Dollar General and Jesus. Lakes and guns. Fishing and methadone clinics. Oh my! We just got back from the Ozarks yesterday and I wanted to share some pictures I took while I was there. I’ll let you form your own opinions about where exactly some of these were taken, but I’ll give you a hint: Very near Arkansas. It’s important to keep an open mind about what is beauty up there, but some things you just have to see to believe. Glad to be home. Hope you’re all well, let’s touch base about our mental health tomorrow, today take a gander of some of the wonders of the Ozarks.
We’re heading home today. I’d normally say we are heading back to reality at this point in a vacation, but this time reality never really left us. Or maybe it didn’t leave me. I was keenly aware, all day, everyday, of the realities of life. That masks were necessary, and that even in outdoor events, social distancing is key. It wasn’t part of the original plan to leave so soon, but plans change. You get new information, you make educated decisions. Our new information came like this: 1. Jerimiah was suddenly thrust into a large corporate deal (think a bidding contract worth millions) that he needs to be “present” for. “Present” here doesn’t mean in actual person, as of now anyway, but there’s a chance. He does need high-speed internet though, an issue we’ve been battling out here in the country, and he needs a shirt with a tie, and some semblance of an office (he’s currently working with a large, blow-up dartboard behind him). 2. This global pandemic isn’t going anywhere. Not sure if you’ve seen, but uhh, it’s here to stay awhile, and things are changing daily. A week ago, the state we live in (Georgia) was “steady” and the state we are currently in (Missouri) was on the decline. Now, two weeks later, things have changed drastically. Covid-19 is running rampant again, in both states, and the truth of the matter is I need to be at home, socially distancing from others, in the safety of our bubble, with my immune-compromised husband and my asthmatic kid. It’s the only way. The way of life here is too lackadaisical, and that’s okay for some people, but not for us. The risk, in this case, is not worth it.
So goodbye Table Rock Lake. Goodbye family! Thanks to those of you who were able to visit with us. Thanks for self-isolating for a couple of weeks, thanks for taking our safety concerns seriously. Thanks for the late-night talks, the boat rides, the floating and laughing and singing. Thanks for the best version of a summer vacation we could ask for this year, hopefully we will see you all soon, but if not that’s okay. Your safety, our safety, the collective safety is the most important, and besides, one day life might be back to normal, isn’t that neat? Something to look forward to!
Had me a blast! Summer lovin’ happened so faaaaast! You know the rest. We’ve been watching movies before bed. Sometimes we just fast asleep to “Fresh Prince” or “Bob’s Burgers,” other nights we’ve been introducing the kids to classics like “Teen Wolf” (“Is this supposed to be a comedy?”) and “Uncle Buck” (“What is wrong with that guy?”) and we’ve been talking and thinking about other movies to watch. Rachel and Madi brought their projector with them, so we are trying to decide what to watch for a fun movie, double feature outside one evening, and there is some disagreement. I say we watch “Twister” or maybe “Dirty Dancing”, while Jackson says we should just watch John Oliver, and Madi is like “What about a scary movie?” Yesterday Jackson suggested “Beetlejuice” as a compromise, hellbent that he’d never seen it before. Face to palm. He’s seen it. We watch it every Halloween along with “Hocus Pocus” and “Casper the Friendly Ghost”. This child of mine…
“Grease” came up in conversation however and everyone sort of nodded their heads up and down. “Oh yeah, ‘Grease’ that’s a good one.” Madi has watched it, but Jackson hasn’t. How have I failed him in this manner? Is it as good as I remember? I haven’t seen it in literal years. A decade or more maybe. And I’m in this weird space where I think he will like the cool cars, but does it hold up like the other movies? I’ve been disappointed recently by some old favorites.
