Meeting the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.

Today seems like an appropriate day to share a little story of how Jackson was introduced to the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., first in Memphis, years later in Birmingham, then again in Atlanta. We’ve been fortunate to travel to these historical places, as well as many others, in Jackson’s first 11 years, and we always took the opportunity to speak truth to him, even when he was obviously too young to “get it.” Which was the case in both Memphis and Birmingham (the first times around), but recently he’s been more capable of understanding the way our country was several decades ago, and he’s starting to make some big connections to the world we live in today, like how things haven’t changed as much as we would have liked.

The first time Jackson heard of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and his important work, his life and his death, was in 2012. Jackson was three-years-old when this picture was taken outside the Lorraine Motel on the south side of Memphis.

That’s an amped up guy, who loved old cars, smiling at his grandma and daddy standing just outside the shot. He had no idea why we were there, what had happened there, or whom those cars belonged to, but he liked them. He fell in love with finned cars on that day, but he was far from grasping the complexities of what he was looking at, or the spot he was standing on. Still we tried to explain, hoping something would stick.

It was a mildly, warm spring day in Memphis the day we visited the Lorraine Motel, and it was my first time paying homage to the late Reverend Doctor as well. I remember the somberness that followed me around for the rest of the day. That is until my toddler bought a blow-up guitar at ten pm on Beale Street and showed us all how to get down. A reminder that it isn’t all bad.

Our next attempt at teaching our son about the important work of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and his many comrades, was during a trip to Birmingham a couple years later. We sat on the grass at the Kelly Ingram Park, formally West Park, and had lunch while we introduced racism to a wily four-year-old.

Kelly Ingram Park is directly across from the 16th Street Baptist Church in downtown Birmingham. In the 1960s it served as a gathering ground for large-scale protests led by the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and others like him. The church, of course, was the first “Colored Baptist Church” in Birmingham, and was infamously bombed in 1963 killing four young girls–Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair–and injuring 22 others. This was the first time, sitting in this lush, green grass, surrounded by the statues built to honor the Black community of Birmingham, that I realized the depth of what I was trying to talk to my son about. I worried it was too much, too soon. Frankly, I thought Jerimiah and I might be crazy. Extreme even. But when Jackson looked up at us and said, “People hate others because of the way their skin looks?!” I knew it was necessary. And I knew then, that something was sticking.

“I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction being considered an extremist.” – Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.

Letter from Birmingham Jail

The next time we would encounter the life and work of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was when we visited Atlanta for the first time in 2016, and then a couple years later, when we had the opportunity to move to Atlanta, a city rife with its share of racial division, yet home to the King family. We’ve learned so much about the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. since then, and about the people who supported and worked with him. About Rep. John Lewis, about Reverend Hosea Williams and Harry Belefonte, about the work they put into the Civil Rights Movement. We are so lucky to live in such history, fifteen miles from the King family home, from Ebenezer Baptist Church where Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. and his son lead worship for many years. Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. taking over in 1927, and his son becoming co-pastor in 1960 until his death in 1968. We’ve visited this landmark, the King family home, and the National Historical Park named after the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., and the King Center, where the King’s are buried, several times since 2016 and each time we have learned something new, and had some tough conversations with an ever-growing child who still occasionally has to grasp at what we are saying. But little by little, it’s sticking.

Today we honor the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. His life and his legacy. We honor those who fought alongside him. Those who peacefully protested and those who didn’t, because honestly, it was all necessary. We are not part of the Black community, but we strive everyday to be as educated, as kind, as accepting, as we can be. Because Black Lives Matter. And Black History Matters.

We want to lend our support to a fight that is still raging in our country. I’d love to say that an end is coming soon, but I don’t think it is. Instead, I put my faith in the next few generations. In my son’s generation. In the kids with extreme parents. With access to history. With open and loving hearts. We must remember that we have come far, but not far enough.

M.

Ghost Light

We are novice theatergoers. In fact, aside from supporting our friends in high school by dropping in on the plays they were in, we didn’t go to another play until Jackson was in kindergarten. Since then, and with the help of some friends, we have had the pleasure of not just watching plays and musicals, but actually being part of a school production of The Wiz Jr. Wherein Jerimiah helped out with the stage, I helped with costumes, and Jackson played both a flying monkey and a crow. Here, have a gander.

We’ve also seen countless plays, Jackson has taken theater classes at the wonderful ImagineOn School of Theater Training in Charlotte, and Jerimiah and I have seen both Kinky Boots (starring Wayne Brady) and The Play That Goes Wrong, on Broadway. Then a couple of weeks ago we found ourselves, along with Jackson, once again in NYC and we were lucky enough to be able to take him to his first Broadway show. It was fun and it was exciting, as many of you probably know, you never forget your first Broadway show! And what better show for him to see than The Lion King! You can read more about his experience in the link above.

He loved the show, was mesmerized by the cast, the puppets, the music, it all added up to a night of wonderful memories which we got to share with some of our best friends. But the coolest part, in my opinion, was the behind the scenes tour that we had after the show. Apparently a behind the scenes tour on Broadway isn’t as easy to get as at your local playhouse. In fact, you sort of have to know someone, who knows someone. Turns out we did. And we got to walk the wings of the legendary Minskoff Theater located at 1515 Broadway.

