Let Them Go

You’re allowed to just walk away. When a friendship has become complicated or one sided. When it’s clear they no longer have your best interests at heart. When you never know what they’re going to tell you next and you can’t trust it anyway. Let them go.

Even those people you have genuine love for. Even the ones that played a huge role in your life once. Even the friends that used to feel like family. Let them go.

One of the major goals throughout life is growth. Change is constant and, more often than not, welcome in the long run. We aren’t meant to be who we used to be. Or believe and think the things we always did. Self-awareness and personal betterment are the markers of maturity and success.

Sometimes that change is painful. Sometimes that growth means leaving people behind. Even people you once could picture in your future. Let them go.

They’re not for you anymore.

And they will always tell you. Not straight up in as many words. But in their actions, or lack thereof. When someone makes it clear you are no longer important to them, believe them. They will let you know when it’s ok to stop leaving space in your life for them. When you can’t trust a friend to be upfront and honorable with you, that’s not a friendship anymore. When they have changed the rules of the game, you are well within your rights to stop playing. You don’t have to be mad about it. Just done.

You won’t have to beg the ones meant to fill your circle to be there. You won’t have to ask them to be truthful with you. You won’t have to wonder how they feel or where you stand with them because they will always tell you. And show you. When it feels easy and natural, it’s because it is. When you feel comfortable and confident in a group, it’s because that is your tribe. Those are the ones who will walk through life with you. Lift you up when you need it, talk mad crap about those that hurt you, then pick you up and move on with you, hand in hand.

Those people. Those are the ones you keep.

Let the rest of them go.

Dear Gabby

Dear Gabby,

I’m so sorry, honey. I’m so sorry you’re gone. I’m so sorry you spent your last days with the man who would murder you. True, nothing is *proven* in a court of law, innocent until proven guilty, whatever. But we all know what happened. We watched the footage. Too many of us know exactly what was going on in that van no matter how hard you tried to play it down and take the blame. They always know how to talk a good game. They put on a show to the world and everyone says, “what a great young man!”

“She must be handful.”

“Y’all are so good together!”

But it’s not like that when you’re alone, is it? As easily as he turned it on for the police, he can switch it back off. No one would believe you if you tried to tell them how crazy it can get. How alone you feel. No you weren’t perfect. You were 22. You weren’t supposed to be perfect or even good at this whole life thing yet. But you weren’t supposed to be a victim either.

I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry you didn’t know that you didn’t need him. That you were so much better than him. He knew. I’m so sorry you never had the chance to learn any better. And you would have. You would have figured out that you deserved so much more. You would have outgrown him. Maybe you already were. Maybe that’s why you’re gone.

I’m so sorry, Gabby.

But we promise you this, your legacy will be bigger and longer than your sweet, short life was. We won’t forget you. And we won’t let them. We will use your story to hold them accountable. All of them. Your tragic tale, and so many others just like it, will be passed down to the next generation of girls. We will teach them the warning signs. We will teach them to stand up and walk away. We will teach them they are worth so much more.

And so are you.

Gabrielle Petito

1999 – 2021

The New York Times, Petito family

Dear Child, Today is your Birthday

Dear Child,

Today is your birthday. Eighteen years ago today you turned 18. It was 2003. The world had changed and now so would you. You thought you were so smart and so grown. As only experience and hindsight can prove, you’re now painfully aware that you were not. I wouldn’t go back and relive those years for anything in the world. But there are a few things I wish I could tell that girl. That intelligent, ignorant, confident, terrified child.

First things first, LEAVE YOUR EYEBROWS ALONE. The pencil thin brow is just a fad and a stupid one at that. Your brow should begin in line with the inside corner of your eye and taper all the way past the outside corner. This is very, very important. If you heed nothing else I say, please take this to heart. While we’re on the subject, wash your face every night, do not go to bed with makeup on and make sunscreen your friend right now. Nothing less than SPF30 on your face at all times. I can’t believe we used to slather ourselves in baby oil and lay in the sun like strips of bacon with a cancer wish. SPF15 all over your body no matter how long you’ll be outside and at least 30 from the nipples up. You will thank me.

I want you to remember to trust your gut. You will do some extremely stupid things in the next few years, many of which could be avoided by listening to that little voice that often sounds a lot like your mother. Your instincts are good and your intuition is strong. Pay attention to it. Don’t discount it because some rando says it’s fine.

