a southern year (in review)


I drive on Highway 49 when I go to visit my family outside of Jackson, Mississippi.

It’s a highway I’ve known my entire life.
There’s the boiled peanut man.
Well, there are a lot of boiled peanut men.
There are also a lot of sweet potato men.

Antique shops. Roadside flea markets. Mom and pop diners.

It occurred to me, while driving this stretch of road yesterday, that it’s been a year since I’ve moved back to Mississippi. I’m very nostalgic about dates like this. Not only has this year gone by fast, it’s also been a whirlwind.

I still don’t feel like I’ve caught up just yet.

I’m also still struggling with my sense of place.
It’s been a hard season for me.

I was lucky to have a few months off when I moved back.
My mom, nonchalantly placing $20 bills in my shoes before she left for the morning.

I struggled finding work in Jackson, so I moved back to Hattiesburg.
Still, I find myself a little wobbly, and a little out of sorts.
So many people I know have found their niche. Their people. Their lovers. Their pets. Their homes.

I’m having a hard time figuring out what it is I want. What a luxury.

I sense that I am so close to learning something about me and my life. I have doors open for me, and a lot of doors I feel I’m left knocking.

Not religious enough.
Not healthy enough.
Not social enough.
Not southern enough.

It is a needy feeling, sometimes in my belly. Some days, I connect deeply, and others, I still feel so homesick for that thing I used to have.

I’m really trying hard.

I’m working a lot, and I’m carrying a lot of weight.

I’m carrying my past, present and future. All of which, looks a lot like me trying to fit a round peg in a square hole.

With that being said, I have felt so lucky to have all of this back.

What I lost, was tremendous.


But coming back home, I gained something else.

My wild and precious community.

Who feed me.
Text me.
Employ me.
Pray for me.
Pull me in tightly.
And let me, by some miracle, into their lives.

It has been a wild, wacky year.
I broke a bone.
My roof caved in.
I started to build a home.
I forgot I knew how to sweat appropriately.
My dad got married.
My second nephew turned one and I got to feed him hotdogs.
I met a cat raccoon.
I got a bigger bed.
I planted flowers with my niece and nephew.
I started a tiny business and am excited and terrified.


A few deep breaths, and I resonate with these words I have tattooed on my arm.

these things take time.
and I look in the mirror, with some weepy eyes, and proclaim:


they do. 

My Letter to Yelp (And the Aggravated Masses)


Dearest Yelp (and its users),

First off, I just wanted to write and say that I believe you were created for good.

You seemed to have had the right idea about helping businesses get real reviews from real customers.

I was once a Yelper. I put the livelihood of a cafe/restaurant in my hands. I rated them out of five stars and added my two cents about food and service. After all, we are entitled to our own opinions.


image courtesy of NPR media

The problem is, people started writing terrible reviews. People would give 1 out of 5 stars to a restaurant because they didn’t offer vegan dishes. People would slam counter service and waitstaff because they don’t understand the difference in overhead.

You write the saddest things about not getting enough napkins, or having to refill your own water cup.

You were bummed when the chef was not present to answer your question about the saturated fat content of your curly fries.

So you wrote a bomb review.

“I was upset at the timing of my salad…”

Meanwhile, the manager of said restaurant is getting talked to by the owners.

“Hey man, we need to work on customer service…”


I’ve watched business owners get eaten up with Yelp reviews. They are so incredibly hard on themselves and pass it on down. Misery loves company. (And sh*t runs downhill, right?)

Oh, and what’s up with taking away good reviews when business owners and chefs decide to not give you (Yelp) money? Or paying for good reviews and taking away the bad?

You are a corrupt machine, like so many others.

And you’re taking yourselves too seriously.

You shouldn’t review a restaurant after one experience. Come on, you know that. So stop complaining that the waitress didn’t sit at your table to take your order.

So here’s what I advise.

Do not write a review to hurt a business.

You have no idea how hard it is to make a restaurant run smoothly. Often at the cost of so much more than that plate of food on your table. Give it some space to improve. If it doesn’t, spend your money somewhere else. Do not tear down a restaurant because you have a personal vendetta. Businesses fail all the time. You don’t need to add to their suffering. In the way of natural selection, the strong will survive.

If you do want to write a review, know that there is a manager or owner probably taking it into account. Be constructive.

Don’t expect a response.

I know some owners who respond to Yelp reviews. I used to be a manager who would respond. Especially after making a personally driven attack on a co-worker. But I’m over it. People who write nasty things generally aren’t interested in dialogue.

People actually use Yelp when determining where to eat.

I discourage this. But I know your money is precious and you want to eat somewhere knowing you’ll get what you paid for.

Give the place a chance.

If it sucks, give it some time and try it again. If it still sucks, well, I think you should probably let it be. The dining public tends to sort those things out. Research the restaurant a bit before you go out. Know what to expect. Know what you might be getting into.

If you give a cafe a bad review based on their Wi-Fi connection, you should seriously question your goodness as a human being. (Sort of kidding, but not really.)

At the end of the day, we do actually care about what our customers say and think. It’s why we do what we do. So know if you write a scathing review, it will hit us hard. It takes 100 compliments to make up for one bad.

And really, is anything ever that bad?

Yelp can help and hurt businesses.

Believe it or not, there is power in your words, so don’t just throw them around.

But then again,

that’s just my opinion.