The Minskoff Theater is a 1,600 seat theater, much bigger than any other Broadway theater we’ve been in, in the heart of Midtown. It opened in 1973, with a revival of Irene starring Debbie Reynolds. Since then it has been home to Bette Midler’s Clams on the Half Shell Revue; Hello Dolly!, Cabaret, Sunset Boulevard, Fiddler on the Roof, and it was once home to the Miss Universe Pageant. But in 2006 The Lion King set up shop there, and it’s been home to it ever since.

Because we are novice theatergoers, as mentioned before, we learned quite a bit about the backstage area while we were on the tour. We learned, for example, the very real, very scary ways the props made it to the stage. If you have ever seen The Lion King you know there must be some feat of strength to get this done. Bertha, the giant elephant from the opening act, hangs from the rafters, for instance. Which both amazed and terrified me. We saw the boards on each side of the stage where notable celebrities and politicians sign there names when they’ve had their own private tour, and we even got to sneak into the pit below the stage, which is small and claustrophobic for a person like me, filled to the brim with what can only be hundreds of thousands (millions?) of dollars worth of musical equipment. But the story that stuck with me the most, was the story of the ghost light. If you’re a drama person, or a regular theatergoer, you probably already know the story, but this was new to me so I will share with you just in case.

As we were finishing up our tour the crew was running around shutting down lights, cleaning up the theater, putting all the props away, etc. And at one point when we were standing on the stage, just after Jackson did his “Simba” thing with his toy Simba (pic below) the lights shut off. “I guess we are done,” our tour guide said, and we made our way downstairs with him to grab his coat. But as we were leaving the stage I noticed one single light still on. I made a quizzical look and our friends said, “It’s the ghost light.”

The Ghost Light is a single, incandescent bulb left on the stage overnight to give a bit of light to the people still in the theater, mainly so they don’t fall into the open pit below the stage. But it gets its name because it’s believed that every theater has a ghost that haunts it. And the ghost can be destructive if you don’t appease it. Some theaters use the ghost light to allow the ghost to perform at night, so they don’t wreck havoc on the production. Others leave it on to scare away the ghosts, because after all, we know ghosts like the pitch black of night. I don’t know the particular reason the ghost light comes on in The Minskoff, aside from it being mandated by the Actors’ Equity Association, but I suspect it’s for ghostly reasons.

At the end of the night we took the subway back to our hotel and had milkshakes just after one a.m. at the Tick Tock Diner. Stood on our terrace at our New Yorker suite in the rain, and watched the Empire State Building change colors. I wondered about the Minskoff ghost and hoped it was getting all the stage time it needed.

M.

East Greenwich and The Providence Athenæum

If you’re like me, you prefer the Cheeto Puffs over the crunchies. And if you’re also like me, you adore a good library. We have a lot in common, huh? If you adore a good library, then you’re gonna want to run up to Providence, Rhode Island and spend an afternoon at The Providence Athenæum. It will fill your heart with gladness, take away all your sadness, ease your troubles, that’s what’ll do. It will, in fact, Rod Stewart your ass.

The Providence Athenæum is mere steps from the entrance to Brown University, with such notable alumni as, John D. Rockefeller Jr., a slew of Kennedys, Jeffrey Eugenides (please read Middlesex), Ted Turner, Horace Mann, and most importantly in our house, the reason the picture below was taken, Emma Watson AND John Krasinski.

But The Providence Athenæum is its own kind of wonderful. Our Rhode Island friends wanted to visit since they moved there over the summer, but they were waiting on the right people to visit with. Insert the Goodnights. (Heart swooning noises). The day we visited was a hectic day. Our first day in Rhode Island, and we had a lot to see. We’d had breakfast in their wonderful village of East Greenwich, in a diner inside of an old train car. The diner was called Jiggers and I had the delicious Rhode Island Johnny Cakes!

Then we walked around East Greenwich for a bit. We got to see the old Debters Prison and too many yachts and sailboats to count. We learned that there are two parts of East Greenwich. One side called The Hill and one side called The Harbor and where you live is how you know where you belong. It seemed to me that you either have a million dollar house on The Hill or an $800,000 on The Harbor, but I’m sure there’s more to it than that. And don’t worry, our friends live on The Harbor, which means they are riff-raff and not to be trusted. I think.

Essentially what I learned is that Rhode Island is a different beast. A nicer, more beautiful beast than anywhere else I’ve ever been. All that history. All the salt in the air. All the hills, all the harbors. I was more than impressed. Then they took us to The Providence Athenæum.

Listen, I’ve been in some cool libraries. I’ve been to the Boston Public Library. I’ve been in the reading room of the NYC Library (pic below) not to mention all the other cool, lesser known ones around the country (I like to stop at libraries, okay, geez leave me alone.) But The Providence Athenæum is now my favorite.

It’s not the size, although it is a perfect size. Small enough to fit in a quarter of a square block, but big enough (three floors), and with enough of an impressive collection to spend a whole day. It’s the accessibility, the welcoming nature of the place. Oh, and dogs are allowed, so there’s that. Before I get into the history of the place, here’s some a lot of pics for your viewing pleasure.

