Come again another day. I mean I know you will, because it’s Georgia for fuck’s sake and apparently Georgia needs rain in order to survive. Why else would it rain EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. in the wintertime? What’s that? Gulf Stream weather patterns? No, I don’t believe you. I’m claiming ignorance on that one. Sticking on a red hat and saying, “But I’m cold, so Global Warming is just a liberal hoax.” Side note: Did you see that it was 70 degrees in Antartica the other day and the penguin babies had to roll around in mud to keep themselves cool?” No? Look.
Okay, I don’t feel so bad about the rain now, this baby penguin has it much worse.
Soooo, there’s a gorgeous Hindu temple in the middle of Georgia and we found it. No, seriously. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’ve lost my damn mind. But I swear, there’s a gorgeous Hindu temple in the middle of Georgia, right past a Home Depot. And we found it. Stay with me here, it’s a long sordid story full of grandmas, and shopping, and a trip to Cook-Out, but it ends with a gorgeous Hindu temple in the middle of Georgia, so it’s totes worth it.
It was last summer and my mom was in town visiting. She decided she wanted to go to Kohls to look around because #KohlsCash and #SeniorCitizens go together like Taylor Swift and shorty shorts. Some things are just meant to be, that’s all. So we headed to the nearest Kohls, which is like 20 minutes away. Along the way I caught a glimpse of something poking over some trees, just outside our city limits. Over yonder, as they say in Georgia, just past the Home Depot.
I wasn’t sure what I was looking at, just that it was something possibly grand, exquisite even, and that I would need to do some digging. But then my mom was all, “Is anybody hungry?” which is her way of telling us that she is hungry and we need to stop for food. Like now. (Side note: She also says things like, “Is anyone cold?” and “Does anyone have to pee so bad they think they might pee in their pants?” You know, things like that.) Anywho, Jerimiah pulled into a Cook-Out because honestly it was the first one we saw here in Georgia and having just moved from North Carolina it, well, it felt like home. If you don’t know about Cook-Out now you do. #Amazing
As we ate lunch at Cook-Out I Googled: “Big white temple looking thing in Lilburn, Georgia” and lo and behold the Google Goddess answered.
There is indeed a giant, gorgeous Hindu temple in the middle of Georgia. It’s in Lilburn, Georgia to be precise, but since Atlanta has the largest Metro area ever, it’s considered the Atlanta temple.
The temple itself was built strictly by volunteers on top of what used to be a skating rink. Volunteering is a cornerstone of the Hindu religion and it is known as Seva, or selfless volunteering. It took 1.3 million volunteers working two million (wo)man hours to complete the temple in a little over 17 months. It is made of three types of stone, Turkish Limestone, Italian marble, and Indian pink sandstone. That’s it. Just those three stones. According to their website more than 34,000 individual pieces were carved by hand in India, shipped to the USA and assembled in Lilburn like a giant 3-D puzzle in accordance with the ancient Hindu architecture scripture. I can feel you guys still think I’m a liar, liar pants on fire, so here’s a picture of Jackson standing in front of it in a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, which is fitting because this place is BIG! Like Disney BIG!
The Temple, or Mandir, is a place of worship for people who practice Hinduism. This particular Mandir is for people who practice Swaminarayan Hinduism and, although there are two million Mandirs globally, and 450 in the United States (with the most in Texas) the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Lilburn is the largest Mandir outside of India. Whew knew?!
Okay, so there we were back at Cook-Out and we were debating to stop by the Mandir after our trip to Kohls. I’m pretty sure my Mom had no idea what we were talking about and I was not pronouncing Swaminarayan correctly, but we decided since it was on the way home, why not? I think my Mom was still a little nervous, being a Baptist and all, but she went along with it. I bought her ice cream. Then helped her use her Kohls Cash, so it seemed fair for her not to complain.
When we got to the Mandir we weren’t sure where to go, or how to act, or what have you. I mean, we are not Hindu. We didn’t want to pretend to be. And I can honestly say that none of us have ever been to a sacred temple of any kind. Not our style (previously). So we drove very slowly in, thinking we might get asked to leave, but no, they waved at us, showed us where to park, and were all around very friendly. Though I think my Mom and Jackson were still a bit confused by the whole thing. Me? I was just in awe. This is the picture I took when we got out of the car.
