Open Letter to an Aspiring B*tch

Dear 10-year old girl that I was assigned to chaperone while accompanying my son's fourth-grade class on today's field trip,

I could tell immediately that you thought you were hot stuff by the way you talked down to your classmates and disrespected the accompanying adults.  But I didn't realize how rotten you were until the day progressed.

You started out with subtle insults, like telling the other kids in our group that the things at the museum they were interested in learning about were stupid. I cringed but said nothing. Instead, I just affirmed that I too found those items interesting and I led the group to that area. You didn't care much for that.

Later you went a step further and told one of the boys in our group that you didn't think he was capable of operating an interactive device – although all the other kids in the group had already done so successfully – and told him he shouldn't even bother to attempt it. You even tried to push him out of the way and make him feel incompetent by showing him how easy it was for you. I asked you to wait your turn and I encouraged the boy to keep trying. I told him that I had faith in him. You huffed off, not waiting around to witness the boy go on to accomplish the task like a champ.

Later, when you were sitting next to me, I whispered a gentle reminder in your ear, "You should encourage your friends," I said. Instead of taking that piece of wisdom to heart, you shot back, "Technically, he's not my friend." To which I replied, "It is important to be kind to everyone."  You just rolled your eyes.

A little while later you were standing with a group of girls from your class. One had brought a Polaroid camera on the field trip. You all were passing the camera around to take group selfies. Two other girls leaned into the frame with you. When the camera spit out the undeveloped photo, you snatched it before anyone else had a chance. Once the photo came into view one of the other girls asked if she could keep the print, you shoved it at her, saying; "Fine! You guys look ugly in it anyway."

Unfortunately, I wasn't close enough to say something to you at the time, but I saw the hurt looks on the other girls' faces and I hurt for them.  I wished I could have spoken into their hearts and told them that they are beautiful, that it was your behavior that was ugly.

Apparently you still hadn't yet met your daily quota of belittling others. Only a few minutes later, one of the girls in our group called out to some other kids passing not far away; she waved and smiled with youthful exuberance, kindly greeting her fellow classmates.  You took that opportunity to say to her, in front of myself and all of the other kids in our group, "You know, those kids don't like you."
That was the last straw. With all the couth I could muster, I said to you; "Don't you ever say that to someone."  You didn't appreciate my input and replied, "Well it's true."  To which I said with steely eyes; "There is never a reason to say something so hurtful to someone else. You are being a bully and it needs to stop."

You and all the other kids in our group went quiet and stared at me with slack jaws. Except for my son.  He just chuckled and said, "Well, now you got a taste of what my mom is like." His smile broke the tension. He wasn't embarrassed that his mom had just put you in your place. He was just stating a fact. You see, that is what I'm like. I don't put up with bullsh*t or cruel behavior: not from my own children, not from other adults, and not even from a young girl I just met a couple hours before. In fact, I was proud of my son for recognizing this character trait of mine and confidently bringing it to the attention of his peers; it was affirmation that I model the behavior I am training my kids to emulate.

You didn't say another word to me for the remainder of the field trip. You didn't say another word to anyone, for that matter. Maybe you were letting my words soak in. Most likely you were just sulking. Either way, the nastiness stopped, and for that I was grateful.

Young lady, I'm not sure what your home life is like, what you've been through, what's made you into the aspiring b*tch that you are, but I want you to know that it's not too late for you. You still have time to change the trajectory of your life, to adopt a new perspective and a new set of behaviors. You don't have to follow that all-too-easy path to becoming a full-fledged Mean Girl.

I want you to know that if you need someone to encourage and embolden you toward empathy, I'm here for you. If you need someone safe to talk to about your fears and insecurities, I'm here. If you need a shoulder to cry on because someone has been hurtful to you, I'm just a heartbeat away.

