Disneyworld was a Success!

Hey, hey, y’all! We are back from our first real vacation since the pandemic and I gotta say, I am feeling relaxed and wonderful! I was so nervous about taking Jackson to Disney, but had only heard great things about how they are operating and it all turned out to be 100% true. So if you are on the fence about Disney, or are looking for a place to travel where masks are mandated and the rules are strictly enforced, look no further than Disneyworld!

I’ll start by saying that Disney keeps their numbers close to their chest, so I can’t find the real numbers, but it looks and feels like they are operating on about 30-50% capacity at any given time. We never waited longer than 45-minutes to ride a ride even in the line after we made the queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance! Great ride, by the way, and I’m not even a Star Wars fan!

The lines is all spaced so that you are six feet apart at all times and they have moved them mainly outdoors. Of course Disney has a strict mask policy and you cannot be in the parks or at your resort without a face covering. You should also note that they require your covering to be at least two layers, so no neck gators for instance, and yes they enforce that too. I saw a guy leaving Disney Springs because all he had was a neck gator and he did not have a second mask. They DO NOT give you a mask! They simply turn you away at the gate to go find an appropriate mask on your own. Which is appropriate. Be an adult, assholes.

Their mask rule applies to children over two-years-old and I watched a family vehemently deny that their obviously preschool-age child was only two they were stopped to be told she needed a mask. That is the number one change I have seen at Disney. The cast members are always so happy and friendly, but cross them about a mask and you are going down! When the dad said, “How do you know she’s not two?” to the cast member the cast member said, “Because I have eyes. Put a mask on her if you want to stay at Magic Kingdom today.” And that was that. Daaaaamn, Gina!

The only time you can have your mask off is when you are stationary and either eating/drinking or taking a picture. Guarantee you will be “caught” if you are walking and sipping your Starbucks. The cast members pop out of nowhere and say, “Hi, please put your mask on to continue enjoying the park today!” Then poof, they are gone. Like magic! I seriously wish Disney cast members were all over this great country of ours right now!

The rides are separated to keep parties from each other by a row of seats, but on some rides like Splash Mountain your party is just given their own boat/car because there is no way to safely do it. That was fine by us! For roller coasters it is normal, just because you are mainly outdoors, masks always have to be on when you are on the rides, and well, you know the air doesn’t really linger around you when you’re zooming around Test Track at 70mph! Still rides like Tower of Terror you are spaced apart and there is plexiglass. These pics are all below!

We stayed on property at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort and had a great time like usual. We hit the pool a couple of afternoons (you can be maskless inside the pool gates) and then did four days of the parks, one day we got to bring my mom along! She was vacationing in North Carolina with my sister and brother-in-law that week when unfortunately my brother-in-law had a death in the family and so they left NC and drove to Florida for the celebration of life. They ended up being an hour from us, so we were able to drive up Saturday night and pick my mom up and bring her to Disney on Sunday! That is a story in and of itself, one that I will share later, but a note would be that my 76-year-old mother had never been to Disney and it was a lifelong dream of hers, so I am glad we were able to do it! And like all other things, Disney was wonderful and so very helpful in getting her around. With their help, and the rental of a wheelchair, she was able to visit three parks in one day! Amazing!

So that is the quick Disney experience. I just wanted to share because I know some of you have been thinking about it and like me were a little concerned. Fear not! They have it on lockdown there and things are running smoothly, like usual. Just in case you need a little more incentive, here are some pics of our awesome time!

Take the trip, y’all (if you are fully vaccinated), buy the ears and the pineapple whip! It’s worth it.

Stay safe and sane!

M.

