Boys Will Be Boys

I read an article in Esquire that a friend shared on Facebook. It was about the uptick of boys in America diagnosed with ADHD, and put on medications like Ritalin. I’m including a link to the article at the bottom of this post so you can read it for yourself, because I am about to get all sorts of off track here, because I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. Not the article, I get what they were trying to say, misdiagnosis is prevalent and our boys should not be medicated like they are. What I took a bit of offense to, I guess it was offense, was the part about how “Boys are just more rambunctious than girls” and that’s that. That’s also why boys are diagnosed and medicated more. I get that too, I see the correlation. Or maybe it’s causation. But what hit me hard, and always does when I read about “Boys being boys” or hear someone say, “Boys will be boys” because I just don’t think that is true.

I’m a #BoyMom. Is that hashtag still a thing? It was for a bit in the early teens, and I’m always a little behind. That is to say that I have an 11-year-old son. I was also raised alongside lots of boys. By the time I was in high school I had seven nephews that all lived within walking distance of me, and trust, they were rotten sometimes. Like when they would hit each other, or ride their bikes into car doors, or scream at the top of their lungs for no reason, my sisters and my mom would says things like, “Boys will be boys” and “Oh, that’s just how boys are.” They woulds say these things, instead of correcting them. They might yell, “Hey stop hitting your brother,” but they never consistently did anything to change that behavior, hoping instead they would “grow out of it.”

But the thing is, boys are not inherently more destructive, obscene, carefree, or ludicrous than girls are. Let me stop for a minute, cause I can already see you getting all upset. Yes, there are real differences between an X and a Y chromosome*. And yes, those differences make boys and girls different, but here I am talking about mainly toddlers, preschoolers, elementary school kids. Pre-puberty stuff, and how living by the whole “let boys be boys” will not do right by them when the real shit hits the fan during puberty. And trust, with an 11-year-old I’m fast approaching this and I am seeing changes in my son. But he is still not “crazy” or a “Little Monster” and he never will be, why? Because my husband and I don’t ascribe to the prevailing attitude that boys are “little monsters.” Because we think it’s just a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I have a boy. And yes, he was rambunctious as a toddler and even a preschooler, because most toddlers and preschoolers are. But he was not a rambunctious, grab the dog’s tail, laugh when someone is hurt, throw toys at his friends, kinda kid. He could have been, he showed signs of it by the age of two, he was around other kids that were (friends’ kids, neighborhood kids, preschool classmates), but we simply didn’t allow him to be like those other kids. It’s not rocket science, y’all. It’s not even math. If it was, I’d suck at it. It’s just consistent, consistent, consistent parenting. Let me repeat that again, consistent. Nothing in parenting is more important than consistency, well except showing love, but that’s a whole other post. Consistency and patience. And we found out how important this was early on.

  • Then there was the weening of the bottle. We did it in one day. How? Consistency. On his first birthday we filled his bottle with water at bedtime. We gave it to him. He took a drink, screamed, and threw it at us. Then we handed it back to him. He took a drink, screamed, and threw it at us. This went on for about four hours. We would intermittently offer him a sippy cup. Until finally, he accepted the sippy cup, and the next day I donated all the bottles.
  • What about him sleeping in his own bed? Every, single, time he toddled into our room as an adorable, little, two-year-old with his blanket and tried to climb into bed with us, we walked him back. We took turns. We put a gate on his door. He climbed over it. Were took him back. We closed his door. He flipped his light on. We took his light bulb out. We took turns sitting outside his door, sometimes all night long, just to open his door and put him back in his bed when we would hear the patter of his feet on the carpet. I’m not kidding.
  • He pulled the dog’s tail. We put him in time out. Explained, yes explained, to a two-year-old that it hurts the dog. He got out of timeout and pulled the dog’s tail. We put him back in timeout and explained, yes explained, to a two-year-old that it hurts the dog. He got out of timeout and pulled the dog’s tail. Two days later he stopped pulling the dog’s tail.

Consistency. Consistency. Consistency. We never backed down. You can’t back down with a toddler, it’s like negotiating with terrorists! If you want your own damn bed you have to fight for it. You want them to potty in the toilet, fight for it. And yes, walk them to the bathroom 38 times a day. Does it suck? Oh fo sho, but if you don’t you will have a “Little, cover stealing, pooping in his pants in preschool, pulling the dog’s tail, screaming for no reason mess” on your hands. Regardless of gender. Trust. I HAVE SEEN THEM!

Jackson had a little friend who legit just walked around and screamed. No reason whatsoever. Her dad would go, “I dunno, she just does that. A lot of pent up energy I guess. Weird, huh?” No, not weird for a toddler, but annoying as hell. That don’t fly with Missy. As soon as Jackson started to pick up on that behavior we squashed that shit. Squashed it, like it was beef with Biggie and Tupac. Oh no, I won’t have a little one who walks around screaming at Target for no reason. No, no. Cause that shit leads to screaming as a child. Then screaming as a teen. Then screaming as an adult. Screaming when they are frustrated, screaming when they are tired, screaming when they want attention. Oh nay, nay! There are consequences to your actions, and bet my two-year-old figured that out real quick. How? I beat him. NO I DIDN’T, YOU ASSHOLES. I never once spanked my son. Neither did his daddy. But we were some “timeout” motherfuckers.

Guess what happened to screaming girl when her mom got tired of the screaming? A spanking. Guess what happened to Jackson when his mommy got tired of him yelling at her because he wanted milk in his sippy cup, but he knows he doesn’t get milk in his sippy cup, because you only get milk from a damn glass like a big boy? His ass went to timeout. A minute for every year of his age. Those were some of the longest three minutes of my life, y’all. LONGEST THREE MINUTES. “How do you get him to stay in that chair for three minutes?” Screaming kid’s mom would ask. Simple, I spent four days in a row walking his ass back over to the chair every time he got up. Now he knows. Magic! Nope, just CONSISTENCY!

Look it, I know I sound like I am tooting my own horn here, and it’s cause I am. Every time we go somewhere with Jackson, since he was a toddler, we get compliments about his behavior, his demeanor, his attitude, his pleasant nature. People are actually SURPRISED that a young boy can act like a civilized person. My own family thought something was wrong with him. They were all, “Why is he not trying to stuff pancakes into the DVD player?” Uhh, cause he tried that a couple of times, and then he learned. That’s a damn problem, y’all. Not the pancake in the DVD player, they come out pretty easily if you just hold it upside down and shake it, it’s a damn problem that people in society don’t know how to react when they see a well-behaved boy.

Now listen, this took me years to figure out. In fact, as recently as six months ago when someone would say, “Jackson is the sweetest kid, how did you do that?” I would smile and say, “We just got lucky!” That’s BULLSHIT! WE WORKED OUR ASSES OFF, EARLY ON, FOR THIS KID TO BE THIS WAY. Parenting is the HARDEST job I’ve ever had. It’s also the hardest job you’ll ever have. And if you don’t look at it like a job, like a requirement, like something you have to be part of, a working relationship with your partner, your extended family, your caregivers, your children, you will fail. FAIL. You will end up with a Little Monster. Boy or girl, it doesn’t matter. You have to take parenting seriously. It HAS to be your number one priority to raise a healthy, happy, adjusted, kind, child.

