What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given to you?

“Let go, be free, and be unequivocally and unapologetically yourself. The ones who are meant to stay will, and the others will have been in your life because God wanted to teach you something. How you handle those cards that you’ve been dealt? That’s on you to decide.” ~Burchell, R.I.P.


This is probably the only memory I have (or remember; it’s anyone’s guess) of receiving advice that wasn’t complete dog shit, and not from the local hipsters where the only kind of ‘deity’ is the humble marijuana plant but came from a stable I was hired to be a stable hand at.

I would work for them like five or six nights a week, shoveling the stalls daily, preparing grain and supplements for each individual horses needs. I remember distinctly the chart I used to have to hold my first month there. It had all the horses’ names listed, along with the type, amount, and supplements (if any) that each individual horse needed.

I would measure it out for the morning stable hands or the owner of the organization, her daughter (Sarah) would be able to feed them early in the morning (at 5:00am, and who also didn’t enjoy being awake at that time) and avoid having to arrive even earlier than 5:00am just to avoid the loud stomping, kicking, and whinnying of impatient, angry horses whose only wish is to eat their breakfast and munch on their hay undisturbed.

I can remember the first time I ever was assigned this task, and I was squinting at the list, checking and rechecking the amounts, reading the seemingly endless bottles of dietary supplements, some dry, some liquid, and even a supplement that women could not (and this was stressed to me numerous times) touch; well I guess it only effects menstruating women because if your skin came in contact with it, it had the potential to severely alter your menstrual cycle.

Oh, and the last two of my assigned duties was to turn out the horses into different pastures, one for the mares and one for the geldings and stallions and scrubbing the water buckets every Friday. This is what led me to receive this advice.

It was late on a Friday night, and the only reason I really remember it is because I was unable to clean the buckets due to this incident and that subsequently led to a minor disagreement between his daughter and I; and Burchell defended me when this happened.

I was unaware that he had even said anything to anyone. In hindsight I do remember that he was there that night, so by default that made him my only credible witness, who had watched the scene unfurl from start to finish. I also think he saw something in me that I had yet to become aware of and am probably still not privy to.

The day started normal enough, I had arrived early because I didn’t have class (or didn’t go, hard to tell which) that day and my mother had to work at around noon and when you have no car, no friends, and your mother doesn’t enjoy making multiple trips (understandable), you have no choice but to hitchhike your way everywhere and always at least three hours before you’re supposed to be there; to the mall, to your job, or in my case to the stables. On this day, I was probably about five or six hours earlier than was necessary.

The way most barns operate is relatively simple, but flip flops with the inevitable change of the seasons, with the largest tweaks to the horses’ pasture schedule occurring in the winter and summer months.

In the summer the horses are kept in their stalls for the entire day because of the intense heat and humidity during this time of year. Then after they are fed their evening grain (around 5:00pm), they’re turned out into their designated pastures (about an hour or so later), left there all night to be brought in early in the morning to eat, and then the cycle repeats.

In the winter, it’s flip flopped, so the horses are turned out during the day, and left in their stalls at night because it’s too cold in the pastures at night during the winter for the types of horses that were at this barn, especially with no type of shelter that they can take cover in to escape the biting wind and snow. Let me add quickly because I’m sure most of you are thinking something along the lines of:

“But aren’t there wild horses? Why would it be too cold for domesticated horses and not so for wild horses?”

And to that my answer would be, when you have show horses, they’re schooled (trained) in the ‘off-season’ which is in the winter. Show horses are pampered because their appearance is scored along with their performance so to preserve their coat (and by default stopping the horses normal winter fur from growing in as thick) they’re blanketed in the winter, and fly sheets are draped over them in the summer to avoid the flies and keep them from being bitten by horse flies and other creepy crawlies, that I now have to stop talking about because I hate bugs.

At the time, this ‘first professional blunder’ took place it was probably mid-summer, the beginning of July, and (as I stated earlier) I arrived like five or six hours earlier than I had to be.

Typically when you clean a stall, you wait until the horses are turned out and aren’t in their stalls, this is usually just for speed purposes so you aren’t forced to remove them from the stall you’re cleaning, nor are you forced to clean the stall with them in it, with a horse you aren’t comfortable with or you don’t own.

I had time to kill, is what I’m ultimately hinting at. And Burchell being ‘knight in shining armor’ that he was, figured out my schedule rather quickly and would always hang out with me at the barn. I’d consider us to have a pretty good relationship, he was a mentor to me almost.

As the day wore on, and the heat increased, it was nearing time for the horses to be let out after messing around and reading and talking or doing whatever it was that I was doing. I had seen the weather report that day and it contradicted severely with the bright blue skies and white fluffy clouds in the sky, they looked like pillows.

I hesitated a bit, waiting for another boarder to arrive so I could ask them their opinion because the horses absolutely are forbidden to be outside in any type of weather that could be harmful to them, i.e. thunderstorms which is what was forecasted and it was supposed to be a bad one.

I stared at the clock, watching the minutes tick by ever so slowly, when I heard the big barn doors open, I was relieved to see one of my favorite boarders and owner of a beautiful dressage horse named Mack; her name was Kerri and often served as the most rational person to go to if you needed any advice.

She had come to my aid on numerous occasions and never with any judgement. Patient and kind as she was, it felt pretty natural to ask her whether or not I should turn the horses out despite the weather forecast, especially for someone of my low rankings within the hierarchy, it shows inexperience, and can sew seeds of doubt with the boarders in your ability to care for their animals.

She answered in her usual sing-songy way and told me that in her opinion it appeared that the storm was going to pass over us (as is often the case with Ohio and thunderstorms, especially in the area that we were in). I found myself agreeing and Burchell always the one to give his input agreed and I went about my duties as normal.

When I had turned them all out and finished all of the stalls it was time to clean the buckets. Cleaning buckets was arguably the task I hated the most. It was messy, you always ended up drenched in water, and they were always ridiculously heavy, and just as I was ready to start cleaning them, the brightest flash of lightning flashed in the sky. Then the roaring of thunder cracked and rumbled like the sound of a bridge collapsing.

Although I wasn’t obligated to bring all of the horses back inside, I felt slightly responsible for having let them out knowing that there could be a potential storm, and for the safety of the horses. As I had resigned myself to the realization that I would have to sacrifice one of my two days off and scrubbing buckets on Saturday, my father walked into the barn just as the rain started to pelt the tin roof of the barn, it sounded like golf balls or ping pong balls slamming into the roof with an astonishing amount of force.

I ran out into the rain, thunder, and lightning lead rope in hand as Kerri followed behind me, as I had never been responsible for bringing in the horses and I had no idea to accomplish it. I had to trudge through both fields, the farthest one located across the outdoor riding ring to the gates on the other side. I opted to bring the mares in first, because they were the closest and would arguably be the most difficult to bring back inside. Kerri and I managed to herd them like sheep towards the front of the field, and I began to bring them one by one back to their stalls.