Hiya

Hiya, everyone. Y’all. You people. Folks. I had a jump in new followers and lookie-loos when I posted about my Dad recently and I suspect that I had some “new relatives” find my blog, probably because they don’t like me and want to keep tabs on what I say about them. But I think maybe some of y’all are in the same boat as me and have some questions about DNA tests and relative stuff and how to navigate that and I want to help and tell my story. And wow do I have stories for y’all, but first I want these “new relatives” to back off me a little bit, then I can tell you all what wonderful and horrible things that happen when you are in a situation like me. For real, I have one story about these two sisters who are my first cousins, even though they desperately do not want to be, and how they really showed the world their true colors and I am dying to share it with y’all, but I’m waiting till they lose interest in me. Until then, let me just re-introduce myself and thank y’all for being here!

I’m Missy. I was born and raised in Leavenworth, Kansas (not on a farm!) and am a graduate of Leavenworth High (go Pioneers, Class of 2000). I am married to Jerimiah, have a son Jackson who is basically the smartest, coolest kid ever. I have two dogs, Winnie and Duke, and we live in the Atlanta-metro. We are straight-ticket Democrats (you’re welcome, love Atlanta). I did my undergrad at Missouri State (we lived in the Ozarks for ten years). I have an MA in Creative Writing from UNC Charlotte (we lived in Charlotte-metro for five years) and am currently in an MFA program. I turn 40 this year and have a list of things I want to accomplish and one of them was to find out who my dad was. I wasn’t adopted, but my mom was dating two guys on and off again, and she loved one a lot and thought the other was nice and funny, but the one she loved was married (a real asshole) and when she got pregnant with me she just sort of assumed I was his and dumped the other guy. Long story short, turns out the other guy is my real dad!

I know this because I did a DNA test earlier this year and was shocked when I got the results because I believed the married asshole to be my dad this whole time. It was a relief to find that the man who was my real dad actually didn’t abandon me, he passed away when I was nine months old. It’s good too that we didn’t know back then that I was his, because as I stated, his family is full of crazy, Kansas hillbilly (not the good kind) types and I am so glad I wasn’t raised in that mess.

So as you can see I am going through a lot right now and so is my mom, but we are both incredibly happy that we have an answer. And I am also happy to report that because of “nice cousins” I have access to the full family tree, which I wanted for my son, and health and medical information that I wanted for me. For example, I was just diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that does not run in my mother’s family and my cholesterol jumped up really high in a short amount of time and the docs were concerned. Then I found out people in my dad’s side have lots of autoimmune diseases and my dad died of a massive heart attack at the age of 42, so this was good, valuable info to find out. Albeit sad.

So there’s that. If you are even considering a DNA test please do it. This is sound, basic science that has been around for a very long time and it can be trusted (yes, it even holds up in court), even if some of my “new relatives” don’t believe in science. (They are legit going around telling people they don’t trust it because I am “not recorded in the family bible” and because you have to “draw blood” to have a DNA test done. That is incorrect, but you probably already knew that because you are smart.) And don’t even try to convince them because they are Trump supporters, so even if they were presented with facts in their face, they would deny it. You can’t win with people like that.

Anywho, my blog is usually a mess with my random thoughts and things that happened to me or adventures my family and I have been on, but seeing as we haven’t even eaten in a restaurant in over a year, it’s been light on adventures and heavy on other shit.

I’m also coming off 2020, the year I wrote a blog post everyday, so I have been taking a wee bit of a break on the blog, kind of not reliable at this moment, but I am coming back around. But if you are bored you can read through last year’s posts. Did a lot of musing on political stuff and some protesting and a lot of “Wear a fucking mask” posts. You can also read some of my published work if you go to my “Writing” tab.

So there you have it! That is my in a quick nutshell. I have a large family whom I love dearly, though I don’t get to see them often as they are mainly still in Kansas, and I have friends literally all over the place. My bestest friends are in Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, and Rhode Island, so that is a challenge, but what are you gonna do? We make it work and I wouldn’t be able to get by without them.

Let me know if y’all are in the same boat as me, need to vent, or just want to say hello! I hope this year treats us all a bit more gently than the last.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

It’s nice to meet you.

M.