So who knows. I’m throwing in the towel. Or maybe it’s caution to the wind. Or maybe it’s none of those things. I’m on the hunt for the perfect place to stick the projector, the rest will work itself out. Fingers crossed the right movie shows itself, and fingers crossed my kid won’t be afraid, or sad, or snapping his fingers while he greases back his hair and sings, “Summer lovin’ had me a blaaaast…”
Woke up this morning thinking that I’m too stressed to feel blessed. You read that right: I’m too stressed to feel blessed. My stress level is off the charts. I’m not home during a global pandemic. I’ve got my kid traveling all over, seeing people who have not been taking this pandemic seriously. The lack of masks, social distancing, and isolation here is crazy. People are totally pretending like the numbers aren’t spiking. They think wearing a mask is sufficient. What the what? I want to be back at my house, alone, ordering my groceries again. I’m scared. I’m stressed. And if you aren’t, you are not paying attention.
Don’t get me wrong I’m having a good time, occasionally. Occasionally I forget that the world is a shitbag, upside place. Occasionally I drink so much wine with my husband and best friend that I forget. Or I’m on the lake, enjoying a boat ride. Like yesterday when we rolled up at the marina to get gas and snacks. It’s called “What’s Up Dock” and it’s cute, and lively, and had all the gas, Sprite, and potato chips we needed. They also has a ton of people. People walking around aimlessly, asking about jet ski rentals, and trying on “Table Rock” t-shirts, buy one, get one free. For a split second I forgot about Covid-19. It all seemed so normal. So free. So every, other summer of my life. Then I remembered.
I saw a bumper sticker on a car coming up here: “Too Blessed to be Stressed.” I smiled and thought, wouldn’t that be nice.
I’ve officially been at the lake for a week now. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel being away from home this long, but so far so good. I’m not missing my bed yet and I’m certainly not missing cleaning my house. In fact, I’m not missing anything except maybe the fact that I can have take-out delivered to all day. Oh city living, you’re a fun time. We’ve been staying busy, but not too busy. You know, the right kind of busy. For instance yesterday we went out on the boat for most of the day, which really takes it out of you, but if you don’t go on the boat you don’t get pics like these:
And everyone wants pics like these.
Which means today we are taking it slower. In fact, I’ve been up for a couple of hours. Jerimiah and Jackson left for Tulsa early this morning, so I’ve been laying in bed. I’m slowly drinking my coffee, and I’m playing a rousing game of Wordscapes with Madi and Rachel. The fun thing about this game is that I’m winning! Ha! Just kidding, the fun thing is we can all play on our own phones, help each other out (if we want to), and most importantly lay in bed while we play. It’s a win-win-win. Oh, and did I mention that I’m winning? For now anyway…
I’m a White Claw drinker. That might take me down a peg or two with some of y’all, but I’m willing to risk that to assert my truth. I drink White Claws, and I like them. I’m a fan of seltzer water anyway, so you add alcohol to it and a little bit of watermelon flavoring and let’s be real, I’m fucking in. White Claws have a bad reputation, mainly because people are jealous, and don’t like to have fun, and are boujee with their alcohol choices, so they try to pass judgement on me but it won’t work. Fight me. I’m a bad bitch.
Anyway, White Claws keep me hydrated, and I never seem to get drunk on them, just a little tipsy, which is a good thing. It means I can drink all day at the lake for funsies and not feel bad the next day, which might be why there are no laws when you’re drinking Claws. (Disclaimer: There are in fact laws when you’re drinking Claws, as my 11-year-old likes to remind me.) But I mean, is there? Cause my White Claw koozie says otherwise.
Anyway, White Claw is owned by Mark Anthony brands, the same company who brought us Mike’s Hard Lemonade and totally changed the high school girl experience for the better back in the late 90s. The owner, Anthony (not Mark) started his company by selling wine out of the back of his car, which is both badass and boujee, so who’s a bitch now? Thanks Anthony, for all your hard work. I salute you.
Now go forth and have a safe, happy, law-free day, y’all.
It’s Thursday. I know, I know, it’s actually Friday, but I’m writing this yesterday, so it’s Thursday. I’m writing this yesterday? Yeah, that’s a thing I said. Let me start over, it’s Thursday morning. About nine o’clock. I’m sitting at one of my best spots, a pavilion that overlooks Table Rock Lake, and I’m drinking coffee. I just got off the phone with one of my best friends, Beth. We’ve been trying our best to stay connected. Writing cards, texting hello, catching up on little calls here or there. It’s working. I think. It’s helping. I know.
