Six States in Fourteen Hours

Counting our home state of Georgia, we were in six states in fourteen hours yesterday. I’m tired, and a little cranky, but we’re headed to Toronto today, so a little Tim Horton’s and poutine and I’ll be all fixed up. Just watch.

We’ve been to each of these states before, but not all the cities we visited on the way from Atlanta to Buffalo last night. Our favorite “new to us” city was definitely Cincinnati! From the moment we rounded the corner and saw the skyline we were in love. Although the architecture reminded us of other Rust Belt cities, the bluffs overlooking the Ohio River were fantastic, and just different enough than say, Milwaukee. In fact, we liked the view so much we stopped for a picnic lunch at Eden Park, right near the conservatory, overlooking the old neighborhoods below.

Even with our leisurely lunch in Cincy, we were still able to gawk at Lexington, KY (and a lot of questions concerning Jockeys came up 🤔, still working on the answers) and we had plenty of time to make fun of The Ark Encounter while we passed it. Oh Kentucky, you’re an odd bird.

We passed quickly through Columbus, the Cleveland-area, and Lake Erie, PA (it was pitch black by 5:45 pm) trying to stay on course to Buffalo before The Anchor Bar closed. The Anchor Bar lays claim to being the home of Buffalo Wings! So I mean, that was a must-see (and eat) cause y’all know about me and buffalo wings, if not, well, now you know…

Last stop was our hotel on Grand Island, which set us up nicely for a jaunt over the border today, where we will be visiting Niagara Falls, Canada, and Toronto for the first time! We are all super excited!

So there you have it, the short version. Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York in a matter of hours. And that’s just the first leg of our New Year’s trip. Whew! Wish us luck! More pics of Cincy below!

M.

Sliver of Hope

If you’re traveling Southeast on the Perimeter in Atlanta, somewhere between Chamblee and Tucker, right before you approach Spaghetti Junction, you can catch a glimpse, just a small sliver, of the giant Christmas tree atop Stone Mountain. You can see if for a second or two, at the convergence of I-85 and I-285. You have to look quickly or you’ll miss it. And if the sun is setting behind you, and it’s been a sunny, mild day in Georgia, and if the wind is somewhat still, and if the taillights and headlights are not on quite yet, then you can see the tree perfectly, sitting proudly atop the mountain.

Tree is a stretch. It’s really just a string of lights from the top of a tower, to the bottom. More like a teepee of lights. But it can be seen from miles away in any direction, and when you catch the first glimpse of it, it makes you warm and toasty, and it feels spectacularly like Christmastime in the city.

The better view is at Stone Mountain itself, but you have to go on a clear night. When we meandered over it had been rainy and overcast for a few days and the tree, from Stone Mountain Freeway, looked like a fireball on top of the giant monadnock. But on a clear night, nearer to sunset, with the right conditions and maybe a mug of hot cocoa, the tree lights up fantastically, reminding all around that it is indeed Christmastime, and that we are indeed in one of the biggest cities in the USA, but that we are together, a close community of love and light. And it makes you want to treat people better. And it makes you want to drive the Perimeter one more time. And it makes you remember how small, but how important you are. It’s just a sliver of hope, just a beacon in a crowded world, but it’s there shining bright for all to see.

Thanks Atlanta, for surprising me yet again, on our first Christmas here. Thanks for looking out for us, for making us feel like home, for reminding us that though we are small, we are mighty through you.

M.

Welp, That’s Over…

Listen, I love Christmas, but holy hell y’all, I’m ready to move on with my life. Well I was, until I peeked into my laundry room and saw the mountain of dirty laundry, looked at my to-do list, at our vacation itinerary, realized I have no idea where our passports are, that I don’t have a winter coat, and oh shit, I might need snow boots for New York. You think? Probably. I know my mommies are with me on this one, most of y’all anyway. Some y’all scare me with your year-round Christmas spirit, but most of us breathe a sigh of relief when the stockings have been hung, the cookies eaten, the wrapping paper in the trash can (it’s not recyclable, y’all because it is coated paper), and the house is back to kids playing with their new toys for 24 hours, before they are bored again. I know y’all agree with me because this bad boy showed up in my feed all day yesterday…

Me! Me! Me!

It’s the stress, for sure. The anxiety. All the memos I have to keep in my head. The secrets. Oh the secrets! Every year Jerimiah and I look at each other on December 22nd are we are like, “Do we just open them all now?!” Then we decide we better not, and we wait patiently. We do test runs with how it should all be. We move secret gifts from the creaky attic to more neutral spots throughout the house. We have lost presents.

It’s the worry over doing all the things. The viewing of Christmas lights, the visiting of Santa, and now they throw the Grinch on us, what is up with that?! I have to visit the Grinch now too! It’s the planning of the meal, it’s the constant barrage of family members asking if you will be “home.” “Yes,” my husband said to someone this season, “We will be home.” Our home. Georgia. You’re welcome to stop by. (You gotta set boundaries with family members like this y’all, or your Christmas spirit will be yanked from you. Have the conversation twice, then stop. Ignore the texts and the guilt, it’s not your fault, you’re doing your best. Yeah, I’m giving myself a pep talk here.)

It’s all over now. Well sort of. I’m still getting the guilt texts, but guess who doesn’t give two shits anymore, because I am in vacation planning mode. Which coincidently was part of our Christmas and anniversary gift to each other, a trip, somewhere we want to go. Somewhere we have never been before, for pure fun. Merry Christmas to us!

So, there it is. It’s over and you can breathe a sigh of relief. We made it another year. Another Christmas. Another round with Elf on the Shelf. Another meeting with Santa Claus. Another Christmas dinner. Another going from feeling like a shitty mom to the best mom, all in 12 hours. Oh Christmas, you’re the ultimate guilt trip.

