I can’t sleep. It’s three am, and I’m awake watching the light from the window stream in. The light is different out here in the country. It’s softer. It’s the moonlight. Starlight. It’s the things you can see more clearly in the dark. I’m in bed, awake, thinking about kindness. About masks. About how different the world suddenly is for my child. But mainly I’m thinking about kindness.
The fact that wearing a mask for public safety right now is a political stance, or an opinion, or a whatever the hell it is, is making me very upset, and I think what it boils down to is kindness. Not niceness, not a performative act (although shame might be the driving force for some people to wear one), but rather the ability to think about someone other than yourself. If your concern with wearing a mask is your freedom, or how you look in one, or how it will negatively impact you, you’re completely missing the point of the masks. This isn’t about you, it’s about us, the collective. It’s about saving as many fragile lives as we can. It isn’t about you, it’s about your friend’s great-grandma, or your sister’s mother-in-law, or your child’s friend with a compromised system. It’s about wanting everyone to survive this. It’s about doing the most good for the most amount of people, which is probably why you’ll find mask-wearing will fall along political lines. The most good for the most amount of people, yeah, we don’t all want that. And I’m just laying here tonight, watching the moonlight stream in, and I’m wondering how we came to a point when genuine kindness, generosity, and care for humankind become a political stance. Maybe it always has been, I was just too naive to notice?
Take care, be safe, wear a mask, stay home if you can.
Click, click. Tap, tap. Sploot.Click, click, click… These are the noises I hear at night when I am trying to fall asleep. I’ll be so close to sleep. My eyes closed, rolling back toward my brain from under my lightly pulled lids, then I will hear it. The click or the tap or the sploot. I open my eyes wide, cock my head to the side, grab hold of my husband’s sleeping arm. Do you hear that, I’ll whisper. He will respond in a snore. I’ll move my eyes toward the ceiling, imagine a squirrel scampering quickly over the layers of pine needles I haven’t willed myself to clean. It must be squirrels, I think. Then I lay my head back on my pillow, close my eyes, and try again.
I hear the noises, but the truth is, they aren’t there. They are part of a dreamlike state I get to before I fall over the cliff into dreams, into tossing and turning, sweating myself awake. The noises aren’t real, that’s why my husband doesn’t hear them, why my dogs are never jumping around barking. There is not really a click, or a tap, or a sploot. It’s all in my head.
This happens to me in times of stress. I hear things that aren’t real. Bacon sizzling in a pan. A wayward footstep. For years my doctors have blamed it on my medication. Auditory hallucinations they call it. Here, try this new pill instead. Only it isn’t the medication. The medication is doing it’s job. It is making me function all day. Allowing me to smile, even when I don’t want to. Allowing me to stay focused and motivated. But at night, when my brain is refusing to collapse into sleep, when the stress of the day catches up to me, then I’m on my own.
And all I can think right now, today as I wait to fall asleep in a cocoon of safety, my home alarm set, my husband sleeping quietly next to me, my son tucked safely in his bed, my two overly-anxious dogs at my feet, all I can think is, if I’m hearing clicks, taps, and sploots, what are other people hearing?
A funny thing happened on the way to ambush Jackson’s teacher’s house with flowers and signs under the cover of darkness: We were almost spotted! Let me back up. Yesterday we did a car parade in front of Jackson’s teacher’s house. It was an idea from one parent in the class, facilitated by another parent, and communicated to the masses by me. It was a week-long negotiation of emails, time slots, text messages, and pure craziness–but it paid off big time! That’s another post. This one is about the night before the parade.
Jackson and I got this great idea to place 25 flamingos in his teacher’s yard the night before, with a sign that said, “The rest of the flock will be here tomorrow.” Funny, right? Well we had this idea on Monday, and when I tried to order 25 flamingos I couldn’t get anyone to promise me they would be here by Thursday. So we moved to Plan B: 25 spinning flower pinwheels from the Dollar Tree, with a sign that said, “Thanks for helping us grow!” Sweet. Not as funny, but definitely cute. And it did the trick! The next morning a surprised Mr. Budd filmed his front yard and shared it on Class Dojo with everyone. He was incredibly touched by the gesture, but what he didn’t see was the chaotic lead up to this picture-perfect moment.
First, there was Jerimiah and me in the Dollar Tree, a place I’m a little freaked out to go into when there isn’t a global pandemic happening. We had our masks on, our hand sani in our pockets, and we looked EVERYWHERE for those spinning flowers before we were about to give up. Walking out the front door I did one last turn to see and BOOM! they were right at the front door. Palm to face. So then we loaded up on 25 of them, some cardboard, balloons and streamer (for the car) and maybe some candy, who can be sure? What?! EVERYTHING IS A DOLLAR THERE, Y’ALL!
We get home and have all sorts of ideas. Pinning names to the flowers, making the flowers spell something out, wild, wild, ideas. Near hour two I had a breakdown of sorts, as I do from time to time, and said, “Listen here, assholes! We are gonna go over in the cover of darkness, stick these in the yard, and run away frantically. We aren’t doing any fancy shit.” I was really just talking to myself at this point, because Jerimiah was grilling steaks on the patio and Jackson had already checked out. So that’s just what we did.
