For my wonderful daughters – Virginia and Klara. I am writing this for you, so you can know just who your mom (That’s me) is, and how I became the person I am. Most of this will probably mean nothing to you until later in life, but in case there comes a time you can no longer find out first hand from me, here is a little something for you to hold onto.
For everyone else – you are welcome to read about my life – but I must tell you up front, this is about incidents that have shaped me, and there is a chance you will read something you won’t like. I love you, and I apologize if anything written here upsets you, but if it shaped who I am, I cannot leave it out.
I took a quiz once – “What Element Are You?” – and the result I got was WATER.
A bit of a contradiction, you can seem both lighthearted and serious.
That’s because you’re good at going with the flow – but you also are deep.
Highly intuitive, you tune in to people’s emotions and moods easily.
You are able to tap into deep emotional connections and connect with others.
You prefer a smooth, harmonious life – but you can navigate your way around waves.
You have a knack for getting people to get along and making life a little more peaceful.
That’s an accurate portrayal of who I am. Water. Here is how I became “Water”.
1971 – I was born prematurely in November, at Flower Hospital in Toledo, Ohio. I was 5 lbs. 5 ounces – a preemie by 1971 standards, but not so much today. I spent a week in an incubator in the hospital before I was able to join my family (Grannie, Papa and Uncle Rob) at home. I then went home to Swanton, Ohio (the house to the left of Grannie and Papa’s current home). Grannie wanted to name me Kristen and Papa wanted to name me Kristina. They split the difference and I became Kristine.
1975 – Because Papa had trouble keeping good employment after leaving the Army, we moved to Clearwater, Florida so he could try something new. We moved in with my Uncle Frank (his brother) until we were able to obtain a home of our own. That was where you heard the story of my cousin Julie and I writing on my Uncle Frank’s walls with crayons (thanks to our fun little daycare’s influence). We moved into our own home, and I remember Uncle Rob and I had two brothers as our best friends – James and Willis. James and Willis were African-American – and I am pretty sure that my love of their friendship is the reason I have never felt an ounce of racism in my life. I started first grade and skipped Kindergarten, because Florida said I was too old for Kindergarten. I remember my first grade teacher (or maybe it was a substitute) questioning how I spelled my name, as if I was spelling it wrong using a “K”, and I ran home and asked Papa if I was spelling it right. During that same time frame, I had my first “boyfriend” – a little blond kid named Paul. And I also had my first experience with bullies. There was this group of kids (if I remember correctly) who broke into the school. Uncle Rob knew something about it and had to assist in reporting it. We lived within walking distance of the school, and after that, they started throwing rocks as us each day as we walked home. One day, one of the boys stole my purse (as if what a first grader would carry would be so important). Uncle Rob went after them and they started to beat him up. I had to run home and get Papa.
1976 – 1980 – Half way through my first grade year, Papa decided to take an offer to join the Ohio National Guard. We moved back to Ohio and in with Great Grannie Virginia. We moved back near the end of the blizzard of ’76. Ohio wanted to put me back into Kindergarten, but Grannie insisted that I stay in first grade since I was smart enough to do the work. By second grade, we were back in the house we had in Swanton. We stayed there until 1980. The years at “The Farm” (as everyone called it since it was out in the country) were so much fun. We ran around outside all day every day with the neighbor kids (Sean, Heather, Lisa and Chrissy). We played in fields, woods, and cornfields. I loved climbing trees – though not very high – and eating mulberries right out of the tree. When it would rain, the backyard would flood, and in the cold it would freeze over, so we could ice skate in the backyard. Grannie and Papa threw lots of parties (at least it seemed like a lot to me) that included Halloween costume parties and Fourth of July fireworks/cookout parties. We occasionally went to Camp Perry with Papa’s Guard Unit and enjoyed staying in cabins, fishing on the pier and the beach along Lake Erie. We raised rabbits (72 of them), goats, ducks, and chickens. (See Masquerade.) We never had horses, though I was promised one that was supposed to come from Papa’s brother – my Uncle John. Unfortunately he and his wife divorced and she sold the horses. So I never got one. We used to walk down to Sunshine Corners (yes the place that you know is still there) and buy candy for pennies. Unfortunately that road has always been as busy as you see now. One day I will never forget was when a lady on a bike got hit by a car out in front of our house. Papa helped her until the ambulance came. As far as I know she survived. My favorite moments were taking dance lessons with Lisa and Chrissy, and playing on the playground equipment they had in their backyard while singing songs from Grease.
