Saturday, November 28, 2015

My Boy of Fall

My firstborn is a high school senior, and he plays football.

This is a combination that has brought this mama to tears so many times this year. Heck, listening to Kenny Chesney sing Boys of Fall now makes me cry. 

Until high school ... or really until his senior year ... I never really understood what playing high school football is like for a boy. And by extension, for his mama. 

South Forsyth War Eagle Seniors
These boys really are his family. His brotherhood. They've got his back 24/7. They're his best friends on and off the field. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

I Miss Anonymity

This weekend was hard. No, that's not quite right. This weekend was shitty.

So Monday after I dropped the minions off at school, I just wanted to walk and be alone.

But that's something I've learned about Avoid.


There are people EVERYWHERE.

Kids walking to school. Kids walking home from school. Kids playing in the yard.

Adults waiting for the bus. Adults walking to the bus. Adults walking to work. Adults just walking. Sitting outside. Chit-chatting. Walking their dogs.

People are always outside, and it is impossible to go anywhere without at least saying hello to a dozen people.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

I Have a Void

When we decided to leave the comfortable bubble of suburbia and move into Avoid, I knew there would be naysayers. People who didn't understand or who were outright opposed.

I expected it from my mom, but it didn't come. She had concerns, but I think she's gotten used to me doing things the unconventional way. 

I expected it from my dad, but instead I got encouragement and a story from his own childhood. After World War II, my dad's father had the opportunity to join the Army as an officer and move to Germany. He had special skill in local goverment and the towns there needed someone to help guide them in setting up democratic local governments. He indicated that his father turned down the opportunity because he thought it would be too much for his wife and children. That he didn't want to do anything so risky. My father, when he found out years later, was livid. "What might my life have been like," he mused, "how would I have been different if my father had taken that bold step and moved us to Germany?" He applauded our move to Avoid, and said that our family and children would never be the same.
He's so right. But in such a wrong way.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The One Where Marybeth Says the N-word

Mike is a fairly regular visitor to our home, and we have come to love him dearly. He's a sweet, strong, opinionated black man with lots of issues. But he's honest with us about his shortcomings, and he shows us mountains of grace as we navigate life in Avoid where we are — for the first time — a minority. And, like so many other neighbors, he has welcomed us with open arms.

Mike's birthday banana pudding
He lives with his pit bull Sassy in the house he grew up in right down the street. His oven doesn't work, and he has no microwave, so his meal options are limited. We have taken to sharing a meal with him frequently and life with him regularly.

Last week the kids were away at camp, and we invited him to dinner. While sitting in the living room, having a beer and half-watching the news, my dear husband decided to throw a grenade on the table and see what happened.

Bless his heart.

"Mike, why is it OK for black people to use the n-word with each other, but if a white person uses it, it's a bad thing?"

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Things That Make You Go "Hmmm"

Whenever you move to a new place, you expect things to be different. You expect there to be routines or sayings or nuances of life that just aren't what you're used to.

Things are no different here in Avoid. I've had several moments that made me stop and go, "Hmmm..." because ... well ... things just didn't happen the way I'm used to.

For example:

Comparing Apples and Oranges

At a neighborhood gathering, I was talking to an older gentleman about the community garden. He was going on and on about all the different things that were growing there. His favorite seemed to be the fruit trees.

Now, he had no teeth, which made it a little hard to understand him sometimes. So at first I thought I had misunderstood him when he made the following comment:

"Them plumbs be 'bout the size of yo' nipple."

Um ... come again?

And he repeated it.

Nope. I heard right the first time.

It's been a couple of months now. How do you think he'd describe the plums now? Don't answer that.

Monday, June 29, 2015

I Live in Avoid

We just moved to Avoid. 

You won’t find it on any official map. And from a quick Google search, I can’t find any real town in America with the name Avoid. But if you take a look at the Atlanta map on, you’ll find it. 
Courtesy of

Go to the middle of Atlanta — where all of the highways converge into one big traffic-jammed mess — and slide your finger a little to the left.

There it is!

A big ol’ part of town just labeled “Avoid.”

It doesn’t have a cool, sarcastic name like “Wannabe Rich White People” or “Actually Rich White People” or “Rich White AND Rich Black People Living Together in Rich Unity.”

It doesn’t even get a stereotypical name like, “Black Gay Professionals” or “Riced out Hondas” or “Ze Jews.”

Heck, we don’t even get a nod to the landmarks that are here like other parts of town do. They get labels like like “Disappointing Sports Teams” or “Really Black College” or “Mall for Looking” and “Mall for Buying.” (Anyone who has been shopping in Buckhead gets that one immediately. Insert insider head nod here.)

It’s like someone just gave up trying to be funny and just labeled Westside Atlanta “Avoid.”

So there it is. I live in Avoid.

My 17yo found the map online shortly after we moved. We were the only white people in the West Lake MARTA station, waiting for a train to take us to the Kenny Chesney concert at the Georgia Dome. (A whiter event has never occurred. Trust me. It was obvious who on that train was going to work and who was going to the concert.)

“Oh my gosh, Mom. You just moved to Avoid!”

And he showed me the map. And we laughed. And we looked at all of the other names around town and tried to decipher exactly what part of town, neighborhood, or group was being slammed — an activity which kept us more than occupied while waiting for the train and for a long time after. But my eyes kept coming back to Avoid.


My dear husband and I just picked up our family out of upper-middle class suburbia and moved to Avoid. Took them out of their small, loving, private Christian school that we adored and are putting them into Atlanta public (charter) schools. Took them out of an area where they were in the majority — and considered very normal — to a place where people do a double take when we are out walking our dog. That is, if they don’t outright stare for a few seconds. It’s as if they’re saying, “What are they doing here?”

What was I thinking?

I was thinking that I wanted more for my kids. I wanted them to live outside the bubble. I wanted them to know what true need was. But also what true community is.

I wanted to help bring stability and caring and neighborliness to a place that really needed it — and is hungering for it. To be the hands and feet of Jesus close-up, every day. Not just a couple of times a year when doing a “service project.”

And, ultimately, I’m hoping that if more people like us start moving into Avoid, maybe other people will follow. Like Asians and Indians and Hispanics. Like Georgia Tech students and young professionals. Like single hipsters and traditional families with kids.

And maybe when the new Judgmental Map of Atlanta comes out, someone will bother to give our neighborhood a name.

Like “Ethnic Rainbow Garden of Love Watered by Unicorn Tears.”

A girl can dream, can’t she?