Archive for the ‘Georgia’ Category

I Knew They Would Break My Heart

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

Truth is, I knew the Bulldogs were going to break my heart.

I knew because it was the logical end to the worst year of my life, the one where i met disappointment and fear and pain at every turn. The one where i just slogged through 365 days in a row, hoping it would soon be over and sometimes not caring how.

It’s behind me now, the hell that i went through in the last year. I did the right thing, and the hard thing, and I walked out of my house one morning and knew my life and the lives of those I loved would be changed irrevocably forever. And I knew that I had to do it to save myself physically and mentally, and to have a chance at saving us all. It didn’t work, not the way I thought it would, but i don’t regret trying. I did it and it didn’t work out and the world did not completely fall apart, even though there have been moments where it felt like it would.

I made it through the weirdness of living in a basement for 9 months, the shared silent house split right down the middle in alternating nights at home and nights making myself scarce, through the cold division of everything two people put together over 18 years, the day we told the kids, the signing of the papers, the waiting, and the terrifying unknowns of where i would be living.  I lived through the constant deflection of my family’s worry, my fear for my children’s well-being.

I lived through the surreal and daunting prospect of buying a house before I was really ready, the packing, the moving, the friend who just didn’t show up for me when I needed them most, the realization that they never would, and the friends who did show up whom I can never repay and to whom I am forever indebted. I lived through the vomiting, the sleeplessness, the ulcers, the near-debilitating sadness and depression, the million ways i numbed myself with drinks or food or tv or sleep.

I lived through the mortifying shame and guilt and self-hatred, and through other people’s pity and “I’m so sorry”s, their tears and their questions. I lived through those last weeks, packing the bare minimum and dumping it into a new and empty house, all while my job went completely to shit, i worked weekends and nights, and I found out I would have to drive to my office in every day, adding ten to 15 hours to my work week, and that i had only a few months to work out my childcare arrangements.

I made it through an August that felt like one never-ending horrible nightmare, one I could not wake up from, one that to get through felt like barely keeping my head above water in an ocean of cement, my eyes constantly on the horizon. If I could just get there, I might be able to breathe again, and maybe sleep, and stop trying to not feel anything.

I dumped all the boxes in the new house, received my final divorce decree two days later, woke up the next morning and flew to NYC, where I spent the first 12 days of my divorce almost completely alone in a city where you are never alone. I came home, and I started putting things together, getting used to my new normal, our new schedules, the homework and the dawning realization that this is real and it is forever and something I loved very much is dead.

I lived through the first week without kids, a very weird Halloween, a child’s birthday party as a single mom, the carpools juggled, and the feeling of having to do every possible excruciating red tape insurance/governmental/financial/legal/household task I have ever done, in my whole life, all in a month. 

I lived through the first holidays –  Thanksgiving without kids, Christmas eve playing Santa all by myself, Christmas night with no kids for the first time since my son was born, and the New Year’s Eve sadness of being alone, of going home alone.

I have never felt so relieved, for a year to be over and a new one to begin. And I have been positive and healthy, a little bit more every day. I have been getting back on my feet. In 2018, I have already achieved something i did not achieve in all of 2017 (and most of 2016, for that matter); I have had whole days where I did not break down in tears.

I woke up new, on New Year’s Day. And I know now something that I doubted for a very long time. The truth is, when it comes to pushing through the pain and the stagnation and the fear, I am strong. When it comes to realizing and seeking and speaking the truth, I am one badass motherfucker. 

I knew there would be more hurdles and I knew i would clear them.

So, I watched with growing amusement that my bulldogs were gaining ground, that they might make the big game. I realized that it would be hilarious for them to make the big game. We had sent my ex to the big game in California a few years before (different team for those non-readers); we had agreed if my team ever went, we would make sure i got to go too. But that wouldn’t happen now.

So, of course, after 37 years, the Bulldogs made it to a national championship. I could see it coming from a mile away. i enjoyed it, it helped me get through the first holidays on my own, and it was one happy thing in a sea of (mostly) pain. I started laughingly telling people that I wasn’t bothering hoping they would make it to the big game, but if they did make it, it would end in heartbreak. I knew not to bother daring to believe, because I knew it would not end well. I knew that the real poetic cap to my year was one last kick in the teeth.

And that’s just exactly what happened. There was no other ending that would have fit as well. Because every time that I have been down this past year, i thought, “This must be it. Rock bottom. This must be what rock bottom feels like.” And then something else would happen and i would just laugh hysterically that I thought it could actually be over, get better, that I might, just might, catch a break.

So, people will have to cut me some slack when I say that I am not quite happy and accepting of that loss yet. It wasn’t just a football game – it was wrapped up in a whole lot more for me. It sure would have been nice to have that game go my way, to have just one goddamn thing go my way.

The truth is, though, it would have been too perfect, too pat a hand, to finish it all off with a win. And now that loss is already in the yesterdays, with all the other losses I’ve experienced. Now I’m in the present, the today. i get to leave behind hope and expectation, and just take this new life one day at a time. I can leave the mistakes behind, stop looking forward with some endgame in mind, and concentrate on making each day good and seeing what happens.  I have a white, bright 2018 ahead of me, full of possibility and new adventure and challenges, and most of all of just being with myself, the me that I almost lost in the last couple of years, without all the noise of the crowd.

(But i probably could have done all that with a W, too. Just sayin,’ Universe.)

Change is Not Always Linear

Friday, January 20th, 2017

This morning, I woke up to so much sadness and shock and dismay all over social media that Yes, this is really happening. A reality TV show star, completely unqualified for the position in too many ways to count, will actually be sworn in as President of the United States of America

I am not one to share every bit of outrageous news that I see on Facebook. I rarely share political items. In this political environment, If I posted every time I was upset or scared or angry or outraged, I would be posting ten to fifteen times a day. (Side note: I respect the right to speak out, but I fear the deluge of shared content contributes to overwhelm, desensitization, and normalization of the outrageous things happening in our world.) As a dear friend of mine said recently while discussing feeling inundated by the constant flood of information,

“I feel like I (we) are in a huge sandstorm, and the source of the storm is the turbulent funnel within. I do better focusing on the funnel rather than all of the sand, if that makes sense.”

