An Open Letter to the PTA

Good afternoon ladies (and that one weird dad). Let me start off by saying: THANK YOU! You are an amazing bunch, and honestly the school would be in deep doodoo without you. I mean for real. You help raise so much money for this damn school, that it is insane. You support extracurriculars, you help fund teacher’s classrooms, you feed the staff, and spend days getting ready for an event that most of the kids relentlessly make fun of (even when they have a great time)! You are great at all of this because you are mommies. And grand mommies. And that one weird dad. And you are used to doing thankless jobs for no pay. You are used to being yelled at about things that are not your fault. You are used to squeezing the budget as far as it will go and then some. You are used to begging and pleading for people to do one ounce of the work you do, just to keep the wheels in motion. And honestly, most of the time, you are measured not by the good that you do, but rather by the “annoyances” you cause. But I see you. I see you working diligently, and tirelessly, so that your kids and your friends’ kids, and the whole elementary school can have a damn snow-cone maker come field day, And your work does not go unnoticed.

Now, let me get to the heart of the matter, the ways I can help you. First let me say that I have been on both sides of the coin. I was not a member of the PTA, then I was just a “give $10 member,” then I was a committee co-chair, then a co-Vice President, then a committee chair at another school, and now currently I am just a “give $20 member” who has been asked repeatedly to help out whenever I can, and the “whenever I cans” are filling up my calendar. I have been part of three different PTAs, including helping one as it transitioned to a PTO. I have written bi-laws, been in charge of an event, stopped by every single teacher to introduce myself and give them a gift. I have laid mulch and planted flowers, collected money and membership forms, sold t-shirts, and stuffed goody bags. I have given another mom the “stop talking you’re wasting all of our time” look on Friday morning meetings so the President didn’t have to. I have researched grants, and play sets. I have led meetings and worked lunch room duty. Jesus, lunch room duty. I have rallied students with a megaphone, I have hauled screaming kinders out of a quickly deflating bounce house. And the list goes on. I, as you can see, am not afraid to get in there and get my hands dirty. And many, many more moms and dads are the same, but sometimes you don’t give them a chance.

Listen, y’all are seen in a different light because you’re not exactly inclusive. You are not exactly shining rays of light in the hallway. You are not exactly welcoming to new parents, or old parents, or odd parents. And sometimes each other. You have a narrow focus, and tend to keep your friends close, when you should be keeping your enemies closer. You need to remember that the PTA is not a popularity contest. It isn’t part of a social status. It’s work. Hard work and a lot of it. You need help. And dear Baby Jesus, I want to help you set your sights higher! Therefore, we need to take a hard look at your flaws. We need to speak some truth into you. And this is going to be hard, but I have to speak directly to each of you, starting at the top*. Ahem…

President: Hey Karyn, waz up, girl?! Can I grab a sec? Listen, I know you are one busy bee, girlfriend, okay! Aren’t we all (hysterical, sad laughter). But listen, you need to slow down girl, like for real. You need to loosen the reigns and ask for some help. No one is asking you to organize the 5K, the bake sell, the school carnival, the fifth grade dance, and all the teacher breakfasts, okay. You put that on yourself. Why, girl? Cause you’re a little bit of a control freak? Sure, hahahahahaha! We all are! That’s why we’re here, but listen, you’re scaring people. No one wants to join the committees you head because they heard about the spring gala and the shit that went down in the parking lot between you and your co-chair afterward. Did you really pull her weave out? Karyn, did you pay that teenager to key her car at Costco? Be straight with me girl, I won’t tell anyone. Certainly not, Betsy. Eek. But for real, slow down, take a chill pill, smile a little more in the hallway to people who live outside of your subdivision, and learn to use the calendar app, your disorganization is tearing us apart. Okay, love you girl, bye!

Vice-President: Patsy, honey, how are you? I feel like we never get a chance to talk. I saw you sit with your hand raised for fifteen minutes last Friday when the Principal asked for opinions on the food truck, but Karyn would not stop talking long enough for you to say anything. Honestly, we all felt the sting when Karyn reached over and put your hand down for you. I feel like we never get to hear your ideas. But you smile anyway. Although, I did catch that thing you said under your breath to Tina the other day about being “voluntold” to work the Book Fair. Listen honey, Karyn is a bitch. We all know this. We also know we have to keep her happy and that none of this shit would be done, if it weren’t for you. But that day in the cafeteria, when you slammed the tray down on her hand on “accident” girl, you validated a lot of us. Never stop being you. You are the glue to this whole damn thing. And I will respect your wishes and cross your name off the ballot next year. I got your back.

Secretary: Tina, daaayuuum, girl, how long you been doing this? Long time? You have what, seven kids now? Just the other d… uhhh, he spit up a little on you, yeah, right, uhhh, yeah, there, ope you got it. You want me to hold him so you can hold the pen, or, okay, okay, yeah, that works too. Just, I don’t want him to get kicked in the head, uhh, so listen, have you ever considered running for president? I mean, you have the skills for the job, and you’re, umm (motioning to all the toddlers and babies in the room) gonna be around for awhile, so, I think you could make some awesome changes. Oh really? Sure. You could totally start now by um, I think you could start by getting Karyn to be a little more open to new people. To new ideas. Maybe finding a good way to get some kinder moms involved. When I was a kinder mom no one in the PTA spoke to me all year. I really wanted to get involved, but I was painfully shy, and honestly honey, if I would have known what a giant clusterfuck this really is, I would have totally joined up then. Because there I was, thinking you guys all had your shit together, and I was the one who was all messed up, but nah. Nah. Oh, you want me to burp him, okay, sure.

Treasurer: Kevin, hey dude. Listen, I know all the ladies want you to be the treasurer because you are “the man” and well, this is The South, so there is a definite belief ladies can’t do numbers, but, no, no, no, I do not want your job. No, I know. Yes, I understand it is hard. No, thank you. Uh huh. Uh huh. Uh huh. Right. Totally agree. Sure raise ’em up right. Okay, absolutely. Yep. Stop! Stop! Do you see this right here?! You have not let me say a damn word! And maybe it’s because you are a man, but I rather think it’s because you’re an asshole. So shut up sometimes and let other people tell you what they think. And train someone else to do this job. Start now, because I guarantee, your name won’t be on the ballot forever. Also, stop saying your kid is too good for this school. That’s not a thing. No kid is too good for a school and no school is too good for a kid. Period. And one more thing, Kevin, I know you walk around here like your shit don’t stink. But I’ve been in the unisex staff bathroom after you, and well… it does.

Communications Chair: Hey Betsy, so glad I caught you! Listen, I did get your 18 emails last night about the use of the school’s Instagram account, and honestly I’m gonna guess that no, we aren’t breaking Rule XVI, Law i of the school conduct code by using a picture of the janitor hoisting up the flag. Uh, huh. Uh, huh. Oh no, I don’t think the threat of a new civil war in any way impacts what we say on our Facebook page, just because, well, we mainly say things like: “Book Fair, Friday Night!” We aren’t like, you know, getting political. Yes, we can be political people. I know you saw me at that rally and you’re nervous I’m gonna fly off the handle, but um, you did take my Box Top access away, and I really needed to get some templates printed off. How bout this? How bout I promise to not talk about politics ever again with you, and you promise to stop making us all sign releases saying that we won’t share pictures of your child at lunch in a public forum. I really don’t think anyone is doing that, so I feel like it is saving us both some time and energy. No, I did not hear that Patsy wasn’t going to run for president next year. Hmm, that is interesting. No, honey. I think you should take a little more time learning the ropes before you throw your hat in the ring. You’re just, well, annoying.

That One Mom Who Said She Would Help a Ton, But Only Shows Up When It’s Convenient: (Long sigh). Hey, Becca. So, are the third Thursdays on a month ending in -er just the best days for you, or, no? Okay. Sure, I get it. Yeah, yeah, sure. You work full-time, two kids, omigod, I know, I know. But listen, everyone is really tired of your shit. You send these hateful emails about all the things we are doing wrong, then I have to passive-aggressively respond all and remind you that you need to be the change you wish to see, you know. It’s getting old. I hate to be so crass with you, but you know where I’m coming from, it’s shit or get off the pot time, Becca. And the least you could do, on the days you are scheduled to show and you don’t, is text a bitch okay. And you know what, this is one of those times when throwing money at a problem does help. So get your husband to write a fat-ass check to the PTA, and we will see if we can make this all work. Okay, girl. Okay! See you in six weeks.

