Rant About Big Pharma

Has this ever happened to you? Let’s say your health insurance forces you to use one type of pharmacy, a mail-order pharmacy. But they will allow for medication at, say, CVS, as long as you get a 90-day supply. The medication you are on is $60 a month retail, and $25 with commercial insurance and a manufacturer coupon. So you go get your 90-day-supply of medicine and are willing to pay the $75, but CVS says that the manufacturer won’t allow a coupon on a 90-day supply. So you call the mail-order pharmacy to get it filled, and the mail-order pharmacy says they won’t take the coupon. Like, they just say no. No reason is given, just no. “We don’t accept coupons of any kind.” So you can’t get the 30-day refill at CVS, because your insurance says no. And you can’t use the manufacturer coupon because the pharmacy your insurance is making you go through won’t take it. No, this has never happened to you? Just wait, I’m sure it will.

Healthcare in our country is so jacked up, that this is the sort of thing that happens on the reg. Now mind you, this happened to my husband and it’s for medication he could probably come off of for a few months, or switch brands, it’s not like brand-specific or saving his life everyday when he takes it. But, he’s been on this medication for several years now and has been paying $45 a month, then one day they just upped their price of the medication. Presumably they had their reasons. I mean, nothing changed in the way they manufacture or sell it. There were no changes to the “fillers” and what not. But I’m trying to be optimistic here and assume that it wasn’t just the pharmaceutical company being greedy bitches (because I have friends who work for big pharma) but…

I keep thinking about people who are not covered by health insurance. We are. And our doctor is cool, and she can probably just call in a new, generic script on Monday, and sure maybe he will have to make an appointment with her, and pay another $30 co-pay, and take an afternoon off work to get it all situated, and that’s fine because he can do that. But what about the people who can’t? What about the people who have no idea there are other options? What about the people who can’t take an afternoon off work, or that extra $30 co-pay will set them back for the week? What about those people? Who is thinking of those people? Not big pharma. Not United Healthcare. Not Optum Rx. Not anyone like that.

My husband was frustrated, sure. But he will get the problem resolved. But there are people who can’t get their situation resolved. There are people who need much more important medication everyday. Life-saving medication. And it is taking months to get things like this resolved. And months can mean death for some of these people.

I’m probably not saying anything you don’t already know, that is if you’re even a little bit “woke” as the kids say. But just in case you didn’t know, this is the kind of thing that is happening. And it’s happening to people like us. It’s happening to the working middle-class. The upper-middle-class. It’s happening to the lower-middle-class. And it’s certainly happening to the people below that. And no one is benefitting from it, but Big Pharma.

I’m sorry if you’re any of those people. I’m sorry if you’re walking through this right now. Ask your doctor for help. Ask your friendly, neighborhood pharmacist. They want to help. They get it. And please, for the love of all that is holy, find out the politicians in your area, and nationally, who are working to make things easier on the health insurance companies and big pharma, and vote them the hell out, y’all. We have to fight for people that can’t go at it alone.

End rant.

M.

Brains are Funny That Way

I have this friend, I used to consider her a devout Christian, like when she’d say things like, “You can pray the gay away” (I’m paraphrasing), I’d wince a bit, but move on because we all have our unfounded beliefs, that’s how our brains work. This week she shared her belief on social media that good, Jesus-following Christians, should not celebrate Halloween. I pushed back. Because sometimes we all need push back. We all need reminded that just because we think a certain way, because we’ve studied what we think is “the” truth, there are many more “truths” out there. I ended up DMing her, hoping to explain this. Because she kept saying she was sharing “The” truth and I felt compelled to remind her, like all religions, these are beliefs, not truths. But I don’t think she understood.

