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.
It’s been 13 Decembers since I married the man I didn’t think I’d marry. Not because he was not the man I loved, rather because I never thought I’d get married. Never thought I’d actually be brave enough to go all in, my track record wasn’t stellar before Jerimiah. Just a few loose odds and ends here and there. A couple of overly-confident football players I made out with in the back of someone else’s car in high school. A couple of college girls, shy like me, unsure like me, who I let open a door of possibilities. Then he came along. On our first date I was calm. It was like going out with a friend, because well, he was my friend. Still is, matter of fact, the best one I’ve got. We sat at a table at a steakhouse across the street from the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. The place we’d both lived for years, both graduated high school from, both knew inexplicably we would one day leave.
It’s startling sometimes to look back over the last 19 years and see how our lives together have unfolded. To see that we did in fact leave Leavenworth together and in a sense we left those dumb kids back there at that dimly-lit steakhouse table. We changed our outlook. We moved away from that every-present fatalism that encapsulates a prison town like Leavenworth. We branched out. We had new experiences, slowly changed our way of thinking to focus on the positive, the optimistic, the opportunity that that whole wider world gives you if you dare to look.
We made new friends, took new paths, moved around. We went to college together, when we finally decided it was time. Then somewhere along the line we merged bank accounts, we started saying things like, “In ten years…” We made even bigger plans, even bolder career moves, moves that benefitted both of us. Then one day, about five years into our relationship Jerimiah sat me in a chair on Christmas Eve, got down on one knee, the white glow of the tree beside us, and pulled an engagement ring from his pocket. I already knew by that time I would say yes, though I still didn’t know if I’d have the guts to go through with it. One year later, on December 21, 2007, I did go through with it. In a small, one-room church in the middle of the Ozark Mountain wilderness.
Today, as I write this, I’ve been interrupted more than once. I’ve been interrupted by our twelve-year-old son who wants to know if the wi-fi is working for us, because his Chromebook, the one he does all his virtual school work on, is acting weird. I’ve been interrupted by our two dogs, pacing and playfully snapping at each other at my feet. I’ve been interrupted by my rheumatologist calling. By my husband’s phone, a call from this boss, a meeting with the company lawyer, an employee with a problem. This is all to say that where we are now, for as lovely as it is, is not always sunny and warm. But alas, that is life.
There have been dark days. Dark moments. When we watched the doctors load Jackson up into a Life Flight Chopper when he was barely a year old. When we signed the Do Not Resuscitate Order for our daughter nearly a decade ago. When we moved, again and again, leaving people we didn’t want to. When we cried together on the veterinarian’s floor as our first baby, Bentley, slowly slipped from us. And now, in this year full of heartache for our community, our country, our world.
Yes, there have been dark days and sickness to endure, but also there is happiness and health. There is safety, opportunity, growth. There is loyalty. There is love. In all of it, because we said I do.
Happy anniversary, Jerimiah. Thank you for loving me so consistently and so warmly for all these years. For running the lantern over the dark days and for always, always letting me, helping me, curse and cry and laugh when I need to. In the end, there is no one I’d rather do this with than you.
Jackson and I have been in a friend funk lately. We’ve been missing our friends, I mean. While we’ve made new ones from going to the pool this summer, the only outing we feel safe doing with other people, we’ve been missing our friends who aren’t near us. Last week Jackson reconnected with a friend from Charlotte, a little girl he went to third and fourth grade with. He was happy and excited, then a little mopey. I asked what was up and he said he misses his Charlotte friends. I agreed and we mourned our losses for a bit and moved on. Well, he did.
I, of course, can’t let it go. I miss my best friend, whom I haven’t lived in the same town with since we were on college. I miss my friends on Lake Norman, I miss my Ozark friends, and I miss my Charlotte friends. I miss my friends I’ve met that have moved far away, living in Rhode Island, in Arizona, in California. This isn’t new, this missing, for me anyway, but it seems exasperated when times are a bit more trying. And I think that’s happening for Jackson now too.
The school board met this week. Decided to keep going virtually for the time being. We are still in “red” as it were. So we wait longer to see people, to make new friends, to reunite with old ones. And we keep missing.
I talk a lot about Bentley-girl, but realized that many of you might not know who I am talking about. Bentley-girl was my first baby. My chocolate lab mix. Jerimiah and I got her when we were barely 21, and moving from Kansas City to Southern Missouri, which turned out to be a blessing and a curse, but I was so happy that Bentley was along for the ride. We came across Bentley when I had mentioned wanting a dog to go on this next adventure in life with and my sister’s neighbor’s dog had just accidentally impregnated a stray and the stray stuck around and had the puppies. The neighbor’s dog was a large, blocky-headed English lab, and the stray was, well, a stray. She was black, she had long hair, and she was skittish. That’s all I remember when I saw her the first time, while she was protectively hovering over her new babies. They were tiny and adorable, and two of them were chocolate (out of ten or so) and my sister and I claimed the two chocolates. The neighbor was giving them away since they were mixed and he didn’t want to deal with all those puppies. About six weeks later we went back to pick them up and my sister’s dog (we had put little collars on them to tell them apart) was waiting happily for her new home, meanwhile Bentley flipped out, ran away, and wedged herself inside the wall and a tall shelf in the barn. Jerimiah had to spelunking back there to get her and she hated all of it. She was traumatized for sure, but she was my traumatized girl and we hope we made up for it over the next fourteen years.
It’s always a little hard for me to talk about Bentley because she was legit my ride-or-die. She was with us, day in and day out, since that moment in the barn and she was absolutely our first baby. We took great pride in teaching her so much. We taught her all the basics of course, how to sit, beg, speak, lie down. But we taught her cool shit too, like how to climb in and out of the swimming pool by using the ladder. She could also climb back into a boat. This was out of necessity because she was the quintessential lab, even though she wasn’t a full-blooded lab, she loved DUCKS! And she would bail on the boat at first site of one, swim until she couldn’t anymore, then we’d troll over and she’d climb the ladder back into the boat. People were amazed when they saw her. We had friends and family gets labs after meeting her, but of course none were as awesome as her.
