A Glimpse into My Life

“Mommy!”

“Mommy!”

“Mommy.”

(Barking)

“Mommy…”

“Mommy.” (Eye roll)

“Mommy!!!”

“Mom…eeeeeeeeeeee.”

“Mom. Mom. Mommy. Mom.”

(Loud barking from the hallway)

“Mommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmy!”

Bark. Bark. Bark. (Skid across the floor) Bark. Bark.

Breakfast time.

Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark…

You get the picture.

M.

Deep, Deep South

I’m in the Deep, Deep South, y’all. And I’m in it deep. Like fried chicken from the Piggly Wiggly counter, sweet tea at the plantation, carrying a knife in case of gators, must be white to have money, deep. Deep, y’all. I’m only halfway through my first week here and I am already emotionally drained. Things are different here. They are different than any other part of the United States I have ever been. Things here are different physically, financially, and economically. They are different in ways that you can see, and in ways you can feel. The way people look at you. The way people move around in public places. Yes, things are different in the ways that you can see. In the physical. But it’s the things that you can’t that make it so disturbing.

The first thing I noticed crossing over the Alabama line from Georgia is the physical changes. The roads for example, went from smooth, black asphalt to a bumpy red and brown mixture. The potholes nearly doubled, and the trash on the side of the road skyrocketed. By the time we were in Montgomery, a mere two hours from our house, I felt like we had been transported thousands of miles, and by the time we got to Mobile I felt like we had been transported back in time. At a Piggly Wiggly between Biloxi and Gulfport, I overheard a man and a woman arguing over whether or not he would blow his whole paycheck at the casino, and then I watched as a woman made the crucial decision on whether to spend her last dollar on a candy bar (that was marked on sale, but rang up full price) or a Faygo Orange Soda. She picked the soda as it went better with her microwavable shrimp gumbo.

The second or third time my car hit a very large pothole, I asked my husband why the roads were so bad. He mumbled something about low taxes and that we need to check our tire pressure. The next day he sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal with the subject: Thought you might be interested in this, per conversation yesterday. The article title was: The South’s Economy is Falling Behind: “All of a Sudden the Money Stops Flowing”. I will leave a link to it here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-souths-economy-is-falling-behind-all-of-a-sudden-the-money-stops-flowing-11560101610 He is right, my husband. The South doesn’t like taxes. They also don’t like education, healthy food, or relinquishing their divisive ways, and nowhere are those ways more divisive than here in Baton Rouge.

In Baton Rouge there is a very clear economic and racial divide, and it starts near the university. Louisiana State is quite clearly the pride and joy of Baton Rouge, but it seems to go a step further. Something changes when you see the first sign that says: LSU This Way. The streets get better. The houses get nicer. You suddenly don’t feel like you are stuck in Louisiana. I Suddenly felt like I was in Kansas City, or Chicago, or one of those tree-lined streets in (insert small Northern town). Jackson and I spent about an hour walking around campus yesterday. We saw Tiger Stadium, which rivals Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City (home of the NFL team The Chiefs) and shines so brightly at night, that a purple haze can be seen across the Baton Rouge shipyards, deep into Port Allen. We saw Mike the Tiger in his 15,000 square foot enclosure, complete with a waterfall and a rock that both cools in the summertime and heats in the winter. He is a lazy sort of Bengal, having never had to work for his food, nor fight for his dominance. He was born and raised in captivity, and was gifted to the University from a tiger rescue in Florida. He is the seventh tiger to be housed on the LSU campus and a constant reminder of Baton Rouge’s priorities.

We were schooled in Mike the Tiger from other visitors from the moment we stepped foot onto campus, until the moment we left. They beamed as they told us: He likes to run and jump at the fence. He likes to have his belly scratched. There are only two people allowed in the fence. He has a separate enclosure for game day. He used to be placed behind the opposing team in a rickety sort of cage. Psychological warfare. Cool. Very cool. Their pride in this tiger is palpable. The rampant racism that sizzles under the surface like the midday sun, is less noticeable.

There were a group of school children at Mike’s enclosure when we got there. There were maybe twelve or fifteen of them. There were about four adult escorts. The children were running along the enclosure fence, yelling for Mike to come out of his lazy, afternoon nap. They were pumped up to see him. I imagine they had traveled by bus to get to him. They had energy to burn. When Mike would move one of them would yell for the others and they would all crowd around, trying to get the best view. Occasionally one of them would whistle. Jackson joined a group of six or seven other boys at the fence line and was looking at me smiling. An older woman, there with her grandchildren to see Mike, approached me and politely suggested I get my child back away from the enclosure with a wink and a nod. It wasn’t because Mike was up and around. He hadn’t moved from his afternoon siesta. It wasn’t because she feared for my son’s life at the paws of a Bengal Tiger. It was because all the children hanging on the fence line were black.

I’m probably not saying anything new here. It’s the South, after all. And I probably have a lot more to say on the topic. And I feel like I am taking the easy way out by ending here. But sometimes you just have to see something to believe it. And this was my seeing. And now I just don’t know what to do with it.

M.

It Ain’t Over til it’s Over

Lenny Kravitz has been on my mind lately. Not just any version of Lenny Kravitz, the version of him with a fishnet shirt. His head tilted back. His ripped muscles going down, down, down… His hair long and braided. Or short. Or shaved. Or a scarf wrapped around his head, my point here being that his hair doesn’t matter too much. His arms, his neck. His thick neck. His little thicket of chest hair popping against his fishnet. Whew. Imma need a second.

Here’s the thing, Lenny is sexy as hell even at (gasp!) fifty-five years old. Lenny is fifty-five, Missy?! You shut your heathen mouth, no he isn’t. Lenny is only twenty-five, and he has the chest of a God and the calf muscles of an actual baby calf. Uh, no y’all. He is fifty-five and guess what?! No one gives a shit cause he fly as hell. Also, stop giving a shit how old someone is. Age really is irrelevant, you ageists! Look at you! Stop it! People are wonderful and magnificent at any age, and if you give someone a chance they may surprise you. I have several friends who are older than me and they are awesome and amazing and they make my life better everyday.

