Ruthie

I’ve been wanting to share about my mom’s friend, Ruthie, for some time now, but I have been unable to. Ruth was one of my mother’s oldest friends and she died recently. She was a fiery, friendly, funny kinda gal, whose antics litter my childhood memories. I have so many stories to share about Ruthie, that it was hard for me to pick which ones to share. I wanted to share the kind of stories that would highlight who she was, at her core. I was going back and forth wondering if I share how she would let me sit up front with her in her VW Beetle and move the stick shift when I’d ride along on a beer run with her? What about how she would laugh at me while I danced around her dining room at the old house on Pine Street, while she played 1970s country music on her large stereo, shuffled cards and drank beer with my mom and a few others? What about when she lined all the neighborhood kids up at the pool down on Fourth Street and taught them all how to dive? Or her jokes, her hilarious, sometimes crude, usually not age-appropriate jokes? I just couldn’t decide. I couldn’t even decide if I would actually ever write about Ruthie. I couldn’t decide until two Sundays ago*.

Two Sundays ago the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Tennessee Titans to clench the AFC Title and waltz their way into their first Super Bowl in 50 years, which they will be playing in this evening. Now listen, I don’t believe in angels. I don’t believe in heaven or hell, or purgatory (unless you’ve even been stuck in line at IKEA), but I do believe in the human condition. I believe that people we love don’t really ever leave us. It’s something I can’t explain. It’s something I don’t care to have explained to me. But I know we are all made up of stars, and I believe, with no real reason or explanation, that Ruthie had something to do with the Chiefs’ win that night, and that’s when I knew that I had to tell the story of Ruthie.

I don’t know much about Ruthie’s life before she met my mom in the 1970s. I know she grew up in Leavenworth, I know she went to Leavenworth Senior High School in the same building that was my middle school many moons later. I know she was loved in the community. I know she was funny, and smart, and I knew as a child, that she had a pure heart. But otherwise, the Ruthie I know is the Ruthie she had became after marriage, and kids, and heartbreaks. Still, she was a force to behold.

Ruthie and my mom met when my mom was new in town. My mom walked into a bar with a run in her pantyhose one night. She didn’t have a car, and the night was young, so she walked up to a man sitting at the bar and asked him if he would give her a lift to the grocery store so she could buy a new pair of pantyhose. She offered to give him a couple of bucks for gas. He laughed at her and said, “Sure thing, as long as you can clear it with my wife.”

“Well, where’s your wife?” my mom asked, clenching her hose so they wouldn’t fall down.

The man pointed to the woman behind the bar. She was funny looking, a little rough around the edges, a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, her own full draft beer sitting on the bar.

My mom walked right up to her, said her name was Margie, showed the woman the run in her hose, and asked if she minded if her husband gave her a lift to the store to buy a new pair. She offered the couple bucks in gas. Ruthie pulled the long 100 out of her mouth, looked my mom up and down, and said, “Sure thing, Sis. If you’re balls enough to ask me if my husband can take you to buy pantyhose, you’re alright.”

The man at the bar was Ronnie, Ruth’s husband, and Ruth, in case you missed that, was the bartender. Ruth and Ronnie became a part of my mom’s life from that day forward, and would remain, well into their seventies. They fussed and cussed at each other sometimes. They had spats and disagreements. They didn’t talk for some time toward the end of Ruthie’s life, but over all those decades, their families merged.

Ruthie with her sister, Dorothy (I always remember having fun times at her house up on “Billy Goat Hill” as a child), and three of her daughter’s, Robbie, Debbie, and Rhonda. They all babysat me at one time or another.

I was the youngest of all the kids in both families. I was so young that I grew up with Ruth and Ronnie’s grandkids, rather than their kids, though their youngest Julie was my primary babysitter after my sisters moved out of the house when I was in kindergarten. Mostly though, I got to hang out with the adults, because by the time I came along in 1981, they spent more and more time at home drinking beer, than hanging out at the bars. Some of my earliest memories are of Ruthie and some other ladies coming over to our apartment to play cards at our small kitchen table. They would drink beer and listen to sad country songs, Patsy, and Loretta, and Hank. They would play so long and so late that I would make a little pallet on the kitchen floor under the table, right next to my mom’s feet. I’d fall asleep there and wake up the next morning in my own bed. It was comforting, the cold linoleum under my Care Bears sheets. The smoke rolling over my head (my mom didn’t smoke, but she let Ruthie smoke in the house back in those days).

My mom back in the 80s, apparently they drank Coors for a little while. I only remember Budweiser or Bud Light.
Ruthie, at our apartment on Vilas, Christmas circa 1991-ish? Back when my mom still let her smoke inside our house. She was in a “Fancy” (Read: Clean) Royals shirt.

Later, when the card playing meandered over to Ruthie’s house, I’d climb onto their sofa, one room over from the dining room, I’d watch cable television (we never had cable) and I’d drift off to sleep with MTV on mute, while I listened to those familiar, sad songs from the dining room.