A storm was rolling in and I think my Mom was both worried about her hair getting wet and about all the people who did not look like her. This was a lot for a 75-year-old from Kansas, but she didn’t say much. She just looked around, slowly climbed the steps, and stood in awe. I even caught her snapping a few pics, which may seem weird to some, but it is encouraged here. They worked hard on this building and they want you to take pictures. Of the outside, not the inside. Since it is a traditional Mandir the inside is a place of quiet and calm. A place reserved for meditation, prayer, and solitude. But in order to get inside you have to your legs covered, of which none of us did! But don’t worry, they are prepared for crazy, white people.
When we reached the top of the steps a man greeted us and asked if we wanted to go inside. We said, “Of course,” though again, I was the only one super sure about it, and he told us we’d have to cover our legs. He gave us all a long black piece of cloth, and we wrapped it around our legs like a skirt, then we were allowed to enter.
Inside was like something I had never seen before. There were beautiful carvings everywhere, and the room used for prayer and meditation was covered in marble and glass (all the floors are marble and you have to take off your shoes at the entrance too).
It was very quiet in there, as most of the visitors were praying. But upstairs there was a room not unlike the main floor of a cathedral. In fact, I was suddenly transported back to that time we spent an hour or so exploring St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. There were people worshipping in the middle of a large room, sit on the marble floor, and others walking all around the edges to visit statues of various deities in the Hindu faith, much like at St. Patrick’s and St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square in New Orleans. It was just that instead of the bust of Joan of Arc, there was a statue of Brahmaswarup Yogiji Maharaj. Same. Same.
I was totally drawn into the quiet of the place, like most churches I have been in. I like quiet, have I mentioned that? I’m a fan of quiet. Though I did feel rushed by my Mom who asked, “Does anyone have to pee?” and my son who was asking in very loud tones, “Why are they walking in circles around that statue?” (See postscript). I did not have an answer for him, but I did sense it was time for us to leave the inside. So we did. But I tell you what, I have plans to go back. Alone. And if you’re ever in Atlanta, maybe I suggest you check it out too? It really is a lovely place. The last picture is from the back of the Mandir. I made Jerimiah stop as we were driving out to take it. I mean, come on!
We were all impressed by the structure, and I think we all learned something that do too, though it may have been different things, we all learned something.
When we got home I posted some of the pics on FB and told people to get there if they are in the area. My Mom asked me to tag her in the pictures, so I did, and one of her “church friends” commented immediately that she “felt sorry that we were in an area that had a large Hindu population” and continued to display her accepting, Christian nature, by adding how disgraceful it is to worship more than one God and asking when Trump was going to send them all packing. Then she blessed us, I’m pretty sure, and my Mom said, “Oh, she’s crazy. Delete that comment.” And so I did.
PS… I have an answer for Jackson regarding his astute observation, “Why are they walking in circles?” It’s called circumambulating. Because Hindu temples are built where positive energy flows, the main idol is placed in the center of that gravitational force on a copper plate so it can beam the waves of positivity. People who practice Hindu believe that our energy is drained throughout the day (I hear that!) and when they visit the temple they are restored, particularly if they go to the main idol. Thus a person regularly visiting a temple and walking clockwise around the main idol receives the beamed magnetic waves and his body absorbs it.
Yesterday morning, right before Jackson walked out the door for school, he looked back at me and asked, “Will you take me for a haircut after school?” I was a little surprised because I’m usually forcing him into a haircut, even so far as pulling a “surprise haircut” on him, by rolling up to Great Clips when he least expects it. He loathes haircuts. I don’t know why, but he does. So I dumbly shook my head yes, then sat silent over my morning tea and wondered what was up. Then I remembered: Today he is going on a field trip to the middle school. Today he, along with all the 70 or so fifth graders at his school, will be marched around a much larger, much nicer, much more complicated building in front of “really big kids” and well, I think he’s a little nervous. And he should be.
I immediately thought back to my middle school tour. I was terrified. And I remember very specific portions of it. Like how we were all ushered into a room when a fifth grade class from another school, there the same day as us, was ushered down the hall. I remember looking out at the faces of the “other” school, knowing that in a few short months we’d all be classmates. Some of those kids would come to be some of my best friends in middle school, but I didn’t know that on that day. I only knew they were unfamiliar, and scary, and I didn’t like them. Why would I? Why should I? They weren’t from Anthony Elementary School.
My middle school was old. It was old and it was crowded and it lacked the sort of funding that Jackson’s cool, techy middle school will have. But like my middle school, many elementary schools are funneled into one middle school. There will be opportunity for more than new classes, or new clubs, but opportunity to meet new friends, develop new crushes, and start the journey to really figuring out where he belongs in the hierarchy. There will be some bumps. Some bruises. Some stuff that never leaves him, both good and bad. But in the end the stuff that doesn’t really matter, won’t, and the stuff that does, will. I know that. That I learned in middle school, and high school, and in my 38 rotations, but he doesn’t know that yet.