That’s how our brain works though, y’all. When we believe something and we repeat it over and over again, “Halloween bad,” then our brain starts to go, “Oh yeah, Halloween bad. And people who celebrate Halloween, bad.” And I think I have a good handle on this friend. I think she’s just trying to serve people. I think she has a servant’s heart, for the most part, but she hasn’t yet realized that you can’t “Halloween bad” people into doing things. But, the post she shared came from a preacher, and the one she wrote on the topic was sparked by what she heard a preacher say at his service. Which means brimstone and fire is being pushed from the pulpit. I’ve heard pastors like this. I’ve seen what they do. How they work. These people believe they have Christ on their side and can say and do what they want. But, uh, don’t we all have Jesus on our side? Isn’t that like, his thing? Y’all, I know some of you who hang with me a lot get tired of hearing this, but, Imma say it again, and hope it sticks: Jesus is not a primary source. No one is taking you seriously when you throw down some, “Well Jesus told me…” Well, I guess some people are taking you seriously, that’s how preachers work. And you know what is at the root of that work? Fear.

Back to my friend. What was even more disturbing about this whole conversation with her, was the way she spoke of Halloween. The fear she had of it. She said she puts on an armor, practices “spiritual warfare.” She said this in the same breath (rather paragraph) that she said she doesn’t worry about things because “Jesus is above all of that.” So which is it? Do we have to be suited up, live in a warfare mindset to love Jesus, or do we trust that he’s bigger than any of it? If you ask me, any type of warfare is rooted in fear, and I have enough fear to last me my whole life, I don’t need my religion bogging me down with it too.

But that’s how religion works, right? That’s why our brains love it! Religion eases our fears. It gives us something to believe in, to cling to when life isn’t going so well. Religion explains a lot of shit that our overworked brains just can’t process. The meaning of life. Why we die. Religion can, and does, explain a whole host of uncomfortable topics for us. Hard topics. That we just don’t want to deal with. I mean if you ask me the Greeks did it the best. All those awesome Gods to explain away all the shit they just couldn’t wrap their minds around! Persephone was my favorite, the way she made all the flowers bloom! Girl, you so special!

At one point in our conversation I suggested my friend was a good writer, one who had the capacity to make people feel united. Help isolated mommas who were just trying to find a community, and sometimes a church community is all they have. And I suggested she keep to less trivial topics, least she be part of the cog that is turning young people, young mothers especially, away from church. I was thinking more along the lines of sharing her stories of redemption. The goodness in her church community. Helping to solve hated and bigotry with her words. She said that getting people to see that the celebrating Halloween is not Christ-like is VERY important to her. Right now. I guess I was calling her to something she just isn’t ready for. Spiritually or creatively. Because if celebrating Halloween is one of the worst things that we are doing in our world right now, then well, my friend’s brain is already elsewhere.

M.

To the Taffy-pulling Room!

Sonofabitch you guys, I haven’t been watching television enough. Not nearly as much as Mike Teevee, anyway, which is secretly my dream. I’ve been too busy and it shows. Football is apparently back? It’s almost the fall and new shows come out in the fall and I don’t know what any of the new shows are and I’m stressing out because when I do watch television I watch sad Netflix documentaries like that one where that lady with a mental illness lived in an abandoned house for a year and existed solely on apples and then someone found her dead body. Or, hey, what about that one where that lady with a mental illness started collecting ducks, then ten years later the SPCA had to step in and take 96 ducks, geese, chickens, roosters, and turkeys from her house because her husband called them on her and then they got divorced, but not really, then he died from diabetes, so he never got to see how she cleaned up the chicken shed and got a new house but she was only able to do that because he died and she inherited money he was saving for her. Or what about that one where the lady with the mental illness kills her… wait, is there a theme here?

Anyway, I need to branch out and I know it. I mean don’t get me wrong, I watch the jail shows too. Like that one where the teenage girls are given a second chance before being tried as adults and are sent to this like, little girl prison, where they have to go to school and stuff. I’m all caught up on that. Or that one that is filmed in Gwinnett County, Georgia in one of the biggest, most bad-ass jails in the country. I watch that one because Gwinnett County is right next to us. Like my husband works in Gwinnett County. So I mean, we’re like family, the convicts and me.

Speaking of convicted family members, I have several. But that’s another post.

