Cognitive Dissonance

Can we talk about cognitive dissonance for a sec? Cognitive dissonance is when we hold two opposing cognitions (beliefs, perceptions, opinions, etc.) at the same time and so we make excuses so we don’t have to live in that uncomfortable space.

Here’s an example that I’m pretty sure we all know:

A Lifelong Smoker: I know that smoking is bad for me, but we are all gonna die one day, amIright?! Plus, if I quit I will gain weight and that is just as bad!

It is not.

That’s classic cognitive dissonance.

The smoker knows they should quit, knows it is unhealthy and will lead to an untimely death, but they like to smoke and they are addicted and stopping is hella hard. We all do this at some point in our lives. (Not the smoking, though I certainly did when I was younger and thought it was cool!) I mean we all struggle with cognitive dissonance.

I am addicted to food. Always have been. It’s my go-to comfort and it’s why I have liver problems and it’s why I have high cholesterol and it’s why I am at risk for heart disease. Genetics play a small role, but much smaller than you’d think.

Over the last year Jerimiah and I have changed our eating habits and we are constantly side-eyeing each other’s cognitive dissonance. Like when my doc asked me to cut out red meat this Midwestern girl was all, “HOW DO YOU EXPECT ME TO LIVE?!” I absolutely said to Jerimiah, “It will make me sad and that’s just as bad as heart disease!”

It is not.

Jesus, I’m dramatic. And also full of cognitive dissonance. As if I need certain foods, drinks, or things to lead a happy, fulfilled life. Bleh.

Jerimiah is guilty of cognitive dissonance in work-related ways. Corporate America has done a number on him and he truly believes that if he is not available for certain people the world will come crashing down. He says shit like, “I have to reply to emails while on vacation or they will back up and it will be more work for me when I’m home.”

One day we discussed him telling people that when he is on vacation he will not be accepting emails and when he is back, if they still need to talk to him, they can just send another email. He thought that was ABSURD, at first. Then, not so absurd.

He knows that he needs to relinquish work to enjoy his time off, he is even quite aware that his company relies on him to never be “off work,” even when he is “off work,” but he also knows that he deserves time off fucking work! He has to have it to function properly. He hates that uncomfrotable knowledge so he says shit like, “Well the work will just pile up.” Not if you don’t let it.

Some of you are like where’s the new, interesting stuff, Missy? Because you are working on your shit. You see a therapist regularly, you read Brene Brown, you have open and honest conversations with your loved one.

But there are some of you who will be learning what cognitive dissonance is for the first time on this bleh Tuesday morning and all I’m asking is that you consider if for a bit. Because what’s worse than just run-of-the-mill cognitive dissonance is ethical or moral dissonance, and I think many of us struggle with that more often than not these days.

I’m including a short video that I found helpful in wading through all this, I hope it sparks something for you today.

As for me, I’m going to go have a whole wheat bagel with avocado instead of cream cheese because it is heart-healthy and the world is not going to implode and I am not going to live a sad sack of a life with no purpose just because I am cutting back on dairy. Yes, there was a time I thought cheese was the be all, end all to my world, but it is not.

That’s ice cream.

Have a happy, healthy day, however you do it!

M.

Tough Times

This year has been tough on the old psyche. I’m not 100% sure why, but I think a lot of it has to do with the way that Jerimiah and I spent last year growing and changing. We both opened ourselves up to seeing the world from other’s people’s perspectives. We decided to get very serious about anti-racism, often holding our friends and family accountable in a truly uncomfortable, but necessary way. We were the most political we’ve ever been and it showed. We realized the sort of people we want to be and the sort of people we want to surround ourselves with and unfortunately that means leaving some people and opening ourselves up to new ones. It has been tough, really tough. When basically one whole side of your family either unfriends you or unfollows you from FB, well, you know you’re doing something right! Growing and changing and holding people accountable. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

But all this has really done a number on us mentally and emotionally. Like sometimes we just look at each other and sigh because really, what is there to say? We know who we are, where we stand, what we expect from people, grown adults and our own kid, our parents, our siblings, extended family and our friends, and if they can’t or won’t live up to those standards, well there’s no way we can help, we’ve been lowering our standards for too long. Then there’s the fact that we live hundreds of miles away from the people we care about and for the last decade at least we have spent considerable time trying to stay connected. We were always the ones traveling, even with a baby, then a toddler, then a kid. We were always the ones calling and texting, inviting them to holidays and trying to get everyone together in the summer, well until recently. Honestly keeping tabs on everyone, trying so hard to stay connected when we are so far away from them, it really gets tiring. Y’all know this. We know this. So we are taking a break. Which means it will get worse before it gets better.

To top it off this is my last “real” semester in grad school. Next semester all I have is thesis and if you have never had a “real” last semester of grad school let me liken it to, oh what shall I liken it to? Dog shit? Horse shit? Oh I know, do you remember when you were a senior in high school and the “senior-tis” hit you hard right in the face? Like you could see the finish line. You could see the pot of gold. You could see your dumb, overcrowded state school in the horizon with all the beer that you could handle and you wanted so badly to be there you stopped sort of caring about anything else, eyes on the future instead? Freedom. Yeah, I’m there now, only grades still count and I won’t actually be done with my terminal degree until I finish this damn semester. Bleh.

And for the final cherry on top! Are you ready?! Jerimiah has been offered a new position in a totally different part of the country than we have ever lived before. Sigh. It’s really all you can do sometimes.

But as luck would have it our favorite time of year is rolling around! Christmastime! Jackson came inside a month ago when my mom was visiting and she had just picked up a can of smell-good stuff and sprayed it without paying attention to the scent and it happened to be “Christmas Magic”and Jackson came inside and was all, “OHHHHH, it smells like Christmas! I love it!” Then he went into a deep dive about how freaking excited he is this year for Christmas and he doesn’t know why.

