Monday, April 13, 2015

I wanted to include something in my blog that was entirely pleasant, completely Laurel, and seriously awesome.  See that gorgeous man in that red tie?  That's now my husband.  These were taken the day before he became said husband, a moment he had waited for a long, long time. 

See, we were together, many many years ago.  I got out of school in the spring of 1987 and much to my disappointment, was unable to attend the school of my choice when I wanted to.  I had no clue about financing college, what college really meant in the long term (a job) and what I wanted to do with my life.  So I took a year off, goofing off and working a part-time job at a local department store selling housewares which I stockpiled hoping for the day I would use such items making a home. 

I entered junior college in the summer of '88.  I immediately began having a blast.  I began dating the second semester I was there--no, I mean literally began dating--I was a few months short of twenty before I had my first date--and went out with a guy for a while, then another guy (who stuck around for a while) and then I rolled into my second year of school.

I experienced a new sensation:  I was popular.  I was on the paper, and my columns were funny and well-liked.  I was bumped up my second year in to "editorial editor" of a ridiculously named paper, the Radiodian.  (It was explained to us that when the college formed their paper, the radio was brand new and all the rage, hence the stupid name).  In the first editorial meeting of my second year, there was a new set of faces.  We sat in a series of tables that were squared off.  Cattycorned from me was the table where my current boyfriend sat (more on him later), and my last boyfriend was in attendance, too.  And there was a new guy sitting across from me. 

After the meeting I went downstairs to leave the building when I saw the new guy in the cafeteria, leaning up against the glass wall waiting in line.  I thought--on a whim--I'll go eat with him--new guy.  He was tall and very thin and very tall and thin and sort of blindsided by my approach.  He thought I was butting in line, but I really just wanted to eat with this new staff member.  

He was sunk by the end of lunch.  And after hanging out with me for a few months, leaving flowers on my screen door and clearing away some wild hedges from my front yard, I decided to give him a chance.  

We dated six months when he broke up with me.  And for the only time in my life, I shook off what happened and moved on.  

Forced to move back home soon after, I married my ex-boyfriend after he showed up and proposed.  He had gotten wind that Chris and I had broken up and wanted me back, in a desperate way.  I was desperate.  I had left my abusive home at 20 for a reason.  Winding back up there a year later was more than I could handle.

It lasted six months.  The first person I told it was over was Chris.  He was thrilled.  And I left.  Feeling like I had no options, I went to live with my aunt in California.  And the letters followed.  

And followed, and followed and followed, till I had a three inch stack.  And I came home after a glorious year and a really silly near-miss marrying yet again, the wrong man.  

And there he was, feeling the same way.  I spent a lot of time with him that fall, and left, again, to go to school in Oklahoma.  And the letters followed.  And I married, again, this time to the man who seemed to fit all the stops:  he was a theology major, he talked a lot about family, and Lord, did we have fun together.  He made me laugh--a lot.  

He had, though, a fatal flaw that involved stability--economic stability. The end came when he moved us across country for a dream job that wasn't so dreamy. I was trapped in a strange town without a vehicle, without money, and two devastated children who were falling apart in their new circumstances. Even with a lucrative job offer, I looked around and saw that I had to get them out of there. I fled, once to Indiana and then to my mother's on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. There was a spring in my step knowing that I didn't have to live that way anymore. And proceeded to be devastated and grieved--hard--for the next two years.

But there were beautiful moments in there, too.  I knew that I had a future with Chris, and that it was all coming back around.  Slowly, on my Facebook feed, I started referring to him as "The Man".  Eventually, we came together and started a life here in Laurel.  I make it my mission to spoil him rotten, particularly for what all he has done for me. I have had an absolute blast cooking for him.  He's not hard to please:  he is such the Meat and Potatoes guy.  His favorite dish I make is ranch mashed potatoes, which I will include on the blog. 

In coming together, I moved to his home in Laurel.  I was still battling hard with anxiety issues, but over time, those faded completely away.  It was lovely to be with someone who knew me so well and was so observant who made my life better with each day without really meaning to.  He is an excellent step-father, and slowly over time his little girl has come to feel at home with me as well.  

Many of my friends my age complain about having to come back to Laurel for all sorts of reasons:  having to take care of elderly parents, having a hard time finding work, not satisfied with the social scene, it's too redneck, etc., etc.  Not so with me.  I remember when we were driving away from my place on the coast for the last time and Chris turned to me and said, "I'm bringing you home to heal."  I have. 

