History and Hope

The front page of the Altanta Journal Constitution today says, History and Hope. The headline speaks to the fact that we have a new president in the White House and the first female Vice President, who also happens to be a member of the BIPOC community. Of course this thrills me to no end, but I am co-opting the headline today to apply it to my own life because y’all, you all, I got my DNA test back this week and I have finally found out with certainty who my father is and, are you ready for this, is is not the man I thought it was my whole entire life!

Some backstory, my mother had a couple of boyfriends around the time she got pregnant with me. One was a married man that she was in desperate love with, and one was sort of just this guy she kinda knew who made her laugh and she thought was cute. They’d play pool together and eat burgers at his beer joint in Easton, Kansas. But when she found out she was pregnant she stopped messing with both of them, told the one she loved I was his baby, and convinced herself of that too. He of course didn’t want anything to do with me, denied I was his, but of course still hooked up with my mom because he was a piece of shit. And therefore I have spent my entire life thinking this asshole, piece of shit was my dad and that he didn’t want anything to do with me. That’s a lot to deal with, in case you don’t know.

The other guy, the fun-loving funny man whose nieces and nephews called “Uncle Mikey” called my mom to ask her back out one night when she was big and pregnant. She said no. She was still in love with the other guy. Then he asked if she was still pregnant with “the baby” and she said yes and, this is where the story gets confusing because my mom told me one version several years ago and has since recanted the story. She told me several years ago that he then asked if the baby was his and she said no, that it was the other guys, even though she had no idea which one of them was actually the father. Today she told me he never asked and she never said that. I suspect self-preservation on her part, but I’m going to let her sit with that for a bit and ask again another time.

Anyway, none of it matters because several months later, in the summer of 1982, when I was nine months old, my father, the fun-loving boyfriend whom my sister says wore overalls, died of a massive heart attack while driving down the road. He was 42 years old.

(Long sigh)

There is so much more to this story. So much more. And I have already connected with five first cousins through 23andMe and already have access to a family tree, know the names of my grandparents and have learned a lot about my dad. I promise to tell you guys more but today I just want to do two things: 1. Thank my sister Belinda who has been so supportive (she has her own DNA story that mimics mine and is working through it) and 2. Tell y’all that if you have ever, ever even considered one of those “weird” DNA tests for whatever reason, DO IT! I implore you. It could be life changing.

As for my dad, well, he’s out there somewhere. Wherever people go when they leave this life and for the first time in my life I can smile when I think about my dad. I still can’t put a face to a name, waiting on some cousins to come through with some photos, but from what they say, and my mom and my sister, he was the kind of guy you’d like to hang out with, and I hope so much that I have made him proud.

History and hope this week, y’all. All around.

M.

I’ll Have a T&T

I’ll turn forty in nine months and while I’m excited about this (I reject the idea that your life fades away into nothingness at forty) there are some unavoidable things that displease me. Like how the eye doctor told me that I’d need readers soon. On top of my prescription. Or how any abrupt change to my medication, diet, or daily activity cause me gastrointestinal upset. Or my new favorite, my routine desire to have a “T&T” which used to mean that I wanted Tanqueray and Tonic. I would say to Jerimiah for example, “I’m making a T&T, do you want something?” Or I’d be at a bar with friends and I’d ask the bartender for a “T&T extra lime.” But as of late I’ve been walking upstairs while I yell, “I’m going for a T&T” which now means, I’m grabbing two Tylenol and some Tums; a T&T.

It was a slow burn from the T&T of my youth to this one. First I stopped being able to control my emotions with a T&T. Then I couldn’t hold the liquor. Soon, in the last couple of years, I’ve rejected liquor all together and now exclusively drink white wine and White Claws (in the summer only), and in fact rarely drink white wine at all anymore. But the new T&T, that’s a regular occurrence brought on by stress, new medication, and I suspect cheese. A rather large abundance of cheese.

I’d love to go in depth here. To really explain my “later in life” situation, but I’m afraid I can’t. I’m too busy at the moment. I’m headed to bed, right after my T&T.

M.