Honestly, I am not shocked or depressed anymore. Am I happy about him being president? No. Am I still appalled at everything he has said? Yes. Is my reaction to this president different than it would have been for any other Republican winner? Most definitely.

But there is hope for those all over America (and the world) who are hurt, scared, and angry today. (more…)

I Voted For a Woman. For President. (And for The South & a lot of other things, too.)

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

I voted for a female for President today. Let me repeat that: I voted for a female for President today.

It is huge, absolutely huge, that I had the opportunity, with my daughter by my side, to vote for a woman for the highest office in the country and likely in the world. But that’s not why I voted for her.

There have been many times during this year that I wanted to write about my thoughts on the politics of this election. Every time I felt outrage or dismay, I would put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard) and dump it all out. But something kept me from clicking Publish. Partially, it was knowing I would probably change no minds. As the season dragged on an on, and the bar got lower and lower, I realized it was futile, because I had no idea the depths to which matters could possibly sink. I would have been writing something new every day and I am pretty sure I would have driven myself and everyone around me crazy.

Instead, I watched a bit, and read a lot. I watched friends and family tear each other apart online. There were times that I left discussions with my own parents in tears, anger, fear, or disbelief. People I loved called me a bigot and told me, publicly, that “I was not raised this way.” They way you are raised is important, and it is a powerful influence on a person. I know that I have tried hard to be true to the teachings that I received, but to weed out the ones that are outdated, deeply seated in fear, ignorance, and generations upon generations of resistance to change and a way of life that is no longer viable, realistic, kind or true.

The greatest gift (of many given to me by my parents) was the gift of education. My parents taught me to read. And once a girl can read, she learns to formulate her own ideas and think for herself. Yes, I read the Bible. I read the WHOLE bible. What a miraculous work of art it is. My parents gave me my bible. They gave my children bibles, with my blessing, despite the fact that I have left the church and will never return to Christianity. There is good in that book, despite it’s flaws, and those of its followers. And I took so many of those teachings deeply to heart. For hours during church, I ran the crocheted lace,  pink, blue, and white cross bookmark that came in my bible on confirmation day between my fingers and thought about Jesus Christ on the cross and what that meant for me, and how it could possibly save us.

But my parents also gave me The Little Engine that Could. And Go Dog, Go. (I took that one deeply to heart. I still love big dogs and little dogs and dogs of all shapes and colors, and dog parties.) And I read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. As a child, that book probably affected me as much or more than anything I had read up until that point. That book is my first recollection of thinking about race, and of wondering what my part of the story was.

My grandmother later gave me her original copy of Gone With the Wind. I think that book is a rite of passage for a little white girl whose family on both sides have lived on Southern soil since before we were a United States of America. I wonder if Grandma thought it would make me privy to some great inheritance of what it means to be Southern, or if she saw Scarlett as a woman, flawed, but strong. Or most likely, knowing my bourbon-drinking, chain-smoking, card-playing, Charleston-dancing Grandma Vivian, she just thought that it was a rollicking good read. Maybe for her it was just a cultural phenomenon, like Star Wars or Harry Potter or The Hunger Games.

She, by the way, was born in 1907; Her mother, Ida did not at the time have the right to vote. My grandmother, as a child in Louisiana, witnessed a lynching. Her grandmother, as a child after The Battle of the Wilderness, wandered around Ellwood Manor looking for blackberries and came across a dead soldier. Both my paternal and maternal lines consist of both slave owners and confederate soldiers. My point here is that sometimes fiction is not just fiction. Sometimes, to a little girl growing up in Atlanta, it is a link to the past. Sometimes it is like reading a story about the people you know. Sometimes it is like reading about yourself; when other little girls the world over read that book, they probably thought, “what an interesting story.” When I read it, I was completely mesmerized and fascinated by the fact that it was set right here where I was born in 1972, and it was based on things that really happened here.

I will never know what my grandmother really took from that book, and boy do i wish I could have an evening to discuss that and much more with her. But what I took from reading that book, was yes, a strong female protagonist, and an example of skillful storytelling, but also my first real feelings of conflict over my families’ parts in the American history of slavery. It spurred in me an interest in the Civil War. Here was this story, based on “truth,” that discussed a battle that was fought on the very soil that I lived on today. It has become for me a lifelong interest in both family and local history and southeastern history. I started asking questions of the older folks in my family. I got a lot of answers about how we were an “old colonial family” and had grand plantations and lost everything in the war. I heard a lot about “state’s rights” and property and the like.

As I got older, though, I continued reading. I read Huckleberry Finn. To Kill a Mockingbird. The Red Badge of Courage. Beloved. Invisible Man. The Bluest Eye. The Color Purple. Their Eyes Were Watching God. I have so many more to read. So many more.

I started to figure out the right questions to ask. And i didn’t always get the right answers, or what i thought were true answers. Or I got whispered answers. When I got older, I knew to ply some of the older folks in the family with booze, and I would get more honest answers. That’s how I learned about my grandmother seeing a lynching. She had told my cousins about it when they were middle aged. She never told me a word about it.

It was the same way with reading about women. Scarlett was fascinating, because she was an agent in her own life. She was the actor, not the acted upon. (Yes, she was a white woman, a slave owner, and that is not to be excused, but she was a strong woman.) And again, i read books about strong women and interesting women. Catherine the Great. Amelia Earhart. Susan B. Anthony. Rosa Parks. The Awakening. “Everything That Rises Must Converge.” Some of the books I wrote about above were crossovers – Their Eyes Were Watching God and The Color Purple come to mind. Powerful books about feminism and race.

Growing up, i was taught to be ladylike (complete fail, obviously). And i was taught to learn to take care of myself: Change a tire, charge a battery, change a spark plug, tar a roof, etc. I was taught to respect my elders. I was expected to get an education. A college education. Looking back, i think that expectation was so that I could support myself.

But I also heard, “One day, when you have kids of your own. . . ” and that was not even seen as an expectation. It was just seen as fact. When I said, “I’m not good at math,” no one said, “You just need to work harder, that’s ridiculous. You are intelligent.” I was built up by having someone tell me, “You are a great writer.” And I think I am a good writer. But I wonder what else I could have been good at, or who else I would have been, if someone had said, “Get an education because it means ‘freedom,” or “you can be anything you want to be.” Or, “women don’t have to get married or have children.”

