Ménage à Cheese

“You wanna do like a cheese-on-cheese situation?” I asked my husband the other day while I was standing with the refrigerator door opened, looking frantically from one plastic bin to another. I thought it was a rather straightforward question, but he looked at me with a mix of disgust and sadness, so I offered in a loud tone, “DO YOU WANT TO DOUBLE DOWN ON SOME CHEESE WIT ME?” Nothing. Silence. This MFer needs clarification on this? I proceeded to pull out three different types of cheese, slice them, stack them on top of each other, and eat the stack. Directly in front of him. As my lunch. Then I walked away.

I don’t know about you guys but I am not made for this type of living. I am not made for thinking up what to feed two adults, a child, two dogs, and the large family of nuisance ants that have taken up residence in my house (even though the exterminator has been here TWO TIMES.) I can’t do this. I can’t have all these beings relying on me to feed them all day and night.

Under normal conditions my husband fends for himself for both breakfast and lunch, having an eight-to-five-ish-type office job. My son would normally be eating whatever the hell I pulled together last minute at 7:15 am while he followed me around and said, We have to leave or I’ll be late for band practice. And if I forget, no problem, school would feed him. That just left me and up until two months ago, Sir Duke Barkington, my standard poodle, to nibble on this or that throughout the day. But now we have two dogs, one of which is a 16-week-old puppy who is OBSESSED with food, so she overeats her damn puppy chow then vomits, and then eats the vomit. And since March 15th, I’ve had my son and husband looking at me like, Hey Gir, what’s for lunch? Yeah, they call me Gir.

Early on my husband got the hint, and he just started cooking breakfast late, around 10:30, for all of us. That was our brunch. Everyday. The same thing. Everyday. Eggs. Wrapped in a carb-conscious tortilla. Everyday. I finally had to say, I can’t do this. I can’t live this way. I appreciate you trying to feed us, but I can’t eat another egg. That was almost a month ago and I had my first egg yesterday and it was, I mean, it was okay.

That was also the day I sort of just, umm, opted out of being part of my family’s cooking and eating life. Yes. I’m a horrible partner and mother. I just walked out of the kitchen and didn’t look back. Now my son comes to greet me in my office in the mornings with string cheese hanging out of his mouth, or a frozen waffle cause he’s too lazy to toast it in the oven, or maybe some cereal with no milk because, Mommy the milk shocked me a little, like when you stick a battery on your tongue.

That’s how I got to the ménage à cheese situation the other day. That’s how my husband and I came to a three week take-out bender. We are better now. Detoxed. Ordered HelloFresh.

That’s how things are going in my life. Hope yours is better.

M.

Luckiest of Days

Today is an anniversary at our house. It’s the day that Jerimiah and I looked at each other on a street corner of downtown Kansas City and decided right then and there we would become “official” and start dating exclusively. It wasn’t our first date. That was months before. It was the first time we decided that we were right for each other. It was in the middle of the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Somewhere along Broadway, surrounded by a lot of drunk people in green.

That was 18 years ago, and Jesus are we two very different people now. Which is indeed a good thing.

I don’t want to say a lot of sappy stuff here about my husband and my marriage. Instead I will just say that we would not be the people we are today without each other. And we really like the people we are today and the people we are constantly morphing into. And there is no one else that I would rather do this with. And yes, I realize everyday how incredibly lucky I am to have the kind of guys that is home every night by 6:00 pm, helps his son with his homework, cooks breakfast for us on the weekends, and always says yes to whatever plans Jackson and I cook up. He’s the absolute most trustworthy, patient, practical, loving guy I have ever known in my whole life, and well, he’s pretty lucky too, I mean, LOOK AT ME!

Thanks, Jerimiah, for taking a chance on that odd girl so many years ago. Thanks for loving me since, for supporting me, for being on this crazy roller coaster with me. And most importantly, thanks for letting me take so many pictures and never complaining.

Happy Anniversary, my dear. Cheers to many more. Onward and upward, per usual.

M.

