“Embarrassment and awkward situations are not foreign things to me.” ~ Paul Rudd

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So, yesterday I was in ACE Hardware which is close to my house and where I go all of the time.  Since I’m in a bit of a manic phase, I’ve been traipsing over there even more to get my painting supplies and other what-nots.  Anyhoot, I know the store like the back of my hand but for some reason, I could not find the lightbulbs yesterday.  This store is locally owned and the people who walk the floor to give you that old-fashioned service are mostly older, retired men (who are simply adorbs with their pants up to their nipples 😉).  After wandering through the dozen or so aisles, I was asked if I needed help and I said: “Sure, I just can’t find the lightbulbs…I guess they must have been moved.”  His deadpan reply was:  “No ma’am…they are right here where they’ve always been…turn around.”  And yes, there they were, 4″ from my face.

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THEN, I had to buy a couple of screws  and was filling out the little paper sack with the screw price (shutty…I know I could have worded this better 🙄) and trying to calculate the total (very difficult:  price x quantity).  I was secretly using my fingers and must have looked perplexed because grandpa came up to me again and asked, AGAIN, if I needed help.  I said I was just having a little problem with my calculation and he looked at my sack and said, “Well, ma’am, you have 6 screws at $.09 each.  That would be $.54.  6 x 9 = 54.”  I tittered and said:  “Would you believe I’m a college professor?”  And this old geezer (who was married…I checked…🙄), said:  “No.”  Then, he walked away shaking his head.

OK.  Gotta admit this was pretty embarrassing.  I looked like a complete twit and wondered how I’ve managed to get along so well in life thus far since I’m obviously incapable of seeing objects and multiplying single digit numbers.  Then, it got me to thinking about other embarrassing times in my life, and unfortunately, there are a lot of ’em.

So, I play the flute and am mediocre at best.  Or, to be honest, I’m probably a few steps down from that.  But my best friend in high school played the flute VERY well (she’s actually freaking amazing on it 😀) and I wanted to sit by her in band and be 2nd chair so I decided to take lessons with the same guy she studied with.  His name was Mr. P and I had a HUGE crush on him.  He had traveled all around the world and was very cosmopolitan.  He’d play the piano along with my fluting and tell jokes I loved hearing.  I’d spend hours in front of the mirror before I rode my 10 speed to his house, just to make sure my hair was ‘feathered’ right and I had my strawberry Bonne Bell lip gloss on just so.  One afternoon, he was trying to broaden my range and had me play really high notes.  I worked and worked at playing a high C and when it finally happened, something else happened too.  I farted.  Or pooted.  Or passed gas.  Use whatever term you prefer but I wanted the floor to open up so I could fall in and never be heard from again.  The worst part?  He didn’t acknowledge this case of the ‘vapors’ but I’m the type to laugh when I’m nervous, so I started giggling like a lunatic (yes, big shocker there).  He, being a gentleman, tried to ignore this too, which made me more nervous, which made me more gassy, which made me more giggly.  Long story short?  He left town not much later, gave up teaching flute, and embarked on a figure skating career.  If he ever would have won a gold medal, I was going to take the credit for it.

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Newman Theatre

As some of you know, I’ve got the grandiose delusion that I actually have Oscar winning acting abilities if I could simply be discovered (my family disagrees, but what do they know?  Their last name isn’t Spielberg…just sayin’).  Of course, this began when I first saw Jodi Foster (btw, my big girl crush) and knew I could be just like her.  Anyhoot, I was always too shy to try out for plays in high school since that was for the popular folk (no-talent boobs who are still bitchy…get over yourselves already, please) that I was much too intimidated by to be around.  But one day an opportunity presented itself:  during Jr. year, my English Lit class was reading “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams, and I was playing Laura that day.  She is physically and emotionally impaired with a lot of mental fragility (wonder why I was chosen?), and her mom was desperate to find her a husband (once again, this part fit me like a glove).  Anyhoot, I was excited to read this part because it would show the snotty seniors in my class how much they needed me in their plays.  There’s a part of the play where the horn of a glass unicorn is broken off and Laura yells:  “My GLASS MENAGERIE!”  Menagerie is pronounced ‘men-aj-er-ee’ but I SCREECHED ‘man-a-jer-aw’.  The class started cracking up and I was horrified!  My big chance at a movie career (actors from my Illinois high school often make it to Hollywood) ended and I was humiliated.  Bye bye, Tinseltown.

