I’m a Georgia Voter

That’s something I never thought I would say. I have often admired the cute, little Georgia peach stickers when friends who live in Georgia voted and shared their picture online. But yesterday I actually got to cast my vote in the state of Georgia for the first time, and it felt kind of good. It felt like I was finally part of my community, like I had the power to make a difference here. There were only two question on my ballot, but I did have to do some research before I went to the polls, which is always important, and I got to take Jackson with me because his school is a polling place, so he was out for the day. It went something like this…

We arrived at the Methodist Church that was assigned to me when I registered to vote in the state back in April. It’s only about a mile from our house but we drove because it’s sorta cold down here, in fact yesterday morning it was a balmy 58 degrees. Whew! When we walked in, Jackson was a big hit with the women working the polls. And it was all women, by the way. Not just all women, but all retired, Black, women which made me very happy. It was 100% the first time I had ever encountered this at a polling place.

They were all very friendly and polite, and I told them all it was my first time voting in the state, so they walked me through the procedure as best they could, without helping me fill out anything (which is not allowed). First I had to fill out a form. This has never really happened to me before. I’m used to just casually strolling up to a table and telling them my name, then the old, cranky, white man finds my name on the registry list, puts a check by it, gives me a sticker, and a ballot and sends me on my way. This is how I have voted previously in Kansas, Missouri, and North Carolina. But things are, umm, different here in Georgia, and now I finally get Stacey Abrams anger.

There were three tables. At the first table I had to fill out a paper that was basically just giving all my information that they already had, so I really wasn’t sure why, but me being me, and having Jackson there, and knowing these ladies were just doing their job, I didn’t question it. I just wrote my birthday, checked that I was a Democrat, wrote my address, and signed my name. Then I gave her the paper, thinking I was done. I was wrong. She then asked for my ID. I was a little surprised, but gave it to her. Then she checked my ID against what I had just written on the paper. I am not sure what would have happened if my ID had been old, or I had written something different on the form. Then she sent me to the second table.

At the second table they again asked for my ID, where one of the women proceeded to scan it into a computer. It apparently came back okay, because there I was given back my ID, along with a little yellow card that read: State of Georgia Voter Access card. Example below:

The card had a chip in it, and I was told to put the card in the machine. There was only one other woman voting at the time we were there, so if I needed further help, it would not have been a problem. But I kept thinking what the next election would look like. What it’s like when there is a line out the door and every machine is full, and people are having troubles with those machines, and cards, and writing the wrong address down, or maybe having trouble seeing the small writing on the half-sheet that I was given. I kept thinking about my mom, and how she would have a wicked-hard time with all of this, and how it would be confusing and hard to read.

So Jackson and I got to the machine and I stuck my yellow card in the slot, which activated my ballot, but first there were a series of windows that I had to click through telling me how the machine worked, and explaining these awkward, not at all intuitive, ways to fix my ballot, if I accidentally hit the wrong box or something like that. Seriously, y’all. I didn’t know how easy I had it in North Carolina, or Missouri, or Kansas. Jackson and I read the instructions and he was all, “this looks complicated” and let’s be real here, if my 11-year-old who lives and dies by technology, who has known how to work on an iPad since he was three, says “this looks complicated” then that is sort of a red flag, ya dig?

Okay so I hit NEXT, then NEXT again, then my ballot popped up. Only two decisions to make. One was a vote for a City Council Member and because I am fairly new here, and because it was a woman’s name and she was the incumbent, I voted for her. Also, she was the only one running, which always pisses me off a little bit. Jackson pointed to the “Write-in” and looked confused. I explained that you could write in anyone’s name if you didn’t want to vote for the person on the ballot. Then I told him if it had been a man’s name, I would have written in my own name instead. I don’t vote for men, as a rule, unless I have to. (Full Disclosure I did once vote for a man, when there was a Democratic woman on the ticket. It was the 2016 Democratic Primary, in which the names on my ballot were Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and I voted for Bernie.)

Anywho, the next question was the one I had done some research on. Lots of trickery here in Georgia. Lots of trickery in the South, I have learned. Looking at you, North Carolina, and your “Snake.” So I knew whenever an “Ethics Board” question was on the ballot, and I had seen a lot of ads to “Vote YES on Ethics” that I probably wanted to vote “No.” And I was right. Trickery, y’all. Trickery.

So I voted no. Then I hit “Submit” and very quickly my screen changed and my yellow card spat out at me. I assumed that meant I was done. So we collected the card, and walked to the third and final table where they were taking our cards and passing out our coveted peach stickers. Of course Jackson got one too, and they were all very proud of him for accompanying me. One woman walking in said, “Well the voters are getting younger and younger,” and everyone laughed. But I mean, yeah, they are. #OurKidsAreGonnaChangeTheWorld

So that was that. My first experience voting in the state of Georgia. That’s what you asked about, right? I hope I made a difference. I hope I voted with intention. I hope I was educated and, made, to the best of my ability, the right decision. But above all else, I hope that my son saw what I was doing, how I made it a priority, and that he will do that his entire life as well.

So here’s to the next election, y’all! See you at the primary, where, well, you know me, I’ll be casting my vote once again, for Bernie! 🙂

M.

The Tinsleys

When I was a kid my mom cleaned houses for a living. One of the houses she cleaned belonged to a husband and wife named Mr. and Mrs. Tinsley. The Tinsleys were very retired, and lived in a large house in Leavenworth, near the public library. I’m not sure what they had done in their working lives, but Mr. Tinsley, who sat in his home office all day, smoking cigars, and swiveling around in an old wooden rolling chair, had the mark of a lawyer, or maybe a CPA. He wore suspenders, and used a cane, on the rare occasions that I saw him get up from his desk.

Mrs. Tinsley could have been a school teacher, or a stay-at-home mom, or even a piano instructor. Maybe she was all those things. Maybe she was none of those things, I just don’t know, I don’t remember ever asking. What I do remember is sitting on the steps that connected the family room with the second level, while my mom vacuumed the upstairs bedrooms, and watching Jeopardy with Mrs. Tinsley, while she sat across the room in a recliner, and offered me fistfuls of those hard strawberry candies, with the gooey centers.

Mrs. Tinsely loved Bill Clinton. Mr. Tinsley hated him. Mrs. Tinsley crouched doilies and read magazines. Mr. Tinsely yelled at the Meals on Wheels delivery woman, and wrote my mother checks every Tuesday afternoon for her services.

