Heading Home

We’re heading home today. I’d normally say we are heading back to reality at this point in a vacation, but this time reality never really left us. Or maybe it didn’t leave me. I was keenly aware, all day, everyday, of the realities of life. That masks were necessary, and that even in outdoor events, social distancing is key. It wasn’t part of the original plan to leave so soon, but plans change. You get new information, you make educated decisions. Our new information came like this: 1. Jerimiah was suddenly thrust into a large corporate deal (think a bidding contract worth millions) that he needs to be “present” for. “Present” here doesn’t mean in actual person, as of now anyway, but there’s a chance. He does need high-speed internet though, an issue we’ve been battling out here in the country, and he needs a shirt with a tie, and some semblance of an office (he’s currently working with a large, blow-up dartboard behind him). 2. This global pandemic isn’t going anywhere. Not sure if you’ve seen, but uhh, it’s here to stay awhile, and things are changing daily. A week ago, the state we live in (Georgia) was “steady” and the state we are currently in (Missouri) was on the decline. Now, two weeks later, things have changed drastically. Covid-19 is running rampant again, in both states, and the truth of the matter is I need to be at home, socially distancing from others, in the safety of our bubble, with my immune-compromised husband and my asthmatic kid. It’s the only way. The way of life here is too lackadaisical, and that’s okay for some people, but not for us. The risk, in this case, is not worth it.

So goodbye Table Rock Lake. Goodbye family! Thanks to those of you who were able to visit with us. Thanks for self-isolating for a couple of weeks, thanks for taking our safety concerns seriously. Thanks for the late-night talks, the boat rides, the floating and laughing and singing. Thanks for the best version of a summer vacation we could ask for this year, hopefully we will see you all soon, but if not that’s okay. Your safety, our safety, the collective safety is the most important, and besides, one day life might be back to normal, isn’t that neat? Something to look forward to!

M.

Sharpie Feet

You don’t really know how talented the world is, until you watch a man unroll three feet of paper, take his shoes off, stick Sharpies between his toes and draw a portrait of you and one of your best friends inside a Ruby Tuesday. Then, and only then, as you stand wide-eyed and wondering, do you realize you have witnessed the art of human nature. The art of imagination. The art of so many what-the-fucks that you have dreams, nay nightmares, for weeks about this particular man’s feet. And sweaty toes. And the courage, or is it madness, that some people possess inside their minds and bodies. Am I being a little over the top? Well, sure. But he could have warned me when he asked to borrow my Sharpies.

I worked in the restaurant business for years. Eventually I was in management, where I excelled at training people, making angry customers happy, and was the first line of defense in the interview process. We had this system at Ruby Tuesday. When someone would walk through the door with an application, an unsolicited one, a shift leader, or an assistant manager, or a trusted bartender, whomever was around, would be called to the front door to greet them. Then we’d do what we called a 60-second interview. Maybe it was 60 seconds. Maybe it was 90 seconds. I know there were people I spent less than 30 seconds with, people with sores around their mouths, itching their skin that appeared to be crawling with an unseen bug, while they asked about being paid in cash and whether or not we offered paid training.

Then there were people who caught my attention, who I invited to sit for a spell. I might even offer them a Coke or a Sweet Tea if they tickled my fancy. That’s what happened the day I met the man who would draw me with my own Sharpies. I was back in the kitchen, counting burger buns on the line, when the hostess caught my attention across the heat lamps. “You’re gonna wanna see this,” she said, then motioned to the front door. I gave her a quizzical look, and she mouthed, “I’m getting Erica too,” and headed to the manager’s office. I scrambled to take off my apron and beat them both up to the front. I always liked to get to crazy before Erica. Assess the situation, beat her to the punch, so that later when we laughed about the incident I could say I saw it first.

I jogged up through the restaurant like there was a salad bar emergency, which happened more than you’d feel comfortable knowing, while I smiled at customers who were shoving sliders and soup into their mouths. When I got to the front door there was a man at the hostess stand wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt, holding a roll of white paper under his arms. An application was sitting on the hostess stand. I introduced myself, keenly aware that neither the hostess, nor Erica had made their way up to the front yet, which means they were sitting in the office watching me and this man on video to see what type of craziness was about to unfold.

I introduced myself. He handed me his application and asked me if I wanted to see something “cool as shit.” I looked up toward the camera and smiled. I did want to see something cool as shit, and I knew other people who did too. I escorted him to the larger dining room that was usually only opened for the dinner rush. It was quiet, empty, and a little dark since the lights were still turned down.

Erica and the hostess walked through the “Do Not Enter, Employees Only” door on the side of the dining room from the dry storage area. They were cautious, but smiling. We all knew something great was about to happen, but we had no idea what.

This man unrolled about three feet of paper from his roll, laid it flat on the ground. I moved some chairs out of his way so he would have more room. He stood up, looked at the three of us, and asked if someone had something to write with. I handed him the two Sharpies I had in my shirt pocket. Erica offered the pencil from her hair. He passed on the pencil, but took the Sharpies with appreciation. I hadn’t had a moment to look at his application since we walked over, so I took this opportunity to glance down at it. I don’t remember his name. I don’t remember his date of birth, his previous employer, I don’t even remember if he filled it out completely, all I remember is that while my eyes were looking down at the paper in my hand, Erica pushed her whole body into mine with such force I was inclined to say, “Ouch,” then I looked up at the man. He had suddenly taken his shoes off, stuck the Sharpies in between his toes, and started to work on the paper.

Twenty minutes later, as my best friend Erica (the General Manager of the restaurant) and I looked at caricatures of ourselves on this three foot wide piece of paper, drawn by this man’s feet (and my Sharpies) we didn’t know what to say. We wanted to ask when he could start work. We wanted to ask him to pick up his paper and leave. We were shocked and awed and I offered him a Sweet Tea. He accepted. Thirty minutes later we really just wanted him to pick up his paper and leave. Well, technically we wanted to keep the paper, it was a portrait of us after all, and have him put his shoes back on and leave. But it seemed like he was there for the long haul. He was asking about a burger.

Turns out the man had no experience in the restaurant business. He had no experience as a cook. He had a “slight” drug problem, that he was working on, and while he technically didn’t have an address, he was living in a tent by the lake, he planned on getting one soon enough. He had was a artist, which was plain to see. He was in Branson to be “discovered.” He wanted to be on America’s Got Talent. He wanted to be a Hollywood star, he wanted to know if we could foot him the money for a burger. Foot. Haha. We could not. We did not. He put his shoes back on. Called us assholes, I believe, grabbed his roll of paper, and walked out the front door. Erica shook her head, told me to bleach those Sharpies and went back to the office. This was not her first rodeo. But I was shook.

It would take a couple more years of meeting people like this, seeing people live like this, one job application to another. One choice of drug for another, before the plight of the human condition would start to sting my heart. A couple more interviews with people who said they were “working on getting a place to live,” a couple more transients who were addicted to meth, or crack, or just looking to steal from the bar. I always had a knack for picking the “good” people. I was trusted for my innate ability to read someone’s face, their actions. But the whole experience took a toll on me. Sure there were days where I saw a man draw my picture with his feet and I found it amusing, then frantic, then sad. But then there were really bad days. Days where a single mom, addicted to ice, would walk in with an application and her two-year-old daughter on her hip. And I desperately wanted to give her a chance, but there are just some things you can’t do. So you feed them. You notify child services. You go sit in you car and scream at the top of your lungs for a little while. Whatever it takes to make it all better.

