Lord Have Mercy

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Confession: I have flaws. Lots of flaws. In particular, one BIG character flaw: I can’t keep my mouth shut when I am angry.

Boy oh boy, do I have a temper.

I’m also what you might call confrontational. 

con·fron·ta·tion·al
ˌkänfrənˈtāSH(ə)n(ə)l/
adjective
tending to deal with situations in an aggressive way; hostile or argumentative.
“he distanced himself from the confrontational approach adopted by his predecessor”

Now, I don’t go looking for a fight. Never, ever. If you met me, you would say I have a lot of energy and I’m very passionate. I will smile and laugh with you in one minute and look at you and put you in your place the next.

I always did say, “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness.”

I do, however, handle my business. That means, if you’ve got something to say that insults, demeans, or in any way defames me, you better believe I won’t just take it sitting down.

Some might even call me scrappy.

Once I get a whiff of an aggressive action against me, I’m like a dog with a bone.

Case in point: This whole partisan crap taking place. Everything from kneeling during the anthem to whether or not some random guy should be the next Supreme Court judge. What I have witnessed is: A. If you consider yourself conservative, you may have thought the football players were being disrespectful to the Flag & America. B. If you are more liberal, you may have seen this as a way for these citizens to use their Constitutional right with Freedom of Speech & Expression.

Or

A. If you are conservative you may have assumed Dr. Ford was lying about her alleged sexual assault. or B. If you are liberal you may have thought Kavanaugh was a liar.

Regardless of where you fall with either of these categories, your truth and understanding is your reality. I am not here to play judge and jury.

And I would expect the same from others.

This past weekend, I randomly decided to check out my Twitter account. I hardly ever post there (on purpose.) Most of my FB posts, if made public, automatically post there, so it is sort of self-maintained without me having to do anything. On Friday night, I began checking my notifications and kept seeing I was retweeted to several dozen times by people arguing about something. I thought to myself, “Why was I being brought into something?”

I found the original response, and it was to a photo I posted. It was about the freedom to express yourself. It was a non-partisan, objective… in essence, “Chill Out” pic. Why? My Twitter feed was full of angry people with extreme opinions.

The response came from a local businessman, which I have actually paid quite a bit of money to for handling an ailment I had. This person works in the medical field. He basically tweeted to me, “You are stupid” “I should move my ass to another country” and “If I couldn’t afford it, he could help me out.”

Huh. Is that right?

I’ve got a few problems with this and I will begin with the facts:

  1. I don’t care if you are a private business owner or a public servant, just because you can put someone one blast does not mean you should. A difference of opinion is fine, but attacking someone publicly is a big no-no.
  2. You definitely lost a customer/patient and I assure you, I will not send anyone your way. And yes, people ask me all of the time for recommendations.
  3. Contrary to what you may believe, I’m actually highly intelligent. Don’t let the smiles, laughter, and energy f00l you.
  4. I believe I have a right to believe what I want to believe, as you have a right to believe what you want to be. We are both Americans. I love my country. My father served in the military during Vietnam, as well as his brothers and sister-in-law. My grand father fought in WWII. My cousin was a Judge at Nuremberg, and put away the Nazis…. so don’t tell me I don’t love my country. Do your homework first. I’d be willing to put my American service family tree up against yours any day.
  5. I don’t feel the need to live in another country, but thanks for the suggestion. I’ve had multiple opportunities, and I chose to stay home.
  6. As for a plane ticket that I could or could not afford… sweet heart, I can afford a lot more than you realize. Thanks for the offer for the free ticket, hell… didn’t I already pay for that ticket? I believe so, to you for services. So really, you should be thanking me.

 

Woosah.

As you can tell, I’m more than appalled at the behavior I have witnessed. I am silently watching and definitely taking note of who I am dealing with. I vote. I also vote with the almighty American Dollar.

People: Be kind to one another. Stop attacking people because you have a different opinion than them. Would you say these things to their face? Do you know the reason they feel and vote the way they do? What has life put in their way?

I feel sorry for this person. Some how, the little innocent image of free expression stirred something in him that challenged him.

Also, I am a firm believer that when someone becomes angry and they “step up” to you, well, that’s where their respect for you ends.

I’m angry, Mr. Man and my respect for you is no longer.

PEOPLE – GET OUT AND VOTE. EVEN IF WE DISAGREE. JUST DON’T BASH PEOPLE FOR USING THEIR FOREFATHER-CONSTITUTIONAL-GIVEN-RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

Dealing & Healing

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***pardon any typos… I’m doing this quickly over lunch!***

It seems this blog is more about me apologizing for not writing, versus actually getting to the good stuff.

With that being said, let’s just get to the good stuff.

Obviously, I’ve been very busy: living & loving. And healing. Or trying to.

I’ve decided to bury the lead… so strap in for the ride.

The picture above describes March until September. I’ve been on the road: filling my mind with knowledge, exploring new places, and spending time with some really fantastic people. The best part? I get paid to do all of this.

I am blessed beyond measure. THIS is the one thing I am certain of.

Let’s begin, shall we?

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Late April, either before or after the last post, (I forget,) I got sick. Like, really, really sick. I ended up with a (I hate typing this, but it is what it is,) an anorectal abscess. Not THERE, but next to there. Science would say I waited too long to treat it, but the truth is, I was the victim of scheduling. Felt something on Saturday. Call Gyno on Monday. Appointment on Tuesday. Diagnosed with abscess. Scheduled to see surgeon on Monday. By Friday I had a fever and was vomiting. Went to ER that night. Saturday morning emergency surgery. Home for 2 weeks recovering.

The end… or so I thought.