I know why. The same reason Jerimiah and I are excited. A reprieve. A rest. Time together just the three of us, to relax, recharge, and reflect. To do puzzles at the kitchen island and watch Christmas movies. To build Legos and model cars. To zoom Hot Wheels through the Christmas village. To plan how we want to decorate the tree and which new snow globe we will buy. It’s the baking and the giving, oh he loves the giving! He likes the getting too, make no mistake, but he loves to bake all day the Sunday before Christmas and run around the cul-de-sac passing out treats and gifts. Mini apple pies for Mr. Charlie. A giant bone for Cookie, the neighbor’s chocolate lab. A Korean pear in return from Mrs. Kim. He loves it all.

Santa Claus still visits us too, but you already know that. You already know we plan to let that Christmas magic always flow through him and hopefully one day when he’s older, in college, or a single guy living on his own, or with his own children, he will be able to summon that spirit for himself too. Even when he least expects it, but so desperately needs it.

So yeah, things are freaking tough right now, but there is an end in sight. It’s so near I can almost taste it, and it tastes like pumpkin pie!

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Chaos in the Morning

This morning turned out to be one of this mornings where you are reminded that you are human, that other people are human, and that as a parent, you are doing the best you can, and so are your kids. Jackson was all packed and ready to go on his trip this weekend for the Technology Student Association, when I kissed him goodbye and told him to have a great day. Then Jerimiah was headed to the office for an in-person meeting, I swear he only has to go in when there is something chaotic afoot, and he asked me if I wanted coffee because he was going to stop by Starbucks because duh.

Side Note: Our favorite coffee here is a little, local shop called The Corner Cup but it’s on Main Street and they are filming a movie (The Out-Laws for Netflix) on Main Street so we’ve been avoiding it, but then I found out Pierce Brosnan was in it along with that guy from Pitch Perfect, you know the guy he was in The Righteous Gemstone too, and now I kinda wanna go check it out, but that’s neither here nor there.

Okay back on track, Missy!

Jerimiah takes Jackson to school and on the way Jackson orders our Starbucks so it’s ready for Jerimiah to pick up after he drops him off. So he does and as he is headed to grab said Starbucks Jackson texts and is all, “Where is my Covid form?” Sc, sc, screech! So because we live in the time of Covid, there was a parent form to fill out that basically said I know we live in the time of Covid and still I am allowing my child to be in the care of his school district on this trip and if my child were to get Covid, I would not place blame on the school system. Okay, Jerimiah signed the form last night and handed it to Jackson who also had to sign it and told him to stick it in his bag when he was done. Guess which step he didn’t do?

So Jerimiah calls me just as I’m texting him to bring me a yummy bakery item too because it’s Friday and I can handle it. He’s all,

“Is there a Covid form on the kitchen island?”

“Yes.”

“Ahhhh, son.”

“You need this, yeah?”

“Yes. And the coffee is ready and I have a meeting at nine.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“I dunno. The Audi needs gas and I won’t have time to stop at the gas station, Starbucks, and the school.”

“Can you scan this Covid form?”

“No, he said he needs it.”

“Tell me what you want me to do.”

“Go get the coffee.”

So I load up the dogs into the Beetle Bug because we can’t leave them unattended, you know on account of the Oreo Situation. Oh wait, I haven’t told y’all about the Oreo Situation. Shit. Don’t worry about it, Duke is fine. He didn’t even get his stomach pumped he vomited it all up on the way to the emergency vet. Kind of like me and that time I tried to do 18 shots of tequila for my 18th birthday. Moving on…

So as Jerimiah headed back to the house to get the form, Jackson texted again and was all,

“Ohhh, I left my watch at home.”

Normally this would be no big deal but “my watch” is an Apple Watch and the way he communicates with me when he “can’t” communicate with me, ya dig? Like when he’s in class, or in this case of this weekend, when he’s 330 miles away in a conference and I get the urge to check in on him, at least he can give me a thumbs up that he got the message from his watch and I know he’s alive. Listen, I’m not proud of my worry and anxiety, but we all make do okay?

So Jerimiah gets back to the house before I have even coaxed Winnie into the Beetle Bug. She hates the Beetle Bug and that makes sense, it’s a little car and she’s not a little dog, she’s more an Audi Q7 dog and she knows it and we know it, but what can you do? So I have the Covid form and I’m begging Winnie to get into the Beetle Bug when Jerimiah pulls in the carport and is all,

“Well he forget his watch too.”

“OMIGOD! THIS IS A CLEAR SIGN FROM THE UNIVERSE THAT HE IS TOO YOUNG TO BE TAKING OFF WITH SCHOOL TO GOD KNOWS WHERE TO DO GOD KNOWS WHAT!”

I may have overreacted. To be fair, I still did not have my coffee and at this point I did not know if I would ever have it again.

So I go inside to look for his watch while Jerimiah gets the dogs into the Audi, which was no problem because of their aforementioned bias against the Beetle Bug, and then he comes inside and knows right where the watch is and I want to scream, but instead he’s all,

“Why don’t you just come with me?”

“Fine.”

At the school we see Jackson walking aimlessly around with his suitcase while his classmates are either: loading the bus or on the phone with their own parents trying to figure out how to get the damn Covid letter that they forgot. To be fair we just got the Covid letter yesterday, so that’s on the teachers. I’m texting him that we are behind the bus. And he’s all,

“Where are you?”

And I’m,

“WE ARE BEHIND THE BUS.”

Le sigh.

He runs over all frantic and I give him the form and his watch and the dogs whine because at this point we had to roll all the windows up in the car because there was a Great Dane crossing the street and Duke lost his shit and the Great Dane’s mom gave me a glare like I need to control my dogs and BITCH WHO ARE YOU?!

Right-io.

Then Jackson is about to run off and I say wait, let me get a picture of you and he’s all,

“Oh my gosh, they are LOADING the BUS!”

And at the same time Jerimiah and I go,

“Oh, wow, wow, wow. Oh no. Attitude, bruh.”

Then Jackson is all,

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. This was just all my fault and it’s a hectic day…”

And we are like,

“Dude, it was a mistake. It’s okay, things like this happen. We are not frustrated.”

