Virgo Rising

It’s my mom’s birthday. She’s turning 76 today, and I believe this is the longest I’ve ever gone without seeing her. It’s been nearly a year now. We celebrated her 75th birthday last year by flying her out here for a few weeks, but that’s not an option now. And I did intend to get to Kansas City before now, but life as we know has other plans.

My mom is a Virgo like me, and I’m not sure that was a good thing growing up. But the older I get the more I recognize the things I appreciate in myself are the things I got from her. My bend toward honesty. My loyalty to people who deserve it, and some who don’t. My sense of humor. My stance on the treatment of those unlike me. The smaller, the weaker, those in need.

I’m fortunate to still have my mother around, and I’ll get to see her soon enough. But for today, in honor of my mom, I’ll take a page from her book and say, have a great day. Talk to a stranger. Hug your kids. Appreciate the small things. Eat a bowl of French onion soup for your sadness. Commune with the birds. And laugh at something, yourself included, if you can.

Happy birthday, Mom! Hope it’s a great one!

M.

I’m Vintage Now

I had a random memory today of rocking in a rocking chair of my very own when I was little. I’m not sure how old I was, maybe four, and I had on a blue sailor dress and it was my birthday. I’d just plopped down in the rocking chair made for someone like me (a kid) and I rocked and reached television. I’m not sure where the rocking chair came from, but I faintly remember what it looked like so I welcomed the internet in to help search. And I found the one closest to the rocking chair in my memory.

My rocking chair looked like this one. I think it might have been from The Cass Toy Company, at least that’s what internet sleuths before me have said. The company burned down before I was born, but it’s possible, and likely, this was a hand-me-down, or a garage sell find.

Anyway, I’m wishing I had that little chair now. Some of that four-year-olds energy, and just a smidge of that “vintage” charm around here.

By the way, I had to Google “vintage” in order to find this rocking chair from my childhood. What the hell?!

Maybe, probably we are all vintage by this point.

M.

Taco Tuesday

Listen, I love me some tacos. In my baby book my mom wrote that my favorite thing was tacos when I was like six months old. There is a lot wrong with that, but let’s focus on the good, I was one cool baby. So the number one thing that I miss right now is getting down on some tacos at our favorite, local Mexican restaurant. I miss so much about it, that sometimes I wake up thinking that I can actually smell the sticky, vinyl seats. I’m sure I can’t. Or can I? I don’t know, it doesn’t matter, with Jackson’s help I took Jerimiah on a “Date Night” last night to our new favorite Mexican restaurant: Our back porch. And you know what? It wasn’t half bad.

Jackson took his role as our server very seriously, as he usually does pretend play. He never once broke character, even allowing us to take our masks off only after I convinced him we were the only patrons of the restaurant. This was the note taped to our front door when I loaded Jerimiah up in the car (with the dogs) and drove up the road and back while Jackson “prepared” (got into a suit and character).

When we got to “Saren Mexican Eatery” we were told that our table wasn’t ready and we were offered a spot at the bar, where we were lectured on the business of the restaurant business, and how it takes its toll on a person. Then we got drinks!

We ordered chips and queso, had to ask for the queso to be a little warmer since it was cold in the middle. We watched him “make” guacamole (dump it from a container into a bowl) and then we were told our table was ready. We took our drinks and appetizers to our sun porch, and well, hilarity ensued.

Eventually “Scott” came out (sans glasses) to take our order, and complained that “Dorian” wasn’t putting in the work and his section was slacking, but probably he’d be our server too. We did meet “Dorian” later, he really needed to get his shit together. Though his only real job was to come out onto the patio and announce parking problems every few minutes. Someone blocked the fire hydrant! Someone parked illegally! Someone needs to move their car! Things of that nature. Oh, Dorian. At least you’re cute.

Then there was the very loud, disruptive Spanish music blaring from Alexa while we ate. I’m sure it was very confusing to the neighbors, and the dogs didn’t seem to care for it so much. Eh, you can’t win ‘em all.

The main course came out quite late and not very hot, but I must say he was the only server/cook/manager on duty, and even though the food was precooked that day by the head chef (me) it could have used a tad more care. But we ate it without complaint, even when we were informed that the house was out of a few staples like tortilla chips and lettuce even the some of us knew we absolutely were not out of those items. Bizarre.

Dessert was not listed on the menu, it was a secret, and you kinda had to know how to ask for it. Also, the box of cheesecake bites was missing a couple when presented to us. Hmm…

All-in-all, we had a nice evening at Saren Restaurant and (Rebranded) Eatery, and even though our bill was absurdly wrong, the service lacked a certain, umm, finesse, and there were way too many dogs present, we still managed a hefty tip which was immediately pocketed by “Dorian” or maybe it was “Scott” while forgetting to actually clean up after us… Still I have it a 10 on Yelp.

M.

That’s the Truth

As of late, I’ve been in a constant struggle with the word “truth”. What it means to me. What it means to those around me. My family. My friends. Our collective truth. I wonder about the price of it, the cost of it, the casualty of it. One minute I think it is the only thing that has gotten me this far in my life, my ability to lie so close to it, to my own truth. Then some days I think it will unravel me. It will haunt me until I die. It will destroy my compassion, my empathy, my good-natured ways. I wonder if I have good-natured ways. I doubt I always have good-natured ways.

Today I am considering sharing a story that has followed me around for years now, but I’m hesitant because I think the other person in the story will not have the same recollections that I do. I think the other person will remember it a different way. Will feel a truth that is foreign to me. Will wish the outcome had been different, so instead of writing about the moment in time when our realities diverge or collide, I instead sit alone in my office and continue to think about whose truth I’d actually be telling. And what is the intent of the truth besides. Intent. What is the intent?