You see, every nasty word that came out of your mouth today made my heart break for you. Every despicable act of snobbishness, I recognized for what it truly was. People don't behave that poorly unless something inside of them is broken. I'm here and I'm willing to help you glue those broken pieces back together.  I believe there is a tender-hearted girl inside you that desperately wants to come out but you're too afraid of being vulnerable. I understand.  I've been there too. I'm willing to take the time to listen to you and to help you learn to be confident and assertive without purposely hurting others. Because guess what, you little sh*t, I love you despite yourself.

With hope for who you can become,

Kristin

Bye Bye Boobies

A few weeks ago I underwent breast reduction surgery. It’s been a long time coming…like since I hit puberty.  Here’s my story.

[Above is me cradling a friend’s baby in “The Bosom of Happiness”. Below is the banner of bras I strung across my living room in celebration of my upcoming liberation.  A few close friends enjoyed their first and last look at the miracles of modern engineering that upheld my monumental breasts for far too many years.]

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The day I realized that I was doomed to life of large-chestedness is etched into my memory like an epitaph on my gravestone.  I was but a mere fifteen years old when my friend Melanie and I went for a professional bra fitting at the department store.  At fifteen, our bodies were just blossoming and we were excited to finally have grown beyond combed-cotton training bras and ready to indulge in the luxurious frilly undergarments that made us feel like grown women.

The lady that worked in the Intimate Apparel department led us back into fitting rooms.  As modest young ladies, Melanie and I giggled awkwardly when the woman wrapped her measuring tape first around the top of our ribcages then across the fullest area of our teenage breasts.  “You’re a 32B,” she told Melanie. “And you, young lady,” she said, motioning to my burgeoning bosom, “are a 34DD.”

The rest of that experience is somewhat of a blur. What I remember most was that I failed miserably at holding back my tears when the lady returned to the fitting room with dozens of flirtatious bras of every color and design imaginable for Melanie while I was given the choice between a no-frills quadruple-hooked monstrosity that all-too-closely resembled the eye-sore that dangled from my grandma’s shower curtain rod in both plain white or the more playful beige. I imagined the horror on my future boyfriend’s faces as they went to feel me up and found my chest locked down tighter than a prison yard…and encircled by more wire. I bawled the whole way home.

Of course, it turned out that the boys didn’t seem to care in the slightest what hideous contraption encased my chest as long as they were allowed to get their sweaty hands on it.  During my dating years, my ample bosom was one of my greatest assets, as it helped to balance out my equally ample thighs.  As it was, I offered little in the way of enticing a “leg man” but for the “breast man” I was a virtual treasure trove.

[The collage below shows my high school sweetheart and I at my senior prom.  As you can see by the photo on the right, I DID wear a dress to the event. Yet the school yearbook editor approved the photo cropping on the left so that I might become the unwitting subject of many a teenage boy’s “special alone time.”]

Prom Collage

Like every one of us, God designed me perfectly unique. I was born with a congenital heart defect, a deformity of my tricuspid valve.  While I wasn’t a candidate for surgery, neither was I a candidate for baby birthing, as a pregnancy would likely have ended with the fetus and I in the morgue.  I never begrudged this fate, partially because I couldn’t imagine my already-monstrous utters swollen larger still and engorged with milk.  The mere thought made my neck and back throb.  And so it was that I had my tubes tied off and my husband and I headed to the adoption agency.  We were blessed with the gift of a beautiful baby boy, and three years later, we were thrilled to add another sweet boy into our fold. As a mother, my overabundance of supple flesh made for an ideal cradle to rock my babies to sleep. All babies, for that matter. As an homage to my God-given gift, my circle of friends began referring to my mountainous mammaries as “the bosom of happiness,” where all creatures great and small find comfort.

[My youngest son, Aaron, a born cuddler, nuzzling into the bosom of happiness.  When I informed him a few weeks prior to my surgery that my breasts would be getting smaller, with a look of grave mourning, he said to me; “But Mom, that’s my favorite part of you!”

