Worth Leavin’

When I was in high school my mom and I moved into an apartment complex with townhouses. This was the biggest, nicest place we had ever lived in, and it was near the high school and near my mom’s work. It had three levels, including an unfinished basement for storage and laundry. The kitchen, living room, and a bathroom were on the main floor, and there were three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. All the bedrooms were roughly the same size, so my mom took a room on one end of the hall and gave me the room on the other end, next to the bathroom. I don’t remember what was in the middle bedroom. It’s possible it was home to my mom’s small china hutch, the one that houses relics from years past. It’s possible it had a dresser for extra clothes, or maybe my mom’s old green rocking chair. I don’t think it had an extra bed. I don’t think we ever had a bed we would consider “extra.”

I might not remember too much about the second bedroom, but I do remember quite a bit about that townhouse, and the years I lived there. I remember the night someone threw a brick into our neighbor’s glass window and stole a bunch of money from him while he slept upstairs. I remember the way the apartment complex gave way to a trailer park, the “good” trailer park. I remember that when the grass got cut the maintenance men did it so fast, that they missed large portions of it. I remember the rollings hills in between the rows of houses. I remember the playground. The basketball court. The laundry room. The dark, poop brown of the cabinets. I remember the small slab of concrete off the back sliding door where we kept an old, unused grill. I remember the constant feeling of being pressed down, while we lived there. What felt like the inability to catch my breath. The thought that this was it. This was as nice as my life was going to get. The concern that I was in this cycle of poverty, and there was no way out.

It’s a nasty feeling, feeling like you are stuck in a place that you don’t want to be. I would take evening walks around the apartment complex, sometimes down through the trailer park and envision what my life might be. Would I live in a trailer one day? Was it bad to live in one? Some of them looked nice. They had fenced yards, and little pop-up pools. Some had add-ons and car ports. Was this my next step? Did I get married, buy a trailer, have a couple of kids, and work my 40 hours a week, while I watched my husband drink beer with the other men in the trailer park on Sunday afternoons? It all seemed too sad. Too real. Much too real.

I remember walking on the other side of the street one day. There was a subdivision on that side that I had never been through before. The street that separated us was a busy five lane road that ran from one side of town, where the cities of Leavenworth and Lansing met, to the other side of town, ending at the Federal Prison. It wasn’t too hopeful for a sad teenage girl, my hometown. The thing I noticed first about this subdivision, was that unlike my apartment complex, they had a wooden privacy fence running the length of their property, shielding their quiet backyards, and their precious children, from the traffic that clogged up that street.

The more I walked, the more I noticed about the people who lived there. Two car garages meant two parents. Two parents meant more income. More income meant treehouses, and soccer teams, and trips to Florida in the summertime, all things I had no idea about. I pieced together what I knew about my friends’ families. The nice houses they had, the way their mother’s were home all day with stews in crockpots, and at the dinner table at night helping with homework. During this time my mother had developed a gambling addiction, and spent most of her evenings at the casinos in Kansas City. So had my sisters and a few close friends. I was alone a lot of the time, but that was okay by me. It gave me time to dream of my leaving. That was the running joke as a teenager in Leavenworth. Wasn’t Leavenworth really just Worth Leavin’?

I’ve come to see that as a critical point in my life. My walking, my meandering around my hometown. Wondering what would happen to me if I left, more importantly, what would happen to me if I stayed. I knew then, on the day that I walked through that subdivision, that I wasn’t going to stick around to find out.

Sometimes I get sad when I think back to the choices I made. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened had I stayed. Sometimes I wish I could help other people leave. Sometimes I just want to tell that younger Missy that it is all okay. That she is different, and a little weird, and yeah, maybe she doesn’t belong there, or anywhere, but that it will all make sense. One day.

M.

The In-between Girl

As far back as I can remember I have felt out of place. I’ve felt like I didn’t belong. Like I was one kind of girl, living in a world where it was best to be the other kind of girl. It wasn’t until grad school, and my introduction to the term Imposter Syndrome, that I had some sense of what I had been feeling for so long. Where I come from, people don’t go to grad school. Where I come from, people don’t go to college, some don’t even earn a high school diploma. They opt instead, for their GED at 16 years old or at 40, whenever the need arises for them to get a pay raise at their hourly job. Their hourly job is at the warehouse where they load the UPS trucks at four am, or down at the Walmart, where a HS diploma can mean the difference between $9/hr and $9.50/hr. So you can imagine my surprise, when sitting in a giant auditorium at UNC Charlotte—feeling completely out of place and wondering why the English department let me into their program—when those big, bold letters came across the screen: Imposter Syndrome. My jaw dropped. Me, a small-town Kansas girl who should have just put her head down and taken a job as a receptionist at a doctor’s office or as a cashier at a grocery store, was actually realizing a dream that, to some, seemed ridiculous. Reading those words and finally understanding what I had been feeling my whole life, well it was a surprise, but it was also a new sort of freedom, albeit one that didn’t last very long.

I finished grad school, if you are wondering, and I got by okay. It became clear to other people, pretty quickly, that I should be there. Classmates, professors, my family. But it was never clear to me. I struggled with not fitting in the whole time I was there. I was too old to hang out with the other students, I was too young to feel a camaraderie with the instructors. I was too shy to get involved with organizations, I was too direct to be good at sparking conversation. I showed up to things I wasn’t expected to, and missed events they had planned for me to attend. I didn’t feel like I was in the right concentration, so I switched my major in my second year, where I felt even more out of place than before. The list goes on. And now here I am, a woman from a history of blue-collar workers, explaining why art is important to a family who doesn’t “get me,” while my back is to a world of intellectuals, fellow artists and writers, a new and economically advantaged group of friends who have no idea what government cheese tastes like, and I am feeling out of place, again. I’m stuck in-between these two worlds, and sometimes I don’t think I belong to either.

I’m not unique, then again I’m not claiming to be. There is a whole host of people like me. People who’ve left the Section 8 houses. People who looked into the mirror and decided this life is not for them. People who have scraped their way into college or trade school. People who have taken $100 and turned it into a million dollars. And there they are, feeling like they don’t belong. The weight of their own history pulling them down. I’m not complaining either, even though it might seem that way. I know I did what was right for me. And I know that my family back home is proud of me. They may not get what I do, or what I write, or how I see the world, but I know they are proud that I did what I set out to do. I’m not a cautionary tale, like some of the others, rather an example to follow. And I constantly carry that on my back, as I reach behind and pull up the next generation who are looking for a way out.

But in the moment, in the day to day, I never know how I will feel. I never know how out of place I look toting a $50 bottle of wine to an event I have been invited to because I know someone, who knows someone, who is hosting a writers group that focuses on art as a form of healing. But I feel it. I never know how people will take me when I go back home, run into an old friend at CVS, give them a hug, ask how they have been, with a stupid, genuine grin, as I listen to the happenings of my old hometown. I always wonder if they see me as an outsider. Because I feel like one.