I should reiterate here. When I say you’ll do some extremely stupid things, I mean some really ignorant, truly dangerous, life threatening shit. In the intervening years you will think many times, how did I not die?! The piece of advice on this is, never be afraid to call your parents. You will suffer through some traumatic, painful days all alone because you underestimate how much they love you. When they come pick you up from jail, their disappointment will take a backseat and they will ask where you want to go for breakfast. I didn’t know at the time what unconditional love actually meant. I wish I had known sooner what a solid rock of a sounding board my mom would be.

Anxiety and depression. Call them by their names. Putting a clear label on something takes away half its power because it’s no longer an unknown. Things are scarier in the dark so shine a light on them. The sooner the better. When you correlate what you feel with these terms that can be researched and understood, suddenly it’s just another manageable part of life. Once you realize you’re not alone, it’s easier to deal with. And when it’s still too much, reach out. Please don’t be afraid to admit your weaknesses.

Avoiding your feelings is only a temporary solution. Learn to sit with them. Understand, analyze and break them down. Figure out where they come from and why.

Your pride will be what hurts you most. You build up walls and keep everyone at arms length and act like nothing is important to protect yourself from being hurt. But all you’re really doing is missing out on some wonderful things because you were too afraid to fail or be vulnerable. This is where most of your regrets will lie.

The next thing I wish you knew is that you can walk away. From people, jobs, situations, anything that is giving you a bad vibe or not serving your best interests. As women, especially Southern women, we learn early to be polite. Go with the flow, don’t make waves, don’t make anyone uncomfortable. Except ourselves, which we hide with a smile. You owe no one your time or energy. You can set boundaries politely. You can also throw politeness out the window when the occasion warrants. And sometimes, even if you do nothing wrong you will make unreasonable people upset. But you know what? That’s ok. Sometimes unreasonable people deserve to be upset.

It will still be several years before you begin to realize that you can be a pain in the ass. That’s ok too. Self awareness is one of your best qualities and one that takes a lifetime to sharpen. Know who you are and what you’re worth and never forget it. You’ve already spent too many years trying unsuccessfully to be normal. Eventually you will learn that no one is normal and your specific brand of weird is a lot of fun. FYI, you’re currently carrying a purse with dinosaurs on it.

Your family is amazing, cling to them. Not just your blood family, the one you build from scratch. You will be blown away by the people who become important to you and how they end up in your life in such random ways. No matter the physical distance or how long it’s been, the people who matter will remain. Feel free to cut the rest out. No relationship has to last forever. Important during one period doesn’t buy a ticket to the rest of your life. Your time, energy and peace are precious. Don’t waste them on those who don’t matter.

Regardless of what all the graduation songs say, this is not the time of your life. The best days are still ahead. You will grow into who you are and love her more everyday. She deserves your patience and respect. She’s not perfect, not even close, but try not to be too hard on her.

Love, Mackenzie

Titles are Hard: A Travel Journal

I haven’t written in awhile. Early on I foolishly fell into writing once a week. I don’t know why Thursday became my day to post or why I feel like I’m not allowed to post any other day. I like patterns and this feels like one I accidentally created for no reason but now can’t bring myself to break. I recently decided that once a week was too much so I talked myself into every other week. Twice a month doesn’t sound too overwhelming. But then last Thursday came and went. I didn’t write anything and I didn’t even feel that bad about it.

A lot’s been going on. We have the luxury of being able to pack up and travel at a moments notice but it doesn’t always feel like a blessing. We made the drive from Texas to Indiana then Mississippi and back.

Why not fly, you ask? Because we roll deep that’s why. We always take the dog with us. He’s a good, chill traveler and a lot less trouble than the rest of us. But we’ve also become whack jobs who travel with a cat. I know, man. He’s a pretty good car rider too, all things considered. Our first few road trips he puked within an hour of getting in the car but we were on curvy back country roads. This time we stuck to interstates and he did fine. I also pack for any trip like I might never come home, even though I cycle through the same eight pieces of clothing on a regular week.