I used to think, naively, that truth WAS the intent. But I don’t anymore. More often than not these days I’m leaning toward truth being merely a byproduct of compassion, empathy, those good-natured ways. If we have been raised well enough, loved enough as children, then certainly we’ve been taught that truth hurts, and sometimes that pain is not worth whatever the intent is on the other side. I’m rambling now. I’m a rambler, that’s one of my truths.

I guess I’m writing today to say that I’m not writing today. I can’t. Not just yet. Because some truths don’t feel like mine, even when they are.

Take care of your truths. I think it is the best way.

M.

For Posterity

I’m in kindergarten and I’m hunkered behind our living room chair, my back against the wood paneling of our living room, and I have my sister’s portable cassette player. No idea where my sister is. There’s a faint sound of the mower in the background. My mother was probably out mowing the front lawn. I’m eating slices of cheese, the Kraft singles kind, only it’s not really Kraft because we couldn’t afford that kind. It’s an off brand yellow cheese and I’m pulling the piece into smaller pieces and sitting them around a plastic Tupperware plate, while the sound of some newsman blares through the recorded cassette tape I am listening to. The back of the chair has a large piece of wood running along it and I have my feet up against that piece of wood.

So there I am, eating my cheese, my back against wood, my feet on wood, listening to a recording that my mother made five years before. It’s a recording of the news from January 20, 1980. An hour after Reagan is inaugurated. It is a recording of the moment Ayatollah released the 52 American hostages from Iran. I am smitten with this recording and listen to it often.

Today, nearly 35 years after my mom made that recording in her small living room apartment on State Street, I have some questions. How did I get my hands on that tape? Did she want me to hear it? Why was I obsessed with a recording of hostages being released at six years old? Why did my mother feel the need to record that in the first place? She was barely pregnant with me the day the American diplomats were flown to Germany to the welcoming embrace of President Jimmy Carter, who had worked for over a year to free them, but just lost the general election and was robbed of the last heroic act of his presidency. What compelled her? Was it the state of the country at the time? Was everyone gathered around their television screens that afternoon, waiting, anticipating, feeling it was their patriotic duty to listen, to record history unfolding, with their American flag newspapers Scotch-taped into their wooden window frames? I can’t be sure. I just don’t know that country. That world. My mother, at that time.

I do know the feeling though. The feeling that what is happening, right now, in the present moment, feels in some way so important that we have to record it, write it, etch it into our collective memory for future generations to dust off and read, listen to, with their cheesy fingers sliding between pause and play, while the voices of those long gone cry and scream in release.

M.

Virgo Rising

Listen, I don’t pay much attention to the zodiac. In fact, outside of those Seventeen magazine horoscopes that I read religiously as a kid, I haven’t done too much looking into how I supposedly “tick” because I was born under a Virgo sun in retrograde. When I think zodiac, my first thought goes to the Zodiac Killer. Wow, what a crazy dude. What’s just as crazy to me is that people spend their lives reading what their stars and signs tell about them, and are fully convinced that they play a role in their life. Well, that did seem crazy, until I read mine…

Listen we are a tactical group, us Virgos. First and foremost we are Virgos comma The Virgins, so I mean, yeah we are very nice and polite and pure. So pure. Haven’t you guys got that fucking pure sorta feeling from me? I hope you have. I hope I rep the Virgos really well.

We fit in between the 150th and 180th degree of the zodiac. (I can’t decide whether that is capitalized or not, certainly when we talk about the Zodiac Killer, proper noun, but what about the zodiac? I mean technically the zodiac here is just an area of the sky, but it is a certain area of the sky. I wish I cared enough to Google it.)

Our symbol, according to the ancient, wise truths of the website Wikipedia, is the maiden. Our element is Earth and apparently our ultimate nemesis is Venus, which seems weird because I thought women were from Venus. I’m confused again. But check out this badass.

Uhh heller, she cool. And not just because that looks like an “M” as in “Missy.” But I mean, that’s cool too.

So why I am talking about this today. Well, have you ever checked out your zodiac sign? I hadn’t really paid much attention to mine and then a friend was all, “Ohhh, you’re a Virgo? Whew.” And I was like what the hell does that mean? And she was all, “That’s why you’re so honest, like, uhh, too honest, Missy.” And I was like ain’t no sign gonna get up in here and tell me how to live my life. So then I started reading about Virgos and Christ, y’all, the zodiac has me pegged (not the killer, thank goodness) starting with the backstory.

Every good sign has an awesome backstory. The Virgo sign involves an oops pregnancy, a murderous/distant father, a very special bottle of wine, and a pig. I know right?! IS THIS MY LIFE?! Here is the story, and for sure I just copy and pasted from the ancient scroll of Wiki, college professors look away:

“In the legend, Parthenos is the daughter of Staphylus and Chrysothemis and sister to Rhoeo and Molpadia. Rhoeo had been impregnated by Apollo but when her father discovered her pregnancy, he assumed it was by a random suitor and was greatly ashamed. As punishment, he locked her in a box and threw her in a river. After the terrible fate of their sister, Parthenos and Molpadia lived in fear of their father’s terrible wrath. One evening, Staphylus left his daughters in charge of a very valuable bottle of wine. When they both accidentally fell asleep, one of their swine broke the bottle. Terrified of their father, the sisters fled to a nearby cliff and threw themselves off. But because of his previous relations with Rhoeo, Apollo saved his two sisters and delivered them to the safety of nearby cities in Cherronseos. Molpadia ended up in Castabus where she changed her name to Hemithea and was worshipped as a local goddess for many years. Parthenos settled in Bubastus where she was also worshipped as a local goddess. According to another story, Parthenos was a daughter of Apollo who made the constellation to commemorate her death at a young age.”

