If you can't say something nice, at least make it funny!

Thanks for visiting Tinfoil Magnolia, a blog about my life, times, marriage, friendships and all the strange things that happen to me and with me. I hope you find something here that will encourage you, inspire you or at the least entertain you. And if it doesn't today, check back tomorrow because, my life? honestly...

Thursday, April 21

Goodnight, Sweet Prince

So I haven't been on the internet all day long. I'm sitting in the middle of Deadrick Street eating food truck Thursday when my friend looks at me and says, "Dude. Brace yourself. Prince is dead." I sat stunned. "You mean the musician, or an actual prince?" "The musician."
We sat in silence for the next couple minutes. "Damn" I said. "Yeah" she said. "Wow." "Yeah."
By the time we got back to the apartment I was afraid of expressing my sadness on the internet-what he meant to me as the strange girl who never seemed to fit in her small town. How he wore his strangeness all on the outside, how he wrote amazingly beautiful songs, and weird songs and dirty songs. Seeing strong, sexy females in his band and on his stage. How his music ran the gamut from R&B to blues to punk to pop. How even his Batman theme song was cool as shit even though the movie was questionable at best. Seeing this crazy, weird, wonderful wild androgynous man in heels and velvet suits in videos on this new "MTV" thing. Hearing his emotion in every song and watching him give it all when I got to see him in concert twice. Watching him combine all the outrageousness of James Brown with the showmanship of Michael Jackson and the wardrobe of a Jane Austen novel. Punk. As. Fuck.
Then I get home and see that everyone I know is mourning publicly for this amazingly talented man. I don't care who he was in real life, what his hangups were, or anything else. He was Prince. He changed so many things for my generation. Thank you, sir, for so many memories. And for making all of us weirdos feel a little less weird.

Thursday, March 10

Call me Maggie

Each semester when a new class begins we are usually asked to post a short biography telling others in the class about who we are. I try not to use boilerplate words since many of the same people are in my classes. Each semester I try to mix it up. This time around, I wrote the following as my bio for Mixed Race Women’s Memoir class:

I’m Maggie. I am a wife, daughter, friend, writer, artist, but above all I’m just me. I work every day to change how I see the world, and the way I seek to make that change is through education and shared experience. I am a liberal, an atheist, a feminist, a proponent of body acceptance. I’m a non-mother and a non-conformist. All of these put me at the edge of societal acceptance. This made interesting reading of the piece marginalized people and the power of narrative since I am a marginalized person in many ways, though not through race. I have a sincere desire to see this country in a more peaceful state when it comes to race.

Anyone who is a part of my life and does not know who and what I’m about, well, you’re just not paying attention. I don’t keep secrets. I don’t pretend to be anyone other than me. Anything you want to know? Just ask, you’ll get an honest answer. I’m not interested in pretending in my life anymore. I did that for 45 years and all it got me was several bouts of depression that culminated in a nervous breakdown in 2014.

After that happened, I started thinking a lot about life and relationships and why it seems I never get what I want from the people who surround me. The answer resoundingly came back to me, “It’s not them. It’s you.”

By this I mean that I wasn’t presenting an authentic version of myself to the world. I tried to befriend a group of women with whom, other than gender and location, I had nothing in common. I listened to these friends tell me I “needed” to have children or I would never be complete. I played along with the GOBC at my job and honored their special treatment because it was what I was told to do. I listened to their lies and obstructions as they informed me of the news I was to report. I ate lunch with “friends” and swallowed so many opinions and comments that I was sick with rage by the time I got home. I kept seeing my family and keeping quiet when they asked me over and over to go to church with them, even though they knew I was an atheist.

The only person who knew or saw the real me was my husband. And by the time he got home every day I was a messy puddle in the middle of the floor. Sobbing, unhappy, depressed, angry, anxious, and, honestly, out of my mind. He knew all of these things that bothered me, he knew there was no way to help me, but most of all he kept on loving me and supporting me and carried me through this horrible time. I still have no idea why. He only says, “Because. I love you.” And to him, it’s that simple.

The work years between spring 2012 and summer 2014 were horrible ones, ones in which I was doing the job of two people for much longer than I should have been. So, in the summer of 2014, I wigged out after being told by an awful old man that, “Nobody cares what you have to say. What you say doesn’t matter.” I lost it. I had no one, not one person in my office to stand up for me and say, “she was doing the right thing.” But it didn’t even matter. It took a real, true friend to calm me down from a massive anxiety attack and tell me, “They’ve painted you as the villain. You can’t change that.” A week later I walked out on my job and broke down.