Redirecting.

I have a problem y’all. Lenny has always stirred me in the right direction. In fact, the night before our wedding I frantically made a list of my “passes” while Jerimiah assured me that yes, in fact, if Lenny Kravitz or Michelle Rodriguez or Vince Vaughn… Wait, Vince Vaughn? Okay, this one is harder to explain. I like people who make me laugh. Okay that wasn’t so hard. So yeah, if Lenny or Michelle or Vince ever approach me for sex, even after marriage, I could say yes with no guilt. But Lenny was on top of the list. Ohhh, Lenny on top. Hehehe.

And I get it, Lenny is happily married. And so am I, so that’s good. But listen, if Lenny were to waltz in the door right now, scoop me up into his arms (this is my fantasy not yours) and say, Baby, let’s rock well then, we’d rock. And roll. And tumble. And someone would get tied up. Bottom line: Bottom. Hehehe. Bottom line: Lenny Kravitz man. Lenny Kravitz.

That is all.

M.

Laundry

Here’s the thing: I hate laundry. Hate. It. But somedays I am in the laundry room, folding clothes, sorting socks, and hanging up dresses, and I am all, Wow, you rock, Momma! You do all this for your family. You take care of your people. You show love with acts of service to others. They might not realize all you do, but you know, in your heart, that you will always care for them in this way. Laundry is but a window into your loving soul, and you are the best one to do this all. Then the next day when I am in the laundry room, folding clothes, sorting socks, and hanging up dresses, I am all, Fuck this shit, I’m moving to a nudest colony! You sons-a-bitches don’t deserve me! Yeah, I said it. A nudest colony. And you might think that I don’t have the courage to do that, but I do. I have already looked them up. And yeah, they are all mainly in Florida. And yeah, that means small, wrinkly, old man penis in my face all the time, but look at me! LOOK AT ME! I am a Goddess and they would LOVE to have me there, and you know what (laughs crazily), you know what, they would WORSHIP me! Worship me, you pile of dirty-sock, poop-stained underwear-wearing assholes! Those old, wrinkly men would WORSHIP me!

And then I apologize to my dog for yelling at him and I finish up the laundry.

M.

Branson, Missouri

If you’re like me, you’re tired as shit of visiting Branson, Missouri. But if you’re like me, that means you also lived there for five years and you did all the things. Like, ALL THE THINGS. So you’re sorta worn out with that nonsense. If you are also like me, you have a child who, while born in the local Branson hospital, still doesn’t really remember his time there. So whenever he visits he wants to do ALL THE THINGS again. Le sigh. Loooong story short, we spent a few days in Branson a couple of weeks ago and took Jackson to the Toy Museum, which he had actually never visited, though we had. And then he talked us into the Celebrity Car Museum which we have all been to SEVERAL times. Then of course there was Silver Dollar City, which I don’t mind too much since it has roller coasters and the little Wilderness Church. You see, my husband and I got married in that little Wilderness Church on an unusually warm December day in 2007. So it is always sorta fun to have our picture made in front of it.

So, ahem, what follows are a bunch of pics from our few days in Branson, including a timeline of sorts in front of our little church.

Enjoy.

M.

PS… If you don’t know what Silver Dollar City is, or you have never heard of Branson, Missouri before, good on you! But just know that you will never experience a woman dressed in 19th century garb slinging Dippin Dots anywhere else! Link here: https://www.silverdollarcity.com/theme-park

Mike the Tiger

I’m writing this post early, like three days early, because on Sunday morning (this morning, but not this this morning, you know what I mean) I am actually headed to Louisiana for two weeks and the plan is to head out early because it is a bit of a drive from Atlanta to Baton Rouge. In preparation for this trip, I have been talking to my 10-year-old son about Louisiana, because he has never been. My husband goes once a month for work. He has also been to New Orleans, as have I (if you don’t already know that get yourself up to speed on my Mardi Gras Experience in my four part series. Here is the first part: https://missygoodnight.com/2019/03/01/corner-of-bourbon-and-canal/ be aware, this is not for the faint of heart.)

Anywho, we have been discussing alligators and the show Swamp People. We have been talking about slavery and Water Moccasins. Civil War, why rebel flags are in fact hate, not heritage, LSU and Mike the Tiger, and Crawfish. I even gave him a painfully boring lecture on what it means to be Creole versus Cajun, and how pidgin languages came to be. He isn’t as into linguistics as I’d hoped.

The thing is, he is now TERRIFIED of Louisiana. But for good reason. I mean, they keep a tiger in a cage so that with every roar they can score touchdowns. It doesn’t add up. So yeah, he’s confused, and a little scared. He thinks we are going to be attacked by an alligator if we take an airboat tour. He thinks the Mike the Tiger will get out of his enclosure and chase us. He thinks he will go for a swim in the hotel pool and the bottom will open up, all Freddy-style, and suck him out into the swamp and he will be forced to live with Troy and Big Billy and make a living off of unsuspecting tourists for the rest of his life. And truth be told, it could all happen. Especially in Louisiana.

So, I guess what I am asking for here is some prayer. Or some good thoughts. Or maybe where to get gumbo that won’t burn his tongue? Cause I don’t know much about Baton Rouge and the surrounding area. And I don’t know much about much anyway. So if we get eaten by a gator, well then that is on you guys. Or the Voodoo Queens that I made mad. Just a heads up.

See you around.

Or not.

M.

