when a house is not a home

I have dreaded writing this. It’s much too close to the hardest thing I’ve had to put down for permanence so far in just under 30 years of my existence. But if I am to let it go, and I am to really, honestly find my happy place, I must.

Let’s start at the beginning. First I must admit that this all happened (exactly 18 days ago) just after being forced to quit behavioral medication cold turkey. (Thanks, Medicaid! This is what I get for earning that promotion!) So let me first paint a picture of the state of my reality at this point:

I am living in a train yard where each thought, idea, memory and to-do list item is a train. Tracks are everywhere, going nowhere but criss-crossing each other all the time. I am standing in the middle of this train yard with tracks all around me, trains flying by at obscenely dangerous speeds. When I am awake, these trains catch me, like a stray string caught on a button. I’m yanked along on a train I didn’t ask to board. I reach out for any other train to get me off this one, and I am whisked away on something else. I am not choosing to catch these trains, they are catching me. They never stop, they never slow down, and they don’t really give a damn whether I am crushed under them or not.

Except one train.

I saw a Public Auction sign on an old, ugly house at the corner of S. Dean and E. Fisher. That sign said this train was headed toward Grama.

I jumped. I leapt with both feet, and held on tight with my heart.

I wanted that house so badly. I wanted to make it a home. I just knew, if I could fix it and put those broken pieces back where they belonged, everything would go back to the way it was and I could once again live Happily Ever After. I wanted to raise my kids in the home I was raised in.

My father can grow things. We always had clothes on our backs, food in our mouths (with permission, of course) and a roof over our heads. We grew there, in that older, uglier house in Leslie, but he didn’t raise us.

So I had a mission, and I gathered an army. In a matter of four days, I had volunteers willing to help me purchase and repair it. I had put this house on the radar of my city and county commissioners. I had put out a public appeal: help me save this house.

It was not, in fact, up for Public Auction. It had gone up for auction in 2016, three weeks after she was gone. I don’t remember much of those first few months except the feeling of wet pillowcases against my cheeks and a canyon-like void in my soul. I obviously was not in any condition to go bidding on the graveyard of my childhood. (We’ll discuss this in a moment.)

Had I purchased it, I would not be the same person I am today. To be completely honest, I am not sure I can imagine the person I would be, but I have a sad feeling I would be very small in a very big world and I would continue to wilt, smaller and smaller into the time-warped safe space of my memory.

To allow someone else to live there, could be bearable. I have recently met the lovely couple that lives in my great-grandmother’s home. A home much more loved in the older generations of the family, and one that perhaps is waiting for me to get my shit together.

But this one – this little piece of my beloved city – this is the one my heart cried for. And this one, this tiny piece of the world I wanted so badly for myself, is going to be demolished. Very soon, in fact. This will be the last summer of my life that I can ever sit on the steps of that porch and look at the stars, and I will be a trespasser.

To see it gone, to know a little girl will never run across that kitchen floor again, to know the things we scribbled on the bedroom closet walls will be lost forever, to know the great old stove in the parlor will never warm a set of toes again, these are things I struggle in coming to terms with. There are so many wonderful things that were said and shared there that I will never get back. There were so many wrongs done in that house I can never undo.

I said I wanted to try everything to save it. This time, I tried to listen to my father. I tried to understand how he felt. I asked him, and his answer was very clear. Continuing to cling to this home was a personal betrayal that I, of all people, should be able to understand.

But it angered me. His answer was selfish. His response was cold and cruel. It reeked of old grudges that had nothing to do with me and never should have hurt me as badly as they did. My house of horrors continues to stand – and another family has made it a home. I never got my revenge. Why should he get his? And why should he – as he always did – get it at my expense?

He never argues with his feelings. He simply tells you what you ought to think, and if you don’t think so, you’re an asshole that will figure it out eventually.

This time, he said please.

Please, he said, let that house go. 

So I got a second opinion. Surprisingly, the answer was the same, albeit much kinder and explained the way it should have been explained the first time.

I have been so obsessed with putting the pieces of this broken puzzle back together that I have ceased to realize there will always be missing pieces. It will never, ever be the picture of home I have in my heart. The reason it feels like they are desecrating a grave… is because that’s all it is, anymore.

