The Laundry Room

I was chatting with a friend the other day, when we veered into childhood anxiety—of which we both suffered from—and I remembered that I was claustrophobic for like five years as a kid. I had forgotten about it, because it’s something that I grew out of. In fact, nowadays I feel safest when any door I am behind is closed and locked, but when I was in elementary school I couldn’t deal with a closed door, let alone a locked one.

It started when my nephew, Little Scottie, and I were playing as kids. Little Scottie was my brother’s son. My brother and his girlfriend had Little Scottie when they were teenagers, and because my brother is 14 years older than me, I ended up being two years older than my nephew, which meant we were more like brother and sister, and we treated each other like that too. Mainly teasing and taunting, always picking at each other.

One day, when I was in kindergarten, which would have made Little Scottie about four, we were playing hide-and-seek and I ran into the laundry room to hide. He saw me hiding behind the dryer (I wasn’t a good hider) and when I jumped out to scare him, he grabbed the door knob and slammed the door closed before I could get him. I heard him go running down the hall screaming waiting for me to chase him, the only problem was that when he had slammed the old wooden door shut, it jammed. And just like that I was stuck in a small room.

I immediately panicked. That’s my gut reaction to all situations. I screamed for Little Scottie, but he was no doubt hiding somewhere far away. I looked around frantically trying to figure out what my options were. There was a small window in the laundry room that overlooked the front porch where the adults were all sitting. So I ran to the window, too small to see out of it, and screamed as loud as I could for as long as I could until I heard the commotion of people coming inside wondering what was wrong.

My mom got to the door first and tried to open it, but it wouldn’t budge. “Missy,” her voice came through the door, “Unlock the door!” I explained through sobs at this point, that the door wasn’t locked. I heard someone say it was jammed then, and she tried the door again but this time used some muscle. Nothing.

Someone, maybe my brother, maybe my nephew’s step-dad, got the idea to come to the window and try to reach in and pull me out. They got the screen off, but I couldn’t get myself far enough up to them, and they were too big to fit far enough in to grab me. It occurred to me then, that this was my life. I’d have to live in the laundry room for the rest of my life. My mom would come bring my food through the window, and I’d spend my days listening to the neighbor kids play on my swing set in the front yard. The sobs came louder and quicker.

“Hold on now, Missy,” my mom’s voice came from the other side of the door, “I’m gonna pull these panels out.” Turns out it was one of those old, wooden doors that had slats in it. So with a little help from whomever that man was, and a hammer, my mom was able to pull the slats from the door until there was a hole large enough to pull me out. Whew! I was free. But that’s when the claustrophobia first started. For years afterward I would cry if I was left in a room with a closed door. Even when I was playing with friends. I’d always eye the door, ask them to keep it slightly ajar.

Eventually my fear subsided, and so did my friendship with my nephew. We grew apart. And three years ago he was murdered in cold blood by a monster of a man, and I never got to tell him that I know he didn’t jam the door on purpose. That I know he was just as scared as I was that day. That I still remember his little red face, matching his bright red hair, and the way he ran up to give me a hug when I was free that day. I can still see and feel it all. The warm sunshine of the day outside, pulsing down on my arms. And I hope he can too.

❤️

M.

Dangers in the MVD

A few weeks ago Jerimiah and I went to switch our tags from North Carolina to Georgia. It’s a lengthy process that involves lots of paperwork, phone calls for titles, insurance, and inspections, and a shit ton of money. This was our second time attempting this, and we were pretty sure we had all our ducks in a row that day. We didn’t, and were there for over an hour, but people were all very nice. That wasn’t the thing that stuck with me from that day. What stuck with me was what happened while I was in line to get into the Motor Vehicle Office.

Jerimiah and I had walked in together, then as soon as he was about to go through the security checkpoint my phone rang, so I stepped back outside to answer it. It was the dog groomer and we had just dropped Duke off for a trim, so I knew it was a question. I was only outside for about five minutes, but by the time I got back inside the door, Jerimiah had a number and was seated inside, and a long line had formed at the checkpoint. So I shrugged my shoulders and prepared to wait. I knew our number wouldn’t be called anytime soon, so it was no big deal.

As I was waiting in line I noticed that in front of me were three young women. They were not together, and they were all carrying folders with paperwork, their car keys, and their cell phones, with crossbody bags slung across their shoulders. At first I didn’t pay much more mind to them. I just noticed, as I do, their presence, as well as an older couple in front of them, and a few single men and women starting to line up behind me.

It wasn’t until the first of the young women walked up to the checkpoint that I made a realization. She gave her purse to the officer to look through, she put her keys and phone in the bowl, and she walked through the metal detector. She reached back for her purse, keys, and phone and the officer said, “You can’t take your mace inside. You want to just leave your keys with me?” She hesitated for a minute, then said, “Sure,” and walked up to the number queue. That’s when I noticed the girl behind her fumble with her keys. She walked up next. Same thing. Keys, purse, phone, metal detector, did she want to just leave her keys? Sure. Third woman, the exact same. So by the time I got to the checkpoint with only my phone, I put it in the bowl, walked through the detector, eyed the three sets of keys sitting with the Sheriff Deputy, and walked to find Jerimiah.

When I sat down next to him, he saw in my face something was up, so he asked. I explained that three young women in front of me all had pepper spray on their key chains and had to leave them with the officer. He shrugged his shoulders and said something like, “Oh sure.” Then I got really mad at him, even though it wasn’t his fault. I got made cause he’s a guy, and for him sure, yeah, that makes sense. You can’t carry pepper spray into the MVD, but that wasn’t what was bothering me. I had already jumped three steps ahead of him. He must have seen the anger flash in my eyes because he said, “But I mean, it’s sad that they have to carry it at all.” Good save, husband.

Because yeah, it is sad, and it’s also total fucking bullshit. It’s total fucking bullshit that as women we know we have to always be on the lookout for someone, ahem a man, to hurt us physically. Or want to. We can never rest. We can never not think about walking to our cars in an empty lot late at night. My husband doesn’t think twice about it, meanwhile I’ve been told countless times, since I can remember, to kick at the groins. To stick my fingers in eye sockets. To hell, “Fire!” To kick headlights out. To never let them take you to a second location. I’ve been those young women. My mom bought me my first can of mace when I was 16, and got my first job. I’ve been scared in a hotel hallway alone with a man I didn’t know walking my direction. I’ve nestled my keys in between my fingers to use as a possible shiv in a moment of panic. We all have. It’s what we’ve been conditioned to do. And it’s such fucking bullshit.

I don’t have an answer here, y’all. Never usually do. But I do want to say that rape culture is real. And we need to start believing victims. We need to start teaching our boys about consent. We need to start teaching our boys that just because a girl wears a short skirt, doesn’t mean anything to you. We need to start having these real, tough conversations. And we need to get people like Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh out of our high offices. Because it starts from the top. I know there is a lot to be mad about right now, but there is nothing more important than helping people feel and be safe. Especially women and children. Especially women of color. Especially transgender women. Especially those who can’t defend themselves. Especially. Especially. Especially.