The Bomber

My second grade teacher Mrs. Parks was reading the whole class an Aesop Fable. I don’t remember which one it was. Maybe it was The Tortoise and the Hare or maybe it was The Boy Who Cried Wolf, I just remember that my entire second grade class was sitting crisscross applesauce in a sorta-circle under the blackboard. Yes, we had a blackboard. Actually, I think it was green, not black. We called it a chalkboard. We also had a music staff liner that we’d stuff with chalk to make lines on the board for handwriting practice. Yes, I’m real-chalkboard-in-the-classroom old. Anyway, there we were 20 or so eight-year-olds sitting sorta-circle on the linoleum floor in front of our ancient chalkboard, looking up eagerly at our teacher as she read from a large picture book. Before every turn of the page she would slowly turn the book around in one of those here-it-comes-kids sorta ways. This little game could go on for a long time. We never got tired of the excitement of seeing the beautiful illustrated pages. It’s like we craved the jitters that it gave us. It’s kind weird, I suppose. We were all just little Aesop Fables junkies. But I digress. The pertinent information here is that our small bodies would go from tense, to relaxed every minute or so, which is fine and dandy if you don’t have a track record of tooting in your pants.

There I was sitting between Stephanie, the girl with the two moms, and Billy the kid with diabetes, and they were poking at each other in front of me. I kept slapping at Billy’s hand when he would reach over me to poke Stephanie. Eventually Mrs. Parks noticed my dilemma and told them to stop, taking the burden off of me. But they didn’t, so she motioned for me to come sit next to her. This made me happy because I am forever a Teacher’s Pet. But, that also meant that I had to sit next to Dusty. Ugh. Dusty. He was a mess. He always had to sit next to Mrs. Parks because he couldn’t be trusted otherwise.

So I start to shuffle on my hands and knees to the spot in front of Mrs. Parks, when I feel a sneeze coming on. I tried to scuttle faster, but my classmates were everywhere making it hard for me to get to my spot, so instead I just kind of sheltered in place. I stopped in the middle of the sorta-circle and sat on my knees, leaned back a bit, and braced for the sneeze impact. And then I snarted.

Yeah, you’re not gonna find that word in the OED, but basically I sneeze/farted. Not to be confused with sharting. I didn’t shart. I let out a snart. And the whole class heard it. And Mrs. Parks stopped reading. And Billy stopped his poking. And the room fell silent. And Dusty yelled, “Melissa let out a bomber!” and the laughter came quicker than the snart had. My face got really hot. And my body got really hot. And my lunch started to bubble up in my throat, and I thought I might throw up chocolate milk and chili. The laughter was intense and Mrs. Parks kindly tried to get control of them, but it took a few moments. Meanwhile everyone was looking at me, sitting on my legs, in the middle of the sorta-circle. I didn’t know what to do. I panicked. I looked over at Shawn, the blonde kid next to me. We locked eyes for a split second and then I said, in a low, shaky voice, “It was Shawn.” Then more laughter as Dusty pointed at Shawn and said, “Shawn let out a bomber!” Then I hung my head and scooted back to my original spot. I deserved it. And Shawn never said a word about it.

So I guess I’m here to publicly say: I am sorry, Shawn. I’m a dirty, rat-bastard with bad gastro-intestinal issues that have plagued me since childhood and you were one of my victims. I wish I could have owned up to my snart, but you get it, man. Girls just can’t afford to be the bomber in second grade. We just can’t afford it.

Thanks, Shawn. Thanks.

M.

Snapped

Over the last few weeks when I was not writing, I was still snapping photos. And I figure what better way to share them than on my bloggy-blog with all you unsuspecting souls. In short, when I get creatively blocked I go in search of my lost creativity. Sometimes I find it, sometimes I do not, but it is worth a shot (see what I did there, oh I make myself giggle). Anyhoo, here are some pics I snapped in Oklahoma last week. I took a short, unexpected trip to the Tulsa area and came back with these puppies. It was an interesting landscape. The raw, rural midwest in all its weathered glory. And I do mean weathered. There had been mass flooding and storms in the region, but we happened upon it on an overcast day with only small storms. The pictures of my husband and son are on a plot of land in central Oklahoma that belonged to my husband’s late uncle J.R., whom both my husband and son share the initials of (Jerimiah Robert and Jackson Riker). My father-in-law lives at his brother’s house now and we spent a few hours out there while Jackson and Sir Duke explored. Jackson is a car guy, if you don’t know, so he enjoyed fiddling with his Papa’s Chevy Blazer, then checking out some old cars his cousin has out back. He asked for pictures with the “cool” cars. 🙂 Honestly, it was nice to capture some shots of a place that means a lot to my husband. He used to spend summers out at “JRs place” and though Jackson never made it to meet his great uncle before he passed away, we think they would have hit it off.

The other pictures are from my wonderings around a few small towns in the area, and of a park in Tulsa that Sir Duke and I walked in, right before a storm blew through. If you have never spent a lot of time in rural Oklahoma, maybe this will help you want to visit! Or maybe run far away from it. Either way, it helped me stay creative when I couldn’t quite put pen to paper.

I hope you enjoy.

M.

Home is Where Your Shit Is

We were driving back to Atlanta last weekend, after being in Southern Missouri for a week, and my husband and I were talking about that word Home, and what it means to us. You see, Southern Missouri used to be our home. We lived there for 10 years. We graduated college there. We were married there. We started our little family there. We made everlasting friends there. His mother still lives in Southern Missouri, and we go back to visit from time to time. And when we go visit we say, as we do when we go to Kansas, that we are going home. But lately, I have started to feel different about Southern Missouri. About all the places I have lived before. And over the last few months when someone asks where we are from, I have caught myself saying that we are from Charlotte. And I have been trying to figure out why.