Whew

I have been walking around for weeks now saying, “Whew” and making animal-like noises or holding a long sigh, or shaking my head in disbelief like a cartoon character. Seriously. I’m sure my family thinks I am tad bit crazy, but I am and this semester has really done a number on me and more than one time in the last month I have yelled, “This is bullshit and I don’t want to do this anymore!” Then I keep doing whatever it is I am doing. Because the truth of the matter is it isn’t just grad school that is knocking me down, it’s life. And it isn’t just me that is repeatedly being knocked down by this life. And some days it feels easier to stay down then to grab hold of something and hoist yourself back up, and then other days you pop right up by using just your own abs, still there are other days where you throw your arms out wildly trying to grab hold of someone else to stop you from falling. Or maybe it’s to bring them down with you? Either way it isn’t your best day and you know that.

What are you saying, Missy? I’m not 100% y’all, but I think I am saying I know what you are feeling right now because if it can happen to person it has happened to one of my family members, friends, neighbors, cohorts, or me in the last month.

I’ve witnessed a loved one lose their partner, their driving force, to cancer. I have listened to a friend desperately try to save her marriage. Waited for news about a grandma in the hospital, a child battling Covid. I have watched more gun violence in my community. I have went to bat for people who come to find out didn’t deserve it. Worried for a friend and a new job prospect. I had an icky reaction to my covid shot. I have been told that I am not a good person from people who have no idea who I am. I have watched heartache on the news, and heartache on my street. I’ve spent so much time trying to not worry, trying to make everyone happy, trying to be involved, but not too involved. Trying to stay connected to people. I have worried about what the next year will look like. If I am safe and comfortable doing things that were so normal and easy a year ago. I have lived my life on that thin line between anxiety and hysteria and I keep pushing back against toppling over that line and don’t like it.

If any of this is resonating with you, then it’s probably time we both take a step back. Stop spinning for a moment. Breath in, then back out. Focus on some good. Watch some doggy videos. Take a hot shower. Plan a trip. Look for the goodness that is still out there. I know it is. It is in your life, just like in mine, but sometimes the not so good tramples over everything else and we are left with those bleak feelings. Very bleak.

What has been good in your life? I’ll go first.

Jerimiah and I had our second covid shots last week.

We leave for Disneyworld in a week.

I have started planning J’s 40th birthday, and so far it rocks.

Jackson was invited to stay in the STEM program for 7th grade because even though he’s a virtual kid still, his grades, attitude, and personality shine through the screen.

Did I mention the new baby? It’s a girl and she’s my great-niece and she’s healthy and happy.

There is one week left of my semester and I start my thesis in the fall and all that is squared away and as of right now my grades in all four classes are: 126%, 100%, 107%, and 100%. I’m doing okay.

My dogs are becoming socialized and barking less at the mail carrier that they see every, single, day.

My mom is doing okay.

My friends are checking in.

My husband and son love me and show me in little ways every, single day.

Did I mention our first vacation in more than a year is next week?!

Now it’s your turn. What are you thankful for today? How are people showing up for you? I hope you have a hundred things on that list, but if you don’t, if you can’t conjure it up today, don’t worry. Don’t get down on yourself. There’s always tomorrow. And I’m always around. You know where to find me. And if I’m not there it’s probably just because I’m crying in the shower. I’ll be out in a minute…

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

Be grateful. It helps, I promise.

M.

Dear Dad

I’ve spent the last two nights staring at an empty screen wondering what to write. Writing is how I process things, but I have so many things to process I don’t know where to start. First I found out who my dad is, then I connected with relatives and learned so much in such a short time. I was so happy, elated. But also overwhelmed. It’s a lot. And at a time when you have to rely on strangers to help you out, I was fortunate to find some good ones. But then the attacks started. People told me I was wrong and an embarrassment to their family name. A family name I don’t even want. A family name from a family in small town in Kansas. It was a little absurd.