But it’s Thursday and I’m sitting in one of the best spots. Today is the day my best friends, Rachel and her daughter Madi, come join us at the lake. Today is the day I get to see one of my best little buddies, Nashville. He’s my best friend Melody’s son. Melody can’t make it down here, but her parents were able to and they brought Nash and we get him for the afternoon. Today is a best day, no doubt. But for now, for just this little moment in time, it’s quiet. It’s calm. I’m alone, and I’m having the best time.
I’ve only been on Table Rock Lake for four days, but the adventures are constant. First, there’s my damn dogs and their “quirks.” The bribing them to be on their best behavior, the training collar (which arrived today), the constant picking up of dog poop, and the ever-present sad eyes when I’m eating a burger. Le sigh. Adventures, yes adventures. Look at these damn dogs.
Then there is the lake. It’s pretty high right now, and it’s recently turned over so there’s an occasional fish odor, but you know, that’s lake life. Still, Jackson and his buddy Tate have been kayaking up a storm!
Then there’s the food. My mother-in-law loves to cook and I love to eat, so it’s a pretty good deal. Not to mention the sunrise and sunset walks with my husband while we wax intellectual on how to save the world.
It’s an interesting dichotomy, this place. A little bit country, a little bit lake. Not at all how I remember it, but also exactly the same as it always is.
I hope you are having a splendid week, friends. Stay safe and sane.
We got to Table Rock Lake Saturday night, just before dinner time. Well, our family’s dinner time, nearly 8:30 pm. We were welcomed by my mother-in-law, her husband Tom, her brother (Uncle Jim), and some big, juicy homemade cheeseburgers. We didn’t mean to get here so late, but the eleven-hour drive turned out to be a 13-hour drive, with two stops for a vomiting puppy, a long walk to stretch our legs at Elvis’ Birthplace, and three or four potty breaks. It was worth it though, as soon as we hit the familiar roll of the Ozark Mountains, we smiled our relief.
It’s been so long since we have been away from our house, I thought I’d be a little sad. Homesick, even. But no, turns out I was just homesick for this place, as the flicker of the lightening bugs on the freshly cut field and the starry sky soon reminded me. I’ve been away for so long, that I’ve forgotten how the stars look way out here, away from the bustle, away from the lights, and the sirens, and the stress of the city. You never know about going home. It can be nice, it can be tough, I’m usually ambivalent at best, but not this time. Not in the state we find ourselves. Things smell and feel different.
I hope you are all well today, and you are taking care of yourself and each other. But most importantly, I hope you get to go home again sometime soon.
If you’re reading this, I’m loading up the truck with Jerimiah, while Jackson walks around in circles complaining that he is tired, and the dogs bark from inside the house because they think we are leaving them, and going on a super, cool vacation in the tropics. Probably. Most likely. It’s Saturday morning and we are headed on an 11-hour road trip this morning and I’m already stressed about all the things. Things like: Where will we use the bathroom, how bad are the places we are headed into, is it safer to use gloves at the gas pump or not, will Winnie vomit all over everyone like she usually does, why do we have to go anywhere near Little Rock, and should we have just packed food and not relied on drive-thrus? But the motion has already started, and like most things in life we will just have to wait and see.
That doesn’t stop the mind from wandering though. That’s what medication is for, so damn it I hope I remembered to pack the Klonopin, and where did I put those “Relieve Stress” Gummies?
There you have it, 11 hours through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, a teeny bit of Tennessee (not the good part), and Arkansas. I mean, under normal circumstance this isn’t a worrisome trip. Whenever you’re going to pass Elvis’s birthplace AND Johnny Cash’s in the same trip, well, Lord help us all.
