“No student is bad. They only need a good teacher.” ~ Rahul Nair

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So, I was chatting with someone the other day and they said this:  “Those who can’t do, teach.”  OK.  I’m going to wait until you educators pull your jaws up off the floor and are able to blink again.  Waiting.  Waiting.  Waiting.  Ready?  I’m going to sum up what my first reaction was to this:  What the fuck (sorry, ma…but you helped put me through college…aren’t you a bit pissed too?)?!  Are you kidding me?  Really?

First of all, how totally ridiculous is that phrase?  I can’t even.  I’m mean seriously…I refuse to type it again since it pisses me off so much.  Let me get this straight:  if I CAN’T do something, I CAN teach it.  Hmmmmm…so…if I CAN’T speak German (which I’d like to be able to since it was the native language of my great-grandparents 😳), I CAN still jolly well teach it?  Okey dokey!  Well…let’s see…I can’t look at the periodic table and not think it should be re-arranged differently because it’s just not aesthetically pleasing, understand an electrical circuit (just ask my brother in law 😵), comprehend anything at all about astronomy, see algebraic equations and not want to poke myself in the eye with a hot stick since they simply look like gobbedly-gook to me and it stresses me out even more than I ususally am just peering at them, peruse biological concepts and wonder how I have kept myself alive this long since I understand nothing about bodily functions, read about a physics law and marvel at the fact I can ride a freaking bike when I have absolutely no clue in God’s world how I’m doing it, and the list goes on.  BUT, I can certainly TEACH about biology and electricity and algebra.  Right?  Good to know.  Blech.

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OK.  Maybe you’re rolling your eyes (don’t do that, grasshoppers…according to ma they’ll stick that way and you’ll be looking at ceilings for the rest of your lives 🙄) and saying to yourself:  “The quote doesn’t mean that!  It means that if you CAN’T be successful in the field, THEN you teach.”

OH!  Much better!  🙄  Heh??  Why can’t people understand that the great majority of educators WANTED to teach?  That it was our primary objective?  That teaching is a discipline?  That we studied the particular field we teach AND learned how to teach it?

Actually, this begs even more questions:  When did people lose so much respect for educators (I mean, hello?!!  Who the hell taught them how to read?)?  When did we start to demand so much more from teachers while losing appreciation for them at the same time?  When did teachers become the scapegoats for so many of society’s ills?  And, when we talk about educational issues in general, why is it that faculty are judged first, when in fact they are following the dictates of an administration who may never have taught themselves?  Does that really make sense, peeps?  Me don’t think so.  🤨

Anyhoot, besides providing fodder for a rambling intro, when that quote was said to me, it started me thinking of other ‘myths’ regarding teachers.  And believe you me, there’s a lot of ’em.  (Side note:  I’ve never really gotten the phrase ‘believe you me’.  It doesn’t make sense but I like using it anyway…it just sounds catchy to me).

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Photo Credit

So y’all know that us educators have it made; I mean look…we get our summers off!  Right?  If you believe that, I have some great ocean side property in Iowa to sell you for a buck an acre (put your checkbook away ma…I was just making a point 🙄).  Unlike for all the other people in the world that actually ‘work’ and not teach, this has been a very relaxing summer for me.  I taught 3 summer classes because I need the income and because I want students to have every opportunity possible to get their needed credit hours.  I shoved 16 weeks of work into 8 for each class and that made for hours and hours of grading every week; and since I taught them online (which is not my first choice but necessary this summer and also because summer students traditionally like online 😎), I was making tons of videos and helping students with not only their academic work but with some technology issues as well.

Then, I always use the summer to get ready for fall (us educators never live in the ‘semester’ we’re teaching…instead, we are always teaching one semester while preparing for the next).  That means I’m prepping 8 classes (so many because we have an open faculty position we can’t fill because of Covid and interviewing issues, etc.) to be online and for every single one of these develop 16 weeks of fresh, engaging, interactive material.  That’s 128 weeks of work to get ready with me researching every topic/issue/concept I teach in 2 different disciplines and then going through loads and loads of info so my students learn as much as they possibly can.  Being in front of the computer with scads of books, articles, sites, videos, etc. to wade through for 6-7 hours a day made for a relaxing summer ‘off’.  Huh?

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“But Kristi, you get paid the big bucks as a professor!”  No, my sweetie peeps, I don’t.  Yes, I make good money and am truly blessed by what I do.  And I mean that…I get paid for doing what I love and for being with my sweetie students who I absolutely adore.  But, I’m not going to get ‘rich’ (which doesn’t matter to me one iota since so many wealthy men are lining up to marry me anyway 🤓 ) and struggle with money at times.  I know so so so many people live paycheck to paycheck and that I’m very lucky I always have enough to pay what I need too with some left over.  However, I think people hear the word professor (or even teacher) and think RICH.  Nuh uh.  (So, if you’re a nice rich, single guy and you like teachers…just sayin’).  🤨  In fact, according to Visual Capitalist, out of 50 college degrees, education is ranked #49 in terms of salary.  49!

Another gem?  A good teacher can teach anyone.  Bullshit.  Any questions?

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C’mon now.  Students have to want to learn…be motivated to learn…put their own work into the process…and the list goes on.  Teachers aren’t the only part of the equation in the educational process.  Trust me.  And it’s getting harder.  Students have a repository of knowledge in the palm of their hand.  They don’t need to know how to look through indexes, read dozens of articles and books, take notes, type out papers multiple times on a typewriter until it’s just right, etc.  Now, they can just say:  “Hey Google…what are the 3 theoretical perspectives of Sociology?”  (VERY important to know, peeps…you might be on Jeopardy someday 🙄).  So, we are now trying to teach students how to learn…how to think for themselves outside of what ‘wikipedia’ says…how to analyze information…how to be media literate…how to show that the info we present is applicable in real life…and how to find a love of reading and learning simply for the sake of it.  That’s tough to do.  Trust me.

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Glasbergen Cartoon Service

“Well, you might say…at least teaching is ‘easy’.  I mean, you’re pretty much just talking to students and all.”  Hubby 3 (sigh…shutty the mouthy…), a maintenance technician, thought this for a time…bless his motorcycle lovin’ heart.  But then he was asked to teach a 6 hour class about crane inspection (I can’t think of anything I’d least like to sit through…except maybe ma telling one more story about a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend who might have something but doesn’t know for sure 🙄).  I tried to give him some teaching tips (of course, what did I know…I’d only been doing it for a couple of decades 😳), but he said it would be a cinch…he knew his stuff.  Oooookkkkkaaaaayyyyy!

After his class, he plodded up the driveway and looked exhausted.  The first thing he did upon walking in the door was to grab me, hug me, and say “How the hell do you do this everyday?  It was a nightmare!”  (Actually his language was much more graphic then this…but it might shock the knickers off of ma).  I asked what happened and he said:  “People weren’t listening and were talking and were asking stupid questions I had already answered and whining for a break and mumbling about why was I the one teaching this crap and I’d say something 3 times and they still wouldn’t get it and my PowerPoints were illegible because I made them too wordy and then they’d want a bathroom break and then their phone would go off and I’d have to start my sentence over and then one fell asleep and started snoring and then a couple of the guys started laughing while a couple others were arguing about unions and I just wanted to get in a factory and be out of that God forsaken room.”  I didn’t use punctuation in that sentence because Hubby didn’t when he said it.  It was just one long complaint.  And after this little adventure in academia?  He never ever ever said I didn’t work hard.  Ever.

Out of all of these gems, this is my favorite quote about teachers:  “Most damaging to student achievement: teachers are interchangeable widgets.” ~ Joni Johnson

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My Lord…it’s like looking into a mirror.

OK.  I don’t know who the hell this person is, and to be honest, I don’t want to know.  But to make a blanket statement about a group of people that you apply to every individual means you weren’t listening in sociology class when stereotyping and prejudice were being discussed.  Just sayin’.

Yes.  There are good professors and bad professors.  Good teachers and bad teachers.  But by the same token, there are good chefs and bad chefs…good docs and bad docs…good accountants and bad accountants…and the list goes on.  Why is it that educators are singled out as a group and if one is bad, the whole lot of them are?  I don’t get that at all.

Finally, us educators are told that we need to be flexible, accommodating, understanding, work to develop a one on one relationship with each student, not provide so much homework, lessen demands and expectations, challenge our students, apply every concept to real life, know everything there is to know about our subject matter, allow for more individuation in learning, have passion, be inspirational, keep things lighthearted so learning is fun, bring our own personal stories into the class, etc.  Whew.

Now, take a look-see at those expectations again.  And then tell me…honestly…how many people in ANY profession can do any of those things every single day?  Not only is it impossible, but so many are counter to one another!  It’s sorta tricky to challenge our students while lessening our demands on them.  In other words, profs…all educators…are held to a higher standard in terms of their ‘job’ and everything is supposed to be ‘wonderful’ in the classroom regardless of day, topic, etc.  I’m here to tell you, peeps…lecturing about domestic violence does not make for a lighthearted class.  Trust me.

When O was a medium sized guy, I was asked to be a guest speaker at the schools career day, and the PTA President (cough cough…shrew…cough cough) said I would only get a few minutes since kids know what teachers do anyway.  So…I made the following list to talk about that I called:  “What Does Professor K do all Day?” (I love rhymes…):

  • Prepare lectures, PowerPoints/videos/handouts
  • Prepare both master and working syllabi each semester
  • Prepare records/data for program reviews and course reviews
  • Develop online classes
  • Grade Grade Grade
  • Prepare exams ensuring they are reliable and valid
  • Calculate midterm and final semester grades
  • Meet with students often for extra help and guidance
  • Grade Grade Grade
  • Integrate new learning and technology into classes every semester
  • Be evaluated by dean and then prepare a self-evaluation every year
  • Advise students on majors and courses
  • Counsel students on careers and job opportunities in the field
  • Grade Grade Grade
  • Write letters of recommendation for students seeking jobs
  • Write letters of recommendation for students seeking scholarships
  • Write letters of recommendation for students seeking entrance into a university
  • Present community workshops as part of the colleges Speaker’s Bureau
  • Participate in college and departmental meetings
  • Grade Grade Grade
  • Serve on college committees
  • Serve on search committees for new faculty members
  • Serve on tenure committees
  • Earn continuing education hours to maintain my professional designation
  • Grade Grade Grade

I think that pretty much covers it.  And, since my time on campus is spent being with my sweetiepie students, I spend hours and hours working at home as well.

