So, You Find Cat Videos Annoying? by Christina Knowles

knowyouwantmeme Facebook is getting tedious, more so by the day. Constant misinformation, misattributed quotes, and fallacies run rampant on political memes. Facebook posts have reduced my estimation of the collective intelligence of our population, but worse, it’s reduced my belief in the basic goodness of humanity. Not only are these tedious to see, but it’s a full-time job posting Snopes and Politifact links to these comments, but I try to be a good citizen. But don’t get me started on trying debate an issue on social media. It’s a lost cause that sucks you in and won’t let you go for about twenty-four comments, two unfriendings, and a blocked participant later. I’m not against all political posting. I love when people post actual news articles, thoughtful opinions or news that raises awareness, and links to insightful editorials. I like to have a calm exchange of ideology, as long as we adhere to facts for evidence and not tabloid headlines, but how often does that happen?

Then, of course, we have the “god blessed” me posts, crediting God with everything from parking spaces to the random luck of the wind failing to blow down a fence. (Wow! Aren’t you special! I guess your neighbors aren’t cozy with the big guy, huh?).

The next most annoying thing about Facebook is over-sharing, where people admit way too much, like how they were fired for stealing office supplies, to having gotten so drunk, they woke up with a total stranger. Really? This is information that only your best friend should have. Don’t force me to judge you, please. It’s not who I want to be. (Caveat: Sincere opening up and sharing who you are with the intention of self-expression and engaging in a relationship with your friends is not offensive, but someone never taught these people about the circle of trust.)

Then, there is the under-sharing, the ones who post some vague melancholy comment, and when someone asks what’s wrong, they say, “I’ll text/PM you.” If it was so private, why publicly build everyone’s curiosity by posting anything at all?

But, honestly, the most annoying posts on Facebook to me are the ones that try to manipulate me. I don’t surf social media to be guilted or forced to re-post or comment to feed your fragile ego. First, we have the chain letter post. The one where you are commanded not to simply share it; you must COPY and PASTE it into your feed, especially if you do not want to have your hair and fingernails fall out by morning. If you do repost in the proper manner, you will enjoy a landslide of money, blessings from Jesus, and all forms of good luck. If you don’t, well, you obviously don’t love your mother.

The other form of Machiavellian Facebook posting is compliment-fishing by pretending to hate yourself. I mean how can you really keep scrolling past a photo with the caption, “I look so (Insert word of choice: terrible, ugly, fat, old) in this picture.” I feel like I’m being forced to say, “No, you don’t. You’re beautiful.” Even if I mean it (which I often do—some of the prettiest people do this), I don’t like being manipulated into feeding your ego. But I have to on the unlikely chance you really mean it and are so depressed you are about to off yourself. I mean, someone would have to be a little depressed if they actually do mean it and want to draw these inadequacies to the attention of the world, right? Truthfully, whenever I see these posts, I can’t imagine why they think this of themselves or why they’d want to announce that they think it (again, over-sharing). Anyway, I feel manipulated because I don’t want to be responsible for someone’s low self-esteem resulting from my lack of compliment-commenting. It really is exhausting.

So, remind me, please, why were we complaining about pictures of dinner, glam selfies, recipes, and cat videos? –Christina Knowles


The Ten-Second Sage by Christina Knowles

Quotation-Kalista-Miller-life-live-Meetville-Quotes-181803Lately I’ve been reading a lot of life advice on Facebook, and a huge majority of it centers on living for yourself, doing what you want, letting people go who don’t improve your life, forgiving others in order to move on with your own life, and not letting others determine how you live your life. It seems selfishness is the new black. Of course, all of this can be good advice under certain circumstances, but it struck me that taking this literally as a mantra by which to live your life is a good way to be alone for the rest of your life.

There is nothing wrong with being alone if that’s what you choose, and if you really feel like you can’t compromise in the details of your life, then it’s probably a good choice. But if you happen to fall in love, you may need to rethink the whole “living for yourself” thing.