The Goodnights are going on vacation! Woohoo, us! If you have been around awhile you might know we are travelers. Nothing soothes our wandering souls like a good road trip out West, or a quick flight to NYC to get some pizza and see a show. But this Covid-19 has put a real damper on traveling plans. As it sits we have five airline flights to anywhere in the US, but we are a little too risk-averse to fly right now, and well, all the places we love to visit are/were hotbeds for the Coronavirus, all except one: Table Rock Lake.
We lived on Table Rock Lake for five years in our early twenties. It was the place I first learned to swim (I was terrified most of my life to swim), it was the place we got married, got pregnant with Jackson. It’s a big lake, surrounded by small towns on the Arkansas/Missouri line, and it just so happens that my MIL owns a place right on the water. We try to get down there every summer, and for awhile it looked like we wouldn’t be able to pull it off this year, then well, we decided to try. So, I guess what I mean to say is the Goodnights are tentatively going on vacation! We are planning, but we won’t know for sure until we hit the road the day we are slated to leave. Wish us luck that things don’t change too drastically as of June 30th.
In preparation we invited the regular crew down to hang with us, including my best friend Rachel and her daughter Madi. Rachel and Madi and the rest of their family have been quarantining like us for the last 80 days or so, and are happy to continue to do so until they meet us at the lake. But because we are coming from DeKalb County, Georgia (a hotbed for the virus) and going to Southern Missouri, with family from Kansas (both places with low incidence rates of the virus) we are preparing by getting tested before we leave. The idea of even possibly putting anyone is danger horrifies us.
Because of the high-rates in our county and state (about 3,500 cases/45,000 cases) and the fact that we are not trending down (wait, what?! You guys opened like a month ago and the ‘Rona didn’t disappear?) Le sigh. Where was I? Because of high rates in our county and state, drive-thru testing is open to all residents. You don’t have to be showing symptoms, or have been exposed to anyone. All I had to do was call DeKalb County. They gave me a website to pre-register. I did it. Picked a date and time, June 5th, and boom, we are registered. We were sent a confirmation email with a QR code for each of us to bring with us to our appointment, which is actually just a ride through a church parking lot on the other side of town and boom, we are done.
We picked June 5th because we plan on leaving at the end of the month. That gives us a weekend before the test to stock up on food and essentials so we don’t have to leave the house until we head for Missouri. We have scoured the CDC and WHO websites, and we think this a “low-risk vacation,” but a little extra caution never hurt anyone. Honestly the scariest parts for me are the drive (it’s a ten-hour drive, so at least two stops for gas), the risk that we will be exposed by a family member or friend who stops by unannounced (don’t be surprised if we just wave and walk away, we love ya, but we didn’t quarantine for 80 days for you to roll up and hug us without a mask on), and/or exposing the people back home to something we picked up along the way. So this isn’t really a stress-free vacation, but it’s the best we can muster at this point.
So there you have it. Our tentative, stressful, summer vacation! I’m excited, and nervous, and prepping like mad, but I think it will be totally worth it to see our people.
We met a man last summer in Coastal Louisiana who was raised on the bayou. He used to hunt for and collect alligator eggs as a child, then hatch them and raise them in his bathtub until they got too big, then he and his brothers would take them back out to the swamp and drop them near where they found them. He spoke Louisiana-French, a creole language spoken across ethnic and racial lines, by people who consider themselves to be Cajun or Louisiana Creole, as well as Chitimacha, Houma, Biloxi, Tunica, Choctaw, Acadian, and/or French. Creole is the type of language they speak, but Cajun is derived from that. There is always a dominate language with pidgin languages known as the superstrate language, while the lesser is the substrate. In the case of the Cajun there is English, then French, then African, Spanish, and Native American. When it all converges in one person, the result can be wonderful and confusing. He told us how to “pinch the tail and suck the head,” showed us places we had never seen before, and explained that Lagniappe just means getting a little something extra than you paid for.
He would speak to the alligators primarily in French, then speak to us in English, then speak to his friend in Creole. He would codeswitch from one being to another, never skipping a beat, never missing an opportunity to tell his story to whomever would listen. Always with an eye on the alligator.