Look, I’m not saying that teaching is the hardest job in the world.  It’s not.  Really.  However, teaching is a field that is losing respect and teachers are being scrutinized more and more as students’ work and test scores decline.  Educators have ‘bosses’ too and there is only so much ‘freedom’ we have to do what we think is right.  Professors have to do what our admin tells us to do.  Elementary – High School teachers have to follow the dictates of the district…teach so kids can pass the standardized tests…operate under whatever funding is available.  And we all have to keep our mouths shutty when we, as EDUCATORS, realize that what NON-EDUCATORS (who are often on school boards, etc.) direct is often wrong.  How frustrating that is.

Anyhoot, I love what I do.  And I’m good at what I do.  As are millions of educators out there.  Give us a break, guys.  Cut us some slack.  We are not at fault for the world’s ills and the ‘buck’ does not stop at the teacher in terms of education.  Parents, communities, and the students themselves have to be added to the equation (which is hard for me to do…remember, I suck balls at math 😳) for what makes successful education in any society.  And, if you see one of your old teachers out and about, say ‘howdy’ and give them a little hug (masked, of course 😷) and tell them how much you learned from them.  It will make their day.  Truly.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

“Jenny don’t change your number, 867-5309…” ~ Tommy Tutone

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So, I got a book on my good ole’ Kindle this morning and sat down to read just a couple of chapters.  Instead, I ended up reading the entire book in 1 sitting.  It’s called “How to Break up with Your Phone” by Catherine Price and it’s a fascinating, but scary look at how addicted we are to our cell phones.  Unfortunately, even though I have always prided myself on not being tethered to my phone that much, I was quite surprised to realize how much I really am.

Take a look-see at this info from PsychGuides.com

  • 60% of college students in the U.S. consider themselves to be addicted to their phones (60% peeps…that’s HUGE!)
  • 71% of people sleep with their phones in bed (OK…that’s me because I listen to an audio book when I fall asleep and I’m jolly well not sleeping with anything else these days)
  • 35% of people think of their cell phones first when they wake up and only 10% think of their partners (so our phones are on our minds more than the people we LOVE?  Hmmm…)
  • 36% of people check their phones constantly (bugs the shit out of me, particularly during a meal) and 54% of young adults do (aren’t young adults people too 🙄)?
  • 44% of us say we couldn’t go a day without our phones.  ONE day.  Sheesh.

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I remember when I got my first phone and was so excited.  O’s dad, O and I went to the Best Buy in Wichita (we lived in Hutchinson for a few years) and bought the ‘newest’ device on the market:  a BAG phone (for my younger peeps, this was literally a phone in a briefcase style bag…ask your folks).  The set-up only took 6 hours (I swear on ma’s good name 😳)  because it was such a new thing, NO one knew quite what they were doing.  We were actually in the store for so long that the sales workers were making friends with O as he was toddled around the aisles.  Someone even asked me if I had met him yet, but since he was getting grouchy and grubby by this time (as was I), I said ‘no’.  Sorry son.  Anyhoot, the was an amazing technological marvel and Hubby said, in a very sappy voice, that he was getting it for me in case I had trouble when I was commuting to grad school every night.  Awwww…that sounded great:  if I needed help, I’d be able to get it quickly.  Right?

Wrong.  Here’s what I would have had to do to get my ‘quick’ help:  plop the magnetic antennae on the top of my wood paneled van, turn the phone on while it was plugged into the cigarette lighter which allowed it to move about 2 feet, get out my handy chart of roaming codes which was typed in 5 point font and figure out where the fuck (sorry, ma 🙄) I was on the highway in the middle of nowhere in Kansas, punch in said code to see if I could get a ‘roam’ signal, wait until the phone beeped that a signal was found, punch in our home number, and pray the signal didn’t disappear before Hubby answered which would have been a 1/1000 chance since he was most likely playing a video game (another high tech item) with ear phones on.  Now, if I had been in wreck I would have had to do all of this with a fresh concussion, blood dripping from my forehead while puking in the passenger seat since that’s what I do when I see blood dripping from my forehead.  Wow.  That phone was well worth the money for my peace of mind.  An easier way I could have gotten help would have been to crawl the 40 miles home which would have taken less time and effort on my part.  Just sayin’.

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Anyhoot, when my son and I got matching CELL phones a few years later we were so excited because we found out it could actually take a picture on the 1″ screen!  (BTW, he was in Jr. High and you should have seen his hair.  He went through a phase where he refused to have it cut and because it’s so curly, it looked like he had a crows nest on top of his head. 😬).  Anyway, a picture from a phone that closed in half?  OMG!  There was no way technology could get any better than this.  After all, it only took 10 minutes to type out a text one letter at at time.  When ma learned to text (Lord help me…sis and I still fight over who has to help her with her technology needs) she’d send it and then immediately call me to see if I got it.  I would say:  “Ma.  You are defeating the purpose of the text if you are just going to call me anyway.  So, just call me in the first place.”  Then ma would reply:  “OK, you don’t want to talk to me.  I understand I’m just an old lady with nothing to say.”  My response?  “Ma, dammit, just CALL me and quit texting!  I love you and want to yack (sorta) but for fuck sakes, having texts and calls coming in every 20 minutes is a nightmare!”

Then, the smartphone came along.  The screen was so big and in color!  Holy crap!  Then, there were these things called ‘apps’ which I had no idea what they were.  So, for the first week after getting my smartphone, I just looked at it and texted ma on a regular keyboard.  My son looked at my phone one day and asked where the hell my apps were and I said I didn’t know what they were in the first place.  Very patiently (not really, he was kind of an ass), he showed me how to ‘download’ (sounded naughty to me) these app things so I could play games and get my e-mail and do this thing called “Facebook” which was going to make my life so much richer than it’s ever been before.  I went nuts and downloaded every free app I could find.  Then I used 3 of them.  (Confession:  I STILL have no idea how to play Candy Crush and earn ‘candies’.  Maybe it just goes against my principle of destroying anything that’s yummy.  It may be a psychological issue.)

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Fast forward to today and 5 smartphones later and guess what?  My life ain’t richer.  In fact, it seems a bit more empty to me now.  After all of this texting, messaging, Facebooking, Twittering, Instagramming, e-mailing, etc. I don’t feel any more connected to people and in fact, I actually feel less connected.  Plus, after having installed a screen time tracker, I found out I spend a LOT more time on my phone than I had thought and research shows I’m not alone in this:  most people underestimate their screen time too.  When I see the number of hours a week I’ve spent looking at this 5″ screen, I think that I could have painted my living room like I want to do.  Or, I could have gotten my bike out of the garage and ridden it around town.  I could have planted some more flowers in the back yard or read a couple of the books I have that I just don’t have ‘time’ to get too.  I could have made some jewelry to give as presents or organized my closet.  I could have done a lot that would actually have served a purpose…instead of looking at a screen and doing what?  Not much.

So why do we do it?  Why do we waste time on these devices doing things that really don’t mean a lot in the long run?  Easy answer?  Because we are ‘addicted’ in a lot of ways.  Longer answer?  Here goes.  Leaders in the study of how smartphones keep us coming back for more and more illustrate very clearly that companies find ways to change the way our brain looks at and responds to various cues that are constantly out there.  Ramsey Brown of Dopamine labs calls this brain hacking and his company is hired to work with others to make their online content as ‘addictive’ as possible.   Tristan Harris, a previous Google employee, says how our smartphones are like slot-machines.  If we scroll enough, interact enough, and play enough, we’ll be rewarded with likes, emojis, ‘streaks’, followers, etc.  It’s like gambling and we get a squirt of dopamine when we come across something we like…when we ‘win’!  If I scroll through Facebook a bit longer, maybe I’ll see something really really interesting…and there it is: a video of a baby elephant (my downfall 🐘).  And if I play this game just a tad more, maybe I’ll move up a level and be respected by all.  That’s why scrolling is actually used as opposed to other ways to present info…so we keep going and going until we are satisfied, for the moment at least.

Larry Rosen, psychology professor at California State University, talks about how our phones raise anxiety levels by increasing the release of cortisol to where we get almost panicky if we DON’T check our phones often because we’re thinking about what we might we be missing out on.  Sound crazy?  Vow not to look at your phone for an hour and then leave the sound on.  Every chime of a message coming in or a notification popping up will make most people have to consciously force themselves not to look at their phone, and it’s easy to see just how anxious that makes them.  I see this with my students in class all the time when I let them know I don’t want phones out while I’m lecturing (call me old-fashioned, but I think this is rude).  And when I’m with someone (and yes, even you ma 😐) and a text comes through, they’ll say: “Oh…just let me check this quickly.”  Or, they pick up their phone like a robot programmed to do so, without realizing they haven’t actually made the conscious choice to do it.  It pings…you look.  Simple as that.  (The best source for all of this info is a 60 Minutes report by Anderson Cooper called Brain Hacking).

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Ivan Pavlov and his conditioning experiment.

Think about texts.  That little chime tells us someone out there is connecting with us, and who could it be? Is it someone proclaiming their everlasting love to you (in my case, nope 🙄)?  Is it someone who needs your help for an emergency (probably not and wouldn’t 911 be a better choice anyway)?  Maybe it’s your friend sharing the gossip they heard and swore they would never tell anyone about that you just gotta hear.  Regardless, we HAVE to look.  We’re conditioned to look!  It’s like Pavlov’s dogs:  we hear the chime or feel the vibration or see the screen light up, and we salivate!  We respond.  In other words, the phone is in control of us…not the other way around!  When you think about that, it’s actually pretty scary.

Maybe because I’m so old, I want to fight against this more than I have.  I want to really accomplish things…not look at things.  I want to make stuff…not look at stuff others have made.  I want to connect with a ‘real’ someone…not see another pic of them as I scroll through my feed.  And think about that term – feed.  It’s like our phones feed our need for something to do.  Are we that unable to entertain ourselves that our phone has to ‘feed’ us stuff to sustain us?  What happened to days outside working in the yard or setting up a badminton game or taking a long walk with your partner?  What happened to laying on the couch with a couple of library books?  What happened to starting a new hobby and learning to make something special?  What happened to baking in the kitchen and having a special dessert for dinner that night?  What happened to having a jigsaw puzzle on the kitchen table that everyone in the family works on?

But most importantly, what happened to thinking these things weren’t enough, but that a screen is?  And our phones are just 1 screen of the many we have.  Add laptops, iPads, and smart TV’s in the mix, and it’s a wonder we get anything done off a screen.

