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.

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.

Life or Death

Both Jerimiah and I have been called to jury duty. Both times it was in the State of Missouri, and both times neither of us had to serve. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to. We understand the value of this particular civic duty, and would normally welcome the chance. It was just that, umm, well yeah, it was that we didn’t want to. For two very different reasons.

I was asked to serve first. On August 9th, 2011 I was served with a Federal Court summons to appear for jury duty for the State of Missouri. It was exactly five days after I found out that my daughter, the one I was carrying inside of me, had a chromosomal disorder called Trisomy 18. When I pulled the jury notice from my mailbox that evening, I had just came home from spending the afternoon crying in my doctor’s office while she explained that what I was about to go through was considered a “late-term abortion,” but insisting that she supported my decision. Until this point, it was the worst day of my life and I thought it couldn’t get any worse, then I opened the mailbox. I walked into the house, slammed my jury summons onto the counter and yelled to no one in particular, “Are you fucking kidding me?!”

It felt like the world was conspiring against me. Later that night while Jerimiah and I sat on the couch, a two-year-old Jackson taking his evening nap between us, we laughed for the first time in weeks. We laughed at how absurd it was that in this middle of this shit storm that we found ourselves in, that I was served with a jury summons. I don’t remember who started laughing first, but I know it felt really good.

The next day I called the State of Missouri and a curt woman on the phone informed me that it was a grand jury trial that I had been summoned to, and that I needed to be in Jeff City for the pre-trial hearings. That was the state capital, over two hours away. I asked the date, and the woman said the exact date I was expected to be in the hospital delivering my baby, who was the size of an avocado. I laughed. The State of Missouri did not. Rather, she told me that short of a “life or death situation” I was expected to be there. I told her that I was having a late-term abortion that day, did that count as life or death? Then the State of Missouri and I sat silently on the phone for several moments until she said, “A doctor’s note will do.”

Jerimiah’s summons came from Taney County, Missouri several months later, a coincidence we’ve always wondered about. Taney County was the place we had lived for nearly five years. The place our son was born. Where our daughter had died. The place, up until those last few months, that we thought we would always call home. He didn’t try to get out of it, couldn’t even if he wanted to. He didn’t have a “Get Out of Jury Duty Free” Card. He wasn’t an only parent. His job allowed him to be away. He wasn’t having a late-term abortion. So Jerimiah had to show up to for the jury selection, but he didn’t mind because he was actually a little intrigued by the whole process.

The day he had to show up for jury selection, we met that evening at the local McDonalds (the really clean one with the awesome playground) because Jackson had a playdate with his best buddy in the ball pit. While my friend and I discussed what our toddlers had been up to that week (they had both simultaneously, unbeknownst to each other, tried to eat dog poop the day before) we watched Jerimiah saunter into the play place, and I immediately knew something was wrong.

He sat down in the seat next to me and I asked what happened. I was afraid he’d been picked to serve and that he really didn’t want to. Too much going on at work, our new-ish desire to relocate, the very fresh loss of our daughter, there were a millions reasons why his mind or his heart probably wasn’t in a felony burglary trial or whatever it was.

Thats’ when he told us that he had been relieved of jury duty upon the defendant’s attorney telling the judge that Jerimiah, potential juror #8, had “made a face” when the account was read aloud. What kind of face did you make? I pressed, laughing a little, because he does show his emotions, even when he tries hard not to.

“I guess it was shock, or disgust, or…” he trailed off. He didn’t know what the face was, but at some point he was taken into the courtroom with 11 other people, placed in the jury box and told details of the case with the judge, the prosecuting attorney, and the defending attorney present. What was the case, my friend and I wanted to know. Jerimiah explained that the case was over an accusation that a 12-year-old girl made. I sucked in my breath. The girl was accusing her stepfather of repeatedly raping her over numerous years. And there it was, the face back on him. It was shock, and disgust, and well, it was anger. He had already made his mind up about the case. He was going to sentence the step-father to prison. To death, if possible.

We all sighed a long sigh. I put my hand on his arm in a comforting way, and he tried to smile, but hearing about that little girl, well that stung. It stayed with him for some time too, and obviously it has stayed with me, because here I am sharing it with you nine years later. The sadness. The cruelty. The insanity in this world. Sometimes it all feels like too much, even for the strongest of us.

Jerimiah and I were never called for jury duty in Missouri again. Likewise we were not called in North Carolina, and have yet to be called in Georgia, but I’m sure our time is coming again. And when it does we will answer our civic call. Until then, we will reflect on the other two times, and do our best to stay positive in a world that just makes it so damn hard sometimes.

M.

