“Lean on Me” ~ Bill Withers

Dear Terri,

So, I know you don’t get quite as mushy as I do, but bear with me because I promise to make this as painless as possible! Anyhoot, I don’t know if you realize this but you are a great sister to me and always have been…right from the start.

Remember when I couldn’t talk at first before I spent a few years with the Speech Pathologist and no one could understand me well…including ma and pop? The thing is that you always could; so from the very beginning you had to help me by being my translator and my voice. I wonder why you could get my words when others couldn’t? Maybe because it’s just a ‘sister’ thing? Or maybe because as much as we’re different, we’re so similar too (except in the ‘chest’ department where you were blessed more than me 🤨)?

There’s that arm!

Almost every single picture I have of us as kids, you have your arm around me. Not just casual like, but grippy…possessive…like you were broadcasting to everyone that not only were you my big sis (remember, you are significantly older than me 😐) but my protector too. And you had a job with that, huh? Both of us were bullied in elementary school…especially by that kid ‘B’ who would not only taunt us at school but also follow us home while making our lives hellish for that 2 block walk. But honestly, you remember that better than I do because you shielded me from so much of it. You took the majority of the bullying and pushed me aside. That was such a selfless thing to do, particularly for a kid whose instinct is often to protect themselves first.

I loved it when we would go to gramma and grampas. Getting on the floor with gramma while playing triple solitaire and squawking when we beat her. Running errands with her in the VW bug and arguing over who got to sit in front. I know…I won most of the time since I got carsick so easily. It was either win or have you see me puke. I honestly think you dodged a bullet in that case. And then we’d spend the night and grampa would make us something special and always had teen magazines for us to read. I think we both felt so cozy and loved and sharing those memories of all 4 of us together makes me smile every time. They both would be so so proud of you for the grandma you are today and your grandkids are just as lucky to have you as we were to have our own.

Thanks for the fashionable dresses, ma.

Did you know I started getting jealous of you when you hit Jr. High? You got to go to a HUGE school and have a locker and have more than 1 teacher and ride the bus (which come to find out sucked balls😬 ) and then the best part: go to dances and get calls from boys and have secrets behind closed doors with your best friends. I wanted to be a part of that so badly! And, you were beautiful too! I know you’re shaking your head or rolling your eyes or retching right now, but I’m being honest. You were…and still are! Being the first to try make-up made me long to be older and acting as the guinea pig for your hair styling skills was fun…but to a point. That damn nozzle on your hairdryer would whack me in the nose everytime…and I know it wasn’t YOUR fault…it was the dryer itself…right (🙄)? You know, I just realized that may have been the cause of my deviated septum, and not the broken nose I had years ago. Hmmmmm…

(Did you know I saved all of the letters you wrote to me when I was at summer camp those 2 summers? I saved every one!) 🧡

I loved talking to your boyfriends and even keeping them company while you finished getting ready for dates. I remember when Ben and you were an item and had an argument: he called and I was so pissed he was fighting with you that I yelled at him and called him a ‘hoodlum’…the worst word I could think of at the time. You were gobsmacked I’d do this but here’s why: it was my turn to stand up for you! And a secret? I always had a HUGE crush on Jack. HUGE! I pictured you dumping him and then him looking at me, scooping me up, and carrying me off into the sunset like a prince. A prince in a cowboy hat no less. Did it matter that I was 12 and he was 16? Nope. I figured that would work itself out in time.

And for a couple of years, I was your voice too! Calling into the high school, pretending to be ma, and telling the secretary you were too sick for classes that day. How I wanted to play hooky with you and your friends! When I’d be sitting through yet another lesson on biology which I had absolutely no chance of understanding, I’d wonder what you guys were doing. Make overs? Talking about boys? Sneaking a smoke? Exciting stuff to a younger sister!

You and your cute boys!

When you got married and left home, I missed you so much. The house seemed so empty. It was just ma and me and the vibe changed…the energy. That’s because you had brought it in. But it was exciting when A was born and I was an aunt. I could finally drive and loved visiting you in the country and playing with him. I can still see him on the walkway to your front door, riding his trike with his curly blonde curls bobbing up and down. Then when D was born and I was a bit older, I finally was comfortable changing his diapers and taking more care of him…that was so much fun for me and gave me the even bigger desire I had to be a mom myself. You are a great one.