1980 – Fifth Grade – On the last day of school (when I was in fourth grade), we moved to Rickenbacker Air National Guard base in Columbus, Ohio, because of Papa transferring. There I met my next best friend – Michelle. We looked so much alike, everyone thought we were sisters. I spent the summer at the base pool, riding my bike around the base or attending kids’ movie days at the base theater. I started climbing trees even higher with Michelle, and “beating up” boys. I took a VERY brief break from dancing and tried gymnastics and cheerleading, but returned to my love of ballet. My school was right outside the base gates, so Michelle and I walked to school each day. My parents spent a lot of time with their friends across the street from us, Chuck and Jennie, and I learned Spanish from Chuck since his three-year-old spoke half Spanish and half English. Later he would also teach me some Arabic (he was a linguistics expert in the Air Force and Spoke seven languages). Chuck and Jennie also had a ghost in their house. Seriously.
Sixth Grade – Papa transferred again. This time to Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Fairborn, Ohio. So we moved again. Our new home was in a VERY hilly neighborhood on post. We lived at the top of the hill. Continuing my tomboyish ways, I would hike through the woods nearby, skateboard down the steep street, sled down “suicide hill” (you can read how these turned out here), and one of the dumbest things I ever did (as if these weren’t stupid enough) was walk on a frozen lake. We lived near Huffman Dam. We had a friend of the family (Linda) and her son (Scotty) living with us. One day Scotty and I went for a hike. We ended up by the frozen lake and walked around on it. As an adult I realize how stupid we were and how lucky we were that the ice never broke. I started to learn a lot at this age (things like how mean kids can be and losing friends). Right after moving in, I met a group of kids. We went to the neighborhood park. One of the very first questions I was asked, “Are you a virgin?” I was 10 or 11. I had no idea what a virgin was and assumed it was something bad, so I said no. I was horrified and hurt when I learned what it was and got made fun of. That year at school, kids brought dirty/graphic books on the bus, and my best friend’s (Barbara) dad had stacks of pornography. Needless to say, I was enlightened about the human body during this period. When a girl named Mary moved in, Barbara and she would leave me behind. I became sort of a loner. But Mary’s step-mother, Gloria, (a little Asian woman with a newborn baby) seemed to love me for some reason. Gloria would take me shopping with her and leave Mary and Barbara behind. I still hung out with Mary and Barbara, when they would let me, but I rather enjoyed hanging out with Gloria and helping her with the baby.
I continued my dance lessons, and when Linda dyed her hair light blond, my mom suggested she dye my hair too (it was starting to grow darker). So started the life long cycle of dying my hair. I did get teased at school for dying my hair – ironically five years later I would run into the same girl who teased me, and by then she would be dying her hair blonde too. 😉 I also had a crush on Billy Idol. There was a boy named Robbie who looked like Billy Idol. He asked me to be his girlfriend, and I said yes, only to break it off a day later because I got teased for liking him. I also got the worst “beating” of my life that year. Being a tomboy I refused to wear dresses. One day I was cleaning my room and getting rid of stuff – including some dresses my Aunt Sharon handmade for her daughters (who also never wore them). I put those in the pile to get rid of. My mom was not happy about that and I proceeded to argue with her. That night my dad took his belt to me. Beaten over dresses – and not really just any dresses – handmade to look like Catholic school girl uniforms. Not cool in a public school, where kids were already starting to wear designer name-brand clothes – clothes I never had the privilege of owning. In case you haven’t noticed, I will not force you to wear anything you do not like. 😉
As a side note, at one point during this year, my cousin Francie and her son stayed with us for a short time as well.