Another embarrassing moment happened when I was getting ready to start my Jr. year in college.  I went to community college my first 2 years (and now teach at the same college 😃) and was so so so excited to be the first in my family to go on to university.  As hard as it is to believe, I was a bit smug about this.  Anyhoot, Hubby 1 and I were dating at the time and we were at “Cousin Fred’s”.  I kid you not…there was a store where I live actually called this.  It was a great store and one of those where you could find about anything you need, but it was a bit dumpy.  So we were checking out and I was wearing a shirt from my new college and the cashier said:  “Are you going to that university?”  I thought: “How cute…this guy, a cashier at Cousin Fred’s (!), wants to know if smart, academically motivated Kristi is going to a big, scary university.  Bless his heart!”  I say, in a pretty snotty voice now that I think back to it, “Yes…I’m going to be a junior.”  It sounded like I was saying, “Why yes, I’m queen of the freaking world.”  The guy said:  “Cool.  I just got my Masters there.”  Hubby 1 started cracking up!  After looking at this guy dumbfounded that out of all the people who have asked me about college, I had to be snotty towards the 1 who actually had his graduate degree, I kinda mumbled something like “Good for you!” and moseyed out of the store.  Yes, this put me in my place.  Yes, I have never bragged about anything again.  And yes, I sorta lied on that last one.

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Best White Shorts Ever!

Once, I was at another store in my town called Venture that was also a bit of this and a bit of that.  I was wearing white shorts and as I was meandering the aisles, I noticed a lot of people admiring my butt.  I was 17 and thought WOW, I must be looking good!  Whispers followed me and my confidence was growing and I started smiling at these guys who ‘wanted me’ and the women who ‘wanted to be me.’  I glided through the check-out, sashayed my way to the parking lot, and when I got home I looked in my full-length body mirror to see my amazing ass.  What I saw was thin white shorts that showed my dark brown underwear perfectly.  Yes, dark brown underwear was a thing in the 80’s and I was too stupid to think they would show through THIN white shorts.  These guys weren’t admiring my behiner…they were laughing at me!  From this day on, I never…ever…ever…leave the house without looking at my backside first.  Just in case.

There are so many times I’ve tripped in front of people (and always look at the floor like there was a spill or something), waved to someone who wasn’t waving to me, said hello to someone who had no idea who the hell I was, talked to someone with a huge piece of food stuck in my teeth, got caught smelling my armpits, argued about something ad nauseam and then realized I was wrong, wasn’t able to get an easy word out, couldn’t complete a high five and having my palm just swat the air, said “That’s great” when I couldn’t hear someone and then realized what an inappropriate remark this was, gone out in my greasy face and lank hair to run a quick errand and then seeing a dozen people I know, and the list goes on.

Isn’t it funny how we think our families are embarrassing or we see embarrassing things on YouTube and we thank our lucky stars that it wasn’t us?  It’s so easy to point out other people’s moments and so hard to face our own mortifications.  I probably embarrass myself at least a dozen times a week…I’m clumsy, awkward, and have the tendency to say and act before thinking about it which can set me up for a lot of humiliating situations.  But I can laugh at them now.  Out of all the things I face having this fucking (first time in this post, ma &#128516) bipolar disease, being embarrassed is the least of my worries.  You know, I learned not long ago that if you can laugh at yourself, it’s one less time you cry.  And believe me…for those of us with mental illnesses, laughing can feel pretty damn good.

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

“And it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” ~ Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland) I

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So, I finished reading a book yesterday with a very disturbing theme about a father and grown daughter having a sexual relationship.  I bought the book on my Kindle after being intrigued by the subject matter, especially because I teach Psychology and Human Sexuality.  Katheryn Harrison published “The Kiss” in 1997 and after I had read the last page, I sat for a few minutes thinking about the characters and how they were portrayed.  The mother, father and daughter were not well developed and the incidents of incest were described only briefly.  I didn’t necessarily feel close to any one character, but still felt I knew them all.  It was a very different type of writing but appropriate, I feel, for the subject matter.

Anyhoot, after I had pondered it for a while, I noticed that I still had 12% unread and found an interview with the author after the last page; although I had assumed this book was a novel it was actually a memoir, with the daughters voice throughout the book being the author herself.

