An Online Conversation With My 17-Year-Old Self

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In 1998—the era of screeching modems and dial-up speeds we thought were lightning fast—I was one of a few people I knew who had a home internet connection and their own website. When Geocities closed down, I thought my teenage website was gone forever, but thanks to Internet Archive’s Way Back Machine, it’s still out there, kicking it late-90s style.

I was an opinionated little thing back in the day. (I’m an opinionated big thing these days.) Since I’ve been working on a memoir for the past couple of years, I’ve been super focused on my teenage years. There have been many times I’ve wanted to get my past-self’s attention and set her straight on a few things.

So, let’s do that.

Kristy, we need to talk.

1


OK. First of all, nice Jack Handey reference.

But, honey, you need to go learn about the First Amendment because that’s not what “freedom of speech” means. It doesn’t mean you can say anything you want and nobody can argue with you about it.


2


Just so you know, nineteen years from now, you’re going to feel pretty damn smug about the Y2K scare.

And you remember that research paper you wrote on the Y2K bug for your senior English class? You know all those survivalist websites you read while doing research, and how you thought, “Hey, maybe this information will come in handy someday”? I’m sorry to tell you I’ve never had to help deliver a breach baby, so all those diagrams we saw are just taking up head space. Sorry.


3


You feel like people are kicking you around? Oh, my sweet summer child. You have no idea what’s coming for you next year.

I do like that barking comment. I’d make the same sort of nonsensical comparison between myself and a barking dog, though I have spellcheck so I can spell chihuahua. It only took me three tries to get close enough for the spellchecker to figure out what I was trying to say. Advancements in technology will definitely make your life easier.


4


You know what? I think people are basically good too. (But don’t tell anyone. It’ll hurt my street cred.)


5


Aw, did you really have to take a swipe at organized religion? You do realize you’re a member of a church right now, don’t you? You can be religious and have a personal connection to God, Kristy. I promise.

And I know you’ve heard a lot of noise about those Mary-worshiping Catholics, but they aren’t so bad. Most of them will be pretty nice to you, even when you’re being kind of an asshat.


6


You probably spent it all at the concession stand at the drive-in. Those burgers are the bomb! Well, they were the bomb. Sadly, nothing is the bomb in 2017. It’s a bleak world you live in now.

Also, “Where’d all the money go?” is a question you’ll be asking for the next two decades. Get used to it.


7


Right now, I kind of want to pinch you. I get it. You were told, “Get a degree, and you’ll get a great job!” We were all told that. It’s not your fault you believed it.

You know, ten years from now, you’re going to have a good paying job without a college degree. You’ll still go back to school, which is great, but it wasn’t the degree that got you anywhere. It’ll be your work ethic, willingness to help others, and miming skills that’ll get you ahead. (OK. Maybe not the miming skills. Those haven’t really come in handy yet, but I hold out hope for the future.)


My best advice to you for the future is to settle down a little. Let people disagree with you, and when they do, listen. You don’t have to change your mind, but at least listen.

Learn to be patient. Learn to be humble.

Stick with that frantic writing style you’re starting to develop. It’s the bomb.

You’re a little annoying, but I think you’re going to be OK.

How to Train Your Christian

 

Christian

Christians, while fun and loving, can present many challenges. Proper training is the key to a happy and healthy Christian.

Obedience Training

There are two commands that every Christian should learn.

Down – This command is often difficult for Christians to learn because of its submissive posture.

Leave It – This command is vital, though many trainers neglect it. Do not shy away from it, as it can safely remove your Christian from a fight they clearly can’t win.

Socialization

It’s important to keep your Christian from becoming isolated, which often leads to aggressive behaviors. Expose your Christian to diverse people and experiences as soon as possible. If you delay socialization, it can lead to an easily frightened and startled Christian when they encounter these situations at a later time.  Their fear may lead them to react by growling and even biting.

Nutrition

Start your Christian off with easily digested nutrients. Slowly work your way up to foods that take a little more effort to chew. Your Christian may resist the change, but keeping them on a liquid diet will lead to malnutrition.

Territory Marking

Christians instinctively mark their territory. Do not be surprised when this happens.