Their house was in a row of houses on their street that were all very old. Some had started to fall down, while others were being bought and remodeled. Their house was somewhere in the middle, in dire need of updating, but still working for the two of them. Regardless, they had a formal living room, which I always associated with “rich people,” and I liked to spend a lot of time sitting in the “fancy” chairs in there, reading teeny-bopper magazines, and watching out the big picture window.

Their house even had a large wrap-around porch on the front, with a couple of rocking chairs. Somedays I would pass the two hours or so rocking on their porch. At the end of the street there was a house that had been turned into a retirement home. Or maybe it was less of a retirement home, and more of a nursing home. It had a lot of people in wheel chairs, sitting outside when we pulled up, and in the exact same spot when we left. I often wondered who pushed them out there, and who brought them back in. I hoped someone brought them back in.

It was an interesting dichotomy, trying to figure out how those people at the end of the street, sitting alone all day in wheelchairs in the grass, who were relatively the same age as The Tinsleys, managed to find themselves there, rather than living in their own large home, with a woman who cleaned it for them once a week, and people who delivered their food everyday. It didn’t add up to me, and if I’m being honest, it still doesn’t. Though it’s certainly more sad now, because I’m older and I know what I know. Still…

One of the last times I remember going to The Tinsleys’ my mom asked me to take a bag of trash out back for her. I didn’t usually do much helping when she cleaned houses, but every once in awhile she would ask me to take some trash out, or wipe down a mirror or something menial, particularly if I was following her around being annoying. This day I had the bag of trash in my hand and I walked out the back door, down a few steps, and out the back of the fence to the alley where the trash cans sat. I heaved the trash bag over the fence, into the can, when something shiny caught my eye.

Down the alley was an older woman, with a walker, slowly making her way toward me. She was dressed in sweats, and a shirt that looked like it had been worn for days. She was saying something but I couldn’t understand her. The more I waited, the closer she came, the closer she got to me, I realized she was calling for something, or someone. I wasn’t sure what to do so I sort of just froze at the fence, nervously looking back at the Tinsley’s house, hoping my mom would come out. Before she got any closer to me a woman dressed in scrubs came running down the alley after the woman with the walker. She ran up behind the woman, and put her hand on her shoulder. This scared the woman, and the nurse assured her she was okay, then told her they needed to go back in. The nurse saw me then, and told me that the woman was looking for her missing cat. I was immediately upset for her, and told the nurse that I hadn’t seen a cat, but that I would keep an eye out. The nurse just smiled, and waved my suggestion away, “There’s no cat,” she said, and she put her arm around the woman and they walked slowly back to the house at the end of the street.

Later that night when I told my mom what I had seen, she told me that some people forget things when they get older. What the nurse likely meant, was that the woman was looking for a cat she had once had, probably years and years ago, back when she lived in her own house. This was hard for me to understand at the time, but now, of course, I do.

I’m not sure what happened to Mr. and Mrs. Tinsley, I have a faint memory of my mother telling me of their passing at some point in my teen years, but I always wondered about them. And I’ve often wondered about the woman in the alley searching for her lost cat. I suppose I always will, because if you ask me, we all have our cats we are looking for. And we always will.

M.

Kids These Days…

After I dropped Jackson off at school this morning I stopped by Starbucks to grab some coffee (gift card on a double point Monday, cheah! Sorry, Dunkin, I love you tho). Anyway, on the way back home I passed the high school. I ended up being stuck at a red light right in front of the high school, and it had all the quintessential high school things happening. Cars pulling in and out to drop kids off, teens driving their own cars (their parents old 2005 Toyota Corollas) into the parking deck. It had kids crossing the busy intersection with the help of a crossing guard, and I assume one of the principals, as he was a tall man in a smart, black suit. There was laughing, and tugging at clothes, and fiddling with lunch boxes and backpacks. There were mom’s talking with their hands in cars, and dads, red-faced, yelling at the cars in front of them. It was, in my opinion, the most sincere sorta morning there could be at a high school, at any school. And then it occurred to me, maybe for the first time since I became a parent, that high schoolers aren’t all that scary. High schoolers are just big kids. And now, well, I am changed.

Listen, don’t get me wrong, I recognize that there are many differences between a kindergartner and a senior in high school, but also, there are a lot of similarities. While kindergartners are adorable, with their toothless grins and their round, big eyes (evolutionary trait for us to love them), teenagers lack those adorable quantities. Teenagers are starting to look like adults, and adults suck. We all know this. So it’s difficult to remember that teenagers are still kids. Especially when they do dumb stuff. It’s been a running joke in our house to make fun of teenagers, as of late. No offense to my teenagers (you know who you are, and we love you!) but when Jackson, for example, first learned that teenagers were vaping, or say, eating Tide Pods, or challenging each other to eat spoonfuls of cinnamon, he just shook his head and said, “Mommy, teenagers are dumb.” And yes, he is right, teenagers are dumb (most of them) but that is how it is supposed to be. And we’ve all been there, and I think this is where a little compassion goes a long way.

What is your damn point here, Missy? I think my point is that as children (especially kids that are not our own, or not from our family) grow up, we start, in my opinion somewhere around middle school, to not trust them. To think they are dumb, or weird, or mean, or bad, or not worthy of a hug, or a smile from a stranger, or help when they might need it. Some people even see teenagers as “the devil” (case in point, Greta the Climate Girl, or the kids who are standing up against gun violence versus Republicans). The thing is teenagers, specifically high schoolers, are a lot more awesome than we give them credit for. They are smart, and resilient. They are living in a time when they are nervous about going to school EVERY SINGLE DAY, because they don’t know if today will be the day someone brings a gun to school. Or a fight breaks out. Or the cops have to bring the dogs in to terrify them. Then they get on social media, they see someone like Greta who is out there making a difference, and they get inspired. Then as fast as they are inspired, they are broken down because they see how Greta and the kids like her are treated by grown, actual, adults. What the hell are we doing, y’all?

Listen, I know I am not making a lot of sense today. I am only half done with my free Starbucks Cold Brew, but I think what I am saying is, if you give high schoolers a chance, the majority of them will surprise you. They are, after all, still kids. Whether or not you believe that. A 17-year-old’s brain is still forming, still learning. He still needs to be loved like a kindergartner, and while he might not need to be supervised like one, he still needs to know that people, his parents, his teachers, his friends, his community, have his back. And no, he may not return the love in handmade cards or macaroni necklaces, but if you have raised him right, he might return the love in acts of service to you, in thoughtful gifts, in gratidude! Ahh, every high-school parents’ dream, a “Thanks, Mom, for giving me an awesome life!” accompanied by a hug.