The Salt Belt

It’s a unique experience driving through Northern states during the winter. We’re in day five of our eight day trip now, and just safety arrived in Rhode Island this afternoon. The weather is cold, but it’s not snowing. At this moment anyway. We realized, most suddenly today, that we’ve lived in the South for too long to remember that frost clings to trees in the wintertime, in long, thick icicles. That ponds freeze over. That snow storms drop out of nowhere. That people own boots, and several pairs of ski gloves, and say things like, “They’re out salting tonight.” It’s astonishing and slightly absurd how fast it’s all slipped from our Midwest memories.

Jackson asked what that “tepee looking thing” was, while driving east from Buffalo to Syracuse. I explained it was where they kept the salt. He hmpf’d and went on about his business. I thought nothing of it, then a few moments later he said, “Wait, what salt? Table salt?” I guess he thought they liked all their meats brined here. I mean, that’s not wrong, but what I meant was the salt for the roads.

Because in New England and in the Midwest, from Maine to Missouri, Kansas to Connecticut they still salt the roads. They roll out in big trucks, hours, sometimes days before a storm is expected and they lay down a coat of salt. It’s funny how easily I forgot about the way the lines form in the road from the backs of trucks. How K-Mart parking lots turned into makeshift salting HQs. How men smoking cigarettes, with snow plows fastened to their old Chevy trucks, run up and down the road in the dead of the winter and layer this protection on our roads.

Geez, I’m sure there are ramifications. Of course there are. The rusting from the salt. The money for infrastructure. The tax dollars. The equipment, the salt “tepees.” It adds up. And probably, likely, there are safer, more cost-effective, more environmentally-conscious ways. And maybe I’ll investigate more one day. But for now, for tonight, I’ll lie in my hotel bed and remember the men and the trucks. The salting and the K-Mart parking lots. And I’ll miss the Salt Belt a little more.

Stay warm!

M.

I Would Drive 15,000 Miles…

And I would drive 15,000 more, because I have driven 15,000 miles this year and this isn’t how the song goes. But you did try to sing it to the Proclaimers for a minute, right?! Sure you did. And also, this is no joke. My husband, son, and I have driven 15,000 miles this year, and as you know, the year is not yet over. Look it, we are Midwesterners, so if I’m being honest 15,000 isn’t that much for us. You learn young in the Midwest, that if you want to see the “cool” shit, visit the “neat” places, you have to travel. And no one has money to be hopping on airplanes all the damn time, so you drive. Wanna go to a beach, one on an ocean? You be driving. Wanna go to a cool theme park? That’s a drive. Wanna see some historical shit? Some real, salt-of-the-Earth, Mother Nature, God’s Country type shit? You be driving. Want some culture? Driving. Damn, you just want to see a mountain and maybe snap a pic of an elk or something cool like that? That’s at minimum eight hours in the car. So, yeah, 15,000 miles ain’t no thing, but we aren’t stopping there. Jerimiah just booked our hotels for our New Years Eve vacay, which we will be adding another, ohhh, roughly 3,000 more miles to our total for the year. Don’t worry, I’m SURE I will have stuff to tell y’all about when I get back from Canada, Upstate New York, and New England in the dead of winter… (Note: All the red below are links to what I wrote while I was on these many trips, or just something that happened in that place, if you want to go back and reminisce with me!)

So where have we been this year to be racking up those kinda miles? Well, we started off the year with a road trip to Washington, DC where we participated in the Women’s March with friends. That was some wonderful, scary, sad, frustrating, empowering stuff. It was the week of the government shutdown, so there wasn’t much to do around town, but we did make it to the Holocaust Museum with the kids. Then there were two trips “home” and home here means the Midwest. We went to Kansas in May and then back to Missouri and Oklahoma in June. Then there were the four or five trips we made to Atlanta from Charlotte to find a house, enroll Jackson in school, etc. Then there was the actual move from Charlotte to Atlanta. And there were the subsequent trips back this year to see friends in Charlotte.

Then there was the trip to Texas.

Then there were all the trips back and forth to and from Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Coastal Louisiana all summer long. AHHHHH!

These miles do not count all the miles that we flew, and there were several thousands of those too. Mainly Jerimiah and his crazy work schedule this year, but also a trip I took out to Arizona to see one of my best friends.

At one point, six months into living in our new house in DeKalb County, Georgia (pronounced Dee Cab, not Dee Cobb for you Midwesterners) we counted up the actual number of nights that the three of us had been home together and the findings were not good. Not good at all. Meanwhile, we have earned so many airline and hotel points that our next vacation to anywhere, is actually free. That’s a lot of miles and points, y’all. Too many, really.