To be honest, I know I couldn’t ever give up my cell phone completely since it’s the only way I have to talk to ma and sis and other family when they want to natter.  I also feel better having it when I’m on the highway in case I need help, while it’s also necessary for work.  So I guess the question for me is this:  how do I balance the use of it against the ‘want’ of it?  How do I use it as a tool instead of it using me to buy more, scroll more, click more?

I’d ponder this a bit more if I could, but here’s the thing:  my screen just lit up and it’s Kohl’s telling me my new shoes are ready to pick up, Subway sent me a new text coupon plus I have to know the sandwich of the day, I haven’t checked Facebook yet to see if the pic of me and Dottie got anymore likes, and last night when I was scrolling I saw a great shirt advertised at 80% off.  How can I pass up that deal?  Hmmmm.  Maybe I should try to find out.  Maybe we all should.

Kristi xoxo

“Walk Among Us” ~ Recorded by the Misfits

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So, I was contemplating about how I often feel like I don’t belong in so many different situations, and I think I am starting to understand why a bit better.

I kinda hate the word ‘misfit’ but if I am honest with myself regarding the definition (“a person whose behavior or attitude sets them apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way”), it really does describe well how I often feel when I’m around others.

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Only about 1-2% of people in the United States have bipolar disorder…about 2.3 million people all together.  If you play around with the numbers (I’m I’m no math whiz, I actually still use my fingers at times…just ask ma), it’s about 46,000 in each state, and in terms of the number of counties in IL where I live (I’m sure you’re all jealous I live there since it’s such a great state right now 🙄), that’s about 450 people in my entire county of over 104,000.  Now here’s my point: I really am an outsider in terms of having bipolar.  Statistically, it would be pretty unlikely for me to interact with anyone else bipolar on any given day since it’s relatively rare compared to other disorders.  For example, about 20% of the population deal with anxiety disorders and about 14% have major depression every year; so although these are horrible disorders to have there are still many more people who might understand what others are going through because of their own personal experiences with them.  By the way, if you’re thinking you know numerous people with bipolar, ask yourself if they’ve actually been diagnosed by a psychiatric specialist or if they are assuming they are because of their mood swings.  It’s so easy to self diagnose in light of info online, and I’m guilty of it too.  Just this month, I’ve told my son I have 3 different diseases since I love to peruse WebMD.  Just sayin’.  (P.S.  O doesn’t worry about my diagnoses like he should…I wonder why 🤨 ).

When I’m around other people, whether it’s at school or at a family function or in the gym or where ever, the chance I’m the ONLY one there with bipolar is huge.  HUGE!  And since I’m most likely the only one there, how can I feel like I fit in with everyone else?  How can they understand how my mind works?  Or how sensitive I am to criticism or rejection?  Or how I might not be able to control how ‘manicky’ I am, despite others possibly saying, “C’mon, Kristi…just calm down!”  How can others understand how I might be really happy when I get somewhere but then get really down if something was said that seems silly to them, but actually hurt me pretty badly (“Kristi…you have to stop being so sensitive.  It’s getting old!”)?  How can I tell them them that even though I was so excited to plan on being somewhere, I’ve cycled into a depressed state where I can now barely interact?  When you think about, it’s no wonder I feel like I don’t fit in…like I’m always on the edge of whatever group I’m around.

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Now let’s throw another wrench into the equation:  research is showing that those of us with bipolar might experience either very HIGH levels of affective empathy or very LOW levels of cognitive empathy.  What’s the difference?  Affective empathy is when you basically ‘feel’ and ‘mirror’ another’s emotional states, whereas cognitive empathy is understanding someone’s emotions, but not actually feeling them yourself.

Well…we all know how lucky I am so…drumroll please…I was blessed with the VERY high level of affective empathy!  Yea. 🙄 What does that mean in terms of my everyday life?  Hmmmm…where the hell do I start?

I know this can be hard for others to understand, but I literally (I hate that overused word, but I’m too lazy to open up another tab and take a look-see at the thesaurus for another 😳) feel what others feel.  When someone is crying in front of me, I cry…not just because I see their tears and feel bad for them, but because I ‘absorb’ their pain like a sponge.  Empaths soak up the world of feelings that surround them and this can be so fucking exhausting (dammit…I was trying not to say it, ma…but…).  It’s hard enough to deal with my own feelings since those are plenty to handle as is.  But pour everyone else’s feelings into the mix, and it can wear me down completely.

This is a particularly huge problem in relationships.  Empaths take on the other’s emotions, absorb their stresses, feel their pain, etc.  It’s like we’re living the relationship on both sides:  their feelings seeping (or actually madly rushing) into us while our own are bubbling in there too.  Now, couple that with being mega-sensitive and personalizing things like those of us with bipolar often do, and I think it’s clear why relationships can become all consuming very quickly.

Even though I’m not always conscious of this happening, I am conscious of how over-whelmed I can get in relationships and how that can affect my mood and behavior.  When I get frustrated or distressed or upset, it can come out in anger.  Like I’ve said before, anger is more of a reaction we have which actually has other emotions buried underneath it (embarrassment, fear, grief, shame…).  And since people with bipolar have a lot of stuff happening under the surface, anger is something else that’s common among us.  Go figure.

When I think about my marriage to my son’s dad, I see it as the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in.  Hubby 2 came from a really solid family and had one of those wholesome upbringings with nothing ‘bad’ really ever happening to him.  I didn’t have to absorb much from him because he was usually on a pretty even keel and my emotional stresses were fairly low.

Hubby 3 was much more of a challenge.  He brought a lot of baggage into our marriage and couple that with the bipolar suitcases I carry, it was a lot.  R’s moods were very unpredictable, especially those first couple of years, and having that load on me was problematic, to say the least.  His stresses became my stresses.  His anger became my anger.  His insecurities became my insecurities.  This is such a hard thing to explain to people who aren’t empathic sponges.  Sometimes he would say, “Why are you so upset?  It’s my problem!”  What he didn’t understand was this:  his problems were passed onto my little empathic heart and TA-DA…they became mine too.

The same thing happened when J came along.  I’ve said before that he has PTSD from being in the military and has also been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.  Both of these cause great fluctuations in mood and behavior and I wasn’t just watching that ride, I was on it with him.  Sometimes he’d wonder why I was so stressed or upset.  How do you explain it’s because everything he’s projecting/feeling/acting out on, I’m taking in…’literally’ (that damn word again 😐)?  His pain.  His anger.  His instability.  I was a passenger on that roller coaster with him, along with riding my own.  No wonder the weight of it often became too much for me.

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After he cheated a couple of years ago, I was angry.  And rightfully so!  But I also felt so much more:  I personalized the affair to the point I just knew it had to be my fault.  Cognitively, I know that’s not right.  Emotionally, that’s how I felt.  And then after, when we ‘started over’ and he became so much better to me, I not only had all I was feeling from the affair, but I was also absorbing all he was feeling too, whether he realized that or not (and no, I strongly doubt he ever reads this blog…someone asked me that the other day).  His own anger over his guilt.  His own doubts about our chances.  And even his own grief over the woman he loved and had been with.  Somedays this would be so freaking overwhelming that I couldn’t breathe, and the only way I could handle things was to channel them into anger.  It’s the quickest release there is when you get that overwhelmed with feelings…it’s like a pressure cooker easily exploding if you fiddle with the lid.

I used to wonder why I’ve had such a hard time getting past our relationship and it’s finally beginning to make sense to me.  When I caught him cheating the last time I saw him, he started crying and hugging me when he realized I knew someone else was in the apartment with him.  That emotional outburst pained me so much and it was extremely confusing to me.  I had so much running through my mind and my heart and then I had that to deal with as well.  I had my anger and confusion and disgust and disappointment  but all of that was connected with his pain too.  It was so much to handle and it was a horribly complicated time for me.  You know, I totally understand that being empathic like this isn’t something that’s rational, but it is something inside of me that I can’t control.  How I wish I could!

I’ve also been able to understand my need to be alone at times.  Being so overwhelmed by all of this ‘absorbing’ (like I’m a Bounty paper towel) means us empaths need time to get away from it all.  We need to process all of these feelings and stresses and moods so we can decompress.

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So many empaths can’t sleep with their partners (actually sleep with them all night…we like the naughty stuff 😳) because the stresses of the day and the burdens we’ve absorbed are simply too much.  We need that space to come down again.  To unload ourselves.  To be able to focus on our own stuff only.  I love to sleep alone.  There’s only 1 partner I’ve ever been able to sleep with and besides him, I’ve always had my own bed.  I used to feel SO guilty about that, and I know it’s  probably very hard for other people to understand.  It’s almost like you’ve been running a race all day, with others on your back, and you finally have a chance to put those burdens down, stretch out, and have it just be you without that sponge taking over.  There were times in my marriages where if I hadn’t had that, I would have burst.  Like a big zit. 😐

Anyhoot, not fitting in is actually starting to make sense to me.  I don’t necessarily like it, but I know I’m different.  My brain works differently.  My heart works differently.  My moods work differently.  My feelings work differently.  It does make me a ‘misfit’…I’m not like everyone else.  There are so many times I want to be and I think about what it would be like to be more ‘normal’.  More relaxed.  To be able to be around others without taking all of their ‘stuff’ in, along with my own bipolar issues.

But then again, sometimes I think that maybe it’s ok to be different like this.  Maybe others need me to be.  Maybe helping others with their burdens is a gift I’m able to give.  Maybe it pays others back for having to deal with me being bipolar.  Maybe, in a way, it’s what others should be more like.  Just a little.  Because think about it…if we could all ‘share’ our burdens, feel other’s emotions, take on some stress from others, wouldn’t that lead to more understanding and insight?  More compassion?  More appreciation for all of our different situations?  Wouldn’t that empathy make us better people that don’t cause pain because we feel it so intensely?  Hmmmm.  Kinda makes sense, doesn’t it?

Kristi xoxo

Me? Sarcastic? Never.

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So, I wanted to address an issue with my sweet peeps and decided to write y’all a letter…here goes:

Dear Peeps,

I wrote a blog post to day about ‘Pet Peeves’ which some of you liked and others didn’t.  After I received a comment that made me cry, I thought about deleting the post altogether.  The comment basically said I was calling people out on things that may not be their fault and I needed to do something else with my life besides worry about others.

I actually meant for that particular post to be sarcastic but I don’t think it was taken that way by everyone.  Sometimes my sense of humor is just ‘off’.’  Go figure.