So all I’m asking today is that you take a moment to realize that kids are good. Kids are smart. Kids are resilient. But also, kids need guidance. Kids need to be trusted. They need to know that they have support, even from strangers. And by kids I’m specifically talking about the bigger of them, because we often overlook them.

Much love to my teenage friends! Y’all are awesome. And I love you.

M.

On Becoming a Woman

One of my best friends did something really cool recently. Which really shouldn’t surprise you all that much because I have really cool friends, who do really cool things, but this one really knocked it out of the proverbial park. So my friend’s daughter was recently inducted into the Sisterhood. Yes, that Sisterhood, you know the one I mean, the one most little, middle school girls get inducted into eventually. It wasn’t that all shocking to my friend and her daughter that it happened, but still when it happens, it’s always a surprise. My friend had prepared her daughter, as one does I assume. Listen, I have a son, and I’m not going to even pretend to know how to handle something like that, but if I had a daughter I’d want to do what my friend did.

My friend sent an email to her closest friends (all women) and told them the news. Then she asked them for any advice they might have for her daughter. She wanted to inundate her daughter with goodness, and calm, and love. She wanted the sisterhood to share from its collective experiences. And I was amazed and awe-inspired by my friend and what she did. How cool of a mom she is to do something like that for her daughter. How lucky her daughter is. And if I’m being honest, I was super jealous.

Here’s what I got on the day before my 11th birthday when I woke up to stained sheets: “Oh no!” Yeah. That’s for sure what my mom, then my sisters, then my friends all said to me: “Oh no!” Or something like that. Then I got a very brief, very messy introduction to how maxi pads work (never tampons because my mom was convinced I’d die of I used them) and I was sent on about my day. That was it. Someone may have mumbled something about, “Becoming a woman” but certainly didn’t elaborate, which meant I spent years thinking that becoming a woman meant screaming at people once a month to “get the hell away from me I don’t want to talk to you!”

So that “Oh no!” followed me all through my life. Every. Single. Month. Oh no! I eventually taught myself how to use tampons, learned my own anatomy from a book, and asked enough of my friends what the signs of my period looked like, but still for the next 28 years of my life every month (save the months I was pregnant) I had a sinking Oh no! feeling. And I really wish that wasn’t the case.

So I started thinking, after being an honored recipient of this email from my friend, what sort of wisdom I could impart on her daughter. And I realized that I probably didn’t have any more wisdom than her obviously cool mom has, but that I did have a lot of feelings about this transition. Feelings that I have been hauling around with me for a long time. Things that I wish an adult woman would have shared with me when I was younger. So I decided to tell Little Missy all the stuff I wanted her to know. What follows might not be “wisdom” or even helpful, but it’s what I wish I had known way sooner than when I figured it out.

Dear Little Missy,

You are amazing! Like for actual real. Amazing. The limits to which your body will be pushed is astounding. Men could never handle what we go through. They just aren’t emotionally and mentally as strong as we are. Always remember that. Weaker sex? I don’t even know how that’s a thing. I mean sure their muscles might get bigger allowing them to lift heavy objects, but uh, lifting heavy objects isn’t gonna be as big a deal in your life as they say it will. It’s like stop, drop, and roll, or 9th grade algebra. Turns out you don’t need to worry all that much about it. I’m not bashing men here, just stating facts. And here are some more facts for you.

— It’s important to always have chocolate on hand. Like, always.

— Periods are erratic at first. It’s nothing you are doing wrong, it’s just your body trying to figure it out.

—Speaking of erratic, let’s talk about your mood. Girl, there are gonna be some rough days. Like, some days you may want to hide in your room all day, but chances are you won’t be able to because of school, or work, or practice, or family obligations, or because your gerbil died and you really need to get him out of that cage and buried in the backyard before he starts to smell. What the actual hell is wrong with you, Missy? How long has that gerbil been dead? Listen, the point is that you will have to push through. And you will push through. And this will be the beginning of a lot of bullshit you will have to “just push through” in your life. Welcome to being a woman!

— Middle school girls are weird. They sometimes have dead gerbils, okay. And sometimes they don’t like to shower. And sometimes they forget to brush their teeth or to put deodorant on. But you gotta try harder, Missy. You don’t want to be that “stinky” girl. Especially now, when once a month your underwear looks like a murder scene.

— So that’s another thing. You are trying to navigate this weird middle school world and this even weirder you are “becoming a woman” world and the two worlds are itchy and they don’t mash up well together. Please know that EVERY SINGLE OTHER MIDDLE SCHOOL GIRL is going through this EXACT same thing. You are not alone! Well, maybe you are alone with the dead gerbil thing, but the rest of the stuff you are not alone with. Some girls however, are like really good at pretending that they aren’t bothered by any of this. Some girls have mom’s who are actually, for real, models, or actresses, or just women who know how to contour their make-up. But even so, those girls are still going through exactly what you are going through. So be nice, but you know, take no shit.

— There are bound to be accidents. You will totally and completely bleed through your maxi pad in 6th grade science class on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. Always keep a sweatshirt in your book bag for this very instance. There is no shame in tying that thing around your waist until you can get home and change your clothes. And shower. Remember, ahem, what we said about showering.

— I know, I know, you have no desire to have children. Today. But one day you might. So stop looking at this as a negative and start looking at it as a positive. This is the magic you were born with. This is what allows you to create an actual human being inside of you. You do that, girl! And trust me, joining the sisterhood may seem rough, but it is nothing compared to joining the ranks of motherhood. You are going through all this bullshit now to prepare you for the real shit later. Believe me, you will thank your body, over and over again. One day. Today though, it might be easier to lock yourself in your bathroom with a king size Twix bar and cry because you weren’t born a boy. But one day, one day you will be proud. It just takes time.