Seventh & Eight Grades– Midway through my seventh grade year, we moved yet again. This time it was to the small town of New Carlisle, Ohio. I experienced my first bit of racism when we moved there, as there was not one black family in town. It disgusted me. (Of course I can’t say the whole town was racist, only the people I knew of first hand.) The first black family moved in within the year. I was happy to befriend them, as I didn’t want them to be treated differently. Fortunately they quickly made friends and moved on. In the end, the older boy would become our Class President in high school. I’m proud of the way people’s minds have changed. The first friends I met moving to New Carlisle were Michelle and Becky. The sweetest girls I have ever known. I am still friends with them today. They didn’t live conveniently close, so I hung out with my neighbor (Renee), her brother, and other boys on the street. My favorite thing was when we played football in the street. I loved playing football.
Eighth Grade would become a life changing year. That was the year Papa had his brain aneurysm. The night it happened I was already in bed. When the EMS came and I heard the commotion, I tried to leave my bedroom and someone pulled the door shut and wouldn’t let me out. I went back to bed as I was told and learned the next day my dad was in the hospital. I remember visiting him and he was in a dark room. He said they were treating him like mushrooms – “keeping him in the dark and feeding him shit.” That was the last time I would see him “awake” for a long time. He was put into a medically induced coma and underwent brain surgery. The doctors said he should have died. I don’t remember how long he spent in the hospital, but I know that between my mom’s job and her going to the hospital, my brother and I spent a lot of time home alone. When all was said and done, he was no longer the dad I knew before. He was like a toddler. He couldn’t function like an adult. He couldn’t dress himself. He couldn’t feed himself. He couldn’t go to the bathroom himself. Everything had to be retaught. During this time, many members of Papa’s family came to stay with us to “help” out. Honestly I didn’t think anyone helped out, they just bossed me and Uncle Rob around. I was taking everything in stride with the situation and didn’t say much about it to anyone. Then one day I heard my Grandma tell my mom (from what I understood) that everyone thought I didn’t care about my dad because I didn’t show any emotion. This upset me very badly. How dare they say what I did or did not feel. Still, I refused to let them see my emotions, even my anger for that statement and their being there.
In school, I was teased for being a Ballerina – and for the first time I was truly miserable in school. It got so bad I finally went to the principal’s office one day and flat-out told him that if he didn’t do something to help me, I was going to take matters into my own hands and do something I’d regret. Quite a threat coming from the good kid I was. But I was serious. The harassments stopped and life resumed. Near the end of 8th grade, I had my first boyfriend – for a whole weekend. James asked me to be his girlfriend on Friday. We met at school for a dance on Saturday – where I had my first dance with a boy and my first kiss, and by Monday he was done with me. As Bon Jovi’s You Give Love a Bad Name states, “your first kiss was your first kiss goodbye”. So true for me.
Ninth Grade – By ninth grade, my dad was living at home, retired from the National Guard. Not quite the dad from before, but somewhat back to normal. I started high school, and my best friend, Renee, was dating adult men (yes at this young age – and permitted by her parents) – and several of them at the same time. I would sit at her house, watch one guy leave and one show up, just missing each other. I was always in shock to watch it all take place and her parents didn’t care. I was even more in shock that she was allowed to have them in her bedroom, and she was having sex. She ended up running away from home with one of them. When she returned, we didn’t hang out as often, and by the end of the school year she was pregnant. I no longer had a “best friend”, but Becky always seemed to be there for me. I love her dearly. I did always have money in my pocket thanks to my dad – and the guys in the neighborhood knew it and always “borrowed” it. I never saw a dime back, and I stopped hanging out with them too. Over the summer I started going to the horse barn where Becky worked and helped her with the horses. As a treat, we got to ride them sometimes. She also took me to a horse show once and let me keep a ribbon. I’m not sure what happened to it, but she has no idea how much that meant to me. I think her friendship is what got me through what could have been a lonely period. One notable moment during this school year – I attended my first school dance, in which I wore a dress. My dad, the same guy who beat me for refusing to wear dresses, flipped out when I came out of my room in a dress. He wanted me to take it off. Luckily my mom convinced him that I “had to”wear it. Irony. But his worry was for nothing. The boy I was with (Tracy) and I arrived at the dance and we went our separate ways to hang out with friends. I don’t think we ever spoke after that.