You know, I’ve written about some really deep things in this blog.  I’ve shared all of my many struggles being bipolar and how that affects my life.  I’ve written about the self-mutilation I’ve done to myself and how I attempted suicide 3 years ago.  I’ve shared the sexual abuse I endured when I was a teen.  I’ve talked about the divorces I’ve had and how devastating they all were.  I’ve talked about ma’s experience with domestic violence by her 2nd husband (that fucker…sorry ma, but I always have to say that) that lasted 28 years and I got to live with for 6.  I’m very upfront talking about my meds and how much I need them to be stable.  I pretty much share everything with you…the bad and the good.

I’ve opened up to you because, well, I need too.  Being able to write out these issues is a way for me to understand them better while also being a cathartic experience.  It also, I hope, shows others that having a mental illness isn’t something to be ashamed or needs to be hidden away.  I’m trying to break the stigma of mental illness and show others that we aren’t violent or totally unstable or ‘crazy’ or someone to be avoided.  I’m Kristi who has a mental illness. It’s OK to voice that.

Anyhoot, talking about these tough issues is hard on me sometimes and maybe more so since I also have to teach about them in my classes every semester as well.  Teaching psychology and sociology forces me to address the topics of domestic violence, substance abuse, divorce, incest, rape, crime, mental illness and the list goes on and on.

You know, having bipolar is a tough thing.  I have good days and I have bad days.  I have really good days and I have really bad days.  I never know, week to week, what to expect with my mood.  Bipolar is like the Captain of my ship who I always try to stage a mutiny against.  Sometimes I take over and sometimes I don’t.  Right now, I’m struggling a bit.  Getting 7 classes online for Fall semester is overwhelming and knowing I won’t be interacting with my sweetie students face to face is horrible.  I love them all so much and it’s like being taken away from my family in so many ways.

I’m also dealing with some loneliness.  I’ve said before that I like living alone and how much I’ve gotten to learn about myself because of it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get lonely.  When the Covid quarantine was at it’s peak, people would tell me how their partner or spouse was getting on their nerves.  But for me, there were so many times during it I wanted someone here.  Someone to hug and cuddle and tell me things were going to be ok.  I’ll make something I think is cool and wish I had someone here who would admire it (or tell me honestly that it’s ass-ugly).  At night I’ll watch a movie and wish someone was here with me to laugh or cry while we shove popcorn in our faces.

I’m still coming to terms with my last relationship.  It’s been 8 months since I’ve seen him and I continue to think about him, and his precious kids, every single day.  I miss the kids so much and if I’m being honest, I miss him too.  That’s tough to come to terms with considering how our relationship ended.  It might not make sense to others that I still grieve a bit for him…but tell that to my heart.  I truly thought he was my soulmate.

Because of all of this, I need to lighten up sometimes.  I just do.  I have to write happy or funny or sarcastic because I need the break from the heavy stuff.  Anyhoot, I’m sorry if I ever offend you with my posts.  I write them for me and share them with anyone who wants to see them.  I take all feedback seriously and I hope that you sweet peeps understand that the last thing in the world I want to do is hurt anyone.  Especially you.

Kristi xoxo

It’s Just a Pet Peeve of Mine.

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So, the other day I was reading some social media posts where people were talking about their ‘pet peeves.’  It was a bit irritating because they were getting pissed off by about everything, but then I started to think of my own pet peeves.  I was assuming (a pet peeve…you should never ‘assume’ 🙄) that I might only have a couple since I’m such a empathic, patient, wonderful person, but to be honest, my list is fairly long.

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From Muscle and Fitness (although the feet don’t look very fit to me).

OK…men in flip-flops?  For the love of all that is holy, this should be banned.  Yes…banned.  C’mon.  First of all, ‘flip-flops’ are NOT sandals you can justify wearing.  They are a piece of foam with a plastic toe piece so you can literally see the entire foot.  I know some women have ugly feet…I mean, they’re freaking feet (side note:  I’ve been told I could be a foot model…just sayin’), but usually women take better care of the looks of their toes and heels.  Men?  Guys, I love y’all, but I’ve never ever ever seen nice looking toes on a guy.  They are long and hairy and toe-naily and crooked and because of all of this, I just assume they are really stinky.  And heels?  Just as bad…scaly and callousy and sheddy.  Blech!  Now, men get very defensive about their feet.  Once I told Hubby 2 his feet weren’t attractive and for the sake of my sanity to please please please wear a pair of socks and throw the sandals in the bin.  I was very compassionate and tactful when I said this to him…I think my exact words were:  “B, your feet make me want to puke and if you don’t start wearing socks everytime I see you, I’ll probably end up barfing on you.”  Obviously, he doesn’t take criticism well because he yelled at me about how much his mother loved his feet (🙄) and since I wasn’t a podiatrist, I should just shutty the mouthy.  I did.

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Seinfeld, Season 5 Episodes 18 and 19…the dreaded close talker! 

I absolutely hate (ok…too strong of a word…let’s say ‘dislike’ but you’ll know what I mean) ‘close talkers’.   It’s true that I’m a very huggy/feely person, but I still like some space in conversation.  I have a bubble.  It’s not huge, but it’s there.  If I can see your spittle hitting my glasses like drizzle on my windshield, you’re too close.  If I can see how many cavities have been filled, you’re too close.  For piss sakes, if I can tell by your breath what you’ve eaten for your last 3 meals, you’re too close.  And here’s a hint:  if I start to back up to regain my bubble, I’m trying to tell you something.  Please don’t back up with me until I’m trapped in a corner and get a panicky look on my face.  The outcome may not be a good one.  😳

UUUUUGGGGGHHHHH…when people are wearing winter boots in the summer or those dreaded ‘flip-flops’ and drag their feet?  I literally want to meander up to them and say, “Please don’t drag your feet.  It’s getting on my nerves.”  I have yet to do that…but it’s a wish of mine.  Same with open mouth chewers.  Seeing your food being masticated while I’m trying to eat mine is not appetizing.  Hells bells, if it’s my cooking, it’s bad enough anyway.  Another side note:  Hubby 3 used to call my meatloaf a ‘meatlump.’  Look, my Little Dottie eats her own poop…often…and would NOT eat my meatlump.  She’d sniff it, walk away, and look traumatized.  And yes, I kept trying to make a good one until Hubby 3 left and I got the point.

There are some phrases that drive me batty too (the other day ma and I were driving to a cookout and I said something along the lines of ‘call me crazy’ and we started cracking up…maybe you had to be there).  Anyhoot, here are some of the biggies for me:

  • “I shouldn’t tell you this but…” – OK, then don’t.  I actually say that to people, but they’ll go on talking.  I’ll hold up my hand and say STOP, and they they’ll get all pissy about not being able to tell me something they shouldn’t be telling me in the first place.  C’mon my sweet peeps…explain to me how that makes sense.

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  • “No offense.” – If you have to say this, you know damn good and well you have offended me, asshole.  “Hey, you’re ugly and stupid and smell bad.  But no offense.”  Right.  That’s makes what you said sooooooooo much better.  Right? 🤨
  • “OMG!  I know exactly what you mean!” –  First, no you don’t because you interrupted me in the middle of my sentence (Hubby 3 likes to say “Sorry the middle of my sentence interrupted the beginning of yours’…love it!) and second, I don’t what the crap I actually mean, so how in the hell can you?  This person is usually a one-upper as well.  You know the type…you say you’re preggie with twins, and they’re carrying quads.  You say you ran a marathon…they say they ran a 50 mile race, and won.  You say you have bipolar (just pulled that one out of my ass) and they have 12 different diagnoses that are much much worse than ‘just’ bipolar.  Okey dokey.
  • “Hey…is that you, Kristi?” – What’s wrong with this you ask?  It’s being said when I’m in a bathroom stall.  Look, pretty icky things might be going on in there and concentration might be of upmost importance.  Talking to you…through a door…while trying to be discreet with ‘sounds’ is making me ‘tighten up’ and prolong the inevitable.  Sigh.
  • “Wow…you look great…much better than the last time I saw you!” – Well fuck me (sorry ma…I just had too).  Was I that bad looking a week ago?  Nice to know. 🙄
  • “Dmoahto aerhkje hdhf nea nofhea.” – Don’t know what that means?  Of course not, because that, grasshoppers, is a mumble (I love that word…mumble…another one I love is ‘damp’.  My most hated word?  Moist.  Ick.).  Then, when you say, “Can you please repeat that?” the person gets all huffy like you’re supposed to be able to decipher a 5 decibel sound.  Heh?  Speak up, dude.

When you’re a young parent, you get so much advice it’s crazy.  Here’s my advice:  don’t take it.  And, particularly don’t take it from a non-freaking-parent.  “If that was my kid, I’d blah blah blah.”  First off, it ain’t your kid, and second you’ve told me you hate kids and will never ever be a parent so I really don’t think you’re advice is coming from a solid place. 

Those of you who teach will definitely understand this one:  loud yawing!  I had a kid a couple semesters ago that I adored!  However, he would yawn LOUDLY in my class a few times a day.  He’d say he was tired from work when he’d come into my classroom, but his LOUD yawns made me feel boring (hmmmmm…).  Students:  please don’t do this…your poor professor’s self-esteem is at stake. 😐

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My favorite character ever on Saturday Night Live…love you Rachel Dratch!

Isn’t it annoying when you say you love something and someone pipes up with how much they hate it?  “I love running!”  “Oh yeah.?  I hate it.”  Or… “I just love spring!”  “Oh yeah?  My allergies suck.”  Or… “Isn’t this delish?  “That looks gross…how can you eat that?”  Get my point?  I think there’s a name for this:  Debbie Downer.

OMG.  I’m looking at this list and assume (once again) that you’re probably thinking this:  “My pet peeve is someone who has a lot of pet peeves”, and I have to agree.  But, since I’m always honest with y’all, I’m not hesitant to admit I do tons of things that are probably huge pet peeves of others:  I fidget all the time…am moody and sensitive about everything (big shocker there)…put chapstick on continuously (cherry only)…talk baby talk to Edward and Little Dottie (I actually have a song I sing to them every time they need to go out and pottie)…yak with my mouthful at times since I can’t wait to jump in and say my piece (I know, I know, this completely contradicts the whole “chewing with the mouth open” peeve I have.  Hey, I never said I was perfect 🙄)…having to pee in the middle of any and every activity (I had a BIG baby and I’m old)…emote where ever I am (can be pretty embarrassing for a shopping partner if I start bawling in Wal-Mart while looking at toothpaste)…talk loudly (I’m used to lecturing and having to project my voice…I have totally forgotten what an inside voice actually is because my inside voice has been conditioned to be booming)…being too sarcastic and pissing people off…using way too many emoticons (one you’ve probably never noticed yourselves 😬) and I’m sure my family could add other countless behaviors to this list (and happily so).  😜

Anyhoot…we all have pet peeves.  We all peeve others off.  All I know is this:  my pet peeves are better than your pet peeves.  Just sayin’! 🙃

Kristi xoxo

 

 

Diaper spelled backwards is REPAID. Go figure.