Which was a lie cause I was legit frustrated but also I did not want him to get yelled at before he gets on a coach bus to head four hours away from me, you know. And Jerimiah and I were in agreement on this. Like there’s no point in ruining out kid’s trip, even just his fun bus ride with his friends, over something silly like this. And we said we loved him and we sent him on his way. Then we picked up our coffee and we calmed each other down and when we got home the dogs were NOT rewarded with a pup cup, and Jerimiah drove the Beetle Bug to work because still no gas in the Audi, and I had a realization:

I’m not sure how other people do it without a kind, loving partner. A real one. One who doesn’t react in anger, like ever. One who’s first reaction is always to listen and understand. A partner who is there through these hectic mornings. Who knows how to keep you calm so you don’t fly off the handle. Who is in 100% synced in your parenting. Who knows that our shit, our shit is nothing compared to keeping our kid physically and emotionally safe at all times, even when those times look like they did this morning.

So all that to just be an appreciation post about my partner? Yeah, kind of. And also as a reminder that if you partner is not 100% your partner, you deserve better. Much better.

Whew. I’m thinking I might go back to bed now. Let’s all get some rest today. Or at least try to with our kids so far away!

Oh also, Jackson texted to say that we could have just scanned the Covid form. So there’s that.

M.

The photo.

New York City

As I mentioned yesterday we took my 77-year-old mother to New York City for the first time! It was a lot, but also not too much, but also totally different than any other trip to NYC for us. It all started when we asked Jackson what he wanted for his birthday and he said, “I want to go to the Transit Museum in Brooklyn.” That’s his favorite place, to be sure, so we were like hmm. With Covid being Covid and all that we wondered if we could pull it off and how safely. Everyone has their own idea of what is “safe” right now and in our house it’s like this: We are all fully vaccinated, waiting for boosters in December, Jackson is in school full-time in person (with a mask mandate in place), J is back to going to office once a week, usually, and we have been successfully traveling since this summer. However, I am still not willing to get on an airplane. I know, I know, it sounds dumb, but like I said, we all have our things. I am totally fine eating in a restaurant, but no airplane for me I just don’t trust others enough. So we decided to drive to NYC that’s when the idea of bringing my mom came. She was already asking if she could come stay with us for a month this year and it happened to all line up with my birthday, my mom’s, and Jackson’s. So we asked Jackson if we could bring Mama (we invited Grandma too, but she already had plans) and he said, “Sure!” Then the planning began.

When Mama got here we talked about all the things she wanted to see, and factored in all that Jackson wanted to see/do including the Transit Museum, the 9/11 Memorial, and Coney Island. Then we realized that we had never been to Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty. Then our friends from Rhode Island were planning to join us one day, so we mashed all of this together and come up with a kind of solid plan. And for the most part, it all went exactly as planned. How amazing is that?!

The rest of the story can best be told in pictures, so I’ll let them do the talking, but in reality just know that there were some unexpected trips (did you know that there is an awesome Harry Potter store in NYC?) and we only missed one timed reservation, but it was okay they let us cancel our tickets and instead we took a hard-hat tour of the hospital at Ellis Island which was fantastic especially since we had watched a documentary on it before we went to NYC. We got to spend all the time Jackson wanted to at the Transit Museum, then I finally got to ride The Cyclone and The Thunderbolt at Coney Island which was a lifelong dream that turned out to be a terrifying nightmare and I will never ride them again! Like for real. Scariest rides I’ve ever been on, and I love crazy rollercoasters, y’all. Whew.

Okay, pictures as promised. Just pictures.

Take care. Thanks for sharing in the memories!

M.

He loves this station.
Bright lights, big city!
She dropped some serious cash at the M&M store. She loves chocolate and giving gifts, so you know, it was a duh.
“Oh, Hamilton!” Haha, we’ve still not seen it and we are still totes okay with that. Maybe one day…
Junior’s for cheesecake, as one does. If you’re gonna force yourself to eat on Broadway, make it be Junior’s.
This was him showing that it was after 11 pm and he was drinking Mountain Dew because NYC.
She’s terrified of boats and yet… there’s only one way to get to Ellis Island.
Ellis Island
Jackson got an iPhone 13 for his 13th birthday and now he’s obsessed with taking weird pics…
Hard-hat tour, if you get the chance I recommend it. Your ticket helps fund the restoration of the hospital and the history there is wonderful.
Financial District behind us, taken from Ellis Island. One World Trade is the tall one.
Helping Mama see the city. These two. 😍They pushed her wheel chairs and walked painfully slow. They accepted all things that came our way and not one time did they complain (about Mama anyway, there was a lot of complaining but it was about other stuff! Haha! Have you ever driven in NYC?!)
There she is!
Went down to Tribeca to see this place! A hit with all of us, one of Mama and Jackson’s favorite movies is the all-female version of “Ghostbusters.” It’s actually the only one any of us will watch anymore. So there’s that…
The original wooden escalator at the 34th Street Macy’s. Mom loves “Miracle on 34th Street” and Macy’s! 😂
Brooklyn, headed to Transit Museum where we met up with friends.
The Transit Museum is full of old subway cars dating back to the turn of the 20th century. Here they are in a fairly modern one, but Mom got to see trains from all decades and then of course, we went on an actual subway train later!
Jackson and his friend, Morgan, at the Transit Museum.
Next stop was Coney Island! Mom got to see the famous Boardwalk, I got to eat a Nathan’s Hot Dog, and we all got to play games and ride rides! Totally worth it. Everyone felt like a kid again.
Told you. Yes, I’m still pescatarian, but not when it comes to Nathan’s on Coney Island.
Oh while we are talking about food… bagel and lox. Duh.
Same plate. We split food now cause our stomachs are shrinking, did you know that was a thing?! Shameless plug to say that I’m 30 pounds down and my cholesterol is 30 points down just from eliminating most meat!
Oh yeah, the cheesecake pic! Cheesecake at midnight on Broadway, I’d love to say this was our first time…
Sorry I got sidetracked. Back to Coney Island!
Luna Park!
“Is that a giant mermaid?” Yes, yes it is.
On the Boardwalk
The only ride we could get her on. Though she did tear up the arcade!
This bitch. Never again. I didn’t make it on The Steeplechase however, I’m still willing to ride that one.
No one did the Wonder Wheel. Next time.
Jackson loves taking the subway. He’s just at home here. So weird, but so wonderful. He was giving directions to people on the first night. All his “walking with confidence” pays off in NYC and I wouldn’t be afraid to follow him anywhere there.
She navigated the subway pretty well. Though I wished she’d stop taking her mask off for pics, especially underground. 🤦🏻‍♀️😂
Butterbeer at the Harry Potter Store where he found Hermoine’s wand (the one he’s been wanting) and Mama got to see the bathroom straight away, though to be fair even waiting in line for it was magical.
Bathroom is right around the corner. 🤣
One of a kind experience, even with all the people. Just take your time and know where the exits are and how the lines go. 👍🏼You’ll be fine.
Finally made it to Ground Zero.
He’s watched ALL the documentaries and can give you a tour of the 9/11 Memorial whenever you’re ready.
North Pool
Unofficial tour guide
She wasn’t prepared for the scope and the sadness. You never are.
Foggy day, couldn’t see the spire. For more facts on the building itself, or the original Twin Towers, please talk to Jackson.
He brought a fire patch from our local DeKalb County fire station #5 and traded it with NYFD #10, who are known as the station that is “Still Standing” on account of being untouched during the 9/11 attack.
You know how he obsesses over things: Enter the Unisphere from the 1964 World’s Fair. We drove all the way out to Flushing to see this bad boy, on account of the Men in Black movies. It legit had nothing to do with the World’s Fair. 🤣We actually went to Macy’s the night before specifically to look for a black suit and tie so he could pose in front of this like Will Smith, but they didn’t have a black tie! Not a single black tie in all eight floors! So again, next time…
Oh yeah, and these weird things which were actually just a “cover for alien spaceships.”
I ended the last night in NYC floating in the hotel pool alone and thankful for the quiet. It was a whirlwind five days, but I’m so glad we did it!