So how do you do it? Consistency, consistency, consistency. You have to show up, every day, sometimes all day, sometimes all night, for your kids. You have to be willing to change tactics. You can’t rely on the same old tricks you were raised with. You have to be willing to GASP! tell grandma that no, it is not okay for her to swat at his hands when he touches something she doesn’t want him to. Because swatting is hitting, and hitting begets hitting. It’s learned behavior. You have to be solid in your parenting foundation, in your choices, in how you want to see your child being raised. You have to have a plan, share it with everyone who has a part in their life, and you have to follow through. Bottom line.

And yes, I know, I know. Every child is different. I know this. In fact, I know that some of these kids that are on Ritalin should be. That it helps them. Calms their minds because they can’t calm them alone. They don’t know how yet. Their parents can’t help. And I also know, and maybe you should too, that I come from a place of privilege when I say all of this. I am the parent of one child, who had my full attention. I didn’t plan it that way, but that’s how it happened. I also had the privilege to quit my job when Jackson was a baby and devote myself full time to being his mom. And that helped me and him. It allowed me to focus solely on him (kind of, I was still in college most of his toddler years, and in grad school by the time he was in kindergarten), but Jerimiah and I made a choice, a choice for me to be home with our son, a choice that has probably, definitely, financially burdened us at times, but it was a choice we were capable of making. And I know some do not get that choice. But good, consistent choices can still be made. You can still envision how you want your kid to be and make it so. You can still try new tactics, still be open to new ideas. You can read about parenting topics you don’t know about, you can take parenting classes, for real that’s a thing! “Love and Logic” parenting class survivors right here! We were the only ones in the group who weren’t court-ordered to be there, but that’s okay. We learned so much about parenting that was never shown to us either growing up, or watching people raise their children around us.

I know it seems like I got off topic, I told you I thought I would, but I promise I didn’t. You see, parenting shows itself, good and bad. There are a million reasons why it might have happened, but most of them lead back to you as a parent. And man, I know that is tough to hear, but right or wrong, we have to take responsibility for our parenting, and stop blaming other people and things. And no, it’s not because he’s a boy, or she’s a girl. Boys are not inherently “bad.” More energy does not equate to bad behavior. I think what ends up happening is that we subconsciously play rougher with boys, lean them into more physical play, and expect them to be all-around rough-housers, which leads them into that behavior. Likewise, girls are not inherently “good.” We make them that way by expecting shyness and dependency from them. By leaning them into less physical activities like coloring, dolls, or ballet. (My son played with, and actually owned, dolls and Barbies! That’s a whole other post about gender stereotyping though…) But I know plenty of girls who are being raised to speak up for themselves. And I know plenty of boys who are kind, and helpful, and gentle with people. And I have hope that it will get better, not worse. But it absolutely starts at home with us as parents, and shaking off the views of the people before us.

M.

*I’ve been looking into the science behind why people say “Boys are different”, help me out if you can. I’m not finding credible stuff about boys actually being “different” at a young age. I’m interested in finding how/if hormones factor in before puberty.

ADHD Article from Esquire

We're All Mad Here

One of my favorite subscriptions, Creative Nonfiction, is having a huge sale. They are unexpectedly moving from the location they have been for many years, and are selling off their inventory and back issues at LOW, LOW prices. Naturally I perused their “Clearance” section for good deals. Y’all know I love a good deal, and the good deals were bountiful. Many books from Lee Gutkind, many back issues of their magazine, and even some anthologies, all for an average price of about five buckaroos. As I started to look deeper into the back issues, I noticed that most of the ones I wanted were already sold out. I was all, what gives? So I started looking for patterns and lo and behold they came, as they usually do. The sold out copies were centered around two themes: Finding joy in dark times and mental illness. So, there you have it. We’re all fucked up.

I know you know this already. But damn it’s hard to see sometimes. Especially when you’re down there, in the thick of it. And I also know that my little, let’s call it a gathering of intel (as it wasn’t really research) about what people are buying in a very specific holiday sale, at a very specific, pretty unknown publication, isn’t a tell-all about the state of the world, but… but… is it though?

On of my favorite stories is Alice in Wonderland. I love it so much, that I can overlook Carroll’s opium use (just adds to this particular story), his penchant for young girls (let’s call it pedophilia), and the hookah-smoking caterpillar. And yes, a deep dive into that bitch can elicit a million different readings. It’s about growing up, obviously, it’s about puberty quite specifically, it’s about social climbing, sure. It’s about desire, idyllic beauty, innocence. Then all the really DARK stuff too. But, one of my favorite parts is when Alice is talking to Cheshire Cat and she’s all whiny and bitchy (hormones) and she says, “Buuuuut I don’t want to go among mad peopllllllle.” And Cheshire Cat is all, “Bitch. We all mad here.” I’m paraphrasing. Alice goes on in her bitchy way to be all, “How u know I’m mad, asshole?” And he’s all, “U here ain’t u?” End scene.

In the Disney version Cheshire Cat says something quite different when Alice says she doesn’t want to go among mad people. He says, “Ohh, you can’t help that. Most everyone is mad here.” Then he laughs his weirdo laugh. See the difference? In the real, shroom-enlightened brain of Lewis Carroll, we’re all mad. In Disney’s version just some of us are. Which can really fuck with you, because Disney’s dead wrong. We’re ALL mad here.

I don’t know a single person in my life that isn’t a little cuckoo-bananas. Sure, they might be cool as a cucumber most of the time, but every, single person I know has a thing. Maybe just one. Maybe several. Usually several, but they have at least one thing that makes others go, “Hmmm…” And that’s normal, y’all. It’s okay. In fact, it’s preferred. Because what would this here world be like if we all were great and wonderful all the time? If none of us were looking for joy in dark times? If there were no dark times? If none of us were struggling daily with mental illness, or trauma, or just trying to make the ends meet? It would be a shitty, shitty world I’ll tell you that.

Of course Disney is linking to something deeper here. Now mind you, I’m talking about the original Alice in Wonderland from Disney in 1951. So I’m talking about a time in American History where shit was real bad. Not for everyone, pause, not for all white people, but for most white people. Black people and other minorities, well they weren’t even “people,” so there’s that. I’m also talking about a time when your run-of-the-mill mental illness could get you locked away for all eternity. Like, for real. This was pre-prozac. This was when mental illness was not considered a thing. Maybe you were sad sometimes. That’s okay. Pull up those bootstraps and go on. The sad, sad reality is, there are still a lot of people who think this way. Now, most of them are dying out, but still we have them in our lives. We see them everyday. They are running our country. These people who don’t think mental illness is real. These people who believe they are not afflicted by it. These people who hand-to-whateverGod think this is just all made up, fanciful, Lewis Carroll shit. Hmpf.

Imma stop. Y’all know me. I can get going down a rabbit hole, way bigger than Alice’s, about mental illness. About trying to find joy among the wreckage. And for the most part, you know what I’m gonna say. Keep on keeping. Keep up the good work. Go to therapy. Get your meds right. Talk to people. Check on your people. YES! Even your people who make mad fun of you for going to therapy or taking meds. Because the chances are good that they are in the same boat as you, but with no raft to throw on shore, y’all. Their ego, their pride, their family members or friends, their own mental illness is making it hard for them to talk openly about their own mental illness. I know this sounds crazy, but it’s true. It’s so very true. And sure, Alice in Wonderland isn’t real. There are no Queen Cards coming to life, there are no rabbits who are late, late, for a very important date. But mental illness is real. And trying to find and create joy in this shitbag, upside-down world is real (and here is a link to the Creative Nonficiton sale to prove it: Holiday Sale at Creative Nonfiction). And pedophilia is real (watch yo kids!) and opioid addiction is real. But you know what else is real? Help is real. Talking about mental illness helps. That is real. I’m living proof. And also I’m here. If you need me.

