Listen here to The Best Worst Day Ever by Jami Amerine! Or on your favorite podcast app! Or read it below
Hi! I am Jami Amerine And this week’s remarkable thought is inspired by a story I wrote called Best Worst Day Ever,… take a beat, take a breath, and listen in
“Melissa, you are being impossible!”
A string of vulgarities swarmed, followed by, silence.
“She hung up on me.” Max sighed.
“I am so sorry Max.” Max’s sister, Sonja consoled him.
“I want to get along with her,” Max fidgeted with his phone, half hoping his ex-wife would call back, half dreading when she did. “For Macy and Micky’s sake if nothing else, but I don’t know how to negotiate with someone who is out of her mind.”
Sonja stood from the small apartment’s, kitchen bar to fetch refills of the duo’s coffee. “You know Max, we don’t have to see the twins on the exact day of their birthday. We can take them to eat the day before or after.”
Max grunted in defeat.
Sonja poured more coffee and Max stared at the steam rising off his “World’s Best Dad” mug. He quietly traced his fingers over the bulky red and blue lettering on the glossy white cup. He spoke, not necessarily to anyone, “None of this was the plan.”
“What?” Sonja inquired.
“This whole mess. Melissa and I were best friends. We met at skate night in the 8th grade. I wasn’t the perfect husband… or father, but we were happy and had big plans.”
Sonja sipped her coffee and nodded. She knew that Max knew she knew all the ins and outs of her younger’s brother’s impending divorce, still, she would sit and listen, just like she always did.
Max stood and stared at the apartment’s crowded and unkempt parking lot.
“It isn’t fair,” Max said flatly. “I didn’t want my marriage to end and I certainly did not want to only see my children every other weekend. Why does Melissa even get to decide? I didn’t cheat? And I don’t want a divorce.”
Sonja didn’t speak. She had said all the things, dozens of times before. She sipped more coffee and waited for the rest of the usual Saturday morning run down. After several minutes of silence, Sonja felt compelled to ask, “What is it, Max?”
“I think I am going to do something drastic.” He said, still staring out the window.
“What?” Sonja pleaded.
“I am going to file for custody.”
Sonja set her cup down, “Max, I thought you didn’t want to put the kids through all that?”
“I don’t.” Max shoved his hands in his pockets and began to pace about the 500 square foot kitchen, living room, and bedroom, recently divorcing, against his will, cliche apartment. “But I didn’t seek any of this for myself or my children. Melissa just told me to leave. She had the affair. She kicked me out. I am getting my children back.”
The next hours were spent making a list of things to do, people to call, and a call to Sonja and Max’s oldest brother, Kent. Kent was a crafty and successful broker, and he would gladly front the legal expenses to help his younger brother.
With a plan in place, Melissa cleaned up from a late lunch of ham sandwiches and an entire jar of pickles.
Some things don’t change. Sonja reminisced the many jars of pickles and copious amounts of fluffy white bread sandwiches she and her beloved little brother had scarfed down over the years. She yelled over her shoulder, “Do you want to keep this pickle jar?” Max didn’t answer.
“Max?” she inquired.
When he still didn’t answer she dried her hands and wandered to the two-seater, hand-me-down loveseat where Max sat. He loosely held a yellow legal pad and pen.
“Max? Do you want to keep the pickle jar?”
“Am I wrong?”
“About what?” Sonja asked.
“Going down this path, seeking full custody of Macy and Micky?”
Sonja moved to sit next to her brother. She rubbed his back and tried to comfort him. “I think so. You aren’t doing it to hurt Melissa or the girls. You are just trying to have a healthy home for the twins and create a loving environment for them to grow up in. But I think that Kent was right, if you are going to do this, you have to be ready to go the distance and it might get really ugly.”
“Yeah.” Max drummed the pen on the legal pad. “I just want peace in my life.”
Neither of them said anything for a while and then Sonja spoke, “Sometimes peace only follows war.”
Max smiled, “I am battle-ready, Sis.”
As Sonja drove the 3 miles back to her house she had half a mind to cut through the church parking lot, drive to Melissa’s and give the two-timing, backstabbing, impossible woman a big fat lip. She hated everything that had transpired over the last seven months. She was grieved to her core over Max’s losses. But the fact that her 9-year-old nieces were caught in the crossfire, both infuriated her and broke her heart.