Soon there after, I recovered and went back to work. One of the coolest things about my life now is that I get the honor of doing so many interesting things. Like above, I got to be the Honorary Councilwoman for the City of Plains for one meeting. That’s me with the mayor. (Who just so happens to be the former college friend of Tim’s late father, Mayor Jerry Kirksey of Preston.)

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My job keeps me super busy, so finding time for a date is next to impossible. Luckily, my Americus Rotary club had a party at the Georgia Southwestern University Lake House – complete with the Varsity Food Truck with unlimited dogs & burgers & onions rings! That was so much fun! We ate well and laughed with our fellow business associates. If you are unfamiliar with the Varsity, it is a tradition to eat there when visiting Atlanta. AMAZING food. What a treat for us to have this food truck in Americus (3 hours South of Atlanta!)

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I even hosted a staff retreat to my home. Main Street & Tourism gathered to go over our strategic plan and share in some delicious food catered from a local Plains restaurant: The Silo.

Of course we got to spend some time with our famous neighbor, former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalyn Carter.

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Then it was time for me to hit the road again! I spent one week up in the North Georgia Mountains at the University of North Georgia & Southeast Tourism Society’s annual Marketing College. I have been working on my credentials as a Tourism Marketing Professional and Festival & Events Planner. I met up with my classmates from first year (and a few incoming 1st years) and we kicked off the fun at Wolf Mountain Winery. We had an AMAZING dinner.

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Seeing my friends from Louisiana and Arkansas is always a treat! Plus many others from all over Georgia.

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Later that night, we all broke off and explored the bars of downtown Dahlonega.  Here we are at the local Irish pub, Shenanigans.

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We enjoyed pizza at Gustavo’s on the main square.

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Proscecco any night!

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The King of Pops for our afternoon breaks.

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Delicious New Orleans style food at Bourbon Street Grill on the Main Square

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And honestly, so much more. I even won a bottle of bourbon for being the Queen of Social Media on the trip! Winning the top prize for the documenting overall experience at a Marketing College ain’t too shabby.

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Not soon after I got back, I ended up back in the hospital. More bleeding and apparently a slight infection from the wound area of the abscess. Here is a photo of the staff Facetiming me  as I lay in the bed hooked to ivs.

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Pretty soon after that, it was times for Plains, Trains, & Fireworks in downtown Plains! It’s our annual July 4th celebration. My staff & I melted in the hot Georgia sun! Me – recovering and trying the best to keep a smile on my face. Honestly, I was exhausted in this picture. On the road, fighting an infection, and just going… going… going…

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Regardless of the heat, exhaustion, and whatever else – I found plenty of reasons to smile! Like the grandbaby’s laughter!

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Or watching our my love enjoys spending time with our precious!

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Right after that event, I took off for a girls’ beach trip to the family beach house on Mexico Beach. I brought one of my oldest friends, and 3 newer friends from Americus. We had a fantastic time eating, drinking, and soaking up the sun! Something I so desperately needed!

We ate so much good food, drank tons of tequila and pina coladas and wine slushies! And talked… so much girl talk! It was very good for the soul.

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On the way down I got to meet one of the Godfathers of the slow food movement: The owner of White Oak Pastures, Mr. Will Harris. According to their website, Mr. Harris is a fourth generation cattleman, who tends the same land that his great-grandfather settled in 1866. He was born and raised at White Oak Pastures and eventually left home to attend the University of Georgia’s School of Agriculture, where he was trained in the industrial farming methods that had taken hold after World War II. He graduated in 1976 and returned to Bluffton where he and his father continued to raise cattle using pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics. They also fed their herd a high-carbohydrate diet of corn and soy.

These tools did a fantastic job of taking the cost out of the system, but in the mid-1990’s Will became disenchanted with the excesses of these industrialized methods. They had created a monoculture for their cattle, and, as Will says, “nature abhors a monoculture.” In 1995, Will made the audacious decision to return to the farming methods his great-grandfather had used 130 years before.

Since Will has successfully implemented these changes, he has been recognized all over the world as a leader in humane animal husbandry and environmental sustainability. He shared his story with us over a bottle of wine and beef tacos, fresh off the farm!

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Well, no sooner did I get back on Sunday night from the beach trip, I repacked my bag for a trip to West Georgia for three days. (Literally, the very next day!) The first leg of this trip involved a visit to Warm Springs, Georgia. Home of The Little White House of FDR and the FDR State Park, all of which I got to tour. Plus, the downtown area of Warm Springs is adorable. One of the highlights was the wine tasting at Warm Springs Cellars.

After Warm Springs, we headed to Callaway Gardens and toured the entire property and had dinner at one of the restaurants on the property. The next day was all about adventure! Our group got to enjoy both White Water Rafting and Zip-lining (from Georgia to Alabama and back – Seriously!) So many laughs and tales of danger – which we enjoyed laughing about over dinner at EPIC in uptown Columbus.

Our final day consisted of a very moving experience at the National Infantry Museum. Then we ended up having an amazing adventure at the Coca-Cola Space Science Center.

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Did I forget to mention two VERY cool spots in West Georgia? We also got to have a Rum tasting at Richland Rum and Omaha Brewing Company!

And then no sooner do I get home…

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Boom…. more antibiotics. The infamous wound simply will not heal all of the way. After a few conversations with my surgeon, it is just the location. But now she fears I may have a fistula. We aren’t sure… so I start more heavy-duty sulfa drugs and try, try again.

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During the healing process, my friend Wesleigh from the Marietta Visitor Center came down to explore Sumter County. Here she is tasting our famous Peanut Butter Ice cream in downtown Plains.