Okay, so why is The Providence Athenæum so freaking awesome? Great question! The history of the library goes like this. In 1753, Providence had a library called the Providence Library Company. They also had a second library, not connected to the Providence Library Company, called Providence Athenæum. They didn’t like each other, go figure (they were both managed by men, so…) In 1836 they agreed to dissolve both libraries and merge together as one, which is now known as The Providence Athenæum. They ended up merging their collections, which was a great idea, and by 1850 they were the library in Providence.

In 1872 the library hired its first female employee, an assistant librarian named Mary Angell, and she started work on the card catalog that still sits on the main floor! After Mary left the library, Grace Leonard, the library’s first female head librarian (who worked there for 46 years) reclassified the whole catalog in accordance with the Dewey decimal system. With over 56,000 volumes, it took her 13 years. More can be found about the history and these women at The Ath’s website.

The Ath, its colloquial name, has hosted many prominent writers, artists, and thinkers in American history, including Edgar Allen Poe and his lost love, Sarah Helen Whitman, an amazing poet in her own right. In fact, Whitman broke up with Poe at The Ath and it’s said that Poe haunts the top floor. I was on the lookout, but didn’t see him. Maybe next time! Others who have lingered the stacks include, H.P Lovecraft, Thomas Hopkins Webb, and Francis Whipple, among other “scribbling women” according to Nathaniel Hawthorne. I found a wonderful article by Jane Lancaster on the colorful history of The Ath if you are as interested as I am.

So there you have it, some of it anyway. The history, the mystic, the lovely architecture, and the amazing collection of The Ath, which is just a hop, skip, and jump from Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design, so if you ever find yourself on Federal Hill, maybe yonder over and check it out. You won’t be disappointed!

M.

Bloggedy, Blog, Blog, Blah

I didn’t set a New Year’s resolution. I didn’t set one because I’m capable of shaming myself much better than praising myself. If I set a resolution, and it falls apart in mid-March, then I fall apart in mid-March. And I have a hell of a time getting myself put back together. I’m like Humpty, ya dig? I’m really funny looking, but I things cooking (insert music notes). So sorry. Essentially I’m saving a lot of strife by not setting myself up to fail, which is what would inevitably happen. Because I know me. The other reason I didn’t feel called to set a resolution is because there wasn’t anything eating away at me to change. 2019, for all the ups and downs it gave me, was actually a pretty good year. And I see no reason for 2020 to be any different, which means I can still work on myself and all the things I was working on before, and hopefully just get better at this new routine.

But I did feel compelled to do some digging and look at portions of my life that could use a little more energy, and I came up with two areas: My weight, which you all know is a constant, life-long struggle of mine, and my writing, which I can say the same about. My weight has its own things to work out, and I am working on it. Always working on it. But my writing, well that is something that can wax and wane, and I had noticed there were very large waning spots over the last few years.

Let’s take this blog for instance. I started it back in 2016. Between 2016 and 2017 I made 20 posts. In 2018 I decided to try a bit harder and I wrote 250 posts! Whew, that escalated quickly. So my inclination was to say that I could write every day this year. Or maybe not everyday, but make at least 365 posts. Then I realized how crazy that sounded and I reeled it back, promising instead to just beat my year’s number. Then I realized I might be selling myself short. Orchestrating smallness. So I said, “No, no, Missy, stick to the plan. 365 posts.” Then I got a good night’s sleep and woke up in sweaty thoughts, “What the actual hell, Missy! You can’t write every, single, day. That’s madness.” Then I wrote every, single day for the first two weeks of the year and now I’m back to maybe I could do 365. Do you see why I never get anything accomplished?

Here is my point, in as much as I have one, commitment is cool or whatever. Setting a resolution to do something is nice, but commitment without intent isn’t going to get me very far. I can be totally committed to writing on this here bloggedy, blog, blog, but if I don’t actually intend to do it, set aside time each day, think up wonderful things to write about, spend some time actually thinking about things, then actually writing them down, I will sputter out. Blah, blah, blah.

You get me? I think you do. Maybe in a very abstract, very “I’m hangin on by a thread here, Missy” way, but you get me. And that’s what I love about you.

Go forth and dismantle resolutions. Or create them. Or accomplish them. Or whatever makes you work, and be happy, and creative. I support you any which way.

M.

Newport News

Keeping with the theme of Rhode Island this week, I wanted to share some more of our pictures from our trip up North today. Of course, by “up North” I mean a million different places in the span of eight days, but if we break it up into little chunks it’s easier to digest. Kinda like how I used to get Jackson to eat his green beans. You don’t want to over-mash them, but you also don’t want to slop a handful of full beans on his high chair tray, you know. No slopping.

Anywho, this week I will tell you a little bit about our time in Providence and East Greenwich, but today my focus is Beavertail State Park and Newport. Or sunsets and mansions, as you’ll come to see. We’d never been to Newport before because well, we’d never been to Rhode Island before. You see, if you go to Rhode Island, you can absolutely hit all the hot spots in one day. How do I know? Because we did.

Rhode Island, officially the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, is a small state. In fact, it is the smallest US state by area, yet the second most densely populated. It was among the first Thirteen Colonies, and fourth to have ratified the Articles of Confederation in 1778. It was also the first colony to prohibit slavery (1652), as well as the first colony to declare independence from Britain on May 4, 1776. This is to say that there is a lot of history in Rhode Island, and in my opinion their history is overlooked, more often in favor of the connecting states of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Rhode Island is nicknamed “The Ocean State” probably because of its over 400 miles of beautiful and bountiful coastline. And though the lobster pots are abundant, the views were the winner in my book. Here, take a look at the sunset at Beavertail State Park and Lighthouse in Jamestown.