It was always fun to take her to the doggy swim days at the public pool. Besides the fact that she was a bomb-ass swimmer, who would often try to save people when they jumped off the diving board because she thought they were drowning, ha! But also because you’d just have to yell, “Ladder, Bentley” and she’d swim over to the ladder and walk out of the pool. People were legit amazed and would ask Jerimiah right there to teach their stupid golden retrievers that and he’d laugh and be like, “You’re dog isn’t smart enough.” Haha, just kidding. He’d tell them it takes a while to learn.
Bentley was a true lake girl because we lived at the lake with her for the first five years of her life. She was hit by a car twice there. She fought off wild animal there. She was even rescued a couple of times when she chased ducks a little too far out into the cove. But she had, what we thought, were some of her best years there, then we moved to the city and Jackson was born. That’s when Bentley really became who she was supposed to.
Jackson was Bentley’s kid. Always. From the moment we brought him home. She believed that Jackson belonged to her. Early on she would grab the blanket he was laying on, and pull him across the hardwood floors next to her bed while she took a nap. She slept in his nursery, then for a few toddler years they disagreed on some stuff, mainly him pulling her tail and trying to ride her, then sometime around his third birthday she was back. Back in his room, sleeping next to him on his bed, until the last time she could manage to get herself safely up there and back down again when Jackson was about nine-years-old.
That’s about the time we moved again. Not across the country this time, but from another rural area to the city. We moved into Charlotte and Bentley was none to happy. At first. The house was smaller than she was used to. The yard had a privacy fence. The neighbor dog growled. But I started taking her on more and more walks, trying both to elongate her life, and to spend more time with my best friend, who I knew was slowly slipping away from me.
By this time we had been told that Bentley was slipping into what amounted to Alzheimers Disease in the doggy world. She was starting to not recognize us sometimes. She would forget to eat one day, which was highly unusual for this 110-pound dog, and some days the forgetfulness, mixed with her arthritis and slow-growing tumor, the world was too much and she would lay at my feet, in our small Charlotte house, while I typed away on my thesis, and she would watch the birds out the glass door.
Then one day, the week I was defending my thesis, I called for her and she came running in from the hallway and stopped dead in her tracks. Tucked her tail between her legs, backed up slowly into a corner and cowered. I slowly approached her, as the vet had recommended at times like this, and sat not he floor next to her. She looked up at me like she had no idea who I was, and this time, for the first time ever, she was terrified, like I was going to hurt her. I cried, again, with my best friend. I held her. Thought back to the other times I had cried with her. So many times. She eventually came out of it, laid her large body next to mine on the floor, and we cuddled, but I knew that day it was time.
Three days later, on the suggestion of our vet, we spent our last day in this world with Bentley-girl. We took her to Freedom Park and let her chase ducks for a little while. We took her to lunch. Out for ice cream. Then I took her on our last walk around the neighborhood. She was a month shy of her 14th birthday. “A good, long life,” the vet had assured us. A good, long life.
It’s been two years now since we lost Bentley. Rather, since we let her go. She still comes to me in dreams. I still sometimes wake up thinking that I live on Table Rock Lake, and that Bentley will come running through the door with a snake hanging from her mouth as a gift to me, like she did many times before. I still see her curled up on the floor, a toddler Jackson sitting on her back. She was at her happiest when we were all together, when she knew we were all safe and happy.
I know for a fact she would not be happy with Sir Duke or Lady Winnie today. She’d despise them both, but for different reasons. She never liked male dogs (I get that), and she hated too much play and sassiness. She was a no-nonsense kinda gal, who appreciated bacon and walks, and the occasional swim in her older years. But I know that if it weren’t for Bentley and the awesomeness that she was, we wouldn’t have Duke or Winnie, or sometimes stop and smell the air on warm spring days when the flowers are blooming and the trees swaying.
Sending love to you wherever you are today, Bentley. We certainly miss you.
I just remembered that one of my first blog posts was about Bentley as well. You can read it here.
Last week a friend of ours called to ask if we could dog sit while she goes out of town to stay with family while we are in this quarantine. Her husband still has to physically go to work in Atlanta and she didn’t want to leave her pup all alone all day. We had previously discussed the idea of trading off dog-sitting duties with each other if we ever needed to, so our dogs already know and like each other, so we said sure thing. Two days with our friends’ sweet Doggo Nola, a yellow-Lab mix, and my puppy-mommy uterus was exploding. Jerimiah and I have been in talks for several months about the idea of a second dog. In fact, if you’ll remember we went to a couple of shelters, but didn’t find a doggo that fit our family. Then after having Nola around, seeing how cool she is with Sir Duke, how he has a playmate and that helps out a lot, well, we just did it. We totally adopted a dog over the weekend! May I please introduce to you Lady Winifred Beesly of Atlanta:
Now, I know what you are thinking: That’s a beast of a name, Missy! How did you ever come up with it? Super simple. My friend Madison suggested Winnie, while we were stuck on “D” names that would be cute with Duke. Names like, Dixie, Delta, or Dolly. But I knew since she was a Lady, she needed a noble sounding name, so I said make it Winifred and you’ve got a deal. Jackson was hellbent on Beesly, as a nod to the fictional character Pam Beesly in “The Office” (of which we just finished the whole series as a family and that was a hot fucking mess, with not one, but two emotional breakdowns for my 11-year-old). And of Atlanta is of course necessary, considering she is a Lady. But like Duke (whose actual name is Sir Duke Barkington of Charlotte) we call her by her nickname, Winnie. Or more usually, Winnie the Doo, because she’s an 8-week-old F1B PyreDoodle.