On warm summer nights, before the sun went down, Mom and Ruthie and Ruthie’s older daughters, Rhonda, or Robbie, or Debbie, would sit on the small front porch of their house on the corner of Pine and Fourth Streets, and listen to music, and drink beer, and talk about their week, how the Royals were doing (it never was too good), or who Ruthie had cut grass for that week. Ruthie would be propped up in her corner spot near the back of the porch in a lawn chair, a table next to her with a small radio (for the Royals and country music), a Diet Pepsi if she’d just come in from mowing, in a styrofoam Wood’s Cup. She’d have her Royals cap on, her cut off denim shorts, and a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. Her shoes, once white, by this time in the summer were faded green from grass, and her knee-high men’s socks would be pulled all the way up, with grass clippings hanging on for dear life. Summer Ruthie was a sight to behold. And I loved her for it. She was sweaty, and covered in grass, and she would sit there in that corner and wave at the people who drove by, drink her Diet Pepsi, until it was time to switch to beer, and she would tell stories. Ruthie was an amazing teller of stories, and she always had plenty, and my ears were always open, sitting on the cooler lid across from her and my mom on the tiny porch waiting for whatever was about to happen, because at Ruthie’s house something was always about to happen.

Dinner at our house, a rare occasion by this time. Looks like it was near Christmas. That’s a 6th grade me in the corner behind Ruthie, who is dressed up in a sweatshirt for the holidays, Ronnie is across the table to the left. This is at our old house on Osage Street in downtown Leavenworth. You can spot the elusive “Wood’s Cups” on the table.
A clean version of Summer Ruthie at our apartment on State Street, circa 1986-ish? That’s my sister Belinda in the background and the little boy is JW, one of Ruthie’s grandsons, and my playmate since the time he could walk. He terrorized me with snakes, and bugs, and scary stories for many summers in our childhood.

The summer was Ruthie’s time to shine. At some point in her life, she stopped bartending and switched to mowing grass. Ronnie worked construction, and devoted a lot of his time to the Mormon Church, of which Ruthie did not belong, and together they were staples in the community. Do-gooders, who would help any lost soul they came across. My mom was often on the receiving end of their goodness, often relying on Ruthie to fix a broken muffler on one of my mom’s old junkers, or let us sell items at their yard sales, which were always a big hit since their house was so well known, and in a great location on a busy street. Ruthie would swing by and cut our grass if she was in the neighborhood. Ronnie would slip my mom a $20 bill, that my mom always paid back, in between pay days at her job as a housekeeper. They were friends. And well, that’s what friends do.

I’d spend my summer days running up and down along the house with Rags, their dog. I don’t know what kind of dog he was, but he was friendly, and furry, and he was permanently attached to a run on a close line, right next to the back door, which was sometimes used as the front door for the people in the know. In the evenings Ruthie’s grown kids would wonder over with their families and their kids, who were my playmates on those long nights. We’d catch lightening bugs and smear their light on our arms, chase each other around the backyard, filled with cars, and lawnmowers, and Rags’ excitedly wagging tail chasing us as far as his line would allow.

Cars would drive by and honk, and we’d stop and wave. Everyone waved when the cars honked, even though they cars were just honking for Ruthie. They all knew her and loved her. From the stuffiest, most uptight old ladies to the men who sometimes didn’t have a couch to sleep on, people drove by and honked, they walked by and sat for awhile on the stoop. Ruthie always offered a smoke, or a beer, or a Diet Pepsi. Ronnie often offered a ride to wherever they might be going. There was a lot of laughing on those long, humid summer nights. A lot of friendship, kinship, and fellowship.

As the sun would go down the party would move indoors. More people would stop over. One of Ruth or Ronnie’s sisters, or a neighbor. Julie might show up with a group of her teenage friends. One of my sisters might stop by if they were back in Leavenworth. And there always seemed to be more kids. Kids from everywhere. We’d stay outside until the called us indoors for the night. We’d tell ghost stories about the old house on Pine Street. Like the ghost that we were sure lived upstairs, which also happened to be the only place there was a bathroom in the house. Up a long, curvy, old, creaky staircase. I spent many nights holding in my pee for as long as I could, then running up and down those stairs, while Ruthie would yell, “Be careful, Missy. God damn, you’ll break your neck!”

Ruthie and me Christmas 1988-ish? Notice the Bud Light can, the Eight track tapes, and my dress that was obviously too short for me but it was my “nice” Christmas dress. #80s

As the years rolled on I stopped going over to Ruth and Ronnie’s with my mom, in lieu of slumber parties with my friends, or even later when I was a teenager, I’d rather stay at home alone and watch television, or listen to my music while my mom went over, or the adults went out to play darts or go bowling. I became “too cool” to sit on the stoop. God forbid someone see me. What I didn’t realize back then, was that Ruthie’s stoop was the cool place to be, and there have been many a nights since then that I have wished for just one more summer night on the corner of Pine and Fourth.

After I left Leavenworth, married, and had my first born, we went back to Leavenworth for a visit and stopped by Ruth and Ronnie’s. They had moved a couple of houses down, and the old house on Pine and Fourth was torn down. It was beyond repair. We introduced Baby Jackson to Ruth and Ronnie, and Ruthie bounced him up and down on her lap like she had all her grandchildren. Laughing and telling him inappropriate jokes.

Years later, the last time we saw Ruthie and Ronnie, Jackson was five years old. It was the summer before we moved to North Carolina. We took a long weekend in Leavenworth, and just as we were headed back to Southern Missouri I grabbed Jerimiah’s arm and said, “Wait, let’s run by Ruth and Ronnie’s!” It was evening time, and the Royals were playing, I knew they’d be at home.

When we got there we parked at the end of the long line of cars outside their house. We were about three houses down from where they lived, and I recognized most of the cars. There was Debbie’s car, and Ronnie’s old work van. There was Ruthie’s black Chevy, and another truck that I assumed belong to her son Johnny, or maybe Billy was back living with them. We walked up to the front door and knocked, as we peered inside. We didn’t see anyone, but we heard them. A whole clan of Logan’s from the backyard. We let ourselves into an empty house and followed the noise. When we stepped onto the back patio, the veranda Ruthie called it with a laugh and a slap on your arm, we were greeted with cheers and hugs.