Take care of yourselves ladies. I wish you didn’t have to carry that pepper spray, but please keep doing it, cause change takes time. Remember to be vigilant. To watch out for yourselves, and for others.

❤️

M.

KC to STL

There is a stretch of I-70 that takes you across Missouri, from Kansas City to St Louis, in less than three hours. Well, Siri told me it takes three-and-a-half hours, but you know how I do. I have traveled this stretch of highway more times than I can count, starting with the first time I recall making the trip, when I was invited to a weekend away with my friend Amanda and her parents in middle school. Or maybe it was high school? I don’t exactly remember, but I do recall that we were young enough to be entertained by both the glass elevators at The Embassy Suites and choosing which flavor of Ben and Jerry’s to buy for a night of movies and ice cream in our hotel room. I’m a Phish Food girl, pretty sure Amanda was a Chunky Monkey or maybe a Cherry Garcia.

Speaking of Chunky Monkey, on a spur of the moment weekend getaway with my friend Rachel on this same stretch of highway, we were walking back to our hotel room from visiting the Arch and having dinner, and it was dark, and we noticed a crack of light coming from a window. We were walking and laughing, and I was in front of Rachel on the small sidewalk, so I looked inside the window, as one does, as I passed by. Then for a split second I froze. I wasn’t sure at first what I was looking at, then it hit me. There was a porn playing on the television in the room, and sitting on the edge of the bed was a naked, middle-aged man, and he was masturbating. A couple full seconds later, I sped past the window and motioned to Rachel to look inside. She stopped in her tracks for a moment, a little scared at what she might see. I should add here that Rachel and I we were young, 17 and 18, respectively. This was the absolute first time we had ever seen this before. Rachel crept up and peeked in, and her jaw hit the ground, then we ran to our room laughing. We talked until we fell asleep about how dumb that “old” man was to have accidentally left the curtain open. Oh how dumb we were to think that a middle-aged man would “accidentally” leave a curtain open…

So yeah, I’ve had some fun on this particular stretch of highway between Kansas City and St. Louis. A lot of people have. Because this stretch of interstate connects Kansas City, Columbia, St. Louis, and it’s estimated that almost 20,000 cars drive on it daily. Not across the state, but somewhere on this “radical, socialist” highway. 🙂 This is the easiest and fastest way to transverse the entire state of Missouri, though it isn’t the prettiest. It’s actually really, really boring. Not to mention the fact that you pass MU (University of Missouri) and eww. Be careful there. #TigersSuck They are also kinda rude and a little snotty. Like wannabe New Yorkers, but without the actual street cred.

All I’m saying is, if you wanna see the real beauty of the state of Missouri (and yes, there is beauty in the state of Missouri) just don’t take I-70 from Kansas City to St. Louis. But if you’re forced to, head toward Kansas City, not away from it, as Kansas City is the better of the two places. Unless you haven’t been inside the Arch, well then do that, but just once. Know that it’s awkward, and claustrophobic, and when you get to the top, and if the wind is blowing strong that day, you can feel it. But the views are pretty cool! If you’re into views.

Anyway, this particular stretch of Highway has been around, so it does have some problems. A lot of construction a lot of the time, but it was the first installment of President Eisenhower’s “radical, socialist-propaganda” called the Interstate System. Missouri was actually an early adopter of this system, probably because they knew they’d have to play a major role in any cross country trip. They were already home to historic Route 66 (and the first ones to lay the road) and they knew what an interstate could do to their economy. In fact, the state was awarded a contract for work on US 40 (I-70) on August 2, 1956, and became the first project to be awarded and work initiated after the signing of Eisenhower’s act. So the state of Missouri has a claim on “two firsts,” both the first to build Route 66 and the first to build Interstate 70. Pretty cool, Missouri, pretty cool.

So there she sits. A long, stretch of Highway that crosses Missouri at its least interesting points. It’s rolling hills are pleasant enough, but, and there’s a big but, if you ever find yourself transversing the old “Show Me” state on I-70, take a couple of those detours. Not the forced ones due to construction, rather the “backroads,” of the area. Get lost. Go off the grid. Missouri is bound to surprise you. It’s always surprised me.

M.

Backroom at the Video Store

I’ve been working on an essay about some of the jobs I’ve had in my life, and I was sort of, well, cracking myself up (as I do a lot, while my family looks at me in awe and shakes their heads). I was cracking up because I was thinking about that one time I worked at a family-owned video store that had a “backroom.” Yeah, for real. For those of you who aren’t privy, a “backroom” at a video store is where they kept the “adult” movies. And no, I don’t mean the Bowling for Columbine documentary, I mean porn. Straight up, hard-core porn. We had soft-core too, cause we weren’t animals. We were the only one in town with a “backroom,” and we were popular. Even when Blockbuster came to town, our little video store survived at least a decade or two more because, well, people are gross. (Side note: I worked at Blockbuster when the little video store folded. That’s where I was re-introduced to Jerimiah and we started dating. He was the store manager, at 19. It obviously wasn’t that hard to work at Blockbuster Video.)

Anyway, this little video store was called, “Home Video” and it sat on the corner of Cherokee and 6th Streets, right across from the Water Department, and (when I was there) right below a nightclub that favored a fog machine on Friday nights. Which meant every Friday at 10:00 pm, an hour before we closed, the store would fill up with “fog” and people would scream thinking there was a fire and exit the backroom in a hurry. Then I’d tell them it was probably because God knew what they were doing. Hehe.

Anyway, there were a lot of, oh let’s call them “quirks” about Home Video that made it a unique, albeit bizarre, experience for the two or so years I worked there, which was just after high school, while I was at the local community college. One of them were the owners themselves, Del and Linda. One of the oldest employees filled me in fast about old Del and Linda. Apparently, they were first-cousins from Minnesota. Or Michigan? Or maybe Milwaukee? Either way, they were definitely cousins, and definitly had to sign a letter when they got married that said they wouldn’t have kids. Then they promptly had two kids. Two boys. And by the time I met them they were grown, one was married with kids of his own, and while he was weird (that’s being kind) he was normal-ish. The other one, well, I felt really sorry for him. He sort of crept around downtown Leavenworth. He lived alone in an apartment near the store, but his parents didn’t actually let him work there. I think he was probably on social security, or disability. I don’t know what was wrong with him, but he had trouble walking and standing up straight. But he was my favorite of the two. He was polite and quiet. He just liked to stop in a talk to me sometimes, and I was okay with that. I would even let him shelve movies if he wanted. He’s the one that told me about the other weird thing: Linda’s Disney collection.