I wish this was a teachable moment of some kind. I like teachable moments, but it isn’t. This is just me, admitting the way I feel a lot of the time. Maybe this will resonate with some of you, maybe not. But if I can, let me just say this: People worry a lot. People feel like they don’t fit in. People feel like outsiders. If you are one of the confident ones, bring those people into your fold. Ask them to participate. Give them a shot. They may never feel like they belong, but at least they won’t feel like they don’t.

M.

Burger King Hysterectomy

I’ve been in a major slump this week. Like major. This time of year always gets to me because this is the time of year I lost my daughter. If you want to get up to speed on that you can read this: https://missygoodnight.com/2019/08/20/august/ or this: http://mudseasonreview.com/author/melissa-goodnight/ and you should be all caught up. But the other day when I was explaining to my husband how I’ve been feeling this week, I used the phrase “profound sadness” and I meant it. I meant it, but I am not sure it explains exactly how I feel, but it is probably pretty close. I started to wonder why this year was hitting me that much harder than other years and, I think, quite simply, that there is something else I haven’t properly dealt with that needs some attention, my decision to have a hysterectomy last year.

Now listen, I won’t go into the nuts and bolts of it. Some of you really don’t care to know all that, but if you do just ask me, I will tell you EVERYTHING, cause I’m that kinda person. But I will say that because of some issues I was having, I was a candidate for a hysterectomy. Not a “Full Hysterectomy,” just a partial, so I elected to have it done. So last May I had my uterus and Fallopian tubes removed. They left my ovaries so I wasn’t a 36-year-old going into menopause (thank you so much for that, doc) but the rest they took out and threw away in a trash can behind the Burger King. Well, maybe not. But in my mind that’s what happened.

My Burger King uterus was a Mess with a capital M, but it had served me well through two pregnancies, so it was a little bit sad. Now, have I enjoyed not having a period since then? Uh yes, absolutely. It’s a new kind of freedom that I haven’t had since I was 12 years old, and I highly recommend the procedure if any of you are considering it. Highly. Recommend. (And if you are in the Charlotte area, I highly recommend you doing it at Novant! I had THE BEST experience there!) But I digress.

The hysterectomy came as a surprise to a lot of people, because for the four years leading up to my decision, Jerimiah and I had been trying to have another baby. We struggled with infertility after we lost Lydia in 2011, and we came to be diagnosed with “Unexplained Secondary Infertility”. In fact, if you go back in this blog, like way back, you will see that my first ever post was the night before I was headed in to have a “procedure” done to start the fertility process. I did have it done. And a couple more procedures. In fact, we got to the point where we had to either go all in, like $50,000 all in, or back off and hope for a miracle. Jerimiah and I both decided at that moment that we would rather spend $50,000 on the adoption process than on trying to get pregnant, so we went with the “trying for a miracle” and well, the miracle never came.

Meanwhile, I was more and more bogged down with all the aforementioned “issues” each month, until I was finally so fed up, fed up with the issues, fed up with my body rebelling against me, fed up with the constant depression every month when I was not pregnant, that I said enough is enough and decided to make a final decision. And boy is it a final decision. In fact, I didn’t realize how final it really is, and now I’m dealing with all these feelings, for the first time, because over the last year I sort of just shoved them down. Hmpf. Way to go, Missy.

I mean, I knew what a hysterectomy was going into it. I had to sign so many papers that my hand cramped. Yes, I get it, I get it, I said to my doctor. No more babies for me. And yes, I did get it. But what I didn’t think about was all the feelings I would have after I could not have any more babies. I know I am not making myself clear here, partly because I am working it out for the first time myself (there will probably be a series of “Burger King Hysterectomy” coming at y’all) and partly because it’s a weird thing to write about, but I will get better.

What I mean to say is that I sometimes want another baby. Bleh. That is hard to admit. But I certainly didn’t want to try to do it the way we were doing it. And I certainly know it isn’t possible anymore, and I am almost certain that I don’t ACTUALLY want another baby. Like, I like this life that I have. I love that we have one. That we can take off and go whenever we want. That we get to travel and experience things, and that we have one kick-ass kid already. But sometimes, when I am already sad, I start to miss Lydia, then I start to think I sold myself short. Myself, my husband, my son. Even though, let me say, everyone was behind my decision, myself included. Gah. It must be the hormones. Maybe I can get someone down at the ‘ol BK to take out my ovaries too?

Well, I’m rambling now. I will keep thinking on this topic, you guys think on it too, and maybe we can come up with a conclusion? And no, not just a Missy is nuts conclusion. We already know this, that is taking the easy way out. Try harder, you guys. I am counting on you.

M.

August

August always catches me by surprise. It’s a busy month. It’s my husband’s birthday month. Then some last-minute fun before back-to-school. Then back-to-school, which always comes with some sort of challenge. New school, not the teacher we wanted, refusal to change underwear on the first day, you know, normal boy stuff. Then once we get into the swing of things, I finally feel a routine coming back. I have time to write again, I have time to breath again, then BAM! It hits me. This profound sadness. And it’s always around the middle of the month. And it always confuses me, like what the actual hell Missy?! Why are you sad, so much is going well right now. Then, at three am, during a night I’ve been unable to fall asleep, it hits me. It’s August again.

August 2011, was the worst month of my life. I remember back to my husband’s 29th birthday. Back to the weeks that followed. Back to the test results and the nights in the hospital. I start to remember my daughter. I start to subconsciously say her name. I talk more about her without even realizing. Jackson starts to ask questions, play what-ifs. Mommy, do you think Lydia would like cars like I do? I assure him that she would. I assure him that being her big brother he would have been able to teach her all about cars, and trucks, and technology. They would have been able to play soccer and basketball together. He could have taught her how to swim, and cheered her on at her swim meets. They could have secrets and inside jokes, certainly be each other’s best friend. He smiles, tells me that he doesn’t mind being an only child, but that sometimes it would be nice to have her around.

I lose sight of all the good I have in my life during the month of August. I have more bad days than good ones. And every year I wait for these feelings not to come. I hope they won’t. I push them back down, thinking certainly this year it won’t hurt so much. Certainly this year I will get a break from these emotions. But I’m wrong. They come back. And even though I am surprised when they come, and upset with myself, I am learning how to show myself a little more grace. To not beat myself up for having a bad day here or there. It’s just work. I’m always working on it.

Grieving takes time, I know this. And here I am at year eight, and I am waiting for a time for the grieving to stop. And what scares me, what really gets to me, is the idea that it may never stop. That this is my life now. That every August this profound sadness will creep up into my chest. And I will cough and cough trying to rid myself of it, but I won’t be able to. It will just be something I will have to live with. Forever. I think that is what makes me the most sad now. I think I have properly dealt with the feelings of loss. The actual pain that losing my baby caused me. But I think too, that this feeling of lingering sadness will never be dealt with. Will never go away.

