkey Kong, Dig-Dug, and Duck Hunt were personal favorites and at one time I worried I might be a bit of a psychopath (shutty 😬) since watching my frog getting run over by a bus didn’t affect me much. {Note to M: I’m so sorry I was Ms. Pac-Man champ at summer music camp in 1984 and that I flaunted it every chance I got. Yes, you were first chair flute out of hundreds of campers and performed solos flawlessly, but I moved that yellow circle around a maze and gobbled up monsters like nobody’s business. Just saying.}.

Mario Brothers changed everything. Not only was this a VERY sophisticated game in terms of graphics and play, but Nintendo consoles were available for purchase and you could start playing these arcade games in your own living room. Wow! Grampa and Gramma spoiled sissy, cousin and I and bought us one for their house. Little did they know we’d be there all of the time while interferring with gramma’s soap operas. She was a champ though and would call her friend Norma for updates.

While we were playing one day, my sister whacked bricks with Mario’s head enough times so that she popped through the ceiling and he was now above the ground! We were all shouting because we thought she had broken the game but as she started running through this new level, we were cheering her on as if she were dismantling a bomb…it was a thrill. And yes, it was one of the most proud moments I’ve ever had with T…despite her being a great mom, grammy, and LPN.

As my boy started playing his own games, I was so impressed. By the age of 4 he could pretty much do all I could (and honestly more…) on a computer and would win 95% of the games we played together. This just goes to show that a Master’s degree isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When I bought him Zelda, his life changed. It was a story you played out with decisions affecting your progress. It was action/adventure game and O worked so hard to defeat the evil king Ganon…when he did it the first time, he swelled with pride. Zelda is still going strong today and O still plays all new incarnations of it.

And like a good ma, I still give him the newest gaming gadgets every chance I get. Last Christmas, it was VR goggles and we spent the afternoon watching each other put the goggles on and then try to get into VR rooms…juggle clubs…piece together things and if you didn’t know what you were seeing, you’d think we’d all gone mad as we watched each other grapple around the air while turning green from the motion sickness. Nothing says Christmas fun like throwing up after your turn. 😏

But I bitch about these. My mantra from the very beginning was this: “O, you only play AFTER you’ve done your homework or chores!” And now: “O, get off that freaking screen and talk to your mother.” Neither has worked well and I used to get a bit pissy about it…I know, that’s hard to believe.

Much to my chagrin though, the tables have turned. The first time I bought coins to further my ‘lives’, I told O it was only for that particular level (#22) and the $9.99 would be all I’d ever invest. I’m 55…a professor…somewhat frugal…and I know my limits. I have control.

No…I have found out that I really don’t. I’m on level #881 right now and yes, you can pause and work through your enviousness of this accomplishment. I’ll wait.

I never thought I’d be so ‘into’ (young adult vernacular) a game that I’d spend money to make sure I progressed. I also never thought I’d play it while on the toilet (like the little guys I am probably competing against 😳), at the dinner table while Edward waits for his plate to lick, during a zoom meeting (just once…I swear…cough cough) and while telling ma I can’t talk right then because I’m vacuuming. Am I proud of this? No. Will I continue to do this? Most likely.

See, it’s like I have too. Every 50 levels you get to play for coins and use your TNT and disco balls to earn more and more. You can earn cannons and arrows with every few games won and winning a Sky Race where you beat 15 levels before anyone else is exhilarating.

So, I finally get it. I get the excitement and time and energy spent on playing a game. A game. Because that’s all it is, right? But actually, I’m starting to feel differently about it. Living by myself can get downright lonely at times and King’s Cup is a great distraction. Having to figure out moves and puzzles and think ahead a few steps can fire up these old neurons. And building up the King’s rooms in his castle has given me some incredible decorating ideas…such as having a spa in the middle of my living room or building a fountain with dogs spitting out streams of water in my backyard.

And it’s also this: a way to escape from the world of pandemics, threats of war, poverty, violence, and the list goes on. So maybe I was wrong about gaming and it’s ‘uselessness’. It’s actually a way to disconnect from reality for a bit…something we probably all feel like doing from time to time. And of course I know how to play in moderation. I’m a mature, educated, experienced adult who….

WAIT! I have to cut this short…there’s a sale on coins and I can buy some extra sledgehammers! You just never know when they’ll come in handy.