I had a friend say to me one time, “Well you work in the restaurant business, you aren’t exactly working with the highest class of people.” I nodded, and moved on. I knew what he meant, but I didn’t have the energy to fight. To correct him. To explain to him that sometimes, in this midst of the shit, of the counting of burger buns, and of the standing for hours on your feet. In the midst of having ketchup spilled all over your white shirt, or having a man scream at you because there isn’t enough spinach in his spinach and artichoke dip, sometimes those “low-class” people teach you what it means to be human. You learn, then you grow. Or you don’t. Either way, we are all still there.

Miss you, Erica. And the fun that was scattered throughout.

M.

Life Carries On

I’m wide awake at 5:00 am on a Saturday, staring at the crack in the curtain as moonlight, streetlight, and a small sliver of day stream in. I’m awake because I heard footsteps in the hallway. Our house is old. Creaky. Drafty, sometimes. The squeaks were from Jerimiah, who heard our puppy vomiting in the hallway and went to her rescue. He cleaned up the vomit, soothed her jittery nerves, and now they are both asleep again next to me. Why she vomited I can’t be sure. She had her last round of puppy shots. She maybe ate her dinner too fast. She maybe ate another random stick in the yard. Puppies vomit. Life carries on.

I can’t get back to sleep tonight. Today. This morning. I’m thinking about that time, 1998, maybe ‘99, when I was standing in line at the cell phone store. Remember the cell phone store? Not Verizon, or Best Buy. This was a smaller store, where you could buy prepaid flip phones, or pay your AT&T bill, still buy a pager? That store. They were usually in a failing mall, or shopping strip, next to an anchor store like JC Penny or Radio Shack. They had names like Clear Choice Cellular or Cellular One. You had a Motorola Star-tac, or maybe a Nokia with a small yellowed screen. You played a game with a long snake that would maze around in different directions, eating food, while it grew, and grew, and grew. The game was dumb. It was dumb and it was addictive and did it have a name? Maybe it was just called Snake. Just, Snake.

I’m thinking about this time I was standing inside this store and I was waiting, and waiting, and waiting to pay my cell phone bill. It was hot outside, I was in flip flops, it was hot inside the crowded, little store, across from ACE Hardware, next to the movie theater and the arcade that folded a couple years later. I was still in high school. Still learning how the world worked. I had a wad of cash in my hand. Maybe $70. Cell phone bills were expensive back then. But I had a job. I worked the “10 Items or Less” register at Food-4-Less. On the lucky days.

There were a couple women working two different counters. It was all very hectic in there. People were forming a line to pay their bills, people were forming a different line to purchase a phone, a process back then as complicated as buying a car. Long, arduous, taxing. There was another line to look at cases, another to pay their landline bill, buy phone cards to call their families in countries I’d never heard of, let alone visited. Not then. Not that day.

The line was moving. The woman in front of me was motioned to a desk. I was up next. I nervously moved my toes up and down in my flip flops. Someone was waiting in an idling car outside for me. My mom, or my sister, or my best friend. I was keenly aware that I was keeping someone from getting somewhere they needed to be. I was hot. I was sweating in my Walmart flip flops, I was next to be called.

The chime on the door jingled, and the line turned to look. A young man walked in, looked at the line exasperated, and walked inside the store. The line looked back toward the women at the desks. One of them tiredly said, “Come on, whoever’s next.” I started toward her when the man that had just walked in raced past me and got to her desk before I did. I stopped dead in my tracks. I looked around in disbelief. I looked back at the line behind me. They looked at me with searing eyes. Why did I let him cut in line? Why didn’t I say something? What could I have done? Anger. Pity. I stepped back to my spot in line and sank into myself a bit. He finished up his business, then turned to leave. He smiled at us as he walked by. Smirked really. He was no dummy. He wouldn’t wait in line. The woman at the counter motioned me over.

I sank into myself a bit that day and I never fully came back up. I don’t know why. And I don’t know how. I just did. And sometimes when I can’t sleep, when it’s 5:00 am on a Saturday, and my puppy has vomited, and the light from the moon and the sun streams into the cracks of my window I think about that day. About that man. About what nearly-40 Missy would like to say to him. To the line. To the women at the counters. To the little, dumb Missy who sank into herself. And I just can’t sleep.

Hope you’re sleeping peacefully this morning.

M.

Fourth Grade

My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Albright, was sorta a hot mess. At least that is what I thought of her in fourth grade. She seemed a little scatterbrained, when in reality I think she was one of those people whose brains worked faster and harder than she could communicate her thoughts. Plus, she was a fourth grade teacher at a Title One school in the middle of Leavenworth, Kansas, she had other troubles. Jackson’s fourth grade teachers were absolute saints and you won’t change my mind. And he had several of them.

We were still in Charlotte, still at Mallard Creek STEM when fourth grade started, and he got Mrs. Duggins, the teacher I had met at the end of the school year, heard amazing things about, and decided I wanted Jackson to have. I tried to figure out how I could to that, but you have to remember I was new at this school, not well known, and my pull wasn’t that great. But I did know people… Anywho, you know the deal, he got the teacher I wanted him to get, she had some smart kids, and he even tested right into the “Gifted” program during the first week of school, which means he also had a new teacher, Mrs. Campbell. And she was THE BEST!

At this point at Mallard Creek STEM we already knew most of the other teachers, and had our favorites, like the STEM teacher Mrs. Chambers, who introduced Jackson to Lego Robots and his first foray into the STEM Club. Matter fact, in Mrs. Duggins class they had their very own 3D printer! Right there in the classroom! This was a very tech-savvy group of teachers, and Jackson fell right into line with them.

The only problem was that we knew by mid-november we would not be finishing fourth grade there. We had already been told we would be moving to the Atlanta Metro, and I had already started freaking out. Two moved in less than two years! AHHHHH! But Jackson took it all in stride. We often reminded him that had we not left St. James, he wouldn’t have all these awesome new friends, nor would he have been in a school play, or be able to 3D print in his classroom! He recognized his luck and began the process of leaving again.

Before we left though, we did some cool field trip, made some kick-ass robots, and secured some lifelong friends, as one does.

In December of fourth grade, Mrs. Duggins had her baby, and went out for maternity leave. This threw a small wrench in the plan, but I was already very involved with the classroom, I was a room-parent again, and Jackson had a steady stream of work with Mrs. Campbell keeping him busy. Plus their long-term sub, Mrs. Kinney, was sweet and smart and funny, so it all worked out. Jackson became her “tech guy” always getting her connected to what she needed to connect to and generally fixing glitches around the classroom.

Truth be told, Jackson did most of the year there. We didn’t move to Georgia until April 1, 2019 which was the first day of spring break down here, so he only did about seven weeks of school in his new Georgia school, but it was just long enough to make some friends and make a name for himself as a funny, smart, trustworthy guy, which made his transition into fifth grade much easier. In fact, we had only been there for six weeks when I was asked to help out in the classroom, which also made my transition into a room parent easy for fifth grade as well. The more you know… stars and what not.

