A Whole Bunch of Racism

Here are some things that have been said to me, in front of me, I have overheard, or that I have witnessed in my lifetime that are acts of covert racism (and sometimes overt). This is not an exhaustive list, just top of mind stuff. These are all bad. They are wrong. They are part of the cog in the structural racism wheel. Recognize if you have heard or said any of these things, and change them straight away. This is not okay. It wasn’t okay in 1987, it is not okay now.

  • They are good athletes
  • Don’t date a Black boy
  • I would hate if my child had a mixed race baby
  • We look like Mexicans headed to El Paso (in reference to a loaded truck)
  • It’s a very “dark” place (meaning a lot of Black people frequent it)
  • All Lives Matter
  • That is reverse racism (that is not a thing that exists)
  • They are “thugs”
  • I have a Black friend
  • They are probably smuggling drugs
  • I can’t tell my husband I dated a Black guy
  • My family never owned a slave, so we aren’t racists
  • I don’t see color
  • They smell like rice and beans
  • She’s a Welfare Queen (said by a white woman who was on welfare, discussing her Black neighbor who was also on welfare)
  • All her kids probably don’t even have the same dad
  • The only way we will move forward is to stop talking about the past! (Then one moment later) We can’t take statues down, we can’t just erase our history!
  • I hear they eat their own dogs
  • It’s heritage, not hate
  • They should just go back to where they came from
  • They get a Black History month, we should get a white history month too!
  • Black women use abortion as birth control
  • What are you?
  • “Kung-Flu” (I think we all know who said that)
  • But I was discriminated against too, we all are
  • She’s really pretty for a Black girl
  • I just don’t understand why they are so angry? I grew up poor too.
  • Rap music is too explicit
  • (People whispering the word Black)
  • BET exists?! What about White Entertainment Television? Why can’t we have our own channel?!
  • I just think the way they dance is gross
  • I say just let them all kill each other
  • How can they see through those slanted eyes?
  • Black on Black crime

Yeah, that’s a thing.

Also, I Googled Susan Smith because I remembered how she killed her children then blamed a Black man. That sent me down a long rabbit hole on the internets and I came across this video from 2012. The creator is Calvin Michaels, and he shared things he’s heard white people say. It’s pretty spot on. It’s only six minutes and totally worth a watch.

And while we are at it, in The Long History of Racism Against Asian Americans from PBS, you can read about how Asian Americans have always been discriminated against.

And you can educate yourself about how Latino Americans have been and still are treated in our country with The Brutal History of Anti-Latino Discrimination in America.

Thanks for stopping on by. Hope you learned something. Read on, y’all.

M.

Summer Lovin’

Had me a blast! Summer lovin’ happened so faaaaast! You know the rest. We’ve been watching movies before bed. Sometimes we just fast asleep to “Fresh Prince” or “Bob’s Burgers,” other nights we’ve been introducing the kids to classics like “Teen Wolf” (“Is this supposed to be a comedy?”) and “Uncle Buck” (“What is wrong with that guy?”) and we’ve been talking and thinking about other movies to watch. Rachel and Madi brought their projector with them, so we are trying to decide what to watch for a fun movie, double feature outside one evening, and there is some disagreement. I say we watch “Twister” or maybe “Dirty Dancing”, while Jackson says we should just watch John Oliver, and Madi is like “What about a scary movie?” Yesterday Jackson suggested “Beetlejuice” as a compromise, hellbent that he’d never seen it before. Face to palm. He’s seen it. We watch it every Halloween along with “Hocus Pocus” and “Casper the Friendly Ghost”. This child of mine…

“Grease” came up in conversation however and everyone sort of nodded their heads up and down. “Oh yeah, ‘Grease’ that’s a good one.” Madi has watched it, but Jackson hasn’t. How have I failed him in this manner? Is it as good as I remember? I haven’t seen it in literal years. A decade or more maybe. And I’m in this weird space where I think he will like the cool cars, but does it hold up like the other movies? I’ve been disappointed recently by some old favorites.

So who knows. I’m throwing in the towel. Or maybe it’s caution to the wind. Or maybe it’s none of those things. I’m on the hunt for the perfect place to stick the projector, the rest will work itself out. Fingers crossed the right movie shows itself, and fingers crossed my kid won’t be afraid, or sad, or snapping his fingers while he greases back his hair and sings, “Summer lovin’ had me a blaaaast…”

M.

Well Hello…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Sharpie Feet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

M.

Fourth Grade

My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Albright, was sorta a hot mess. At least that is what I thought of her in fourth grade. She seemed a little scatterbrained, when in reality I think she was one of those people whose brains worked faster and harder than she could communicate her thoughts. Plus, she was a fourth grade teacher at a Title One school in the middle of Leavenworth, Kansas, she had other troubles. Jackson’s fourth grade teachers were absolute saints and you won’t change my mind. And he had several of them.

We were still in Charlotte, still at Mallard Creek STEM when fourth grade started, and he got Mrs. Duggins, the teacher I had met at the end of the school year, heard amazing things about, and decided I wanted Jackson to have. I tried to figure out how I could to that, but you have to remember I was new at this school, not well known, and my pull wasn’t that great. But I did know people… Anywho, you know the deal, he got the teacher I wanted him to get, she had some smart kids, and he even tested right into the “Gifted” program during the first week of school, which means he also had a new teacher, Mrs. Campbell. And she was THE BEST!