Beautification Co-Chair: Hey, girl, hey! Listen Rhonda, I’ve heard some murmuring after the meetings lately that people feel like you are a little pushy and maybe some of your ideas are, ummm, unrealistic? Ummm, what would you say… uh huh. Oh no, I’m not saying you’re pushy or unrealistic, I’m just saying that maybe you shouldn’t try to put new siding on the school this year, when we are trying to save for new chrome books for the classrooms. Also, a fifteen foot palm tree flown in from Florida would be amazing! I mean, really. But… I don’t know that our money should go there…right now. I know, I know, you and your husband are paying for half the palm tree, but the other $8,000 seems to be big part of our Chromebook budget. Okay, so you talked to the other school down the road and they are getting two palm trees. Okay. Okay! I see. So maybe, I dunno, I’m spit-balling here, maybe we could wait until one of their palm trees inevitably dies, and get it donated to us? Then we can have a dead palm tree too? No? Okay. Here’s all I’m saying. You tend to do things waaaay big! Like off the charts awesome! Yay! But, you’re scaring the other moms, and making a lot of people feel bad. And I know, I know that is not your intention, it’s really just to seem awesome, probably because you lack self-esteem, we all do, ha! But, I just need you to reel it back a bit, okay. I mean, you know I will keep it real, I always said I’d tell you if people are talking about you behind your back. Hahaha! They are.

And that is a start with you, PTA. That’s a start.

Best,

Missy, the forever PTA Mommy

*These are all fictional people, but you know, very real people.

Keep it Positive, Y’all

Something funny has occurred on my Facebook feed. Listen, I know I talk about Facebook way too much, but it is in fact how I stay connected to most of my family members, where I share pics of Jackson, and also where I get my news, besides Jerimiah’s weird, but informative podcasts. The funny thing that happened is all my friends and family members who were/are Trump supporters no longer share Trump things. Instead, they share things like recipes, and positive quotes, and a lot of stuff about God. Then they implore all of us on FB to “keep it positive” by not sharing political stuff. Meanwhile, a year ago that is all they shared, hate-fueled, non-factual, political stuff.

So now here I am wondering: Do they still support Trump or are they FINALLY embarrassed about what they have done? I’m also thinking, nah, I won’t be just sharing positive stuff, because we don’t live in a positive world and those Trump supporters are to blame for it. So, they can keep seeing my political/sad stuff or they can unfriend me. Their choice. You don’t get to run your mouth and say mean and hurtful things, then get a pass because you had a “change of heart”. I see you. I know you. And now I know the kind of person you really are.

I’m thinking about all this today because I am wondering about the next election. I am wondering if they will feel compelled enough to not vote the same way again. They got us into this mess, they should be the ones to step up and get us out. But they won’t. We know that. It is up to us, y’all. I am positive about that. We have to keep doing what we are doing. Bringing the injustices to the forefront, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes people feel. It needs to stay fresh in their minds, in our minds, in all of our hearts. This evil that has taken over needs to be remembered come time for elections. We can’t sweep it under the rug, not now, not ever. Something has changed in our country and there is no ignoring it.

The Georgia Democratic Party came to my door yesterday. The representative was a lovely man, with a deep, deep desire to overturn HB 481, Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act; enact which was introduced this session by the following people:

Ed Setzler, 35th district

Jodi Lott, 122nd district

Darlene Taylor, 173rd district

Josh Bonner, 72nd district

Ginny Ehrhart, 36th district

Micah Gravely, 67th district

It’s important to name the enemy of the people.

It’s also important to say that, while Atlanta Metro is a bright blue dot in a red state, the 7th district still has pockets of deep, deep racial divide. Including, but not limited to, the town of Cumming, Ga who up until the 1990s had a sign at their town entrance warning “N-words” to stay away.

I needed this reminder. We all need this reminder. There is nastiness, racism, injustice, hate, and bigotry in our country and it comes from the top. We aren’t bottling it up. We aren’t sweeping over it with recipes and pictures of dogs playing with sticks. This is real. And the people who no longer want to face it are the people who help make it this way. So no, I won’t be “keeping it positive” to make you feel better. This is us now.

Stay strong, y’all. And remember to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.

M.

Right to Bear a Tomahawk Thrower

Listen, I’ve gone from sad to angry as shit in two days. This here video is about the Second Amendment. You probably don’t want to watch it if you A. Love Trump or B. Have ever said, “…from my cold, dead hands”. The rest of you, enjoy. And call your senators. Get loud.

RIP Zoe (bottom right)

M.

Group 9 Kinda Lit

A few months back my husband got a new phone for his new position at work and it came with a brand-new, shiny phone number. It was a Charlotte number, because that is where we lived at the time. He has never had a Charlotte number. I have never had a Charlotte number. We both still have the numbers we got in Missouri back when I was pregnant with Jackson 11 years ago. It was new and exciting, until he got the text.

One day while at work he got a message that his number was added to a group chat. It was a bunch of numbers he did not know. At first he thought it was a work thing, but all the numbers were Charlotte numbers. All the people he was about to work for had numbers from Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, and the rest of the southeast. Then the group name appeared: “Group 9 Kinda Lit”. He knew it wasn’t me and my friends, again, because the numbers were from Charlotte. So he was puzzled. He was just about to send a “New numb3r who dis” text when the pictures started to roll in. One by one, pics of large, black penises rolled into his new chat.

That evening when he got home he told me what happened.

“Did you screenshot them for me?” I asked, eagerly.

“No! It’s my damn work phone! I don’t want to be in that group or to have pictures of penis on my phone!”

“Did you give them your personal phone?” I hoped.

“What?! No!” He was getting perturbed. “I don’t want pictures of any penis on my phone.”

“Homophobe,” I concluded.

“What?! No! Jesus…” He took some deep breathes while he looked at me in a mixture of pity and awe. “I deleted the conversation.”

Two hours later his phone lit up again.

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!

Pause.

DING! DING! DING! DING!

I raced over to the phone and there they were in all their glory.

“Who is it?” he asked.

“Group 9 Kinda Lit,” I said with excitement.

“Shit,” he ran over and stood next to me. “Tell them they have the wrong number.”

“Nooooo!” I pleaded.

“Yes, dude, I can’t have this on my work phone. Get me out of the conversation.”

By this time hook-ups were happening and I really wanted to know who Tyrone had settled on for Thursday morning “fun” at his house. I was invested.

“What if I just say, ‘Hey you guys! This is Missy!’ Then I send a pic of myself? I mean, they probably wanna be my friend.”

“Uh no, dude. Tyrone does not want to be your friend. He only wants to be your friend if you have a penis.”

“So he wants to be your friend.”

“No dude, I think I might have the ‘wrong kinda penis’ for this group. Give me the phone.”

Then he proceeded to block all of the numbers from his phone, while I stood by his side and said nothing.

So why am I telling you all of this today? Well, I read a quote this morning that said, “Your self-worth is not defined by your sacrifice.” And honestly, I felt that. Hard. I felt it hard and I felt it deep. I felt it hard and deep. Because what I did that day, the sacrifice I made, standing idly by as my husband ruined my dream of being a part of Group 9 Kinda Lit, will not define me. I will press on. I will stay strong.

Until we meet again, Group 9 Kinda Lit.

Until we meet again.

M.

Deep, Deep South

I’m in the Deep, Deep South, y’all. And I’m in it deep. Like fried chicken from the Piggly Wiggly counter, sweet tea at the plantation, carrying a knife in case of gators, must be white to have money, deep. Deep, y’all. I’m only halfway through my first week here and I am already emotionally drained. Things are different here. They are different than any other part of the United States I have ever been. Things here are different physically, financially, and economically. They are different in ways that you can see, and in ways you can feel. The way people look at you. The way people move around in public places. Yes, things are different in the ways that you can see. In the physical. But it’s the things that you can’t that make it so disturbing.