Catch-up

I promised yesterday that I would catch y’all up on my life and so here I am keeping my promise. I’m just as surprised as you are! I’m like a politician with promises, usually. I campaign hard on a couple of them and only squeak out one, but since I only promised this one to y’all then well, vote for me? Okay, okay, get to the good stuff, Missy. Right. So I didn’t post in the entire month of September which is frankly, crazy, but for good cause I promise. I turned 40 last month and my mom was here visiting for like five weeks, FIVE WEEKS, and we went on two vacations and school started (I started thesis this semester) and well is that enough? No? Okay, my kid turned 13 on October 1st, which as you know having just dealt with my 40th birthday and the breakdown that came with that, then realizing my little baby is now a teenager, whew. There were some dark days, y’all. Dark days.

But I’m back and almost normal now and although I still have thesis and finishing my MFA to deal with, my mom is safely back in Kansas, having joined us for a trip to NYC which was fantastic! She’d never been before and I so wanted her to experience it all. It was on her bucket list and helping her tick something off of it at 77 years old felt rather wonderful. Of course, I didn’t do it for me or for people to tell me how great I am (insert eye roll) I did it because I enjoy spending time with my mom and taking her on new adventures. It’s an added bonus to experience something like NYC with someone who has always wanted to go and who never thought they’d have the opportunity. I love that even at 77 years old, hard of hearing (though her new hearing aids are great) and with vision problems, she is still up for anything. I can see where I get my adventurous spirit from!

Aside from the trip to NYC I also got to celebrate my 40th with my best friend, Rachel! Her birthday is just a few days after mine and my mom’s birthday is the day after hers so we all met up at the halfway point between Atlanta and Kansas City for a weekend of fun! The halfway point was, however, Evansville, Indiana. Ha! No offense to my Indiana friends, it was better than expected. Waving to you in Bloomfield, Jessica!

Then there were all the other things I’ve been contending with, you know normal life stuff. Like how Jackson is too liberal for our family (that’s a whole other post) and how we might have to move again for Jerimiah’s work, and my dogs, oh lort, these dogs. Anyway, I’m uploading some pics for your enjoyment over the past month of my life. I hope you are all caught up now. I’ll be around again, just don’t expect too much from me, ya know?

Stay safe and sane.

M.

Rachel, Mom, and me celebrating poolside.
Mom’s birthday at our house.
Jerimiah had a huge, all-day work event that ended up being righteous.
Took Mom to Coke World downtown!
Jackson turned 13 with a kick-ass backyard bash with his bestest friends!
Took Mom to Charlotte for the day to see my nephew Alex, his wife and new baby! I can’t share pics of the baby, but I can share all the new pup pics I want! So here you go, this is Helios!
Pitstop in DC on our way to NYC!
I’ll totally write a whole post about NYC at a later time, but this feels like the money shot.

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.

Vegetarian Uprising

At the end of last year I had my cholesterol checked and I was surprised to learn that it was kind of high. It had actually never been as high as it was then (240) and the only thing I could think is that I have been eating low-carb for awhile, which had been helpful in shaving off some weight, but obviously shot my cholesterol up. My doctor was not pleased considering she had told me not to do that. Eek. She said Keto and the like is not a good way to diet and that people are “just obsessed, but don’t understand.” Now listen, I was by no means doing “Keto.” Mainly because I don’t do any “diet” well. But I had backed off most carbs and was relying on protein from meat too much, I can openly admit to that. So I asked her what to do and she said, “Go vegetarian if you can” and then I laughed and laughed.

Then two months ago Jerimiah and decided to try it and well, it’s been really super easy and we don’t eat meat anymore and what the hell is happening in my life?!