To be fair, it’s a cool backstory that is totally relevant to my life, but it doesn’t explain the “honesty” gene that I inherited from my grandpa Apollo (I obviously don’t know how any of this works). That comes from math, signs, moons in retrograde, and interestingly enough, the exact time I was born.

Horoscope.com, which I have spent way more time on than I’d like to admit since I was told my Virgo Sun rising was the cause of my problems, is pretty adamant about these Virgo truths: My flower is a sunflower (I already knew this as I am a Kansas girl, born and raised). I am supposedly smart, sophisticated, and kind. I think we can all agree on the second one, I drink White Claws. I’m apparently an amazing friend, always there to lend a hand and advice (especially the unwarranted kind). I’m practical, a big-picture thinker, and a little shy when you first meet me. Okay, this is getting creepy. Here are some other apparent traits of mine.

Apparently, I’m a passionate lover.

Apparently, I am Type-A personality.

Apparently, I enjoy digging in deep, getting to the truth of people. It’s apparently the only way I can gain their trust, and let them gain mine.

Apparently, I strive for perfection and make my friends and family suffer when it isn’t attainable.

Apparently, Beyonce is a Virgo.

Damn, I buried my lead.

M.

America, Fuck Yeah!

Today is my favorite holiday. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t give a fuck about our independence, or how wrong (or wronged) our founding fathers were. I don’t give a fuck about our founding fathers. I don’t even like the phrase “Founding Fathers,” it reminds me of that piece of shit “Birth of a Nation” notion and it gives me the heebie-jeebies. Eww. Gross. Stop it.

Today is my favorite holiday cause I like fireworks! Ahhh! They are so pretty. And yeah, maybe they represent the casting off of bombs, and the old ways of war and rebellion, but to me they mean something much more personal. To me they mean summer nights. And summer nights don’t conjure up images of war, or bombs, or even old, white fathers who were super racist and gross. Summer means popsicles, softball, street kickball under the lamppost before my mom whistled for me to come inside. Summer reminds me of cantaloupe and sweaty baseball caps with my hair pulled up tight underneath. It reminds me of backyard camping at a friend’s house, and learning to shoot hoops in the driveway, of catching lightening bugs, and talking on the telephone very late. Summertime reminds me of my childhood, the good parts, the times when I got to feel and act like I kid. The parts where I didn’t worry about things, or people, or how this whole thing would turn out. I just worried if we’d win the game, or I’d get to stay the weekend at Lee Anne’s house, or if someone would take me to a cool fireworks show on the 4th of July. Luckily for me, someone usually did.

So happy 4th of July today, y’all. May this day of freedom and independence conjure up the best of memories for you, and remind you that although this isn’t the way we thought we’d be spending our day today, it could always be worse. At least there’s such a thing as fireworks!

Stay safe and sane out there.

M.

Church

I woke up thinking about church today. Probably because it’s Sunday, certainly not because I’m a churchgoer. I’ve never been a churchgoers. I was never forced to go to church as a child, never had religion thrust upon me. My mom used to say she’d let her kids decide what to believe, though she herself was a Christian, it didn’t much matter back then what we believed in, as long as we were good, kind people. And we are. All of us. But we maybe didn’t go the path she expected.

I’m married to an atheist. The good kind. He doesn’t need a higher power to keep him in line. He likes to say that he does all the raping and pillaging he wants to, which is zero. He isn’t “acting” good in this life for fear of what the next will hold. He’s a good person because he’s a good person.

I’m in a “complicated” relationship with Jesus. God, well, I’m not a fan. But Jesus seemed cool, the man Jesus anyway. But even on my best days I can’t wrap my mind around church. Around organized religion. Too much hate, judgement, and evil takes places in many of those four walls, and I’ll pass. I’ll get my “church” the old-fashioned way, walking with Jesus alone, communing with nature, talking to y’all on this here blog.

My son has been raised with grandparents who don’t shy away from talking religion with him. My mom taught him to pray (she’s become very religious in her senior years and I’m sure regrets that whole “let my kids figure it out themselves” deal she did). So since Jackson was small she’s talked about her love for God to him, which is why I was pretty surprised the other day when he said, “Santa Claus is real, you know. He’s a real person, not like God who is just a belief.” Ouch. That’s some shit he made up in his own mind. Seems Santa, a jolly man who has magic and cares about all the children in the world, is easier to believe in than a God who makes people spew hate and judgment towards others. Of course my happy, kind, empathetic son believes in a man who has flying reindeer and brings smiles to children. And of course my smart, logical, realistic son can’t get behind a belief that spreads hate and has caused war and killing and disease. A belief people blindly stand behind. A belief that neglects some children based on how they came into this world, where they live, or how they practice their own faith. Of course.

So yeah, we aren’t headed to church today. But we are headed down to the lake for some fun, food, and fellowship. Is there anything else you can ask of a Sunday?

M.

Well Hello…

I have some new followers! I love new followers, but I hate that word “follower.” I prefer friends! I have some new friends! We shall all welcome them with open arms. Hello, friends! Welcome! Grab a White Claw, or a bottle of wine, or maybe some iced tea (we are in The South after all) and sit a spell while I tell you a bit about myself. My name is Missy. (Really it’s Melissa but when I was a born in the 80s my stone-washed jeans wearing sisters thought Missy sounded radical, so there you have it.) I go by Melissa when I am feeling “formal” or when I don’t know people very well, but I do prefer Missy. I’m not the type of person to offer that up when we first meet, nicknames sometimes scare people, so you’ll usually know me a little while when someone will call me Missy and you’ll be all, Wait, who is Missy? You mean Melissa? And they will be all, Who is Melissa? And that’s pretty much all you need to know about me. Just kidding.