Those are things I never heard. I also never heard anything except, “No sex before marriage.”

This is not a criticism of the adults in my life. I understand they came to be who they are through a long line of people with strong beliefs and less access to books and diversity of thought than the one I found in my true church (the one whose chapels are libraries and whose cathedrals are lakes, trees, mountains, forests, and rivers). And i am thankful that they gave me the path to find those books and the time to think those thoughts.

Writing this post, I am not sure exactly where I am going with it, except that I have been overcome with emotion all day. I didn’t wear a pantsuit for Hillary when I voted, because . . . well, I’m me. I don’t own one, and that is the sort of thing I hope to never have to wear again. I didn’t wear white for the suffragists who went before me, because . . .it’s after Labor Day. I don’t own “winter whites.” I don’t even have a white tee. My wardrobe is all black, and the darkness of wine, forest, purple, plaid. And then I saw The Bitter Southerner* posted this on Instagram:


(You can get your own at

I was flooded with all sorts of emotion. I am a Southern woman, a descendant of slave owners. I had relatives in the generation previous to me tell me that during the civil rights movement, they hated Martin Luther King, Jr. One of them said he was happy that he was shot. (Try to wrap your head around that one.) I have struggled with issues of race my whole life. I have struggled with religion, and the bible and the hypocrisy of the church. And I have often felt, as a woman, and especially a southern woman, that what was truly expected of me, above all else, is for me to be a reflection of my family, the people that came before me, and in particular, that I was to be a positive reflection on the men who came before me. I should “do them proud.” When it comes down to it, I think there is still a huge belief in the South that a woman is simply an extension of the men in her life. Her greatest achievement is making those men proud, being a good wife, and raising good Southern children. It is difficult to say that out loud, but it is the truth.

I am proud to be southern. I am proud of my husband and my children, and of the people that came before me, even if I disagree with them in many ways. I am proud that in many ways, I have bucked the norm. I would wager that I am the first in a very long line of my family’s generations to openly and publicly reject Christianity. If you think on the long history of Christianity, that is actually quite a feat. I reject racism. I strive towards making my world better for everyone, not just the people who are not like me. And I am probably the first mother in a line of many women in my family that is actively telling my daughter, “Get an education, because it give you the options to be anything you want to be.” I have already talked to my daughter about birth control and sex and that her body is hers alone. That she can do anything a man can do, and if she wants to do it first, she should step up. No need to let the man go first. That if she wants things, she needs to state that she wants them. And if she doesn’t want them, she needs to learn to say no to those things, too. That she needs to speak up when she sees wrongs. That what I hope for her is that she will be kind, happy, and herself. Whether that means being a wife or a mom, or a teacher, or a scientist, or an artist, or a soldier. That she can be any combination of those, all or none of those, or something completely different that my mind cannot even imagine, but that she will see in her own mind’s eye. And that when she achieves those things she wants in life, (while she is achieving them, even) she will help others achieve their dreams, too.

And that’s why, when I painted my nails blue, and wondered what to wear to the polls this morning, I didn’t pick blue for the Dems (I am decidedly an independent), or white for the suffragists, or a pantsuit for Hillary. I decided to wear my Bitter Southerner sweatshirt**. It reads, simply “SOUTH.” I was weepy, trying to explain to my son and daughter about how momentous this day feels. I felt compelled to put down in words what I was unable to speak without seeming like a crazy, choked up, overly emotional woman. I wanted them to know all the reasons that it meant so much to me to cast my ballot today. I wanted them to know the thoughts behind my welling eyes.

You have probably heard by now about the “secret” pantsuit group on Facebook. I think I was first added to it when there were less than 200,000 members. The idea of it was, “wear a pantsuit, in honor of Hillary, when you go to vote.” As of this morning when I looked, it has now grown to more than 2 million members. All of them are not women. There are men, too. But they are all there because they are voting for Hillary Clinton. They are diverse, and smart, and their stories, which i have been reading for over a week now, are compelling, moving, inspiring, and life-affirming. They are from all over the world and all different walks of life. And many of them are posting the reasons that they are voting for Hillary.

There are many of them that feel she is the perfect person for the job. (I tend to be more of the Mark Twain school of thought on politicians – Not really a huge fan of any of them.) There are many of them that are voting because she is not Donald Trump. So many different reasons, from being an immigrant to race, to feminism, to . . . you name it. Their varied reasons for it all were staggering to me. They were definitive, and they were tentative. Some of them were voting for her despite never having voted for a democrat in their life. Some of them were voting for her, despite the train wreck that healthcare in our country has created for their families and their small businesses. Some of them were voting for her despite their devout religious beliefs about abortion. They ran the breadth and depth of the human condition – They are both specific to their own experience and yet they apply to so many of us. So, millions of them have posted their reasons for voting for her.

I have been thinking of my own reasons. I wish I could ask my grandparents about their thoughts on politics. Because I wish the women who are not bothering to vote in this election knew what it was like to not have a voice. Because I hope that one day my children (and maybe my grandchildren) will read it and know that I was a thoughtful person in the midst of history, that I gnashed my teeth over this one, and wept for the future of my country.

Here are some of the reasons I am voting voted for her (there are probably many more, but these are the things I can think of right now, or have been on my mind, and especially the ones that I feel deep down in my gut.)