Does this all sound too Pollyanna-ish up to this point? Like we never fought? Of course but these good memories stick out much better than the bad.

Showoff!

We fought like cats and dogs sometimes…we said things we didn’t mean…we did things we shouldn’t have to one another…and we sometimes couldn’t stand each other and made that clear. In other words, we were sisters. And yes, this sometimes still happens. But we always work through whatever it is and come out stronger on the other side. It makes these fights worth it just for that. BTW, the maddest I’ve ever been at you in my life was when you won the twisted balloons at the Mueller Christmas Party and you REFUSED to let me wear them. It still gets me going. 😬

I know you hear a lot about me being bipolar, especially since you read this and hear me talk about it with others. But I also know you battle so much with your own disorders too…after all, mental illness runs in our family and were both blessed to continue the tradition. Charmed, I’m sure.

The anxiety and depression you experience is horrible and I know your life has been affected by it in so many ways. We didn’t know much about mental illness when we were kids/teens…it just wasn’t talked about or recognized in younger kids. But our struggles were real…even if not always validated. I know these issues can cripple you at times and when they do and you reach out, I often don’t know what to say…because there’s no words that can truly help. It makes me feel powerless to protect you from this like you used to protect me from things. So we both listen to each other…commiserate with one another…and know that no matter what or when, we’re both there to listen. No matter what.

I know you’re hard on yourself for having anxiety and depression…in fact, we were talking about it this week. You said how you feel guilty for letting your grandkids see it…that you want to be ‘perfect’ like gramma and grampa were to us. But the thing is, you are. Your sweeties love you like no other and here’s what you’re teaching them by being who you are: that it’s ok to struggle…ok to express feelings…ok to say you need help. In other words, you are providing the example that being perfect isn’t possible, but being honest and true to yourself is. Think about how valuable of a lesson that truly is.

And today? You are still protecting me. Still keeping me in your grip. Still standing up for me and believing in me and loving me. In other words, you are still the sister I’m so blessed to have and my life would have been so lonely without you. I know this is getting long…and starting to get mushy…so I’ll stop here. But, just know that I love you. YOU. Imperfect, mentally ill, emotional YOU. Because just like you see the real me…I see the real you. And the vision that I see is wonderful.

Kristi xoxo

“I am thankful for laughter except when milk comes out my nose.” ~ Woody Allen

So, tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I have so much to be thankful for in my life. It’s also the season of buying gifts and I’ve been working my little fingers to the bone making stuff as well! However, my son has told me he doesn’t want another quilt from me even though he loves the ones I’ve made him over the years: it’s a storage issue and I understand!

Anyhoot, I was putting the idea of thankfulness and gifts together in my mind (🙄) and realized that the people and things I’m thankful for have given me lifelong gifts I cherish.

Ma has given me so much over the years that it’s hard to sort them all out. I think the biggest gift she’s given me is that of support. I actually call her my bra because no matter what, it’s there holding things up. Yes, sometimes there’s chafing, but that’s to be expected. If I said “Ma, I want to fly to the moon and plant a quilt I’ve made on a pole by the American flag” she would say “That’s a great idea…how can I help?” I’m not kidding…her support is unconditional and always there. I have taken that gift and tried to pay it forward with my son. When he wanted to quit his job at Verizon and start a photography business, he needed to live with me to save on bills in order to buy equipment he needed. I was happy to do this for him…even though there was some ‘chafing’ there too! He had lived on his own for a few years prior to this and for both of us to live together again was sometimes a challenge. (The best part was when he’d make me supper…he’s a great cook! The worst part was me seeing my basement full of dirty clothes…he’s not OCD’ish like I am 😐).

I also supported him in his move to Texas…just like ma supported me when O’s dad and I moved to Kansas for his job (O was born in Kansas). Ma visited a lot even though it was 8 hours away and we yacked everyday on the phone. Back then our phones were ‘on the wall’ so I’d sit with O sleeping in my arms while talking to her on her work line so I wouldn’t have a humungous long distance bill. Thank goodness for that…I don’t think B would have appreciated that.