We were married on December 12 at the courthouse 25 years and 4 months after we met.  I forgot to have someone take pictures of us on my phone during the wedding.  But we had this, driving away, and it's pretty much my favorite picture of all-time.  We posted it on Facebook with one word:  Married.  

When Chris eats, he turns over the utensil he's eating with when he really enjoys it, particularly with deserts. It is an absolute blast to cook for someone who you don't have to worry about getting fat.  He has the most amazing metabolism you can imagine.  He's asked me what my blogs are about, and I can't really tell him except for love.  And some knitting.  And stuff. 

And pictures like this. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Moving Shop, Peeps...

I am deeply grateful for each and every person who comes by the blog.  Brown Bird Diaries has set up camp with a different format.  I'm now at

I made the switch because the format is so much easier to work with.  I will be re-posting material from here and focusing more and more on cinema.

Thanks for stopping by.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

It is not easy becoming a stepmother--there are so many hurdles to overcome, especially since in divorce, time is relative.  I married Belle's father not too long after the divorce from her mother was final.  It was a situation because of illness, finances and a somewhat slow execution that the divorce was not final until two and half years after it was asked for. Such is life, I have found.  If anything, our experience has taught me not to be judgmental. 

My stepdaughter had a hard time with my arrival in her life.  Because her dad and I were over 100 miles apart and she was being raised by her mother in another town, we did not meet until I moved in.  Naturally, she was distant.  Children hang on to the idea that mom and dad are going to get back together and can put off their grieving until someone eventually says, "I do."  Such was the case for us.  There were tears after the judge pronounced us man and wife.  I didn't take offense, it was only natural, because the dream was over.  Mom and dad didn't yell at each other, so in her mind, they were still viable.  

For a while, every time she would come to visit--about once a month--she'd come in looking like she had come to a funeral.  That was not easy on anyone, and there was a bit of acting out with her new (and admittedly, annoying) stepbrother. 

Then there came Christmas Eve.  

Her dad--an emotional pragmatist and admittedly, a man not given to magic--became exasperated when she started crying uncontrollably over her Elves.  Now I knew she was into Elf on the Shelf, and had asked her father if I should do something with them here at the old homestead.  He said, "No, that's kinda their thing."  Huh.  Well... that didn't seem to work, because it would be Christmas and she would be expecting the elves to leap into action.  

He lost it when she started bawling when her stepbrother touched them.  She was, after all, showing them to him in person.  She had thrown something at her brother, and that wasn't cool.  Red Bird read the riot act to her, told her they were not real, and they were certainly no reason to be mean. I was cringing inside.  Pop didn't get it.  It was real to her, and after all, she was only ten.  He went outside to have a talk with the ex and explain that it wasn't right that she kept hitting her stepbrother--that's not how they had raised her.  After all, mom was an intervention counselor at a local school:  quieting trouble is what she does, and no one has ever faulted her parenting. 

That night, when all was quiet, I got up and did things with the elves. The really did a number in the dining room where the presents were, tping the room 'n' all, hanging from the chandeliers.  Also, reindeer elf pooped Hershey's kisses on the table. Poop poop poop. 

One day, she'll realize that it was me, but it certainly doesn't matter now.  And I didn't only do it for her;  I did it for her mother, too, who couldn't be there to make the magic happen.  I do all I can to make things good for all of us;  I bear her no ill will, I just--like most step parents--wish we could see her more, but my husband's brutal work schedule as a manager just doesn't allow for it. Not yet.  Our first married summer will soon be upon us, and I hope that our year will be inundated with events and the beauty of having our world rocked by his child's happy presence.  

Meanwhile, we have Christmas, and we have being asked to sit in the back seat of the car on the way home.  It's all good, peeps.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Learning Chicken and Dumplings in the Dairy Section

MUHAHAHAHA!  It is time!  Time to open the Crock of Pot.  This was a gift from my mother-in-law who didn't quite know what to get me.  She said that my brother-in-law (The Everfantastic Brian) had told her about my existing Crockpot which was way little and had the knob broken off by one of the cats.  (Don't ask me how).  Now I have the Big Mamma one, the Serious Church-Goer one, with the snap-on lid that has room enough for at least three chickens.

Yesterday in the dairy section of Kroger (thank God we have a Kroger, we didn't have one in Gulfport and it was miserable) I met an old black lady named Dorothy who taught me--right then and there--how to make proper dumplins. I had told her I made the White Trash Way (bird singing, angels sighing) with canned biscuits, but I had been wanting to make them  by hand. 