Take a break today, y’all. Sit back, sip some wine, tell your kids to leave you alone for thirty minutes, turn your cell phone off, and pat yourself on the back because you made it. And that’s over. For the next 11 months.

M.

Christmas at the Goodnight House

When Jackson was born we decided we’d always spend Christmas at home. We aren’t into the lugging of gifts cross country, and the logistics of Santa visiting hotels, or relatives’ houses. We’ve always said our door is open to whomever would like to spend Christmas with us, and for several years we had grandparents come visit, and a couple of times friends stopped in a few days later, but for the last two years it’s been just the three of us, and Sir Duke, and while we missed our family (and enjoyed the pics they all shared from gatherings in the Midwest) we had another nice, little Christmas at home this year. Our first one in Georgia!

It’s a byproduct of living away from family, the quiet, small Christmases. And having a child who’s still young enough to lay out milk and cookies for Santa helps. Maybe, as we move into the teen years we can travel more, but until then, although I know our family misses us at Christmastime, we will be at our house, but our door is always open. Just be warned, it goes something like this:

This year Jackson woke us up at 6:00 am on the nose, and we dug in. Santa brought great gifts, including a new Nerf gun which exploded into a full-on Nerf Gun war between the three of us, running and screaming through the house while being pelted with rubber and foam. Ahh, Christmas morn.

We played with cars, we played with Jackson’s new video drone (which he promptly flew into one of the giant Georgia Pines that overlook our house). Sir Duke and I dozed in the afternoon, while the boys played a new Lego game on the PS4.

It was nearly 70 degrees, so we grilled steaks and shrimp for Christmas dinner, while Jackson took aim at his new Red Ryder targets, and Duke chased a brand-new tennis ball. We anticipated our upcoming trip over dinner, while we reminisced about the last time the three of us were in NYC together. After dinner we listened to my new record player (my old one had died), played with cars some more, than ended the night with a chapter of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (four more to go)! And mind you, we did this all in matching pajamas. Ha!

By 10:30 we were all beat, including Sir Duke Barkington who had quite the assortment of gas-inducing treats. Whew! However, it was the merriest of Christmases at the Goodnight house. We hope it was the same for you!

M.

Ps… My favorite present was an antique globe for my office. 😍

Merry Christmas!

My best friend texted me from 833 miles away, and she said Merry Christmas! Then she asked if I wanted to come stay the night at her house. I said sure! Said I’d be over with all my new toys. Then I smiled. I hope she did too, remembering all those years that we did that. All those years that on Christmas morning we’d excitedly call each other. We’d say Merry Christmas, cause our moms expected us to, then we’d jump into, “I got a new doll!” Or “I got a Walkman!” Rachel always got the cool shit, the “in” toy, while I usually got the Blue-Light Special from K-Mart, but still it was exciting. Then at some point, my mom and I would load up the car for Christmas dinner, usually at my sister’s house, and Rachel and her family would meet us there, and we’d eat, and eat. We’d watch A Christmas Story because TBS played it on a continuous loop all day, then we’d nap, or play Nintendo or PlayStation or whatever new games one of the kids got. Then we’d start pleading for our mom’s to let us have a sleepover. It was all just tradition, they’d stopped fighting it years before. My bag was already packed. I’d already stuffed all my new toys into a suitcase or a trash bag and they were in the trunk of my mom’s car. Then after dinner we’d load up Rachel’s mom’s car with all the stuff I brought and head to their house, where Rachel and I played until we would pass out with all our new toys, while attempting to keep her younger brother and sister out of her room, with little success. For years we did this. I don’t have a lot of Christmas memories that lack my best friend.

While ruminating this week on Christmas Magic, and what I want my own child to remember from his childhood, I’m a little sad. He doesn’t load up the car on Christmas afternoon and head to the family feast. The family feast happens at our home, alone, just the three of us. My son has never lived in Kansas. He’s never known the chaotic, albeit comforting, feeling of having a house full on Christmas morning. He doesn’t have a Rachel of his own.

But I still hope he remembers the magic. The Elf on the Shelf causing mayhem all month long. Tracking Santa on NORAD, watching Home Alone for the third time while we bake cookies for Santa and chop the carrots for the reindeer. He may not have the big family I did, but he still has the magic, and I think that’s important.

Meanwhile, Rachel is in Kansas with her husband and kids. I’m in Georgia with mine. We’re both fast approaching the age when the bags under our eyes don’t go away, and we suspect dairy is messing with our stomachs. We aren’t playing with dolls anymore, aren’t arguing over who got the better make-up set (who has time for make-up?!). Instead we are finding ways to laugh, to make time for each other, to remember the magic, even if it’s just a few times a year, 833 miles away.

Thanks for being part of my Christmas Magic for so many years, Rachel. I forgive you for breaking my Slinky that one time, and yeah, your Baby Alive was way cooler than my Baby Shivers. But it never mattered, it was just the time with my best friend that was important. Sure glad we have those memories to go back to.

Wishing you all a fun-filled day of new toys, love, friendship, and Christmas magic!

M.

Here’s some pics of Rachel and me through the years!

Christmas Magic

I read an article the other day. Woah, let me back up. I read a headline the other day and it said something about, “Moms Manufactor Christmas Magic, and It’s Stressing Us Out.” At first I was all, “That’s dumb” and I moved on, then, as I was struggling to get my kid excited about riding the Pink Pig at Macy’s (whole other post) and he was dragging his feet talking about, “Mall Santa’s aren’t the real deal” and “I wish we could go to Charlotte to see the Speedway lights,” I was like, “OMIGOD WHY DO I EVEN DO THIS?!” Then I remembered the article headline and suddenly it made total fucking sense.