The truth is, I have a family, I don’t want another one. And I know they are trying to cope just like I am. They are angry with me because they can’t write the narrative on this one, but it’s misplaced anger and besides, they shouldn’t get to write the narrative. This is my life, my dad, my story. It shouldn’t be this difficult to be compassionate, but for them it is. I wasn’t raised that way. I was raised to be kind. My family made me who I am, with a little bit of DNA from my dad, and a whole lot of loving from my mom and my sisters and my brother and my aunts and uncles and cousins and friends.

Yet here I am, wishing I could talk to my dad one time about that little bit of DNA. I have no idea where to start tonight, but I have to start getting something out so I figure I’ll start here.

Dear Dad,

I know you are gone. And I’m not sure where you are. I’m not too religious, don’t believe much in life after death. I don’t think we are reincarnated or made to burn in hellfire damnation for our sins, which is probably good, cause it sounds like you were no stranger to a good time.

It’s only been a few days but there is a theme occurring each time I talk to someone new about you: Oh your dad was funny, they tell me. Oh, your dad was so sweet. The best Uncle! The nicest guy. A little rough around the edges, but he’d give you the shirt off his back.

Opinionated. Kind. Thoughtful. Chubby.

Seems we have a lot in common.

My mom said you drank beer. Lots of beer. That you took her to your bar once to eat sandwiches. That you played pool. Do you remember that? You called her a wallflower. Started dating someone else to make her jealous. It worked.

She told me when I was 10 years old that you had a massive heart attack and ran your car off the road. I didn’t know then that you were my dad. She never told me that, I truly don’t think she knew. I think she wanted me to belong to someone else. And I think when we believe something so much, we make it so. But I remember that day. The day she told me, the day she said your name. I remember thinking that we had the same initials: M.M. Like an M&M.

Years later when I came across your obituary in my mom’s old dresser I wondered more about you again. You must have meant something to her, something special to have this old, faded cut out from the newspaper. She obviously still thought about you from time to time.

My sister said you were the nicest boyfriend our mom ever had. She said you called her princess, gave her a ring. She said you wore overalls. Always wore overalls.

I know you knew about me, but I don’t think you knew I was yours. You asked, but you weren’t told the truth. A mom trying to protect her kid, her heart. I’m not mad at her. I’m not mad at you. I’m sort of tired of being mad at anyone.

The thing is, I spent a lot of time being mad at a man who I thought was my dad. A man that I thought deserted me. A horrible cheating man. But it wasn’t him. It was you all along. I’m sorry I didn’t find out sooner. I’m sorry I didn’t push more for the truth. I’m sorry I didn’t ask for help.

You have a son-in-law. I think you’d like him. I hope you’d like him. He’s kind. Genuine. He can work on cars, he can skin a fish, he can run a budget for a multi-million dollar company. He works so I don’t have to. He supports me in all my crazy ideas.

You have a grandson. He’s 12 years old. He has blond hair and blue eyes and he’s smart. Really smart. He’s funny too. Talkative. Opinionated. The real life of the party, always has been. Doesn’t get that from me or his dad. I think maybe he gets it from you. It’s a funny thing, genetics.

It’s a funny thing, family. Yours doesn’t want me. Don’t worry, I’m okay. I don’t have much room in my life for them. They aren’t like me. We are different at our core. But I do want you to know that I tried. I tried and will keep trying, other cousins, there’s so many cousins, Dad! Someone will want to know me, someone will want to know my son, see him grow, watch what he becomes since you can’t.

I don’t know what you look like, Dad. I can’t close my eyes and remember you like other people can because I never met you. I used to dream about you. Not you exactly, but who I thought you were. Who I hoped you were. When other kids at school who would make fun of me for not having a dad, I would tell them that you were dead. I just wanted to stop the teasing. I didn’t know it was true.

I was only nine months old when you died. You were only forty two. Forty two is young, too young. I turn forty this year. I wish you could have made it longer. I bet you would have tried, like me.

I think we’d fight. Over politics, certainly. Over other things too. About you drinking too much. About you eating better. About me living so far away. About silly things, and not silly things. But at the end of the day I think we’d hug. You’d tell me that it will all be alright. I’d say see you later. Drive back home, 1000 miles away. Knowing I’d see you again next time.