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. 😃

“Are you going to finish that sentence or leave me dangling?” ~ Donna Stone

Dear Donna,

So, you are probably aware that your name is synonymous with being the perfect mother and wife as seen on your TV show (and just so people don’t forget, you were an Oscar winner as well! 🤩) and you were one of the first women on TV to take on a leading role…yea! You know, when I’ve heard people mention ‘The Donna Reed Show’ it’s usually in a somewhat facetious manner though. Because of this, I assumed you were yet another 1950’s mom that always had the answers and always submitted to your hubby and kids when I had never even watched your show. But thanks to Amazon Video (you would love it 😃 ), I have now seen every episode and am gobsmacked by it.

I grew up watching ‘The Brady Bunch’ and ‘The Partridge Family’ (I wanted to be Mrs. David Cassidy badly) and while the shows were great, the problems the families faced were dealt with by using humor and minimizing the seriousness of what these issues were. Most often, they were trivial: for example, Marcia (on the Brady Bunch…I wanted her hair so bad…) getting bonked in the nose and it swelling up before a date. Yes, it was fun to watch but no, the ‘issue’ was pretty silly.

Anyhoot, I figured your show would be the same…trivial issues and perfect parenting. But it’s not! You tackled some really serious things. In ‘The Father’s Image’, Alex (your adorable pediatrician hubby who I have fallen somewhat in love with 🥰) has a young patient who has a chance of dying. It was going to take 4 hours or so of monitoring to see if the child was going to survive and while the surgeon kept an eye on things, Alex went home after an all-nighter with her. You knew something was wrong…you could see it in his behavior. But, when he said he didn’t want to talk about, you accepted that. Mary and Jeff both needed their father that day and demanded his time. He kept checking in with the hospital but put aside his worry to focus on his children and you. He forced himself to be a father and hubby during one of the worst times a doctor can face.

Not only was this a difficult issue to contemplate…the loss of a little girl…but it also showed how parents have to balance so much. Being there for work and then for children can be tricky and the show always handled such situations well.

In fact, I really liked it when you and Alex argued! The arguments were ‘real’ in that they weren’t solved with just a kiss. I really liked “The Merry Month of April” when Alex decides to complete the tax returns on his own. Needless to say, the stress is real. You had already given the papers to your accountant and question why Alex would want to do these forms anyway. The argument ensues over who is best for the task and your decision to use an accountant wins. I love that you win! So many wives on TV acquiesce to the wants of the hubby instead of standing up for what they think is best.

I also loved the episode “Mrs. Stone and Dr. Hyde” when you filled in for Alex’s vacationing office assistant. You quickly found out that hubby is much different in his professional life and his snapping and demands pissed you off! You argued with him about this treatment of you, but after a few spats you realized that he’s a doctor first in his office…it’s not time for the wife. And you quickly learned how important running his office to his standards was when an unconscious boy was brought in and Alex had to use various equipment to diagnose him.

And what I really like about your relationship is that passion. You don’t just see pecks…you guys kiss and flirt and dance and communicate and go out as a couple for that time together. That’s such a great example for relationships.

And as a mom? You rocked there too! You let your kids fail…let them make decisions and try these out without interfering all while understanding that our kids often need to learn their own lessons. Jeff picking up a raffle ticket he saw a woman drop which was the winning ticket for the prize: an awesome sports car. He told you about the ticket and you knew that the right thing to do would be to find the lady in order to give her the car. But, as would be the case with most 16 year olds, Jeff didn’t want too. And who could blame him? The car was amazing and he loved driving it. However, he saw the woman out and about with her little girl and did the right thing.

The point is, you didn’t force him. Make him feel bad. Get angry when he kept the car for a time. You let him make this moral decision himself and the lesson learned had to have been more impactful. Sometimes we have to let our kids fall down…but be there when they get back up.

I also loved how you handled Mary when she wanted to forgo college in order to begin a singing career. You got her a singing job at your alma mater’s open house…the college that you wanted Mary to attend. Instead of going to the campus in a car, you got bus tickets and Mary got a taste of what being on the road was like. You also pushed her into practicing which was realistic. And? Mary sang at the open house and you were stunned by her ability. The tears in your eyes were understandable and you realized that a singing career was a possibility…you were willing to support her in that. Finally, Mary decided singing in college was a great balance. The point? You tried to show your daughter the reality of her choice while also appreciating the talent she had.