At 9:45 pm we left our house for his teacher’s. He lives approximately two minutes from us (hey, we are a neighborhood school, okay) and when we got there we did a slow roll by to scope things out. Now it was apparent by this point that I was the only one who had done any sort of “stalking” for nefarious purposes. Jerimiah didn’t understand why were doing a “stakeout” and Jackson was basically the loudest person I have ever heard in my entire life. To make matters worse, Jackson had dressed in camo and a cowboy hat. ??? The lights in the house were on, so we drove by a second time and this time stopped short of the Budd house and Jackson hopped out to gather some “intel.” Just as he jumped out I saw Mrs. Budd’s shadow walking through the house and I rolled my window down to signal to Jackson to get back into car. He saw me and yelled in our general direction, “WHAT, MOMMY? WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?!”
At that point I made Jerimiah back up the street. He was like, “Isn’t this more suspicious?” Ugh. Then we agreed we were just too early. So we did what anyone would do: We went to Dairy Queen. In the DQ line we debated Raspberry Blizzards, decided on code names (Eagle Eye, Momma Bird, and Falcon) and Jackson tried to incorporate number codes. He was all, “Code Three means imminent danger, okay? Okay, Momma Bird?!” and shit like that. Jerimiah decided we did in fact need to be organized, and I took the springy, red DQ spoon and stabbed him directly… just kidding. I said, “That’s what I’ve been saying,” while I cracked my knuckles loudly on the dashboard. We made a plan.
We’d park facing the front yard, the wrong way on the street. It is a quiet cul-de-sac, so no one would see us, or even care. We’d turn our lights off, obvi. Jackson would go first, put the first sign up (the one for Mr. Budd’s kids) and take just a couple of the spinning pinwheels, which at this point were hanging on by a thread, having been moved into a box, out of a box, pushed, shoved, hidden, gathered up, slammed down. Honestly we were expecting a lot from Dollar Store spinning pinwheels. Then Jerimiah and I split up the remaining pinwheels. I held mine in my hand, and he stuck his in cup holder because he was the driver. Okay. We had ice cream. We had a plan. It was go time! So we immediately drove back home, because Jackson ordered a fucking large and I was like, “Did you actually order a fucking large ice cream at 10 pm on a Wednesday?! You need to save half of that!” So he needed to get it into the freezer. Then, ahem, we were off again! By this time it was 10:15 and we thought certainly Mr. Budd would be sound asleep. No. Nope. Lights on. Same deal. But honestly it was now or never.
We rolled down the street, lights off, Jackson’s nervous shaking leg smashed into the back of my seat, spinning flower pinwheels poking my legs, and parked where we had discussed. Jackson got out of the car, slammed his door shut, Jerimiah winced, I screamed “JESUS!” and he started toward the yard. It was at this point that we realized he had left his sign and spinning pinwheels in the damn backseat. I rolled the window down and whisper-yelled, “What the hell man, full hands in, full hands out!” Then Jackson, from two yards away, in the Budd’s front lawn, yelled back, “WHAT? MOMMY WHAT DID YOU SAY?”
I started flailing my arms around in the car, and Jerimiah calm as a cucumber said, “It’s time,” and quietly opened his car door. I grabbed my shit and jumped out, as Jackson came running back YELLING, “THERE’S SOMEONE ON THE BACK PORCH!” In which I asked, “How the hell can you see the back porch? You’re freaking out, man!” All while Jerimiah was already putting spinning flowers into the ground. We joined him. Finally.
At this point I don’t know what happened. I had convinced myself that the street light coming from the top of the hill was a flashlight, and OMIGOD who was walking their dog at 10:30 at night?! And Jackson had placed his stuff, so he was just wondering around making loud noises. We gave it one last look, glanced up at the house, didn’t see anyone, and booked it to the car. I got there first and opened the passenger door to see, you guessed it, spinning flower pinwheels on the floorboard. I screamed, legitimately screamed, and grabbed them up and shoved them at Jerimiah who was trying to get into his seat. “What the…?” he started. “They are yours, they fell out of the cupholder,” I said. Then he sat and looked at me for a full second, in which I 100% thought we would sit there and argue over if they were in fact his from the cupholder, or if I had simply forgot a couple of mine. Instead, maybe because the urgency took hold, he ran away with the damn spinning pinwheels.
So there I sat, alone in the car, when it occurred to me that I had no idea where Jackson was. That’s when I heard him yelling, “Code 1! Code 1!” from the middle of the street, which if I remember correctly, means “All Clear!”
That’s it, that is how we pulled off the spinning flower pinwheel front yard at Jackson’s teacher’s house. And it was worth it.
Thanks, Mr. Budd, for being the kind of teacher who deserves 25 $1 spinning flower pinwheels in your front yard. We are glad we didn’t get caught. And even though it was hot mess, we’d do it all over again any day.
We finally broke down and made Jerimiah a home office. I know, I know, why did he not have a home office, Missy? Well, because he never asked for one. He’s one of those people who can do things in any space. He can fall asleep, for example, sitting upright, with two dogs fighting over a stuffed porcupine, while Jackson plays trumpet behind him, and I yell from the kitchen about what that damn smell is. So it’s safe to say he can work, well, anywhere. He has a laptop, an iPad, and a mobile dock he can connect his laptop to anywhere he needs to. He isn’t a complainer. He’s happy in lots of places and spaces, and there have been a lot of spaces.