“Well, look who it is!” Ruthie yelped, getting up from her recliner she had brought onto the veranda, along with a television, a stereo, and a ton of Royals and Chiefs memorabilia, under a canopy tent. Jackson stood and looked around, taking in all the noises and people. Ruthie grabbed him up in a big hug, and then offered him a Diet Pepsi. Then she showed us around. We hadn’t seen her in years by then so she wanted to show us all the updates, which were really just more Royals and Chiefs decorations, signed balls and posters, a Gretchen Wilson poster hung in her “Royals and Chiefs” room. We walked around and followed her as she pointed out pictures of grandkids, and great-grandkids by then. She offered Jackson every piece of candy or sweet we walked by, and he obliged, eating pie and a lollipop that she kept around for the kids. I caught a glimpse of her red Chief’s “brick.” The foam one from my childhood that she’d throw at the television and yell, “Sonofabitch!” when the Chiefs made a bad play. I smiled. Smelled the familiar smells. Remembered all those many years ago. The house was different and Ruthie was smaller by then, more frail looking, but somehow still mighty, still strong, still able, I knew, to entertain, to amuse, to tell a dirty joke or two. And I’m happy that my son got to meet the woman I knew and loved for so many years, even for just an hour.

On Sunday, August 18th, 2019, a week after the Chiefs beat the Bengals in a preseason game 38-17, I got the call that Ruthie had passed away. I cried, but not for long. Too suddenly the memories came flooding back, and I was forced to smile. The stoop on the porch. The Chief’s Brick. The day in the alley behind her house when she tied my mom’s car muffler up with a wire hanger, while she cursed and hammered under the car. The night I stayed up way past my bedtime to help string up lights on Ruthie’s St. Patrick’s Day float. The dirty joke about the nun I heard on her front porch when I was 12 years old and didn’t quite understand. I laughed aloud. Jerimiah asked me what was wrong, then I told him…

A bus full of Nuns falls of a cliff and they all die. They arrive at the gates of heaven and meet St. Peter. St. Peter says to them “Sisters, welcome to Heaven. In a moment I will let you all though the pearly gates, but before I may do that, I must ask each of you a single question. ”

St. Peter turns to the first Nun in the line and asks her “Sister, have you ever touched a penis?” The Sister Responds “Well… there was this one time… that I kinda sorta… touched one with the tip of my pinky finger…” St. Peter says “Alright Sister, now dip the tip of your pinky finger in the Holy Water, and you may be admitted.” and she did so. St. Peter now turns to the second nun and says “Sister, have you ever touched a penis?” “Well…. There was this one time… that I held one for a moment…” “Alright Sister, now just wash your hands in the Holy Water, and you may be admitted” and she does so. Now at this, there is a noise, a jostling in the line. It seems that one nun is trying to cut in front of another! St. Peter sees this and asks the Nun “Sister Susan, what is this? There is no rush!” Sister Susan responds “Well if I’m going to have to gargle this stuff, I’d rather do it before Sister Mary sticks her ass in it!”

Hey Ruthie, thanks for the laughs. Thanks for the memories.

Thanks for the win. Let’s do it again today!

Go Chiefs!

M.

Ruth E. Logan

*I wrote this post last week in order to honor Ruthie the day the Chiefs play in the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years, and I woke up yesterday morning, Saturday, February 1st, to the news that Ronnie had passed away. My heart is heavy today knowing that the Logan family is going through the loss of their father, and I’m sending love and hugs to all of them. This family, that was such a special part of my life for so many years, is having to bury a second parent in the coming days, and my heart breaks for them during these struggles. But the thing I know about the Logan Clan is that they are supported in a community who loved their parents, and they are supportive with one another. They will get through this. Ronnie was a religious man, and he devoted his life to two things: His family (even the ones not related by blood) and the Mormon Church. I know he is where he needs to be today, and I’m pretty sure it’s kicked back in a chair watching Ruthie throw her red brick at a television screen once again. ❤

Ding Dong Chicken

Whenever I miss our old home in Charlotte, North Carolina I start to crave Ding Dong Chicken. For those of you who have never experienced the awesomeness that is Ding Dong Chicken, follow me down this rabbit hole, you won’t be sorry. I first discovered Ding Dong Chicken at a local place in Uptown Charlotte called Pinky’s Westside Grill. This is one of our favorite restaurants in Charlotte, but we have a rocky history together.

The first time Jerimiah and I met for lunch at Pinky’s we ran across it while we were exploring Uptown not long after we moved to the Charlotte area. At the time we lived one county over, in a small town called Denver, NC that lacks any real places to eat good food. There were the local favorites like the Mexican place by Aldi’s or the Sports Page, but if you wanted one-of-a-kind, cool, new food you had to go to Charlotte.

Jerimiah had just started his new job and was making the 40 minute drive into Uptown everyday. On Fridays I would sometimes meet him for lunch, once school started and Jackson was securely in his fun, safe kindergarten class all day. These occasional lunch meetings were good for both of us. At the time I was considering applying to grad school in Charlotte, he was just learning the area, and we had started to think about moving into the city. We originally stumbled upon Pinky’s because of the VW Beetle that sits on the roof of the place. We liked the outward appearance of the place and we just knew the food would be tasty.

