How ‘bout Them Chiefs?!

I didn’t sleep a wink last night. I tossed and turned. Got caught up in reading some comment sections about the half-time performance (y’all some haters, JLo and Shakira literally ROCKED our socks off! Don’t be jealous, or racist.) And as far as I’m concerned, I’m now a lifetime fan of both ladies because y’all, THE CHIEFS WON THE SUPER BOWL! I couldn’t sleep because I was so amped up on chicken wings, fudge brownies, and sexual thoughts about Patrick Mahomes, or was it Shakira? Maybe it was Andy Reid? Doesn’t matter. At two am, I was like, it’s cool, who needs sleep?! Then I started searching for pictures of the times I made my son, who has no desire to watch football, and who isn’t allowed to play football (because some brains are worth saving) dress in Chiefs gear since he was a baby. I found some. Then I finally fell asleep. That is to say that this post is really just a post of pictures. A post of disappointment over the years, rooting for one of our favorite teams (Jerimiah is a Packers fan) and then getting our hearts broken repeatedly.

In fact, it wasn’t until the Royals won the World Series a few years back that we even knew what winning felt like, and you guys, it feels damn good. Some of us have been waiting on this win for longer than others of us in the Goodnight household. But the win is for us all.

It’s for Kansas City, it’s for Kansas and Missouri (even though our dumbass President doesn’t know which state the Chiefs play in). Shit, maybe I should clarify that real quick for some of you. Arrowhead is in Kansas City, Missouri. But Kansas City is split in half. Half in Kansas and half in Missouri. (But trust, you don’t want to be on the Kansas side of the city by yourself at night). But honestly, honestly, the Chiefs are one of those teams that belong to a lot of people, not just in two states. They belong to the Midwest. To all the men and women in little towns with tattered Chiefs flags hanging from their front porches. They belong to our families in Oklahoma and Arkansas. To our crew down in Southern Missouri who hosted parties every time the Chiefs made it into the bracket, then lost. To our friends out in western Kansas, with Chiefs banners stung across old barns on wheat fields. To our friends in the Flint Hills, in Jeff City, in St. Louis, cause I mean, St. Louis needs a win. The Chiefs belong to Nebraska, because college ball is only good for so long. They belong to the people who hate the Broncs and the Raiders. And yes, they belong to Kansas City, first and foremost.

Last night’s win is for our friends and family members, the ones in their sixties and seventies who have been waiting, relentlessly waiting, for this day. It’s for my mom and my mother-in-law, who have sat screaming at television screens for too long. It’s for our friends and family members who aren’t with us anymore. Who didn’t get to see the win here on Earth with us. Today, especially for me, it’s for my Uncle Arthur, and my nephew Little Scottie. Sending love and hugs to wherever you are. The Chiefs did it!

We celebrated bigly last night in the Goodnight house! Jerimiah, a true Kansas boy, let me scream and yell and run around, while he just smiled and laughed, “I can’t believe they pulled it off.” Jackson, who was born in Southern Missouri, high-fived me, more excited that he got to stay up past bedtime than watch that fourth quarter unfold like it did! And then there was me, just a 38-year-old Chiefs fan who was so used to saying, “We’ll get ‘em next year” that I pulled out all the stops to try to indeed “Get ‘em this year,” including making a prayer candle in honor of the ghost of Derrick Thomas. I have my beliefs, about who helped us this year, and my lucky things, but I gotta say none of that really matters. Those guys played a hell of a game, both teams did, and I congratulate the 49ers and their fans. They showed up. It’s just that the better team won. Wow, that’s crazy to say.

Hoping to get some sleep tonight, but until then, have a look at some Chiefs fans over the years! And HOW ‘BOUT THEM CHIEFS?!

M.

His first Chiefs jammies!
Game day with mama, 2010
Tracksuits and toddler Chiefs pride!
Indoctrination at its finest! Bentley was a HUGE Chiefs fan!
Rock climbing Chiefs fan!
Gearing up for a pre-season game against the Panthers!
My favorite jersey of all time!
A gift from Uncle Josh in our first year in North Carolina!
Watching the Chiefs play the Patriots in Washington DC with friends in 2019.
We were #10 for awhile in preschool.
The only Chiefs’ fan doing a prowl!
Chiefs were served a crummy loss at Arrowhead this day.
Super Bowl prepping
He knew what I needed for game day
They ordered me wings, and donned their brightest red
We won! Finally!