I was gobsmacked…and I think it was for a couple of reasons.  First, the bravery Kathryn had to write about a situation in which there was going to be a lot of judgement (particularly in 1997 when we were still hiding so much), and secondly, to put herself out there and make her secret known to other family, friends, students, and her older children.  She has never identified the dad, so outside of the close family circle he’s anonymous, and her intention was never ‘out’ him.  I also understand her ‘lesser than’ characters since the story wasn’t written for shock value or drama, but to purge a secret from her soul in the only way she had as an outlet to use, and to do it in the most honest, straightforward way she could.

After reading the authors interview about using writing to heal, I thought about this blog and my purpose behind it.  In Kathryn’s interview she says a lot of things I could relate too:

“I think human beings exist poised between two terrors:  being known, really known, for who they are, and never being known, and therefore never being loved for who they really are.”

“When I teach I tell my students there’s a paradox – an essential paradox – in writing memoir.  The process will bring them both closer to and further away from themselves, their histories.  To succeed they will have to examine material that is painful, see what they don’t want to see, especially about themselves.”

She goes on to say:

“The past is something they’ll have to admit, in the sense of both confessing and inviting in.  But they’ll be able to tolerate the discomfort of admission because writing about the past demands that they objectify it, shape and manipulate the same events or transactions that once overwhelmed them.”

Now, the other day someone messaged me and said that I was always going to be known as the bipolar (‘the bipolar’?  It sounds like I’m an alien and the only one out there 😳) and why would I want EVERYONE to know I was mentally ill anyway?

Well…the short answer is that I really don’t give a flying fuck how people see me (sorry ma, sis is the one who taught me all of these words…you need to speak with her and while I have your ear, ask her to help you with any issues you encounter with your new computer which I had to set up on that God awful day when I thought we were going to maim each other…just sayin’).

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Wanna know why?  Because I have bipolar (and an eating disorder 😐), know I’m mentally ill, and that’s finally OK with me.  Look, I hid it and hid it and hid it, until I couldn’t even see it myself for so many years.  I was ashamed to think there was something seriously wrong with me…that I wasn’t the ‘perfect’ mama, daughter, sis, professor, etc. I tried so hard to be.  Suppressing any thoughts I had that were telling me I needed serious help wasn’t easy, but was more acceptable.  I didn’t want to be ‘the bipolar’.  I wanted to be Kristi.  But I wasn’t being Kristi because I had buried myself deep down inside of my mind and then acted my way through life the best I could.  And when I simply couldn’t keep up my act, I’d blame whatever was convenient to blame.

I didn’t want people to know the real me…the really mentally ill me.  But here’s the thing:  like Kathryn said, have I ever really been loved for who I actually am?  To be honest with you, I don’t know the answer to that.  I do know so many people have stepped away from me.  I guess they liked me being on my personal stage and smiling and laughing my way through life, before I’d go home and collapse in tears.  They liked hearing about my relaxing weekend when I’d actually been cycling through a mania that I tried to hide at school, but which came out in droves on the weekend when I might stay up 16 hours straight doing whatever needed to be done, and other things that didn’t need to be done but I wanted to do anyway.  Phew.

The only relationship I’ve been in since being formally diagnosed and getting help was with J.  I don’t know if he got it though.  I think he liked the acting Kristi too.  It was almost like we reversed our dynamics in a way:  when he started being good to me (and there really was a lot of good) after our 1st year together, he’d say “This is me…the real J!”  And I had a hard time believing it because the only J I had known prior to this was the mentally ill J that hurt me.  It was the same with him though.  Once my masks fell off, I sensed that he didn’t like the authentic me.  And unlike I tried to do with him in terms of his mental illnesses, he didn’t really take my bipolar, and related effects, into consideration when we would have issues.  I think in the back of his mind, I was still the ‘perfect professor’ who was there TO help…not someone that sometimes NEEDED help.

A couple of the guys I’ve gone out with since then have used my diagnosis against me when it’s convenient.  They’d remind me that I’m mentally ill (thanks for that tidbit guys, I have a hard time remembering it myself 🙄) and that’s probably why I got angry at them.  Or sad.  Or excited.  Or whatever it was that could take the focus off of their part in the issue and put it solely on me.