The first thing I noticed crossing over the Alabama line from Georgia is the physical changes. The roads for example, went from smooth, black asphalt to a bumpy red and brown mixture. The potholes nearly doubled, and the trash on the side of the road skyrocketed. By the time we were in Montgomery, a mere two hours from our house, I felt like we had been transported thousands of miles, and by the time we got to Mobile I felt like we had been transported back in time. At a Piggly Wiggly between Biloxi and Gulfport, I overheard a man and a woman arguing over whether or not he would blow his whole paycheck at the casino, and then I watched as a woman made the crucial decision on whether to spend her last dollar on a candy bar (that was marked on sale, but rang up full price) or a Faygo Orange Soda. She picked the soda as it went better with her microwavable shrimp gumbo.

The second or third time my car hit a very large pothole, I asked my husband why the roads were so bad. He mumbled something about low taxes and that we need to check our tire pressure. The next day he sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal with the subject: Thought you might be interested in this, per conversation yesterday. The article title was: The South’s Economy is Falling Behind: “All of a Sudden the Money Stops Flowing”. I will leave a link to it here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-souths-economy-is-falling-behind-all-of-a-sudden-the-money-stops-flowing-11560101610 He is right, my husband. The South doesn’t like taxes. They also don’t like education, healthy food, or relinquishing their divisive ways, and nowhere are those ways more divisive than here in Baton Rouge.

In Baton Rouge there is a very clear economic and racial divide, and it starts near the university. Louisiana State is quite clearly the pride and joy of Baton Rouge, but it seems to go a step further. Something changes when you see the first sign that says: LSU This Way. The streets get better. The houses get nicer. You suddenly don’t feel like you are stuck in Louisiana. I Suddenly felt like I was in Kansas City, or Chicago, or one of those tree-lined streets in (insert small Northern town). Jackson and I spent about an hour walking around campus yesterday. We saw Tiger Stadium, which rivals Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City (home of the NFL team The Chiefs) and shines so brightly at night, that a purple haze can be seen across the Baton Rouge shipyards, deep into Port Allen. We saw Mike the Tiger in his 15,000 square foot enclosure, complete with a waterfall and a rock that both cools in the summertime and heats in the winter. He is a lazy sort of Bengal, having never had to work for his food, nor fight for his dominance. He was born and raised in captivity, and was gifted to the University from a tiger rescue in Florida. He is the seventh tiger to be housed on the LSU campus and a constant reminder of Baton Rouge’s priorities.

We were schooled in Mike the Tiger from other visitors from the moment we stepped foot onto campus, until the moment we left. They beamed as they told us: He likes to run and jump at the fence. He likes to have his belly scratched. There are only two people allowed in the fence. He has a separate enclosure for game day. He used to be placed behind the opposing team in a rickety sort of cage. Psychological warfare. Cool. Very cool. Their pride in this tiger is palpable. The rampant racism that sizzles under the surface like the midday sun, is less noticeable.

There were a group of school children at Mike’s enclosure when we got there. There were maybe twelve or fifteen of them. There were about four adult escorts. The children were running along the enclosure fence, yelling for Mike to come out of his lazy, afternoon nap. They were pumped up to see him. I imagine they had traveled by bus to get to him. They had energy to burn. When Mike would move one of them would yell for the others and they would all crowd around, trying to get the best view. Occasionally one of them would whistle. Jackson joined a group of six or seven other boys at the fence line and was looking at me smiling. An older woman, there with her grandchildren to see Mike, approached me and politely suggested I get my child back away from the enclosure with a wink and a nod. It wasn’t because Mike was up and around. He hadn’t moved from his afternoon siesta. It wasn’t because she feared for my son’s life at the paws of a Bengal Tiger. It was because all the children hanging on the fence line were black.

I’m probably not saying anything new here. It’s the South, after all. And I probably have a lot more to say on the topic. And I feel like I am taking the easy way out by ending here. But sometimes you just have to see something to believe it. And this was my seeing. And now I just don’t know what to do with it.

M.

Home is Where Your Shit Is

We were driving back to Atlanta last weekend, after being in Southern Missouri for a week, and my husband and I were talking about that word Home, and what it means to us. You see, Southern Missouri used to be our home. We lived there for 10 years. We graduated college there. We were married there. We started our little family there. We made everlasting friends there. His mother still lives in Southern Missouri, and we go back to visit from time to time. And when we go visit we say, as we do when we go to Kansas, that we are going home. But lately, I have started to feel different about Southern Missouri. About all the places I have lived before. And over the last few months when someone asks where we are from, I have caught myself saying that we are from Charlotte. And I have been trying to figure out why.

I mentioned this to my husband, while we shoved our mouths full of road trip food and tried to stay awake in the searing dusk. I told him that I think I give that word too much power. That the older I get the more I realize that I am lost and that I don’t really know what makes something, or someone, feel like home. I told him that we use our home too often as a way to define who we are and what we can accomplish. I told him that seems somewhat limiting. He told he wanted to sleep in his own bed. Truth be told, I did too, but I was more caught up in the places I have called home, and how even when I go back to those places, I yearn to be back to my current home.

Living in Atlanta isn’t so bad. In fact, I had built it up to be this monster of a place, and really it isn’t any different than any other city. It has its “good” parts and its “bad”. It has sweet, kind people. And it has people who scare you a little. It has great drivers, and crazy, aggressive drivers. It is just a lot of people, from a lot of different homes, mixed up together in a tiny area trying to get by. And honestly, it feels surprisingly good to be a part of the ebb and flow of the ATL. It, dare I say, feels like home?

So how can Southern Missouri, and Leavenworth, Kansas, and Charlotte, North Carolina, and Atlanta all feel like home to me? The closest I can come up with is the people I am doing this damn life with are my home, and while there are some constants, my husband, my son, my dog, there are other people too. There are the neighbors. The ones in our cul-de-sac now are not that different from the ones who were on our street in Charlotte. We have Mr. Charlie, and Mrs. Kim, and Chris and Christy, and yes even Ginger and Scooter. And they smile and they wave. They check on our house when we are gone, and they pull our trash cans up from the curb if we forget. There are whole communities and lovely people inside each of the places we have called home.

There is my favorite Target, and the one I will go to in a pinch. There is the good Dunkin and the bad one. The clean Kroger and the dirty one. There is that coffee shop at the corner where people sit for a spell and talk about their day. There is that game store that sells comic books and Magic cards. There is IKEA, and TJ Maxx, and Walmart. Dear Baby Jesus, there are the Walmarts.

There are the neighbors who wave and those who don’t. There are the moms in the PTO who are a little crazy, but manage to get it all done. There are the teachers who love your kid like crazy, and the ones you wonder about. There are the post office employees who keep smiling, even when they really want to hit that woman in front of the line who doesn’t know how stamps work. There are the pharmacists who tell the same thing to 100 different people every day. Yes, this pill might make you sick to your stomach. Take it with food, please.

There are the brainwashed Chick-fil-A employees, and the Jesus Saves guys on mopeds. There are the little women who ask which church you belong to and would you like to come to Sunday service? There are dads mowing lawns in New balance sneakers, yelling about gas prices, and how hard it is to start this damn weed-eater, I swear I’m going to buy a new one soon.

There are people asking for money with signs that say, Veteran and Anything Helps. There are the drug dealers who deal in dime bags and the ones who deal in cartel meth. There are the women who wear too much perfume and the ones who insist on make-up to workout. There are the teenagers sneaking a six-pack down to the river, so they can listen to music and make out with that red-headed girl.

And all of these people live in all of these places. And all of these places are home. Someone’s home. And in the end, it doesn’t matter so much which home was yours. Which one you wanted to belong to, which ones you never did. Because for as much as each of these homes is unique, they are also so very much alike. And sometimes we forget that. And sometimes we need a reminder.

“I think maybe home is where your shit is,” I told my husband somewhere between Tupelo and Birmingham.

He smiled. “I think you might be right.”

M.

Bear Witness

The photo that currently serves as my desktop is one that I took at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. in January. It is a photo of words, in black wooden letters against a white wall that greets visitors near the front entrance. The words are from Elie Wiesel, a political activist, professor, writer, and Holocaust survivor. It simply reads, “For the dead and the living we must bear witness.”