But we didn’t go that day, we went somewhere else. It wasn’t until some of the people at Jerimiah’s office were telling him he had to try Pinky’s that we actually went in one day. On this particular day it was spring, and just starting to get warm outside. The restaurant was full, which is normal at lunchtime, so we opted for the outside patio so we could get seated immediately. We don’t normally sit on patios, so I was feeling a little off already. Then there was the fact that it was our first time there, there were so many options on the menu, and I’m not great with options, and the fact that I could see inside and it looked cool and fun, and we felt banished to the patio. I dunno, I guess I am saying I let all these things get to me when I ordered, so I did what a naive person does, I sorta freaked out and ordered something I wouldn’t normally order: A tuna melt. Even Jerimiah looked at me and said, “Tuna?” Like, I don’t even really eat tuna, ever. I shook my head frantically and handed the menu back to the server. A few minutes later my tuna salad sandwich came out, along with Jerimiah’s awesome-looking turkey burger and I quickly resented my decision. I was mad at myself and at Pinky’s. But I didn’t give up.

Below is a sample of their menu, maybe you can see my frustration.

So the next time we went to Pinky’s we waited for a table inside. We soaked in the fun, cool atmosphere. We asked the server what to get. And she said, “Anything, as long as it is Ding Dong Style.” Well I had no idea what that meant but I said, “I’ll have the Ding Dong Chicken!” And my life was transformed.

Listen, I know this sounds nuts. Like Missy, a damn chicken sandwich can’t change your life, but if you’ve been following this Popeyes v. Chick-fil-a thing, you know it can. PS… Had the Popeyes sandwich, and yeah, it’s awesome. Way better than those Chick-fil-a sandwiches dripping in closeted homophobia and kindness. But still, neither are better than the Ding Dong Chicken at Pinky’s. Allow me to introduce you:

What is that, Missy?! It is a marinated and grilled chicken breast, free from antibiotics and all the gross stuff. It is smack dab between a yummy sesame seed bun (though your bread options are immense, even gluten-free if you are one of those nutcases). Then it is topped with crunchy peanut butter, sriracha, and coleslaw. It is important to know that everything is topped in coleslaw in North Carolina. I’m not a fan of coleslaw, but this one is a cilantro-honey slaw, and it’s amazeballs.

So what do I do now, that I live so very far away from my Ding Dong Chicken? I make it at home, duh! Here’s how I do it, if you want to try it yourself.

10 Easy Steps to Homemade Ding Dong Chicken

  1. First you go to your favorite place to get chicken breasts. Mine is wherever they are on sale that week, usually Kroger. Then you buy your meat. Then you marinate your meat in either a Thai marinate, or in Teriyaki. Both seem to give the flavor you are looking for.
  2. Then one evening, while you are trying to do a bunch of things, remember that you have that chicken you are marinating and you have to cook it that night or it will go bad. So run outside and fire up the grill.
  3. Keep the dog away from you by shouting, “Get back, asshole” whenever he approaches. Throw a ball if need be.
  4. Once you think the grill is hot enough (because your thermostat thing has been broken for like seven years) throw the marinated chicken on the grill.
  5. Close the grill, throw the ball, and continue to spray paint that bookshelf you bought at the Goodwill. Remember to only spray paint in the grass because you can just mow it. Don’t do it on your deck, lest you accidentally get your thrift store patio furniture covered in white chalk paint. You realize you paid more for the paint than you did the actual shelf, right? Nevermind, what’s the dog licking on the ground by the grill?
  6. Check on the chicken. Ohhh, it smells good. Okay, flip it.
  7. Go back to spray painting. Should you be using a mask? Are you getting a little high off this spray paint? How do people get high off it? Is that called huffing? Is that how people get high really quickly? What was the K2 stuff someone was talking to you about the other day? Hey did you get crunchy peanut butter at Kroger?
  8. Yell for your kid or partner or cat to bring you a platter so you can put the chicken on it to take it inside. Abandon the bookshelf, you will finish it before the next hurricane comes through.
  9. Plate the chicken. Here is where you can really let your personality shine. Do you want to use your nice Fiestaware? Or do you prefer that plate you got to help you with portion control? No, that one will just depress you. Just use the platter.
  10. Spoon out some crunchy peanut butter that you found in the back of the pantry (scrape off the marshmallow fluff that is stuck to the top of it, or don’t your call, might be good). Then grab the sriracha from the fridge and squirt it over the top. About this time other people will start to walk into the kitchen because the smell is so good. Your partner may say something like, “What did you make?” Take the platter, grab a knife, yell something about how you are the only one who has any damn sense in this house, and run into the laundry room to eat your Ding Dong Chicken in peace and quiet.

Oh yeah, add coleslaw if you live in North Carolina.

You’re welcome.

M.

Bloody Mary

In a quiet suburban home on a cul-de-sac, with a Subaru and a Honda Odyssey in the drive, seven girls cram into an upstairs guest bathroom. The walls are covered in a floral pattern, there are tooth brushes lining the sink, there is mold, unbeknownst to the home owners, growing beneath. Six of those girls jump into the bathtub and pull the shower curtain to hide their faces. They are shaking with nerves, but relieved they are not the girl who has to stand next to the light switch, for her role is much more dangerous. The girl by the light switch moves her hand slowly toward the switch and asks the group if they are ready. One girl squeals. One says she changed her mind and wants out. The others quickly grab her, pushing her deeper into the middle of Nike shorts and pink training bras, to be frozen at a later, undisclosed time. The bathroom goes dark. One girl channels some courage and she starts, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary…

None of the girls know who Bloody Mary is. They’ve heard stories. Bloody Mary was a young girl who killed her parents. She was a teenager who lost a baby. She may or may not be Mary I, Queen of England, a matronly, forty-ish woman with stringy hair and zero fashion sense. Either way, Bloody Mary wants them. She needs them. She uses her fingernails to scratch their faces until they die. Bloody Mary wants, they think, to slowly kill them as to bathe in their virgin blood in the moon of a Saturday night.

