Seven Birthdays

We only had 3’s, no 8’s.

Years ago, I was entering my mid-late 20s in the South and had spent the time since my divorce trying to figure out if I wanted the things I thought I’d wanted, or if everyone had just told me I wanted them. Growing up in the early 2000’s suburban/rural town of Shetland, marrying one’s high school or college sweetheart wasn’t just the dream, but the expectation. Shetland’s welcome sign declared it A City With a Vision, but the Kasey Musgraves quote “If you ain’t got two kids by 21, you’re probably gonna die alone,” would have been more fitting. Indeed, by the time I found myself reclaiming my maiden name on my undergraduate diploma, I was one of a dozen young divorcees from the class of 2006, most of whom did have two children. While I’d initially felt behind at 23, thumbing through all of those Facebook posts of engagement rings, wedding photos, new homes, and ultrasound pictures, I eventually came to the realization that I had it all to do over again. I could choose something different… if that’s what I actually wanted.

It was at 26, while substitute teaching an elementary school class that I realized exactly the life I desired. I didn’t like young children and only took such assignments if I was desperate for money, like when the school year was ending and I was staring down a summer with only my half-time librarian position to pay the bills. It was an easy enough day, overseeing a music class and watching Frozen on repeat, broken up by an end-of-the-year assembly in the early afternoon. “Assembly” probably wasn’t the proper term. It was more like a show, where Ronald McDonald performed childlike slapstick comedy to a crowd of children roaring with laughter, as I cynically rolled my eyes.

After ten or fifteen minutes of silly props and noises, however, I noticed that it wasn’t just the children who were laughing themselves sick. The parents in attendance were in similar hysterics at seeing their little ones so innocently amused. I looked around the gym full of kids, still lacking the affection expected by Southern women, yet suddenly more aware than ever of the enjoyment they brought their parents. That’s when it hit me that I wanted this… not because of some animalistic biological drive or archaic gender standard reinforced by life in the South, but because I wanted it for myself. I’d spent years considering more adventurous paths less traveled only to finally realize that I wanted exactly the mundane life expected of me… and that was okay. I would, however, need to get serious about dating. It was then that I began to pray, every night, for God to bring me a good, hardworking, even-tempered man, who would make a great husband and wonderful father… and most importantly to open my eyes and allow me to recognize such a man despite the fog of unreasonable expectations and my own self-sabotage.

My first date with Jake started with a pep talk, as I reminded myself that the worst that could happen was another funny story… only to sigh because I was getting awfully tired of funny stories. It had been a year since that day in my elementary school gym. As much as I had enjoyed the single stage of life, I was ready to move on to the next adventure. I was ready to fall in love and be on my way to the marriage and family I’d failed so miserably to secure previously. I didn’t want a romcom Meet Cute or soapy drama. I wanted someone to come home to, curl up with on the couch while I read and he did his own thing, a presence to feel in the middle of the night. I wanted to laugh, argue, grieve, and plan a life with someone. Odds were, my first date with the fluid engineer I met on Plenty of Fish would be forgettable at best, but perhaps… just maybe… it would be my last first date…

… and so it was.

It was on my first birthday with Jake that I realized he didn’t really do birthdays. When I responded with fitting horror, he explained that such occasions were for children and no one in his family really celebrated them after the age of twelve. Even so, on our three month anniversary, Jake made the trip to Shetland and joined me in a two day birthday celebration, meeting my parents for the first time and humoring all of my ridiculous 28-year-old whims. A month or so later, he indulged me once again, as I insisted we celebrate his birthday, not with all the hoopla and whimsy of mine, but by doing something he specifically wanted to do, which turned out to be Topgolf, pizza, and a movie.

Over the years, I’ve gotten no less demanding with my own birthday, insisting on celebrating the struggles and triumphs of the previous year and the excitement to come in the next. There have been numerous ice cream cakes, trips to the zoo, and even a new puppy. There was the Post-IVF Failure Quarantine Birthday of 2020, where we watched Belle Movies all day and ate takeout. There was the first birthday with our baby girls and just last month, our first family lake trip. Surprisingly enough, Jake has begun to look forward to his own birthdays over the years, as well. Friends have visited from Texas. We’ve eaten poorly made boxed carrot cake, sat through Lord of the Rings movie marathons, baked stuffed pizzas, and even unveiled a pricey gun safe in the hopes we’d need it soon, with small children running around.

Regardless, I’ve no doubt that Jake would let his birthdays slip by with little to no acknowledgement, were it not to humor me. With his quiet, stoic affection, though, he brainstorms ways to make the day special for himself, because he knows doing so is important to me. Whereas I see my own birthdays as a celebration of the adventures past and the welcoming of those to come, Jake’s are a celebration of the answering of those many fervently, even desperately, made prayers. This weekend, as Jake bathed our girls, after I sorted and folded laundry, I looked around and really acknowledged my life as it is, the life this man has helped me create.

Friday night, Jake and I hosted our bi-weekly game night, where we ate ourselves sick and laughed ourselves silly with friends in honor of his birthday. We spent Saturday getting lunch with our beautiful, hard-won babies, before hitting the local pumpkin patch, where we took pictures and all four played and laughed in a trough full of corn. We came home tired and dirty, with dried corn in our shoes, as the girls vacillated between fussing and giggling, having missed most of their naps for family fun. None of it had been a farce, staged for appearances in person or on social media. It was true contentment and joy, ending at the home we own, as a happy family unit. The house was clean and comfortable. There was plenty of food in the pantry and the bills were paid. I fed the girls and cleaned the kitchen, while Jake made soup to freeze for our new baby’s arrival. We discussed what movie we would watch and what kind of pizza we would order for our own private birthday celebration.

Compared to where I once was, my life is utter financially strained, middle-class bliss. There have been many times when I thought I would never have this. I prayed every night for half the man Jake is and God delivered. My husband is good, hardworking, funny, smart, ambitious, and an absolutely fabulous father. He’s a prideful, stubborn, know-it-all, who rarely shows any serious emotion, seldom apologizes, and drives me absolutely crazy. He’s also built a new career from the bottom, taken on every home improvement project I’ve dreamt up, financially supported us even through two rounds of IVF, and slept in an ICU chair for four days when I almost died delivering our girls. He’s gotten up in the middle of the night to clear the drains during a storm, chopped wood in freezing weather, and scraped my windshield without my asking. He’s changed countless diapers, soothed epic tantrums, and come home for lunch every day to help feed and play with his girls. He’s made it possible for me to stay home when I couldn’t handle leaving them. He’s comforted my every rational and irrational fear. Simply put, Jake is everything I ever prayed for and more.