My first visit to Texas!

I went to Texas as much as I could…at least every 12 weeks or so and I know O appreciated it (since I cleaned up the apartment and bought food) and I always loved seeing his face looking for me as I exited the airport! One day he came home and said that another guy was in the store that had moved and he hadn’t seen his parents for a couple of years. He told me how much he appreciated my effort in seeing him so much and that just made my heart sing.

And what has O taught me? Love. It’s that simple. Yes, I loved people very much before having him but the love of your child is just a another thing entirely. The minute he was put in my arms I thought: “I would kill for you, kid…I already adore you that much” and it grows everyday. Literally. It’s hard to explain how much space he takes up in my heart…but I know that no matter what ever happens in this world, the love I have for my boy lights me up from the inside out.

And my pop? He’s given me so much as well but a couple of things really stand out. First is the love of running he instilled in me. I began running in the 4th grade when pop started our local running club and have pretty much run since then. Pop has gone to EVERY single race I’ve ever run in…whether they are in town or miles away and whether they are a 5k or a marathon. I love running…it’s not a chore to me but a pleasure and I know that comes from him. When I train for marathons, pop rides his bike next to me and those are the best times I’ve spent with him. We talk and reminiscence and say things to each other we probably never would have in another situation.

But he also gave me the gift of being a good neighbor. Pop has always helped neighbors and made sure they are taken care of. He mows, scoops snow, helps unload trucks, takes food to those who can’t get out, and the list goes on. I’ve done the same in my neighborhood. I raked my leaves last Sunday and then raked 2 more neighbor’s yards. One of the old men came home while I was working on his lawn and asked why I was doing it (we’re friends…he was being sweet) since he was able too himself and I said this: “Norm, you are always helping out neighbors and I wanted you to do the same for you!” He was so thankful and it made me happy. I guess pop has shown me that helping and doing for others is a gift of enjoyment for yourself.

My sissy has given me so many gifts too but I think the most important one is that of being authentic. My sissy is who she is…she doesn’t wear masks and has the attitude of ‘take me or leave me’ like I am. I love this! She is so strong and when we were little, she was my protector. Every pic of us when we were kiddos shows her with her arm around me and even now she wants to look after me. For example, she has offered to punch various guys in the face and tell them exactly what she thinks of them…which I know would include some VERY colorful language! If I need to vent or cry or bitch or anything, she’s there to listen and do what she can for me.

Me, sissy and ma!

She also has the biggest heart…especially when it comes to kids. She adores kids and is Gramma T to the dozens that have come into her life. Kids adore her too and she knows how to spoil any kid rotten. I don’t know if I’ve ever told her this but I love this about her…it’s her ‘soft’ side and it’s a beautiful thing to see.

I’m really thankful for my pets too…Edward and Mally (they don’t mind me using their full names 😉). All of my pets, past and present, have taught me patience, joy, affection, loyalty, enthusiasm, and most importantly: unconditional love. It doesn’t matter if I’m down, grumpy, manic, sick, or stressed, I get snuggles, cuddles, wagging tails, licks and life is just better because of that. Wouldn’t it be nice if people could do the same (especially the licks 🤭)?

And my students? Wow. I’ve had thousands of students over the 25 years I’ve been teaching at my college and they have all had an impact on me. They have taught me strength, motivation, compassion, understanding, kindness and have given me the huge family I always wanted. They are the recipients of my passion and I’m the recipient of them…each individual ‘them’ that put just one more spark in my heart. They are the best.

I could add so many other people I’m thankful for like my extended family (my nieces and nephews rock), colleagues (especially you Grand Poobah, who can be quite the ass at times which means we get along great), neighbors, friends, and the list could go on and on.

But I’m also thankful for the things in my life that I tend to take for granted: my cozy house, my Jeep, my job, the fact I always have enough food and clean water, etc. How do you even begin to count all of these blessings?