At this point at Mallard Creek STEM we already knew most of the other teachers, and had our favorites, like the STEM teacher Mrs. Chambers, who introduced Jackson to Lego Robots and his first foray into the STEM Club. Matter fact, in Mrs. Duggins class they had their very own 3D printer! Right there in the classroom! This was a very tech-savvy group of teachers, and Jackson fell right into line with them.

The only problem was that we knew by mid-november we would not be finishing fourth grade there. We had already been told we would be moving to the Atlanta Metro, and I had already started freaking out. Two moved in less than two years! AHHHHH! But Jackson took it all in stride. We often reminded him that had we not left St. James, he wouldn’t have all these awesome new friends, nor would he have been in a school play, or be able to 3D print in his classroom! He recognized his luck and began the process of leaving again.

Before we left though, we did some cool field trip, made some kick-ass robots, and secured some lifelong friends, as one does.

In December of fourth grade, Mrs. Duggins had her baby, and went out for maternity leave. This threw a small wrench in the plan, but I was already very involved with the classroom, I was a room-parent again, and Jackson had a steady stream of work with Mrs. Campbell keeping him busy. Plus their long-term sub, Mrs. Kinney, was sweet and smart and funny, so it all worked out. Jackson became her “tech guy” always getting her connected to what she needed to connect to and generally fixing glitches around the classroom.

Truth be told, Jackson did most of the year there. We didn’t move to Georgia until April 1, 2019 which was the first day of spring break down here, so he only did about seven weeks of school in his new Georgia school, but it was just long enough to make some friends and make a name for himself as a funny, smart, trustworthy guy, which made his transition into fifth grade much easier. In fact, we had only been there for six weeks when I was asked to help out in the classroom, which also made my transition into a room parent easy for fifth grade as well. The more you know… stars and what not.

Mrs. Butler was his fourth grade teacher at Midvale, and she was young and sweet and totally reminded me of Miss Honey from Matilda. As soon as we saw her we looked at each other and Jackson mouthed, “Miss Honey.” I was all, “I know right?!” She turned out to be just as sweet, albeit a little overwhelmed, and she recognized Jackson’s potential pretty early on, which is usually the mark of a great teacher. Though we didn’t get to know her much, we are appreciative of the time she gave to Jackson, and the trust she instilled in us from the beginning.

There you have it, fourth grade. Short, but long. Long, but short. Five important teachers, two schools, and two states. It was much easier than fifth grade, and the whole mess we found ourselves in over the last few months. Though to be fair, it wasn’t so bad. Sad that we missed so much, or feel like we did, but we are healthy, we are safe, and so are all of our friends, so we count ourselves lucky. We hope you are safe too.

M.

New school!
New deal: We were al close we could walk/ride bikes to school!

Third Grade

Ahh, third grade. Third grade was unique because we moved from a large house on the lake in the suburbs, into a small, urban house about four minutes from Uptown (which is what Charlotte calls downtown). It was an amazing experience, living close enough to walk, or catch the train into the city whenever we wanted to, and we did that a lot. Jackson got involved in the Children’s Theater in Charlotte, and met new friends and had plenty of new experiences.

The first half of Third Grade was spent in Mrs. Fay’s class, another one of those “I hope he gets Mrs. Fay next year, ahem, cough, cough” instances, that worked. Again, I think it was because she got most of the higher-thinking kids, but still, we were excited. We knew, early on we might not make it through the year there, and we started to look at alternatives for school.

We knew we wanted to live in Charlotte, as close to Uptown as possible, but we also knew that some of the schools in that area were not great. I researched and researched, trying to find the best fit for him. We weren’t scared of Title One, or anything like that, but by this time Jackson was starting to show a lot of promise in STEM and we knew we wanted him to follow that track, which led us to Mallard Creek STEM Academy.

The great thing about Mallard Creek STEM was that you didn’t need to live in a certain neighborhood to go there. You didn’t even need to live in the Charlotte city limits. We had friends that went to school there that lived in several of the small, suburban towns around the city. And we got lucky to snag the spot of a kid who left mid-year. The stars aligned, you might say, and while we started Third Grade at St. James, we said goodbye on the last day of the semester and moved on to the next school, the next phase of our lives, and while we cherish the memories at the first school, the next one offered us even more fun and excitement. Here are some pics of the beginning of Third Grade. The last ones are of the pillow case his class made him and presented to him the day he left. Which of course he still has!

If I’m being honest when I saw that Jackson wrote, “I have a big house” on his “Things about Jackson” paper, I knew it was time to leave. I didn’t want my kid thinking that a person’s “goodness” or “worthiness” depends on how big your house is, and I saw some of the other kids “About Me” and this was something that several of the middle-class, white kids wrote. Hey, you live, you learn.

The two coolest things about Mallard Creek STEM, in Jackson’s opinion, was the fact that he FINALLY got to wear a uniform. Seriously, he had been asking to go to a school where uniforms were required since he knew that was a thing, I think in first grade. The other cool thing was that it was two stories, a brand-new building, with a brand-new ELEVATOR! I assumed him he would not be allowed to use the elevator, then around his third week of school he fell on the playground and sprained his damn ankle! Guess who got crutches AND access to the elevator?! Geez.

