Book Clurb

Two things are happening right now. I am looking for joy in unusual places, because this shitbag of a world is taking its toll on me. And two, I have taken a liking to pronouncing words with an extra “r” in them. Or an “r” where there should not be an “r”. Or maybe a “b” or a not-silent “v”. Jerimiah can attest to this. He has asked me to quit several times, least strangers think I have some sort of mental problem. As irf.

I am a reader of blogs. Others’ blogs not my own (so if there are a gazillion types, don’t tell me, don’t care). But I can’t figure out for the life of me how to “follow” some of these blogs because I don’t know the platform they are on, or I don’t want to “Sign Up for an Account” or what have you. So from time to time I forget to read the blogs, then I go on a blog-spree, and I get all caught up. I’ve been doing that this week, which in turn makes me want to write more on my blog, which benefits all of you (motions out to the masses of two subscribers).

This blog is not about any of that, except maybe that while I was reading blogs this morning I came across one of my old favorite bloggers and she made me smile. Which means, yes, I can still smile. In this torn-up, shitbag, upside down world the we are currently living in. But that also made me think that maybe I should be smiling more. What would make me smile more would be to be out in the world with like-minded people. Then I had this old, new thought about joining a book club.

People have suggested this to me before. Like, “Oh, Missy. I am in this great book club and I think people would love to meet you.” Then I get a little tipsy on the wine we are drinking, spill a woodsy red all over the hostesses’ linen tablecloth (who the hell invites me to a party with linens?) and she says, “Oh, you know what. I forgot the book club just broke up.” Oh okay, Karen. What was your book club, ABBA? Bitch.

Anyway, so then I was like well I will just start my own book club. So then I started imaging what my book club would look like and this is the perfect scenario:

I invite four people. Five is good because if three people liked the book, one person didn’t like it, and I didn’t read it, then there is still a lively debate. The club meets at my house only. That way I can wear pajamas all the time and no bra. If it is at a pubic place then I feel compelled to wear real clothes, and at my friends’ homes I try to wear a bra as much as possible. The occassion doesn’t always call for one, but mostly.

We read books of my choosing, starting out with young adult vampire fiction, then working our way through Caldecott winners. Basically anything that I can Google the evening of, and steal discussion questions from middle school language art websites. “Island of the Blue Dolphins” might be a good start. Once we get into a groove, we can read some adult novels. As long as they have a little bit of soft-core porn. But no “50 Shades” bullshit. The writing has to be convincing. Someone else is in charge of wine and cheeses.

There will be wine and cheeses.

The club meets on the first Tuesday of the month, unless otherwise posted. Acceptable reasons to skip the meeting:

  • Someone in the group is not feeling “people-ly” that day
  • I went to the dentist
  • No clean pajamas
  • A “kid” or “cat” emergency
  • Wedding Anniversary
  • Death of someone we love, including fictional characters
  • An election

There are others, but the group can decide at the first meeting.

No husbands, no kids, no dogs (I’ll even kick mine out).

Scratch that you can bring your dog, if it’s cute and cuddly. Also newborn babies are acceptable. Absolutely no toddlers or teenagers!

For the first thirty minutes we talk about the book and drink so much wine that I am forced to delve into my “secret” wine stash that I keep in the ottoman in my living room. Then for the next three hours we unleash all of our problems on each other with such veracity that at some point we all have to take a break to individually cry in my bathtub for a few minutes. When we resume, we resolve to solve each others’ problems, as well as all of the problems of the world. Someone asks how we get water to Cape Town and we all excuse ourselves for another moment.

Finally at ten p.m. Jerimiah, Jackson, and Duke show up. Jerimiah has to drive a couple of you home, while you drunk text your husband to warm you up a Hot Pocket and “get the sheets ready”. Whatever that means.

Meanwhile, Duke is humping the one of you that fell asleep on the floor from too much wine (looking at you Beth), and I’m realizing for the first time all week that “Island of the Blue Dolphins” is not the movie, “Blue Lagoon” where Brooke Shields has sex with her… cousin? Brother? Flowers in the Attic? I dunno.

So. Yeah. That’s book clurb.

Welcome to it.

M.