No idea where the kids were, but absolutely stunning views amiright?! And that is just the sunset. We also had a little bit of time to see The Breakers (though the tour was behind, so we didn’t go inside). The Breakers is a Vanderbilt Mansion nestled on Ochre Point Avenue in Newport, butting up against the beautiful campus of Salve Regina University, which funnily enough offers an MFA program. Hmm… Anyway, The Breakers was originally built as a summer home for Cornelius Vanderbilt II between 1835 and 1837. And it was quickly decided that I should have been born a Vanderbilt. Duh. Although we didn’t take the tour (something to do next time), we did get to walk the grounds and the area along the coast called The Cliff Walk, which is actually a 3.5 mile public walkway that borders the shoreline and gives you exquisite views of The Breakers and other mansions that I should probably live in. Here, have a gander.

A nice drive through the streets of Newport, led to some interesting stories, some fantastic spots to visit when it’s more than 40 degrees outside, and history that I wasn’t expecting. Not only were JFK and Jackie O. married there, but Newport boasts the very first tavern and Quaker neighborhoods with quaint houses, just enough to remind you that not everyone there was a millionaire. Oh and just for posterity, here are some cool shots from our ride to Beavertail from Newport, with the Claiborne Pell/Newport Bridge behind us.

We ended the night back near where we started, in East Greenwich, at a little joint called The Shanty, where I had the best pork medallions ever (I stole them off Dave’s plate) and my first clams. Yummy!

So do you want to visit Rhode Island yet?! Sure you do! Just get yourself your own Little Rhody’s cause you can’t have ours!

M.

Tuesdays

Tuesdays kind of suck. Tuesdays are like that girl you knew in college. Her name was Amber. She had large, robust breasts. The kind you’d catch yourself staring at, wondering why yours weren’t that nice, and also wondering how soft they were. She was always a bit high, but she didn’t work. Her parents paid for her apartment, and she made her weed money by selling plasma on the weekends. Sometimes she’d show up at the same party as you, and she’d saunter over, a little drunk on flavored vodka, a Marlboro Light hanging from her mouth, Ani DiFranco on the CD player, and she’d ask your name, even though you two had known each other since 6th grade. You’d just look down at her vast cleavage, wonder what it felt like inside that space, and say, “You know me, dude.” And she’d be all, “Really?! OMIGOD!”

Tuesdays are annoying. They make me think about all the shit I didn’t get done on Monday, that I was planning on getting done on Sunday, because I knew it actually needed to get done on Saturday, because I thought to get it done on Friday, but who gets shit done on Friday? Amber. She sells plasma on Fridays.

It rains on Tuesdays. Maybe not every Tuesday, but when it’s raining it always feels like a Tuesday.

Tuesdays suck the creativity out of me. They block me from the motivation that it takes to take that first step. Write that first line. Knit that first stitch.

But every so often a Tuesday will surprise me. Yesterday I had a nice, long chat over coffee with a new friend. I thought, “Well Tuesday, what have we done here? This was lovely.” But as I was leaving the coffee shop it started to rain. I was carefully walking back to my car when I suddenly remembered touching Amber’s breasts, in a friend’s apartment, the smell of vanilla vodka on our lips. It wasn’t a Tuesday. Couldn’t have been. Her breasts were soft, her skin warm.

Then I stepped into a puddle.

I see what you did there Tuesday. I won’t fall for it again.

M.

Harry Motherfucking Potter

Harry Motherfucking Potter (not it’s official title) was a little after my time. In fact, I remember being forced to read the first book in a children’s lit class my freshman year and I wanted to bang my head against the wall. This was way back, back when I read the whole text that was assigned to me. I was 18, I was pissy, I was usually high from weed, and I was a little emo. I thought Harry Motherfucking Potter was the dumbest shit ever. Then, in January of 2018 we decided as a family to read the whole series (which was gaining traction in Jackson’s world at that time, damn fourth graders and their HP obsessions) and now here we are, two years later and last night we started the last book and you guys, the series has been a fucking DELIGHT! I love Harry Motherfucking Potter, and I’m not ashamed to say it anymore.

If you have never read it before, and plan on it, I suggest you stop here because I am about to spoiler alert the shit out of you, okay? Okay, stop reading, go on about your day. Visit your local library to grab a copy. Or better yet, run over to your friendly, local bookstore and purchase your ass the first four books that have been illustrated (they are only up to the first four) because they are amazing, here is a pic of them for reference:

No, here comes a BIG spoiler. Go on now, GIT!

The week of Christmas we were finishing up The Half-Blood Prince (my favorite so far) and Jackson had two complete meltdowns. Two of them, y’all. Melt. Downs. Like needing to excuse himself, go hide in his room, and cry for hours. The first one was when Harry got Slughorn and Hagrid all drunked up after Aragog’s funeral, in order to get Slughorn’s horcrux memory. At first I could not figure out for the life of me what that was about. Like why was he so upset about it. Later on I realized that he saw what Harry did as a betrayal and that he had not seen Harry as that kind of person before. Listen, I had. I know Harry and his stupid tricks (he’s not my favorite character, Hermione is obvi) and this did not surprise me in the slightest. But Jackson, his big-hearted, honest nature, was not okay after this whole scene. The lying, the sneaking, the Felix Felicis, it all added up to turmoil for him. But that wasn’t the worst.