A tear escaped Sonja’s eye just as she made the corner to her house.
And there they were.
Tony, Sonja’s husband of 9 years, and her stair-step, redheaded, green-eyed sons, Toby, Tag, and T.C. Toby just turned 6, Tag was about to be 5, and T.C. would be 4 next month. The moment the little boys saw their mother’s car they began jumping up and down and cheering.
Sonja began to laugh.
Her tears still spilled out, partially for the heaviness of the day, grief for her brother and nieces, but the rest of the tears were tears of pure joy. She slid her minivan into the driveway and climbed out to be welcomed with hugs and kisses. Tony sauntered over to her with a huge mason jar of icey sweet tea. He brushed a tear from her cheek, habitually pushed her auburn bangs off her brow, and inquired, “Ready to make the worst day your best day??”
Sonja sniffle and nodded, “You all set up?”
Tony flashed his strikingly handsome grin and said, “But of course my love.”
And Tony was all set up. The kitchen table was neatly organized with board games, popcorn, Sonja’s favorite pita chips, hummus, M&M’s, and homemade brownies. The boys were the first to confess, the brownies were from a box mix, but they frosted them so she wouldn’t be able to tell.
This was the first detail of the best day ever that made Sonja laugh out loud. The rest of the belly laughs included two games of Chutes and Ladders that ended in a draw, a living room blanket fort, and a 6-hour Pixar movie marathon.
With three little boys, junk-fooded out, sound asleep in the fort on the living room floor, Tony covered himself and Sonja in a big quilt on the sofa. Sonja lay her head on Tony’s chest. He wrapped her in a hug and asked, “Best day ever?” Sonja melted, inhaling the smell of Tony’s aftershave and the muted remnants of pizza and beer.
As her heavy eyes fluttered shut she purred, “Yes. You didn’t miss a thing. Thank you for not letting me wallow in misery.”
Tony squeezed her shoulders and brushed her bangs away from her eyes. “Thank you for not being willing to wallow in misery.”
And with that, Sonja drifted off to sleep, blissfully aware of how wonderful her worst day ever had been.
This week’s quality question has an added bonus. First, what do you do to ACTIVELY feel better when you are dealing with a hard time? When my brother-in-law was killed in a car accident I remember that every night after dinner our family would watch viral videos on youtube. They were usually folks doing something stupid or cats in mischievous scenarios, but they made us laugh. And this made us feel better, it offered us a form of much needed rest. Yes, we still had to grieve. There were some days that were much worse than others. But almost instinctively, we knew we would laugh together, sometime after the dishwasher was loaded.
This brings me to this week’s bonus.
I would like to read a post I wrote called, Stanger than Reality, Genuine as Fiction, we hope this helps you consider, some ways you escape from heaviness and find rest.
Stranger than Reality, Genuine as Fiction
Why would an organization, whose main objective is education, have a podcast that is solely based on short-story fiction?
Easy. Reality is too strange and fiction stimulates thought, opinion, strategy, empathy, compassion, solution, and imagination.
Fiction is a safe haven for the composer and the consumer.
It is in story we are moved. And it is in story, written or read, that we are invited to think for ourselves. We can from ideas and opinions about the content that belongs only to us.
Recently. our nine-year-old son, Sam, finished reading a series of books. He had fallen head over heels with the adventures of a boy, close in age to Sam. So enchanted with the hero of the books, Sam began reading them again. And then he learned, the books had been made into a movie.
I suspected he might have to be sedated.
Unable to contain himself, Sam brought me $9.11, in change mind you, so that I might purchase the movie on Amazon for him.
A few clicks on the smart t.v., with copious amounts of popcorn, sodas, and Junior Mints, and the Amerines hunkered down for movie night.
Five minutes into the show, Sam voiced his offense.
“That’s not what I thought he looked like? He didn’t live with his dad? He lived with his mom and stepdad? Why is he so tall? In the book, they said he was shorter than all his friends?”
This went on and on.
“That isn’t what happened? I don’t understand? Why did they change it?”
Disappointment followed and Sam opted to go read, rather than watch.
So what is it that happened to Sam’s beloved hero on the silver screen that didn’t jive with what he had created in his mind?
It doesn’t matter, what matters is that he knew the difference.
