What I Learned From Little House on the Prairie.

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So, I saw that Little House on the Prairie was on Amazon Prime and I decided to binge watch the entire series (yes, 9 seasons, 20+ episodes each season, and me bored as hell sitting at home).  I grew up with the show and like to think of myself as a ‘reincarnated’ Laura if you will, particularly since my family knows how great I am in the wilderness with no modern comforts 🙄).  Anyhoot, as I was bawling along with ‘pa’ who cries every episode (and takes off his shirt regardless of season, storyline, etc.) I realized just how many things I’ve learned from it through the years.  Let’s take a look-see:

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Well…hello…

Marriage is forever.  Well, hells bells, that’s pretty straight forward.  And it’s really that easy with them.  The marriages on this show experience fires, bankruptcy, diptheria, strokes, crop failures, the loss of babies, kids going blind (Lord, how much I wanted Mary’s blue eyes instead of my own, as well as her long blonde hair…ma had me and sissie’s mousy brown cut into ‘shags’ with crooked bangs.  No wonder we were so popular 😐), trips of hundreds of miles over rough terrain in a prairie wagon that looked as sturdy as my 20 year old lawn chair, and the list goes on.  And guess what?  These people stayed married.  Maybe it was as easy as this:  they married who they loved, they worked to make it the best they could, and they took their vow – ‘Til Death do us Part’ – seriously.  Hmmmmm.

Kids are disciplined.  OMG!  What the fuck?!!!  Kids are held accountable for their actions?  Disciplined?  Punished?  Taught right from wrong?  How can that be??  Our society thinks kids should be coddled and their behavior excused, and if we do try to teach them a lesson?  Their self-esteem will plummet and by golly, we’ll be vilified.  Okey dokey.  Tell me how that’s working out.  I’m not advocating using a ‘strap’ for piss sakes, but believe you me, kids can be corrected quite nicely without physical punishment.  And trust me on this too:  kids need correction and want to know the rules and boundaries they live in.  Without them, they’re lost.

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Here’s another shocker:  kids are taught manners!  Well, who woulda thunk this was good?!  Kids say ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘no, sir’.  They shake hands when meeting someone.  Look adults in the eye, speak politely to them, and don’t use first names (which is a HUGE pet peeve of mine.  If you’re 5, I’m not Kristi, I’m Ms. Palmer).  Don’t interrupt.  Do their chores when asked (another lesson, if you will…kids actually help out the family and take care of their home 😲).  My goodness, it sure is marvelous we stopped teaching these things.  I just love walking through Wal-Mart and hearing a 9 year old call his mom a bitch.  Much better.

Family comes first.  Let me repeat that because I know it’s a hard concept in our society today.  FAMILY comes first.  Not being on our phones while posting to social media showing everyone how amazingly awesome our lives are (instead of just living them).  Not spending more and more time at work to earn for that new car the family just has to have so they can spend a week together on a vacation which won’t be that great anyway since ma and pa are yelling at the kids to not mess up the brand new car.  Not sitting in front of the boob tube, drool dripping from the chin, and the only interaction among the family is the fight the kids are having over what to watch among the 1000’s of choices that are available.  Instead, family helps each other daily, works together for the good of the family, comes even closer together in crisis, eats dinner together (only about 30% of families eat their evening meal together consistently throughout the entire week), and makes their own fun including camping trips, listening to pa play the fiddle, and listening to ma read a book aloud.  (The lesson of this?  Pop…you need to learn to play the fiddle).

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Still my favorite book.

Education is important.  Heh??  This is another ‘old fashioned idea’ where kids spend 8 hours in school, are quiet and respectful in class, do their work to their best ability, turn it in on time, and are excited when learning something new.  There are no screens…no software…no ‘gadgets’ to help.  Only slates, books, maps and a chalkboard.  Yet, when you look at past tests kids were expected to conquer before graduating, they are a hell lot more demanding than what I’ve seen:  high school graduates with screens and software and gadgets who cannot write a complete sentence.  Seriously.  Take a look-see at this test and see if you can pass it;  bear in mind it’s for 8th grade graduation (kids often didn’t go on to high school…mostly because the majority of them didn’t need too after learning all of this!).  And no, do NOT use google.  (Ma…this is one time you’re really going to shine since the test is from 1895 when you were in 4th grade.  I posted a daguerreotype to show my sweet peeps just how hard you worked for Miss Beadle).

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Ma in trouble…nothing new.