Whew. Okay, deep breathes and I’m kind of lying because sometimes we still eat salmon. And by sometimes I mean we had salmon for dinner twice in two months, so sure, I guess call us pescatarian or mainly vegetarian or crazy or whatever you want but I feel so much freaking better that I am actually like why did I not do this decades ago?!

To be fair it was an easy transition now on account of all the meatless options out there. Options that just weren’t there two or three years ago, let alone decades ago. Options that also have Jackson going “mainly” vegetarian with us and so we are all benefitting. We also did it in stages. We didn’t just totally change the way we eat. Last year we started eating off our “small” plates, which are the “lunch” plates. We moved the dinner plates out of the cabinet. This was to work on portion control. Once we did that, we started filling more veggies, then cutting the amount of meat down and down and down, until now, well I had broccoli for lunch yesterday. Broccoli. That’s it. That’s all I had and I was full and I had plenty of protein.

I think being at home all day every day, not eating at a restaurant in over a year, and really being generally pissy about having to feed ourselves food all day everyday has helped tremendously. We’ve also cut way back on drinking alcohol, we have maybe a glass of wine a month now, and if we could somehow give up coffee, then we’d be all set but who are we even fucking kidding. That will never happen. But then, I guess we should never say never.

In fact, the hardest part has been trying to figure out how we will one day have to tell our family back in Kansas City that we don’t eat Burnt Ends anymore, thankyouverymuch, can I have the veggie plate. Hmpf. That might take some time. But for now we will work on kicking our salmon habit (have you watched Seaspiracy?!) and please, if you have any black bean burger recipes send them our way! Talk about yum!

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.

Tennis ’til I Die

This weekend was lovely. Just lovely. Today we walked to Target to grab some household stuff, just so we could be out and about, and yesterday we went to the park where walked on a trail and played some tennis and confronted a racist. Just another fun weekend in Georgia. Okay, listen. I know I live in the “Progressive South” which is an oxymoron of sorts, but if we are going to believe that we really do have a more progressive South, Atlanta is the place to believe that. But the truth of the matter is this is still Georgia. This is still the South, regardless of how blue our state gets and I was aptly reminded of that this weekend.

Jerimiah loves to play tennis. Jackson and I could take it or leave it, but we’ve been promising to hit the courts with him for awhile now so we did on Saturday. We have a public park in our quiet, little suburban town. It’s nestled deep in the woods, between lovely houses and adorable elementary schools. Truth be told it’s a gem of a park, with a large pond, hiking trails, a waterfall, tennis courts, soccer fields, a dog park, and several playgrounds. It’s kinda great.

So when we got to the park the tennis courts were full. We waited on the bleachers for a court to open up, as one does, common tennis etiquette and what not, and then court three opened up. We waited for about 45 minutes which isn’t too bad. There are signs that ask you limit your play to an hour if people are waiting, so it makes sense. We got to court three and started playing.

On courts one and two there were four men, all playing singles. One set of men were speaking Spanish, the other set was speaking possibly Mandarin, I can’t be sure. The point here is none of them were white. On court four were four high schoolers, three boys and a girl. Two were white, two were Black. Why does this matter, Missy? Just wait.

About half an hour into our play a white woman and an Asian woman, along with two little girls came into the courts. They had tennis bags and were dressed to the nines in tennis gear. In fact, when I first saw them I wondered if one of them was a trainer or something like that. But then I quickly learned, no. I learned this because they came into the courts, even though the courts were full and they walked directly to our bench and sat down. I didn’t say anything to them and they said noting to me, but the white woman was bent out of shape that there were no free courts and she was hellbent on finding the six more courts she thought we had. She argued with the Asian woman about this. I got a very married couple vibe from them. They were however causing a scene and the other players on the course started to look at us. I think they assumed these two women were with us, because I mean, who just comes and sits on your bench unless you know them?

Anyway, while the white woman goes in search of these mysterious other courts another family walked up to the tennis courts and sat their items down on the bleachers outside like we had. They were obviously there to wait for an open court. It’s about that time that the kids were leaving and they asked the new family, which happened to be a Black family, if they wanted their court. They said yes and they started the transition.

Now I didn’t know all of this. I was pretty into this game we were having, and frustrated with the people on our bench who were sitting very close to our shit and causing a scene and I sort of assumed the new family knew the kids, or were with them. But as the transition of the court was happening the white lady came back into the courts and saw what was happening and walked over to the kids and the Black family and started yelling. I immediately knew what was happening. We were about to see a “Karen” flip her shit.

I sort of half listened for a few minutes and gathered that the kids did not know the family, but that they assumed that “Karen” was with us. Meanwhile the Black family had already taken the court and were starting to warm up. The family was a mom and her three high school/college kids and the kids were actually fucking tennis stars or something. Like they started to hit the ball and everyone stopped and watched them. Jackson said, “I didn’t know people were that good.” Like they had to be on a college team. Anyway, this angered “Karen” and on top of the “This was our court” shit, she started throwing in some racial slurs. That’s when I had to step in.

Jackson had hit a wild ball over to their court and I ran over to grab it. They had stopped playing at this point because “Karen” was actually standing in the middle of the court, meanwhile Jerimiah was trying to get the Asian woman to get the “Karen” under control and the Asian woman was yelling her name and begging her to get back over to our bench. Natalie. That was the real name of the “Karen” I wish I’d learned her last name. The kids that were with them looked mortified and sat in silence, while “Karen” and the mom of the tennis stars started pulling their phones out and filming each other. I walked up for my ball and everyone kind of stopped. One of the kids handed me the ball and I apologized to him for what the “Karen” was saying and he smiled and said not to worry about it, happens all the time.