What the actual hell is an F1B PyreDoodle? Winnie is 3/4 Standard Poodle, 1/4 Great Pyrenees, and 1/1 awesome. Her biological mommy is a Standard Parti-Poodle and her biological daddy is half Standard and half Great Pyrenees, giving her the F1B status. Now listen, I don’t know anything about dog breeding. Nor do I know anything about these fancy-ass designer breeds that I am apparently drawn to, but she isn’t AKC registered like Duke because she can’t be, because she’s, well, let’s just call her “too special.” Yes, she’s “too special” to be recognized as a reputable dog breed by the American Kennel Craphead Uppity Bitches Chamber of Cocksuckers. I think that’s their full name. But listen y’all, true to Missy fashion, I had to Google what a Great Pyrenees looks like after we had already adopted her. Side note, they look like this:
Did you know they were really big? I did not.
Anyway, even though she’s mostly SPOO, she looks mostly like a Great Pyrenees puppy, which makes me a little nervous cause the doggy door we bought isn’t all that big. But that’s shit to worry about later, for now, please look at these pictures:
Now, how are Sir Duke and Lady Winnie getting along? Well, the first day was ruff. He was really sad that she was getting a ton of attention, and he withdrew a bit. He even refused to sleep on the bed with us because she was up there. Then by the next day he had convinced himself that she was a Covid-19 carrier because Great Pyrenees are mountain dogs from France and Spain, and he’s slightly racist. Later that night we found and burned his MAGA hat, had a stern talk with him, and he’s coming around. He even lets her eat next to him, as you can see in the above picture.
Yesterday they started to play together. And whenever I tell her “Outside!” and rush out the door with her peeing down my arm, I think I can see a twinkle in his eye. He knows he is the superior being, he doesn’t feel pressure to prove it anymore. Also, he’s a little scared of her. But to be fair, she’s kinda ferocious for such a tiny thing.
So there you have it, Winnie the Doo. And yes, we made a song for her set to the Winnie-the-Pooh theme song and it’s dropping fresh today straight from the 100-acre wood. You’re welcome.
Winnie the Doo (Sung to the tune of Winnie-the-Pooh)
Winnie the Doo, Winnie the Doo,
Fuzzy little puppy, all stuffed and fluffy,
Winnie the Doo, Winnie the Doo
Silly, willy, nilly old girl!
Welcome to the family, Winnie-girl. You’ve got some big shoes to fill, but we think Bentley would be proud of you.
Today is an anniversary at our house. It’s the day that Jerimiah and I looked at each other on a street corner of downtown Kansas City and decided right then and there we would become “official” and start dating exclusively. It wasn’t our first date. That was months before. It was the first time we decided that we were right for each other. It was in the middle of the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Somewhere along Broadway, surrounded by a lot of drunk people in green.
That was 18 years ago, and Jesus are we two very different people now. Which is indeed a good thing.
I don’t want to say a lot of sappy stuff here about my husband and my marriage. Instead I will just say that we would not be the people we are today without each other. And we really like the people we are today and the people we are constantly morphing into. And there is no one else that I would rather do this with. And yes, I realize everyday how incredibly lucky I am to have the kind of guys that is home every night by 6:00 pm, helps his son with his homework, cooks breakfast for us on the weekends, and always says yes to whatever plans Jackson and I cook up. He’s the absolute most trustworthy, patient, practical, loving guy I have ever known in my whole life, and well, he’s pretty lucky too, I mean, LOOK AT ME!
Thanks, Jerimiah, for taking a chance on that odd girl so many years ago. Thanks for loving me since, for supporting me, for being on this crazy roller coaster with me. And most importantly, thanks for letting me take so many pictures and never complaining.
Happy Anniversary, my dear. Cheers to many more. Onward and upward, per usual.
You guys. You actual all. I am in deep with the puppy fever. I don’t even know why. Duke is only a year and a half, but I keep looking at his pictures from when he was a baby and my uterus, the one that doesn’t even exist inside my body anymore, starts to ache. I don’t even have that reaction when I see babies. Like real, actual, fucking, human babies. Don’t get me wrong, most of them are cute, real, human babies (after the first three months or so anyway) but I’m like, “Ohh, she’s cute. Oh, she pooped her pants, here take your baby.” But doggos and puppers. You guys. That’s another story. First of all, do me a favor and LOOK [clap] AT [clap] THIS [clap]
LOOK [clap] AT [clap] THIS [clap]
So a couple of weeks ago I talked Jerimiah and Jackson into going to the shelters around Altanta looking for a dog to adopt, and let me just say what a sad, sack of shit we all were when we left. Like sad, y’all. Who does that?! Who goes to like three different shelters (the kill ones owned by the county) and looks at dogs. Uh, dumbasses.
Obviously we found 47 dogs we wanted to adopt. And since they are running a “Roaring 20s” special this month, all dogs over 25 pounds are only $20 to adopt. So, that’s only $940. Uh, that’s a steal, y’all! We paid half that for one Sir Duke Barkington. Christ, Y’ALL KNOW I LOVE A DEAL!
When Jerimiah ultimately stopped me from trying to convince the employees at the shelter that we could house 47 dogs, they were skeptical anyway, we decided maybe we, ahem I, should slow my roll. So we walked away with zero dogs that day. And zero the next. And zero the next. And he has not even mentioned taking me back, which is a real dick move on his part. Until, well, he said this:
“I think I’d rather wait until like the summer, and get a puppy. Maybe another Poodle, or a Doodle or something like that. You know, a dog that really fits into our family and lifestyle. I’m not sure adopting 47 Pit Bulls* would be an ideal situation for Duke. Or, well, any of us.” –Jerimiah
Yeah. That’s a thing he said. I might have added some of it for entertainment value (and to make a long, educated post about Pit Bulls at the bottom of this blog), but he for sure said he ALSO wants another dog. And since I wrote it on my blog, it lives forever in posterity.