Neighbors help neighbors.  Really?  You mean, even though the families often lived hundreds of acres or a handful of miles apart, there was still a camaraderie, concern, and assistance to one another.  Need help harvesting?  Your cow is delivering?  Your barn burned and you need a new one by winter?  Don’t fret…your neighbors will help.  Now, I actually had a neighbor years and years ago…in the ‘nice, good address, more ritzy’ neighborhood Hubby 2 and I lived in (as compared to my little granny house now)…and my next door grouch would come out when I mowed to make sure I didn’t step on his grass when I turned at the end of a mown row.  Not kidding.  Once, when I did step on his property (by about 4″), the cops were called.  It was a freaking nightmare, but the cops looked at him as if he were senile (which he wasn’t, just nasty) and told him to never call again about me. He did.  Often.  😠

Trouble intensifies faith.  No matter what the crisis or loss was, God was looked to for strength and hope.  He wasn’t blamed or denounced, and the people didn’t question what was happening.  They leaned on him, prayed to him, and understood that although they might not understand the ‘why’ behind what was going on, they trusted it was going to be OK.  Peeps, that’s faith.

Dying isn’t to be feared.  Instead, it’s a part of life and because there was so much faith, the people knew the place they were going was going to be a perfect eternity where they would be reunited with their loved ones someday.  It was simply another phase of life and memories would sustain those on earth until it was their turn to go.

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Nellie Olson rocked.

Ok…before you fill up my inbox, I know things weren’t perfect then!  Duh.  I can’t imagine living with such primitive medical care (Mary gets an operation and the doctor has his hands in his pockets before grabbing the scalpel without any gloves or washing, and begins the cut, not knowing if Mary is really under yet 😳), no air-conditioning (while wearing petticoats:  note to ma, can I borrow some of yours to see what it was like?), the physical punishment that was often meted out, the living from hand to mouth,  and the societal issues of the day:  lack of rights for blacks and women, so much prejudice and discrimination, so much alienation from the rest of the world, and so much ignorance of mental illness.  It wasn’t nirvana, but I will say this:  the medicine was often alcohol (something that cures a lot of my ails today) heroin, cocaine, and morphine, (so wonder they were so happy).  😜

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And my cough is gone.

Regardless, a big part of me wishes we could go back to some of these values.  To me, progress isn’t always ‘progress.’  Look at the divorce rates…the kids growing up without dads or never knowing what it’s like to have an intact family…the children who are denied attention and discipline and act out accordingly…the families that don’t push education and take an interest in schoolwork…the parents that put work and technology over time with the family…the parents that work for things not needed but wanted for status.  Why is it we can’t learn from our past, and embrace the principles that are so important while still moving forward in technology that brings us all closer together as opposed to splitting us apart?  Why can’t the old and the new be combined into a ‘normal’?

And, most importantly (at least to me 😳)?  Why thy hell can’t I find a man like Pa who looks damn yummy half naked, works his ass off, knows how to show emotion, will actually converse and listen (gasp), and has a sense of humor that’s just as adorable as his smile and wavy hair?  It just ain’t right that guy hasn’t plopped in my lap. 😏  Maybe I should road-trip to Walnut Grove and see who’s out there.

Kristi xoxo

P.S.  Hey Peeps…show me some love and click on the “Follow” button?  Much thanks, sweeties! ❤

“…Revved up Like a Deuce, Another Runner in the Night.” ~ Bruce Springsteen I

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So, in a post last week, I talked about whether or not love is blind and I said that actually it’s not since we all have our preferences along with what we NEED to see.  But like I do, I’ve been going over that in my mind and started thinking about how love truly is blind in certain circumstances…places where none of us want to go, where we say we would never go, and swear we would leave as soon as the issue is clear.  My son and I were talking about it yesterday, and he said this:  “Love isn’t necessarily blind in the beginning, but it can become blind after the love has taken hold.”  Let’s take a look-see.

For you sweet newbies, my ma was married to R (I won’t say what I usually do when I hear his name in my head but I have to say something so I guess asshole will suffice), for 28 years and although my sis and I knew about it and tried very hard to get her to leave him, she didn’t for all of those years.  In fact, she wouldn’t admit to the abuse until close to the time she was able to get away.  I saw black eyes more times than I can count, black and blue arms, marks by her neck, a beating so bad that she was rushed to the ER and was throwing up blood, and an eye injury so serious I took her to the doctor to make sure she wasn’t going to lose her vision in it.

Now, for the big question:  why the hell did she stay?   The first reason after the initial act (just a ‘little’ slap) was, she told me, almost unbelievable to her.  She grew up with parents who were never violent in any way and my dad treated her very well; she didn’t have any experience with domestic violence so it was out of her realm of comprehension that it could happen to her.  Using my favorite phrase, she was simply gobsmacked and since it was ‘small’, and he profusely apologized, she assumed it was a one-off and wouldn’t happen again.  The second reason?  Because she loved him.  Because she had fallen in love with who she believed to be a good man, and this one incident didn’t change that.  The next dozen didn’t change it.  The love was still there and she said she could compartmentalize the bad and only focus on the good.