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A few days later, one of my dear friends from Macon passes away suddenly. The beautiful Dorothy Cook left us…

But the show had to go on…

Literally…

I had an 8 hour retreat to lead the very next day. My heart was so heavy, and not only that, I was exhausted and extremely sick…..

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But I kept going and was THRILLED to host my friends from Statesboro and Houma, Louisiana around town. One of our favorite stops was the international roastery in town: Cafe Campesino! I’m so excited, because they are about to celebrate their 20th anniversary! I can’t wait to attend the festivities!

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So at this point, I’m trucking along… trying to feel better. I went to my monthly Bunco meeting with the ladies of Plains…

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I celebrated our sweet grandchild’s 3rd birthday!

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I allowed my hair to be turned blue and get glittered for one of our First Friday events in downtown Americus.

I even took some time to host 2 girls from Hiroshima, Japan for a week.

Seriously…. I got back in the exchange student business. It was really kinda cool. Never hosted Japanese students, and these two were from the City of Americus’s sister city in Japan. Momoka and Ayaka! These girls left on a Wednesday, and I packed my bag for a 5 day conference to Atlanta that started on a Saturday.

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Lots of fantastic session and boy oh boy, did I learn a lot!

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I heard one of the most inspirational speakers from the football coach legend, Bill Curry.

The two gubernatorial candidates for the State of Georgia gave their words on how they view and would support Tourism. That DEFINITELY solidified my decision.


I had the best time at the College Football Hall of Fame. We had a tailgate private party at the museum!

I also experience VIP treatment at the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park Stadium. We had the Hank Aaron Terrace all to ourselves! Unlimited food, great seats, a/c, private entrance…

Life is oh so good!

 

I got back on Wednesday night, only to REPACK my bag for Friday – because…

Dum.. dum.. duuummmmm…

It was Labor Day weekend and time to head back to the beach house with the family.

We had an amazing adventure. 8 hours on the beach, an evening in Apalachicola, a day trip to Destin, and coffee at Panama City Beach.

Then to end it all, Tim reflected on how this is probably one of the last innocent Summers with his girls at this particular beach.

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You see, his mom is selling the beach house. The same house they have vacationed at every year since the 80s.

It is an end of an era for the Kirkseys.

That brings us to this past Sunday. Tim’s youngest turned 16. Again… transitions, they are a-coming.

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Even with me. I’m down 13 pounds. 5 over the Summer, and 8 more on Weight Watchers. THIS is good news.

But this is bad news:

I found myself back in the surgeon’s office yesterday. More bleeding, more infection. As it turns out, I have a fistula. (You can google it.) That’s why I am not healing, and they don’t just heal themselves. I’m headed to a pretty gnarly surgery on October 26th to have a fistulotomy. It is supposed to be a painful recovery with a fairly decent shot at fixing this problem… God willing.

If you can, place me in your prayers for healing. And to calm my fears. And for whatever else I can’t seem to put into words.

My Summer was good. My life is even better. I just need to heal.

(Now don’t make me the “butt” of your jokes. This whole experience has been a pain in my “ass.” Get it? Get it?)

Until next time….

Ask & You Shall Receive

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I have to admit – 2018 has been pretty remarkable! I realize I have been a little quiet as of late, but as with all new transitions (which I seem to be on an endless stream of them,) I needed to let the dust settle. We got into the house and settled into the life in Plains so very easily.

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We started off with my 45th Birthday party in our new home. About 30 people from Americus, Plains, & Macon came to celebrate my little stay on Earth. We had great drinks and lots of laughs. It was nice to be surrounded by my new connections with my  things. I haven’t seen these things in years (all stored up nicely in Macon,) so it was good to set them free, so to speak!

Once the birthday celebration ended, it was time to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary. Tim & I headed to the beach house and relaxed with some sunshine & Vitamin Sea. There were so many surprises in store for me: An one & a half hour therapeutic massage, fancy dinner in Panama City, a shopping spree in Apalachicola, and a little Chanel. Needless to say, I was a very happy girl.

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Oyster City Brewing Company, Apalachicola, FL
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Fire Fly Restaurant, Panama City, FL

By Mid March I was on my way to Chattanooga with the theater staff of The Historic Rylander Theatre. We participated in a Creative Placemaking Conference with other arts organizations, municipalities, and tourism entities. Lucky for me, Heather & Will are not only co workers, but dear friends.

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Enjoying the view at Rock City on Lookout Mountain in Tennessee

Back at home, things were going great! Spending time at my neighbor’s home on Saturday night with the rest of our neighbors. Eh hem… which include a certain former President. Yep, most Saturday nights (if he is in town,) he comes for dinner. This tribe of people are fascinating and have turned my non-existent social life into a very interesting experience. Every weekend there is an array of interesting people sitting around her table. From critically acclaimed authors, to journalists from places like the NY Times to the AJC. Never a dull moment.

Then another group in Plains reached out and I ended up a part of a Bunco group that meets the 4th Tuesday of each month! We have so much fun – playing the game, chatting it up, and gobbling delicious treats. (And wine.. I mentioned wine, right?)

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Bunco Group at Honey Hush Boutique

Two really awesome things happened recently. One – Macon Magazine approached me to be featured as one of the Fiery Women in Business for their Spring Issue! I was thrilled to share my story and share what I do with my friends and family back home.

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Not soon after that happened, I completed the renovation on the Americus Welcome Center. The Center is a place where visitors can stop in, learn more about the area, pick up souvenirs and get their questions answered.

With the duties of running the center, I have to attend the Regional Visitor Information Center Conference each year for the State of Georgia. This year it was in Statesboro. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express! The location was fantastic and I was pleasantly surprised with how cool Statesboro was. Outside of attending classes, I got to explore a little.