If you’re like me, you hold in your toots until you are in the safety of your own home, and you are determined to ensure that your family has the best holiday experience ever. Every. Single. Year. Even if that means killing yourself in the process. This is something we do for our children because our moms did it for us. That’s the real fucking tradition here, y’all, moms stretching ourselves so thin that we undoubtedly come down with walking pneumonia by February 1st. Just in time for Valentine’s Day.

So why do we do it? First answer is, if we don’t who will? Like for real. Is your husband gonna put everyone into the car to drive from neighborhood to neighborhood to see the lights? Is he going to bake 1000 cookies and be calm and helpful when royal icing is dropping in giant globs on the floor? Who is going to wrap all the presents? Who is making the detailed lists about which stocking gets what, and how many Dunkin’ gift cards you need for your kids’ 86 teachers? You, that’s who. Us. Mommies.

We plan the classroom parties. We buy the tins to put all the baked goods in for the mailman, and the whole fucking cul-de-sac. We say, “Time to go caroling!” and “Pajamas and Christmas movie marathon today!” And guess what the kids remember from year to year, that shit. The shit you started to do cause it seemed fun one year or you remembered you mom doing it with you and now, even though they are rolling their eyes at you one minute, the next they are all, “But Mommy, we haven’t watched Santa Paws III!” Jesus, I can’t watch another movie about a dog saving Christmas. I can’t, y’all.

But then, just when we think we can’t take anymore. Just when we are like, “Imma kill that motherfucking Elf on the Shelf,” your child looks up at you, wraps his arms around your waist, and says, “I love Christmas!” And you’re like, “Fuuuuuuuck!” Then you run to Kroger in your pajamas at midnight because you forgot the damn carrots for the reindeer.

I guess I want to say this: Thank you Mommies. Thank you for spreading this Christmas magic. Thank you for the sheets of cookies, and the OCD way you hover over the icing bags as they decorate what is supposed to be the Grinch, but it looks like a pile of baby throw up. Thank you for saying, “Oh honey, it’s the Grinch! He’s amazing!” Thank you for instilling the gift of giving this time of year. Thanks for letting your Elf on the Shelf make a big-ass mess in your kitchen. Thanks for reading The Night Before Christmas, and taking rides on the Polar Express. Thanks for the Christmas songs, for the hot cocoa, for the visits to Santa with the screaming babies and the ambivalent pre-teens. Thanks for keeping that Christmas magic alive for one more year, because I hear it doesn’t last forever, and you’re doing it, Momma. You’re doing it. Enjoy this season.

And thanks to my own mom, who somehow kept the magic going until I was in middle school. She always made me feel special and so excited that I couldn’t sleep for a week. Thanks to all the mommies, and friends, and siblings, aunts, cousins, and daddies who help us. We appreciate it more than you know. And thanks for the gifts of chocolate and wine, it really does help.

Let’s go forth today Mommies and kick some Christmas ass! One more day. We got this. And if you’re running out today for that one thing you forgot, remember to check and make sure you have:

1. The stocking stuffers (did you get treats for the dog’s sock?)

2. The cookies, milk, and carrots

3. The big “showstopper” Santa gift

4. A full bottle of wine

5. Melatonin so you can pass out at 8:00 pm, since you’ll be up a 4:30 am

6. Coffee

7. A charged cell phone for pics

8. Cinnamon Rolls

9. Baileys (for your coffee)

10. Cute pajamas for that Christmas morning photo sess

May the odds be in your favor. May peace be with you. You’re doing great.

❤️

M.

Eleven years of Manufacturing Christmas Magic! Sparkle on!

I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't

We love the Home Alone movies. Specifically the first and second. The third one was way off brand and Jerimiah and I cringe thinking about it, but Jackson loves all of them. So every year we watch Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York on back-to-back nights, to fully appreciate all the fun, little nuances of the very cheesy movies from our own childhood. This year Jackson was a bit different because for the first time Jackson spent a lot of the movie asking questions like, “What ever happened to Macaulay Culkin?” and “Was Donald Trump a movie star before he was the President?” which were downers, he also took enjoyment in saying things like, “You know, if this were real life, Marv would totally die in this scene.” Shit, y’all, he’s his dad’s son for sure.

Among some of the conversations that the movies sparked this year was the question of the movies within the movies, Angels with Filthy Souls and Angels with Even Filthier Souls, which are really just a fucking delight, y’all, and I will fight you over that. Anyhoo, Jackson wanted to know if they were real, and he also wanted to know what a Tommy Gun was, which sparked the most interesting, most off the wall, most awkward of all Christmas conversations because, you guys, what actually is a Tommy Gun?

I mean I knew what they were, of course. I knew they were machine guns, and that they had round barrels, but I wondered, and so did Jackson, did they still make them? Why were they a thing? I assumed it had something to do with prohibition, which was right in the sense that a lot of mobsters during that time used them. That led to even better question, “Why did they outlaw alcohol, but not Tommy Guns?” Also, “Why are machine guns still allowed to people who have not been trained to use them?” Also, “Can I have an AK-47 when I turn 18?” Holy shit, yeah. No. No, I mean. Yes, he asked that. No, is the answer. Unless of course he lives in one of the states that currently allows 18 year olds to buy an AK-47, and trust there are several of them. Uh oh, I’m about to get all sorts of off track. Beware.