So, a new dog is coming our way. What kind, I don’t really know. Because while I LOVE that I don’t have dog hair floating all around the house (thanks to that Poodle gene), I HATE spending so much money on grooming my dog. And while I LOVE that my dog is a cuddle-bug who sits on my lap even though he’s way too big, I sometimes want a dog who doesn’t lose his shit and shake like a leaf when he sees the mailman (who he literally sees every, single, day). There’s good and bad. Plus, y’all know I am always down for a Chocolate Lab. Because I miss my best friend Bentley-girl like a sumbitch. LOOK [clap] AT [clap] THESE [clap]
You can read more about Bentley-Girl in the red link and you can read more about Sir Duke Barkington as well. As for me and my puppy fever. It will rage on until we find the right dog for us, but don’t worry, we will.
**Pit Bulls and Such**
You guys, the Atlanta-area shelters are filled with dogs that are either Pit Bull, Staffordshire, Mastiff, or Boxer mixes. Most of these dogs just get clumped into the “Pit Bull” category because people are ill-informed. And afraid. We talked to several shelter employees and volunteers (that’s a bonus about going on the weekend, there are a tons of knowledgable people there who want to talk to you about the dogs because they see them every week.) And the real truth is that yes, black dogs are the least likely to get adopted. Same with cats. Dogs that have a Pit Bull “look” are the least likely to get adopted and the most likely to be euthanized when they run out of room. At the DeKalb County Shelter we didn’t even get to see all the dogs. The had 450 in cages, and another 150 or so in a backroom awaiting a spot to be seen, and I’d say about 90% of them looked like this young lady who I FELL IN LOVE WITH:
She was the sweetest. We got to take her out for a walk, and she just wanted to sit next to you and have you pet her. In fact, her and this guy Mr. Charlie Brown:
almost made us bring Duke in for a meet-and-greet. But we were hesitant after we learned how long they had both been in the shelter. Shelter dogs are unique, and the longer they spend in the shelter, the more love and attention they need. And we are afraid we don’t have the time or the patience, though we have the love, to make these dogs feel special.
Even worse, some of the dogs are only allowed to be in “one dog” homes. Some have a “No Kids” restriction. Some, many, have tested positive for heart worms, and while they are being treated at the facility, we were told both Ms. Bianca and Mr. Charlie Brown would need to not be “active” for weeks after we adopted them because of the heart worm medication. We weren’t sure how we could keep a dog not “active” when we have Sir Duke at home, the most ACTIVE beast on the planet! We want nothing more to give all those 47 dogs we fell in love with a home, but it’s not feasible for us right now. But if you can, if you live in the Atlanta area, and if you are interested in any of those dogs they can all be found here: LifeLine Animal Project.
And remember, please don’t judge a dog by the breed. Get informed before you make a decision. Remember that visiting a dog in a shelter for 30 minutes one time doesn’t mean much, and even the craziest looking ones in the shelter could be the calmest, most sweet, dogs ever. If you shelter has a “Try before you buy” program, do it! If you can find a shelter dog that has been in a foster home, talk to the foster home, they will know so much about the dog. Just some things to keep in mind.
My best friend texted me from 833 miles away, and she said Merry Christmas! Then she asked if I wanted to come stay the night at her house. I said sure! Said I’d be over with all my new toys. Then I smiled. I hope she did too, remembering all those years that we did that. All those years that on Christmas morning we’d excitedly call each other. We’d say Merry Christmas, cause our moms expected us to, then we’d jump into, “I got a new doll!” Or “I got a Walkman!” Rachel always got the cool shit, the “in” toy, while I usually got the Blue-Light Special from K-Mart, but still it was exciting. Then at some point, my mom and I would load up the car for Christmas dinner, usually at my sister’s house, and Rachel and her family would meet us there, and we’d eat, and eat. We’d watch A Christmas Story because TBS played it on a continuous loop all day, then we’d nap, or play Nintendo or PlayStation or whatever new games one of the kids got. Then we’d start pleading for our mom’s to let us have a sleepover. It was all just tradition, they’d stopped fighting it years before. My bag was already packed. I’d already stuffed all my new toys into a suitcase or a trash bag and they were in the trunk of my mom’s car. Then after dinner we’d load up Rachel’s mom’s car with all the stuff I brought and head to their house, where Rachel and I played until we would pass out with all our new toys, while attempting to keep her younger brother and sister out of her room, with little success. For years we did this. I don’t have a lot of Christmas memories that lack my best friend.
While ruminating this week on Christmas Magic, and what I want my own child to remember from his childhood, I’m a little sad. He doesn’t load up the car on Christmas afternoon and head to the family feast. The family feast happens at our home, alone, just the three of us. My son has never lived in Kansas. He’s never known the chaotic, albeit comforting, feeling of having a house full on Christmas morning. He doesn’t have a Rachel of his own.
But I still hope he remembers the magic. The Elf on the Shelf causing mayhem all month long. Tracking Santa on NORAD, watching Home Alone for the third time while we bake cookies for Santa and chop the carrots for the reindeer. He may not have the big family I did, but he still has the magic, and I think that’s important.
Meanwhile, Rachel is in Kansas with her husband and kids. I’m in Georgia with mine. We’re both fast approaching the age when the bags under our eyes don’t go away, and we suspect dairy is messing with our stomachs. We aren’t playing with dolls anymore, aren’t arguing over who got the better make-up set (who has time for make-up?!). Instead we are finding ways to laugh, to make time for each other, to remember the magic, even if it’s just a few times a year, 833 miles away.
Thanks for being part of my Christmas Magic for so many years, Rachel. I forgive you for breaking my Slinky that one time, and yeah, your Baby Alive was way cooler than my Baby Shivers. But it never mattered, it was just the time with my best friend that was important. Sure glad we have those memories to go back to.
Wishing you all a fun-filled day of new toys, love, friendship, and Christmas magic!
Here’s some pics of Rachel and me through the years!