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So, whenever someone asks a parent about the happiest day in their life they’ll inevitably say it was the day their baby was born (actually, I think more dads say that than moms 🙄 but anyhoot…).  In fact, it’s almost sacrilege for a parent to not say that.  But since I swore to be honest with my peeps, I’m going to admit something to you:  going through 16 hours of back labor and pushing an 8 pound infant out of a hole the size of a walnut was, surprisingly, not the happiest day of my life.  Go figure.

I loved loved loved being pregnant (and no, WE were not both pregnant…I hate it when couples say that.  Unless you have a vajayjay, you are not preggie).  I couldn’t wait to start wearing maternity clothes to show the world my bump (we called it a belly back then…bump sounds so much more posh).  In fact, I started wearing them around my 3rd month and walked with my back arched at a dangerous angle, shirt tucked into my stretchy, paneled pants before having anything to show off at all.  Isn’t it funny how when we’re preggie, we can’t wait to show off our bellies…and right after the birth (and forever there after) we are constantly devising new ways to cover it up again?  🙄

My OB was ok, but didn’t have much warmth or empathy.  For example, at my first appointment he told me and Hubby that I should only gain about 25 pounds.  Okey dokey.  No problemo.  The 2nd appointment showed I had gained the 25 pounds (I was quite proud I had already reached a milestone) and I was told, quite sternly I might add, that the pounds were supposed to be gained over the entire pregnancy.  Thanks for making that clear upfront, doc…like I’m supposed to have a M.D. myself and ‘know’ what he meant.

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Did you know that those greasy danishes with the glob of fruit like goo and white icing are the most delicious things in the world when you are growing a baby?  The BEST.  And did you know the greatest side dish you can have with those is Oreos?  Nothing better.  One day, Hubby came home for lunch and found me sitting on our brown carpeted floor, wearing an XXL t-shirt with his underwear, bawling my eyes out.  I had a sleeve of cookies in front of me and was shoving them into my mouth without stopping to chew.  When he found his voice again, he asked me what the hell was wrong and I said, “I’m getting so fat.”  For some reason, I didn’t make the obvious connection.

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OMG.  I just notices that Lyle looks a LOT like my last boyfriend.

Y’all know that I’m extra emotional and sensitive anyway (thank you bipolar for that nice symptom), and being preggers amped that up a notch.  I got so impassioned over things and Court TV (best channel ever 🤨) didn’t help.  I watched the Menendez trial religiously (what else did I have to do) and swore to Hubby I was going to go to law school and be the attorney to work on their appeals.  These 2 brothers were on trial for shooting their parents to death over alleged (I sound like a lawyer already) abuse and I was sure they were completely innocent.  OK, well come to find out they weren’t…but I still think I’d make a great lawyer with my mood swings and tendency to cry.  I also think the way I personalize anything and believe everything I’m told would also work in my favor.  (I’m going to download an application today).

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I also spent my afternoons watching All My Children.  I prayed (yes prayed 😐)  that I would not go into labor during the time where Erica Kane might leave Travis for his brother Jack who she was madly in love with even though he refused to lie about their affair which caused her to lose custody of her daughter and led her into the arms of Dimitri who was also married and who eventually married Erica and became her 7th hubby and then divorced her which led her right back into the arms of Jack where she started.  I mean, c’mon…I watched this story line for 9 months and knew if I missed a climatic episode, my life would never be the same; there would be a large gaping whole that nothing would fulfill (except YouTube).  Of course I prayed for a healthy baby too and all…but this was Erica Kane!  You know, now that I think about it, am I a nicer version of Erica with just a couple less husbands?  Hmmmmm.

One evening, Hubby wanted to get a movie so I said I would go the video store.  He had his Corvette in the driveway so I told him it would just make sense that I drive it instead of my 1985 Impala (which was also in the driveway)…a car that was often mistaken for an army tank.  He reluctantly handed his keys over and when I got to the store, I forgot to set the parking brake.  I also forgot to put it in gear since I wasn’t used to driving a stick shift.  I was traipsing into the store and some guy started yelling at me.  Yes, I was getting a catcall even when preggie and it made me feel just a bit smug.  Until the yell turned into a blood curdling scream and I looked to see Hubby’s pride and joy (it obviously wasn’t me) start rolling down the slope in the parking lot.  I had my yellow, Dollar General flip-flops on (the only ‘shoes’ I could wear) and started running while holding my belly to save it…all while 8 months pregnant and as big as a house.  I was successful, never told Hubby about it even though he asked why I was so sweaty and winded from just driving to get a movie, and was never allowed to drive the damn car again (I think Hubby was either more insightful than I gave him credit for or someone in our small town snitched).  Side note:  this beeeeeuuuuutttttiiiiiful apple red Stingray is now my son’s and is housed in my garage.  However, for some reason, O does not leave his keys in a place where I can get to them easily.  Or at all.  Go figure. 🤔

From 5 months on, ma would call me everyday to see if I had packed my bag yet and was ready for the hospital.  To get her off the phone so I could see what Erica was wearing to yet another formal dinner, I lied and said yes (sorry ma, it’s the only lie I ever told you…I swear 😳).  Every night, Hubby would ask me if I had packed my bag yet and was ready for the hospital and I lied and said yes.  Actually, it just seemed like a hell of a lot of trouble to pack a bag for having a baby which is something that some women in world do in a field.  When Hubby asked to see it, I’d mumble something unintelligible and he knew better to question me since I would either start bawling or stomp off in a huff for him not believing I’d packed it…which of course, I hadn’t.

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My favorite place to eat from 6 months on was a place called “Sirloin Stockade”.  It was one of those places where they had a buffet with hot dishes on it as well as a salad bar.  It was actually my favorite place because it was the only place Hubby would take me since I was getting pretty expensive to feed.  Anyhoot, we were having a late dinner one night and we were the only ones left in the place.  The servers knew us by then and instead of them having to watch me get my big belly out of my chair so I could totter over to get yet another plateful of food, they said that since it was the night the food would be tossed away so they could start fresh the next day, I could save myself some steps (it’s good to know that I was basically eating leftovers meant for the garbage) .  Two of the busboys scooted a chair up to the buffet, helped me into it (Hubby was eating his 8oz steak and watching agog to see what was going to happen next) and let me eat directly from the buffet itself.  Good Lord in heaven, please let it be like that when I get up there.

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One night, Hubby was feeling generous and took me to a fancy Chinese restaurant.  I ordered the platter for 3 which was 3 full servings of General Tso’s chicken, sweet and sour chicken, and chicken and brocolli.  The Chinese server insisted that this was a dish meant for a group and not just 1 person.  His english was broken and I just couldn’t help him understand that when you’re pregnant, you’re eating for 3.  Anyhoot, I licked the platter clean, gave a nice juicy belch which is acceptable when you’re preggie, and asked Hubby if we were getting ice cream on the way home.  I’ve never seen a look of such stupefaction on anyone’s face before.

About 4 a.m. the next day, I awoke to a puddle in the bed (note:  if you want to go into labor, eat huge amounts of fried Chinese food) and while I was trying to get dressed, Hubby was asking me where my packed bag was since this was IT.  I yelled at him that I didn’t know…my water was breaking for fuck sakes.  He yelled louder and said “KRISTI, IS IT IN THE CLOSET?” as if I was hard of hearing and English was my 2nd language.  So I screamed back and said, “B…FOR FUCK SAKES, I’M IN FUCKING LABOR.  GET ME TO THE FUCKING HOSPITAL.  NOW.”  We left…without a bag.

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Fast forward 16 hours later (yes, 16 my sweet peeps…and no, my son has yet to thank me) and I was told to start pushing my baby out.  I said, “No.”  Doc said, “Kristi, you need to start pushing,”  And very sweetly, I said “No.”  Doc said, “Kristi, if you don’t start pushing you are not going to have your baby.”  I said, “OK.”  Finally, Hubby said, “For the love of Christ, push him out, I’m tired and need sleep.”  Gee…that was great motivation.  So eventually I started pushing and an hour later out popped my O.  It was just bliss…like you see in the movies.  I was puking over the side rail at the same time I was peeing and pooping and bleeding and expelling vast quantities of juices in the bed all while O screamed like a banshee and Hubby was trotting around like he had just created the universe. 🙄 Yes, B…you did all the work.

So, having O wasn’t the happiest day in my life.  It was a painful, sweaty, painful, difficult, painful, scary, painful, horrifying day that I wanted to go through hypnosis to forget.  But, just so you don’t think I’m a cold-hearted “Mommie Dearest” mom I will say this:  everyday after that I spend with my son is the happiest day of my life.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

 

If you say ‘gullible’ slowly, it sounds like oranges.

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So, y’all are going to look at me differently after this post because of what I’m finally willing to share with you.  I don’t even know if my own parents realize the magnitude of the problem so I’m just going to jump right in and say it outright:  “My name is Kristi and I’m a sucker for infomercial products.”

There…I’ve said it.  After all of these years holding it in, pretending to ignore the TV when the ShamWow guy was on, and lying about what was coming to the house in boxes before amazon (actually, before the internet 🙄), I am finally free.  It feels good.

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My problem started in the 1970’s when I realized something was wrong.  I’d see an infomercial and suddenly knew, within the recesses of my brain, that I needed that product to make my life better.  I’d get excited.  Giddy.  I’d daydream about the day a Thigh-Master would arrive on my doorstop and I’d suddenly be transformed into Suzanne Sommers, even though I had short brown hair, no boobs, and a face that resembled a sausage pizza.  Didn’t matter though…I knew it would work.

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When the Mr. Microphone commercial would come on the air, I’d be hypnotized.  You could plug this mike into a radio and then broadcast your voice over the airwaves.  It had a had a black handle and big orange ball on top that you spoke into and it looked like a blast!  In the commercial, there are teenagers driving around in their car talking to people on the sidewalks, and one guy sees a pretty gal and says, “We’ll be back to pick you up later!”  How could anyone not want one of these?  (Decades later, O’s dad bought me a home karaoke machine and I used it one night to sing to him.  Hmmmm.  Come to think about it, our marriage started unraveling at the same time.  Huh.  What a coincidence).