That’s a dramatic, albeit true thought that I live with. That it isn’t the loss of my daughter that I will eventually succumb to, rather the grief that surfaces every, single, year. Month. Week. Day. The grief that won’t allow me to breathe. The grief that won’t allow me to move on. If there is anything to move on to.

I have nothing new to say today. Just to love those who you love. Love those who need love. Love those you know, those you don’t. Spread the love and light out in the world today. For people like me, who can’t muster it. For people like Lydia who will never feel it. For people who will never feel whole again. Because it does make a difference.

M.

Grouchy About TP

Why are there ads and commercials for toilet paper? Which adults out there do not have a favorite toilet paper? Why do people need convincing on this topic? Are there people who are still, I dunno in their thirties, and flipping between toilet paper brands? Is it the damn millienials? I can say that now, because apparently I am an Xennial (somewhere between a Gen X-er and a millennial) so I can blame them for things now. Those damn millennials!

As a grown-ass thirty-something adult, I know which brand of toilet paper I like, and I am not changing. I am not looking for coupons. I am not looking for sales or deals or BuY tHiS nOw ads! I am looking for comfort and plush 2-ply, and I have found it, and I don’t want to see bears wiping their asses anymore. Why Charmin? People are already buying you. Why bears wiping their asses?

And stop trying to come up with inventive ways to use toilet paper. Listen, it is for one thing and one thing only. It’s like how Q-tip prints all the ways you can use Q-tips on the back of their packaging. You can use it to clean your keyboard?! Really? Really, Q-tip? Yeah, I know the medical community came out and said, “Don’t stick things in your ears!” but something tells me they meant penis. Like, don’t stick penis in your ear. You know?

I’m sorry you guys.

It’s 7:30 am and I am already off the damn rails.

Maybe I should go back to bed.

Maybe I should roll out my bulk, two-ply and lay on top of it. Cover myself in it like a sleeping bag. Like a cozy, plush, sleeping bag. Until my husband comes home and finds me, takes one look at me, and mumbles something about buying Charmin.

M.

Anthony Elementary School

I Googled my elementary school today. I’m not sure what made me do it. Maybe seeing all the back to school photos of friends’ kids. Maybe dropping my own child at his first day of his last year in elementary school. Maybe I’m feeling sad, nostalgic, old. Either way, I Googled the old girl and was surprised by what I didn’t remember about Anthony Elementary School, and what I did.

Anthony Elementary School in Leavenworth, Kansas was built in 1950*, funded in part, by a grant from the Ford Foundation. It was named after the Daniel Read Anthony family, who first came to Leavenworth from Massachusetts in 1854 with the first Emigrant Aid Company. The First Emigrant Aid Company was responsible for bringing Free State settlers to vote against Kansas becoming a slave state. Daniel R. Anthony may not be as well known outside of Leavenworth, where he was both a conductor of the local Underground Railroad and the owner of the Leavenworth Times (Kansas’ oldest newspaper) but his sister, Susan B. Anthony, might ring a bell. I knew none of this back then. I have a faint memory of learning about Susan B. Anthony and her family. I have an even fainter memory of connecting those dots in my head when I was maybe a second grader. I remember thinking she was pretty and strong. What I did know about my school was that it was a Title I, low-performing elementary school in the 1980s, smack dab in the middle of the “good” side of town and the “not good” side of town, and it brought a lot of different worlds together.

My mother walked me up to the front door of Anthony when I was a very tall five-year-old. Having a September birthday, I would turn six just two weeks after school started, always making me one of the oldest kids in my class. I would be nearly 19 when I graduated high school. But I wasn’t thinking about high school that day, I was thinking about not wrinkling my dress. I was wondering if my mother would stay with me all day. I was sliding around from sweaty feet in slick sandals.

My classroom was brightly colored. It housed a row of cubes where we’d put our Kleenex boxes and paint, wall hooks for backpacks and lunchboxes, and an upright piano. I didn’t have a lunchbox. I was a free-lunch kid. I didn’t know that on my first day of kindergarten, but by middle school this fact would push my head lower and lower down, everyday, as I moved through the hot food line. On my first day of kindergarten, however, my head was high, albeit full of anxiety. I smiled when Mrs. McKim, my very tall, very lovely teacher took my hand and showed me where my desk was. I followed her, looking back a few times to make sure my mom was still there. She was, standing with the other parents at the back of the classroom, much too close to the door for my liking. In my memory this is when things get jumbled, but my mom remembers it pretty clearly. I started to cry. And I didn’t stop crying for three days.

On day two, Mrs. McKim let my mom come inside the classroom again. They tried to console me, to introduce me to new friends, but I couldn’t see anyone through the tears clouding my vision. On day three, Mrs. McKim watched me walk into the classroom, and just when my mom was about to follow, she stopped her, and closed the classroom door. I panicked. I ran to the door to watch the scene unfold. My mother was crying outside the door, I was crying inside the door. Mrs. McKim, her hand on my mother’s shaking shoulder, told her it would be best to leave. Just leave me there, and walk away. I hated Mrs. McKim for this, for much longer than I should have. It wasn’t until my son went to preschool, and his teacher told me to go, while he screamed and groped for me and she held him back, that I realized what Mrs. McKim had done. And how important it was to do.

That day Mrs. McKim switched her tactic with me too. She let me sit at my desk and cry for an hour or so, then she pulled me aside and told me that I was disrupting the class and would have to go sit in the library, right across the hall, all by myself. A few minutes later I was all alone at a desk in the library. The librarian Mrs. Simmons, was busy walking around shelving books, big kids were coming in and out looking oddly at me. I sat, crying, until it felt like I had no more tears to cry. Then Mrs. Simmons walked in with two of my classmates, Robin and Pam. She walked up to my desk and introduced them both. She said they were girls in my class, and that made them my friends. Pam, whose sweet, chubby cheeks shined in the library light, asked me if I would be her friend. I said yes. Then Robin and Pam stood on each side of me and took me back to the classroom, hand in hand. I never cried again in kindergarten.

A few years ago my sweet friend Pam died. An undiagnosed medical condition, if I remember correctly. She never lost her sweetness, though. Not one ounce, even when we drifted apart years later. I can still see her chubby, rosy cheeks. I can still feel her hand in mine. I still remember her earnestness. Her need to be my friend. Her determination to make me feel safe.

It’s been a long time since I stepped foot inside Anthony Elementary School. An even longer time since I have felt that particular pain. The kind that sticks with you. The kind that shapes you. I may have went to a Title I, low-performing school in an economically diverse area of the Midwest, but I never felt underserved or overlooked. I felt lucky. I felt content. And today I am feeling thankful.