M.

The Tale of Three Trees

We bought a Christmas tree at Target the other night. Let me stop there, this involves a bit of backstory that I know you guys are super excited about! First off, I’m a real tree kinda girl. Always have been. I wasn’t raised with them because I had the kinda mom who would hate having to sweep up needles everyday, and the kind of mom who couldn’t afford to go out and buy a new tree year after year, when a perfectly good artificial tree sat in her bedroom closet waiting to be unboxed, with long strands of silver tinsel wound tightly around old, fake, metal limbs. I always felt like I needed a tetanus shot when we pulled that bitch out. So I mean to say as an adult, I’ve always had real trees. Until last year when Jackson visited the allergist, was pricked a million times, and we were told that he’s allergic to horses, cats, mold, and about 387 types of trees. And you guessed it, my beautiful Douglas Fir was on top of the list. Bah humbug!

Enter artificial trees. Last year we were in Charlotte for Christmas, which means we were in the “Little house.” So the “Little house,” though conveniently located about five minutes from Uptown, was, well, little. Very little. It was 1200 square feet. We had moved into it after living for three years in “The Big House,” which for comparison was 3,500 square feet, with a 31,000 gallon swimming pool in the backyard, situated on a one-acre lot. I tell you all this to say that “The Big House” was too fucking big. It was obscene and unnecessary. So when we moved into the city, we decided to downsize. It’s just that maybe we downsized too good. Yes. Too good. So there we were, in need of an artificial tree, after years of full, real, trees that were, on average, 8 feet tall. Our tree last year had to be much smaller. So we settled on an adorable six footer, pre-lit, and it filled the space perfectly. Below was our last “big tree” at the “Big House” in which, against my better judgment, I allowed them to use colored lights on…

Fast forward to this year. And we certainly learned our lesson with houses. We are comfortably in about 2200 square feet now, with a large great room. We pulled the old six-footer out of the attic this week, set it up next to the fireplace, and looked at each and just knew we needed a new one. It was depressing as shit. Like for real, it looked sickly. And I was all, how is this the same tree as last year? Here, look at “The Little House” in Charlotte, in the heart of Villa Heights.

And Jackson in front of our adorable little tree in our adorable, little great room. Perfect.

So as you can imagine when we stuck the six-footer in this house, we were very disappointed. I wish I had taken a picture of it before I freaked out and was forced to go buy a new one, but I didn’t. I did however take a picture when we got the new one home and set up for comparison.

Ignore the mess, instead focus on the adorable, little tree. Aww, she was cute. PS… the new eight-footer has the price tag on because Target sold us the display tree. A little-known secret coming atcha now: Target can’t sell display trees, say if they are out of stock, UNLESS they are discontinued. We discovered that when we, along with like five other people, were asking if they had any of this particular Douglas fir in stock. Of course when they didn’t we decided to go online and purchase it and just have it shipped to us for free (Target Red Card holder here, huzzah!) But it wasn’t for sale on their website. So when other people heard that they gave up and went on with their lives. Not us! Never us! We called a manager over and asked why it wasn’t for sale. That’s when we found out it was discontinued, and that’s when we found out we were buying a $200 tree for $50! Cha-ching. Have I mentioned that I LOVE Target?! I’m sure I have.

The “Little Tree” did end up finding a home. We stuck it downstairs in our family room. See pics below. Jackson decorated it himself. He also decorated a mini tree for his room, of which he is very proud.

Um, yeah, that’s him in a Sonic shirt, with Harry Potter decorations in his room, and what’s that? Yes, that’s a weather radio he found at a thrift store and HAD to have for his room. He’s such a nerd. But it’s cute tho.

So, I guess this is all to say that we have three Christmas trees in our house this year. I didn’t want three Christmas trees, I wanted one. I’m not one of those crazy Christmas people. I like one tree to place presents under, one mantel all snug as a bug in a rug, and maybe some cute dinner napkins. That’s it. Now I have three trees. But, I’m honestly not sure how much longer we have of Elf on the Shelf (that’s a whole other post) and Santa squeezing his fat-ass down our chimney, so I have decided to embrace all things Christmas this year!

There it is. The tale of three trees. I hope you got your decorations up, whatever they may be, with much less hassle than we did, and I hope you have the merriest of seasons, however you celebrate! Happy Holidays! ❤

M.

Silly Scandinavians!

Well Fuck a Duck! My mom used to say that when I was a kid. Back before she stopped using “bad words” and certainly before she found Jesus. She also used to say, “Well fuck me runnin’.” That’s sweet. Do you know how many times Little Missy imagined what that might look like in a literal sense? Yeah, kids are literal. So I assumed someone, somewhere, had fucked a duck and that’s why that was a thing. And as an adult I KNOW someone, somewhere has at least TRIED to fuck a duck, and that’s disturbing. Oh sometimes I wish to be Little Missy again.

Anywho, now that I’ve totally disturbed your week with some dangling images to fall asleep to, let’s talk about this “bad word.” You know as an English girl, and a writer, and a dabbler in all things linguistic, I love words. And I’m from the camp that there is no such thing as a “bad” word. Words are not inherently bad, people are bad. The power we sometimes give words is bad. But the word itself isn’t. Can’t be. That’s not how any of this works.

So sure, I say “Fuck.” Always have. You aren’t raised in a house where your mom yells, “Well FUCK ME RUNNIN’” and come out with a holier than thou attitude about “bad words.” Now is my mom proud of that now? No. But that was some shit she should have considered back then, ya dig? I used to be very selective with whom I said the word to. In fact, I was so selective people started to think I never spoke “like that” and I realized I was giving the wrong impression. Here’s the best thing I can say about that word, know your audience. I’m gonna leave it at that.

So where does “Fuck” come from anyway? Great question, I’m glad you asked! Fuck’s etymology is a bit hard to pin down, mainly because it was labeled a “bad word” many moons ago, therefore rendering large blank spots in its history, in fact the word doesn’t appear in any English dictionary from the late 18th century to 1965. Which is no way to treat such a versatile word, in my opinion.

So where do people think it came from? Well there’s some varying thoughts. First it’s believed this word has been around for a looooong time. Like back before the 14th century, but that it’s always had negative connotations, so it was rarely written and certainly not published, which means we have a lack of evidence now. But there is this fun little poem written in bastard Latin from the 15th century titled “Flen Flyys” that has a variant of the word. Allow me to share a line.

“Non sunt in celi, quia fuccant uuiuys of heli.”

“They [the monks] are not in heaven because they fuck the wives of [the town of] Ely.”

Okay, that’s good stuff. Damn monks. I never trusted them, not once. So here the word is “fuccant.” It’s some form of Latin, but no idea where it came from.

