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.

Do Not Read This While Eating

This was not the post I had planned for this week. It’s been three years since we went to Adult Space Camp so I was going to write about that today. But that has to wait because I experienced something fairly traumatic today that I must tell you about.

Story time.

I was driving back to the ranch today with the boys and stopped at a gas station to pee. I walk up to the building and go in right behind a middle aged lady (50s?) in a blue dress. She’s got kind of an odd walk and she’s moving pretty slowly but nothing seems weird. She goes straight and I turn right toward the restrooms. All five stalls are full so I wait. Blue dress comes in and waits behind me. I turn to smile at her and my purse sets off the automatic dryer, startling us both. In hindsight, this may have been the moment everything went downhill.

I don’t wait long before a stall opens and I go in to do my business. I’m a fast pee-er so it’s less than two minutes. Believe me when I say nothing could have prepared me for the subsequent two minutes.

I open the stall door and there in front of me is a giant, soft pile of poop on the floor. I stare at it for what feels like an hour but was likely only a few seconds and then raise my eyes to blue dress standing there holding a wad of paper towels. We make eye contact and she mumbles, “Sorry..”

Either my poker face is amazing or I was in such complete shock my synapses had temporarily stopped sending messages to each other. I stepped over the patty and noticed two more along with a trail of poo to the paper towel dispenser. I register another lady at the sink and we make brief eye contact in the mirror. I don’t know at what point she exited her stall and how much of this literal sh*t show she witnessed but the look in her eyes was haunting. I hope she seeks therapy immediately.

I wash my hands and spend another seeming hour trying to think of something to say to this poor lady who is still using gas station paper towels to attempt to pick up loose piles of poop. I want to say something comforting or try to lighten the mood but my voice had failed me and, honestly, what was there to say? I just left.

I did alert the staff to the situation in the bathroom and the look on my face must have spoken volumes.

I feel so bad for her and a little guilty for beating her to the bathroom but I have a lot *A LOT* of questions. Primarily, why did she not make it known that it was an emergency situation?? I would have happily let her cut the line and we would have all had a little less trauma in our lives. Was she not wearing underwear? This seems like a good case for it, as a storage solution at the very least. Why were there three piles? Once it became clear that pooping in the floor is what’s happening, why get up and move around?? How did I not hear any of this from my stall?

Perhaps most interesting, what were the series of poor decisions that led to this moment? Because this isn’t the kind of thing that just happens out of the blue. There were warning signs, chances to turn back, make different choices. We’ve all gotten ourselves in situations like this. Maybe not exactly like this but up sh*ts creek, so to speak. Pun definitely intended.

I think there are a couple of lessons to take from this. You never know what someone is going through so try to be gracious and understanding. And when your gut tells you something, for heaven’s sake, listen to it. It may not repeat itself.

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.

Can You Say Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich??

Hi again! I don’t really have a post-post for this week so I’m just going to phone it in with a recipe.

Ok that’s a lie. It’s not really even a recipe, I just want to brag about how delicious these turned out.

You only need two things. Cookies and ice cream. Pre-made cookie dough would be totally fine but I used Phoebe’s grandmother’s recipe. Plain vanilla ice cream. Blue Bell here because Texas.

Make the cookies slightly larger than regular. Cool like usual and then put in the freezer. I left mine overnight but that’s only because I forgot about them. Two or three hours is plenty.

Sit the ice cream out for 20 minutes or so to get pretty soft.

Scoop ice cream onto the bottom of one cookie, press another cookie on top of it. Wipe the edges clean. You gotta work fast cause this part gets messy.

Load them up four sandwiches to a Ziploc bag. Lay flat in the freezer. Enjoy!

These turned out so much better than I even imagined and I may or may not feel sick as I type this because I have no self control and just ate two. Even the Boy with next to no sweet tooth loves them. Hope you do too! 🍪

Imagine All the People

I want to begin with a confession. What is likely to be the most controversial thing I ever say on this page, I do not at all care for John Lennon. (I can practically hear one of my friends losing it as she reads this right now. Sorry yo.) I have my reasons but that’s not what this post is about. Those lyrics just fit and coming up with titles is hard.

I vividly remember the moment. My first and maybe only ever true epiphany. It was my sophomore year of high school, circa 2000. Sitting in my bathroom sink one morning getting ready for school. Caking on foundation that didn’t match my skin tone and drawing on eyeliner thicker than my eyebrows. It was a different time. No you are not getting a photo. Suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks that there were other kids all over the county getting ready for school just like I was. Kids that I didn’t know, who didn’t know me. Getting ready, going to school, going about their lives. Entirely independent of me and what I was doing.

Yes this makes me sound stupid. To be fair though I believe there are a terrifying number of adults out there who have never actually realized that everything does not revolve around them. What that moment did do for me was create a tiny puncture in the bubble in which I had, to that point, lived my whole life. Not everything changed overnight. I was still an insufferable twit for many more years. But all at once I had gained the gift of perspective.

In the years since, that perspective has grown and evolved and torn a huge hole in how I think and the way I view the world.

In every corner of the earth, we all do the same basic things every day. We sleep and eat, work and love, laugh and cry. What distinguishes us from one another are the many different ways in which we each got to the places we are today. Childhoods, circumstances, experiences and choices. The things we’ve seen and been through. How can I hope to understand what the stranger across the street, or across the world, feels when I have no idea what they saw yesterday or ten years ago? How could I claim a person’s opinion on a subject is wrong when I can’t know what they were taught growing up or the experiences that led them to that position? In brutal fashion, I have become aware that “my way” isn’t the only way or even necessarily the right way. As us Disney kids learned from Mrs. Potts,

“Bittersweet and strange,

finding you can change,

learning you were wrong.”

Not understanding where someone is coming from is very normal. Writing them off because it’s uncomfortable making the effort to understand is inexcusable. The ability to set aside your own biases and preconceived notions is a skill that requires conscious effort and practice. It’s said that travel is the death of close-mindedness. If you have the privilege to see the world and experience different cultures, I encourage you to do so. But reading is another form of travel and a beautiful way to peer through someone else’s eyes for a few minutes.

It’s natural to feel strongly about your beliefs and opinions. And it’s ok to disagree, even with the people you love. The goal is to make sure you are thinking critically about the world around you, asking hard questions, and always taking the opportunity to learn from others. Even the stupid people. Sometimes you learn the most from them.

I am not at all sure if I’ve made any kind of point. I’m no longer even sure what point I was going for. I will probably touch on this subject many times again, likely after I’ve had to explain my position on John Lennon. But I want to leave you today with a quote from a former atheist turned born again Christian, a decorated and well respected scientist, director of the National Institute of Health and Dr. Fauci’s boss, Dr. Francis Collins.

“One must dig deeply into opposing points of view in order to know whether your own position remains defensible. Iron sharpens iron.”