In fact, I really liked that your kids could be…well…little mouthy shits. It was much more real that way!

You know, people called you an ‘anti-feminist’ since you were ‘just’ a housewife. WHAT? You loved what you did and being a wife and mom is definitely a job…I worked harder as a wife and mama when my son was a little guy than I do now teaching 9 classes a semester! And after all, if we work outside the home, we pay someone to do this mothering gig for us for hours a day. And they get paid. When we do it ourselves, the respect lessens 🤔. But you took this societal role and transformed it. You were strong, opinionated, compassionate, etc. You don’t have to be a NASA engineer to illustrate the concept of feminism. Women can do that in any capacity…and you chose the home as your domain. Good for you.

In fact, in dissertation by Anne M. Newton she says this regarding you and the feminist movement that Betty Friedan talks about in her book “The Feminine Mystique”:

Although Reed foreshadowed some of Friedan’s argument, the actress did not necessarily seek to overturn societal roles. She focused more on empowering women within those roles, particularly within the home. Reed’s Donna Stone reflected the dissatisfaction with the cultural emphasis on domesticity, but her character clearly values being a wife and mother. By seeking to embolden women to demand more choices within and outside of the home, Reed channeled what scholar Christina Hoff Sommers labels the “maternal feminist movement.”

Anne M. Newton

In other words, you weren’t behind the times…you were progressing through them during the tumultuous era of feminism. Yea!

Anyhoot, I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate your image of a wife and mother; your portrayal began in 1959 but is still something to look up to today. What a great legacy that is. I know I’ll go back and watch your shows again and again…I tend to do that. I’m also going to show clips in my Marriage and Family classes to illustrate a few different things. I’m sure my students will become your fans as well.

Kristi xoxo

P.S. No matter what, you always looked gorgeous and I need to start wearing high heels around the house. 😃

“America is another name for opportunity” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Me and my sonshine…the Statue of Liberty is in the background!

So, I’m going to preface this post with a HUGE disclaimer: I LOVE THE USA! I grew up in a time when patriotism was important and everyone recited the pledge of allegiance and sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” daily. I believe we have amazing people…a beautiful country with everything from mountains to oceans to deserts…and opportunities/freedoms that simply don’t exist in scores of other nations in the world. Grampa served 3 years in the Navy during WWII and my Great Uncle was one of the men who stormed the beach at Normandy and lived. Needless to say, my family takes a lot of pride in this. 🙂

I also used to believe that criticizing any aspect of this country is wrong…we need to just believe we are the greatest country on earth, bar none. In fact, criticism of any aspects is still seen as unpatriotic by many even today…as if seeing the problems/issues we face cuts down the country as a whole. That if we just close our eyes and repeat the mantra of ‘we are the best and that’s all there is to it’ takes away from the greatness we do have in so many ways.

However, I watched a video on YouTube by David Cross where he addresses social issues that plague us and then did my own research to make sure. Honestly, the first time this video popped up in my feed which is entitled “Why America Sucks at Everything” I was quite taken aback and thought “Here’s another jerk that is un-American”. Actually, my language was a bit more colorful to say the least and the title still riles me…we don’t ‘suck’ at everything…not at all! But, I watched it over breakfast and began objectively paying attention to these issues, looked into them myself, and realized that seeing these problems is not wrong at all…it’s right!

Why is it people are so hesitant to do this in other capacities as well? “Hey hon, what you did was hurtful and I need you to understand that.” Answer: “Fuck off.” Or, “Hey, I’m so sorry I don’t feel the way you do about whatever…” Answer: “Fuck off.” Or, “Hey, I think we need to talk about what happened and clear things up.” Answer: “Fuck off.” Charming…and so so useful as well. 🙄

So, let’s take a look at some of these problems that plague the US and what really opened my eyes.

YES! We are the richest country in the world…and ever in the history of the world. We have 18 million millionaires (no, I’m not one on my community college salary but I’m hoping for a raise 🙄) and $100 trillion dollars in wealth. But, according to statista, we have the 3rd highest childhood poverty rate among developed nations, just under Israel and Chile with only a 1% separating us from the top. Hmmmm…the most money in the world and 21.2% of kids living in poverty. How can that be? We are also 3rd in poverty and .1% lower than the 2nd ranked country of Hungary. Costa Rica is the highest OECD country in poverty and only 2.1% higher. I’m sorry, but this just isn’t right to me.