If My Fatness Offends You…

Now that the new year is upon us, I’ve noticed the “New year, New Me” self talk starting. I guess it’s not self talk if you are sharing it with social media but you know the deal, people (women mostly) sharing goals about how what they want to change about themselves in the new year. Most of it is weight or size related. Most of it is masked under this “I want to feel healthy” but what they are really saying is that they are unhappy with themselves and need to change. Here’s where I get my stomach into some knots. I’m fat, in case you don’t know me IRL. I am overweight. Medically obese. My BMI is too high. However you want to measure it, I am overweight and have been literally all of my life. Literally here is used literally, not figuratively. I wasn’t a skinny kid who put on weight in puberty. I was a chubby kid who put on weight during puberty, which was coincidently when I was put on my first diet too. But that’s not the story I am here to share with you today, the story I want to share with you came much later.

I worked for Ruby Tuesday. They are a family-style, casual dining restaurant throughout the country. You might know them from their extensive salad bar. I worked for a franchise in Southern Missouri owned by a man named John. Now John had some unchecked mental health issues, and can be best described as a “Mini Trump.” That is to say he was a big fish in a weird pond. Or at least he thought he was. People didn’t like to tell him no because he flipped the fuck out if he was told no. People didn’t like to tell him yes because then he’d abuse them in some way, you get my drift.

He owned several, maybe 10, Ruby Tuesday restaurants. Now owned is a stretch. You know how it is. He was a franchisee, but he rented most buildings, the company itself had control over most of his dealings, etc, etc. And he owned two of the restaurants in Branson, Missouri. First he owned a free-standing one that was open for a decade and did very well before he opened a second location in a strip mall sandwiched between Walmart and a grocery store. Why he decided to open a second one a half mile away from an already popular one is beyond me. Beyond any business class you might take. And as you can imagine it isn’t open anymore. It closed down less than a decade after opening considering it didn’t make enough money. That’s not hard to figure out, but I digress.

I started there as a server, then quickly became a bartender, then a shift leader. A shift leader is paid hourly ($13/hr back in 2005-ish) and is expected to do all the things a manager does, but obviously make a lot less doing it. I’m not sure what the hell that position was supposed to look like, but it seemed to be this thing where they said, “Oh we like you, and you are a great worker, we will give you keys and official sounding title and let you do all the dirty work for nothing for awhile so you feel important.” And I bought it. I was like 23 years old, that should be noted.

It was also a pipeline to management, obviously. You had to be a shift leader to be a manager and while I was there (about five years) I saw many a shift leader and managers come and go. There is high turnover in the restaurant business. It’s a shitty, thankless job and it gets even worse the higher up you go. Add to that the maniac I worked for, and well, there you have it.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were good things about the job, especially for a 20-something. I met a lot of great people, people who became my best friends and still are my best friends. I made it through some wack-a-doodle experiences, and I learned an enormous amount about people and myself. One does that when they tend bar, cook on the line, and watch employees smoke cigarettes in the cooler. It’s a smorgasbord of bad decisions, unruly employees, and fun. I could never, ever work in the restaurant business again, but I am glad for the experiences I had. Even the one I am here to talk about.

One day, around year three I sat down in the back room of the store with the District Manager. I was a shift leader, had been for about a year, and was doing really well. The employees liked me, the managers couldn’t function without me (there was one who routinely forgot where he parked his car), and the Spanish-speaking cooks respected me enough to allow me on the line with them. I was a good, nay great, employee and I was ready to be promoted and they were ready to promote, only one problem: I was fat.

Now I don’t need to remind you that I have always been fat. I had been the same size the day I was hired there as I was the day I was sat down and told that they would love to promote me, but they couldn’t on account of my fatness. That’s a thing that was said to me, while also being told that other shift leaders were also having this talk. There was Jodie who was missing several teeth and was so skinny people sometimes thought she was a drug addict. They didn’t like her image and they told her to work on it and then promoted her. Then there was Kyle, the owner’s nephew, who was also fat. He was told to work on his image (and he did by drinking Bud Light and taking Hyroxycut) and then he was promoted. Here’s the rub, I was told I was fat and then not promoted. Told that I had to show them I was working on losing weight before they would promote me.

Nola told me this. The DM. Now I liked Nola. She was nice and funny and she came around to our store a lot and she was very involved. And I think she liked me too. And I think she was very sad that day she had to have that conversation with me. It came from the top down, and to be fair John didn’t like me for a myriad of reasons, least of all that I was incredibly vocal about all the shortcomings at the store and the with the employees because I wanted the place to do well. But he did see that I was good at what I did, so he was stuck, I guess this little dig was just for him to have fun, maybe “put me in my place” or what not. It worked.