Anyway, the second half of third grade started at Mallard Creek STEM Academy, which was just off I-485 in a Charlotte. Jackson went from being a bus rider, to sitting in morning traffic with me. He enjoyed the ride in though, and it always gave us more time to catch up before and after school. He was placed into a class that just had a child move, and so he filled a spot already there. The transition seemed seamless, at first, though every once in a while he would cry and say he missed St. James. That is when we learned the busier the better for him, and when the first snow hit our Charlotte house, suddenly there were kids knocking on our door to see if Jackson could play, and well, that was it. There were about five kids on our block, and sooner rather than later he forgot all about our “big house” with the pool near St. James.

Kids are resilient. That is what we learned. And we were glad to learn that, because unbeknownst to us at this time, things were cooking in Jerimiah’s office, and he was about to be faced with a choice: Either stay with the company and move, or find a new job. And well, you know what we picked. But before we left for Georgia, we spent 13 glorious months in our tiny (1200 sq. feet) city house in Villa Heights. Where we met amazing people, had so much fun, roamed the city day and night, and ate at the best places, saw the best shows, and truly dug our heels into city-living. Something that was surprisingly fun and easy for all three of us.

Here are some pics from the second half of third grade, in Ms. Achee’s class at Mallard Creek STEM, as well as Jackson involved with the school’s production of “The Wiz Jr.” What an amazing experience that was, and one we never would have had if we hadn’t taken a chance!

Thanks for reading!

M.

He found a little blonde girl to impress, day one. And if you’ll notice here, he isn’t wearing his glasses (and he has his boot on his ankle) because she said, “I bet you’d be cute without your glasses on.” (Eye roll)

Second Grade

When Jackson was in first grade, I started substitute teaching. I went back to grad school, had a 20-hour-a-week GA-ship on campus, and then subbed a couple days a week. I was busy, but I picked up most of my sub jobs at his school. Which meant that I could drop him off, go to class, see him throughout the day, and then he’d just walk to whatever class I was in at the end of the day. It was a win-win. Plus I made $100 a day, and the kids in the school were pretty good kids. I knew the teachers and admin, so it made sense. I also got to check out all the classrooms and teachers. Like Mrs. Martin’s second grade classroom. The first time I watched them walk down the hallway, hands behind their back, silent and smiling, I was like, “Umm, how do I ensure Jackson gets into her class next year?!”

I’m not sure exactly how I did it. Or if it was even something I did. I may have overtly said to Mrs. Mattner, “Hey, can you make sure he gets Mrs. Martin?” I may have written a letter to the principal. I may have just hung around enough that Mrs. Martin started to recognize me. If could have had nothing to do with me. She seemed to get the “higher” kids, even though they vehemently denied doing this, so maybe I just lucked out because Jackson is supersonic? I don’t know. But sure enough he was in Mrs. Martin’s class for second grade, and suddenly I was welcomed with open arms back into the classroom again.

I spent a lot of time with that class. I went in every Thursday and did math problems with kids who needed the extra attention. I read with reading groups. I subbed for Mrs. Martin whenever she had to be out. I wasn’t the official “room parent” but the actual room parent was kind of a mess (I couldn’t stand her and she had this really annoying, squeaky voice). The good news was she’d often flake out and email me and be like, “Can you take care of this, Missy?” Sure thing, crazy lady. This is when I learned to navigate that role. Where I learned what NOT to do. How NOT to be. How you probably shouldn’t be a room mom if you spend all your time talking shit on the other parents, it’s uhh, not really a good thing.

Jackson, well, he sailed through second grade. I was starting to wonder if school would just be easy for him like this forever. Still not letter grades, but you know, all capital “Ss” on his report cards. A leader in the classroom. Talk started this year about the “gifted” class in third grade.

The class was good, for the most part, with the exception of a couple of teacher kids, who were like, legit nightmares. One of them was already a little racist, and the other one would sometimes stand on desks and scream things. This is when I started to feel really bad for teachers. Mrs. Martin took it all in stride and was often like, “Oh (insert name) stop being crazy and get down.” But I was like damn, how do you tell a woman you work with that her kid is fucking nightmare? I guess you don’t, you just deal with it.

By mid-year I was on to all the “behavior” kids, and had their number. They’d see me roll in and be like, “DAAAAMN IT!” But they also always had fun with me. Jackson had started to set himself apart from the crowd at this point. He’d come home and say things like, “I told so and so that he was being crazy and needed to calm down, or I was telling Mrs. Martin.” He’d walk the playground with his gaggle of little bling girls, and “Patrol” ensuring that the “problem” kids were being nice. He was well liked and trusted. Kids started to say things like, “Mrs. Goodnight, I’m trying to be more like Jackson.” And they really were.

Second grade is also the time our home life was changing, and Jerimiah and I had secretly began discussing moving into Charlotte. We had good friends there. I was driving there three sometimes four times a week, and Jerimiah worked in Uptown, so he drove in everyday. There schools offered more. They had STEM schools, Charter Schools, Private Schools with rigorous course loads. We dragged our feet for too long, and Jackson ended up starting third grade at the same school, but we were already looking at houses on the first day of third grade.

