175 Ways Girls and Women Are Told How Not To Get Raped

I spent some time digging around on the internet, and talking to people I knew, compiling a list of the things we’ve been hearing for such a long time on how to protect ourselves, to avoid the violence, harassment, and rape that so many of us end up experiencing anyway. And this doesn’t even come close to being all, and doesn’t even address issues of people we know, or are related to.  This is just for strangers.  Have any to add?

  1.  Don’t go places alone.
  2. Don’t walk in the dark, especially alone.
  3. Don’t walk down alleys.
  4. Don’t accept drinks.
  5. Don’t leave drinks unattended.
  6. Don’t go to bars alone.
  7. Don’t dress provocatively.
  8. Don’t wear skirts, it’s easy access.
  9. Don’t wear heels, wear sneakers so you can run.
  10. Go to self defense classes.
  11. Get pepper spray.
  12. Get a rape whistle.
  13. Get an emergency app on your cell phone.
  14. Don’t go anywhere without telling someone.
  15. Keep weapons in your house, car and purse.
  16. Learn how to get out of zip ties.
  17. Press all the floor buttons in an elevator.
  18. Don’t put your back to the corner, so you can’t get cornered.
  19. Remember where to run inside your home for weapons of opportunity.
  20. Know what weapons of opportunity are.
  21. Get self defense jewelry.
  22. Memorize pressure points.
  23. Yell rape if you feel threatened.
  24. Store small valuables in maxi pad wrappers so a mugger will leave you alone quicker.
  25. Know how to get out of a wrist hold.
  26. Don’t wear your hair up, it’s something for them to grab.
  27. Kick the knee.
  28. Kick the groin.
  29. Hit their nose in an upward motion with your palm.
  30. Eye gouging.
  31. Knee to the groin.
  32. Hit the point just below the ear.
  33. Hit the solar plexus.
  34. Learn how to headbutt.
  35. Learn how to yell and scream.
  36. Elbow strikes.
  37. Ear slap.
  38. Grab the ear and yank.
  39. Always look around at your surroundings.
  40. Don’t go to a gas station at night alone.
  41. Don’t jog with earphones.
  42. Don’t jog at dusk or dawn or at night.
  43. Don’t jog alone.
  44. Don’t accept polite offers from anyone.
  45. Walk wide around building corners.
  46. Practice a fast flinch.
  47. Don’t let any stranger into your house, even a screaming child.
  48. Drive on rims instead of trying to change your tire yourself, or wait for someone you know to come do it for you.
  49. Don’t go on blind dates.
  50. Get personal information about a possible date while withholding your own.
  51. Bring a buddy on your date.
  52. Take a taxi to get to and from a date, don’t drive yourself in case you end up drugged.
  53. Pay your part of the tab so you don’t “owe” them anything.
  54. Be involved in the planning of the date.
  55. Don’t go unless he knows that you’ve told a third party about the date.
  56. Don’t drink at all.
  57. Plan escapes routes for your home and work.
  58. Check sex offender sites.
  59. Basically be able to profile serial rapists and sociopaths through both verbal and physical cues.
  60. Practice saying no.
  61. Buy all the self defense books.
  62. Take all the self defense classes.
  63. Know what date rape drugs are out there and how to recognize the signs of having been dosed.
  64. Don’t accept cigarettes from strangers.
  65. Be able to profile potential stalker behavior.
  66. Home security.
  67. Get a dog.
  68. Un-list your phone number.
  69. Get caller ID.
  70. Don’t have a regular schedule.
  71. Circle your block a few times before going inside to make sure you aren’t being followed.
  72. Drive to a police station if you think you’re being followed.
  73. Don’t go into your building/house if you think you’re being followed.
  74. Keep a doorstop with you if you’re traveling alone, to stick in the door from the inside when closed and locked.
  75. Own a stun gun.
  76. Own a telescoping baton.
  77. Own a tazer.
  78. Own a stun light.
  79. Own pepper spray with UV dye in it for attacker identification.
  80. Own a kubaton.
  81. Own a knife.
  82. Own a gun.
  83. Don’t talk on your cell phone if you’re walking alone.
  84. Keep your phone in hand to call 911.
  85. Look into and under your car before getting into it.
  86. Don’t park next to larger vehicles/trucks/vans.
  87. Ask to be escorted to your car.
  88. If a large vehicle is parked on the driver side, get in through the passenger side.
  89. If a large vehicle is parked next to yours, go back inside and wait until they leave.
  90. If asked for your address or other personal information (say at a pharmacy) whisper it or write it down.