I asked him while we were waiting for his haircut if he was nervous about today. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Nah. I’m excited to see the STEM classrooms!” He’s only concerned with how many 3D printers they have. He’s a different breed, my kid. Then his name was called and he walked over alone, asked the woman to do a “Two on the sides, and scissor the top” and I sat and listened to him talk.
When she brought him back to me she told me what a lot of people tell me about my son. She said he was kind, and smart, and that he was very well spoken for his age. She said she hoped her three-year-old would be like my kid, because as it sits she was nervous. I shook my head and thanked her. Assured her that her toddler would be alight, told her that the “threenager” stage doesn’t last much longer, and smiled. I looked at my son, who was running his fingers through his hair, and suddenly he nudged me and said, “There’s this, uhh, hair stuff she used…” She told me it she’d put some in his hair and he liked it. “I think I want some,” he said, shyly. “For you know, style.” I told him sure, to go grab some because yes, he’s gonna need it for style.
Seriously. Nothing to report, other than I’ve been very busy and struggling to write everyday. A road block I felt coming, but kept just pushing away. It’s not that I don’t have anything to write about. On the contrary, I have so many things to write about. I have our awesome long weekend where we took a couple walking tours around Atlanta and learned a ton of history. I have this MFA application process I’m currently in the middle of. There’s Jackson’s middle school trip this week, and the trip we’re planning for next month. There’s new friends. Planning my charcuterie board for book club night. Jackson’s fun music lessons, geez, there’s a lot. But this is all I can muster. A post about nothing.
We did go to trivia night last night. That’s fun. We always try to beat our last score, and so far so good. We’ve been 8th place, 7th place, 6th place, and last night we came in 4th! We actually knew the grand finale question this time! It was which two countries (out of eight) do not have Spanish as their official language? Do you know? Okay, here’s the list: Nicaragua, Morocco, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, Dominican Republic, Ecuatorial Guinea, and Honduras. Which two don’t speak Spanish as their official language?
Don’t cheat! You know it!
Yes, you’re right! Morocco (they speak Arabic) and Belize (they speak English). Jerimiah was 100% sure of Morocco, meanwhile I worked in a restaurant with a woman from Belize and she couldn’t understand the cooks. Haha, that’s how I knew Belize! She had a proper English accent because Belize was formally British Honduras, because colonialism. Wasn’t that fun?! Here’s a few more questions we randomly pulled the answer to out of our arses last night. Try your hand at them. Answers at the bottom of post.
1. What is the capital city of the African country of Seychelles?
2. What 13th century empire was ruled by Osman?
3. If supersonic speed is approx. one times the speed of sound, how many times more is hypersonic speed?
So, hmpf, there it is. I’m busy again today you guys, but I guess never too busy to boast about random knowledge. And if you ever find yourself round my parts (no, not those parts you perverts) if you ever find yourself around The ATL, then come play trivia with us. It’s fun and nerdy. Like us.
Until tomorrow when I’m SURE I’ll have something important to say!
2. Ottoman Empire
Bonus question we didn’t get right: When President Jefferson died, which former president and Jefferson BFF, did he leave his cane to?
We guessed John Adams because Samuel Adams because beer list because we don’t know American history. But it was James Madison. Which made me slap my leg and yell, “Oh Dolly! I should have known!” 🙂 But you knew, you smarty-pants!
You guys know me enough by now to know I love two things: Dunkin’ coffee and Adele. The Dunkin’ coffee feels stronger than my regular coffee at home, and it gives me a reason to change out of pajamas because I have to physically go and buy it. Adele, even when she is singing a happy song (which is rare) sounds really sad, which helps me, in some weird way, feel better on my blue days. Like Adele gets me, you know? Yeah, Adele gets me. This post is not about Adele.
This post is about Dunkin, and about how coffee in general has been playing mad tricks on my stomach and about how I’m not sure I can actually live without Dunkin in my life. Can I y’all? Can I live without Dunkin? Can I live without coffee?
I don’t want you to think I’m doing some “Caffeine is bad” sort of cleanse or something. I’m not saying I’m 86-ing coffee. But it is giving me trouble. I’m legit getting indigestion and heartburn after I drink coffee these days. At first I thought it was just Dunkin coffee, but the truth is, it’s all coffee. (Gasp!)
