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.

Three Hundred Posts Later

Yesterday was my 300th blog post and I had planned to do something awesome to celebrate that fact with you guys, then I had a busy week and got one day behind and when I wrote my post yesterday I didn’t realize it was number 300 and then I was actually like, “DAMN IT! I messed up my 300th post.” So this is actually post 301, but if you don’t tell anyone, I won’t tell anyone. Ahem, happy 300th post day! 300 posts seems like a lot to me, especially since I really just started blogging to ensure that I write something, anything with regularity. I guess I can call that a win. I have been writing everyday. In fact I have written everyday for the last eight weeks, some of it made it to this here blog, some of it hasn’t made it anywhere. Yet. Unofficially I want to write every, single day this year. Unofficially I want to do a lot of things. Unofficially I have big plans. Unofficially a lot of those plans involve Cheetos.

But alas, I’m here today celebrating a small victory. Looking for a bigger one out there looming, somewhere. But my 300th post seems something to celebrate. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe 500 or 1000 is more appropriate. But who really cares? I want to celebrate damn it! So to show my apprecation to you all, to those of you who are still around I’m going to share some pics with you that I have not shared before. The sort of pics that never “make the cut” when I’m writing one of my fun, exciting blogs. And hey, I might share an old “Mornings with Missy” video too, because I love you all and you deserve it. Hopefully you can use these “extras” to piece together some idea of who I am. Or, you can screenshot them and use them as ammunition against me when I run for office one day. Or become a famous model, whichever comes first.

But for real. Thanks for hanging with me for 300 (301) posts, and I hope you’ll stick around for my next 300, cause it’s about to get more interesting. I promise.

Thanks, friends!

M.

That time the Marines came to Charlotte and fourth grade Jackson made us make this video…

The above video was filmed in my closet in Charlotte, North Carolina a month or so before we moved to Atlanta. Enjoy!

Jackson and the Tornado and the Mayor and the President

In honor of Presidents’ Day, I’m going to take you on a long, sordid stroll down memory lane. When Jackson was four months old President Obama was sworn into office. We felt a great sense of relief that a man like Obama would represent our country, and we just knew he would be the sort of example we wanted for our child. Years later he was still the president when Jackson wrote the White House for advice on how to become the President of the United States one day. But first it started with a tornado, and a trip to the Mayor’s office.

When Jackson was in preschool he asked his first political questions. They came from a mind geared toward safety, like most things that consumed him at that time (and still do). We lived in Branson, Missouri at the time and at the start of 2012 a tornado hit “The Strip” in Branson, causing destruction to several attractions and theaters. It even destroyed Jerimiah’s office. We lived about five miles off “The Strip” and ended up sleeping through the whole thing, but abruptly at 6:00 am Jerimiah’s boss called to tell him not to come to work that day since their building was on the verge of collapse. Of course he did go to work, to help with the clean-up, and we went with him. This one event had a lasting impact on pre-k Jackson, who just a year before, had watched on the television as his PawPaw’s house was destroyed in the Joplin, Missouri Tornado of 2011. In short, he had some concerns.

All of this stewed in his mind for about a year before one day he walked downstairs and told me that he needed to talk to the Mayor of Branson about tornado safety. Of course I did what any mom would do to appease my four-year-old, I tweeted the Mayor. I told her about my son’s worry over the city’s storm readiness and asked if she would meet with him to discuss our severe weather plan. It was a shot in the dark, but it worked. She tweeted back moments later to say let’s meet up. For real. And two weeks later we were special guests in the Mayor’s office on a casual Friday. Here are the pics from the day we met Branson’s mayor Raeanne Presley.

This visit planted a seed in him, and he decided right then and there he would one day run for public office. We figured he would run for local office, as did the Mayor, so when she asked if he would like to be a mayor one day we were all surprised when he said, “Nah,” in his very adorable preschool voice. “I think I’ll be the president.”

The president, he explained, had much bigger problems to solve than severe weather readiness, on a much larger platform. And he knew he was better prepared for that road ahead. That’s when Jackson really dug his feet in, and for the next four years or so when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up it was either a police officer or the president. Nothing in between.

Fast forward to first grade. We’re sitting at our table in North Carolina one balmy November day eating chili. Jackson asked me if I thought President Obama liked chili. Because Jackson liked chili and he really wanted to be like President Obama. (Side note: Remember when we had a president our kids could look up to? Those were the days…) Anywho, I said I didn’t know, but suggested Jackson write him a letter and ask. (I really just wanted him to work on his handwriting and this seemed like a great excuse. I never thought anything would come of it.)

So we sat at the kitchen table, eating our chili, and I helped him sound out the words he was writing. He asked about chili, about the president’s dogs, about his kids, and advice on becoming a president like him. Then we stamped it, stuck it in the mailbox, and forgot all about it. Until months later when this arrived.

Jackson was less excited than I thought he would be, but later I realized it was because he always assumed the president would write back. I, on the other hand, figured it got lost in White House mail and that was that. So he was very casual as he opened the envelope, while Jerimiah and I stood behind him in excitement and anticipation. This was inside:

Now the letter is standard boiler plate, a-kid-sent-a-letter-stuff, but wow was he happy to hold it in his hands. He felt very proud and very important, which he has always felt, but I mean come on, a letter from the sitting president and President Obama no the less, our favorite, most awesome president ever! This was amazing. We celebrated. He shared with his class. People said to frame it. It was a big deal in our house.

The letter lit a fire under him like we’d never seen and he was suddenly very interested in the election process and the campaigning, and how it all worked. That was until 2016, when his world, and all of ours really, came crashing down.

As the results came in that night, and as we navigated the painful and pitiful months that followed, Jackson could be found crying at night because his friend Angel from Mexico might get “sent back.” Back to where, we didn’t know, since Angel was born in North Carolina, but his parents were not. It was sad and it was disheartening. Particularly when Jackson declared he no longer wanted to be the president. Suddenly the president he idolized was gone and in came this monster of a man who scared him. Gave him nightmares. Gave us all nightmares.

Jackson saw President Obama as an example, he knew he had what it takes to lead our country if he held his head high and was a class act like President Obama. If he cared. If he was honest and nice. If he went to a good school, maybe got a law degree, worked his way up in small steps. But when he saw how President Trump was elected. How people talked about him. How he treated people from different cultures and countries. How he scared people. How he talked about women. (We always told him the truth about Trump, and didn’t shield him from the sort of man he is.) How Trump used words like “retard” a word that has the worst sort of connotation in our house considering Jackson’s baby sister never made it full-term because of a brain “retardation.” Well, Jackson was done dreaming of becoming the president.

Jackson told me one day in third grade, “maybe politics isn’t what I thought it was…” and I had to agree with him. Because at that moment, and in the years that have followed, American politics has collapsed before our very eyes. There is not truth, no integrity, no bi-partisanship. There’s just anger, and fear, and hate. And it doesn’t suit a kid like mine.

So there you have it. The story of Jackson and the tornado and the Mayor and the President. I still hold out hope (like when we visited the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library last year and Jackson commented on what a “nice guy” he was) that Jackson might change his mind one day. And I still have faith that his generation will turn this sinking ship around, if we fail to do so. Maybe that’s the optimist in me. Or maybe I just have all the faith in my sweet, honest, hard-working, critical-thinking kid. Either way, I know he will do great things for his family, his community, his country, and his world. Even if it isn’t in the Oval Office. Because like President Obama said in his letter, “If you remember to give back to your community and chase your dreams with passion, I have confidence you will do big things…”

Thanks President Obama, we tend to agree.

M.