I am a very independent woman, who does not like to be told what to do. I consider myself a feminist. When I divorced my first husband, I reveled in the freedom to do whatever I wanted, make choices without considering what anyone else thought, and being able to completely change my life if I wanted without worrying about how it affected someone else. I was happy, and I vowed never to tie myself down with anyone again. And that is a valid choice. It didn’t make me selfish or shallow. However, “living for yourself” while in a relationship is selfish and shallow and is guaranteed to end in disaster.

Even before I met my current husband, I realized that the secret to a good relationship with anyone is unselfishness. When I fell in love with him, I decided I would always consider his needs above my own because I love him. Of course, if he did not respond to me in the same way, we would have had problems, and eventually, I may have felt differently about him because of it. But he does put me before himself. I believe that when someone you love puts you first, it’s a natural reaction to reciprocate in kind, and when this happens, both people’s needs are met and both people feel loved and valued. In contrast, acting out of self-serving motives and without considering the needs and desires of your mate leads to arguments, resentment, and eventually a break-up. When someone who is supposed to love you, cares more about himself, you feel unloved and unimportant, and then the tendency is to react by protecting yourself, becoming selfish in response. When you protect yourself from someone you love, you lose intimacy, and eventually love.Take-Care

Sometimes it is necessary to act selfishly. Sometimes it is survival. As I said above, under certain circumstances, taking care of yourself first is good advice, but it is never good advice for making a relationship work. Sometimes you need to leave people behind, let them go, but adopting a permanent attitude of self-protection and complete independence means choosing to be alone or in constant conflict.

forgivenessAs far as forgiving others so that you can move on, I think this is terrible advice. If you merely forgive others for your own sake, you probably haven’t really forgiven them at all. You’ve just moved on, and put whatever they’ve done to you out of your head. Forgiveness should always be a gift to someone out of love. You love who hurt you more than you dislike what they’ve done, and you love them enough to give them a clean slate. You love them enough to be vulnerable to the possibly of them hurting you again in the same way. You don’t hold it against them, expect them to repeat the mistake, or ever bring it up again. If you can’t risk it, don’t forgive them, but let them go and forget about it. You don’t need to forgive them for you; they need it if they want to stay in a relationship with you.

When I fell in love with my husband, I knew I had a choice to make. I knew I had to give up making all the decisions myself; I had to give up the freedom to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I decided that what I was gaining was better than anything I was giving up, and I’ve been lucky because being unselfish is easy with him. He treats me with such concern, such unselfish love, that I automatically care more about his needs and desires than my own. Sure there are times when I want my way, and it’s not the same as his, but all we have to do is realize how important something is to the other, and then it’s easy to compromise. That is love, and love is unselfish.

So I don’t think I’ll be utilizing any ten-second psychology from Facebook any time soon. These sage-sounding aphorisms make good memes, but not good relationships. There is enough selfishness in the world; I don’t want it in my relationship with my husband or anyone else I care about.—Christina Knowles

Sick of Happiness Yet? by Christina Knowles

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I am. About four months ago, I jumped on the 100 Happy Days bandwagon. I thought I would get something positive out of it because the last couple of Novembers, I really enjoyed the Thankfulness Challenge, wherein I posted what I was thankful for every day of the month of November. It was a poignant and affirming experience, and I even wrote a blog about it, Being Thankful Is Pure Joy.  So when I read about this one, I was really on board with it. The idea, I assume, is that if we take time each day to notice something that gives us joy for 100 days in a row, we will get in the habit of noticing the positive things in our lives and be happier in general. Sounds like a good idea, right?  Well, this may have worked for some people, but for me it was a total disaster. The challenge actually made me significantly less happy. The happiest moment of it was when it was over. Let me explain.

I’ve always snapped a lot of pictures. I love to scrapbook, and I really enjoy going through picture albums, remembering all the beautiful times I’ve had with family, friends, and especially, my husband. I keep play bills and movie ticket stubs from our dates to put in my scrapbooks. So as technology advanced, it was convenient to start using my iPhone as my primary camera. I started uploading pictures to Facebook and Instagram and making albums online. I enjoyed sharing my life with others, and I enjoyed seeing my friends and family’s posts as well.  It all started out rather innocuously, but lately it’s gotten to be a problem.  I never really noticed how obsessed with social media I was until this 100 Happy Days nonsense took over my life.