For the next several months I tried to lose weight. I did it blindly. I took what Nola said, which was basically “You’re too fat and we don’t want the customers to think that is on brand with us,” and I tried to get on brand. Now to be clear, I was about 195 pounds during this time. I stayed right around there. I am about 5’5″. I was fat, sure, but I didn’t have to have a wall in my house removed to walk outside or anything like that. And I was smaller and more fit than Kyle and I was actually healthy. I went to the doctor every year for an annual, I was active, but I was incredibly broken down mentally. I was depressed. I was small-minded. I was constantly berating myself. Then here was my job, a thing I was very good at, doing the same thing. Berating me, telling me I was fat, making me sad. But I went along with it.

The short of the story is that I lost about 15 pounds, nothing life changing (Kyle gained weight and was a dumbass, like truly he had a hard time with simple math and Jodie got her teeth fixed, but people hated her and I actually do think she was on drugs) and then they asked me to be a manager and I said no. Their jaws hit the floor of course, but it was the first time I felt like I did the right thing for me. The job was nuts, the hours were crazy, and if they were the kind of people who promoted the likes of Kyle and Jodie, while telling me I was fat, well obviously they were not of sound mind. I got married, got pregnant, and ended up quitting anyway about a year later, but it was nice to look them in the eye and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I should have added, “Y’all nuts,” but I didn’t. Also, the store itself was shut down about a year after that. And I did a little happy dance cause I am petty.

So why I am sharing this story today? It’s funny that I have never publicly shared it before. I think a lot of my close friends don’t even know the story, save Kasey and Mel and Jerimiah who were all there when it happened. I think it’s because I was ashamed it happened in the first place, right? I mean I don’t give a fuck that crazy John thought I was too fat (you should hear all the bad things I said about him, ha!) and I’m not even mad at Nola, who later said that conversation with me was the worst thing she ever had to do while she worked for him, which is hard to believe because he had to have sexually harassed her a lot. I’m not even made at Erica, the GM and one of my best friends at the time, who knew it was going to happen and didn’t warn me, instead she left.

The person I am most mad at is myself. I still can’t believe I allowed people to treat me that way. I still can’t believe that I took on others’ words and feelings and ideals of “being on brand” or their damn beauty standards or their distaste for “fat people” and I pushed it deep inside into my core and I tried to appease them. What the actual hell?! Obviously 39-year-old Missy is embarrassed and sad that 20-something Missy did that, but at the same time I didn’t know any better. I had spent my whole life being made fun of, even by people who loved me, being teased at school, being called names because I was chubby or overweight. I didn’t know I could say, “Shut up, you assholes. I’m fine the way I am.”

It was a hard lesson, but I learned it and I am glad that I did and I desperately wish that more fat girls would learn it. Maybe not in the way I did, but just figuring out that you are okay, you are good, you are perfect the way you are and you don’t need to make a change for anyone but yourself. If you are happy at your size, then shine on, girls (or guys). And if you are not happy with your size there is a whole community out there to offer support and help as you set goals and strive for them. But the point is, it is your choice, not anyone else’s. It is your decision how you live your life and don’t buy into this “Fat isn’t healthy” shit, because that’s not true. I was incredibly healthy at about 180 pounds, working out five days a week, busting my ass in the gym, all the while the doctor told me I was good to go, but “fat” according to the charts. They can shove those charts up thy ass, and so can anyone else who has an opinion about my body or my life, right up thy ass.

So, if my fatness offends you, if my fatness makes your life unhappy, if my fatness makes you sad for me, please stop and explore your inner demons, explore what makes you offended by fat people, what makes your life so unhappy, what problems you have to say horrible things to people who are just trying to get by in this life.

And for the love of all that is holy, stop talking about the weight you gained during a global pandemic! This has been a nightmare for a lot of people and you aren’t special, we all made bad decisions just to get by (I watched the entire “Tiger King” series for fuck’s sake) and gaining a little weight isn’t the end of the world and if you treat it as such, if you start to say, “Shut up” to the people who think it is, then life would be better for all of us.