I’m married to a lovely middle-aged, white man whom I often make fun of for being a middle-aged, white man but check this, he is faaaaar from the kinda guy you are thinking of. Sure, on the outside he looks the part, and a lot of old ladies grab his hand to tell them all about his church (like his atheist-ass cares), but he politely listens, nods along, and says, That sounds really nice! Occasionally other middle-aged, white men who do not know him very well will suggest having a beer, and they will end up saying some whacked-out racist shit, or something about how our current president is “fiscally responsible” or maybe throw in a homophobic joke, and my husband will be all, Oh, so you’re an asshole. Then he will pay his tab (but not theirs) and leave. He’s cool like that.

We have an 11-year-old son who is starting sixth grade in the fall. Middle school. I’m not going any further than that because I remember middle school, vividly, and I am terrified for him and for me. He’s supersonic smart though. He’s in the STEM program, robotics team, band, etc, etc. You’ll like him a lot and often remark how mature he is for his age, but that’s just because he doesn’t feel comfortable enough around you to make fart noises under his arm. Just yet. Otherwise he is honest, kind, considerate, and his three favorite television shows are: The Office, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

The dogs, Jesus I forgot about the dogs. Okay listen, we had this amazing dog for nearly 14 years. Her name was Bentley and she was my actual ride-or-die (yeah, I say ride or die and I don’t know if it is hyphenated or not). She was a chocolate lab mix and also the best dog in the whole world. But in 2018 her health problems caught up with her and we had to put her down a couple months shy of her 14th birthday. Then I did what I always do, I had a breakdown and over-compensated by getting not one, but two dogs. Sir Duke Barkington of Charlotte came first. He is a standard poodle and he’s hella fancy and honestly I can’t with him sometimes. He wears bow ties, and prefers to be professionally groomed with a blow out. We just celebrated his second birthday with a surprise celebration on April 30th, because quarantine.

Then there is Lady Winifred Beesly of Atlanta. Winnie came to us at the beginning of quarantine because who didn’t think it was the perfect time to go on Craigslist and adopt a dog that someone had bought and realized they were allergic to and didn’t know what to do with?! She’s part standard poodle and part great pyranees and I know what you are thinking, what does that dog look like? Answer: A hot fucking mess. But we love her.

Okay, so I think that’s the gist of life around here. We live in Metro Atlanta. We are pro-choice (I’ll tell you about my daughter sometime), LGBTQIA+ allies, active members in the Black Lives Matter Movement, and we are Bernie supporters who will be voting for Biden in November because shiiiiiiit. My husband has his MBA and works in finance, I write and piddle around the house yelling about politics and who the hell shit on the floor?! It’s usually a dog.

This blog houses everything from my distorted, meandering thoughts to stories of my childhood, to actual lists of whatever I am thinking at any given moment. I talk a lot about mental health, family, and writing. I made a promise to myself to blog everyday this year, and with the exception of two weeks ago when I took a break to help #MuteTheWhiteNoise and #AmplifyBlackVoices I have written everyday this year. So, there’s a lot to read and digest here. I also have a page with my published writings if you are so inclined. Thanks for reading today and thanks for being on this crazy ride!

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Instant Regret

  • When I say yes to a flavor shot in my iced coffee at Dunkin’
  • When my stomach has been rumbling and I trust a fart
  • Yelling, “Turn it up!” as I dance on a bar after three shots of tequila
  • Answering the door
  • That fourth enchilada
  • Every time I say, “I can help!” at a PTO meeting
  • “Ohhh, this gives me an idea! I’m gonna need some Sharpies.”
  • “What?! Me? I’ll be fine in the morning! Yes, another glass of wine!”
  • Open>Excel
  • Answering the phone for a number I don’t know
  • Answering the phone for a number I do know
  • Sign-up for a 20% off code
  • Using the bathroom at a Captain D’s
  • “What did Daddy say? It doesn’t matter, sure do it.”
  • Buying anything in a BOGO deal
  • Chinese food
  • Trying “something new” at Great Clips
  • Sign-up Genius
  • Horseback riding
  • Screaming, “Ain’t no laws, when you’re drinking Claws” as I jump off the roof of the dock
  • Agreeing to a dance off
  • Taco Bell
  • “We need another dog…”
  • Crawling out a bathroom stall in a Southern Missouri Quik Trip because the latch wouldn’t give and I had a panic attack thinking I’d be trapped forever
  • Offering to babysit
  • Scuba diving
  • Getting a pint of Ben and Jerry to limit myself, then eating my pint and my kid’s pint
  • “Let’s do the Couch to 5K!”
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  • Sitting on the ground criss-cross apple sauce
  • “I should be able to flush this toilet one more time…”
  • Trying a new recipe
  • Vacationing anywhere in Louisiana
  • Agreeing to donate to a canned food drive
  • Zoom
  • Jumping on the trampoline after I’ve had babies, and vodka
  • Vodka, all kinds
  • Attempting to teach my son the “Thriller” dance on a rainy night
  • Screaming, “You don’t know who Ronnie Milsap is?!” at someone I just met
  • Girls’ Night Out Painting Class
  • “Are you still watching?”
  • Free Trial!
  • My third Diet Coke

Be safe out there, y’all.

M.

Shower Shaver

I’m a shower shaver. Always have been. I remember learning to shave my legs in a tub of luke-warm water, after years of being tormented about my long, black leg hair by my sister, while my mother refused to let me near a razor. I was in fifth grade when I eventually stole my mom’s razor, sat in a tub for much longer than I should have and contemplated it. Then I just did it. My mom got mad. My sister laughed. I was bleeding from knee to ankle, but I was proud, so proud of my smooth legs. Now I wish I had never picked up a razor.