I’ve never said this to anyone because I never had the opportunity to say it, but I love you, Dad. I know I didn’t know you, but I figure I won’t really ever have the chance to know you so what is the harm? Or maybe I will. Who knows. Not me.

The flowers are still blooming where I am, the rain still slicing through the sickly sweet air. And I don’t know where you are, but I hope you’re happy. Please know that I am. Finally, I am content. I’m the happiest.

M.

History and Hope

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

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

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

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

(Long sigh)

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

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

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

M.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

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

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

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

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

Oh man! Good stuff.

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

M.

Christmas Lights! Winter Solstice! Oh My!

We did one of those drive-thru light displays the other night and it was better and also worse that I thought it would be. A few years back we went to the light display at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and that was cool. Cool in the sense that it was huge and you got to drive onto the speedway which Jackson really liked. Although we are not NASCAR fans, we were car fans and he thought it was pretty cool. This year we went to the display at Six Flag’s White Water in Marietta. It’s a city just up the Perimeter about twenty minutes from us. Six Flag’s commissioned a company called “World of Illumination” to set up a display in their parking lot. They charge people $50 a car and all in all it goes pretty smoothly.

It was my mom’s second time at a drive-thru lights display. We took her to one way back in the day in Branson, Missouri. A place called Shepherd of the Hills does a little one every year and she enjoyed that one so we thought we’d take her to a larger one. As far as drive-thru light displays go, they are better when they have a theme and this one had a theme: Candy Rush. So all the lights were different kinds of sweets. Enough to give you a heart attack! But like others the lights flashed and swirled to the beat of the music, which was tuned in on 87.9 FM. My mom thought that was pretty cool too.

Unlike Charlotte, the whole thing takes place in a parking lot, so it’s easy to get caught up in other cars and people and while it is amazing to see all those lights, it was a bit chaotic. Again, compared to Charlotte who utilized the whole racetrack. It was much more spread out and darker, so it was better, in my opinion. As if you even asked.

My mom and Jackson really liked it though and I took some videos for her of the lights and you can hear her in the back of the car commenting on them. She did enjoy herself, even though it was 9:30 pm when we were heading home. And of course Jackson watched from the moonroof the whole time, which he always enjoys.

When we got home we decided to take a gander at the stars considering it was Winter Solstice (and our wedding anniversary!) and Jupiter and Saturn were having their love thing. It was a nice clear night and we were able to see so much. It was truly breathtaking and a great ending to a great evening.

Hope you all got to see some beautiful lights this year from the safety of your car. If not, there’s still time!

M.

Christmas 1980-something

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

M.

Little Plans, Big City

There are normally a ton of things to do around Atlanta at Christmastime and last year we did a lot of them. Last year we went to the Christkindl Market. We rode Macy’s Pink Pig, which is a thing all Atlantans have to do at the holiday, saw the World’s Largest Cruise Ship made from gingerbread, drove through neighborhoods with amazing Christmas light displays, saw Santa, drank hot cocoa, and went ice skating atop the Ponce City Market. And of course we are so glad we did that for our first Christmas in Atlanta, because our second one is shaping up to be pretty boring.

My mom is in town, which is helpful especially for Jackson who always likes to have visitors around the holidays. When Jackson was a baby we told our family that we would not be traveling for Christmas and we have stayed true to our word. A kid wants to be home for Santa to visit each year and as long as Santa visits us (he still does) then we are at our home. We also said anyone is welcome to come spend Christmas with us because of that rule we live by and many times we have had visitors. Mainly grandparents, and it has been very nice. Of course this year is different. We can’t have a house full of people this year so my mom is here and that is enough for us.

We also can’t go and do all the fun things that a big city offers at Christmastime because the big city isn’t offering it this year and even if it was we would not go because global pandemic. Still, there are ways to have a big city Christmas in little ways.