Marked territory

Discipline

If may be tempting to smack your misbehaving Christian on the nose with a rolled up newspaper, but this is not effective. Instead, give a clear and firm, “No.” Attempt to redirect your Christian toward a more positive activity. If your Christian persists, repeat “no” until he stops. Reward him with praise when he gives up the negative behavior.

More Mature Christians

While most people flock to cuter, newer Christians, others prefer the company of more mature Christians. This can be both rewarding and challenging.

A properly trained mature Christian can be a delightful companion, bringing warmth and love into your life. Many people appreciate their more patient pace when compared to less mature Christians, who are prone to jumping on people.

However, a poorly training mature Christian presents a real challenge. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to break any bad habits they may have picked up. If you choose a mature Christian who hasn’t been properly training, know that you can still receive plenty of love and affection from them.

 

Taking on a Christian is a serious responsibility. You should not take on the challenge unless you are prepared to fully dedicate yourself. Christians all over the world are abandoned every year. If it’s absolutely necessary, you can find your Christian another safe home, but never abandon your Christian. This only contributes to packs of wild Christians roaming through cities and neighborhoods.

If you do decide to take on this responsibility, you will be rewarded with a few chew marks, but plenty of love as well.

 

Photo credits: Freely

What to Expect When Your Dr. Suspects an Invisible Illness

Congratulations! You’ve just been diagnosed with an chronic invisible illness.

The First Days

During the first few days after your diagnosis, you can expect to experience feelings that alternate between relief (at least now you know what’s wrong) and rage (“Why me and not that bees-itch who cut me off in the Wal-Mart parking lot?”)

When you’re ready to share the news with your friends and family, most of them will listen attentively. They likely already know that something hasn’t been quite right with you, and they want to know what your doctor has said. Some of them will even go home and Google your condition. Some of those people will see the Wikipedia entry lists 20 possible symptoms and, even though you only have to meet 5 of the symptoms, will trust Dr. Wikipedia over your medical-school-educated doctor and declare your doctor is wrong because your illness doesn’t tick all 20 boxes.

A few people will listen to the information that your doctor has shared with you and say, “That’s what she said you have? No, that can’t be right. My step-uncle’s cousin’s soccer coach has that and he’s an overweight middle-aged man. You don’t look like an overweight middle-aged man. That diagnosis can’t be right.” (Unless, of course, you are an overweight middle-aged man. In that case, you’ll be compared to a picture they saw once of a starving refugee from more than 50 years ago. Now, that guy looked sick.)

The First Few Months

At first, you’ll approach your doctor’s appointments with optimism. Each new specialist you see will say things like, “We can take care of that!” and “Oh, there are lots of things we can try.”

Slowly, they’ll begin to grow frustrated–not at you, but with your condition. See, doctors like to heal people and someone with a chronic illness doesn’t really heal.

You and your doctors will begin to accept that, while some of your symptoms are treatable, the underlying condition, and some of the complications that come with it, is here to stay.

During this time, expect your friends and family members to ask, “Are you better yet?” at every social function. Keep in mind, the only answer most of them will accept is something positive, like, “Gettin’ there!” or “I just started a new treatment and I think it’s working!” or “I’ve miraculously been healed of my chronic illness and my vision has been restored to 20/20 and my toe nails are now self-clipping!”

People will respond favorably to any of those responses. What they will not respond well to is, “No, I’m not feeling well at all.” or “Not yet. My doctor has me trying some things, but they aren’t working.”

If you reply with either of those statements, expect to hear, “Oh, but you look great!”

Keep in mind, they mostly mean it as a compliment. Maybe they mean, “You look great for someone who is incredibly frustrated with the lack of medical treatments for your condition.” or “You look great for someone who is so obviously struggling with the physical and emotional burden of your condition.”

However, what you’ll hear is, “You look great, so you obviously have nothing wrong with you. Sick people don’t look great. Stop whining and making me uncomfortable. Sick people, ew.”

Sometimes you might have to cancel plans. You’ll feel torn between attending some functions or no functions at all. I mean, Joe will be totally pissed if you attend Sarah’s party but not his because you weren’t feeling well enough that day. Well, Joe’s an asshole. Forget Joe.