That angered me, so as I walked back to my court I looked at “Karen” and said, “Hey, these kids are just trying to play. Will you get off their court and maybe wait outside the fence, we will be done in a few minutes.” This comment elicited an “Ohhh” from the high school kids who had stuck around to see what was happening and “Karen” flipped out on me. She told me, “I pay fucking taxes!” To which I said, “Yeah, we all do.” Laughter from the kids. This really pissed her off and she said, “I’ve never even been here because I play at (insert some club I’m supposed to know about) and there are no rules posted here.” To which I said, “Well, it’s common courtesy to stay off a court that you’re not playing at, so maybe next time just wait outside until a court opens up.” She starts yelling, “You could have told me that,” and I walk away because there was actually no telling this woman anything.

By this time the Asian woman has gathered the kids and all their things and is leaving the court. She got the hint. She goes and gets Natalie and they leave. All play resumes. A couple minutes later I’m fuming still, the mom of the tennis stars is on her phone I think to her husband telling her about this crazy lady and I decide I need to go talk to her. So I walk over and outside the fence where she is and she hangs up and I apologize to her and she thanks me, thanks me for coming over and for saying something to her. She explains that she thought they were with us, again, because they were on our damn bench, and I assured her no, we didn’t know them, they just walked onto the courts while we were all playing. We started to talk about what the woman had said to them, when one of the tennis stars says, “Mom be careful, she’s back.” We turn around and here comes “Karen” up the damn hill again toward us. She had been leaving then saw us talking and decided to stop and say more crazy shit. At this point Jackson starts to meander over and I’m like, okay I have to diffuse, but “Karen” is already screaming up the hill, accusing us of talking about her. Which was right, cause, uhh, she cray.

Sherry, the mom of the tennis stars, is like, “Oh Lord here we go again.” At this point she walks with me into the tennis courts hoping that “Karen” will stay outside, which she does but she’s screaming about Sherry’s “Husband” and that’s when I realize that she thinks Sherry’s oldest son is her husband and Sherry is like, “That’s not my husband, you are screaming at my children. These are my children.” And this sets “Karen” off and she says to Sherry, “Oh you probably can’t even get a husband. You probably want a white one, but you can’t get one.” I’m halfway to my bench at this point because I’ve decided to call the cops, but then I stop. My mind is like a tennis match, y’all. I’m all, don’t be a “white savior” here, Sherry has this, then I’m all, no, as a white woman I need to woman up to this “Karen” and put her in her place. Then I’m like what if she is crazy. But if I call the cops they might assume the Black family is in the wrong because that’s the kind of world we live in. All this is running through my mind, so I start back toward Sherry to ask her what she wants me to do, “Karen” sees me and leaves but not before screaming, “Oh yeah, Black Lives Matter.” Which coincidently was the shirt Jackson had on that day.

Ugh.

Obviously we stayed on the court until a man and his preschool daughter walked up with tennis balls and waited at the bleachers, because there was no way I was going to leave the court open for “Karen” to play at if they came back. I would have played tennis ’til I died, y’all. ‘Til I died.

When we left Sherry and her family thanked us again, we exchanged numbers in case anything crazy happened, I apologized again and I told her to be safe. The high school kids were walking back by and they stopped and we all chatted. They said they had no idea that she was waiting for a court and they just thought they did what they were supposed to do. I told them not to worry about it, that they were fine. That they did do the right thing and then I apologized to them. I was so sad they had to see that. And then we left. I didn’t see the “Karen” so I felt okay about it, but shit y’all.

Be kind to people. It’s not that much to ask.

M.

Ditch Witch and Other Things

The neighbor Dale and her husband Old WhatsHisName had a Ditch Witch up and running at nine in the morning. On a Saturday. Listen, I like Dale and Old WhatsHisName, but mostly I just like their dog Cookie. She’s a chocolate lab and she’s beautiful and friendly and she likes to play tug in her front yard with her favorite rope toy and she reminds me of my dearly beloved, Bentley, whom we had to put down two years and some change ago on account of her arthritis and her slow doggy dementia. She was nearly 14 years old and sometimes she forgot who I was, but mostly she sat at my feet and watched squirrels out the window and listened as I read her bits of essays and stories and she always, always let me cry into her neck fat. Dale and Old WhatsHisName are sort of afterthoughts. I like their dog so I tolerate them. I listen to Dale tell me stories about how she used to live in Charlotte too and really she didn’t like it as much as I did being a make-up exec is hard work and do I ever use eyeliner, because I have beautiful blue eyes, but…

The Ditch Witch at nine am was a bridge too far. Especially because I didn’t sleep well last night on account of it being week eight of my semester and why does everyone suddenly need me to do something for them and yeah I’m aware that I need to make some important decisions about residency and candidacy and my thesis in the upcoming weeks and when is the last time I cooked dinner for my family and hey they are opening school back up and Jackson is too afraid to go and I agree especially because a custodian in the district just died from Covid, but I mean half of the teachers are vaccinated and MAP test scores don’t really matter much this week and maybe we should just keep compounding this mom guilt on top of wife guilt on top of whatever it was that made me give that cash to that woman today in the Sam’s Club parking lot.

So the Ditch Witch sprang to life at nine am and I rolled over to my husband all, what the actual hell is that and he said how should I know it sounds like some type of heavy machinery and I knew right then that Dale and Old WhatsHisName were doing some yard work because about a month ago I was violently awakened from the loud diesel noises of a wood chipper from Sunbelt Rentals.

I wish I had a point. And I was drinking a glass of wine on a beach somewhere all alone. I feel all alone all the time, but it’s not possible because I am with my family all the time and I love them dearly and also I need a fucking break and a vacation and someone to tell me that it will all be okay. I know that it’s usually me reminding you all that it will all be okay, and really I know that it will, but sometimes when you haven’t been sleeping and your medicine is making you sick but you have to keep taking it or you’ll really get sick and you have no means of escaping this life that is really actually quite beautiful and you are thankful for it so much but that sometimes sucks like it does for all of us right now in varying degrees you just have to get on your old blog and yell about Ditch Witches and neighbors who really aren’t that bad and things that are absolutely outside of your control and some in your control but you that you don’t have answers for and you have to say your dead dog’s or your dead kid’s or your dead dad’s name because it matters at that moment.

That’s all I’m saying.