Mrs. Butler was his fourth grade teacher at Midvale, and she was young and sweet and totally reminded me of Miss Honey from Matilda. As soon as we saw her we looked at each other and Jackson mouthed, “Miss Honey.” I was all, “I know right?!” She turned out to be just as sweet, albeit a little overwhelmed, and she recognized Jackson’s potential pretty early on, which is usually the mark of a great teacher. Though we didn’t get to know her much, we are appreciative of the time she gave to Jackson, and the trust she instilled in us from the beginning.

There you have it, fourth grade. Short, but long. Long, but short. Five important teachers, two schools, and two states. It was much easier than fifth grade, and the whole mess we found ourselves in over the last few months. Though to be fair, it wasn’t so bad. Sad that we missed so much, or feel like we did, but we are healthy, we are safe, and so are all of our friends, so we count ourselves lucky. We hope you are safe too.

M.

New school!
New deal: We were al close we could walk/ride bikes to school!

Third Grade

Ahh, third grade. Third grade was unique because we moved from a large house on the lake in the suburbs, into a small, urban house about four minutes from Uptown (which is what Charlotte calls downtown). It was an amazing experience, living close enough to walk, or catch the train into the city whenever we wanted to, and we did that a lot. Jackson got involved in the Children’s Theater in Charlotte, and met new friends and had plenty of new experiences.

The first half of Third Grade was spent in Mrs. Fay’s class, another one of those “I hope he gets Mrs. Fay next year, ahem, cough, cough” instances, that worked. Again, I think it was because she got most of the higher-thinking kids, but still, we were excited. We knew, early on we might not make it through the year there, and we started to look at alternatives for school.

We knew we wanted to live in Charlotte, as close to Uptown as possible, but we also knew that some of the schools in that area were not great. I researched and researched, trying to find the best fit for him. We weren’t scared of Title One, or anything like that, but by this time Jackson was starting to show a lot of promise in STEM and we knew we wanted him to follow that track, which led us to Mallard Creek STEM Academy.

The great thing about Mallard Creek STEM was that you didn’t need to live in a certain neighborhood to go there. You didn’t even need to live in the Charlotte city limits. We had friends that went to school there that lived in several of the small, suburban towns around the city. And we got lucky to snag the spot of a kid who left mid-year. The stars aligned, you might say, and while we started Third Grade at St. James, we said goodbye on the last day of the semester and moved on to the next school, the next phase of our lives, and while we cherish the memories at the first school, the next one offered us even more fun and excitement. Here are some pics of the beginning of Third Grade. The last ones are of the pillow case his class made him and presented to him the day he left. Which of course he still has!

If I’m being honest when I saw that Jackson wrote, “I have a big house” on his “Things about Jackson” paper, I knew it was time to leave. I didn’t want my kid thinking that a person’s “goodness” or “worthiness” depends on how big your house is, and I saw some of the other kids “About Me” and this was something that several of the middle-class, white kids wrote. Hey, you live, you learn.

The two coolest things about Mallard Creek STEM, in Jackson’s opinion, was the fact that he FINALLY got to wear a uniform. Seriously, he had been asking to go to a school where uniforms were required since he knew that was a thing, I think in first grade. The other cool thing was that it was two stories, a brand-new building, with a brand-new ELEVATOR! I assumed him he would not be allowed to use the elevator, then around his third week of school he fell on the playground and sprained his damn ankle! Guess who got crutches AND access to the elevator?! Geez.

Anyway, the second half of third grade started at Mallard Creek STEM Academy, which was just off I-485 in a Charlotte. Jackson went from being a bus rider, to sitting in morning traffic with me. He enjoyed the ride in though, and it always gave us more time to catch up before and after school. He was placed into a class that just had a child move, and so he filled a spot already there. The transition seemed seamless, at first, though every once in a while he would cry and say he missed St. James. That is when we learned the busier the better for him, and when the first snow hit our Charlotte house, suddenly there were kids knocking on our door to see if Jackson could play, and well, that was it. There were about five kids on our block, and sooner rather than later he forgot all about our “big house” with the pool near St. James.

Kids are resilient. That is what we learned. And we were glad to learn that, because unbeknownst to us at this time, things were cooking in Jerimiah’s office, and he was about to be faced with a choice: Either stay with the company and move, or find a new job. And well, you know what we picked. But before we left for Georgia, we spent 13 glorious months in our tiny (1200 sq. feet) city house in Villa Heights. Where we met amazing people, had so much fun, roamed the city day and night, and ate at the best places, saw the best shows, and truly dug our heels into city-living. Something that was surprisingly fun and easy for all three of us.

Here are some pics from the second half of third grade, in Ms. Achee’s class at Mallard Creek STEM, as well as Jackson involved with the school’s production of “The Wiz Jr.” What an amazing experience that was, and one we never would have had if we hadn’t taken a chance!

Thanks for reading!

M.

He found a little blonde girl to impress, day one. And if you’ll notice here, he isn’t wearing his glasses (and he has his boot on his ankle) because she said, “I bet you’d be cute without your glasses on.” (Eye roll)

Kindergarten

My post yesterday was about fifth grade, and Jackson, so I decided to keep a theme this week, since it is the last week of school here in Georgia and start in kindergarten and work my way up. More for posterity for anything else. More because I have a kid that can’t always remember things like his teacher’s names, or who his friends were, and while the last six years has been a little crazy, and we’ve moved a few times, it is all still fresh in my mind, as it is with most parents. If you want to read about my traumatic and awkward kindergarten experience please read this post. I was not a “normal” kindergartner, but then again, I don’t think I’ve ever been considered “normal.” And lucky, neither has my kid.

Jackson started elementary school in Branson, Missouri. We applied for the preschool program there and he was accepted, though they did tell us that while he could obviously read, knew his colors and numbers, he didn’t know how to “skip” and also, when instructed to build a tower from blocks, he first sorted the blocks by size and color. We weren’t 100% how to take that. They seemed bothered by it, meanwhile we watched the kid next to him licking the table, so… we just took it that our kid was a little advanced and maybe, I dunno, in the wrong place. He was, and he only did half a year of preschool because of it. We noticed he was not really learning, just picking up bad habits from other kids, so we pulled him out. But his teacher was the sweetest, Mrs. Rosebrough, she was just totally overwhelmed by kids licking tables and still pooping their pants, and when we pulled him she was all, “Yeah, Jackson doesn’t really NEED preschool.” Got it. Glad we payed $500 a month until that point. (Let’s talk about how preschool should be free. Another post? Okay.)

In the summer between preschool and kindergarten we sold a vehicle, our boat, and most of the rest of our shit, packed up a U-Haul, and hauled ass to North Carolina in search of better opportunity, which of course we found, and Jackson settled nicely into a school in a suburban part of Charlotte. He was there from kindergarten until halfway through third grade, when we moved into Charlotte and transferred him into a STEM Charter School. But this is about Kindergarten, so Kindergarten we shall discuss.

Look at this:

This kid of mine was made to go to school. Of course he already knew all the basics of kindergarten, how to read, write, and count, but he was such a social kid, who relied on friendships and fun, and Miss Gamble and Mrs. Turner (the BEST of kindergarten) made the classroom just that. Ms. Gamble was a young teacher, just her second year in the classroom, but she was one of those people who was born to do what she does. She recognized Jackson’s abilities quickly and he became a leader in the classroom. Often sitting in the rocking chair behind him reading stories to his class, which they just thought was the coolest. Kindergarten was a rough year for me, and having that classroom and those people around helped tremendously. I often joke that I grew more than Jackson did that year, because it is true.