Shaving my legs, tweezing my eyebrows, waxing my mustache, Jesus, I’m so over all of it. I wish I was so body positive that I could stand proudly and say, Fuck you, World! While I flip the world the bird, and my mustache blows in the wind like Tom Selleck’s. But alas, I succumb to societal beauty standards, well some of them, like waxing, shaving, plucking, and zapping unwanted hair. Bleh.

The day we signed the papers on our current home my vision was clouded by the master bathroom. It’s beautiful. Small, but mighty. There’s only one small vanity and a toilet, but there is this wonderful shower! It is all glass, with stone floors (the bathroom itself has heated floors), and artful tile work throughout. It is floor to ceiling and has all the fancy accouterments that a shower should have. And it’s huge! It easily fits Jerimiah and me. Or Duke and Jackson and me, when we are in swimsuits trying to scrub mud from Duke’s legs while he attempts to run through the small opening that we leave in the door to let the smell of wet dog escape. It’s perfect.

But the first time I took a shower in it I realized there was nowhere for this shower-shaver to stick her legs when I shaved. It needed a bench. So I did what anyone would do, I hopped out of the shower, threw clothes on, ran to Homegoods, and bought a bamboo shower bench. Perfect. Except, well, today was the first time since I owned the bamboo bench the I actually sat on it to shave my legs.

Listen, I’m a creature of habit. Years and years of awkwardly standing in the tub, with my leg perched on the edge has made me think this is the only way. So the first time I shaved my legs with my bamboo bench in place, I just stuck my leg up on the bench and shaved standing up like usual. Then I kept doing it.

Don’t get me wrong, I use the bench. I sit on it regularly while the hot water from my raindrop faucet drips onto my head and I think about the world. I cry on my bamboo bench. A lot. Y’all know I’m a shower cryer, I don’t have time to defend that. I cried on that bamboo shower bench the first week we lived here because I missed Charlotte and I didn’t want to live in Georgia. I cried that summer when my son was sad that we didn’t have any friends yet. I cried when my friend called with bad news about her parents. I sat on the bamboo bench and cried when that student opened fire on the UNC Charlotte campus. When they couldn’t find that little boy with autism for days. I cried on that bamboo bench when I thought we were going to be transferred to New Orleans. I cried when my son cried when a friend was being bullied at school and he realized he needed to stick up for her. I cried when the spring tornadoes sprang up the Midwest, when we had to cancel our trip home because Covid-19 was here. I cried for Ahmaud Arbery, for my state, for our country, for this world.

But today, for the first time in a year, I sat on that bamboo bench and I shaved my legs. I let the water fall on me. I didn’t cry. I just sat and shaved. I wondered about all the times I should have done this before. All the times I let my own stubbornness stop me from doing things. My own stubbornness, my own ignorance, my own self-doubt. I thought about shower-shavers. I thought about women who wish they had clean water. I thought about women who refuse to shave their legs and under arms. I thought about little girls with no mother to teach her how to do it. I thought about the good I have learned by others, but society, by my environment, and my world. And then I thought about the bad. But I didn’t cry, I just shaved my legs.

M.

Reliving the Truth

I’ve always been warned, since the first time I took a creative nonfiction class, that people will not remember the things you remember, the exact way you remember them. People will not have the same memories, they will not reframe times, or situations, or people the same way. Even Jerimiah and I, who have spent the last 18 years together, sometimes look at each other when we are retelling a story, an important story, like the death of our daughter, we will look at each other like, “Dude, that’s not how it happened!” And we both think we remember it the “right” way, when in reality the truth lies somewhere between us.

I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days. I share a lot about my life, about my childhood. I share from vivid, vivid memories I have. Sometimes they are corroborated by my family members, sometimes my family members have no idea what I am talking about. I’ll say to my mom, for instance, remember that time our car broke down and that guy we didn’t know gave us a ride to Ruthie’s house? And she will be like, “That never happened, I would never take a ride from a stranger.” Meanwhile, I remember the way the stick shift of his truck brushed up against my leg. I remember my mom nervously fumbling the door handle. I remember we weren’t going far, and she thought we’d be safe. We were safe. Maybe that’s why she doesn’t remember, because it ended up not being a big deal. We made it to her friend’s house, who took us back to Food-4-Less with a gallon of tap water to put into her overheated 1972 Dodge. I guess the ride with a stranger turned out to be not that big of a deal. Or he wasn’t really a stranger to her, just to me? So why remember it? Why do I? Why does she not? Does it matter at all?

I’m thinking about this today for a number of reasons. One of them is that I have finally started to write a little bit, and the stories that are coming out of me are stories that are stemming from fear and anxiety. They are stories from my childhood, stories that take me back to dark times. Times when I would lie awake alone at night and hope that my mom was okay, cause she was all I had. She was it. I didn’t have a dad around. My siblings were grown and out of the house. It was just my mom and me, and if something happened to her I would be all alone. So I’d lie awake at night, even if my mom was sleeping peacefully in the next room, and I would worry about the next bad thing that was going to happen.

I’ve started writing about it, because I’ve started doing it again. Only this time it isn’t my mom that I’m worried about, it’s my son. My husband. They hopped into the car the other day to grab some take-out food and I immediately thought, there goes my whole world in that car, what if something happens? What if they are in a car accident? Maybe it won’t be bad, but if they are taken to the hospital right now, then what? My people are not here with me. I can’t be with them. What happens if they get sick? What happens if I can’t make it all better? What happens if I lose my whole world?