  • First and foremost, I am voting for her because I think she is the most qualified candidate. Period.
  • I am voting for all of the women that couldn’t vote for so long. For women who had no voice for thousands of years.
  • For everyone who didn’t fit the white, male, protestant mold and was therefore not allowed to vote.
  • For the grandmother who was just dropped off by her husband at a hospital and labored for twenty four hours with a breech baby
  • For the one that went to work to support her family when her husband was gambling it all away
  • For the little girl who had to wear the white tights and black patent leather mary janes and a dress with a crinoline containing a bell.
  • For the little girl who drew a picture at church and they told her they thought little girls in pictures should wear dresses, not pants
  • For the only two little girls on the boys’ baseball team
  • For every girl who was told “boys don’t like loud girls”
  • For every one who was told “children should be seen and not heard.”
  • For my first friend, who always made her Barbies kiss each other, instead of Barbie and Ken kissing, but hid it from everyone but me.
  • For every little gay kid who had to play along while we played “smear the queer.”
  • For Graham, and every other gay or lesbian or bi person i have known since.
  • For the friend whose grandfather wouldn’t stop touching her
  • Because that guy in the neighborhood always whistled at us when we rode by on our bikes
  • For the girl who was pushed into a walk-in freezer, with a hand against her neck, and fought the boy who put his hand down her pants
  • For every jerk who ever groped or thrust his hips at me on a bus or a train.
  • For the boy who took advantage of a very intoxicated just-turned-fourteen-years old girl on a trampoline
  • For every friend one of his who started calling my house the very next day
  • For every person to whom I’ve had to say using the “N” word is not okay, and especially not in front of my kids.
  • That includes the jerk from two weeks ago at the bar who thought it was okay to say about football players on tv, and also the guy two seats down from him that whistled at me as I walked by him on the way back from the bathroom. It was 4 pm in the afternoon. In 2016.
  • For every woman who has been spoken over or interrupted in a meeting
  • For the same women who spoke up, and were called Bitch.
  • For the little Iraqi girl that was in my son’s class. She was 8. She spoke no English. She didn’t need to – The horrors she had seen were apparent in her eyes.
  • For my children and their friends who want to know if some of them will be sent back to the country they came from if Trump is elected.
  • For the amazing people from all over the world that came to this country, love it, and are living right in my backyard and teaching me so much
  • For all the sweet little African American boys that I have been watching grow up and who are in my heart and my prayers as they become teens.
  • For their mothers, who are strangers, acquaintances, friends, and family.
  • For my friends who had access to birth control; for the ones who had access to safe and legal abortions.
  • For my friends who choose to live their lives in non-traditional ways and are becoming more and more open about it.
  • For the things that are important to all of us, and help us achieve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: Love, forgiveness, charity, inclusion, independent thought, education, religious freedom, equality, art, music.

The emotions I felt this morning were more than just a woman voting for a woman. The woman voting this morning was a product of so many years of inequality and hypocrisy and misogyny, of pain and frustration, and watching others suffer. And while I am a proud American, I am an even prouder Southerner. And proudest to be a Georgian, who has had the privilege of seeing gay marriage legalized, and our first African American president, and hopefully our first female president: Three things I never thought I would see in my lifetime, much less in so few years. Three things I had the honor of sharing and discussing with my children.

I voted for her because she is the most qualified candidate. I voted against him, because of the rest of the list. Considering the political climate and the pain and division this election has caused, It was the easiest and most satisfying vote*** of my life. There was no question in my mind. This morning, at the polls, I was a Bitter Southerner voting for a bitter Better South.


My hand and four sympathetic kid hands, all in blue polish. 


Me and my girl. We just voted together. (Sporting our blue polish, our peach stickers, and me in my South sweatshirt.) Yes, I let her cast the ballot. #rebel – Photos by Rollie, who didn’t want to be in the photo because he is 13 and that’s “like, so dumb.” [sigh]



Hopefully she will never forget this. Or ever think that I regret having her and her brother. (“The” button.)


*  You need to read Bitter Southerner, especially if you are from a long line of southerners. I am jealous I didn’t think of it first. It is amazing, like reading stories written by your own family and friends, but the smart and enlightened, funny and interesting ones. If you are born here, you will enjoy it. If you have deep roots here, you will feel it in your bones.

** Okay. I have to admit it. About the sweatshirt. I also wore it because it finally got cold here in Atlanta today, and damn it, that thing is so broken-in and well-loved, it is super comfortable.

*** Also satisfying: Voting for two local candidates I really, really believe in: Good luck to Scott Holcomb and George Chidi.

Mary Etta’s Purse

Monday, May 16th, 2016

When my grandfather died, we cleaned out his house, and there was just. so. much. stuff. Stuff that felt important and that I knew I should save, and I couldn’t make a decision about at the time. I put it away in boxes, and they ended up in the basement.

The basement flooded.

Much to Todd’s chagrin, none of my boxes of genealogies, family papers, history books, and old photos were damaged. However, the whole basement had to be emptied to do the renovations required to put in new floors and paint, so all of the accumulated stuff is kind of being moved into safekeeping until the renovations are complete. (By “safekeeping” I mean mountains of boxes in our bedroom, foyer, and dining room.)

While we were moving them, Tiller immediately caught sight of one item on top of an open box of photos that belonged to my Grandma.

My great-grandmother’s purse.



I kept it because it’s a classic, beautiful vintage purse. Score. But I had forgotten until we opened it up that I had also kept it because it was a mini-time capsule of my great grandmother’s last years. I think that when she died, her daughters probably just took her purse home, and they couldn’t bare to throw any of it out. (Must be genetic.)

Here are my Grandma Palmer (Evelyn) and her sister, Lessie, at the funeral home. I know it’s morbid and sad, but I don’t care; I like this photo.



She was born Mary Etta Richardson (her mother was Matilda Denmark, which is partially the origin of Till’s name, but mostly we just liked the name), in Liberty County, GA in 1888. She died December 7, 1959. (Pearl Harbor day, and my sister’s birthday, too.) She married my great-grandfather, Horace Ray Butler (Rollie dodged a bullet there) and they had five children. Two of them died as babies, and the stories of their deaths are heartbreaking to hear as a mother.They were older than the three who lived and died before the others were born. The three who lived were: Lessie, my grandmother Evelyn Jean, and Clayton. (I believe he was actually William Clayton.)


Both of the babies are both buried at Thomas Hill Cemetery on Fort Stewart. Here is a photo of Marie’s grave and one of R.C.’s. This gets mighty confusing, because my grandmother would tell me about her mother telling her about losing the babies, and the names above are misleading. According to my grandma, Marie was not pronounced with the common pronunciation. It was “MA-ree,” rather than “Ma-REE.” And there is no french accent to it, just “Little Ma.Ree.” And when my grandmother told me about the babies dying, the boy was “Little R.C.” Not “R.O.” which is what the gravestone looks like, but I am sure that it was R.C. and i think maybe the stone was not well-engraved, because I am sure she knew what her own mother called her dead baby brother. And we never heard a word about “Meldrum.” That makes Little R.C. quite a mystery, as he seems to be named “Meldrum R. C. Butler.” Genealogy nerd me would really like to know what the R. and C. stand for – I think R. might be for “Richardson.” Who knows.