This is where Jackson met his first little friends, some he still writes letters to or plays Minecraft with! He showed his true self in those years, and set himself on a path different than many of the kids. A top student, a true leader, a kind friend. Loyal, to a fault, and always, always interested in the cute, little blonde girls. (Eye roll)

This is also where his true fashion began to shine. The kids in that class were unbelievably kind (even if some of the parents were a total nightmare) and that kindness, love, and loyalty was fostered by Miss Gamble. The important thing was being nice, everything else would fall into place she said, and it did. When kindergarten was over we were so upset that Jackson and I literally sat in bed and cried all morning on the first day of summer break. We were so thankful to be part of such a wonderful classroom, and we cherish those memories, still today. We would love to reach out and thank every, single one of those parents, teachers, and kids who welcomed us that year, who made us feel special, and who still want to be part of our lives. We hope you always feel as special as we did.

So there you have it. Kindergarten. Not much to report. My kid got a line straight “S” and “P” or whatever letters they used. He maybe was a little advanced, but he learned that kindness was key, how to stick up for his friends, how to accept others, how to adapt, how to make friends, how to keep friends, and how to feel safe somewhere other than home. It set us up for success for the next five years and we could not be happier. Now for the pictures!

Thanks for reading!

M.

Saying hi to Miss Gamble in 2nd grade

Cheese Caves, No Really

Here’s something that blew my mind today and I feel like I should share it with you all: Cheese Caves. Am I the only person in the world who lived on top of cheese caves in Southern Missouri and had no idea of their existence? That’s the real travesty here, that I was surrounded by cheese caves and never even knew it. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, give me a second to sort this out, because you are learning with me in real time. Like, I know y’all think I’ve lost my mind, I’ve finally gone over the deep end, but there are actually caves full of cheese deep underground in Missouri (and a couple other places) and why is this not common knowledge? Or maybe it is and I’m just really behind?

You guys remember all those times I told you about “Gov’ment Cheese” well it’s actually real. And they store it in giant caves underground in Missouri. Maybe that’s why it has that particular taste? I think I said if you take a brick of Velveeta and put it in your shower for a few days, you can get that gov’ment cheese taste. Shit, y’all have no idea how accurate that was.

They store cheese in caves because, well, they can. The temperature and yeast and mold, lends itself to keeping the cheese alive. Is cheese alive? Is it dead? Certainly not. Anyway, in the 1920s the dairy industry was dying so the government bought all the cheese, and has been buying all the cheese ever since and now, even with the gov’ment cheese programs, we still have a cheese surplus. So much in fact, that the government pays people to advertise cheese. That’s one of the reasons we LOVE cheese so fucking much! So first the cheese caves came from necessity, like where else were they gonna store all this cheese? Then they realized the caves were good for the cheese and bam! Now Velveeta owns a 400,000 square-foot cave full of cheese under Springfield, Missouri.

That’s it, y’all. I can’t take anymore today. It’s not so much the cheese caves in general terms that is freaking me out. I mean, I think I sort of knew that cheese was kept underground? Maybe, like I’d heard it before somewhere. It’s the fact that I lived on top of one that is really getting to me. And I didn’t even know it. And I keep thinking I’ll investigate more about these cheese caves, but I’m honestly afraid what I might find. I mean, I love me some Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar, but what if I stumble across Trader Joe’s cheese cave? Or cheese basement? Or cheese socks? I dunno. I don’t have the capacity for that today.

But I guess if you want to do some of your own excavating, do it. Just Google “Cheese Caves” and let the internet astound you once again.

Stay safe and sane. That’s hard, I know.

M.

Involuntary Autobiographical Memory #9

We’ve talked before about Involuntary Autobiographical Memories (IAMs). I’ve told you about how these random memories surface in my mind when I’m doing something that doesn’t require my mind in any way. Then, if I don’t talk about them, or write about them, they keep recurring for a few days. It’s bizarre, and definitely a mental health question, but not all that uncommon. Though I suspect some of us are more susceptible to it, I often wonder if you have to let the memories in. Like does it happen to me more because I tend to sit in a quiet room, with Adele playing in the background, stare out the window, and just think? Or is this because I once invited the memories in and now they just flood me all the time? Does it happen to all of us and some of us just “shoo” the memories away? Sometimes the memories are bad, but mostly they are odd, with characters from my life that I would like to forget, but just seem to hang on. Okay, having said all that, today while I was switching the laundry I randomly remembered our old neighbor Frank.

When I was pregnant with Jackson, Jerimiah and I moved to Branson, Missouri. We were living on Table Rock Lake, which is about 30 minutes from Branson proper, but we were both working in Branson, and we were both going to school in Springfield (Missouri State–Go Bears!) so it made sense to not only move to “town” as it were, because it was close to our jobs, close to the only hospital in a 40-mile radius, and closer to school. Jerimiah’s parents wanted us to buy a house, but truth be told we knew we weren’t made for a life in Branson. It was a stopping point for us, so we rented an adorable little bungalow in a historic part of Downtown, a couple blocks from “The Strip” and walking distance to all our favorite restaurants, bars (not that that mattered anymore), and the aforementioned hospital. I was six months pregnant when we moved in, and the house was so small that when we passed in the hallway my belly pushed Jerimiah out of the way. It was wonderful, and adorable, and super cute. The perfect little place.

The neighborhood was older, well established, and going through a revitalization of sorts. The woman we rented from had bought the bungalow, stripped it to the studs, and renovated it. It was charming, all the way down to it’s original hardwood and super-pimp kitchen. The same was happening to a couple other houses on the street, and some houses were in disrepair, waiting to be snatched up and reno’d (this was at the peak of HGTV in our house and a couple times we thought about snatching up one of those $40,000 houses and doing the same thing, but I always talked us out of it. Remember, no forever homes quit yet.)

Across the street we had a small family, next door was Russ and his odd wife, who would sometimes ride with her head down in the car like she was a wanted person, and diagonally from us was Virgil. Virgil was a 92-year-old man living in the house he built in his 40s. It was a lovely house, and secretly, if I were to buy a house on that street, it would be Virgil’s. We took Jackson over for Halloween only weeks after he was born and Virgil invited us in. He was bent, with a cane and suspenders that had to have been from the 70s, and the biggest, brightest smile. He made us sit on his 1980-something sofa, and eat mints from his candy dish. He wouldn’t hold Jackson, but stood next to me and made faces at him and smiled. He recounted his own children, now gone, and all his grandkids and great-grandkids. We adored Virgil, and from then on always looked out for him, walked Jackson over to say hi, and talk about what was happening in the hood. He was the neighborhood’s official “Nice old man.”

Then one day, while Jackson crawled around Virgil’s deck (which was painted blue to match his house and had blue indoor/outdoor carpet on top of the wood) Virgil and I stood and talked to the mailman. It was this day that Virgil dropped the bomb. His son was coming from Washington to get him. His house was officially sold. Things were changing and although he was nervous, he was also excited to be with his kids and grandkids again. Virgil had been widowed in the 1990s and lived alone in that house since. I was sad for him, but happy at the same time. I inquired about his house and he said his son had already sold it to a friend’s dad. It was all very quick, and it hadn’t even hit the market. I smiled and nodded, I figured another Virgil would be moving in and I was good with that. Later that week we said our goodbyes to Virgil, as his son pulled up with a small U-haul. Seems he left most of his furniture to the new owner. And that was that. No more Virgil. And for a few weeks, no movement at the little blue house on the corner.

