April Fool’s Day

Hey, hi, hello. I know that tomorrow is April Fool’s Day, and man do I know that we all need a good laugh right now, but I like to remind people every year that pretending to be pregnant on April Fool’s to get someone riled up, or to get a laugh out of people isn’t really funny. It isn’t funny to people like me. It isn’t funny to women and men, mommies and daddies, who have held their dead babies in their arms. It isn’t really funny to mommies who never got the chance to hold their babies because they were never born. It isn’t funny to couples who have tried for years and years to get pregnant, with no success. It just isn’t funny.

So consider this your friendly reminder to go ahead and skip that. This got me thinking, that since we are trying to take some things light nowadays (I keep seeing these “Let’s stop talking about Covid-19 and smile” posts and, well, I don’t agree with them. I think we can keep talking about Covid-19, because it is serious and it needs to stay in the forefront of our minds, but also laugh at unrelated things.) But let’s not laugh at Covid-19 patients, people trying to stay safe, or people having to work through this horrible time.

Okay?

Okay.

Let’s stick to glazing mayonnaise on donuts and feeding them to our families. Or replacing your family pictures of Kim Jong Un or Donald Trump, I dunno, some other evil dictator. Or cutting out what looks like bugs and placing them in lampshades. Haha. That’s always funny.

Cool. Carry on.

Thanks for your cooperation.

M.

2011/2012 Tornado Season

I missed a real opportunity this year, it being a Leap Year and all, to share about the “Leap Year” tornado that happened in the Midwest several years ago. I should have shared this story on February 29th, instead I shared about the Oakland Cemetery. I mean, I don’t regret that, but I will admit I missed an opportunity at a righteous theme. Oh well, such is life. Tornadoes, okay. Y’all know we live in Atlanta now, but we haven’t always. In fact, Jerimiah and I were both born in Kansas (Rock Chalk!). In our early 20s we moved about four hours south of Kansas City, to Table Rock Lake in Southern Missouri. Right before Jackson was born we moved into Branson, Missouri which was considered moving “to town” by our family and friends. Yes, that’s how rural it is there. We lived in the Branson area until 2014 when we moved to Lake Norman in North Carolina (Charlotte ‘burbs). This is to say that we spent a good ten years in Southern Missouri, and if you have ever watched the show Ozark, well then, no need to move to Southern Missouri. It’s pretty fucking accurate. BTW, Ozark is filmed in Georgia. Yep, yep. At Lake Allatoona, which is about an hour from where we live now. Funny world.

Anywho, we were living in Southern Missouri in the summer of 2011 and the spring of 2012 when a series of tornadoes devastated the Midwest. That whole year, from summer to summer, was a mess of crazy weather. It also happened to the be the worst year of our lives (the year we lost our daughter) and it happened to coincide with my father-in-law’s house being destroyed by an EF5 tornado in Joplin, Missouri and then Jerimiah’s office being destroyed by the Leap Day Tornado.

You might remember the catastrophic Joplin tornado. It was the seventh deadliest tornado in US history and the costliest single tornado at 2.8 billion. It started out as a small storm on the Kansas/Missouri border then turned slowly turned into the EF5 with over 200 mph winds. Here is a picture of the path to show its shear size from the Army Corp of Engineers.

My father-in-law was in a different town the evening it struck, but we didn’t know until hours later whether or not he was okay because all the cell service was down in that area, so all we could do was watch and wait. The next day Jerimiah and I left Jackson with friends, and drove the three or so hours to Joplin to help his dad dig his belongings out. I was about three months pregnant at the time, so I didn’t do much digging, but I was able to come along with bottles of water, diapers, and non-perishable food to give to people who needed it. It was one of the single worst things I have ever seen. Large semi-trucks had been tossed around. A young boy was sucked out of his SUV never to be seen or heard from again. People trapped in Walmart and Home Depot. People pinned under cars. The hospital, St. John’s Medical Regional Center was devastated. Whole neighborhoods were flattened. Even this Kansas girl, who had grown up standing out in the field to watch as the tornado approached, was speechless. I’d never seen such devastation and haven’t since then.

Cars piled on top of each other in the hospital parking lot (NPR)
Ariel view of the hospital (NOAA)

The following pictures are from my father-in-law’s neighborhood, which was leveled, for the most part. The first picture is his neighbors house across the street. Then looking down his street. The third picture shows Jerimiah looking over what remained of his dad’s garage. You can see his motorcycle wheel in the rubble. He’s standing next to an old Camaro his dad was rebuilding. The last picture is 26th street in Joplin two days after the tornado touched down.