We celebrated our first birthdays together when I turned 28, looking back on my single life; and when Jake turned 31, looking forward to new possibilities. My husband still isn’t one to anticipate his birthday with as much excitement as I do my own, but I find myself looking forward to it with increasing giddiness each passing year. I might have my very own holiday every September 9th, but every October 14th, I get to celebrate my best friend, whether that means cake and DnD or pizza and another viewing of the movie Warcraft. I get the chance to give my husband a day that’s all about him, where I can express my gratitude for the man that he is and the life he’s built with me. Jake wasn’t my way out, exactly, but he was the ultimate destination for a gal who wanted nothing more than a blissfully exhausting family life.

My mother once told me that she never minded getting older, until she no longer had anyone to do it with her. This past month, Jake and I celebrated our seventh set of birthdays together and with our girls: 35 and 38. I don’t mind those numbers even a little bit, as long as we get to celebrate the rest as a family, too.

Birthdays and Boyfriends: Meeting the Parents… and Best Friend

So, I celebrated my 28th birthday last week and I did so with such enthusiasm, I’m going to have to have that Logan’s Run themed 30th birthday party I keep talking about… and that city-wide lantern release.

Remember, Gail. This one’s on you.

As I mentioned last week, in my brief Blogiversary post, two of the most significant celebrations I had planned for my birthday were the introduction of Jake to Gail and Terry and his introduction to my dad and Lena. After my late evening at the grown-up arcade with my work friends, on Wednesday night (my actual birthday), I went home to get ready for Jake’s arrival on Thursday morning at nine, as we’d planned. In fact, the previous week, when I’d driven to Wellston and Jake had made me dinner, we discussed this plan, in depth. I told Jake that I intended to take a half day substituting job if I could find one, assuming he’d arrive in Shetland around noon, as he usually does when coming from his family’s cattle ranch.

Jake: “Well, I’ll be there at 9:00.”
Me: “You will? I thought you were leaving that morning.”
Jake: “Yeah, but I’ll leave early.”
Me: “Okay. Are you sure? I don’t mind taking the day off, as long as it’s to spend time together, but otherwise, I need to work.”
Jake: “I’m sure. I’ll be there at 9:00.”

I wasn’t just being pushy, here. While the only times Jake has ever postponed plans have been when he’s driving back from his family’s ranch, it’s also been every time he’s driving back from his family’s ranch. That’s why I was just short of nagging when I asked. So, imagine my frustration to receive this text at 7:00 on Thursday morning.

I’ll be there around lunch.

Even know that three months is too soon to threaten to throat punch the boy, but I was just so frustrated. I could have been working. I haven’t subbed all summer and I could have really used a half day’s pay. Jake, though… well, Jake’s in oil. We have substantially different incomes and likely always will. Half a day’s pay means very little to him and I’m not super eager to admit how difficult September has been, especially with the Gardasil vaccine that I’m getting, at least partly, because of him. I tried to look at things a little differently. Now I had a whole morning to finish sewing my flannel Star Trek pants… for which no one would be paying me. Nope. I just couldn’t get over it, so I kept my texting brief, for fear of sounding bitchy. Verbal and textual chatterbox that I usually am, Jake noticed and called. He said he wanted to make sure the plans were still the same, that we’d be going to the botanical gardens and to the outdoor store. He clearly wanted to see if I was mad and I’m just not all that great at hiding emotions, but I was polite, if brief. When he arrived around noon, I was still a little reserved. Jake actually had to stop me and ask to see the Spock shirt I’d raved about getting with my birthday money: “Trek Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself.” Ultimately, I decided the best bet was just to say something to him, rather than let it stew.

Me: “I’d have worked this morning if I’d known you’d be late.”
Jake: “Ugh. Yeah. My brother was being a dick, so I didn’t get out until later.”

He clearly didn’t want to talk about it and I didn’t want to pry, but I quadruple checked that he’d be there early in the morning! Still annoyed, I set it aside and we started our day with lunch. Midway through our meal, I’d forgotten all about my frustrations with Jake and was just so glad to be with him. I always convince myself in our time apart that he’s not as great as I remember and I’m always wrong.

We had a great time. I stole my country boy’s new phone and changed his theme to pink and his ringtone to Turn Down for What, the latter of which I’m still not sure he’s been able to fix. We joked and talked about politics and I, again, took his phone and pretended to change his Facebook relationship status (he doesn’t Facebook at all), only to have him tell me to go ahead. After lunch, we went to the gardens, which were, quite honestly, boring. Did you know that botanical gardens just equals “trees and bushes”? When we’d gone to the zoo, Jake had been strangely gifted at naming the plants, so I’d thought it would be a fun activity, but I was wrong… except for the Jake part. That part was nice.

After the gardens, we went to the outdoor store and Jake asked if I wanted him to buy pretty much everything I touched. While it’s sweet that he wanted to get me a birthday gift, that’s not really how that’s done, so I declined everything but a bag of cotton candy jelly beans. We played a shooting game and Jake told me the official names of the fish in the tank. As much of a city girl as I can be, there’s something so… familiar about Jake’s country roots. All my life, I’ve grown up around men who hunt and fish. My ex-husband wasn’t into any of those things at all and there’s something almost… comforting in Jake’s down home side. He’s so friendly and laid-back, but at the same time, he can argue Lord of the Rings vs. Harry Potter (he’s wrong). Ultimately, you’d think I’d find discussing types of fish dull, but it’s almost… soothing.

By the time we were supposed to meet Gail and Terry at the bar, I was pretty tired, but Jake had other ideas, which made us later than a nap would have. Regardless, everyone seemed to hit it off quite well. Terry and Jake are both from small towns, with farmer/ranchers for parents. The conversation was easy and fun and my three margaritas put me so far over the limit, by the end of the night, that I jokingly programmed a sex shop into Jake’s GPS… and he drove there, when I refused to tell him what it was.

Finally, we went home and crashed for the night. The next morning, we woke up late for Jake and at normal human hours for Belle.

Jake: “It’s 8:00. We’ve wasted half the day.”
Me: “Shut up. It’s like the middle of the night.”