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As my womanhood advanced and my weight increased, so did my boobs.  This is expected, of course. However, what was not expected was that when I lost the weight, my breasts didn’t deflate.  Years of weight fluctuation saw my DDs gradually advance through the alphabet until last fall I had no choice but to upgrade to an H cup.  While the bosom of happiness may have provided comfort to countless others, it was becoming increasingly uncomfortable for its bearer.  Deep grooves formed in my shoulders, my posture was compromised, and I was limited in the activities I could partake in.  It was one thing to avoid high-impact aerobics for fear of knocking myself unconscious, it was entirely another not be able to do something as simple as swing a golf club because the massive obstacles in my way made it impossible to assume the correct grip.

[My besties Michele (left) and Kim (right) bet me that each of my breasts was equivalent to the size of a human head.  Doubtful, I took them up on that bet.  They proved me wrong. Look at them happily residing inside my G cup with room to spare.]

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[The selfie below was taken just a few months prior to my surgery.  Typically, I take my selfies from an elevated point of view to minimize my double chin.  Perspective changes everything…as is apparent by the photo below.  Yikes!]

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After years of counting down the minutes until I could remove my bra at the end of the day – yet feeling little relief once it was off because the pendulous swinging of my breasts while walking around the house sans scaffolding was equally uncomfortable – I set up a consultation with a plastic surgeon.  My biggest concern with going through with the surgery was that I would no longer look proportional.  I’m a big girl, and as I mentioned before, I have meaty thighs.  My giant breasts balanced me out.  I was afraid that pairing them down would cause me to appear bottom-heavy. Ultimately, my suffering trumped my fear of malformation and six weeks later I went under the knife.  A few hours after that I was down 4 lbs and 5 cup sizes – reverted to the DD I was nearly 30 years prior.

[Without my pre-surgery breasts to give me that hourglass look, I was fearful I might end up resembling Grimace.]Grimace Collage

A perk of breast reduction surgery is that a breast lift is part of the package.  So, not only are my chestibules now fun-size, but they stand at full attention all on their own. The best part, of course, is that my shoulders haven’t hurt for a second since the day of my surgery – a massive weight has truly been lifted from them.  I still have several more weeks of healing before I’ll be cleared to resume strenuous activity, but in the meanwhile I am already enjoying the benefits of my more aerodynamic form.  My t-shirts fit without straining the seams. I can sleep on my stomach without my esophagus being crushed. I can sleep on my back without my breasts spilling into my armpits. I can see my own feet. I can hug my friends and family without the gesture feeling pornographic. And,  I can soak in the bathtub without my boob-buoys rising to the surface to freeze in the chilly air. Better yet, to the best of my knowledge I don’t appear Grimace-like and my son Aaron still loves to cuddle with me.  I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Like every woman I’ve talked to who’s had breast reduction surgery, my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.  And while I am thankful to God that I am created in His image, fearfully and wonderfully made, I am also thankful to Blue Cross Blue Shield for approving my surgery as medically necessary and to Dr. Stacy Peterson for chopping those suckers off.

So bye-bye, Boobies, we had a good run (or rather, a good brisk walk, as running was never an option with you), but it was time we parted ways.  I can’t say you’ll be missed. In fact, in a few more weeks when the doc clears me to resume normal activity, I plan to jump for joy…because I finally can!

[My pup Lucy playing nursemaid while my newly-carved chest heals.  Yes, they still look big…because they are, by normal human standards.  But they fit me nicely.]

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The Curious Incident of the Lady in the Corvette, pt. 2

I grew up with money. My father owned his own business and was very successful. We had a large house, nice cars, and we took expensive vacations. But my parents weren’t prideful about their money, nor did they ever think that having an abundance of resources exempted them from treating all others with dignity and human kindness. In the little time he had off from his hectic work schedule, my father could be found plowing the snow off our street in the wee hours of the morning so that our neighbors could get their cars out to go to work, or helping a friend with a home improvement project. Because my father’s business generated enough income on its own, my mother was able to stay home and be available to us kids while we were young. When we grew older and more independent she volunteered a great deal of her time at various ministries and civic organizations where she could give of herself, and sought nothing in return except the personal satisfaction she gained from helping others. 
Although we had plenty of money, my parents bought used cars, shopped at garage sales, repaired broken items instead of trashing them, and never ever flaunted their wealth. They were the elusive millionaires next door. A friendly couple that one would never suspect sat on a small fortune. A fortune amassed from years of hard work and wise financial decisions. This is the ethic I was raised with.