Here's my current method:  boil your chicken (whole) until it's very well cooked.  You can add chicken bullion to the water for extra flavor.  Keep all of the stock--that fat is valuable.  Then roll out canned biscuits, roll them out, cut them up with a pizza cutter, and cook them in the stock. They cook up nice and flat, and taste wonderful.

Here is Dorothy's method:  flour, salt, and cooked in condensed milk with cream of chicken soup.  That I have to try.  So the chicken cooked down in the Crock Pot most of yesterday and I will be rolling out the dough tonight once I'm done.

I'm rather shy about blogging other people, but meeting Dorothy and her friends (they go shopping in threes) was a treat.  They taught me how to make instant chicken pot pies in a muffin tin and all sorts of little things.  They attend Beaver Creek Baptist Church.  It's all I can do not to go out on a Sunday and just sit and learn, to happenstance on a potluck--that would be glorious.  Sometimes I wonder if I should collect all I can about the cuisine of the Free State of Jones and let it roll.

I think that's what I'm going to do.

So you know you have a bad case of the domestics when you're this delighted to get a Crock Pot for Christmas.  My dear mother-in-law was told that my last Crock Pot (too tiny to cook a chicken) had a busted knob.  I had to ask my brother-in-law to turn it down when we went to get our wedding photos and he spilled the beans on my sad state of Crockpottery. 

Here, inronically, is a picture of me today. 

It's fate.  Stay tuned.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Subbing to Assistant to Certified: The Plan in Action

Subbing for eighth grade is not for the faint of heart.  I guarantee you I did not have this smile on my face the last two hours of school, and I most certainly did not by the time I got home.  It was a brutal day.  

I don't know why I took this pic, other than to send to my husband, whom I usually don't see all day long.  A habit that's a remnant of having spent a long time apart, where selfies were treasured immensely because that's all we had.  That and the phone, sometimes several hours a day.  

I am looking to become a middle school teacher.  Some folks think I am insane for aspiring to work with kids who can be exceptionally ungrateful for their opportunities to learn, but I feel that middle schoolers provide enough of a challenge to keep one on their toes. 

I am very well educated, I'm just not able to be a certified teacher--yet.  Yes, I do have a massive amount of writing behind me, but I've found the writing life is full of uncertainty and that--after about four years--got old.  Very.  I want to be able to make a life for me and my children without counting on the maybe jobs month after month year after year.  The type of freelance writing I do--technical and non-fiction--is non-existent where I live.  I am sure there are those that telecommute, but they have more experience than I and are highly specialized.  Freelancing is far more stressful--to me--than teaching school. 

I am hoping to become an assistant next year and segway into the assistant-to-teacher program through the University of Mississippi.  Substituting provides me a way of getting to know the administrators, other teachers, general atmosphere and students.  When a family situation needs to be taken care of, I can always answer my phone in the morning and say no--that's always good.  After two years of underemployment (which was a serious drag on the self-esteem) I am so grateful to be working it shows on my face.  

So wish me luck as I strive to become a middle school teacher making a difference.  Yes, I'd teach English, but I'll be happy with whatever they give me.  

Bring it on. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A few weeks ago, I was up in the house when I got a phone call.  It was my soon-to-be husband asking me if I wanted to come down to the bottom of the yard to watch him light a fire.  You have to understand, we live up on a hill and our yard slopes away beneath us an acre between the house and the property line where we have an erstwhile stream.  Down in the beneath is the fire pile.

As we sat there, we had a discussion about life, and how things had turned for us.  He said something that enlightened and loosened me at the same time:  "I'm learning how to be happy again."  I nodded.  I knew what he meant.

Less than two years earlier, we had both watched our families disintegrate. After 13 years, he had told his ex-wife that it was over.  It was over, it'd been over for a while but had lingered on in a state of habit until his father died (by his own hand) and he could no longer try and please the acerbic discontentment that was spread his way.  The ex and their daughter now live 35 miles away which doesn't seem far until you're trying to manage a retail store and a 140 mile round-trip to pick up your child.  Sometimes she'll bring her over, but it's usually only once a month.  What are we to do?  Fuss?  Fight?  No, we regulate ourselves to the short time we have with his little girl and make the best of it.