Private Lives

It’s fun to imagine what happens in the private lives of others. I think that’s one of the most pointed reasons I am who I am today. I spent years in quiet solitude. My nervous energy was too much for my little brain, so I’d opt to sit and watch people while I rocked back and forth on my knees. I’d hide in my closet or my toy box, or in clothes racks while my mother shopped, and I’d just watch the people around me go about their day-to-day lives. At some point I started to wonder what their lives looked like in the quiet of their own home. When they weren’t in public. I started to envision how that woman buying toothpaste brushed her teeth. Did she put the toothpaste on before or after she rinsed her brush? Did she do circular patterns? Did she brush her gums, like I just learned to do? What about her tongue? I guess this might be how writers are made. Hiding. Wondering. Eavesdropping and watching, in secret spaces and places.

I remember when I was about four or five. We lived in a basement apartment in Leavenworth, and there were two large windows near the top of the living room wall. If I stood on the wooden arm of the couch, I could peer out the window, relatively undetected, like a cat who just wants to feel the warmth of the sun. And some days that’s all I’d accomplish. Alternating between an hour of watching people, then an hour of Care Bears, until something exciting happened inside my house, like my sister came home from school or one of our neighbors stopped over to say hello.

The window looked directly into the parking lot of our apartment complex. Which means I could watch people getting in and out of their cars, which was my favorite, because as you might imagine our vehicles are our own little houses. Public, sure, but just private enough to let us sing our favorite song, or practice what we are going to say to the people we are headed to see. I liked to watch the people as they prepared themselves in their cars. Some of the women put their make-up on, using the rear-view mirror as their vanity. Some of them yelled at their kids in the backseat. Some men sat, silent, for long periods of time before they either left for work, or came home from work. My favorite people were the couples. They’d sneak kisses. They’d argue. I couldn’t hear them, just knew from their body language, their red faces, their hand movements, that they were upset. There are a lot of breaks up, and reconciliations, in the parking lots of low-income apartment complexes.

I learned in these long hours, that if you are quiet, if you are still and relatively unseen, you can gain more knowledge about a person than any other way. I learned to sort of fade into the background in those days. A trait that has served me well in my life and in my writing.

But still I wondered what the people did in the privacy of their own homes. I wondered if they had a cat, a cat that would rub itself against their legs as they cooked dinner. I wondered if they prayed before dinner. If they slept without clothes on. If they sometimes wondered about each other. Later in life, as I grew and discovered what really drives people, I wondered if they kissed each other after an argument. If they made love with the lights on. If they had sexual desires they kept secret. I think it’s human nature, to wonder these things.

It’s part of who I am, as a person and as a writer, wondering about the private lives of others. Fantasizing about how others move in the night, when they think no one is watching.

M.

Happy Valentine’s Day <3

My two favorite things to do on this day are to send Jerimiah really, really bad, hella inappropriate Valentine cards (see above) and text/call all my girlfriends and tell them that I think they are awesome, because V-Day sucks for some people (mostly women) and I don’t want it to suck for people that I love. I just think it’s a great day to remind people (mainly women) that they are loved, they are worthy, and they are not alone. I mean, any day is a good day to do that, but sometimes it has more impact on a day like today. So just in case no one has said anything nice or loving to you today allow me to say this:

You are amazing. Your hair, did you do it today? Did you just recently get it colored? Did you get a blow-out? What, you did it yourself?! You’re amazing. That color, geez, that color suits you so well. What’s that? Is that a new trick you saw on YouTube for your mascara? You rocked it, girl! You should start your own YouTube make-up tutorial channel. You’re not wearing make-up? Oh, so that’s just your natural beauty. Cool. Cool. Cool. I’m not jealous of you. Just kidding, I’m hella jealous of you.

But remember, your self worth is not tied up in your hair, or your make-up, or your amazing birthing hips. What I like best about you, and so do so many other people, is how kind, and empathetic, and honest you are. I love the way your hair flips at the ends, sure, that’s cute, but I love that when I’m having a bad day you reach out a hand, or an ear, or your arms. I love it and I appreciate it. I appreciate you.

I love that you smile at strangers. I love that you get upset and cry when you see children and animals in pain. I love that you stand your ground, that you have a soft heart and sometimes soft skin, but that you can rise up when you need to. You can stand up for yourself, for the women around you, those you know and those you don’t, because you know that there are people who can’t do it for themselves. I love that you take your responsiblity as a woman in the fray, very seriously.

I love you for allowing yourself to be open with me. I know it’s not always easy, but you always try.

