Fucking Middle School

Yesterday morning, right before Jackson walked out the door for school, he looked back at me and asked, “Will you take me for a haircut after school?” I was a little surprised because I’m usually forcing him into a haircut, even so far as pulling a “surprise haircut” on him, by rolling up to Great Clips when he least expects it. He loathes haircuts. I don’t know why, but he does. So I dumbly shook my head yes, then sat silent over my morning tea and wondered what was up. Then I remembered: Today he is going on a field trip to the middle school. Today he, along with all the 70 or so fifth graders at his school, will be marched around a much larger, much nicer, much more complicated building in front of “really big kids” and well, I think he’s a little nervous. And he should be.

I immediately thought back to my middle school tour. I was terrified. And I remember very specific portions of it. Like how we were all ushered into a room when a fifth grade class from another school, there the same day as us, was ushered down the hall. I remember looking out at the faces of the “other” school, knowing that in a few short months we’d all be classmates. Some of those kids would come to be some of my best friends in middle school, but I didn’t know that on that day. I only knew they were unfamiliar, and scary, and I didn’t like them. Why would I? Why should I? They weren’t from Anthony Elementary School.

My middle school was old. It was old and it was crowded and it lacked the sort of funding that Jackson’s cool, techy middle school will have. But like my middle school, many elementary schools are funneled into one middle school. There will be opportunity for more than new classes, or new clubs, but opportunity to meet new friends, develop new crushes, and start the journey to really figuring out where he belongs in the hierarchy. There will be some bumps. Some bruises. Some stuff that never leaves him, both good and bad. But in the end the stuff that doesn’t really matter, won’t, and the stuff that does, will. I know that. That I learned in middle school, and high school, and in my 38 rotations, but he doesn’t know that yet.

I asked him while we were waiting for his haircut if he was nervous about today. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Nah. I’m excited to see the STEM classrooms!” He’s only concerned with how many 3D printers they have. He’s a different breed, my kid. Then his name was called and he walked over alone, asked the woman to do a “Two on the sides, and scissor the top” and I sat and listened to him talk.

When she brought him back to me she told me what a lot of people tell me about my son. She said he was kind, and smart, and that he was very well spoken for his age. She said she hoped her three-year-old would be like my kid, because as it sits she was nervous. I shook my head and thanked her. Assured her that her toddler would be alight, told her that the “threenager” stage doesn’t last much longer, and smiled. I looked at my son, who was running his fingers through his hair, and suddenly he nudged me and said, “There’s this, uhh, hair stuff she used…” She told me it she’d put some in his hair and he liked it. “I think I want some,” he said, shyly. “For you know, style.” I told him sure, to go grab some because yes, he’s gonna need it for style.

M.

Jackson and the Tornado and the Mayor and the President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks President Obama, we tend to agree.

M.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

We are one traveling family, in case you haven’t picked up on that. We say, “Take the trip!” because you just never know when you won’t be able to. Which means I have a lot of traveling pics and stories to share, and sometimes my friends get really tired of hearing and reading about them, so I decided to start sharing them here and if you want to read them you can. I realized back a couple of years ago when I started this blog that I hadn’t shared several trips we’ve been on since then, so I figured I’d back up a bit and start sharing now. And where better to start than with the one time, in the summer of 2018, that we got to visit the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) to have a tour and see a real crash test. It was one of the more “cool” trips we’ve been on, but we didn’t just happen into it. This trip took some planning.

It all started when a third-grade Jackson became obsessed with safety ratings in automobiles. He would YouTube various crash test, then run into the room and say, “You have to see how horrible this car did in the side-impact crash test!” At first we had NO idea what he was talking about. I inquired more than once about whether we should be letting our nine-year-old even watch crash tests, but Jerimiah assured me that they were done in an attempt to make cars safer. Jackson backed up this claim with an old Dateline episode he had stumbled across, that we watched ad nauseam for about two weeks, before I said, “Wait, what is the IIHS?”

The IIHS is a non-profit organization funded by insurance companies, founded in 1954 to research car safety in the hopes to reduce the number of motor vehicle collisions, and the rate of injuries and amount of property damage in vehicle crashes. In addition to carrying out research, like the crash tests, they produce ratings for passenger vehicles, and certain consumer products like booster seats. They also conduct research on road design and traffic regulations, and have been involved in promoting policy decisions. You can learn more about the IIHS at their website.