One of the other schools of thought is that the word comes from the Norwegian word “fukka” which straight up means “to copulate” or the Swedish word “focka” which means to strike or push, and “Fock” which just means penis. Listen, I’m not a betting lady, but if I were, the Scandinavians are the real winners here. Fucking bless you, you damn silly Scandinavians!

So there you have if. Some of it, anyway. Now go forth and use your secret favorite word today. And if someone gives you grief about it, inform them of the long history of the word, and then tell them to fuck off. You don’t need that kinda negativity in your life.

M.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…

Seasonal depression! Sing it with me! Everywhere you go! You know what it is, it’s the lack of the GD sunshine. It’s the lack of the GD sunshine, and the lack of other people’s common sense. It’s a lack of boundaries from family members. It’s a lack of confidence. That feeling of not being able to keep up with the people around you. That feeling that no, I won’t spend $500 on my child for Christmas because spending $500 on a child for Christmas is nuts, but if I don’t spend $500 on my child for Christmas will other mommies judge me? Maybe. Probably. But you know what I like to wish I could say, “Fuck them!”

This is a stressful time of year, regardless of how you slice it. Slice it six ways, slice it eight, it all slices down to stress, anxiety, lack of boundaries and control, crappy weather, and usually feeling some sort of weight pressing down on you. Maybe it’s mounting credit card debt. Maybe it’s disappointing your family because you’re not coming home for the holidays, maybe it’s disappointing your children because they want more than you can give. But it’s always there, pressing down, down, down, until you feel like you can’t breathe.

Normally I’m already crazy by December 1st, but I gotta be honest, I’m not this year. I think there are two things at work here: 1. My new medication is AMAZING! I highly recommend it if you can swing it. It’s called Trintellix and it’s done a number on my reactionary nature. And 2. I’m easing into this mindset of gratitude. I’ve realized I have sort of always lived this way, the way of the grateful, mainly because I’m a big, empathic, nerd. And usually speaking, not always, but usually, being an empath brings with it gratitude. Because we see and feel the pain of others, and sometimes we clearly see that we are not in those shoes, even though sometimes we feel like we are. Here’s an example.

Last weekend Jackson and I ran to Kroger to pick up a couple of things. When we walked inside there was a man asking for money near the entrance. He had a sad story, sure, they usually do. And Jackson usually falls for it, hook, line, and sinker. He’s eleven. This man needed money to get home for the holidays. That was his story, and maybe it was true, but most likely it was not. Jackson was very upset when I told the man sorry, but I didn’t have cash. That part was true, but Jackson asked why I couldn’t get cash when I checked out. Oh this child of mine!

So I said maybe I’d get an extra $5 out for the guy. But Jackson said $5 wasn’t enough to get the man where he needed to go. I said I knew that, but I wasn’t going to pay for a airline ticket for this guy. Jackson thought on this as we strolled through the store. Later at checkout I got the $5 out and we walked outside to find him, but he was gone. Jackson suggested we keep the $5 in the glove box in case we run into him again, or someone else who might need the $5. Later that night Jackson ran down stairs upset about that man, but also very grateful. He recognized that we were also far away from what we consider to be “home” and that if we want to go “home” for the holidays we can. Sometimes we just choose not to. Because honestly #MyOwnBed, #StabilizingMyMentalHealth, and what not. See that empathetic nature giving way into gratitude.

So yeah, it’s a thing around here. The other thing that is helping me stave off seasonal depression is regular therapy. Which by the way Patsy says I need to give myself some credit. That’s it’s not just therapy and medication, but I’m working hard too. But I’m not ready to credit myself for anything. It’s a slow process.

So what am I saying here, y’all? Christ Missy, what are you ever saying besides a bunch of nonsensical nonsense like you live in damn Whoville! I mean, isn’t the Grinch just plagued by SAD? I know. I know. I think what I’m saying is maybe this holiday season you should say, “Fuck it!” I dunno, it sometimes works. If that’s not your thing then maybe try gratitude? Nah, can’t do it? I get it, how about this. How about you ship your family members to Alberta, and you take your happy-ass down to Aruba? That’s always been a dream of mine, a tropical christmas. I mean, the sunshine might just do you good!

Whatever you do, wherever you are, just remember that you’re not alone. There are people out there struggling like you are. Most people in fact. We all might struggle in different ways, but this season brings struggles. So don’t feel all alone. And be kind to everyone you meet.

M.

Turkey Day

Like most holidays around the Goodnight house, today is just a day to fill ourselves full of turkey and pie with family and friends, and as of late, think about and discuss the people who came before us. Because while we’ve come a long way from where we were twenty years ago, I still noticed like today, in this year, in 2019, that kids are still dressed up like “Pilgrims” and “Indians” and made to put on little, fictitious performances at school, public school, to represent this day. Dude, I’m rolling my eyes so far back in my head right now that they might actually stay that way, which would make my mom right. Again.

Because listen, for the past 50 years, the fourth Thursday in November has been considered the National Day of Mourning to many in the Native American community. Rightfully so. In fact, there’s a plaque in Plymouth explaining the day. Explaining how it was created to remember the genocide that happened on our lands many years ago. To their people. The Native Americans.

So sure, yes. White people like me have a lot to be thankful for today. We have a lot to be grateful for every day. (Side note: so glad that “grateful November” Facebook bs didn’t take this year. Did y’all know you can be grateful without talking about it on social media?!) Okay, whew. I’m being snarky. I’m sorry. I haven’t had my turkey yet.

The point is, many of you probably didn’t know about the National Day of Mourning. Some of you may not even think for one second about the Native Americans on this day, too consumed with football, and not burning the rolls, and whether your kids are dressed better than you sister’s. But that really isn’t what today is about. Of course, what it is really about is way fucking worse. The taking of land that didn’t belong to us. Genocide. And now a racism so steeped in our culture we actually don’t even realize it’s bad. So you know what, scratch what I was saying, go watch football, and eat turkey, and lie to your sister about how cute her kids look. Make today however you want it to be, but remember, somewhere, in our country, a group of people are mourning the loss of not just their land, but of their heritage. The same heritage that you’re poking fun at with feathers stuck in your hair.

But remember, today of all days, that just because something has been done a certain way since you were a kid, doesn’t mean it should stay that way. Doesn’t mean it is the right way. Some things, like the case of the fourth Thursday in November, just make us too uncomfortable to address it. But just because a topic makes you uncomfortable, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak about it. That’s not how this world works. We learn and we grow. We become better. And we should always be striving to do better. To learn and grow, so that we can be better than our ancestors. Better than our parents and grandparents, and better people than we were the year, the month, or the day before. We deserve that. Our kids deserve that.

So, from my house to yours, Happy Eat Turkey Day. Sure, we’ll be watching football, and saying thing we are grateful for, but we will also be learning about the particular Natives who inhabited the state we live in today. Because, duh. Fucking, duh.

Do better. Be better. Gobble, gobble.

M.

Etymology

Lately I’ve been stopping myself when I hear a word, a new word or a familiar one, and wondering how that word came to be. Like just today I wondered how we got the word “breakfast.” So I Googled it, then felt very stupid. Because it’s Old English for “break” and “fast,” meaning, I assume, breaking the fast, as in breaking the fasting that accompanies sleep, which is also part of intermittent fasting, but that’s a whole other post. I’m digressing, per usual.