I can’t tell you how many times that quote has played in my mind over the last four months. How many times I have wondered how a young boy, imprisoned and orphaned in a concentration camp, came to be a man who could forgive and share, love and trust so openly after what he’d been through. It is true that the human spirit can withstand a great deal, the museum shares that spirit with its visitors. That’s what I appreciate about the museum, the way the stories, the real, heart-wrenching stories, the real, makes-you-so-mad-you-see-red stories, are told in a way to remember the past, and poignantly and pointedly, look toward the future.

Listen, I don’t intend to wax political about the Holocaust or genocide, or any numbers of harsh truths that we face day in and day out in our country, or see on the news about other countries, but I do intend to speak on the “T’ word itself. In a world where we are constantly being lied to, by our own Commander-in-Chief, it is important to rely on facts. It is important to bear witness to what is truly happening in and around us.

There are scientific truths, verifiable facts, that people in our own country are turning against. There are people who can simply turn off the television screen and pretend like there are not children in cages on American soil. There are people saying things like, “Evidence-free” and “alternative fact”. All of this amounts to a lot of not telling the truth. And without truth we can’t bear witness to the children who are in cages. And the young women being sold into sex-trafficking, and the heaps and heaps of danger our democracy is in.

On a personal level, I wonder what good I am doing. What good I could be doing. I wonder how I am bearing witness to the people around me. The men and women who live on the street. The ones who live paycheck to paycheck. The estimated six million people in prison on charges they should not be in prison for. How am I shining a spotlight on the injustices of the minorities, or those living in poverty, or the children in the foster care system, or the children on the streets. I lose sleep over it, and honestly, you should too.

Because a world of people who lose sleep over whether or not their neighbor can afford her light bill, or whether or not that elderly woman you saw last Tuesday trying to cross the street ever made it to the bus stop, is a world that is capable of changing the problems that the generations before us created. A world of people who have empathy, who have heart, who can and will bear witness to those people, is a world where things are capable of changing.

Maybe I am being too naive today. I have my days. Maybe I am feeling too powerless and I am looking for a strength I can’t muster alone. Either way, say you’ll try today. Tomorrow. Next week. Whenever you find the strength. Say you will try to do better. To be better. To worry about thy neighbor more. To help those around your community. To share their stories. To bear witness. To speak out against those who are spewing hate and lies. To correct those who refuse to believe what is really happening. If you can’t do it for me, do it for Elie Wiesel. Do it for the room of shoes. Do it for your own children, whose future is becoming shorter and shorter everyday.

M.

You Are What You Read

In elementary school I participated in the Book It! Program. If you don’t know Book It! it was a program designed by Pizza Hut in the early 1980s. The then-president of the company was called to action by President Reagan, who asked big business to find valuable ways to help with education in America. Pizza Hut stepped up to the plate, literally and figuratively, with the Book It! Program. Book It! awarded elementary school children the chance to read appropriate-level books, in exchange for stickers, buttons, and you guessed it, free pizza! I don’t know much more about the program from the business side, but I did find an informative and fun article here, if you are so inclined: http://mentalfloss.com/article/501605/12-cheesy-facts-about-pizza-huts-book-it-program.

What I remember about Book It! was the awesome personal pan pizzas that you got whenever you finished your “chart”, which was a brightly colored poster board with the names of everyone in your class, and stars representing how many books you had read. For each book you got a sticker. For every ten books you read, you received a coupon for a personal pan pizza. This was a great incentive to kids who were not planning on reading ten books a month, a fun bonus for those of us who were, and a smart marketing move on behalf of Pizza Hut. I mean, parents will do more with less, for an excuse to NOT cook and do the dishes on a Friday night. It was a win-win, and honestly, one of my favorite memories from elementary school. We were sorta poor, and Pizza Hut was not a place we frequented. My mom cooked food at home, so once a month I knew I would get to go out to dinner. It wasn’t anything fancy, but my mom would take me to Pizza Hut. She would get us a water and a Diet Coke, then she would order two personal pan pizzas and we got one of them free. It was a sweet deal, and a fun evening for us because the nearest Pizza Hut was at the mall of sorts, in Leavenworth, called The Plaza. It had some shops in it, an arcade, a book store, ice cream, etc. It was small, but always exciting to go look around with my tummy full of free pizza. Sometimes, if it were near payday, we would walk around and dream of the stuff we wanted, then hit Baskin Robbins just before we drove home.

The other thing I remember about Book It! was how unfair it suddenly seemed one day in fifth grade. I was a fairly smart kid. No rocket scientist, but I was an avid reader, a strong reader, and a lover of books. One day my class came back inside from recess and sat at our desks with the lights off. This was something we did everyday. It was a rest time that Mrs. Coughran, our very patient teacher, bestowed upon us. Mrs. Coughran took this time to turn off the lights and let us rest our minds and bodies before we stumbled into whatever was next on the agenda. Everyday she would read aloud during this time, from a book that we all voted on. We had three choices. We could either listen while we rested our eyes (think: trying to get a quick snooze) or we could color or draw, or we could read our own book silently at our desk. I usually chose to read silently, especially when I was close to completing my ten books for the month.

One particular day I excused myself to the Book It! Chart to see how many books I had left. Mrs. Coughran or Mrs. Simmons, the school librarian, had to pick the books for us, as reading at your appropriate level was one of the requirements. On this day I meandered over to the chart to see which book I had next so I could decide if we had it in the classroom, or if I needed to go find it in the library. That is when the shock set in. My chart looked like this: Island of the Blue Dolphins, Indian in the Cupboard, Number the Stars, Anne Frank, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Giver, etc. etc. Meanwhile, a large number of the rest of the class were reading books like this: James and the Giant Peach, Sarah Plain and Tall, Little House in the Big Woods, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Superfudge, and Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing. See a pattern here? I was getting saddled with these “big” books, which is how I thought of them, when really they were just more advanced subject matter, while my classmates read what amounted, to me anyway, as Dr. Seuss. I was pissed.

I went home that night and told my mom, who really had no idea what I was bitching about. She was convinced my teachers knew which books I should be reading, and what the hell was a Superfudge, anyway? She told me stop complaining, but she did offer to run me down to the public library so I could pick out whatever I wanted. I took the bait.

The next day at silent reading, I looked around the room before I lifted up my desk and snuck out my brand new public library copy of Pippi Longstocking. Now I had read Pippi Longstocking before. In fact, I had read all of them and watched the movies back in, ohh, second grade? But it was funny and short and I didn’t need to look up words in secret in my bedroom at night. I spent the better part of our fifteen minutes trying to hide the cover from Mrs. Coughran, who seemed to be inching closer to my desk. I figured if I could get the book done quickly, I could just run over and jot the title down and have her give me a sticker without her even looking at the cover. It was a tense few minutes.

I was still reading happily along to Pippi’s antics when someone switched the lights on without my knowing. I was so engrossed, I didn’t look up until Mrs. Coughran’s hand touched my arm. I looked up at her, my eyes wide, I had been caught. She knelt down next to my desk and asked me what I was reading. I showed her the cover. That’s a good one, she said, not taking her eyes off of me. I think it is a movie now too. I shook my head and gulped. Are you going to count that as one of your books this week? The question sort of stayed out there, in the air between us. I wasn’t sure what to say. I found the nerve, maybe from Pippi, to say, I think so. Okay, she said with a smile. I think that’s a good idea. But don’t forget that Mrs. Simmons wants you to finish “Number the Stars” this week too. I shook my head. Yes. Yes. The holocaust book, I remembered quickly. She smiled and walked away.

That afternoon as the bell rang, and we all ran to the freedom of our parent’s cars, Mrs. Coughran called for me. I stopped in the doorway, a little bit scared. She put her arms out for a hug and I fell into her. I had been so afraid she was mad at me. Then she looked me in the eyes. Reminded me to look her in the eyes, something she had been working on with me since day one, and she said that she was proud of me for being a class leader in the Book It! Program. She confided that we were probably set up to receive the coveted pizza party at the end of the year because of our hard work, and that I had really helped bring the class reading up. I smiled a shameful smile. Then she said to me, Remember, Missy. You are what you read.