I cannot raise my children in a graveyard. I cannot grow from this pain in a place I never knew it, in a place where I cannot understand anyone else’s pain.

But I said I wanted to try everything, and I did. I had never tried to be that honest with my father before, and he had never been as honest with me. I had lost hope in finding compassion for him and on this train, I did. I wish I could not understand his sense of betrayal, but unfortunately, I do.

I don’t know that I will ever be able to forgive the last person to turn off the light and shut the door. I can only look forward, and hope I find where I belong.

Goodbye, Home. I’ll find you somewhere. Love you forever.

-xoxo ❤



A Civil Minded Poem

Hello friends, it has been a while. I have been trying to stay busy with other things as my mind swings to and fro in a mad frenzy to figure out my footing. I’m doing okay. I can say things have definitely improved since our last conversation.

Today I’ve been thinking about some local projects I’ve been working on. It being Black History Month, I’ve also been inundated with Martin Luther King, Jr.-inspired articles and quotes and other shareables across the web. I wrote a little list of some things that came to mind as I recalled his vision for our future, and asked myself how much further I thought we had to go. I hope this makes you think, and maybe gives a little giggle.

Thanks for reading.



I have a dream
That one day, we will know each other’s names
Without seeing a profile picture.

I have a dream
That the bridges we cross will be toll-free
Responsibly and publicly funded.

I have a dream
That those who oppose millages understand
What a fraction of a cent means.

I have a dream
That common good and common sense
Preponderate personal privilege.

I have a dream
That the guns are put down, and men learn to stand
Without raising a fist.

I have a dream

Where the only color associated with skin

is “Flesh.”

I have a dream
That freedom of speech is not freedom to screech
Slurs, slander and hate.

I have a dream
That prisons become teachable opportunities
Increasing the profit to all.

I have a dream
That metal detectors find a proper burial place
In airports instead of elementaries.

I have a dream
That medication will be used for medicine
And not as a tool, a crutch.

I have a dream
Of a vaccinated world free from polio, measles
And Jenny McCarthy followers.

I have a dream
That those who signed their life on the line
Receive the thanks they deserve.

I have a dream
Of universal healthcare for all humans
Based on need, and not bank.

I have a dream
Of a rental market where reality
Meets affordability.

I have a dream
Of an oft-used highway in the summer
Without a construction barrel.

I have a dream
That employees are promoted equally on skill and merit
Rather than genitalia.

I have a dream
That genders are based on personal identity
Of the person in question, no questions asked.

I have a dream
Of a world of well-funded teachers, well-educated funders
Updated textbooks for all.

I have a dream
Of a fair and balanced news media with one agenda:
To speak the truth.

I have a dream
Of a clean backyard, park, and local beach
Because recycling is incentivized.

I have a dream
Of a bathroom with a full roll of tissue
And residents capable of change.

I have a dream
Of a commute without left lane drivers, where
Blinkers are used appropriately.

I have a dream
That our schools will be funded for academics
And not athletics.

I have a dream
That those who can, do, that those who cannot
Do what they can.

I have a dream
That one day, the items I love best
Will be saved from discontinuation.

I have a dream
Of a youth whose enthusiastic laundry endeavors
Include folding and putting away.

I have a dream
Of a world free from first world problems,
Full of first world countries.

I have a dream
That we will one day put down our screens
And see the sky for how blue it can be.

putting things on pages

is really hard sometimes, yo.

I can’t seem to sit down long enough to type up anything that isn’t instantly sent off to someone to finish something, check something, respond to something, verify something, confirm something…. I have been busier than ever the last few months and I’m wondering if it’s going to catch up with me sooner or later.

I’m thinking it’s catching up with me today, because I am jitterier than ever. That was the first time ever in my life I ever wrote that word or even thought it, I think. Wow. These are the types of things that keep popping into my head, impeding my trains of thought like cows on the tracks.

There are cows EVERYWHERE, y’all. I am barreling down these tracks at 100+ MPH right now and nothing is stopping me.

I have broken down and started a new medication regimen. I finally sought help for the roller coaster and took a chance at being the operator of this ride, instead. So far, it’s been a little bumpy. Some things have improved. Some things have kicked into high drive and I’m off to the races again. I almost miss being depressed at this point, because at least I could slow the fuck down but it makes me feel like a jerk for saying that out loud.