Last spoiler warning, be gone!

The worst night was the night before we left for vacation. The second to last chapter. Dumbledore’s death. Sigh. Listen, it shook me too. But I had a sense it was coming because you know, reader, writer, purveyor of tricks of the trade, but Jackson was shocked! Absolutely, terrified at how it all went down and he lost his shit, as any good reader of the series should have. He excused himself, and sobbed into his pillow. We checked on him several times, tried to comfort him. But honestly this was his first beloved character death and we knew he needed to process it. So when he finally asked to be left alone, to have his door closed (something we never usually allow because of my anxiety and need to hear him breathing at night) we slowly crept out and closed his door behind us. At some point he fell asleep.

The next day we asked if he wanted to finish the last chapter, which included the beloved professor’s funeral and he said no. He said he couldn’t do it right now, and it took us two more weeks to finish the book.

What’s funny to me, is that through the whole process of grieving Dumbledore, he kept saying, “I’m so dumb. This is so dumb. It’s a book!” I’m not sure why he thought that. If someone said that to him. If he just innately thought this was something that you don’t do, but I assured him that this is something that happens. We invest. We’ve been with Professor Dumbledore for two years now. He’s been the topic of many conversations. He was a great wizard, and an even better friend and confidant to Harry, and well, this happens when a book, a series like Harry Motherfucking Potter, gets you under its spell. We told him he shouldn’t feel ashamed. He should feel happy that he found a series that he loved that much.

This is all to say that this has been a fun, agonizing couple of years for us. And I hope that Jackson has learned many lessons from this series, but more importantly I hope he remembers how it made him feel. I hope he remembers grieving over the great professor. I hope he remembers how triumphant he felt each time Harry battled, and beat Voldemort. I hope he takes with him the friendships between the characters, strives to live a life as noble as Ron or study as hard as Hermione, or yes, even possess the confidence and shear stupidity, at times, of Harry. Because this series is about so much more than a little magic wand, and I’m so happy Jerimiah and I shared this experience with him.

We started the last book last night, and the normal sense of urgency wasn’t there. I think we all want this one to linger a little longer. I sure hope it does.

M.

Is This Really 5th Grade?

Jackson has been carrying a notecard in his back pocket all week with his phone number written on it. It’s for a girl. Her name is Molly and she’s in his class. She got a phone for Christmas and he overheard her giving her number out to a boy on the playground. Landon. Oh, Landon. You know Landon. He’s loud and obnoxious. He carries on with nonsense like untied shoelaces and poking dead animals with sticks. Jackson is not impressed. But Molly, he suspects, has fallen under Landon’s grip. Molly and Landon, he’s heard around the playground, are a couple. So although Jackson is in Molly’s classroom cluster, and a teammate on his robotics team, and a girl he would consider a “friend” first and foremost, he’s afraid to give his phone number to her because he doesn’t want to “rock” the proverbial pre-teen dating boat. Is this really fifth grade?

On Monday he wanted to ask her for her number, since she appeared to be readily passing it out. And he was prepared to, until he wasn’t. Until his nerves got the better of him. Until he heard the “girl drama” on the playground. Saw Landon doing high-kicks over the seat of the swing. He let himself get intimated. All worked up.

On Tuesday it was decided he would suggest that he give Molly his number, that way if she ever wanted to text, or link up to play Minecraft online, she had it in her phone. But when the time came, he backed away slowly from her desk, saying something about a dropped pencil. Le sigh.

On Wednesday he met me nervously at the front door of the school and flashed me digits on the notecard. I smiled and asked if he worked up the nerve to ask Molly for her number. No, he mumbled, racing me to the sidewalk, that was his number he wrote down to pass it to her, but he had chickened out again. Close, but no cigar.

By Thursday he had devised a plan. Molly is in charge of the morning announcements. So while she was in the office each morning, he had about five precious minutes to slide his notecard onto her desk. He added a diagonal arrow to the nameless notecard, to indicate that it was from him. He sits diagonally from her. Smooth.

On Thursday afternoon he came bounding out of the building and ran at me while I was talking to a friend. She’s the mom of another girl in Jackson’s class, so he stopped just short of us. We both turned and looked at him and he said, “Hi. Mommy I need to talk to you.” We excused ourselves and started down the sidewalk when he said, “Operation Molly was a success.” I told him congrats and asked what happened.

Turns out he was too scared to give it to her face to face, so he waited until the walkers had been called to line up upstairs. She happened to be away from her desk getting her book bag, so he placed a folded up note on her desk as he walked by. The note said, “Hey, it’s Jackson G. I heard you got a phone for Christmas, and I wanted to give you my number in case you ever want to text or anything.” As he walked out the door he looked back to make sure she had the note, and she was reading it, so he ran upstairs.

And just like that, girls are a thing now.

Great.

M.