I made breakfast and somehow, the topic of my taking a job the day before came up again.

Me: “I was just frustrated because I asked for that very reason. I could’ve worked a half day. I don’t even know if one would’ve been available, but I couldn’t look because you said you’d be here at 9:00 and I blocked out the day.”
Jake: “I can like… give you money if it’s that big of a deal.”

Me: “Duuude. Noooo. I’m pretty sure that’s prostitution, so let’s not.”

I’m pretty sure that is the boyest thing he has ever said and that’s saying something. Ultimately, however, he got my point and understood the level of frustration I felt, so I feel the communication was successful. It wasn’t a fight, but it was our first disagreement and I think it was a productive one.

After breakfast/brunch, we went to see The Gift and then to meet my parents. I was a little nervous, but I didn’t want to make Jake more nervous by admitting so.

Jake: “I can’t believe I forgot my beard trimmer.”
Me: “It’s not that bad. Besides, I set the bar really low. They’ll love you.”

That’s me… being supportive.

I was right, though. Lena enthusiastically talked about my steps and both she and my dad told stories of their numerous trips to Mexico. My dad was thrilled to have a cattle/hunting/camping conversational companion and Lena and I bonded over how awful all of those things sound. Both of them loved when Jake told them how he doesn’t care for tattoos, piercings, and colorful hair.

Dad: “Are you going to go to the rodeo with him?”
Me: “Oh, I’m sure I will. His whole family is into rodeos. His dad was a rodeo clown.”
Jake: ::laughing:: “That is not true.”
Lena: “You’ll learn that Belle is her father’s daughter. They’re both dramatic story tellers.”
Jake: “Oh, I got that one a while ago.”
Me: “Hey. The difference is, want you to realize I’m being dramatic. My dad wants you to believe that he saw a cricket the size of a pony.”

It was great. They liked him. He liked them. It was a little loud with the live music and that was a damned shame, but it was just… fun. No one liked my ex-husband, so this is new and I’ll tell you, it’s awesome. I’ve always hated the idea of being with someone who doesn’t click with my family again and I’m pretty sure Jake with his stuffed deer head (who he’s refusing to let me a) decorate for Christmas or b) name Buzz) fit in better than me with my Ravenclaw Quidditch sweatshirt.

So that was my birthday and Jake’s introduction to some of the most important people in my life. I’m not sure it could’ve gone better, either. My daddy likes him. My stepmomma likes him. My Gaily likes him. Perhaps most amazingly, after three months, still like him.

Blogiversary Number Three!

The trouble with my blogiversary is that it’s actually on my birthday…


… not that my dad remembers when that is. After I sent the “what’s up?” text, I checked my voicemail to receive his happy birthday wishes.

The man is a parody of himself.

Anyhoo, the blogiversary post is always a tough one to fit in, because I love birthdays. I birthday myself to death. Saturday, I got together with Gaily, Catherine, and Laura. We stuffed ourselves with cookie cake, pizza, and liquor and talked about boys. I told them all about how I drove to Wellston after work on Thursday to see Jake, who made me the boyest and sweetest dinner ever: pork chops and canned peas and corn on paper plates that got soggy before I was finished eating. It was wonderful and he obviously missed me as much as I missed him, so I stayed the night and drove home at 6:00 the next morning.

Monday, Gaily and I drove 40 miles for donuts that aren’t as epic as everyone claims and I illegally downloaded Trainwreck for us to watch while crafting. Last night, Niki brought sushi over and we gorged on leftover cookie cake and caught up on each other’s lives. Tonight, on my actual birthday, I get dinner with my favorite lady in the whole world: my Gramma. Later, I’ll see my work friends at a grown-up arcade. Tomorrow, my guy comes to town for two days to see me and meet Gaily and Terry and then my dad and Lena.

So, if this week is any reflection on how 28 will go, I feel like I’ve come a long way. I started this blog on my 25th birthday, a grad student carefully navigating the dating world, while still coping with a young and tragic divorce. While I’m hoping I’ll get a full time position at the library soon, I’m pretty darned content with my life right now. I have wonderful friends and family, a career I love, and a blog I’ve maintained for three years to the day. I’m excited to see my future entries. It’s not the life I planned at 18. It’s better.

Textersation Tuesday

04-28-15 2We are the cool kids.

04-28-15 1 I’m about 80% sure he didn’t get that pun.

Fifty Inappropriate Comments on Fifty Shades of Grey… Give or Take

My father and I, we have… weird boundaries. I mean, one of my most popular posts was titled Looking at T*ts with My Dad. It’s not that we don’t also have a traditional, supportive daddy/daughter relationship. It’s just that he’s the man who gave me my flare for inappropriate humor and general conversational finesse.

Grandmotherly coworker: “My lips are so dry, they’re sticking together.”
Me: “That’s what she said!”

So, naturally, this led to the worst conversation anyone has ever had.

Me: “I have to go to Hobby Lobby after this to get supplies for my party this weekend. I’m having a Fifty Shades of Grey Goose party. We’re going to drink every time it’s stupid.”
Dad: “Lena and I actually went and saw that the other night.”
Me: “No. Stop talking.”
Dad: “Well, just to see what the big deal was, you know.”
Me: “Well, yeah. That’s why we’re going to watch it: to mercilessly mock it.”
Dad: “Well, you know, honestly, that movie wasn’t half bad.”
Me: “I can’t… unhear this.”

Dad: “All’s I’m saying is, when you watch it, go into it with an open mind.”
Me: “What?!? NO. I’ve read the books. I know the story and it’s awful. I am not watching Fifty Shades of Grey with an open mind… especially not at my dad’s insistence.”
Dad: “Well, Lena’s read the books and she said they were bad, but everyone’s talking about how those books are [air quotes], abusive and [I shit you not, more air quotes] offensive to women, but when he takes her to his playroom, he tells her ‘I’m fifty shades of fucked up.’…”
Me: “I’m pretty sure my ears are bleeding. This is, literally, the worst thing that has ever happened to me, listening to you quote Christian Grey.”

Dad: “… but she signs his contract anyway. The whole thing is between consensual adults. How is that abusive?”
Me: “Dad, the reason people call it abusive isn’t because of the BDSM – which is a term I should never use with my dad, by the way – but because of the way he treats her. At least in the books, he has to know her every move and he’s extremely…”
Dad: “Controlling?”
Me: “Yes.”
Dad: “Yeah, but she allows it.”
Me: “Dad, you seriously just defended all abuse!” 
Dad: “Well… huh… yeah. I guess you’re right.”