That following spring the Leap Day Tornadoes touched down in the Great Plains and the Ohio River Valley.

The Leap Day Tornadoes began on February 28th and lasted until late on the 29th in 2012. Joplin was just in the rebuilding phase, and we all were holding our collective breath that they would not be hit again. They weren’t. This time the storms went east.

We were living in the city of Branson and all three of us slept soundly through the tornado sirens. This was partly because Jerimiah and I are just used to tornado sirens. It’s just a regular part of life in the Plains. One you sometimes take for granted. But the next morning we were shaken awake by phone calls from friends and family checking in. From Jerimiah’s office saying there was no point in coming in, they had no windows.

The Leap Day Tornado in Missouri was much less chaotic than the Joplin tornado, but still did plenty of damage. By the time it hit Branson it was already a low-end EF2 tornado, first touching down in Kimberling City. At the Port of Kimberling Marina, four large boat docks were damaged or destroyed and nearly 150 boats were damaged or sunk. In Branson there was severe damage in the downtown area and on “The Strip”, including damage to 14 theaters and attractions, 25 restaurants, 21 hotels, two shopping centers, and several small businesses including Jerimiah’s. Over 100 homes and mobile homes were damaged or destroyed in the Branson area, and many trees and power lines were downed. The tornado continued east of town through more rural areas before dissipating. 37 people were injured.

We went out that day, but only managed one picture. A picture of “The Landing” on Lake Taneycomo, where we had spent many a fun nights in our twenties with its shopping, and bars, and live bands.

The rest of the day was spent helping clean up in and around Jerimiah’s office, which had papers flying down The Strip. Jackson was amazed by all that he saw, and scared. This started his obsession with severe weather, a topic he still enjoys reading and learning about.

KY3, the local news in Springfield, Missouri did a flashback of The Leap Day Tornado in Branson with many more pictures, and the events that led to this chaotic day. I’m sharing some of their pictures below.

So there it is, the story of the worst tornado season we can remember. I have been meaning to share this story since Leap Day, but in light of what happened in Nashville and around the South lately, I kept stopping myself. But the truth of the matter is, this is the truth. And if you don’t know about tornadoes and how they work, and who they impact, and how dangerous they are, maybe now you do. I’m sharing some more links about tornadoes and how to stay safe in them below.

Thanks for reading.

Stay safe out there.

M.

CDC-Tornado Safety

Weather Wiz Kids

Understanding the Fujita Scale

You're Killin' Me Smalls

Jackson is playing baseball* for the first time since he played t-ball at age four. Back then it was adorable and exciting. Back then it didn’t matter so much about the game, but about teaching simple skills like wearing a glove, and not picking flowers, and cheering on your teammates. I remember the first time someone hit the ball and the whole team went running to it to “catch it first” and the batter was so excited he ran out to the infield to celebrate with them, rather than to going to first base. Seriously, seriously cute.

The league we are playing on isn’t a competitive, year-round, $5,000 league. Thankfully we found one sponsored by a local church where the parents say things like, “Listen, no one here is going pro.” That’s what I like to hear, because let’s be real, the chances of your kid “going pro” in any sport are the same as my kid getting accepted into MIT and me not having to pay for it, it ain’t gonna happen, and the sooner you realize that, the better the experience is for everyone involved. And trust, I’m not saying this because my kid sucks, cause he doesn’t. He seems to have a natural ability toward baseball, not like soccer, where he had to work at it, and work at it, each season to get just a little bit better. We’ve been practicing in the backyard to get ready for this season for about three weeks now and he’s pleasantly surprised us. He isn’t gonna be the best kid on the team, but he might actually make some good, solid plays this season, and we are excited to see what he does.

All this talk about baseball has brought up all the memories for Jerimiah and me. We didn’t realize how excited we would be when/if Jackson ever decided to play, but we are WAY excited. Remember how I said we’ve been practicing for weeks now. Yeah, we didn’t do that for soccer. He never wanted to, and we never wanted to, and we were like, “ehh.” We like to watch soccer, but not play it. Meanwhile, he’s been running in from school asking to “hit a few balls” in the backyard and I’m super pumped about it.