Apparently, Linda had a locked room in the basement that was full of Disney products. First release VHS tapes, cardboard cut-outs, special promotional items. And this, he told me one day, was a secret. It was also her retirement plan. She was going to sell off all her stuff and get an RV and travel around the country with Del and their giant Great Danes (of which she allowed to roam free in the store from time to time.) Weird shit, y’all. So of course after that, I made it my life’s ambition to see this “Disney room” in the basement, and would often make up reasons to go down there. I knew that they had cameras EVERYWHERE, they had too. Too many freaks in and out of the backroom, so I was always cautious. I’d have to stock up the candy, or look for more shrink wrap. I’d usually do it when it was just Del and me in the store. One day I finally found the extra room and tried the knob, but it was locked. I wasn’t getting into that bitch.

Usually I was the only one at the store when I worked there, because I worked Sunday mornings, when they had church, and Thursday nights, which weren’t all that busy. But I was also in charge of employees from time to time, like on Fridays and Saturdays when there would have to be at least two of us working the night shift. It was always fun when it was with someone I liked, like my friend Toni. We had a great time working the weekends together. Mainly we watched the video in the backroom, from the closed circuit tv we had under the front desk. That tv had a one-way microphone attached to it, so that we could tell the people back there that we were closing in five minutes. Or, more usually, we could click the microphone on, which made a loud clicking noise, then say in a low, slow voice, “God knows you’re here.”

I watched a lot of people I knew come in and out of that backroom. Teachers, noted members of the communities, friend’s family members and parents. They would spot me from the outside, as the store was all windows on one side, and sort of try to spelunk into the room without making eye contact with me. But alas, I was the one who had to check them out, remember the whole I was there alone thing, so I it was pointless. They would look around when they came out of the backroom, waiting for someone else to come to the front, pretending like they were browsing the “New Releases” until eventually they gave up and walked up. I’d say something smart ass like, “Castaway just won’t do it for you, huh? Not a Tom Hanks fan?” And they would squirm and say they have never watched “one of these movies,” then I’d say, “That’s not what your account shows…” I was kind of a bitch, but I mean, it was menial work for 6.00/hr, I had to get my kicks too, you know?

Of course there were times when I was embarrassed. Like when we’d get a new shipment of backroom movies, and Del and I would stand at the counter on a Friday afternoon and take the tapes out of the boxes, put them in their black rental cases, and shrink wrap the VERY explicit boxes they came in. Linda had nothing to do with the ordering or displaying of the backroom, she was an “outta sight, outta mind” kinda Christian. So it fell on Del and me. We’d both stand there, in relative silence, while Toy Story or Harry Potter played on the television screens in the store, and wrap titles like, “Facial Blasts from the Past,” “Buttman’s Big Titty Adventure,” “Boobsville Caberat: Where the Boys Aren’t,” and “Dumb-ass Fucking Sluts” or what it “Dumb, Ass-Fucking Sluts”? I just don’t remember. I can go on. Want me to go on? No? Okay.

So there it is, my Home Video days. It wasn’t too long, but you know, it was long enough for me to get some good quality fun in, while meeting some unique people, learning about shame (I was researching shame like Brene and I didn’t even know it! Haha!) and to make me realize how gross it all was. So thanks, Home Video. Thanks Del and Linda. Thanks to Lee Anne, who hooked me up with her job when she adandoned me for Boston. Thanks Toni, for the fun times. Thanks Jen and Roger for spending so much time at Home Video it was like you worked there, even though you didn’t. We had some fun.

M.

Creating Our Own Reality

You guys know how I love Brene Brown and gangsta rap, right? The gangsta rap isn’t important here, I just wanted to make sure you know. I’ve had this Brene Brown idea kicking around in my head for several months now, and it goes like this. Let’s say you get into a disagreement with someone. It’s based on a misunderstanding, most disagreements are based in a misunderstanding or faulty expectations. So let’s say you’re disagreeing with your partner and you start spinning out of control, like thinking of all these crazy scenarios and reasons why this person could be upset or angry with you. It happens right? Brene calls it, “The story I’m telling myself,” and it isn’t necessarily steeped in the truth of the situation, but rather our projections, our previous altercations with others, our own histories. You see? Why am I thinking about this lately, well, because I’ve decided to give up, once and for all, on a friendship that just wasn’t meant to be, because I’ve realized, finally, after nearly three years that there is no way I can help this friend. She has too many emotional and mental problems, and though I want to help people like that, I want to fix broken relationships, I just can’t give her anymore of my energy or thoughts. So instead I’m getting my truth out here today, and ridding myself of her negativity and the pain she caused me. Here’s the short version.

This friend, let’s call her “Julie,” and I were buds. Like a fast friends kinda deal. So fast, in fact, that I neglected the warning signs. Her parenting style was way different than mine, for instance. She did things like leave her kids at home alone and go to the local bar with her husband at night, which seems nuts to me. She’d complain ad nauseam about things like too much sugar at classroom parties, but she’d never actually make it to help in the classroom. She’d complain about women who had side hustles, like selling items they liked or making art. She’d make fun of women who had plastic surgery, or who kept a “clean” house. It was all very bizarre, and now that I’ve had time to think on it, it was mainly projections of her own insecurities, but there I was, believing the best in a person who I thought I really wanted to be friends with. Even though her small annoyances were actually really big judgments about people she knew nothing about. Red flags, you see?

Part of my desire to be her friend came from my child, who absolutely adored her daughter. She was also an eager person to network, and I was a shy, kinder mom who wanted friends, so again, I overlooked things. Most notably the horrible ways she would talk about our mutual friends and others we knew, especially when she drank. And she drank every single day. I don’t think there was one time I wasn’t invited to her house and asked, nay, pressured to drink. She once told a group of us that the only way their household could save money was to cut their liquor budget, and that obviously wasn’t going to happen. To say a few of us were shocked was an understatement. But this is all tertiary. The real red flags were much harder to ignore.

She once tried to convince all of us in “our crew” which was about six families at this point, that one of the other friend’s husbands was in love with her, this was after her theory that he was gay hadn’t panned out as she’d hoped. She slapped another friend’s husband across the face after she told him he didn’t know how to be a good husband, and he had in turn suggested her marriage maybe wasn’t as ideal as she thought it might be. We all laughed about it when it happened, but honestly, who does that? She often spoke badly of people based solely on their appearance, even women she said she really liked. Her husband’s friends’ wives, women we met around the community, etc. For the first two years I let this all slide, because I had a friends, and honestly, I didn’t want to rock the boat.

Then there was the whole summer where she pinned all the bad behaviors on one of the kids in the group, going as far as taking the girl aside and discussing things with her that she just shouldn’t have. In fact, that was the first time I confronted her about her behavior, explaining that maybe she should talk to the girl’s mom (one of our best friends) and not take matters into her own hands. Julie just scoffed at me in a condescending way, another habit of hers I ignored, and said as a “boy mom” I didn’t understand girl drama. And I guess she was right, because Julie was all drama, and no, I did not understand her.