— Be kind to yourself. It’s so easy for you to be kind and nice to other people, especially other girls because you know they are going through the same thing, but you need to learn to be kind to yourself too. Some of those other girls will not reciprocate that kindness. Some of them will tease you because your belly is round, and your legs aren’t smooth, and you don’t know how to apply eye liner. But trust me, they don’t matter. The people who truly matter to you come when you are in the pits. When you are thumbing your way through your chemistry textbook for the fifth time and you still can’t figure any of it out, and you lock eyes with that cool, goth girl across the library and she gives you the, “What is this stuff even?” look and the next thing you know you are both under a table, eating Cheese-Its, talking about how much you don’t know. That’s when the real friendships form. In the meantime, you have to learn to like you. To treat yourself right. To love all your parts. Even the gross ones. The smelly armpits, and the bleeding vagina. The crooked toenails and the innie belly button. Just be nice to yourself, okay?

— Your body is not betraying you! Man, it feels like it doens’t it. It’s like the first time you run into your favorite park after school and suddenly you don’t fit into the little hole that starts the tunnel slide. You are dumbfounded. Didn’t your mom just bring you to this park like three months ago? Didn’t you used to run across that rope bridge without feeling unsteady on your feet? Oh your feet! They are huge now! And these boobs, what are they even?! Why did they have to pop up? I know this all feels so uncomfortable, but it won’t for much longer. You know when you are on a car trip, and it’s really long, and you keep checking your iPad to see if the hours are going by and the hours are just not going by and you honestly think you will burst if you don’t get to the dang beach already! It feels like that I know. This weird in-between space. But trust me. You’re gonna get to the beach one day. And you’re gonna rock a slimming, appropriate, one-piece swimsuit. 🙂

— Swimming. The beach. Pool parties and sleepovers. Vacations. Graduations. Your birthday. Special occasions. These days will all happen and the calendar Gods will not line up your special occasions with you being period-free. Those days suck. Did you remember that we started our period on our 11th birthday? Yeah, it started out rough. Don’t let a little blood dampen your spirits! Pun intended. Bring extra underwear. Always have a tampon or a maxi pad in your purse or book bag. It’s annoying, but it will save you in the future. However, just know that if you ever forget, or if Aunt Flo ever unexpectedly comes, it is totally normal and okay to ask any woman in the vicinity if they have anything. Someone always does, and no one ever judges you for it, cause we have all been there, sister.

— Google tampons and Maxi pads (know the chemical they use in them), Diva cups, that super, cool new underwear that you don’t even need to wear anything with! Learn about all of it, try them all. Try different brands and different “fits,” don’t get stuck with the same old mentality. Times changes, be willing to learn about your body and what works best for you. Don’t just use your mom’s same old brands. Branch out!

Okay, wow, I know I have said a lot here, and I have more to say. Many women do, if you just ask them. Never be ashamed or afraid to ask them! We will talk for hours about things. Not all women, but the really cool, nice ones will. And you never know unless you ask.

So I will leave you with this: There is no right way to be in your shoes. There is also bound to be uncomfortable days. They will happen. It doesn’t matter how prepared you think you are. How many Google searches you’ve read. How many times you have planned or packed, or re-packed, you will have surprises and hiccups along the way. But as long as you keep to your own truth, as long as you always strive to be the kindest, most badass version of yourself you can be, as long as you remember that what other people think of you is none of your business, well then, girl, you will be better off than a lot of us.

Oh, and remember what I said about the chocolate.

Welcome to the sisterhood. We are happy to have you.

Sending hugs and love. ❤

M.

Field Day, 2019

Today has been a busy day, and it isn’t even lunch time yet! Whew! We were up at ’em at 5:30 this morning to take Mama to the airport. (She landed safely in Kansas City at 10:00 am), then we got back to Tucker, dropped Jackson off to school, and Jerimiah and I had a nice, quiet breakfast at Matthews Cafeteria. Then it was back to school to participate in Field Day. Well, participate is a stretch, as we were just spectators. It was also the first Field Day that I didn’t volunteer to work! It was amazing to be able to move from activity to activity and not be stuck at a damn sno-cone machine, or in this case, the apple slices station! But bless the mommies and daddies who did it!

It was a fun, old-fashioned field day too! Complete with a balloon pop (of which Jerimiah and I did end up working because it takes all hands on deck for that one), a three-legged race, a relay race, and the parachute! Oh the parachute! As soon as we walked into the cafeteria to watch them with the parachute I was transported. All the way back to my elementary days at Anthony Elementary School. Back, back, way back, to Mr. Hendee and the bouncing parachute. It was just what I needed to see.

Jackson’s class was steady in second place for all the activities (there are three fifth grade classes), and when the kids were telling us that was okay, the Spanish teacher at the school overheard and whispered to Jerimiah and me, “Well this class may have taken second, but they are always FIRST in behavior. Man, this is a good class!” We beamed, cause yeah, we saw it with our own eyes. I told Jerimiah later that I felt lucky to have Jackson in such a good class, and he laughed and reminded me that it wasn’t luck. It was hard work in parenting to get our kid into the classes that he is in. It’s kinda neat having a kiddo that all the teachers want in their class. (Excuse me while I pat us on the back…) And honestly, there are a lot of “Jacksons” in his class. That’s why they took second so many times. They went slow and steady. Even in the three-legged race, when some of the other classes had kids sorta pulling their partners along, Jackson’s class was slow and measured. “This is what happens when you have a group of perfectionists,” Jackson’s teacher whispered to us. It was super cute to watch.

Anyhoo, here are some pics of the morning. It was a bit chilly down here, so some of the activities (most of them) were inside because y’all, Georgia kids cannot handle 50 degree temps! 🙂

Here’s to fun, old-fashioned field days!

M.

Year of the Blog

Last October I decided to take this blog seriously. As seriously as one can take a blog with 100 followers. (Listen, I’m not being ungrateful. I see you all. And I’m grateful for your readership and friendship, or more likely that my life makes you feel better about your own life. Either way, thanks for the follows, y’all!) So, last October I decided to try to write as much as possible on here. It was more a test. A litmus test, to see if I was even capable of writing everyday. Or every other day. And I’m happy to say that I have been mildly successful. In fact, I realized pretty quickly that if I write, people come to read. Likewise, if I don’t write, people don’t come. It’s all very Field of Dreams-ish round these parts. If you write it, they will come.