At first it was all right. I hardly had to think to come up with some cheerful thing to post. Sometimes it was quite a task to get a picture of it, especially if it was something abstract, and since I was posting to Instagram, I needed photographic evidence of my happiness. Photographic evidence–that should’ve been my first clue that it was more about who was seeing it than about me appreciating it. It didn’t take long to realize that I had begun doing things just to get a picture that would look happy.  I didn’t set out to stage happiness, but it started to become just that.

At first, I just didn’t want to repost the same old thing every day and bore everyone, even if the same thing made me happy. Sometimes the day was nearly over, and I still had nothing to post, so I would just post anything, whether it made me happy or not.  I would tell my husband, “I still don’t know what made me happy today, and I need a happy post.” He must have thought I was crazy. Most people would probably just skip the day if it was that difficult to come up with something, but I am OCD about stuff like this. If I commit to a challenge, I WILL finish it. But somewhere along the line, it became more about what people would see on Instagram and Facebook and less about what really brought me joy that day.

Don’t get me wrong. Most of my postings were genuine, enjoyable experiences that I wanted to share, but a couple of days, I really was not even happy, at all, about anything. I didn’t even want to be happy. I was depressed, and I didn’t want to pretend to be happy, but I did. And I regret it because I am not the type of person who only portrays my life as being perfect. I don’t just post positive things or try to make my life seem better than it is. I try to be real. I post way too much, but at least it had always been authentic up to this point. I was becoming fake as a result of what I perceived this challenge to be. But then it had an even more detrimental effect on me. I became obsessed with capturing these experiences to the point that I didn’t care so much about experiencing the moments any longer; I just wanted to document the fact that I did something, something totally for the benefit of people who probably couldn’t care less because they were busy having their own experiences and probably documenting them as well.

One example that comes to mind is regarding yet a different challenge in which I am involved, a challenge to be active this summer. This has been, for the most part, very beneficial for me. I committed to doing at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, but of course, I have to post it. Well, I am not all that adventurous or athletic (understatement), so I get tired of posting that I used an exercise machine or practiced yoga every single day. I wondered how I could possibly get a better picture of this mundane activity that would be more interesting or more inspiring.  So this week my friend invited me to water Zumba at her gym. I straightaway said yes because I would be able to post something active that looked enjoyable and different! I actually got more enthusiastic over the fact that I wouldn’t have to post yet another workout machine picture that day, than I did over the idea of spending time doing something fun with a good friend whose company I always enjoy. I knew at this point that I had passed from eccentricity to obsession.

However, the aspect that disturbed me even more about my posting mania was that I have begun disregarding my in-person relationships. (I refuse to call them “real” relationships because I actually know, like, and interact with almost my entire friend list in real life, and the few I have not met in person, I actually do care about and intend to meet some day.) The fact of the matter is that I am too often engrossed, nose down in my phone or tablet, oblivious to the people around me whom I love with all my heart. And to add insult to injury, I have begun making my activities with them about my next post.

My husband and I used to take short breaks from what we were doing to check email, surf the net, read the news, or check in on our friends online, and then come back together and really be together.  But a couple of five minute breaks interrupting our time extended to several minutes throughout the evening once I got an iPad, and then my use became almost constant. I was consumed with it. Now I miss what is going on in movies and am only half in conversations. My husband pointed it out once in a while, but I didn’t realize how perpetual it had become until he started engaging in the same behavior. Suddenly, he was on his phone reading during a movie or while I was talking. Recently, he said he wanted an iPad for his birthday, and I thought, Oh no, he’s going to be just like me, and we’ll never talk again. It was then that I realized that I have to break the habit of constantly reporting to and checking on social media. No more challenges; I’m going to do things because I want to do them. When I am with someone, I will not be staring at my phone or iPad, I will be with them, making eye contact, listening fully. I will still take photographs, but I won’t post them until I’m alone, and we are done with whatever we were doing.