There were I believe 14 horses in total, 8 of them being mares and the others a gelding and one stallion. Once I hurriedly had the mares in place with their doors latched securely, Kerri and I trudged back into the downpour and as we walked toward the designated field, we were very pleased to see all of them gathered at the gate, looking far less bothered than the mares, they were lazily munching on grass, almost like they expected us to bring them inside.

We brought them in no problem, and by this point it was far too late to even attempt to clean 28 buckets two for each horse, and once again I had to come to the realization that they would not be done that night, and I wasn’t entirely sure how this was going to play out with the owner, however I was drenched from head to toe, slick with sweat and rain, and could hardly will my body to move another inch.

I was practically dragging my sore limbs out to the car, and I was starving. Kerri thanked me profusely, which I was sort of confused by because I was under the impression that it was my job, I didn’t give it much thought, telling myself that I would worry about the potential consequences tomorrow. I hopped in the car, the only thing on my mind being food.

The next day I had slept in very late and was awoken to numerous amounts of missed calls and text messages from the owner, pretty much grilling me about not having done the buckets. I was surprised that no one had told her about the events of the night prior and I explained to her what had happened and that I would be out later that day to clean them, I just didn’t have the time and my father was there and couldn’t stay late.

I craved sleep, my schedule at this time in my life was utter chaos. I went to school from 10:45am to 1:45pm, went to work from 2:00pm to 9:30pm and then off to the stables from 9:45pm until whenever I finished which was usually around 11:00pm.

I arrived shortly after the phone call, feeling slightly annoyed that I even had to be there when I did, I didn’t find it to be that big of a deal considering my options were to either leave the buckets dirty and bring the horses inside or leave the horses outside and clean the buckets, and in my mind the safety of the horses was more important.

As I was scrubbing the buckets, I felt the weight of a hand on my shoulder, it was Burchell. He told me that he understood my decision and even went so far as to tell me that he agreed with my decision and at that I couldn’t help but burst into tears.

They rolled down my face, and the tears felt hot and warm like lava from a volcano, and they seemed to not want to stop. I hated disappointing people or failing to complete a task that was expected of me, so I was being probably too hard on myself for a 15 year old with massive amounts of responsibility that even an adult would struggle with (albeit not as frequent).

He spoke to me as someone who was sympathetic to my cause, either from a previous personal experience or out of pure like for me. We got along well, and I always managed to make him laugh and I would inquire about his health often. I mean, hell he was the only one that sat with me on those long days I skipped school, and the barn was nearly empty, the only sounds emanating from it were the sounds of the horses stomping in their stalls, horses munching on hay, the shuffling of their tails, and the occasional whinny or snort. Other than that, silent.

This is when he told me that he had never seen someone with quite the work-ethic I had, nor had he ever seen anyone procrastinate so hard with every assigned task but manage to get the job done with speed and efficiency that somehow exceeded expectations. At this I laughed, stopping the tears only temporarily, which I’m sure was the point, but he continued, taking advantage of the break in my tears, and told me that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, and that I was a very impressive young lady and someone that he respected and thought very highly of.

And that is when he told me that I should learn to let things go. I should stop fixating and free myself from the need to do so. That I should be confident enough in my skills and my abilities to take on any challenge with enthusiasm. He advised that the ones that matter will stay, and that the ones that don’t are there because God wanted to teach me something.

I think that last part was a covert acknowledgement that I was correct in my gut feelings about Kerri and correct in my gut feelings towards some of the other boarders, and that’s not to say I had any visible issues or spats or falling outs with anyone there, no quite the opposite actually, everyone was very helpful but in hindsight I suppose there were some boarders that were probably skeptical of having their horses looked after by a 15 year old, which is understandable.

However, it’s not as if I was handling their horses with no one there, in fact I was very careful in making sure that I didn’t clean any stalls until they were let out for this specific reason; I didn’t want to handle the boarders horses without them being there, unless it was an emergency.

The tears slowly came to a halt, and I finished my chores, and went home. Kerri actually called me later to tell me that her and Burchell had said something to the owner of the facilities, and I was a little bit taken aback, Burchell was not the type of person to let an opportunity to tout the favor he did for you and inquire about what you ‘owe’ him for it pass him up, and I had just talked to him.

I smiled, thinking in my head the old man had gone soft on me, sparing my feelings and absolute embarrassment at having to have someone speak on my behalf. I was a prideful teenager with an gregarious ego not befitting a 90 pound girl, and him giving me that grace, that amount of respect from a person that was older than every person at the barn, respected and had a fondness for me that I appreciated almost instantaneously.

I would never forget that advice and I’m 26 now, and for the record Kerri ended up schooling me in dressage because my groundwork was pitiful and even gave me an English Kincade, Close Contact saddle, size 6 that was a beautiful mahogany color, and ode to the ‘Traveling Saddle’ that was my very first English saddle, also a beautiful mahogany, that was handed down as a gift that both of my best friends had also used when they each made the decision to jump and transitioned over to the English riding style.

I couldn’t be anymore grateful to Kerri for that because those are some very fond memories and having an exact replica of that saddle to use, as the first and only saddle for my first and last horse was the icing on top of the cake for me.

Burchell was right, the ones that matter will stay. Whether that be in the flesh or in the heart, the ones that are true friends will stay and often for a long time, if they ever truly leave.

The Blue Jay’s Feather by Gabriela Marie Milton #short story #literature

Image: Gabriela Marie Milton, 2022, Interior of Capela dos Ossos, Évora Autumn. The day after Helen left for Madeira. The city’s noises vanish in a …

The Blue Jay’s Feather by Gabriela Marie Milton #short story #literature

The Damaging Effects of FAS and PPD in the Womb and What Society Needs to Do About It

The two conditions that I chose to elaborate on for Child Development in college were fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and postpartum depression (PPD). PPD occurs when a new mother experiences extreme sadness, feeling helpless, like they are not a good enough mother, everything regarding the care of a baby seems too much, feelings of guilt, and unworthiness are present 2 to 3 months after a woman has a baby. FAS is a bunch of birth defects that can be caused by a woman consuming alcohol while pregnant.

I chose these two because I feel as if people do not take these as seriously as they should especially with postpartum depression and FAS is often treated too late. It is our job as a society to make sure that these conditions are not only prevented but are properly diagnosed and the proper steps are taken to help the individual who is suffering. When PPD is present a lot of the time it’s difficult to be diagnosed because of baby blues, which is a very mild form of postpartum depression and usually goes away with time. This causes doctors to dismiss the symptoms of postpartum depression and the woman does not receive the proper treatment.

We need to start advocating for the actual seriousness of this problem. When birth hormones decrease, 8-15 percent of women experience the symptom of PPD. The new mother could even experience thoughts of suicide, drug abuse, harming her baby, or neglecting her baby. This could have a major impact on the development of a child. If postpartum depression goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed that child could end up harmed, neglected, emotionally scarred, or even worse.