Have you ever drank a pot of coffee? That panic that crept in as you realized that was a TERRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD idea but you now had zero control to stop it yourself from following through on that ill-conceived plan? That is me, and I am the sole victim of myself at this point. Well, except for the dog, who, as guiltily and graciously as possible threw up very neatly between my front seats of my truck today. I will never get that out.

Sorry, each and every single person who ever rides in my truck again. Yes, that is dog puke, and no, I cannot clean it out. It lives there now, and I must tolerate it. But my point is, the dog is the only other person who has so far been harmed in the making of this terrible idea that was waking up this morning. But he’s okay now.

I went to bed in a panic because I could not stop. I went to bed the night before in a panic because I could not stop. I only stopped because, as sleep works, I inevitably passed out, losing consciousness. Really hoping, mind you, that the panic would go away and not return in the morning. But it does, and I have been AWAKE AWAKE all day. TOO awake. So awake I can barely breathe.

Zigglypuff and I drove around the side roads of the city this morning, filling our food pantry boxes with treats FGL and I made over Thanksgiving. (www.backtothebaymi.org) That’s why he threw up. I am a terrible, last-minute turner when I am looking for a street and please forgive me, but I have 18 random stops to make in mostly high-traffic areas. Sudden stops are gonna happen. Maybe I should get a bumper sticker, or like, one of those little bubble lights like the mail carriers have. And I should definitely not bring Ziggity do dah with me when I patrol the pantries again. Oops.

My house is super clean. Except the dishes, which, strangely enough, I do not feel compelled to do. I realize that I made those dishes dirty, but I have some unspoken refusal set deep in my heart to do the dishes. I have always made it very clear to those who love me and live with me, that I do not do the dishes, because I am most likely the one to dirty them up serving things to other people. I will be your chef, your hostess, your waitress and busser, but I will not be your dishwasher.

Well, that was pointless and didn’t tell you anything about why I’ve been so damn busy. This is the kind of cow I’m talking about, people.

My community restoration movement is moving. Back to the Bay is now a legitimate legal non-profit organization and I am President of something awesome and inspiring and most of all, REAL and HAPPENING. Like, as of this moment, pantries are being stocked, being used, people are getting food for their families at their own pace and time, people are being respected and cared for without judgment and without question. People are paying it forward and giving what they can. I am so blessed to be in this beautiful city of people who care about other people. This is the place I remember.

Work has been insane, to say the least. I am grateful for the time, grateful for the excellent feedback, grateful for the chance to be able to help so many others who are in the same boat as me. I’m still not sure I’ll ever truly own myself but I’m trying and we’re doing okay right now. That’s all I can tell myself.

Even if things are on fire, we’re fine. We have each other.

Maybe I should bake. That would make me feel better. I will have something to show for myself. Or I could sit here and watch the last five episodes of Outlander that I’ve missed, but something tells me that between Outlander and the mix CD I made for FGL yesterday, I’m probably pushing it a bit on my piracy-fueled intake for this month. My cable company is getting a little pissy with me. : /

It is eerily warm outside. It is raining, for which I am grateful, because it is not snow. Except I know when the sun – was there sun out today? I can’t remember – drops low tonight it will freeze. Do I have anything to do tomorrow? Yes. Pick up the children.

The drama that is involved with co-parenting seriously needs to be at a minimum. Mama is tired of the drama when she’s legit not the one making it anymore. I broke up with it! I divorced it! I am thrilled to live this life of the least amount of drama possible. So why is my head calling out people I haven’t spoken to in years? Why is my head putting my own self on blast for mistakes I made, even minimally? I think I’ll die with the words, “I forgot their side of Ranch!” on my lips.

These kinds of cows, people. Gawdamn cows all over my tracks. The slithering under my skin is still there, but it’s slowing down. It’s a gravelly grinding right now. Just under the surface. I remember what it felt like to jump out of my seat in Biology 201 (Sorry, Dr. Z) and run with my books pressed to my chest, “I can’t take it anymore!” I think everyone was as AWAKE as I was at that point, having nearly been lulled to sleep by David Attenborough’s gentle voice telling us about Planet Earth.