Thanks, Anthony Elementary School. For the teachers like Mrs. McKim, Mrs. Coughran, Mrs. Nixon and Mrs. Heim. Thanks for Mrs. Albright, and Mrs. Simmons, and Mrs. Parks. For Coach Hendee and Mr. Parks. Thanks for the lifelong friendships. Thanks for the blacktop and Oregon Trail. Thanks for the Halloween parades and the fifth grade talent show. Thanks for being a safe-haven, for a painfully shy little girl who is the woman she is today because of the foundation you gave her.

M.

*It’s important to note that Anthony has been through a few renovations, including a major overhaul in 2010, and has survived in Leavenworth, where many of the other schools have been vacated, or turned into housing or commercial spaces. I’ve included a current picture below to show the progress.

My Writing

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my six acceptance letters into publications and my 24 rejections. Ouch. I know, I know. Keep on keeping on. Stay positive. Don’t worry about the number of rejections, that can get up into the thousands! But every time I get a rejection, I sort of feel myself curl up a little bit. I want to stay in bed, quit sending things out. I know I am doing things wrong. I know I am. I’m not sure how to navigate this terrain, so I am learning as I go. I don’t know quite yet where my writing falls. Which publications I should be sending work to. I’m afraid to go to bat with the “big boys” as it were, so if I’m being honest with myself, I’m choosing small publications where I might have a better shot. Then I have those days where I feel like I am selling myself, and my work, short. Then I get another rejection from a “small guy” and I’m like, no you’re where you need to be. Maybe you shouldn’t even be sending out. Maybe you suck and everyone is just placating you, you pile of dog crap! I’m a nightmare. I have never been a salesperson. Especially when it comes to myself. Anyway, boohoo, Missy. Okay, we are done with that now. But if you do have advice, lay it on me. I’m always looking for that.

What I really want to do is share some of my work with you today, for those of you who have never read my “real stuff” before. So I was just gonna put some links down here for you to try out if you are interested. The first link is a creative non-fiction piece I wrote as part of my grad school thesis and it means the most to me. You can read it here: http://mudseasonreview.com/author/melissa-goodnight/ This is where it was originally published. There is also an interview with me on this link, about why I write what I do. I had a great experience with Mud Season Review. Kinda sad it was my first publication because now I know how wonderful and easy the editors can make the process. People aren’t always so nice.

Then there is flash fiction. I love writing flash fiction! I love the small slices of life you can see in them. I only have two of those published, a third is set to come out with Lunch Ticket soon, but for now you can read them at these links. This first one is the first piece of FF I ever wrote: https://deadmule.com/melissa-goodnight-the-line-fiction-may-2019/

And this next one is my favorite: http://www.jennymag.org/fall-18-issue/the-center-wont-hold

Anyway, thanks for reading my work, even if you just check in here occasionally. I see you, and I appreciate you.

M.

PS… I have a poem coming out in the fall in an anthology of Kansas City poets! I will let you guys know when it releases.

An Open Letter to the PTA

Good afternoon ladies (and that one weird dad). Let me start off by saying: THANK YOU! You are an amazing bunch, and honestly the school would be in deep doodoo without you. I mean for real. You help raise so much money for this damn school, that it is insane. You support extracurriculars, you help fund teacher’s classrooms, you feed the staff, and spend days getting ready for an event that most of the kids relentlessly make fun of (even when they have a great time)! You are great at all of this because you are mommies. And grand mommies. And that one weird dad. And you are used to doing thankless jobs for no pay. You are used to being yelled at about things that are not your fault. You are used to squeezing the budget as far as it will go and then some. You are used to begging and pleading for people to do one ounce of the work you do, just to keep the wheels in motion. And honestly, most of the time, you are measured not by the good that you do, but rather by the “annoyances” you cause. But I see you. I see you working diligently, and tirelessly, so that your kids and your friends’ kids, and the whole elementary school can have a damn snow-cone maker come field day, And your work does not go unnoticed.

Now, let me get to the heart of the matter, the ways I can help you. First let me say that I have been on both sides of the coin. I was not a member of the PTA, then I was just a “give $10 member,” then I was a committee co-chair, then a co-Vice President, then a committee chair at another school, and now currently I am just a “give $20 member” who has been asked repeatedly to help out whenever I can, and the “whenever I cans” are filling up my calendar. I have been part of three different PTAs, including helping one as it transitioned to a PTO. I have written bi-laws, been in charge of an event, stopped by every single teacher to introduce myself and give them a gift. I have laid mulch and planted flowers, collected money and membership forms, sold t-shirts, and stuffed goody bags. I have given another mom the “stop talking you’re wasting all of our time” look on Friday morning meetings so the President didn’t have to. I have researched grants, and play sets. I have led meetings and worked lunch room duty. Jesus, lunch room duty. I have rallied students with a megaphone, I have hauled screaming kinders out of a quickly deflating bounce house. And the list goes on. I, as you can see, am not afraid to get in there and get my hands dirty. And many, many more moms and dads are the same, but sometimes you don’t give them a chance.

Listen, y’all are seen in a different light because you’re not exactly inclusive. You are not exactly shining rays of light in the hallway. You are not exactly welcoming to new parents, or old parents, or odd parents. And sometimes each other. You have a narrow focus, and tend to keep your friends close, when you should be keeping your enemies closer. You need to remember that the PTA is not a popularity contest. It isn’t part of a social status. It’s work. Hard work and a lot of it. You need help. And dear Baby Jesus, I want to help you set your sights higher! Therefore, we need to take a hard look at your flaws. We need to speak some truth into you. And this is going to be hard, but I have to speak directly to each of you, starting at the top*. Ahem…

President: Hey Karyn, waz up, girl?! Can I grab a sec? Listen, I know you are one busy bee, girlfriend, okay! Aren’t we all (hysterical, sad laughter). But listen, you need to slow down girl, like for real. You need to loosen the reigns and ask for some help. No one is asking you to organize the 5K, the bake sell, the school carnival, the fifth grade dance, and all the teacher breakfasts, okay. You put that on yourself. Why, girl? Cause you’re a little bit of a control freak? Sure, hahahahahaha! We all are! That’s why we’re here, but listen, you’re scaring people. No one wants to join the committees you head because they heard about the spring gala and the shit that went down in the parking lot between you and your co-chair afterward. Did you really pull her weave out? Karyn, did you pay that teenager to key her car at Costco? Be straight with me girl, I won’t tell anyone. Certainly not, Betsy. Eek. But for real, slow down, take a chill pill, smile a little more in the hallway to people who live outside of your subdivision, and learn to use the calendar app, your disorganization is tearing us apart. Okay, love you girl, bye!