Why not stop altogether?  Because social media has actually improved some of my relationships. Because of Facebook, I am friends with people at work whom I didn’t even know before except by name. It put more than a face to a name for me. I know if they have kids, what their hobbies are, what they think about, how they live, even some of their beliefs. We chat with each other, something we don’t have time to do at work. I actually know who they are in a way that I would never have time to discover in the busyness of the workday. The same is true for people at church. I know people at church better from Facebook than from the few minutes we’ve spoken when we pass each other before and after a service. The comfort level for making friends is higher online than in person, especially for shy or introverted people.  We can see what interests them and what we have in common, and strike up a conversation based on that easier than simply introducing ourselves and making meaningless small talk. I have even become “in-person” friends as a result of getting to know people better on Facebook.

I also have met people in other states and countries with whom I share a great deal in common, and I feel like we have truly become friends, no less than if I saw them at work every day. And I have reconnected and kept up with old friends whom I rarely see or that have moved away.  I am interested in their daily posts and pictures, but only if they are showing their real selves, rather than an artificial representation of what they think would entertain us.

Check out this particularly apropos video:  “What’s on Your Mind?

For me the solution is not to give up social media altogether or to go on a technology fast for a couple of weeks, but to put limits on when I use it.  I intend to keep posting what’s going on in my life, what makes me happy, what has me down, but only what’s genuine, and only when I want to. I will not be forced into it by a happiness challenge or any other kind of challenge.  I don’t mean to disparage any of theses challenges for people who enjoy them and get some positive effect from them. If it really makes you happy, go for it.  For me, it changed my sincere sharing to meaningless tasks and took me away from being present with people and activities that used to truly make me happy.  So starting today, I will only peruse social media when I am not with a real person. I will not ignore the people I am with in favor of staring at a device any longer. So here’s my happiness challenge: Do what actually makes you happy and share it if you want to–I’d like to see it, but be fully in the experience of what you are doing and with whom you are spending time. Use social media to enhance your relationships and to reach out to those with whom you cannot be physically present; use it when you are alone and don’t want to be, but don’t use it to be alone when you are not.–Christina Knowles3021307-inline-fb-thumbsup-printpackaging

Being Thankful Is Pure Joy by Christina Knowles

This year, as well as last, I participated in the 30 Days of Thankfulness Challenge on Facebook.  This is where each day of November you post what you are thankful for. I did it last year and really enjoyed it, but this year I really took the time to think about what I felt particularly thankful for each day. I learned a lot by being grateful every day. I learned that when I am thankful and take the time to really sit in that feeling, I am so much more content. I think it made me happier and those around me as well. I wish this challenge wasn’t just a once-a-year thing. I plan on doing this at least once a week on my own just so I don’t slide back into self-pity and discontentment. Here’s what I was thankful for this month:

Day 1: I am thankful for Randy Knowles. I love you, Randy. You are the music of my life and my soul mate. 4842_1117002859404_765152_n

Day 2: I am thankful for my mom. I love her sooo much it hurts. See my blog: “How Could Someone Like Me Come from Someone Like Her?” I needed a whole blog for this one.


Day 3: I am thankful for my beautiful daughter, Valerie, and the relationship we have. I could not be more proud of her. I love her more than words can express. I would gladly give my life for her. I ache for her when I don’t see her for a while, and I cry myself to sleep when we fight. I am beyond thankful that she is my daughter.


Day 4: Today I am thankful for Lee Fullbright’s friendship and encouragement. She is an award-winning author of a fabulous book called, The Angry Woman Suite. I read it in my book club, loved it, and reviewed it on Goodreads. She liked my review and contacted me personally. She started following my reviews because she found them “insightful.” After emailing back and forth several times, I got up the nerve to tell her I was planning on publishing The Ezekiel Project. I asked if she would read it and give me an unbiased review. She loved it! Since then she has given me so much advice, given me reviews, answered my questions, and has offered to help me promote my book. She even gave me a quote to use for the back cover. I feel like I have gotten to know her over the course of these online conversations. She is a generous, kind, and beautiful person. I feel so lucky to have met her.

Day 5: Today I am thankful for cold evenings in front of warm fires with my husband and my dog. I am thankful for fall and winter–the cuddling under blankets, snow days, sipping hot chocolate and watching old movies, sweaters and boots, frost covered windows, electric blankets, fuzzy slippers, Thanksgiving with family, Christmas and all that entails–love, hope, peace on earth, family, sappy Lifetime Christmas movies, Richard Paul Evans’ Christmas books, Christmas shopping, baking Christmas cookies with Valerie, decorating, tromping through little shops in Old Colorado City, candlelight church services, Christmas dinner at my sister’s, and seeing our kids and grandson.