The more that summer went on, the more horrible things she said about our close friends (including one that had just had a baby), the more I started to stick up for them. Started to decline offers to go sit on her porch and listen to her make fun of her neighbors, who were also her friends, while she told me very secret secrets about their family, most likely told to Julie in confidence. Am I painting a picture here now? This is not a normal, nice, woman. And she doesn’t even come across as one, it’s honestly more of a go with your gut thing, and I just totally blew my gut off to have friends. (Side note: I was in a bad place when I met her. In the middle of fighting infertility, having moved across the country, my baby starting kindergarten, I just wasn’t myself and the idea of a close knit circle of friends who I could trust was comforting. Still is. I just didn’t realize I already have them and that not all of these women were who they said they were.)

Anyway. our relationship came to a breaking point later that same summer. A mutual friend had an empty beach house for a week and suggested we take it. I half-heartedly asked Julie if her family would like to come along, assuming she’d say no as the strain in our relationship was apparent by then, but she said sure. She begged her husband to take time off work and come, since mine was, and when he couldn’t, or rather wouldn’t, she was upset. But we all went to the beach anyway.

This is where things get complicated. And I’ve spent a lot of time, too much really, replaying it all in my mind and this is all I can come up with. You know when you’re truly unhappy, say in your marriage, and you spend a lot of time with a married couple who are truly happy, and it makes you sad and a little jealous? There was some of that. One night, as Jerimiah and I were debating taking the kids to do something fun, apparently we had discussed it enough, and she promptly slammed a pot down and said, “Jesus, do you two have to make ALL your decisions together?” That was followed a few minutes later by a, “You seem to want to be around him a lot. Can you not do things on your own?” I took this as an insult at first, it wasn’t until afterward that I realized that it must have been difficult to see a good, equal, partnership at work. In fact, later when I told her that yes, we do talk about everything because we are a partnership, she rolled her eyes and said, “Well good for you!” This made me mad, but I should have listened more to the undertone. She was a woman hurting, I knew this because most of our girls-only outings ended in Julie crying about her marriage, about her untrustworthy husband, about how the only real satisfaction she got out of life was her job. That is some sad stuff, and honestly I should have seen it sooner, but I didn’t. And later, even after I let her berate me like usual, I still apologized. Then I felt even more dumb. Why am I apologizing for having an awesome husband and an awesome marriage? Psh. Get it together, Missy. You can’t fix others’ problems.

So the long of it is that we got into a good, old-fashioned argument (after several drinks) one night. She told me, in front of my husband, what a shitty dad and husband she thought he was (projection) and she even made a comment about my nephew who was living with us at the time. She said she couldn’t believe I was okay with him smoking weed (not at our house, but just in general) and she said because of that her husband (the one who secretly smokes weed in his shed—no shit, I had to hide his pipe from him at my house for a year and she’d routinely call to check and make sure I hadn’t given it to him. Talk about trust issues…) didn’t like my nephew. I was quite taken aback, as you can imagine, so I said (out of anger, mind you), “Well I’m sure if they’d just smoke a bowl together your husband would like him a lot more.” As you might imagine that sent her off the deep end.

When we finally called it a night, I assumed we’d wake up the next morning, and hash it all our sober, so I profoundly apologized about that one mean thing I said about her husband (the rest of the argument was really just her yelling at me about how I let people take advantage of me… uhh, hello, that’s what I’d let her do for years by then). And just before she walked into her room she turned to Jerimiah and me and said, “I’m sorry too, that I called Jerimiah all those horrible things and said he was a bad husband and father.” I smiled. I understood. Then she added, “I mean, I think it, and I believe it, but you know I shouldn’t have said it out loud.” Then she went to bed, woke her kids up before the crack of dawn the next day, and left like a coward, refusing to ever talk to me in person again.

Over the course of the next few months I sent lengthy texts to her. I wrote her letters and shoved them in her mailbox. I FB messaged her, I emailed her, I did all I could to try to sit with her, to replay the night, to figure out where I went wrong. And in the two years since I’ve sent at least three forms of communication telling her hello, and hoping she is happy and healthy and that her family is doing well. And I received no response, save one text where she said I was mentally unstable and she asked me to never call her again. So I blocked her number from my phone, unfriended her on social media, and tried to move on.

The hardest part was that we had these mutual friends. The ones she had bashed for years when they weren’t around. But I didn’t want to tell them that. And if I’m being honest I assumed they knew. Because if she said such horrible things about them to me, I can only imagine what she’d said about me to them. They had to know what kind of person she is, and if they didn’t they simply didn’t want to know, and either way I had one foot out the door so I wasn’t worrying about it. It did hurt quite a bit that only one of them ever asked my side of the story. Only one of them sat with me as I cried on my car outside our kids school and searched for answers on what I had done wrong. We both agreed that Julie is the kind of person who makes her own reality when things get tough. She tells herself a story so she can not feel bad about the hurtful ways she acted, the mean things she said, the trust she broke. And I get that. I know other people like that. And all I can do is hope they get the help they need, sooner rather than later.

I guess this is my way of clearing the air. It’s better for her to make it in my blog than my book. Bahahaha. You never really wanna piss off a writer, right?! Especially one like me. The truth sets me free, y’all. It gives me power because I know that if you live in truth, in light, in open and honest communication, then you never have anything to worry about. So I’m sending my truth out into the universe today. I won’t be reaching out anymore. I won’t be awkwardly asking our mutual friends (I only have a couple left) how she’s doing. I won’t be filling my brain with that nonsense anymore. And if I’m being truly honest, Julie taught me way more than I bargained for, but still she taught me. I trust my gut more now. I wait a bit more to fully invest in a new friendships, because I know now that if you give them time, people always, always show you who they really are. You just have to be accepting to the facts. So that’s that. The friendship that is no more, that never really was. And I feel so much better!

As always, take care of yourself and each other.

M.

Update: Wow, this post has had a lot of “views,” like uhh way more than a normal one. I have a few ideas why, but I also had a lot of adult women reach out to me to share their stories of being in toxic friendships. Which means my writing is helping, and you know that’s all I truly want.

I’m so sorry ladies, if you’ve had a friend, or a spouse, or a family member like this in your life. And believe me, I understand staying for longer than you feel comfortable. You feel like you have to. You want to belong. You want to be liked. I get it, I really do. But I’m here to tell you that the relief you will feel letting this person go, forgiving them like I did this “friend,” is more important for your peace of mind, your mental health, your physical health, than any friendship could ever be. Besides, you’ll have friends that will always love you. Always stand beside you. My example above I called a “friendship,” but it wasn’t. Because real friendships don’t treat you like that, and they don’t end like that. So take stock, ladies! And live your truth. ❤

This might be helpful for some of you dealing with the same sort of people:

Do You Like Wigs and Birds?