Damn it, y’all. It will get better and I love you and you have pretty eyes and you don’t need eyeliner but if you want to use it then use it because you are responsible for your own happiness and one day when we can hug each other again I’m gonna hug you so tight you might have a hard time breathing but you won’t mind cause you’ll get it. I hope you get it.

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.

White Women, Again

I bought Jerimiah and Jackson matching shirts that said, “I’m Glad Reagan’s Dead” which is of course a lyric from the Killer Mike song, “Reagan.” I will include the link to the video so you can watch it if you are so inclined, it’s pretty good and incredibly informative. Anyway, they LOVED their shirts because they are big Killer Mike and Run the Jewels fans and so they wanted to pose for a picture and have me post it to Instagram so people can see their shirts, so I did. Then I went on with my life as one does. Then a couple of days later I got a Facebook message from a white woman that said, “I just don’t understand, why would you want a shirt that says, ‘I’m glad Reagan’s Dead.'” I responded, of course, very kindly. First I hoped she was having a great holiday season, I remarked about her fun pictures and hoped that she was having a nice time with her family, as one does. Then I politely explained the reasoning behind the shirt, in a condensed version of course. I told her how we have been talking about racial justice in this our country, backtracking what Jackson has learned in school as “America History” and told him some truths. It’s a tough, labor-intensive process, but incredibly necessary.

Then it occurred to me that the audacity of white women truly knows no bounds.

White women get offended by something, a t-shirt that a person 1,000 miles away from them who has no real connection to them is wearing and they demand an answer for it. It sort of boggled my mind.

I personally would never ask about something like that. I would never take the time from my day to demand an answer to something that someone is wearing (unless it was overtly racist, in which case I would publicly shame them for it even though Mama Brene Brown says shame is not an effective educational tool. I know Mama Brene, I know. I’m working on it, it’s hard to change when you grew up that way.) Maybe it’s an age thing? This woman is the mother of a childhood friend. Either way, my own mother didn’t even ask about the shirts, just accepted it as something quirky I did, I assume, and went on with her day.

It was bizarre, to say the least. But still I figured if one white woman questioned it, others probably did too but were just too afraid to ask so I made a Facebook post explaining the shirt (saying I had multiple people ask me, but really it was just the one, I just didn’t want to make her feel bad. But she should kind of feel bad, ya dig?). This is that post, condensed:

Hi Everyone! Jerimiah and I have had people question the “I’m Glad Reagan’s Dead” t-shirts I bought for Jackson and Jerimiah for Christmas.

So if you want to know why I would give my 12-year-old a shirt that says, “I’m Glad Reagan’s Dead” or you want to know why anyone would be happy to say that, then please do read on. Warning: This is tough stuff, because you might be enlightened to a world, community, and culture that is different than your own, and that makes people uncomfortable. So fair warning. 🙂

Let’s start with the song lyrics that the phrase is taken from. The song is called “Reagan” and it is by Killer Mike, a member of the two-person group “Run the Jewels” who happened to win Spin’s “Artist of the Year” for their RTJ 4 album, the one they released free to the masses on account of how horrible the year was going. They wanted to brighten some lives and they did! The song “Reagan” is not on that album, but Jackson and Jerimiah love all the albums and they love Killer Mike (I do too on account of all his grassroots, community work here in Atlanta) and so they did a deep dive on all his work this year where they came across the song, which, in short, lists the litany of Reagan atrocities toward the Black community and atrocities toward other minority communities worldwide and the backlash it had on the ones here in the US, including:

Iran/Contra Scandal (trading arms for hostages), “Oliver North introducing Cocaine on military planes”, the “War on Drugs” which we all know disproportionately affected the Black community and allowed for “policing for profits” leading to “Super Predators” which was a made up term to arrest Black men on drug charges, and allowed the courts to “give drug dealers time in double digits” which of course led to fathers, brothers, uncles, in the Black community being locked up years and years longer than the white people doing the same things, because as Killer Mike says,

“Cause slavery was abolished, unless you are in prison, you think I am bullshittin’ then read the 13th amendment.”

Blah, blah, blah, it went on. Explaining more about Killer Mike, about supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and the community, asking people to vote consciously and to donate money to Black businesses, etc. It was liked by a few people, loved by some of my Black friends, and thankfully no one commented. Of course I blatantly told white people not to comment, cause I know a few other white women who would normally hop on a post like that like flies on a shit sandwich. I didn’t want to have to unfriend anyone over the post, at the same time, I kinda did want to unfriend some people over the post. You know how it is.

Anyway, I’m sharing today to remind white women to chill the fuck out and sit the fuck down. And yes, I am aware that I am a white woman. Which gives me the power to say that to y’all. Cause Black women who say it get screamed at, and called mean names, and ostracized. I don’t care, y’all can scream at me and ostracize me, Jesus I welcome it, but leave people alone.

No one owes you an explanation for a damn thing, and more importantly your opinion on the matter doesn’t in fact matter. Literally no one from the Black Lives Matter camp is looking at you to help them. I’m included in that. They don’t give a fuck about me, and I don’t need them to. I don’t need a pat on the back or a nod to know what I am doing is right. I just need to figure out how to walk this line of keeping white women in check and not overstepping any boundaries with my BIPOC friends. I’m working on it, always working on it.

But white women, for the love of all that is holy, no one is looking at you to be the moral center of our country, so stop it. That job is for Tom Hanks and Tom Hanks alone.

That is all, good day sirs!

M.

PS… “I’ll leave you with four words: I’m glad Reagan Dead.” –Michael Render, aka Killer Mike

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.

A Whole Lot of Decembers

It’s been 13 Decembers since I married the man I didn’t think I’d marry. Not because he was not the man I loved, rather because I never thought I’d get married. Never thought I’d actually be brave enough to go all in, my track record wasn’t stellar before Jerimiah. Just a few loose odds and ends here and there. A couple of overly-confident football players I made out with in the back of someone else’s car in high school. A couple of college girls, shy like me, unsure like me, who I let open a door of possibilities. Then he came along. On our first date I was calm. It was like going out with a friend, because well, he was my friend. Still is, matter of fact, the best one I’ve got. We sat at a table at a steakhouse across the street from the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. The place we’d both lived for years, both graduated high school from, both knew inexplicably we would one day leave.