I’ve started thinking of all these times because my anxiety is high right now and when my anxiety is high writing helps me. And my writing comes when I spend the time thinking about my life, my childhood, my past. And up until this point in my life I’ve had these oppressive thoughts about whether what I write will upset my family, my friends, my siblings, my mom. I’ve said to more than one professor, “Oh I can’t write about that until so and so is dead…” But this week I turned a corner. I realized that I write for me. I write for others like me who can’t share their stories. I don’t write to make people upset or angry, and if they get upset or angry over my truth, or think that is the reason I am doing it, that is on them. That is probably because they do things to intentionally upset people, but I don’t. That’s not how I operate. I operate from truth. And maybe my truth isn’t in line with theirs, but that doesn’t matter. It is mine. When I write my name to a piece of creative nonfiction, it is, to the best of my recollection, true. All of it.

There’s a million quotes that I could share now to explain this, but this morning while talking with Jerimiah about my new-found courage to write about whatever the hell I want to write about, he reminded me of something I say a lot, “If you don’t want people to know you did it, don’t do it.” I’ve said this since I was 16 years old, and it pissed my family off then, and I’m sure it does now. But it’s, well, it’s the truth. For now I’ll be going about my business while I remind myself, “I’m responsible for telling the truth, not for how others respond to it…” after all, truth doesn’t come as easy to others, as it does to people like me.

Thanks for reading.

Now go write YOUR truth.

M.

Sharpie Feet

You don’t really know how talented the world is, until you watch a man unroll three feet of paper, take his shoes off, stick Sharpies between his toes and draw a portrait of you and one of your best friends inside a Ruby Tuesday. Then, and only then, as you stand wide-eyed and wondering, do you realize you have witnessed the art of human nature. The art of imagination. The art of so many what-the-fucks that you have dreams, nay nightmares, for weeks about this particular man’s feet. And sweaty toes. And the courage, or is it madness, that some people possess inside their minds and bodies. Am I being a little over the top? Well, sure. But he could have warned me when he asked to borrow my Sharpies.

I worked in the restaurant business for years. Eventually I was in management, where I excelled at training people, making angry customers happy, and was the first line of defense in the interview process. We had this system at Ruby Tuesday. When someone would walk through the door with an application, an unsolicited one, a shift leader, or an assistant manager, or a trusted bartender, whomever was around, would be called to the front door to greet them. Then we’d do what we called a 60-second interview. Maybe it was 60 seconds. Maybe it was 90 seconds. I know there were people I spent less than 30 seconds with, people with sores around their mouths, itching their skin that appeared to be crawling with an unseen bug, while they asked about being paid in cash and whether or not we offered paid training.

Then there were people who caught my attention, who I invited to sit for a spell. I might even offer them a Coke or a Sweet Tea if they tickled my fancy. That’s what happened the day I met the man who would draw me with my own Sharpies. I was back in the kitchen, counting burger buns on the line, when the hostess caught my attention across the heat lamps. “You’re gonna wanna see this,” she said, then motioned to the front door. I gave her a quizzical look, and she mouthed, “I’m getting Erica too,” and headed to the manager’s office. I scrambled to take off my apron and beat them both up to the front. I always liked to get to crazy before Erica. Assess the situation, beat her to the punch, so that later when we laughed about the incident I could say I saw it first.

I jogged up through the restaurant like there was a salad bar emergency, which happened more than you’d feel comfortable knowing, while I smiled at customers who were shoving sliders and soup into their mouths. When I got to the front door there was a man at the hostess stand wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt, holding a roll of white paper under his arms. An application was sitting on the hostess stand. I introduced myself, keenly aware that neither the hostess, nor Erica had made their way up to the front yet, which means they were sitting in the office watching me and this man on video to see what type of craziness was about to unfold.

I introduced myself. He handed me his application and asked me if I wanted to see something “cool as shit.” I looked up toward the camera and smiled. I did want to see something cool as shit, and I knew other people who did too. I escorted him to the larger dining room that was usually only opened for the dinner rush. It was quiet, empty, and a little dark since the lights were still turned down.

Erica and the hostess walked through the “Do Not Enter, Employees Only” door on the side of the dining room from the dry storage area. They were cautious, but smiling. We all knew something great was about to happen, but we had no idea what.

This man unrolled about three feet of paper from his roll, laid it flat on the ground. I moved some chairs out of his way so he would have more room. He stood up, looked at the three of us, and asked if someone had something to write with. I handed him the two Sharpies I had in my shirt pocket. Erica offered the pencil from her hair. He passed on the pencil, but took the Sharpies with appreciation. I hadn’t had a moment to look at his application since we walked over, so I took this opportunity to glance down at it. I don’t remember his name. I don’t remember his date of birth, his previous employer, I don’t even remember if he filled it out completely, all I remember is that while my eyes were looking down at the paper in my hand, Erica pushed her whole body into mine with such force I was inclined to say, “Ouch,” then I looked up at the man. He had suddenly taken his shoes off, stuck the Sharpies in between his toes, and started to work on the paper.

Twenty minutes later, as my best friend Erica (the General Manager of the restaurant) and I looked at caricatures of ourselves on this three foot wide piece of paper, drawn by this man’s feet (and my Sharpies) we didn’t know what to say. We wanted to ask when he could start work. We wanted to ask him to pick up his paper and leave. We were shocked and awed and I offered him a Sweet Tea. He accepted. Thirty minutes later we really just wanted him to pick up his paper and leave. Well, technically we wanted to keep the paper, it was a portrait of us after all, and have him put his shoes back on and leave. But it seemed like he was there for the long haul. He was asking about a burger.