I remember quite vividly because I want to. I want to jump out of my skin and brush it away. I want to shake it out and try it back on. The problem is, I can feel it separating from my muscles right now and it hurts. Every surface is raw and tingling and the coolest breeze feels like the lick of a flame. I don’t think this is a good choice of medication for me.

I think I’ll try to eat. And then I’ll try to sleep. And see if I can try waking up again. Have you tried unplugging it, and plugging it back in?

-SMB ❤

Mourning Glory

As I sit down to write this, a commercial for St. Jude Children’s Hospital is playing in the background. I never knew until she was gone just how generous she was, giving so much to those children without fail. She went without before children she never even met did.

Dammit. Not even two paragraphs into this and I’m already getting weepy. It’s been a year since the last normal day of my life, the last day before After, that new reality that I still can’t say I’m used to. But, in the course of this last year, I have learned that grief is not something I will “get over.” It is something I will learn to carry. Though I have realized it, it is still something I admit I am working on accepting.

A year ago today, I sat down to write a blog and it started to the effect of, “today feels like the first day of a great new life.” I began my community restoration project, Back to the Bay (www.backtothebaymi.org) and I was so excited to tell her about it. I was going to see her after work, going to tell her how people were already responding, going to tell her how nice it looked, how much I looked forward to seeing it grow, sharing that with her, telling her about my day… I looked forward to replacing her old flowers with new ones. I looked forward to watching Mark Harmon in whatever he was in that day on the few channels she liked. I looked forward to hearing her voice and hugging her goodbye and telling her goodnight. I looked forward to hearing her say “love you, too.”

I miss her.

It was hard to stay here. She’s everywhere. At first I sought her out, I lived in the memory of everything that drew me back here. Then it became unbearable, like a fist gripping my throat tighter and tighter as I drove down streets we used to walk on the way to some adventure that would inevitably end up with candies.

Last summer was awful. The literal worst. The longest, darkest, most unbearable summer of my life. I hope to never relive another like it.

This summer has been… what’s the word?


I have chased the stars looking for the twinkle in her eye. I have cried into the same waters I can only guess thousands of other sad girls just like me have cried into, as waves washed the sand off my feet and the sun shone on my face. I have turned up the songs that tear my heart to pieces and driven through the pain. I will never not miss her and it will never not hurt. I will never be the same person I was, but I don’t doubt that I’ll be all she knew I could be.

The other night FGL and I went meteor-hunting. We drove up and down the roads through the backyard of the city, in search of the perfect viewing spot. The moon hung in the sky perfect center, a strange oblong orb of orange. Even as I grew frustrated with the mistrustful and inconvenient lights, even in the cornfields, I still had room in my heart to remember to look. I thought, “that is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen – and I’m with him. This is fucking special.”

Those moments were hard to recognize for a while. Laughing from my gut, breathing. I can lay my head on his chest without mine stopping.

But I miss her. I guess I’m not sure how to end this, but for now, I’m okay. Even if just for today. Tomorrow might hurt a little more. Eight days from today, I may hurt a lot more. But today, I am okay.


a manifesto for my friends

I had a thought today and it stopped me in my tracks. Finally, something I didn’t have to cling to – the rampant runaway train of thought in my head actually halted and allowed me to really consider this question I asked myself.

I wonder if people remember me the same way I remember them.

Was I as important? Was I as special, as influential, did I play a role in the clips of your evolution that you store in your memory? Do you roll me around in your head and wonder all the what-ifs and regrets as I often do?

My initial reaction was doubt. I love simple things about complex people and it results in obsessions over nonexistent relationships with real people who can only stand by and watch as I play my version of reality, quietly pitying me and wishing I’d leave.

I’ve created many an awkward moment with my overestimation of friendship. I’ve poured my heart out and felt it slide like egg yolk off my face. I’ve been too forward at times, and I’ve assumed things I shouldn’t have. I’ve made mountains out of molehills and halted construction of bridges entirely. I’m not good at making friends, I’m worse at keeping them in the manner to which they deserve to be accustomed.

But there are moments in my memory I keep. They’re not even important, per se, but they’re remarkable. The smallest of firsts, but what I remember. I wonder if those little things hold as much weight for you as they do for me. I just wonder if I meant as much, even for just a fraction of the time.

Some of my worst decisions were anger-driven and out of panic. Some were overwhelmed exclamations of “fuck it and fuck you, too!” (Okay, maybe a lot were the latter and maybe there were a lot more f words.) Regardless, I guess I sit here today and feel less than stellar for setting fire to those particular bridges.