FAS can cause horrible defects like abnormal facial characteristics, and stunted growth both physically and mentally. I think it’s extremely important to address this especially because we want to assume that this is a mother’s choice and won’t acknowledge that alcoholism is a disease whether the person is pregnant or not. We should be treating it as a disease. We need to be giving women better resources to find help and seek treatment and we need to have less bias in medicine, so that when these things are reported they get taken seriously and not when it’s too late

What things give you energy?

You are jabbing at the keys on the keyboard, ferociously typing as if it were my day job. I can picture it now, the heart pounding anticipation that always comes when you are nearing the end of any project. Especially one you have worked tirelessly, scraping the crust out of my eyes as you stagger around my bedroom disoriented, looking for my laptop. That thing in your mind that falsely communicates to the rest of your body that you have, ‘No time left’ and that this just, ‘needs to be completed’ and the emotion is a purveyor of pressure, crushing its victims, aiding anxiety in its quest by incessantly shouting at you,

“If you don’t complete it within the next 10 minutes, you never will! Go, go, go!” It screeches, immediately causing your heart rate to increase at the added pressure your imagination has created. That feeling is like the calm before the storm to you. Only because you know what’s next, the weight of the imaginary pressure lifts, your heartrate slows, and eventually slows, ebbing to its resting state.

As you propel your fingers forward, they ache due to the sheer amount of typing. Much like the last 12 foot of a race, the last push towards victory, where the end is near, you can see the ending, so to do you. Once the final words have been typed and the pressure lifts, it’s pure elation.

Relief, exhaustion, happiness, pride, and exhaustion wash over you, as this leg of the race is completed, and you settle into your proverbial ‘victory lap’ which to you is getting ready for the next theoretical ‘race’ and easing into the editing process. But much like the climax of any good plot or the comedown of any high; the comedown sucks. The same is true of authors, the editing process can either have one feeling like they climbed the tallest mountain, or like they fell as they attempted to climb.

It can be a sobering and uncomfortable realization, and it fills your head with self-doubt, but we aren’t here to talk about the next race. As with all things, one must keep in perpetual motion, ever moving forward, and even the writer is not exempt from this rule. So, you dust off that keyboard, keep going, and no matter how rough the editing process, think of those runners’ highs, and finish the race.

Among the vast amounts of things that could bring you joy, your mind wanders as you stare at the blinking cursor of the blank document, a brief flicker of a memory floats to the top of your consciousness as if it were a helium balloon. You struggle to find the thought and as you do, the full memory comes crashing through the walls of your mind with tremendous force.

You are a child; you’re watching your father adjust his reading glasses as you hand him a piece of paper. The yellow light from the table lamp glows, and you hear the steady inhales and exhales accompanied only by the near silent sound of paper shuffles and cushions being adjusted that’s coming from his direction. You are looking at the carpet, just below his feet in the “crisscross applesauce” way that children gather on the floor to listen to a story. You can’t really place why you are so nervous, although the benefit of hindsight has made you realize that your father’s approval (and the approval of your peers) is that which is your top priority, and you value it, label it, as of the utmost importance that it be acquired.

You pull away from the memory momentarily to shake your head and laugh at the frivolity of being that young and that naïve, and how for granted it was taken.

As you swim back through the memories of time to reach the moment again, why were you so nervous? Then it hits you like a brick through a glass window. The paper you had given him was something that you had written at school, and he was proofreading it for errors, as per the teachers’ instructions. He takes a deep breath, while you wait, your mind drifts between the memory and the present as you wonder why this memory has surfaced.

Your back in the memory, you can smell things in this state? You laugh at the stupidity, while in the privacy of your thoughts, you secretly admit that the scent of your mother’s favorite perfume wafts up to greet your nostrils like stumbling into an old friend and for a moment, you do smell it. It smells of a time long ago, of an era where happiness and joy were abundant, almost infinite.

When the memory is crystal clear in your mind once again, you hear the low, gruff sound your father makes as he attempts to clear his throat and announce with gusto the results of his proofreading, and my heart stills in anticipation as he says,

“Did you really write this?” In a tone you cannot quite discern it’s meaning, because as you recall you never could tell and you still kind of can’t (although his presence or judgement fails to strike the fear of God into your soul anymore) now. You look up, sheepishly, not sure what the results are as he keeps you on the edge of your seat, and you nod, carefully, as if you were made of porcelain and any sudden movement would cause you to crack,

“Well Madelyn,” he looks at you, hand waves and swooshing his hand over the paper like he was trying to swat at a fly as he searches for the correct words to use, continuing on as if he hadn’t kept me waiting in agony, an ocean of anxiety, he continues, “This is wonderful, you have quite a talent there, do you want to be an author?”

In the present, the question makes the lightbulb atop your head light up the dark rooms of your memory, light with recognition and understanding at why this of all the thousands and thousands of times your parents asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, all of the times they had both complimented your writing, and even your therapist trying to convince you of your talent, this memory was placed here, in this space, to remind me of what will always motivate me and what I know to be true and that is: I have always been a writer, I have always been an author, and the completion of a project, article, essay, or book will not only give me energy but will propel me forward to achieve my wildest dreams. Things once thought to be impossible and unattainable.

 

Who is Alan Whitcomb Now?

Walden University

 Mock Case Study for Psychology 101

Who is Allen Whitcomb Now?

Allen Whitcomb is 47-year-old man, who is married with two children is college. For the most part he has been healthy his whole life until recently he got in a bad car accident and lost his leg due to texting while driving. He claims that the car that hit him was further away and slower than it was, and he is also color blind. Since the accident he has been experiencing pain for which he takes over the counter medications and has gained 20 pounds and has trouble sleeping. He has also reported that when he hears the song that was playing during the accident his heart rate increases. His wife reports that he seeks a quiet and calm environment and is quite mean to her after he watches violent television, she describes him as quiet, tense, anxious, unfriendly, and on edge. In regard to work he has been having attendance problems, either being late or not showing up at all. His manager reports he has problems with memory and processing the new filing system that has been put in place at his job. He also seems to forget information after a few moments.

Allen’s reports can be attributed to a few topics and studies in psychology, including the central core of the brain and how behavior is affected by damage to the limbic system, sensation, association areas of the cortex, which includes memory, learning, and emotion and I will talk about these individually and discover who Allen Whitcomb is now with the information I have learned about the brain

Brain and Behavior

            When talking about the brain and how it relates to Allen’s behavior I want to talk about the central core of the brain and the main structures as most of them pertain to Allen. Starting with the medulla, which is what controls heart rate and this is the part of the brain that causes Allen’s elevated heart rate every time he hears the song that was playing during his accident. More specifically the hypothalamus because it triggers a survival response, otherwise known as “fight or flight” response. Feldman, R. (2020). This response is activated when he hears that song or similar sounding song because his body associates this with survival. Feldman, R. (2020).