In the fall he set up a hasty office in the basement, when his actual office was going through a remodel and they had to work from home for two months. He went to IKEA and bought a cheap desk, brought his chair from home from work, a couple of monitors, and set up shop in the basement across from Jackson’s Lego Table. Eventually, when his office was reopened, his “desk” BECAME the Lego table. So when he was told he’d be working from home back in March, we improvised. We took the pub table that was in our basement, and stuck it in our extra room upstairs. Boom. He worked at it for a few weeks, amid old Halloween decorations and boxes of scrapbooks, before I noticed him setting up shop at the dining room table.
Finally he looked at me and said, “Umm, can I sit at your desk for a bit?” When I inquired he said the pub table wasn’t really conducive to what he needed. Then I appropriately freaked the fuck out, and told him he needed to tell me shit like that. I felt horrible, banishing him away from the living space, so I did what anyone would do: I dropped hard cash on a whole office suite for him (that I picked out), forced him to rent a U-haul, and made him move incredibly heavy furniture all day on a Sunday to make him an office. Duh.
I actually gave him my office, which is really supposed to be the dining room, but it is the smallest dining room I’ve ever seen. So I took the extra room upstairs which was really just full of old Christmas tubs and two to three piles of clothes that don’t fit me anymore. And now here we are. I feel better, he can actually do work with spreadsheets, and multiple screens, and, I dunno, an abacus or whatever he uses, and I am upstairs remodeling a spare room into my office. And I’m secretly really happy about it, and my office is way better than his now, but shhhh, don’t tell him that.
So there you go. I’m wallpapering llamas to my book shelves, and there is legit a chandelier hanging above my desk now. I know you think I’m kidding, because who the hell needs a chandelier over their desk, but, umm, I do. I’ll share pics when I’m done sorting my books into alphabetical, color-coordinated stacks.
Meanwhile here is what I managed to hastily cobble together for my husband, and you guessed it, he’s as happy as a number-crunching clam.
One of the first stories I read in a college lit class was “The Yellow Wall Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and I’ve always remembered it. If you haven’t had the pleasure, please partake. It is a short story full of madness and powerlessness, a true Gothic Lit masterpiece in my opinion. And since it was published in 1892, there’s the whole portrayal of female oppression and societal expectations, you know early feminism. Good. Good. Good.
In short, the woman in the story is sent to a house for a “rest cure,” you know, she’s mentally unstable and her doctor/husband thinks she needs sunlight and rest, because that’ll fix ya right up, when really she just needed to stab her doctor/husband. Anywho, she starts to actually go crazy cause he keeps her in one room. The room has, you guessed it, yellow wallpaper. And as the days go on, and she starts to really lose her shit, the wallpaper “changes,” and suddenly she thinks she’s trapped in the wallpaper! Haha. What a silly girl!
Missy, why you telling us this? Listen, y’all I’m way into wallpaper right now. I’m not sure what sparked it, but I’ve been researching it, perusing wallpaper sites, googling things about how many square feet one roll can cover, etc. etc. I’m on a mission to wallpaper my office and I’m pretty close to figuring this whole thing out. But I think what is really happening is that I’m pretty close to losing my shit. I think it falls in line with me not dealing with the real shit of the world right now, sorta like if I keep my mind and fingers busy on a project, I can forget the world is horrible. Yeah, that’s it!
But even as I lay in bed at night and envision my dream accent wall, or a wallpaper shop that lets you design your own wallpaper, I still can’t shake the woman in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” her plight, her mental health, her asshole husband. Her life is wrapping itself up in mine alright. And yeah, I get the irony. The undertones. The whole shebang. But I’ll tell you one thing, I’m not buying damn yellow wallpaper.
Why can’t I remember what I intended to do when I walked into the living room but I can draw, from memory, Rosie the robot housekeeper from The Jetson’s? Why can’t I sit down and actually write a piece of flash fiction that isn’t total trash, but I can watch seven episodes, back-to-back, of “Brick City” the docu-series about Cory Booker and how he changed Newark in 2008? Why can’t I concentrate long enough to play virtual games with friends for an hour, but I have no problem falling asleep halfway through my fifteenth round of solitaire on my phone? Why am I this person? Why do people put up with me?
I dunno, I’m stuck in my head again today, ya’ll. Obvi. I’m stuck and can’t find a way out. Yesterday I cleaned my office. I legit went through my desk drawers. I organized my paperclips. I ORGANIZED PAPERCLIPS. I Lysol-ed my desk, my keyboard, my chair, and my lamp. I ensured that one of my bookshelves was in order by color, while the other only had female authors on it. I placed hand sanitizer next to my screen. I did all this in hopes that I would sit down to write the next day and a wonderful little story or poem or essay would shoot out of my fingertips onto the screen and I’d be okay again. It did not happen.
Instead I trolled a poodle website and ordered my kid some clothes from The Gap.
The fucking Gap.
I haven’t shopped at The Gap since God-knows-when and it occurred to me that he needed new clothes for sixth grade and the first place I typed into the search bar was The fucking Gap. What is actually wrong with me? There are a million better places to shop for what amounts to a uniform, considering my kid only wears suits, khakis (not denim), and polo shirts. Like why the fuck did Target not automatically pop up in my history? What is happening?! Where am I headed? Gap Hell. That’s where. Then, just like that something happened in my head. I felt happy. For just a moment. And I thought what is this happiness I am feeling? Is this from shopping? Then it hit me, I miss TJ Maxx.
Four hundred dollars later. Jesus, I wish this was a joke. Four hundred dollars later, I successfully shopped for all of his back-to-school clothes, FOUR MONTHS EARLY, and then I was like what now? I can’t just go stroll through TJ Maxx. What should I do? Should I buy school supplies? Where should I buy them from? Office Depot?!