That’s when Jerimiah and I started to share stories of our baseball/softball days and we blew his mind with how much we played. I even have an old scrapbook filled with pictures, and newspaper clippings from when I was a kid (thanks to my mom for clipping them out each game, and underlining my name, and our coaches for actually writing them up and submitting them for girls’ league softball). For real, we had the best coaches and parents (including my best friend’s dad and sister, who pretty much rocked, even though they made LeeAnne and me run laps when we were messing around). Check this out:

Oh trust, there are more of this bad boys, for several years, this was just the first season I played. But we won’t share them now. They deserve their very own post with accompanying pics.

So this is our first week of Robotics, Honor Band Practice, Baseball Practice, then bed. Our nights are as full as they can get right now, but Jackson is learning some valuable lessons. Sure, he’s learning to square up home plate and “elbows up,” but he also learning about time management, that practice makes progress, and that there are some things you just can’t half-ass. In short, it’s the stuff he’s learning off the field that will pay in dividends. But isn’t that how it usually goes.

Good luck this season to the Braves (Jackson’s team, not the Atlanta Braves, though I guess good luck to them too!) We can’t wait to see how proud you are of yourselves!

M.

*Edit: I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago and then forgot about it when shit hit the fan. I wrote it back when life still felt “normal-ish” and I was optimistic that there would be a baseball season. Turns out the baseball season follows the school calendar, so the chances of us playing this year are slim, but Jackson still likes to practice in the backyard, and for that I am grateful. I still wanted to share this story though, for the reason I write most of this shit, for posterity. But for real, stay in your home, don’t go play baseball with the neighborhood kids.

City Living

I’ve always been partial to living in the city. So close that I can feel the heartbeat of the place. I never knew why. I was born and raised in a small town in Kansas. At least that’s what I tell people, but since I’ve left Leavenworth I’ve realized how much it wasn’t a “normal” small town, like other places I have lived since. Or like the place my husband grew up, or friends who tell me stories about the same 25 kids they went from elementary through high school with. When I was growing up in Leavenworth I felt stifled. But I’m learning it was more about my fear of never breaking the poverty cycle. Of never striking out to other places, meeting new faces, tacking chances. I didn’t want to fall in a rut, stay put, never grow as a person.

But Leavenworth itself wasn’t too bad of a place to grow up in. There was plenty of diversity and culture (for Kansas anyway) and it was a short 20 miles to Kansas City (Missouri or Kansas, take your pick). It had museums (if you took the time to find them), multiple elementary, middle, and high schools. Private and public. It had Fort Leavenworth, the Federal Penitentiary, and we were a cool 20-minute drive the other way to the University of Kansas. It was actually an okay place.

And because my mother rarely had a car when I was very young, we walked a lot of places. Which meant we were always near the places we needed to get to with regularity. The bank, the grocery store, the hospital (just in case) and my school. Which also means we were usually in the heart of the city. In fact, one of the coolest places we ever lived (in my opinion) was in this large house half a block from the main artery in Leavenworth, Highway 7, aka 4th Street. Here I am, standing in the front yard in an awesome bathing suit (probably had me a kick-ass Slip ‘n Slide).

I think I’ve shared this pic before, but for a different reason. Trying to figure out who that truck belonged to (I’m pretty sure it was my sister’s friend Shane) and how/why we had a Polaroid camera. Might have been Shane’s too, as she was obviously very rich with a vehicle and what not.

The house sat diagonally, as you can see, from Burger King. It also shared an alley with Kentucky Fried Chicken, where my sister worked in high school, and Taco Johns was just across the street. Why yes, I do have a weight problem, but no, I have no idea why. Also, that BK had the most KICK-ASS play place, with a ball pit! A Ball Pit! Outside! I mean yeah, it makes me shake with nervousness just thinking about it now, and I’m compulsively dowsing hand sani all over my body, but it was pretty awesome in 1987. And I’m pretty sure my mom would scrape change together on nice afternoons, enough to buy a Diet Coke, and we’d walk over, and she’d sit and sip Diet Coke while I played all afternoon in the ball pit with whatever random kids happened over. So it was sort of like my own personal jungle gym. Cool. Maybe that’s why my pain threshold is so high?

McDonalds had the only indoor play place, with one of those really cool slides and that Hamburgler-Jail thing. So when it was cold, she’d scrounge up enough change for a cup of coffee and a Happy Meal, and we’d walk the extra half mile to McDonalds to play.