Okay, so this happens to me a lot. Like a lot, lot. This stopping mid-sentence, or making a “hmm” face when someone is talking, or stopping an episode of Downtown Abbey to be like, wait a second, where did that word come from?! Does this happen to y’all? No. I’m just a word nerd. Got it.

So then I started thinking, how can this be of use? And well, there’s lots of ways, but mainly it’s just interesting and fun. And whenever I do something interesting and fun I like to share it with y’all. Therefore, I’ve decided to start sharing my research on words here. Read if you want. Unsubscribe if you must. I won’t be offended. I get it. So, without further ado, my first word is: Lunch. Sense a theme? I’m hungry, okay?!

“Lunch” is short for, you guessed it, “Luncheon,” which is 16th century English for “thick piece” or “hunk.” Not hunk in the way we would describe Channing Tatum or Idris Elba, but hunk as in a slice of something. Slice of what? Apple pie? Prolly. Speaking of slice, if you’re all, “Wait a second Missy, ‘lunch’ sounds suspiciously like the Spanish word for ‘slice’ any connection?” You’d be on to something. Also, I’m really proud of you for remembering that from 10th grade Spanish class!

The OED, which happens to be my favorite, wants “Luncheon” to be a mash-up of the Spanish word “lonja” as you said, and the Middle English word “nonechenche” which means “meal at midday.” Unless you say it five times fast to the beat of “Staying Alive” by The Bee Gees, then well, it creates a different meaning.

So there you have it. Lonja + nonechenche + The 1960s and 70s band The Bee Gees = Luncheon = Lunch. Probably.

Now don’t we all feel accomplished for the day. We learned something. This is going to be fun! So fun! Fun like watching Channing Tatum dance to Staying Alive, while Idris Elba stuffs dollar bills down Tatum’s pants! Whew! Okay, maybe not that fun. But, go out and have a nice lunch, would ya?

M.

Nutter Butter Buddy

The first time I used a screen print machine I was a 19-year-old college drop-out, working at a factory that mass-produced 3M products by local prisoners. I wasn’t a prisoner. I also wasn’t a screen printer. But, I was one of the few people that knew how to work a computer, wouldn’t try to get high off the chemicals, and didn’t ask too many questions. The particular factory I worked at was just a five-minute drove from my house, which was good cause I didn’t have a car. My best friend suggested we both apply for the job one morning while we were on line at McDonalds. She was newly pregnant, looking for a job where she didn’t need to stand on her feet all day, and I was dabbling with the idea that college wasn’t for me, so we applied. Being recent high school graduates jumped us to the top of the application list. When neither of us pissed hot, we got hired. 

The company was, and still is I assume, a manufacturer of heating elements, circuits, and LED boards with facilities in both Kansas and Pennsylvania. In my hometown it was one of the few places you could get a decent paying job and benefits with only a high school education. The campus we worked at was also a member of the KansasWorks program, a program billed to “help non-working adults, who lack high school diplomas, learn new skills and find jobs.” This company also partners with the state prison for an Inmate Work Release program, which allows “eligible, non-violent prisoners to work learning new skills,” because studies show that the people who participate in these programs have lower rates of recidivism, and earn higher wages once they complete their sentence. And because Leavenworth is ripe with prisoners and you don’t have to pay them a lot.

Each station had a couple of inmates working on it, with a couple of civilians. My inmate was Lonnie. Because screen printing is a more delicate process than say, wire assembly, and because our equipment was large and stationary, there was only room for two people in the screen printing area, Lonnie and me. 

Lonnie was a big guy, at least six feet tall, probably closer to six and a half. He was quiet and sincere. He was obviously gay. You know the type I mean. He never said it, only eluded to it. Winking at the backs of cute men. Smiling a shy smile. He spoke with a pronounced lisp. He’d been in a prison a long time. I didn’t ask him much about his life, nor he mine. He got to work on a bus, one of those long, white inmate transport busses you might occasionally see on the highway. They would drop them off at 5:30 am, and be back to pick them up at 3:00 pm. We worked an eight-hour shift, with two breaks and a lunch. The inmates were not permitted to leave the property and some were not permitted to leave the building, even though the company owned several buildings on a large lot in the city. Lonnie was one of those inmates unable to leave the building. Lonnie was also one of the inmates who had to check-in with a prison guard every few hours. I didn’t know why for a long time, then one day I did.

Lonnie was a murderer. I’d heard this in whispers from other people, but the day Lonnie told me, well, I was still shocked. We were sitting on the steps by the vending machine sharing a Nutter Butter bar. We usually didn’t get to take breaks at the same time, since one of us had to stay at our station, keeping an eye on the ink wells, and what not. But on this day we were slow, so I had been moved to wire assembly. A job I absolutely loathed because it sounds exactly like what it is: You sit on a stool for eight hours and you assemble wires. Ugh. Anyway, because of this, Lonnie and I happened to be on break at the same time. My friend was on a different break, so I was alone, and Lonnie was the only person who sat next to me.

Maybe it was because we were away from our area. We didn’t have a job to focus on. Maybe it was because it had been about three months and he was comfortable with me. Maybe it was just his nature, but I gave him half of my Nutter Butter bar, something I knew I wasn’t supposed to do because that was considered contraband and he in turn thanked me, took a bite of it, and said, “I killed my lover.”

The thing is, I had never had anyone admit a murder to me before. In fact, I don’t think I have since either. Thankfully, I suppose. Yeah, thankfully. So I didn’t really know how to react. Like, do I say, “Oh, okay. Cool.” I mean, he was obviously caught and convicted. He knew what he did. He knew it was not okay. And now I knew what he did too. So there was this sort of awkward silence while we ate our Nutter Butter bars and listened to the sounds of our chews. Then after the Nutter Butter was gone, I looked at Lonnie and asked if he wanted another one. Sure, he said with a smile. Then I walked over and bought a second Nutter Butter bar. Came back, took my spot on the steps, and split the second bar with him. He said thank you and again, we chewed.

I had so many thoughts going through my head. Mainly questions. How? Who? Why? Where? I wasn’t afraid of Lonnie, not once, and this didn’t change anything. I just wanted to know what happened. Because Lonnie didn’t seem like a man who murdered for fun. But pretty soon our second Nutter Butter bars were gone, the bell rang for us to get back to our stations, and we parted ways. Later when I told my friend what he had said she gasped and said he was probably lying. That they wouldn’t let people convicted of murder work there. I shrugged in agreement, but I knew she was wrong.

A few months later Lonnie wasn’t there one day. A fellow inmate who sometimes worked with us came over to take his post. I asked where Lonnie was and the inmate said he was “in max,” which meant Lonnie had been locked up again. No halfway house, no more work-release. He went back in to maximum security. I was sad that I would never see Lonnie again.

A couple months later I quit. Enrolled at the University of Kansas, started my life over. But I have never forgotten about Lonnie. And I never will.

M.

On Being Extra

I struggle with my weight. I always have. The first time I can remember thinking that I was fat was when I was nearly four years old. I was at K-Mart with my mom and she was thumbing though the sales rack of the children’s section, and I was hiding in between the circular display. I did this a lot as a kid. In fact, most of the memories I have of shopping with my mother involve her frantically looking for me, after I had wedged myself inside a self-made shelter of some kind. Clothing display racks, toilet paper piles, I even once hid for an entire shopping trip in the bottom of the cart under an empty box. I’m sure my therapist has some stuff to say about that, but let’s save that for another day.