I mentioned this to my husband, while we shoved our mouths full of road trip food and tried to stay awake in the searing dusk. I told him that I think I give that word too much power. That the older I get the more I realize that I am lost and that I don’t really know what makes something, or someone, feel like home. I told him that we use our home too often as a way to define who we are and what we can accomplish. I told him that seems somewhat limiting. He told he wanted to sleep in his own bed. Truth be told, I did too, but I was more caught up in the places I have called home, and how even when I go back to those places, I yearn to be back to my current home.

Living in Atlanta isn’t so bad. In fact, I had built it up to be this monster of a place, and really it isn’t any different than any other city. It has its “good” parts and its “bad”. It has sweet, kind people. And it has people who scare you a little. It has great drivers, and crazy, aggressive drivers. It is just a lot of people, from a lot of different homes, mixed up together in a tiny area trying to get by. And honestly, it feels surprisingly good to be a part of the ebb and flow of the ATL. It, dare I say, feels like home?

So how can Southern Missouri, and Leavenworth, Kansas, and Charlotte, North Carolina, and Atlanta all feel like home to me? The closest I can come up with is the people I am doing this damn life with are my home, and while there are some constants, my husband, my son, my dog, there are other people too. There are the neighbors. The ones in our cul-de-sac now are not that different from the ones who were on our street in Charlotte. We have Mr. Charlie, and Mrs. Kim, and Chris and Christy, and yes even Ginger and Scooter. And they smile and they wave. They check on our house when we are gone, and they pull our trash cans up from the curb if we forget. There are whole communities and lovely people inside each of the places we have called home.

There is my favorite Target, and the one I will go to in a pinch. There is the good Dunkin and the bad one. The clean Kroger and the dirty one. There is that coffee shop at the corner where people sit for a spell and talk about their day. There is that game store that sells comic books and Magic cards. There is IKEA, and TJ Maxx, and Walmart. Dear Baby Jesus, there are the Walmarts.

There are the neighbors who wave and those who don’t. There are the moms in the PTO who are a little crazy, but manage to get it all done. There are the teachers who love your kid like crazy, and the ones you wonder about. There are the post office employees who keep smiling, even when they really want to hit that woman in front of the line who doesn’t know how stamps work. There are the pharmacists who tell the same thing to 100 different people every day. Yes, this pill might make you sick to your stomach. Take it with food, please.

There are the brainwashed Chick-fil-A employees, and the Jesus Saves guys on mopeds. There are the little women who ask which church you belong to and would you like to come to Sunday service? There are dads mowing lawns in New balance sneakers, yelling about gas prices, and how hard it is to start this damn weed-eater, I swear I’m going to buy a new one soon.

There are people asking for money with signs that say, Veteran and Anything Helps. There are the drug dealers who deal in dime bags and the ones who deal in cartel meth. There are the women who wear too much perfume and the ones who insist on make-up to workout. There are the teenagers sneaking a six-pack down to the river, so they can listen to music and make out with that red-headed girl.

And all of these people live in all of these places. And all of these places are home. Someone’s home. And in the end, it doesn’t matter so much which home was yours. Which one you wanted to belong to, which ones you never did. Because for as much as each of these homes is unique, they are also so very much alike. And sometimes we forget that. And sometimes we need a reminder.

“I think maybe home is where your shit is,” I told my husband somewhere between Tupelo and Birmingham.

He smiled. “I think you might be right.”

M.

Sir Duke is a Shithead

My dog woke me up at four this morning. I suspect it was so that he could go poop out the book that he ate yesterday when I left him at home for about three hours. I wondered, for a split second, what it feels like to poop out a book. Which led me to wonder why one would eat a book? Is it like when I was pregnant and I craved coffee grinds? Is it that thing where your body is lacking iron so you desire to eat dirt? Or is it more of that thing where you have a mental problem and you only feel better if you eat little bits of mattress that you purchase in bulk at Sam’s Club, because they can’t be used mattresses, you have standards. I suspect of course, it’s because he is a dog. And dogs eat crazy shit. He likes, for instance, to rifle through our bathroom trash from time to time and get himself a little snack. Used q-tips, leftover floss, or his personal favorite: tissue smeared with excrements from our noses. He doesn’t prefer one of our noses over the other. He likes all snot the same.

But this whole only eating my shit when he is left alone, well that is pointed.

When he was a puppy we kenneled him, much to my dismay. Our overweight, chocolate lab Bentley who was put to sleep last year (you can read about her here: https://missygoodnight.com/2018/10/20/bentley/) was not the kind of dog that we had to kennel. She never wanted to tear our shit up, or make us pay for leaving her alone. She was merely the absolute perfect, best doggo in the whole wide world. No biggie. Sir Duke Barkington of Charlotte, however, is a little shithead.

Sir Duke has anxiety. And believe me, I get that. I too have anxiety. But he has separation anxiety, which is not what I have. In fact, I’m totes okay with spending load of time all alone. All. Alone. Expect for the past year I have not had that opportunity because well, Sir Duke Barkington of Charlotte. He is with me ALL DAY LONG. Everyday. And therein lies the problem.

Make no mistake, I did this to myself. I have always wanted a doggy who loves me so much he waits for me to get home with a wagging tail. He loves to cuddle with me. I am his human. His one and only. Bentley, for as awesome as she was, she wasn’t a cuddle buddy. She slept on my feet for five years or so (until Jackson was born and she had to sleep on the floor in his room for her own peace of mind) but she wasn’t one to hop on the couch with me and watch Netflix. In fact, if you ever accidentally sat down next to her, she’d give you about two minutes to change your mind, then she would get up and walk away. If it weren’t for her size, I’d think she was part cat.

Sir Duke is quite a different story. He seeks you out. Then he hops directly on top of you head. Or your face. Or your uncovered limbs. He licks your eyes, he tries to put his tongue inside your ears. He relentlessly runs to the bathroom whenever he hears me using it. If I have closed the door he whines outside of it. If I have left it open, half-asleep at 6:00 am, he stands in between my legs and waits for me to finish. I just don’t get it.