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Eagle Creek Brewery

We got to have a private party Eagle Creek Brewery, complete with a band performing and free craft beer samples, as well as some food. Lots of the beers served here have fruit infusions, I went for the Strawberry Wheat.


I gave my shot at Tactical Paint Ball! Another first for me! It was a solitary game, one where you gear up, grab your paint ball gun, then enter this dark maze where Human Zombies make their way for you. You aim, you shoot, and if it hits them, they dramatically fall to the ground. The first time I pulled the trigger I snapped a guy right in the groin. I apologized and kept moving!

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I tried something else for the first time – I jumped on a trampoline. My mom never let me get on one of these because she was afraid we would break our necks! But at 45 – I did it. Want to see proof? Check out my instagram feed and watch the video.

Now let’s take a moment and analyze what is happening here. Do you notice a change?

Yep. I’m living. I’ve transitioned. I’m going to be okay.

I’m going to be more than okay… because I have some amazing news: I’m off of my Alpha Beta Blockers & Cholesterol medicine! That’s right!!!!!! I’ve come a long way baby, and I feel phenomenal. Now I am focusing on getting my metabolism back to normal and kicking some PCOS butt!

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I also enjoyed a Birds of Prey & Reptile show at Georgia Southern University’s Wildlife Center. I got to see owls, eagles, and hawks soar & swoop right over my head! In this photo you see some of my fellow tourism colleagues hold this big guy.

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I shot a gun for the very first time at the Shooting Range on the University campus! I got a lot of my  questions answered and I have to admit, I am interested in learning more!

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I got some much needed bonding time with people with similar interests and personalities. Here you see Wesleigh from Marietta and Sloane from Jackson.

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We decided to give archery a try while in town! This was another first for me!!! I’m telling you, I was living my life to the fullest and loving every minute of it.

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Not too shabby, right? I picked #13, because 13 has always been a lucky number for me (Think TV days – 13WMAZ.)

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We even got to have a fantastic party at Splash in the Boro – this phenomenal water park owned by the county in Stateboro. Unlimited margaritas and tons of great Caribbean food mixed with karaoke & dancing!

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Something else happened while I was there. 😉

31073255_10156241228969929_4072781022800904192_nI received the State of Georgia’s Commissioner’s Award for Outstanding Leadership in Promoting Tourism.

Yep. It’s a big deal.

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I was so surprised! My coworkers, Tim, and Alex all showed up to surprise me. Truly an amazing experience.

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April was full of so many good things. I got to go home and visit my family.

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I got to visit my old museum, the Cannonball House and enjoy the event I started 4 years ago: Beards, Bourbon, & BBQ.

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It was pretty cool to see the bourbon tasting was being conducted by none other than Americus’s 13th Colony Distilleries. My worlds had collided.

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I even got to spend the entire day sipping craft beer, wine, and cocktails for free at the Americus Hot Glass Craft Beer Fest!

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Then there was the big weekend-long media tour with journalists out of Atlanta. One of the first stops was Wolf Creek Winery in Americus. I went for the Wine Slushy shots… of course.

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Got to treat the visiting journalists to a spectacular dinner at Rosemary & Thyme in the Historic Windsor Hotel. Super fancy. 😉

 

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And just two Saturdays ago I spent the day with my oldest and dearest friend at the Spring Wine Festival at Wolf Creek. We slurped wine slushies, ate some hibatchi, and shopped the vendors.

Then one day later… something happened.

I felt an uncomfortable feeling on my bottom. (Yep.) Sunday, I found it was hard to sit and honestly, though this may be TMI, I thought maybe it was a hemorrhoid or something to that effect. Monday, I had to attend this event at GA Representative Mike Cheokas’s home and realized it was difficult to sit down. Finally, I thought I needed to take a closer look.

Yep. There was a HUGE knot on the left side of my bottom, on the seat portion. Not the other place.

The next day I made an appointment to see my gynecologist and she diagnosed me with an abscess. She gave me some antibiotics and scheduled an appointment for me to see a surgeon the following Monday. That (would have been 6 days later.) By Wednesday morning, I was running a low-grade fever and in some serious pain. Thursday – add vomiting. On Friday, I had to be at the Grand Re-Opening of the Americus Welcome Center (in extreme pain and sweating profusely, because little did I know, my body was fighting off a dangerous infection.) I left work a little early and talked Tim into taking me to the emergency room.

Thank God I did. I was close to sepsis.

Basically, I got admitted as soon as they discovered that the abscess had tunneled and was 5cm. I had emergency surgery the next morning (Saturday morning,) and was released that night. I’ve been home ever since and will not return to work until NEXT Thursday. I’m in excruciating pain (still,) and on some super heavy drugs. Antibiotics, pain killers… and horror upon horrors, my poor, sweet husband has to not only change the dressing on my wound, but has to repack it. My dignity is gone. I feel run down. I’m bored out of my mind.

Yep. What a year!

With that being said – a small tribe of friends are forming. My sweet friend, Rachel, brought me some produce and a fantastic llama coloring book & crayons. We sat for a while and caught up. My neighbor, Jill (who throws the awesome parties,) brought my family plates of food the night we got back from the hospital. My other friend that lives here, that owns a local restaurant, baked me a chocolate “Butt” cake as she called it. (Ha – Bundt – Butt. Get it?)

And tonight, the ladies worship group from the local Methodist church all got together and cooked some casseroles for us and froze them and are bringing them to our home. How incredibly thoughtful is that? We don’t even attend their church?

 

This is what living in a small, rural community is all about.

Though the ending of this little catch-up story was tough, the truth is, so much good is surrounding me. I feel the love. I see the true friendships forming, and I’m looking forward to a beautiful Summer!