Up to Indiana to visit an aging father. As good a visit as it could be. Good days and bad days, like us all. It’s a hard gig having to trade roles with your parents and make choices for them that they don’t necessarily agree with. As a kid, parents make decisions about your life because they’re older and wiser. (For most people. The sad reality is that not every kid grows up with any parent who gives a shit at all. As teens we hate them for caring so much. Only as adults do we begin to realize how lucky we were to have someone to hate.) But the fact of the matter is, given a long enough life, the kids will eventually end up becoming the guardians and voices of reason. A blessing and a curse. And the other side of the coin is that not every aging parent has children who will step up and care when the time comes. So to all the parents raising kids and grown kids re-raising parents, I know you’re struggling. I pray for you. Please know that you’re doing what you have to do and if everyone is happy all the time, you’re probably not doing it right.

Then we headed south to Mississippi. I wanted to see my babies (nieces and nephew for the uninitiated) before school starts. To be fair, only one of the kiddos goes to school. Two of our adults do too though.

Unfortunately I planned poorly because it was moving weekend for the kiddos and their parents. Literally moving next door but I really don’t think it matters, moving always sucks. They’re braver people than I am, that’s for sure. The sheer pain in the ass-ness of packing my crap up would have been enough for me to say no thanks and stay where I was. But they see opportunities and they’re bold enough to grab and run with them. That makes me crazy proud of them. And I also now know to ask more specific questions about what everyone has going on before we plan to come visit. Kidding. Mostly.

Finally back to Texas for a doggie doctor appointment and an unplanned beach day. First time I’ve been in a bathing suit all summer. Grew up in Mississippi, live in Texas, I’m an avowed Gulf girl. It was overcast and stormy with a crazy chilly wind (hello wild weather) and the water temp was like last kid bath water. Honestly, pretty perfect.

In the car again today heading back to the ranch. I feel so accomplished for getting this written because I’ve been in a much more reading than writing mood lately and I’m about to dive back into my book. I finished two great reads on this trip that I highly suggest.

I swear I haven’t forgotten about doing a post on our trip to space camp I just have some kind of writers block about it right now. It’s been three years and I still get tired just thinking about it. Hope y’all have a wonderful two weeks. I’ll be back in a couple of Thursdays. Maybe.

Travel time: six days, Recovery time: 4-6 weeks

Well I seriously misjudged how long it would take me to recover from our Orlando trip. I got back home to my boys last Tuesday and didn’t find the will to unpack or do laundry for a solid week. And that was only because I ran out of clothes I like. The rest of my house is a disaster too and I just nonchalantly watched the cat shred a paper towel all over the floor without batting an eye.

We had an absolute blast. Traveling with your parents as an adult is a very different experience that I highly recommend. My daughter and son in law are my two best friends and going anywhere with them is a riot. The final member of our traveling party was my 10 year old niece, who I learned so, so much from in five days. For example, I learned how to use “boom, roasted” in a sentence, and also how to Dab and when it is appropriate to do so. This one I can’t prove for sure but I have some anecdotal evidence pointing to brain aneurysms being caused by preteens rolling their eyes at you. Boom, roasted.

What I didn’t realize until after the trip was over is that I did not feel the urge to post at all while we were there. I took pictures, albeit far fewer than usual, but something about this trip seemed private, just for us that I didn’t really want to share with anyone else. No offense. I sat at home a few days after struggling to choose photos to share and a caption to go along with them. I’m feeling differently lately about what I want to share with the world and what should be just for my family and me.

As far as tourist swamped theme park trips go, we really did do it right. I’m loath to write about the private event at Universal because I like to think it’s my own personal secret. I discovered Orlando Informer and their meetup at Universal Studios in 2018. I went by myself that year and then mama and daddy got in on it in 2019. It is just about the only way to do Universal Studios. We took it easy in the mornings, had breakfast and played at the pool. Cleaned up and headed into the parks mid-afternoon, just in time for a monster storm. When the parks closed to the public at 7 or 8pm, depending on the night, we had them to ourselves until 12:30am or later. They never say exactly how many tickets they sell to these meetups but I’ve heard it’s capped at about 10% of park capacity and I believe it. Free food, cash bars and a DJ dance party set up in the middle of the street. I always think about how much fun a lot of things would be but I’m so glad I actually talked myself into this one. Mama says she’ll never do Universal any other way again.