So I’ve been writing. Some months are easier than others. This summer was a little slow with all my travels, but my blog has been on an uptick over the last couple of months, both because of my recent publication in an actual fucking poetry collection, and with a very personal blog that resonated with people. And you guys know that is my only goal with my writing, right? That it resonates with people. That people can read what I write and laugh, or smile, or get angry, well that’s all bonus material. What I really need is just one person to read my writing and shake their head in agreement, while they lick the Cheeto dust off their fingers and says, “Mmmhmm, girl, yes! Yes, girl! I have been there too! Thank you!” Which is why I write about things like mental health. Because somewhere, someone sitting in bed, wide-awake at three o’clock in the morning, needs to know they are not alone.

Anywho, this is a thank you post, even though it doesn’t seem like it. Man, I’m bad at this. Thanks for making my year of blogging successful. Thanks for reading my random thoughts and weird-ass stories. Thanks for liking and commenting and sharing. Thanks for, you know, just being there in the ether. I feel y’all. Not in a creepy way. In a real, spiritually-connected way. And I really do hope I make your day better.

As always, take care of yourself and each other.

M.

Look Both Ways

My mom told me a story the other day about the time I was almost hit by a reckless driver. She was dropping me off at school. I must have been a freshman, or maybe it was early sophomore year. That’s when she was still driving me to school everyday, rather than me hitching rides with friends. The street that runs perpendicular to my high school had a stop sign right across from the entrance I used to go into school everyday. So my mom would sort of roll up to the stop sign, and stop long enough for me to hop out, then she’d make sure I got safely across the street before she turned right and headed to work. The whole drop-off probably took less than 30 seconds, on average, because my mom drove an ugly, beat-up 1984 Chevy Nova, with one door that was primed, but not painted. It wasn’t ideal for my teenage psyche to be dropped off each day, so I tried my best to not be seen by anyone.

The street that I had to cross, 10th Avenue, was pretty busy in the morning. 10th Avenue is one of the main arteries that runs through Leavenworth, and it leads all the way from the city limits, to the road that leads to the entrance of Fort Leavenworth. So one can imagine that every school day, in a high school with roughly 1,200 students, it was clogged up a bit there. Sometimes my mom would be waiting to turn long after I had already crossed the street.

This particular day she did her slow roll to a stop. There were several cars behind us, as there usually were, and I hopped out. The road was busy like normal, so I had to stand for a few seconds before I could safely cross. There was no crossing guard at this section of 10th Avenue. Eventually there was a break in the traffic and my mom watched me step out into the street to cross. That’s when a car from the line behind her jetted out of line, cut her off, and turned right, crossing my path at the moment I was starting to take my leave of the corner. I apparently stepped back, a little bewildered, while my mom screamed obscenities. Then I went on about my day.

I do not remember this moment. To be clear when she asked me about it, I was confused. I have no recollection of ever being “almost hit” at high school. I guess it just wasn’t a big deal to me. But to my mother, to any mother, it would be the sort of heart-sinking feeling you don’t forget.

It’s funny what we remember and what we don’t. What sticks with us. What teaches us lessons. I’ve always been careful when crossing a street. And I’ve crossed a lot of streets alone, even as a child. And maybe there was a reason. Maybe this was the reason. I just don’t know.

Remember to look both ways, y’all.

M.

Arizona Time

I’m still on Arizona time, which is three hours behind our time. Which is why I’m wide awake at 2:00 am, contemplating life, as I stare at the light coming through the crack in the curtain. Well, it’s part of the reason. There are other reasons.

Like, my child is going on his first-field trip alone tomorrow. He won’t be alone, alone, just without me. I’ve ALWAYS chaperoned his field trips, but I didn’t this one, and I’m nervous. It’s to the Holocaust Museum at Kennesaw State. I’m not worried about the subject matter (we took him to the Smithsonian one in Washington, DC earlier this year), it’s all the other things that worry me. Will he take the time to stop and eat his lunch? Will he be mindful of his actions? Will he be respectful of the history? Will he ask pointed and thoughtful questions? Will he let his best buddies get him off track? Will the bus be safe on the highway? Will his teacher be nearby if gets sad? I have concerns.

Then there’s all the other things of life. My work I’ve been putting off, with the deadline this week. My mom’s last three days in town with us. Halloween. Spirit Night. Field Day. Husband leaving for another week of work. Dentist appointment. Therapy. It’s all happening this week. And it’s all piling on top of the fact that I was gone for five days. There’s guilt there, right? Even though there shouldn’t be. Even though my husband and son haven’t said anything about it. It’s just there. In my head. Mom guilt.

Today I told my husband I’m always afraid when I leave, that they will realize they get along fine without me. Worst fear, right? That you’re not the glue that holds the family together. He was shocked. He scoffed a little and said, “Yeah, we get by. But that’s all we do. Get by.” Then he hugged me and told me he was glad to have me home. The dog, he informed me, had been depressed. This I could believe.

So yeah. I’m wide awake at 2:00 am. But it’s only 11:00 pm in Tucson. So, it’s not too bad.

M.

Snapshots

Y’all know I take pics. Like I’m addicted to capturing the moment, to the point that I sometimes wonder if I’m missing out on what is actually happening. Let’s just say, I’m aware of my problem. I’m not in denial. I also don’t necessarily see a need to fix it. I’m that girl that loves nothing more than finding an old box of photos and rummaging through them on a cold night in November. Reliving the memories in those photos. Remembering the feelings. It’s a good thing, as Martha would say. A good thing.

And so I live my life in a constant state of wanting to snap a picture, and wanting to live in the moment. I want my son to have tangible memories of me when I’m gone, and I want them of my friends and family when they are gone, or just really far away, which is just how it is. How it has been for over twenty years now. Those closest to me, live the farthest away. And pictures help.

But this week, while visiting one of my oldest and bestest friends in Arizona, I actually, for real, put my phone down. Sure I took some pics, like this one of her four-month-old, Bexley:

Because I wanted to remember how she fell asleep with her “Chuppie” half in and half out. I wanted to remember her stork bite. Her little pink blanket. I wanted to remember the feeling of holding this precious baby. Of her instant love for me, and mine for her. And when it’s January, and I’m having a poop day, and I’m wishing for the warm Arizona sun, this will help. But I took many more mental snapshots this week, than I did actual ones.

Like game night last night. When we introduced Melody’s mom Carla to Cards Against Humanity. (That’s always a crapshoot when you introduce moms to that game!) and Carla kicked our ass. Like had our actual numbers. She played the game, didn’t let the game play her. And at one point, when she played a particular graphic card, and it won (her son-in-law picked the winning card), we all looked at her and she whispered, “Shiiiit” because she had to own up to that card. It sent us all into genuine, hard, belly laughs. And she couldn’t help but smile. Snapshot.