Anyways, a ton of my other Butler, Richardson, Denmark, Shuman, and other families are also buried in cemeteries at Fort Stewart. (I hope to get down there for a cemetery visit, but you have to make an appointment, i think due to the Army not wanting you to get blown up driving around the base. Heck, I could do a whole post just about the people buried on Fort Stewart.)

Whoa. That was one of my more offensive genealogy tangents. Sorry about that. So, here’s the juicy part . . .

I guess the statute of limitations is probably up now on these folks, so I can say that we have not figured out the actual truth, but it is rumored that Horace also had a relationship with another woman (possibly a Sarah or Maude, who was perhaps a Shuman) and fathered a son, but I have never been able to figure out much more about it. People just alluded to it, but never actually gave us any real dirt. (If you happen to stumble across this post and know anything about this other relationship, marriage, or illegitimate child or his descendants, we would very much like to hear from you. I know that’s a long shot.)

Horace and Mary Etta lived in Bryan County, GA, on (as I understand it) the original land grant that the Butlers received in Georgia. My grandmother was born there, near Clyde. When Fort Stewart was created, everyone in their area lost their farms. They moved to Savannah, where both died and are buried.

So, back to the purse. The satin lining is sooo silky.


Tills and I started laying the things in the purse out on the table. Here are the things we found in my great grandmother’s purse:

This really cracked and cool looking mirror. If Mary Etta was anything like my Grandma Palmer, she would not go out of the house without lipstick.



One box of tithing envelopes. I think at the end, she maybe lived with my Aunt Lessie in Garden City, outside of Savannah, because I know she didn’t always attend church out there.


Here is one of the cards inside. I love that they are numbered and have the date on them, so that you don’t miss one single Sunday of tithing.




Here is her wallet:



It contained a lot of medical receipts and newspaper clippings of bible verses and obituaries.

I thought this one was very interesting; A tuberculosis report, from 13 years prior to her death. Negative. I’m curious if there is some reason she would have kept this in her wallet all those years. At the time of the test, she still lived on Stevenson Ave. Daddy would have been about five at that time, and also lived there.


Another bible verse. I can’t figure out why it’s printed so oddly. Are they like bible verse flash cards? Because even upside down, I can still figure out it’s from Proverbs. . . and I missed a lot of Sunday School.


She had the card for the Superintendent of Sunday School. Love the old phone numbers. No (912) back then.


One Walgreen’s prescription. I didn’t realize Walgreen’s had been around that long.


Okay, nerd that I am, I looked up history of Walgreen’s. No wonder they were around so long; They started in Chicago and were allowed to sell “medicinal” whiskey during Prohibition. 

Also of interest: Mary Etta’s doctor was a female. Thinking that wasn’t super common back then, but made me smile.



Quick Google search on Anne Hopkins came up with nothing, but I bet she might have been pretty interesting. And anyone know what that cream is for?


Here’s an obituary for some British dude, William Wright. A boyfriend, perhaps? None of the names look familiar.

IMG_8730 IMG_8731


The next one is sweet: A memorial clipping, of some sort, for Mary’s husband, Horace. He died when Dad was around five. IMG_8733 IMG_8735


One flashy red change purse.


A whole bunch of hair doodads.


I particularly like the packaging for the bobby pins, which did not photograph well, but reads, ‘Gayla 10 cents.’


Here’s a brooch, of jewels in a crown. A few of the jewels are missing.

I really like this old letter opener. Does anyone actually still use these?

And here is my absolute favorite item in the purse. One, unopened, perfectly preserved stick of Beech-Nut gum. 

One pair of vintage bifocals.

I really love that they just folded up her glasses and stuck them in the purse. There is something so sweet and personal about holding someone’s glasses for them. It almost feels like an honor. Someone really trusts you if they hand you their glasses for safekeeping. And there is something heartbreaking about folding up someone’s glasses for the last time and putting them away.

Here I am wearing them. Rollie and Tills both had to try them on and we all did our best schoolmarm impersonations. (Ignore my hair frizz. I just ran.) See any resemblance to the photo of Mary Etta below?

Mary Etta Richardson Butler. October 1888-December 1959. Buried at Hillcrest Cemetery, Savannah, GA. (I guess this photo was probably taken at the Stevenson Ave. house. The house is long gone, I think.)


I guess maybe I will start digging through these boxes as I put them back in the basement after the renovation. I am guessing there might be some related posts in the next few months. History nerds unite. Everyone else just stop reading for a while.

Recipe for a Good Weekend: The Five Bs

Monday, September 1st, 2014

I know everyone else says their Labor Day weekend was great, but I’m pretty sure mine was the best.


First of all, I have an 11 year old now. We took him and five of his friends to the G braves game. The main thing you need to know about the Gwinnett Braves is that THEY SELL BOILED P-NUTS AT THE STADIUM.


It makes me feel a little off-kilter when I see how big the boys have all gotten. . .


(l-r) Jonah, Milo, Jack, Ben, Aidan, and Rollie, at the Gwinnett Braves.

(l-r) Jonah, Milo, Jack, Ben, Aidan, and Rollie, at the Gwinnett Braves.


They talk. A LOT. Mostly about farts. They are at a crazy age where they are still little kids, and yet almost teenagers sometimes. They listen to REALLY bad music. I mean, really bad. They think it’s good. One of them went so far as to say, “Parents don’t get it. Pop is the music of the future.” And “Mary broke her middle finger. Now she can’t use it any more.” Me: “Use it for what?” Kid: “Playing the recorder.” So, these six stayed up til like 1 am, laughing, inhaling pizza, talking smack, and playing video games. And now my basement smells like puberty.



And then there was this:

Oh, baby.

Oh, baby.

On Saturday, my sainted husband took the kids and dog to the lake, and Brett came and picked me up. Brett is my ex-husband from high school. I have known him since middle school, through high school, and into college. We have somehow stayed in touch, even though we have not lived in the same city (and sometimes country) since college. He is like family now. And the fact that he gave me first dibs on tickets (after his own family, of course) meant a lot. So, it’s not often that married folks get to spend an hour or so riding in a car, hanging out and chatting. And Brett and I got all day. (Luckily, we made it through the hellacious turn he made off of 316 into the gas station parking lot. There were squealing tires. Brett is very wild.)