Ohhh, I also watch those home remodeling shows. Not the ones that are on like cable television (we don’t have cable, have I mentioned this?) I watch the ones on Netflix. Like “Tiny House Nation” and that one where that mom and daughter team up in Indianapolis and are like remodeling old homes one-by-one in their own neighborhood. I mean it’s pure gentrification, but their dynamic is funny.

I tried to watch MTV Teen Mom Season 3 the other day but it said I needed an account that supported MTV. Uh… Anyone have a log in for me?

So I guess what I am saying is, hmm, maybe I do watch a lot of t.v.?

Here are the names of the really good documentaries on Netflix now, in case you are so inclined to sit alone and cry one afternoon like me:

There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane

Blackfish

Brother’s Keeper

Audrie and Daisy

Evil Genius

Abducted in Plain Sight

Amanda Knox

Period. End of Sentence.

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

Have You Seen Andy?

God Knows Where

For the Birds

Happy (or mainly sad) watching!

M.

My New Doctor

I had my annual exam this morning with my new doctor in Atlanta. There wouldn’t normally be much to report, it’s usually the same old song and dance. I need to lose weight. Get my medication right. But today I met my new NP, and things were different. She’s sweet, and young, and resourceful. She’s an immigrant, who left Iran ten years ago with her brother to escape religious persecution. She was raised in the Bahá’í Faith. It’s a more progressive sect of Islam. Women are viewed as equals in her religion, but still not in Iran. In Iran she was treated poorly because of her religion. She was not allowed to go to college. Her parents could not own a business, or work for the government, schools, etc. they can only work for private companies. The ones that will hire them. Her life was hard growing up, and if it weren’t for her opportunity to come here, she isn’t sure where she would be.

She didn’t just offer up this information about herself, of course. She just asked a normal “doctor” question.

NP: How many pregnancies?

Me: Two.

NP: How many children?

Me: One.

This is when the doctor usually says she’s sorry for my loss. She may ask what happened, depending on what I’m there for, she may not. Today my sweet, young, Farsi-speaking NP simply said, “Tell me about your baby.”

What came next was a ten-minute conversation about how abortion, especially ones like mine, where the baby isn’t viable, are totally okay in Iran. In most of that part of the world. That this stigma here in the US, we did that to ourselves, and she thinks it’s nuts. “No one,” she told me, “No one in Iran would have expected you to carry your daughter to full-term. You’d seem crazy to them if you did that.” She went on to tell me a bit about her life and religion. She told me she thinks the powers that be in her new country, our country, use the issue of abortion to hide what they are actually doing. It’s all a game with them. They don’t see the women.

It’s weird, and a little funny how things happen. I forget that sometimes. I’ve been torturing myself all week. A wreck with guilt, as I am every year around this time, for something that I just shouldn’t have guilt about.

I was reminded of this today. I was reminded by someone who didn’t need to know my why, or my how, or my when. She just needed to see the struggle in my eyes. She put her hand on my shoulder as I struggled to sit upright, my open gown covering nothing of my upper body, my breasts hanging out all over the place, and she said, “Look at me.” I looked at her. “I would have done the same thing you did. You’re strong. Strong to know the toll that would take on you. Strong mentally to know what was best for you and to do it.” Then she took my hand and helped me sit straight up. Helped me close up the front of my gown. Helped me straighten my crown.

There’s good out there, y’all. Everyday, everywhere. And it comes to you when you need it.

❤️

M.

The In-between Girl

As far back as I can remember I have felt out of place. I’ve felt like I didn’t belong. Like I was one kind of girl, living in a world where it was best to be the other kind of girl. It wasn’t until grad school, and my introduction to the term Imposter Syndrome, that I had some sense of what I had been feeling for so long. Where I come from, people don’t go to grad school. Where I come from, people don’t go to college, some don’t even earn a high school diploma. They opt instead, for their GED at 16 years old or at 40, whenever the need arises for them to get a pay raise at their hourly job. Their hourly job is at the warehouse where they load the UPS trucks at four am, or down at the Walmart, where a HS diploma can mean the difference between $9/hr and $9.50/hr. So you can imagine my surprise, when sitting in a giant auditorium at UNC Charlotte—feeling completely out of place and wondering why the English department let me into their program—when those big, bold letters came across the screen: Imposter Syndrome. My jaw dropped. Me, a small-town Kansas girl who should have just put her head down and taken a job as a receptionist at a doctor’s office or as a cashier at a grocery store, was actually realizing a dream that, to some, seemed ridiculous. Reading those words and finally understanding what I had been feeling my whole life, well it was a surprise, but it was also a new sort of freedom, albeit one that didn’t last very long.