M.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

I’m struggling a bit today, y’all. I just read an article about the 1960’s Rankin and Bass classic, “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” and I am conflicted. You see I have always held fond memories of this movie, since I was a child. And that’s because my mom watched these movies with all her kids during the holidays, so she was always so happy to see them come on back in the 1980s when I was little. She would be excited and make us some popcorn and we would sit in the low light of the Christmas tree and watch all the Rankin and Bass stop motion movies, as well as this cartoon called “Twas the Night Before Christmas” which I am sure I have talked about before because some of you remember it. It’s about a mouse family who saves Christmas. Anyway, I have fond memories of this Rankin and Bass Classic because of the way it all made me feel, but mainly because of my mom and what we did. I always, in the back of my mind was uneasy about it, but could never say why. Maybe the Abominable snowman, maybe because of the mean other reindeer, but I could never place it. Until this week.

This article I read was mainly about how this little boy, now grown, grew up watching this movie too and it gave him nightmares. Not because the Abominable Snowman tries to kill Rudolph’s parents in front of him, but rather because he identified with Clarice, the Elf who didn’t want to make toys, who instead wanted to be a dentist and was berated by all the other elves. In short, this story is a story about bullies. And sure, Rudolph wins in the end, but holy crap, him and Clarice have to go through a lot to get there. In fact, there are some pretty sad scenes that unfold while it is all happening. Reminiscent, for the man who wrote this article, of being berated and banished from his home for being gay. An all-too familiar sight these days, even with teens. You can read about the gay, homeless teen population here.

I know, I know, why are you being a bummer around Christmas, Missy? Well, to be totally honest I have seen a lot of younger homeless people in the streets this year than ever before and I suspect that a lot of them have a falling out with their parents and end up there. Much like Clarice did.

I’m not saying stop watching this Christmas classic. But I am saying that we need to remember that not all “classics” hold up. And not all people see it the same way we do, and certainly not all kids will. I never identified with Clarice, but I did with Rudolph. I had horrible anxiety as a kid and the thought of something happening to my mother, my only parent, kept me up at night. Thinking back, that is why it never sat well with me, but there are a lot of reasons movies don’t hold up. Which is why I will still watch these movies, but I wouldn’t pass it up for this one:

Oh man! Good stuff.

Enjoy your holiday and remember, there is so much we don’t know, but if we put ourselves in the shoes of others (humans or mice) we can learn a lot.

M.

Christmas 1980-something

Evidently I was a spoiled kid. As spoiled as the youngest child of four can get. As spoiled as a child of a single mom who worked cleaning hotel rooms can be. I was that sort of spoiled. Spoiled in the sense that while my Christmas list was usually very specific and exhaustive, every year I got at least one item on it because my mother made sure I had something to look forward to, something to believe in when sometimes our life wasn’t a life that offered hope or belief in things getting better. I remember many of those one-off gifts. Those miraculous ones that showed up, I thought, from Santa in the true spirit of the holiday. One year I got a Popples, which were all the rage in the 1980s. One year a Strawberry Shortcake doll. One year a Barbie (a real Barbie not one of the knock-off dolls) so cool, so rad, that she had her own leg warmers and boom box.

In the second grade I wanted only one thing: A Baby Shivers Doll. Do you remember those bad-bitches? They were dolls that actually, for real, shivered as if they were cold. It was the same year that the Baby Alive Dolls first came out and I had a ton of friends asking for them, but I didn’t want to press my luck, so instead I asked for the older doll that only shivered. Besides, I wasn’t so sure about a doll that wet herself. I mean, was I ready for some real shit like that? I figured I’d let my best friend Rachel get that for Christmas and I’d play with it when I wanted, but didn’t have to take the responsibility for changing the diapers and what not. This is some real shit, it’s not made up, check it out:

Listen to me when I say this, these were some badass babes, though to be fair it set me up for failure when I had an actual baby and asked too many times what to do if he started to shiver. Turns out babies shivering aren’t like a real big problem. Who knew?!

Anyway, I remember writing Santa to ask for a Baby Shivers of my own. I may have even named dropped Rachel or her grandma, who was bound to buy her any type of doll she wanted. And on Christmas morning when I woke up and ran into the living room I was 100% expecting a Baby Shivers from Santa and for the first time ever I was disappointed. There was no Baby Shivers under the tree. Just some other random toys I don’t remember and some fruit and candy. I was upset, but tried not to let my disappointment show. That is certainly not something you did in my house. You sucked it up. Plus, I figured Santa had a legit reason not to bring me that hypothermic baby. Maybe all the electronics in her back forced her to short circuit and catch little girls’ hair on fire? I could only hope that was the reason because I was Peppermint Petty even at a young age.