Sketching

Gratitude journaling came up in therapy the other day. I brought it up. I sort of hedged my bets that she might suggest something like that for me, considering I write. I said something like, “I need a way to work on the anxiety and stress of the day-to-day stuff,” and before I could even stop myself I said the word “gratitude,” then I winced. Patsy didn’t skip a beat, “Journaling, gratitude journaling, isn’t for everyone.” My problem, I explained, is that I am horrible at stream of conscious stuff because I am constantly editing. Not for grammar (as you can see) rather I’m always looking for how I fucked up the writing in some way (again, not grammar) therefore I can never let myself relax enough to just say whatever is top of mind, and then hope I make my way toward the gratitude. Then this here blog came up.

Just last week I explained to a friend that my blog isn’t my “real” writing. My “real” writing is much worse. So count yourselves lucky! My real writing takes AGES to actually accomplish, and puts me in such a tizzy most of the time that I can’t actually sit down to get the words out. This here blog, I explained to my friend and later to my therapist, is like if I were an artist (I wish) and this was my sketchbook.

You know how you always see really cool, artsy people walking around with little sketchpads? In my mind I’m that person. Except it’s my laptop, or my iPhone (yes, I blog from my phone), and whenever something strikes my fancy I jot it down here. That’s why this blog is a hot mess. That’s why the only things you can clearly gleam from my blog are my dislike of our president and the fact that there are no low-carb Cheeto options. Le sigh.

Why am I telling you this? Why do I tell you half the shit I do? To get it off my chest. To put it out there in this private/public sphere and hope that one of you will be all, “Oh yeah, that makes sense, Missy. I like you. You’re alright.” Also to say that maybe what you need to help you relieve stress or anxiety is something you do every day too? Because when I really think about it, this blog helps me with both my stress and my anxiety. It helps me get out what I need to get out, without the feeling that I will be judged or ridiculed for it. I mean this is my blog after all, and it houses my most ridiculous sketches.

So try it out today. Try out gratitude journaling if you haven’t. There is a lot out there about it, and how to get started. Or try knitting. Or try writing. Start a blog! It’s fun. Or make silly YouTube videos, or cook something amazing, use what you know and love to make yourself feel better. I’ll be over here in my corner dreaming about watercolors and oil on canvas. Sketching my day, my fears, and most likely naked, French women. Hey, we all have our thing…

M.

New Year's Vacation Story

I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking what the hell, Missy? You never told us all about your awesome New Year’s vacation. Well here’s the thing, I planned on telling you all, in parts, but I didn’t want to bombard you with too much too fast because I care about you, and because there was much more pressing stuff to discuss, like my neighbor Randy. But here it is, the beginning of the New Year’s Vacation story. It is long, and it is sordid, but I promise it is fun, so let’s just dive right in.

A couple of months ago our friends Dave, Beth, and Morgan asked if we would like to come visit them this winter in Rhode Island. Now I know that seems like a shitty thing to do, at first glance. Like, “Hey, we live up North, where the snow comes, and the cold comes, and the frostbite is likely to set in, would you like to come up and slowly die with us?” But, because of global warming, and because we have never visited that area (and they have been to Atlanta a lot) it turned out to be a nice invitation. So we accepted.

(This could all be wrong. We could have forced our way up there, I just don’t remember. I think I was drinking wine when the idea came up.)

Anyway, they have a group they celebrate New Year’s with in Syracuse, so we were also invited to join that group, which meant we would be leaving Atlanta for Syracuse on or near the 28th of December. Well I started Googling things, as I do, and realized that we have never been to Western New York, and you all know how much I like Buffalo wings, which led me to Buffalo, which led me to Niagara Falls, which led me to Canada, which led me to Toronto, and I know what you are thinking, “That’s too much, Missy, stop, you’ll kill your family!” Ha, you’re right. Also, here are pics of us in Buffalo eating wings, in freezing weather at Niagara Falls, and in downtown Toronto.

No worries, they are still alive.

I’m feeling scatterbrained about all that we accomplished in one week, and honestly, honestly, it was a really fun trip, though incredibly advantageous. And Jerimiah and I had the flu the whole time which made things not as lovely as we would have hoped, but even through all that, through 3,000 miles, 15 states, two countries, four hotels, 15 friends, a train ride, and a partridge in a pear tree, we had a superb time and we would totally do it all over again! Whew!

All the cool shit we did is going to have to wait now because I am tired just writing it all out. I will however leave you with a video. I do this fun thing wherein I sing a geographically-actuate song to Jerimiah on long road trips. He really, ahem, loves it. And believe me I had a lot of songs to sing this time around. Please enjoy.

M.

West Virginia Song

Randy's Back, Back Again

Y’all know Randy, right? Oh, sure you do. He’s my neighbor. The backyard kind. The kind I share a fence with. Okay, if you don’t know Randy there are some things to tell you, like I’m not sure his name is Randy. I don’t actually know what his name is, I have never Wilson-ed him from my backyard, mainly because it’s a privacy fence, and also because Randy always has a leaf blower and a set of headphones on. Also because who does that? I mean really. The other thing to know about Randy is that he’s a little creepy.

For instance, the first time I encountered Randy he was standing in his backyard looking up at a tree. He stood there for a very, very long time. So long that I got uncomfortable watching him. Like, who’s-the-creeper-now kinda thing, right? Still, I kept watch, wondering what was so interesting in that tree. I was just getting out of the shower when I first saw him from my bathroom window. I was naked, going on with my just-got-out-of-the-shower stuff, when I spotted him. The only things I could come up with was that he had a rough day at the office, his shoes were too tight, he’d stepped on a Lego, or maybe, just maybe he was an ornithologist. Either way, I shook my head and went on about my day.