The Salt Belt

It’s a unique experience driving through Northern states during the winter. We’re in day five of our eight day trip now, and just safety arrived in Rhode Island this afternoon. The weather is cold, but it’s not snowing. At this moment anyway. We realized, most suddenly today, that we’ve lived in the South for too long to remember that frost clings to trees in the wintertime, in long, thick icicles. That ponds freeze over. That snow storms drop out of nowhere. That people own boots, and several pairs of ski gloves, and say things like, “They’re out salting tonight.” It’s astonishing and slightly absurd how fast it’s all slipped from our Midwest memories.

Jackson asked what that “tepee looking thing” was, while driving east from Buffalo to Syracuse. I explained it was where they kept the salt. He hmpf’d and went on about his business. I thought nothing of it, then a few moments later he said, “Wait, what salt? Table salt?” I guess he thought they liked all their meats brined here. I mean, that’s not wrong, but what I meant was the salt for the roads.

Because in New England and in the Midwest, from Maine to Missouri, Kansas to Connecticut they still salt the roads. They roll out in big trucks, hours, sometimes days before a storm is expected and they lay down a coat of salt. It’s funny how easily I forgot about the way the lines form in the road from the backs of trucks. How K-Mart parking lots turned into makeshift salting HQs. How men smoking cigarettes, with snow plows fastened to their old Chevy trucks, run up and down the road in the dead of the winter and layer this protection on our roads.

Geez, I’m sure there are ramifications. Of course there are. The rusting from the salt. The money for infrastructure. The tax dollars. The equipment, the salt “tepees.” It adds up. And probably, likely, there are safer, more cost-effective, more environmentally-conscious ways. And maybe I’ll investigate more one day. But for now, for tonight, I’ll lie in my hotel bed and remember the men and the trucks. The salting and the K-Mart parking lots. And I’ll miss the Salt Belt a little more.

Stay warm!

M.

I Would Drive 15,000 Miles…

And I would drive 15,000 more, because I have driven 15,000 miles this year and this isn’t how the song goes. But you did try to sing it to the Proclaimers for a minute, right?! Sure you did. And also, this is no joke. My husband, son, and I have driven 15,000 miles this year, and as you know, the year is not yet over. Look it, we are Midwesterners, so if I’m being honest 15,000 isn’t that much for us. You learn young in the Midwest, that if you want to see the “cool” shit, visit the “neat” places, you have to travel. And no one has money to be hopping on airplanes all the damn time, so you drive. Wanna go to a beach, one on an ocean? You be driving. Wanna go to a cool theme park? That’s a drive. Wanna see some historical shit? Some real, salt-of-the-Earth, Mother Nature, God’s Country type shit? You be driving. Want some culture? Driving. Damn, you just want to see a mountain and maybe snap a pic of an elk or something cool like that? That’s at minimum eight hours in the car. So, yeah, 15,000 miles ain’t no thing, but we aren’t stopping there. Jerimiah just booked our hotels for our New Years Eve vacay, which we will be adding another, ohhh, roughly 3,000 more miles to our total for the year. Don’t worry, I’m SURE I will have stuff to tell y’all about when I get back from Canada, Upstate New York, and New England in the dead of winter… (Note: All the red below are links to what I wrote while I was on these many trips, or just something that happened in that place, if you want to go back and reminisce with me!)

So where have we been this year to be racking up those kinda miles? Well, we started off the year with a road trip to Washington, DC where we participated in the Women’s March with friends. That was some wonderful, scary, sad, frustrating, empowering stuff. It was the week of the government shutdown, so there wasn’t much to do around town, but we did make it to the Holocaust Museum with the kids. Then there were two trips “home” and home here means the Midwest. We went to Kansas in May and then back to Missouri and Oklahoma in June. Then there were the four or five trips we made to Atlanta from Charlotte to find a house, enroll Jackson in school, etc. Then there was the actual move from Charlotte to Atlanta. And there were the subsequent trips back this year to see friends in Charlotte.

Then there was the trip to Texas.

Then there were all the trips back and forth to and from Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Coastal Louisiana all summer long. AHHHHH!

These miles do not count all the miles that we flew, and there were several thousands of those too. Mainly Jerimiah and his crazy work schedule this year, but also a trip I took out to Arizona to see one of my best friends.

At one point, six months into living in our new house in DeKalb County, Georgia (pronounced Dee Cab, not Dee Cobb for you Midwesterners) we counted up the actual number of nights that the three of us had been home together and the findings were not good. Not good at all. Meanwhile, we have earned so many airline and hotel points that our next vacation to anywhere, is actually free. That’s a lot of miles and points, y’all. Too many, really.