In the two years since all this happened, I’ve had the chance to think, read, talk, make new friends, share, be inspired, and be myself. I’ve been unemployed, but that’s ok. I’ve almost earned my Bachelor’s degree. I’ve left that small town behind and moved back to Nashville. And now, I am unabashedly me. No apologies.

Everyone who has met me since 2014 knows me as Maggie. Since 2010 I have blogged and tweeted as Tinfoil Magnolia. So I chose the name Maggie for myself, as a grown up way of wearing the real me because I think it’s a name that represents the true me. Everyone who has met me since 2014 knows the real me. The me my husband always knew and the me known to my closest girlfriends, my sweet tarts. I am hot tempered, and a good listener. I am foul mouthed, but kind to those in need. I am reckless, but in the safest way possible. I embrace a live and let live policy. I don’t give unsolicited opinions, but if you ask you’re getting the truth. I don’t care about fashion or my arm flab. I love the “F” word simply because of how uncomfortable it makes people.

I don’t believe in redemption, and I don’t believe people ever change their true nature. They only camouflage it as I did for 45 years. The thing I realize is that if you aren’t showing the world who you really, truly are, then you aren’t getting back anything that you want or need out of it. If you aren’t showing your authentic self to other people, they are never going to act the way you want them to act. If you can’t stand up and own your opinions, then you can’t make change. I know people will walk away from the real me. And that’s ok. I know my family doesn’t understand the real me. They don’t want to know her. And that’s ok too.

Yesterday, I spent two hours in a situation that before would have sent me home crying and puddled in my bed. Yet, no tears were shed. I only saw the truth that the way this person sees me is, in part, her own creation, and in part the former self I used as a shield all these years. I handled it honestly, with integrity, and stood for myself. It was shocking for me to see how far I’ve come.

Thursday, November 26

Thanksgiving 2015

I'm so thankful for all the friends in my life, old and new, who keep things interesting!

Last night I complained about how much food I 'have' to eat today at two family get-togethers. This morning I feel humbled by a cousin's post about feeding the homeless.

I stress over family interactions and troubles and want to just lie on my couch all day gnawing on a turkey leg. Then I see a friend's post who just lost her husband this year and won't have him around for the holidays, and another friend who just lost her father. I remember how many are missing at our table and how I should be grateful to still have my mom and dad.

I complain about traveling to family for the holidays and how we've done it for the entire 22 years of our marriage. Then I realize that there are so many who are alone in this world and don't have anyone to sit and eat and argue with.

People talk about how awful Facebook and social media in general can be, but today I want to be thankful for all things webby. The thing I've learned over the years is that social media can and will be exactly what you allow it to be. If you want a soap box, there it is. If you want to be happy and positive, it's great for that. If you want to meet people, you can do that too. I'm thankful for my virtual friends who are as close to me as real life friends. In fact, I might know more about them than most people I see face to face.

Yes, I do realize how much I take for granted. Yes, I do realize my life is pretty wonderful, some might say charmed. I also realize that I could lose everything tomorrow and that there's nothing I can do about it, so I live every day. This year, I want everyone to try a little bit of that. Time goes by so quickly and this one life is really the only thing we know is real.

Tuesday, October 20

Social Research Results

Recently I took a class on social research. Part of the assignment was to develop, administer, and evaluate a survey on a topic of my choosing. Once the results were tabulated, I had to combine all the results into a formal research paper following APA guidelines. That fun-ness can be found by clicking here and clicking on "Social Research Project." It's a 30-something page paper, but feel free to use it as bedtime reading!

Everyone who participated, 95 people, wanted to see the results so the best I could do was list them here. There were actually open-ended questions in addition to the multiple choice questions. I am adding the questions followed by the multiple choice results here. I may save some of my favorite comments from the open ended questions for use in future blogs. *rubs hands together* *wickedly cackles*

Monday, October 19

Thoughts from the morning of my 48th birthday.

I've been awake since 2:30 a.m.

This is becoming a regular thing for me and I don't like it. Granted, I went to bed and collapsed at 8:30 last night, but that's beside the point. When you're up at 2:30 a.m. there is just not much to do unless you're up for work.

I've been sitting in my living room thinking for the past couple of hours. Thinking about life in general, and my life specifically. It's my birthday today and I'm one year closer to that horrible number that gave me my one and only age-related freak out when I was 35. (I basically sobbed to my husband "I'm only 15 years away from FIFTY!" as he rocked me back and forth, probably rolling his eyes.)