Me: “Thanks for lunch, daddy. Next time, I’ll tell you all about my favorite erotica.”

My daddy/daughter relationship is not the only unconventional one in my life.

Gramma: “What’s a flogger?”
Me: “It’s a handle with beaded strings and people hit each other with them, in bed, because it’s sexy to hurt. I bought some cord, pink glitter beads, and decorative tape. Then I hot glued them to wooden dalrods for party favors.”
Gramma: “But what are you guys gonna do with ’em?”
Me: “I don’t know… get drunk and hit each other with them, probably.”
Gramma: “That seems like a lot of effort.”
Me: “Yeah. They’re a lot more involved than I thought they would be. I actually have to get back to making my sex toys, now. I love you Gramma.”
Gramma: “Okay, hon, I love you. Have fun.” 

As for the party, we were all pretty drunk, but I did have the presence of mind to record some of the better comments, between people who were more or less strangers before that night. It’s amazing what Jello shots will do for one’s inhibitions when it comes to homemade Pin the Penis on Christian Grey.

Pin the P
Catherine won Charlie Tango… a four dollar helicopter I spray painted.

Gail: “That’s really classy, Belle.”
Me: “Hey. I am Grace Fucking Kelly.”

::Opening Credits::

Catherine: “What the fuck is up with her bangs?”
Me: :showing photo on phone:

Me: “Wait. Why does he ask if she’s a Girl Scout? She’s cutting rope. Does he just have really low expectations of The Girl Scouts?”

Catherine: “Yeah, cuz there’s totally a dial tone on a fucking cell phone.”

Reba: “Ew, no! That’s Elliot?”
Gail: “He looks like a 90’s drug dealer.”
Me: “He looks like an extra from The Craft.

::Sex toy Camera pan:: six people raise and shake homemade floggers “FLOGGERS!”
Me: “Shit. Is the window still open?”

Gail: “It’s not lovemaking, if there’s a contract.”

Me: “That… that’s literally a scene from Twilight! They’re even in a meadow!”
Gail: “Are they going to play baseball now?”

Reba: “Wait. Is this the scene where she’s just been running and now they’re gonna have sex?”
Me: “Yeah and she’s just been sitting around in her workout clothes making vaginal cheese.”
Reba: “Ewwwww! NO! BELLE!”
Gail: “It’s like FETA!” 

Gail: “Taking leggings off of yourself isn’t exactly the easiest and sexiest activity.”
Me: “‘It makes me so hot when you put wet clothes on me.'”

Carla: “I wonder if he had to learn to braid hair for this role.”
Me: “Maybe he already knew how, because he has a daughter.”

::Every single sex scene:: “MY DAD SAW THIS MOVIE!!!!!! I CAN’T!!! I JUST CAN’T!!!”
Gail: “What do you think they did after they got home from the movie?”
Me: “I don’t love you anymore, Gail!”

Gail: “I still think the most pressing question of the night is, where in the world was this movie shown in Russian for six minutes, the rest in English, with all the text in Spanish?”

The fun didn’t even stop after everyone went home.

carla chat

Remember the news stories about firemen preparing for an increase in calls from people attempting the dangerous things done in Fifty Shades? I confess. I tried one myself.

Facebook status: I tried to take off my shirt the way Christian Grey does. I got lost and confused. It was terrifying. People don’t undress that way.

For realz, y’all, I nearly removed my own scalp.


That’s a decorate-your-own-tie cookie. Obviously. Bee tea double ewe, tough to explain the leftover cookies at work.

Big Girl(?) Woes

You know, for someone who doesn’t make a dime off her blog, I’m incredibly reliable, fueled only by your follows, likes, and comments. Maybe it’s because I think too much and without some kind of outlet, beyond Gail, I’d drift slowly into madness…

… or quickly.

It’s a unique disappointment though, when a favorite blogger writes less and less consistently, gradually weaning themselves into oblivion. If you’re anything like me, in your blog reading, you become truly invested in the characters. You want to know what happened with that interview/date/visit to the couple’s therapist. When I’m following a blog and reading about the trials of new marriage, the heartache of divorce, or the stress of watching children grow up and move away and then they just stop writing…

Maybe I put too much stock into the lives of strangers. The thing is, I love reading someone’s story as it’s happening. When I read your dating blog, I’m not just experiencing your disastrous online dating efforts. I’m watching the montage at the beginning of the love story and who wants to stop after the montage?!?! And so, it is with this little rant that I apologize for my sporadic posting, as of late. I have been working 60 hours per week, saving for a summer without substitute teaching, in addition to…

… drum roll please…

Big Girl Woes.

Y’all, I love being an adult. I see and hear constant complaints and ecards about how “being an adult isn’t going to work out for me” and I’m all whhhaaaa?!?! Being a grown up is the greatest and I mean that in a Tom Hanks in the first half of Big sort of way. I get to stay up late for no reason, eat candy for breakfast, have random snack foods for dinner, never fold the laundry, make the bed only when I change the sheets, and have trashy Netflix chick marathons all summer long. Even better, no one hits me, the bills get paid, and there are no compromises at all.

The last few weeks, however, everything has just seemed to snowball. It started with needing new tires… then my phone died forever… then my Judybug cost me $250 in X-rays to diagnose him as a drama queen… but through all that, I didn’t accept a dime of help, because I have an awful lot of pride tied up in the fact that I take care of me. I haven’t accepted help on that front since my daddy paid for my last graduate course, so I could get my diploma. Then the washing machine broke down…

Dad: “I transferred $100 to your account.”
Me: “I’ll pay you back by the middle of next month.”
Dad: “Don’t worry about it. It’s fine.”

$100 does not a Big Girl make. That’s not so bad. Right?

… then finally my car (with its new tires) was no more.

Mechanic: “Well, what’s wrong with it?”
Me: “It just.. stopped working.”

I’m an articulate gal. I promise. Just don’t ask me about cars.

By God’s infinite graces, I was able to get back to my sub job in time for class and borrow my daddy’s Jeep in time to be at the library by 5:00. I didn’t have to rent a car and my car insurance covered the towing. I however, did not receive the news I was hoping for, that my repair would be Cheap As Free.