Two days later I bought new bedside table lamps. They are touch lamps. I ordered touch lamps from Amazon because I didn’t want to have to actually push the button to turn a lamp off anymore. It was too much. It was all too much, pushing switches to turn a lamp off?! What is this, communist Russia?!
I think I’ve reached that point in quarantine where nothing I do makes sense. The world is make-believe and the points don’t matter. Only in this case, it’s real money from my bank account and it, uhh, kinda sorta matters. Someone stop me. Someone tell me I don’t need to buy a case of wine because “The more you buy, the more you save!” Someone tell me to unplug. To delete my debit card from automatically popping up. Someone tell me, would barn doors be okay on my office or should I just install French doors?
I can’t keep my head on straight these days. My mind is all over the place. Even with bumping therapy up to two times a month, and staying on top of my medication, I feel like I can’t keep my emotions and thoughts in check. Here is a list of things I was thinking about within a five-minute span of time this morning while I was “relaxing” and drinking my coffee:
The yard needs mowed
Call the hot tub guy about the new cover that is coming
Which dog pooped in the hallway?
Is it okay to let Jackson (my 11YO) study criminal justice when he’s in college?
Who was the guy the neighbors had to call the cops on last night?
Our governor is a nutcase
Did I register to vote absentee?
I’m glad my husband fixed the hydraulics in my office chair
I need to bathe the dogs today
When will it be safe to leave my house? May 30th?
There were 500 more positive tests over night here
Masks came in the mail!
Thank-you cards need to go out
Jerimiah ordered me new headphones
We need to legalize weed, and let people out of prison ASAP
Adele is so great
My hands are sweaty, but my feet are cold
Is it going to rain today?
Why can’t I write?!
How often do normal people poop?
Robin Williams was awesome
I’m gonna drink some wine tonight
I’ve been drinking too much wine
I need to organize my office
How much Tylenol is too much Tylenol?
Senior Citizens in nursing homes should be locked down
I hope we can still manage a “Fifth Grade Fun Day!” this summer
I need to start the Couch to 5K
What was that book I wanted to read?
I should text my friends and say hi
I missed that voting thing with Michelle Obama, I’m a loser, Michelle was counting on me
I wish I had a backpack leaf blower
What happened to Ben Folds?
That is a snippet of what I was thinking about. I couldn’t write the exhaustive list.
What is going on you guys? What is keeping your mind racing? Are you able to combat that feeling? What is working? What is not? What have you tried? What are you excited about trying?
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?
Everyday I wake up with a fresh mindset about the world we live in right now. Then everyday by dinnertime I’m either angry, sad, or sangry. Yeah, that’s a thing. At least, it is now. So today, while I’m still in a relatively okay-ish mood I’m trying to decide what exactly is making me sangry. It seems hard to pinpoint when I’m sitting alone in my office pontificating on the state of things with my friends.
All these thoughts going through my mind, making me crazy. Patsy thinks I might have ADD, but that’s a whole other post. Today I’m telling my friends about what makes me lose sleep and it boils down to this: I am so upset about how our country reacts (as a collective) to basically every bad thing that happens to us. Seriously. I think that’s what is making me sangry right now. I know that is broad, and I know, yes I know, that there is nothing I can do about that, but that’s what keeps me up at night. The way that, unlike say how New Zealand does things in a wake of a tragedy, we as Americans (may I remind some of you that we are US Citizens, we are not the only “Americans” in the whole world, there are a lot of “Americans” in South America for example) react so negatively, so ridiculously when we are hit with tragedy that it makes my heart hurt.
I mention that whole “Americans” thing, because I think it shines a light on what drives us to be total batshit crazy at times of crisis: We are so self-indulgent. So egotistical. We care so much about ‘Merica and ‘Merica only, that we forget there is a whole wide world out there, a whole planet that we share with billions of people, and what we do, and how we act, has repercussions.
Now it is true that since Trump was elected the world has taken us less seriously. With Obama they looked to us to see what we are doing, so they could do the same thing. Now they look to see what we are doing so they can do the opposite, because they want to save their people and the planet. So a lot of what I am feeling has been creeping up in my throat for the last three-and-a-half years. And I am hopeful that we will put an end to this fuckery this year, but it has allowed people, people I know and love, to show their true colors, and y’all their colors aren’t pretty. And some of them aren’t even red, white, and blue. Some of them are just white. Ya dig?
So yes. I think that is it. I think that I am embarrassed to be a US Citizen right now. I think I’m embarrassed that the whole state of Oklahoma is trying to find The Tiger King employees at the local Walmarts, while they buy up all the tp, and plan family and church outings because they literally don’t believe that Covid-19 is real. (I’m picking on Oklahoma, but those ideas are rampant all over the south as well.)
I’m embarrassed that people are picking fights on social media, saying things like, “Y’all are so divisive!” as they share doctored photos of Barack Obama at an ISIS meeting (still, they are still sharing this made-up bullshit), or continue, continue to talk about Hillary Clinton and Benghazi. Literally four people died there. Four people. We are at 20,000 now. Guess what that makes us in the USA for Covid-19 deaths? Number one. Yeah, “We’re number one! We’re number one!” PS… I’m leaving a map here to show you where Benghazi is, because the other day (not exaggerating like two fucking days ago) a long lost cousin shared a meme to remind us all about Benghazi (not sure why, must be the same reason Trump is still talking about the impeachment hearings, sleight of hand shit) and people on their page were legit arguing over where Benghazi even was. Did y’all know it is in the country of Libya, on the continent of Africa? I’m sure you all did, but there are a lot of people who DO NOT KNOW THAT. Did y’all know that Africa is not a country? Again, I’m sure you did, but some people DO NOT KNOW THAT.