Listen, I don’t want to put a damper on the holidays for y’all, but this got me thinking. Which got me talking to Jerimiah, and got him Googling and the shit he found was alarming. No, they don’t make Tommy Guns anymore, which were invented by a man named John T. Thompson in 1918 for military use, specifically trench warfare. It started to get picked up by civilians for use during prohibition, and was used exclusively in WWII as well. It was used by the military until the 70s, then better guns came around, but Thompson was not a happy dude when he realized how dangerous his guns could be in the wrong hands. Neither was the government, so in 1934 Congress passed the National Firearms Act, which required anyone selling a submachine gun to register with the ATF. The NFA is still in use today, though as we can see, it is sorely antiquated and needs some more common sense laws attached to it. I mean, come on, man. Come the fuck on.

Here’s the other thing, Tommy Guns halted production and had a law made about them because of their shear power. Tommy Guns held 30-or 50-round magazines in their drum and could potentially shoot between 600 and 725 rounds per minute and the government deemed that a problem. In comparison, an AK-47 can hold 30 rounds and has the potential to fire 600 rounds per minute, while the AR-15 tops out around 45 rounds per minute. And guess what, I could drive my happy-ass over state lines today and come back in less than an hour with an AK-47. No mental health checks. No criminal history checks. No nothing. Of course this is a state-by-state ruling and Florida is fucking cray, we already know that, but come on, common sense gun laws anyone? In some of these states an 18-year-old can buy a semi-automatic in less than an hour, but when a woman wants to have an abortion she has to wait six weeks, see a physician and a mental health professional, and potentially hear the embryo’s heartbeat. And don’t even say some shit like, “Apples to oranges, Missy.” Nah, dog. Nah.

Here’s something fun. We have a nephew who is in the military. He was signed, sealed, and deliver to the Army by the time he was 17. At 18-years-old he was prepping for his first deployment, and when he drove back home to the midwest to see family before he left he was not allowed, by law, to have with him his 9mm pistol, which he carries on long road trips alone. He could have, however, an AK-47 if he wanted one. Or any kind of rifle, shotgun, you name it. So a young man, trained in tactical warfare, is not allowed to carry a 9mm, but sure he can load up his Jeep with hundreds of AK-47s if that’s what he wants to do. What the actually fuck, y’all? When you hear the phrase, “Common Sense Gun Laws” that is some of the shit we are talking about.

Whew. I flew off track didn’t I? I said that was gonna happen, huh? Yeah, it’s Christmastime and y’all don’t want to be learning about gun safety, I know, I know, but my son has a Red Ryder BB gun, and he just started playing Call of Duty with his daddy and this is some real shit we have to talk about, and you should all probably consider too. And yeah, give some thought to that whole waiting for an abortion, but no need to wait to buy a gun thing. I mean, an 18-year-old girl, pregnant and alone, could potentially kill herself and her unborn embryo in one shot, and the conservatives are apparently totes fine with that, because you know, that’s her right to gun ownership.

Whew. Okay. Whew.

So yeah, uhh, the Home Alone movies. Haha. They are funny. So. Funny.

Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animals. And a Happy New Year.

M.

Christmastime Indolence

A general sense of indolence takes over this time of year. For me anyway. The last few days before Christmas. Whew, it’s difficult for me to get it together. I’m usually ahead of the game, having gotten all my shopping, decorating, and wrapping done a week or so before, then I sit, plant my ass firmly on the sofa for three or four days. We all do it. The four of us (I’m including the dog here) all breathe in a long sigh of relief. The parties, the meetings, the lunches, the chaos if over. We watch Christmas movies, we eat cheese and crackers, we bake cookies, and we play board games, Monopoly, Risk, Bunny Kingdom, Gin Rummy, Life, you name it, we play it. And we sit, did I mention that we sit?

Yesterday, the day of the Winter Solstice, the day of our wedding anniversary, was our first official day of pure laziness. We did a lot of nothing. We didn’t strain ourselves, except maybe when I sat up quickly to grab the last piece of cheese off the charcuterie board before my husband. Our mothers both called us to wish us a happy anniversary. They asked what our big plans were for the day. Monopoly and Home Alone 1 and 2. Those were our big plans.

Today we watched Die Hard because yes it is a Christmas movie. Tomorrow? Who knows! Maybe A Christmas Story and Exploding Kittens. Maybe, maybe we will venture out at 8:00 pm, not showered, in pajamas, to look at Christmas lights. On Christmas Eve we might bake some cookies. We might bake them, and put them in festive tins, and deliver them to our all our neighbors in the cul-de-sac. Maybe. I wouldn’t want to overdo it.

Then on Christmas, well, I might not shower until after my second nap. But I’m sure I will shower, eventually. And steak and shrimp are on the dinner menu that day, which means someone, ahem, someone has to fire up the grill. 1, 2, 3, Not me!

I do love this time of year, the time of year doing nothing with my husband, our son, and our pup. We don’t take it for granted, of course. And we know that we are lucky. Not everyone can afford indolence this time of year, and ours ends on December 28th when we load up the family sleigh and head on a whirlwind eight-day vacation, but until then, well until then we plan on finishing Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince, and maybe, maybe three or four more Christmas movies, you know, if we have the time between all the snacking and the napping.

Here’s to an easy holiday, enjoying family time, and napping. May you all have the ability to go forth in napping today!

Happy Holidays!

M.

Six Million Minutes

Today my husband and I have been married for roughly six million minutes. I gotta be honest, five minutes with me can be difficult, ask around. I can be selfish, and whiny, and incredibly hard-headed. I cry a lot. I have low days and high days, and I never really know which it will be until I’ve had my first cup of coffee. And lately, Christ, lately I’ve been battling a case of the killer blues, mild anxiety, and a bad bout of insomnia wherein I creep around the house at night, making small noises and whispering, “Ope, ‘scuse me” to the dog when we bump into each other prowling, scouring, for scraps of dinner.