            The next structure is the forebrain, and located in the forebrain is reticular formation, which determines whether or not a specific action or reaction is necessary. Feldman, R. (2020). With the information that I have, I can determine that there is damage to the forebrain that causes Allen to react when a reaction is not necessarily called for in a given situation. But the reticular formation also controls sleep and sleep patterns, Feldman, R. (2020), so this could be the reason that Allen has trouble sleeping, since he claims his sleep-wake cycle has been disrupted.

           

Sensation and Perception

            Sensation as it relates to Allen has everything to do with the amount of pain that he has had since his accident. Pain could be a reaction to a few different things, one being perceptual, meaning it could be a reaction to how he feels about his accident or even a thought. Feldman, R. (2020). In Allen’s case, he attributes his poor work ethic to pain while his therapist suggests it is most likely anxiety. Both could potentially be factors. Something extremely small in the grand scheme of all of Allen’s issues could cause anxiety. Feldman, R. (2020).

            Allen also claims that he is depressed and in response his therapist has suggested that he smile more. This specific request might sound unnecessary, but it does have a purpose. It is a cognitive treatment that some psychologists have been known to use and it involves reconstructing the way he may think. If he swaps his negative thoughts for positive ones, that sense of control, no matter how big or small, that does have the potential to decrease the pain he has. Feldman, R. (2020).

            Allen is also an amputee, which could explain his discomfort in the form of phantom limb pain, which can be offset through a therapy called mirror pain therapy. Feldman, R. (2020). In mirror pain therapy, mirrors are used to make it look like both limbs are intact, Feldman, R. (2020), for Allen it is his legs. This is supposed to make the brain stop sending messages that are perceived as pain to the leg that is no longer there Feldman, R. (2020). This could help Allen stop having pain and get back to work if employed properly and by the correct psychologist.

Learning and Memory

            The limbic system is actually involved with thinking and memory as well as emotions and aggression. Feldman, R. (2020). Allen has substantial damage to this part of his brain, more so, than any of the others. His boss has reported that Allen is having trouble learning the new filing system at work and that he frequently forgets things after a couple of minutes. This is caused by damage to the hippocampus, which renders him unable to remember recent events, while leaving the memories prior to the accident intact. Feldman, R. (2020). More specifically, damage to the hippocampus is especially sensitive to tasks where objects need to be linked together and placed in specific locations. Rolls ET. (2018). This could be the cause of Allen getting confused by the new filing system that has been implemented at his job, seeing as significant damage has been done to the hippocampus.

            Allen reports that his problems at work are because of pain, however, his therapist disagrees, she believes his problems at work are the cause of anxiety. This anxiety is why he now feels that he will not be good enough at work, which directly translates to why he does better work with others than he does on his own. He lacks the confidence in himself to be able to live up to the standards his job expects of him.

He has reported feeling judgement since the accident and has claimed that people look at him differently. His boss reports that he is often late or calls in sick, anxiety about feeling both judgement from others and the anxiety that he may not be able to perform well is most likely the cause of his attendance problems. Not to mention he works the night shift, and that may be why he has problems sleeping.

Motivation and Emotion

            The motivation to eat is seen as a primary drive and is controlled by the hypothalamus which regulates food intake. Feldman, R. (2020). This relates to Allen because he has gained 20 pounds since his accident which would imply that there has been some damage to this area of the brain. The hypothalamus affects the weight set point, the specific measure of weight that the body attempts to maintain, either telling the body to eat more or less to manage this weight set point. Feldman, R. (2020). Certain drugs, such as the over the counter medications that Allen takes for pain, can also be the cause of his weight gain, they can distort the weight set point, causing the hypothalamus to tell the body to increase the amount of food that is eaten. Feldman, R. (2020).  

            His manager has reported that he is currently working with Allen to resolve his attendance issues by setting attendance goals with him, Allen is working toward earning lunch for his entire team based on timely attendance. This is an example of a positive reinforcer, Feldman R. (2020).  Something is being added or given as a reward, the lunch for his team, to encourage or increase a certain behavior, timely attendance, Feldman, R. (2020). This reward should motivate Allen to be on time, and maybe increase the judgement he feels from co-workers as well.

            The amygdala, which is located in the temporal lobe of the brain, is crucial to the expression of emotions. Feldman, R. (2020). The amygdala supplies a connection to the perception of a cause of an emotion and the recollection of that cause at a later time. Feldman, R. (2020). This sequence of events applies to Allen’s accident, because he doesn’t remember the accident but remembers the song that was playing, causing him to associate that song with the accident. Because of damage to amygdala, this display of classical conditioning could also be the cause of Allen’s elevated heart rate when hearing the song, it causes him to feel stress and fear in anticipation of the accident. This could also be a symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is reliving the traumatic experience, in this case his accident, either in the form of a vivid flashback or a dream, Feldman R. (2020). This flashback can be caused by something that seems irrelevant, like the song playing during the accident, but it elicits a very strong reaction in the person who is suffers from the disease. Feldman R. (2020).

Development

            Development that is impaired or stunted in childhood can affect adulthood, Feldman, R. (2020). Nature and nurture is a common debate among developmental psychologists, because some biological factors like genetics and maturation have an effect on how people may develop later on in adulthood, while some factors that affect development in adulthood are the cause of the environment, such as how well the family functions and what the family’s SES (socioeconomic status) is. Feldman, R. (2020). For Allen, his mother always said he was not good enough. This is most likely the cause of Allen’s anxiety, as he does not want to fail and lacks confidence to even try for fear of failure. His therapist also has pointed this out to Allen as a cause of his anxiety, especially when it involves work.

            His wife has stated that Allen does not have many close friends. This can affect development in that people normally have a need for affiliation, this just means that people have a desire to make friends and keep them. Feldman, R. (2020). People who withdraw themselves from friends or do not have any, as in Allen’s case, have the potential to become depressed and experience sadness. Feldman, R. (2020). Allen has reported to his therapist that he is experiencing feelings of sadness and fatigue, which are two symptoms of depression as well. Feldman, R. (2020).

Personality

            Allen’s personality has been affected in a few ways. His wife has described him as quiet, tense, anxious and unfriendly. These are part of the neuroticism dimension in Hans Eysenck’s theory of traits. Feldman, R. (2020). Eysenck referred to the neuroticism dimension as being able to decide how stable a person’s emotions are, which in turn, allowed Eysenck to research people across all of the dimensions and gain the ability to foresee how they may behave. Feldman. R, (2020). Allen also displays low self-esteem in the work environment, low self-esteem is also a trait in the neuroticism dimension as described by Eysenck. Feldman, R. (2020).

            Allen’s wife has also reported that he watches television a lot since the accident, and after he watches violent television shows he treats her unkindly, but he seems to feel bad and is trying to stop that. This aggression, is directly correlated with the violence he sees on TV, psychologists believe that the frequency and the amount of time spent watching violent television makes them more likely to act aggressively than they normally would if they did not engage in watching violent television. Feldman, R. (2020).