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Years later, after the abuse intensified , she continued to stay for a myriad of reasons:  he broke her down so far she had absolutely no self-esteem or feelings of worth; he manipulated her thinking to believe she was the cause of the violence; he psychologically abused her to presume she was unlovable and no one else would ever want her, and the list goes on.  In other words, he used the proverbial ‘Game Book’ entitled:  “How to Beat Your Wife and Get Away with it for Decades.”  (Probably the only fucking book he ever read 🤬).

So, she stayed for love in the beginning, and he used that initial showering of love to get away with just enough until she was essentially his prisoner.  I remember my grandma, T, and I sitting down with ma before she even married him and telling her how much we disliked him and were suspicious he was hurting her.  She looked us straight in the eye…  said she loved him…he loved her…and everything was fine.

Hmmmmm.  Love is blind.

After living with R for 5 excruciating years and then having to see him for 23 more, I swore to myself I would NEVER ever ever ever be in a situation like my poor ma found herself in.  Never.  And seeing that written, and remembering how smug I was every time I said it, makes me realize how terribly naive we are when it comes to our hearts.  Those fragile, irrational hearts that can cloud our eyes and dull our senses because all that matters in the end is the love.  Right?

I’m going to be honest with you (because I always try to be), as much as I loved Hubby 3 (shutty the mouthy) and still do…we talk almost daily and are very close…our first 2 years of marriage were horrible.  Like I’ve said before, Hubby came from an extremely physically, verbally abusive home which was coupled with neglect so awful he basically had to raise himself from about the age of 10.  His adult relationships were very volatile with tons of drama, yelling, throwing things, alcohol fueled incidents, etc.  Then he married me, and guess what?  He started re-creating the only dynamic he knew.  So, I got yelled at, accused and berated for the most absurd things which forced drama into our lives, had things thrown at me, had my bathroom door ripped off the hinges because he was upset I had slammed it, had a chair thrown across my kitchen, had my arms grabbed.

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And I stayed.  Yep…I surely did.  Why you ask?  Because I loved him.  I really really loved him.  I was terrified when he was angry and would cry when he’d scream at me (and once, peed myself 😟), but I loved him.  And guess what?  Love is blind.  But finally, after those first 2 years, I told him this:  “If you ever do anything to me again, you will be out of here and probably in jail.  Period.  You need to grow the fuck up, learn some self-control, and realize I’m the best fucking (sorry for the cussing, ma 😳) thing that’s ever crossed your path.”  And he began too.

Hubby put so much effort into his behavior and words…he truly did.  He made changes that most people wouldn’t think are possible and our last 8 years together were actually very happy and fun.  Yes, we’d butt heads at time, but I’ll tell you what:  he changed into a kind, sweet, loving guy who would run bubble baths for me when I was having a bad day, wrote notes for me every single morning of our lives together to start my day off with a smile, took me to Chicago each year after Christmas for a fancy schmancy time to celebrate the year, and told me he loved and appreciated me more times than I could ever try to count.

Just last week were were yacking on the phone and I told him I was feeling down and here’s what he said:  “Kristi, you are a beautiful woman who is the sweetest person I’ve ever known.  You made me a better man and no one has ever given me the chances you did.  I will always love you for doing that.”  But you know what?  I should have left him the first time he was abusive to me.  The very first time.  But I didn’t because of that love I had for him.  Yes, after 2 years it was ‘worth’ it but the road to get there was NOT guaranteed at all (so please please please don’t think I’m advocating staying with an abusive partner…not at all!) and it could have ended horribly.  I gambled and that time, I ‘won.’  A million to one shot (I think I’m going to buy a lottery ticket today…you never know 😳).

Not so with J who was physically abusive twice, psychologically abusive for most of our 3 years together, verbally abusive countless times, would go into rages (which I now understand to be part of his Borderline PD), and finally was cheating on me in very public ways numerous times (in other words, he never tried to hide it once it started happening) and blaming me for it.  And once again, I stayed.  I had gambled once, and won!  Who’s to say I wasn’t on a streak?

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Like a broken record, I stayed at first because of the love I had for him.  I loved him with a passion and yearning I’ve never had before and doubt I’ll ever have again.  I can honestly say I felt he was my soulmate.  My forever.  I could see all of the good in him (because like Hubby, there is a lot of good) through the bad.  I kept thinking that all he needs is patience.  Understanding.  Security.  Why?  Because he too grew up in a very abusive home and also had PTSD from his 3 tours overseas.  Of course I needed to stay…for fuck sakes, he needed me!  And I also needed him.