Or this morning, when I had awkward couple of hours before my plane left. Long enough to pack and get clean, but not long enough to go do something fun. I sat on the couch with Miss Bexley, while Melody laid next to us, and I watched Bexley sleep. Because sleeping babies are the best. And when she was sleeping she was dreaming. And smiling. Snapshot.

Yesterday, when Nashville (Mel’s first grader) and I were playing Legos on my bed. I said, “Pretend Emperor Zerg came and he had them under mind control. Nash said, “Oh I have Emperor Zerg!” And he ran off. I expected him to come back with another little LEGO guy. Instead he walked in the room with a GIANT Emperor Zerg (from Toy Story) and I was shocked, and thought it was hilarious. Snapshot.

And now here I am. Standing in the airport. Waiting to board my flight to Chicago (where I’ll probably take more pictures) and I just snapped an actual picture to remember this moment. But honestly, I didn’t need to. Because there are some trips, some people, some places, we won’t forget.

M.

Thanks for the fun, Arizona. See ya later. ❤️

Traveling Sisterhood

Yesterday I spent the day in Arizona wine country with friends. Turns out that yes, things can grow in the desert. Not just prickly things and snakes. But lovely things, like grapes, and long-distance friendships, and beautiful, blue-eyed baby girls.

Yesterday was one of those days with the ability to save those who need a bit of saving. You know the kinda days I’m talking about: when the stars align, the sisterhood converges, and the desert abides. When the chaos of life slinks off your shoulders. When you find yourself in an unexpected place, with perfectly, imperfect people.

Today I’m thankful for the yesterdays in my life. To the planes that arrived on time. To the cramped cars, and the funny Border Patrol men. To the cough drop talks, and the woman with the sangria from California. For the girl gangs I’m apart of. And the ones I don’t yet know.

Thanks, Universe.

Thanks, friends.

M.





Brains are Funny That Way

I have this friend, I used to consider her a devout Christian, like when she’d say things like, “You can pray the gay away” (I’m paraphrasing), I’d wince a bit, but move on because we all have our unfounded beliefs, that’s how our brains work. This week she shared her belief on social media that good, Jesus-following Christians, should not celebrate Halloween. I pushed back. Because sometimes we all need push back. We all need reminded that just because we think a certain way, because we’ve studied what we think is “the” truth, there are many more “truths” out there. I ended up DMing her, hoping to explain this. Because she kept saying she was sharing “The” truth and I felt compelled to remind her, like all religions, these are beliefs, not truths. But I don’t think she understood.

That’s how our brain works though, y’all. When we believe something and we repeat it over and over again, “Halloween bad,” then our brain starts to go, “Oh yeah, Halloween bad. And people who celebrate Halloween, bad.” And I think I have a good handle on this friend. I think she’s just trying to serve people. I think she has a servant’s heart, for the most part, but she hasn’t yet realized that you can’t “Halloween bad” people into doing things. But, the post she shared came from a preacher, and the one she wrote on the topic was sparked by what she heard a preacher say at his service. Which means brimstone and fire is being pushed from the pulpit. I’ve heard pastors like this. I’ve seen what they do. How they work. These people believe they have Christ on their side and can say and do what they want. But, uh, don’t we all have Jesus on our side? Isn’t that like, his thing? Y’all, I know some of you who hang with me a lot get tired of hearing this, but, Imma say it again, and hope it sticks: Jesus is not a primary source. No one is taking you seriously when you throw down some, “Well Jesus told me…” Well, I guess some people are taking you seriously, that’s how preachers work. And you know what is at the root of that work? Fear.

Back to my friend. What was even more disturbing about this whole conversation with her, was the way she spoke of Halloween. The fear she had of it. She said she puts on an armor, practices “spiritual warfare.” She said this in the same breath (rather paragraph) that she said she doesn’t worry about things because “Jesus is above all of that.” So which is it? Do we have to be suited up, live in a warfare mindset to love Jesus, or do we trust that he’s bigger than any of it? If you ask me, any type of warfare is rooted in fear, and I have enough fear to last me my whole life, I don’t need my religion bogging me down with it too.

But that’s how religion works, right? That’s why our brains love it! Religion eases our fears. It gives us something to believe in, to cling to when life isn’t going so well. Religion explains a lot of shit that our overworked brains just can’t process. The meaning of life. Why we die. Religion can, and does, explain a whole host of uncomfortable topics for us. Hard topics. That we just don’t want to deal with. I mean if you ask me the Greeks did it the best. All those awesome Gods to explain away all the shit they just couldn’t wrap their minds around! Persephone was my favorite, the way she made all the flowers bloom! Girl, you so special!

At one point in our conversation I suggested my friend was a good writer, one who had the capacity to make people feel united. Help isolated mommas who were just trying to find a community, and sometimes a church community is all they have. And I suggested she keep to less trivial topics, least she be part of the cog that is turning young people, young mothers especially, away from church. I was thinking more along the lines of sharing her stories of redemption. The goodness in her church community. Helping to solve hated and bigotry with her words. She said that getting people to see that the celebrating Halloween is not Christ-like is VERY important to her. Right now. I guess I was calling her to something she just isn’t ready for. Spiritually or creatively. Because if celebrating Halloween is one of the worst things that we are doing in our world right now, then well, my friend’s brain is already elsewhere.

M.

Not About a Dead Dear

If you’re reading this right now, I’m alive! Well, maybe not. I wrote this two days before today and that means it’s Sunday. Or is it Monday? No, today is Wednesday, but I wrote this on Sunday. Or Monday. Or at some point when I was not 35,000 feet above the ground, but I planned to post it while I was 35,000 feet above the ground. I did this so that I wouldn’t use my blog as an excuse to write while I was on the plane, because I don’t need to be writing a blog post right now, I mean, not right, right now, but on Wednesday at nine am, because I really, actually need to be working on a project for my friend Megan who I work on projects for sometimes. But it is sort of a boring project (sorry Megan, but you know what I mean), so I have been putting it off all week in lieu of writing blog posts, but not writing actual writing, like that damn essay I’ve been working on for four months now about that time I walked into my Uncle Arthur’s barn and saw a hanging deer bleeding out and then we all ate deer chili. What? What, Missy?

Uhhh. Huh huh.

What, y’all?

Huh?