I was also raised to follow the golden rule; to do to others as you would wish them to do to you. That mantra guides my actions every day of my life. Now, I’m not claiming to be perfect…not by a long shot. I can still be quite selfish and rude and hurtful to others. And at times, I can be downright nasty. But that is never my intention. My desire is to build others up. My hope is that I might leave each person I encounter feeling more positive about themselves. 

Unfortunately, when I have an encounter like the one I had last weekend with the lady in the Corvette, I can sometimes lose my focus and my cool. I can become filled with righteous indignation and instead of spreading joy, I can spew venom. I don’t like this about me.  God doesn’t much like this about me either. I’m supposed to be a representative of him, and I’m pretty sure that he wouldn’t approve of me snapping at the lady in the Corvette. 

I’m not offering an excuse for my actions, but let me take a moment to explain how I got there.  You see, Christ teaches that the greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. So, when what is asked of a person is minimal and within reason (such as backing your car up a few feet to make room for someone else to park) there is no acceptable excuse not to act accordingly. In fact, it should be ones pleasure to do so. It would have taken zero resources and literal seconds of Corvette Lady’s time for her to engage in the simplest act of humanity, but she refused. Instead she mocked me as I labored in vain to fit my van into the tight space. And when I approached her and asked her to back up, she quarreled with me about it. To say I was dumbstruck would be an understatement. One has to make the conscious decision to be a complete and utter jackwagon in this situation. There was no misunderstanding of what my need was, but still she made the cognitive decision to put herself before everyone else.  

When she saw me trying to back into the space, she had the chance to move her car the necessary distance to assist me without having to be asked. But she didn’t.  When I asked her to back up her car a few feet, she could have said “Sure”. But she didn’t. When our conversation took a more heated tone, she could have remained in her car instead of jumping out to make herself a physical threat. But she didn’t. And she could have decided, even after all that, to say “Fine, I’ll back up, but you don’t have to be such a b*tch about it.” Even that would have been acceptable to me, because by that point, I was being a b*tch about it. But still, she didn’t.  She had lots of opportunities to do the right thing long before I nearly snapped and considered ramming her car, but doing the right thing was nowhere on her radar…although it would have saved us both a lot of grief. 

Unfortunately what happened next is all on me. I was so flustered by the event that I decided to post a short rant about it on Facebook. Typically this wouldn’t have been a big deal. I would have aired my grievance and felt better for having vented. But I didn’t stop with my little rant.  I posted the photo I took of the back of her car along with it…license plate exposed. I acknowledge that my decision was an unsavory one intended to call her out publicly, although she was a complete stranger to me. In hindsight, I should have just written the post and not included the photo. If I had, the following events would have never unfolded. But I did. And this is what happened…

Someone on my Facebook friend list recognized the car in the photo and contacted the woman with the Corvette about it. The Corvette Lady then sent me a private message via Facebook, which went something like this:

“I was parked in that spot for nearly  2 ½ hours before you arrived, but you didn’t care about that at all. You were very rude to me and it was obvious that you are used to getting your way. I’ll have you know that I’ve worked very hard for all of the things that I have…not that you would know anything about that, since you are fat and lazy. It wouldn’t have hurt you to walk the extra three blocks to the complex.”

I did not reply to her, but deleted the message. Then, because the whole incident was still weighing heavy on my mind, yesterday I wrote the first half of this story on my blog. My blog site is preset to automatically post a link to both my Facebook and Twitter accounts when I have an update so that my followers know to check it out.  Unfortunately, the same person who tattled on me to Corvette Lady regarding my original facebook post also saw the link to the blog post and became irate. Although all she knew of the encounter was what I had written and the wildly contradictory version of the episode she was given from Corvette Lady, she went about slamming me on my Facebook page. She called me a liar. A hypocrite. A shame to the Christian faith. She misquoted me multiple times and refused my offer to sit down with her so that we might discuss the incident face to face. She said that I was a bully and so were all of the other people who had posted comments regarding the blog. 