From a personal standpoint, this is a really cool place that is doing awesome work, and Jackson figured that out very quickly, then got us on board. Sometime in May of 2018, he convinced me that they had a museum at their headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, and asked if we could go visit that summer. I told him maybe, as moms do, and went on about my business. A few days later I Googled the IIHS and scoured their website for the museum. When I didn’t find anything about it, I sent them an email. In the email I explained that my very smart, very unique child (who knew everything about the IIHS) said there was a museum, could they point me in the direction of it.

A woman kindly responded the same day to inform me that the “museum” isn’t so much a “museum” as it is a working crash-test facility, although yes, it has been referred to as a museum as they have kept several previously crashed cars and they do give tours. Only they don’t give tours to just anyone off the street, and most children are not allowed. But then she said something interesting, she said, “Tell me more about your son.” So I did.

Two weeks later we were invited guests at the IIHS, to not only have a tour with a real mechanical engineer who works on the crash tests, her name was Becky, but we were there on a day scheduled to see a live crash test, along with several groups from different insurance companies, and car companies. We got lucky that it was Honda and Volkswagen, two of our favorite car brands. We are loyal VW owners, and were quite pleased to learn that because of that we are in one of the top safety-rated brands there is.

It was an amazing day for Jackson, sort of like his own version of Disney. Honestly, I kept telling Jerimiah that third-grade Jackson was more nervous, anxious, happy, and excited that day at IIHS than first-grade Jackson ever was on our trip to Disneyworld. Here, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:

When we got there we were greeted like celebrities. Everyone knew of this nine-year-old who loved the IIHS and who knew all he could know about crash testing. We were introduced to Becky, who took us through the “museum” that Jackson had been talking about, which is where they display some of their cars after they have been through a crash-test.

Next we got to see the dummies, and meet a “Dummy” Engineer, who they poke fun at, but really they do amazing work. They buy the crash-test dummies for millions of dollars, then when arms or legs fly off in a crash test, the “Dummy” Engineer makes new ones so they don’t have to keep spending millions on more dummies. It was amazing.

Then it was time for the main event, the side-impact crash test. I have to say, that was some of the coolest shit I’ve seen in my 38 years, especially if you’re a car geek like me.

The cars are put into place, after weeks of prepping them for the crash. This particular VW was ready to be t-boned by a Honda Pilot. The crack in the floor is where the cable aligns the car to hit the other one, but there is not cable pulling it. They didn’t have enough energy on the energy grid to run the lights needed to light this room and a pulley system, so they compress nitrogen to release the car. Because of this, there is like a four-and-a-half minute countdown, during which the excitement intensified for us. Then as the light came on, we knew we were close, so I was able to catch this video:

Yeah, it was pretty cool. And way louder than I thought. If you are really interested in the crash, and well Jackson’s take on all of this, I’m uploading a 20-minute video of nine-year-old Jackson talking about our time at IIHS a few days after we visited below. But for now, I’ll just say that the crash was the highlight, and right after the crash we were able to go down to the crash site and check it out, after they cleaned it up a bit, and got the first readings off their machines. And one of the Engineers even gave Jackson the logo that flew off the Honda. He was way stoked. We waited to go down until most of the people had looked so we could take our sweet time. Meanwhile we stood on the elevated platform and chatted up Becky some more.

When we finally made our way down there, he was stoked to get to see all the equipment and make his own determinations about how the cars both did, and decide what they would be rated. It was awesome to watch a young engineer mind like his at work, while big, adult, engineers talked to him about all the little details of what he was looking at. I mean, yeah, very cool experience. We are so lucky!

Just when we thought the day couldn’t get any more cool, we were introduced to the people who make all the videos that Jackson religiously watches. They gave him a tour of their studio, and he even got to sit in the chair that the engineers sit in when they are being recorded, or when they go on CNN or ABC News. It was all too much for this kid, and his mommy and daddy!

We ended the tour getting to talk with the VW rep who was there to watch the crash test, and learning what Jackson needed to study in order to work at the IIHS (hint: it’s a lot of time and advanced degrees in mechanical engineering). We talked about how all cars have become much safer than the older cars people used to think were safe. Like these old cars. People assumed cars like these were the safest because they were built from steel, but that is very wrong and Jackson would love the opportunity to discuss this further with you. When is a good time to stop by?