Today my husband and I have been married for roughly six million minutes. I gotta be honest, five minutes with me can be difficult, ask around. I can be selfish, and whiny, and incredibly hard-headed. I cry a lot. I have low days and high days, and I never really know which it will be until I’ve had my first cup of coffee. And lately, Christ, lately I’ve been battling a case of the killer blues, mild anxiety, and a bad bout of insomnia wherein I creep around the house at night, making small noises and whispering, “Ope, ‘scuse me” to the dog when we bump into each other prowling, scouring, for scraps of dinner.
Six million minutes, give or take a few. Jesus, that’s a lot of minutes of me. And he’s still here. Still buzzing around my ear telling me I’m pretty, even when I am braless, in an oversized “granny” sweater and shorty-shorts that don’t fit anymore, and I haven’t shaved my legs in weeks.
Six million minutes, give or take a few, and he’s still giving me back rubs when I ask, pretending that he isn’t bothered when my rough feet brush up against him at night, still smiling when I scream, “FUUUUUUCK!” after I’ve dropped the ketchup bottle again, and this time it exploded.
Six million minutes, give or take a few, and my husband is still reminding me that I am capable and smart. He’s still reading everything I write. Still laughing at the pictures I take of our son sleeping, or our dog sleeping, or himself, sleeping.
Six million minutes, give or take a few, and he still laughs at the jokes he’s heard 1,000 times. He doesn’t even stop me to tell me that he’s heard that one, or seen that meme, or read that part. He just smiles and nods his head while I tell him again about that one time I mixed up olive oil for coconut oil.
I’ve had six million minutes, give or take a few, to be the wife of this lovely man. To this man who bestows gifts upon me for no reason. Who says things like, “No, seriously, what do YOU want to do tonight?” Who takes me on trips around the world. Who loves me unabashedly. Whose only goal in this life is to provide the best life for our son and me.
Six million minutes I’ve had. And it’s tough sometimes, I’ll admit. Because that’s what marriage is. There are blue skies, there are storms. Believe me, we’ve had our fair share of both. But for the last six million minutes, walking beside this man, I know I can weather any of those storms. And I know, know for a fact, that there are always rainbows afterward. I’ve learned that in the last six million minutes.
Thank you, my dear. For being a man among men. For always doing what is right, even if it is tough. For standing up for those who need standing up for. For listening. For loving. For understanding, or saying you do, even if you don’t. Thank you, my dear for being worth every minute. Here’s to millions and millions more. I’m the luckiest.
My mom sent me this picture the other day and I was totally surprised, for the first time in a while (not really I’ve been watching Downton Abbey) because I hadn’t seen this picture in a very long time, probably since it was taken. And I remembered very little about it. In fact, the only thing I remember about myself in this picture is that I found that purse (Baby’s first Coach) at the Tanger Outlet Mall in Branson, Missouri for $79 and I thought that was a steal! Therefore two things must be true: 1. I was still young and naive enough to think that spending $80 on a Coach purse made you an adult woman, nay, a cool adult woman and 2. I was definitely in my early 20s.
The more I looked at the picture though, the more the scope widened. Funny how pictures that take us by surprise on Thursday afternoons can do that, isn’t it? The more the scope widened, the more I resented the person that was in this photo. She was a total wanker. I mean, who wears a damn denim skirt? And what is that shirt even? I looks like it’s some type of half-hoodie? But I did have make-up on. A feat that is very, very difficult for me to accomplish now, on the backside of thirty. Then I realized, like we all do sometimes, I was focusing on the wrong things. I was selfishly focusing on me, and not the man standing next to me, and the moment that is, to my utter displeasure, captured in time.
You see, I was in my early twenties here. I can’t pinpoint exactly the year, but I can say, with certainty, that it was somewhere between 2004 and 2006, and come to think of it, maybe “early” twenties wasn’t right. Maybe I was exactly 25. Maybe he was too, and maybe this was our actual first step into real adulthood.
A year or so earlier we had fought about something in particular. The fact that I wanted Jerimiah to go back to school. I wanted him, in the least, to finish his associates degree, which we had both been working on at Kansas City Kansas Community College when we started dating. That date I am more clear on, St. Patrick’s Day, 2002. That wasn’t our first date, our first date had come a couple months prior, but we hadn’t really thought anything past the tip of our noses back then, so while we were standing on the corner of 42nd and Broadway, in Old Westport, we looked at each other and smiled the kind of smile that you know you will be giving that other person for a very long time. And so months later, we decided on that day as our “anniversary,” and it stuck.
Anyway, a couple years later we were living at his parent’s place, a resort they bought on Table Rock Lake down in Southern Missouri. He was working for them, and I was serving and bartending in Branson, and I looked at him one night and thought, “He’s wasting his damn time.” What’s funny is that it never occurred to me that I was doing the same thing. Here we were, frighteningly close to the end of our early twenties, not a college degree between the two of us, and although it was fun, sure, yeah, we were having fun, we were definitely stalled. So I suggested he apply at Ozark Technical Community College and finish up there. Maybe, maybe, then he could transfer to a four-year college. And oh hey, Missouri State was just up the road in Springfield.
He fought me at first. He was helping his parents out, after all, and he didn’t really know if college was for him. I had to remind him how smart he was. I had to remind him that WE had bigger dreams. Bigger than Southern Missouri, bigger than him working for his parents, bigger, I would suppose then living in wedlock and partying with friends on the weekends. So he applied. And a year later he was the Vice President of the student body. And a year after that, I think, this picture was taken.
This was, of course, the beginning of both of us committing to higher education. Which in a sense, has been us committing to ourselves, to each other, and to our child. To our futures. A year after he started at Ozark Technical Community College, I went back. Then he graduated, we got married, got pregnant, then he started at Missouri State University, and I, six months pregnant, transferred to Missouri State to once again follow this man, whom I knew was finally on the right path.