While her rant was irritating to read, I was actually quite fascinated that she, just like her friend the Corvette lady, took a neutral incident and escalated it into a confrontation.  The blog post was a story. My story. Writen by me, from my point of view, to tell about an incident in my life from my personal perspective. I mentioned no names, I did no one any harm. Still, she went about shaming me and name-calling. Each time I tried to diffuse the situation she went for the jugular. In the end I had to block her from my page to put a stop to her relentless attack.

Interestingly enough, when the Corvette lady sent me the private message I learned her name. Her name rang a bell, so I did a quick Google search to refresh my memory and sure enough, she owns a local business. A business associated with her name. In fact, her face is plastered on adverts all over this area of town (I hadn’t recognized her at the time because the face she wore with me was twisted in anger, not the smiling face of the lovely professional headshot.) The business she’s in relies a great deal on word of mouth and positive customer reviews.  One would think that a person in her position would be especially cautious about how she treats others in public as you never know where your next business reference will come from and likewise, as in this instance, who might witness or otherwise catch wind of any unpleasantness and use that as fuel to harm your livihood.

Luckily for Corvette Lady I am not vendictive and petty (or I would have rammed her car). Although I feel very strongly that she initiated the wrong in this incident, it is possible she was just having an off day. Lord knows I was. God shows each of us grace when we least deserve it, the least I can do is extend that gift to others. 

So Corvette Lady, wherever you are, I’m sorry I was rude to you.  I was wrong and I ask your forgiveness. I hope that we can put this incident behind us.  And if our paths cross again, I hope that it can be a cordial encounter. 

However, please understand that whenever I am witness to an act of injustice or inhumanity, you can bet your bottom I’m going to step up and intervene. And there’s a good chance I’ll blog about it too.

The Curious Incident of the Lady in the Corvette, Pt. 1

I had an unpleasant run-in with a stranger the other day. The encounter occurred at a large children’s sports complex where my son was to have a rec-league soccer game. We arrived at the complex twenty minutes prior to the game, but the parking lot was already jam-packed and cars spilled out onto the surrounding streets for blocks. Dozens more cars arrived by the minute, all swarming around the perimeter of the complex, hoping against hope to find a spot within walking distance. I dropped my son off at the entrance so he could join his team for pre-game practice while I slowly snaked my way through the chaos of congestion in search of a place to park my minivan. 

I watched as dozens of patrons lugged folding chairs, blankets, sports gear, snacks and siblings as they trudged for blocks, all headed one direction – toward the complex. No one seemed to be leaving. As it was, my search for a nearby space seemed futile and I had all but resigned myself to following the long chain of cars parallel parked along the neighboring streets until I came to the tail end, then add my own. That is, until I came across a relatively wide breach in the chain. A single car, a red late model Corvette, was planted awkwardly along a fifty-foot stretch of prime curb real estate. It was parked in such a way that there were about ten linear feet of curb behind the Corvette, maybe enough space to park a motorcycle, but definitely not a car. However, in front of the Corvette was a space large enough for a full-size vehicle such as my own… if a crane were to lift said vehicle and skillfully place it into the space. Unfortunately, there wasn’t quite enough wiggle room for the back and forth motion necessary to parallel park. However, as luck would have it, I noticed that a female driver was still sitting inside the Corvette.  I relished in my good fortune!  I now needed only to get her to back her car up a few feet, as she had room to spare, and I could take advantage of this coveted location.

Let me pause for a moment and clarify that I live in a small suburb just outside of Wichita, Kansas, in the heart of the Bible belt. A good majority of the population here are neighborly folks. They smile and wave and lend each other a helping hand.  The Golden Rule is the law of the land. And so it was that I did not think it would be necessary for me to first approach the woman in the Corvette to ask her to please back up and make room for my car, I presumed that she would identify my need and comply accordingly.