Bloody Mary’s vengeful spirit only comes if you chant her name thirteen times. She only comes when summoned. And only pre-teen girls at a suburban slumber party can summon her. Only pre-teen suburban girls know that after the thirteenth time her name is said, red dots appear on the bathroom mirror. The dots mean she is with them. The dots mean they have done it.

Once, in my own bathroom, we summoned her. I reluctantly climbed into my own shower, pulled the curtain and watched my friends’ faces quickly disappear with a flip of the switch. Then, as if by intuition, we began to chant: Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary… I thought about stopping it. I just knew it wouldn’t be true. I knew there would be no dots on the mirror, that the legend was a myth. One of my friends grabbed my sweaty hand. I tensed up.

Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary…

The chanting speed leveled, but the excitement in our bodies raised our voices. We started to slowly rock back and forth, our bodies bumping in the tub, swaying back and forth with each Bloody and Mary. Maybe my mom would hear us and open the door. Maybe she would come in and save us, and say that this was ridiculous, and that there was no Bloody Mary, and that we needed to quiet down because it was nearly midnight. I listened for her footsteps, but the hallway was silent.

Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary…

Feet inching toward the edge of the tub, hands to the shower curtain in anticipation. Sweaty hands and heads. Hot cotton candy, popcorn breathe sucked in hard. In just a moment we would be face to face with the frightening demon-woman who wanted to mutilate our faces in the name of her dead babies, or her Catholic sister, or her horrible parents. One more time and the truth would rise.

Bloody Mary!

The light flipped on, the curtain splayed open, and there on the mirror, thirteen red dots of all shapes and sizes. We had released the deathly spirit! It took but three seconds for the gravity of the situation to set in. We sprang from the tub, feet over shins, shins over thighs, thighs pushing arms. One girl yelped in pain, another pulled herself over the threshold, as she’d been knocked to the floor. We ran down the hall, into the cool air of the open, well-lit living room. The words were nonsensical. There was crying. My mother stepped in the room, horror on her face, what had happened, who was hurt?!

Then, as quickly as she had come, she had left. Bloody Mary was gone, we had not a scratch on us. We knew because the girl who flipped the light switch, God bless her, had said so. We were safe. Bloody Mary had went on to torment the next house, in the next suburb, in the next cul-de-sac, in the next guest bathroom full of pre-teen girls, squirming and squealing in the anticipation of the summoning.

M.

Don’t Quote Me on That

Today I was listening to Cory Booker, the U.S. Senator from New Jersey, who is one of 788 people campaiging for a Democratic presidential bid in 2020. For the most part he speaks with clarity, and he has a little of that Barack Obama confidence. Don’t misread this, he isn’t getting my vote in the primary, but I was trying to hear what he had to say. Then he said this, “When I was little my parents used to tell me to shoot for the moon, and even if I miss I would be high in the sky.” I cringed. First of all, that’s not the right quote. Did your parents just not know the right quote, or were you just trying to pull out some oft-recycled inspirational quote to end your speech and you stumbled a bit? I’m going with the latter, and that disturbs me for a lot of reasons, but none that are important enough to articulate here. I realized, however, that there were/are probably some people who shook their heads and said, “Yes, yes, Cory Booker! Fly high!” Both because they love him and because they too, believe in that sentiment, and more than likely find solace in inspirational quotes like that. We all do sometimes, right?

Then I started to think of the quotes that we rely on, and I started to wonder if there are good ones and bad ones. My short answer: Of course there are. So I have compiled a list of some that make me groan when I hear them and some that I live my life by. I am sure our lists are different, but this is my list. Let’s start first with Cory Booker’s favorite.

Shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

Listen, I’m no scientist, but there seems to be a lot of logistics to consider with this one. Like, are you in a rocket ship? Or are you just jumping up really high? Cause, uh, gravity? I mean, I get what is trying to be conveyed here, and honestly people like it so much because the message is very clear: If you try, you won’t regret it. There certainly are a lot of ones like this one, and this just isn’t my favorite. It is important to note that I am from Kansas. Born and raised. And our state motto is: Ad astra per aspera (to the stars through difficulty). Which is sort of a different spin on exactly the same thing.

In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.

Nah, I have a ton more regrets than the things I didn’t do. Like that time I opened the wrong door at a house party and caught sight of a gay-man orgy. Men, y’all. Lots of them. If that is your thing, cool. I love you. But it isn’t my thing and I want to delete it from my memory, but you know what they say, “So much penis in one room, stays with you forever.” Just no. To this quote, unless you are a high school basketball coach with a losing record.

Every moment matters!

I’m going to politely disagree. Once when I was so sick with the stomach flu, that I couldn’t do anything but run to the toilet, I decided to meander into the kitchen. I made it as far as the kitchen sink, when suddenly I had to vomit. So I leaned over the sink and let it all out. At some point, as I was blowing stomach acid up through my esophagus, I realized that I was also shitting my pants. But you know, I couldn’t stop doing either. So, umm, me thinks not every moment matters.