Finally, I’m thankful to all of you, my sweetie readers! You’ve supported this blog for the last couple of years and I’ve made wonderful connections with you…as well as a super great friend (Hi Susan!). Writing is an outlet for me and for you to appreciate it makes it all the more special.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you…eat a lot of turkey, stuff yourself, fall asleep on the couch while you digest, and then wake up and have just one more piece of pie. K? 🦃

Kristi xoxo

“Not Every Girl wants to be a Princess”

So, I am not a girly girl. At all. In fact, from the time I can remember, I was a tomboy and would revel in getting dirty and sweaty and stinky whenever I could. And that still holds true…even at the young age of 54 (shutty 🙄).

Anyhoot, why am I thinking about this? The other day, sissy called me and said I just had to go to this online shop to get some of their nail wraps because she had a few sets and they are adorbs. So within 5 minutes, I had an account on the site, ordered 4 sets, and signed up for their mailers. I’m not easily influenced at all.

Me and T loved these!

The box came a few days later and was packed so cute with the nail wraps, some tools and other goodies, and I was so excited just looking at them. But then I tried them and luckily, T prepared me for this: “Kristi, these aren’t as easy to use as I thought but I learned some tips and you’ll catch on quickly.” She was right…I caught on after re-reading her messages a dozen times, watching countless YouTube videos, and just winging parts of it I couldn’t figure out. Now mind you, these are nail wraps…not a NASA project. I got a practice set with my order and went through those in 5 minutes…those fuckers are sticky.

After ruining another set, I finally got them on and I felt so WEIRD! I couldn’t stop looking at my hands and was mesmerized by my nails. I was scared to do dishes…type…take out the garbage…and really, just move my hands in any way fearing they would come off. In fact, I was so distracted I don’t remember much about that week save for my flowered nails. If anything else big happened in the world, give me a shout.

It was a relief when the first one fell off…which I’m sure didn’t happen by me constantly picking at them. It was like I could live again…enjoy the scenery and not make my hands the focal point of my life. I think the Grand Poobah was relieved too…he was sick of me saying “Look at my nails!” to him every 5 minutes during our office hours 😳.

This reminds me of when T and I first started experimenting with make-up. This was the early 80’s and cosmetics were kinda icky back then. Foundations came in 3 colors: orange, orangier, and orangiest while lipsticks were slimy and came off if you blew your nose and a tissue touched your lips. Eyeshadows were blue and green (which I loved!) and you had to have a swipe of blush right on your cheekbones without any blending. The first time T got all made up, I thought she was gorgeous! Her skin was the color of an Oompa Loompa and she couldn’t smile for fear of either cracking her foundation or showing the schmears of lipstick on her teeth, but by golly, she was a knock out and I was mesmerized. I couldn’t wait until I could try it myself!

So I started experimenting and to this day…all these years later…I’m still as much of a novice now as I was then. I’ve worn foundation 3 times in my life and as God is my witness, I will never wear it again. I can color match, blend, powder, and rub and still have a line on my jaw that shows where my skin ends and my make-up begins. And eyes? I LOVE the look of eyeliner that curls out from the lid. I’ve tried to do this more times than I care to count and there is no way on this great green earth I will ever get the hang of it.

Best Shampoo ever!

My hair is the same way. I love messing with it and try to curl it and make it look ‘cute’, but I know I don’t always succeed. As it gets longer, I get more and more bewildered by buns and upsweeps and braids so I usually just get some cut off and then cry and say I’m going to grow it again. It’s a comforting cycle to be in and a pattern I never intend to break.

And clothes? I can count on 1 hand the number of times I’ve worn a dress these past 30 years and 3 of those were at weddings. Mine in particular. I think I once wore a dress to a graduation until I found out that running shorts under your robe feels better, and the other was to a funeral because my black pants had dog hair on them at the time. The chances of me wearing another one soon is about a billion to one.

I can’t walk in a dress…or sit in one…and since they require shoes other than Birkenstocks (which is all I wear now 😐) or my ASICS, I’m screwed in being able to walk. I have never truly figured out high heels. EVERY time I have ever bought any they have either been too big so that I walk out of them or too small so that I get huge blisters on my heel. And before you ask, they always fit perfectly in the store. Go figure.