Social Behavior

            Allen’s social behavior has been largely affected due to his injury, it has caused people to look at him differently and to judge his abilities based only on his disability. Allen’s attitude toward certain situations and people have also been affected. Allen thinks that all of his managers at work are unfair and overly directive. Attitudes have the potential to change our behavior toward a person or a belief, Feldman, R. (2020), in Allen’s case his attitude about his managers affects his motivation at work and his willingness to perform well. Allen has also developed an impression formation about his managers, which is how one categorizes the facts he knows about an individual, his managers, to form a generalization or impression of that individual, they are overly directive and unfair. Feldman, R. (2020). Allen has developed a schema, or an expectation about how these managers act, so that he can anticipate how he will later interact with them. Feldman, R. (2020).

Allen is especially susceptible to stereotype vulnerability, in which he is aware of how other people view disabled people. Feldman, R. (2020). Allen is directly connected to this because of the judgement he faces at work and because of his mother always saying that he is not good enough. As a result of his co-workers judging him, coupled with his mothers belief that he is not good enough, he has come to accept this belief, and actually think that they are not good enough. Since he has accepted this, he fears that he will confirm his mother’s belief, and will fail or will not even try because he is under the impression that he is not good enough and won’t be good enough regardless of the efforts he puts in. Feldman, R. (2020).

Allen may also be a victim of poor coping skills when it directly involves stress, the more times we try to beat stress could cause psychological issues that cause issues in our health to arise. Feldman, R. (2020). Allen has chosen to deal with his stress by watching television and overeating, also known as avoidant coping, where one uses a more direct path in order to cope, which has causes unhealthy habits that normally are out of character for them, Feldman, R. (2020), the weight gain and most likely the fatigue he feels is a result of his avoidant coping. The more he is exposed to stress, the more his immune system deteriorates, and causes a decrease in the ability to fight off infections or diseases. Feldman, R. (2020).

Allen could also be in the third stage of general adaptation syndrome, which is exhaustion, as is described by Hans Selye a stress theorist, who studied the consequences of long-term stress and their effects on the body. Feldman, R. (2020). During this final stage the person’s fight to overcome the cause of the stress decreases to the point where physical damage and psychological damage can start to be seen. Feldman, R. (2020). This could be the cause of Allen’s lack of focus at work and his irritability which causes him to lash out at his wife, unintentionally. His wife has suggested that Allen remain as active as possible, which is one thing that can be used to offset the damages that can cause stress, and promote healthier habits and coping mechanisms. Feldman, R. (2020).

Conclusion

Allen has a lot of hard work ahead of him in order to fix and cope with some of the damage that has been inflicted on him because of his car accident. He suffers from depression and anxiety that severely hinders his attendance at work, a lack of self-confidence and motivation that affects his willingness to work and work hard while ignoring the preconceived notions that his co-workers have toward him. Poor coping skills, have caused his weight gain and excessive amounts of television has made him aggressive toward his wife. He has significant damage to some of the systems in the brain, most notably the limbic system, association areas of the brain, and the hippocampus, which has caused problems with memory and learning new information related to new systems at work. Damage to the amygdala is responsible for expression of emotion, and therefore has caused his aggression. His therapist has suggested cognitive restructuring and biofeedback techniques, like mirror therapy could be applied to Allen for pain management of the amputated leg. The aggression from damage to the amygdala may imply that serious personality changes are present and it is too soon to tell if he will ever be able to restore the damage done to it. In short, proper nutrition, intensive therapy, exercise, and the proper dosage of medications are the only ways that any of this damage can start to repair and it may only repair some of it. Only time will tell what is in store for Allen Whitcomb, but we all have gained a little bit more of an understanding of who Allen Whitcomb is now as a person since his unfortunate accident.

References

Feldman, R. (2020). Psychology and Your Life with P.O.W.E.R. Learning (4th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education. Rolls ET; Oxford Centre for Computational Neuroscience, Oxford, England. (2018). Cell and Tissue Research [Cell Tissue Res] 2018 Sep; Vol. 373 (3), pp. 577-604. Berlin, New York, Springer-Verlag

Which topics would you like to be more informed about?

       There are many topics that I would like to be more informed about and am in the process of learning. The first one being the foster care system. The reason is obvious when you learn that I am writing a book about adoption with my experiences woven into it, and because adoption is an option in almost every facet of this country’s social services, I don’t think it would be a waste of time to learn about those intricacies and those issues. The only problem I have faced thus far in trying to write about this subject is I’m not sure how to structure it. I’m essentially doing all of this on my own and I have no sense of direction whatsoever. How do thread it all together when adoption is the glue that glorifies the entire system and makes it “okay” on a moral level. It’s the number one thing people bring up when abortion, foster care, divorce rates, and women’s rights are discussed in any type of capacity. How do I talk about those things without making it a dissertation? A long-winded informational essay that not even the bravest of researchers dare touch.

       Another thing I would like to be more knowledgeable in is gender studies, on the chemical level. It’s another one of my future essays or articles on my to-do list. Neuroscientists have recently denounced the notion of the male and female brain and now discuss those parts of the brain as the left and right. The former being associated with language development and emotions, while the latter is associated with memory and perception. Language being the part of the brain that develops faster in women and girls, leaving perception and dexterity to develop faster in boys and men. Since there have been a whole host of bad opinions when it comes to being transgender and a teenager or young child, I’m going to briefly mention my issues with the discussion as a whole and what sorts of things aren’t being mentioned or talked about at length. The first question I think I would ask is what is the process of diagnosing gender dysmorphia? How long is that process? And at what stage is hormone therapy recommended if at all? In terms of sports, how many transgender students are beating out the cis-gendered students within the pool of individuals whose gender they identify with? These questions are systematically ignored. That and as a mother, I’m not understanding why parents have lost the ability to discern between a child whose going through a phase and a child who genuinely doesn’t feel as if they’ve been given the correct body, like, for example, my “scene” or “emo” phase was an obvious phase. My being bi-sexual was not. Trying to conform to the tagline of “lesbian” also didn’t fit me. When you’re a teenager and you’re trying to figure out who you are and what you will contribute to the world. As a teen, you’re also trying to figure out how you fit and are coming to the realization that the “land of opportunity” may exclude you. The American Dream, is dead. I realize that this is said by a modicum of different people, with a propensity for lying and distorting the truth to fit their desired narratives, but are they wrong? It’s just the only thing that’s being left out of the conversation is the fact that the same people who claim they aim to fix it, are the same ones that are allowing (and secretly encouraging) this to happen. My point is, being a teenager is confusing enough as it is, and when we don’t allow children the space to experiment and allow them the ability to accentuate the parts of their personalities that they believe to be special, you end up with unhappy, disillusioned, and filled with hatred at am unfair world, so why would we make this time any more challenging than it already is? Over what? Because your son wants to wear a skirt to school? Who cares? Just ensure that they understand the consequences and what it could mean for the future. If he’s willing to accept that, then who cares? We need to quit coddling these children, that’s the real issue at hand. Also what about the lives of the children who are the bullies? I bring this up because one of the arguments that’s being peddled to the watchers of Fox News is that your child will ultimately be bullied, ridiculed, and humiliated by their fellow classmates either in the future for having changed their mind or for expressing their gender openly and honestly even if it differs from the gender given to them at birth. And my response to such nonsense and reaching that this statement implies is who the fuck are the parents of these children who are so mercilessly torturing their transgender counterparts, and why the fuck aren’t you doing anything about it? It’s like “they will be teased, so no you aren’t allowed to express any gender other than the one that was assigned to you at birth, instead of addressing the issue of bullying and tolerance that’s often reinforced in the home” or “instead of teaching my child to be nice to everyone no matter what and that any form of bullying is wrong, and if you wouldn’t want to be treated like that don’t treat others like that, I’d rather allow my child to continue being an intolerant piece of garbage who definitely judges a book by its cover, and doesn’t see the value in diversity because I don’t see the value of diversity and view it as an inherently bad thing when in reality diversity is good for everyone and benefits us all.” Like why would you want your child to be a bully? I don’t want that, I’d like to teach my child to love and accept everyone, even if they are different, what an odd thing to defend, the bully’s right to bully? Rather than the transgender boy to wear a skirt and participate in sports.