She believed she could, so she did.

Biggest problem with this one is the pronoun. She can’t just believe it and then do it, there are way more steps for her. First, she has to push all the nonsense out of her brain from her childhood like (Girls can’t run and you should only want to be a mom or a princess). If she is able to do that, then she has to work three times harder than he does, then she gets trampled on repeatedly. She then has to reject unwanted advances that promise her success in exchange for sexual favors. Then she has to put her personal life on hold to completely give herself to the work in exchange for 80 cents on the dollar of what he is paid. Then she has to take breaks so she can have the babies, then she has to go at it all again, but this time she has to start back at the beginning again, only now she is also the one responsible for the house, the kids, and getting her career or passions back on track. Y’all, it’s exhausting. We need better quotes for our girls.

Don’t take life too seriously, you won’t make it out alive.

Really? That’s the best we got here? How about real conversations about mortality to curb some of the existential fucking dread some of us live day in and day out with. Also, if you don’t take life a little seriously you will die way before you should.

If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Incorrect. People refuse to do easy stuff everyday. People refuse to return their carts to the cart corral. People refuse to recycle, which y’all, is literally just ordering a second trash can to be placed next to your current trash can and then throwing some things in that one. It is learning the difference between blue and green trash cans. People refuse to learn the difference between their, there, and they’re. People hire someone to clean their baseboards. People don’t put coats on their kids when it is 30 degrees outside. People don’t just do things that are easy. They really, really have to want to do it and there usually has to be a motivation. Monetary motivation works the best.

Difficult roads, often lead to beautiful destinations.

Oh, okay, some of y’all never been to the Ozarks and it shows. Sometimes difficult roads lead to meth houses, with large, round burn marks in the lawn and tin foil on all the windows. Sometimes the pit bull hops the fence and chases your ass back up that difficult road. And since you can’t run, you have to just throw yourself back down the difficult road and roll. Tuck and roll, bitches. Sometimes you roll into the woods and the dog gives up. Sometimes you hit your head on a rock and wake up ten hours later at the hospital, where the doctor accuses you of trying to get “Oxytocin”, and turns you out on the street with a bandage on your head and a fresh rabies shot. Not all roads are that difficult, but they for sure are not all that beautiful either.

The best revenge is success.

The best revenge for who? Now listen, I am not a big fan of revenge. I am more a fan of forgiveness. But, there are some instances where a strongly-worded email will just not do it. But if someone says we can’t do something, and we do it just to avenge our names, have we put energy into something that we really didn’t need to, just in order to make the other person go, “Oh, hum, look at that. They could do it.” Cause honestly that is usually the response. No one cares, dude. You are not that important. That is like when I go, “Oh this person hates me! Waaaaa!” Chances are they don’t hate me. Because in order for someone to hate you, they have to care enough about you to form an opinion. Christ, get over yourself, Missy.

Go big or go home.

Going home, every single time, y’all. Every. Single. Time. I like home. Home is safe and if I go big people look at me and I don’t like people to look at me. Unless it is from a distant and I am in heels.

Who said life is fair?

I like this best when the generation before us asks us that. Like when our parents generation is all, “Who said life was fair, you damn millennials?!” I like it then because YOU SAID IT YOU ASSHOLES! You raised us this way! You can’t have it both ways. You can’t tell us we can be and do anything we want, then when we quit law school to become an abstract artist you can’t be all, “Hey wait. You can’t do that!” YOU SAID WE COULD!

It’s not all bad, y’all. In fact, there are still some quotes that I live my life by. I’m sure some people could find fault with these, but that’s okay, they always have my back!

Snitches get stitches.

Don’t be dumb.

Just because you are offended, does not mean you are right.

Onward and upward.

Bigger the risk, bigger the reward.

I also live by the words of Joan Didion and the original Maria on Sesame Street.

M.

Charcuterie Board Etiquette

If you’re like me up, until recently you had no clue what a Charcuterie Board was. Well, gather round kiddies, I’m gonna tell you all about it. See back in my day we called a charcuterie board a “cheese and meat tray” and more recently, at two am on a Saturday while I sat on the toilet gripping my stomach, I screamed to my husband that I shouldn’t have eaten all those “weird-ass cheeses and meats on that wood plank”. Which is to say, it goes by many names.

Picture this: It’s a warm, sunny day in Saluda, North Carolina and I walk into an ultra-hip restaurant with my friends and family and a hankering for some cheese. A thin man with a wicked-sweet porn star mustache and uncomfortably skinny jeans approaches our table, and I ask, “Y’all got cheeses and stuff?” And he’s like, “Uhhh…” So I say, “You know, cheeses and like, things” as I make a shape like a board in front of me. Then he says, “Ohhhh, do you mean a charcuterie board?” And I’m all, “Maybe…” Then he winks and says he will take care of me and I’m nervous because I think that might be a sexual suggestion and I’m not into mustache rides… from a skinny dude. Turns out he meant he would bring me meats and cheeses, because the next thing I know this fancy-ass board is placed in front of me, and Boom! I am introduced to the world of charcuterie.

Charcuterie is a French word, duh. (If you couldn’t work that out, then I just can’t help you, it’s above my pay grade.) It roughly translates to “cooked meats” like bacon, ham, sausage, and a bunch of real fancy, French-ass meats. (Side note: The person who prepares a charcuterie is called a charcutier, which means “pork butcher” successfully rendering me a butcher. Which has always been a life goal.) Basically it is shelf-stable meat, right? Forcemeat, emulsified sausages, brined meats that, eaten in large quantities, cause gastrointestinal cancer, as well as diarrhea (see above).