I really don't think much about aging, at least maybe not as much as I should. I think about life more like a journey that started before me and will continue long after me. I think about how I fit into my own corner of the world and how I affect those who are around me. I also think about how they affect me. Is it good or bad? Positivity or negativity? Do we hold each other up or tear one another down?

My life has changed dramatically over the past decade. I am not the same person that I was at 38 or even the same person I was four years ago. Back then I had two very long-term friends who I thought would always be a part of my life. Now, they are no longer around. I made the decision to end a friendship that wasn't really working because I saw that she had no integrity in the way she treated others. The second one was ended by the other person's actions toward me about something that I had no control over. I ended up with not one person in my corner after that one, except my husband.

My relationship with my husband is better now than it ever has been. We've both learned over 22 years of marriage how to make it work and be happy. Here's the secret: it involved a lot of open, honest, and sometimes painful conversations. It involved putting hurt feelings and ego to the side. It involved giving more and expecting less. And letting go of the past in order to move forward. Neither of us was a terrific spouse before, and we aren't perfect now. But, like life, it's a work in progress.

There are certain milestones, birthdays being one of them, that cause me to reflect on life. This morning I was thinking about who and what inspires me and I came to a shocking conclusion. My life inspires my writing and my friends inspire me. My friends. Inspire. Me. They amaze me. And it was only when I realized it that I thought, I don't think I've ever had a group of friends in my life who inspire me.

I've had (and still do have) some really wonderful friends, don't get me wrong. I've had friends I admired, friends who influenced me, friends who shocked me, friends who made me laugh. I've had friends who were there through thick and thin, friends who showed up when husband almost died, who dragged me away from the hospital and tried to keep me together. I've had friends who I talked to every day and friends who I talked to once a year.

But this group right here, right now, they inspire the hell out of me. Inspire me to do good work, follow my dreams, write the chapters of my own life, and just by god keep it together. They show me every day what life is like when you live as an authentic person. When you are honest about your thoughts and your life with your friends and with yourself. I spent many years of my life not being authentic, trying to be someone else rather than just working figuring myself out. I always tried to fit in, one of the dangers of moving a lot as a kid, and I could morph into almost any situation with no problem. Except one big problem. I honestly had no idea who I was because I was always trying to match everyone around me.

I am so lucky to have these girls in my life. I am so lucky to be inspired and honored to be accepted just the way I am. Of course, they've made me completely unacceptable in general society because I am so used to our talks full of dirty language, brutal honesty, girlie love, sexual innuendo, and a general disrespect for silverware. (I'm looking at you, Beth!) That doesn't matter though, because they made me free to be myself, and that is the best gift you can give anyone.

I haven't been easy over the past 2 years. I know I've been "taking" a lot but I also know that I'm going to do and be better over the next 2 years. So thank you to all my friends. Seriously. You mean the world to me. Keep doing you, and I'll keep doing me. Wait, that sounded dirty....

PS After writing this, I scrolled through Facebook this morning and found these on my feed. It seemed appropriate to share them here.

Friday, September 11

Lighting a candle

I woke up this morning thinking about the horrible events of 9-11-01 and all the people who left this world on that day. I think about the heroes, the police and firefighters, the ordinary people who opened up their hearts and assisted in the aftermath. I think about the mental baggage they must still carry from the things they saw. 

I still remember the feeling I had when I saw the first images of the plane crashing into the first tower, and then images of people jumping, the towers collapsing, dust covered "ghosts" wandering the streets. I remember watching when the towers collapsed and thinking the sight of people fleeing with the giant cloud of dust and debris chasing them looked more like something from a big budget movie than real life.

I remember the eerie silence outside our home in Murfreesboro without the planes overhead and the feeling of utter helplessness in the midst of a crazy world. I remember people, not knowing what else to do, flocking to stores to buy USA shirts and flags and anything else they could find. It felt like this event might just bring our nation together. Instead, extreme views have left us more fractured than ever. The division, the hate, the mistrust, the profiling, and the fear that has swept our nation in the post-911 period is heartbreaking. It is almost like every little crack in our society has gotten so much larger and so much worse. The war, the Tea Party, the religious right, the white supremacists, the racial profiling and violence have made the divide between left and right, liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican seem insurmountable.

So today I light a candle, as I have done each of these 14 years. But this time I do so not just for those lost, not just for the family and friends of those lost, but I am also thinking of everything our nation has lost as a result of those attacks. We've lost privacy, liberties, and safety but more than that we have lost our respect for one another with all the arguing and infighting. When civil discourse and thoughtful debate in our country is replaced with spewing hate and bigotry, it doesn't honor these victims. It means we have let the terrorists win.