We aren’t normally this busy. In fact, we are homebodies, I know that is hard to believe, but we prefer to be at home. We prefer our own beds. Jesus, it took me months to pick out my bed and I LOVE it. And I like my own bathroom and well, just my own shit, you know? But, if you always stay where you are, you will never get anywhere. So we go. We travel, we move when we need to in order to better ourselves. We linger in new places for a few days, we see new sights, meet new people. We are travelers. Lucky to be able to do it, excited about what is around the next corner. But coming home is always nice too.

So there you have it, 15,000 miles worth of traveling so far this year, hoping to make it to 18,000, and hoping to add to our experiences, our fun, our love for our country, our friends, our family, and the world. Thanks for sharing in our adventures!

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.

Wescoe Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

M.

The Power of Rain

It’s raining today. Big, round droplets. The relentless kind of rain that I never experienced before I lived in the south. Before television meteorologist said things like, “Coastal shift” or “Gulf stream.” It’s raining today and it’s going to keep raining. That oppressive kind of rain. The kind that makes you want to stay in bed all day with a good book, or a good tv show, or a good bedfellow.

I like the rain because it helps me feel like I’m not alone. When it’s raining I know I’m not the only one stuck indoors, unable, unwilling, to go on about my normal life. It eases my fears of missing out on anything. Not much happens in the rain.

I remember having this thought for the first time, in Mrs. Nixon’s third grade classroom. It was a warm, fall day in Kansas. The storms were lined up to put on a show. Black skies, lightening, it was the sort of day in Kansas where one occasionally glances out a window, stays close to the weather radio, sits, stiff necked, on the edge of their seat. There was a war raging, 7,500 miles away across the Atlantic. Operation Desert Storm. My sisters’ husbands were there. I hoped it was raining.

It’s funny what the rain recalls, and sometimes sad. But that’s the sort of power it has over us. And I think I’m finally at peace with that.

I hope you’re staying dry today.

M.

Native American Heritage Month

Because it is Native American Heritage Month, and because I just so happen to have some work that I think highlights Native Americans, those in Kansas anyway, I wanted to share this with you all today. This is a poem that can be found in the Blue City Poets: Kansas City anthology, the link is below.

It was one of the first poems I wrote about my home, and I was lucky enough to have it printed by a small press in Kansas City who loved it as much as I did. I have another poem in the book, and a pretty fun bio page, so please go check it out on Amazon! You can buy the paperback for $12.99 or the Kindle version for $4.99. (There was a bit of a snafu with the graphic designer when the anthology first came out, and this poem was basically cut in half, but they fixed it!) Anyway, I hope you enjoy my work. Feel free to share this post with others who may also like it.

As for my Native American friends, I just want you to know that I support you. I adore you. I only want to honor you with this work, and my home state of Kansas. Shed light on the fact that many of our places, our honored names, our hallowed grounds, were yours first. Were named after you, to honor you, even though that is not what the white people of Kansas did to you.

And yes, I know horrible things happened there to your people, but honestly the guilt and shame I feel for what my ancestors did to you, can do nothing to help at this point, so I won’t even try. But please know that you have my full support and love regarding whatever is best for you and your tribe, your family, your history, and your life moving forward. I know I have messed up along the way (sorry for all those times I called my friends my “tribe” or I called something my “spirit animal,” ick, but I am learning everyday.)

As always, thanks for the support.

M.

Kansas
 
Your summer days are long
South winds cool, in spite of the heat
Cotton curtains lapping open windows 
Fresh apple pie air 
Skies reflecting rivers reflecting skies
 
We’ve galloped, arms outstretched
Through your waves of wheat
Stripped dandelions from Strawberry Hill
Smeared yellow down our wrists
Whispered your names, recited your song
Apache, Pawnee, Osage
I stand there amazed and I ask as I gaze
If their glory exceeds that of ours

Yes, we’ve perched atop your tallgrass mounds
Wakeeny, Kechi, Osawatomie 
Cradled a honeybee 
Scalped arrowed flint 
Dug limestone with our feet
Where the Wakarusa and the Kaw rivers meet
 
We’ve jogged your streets and avenues
Kissed your patchy pavement  
Miami, Pottawatomie, Dakota
We’ve stood on Cherokee, under the silo 
Looked up to the cosmos
Per aspera ad astra
 
Your sunflowers are resilient
Bursting from the grasslands in great numbers
Following the buffalo
Gazing west, despite boots on their necks
 
Your rows of corn have dulled
Your heritage now lost
Though your lines still show
Wyandotte, Neosho, Topeka
Kaza, Kosa, Kasa, Kaw
 
Kansas