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Also, like Kathryn states, it is so helpful for me to write out the things I need to say.  Whether it’s about problems I’m having with bipolar on a particular day or other issues in my life, writing helps me sort it out, it’s cathartic (by the way, I’ve finally cycled into my summer mania which isn’t off the charts because of my mood stabilizer, but I’m getting a hell of a lot of stuff done.  Need your gutters cleaned?).  Seeing what I’ve written about the psychologist that abused me has helped me put that to rest more than it’s ever been in my life.  Publishing that…getting it out there…and knowing I’m not alone because of the stories you sweet peeps have shared with me has helped tremendously.

Figuring out the relationships I’ve had, particularly J’s since that’s the one that haunts me the most, has helped me to see parts of it I haven’t recognized before.  It’s also helped me to understand his actions better and to see how I was also a part of our conflict.  I have come to understand I have to take ownership for the role I played and not just put the burden of blame solely on him.  That’s humbling.  But also right.  Without writing some of my posts and re-reading them a few times later on, I don’t know if I would have ever gotten to this point.

And Kathryn is so right when she says that by writing and publishing publicly, you aren’t just ‘confessing’ your trials and tribulations, but you are inviting others into that fold as well.  Yesterday, a student (she’s a doll) wrote me and told me how much she loved my blog and how many posts spoke to her to the point she has shared them with her mama who also benefits from them.  Yeppers…it’s hard to say some of what I say, but it’s worth it when I get a message like that.  It’s worth losing friendly colleagues, worth having people look at me differently, worth having some family step away from me at times when I need them the most (some have never mentioned my suicide attempt as if it was just another thing Kristi did for the hell of it…that, my grasshoppers, breaks my heart), worth being known as the ‘bipolar professor’ (I wonder if I could get a book out of that…hmmmm), worth having to examine myself under a microscope and look at what’s really there, instead of what I tricked myself into seeing for so many years.

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My son (almost 27, even though I’m still 40 🙄) doesn’t mention my blog much, and sometimes I’ll ask if he’s read any posts lately.  He’ll say he has but by the way he comments I know he hasn’t.  At times I think he’s ashamed of me…that he wants that perfect, step-fordy mama back where I continuously nod and say “everything’s perfect, sweetie.”  And then I feel guilty, because I think to myself that maybe I should go back to that.  To being fake and pretending my way through life.  To posting filtered pics on FB where I am in the right pose with the right background with the right smile with the right message.  But, as much as I love my son and would give my life for him in a second, I’m not going to go back to that because I simply can’t.  Once the words have been released, there’s no taking them back.  And as you know, peeps, I’ve released a heck of a lot of words.

I like that image of release though.  Like letting go of a balloon and watching it float into the sky until it simply disappears from your sight.  I can’t tell you how much better I feel by being Kristi, the gal who has bipolar.  I’m here to tell you peeps, pretending is freaking exhausting.  So now, I cry when I need to cry, I laugh too loud when I hear something funny, and if I’m having a really shitty day, I say to people:  “I’m having a really shitty day.”  I don’t use filters anymore on FB and pretend to have a picture perfect life; in fact, the last few pics I’ve posted are me after doing yard work where I’m dirty, sweaty, stinky, and have a stupid look on my face.  But, it’s me.  One take.  And I’m OK with that.

When I’m in the great craft area of heaven one day, I hope this:  that people will remember me as a good mom, good daughter, good sister, freaking amazing as hell professor (😁) who had a mental illness she made public so that others would also feel free to expose their own…get help for it…learn to manage it…and live with it in the best way they could.  And you know what?  If that’s all that’s said about me, that’s enough.  And this blog was totally worth it.

Kristi xoxo

 

“Someday I Hope to Write Something That’s Worth Plagiarizing.” ~ Author Unknown

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So, my son said something so adorable the other day (yes, I know he’s 26 but he’s still adorbs to me) regarding my blog:  “Ma, you are blogging so much you are going to run out of things to say.”  I looked at him dumbfounded for probably a solid minute and responded:  “O, in the name of all that is holy,  do you REALLY think I would run out of things to yap about?”

C’mon.  I’m a talker.  The biggest complaint my teachers had about me in school was how much I talked to the other kids.  But the ironic thing is I really didn’t care if they were listening or not because it didn’t matter to me.  I wasn’t talking to get information or ask a question, I was talking because I’m the type of person that needs to talk.  My ma says I always talked in my sleep, and one of the hardest manners I had to learn was not talking with my mouth full.  And if I’m being honest, I still find that very hard to do.  I will swallow a glob of food without chewing if I can’t wait to say something I need to get out.