There you have it, one of our most awesome family vacations. I really feel like I have cheated Disneyworld here, so maybe I will share that one next, but for now, if you’re ever given an opportunity to see something like this, do it! It was awesome, educational, and completely worth the trip to a cow pasture in the middle of Virginia! Thanks, IIHS and all the people involved in making this day the most special!

Below you will find the official photos from the IIHS that day. We had to wait until the results had been released to the public to share any of these, that’s part of the reason it has taken so long. Oh, and I’m sorta lazy. But thanks for reading!

Here is the really long video, kind of worth it if you don’t expect too much and have the time to be entertained! Remember, for more information you can visit the IIHS or search for their videos on YouTube.

Main points: It was awesome, don’t buy a Ford, by a Volvo!

M.

Flag Pole Guys

Today was another oppressive day of rain in Atlanta. I had some errands to run, and some dry cleaning and donations to drop off, so I piled up the car with all my errands and headed to grab Jackson. Jackson is released a little earlier than the other kids because he’s a “walker,” meaning we walk home most days, though as of late I can’t recall the last time we were able to walk home a full week. It’s a nice treat to get my kid before the chaos of carline, which we were used to at previous schools. On days when the weather is bad, I park in the school lot and walk up to the “walker” door to grab him. I’m usually the last parent there, because he’s usually the last kid to leave. He makes sure all the others get safely to their parents before he departs. Part of his “Safety Patrol” pledge.

Today I parked close to the school because of the rain. I decided to sneak up in front of the school so I could stay under the school’s awning for as long as I could before I headed to the walker door. As I hopped up onto the dry sidewalk in front of the school I noticed three young boys standing around the flag pole at the entrance, and recognized Jackson immediately. His favorite Under Armor coat on over a hoodie whose hood was shielding his head from the rain, and his black Nike glasses being pelted with the big, round droplets. I was surprised because he doesn’t have “Flag Duty” right now, so I was just about to call over to him and ask what he was doing when I noticed they were having some trouble.

There are two flags on the pole at Jackson’s school. On top is the US Flag, which is customary to have at all public schools, and just under that one flies a smaller white flag recognizing Jackson’s school as being part of the International Baccalaureate program (they are also a STEM Certified school from AvancED). An IB school, according to an article at Great Schools, was created in Switzerland in 1968 for students in international schools. Great Schools says that IB is now offered in 5,175 schools across 157 countries — with about 1,800 public and private schools in the U.S. IB has gained popularity for setting high standards and emphasizing creative and critical thinking. IB students are responsible for their own learning, choosing topics and devising their own projects, while teachers act more as supervisors or mentors than sources of facts. IB emphasizes research and encourages students to learn from their peers, with students actively critiquing one another’s work. Beyond preparing students for critical thinking and college-level work, the full IB program calls for students to express themselves through writing, requires community service, and aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

Essentially these kids are learning to set themselves, and each other, up for success at problem solving, among of a myriad of other important lessons about life, culture, and critical thinking. The problem solving though, is a big topic for fifth graders. Problem solving on the fly, as well as researching and planning solutions to larger, global problems like world hunger, city infrastructure, and urban decay. I tell you all this so you understand what I saw yesterday in the rain. Two boys attempting to take down two soaking wet, tangled flags, relying on each other and their ability to problem solve, work through creative solutions, and recognizing when it was time to ask for help.

It wasn’t raining that morning, they would come to understand, when the morning safety patrol put the flags up. But it had started raining right after, which means it rained steadily on the flags all day. As the day waned on, the IB flag tangled itself into a knot at the clip that attaches to the cable that hoists the flags up and down. Which means, try as they might, they were only able to bring the flags halfway down, then they would stop.

One glance up at the flags told me that they were tangled, but I couldn’t see how from my vantage point. Later, I learned that within a few minutes of discovering a problem, one of the boys had bowed out, opting instead to stand under the awning in the rain and yell possible solutions to his friend. That’s when Jackson happened by the front door, was spotted, and his friend called to him. Essentially his buddy needed a little help and knew just who to ask. Great start to the problem-solving, knowing who can help.