Mechaninc: “It’s going to be expensive.”
Me: “How expensive?”
Mechaninc: “Well, I don’t know for sure yet. $1,500 to $2,000?”

Fine. Lesson learned. That wasn’t just water leaking from the undercarriage after the rain we haven’t had lately. Don’t just turn up the radio, when you hear that noise. Also, never buy a car from a company that prompts the question “Wait. They make cars? I thought they just made motorcycles.” If it hadn’t rattled like a box of nails, I might have considered said noise to be more significant and if it weren’t so low to the ground, I might not have blamed a puddle.

So, it is with this stroke of fortune that I spent last Thursday evening shopping for a new car, rather than writing my latest blog post.

Dad: “Well, if you need another $500 for the down payment, just holler.”
Me: “Yeah… I’m just gonna take you up on that, then.”

Me: “I had to accept $500 from my daddy to even be considered for financing. Growing up takes so much longer than I had planned. I’m 26. I have a master’s degree and work two jobs. Is it ever going to happen?”
Gail: “You know, people don’t talk about borrowing money from their parents. This is really just something people do sometimes… which is why it’s so scary when your parents die, because you are truly on your own.” 

Bee tea double ewe, if you ever find a friend who will spend her only night off that week, suffering through the pain that is buying a car, keep her forever and let your kids call her aunt.

I did it, though. Almost on my own. I made the negotiations. I went all Rosie the Riveter and quoted Kelley Blue Book, when they tried to get me to double my down payment. I signed the papers for my very first car payment… and only had a small panic attack while doing so. I got all the documents sent into the financing office and switched the insurance. I even paid the mechanic and made the arrangements to have my deceased roller skate of a car towed to the salvage yard and picked up the check. Still, everyone seemed to think it was the wrong move.

Bo: “70,000 miles on a Nissan isn’t bad. But if you’d had dad cosign, you might could’ve gotten a new car for the same payment.”
Me: “I’m 26 years old. I don’t need my daddy to cosign on a car, if I can get approved. I want to do it on my own, as much as I can. Besides, I don’t think Lena would be cool with that.”
Bo: “It’s really none of Lena’s business.”
Me: “Um, she’s married to him. His credit is her credit. That’s totally her business.”

I figured that, surely, my daddy would agree when I told him the next day.

Dad: “Well, I’m gonna help Bea out, when she buys a new car.”
Me: “Yeah, but Bea’s 20 years old and in college. I’m 26 and could get approved, just at a higher interest rate. I’d rather do it myself and refinance, than be tied to you financially for six years.”
Dad: “Yeah, but if I’d cosigned, you might could’ve gotten a new car for the same payment.”

Today, all the trouble was supposed to be over. The Freon was supposed to be charged, as agreed upon in the initial sale, when the car salesman assured me that’s all it was. Alas, another lesson has been learned: never buy a car with a broken air conditioner. Fortunately the dealership will cover the repairs, despite the fact that the warranty doesn’t apply for a preexisting issue… all but $100 that I just don’t have.

Me: “Can I have $100 if I promise-”
Dad: “Well, sure.”

God’s infinite graces? Certainly.

But I may have officially lost the title of Big Girl.

Looking at T*ts with My Dad

For the last few years, my dad and I have been having semi-weekly daddy/daughter lunches at a local restaurant of his choosing, since he pays. The man has this great cackling laugh that you can hear a mile away. If you are in the building, you know he’s present by this laugh and I get to hear it at these lunches a lot. My dad is surprisingly supportive of my marital status for a Southern father of a single 25-year-old girl. I think part of it is that he got married and had children young himself and he’s glad I’m enjoying my youth and building a career. Mostly, I think it was hard enough for him to watch his baby girl struggle through a hellish marriage once and he’d prefer she choose more carefully the next time, so he doesn’t end up in prison.

dad with gun

Still, my brother Bo has made it clear that my uterus is going to start to smell if I don’t use it soon, so I feel the need to reassure my dad of my dating efforts. I love my daddy, but I’ll admit we have a peculiar relationship, a fact to which the waitresses who’ve served us will attest.

Dad: “Baby, you don’t need to worry about that right now. You’ve got plenty of time.”
Me: “Well, I know, but I do date. I just date douche bags.”
Dad: ::cackling::
I realize the waitress is standing next to us, with a surprised and amused expression as she refills our drinks.
Me: “One guy asked me to come over and watch Arrow with him. He didn’t own a TV. The day I find a guy who’s not a bag of dicks, I’ll call you up and tell you there’s someone I want you to meet.”
Dad: “Well that’s the way to do it. Don’t listen to your brother. He’s been married since he was fuckin’ twelve years old. You enjoy it while it lasts.”

So, yesterday, when I woke up, I sent my dad the following text:


When I didn’t get a response, I sent:


He told me he wasn’t sure and he’d call in a bit. Soon, the song Cowgirls Don’t Cry filled the room…

Dad: “Watcha doin?”
Me: “Commenting on my blog.”
Dad: “What do you say we do something different today?”
Me: “Okay. Where do you wanna go?”
Dad: “How ’bout you meet me over at Twin Peaks at 11:00?”
Me: “Sure. Works for me.”

Now, I had never actually been to Twin Peaks before yesterday. I’d heard mixed reviews, some comparing it to Hooters, but others comparing it to Buffalo Wild Wings. I just pictured conveniently tight t-shirts. I had told my dad 11:10, thinking it would take me longer to get there, but arrived at 10:50. I knew he hadn’t yet, as his work truck wasn’t in the parking lot. I immediately realized that I was not, in fact, at what was basically Buffalo Wild Wings. I also realized that, as the apparent only female customer in the place, I was both over dressed and under dressed in my ruffled pink flip flops, jean shorts, and pink “I ❤ Springfield XDM” t-shirt. You see, at Twin Peaks, the female dress code is apparently…

twin peaks

The counter was crowded with girls wearing plaid bras, khaki panties, and mountain boots as I entered… alone… thinking:

Seriously, Dad? Seriously?!?!

I don’t think less of people who work for their money. Food service is one of the few jobs I skipped while I worked my way through college, because it’s hardI may have been surprised and felt out of place, but I had no intention of being disrespectful to girls who had friendly smiles on their faces, so I just gave them one in return as I stumbled through asking for a table.

Me: “Hi. I’m waiting for my dad…” Motherfucker, how creepy does that sound? “He should be here soon and he’ll probably be wearing an electric company shirt…” Look at their faces. Look at their faces. “… so if I could just get a booth, that would be great.”