So, we drove to Athens, parked at OMG-IT-WAS-SO-FAR. And then we walked. A lot. Fitbit says I walked over nine miles, which explains why on Sunday I felt rather similarly to the way i felt after running a half-marathon. And I didn’t even drink any bourbon while running that one.


What a beautiful (Hot) day it was for a walk in Athens. Oh, the people-watching. There is just not much like an SEC football town on a Saturday. So, we walked all the way from the intramural fields to North Campus. We found Brett’s cousins’ tailgate. (what the heck did people do to find each other before cel phones? I have trouble remembering.) They were gracious and gentlemanly and had lovely girlfriends (ah, to be 20-something again), and had ice and beer and . .  no mixers for the bourbon. That’s okay, it seems I can be charming when i want to – i sweet-talked some poor Clemson boy for Coke. He didn’t know what hit him.


Then Jason and his friend Brian showed up, and wheee! Seriously nothing better than a sunny Saturday, drinking bourbon, and people-watching with two of your oldest, favoritest people, and about 80,000 strangers.

Brett, Me, and Jason. I love these two like the brothers I never had.

Brett, Me, and Jason. I love these two like the brothers I never had.


So, it came time to move on. Kickoff was at 5:30. Brett and I bade goodbye to our gracious hosts, hugged Jason, and set off to grab something to eat. I cannot begin to explain the crowds. We grabbed a hotdog from a corner vendor (flashbacks of my bachelorette party, anyone?), walked through the arches, and sat on the steps of one of the North Campus buildings and just watched people go by. There are old fans, and young fans, and couples, and the endless stream of ridiculous plays on the red and black dress. We finished up and headed towards the stadium. We took the scenic route and sat on the steps of Park Hall, just like the old days. I could have been sitting next to Kevin Fagan, doing the Red and Black crossword, smoking before class. Park has a great view, kind of up on a hill from the stadium, and the streams of people going by, and the sun hanging low in the west, and the sweet, sweet anticipation of kickoff never cease to wow me.


So, we headed towards the stadium in a bourbon haze, in a sea of red, and then we purchased the most trashy red and black t-shirts ever made. They are unable to be worn around children, or in polite company. (They cracked us up, and fueled by bourbon, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I am hoping that Brett will get a photo of Lucy wearing his, and send it to me. Brett and I both suspect we will get nothing but disapproving shakes of the head from our spouses, though.)


And then, a wave of people walking into the stadium, and to find our seats.


It's pretty fun to watch Gurley hurtling towards you.

It’s pretty fun to watch Gurley hurtling towards you.


Great seats! Okay, the good thing about the seats were the location, the view and the overhang, shielding you from the sun. The bad thing is that it was probably 95 in the shade, and then the heat was rising from below and it seemed to just sit up under the overhang. I was never so thankful for the free fan. Talk about a way to feel southern. Dress in the same colors as the other 80,000 people around you, drink bourbon on early 18th century steps, and then use a fan to cool yourself off.


Well, I declare, I thought Brett might have a heatstroke up in that stadium. He’s almost a Yankee now, living out there on the west coast. I guess he just wasn’t used to our heat. Bless his heart.


(That was my best Scarlett O’Hara. That’s all I got.)


So, then? The game. Brett and I spent the first half being uneasy and nervous. Dawgs just didn’t look too . . . inspired. Well, that all changed, and we got quite a show in the 2nd half. That’s all I’m gonna say about that, because I believe in jinxes, and I’ve had my heart smashed to pieces the last two seasons, and I’m not sure if I’m ready for any outward emotional investment yet.


So, we got out of the game and rode the shuttle back out to the car, and drove back to Atlanta. All in all, it was a good day to be a Dawg.




Sunday, i woke up early, feet blistered, and packed a bag for the Lake. And i got there about 11. And it was, you guessed it, so hot. But i read on the dock, and the kids swam, and I drank beer with my two best friends, and I caught a bass and ate a persimmon and some berries right off the tree and vine, and then we at a steak dinner. And I watched the second half of the replay of the game, and it was just as good, and I got maybe a little excited, but JINXES. And then my husband and I did one of our favorite things, which is to sit on the dock, and listen to music, and gaze at the stars. (And a few fireworks across the lake.) The stargazing was not its best last night, a cloud covered most of the lake, but the Big Dipper and the moon were hanging low and bright in the clear western sky. It was hot and I had not showered, so i went swimming, and night swimming in the still lake, gazing at the crescent moon, with the faint notes of music in my ear is pretty damn near heaven.


I slept late (9? Is that late? I guess i am old.) I ate cold pancakes and drank coffee on the screened porch. And then Tiller and I rode the jet-ski, and we went to Goat Island, and it amazes/saddens me that she is so big now that she doesn’t even hold on to me when we ride. We did not see the goats, but boy was the lake busy today. And then i got back to the dock and i took Rollie out. Or should i say, he took me out. Yes, my boy is old enough to drive the thing, and I am just along for the ride. That is both wonderful and scary at the same time. (Still not old enough to take it out on his own, of course.) And my favorite part about that is that we get to have some time together, just the two of us, and we have fun, stopping to swim, and exploring the lake, and stuff like that.


So, i had to come home. Which makes me sad. When i was little, i used to cry about leaving the lake. I love it so. I still get sad to come back home. And now, back to the real world. The work week. The grind. But I feel pretty certain there will be a little Tuesday daydreaming about day drinking in Athens, 100-yard punt returns, fishing, swimming, and the stars.

Recipe for a good weekend: Boiled peanuts, Baseball, Bourbon, Bulldogs, and Bass.


*Photos courtesy of Brett Shell. It’s really hard to hold a drink while shaking one of those pom-poms and taking photos at the same time.

Girls Gone Mild 2012: Tybee Island

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

This time last week, I was on Tybee. Gawd, I love that place. Reminds me of everything that is awesome in life: Beach, warm sun, sand, marshes and birds, beer, kids and “yes, Ma’am,” and fresh seafood, and my grandparents, and being a Georgian. Say what you will (and leave politics out of it), but I live in one of the most beautiful states ever. Cities and beaches and swamps and Piedmont farm fields, and pine forests and hardwood forests and wilderness and lakes and mountains. (Seriously. Name another state with both the Appalachians and a monstrously-huge swamp. Alabama, maybe?)