When I got to my teens and started listening to music the ‘newest’ thing out there, ‘cassettes’, I joined the Columbia House subscription program a few times.  You’d see their ads everywhere and you could choose 11 cassettes for FREE and then another one for just a penny!  Twelve cassettes for a cent!  Seriously, what person can afford to pass this up?  The catch?  You’d get a flyer and response card every month in the mail so you could order cassettes to fulfill the obligation of the subscription (which was written in very small type).  Now, if you forgot to mail back the card by a certain date, you’d get 2 crappy tapes in the mail and be charged about $40 (This was a LOT in the 80’s…bear in mind that my first fast food job paid $2.85 an hour 😳).  And the problem was that you never wanted any more tapes since there were only 12 on the list that were any good.  So, I tried different tactics to get out of this obligation.

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At first, I tried to ignore the fliers hoping this nightmare would just go away while hiding the tapes they kept sending me  under my bed.  Eventually, I got a nasty letter saying I owed around $200 for what I’d been sent, and I had to tell ma.  I was scared I’d be locked up if this continued (I think someone like Al Capone ran this operation and getting my thumbs broken was a real fear).  Well, I’ve seen ma mad in my life, numerous times (really, too many to count) but this was a biggie.  Suffice it to say I have never, ever said the words Columbia House in her presence for the last 40 years.  (Note:  I did join again in the 90’s when they started offering CD’s and yes, it was also a nightmare).

Things really got bad when I married Hubby 2 and was home taking care of my baby.  When O was napping I’d have the TV on to hear an adult voice, and the commercials showed me what I was missing in my life trapped in a house with a colicky son.

I gained 60 pounds when I was preggie (shutty…I know I was only supposed to gain about 25 but those oreos tasted so freaking good and my baby needed them 🙄) and wanted to get back in shape.  So, I turned on my favorite channel during this time (when I wasn’t watching All My Children), QVC.  God bless QVC…I still know my membership number by heart after all these years.  Anyhoot, they had an ‘Body Slide’ which was supposed to mimic speed ice skating and get you in shape fast.  Since I’ve never been able to ice skate, have no coordination to speak of, and get motion sick moving in any way but straight ahead, I figured this would be a great idea for me.

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When I opened the box, there was a rectangular plastic mat with 2 small spongy things on each side, and a pair of see through ‘booties’.  I got the mat set up in the living room while O was in his little play pen, put on the booties, and tried to zip side to side like the guy on QVC did.  I fell.  In fact, I fell or slid off the mat the first few times I was on it.  My poor son was watching with a horrified look on his face…I think he realized this klutz was actually his mama.  After a few bruises, I sorta got the hang of it as long as I bent my legs, put my butt up in the air, held out my arms like a friggin’ tight rope walker, and used hip thrusts to gain momentum.  Hubby walked in the door when I was doing this and said:  “What the hell are you doing?  You look crazy on that thing.”  So much for him appreciating my attempt at being beautiful.  🙄

When I saw the Bedazzler, it was love at first sight.  Pure and simple.  Yes, I’m a tomboy and I always loved doing stuff with my dad and grandpa because girly things just didn’t interest me much.  BUT this?  A ‘machine’ that attached gems to anything you wanted?  My gosh, I’d look like a freaking rock star.  I ordered it and checked the mail every day, and when it finally arrived, I wanted to send out announcements like I did for O when he was born.s-l1600 (1)
Anyhoot, I lovingly took it out of the box, got my denim jacket out (very chic) and went to work. On the box, it shows a 10 year old bedazzling her heart out so I knew this was going to be easy peasy.  Out of the 100 gems that were included, I was able to successfully attach 2 in an hours time.  I was bawling and Hubby came in the kitchen to see me with tears streaming down my face, stuff dripping from my nose, a Bedazzler machine in my hand, and a jacket that had 1 red gem and 1 blue gem on it.  He picked up the machine, scooped up the scattered gems, marched out the door, and plopped it in the trash.  It was an act of mercy.

But even though my luck with these products was pretty bad, I knew the Clapper would work!  My God, even Hubby would like it because it would save on power bills.  You simply plugged the Clapper into an outlet, plugged in your lamp, and when you’d clap, the lamp would turn on…clap twice and it was suddenly off.  How could that fail?  Even hubby was slightly excited about this and we got it set up before traipsing off to a church event that night.

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When we were coming home, we could see the light in our living room going off and on like a disco.  We went in the house and our little dog Scooter (who Hubby wasn’t fond of and the feeling appeared to be mutual) was barking incessantly like he always did.  Every bark turned the damn light on, and then he’d bark some more and turn it off.  Another gadget that was eventually thrown away since the constant on and off was causing Hubby and I to both to have pretty severe headaches 🤨.

So times have changed…right?  I’m a tenured professor with 3 degrees under my belt, 30 total years of teaching experience, and the mama of a 26 year old.  I’m done with all this crap.  No more George Forman Grills that splatter grease all over my cabinets and face (so I get zits every time I cook)…no more Sham Wows that shrink a quarter of it’s size every time it’s washed until it’s basically the size of a tootsie roll…no more Slap-Chops that make me feel like I’m doing something naughty when I use it…no more Cami Secrets since full size cami’s are pretty comfy anyway…no more wanting, more than anything, to call the Psychic Friends Network for a reading about my love life (or lack thereof).  I’m done.  I’m mature, experienced, and media literate in terms of advertising.

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However, now that I think about it, the Snuggi for dogs would be really comfy on Dottie and Edward in the winter.  And the Tub Shroom would keep my hair out of the bathtub drain…that would be nice.  And maybe a set of Bare Lifts for my saggy boobs or Booty Pop undies to make my butt look better so I can get a date?  Hmmm.  And that Sonic Scrubber would probably work great on my bath tiles…would probably save me tons of cleaning time.  And wow…the bright light pillow would make my bedroom look like a fairy-land every night…might make me sleep better.  Huh.

Well, gotta go, peeps…QVC is calling my name.

Kristi xoxo

 

“…it’s about how much you can take and keep moving forward.” ~ Rocky Balboa

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Dear Breakdown,

So, this is the last time I’m ever going to talk about you because I’m sick of you still having a hold on me that way.  I need to put you away…not forget that you happened, but not have you continue to haunt me either.  K?

Anyhoot, I decided to write this now, because it was exactly 3 years ago today you started to happen.  And yes, I remember the exact date.  Luckily, it was right before a holiday that you started seeping into my life so thanks for that 🤨.

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It’s funny I used the word seep just now but that’s exactly what you did.  At first it was like a tiny trickle telling me something was very wrong…but tiny trickles don’t cause much damage, do they?  You know it’s there, but you also hope the damn thing just stops on it’s own.  If you wouldn’t have become the deluge you did, things would have been a hell of a lot better, so thanks for that too 🙄.  Gotta hand it to you…when you show yourself, you really go all out.

Look, I know a lot of things opened up that little crack that welcomed you in.  I understand that.  You were just seeing an opportunity, like breakdowns do…I mean, that’s sorta your ‘job’ if you will…and I was a great one to start working on.

I could go on and on about what led up to you, but that would literally take pages and pages and I’d prefer not to get carpal tunnel since I’m teaching online until January.  I do know it started as a teenager though.  Yes, I know that was eons ago (can we please not mention my age again…for piss sakes, we all know I’m a dinosaur 😐) but cracks were starting to appear already.

See…I knew I was different than other kids very young.  I never really fit in, and when I did, I was just being what they wanted me to be.  I think a lot of that was because I didn’t know who the fuck I was.  (Sorry ma…I’ll try to make that the only one.  But did you know that in Great Britain, that word is used as easily as we say crap?  And you know what an Anglophile I am).  As I started going through pubes, I could feel it getting worse and worse.  So much was happening in my head, and I was scared.  Very scared.  I developed an eating disorder and ma got help for me.  He turned out to be a sexually abusing asshole though, so I really wasn’t too keen on ever getting help again.  I think that’s understandable, but I know I needed it.

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Fast forward the next couple of decades, and I buried and buried what I was feeling and tried to deal with it the best I could.  Sometimes I was successful, and sometimes I failed.  At times I’d get so depressed that I couldn’t hide it, or I’d be so freaking high I’d bounce off the walls.  At least I could direct that into work and activities…I’ll tell you what, my yard is always the prettiest on the block and my son says my house is slowing shrinking because of all the paint I slap on the walls.

So, 1 had 2 divorces under my belt (😐), and was going through another one.  Yep…I loved my first 2 hubbies very much and those divorces were hellish at best.  But with R, it was really tough because we both still loved each other.  We used the same lawyer, faced the judge together, and hugged each other and cried the entire time when our divorce was being finalized.  But we were living 2 different lives and that just doesn’t make for a good marriage.

I met a guy and we started to get involved after R and I separated.  He took my breath away and he said I was his forever.  I felt the same.  But, he was mentally ill too.  He has Borderline Personality Disorder that as you know, without help, can be extremely difficult to deal with.  He also has PTSD from his 3 tours in the Middle East.  I cut him a lot of slack for this…something so many people in my life didn’t understand.

Three years ago today, I found out he was making plans to be with his ex-girlfriend who was driving to see him, and as we spent time together, he got angrier and angrier with me.  It hurt me so so much because I had been very good to him.

He’s a lot younger than me, and I was always very self-conscious about that.  So, I had a face lift that June.  Yep.  It wasn’t because he asked me too and he even tried to talk me out of it.  But I was starting to make very bad decisions and I went through with it.  I think him being with his ex later freaked me out even more since I took such an extreme step to be ‘perfect’ for him.  Yes, I know that was my issue, but it was hard to deal with.

Then my nephew died on the USS McCain.  He was born 6 months after my son, and all of the kids in our 2 families grew up together since we lived within a mile radius of one another.  My nephews and son always played ball on the same team in Little League together, went swimming at the same pool every summer, and we all were members of the same church.  L was a sweet, playful, funny kid that was very much his own person.  After my son’s dad and I divorced, I never stopped being a part of my niece and nephew’s lives.  L took a few of my classes in college, and having him there always made me smile.  In fact, his smile was truly infectious.  He came to see me right before he left for sea, and we hugged and I cried.  His brother took a pic of us and that was the pic he had on his badge that he wore everyday.  Losing him was the hardest loss I’ve ever faced.  He was still a kid, and there’s no justification for it like you often hear with older people; it wasn’t a blessing and it wasn’t God’s will.  It was stupid, horrible actions of the ones in charge.  Period.  It didn’t have to happen and that makes the pain even worse.