Someone said they knew it was where those “Sand (N-word)” lived, but that was it. (Long, audible sigh). Most of these people are related to me by marriage, if I may.
Lest I remind you all the money that went down the toilets to “investigate” Obama and Clinton over “Benghazi” and how all of a sudden, Republicans are worried about the money we spent on the impeachment, but they were cool with us spending money on 10 separate investigations on Hillary Clinton. And still, they still want to investigate her. All Trump has to do to get people pumped up at his rally is say “We should investigate Hillary” and people are on their feet screaming. Rallies that, by the way, he was actually still holding last month when some of the country was already under quarantine. Le sigh.
So yes, it’s the behavior of my fellow citizens, the current administration, and some very loud, very racist, very naive people on social media that keep me up at night. That mixed with the fear that I think we all have, about what our country, what the world, will look and feel like on the other side of this.
So how do we combat it? The simple answer is that we can’t. Well, I mean, we can vote for Biden in November (you have to vote and you have to vote Biden if you want this to be over). But aside from that, we can only keep doing what we are doing. Worrying, reading, loving, staying home. Writing, baking, dreaming of our next vacation. Creating art. Hugging those you are quarantined with. Sending cards and flowers to those you can’t see right now. Face-timing. Gardening. Going on walks. Binge-watching Netflix. Trying to stay occupied so we don’t ruminate too long on one thing, because that is what gets us into trouble.
This is just a rant post. I know. But thanks for reading you guys. For still being around. I know this is a shitty time, and you’d much prefer I share funny stuff, or just shut the hell up and show pictures (which I promise to do this week), but meanwhile you always seem to “get me.” Even when I haven’t done my best at writing how I feel because there is too much going on in my head. And for that I am grateful. For you I am grateful. And remember, when you think you’re the only one sometimes that feels a certain way, you’re not. No way. We are all in this together.
Three months ago we were planning a trip to Florida for spring break. We were deciding which Disney parks we wanted to visit. We decided just Epcot and Magic Kingdom, maybe a stopover at Legoland, since Universal is still out. (Jackson hasn’t finished the Harry Potter series yet. We are on the last book as a family, but that’s the deal, we have to finish it before we go to Universal. We read at a pace he sets, so honestly this is on him.) But none of that matters because Florida is closed. Well, unless we want to go to church. Or to a gun store. Or to Publix. But I think we will skip all that nonsense. So what are we doing now? We are deciding where to camp in the backyard. For real. Things are a little smaller and slower now.
Traditionally we have spent time with loved ones during spring break or gone to a really cool place, like NYC. Last year we had just moved to Georgia during spring break, so we spent the week unpacking our house and getting pumped up for a new school. This year we thought would be totally different and fun. We were wrong. I mean different? Sure! A worldwide pandemic is different, but fun… Well, we are working on it.
It’s been three weeks now of hanging at home together, and although virtual learning is a real thing that has been happening, our days have been a mixture of games, and walking the neighborhood, and doing nice things for our community, and cleaning. Ah the dreaded cleaning. Jerimiah is still working, which means (even though he sets up shop most days at our dining room table) he still has stuff to do most hours of the day between 8am and 5pm. Jackson, on the other hand, has been finishing his school work in record time on account of the whole “he doesn’t have classmates causing distractions” thing. It’s amazing what he can get done in a short amount of time when his friends aren’t sitting next to him chatting about Minecraft.
Which means he’s been FaceTiming friends and playing Roblox with them. Or Minecraft, or dutifully taking part in whatever “fun project” I have come up with that day. Then there’s been the deep cleaning of his room. The yard work we’ve been doing (for real, I’m sunburned from it. It looks like I actually just came back from the beach, but alas no. I’ve just been pruning and what not.) The most fun has indeed been sitting in the hot tub at night listening to music while we relax our tired muscles and talk about what we will do and where we will go when we can in fact, go again. Current favorite plan: Southern California with friends in the fall!
Until then, we think we have a solid spring break plan. Backyard campout. Maybe in the tent, maybe just pulling the blowup mattress into the sunporch (which we spent an entire afternoon cleaning, so much damn pollen). S’mores on the table top fire pit? Sure! Ghost stories? Absolutely! Card games and a cookout? You betcha! All in the comforts of our own home. Uh huh! This might be a new tradition. Who knows! If nothing else, it’s the best we can come up with and it’s fairly exciting, so let’s do this!
If you’re like me, you are having a really hard time trying to write right now. Seriously, I can’t seem to filter out all this negative stuff. It’s very real stuff, that we need to stay abreast on, but it still mixes with all my regular anxiety and nervousness and smushes together in my head and creates this monster who can’t focus on anything for too long. This means that I have all this time now, sitting at home, and I’m unable to actually write. Which seems absurd. So, I’ve taken to using prompts, something I don’t usually like to do, but it’s helping a little. Not with this here blog, but with my other writing, so I thought I would share some prompts with you today that I have come across that have helped me in the past, and some I just made up. It will be fun to see if you can spot the difference. And listen, please try your best to turn to books, and art, and staying in contact (though not physically) with your friends right now. I promise it will help, it might just take some getting used to. Stay safe and sane, y’all.