The First Few Years

You will enter a grieving stage at some point. We all expect our lives to go a certain way, and when we lose control of part of that decision-making process, that’s a real loss. Grieving is normal. It’s healthy.

You may join a support group, which allows you to talk to other people who understand what you’re going through. You may then choose to leave the support group because some people only ever complain about your shared illness and it’s harshing your buzz.

You may be tempted to allow your identity to become wrapped up in your illness. Try to discuss topics that aren’t related to your invisible illness when you’re with family and friends. It’s easy to lose perspective when you are constantly dealing with a chronic condition, but remember that life does go on, for you and for everyone else.

It’s normal to be angry and even jealous of people who don’t have your condition. You might idealize their lives, but keep in mind, everyone has their own struggles. Your struggle involves an invisible chronic illness. Their struggle might be horrible halitosis and an eye that winks uncontrollably, but only at creepy men on the street.

You’ll have conversations that go:

Friend: “Well, you’re well enough to be out of bed. Why don’t you do something productive?”

You: “You have time to binge-watch Cupcake Wars. Why don’t you learn calculus instead?”

Friend: “What I do with my time is none of your business!”

You: -_-

Friend: “What?”

Your friends and family are likely bored with your chronic illness by now. They don’t understand why your doctors can’t give you a magical pill that solves all of your problems. You might be tempted to tell them to check their wellness privilege. (Actually, go ahead and do that.) It’s a good idea to give short, vague replies to these people when they ask about your health. It’s often not worth the time and effort it takes to explain all of the hundreds of things you and your doctors have tried already.

Inevitably, someone will pop up with a miracle mushroom tea (I have seen the mushroom. I still have nightmares about that mushroom.) that cured their husband’s aunt’s neighbor’s arthritis, and how different could your unique condition be from the kind of arthritis that sets in with old age? Basically, all pain is just old-age arthritis, right?

These people mean well, but it’s okay to be frustrated with them. It’s okay to say, “There is no way in hell I’m drinking your magic mushroom tea.” It’s also okay to say, “Oh, thank you for the mushroom. I’ll let you know if it works,” and then bury the mushroom deep in the woods where it will never, ever find you.

You may find that a few friends and family members aren’t bored of your illness and have formed a solid support system for you. You’re probably so grateful that you want to enter into a polygamous arrangement with these friends. Don’t tell them that though. It’ll scare them off.

Conclusion

You can expect some things in your life to change. You’ll have to learn as much as you can about your condition and you’ll have to learn how to manage some of the people in your life.

However, not everything changes just because you have a label for your invisible illness. You’re still you.

Interesting Things IV

Link dump of some cool, interesting, encouraging, and/or insightful things I’ve come across lately.

A Bishop who Stood in the Way at In Communion – Orthodox Peace Fellowship

I spent quite a bit of time researching non-violent resistance during World War II for Resisting Hitler: Roses, Not Rifles. I wound up focusing on women in that post, but there were many other stories I found of people who risked their lives in order to follow Jesus’ commands. People often say, “Well, that’s fine that you’re willing to risk your own life. But, what if some group of innocent people were being threatened? Wouldn’t you use violence to defend them?” They don’t seem to realize that we don’t have to use violence in order to defend others.

Kirill pushed through the SS officers guarding the area his authority and courage were such that no one dared stop him and made his way to the Jews inside the boxcars.

According to some accounts, as he reached them, he shouted a text from the Book of Ruth: “Wherever you go, I will go! Wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God!”

Reclaiming Innocence by Kelley Danahy at Adelaster

This is a beautiful reflection on innocence.

Whatever it is, innocence is subversive. When violence seems the easiest action, when bitter retorts the best response, maybe we reclaim a bit of that shining innocence when we choose peace and love.
Maybe we reclaim innocence when we see the reality of our abuse and say no. When we leave because this is not how it should be. Maybe innocence is seeing things as they should be.

Look Up (Why I Hated Women’s Ministry) by Kate Conner

Yesssss. Most women’s ministries come across to me as super patronizing. I was never interested in learning how to be a Proverbs 31 Woman (whatever that means). But, I am interested in participating in something that doesn’t focus on just one part of who I am. I’m not just a woman, after all. (I’m also an introverted, sanctimonious, shoe-hating, research-obsessed whoopie pie addict thank you very much.)