       Another thing I think I would like to learn about is hormones and gene therapy. It relates to the issue of transgender people because a soccer player in Africa was denied the ability to play I think in the Olympics or Olympic Qualifiers or something of that nature, because her testosterone levels were higher than that of an average woman. Now you may be asking, well was this person biologically female, to which I will tell you that YES, she was born a woman, and NO they did not allow her to play. That story, while I do not have the link, was briefly featured by Yahoo News, and received little to no attention, which is surprising to me because the “Left-Wing Snowflakes,” didn’t jump to say “I told you so,” and the “Alt-Right Defenders of Truth,” didn’t even try to debunk it or discredit the article. Life just kind of moved on. It’s this reason I’d like to learn more. I’ve heard rumors that are within the circle of sociologists and neuroscientists that there have been some deeply insightful discoveries into the hormone of testosterone. I have yet to confirm these, however I do know of some places to potentially start this research, including a documentary and new studies available, thanks in part to transgendered people being involved in clinical research studies. Regardless of whether or not you believe in the idea of transgender people, it’s happening, it’s a “social phenomenon” and should be studied just as vigorously as anything else, let’s find out if it really is an anomaly among the human population or is this a normal progression of human society and behavior? Does it really matter if it’s “brainwashing” our children? What’s so bad about it? It’s not our future, like, we won’t be living in it, so who are we to tell the next generation of adults how society should be operated, when at the end of the day, they will be the ones to live it? What if the future for them is free of the judgement and social norms that we all grew up with, wouldn’t that make for a happier society? And what’s so bad about wanting a fair, more free, more connected, and more globalized world? What is so wrong about inclusion and equality and why do so many men feel as if they are being marginalized? Why does the rights of a few groups of marginalized people finally gaining their rights, mean that yours will be taken? Has someone explicitly said that it is now you who must pay for the debts of your ancestors? Is that a part of this movement that I have yet to be aware of? Is it some unnamed law? What has caused this? Are men not going to college for fear of “being accused of rape?” Or does it have more to do with the different learning styles of boys/men and girls/women? I’d argue that it does. That’s why I’m so interested in learning about it. The importance of sociologists cannot be overstated, and they couldn’t be anymore underfunded.

       Another potential topic for me is to dig deep into the military and its affinity for making animals actual soldiers with actual ranks. This may seem a bit weird, but there is a fascinating story about a Marine, Sargent Reckless, who was not regarded as a horse, but a fellow soldier, and one with rank to boot. Let me repeat that, Reckless was promoted to Staff Sargent in the Marine Corp. How insane is that? She carried ammunition to the front lines and was instrumental in our victory over Korea. This horse drank beer, only needed to be taught things one time before she was able to retain and execute any task given to her and complete it, not flawlessly, but recklessly. The story of Reckless calls into question whether this is normal behavior for our soldiers. Does the military promote animals often? How often are animals used in the military and for what purposes other than to sniff bombs or find cadavers? Have there been any animals recently that have been employed by the military and if so what are their purposes? Are there any highly secret or confidential operations where animals are currently being used? In the past? Does the military use horses for this purpose often, or was it only in special circumstances because of the technological innovations in transportation and aviation? I just have many questions, we often hear about the relationship between law enforcement and their dogs, dogs being rehabilitated by prisoners, and service dogs that help people with debilitating PTSD live their lives on a day-to-day basis, so what about the military? I’m sure there are many examples of this within the organization, I just don’t think anyone has bothered to even ask.

       Another topic of interest, of which is almost comically “on brand” for me, is the Polyvagal Theory. This is a relatively new theory within the field of neuroscience but a vastly growing one. Seeing as it is on this list, you should assume that I do not know a whole lot about it. However, since this is the internet, I feel the need to make a disclaimer about my discussing the theory anyway, for austerity purposes. I am going to do my best to explain this theory to the best of my ability. Polyvagal Theory draws a direct and concrete link between the stress hormone cortisol, heart rate, and emotion expression and emotional states. It claims that if heartrate is controlled so too are emotions, and gives evidence for this conclusion. Then, using this evidence, it alludes to the implication that an individuals resting heartrate is a good indication of what their emotional state is all the time, arguing that if these could be controlled disorders like anxiety and depression (or any personality disorder really) can be cured or treated by teaching the patient to control their heartrate. Basically, another potential lead into the insights of these disorders and how they may be helped in the future, avoiding the painful processes of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and traditional “talk” therapy that could involve reliving painful experiences and traumatic events and emotions that could be unpleasant and that often hinders individuals from seeking out mental health services in the first place; the fear and shame of being vulnerable and exposed is enough of a deterrent for some to avoid treatment altogether. To avoid unpleasantries of dealing with your emotions out of an unfounded assumption that such an act is somehow weakness, and any show of weakness comes at the cost of respect from your peers. While I don’t necessarily believe in the idea of avoiding discomfort altogether, because I believe that being uncomfortable can sometimes be beneficial to the overall wellbeing of an individual because it’s a critical part of actually living and experiencing your life to the fullest; however, I will acknowledge that in certain circumstances it may be necessary for some patients to forgo that kind of approach either because they have already attempted to and it wasn’t successful or based on the recommendation of the attending physician, therapist, or psychologist. However, if this theory does prove to be fruitful what sorts of valuable insights would we gain from this? How many more people would be open and willing to seek out treatment if this were explained to the general population? How many people would it be beneficial to? And what are the larger implications if the findings prove to be true? What does it mean for society? Would it even be effective, or would it be akin to taking a placebo, the “power of positive thinking,” if I believe it to be true, then it is true, that kind of mindset?