The only downside to staying up all night at a private party came Sunday morning when I had to set my alarm for 6:50 to try and enter the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance at Hollywood Studios. I don’t know if my reflexes were too slow from the late night or what but we didn’t make it in on the early window. I gotta say I was not terribly sad about it because I went straight back to sleep. When we all got up at a reasonable hour we had breakfast and then decamped to different hotels for the rest of the trip. Made it to Hollywood Studios by about lunchtime and bee lined straight for Tower of Terror and Rock’n Roller coaster, like you do. We did get into the virtual queue at the 1pm window which worked out perfectly.

My hands down, absolute, no question favorite part of the trip was introducing my son in law, Tb, to the Star Wars land, Galaxy’s Edge. Daddy is an OG Star Wars lover. Like, he and his friends made costumes to wear to the premieres, made the local newspaper and then got a letter from Lucasfilm saying, “Great costumes! Now stop it” OG, so I come by it honest.

Circa 1981

He and I got to experience the new land a couple of years ago and we were both beside ourselves excited for Tb to see it too. Both rides are great. Rise of the Resistance is only a ride in the broadest sense of the word. It truly is an immersive experience and so much fun to be a part of the story. However, I think Smugglers Run took the space cake. If Tb said, “I’m inside the Millenium Falcon!!!” once, he said it one thousand times. Not only was he inside it, he got to pilot the Millenium Falcon and he wore the biggest grin plastered across his face for the next six hours.

My last park day was Magic Kingdom and it was the quintessential Disney World train wreck. Honestly this day deserves its own post if I ever feel up to it because I don’t want to kill this fun piece by griping about how poorly Magic Kingdom seems to be running these days. They have their own giant shoes to fill if they want those of us who grew up with the Mouse to stay in the family and pass the love on to ours. Nostalgia can only take you so far.

All in all, so much fun, so exhausting and so very good to be out in the world again. I couldn’t have asked for a better travel group and I’m so proud of the kiddo for hanging tough with us. She’s so cool and mature I often forget she’s only 10 and I definitely forget what a pain I was at 10. And 20. And yesterday. I think she had a good time too because we’re already making plans for future trips. Next time we’ll probably do something more chill and relaxing though, like running with the bulls in Pamplona.

Goodbye Ranch, Hello Anxiety

I’m sitting in the airport for the first time in 18 months. Interestingly, or maybe not, I’m heading to the same place now that I was then. Just a few months before the world shut down and life as we knew it was gone.

Not gonna lie, I’m nervous. Not about getting sick or even Covid at all. I’m nervous about rejoining the world of the people. The Land of the Living. I like my little coccoon. I like seeing only the Boy, the Pind and the cat most days. I say I miss doing things and being around others but the few times I have lately it’s been very overwhelming. Overstimulating and stressful.

Of course I could have dipped my toe back into the public pool with a mini trip. To a place without big crowds of loud people. A quiet spa somewhere maybe. A training wheels trip if you will. But no.

I’m going to Orlando. Universal Studios. Disney World.

I will survive and it will be fun. I’ll be with some of my favorite people who will ensure a great trip with lots of laughter. But the nagging low grade anxiety is still there. In my defense, that’s always true going to Disney World, even pre-pandemic. Second only to perhaps an actual war zone, Disney World is arguably one of the most stressful places on the planet. Because nothing is easy. Nothing is intuitive. Deadlines to remember, reservations to make, plan every detail a year or more ahead or miss out. You didn’t book your dinner plans exactly 60 days to the second in advance? Oh well too bad for you. Even then it’s a crap shoot. Better obsessively check the app at the crack of dawn every morning like an addict looking for a fix. And 60 days is actually *better*, it used to be six months. Who knows what they want for dinner 180 days in advance??

Why is it that the people who line up the most hoops for us to jump through are the same ones that say, “Just relax and enjoy yourself!”

That’s not how it works, boo boo.

Cross my heart I’m really not as salty as I sound. It’s going to be lots of fun. It’s always fun and will be even with the new policies and procedures. It will be even if it rains every day. The people I choose to travel with are always fun even if we sometimes yell at each other in EPCOT. Now that all the planning and pre-vacation work is done, I do intend to relax and just go with the flow as much as possible. I’ve done all I can to make sure we have a good time and now it’s the little things, the happy accidents and silly predicaments, that will be what we laugh about when we tell stories about this trip.