  91. If the clerk at a hotel desk says your room number too loud, ask for another room.
  92. Don’t go into your hotel room if someone is loitering nearby.
  93. Lock the door immediately after entering.
  94. Don’t look like a tourist.
  95. Don’t open doors without asking for identification.
  96. Bring your drink into the bathroom with you.
  97. Don’t put your name on the apartment buzzer, or abbreviate.
  98. Run away zig zagging.
  99. Don’t use Foursquare or Facebook check-ins.
  100. Check your smoke detector for cameras in a new apartment.
  101. Hold keys between fingers when walking as a weapon.
  102. Have your keys out specifically holding either car key or door key.
  103. Pretend to have a phone call so people don’t approach you.
  104. Pre-plan or seek out safe havens if being followed, go to a crowded place.
  105. Don’t run in the same areas regularly.
  106. Only use one earbud when walking or running or sitting on public transit.
  107. Pretend to listen to music to ignore advances.
  108. Cross the street away from seemingly drunk men.
  109. Cross the street at night if anyone is coming toward you.
  110. Avoid eye contact with men trying to get your attention.
  111. Get a taxi if you feel like you’re being followed on foot.
  112. Avoid stairs or elevators with only one other person.
  113. Text a friend if going for a run or on a date.
  114. Avoid social situations where someone who made us uncomfortable might be there.
  115. Don’t open unsolicited messages on Facebook from strange men to avoid harassment.
  116. Never answer the door when not expecting someone and ignore all knocks and bell-ringing.
  117. Don’t sleep naked in case of an intruder or peeping tom.
  118. Don’t be the only woman on the subway car, or bus.
  119. Constantly check mirrors while driving, noting car types and license plates.
  120. Drive all over the place if you think you’re being followed.
  121. Park near a light if it is dark or it’s going to be dark when you go back to your car.
  122. Where a hoodie in the car to appear male to other drivers.
  123. Check for official city medallion numbers in taxis.
  124. Run in baggy clothing even if it’s hot to avoid cat calls.
  125. Make sure you phone has plenty of cell battery at all times.
  126. Understand predator strategies.
  127. Don’t drive with windows down, don’t have them open at stop lights or stop signs.
  128. Keep car doors locked at all times.
  129. Car service places have key duplicators.  Only ever leave your car keys, not your whole set.
  130. Don’t pull over if someone motions that something is wrong with your car.
  131. Present strong body language at all times.
  132. Strike the throat.
  133. Don’t wear scarves, they’re easy to grab.
  134. Don’t wear necklaces that are easy to grab.
  135. Bring dressier clothes with you to change into when you get where you’re going.
  136. Make eye contact, study faces, so you can identify people if necessary.
  137. Stand close to the elevator doors to get off as quickly as possible.
  138. Take the elevator, not the stairs.
  139. Don’t be courteous to strangers, ask for the time, or directions.
  140. Be paranoid.
  141. Be suspicious.
  142. If you see anything even remotely weird, call the police or report to someone “official” wherever you might be.
  143. Don’t leave things in the yard that could be used to force entry into your house.
  144. Keep bushes so trimmed that there are no hiding spots.
  145. Hide the garage door opener.
  146. Use wooden dowels in windows and sliding glass doors.
  147. Be mindful of what you put on social media.
  148. Practice verbally stating boundaries in case someone makes you uncomfortable.
  149. Don’t wear flashy or expensive looking jewelry.
  150. Don’t wear restrictive clothing.
  151. Don’t leave garage door open.
  152. Don’t be obvious with handling wallet and contents.
  153. Buy a drug detecting nail polish.
  154. Buy emergency notification jewelry.
  155. Buy the Siren ring.
  156. Buy the Ahhhh-larm keyring.
  157. Buy the Nimb Ring.
  158. Roar for good safety products.
  159. Buy the Bear Gentleman Alarm
  160. Wearsafe Tag – Personal Security Alerts and Apps
  161. ROBOCOPP – Personal Safety Sound Grenade
  162. Buy the Apple Watch
  163. Smarwatcher App
  164. EmergenSee App
  165. bSafe App
  166. Bugle App
  167. Companion App
  168. Circle of 6 App
  169. Give a fake number.
  170. Give out number to a recording for creepy dudes. (646) 926-6614
  171. Tell people you’re married.
  172. Tell people you’re engaged.
  173. Tell people you have a boyfriend.
  174. Tell people you’re gay.
  175. Tell people that someone’s on their way to meet you.