The next day when I stepped out of the shower he was there again. Same stance. Same tree. No birds, from my view anyway. Weird. I asked Jerimiah if he had met, or talked to, or even caught a glimpse of Randy in his natural habitat. He said he had not. I made him run upstairs to see him standing there in his backyard, but he was gone. Weird.

The next day, you guessed it. Randy’s back at shower time, watching the empty tree. Hmm.

Next day. Same. Same. Sensing a pattern here? I was. Jerimiah meanwhile, never saw Randy. Not once. He was starting to think I had imagined Randy, which if I’m being honest isn’t too far off. I was starting to wonder myself, until that one day when Jerimiah and I hopped in the shower together and bOoM! Randy was standing there, looking at the tree. Remember when I said creepy?

So what is Randy’s deal? Listen, I don’t know. But I did go buy curtains for our bathroom window. I even walked out into our backyard when Jerimiah was in the shower to see if Randy could see anything through the glass, and honestly there is a glare. But, and here is the big but, as soon as the summer came Randy disappeared. No more trips into the backyard. Occasionally I would see him sitting in his screened back porch with what appeared to be binoculars, but he never ventured out. Then today, bOoM! Randy is back. Same backyard, same tree with no birds, same leaf blower. Honestly I was starting to worry about Randy, so I’m glad he’s back. But now I take shorter showers, just in case.

M.

Mawkish

The first time I took a writing class where the professor instructed us to write creative nonfiction, I wrote a story about my sister. About how she would tease her hair, and as a child I would watch her in the mirror. She would tease, tease, tease, then she would ask if I wanted teased. Lots of teasing in the 80s. Lots of teasing with big sisters. I wrote my heart onto the pages for the first time ever. I made connections, pulled loose strings. I fell in love with the genre immediately. It called to me, to the little girl in the mirror, circling the big girl looking back through rose-colored glasses. I felt relieved that this sort of writing existed. I felt comforted.

I turned my essay in. My professor gave me a B. Made sure I knew he was being generous. He said my language was dramatic, yet lacking. He was a Shakespeare scholar. My subject choice, he said, was “saccharine”. Saccharine, I thumbed through my dictionary. Was that relating to sugar? Sweet, sticky? Overly sentimental. Mawkish. Why didn’t the Shakespeare scholar write mawkish on my essay? This was nearly fifteen years ago.

I’m hyperaware now of my own sentimentality.

I’m aware of what is expected, of what is tolerated in the genre.

I’m weary of bearded Shakespeare professors.

Still, I would have preferred mawkish.

M.

New Year's Resolution

I was back to see Patsy today (for the new people hiding in the back, Patsy is my awesome therapist). She was either booked solid, or away the whole month of December so I had A LOT to talk to her about. There was the pretty low spot I found myself in right after Thanksgiving. There was a whole month of guilt trips from family about coming home for Christmas, there was even the “Toaster” story that I had been saving up for her because I knew how she would react (jaw drop, head shake, a “What the actual hell?”) Oh man, it was good. But before I went back for my hour of emotional torment, I noticed an interesting thing in the waiting room. Lots of people I don’t normally see on my biweekly Tuesday or Thursday morning vists. Like, mainly mature, white men. I was sort of surprised. The five or so minutes I waited I also heard the office staff book three or four evaluations, which made me very happy because mental health is very important and I get the sense, over the last few years, more and more people have realized that.

I know what you are thinking. It’s probably the same thing I thought as I sat there watching people uncomfortably fill out paperwork in the first week of January, maybe they made this a New Year’s resolution? Maybe so. Hopefully. But who cares?! Listen, I know the general feeling nowadays, particularly from my generation, toward setting a New Year’s Resolution. Let’s call it, umm, jaded. And I gotta be honest, I just don’t get it.

What is so wrong with taking a clean, fresh start on a day that literally gives us a clean, fresh start? Maybe I don’t get it because I am a grade A, low-life, procrastinator who has said, “Oh, I’ll just do it on Monday” before. Because Monday is a clean, fresh day. Monday hasn’t been tampered with like Saturday has. Monday has so much potential. Monday will be better.

This got me thinking about the day I was baptized. I was baptized as an adult. I was 30 years old in fact, and it was after a particularly difficult point in my life and I needed direction. And faith. And cleansed. Looking back I should have made a therapist appointment instead of a sitting in a pool of my own filth in a white gown, but you live, you learn. The point is, I felt cleansed. I felt fresh. I felt like I could start over. So I did.

That’s what the new year does for some people. It allows them to shake off the negative shit they endured the year before. It allows them to start over. No one is trying to reinvent themselves from December 31st to January 1st, but they are trying to change their mindset. And what is so wrong with that? Why the jokes about gyms getting hit hard this time of year? Why belittle people for taking a difficult step? Maybe it makes you feel better, and if so may I recommend you get yourself a Patsy?