Six million minutes, give or take a few. Jesus, that’s a lot of minutes of me. And he’s still here. Still buzzing around my ear telling me I’m pretty, even when I am braless, in an oversized “granny” sweater and shorty-shorts that don’t fit anymore, and I haven’t shaved my legs in weeks.

Six million minutes, give or take a few, and he’s still giving me back rubs when I ask, pretending that he isn’t bothered when my rough feet brush up against him at night, still smiling when I scream, “FUUUUUUCK!” after I’ve dropped the ketchup bottle again, and this time it exploded.

Six million minutes, give or take a few, and my husband is still reminding me that I am capable and smart. He’s still reading everything I write. Still laughing at the pictures I take of our son sleeping, or our dog sleeping, or himself, sleeping.

Six million minutes, give or take a few, and he still laughs at the jokes he’s heard 1,000 times. He doesn’t even stop me to tell me that he’s heard that one, or seen that meme, or read that part. He just smiles and nods his head while I tell him again about that one time I mixed up olive oil for coconut oil.

I’ve had six million minutes, give or take a few, to be the wife of this lovely man. To this man who bestows gifts upon me for no reason. Who says things like, “No, seriously, what do YOU want to do tonight?” Who takes me on trips around the world. Who loves me unabashedly. Whose only goal in this life is to provide the best life for our son and me.

Six million minutes I’ve had. And it’s tough sometimes, I’ll admit. Because that’s what marriage is. There are blue skies, there are storms. Believe me, we’ve had our fair share of both. But for the last six million minutes, walking beside this man, I know I can weather any of those storms. And I know, know for a fact, that there are always rainbows afterward. I’ve learned that in the last six million minutes.

Thank you, my dear. For being a man among men. For always doing what is right, even if it is tough. For standing up for those who need standing up for. For listening. For loving. For understanding, or saying you do, even if you don’t. Thank you, my dear for being worth every minute. Here’s to millions and millions more. I’m the luckiest.

Cheers.

M.

Making Friends

Over the weekend we went to the Ponce City Market in Midtown. Ponce City Market is a really cool building reuse. It used to be THE Sears and Roebuck in Atlanta, and now it’s this hip shopping center, with restaurants, offices, lofts, and a mini-amusement park on the 10th floor roof. It’s connected to The Beltway, it has awesome artwork, and Santa and the Grinch were not here there to visit with. Honestly, this trip deserves its own blog post, and I will get around to it, but today I wanted to share a story from that night.

On the rooftop at “Skyline Park” Jackson met a kid about his age on the “Tower” ride, which is essentially just one of those rides where you get buckled into a seat with a partner, then use the rope to hoist yourselves up even further into the sky. It was a big hit. After riding the tower about ten times, they switched to the three-story slide. All the rides and games are unlimited for a $15 bracelet, and we spent a total of about five hours there. When you factor in a meeting with Mr. Claus, ice skating, and checking out all the cool artifacts in the old building, Jackson was beat by the time we left.

But, right before we headed for the old service elevator to take the slow ride back down, Jackson got this look of panic in his eyes. He sort of froze where he was and looked nervously at us. I thought for a moment that he’d lost his prizes that he’d worked so hard to win at the “Break A Plate” game, so I quickly checked my purse to see if they were still there. They were. We asked him what was up.

He was running his palms together as he said, “I dunno. I just… Umm… I feel like I want to give my new friend my phone number, just in case, I don’t know, he’s ever what’s to meet up here again.” Jerimiah and I looked at each other for a split second of indecision and then said yes! Go give him your number.

Jackson has his own phone. I know, I know. He’s 11 and that’s too young and your kids won’t have a phone until they are 18 and okay, yeah right, good luck with that. But seriously, he has it because my anxiety, as we all know, is through the roof at times and when he wants to stay at home alone while I run to the grocery store, or when he goes to a friend’s house to play, or even when he just walks a couple aisles over at Target, I need to know I can call him. (Or at least track his phone.) So yeah. We do let him give his number out to kids, mainly friends at school who also have phones, but this was the first time we allowed him to give his number out to a new friend, and honestly it was a bit scary, but the lesson was worth it.

Listen, it’s hard as hell to make friends. No one can tell you that more than me, an introverted, awkward, 30-something who hates small talk, but loves a good “My hamster died when I was 10…” story. And I’m nervous, always have been and always will be, to give my number out to new people. I’ve felt what Jackson was feeling a gazillion times, even just exchanging numbers with the other room parents. It’s scary for some of us, y’all. And he was nervous, but Dad and I said to go for it.

So he nervously walked back outside to the games to find his friend. He asked me to come with, so I did. We wrote his number on a receipt paper, and Jackson approached the boy. He nervously tapped him on the shoulder and the boy turned around and smiled. I was out of earshot, but I could see what happened. The boy took the paper, smiled, and waved as Jackson ran back to me, then the boy stood up and stuck the paper into his back pocket, as Jackson turned around to give one last wave.

On the way down on the elevator Jackson was still nervous. You could tell he went way out of his comfort zone, and he was replaying what happened. We let him have a few moments, then he smiled and said, “He took my number.”

“Maybe he will call,” I said. “Or maybe not, but you were brave dude.”

“Thanks,” he said, and he rode the elevator down in anxious smiles.

Listen, making friends isn’t too hard when you’re a kid, but as you age it gets so much harder. And most of the time it’s because we are so worried that someone will reject us, that we just don’t try. We gotta stop doing that, y’all. Relationships are worth the try. And maybe Jackson’s new friend will never call. But he did something brave. Something that scared him. And he came out the other side. And that’s a win in our book.