I already miss my boys and my comfy chair on the ranch. I know the Boy will take good care of my sweet old doggie. And I’m honestly looking forward to a break from full time caregiver. No matter who you’re taking care of and how much you love them, that is a very draining role.

Now I say goodbye, it’s time for me to board. I’ll be home to my babies next Tuesday. I plan to stare at the wall all day on Wednesday but then on Thursday I may be recovered enough to write a post trip review and share some photos.

Y’all have a wonderful week and please pray for us as we venture out into the happiest place on earth.

Evidence I’m an Idiot, Part One

Welcome back! I’ve missed it here. There was no real intention to write weekly at the start but I didn’t write last week and I’ve been wracked with guilt about it. Blogger’s guilt, is that a thing? I gotta tell y’all I hate the word blog. It sounds like some kind of gross goop that grows in your house and requires a special cleaning product. I digress.

I also really struggle with deciding what to write. That’s truly the hardest part for me, like trying to decide what to make for dinner every night forever. I’ve always been one of those people that needs a thing to be extremely, entirely perfect or I feel like there’s no point in doing it at all. That’s a hard habit to break but it’s a super unreasonable standard to hold yourself or anyone else to. I’ll have a dozen half ideas and stress myself into oblivion thinking, what’s the perfect subject to write about, would something else be more appropriate for this week? This is kind of stupid, it doesn’t matter, there’s something more important to write about. No doubt there is. But this is an exercise in putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard as the case may be. What that means for me is absolving myself of any duty to write something deep or meaningful and just write. Ideas float up and most of them are stupid but eventually one will float to the surface enough times and then that’s the next topic of this blog. Blog, ugh.

So what is this post actually going to be about, you ask. Well I will tell you. Today we will be starting an occasional mini series where I tell y’all about some of the dumb things I’ve done and we all laugh together in wonder at how I have managed to survive mostly intact this long.

Years ago when my husband and I were still dating.. (It has been brought to my attention that he does not care for the moniker “The Boy”. He prefers “The Man” but that sounds weird to me so negotiations are underway, I’ll keep you posted.) Years ago when we were pretty newly dating, I was at my apartment one night after work doing my nails.

It should be noted here that I go through phases where I love having my nails done. Like the long, tick on everything, might stab someone, not at all practical, beautiful nails. Not all the time, sometimes I don’t care. But I can never stand to go get them done at the salon. I don’t have the patience to sit there for two hours or the follow through to go back every few weeks. So I buy the plastic Kiss glue on nails for $6 at Walgreens and do them myself. I have very few real talents but gluing fake nails onto my fingers is one of them.

Anyway. So I’m at my apartment doing my nails after work while the Man-Boy’s at the gym. I’m sitting at my little kitchen table and the dog’s in my lap. I’m all set up, I’ve sized each nail and gotten them all laid out. All that’s left is to glue them on. I dig around in my purse for some nail glue. Find one. Shock of all shocks, the lid is stuck on tight. It’s at this point my genius 20 something self does the most logical thing I can think of and I hold the bottle in one hand and grip the lid in my teeth. The next five seconds is kind of a blur. It’s been a decade and I’m still not sure what happened. The cap of this tiny bottle doesn’t twist off. I somehow rip this bottle of glue IN HALF, sloshing glue all over myself, the dog and the kitchen table. My dog mom instincts kick in and I check him immediately. A little glue in the fur but otherwise unharmed. Thank goodness.

Then I blinked. My right eye blinked like normal. My left eye closed and stayed that way. I HAVE GLUED MY EYE SHUT. I grab my eyelid, pry it open and call my dad.

“Hello?”

“Daddy I have glue in my eye, what do I do?”

“You have what in your eye?”

“Nail glue. I have just splashed nail glue into my eye. What do I do?”

He skips over “how on earth..?” and goes straight to, ok you need to rinse your eye out. He told me to get in the shower and hold my face up under the shower head in lukewarm water for several minutes. Ok, can do. I turn on the shower and start looking for a good temperature. My phone rings. Hello? Daddy says, how’s it going? Not even in the shower yet, I’ll let you know. I’m holding my eyelid open this whole time and there is rapidly drying glue on my eyeball. I get in the shower fully clothed and stick my face under the water. In the few minutes I’m trying to flush my eye out, my phone rings several more times. Hello?