So there I was, inside the actual rack of clothes, standing completely still, watching my mother’s feet go around and around the rack, when I heard a familiar voice approach. It was a woman who my mother knew. Not so much a friend, more like a friend of a friend. I knew her enough to recognize her voice, but still couldn’t remember her name. They exchanged pleasantries, then my mom remarked that she was looking for some new summer clothes for me. The woman offered to help and started thumbing through the rack too. A couple moments passed and she held up an outfit. This was the 80s, mind you, and outfits at K-Mart in the 80s came in two pieces. Shirts with matching shorts. How about this one, the woman asked my mother. My mother told the woman that it was too small. She went on to tell the woman that I was a size 6X. This was the first time that I heard a letter associated with a size of clothing. The woman gasped. She’s not even in preschool yet, right? The woman wondered aloud. Right, my mom said. She’s four this September. Then my mother politely excused herself and called for me. I emerged from my cocoon of clothes and the woman looked very surprised, but she smiled and waved us goodbye. That night I asked my much older, much cooler sister what the X meant in 6X. She said it meant “extra large,” and thus began my journey into being extra.

The thing is, I wasn’t always an extra large, but even when I wasn’t I still felt like it. In elementary school, for example, fifth grade, I was well into adult sizes, but not anywhere near extra large. Middle school, I was still clocking in at a medium or large. But compared to the other girls I was always Extra. Always. Even in high school, on the track team, working out five to seven days a week, limiting my calories, I was still an extra large compared to the other girls. Everything about me was just bigger. Except of course, my confidence.

By college, however, I was definitely into extra. A few years later, double extra. And now, here at this moment, the absolute most extra I have ever been, having just come off whacked-out hormones from a hysterectomy, pills that made me pack on the pounds, and a killer case of the blues. Extra, extra, extra.

I’m fat. I don’t try to hide it, how can I? It’s not like a mental illness that you can cover up with alcohol or self-sabotage. It’s a physical condition. I don’t need to tell people I’m fat, they meet me and can see it for themselves. What really chaps my ass though, is when people assume I like being fat, or that I am not actively trying. I’m trying. I’m always trying. And please don’t mistake me for one of those fat girls who feels good in her skin, because I am not. I LOVE Lizzo, I think she’s incredible and beautiful, but I don’t have her confidence. I don’t have her ability to feel comfortable at the weight I am at. I don’t have other talents that take the pressure off my appearence. I’m just a normal girl, in a normal fat-shaming world, trying to get by. (But I’m super grateful for the big girls out there shaping the way we talk about ourselves and see ourselves as women, because some days I really need it!) It’s just that I have always been extra large, and well, you do get used to it.

This isn’t a diatribe. This isn’t a “feel sorry for me post,” I don’t write those. Nor is this a “light a fire under my ass and start eating healthy” post. I eat healthy. That’s the thing. I have a kid, a kid who is genetically predisposed to being extra, so I work really hard to make sure he is not, and that includes leading by example. But something isn’t right in my body, it hasn’t been for many moons now, particularly after pregnancy, and trauma, and I’m working to get that worked out. It’s just a process, a really long, daunting process.

And the thing is, this isn’t a “fewer calories in, more calories out” fix. Believe me, I’ve tried that. This is deeper than “Keto” or a “30-day cleanse”, as it is for most of us who were always extra. It’s a process. You don’t got from the little girl who hides in clothing racks because she is afraid of people, to suddenly grown up one day and not having any issues. That’s not a thing. My mental health affects my physical health. That is true for all of us. And it can take decades to rectify.

I’m just here to say, don’t quit trying. That’s all. I see you. You are not lazy. You are educated on what you are putting into your body. You are trying to get your mental health under control. You are trying to figure out what makes you tic. How your hormones work. What insulin resistance looks like. How past trauma is holding you back. I see you, and I think you are doing a great job.

As for the little three year old who wore a 6X, she’s okay. She will be okay. One foot in front of the other.

❤️

M.

Streets of Evangeline

We’ve been listening to Randy Newman as of late. He’s an artist whose work has always sort of lived in the edges of my life. I’d heard of him, I’d heard strong opinions about his music, both good and bad, but I’d never really invested until recently. Jerimiah, Jackson, and I have been spending more time in Louisiana, and while it’s not necessarily by choice (Jerimiah’s job has him traveling to Baton Rouge twice a month on average, and Jackson and I tag along when we can) we’ve taken these trips as an opportunity to learn more about the bayou, the history, the people, and somewhere in there Randy Newman showed up, but it didn’t start with him.

It started with the story of Lester Maddox, the 75th governor of Georgia. A raging, racist lunatic, and his appearance on the Dick Cavett Show in 1970, and as it does, it sort of just snowballed.

“Last night I saw Lester Maddox on a tv show/ With some smart ass New York Jew/And the Jew laughed at Lester Maddox/And the audience laughed at Lester Maddox too…”

This is one of the first Newman songs we came across. After we watched the YouTube video of Lester Maddox and Jim Brown. Which by the way, you should totally watch if you are into this kind of thing. This kind of thing being how racism operates and has operated in our country. So yeah, you should be into this kind of thing.

Anyway, the Randy Newman album that sort of punctuated our summer is called Good Old Boys and there are a lot of good tracks on this particular album, but none of them compare to the song Louisiana 1927. The song is about the Mississippi flood from 1927 that flooded 17 million acres of land and killed 250 people in a prominent Black community. It resembled Hurricane Katrina in scope, and there is something haunting and so very sad about driving across the Claiborne Avenue Bridge in New Orleans and hearing this song. And that’s where I found myself one hot, summer afternoon and I couldn’t do anything but cry.

The song is rife with racial undertones. Matter fact, the whole album is. But it’s clear to those who listen what Randy Newman was trying to say. And it’s true. And it’s sad. And sure it makes us uncomfortable, but we have to hear it. We have to see it. We have to know how they treated, and are still treating, the Black communities in the Deep South. That was the number one takeaway I had from my travels this summer: Racism is alive and well in the Deep South. And it touches EVERY SINGLE part of a person’s life down there, whether they want to admit it or not. And for the record, I’m including Georgia in this, though Atlanta is different, it isn’t hard to see open racism here too, if you know where to look.

This summer was unusual, to say the least. And I made mad fun of Louisiana, particularly Baton Rouge, and although the city and the state deserve it, the people don’t. Not all of them. Louisiana seems a place to me that you just have to see for yourself. And no, I don’t mean getting drunk on Bourbon Street or buying a piece of art at Jackson Square. I mean the seeing the nitty-gritty of the place. Talking to the locals. Understanding how their history, their culture, their language, and their religion has been shaped, by years of torture, from Mother Nature, from their own government, and from each other.

I always run the risk of preaching on here, so I will stop. But I guess I’m starting to realize that I might have been unfair to Louisiana. I might have been unfair to the people, anyway. And without the people, what would there be?

I’m leaving one more video below. It’s the song Rednecks from the same album. **Warning: The N-Word is used freely in this song. It might be hard for some to hear. It was hard for me, but it’s necessary.** The history of this song is even more bizarre. The actual real, rednecks of Louisiana didn’t really listen to the words when this song came out, they didn’t think much on it (you know those important critical thinking skills I always talk about), and they adopted it as their “mantra” for years, without realizing that they were being made fun of and that the whole song was about the rampant racism they were creating. So, yeah… #GoLSU

M.