It’s That Time Again, thanks, Navy.

It is indeed that time again, and once again it’s obvious that I am really bad at keeping up with this thing.  I’m not even entirely sure I should be doing this post, and I’m even less sure about just where it’s going to go or even whether or not there’s a point buried somewhere in my subconscious.

Yes, we’re moving again.  They say that moving is high on the list of big stressors in life.  I think we’ve done it enough times that it doesn’t feel like one…on the surface.  The things surrounding the move are more impactful at this point in my life.

Quite a few things have had a really intense effect on me as of late, and my entire system has felt it.  Things have been hard, physically, emotionally…  I had one of the most intense periods of anxiety that I’ve had in many, many years.  Though, the more I really try to sit and dissect it now that it has largely passed, I’m realizing that what I had been feeling at the end of the last duty station (while James was gone) was less about depression, and very likely more linked to anxiety.

My past with anxiety has been less intense than these two experiences.  The things that I went through in general were short in time span, and just weren’t as obvious in their symptoms as I had become accustomed to.

I’m not sure I can put into words at this point what I was feeling, but I’ll try.

As a quick aside, James has been an absolute rock.

If any of you have ever heard of invasive thoughts (or intrusive thoughts – An intrusive thought is an unwelcome involuntary thought, image, or unpleasant idea that may become an obsession, is upsetting or distressing, and can feel difficult to manage or eliminate.) my brain was completely taken over by this.

The worst thing was probably the realization that it was happening.  It took about a week to realize it, but I did.  And there was nothing I could do to stop it.  One instant to the next, no matter how hard I tried, the worries, the negative thoughts, the speculation, the paranoia, the self-doubt, self deprecation, the complete inability to focus on anything useful, barely being able to hold on to anything realistic during my day… barely hanging on to my sanity for the sake of my child and my marriage, let alone anything else or anyone else in my life…. this was close to one of the hardest things I’ve dealt with internally in my life.

Weeks on end wave upon wave of intrusive thoughts distracting me from everything in my day to day.  Finding a few minutes here and there to hide from my kid so I could cry and get it over with so I wouldn’t have to try to explain in the moment why mommy was crying.

Crying myself to sleep at night more times than I could count, relaying so much of the ridiculous, absurd, stupid, pointless, and completely irrational thoughts to my husband before passing out in his arms.  All the while repeating like a mantra “I know it’s all in my head.”

There are things that influenced these things for me, that I won’t go into here, other than a triggering of feeling the most alone I’d ever felt in my life.  Endlessly, vastly, cavernously, alone.  It was heartbreaking, even if it wasn’t fully real.  It’s a feeling I hope I never feel again, and I hope that my anxiety never gets that bad again.

I felt hopeless, helpless, frustrated, and knowing just how irrational all of it was, the keenness of that was amplified by the self-awareness to know I was going through a severe episode of anxiety.

When it wasn’t the emotions tearing me apart on the inside, my body felt like it was in over drive on some days… my heart would race, I’d be shaky so I’d cut out some of the coffee I was drinking, make sure to eat, and sometimes it would level out for a few hours before spiking again.  Some days I could barely eat, others, no amount of food was enough.  Insomnia some nights, others I’d go to bed early.  No amount of sleep was ever restorative enough.  Exhaustion, muscle tension, soreness… my body wouldn’t process things properly, I was drinking Pepto straight from the bottle.

Inside of me it was a hurricane colliding with a tornado with periodic explosions from a volcano.  All the while on the outside I was trying to be as normal as possible, especially for Zoe.  And who am I kidding, it was also for me, if I could fake it, perhaps I could convince my body and mind to fall in line.

There are things in my life that I have not really addressed and dealt with, which certainly isn’t helping me in the slightest.  I know that.  But I can only take so many things at any given time, and sometimes compartmentalizing things for a while is the only way to get through one thing in order to make it to the next.