Related to that, I love love love to write and I always have.  In early grade school we would copy things from the board to learn our letters and such, but I would always take my paper and write stories instead.  I didn’t want to copy, I wanted to create my own story; even at that young age, I wanted my voice to be heard.  Bless my ma and dad’s hearts because they saved all of sis’s and my report cards, papers, etc. and I have so many stories in my school box.

Take a look at these:  I know the Spotted Apple was written in the 3rd grade and From Outer Space (my personal favorite because of the green yarn binding) was in 4th.  Why these 2 tomes didn’t win a Pulitzer is beyond me.

But now, here’s a couple of huge issues:  “Sue Ann Gets Married” sounds very much like the hit movie “Peggy Sue Got Married” which was released in 1986, more than 10 years after my ‘book’, while the “Harry Potter” series sounds eerily like my “Harry and the Spider” novel. Now, I’m not saying these original ideas were stolen per se, but I do have a literary lawyer looking into the matter.  P.S.  If you are reading this J.K. Rowling, I can show you how to shave off a few hundred pages…Harry and the Spider is 4.

As I got older, whenever I needed to vent something, I’d write it.  Not in journals (like I’ve said before I’m horrible at keeping those) but just on random sheets of paper, the back of ads, on scraps I’ve pulled out of the garbage can.  It’s like I have to get the words out and sometimes, for me, writing is the best way to do it.

Maybe because I’m bipolar I feel the need to do this.  When I’m manic, there is absolutely no way I can keep up with the thoughts that are swirling around my brain (my new mood stabilizer is helping!).  Sometimes people have asked me what it’s like to be so ‘high’ and it’s kind of like the teacup ride at Disney.  You sit in these cups and there’s a wheel in the center that you grab and turn, and your cup goes around and around faster and faster until it feels like you’re almost flying.  That’s what it’s like (except you don’t puke in the end).  So because of that swirling, writing gets things down for me that I can’t keep up with otherwise.  I have notebooks all over the house and if you tried to read them…good luck!  But I can read every word I scribble down.

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And when I’m depressed?  I need to get out things that choke me up to talk about and that I can’t face any other way.  Writing allows me to say my thoughts in a way that won’t put off or scare anyone else.  These often macabre thoughts are safe on my paper, and seeing them in writing releases them a bit from my brain.

That’s why this blog is so great for me because it gives me an outlet where I can just talk.  When I used to sit down in front of a computer as an adult, I would think about perfect sentence structure, perfect grammar, etc. and would be so concerned with the mechanics of the writing and whether or not it sounded perfect, that it was constricting.  But now, I just write.  Just talk.  I don’t care what the sentences look like. I just care about getting down what I need to say that day.  That’s what writing should be.  Talking…telling stories…sharing ideas.  Who cares if it’s perfect?

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I wrote a book a few years ago on marriage (go ahead and roll your eyes…but really, after 3 of them, at least I’m experienced in the subject) and I wanted it to be like other self-helpy type books out there.  Lots of chapters with cute tables or graphs, illustrations, references, etc.  So, that’s what I sat down to write, and I’d get about 5 sentences in it and give up.  It wasn’t ‘sciency’ enough and I’d get so nervous about making sure it was up to the standards of the ‘experts’ that I’d just quit trying.  Finally, I decided to talk, like I do in class.  Just say what I wanted to say and that’s what I did.  I talked about what I thought were important aspects of  marriage and instead of worrying about it being perfect, I simply let it flow.  When writing goes like that with the words coming easily, it feels so freaking good to me!

I have a couple things in the works right now.  I’m starting to write a book about being diagnosed bipolar, etc, and I also have a lot of children’s books I’ve written over the years.  When my son was a little guy and we’d run out of library books to read, I’d make up stories for him and then write them down later.  I’d really like to get an agent to see if they think they’re good enough to submit to a publisher; it’s always been a dream of mine to be a children’s writer.  We’ll see!

Anyhoot, I’m having such a great time writing, talking, getting things down I need too, expressing what I’m feeling, and the best part is that y’all are kind enough to take this ride with me.  You don’t judge it, or critique it, or try to tell me what I’m doing wrong.  You are a wonderfully accepting audience that motivates me to sit in front of my keyboard everyday.  Thank you so much for that.  I know this blog is light years away from being perfect, but you know what?  That’s just fine with me.

Kristi xoxo