To something brave, y’all.

❤️

M.

Coffee and Wine

Twice in the last month someone has told me that they have a hard time appreciating certain traits about me. In the first instance, someone told me that my kindness makes them feel awkward. In the second, someone told me that my openness, my honesty, makes them uncomfortable. As soon as I was told these things, both times, I did the very Missy thing of telling myself that I was dumb. That I am just too much for people, and that I need to reel it back in. I convinced myself that these people did not like me. Even so, I decided to stop doing what made them uncomfortable. I would not be generous with my time and resources, I would not be open and honest anymore. Fine, Universe, I get it! That lasted about two days.

Look it. I spent three years of my adult life, like recently y’all, in the past five years, trying to “fit in,” to belong, to a group of people. I went so far as to get manicures and pedicures once a month, highlight my hair, host party after party at my house, pretend to like shit that, hand to whateverGod, I just don’t like. All because I thought if I act this way, if I shield myself from my truths, if I pretend to like these things, then maybe I will have friends. And maybe I will belong to something bigger than myself. It’s like I have never even read a damn Brene Brown book, y’all. I lost all sense of myself in a sad, half-assed attempt to be accepted. That backfired, as it should have, but here I am, a couple years later trying to piece myself back together with whatever I have lying around while you guys watch. It’s mainly wine. The stuff I have lying around. It’s wine.

Here it is: I am open and honest. I hate small talk, which means when we sit down for coffee I want to know what is bothering you. What is making you happy right now. I want to know if you sex like is good, if your children are giving you shit, if your mother is as crazy as mine. I don’t care how you feel about the change in seasons, or whether the Christmas parade had too much fake snow. I want to know about you. About your past, present, and future. What are you goals? Where did you grow up? Do you go back and visit, does that place define you, do you want some wine? These are the things I am curious about, and I will tell you all of this about me, no need to ask.

I go out of my way to make others have a better day. Strangers even! Smiling and compliments go a long way. I want to do it. It makes me happy to make other people happy. To smile. To laugh. To help them sort out something that needs sorting out. Emotions. Heartaches. Trauma. That tub of old Christmas decorations, I don’t care. I will help you if you need it. It’s a part of who I am. But people are suspicious. Y’all are so damn suspicious. But I get it. It’s harder and harder to find people in this world who will drop everything they are doing to come help you paint that room you need painted, in exchange for adult conversation. But I’m here! Right here! Just give me a ring. And, you guessed it, some coffee or wine.

I really, really, really feel like that is something we are missing today. I really feel like we are missing real connections. And I think more people are open to this realness than we give them, or ourselves, credit for. Maybe I’m being optimistic, but I think we crave this connection. It’s just that we are so damn scared to take the leap because we don’t want to look cookoo-bananas in front of people we barely know, or people who love us, or admire us. Our friends, our neighbors, our family. We want to be that person we always are. That solid, strong, stable person. It just isn’t feasible. And honestly, I won’t stand for it anymore.

Those two people who told me that I make them uncomfortable, they don’t hate me. In fact, I think they like me. I think they like me as I am, and I think they just felt called to be open and honest with me because I put out that vibe. Maybe that person who told me that my openness was making them uncomfortable didn’t realize it, but by telling me how they felt at that moment, they were being open. And I do put out the vibe of wanting the realness. But honestly, when someone gives it to me I freak out. Ha. Yeah, that seems about right. But I will work on not freaking the fuck out anymore when you bring the realness, if you promise to bring the damn realness. And no, I don’t mind listening to you talk about the weather for a few minutes as part of a warm-up. I might even nod my head and say, “Sure, sure, all this rain,” but just know that I’m searching your eyes for the first opportunity to dig in, and I’ve already got the coffee brewing and the wine uncorked.

Let’s try to be more real with each other, y’all. More open. More honest. Kind. Generous. And if that isn’t your thing, then I understand. We just aren’t meant to be, and that’s okay too. There are a lot of people out there who want to talk about the weather, it just isn’t me. ❤

M.

I Would Drive 15,000 Miles…

And I would drive 15,000 more, because I have driven 15,000 miles this year and this isn’t how the song goes. But you did try to sing it to the Proclaimers for a minute, right?! Sure you did. And also, this is no joke. My husband, son, and I have driven 15,000 miles this year, and as you know, the year is not yet over. Look it, we are Midwesterners, so if I’m being honest 15,000 isn’t that much for us. You learn young in the Midwest, that if you want to see the “cool” shit, visit the “neat” places, you have to travel. And no one has money to be hopping on airplanes all the damn time, so you drive. Wanna go to a beach, one on an ocean? You be driving. Wanna go to a cool theme park? That’s a drive. Wanna see some historical shit? Some real, salt-of-the-Earth, Mother Nature, God’s Country type shit? You be driving. Want some culture? Driving. Damn, you just want to see a mountain and maybe snap a pic of an elk or something cool like that? That’s at minimum eight hours in the car. So, yeah, 15,000 miles ain’t no thing, but we aren’t stopping there. Jerimiah just booked our hotels for our New Years Eve vacay, which we will be adding another, ohhh, roughly 3,000 more miles to our total for the year. Don’t worry, I’m SURE I will have stuff to tell y’all about when I get back from Canada, Upstate New York, and New England in the dead of winter… (Note: All the red below are links to what I wrote while I was on these many trips, or just something that happened in that place, if you want to go back and reminisce with me!)