Turns out the man had no experience in the restaurant business. He had no experience as a cook. He had a “slight” drug problem, that he was working on, and while he technically didn’t have an address, he was living in a tent by the lake, he planned on getting one soon enough. He had was a artist, which was plain to see. He was in Branson to be “discovered.” He wanted to be on America’s Got Talent. He wanted to be a Hollywood star, he wanted to know if we could foot him the money for a burger. Foot. Haha. We could not. We did not. He put his shoes back on. Called us assholes, I believe, grabbed his roll of paper, and walked out the front door. Erica shook her head, told me to bleach those Sharpies and went back to the office. This was not her first rodeo. But I was shook.

It would take a couple more years of meeting people like this, seeing people live like this, one job application to another. One choice of drug for another, before the plight of the human condition would start to sting my heart. A couple more interviews with people who said they were “working on getting a place to live,” a couple more transients who were addicted to meth, or crack, or just looking to steal from the bar. I always had a knack for picking the “good” people. I was trusted for my innate ability to read someone’s face, their actions. But the whole experience took a toll on me. Sure there were days where I saw a man draw my picture with his feet and I found it amusing, then frantic, then sad. But then there were really bad days. Days where a single mom, addicted to ice, would walk in with an application and her two-year-old daughter on her hip. And I desperately wanted to give her a chance, but there are just some things you can’t do. So you feed them. You notify child services. You go sit in you car and scream at the top of your lungs for a little while. Whatever it takes to make it all better.

I had a friend say to me one time, “Well you work in the restaurant business, you aren’t exactly working with the highest class of people.” I nodded, and moved on. I knew what he meant, but I didn’t have the energy to fight. To correct him. To explain to him that sometimes, in this midst of the shit, of the counting of burger buns, and of the standing for hours on your feet. In the midst of having ketchup spilled all over your white shirt, or having a man scream at you because there isn’t enough spinach in his spinach and artichoke dip, sometimes those “low-class” people teach you what it means to be human. You learn, then you grow. Or you don’t. Either way, we are all still there.

Miss you, Erica. And the fun that was scattered throughout.

M.

Life Carries On

I’m wide awake at 5:00 am on a Saturday, staring at the crack in the curtain as moonlight, streetlight, and a small sliver of day stream in. I’m awake because I heard footsteps in the hallway. Our house is old. Creaky. Drafty, sometimes. The squeaks were from Jerimiah, who heard our puppy vomiting in the hallway and went to her rescue. He cleaned up the vomit, soothed her jittery nerves, and now they are both asleep again next to me. Why she vomited I can’t be sure. She had her last round of puppy shots. She maybe ate her dinner too fast. She maybe ate another random stick in the yard. Puppies vomit. Life carries on.

I can’t get back to sleep tonight. Today. This morning. I’m thinking about that time, 1998, maybe ‘99, when I was standing in line at the cell phone store. Remember the cell phone store? Not Verizon, or Best Buy. This was a smaller store, where you could buy prepaid flip phones, or pay your AT&T bill, still buy a pager? That store. They were usually in a failing mall, or shopping strip, next to an anchor store like JC Penny or Radio Shack. They had names like Clear Choice Cellular or Cellular One. You had a Motorola Star-tac, or maybe a Nokia with a small yellowed screen. You played a game with a long snake that would maze around in different directions, eating food, while it grew, and grew, and grew. The game was dumb. It was dumb and it was addictive and did it have a name? Maybe it was just called Snake. Just, Snake.

I’m thinking about this time I was standing inside this store and I was waiting, and waiting, and waiting to pay my cell phone bill. It was hot outside, I was in flip flops, it was hot inside the crowded, little store, across from ACE Hardware, next to the movie theater and the arcade that folded a couple years later. I was still in high school. Still learning how the world worked. I had a wad of cash in my hand. Maybe $70. Cell phone bills were expensive back then. But I had a job. I worked the “10 Items or Less” register at Food-4-Less. On the lucky days.

There were a couple women working two different counters. It was all very hectic in there. People were forming a line to pay their bills, people were forming a different line to purchase a phone, a process back then as complicated as buying a car. Long, arduous, taxing. There was another line to look at cases, another to pay their landline bill, buy phone cards to call their families in countries I’d never heard of, let alone visited. Not then. Not that day.

The line was moving. The woman in front of me was motioned to a desk. I was up next. I nervously moved my toes up and down in my flip flops. Someone was waiting in an idling car outside for me. My mom, or my sister, or my best friend. I was keenly aware that I was keeping someone from getting somewhere they needed to be. I was hot. I was sweating in my Walmart flip flops, I was next to be called.

The chime on the door jingled, and the line turned to look. A young man walked in, looked at the line exasperated, and walked inside the store. The line looked back toward the women at the desks. One of them tiredly said, “Come on, whoever’s next.” I started toward her when the man that had just walked in raced past me and got to her desk before I did. I stopped dead in my tracks. I looked around in disbelief. I looked back at the line behind me. They looked at me with searing eyes. Why did I let him cut in line? Why didn’t I say something? What could I have done? Anger. Pity. I stepped back to my spot in line and sank into myself a bit. He finished up his business, then turned to leave. He smiled at us as he walked by. Smirked really. He was no dummy. He wouldn’t wait in line. The woman at the counter motioned me over.

I sank into myself a bit that day and I never fully came back up. I don’t know why. And I don’t know how. I just did. And sometimes when I can’t sleep, when it’s 5:00 am on a Saturday, and my puppy has vomited, and the light from the moon and the sun streams into the cracks of my window I think about that day. About that man. About what nearly-40 Missy would like to say to him. To the line. To the women at the counters. To the little, dumb Missy who sank into herself. And I just can’t sleep.

Hope you’re sleeping peacefully this morning.