As the rain beat down on Jackson and his friend, they tried, and tried, and tried to get the flag down. They shook the metal cable that hoisted the flags up and down, the tried to move the white flag around the flag pole to see if they could stand in a different spot to get it off, that’s when they saw the tangle and realized what had happened. All the while I silently watched under the dry awning, as did the Assistant Principal, who was between shuffling kids back and forth from the door and the line of busses. Neither her nor I ever stepped in to offer advice or assistance. Why would we? They didn’t ask, and they are fifth graders. IB model tells us both not to help quite yet. So instead we stand, me under the awning and her under an umbrella nearer to them, and we watch.

Several minutes go by. They have been able to get the flags down to their lowest point now by shaking the cables, which have dislodged a portion of the knot on the white flag. They hoist the two flags back up again, then quickly back down, assuming at this point that they have solved the problem. The get them almost within reach (so they can just unclip the flag) when boom! The cable is caught again.

The boys are apoplectic. Jackson slams his hands down to his sides, and his friend in a show of frustration throws his hands up in the air. They look at each other, then back toward the draining sky. They are cold, they are wet, they are out of ideas. That’s when they make eye contact with the Assistant Principal. She saunters over with her umbrella, pretending to have no idea what is happening. She says, “What’s up, guys?”

Jackson’s friend tells her that the white flag is tangled. Jackson adds, quickly, the various measures they have tried in solving the problem. She says something like, “That should have done it. Do you want me to try?” They shake their heads in tired agreement. She sticks the handle of her umbrella in the space between her chin and shoulder and goes to work on the cable, essentially doing the same thing the boys were doing, but with a mighty strength that only a Principal possesses. Her umbrella falls behind her. She ignores it, keeps going. Now she’s getting pelted in the face by the rain, and I think for a minute to run over and help, then I notice Jackson run behind her, grab her umbrella, and hold it over her head while she looks straight up to the sky.

Eventually she gets the flag untangled with her pure might, gives Jackson’s friend the cable, and we all watch as he lowers the flag. Jackson hands her back her umbrella and they say thank you. She smiles, and walks back to the busses.

I stand, sort of in awe of what I have just witnessed. The third boy is nowhere to be found, he’s abandoned his post years ago, and Jackson and his friend stand in the rain and fold each flag the correct way, then take them back inside.

Minutes later, as we are walking out to the car I ask him what happened. He relays the story about the friend who needed help with the flag, how the other boy chased him down in the hallway to help. Then he tells me about the knot. That’s when I say that I saw them eventually figure it out. He stops me and says, “No, it was Ms. Young who figured it out.”

“No,” I assure him, “it was you two who figured it out. Ms. Young just had the strength to do what needed done.” He smiled a little.

“Yeah, I guess so.”

M.

Life or Death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

M.

Human Trafficking Awareness Month

I was so caught up in the Super Bowl win on Monday, that I forgot that it was National Missing Persons Day on February 3rd and that February is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. And it makes sense, if you think about it, since the Super Bowl itself helps spike the sex traffickers numbers. It isn’t the really the biggest sex trafficking magnet in the US, that’s sort of an idea that got out of hand, and I read this really interesting article about how that came to be at Reuters. But, sex trafficking is still a thing, a big, bad, uncontrollable thing that warrants more talking about, and scares the bejesus out of me.

The thing to remember is that sex traffickers work every, single, day, and they go where the demand is highest. So when a bunch of old, white men with loads of money show up at the Super Bowl, then there is the demand to have sex with children, sex traffic victims, and sex workers. Not saying it’s only old, white, men who perpetrate this system, but who else can afford $10,000 Super Bowl tickets, airfare, and lodging? I’ve heard bad things about large sporting events in general, and about old, rich, white men, in general.

But what we have to consider here is also the people who are taking the victims. Sure, it’s simple supply and demand, and we know who is demanding, so who is supplying? Well, that’s not an easy answer. The predators can be men or women, but they are likely family members, friends, or adults in the community who have access to the victims. Again, I found something on the internet you might want to read from The Joint-Efforts Project called Human Trafficking for Dummies. It’s a convienant PDF with quick facts. In it, they claim that women are usually the predators in the human trafficking world.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline breaks it down a bit more. The predators have access to the kind of people who are the most vulnerable. Think men and women who own fake massage businesses. Crew leaders on farms, who have first hand knowledge of the people who are easily exploited. People in the transportation business. Humans are an easy “good” to sell and transport, if you know what you are doing. The information below is straight from the National Human Trafficking Hotline website.