I’ve spun off topic. Imagine that.

I lived in the heart of the city. That’s my point, but I’ve lived in the country too. And fallen asleep to the sound of the lake, or the sound of the frogs chirping, or the crickets singing, or the Meth heads next door out at three am looking for their horse that got loose (true story). The country is nice, for awhile, but it just isn’t my thing.

I like the bustle of the city. The ease of public transportation. The events that are always happening. The people to watch. I like the way that, if I fall asleep with my windows open on a cool, crisp spring night here in the Atlanta metro, I can be lulled to sleep by the train, or the ambulance sirens speeding to the Perimeter. It’s not the Burger King play place, but it will rightly do.

Enjoy wherever your home is right now. Just make sure to stay there until it’s safe to go out again.

M.

Winnie, The Doo

Last week a friend of ours called to ask if we could dog sit while she goes out of town to stay with family while we are in this quarantine. Her husband still has to physically go to work in Atlanta and she didn’t want to leave her pup all alone all day. We had previously discussed the idea of trading off dog-sitting duties with each other if we ever needed to, so our dogs already know and like each other, so we said sure thing. Two days with our friends’ sweet Doggo Nola, a yellow-Lab mix, and my puppy-mommy uterus was exploding. Jerimiah and I have been in talks for several months about the idea of a second dog. In fact, if you’ll remember we went to a couple of shelters, but didn’t find a doggo that fit our family. Then after having Nola around, seeing how cool she is with Sir Duke, how he has a playmate and that helps out a lot, well, we just did it. We totally adopted a dog over the weekend! May I please introduce to you Lady Winifred Beesly of Atlanta:

Now, I know what you are thinking: That’s a beast of a name, Missy! How did you ever come up with it? Super simple. My friend Madison suggested Winnie, while we were stuck on “D” names that would be cute with Duke. Names like, Dixie, Delta, or Dolly. But I knew since she was a Lady, she needed a noble sounding name, so I said make it Winifred and you’ve got a deal. Jackson was hellbent on Beesly, as a nod to the fictional character Pam Beesly in “The Office” (of which we just finished the whole series as a family and that was a hot fucking mess, with not one, but two emotional breakdowns for my 11-year-old). And of Atlanta is of course necessary, considering she is a Lady. But like Duke (whose actual name is Sir Duke Barkington of Charlotte) we call her by her nickname, Winnie. Or more usually, Winnie the Doo, because she’s an 8-week-old F1B PyreDoodle.

What the actual hell is an F1B PyreDoodle? Winnie is 3/4 Standard Poodle, 1/4 Great Pyrenees, and 1/1 awesome. Her biological mommy is a Standard Parti-Poodle and her biological daddy is half Standard and half Great Pyrenees, giving her the F1B status. Now listen, I don’t know anything about dog breeding. Nor do I know anything about these fancy-ass designer breeds that I am apparently drawn to, but she isn’t AKC registered like Duke because she can’t be, because she’s, well, let’s just call her “too special.” Yes, she’s “too special” to be recognized as a reputable dog breed by the American Kennel Craphead Uppity Bitches Chamber of Cocksuckers. I think that’s their full name. But listen y’all, true to Missy fashion, I had to Google what a Great Pyrenees looks like after we had already adopted her. Side note, they look like this:

Did you know they were really big? I did not.

Anyway, even though she’s mostly SPOO, she looks mostly like a Great Pyrenees puppy, which makes me a little nervous cause the doggy door we bought isn’t all that big. But that’s shit to worry about later, for now, please look at these pictures:

Now, how are Sir Duke and Lady Winnie getting along? Well, the first day was ruff. He was really sad that she was getting a ton of attention, and he withdrew a bit. He even refused to sleep on the bed with us because she was up there. Then by the next day he had convinced himself that she was a Covid-19 carrier because Great Pyrenees are mountain dogs from France and Spain, and he’s slightly racist. Later that night we found and burned his MAGA hat, had a stern talk with him, and he’s coming around. He even lets her eat next to him, as you can see in the above picture.

Yesterday they started to play together. And whenever I tell her “Outside!” and rush out the door with her peeing down my arm, I think I can see a twinkle in his eye. He knows he is the superior being, he doesn’t feel pressure to prove it anymore. Also, he’s a little scared of her. But to be fair, she’s kinda ferocious for such a tiny thing.