Georgia is who I am. I feel Georgia in my bones.

So, I was excited to spend a few days on Tybee, with my little sister and my dear friends Robin and Vanessa. They’re my “newer” college friends. You know, I’ve only known them for a little over 20 years now. [gulp] Even more exciting was the fact that neither Robin or Vanessa had ever been to Savannah or Tybee. I wish we had more time – they barely got to scratch the surface. Pretty sure they caught the bug, though. They will return. I know it.

We got in on Sunday, after an enjoyable ride down 16, the world’s most boring drive (if you don’t happen to have three of your best friends with you, doing godawful Irish brogues in Dublin, and performing their best machine gun sounds – it’s true, girls really can’t do them – which make your stomach hurt from laughing, and which put everyone’s lives in peril as you struggle to keep the car on the road because you can’t see through the tears of laughter).

Got there, and checked into our condo. (We considered a house, which i would have preferred, but the condo had a heated pool and in early March, heated pool wins out.) Then we had drinks, hit the IGA for provisions. (I could write a whole blog post on just the IGA – awesomely strange people-watching. People drink while shopping for groceries. Hysterical. Oh, and did I mention awesome? They will deliver your groceries to your door, or stock your place before you even get there.) Then we went to Sting Ray’s for dinner. It was good, and they had decent beer and they were open on Sunday and god, i was starving. This is also the moment where our trip catchphrase was born. You know: Every trip with friends has one. Todd went to Tybee a couple of years ago and came back with “Release the Kracken!” They even had their own logo:

Gratuitous Kracken photo, courtesy of Iain Stewart, because it still cracks me up.

Gratuitous Kracken photo, courtesy of Iain Stewart, because it still cracks me up.

Ours? “I don’t know about you whores, but. . . ”

As in: I don’t know about you whores, but yes. We are that classy. And then we went back to our place, drank tequila, watched The Walking Dead, and made bird statues do weird things to each other.

On Monday, we rented bikes from Fat Tire Bikes. They were so sweet, gave us an “off-season” discount, and we made friends with Joey, a former science teacher, who now works part-time at the bike shop. They also traded out my bike for me when I had an overnight slow leak. Good people.

Lisa and Robin decided to head straight back to the pool, so they piled their bikes in the back of my van, while Vanessa and I readied for a ride, by spending about an hour adjusting our bike seats (I have long legs people!) and she practiced riding in a parking lot next to the bike shop. While we did that, we heard a crash and looked out in the middle of Butler (main st. on Tybee) and there is Robin running in the middle of the road picking up a bike basket that fell out of the back of the van. Yes, my sister likes to floor it. Even when there are bikes, not tied down, in the back of my open van. This happened right in front of the bike shop, which made me laugh my ass off. *No bikes were harmed in the course of this trip. Not sure when Nessie last rode a bike, but i think it had been a while. But, you know, riding a bike is, um, just like riding a bike. It came back to her and then we hit the road and explored and looked at houses and it was fucking awesome.

Then we hit the pool! Not much better than a day sitting around a pool with friends. We also tormented my husband by texting him at work and asking him to be our cabana boy. He is a good egg, my husband. I finished The Scottish Prisoner and started reading Ready Player One.

That night, we had dinner at North Beach Bar and Grill (unassuming building near the lighthouse, but great food and great servers!) And then we went to Huca Poo’s for beer. No link because damn, they need a new website. OMG, i loved this place. Not for those sensitive to smoke (you can still smoke in public places there, which is so weird, even though it wasn’t so long ago that everywhere was like that.) First of all, great bartender, Al. For the Auburn folks, he was a cross between Jared Pearce and my Mama. I don’t know how else to describe him. Red leather barstools, just like they had at The Georgia Bar, back in the day, when that was actually the place to be in Athens. Sweet seats! Pinball. People playing poker at a corner table. That ring toss game that I need to install at the lakehouse. Great people-watching. And DOGS AT THE BAR. There was an actual dog, named Zoe, wearing a plaid scarf, sitting on a barstool at the bar. God bless bars like this. I could live in one. Not kidding when I say i could put it in my top 20 bars of all time. (No, I haven’t really made this list, but i might some day.)

This place is the good stuff.

This place is the good stuff.

Tuesday, we had planned to spend the day in Savannah, but for some reason, everyone slept late and we bailed on that. So, instead, we rode bikes in the a.m. Okay, i had to get my damn tire fixed, and then i rode bikes. We ate lunch at Fannie’s On the Beach. Their onion rings are the best thing since beer. And then the girls went back to the pool and I rode my bike all by myself for a while. No pictures of that. It’s all in my head, though, and it’s all mine. And no one can take it away.

And then i think we had more time at the pool, and then we were tired and we ordered pizza in and drank some more that night. They don’t call us Girls Gone Mild for nothing.

Wednesday morning, Leelee and i got up bright and early and went for a bike ride. It was one of the best mornings I can remember having with my sweet sister. When was the last time you rode bikes with your sibling? There is a magic to it, like you are six years old again. We looked at houses, and talked, and did fashion shoots and action shots (see below) and walked on the pier and laughed.

And on the way back home, i rode past a house and saw my friend Lisa standing out in the front yard! Lisa is friends with my friend Donnie, from college. They live in Savannah, but Lisa has a landscaping company, Plan It Green Design, and she was working on one of the Mermaid Cottages on the island. She is awesome, even though I don’t know her that well. But you know, when you go skinny dipping at a downtown Atlanta hotel’s rooftop pool at 1 am on a Monday night after a Pixies show, you’re pretty fast friends. Anyway, it is a small world and it was nice to hug her neck and say hello.