       Those are only a few of the topics I wish to be more informed about, as a writer, I have many more and the list continues to grow, but no one ever achieves anything without asking the correct questions. You know, the questions that causes the orator to pause mid-sentence and genuinely think about the answer. Those are the questions that, when answered, have the power to move mountains, look over the edge of a cliff, see the crashing waves below, and with their hearts pounding at incredible speeds, their stomachs lurching in their throats in perfect tandem with the waves, as they peak over the ledge and their limbs grow numb from fear and anticipation, and they jump. They take the leap of faith. They trust fully in the universe, themselves, and what they believe in enough that they never question the impulse to leap, never look backwards, and never doubt a decision once it is made. The great minds of this world are never content with being idle. They are always moving, innovating, and asking all the right questions. They leave no stones unturned.

       I think we could all benefit from such a frame of mind. Give it a try, what answers do you seek?

What would your life be like without music?

What constitutes as music?

            When the birds chirp in the early hours of the morning, is that not singing? Is the sound of the water rushing over your ears in the throws of a shower so hot, you can almost hear the steam rising into your chest unqualified? If so, should that be any more considered music than the gentle whirr of the showerhead, or the water droplets condensing on the tile? When children laugh and play and all seems well, is that not also music to your ears? What about someone’s voice alone, not even to any tune, beat, or rhyme; just the sheer sound of it, does that not count?

What about the heavy jangling of a dogs collar, strewn with tags of metal, and in the shape of hearts or bones or paws, clanging their way into your room, onto your bed, in the middle of the night? See, to me, those things are all music. It’s the music of my life. I will never be without such a thing, even if the singers stop singing, long after the rappers have gone to jail, and the guitar strings have broken and the line dances broken, there will still be music all around me, I just have to stop, breathe, and listen to it.

How do you celebrate holidays?

“I am apt to believe that [the second day of July, 1776] will be celebrated by succeeding generations…with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.”

Ibid.

“Books spoke of magic as of it were a kind of sweet spice in an autumn pie–something to savor and delight in–something almost cozy.”

Ann Turner, U.S. author, thought by Mandy, Elfsong (F)

This will be my family’s first holiday season without the Covid lockdowns, and I’m really excited. My daughter is three years old now, and can actually understand what Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas mean to her, and how other people celebrate the holidays. Her lessons have been reflective of that and I think it’s great.

Halloween typically starts with a trip to the store to pick out Halloween-themed jammies. Yes, that does also include my husband even though he doesn’t care for holidays too much. I’ve been attempting to zap him out of being the literal manifestation of the Grinch or Mr. Scroodge for the past few years. Once the jammies are picked (usually 2 pairs for my daughter), one pair is saved for Hallow’s Eve where we watch “spooky” (because come on she’s only three) movies, eat popcorn and candy, and make/bake Halloween-themed cookies!

The Halloween shopping trip is one of my favorites! I simp for Christmas but that’s not the same as Halloween. Halloween is the only truly fun holiday where nothing is really expected of a kid other than to go wild, eat candy, and dress-up as their favorite characters or animals. They aren’t required to hug or kiss Aunts and Uncles they see only once a year, they aren’t surrounded by boring adults, and there aren’t any stringent rules to follow or abide by in terms of Halloween etiquette.

The day typically starts out with a plan to choose a pumpkin, and the first thing I do is wake up my daughter with ghost noises and much fanfare, to which she acts scared of and fake shivers under the covers while trying to stifle the inevitable giggles from bubbling to the surface, trying hard not to give herself away. Then she will pop up like a bed spring, blanket over her head, and shout, “BOO” trying to scare me. Once the chase has concluded and my daughters cheeks are flushed with faux exhaustion, I’ll begin making her favorite breakfast: Bacon and Eggs. I watch her toes wiggle as she chews, along with one piece in each hand (a mandatory request when she devours bacon), as she lightly hums in complete bliss and contentment. Not a care in the world.

Once my daughter has finished eating an entire pack of bacon, it’s time to pick out a pumpkin (at least that’s my plan for this year, because last year I was full of uncertainty due to the massive amount of Covid outbreaks among children that was occurring, and my daughter hasn’t been sick once) and that’s the new activity we have added. There is really only one Halloween tradition that I consider to be “unique” for our family and that is painting the pumpkin, rather than carving it. I am the one that has removed this childhood tradition because I never enjoyed doing it when I was younger, I only did it for my dad and grandfather. The idea of sticking my hand into the gourd to scrape out the gooey insides, and harvest its seeds for future consumption doesn’t sound all that fun; especially when you learn that you can buy pumpkin seeds and eliminate the possibility of stabbing yourself trying to carve a pumpkin, only for it to look like a first grader carved it and NOT a 26 year old woman. Yeah…let’s spare mommy that particular form of embarassment.

Then comes the jammies. I scan the aisles of my local Target for the perfect pair, and pull her towards the sets that are in her size and allow her to choose two of them. I follow the same strategy as the bacon rule in the morning, one in each hand. I figure if her hands are full the less likely she will be to grab, touch, or ask for a toy or whatever dumb thing catches her eye; it could literally be anything. Once Lyla has made her decision (usually something with a pattern of black cats, candy, or ghosts dotting the fabric like ants on a picnic blanket), my husband has made his by this point and it’s never anything one can look at and say, “That’s definitely for Halloween,” just something that is either orange, black, neon green (spooky green), or purple (Joker colors basically hah). My hunt is always fairly straightforward and it hardly varies as the years go by, much like the Ham (my daughter) I am not afraid of being labeled predictible nor does the inevitable ribbing my husband gives me for my choices impact them enough to change them. I’ll look for anyhting Harry Potter related to put onto my body, last year it was a pjama set with navy blue, school girl shorts that have the same texture of felt, with a fluffy maroon-colored sweater with the word “Hogwarts” written in the navy blue of the shorts and in cursive. I don’t plan to deiate this year either, I’ll walk out with a wand for all I care.

The day ends with a ham running around the house excited to wear her new jams and pointing to the black cats in witch hats strewn all along her stomach, as if she were picking it out all over again. Frankenweenie plays in the background as the scent of baking cookies fills the room and almost brings the Ham to a standstill. She stops suddenly as if someone pressed pause, looks around, and takes a long exaggerated sniff. She gasps in anticipation before belting out the words, “IT’S READY MOMMY! Yum yum in the tum tum.” Not realizing the smell isn’t what determines when it comes out of the oven. I laugh and gently explain the timer and I receive in return a head nod with an, “Okay mommy,” as she drags herself to the couch in exasperation and disbelief at the false hope that was created.