By this point in my life my parents are extremely used to me or someone else calling them to explain what dumb thing I’ve done now, I’ve always been their do dumb sh*t kid. This may have been the first time though that I was several hundred miles away and it’s dawning on us both that he won’t be able to just come rescue me. Eventually we realize that I can’t talk on the phone and flush my eye out at the same time so he says, ok flush your eye out and call me back. That moment as a parent to an adult child when you become aware that your options for fixing a situation are limited and you can really only sit and wait must be terrifying.

I stand there waterboarding myself for what feels like forever, get out and call my dad back. He says, how does it feel? Well it burns and I’m afraid to close my eye. Still holding my eyelid open with one hand. He says, ok I think you should go to the ER. Is there anyone you can call to drive you?

Le sigh. There is but I was really hoping my new boyfriend wouldn’t discover that I’m an idiot for some time yet. It’s still pretty new and he still thinks I’m cool. This is not a moment for shame, however. So I call him. He’s right in the middle of his workout.

“Hey. What’s up?”

“I need you to come take me to the hospital please, I have glue in my eye.”

“Be right there, baby.”

He abandons his workout, if you know him you know what a big deal this is, and shows up at my door five minutes later. I’ve managed to put on dry clothes and give the dog a treat one handed. He asks what happened on the way to the hospital and I tell him the whole dumb tale. We get there, check in and sit in the waiting room. I say over and over that he doesn’t have to wait for me, I’ll be fine and can take a cab home (Uber wasn’t really a thing yet). He won’t hear of it. He stays with me the entire time, takes me to the overnight pharmacy to get my prescription drops, then takes me to McDonald’s for dinner (also a huge deal if you know him). Never once did he laugh or act like I was putting him out in any way.

In the end, my eye was fine. I wore glasses for a couple of weeks and learned a very valuable lesson. A couple actually.

One. Be very, very careful with your nail glue. Any kind of glue for that matter. And never, ever open it with your teeth.

Two. If the person you share your life with isn’t willing to drop what they’re doing to come help you out of an extremely dumb, self imposed situation no questions asked, and can’t be counted upon to not laugh at or criticize you at least until making sure you are entirely ok, you’re in the wrong relationship.

In the intervening years we’ve laughed a lot about it and I’ve since done and said way dumber things which will be saved for future posts. He has never once made me feel lesser than for not being perfect or afraid to come to him with any little dumb thing I need.

Just like my dad and my husband and all the other people I rely on, surround yourself with those who will support you, help you, and wait to make sure you are going to be fine before saying, “Wow, that was stupid”. We all need a strong safety net and, occasionally, we all need to be told the hard truth.

Having good people like that in your life is my wish for you.

It’s Take Your Kid to Your Blog Day

Welcome back. Today I’d like to introduce you to my daughter. It’s her birthday. She is smart and successful and tall and beautiful. Oh, also, she’s four months older than me.

See, I told you this page would be interesting.

Allow me to explain. Usually when you start dating a man with a kid, you’re expecting a cute, snotty seven year old. Well what I got was a cute, only slightly snotty 25 year old. It really could have gone either way for the Boy. In hindsight, the odds of two twenty-something Type A’s hitting it off were not excellent. But here we are, ten plus years later, she’s my best friend, my travel partner, and my secret keeper. In one sense it worked out well for my husband, us getting along means a lot less drama. But on the other hand, he’s kind of out of luck because if she and I agree on something, it doesn’t really matter what he thinks. We don’t usually even consult him.

I honestly don’t remember anymore exactly how or when we became best friends, it just seems like we always have been. I barely remember my pre-Daughter Unit days. No idea where the name Daughter Unit came from but that’s what the Boy calls her and it still makes me laugh, so I stole it. We’ve had fun times and sad times. We’ve had early morning flights and late night Uber rides. We’ve traveled to both sides of the country without supervision and come home mostly unscathed. It’s been said that she has the skills to make us rich and I have the skills to keep us alive. So far, so good. I used to be the bad influence on her but now we take turns. All great friendships have an occasional bad influencer and if you think yours doesn’t, I have some news.