My mom wears a wig. She wouldn’t mind me telling you that, because she tells everyone that. When we walk into a restaurant, or a store, and another woman looks at my mom and says, “Oh I love your hair!” she immediately says, “Oh, it’s a wig.” Ahhhh! Stop it, I tell her later. Just say thank you and move on. But she has to say it, and I get why. It’s the same reason that I have to make a fat joke about myself whenever I am surrounded by thin women. I have to show them that I know that I am fat. I have to show them that I know that they know. We have to say it to clear the air, because we assume everyone is thinking it. It’s a thing, we all have our things. Moving on. I’ve been to three wig shops in the last three days. This is a new experience for me, and for my mom.

My mom isn’t new to wigs. She wore them when she was younger. Much younger. In her twenties and thirties. When I look back at the pictures of my mom holding me as a baby, her hair was black, and long, and always pulled up into a beehive of sorts. It was years later that I found out that wasn’t really her hair, well all of it. She wore wiglets, and wigs, and weaves, and wow!

The older I got the shorter her hair became. She stopped wearing the wigs, and decided to take care of her natural hair. But years of torture to her hair, four babies, not eating healthy, it all adds up and about ten years ago her hair started to really thin out. She fought it, and fought it, doing her weekly curling of her hair, and her semi-annual perms (that she did herself, or roped one of us kids into doing it for her). I did many of them, for many years. So much in fact that my childhood smells like hair chemicals in hot bathrooms. Oh, the headaches. Here’s a pic of my mom and sister, Belinda, in Michigan in the 70s. It was a “curler” day.

But she finally decided to go back to wigs a couple of years ago, and she asked me to take her to a wig shop in Charlotte, where I was living at the time. I Googled “Wigs Nearby” and only one popped up, so we went. It ended up being a very lovely, albeit pricey, place with many different styles and a no-nonsense kind of owner, who sort of told my mom what she was going to buy. I bought her that first (but not first)wig and we went on about our lives. She wore the heck out if, everyday, mostly all day for about a year. Then when we moved to Atlanta last year and she came to visit I took her to a “new” kind of wig shop. Think: Pink hair, blue afros, etc. It was a little unusual, and I wasn’t sure we’d find anything for her. In fact, we felt a little out of place when we first walked in, but by the time we had left she had a new red wig with blond bangs (not kidding) and she loved it! She wore it to church the first day she got home and all her friends LOVED it!

Then, because she hadn’t cared for wigs in so long, she sort of messed up her wigs. She combed them when they were wet! Gasp! She cut one of them herself. Eye roll. She even used normal hair shampoo on her synthetic wigs. Oh my! (BTW, neither of us knew this was all wrong! Haha. Remember, we are learning.)

So last week when she got here we watched some YouTube videos. We Googled, “how to wash synthetic wig hair,” we watched videos, read articles, and went to three new wig shops. And lo and behold she found herself two new wigs that look fantastic on her. And we paid half of what we did for the first one! So yeah, we are learning. Here’s a pic she wouldn’t want me to share with one of her new ones on (shh, don’t tell her):

Yeah, she’s single guys. She’s single, 75 years old, and ready to mingle. As long as you don’t mind wigs and birds. But NO “Trump fans” need apply, she isn’t having any of that nonsense.

Love you, Momma. Just wish you would have bought that long, pink one. Maybe next time.

M.

I’m a Poet, I Just Know It

See what I did there? Last year, there was a call for poetry from a small press in Kansas City, called Flying Ketchup Press. They wanted poems from people who call Kansas City, or Kansas or Missouri home. They wanted to share the sense of this amazing place with others, while promoting the voices of those who grew up on those streets. I saw it while perusing Submitabble one day, bookmarked it, then moved on. I have always wanted to have a poem published, I thought it would be so cool to be able to say, “Oh yeah, I wrote that poem!” Haha. I’ve secretly always wished I’d been born a poet, and not a foul-mouthed, wanna-be. But here we are.

I couldn’t sleep for at least a week. I tossed and turned at night, thinking about my home. Thinking about Kansas and Missouri. The time I’ve spent there (30 years) and all that it taught me. Being Midwestern comes with many fun little quirks, sure we say “ope” everyday, and sure we have a penchant for apologizing all the time, and drowning all our food in ranch dressing, but why? And how? Who came before us and made us this way? I started to wonder day in and day out about the place I call home. Then one day I was inspired to dig deeper into Kansas history, so I did. I meshed it with a little of my own Kansas history and the poem, “Kansas” was born.

What happened was I got an acceptance letter, with a note from the editor, a true Kansas City girl, who explained that they were happy to include my poem in their anthology, and that my poem was the favorite of all those submitted. I was shocked. Honestly. I was so shocked I didn’t know how to respond, so I just sent a thank you, not really believing it would ever happen. Geez, I have great self-esteem.

Then, well, it happened. The poetry book, titled: Blue City Poets, was officially published on September 10th of this year. Which happened to be my 38th birthday. Which happened to be the day I decided that my 38th year would be the best yet. And so far, so good.

Anyway, I appreciate you all reading my musings, my dumb political rants, and my stories of everyday struggles on everything from mental illness, to parenting, to my dumb-ass dog. And especially for following me along this journey of writing that I struggle with everyday. It’s good to feel like you’re not the only one doing something. Having struggles. Getting rejected. The whole shebang.

So how can you read my poem? Great question! You can purchase the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Blue-City-Poets-Kansas/dp/197015196X/ref=mp_s_a_1_11?keywords=blue+city+poets%3A+kansas+city&qid=1570333582&sr=8-11&fbclid=IwAR3nuvgwRu1QoYXKBOJNbixFyI7Xwq-11h-FrKFjzZ__8MUxtaxoxD0URSo

The paperback is $12.99 and the Kindle version is $4.99. It’s part of Prime too!

So here is a giant virtual hug to all of you who tirelessly support me. By reading my blog, liking my stupid posts, and telling me to keep going, to stay positive, and that I am good at what I do. I hope to one day believe you.

M.

Surprise was a Success!

Just dropping in this morning to let y’all know that the “Mama Surprise” went down without a hitch! In fact, Jackson was so oblivious (remember when I said he was usually oblivious?) that he didn’t even realize Mama was standing behind his Daddy at the airport pick-up. He jumped out of the truck, because I told him to help his Daddy with his bag, and I stayed in the truck waiting for the scene to unfold. It just took way longer than I thought. I watched him looking at Daddy. He was smiling and laughing as Mama came up behind them. Finally she was standing there with them and Daddy had to say, “That’s Mama!” Then it all clicked for him, I could see him working it all out in his head! It was pretty funny to see, and the whole way home he just kept looking over at her in amazement. He said we, “Got him good.” Yay us!

Anyway, here’s a pic of them from Saturday, going through the “Taste of Tucker” book trying to decide which sweets they wanted to try at our town’s little tasting event. They really are two peas on a weird, chaotic, can’t hear each other when they talk, pod.

M.