We did end up earning a Book It! Pizza Hut party on the last week of school. We read and ate until we were too sick to read anymore, then we watched old episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy and ate some more. Someone’s mom brought in cupcakes, another brought juice boxes, and Pizza Hut brought boxes of piping hot pepperoni pizza. We felt like royalty.

M.


Trisomy 18 Awareness Day

March 18th is Trisomy 18 Awareness Day. I don’t need to be made aware of Trisomy 18. I was made aware of it in August of 2011. I also don’t think the vast majority of the public needs to be made aware of it. Like a lot of other medical conditions, you don’t really know about Trisomy 18, or its similar conditions, Trisomy 13 and Trisomy 21, unless it comes crashing into your life. But, I do support the Trisomy 18 Foundation. And I do love and admire the people in the world who are out there living with Trisomy 18. And there are people in the world who are out there living with, and caring for those living with, Trisomy 18. So I do find it necessary to educate others on the condition. That’s what I call it, a condition.

Trisomy 18 is a condition caused by an error in cell division, known as meiotic disjunction. When this happens, instead of the normal pair of number 18 chromosome, an extra chromosome 18 results (a triple, hence tri) in the developing baby and disrupts the pattern of development in significant, life-threatening ways, even before birth. A Trisomy 18 error occurs in about 1 of every 2500 pregnancies in the United States, and 1 in 6000 live births. The numbers of total births is much higher because it includes significant numbers of stillbirths that occur in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy.

Unlike Down Syndrome, which is also caused by an extra chromosome, the developmental issues caused by Trisomy 18 are associated with medical complications that are potentially life-threatening in the early months and years of life. Studies have shown that only 50% of babies who are carried to term will be born alive, and only 10% of those babies will live to see their first birthday. Most of the babies who survive are girls.

As I mentioned above, there are people living with Trisomy 18. Perhaps one of the better known children living with this condition is one-time Republican Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum’s daughter, Bella. Bella turns eleven this year. She is a beautiful young lady, with well-equipped parents who have made it their mission to see that she lives a happy and adventure-filled life.

At the risk of being political, I will stop there. As the Santorums and I have little in common, other than having a daughter who was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, but please be aware that not all people in this situation, or with babies who have life-altering disabilities, are capable to care for, and provide for, their children in such an amazing way. Just be considerate.

I’ll end with a link to the story that I wrote about our daughter Lydia. I suspect it will tell you all you need to know about our journey. As always, I welcome comments, questions, and thoughtful discussion on any topic I address. But remember, above all else, there are people in the world who are battling things you can’t even conceive of, things you do not know about, things you are not even slightly educated on. Be kind to all you meet.

Lydia’s Story: http://mudseasonreview.com/2018/10/nonfiction-issue-40/

M.

Some Thoughts Should Stay Private

I don’t usually get political. Bahahahaha! Just kidding, I get political all the damn time. I get political when it calls for it, when it doesn’t call for it, and when I’m drunk at a party and I say some shit like, Jesus, our president is a fucking piece of work, ehhh, then I nudge the very quiet guy next to me, who happens to be my husband, and he whispers, Dude, don’t do this here, it’s my boss’ house… In short, I get political any chance I can, but I wasn’t always this way. It has been in the last five years or so that I have found my voice and have come to educate myself on such topics as: Healthcare for all, women’s reproductive rights, the Supreme Court, our country’s diplomatic ties to China, and the LGBTQQIA+ community, of which I consider myself part of (Heeeyyy girl heeeeeyyyy! 😉 But I’m happily married, sorry for your luck.) And now that I have my voice, well, I don’t plan on shutting up anytime soon. Which leads me to memes that have been floating around my Facebook feed for a few months now. Some of them are photos with words over them, some of them are ugly paintings, some of them are pics of celebrities who apparently say negative things about people in the LGBTQQIA+ community (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, and asexual, for those of you who do not know). Here is one example:

Usually accompanied by something like: “Who can even tell what these people are anymore?!”

I know why many of my friends are sharing this one. They think it’s funny. In fact, it gets tons of likes and laughs and people comment things like, Now that is funny right there! and Truth! I don’t even know what a girl even looks like now (actual comments from FB). But the thing they all of these memes have in common is: Fear. These memes really stem from your fear. And here is how I came to that conclusion.

Let’s say you are at the grocery store. You want to get in and out. You go in there kinda knowing what you need, but you know you are in a hurry. If you’re like me you wrote a list, then you left the damn list on your desk, so you text your husband to ask what you need and he’s all, There was a list on your desk and you’re all, I forgot it and he’s all, This is why I told you to use your phone like a normal person, do you want me to download that app that has the… and you are like, Shut-up I don’t want to do this right now asshole, do we need bananas or not?! And you don’t, so you skip the fruits and vegetables, because ehh, and head straight for the ice cream. So you grab your 12 items or less and run up to the express lane. You are standing there bouncing up and down, while you juggle the ice cream, pack of discounted pork chops, and butter, while you look in desperation at the cashier to see if they are a fast one who has their shit together (can we just take a moment to thank the fast cashiers, they are amazing). Turns out they are fast and that makes you happy, but then you notice something. Is the cashier wearing a bow tie? That’s not part of the uniform, I mean, the men wear the bow ties, but not the women. But those are boobs under that shirt. And she is wearing lipstick, but her hair is buzzed short. You recognize that it’s about a two on the sides because that one time when you decided to cut your son’s hair the salon had to shave the sides to a two after your hack job. Hmm, you think to yourself, is that a man or a woman?

Now I’m gonna stop you right there and ask this: What difference does it make?

I’m going to go a step further and ask, when would it make a difference, in your actual life, to figure out what the person standing next to you on the train, or the person in the car who passed you, or the new co-worker, or the person cutting your lawn, or your insurance person is male, female, both, or neither? And I really want you to consider this, you guys. Like, when do you honestly feel like it matters to know “what a girl even looks like now”. Does it matter if you are hiring someone to be a server or a cashier or a doctor or an accountant? It shouldn’t, because #EqualPayForEqual work and all. Does it matter when the person has an actual hand in your life, like your hair-stylist, your housekeeper, or your yoga instructor? Honestly, the only time I could think that knowing the sex of someone (who wasn’t going to be a sexual partner), for me, is my gynecologist. Hand to the holy, spiritual universe, I only want a woman rooting around in my vagina every year with that long-ass cotton swab. I don’t even care if my gyno was born a woman, I just need to know that she gets it, when she’s pushing my breasts into weird shapes and I’m looking at the ceiling trying not to make eye contact.

You guys, I have been thinking about this for awhile now. Like, when would it actually, really, fucking matter in your normal, everyday life, to figure out what gender a person identifies as, short of them being someone who you are actually interested in seeing their genitals, because you think they are kinda hot, but you know you only like people with penises? The only people who really want to know if they are talking to a man or a woman are usually people who want to degrade the other sex in some way. Either they want to feel comfortable telling a sexist joke, or they want to offer the woman less money for the same job, or they want someone who is the opposite gender so they can flirt with them, or check them out, or feel superior (talking to dudes here). If you know who you are, and what you like, and you are kind, and try to always live your life that way, and you are solid in your sexuality and your preferences, what difference does it make how the person standing opposite you identifies? Answer: I doesn’t.

And here’s the thing, a lot of you say that. You say, I don’t care what you do or how you live your life, just leave me alone. But you don’t leave them alone. You fight for bathroom bills, and to stop Drag Queens from reading to kids. You share memes like the one above, and far, far worse ones, just to get a laugh from your friends who also say, Doesn’t matter to me if they are Black, white, purple, Gay, straight, whatever, I respect everyone who respects me. But they don’t.

So, why, oh why Wise Missy do we continue to talk about the LGBTQQIA+ community like we do? Why don’t we want trans people in the military, why don’t we want to talk about protecting trans kids, why do we still say shit like, I would rather drown my kids than let them ‘choose’ to be gay? Fear, y’all. It’s pretty straightforward, don’t ya think?