I was soooo glad they had booths, because I was concentrating so hard on looking at their faces, I hadn’t even noticed the layout. Honestly, this wouldn’t have been so bad during the dinner hour, as there would’ve been at least a few other female customers. This was lunch, though, and the only people who eat lunch at Twin Peaks on a Tuesday are these guys.

Image converted using ifftoany

I quickly realized that I was literally the only woman in the place not wearing a push-up bra and flannel and it was beginning to get crowded. I looked over the menu, briefly, and realized one of the choices was a sandwich called The Mile High Club.

Seriously, Dad? Seriously?!?!

As I sat alone, each man who passed my table seemed to give me a subtle (or not so subtle) second glance.

“No, no. I’m just waiting for my da–. Wait. I mean…”

I think my server realized I felt a little awkward, so she sat down across from me and asked…

Server: “So, Belle. Do you think it’s gonna rain all day?”
Look at her face, look at her face.
Me: “I’m not sure. I didn’t even realize it was raining until I checked Facebook this morning. Fortunately I take the Turnpike to work, so I won’t have to deal with any flooded streets or anything. Honestly, I’m loving the rain. I’m so sick of all this sunshine and so over summer and ready for fall. I saw a spider the size of a baby squirrel the other day and I. Am. Done. It wasn’t really the size of a baby squirrel. I did kill it, though. It didn’t like just go missing, which would’ve been terrible. I don’t even know how it got in, since I live upstairs.”
Fuck, Belle. You have been talking since THE BEGINNING OF TIME. Shut up!
Server: “Yeah, I know what you mean. I’m ready for some colder weather, too”

She didn’t stay much longer, since she had tables. It was super sweet of her to sit and chat with me, though. While I had been babbling like a lunatic eating her own hair, I saw my dad’s truck pull in and gave an internal sigh of relief, figuring he’d be in any minute. I’m pretty sure he rescued a baby badger and raised it to adulthood in the parking lot, though, because it was at least another two and half years before he walked through that door.*

I was so relieved to end this awkwardness, that I immediately hugged him and said

“Hey, daddy!”
Oh… weird. Don’t say ‘daddy’ in a Twin Peaks.

He sat down and we started chatting. He seemed to think nothing of sitting across from his daughter while a very sweet girl in flannel pasties took our order, so I brought up the sexy plaid elephant in the room on my own.

sexy elephant costuem
Oh em jingles. Guess who just found her Halloween costume!!!

Me: “Just so you know, it is super awkward to be having lunch with my dad in a strip club.”
Dad: ::cackles:: “Hey, I come here for the food.”
Me: “Clearly. Let me guess, The Mile High Club?”
Dad: “Hey, that’s a great sandwich and it’s huge. You could eat off of that thing for days. Lena’s always askin’ ‘Where’d you go for lunch today?’ and when I tell her Twin Peaks, she never believes me when I say it’s for the food. Hooters may have good scenery, but their food sucks. At least when I come here, they’ve got the scenery and they have great food.”
Me: “Classy, dad.”
Dad: “Classy! That’s it! It’s a classy restaurant.”

I did not bother to clarify my sarcasm that it was his comment I was calling classy, not…

class twin peaksMe: “Yeah, yeah. I get it. They’re bringing you food, not lap dances.”
Dad: “Hey, I’ve known women who’ve put themselves through school doing this kinda thing.”
Me: “Well, duh. Hell, if I didn’t like gummy worms so much, I’d be working here.”
Dad: ::cackles::

Honestly, the food was just meh, but the company was still great. My daddy gave me life advice and we caught up on family gossip. I bragged to him about my blog being Freshly Pressed and doubling my followers in a day, since he’s the one who always tells me I need to be a writer. He’s super supportive of my writing efforts and makes it clear the pride he has in me for both these and my Master’s degree. Despite that, we sort of have this unspoken agreement that he’s not going to actually follow my blog, because no matter how nontraditional our relationship, he doesn’t need to read all of those jokes about my vibrators. It’s a very unspoken agreement. Since he doesn’t know how the whole blogging process works, I’m pretty sure he just nods along at this topic like when I start rambling about how awesome it is to be a librarian. In fact, I’m almost certain that every time I start talking about these things, in his head I’m telling him all about the unicorn story I wrote at school today and I look like this…

fairy princess

Regardless, he’s as supportive of these updates as one might expect from a member of the Duck Dynasty family.

Me: “I love you daddy. Thanks for lunch.”
Dad: “Love you too, baby. Sorry it was at a strip club.”
Me: “Oh, that’s okay. I’ll just write a blog about it called ‘Looking at Tits with My Dad.”
Dad: ::cackles::

*Fun fact: I actually looked up the age of maturity for a badger. You can’t say I’m not thorough.

I’m sorry I’ve misdirected my sorry: Watching my dad watch his dad die.

I stand by my dad’s work truck while he ends his phone call before our weekly lunch.
Me: “That didn’t sound fun.”
Dad: “No, it isn’t. Dad’s dyin’ and he’s just pitiful.”
I hug him and he grips just a little tighter than normal.
Me: “Love you, dad.”
Dad: “Love you too, baby.”
Me: “So it’s bad, huh?”
Dad: “Yeah. Like I said, he’s just pitiful, but he’s been pitiful his whole damn life so it’s just pissin’ me off even more now.”
Me: “Well, I’m sure I’ll be there with mom one day.”

When I was little, my dad had two dads. One was his step-father, my Grandpa Murphy, who died of cancer when I was five. The other, we saw so little that I once introduced him to my cousin (also his granddaughter) when I was six. I can list what I know about my Grandpa Geff in bullets…

  • He went to Mass every single day of his life.
  • The few times we saw him, he made us go to Mass, but always bought us breakfast.
  • For someone so devoted to God, he completely dropped the ball on his earthly obligations, such as children.
  • He’s been a far more influential presence in my dad’s half-sister, Sarah’s, life than my dad’s or his sisters’. She’s a self-indulgent fuck-up, though, so maybe that’s a good thing.
  • For Christmas, my dad’s and his sisters’ kids got tube socks or a stuffed animal. Sarah’s son got remote control cars.