Vice-President: Patsy, honey, how are you? I feel like we never get a chance to talk. I saw you sit with your hand raised for fifteen minutes last Friday when the Principal asked for opinions on the food truck, but Karyn would not stop talking long enough for you to say anything. Honestly, we all felt the sting when Karyn reached over and put your hand down for you. I feel like we never get to hear your ideas. But you smile anyway. Although, I did catch that thing you said under your breath to Tina the other day about being “voluntold” to work the Book Fair. Listen honey, Karyn is a bitch. We all know this. We also know we have to keep her happy and that none of this shit would be done, if it weren’t for you. But that day in the cafeteria, when you slammed the tray down on her hand on “accident” girl, you validated a lot of us. Never stop being you. You are the glue to this whole damn thing. And I will respect your wishes and cross your name off the ballot next year. I got your back.

Secretary: Tina, daaayuuum, girl, how long you been doing this? Long time? You have what, seven kids now? Just the other d… uhhh, he spit up a little on you, yeah, right, uhhh, yeah, there, ope you got it. You want me to hold him so you can hold the pen, or, okay, okay, yeah, that works too. Just, I don’t want him to get kicked in the head, uhh, so listen, have you ever considered running for president? I mean, you have the skills for the job, and you’re, umm (motioning to all the toddlers and babies in the room) gonna be around for awhile, so, I think you could make some awesome changes. Oh really? Sure. You could totally start now by um, I think you could start by getting Karyn to be a little more open to new people. To new ideas. Maybe finding a good way to get some kinder moms involved. When I was a kinder mom no one in the PTA spoke to me all year. I really wanted to get involved, but I was painfully shy, and honestly honey, if I would have known what a giant clusterfuck this really is, I would have totally joined up then. Because there I was, thinking you guys all had your shit together, and I was the one who was all messed up, but nah. Nah. Oh, you want me to burp him, okay, sure.

Treasurer: Kevin, hey dude. Listen, I know all the ladies want you to be the treasurer because you are “the man” and well, this is The South, so there is a definite belief ladies can’t do numbers, but, no, no, no, I do not want your job. No, I know. Yes, I understand it is hard. No, thank you. Uh huh. Uh huh. Uh huh. Right. Totally agree. Sure raise ’em up right. Okay, absolutely. Yep. Stop! Stop! Do you see this right here?! You have not let me say a damn word! And maybe it’s because you are a man, but I rather think it’s because you’re an asshole. So shut up sometimes and let other people tell you what they think. And train someone else to do this job. Start now, because I guarantee, your name won’t be on the ballot forever. Also, stop saying your kid is too good for this school. That’s not a thing. No kid is too good for a school and no school is too good for a kid. Period. And one more thing, Kevin, I know you walk around here like your shit don’t stink. But I’ve been in the unisex staff bathroom after you, and well… it does.

Communications Chair: Hey Betsy, so glad I caught you! Listen, I did get your 18 emails last night about the use of the school’s Instagram account, and honestly I’m gonna guess that no, we aren’t breaking Rule XVI, Law i of the school conduct code by using a picture of the janitor hoisting up the flag. Uh, huh. Uh, huh. Oh no, I don’t think the threat of a new civil war in any way impacts what we say on our Facebook page, just because, well, we mainly say things like: “Book Fair, Friday Night!” We aren’t like, you know, getting political. Yes, we can be political people. I know you saw me at that rally and you’re nervous I’m gonna fly off the handle, but um, you did take my Box Top access away, and I really needed to get some templates printed off. How bout this? How bout I promise to not talk about politics ever again with you, and you promise to stop making us all sign releases saying that we won’t share pictures of your child at lunch in a public forum. I really don’t think anyone is doing that, so I feel like it is saving us both some time and energy. No, I did not hear that Patsy wasn’t going to run for president next year. Hmm, that is interesting. No, honey. I think you should take a little more time learning the ropes before you throw your hat in the ring. You’re just, well, annoying.

That One Mom Who Said She Would Help a Ton, But Only Shows Up When It’s Convenient: (Long sigh). Hey, Becca. So, are the third Thursdays on a month ending in -er just the best days for you, or, no? Okay. Sure, I get it. Yeah, yeah, sure. You work full-time, two kids, omigod, I know, I know. But listen, everyone is really tired of your shit. You send these hateful emails about all the things we are doing wrong, then I have to passive-aggressively respond all and remind you that you need to be the change you wish to see, you know. It’s getting old. I hate to be so crass with you, but you know where I’m coming from, it’s shit or get off the pot time, Becca. And the least you could do, on the days you are scheduled to show and you don’t, is text a bitch okay. And you know what, this is one of those times when throwing money at a problem does help. So get your husband to write a fat-ass check to the PTA, and we will see if we can make this all work. Okay, girl. Okay! See you in six weeks.

Beautification Co-Chair: Hey, girl, hey! Listen Rhonda, I’ve heard some murmuring after the meetings lately that people feel like you are a little pushy and maybe some of your ideas are, ummm, unrealistic? Ummm, what would you say… uh huh. Oh no, I’m not saying you’re pushy or unrealistic, I’m just saying that maybe you shouldn’t try to put new siding on the school this year, when we are trying to save for new chrome books for the classrooms. Also, a fifteen foot palm tree flown in from Florida would be amazing! I mean, really. But… I don’t know that our money should go there…right now. I know, I know, you and your husband are paying for half the palm tree, but the other $8,000 seems to be big part of our Chromebook budget. Okay, so you talked to the other school down the road and they are getting two palm trees. Okay. Okay! I see. So maybe, I dunno, I’m spit-balling here, maybe we could wait until one of their palm trees inevitably dies, and get it donated to us? Then we can have a dead palm tree too? No? Okay. Here’s all I’m saying. You tend to do things waaaay big! Like off the charts awesome! Yay! But, you’re scaring the other moms, and making a lot of people feel bad. And I know, I know that is not your intention, it’s really just to seem awesome, probably because you lack self-esteem, we all do, ha! But, I just need you to reel it back a bit, okay. I mean, you know I will keep it real, I always said I’d tell you if people are talking about you behind your back. Hahaha! They are.

And that is a start with you, PTA. That’s a start.

Best,

Missy, the forever PTA Mommy

*These are all fictional people, but you know, very real people.

Dig, Dig, Climax

Last week I walked to my therapy appointment. If you’re keeping up you know I’ve been walking anywhere that is less than two miles or so from my house, because why not? Why not indeed. Anyway, the first words I said to, ohh, let’s call her Eleanor, the first thing I said to Eleanor was, I stink. She laughed and said I didn’t stink, then I explained the walking thing and she was all, good for you, blah, blah, walking is like meditating, blah. That’s not the important bit, but every good story has a lead-up. I’m building a slow climax here, like I do in the bedroom, when I, you know, watch two episodes of Bob’s Burgers before the finale of Broad City.