I finished grad school, if you are wondering, and I got by okay. It became clear to other people, pretty quickly, that I should be there. Classmates, professors, my family. But it was never clear to me. I struggled with not fitting in the whole time I was there. I was too old to hang out with the other students, I was too young to feel a camaraderie with the instructors. I was too shy to get involved with organizations, I was too direct to be good at sparking conversation. I showed up to things I wasn’t expected to, and missed events they had planned for me to attend. I didn’t feel like I was in the right concentration, so I switched my major in my second year, where I felt even more out of place than before. The list goes on. And now here I am, a woman from a history of blue-collar workers, explaining why art is important to a family who doesn’t “get me,” while my back is to a world of intellectuals, fellow artists and writers, a new and economically advantaged group of friends who have no idea what government cheese tastes like, and I am feeling out of place, again. I’m stuck in-between these two worlds, and sometimes I don’t think I belong to either.

I’m not unique, then again I’m not claiming to be. There is a whole host of people like me. People who’ve left the Section 8 houses. People who looked into the mirror and decided this life is not for them. People who have scraped their way into college or trade school. People who have taken $100 and turned it into a million dollars. And there they are, feeling like they don’t belong. The weight of their own history pulling them down. I’m not complaining either, even though it might seem that way. I know I did what was right for me. And I know that my family back home is proud of me. They may not get what I do, or what I write, or how I see the world, but I know they are proud that I did what I set out to do. I’m not a cautionary tale, like some of the others, rather an example to follow. And I constantly carry that on my back, as I reach behind and pull up the next generation who are looking for a way out.

But in the moment, in the day to day, I never know how I will feel. I never know how out of place I look toting a $50 bottle of wine to an event I have been invited to because I know someone, who knows someone, who is hosting a writers group that focuses on art as a form of healing. But I feel it. I never know how people will take me when I go back home, run into an old friend at CVS, give them a hug, ask how they have been, with a stupid, genuine grin, as I listen to the happenings of my old hometown. I always wonder if they see me as an outsider. Because I feel like one.

I wish this was a teachable moment of some kind. I like teachable moments, but it isn’t. This is just me, admitting the way I feel a lot of the time. Maybe this will resonate with some of you, maybe not. But if I can, let me just say this: People worry a lot. People feel like they don’t fit in. People feel like outsiders. If you are one of the confident ones, bring those people into your fold. Ask them to participate. Give them a shot. They may never feel like they belong, but at least they won’t feel like they don’t.

M.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Vibes

I love Instagram! Love it. I mainly love it because it allows me to share pics and jokes, man I love a good joke, without actually logging onto Facebook. I used to love Facebook, until my friends and family lost their ever-loving minds. One day they were fine and normal, sharing recipes and baby photos, then the next day they became political strategists. Then the next day they were physicians, deciding that vaccines were bad and that “late-term abortion” means that a woman gives birth to a healthy child at 40 weeks gestation, and then the doctor shoots the baby in the head, while the mom yells, Do it! and sticks a needle full of that good, Mexican meth that was smuggled into El Paso on foot, into her arm, then has sex with the doctor so she can get pregnant again. #GodsPlan


As great as Instagram is, sometimes it fails me too. Like yesterday. I was scrolling my feed, just a scrolling and scrolling, looking for some funny VD Day memes, when I ran across this super-cute, ultra-hip t-shirt (it was an ad) and it had pretty flowers, and pastel colors, great font, all the basic, basic bitch stuff that I love. My eyes were immediately drawn to it (Facebook really knows how to target ads.) I was like, “OHHHHHH, it’s cute!” Then I read the words.