Sometime around this year, Linda and Scotty moved back in with us a second time. I woke up one night (and many afterwards) to find Scotty in my room attempting who knows what to either “see” me or touch me. I was so freaked out, that the first few times I still pretended to be asleep and would hit him as if I did it in my sleep. Somehow I was able to talk my mom into allowing me to put a lock on my door. It was when he picked the lock one night that I finally went off on him and never tried it again.
Tenth Grade – In addition to Michelle and Becky, I started hanging out with Jeni (who would become my best friend later when we both went to JVS). Jeni and I went to teen dances at the local Eagles club, and there I met my biggest group of friends through high school. I loved this gang. We danced and partied as much as we could. This is one part of my youth I really miss – this group of friends. I would love this gang to have a reunion – more so than a high school reunion. This was also the school year my “style” started to emerge. I became a fan of mini skirts and spandex pants (blame Madonna). Mini skirts were popular, but spandex pants were not. I know people gossiped about me, but I didn’t care. They were fun. Soon I would add in fringe and sequence. I loved flashy clothes. I fell in love with Bon Jovi and for my birthday that year I got my Bon Jovi Jacket – which I still have today. I also got the nickname Tweety thanks to a t-shirt I wore to gym class in which Tweety wore a large pair of sunglasses that were strategically placed across my chest. Tweety would stick with me throughout high school. I hung out at high school football games with my friends, but never watched the game. That year Michelle talked me into joining the school’s first girl’s soccer team – “just for fun”. Now as a person that hates to run, let me tell you it wasn’t fun. We never won a game, and I never invited my parents to any of the games. I didn’t think it was worth the embarrassment. I was so relieved when the season ended. I did, however, get a “letter” (if I had a school jacket to put it on, which I did not).
By now my dad seemed pretty much back to what is his “normal” now, except for the occasional temper flare up, and boy was it ugly when it hit. He and my brother had some serious battles, during which my dad would have flashbacks to Vietnam, and once or twice he took my brother down to the floor. Scared the shit out of me. Lucky for me I learned early on how to manipulate his moods and use humor to bring him out of some of his “moments” where I was concerned.
In tenth grade I also had two boyfriends. The first was Larry – a hoodlum wannabe. That didn’t last long, because I refused to have sex. Actually what took place was that I told him he could sleep with whoever he wanted to, because I wasn’t going to sleep with him. When he broke up with me, it was said that I was “too good of a girlfriend” – what a lame thing to say. The second was Gene. My parents really liked Gene. I met him at a church function for Jeni’s church. A group of us went out afterwards and saw the movie Witchboard – a bad movie. The only two real dates I recall going to with Gene were the Sadie Hawkin’s Dance at school and to the Truck and Tractor pulls. My parents really liked Gene, but they didn’t like it when he started driving me to and from school. Our “relationship” was short and ended before the school year did. I got to attend the Junior/Senior prom, because I was asked to work the door. I do remember that I was the only one wearing a short prom dress (being the trend setter I was – lol – or maybe I would have been had I been popular) and I had a blast being able to dance on the dance floor because of it. At the time, we hung out at a local arcade/driving range in town called “235” (named for the road it was on). I mostly played pool with Jeni or played Pole Position. That night after prom, everyone at 235 wanted to run to Taco Bell (the only place open late at the time). I got a ride with brothers Jimmy and Matt and their friend Scott. Scott would later call me and we would go to a movie with my parents, but his long-time on-again-off again girlfriend got word of it and started causing me trouble at school. Luckily the school year ended. Scott and I agreed to meet at a party for a guy who was leaving for the military, and by the end of the party, he left with another girl. So much for that relationship – but hey – ultimately Scott was one of the guys that introduced me to your dad. So in the long run, you can say it worked out. The one brother – Jimmy ended up killing himself the following year. It was very sad for our entire school to lose such a promising soul.