But, I guess I don’t need to. I guess he’s just that guy. An large, annoying, cuddly, deranged poodle. And well, as much as I bitch and complain about him, he’s mine. And I’m his. And I love that about us. I just wish he’d stop eating my damn books.

M.

Bad Juju and What Not

Yesterday my son tried to open a banana, a skill he still to this day has not mastered, by ripping at the top with his hands all willy-nilly like. When the banana split in half he got frustrated and said, “My bad juju” and laughed. I opened the banana for him and reminded him that “bad juju” is not a real thing. He smiled and said, “I know, Mommy. It’s just a way for people to not take responsibility for their actions.” Then we talked about all the ways he could have opened the banana, or asked for help, or watched a YouTube video on how to open bananas (his suggestion) and so on. So, my 10-year-old can’t open a banana by himself, but he has mastered a way of thinking that many adults are still grasping for. I’m calling this a win.

“Bad juju” is what people in our family say when things go wrong in life. Say for instance your driver’s license is expired because you “haven’t had the time to get it renewed” (read: you haven’t made it a priority), so you take a chance and drive around for a few weeks with it expired. Then you speed, and you get caught, and you get an extra ticket for having an expired license. You bitch and complain to everyone who will listen that you didn’t have time, all the work you do, your meany-mean boss won’t let you leave early, all the time you spend volunteering and helping everyone else (sidebar: playing the victim is also really popular in my family), you just couldn’t make it to the DMV. Poor you! So you chalk it up to “Bad Juju”.

Le sigh. Believe me, I have been tempted to blame “Bad Goodnight Juju” once or twice. I’m sure we all have. Whether you call it “Bad Karma” or a streak of “Bad luck” or “Down in the Dumps”. We’ve all thought it, or said it, or tried, just once, to blame our poor decisions on something else. I’ve done it a million times. Tried to rationalize with myself. It wasn’t my fault. The universe is out to get me. It was payback for that time I (insert sinful thing here). All these things run through our minds. And it is okay. And normal for that to happen. But if you spend a few minutes digging deeper, if you realize you too (gasp!) can be at fault for something, then you will discover what is really happening.

There was a period in our lives when it felt like everything was going wrong. Jerimiah had just lost his job. The company just up and folded one day, still owing him a month or two salary. Then Jackson got very sick. Like had to be life-flighted to the children’s hospital sick. That’s when we found out he had asthma. Then the house we were living in had mold, so we had to move quickly. You get my drift here. With each “thing” that happened we got deeper and deeper into the pit of despair. Finally we looked at each other one night and said, “What the actual hell?! Is this bad juju?” The answer: No. We were making sketchy decisions and paying the price. Jerimiah had taken a job with people he knew weren’t the most honest, respectable people in the biz, and he got burned. We had moved hastily to a new house because I was mad at the owner of our previous house. We refused to see how sick our child was for two days leading up to his transport to the hospital, because we were on vacation and taking him to the doctor in a different state was inconvenient at the time.

From that moment forward we decided to change the way we thought. The risks we took. The way we looked at challenges. We decided to take responsibly for our actions and decisions. We decided to take the natural consequences (Love and Logic right there!) and move forward with the new lessons that those consequences taught us. And from that day forward our lives have been infinitely better. Now, I’m not saying we haven’t had trying times in the last seven years or so, but they feel like little bumps in the road, not major, detrimental, life-changing catastrophes like before. And maybe to some they would be, but when you learn to take responsibility for your actions and decisions. When you decide to be honest and open with others. When you learn which risks are safe risks, and which are not, a million wonderful things infiltrate your life like you wouldn’t believe. And it’s sort of amazing.

This has all been on my mind lately as we gear up for our trip to Louisiana. I have spent way too much time trying to decide what to leave on Marie Laveau’s grave this time, because well, you remember what happened when I didn’t. If not, get up to speed here: https://missygoodnight.com/2019/03/08/bourbon-and-canal-the-finale/ And no, I don’t whole-heartedly believe in this dark magic. And no, I don’t think the members of our family who blame “juju” for their mistakes do either. I think they just refuse to admit when they have messed up. Refuse to openly confess fault. And I used to let them do it. I used to be okay with it. But when my child thinks maybe, just maybe, his family has a curse on them of some kind that he might fall victim to, or he learns you can try to abate judgement by blaming “bad juju” then uhh, no we done with that nonsense.

Now, can we get to the root of the real problem here: What do I leave as a sacrifice on the grave of the best damn Voodoo Queen of New Orleans?

M.

Preoccupied

Hiatus (n): Gap in a series, argument, etc.; break between two vowels coming together but not in the same syllable. That’s what my trusty Pocket OED says hiatus means, and I guess I’ve been on one. To be clear, a hiatus of the first sort. A blogging hiatus. A writing hiatus. An unintentional hiatus, but a hiatus nonetheless. Look it, no one is to blame here. But if I had to blame someone it would be my dog, because well, since the moment he ransacked my heart with his wiggly tail and his fluffy fluff face, I have blamed him for a million things. Things he has no way of being responsible for. Things he has no way of knowing how to rectify. My herbs didn’t get watered when I was gone last week, dog’s fault. The Wood Borers are wrecking havoc on the patio again, dog’s fault. I haven’t put pen to paper in over three weeks, that damn dog. You get what I’m slinging here, yeah? By the way, who just tooted? You guessed it…

Now in reality, I have been preoccupied. Can we call it that? Let’s call it that. In May I went to Leavenworth for a week. Then I brought my mom back to stay with us for three weeks. I should probably just do a full stop there and let you piece together what the rest of my month may have looked like, but I’m feeling rather thorough today. I spent three weeks in the full 24/7 company of my mother, taking her out, showing her the sights and sounds of our new city, shopping, exploring, making food I don’t normally make, listening to stories of people I don’t know from “back home” and getting guilted into saying things like, “No, I totally love The View” and “Yes, let’s do laundry all day today” in the hopes that she enjoy her time here with us, and I think she did. And I enjoyed her company. But, coming from someone who can spend looooong periods of time alone, it is a bit much to be with someone all day, everyday.