We absolutely fear what we don’t know, what we don’t understand, and in some instances, what we are trying very hard to push down in our own lives. Believe me, I know, I was there. My best friend in high school came out in our junior year, and I immediately stopped hanging with her, something I still regret to this day, and do you know why? Cause I was questioning my sexuality too and I thought if she was out, then people would assume I was a lesbian, and then I’d be labeled and ostrisirzised and I didn’t want that. I was afraid. And so are some of you, and that’s okay. It’s totally okay to be afraid of things you don’t understand. We all are. I am totally and completely terrified of sixth grade math, y’all, and you will find me routinely telling whomever will listen, Fuck 6th grade math! We don’t need that kind of shit in our lives!

But, uhh, yeah, we actually need 6th grade math, I just don’t understand it.

Now listen, we usually always wonder, right? Like in the grocery store scenario I would wonder if it was a man or a woman, or how that person identifies, it’s part of human nature. It’s what we have been taught to do. We wonder about people and that’s okay too. What isn’t okay, is using your fear to belittle, berate, harm, or otherwise oppress actual human-fucking-beings because the way they dress, or the way they talk, or whose genitals they like to touch, makes you feel uncomfortable. That’s gross, y’all. Stop it. Keep the wondering to yourself.

Now I know I have totally dumbed down this very complex topic, and let me just apologize to the LGBTQQIA+ community for the injustice I have done here. But please know that my goal is to actually make people think before they share shit like this. Think about the person on the other side of the check-out line, or the train, or the counter. Think for a second how it would feel to constantly feel like you don’t belong in your own body, then have to go out and feel like you also don’t belong in your own world. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Ask questions to those who are living through it, who are striving and thriving. Ask questions to educate yourself, to quell the fear that runs under the surface. Ask questions and stop judging. Those two things can save us all a lot of time, and when we are talking about the LGBTQQIA+ community, it can also save lives.

Be kind, y’all.

M.

It is Never a Good Time for a Waterbed

We are renters. Meaning we choose to rent our houses, rather than buy our houses. Call us what you will: Rotten Millennials, Killers of the American Dream, Bad Economists, Stupid. Whatever, doesn’t hurt our feelings. We don’t mind paying a premium for a house in a neighborhood we couldn’t otherwise afford, that allows us to send our son to a top-tier school. We don’t mind paying a premium to live in a house with a pool, or a house with one of those fancy refrigerators that talks. Because we value things that might be different than what others value, or (gasp!) that might be different than the values of our parent’s generation. One of the things we value is proximity to “cool shit”. Cool shit here being, museums, festivals, children’s libraries, theater performances, amusement parks, easy and quick access to both major highways and a large, international airport for easy traveling, etc, etc.

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Don’t Quote Me on That

Today I was listening to Cory Booker, the U.S. Senator from New Jersey, who is one of 788 people campaiging for a Democratic presidential bid in 2020. For the most part he speaks with clarity, and he has a little of that Barack Obama confidence. Don’t misread this, he isn’t getting my vote in the primary, but I was trying to hear what he had to say. Then he said this, “When I was little my parents used to tell me to shoot for the moon, and even if I miss I would be high in the sky.” I cringed. First of all, that’s not the right quote. Did your parents just not know the right quote, or were you just trying to pull out some oft-recycled inspirational quote to end your speech and you stumbled a bit? I’m going with the latter, and that disturbs me for a lot of reasons, but none that are important enough to articulate here. I realized, however, that there were/are probably some people who shook their heads and said, “Yes, yes, Cory Booker! Fly high!” Both because they love him and because they too, believe in that sentiment, and more than likely find solace in inspirational quotes like that. We all do sometimes, right?

Then I started to think of the quotes that we rely on, and I started to wonder if there are good ones and bad ones. My short answer: Of course there are. So I have compiled a list of some that make me groan when I hear them and some that I live my life by. I am sure our lists are different, but this is my list. Let’s start first with Cory Booker’s favorite.

Shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

Listen, I’m no scientist, but there seems to be a lot of logistics to consider with this one. Like, are you in a rocket ship? Or are you just jumping up really high? Cause, uh, gravity? I mean, I get what is trying to be conveyed here, and honestly people like it so much because the message is very clear: If you try, you won’t regret it. There certainly are a lot of ones like this one, and this just isn’t my favorite. It is important to note that I am from Kansas. Born and raised. And our state motto is: Ad astra per aspera (to the stars through difficulty). Which is sort of a different spin on exactly the same thing.

In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.

Nah, I have a ton more regrets than the things I didn’t do. Like that time I opened the wrong door at a house party and caught sight of a gay-man orgy. Men, y’all. Lots of them. If that is your thing, cool. I love you. But it isn’t my thing and I want to delete it from my memory, but you know what they say, “So much penis in one room, stays with you forever.” Just no. To this quote, unless you are a high school basketball coach with a losing record.

Every moment matters!

I’m going to politely disagree. Once when I was so sick with the stomach flu, that I couldn’t do anything but run to the toilet, I decided to meander into the kitchen. I made it as far as the kitchen sink, when suddenly I had to vomit. So I leaned over the sink and let it all out. At some point, as I was blowing stomach acid up through my esophagus, I realized that I was also shitting my pants. But you know, I couldn’t stop doing either. So, umm, me thinks not every moment matters.

She believed she could, so she did.

Biggest problem with this one is the pronoun. She can’t just believe it and then do it, there are way more steps for her. First, she has to push all the nonsense out of her brain from her childhood like (Girls can’t run and you should only want to be a mom or a princess). If she is able to do that, then she has to work three times harder than he does, then she gets trampled on repeatedly. She then has to reject unwanted advances that promise her success in exchange for sexual favors. Then she has to put her personal life on hold to completely give herself to the work in exchange for 80 cents on the dollar of what he is paid. Then she has to take breaks so she can have the babies, then she has to go at it all again, but this time she has to start back at the beginning again, only now she is also the one responsible for the house, the kids, and getting her career or passions back on track. Y’all, it’s exhausting. We need better quotes for our girls.

Don’t take life too seriously, you won’t make it out alive.

Really? That’s the best we got here? How about real conversations about mortality to curb some of the existential fucking dread some of us live day in and day out with. Also, if you don’t take life a little seriously you will die way before you should.

If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Incorrect. People refuse to do easy stuff everyday. People refuse to return their carts to the cart corral. People refuse to recycle, which y’all, is literally just ordering a second trash can to be placed next to your current trash can and then throwing some things in that one. It is learning the difference between blue and green trash cans. People refuse to learn the difference between their, there, and they’re. People hire someone to clean their baseboards. People don’t put coats on their kids when it is 30 degrees outside. People don’t just do things that are easy. They really, really have to want to do it and there usually has to be a motivation. Monetary motivation works the best.

Difficult roads, often lead to beautiful destinations.

Oh, okay, some of y’all never been to the Ozarks and it shows. Sometimes difficult roads lead to meth houses, with large, round burn marks in the lawn and tin foil on all the windows. Sometimes the pit bull hops the fence and chases your ass back up that difficult road. And since you can’t run, you have to just throw yourself back down the difficult road and roll. Tuck and roll, bitches. Sometimes you roll into the woods and the dog gives up. Sometimes you hit your head on a rock and wake up ten hours later at the hospital, where the doctor accuses you of trying to get “Oxytocin”, and turns you out on the street with a bandage on your head and a fresh rabies shot. Not all roads are that difficult, but they for sure are not all that beautiful either.

The best revenge is success.

The best revenge for who? Now listen, I am not a big fan of revenge. I am more a fan of forgiveness. But, there are some instances where a strongly-worded email will just not do it. But if someone says we can’t do something, and we do it just to avenge our names, have we put energy into something that we really didn’t need to, just in order to make the other person go, “Oh, hum, look at that. They could do it.” Cause honestly that is usually the response. No one cares, dude. You are not that important. That is like when I go, “Oh this person hates me! Waaaaa!” Chances are they don’t hate me. Because in order for someone to hate you, they have to care enough about you to form an opinion. Christ, get over yourself, Missy.

Go big or go home.

Going home, every single time, y’all. Every. Single. Time. I like home. Home is safe and if I go big people look at me and I don’t like people to look at me. Unless it is from a distant and I am in heels.

Who said life is fair?