Seasons

Busy times ahead. Busy times behind. I do love this season. Not just the holiday season, but also the season of life I’m in now. I’ve been thinking about this season of life recently, since the whole social media photo thing erupted last week. You know the one, “Share a picture from the last decade, and the current one” or something like that. Basically a chance to see how you’ve aged. What fun. I haven’t played on social media yet. I was going to, when I came across this photo:

This is a picture from a decade ago. It’s dated November 2009, but I remember the night and it wasn’t November. Not yet. It was Halloween. Jackson’s second Halloween. We had just spent the evening strolling down the Branson Landing with friends. He was Elmo. I was dressed as “Death” and I didn’t need to dress up much because I was sick. So very sick. I’d developed a fever sometime that day, and I wanted to crawl into bed and sleep. But I couldn’t, because it was Halloween! And I was a mommy. A mommy of a toddler hopped up on candy. And sure Daddy was there, but I didn’t want to miss a second.

I think back more often than not and wish to be back in those days, but only for a moment. It’s the little things I miss. The hugs and the kisses. The amazement of everyday things. But Lord Jesus, there is a lot I DON’T miss! Ha! I don’t miss the all-nighters of crying from teeth popping in. Or the seemingly constant colds. The worry about him running off in the grocery store. Or meandering into the deep end of the pool. The anxiety that comes with monthly doctor appointments where he was charted against “the norm.” I don’t miss the lack of sleep. The constant, CONSTANT games of peek-a-boo and “I dropped my sippy cup now pick it up.” I don’t miss the diapers. And the diaper bag filled to the brim every time we left the house. I don’t miss it, but I do remember it.

Today I’m thinking about my friends in the thick of that season now, and I have several. I was a “young” mommy, though at 27, I didn’t feel so young. I have friends who are in this season of life right now and they are pushing 40 and omigod I love y’all and I just don’t know how you do it. But your babies love you, and your families love you, and I know, I know it sucks sometimes. You don’t have to pretend like it doesn’t, because it does. And maybe you tried for years, and maybe you think you can’t afford to complain or you will sound ungrateful. I get that too.

For years my friends didn’t complain, or even talk very much about their babies around me. Why should they? I had lost a baby, they didn’t want to bring that up to me. But listen, it’s okay. It’s okay to talk about your babies. It’s okay to complain. To not be present at all minutes of every day. It’s okay to let Paw Patrol help out sometimes. To skip a night of play, in order to read a book, or take a hot bath alone, with no children screaming at the door (if you can manage it). Its okay to not be so very happy about this season you find yourself in, because it will change. It will get easier. One day you will walk out of the house without an extra bag.

In fact, one day you will get to walk out of the house with just your bag, and your kid will have his own stuff. He will get his own shoes on. He will brush his own teeth, and dress himself. And you will wander into his room at night, when he is asleep, and you will look around. And for a moment you will wish he was sleeping in a crib, with his Elmo jammies on, a half-drank bottle next to him. But then you will see his walls covered in Harry Potter, or Star Wars, or Minecraft. You will open his drawers and see the clothes he put up all by himself. You will realize that he is growing independent. That he is needing you less and less. And sure, absolutely that is scary. But it is also freeing. It is so very freeing to know that you can breath. You can take a step back. You won’t worry less, trust this. But the worry changes. It evolves, sort of like you, and sort of like him.

So yeah, this is a tough season. It is. But slow down. Relax. Take it all in. I know some days it feels like the worst. Some days you are sick, but as a mommy you can’t really be sick, that’s not a thing, and I know that came as a surprise, but now here you are, afraid to even complain about the bad days and just wishing them away. But remember, a new season is just around the corner, and then another, then another. And if we keep trying to rush the season we are in, we will miss out on the really good stuff. The Elmo jammies and the wonder of a butterfly landing on our shoulder. The M&Ms of potty training, and the slobbery kisses. But no one is expecting you to be perfect in this season. No one is expecting you to be happy all the time, or available all the time. And if they are they have never been through this season, or they have forgotten, and it is okay to remind them. Remind them that it is a wonderful season BECAUSE it is a tough season, not in spite of it.

Love to all the mommies out there. I hope you get some sleep tonight.

M.

Every Day, On Occasion

I was religious once. More of a question than an answer. More of a desperate attempt, than a genuine plan. That’s how it is sometimes though. When you’re not sure if you will ever see someone you love again, you tend to become religious. It isn’t the only time, but it’s a time. Every day I wonder if I messed up. If I made the wrong decision. To believe. Not to believe.

Every day I make a conscious decision to stay awake. Every afternoon I start to slip a little. I get drowsy, usually from lack of sleep the night before, and I have to decide if I should just curl up on the couch with a book, or I push through. Plan dinner, do some laundry, make a to-do list for when I will feel like doing more. I usually push through.

I feel guilt over something every day. Some situation, some action or reaction I had. It’s part of the cycle of shame. Of not being in control. I read it in a book. A book about adults who grew up with parents with addictive behaviors. We seek control, and when we don’t have it we blame ourselves. We blame ourselves a lot, for situations out of our power. It’s a cycle.

On occasion I wonder if my husband loves me like he said he does. I wonder it even as he is saying he loves me, or showing me in some way. He has never given me a reason to think any different. Never hurt me in a profound way. I just wonder if he loves me like he says he does. Because on occasion I wonder if I love people the way I think I do, because on occasion I wonder if what I feel is love. Or something else altogether.

On occasion I look into a mirror and feel a strange sense of detachment from my body and my emotions. My therapist says it happens. She says it’s a symptom of trauma. Depersonalization. Profound detachment. It goes by several names. It’s an odd feeling. The feeling of not belonging in your own skin. The feeling of watching your body continue to buzz, but your brain turn off. On occasion I avoid mirrors all together.

I worry about my child. Every day. Every day at some point I stop and wonder what he is doing at school at that moment. If he ate all his lunch. If someone was mean to him. If he was mean to himself. Every day I worry that he got enough sleep the night before. I listen to his breathing while we sit on the couch together. I ensure that he isn’t coming down with anything. I worry that I am messing him up. That he doesn’t have the life I planned for him. That I am disappointing him in some way, some irreversible way.

On occasion I wonder when the other shoe will drop. When this life I am living will end. When the rug will be pulled out from under me. I envision a fiery crash. A break-in. A gunshot. I assume I’ll be taken down in a blaze of some kind, an accident maybe, but a tragedy no less. I think I’ll be blindsides at two am with bad news. I sleep with my ringer on, on occasion.

Every day I work to make my life better. I go to regular therapy. I evolve, try to become more self-aware. I read books that tell me explicitly how to live a whole-hearted life. I practice mindful breathing. I take a pill, every single day.

On occasion all of this works and I have a good day. No self-deprecating devil on my shoulder. No little inner critic. On occasion someone tells me I helped them in some way, and I believe them. My son hugs me tight and tells me he has a great life, and I give myself credit for creating it for him. On occasion a friend texts to tell me that I make her smile, and I smile, because I want to do better. I deserve to do better. To be better. But not every day.

I hope today is a good day for you.

M.