I broke down the night before last, the most recent in my breakdowns these past few months.  There is certainly a lot of unpacking that I need to do, but this just isn’t the time to do it.  When is it ever the time to do it?  How many times am I going to need to unpack the pile of shit that is my emotional subconscious?  Realistically I’m going to have to do it many times in my lifetime, but I feel like I’m allowed to roll my eyes and huff over having to do it at all, once in a while.

There was a lot I had come to terms with over the course of my life, or at least, I thought I had come to terms with.  And perhaps I have…to a point.  And perhaps it’s really just my anxiety dragging things up, triggered by other things…and I’m allowing it to take over too much of my brain-time.

As usual, I have no idea how to even start dealing with any of this, and it’s of course at one of the worst times.  My rock is leaving, and I don’t want him leaving thinking that I’m less than capable of getting through.  Thankfully the worst of the worst has passed, and it’s not like this is super normal for me.

Well, the words just aren’t coming to me anymore, so I guess I’ll leave it at that.



Dwelling On vs. Acknowledging Something Negative

This is something I’ve been working on for a long, long time.  I still need to revisit it from time to time, especially when dealing with either my depression, my anxiety, or both.

Sometimes I struggle with it more in some moments, not because of my own mind, but because of the reactions of others if I bring up something negative that is going on, or something I’m feeling that is negative, or some kind of issue I need to bounce off someone, or even something that isn’t that huge of a deal and I just mention it off-hand to someone, and their response is just so negative in return that it throws me for a loop for a while.

Toss into that mix the ridiculous amount of brain power and time I spend re-playing conversations in my head, or the things I would have said had I had the opportunity, or had thought of it at the time, or just plain wished I said but bit my tongue.

These are often times when I realize that I forget that lots of people’s brains and thought processes just do not work the way mine does, and I shouldn’t dwell on their reaction, because they don’t always know exactly where I’m coming from in the moment.

There are many things I try very hard, every single day, not to dwell on.  Some days are easier than others, depending on my “levels” that day (hormones, depression, anxiety).  The days where it’s easy are the days I long for.  I wish they were in the majority, not the minority.  Yet another thing for me to occasionally dwell on.  The list gets vast.

But… all said, I’m definitely getting better at reminding myself not to dwell.

The next step that I’m actively starting to realize is to communicate my feelings in some way, either here, or to my husband, or to a friend, in order to at least release that energy out into the universe and rid my body and mind of it, at least for a while.  The release is something I’ve struggled incredibly with for a long time, and it’s something I have just plain forgotten for far too long.

That brings me often to dwelling on feeling like I’m a burden on those around me, because of the things I struggle with internally.  I feel like if I go through a period where I am consistently needing to release something stressful, anxiety-ridden, or worrying that I’m slipping into depression, that I’m just going to drag everyone down around me.  I dwell on thinking that the only way a conversation pertaining to those things can only go down, and not end in a place where I’m actually doing better than I was when I started.  Which, intellectually, I know is a fallacy.

I dwell on being “too needy”, not independent enough, too emotional, too unstable, not actually capable of adulting, even though I manage it without any major disasters every single day.

I’ve too often forced a smile onto my face, bit back the tears, and swallowed the rising lump and bile in my throat, so I don’t make anyone’s day worse than it might already be.

I don’t want to be “that guy”, so they say.

And perhaps because of that, because of the standard that I’ve managed to create in my own life, it can often feel like I’m not allowed to feel my feelings.  I’m not allowed to break down.  I’m not allowed to get frustrated and huff.

Do I need to find better ways to handle my emotions?  Absolutely.  No doubt in my mind.  But I also need to feel like I’m allowed to feel my feelings without repercussion, as long as I’m not taking it out on someone.  I want to be told (pretty much like a child) that it’s ok to feel mad about something.  It’s ok to feel sad about something.  It’s ok to feel anxious about something.  It’s ok to feel frustrated over something.  I want to know that it’s ok.  That I’m not less of a person for it.

I also need to communicate when I start feeling this way.  I know that. And I’m certainly trying.  Perhaps the key (sometimes) to not dwelling, is to talk.  To put a name to the emotions.


2017 – A New Year With Moving Forward, Not Resolutions.

Life moves.  Time happens.

Nothing we do can stop that.  What we do can cause the self to rotate in a small circle while life moves around us, time continues to flow, and it can feel as if we’re stuck.

I’ve been oddly acutely aware that a lot of things have been floating in the ether around my little rotation, that I just haven’t been able to reach in the last handful of months, possibly stretching to close to a year.  I won’t say they’re things I’ve lost, like I might have in the past, but they’ve just been a bit out of reach.