It’s these moments I cherish above all else. Especially thiscoming holiday in particular. Pulling out the pillowcase or jack-o-lantern bucket, putting on your costume and makeup, and heading out to go collect candy. It feels like a treasure hunt, you scout which houses have the best candy, which ones have full-sized candy bars, and as you pass friends and other children you hear the rumors of the dentist who passes out apples or the parents whispering to each other about the homemade treats given out at “that one house down the street the widowed lady whose new to the neighborhood is passing out” (and yes that was a real thing that happened to me) as you roll your eyes thinking, “that would never happen.” Or the complete terror that washes over you when you spot the older kids lagging behind their younger brothers and sisters with an air of superiority.

I miss those things more than words could ever describe. The beautiful thing about having children is the childlike joy and wonder that is instilled in you once again. It’s like a rebirth of sorts, you experience the holidays in the exact same way you did as a kid. Your child’s excitement is the same as when you experienced as a child, the only difference is you experience it from a different and new perspective. Oftentimes it’s even better than what you could ever hope for.

Share a lesson you wish you had learned earlier in life.

“[Harriet] never minded admitting she didn’t know something. So what, she thought, I could always learn.”

Louis Fitzhugh, U.S. author, Harriet the Spy (F)

A lesson I had wished I had learned earlier in my life would be

Let go, be yourself.

In hindsight, it seems obvious. Obvious that that whatever I was doing wasn’t working. Oh how much easier my existence would have been had I just had the foresight to let go of the absurd notion that there was a “right” and “wrong” way to be as a person.

How much simpler would it have been to just say,

“This is who I am, and I will not compromise my personality to fit your expectations.”

A number of circumstances come to mind.

That one time that Kaley called you “annoying” and “weird” for texting her an entire verse to a song she showed me. If I had only had the gift of hindsight I would tell my young, impressionable, and naive self that your friends aren’t required to like every single part of your personality.

Or the time that Savannah loudly proclaimed how “uncomfortable” it made her to witness a “big-hulking” black guy with a “small” white girl and how you brushed it off as if you agreed. It made me feel so small, as if white men, by design would never love me and the black men at my school I didn’t considered to be what society would deem as acceptable for a black man.

Or the time that Kaley’s mother looked at you up and down as if deciding on whether a rug would look good in her house or not. You wanted to scream at her,

“Please don’t hate me, I’m not a bad influence on your daughter I promise, despite hpw awful she treats me I look out for her.”

In the moments of scrutinization, you had hoped your eyes spoke the words you so wished you could say, but to no avail. The next time you would feel the eyes of her mother’s scrutiny wash over you in guilt at something you hadn’t done would be when Kaley decided to rip the flags off of mailboxes and was caught. The cops called your mothers and even though you hadn’t done it along with her, the questions of “why” unanswerable, and your silent indignation hiding the social suicide you just imparted upon yourself. You think,   

“Why didn’t I rip the flags off of the mailboxes, I’m such a pussy.”

Or the one time I did let go, and use the sense of humor god had given me, and I failed to realize that the liberation I was feeling in that moment was the feeling of letting go.

Victoria with her overbite, braces, and strong sense of self, showing an unwavering amount of confidence in herself gave me pause. I was of a higher social standing than her couldn’t even make myself impart the levels of humiliation I had experienced onto her.

When Meghan began to insult the bell bottoms with corduroy patches that looked like a quilt hastily thrown together, the heat of embarassment turning my cheeks pink, Victoria loudly declared, so everyone could hear,

All of these instances I should have let go, I should have just been myself. I should have taken a note out of Victoria’s playbook, and learned the lesson of authenticity that had eluded me for so long.

“I happen to LIKE your jeans Madelyn, they’re cute.”

I thought on my feet, grateful for the “out” she had just so graciously given to me and hoping I could convey a “thanks” as discreetly as possible, and looked at Meghan whose nose will never fail to remind of a pig’s, and said,

“See you guys, Victoria likes my pants.” An innoculous enough statement to ward off any further insults and (thank god) leaving Victoria unscathed and free from the threat of becoming a target.

I would have had stronger friendships, been more confident in my appearence, and maybe, just maybe, it would have saved me from ever conforming to the unrealistic expectations of the girls in my high-school.

I wish I had learned. 

What are your favorite types of foods?

“Nothin’ says lovin’ like somethin’ from the oven.”

Pillsbury Advertising Slogan

My all-time favorite food that I’m always in the mood for is any kind of pasta. I love pasta of all sorts, my favorite being a casserole that unfortunately, my husband doesn’t share the same love for.

It’s a recipe that is almost perfect for any holiday gathering in which you are required to bring food. Almost everyone loves it (unless they aren’t fans of casserole dishes or faux Mexican food) and I’d argue that’s because of all of the cheese. I might as well give you the recipe because man, my mouth is salivating just thinking about it.

Chicken Casserole Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 large cans of Chicken (you aren’t required to use it in a can, but if you decide to be fancy, cook the chicken first, you’ll need to shred it in a later step)
  • 3 cans of Campbells cream of mushroom soup (if you have picky ass kids you can’t taste the mushrooms, but if you’re that concerned about it, cream of chicken is fine as well)
  • 1lb. of speghetti noodles (also they need to be cooked before you put the casserole together)
  • 2 bags of your preferred shredded cheese (or one of the extra big bags, there is literally NO such thing as “too much” cheese so you can go crazy. I ususally go with the Mexican blend or I use Colby Jack and you can even use a combination of the two.
  • 1 can of Rotel (it doesn’t matter if you buy the one with the green chili’s or just the mild one, as long as you don’t forget that the green can is significantly hotter.

The Assembly

Before any prep continues make sure your oven is preheated to 350 degrees, and grease your casserole dish.

The next thing is to take one of the cans of cream of mushroom and coat the bottom of the dish evenly.

Then you take your cooked noodles and put them into the dish, on top of the cream of mushroom. Once that’s done you take the other two cans of soup and spread them on top of the noodles.

Now you spread the chicken on top of everything else (if you decided against using the canned chicken, this is where you will be required to shred the chicken evenly on top of the soup layer) the same only slightly applies to the canned chicken, you still need to shred and spread with your fingers.

Once that’s completed, it’s my favorite part. The cheese. Spread the cheese on the top and then crack open adn drain the can of rotel and spread on the top again. If you weren’t able to rid the entire can of the juice, don’t worry, it makes the casserole moist instead of dry, and the added flavor is a plus.

The final step in the process is to cover with tin foil (or if you actually hve a lid and are one of the few people that aren’t required to dig through the infinite amount of tuppaware lids hidden in your lazy susan) and bake for 30 minutes, or until all of the cheese is melted.

Viola!

I didn’t intend for this to be a recipe post, I’m the last person one should be asking for a recipe as most of mine are stolen from the internet, but if you needed something quick, cheap, and a meal you can actually persuade your children to eat, this one always goes over well. Not to mention if you are required to bring a dish for any number of upcoming family events this holiday season.