I don’t know.

I think what I am saying is that I am in a plane, probably above your head, right… right… now! And I am working on some editing, not writing an essay about a dead deer, and even though that is what I need to be doing right… right… then! I am not doing it then, and I am not doing it now.

Hey, do you guys remember Beavis and Butthead? Remember? On MTV? I didn’t watch it a lot because we were poor and didn’t have cable, but sometimes I did get to see it at friends’ houses and they always did this laugh, you know which one I mean: Uhhhh huuuuh huh huh. It was usually right after someone said a word like: Penetration.

Uhhhh. Huuuuuh. Huh huh.

I guess my brain is fried. That happens sometimes. Next stop, California!

Happy Wednesday!

M.

ATL>LAX>TUS>ORD>ATL

Wednesday I am flying out to visit my friends in Arizona! I am so excited about this trip. First of all, I am traveling alone. Which means I have no one to worry about, but myself. Now you know I LOVE my family. And if I’m being super honest, I am very bummed that Jerimiah and Jackson are not coming with me because I love to travel with them and I am meeting a new baby that I want them to meet too! But the timing did not work with their schedules, so I am going alone. It has been a long time since I have travelled alone, and I am sorta excited about not having to pack three people. Kennel a dog. Fight with my 11-year-old about Arizona-appropriate clothing, etc. You know, the mommy logistics of travel. Instead, I can just pack myself, walk from the car to the security desk at the airport, show my own ticket, not worry about where everyone’s shoes ended up, grab myself whatever I want to eat for breakfast, and get on my damn plane. Wow. Amazing.

But the nervous part? Well, for all the shit I give the Atlanta airport (and I give it a lot of shit, because it is the busiest airport, uhhh, ever) I have never navigated my way through it. I have never flown in or out of the ATL. I’ve never taken the SkyTrain, or snaked my way through that security nightmare. I have only ever heard about it from my husband and friends. I have also never been through LAX, and because I used miles for this flight, thanks #AmericanAirlines, and I only paid $12, I have layovers. One on the way there, and one on the way back. I detest layovers, but I’m not gonna complain, because #TwelveDollars. So I go from Atlanta to LA, then from LA to Tucson. Then on the way back I go from Tucson to Chicago O’Hare (which I have been through, and it’s not too bad), then back to Atlanta. Whew.

I keep having all these thoughts about the first time I ever flew alone. I was 18 and on a flight from Kansas City (MCI) to Boston’s Logan (BOS). This was pre-9/11, which of course meant I just kind of walked onto the plane. I might have had to show a ticket, I’m sure I did, but it was Kansas City and it was 2000, and I was young and stupid and remember very little. I think people still smoked in the airport back then. Maybe.

Anyway, I had a six a.m. flight, and I had to go through Detroit. I was on a Northwest flight, remember them? And Detroit was their “hub” and if you have never been to the DTW, well, just consider this a blessing and move on about your life. Right before take-off I had a panic attack. Like, a real one, y’all. An honest to God, could not breathe, thought I was going to pass out, was willing to open an “Exit” door, panic attack. I didn’t know what to do. The sun was just coming up over Kansas City, and I just kept telling myself to watch the sun. Watch the sun, watch the sun, watch the sun. I repeated over and over again to myself. And before I knew it I had a glass of OJ in front of me and a bagel with cream cheese (they still served food on flights back then) and I had managed to slow my breathing, and recline my seat, and just watch the sun.

My palms get a little sweaty when I think back to that day. And I’m pretty sure I never told anyone about that panic attack. I was embarrassed to say the least. But it was real. And sometimes when we are taxing to take-off I remember that day. Then I find the sun, and close my eyes. Usually I reach for my husband’s hand, or give my son’s leg a reassuring pat. I can never be stressed when he is watching, because I don’t want him to be stressed. But this time… hmmm.

I will be fine. I am pretty sure. Yes, I will. But I guess keep your eyes on the sky on Wednesday. And if you see a news report about a woman pulling an emergency exit in an American Airlines flight en route to LAX, well, I guess maybe just send up some good thoughts!

But for real, I will let you guys know when I land safely in Tucson. 🙂 And of course, I will share pics of the new baby!

M.

Therapatsy

My therapists name is Patsy. I’ve written about her before, but I used a fake name to hide her identify because she probably doesn’t want her name associated in any way shape or form with this here blog ‘o’ mine, but today I decided that’s too damn bad because well, first of all there are a lot of Patsys in this world, and probably some of them are therapists, and also I really like Patsy and want to tell you guys about her. So, let me start over and say that my therapists name is Patsy and she’s pretty cool.

Last week she told me that she feels like she always tells me to “lie” to my family, but in a way she does, and in a way I need her to tell me to do that. Take for instance when I have to get some alone time because my mom has been at my house visiting for two weeks, and we all took an eight-hour road trip together over a long weekend and I have been feeling like I always have to talk to someone every second of every day because someone is always talking to me every second of every day. Patsy said, “Tell them you don’t feel well, and go hide in your room.” Ah, see that? Patsy just gets me.

She apologized right after, but really, I’m sorta out of options here. I told her not to worry because I already do this. I’ve been doing this for literal years. To my mom, my husband, my son, my friends. I will be all, “Oh, I have to poop. Sorry, it’s gonna be a while. You know ‘ol Missy and her gastrointestinal problems…” then I hide in the bathroom for half an hour so I don’t have to talk to anyone, or make any decisions for anyone, or pretend to be engrossed in a story about that one time my friend’s cat got out of the house and showed back up three months later with three kittens and a penchant for blood. I mean, it’s a good story, but one can only hear it so many times, so I lie and I sit in the bathroom and I listen to nothing but fucking silence. I love silence. LOVE IT.

Before my regular visits with Patsy, I would get therapy anyway I could, while telling people that therapy just wasn’t for me. I would watch Brene Brown or Oprah on repeat and hope that I learned something. I would sit on park benches and listen to other people talk, hoping they would say something inspirational. I would write. I would listen to music, I would binge watch shows about women in prison to make myself feel better about my life. Patsy sorta ended all that for me. Patsy has a calming presence. Which is way good for me. She isn’t afraid of silence, which sometimes I just need in my bi-weekly hour session. But she also can tell when we just need to jump in and get started.