So where have we been this year to be racking up those kinda miles? Well, we started off the year with a road trip to Washington, DC where we participated in the Women’s March with friends. That was some wonderful, scary, sad, frustrating, empowering stuff. It was the week of the government shutdown, so there wasn’t much to do around town, but we did make it to the Holocaust Museum with the kids. Then there were two trips “home” and home here means the Midwest. We went to Kansas in May and then back to Missouri and Oklahoma in June. Then there were the four or five trips we made to Atlanta from Charlotte to find a house, enroll Jackson in school, etc. Then there was the actual move from Charlotte to Atlanta. And there were the subsequent trips back this year to see friends in Charlotte.

Then there was the trip to Texas.

Then there were all the trips back and forth to and from Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Coastal Louisiana all summer long. AHHHHH!

These miles do not count all the miles that we flew, and there were several thousands of those too. Mainly Jerimiah and his crazy work schedule this year, but also a trip I took out to Arizona to see one of my best friends.

At one point, six months into living in our new house in DeKalb County, Georgia (pronounced Dee Cab, not Dee Cobb for you Midwesterners) we counted up the actual number of nights that the three of us had been home together and the findings were not good. Not good at all. Meanwhile, we have earned so many airline and hotel points that our next vacation to anywhere, is actually free. That’s a lot of miles and points, y’all. Too many, really.

We aren’t normally this busy. In fact, we are homebodies, I know that is hard to believe, but we prefer to be at home. We prefer our own beds. Jesus, it took me months to pick out my bed and I LOVE it. And I like my own bathroom and well, just my own shit, you know? But, if you always stay where you are, you will never get anywhere. So we go. We travel, we move when we need to in order to better ourselves. We linger in new places for a few days, we see new sights, meet new people. We are travelers. Lucky to be able to do it, excited about what is around the next corner. But coming home is always nice too.

So there you have it, 15,000 miles worth of traveling so far this year, hoping to make it to 18,000, and hoping to add to our experiences, our fun, our love for our country, our friends, our family, and the world. Thanks for sharing in our adventures!

M.

Hot Tub Mouse

Remember that mouse I found in the grill a few weeks back? The one that we were pretty sure was living in the crack between the hot tub and the patio stairs? Sure you do! We named him Mickey, and Jackson would throw bits of popcorn in between the hot tub and the stairs so Mickey could survive. He was sort of like a pet. Anyway, turns out old Mickey wasn’t living in between the hot tub and the stairs, turns out he was living IN the house, and turns out he died in an inhumane trap that the people before us must have set and he’d been dead for about a week before we found him. Turns out Mickey the Mouse was a little mooch and I’m not saying he got what he deserved, but I’m not saying he didn’t either. Cause he did have a chance at freedom…

A week before Thanksgiving I was out grabbing some last minute items when Jerimiah called to tell me a fun story. He had been working in his makeshift office (his office is being renovated so he’s been working from home and since I have the official “office” he had to make one out of the Lego table in the family room. He’s fine, no tears for him. Le sigh.) Anyway, the family room is downstairs, and so is that weird, catch-all room we call “The Cat Room” because it’s small, mainly for storage, and the people before us had a cat and the ADT Alarm has it saved as “The Cat Room,” so we ran with it. The Cat Room has a door that goes out onto the patio, which of course is where the hot tub is, and where we thought Mickey was living.

Ahem, so on this day Jerimiah heard a noise. A funny, little noise. He thought I was upstairs doing something, so he ignored it. Then it happened again, only this time I wasn’t at home. So he went to investigate. That is when he met Mickey, face to face, Mickey’s back legs caught in a trap. Mickey was still alive, so Jerimiah grabbed some gloves, took Mickey out of the trap and set him free! Free, I tell you! In. Our. Backyard. When he told me I was all, “Okay. Umm, do you think he will come right back to where he was, since you know, warm house and all?” And Jerimiah was confident that no, he would not. After all, Mickey was a smart mouse. He was confident, until the smell came a week later.

I was starting to pull out the Christmas decorations, which I keep in The Cat Room because honestly, what else do you put in there? And I smelled something so pungent that I knew it could only be one thing.

“Something has died in The Cat Room,” I told Jerimiah. He scoffed at me and said something like, “Probably not.” So I ignored him, sprayed Lysol everywhere and let him work it out himself. I have to do this sometimes. He’s a proud guy, y’all. Sometimes I just have to say the thing, the truth, then let him rail against it, then let him stew, then allow him time to realize that yes, I am right and then he usually admits defeat and fixes the problem. Only this time it didn’t take too long, because he walked downstairs and was hit by the smell.

Turns out I was partially right. Mickey had died in another inhumane trap set by the people before us, but it wasn’t in The Cat Room, it was in the small crawl space under the stairs where the water heater is. Mickey had died in The Cat Room Adjecent. How long he had been there, I don’t know. That’s a lie. It was about a week. Because I am sure that the day Jerimiah “saved” him, he ran right back into the house as I suspected. But I let Jerimiah have this win. That’s important sometimes.

So there you have it. The story of Mickey the Dead Mouse. That’s what you asked about, yeah?

M.

East Middle School

I’ve been staring at this picture for a long time now. Months, actually. For months this picture has been on my desktop. I found it while I was researching historical buildings in my hometown (don’t ask), and I snatched it up because this building doesn’t exist anymore. It’s gone. Bulldozed. It’s just an empty lot there now and whenever I am back in Kansas I pass it, and a million memories come flooding back from that piece of land on the corner of 4th and Chestnut. Some of the memories are not even my own. They belong to my older sisters, friends, people who went to school in this building eons before I ever stepped foot in it.