Here’s the thing. I love good vibes. I mean, who doesn’t? If I could live on a beach with Matthew McConaughey, a sack of some really primo weed, and a pitcher of bottomless margaritas all day, every day, I would. No. I actually wouldn’t, for three reasons. 1. I don’t smoke weed. 2. I can’t handle my tequila and 3. He’s waaaaay too active for me. But I like to think it would be Good Vibes Only, right? Right.

But I know myself. And I know my friends. And I know my family. And I know, for the most part, how people operate, and well, it’s not all good vibes all day, everyday. In fact, some days are made of really shitty vibes. Really sad vibes. Really upset vibes. Crazy-busy, justneedaminutetobreathe vibes. Also, my-kid-just-threw-cereal-on-the-floor, I’m-hiding-in-my-closet, and might-stab-my-boss vibes. I have all those vibes. I give all those vibes. I see and hear and feel, all those vibes, from everywhere, everyday. And while it isn’t awesome, sometimes it is necessary. Because sometimes when I’m Good Vibes Only and my husband or my son or my friend is throwing out some Feeling-Super-Overwhelmed-Today vibes, then maybe I can help. But if I’m all, Nah, dog, Good Vibes Only, then maybe they will be less likely to come to me for help. Am I making sense?

I’m not saying this isn’t great. I’m not saying that we should stop sending out good vibes or accepting good vibes, or even anticipating mostly good vibes. I’m just saying, we can’t always live our lives in a Good Vibes Only way. And we shouldn’t be expected to. And we shouldn’t be frustrated with ourselves, or our people, on the days when good vibes are not possible.

I guess all I’m really saying is, I will take you, I will love you, I will listen to you, I will hug you. I will take all your vibes. The good, the bad, and the stabby. And I hope you will do the same for me.

And listen, if that shirt would just change one letter, I would buy it today!

Sending some good vibes your way, y’all, cause I’ve got some to spare today.

M.



Butt Stuff

Hey, y’all, let’s talk about butt stuff. I was listening to a new book the other day by a writer who I think is funny, and witty, and thought-provoking. I was just about to inch up in the car line at Jackson’s school when she started describing a sexual encounter that she had recently had that involved, you guessed it, butt stuff. So I did what any respectable mommy would do, I turned it up so the people in front of me could hear too, because people want to hear about butt stuff, they just don’t want to admit it. Now she was not so polite as to call it that, she had some other choice phrases for it, maybe “butthole licking” and what not, but I’m gonna stick with “butt stuff” as a general topic and I am going to go ahead and say now, I ain’t into butt stuff.

Now I know what you are thinking. This is one of those Doth Protest too Much instances. Like how Mike Pence “hates” homosexuals, or when I get drunk and tell everyone that women need to stop wearing low-cut shirts. Read: Pence enjoys being tea-bagged and I love a good low-cut shirt on a voluptuous lady. But I really don’t like butt stuff. However, I am not shaming those of you who do. You do you, BooBoo! You’re not alone. In fact, there are a million articles about how men and women both secretly like butt stuff, and of course my generation is to blame for it. Like we are all walking around tapping people not he shoulder and saying, “Psst, hey, let me stick this vibrator up your butt.” And then promising a trip to Applebee’s afterward.

There probably isn’t a trip to any once-popular dining establishment that would get me to do butt stuff, which is saying a lot as I once said, “There isn’t much I wouldn’t do for a waffle-dog from that place in Hell’s Kitchen.” But there is something I wouldn’t do, and I’m pretty sure it’s the same thing Meatloaf wouldn’t do, but maybe our reasoning is different. Here is mine: Poop comes from that place.

I know you know this. Or at least I hope you know this, but do you know that poop is there even when you don’t know poop is there? Follow me.

About 12 years ago I went to the doctor because I had some weird stuff happening in my butthole area. (Side-note: Jerimiah HATES when I say “butthole” as in talking about my ACTUAL FUCKING ANUS, but he’s totes fine if I am talking about the Butthole Surfers or calling our 10-year-old son a “butthole-io”. He just hates when I use the word to describe the actual place that poop comes from. Which is hella weird to me and so I do it whenever I can.)