But second grade taught us some important lessons. Mrs. Martin was very organized. She always had a plan, and she was incredibly communicative. She always had a good handle on what each kid needed, and she strived to get them to do their best work everyday. She expected a lot from the kids like Jackson, and she pushed them. And he was definitely better for the experience. He doesn’t look back so fondly on that year because he said he was “too busy.” Ha! That was exactly what he needed to be, and it would pay off later. Even learning how to learn with “behavioral distractions.” It all came in handy.

Thanks, Mrs. Martin, and whomever stuck Jackson in her class. Thanks for being welcoming to us, for always being fair, and for teaching Jackson that not everyone would act and think like him, but his life would be better for knowing those people, and having those experiences.

M.

Just Jackson!

Jackson’s teacher is cooking up something cool for the end-of-year festivities next week and he asked for baby pics of all the kids. This sent me down memory lane, as one goes from time to time, and I ended up staring at pictures of my son in various stages of his life and well, he’s just so adorable I decided to share. Each picture has a special story of course, so I am writing what I remember about that picture in the caption. If you are not into baby pics I’d skip the rest of this blog and come back when I’m having a breakdown, or trying to tear down the system, or something like that. For those of you who do like baby pics, enjoy! Ps… all this end-of-elementary-school stuff got me like, “WHYYYYYY?!” Expect a post of elementary school pics this week too.