The Poor Girl’s Grocery Store

My mom’s visiting. She flew in on Friday, and we’ve been enjoying catching up for the past two days. This morning over coffee I was making a grocery list for the week and she asked where I do most of my shopping. I told her Kroger, usually, but Target or Publix depending on my mood. Walmart in times of distress, like when I know I need that one kind of mustard and chain grease for our bikes. It’s a two-for. But I have to take a Klonopin before I go in, so there’s a trade-off. Anyway, I asked where she shopped and she said mainly Dillion’s (a local chain in Kansas, that might be loosely associated with Kroger), and Aldi. Then we both laughed.

My mom has been shopping at Aldi for so long she can probably tell you all the secrets you want to know. No need to join any of the 1,000 Aldi Facebook sites, where Xennial women talk about the AOS (Aisle of Shame, Shit, Stuff), and the peanut butter cups (which are shit in my opinion) my mom knows the real deal Aldi. I know the real deal Aldi. We’ve done our time at that orange counter bagging, rather boxing, our groceries looooong before Aldi’s was a “hip” and “cool”’place. In fact, it was incredibly embarrassing to be seen at Aldi when I was a kid, but of course if you saw a classmate there, then that meant their parents were probably poor too, so you’d just walk by each other and nod silently, then NEVER speak of the encounter. Oh, middle schoolers.

We’d usually go to Aldi at the end of the month, when the food stamps were gone, and it was scratch biscuit time. When it was that point in the month I didn’t care where the milk and hamburger meat came from, I just wanted milk and hamburgers. It was the odd times of the month where we would have “Food-4-Less” money, or maybe even be shopping the deals at the glorious new Price Chopper on Fourth Street, and she’s trick me, tell me we were going to Waymire IGA for the cereal on sale, and we’d end up at Aldi.

It was always too hot or too cold for me to stay in the car, so I’d have to go in, but first we’d have to dig around the car for a quarter for the damn cart. If we were lucky a family would be walking out and see us and ask if we wanted their cart, though that was rare. I must say it happens a lot more now, and on those rare occasions when I do go to Aldi, and I use a cart, I NEVER take my quarter back. And neither should you. Pass that cart off to a mommy struggling with some kids behind her. For fucks sake.

Sorry. Okay so once we were in the store my job was to immediately start scouring the aisles for boxes so we could transport our groceries home. I’d take my time with this task, because it meant I could hide in cubby holes, and look out for someone I might know. By the time my mom was finished shopping our cart was full of Moreos, and Skadittles, and Capri Fun. All the sorts of horrible knock-off names you could imagine! Oh no, I’d think, what if I have friends over this weekend and my mom asks, “Do you guys want Oreos? And then she walks into my room with Moreos?! #KillMeNow

At check-out time I’d run over to the orange bagging counter, which seemed to be much higher back then than it is now (probably cause I was a kid), and I’d sit, grumpy and scared, until my mom paid for our knock-off taco shells with her monthly allotment of government food stamps. Double whammy!

The cashier would throw our food into the cart crazy fast (some things never change) then ask my mom if she wanted to BUY bags to bag her groceries. My mom would laugh! Hahaha, pay 10 cents for a brown paper bag, I don’t think so! Then she’d motion toward me, my boxes stacked all around, and smile. We’d pack our groceries into boxes, then load our 1972 Dodge or maybe the 1979 Chevy Nova up, and I’d race the cart back to the corral, to link it back to the one in front of it, and take that damn quarter. Whether it was ours or not. Man. Those were some days.

My mom says the Aldi has changed a lot now. They have more “German” foods, and they sell a lot of good produce. I agree, then I blow her mind by telling her about Lidl! 🙂

So what does this all mean, Missy? Not a damn thing. I suppose this post just goes out to Aldi. To their fair prices and their unusual business model. But it also goes out to all the middle school kids who grew up on Fruit Tarts instead of Pop Tarts. Who sat on those orange counters, and asked for the key to the locked bathrooms. The ones who peered through the two-way glass to get a glimpse of “the back office” just to pass the time. To the box getters. The cart wranglers. The quarter gangstas. We’ve come a long way, babes.

M.

Surprise!

I love pulling surprises off. It’s so much fun. Unless it’s not a fun surprise, then oops, but that doesn’t happen very often. I like to be part of surprise parties, like my friend Susie’s 40th Birthday Yacht Cruise on Lake Norman, wherein another friend and I were tasked with taking her out for the day. She knew, obviously, she’s one smart cookie, but she didn’t know exactly what, so we played along. I like to surprise my husband with gifts, or real-life llamas, or sex! That second one is the most fun. But the two people I really like to surprise are my mom and my son. They are both great at reacting to surprises. Lots of laughing and giggling, lots of hugging and crying. Though I’m always afraid Jackson will be mad at me and not trust me anymore cause I’ve usually lied a little up until the surprise, and at 75-years-old, I’m always a little concerned my mom will stroke out. So there’s that.

The hush, hush, secret for the last two weeks is that Mama is coming to visit. Jackson has no idea. Mama, pronounced Ma-Ma, is my mom and she lives far away in Kansas. Sometimes we go see her—we have even managed to surprise her once by showing up on her birthday—and sometimes she comes to stay with us for a month or so at at time, and that’s what’s happening today.

I’m not sure how we have done it, but I know that he has no idea. This morning he asked me again, in a groggy sorta way, Can Daddy just take an Uber home, I don’t feel like driving to the airport tonight? This was after last night’s conversation about him wanting to have a play-date on Saturday. I told him we would probably do something fun as a family on Saturday and he got a little pissy, so yeah, he has no idea. But between me slipping one day about buying coffee for “when Mom comes” (he was oblivious), and my mom randomly texting her flight plans to me (with him sitting next to me) I was worried, but I think we have done it! (Side note: My son is Oblivious, with a capital “O” and I’m not sure if this is a boy thing, or if this is just a my son thing, but his obliviousness has actually served me well for all these 11 years and I kinda hope he stays that way, at the same time, I don’t want him to be the kinda guy who forgets his wedding anniversary, so I have concerns. I’m gonna wait it out though, see what happens.)

We arranged it so that my mom’s flight would come in an hour before Jerimiah’s flight. She would get off the plane and just sit down. She doesn’t like flying, partly because you know, we aren’t meant to fly, and partly because she isn’t comfortable walking around airports she doesn’t know. Lately, she’s been getting assistance from airport employees via a wheelchair or golf cart, but it’s still a lot for her, so we got her a non-stop from Kansas City to Atlanta. Now, if you’ve never been to the Atlanta airport, well then, count yourself lucky. It’s a hot-fucking mess. It’s huge. And the only way to leave the terminal, less walking miles and miles in the desert heat and the Montana cold, is to take the Sky Train. Ugh.

So, we told her to get off her plane, find the first seat she can find when she gets into the terminal and park it. Jerimiah arrives an hour later and will come find her and they will do the Sky Train together, because dear Lord Baby Jesus, we don’t want her doing it alone.

Meanwhile, Jackson has his yearly physical at 2:00 in a different part of Atlanta, which gives us just the right amount of time to see his doctor, grab some ice cream, and make it to the airport in time for them to be getting off the train. It really is all very convenient. Have I mentioned that I LOVE city living and could never go back to any other way?