First, we snatched up some tickets to the drive-thru light display at Six Flags! We are excited about this one because we went to one at the Charlotte Speedway a couple of Christmases ago and Jackson really liked it. Of course he was 10 back then, but still, we hope Jackson and Grandma will be amazed at the sheer magnitude of the display! The running joke in our house this whole pandemic has been, “What do you want to do today?” (The correct answer is not Six Flags.) And then someone says, “Six Flags!” And someone else says, “Dead.” Cause yeah, if you go to Six Flags you probably gonna get the COVID. But next week I get to say, “What do you want to do today?” And someone can say, “Six Flags!” and someone else can say, “Let’s do it!” It’s the little things, y’all.

Then there is the Ponce City Market. This is one cool and happening place, too cool for us, honestly. But we happened upon it last year and spent a whole evening there ice skating, playing mini golf on the rooftop amusement park, seeing Santa, and eating a ton of good food. While all those things can’t happen this year, we can don our best Christmas sweaters and head up for some pictures outside. In fact, they decorate so well the pics could work as your Christmas cards! There is one big neon sign that we particularly like to have our picture made with as it says, “Merry Christmas You Filthy Animal!” Ha! Yeah, we’re doing it!

Next up is a drive-in movie. Now we are on the fence about this one just because we aren’t sure how easy it will be for Mama to see/hear the movie so we can’t decide if this is a whole-family thing or a Jerimiah and Missy celebrate their anniversary as best they can thing. We are gonna wait to see what Mama decides on, but we are hoping she gives it a whirl. It’s a double-feature, “Elf” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

Christmas lights! Did I mention Christmas lights! There are always more lights to see. People take the lights real serious like around here and there are some magnificent houses to drive by while we eat popcorn or ice cream, depending on the weather!

Lastly, there is the fun thing we do each year where we spend a couple of days baking treats then taking them to friends’ houses as a surprise. Elfing, as we call it. There will be some elfing this year, though socially-distanced porch drop-offs are all the rage.

There you have it, our Christmas plans in miniature. Little plans, big city.

M.

Celebrating During COVID

Our wedding anniversary is coming up fast, Monday the 21st in fact, and I keep thinking back to all the other ones we’ve had and well, this year will be somewhat different. Sometimes my mom is here for Christmas, sometimes she is not. On the years she is here, Jerimiah and I usually do something fun. A couple of times we even went out all night, got a fancy hotel room in the city and everything. But this year, considering we don’t eat at restaurants, stay at hotels, fly on planes, or do anything that would even look remotely like “fun” we have to make do with what we can do.

That got me to thinking: This isn’t the first celebration this year that has looked different. I mean we all had birthdays this year, we’ve had holidays, spring break, summer break, fall break. All of us have had those special days that we wish we could celebrate the way we always do, but we just can’t. Some of you did, and that was a risk you felt comfortable taking. Some of you got very sick because of it, some of you saw family members get sick because of it, some of you were lucky, took the precautions, did what was best for you, and made it back home okay. Me? I’m risk-adverse for the most part and I understand that there is always next year and if there isn’t, it won’t matter much anyway, will it?

I think that is what is bothering me today. What the root of this post is: It’s this idea that this year, these holidays and celebrations, can’t suffer because we are in the midst of a world-wide pandemic. This fear that people have that if they don’t have a large family Christmas, then what?! Then what? I’ll tell you what, no one gets sick and dies. Or no one gets sick and has lasting medical problems. You don’t put your loved ones at risk to see them open their presents in person.

Yes, that’s what is bothering me. This sadness I have knowing I can’t celebrate my wedding anniversary with my husband the way I’d like this year, but ultimately knowing that it’s okay cause we will have more, but more importantly I don’t like the way that some people are short-sighted in that sense.

My MIL lost a good friend the other day. It wasn’t COVID related, but it was unexpected. She was a lovely woman with a kind family and the kind of community-support that showed how loved she was. And losing someone is hard. So hard. And living in this world that we live in and losing someone is even harder. And in the end, I can’t shake the thought that there is real death, destruction, sickness, sadness going on in this world, and if you can’t put your holiday plans on hold for one year to help out in a tiny way, then what are you actually doing? What is actually going through your head?