So there I was playing with my toys I didn’t much care for after the wrapping paper tornado when my mom said, “Ope Missy, I found one more gift.” Yeah, she pulled the old “A Christmas Story” deal on me and handed me a wrapped box. I could tell right away she had wrapped it because she is not a good wrapper. The edges were a little frayed and the tape didn’t hit all the spots right, and there was a different type of wrapping on the edges. “Who’s it from,” I asked, hoping beyond hope it was from Santa.

“It’s from me,” my mom said. I smiled, but knew I was screwed. I slowly started to unwrap the paper, then my fingers went quicker and quicker until finally I had paper all over myself and was looking at the Baby Shivers box. I was stunned into inaction. My mom was beaming and I could not find words so I just ran over and hugged her. I couldn’t believe my luck and my mom’s obvious good fortune.

I still don’t know how my mom go the doll, or why she chose that year to get the credit for that toy, but it didn’t much matter. I just figured her and Santa hashed it all out and came to this conclusion and in the years to come I was always able to suspend my disbelief like that, around Christmas, but also at other times of the year too. Let’s call it self-preservation. Poor kids know what I mean.

Over the next year I walked around coddling my Baby Shivers, who I probably named but couldn’t tell you at all what it was. She was probably a girl and she probably had “eyes like her Mommy.” Rachel did get a Baby Alive that year and as I suspected that doll was a headache. You had to feed her to get her to poop and she ate this gross pasty stuff and you always had to buy more things for her to keep her in tiptop shape and I’m pretty sure it was short-lived. So was Baby Shivers, but for a little while I had the doll I had waited my whole life for and my mom had her shining moment.

I hope you all have a shining moment this holiday, and get something you’ve been asking for too.

M.

Middle of the Night Thoughts

My mouth smells like one of those hush puppies you get at Long John’s Silver. Eww. I know. It’s the middle of the night and once again I am awake and once again I am having some crazy thoughts like what at the hell does Long John Silver even mean? Is that the name of the pirate? Was he tall? Aren’t all pirates tall with their large hats and parrots and wooden legs? Also, Silver? Did he have a bunch of silver he wouldn’t share or is it his last name? I didn’t know pirates had last names. I thought they were just named like the Seven Dwarfs, Sleepy, Dopey, Crazy Scurvy Joe, stuff like that. Speaking of the Seven Dwarfs, is that still politically correct? Should it be Seven Little People? That’s a show on TLC that I would watch in a heartbeat. I’d subscribe to their channel and pay like $5 a month to see Seven Little People with bad attitudes and names that evoke their personalities. That reminds me of Ms. Juicy Baby in Little Women-Atlanta, one of my favorite shows featuring Little People. I used to like Little People, Big World but then the kids grew up and the dad got all angry and they divorced and the dog died and ehh. Too much real life happened.

I had to Google “Long John’s Silver” and it turns out I was all sorts of wrong. First off it’s Long John Silver’s, not Long John’s Silver. Then I found the part where a corporate entity tries to tell their sweet story here but I was left unsatisfied, like when they forget to give me that little packet of malt vinegar in my to-go order and I have to complain the whole time I eat my oddly-shaped fish that I don’t have malt vinegar to go with it, then make sure I write malt vinegar on my shopping list so I always have it one hand when this sort of thing happens, which in fact, happens more often than not.

Hmm, Long John Silver’s. Who knew?

M.

Addiction Help

I come from a long line of addicts. Alcoholics, liars, cheaters (on my dad’s side), drug abusers, and gamblers. Oh my! I’ve had relatives go to prison for their addiction. I’ve had them severely hurt themselves and each other and their kids, their marriages. Total lives lost in an instant. It occurred to me this week that I’ve never had a life without addiction in it. I’ve never had a life where a close family member or friend wasn’t battling addiction. In fact, for more than 30 years now I’ve been keenly aware of whatever addiction my family members were dealing with and, as a loved one, I suffered at their hands. Either from watching my mother’s heart be broken because someone was in prison, or being emotionally abused by someone who is addicted. There’s a story I tell about the time my brother, high on drugs, came into my room to say hi to me when I was in kindergarten and walked out with my television. It’s funny. People laugh. But in reality, my drug-addicted brother stole from me, a child, in order to sell that small color television I watched Saturday morning cartoons on for drug money. So sure, it’s funny. But not really. (My brother coincidently, has been sober for years now.)