My outfit of choice? Cargo shorts, t-shirt, Birkies, lip gloss and a smear of mascara. That’s about all you get with me. Charming…right? And colors? I am NOT a pastel type of woman. I am a gray, black, white, and dark green type that has to wear a belt anytime I have on pants or shorts with belt loops. O makes fun of me: “Ma, you don’t need to tuck in a wear a belt all the time.” Ummmm…yes you do. If there are belt loops, I’m going to use them. And, the only time you’ll see me untucked is if I’ve had a big lunch or am a bit gassy from spicy food 🤢.

Oh, I look at ads and social media and see these gorgeous women with the poreless faces and perfect makeup tottering around on 6″ heels while wearing skin tight dresses that show off their ass and I think ‘if only.’ Then, I start to think how I would break my ankle, split my dress while sitting down, and fuck with my make-up so much people would start to stare. So…no red carpet walk for me.

A couple of years ago, ma said I should never ever pierce my nose so I pierced my nose. It was like this ‘feminine’ thing for me and I couldn’t stop messing with it. I stared at my nose for significant stretches of time and whenever I twirled it around or wiggled it to make sure it was in place, it looked like I was picking boogies. Every family member would say this to me countless times: “Kristi, quit playing with your nose.” I think they were relieved when I snagged the damn thing taking off my shirt and never got it re-pierced.

It’s funny because I love being a ma and a daughter and a sissy and a sometimes girlfriend or wife, but I hate being too girly. I have nighties I’ve worn but prefer boxers and tank tops. I’ve bought fancy schmancy undies with lace but prefer my good old cotton Hanes. I’ve bought purses with little buckles and sparkles but prefer shoving my credit card in my back pocket. I’ve bought dangly earrings but prefer the studs I got in high school from my first serious boyfriend.

But, it’s me. Tomboyish me who loves to paint and dig in the yard and wash my car in the drive and mow my lawn and pull up carpet and use my new nail gun and ooo and ahhh over power tools at Harbor Freight and run in the rain and ride motorcycles when I can get my hands on one and get muddy with Eddie when we walk around the neighborhood. And frankly, doing all of this with nail wraps and make-up just doesn’t seem right to me. So that’s my excuse for being so unadorned…and I’m sticking to it.

Kristi xoxo

“Sunday, Monday Happy Days…” ~ Happy Days Theme Song

Photo by gya den on Pexels.com

So, my ma sent sissy and I an e-mail that was literally entitled: “Pictures for Seniors”. Yes. You read that correctly. My ma apparently thinks my sis and I are in the ‘senior’ age category like she is. I think I speak for my sis when I say I was going to e-mail ma a snarky comeback to such an e-mail, but then I opened the damned thing and realized I knew a LOT of what these ‘old pics’ were. Thanks, ma. I now feel elderly. “T? Should we start looking at old age homes together?” 🙄

These 2 pics actually made me laugh out loud. When ma was a fresh divorcee and I was a freshman in high school, she decided she wanted to save some money and asked me to give her a perm. Let me rephrase this in case you don’t get the dramatics of it: Ma asked a freshman high schooler who had absolutely no experience at all with curlers, perming lotion, etc. to give her a perm with the expectation it would look at good as the gal at the beauty parlor used to give her for $50. Now I ask you…what could go wrong?

Well…first off, ma’s hair is not the thickest and after rolling 3 curlers, I was done. I literally got all of her hair into 3 rollers and figured the ‘stragglers’ and short hair underneath that couldn’t fit on a roller would just ‘blend in.’ Ma was skeptical since the beauty parlor used about 30 on her but I told her to trust me…I knew what I was doing. (I had no fucking clue what I was doing…sorry, ma! 🤨). Anyhoot, I drizzled on the very smelly and chemically goop on the curlers and we waited for the magic to happen. After a time, I figured we should wash it out. Now, here’s some life advice for you grasshoppers…please take heed: when you are asked to wash your ma’s hair in the sink with a shitty sprayer, don’t do it. Period. You will inadvertently spray water in her ears, up her nose, and in her eyes. She will get mad at you and say words you never ever thought your ma even knew.

I took out the curlers (didn’t take long) and VOILA! Ma had a perm in 1/20 of her hair with the 3 curls looking fried and crispy. She was not a happy camper…but neither was I! “That’s what you get for trying to save a buck, Ma!”