Day 6: Today I am thankful for my eclectic group of friends. I appreciate them for all their differences and for what we have in common. I can share everything going on in my life, and I know I’ll get honesty, sympathy, and even a kick in the butt if I need it. Most of all they accept me no matter what, and I can count on them if I need them. We also have crazy good times together.

Day 7: Today I have a splitting headache and have had a terrible day with student behavior, so I am thankful for Excedrin . . .and daisies, just because I like daisies.

Day 8: Today I am thankful for my science fiction class. I love, love, love those kids. Fourth period is the highlight of my day. I look forward to our amazing discussions of social and political topics. We talk about everything imaginable in there, and they are all respectful and open-minded with each other. They treat me like a queen, they all rush in excited to learn, they pay rapt attention, they share all kinds of interesting things with me, I learn from them every day, they say the nicest things to me, and today they even gave me a round of applause when I gave them a speech about education being so important.

Day 9: Today I am thankful for Christmas music. I’ve been listening to it even though it’s a long way from Christmas because Christmas music always makes me nostalgic, and I like that feeling.

Day 10: I am thankful for my sister and brothers and all my extended family. I feel truly blessed that I have good, loving, compassionate people in my family. I am close to my sister. We are always there for each other, we hang out, and we talk about all kinds of things even though we are completely different from each other. I have always been close to my brothers too even though they are more than ten years older than me. They’ve always been the proud and protective type. Unlike some families, my siblings were always nice to me and never picked on me. I love my sisters-in-law just like they were my blood siblings as well. I have tons of nieces, nephews, and grand-nieces and grand-nephews as well. They are all wonderful. In my family, I always feel loved.

Day 11: Today I am thankful for veterans. I’m not a super pro-military girl, but I am not naive. I know we need a standing army to protect ourselves, freedom, and the oppressed and helpless who cannot protect themselves. I appreciate the fact that soldiers are willing to do this and to put their lives on the line for our country and the people in it. I also realize that soldiers don’t choose the wars we fight, but do their duty.

Day 12: Today I am thankful for people who speak the truth and aren’t afraid of being blunt. Sometimes it’s a kindness.

Day 13: Today I am thankful for my home. My home is my sanctuary. It’s where I can’t wait to get back to whenever I leave. It’s where I cuddle up with my husband and dog after a day out in the cold, harsh world, and I’m completely loved and accepted. It’s where kindness, peace, and love are the rule, not the exception. I’d rather be at home than anywhere else.

Day 14: I just got back from my book club, so right now I am very thankful for books. Reading is my favorite past-time, and I love reading almost any genre. Many people read for entertainment, and although I find it entertaining, I read to learn. Reading teaches me about other people and about myself. Reading allows me to live endless lives and experience things I would never be able to in real life. It also makes me think about things in new ways, examining things with a different perspective. Books make me smarter. Smarter is good.

Day 15: I am thankful for my son Daniel. He is a sweet, compassionate, generous, and loving man. He is a good husband and father. I am so proud of him.


Day 16: There’s a lot to be thankful for today. Obviously today I am thankful that my grandson Levi was successfully delivered and was able to breathe and even cry yesterday afternoon. He is so precious, beautiful, and amazing. I am thankful for modern medical advances. I am thankful for waking up to life again, knowing it’s okay to hope and feel and love even if I can be hurt because sometimes things work out, and these joys keeps us from being destroyed by the things that don’t.

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Day 17: Today I am thankful I have a job where I get to talk about what I love–reading and writing! I am also thankful that I get 14 weeks a year off, plus snow days! I am thankful that I get to work with teenagers. I love my students.

