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

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

Saturday, May 7

Truly Chosen

For kids who are adopted, there are two ways to look at it. Either they feel they were chosen by their adoptive parents or they feel abandoned by their birth parents. It seems no matter how their adoptive parents love them or make them feel special and OK with being adopted, there are still some who feel their whole lives as if they weren’t “good” enough for their birth mother.

I am one of those who falls into the first category. I feel chosen, I feel that I ended up where I should be, with my mom and dad, Jack and Geneva Peyton. Yes, I’m adopted.

As the second oldest in a large family, my mom sacrificed a lot of her own childhood to help raise her younger siblings. I am sure she was looking forward to having a large family of her own someday. She was young when she married my father, and they tried for years to make that a reality.

My mom went through a lot of loss while trying to have children. Losses that are all too familiar to many women in the community. Finally, they decided to adopt. And the waiting game began.I have to think about how difficult this decision was back in the 1960s. People weren’t bringing home babies from China back then. Adoption was, quite frankly, not something talked about in social circles. Children filled orphanages and those who adopted them most likely kept it a highly guarded secret. For us, it never was a secret. I have known as long as I remember.

My mom was at the hospital when I was born. She met my birth mother, my aunt and my grandmother while there. She brought me home from the hospital and never let me go again. Which is sometimes a problem. I mean, seriously mom. I’m a 47-year-old married woman. But I digress.

One of the things about being adopted is the fact that you kind of don’t know who you are or what your family history is. When I was in high school, I used to look at families who looked so much like each other with amazement. What would it be like to have a mother, father or sibling who shared your eyes, facial expressions, hair or laugh? I didn’t have that.

My mother is part Cherokee. She has beautiful black hair and very dark skin. She loves working outside in the garden, her skin tans to a beautiful golden brown. She still loves spending time outside. She could handle a gun. She still can.

I always had very fair, freckled skin and red hair. I burned just thinking about going out in the sun. I didn’t (and still don’t) like being out in the heat, working in the yard or gardening. I loved reading, even as a child. I would begin a book and not stop until it was finished. I was a television addict, a true child of the seventies.

We clashed often, yes, after all we were 32 years apart in age. We came from very different eras. She wanted me to put down the books and get outside in the garden. She wanted me, always, to wear ruffles and ribbons and curls when I wanted the latest fashions and crazy hairstyles from MTV. She wanted me to stay in Franklin and live “next door,” but after graduation I left for Nashville and didn’t come back for many years. She wanted me to become a teacher, but I wanted to be a corporate executive and travel the world. (Neither of those worked out). She wanted grandkids and I didn’t want to raise children.

However, for all of our differences, and despite the fact that we don’t share the same DNA, we are alike in so many ways. My mother taught me to be independent and not to rely on others for my own happiness. She taught me to appreciate and even enjoy being alone, and how to be realistic about expectations of life. My mother showed me strength of character and integrity and the value of being honest with yourself and others. We also share the not-so-desirable qualities of being stubborn, unwilling to ask for help, and resistant to change.

Sometimes I lament the fact that she doesn’t “get me.” I’ve come to accept the fact that she probably never will. I don’t like it, but I do accept it, and I realize that it is frustrating not just for me, but for both of us. One thing I know is this: My mom, she loves me. She chose me and no matter what, that will never change.

I think my feelings for my mother are best summed up by the legendary Stevie Wonder.

“Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love.” ~Stevie Wonder

~This blog is a reprint of a previously published piece from the Franklin Favorite, written in 2012.

Thursday, April 21

Goodnight, Sweet Prince

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

Thursday, March 10

Call me Maggie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 26

Thanksgiving 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 20

Social Research Results

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

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

Monday, October 19

Thoughts from the morning of my 48th birthday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 11

Lighting a candle

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

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

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

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