Then there was the work trips my husband took in May. The end of school hoopla that we endured for my now rising fifth grader, sightseeing with my mom and ’em, planning and executing a trip back to the Ozarks for Memorial Day Weekend (which came with an unexpected trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma), spending time on Table Rock Lake with friends and family and then back home, finally, to a place of calm and quiet. No tvs blaring in my ear. No one bitching about sunblock. No passive-aggressive relatives making me cringe with ye olde, “Don’t be silly, I am totally fine with what is happening at this moment,” when in fact, they are not totally fine with what is happening at this moment. Ahhh, you hear that? No, that wasn’t me, that was the dog. I mean do you hear the silence? Yeah, it’s nice.

This is a really long, sordid way to say that I am back. I am home. I am home and I am happy. Happy to be typing away at my desk. I have work to send back to editors this week. I have phone calls to make. I have emails to read. I have a whole new (and final) season of Broad City to watch, but that is okay. I am home and alone (save the kid and dog) and I am content. I have much, much to share with you all. Much that I have been thinking on over the last month, so look out blogging world. I hope you welcome me back from hiatus. And I hope you have been taking care of yourself! ❤

M.

PS… Happy Pride Month, y’all hootenannies! (Whew, sorry been in the Ozarks too long)

Two Dudes, One Mouth

Yesterday I found myself in a predicament. I had an appointment at my new dentist with the Endodontist, which is a fancy name for a dentist who specializes in treating and diagnosing tooth pain, and performing root canals. Now I am no stranger to the root canal. My teeth are jacked up (remember my implant that I just had placed like two months ago), I have always been a “problem” patient. “Problem” meaning that I am both completely terrified of the dentist and “problem” meaning I always have something that needs attention. Which I guess also makes me an ideal patient since I pay a lot of money to whichever office I frequent. Because obviously dentists are just money-hungry, Wall Street Tycoon types who desire patients with loads of problems who need to be given Xanax before a simple cleaning and have panic attacks during cavity fillings. Ahem…

Yesterday’s appointment was because I had complained of tooth sensitivity to my new dentist here in Georgia. She did x-rays and wondered about a root canal I’d had performed many moons ago. Like 15 years ago. It was my first root canal and I had it done when I was like 20. Yeah, fucked up teeth. Anyway, she thought maybe it was failing me and that the Endodontist would need to retreat that tooth, something that he does quite a lot and seems to be no big deal. She put me on a round of antibiotics because I had developed an infection under the failing root canal. So I was all, cool. In fact, that was my only problem. I have zero cavities (something that has NEVER happened when I do my annual check-ups). I finally felt like I had my mouth under control.

Then I got to my appointment yesterday. The Endodontist was a funny guy, middle-aged, and graying. He had a soft voice and was very gentle in his movements and his demeanor. He looked at my x-rays and said that while my 15-year-old root canal (tooth #30) was in fact failing me, he thought that wasn’t my only problem. He explained that while I did have an infection, it wasn’t a big deal, and surely wasn’t the reason that I had sensitivity, since I had a root canal done on that tooth. That is when the real pain started.

He explained to me that he was going to dip a small piece of cotton into a container that would make it four degrees, then he would touch that to a couple of teeth and see how I feel. He told me to raise my left hand when I felt the cold. First he put it on the tooth with the root canal and after a few seconds I felt a little cold so I raised my hand. Cool. Cool. Then he put it against the tooth next to the one with a root canal and after a couple of seconds I almost jumped out of my damn chair. Having this small cotton ball, measuring four degrees, against this tooth (#31) was the absolute worst pain I have ever felt in the dentist chair. And it lingered. It lingered in my mouth, even with my tongue over it to warm it up, and my hand to my cheek. Then a top tooth started to hurt. I asked him why and he said it may have moved to another tooth. So he did the same thing with a couple teeth up top. For the first one I felt cold, but no pain. For the one next to it (#3) I almost hit him in the face. At this point I suspected he was doing it to be mean. He assured me he was not, and that he would stop.

So what does that mean? I need two root canals, on top of the one retreat that I also need. Both teeth that responded to the four degree cotton ball had cracks in them. Cracks from fillings. He explained that when a filling is too big, it expands and can crack the tooth in minimal ways so that it is not seen with the naked eye, but it can be cracked to the root. Which turns out, is my case. For both teeth. So I went from having most of my ducks in a row to being in the dentist chair for three and a half hours yesterday to get one of the root canals started.

Now this dentist is thorough. Did I mention that? That is the reason that I liked my old dentist in Denver, NC, Dr. Ellis. Dr. Ellis is thorough, and he would explain all that he was doing and he was reasonable. He would say things like, “Well this is going to cost you $10,000, so let’s do it in parts.” Reasonable, right? Same with this Endodontist. He suggested we start with tooth #31 and work our way in. So I had an unexpected root canal on a bottom tooth yesterday and I was not super, uber happy about it. But, there was a moment, when I had two men rooting around in my mouth, sunglasses on my face, and they were discussing Megan Markle’s baby, and the show Sons of Anarchy, and whether or not kids would eat Tide Pods this summer, and suddenly I felt at home. At peace. I went to a very zen-like place. And then smoke started coming from my mouth, and there were sizzling and popping sounds as the rubber melted into my empty canals and the Endodontist was all, “This is normal… well for me I guess, probably not for you.” And just like that I was alert again and wondering where my life went wrong.

M.