 

PS – Pardon any typos… I’m under the influence of pain meds. 😉

Learning to Forgive & Accept

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Creative Art Wings Art Shoppe – Photo credit: Leanne Wargowsky

I was scrolling Facebook, as I always do in the morning or around lunch, and saw a fellow friend/blogger/artist friend of mine posted this picture. It was taken at her Art Shop she owns in Illinois and the words spoke to me. Or perhaps it moved me.

You see, I have been doing this over the past year. Something happened when I moved down here. Away from my family, my friends, people I had known for my entire life… and instead of just immediately being welcomed with open arms into a new circle or tribe, I’ve slowly been poking my head into circles and trying them on for size.

The beauty of moving someplace where no one knows your faults, your screw-ups, your idiosyncrasies is that you can reinvent yourself. That’s all fine and good, if that is what you need to feed your soul.

It’s not in my bag of tricks. I’m married to the idea of being authentic and letting the chips fall where they may. And with that, it’s hard to find the right circle to show all your cards to.

Professionally – sure. I’m good to go. Maybe even more so than others. That’s never been my Achilles heel. But the fact that I have a marriage (or two) under my belt, or the fact that I am very opinionated or even outspoken (about a wide variety of topics,) can be jarring, and let’s face it folks – I’m in the DEEP South now. Southwest Georgia. Small towns. I’m pretty darn liberal. I have to tread these waters carefully.

So I entered this new life with so many good things: Great guy, great job, beautiful new home… and I sat there guarded. Feeling like I was a captive in my own skin. I have watched as others (new to the community) trusted the wrong locals and have all but found themselves fighting for their jobs, their reputations, and so much more. THAT scared me. Maybe even scarred me a little. I’ve never lived in such a small place and I did not realize how vicious it could be.

Recently, I’ve spent some time analyzing my actual experience, not the experience I feared. People are kind to me. They like the work I am doing. People have extended invitations. Things are just fine. What has been holding me back is myself. And like the photo above, I have decided to forgive myself for all of my past mistakes and transgressions and set myself free. I’m letting my guard down, and the universe is responding. I’m in a good place, and at some point, I must have allowed poison to enter my mind and hold me back.

That is so not my style.

What holds you back? What do you need to do to set yourself free?

 

Transitional Transitions: How do you transition?

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So, I think it is time I break up – break up with my past, what could have been, and what is no longer.

Does that make sense?

I’m transitioning – AGAIN. Don’t worry, nothing is wrong – quite the contrary, everything is exactly as it should be.

Let’s see if I can explain:

Birthdays always make me a little reminiscent of days gone by. I often look back at my friends, my work, my hobbies – whatever – and find myself wistfully comparing my old life to my new life. I feel sad that  so & so does not call as much or visit as much as they used to. I over glamorize a past job that I had, or maybe even the absolute freedom to do as I wanted when I was a single girl. Ugh.

Guys… the truth is – the honeymoon period of moving down here is over. Nothing more, nothing less.

The expectations have shattered (as they always do,) and now I am left with reality. What was once quaint and adorable and friendly feels more constricting, less friendly, and limited. (But it is not.)

Perceptions, my friends. Perceptions.

This is that point in every move where I take a good, long look at the issue and then say… “Oh… wait a minute. I’m officially settling into my new role.” Yes, my friends, the dust has settled.

What do I see? Newer, but a limited amount of possibilities. I am clear on how things work around here, be it with work or family. I understand my limitations and I am comfortable with navigating the rougher waters. I’m setting boundaries, where once I simply left the door wide open – hoping to see how things would pan out. And thank God I am that way, or I would have never made some of the connections that I have been fortunate enough to make. But at the same time, I need to sweep out of my life what I never should have allowed in: toxic people, judgmental people, and negative people. (Again, don’t worry.. I never actually let them burrow, but they did come in for a visit.)

I had a lot of little things to work through in 2017: married life, becoming a mother, a new job, AND building of our home. (Which we are still getting settled into.) We just celebrated one year of marriage, and while on our trip, we counted our blessings, our lessons, and made numerous realizations….. and it was GOOD stuff. I am so ridiculously lucky.

With that being said… here we are. Gone long enough from my hometown to where I rarely hear from any of those people by phone, in person, online or otherwise. I have sort of just… fallen off the radar. Which often make you wonder why I even kept the connection in the first place, but then I relax and realize some folks are simply for a season. The others are there, but it appears I will have to do the scheduling (and honestly, evaluating whether those relationships are worth investing my effort into anymore.)

I’ve been gone waaaay too long from Birmingham to really know what is going on over there, and honestly, that situation was different, it wasn’t my hometown. Then I find myself in the new space- delicate, new relationships budding up everyday. It’s like I plant a seed – and sometimes the flower blooms, and other times it just fades away. It’s fascinating to witness!

Embracing these transitions has always been a specialty of mine. I am the queen of re-invention and like the phoenix – I rise. 😉

However, there is something about this transition. It’s because this is the final move. THIS will be home. (Unless life decides to uproot me yet again. And if anybody knows whether or not that is possible, I most certainly do.

To help me get a better handle on what is going on, I did a little research and even read old blog posts on my old blogspot journal that highlighted the other major shifts in my life. I think the biggest difference was the fact that this time, I transitioned by choice and in the past, it was because something hardcore had happened in my life.