Just like they taught us in high school driver’s education class, I pulled up beside the car in front of the parking space and began the precision maneuvering required to back into the spot. As I inched my way back toward the luxury sports car, I assumed the woman would see my van drawing closer and closer to her front end and would put her vehicle in reverse to give me the extra space needed to park along the curb. I assumed wrong. Instead, as I peered at her through the reflection in my rear view mirror, she just glared at me and shook her head.  Her actions seemed to suggest that she thought I was delusional to believe I could squeeze my van in in front of her. But my idea wasn’t to fit into that too-small space, it was to fit into the space afforded me once she backed up.
As I inched and angled my van back and forth, back and forth into that spot, she watched me from the front seat of her vehicle unwilling, though perfectly able, to lend a hand. She seemed adamant about maintaining her protective parking bubble.  

Perhaps she thought I would eventually give up trying to squeeze my van into that space and would drive on to find another spot. But what Corvette Lady didn’t realize is that I am a vigilante of social justice. She didn’t know that there are few things in this world that make my blood boil more than people who believe they are somehow exempt from common courtesy. So, with my van jutting half-way out into the street, blocking the flow of traffic along the narrow artery where cars were still swarming near the sports complex, I exited my vehicle and approached the driver’s side of the Corvette.

The woman watched me approach, a look of annoyance on her face. Her window was already cracked open, so I leaned over and asked her if she would mind backing up a few feet. I admit that by this point I was quite frustrated and filled with disgust for this person who had watched me struggle, understood my need, knew that she was able to assist me, yet stubbornly refused to do so. So when I spoke to her my voice betrayed my perturbedness. Still she stared at me and just shook her head. 

I explained that she had ample space behind her in which to reposition her car.  That’s when she told me that she had been parked in that spot along the street for over two hours already and she was trying to conduct some work (she pointed to some papers on the passenger seat.) “OoooKaaay?” I said, not understanding what relevance the length of her stay played in her refusal to be courteous, “please back your car up.” 

“There are several spaces right there,” she said, pointing to the parking lot. I explained that those were handicap spots and again asked, although not quite as politely, if she would back up. She refused. 

“Look,” I said, genuinely agitated, “just because you have a shiny car doesn’t mean you’re any more precious than the rest of us,” I gestured to the mass of cars stacked up behind where my van was blocking the street. 

This is when she actually opened her car door and climbed out to confront me. With only her car door acting as a barrier between us, she stood flagging her arms in the air and yelling at me about how she was there first and how rude I was to demand she move her car.
I admit that what happened next was not the type of behavior that is representative of my faith in Christ: I raised my voice and squabbled back with her. I told her that it didn’t matter how long she’d been parked along the road, she doesn’t own the municipality and she should be considerate of other people and move her car.

I shouldn’t have done it. I shouldn’t have shot back at her. My tongue is often my greatest enemy, it gets me into trouble time and time again. This time was no exception. Corvette lady scolded me; “You know what, you can find yourself another spot.”

“Okay.” I said quite calmly. The kind of calm where you know the sh*t’s about to hit the fan. Then I turned and marched back to my van. It was then that Corvette lady realized her folly. She and I both knew I had no intention of finding another spot.  I would make my van fit into that space come hell or high water. 

Although I would have loved to ram her car for dramatic effect, I never would have actually done so (the last thing I need is a lawsuit and higher insurance premiums.) However, Corvette lady didn’t know that.  So at long last she finally turned on her ignition and backed her car up a few feet so that my van could glide nicely into the space in front. A small victory.

When I parked and locked my car, I walked behind hers and took a photo of her license plate (just in case she decided to retaliate and harm my vehicle in my absence). I then passed by her window and said to her, “See now, that wasn’t so difficult after all,” then I sauntered off to catch my son’s soccer game. 

Unfortunately, this was not the end of my encounter with Corvette Lady. Look for Part 2 of this blog post forthcoming.