Let’s see, what else? Robin and i walked on the beach a bit, and then we took Nessa and Robbie to The Crab Shack. I can’t really explain the crab shack. You will just have to go there on your own. Suffice it to say that it is extremely touristy, located down a weird mobile-home/awesome backriver home street, and it has cats, raccoons, parrots, and real live gators. Kids adore it, and adults lie if they don’t kind of like it too. Except for Robin, who doesn’t really eat seafood and was quite unimpressed. I felt a little sorry for her as I sucked crawfish heads and the eyes stared at her as she ate her ribs. I cracked shells and and slurped mussels and pretty much gave into the thrill of killing my own food as i ate it. I am a sucker for a food with a carapace or a shell or an exoskeleton. They are so fun to eat! And then we took photos with the fake gator. Fake gators are always a good time.

And on our last night, we went to the pier and it was a full moon and you could see Venus and Jupiter, i think, and the moon shined on the river. I stood on the end of the pier, looking down, watching the flow of the river make it’s way back out to the ocean. I thought about how good it feels to go with the flow of your heart and your desires, to be like the river, ebbing and flowing with the pull of the moon, and I knew that it is okay to be me, even if I change directions at the damnedest times, and with no apparent reason. I have my reasons, like the tides have the moon.

And then we went back and packed up and planned for a Kamikaze tour of Savannah the next morning. We got up, returned out bikes and said our goodbyes to Joey, and hit the road. I hate to leave Tybee – it pulls at my heartstrings so. The girls wanted to see Bonaventure, so we went there first, and spent a delightful morning walking the cemetery. It is truly beautiful, even if touristy.

And then we got REAL hangry and decided to eat on River Street, which I would normally avoid, but I thought if we had such a short time, they would want to see its cobblestone and the preparations for St. Patty’s that were already underway, and the sweet shops. OHGODTHESWEETS. There does exist, by the way, a peanut butter cup that is too big for me to finish. I didn’t think it was possible, but it is true.

The sad part is that we had to hit the road, and they never even got the chance to walk the squares, which is the true beauty of Savannah, but i am sure they will come back. I know I will. Maybe Girls Gone Mild 2013?


Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Ooooh. . . Really, really, really want one of these prints from Old Try. There are different prints for different Southern states (Mississippi and Arkansas‘ are best, but I have no connection there), and then some that are just generally Southern.

I want this:

Or this:

But most of all, this:

I want it bad.

Via Garden & Gun, which is awesome, if a little hoity toity sometimes.


Sunday, January 15th, 2012

Todd took Rollie to Monster Jam last night and when Tills heard they were going, she was a little upset. So, my sister and I decided we’d take the day and drive to Cleveland to take her to Babyland General. (We took Dash, too. You know. To see if he’s gay or not.)

Now, neither of us had been there since we were little girls, and admittedly, we were pretty excited. We had “Adoption Dolls” as little girls, before Xavier Roberts sold to Mattel and they renamed them Cabbage Patch Kids, and they were like magic. It is funny now to think how all the moms and daughters of the 80s drank the kool-aid on this one: These dolls are really nothing much to look at. Some of them are damn ugly. (Lisa, I’m looking at Tiffany!) But there was something completely magical about them. I can still remember getting my first one (a knock-off named Stephanie.)


This is Lisa and Me, Christmas 1981. I am not sure if we got Stephanie and Samantha this Christmas, or if they just came downstairs with us on Christmas morning. (Yes, this was also the year we arrived in the future and got an Atari! And I got The Black Stallion Breyer horse. A magical Christmas, all in all.)


And here I am a month later, on my birthday, holding both of the girls before opening my gifts. Lisa and I played with these things So. Much.

And I can remember loving her, and wanting another! I remember going into the toy shop in downtown Alpharetta. (I forget what it was called – maybe the Indian Trading Post? It had an old cigar store Indian out front.) I would go in that shop, and look at all the “real” adoption dolls they had in there. I think part of the magic was that there were so many different colors and combinations of eye and hair color, and they had real baby clothes on, and they were given real first and middle names, just like real babies, and when you adopted one, you got a real birth certificate, with baby footprints and your name signed on it, and their birthdays and everything.


So, in the end, i ended up with one knock-off, who was my first, and whom I loved just as much as the next two. Stephanie Lynn was later joined by Minerva and Betsy. (I think those were their names. Guess I need to check the birth certificates.) I suppose i remember Stephanie’s name because i named her myself. The other two came with laminated tags on their hands that had their names Sharpied on.) Minerva was a redhead, and Betsy (?) a raven-haired beauty.

Anyways, I digress, but the point of all this is to say that being a parent is hard and sometimes infuriating, sometimes scary, sometimes sad. But sometimes it is wonderful. Taking your child to do something you did as a child, or teaching them to fish, or seeing them touched by magic that you can still remember and feel? That is one of the most special parts of parenthood. Yesterday was one of those days.

Annual Temporary Annulment Day 2010

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

So, you might have heard a little rumor. It has something to do with me and a streak.

Four games. I would love to make it five, but I don’t see it happening. If it does happen, it will be amidst too much hoopla, and it will be bittersweet and contested anyway. Sigh.

Scratch that. I’ll take it.

There is something larger at stake, though. Not just four in a row in a House Divided. But my record at Auburn games. I have a bit of streak going there, too. I have never seen Auburn win a game in my presence.

I’ve been to a number of Auburn games, and not just games where they play Georgia (although those have been the sweetest). Auburn has lost every game I attended. I am the kiss of death. i am the black widow. One year i was the Blackout Widow. (By far the most beautiful Annulment Day yet.) Bama game last year? That was me. Unexpected loss to some crappy Florida team? (Florida Atlantic? Florida A&M?) Yeah, that was me too.

Cue Sympathy for the Devil.

The best thing about tomorrow is. . . well, duh. No children for a day of drinking. Second best thing? We have nothing to lose and they have everything to lose. Worst case scenario, I get really loaded, we lose catastrophically, and some really great Auburn friends rag on me for a day. I think i can take it. I mean, they took it the last four years in a row.

Plus, the look on my husband’s face while Bulldogs players and fans cranked dat Soulja Boy? No one can take that very magical, electric moment away from me. Or erase it from his memory. But just in case. . .

Sweet dreams, sugar.

Band of Horses Cover Cee-Lo at ACL Music Fest

Friday, October 15th, 2010

I know. I tweeted about it the other day. But this is video! Would love to see this live. Seriously the worst I’ve had a song stuck in my head since, like, The National, last week.

via PasteMagazine. Thanks, Paste!