So, I took him back again and again after he’d leave and cheat.  After he’d swear to me about things right before catching him in a lie.  After he put his hands on me.  After he said horrible things to me.  I stayed because I loved him.  Because I was blind to what was outside of that love.  It’s almost like our heart creates a space that doesn’t allow anything ‘bad’ to get in to threaten those feelings.  I had to work my way out of that tunnel I found myself in where I couldn’t see anything but what I wanted to see.  Maybe that’s why people say hindsight is 20/20.  And it really is.

Look, we see what we want to see.  We believe what we want to believe.  We love who we love no matter how irrational it might be.  We are blinded while in love (or at least I’m convinced we are) and that accounts for a lot of things we accept in our relationships.

And I’m going to tell you one more truth today:  Even though I have ‘learned my lesson’ about this phenomenon, I also understand it could happen again.  Because each time we open our hearts to love, we are taking the risk of being overpowered by it.  So, what I’m hoping to remember is this:  to keep my eyes as wide open as I can in the beginning.  Look for red flags.  Trust that intuition.  Let the mind rule the heart while it still has a chance.  Actually, I think that’s something we all need to do.

Kristi xoxo

“Schools for Fools” ~ Jamie Kennedy

So, in a perfect world I’d write to each and everyone of you, but since that’s almost 3000 and counting, I figured this would save me from carpel tunnel syndrome.  Here goes:

To My Amazing Students:

First, I don’t use that word lightly and you also know I am brutally honest so there you go.  You are all freaking marvelous to me.

I’ll never forget the first day I walked into my classroom at Hutchinson Community College in KS.  I had just had my son 6 months before and needed to get out of the house once in a while so I wouldn’t lose my mind.  I knew that was happening when I would continue watching “Barney” long after my son was asleep.  Anyhoot, I got a job teaching a psychology class a couple of nights a week, even though I didn’t have my Masters degree yet, and I was a wreck.  Back then, in the olden days (1994), we had what were called ‘paper rosters’ (ask your grandparents and quit rolling your eyes) and when I tried to take attendance that night, my hands were shaking so badly I couldn’t read the names.  So, I took a deep breath, braced myself against the overhead (google it…there still might be a couple around), and dug in.  I know I did terrible…what the hell did I know about lecturing?  I was used to teaching 5th graders how to write a paragraph.  I was young and scared and after doing so bad in high school, never thought I’d be in front of a college class as the instructor.  Lucky for me, my students were extremely patient and kind that first semester, and had mercy on me for the evals.  I was so thrilled when I got hired again and again for more classes.

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Eating lunch out with 2 of my students because we just had so much more to talk about!!  They are an amazing couple!!

Every semester was better as I gained confidence in myself (and didn’t have leaky boobs because my boy was still breast-feeding), and I even started doing this very new-fangled thing called “Distance Learning” where I was ‘beamed’ to other locations and kids were in those classrooms too.  I had to keep track of my ‘real’ students in the studio, monitor 4 other classrooms, and deliver a lecture.  OMG…I felt just like Dianne Sawyer (if only I would have had her blonde hair).  The technology was amazing!  I was actually on TV!  Wow! 🙄

There were so many awesome experiences there, and I realized how much I adored teaching college!  I had a lot of students take me for more than one class (suckers!) and I realized how easy it was to build relationships with them.  But there were some sad times too.  Once, a student went into labor in the middle of my class.  We were so excited for her and called security etc.  It was her 4th baby and we all had bets on the gender.  She is a wonderful woman, and as you know, I like nicknames and called her Knickerbocker Bear!  Sadly, I got a call that night from her hubby, and he tearfully told the baby had suffered distress and was still born.  I was so devastated for her.  When she returned to class a couple of weeks later, we all rallied around her and cried.  I realized then that a class can be a family too.

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My student and I clicked from the beginning…I was so sad to see her graduate!  How selfish is that?

I also had my first totally blind student.  She hated me in the beginning because I had no clue how to deal with her lack of sight.  The internet (invented by Al Gore) was in it’s infancy and I just couldn’t ‘search’ to see what strategies I could use.  I did everything wrong and she let me know!  Finally, I asked her to help me learn how to interact with a blind person appropriately and she did!  She let me get close to her seeing eye dog and we became great friends after she took a couple of my classes.  She taught me more than I ever taught her, and her understanding of how people aren’t rude, but ignorant at times, turned her attitude around too.  When I left Hutchinson, she was the last person I visited.

Hubby and I decided to come back home after our 3 year stint in Kansas (where he had been transferred) and after I got my M.S.  I had graduated community college from where I teach at now, and when I applied, I was so so excited.  I was back on my old stomping ground.