A lot of it has to do with medical costs: According to David, the US has the highest medical costs, the lowest effectiveness and the lowest efficiency of any other developed country and 66% of bankruptcies in the US are due to medical costs. Because of our exorbitant medical costs, people often put off care until forced to get it, often through an urgent care or ER which are very expensive. If you take a look-see at money ‘out’ in terms of taxes and health premiums, this is interesting: Canadian workers pay 11% of their incomes to taxes, the UK spends 26% and Americans spend 43% of our income to taxes and health premiums, yet these other 2 countries have paid healthcare. It’s crazy to think we spend almost half our paychecks to taxes and healthcare, yet even working people can’t afford the services. Prices are so overinflated, especially by pharmaceutical companies: insulin in Canada = $20. In the US: $300. Wow. And, 33% of GoFundMe asks are for medical bills. That’s so sad to me.

And it’s not that Americans are lazy…not at all! We have the longest work hours but less job support, worse unemployment benefits, the fewest of family benefits, and the highest rate of underpaid workers. We also have less unionization which could be a correlating factor. In other words, we work the hardest but give the most to the government. Blech.

As you know by now, education is a hot button issue with me and the metrics for this aren’t great either. According to oecd.org:

  • The US ranks 14th in the world in terms of higher ed: 42% of 25-34 year olds have achieved this.
  • The odds that a young person in the U.S. will be in higher education if his or her parents do not have an upper secondary education is 29% which is one of the lowest levels among OECD countries.
  • The U.S ranks 28th in the percentage of 4-year-olds in early childhood education, with a 69% enrolment rate.
  • Teachers in the U.S. spend between 1 050 and 1 100 hours a year teaching – much more than in almost every country (even though Americans often think teachers have so much free time).

However, our testing score in reading and math are pretty much in line with other countries and are above OECD averages in reading and science! That’s music to this teacher’s ears. 😃

In terms of Americans health, the stats are pretty grim. According to commonwealthfund.org:

  • The U.S. has the lowest life expectancy and highest suicide rates among the 11 richest nations in the world.
  • The U.S. has the highest chronic disease burden and an obesity rate – 2x higher than the OECD average.
  • Compared to peer nations, the U.S. has among the highest number of hospitalizations from preventable causes and the highest rate of avoidable deaths.
  • BUT, we also have the best preventative measures (breast cancer screenings, etc.) than any of the 11 countries.

The CDC states the obesity rate in the US is 42.4% (adults) and 19.3% among kids. Causes: poor nutrition (hello fast food 🤢, oversized portions, lack of access to stores with fresh veggies/fruit, and advertising), lack of physical activity because of unsafe neighborhoods, etc. (and another reason to turn off those blasted screens), genetics, health conditions and meds (did you know many antidepressants and other psychotropic meds cause weight gain and people often choose not to take them because of this?), and stress/emotional factors/poor sleep.

Finally, mhanational.org says this about mental health in America (pre-pandemic 2019):

  • 19.86% of adults experience a mental illness which equals nearly 50 million Americans.  
  • 15.08% of youth experienced a major depressive episode and 10.6% of youth in the U.S. have severe major depression.
  • Over half of adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment, totaling over 27 million adults in the U.S. who are going untreated. 
  •  7.74% of U.S. adults and 4.08% of youth had a substance use disorder 

Also, the NIMH found this regarding suicide (2019):

  • Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States – over 47,500 people a year.
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people between 10 – 34 years old, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 – 44.
  • There were nearly two and a half times as many suicides (47,511) in the United States as there were homicides (19,141).

So the point of this? As I was grading the finals from my Social Problems class (where we talk about issues such as racism, sexism, poverty, health, education, crime, drugs, etc.), here’s what one student had to say: “Social problems range from something so small to something that can affect a nation. How do you end the vicious cycle of the problems? I believe they will never be able to get to the root. However, believing that because most of the problems only matter to a few people.” Another student added this: “I’ve spent the semester taking in new knowledge and integrating it into my understanding of Sociology and the world. I think I’ve gained even more compassion for my fellow humans, and I understand their struggles a little bit better. I’ve learned some different ways to help, to get involved. Our country, and all countries, have social issues, and it’s up to us to start solving them.”