Admittedly, there are a lot of factors that have gone into this, as with other stages of my life where I’ve dealt with similar.  On some days, when I reflect on these things, it feels like I go through more patches of this nebulous state of being more and more than I get to experience the clearer state of being.  That is a realization that often is extremely disheartening and overwhelming.

There have been a lot of habits that have formed because of this emotional, physical, mental and psychological fog that I keep experiencing that stems from hormonal shifts, depression and anxiety.  These are things that I am going to try to be far more proactive in recognizing, communicating about, and getting support during than I have before.  I want to find the rope that I can use to pull me forward, up and out, and in one, good direction instead of allowing myself to fall into a rotation of “safety blanket” behaviors that weren’t necessarily “bad”, but allowed me to remain in a place of false security.

So many people talk about resolutions around the turn of one year into the next.  Some people refuse at all to have resolutions, and I’ve been in both of those camps.

I wouldn’t say I’m still in the latter camp.  I feel like I’m somewhere in between.  I’m not focusing on some kind of hard line list of things I want to attempt to live up to.  I’m also not bucking the entire idea that I need to try to force new changes in the new year simply because it’s a new year and it’s a “thing” to at least SAY I’m going to be making X change and Y change and Z change.  I also feel like if I were to sit here and list a bunch of things for everyone to see, it cheapens the intent, and causes far too much self-imposed anxiety and overwhelm over attempting to adhere explicitly and rigidly to these things, especially publicly.

On one hand, I feel like it’s a more personal thing, a sometimes more private thing.  And on the other, sometimes it takes bringing those close to you “into the know” in order to get the kind of support and help one might need in the process.  I also believe that it should be more free flowing, less rigid, and subject to adjustment and change where necessary without the guilt and assumption of failure that is too often applied.

While I don’t want to have a list, I actually do have something one could easily call a list.  At times, when I allow my brain to really start engaging again, I do have a somewhat sick love for semantics. 🙂

There are areas, categories perhaps, that I want to focus on, to work on, to really engage in again to try to create that forward motion I’m looking for.  I am struggling with whether or not to create a visual representation of sorts in order to keep myself reminded, to keep my self more aware, to allow myself to have that poke to stop, breathe, look inward, and to communicate.  I worry about such a thing becoming that hard line list of things, and if I don’t find obvious success, that it’s just another failure.

I have found that this tends to be one of my bigger issues… I think too much and often when I’m not out of my fog, it’s far to easy to let the invasive, negative thoughts in and to talk myself out of one thing that is the better thing, and into something else that isn’t going to push me forward.

This is a new year for all of us.  We all can choose to do things in whatever way we want.  That is the beautiful thing.

I’m going to make lots of choices.  I can only hope I’ll make more choices that are forward moving than I have been.




Handmade Charms and Cozies (@charmedinlove.handmade) • Instagram photos and videos

Some of the current behind the scenes goings on, via photography on Instagram.

Source: Handmade Charms and Cozies (@charmedinlove.handmade) • Instagram photos and videos

I Did It My Way…. ‘Cept I didn’t.

Ok, who doesn’t love a little  Ol Blue Eyes?  Mm.

Oh, sorry, started singing in my head and got distracted. 🙂

I’ve been sitting on this post for a handful of days so far.  It might end up taking a few more days to end up finishing as well.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I have been bending to the things other people want a lot more than I was willing to realize.  I can’t believe I managed to convince myself otherwise just because I basically refused to do baby stuff (besides gifts).  I also wouldn’t want to directly compete with a friend.

I have realized that things just aren’t selling.  I do not have the money to put into doing craft shows, and on top of that, I don’t have a local business license.  I’ve looked into it, but feel like with how painfully sad my sales have been for well over a year, it’s not worth bothering to get one.  I really wish I didn’t live in a place where the craft shows require it.  If I could do just one show, just to see how well I might be able to do (I know just one show shouldn’t be a good indicator, but hey…) I would then far more seriously look at getting a business license.

I don’t know if that makes any kind of real sense, but that’s just how my brain is working at this point.

I started this with next to nothing, and pretty much everything I have made has gone right back into it, little bit by little bit, and some craft shows are quite expensive to get into as a vendor.  Some aren’t, but some are up to multiple hundreds of dollars.  Though I have a few possibilities, I’m barred by the fact that I do not have a business license.