Because of all the addiction and destruction I have witnessed since I could see with my eyes open, once a year I take the opportunity to speak on addiction help on my blog. My personal space. My outlet to the world. My stage, as it were. I like to bring attention to addiction, openly discuss it (much to my family’s chagrin) and offer support to those who are struggling with addiction and those who love someone struggling with addiction. First and foremost, I like to remind everyone that there is help. So. Much. Help.

A family tradition in my family is this: I will say to someone with an addiction, “Hey (insert name) I am worried about you. I think you have an addiction.” Then (Insert Name) will properly flip the fuck out on me. (Insert Name) will start with denial. “I don’t have a problem” or “That wasn’t from my problem, my life is just tough right now” or my personal favorite, they will turn on me. “You are freaking out over nothing, you need to chill, you are the only one who says this shit, you don’t know what you are talking about! You are making. me stressed, this is all your fault.” That’s it, that’s the line I’ve been hearing for decades. This is all my fault.

You know when I was 38 years old an adult with a couple of fancy diplomas on her wall looked at me and said, “Missy, none of this is your fault.” Oh my goodness, I can’t tell you how that felt to have that lifted off of my shudders, I’d been carrying around all those other people’s addictions, negative attitudes, and honest-to-God horse shit for so long that I thought I was in fact the problem. Nope. I’m not. That’s an addict not taking responsibility for their own problems. Not owning their own decisions. Projecting them instead on you.

Addicts also say things like,

  • “I can quit whenever I want to.”
  • “I’m not even (insert addiction) anymore and I’m tired of you bringing that up.” (They still are, they are lying.)
  • “I quit that. I just stopped one day.” (Nope.)
  • “I just do it to relax, it’s the only thing that helps.” (Wrong.)
  • “I can’t get help, I don’t have insurance or money.” (Incorrect, there is free help.)
  • “I’ve already done the therapy and it didn’t work, why would I do it again?”
  • “This is none of your business. It’s none of your business where I spend my time or money.”
  • “I’m not hurting anyone.” (This is a favorite of gamblers. They think it is a victimless addiction.)

You get my drift, there is a million more excuses, but let’s focus on how you can help your loved ones who are struggling with addiction.

First off, please know that if you have a loved one who is an addict, you are not alone. And may I suggest therapy for YOU? It’s been a life-saver for me, truly! Learning to set boundaries, knowing that what they say when they yell and throw a fit and lie to you is not your problem, it’s theirs. It’s not your fault. None of it.

None of this is YOUR fault. But man, that doesn’t stop you from wanting to help. Believe me, I know. So how can you help? Well, there’s a myriad of ways. There are lifelines to call. There is Alcoholics Anonymous, there is Gamblers Anonymous. There is rehab for drug addicts, there is free counseling for everyone, if you know where to look. And I’m going to stick some websites down below for you to click on for a place to start.

But the most important thing I have learned in my 30+ years of dealing with addicts, they absolutely won’t change, won’t learn to help themselves, unless they want to. And even when you think they may have hit rock bottom, you’d be surprised at how resilient they are. Surprised that they can go to rehab multiple times, or maybe go to prison and still not get the help they need. (Big shock I know, prison isn’t rehabilitation.) BUT and this is a big BUT, I have seen people change. I have two family members in particular who have beat their addiction. Beat it! Gone! Both of them were helped with religion and someone who cared. People who supported them throughout the process. A family surrounding them telling them what a great job they are doing. A positive outlook. You’d be amazed how a little optimism can go a long way.

But you do have to be careful and go slow. I had a family member once say to me that he didn’t know how to respond when someone was trying to help. That it seemed odd for people to be nice. That he couldn’t believe they were genuine or sincere. That’s what happens to someone years, decades into an addiction. They don’t trust. They are incredibly negative. And why wouldn’t they be. They are completely wrapped up in guilt and shame and they can’t find their way out, but I know you’ll want to keep trying. I did. So, the links!

This is a link for Alcoholics Anonymous.

Did you know that there is such a thing as Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families?! I didn’t either until my therapist was all you should check out this website!

Gamblers Anonymous! This is a big one in my family. Go to that link for more advice on how to talk to and help your loved ones who are suffering from a myriad of gambling-related issues. It’s casino gambling in my family, maybe it’s sports betting in yours! Either way it can all be an addiction!