We aren’t normally this busy. In fact, we are homebodies, I know that is hard to believe, but we prefer to be at home. We prefer our own beds. Jesus, it took me months to pick out my bed and I LOVE it. And I like my own bathroom and well, just my own shit, you know? But, if you always stay where you are, you will never get anywhere. So we go. We travel, we move when we need to in order to better ourselves. We linger in new places for a few days, we see new sights, meet new people. We are travelers. Lucky to be able to do it, excited about what is around the next corner. But coming home is always nice too.

So there you have it, 15,000 miles worth of traveling so far this year, hoping to make it to 18,000, and hoping to add to our experiences, our fun, our love for our country, our friends, our family, and the world. Thanks for sharing in our adventures!

M.

On Being Extra

I struggle with my weight. I always have. The first time I can remember thinking that I was fat was when I was nearly four years old. I was at K-Mart with my mom and she was thumbing though the sales rack of the children’s section, and I was hiding in between the circular display. I did this a lot as a kid. In fact, most of the memories I have of shopping with my mother involve her frantically looking for me, after I had wedged myself inside a self-made shelter of some kind. Clothing display racks, toilet paper piles, I even once hid for an entire shopping trip in the bottom of the cart under an empty box. I’m sure my therapist has some stuff to say about that, but let’s save that for another day.

So there I was, inside the actual rack of clothes, standing completely still, watching my mother’s feet go around and around the rack, when I heard a familiar voice approach. It was a woman who my mother knew. Not so much a friend, more like a friend of a friend. I knew her enough to recognize her voice, but still couldn’t remember her name. They exchanged pleasantries, then my mom remarked that she was looking for some new summer clothes for me. The woman offered to help and started thumbing through the rack too. A couple moments passed and she held up an outfit. This was the 80s, mind you, and outfits at K-Mart in the 80s came in two pieces. Shirts with matching shorts. How about this one, the woman asked my mother. My mother told the woman that it was too small. She went on to tell the woman that I was a size 6X. This was the first time that I heard a letter associated with a size of clothing. The woman gasped. She’s not even in preschool yet, right? The woman wondered aloud. Right, my mom said. She’s four this September. Then my mother politely excused herself and called for me. I emerged from my cocoon of clothes and the woman looked very surprised, but she smiled and waved us goodbye. That night I asked my much older, much cooler sister what the X meant in 6X. She said it meant “extra large,” and thus began my journey into being extra.

The thing is, I wasn’t always an extra large, but even when I wasn’t I still felt like it. In elementary school, for example, fifth grade, I was well into adult sizes, but not anywhere near extra large. Middle school, I was still clocking in at a medium or large. But compared to the other girls I was always Extra. Always. Even in high school, on the track team, working out five to seven days a week, limiting my calories, I was still an extra large compared to the other girls. Everything about me was just bigger. Except of course, my confidence.

By college, however, I was definitely into extra. A few years later, double extra. And now, here at this moment, the absolute most extra I have ever been, having just come off whacked-out hormones from a hysterectomy, pills that made me pack on the pounds, and a killer case of the blues. Extra, extra, extra.

I’m fat. I don’t try to hide it, how can I? It’s not like a mental illness that you can cover up with alcohol or self-sabotage. It’s a physical condition. I don’t need to tell people I’m fat, they meet me and can see it for themselves. What really chaps my ass though, is when people assume I like being fat, or that I am not actively trying. I’m trying. I’m always trying. And please don’t mistake me for one of those fat girls who feels good in her skin, because I am not. I LOVE Lizzo, I think she’s incredible and beautiful, but I don’t have her confidence. I don’t have her ability to feel comfortable at the weight I am at. I don’t have other talents that take the pressure off my appearence. I’m just a normal girl, in a normal fat-shaming world, trying to get by. (But I’m super grateful for the big girls out there shaping the way we talk about ourselves and see ourselves as women, because some days I really need it!) It’s just that I have always been extra large, and well, you do get used to it.

This isn’t a diatribe. This isn’t a “feel sorry for me post,” I don’t write those. Nor is this a “light a fire under my ass and start eating healthy” post. I eat healthy. That’s the thing. I have a kid, a kid who is genetically predisposed to being extra, so I work really hard to make sure he is not, and that includes leading by example. But something isn’t right in my body, it hasn’t been for many moons now, particularly after pregnancy, and trauma, and I’m working to get that worked out. It’s just a process, a really long, daunting process.

And the thing is, this isn’t a “fewer calories in, more calories out” fix. Believe me, I’ve tried that. This is deeper than “Keto” or a “30-day cleanse”, as it is for most of us who were always extra. It’s a process. You don’t got from the little girl who hides in clothing racks because she is afraid of people, to suddenly grown up one day and not having any issues. That’s not a thing. My mental health affects my physical health. That is true for all of us. And it can take decades to rectify.