A-b-i-l-i-t-y, Ability

In the fifth grade I represented my classroom in Anthony Elementary’s all-school spelling bee. It was a tense couple of weeks leading up to the contest. It started out with the whole class lining up in groups of five, our teacher Mrs. Coughran, very prideful in her running of a mock spelling bee, tried her best to pit us against others who were at our own spelling level. I was one of the last kids picked to go up, and I soared through my words, until I ultimately had to face-off against my then boyfriend, Todd. Todd was a sweet kid, with a giant forehead, and Jason Priestly hair. I wish I could remember more about him. I do know we were married. We had a fall playground wedding adorned with dandelion chain necklaces, and our reception involved my friends following us around with a Wilson Phillips tape playing in a little boombox. “I know there’s pain. Why do you lock yourself up in these chains? These chains.” It was all very romantic.

As Todd and I stood at the center of the brightly colored classroom, we found ourselves in a sudden death match. We had tied too many times, so Mrs. Coughran told us the first one to spell the next word would win. The word was “Catastrophe”. It was Todd’s chance first. His voice got really low and cracked a little as he spelled, “C-a-t-a-s-s-t-r-o-p-h-e, catastrophe.” Mrs. Coughran winced. He’d spelled it like it sounded, cat ass and all. I was sad for him, but suddenly exhilarated. “Missy, if you can spell the word you get to go to the school spelling bee.” You bet your cat ass I spelled it correctly, then the whole class cheered, Todd and I shook hands, and Mrs. Coughran gave me a big congratulatory hug. The next day Todd broke up with me. He couldn’t deal with my success. I was shocked and very sad, but I pressed on.

Three weeks later I was sitting in a cold, plastic chair, my hair pulled so tight back that it was giving me a headache. “You have to keep your hair out of your face,” my mom said earlier that morning, as she was pulling the comb through my long locks and holding it tight in a pony tail behind my head. I watched in the bathroom mirror as my eyes involuntarily moved up with my stretching skin. “Ow,” I’d protest occasionally. “Hush!” She’d yell. “It has to be tight.” Now here I was, sitting behind a closed curtain on the stage, listening as the whole school filled into the seats on the gym floor, which also doubled as our auditorium and our lunchroom.

Some of the younger kids were messing around. Kicking each other and spelling bad words. “Shit. S-h-i-t” one of the third graders said, and everyone laughed. I rolled my eyes. I had to get focused. I was thinking of words that had been on my practice lists. Trouble, captain, antique. Harder, Missy, harder. Obnoxious. Cologne. Literature. I knew I had to win. If nothing else so Todd would take me back. Who wouldn’t want a famous spelling bee champion for a wife?

Our librarian, Mrs. Simmons, opened the curtain for a peek. She asked if we were ready. She made eye contact with me. I smiled a nervous smile. I was ready, I had practiced for weeks now. She smiled and walked out onto the stage to introduce the spelling bee. One kid whispered to another that she might be sick. “Don’t vomit on me,” replied her supportive friend. I smiled to myself. Kids.

Then the curtains opened, and I looked over the sea of eager faces. I saw Mrs. Coughran, I saw my mom, I saw my friends and Todd, and the principal, Mr. Parks. I saw the lunch ladies, the secretary, I saw my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Nixon, with her hair all the way up to God and her familiar back, arched from childhood scoliosis, bumping up against the hard wall. I saw her smile brightly at us, so excited to cheer her kiddos on. Then I vomited in a little my mouth, swallowed it down, and tried not to cry.

The first round went by in a blur. It was by grade level, so I was one of the last kids to go up and my first word was “e-g-g, egg”. At first I was confused as to why I had such an easy word, but then I noticed some of the first graders had been knocked out in that first round. They were all granted a gentle applause as they were forced to do a walk of shame, down the stairs, through the stage door to join the rest of their dumb, non-spelling classmates. It was dreadful to watch. My stomach churned.

The second round amped up fast. My word was “c-h-o-c-o-l-a-t-e, chocolate”. Used in a sentence as, “Mrs. Nixon loves when her kids bring her chocolate candy bars.” I smiled, remembering Mrs. Nixon’s penchant for Milky Ways and spelled the word correctly. I quickly turned around to walk back to my seat without a nod of approval from the judges. I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone at that point. My nerves were shot.