It’s been 24 years, and I can honestly say I’ve never, ever, not wanted to be with y’all every day that I am.  No matter what’s going on in my life, you are my bright spots.  My sunshine.  Once, when I told Hubby 3 (yes, I know, they are hard to keep track of, just try) I wished I could have had more kids, he said:  “Honey…you have hundreds of kids.  Thousands!” and he was right (at least about that).  That’s what I think about all of you.  Yes, you are my students first, but you are more than that.  Much more.  You are ‘people’ struggling with so much and to be a part of that side of your life, makes me a more compassionate, understanding prof who learns what you need and how to present it best.

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My student and I who ran a 10k together while my son, his friend, watched!  It was so hot and hilly, but we did it by encouraging each other the entire way!

In my classes, as you know (quit skimming this…for goodness sakes, read it all) we talk about really shitty things (I can cuss here…it’s my blog, so there).  Domestic violence, rape, child abuse, sexual abuse, divorce, alchoholism, mental illness, war, death, suicide, and the list goes on.  It’s such a joy 🙄.  But it’s necessary for the classes I teach.  I tackle the hard stuff because that’s what can happen in the world.  And here’s the thing:  I’ve never taught a class on any of these issues without having a handful of you e-mail me to tell me your story.  I know you can’t see my tears, but knowing what you’ve been through, how you’ve found the strength to go on, and how so many of you want to use these experiences to help others overwhelms me.  I’m humbled by you.

But at the same time, I was lying to you.  I was letting y’all share, and I was still the consummate professional (look up that word and quit rolling your eyes at my vocabulary) that wanted to be seen as your ‘guru’, like I saw my profs as being mine.  I’m not worthy of that though.  None of us are.  So when I had a breakdown 3 years ago, I stopped lying (to me and you) and started sharing with you about my having a mental illness and things I’ve experienced in my life.  I had too.  I was actually teaching summer school during this time, and we were in the tail end of the semester.  There were days I’d get up at 4 in the morning (yes, life starts before 7…you’ll find out when you have kids)  and would have to force myself to shower and dress and then drive to teach you.  Some days I didn’t think I’d get through the couple of hours we had together, and some days I’d have to take a break.  I was embarrassed and ashamed but you all took me by the hand, gave me an incredible amount of support, and showed me that the love I feel for you goes both ways.  In so many aspects, you were part of my salvation.

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Yes, my student is as gorgeous as this pic shows, with a heart to match!

Then my nephew was killed on a Navy ship.  Only 1 colleague acknowledged the pain and grief I was feeling.  One.  But not you.  EVERY day y’all would ask me if I had heard anything about him since things were so confusing with missing sailors, and once I learned his body had been found, I was devastated.  When I came to school the next day, you started hugging me and comforting me as I cried.  Sobbed.  Because you were the only support (outside of my ma and son) I had.  When older folk say that you ‘young people’ are self-centered, I say bullshit (don’t say that in front of your own ma…it’s not respectful).  You are the opposite.   You did so much for me, and I see you do so much for others as well.

I had a student threaten me, and like anything on a campus, word leaked out.  When I wasn’t taken seriously and was ‘victim blamed’ for him threatening to rape and kill me, so many of you said how you lost respect for the institution as a result.  I had dozens of you want to protest and do a walk-out to show your support of me.  I told you not too and that I was OK (you knew I was lying, my perceptive sweeties) because it was my battle (that I lost) to fight, not yours.  Just knowing you felt so strongly and so protective of me helped diminish the blow that treatment dealt me after so many years.  YOU are the reason I came back day after day.  I still don’t feel totally comfy there anymore.  Not totally safe.  I know that people will turn on you in seconds regardless of what you’ve done.  But not you…not at all.  And you kept my faith in people.  Literally.  Thank you for that.

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My student who is graduating tonight!  I truly love her like a daughter and am so proud of her!

OMG….we’ve had so many fun times too!  Donut days!  Saying ‘anyhoot’ to make you smile.  Having students say “In the name of all that is holy” in a high pitched voice to preface my comments!  Teasing students who laugh the hardest.  Laughing so hard in class we can’t continue until we get control again.  Talking about weird stuff like serial killers where we feel guilty for being so interested.  Having you come to my office and eat lunch while helping me pick out a dress for a wedding (not mine 🙄).  Bringing candy to school around Halloween and Easter so we can get all chocolaty and sticky before the next class.  Rolling our eyes at each other as we pass in the halls.  Being in clubs together and having bake sales where we eat more than we sell.  Giving high fives to each other after a super great comment or grade.  Watching funny video clips at the end of class to get you on your way in a better mood than when when you came in.  My wonderful jokes I tell so well (shutty…and remember my best one about the nuns?).  And the list goes on and on and on.  There hasn’t been a day I haven’t smile with you or laughed with you…no matter what!