It’s startling sometimes to look back over the last 19 years and see how our lives together have unfolded. To see that we did in fact leave Leavenworth together and in a sense we left those dumb kids back there at that dimly-lit steakhouse table. We changed our outlook. We moved away from that every-present fatalism that encapsulates a prison town like Leavenworth. We branched out. We had new experiences, slowly changed our way of thinking to focus on the positive, the optimistic, the opportunity that that whole wider world gives you if you dare to look.

We made new friends, took new paths, moved around. We went to college together, when we finally decided it was time. Then somewhere along the line we merged bank accounts, we started saying things like, “In ten years…” We made even bigger plans, even bolder career moves, moves that benefitted both of us. Then one day, about five years into our relationship Jerimiah sat me in a chair on Christmas Eve, got down on one knee, the white glow of the tree beside us, and pulled an engagement ring from his pocket. I already knew by that time I would say yes, though I still didn’t know if I’d have the guts to go through with it. One year later, on December 21, 2007, I did go through with it. In a small, one-room church in the middle of the Ozark Mountain wilderness.

Today, as I write this, I’ve been interrupted more than once. I’ve been interrupted by our twelve-year-old son who wants to know if the wi-fi is working for us, because his Chromebook, the one he does all his virtual school work on, is acting weird. I’ve been interrupted by our two dogs, pacing and playfully snapping at each other at my feet. I’ve been interrupted by my rheumatologist calling. By my husband’s phone, a call from this boss, a meeting with the company lawyer, an employee with a problem. This is all to say that where we are now, for as lovely as it is, is not always sunny and warm. But alas, that is life.

There have been dark days. Dark moments. When we watched the doctors load Jackson up into a Life Flight Chopper when he was barely a year old. When we signed the Do Not Resuscitate Order for our daughter nearly a decade ago. When we moved, again and again, leaving people we didn’t want to. When we cried together on the veterinarian’s floor as our first baby, Bentley, slowly slipped from us. And now, in this year full of heartache for our community, our country, our world.

Yes, there have been dark days and sickness to endure, but also there is happiness and health. There is safety, opportunity, growth. There is loyalty. There is love. In all of it, because we said I do.

Happy anniversary, Jerimiah. Thank you for loving me so consistently and so warmly for all these years. For running the lantern over the dark days and for always, always letting me, helping me, curse and cry and laugh when I need to. In the end, there is no one I’d rather do this with than you.

M.

Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, Structural Racism is a Bitch

A couple of weeks ago Jackson asked about the nutcracker that sits on top of the mantel. I explained that it was a decorative one, not a real one. He asked if we could get a real one and I said yes. So I ordered a real nut cracker from the internets and bought a bag of assorted nuts for him to try his hand at and we had everything ready to go yesterday morning. So while Jackson was finishing up the dishes after breakfast, I grabbed a bowl and went back to the table with the nutcrackers in hand. Jerimiah was sitting there watching as I opened the bag of nuts and poured them in. They were the assorted kind with pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and Brazilian nuts. The kind we both remembered from our childhoods back in the Midwest.

I pulled a walnut out first and cracked it open. Jerimiah said that was his favorite kind, so I used the pick to dig the rest out for him. Then came the almond, then the hazelnut. Then I pulled out the Brazilian nut and I stopped, my hand holding it up in the air when I had a memory blaze across my mind. Jerimiah had the exact same memory I had, even though we lived in two separate places, hundreds of miles away from each other. We looked at the nut, then at each other. We weren’t sure what to say, so Jerimiah spoke first.

“Talk about overt racism,” he said, and I nodded.

The memory that Jerimiah and I share from our separate childhoods is horrific. I’m full of shame just writing about it today, but certainly we are not the only ones who were forced to hear this as children and certainly we can’t shy away from the facts of this here country and the way white people are. The nickname passed down from generation to generation for this particular nut is a “N-word Toe.”

That’s how I knew the nut growing up and I had completely forgotten about that particular part of my childhood Christmases, then there it was, quite suddenly in front of me once again. Jerimiah told me his grandparents called it that. I told him my mother called it that, and so did all her friends. My mother was born in 1944. She was 13 years old before she saw anyone who was not white, only heard about people of color in terms not so polite. The N-word was used regularly during her childhood, on the tobacco farms my grandfather tended and in the rural schools she attended in Platte County, Missouri.

This was a normal way of life, but why this particular nut was nicknamed that I do not know. I refuse to know, actually. I refuse to Google it, give it any validation. I have suspicions of course, but we will leave them where they lie. All I know is a pit came up in my stomach when I saw that nut again after all these years and I didn’t know what to do. Neither did Jerimiah, so we did what we thought was right. We explained all of it to Jackson.

Jackson sat and listened intently, but when we shared the nickname his jaw dropped. I wasn’t sure how to take that. First I thought how good it is that he’s astounded to hear such nonsense, then I wondered if I am shielding him too much from the way structural racism, including covert and over racism, works. I wondered whether we need to do a deep dive into how just 20 years ago this was the way of the world, and explain in some parts of the country, in some small towns, in some homes, homes of family members we know and love, this is still the way of the world. I was at a crossroads and I guess I still am.

I’m not incredibly sure why I’m sharing this today. I could have kept this a secret. I think, however, that shameful secrets can bog you down. And I know, like with most of my writing, that I hope to evoke some kind of social change by sharing. But that’s at the macro level I suppose. Quite specifically, most days I feel a large responsibility toward others. Toward validating the lives of people who carry shame from their families and their childhoods and who are still working and learning to get things right, as well as toward the people who are oppressed and hurt by people like me. That’s a tall order, I know. But one I will keep plugging at for the rest of my life.

M.