I posted my problem to Facebook the other day (still only allowing myself 15 minutes a day on there, and it’s been wonderful) and FB answered. They suggested organically-grown dark roast. They offered information about pH levels in coffee, and they suggested doing nitro brews and cold brews instead of regular coffee. Someone even mentioned Papaya something or other. I took their suggestions to heart and I bought an organically-grown dark roast with low pH levels. I brewed it. I poured myself a cup. I drank half the cup and the indigestion came.
Then today I said “Fuck it!” I say that, that’s a thing I say with regularity. I said, “Fuck it! I’m drinking Dunkin.” And I drank regular Dunkin cold coffee and I didn’t get the upset tummies and what not. Maybe it was the cursing?
So I dunno, yous guys. Maybe I’m just getting old? I’m pushing 40, and I hear stuff starts to fall apart. Or maybe I just got some bad Dunkin batches? But I’m not giving up on coffee. Nay, nay. Quite the opposite, I’m going to open myself up to different kinds. Expand my coffee horizons, and hope for the best.
As for Dunkin, well, I know Dunkin will always be there for me when I need them. And while I may have to miss them for a little while, it might be worth it. I’ll be sad, sure, but at least I won’t be alone. Now excuse me while I go brew some coffee and listen to Adele.
In honor of Presidents’ Day, I’m going to take you on a long, sordid stroll down memory lane. When Jackson was four months old President Obama was sworn into office. We felt a great sense of relief that a man like Obama would represent our country, and we just knew he would be the sort of example we wanted for our child. Years later he was still the president when Jackson wrote the White House for advice on how to become the President of the United States one day. But first it started with a tornado, and a trip to the Mayor’s office.
When Jackson was in preschool he asked his first political questions. They came from a mind geared toward safety, like most things that consumed him at that time (and still do). We lived in Branson, Missouri at the time and at the start of 2012 a tornado hit “The Strip” in Branson, causing destruction to several attractions and theaters. It even destroyed Jerimiah’s office. We lived about five miles off “The Strip” and ended up sleeping through the whole thing, but abruptly at 6:00 am Jerimiah’s boss called to tell him not to come to work that day since their building was on the verge of collapse. Of course he did go to work, to help with the clean-up, and we went with him. This one event had a lasting impact on pre-k Jackson, who just a year before, had watched on the television as his PawPaw’s house was destroyed in the Joplin, Missouri Tornado of 2011. In short, he had some concerns.
All of this stewed in his mind for about a year before one day he walked downstairs and told me that he needed to talk to the Mayor of Branson about tornado safety. Of course I did what any mom would do to appease my four-year-old, I tweeted the Mayor. I told her about my son’s worry over the city’s storm readiness and asked if she would meet with him to discuss our severe weather plan. It was a shot in the dark, but it worked. She tweeted back moments later to say let’s meet up. For real. And two weeks later we were special guests in the Mayor’s office on a casual Friday. Here are the pics from the day we met Branson’s mayor Raeanne Presley.
This visit planted a seed in him, and he decided right then and there he would one day run for public office. We figured he would run for local office, as did the Mayor, so when she asked if he would like to be a mayor one day we were all surprised when he said, “Nah,” in his very adorable preschool voice. “I think I’ll be the president.”
The president, he explained, had much bigger problems to solve than severe weather readiness, on a much larger platform. And he knew he was better prepared for that road ahead. That’s when Jackson really dug his feet in, and for the next four years or so when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up it was either a police officer or the president. Nothing in between.
Fast forward to first grade. We’re sitting at our table in North Carolina one balmy November day eating chili. Jackson asked me if I thought President Obama liked chili. Because Jackson liked chili and he really wanted to be like President Obama. (Side note: Remember when we had a president our kids could look up to? Those were the days…) Anywho, I said I didn’t know, but suggested Jackson write him a letter and ask. (I really just wanted him to work on his handwriting and this seemed like a great excuse. I never thought anything would come of it.)
So we sat at the kitchen table, eating our chili, and I helped him sound out the words he was writing. He asked about chili, about the president’s dogs, about his kids, and advice on becoming a president like him. Then we stamped it, stuck it in the mailbox, and forgot all about it. Until months later when this arrived.