The next few years were a blur. In fact, having a baby your second year of college isn’t ideal, regardless of how old you are (I was 27). It’s just tough. But, it makes you a hell of a lot tougher, that much I know. We ran into a few snags along the way, we both took longer than we intended, him working full-time and going to school full-time. Me working part-time, having a baby, and going to school full-time. But we managed, and eventually we both graduated with honors from Missouri State. Jerimiah with a degree in finance and and me with a degree in English.
Years later, when Jackson started kindergarten and I was looking for a purpose in this here life, I applied to grad school and was accepted. I began that transition from “Jackson’s Mommy” to the woman I am now, whoever that is. That forced Jerimiah’s hand once again. Here I was, killin’ it in grad school (in my head), working again, and being a kick-ass Mommy. So he decided to go to grad school too, and wouldn’t you know that he graduates in one month with his terminal degree, an MBA. I don’t have my terminal degree, I only have an MA, so you know, I’m scouting schools now. Because that’s what we do, Jerimiah and I. We push each other to do better. We always have.
So, yeah, I don’t remember a lot about this particular picture. But the widening of the scope brings me back to memories I had stored away. I do remember those two kiddos. And believe me, we were kiddos in every sense of that non-sensical word. We were just two kids, crazy for each other, so much in fact that we pushed and we pushed, making the other one do more than they thought possible. And that’s the code we live by now. The force we have created in our relationship. We are heading into year 18 now, with brighter eyes than we’ve ever had. And more opportunity, more possibility, more love, more admiration, than this denim-skirt wearing, naive little girl ever thought. And for that I am thankful.
Cheers to you, my darling. To this day, to the first time you graduated, to the second time you graduated, and cheers to the next month, though it will be hard, it will be worth it. Onward and upward we row.
“A woman who cuts her hair, is about to change her life.” – Coco Chanel
When life seems to be spinning out of control, I do this thing wherein I drink two glasses of wine, grab my best pair of kitchen scissors, watch a couple YouTube videos, and then cut my own bangs. I know what you are going to say, probably the same thing my husband says, “What the hell are you doing? Go to a salon. You said you’d never do this again. Remember that time you cut your eye a little?” Blah. Blah. Blah. But calm down, I’m a professional.
I will first decide what length I want to go. I decide this by grabbing my hair from the back of my neck, and swooshing it down over my face, looking quite like Cousin Itt from the Addams Family (see below).
Then I think, hmm, about right here, holding my hand up to about the beret line. Then right before I make the first cut, I put the scissors down, flip my hair back into place, and text my best friend.
Me: I’m gonna cut my own bangs.
BFF: DO IT!
So then I flip my hair back. Then… ping.
BFF: Have you been drinking?
Me: Just wine.
BFF: How much?
Me: Like two.
ME: Glasses, bitch.
BFF: Where’s Jerimiah?
Me: Why?! He doesn’t care, he said do whatever.
BFF: Did he? Let me text him real quick like.
ME: No, stop! Okay, he told me to go to a salon.
BFF: So two bottles?
Me: No, dude! I can do it this time.
BFF: That’s what you said last time.
Me: Last time I was legit drunk. And I had the bad scissors.
BFF: Did you buy hair shears?
Me: Uh, no. Do you know how expensive those are? Whatever, I’m doing it.
So then I Cousin Itt it again, and just as I am about to lift the meat scissors to my forehead, Ping…
Jerimiah: Are you cutting your hair in the bathroom?
Me: Bitch! No. Leave me alone.
Jerimiah: This isn’t like a “new year, new you” thing. Think this through please.
Me: Leave me alone!
Scissors up. Then I realize if I cut where I want to cut, then I cut a lot more hair than I intend to. It’s not so much a bang cut, more like a hair cut and do I even want a haircut? Hmm. What about that video I saw where the girl leans over and lets her hair hang over and she cuts it at an angle?
Me: You know that video where the girl hangs her hair over and they cut it at an angle?
BFF: No, dude. No.
Me: But I think I can probably do it.
BFF: Remember that time you wanted me to dye your hair and we used all the holes in the cap and you had that layer of blonde only at the top and it was like three days before senior pics?
BFF: Shit like that will happen if you do this.
Me: Damn it, man!
Then I stand in front of the mirror. Scissors in one hand, my phone in the other, and I wait for divine intervention. A sign. A signal that this is exactly what needs to happen right now, this very instant. Then suddenly. Ping…
BFF: Dude, I think maybe you should do it.
BFF: Cause honestly, it’s your life and you only live it once, and who the hell am I or Jerimiah to tell you whether or not you have the forehead for bangs?
Me: Did you pour yourself some wine?
BFF: For sure.
Me: Want me to wait ten minutes then we can FaceTime and do it together?
BFF: Oh, no, for sure not, no. I’m not spiraling here, you are.
Then I cut my own bangs.
Listen, here is my point in as much as I have one: Sometimes when you need to feel a little, teeny, bit in control of your life because things feel like they are totally spinning out of control, then okay, sure, cut your own bangs, but try to limit your control to that. Just the bangs, y’all. Just the bangs.
There are very little jobs quite like working at a restaurant/bar. Maybe retail, maybe some kind of customer service, but to be fair you don’t usually have to deal with drunk people when you work at Old Navy. Then again, I myself have shopped at ON a little drunk on margaritas that were made too strong, on a Saturday afternoon at Applebee’s. Of course, that was back when Applebees was still the best place to go. But, I digress.
I started bussing tables at a country club when I was 17. Now look it. This was technically called a “Country Club”, but I’ve been in real Country Clubs in my adult life, and what the Leavenworth Country Club really was, really, was a beer join on a golf course. A sub-par 18-hole golf course, to say the least.