More kids were knocked out. This time third graders, and one fifth grade girl from another class. I started to feel sweat pooling at the dip in my back. I wondered if it were possible to sweat so much that I would stick to the chair. My mind drifted off then. Unraveling at a unnerving pace. What if, when I was called up next, my chair stuck to my butt when I stood up, then dropped down making a loud noise? What if, when I stood up the kid next to me looked at my chair and there were sweat marks shaped like my butt in the seat? What if I tripped? What if I sneezed into the microphone?

Three more kids fell out of the spelling God’s favor.

“C-h-a-i-r-i-t-y, charity?”

“R-a-r-l-y, rarely?”

“P-u-z-l-e, puzzle?”

“Next.”

I walked up to the microphone very slowly. I had memorized where the cord was on the wooden floor, so I stepped carefully over it. I moved my hands behind my back and looked down at the floor.

“Ability. You have the ability to spell this word.”

I didn’t look up. “Ability. A-b-i-l-t-y. Ability.” I turned to walk back to my chair.

“Oh, I’m sorry Melissa. That is incorrect.”

I froze. My chin hit the floor.

Incorrect. I-n-c-o-r-r-e-c-t.

Mrs. Coughran rushed to the side of the stage to usher me off. I blindly followed her, down the stage stairs, through the door, her soft, manicured hands guiding me quietly back to a seat with my dumb, non-spelling classmates. I sank into my chair, my eyes on the linoleum lunchroom floor. My face burned hot with e-m-b-a-r-r-a-s-s-m-e-n-t. Ms. Coughran lingered over me. Her hands occasionally touching my shoulders in an attempt to comfort me. But it was too late. I was a spelling bee loser. I had let her down. I had let the class down. Todd would have won. He would have went all the way. I didn’t deserve Todd. I was never the same after that day.

Years later I still feel that particular pang of embarrassment sometimes. When I say the wrong thing to the right person. When I think I am helping, but I am just making it worse. When I share any part of myself. I want to look down at my sweaty hands and never look back up.

Today I realized that I’ve let that memory linger for too long now. That memory has stopped me from doing things I want to do. It has prevented me from taking that first step to a new goal. It has prevented me from believing in myself. In taking myself seriously. It has prevented me from letting others take me seriously. I guess I think writing it out now will help in some way. Maybe I will get my ability back. My confidence back.

Hopefully I will.

As for Todd, well, I won’t ever get him back. But that’s okay. I don’t need him anymore. Or his cat ass.

M.

Bentley

On April 25th of this year, I sat with my professors in a small conference room in the English Department at UNC Charlotte to defend my thesis. It’s an important step to graduation, though it sounds scarier than it is. It’s really just going over a year’s worth of work. Reading a bit, talking about why you chose that particular point-of-view, why you chose that subject, how you put all this love and sweat into these 60 pages. I was nervous, sure. But less about the conversation. Less about whether or not I would “pass”. I already knew I did what I was supposed to do to graduate. I already knew that my professors liked my thesis. I already knew this would end well. I was nervous instead that at any moment I would burst into tears and look like a fool. Not because of the very emotional subject matter of my three essays, but because I had just lost my best friend.

It’s almost humorous now, but I remember one of my professors walking in just before the meeting and I was just standing there, my items scattered all over the table. I remember looking up at her smiling face and wanting to burst into tears and tell her all about my Bentley-girl. And she would have listened. And hugged me. And told me that it would all be okay. But I felt so stupid. How do you explain to someone, anyone, how the death of a dog, a very mature, lived-longer-than-she-should-have-lived dog, was the second worst thing that you have ever lived through? How dumb would that sound? So instead, I nervously shuffled papers around, told her I was nervous about reading my work, and pretended to be the same, old hot-mess I always was.

I “passed”, as I knew I would, even with Bentley on my mind. I made it through that day and the next few days. I even made it to an awards ceremony where I was recognized for being a good student. Then, I hopped on a plane, flew to Arizona with my family and celebrated another best friend on her wedding day. All along, I held it together. In fact, I held it together through the next month. I held it together through my graduation, through a house full of guests. I held it together through a stay in the hospital, through a surgery, and a recovery. I held it together until the first time I found myself completely alone in my house, in nearly 14 years.

It was the first week of June. My mother had just flown back to Kansas from having spent three weeks with us while I recovered. Jackson was in school. Jerimiah was at work. I was up and mobile and feeling pretty good, physically. I went to sit down at my computer, I wanted to try to put words to the whirlwind that had been the last six weeks, and instead I sat on the rug next to my desk, and I cried.