I remember letting a girl braid my hair in 7th grade. We’re not friends anymore and I can’t really tell you why except I felt jealous and irritated at a high point in her life when I was going through a low. I wonder if she remembers me like that – was I just a girl she used to know? Or does she remember being only the second girl in the history of my life to invite me to a sleepover?

I was thinking of my first grade best friend today, for some reason, and recalled how we actually re-met in college. The world is such a smaller place than we remember to see. I wonder if she too, remembers me as her first grade best friend – or if I’m just another name in the yearbook she can’t recall.

I’ve had a few really great friends in my life. I’m so grateful for the two I met first – we don’t see each other often and I wonder if we’ll ever see each other all in the same room again – but I love you both so, so much. I am so thankful you guys were there to light up such a bleak existence for me back then.

I’ve had some that have grown into my life so elaborately that it’s hard to tell when their family ended and mine began. Coincidence after coincidence after coincidence built the electric current between our heads – you catch my drift and I catch yours. Thanks for the cousin, by the way. He makes a great husband. If loving you was training wheels for the rest of the family, you can imagine the amazing ride I’m on!

I am a self-proclaimed “Super Googler.” I am constantly checking in on old friends. I’m a creeper, for sure. I just like to know I still have time to procrastinate. I like to know if you’re happy, if you ended up with a hot spouse, you know. I want good things for you. (Except for a literal handful of people whom I’m very happy to report got fatter than me.) But seriously, I check local obituaries constantly. The sad thing is, browsing the internet is how I’ve been notified of the death of a former close friend at least 6 times, NOT counting Facebook.

It’s hard to make friends with girls. I could never read them as well. I couldn’t figure out the right things to say to sound cool enough to be friends with them. For some reason, I couldn’t bear the thought of trying to be cool with my own personality. I wonder if the voices in my head are all the people I pretend so hard to be? Could my auditory hallucinations somehow be directing some “Stranger Than Fiction” scenario? (Whoa, slow it down. That’s crazy talk.)

But I had a few. And I loved them fiercely – and still do. I just don’t know how to swallow my pride and admit that I miss them. I don’t know how to say the sorries that need to be said, I don’t know how to turn off the judgmental bitch in my head that continues to goad me on. “I just think it’s funny that…”

Shut up. It’s not funny, and maybe I had reasons to call it quits on our friendships then, but it’s been a few years now and I wonder often enough to think maybe it’s time to drop you that line I’ve been meaning to.

Facebook is going to kill me. It feels like a social cancer, infecting me with jealousy and making me delirious with envy. If only I could be that thin, that pretty, that rich, that smart, that funny, that confident, that lucky. If only I could buy a house, too. If only I could drive a new car, too. If only I could take my kids on the vacations they deserve. Man, if only I wasn’t such a whiny selfish brat I could do these things on my own, but instead I’ll sit here and be frustrated and somehow bring myself low enough to believe that you, my friend, somehow don’t deserve those things, too.

I don’t have friends because I don’t have patience. I don’t have time and I don’t have the heart to make time when I’m so afraid that they’re faking it that I can’t even fake it? Social anxiety is a lonely dysfunction.

But I do! I want to get together. I want to talk sometime. I want to meet you at a bar and do shots! shots! shots! and I want to take that trip Up North and ride down the river. I want to get our kids together and I want to cook dinner. I’d love to show you around my town and I’d love to see yours. I’d love to drive across the country and crash at your house. I’d love to remember those we lost together and I’d love to be invited to your wedding. And I’m so, so, sorry that I don’t know how to properly follow through on any of these things. And I do still love you and want to be your friend.

This isn’t for anyone in particular. This is for all of you – everyone on my friends lists – whether you’ve been with me since Buddy Lists, Top 8, or Someone You May Know. I’m just saying hi, saying I miss you, and checking in. Hope you guys are having a beautiful life and if not – I really am sending good vibes your way.