My Grandma Kay once told me that Grandpa Geff would regularly promise to take my dad out after the divorce; my dad would sit on the steps waiting for him all evening and he’d never show. After she married my Grandpa Murphy, he stopped offering to help at all and my dad quickly came to think of Grandpa Murphy as his father. Grandma Kay once explained the divorce to me, how Grandpa Geff wouldn’t let her use birth control, but wouldn’t help with the kids and wanted her to take care of him as if he were a child as well. She declared….

“I told mamma and daddy, ‘I’ve been a good girl my whole life and I’ve always done exactly what you wanted, but I will not stay married to that man. I hate him.'”

For the last few years, my dad and I have been celebrating semi-weekly Daddy/Daughter Lunches. They’re one of the best parts of my generally packed schedule.

lunch with dad
I’m almost certain it’s more of a texting issue than a spelling issue.

For the last several weeks, though, he’s talked to me a lot about his and his sisters’ frustrations with Grandpa Geff’s cancer.

Me: “I’m kind of surprised you’re all doing so much. I mean, I know you don’t have the best relationship.”
Dad: “Well, you know, what can you do? You can’t just leave him to die.”

Me: “I feel bad, because I don’t really feel that bad, you know? I’m sorry.”
Dad: “Don’t apologize, baby. He was never around when you were growin’ up. You hardly know the man.”

Dad: “He keeps callin’ me over in the middle of the night swearin’ he’s gonna die. He’s just eatin’ up the attention.”

Dad: “He keeps tellin’ me he’s ready to go, that this is it. It’s never it. It’s not it until his body says it is.”

Dad: “Sarah keeps tellin’ the nurses not to give him pain medicine and tryin’ to bring her stupid ass preacher in to ‘pray for him.’ Fuckin’ crazy ass bitch. I’m gonna lose it on her. Dad was a devout Catholic his whole life. He is not gonna want some fuckin’ preacher prayin’ over him.”

Dad: “He won’t use the damn oxygen. He just sits there and wheezes, complainin’ about how he can’t breathe, but then he won’t use the oxygen.”

Dad: “I wouldn’t let my dog live like this. If she couldn’t walk, I’d put her down.”

I don’t want Grandpa Geff to die, but I feel worse for my dad than I do for him. Grandpa Geff’s a religious man who never pursued much in his life. He’s comfortable with death and as long as he’s medicated, his remaining days will be good. I feel so much for my dad right now, though. This is the end. He’s having to face the fact that Grandpa Geff will never come through for him…. while helping him bathe. Grandpa Geff milks the attention and drama, by refusing oxygen and calling every few hours to cry wolf that this is really the end. My dad rushes over, because it may be and then finds it’s just his usual drama. He’s relieved and regretful, feeling guilty about the latter. He doesn’t want to abandon the man, but at the same time, resents him for his own abandonment. On his death bed, he sees him coddle my dad’s forty-something half-sister like he never cared for him or his sisters, even when they were children. He’s hurt and stressed out and resentful, but still battling to carry out his dad’s wishes of using what’s left of his money to pay Sarah’s mortgage. He even fights her off when she demands to bring in her Evangelist preacher and take a sick man off his medicine. They’ve had multiple arguments about the house Grandpa Geff lives in, because ownership goes to Grandma Kay when he dies. She wants her kids to sell it and split the money, because their dad never did anything for them and Sarah is pissed. My dad’s still angry on my Grandpa Geff’s behalf, because Sarah’s taking advantage of him and has been doing so for half of her life. My dad’s a lot of things… vulgar, loud, funny, offensive, loving, generous on his terms, but he’s not sensitive and watching him hurt… well, that fucking hurts. When he hugs me tighter than usual, says “I love you, baby” and clearly eats up being around his young and lively 25-year-old daughter, if only to discuss his pitiful and selfish dying father… I want to tear up. It’s like watching Chuck Norris weep.

chuck norris
Yeah… that picture doesn’t exist. Point made.

Maybe I feel so much for him, because I will be there with my mom one day. Right now, she’s got a good 30 years to stop being who she is and apologize for what she’s torn away from me. Well, she eats a lot of mayonnaise, so maybe 20 years. When that day comes, though, and I never got another glimpse of the woman who used to put candles in my birthday pancakes? When I know it can never get better? That’s gonna hurt. When she somehow manages to dramatize death… that’s gonna piss me off. I’ll feel relieved that she’s never again going to play head games with me… and I’ll feel like shit because of it. So, I can imagine how my dad feels right now.

Then again, maybe watching my dad watch his dad die just strikes a cord with me, because I couldn’t bear to lose my dad. Maybe that’s intensified by watching him be so good to a man who did him so wrong, despite his defensive harsh words in regards to the situation. I mean, if there’s a single person on this PLANET who can see past the offensive jokes to the goodness and the pain, it’s the girl to whom he passed the gene, amiright?

I know for certain, though, that watching a man’s family have such conflicted feelings on his death… well, that makes me want to live a good life where I care for people and keep up my end of the bargain so no one’s ever not sure if they’re sad that I’m dying.

The Tornado Diaries: Where I Giggle About Something Terrifying

A Southern toddler could tell you exactly what the appropriate procedures are for a tornado warning. A Southern eight-year-old could tell you exactly how no adults ever actually follow said procedures. All non-Southerners think one late night viewing of Twister qualifies them to say “You know a tornado’s coming. Get underground!” Umm… no. We don’t. We know a tornado might come… sometime this spring or summer or maybe in the fall. There will be more tornado warnings this Tuesday and Wednesday, just as there were all last week… encompassing a third of the state. A tornado did not hit a third of the state. The sirens go off all the friggin’ time… and nothing happens. We can’t live our lives underground five months out of the year. This ain’t District 13, folks. We have to watch the news, wait, and determine whether or not it’s safe to get on the roads to seek shelter, because we don’t all have underground facilities, especially those of us in apartments. So this is what a real tornado experience looks like through the eyes of someone who jokes about everything, including those things that are scary as fuck.

Shetland: I gave my hometown a real name. This is the town I’ve lived in for the majority of my life.
Springfield: About 10 minutes north of Shetland, often merged with Shetland.
Fairview: About 20 minutes west of Springfield. I lived in a motel in this lower-income town for a few months when I was married. I hated it.

A Southern spring night.

My best Facebook posts of Friday night and Saturday morning:

Scariest thought of the night: “That mattress is really wedged in there. Am I trapped in the bathtub?”

I can’t sleep without a fan blowing. There’s sauce all over my kitchen from using a hammer to open a can of Spaghetti O’s. My Kindle battery is draining. I am so over this Laura Ingles $#^+.