It was a Sunday morning. I remember because Jerimiah and I were both at home. It was just after I had quit my job to stay home with Jackson full-time, so we finally had our weekends back, though sometimes Jerimiah would pick up a bartending shift on Saturday to make ends meet. But we were all in bed together, a cranky, teething Jackson between us, Jerimiah was snoring loudly, and I was preoccupied by an unusual noise outside. I slowly got up as to not wake anyone, and walked over to the large windows in our incredibly small bedroom, and peeked out. I was met with a sight. An old, large camper was parked between our house and the empty one next door that was being renovated. There was an alley that separated our houses, and the camper was blocking the alley. I was just sitting there, idling. It’s loud muffler roaring, and something was banging. The door to the camper was open, but I couldn’t see anyone. There was an extension cord coming from the inside, and it was running alongside the camper, then out of my view. I kept looking down the alley toward Mary’s house, the family whose backyard backed up to ours. They used the alley quite a bit, and I wondered if this camper somehow belonged to them.

Jerimiah woke up and asked what was happening and I explained the situation. A camper? An extension cord? He had questions. He crept out of bed to join me at the windows and we watched, for what was so long that at one point he went to the bathroom and started the coffee, and came back. At some point Jackson woke up, and we all went into the living room to get a better view. Bentley our overweight chocolate lab was asleep in the dark living room. When we opened the blinds Bentley lost her shit, wanted to know what the hell that camper was doing, wanted us to take her outside. I obliged, because this camper had piqued my curiosity. Jerimiah and Jackson had already moved on to breakfast, but I was hooked. I leashed up Bentley, threw some flip-flops on, and we headed out the front door. Be careful, Jerimiah told me, holding a bouncing Jackson and pulling pancake mix out. I nodded.

Outside Bentley calmed down, when there wasn’t an apparent human with the camper. She sniffed around the edge of our yard. I was too nervous to walk into the alley. Then suddenly a man jumped out of the camper and yelled something toward us. Bentley flipped out, and I pulled her closer to me, which was always harder than it seemed since she was usually using 110 pounds. He started toward us. Bentley was hackled up, and at this point Jerimiah had noticed. He put Jackson in his walker in the living room and walked out onto the porch.

The man was stumbling, obviously drunk, and very loud. Maybe to talk over the camper’s noises, but Bentley did not like him, and as he walked toward us I was a little scared too. He stopped short of our yard, Bentley barking and nipping toward him. “Is that a damn bear?!” He yelled, pointing at Bentley. Rude, we both thought. I mean, she was a sturdy girl, but a bear? Come on, man. I managed a smile, Jerimiah asked if the man needed anything.

Nope, he just wanted to introduce himself. He was Frank, our new neighbor. He pointed toward Virgil’s house. I was agitated at this point, and asked why his camper was here (motioning toward the alleyway), then he started saying something about this being America and he could park his RV whenever he pleased. That was just the beginning.

It didn’t take long to see that Frank was suffering from mental illness. I tried to be as nice as I could, but when I finally broke down and called the police on him he lost it. One day Jackson and I came home from the park. We had walked, him in his stroller, and I turned the corner to head up our street and immediately noticed that same extension cord from the RV. But this time it was coming from the screen door of Frank’s house. It crossed the street and was plugged into an outdoor outlet at Russ’ house, our neighbor. I was furious. At this point we had several run-ins with Frank, including him day drinking and walking up and down the street screaming about the military and President Obama (he was a conspiracy theorist and one heck of a racist). So I called the police.

It was a nice day and my windows were open so I heard the entire incident. They came over, asked him why the extension cord appeared to be plugged into the neighbor’s house, and explained at length why this was dangerous and also illegal. He spat at them, cursed them, and was very close to being arrested, when he finally unplugged the cord and went inside. The police left. All night he stood on his porch and yelled at our house. I was at my wits end.

We only lived at that house for a few more months, it was all too much. I called the police on him a couple more times, and once he did get arrested. The day we moved he had hoisted a very large sign in his front yard to announce his bid for Mayor. I just shook my head. He seemed to be the epitome of a man let down by the system. It turns out Frank was a Veteran, like Russ had been, but he suffered from PTSD and a myriad of other health problems, and was unable to get the care he needed at the VA. It was sad, and scary, and I wish there had been a better way for me to have handled the situation back then. But I was young and green, and this was my first go round with someone like Frank.

The truth of the matter is, we’ve had other odd neighbors. Other people who have made us scratch our head, call the police, and even try to befriend to just understand them more. But Frank was beyond my help. And to this day I think of him. Wonder if he’s okay. And wish him comfort.

I think of Virgil too. And that little blue house on the corner. I think of the early days. I cherish a lot of memories from that house, those streets, but Frank. Ah, sometimes there are things we’d like to forget, but just can’t. I guess there’s a reason.

Wishing you rest today, Frank. Wherever you are.

M.

April First

Today is our one year anniversary of living in Georgia, and I’m happy to report that things have gone much better than expected. When we got the news about 18 months ago that we were headed to the Atlanta-metro for Jerimiah’s work, I had an actual, fucking breakdown, y’all. Georgia?! I mean really?! We already lived in North Carolina, the plan was to go further north, not further south. Like, ever. Plus, we had visited Altanta, exactly once, and swore we’d never go back. Le sigh. Life is funny, isn’t it.

April 1, 2019 I watched as my son and husband climbed into the car and headed south, then I went to Denver, NC (the place we lived for four of our five years in North Carolina) one last time. I had to see my dentist to finish my “procedure” that had taken months to get done. (I had a tooth implant put in and that day my favorite dentist in the whole world was actually cementing the implant in place.) So the last thing I did in North Carolina was grab coffee from my favorite DD, then I head south to my new home.

When I got here I was overwhelmed to say the least. It is difficult. Sitting alone in my empty house, boxes stacked up all around me, chaos and clutter. Orchestrating movers, and trampoline setter-uppers. Signing paperwork that never ends. Enrolling your kid into a new school system, all while wondering how long you will be here, yeah, it was tough. But this year has been totally worth all of it.

First there are the people we have met. The cool, awesome, kind, welcoming people. I learned about what I thought Southern Hospitality was in North Carolina, then I really learned what it was in Georgia. The Charlotte area has a semi-Southern Hospitality vibe, Georgia, well they live and breathe it. They welcome you, first thing. Ask where you are from, what you like to do. Invite you to join their communities, their churches, their friend circles. I had to work my ass off to meet people in North Carolina, in Georgia it felt sort of like I inherited them. Like it was my right when I moved into the neighborhood. It’s sorta nice. It’s actually, really nice.

Charlotte is a great place. Don’t get me wrong, and I actually love it and would probably move back tomorrow if given the opportunity. And I will fight anyone who says otherwise, and people have said otherwise, even close friends, but I stand my ground. Charlotte has all we need, without the hassle of “big city” living. But I have to say, Altanta has even more. A lot more. And we are just now, a year into this whole Georgia thing, discovering it.