So there I am, forty-five minutes into my appointment and she’s all, Missy, why did you react that way? And I’m all, Eugene, or, wait, Elle, Eleanor? Eleanor! Eleanor, listen I don’t know, but I want to know. So then Eleanor said something so profound that I can’t stop thinking about it. She said, Missy, a lot of the time when we are upset about something, particularly when it concerns our children, it’s sort of that inner child calling to us. She then told me to always take a step back from my feelings and try to remember what my life was like when I was my son’s age. What was I going through at ten years old? It was sort of an aha moment for me, maybe it’s not for you, but this isn’t your climax. May I suggest the Broad City finale?

Anyway, she also instructed me to ask myself why I allow myself to feel this way. She wanted me to dig deeper. Then I felt stupid, because isn’t that always the answer? Dig deeper. When writing a story you have to dive in, go below the surface. When you’re trying to figure out why someone’s flippant comment made you lose sleep, why them, why you, what did it all mean, just try to dig deeper. When you’ve lost an M&M in the couch cushions and you jam your sticky fingers down, way down where all the crumbs live, and you think you can’t go any further, you gotta dig deeper. Seriously. You will regret melted M&M in between your couch cushions. Trust.

So I dunno, I guess therapy is working. Maybe that is my point here. Or maybe I am really still upset about that one M&M, either way, try to dig deeper in your lives and go forth in prosperity today. I’ll let Ellen know you send your love.

M.

Tech-free Day

Yesterday the boys and I did our first official Tech-free Day! Woohoo! It was Jerimiah’s idea and we weren’t sure how it would go, so we laid some ground rules. Rule #1: Phones away for the day if you are anxious (like yours truly) you can check them a couple of times to see if anyone called because someone may have died. Rule #2: If Morgan can play Minecraft, then Jackson can hop on and play. Morgan is Jackson’s BFF, but she happens to live in Rhode Island, so for now, their playdates have been Minecraft dates with a side Google Hangout video chat. We decided this was okay because they don’t get to do this often, only when all the stars align, and it really is a playdate. Kinda cool that he gets to have one with her when she’s hundreds of miles away. When we lived in Charlotte Morgan was part of one of our tech-free mornings and she didn’t mind, so she knows what’s up. (We’ve been doing tech-free weekend mornings for about a year now, they have been awesome.) Rule #3: Music! We can turn the Apple HomePod on for music. Case closed. Gotta have music.

So what in the hell did we do?! Well, Jackson and Jerimiah let me sleep in, which was nice because I was up all night staring at the ceiling thinking of all the shit I have to do this week. While I slept, Jerimiah taught Jackson how to make eggs with one of those silicone egg shapers we bought him to practice with. That turned into a whole breakfast, of which they surprised me in bed with and then joined me. Honestly, it was past eleven by the time we even got back out of bed from eating, talking, and playing with the damn dog.

Then we cleaned up breakfast and all sat down to write some letters. WHAT?! Like old-fashioned letters?! Yep. Jackson wrote four and a thank-you card for Mr. Charlie, our neighbor who gave up fresh figs on Friday. I wrote a letter to three friends, Jerimiah wrote two, but he did it with his calligraphy pen, so extra points. Then we decorated all the envelopes, pulled out our wax seal with the “G” on it and had fun sealing the envelopes. We are pretty much nerds, did you get that yet?

Then we started on our “projects”. The boys had bought car models to put together and I have been working on my “plates”. Listen, it’s best to not ask about “the plates” just yet, I’ll share when I am all finished. Then we had a late lunch and talked some more. The talking was much needed.

After lunch Jerimiah and played Bunny Kingdom, our favorite board game, but Jackson (who was a little antsy at this point) opted to build Legos and clean his desk. This is also when he realized he missed a call from Morgan about playing Minecraft four hours before! He freaked out a bit and we allowed him to text her to see if she could play, but she couldn’t, so he walked around bummed for a bit while we finished our game.

Jackson cleaned his desk up and organized some Legos, then Jerimiah and him went out to work on the garden while I maid dinner, Jackson’s request: Grilled cheese and tomato soup. We ended the night cleaning the house for about an hour, all hands on deck, emptying trash cans for the week, getting all laundry to the laundry room (it was really nice to not have to do it myself), then we played a game of “cars”, Jackson’s favorite, then ended the evening reading the next chapter in Harry Potter. We are in book six, for those wondering. We’ve been reading the series as a family over the past year.

So, that was that. Not at all bad, and actually a really productive day. We didn’t get any yard work done, but man it was hot, so now we have to work on the yard in the evenings, but it was worth it, trust me.

So here is wishing you all a fun, relaxing day with your families sometimes soon. And if you are up for it, try it tech-free, it might be awesome!

M.

Popsicle Sticks

I started walking to get Jackson from school this week. It is one mile there and one mile back if I take the “long route”. I take the long route because the long route involves a stoplight, whereas the shortcut involves waiting for a break in a busy state highway, in Atlanta, then running like mad across five lanes while you scream “Don’t hit me! Don’t hit me! Don’t hit me!” So I prefer the stoplight.

So this week I walked the two miles every day. By day two I had already developed shin splint. By day three my whole body hurt like I was an active person. But by day four I felt okay. I track my walk with my Apple Watch and my Apple Watch, for usually being a little, whiny bitch, has actually been pretty helpful. Everyday I’d cut my time down by 30 seconds. And by day two, Jackson didn’t even mind the walking. By day four he told me he looked forward to it. Not only is it good, quality time with his mommy (heart swoon), but “walkers” get out ten minutes before “car riders”. Oh, yep. That’s the real reason.

Anyway, on Thursday I couldn’t shake this feeling that I was missing something. But I had my Apple Watch on, and my phone in my hand just in case. So what was it that I needed. Then I realized that I was missing 15 popsicle sticks.

I don’t know if you guys had to do this, or even remember it, but when I was in fifth grade in Kansas there was such a thing as The Presidential Fitness Test. It consisted of a bunch of bullshit, if you were to ask a chubby Little Missy, like the despised “Sit and Reach”, where Mr. Hendee, our beloved, normally very rational and nice P.E. teacher, taped a yard stick to a cardboard box and you had to sit with your legs straight against the box and reach out on the yard stick as far as you could. What was the purpose? Who fucking knows! But it was for sure something we had to do twice a year. Along with “Pull-Ups” which was just us hanging on a bar until our hands gave up. I always lasted about five seconds. Then there were push-ups and sit-ups with your friend sitting on your feet (my BFF LeeAnne was as heavy as a damn stick, and I would just lift her up every time I sat up. She was useless). Then there was the dreaded one-mile run.

The dreaded one-mile run took place in the “soccer field” which was just the bit of grass after the blacktop where the cool boys played soccer at recess. Mr. Hendee set up bright orange cones. Just two. And we had to run around them 16 times. That, as he had equated, was a mile. I dunno how far apart the cones had to be, you do the math.