And now I’ve been teaching so long (yes, I’m still 40…I started teaching college when I was 12 and quit doing the math 😜), that I get to see your engagements on FB, your wedding pics, your precious babies, and all the amazing degrees and jobs and things you’re accomplishing!  It’s so fun for me!  And in the spring and summer?  I get so many wedding invitations I can’t go to them all, but I love love love buying you something!  Following your lives and still interacting with you is a joy…whether I had you 20 years ago or 1.  Truly!

So, on this graduation day for my current students, I wanted to tell you all this:  thank you for letting me be a part of your lives.  It’s been not only a pleasure, but a privilege as well.  Whenever I get feeling blue about the state of the world, I think of all of you: the amazing, talented, intelligent people who are working to make changes, and then my hope in humanity is rekindled.  You all have so many gifts, and don’t let anyone tell you different.  You are loved.  You are appreciated.  You are important.  You matter.  Professor K says so.  And remember, I don’t lie.

Kristi  xoxo

P.S.  I have permission from each student to use their pic…just sayin’! 😀

 

Luck is this Lady Today.

So, writing about my bipolar journey and life isn’t always the most cheerful experience.  Those of us with mental illness know that there are some pretty tough times we have to work ourselves out from.  But, I am so freaking blessed in my life and never want to lose sight of that.  Ever.

Take my ma.  Please.  (Just joking, ma…I won’t let you go.).  I call my mom my ‘bra’ because she’s been so supportive of me all of my life.  I remember lying (gasp) as a little girl (BTW, when I type ‘girl’ you need to say it like Linda Belcher does:  ‘giorl’) that I was sick just to stay home with her during the day…and this was from someone who loved school so much.  In high school, I had a party at our house in which I was told I could invite a few friends.  So, I did.  And those few friends invited a few friends, etc.  The party of 10 grew to be a party of about 40 (some of you reading this were there!) and even though I swore with the best (ahem) intentions, alcohol miraculously appeared.  It was a GREAT time though!  I got to kiss my long desired dreamboat (who smelled of whiskey and polo…a combination that still gets me a bit hot) while others were doing Mexican hat dances on the carpet, with tortilla chips under their feet.  When mom and her husband came home, they didn’t yell like I thought they would.  My step-sister and I had cleaned the best we could in our inebriated states, and since I was still ‘tipsy’, I think mom figured she could yell at me some other time.  I would have been furious at my kid doing this, but mom was pretty cool about it.  She put me through hell the next day though by vacuuming, emptying ice trays, and anything else she could think of that was noisy as hell to further compound my hangover headache, but besides that, nothing else was said.  Except…that I could never…EVER…EVER…have a party again.  Go figure.

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Isn’t Ma beautiful???

I’ll never forget when mom took me to lunch one day after Hubby 2, our son, and I moved back to IL from Kansas where we had lived for 3 years.  I remember the weather, the restaurant, the booth, and the food on the table when she said this:  “I found a lump.”  I don’t think words can adequately describe my feelings at that moment.  Mom fought like a warrior over the next year though and survived a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation to treat this metastasized cancer, and has now been cancer free for a little over 20 years.  She’s a fighter like no other I’ve seen.

When I had a breakdown a couple of years ago, my mama saved my life.  Literally.  She and my doctor were my salvation and she had to work with me everyday to make sure I was just eating and showering.  I was at her house all of the time either crying, staring off in space, or just being close to her so I couldn’t cut myself anymore.  She doesn’t take enough credit for what she did for me.  She should though.  I wouldn’t be writing this if it hadn’t been for her.

And my sister?  When I was a tot, I could hardly speak to where anyone was able to understand me.  The roof of my mouth is incredibly high and when I talk, I can’t use my tongue against it to help form words.  So, T was my translator.  She’s OLDER than me (see that, T??  You’re OLDER!) and was truly my voice.  In every single pic of us at little kids, she is standing with her arm around me, and when we were in grade school and both of us were getting bullied, she protected me.

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Me and my sis…2 peas in a pod!

On snow days, we’d tie our beanbag chairs together in the downstairs, and pretend we were stranded at sea and couldn’t move off of them!  We’d take bike rides to Grandpa and Grandmas, and as we got older, we’d boogie off to the drug store to buy make up and try it out on one another.  I was the sickly, puny one as a kid and then with having anorexia and bipolar, I know T has often been second to the attention I took…and still take.  She’s the smartest, most kind-hearted person I know.  Really.

And my son?  Well…what do you say about perfection?  OK.  I know he’s not perfect (sorry, porkchop), but he’s damn close.  He was the funniest, sweetest, most adorable kid ever and grew up to be such a good, kind, talented man.  O has aphantasia which is the inability to see pictures in your brain…you actually don’t have a ‘minds eye.’  We didn’t understand this had a name until a few years ago, but as early as Jr. High, when his geometry teacher told the kids to picture a cube and then to rotate it in their minds,   O couldn’t do it.  He simply couldn’t see it.  He would always tell me he didn’t really dream and when he did, it was like fleeting images of black and white.  His dad and I had no idea that such a condition existed, but now I can see how he’s had this all his life.