It’s not just sexual human trafficking either, it’s also exploited labor.

And worst yet, there are some of us who think that it isn’t happening where we live. I mean, sure I live in Atlanta, and we host several large events, and I know that like most big cities with large international airports, we are a hot spot for human trafficking, but what about someone who lives in Nebraska or Iowa? Well, check out this map from the National Human Trafficking Hotline:

Yeah, this is happening everywhere. So it’s something we all need to be aware of, especially if you have children, know children, work with children, care about children. And of course it isn’t just children. It’s also young adults, males and females, and many times it is runaways or foreigners who came here looking for better job opportunities.

It’s important to note that there is so much unknown about human trafficking, because it’s such an easily guarded, secret organization. Victims are often unable to escape, or too afraid to go to the police. They don’t have a way to contact their loved ones. They don’t speak English. There are so many reasons and ways that people do not get the help they need.

It’s also important to note that not all missing persons are missing because of human trafficking. Some missing persons could be victims of domestic violence, which is a whole other post. Kidnapping by parents or other estranged family members. That sort of thing is why we even have a National Missing Persons Day, but human trafficking accounts for the large portion of missing people. I’m adding some links below of sites you can find more information at, if you are so inclined. And I think we could all stand to be a little more inclined.

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

National Missing and Unidentified Persons System–Here you can search for people who might be missing in your area.

Klaas Kids–Website to learn more about Megan’s Law (see below) and protecting your children online and off.

I’m not sure why, but I felt called to share all this with you today. Maybe one of two of you had no idea, or will click a couple of the links. Maybe my mom friends will benefit from Klaas Kids, or maybe you have a family member who is lost. And if you know more sites, or have more info to share, please share it in the comments. I’m always up for learning more, finding better places to research, and for helping people. Always helping people.

I know I am “tender hearted” that’s what my mom always called it, but as an adult I can call it empathetic. And I used to be very sensitive about this. I used to force myself not to cry, not to look upset when I saw a child who needed help, or a woman standing alone in the rain at the bus stop. But something has changed in me over the last few years. Maybe because I am a mom now. Maybe because I have watched too much happen to the more vulnerable in our community. But we have to take stands when we see that a stand needs taken now. We have to help those who can’t help themselves. And I think it starts with admitting what is happening, seeing the world through a different, more informed set of eyes, and being willing to talk about how to help. Even if the help is out of your reach, you can still share and discuss, make people aware of the problems. Maybe it will reach to someone who can help in a different way.

Until then, as the kids say, “Stay Woke, y’all” or is it “Get woke!” Or “Be woke AF.” I don’t know, but you get what I’m slinging.

M.

Trivia Night, but Not Really

Jackson, Jerimiah, and I went to Mellow Mushroom on Tuesday night for Trivia Night. It’d been years since we last did it with friends in Charlotte, and we knew it was fun, so we kept meaning to go (the MM is like a mile from our house), but never made it a priority. We also weren’t sure if Jackson would like it or not, turns out yes, he does, and he even answered a couple of the questions himself. One of them was about The Office, which y’all know he loves, the question was: What is the primary crop that Dwight Schrute grows on his farm? Jackson freaked out and scribbled down: BEETS! The second one he got right was: Whose home, known as Mount Vernon, was neutral territory during the Civil War? “We’ve been there!” we all yelled, and he jotted down George Washington.

The questions got harder and harder with each section, but we didn’t too bad for our first time. There were 15 teams and we took 8th place, and mind you there were whole teams of people. Like two groups of 10 people who meet there every Tuesday night, and it was the three of us, so we were pretty happy with our results, and the wings, and the beer, and we’ve already recruited friends to go back another night. But that’s not what this post is about, cause that’s not how I operate. The Mount Vernon question reminded me that I haven’t shared some of the travels we have been on over the last few years, and I thought I would go back and do that now, starting with Mount Vernon. So please, enjoy. Or stop reading now, cause a whole buncha history gonna be thrown at ya!

I think one of the reasons I forgot about the visit to Mount Vernon was because it was on the heels of our trip to the Women’s March last year and that took precedence. But this is how we travel. If we go somewhere to visit, and there is something sorta cool and it’s relatively close, and we have an extra five hours or so, we stop in. That’s what we did with Mount Vernon. It was the day we left DC with our friend Beth and her daughter Morgan riding back to Charlotte with us, and someone said, “Hey Mount Vernon is just like, I dunno, somewhere over there.” And that’s all it took.