How did you keep track of your laps? Great question. Every time you passed Mr. Hendee, he handed you a popsicle stick. So by the end of your run you had 15 popsicle sticks in your sweaty, little hands. I often, OFTEN, wondered if they were used popsicle sticks, but never asked. Did I really want to know?

Anyway, one time, on the night before the dreaded one-mile run, I had been playing outside with my friends well into the evening. The street lights had just come on when I heard my mom’s unmistakable whistle that meant it was time for me to come in. As I got on my bike, my foot got tangled up with my pedal and fell, my bike coming down hard on my ankle. Later that night, after some medicine, it was still a little swollen and tender to the touch but it was decided that I would survive. Nothing seemed broken. But just to be safe, my mom would write Mr. Hendee a note to tell him that I was not to run the next day. WHAAAAAA?! I had no idea you could do that! I was amazed with my mom and her powers.

The next day I went to school with very little pain and a normal sized ankle, and the note happily tucked into my backpack. When P.E. time came the pain “suddenly” came back to my ankle. I started limping for effect, and everyone was asking me what was wrong. Ankle. I said. Probably broken. I limped slowly up toward Mr. Hendee when we were still in the gym. He eyed me suspiciously. I handed him the note, then looked pathetically down at my ankle.

“Did your mom take you to the doctor,” he asked, folding the note back up and putting it in his shirt pocket. He always had shirts with pockets.

I shook my head no.

“Okay, he said. You can make it up next week. Let’s go class!”

My mouth sank. Whaaaaaa?! I thought I would be exempt from the whole run, but apparently this was not Mr. Hendee’s first rodeo.

I got to hand out the popsicle sticks that day. One after the other, to sweaty, unwashed, little hands. Then the next week I had to run by myself, around the gym, while everyone else was playing parachute. Hmpf. Ain’t that some shit?

So there you go. I learned my lesson. I never tried to get out of another mile run again. And all this week, going back and forth, the two miles everyday, nothing to hold in my sweaty, unwashed hands, I suddenly missed those damn popsicle sticks to keep me company.

Thanks Mr. Hendee. For calling me out on my bullshit. And for teaching me how to juggle scarves.

M.

Keep it Positive, Y’all

Something funny has occurred on my Facebook feed. Listen, I know I talk about Facebook way too much, but it is in fact how I stay connected to most of my family members, where I share pics of Jackson, and also where I get my news, besides Jerimiah’s weird, but informative podcasts. The funny thing that happened is all my friends and family members who were/are Trump supporters no longer share Trump things. Instead, they share things like recipes, and positive quotes, and a lot of stuff about God. Then they implore all of us on FB to “keep it positive” by not sharing political stuff. Meanwhile, a year ago that is all they shared, hate-fueled, non-factual, political stuff.

So now here I am wondering: Do they still support Trump or are they FINALLY embarrassed about what they have done? I’m also thinking, nah, I won’t be just sharing positive stuff, because we don’t live in a positive world and those Trump supporters are to blame for it. So, they can keep seeing my political/sad stuff or they can unfriend me. Their choice. You don’t get to run your mouth and say mean and hurtful things, then get a pass because you had a “change of heart”. I see you. I know you. And now I know the kind of person you really are.

I’m thinking about all this today because I am wondering about the next election. I am wondering if they will feel compelled enough to not vote the same way again. They got us into this mess, they should be the ones to step up and get us out. But they won’t. We know that. It is up to us, y’all. I am positive about that. We have to keep doing what we are doing. Bringing the injustices to the forefront, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes people feel. It needs to stay fresh in their minds, in our minds, in all of our hearts. This evil that has taken over needs to be remembered come time for elections. We can’t sweep it under the rug, not now, not ever. Something has changed in our country and there is no ignoring it.

The Georgia Democratic Party came to my door yesterday. The representative was a lovely man, with a deep, deep desire to overturn HB 481, Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act; enact which was introduced this session by the following people:

Ed Setzler, 35th district

Jodi Lott, 122nd district

Darlene Taylor, 173rd district

Josh Bonner, 72nd district

Ginny Ehrhart, 36th district

Micah Gravely, 67th district

It’s important to name the enemy of the people.

It’s also important to say that, while Atlanta Metro is a bright blue dot in a red state, the 7th district still has pockets of deep, deep racial divide. Including, but not limited to, the town of Cumming, Ga who up until the 1990s had a sign at their town entrance warning “N-words” to stay away.

I needed this reminder. We all need this reminder. There is nastiness, racism, injustice, hate, and bigotry in our country and it comes from the top. We aren’t bottling it up. We aren’t sweeping over it with recipes and pictures of dogs playing with sticks. This is real. And the people who no longer want to face it are the people who help make it this way. So no, I won’t be “keeping it positive” to make you feel better. This is us now.

Stay strong, y’all. And remember to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.

M.

Problems in Houston

Houston, we have a problem. That is what I repeatedly said to my husband and son while on a whirlwind weekend trip to Houston a couple of weeks ago. I said it usually when I had to go to the bathroom. A number two. Somewhere in public. It never got old for my son, but I assume that it did for my husband, particularly when we were at NASA and he said, “You need to see a damn gastroenterologist.” Hmpf.

So yeah, we went to Houston a couple of weeks ago*. We got there on a Friday night and left on a Sunday and honestly, for it being part of Texas, I was pleasantly surprised. Now, would I go again? Uh, probably not. Once you’ve seen that many concrete highways, strip malls, and chain restaurants in one place, you are probably good. But I am glad we went. I am glad my son got to go to Texas (his first time) and I am glad that I gave Texas another shot after the fiasco I had in Amarillo many moons ago. (Let’s save that for another post shall we? Just know, I am not a fan of Texas.)

But Houston felt different. It certainly felt WAY better than anywhere in West Texas, and it certainly smelled better too. My son was slightly disappointed because I had told him that you sorta of know when you cross the Texas state line because you can smell the cow poop. He was sniffing, but there was no cow poop in sight. So that was a plus, but it also made me look like a liar. So now I have to take him to Abilene. Which sucks. There is never a good time to go to Abilene.

Anyway, we went to NASA, toured the Johnson Space Center (until we got rained out and had to take the tram back early causing us to miss Mission Control, #SadFace) then tried some of that awesome chain restaurant food that we have never been to (Chuy’s and Shipley Donuts), stopped in to the Art Car Museum (which was a big hit), and took a stroll to Houston’s own version of Chicago’s “Bean” which is lovingly called, “The Refried Bean”. We even met up with our cousin Britny, and her sweet doggo Willow, who have called Houston home for several years now. It ended up being a nice, little weekend, just jam-packed. Then again that’s how we usually do things.

Anywho, here are some pics for your enjoyment. As always, have a great day and remember, Houston—not bad, Amarillo—very bad. Mkay. Bye.