Wescoe Hall

I’m trying to remember a teacher I had at The University of Kansas a long time ago, but I keep getting jammed up. I can see the classroom. It’s one of those basement classrooms that old universities have. It was in Wescoe Hall, across from the library, where I spent too many hours walking the stacks. Listening to the birds who’d come in through, what, an open window? I can remember the stacks. I can remember the moldy classroom. And the birds. I can even remember the kid who sat behind me. People thought he was cool because he’d been a walk-on to the KU football team that year. Of course this was back when KU football was consistently on the highlight reel for “Horrible pass of the week” or “Too many sacks in a row”. Back then, when you said “Kansas football” you weren’t talking about the Jayhawks.

So it’s the particulars I’m jammed up on. I guess. I know she was young, not a professor. That she was blond, and that she had large breasts. I’m not so sure about the blond, but the breasts, those I’m sure about. They were so large, that at 18, I felt both inadequate and sufficiently aroused. This was before I knew how to buy a good bra, based on my size and shape. This was back before areas of my brain and body had fully developed. Back before I could recognize deliberate flirtation. Her areas were fully developed.

The red-headed walk-on yammered on a lot. Spoke in small sentences about things not found on the syllabus. I wondered how many times he’d been hit in the head. He’d yammer on about video games and metaphysical anomalies. He wrote short stories about aliens. He picked his nose sometimes, when he thought no one was looking. I wrote bad poetry. The kind of poetry that 18-year-old girls with virtually no life skills or relatable experience, write about. I hadn’t yet had my heart broken. He’d yammer. I’d write, and steal glances at the teacher’s breasts. She’s ask him to stop. Tell him to leave it for another time. He’d smile. She’d smile. Or at least I assume she smiled. I still can’t picture her face.

The birds in the stacks would flutter above my head. Jump from bookshelf to bookshelf. Was someone feeding them, I wonder now. Did they routinely flush them out? I wonder about the birds a lot, the birds stuck in the stacks.

Maybe it was the breasts. The reason I can’t remember her face. Can’t remember much of it. If I close my eyes, think back to my first semester, that’s all I can remember. The stacks. The red-headed walk-on. The moldy classroom at Wescoe Hall. The birds.

I wonder, now, what happened to the red-headed walk-on. How birds got into the stacks. If they’d lay eggs in nests above the harsh overhead lighting. I wonder, now, how the babies learned to fly, surrounded by bookshelves, and dumb freshmen looking for Kafka. I wonder why I fought so hard and so long against higher education. I wonder, now, who my teacher was in that moldy classroom at Wescoe Hall.

M.

It’s a Good Life. Enjoy it.

The last couple of weeks that my mom was visiting us in Atlanta, the weather was not cooperating, so we looked for a couple of indoor things to do. We managed a cozy afternoon at the Jimmy Carter Center on one rainy, icky day. Then one glorious afternoon we made our way to a place we have wanted to visit since we moved here in April, The Center for Puppetry Arts! Now I know what you are thinking: Puppets? Cause I’m pretty sure that is what my mom was thinking too, when I was trying to pump her up for the experience. I’m also 99% sure that is what Jackson and Jerimiah were thinking too. Let me start over, I have wanted to visit The Center for Puppetry Arts since we moved here in April and everyone else was sorta, ehh about the whole thing. Until we got inside…

First of all, the Center is celebrating the 50 years of Sesame Street. So right away, we were all in shock to be face to face with some of our biggest idols. Umm, they had Big Bird AND Oscar the Grouch. Umm, they had Miss Piggy AND Kermit. Umm, they have the entire cast of Fraggle Motherfuckin Rock, y’all. All of them, even Sprocket my personal favorite. I mean, honestly, I don’t have a lot of words, so I won’t use many. I’ll use pictures instead.

First it was all about Jim Henson and how he came to be. Fascinating stuff, the way he thought and imagined. Then we got to meet some of the lesser known puppets, then hit the “backstage” area where we got to dabble with making our own show, as seen above. Then, the real shit hit the fan: We found Sesame Street, The Labyrinth, The Muppets, and Fraggle Rock! Hilarity ensued.

Deep breaths, puppet, muppet, and OG Street nerds, the shit is about to hit the fan…

The next few moments were spent with my mom and me trying to explain Fraggle Rock to Jackson and Jerimiah who both looked at us like we were nuts. “Yeah, so they lived in a series of caves and they maintained a complex culture and society, with each individual having rights and responsibilities. They had basic skills with tools and with rudimentary machinery, and the concept of war was known to them (although wars between Fraggles were very rare). Oh and! And, Fraggles live on a diet of vegetables, mainly radishes, and if they touch their heads together before falling asleep they can share dreams…”#Crickets

So first there was Sesame Street, which was Jackson’s actual JAM for the first four or five years of his life (mine and Jerimiah’s too), then there was Fraggle MFing Rock and the Muppets, which my mom and I adored watching when I was a kid, then Jerimiah found his Holy land…

THEN, as if that wasn’t enough, there was a whole other exhibit dedicated to the history of puppets, including puppets from all over the world, and THEN there was a whole other exhibit dedicated to the Dark Crystal! See below.

Okay, whew, let me take a breather before I get to the last pictures. And let me just tell you that if you are ever in the ATL, sure, go to the aquarium, and sure, visit Coke World, or CNN, or Centennial Park. But if you are a true Jim Henson fan, well then, there is only one place you need to go: The Center for Puppetry Arts!

Thanks for coming on this journey with me, y’all, and I’m sorry if you have just now, at this very moment, realized that I am a damn puppet nerd. But that’s just the facts, you know. I’ll leave you with these last few photos to entice you and to inspire you. And remember what Miss Piggy would always say, “I am who I am, why can’t you accept that about me?” #SlayGirl

M.

Cicadas

I’m used to lying in bed at night thinking up a million reasons not to go to sleep. I’m used to it, I’m pretty good at it, I’m seemingly always up for it. Tonight it’s the sirens. City living has its drawbacks. My son asked me if I remember falling asleep to those bugs in North Carolina. Those bugs were cicadas, and how could I forget? Only it wasn’t North Carolina that he’s remembering, it was Southern Missouri. It was 2011 and 2015. A mass emergence, both times. Different broods. The year his baby sister died, and the year we vanished. He’s misremembered, but he hasn’t forgotten. I suppose he never will. He’ll lie awake at some point undetermined, a slow year in his late thirties, and remember those bugs.

Maybe he’ll stop saying he misses Missouri. That he feels called back to it. That it’s his home. He doesn’t remember the Missouri I do. He was five when we left. He doesn’t know about the meth trails and the tweakers, the crisp, fall Ozark mornings with the bang of the hunter’s gun so close you look over your shoulder, paralyzed, but with an urge to run.

The cicadas come every 13 and 17 years. Maybe they were in North Carolina too. Maybe I don’t remember. Maybe they came above ground, wreaked havoc, went back down. A different brood. A different mass emergence. I don’t know enough about cicadas to say. I don’t know what to say about the cicadas. I just hold him when he runs into my room. The sirens startling his dreams.

Tonight I’m taken with that paralyzing urge. The gun, not from a hunter. The news. The shootings. The sirens. I’m stuck. Stuck between the urban landscape I’ve come to know, and the inability to get a good fucking night’s sleep. With or without the cicadas.

M.