It had been a long time since I cried like that. A long time since I had been under the grip of that kind of grief. Seven years, actually. And it hurt a lot more than I remember. I forgot how much you physically hurt from grief. How your body heaves up and down with each breath, until your stomach feels like you’ve done a million sit-ups. How your eyes burn from the rubbing, and the salt, and the strain. How at times you feel like you can’t control any of it. The emotions, the images floating in and out of your mind, the feeling that the walls are closing in on you. That the floor will open you up and suck you under. It’s how I imagine it must feel to be drowning.

I’m not even sure what sparked it. I suspect it was the pure silence of the house. Having a constant being near you at all times becomes comforting. After I lost Lydia I remember always having Bentley to talk to, to complain to when toddler Jackson was being unreasonable. But here I was, in so much emotional pain, and Bentley was not there to lay her head on my lap. Her brown eyes were not looking up at me in concern and love. I had always felt safe and protected with her around. I had always felt loved, even when I was at the very bottom and felt all alone. But here I was. Literally all alone, at the bottom, in another hour of dark grief, and it didn’t feel like there was a way out.

Of course I could have called a friend. I could have logged onto Facebook and shared, I could have had a thousand virtual hugs. I could have checked Jackson out of school. I could have called Jerimiah to come home. But I didn’t do any of that. I knew I needed to do this. I knew I needed to lie there on the floor, feel the feelings, remember her. All the years, the sadness, the happiness, all the moments, each one of them. I needed to do it to make it final. And so I did.

I realized then that I shouldn’t be ashamed. I shouldn’t have to defend this grief to anyone. Especially not to myself. It didn’t matter if it sounded stupid. If my grief was “normal” or even made sense. It’s when I realized that all of this, all this emotion that was flowing out of me, was very real.

In the months that have passed since Bentley’s last day with us, we have cried, we have laughed, we have shared memories, spread her ashes in Missouri, even adopted a new pup. But in all this time, the three of us still occasionally look at each other and smile. We linger at the spot on the floor by the front door, at the flowering bush outside Zada Janes Corner Cafe, at the parking lot of Dairy Queen, and at the bridge at Freedom Park. Remembering her short time with us.

Zada Jane's
Last Ride
McDonalds
J, Me, B
Daddy
Bridge
Ducks
Me and B Good
Pond
Picnic
Pic of three
Ducks 2
Bebe
Big Girl
Last Walk
Jackson and B
Zada Floor
Ordering
B eating ice cream
Ice cream
B Eating
vet 2
Vet 1
vet 3
cropped-family1.jpg
Smiling

RIP Bentley-Girl. You were always there when it mattered. In the important moments. You were my first baby, my second loss, my very best friend. You were all a girl could ask for, and you are missed every day. 

Mommy

Why Does This Happen?

Seriously, why?

Why what, Missy?

Why do I think, “Oh, I should start a blog, that would help me write more and not feel all alone in the world” and then about a year goes by and I’m all, “Oh yeah, that blog.” Look, if you’re still around, thanks. Thanks for sticking it out thinking maybe one day I will remember this little space and pop back in and say some whacked out shit like I usually do. Your dreams have been answered!

Here is the deal. I get into funks. We all do, right? (Just say yes.) And boy have I been in one. Any flip through this here page and you would notice some major life changes. There is the whole, one year ago I was talking about having another baby, meanwhile I went ahead and had a hysterectomy. That could make getting pregnant harder.

Then, wait Missy, last time we talked you lived on the lake in Denver, NC. Well, no I live smack-dab in “the city”.

Then, there is the whole last time we talked to, you were in grad school. (Good news there, I actually finished something for once. Not to my liking, but it’s done.)

Oh, and then somewhere along the line my best friend, my ride or die, my 14-year-old pupper went and died. RIP Bentley. Then we got a new puppy, Duke, and he hates me.

This has been a year, y’all.

And that’s not even bringing up politics, or the state of the world we live in.

Sigh. It’s too much. It’s just much too much, y’all.

I think what happens is I do things that I know are bad for me to punish myself, because, I dunno, I’m used to emotionally belittling myself, while I skate on that razor thin edge of self-destruction? Nah, I’m probably just bored.