Pornography Addiction, while a very real thing, is still lacking in my opinion in help and recovery. Most of the recovery sites promise help through religion, if that is your thing cool. But I did find this health site that promises to help you learn how to talk to your family members who suffer with this addiction. I knew a guy once who watched porn seven or eight times a day, so much so it drove a wedge between him and his wife. She was a talker and liked to tell everyone about it. I was always so sad for her but never knew how to help. I wish I had this resource back then.

Substance Abuse is so profound and really there are so many places. Most places can be found through your local health department or polcie department. There are many shelters who take drug addicts, some are religious, some are secular. But here are some general places to get help and information: American Addiction Centers (they even have info on getting grants and financial help for those who need it), National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is always there to help with any sort of addiction. The number is on the top of this blog in case you need it quickly.

Here is the link to the Opioid Treatment Directory where you an find help in your state quickly.

And here are some other important links that may come in handy for you or someone you love:

Veteran’s Crisis Line– You can call anytime

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available anytime you need it. You can call the number below. There was recently a bill passed in congress to designate the number 988 for mental health emergencies and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is hoping to have the support and infrastructure in place in the next couple of years! But for now, call 1-800-273-8255 and talk to a live person whenever you feel like you need to.

Okay, I know this is a lot you guys. Maybe I should do this more than once a year? I just forget sometimes, mainly because my family members seem to be doing okay, then one falls and we go through the same old cycle again and I think oh man, there are other people out there losing sleep over their loves ones tonight, I should do something. I’m sorry it works this way, I will try to be better. But for now, go forth in bravery and help those who might need helped. And remember: Honestly is the best policy.

Be safe friends.

M.

There’s More Than One Way to Crack a Nut

Jackson asked if we could get some nuts to use our nutcracker on. What nutcracker, I asked, perplexed. That one, he said, and pointed toward the mantle. Ohh, Jerimiah and I laughed, that’s not a real nutcracker, that’s a fake one. Why would there be fake ones Jackson wanted to know. Good question, I said. Then I explained that we have a silver, handheld nutcracker that does the job he wants to do and that the bearded man in buffalo check on the mantle is just for decoration. Then I went down a rabbit hole so big that I woke up yelling, Kurt Adler Nutcrackers!

Kurt Adler nutcrackers are the actual bees knees. I told my family this over breakfast. And if I had the money to blow on the one-of-a-kind Wizard of Oz one they sell at Macy’s then my day would be made.

My family looked at me with confusion in their faces and I had to agree, what the actual hell Missy?! But look at it though:

That’s one MFing cool nutcracker. Not like the ones I buy at Target on clearance two days after Christmas.

Anyway, if you are in the mood for a new nutcracker this year may I suggest you check out Kurt Adler Nutcrackers. You’ll find just what you are looking for! If you actually want to eat nuts though, well then, just throw a bag on the driveway and run them over with your car like my mom used to do. But wear a helmet, those suckers can fly.

Now let’s go crack some nuts!

M.

Quiet Time

I woke up yesterday from immense pain that my doctors have not been able to control just yet, but they are working on it. Anyway, when I wake up in that sort of pain I have to get out of bed and sort of start my day. It’s kind of like how when I was younger and my mom would go out in the mornings to warm up her old 1972 Dodge Cornett. We didn’t have a garage and this was back when it still snowed regularly in Kansas, and the car would have to run for a bit, get all of its bits and parts warmed, or we wouldn’t have heat, might not even make it to school and her to work without a jump start. My body is kind of like the old Dodge now and it isn’t terrible, but it also isn’t great.

So when I got up yesterday morning, it was so early the family was still asleep and I made coffee and took my morning ibuprofen, with food of course, then I sat down in the silence and started working on the family Christmas puzzle. We do a puzzle every Christmas season as a family. It sits on the kitchen island and whenever someone has some time they sit and work on it. This year it’s a Charlie Brown Christmas puzzle and the edges are almost done thanks to Jackson and me. Anyway, I got bored with that after the pain finally went away and so I sat to talk with Jerimiah who in the time it took me to get Snoopy’s feet together, had woke up, worked out, and taken a shower. He was sitting down at his desk when I meandered over to the dining room table to chat.

His office is right off the dining room so we usually sit, him at his desk, me at the dining room table with the laptop and get caught up on the morning news for a bit. Yesterday morning however I skipped the news for a coloring book that was on the table from the night before and I picked up the colored pencils and went to work on a geometrically-correct llama. Then suddenly I was transported back to fifth grade.