Mount Vernon was just somewhere over there in Mount Vernon, Virginia about 40 minutes south of DC. Mount Vernon, in case you don’t know, is the estate of our first president, George Washington. And it’s pretty cool, as far as old estates owned by rich, *Slave-owning, white men go. I mean, it wasn’t totally awesome, but it wasn’t a shithole either. And any way you slice it, a lot of history happened there, good and bad, so you know, we went with it. But before I show you the pics you should know it was January in DC, it was the week of the government shutdown, and we were all a little tired from having marched our asses off for women’s rights, so there was already a little skepticism about any white males, particularly ones with power.

Blisteringly cold day at Mount Vernon
Much warmer inside, but alas, we had to go back outside

Mount Vernon is situated on the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia (where my ancestors were first recorded on census, for real). It’s near Alexandria and across from Prince George’s County, Maryland. George Washington’s great-grandfather owned the land and a small house as far back as 1674, and our dear, old GW didn’t become the sole owner until almost 100 years later. Of course there are expansive grounds, including gardens, barns, a dock on the river, and the Slave Quarters, which are all open to tour if you are so inclined, and have the time. We did, so we made our way around most of what was accessible to tourists, including a tour of inside the house (no photography allowed) and the Slave Cemetery where you know, they’re trying, and the tombs of both GW and his Slave-owning, hella racist, bitch wife Martha. Ahem.

The house was what you would expect, as well as the Slave Quarters. It’s said that he treated his Slaves better than was expected, but, nah, I don’t buy it. Although his wife Martha sounded like a real piece-of-shit. Maybe he was nicer than she was. I dunno.

The kids liked to see the animals, and I liked walking along the shore of the river, and taking in all the architecture, even though again, hella cold.

I liked the animals too. Did I mention it was cold?

The best part of the whole thing was honestly the inside stuff, and not just because we were fucking cold. So cold that, yeah, that’s my son’s Harry Potter scarf I took off of him and told him to run around and he’d heat up. The inside has the museums. One is dedicated to GW and his life, including as a general and a president, and the other is dedicated to the Slaves at Mount Vernon. It is called Lives Bound Together and it was actually really interesting, educational, and infuriating, which I think is what a museum dedicated to Slaves needs to be.

I’m not going to share pics from inside there, because I think it’s just something you need to go see for yourself, and I don’t think I took very many. I was so engrossed in their stories. This part was my favorite. And I would like to point out, that after struggles with lawyers, Washington dying, and debates with his bitch-ass wife and her bitch-ass dead first husband’s estate, several shitty kids and grandkids, and some cousins on the Washington side finally, on January 1, 1801, all the Slaves on Mount Vernon were freed. So there’s that.

If you’re wondering why I’m all caught up with the Slavery at Mount Vernon, it’s because I was legit shocked at it. It’s like I didn’t pay attention to what my history teachers said, or they all loved GW and pretended like it was all cool beans over at the little ‘ol Washington farm. Uh no. And while we’re at it, there’s no damn cherry tree, and no, it’s not because he chopped it down, it’s more likely that Martha sold it out from under him, to wrangle up some cash to buy more Slaves. SMH.

But you know what there IS? His dentures made of wood! (GASP!)

Not what you were expecting huh? Me neither. So much that I wasn’t expecting.

So there you have it. This was a shitty review of Mount Vernon, I get that, but it was an interesting time, it really was. And I’m glad we went, and as usual I’m happy about who we went with, and what it taught the kids, and me. And oh, I almost forgot, there was this really creepy giant head thing when you first walk in. And his eyes follow you. So yeah, good luck sleeping tonight.

Thanks for reading about one of our many adventures, I have more on deck so don’t go anywhere. In the meantime, enjoy some more pics of Mount Vernon, and if you’re ever in the area, stop on by, you probably, most likely, won’t regret it.

M.

He just needs to run around, he be fine

*I used the word Slave rather than Servant or Enslaved Individual because I think that makes the whole Slavery situation sound like a fancy thing, when really it was a crock of shit and GW was way part of it. And as I may have mentioned before, so was his bitch of a wife, Martha. You guys I think I hate Martha.