M.

Warning: I’m Mad

A few sessions ago Patsy and I were discussing the way children of alcoholics turn out. There are three ways that children of alcoholics combat what they see. Let’s say there are three siblings. As they age one of them will become self-indulgent and most likely repeat the behavior they saw as children. So they themselves will become an addict of some kind. Find a way to numb the pain. Then there is the martyr. The one who feels like they have to take care of all the people and all the things and it is the way they deal with their childhood. Then there is the functioning adult. The one who escapes it all, seemingly unscathed (usually with plenty of mental illness) but who can see it all, and them all, for who they are. This lines up perfectly with my family. Guess which one Patsy says I am: The Functional Adult! I know, I know, I was just as shocked as you are. Here’s the thing though, that word “martyr” kept popping up in my brain. Because I don’t always feel like a functioning adult and when I don’t, I feel like a martyr. And I’m really fucking tired of feeling that way, but I think I’ve been programed to feel that way. I think all women have.

Before you ask, no I have not read Untamed by Glennon Doyle, per my last post, but I do want to and I know she talks about this because I have heard her talk about the book on her Insta stories and I’m ordering the book today and it’s now catapulted to the top of my reading list. But this word “martyr” and I go way back. Way, way back. Back to the day I chose to end my pregnancy in 2011 because my daughter was “incompatible with life.” Since I made that decision I have always felt part murderer, part martyr. But what I didn’t see, or realize until Patsy told me about this whole idea, is that that word and I actually go back even further than that. Way, way back.

When I was a little girl I would not tell my mom, for example, that my friend was having a birthday party because I knew I couldn’t afford to bring a present. So instead I would stay home, call my other friends after and ask all about it. I would feel this rage fill up inside of me, but I had nowhere for it to go. Or on Friday nights I would sit at home alone all night and wait for my mom to come back after the bars closed at 2am, just to make sure I unlocked the door for her (because she never could, she was too drunk), make sure she got into pajamas, had some bread and milk so she didn’t vomit, and then fall asleep. That’s a thing 10-year-old Missy did. And 10-year-old Missy was trained to do that. Not intentionally, but still, trained to do. The next day I wasn’t allowed to talk about it with others. I wasn’t allowed to ask questions, or laugh at my mom for falling down the steps, or bring it up at all to anyone else, because that isn’t what good girls do. And that’s when this whole thing with this word and I started. And I think it happens, nay, I know it happens, to all little girls in different ways.

Be quiet. Be sweet. Say thank you and hello. Hug your relatives. Offer your assistance. Always be helpful. Don’t tell your business to strangers (something my family still attempts to make me feel guilty about for doing).

These little girls grow up to become women who are partners, and mothers, and daughters, and friends, and members of the community. And they are active. Active to the point of having breakdowns because they do too much. Give too freely. Don’t talk openly about their problems. We actually want to be viewed as martyrs, because that’s how we are supposed to be. We want people to look at us and go, “Oh poor Missy, she has so much on her plate.” We think that means we are doing what we are supposed to do as women. Meanwhile, we are suffering. We start to take less care of ourselves. We start to skip doing things we want to do, we start to give more and more to people who now expect it. If we are lucky we have partners, like mine, who try to tell us to stop. Show us what we are doing. Tell us to take care of ourselves. But we don’t listen. We are programmed to know what is best for us. What is best for everyone.

We hide behind lies. We hide behind PTAs, room-parent responsibilities, we hide behind “hectic” jobs, behind “challenging” children, or ailing parents, or partners who don’t know how to do their own laundry. Guess what, they are adults, they can learn to do their own fucking laundry! We hide behind “projects.” We hide behind “my time management skills are not great.” You’re an adult. Learn better time management. We hide. It’s all just excuses, and we as women nod at each other and say we understand. Because we do, we are trained to. We hide and do all the things for all the people, then when there is a little bit of time for us we squander it by faking a headache to get alone time. Or crying in the shower (raising my hand here). Or, or, or…

I’m done with that shit, y’all. Done. And I’m done coddling family and friends who are okay playing the martyrs too. I love y’all, but if you can’t stand up to people, say things like, “No, I need this time for myself.” Or “Hey, cook your own dinner, clean your own laundry, let someone else worry about the thing” and take care of yourself first, I can’t help you.

I have yet, in my life, to meet a woman who does all the things for all the people, who keeps herself feeling well, and who keeps herself happy by doing what makes her happy with regularity and doesn’t drink a ton. Or doesn’t have to hide in her closet from time to time, or who is told she can’t share her truths with the masses, so she holds it all in until the first chance she gets to spew all the things to her best friend because she has no other way to let it all out. I haven’t met her. She doesn’t exist.

Listen, I know this is hard for some of you to read. It was hard for me to process. I kept thinking of people in my life who seem to have it all together and then I would be like, “Ope, wait, she hates her husband,” or “Hold on now, she has a secret gambling addiction,” or “She thinks she is a horrible mother” or “Now I remember, she’s the one who lost her shit at the PTA meeting.” We are all flawed, every single one of us. And most of the flaws come from deep, deep family shit from way, way back in our childhood. Our alcoholic parents. Our absent parents. Our abusive parents. And most of us are repeating that cycle, just in a different way. We are repeating the cycle of making ourselves feel less than. And our children are watching. Jesus, they are watching. That’s the biggest problem, children are always watching. We were watching as children, that’s how we got here. We were watching, and listening, and learning, and repeating. So ask yourself this, just this one thing today: When my children look at me what do they see? I hope what you think they see, and what you want them to see line up.

Stand up for yourselves, ladies. Reclaim your time. Take care of yourselves.

I’ll be here, trying to sort this all out.

M.