Day 18: Today I am thankful for all the selfless, loyal, and loving dogs I have had the pleasure of loving in my life, and who loved me unconditionally. I don’t think I can live without a dog in my life. When one passes on, I feel a hole inside that can be filled by nothing else. I am so thankful for Inky, my first dog, who taught me unconditional love and true loyalty, and also was the subject of my first fiction writing! I will always love you, Inky. Clancy, I loved you too even though you weren’t in my life very long. You made me feel special because you would only listen to me. My beloved Mulder dog, I still grieve over losing you, my friend and constant companion for 13 years. You were with me in good times and bad, and all you cared about was being with me. And now my sweet baby, Chacho. He’s more precious to me every day. I love you, Chacho. You are the most unique dog I’ve had, you moody little person dog.

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Day 19: It may sound petty after my earlier choices for being thankful, but today I am thankful for technology. Medical technology which enabled doctors to operate on my grandson while he was still in the womb, technology that saves lives every day. But I am also thankful for the internet and the devices that seem, on one hand, to dehumanize us; however, they provide us with so many previously unrealized opportunities. Because of the internet, we can expose so many things to the public that we have a right to know, we can have even more of an impact with our freedom of speech, and it is much more difficult to hide things from the American people or any people. We can keep in touch with those we would normally never have a chance to speak to, and as a writer, I have a platform with which I may share ideas through blogging, publishing poetry, stories, novels, or even status updates on Facebook. We also have a world’s worth of information at our fingertips. It might sound odd coming from a product of the 60s, but I love technology.

Day 20: I am thankful for the earth. What an amazingly beautiful place to live. I love the changing seasons, especially when the snow starts to fly. I love the mountains, forests, oceans, and jungles. Trees, grass, flowers, butterflies, stones, and even dirt are all beautiful and nature grounds us, balances us, and brings serenity and life.

Day 21: Today I am thankful for art. Impressionism, Expressionism, Cubism, Modern Abstract, and Surrealism are my favorites, but I love it all. I love oils, acrylic, pencil, pastel, charcoal, watercolor, and collage. I love sculpture and pottery. Architecture styles such as Byzantine, Gothic, Tudor, Roman, and Tuscan are fabulous as well. I love everything artistic, including crafty art such as scrapbooking, candle-making, etc. I am thankful for the creative impulse in humanity.

Day 22: Today I am thankful for delayed starts and snow days. They are like waking up and finding out it is Christmas when you didn’t even know it was coming.

Day 23: I am thankful for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the revolutionaries who fought for it. Without it, I’d probably be in jail right now. I tend to speak my mind, so I’m thankful for freedom of speech in particular.

Day 24: Today I am thankful for the holiday season. I love Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’ve always loved the Christmas season because I love the feeling that overcomes most people this time of year, peace on earth, good will toward men. That’s why cheesy Hallmark and Lifetime movies play non-stop at my house from now until December 31st. I love how normally indifferent people seem to care about their fellow “travelers to the grave,” as Dickens put it. I love being thankful for all the wonderful people in my life and the things I enjoy. I love that people wake up and want to help others. I wish this concern would last all year. I know it does for some, but it doesn’t pervade the masses like it does this time of year. I intend to celebrate every minute of the Christmas season this year.

Day 25: Today I am thankful for second chances. I am a big fan of them. People always say, “Everyone deserves a second chance.” That may be generally true, but not in every case. We may need one, but do we really deserve one? Sometimes it takes many chances for a person to get it right. I’ve needed a few in my life.

Day 26: Today I am thankful for life and health. Humans are both astoundingly resilient and terribly fragile at the same time. One sudden accident or a burst blood vessel and we could be gone, just like that. But we can also withstand devastating conditions and completely recover. The fragility of life makes us appreciate each day more and live more fully. The complexity and healing abilities of the body are mind-boggling. We are truly amazing creatures.

Day 27: Today I am thankful for my grandchildren. They are sweet and beautiful, and I love them so much. I wish I was retired, so I could knit them sweaters and make cookies for them and just see them more often.

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Day 28: Today I am thankful for everything, really everything.

Day 29: Today I am thankful that I live in Colorado. Colorado is a wonderful place to be. I love the weather, the mountains, the forests, and the waterfalls. I love deep snows without the bitter cold. I love that it doesn’t get too hot in the summer. I especially love Christmas in Colorado.

Day 30: I am thankful for thankfulness. Being grateful has taught me how I should live and what my focus should be. This has been the best month I can remember in so long, so today I am just thankful for being thankful.

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