I like this best when the generation before us asks us that. Like when our parents generation is all, “Who said life was fair, you damn millennials?!” I like it then because YOU SAID IT YOU ASSHOLES! You raised us this way! You can’t have it both ways. You can’t tell us we can be and do anything we want, then when we quit law school to become an abstract artist you can’t be all, “Hey wait. You can’t do that!” YOU SAID WE COULD!

It’s not all bad, y’all. In fact, there are still some quotes that I live my life by. I’m sure some people could find fault with these, but that’s okay, they always have my back!

Snitches get stitches.

Don’t be dumb.

Just because you are offended, does not mean you are right.

Onward and upward.

Bigger the risk, bigger the reward.

I also live by the words of Joan Didion and the original Maria on Sesame Street.

M.

Bourbon and Canal The Finale

Listen, I am not gonna lie, this was a trip of a lifetime, for a lot of reasons. But should I, a 29-year-old mommy, have gone balls to the wall at Mardi Gras? No. Yes. Maybe. I’m not sure. Seems like I may have had more fun had I been 21, single, without child, and totally okay with drug-fueled sex in a dark alleyway. And since there has never been a point in my life where I was cool with that, I’d say no. Probably not. Now I do want to take a moment to say that I am fully aware that this is not everyone’s experience at Mardi Gras. I even know that in New Orleans, Mardi Gras can be, and routinely is, a family affair. Especially for the Cajun and Creole people. What my friends and I did was 100%, young, white-people, tourist Mardi Gras, and I am glad that I did it, one time. I will never do it again. Though I am currently planning a family trip to New Orleans for later this year, and I am so unbelievably psyched about it because that city is beautiful and magnificent and full of history. Now, having said all of that, and properly apologizing to my Louisiana kith and kin (I am so sorry, y’all), let me tell you about the dumbest thing I did in New Orleans.

As I mentioned in Part Deux, the group did a history tour while we were there and Melody, Kasey, and I were smitten with what we learned. Some of what we learned about was the voodoo that surrounds the city and its people. Because of this, we made a point of visiting Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 before leaving town on the last day. We picked this cemetery for a specific reason. It was the best known cemetery in a place of known cemeteries and it was supposedly the final resting place of Marie Laveau, the infamous voodoo priestess. Fun fact, Marie Laveau and I share the same birthday, September 10th. I used to think that was cool.

Anyway, the cemetery itself, on the north side of Basin Street, was a lovely testament to those buried there. Considering we knew by then how some of the New Orleans dead were treated, this seemed to be quite nice. There were some remarkable above-ground vaults and very detailed workmanship on many of the crypts. We took a few snapshots of the different tombs and then quickly made our way to Marie Laveau’s final resting spot.

Legend predicates that you must not touch Marie Laveau’s tomb, rightly so, UNLESS you leave a sacrifice, or she will make your life a living hell. Well, I did not know this at the time. I saw the many trinkets left around the tomb, but paid little mind to them. I had been so caught up with her life, from recently reading about her, that I was eager to just see where she was supposedly resting. I say supposedly because whether or not her remains are in there is constantly disputed. Either way, when I saw it I sort of lost my shit and went right up to it and touched it. And that is when shit hit the fan.

“Reputed burial place of the notorious Voodoo Queen…”
Marie Laveau’s final resting place at Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1.

Marie II’s final resting place at Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1.

It sort of gives me the chills thinking about it now. I feel like I am being watched as I type this, and you guys, I am not “into” this sort of thing. But what I did that day, and the events that transpired over the next year, while most likely, probably, coincidental, serve as a reminder that you should never mess with the dark arts and to this day my plan is to go back to their tombs and place sacrifices on both of them in an attempt to make right my wrongdoings. To show respect. To say I am so very sorry to these two amazing women.

This all happened at the end of February 2011. 2011 turned out to be the worst year of my whole life for a number of reasons, ones I won’t explain here, because well, some of it is just too unbelievable. And I know, I know, most of you are all, Christ, Missy! None of that had anything to do with touching a VooDoo Queen’s tomb and not leaving a sacrifice, but I mean, do we know that for sure? No. No we don’t.

Look it, if you have made it to the end of this series of unfortunate events, bless you child. This has been one bumpy ride and I wrote this strictly for myself and my best friends. A ride down memory lane never hurt anyone, not physically anyway. I do, eight years later, look back at this trip so fondly. I look at my friends, at my MIL, at the rag-tag team of weirdos and I smile. I am glad I did it with them. Glad I lived through a once-in-a-lifetime experience with ladies who know how to take a joke. Know how to laugh at themselves. Know how to have fun, and be sad, and learn, and trust the collective. I am grateful for a husband and son who don’t mind if I run off from time to time with my girls. Who trust I always come home alive and disease-free. I learned a lot on this trip. A lot about people and a lot about myself, which may seem like a lot to put on a silly girls trip to Mardi Gras, but nah, it isn’t.

I also learned about the city of New Orleans. New Orleans is a fickle lady. She’s electric, but she’s gloomy. She is fast, she is slow. She will show you a good time, sometimes at a price. She will fill your mind with things you didn’t know possible, then she will burden you with doubt. She will give you a collection of ugly memories. She will offer up her own kind of repentance. She will make you tingly all over. She will lift you way, way up. And if you let her, she will pull you way, way down. New Orleans is the woman you didn’t know you needed, at a time you didn’t know you needed her. And I love her. And I am afraid of her. And I miss her terribly. And I want her. And on a good day, I plan to see her again. And on a bad day, I wish I never had.

Thanks for going on this ride, y’all.

M.

Toddler Jackson, so very happy to have mommy back. So happy in fact, he had himself some Purple Drank.

Mornings with Missy

Hey you guys! Today I was trying to figure out why Snoopy, the CMPD Patrol Helicopter, AKA my best friend, was out and about in my hood. Then I realized that you guys might not know about Snoopy! So here is a little introduction to Snoop and how we came to know and love and mutually respect one another. Also, there might be someone living in my house that will pop out any second and murder me. No big deal.

M.

Corner of Bourbon and Canal

I’ve been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I should really stop there. Save myself from the inevitable torment that comes every single time I recount the story. I get tense, and anxious. I can’t sleep. My body gets achy, like the flu is about to take over. Or maybe it’s just the ghost of Marie Laveau II, who still rightly frightens me. That’s what it is. I am afraid that if I delve into the past, and recount the events that transpired on those four sleepless nights at the end of February in 2011, the ghost of Marie Laveau II will come back into my life, spitting and shrieking, assuring me all the bad things will happen again. But here I am, acting against my better judgment, just like my time spent on the corner of Bourbon Street and Canal many moons ago. This story is so varied, so full of life, so mysterious and wonderful and dreadful and wrong, I would be a disservice to attempt to tell it all at once, so I won’t. I will tell the tale of my time at Mardi Gras in parts, and if you feel like hopping down this dangerous, but ultimately delightfully stinky rabbit hole, then read on. But it’s certainly at your own risk.

I honestly don’t remember how it started. I’m not sure if my friends, Melody and Kasey, suggested we go, or if my mother-in-law decided she would go and invite us along. Someone decided they would go to Mardi Gras that year, and invited the other. My MIL took the reins, being the only person in the group who had ever been to NOLA before. She cashed in some of her hotel points and got us a pimp view at the Crown Plaza Hotel on the corner of Bourbon and Canal Streets. Right in the heart of the French Quarter, a stone’s throw away from Old Man River, and smack dab in the middle of the Carnival action. I think her friend Peggy was supposed to come along, then couldn’t last minute, but my MIL had already secured Peggy’s PIMP minivan, so she decided to invite a few other ladies she knew from her home town. So my MIL (I won’t use her real name to protect the guilty), Janie, Tammie, Pasty-girl, and Titty Tina (I’m using aliases here for a couple of the girls for two reasons. 1. I don’t remember Pasty-girl’s name but she legit wore pasties on her nips one night, and 2. Nah, it’s really just number 1) all hopped in the van in Southeast Kansas and headed south. Mind you, none of these women had ever been to NOLA, and two of the five had never been outside Southeast Kansas (unless you count Joplin, MO and anywhere in Oklahoma, and I don’t.)