The man was our tour guide on the Atchafalaya River Basin, a combination of wetlands and river delta where the Atchafalaya and the Gulf of Mexico converge. The basin contains 70% forest habitat, and 30% open water. As far as wetland river basins go, it’s almost stable. It’s the largest contiguous block of forested wetlands left in the lower Mississippi River Valley, and the largest block of floodplain forest in the United States, with 260,000 acres of cypress-tupelo. It’s iconic, and terrifying, and a little bit surreal.
Soaring over the Atchafalaya Swamp we watched a baby and momma Osprey spread their wings from the top of a hollowed cypress. We saw a 12-foot alligator lead his blind friend to food. We overheard the story of the Louisiana Black Bear, and the floods, and the inoperable South Farm, and the ATV-traffic that threatens many of the existence there. We saw beaver dams, and otter running for their lives. We felt the slap of an alligator tail against the oiled metal of the boat. For the first time in my five years in The South, I let it grip me. Take ahold of my head and my heart. It was something I didn’t expect to happen, but something I am glad did. Like when you get an extra donut in the box.
Soooo, how’s everyone doing? Me? Oh well, thanks for asking. I’m sitting here at my desk, staring out my window at the beautiful sunny skies, listening to the birds chirping and the cars whizzing by wondering why in the hell you would actually go eat INSIDE a Waffle House today?! Yep. Uh huh. Welcome to Georgia. Where everything is made up and the points don’t matter. But, to be fair, it’s more than just the Waffle House opening up, it’s also bowling alleys and theaters. And if you do have the emotional or mental capacity to leave your house for dinner and a movie (who are these people, and what kind of anti-depressants are they on?!) then you know you are safe because you they can only sit four deep at the Waffle House counter. Whew, glad someone is taking this all seriously.
Also, just so we are clear, the servers are wearing gloves and masks at the Waffle House, but can I be real for a minute? Shouldn’t the servers at the Waffle House ALWAYS be wearing masks and gloves? I mean, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing I like more than drinking so much gin that my inhibitions are way, way down, then getting turnt on some OJ and fried eggs at the Waffle House. In fact, 20-something Missy lived and died by WH. But, umm, I still always knew I ran the risk of picking up Hep-b in the bathroom while I was there, and I still used caution. Now you throw in a global pandemic and whaazzzzy, whaazzzzy, wha?!
I’m picking on the WH here but it’s because this is Georgia and people literally cried when the WH closed up shop last month, but truly this is the nuttiest thing I have seen in a while. People actually leaving their house, amid 23,500 cases in our state, with nearly 1,000 deaths, and hitting up the movies and going bowling. Like, I just don’t get it. And the beaches, please don’t get me started with the beaches. Y’all know we love to travel. In fact, I’m simultaneously planning three vacations in my mind right now (a trip “home,” a trip to Southern Cali, and a long weekend in Savannah) but you can bet your ass I haven’t actually booked any airfare, or started looking at hotels. Because shit, y’all. It’s gonna be awhile.
I know there are people who are just trying to get back to work. I know that. Small business owners, or you know, Shake Shack, are really trying to cash in on that money, but it isn’t coming. But to be fair, aren’t their employees making more money on unemployment right now, then if they were working? And don’t they have a “rainy day” fund? Like, certainly they don’t want the government to keep bailing them out, that’s, that’s, SOCIALISM!
I think I’m gonna stop. Take some deep breathes. Pour myself a glass of wine at three o’clock in the afternoon, and sit on the deck and listen to the birds. And the squeal of the tires in and out of the local Waffle House. Be safe, y’all. And STAY THE FUCK AT HOME.
As some of you might know, we had big plans for travel this year. We started the year out with a fun trip to New England for New Year’s, and had a trip planned to Kansas City in March, and one to Florida for Spring Break. But of course all that was cancelled because of the worldwide pandemic. So instead, during Jackson’s spring break last week, we camped out in our backyard! Well, technically we camped out in our sun porch, because, well, I’m not a “camping” kinda girl. And Jerimiah is not a “camping” kind of guy. And Jackson is not a “camping” kind of kid. But we do like s’mores, backyard games, and watching Saturday Night Live as a family, so we compromised.