Then there are the cheeses. Oh Cheezus Christ, the cheeses. There is aged cheddars, and goat gouda. There is gorgonzola and stilton. There is asiago and brie. Stop it right now, I can’t take it anymore! I LOVE cheeses!

Whew. Sorry. That was inappropriate and uncalled for, but you know, necessary, in a get-all-your-burdens-off-your-chest sorta way. Thanks for listening. I owe you one.

So I decide, Missy, you can be fancy-ass too. You too, can host a party and have a charcuterie board. It can’t be that hard to do. And so I did it, in these 18 easy-to-follow steps.

Step One: Get a board. This step took me seven months. Listen, I know what you’re thinking, “What the hell, Missy? I just Googled it and I can have one at my house in three hours.” But listen, like most great ideas I get, I sorta, kinda, forgot what I was doing. Sure, I looked on Amazon as soon as I got home last summer, and even placed a couple of boards in my cart for good measure. And whenever I was bored or needed to shop I would look at my boards and picture what kind of cheeses I wanted to try. But I never pulled the trigger. Meanwhile, I did move on to step two.

Step Two: Get some favorite meats and cheeses. This was simple for me because I already knew two things. 1. Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheese is the best aged cheddar on the face of the planet and I will fight anyone who disagrees and 2. I don’t like hard salami.

Step Three: Invite friends over for a charcuterie.

Step Four: Convince them there will be wine too and tell them to stop asking you questions about the food, they will get fed, look, are you assholes coming or not?

Step Five: Go to Harris Teeter in a panic to get olives.

Step Six: Yell at your husband because you told him to get “fancy-ass beer” to go with the “fancy-ass cheeses” and then roll your eyes when he asks what the hell a “fancy-ass beer” is. “SOMETHING LOCAL!” you scream as you slam the drawer closed when you realize you have nothing to cut cheeses with. (I’m taking the high road here and not including a joke about “cutting cheese”.)

Step Seven: Google “How do you cut cheeses” and find that you need special cheese cutting utensils.

Step Eight: Drive to TJ Maxx. They have everything.

Step Nine: Buy the special utensils, a new wallet, three new dog toys, Christmas ornaments on clearance, two new toothbrush heads, and a llama painting.

Step Ten: Get home and realize you still don’t have an actual fucking “board”.

Step Eleven: Eye the trees in your backyard suspiciously. You have that old hand sander that you bought yourself for your 35th birthday. You could probably make a new board in the next three hours.

Step Twelve: Resign to use a big “platter”.

Step Thirteen: Start to cut up the cheeses and meats, realizing that you have no idea which utensils works for which cheese, abandon the utensils and saw at the bricks of yellow and white until they are start to crumble all over your counter.

Step Fourteen: Call your friends and tell them you have a horrible migraine and you can’t host the party. Send sad, sick emojis and promise a kick-ass party to make up for it.

Step Fifteen: Cry in your bathroom while you eat the crumbles of cheese from a ziplock bag.

Step Sixteen: Six months later happen upon a charcuterie board at TJ Maxx, snatch it up quickly and run to the register before you forget what you are doing.

Step Seventeen: Run over to Trader Joe’s and buy five bricks of aged cheddar, some asiago, some other cheeses that sound yummy, ham, salami, and some soft goat cheese. Get crackers.

Step Eighteen: Pull out the board and all these cheeses at your Super Bowl party likes it no big fucking deal and you do this all the time. You don’t label anything, or make it look fancy, least your friends think you have lost your mind. But you know, you kinda wish you had more time to plan.

Actual fucking cheese and meat tray at my Super Bowl party this last weekend. No one ate the goat cheese. I will get better. Or not.

Enjoy.

May you live your best charcuterie li(f)e.

M.

If I Were Forced into a Court-Ordered OA Group

It is six o’clock in the evening on a Wednesday. I am sitting in a semi-circle staring blankly ahead, trying not to make eye contact with the man directly across from me who has an oxygen tank next to him and keeps talking about how he wishes he could step outside for a smoke. There are only five of us so far. I know this because every fourteen seconds or so I look around the room as if I am searching for a clock on the wall, but in reality I am using my peripheral vision to count heads. Is that meaty woman by the door lingering there because she is afraid to commit, or is the success story for the night. I do not count her just yet.

We are all sitting on hard plastic chairs that are intended for children. That are so small my thighs are spilling over the sides. I shift uncomfortably in the seat, and I just know this will give me a rash, or deep lines in my softness, at the least. We are in the dank, dim basement of church that, five days a week, doubles as a pre-k for tired Methodist mommies who just need a fucking break for three hours in the morning so they can Zumba, then hit Publix alone.

My foot is asleep.

The woman beside me is breathing so heavy that with each intake I brace myself for the warm, garlicky steam to waft toward me. I close my eyes to pretend that I am in one of those funny sitcoms where I look over at her and we make eye contact and I say something funny and she laughs. The laughter breaks the awkward silence in the room and then we all become super best friends, bound together by our inability to control our emotional eating and our desperate desire to hide behind jokes, because that is the only way we think people will love us.

We start to meet outside of our designated meeting times. We start to have potlucks with things like kale salad (because we are trying) and Diet Coke (because we are not trying that hard) and we only refer to each other by the nicknames that we created (my best friend is Wynonna because of her red hair, and I am Momma Naomi because I like to tell everyone what to do). We start referring to ourselves simply as group.