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A student started bothering me exactly around this time too.  I was told to befriend him outside of class because his disruptions were too much to handle in the classroom, and I did.  We talked and joked around and developed a friendship (we are the same age), but never saw each other out of school or even spoke on the phone.  All of our interaction was online.  One night, he got drunk and sent me texts telling me he wanted to rape me, kill me, and make me into a lampshade.  I obviously sought help for this at work but was told it was my fault and had a letter placed in my file.  I actually could have lost my job which would have killed me.  Being a prof means everything to me and I am so invested in my institution and my sweetie students.

So, all of this led to the dam gates opening and you rushing right in.  It seemed so fast.  It was like you wrapped your hands around my throat, stifled my ability to breathe (I’m actually having trouble right now just writing this…another reason I need to purge you) and then shoved me down a black hole I couldn’t see out of.  You know, I believe in God, in heaven, and in hell.  I know hell is the worse possible place imaginable and outside our human realm of thinking, but I had a little taste of it through you (once again, thanks asshole).

You made it so I could hardly talk…it took too much out of me and I couldn’t expend the effort.  I couldn’t go 10 minutes without crying.  I had so much trouble eating.  Sleeping.  It was like I was in a trance.  I was a zombie.  I couldn’t do anything.  I sat.  I ate.  I laid down.  Day after day.  You had gotten rid of ‘me’ and put this shell in it’s place.

So, I started seeing a counselor and my doctor who I’ve known for 20 years.  They saw me more than once a week, and I was in constant touch with both of them because they demanded I be.  As much as they helped me, I lied to them about the seriousness of some of what I was doing (I still can’t see my doc without bawling because I remember how much he did for me and how so supportive he was…he spent hours with me most weeks).  I didn’t want them to know you showed me that razor blade, and when you did,  I didn’t know what I would do with it when I took it from your hand anyway.  But then one night I pressed it against my skin and cut.  It hurt like fuck (my bad, ma) but it was something to concentrate on besides you.  The pain in my leg was much easier to deal with than you were.  My 12 scars are hard to look at but at the time, it seemed right.  That’s how much power you had over me.

I guess that wasn’t enough for you though, so you showed me that bottle of pills I had in my cabinet.  Look, you knew I didn’t want to leave my son and my ma and my family and students and the world itself, so why did you make my pain so bad that I couldn’t find any other way out?  That was when God took over.  He got me up off my bed and I threw up what you had given me.  I don’t care what unbelievers say…I know it was God, because it certainly wasn’t me.

That’s when I finally saw a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with bipolar.  After hearing my history, doc said I am one of the few cases that show itself before adolescence.  When I do something, I do it well…huh?  I got on meds, sought more help, and slowly climbed out of the black hole you were trying so hard to keep me in.

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And it’s over.  It’s finally over.  You’re gone.  And as much as you might hate to hear it, I won.  I fucking won.  Look, I’ve run marathons, did a triathalon, and have really pushed myself physically at times, but those were cakewalks compared to you.  Yet I beat you…I sorta feel like Rocky.

I slowly got strong again, and after a long while I started running because I could finally breathe and leave the house with getting panicky. I can’t tell you how good it felt to lace up my sneakers again.  I was so proud when I did a couple of miles; for someone who used to run 40 miles a week, that doesn’t sound like much, but for me it was huge.  I started doing yoga, and you should see my arms…they freaking rock.  I started doing my art and crafts again, read books I hadn’t been able to concentrate on for so long, reconnected with neighbors who I hadn’t see for months and months, started posting on social media again and basically just started living my life without you.

Look, I know you’re out there.  And I know you can come back at anytime.  That used to scare the shit out of me, but here’s the thing.  I’ve beaten you once, and if you ever show yourself again, I’ll kick your ass one more time.  You don’t scare me anymore and I’m not going to live in dread thinking you’ll return.  I’m too busy being happy, content, proud and healed.

You’re gone.  You lost.  You put up a hell of a fight for me, but I won.  I WON.  Me.  So there.

Kristi xoxo

“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” ~ Aristotle

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So, what does it mean to be happy?  Really think about it.  Everyone says that all they want from life is to be happy…but what is it?  Contentment?  Security?  Being loved?  Having a family?  Enjoying your career?  A minimization of stresses?  Is happiness the addition of good things/feelings, or a subtraction of the bad?  Is it a concept like ‘love’ that has a different meaning for everyone?

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I’ve been contemplating this a lot lately for a variety of reasons.  I used to think that my happiness stemmed around having a family.  The white picket fence, “Leave it to Beaver” type family I always wanted for myself, and I pretty much had that when O was a little guy and his dad and I were raising him for the 13 years we were together.  I can honestly say that was the ‘happiest’ time in my life since being a mama and wife meant so much to me.  It was also then that I was hired as an adjunct instructor, got a full-time position, and then was rising up the ranks to being a professor.  It was almost like the stars were aligned just right and everything that I had ever wanted came together.

Fast forward to my life now, single and living alone, and I ask myself if I’m happy like this.  I never thought I’d be because here’s a secret for you:  I was always VERY scared to be alone.  VERY.

Even when others were at home with me, but I was upstairs while they were downstairs, I’d still be scared!  Sometimes sissy would spend the night with someone and my parents would get me in bed before they went down to watch TV.  I would lay in bed shaking…literally.  My family used to laugh at how I’d sleep with all of my stuffed animals in my bed to where they surrounded me like a fence, but it was my safety net, so to speak.  If anything could scare off a monster or axe murder, it was my pink bunny with the ears pulled off.  I don’t think they know this or not, but I often snuck out of my room and would sit on the steps for a time just so I could hear them talk and the TV playing.  I felt much safer then.

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Ted Bundy…Seattle Times.

Then, it was around the time I was in the 6th grade or so that ma started working outside the home full-time (and yes, I used to roll my eyes at that expression but after raising a son, I’m here to tell you that professoring is a freaking breeze compared to the work load of mommying) and my sissy was in High School.  Ma would drop her off and I’d get myself off to school.  No biggie…right?  I had 2 blocks to walk and I was only home for a half hour or so before leaving.  But I was petrified every single morning (which is why I often called T in sick to school so her friends could come over for a skip day, courtesy of my excellent imitation of mom’s voice that the school secretary never questioned) and having T at home for that 1/2 hour before I tottered off to school made me so much more comfortable.  If anyone could stave off a Ted Bundy wannabe, it was T!

Even as an adult, I was scared.  When M (Hubby 1) and I were married, he often had to work 3rd shift and I was alone in our green trailer (if I never see a toilet the color of a rotten avocado, I’ll die content).  I’d pack up Scooter (my first ever dog), Sheldon (my parakeet) and myself and traipse over to ma’s to spend the night in my old room.  She was married to R at the time (get ready for it…the fucking bastard) but even spending the night in the same house as him was preferable to being by myself.  That, my sweet peeps, says a lot.

When O’s dad and I got married, we moved a couple of states away and sometimes he’d have to go on 2 day trips around Kansas (very exciting stuff) while I stayed at home with my baby.  I couldn’t go to moms unless I wanted to drive 14 hours, so I’d barricade me and O in my bedroom with my German Shepherd posted outside the door (God bless you, Tessie) and would count the hours until morning.  Hubby never understood why I was so freaking tired when he got home since O could sleep through the night by that time.

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The real Bloody Mary – First Queen of England

I don’t know what did it, but being alone started to change for me when I was married to Hubby 3.  He spent his summers riding with his motorcycle club (gang 😳) and I was alone for 3 day weekends all through the season, as well as during his  4-5 day trips.  I hated it at first, but then started savoring more and more of the aloneness (is that even a word?).  I liked having the time to do whatever it was I wanted to do, but yes, I was still really scared at night.  Do you remember the game “Bloody Mary”, where you look in a mirror, chant that phrase, and then you’ll actually see her ghost appear?  Because of that damn ‘game’, I couldn’t sleep in a room with a mirror for ages.  So, when Hubby was gone, I’d put a blanket over my dresser mirror that faced the bed, and hoped for the best.  Eventually, I took it down…believe it or not, that was a huge step for me!  (P.S.  She never appeared…go figure 🙄).

So here I am now…alone.  Everything I didn’t want to be but suddenly the situation I find myself in.  Surprisingly though, I don’t hate it and in fact, sometimes I really love it!  You see, I used to depend on others to make me feel secure.  Safe.  And to go even further with it validated…important…needed…and yes, happy too.  I sought these things from everyone I had been in a relationship with.  I wanted them to be the one stop shop where I could get all I needed just from them.  I wanted them to be responsible for the things that made me ‘happy’ and as you well know by now, those situations didn’t last.

You know, I used to hate it when people would say:  “You are responsible for your own happiness.”  OK…I’ll jot that down in my little book of advice.  But actually, it’s true.  I think I turned away from the gist of that phrase because I didn’t want the responsibility of my own happiness.  I didn’t want to learn to depend on me.  Feel safe with me.  Feel secure with me.  That sounded like a crap load of work, and it was so much easier to put that onus on someone else and then blame them when I wasn’t happy.  Right?  Why take on a job when you can pass it along to another?  (By the way sis, you still owe me a vacuuming from 1980 when I did it for you that one afternoon before ma got home…just sayin’).

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So, I’ve been put in a situation where I’m having to depend only on me.  If I want to feel secure, I am the one to make that happen.  If I want to feel safe, I have to understand I can take care of myself.  If I want to feel content…fulfilled…’happy’…then it’s up to me to create that environment to do so.  Period.  Me.  Just good old (cough cough) me.

And guess what?  I’m doing it!  Over these past months, I’ve learned so much about myself.  I’ve learned how much stronger I am.  How much more capable.  I’ve learned to take care of me…by myself.  I’ve come to understand I can weather storms with just me, Eddie, and Little Dot and it’s empowering every time.  I have finally come to see that depending on me is something I’ve needed for a long long time.  I’ve also learned something so so important:  that being with someone who creates unhappiness for you is so much worse than simply being alone.  I don’t NEED anyone to fulfill my needs now (although having one of those fulfilled…ahem…would be sorta nice), I’m doing just fine on my own.