Jackson was just a few weeks old when I snapped this. He was laying in his basinet staring at this damn bird, which I had picked up when I was pregnant because I read that babies liked colorful things. He would stare at this bird for long periods of time, and it had to come everywhere with us. His stroller, his carseat, sometimes when he would have a fit (he was colicky) this was the only thing he wanted. That or turning on the vacuum. Bizarre.
He was just learning how to stand up while holding onto things around this time, and he sauntered over to Bentley who was sleeping on the green couch in the picture. His favorite thing to hold on to was her tail! She hated it, but would usually let him, until she’d jump down and run away. In this instance she jumped down to run away and he had a FIT because he wanted to grab her tail. This is the beginning of that tantrum.
Rocks. I let him eat rocks. Listen, that’s probably bad. But he didn’t have any teeth to speak of, and it was his first time at the lake, and he had just learned how to sit up all by himself. So it was a celebration of sorts. Plus, he didn’t really eat them, he just sucked the mud off of them, geesh, leave me alone.
This was his first time at Silver Dollar City, and we were on the train. He thought it was absolutely awesome, until the train whistle blew. It took us years to get him back on it after that. When he was five he still refused to get on that damn train. It was just too loud!
This was right after his first birthday party. He had very few toys before his birthday party, then our house exploded. People kept telling me not to buy him toys because his birthday would change it all, and they were right! One of his gifts was a gift card to The Disney Store, so we took him shopping after his party and he picked out this Woody doll and it was his most favorite for years.
This is one of my favorites! I was putting make-up on (back when I still did that) and he came in the bathroom and asked to join me. So I put him on the counter and gave him a make-up brush and hilarity ensued. He loved to look at “the baby in the mirror” and tell him hello and make faces. This was one of those times.
This was another first birthday present. A friend of ours bought it and when he opened it he didn’t care about any other presents. He even had a meltdown because we wouldn’t let him stop opening presents and play on his “Mickey Plane” which he just called, “Mimmy Ma.” Not sure about the elephant hat, but this seems like it was just a normal day around our house. Daddy was at work, I was trying to do something, figure out dinner, work on homework, line up some play dates, and he was just being Jackson. I miss those days dearly.
Ahh, the old nap time routine. So he got to the point, as most little ones do, where he liked to refuse a nap. I didn’t care what happened, he knew that everyday at “nap” time he would go into his room and close the door. If he slept, cool. If not, well, we all hoped that he slept. He would scream, “Not tired” from the bedroom, throw toys, try to talk to joggers out his window, etc, etc. Then suddenly it would be quiet. I would open the door to sneak a peek and usually find this: A disastrous room and him asleep anywhere but his toddler bed. As long as he had “Cloud Blanket” he was fine.
There’s so much to say about this seemingly mundane picture! First thing, that is Bentley in the background. She had just eaten an entire box of Strawberry Frosted Mini Wheats (you can see one on his shorts in the pic). They were his favorite snack, and he brought the box out for our “picnic” which was just sitting out on the front lawn before it was going to storm that day. When he tried to sit in this unsteady chair (duck duck chair) with the entire box, he fell onto the ground and the box poured out. Bentley was there quicker than a flash, and while I was consoling a sad Jackson she ate what she could, which was most of it. I suspect she had a tummy ache later. Then there’s the red Crocs. Listen, these shoes were a gift from our cousin Alycia, who would babysit him sometimes when Jerimiah and I had night classes at Missouri State (see cup, Go Bears!). She was the only family member we had in Branson at the time, and she loved Jackson so much. She was a middle school math teacher in Branson (still is!) and she would teach him all kinds of cool things. But the day she brought him those shoes is a day that will live in our minds forever. He refused to take them off. Thus began the “red Crocs” phase that lasted literal months. Months of fighting about taking those shoes off. Months of “We aren’t going anywhere” and “They stink I have to wash them.” It was gross. He eventually could not put them on his feet anymore and that was the worst day ever. We never found another pair that he liked, and eventually he grew out of Crocs (thank goodness) but man, that was torture. Thanks Alycia! 🙂
Another gift. This kid was gifted all the time! This one came from Aunt Sissy (my sister Khristi). We were visiting for Thanksgiving and she said for Christmas she wanted to buy him one of these Cozy Coupes. All her boys had one when they were little and she said it was a must have. We were like, okay, cause sure why not. Oh my goodness! It is safe to say the “Mickey Plane” was no longer a thing. This Cozy Coupe spent the next SEVERAL years in our lives, and the day we gave it away was one of the saddest days. He actually could not fit into it anymore, I think he was five years old and he tried and tried to fit into it to prove that we should keep it, but alas. By that point he had moved on to Power Wheels anyway, but still, that is how much we loved this damn Cozy Coupe. Get your kids a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe (there’s a million different cool ones out there now.) You won’t regret it! Thanks, Aunt Sissy! This is just one of about a billion photos I have with this damn car in it. I could do a whole Cozy Coupe post…
You guessed it, another gift. I think the real thing here is that we were super poor, and people felt sorry for us. Yeah, that must have been it. We were two twenty-somethings with a baby, both in college, and J was working a full-time job and bartending on weekends, so yeah, people gifted Jackson cool shit that we would never buy because we were too busy buying diapers and wipes. PawPaw bought this here John Deere lawnmower and it actually made grass-cutting and gas-chugging noises. Like for real! And this kid of mine would go out everyday that he could and “cut the grass,” even when it was the middle of winter and there was no “grass” to be cut. Also, let’s talk about this shirt. I thought it was adorable when I bought it, I mean it was like a 2T shirt, and he was a little boy, and… It’s pretty disturbing. “Lock Up Your Daughters” eww. Good thing my kid isn’t that kind of guy you need to lock up your daughter from, and I dunno, shame on me for buying it, and shame on Children’s Place for selling it. (It had to be Children’s Place because he only got new, “fancy” shit like that from the consignment store or Children’s Place sales with their 40% off coupons they mailed out.) #KnowBetterDoBetter
I stand corrected. I distinctly remember pulling this suit off the Kohl’s clearance rack the winter before this picture was taken. So the off-season shit on Kohl’s clearance rack was the actual bomb. I want to say I paid like $6 for this seersucker suit, that as you can see, ended up being his Easter attire. And this could be when his love of suits first surfaced, because this is another item of clothing he refused to take off, and he would randomly ask for the suit jacket to wear with his diaper around the house. Oh no. I did this to him. Kohl’s off-season clearance rack and me.
Seersucker suit, mount up! Another day, another cool shirt. I guess I spent all our money on punny shirts and shit. Listen, this is one of my favorite pics of toddler Jackson, not because he was sporting his suit pants and a cool shirt, but rather because I remember snapping this picture. I remember the scratch on his nose was from his own fingernails that he refused to let me cut (we had to hold him down when it was fingernail cutting time, it was a whole thing and I hated doing it) and we had just scored that bomb-ass kitchen in the background from a woman on Craigslist for $10 and it was HIS favorite, especially because he had been playing with a “kitchen” that I made out of cardboard boxes for months. I told y’all we was real poor! I love everything about this picture. It isn’t perfect, but we were and are far from perfect. He had been teething around that time (you can see his pearly whites) and we were not sleeping, but he was so happy in this picture. And his hair! Look at those curls. They were freshly washed, that’s how you can tell he was clean! Ha! His curls came out. And last but not least, we had just found out that we were pregnant, and we were about to tell the family that day. I was pregnant with Lydia when I took this picture and we had told Jackson and well, it was a good day. Our friend Melody knew how much I loved this picture and had her photographer dad blow it up for us, and print it in black and white (except for his blue eyes), and it was the cornerstone of our fireplace for many moons. It will always be my favorite.

Dogs! Dogs! Dogs!

Remembers in “The Facts of Life” when Mrs. Garrett would yell, “Girls! Girls! Girls!” whenever they were roughhousing or just acting a fool? Yeah, you remember. Tooty would be skating around Natalie making faces, while Blair and Jo argued about Jo’s motorcycle. Then Mrs. Garrett would run into the room and yell, “Girls! Girls! Girls!” in her high-pitched, nasally sorta way, and they all straightened up. Oh, Mrs. Garrett, you silly lady. Anyway, that’s how I feel every time I have to yell, “Dogs! Dogs! Dogs!” at my two nimrods when they are acting foolish.

We are a house with two dogs for the first time ever, and while it’s only been about a month I can already see that our lives have changed drastically. I walk around the house all day yelling about this being a “house for dogs” and I’m just the chump who tries to keep it clean. Like when did I just give up? When did the dogs take over? Now. Today. That’s when.

Winnie ate the back off of Jackson’s new shoes today. Then she vomited on the rug.

Duke stretched out across the whole couch like a human, because he’s the most comfortable when we all have to see his penis.

Winnie started barking at whatever Duke barks at.