I want to say this is only people who aren’t able to think critically, but I gotta tell you, I know some really smart, educated people, people with Dr. in front of their names, who still think COVID-19 either isn’t real or isn’t something THEY need to worry about. (I know I don’t need to tell you they are white males, but I figured I’d throw it in just to make sure you know. )

Look, this year for my wedding anniversary we are taking the family to see Christmas lights in a drive-through display. Yay! Maybe we will swing through The Varsity and grab burgers before we head home, maybe we will go to Raising Canes?! Who knows! The possibilities are LIMITED! It will not be like it has been the last 12 times we have celebrated and it will not be this way next year, but ONLY if we ALL get our shit together and start trying to do our small parts to make a big impact. Only then will we be able to celebrate next year, do things we want to do, go on vacations again, play sports, go to musicals on Broadway. Oh how I miss thee, NYC!

Please do your part, y’all. Wear a mask. Stay six feet away from people. Wash your hands. Get vaccinated if it is offered to you, and if you live in Georgia VOTE like you have never voted before!

Stay safe and sane, y’all!

M.

Walking in a Wicker Wonderland

We picked my mom up from Kansas last week to spend Christmas with us. Long story that I will delve into at a later date, but part of the pick-up involved a chair trade. More specifically a rocking chair trade. My mom has this vintage 1940s (??) wicker rocking chair that needs some love. It is small and uncomfortable for her, but it is a piece I remember from my childhood. Meanwhile I have this large, upholstered, swivel rocker/recliner that she loves to sit on when she comes to visit so we traded. We took her the big, plush chair and I took the little rocker so I could refinish it. It needs some love.

Now, I don’t want to complain or anything, I wanted this rocking chair, but as soon as I saw it I thought oh no, this is out of my wheelhouse. Particularly because I have never refurbished a chair at all, let alone a rocking chair made out of material I know very little about, and in need of new springs. The seat on this beast is old-timey and springy and there are three sections that have to be upholstered. It’s not a simple, spray paint it all type deal.

Meanwhile last night when I could not fall asleep I was trying to find this particular rocking chair on the internets and had no luck. Had some close calls, but no dice. But I did learn way more about wicker furniture than I ever wanted to know and for that I am ungrateful.

Hmpf. This rocking chair might just be scrapped for wood. Because wicker is made of wood. I think. Because it is really just the way the material is connected that makes it wicker. Or maybe it’s rattan not wood. Maybe it’s an outdoor piece someone made an indoor piece. Maybe it’s a pain in my ass already.

I’ll let you know how it goes. If it goes.

M.

There’s No Place Like Home

Meaning, there’s no place like where your home is. The home that has your actual shit in it. Your bed. Your favorite toilet. You hidden stash of chocolate. But alas, for the next 24 hours my “home” will be in a rented Chevy Suburban since Jerimiah, Jackson, the dogs, and I are leaving tonight to drive to Kansas to get my mom, to then turn right around and drive back. Twenty-four hours of being in the car with gas and bathroom breaks with my kid, my husband, my dogs, and my mom (for 12 hours). This should be fine, totally fine.

Listen, we haven’t seen my mom in over a year and she wanted to come visit for Christmas and while she is mentally well, she is physically not able to make it around an airport without help. Plus, she would have to fly into, literally, the world’s busiest airport in December. So that’s a no. Plus, who is flying right now? And if you are, why? That’s all. Why? It’s bad enough to have to chart out the gas stations on the way to Kansas and back that you think might be the cleanest (that is to say all the Quik Trips) but how could you navigate a small space like an airplane and not constantly be bothered by the fact that you are sitting so close to other people. Like those people who flew from Mainland to Hawaii against doctor’s orders because they had all tested positive the day before but I mean, fuck everyone else on the plane, amiright?

