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.