So, back to my original question:  is this what happiness is…at least for me?  Yes.  I think it is.  I know when I wake up, I smile.  I know doing things around my house to make it exactly the way I want it makes me proud.  I know that watching Eddie and Dottie play out in the yard makes me laugh.  I know that watching stupid movies and eating dinner on the couch with Eddie’s head on my lap makes me feel a sense of contentment.  Maybe this wouldn’t be enough for someone else.  Maybe it’s too ‘little’…after all, I’m not traveling the world or jumping out of a plane, but it’s what I like.  And for me…that seems to be my happiness.

I still cry.  I still deal with issues relating to being bipolar.  I still get scared at times…lonely…sad.  I still miss having a partner at times.  I still want a picket fence family again.  Right now, I’m cycling through a bit of a manic stage but with some depression in the mix (it’s such a weird feeling to be on top of the world while crying at times), and the other day, I was really struggling.  I reached out to a friend and asked if they could come over for even just a few minutes to give me a hug and reassure me I was going to be OK.  They couldn’t so I weathered the storm on my own, and came out just fine.  By myself.  All by myself.  And…I was so proud.

For me, this is all happiness.  Knowing that no matter what happens to me in life, I’ll always have myself.  I’m happy with being ‘just’ me.  I’m happy with how I’m living right now and what I’m doing.  Maybe happiness is different for everyone, but sometimes I think people seek it too much in things…or in other people…or in constantly striving for that ‘something’ else that will miraculously fulfill them and make them believe they have finally reached the nirvana they sought.  I’m thinking it’s a little more than that…and a little less.  I’m thinking that it really does come from within…that it’s not money or cars or houses or others.  It’s you, and being content with who you are.  That, grasshoppers, is enough…at least for me.

Kristi xoxo

“I feel pretty… Oh, so pretty…” ~ West Side Story

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So, I know you won’t believe this when I tell you but I am absolutely speechless.  Yes, it’s one of the very few times in my life that I simply don’t know what to say and I’m trying right now to sort out my thoughts and figure this whole thing out.  (Ma and O…don’t get too excited, I’m sure my normal speaking ability will be back very soon…probably by the time you read this).

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Anyhoot, I’ve been reading articles concerning the image we have of ourselves and come to find out that because we (women mostly, but men as well) use filters so often on our selfies before posting them to social media, our brains get ‘used’ to seeing that more perfect version of ourselves and we then judge ourselves much more harshly when we see our unedited selves in the mirror.  You know, this really just makes sense though, doesn’t it?  When I see my son, I don’t necessarily see the ‘man’ in front of me…I see the boy he’s been throughout his life and his face is a composite of all of those images.  I see what I’ve been ‘used’ to seeing throughout the years.

Think about it, we take a selfie…determine that we need to fix it since it looks too real…and then post the ‘perfected’ image online.  Later, we wash up, look in the mirror, and think blech.  Then, we start to get down about ourselves since we’re so far from the perfect version everyone is clicking the like button for.  So, next time we make sure to filter just as well if not a tad bit more, because those likes just feel so damn good to us, even though it’s creating yet a more unattainable image of our own face that in reality, there’s no way we can match.  Then we want to feel better and get some validation so snap, filter, post, and get the love.  The cycle becomes a vicious one and we are now seeing tons of research showing that it’s a dangerous one as well.

Take a look-see at this (Forbes, March 23rd, 2020):

“In 2018, researchers discovered 55% of surgeons are now seen by patients looking to improve their appearance for selfies (up from 42% in 2015) and that the pervasive nature of filtered images regularly trigger body dysmorphia.”

Paul Nassif (Hollywood plastic surgeon on Botched said this:  “Public thinking has changed.  More people are embracing fillers and botox to recreate the effect of filters and other photo editing apps.  It’s becoming very normal.”

Now read that again, grasshoppers.  People are wanting plastic surgery to LOOK BETTER FOR SELFIES POSTED ON SOCIAL MEDIA.  Selfies!  Are you kidding me?  Social media is becoming so strong of an influence in our lives that we’ll go under the knife or needle to look good on our feed?  A FEED ON A SCREEN THAT’S SUPPOSED TO BE FILLED WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY WHO LOVE YOU?  (Get ready ma…) but are you fucking kidding me?

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Little too much editing there, John

No, it’s not a joke.  First, let me admit to you that of course I’ve used filters!  When they first came out they were a God send…right?  My zits (yes, I’m 50+ years old and still have zits 🙄) and wrinkles could be hidden and I had the face I have always dreamed about.  Clear, smooth skin and looking like I had had a glamour make-over from the 90’s (but better…no big hair and denim jackets with bandanas).  I loved it!  I would feel so good about myself when others would say “Wow…looking good, Kristi!”  Until I’d take a shower, look in the mirror right after, and think ‘why in the hell can’t I look more like the pics I take?’  I’ll tell you why…because I was posting the perfect me…not the real me.  And some of them were REALLY bad perfects!  Like when the filter looked super on my face, but then every other part of me looked ‘real’ and things didn’t match up, but I liked seeing my skin flawless to the point I had no pores and was ready for a mag cover.

Filtered me and ma…REAL me and ma.

Did you know that millennials will take about 25,700 selfies in their life and that 1:5 kids want to grow up to be social media influencers (thank God they have a great career in mind as opposed to being a doctor or educator 🙄)?  And think about the selfies…what if that millennial put a dollar in the bank for every selfie?  That’s a nice little nest egg to build up.  P.S.  Did you know that in 2015, more people died taking selfies than from shark attacks?  And, since 2011, there have been 259 deaths which are now called ‘selfiecides’?  (Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care)  SELFIECIDES, grasshoppers…people putting them in positions where they are risking their life for a picture of themselves.  I can’t find the right words for this…so…(dammit, sorry ma again) what the fuck?  Are we that freaking narcissistic it’s worth our lives to get “the” shot that garners so much attention?

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From Boudoir Alaska

There’s also a new ‘disorder’, if you will, being called “Snapchat Dysmorphia” which is filtered pics causing negative effects on a person’s self-esteem and body image.  Then this can literally trigger the much more serious Body Dysmorphic Disorder…an actual mental illness that the The Mayo Clinic describes as this:  the BDD person INTENSELY focuses on how they look and their body image…checking themselves in the mirror repeatedly, constantly grooming themselves for hours everyday and then seeking reassurance, all of which is causing significant distress and an inability to function in everyday life.  The perceived flaw(s) (remember…they are perceived and not real…what they see in the mirror or in selfies isn’t the reality of the image there).  Sometimes it’s a certain body part the person intensely and obsessively focuses on, like their nose or lips, and others might have a more general issue with their body.

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Darcy Silva (90 Day Fiance) with multiple plastic surgeries

OK…let’s get this straight:  a ‘disorder’ that originates from SOCIAL MEDIA SELFIES and can literally trigger a mental illness which can lead the person to get multiple plastic surgeries, avoid crowds and gatherings because they feel so ugly, and spend so much time obsessing over their flaw that their relationships and work suffer.  This is bad, peeps.

When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s (best decade ever!), we didn’t have social media (and gasp…actually survived!).  The ads I saw might have had some ‘airbrushing’ but they weren’t photoshopped and still looked ‘normal’…some wrinkles, freckles, pores (!), etc.  But in 1990, photoshop started being used on the pics we see, and it’s become the norm in ads and pics of celebrities…some estimates say 99.9% of celebs use it for pics they release.  So…the people we look up too for body image, beauty, styles, fashion, trends, etc. aren’t who they appear to be.  But by golly, we want to look like them.

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70’s Ad…stupid but not ‘perfect’

You know, once I started reading about all of this I decided I had enough problems (😳) and was tired of looking in the mirror and saying ‘blech’.  I’ve worked so hard to get strong after my breakdown and have come a long way.  Three years ago this summer (actually beginning around this time), I was incapable of functioning, tried to end my life, and began seriously cutting.  Now I’m on a mood stabilizer, running, doing yoga (and now have ‘guns’!  Hello, tank tops!), living alone and fixing up my house all by myself (including walking around on my roof!), learning new hobbies, doing art, and really starting to see my worth and feel STRONG.  Why would I want to back-pedal and feel bad about myself again because of the expectations I have of how I should look?

So, when I had a pic of myself I wanted to post (which actually is a bit upsetting to think I feel the need for others to periodically see my face…you’ve seen it once, you don’t need to see it again to know who I am for piss sakes 😳) I decided to not use filters ever again.    No more.  I’ve posted the real me.  Yes, I have wrinkles because I’m 53.  I have sun spots because I’ve always been a tomboy and outside a lot.  I have zits and clogged pores (although the oil cleansing method is a god-send), and the list of flaws goes on (I sound like a real catch, huh?).  But here’s the thing, grasshoppers:  what I see in my pic is what I see in the mirror and it’s become much more normal for me now.  It’s me.  I feel so much better about the real me than I previously had, and putting it out there freed me from that weight of perfection.  I no longer wear make-up except for mascara (thanks for the droopy eyelids, ma) and lipstick.  Nothing on my skin…which has actually made it look better in the long run.  I used to never go out without gunk on my skin.  Now I do, all the time, and I feel like I’m just being me.

Peeps, we need to let the girls and women in our lives (and men too!) that they don’t need filters to look good.  They don’t need to erase, plump, blur, straighten, make thinner, make bigger, lighten, darken, or anything else to be beautiful.  They need to learn that being themselves is enough.  Instead of saying how gorgeous they are in their photoshopped pics, we need to tell them how great the editing is, but how they are beautiful already.

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But I know this isn’t going to help much though.  There is too much social media influence in our culture for the younger generations, and they are going through the majority of their growing up years seeing only ‘perfect’ pics (even of their parents) and building the cognitive framework in their mind that flawless is the only option.  How do we knock this down when it’s so well constructed in their minds?  Why are people spending their lives as “influencers” simply showing off their edited looks to sell a product by telling others how it will make them look beautiful too?  Is this really an admirable ‘career’?  Why are we wasting time everyday to take and then edit the perfect pic?  The one we are hoping is ‘it’ on FB or Instagram?  Couldn’t that time be better spent…like playing with our kids, reading a book, volunteering, taking a hike, etc.?

I guess I just worry for these kids and teens right now since I see so many of these concerns in my own college students.  It breaks my heart how these issues are affecting their self-esteem and body image in a way that could potentially trigger BDD or cause anxiety, social phobia, depression, etc.  Is a selfie worth this?  Is pretending?  Grasshoppers…I don’t believe it is.

Kristi xoxo