M.

A Houston Morning (view of downtown)

*This trip was before the sadness and madness that unfolded in El Paso. I feel so sorry for what happened there. And while I am steadfast in my distaste of Texas as a whole, I know there are a lot of good people there, just trying to get by. And a lot of them are immigrants. And that was some crazy, racist-fueled bullshit, and if you want to see how I feel about that you can check out a vlog I made here: https://missygoodnight.com/2019/08/06/right-to-bear-a-tomahawk-thrower/

My Friend Zeke

My mom as a housekeeper when I was a kid. She worked full-time cleaning military barracks at Fort Leavenworth, but she worked part-time (mainly weekends) cleaning private homes. I would often accompany her on her weekend cleanings, where I would mainly sit and wait patiently for her to clean someone else’s house, before she went home and cleaned our own. My mom was well-known around town for being very tidy, punctual, and trustworthy. She also beat most competitor prices, especially those “maid services” that were popping up around that time in the late 80s. Before long she had some clients she preferred more than others, who treated her well (and me), and she was able to cut off a lot of the other ones. One of those such clients were a couple of local doctors who had a beautiful, and quite large, house out in the country, across from a field of horses. They had no family near, they were both from New York, and they were both retired Army, having worked their way through med school while serving. They didn’t have children, but they did have the biggest dog I have ever seen and will probably ever see, his name was Zeke, he was a Great Dane, and for a little while he was my best friend.

Zeke was large and brown and looked exactly like Scooby-Doo. Apparently that is one of the things I first said when I met him. I asked why they didn’t name him Scooby-Doo. Missy, the wife, agreed with me and threw her hand out toward her husband in an exasperated manner saying, “This one doesn’t like Scooby-Doo.” That may be why I never really liked her husband, but that didn’t matter much to me because along with Zeke, they had a grand piano, a pantry full of gourmet snack foods I had never heard of, and an above-ground swimming pool that they allowed me to swim in whenever we came over.

I remember the first time I was alone in the great room. Missy had been home when we got there one Saturday morning, but said she’d be running out for errands in a bit. While my mom immediately started cleaning, I sat up shop at the dining room table, which my mom had picked for me, being what seemed the safest spot for a messy six-year-old, in a room full of antique furniture and family heirlooms. It was a modern, sturdy table and it fit more people than I thought you would ever need to. I swung my feet, too small for them to reach the floor, back and forth and I drew in my notebook that I had brought.

Missy came into the room from the kitchen, her sweats on, her hair pulled back, and her bag slung over her shoulder. She asked what I was doing, and I showed her the picture of the star I was working on. She told me she had a trick to drawing stars, and asked if I wanted to see. I said yes, and she came over and taught me how to draw those stars, you know the ones, made of triangles, where you never lift your pen from the paper. I thought it was magic!

Then she told me that she was leaving, her husband was golfing all day, and the house was mine. She asked me to play ball with Zeke at some point, and she suggested I play the piano as no one had touched it in years. I was amazed, but suppressed the giant smile I felt inside, and waved goodbye. I ran to the window when I heard the garage door open and watched while her small BMW pulled out of the driveway. I listened for my mom, as I slowly walked by the piano and lightly touched the keys, tempting myself to push one down. I heard a vacuum somewhere far away in the house, and I froze. Even though Missy had said I could play it, I knew if my mom heard me she would run downstairs and scold me for touching it. So instead I grabbed the tennis ball from the basket that sat near the front door, and turned to yell for Zeke, but before I could get his name out of my mouth, he came zooming around the side of the stairs so fast that he ran into me and knocked us both down.

“Zeke!” I yelled, in the middle of Great Dane kisses and happy tail wags. I was not experienced with dogs. We never owned one. We were renters, and usually pet deposits were too expensive. Not to mention the cost to feed them, take them to the vet, and what about if they made a big mess or broke something? We simply couldn’t afford a pet, pets were luxuries reserved for rich people. But here I was, face to face with this giant, cuddly guy, who wanted nothing more than to be my best friend. It was the day things changed for me. They day that I started to realize that not all people live like we do. That not all people just have to dream about having a dog that loves them. The day I started to piece together what I wanted my adult life to look like one day.

Zeke and I played ball that day. We played in the backyard, in the front yard. We played in the family room downstairs, until my mom came down to clean and kicked us out. We played every day that I went to Missy’s house after that. When I swam in the pool after my mom finished cleaning, and she sat on the deck talking to Missy, both of them drinking Diet Cokes as Missy’s husband yelled about how bad Diet Coke were for you, Zeke would jump into the pool to chase me. When they went out of town, they asked my mom to house-sit for a week, and they asked me to dog-sit. This happened several times, over many years, and I was always delighted. In those moments I was allowed to fully live out my dream. My big, beautiful house with a master bathroom that had a shower with a built in seat, and a basement with a ping-pong table and a big screen television. But mostly, I was able to lay out in the front yard, with it’s meticulously mowed Kentucky Bluegrass, Zeke next to me, a tennis ball in his mouth, and tell him all my little girl dreams.

Eventually my mom stopped house-sitting and I stopped pet-sitting. Missy and her husband had a couple of kids. Her mother moved to Kansas. Missy got cancer. Her husband got sued. Zeke died. I grew into an angsty teen. I forgot all those little girl dreams. But on certain sunny, summer days, I think about my friend Zeke and our time together. When I am floating in a clear, flat pool, when I see a tennis ball roll from under a couch, when my own dog jumps at me with such force I have to steady myself, on those days I think about Zeke, and I remember those dreams, buried way down inside, and I know those dreams are what is pushing me, driving me to do what I do. Reminding me why my husband and I have made the sacrifices that we have. We might not have a BMW, or a three-level home with a pool, but we climbed from the lives we knew, the lives we were destined for, and we are still climbing, everyday, for us, for our son, for the people who can’t make the climb. And we are so thankful for those people who reached back and pulled us along with them. It reminds us to do the same.

Thanks, Missy, for teaching me to draw stars, so I could cast myself out into the world with them.

Thanks Zeke, for listening and loving, all those years ago. I hope you are somewhere chasing tennis balls all day long.

And thanks, Mom, for letting me tag along all the time, everywhere. Allowing me to have experiences and meet people that other kids like me don’t have the privilege of. And thanks too, for never thinking my big, little dreams were too far off. Who knew we’d make it this far.

M.

PS… This isn’t Zeke, but this is certainly how I remember him. When he would hit you with his tail (from excitement) it would leave a mark!

Right to Bear a Tomahawk Thrower

Listen, I’ve gone from sad to angry as shit in two days. This here video is about the Second Amendment. You probably don’t want to watch it if you A. Love Trump or B. Have ever said, “…from my cold, dead hands”. The rest of you, enjoy. And call your senators. Get loud.

RIP Zoe (bottom right)

M.