Nothing made sense until I read this on Pinterest:  To the lobsters in the kitchen on the Titanic, it was a miracle.  I was a lobster on the Titanic--I just didn't know it.  I, like the passengers on that fair ship, hadn't a clue what was in store for them.  (Can lobsters survive in that part of the North Atlantic?  I doubt it, but it's a great saying all the same).

I suppose I should have known I was in trouble a long, long time ago and I had a hard hard time forgiving myself for not knowing so and lacking the judgement to have known he wasn't good for me or my children--in the end.

It was the dream job, it was a farce.  It was standing in a three room apartment bereft of my home and most of my things asking for money for groceries and being told there wasn't any.  It was the end.

And for nearly two and a half years--even as I approached my marriage with the love of my life (who had carried the torch for me for two and a half decades)--I was a crumbling sordid mess on the inside.  I would jump at the slightest provocation--I could *not* relax.  The smallest things about my life ceased to function, most notably my confidence and my sense of peace.  They were gone.  Obliterated. What hurt the most was my inability to believe in myself again, and my seeming lack of ability to support myself.  When you get divorced and you find you were Really Really Wrong about a person, it does something to your inner faith that you do know best.  And so many things are dead.

Your old life.
Your spouse.
Your joint holdings.
Your lifestyle.
Certain friendships.
Your idea of yourself.
Your trust in your judgement.

My mother-in-law couldn't believe that his ex--to whom his family has tried and tried to stay close to no avail--wanted to go and hear her divorce decree, to hear it in court.  "Your marriage," she told her, "was over two years ago. This is just a formality."  I disagreed.  I felt that no one--not a single one of us or anyone else--should tell her how to grieve complete or dissipate her marriage.  I knew this because no one could tell me.  My grief was hidden, not mine to display or subjugate other's feelings to.  Keeping it to myself was the healthiest thing for my new family and what we were trying to achieve:  moving on.

This great, gasping hole that the wind was constantly whistling through, unabated, was for time to fill. And sometimes it takes time to realize that yeah, you were in trouble.  Some guy with a white hat was moving over to your tank thinking it was your time to get a'boilin'.  And then, pow, howdy, your friend Fred starts screaming, "SWIM, FRANK, SWIM!" cause you happened to be a lobster named Frank. And you did.

When I could not hear my ex ask me a question without flinching in anticipation, when I felt my son deserved to have a life where his mother didn't have to be in fear coming home from the grocery store, when I asked my ex to leave the packing to me because I just couldn't take the ten thousand questions about my judgement, when he sold my things without my knowledge, when he lost mortage payments in the gambling houses of North Mississippi, when he got caught for fraud on eBay, when my fifteen-year-old had to explain to me that no, daddy wasn't a good man, he was watching porn downstairs on the big monitor in the den.

Well.  Someone was blind.  And no matter how much I enjoyed his company, I somehow missed that we were yelling at each other so loud that my son could hear it through the floor.

Now I have approached a situation that will put me in benefits and a permanent employ for quite possibly, the rest of my life.  I am lifted out my own personal hell of Not Knowing What to Do with my new life, and the two years of painful underemployment I experienced are over.  And I see not the loss, nor hear the whistling in the wind of this great loss--our family--I see something great, and moreover I feel it.

My husband is warm at night.  His family is warm all the time.  My son gets fatherly parenting he never experienced before.  His stepdad is a considerate and thoughtful man and although he is not perfect, gives a lot of thought to presents, approaches to discipline and the structure of our family life.  He is a family man if ever there was one, spending a good deal of his time at home and only occasionally going on nature hikes. This past week he presented my son with a fishing rod and tackle box.  As he is way into his games, I figured Aslan would hate this present, like getting clothes for Christmas.  Instead, he was awed.  He wanted to go fishing with his stepdad and stepsister.  Things in his life now--where the weren't before--are readily and steadfastly defined, and his stepfather does not passively allow him to pass through this life without engaging in nature.

So hold out through this mind-boggingly bad pain:  it will abate.  You'll see, somewhat painstakingly, that you made the right decision by moving on, no matter how painful it is, no matter how much you loved that marriage or that time together, you will find your way because even if you don't feel strong now you had the strength to leave.  Insanity is part of the grief.  Accept it.  Know that someday it will pass.  You're not going to be going to the supermart and suddenly feel that it's all passed and now you can have your shit together.  It doesn't work that way.

Be traumatized if you must.  Cry in private if you can, and don't try to move forward--you'll do that naturally in time.  SWIM FRED SWIM and get the hell out of the kitchen.  It was going down, anyway.