So, you know what I know now. Not sure how he will react. I expect there to be some gasps, and some tears, and some very excited hugs. Then chances are he will forget all about wanting to have a playdate tomorrow cause his most favorite playdate will already be here.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go do that sort of cleaning you do before your mom gets to your house.

Have a fabulous day, babes!

M.

ATL Traffic

This might be an unpopular opinion, this might even anger some of you who have ever muttered, “Atlanta traffic is horrible,” but I got some truth coming atcha right now: It’s not the locals who cause the problems, it’s all y’all other people. Follow me please, but not too closely. I’ve been in the Atlanta-Metro area long enough to see some traffic patterns, which I think is the first important point. Before we moved here we had only spent a weekend in Atlanta, and most of the people who groaned when they heard we were moving here, and shook their heads and said, “Oh, the traffic!” have only ever spent maybe, I dunno, a week in the area. Most of them were just driving through. You really have to spend time in Atlanta to “get” the traffic patterns. You have to spend time and exercise patience, because Atlanta doesn’t need you to teach Atlanta how to drive, Atlanta gonna teach you how to drive.

Now before I go any further, I want to clarify something. I’m not saying there isn’t horrible traffic in Atlanta, or that it’s isn’t congested, or dangerous, or even scary at times, it is all of those things. In fact, in the INRIX 2017 Global Traffic Scoreboard Atlanta was ranked No. 8 in the race for world’s worst traffic, stuck in between London and Paris. Now mind you that is for traffic congestion only, but still, it’s not all roses, and I’m not claiming that it is. Atlanta is congested because it is populated, yes, but also because in order to get ANYWHERE in the Southeast United States, you pretty much have to travel through Atlanta. We are the convergence of many interstate highways, including our coveted/despised “Spaghetti Junction” named so because from the air it looks like someone took a bunch of spaghetti and dropped it on the ground. So yeah, we play a major role in getting to anywhere ’round here. We have: Interstates 20, 75, 85 and Georgia 400. I-285 forms a beltway around the city, but don’t even think about calling it a “beltway,” it’s colloquially knows as the “God-damned, piece of shit, Perimeter” and that’s how you know where something is. Is your doctor’s office, for instance, inside or outside the perimeter? If it’s inside, then it’s ITP (ITP! That’s for the Goldbergs fans), if it’s outside it’s OTP (OTP!). And also, if it’s inside, then bless your heart.

We also happen to be a hub for Delta, and a southern hub for Megabus, which provides service to Washington, D.C., New Orleans, New York City, Birmingham, Dallas, Nashville, and Indianapolis, among others. So yeah, people get here, and then they leave, but not before driving around a bit. And therein lies the problem.

I have noticed, from real-world Atlanta driving over the course of the last six months, that people who don’t live in Fulton Country, or Cobb County, or DeKalb County just make things worse. And I have boiled it down to three very distinct reasons. 1. They lack speed and 2. They lack confidence. 3. They are not observant.

The first one is self-explanatory. The 70 mph speed limit is more of a suggestion in Atlanta. In fact, if you are ever going less than 70 miles an hour, you are either on a Megabus, an out-of-towner, or in some type of congestion. That’s it. Otherwise you’re cruising along about 85 and slamming on your breaks when you need to. Case closed. Get new brake pads before you come.

The second one takes a bit more explaining. When I say confidence in driving I mean it in every sense of the word. You have to be confident about where you are going, but also confident that if you happen to get forced into an exit that you didn’t mean to take, you have to confidently take it and find an alternative route. Which is really easy because there are like 17 different ways to get to the same place here. Just keep driving and let your GPS reroute. Simple as that.

I also mean confident in your driving abilities and your decision-making. Look it, if you see that open spot in the lane next to you and you think, hmm, I should maybe, well should I get over, I mean my exit is in two miles and… too late! Someone already took your spot. See what I mean? Make the decision, then do it. Be confident. No need to stick a blinker on, just go fast into that spot, beat that Cadillac Escalade, don’t worry your VW has the power. Unless it doesn’t, then please rent a car that does before you get on the highway.

What happens, more often than not, is that tourists and passer-throughs, cause accidents and delays. They think, for example, that just because they are cruising along at 75 mph at mile marker 53, that they will still be cruising at that speed at mile marker 54, when in reality, no. You never go that fast for that long. There’s always a break check up ahead. Which leads me to No. 3.

Let’s say you’re still thinking about that open spot. No one has taken it yet, and you’re gathering up the courage, but still you’re driving along in the middle lane, minding your own business. You look over one more time and see that it is still open, so you decide to move. You put your blinker on to let the other drivers know you are coming over, then you start to go over, but oh no! You’ve taken too long and someone jumped over a moment before you did. Luckily, you were being observant and saw them. They didn’t indicate, so you had know way of knowing what was coming. See what I mean? What is wrong with these people? You think to yourself, as you try to get back to your original spot, but just then the hair on the back of your neck stands up and you see nothing but break lights ahead so you slam on your breaks, mid lane, which prevents you from both hitting the car in front of you, and being hit by the car behind you which had run up very fast to take your original spot. Good on your for being observant!

See, it doens’t take long to “get” Atlanta traffic, just a bit of trial and error, moving at a much higher rate of speed than you are comfortable with, having a sixth-sense about what other drivers might do, and not wasting time with actually thinking about your next move, just doing it!

Hmm, maybe Atlanta drivers are the problem…? Naaaaah!

Come on down, y’all, we’d love to have you! But maybe fly and we’ll just pick you up at the airport. About the airport… Nah, that’s another post.

M.

Mental Healthcare

In the saga that is my mental health and working with my health insurance, I have some good news to report: My insurance company approved my new anti-depressant, and they paid the copay for the new medicine (because there is no generic version of this particular pill yet) and they approved and paid for my DNA swab test to see which medicines work best for me (in the tune of $5,000, which they negotiated down to $1000, $100 of which I’m responsible for.) So, they paid for most of this. Which leads me to questioning this absurd system we have.

I reside snuggly in the middle-class. In fact, by some accounts I’m considered “upper middle class” which boggles my damn mind. Like, what?! We are a one-income family, with the majority of our health insurance premiums covered by my husband’s company. We pay premiums, and they are too expensive if you ask me, still, when we get sick and go to the doctor our co-pay is rarely over $30, that includes my mental health co-pay. I see my therapist two times a month, and my mental health nurse practitioner once a month. Which means I’m spending $90 a month just to “see” people. Still, I feel like I can’t complain, because some people who desperately need to have the sort of help I get, simply can’t afford it or they don’t have access to it. See Veterans and the working class.