One common theme kept recurring were the following:

  • I need to expect to feel anxiety & a little depressed. According to an article I read in Psychology Today: “Whenever we move forward we leave something behind, and this creates a psychological state of grief, however small.” In other words – We are out of our comfort zone; our imaginations run wild; and we worry about an unknown future.
  • I need to realize that this is a new chapter in my life. While I need to acknowledge the loss of what life used to be like, I do not need to get stuck in the past. Acknowledging that a door is closed is psychologically healthy; spending your time staring at it is not.
  • I need to think positive. According to that same article in Psychology Today, during times of transition, when everything seems to be in flux, when my old patterns have collapsed, I may feel unsteady but are also most malleable to change. Apparently now is the time to explore, brainstorm, consider the make-over before my life begins to naturally solidify into new patterns.
  • It’s good I hit the ground running. I gave myself very little transitioning time. I basically jumped right in. I didn’t have time to over think, to over plan. Things have happened more organically, and I think in the end, that is a good thing.
  • I also read that I need to get support. And about a year and a half in, I decided to chat with a therapist for a couple of sessions to sort out any anxiety and home sickness I was feeling.
  • And finally, set realistic timelines & expectations. Which is why I wrote this post today.

I needed to work out what was going through my head since the big 4-5 hit. Creating a sense of place and finding my tribe are high ticket priorities when it comes to my happiness. I’ve been impatient with the process, and now it is time for me to relax, reevaluate, and make this my home.

 

Promises We Make – Valentine’s Edition

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It may have taken 42 years to meet this guy, but man oh man… was the wait worth it.

Happy Valentine’s Day to the absolute love of my life – Tim Kirksey.

It’s funny to think it was only a little over 3 1/2 years ago that we even met. According to our wedding website, it went a little something like this:

How did you meet?

We met through eHarmony. Yes, it actually works.

When did you first communicate?

October 31st, 2014

When & Where was your first date? We met on Saturday, November 8, 2014 in Macon at The Rookery. He ordered a burger and beer. She ordered chicken tenders and beer. He asked the waitress if she could bring a coloring book & crayons for his date.

And that’s what sealed the deal.

When did you first say I Love You?

February 13th, 2015. He wrote a love letter to her and handed her his grandmother’s topaz & gold necklace. In the letter, he expressed his love. She was over the moon!

When did you move in together?

May 13th, 2016. Nicole got a job with the City of Americus as the Director of Tourism. Tim invited her to move in with him.

When did you get engaged?

Saturday, August 27th, 2016. He surprised her with a 5 hour North Georgia Winery tour. Later that night, they were taking photos in a vintage western photo shop. There dressed in a cowboy hat & spurs, he asked her to marry him. (She was wearing a feature boa & bustier.) How could you possibly go wrong?

And yes, we eventually got married.

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Here are the actual vows I recited to my husband on our wedding day:

 

Tim,
When I think of everything we have ahead of us – it makes standing here in front of our friends and family and making a promise easy. I know with you by my side that we’ve got this. For better or for worse, because we are not quitters.

We plan. We prepare. And we make promises that we mean to keep.

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With that being said..
Tim, I promise as your wife I will do the following:
At the end of the day, I will always have your back. I’m fiercely loyal and will never make a decision or enter any agreement that does not have our best interests at heart. And with each decision I make, I promise to work toward a compromise with you, if the need arises.

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I will be that safe haven for you when the day is hard. I promise to be strong, make wise choices, and speak up if we ever find ourselves in a situation where it would be necessary. You don’t always have to carry the burdens of our home. Just know, I’ve got your back. Through thick & thin.

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I will contribute and help us build our future together. You know I was never looking for someone to take care of me or someone to carry the load. I was looking for my equal. And though I know I am capable and strong enough to make it on my own, I am also aware that I need someone else to rely on.

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I recognize you as the head of our family, and want you to know that I respect you and will honor you as my husband. I choose you not necessarily because I need you, but because I want you. 

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I promise to take my role as the step mother of your children very seriously. I will take care of them as if they were my own, and I promise to love them, cherish them, and be a role model and confidante that they can count on. I want us to provide a stable and nurturing environment where they are exposed to a life of art, music, theatre, dance, international cultures, and have all the tools they need to be successful, independent women.

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We don’t know what God is going to allow to enter our lives. Whether it is sickness, financial loss, or some other tragedy – just know that we’ve got this. I promise to help you make home that is a sacred refuge for us, to put our little family unit first.

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I promise to always be the eternal optimist that you fell in love with. I’ll always, always help shine the light on the good. I’ll point out the beauty you may have missed. And more than anything else, my one goal, each day, is bring more joy into our lives. And know that a lot of that joy comes from finding ways to serve you as a steady partner.

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Just know:
I’d choose you:
In a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality, I’d find you and I’d choose you.

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In other words… You will never have to walk through this world alone.

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And in the words of Winnie the Pooh – If I live to be a hundred, I want to live to a hundred minus one day, So I never have to live without you.

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To the man that made our dream a reality and who continues to surprise me and love me in ways I never knew could happen – thank you and I love you.

Happy Valentine’s Day! May our first Valentine’s as Kirkseys be just the beginning of incredible adventures!

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Fantasy Birthday

It is officially the week of my birthday! I spent the entire weekend relaxing and enjoying myself! Saturday, I kicked things off with a little Starbucks Double Shot Espresso with Cream and watched 4 episodes of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Seriously.

That’s what I do when I can do what I want.

Then I took a long, hot bath in sweet orange bath bomb/oil and read several chapters of the second book to the Savannah Coven Series.

Again, seriously.

I am such a girl.

Followed by an Avocado mud mask & coloring in my adult coloring books. I finished the morning off with a strawberry cupcake my mom baked me for my birthday week.

Life was pretty grand.

Tim & I had dinner that night with my MIL and SIL at the new restaurant in our little town: Silo Restaurant & Bakery. I had the Prime Rib, baked potato, green beans, mac & cheese, & roll for $18.95. I just can’t make this up. What a steal for all of that food!