I love you all. xoxo

ps – Ben, you stole my cupcake pan and I want it back, you jerk. ❤

Can I Just Say…

I woke up this morning to so much negativity. Even the sky felt heavy as it dropped fat, splatting raindrops, filling potholes and cracks in the sidewalk. Yet even when I stared down the street at the depressed houses whose wooden sidings were soaking up the dampness, I still saw silver in the clouds above and thought today was going to be a good day. I breathe bigger when I drive through my town. I pull it inside me and inhale it completely. When I leave this life, there will be much of me left behind in this place and I am bound to it. If there is anyone out there whose heart is tied as tightly to this city as mine, I have yet to meet them.

Yet I witness exchanges daily that break my heart. Attacks on my home, slighting comments that dig at the flaws and exacerbate the sins of our neighbors. Things like,

“um, this city isn’t all that friendly. a lot of crime, drugs, and people on the registry.”

“welcome to high utility rates, soaring property taxes, aged housing, and a minimal selection of part time minimum wage jobs!”

“Bay Shitty blows, can’t wait to get out of here.”

and various other attacks solely based on religion that I won’t bother to give the validation of repetition or response.

And to those disgruntled neighbors, I implore, “why are you still here?” And I want you to really understand what I’m asking when I ask why you are here.

What is your purpose? What is your plan? It is plain to see you can identify the negatives – now what are you going to do about them? Continuing to point out the obvious does nothing but exacerbate those blemishes until they are a full-blown cancer, infecting the community with dissent and suspicion and killing the faith we have, not only in our leaders, in the people we had the opportunity to choose right into office, but in each other. In times like these when we are beginning to realize that we cannot depend on the government to take care of us on the most basic levels, it is more important now than ever before that we band together and become a community network again. Before we had OPTIONS of charitable assistance, we had each other. We had neighbors.

I say OPTIONS because I refuse to call them entitlements. That word has mutated into something negative, something shameful and selfish, which is the complete opposite of what the word means. Entitled means that someone should simply have those things – and I believe that basic needs such as food, shelter, clean water and basic health care are things that everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, orientation, disability, even criminal record… should have. Because regardless of our beliefs and our behaviors, we are still human. If you want to sit at your pulpit and spout Psalms and Proverbs at others, remember to look down at those pages once in a while and read them yourself.

This week alone, I have redirected several calls from desperate people in need of the basics. Turned away by faith-based charities for not fitting the image of their “mission.” Rejected by their neighbors because of the scarf on their head, or the shade of their skin, or the sound of the musical words coming from their throat, maybe in a song they’ve not heard before. Since when are the things we don’t know yet, things we automatically fear? As children we are encouraged to explore the unknown. How many public service announcements, how many PBS specials, how many classroom videos have started their message with a shooting star… “The More You Know!”?

I ask you, where did you go? It seems we all got lost somewhere between “all you need is love” and “then they came for me, and there was nobody left to speak up.”

Bay City, I will speak up for you. I will champion you because I know you are capable, you are deserving, and you are, at heart, the most “home” I will ever find.

I wish you could say the same. I wish you could see the bits and pieces of that beautiful tapestry I see. I wish the sun shone for you as brightly as it sparkles for me across the water of our river. I wish the buildings of the past hundred years would rise up to greet you as they do for me every morning. I wish the church bells that ring across the town sang the songs of your soul as they do mine.

And if it does not, I beg of you, please… go find what you’re looking for. If it is not here, I again ask you, why are you here?

Find the serenity to accept the things you cannot change. Sometimes that means changing your attitude about them. Sometimes that means exploring it further and gaining a broader perspective.

Be courageous and change the things you can. If you want to see better things, do better things. Be a better person today than you were yesterday. When you are struck down, thank your hardships for the lesson and meet them as worthy opponents next time.

Have the wisdom to know the difference. This is where we seem to struggle:

Anything can be changed for the better. ANYTHING. We are Americans, we are human beings, we are lovers and fighters and neighbors. We are all in this together.

GOOD MORNING! – xoxo ❤



This is where “home” meets “lost.”

I keep you inside a museum where my faith used to be. I carry your memory everywhere.

But I can only find you in the empty spaces. You’re only where you used to be but you aren’t there anymore.

I wonder how long this museum will remain. I wonder if this shrine will always stand.

I just can’t seem to let you rest. I am still tugging at your shirt and loving the sound of your voice giving me one of my own.

I suppose you will always be somewhere in the everywhere else. I will still be here, in the places I wish you were.

-SMB ❤