Next is the school system. I know, I know, everyone is partial to their system, but Jackson was in three elementary schools. THREE! And the one he is in here in Georgia is THE BEST we have been in, hands down. And the school he is in is a Title One school! Gasp! (Did I ever tell you guys about his first elementary school, and how the other parents talked about the Title One school down the road? I should have known then.) Anyway, it’s also an IB-STEM school. The only one in the state. And it’s also a popular school for School Choice, which is another cool thing they do in Georgia. Even if you don’t live in our neighborhood you can go to school at Jackson’s school. How cool is that? Giving other kids a fighting chance. It’s also the MOST diverse school Jackson has ever attended, with kids from 50+ countries. It’s great, we love it and are sad that his fifth grade year has been cut short with Covid-19, but whatcha gonna do? Even the virtual learning is top-notch. I can’t say enough about his school and the school system in DeKalb County.

Whew.

Then there is the city itself. It is rife with history. So much history. And people are eager to talk about it, eager to share their stories, and the stories of the people and generations before them. You just have to find it.

Then there’s all the cool stuff. The amusement parks, zoos, aquariums, Centennial Park where the Olympics were held. There’s so much to do in Atlanta that it makes your head spin just thinking about it. And the people are friendly and cool. The art scene is amazing. The city itself diverse in a way that scares most people who aren’t from ’round these parts (mainly racists). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if you don’t like Atlanta it’s because you haven’t spent enough time here (guilty!) Or you’re a racist. The traffic isn’t a real excuse to not like it, all big cities have horrible traffic, so stop with that nonsense and just admit you’re a racist.

(Stepping off high horse.)

So there you have it. The first year of life in the ATL has been so much better than we could have ever imagined, and to top it off, we just found out that Jerimiah is being promoted within the metro area, so we are here for a longer time than we thought we would be. (Had a scare a couple of months ago and thought we might have to move to Florida! Yikes!) But no, we are buckling down here, and we couldn’t be happier.

Thanks Georgia, for your welcoming spirit, your abundant opportunity, and your stone-cold awesomeness. Remember, home is where you shit is. Thanks for welcoming us home, Atlanta.

M.

City Living

I’ve always been partial to living in the city. So close that I can feel the heartbeat of the place. I never knew why. I was born and raised in a small town in Kansas. At least that’s what I tell people, but since I’ve left Leavenworth I’ve realized how much it wasn’t a “normal” small town, like other places I have lived since. Or like the place my husband grew up, or friends who tell me stories about the same 25 kids they went from elementary through high school with. When I was growing up in Leavenworth I felt stifled. But I’m learning it was more about my fear of never breaking the poverty cycle. Of never striking out to other places, meeting new faces, tacking chances. I didn’t want to fall in a rut, stay put, never grow as a person.

But Leavenworth itself wasn’t too bad of a place to grow up in. There was plenty of diversity and culture (for Kansas anyway) and it was a short 20 miles to Kansas City (Missouri or Kansas, take your pick). It had museums (if you took the time to find them), multiple elementary, middle, and high schools. Private and public. It had Fort Leavenworth, the Federal Penitentiary, and we were a cool 20-minute drive the other way to the University of Kansas. It was actually an okay place.

And because my mother rarely had a car when I was very young, we walked a lot of places. Which meant we were always near the places we needed to get to with regularity. The bank, the grocery store, the hospital (just in case) and my school. Which also means we were usually in the heart of the city. In fact, one of the coolest places we ever lived (in my opinion) was in this large house half a block from the main artery in Leavenworth, Highway 7, aka 4th Street. Here I am, standing in the front yard in an awesome bathing suit (probably had me a kick-ass Slip ‘n Slide).

I think I’ve shared this pic before, but for a different reason. Trying to figure out who that truck belonged to (I’m pretty sure it was my sister’s friend Shane) and how/why we had a Polaroid camera. Might have been Shane’s too, as she was obviously very rich with a vehicle and what not.

The house sat diagonally, as you can see, from Burger King. It also shared an alley with Kentucky Fried Chicken, where my sister worked in high school, and Taco Johns was just across the street. Why yes, I do have a weight problem, but no, I have no idea why. Also, that BK had the most KICK-ASS play place, with a ball pit! A Ball Pit! Outside! I mean yeah, it makes me shake with nervousness just thinking about it now, and I’m compulsively dowsing hand sani all over my body, but it was pretty awesome in 1987. And I’m pretty sure my mom would scrape change together on nice afternoons, enough to buy a Diet Coke, and we’d walk over, and she’d sit and sip Diet Coke while I played all afternoon in the ball pit with whatever random kids happened over. So it was sort of like my own personal jungle gym. Cool. Maybe that’s why my pain threshold is so high?

McDonalds had the only indoor play place, with one of those really cool slides and that Hamburgler-Jail thing. So when it was cold, she’d scrounge up enough change for a cup of coffee and a Happy Meal, and we’d walk the extra half mile to McDonalds to play.

I’ve spun off topic. Imagine that.

I lived in the heart of the city. That’s my point, but I’ve lived in the country too. And fallen asleep to the sound of the lake, or the sound of the frogs chirping, or the crickets singing, or the Meth heads next door out at three am looking for their horse that got loose (true story). The country is nice, for awhile, but it just isn’t my thing.

I like the bustle of the city. The ease of public transportation. The events that are always happening. The people to watch. I like the way that, if I fall asleep with my windows open on a cool, crisp spring night here in the Atlanta metro, I can be lulled to sleep by the train, or the ambulance sirens speeding to the Perimeter. It’s not the Burger King play place, but it will rightly do.

Enjoy wherever your home is right now. Just make sure to stay there until it’s safe to go out again.

M.

Bonus Post

I don’t usually post twice in one day, but I decided to make an exception today for fun. We’ve been walking our neighborhood every day in an effort to just get outdoors. We wave at those we pass, but keep our distance. We have noticed that the foot traffic has picked up, which is nice, and some people are hanging lights and signs in their windows. A couple of days ago a house hung up all sorts of flags in their trees. It was pretty cool to look at and it gave me an idea. The next day I drew my “Flags of Quarantine.” It’s just a little something to make you smile. Here: Smile please.

Then today, feeling artsy again, and inspired by Jackson drawing “Virtual Learning Bingo!” for creativity day in school, I drew an adult version as well.

So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this bonus post and our very amateur artwork!

Stay safe out there!

M.

Love and Basketball

I was sad to see that the NCAA basketball tournament was cancelled, among other sporting events, and I’m sure people are bummed by this. I’m bummed by this, but I can’t imagine how the students feel. The players, and coaches, the fans. But mainly the kids. March Madness is the most fun because I love college ball. I’ve talked about my love sports of before. How I played softball for like a decade. How I was on basketball teams in elementary, middle, and high school. Volleyball? Check. Track and field? I was a Varsity thrower. Duh. I even gave tennis and soccer a go once or twice, never cared much for either, but I was an eager participant on most occasions. But if I’m being very honest with myself, softball is still my absolute favorite sport to play, and basketball is my absolute favorite sport to watch, because well, I’m just too slow to be any good anymore. Though I haven’t lost my jump shot. Seriously, play me fool!