My best friend Rachel got me the job. She was serving, illegally, at 16 because her French grandmother had worked there for years and years, and also because it was a private establishment which means all sorts of illegal shit could go on and no one would say anything. And, uh yeah, all sorts of illegal shit went on there. Not just cooks smoking weed in the pantry, either. Members routinely cheated on there spouses in the women’s locker room, “straight” men met other “straight” men in the pool shack for a good time, teenagers snuck off to hole number 7 to do it doggy-style while they hoped the people in the houses that backed up to the course were peering out their windows. Don’t worry, they were. Lots of underage drinking. Lots of it. And that isn’t even scratching the surface. In fact, while we worked there, unbeknownst to us, the General Manager was embezzling so much money that the members were routinely called to be told they hadn’t made their monthly minimum or paid their dues, when in fact they had, but you know, he stole it all. Good times. Good times.
Rachel and I were just kids though, and we didn’t do too much in way of the illegal shit, besides of course the underage drinking part and the serving alcohol part (you are supposed to be 18 to serve) but that didn’t seem to matter to many people, even Jimmy V., our high school principal. He was a member at the club and he always smiled at us as we came though the door to the poker room with a double Jack and Coke in our hand. In fact, Rachel and I routinely let Jimmy V. behind the bar to make his own cup for the road on his way out. In return, whenever we had, uhh, failed to make it to class on time, we would stroll past his secretary and smile, waiving our tardy slip for him to see. “Hey Girlies,” he’d shout in his all encompassing, good-natured way, then motion for us to come on over to his desk so he could excuse whatever mess we had gotten into with our damn Home Ec teacher. “See ya Wednesday night!”
Ahh, the joys of learning reciprocity at such a young age!
Fast forward a couple of years and Rachel was the “official” Beer Cart Girl, a prize to be bestowed upon the prettiest, thinnest, blondest of us. The beer cart was just like it sounds. It was a golf kart that had been outfitted with more rugged tires, a little more power (as much as can go on an electric golf cart) and the back seats had been stripped and a large cooler put in it’s place. It’s as janky as it sounds. I mean, it wasn’t like an Igloo strapped to the bumper, but pretty much.
Rachel fit the bill quite nicely, though she would never dye her hair a more golden like advised. She did, however, enjoy wearing short shorts and low-cut polos and she was a natural at flirting with the 60-year-old men who could be found on hole one promptly at 8 am each day. Every once in awhile Judy, our boss, would let me go out with Rachel, particularly if we were hosting a golf tournament . These were the BEST days, and here is why.
The members never dealt in cash. All their transactions were recorded the old fashioned way, with pen and paper. (Until one glorious day when a computer was installed, that we all hated very much and promptly ignored it.) So every time a member came in from the course and had lunch, or bought rounds for their whole group, or came in for Friday night’s Surf-n-Turf buffet, it was recorded on a ticket and they squared up at the end of the month.
The wait staff worked with a tip pool, and each ticket had 10% added to the total to give to that tip pool. Like this: Family of four comes in for dinner. They spend $100. They end up paying $110 at the end of the month, and that extra $10 went to the tip pool. If Rachel and I were the only ones on the shift that night, that means Rachel and I would earn $5 each toward our paycheck that week, less taxes (and your boss stealing a portion of it to support his gambling addiction). Those 10% tips were on top of our hourly wage, which I think hovered around the $5/hour mark, but it could have easily been more. I don’t remember. But I do remember when I get my first serving gig outside of the LCC, my actual fucking mouth dropped at the hourly wage. It was $2.35/hour. Gross.
Non-members didn’t have a running tab, so they were either sponsored by a member and allowed to put anything they wanted on their tab, or the more routine way, they paid for everything in cash. So when non-members were there for a tournament, or a wedding, or a day at the pool, they had to actually tip us, and usually they would over-tip for cool points with their member friends (although, can you really ever “over-tip” a server) and they tipped us in cold, hard, cash. Whoohoo!
So, a normal tournament Saturday on the Beer Cart went like this:
Rachel and I roll into work together (because my broke-ass didn’t have a car, so she picked me up every day) about 8:00 am. We are half asleep and a little hungover and her grandma is already there and she has already clocked us in. Thanks, Grandma. We eat whatever she has ordered for us, or scavenged after the breakfast rush so that Connie, the mean ass “chef” didn’t see. Usually it was sausage gravy and biscuits. Mmmmm. Then we walk downstairs to load the cart.
The cart was kept outside, but behind a fence because no one wanted to offend any of the members by seeing a golf cart parked outside… Every night it had to be plugged in so that it was fully charged. This was normally the job of the maintenance dude, or one of the cooks when they took the trash out (just remembering right now that the cart doubled as the “trash cart”, which I am sure broke at least 15 health code violations). Most of the time the cooks were too high to remember to plug the cart in, so it was always a crapshoot about how much juice it would have. Most days it was about half, so we would plug it in as we loaded it.
Loading it was a bitch. You had to load up the whole cooler with beer and water and Gatorade and whatever else you think the golfers would want out there. This meant to have a wide variety of everything. The beer was all downstairs near the cart in a room we called “Beer Alley” (but maybe I just called it that in my head) because it was a long storage room with cases of beer stacked up. It was locked, but I feel like everyone had a fucking key, or there was a hidden key or something, cause how the hell else were we always down there drinking the beer?! Who had the damn keys?!
Anyway, Rachel would usually con one of the cooks to come down and help us load that bitch up (they were all in love with her) and then I would start dishing out buckets of ice to pour over everything. Let’s be real, Rachel was the valiant steed and I was the donkey. After we got the cart loaded down with ice and beer (by this time Grandma has yelled at us for at least 30 minutes that the people on the course “want their beer”, keep in mind it’s like 9:00 am at this point). So we load up, grab our “tickets” for purchases, our cash box (which really is just whatever fives or ones the GM can pull out of his pocket when I stick my head into his whiskey-soaked office and say, “Dan, fucking wake up, dude, we need cash”), and a drink for the road. It’s morning, so usually a vodka/OJ that Rachel made when Grandma was in the bathroom. She also made a drink for the cook who helped us, because reciprocity. (Read: he was the weird one and she wasn’t going into a linen closet with his ugly ass.) Because we always keep it classy.