We can watch the news, mini-series, one-hit wonders, and loosely translated versions of the truth or lies, and it is always available to us, one right-click away. But we were created to create. Reading story, if you will, allows us to create images and visions that are suited to our pallets.
We imagine from places of our experiences, hopes, and dreams. We identify with characters when we allow ourselves to create images that resonate with our being.
My favorite book of all time is Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns. There is one character in the book that is etched in my memory. The character, who is somewhat a villain in Cold Sassy Tree, in my mind, is the spitting image of my fourth grade, monster of a teacher, Mrs. Drummond. As Burns began to describe the woman, she came together in my mind as the greatest human witch I had ever known.
But this is of relevance.
While I don’t know what truly made my fourth-grade teacher so very toxic, reading about the woman from Cold Sassy Tree, her trials, heartbreak, and suffering made me consider my humiliations and hauntings from the fourth grade with fresh eyes. I am not sure why Mrs. Drummond preyed upon elementary children. But if her life had met with any of the hardships that Burns wrote about in her novel, I get it.
And in an instant of fictional story web making, I made peace with Mrs. Drummond.
When my co-creator Katie M. Reid and I created changeyourmindchangeeverything.org we knew, as mothers of eleven children combined, that we, together with our families had experienced exponential growth and positive changes by implementing what we wanted to share. But our issue was, our six-years of writing, speaking, teaching, and publishing, wasn’t targeted at the proper audiences for our new ventures.
The idea of starting from scratch was daunting.
And, when you create an audience, they are going to want to be offered something of value. Yes, we know our two courses socialwisedu.org and honorableu.org have revolutionary practices for families, but what else can we offer?
When Katie and I get together the cosmos of creativity collide, but for this one piece of the puzzle, we were stumped. We love our audiences, we want to continue the work we started in those spaces. However, haven’t all of you, whether you follow Katie or me or whomever, heard just about enough?
24-hour news networks, video on demand, 5G, lightning downloads, all of it seems… too much.
It was Katie, who had only recently launched her first fiction Rom-com, A Very Bavarian Christmas that said, “What if we did a short-story fiction podcast?” This was music to my ears. My second manuscript was fiction, and I am half way finished composing a fiction book and proposal, “Jane the Ripper: The Church Lady Killer.” So I perked up and inquired, “How would this serve the Change Your Mind audience?”
And she said, “We will end each episode with a quality question to ponder.”
Katie is a singer and songwriter, so had she sung her answer to me, it would have sounded just as melodious.
I agreed, this was a remarkable idea. And so, you ask, why fiction?
We say, to engage your mind, lift your spirit, imagine, change the ending, analyze, laugh, cry, recount, reminisce, and rest. Yes, take a rest from the hustle and bustle, fast thinking, scrutinizing, fear based, fight or flight, commonalities of life in a world that is often more cyber than real.
I doubt it is ironic that my next book, that launches in November is called Rest, Girl.
But Katie’s remarkable podcast thought has brought me a whole new level of rest. It is in the composition and consumption of fiction that my mind gets to play. It doesn’t have to be grieved by what “they are saying…” now.
And while I am no longer a watcher of the news, even now, when I catch glimpses of this or that calamity, I have created a space where I am fully aware of real versus fake, for me and not for me, and rest.
It is our hope that is what you find on our podcast.
A moment to yourself, to laugh, breathe, and think. We have high hopes that each story will stay with you in a positive way. One that reminds you, “I don’t have to feel the stresses of society every single moment of every single day.” You can change your mind simply by allowing it space to create, contemplate, consider, and rest. But not from the dire straights of hardship. No, we want you to experience a moment of solace with stories that are relatable, but not burdensome.
Certainly, our characters are realistic and some may remind you of a rough patch or maybe one or more might not be your favorite.
But even in those incidents, your thoughts are yours. You are not being asked to pick a side, battle, or platform. It is simply an opportunity to kick back and let your mind wander through story.
I can’t think of many opportunities we have to escape from the pandemics, offenses, defenses, break ups, make ups, legislatures, elections, highs and lows, in this fast paced culture. I am so proud of this space where we offer a few minutes to just breathe and imagine.
Simply because it is a form of remarkable thinking and much needed rest.
We are so glad you are here. Take a beat, take a breath… and listen in again next week.
We are so glad you joined us! See you next time… bye.
Check out our new tool for helping parents navigate “the talk.” You can find it here!