And although I especially like college ball, I have been known to hang at an NBA game more than once, especially when we lived in Charlotte. We were big fans of watching the Hornets play, and while we are still Hornets fans, I’ll never forget that time my husband took me to see my all-time favorite team play, The Boston Celtics. Priceless. And of course, I would love to sit court-side at a Lakers game one day. Hey, a girl can dream!

The reason I like college ball better than the NBA is because I don’t like all the slam dunks and showmanship. I really like down and dirty street ball, but there isn’t a “Down and Dirty Street Ball” league* to keep up with, so college it is. I love the way the fans love their team, their school. Some of my best memories as a kid, were the few times I got to go to a KU game at Allen Field House. How and why? I have no idea. I know once I went with my sister and her boyfriend, but I remember going a few times and it was amazing. This was back, way back, when Raef LaFrentz, and Paul Pierce (who went on to play for Boston), and Greg “Big O” Ostertag played. Jesus, why do I still remember those names?

I remember stepping into the front doors of Allen Field House in complete amazement. Here I was, probably fifth grade, totally in love with this school I dearly wanted to be part of (I eventually made it to KU as a student) and I wanted to chant ROCK CHALK! JAYHAWK! KU! on the top of Mt. Oread. And I did. Pure joy.

By middle school I was so in love with basketball, I could tell you all about the KU players, many of the Celtics players, and of course Michael Jordan, the best athlete in the whole world. That’s when I started asking my mom for a basketball hoop. The problem was two-fold. We were poor and we lived in a rental house on the “bad” part of town. If she had invested in a hoop, it would have to be one of those mobile hoops, which were just too expensive and the chances of someone walking off with it we too real. For sure, like they walked away with every bike I had while we lived there.

But one glorious day, I came home to, I shit you not, a piece of plywood painted blue, with a hoop attached to it, nailed into the damn tree in our side yard. Umm, not kidding. I have no idea where/how/what/who. My suspicion is my brother-in-law, or my mom’s friend Ruthie. But there it was, nailed to the damn dead tree in a pit of what amounted to mud, and a little Bir of run down grass, next to what I am pretty sure was a crackhouse. Yep. I played the shit out of that hoop. For years, y’all.

Listen, I don’t know how single moms do stuff, but they do it. Always. And this picture above is just a reminder that I was once the most important person in someone’s life. My mom wasn’t perfect. Far from it. But I’m beginning to see that she was doing the best she could with what she had. With what she knew. With what she was capable of. And I’m always reminded that it takes a village, y’all. And actual fucking village.

Anyway, we moved a few years later, though that was one of the houses we lived in the longest. Even though the neighborhood wasn’t ideal, the house was nice, clean, fairly new, and it was in walking distance to my middle school, and close to my mom’s work. It was just an old shotgun house, on the north side of town, with a wooden basketball hoop nailed to a tree. But it meant the world to me.

Thanks, Mom.

M.

*I was flipping through Netflix the other day and found a show that follows prison basketball. I gasped. Jerimiah yelled, “Shit! No!” and I added it to my “Watch List.”

When in Doubt, Laugh It Out

I got an email from Delta yesterday, and I sucked in my breath because I have a flight scheduled for Friday morning, and I was like, “Shiiiit.” But it was cool. It was just telling me all the precautions they were taking in light of this here pandemic, and that they have a Command Station set up in Atlanta to combat any signs or symptoms of travelers. They didn’t tell me not to fly (that wouldn’t be a best business practice) but they did tell me that any and all change fees are waived right now, and that I can use my credits any other time if I do decide to cancel my flight. No harm, no foul. Thanks, Delta. But I’m flying out on Friday because my nephew is getting married on Saturday in Kansas City, and there’s just some things you don’t miss. But, I am a little nervous because Hartsfield-Jackson has had confirmed cases come through there, they are the busiest airport in all the land, and there are no instances of Covid-19 in KC, which means I may be bringing them gifts unbeknownst to them.

So, I’m anxious now. I wasn’t before, but now I am. I’m scared, and sad about all the deaths. I can’t imagine what China and Italy are going through right now, and I don’t want to know. I don’t want my fellow STUPID Americans (and our government) to muck this up and cause us to end up in bad shape, and worse yet, unable to help other countries who may desperately need our help. It’s bad enough that humans (and some dogs) are combatting this nasty virus, and dying from it, but why do we have to keep pretending like we don’t need to worry about it? We do. But… I deflect my emotions with humor. Which is what I’m fittin’ to do. And I get it, I know. You might find memes about a virus killing people repulsive. Then I’d just skip on down to the bottom where I fill you in on the important stuff. Cause these memes are all I have right now to keep me smiling. (Also, you’re probably not of my generation, and that is cool, it’s just that, well, we deal with things differently.)

Okay, we’ve had our fun, now let’s get real. Here is the most important site to keep updated in your browser:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC is still learning how Covid-19 spreads, but they know it is not airborne. Which means masks don’t help that much. If you just keep your distance (about six feet), don’t touch people, and wash your hands frequently you should be okay. It can spread through sneezing and coughing, but that doesn’t mean it just lives in the air. It means that an infected person, who may not know they are infected, can sneeze or cough and the droplets of their sneeze or cough can land near/on you and you can touch them, then touch your face, which is bad news bears.

The people actually showing the symptoms are the most contagious though. So think the sickest, the people in quarantine or those with really high fevers who just don’t look great, those are the people to stay away from. The rest of the people who have mild symptoms or are not exhibiting symptoms yet are least likely to infect others. Which is good, because if you’re still well enough to say, travel, then you are probably on the lower end of the contagion.

Community spreads are the most common as of now. That’s why whole provinces of China had it spread so easily. So it’s actually unlikely that I would bring the disease to KC, but you know, there’s a chance. It’s more likely that a student at a school gets sick, then the school has an outbreak. Which is why as I write this, the whole Fulton Country school district is out of school for the day. Fulton County is one of the Atlanta counties, and a teacher tested positive for Covid-19 this week, so everyone was out one day to clean the schools. It’s a process, y’all. And thankfully our backwoods-ass, horrible, pro-life governor is taking it seriously. You know, doing something good for once. Though to be fair, it’s the local officials who are handling things smoothly round here. And the big businesses like Delta. And thank the Baby Jesus for the CDC. Did I mention that? Cause if you’re still getting your news from our president, then, umm, I have no words for you. Stop. Just stop.

Okay, hope this helped in some way. It helped me laugh, cry, freak out, then laugh again. Stay safe out there, y’all.

M.

Here’s a great, short video on Coronavirus, how it spread, and how we can help stop it.

Tornado Season

I’ve been working on a post about the series of tornadoes that broke out when we were living in Missouri between the summer of 2011 and 2012, including the Joplin Tornado, of which my father-in-law’s house was destroyed (he survived), and the Leap Day Tornado that hit our town in 2012. We were living in Branson, Missouri at the time and “The Strip” was hit pretty hard. Jerimiah’s office was destroyed, and he had to work from home for a few months before they found a new office in town, but everyone was okay. Shaken up, but okay. I’ve been working on the post since way back in February because I wanted to post it on Leap Day, because you know, topical and what not. But I couldn’t finish it. I was wading through the pictures I took in Joplin the day after, when Jerimiah and I went to help his dad fish his belongings out of the rubble, and I was so sad looking at those pictures that I was having a hard time writing words to accompany them. I was determined to finish the post this week, then yesterday I woke up to the news in Nashville.