So I set up an appointment with my doctor and her student that followed her around. This student was becoming a Physicians Assistant, and had been placed with my doctor for a year to shadow her. They were both lovely and sweet, until the day the student stuck her finger in my butthole.

It started with them asking about my symptoms. They nodded their heads and listened intently, then my doctor typed some stuff into the computer. She wasn’t one of those doctors who doesn’t make eye contact with you while you’re talking, she was always genuienly concerned while she listened, and she would wait until you were finished speaking to make her notes. But it was a little nerve-wracking to have two sets of eyes on you as you describe the various things that are coming from you.

As I finish up, the doctor decides that it was probably hemorrhoids and I’m like cool, what pill do I take for that? And she’s like, first we have to make sure. And I’m all cool, how do we make sure and she’s all, “Pull your pants down and roll over.” Hmmm. Maybe she said it in a nicer way, but that’s what I heard. Maybe, probably, there was a gown, and probably I had to get undressed in the quiet of the room while thoughts raced through my head like butt cancer and I should have just WebMd’d myself and does that window open?

But here is what I remember with clarity. I was on my side, profusely sweating, the white paper on the bed was sticking to me, I couldn’t move least I expose myself, and the doctor looked over at the student and asked her if she wanted to do it and the student said, “For sure!”

For Sure!

Right as I was about to ask, “Do what?” the student walked behind me, lifted up the gown onto my hips, spread my cheeks apart, and stuck her finger in my butthole.

Let me stop for a moment. In hindsight, I should have known what was about to happen. I mean, I went to the doctor complaining about butt pain. But I was young, 25-ish, and this was my first rodeo. And honestly I thought maybe the doc was going to wheel in an ultrasound machine and look into my stomach, or schedule me for some kind of procedure wherein I was put to sleep while they rooted around. This is to say, I was zero percent prepared for an actual exam to take place that day, at that moment. Even with these two fairly nice women who, thankfully, had small hands.

After the initial surprise, I wasn’t really sure where to look. I mean, I had visited this doctor countless times, she even did my annual exams, but I wasn’t used to looking her dead in the eye whilst someone had their finger in my butthole. When she had her fingers in my vagina, I usually looked up to the ceiling, but I couldn’t do that this time, because I was on my side. So I just closed my eyes. Then I worried that closing my eyes would somehow signify that this was a relaxing pose for me, which made me afraid that they would think I usually have a finger in my butthole.

Luckily the exam didn’t last very long. It was only a matter of seconds, less than a minute for sure, then she pulled her finger out and said, in a very excited tone may I add, “Ohh! Fecal matter!” I looked over my shoulder, along with the doctor, and there on the student’s finger was a bit of, well, fecal matter. She was very excited about this and I was very confused as I did not feel like I should have any fecal matter on deck at that time. In fact, I felt oddly cleaned out.

Then they explained that this was a happy moment, because they could send the fecal matter to the lab and run some tests on it. Then I remembered that time I had to chase my dog around with a ziplock bag to collect some of her fecal matter to have sent to a lab and I was like, holy actual shit, they are testing me for worms! Again, hindsight. They probably weren’t testing me for worms, but you know, I was distressed.

So I got dressed, the doctor and student came back in, and they explained that the student had felt nothing which means it probably wasn’t hemorrhoids and that they would send off my sample, and get back to me. A couple days later she called to tell me that there was nothing unusual and sometimes that just happens and to keep an eye on my BMs, but not to worry. I didn’t have butt cancer.

What did I learn? There is ALWAYS fecal matter in your butthole. Like, always. Even when you don’t think there is, someone, somewhere, can find some if they go deep enough. I know, I know I don’t have to connect the dots for you, well most of you, so let me just say this: The next time you and your consenting partner are fooling around and one of you is all, hmm, butt stuff sounds kinda fun. Please take the image of me, on my side, with a gloved finger in my butthole and a woman screaming, “Fecal matter!” into consideration.

Remember to be safe!

M.