Because you posting on Facebook how you aren’t “dumb enough to make a resolution” isn’t helping your third cousin, once removed who is battling mental illness make that eval call. It isn’t helping your aunt who has decided 2020 is a year of change and she’s going to join Silver Sneakers. Your jaded opinions on New Year’s Resolutions aren’t helping anyone, unless to serve a few laughs, or help you commiserate with all the other haters. And again, I can give you Patsy’s number. You’ll love her, she’s great.

Here’s all I’m asking, and I’m asking it nicely the first time around: Can you spare a little more kindness? Can you think for an extra second before you share a meme about how the gym is crowded, or the health food store is crowded, or the therapist office is crowded this time of year? Because there are some of us out there who just need a definitive line. A point of no return. A cleanse, before we can take a leap. And yeah, maybe it won’t stick. Maybe by the first week of February my therapist’s office will be empty again, but maybe it won’t. There’s always that.

I didn’t set a resolution this year because I didn’t have a clear one to set, but maybe next Monday I will have one. Until then, I’m hopeful for all of you who did! This is your year!

M.

Support Our Troops

I don’t know if Fox News did a story on someone disrespecting our troops yesterday or what, but my news feed on Facebook was lit up with people telling me that I was disrespecting the troops. It’s a slippery slope to assume that because people don’t want to go to war (again) that those people don’t respect our women and men in the military. It’s asinine and kind of, well, dumb. I have many friends and quite a few family members in the service, and to think that I don’t support them when they HAVE to do their job is ridiculous. I’m against any conflict because of the people I love in the military, not in spite of them.

I think we can all agree that no one should go to war, as it only begets more death, but if we must, if that is what our government decides we must do, then our military will suit up for us, and we will support them. Regardless of whether we think our current administration handled the situation well or not. Because it is not the troops fault. They are literally just obeying commands.

This divisive rhetoric of “You don’t support troops” is played out. Last month you were telling me if I don’t stand for the flag, I’m disrespecting them. Three months ago if I bought Nikes I was disrespecting the troops. The propaganda machine has been hard at work since 2016, gearing us up for this very moment, and it shows. Man, it shows.

No one is saying our troops suck, even when we say their Commander-in-Chief does. It isn’t their fault. He’s a voted politician, and they are enlisted to protect and serve our country, regardless of who their CIC is. And he’s their boss, even if he sucks at it. They have to do what he says (along with the proper support from the other branches of government). We get that. We aren’t dumb. We’re just empathetic. And honest. And well-versed in history, and how it repeats itself.

I have yet to meet a person in real-life who would meaningfully disrespect the people who fight for our freedom to rally with our “Make Love, Not War” signs. And if you really, honestly, believe that if I say, “President Trump sucks, and is doing a horrible job,” and that equates to me showing disrespect to our troops, then honestly I’m not sure I can help you anymore. No one can. You’ve already closed up your mind and your heart. Which is appalling, sad, and adding to the “divisiveness” you so desperately pretend to care about when spitting this oft-recycled rhetoric.

Please stop.

M.

Bursting of the Bubble

The thing about vacation is, if done right, it can shield you from the harsh realities of the world. That’s what happened to me last week. I was far enough removed from all news sources (I never read a paper or turned a television on) that I had no idea what was happening, and I was blissfully ignorant. In fact, on the way to New York I was uploading a video to social media of me singing a geographically relevant song to my husband (a tradition we *cough* both *cough* love on road trips) when I caught a glimpse of the 82nd Airborne loading a plane in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. I messaged our nephew to make sure he was still safely on leave in Kansas City, and he was. He is. For now. That’s all I needed to know at that moment. I fell back into the black hole of vacation bliss.

That was until the train ride to New York City on our last Friday in the hole. My traveling companion made a comment about how she was trying to ignore “Iran” and I desperately tried to ignore it with her. Then a few minutes later I was standing in the dining car with Jackson, loading up on soda and candy, and I overheard a man in a booth saying that our president threatened Iran via Twitter. Bubble bursted.

What’s worse, I thought who would be okay with this?! Who is out there thinking this is fine, and normal, and that we need another war? Then yesterday, when we got home, after we caught a few winks, I logged onto Facebook and I found them. Those people who blindly support our president. Those people who take our military for granted. Those people who forget that we lost 4,500 service members in the long, arduous war with Iraq starting in 2002. Those people. Those people who say, “Oh, you’re scared of Iran? Pft!”

Because yes. I am scared of Iran. Because yes, I am scared of war. And not just because I have a lot of military in my family, but because I can see. I can remember. I can connect the dots of war. I am scared for our people. Our country. Our world. I am scared for the little boys and girls who are 18 years old and being shipped doff to a world they don’t know to fight because our president started a war on Twitter. I am scared for what this will do to our steady-ish economy. What this will do to our children. Their children. Whole generations are torn in war. Do these people really not remember? Have they never read a history book? Are they so blinded by their strict opinions on anything from guns, to abortion, to Fox News that they can’t see past the tips of their noses? The answer is yes. Yes they are.

I know I’m not saying anything new to most of you. Most of you are in the boat with me. Shaking your heads. Checking to ensure your voter card is in your pocket. Holding the cross on your neck. Speaking goodnesses into the world in an attempt to change the track we are headed down. And I thank you. I thank you for all you do, all the time you spend worrying, wishing, hoping, praying. But tell me, what do we do now? Because I am lost in this moment. Lost and wishing for that hole again.

Stay safe out there.

M.