Think about all that is worrying you right now, then pick something super trivial that pops up. If you’re like me, I’ve been worrying about what to cook for dinner every damn night. Now write a paragraph from the POV of a person who is consumed with this trivial problem.
Write about your writing process. What it means when you say you are writing. What does that look like? How does it feel when you’re “in the zone”? How often does it happen? Can you will it?
Write a short story about an alligator farm. At this farm, the alligators run the humans, not the other way around. So actually, literally, the humans are walking around trying to bite the alligators, and the alligators have to jump on their backs to wrestle them? No, can’t do it? That’s weird, because it’s a really (cough) good (cough) prompt. Fine then, write about an alligator wrangler named Boomer Sr. in the swamps of Florida. He has four fingers and a slight limp.
Think about your room when you were a kid. Try to get back into that room. Did you have a theme in your room? Did you share it with siblings? Did you have your own radio or television? A computer? Oh, so you were fancy and rich? Think about the carpet. Did you have a toy box filled with your favorite things? What was your favorite toy? Follow this rabbit hole for a bit.
There’s a woman on a ferry off the the coast of Alaska. It’s summer, but still cold because Alaska. She’s holding a banjo, and a plate of cookies is wrapped in plastic wrap beside her. What the hell is she doing there? Where is she going? Where did the cookies come from? What’s with the damn banjo?
Pretend like you’ve been asked to give a TedTalk on the anxieties of the world today. You can set it in the past, present, or future. What are the negatives? What are the positives? How do you help these people who have come to see you talk? What will you say to improve the moral, but also keep everyone safe.
Write about what it means to be mindful. Are you ever mindful? What does being mindful even mean to you? Have you ever caught yourself really engrossed in something that you forget all your other worries? What allows you to do that? Is it that new Netflix show about prison basketball, or is that just me?
Think of someone who really annoys you. I mean, you can’t even stand to hear them breathe next to you. You have to actively fight the urge to tell them how you really feel when they are around. You do not like this person. Now write a four-sentence character description of this person.
There’s a Netflix show about prison basketball. It’s called “Q-Ball” because it’s about the prisoners at San Quentin. Go watch it.
Create a series of comics, mini-cartoons, even just a hand-drawn meme. I made a series of Covid-19 related ones to react to the “Bob the Stickman” memes I saw the other day. I will post them below for your amusement. In your cartoon, however, you are the protagonist, and you are absolutely against, say, helping to stop the spread of coronavirus. Had enough of coronavirus? Cool, then make your protagonist anti-abortion, or someone who doesn’t believe climate change is real. Fun times.
Make a soundtrack for whatever you are writing. Oh man, it seriously makes a difference! I am working on a piece from my childhood and my soundtrack is all 80s all the time. But maybe your story is set in the 1950s or San Fran in 1974. Go to iTunes and get you a playlist going. Even if you are not a writer. Just someone who needs a little distraction. Music helps so much.
Pick up a project you had previously put aside because you were stuck. Now start it all over again from a different character’s POV. Why? I dunno, why not assholes?
Write about a first date. What is the worst thing that could happen? What is the best outcome? Is there sex? If there is please write about it, everyone wants to read about sex. Jesus, write more about sex. And prison basketball. But not prison basketball sex. Or… hmm.
Write a ten word story that starts with “Run…”
Respond to a series of “Dear Abby” questions, but respond from Boomer Sr in the swamps of Florida.
Okay, so I promised I’d share my stick-figure people I drew to combat “Bob” who I was really tired of seeing, y’all know Bob.
It’s not that I hate Bob, it just seems like Bob is a little, umm, how should I say this, well he’s lacking in his thinking. Plus the same people who were sharing Bob, who claims to “listen to science” are the same people who legit don’t listen to science, their hypocrisy was pissing me off. In return, I created these five stick figure people to add a little more dimension to this pandemic. Enjoy! And please, go forth and write about Boomer Sr, then send it to me so I can read it!
Every time I move and go a new eye doctor for the first time, I have a litany of shit to tell them. My mother’s macular degeneration comes up. Then there’s my light sensitivity on account of my incredibly light, blue eyes. Then at some point I have to tell them that I am not from the Ohio or Mississippi River Valley. They look at my tests, back at me, and ask if I’m sure I’m not from anywhere near the Ohio or Mississippi River Valley. I say yes, I’m sure. I’m from Kansas. But not chicken-farmer Kansas. I’ve never lived on a damn farm. Then they look confused and I say, “Listen, we had pet birds.”
I have an eye condition called Ocular Histoplasmosis. It’s from a fungus commonly found in the dust and soil of the Ohio and Mississippi River regions. You can contract the disease by inhaling dust with the fungal spores, usually carried and spread by chickens and other types of birds. If it is inhaled early in life, it can cause a usually symptom-free and self-limited infection throughout the body. But it may affect the eye by causing small areas of inflammation and scarring of the retina, which it has done to me.
There isn’t really a problem, not now anyway. But it’s something that the eye doctor has to continually check, to make sure it isn’t getting worse. Mine is not. Thankfully. And they are usually adament that pet birds won’t give it to you, but I have zero other explanations for it, except well, pet birds.
My mom likes pets that are self-contained. She’d probably be great with a pet turtle, if it weren’t for their sliminess. She likes caged animals. With minimal smell and hassle. Enter birds. Le sigh. Here is my mom with her first pair of birds from the early 1980s, just before I was born. These are the birds of my childhood, Fred and Barney, who in fact turned out to be Fred and Wilma, but we never changed their names.