Shit, you guys.

When a tornado season starts out like this, it isn’t good. I’ll just say that. And coming from a Kansas girl, a girl born and raised in The Great Plains, or Tornado Alley, whatever you want to call it, this is some severe, severe weather, and it won’t be going out like a lamb. We need to be prepared. We need to take this seriously. We can’t keep standing in the front yard, drinking our ranch dressing straight from the bottle, saying, “Ope, why’d the wind stop so suddenly?” We need to heed those warnings we all know, but have ignored for so long.

There really is no way for you to combat an F3 like the one in Nashville, which ripped through a heavily-populated part of town, or an F5 like in Joplin. There just isn’t. When it comes, it comes and you just have to hold on and hope you make it out. But the world is certainly more technologically advanced now than it was when I was a kid, and there aren’t many more excuses we can use. Listen to the warnings. Stay indoors. Don’t go out when the sky turns that black and gray color. If the wind suddenly stops and it gets eerily quiet, then it seems like a train comes out of nowhere, it isn’t a damn train, y’all. It’s a twister. Get out of your lawn chair, throw your Bud Light to the wind, and run into your basement. This is serious.

I know this seems like a duh to a lot of you, but the hard truth is, there are places in Tornado Alley where the belief is 100% “It won’t happen here.” In fact, I grew up with that notion. In Leavenworth they think because they are “in a valley” that the tornado won’t come to them. In truth it has been years since a big twister has struck there, and it does seem to strike close to them, all around them, in fact, but when I was a kid it never hit Leavenworth proper. Which meant there were a lot of lawn chair watchers. People making fun of people like my mom and me, who spent many a summer nights camped out in my closet (the most interior space, without windows) with a weather radio and a box of Legos for distraction. That’s the behavior of people who have lived through a twister (of which my mom did as a child). She knows how to take it seriously. But so many don’t, and it scares the shit out of me.

When Jerimiah and I were still dating, way, way back in 2003 a tornado hit Lawrence, Kansas. We were living in Lawrence at the time, and he was working at Blockbuster Video on 27th Street. It was the evening, about 7:00 pm, when I drove some dinner up to him at work. I was working at Best Buy, and had gotten off early and decided to treat him. The weather wasn’t looking great, but then again, it was Kansas, in May. The weather never looks great on warm, May nights in Kansas. That’s the peak of the season. When I walked in, I found him standing in the middle of the store with the District Manager. They were discussing whether or not to close up shop. Apparently a line of storms was headed for us and Blockbusters, if you may recall, were nothing but rows and rows of windows so you could look inside and see the rows and rows of projectiles lining the shelves. Jerimiah was at odds with his manager, who wanted to close. Jerimiah, a born and bred Kansas boy himself, was all “Nah, this will pass.” I mean it’s Lawrence, for fuck’s sake. A half a mile or so from the University of Kansas campus. Mother Nature knows better than to mess with the Jayhawks. Turns out he was wrong, terribly wrong.

About half an hour later the DM, Jerimiah, about three employees, and dumb me who stuck around to see how it would play out, were running toward the Baskin Robbins next door in a wind so hard and fast it took my breath away. Then suddenly it stopped. All was still. The sky was as black as I’d ever seen it, and it was quiet. Eerily quiet. The cars at the busy intersection had all stopped. The wind was gone. The rain and chatter, all silenced. We all stood in our tracks halfway between Blockbuster and Baskin Robbins and looked up toward the sky. Just then the sound came. They say it sounds like a freight train, y’all because IT SOUNDS LIKE A FREIGHT TRAIN. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, this funnel appeared. It was all black, just like the sky, so it was hard to see. I was mesmerized. Then suddenly someone pushed me from behind and yelled, “Run!” So I did.

I spent the next ten minutes in the freezer of the Baskin Robbins with the Blockbuster DM, two Baskin Robbins employees, and the rest of the Blockbuster crew (all of us kids). Jerimiah stood out in the ice cream parlor waiting and watching. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. And you certainly won’t find me in any lawn chair because of it.

The twister did hit campus that night. It also took out several apartment complexes, but to the best of my knowledge no one was killed. Injured, but not killed. It was only an F2, we were lucky. Below is the public info statement from the National Weather Service in Topeka. We were in Douglas County on 27th and Wakarusa.

This is how it happens when it happens. It happens in a lot of places, varying degree of damage and winds. Varying numbers on the Fujita scale. A twister can go from an F0 to an F3 pretty quickly. But some people just don’t respect the catastrophic ability, because when you are from a place where this happens all season long, you become numb to it. Until you aren’t anymore.

I don’t know why I’m sharing this story today. I think I was so messed up in my head when I heard about Nashville yesterday, that it brought up all this other stuff. These old memories, and I wondered if many of you don’t know how tornadoes work, why and when they come, that sort of thing. So I guess I’m trying to inform. To plead with you all to take it seriously. Because you just never know.

As for Nashville and Central Tennessee, I hope everyone is okay. Shaken, I know, but in tact for the most part. As I write this they have confirmed 19 deaths, there may be more to come. There usually is. I’m partial to the City of Nashville, to Central Tennessee. It’s one of our favorite places, and it’s a place that has brought my family and friends and me great joy in our lives. I know they will be okay, eventually, but not without help. Because of this I am adding some links to the bottom for ways you can help.

Maybe one day I will share that Leap Day Tornado story, or talk more about the Joplin tornado, but today just stay safe out there, y’all. And help if you can.

M.

How to Help Nashville Right Now

Hands on Nashville

Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund

Three Hundred Posts Later

Yesterday was my 300th blog post and I had planned to do something awesome to celebrate that fact with you guys, then I had a busy week and got one day behind and when I wrote my post yesterday I didn’t realize it was number 300 and then I was actually like, “DAMN IT! I messed up my 300th post.” So this is actually post 301, but if you don’t tell anyone, I won’t tell anyone. Ahem, happy 300th post day! 300 posts seems like a lot to me, especially since I really just started blogging to ensure that I write something, anything with regularity. I guess I can call that a win. I have been writing everyday. In fact I have written everyday for the last eight weeks, some of it made it to this here blog, some of it hasn’t made it anywhere. Yet. Unofficially I want to write every, single day this year. Unofficially I want to do a lot of things. Unofficially I have big plans. Unofficially a lot of those plans involve Cheetos.

But alas, I’m here today celebrating a small victory. Looking for a bigger one out there looming, somewhere. But my 300th post seems something to celebrate. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe 500 or 1000 is more appropriate. But who really cares? I want to celebrate damn it! So to show my apprecation to you all, to those of you who are still around I’m going to share some pics with you that I have not shared before. The sort of pics that never “make the cut” when I’m writing one of my fun, exciting blogs. And hey, I might share an old “Mornings with Missy” video too, because I love you all and you deserve it. Hopefully you can use these “extras” to piece together some idea of who I am. Or, you can screenshot them and use them as ammunition against me when I run for office one day. Or become a famous model, whichever comes first.

But for real. Thanks for hanging with me for 300 (301) posts, and I hope you’ll stick around for my next 300, cause it’s about to get more interesting. I promise.

Thanks, friends!

M.

That time the Marines came to Charlotte and fourth grade Jackson made us make this video…

The above video was filmed in my closet in Charlotte, North Carolina a month or so before we moved to Atlanta. Enjoy!