But it’s not only the best friend benefits that I enjoy. I also revel in my mom role. I mean, come on. She’s a responsible, hardworking, respected in her field business woman that I didn’t have to birth or raise. Kind of the best of both worlds for me over here and I’m definitely not above taking my motherly credit for how she turned out. Never mind that I was in utero when she was born and we didn’t meet until we were both adults. Details. I’m so proud of the woman I’ve watched her become in the last ten years. She’s confident and kind, compassionate and a friend to everyone. She’s unafraid to stand up for herself but hasn’t lost her sweet soft heart. I never doubt that she’ll tell me the truth and she always accepts my unsolicited motherly advice with only the occasional eye roll, like a good daughter should.

So here’s to my Daughter Unit on her birthday. If you ever have the opportunity to be best friends with your kid, 10/10 would definitely recommend.

My Grandmother’s Greatest Lesson

This will probably be a bit rambling but I’d like to go ahead and set that as a precedent so y’all will know what to expect.

My grandmother passed away in January and I’ve been thinking a lot about all the things I learned from her. So many little things she taught me on purpose. How to make Southern sweet tea, which I can no longer drink because I enjoy closing my eyes and having a normal heart rate. How to play gin rummy and how to never lose a board game (don’t, keep playing until you win or everyone else is so tired they forfeit). How to make peanut brittle and Nanny’s Bread (TM pending). I learned at her knee that “thongs” is another word for flip flops. It was a question on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire once and a very confusing moment for us both. But the most valuable lesson I learned from her she never even knew she was teaching me.

My Nanny, circa 1950

Nanny taught me that getting good sleep is very important and you can do whatever it takes to make sure you get it. You see my Pop, her husband of almost 53 years, snored like he was attempting to open a portal to the underworld, which I can’t say for sure is a noisy process but I have to assume it is. For my entire life and many years before that, Nanny had a separate bedroom. The moment my dad moved out on his own, Nanny peaced out of the master bedroom and moved into daddy’s old room. It was just normal for them to have separate rooms. Turns out, not everyone knows that if your spouse is snoring or annoying, you’re allowed to bail on them. There is no law that says you must remain in the same bed and be miserable. You can love someone but not sleep next to them. I took that to heart. It used to hurt the Boy’s (my husband) feelings when I’d disappear in the middle of the night but I’m a better person when I sleep well and not resenting the one you share your life with goes a long way toward making for a better relationship.

But as I get older, I’m realizing this lesson goes so much deeper. If something in your life isn’t working for you, it’s ok to change it. Your job leaving you stressed or unfulfilled? Look for a new one. A friendship been feeling negative or draining? Take a break from it. If something or someone is making you miserable, you’re allowed to cut them out. *Unless it’s your toddler, then you’re just going to have to push through. Unfollowing people in real life is a glorious feeling. Want to run away and join the circus? I would advise thinking through it long and hard and maybe talking to a therapist, but if traveling acrobat is where your heart lies, give it a shot. I realize all of this is easier said than done but the alternative is living a life you look back on with regret. If you’re truly unhappy with your life or something in it, dig deep inside to figure out specifically what that is, pray about it, talk to someone you trust or a professional, and figure out what steps you can take toward fixing it. You are the only person who can know what it is that you need and, no matter what it feels like, you are not stuck where you are.

My grandmother is not the only example of how to make your life better that I grew up watching. Both of my parents quit their jobs, went back to school and built new careers from scratch in their forties. At 15 I didn’t understand what a huge deal that was but now, at 35, I think about how scary and overwhelming that must have been. But in the scheme of things it was a short term struggle for a long term life change. And it wasn’t just their lives or our family’s life that changed. They now affect countless lives for the better every single day. All because they took chances, took scary leaps, and found the careers that were calling to them. I’m so proud of that I still tear up just thinking about it.

So now how do I wrap this up? Seems like we’ve gone a long way from sweet tea and thongs. If it hasn’t been clear, what I’m trying to say is don’t be afraid to take a chance and do something differently. Don’t be afraid to be a little selfish and think about what it is that you need sometimes. Everyone around you will benefit from that. Life is occasionally hard and scary no matter what but it will be infinitely worse if you are suffering through the status quo because you don’t think you have a choice. You do, I promise. So make that change. Take that leap. Join Cirque du Soleil. If nothing else, I will be proud of you. And I know my Nanny would be too.