Listen, I hated Fred and Barney. When I was really young they’d peck at my fingers when I tried to put their food bowl back, or fill their water. They LOVED my mom, hated me. Though they hated other people more than me, so I guess I was tolerable to them. They really didn’t like my sister, or any person who came into the house being loud. They didn’t like loud. I didn’t either, so it was good when my mom would yell at visitors, “Shhh, be quiet or the birds will start!” Cause trust, you didn’t want the birds to “start.”
Fred and Barney died one day. It was a sad-ass day. I remember being sad because of how sad my mom was, but I felt no real attachment to these birds, so I was like good riddance. Meanwhile, my mother grieved, as one does for a beloved pet. I gave her a hug, shrugged my shoulders, and went out to play. I thought that shit was finally over. I was wrong.
A few weeks later a friend said to my mom that she knew these two birds, they didn’t have names, just called Blue and Green, and did my mother want them. They were free. And came with their own, very nice cage. Did my mother want them? BRING THEM HERE NOW! she screeched. I think. I think she screeched that. It was like some backroom bird deal. She ran them over under the cover of darkness. I was half-asleep and very confused. I saw my mom’s face light up and I was like, “Shiiiiiiiit.”
The only thing I remember about these two, besides their constant squawking, fighting, and mildly displeasing nature, is that they could not be trusted when you opened their cage. They were escape artists, and more than once I found myself screaming down the hallway, running into my room and slamming the door, while my mom ran around with a towel screaming for me to help her “Catch the damn birds.” Jesus. “No,” I’d scream from under my blankets, “They’re your birds! Not mine!”
My mother was convinced her birds were always much smarter than we thought. She said she taught them tricks. Though to be fair, Fred and Barney knew how to “kiss.” My mom used to say to me every morning when I’d wake up since I was a toddler, “Kiss, kiss, Missy” in which I’d sleepy walk to her and give her a morning hug and kiss. She noticed one morning when she said it, the birds pecked each other. I thought she was nuts, but when she turned her attention to this, and really tried to work with them on it, they eventually got it. Yep, they knew “Kiss, kiss,” but they didn’t know “Shut up, you damn birds!” which would have been more helpful, if you ask me.
The birds were always a source of amusement for my friends who would come over. No one else had birds. My friends all had two-parent households, with two cars, and homes that they owned, and usually dogs and cats. You know, normal fucking pets. My friends were in awe of these birds. They’d sit and watch them, whistle at them, watch me feed them, that sort of shit. I despised it. All of it.
Then one day the second set of parakeets died. My mom cried, as she had the first time. And this time, so did I. I can’t be sure why, but I suspect somewhere around middle school I started to be comforted by these little assholes. When my mom was out at night, and I’d be nervously waiting for her to make it home safe, I’d sit in the living room with them and talk to them. They were good listeners. In fact, as long as you were paying them attention, you could talk to them all day. They’d just sit on their stoop and listen. Cock their head back and forth, occasionally interject a “SQWAAAA!” here or a peck on their bell there. Maybe they weren’t so bad.
I left Leavenworth not too long after the birds did. The next time I came home to visit my mom, she had a new bird. A friend had called. In the dead of the night. Saying that she knew someone, who knew someone, and did my mother want a Dove? Did my mother want a Dove?! You bet your ass she did! It was free, and it came with it’s own cage and everything. Her name was Baby, and she was the worst of the actual lot. But my son loved to visit with her, listen to her sing. pet her, yeah this bitch let you hold and pet her. She hated me though. Pecked at me every time I came near the cage. Eh, such is life.
Baby died last year. It was perhaps the roughest loss on my mother. No friend has called yet. Her house now sits silent. Lonesome. Maybe one day. Until then, RIP to the birds who have come before. They live a long time, in case you didn’t know, even “used” birds live longer than you’d expect. And they carry diseases. But that’s neither here nor there.
I’ve been consumed with safety for the last few months. Well really, for a couple of years now. Well, really, truly, for all of my life, but I’m trying not to sound like a crazy person. What I mean by “consumed by safety” is that I walk around in a constant state of panic. I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. For something horrible to happen. I’m anxious. Yeah, Patsy knows. We’ve discussed where it comes from. Hint: It stems from my childhood. Duh. But this constant state of panic and anxiety makes me stay up all night sometimes, listening, waiting, for someone to break into my house. Why? To steal all my jewels and millions of dollars I keep in my safe? Uh, no. The best you’d get from me is a couple of Macs and a Playstation 4. Are those worth anything anymore? More pointedly, I am always worried that someone will try to break in less to rob us, and more to harm us. To harm my child. That’s what it boils down to. Someone coming for my child. It’s a nasty little idea that popped up when I was about six months pregnant and has never left. Parenting, shit we are nuts. What if someone harms my child? And that’s how we came to have a security system for the very first time this week.
Listen, I know it sounds bonkers. As I stated before, I have nothing much of value in my home, and if you want to break in and steal my Mac, okay cool, you can have it, you obviously need it more than me. But if you want to mess with my kid or my dog, well now you have another layer to get through. This loud, annoying, alarm that calls the police for me so I don’t have to. (One less thing to worry about in a time of panic.) I know it is a loud alarm because it has been accidently set off not two times, but three times in the last 24-hours. It’s a learning process, y’all.