That summer, my cousin Denise moved in with us. She had already graduated high school, but lied about her age to play on a local girls’ softball team. Again I was suckered into playing a sport “just for fun”. Turns out I was on the team that wasn’t in it for fun. They were serious. I sucked and I hated it. Many of our teammates were popular kids in school. Everyone loved her because she knew about sex and purchased alcohol. I think they only tolerated me because of her. I started doing things because of her that should have gotten me in trouble. One time the team toilet-papered our coach’s house. Another time we all said we were staying the night at someone else’ house and all ended up staying out all night – with nowhere to go in a town with a curfew. After we got pulled over by a cop and she lied her way out of it, we pulled her car into my neighbor’s backyard (his parents were out-of-town), and we all spent the night on his back porch. All I could think all night long was how unbelievably stupid the whole situation was. By the end of summer she had left and I got my first job at McDonalds.
Eleventh Grade – For my junior and senior years of high school, I decided to leave my home school (Tecumseh) and go to JVS (our county’s Joint Vocational School). This was a two-year school where you would go and learn a profession in addition to your school studies. Kids from all around the county could attend. The fact that most people didn’t know each other going in took away the whole aspect of having to have gone there forever to be popular. It was a welcome change. Jeni also decided to attend. She joined Cosmetology, and I chose Executive Secretary. My parents were originally upset that their college-bound child had chosen this route, but they let me go, and it may have been the best thing they could have done. I would have stayed at Tecumseh if they had gotten the ROTC program they were talking about, but since that didn’t happen, JVS it was. I originally wanted to take Photography, but before you sign up with the school, you meet with the teachers, and for some reason the photography teacher talked me out of taking his class. I think it had to do with my responsible side – I recognized the lack of flexibility in my future with a photography background. That is how I ended up with taking the Executive Secretary class. I had a marvelous teacher – Andra Hamilton – who saw something in me that I didn’t. She convinced me to run for office for the club associated with the office-type classes (Business Professionals of America). I ran for region president (skipping the school level) and won. I remember I was so nervous giving my speech I couldn’t even read it, because my eyes were watering so badly. Good thing I had it memorized. By the end of the year I would have given enough speeches that I would no longer be nervous doing so. I was involved in enough and knew enough people, that for the first time in my life, I actually felt popular. It was an alien feeling. But it was a lot of fun.
Going to school was fun. My friend John would give Jeni and I rides to and from school. I had a crush on John. John had a crush on Jeni. Jeni was always liking someone else. But again, in the end it would work out in my favor. It was John and Scott who both introduced me to your Dad.
Early that school year, I met Brent, who I considered to be one of my best friends at the time. Best friend only, because it seemed when I was interested in him, he was interested in someone else, and vice versa. We hung out often. He bought me a diamond ring once, just because I didn’t think he would do it. It was a small heart with a diamond in the center, and ultimately I would give it to my mom, who gave it to someone in the family. Brent always kept an eye out for me, to make sure I didn’t go for the “wrong guy”. Unfortunately, one time when Brent was off doing his own thing – I did choose a wrong one – Jimmy. What I didn’t know was that Jimmy had a girlfriend at his home school. So what ended up taking place broke my heart. Jimmy would call me. Then his girlfriend would call me and threaten me. So I didn’t call Jimmy, but still he would call again, and his girlfriend would call again. I felt like a pawn in some sick game they were playing. I had my first meltdown to the point I didn’t want to live, but I didn’t have the guts to kill myself either. I moved on. He wasn’t worth it, and I hope if you are ever in a similar situation you realize there isn’t anyone worth killing yourself for.