Duke barks at nothing. Literally nothing. Strong wind? Bark! A possible squirrel in the neighbor’s tree? Bark! Farting oneself awake? Bark! Except now it’s, “Bark!” and then, “Bark!”

“Girls! Girls! Girls!” Gah, I feel you Mrs. Garrett, and I hope it gets better when they are grown and out of the house.

Wait…

M.

Bentley

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.

Mommy

I just remembered that one of my first blog posts was about Bentley as well. You can read it here.

April First

Today is our one year anniversary of living in Georgia, and I’m happy to report that things have gone much better than expected. When we got the news about 18 months ago that we were headed to the Atlanta-metro for Jerimiah’s work, I had an actual, fucking breakdown, y’all. Georgia?! I mean really?! We already lived in North Carolina, the plan was to go further north, not further south. Like, ever. Plus, we had visited Altanta, exactly once, and swore we’d never go back. Le sigh. Life is funny, isn’t it.

April 1, 2019 I watched as my son and husband climbed into the car and headed south, then I went to Denver, NC (the place we lived for four of our five years in North Carolina) one last time. I had to see my dentist to finish my “procedure” that had taken months to get done. (I had a tooth implant put in and that day my favorite dentist in the whole world was actually cementing the implant in place.) So the last thing I did in North Carolina was grab coffee from my favorite DD, then I head south to my new home.

When I got here I was overwhelmed to say the least. It is difficult. Sitting alone in my empty house, boxes stacked up all around me, chaos and clutter. Orchestrating movers, and trampoline setter-uppers. Signing paperwork that never ends. Enrolling your kid into a new school system, all while wondering how long you will be here, yeah, it was tough. But this year has been totally worth all of it.

First there are the people we have met. The cool, awesome, kind, welcoming people. I learned about what I thought Southern Hospitality was in North Carolina, then I really learned what it was in Georgia. The Charlotte area has a semi-Southern Hospitality vibe, Georgia, well they live and breathe it. They welcome you, first thing. Ask where you are from, what you like to do. Invite you to join their communities, their churches, their friend circles. I had to work my ass off to meet people in North Carolina, in Georgia it felt sort of like I inherited them. Like it was my right when I moved into the neighborhood. It’s sorta nice. It’s actually, really nice.

Charlotte is a great place. Don’t get me wrong, and I actually love it and would probably move back tomorrow if given the opportunity. And I will fight anyone who says otherwise, and people have said otherwise, even close friends, but I stand my ground. Charlotte has all we need, without the hassle of “big city” living. But I have to say, Altanta has even more. A lot more. And we are just now, a year into this whole Georgia thing, discovering it.

Next is the school system. I know, I know, everyone is partial to their system, but Jackson was in three elementary schools. THREE! And the one he is in here in Georgia is THE BEST we have been in, hands down. And the school he is in is a Title One school! Gasp! (Did I ever tell you guys about his first elementary school, and how the other parents talked about the Title One school down the road? I should have known then.) Anyway, it’s also an IB-STEM school. The only one in the state. And it’s also a popular school for School Choice, which is another cool thing they do in Georgia. Even if you don’t live in our neighborhood you can go to school at Jackson’s school. How cool is that? Giving other kids a fighting chance. It’s also the MOST diverse school Jackson has ever attended, with kids from 50+ countries. It’s great, we love it and are sad that his fifth grade year has been cut short with Covid-19, but whatcha gonna do? Even the virtual learning is top-notch. I can’t say enough about his school and the school system in DeKalb County.

Whew.

Then there is the city itself. It is rife with history. So much history. And people are eager to talk about it, eager to share their stories, and the stories of the people and generations before them. You just have to find it.

Then there’s all the cool stuff. The amusement parks, zoos, aquariums, Centennial Park where the Olympics were held. There’s so much to do in Atlanta that it makes your head spin just thinking about it. And the people are friendly and cool. The art scene is amazing. The city itself diverse in a way that scares most people who aren’t from ’round these parts (mainly racists). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if you don’t like Atlanta it’s because you haven’t spent enough time here (guilty!) Or you’re a racist. The traffic isn’t a real excuse to not like it, all big cities have horrible traffic, so stop with that nonsense and just admit you’re a racist.

(Stepping off high horse.)

So there you have it. The first year of life in the ATL has been so much better than we could have ever imagined, and to top it off, we just found out that Jerimiah is being promoted within the metro area, so we are here for a longer time than we thought we would be. (Had a scare a couple of months ago and thought we might have to move to Florida! Yikes!) But no, we are buckling down here, and we couldn’t be happier.

Thanks Georgia, for your welcoming spirit, your abundant opportunity, and your stone-cold awesomeness. Remember, home is where you shit is. Thanks for welcoming us home, Atlanta.

M.

2011/2012 Tornado Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Stay safe out there.

M.

CDC-Tornado Safety

Weather Wiz Kids

Understanding the Fujita Scale

Disney World, Part Three

If you’re still around this is the third and last installment of our whirlwind trip to Disney World back when Jackson was in first grade (the perfect time to go). We did a three-day park hopper ticket, and we stayed on property which afforded us some perks. Day one was Animal Kingdom and Epcot. Day two was Magic Kingdom and Epcot (we LOVE Epcot) and day three was Disney’s Hollywood Studios and then we ended our night and our first trip to Disney at Magic Kingdom where we got to meet Anna and Elsa and see the best fireworks show we have ever watched. Again, Disney just gets us.