Perfectly Imperfect

My 10-year-old son threw the ball fast at my head and yelled, “Line drive!” I wasn’t ready. I’d been gazing up to the gigantic nest in our Pine Tree wondering what was inside. I looked back in time to instinctively shield my face from the ball, while I turned my body to the side, and winced in anticipation. The ball hit hard against my glove and fell to my feet. “You dropped the ball,” he yelled from across the yard. I know. I know. I shook my head and rolled my eyes up to the sky. It was the third time I’d dropped the ball that week. 

The first time was Tuesday, when I wrote a scathing email to the Home Owner’s Association concerning my subdivision’s lawn policy, only to find out that I had misread the policy, and that my yard was not at risk of having the Health Department called.

“Still,” I scoffed later to my rather presumptuous husband. “I intend to keep the HOA, and their wacked-out policies, in check.” 

“Sure,” he acknowledged. “After all, someone needs to weed out the crazies.”

I ignored the condescension and placed a half-burnt chicken breast in front of him. 

On Wednesday I had an appointment with the dentist. I’d made the appointment six months prior, assuming I would cancel last minute with some lame excuse. In between deciding which excuse to go with, “My (insert relative) is having a surgery,” or “PTO responsibilities have tied me up,” I began to worry that some expensive, probably deadly, gum disease was raging war inside my mouth. The worrying, as is my nature, lasted up until that morning, when I called the office to tell them that I was planning on coming in for my appointment, but then last minute I found out that my mother was going in for knee surgery at that very moment, and I had to be there with her. When the front desk woman reminded me that my mother lives 1,500 miles away, I tacked on the word spiritually. Spiritually I had to be with my mother. And she concurred. Going as far as suggesting I come in for my appointment as a way to take my mind off my mother’s apparent surgery. It turns out that I did not have gum disease. At least I don’t think I did. I don’t really know. They gassed me for the entire appointment. 

Then there was Thursday. Spring Picture Day. My son told me the week before that it was a “dress down” day, meaning he needn’t wear his school uniform for the picture. He gave me this information so that he could absolve himself the burden of remembering that important point. He’s sly like that. Like his father. And he’s a little lazy too. That part he gets from me. 

The school, to do their part, sent out a reminder text, and they stuck a bright, round sticker on my son’s stained uniform polo on Monday afternoon. “Remember Picture Day!” it said. I rolled my eyes. How could I forget? 

After bedtime on Wednesday it occurred to me, over a half pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey and a sad Netflix documentary, that the next day was picture day. I needed to ensure my son had a clean shirt for his picture. It’s was usually a fight to keep five uniform shirts clean, and occasionally we had to rummage through the hamper in the morning, arguing over who is responsible for getting his clothes to the laundry room, as we frantically smell arm pits in all his shirts and try to rub out crayon stains. But it was Spring picture day. He needed a nice, freshly-laundered shirt. I was so proud of myself that I remembered, that I immediately stepped into action. I tip-toed into my son’s room, quietly overturned the hamper and, by the light of the nearest bathroom, I rifled through its contents for the perfect, stain-free polo. My eyes sparkled when I found that stain-free Robin’s Egg Blue polo. I held it close to my chest for a moment, taking in its sweaty, salty odor, then I shuffled my socked feet to the washing machine. 

The next morning went like normal. Snooze. Creaky knees. Electric toothbrushes whizzing. Breakfast. Book bag. Car. I whistled on the drive to school. My son smiled from the backseat, his nicely combed hair with its wild cowlick he is always trying to keep down shimmering in the morning light, while he smoothed his hand against his clean, fresh school polo. It wasn’t until we pulled into the carline and I saw a sweet, little kindergarten bobbing alongside her mother in a pink, frilly dress that my mouth went agape.

“Mommmmmmy,” my son whined from the backseat. “It’s dress-down day!” Right. What to do? What to do? “I’ll bring you up a suit and your favorite tie,” I said, trying to calculate how long it would take me to make the turnaround. My son is a snazzy dresser. Always has been. He doesn’t get that from either one of us. He likes polos, and ties, and the occasional three-piece-suit. He knows how to combine colors. He understands, instinctively I suppose, that you don’t wear socks with sandals and that your belt needs to match your shoes, especially if your shirt is nicely tucked in. And your shirt should be tucked in. He often goes as far as to question my husband and me about what we wear. “Are you going out in that?” he will occasionally ask me, when I am in “pants” that I bought in the pajama section of Old Navy and a sleeveless shirt that is either two sizes too small or two sizes too big for me. “I’m just going to Target,” I will counter, and he will role his eyes with a sort of disgrace that, if I am being honest, I thought would come much later in his life.

So there we are, in the car, frantically looking at one another. The line is shifting up and my son and I are eyeing the pastel dresses and short sleeve button ups with sharks, and baseball bats, and cacti on them. “Mommy, hurry,” that is all he says before he exits the car, hyper aware that he is in his school uniform. 

I race home. I speed, at times scaring myself and considering the number of one-hand movements I am receiving, probably other drivers too. I get home. I run into my son’s room and flip open his closet. I fumble in the dark for the light switch. Where is the damn light switch? I decide I don’t need the light. What is he wearing? Is it khaki? Yeah, he’s in khaki pants. I choose a solid, white button-up. I run over to his dresser and slide open the top drawer. My anxious poodle, the one who has been hopping on his hind legs at my apparent exercise, is humping me as I am hunched over my son’s dresser looking for a tie that says, “hip” but also “Spring” but also “fun”. I push my poodle down and hold a plaid pastel number in my hands. Yes, I think to myself. You did it, girl! Mom power! I race back to car, out the driveway, blow past a stop sign or two, and screech into the school parking lot a mere 20 minutes after leaving. I park in the “No Parking” fire zone and run to the front door. I look inside to make eye contact with the secretary. Does she see me? Do you see me? She isn’t at her desk. I ring the doorbell. I make eye contact with a kid sitting outside the nurse’s office. I motion to the locked door, and hold up the clothes frantically, but trying to smile as to not scare the kid. I wave the shirt and tie around like this second grader is supposed to know what I am doing. The kid doesn’t budge. I ring the bell again. I smile broadly and wave a little to him. He shakes his head no. He won’t be opening the door for this crazy lady. The secretary walks out to her desk, spies me, and remotely unlocks the door. I go inside and explain my morning while she smiles and calls for my son to come to the office. I eye the second grader and smile a “told you so” smile. I silently hope he has head lice.