I would not even care about the zombies in The Walking Dead. Those people have no electricity. EVER.

Wait. What is all over the kitchen? Oh, yeah. Spaghetti O’s. Hammer.

Textersation With Gail Friday Night
Gail: Watch the weather.
Gail knows I don’t watch the weather unless someone calls or texts that I’m about to die.
Me: Rory Gilmore would be 30 next year.
Even then, I may or may not take it seriously. I just assume we’re under tornado watch March through October.
Gail: Turn on the weather if you haven’t yet and get to a house instead of your place.
Me: Why?
Gail: Very bad storm in Fairview.
Me: I’m not in Fairview.
Gail: Heading east, as tornadoes do.
Me: I’m not east of Fairview.
Gail: Well, I meant so that if one occurs here, as they’re warning is likely, you don’t die.
Ugh. Here goes Gail again. This is just like the time she claimed that guy I met online wanted to “show me his hatchet”. He just wanted to watch Arrow. So, he didn’t have a T.V. That doesn’t mean anything. So fucking paranoid. – I called my dad, who works for the electric company and is therefore in the know. Then I called my Gramma, who along with Gail, works for the fabricate-shit-to-fear company.
Me: Everyone else said it’s not coming here.
Gail: Yeah, the current tornado isn’t. The storm is still developing. Channel 4 just said “If you’re in Springfield, take shelter now.”
Me: Ah. Cherokees blessed the town. I’ll be fine.
Me: I’m not in Springfield.
We have a heavy concentration of Native Americans in this state and a heavier concentration of ignorant, rich, white kids in Shetland. Last spring, while substituting under another tornado watch, I had a fifteen-year-old boy assure the class that we were fine, because Cherokee Indians blessed the town a hundred years ago. I tried to explain that’s bordering racist and also isn’t how weather works, but the class seemed calmed by the idea, so I left it alone. 
Gail:*shrug* suit yourself. If you ever die of Belle-related causes, I’m letting your mother dress your corpse for the funeral.
tweety funeral

That is exactly what that would look like, because to my undiagnosed/secretly diagnosed mentally ill mother, I’m frozen at age 11.

Gail: “This is a major tornado. It’s making a hard right and turning toward Shetland.”
I had actually heard this on the news and was headed toward my Gramma’s house, but admitting that was acknowledging my own fear, which is an emotion, so ew.
Me: *Picture of Cherokee* – Couldn’t find one. Typed the words.
Me: My grandparents left to “outrun it.” I don’t know what to do, but I didn’t go with them.
A drunken Southern child (that’s probably a thing) could tell you this is a stupid idea. You cannot “outrun” a fucking tornado, particularly with 2,000 other people on the road doing the exact same thing, because an idiotic weatherman told everyone to “head south.”
Gail: It turned toward Springfield. He said if you’re in Springfield, go south. Right now it’s headed down the highway.
Me: You might want to pray for me. No. Pray for my Gramma and my stupid grandpa, who decided they could outrun a tornado.
I didn’t tell Gail that I was on the road at this point, and would likely die if the tornado hit Shetland, because I was stuck in traffic. It wouldn’t have helped and where do we keep our emotions, y’all? That’s right. With the last fucking horcrux.
Gail: You shouldn’t have gone. You did the right thing. Now it’s more likely to hit my empty duplex, but now it’s just a circulating cloud. It’s off the ground.
Me: Shetland is fucking anarchy. People are driving on the shoulder and all over the roads. Police and ambulance sirens are constant.
Gail: It’s back on the highway. It destroyed one of the storm chaser vehicles. That’s why they thought it ended – they lost contact. Springfield and north Shetland. You’re probably okay by now.
Me: Yeah, the power outage is the biggest deal. It’s freaky quiet.
Gail: NO! There’s another similar storm right behind it.
Me: Fuck this. Wanna move to Colorado with me?
Where there is no bad weather.
Gail: They think another tornado is forming in southern Fairview.
Me: Knew I hated that place. The sirens are steady now. It’s eerie.
Gail: Yes. Looks like a small tornado is by my place. Figures I’d lose everything.
Me: Least you KNOW Terry didn’t do it. I hope no one finds my vibrators in the rubble.
dog with vibrator
Me: I love you.
Gail: I love you, too. Are you okay? Where are you?
Me: I’m good. I’m home. Is your place intact?
Gail: I have no clue. I’m at my parents.
Me: Bad things don’t happen, Gail.
Just sayin’.
Gail: There are overturned cars and injuries in Shetland. The Cherokees could improve their aim.
Gail’s a little racist.
Me: Holy shit, there’s a telephone pole across the street in front of Wal-Mart!
Gail: Told you. Go inside!
Me: Ummm.. I did something stupid instead.
Gail: Do you have a flat tire? Dammit, Belle! You know there are nails everywhere!
You know, I grew up here. I should’ve known there were nails everywhere, but it totally didn’t occur to me. Neither did the fact that I practically drive a low-rider hatchback and it had been raining heavily for hours.
flash flood
Me: Okay. Home.
Gail: Thank you.
I immediately left to grab ice from the gas station, though it was still pouring, there were down power lines everywhere, and the gas station was clearly closed… until they saw me driving away with their ice and started shining a flashlight through the window.
Me: So, Shetland is SUPER flooded right now.
Gail: Yeah, gotta conserve phone battery though, so please no more texting unless it’s pretty important. Sorry. 😦
Me: One last one. How much trouble can I get into for stealing two bags of ice from the gas station when they didn’t see my plates and I’ll totally pay for them when they’re open?
For realz, I had to keep talking myself down from a panic every time I saw red and blues (which was often) outside my window, because I was certain they were coming for me for looting $3 worth of ice, for which I did eventually pay. You know, because they didn’t have bigger shit on their minds.


When I woke the next morning, I realized I still didn’t have power and wasn’t surprised at my three hours of sleep. Seriously, if the power flickers and the fan goes off briefly, I will wake up. I texted my dad since there were reports I might not have electricity for days. Keep in mind, my dad works for the electric company. It’s gonna be a busy week and that started Friday night.

Me: Can I store some food in your freezer and stay with you until I have electricity?
Dad: Sure. You can have the front room.
Me: Thanks! I’ll be totally unobtrusive.
Me: I’m at your place with a flat tire.

What was that about nails, Gail?