The building was East Middle School when I was there in the mid-90s, but before that it was East Junior High, and before that it was Leavenworth Senior High, the first public high school in Leavenworth. And the more I look at it this picture, the more it conjures up, and the more sad I become. This was one heck of a school. Sure there was a tornado tunnel in the basement. And sure ceiling tiles routinely fell on us when we were in gym class. And even sure, sure, there were rats, but man, oh man, this school meant a lot to me. It meant a lot to a lot of people, and now it’s just gone.

I’m not sad of course to see the building gone. It was time for upgrades that the city couldn’t afford. So the church next door bought it, and even they couldn’t afford the upgrades, so eventually it was bulldozed. I’m sad in the way you get sad when you attach memories, deep, nostalgic, childhood memories to a place. A building. A room. A town. And then that place leaves. Or maybe you leave. And it feels like a betrayal. Even though I left this school, this community, this town, this state twenty years ago, I still feel betrayed, and also guilt, because betrayal is only one part of this mixed bag.

There was another empty field a block from where this one is now. It was owned by East Middle School and it was a regular part of our day to walk to the field for kickball games, or gym class, or games of baseball after school if you could scrounge up enough kids. But where this school was located, right in the heart of Leavenworth, across from City Hall, a couple of blocks from “Downtown,” across from the unemployment office, and next to the only pay-what-you-can walk in clinic in town, well, it wasn’t exactly what you would call a safe area. In fact, many times on the walk to our field, we would pass people smoking out of balconies, yelling things down to us. Our gym coach would tell us to ignore them. She’d tell all 30 or so of us middle school girls to walk in pairs, to ignore the looks from the old men shuffling by on the way to the senior center. We ignored the men and women, still drunk from the night before, arguing on stoops, about whether or not one of them had come home the night before. We ignored the racist gravity scribbled outside the little Korean grocery store, with the neon signs, inviting, but not overly welcoming. Today I wince as I remember, but back then, back then it was just part of this life. These memories serve me well sometimes. A reminder. These memories didn’t mean too much to me back then, but they are becoming more precious as the years drag on.

Once, the whole seventh grade walked to the gym lot, which is now a Domino’s Pizza, to set off rockets we had made in science class. It was a sticky-hot, midwestern day, but the blue sky and the clean air conjured up a song, so we sang. We walked down the cracked sidewalks, around the fire hydrants, past the Section 8 apartment complex, and through the open field across from the public library and we spontaneoulsy sang, “Home, home on the range. Where the deer and the antelope play. Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”

We sang and we laughed. We ran around the field before the teachers calmed us. We yelled at passing cars. We listened for horns blaring. We blasted rockets into the air. We dreamed of what this life would one day be. I don’t think any of us envisioned an empty lot. Or a Domino’s pizza. Just blue skies as far as the eye could see.

M.

Christmas 1980-Something

I have a very distinct Christmas memory that floats in and out of my conscious thought every year. It’s 1988-ish. My oldest sister Khristi had just married and moved to Germany. It had to be near 1988, because my sister Belinda was at home. She was a senior in high school. She had feathered hair and wore a lot of stonewashed denim. Yes, there was a lot of denim, and an American flag on her bedroom wall, the kind you saw in Bruce Springsteen music videos, which seemed to be playing on repeat on our small, color television. It was Christmas Eve 1988-ish and all I wanted was a Popples. Maybe a Strawberry Shortcake doll, or maybe one of those big mats that you could neatly fold out onto the carpet and color. It was like a giant coloring book. I just knew Santa would bring me all of these things. I had been very good all year, albeit very sad at the loss of one sister, and the imminent loss of another.

It was Christmas Eve 1988-ish and my mother had been crying all day. She’d actually been crying for weeks now, I’d just lost track. Maybe I was trying not to see it. Maybe I’d been crying too. Crying when my mother cried. Crying when my sister cried. Crying when Khristi called from Germany. Crying when she didn’t. Time smushes together in moments of crying, when the weight of grief presses down on you.

It was Christmas Eve 1988-ish and I sat in front of the colored television with my hot cocoa, while my mother cried on the couch behind me. Belinda went out, maybe with her boyfriend. I sat in front of our small color television and watched Frosty the Snowman, the old Rankin/Bass version from 1969. You know the one I mean, “I suppose it all started with the snow. It was a very special kind of snow, you see. The kind that made the happy, happier. The giddy, giddier.” I occasionally looked toward my stocking hanging on the wall and willed it to be filled with all the things I wanted. I occasionally looked out the window for the first snow. For the package that was to arrive from Germany. For my sister who should be at home.

The package came late, later than I imagined it should have on Christmas Eve. It was a large box. Postmarked to my mother, from a place called Kitzingen. I didn’t know then that it was a town in Bavaria. That it was part of the Franconia geographical region. That it was the largest producer of wine in that region. I didn’t know anything about Germany back then, except that there was a wall, and a lot of angry people, and Bruce Springsteen was mad about the wall like a lot of other people. I didn’t know if my sister was mad too.

My mother had stopped crying. My sister Belinda came home, as if willed by the Bavarian package. They sat me down in front of the tree, and my mother opened the big box with a pair of scissors. She slowly reached inside and began to hand gift-wrapped boxes to my sister, who gave them to me, and I carefully placed them under the tree. Slowly our Christmas tree filled with gifts. More than I could ever remember before. And certainly more than there would ever be again.

That night I would go to sleep between my mother and sister, in my mother’s double bed, in the back of the house. The next morning, I would walk back down the long hallway, my sister on one side of me, and my mother on the other, all three holding hands. I would shake at the thought of what Santa had brought me. What presents were wrapped in German paper. What happiness, what giddiness awaited me. And for a moment I was happy. And for a moment I was safe, between my mother and my remaining sister. And for a moment it was the best Christmas ever.

M.

I got my Popple! And much, much more. That’s the color television, and that’s the big box from Germany.