It made me realize that many people don’t know the struggles Americans face or the issues that affect each of us so much. Looking at these issues of health, money, education, etc. aren’t dissing America…it’s looking at what needs to be fixed…helped…worked on. NO country is perfect and yes, I truly believe America is the greatest nation on earth; of course I do because we have so much going for us all including opportunities, personal freedoms, being a world leader in tech and scientific advances, having proud citizens who love this country, using a business model other countries try to emulate, being a leader in popular culture, and the list goes on! Plus, very important to me: I do have freedom to talk about these things without fear of reprisal from the government.

When people criticize America my dander goes up and I become extremely defensive. But it’s like a family or any relationship: if you don’t address the ‘bad’ that’s inherent in all of them since we are imperfect human beings, nothing will change. Nothing will be resolved. Nothing will move forward. And it takes all of the people in the relationship/family to make this happen. Isn’t that true with these issues as well? Our country has some problems that we need to admit, address, and work together to resolve. Will this ever fully happen? No. Of course not. But, can we all try to make things a bit better? Yep…I think so.

Kristi xoxo

Lord, I love Lady Gaga…my biggest celeb crush!

 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

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

“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.” ~ Sylvia Plath

So, my sweetie students and I were discussing Fritz Perls today (father of Gestalt Therapy 😳) and it reminded me so much of what else I’ve been studying: mindfulness. The whole idea behind Gestalt (‘configuration’) psychology is to be more aware of yourself, to stay present, and to process things in the here and now. Further, it’s also based on the idea that our overall perception depends on the interaction between many factors, including our past experiences, current environment, thoughts, feelings, and needs. Whew. Nice lecture, huh?

Anyhoot, as we were talking about our perceptions of ourselves and how much it affects the ‘whole’ of our being, one of my students who knows me well said this to me: “Professor K, you are always so dismissive of yourself. You always put yourself down and act like less than who you really are.” Wow. This really hit me because I know what I think about myself on the inside, but had no idea that it was seeping into the outside as well. However, as I’ve been contemplating it (in the new meditation area I made in my house…complete with chakra stones and all!😲 ), I started to understand where this has come from and why it’s such a big part of the ‘whole’ that I am.

I’m talking about rejection. None of us likes rejection…right? However, some of us handle it better than others. My sissy is wonderful…truly! She is never scared to speak her mind is one of the most authentic people I know in my life. If someone doesn’t like her, she says: “Fuck them! What the hell does that mean in my life?” I love that and wish I was that strong! Instead I say: “Why the hell don’t you like me and how can I act so you will?”

You know, I’ve talked a lot on this blawg about wearing masks and taking off the mask that covered up my bipolar was so hard. Having to confront the part of me that has a mental illness was terrifying…both in terms of myself but also in terms of how others would see me. But that’s my big ‘mask’ accomplishment…that bipolar one. But what about the others?

As we all know, I’ve experienced rejection in my life, like so many of you have as well. Do I take it harder because my emotional make-up is screwed up by my bipolar brain? Am I just more sensitive? Hmmmmm.

I think this rejection started in grade school when both T and I were bullied…we both had buck teeth and mousy hair and didn’t have the coolest clothes. And this continued through high school with me. I had 2 bullies that were particularly brutal and as many secrets as I’ve shared with ma, sissy, partners, and friends, I’ve never ever told anyone what one of the bullies would call me. It still hurts that much after 35 (cough cough) years. 😔

Then we have my relationships. O’s dad was terrific and I thought our marriage was a good one and would last forever. After we divorced, I was convinced we would co-parent O and be friendly and cordial…hells bells, we’d known each other since the 3rd grade and that’s a lot of history. This didn’t happen though. In his family, after you get divorced, you get cut out of pics and the ex-spouse simply pretends like you never existed. Charming. 🙄

So, when we see each other at graduations, weddings, etc. he nods at me. Yes, I said NOD. I gave birth to his only child (who by the way is amazing beyond anything) and we were married for 13 years. And he nods at me. Hmmmm. That may be his families mode of operandi, but it sucks balls because it feels like such a rejection. Not even a ‘hello’? Jeez.