On Sunday, we continued our Tour de Churches of Sumter County. This time we visited Plains United Methodist Church. After church, we ate at the Quality Inn restaurant (seriously – they have a mega lunch bar and it is really good,) and then did our weekly shopping. Another great afternoon. That evening, we ate the homemade chili I whipped up in the crock pot and watched several old episodes of the Tudors. Not a bad weekend at all.

Now here are – Monday! Tick-toc… the clock is ticking and it is almost time to turn 45.

Holy mother of God. It’s happening.

Today, for fun, I thought I would share my fantasy birthday gift list. Why not? Play a little with the “How Cool Would This Be?” and see what comes out of it.

Here is my fantasy birthday wish list:

First of all – I am throwing a party Saturday night. And at this party (in my fantasy,) I am wearing the perfect little party dress:

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Next up – are the things I would like:
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Like this beautiful Chanel bag. Be still my beating heart – it is the perfect color of blue!

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And this adorable unicorn. I collect odd toys in my office and this one would be a perfect addition!

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And some blue velvet boots! I have been eyeballing different ones all season.

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And these fantastic Viking Horns to toast with!

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And I love tacos & I love recipe books – why not give me a taco recipe book?

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And some beautiful rose gold bose stereo headphones!

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And a rolex.. with a blueish – grey face… covered in diamonds. Duh!

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And this adorable coloring book!

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My signature scent of perfume!

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A fun mug!

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These fantastic Tiffany & Co sunglasses!

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This beautiful brown leather carry-all.

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And finally – a delicious French cook book!

 

What would you have as your fantasy birthday wish list?

At The Top Of The Hill

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Here I am: Sitting at the top of the hill.

What hill is that?

The one that basically says I am halfway into the game.

I turn 45 in exactly 2 weeks. Fourteen days  and yes, according to science and society, I will be middle-aged.

This doesn’t scare me so much as the pending time that begins to tick in the opposite direction. For example, this coming Monday, Tim & I will close our loan on the house. We are changing from a Construction Loan to a Mortgage and we opted for the 15 year loan.

Why?

Because in 15 years I will be 60 years old. We want to retire without a mortgage over our heads.

FIFTEEN YEARS.

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Me at 5 – 40 years ago

A lot can happen in 15 years, but it also flies by oh-so-fast. I do realize 15 years ago I was 30. I still lived in Macon, was still married to my first husband, and yet at this point in time, I had not experienced a lot of big stuff: The Big C, meningitis, lay offs, big moves to bigger cities, divorce, new relationships, a whole new life, and some of the darkest days of my life. The 30s were equally exciting & empowering, as well as devastating & humbling. When I turned 40, I got divorced, moved home, rebuilt my life and everything… I mean EVERYTHING changed.

Now… here I am staring at the future. Looking it smack dab in the eye. I have my arms on my waist and I am taking a deep breath. Time will eventually run out. Most people barely make it through their 70s. I realize I could make it past the 80s.. but none of that is guaranteed. Hell, a 45th birthday is not guaranteed.

But here we are. Middle age.

Nice to meet you. I knew you were coming, I just didn’t expect it so soon.

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My 40th Birthday party – 5 years ago!

I’m starting to see some lines, and they are not so fine anymore. They are deeper and more pronounced. I’ve toyed with the idea of Botox, but then again, I am so much into authenticity, I find it hard to cross over. My hair has been graying since my early 20s. It started with a few around my face, but now, if I didn’t get my hair colored, I would be completely silver. THAT is hard to believe. Plus, I used to color my hair every 8 weeks, now we are at 5 weeks. At some point in the next 15 – 20 years, I might make that transition. But not now. I still have time.

But not much.

I started to experience fatigue in my 30s and by my 40s I really understood what it meant to be tired. Not just physically tired, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I can now comfortably take a nap and I can also comfortably say NO. I am more selfish with my time and more protective of my personal space. Time keeps on ticking… and I need to savor every moment.

Thankfully some bad stuff happened during my 30s. Things that shook me to my core. Nothing earth shattering, but enough to change me into a better me. I worked and fought hard for the life I lead now (be it as humble and flawed as it is,) and I am eternally grateful for this transition.

 

The abuse I put on my body in my twenties & 30s has caught up with me in my 40s. I am much heavier and less active, and I have aches and pains you can’t imagine. I go through phases of doing better, then I fall off the health-wagon, only to start back at zero.

But it wasn’t always that way.

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About 30 years ago!

Maybe year 45 can be the five-year count down to something amazing. Maybe I will flourish in my 50s in ways I never could have imagined. Maybe…

…. and time keeps on ticking.

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Last birthday – Turning 44!

Here’s to the future! Lets us savor the special moments, schedule our hair appointments a few weeks sooner, and invest in a little more Ben Gay!

45 – I see you and I am ready.

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August 2016 at the top of the hill, in a vineyard in North Georgia

 

What Is Your Word?

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What is your word? Do you have one?

Growing up, adults would often ask me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I’m fairly certain I responded with occupations like: Dancer, Actress, Journalist. Maybe not in that order.

Then as time moves on, we set out to become those things. I danced for many, many years and eventually had to give that up because of issues with my feet. I auditioned for many roles in community theater, took acting lessons, until right before college when I officially made up my mind that I wanted to do something more practical. So I went on to become a journalist.

In your 20s, people ask you, “What do you do?” I would always reply, “I’m a TV News Producer.” And please note: it was said with complete pride. I had set a goal and achieved the goal and wanted everyone to know about it.

By the time you get to your 30s, life takes a few twists and turns and your friends and strangers get a little more philosophical with their questions. We went from, “what do you want to be” to “what do you do to “what is your word?”