My son comes through the office door relieved to see me. He tells me he was the only one in his class in his uniform. I apologize and say I will do better next time, even though I know the chances of me doing better next time are slim. He knows too, but smiles and hugs me just the same. And right before he races to go change his shirt he stops, turns around and looks at me. My heart fills my eyes with water. I think, we did it, Dude. “Mommy,” he says. “Yeah,” I ask eagerly, anticipating an “I love you” in front of the office staff. “You forgot my belt,” he says, before he walks back through the blue swinging doors.

M.

Stubborn Mules

The other day my family and I were out and about and we stopped in for lunch at a local fast food restaurant to grab burgers and shakes. It was a pretty busy day and there were a ton of people in the restaurant. It was loud and crowded and everything was running a bit behind, but we had no where to be so we sat down at our table and talked while we waited for our number to be called. A couple of minutes later a man and his young son sat down at the table next to us. The tables were pretty close and we could hear their discussion. The son was about Jackson’s age and was wearing a Minecraft shirt. The son was polite, and quiet, and he smiled at me when I looked over to him. I smiled back, thinking Jackson and him could probably be friends. Until I heard his dad started talking to him.

It wasn’t what he said, at first. At first it was his tone. The dad was a meek guy. He was a little small, sat hunched over a bit, and didn’t really give off a “My dad could beat up your dad” vibe. But his tone was biting. In fact, I started to eavesdrop when he was discussing their order and the dad was sort of berating the kid for what he ordered. The kid just sat there and listened to his dad. This wasn’t the first time he was made to feel bad for a decision he had made. It was rather odd, though. I didn’t know if the dad was putting on a show for us, because our tables were so close together and he was trying to assert himself as, I dunno, a tough guy? Berating your kid makes you tough, maybe? Or maybe he was just in a bad mood and he was taking it out on his kid. We all have bad days, I reminded myself, and maybe this was his. The poor kid just sat, his eyes on the table and listened to his dad bitch about everything he did. Then their number was called. The boy jumped up to go grab the tray and the dad yelled after him to get him a lid for his cup. Though the restaurant was pretty loud still, so I doubted the boy would hear him. I lost track of what was happening at that point, until the boy came back without a lid for his dad’s drink.

“Did you hear me?”

“Hello, I asked you to bring me back a damn lid? Did you not hear me?”

“Should I just go get my own lid?”

The boy, unsure of what to do and obviously upset about his dad’s behavior, was trying to put their trays down on the table, so he wasn’t making eye contact with his dad.

“I still need a damn lid, cause I guess you didn’t hear me.”

The boy put the trays down in a hurry and he ran back to get his dad a lid. By this point my husband and I had made eye contact with each other and wordlessly said, “This guy. What a dick.” I sort of lost track of their conversation then, as our food had arrived, but their body language told me that if the boy was a dog he would have his tail between his legs right now and the dad would be kicking and screaming at him while he was chained to a fence with nowhere to run.

And then it happened. I went to take my first bite of my cheeseburger when I heard:

“Dear Father…”

I looked over at their table and they had their heads bowed in prayer and the father was speaking.

“Thank you for this beautiful day. Thank you for this food we are about to consume. Thank you for our wonderful lives and all that we have. We are grateful for you love. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

I looked at my husband once more who didn’t look shocked at all. And why should he be? As a man who doesn’t want anything to do with organized religion. As a man who knows that he doesn’t need the fear of God to make him do what is right, as a man who would never treat his child in that sort of degrading way, in public or private, he just assumed this other man was a Bible-thumping Christian. Meanwhile, I had to pick my jaw up from the floor.

I didn’t make me happy. It didn’t make me feel better for this child. Or see this man in a different light. It infuriated me. Here is this man, obviously someone who is secure enough in his religious conviction and bold enough to intentionally show everyone what he believes, belittling his child, over and over again, then bowing his head like he did nothing wrong. And who knows. Maybe inside he was asking for forgiveness for being a dickheaded-dirtbag, but my money is on no.

My husband and I just looked at each other. He gave me one of those, “See, they’re hypocrites” kind of looks and I continued to sit dumbfounded. I don’t really have a point with this post, except maybe that parentings is tough, y’all. Like really tough. And we all have our own ways of doing things, but if you are not leading from a love-centered place, what are you actually doing? If you child walks around afraid of you, what are you doing? If you have to constantly pray to your God for forgiveness for the way you treat your child, what are you doing?

I’m not pretending to have all the answers, y’all. But I know that this man, regardless of how religious he is, should be reprimanded for the way he treated his child. And I constantly worry when I see people act like this in public. I worry, because what happens when they are in the privacy of their homes?

The incident did remind me of a book I came across once. I don’t remember where I was, or how I came to be thumbing through it, but it was called “To Train Up a Child”. It was billed a “Christian Parenting Book” and it put a lot of focus on whipping and beating and talking down to your child. People honestly believe that parenting this way is the best way. People honestly believe they are doing God’s will by raising their children like this. This isn’t leading from love, y’all. You simply can’t learn love from a book.

We have to do better as parents if we want things to change in our lives, our children’s lives, our communities, our country. It starts from home. I’m just asking you to be more aware, as a parent, be more aware and more loving. We aren’t raising stubborn mules, we are raising human beings with large hearts who only want to make you happy.

M.

See, I told you. Also, here is one article that makes claims that the harshness of this book and this type of parenting has lead to child abuse: https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-25268343