I’m just here to say, don’t quit trying. That’s all. I see you. You are not lazy. You are educated on what you are putting into your body. You are trying to get your mental health under control. You are trying to figure out what makes you tic. How your hormones work. What insulin resistance looks like. How past trauma is holding you back. I see you, and I think you are doing a great job.

As for the little three year old who wore a 6X, she’s okay. She will be okay. One foot in front of the other.

❤️

M.

Seasons

Busy times ahead. Busy times behind. I do love this season. Not just the holiday season, but also the season of life I’m in now. I’ve been thinking about this season of life recently, since the whole social media photo thing erupted last week. You know the one, “Share a picture from the last decade, and the current one” or something like that. Basically a chance to see how you’ve aged. What fun. I haven’t played on social media yet. I was going to, when I came across this photo:

This is a picture from a decade ago. It’s dated November 2009, but I remember the night and it wasn’t November. Not yet. It was Halloween. Jackson’s second Halloween. We had just spent the evening strolling down the Branson Landing with friends. He was Elmo. I was dressed as “Death” and I didn’t need to dress up much because I was sick. So very sick. I’d developed a fever sometime that day, and I wanted to crawl into bed and sleep. But I couldn’t, because it was Halloween! And I was a mommy. A mommy of a toddler hopped up on candy. And sure Daddy was there, but I didn’t want to miss a second.

I think back more often than not and wish to be back in those days, but only for a moment. It’s the little things I miss. The hugs and the kisses. The amazement of everyday things. But Lord Jesus, there is a lot I DON’T miss! Ha! I don’t miss the all-nighters of crying from teeth popping in. Or the seemingly constant colds. The worry about him running off in the grocery store. Or meandering into the deep end of the pool. The anxiety that comes with monthly doctor appointments where he was charted against “the norm.” I don’t miss the lack of sleep. The constant, CONSTANT games of peek-a-boo and “I dropped my sippy cup now pick it up.” I don’t miss the diapers. And the diaper bag filled to the brim every time we left the house. I don’t miss it, but I do remember it.

Today I’m thinking about my friends in the thick of that season now, and I have several. I was a “young” mommy, though at 27, I didn’t feel so young. I have friends who are in this season of life right now and they are pushing 40 and omigod I love y’all and I just don’t know how you do it. But your babies love you, and your families love you, and I know, I know it sucks sometimes. You don’t have to pretend like it doesn’t, because it does. And maybe you tried for years, and maybe you think you can’t afford to complain or you will sound ungrateful. I get that too.

For years my friends didn’t complain, or even talk very much about their babies around me. Why should they? I had lost a baby, they didn’t want to bring that up to me. But listen, it’s okay. It’s okay to talk about your babies. It’s okay to complain. To not be present at all minutes of every day. It’s okay to let Paw Patrol help out sometimes. To skip a night of play, in order to read a book, or take a hot bath alone, with no children screaming at the door (if you can manage it). Its okay to not be so very happy about this season you find yourself in, because it will change. It will get easier. One day you will walk out of the house without an extra bag.

In fact, one day you will get to walk out of the house with just your bag, and your kid will have his own stuff. He will get his own shoes on. He will brush his own teeth, and dress himself. And you will wander into his room at night, when he is asleep, and you will look around. And for a moment you will wish he was sleeping in a crib, with his Elmo jammies on, a half-drank bottle next to him. But then you will see his walls covered in Harry Potter, or Star Wars, or Minecraft. You will open his drawers and see the clothes he put up all by himself. You will realize that he is growing independent. That he is needing you less and less. And sure, absolutely that is scary. But it is also freeing. It is so very freeing to know that you can breath. You can take a step back. You won’t worry less, trust this. But the worry changes. It evolves, sort of like you, and sort of like him.

So yeah, this is a tough season. It is. But slow down. Relax. Take it all in. I know some days it feels like the worst. Some days you are sick, but as a mommy you can’t really be sick, that’s not a thing, and I know that came as a surprise, but now here you are, afraid to even complain about the bad days and just wishing them away. But remember, a new season is just around the corner, and then another, then another. And if we keep trying to rush the season we are in, we will miss out on the really good stuff. The Elmo jammies and the wonder of a butterfly landing on our shoulder. The M&Ms of potty training, and the slobbery kisses. But no one is expecting you to be perfect in this season. No one is expecting you to be happy all the time, or available all the time. And if they are they have never been through this season, or they have forgotten, and it is okay to remind them. Remind them that it is a wonderful season BECAUSE it is a tough season, not in spite of it.

Love to all the mommies out there. I hope you get some sleep tonight.

M.