Enter my new pill: Trintellix. It’s a revamp of an older pill, and has yet to be made available through a generic prescription. I won’t pretend to know why that is, but my suspicion leads me to think that they like to milk the market dry before they “invent” an alternative. But that’s not the point. The point is that I received a letter from my insurance company telling me that I’d been approved for a one-month supply and they had graciously picked up the $500 price tag for the new pill. I was excited, because I’ve been on samples for three weeks now and they seem to be working well. So I went to the pharmacy to have them fill it. That’s when they told me I still owed $80 out of pocket. Ho hum.

But wait! There’s more! The pharmacist told me that I could use this little card that the doctor gave me and it “might” save me more. So I sat on the phone at the CVS in Target (you didn’t think I get my prescriptions filled anywhere else, did you?) and finagled this card thing with these lovely people at Trintellix. All in all it wasn’t too hard, and they really were nice and helpful, even after I’d put my birthday in wrong and had to call back. But that isn’t the point either.

Ahhhh. I’m tired by now right? This has been a one month ordeal. Waiting on four different groups of people (therapist, insurance, CVS, Trintellix) to work together to get me these damn pills. Meanwhile, I’m running out of samples. Meanwhile, I’ve weaned off my Lexapro. Meanwhile, meanwhile, meanwhile.

This is a small, very small snippet of the healthcare racket that we have here in this country. Very small. Now I won’t completely downgrade it, because it is mental health and mental health is very important, but I can’t imagine what people with diseases like cancer or AIDS or persistent heart problems go through. It’s got to be nuts. Meanwhile, we want to talk a mad game about mental healthcare, and making it affordable and easy to get, but then we get jacked around like this. I’m persistent. And I know my rights. And I don’t care if something costs $20,000, I’m going to ask my insurance to pay for it, but some people aren’t like me. They won’t self-advocate. And then what?

All I’m saying is, I think the cost, the hassle, the stigma, and the accessibility are totally screwing people who need good, quality mental health care. Who need answers. Who just want to know there is help out there. There are people who don’t have insurance and still need mental health care. There are people who have insurance, but can’t afford the co-pay to get mental health care. And that’s just one aspect of their overall health. We have to change things, y’all. We have to.

Anyway, thanks for reading my story today. Thanks for supporting those of us with mental health issues. Thanks for talking about it, accepting it, helping us when you can. It’s really important that we have people in our lives who care and who listen. Because for some, they aren’t getting it anywhere else.

Take care of yourself first. Then others.

M.

Jackson is…

Jackson is eleven today. That’s my son, if you are lost. Not my dog. My dog’s name is Sir Duke Barkington of Charlotte, and he is only 18 months old. And he’s a piece of shit, but I digress. Jackson is eleven years old today, and although him and I agreed that eleven isn’t like a super fun birthday, it’s still a day to be celebrated. An accomplishment. The excitement of being in double digits is gone, but he isn’t twelve, the last year of “childhood,” as he refers to it. So yeah, he might not be ten anymore, and maybe he isn’t twelve quite yet, but he still is A LOT of other cool things…

Jackson is smart. Gosh. He always has been. In preschool he took that screening test to get placed in a classroom. The teacher sat us down with a very serious look in her eyes and said, “I’m sorry to tell you that Jackson failed the test.” We looked at each other in disbelief. Why? We asked. Oh my! What can we do to help him get on track? The teacher’s reply went something like this: “Well, he’s great at following directions. And we were pleasantly surprised to see that he can umm, read, at a very high level. He’s social. He’s friendly. He was showing us math problems that he knows, which is, uh, fine, but you know, not what we are looking for. For example, we gave him ten blocks and asked him to build a box, and he did, but first he ordered the blocks by color and size.” We looked at each other, then back at her, “Also, he doesn’t know how to skip…” Is skipping important, I wondered later to my husband. Must be.

Jackson is kind. This one took some time. He’s an only child, so when he was a toddler he didn’t need to share his stuff. We noticed quickly this could have a negative impact on him later on, so we started taking him to parks and playdates with his toys. He started learning to share that way. The older he got the quicker he put it all together. He realized that if he shared his extra special, cool truck at the playground, then that other kid would share his extra special, cool motorcycle. Then one day, around the age of five, it sort of just clicked, the idea that being nice, in and of itself, is the best way to be. Being nice and expecting nothing in return, that’s the kind of kindergartner he was. And that is the kind of fifth grader he is. And I’m certain that is the kind of man he will one day be.

Jackson is empathetic, which sorta goes along nicely with kind, right? He knows what it is like to be made fun of. In kindergarten he was made fun of because he painted his fingernails. In first grade he was made fun of because his glasses broke and we were waiting for a new pair and we used tape to hold them together. When someone is bullied at school, he is the first one to jump up from his seat and intervene. He comes home to tell me stories of that time on the playground when that boy pushed his friend down and he told him, in a very serious tone, “That is inappropriate. You apologize to my friend.” And the kid apologized.

Jackson is sensitive. See above. Empaths tend to be. Sometimes too sensitive. He’s sensitive to sounds, to harsh people, to certain foods, and to being messy. He isn’t taken seriously by a lot of adults in his life because of this. A lot of our family members who have sons don’t “get” Jackson. But that’s okay. That just means he’s different. And different in this case, in most cases, is good.

Jackson is funny. He gets his sense off humor from me, for sure. He’s high-level funny. He gets the teachers’ jokes, when most kids shrug them off. He’s way into puns, but so help me Baby Jesus you throw a fart-joke at him and it can tickle his fancy just as much. He’s silly too. A little goofy. Those all go hand-in-hand.

Jackson is honest. He doesn’t like to beat around the bush and he says what needs saying. Wonder who he gets that from? Though he is learning to be a little more cautious when telling it “like it is” for fear of hurting feelings. He is honest, and he is fair. He has a REALLY hard time picking favorites. Like, for anything. He is scared that he will upset the chocolate ice cream if he says vanilla. That might be more empath coming out, but let’s just say my kid is not the one to cheat at a game, then promise he didn’t. He’d either not cheat at all, or get so upset that he would tell on himself immediately. Hoping this serves me well in the teen years. Now, he’s still a little boy. He still tries to run a fib on us every now and then. Usually about screen time. Like that time he figured out a way to work around the child-lock and hack into YouTube for more screen time. Smart? Sure. Deceitful? Yes. We reminded him that people who are willing to lie about “dumb” stuff, are willing to lie about “big, important” stuff too. We used our President as an example. Now he says, “Geez, I don’t want to be like Trump!” I call that a win.

I could go on, but I’m probably boring you all. So instead I will plop down some adorable pics of Jackson through the years. All I can hope for, for this eleventh year and all the years after, is that my kid stays true to himself. Follows the path that calls to him. It might not be easy, but it should be constantly moving him forward, teaching him, pushing him. I hope that he appreciates all we do for him. I hope that he looks back at his crazy Momma one day and laughs at my blog (I do this all for him). I hope he appreciates the 900 photos I take of him, the stories I share (even though he rolls his eyes when I tell him), and that he remembers the love and learning along the way.

Cheers to Jackson Riker on your 11th birthday, baby! To many more wonderful years ahead.

Mommy