Jackson was less excited than I thought he would be, but later I realized it was because he always assumed the president would write back. I, on the other hand, figured it got lost in White House mail and that was that. So he was very casual as he opened the envelope, while Jerimiah and I stood behind him in excitement and anticipation. This was inside:
Now the letter is standard boiler plate, a-kid-sent-a-letter-stuff, but wow was he happy to hold it in his hands. He felt very proud and very important, which he has always felt, but I mean come on, a letter from the sitting president and President Obama no the less, our favorite, most awesome president ever! This was amazing. We celebrated. He shared with his class. People said to frame it. It was a big deal in our house.
The letter lit a fire under him like we’d never seen and he was suddenly very interested in the election process and the campaigning, and how it all worked. That was until 2016, when his world, and all of ours really, came crashing down.
As the results came in that night, and as we navigated the painful and pitiful months that followed, Jackson could be found crying at night because his friend Angel from Mexico might get “sent back.” Back to where, we didn’t know, since Angel was born in North Carolina, but his parents were not. It was sad and it was disheartening. Particularly when Jackson declared he no longer wanted to be the president. Suddenly the president he idolized was gone and in came this monster of a man who scared him. Gave him nightmares. Gave us all nightmares.
Jackson saw President Obama as an example, he knew he had what it takes to lead our country if he held his head high and was a class act like President Obama. If he cared. If he was honest and nice. If he went to a good school, maybe got a law degree, worked his way up in small steps. But when he saw how President Trump was elected. How people talked about him. How he treated people from different cultures and countries. How he scared people. How he talked about women. (We always told him the truth about Trump, and didn’t shield him from the sort of man he is.) How Trump used words like “retard” a word that has the worst sort of connotation in our house considering Jackson’s baby sister never made it full-term because of a brain “retardation.” Well, Jackson was done dreaming of becoming the president.
Jackson told me one day in third grade, “maybe politics isn’t what I thought it was…” and I had to agree with him. Because at that moment, and in the years that have followed, American politics has collapsed before our very eyes. There is not truth, no integrity, no bi-partisanship. There’s just anger, and fear, and hate. And it doesn’t suit a kid like mine.
So there you have it. The story of Jackson and the tornado and the Mayor and the President. I still hold out hope (like when we visited the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library last year and Jackson commented on what a “nice guy” he was) that Jackson might change his mind one day. And I still have faith that his generation will turn this sinking ship around, if we fail to do so. Maybe that’s the optimist in me. Or maybe I just have all the faith in my sweet, honest, hard-working, critical-thinking kid. Either way, I know he will do great things for his family, his community, his country, and his world. Even if it isn’t in the Oval Office. Because like President Obama said in his letter, “If you remember to give back to your community and chase your dreams with passion, I have confidence you will do big things…”
Oh my goodness, do you guys remember like forever ago when I wrote about my secret desire to be part of a book club, but that I just knew that I would never be invited into one because I suck so hard?! Remember I called it Book Clurb because I was putting extra Rs in words to annoy my husband at the time? Okay, well guess what?! No, I wasn’t invited into a book club. Sad face. I started my own! Eek! Okay now before you are all, “Jesus Missy, this won’t end well.” Listen to what actually, for real happened.
First of all, at the beginning of the school year I met this friend named Julie outside the walker line at Jackson’s school. Not to be confused with THAT Julie. She cray. This Julie is legit, and nice, and totally, usually, up for whatever. So Cool Julie (who also has an MA in English) was all, “I’ve been thinking about trying to start like a book club or something.” And you know I tapped into that shit hard! I played it cool at first, I was all, “Hmm, I book club. I don’t know. I mean, do people read anymore?” And she was all, “I think so. I mean I do.” I looked toward the ground and pretended like I was unimpressed. “Sure, sure,” I countered, “But like what do you read?” And she proceeded to tell me some books and I fell in actual love with her.
Fast forward a couple of months and we have a book picked out, “Hillbilly Elegy” one of those ones we were always meaning to get around to one day, and a couple of people in the club. Full transparency, one of the people is my husband, BUT, he said he wanted to read more this year and in January we read a book together, “The Nest” and had our own mini-book club and it worked well, so there’s that. Also, read “The Nest” by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, especially if you love New York City, or family dysfunction, or various POVs. Good stuff.
Even fuller transparency, we are holding it at my house mid-month, we have very little rules other than we all have to be reading the same book, and you know I am gonna make a Charcuterie Board (and you know I can!) and have plenty of wine on hand. So if we actually get around to reading and talking about the book, cool. If not, that’s cool too. Either way I will let you know how it goes. And if anyone wants to join now is your chance! There is only one spot left if I stick to my original plan… Five. Five is a good number.