I open my eyes to see a skinny, pale blond woman lowering herself onto a large, comfy rolling chair. Why does the skinny bitch get the rolling chair? Ah, she’s the mentor.

Twenty minutes later I say the first words I have said all night, after the blond says, Missy, tell us about yourself.

I’m quiet for an actual minute because I have learned that if you are fat, and no one knows what you are capable of, you can be quiet for so long that the silence gets awkward and the conversation goes on without you in it. This doesn’t work with the blond, because as much as I want her to be just one of the other fat people’s caring sisters who has volunteered to come tell us about Weight Watchers, she is actually a real, goddamn therapist who has been hired to try to reach us. To get us. To help us with our self worth. She continues to silently smile at me, her piercing blue eyes locking onto mine. Because this isn’t my first rodeo with a therapist, and because this is not the first time I have tried desperately to get a skinny, pale, blond woman to like me, I cave.

Hi! (I sort of wave to the group that I have actively been avoiding for the last half hour). I’m Missy and I’m a bread-aholic.

I laugh trying to ease into it. A few chuckles come from around the room and I am hoping I can figure out, by the end of the allotted time, who it was that laughed, because those my people. Meanwhile, the blond loses her smile. She ain’t playin’.

Uh, I am married and have one son and a poodle who is kinda, sorta, well he’s a shithead, but I love him. The poodle, not the husband or son. But I mean, they are sort of all shitheads sometimes, you know?

More laughter. Her smile comes back. Okay, keep going Missy.

I am 37 and have always been overweight. I was the kid who was picked on in second grade for having a big round belly, and also because sometimes I would toot when I sneezed, but never owned up to it.

More laughter. She doesn’t laugh, but her smile broadens. She is starting to like me now. I feel safe for no reason whatsoever, except that probably these other fatties get what I am going through and I assure myself that I am not the saddest sack this blond therapist has ever seen, so I decide to go all in.

Obviously, I hide behind humor. My biggest problem really is bread. Carbs. Sugar. I eat when I am sad. When I am angry. When I am happy. I enjoy over-processed foods, but could tell you what I am supposed to be eating, what I should never allow into my body, and how important portion control is. I know how sugar releases dopamine in my brain. I know that too many carbs can cause inflammation in my joints. I know that people like me, who eat a lot of added sugar, are twice as likely to die of heart disease. I know I should not drink Diet Coke, but when I’ve had a shit day, that’s all I want to do. I exercise five days a week, but I know that you can’t exercise away a bad diet. I do not jump on fad bandwagons. I don’t Keto, or South Beach, or Slim Fast. I know those are not healthy, and unrealistic for the long run. I know, but I do not adhere to most of it.

The group sits with their mouths agape. Oxygen man turns up the dial on his machine. Heavy-breather coughs. Blond woman’s smile fades away. I decide this is probably a bad time to ask if there is a snack table somewhere.

By the end of the night I haven’t realized anything that I didn’t already know. I grew up on TV dinners and pre-packaged lunch meats because we were poor and those went a long way. I never learned to read the ingredients on the box. When I was a kid they didn’t even have to tell you what the hell was in the food you were eating. This aided in a whole generation of new fatties cropping up. McDonalds became a thing in the generation before mine. By the time I was born we had so many different fast food choices it would make your head spin. It does make your head spin, because mental confusion is a symptom of bad eating. I know. But like most things, slowly but surely food and the elevated importance of it in our emotional well-being took over and no one, no one stood up to say we have to stop.

But, I also know that at this point in my life it is no one’s fault by my own for still being overweight. I have been given all of the tools that I need to succeed. Anyone can now Google how to rid yourself of sugar, how to restart your cravings. I know people who do the Whole 30 every other damn month. And they do it because it is freaking hard to stick to it. It is freaking hard to retrain your brain. Hard to live everyday in a mental fog, wishing and hoping for just a little suckle off the old fructose bottle. Because we all want to be happy, right?

I’ve never been to an Overeaters Anonymous group, and court-ordered would be the only way I would go. Though I am having a hard time figuring out what would make a court order you to a place like that. Do I need to stab someone over a lack of cheese at Taco Bell? What if I lifted a case of Little Debbie Snack cakes from the Kroger down the street? But I suspect if I did go to one of those meetings, it would end up being a lot like the scenario above, because although I do not know yet how to get a handle my emotional cravings, I do know myself.

For now I will continue to dream of the day I can pick up a stalk of celery and it can emotionally fulfill me like that bag of pretzels. I will keep refusing Diet Coke for La Croix, keep buying that damn Halo Top instead of the Ben and Jerry’s that I really want. I will keep buying the damn caesar dressing made from yogurt, because even if all that is bad for me too, it is still a hell of a lot better than I used to do, even I though I will still eat chicken wings whenever I get the damn chance.

For those of you who are struggling with the weight. Struggling with the cravings and the bad choices and the lack of exercise and all of the things, remember that you are not alone. There is help out there if you need it or want it. There really are Overeaters Anonymous groups, and if group therapy works for you, DO IT! There are nutritionists (that your insurance will indeed pay for, you may just have to ask), and there are good, honest gyms, or workout groups, or just people to walk the block with a few times a week. There is therapy to deal with the real root of your overeating, because regardless of what you think, you are probably not just a lazy, slob who doesn’t have the time. There are things, mental and emotional things, that are stacked against you. You just have to be committed to finding what works for you. And remember, one step at a time. Sometimes, quite literally.

I’m always here to lend an ear or a smack on the hand if you need me.

M.