So there you have it, Winnie the Doo. And yes, we made a song for her set to the Winnie-the-Pooh theme song and it’s dropping fresh today straight from the 100-acre wood. You’re welcome.

M.

Winnie the Doo (Sung to the tune of Winnie-the-Pooh)

Winnie the Doo, Winnie the Doo,

Fuzzy little puppy, all stuffed and fluffy,

Winnie the Doo, Winnie the Doo

Silly, willy, nilly old girl!

Welcome to the family, Winnie-girl. You’ve got some big shoes to fill, but we think Bentley would be proud of you.

Bonus Post

I don’t usually post twice in one day, but I decided to make an exception today for fun. We’ve been walking our neighborhood every day in an effort to just get outdoors. We wave at those we pass, but keep our distance. We have noticed that the foot traffic has picked up, which is nice, and some people are hanging lights and signs in their windows. A couple of days ago a house hung up all sorts of flags in their trees. It was pretty cool to look at and it gave me an idea. The next day I drew my “Flags of Quarantine.” It’s just a little something to make you smile. Here: Smile please.

Then today, feeling artsy again, and inspired by Jackson drawing “Virtual Learning Bingo!” for creativity day in school, I drew an adult version as well.

So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this bonus post and our very amateur artwork!

Stay safe out there!

M.

Submitting

I just got a message from a literary journal and they told me that some flash fiction I submitted to them for consideration is moving to the second round of reading. I’m trying not to get my hopes too high, this isn’t the first time I’ve got an email saying that, and if they decide not to publish my work, to reject it instead, well, that isn’t my first rodeo either. But in the sad days that we are living in now, wondering how I can be of service to others, getting my work published feels more urgent. I’m sure a lot of artists and creative types are feeling that way now, and I hope you are finding ways to get your work out there, because man it is helping. It’s helping me, for sure.

I started sending work out for consideration about two years ago and sometimes I look at my numbers and want to scream. Two years of submitting and I have eight publications (mostly online) and about 47,659 rejections. Okay, maybe not that many rejections, but doesn’t one rejection feel like 20,000? It does to me. I wish I could say I found some way to combat this. Help you out in some way, but I haven’t. I think maybe my skin is just tougher now. But honestly, really, I wish there was a way we could all get our stories, our poems, our artwork, our ideas to those who need them the instant they need them, wouldn’t that be amazing.

I still get random people who contact me about my daughter’s story. It’s been two years and they find me and they thank me for sharing, and I think, I think, that’s what makes it all worthwhile. The long nights of staring at a blank screen. The torment when a rejection comes in and I just knew I shouldn’t have aimed so high. My constant inner critic, who really is just a jerk. It all makes it a little better for a day or two.

I have no good news for you today. No funny anecdotes. No reassuring words. I just want to say to keep creating whatever it is that you are creating. Keep moving forward, even when it feels like you can’t. And it’s okay if you can’t create right now. If you can’t physically put paint to canvas, or pen to paper, or needle to needle. Lying on the floor and feeling the weight of the world on your chest while you eat Cheetos is totally okay too. There will be other days to get rejected.

Best of luck!

I love you and your art!

M.

Some Stuff That is Keeping Me Going Right Now

tapas: Bite-sized stories you can’t find anywhere

Tapas is a free online space to support artists who are doing comics and graphic novels. I found some of my favorites from Instagram and followed them on tapas. They get compensated each time someone clicks or subscribes. It’s a lot of, umm, unusual stuff (I like the “Slice of Life” stuff as you can see) but there are a ton of artists on there so I’m sure you can find something you like.

Quarantine Book Club: Connecting writers with other writers and readers through Zoom meet-ups. You can buy tickets through EventBright, they are only $5! I just did one this week with one of my favorite authors, Megan Stielstra. @QuarantineBook

The MET is streaming free operas online RIGHT NOW! (Deborah Voigt and the company of Die Walküre Ken Howard/Met Opera)

Ever visited The Louvre? No? Me neither, well not physically, but virtually, well that’s another story…

Artist Gemma Correll (@gemmacorrell) has free, downloadable coloring pages. They are cute, and fun, and amazing. You can find them at Badge Bomb where you can also order cool pins, stickers, etc made by Gemma and other artists.
When in doubt, there is always gardening ideas on Pinterest.