Rachel would drive for the most part, mainly because it didn’t matter how many times I went out onto the course, I still never remembered where hole number one was, nor did I understand the actual fucking rules of driving on a golf course, of which there apparently are. We would plan to spend all afternoon on the course, which meant our first spot was hole number 7, the same hole that, at that point in my life, had seen more action than I had. Hole number 7 (again, it could be hole 13 or 29, I don’t really know) butted up against a row of houses with senior citizens swinging on adorable back porch swings. They would watch us slide to a stop, the ice and beer shifting in the back, rocking the whole cart a bit, and then slather ourselves in baby oil, or some other kind of “tanning lotion” that Rachel bought from the “tanning salon” that she took me to (that was actually in a two houses connected by a tunnel) so I didn’t look so “sick all the time”, and I ended up getting third-degree burns from. “Maybe you shouldn’t use a tanning bed” she said laughing as she was forced to slather aloe on my lobster arms. It was her mess, she needed to fix it.
Usually I would pass on the lotions and what not, and just stick a sweatshirt over my legs and pray that the sun was nice that day. It never was. By this point we had already downed our vodka/ojs in the foam cups, so one of two things either happened. Either we were smart enough to have hide a foam cup in the bottom in the cooler, or we would just start pounding beers, either way it was time for another drink as the first group of golfers rounded the hill and spotted us. “Son-of-a-bitch,” I’d mumble as the actual guests I was actually being paid to serve started toward us smiling and waving like madmen.
The first group would load up, because they saw that we were going the opposite direction. Two to three beers each, a water or gatorade, and they’d ask if we had peanuts or some crazy shit like that, and I’d look at them like they were from outer space. Rachel would try to be accommodating and explain that we had lunch ready for them after their round, or that they could put in order in for something and we would run and grab it for them, but really, do you actually see that we are a golf cart loaded down with actual beer and maybe you should plan ahead you pieces of steaming dog shit and also thank you for my $5 cash tip, you know what, I am going to see if I can drum up some airplane peanuts for you. Wink. Wink.
The entire time I sat, stone-faced and a little drunk in the cart and recorded the transaction. Then a man would hand her a $20, and I’d look at Rachel and say, as if neither of us didn’t already know, “We can’t break that.”
“Oh, no!” Rachel would smile and put her arm on his, “We don’t have enough to break a $20. If you give me your name I will run up and get change and find you at the next hole.”
“Oh gosh no, girls, don’t worry about it, you keep the rest!”
“Oh are you sure, it’s not a bother!” She’d laugh, as she slipped the $20 in her pocket and said, “Have a great game!” As we sped off. It went on like this, hole after hole.
Our halfway mark was the bathrooms at the end of the course, right next to the main thoroughfare in Leavenworth/Lansing, Highway 7. So many times I sat in the beer cart, Rachel taking a pee break, and looked out onto the cars whizzing by and yearned for it to be three o’clock. So many times I watched as people sped by, honking occasionally, and I wished I were free from this beer cart, free from this stupid job, free from this routine. I was afraid. I was in community college by then, having drank my way out of KU the year before. I was concerned my life was going nowhere. I was afraid this was life, for Rachel and for me. Honestly, it very well could have been.
At some point on the way back up the course, the beer cart battery would become critically low. We’d gamble a bit, hit a few more holes, make $30 more dollars or so, then head in around lunch time. Then, after the cart charged, we restocked, helped Grandma in the bar for a the lunch rush, ate lunch ourselves to stave off the drunkenness, and go back out with the afternoon groups and do it all again. And it went on like this for four years.
Looking back now, I don’t regret my time there. I learned so much about friendship, about people, about working and patience. About how to have a good time all the time, even when it seemed like you couldn’t. But mainly I learned these things:
How to open my throat to let the beer just slide right down
How to drink gin. Tanqueray only, I don’t fuck with Beefeaters
How easy it is to talk a drunk girl into making out with you
How hard it is to get vomit out of your clothes, so maybe don’t fuck with the drunk girls
That straight women LOVE gay men and sort of, kind of, want to do the sex with them, even though they are married and they absolutely know that the man is gay
How to properly call into work
How to make a realistic looking police report
How to decide if the situation calls for the actual police in a hurry, of if we can get by with a call to the non-emergency 911 number
How to put out a grease fire, tip: It’s not water
How to flirt with old, white men who were once my track and field coaches in order to get an actual, goddamn $2 tip
How to talk to people who think they have a ton of money, but in reality they live paycheck to paycheck like me, but they just have a lot more credit
How to smile politely when you want to actually set a goddamn fire to the whole motherfucking place
Honestly, the best thing I learned the from my time at the LCC, was that I didn’t want that to be my life. I didn’t want to be a beer cart girl or a pissed off server for the rest of my life, and believe me we had them there. I didn’t want Rachel to be one either. I also didn’t want to be one of those gross members who spat out their orders at us like we were their slaves, and I didn’t want to be married to one of those guys who spent his whole life on the golf course, flirting with young girls, hoping that maybe one of them would flirt back.
Luckily, I am very far away from that girl today. So is Rachel. Rachel is married to a man who does not golf (thank the baby Jesus) and he’s a pretty fucking solid dude. She is also a third grade teacher in the #1 school district in Kansas, and a semester away from her Masters in Education. She’s probably gonna be your kids’ principal soon, and guess what, she knows how to make the “bad” kids feel comfortable, she knows how to teach the “lower” kids how to learn, and she knows how to work in the crappiest of circumstances, so she will be fine. And I’m super, duper proud of her.
Every summer Rachel comes to visit me, wherever I am, and we sit on my back deck and we laugh about those days, those girls, and all the lessons we learned. And we hope and we pray our kids have better fucking sense than we did. I’m pretty sure they do. 🙂
Hey Rachel, thanks for letting me ride along all those times. I love you and miss you like crazy.