This has the potential to be a sad-sack of a post, so let’s change gears, for your amusement.

Things are great, actually. Thanks for asking. Jackson is in fourth grade this year at his (new to you) school, a STEM charter school. He is way into cars, like he has always been. But now he is also way in to coding his own apps and games, building robots, farting, and girls (in no particular order). The last bit is fairly new. And in fact, it is one girl in particular. Her name is Morgan, and he met her last year in his third grade class. She is blond and super high energy. I hate her.

I know. How can you say that about a kid, Missy? It’s easier than you’d think. For example, the whole summer he was obsessed with Michael Jackson. Which is weird, but you know, fine. We even talked about how MJ was possibly a sexual predator (normal convo for us, since I’m always like, “Jackson, watch out for sexual predators man. They will prey on unsuspecting kids” and he’s all, “Yeah, I get it, Mommy. The whole world is out to get me and hurt me at all times. Tell you if anyone is every inappropriate toward me. Gotcha.” It helps my anxiety knowing he is super paranoid like I am.)

Anyway, I Amazoned him the whole MJ outfit, assuming that’s what he would want to be for Halloween. But true to Jackson form, here we are, two weeks before Halloween and he has decided to be something else. Turns out, one of Morgan’s favorite shows is “Stranger Things” (that’s weird, right?). We never let Jackson watch it because it was sort of scary. But then he came home all talking about “Stranger Things” and we were all, what the hell? Like, he is OBSESSED. So we let him watch the first episode and guess what? He had a nightmare about the damn Demogorgon!

Anyway (again), Morgan’s FAVORITE character is Eleven. So guess what my son wants to be for Halloween? Yeah. So here I am, ordering a pink dress, painting tube socks, and looking for the perfect blond wig for my son for Halloween, so when we do Trunk or Treat at his school on the 28th, Morgan will see him dressed as her favorite character (which happens to be a girl). Ohhh, young love. (To make him not feel so weird, Daddy is dressing like Joyce.)

Sigh.

Okay, so what else is happening? Jerimiah is in job limbo. Allow me to explain. His company was bought out last year by a much bigger company. This much bigger company has been letting go of a lot of people, but he keeps making the cut (whew). But, over the next few months there is more “restructuring” as it were, and he sort of has nowhere to go. So he has been applying for jobs within the company, because he does like it. No big deal. Except, well, none of the jobs are in Charlotte. This is a Fortune 500, nationwide company. And it appears that the opportunities for him are all, well, nationwide. We are talking, California, Arizona, Michigan, Tennessee. Some of the opportunity is in good locations (read: Seattle, Boston, Chicago). Some of the opportunity is in, oh, let’s say, Houston. (Throws hands up in the air.) But for now, we wait to see how it all plays out. Short version: We may not be in the Carolinas much longer. Which at first made me happy, because you guys know I love adventure. But now I am kind of sad. I have started to build a little community here, a writing community, a friend community, a strong parent network. But, then again, life is constantly changing and if you are resistant to it, you will be disappointed eventually. Besides, how can you see the whole world, if you stay in one little space?

So, how are things with me? Well, like I said, funky. I have my ups and downs. More downs lately. This whole hysterectomy thing has jacked me up. It was a good decision, trust me, but the hormones, the night sweats, the lack of energy. I feel like for the first time since June I am finally coming out of all of it. Slowly, but surely. (Ps… if this is something you are even remotely considering, DO IT!) Jesus. DO IT.

Buuuuut, it does give your life a finality that you might not be ready for. So there’s that.

I think the real problem here is that I have been listening to a lot of 70s and 80s country music because I can’t find my damn Mumford and Sons record, and it isn’t as empowering as you would think it would be. Maybe. (Thanks for not asking the obvious question here: How do you lose a Mumford and Sons record? Those things are huge!) So I get sort of down (because Willie and Waylon are downers), and then I think, “Wait a second, I will never bleed out of my vagina every again!” And then I feel so good that I want to tell Bentley all about my good fortune and then I’m down again. Boo.

Well, that sort of sums up life now. I got myself roped into the PTO at the new school, even though when I left my VP role at the old school I was all, “NEVER AGAIN!” So I have a bunch of Box Tops to deal with today.

Thanks for reading. Or not. Not would probably be better.

Stay safe and sane out there.

M.