I would respond with- writer. Why? Because ultimately, that was what I had become. I had written the news, then I went on to work in media relations and wrote press releases and speeches, then onto other jobs which required tons of writing. Later, I even became a free-lance writer. As the years rambled on, I thought I was getting smarter about the question. I changed my response to- storyteller.

But that’s not my word. That’s not who I am, that is what I do.

I ask YOU this now – What is your word?

Just who are you?

As I have gotten a little older, I finally came up with my word – resilient.

re·sil·ient
rəˈzilyənt/
adjective
1. (of a person or animal) able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.
“babies are generally far more resilient than new parents realize”
synonyms: strong, tough, hardy; More
2. (of a substance or object) able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed.
“a shoe with resilient cushioning”
synonyms: flexible, pliable, supple; More

I am resilient. To test this theory, visit my old blog – Destination Unknown – Part 1 (you can find the link in the About Me section.) Man oh man, I have proven that I can fall down and dust myself right back up and come back stronger each time. (Takes that whole phoenix rising from the ashes cliche to a whole new level.)

However – NOW. Where am I now? What is my word now? How have I changed, or rather, how have I evolved?

I’m not sure.

I recently watched Eat, Love, Pray again. It was one of my all-time favorite books, then, of course, I loved the movie. That final scene, when Liz finds her word….

She discusses her Quest Theory. It struck me – my blog, Destination Unknown, epitomizes this theory, and honestly, her final word was so appropriate for my new marriage to Tim.

Maybe my word for now is… Attraversiamo.

And maybe it’s just a temporary word in this extremely transitional time in my life. And maybe… 2018 will bring a new word.

Maybe…

Now… how about you?

With a Thankful Heart

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It has not been an easy year. Not by a long shot.

But it was a good year, a productive year, and I have so much to be thankful for.

About this time each year, I begin to sift through my photos and prepare my super-long year-end video. It’s my homage to all of the good I experienced and is a celebration of my friends, family, job, and so much more. Though I have been super-stressed most of 2017, I was reminded by these photos just how incredibly blessed I am really am.

If my year was recapped in a highlight reel, it would look a little something like this:

January 2017

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I witnessed #LoveWin with two of my dearest friends getting married in a beautiful and touching wedding ceremony on New Year’s! Just 5 years ago and even sooner than that, this would not have been possible. This was incredibly significant and I felt so blessed to have been a witness to it.

February 2017:

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I got married to one of the most decent, hardworking, loving men I have ever met! This sweet, gentle, and strong man came into my life just when I was not sure how my story would end. He filled all of the empty spaces with a healing love and represents the glue that has held all of my cracks together. Love does win… and can do so even later in life.

March 2017:

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I finally got to Paris! Though I have traveled to some really exotic and exciting places, this one was always at the top of my list! Our honeymoon was magical!

April 2017:

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I think I finally crossed a good line in tourism at the RVIC Conference in Woodstock. FINALLY, I made some really good connections/friends. Those connections have carried over into many of  the areas in Tourism. I believe this was the turning point with statewide connections, almost a year after starting this job.

May 2017:

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Marketing College through the Southeastern Tourism Society was a pivotal moment for me. I spent one week at the University of North Georgia studying the latest & greatest in tourism. Yes, I have degrees, etc – but this was an opportunity to begin to specialize in my chosen field. In 2 more years, I will add a few fun credentials to my name! It is the first time in a long time that I felt like I was really learning something new. And if you consider how important my career is to me and how much importance I put on furthering one’s education – this was a great step for me.

June 2017:

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I rebranded my community!!! THIS was something that was soooooo desperately needed, and I was not sure how I was going to make this happen. Luckily, by cultivating relationships, I was able to obtain the funding and voila! Five communities now have one voice! HUGE year for my career.

July 2017:

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I began to mix my worlds! I made a few solid friendships in Americus and continued to nurture my friendships in Macon and brought them together a handful of times out at the farm. From cooking out, to swimming, to riding the trails – I began to mix my worlds and find some little shred of a social life!

August 2017:

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We broke ground for our new house! That’s right – we bought additional land (not on the farm,) and began construction on a house that Tim has designed. Every single decision about this home was made by the two of us – down to the color of the grout (which, btw, is light gray.)

September 2017:

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Normally, September is a terrible month for me. Lots of BAD things traditionally happen within this month… and sure… it had its challenges, but the one thing I remember the most is learning how to roll with the punches. This photo represents some hard-working girls who had a girl’s night out and celebrated 125 years of our grand old hotel in town! It was festival season, and this stuck out as my favorite event thus far!

October 2017:

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I was reminded how much I am loved back home. It is not easy adjusting to a new community, and not just a new community, but a bit of a different culture. My only experience has been with a medium-sized city to a very large city – never truly rural. I adjusted very quickly to a metropolitan area and it was more my cup of tea and a natural fit. Rural living has been a challenge.

But there is always home… with my oldest friends. I can always go home for some healing.

As for November & December – that highlight remains to be seen. I can say that it was a very good year – but a challenging year, both mentally & spiritually. So, so, so much good… but so much new! “Expect the unexpected and hold your head high” was my mantra.

With all of that, it appears we will be celebrating soon! Apparently, we will be moving into our home within 3 weeks or so.) I will be wrapping up a very successful fiscal year (I have increased hotel/motel tax by almost a quarter compared to last year.) And finally, even better news – my health is at an all time high! BP was 110/60, Heart Rate 82, Cholesterol 112, and Fasting Blood Sugar 91. Outside of dropping the weight – I am in excellent shape! New challenge: Weight loss, New Home, Bigger Goals, and Settling in for 2018!

I am entering the Thanksgiving Season with a thankful heart. My blessings are many and my life is very rich. From my family to yours – Happy Thanksgiving!