Thursday, August 27

Journalism Shouldn't Kill

For almost four years I worked as a reporter for a small weekly newspaper. Actually, the only reporter/photographer and as such I covered events of every kind. Although it was a small, rural town that looked like Mayberry, I came to learn that there was a side to the town that was anything but innocent. 

There were many, many times that I felt uneasy at my job. Just like other journalists, I worked late hours alone in a dark building. I traveled to remote locations for interviews, sometimes not knowing who or what would greet me at the door. I showed up on-scene at fires, car wrecks, and crime scenes as often as I was at a city council meeting or football game. 

I dreaded the winter most because the dark came early and there were constantly basketball games and after-hour events. High school parking lots are terrifying when you are a woman alone. None of them are well-lit despite the fact that there are basketball games several nights each week in the very darkest months of November and December. 

When I was covering an event, I felt on display in front of everyone who was there. It is a tool of the trade to become invisible and not be a part of the action. Most people don't notice journalists as they do their job, but you never do really know who notices you. Your back is almost always to the crowd when you are facing the action. 

Everywhere I went people knew me and, whether I knew them or not, didn't hesitate to come up and talk to me. Sometimes it was good. Sometimes they yelled at me and berated me. I once had two baseball moms say horrible things about me and my work while sitting only two rows behind me at the ball park. It was as if I wasn't a real person with real feelings. I was also yelled at while in WalMart getting groceries, and grabbed by the arm during a high school band concert. People called me on my personal cell phone on weekends and holidays to bitch at me for something they didn't like. 

Many times, people felt the need to drag my personal life in and put it on display. Never in my 30+ years of working had I ever had someone go to my boss about something I did in my personal time. I really didn't know how to deal with it. People tried to get me fired over my personal beliefs, or because I didn't write a story that would give them free publicity. One person in particular asked my boss to fire me on three different occasions for completely bullshit reasons that I think had less to do with me than who he wanted to be my replacement.

Hearing all this, it might sound like I hated that job. The fact is I did not. I loved being a reporter more than any job I've had. I felt like I made a difference. I felt happy when I could tell someone's story to the community, or bring attention to a problem or success. I loved going to the elementary school and being treated like a rock star (kids love having their pictures made). I enjoyed knowing what was going on in the community and being able to participate. 

Journalism is a powerful thing and particularly for those on television, journalists become a part of people's lives. The community feels comfortable with people they see on a daily basis, and I think that is why they are so comfortable with approaching a reporter with anything that upsets them. When I left Nashville I was shocked at how much I missed the newscasters on Channel 5 bringing me the news every day. 

Yesterday morning I happened to be at home and on my computer. A breaking news alarm went off on my phone and I read the message about two journalists being killed. I shook my head and thought, "Oh, no."

When I scrolled down to read the story I saw that this happened in our own country, on American soil, and (horrifyingly) to a reporter and cameraman who were live, on the air, reporting a story. It took my breath. 

"no no no no no no nooooo"

I am still aghast at the fact that I was literally watching the killer live Tweet post-shooting. I was watching when the video went up on his feed. I shivered as I watched (yes, I watched it) him aim the camera, aim the gun, and stand behind the cameraman for what seemed like an eternity (actually was 15-20 seconds) while the interview played out to its horrifying conclusion.

As I scrolled down through his feed, I saw that he posted dozens of photos in the week leading up to the shooting, a sort of unsettling, self-aggrandizing scrapbook. It was as if he wanted to make sure he was remembered. It was as if he didn't think killing two people in an on-air interview would do the trick. There were photos and videos from his modeling "career" and his high school prom. It was, to me, sad and pathetic and arrogant all at the same time. 

My heart aches for the families of these two people, who were simply out there doing their job and bringing the news home for their viewers. I hurt for all their co-workers and the audience members who had to witness this on live TV. I can't even imagine. 

I write all this just to say one simple thing. Reporters, journalists, photographers, they are in the public eye to be sure. They are people just like you and me, working long hours for not a lot of pay usually. They are many times up before the dawn and more often out way past dark. They act brave because they have to, even when they might be going into a dangerous situation. That does not mean they are fearless. It never occurred to me that while I was standing in front of that crowd of people someone could pull out a gun and start shooting. I am pretty sure it didn't occur to these people either. 

Journalists are public servants. They do all of this, particularly those on a local level, to bring the news home to the people in their community. They are the neutral party. They do it to keep the politicians on their toes and the taxpayer's money under scrutiny. They do it to bring happiness to people with feel good stories, and warnings of danger when necessary. They do not expect to be gunned down on the job. 

Rest in peace, Allison and Adam. And peace to all those affected by your death.