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My amazing son…introducing me to IKEA in Dallas a couple of years ago!

O always wanted cameras.  When he was 4, we started going to pools every summer afternoon, and he would ask for underwater cameras and took amazing pics even at his age.  As he got older, I’d get him more and more disposable cameras before buying him the real thing.  Now, he’s a professional wedding photographer who has already received national attention.  I understand how for him, photographs ARE his memory, and his passion is to create those precious memories for others as well.  Have I mentioned how amazing he is?

Another blessing in my life are my students!  I taught elementary school for a couple of years before getting my M.S. and I loved my 5th and 6th graders so much!  When I started teaching college at the ripe old age of 28, I feared I’d miss that close connection.  How wrong I was!  I absolutely, unequivocably LOVE my students!  Each and every one of them.  They have given me so much more than I think I’ve given them, and when I’m at the store, and I hear someone shout “Ms. P!” or “Professor K!” my heart soars!

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I can’t share a pic of any of my students, but you can see the joy in my face when I’m with them!

So many of them are on my Facebook and to see how they have succeeded in their careers, started beautiful families, and become incredible people is more joyful than I can express.  I may forget names after having so many thousand students over these last 24 years, but I remember every single face…and I’m touched that they remember me as well!

There are so many other blessings I could talk about:  all of my other family (yes, Edward and Dottie, this includes you), my colleagues, my home, my neighbors, my health, my finances, and the list could go on and on and on.

And who do I have to thank for all of this?  Well, the big guy himself.  God.  Yep, I’m a believer.  Have been for as long as I can remember.  I could go into a big testimony of how God came into my heart, but I’m not going too.  As much as I think it’s wonderful to share your faith, which I do with people who want to share with me, I also think it’s kind of personal to talk about since words actually minimize that experience.  I talk to God a lot, and I also pray.  And yes, those are 2 different things to me.  He’s very good at listening to me chit-chat, and I know he hears my prayers since they’ve been so generously answered.  I haven’t deserved the blessings that I’ve received, but like any father, God gives me exactly what he knows I need.  ‘Nuff said.

You know it’s so easy to lose sight of the positives in your life when you deal with the negative ramifications of mental illness day to day, and I think it’s important to always keep those in mind.  I don’t ever want to forget what’s wonderful in my life and get mired only in the lousy.  That wouldn’t be fair:  it would be ignoring all of the people and things in my life that are so incredible.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

 

 

The Tragedy of it All.

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Photo by Alex Fu on Pexels.com

So, I’ve written a lot since I’ve started this blog, and it means so much to me.  When I began this, I told myself these posts were my chance to say some of what I need to say, some of what people need to hear, and sometimes, a little bit of both.  But this is the first post I’ve written while tears are streaming down my face.

I’ve talked about my ex-partner in posts before, and I think it’s because the wounds from the relationship are still fresh, and because I thought he was my forever (actually, I thought all of them were until him, but c’est la vie).  I also write about him because he’s mentally ill like me.  He’s been diagnosed with PTSD from his 3 tours overseas in the Army, and also with Borderline Personality Disorder, which I believe is caused by a genetic component (I believe his mom also has this disorder), and also because of the abuse he endured as a child: serious physical and psychological abuse with periods of forced isolation where he literally couldn’t move from his bed for weeks at a time.  I was attracted to him before I knew all of this, and after he told me his story, it made me love him even more; I felt so much empathy and compassion for this man who had been through so much.  

For the last couple of days, he’s been messaging me.  The messages are horrifying.  Ever since his unfaithfulness last October, he’s been on a downward trajectory.  He’s completely isolated himself from everyone, including his 2 kids, and has told his family members that he hates them and won’t have anything more to do with them ever.  I know some of this behavior is the BPD.  But I also know he’s taking all of the pain of his childhood and tours, and turning it outward as anger against the only targets he has.  The problem is that many of his targets don’t deserve to be his scapegoat, most especially his children.

When I first met them (one was in Kindergarten and the other in 2nd grade), I fell in love with them immediately and completely.  I love kids and these 2 are so smart, sweet, affectionate, and funny.  To be honest, I didn’t know I could love other kids as much as I do them, with the same unconditional love I feel for my own son, and my nieces and nephews.  The feelings blew me away.  Once, my sister said this: “Blood is thicker than water, but love is thicker than both.”  She’s right.