So we are loading up today to make the trek and hope to be home by Saturday evening. We are taking the dogs because otherwise we would have to leave them outside all night (with the doors to the screened porch open of course, for shelter) because Winnie hasn’t learned to not chew up all our shit when we leave them alone for an extended period of time. We would board them overnight but Winnie, being a quarantine puppy, isn’t well socialized with people. That is to say people terrify her. She shakes and hides. So there is that. As you can see our dogs rule our actual lives.

We have all been tested. We have quarantined since tests and we are not making stops, going inside people’s houses, etc. We might make a couple of driveway stops to say hello to my sister and best friend, who are also not infected with the virus, with our masks on, no hugging, to say hello. Otherwise, nah dog. There are too many variables and too many people have not been tested and are around people who are not tested and who are regularly not taking this seriously. This, we have deduced, is the safest way.

So wish me luck. Or don’t, doesn’t matter much to me either way, but I do hope that you are wearing your mask, avoiding excessive and unnecessary travel (do as I say, not as I do) and are considering getting the Jolene Vaccine (The Moderna One) in the spring when it’s safe to do so.

Love to you all!

M.

There’s More Than One Way to Crack a Nut

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

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

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

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

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

Now let’s go crack some nuts!

M.

Something About Sunday

There’s something about Sunday that makes me want to get my shit together. Commune with nature. Get right with God. Overhaul my eating habits. Buy a big screen TV. I dunno, Sunday is a thinking day. It always has been. I didn’t grow up going to church. In fact, my mom used to say that she was forced to go every Sunday as a child so she wasn’t going to force us. Really, she was just ashamed and felt guilt, as most Christians are taught to feel, and found church was a place of judgment. Which I’ve found from my own experience to be correct.

But Sunday was still a day of rest for us, and I guess I’ve continued that in my life as well. But for me there isn’t ever a day of “rest” when it comes to thinking, planning, strategizing. So Sunday has become that day. The day to get mentally organized, I suppose.

How do y’all spend Sunday? It’s a rhetorical question, like all of mine are. Just ponder over it, and let’s connect on Monday, when there’s a bunch to do.

Stay safe and sane!

M.

Ding Doooong

I ran around cleaning my house yesterday before the housekeepers come today. That’s a thing I did. But why? I made Jackson clean his room, I made Jerimiah tidy up his office. I got all the laundry done, all so when they arrive they won’t think we live like animals? I don’t know, but I know I’m not the only one who does this. When I used to go with my mom as a child and she would clean houses, the woman of the house always said, as soon as we got there, “Margie, I’ve been cleaning all morning!” Ha! My mom thought that was funny, but she understood.

My mom cleaned houses for decades. She cleaned houses, she cleaned motels. She cleaned military barracks and lodging for over a decade as a civilian employee on Ft. Leavenworth. It was in fact the only job she secured a retirement check from, and it small amount comes in handy now as a 76-year-old.

I used to go with her on the weekends when she would clean houses. Really big three-story houses with full basements and adorable dogs to run in the backyard with. I used to dream at night, in our two-bedroom apartment, about having my own big house, my own adorable dogs to run in the backyard with.

When I first called the house cleaning service I felt shitty. But I haven’t been able to keep up with things like I used to. I’m in near-constant pain when I do a little light-cleaning (I have my second visit with my rheumatologist this week to go over more testing) and we are all so busy, and home. We are all so HOME all the time now, that the house is sort of swallowing us up whole, spitting out our remains by way of unwashed rugs, dirty baseboards, an oven I can’t get clean. All the little things have started to add up to one big mess and we need help. Still, I felt bad for hiring someone to do something I can do, so I called my mom.

“Shoot,” my mom said on the phone, “if I had the money I’d hire someone. Don’t feel bad about it, honey. A house your size, they’ll send over two or three people and have it done in a few hours.” I felt relieved to hear my mom say that, and I guess less guilty.

Guilt. That’s what I’m trying to write about today. But I just haven’t found a way to convey it through a story on a page. Not quite yet.

Take a load off today, y’all and maybe cut yourself some slack.

M.