Last week I was fifteen minutes late to my appointment. I HATE being late, but I had the time wrong in my calendar, and well, I just messed up. Plain and simple. Not to mention the fact that I was in the line at Starbucks when I realized I had messed up. Jerimiah was with me and he was all, “Tell her it was my fault!” (He always makes this offer to me, about anything. If I do something wrong, or say something wrong, or hurtful, he will say, “Just blame it on me!” I usually don’t, because I’m too damn honest. But the offer is nice.) When I relayed the story to Patsy, because of course I told her the truth, because I can’t lie to her—which is coincidently one of the ways I know I can really trust someone. Always has been. If I can’t lie to them, I know they are nice, and good, and my kinda people—so I didn’t lie to Patsy and she was all, “Where is the damn Starbucks? Did you leave it in the car cause you didn’t want me to see?” And I was all, “Duh.” And she was all, “Dude, don’t do that! Always bring the Starbucks in with you.” Ahhh, Patsy.

Why am I telling you about Patsy? I dunno. Because I am currently “not feeling well” and I am in my room, alone, with the door closed, while my husband and mom and kid watch a movie downstairs, and I just realized how there’s no getting around that I NEED to do this sometimes. And I shouldn’t feel bad about it. Patsy said that. And she’s a professional. So I should listen to her. I also, probably, want to take this time to tell you all to get yourself a Patsy. Or a Susan. Or an Angela. Or a Bill or a Mark. Some therapist, with some therapist-sounding name. And check in with them every once in a while. It’s helpful. And nice. Even if you just sit in silence for an hour. It’s so totally worth it.

Take care of yourself.

M.

Easy Like Sunday Morning

Sunday mornings were never easy for me. Especially pre-Jackson. Pre-Jackson I always worked on Sunday mornings, because pre-Jackson I lacked a college education, and that meant I had jobs that paid little, involved menial work, and often times required me to work weekends, because if you work in the hospitality industry, or retail, and you don’t have kids guess what you work? Yeah, the shit shifts. In the restaurant business Sunday mornings blow for a multitude of reasons, hungover people calling out, late cooks, dirty store from the slackers that worked Saturday night close, but mainly it’s the uppity after-church patrons who have the capacity, and oftentimes the desire, to screw up your morning with a negative, hateful attitude. What?! Aren’t people filled with joy and grace after just having been filled by the good Lord’s word? You’d think, but nah. They saved up all their patience and restraint while they were at church, which means their brunch server gets the shaft. But this post isn’t about those assholes, this post is about a Sunday morning shift that I didn’t mind working, at Buster’s Video/Laundromat.

Another video store, Missy, are you serious? Dead. I have worked at three video stores in my life. 1. Home Video the place with the, ahem, “backroom” that I told y’all about last week. 2. Blockbuster, which I promise will get its own post one day, and 3. Buster’s Video/Laundromat, which was an obvious knock-off of Blockbuster, which is kinda why I liked it so much, expcept for that one teensy difference, the laundromat attached to it. (Well, technically I worked at four video stores, because I worked for both corporate Blockbuster and a franchise, and although they were the same video store brand, they were way different. Christ, Missy, stay on topic!)

Buster’s Video/Laundromat was unique because of the laundromat situation, but also because Buster’s Video was independently owned and operated. There were three of them (that I remember) in Southern Missouri, between Ozark and Hollister, and I worked at the one in Hollister, Missouri, which is a little town right across Lake Taneycomo, a stone’s throw away from Branson. And as I might have mentioned it was the only one that had a laundromat attached to it. And yes, it was attached. And yes, I was responsible for running the laundromat and the video store at the same time. And yes, the laundromat was called the “Ye Old Wash House” and yes, it was as fucking bizarre as it sounds. I even found some pics because I know sometimes y’all think I am a lying sack of shit. These are all current pics, so it wasn’t this nice when I worked there, but in the first one you can see the whole building. Buster’s was right under the “Parking in Back” sign, that was the front door of the video store, and yeah I parked in the back which was a gravel pit, and that is where the Buster Patrons parked too.

This second pic shows some major updating since the time I worked there, which was around 2004. And when I saw the pics of the inside I was AMAZED because not much has changed, and really, it should have by now.

Oh, you know what, I take that back. It didn’t have video games back then. So there you go. Same white folding tables, though. Same “Homestyle Washers” (though the sign is new), same old blue chairs and tile floor, and same old quarter machine that I wanted to kill. Literally. Strangle it. (The more I look at the pics, the more I assume they busted down the Buster’s walls and made the “Ye Old Wash House” bigger and more badass. Which really is what they should have done from the get-go because how Buster’s made any money, I will never know. But they made enough to pay me $8/hour, so whateves.

So why did I love this place on Sunday mornings? Because no one comes to the damn video store on Sunday mornings, and even less people do their laundry on Sunday mornings. People sleep in, I guess. Or maybe go to church. But I had to be there at nine a.m. every Sunday to open both the laundromat and the video store, and sometimes, if I was very lucky, I wouldn’t talk to a soul until noon. And since my shift ended 2:00 pm, it was the best of best days.

I would walk through slowly, usually with my fresh Diet Coke straight from the vending machine. I would close all the dryer doors, and make sure the lights were on to signify all was ready to rock and roll. I would turn the televisions on, stock the shelves with the rental returns from the night before, and pick an awesome movie to start my day with. Usually an oldie but a goodie like “Empire Records” or anything with Janeane Garofalo. It was a small store, the laundromat took up most of the room in the building, but it did have games, movies, and miscelanious video store items like posters, candy, and lighters. You always need lighters.

Then I would sit my ass on the stool behind the counter and wait, and watch my movie, and drink my Diet Coke, and sometimes order food for delivery from the pizza place around the corner, or sometimes just eat something out of the vending machine. On cold days in the winter, I would take some quarters out of the “In case people lose quarters in the vending machine” drawer, and turn on a couple of dryers and sit on the old blue chairs and watch the television in there. The same movie played on all the televisions, which I was often reminded of by the “manager” when he would stop in and I would have an R-rated movie playing. “Misssssy,” he’d slither, “Family-friendly.” Oh right. I’d run over and stick Toy Story in.

I don’t remember too much about the manager, other than he was sort of weird and sounded like a snake when he talked. But, I mean, he was a forty-something who managed a small chain of video stores in the Ozarks, so… I’m being nice here.

So there you have it. Buster’s Video and Laundromat. Or to be sure, Buster’s Video and Ye Old Wash House Laundromat, but you know, same, same.

M.