These kids have been through a lot in their lives.  Not having their dad around because of his tours, moving around the country multiple times, and then experiencing a contentious divorce took their toll.  The little guy is extremely sensitive and like me is a huge feeler who is at a loss as how to deal with the emotions of what he’s been through, so he internalizes them.  He doesn’t eat well.  He doesn’t have friends. And he lives in his own world, not wanting others to intrude.  I’m lucky he let me in.   The little miss is also a sensitive child, but as opposed to internalizing, she externalizes her feelings.  She’s a clinger, and just wants to feel love from anybody and everybody.  In that regard, she’s like me.

When J told me he completely cut off everyone in this life (I think I’m the only one he can talk, or in this case text, to), I assumed he didn’t mean these sweeties.  You see, during our 3 years together, J learned so much more about being a parent than he previously knew.  He built a strong relationship with them, and we did so many fun things together as a family:  museums, zoos, hikes, eating out, birthday parties, swimming, playgrounds, movie nights, etc. and I could see the connection to their dad get stronger and stronger.  He also worked hard to provide a home for them.  He got a really nice apartment in a family oriented neighborhood, and the kids were thrilled at having this with their dad.  J and I had fun buying bunk beds, comforters, toys, books…anything that would create a positive environment for them.  He took them to the private school he got them into every morning, picked them up afterwards, started little miss in Taekwondo, made nice dinners for them, bought them birds so they could have pets, and hugged and cuddled them to their hearts desire.

Then, this BPD took over.  Actually, it had taken over before, something that I experienced first hand.  I was on the receiving end of rages, weeks of silence, damaging words and actions, but to be honest, I knew when it was the illness that was in charge, and not ‘him’.  People questioned me again and again why I kept loving this man…why I forgave him over and over.  The answer is simple:  because I’m mentally ill too.  When I’m in a depression or a period of mania, I’m not in control either.  I do things, say things, act out on things that I never would do when I’m in a more self-restrained time.  Sometimes…well maybe always…it takes someone mentally ill to truly understand another’s struggle.  Once I had a student say to me, “I like talking to you, Professor K.  When I tell you I’m depressed, I know you get it.”  And yes, I do.

But this time for J it’s different.  The BDP is in total control.  100%.  And it’s going to stay that way for however long he lives because he’s doing nothing to try to fight it at all.  He’s wallowing in it. Yes, I said wallow.  He’s feeding that monster we’ve talked about an awful lot of food.  He’s given up.  He’s become trapped in this disorder without grabbing onto the rope that’s there, and pulling himself up as much as he can.  He’s pulled up before…he just won’t even try to do it again.  He said he likes the wallowing.  The hating.  The anger.  The isolation.

And I think he’s a fucking liar.  He experienced so much as a kid that like his little guy, he doesn’t know what to do with the feelings.  So, by killing his soul, I guess he’s killing those emotions too.

But the real tragedy?  These sweeties.  After having a dad for these past few years, how can they ever understand why he’s no longer in their lives?  Why ‘his’ home is no longer theirs?  How can they take another loss?  Another upheaval?  Another piece of their hearts destroyed?  He’s doing to them what was done to him (to a degree).  Isolating them.  Rejecting them.  Maybe he thinks that will heal him.  It won’t.  All it will do is continue this generational cycle of abuse that’s been in his family for decades, and then cause these 2 innocent angels to grow up with what J is battling himself.  He had been reversing this trend for years so well…the kids were flourishing and J seemed happy and content.  It’s like he got the diagnosis of BPD and decided to live down to that as much as he can.  It’s the excuse I guess he was finally looking for to hate.  He’s making this diagnosis a label to be absorbed, as opposed to a diagnosis to aid in understanding. Dammit, J, you fought fucking Akeida for 3 years in desert conditions on the front lines, how can you not fight against this too?  Your kids lives are worth the battles this is going to give you;  you are worth the battle.  I know J is still in there.  I’ve seen him.  I’ve loved him.  He’s a smart, funny, passionate guy that he’s allowed this beast to consume.

Mental illness is a bitch to live with.  Y’all know that.  But I also understand first hand, that it’s a bitch to deal with in others too.  I’ve put my mom, son, and sis through so much.  I know I have.  If I could take back what I’ve said and done, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  It’s agonizing to know how they have been victims of my bipolar.  I can’t think about it without feeling so fucking guilty and ashamed, and I know words can’t take away the pain I’ve caused them.

When I attempted suicide a couple of years ago, I laid on my bed, ready to go to sleep forever.  And then God spoke to me.  Yes, he spoke to me.  He showed me my son.  My mom.  My sister.  My family.  My students.  He showed me the pain they would experience.  How horrible it would be for my mom to bury her daughter.  For my son to bury his mom.  And that’s what turned me around.  This fucking bastard of a mental illness is not going to be who I am.  I’m going to always fight and fight and fight to stay me as much as I possibly can.  I’m gonna win some battles.  I’m gonna lose some battles.  But I tell you what, every one of those is worth the bloodshed.

Kristi xoxo