Fast forward to Hubby 3. I’ve been thinking a lot about him lately and I’ve always said how we were still besties and talked just about everyday. But I did something last week I didn’t think I’d ever do: I told him ‘goodbye’ and that I couldn’t be his friend anymore. He’s with another woman…the one who was in his life while we were still together. He says he loves me…wishes he’d never divorced me…that I made him happier than anyone…but he’s with her. Period. He made his choice and can’t have it both ways. The straw that broke my proverbial camel’s back was this: a couple of weeks ago, the ‘club’ went down to Daytona for a bike thing and he took her with them. They had a vacation while down there and he got in the ocean for the first time in his life…something I had always wanted to do with him. Throughout all of our marriage, I’d ask to go on these trips with him and he’d say no every time. But then he took her. And that opened my eyes to the fact he’s hanging on to something that’s no longer there and I don’t deserve, nor need to listen to the ‘fun’ he has with his (I want to put another word in here but I’m going to be nice 😐) girlfriend when he never did the same with me. I realized, like a curtain opening, that he doesn’t love me…he just wants me in the wings and I’m not going to do that anymore.

Then J came into my life and started cheating on me months into the relationship and continued throughout the entire 3 years we were together. If that’s not a rejection, I don’t know what is. Basically it said: “You aren’t enough for me. I don’t love you enough to be faithful. I love this woman more.” Yikes. How can you feel good about yourself in terms of how men see you when this is thrown at you again and again? Then when we ‘broke up’, he never spoke to me again…and still never has. Yes, I loved him for 3 years through some pretty bad crap not many women would have, adored and parented the heck out of his precious kids, and helped him go from a jobless vet living in his grandma’s basement to someone with his own home, money, etc. He always used to say I ‘saved him’ but he treated me like shit and then walked away without another word. Rejection to the max.

Finally, my last relationship. Yep…I thought this was it. We had so many great times and I traveled all the time to see him in another state and then had him live with me while he found a house here. He has a self-proclaimed ‘anger issue’ and when he lashed out at me a couple of times, I let it go. I wanted to make it work! Then we got Covid and Dottie died and I had 3 surgeries and he was moving and my mania was out of control due to meds and the list goes on. So, we get into an argument where he said some pretty nasty things…and I said something back that I know hurt him. He walked out and I’ve literally never seen him or talked to him again…even though he lives 1 door down from me! He completely ghosted me after knowing each other 35 years. Once again, rejection.

By Bianca Xunise – there’s an entire comic about this on The Lily. It’s GREAT!

Being dismissed like this by these men has created a ‘habit’ of demeaning my own self…even though I really do love who I am. It’s almost like a knee-jerk reaction. I’ve been made to feel I’m expendable. Extraneous. So…bored with me? Have sex with other women. Tired of being with me? Move in with the (cough cough) woman (🤢) you were seeing before you walked out the door. Angry at me for losing my temper? Ghost me and never acknowledge I even existed in the first place.

Am I that easily forgotten? That easy to get over? That easy to pretend like ‘we’ never happened?

See, I don’t do that. It’s beyond me how B and I could have gone through the birth and raising of our son and spent 13 years of our lives together every day…often working side by side…and then nothing. I don’t understand how you can say you’re in love with someone while making plans to hook up with another woman at the same time. I don’t get how you say you are committed to a relationship, say some pretty terrible things, but when something is said back, it’s over. By the way, I’ve e-mailed this guy 2 times…I’m obviously blocked so I used another address. It was actually an apology about my role in the argument and I’ve never heard a thing back. It hurts but as T says, ‘fuck him!’ She’s the best!

I don’t know why I still find the need to do this, but I depend on others for much of my validation. See, I feel really good about me in terms of me. But in terms of men and relationships, I’m starting to think I’m one of these women who will be used and thrown away. It makes me wonder if any of these men ‘really’ loved me. Their words said they did…but their actions? Nope.

So back to my student: I need to quit being so dismissive of myself. Quit thinking I am ‘rubble’ that can be tossed away. That I’m not worth working for…trying for…apologizing too…or even talking too. Is it a game guys play? Hmmm. I don’t think so. I know my son doesn’t do this…I know my dad didn’t do this with ma…I know sissy’s hubby is there through good and bad. So is it me? How can I not think that? But even more frustrating, why am I convinced it’s all about ‘me’ and my short-comings? Why can’t I see outside of myself at their short-comings too?