My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Coughran, would read to us every day after lunch. I think she called it “Quiet time.” She knew we needed a bit of a break, so we would filter into the classroom, she would saunter over and turn the lights off, and we would get coloring pages. She had a ton of them and she would let us choose whatever we wanted and we would take our crayons, or colored pencils, or markers and set to work on our pages, while the sun streamed into the windows, and she sat atop the old heater and read from whatever book we happened to be reading at that time. The Call of the Wild or Where the Sidewalk Ends, the books were as varied and interesting as her coloring pages.

I remember it plain as day now, because it was the first time I realized how relaxing it could be to just color. To sit in relative silence, only her quiet voice reading to us, and just focus on one thing, staying inside the lines. I didn’t have a quiet house. It wasn’t loud, it being just my mom and me (most of the time) but my mom always did have the television on and she was usually talking on the phone too. Sometimes I’d slip into my room, grab a coloring book, and color in silence when I needed a break. It didn’t occur to me until yesterday what a service Mrs. Coughran must have done for some of us, me sure, but even more so for the kids in my class that never got privacy or silence.

There were a lot of different kids in that classroom. A hodgepodge of Army kids and kids with dads in prison. Really smart kids, really funny kids. Kids who got to school way past our math class, kids who were dropped off to wait in the snow for 30 minutes, until the cafeteria opened up and they could grab their free breakfast. There were probably 25 of us in Mrs. Coughran’s class, and I don’t really remember anyone struggling, or not getting along, or being mean to each other, generally speaking.

As it sits today, there are two less of us in this world from Mrs. Coughran’s Fifth grade Class at Anthony Elementary School. One we lost to gunfire and one to a heart condition undetected by her doctors. They were both my friends. One was funny and silly, one smart and stoic. We all sat together in those quiet moments, as students, as kids, for that full year and we colored together in the quiet calm of Mrs. Coughran’s classroom, and while I wish we were a whole unit, and I sometimes wish for days that were as simple as those were, I am forever grateful for the time we had.

Hope you can find some calm in the storm today.

M.

Bone Thugs

Bone bone bone bone, bone, bone, bone, bone, bone, tell me whatcha gonna do, when you need some new china, what’s the difference between bone and porcelain, who will judge you if you ain’t got either? Tell me… okay, it only works if you know the song “Tha Crossroads” by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony so if not please listen to that and then come back here so we can talk about how I need, nay want, some family heirloom china but didn’t come from a family that could afford family heirloom china so now I have to buy my own and I’ve been living deep down in a rabbit hole of the differences in china and did you know bone china is actually made of bone?

Are you back? Did you listen to Bone Thugs? Are we on the same page now?

Bone china is only legit if it is made from approximately 30% cow bone ash. So yeah. If you’re family has heirloom china and it’s bone china it’s straight up made from the dead bodies of cows. Also, aren’t you a vegetarian, that must be weird for you. Also, real bone china, like the real deal stuff, the old stuff, probably had a little human bone mixed in there. Man, could you be so lucky?

To be fair Josiah Spode the Second (yeah, that’s a person) developed the six parts bone ash, four parts china stone, three-and-a-half parts clay (or was it his dead Uncle Clay?) recipe back yonder in the 1800’s. And for some reason today, in 2020, I want, nay NEED, a set of it. Probably because pandemic.

Now I don’t want the kind of bone china I can get from a trip to the Macy’s at Lenox Square, both because I try to stay away from Buckhead and because I want vintage shit. So it’s a tad harder.

I’ve been perusing Craigslist and people want a lot of money for their family heirloom china. Like Jerimiah was all, “Both the car and truck are getting new tires,” and I threw one of my $16 Fiestaware salad plates against the wall and screamed, “That’s my bone china money, bitch!”

I might have a problem when it comes to dinnerware.

I emailed this woman on Craigslist about a Fiesta platter the other day. She had three for sale for $75 (steal of a deal!) but I already have one of the platters so I only needed two and she was all, “I’m only selling as a set.” So I online stalked her social media accounts to see how much of a bitch she really is, like is she a Trump supporter, and she isn’t so I didn’t make a separate Craigslist post titled “bitch woman who won’t piece out her Fiestaware platter collection.” Look, IDGAF. You don’t jack around with Fiestaware and it’s not even BONE.

Do you see where I am? Like, mentally and emotionally? Do you see it? Is it clear? Is it a little translucent? Does it have a 24-karat gold edge? Is it scalloped? That’s where I am.

Send help.

M.

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.