To show what pasties are. This is not Pasty-Girl, this is an image I stole from the internet, cause everybody likes a redhead. Also, our girl’s had tassels on them. I remember cause she made them “spin” for us. We didn’t have a kick-ass sword though. #Regrets

Kasey and Melody and I set out from my house in Branson, Missouri on the morning of February 24th. I guess someone watched my kid, cause yeah, I was the only one who had a kid-kid at the time. A toddler, and I would suppose that my husband took the time off work to stay home with him. What a saint that man is. We left on a Thursday, cause why not? We loaded up my VW Passat, which meant I was the only one who could drive, since I was the only one who could drive a manual. Really smart on my part. (I guess maybe I had the safest car of the lot. Eek!) I should take a minute to inform you all that I was 29 years old. So on the FAR, FAR end of the proper age to be going to Mardi Gras. Kasey was closest in age to me at a whopping 26, and Mel was, well, Mel was giving us the gift of her youth at 24. Which left me as the Mommy, Kasey as the annoying big sister, and Melody as the spoiled baby, as it were. Which is why when the first fight happened, somewhere in Arkansas, over whether or not Kasey should have included Dave Matthews Band on the mix cd, I jumped into “Mom” mode and never really recovered. Which made me, well, uncool, and also a bit out of sorts for the rest of the trip. More on that later.

We wrote our names on the windows, cause that seemed safe…

My MIL left a bit before we did from Kansas, and the plan was to meet up somewhere near Memphis several hours later. Remember, she had a van full of women who had barely ventured outside of Kansas, with her being the only exception. She was in the military for many moons and is a worldly-traveler. Which is why it took so long to valet park the cars at the hotel. She had to explain over and over again that it was totally safe, that we would get Peggy’s PIMP van back, and that they needed to be “fast”, like storming the beaches of Normandy fast, and they should have money in hand to tip all the people helping us. They were confounded. It was painful to watch. But, whoa now, I am getting ahead of myself.

We ended up meeting on some sketch-ass back road along the Arkansas/Tennessee line. If you haven’t spent a lot of time on the Arkansas/Tennessee line, you should thank your lucky stars. It’s scary. This is where we were first introduced to the rag-tag team that came with MIL. We pulled into a gas station to see them all crawling out of Peggy’s van. As Melody, Kasey, and I approached the van, one of the doors slid open and a loud and robust woman said, “Y’all gonna show your titties?!” You guessed it, that was Tina. Then we met Tammie, who I already kinda, sorta knew, and then that one girl, then Janie, who looked like all of our grandmas, explained she had never been outside of Columbus, Kansas. Awesome! This is sort of where the regret started to set in.

After a quick stop we were back on the road. We decided to follow Peggy’s Sweet-ass van, since MIL knew where she was going. However, it wasn’t too long before MIL seemed to not know where she was going and Snoop Dogg (we programed my GPS to sound like Snoop Dogg) was all, “Hey Cuz, you missed your turn back there, ya dig?” And I was frantically calling MIL to tell her what Snoop had said. Meanwhile, the chatter in the van was so loud she couldn’t really hear me, and we kept on going that way. In the end it only added thirty minutes or so, but that was a LONG-ASS thirty minutes or so, Cuz.

Our next stop was at a Walmart right outside of NOLA. By this time we were in Creeper Louisiana and everyone we met asked if we were headed down to “M’gra”, I think. I didn’t understand a lot of what was said to me. Everyone seemed drunk and there was so much Mardi Gras merchandise that we lost all our senses. We loaded up gobs and gobs of 25 cent beads, and noise-makers, ribbon, t-shirts, masks, and King Cake. We left Walmart thinking we were prepared for all that was coming.

Melody in the back seat sucking on Pepsi, eating Blow Pops, and guarding all the Walmart bags! I had a banana in my purse, which leads me to think I was trying to be healthy… #TheMom

Below is a pic of the whole crew, minus me, the photographer, at the Walmart gas station somewhere along Lake Pontchartrain after a supercalifragilistically-long trip to a Walmart, where maybe some of the ladies saw Black people for the first time, I can’t be sure.

Peggy’s sweet-ass minivan, Kasey, Melody (looking sexy as always), MIL, that one girl what was her name?, Janie, Tammie, and Titty Tina (not her given name).

It wasn’t long before we were pulling up to the Crown Plaza on the corner of Bourbon and Canal. It was late, probably 10 pm or so, and we were dog-ass tired, but seeing the lights of the French Quarter and having eaten fifteen or so Blow Pops on the way, gave us a jolt of excitement that carried us through the next half hour or so of the “check-in” process. First there was the valet parking. If you have been to NOLA, to the French Quarter to be exact, and have stayed in a hotel you probably know that there is zero parking. You valet your car, then they take it to some undisclosed location and bring it to you whenever you call for it. This is the case for many big cities with limited parking, and you would know that if you had, say, every been to one of those big cities. My car was cool. We knew what to do. We hopped out to a barrage of people yelling orders, slipping tips into palms, drunk people barfing on the corner, men fighting, and cars honking. We took on thing at a time. We knew we had to get our bags to the bellhop, then hand over the keys, then get to our room, then we would be able to take it all in.

The occupants of Peggy’s Sweet-ass van, however, were totally numb to everything. They stood, wide-eyed, mouths agape, on the street taking it all in at that exact moment, as MIL unloaded the ENTIRE van and yelled at them to get their asses over there and help because we were holding up the valet line and people were pissed. Whew. Melody, Kasey, and I got our shit unloaded, our car sent away, our tips distributed, and quickly found ourselves inside this beautiful hotel with everything we needed except one bottle of purple nail polish that Mel had accidentally left in the back seat. No big deal. Right? Right.

One part of the huge lobby at the fancy-ass hotel. I have a pic of Melody laid out on this red couch, but… ummm… it isn’t “becoming” of a young lady. So I won’t share it here. Email me for the pic.
Kasey, in a fancy-ass chair, in our fancy-ass hotel on Bourbon and Canal.

After we all reconvened, they all had their eyes filled with enough sin, and MIL checked us in, we headed upstairs to our rooms. One of the first things I recall was standing outside our rooms (two doubles next door to each other) and we realized for the first time that we had to share our room with one of the occupants of Peggy’s Sweet-ass van. Our inclination, was to pick MIL, if we had the pick, because duh. But as we were waiting at our door for our keys, Janie walked over to us like she as rooming with us. Now, listen. Janie is a sweet woman. Totes someone who knows a lot, she’s smart, and kind. But I can’t beat around the bush here. She was way outta her league, and honestly she would have been appalled by some of the shit that we talked about. So we all stood politely and smiled at her, waiting for MIL to sort it out. Of which she did by yelling, “Janie, get your ass over here” and pointing to the room with the other girls. Whew. Crisis averted. So that left MIL, Kasey, Melody, and me in one room. And Janie, Tammie, Titty-Tina, and Pasty-Girl in the other.

Let me pause here and explain something. This all happened eight years ago. We are far enough removed from the events that transpired to look back with rose-colored glasses and laugh. But at the time, some of this felt very serious and very wrong and very scary and very amusing and very fun and very fucked up. But again, I am choosing rose-colored glasses and I hope the other ladies are too.

As I said before, this story has to be told in sections. So I think this is a great place to stop. We went out and explored that evening, as late as it was. Melody had her ear licked by a stranger, we drank HUGE ASS beers. We saw a couple having sex. We saw several people vomit. We met our first Voodoo Priestess. We walked with the crowd, as one does at Mardi Gras, as one big wave headed deeper and deeper into the French Quarter. And for all the grossness we encountered that night. For all the laughs we had. For all the beer we drank. It only went down from there. Even after we found out that Titty-Tina had an ex named Bitch Slap who was in town and was coming to find us. But that is best saved for another time.

M.

Enjoy some pics from the first night of Mardi Gras in February, 2011.

Photo Illustration of the ear-licking.

Missouri State must really be proud of me.
That’s the biggest Miller Light I have ever had and ever want to have ever again.
I was pretty drunk. MIL may have been too.
Second Hurricane in my cup? Third? PS… You have to tip these people who are paid to hold this sign if you even think about posing for a pic like this. $2 gets a smirk, for $5 they will take the pic for you.
Voodoo scares Kasey. I wasn’t scared… yet.