At Hollywood Studio’s we rode some awesome roller coasters like the Rockin’ Roller featuring Aerosmith (Jackson was all,”Who’s Aerosmith?” Face palm. Then was terrified of the speed, then said he didn’t like Aerosmith and never wanted to ride that ride again. See pic below!) We saw a car chase with a whole blow up scene, walked some familiar streets, and I got to FINALLY see the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids playground which I have literally dreamed about since it was built when I was a kid! Jerimiah was less impressed than I was, but Jackson and I had a great time climbing on the giant ants, just like in the movie!

Everything was giant at Hollywood Studios! Even the characters! We got to meet the Monsters Inc. guys here, along with Doc McStuffins, Jake, AND Sophia! We were big fans of these three when Jackson was little! We even found our way over the Hotel of Terror and the Haunted Mansion. What fun!

Disney Pixar Studios is there as well, and the Star Wars people. I have never watched Star Wars, and Jackson is ehh about the whole thing, but when the Storm Troopers came through he did stop and stare. He was a little nervous around them. But then we saw a cool Star Wars 3D movie, met Darth Vadar, and learned how to battle with light sabers and he was feeling much better about the whole thing.

Jerimiah and I really liked Hollywood Studios. Jackson was a little less happy with it, but we think he was a little young for that particular park, and not knowing the Star Wars guys very well was difficult. We want to take him back now, we think he’d give the Aerosmith ride another shot! Haha! Plus, the Tower of Terror and Haunted Mansion kinda spooked him. Again, 11-year-old Jackson would probably be better suited for this park.

By this time it was our last night at Disney World and we wanted to end it at Magic Kingdom. We got to see the fireworks at Epcot, but we wanted to see the Castle fireworks, and there were a couple of princesses that Jackson had told us he didn’t want to see, then faced with the idea of not getting to see them, he changed his mind. He did in fact want to meet Anna and Elsa, so we ended the night eating popcorn and drinking hot chocolate under the finest fireworks display we have ever seen at Magic Kingdom. It was the best way to end our whirlwind trip!

First came the Electrical Parade, then came the fireworks and awesome lights on Cinderella’s Castle. It was magical, just like Disney World, and we wouldn’t have wanted to end it any other way.

As you can see from Jackson’s expression in the above picture, Disney World was well worth the money, time, and planning. It lived up to every expectation that we had, and in most cases blew right past our expectations. We are forever fans and will go back anytime. Wanna come along?!

Thanks for reading about our trip to Disney. I’ll leave you with a couple more pictures from some cool things we found around our hotel.

And remember to always believe in the magic!

M.

Luckiest of Days

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.

M.

The Island of St. Martin

It has been raining ALL winter in Georgia. Apparently this is normal. Fun. I’m so tired of the rain that I am having dreams of beaches. Beaches I know and beaches I don’t. Beaches I am pretty sure I have only seen on The Travel Channel, still my dreams are filled with beaches. So today I am taking you along with me on a journey to my MOST FAVORTIST beach ever. So grab a coconut filled with rum, a comfy chair, and shine a damn UV light directly into your face, cause we are headed south, way, way south, out past The Bahamas, past Puerto Rico, past the British Virgin Islands, down to a small island with two names.

The island of St. Martin is in a cluster of small islands between the Virgin British Islands and another cluster of islands in the Caribbean Sea that you could follow all the way down to Venezuela. Wouldn’t that be epic? And expensive. Yes, very expensive. Wait, so how did you get to this tropical island, Missy? Good question. Legit question. I took a cruise. It was still expensive, don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t one of those drive to Texas hop on a Carnival and go to the Bahamas type deals. (Ugh, the Bahamas. No thanks. Also, just say NO to Jamaica.) Instead, we left from Miami and spent many a nights at sea to get to the beautiful St. Martin, but it was TOTALLY worth it. Yes, do that. Do. That.

St. Martin actually sits between the Anguilla Channel and the Saint Barthélemy Channel, and the island has a long, sordid history. It is actually owned by two countries because long, sordid history, and no one wanted to give it up. You can see the country divide in this Google image. You can also see Great Bay, where our ship docked and Maho Beach which I’ll be discussing post haste. The long, sordid history is interesting and I suggest you read about it, but I don’t have time to dive in today because I know the REAL reason neither the Dutch nor the French wanted to give up this island. This guy:

I don’t know his name, even though I asked him a couple of times and he told me, a couple of times. I’m blaming the coconut juice mixed with rum (for five American dollars) and the obvious sun stroke I was having that day. It could have also been because he was speaking Frutch. Or is it Dench? Who knows? He was speaking a pidgin language, code-switching, doing all those things, but he really should be a national treasure on both sides of the country divide. (And just so we are clear that is NOT me in the striped bikini. I know it looks A LOT like me, but it is not. She was speaking Spanish and had very nice, umm, words. La amo.)

Anyway, we found this machete-wiedling coconut guy on the French side of the island. But the French side of the island is on the north side, so before we got there we made a few stops on the Dutch side.