I took some modeling lessons and participated in two beauty pageants. The modeling was fun. The pageants I hated. Because I was still a part of Tecumseh, I got to participate in their annual Homecoming Powder Puff Football games. Yes, the girl who hated soccer and softball still loved playing Football. I was one of the quarterbacks. It was a lot of fun, but we lost. I got to quarterback the game the next year as well. We lost that year too. I still think to this day it was because the coach didn’t play me long enough. I was a better quarterback than whoever the other one was, but she got more field time because she was known at Tecumseh…I no longer truly was because of attending JVS.
Gene (my previous boyfriend) had graduated the year before and joined the Navy. He returned to town and we got back together. Honestly I don’t remember us actually going out at this time. But he returned to wherever he was stationed, leaving me with his dog tags and class ring. I continued my partying streak between school dances and my “Eagles” group’s parties. I was a good student and kept straight A’s. Aside from all the parties, I truly was a good kid and never got into trouble. I drank wine coolers, but that was it, and I never smoked or did drugs. I attended conferences and seminars for Business Professionals of America and learned how to be a professional in the business world. I competed in competitions and placed in quite a few of them. I learned to drive and had gotten my first car – a 1979, white Volkswagen Rabbit. I loved that car. Right about the same time, I met your Dad. You can read that story here. Then I did the one thing I felt really bad about – I took Gene’s dog tags and class ring back to his mom. All I said to her was something like he would understand. I didn’t provide him with an explanation or even a goodbye. It was a terrible thing to do. By the grace of God we are still friends to this day. Virginia – he is the one who fixed your laptop this past year. My friendship with Brent also died down, because he was into Satanic worship. When he would “preach” or try to justify his stance to me, being that I was uneducated in religion, I found it made sense and that thought scared me. My intuition told me to move on, and I did. A couple of years after high school I read in the newspaper that he had shot his girlfriend in the head and killed her. My intuition served me well.
That summer I went to many concerts, hung out with Chris, got my first office job, took a job at the mall and still worked at McDonald’s because it was so much fun. Yes, at one point I had three jobs. One weekday job, one weeknight job and one weekend job. I quit the mall first. Then I quit McDonald’s. I kept the office job, as that was the direction of my chosen career path.
Twelfth Grade – My Senior Year of high school was pretty much a continuation of my junior year. Lots of competitions, speeches, parties. It was the funnest year ever. I would relive it in a heartbeat. I spent a lot of time with Chris, and then one day my dad couldn’t take it anymore. We got into a heated argument over the situation, and instead of diffusing it as I always had been able to, I let my emotions get the best of me and I exploded and yelled back. Before I knew it, my dad’s hands were around my throat. As fast as lightning, my mom was there to pull him off as Chris was coming through the door. My mom told Chris to take me out of there and not to bring me back (for the night obviously), so I spent the night at Chris’ house. Hurt that my dad, the same man who had always spoiled me, would do that. Humiliated that Chris’ family knew. But my brother was away at college, and it seemed with him not there to take the brunt of my dad’s anger, I was next in line. I forgave him quickly. He has a medical disability due to his brain aneurysm, and I knew then as I know now the situation was out of his control.
I continued my flashy fashion streak and wore the flashiest prom dress I could find to my senior Prom. The first of its kind in my small town. As I got ready for prom, I remember my brother (who was visiting from college) stating he was happy he would never have to attend a prom again. My best friend Jeni then called me in hysterics. Her date was late. When she called him, she found out he had no intention of taking her, he had been leading her on. Such a pathetic thing to do to someone. I watched in amazement as my brother did the most generous thing I had ever seen up to that point – with a neighbor’s help, he put together a homemade tuxedo of sorts and he took my best friend to the Prom. Showing just a glimmer of the remarkable man he has become since then. And yes – I saw this long before the same scenario played out on the TV show Friends with Ross and Rachel.
I was honored to be the JVS speaker at Tecumseh’s graduation, and I was honored to have a full-paid two-year scholarship to our local community college.
Thus ends the story of my life through high school. This is only a fraction of what has made me so adaptable to become the “Water” that I am today. the next twenty years of my life will prove to be just as constantly changing, if not more so than the first 17 were. But I will save that for a part two (Water: Part 2).