Coming from a super poor home, I didn’t even know security alarms existed for most of my childhood. In fact, I recall being invited to a sleepover in middle school and walking into the door of my friend’s house as a chime went off. I looked around all confused and her super nice mom said, “Oh, it’s just the alarm. It chimes whenever the door opens.” My mind was actually fucking blown. I went home the next day and asked my mom if we could get an alarm system and she laughed a lot. Looking back, we were the ones living in a neighborhood that could benefit from an alarm, not my friend. Isn’t that how it always is?
Because of this, and because we are a house with guns (yes, we have guns, let’s not go into that today) and my husband appears to be afraid of no one, no person, animal, monster, or imaginary intruder, I have never really felt called to get an alarm system, until we moved into a house that had one already in place and my husband started traveling for work.
We’ve been in this house for almost a year. In fact, it will be one year on April 1st. And we are renters, least I remind you. Never knowing where we will go next calls us to stay renters, because we don’t want to fuck with buying and selling. Plus, if we ever find ourselves in a community we don’t care too much for (which we have) we just move. It’s not as big a deal when you are renting. The good thing is, this house comes with a security system already installed and paid for. In fact, it’s a really good system. All uppity and shit. Glass breaks, door chimes, automations, the whole nine yards. But because I didn’t know how any of it worked it scared me and I dragged my feet for the last ten months on getting it set up. Until I literally couldn’t take it anymore.
So on Monday I spent three hours with a guy named Adam. Real cool dude. He came in, tested a bunch of stuff, put new batteries in things, moved a couple of “sensors” for us, and had us up and running in no time. He is from ADT, and no this is not an ad for ADT, who do you think I am, J-Lo? In fact, we chose ADT because as I said, IT WAS ALREADY HERE. So we didn’t have to pay for shit. Seriously. I talked them down to a half-price monthly payment and no fees for Adam to come out. I mean, it took six solid months of saying no to them on the phone, but they finally came around to my way of seeing things. Side note: NEVER pay the asking price for home security. They need you way more than you need them. It’s one of those negotiable things. Just keep at it, and remember to low-ball them first. I said I wouldn’t pay more than $25/month when in reality my magic number was $40/month. I got it for $38/month. And I have learned so much from talking to like five different people when I call. Like you CAN get equipment fees waived, as well as when people come to your house to do something, never pay for that shit. And oh, if you have been with them for a year call and say you want a lower price. They’ll give it to you.
So, what have we learned today. Well, if you are messing around with the system and you hit “Fire” they go ahead and dispatch the fire department BEFORE they call to alert you. So when ADT pops up on your phone, you know, answer it, even if you did think you were in “test mode” still. They were very nice, but they were all, “Umm, so do you want me to cancel the firetruck headed to your house?” Uh, yeah, yep. Thanks.
Also, your fifth grader playing the trumpet sets off the glass breaker alarms. And when that happens you only have 15 seconds to turn it off. Huh. Who knew?
Now go forth and get secured. Or not. Do whatever is right for you.
Hey, psst. Yeah, you. Come closer, I have something to tell you. You know that “weird” way you see the world? That way that makes you cry at things you think you shouldn’t cry at, and laugh at things you shouldn’t laugh at? It’s not so weird, the way you manage this world. I get by the same way, and there’s more of us. There’s a whole army of us. We’re just too shy, too introverted, too busy, too preoccupied, too stressed, and/or too scared to admit it. Or reach out.
I feel too much sometimes. I feed off the energy of other people. I sense, without knowing why, when someone else is having a shit day. And sometimes it makes my day go to shit. And other times I kick into high gear and try to turn their day around. I haven’t figured out how it works. I’m a novice. Too young maybe. Too chaotic of a brain, perhaps.
You know how you think of someone, then later that day they call you. Or you run into them at the grocery store. Or you find out something has happened to them. Or maybe something stops you from reaching out to them and you don’t know why, and you wish you didn’t have that little, nagging voice sometimes. Yeah, me too. Ignore the voice.
You think too much. Me too. I get it. But it goes beyond thinking. You think, then you fixate, then you stress, then you think. It’s a cycle. It feels like there’s no way out when it starts and I doesn’t only happen on Sunday afternoons. It’s sporadic. Maybe it coincides with he moon phases. Maybe it’s hormonal. You’ve thought of all the possible scenarios.
Some days, my thinking/feeling/sensing renders me useless and I spend more time than I should in bed staring at the ceiling, or playing solitaire on my phone, or reading a book, or making up lists of things I’ll do when I’m not bogged down. Some days my thinking/feeling/sensing makes me want to eat Oreos and listen to sad music. Some days it makes me want to call up a friend I haven’t talked to in years. Some days, if I’m lucky, it makes me want to write and I feel a little productive. Some days.
But usually I’m just here. Somewhere. In the middle of this swirling tornado of overthinking, asking why, feeling overwhelmed, stressing about all the things, and wondering why the people who love me, actually love me. Worrying I’ll never really trust the love. Wondering if I’m worthy of it, if I return the love in kind. Pleading with the universe to keep me in their favor. In her favor. In your favor.
So I guess what I mean to say is, you’re not alone. Geez, I know it feels like you are some days. But you’re not. There are more of us out there. A whole army of us. And when/if you’re ready to mobilize, count me in.
Sending virtual hugs, and copious amounts of tea to you today. Try not to overthink it too much. But if you do, it’s okay. I still love you.