And before I do get one, I feel like I might need to take a danged class on the taxes and bookkeeping necessary to pay taxes before I even GET one.  I’m a bit petrified of that, despite knowing it’s an eventual necessity if I do continue with this little venture.  I would like to find some form of proper bookkeeping that doesn’t overwhelm me entirely, but will provide me with the accurate figures necessary to report income for taxes.  Thankfully, I have a husband and a good friend that are both rather educated in the tax area, if not the bookkeeping portion.  So, there’s that.

But even before any of that, I have to get things organized, in order, and honestly… until Zoe is in school regularly, I feel like that’s an almost impossible task.  I make progress, then things fall apart again.  Excuses, I know.  Some people are just ridiculously better at all of this than I am.  They have the more A-type personalities necessary for things like this.  I’m trying, but with my emotional health and my hormones, it can be rather daunting.

Anyway, enough with that boring, depressing stuff.

I’ve indeed been trying to please everyone, and I’ve found myself not as inspired as I once felt.

I’ve decided to take a look at a few things that I love.  All things coffee/tea, wine and books.


An idea I’ve been tossing around for a while, considering the name of my shop is finally going to start coming to fruition.

  1. Bookmarks and possibly other book related items.
  2. Wine glass charms.
  3. Wine Bottle Cozies/gift bags.
  4. Coffee Cozies/Mug/Cup Cozies.
  5. Small to large charms on clasps to be easily added to any existing jewelry, wine cozy or mug cozy.

This is perhaps going to give me a bit more focus, and my shop a bit more focus.  More ready-made items to ship out immediately instead of having things made to order every single time.  Smaller items I can more quickly produce, so turn over time is cut down greatly.  Still using supplies from both my jewelry ventures, and my more current yarn ventures.  It’s a change, but not a complete overhaul, so hopefully I will not end up going completely in the hole in the process.

I feel like these things really are close to home for me personally, and I will have a bit more joy out of making them, and hopefully that joy will be shared with others.





I guess you can call it spring cleaning…

I have put some thought into things, and after a rather long stint of a particularly woeful amount of sales, I’m doing some spring cleaning in my shop.

Anything that doesn’t end up selling due to this sale, I’ll either gift out, or donate.  So, friends, family, or even just people who read this, if you want something, snap it up while you can.  I might be adding more to the sale section over the coming weeks, but this is only going to run for a month.

Anyway, enough with the shameless self-promotion. 🙂

I am planning on backing away from a good portion of the crochet things that I’ve been doing, especially the larger pieces.  I’m going to be refocusing my shop on a few things, and hopefully that will mean better things to come for my shop.

I am also planning on getting back to my roots, the reason why I originally started my Etsy shop.  I had originally focused on jewelry and other similar accessories, so there will be a shift back to that, with some small crochet items tossed into the mix.

I am still in the process of deciding just what I want to take away and what I want to add, but I have a pretty good idea.  And while I do love each of the things I make, if I want this to be more successful, I have to realize when something isn’t working, and it hasn’t been working for a very, very long time.

There are also other things that I do love, so I’m going to take a cue from those things and put the love for those things into my shop instead.  I’ve talked to a few other small business/Etsy shop owners, and others have also had to do the same thing, some have done it more than once, some do it somewhat regularly in order to stay more relevant and more competitive.  I feel that perhaps it is the best course for me at this time since all the promoting that I have been able to put the time into, and what minuscule resources I have has done next to nothing to actually help increase sales of anything that I have at this time.

It’s frustrating, it’s tiresome, it’s a bit humiliating, and certainly very humbling.  Which sometimes is a very, very hard set of emotions to deal with.

While I am certainly my own worst critic most of the time, I really felt like I was doing well, progressing, my skills with crochet were getting better, my photography and staging skills, getting a better handle on search engine optimization, promoting tastefully (I hope) across as many social media sources as possible without looking desperate… I was gaining some amount of confidence, to what feels like no avail.

I realize that this might sound rather Debbie Downer, and I don’t intend it as such and I certainly am not looking for pity, a pat on the back, or guilt-driven purchases.  I just want to be able to be honest about how I’ve been feeling about all of this.

I want to be able to turn this into the drive and motivation to make some big changes, and hold onto the hope that it turns things around for me.