When you first get to St. Martin (I’m choosing the French spelling because it’s easier) you dock in Phillipsburg at Great Bay. You can stay all day there if you want to. There is a nice, little, incredibly crowded beach, and plenty to eat and drink and places to shop. Or you can do what we did, which is hop a ferry through the Great Salt Pond to get to the other side of Phillipsburg, then grab a taxi to take you around all day. You can hire this taxi for the day for, I want to say, $150. But it’s worth it because the taxi driver is sort of your unofficial tour guide to the island. He tells you all sorts of things, like this fun encounter:

Taxi Driver: You are American?

Me: Yes.

Taxi Driver: Do you like your president? (It was 2017)

Me: Oh hell nah, he’s batshit crazy.

Taxi Driver (laughing): Oh, okay. You good American. He lives here (points to a giant mansion behind a giant gate we were passing). We hate him.

Cool beans. We had a lot in common with the taxi driver.

Anyway, he told us this on the way to Maho Beach. Did I say post haste? That was a lie. Maho Beach is a beach you probably know if you, like me, enjoy watching “Beach Shows” on The Travel Channel. Maho Beach is that beach where the airport is right next to it so large planes fly in over your head. Yeah, you know which one I’m talking about.

As you can see from the pic (not mine by the way, stole it off the internet) the beach is teeny-tiny because over the years they’ve had to expand the runway to accommodate the bigger planes. I really wanted to go there though, even though our taxi driver said it was a waste of time. He said the “big” planes only come on certain days and that day was not one of them. Still he took us there and said, “I’ll wait. You won’t be long.” Man, he was right. It’s crowded, and it smells like jet fuel, and there were no big planes. Though there were several small ones that came while we were there (about an hour). Here is the one pic I got of a plane and Jackson running into the sea for the first time on the island. He made a fast friend there and was playing, and never even cared about the planes.

Jackson is fully clothed and in bright yellow, cause I ain’t no dummy. You will be able to spot him in all the pics, like I could spot him in a crowd of people, or if he happened to be drowning from being taken down by a shark. Of which did not happen, even though I absolutely assumed it would. Our taxi driver later went into detail about Maho Beach:

“When The Travel Channel came, all hell broke loose. Stupid people came and started trying to ‘race’ the planes, and take crazy pictures, and stand on top of each other and ‘touch’ them. People died. That’s why they made the beach tiny and put that fence up. There used to not be a fence. People are very dumb.”

Indeed.

Then he took us on a tour of the island on the way to what he called the “good” beach on the French side. We saw the real, true St. Martin, and like most of those small Caribbean islands, it was not all pretty hotels and palm trees. There was some really bleak parts. Something a lot of tourists don’t see because they stay in Phillipburg or don’t opt to “see the whole island” like we did. It was an awakening for sure. Felt kinda bad. You know, white people, white, American people guilt. Ick. But here are a couple pics we stopped to take because our taxi driver slammed on the brakes and said, “Oh, you’re gonna want a pic here!”

Man that guy was good.

This was right before my mother-in-law dropped my phone on the ground and it shattered, but I wasn’t even mad. Not even upset, cause I was in St. Fucking Martin. That’s the island lifestyle I need right now, man. Did I mention Jerimiah’s mom was with us? Oh yes, and her friend Peggy. In fact, Grandma gifted Jackson’s whole trip to us which is probably how we were able to afford to go in the first place. Uh huh, yes indeed. Thanks, G-ma.

Okay, so we finally made it to the “good” French beach, and it did not disappoint. There was white sand, crystal-clear water, chicken wings, beer, a sea trampoline, parasailing. You could even charter another ferry to a nearby island Caya Verte. The beach was named Orient Bay and we had heard of it because people on the cruise were saying it was a nude beach. Our taxi driver laughed when we said this. Then asked if we were looking for a nude beach, because if so we were headed to the wrong place. He assumed, rightly, that with a child we wanted a “kid friendly” beach. Don’t worry, we tipped this dude well.

So we got to Orient Beach, had lunch on the beach, then hilarity ensued for the rest of the afternoon.

Yeah, that’s Jackson on the sea trampoline because you ALWAYS do the sea trampoline, even if it’s twenty American dollars because you never know when you will wish you could do a sea trampoline and not have the opportunity. Always do the thing in another country, y’all. As asinine as it might be. And yes, that red thing is a beer from Trinidad. And yeah it’s good. And yeah you can get it in the US of A. That burrito looking thing, that’s gonna be harder to come by. It’s filled with a bunch of stuff I don’t know how to pronounce and it has chicken in it. With the bones. That’s a thing. Leaving the bones in. (Throws hands up in the air.) Don’t eat the bones.

So on the way back to the ship we were exhausted. We were dropped off in the center of Phillipsburg and got to shop some of the local venders (Jackson ended up with a St. Martin license plate that proudly hangs on his wall with his license plate collection) and I’m pretty sure I bought more sunblock. I hope I bought more sunblock.

There you have it. My most favorite beach ever. Sure there have been other cool-ish beaches in Southern California, the North Carolina Outer Banks, and even in New England, but this beach was one bad mamma-jamma, and if you ever get the chance to go to St. Martin or any of the islands around there (St. Kitts and Nevis, US/British Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda) GO TO THERE!

M.