I always call ma on my way home from school and we were talking about this. She said: “Kristi, this is their lack. Not yours. You wouldn’t do this to someone…but they would. That shows you who they are.”

And she’s right. I’ve had a couple of relationships that I ended and we’re friends. I would never ghost somebody. Ignore them. Act like they never existed. It’s cruel and simply not in me to do.

Here’s what I told ma today as we were finishing up our daily cluck fest: “You know, I don’t think I want someone else in my life. It’s too hard knowing that what they say and what they might do may not match up. It’s just too damn hard to take that risk again.” And I meant it. But that’s sad to me. To think that these men just didn’t take away themselves but took something inside of me too. The openness to believe in people and the ability to trust them when they say forever. They’ve taken away my ability to look at myself and not be so judgemental…so brutal about ‘what could I have done different?’…so willing to think it’s all me. Thanks, guys. 🙄

You know, it makes me sad to think I might be alone for the rest of my life…but you know what? It makes me even more sad to know how people can deceive you and lie to you and hurt you…and they don’t really care.

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

“…never pass up a bathroom…” from The Bucket List

So, we are talking about ageism in my Intro classes which has to be my favorite topic we cover. In fact, talking about age is my favorite activity ever…just below putting a hot fireplace poker in my eye. 😳

Anyhoot, here’s a question that came up today when we were talking about our life expectancy: “Would you want to know what day you were going to die?” Half of the class nodded while the other half shook their head vigorously. The ones that said yes talked about how they would get things done…travel…be with family, etc. The ones that said no stated that the anxiety of knowing this would put a damper on the rest of your life.

I’ve been thinking about this today and don’t know which I’d choose…both sides have valid arguments. One student said “If I knew when I was going to die, I’d write out a bucket list and work to cross everything off.”

Did you know the term ‘bucket list’ didn’t come about until the 2007 film with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, and did you also know I’d give my left arm to hear Morgan Freeman read to me in person. Just sayin’.

I think I might be one of the few people I know that doesn’t have a bucket list and I actually have felt bad about that…like I have no goals or aspirations. Anyhoot, according to howtoadult.com, the most commonly found items on bucket lists from around the world are:

  • See the Northern Lights – OK, I’m going to admit this: I had no freaking idea where these were but now that I know they’re in Iceland, the chance of me moseying up there is slim. However, my son really wants to go to Iceland even though he hates the cold to the point if it’s under 60, he bitches about it. Go figure.
  • Run a Marathon – DONE! I’ve run 5 marathons in my life: 2 in Chicago, the St. Louis, the Green Bay, and Disney from which I have a gold Mickey Mouse medal! Yea!
  • Take an African Safari – my friend travels to Africa twice a year to spend time at the By Grace Orphanage in Kayole, Kenya. She created a non-profit, Stand up for Grace, and I’ve helped her with it since it’s inception 15 years ago. Unbeknownst to ma, I am planning to go next winter. It’s in a fairly dangerous place but I want to meet these kids so badly and work to make where they live better. Ma is totally against this…she’s convinced I won’t come back for whatever reason: getting run over by a rhino, getting held up (this has happened to my friend), saying or doing something unacceptable in the area and being jailed (yes, I have a big mouth and am impulsive…but yes, my friend would be there reeling me in), and the list goes on. So ma…if you’re reading this: I’ll be fine! OK?
  • Write a Story – I’ve written lots of kids books that I’ve mentioned before and really want to get them published badly…this is my goal. I’m also writing a book on being bipolar…it’s something I know a tad bit about and I hope to finish it during Christmas break. If, I’m not too busy shoving ma’s roasted pecans down my gullet the entire time. 😐
  • Walk Along the Great Wall of China – I’m gonna be honest here but I have absolutely no desire to go to China. The wall looks amazing and the history behind it is fascinating, but seeing it on Google earth has pretty much been enough for me.
  • Learn to Play an Instrument – I would love to learn to play the ukulele. I know I know…it sounds silly but I love the sound of it! I first wanted one when I saw the Andy Griffith show episode where the ‘Fun Girls’ have one and are playing it for Barney in the jail. What more can I say? (Ma…remember when you said you need Christmas ideas…well…here you go…😐).
  • Snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef – I know this would be fucking amazing and I love love love the water. However, the thought of a 22 hour plane ride makes me want to puke. Literally. Ma and pop would draw straws to see who had to sit by me on planes when the family went on vacation. The loser got to watch me puke in bags for the duration of the trip. Charmed I’m sure. 🤢
  • Skydiving – O has done this and he loved it! The video of him is so cute but it scared the shit out of me when he left to go do this with his dad. My favorite part of his video is when the guy filming asks if there’s anything he wants to say before jumping and he says: “I love you, Mom!” This is all while his dad was sitting by him and rolling his eyes. I love it. However, me jump out of a plane? I have as much a chance of that as dating Taron Egerton. So the answer is no way. Unless…Taron asks me to do it with him. Strapped to his chest. Hmmmm…
  • Own a Dog – DONE! I’ve had 7 dogs in my life: Scooter (my first mutt), Tessie (my white German Shepherd), Lizzie (another Shepherd), Squirty (my Toy Poodle I had for 3 years before B and I got divorced…he wouldn’t let me take him and I cried for weeks), Dottie (the one who will always stand out the most in my heart…I cry for her everyday and miss her so so much), Edward (my mutt who is the most loving dog ever), and Mally (who is doing so well)! I will never be without a dog; even when they’re at the groomers, I don’t know what to do with myself in the empty house!
  • See the Pyramids in Egypt – actually, Pop and my step-ma are going there with my sissy and her hubby in July. I can’t wait to see their pics and actually did a report on Egypt in the 6th grade which they can all use as a tour guide. I’m sure it’s very comprehensive.
  • Learn another Language – I took 2 years of French in high school and can say 4 things in the language: hi, yes, bye and where’s the toilet. Why would I need to learn anything else? 🙄
  • Ride a Venetian Gondola – I would LOVE to do this…I want to visit Italy so badly some day so this is definitely one I need to jot down on my list.
  • Drive across the Country – Another one I really really want to do! J and I always talked about buying an RV and spending a year traveling all across the country and I still have dreams of doing this. I guess I’ll have to with Taron now. Darn. 😏
  • View Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower – O has done this too (my son is very well traveled) and his pics are amazing. And, because of my fluency in French, I think I would do great in this country.
  • Hike the Pacific Crest Trail – hmmmm…I’ve actually always wanted to hike parts of the Appalachian trail but am up for this too. Just so I look like Reese Witherspoon did in the movie “Wild” while doing so. All I need is to take 10 years off my life, be a blonde, have a rockin’ bod, and look good while sweaty. Yep…that’ll happen.
  • Take an Alaskan Cruise – Yes! Ma took one years ago and loved it and the pics of what she saw are absolutely gorgeous. Plus, I hear there are a lot of single men in Alaska…who really want to move to Central Illinois 😉.
  • See your Favorite Band – I’ve actually seen my all time favorite singer: Elton John; it was in 1989 in Chicago and amazing and I’d love to see him again! BTW, it was the first time I smelled pot. But not the last. Don’t tell ma. Or pop. 🤨
  • Go Glamping – No, I’ve never heard of this but it’s glamour camping…right up my alley. In fact, I think I have a better idea: hotelamping. Staying in a luxury hotel that has a spa, pool and cabana boys at your beck and call. T…let’s do this!
  • Visit Stonehenge – O has also done this (crappy kid has done everything) but said this about Stonehenge: “It was a pile of rocks, ma. You aren’t missing much.” I’ll take his word for it.
  • Hike Mt. Kilimanjaro – OK, I had to look up where this is and saw it’s in Tanzania which I also had to look up until I realized it is in Africa. The hike is 55 miles over the course of a week and I’d actually like to do this…I love to hike!

Now, anything else I want to add to a proposed bucket list? Hmmm…white water rafting on the Colorado river, opening a plant shop, convincing my son it’s time to give me a grandbaby before I get too old to see the little fart, and singing on stage where everyone claps and cheers even though it sucked balls. I have huge aspirations…huh?

So, would I want to know when I was going to die? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t want that in my head but I do want to get some things checked off in my life. I mean face it, at the age of 54 that time frame is apparently shrinking…at least according to my young sweetie students who think 30 is old. Blech. 😳

Kristi xoxo

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