My grandma also liked curls and after grandpa would shampoo her hair in the sink (she certainly didn’t fuss like ma 🙄) she would sit on the ‘davenport’ (which was always covered with a flowery sofa cover so you never knew what it looked like at all) with a hand mirror between her legs and make her ‘pin curls’. It was quite something to see.

Does anyone play ‘jacks’ anymore? I’m thinking not since they are sharp, metal mini-weapons that you played on concrete to where you scraped your hand with every move. Ahhhhh…those were the days. Anyhoot, I was a jacks champion! I could get to my ‘sixies’ fast but I have to say this: T had the best jack ball of all and I was pea green with envy. Neon orange and pink and bigger than the standard ball…it was a sight to behold.

I know there are still roller rinks around but in the 70’s they were the bomb! The skates that stank of old feet whose laces were always torn so you had to tie little tiny knots you couldn’t untie later in the day. The disco ball rotating above the floor with The Village People singing YMCA in the background while you made the letters with your arms. The ‘moonlight’ skate where you…gasp!…held hands with a crush and skated around to Olivia Newton John. The snack bar where you could buy a plate of nachos with sticky orange cheese globbed on top. The bathroom where your friends would congregate so you could giggle about the guys you skated with. I’ll say this: best $5 you could spend. 😃

And I actually had a ‘Wooly Willy’ and Pic Up Stix. When I think about it though, Wooly Willy was kinda creepy and if I had one now, I’d probably be naughty with where I put the black stuff. But I loved Pic Up Stix…trying to get a stick out of the pile without moving any others. Only for the very talented…that’s for sure.

Now, do you know what these are? They go in the center of 45’s (records, peeps) and you played these singles again and again and again. There was nothing sis and I liked more than to grab our hairbrushes, close her bedroom door (her room was bigger…my closet was bigger…it worked out well), and sing The Partridge Family to our pretend fans who were listening with rapt admiration while we gyrated along on our pretend stage on T’s shag carpet. *T…should we go on America’s Got Talent together? Text me ASAP.

Ahhhhhh…the smell of old classrooms with chalk and crayons and pencil sharpeners and the class hamster no one wanted after the first week. I loved school! Every single classroom I was in from Kindergarten through at least middle school had the green alphabet hanging over the blackboard. Why in the name of all that is holy are some school districts not teaching cursive writing? This just burns me 😠 ! Writing in cursive is an art and doing so can actually boost creative juices…this is why so many authors write in long-hand like Joyce Carol Oates and J.K. Rowling. In fact, Voltaire once said: “Writing is the Painting of the Voice.” Isn’t that a yummy quote?

And ditto machines? Every worksheet was in purple and to be one of the teachers helpers and actually operate this beast was the best. I loved using the machine because not only did you miss class for a bit, your fingers got all purple and the ink smelled so good. Actually… Hmmmm… I think the ink actually made me quite high at times. No wonder I wanted to be a teacher. Go figure.

Whenever I see a flashbulb camera, I think of my grandpa at holidays. His wasn’t as cool as this one but he had a camera with a flashbulb that would literally blind you after it went off. Hells bells…no wonder everyone in my generation wears glasses. Anyhoot, you had to stand ramrod straight so the pic wouldn’t blur, look directly into the lens so gramps could line everything up correctly, and then BOOM! A blue light flashed throughout the room and for the next 10 minutes, you battled a migraine while seeing spots 🤪. Now son, I know you are a professional photographer and are so amazing at what you do. But until you use a flashbulb and everyone’s skin looks transparent and their eyes remind you of someone possessed, you haven’t experienced photography at it’s best. Just sayin’.

So…I just read this over and am kinda thinking ma did right by sending that e-mail even though her daughters are no where near being a ‘senior.’ It’s fun to look back on things that seem so archaic or silly now and it makes me wonder what my son’s future kids will someday say about what he grew up with. Laptops? iPhones? Pokemon? Blue Ray player? What the heck are those? Of course my grandkids will think I’m the hippest grammy ever…and I’ll be right there with them rolling my eyes at my son as he reminisces over his Charmander card one more time.

Kristi xoxo

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