The sun porch offered the shelter from the cold (it got down into the 40s the night we camped out), and the rain (there was a slight chance), and did I mention that we brought a television out to watch the SNL At Home edition? Duh. We weren’t going to miss that. But otherwise it was a lot like camping! (Except for the hot tub, our own bathroom, and the aforementioned “extras”). Yeah, we totes sun-porch camped!
First we had to set the tent up. This was all Jerimiah and Jackson, while the dogs and I supervised. I think camping is a waste of time, generally, because of the all the set-up, the tear-down, and the amount of money you spend just to “save money” camping. (I’m more of a “rent a log cabin in the woods” kinda gal, especially if you only camp for a weekend. I can see the point if you are somewhere for a week or more, but geez, it’s a lot of work to cook your food on the ground and swat away mosquitos. I can do that in my backyard.) And this was no exception. But Jackson was so pumped about it, so I was like, “Yay! Camping!” I was a little surprised we even had a tent and a blow-up. mattress.
After we were all set up in the tent, we started making dinner. Grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, uh duh. Then ate on the deck. At this point it was in the mid-70s, sunny, and nice. We had big plans for the night that included a fire pit and the hot tub, so we were hoping it would cool down. Don’t worry, it did. It cooled way down.
After dinner it did start to cool down so we started the fire pit. We are not 100% sure of the “open fire” restrictions in our county, Jerimiah read them a bunch but still couldn’t decide if a fire pit was legal or not. But we would be amazed if a fire pit is illegal, so we ran with it. Only when we heard massive firetrucks whizzing by did we get frightened, but turned out it wasn’t for us. Thank goodness the neighbors didn’t call the cops on us. S’mores were a go!
As the night calmed down, we talked a lot, ate more s’mores, and enjoyed the fire. The dogs played, Jackson played with the dogs, then we had our own game of “manhunter” in which I was a fugitive hiding from the law at a national park, and Jackson had to arrest me. I wish I were kidding. Later, when Jerimiah and I were in the hot tub, Jackson even changed into what he thought an undercover National Park Ranger/Detective would wear. Hilarity ensued. I went screaming through the backyard, dogs biting at my heels, Jackson chasing me, threatening to “tase” me, and Jerimiah watching in disbelief. This is when the neighbors should have called the cops.
Finally we talked the detective/ranger into joining us in the hot tub, by promising we wouldn’t break any more laws that night. Even though I was drinking White Claws and you know what they say about that, “Ain’t no laws, when you’re drinking Claws…”
After a refreshing dip, we headed back to the yard to play Washers and talk more around the fire pit. Family bonding at it’s finest. It was like we haven’t been in the same house together for a month…
Around 10:30 we put the fire pit out and headed into the sun porch. It was cold in there. We had left the fan on, and the temperature had dropped. Couple that with my Claws buzz was wearing off, I needed some blankets. So jerimiah pulled the sun porch blinds down, stuck the canopy on the tent, and put socks on my feet. I wish I were kidding. He’s too good to me.
Then we had a dance party, because that’s what Jackson wanted to do. In it he taught us how to do “The Scarn” which is a fictitious dance, by a fictitious character, based on a fictitious movie, played by a fictitious office manager on The Office. For real.
Afterward we got all cozied up inside the tent (well I did, with the dogs) and watched the At Home Edition of SNL, which was amazing! They did a great job. Then it was time for bed, so we all snuggled up for the night.
And then we all fell into a wonderful, quiet night of sleep! Just kidding! It was freezing cold, our air mattress apparently has a slow leak, and Jackson was unable to sleep because it was the night before Easter and the damn Easter bunny was set to come. So, yeah, it was like every, single night camping I have ever had. It was a hellish nightmare and I simply don’t want to do it again. But the next night, ahhh, we slept in our own bed again.
There you have it, backyard camping. That’s what you asked about, right? Silly me, you didn’t ask for anything. You never do. You are a giver, not a taker. And I love you. Now go forth and backyard camp. Can’t you see how fun it is?