I don’t like women’s ministries that are about Christian womanhood. I like women’s ministries that are about The Gospel.

And not The Gospel*

*for women.

Just The Gospel.

The Captioned Adventures of George Washington at rally ’round the history

This is the greatest thing ever. Just trust me.

Christianese

I grew up surrounded by Christianese and it still confuses me. WTH is a “hedge of protection”?

(Creepy) Vintage Bible Illustrations

I love old book illustrations. Yesterday, I was looking for some Bible-related illustrations and found the La Vista Church of Christ’s website. They host some beautiful illustrations from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among all the wonderful illustrations, I found a few extra interesting ones (they’re creepy, y’all).

Proverbs 30:31 Treasures of the Bible (1894)

skeleton

He doesn’t even have the guts to call her a painted up whore to her face.

linebreak1

1 Corinthians 1:20-21 Treasures of the Bible (1894)

false science

“Creeds”…”False Science”…You want me to cry? Is that it? Are you happy now, Treasures of the Bible?!

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Proverbs 21:13 Treasures of the Bible (1894)

1 percent

If you’re part of the 1%, we hope you trip and fall off a cliff. (I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus was going on about in that Sermon on the Mount thing.)

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Luke 1:79 Standard Bible Story Readers, Book Two (1925) 

The caption for this illustration reads, "Jesus guiding a boy as father looks on." Are we just not going to talk about the fact that the boy's father is trying to hand him over to the grim reaper?

The caption for this illustration reads, “Jesus guiding a boy as father looks on.” Are we just not going to talk about the fact that the boy’s father is trying to hand him over to the grim reaper?

I love La Vista Church of Christ for making these images available.

My Reaction to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome when…

When I found out my multiple, life-long, unsolvable medical issues were due to just one thing. YES! I have an answer…wait…I have a genetic disorder. 

YES wait what

 

When anyone asks, “How are you doing?”

dont know

 

When I pay medical bills.

Money

 

How other people react when I pop my shoulder out of socket.

ohno

 

When I justify not going to the doctor because I can’t take on any more medical debt.

Flesh Wound

 

When a person told me I must be sick because of a sin I haven’t repented for.

(Since I was born with this, I assume I was one bad ass fetus.)

lost-mind

 

When I’m getting ready to travel, about to go do something fun, or it’s a holiday… and my neck goes out so I have to stay home and vomit for two or three days.

shit

 

When people think they know what I am and am not capable of doing.

opinionated

 

When I receive unsolicited medical advice from people who don’t know anything about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, let alone my specific issues.

stop talking

 

When people think doctors are magical fairies who can fix all things if you just spend enough money. 

OK

 

When someone says, “God never gives you more than you can handle.”

wrong

 

When I ask my Facebook friends (the ones who love to share little awareness pictures for things like cancer and autism) to share one of my multiple Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Awareness month posts.

giphy please please please

 

When my mother is the only person to share one of my easy-to-share Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Awareness month posts.

invisible

 

When I read an article about new research that might benefit people with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and it gives me hope that there will be a fix by the time my daughters are my age.

yeah-science

I Win at Baptism

There has always been some vigorous debate within Christianity about baptism.  (Vigorous in the I-might-kill-you-if-you-don’t-baptize-my-way sense.)

So, what’s the most Christian way of baptizing?

Infant baptism or believer’s baptism?

Sprinkle?

Pour?

Immerse?

What form of baptism is correct?  What form is most holy?

I’ve seen people tell a baptized Christian that he wasn’t technically a Christian because he wasn’t fully immersed.

Well, my born-again friends, you can all stop trying to one-up each other in the baptism arena (or font) because I had the Christianest baptism.

Not only did I go through Catechism class twice (just to make sure I was ready to be really, really perfect after my baptism), everything about my baptism was Uber-Christian.

Oh, I wasn’t just immersed.

I was immersed…

in an actual river…

by my father…

while wearing a Christian T-shirt…

and wearing the cross I had worn on a mission trip…

Beat that (amateurs).

baptism

My dad had a beard…kind of like some other guy who used to baptize people in a river.