I love you for understanding the importance of self-care. That sometimes you need to cry alone in the bathroom, while partners, or kids, or pets, or strangers bang on the door looking for you, needing to suckle your time and your strength. They only do that because they absolutely NEED you and your strength. Because you are strong, and smart, and encouraging. Because you can lead, and sometimes it feels like you can’t, I know that, but when it comes down to it, you’re capable of so much more than you know. You will remind yourself of this time and time again, try to see it when it happens.

Lastly, I love that you are respectful, open-minded, and that you always do the right thing. I know this sounds silly to say, but in a world like the one we live in today, that is harder and harder to find.

You amaze me, girl. And I gotta ask: Will you be my Valentine?

M.

The rest of these images are specifically for Jerimiah. You’re welcome, Babe. And you’re obviously the luckiest guy in the whole world.

Is This Really 5th Grade?

Jackson has been carrying a notecard in his back pocket all week with his phone number written on it. It’s for a girl. Let’s call her Shirley and she’s in his class. She got a phone for Christmas and he overheard her giving her number out to a boy on the playground. Jerkface. Oh, Jerkface. You know Jerkface. He’s loud and obnoxious. He carries on with nonsense like untied shoelaces and poking dead animals with sticks. Jackson is not impressed. But Shirley, he suspects, has fallen under Jerkface’s grip. Shirley and Jerkface, he’s heard around the playground, are a couple. So although Jackson is in Shirley’s classroom cluster, and a teammate on his robotics team, and a girl he would consider a “friend” first and foremost, he’s afraid to give his phone number to her because he doesn’t want to “rock” the proverbial pre-teen dating boat. Is this really fifth grade?

On Monday he wanted to ask her for her number, since she appeared to be readily passing it out. And he was prepared to, until he wasn’t. Until his nerves got the better of him. Until he heard the “girl drama” on the playground. Saw Jerkface doing high-kicks over the seat of the swing. He let himself get intimated. All worked up.

On Tuesday it was decided he would suggest that he give Shirley his number, that way if she ever wanted to text, or link up to play Minecraft online, she had it in her phone. But when the time came, he backed away slowly from her desk, saying something about a dropped pencil. Le sigh.

On Wednesday he met me nervously at the front door of the school and flashed me digits on the notecard. I smiled and asked if he worked up the nerve to ask Shirley for her number. No, he mumbled, racing me to the sidewalk, that was his number he wrote down to pass it to her, but he had chickened out again. Close, but no cigar.

By Thursday he had devised a plan. Shirley is in charge of the morning announcements. So while she was in the office each morning, he had about five precious minutes to slide his notecard onto her desk. He added a diagonal arrow to the nameless notecard, to indicate that it was from him. He sits diagonally from her. Smooth.

On Thursday afternoon he came bounding out of the building and ran at me while I was talking to a friend. She’s the mom of another girl in Jackson’s class, so he stopped just short of us. We both turned and looked at him and he said, “Hi. Mommy I need to talk to you.” We excused ourselves and started down the sidewalk when he said, “Operation Shirley was a success.” I told him congrats and asked what happened.

Turns out he was too scared to give it to her face to face, so he waited until the walkers had been called to line up upstairs. She happened to be away from her desk getting her book bag, so he placed a folded up note on her desk as he walked by. The note said, “Hey, it’s Jackson G. I heard you got a phone for Christmas, and I wanted to give you my number in case you ever want to text or anything.” As he walked out the door he looked back to make sure she had the note, and she was reading it, so he ran upstairs.

And just like that, girls are a thing now.

Great.

M.

I Can Buy Baby Llamas Now

It’s the night before the world goes back to normal and I’m fighting it. Fighting it pretty hard. School starts again tomorrow. Jackson has been out for just over two weeks now and it’s been amazing, and wonderful, and full of surprises and adventures. We had a wonderful Christmas at home, then we took a whirlwind trip (of which I have a ton more to share) to New York State, Toronto, Rhode Island, and NYC. But tomorrow it’s back to normal and it’s down to just Sir Duke and me at home, and I know what that means. I freak out.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my “Missy” time, and I need it more than ever now that I’m back at my own house after being gone for eight days, but I also know how lonely and quiet my house will be in the morning, and I am not looking forward to it. No one yelling about how I didn’t make waffles, again, and that’s all he wanted. No one sliding down the stairs in his belly, while the dog jumps and barks at him. And to make matters worse, Jerimiah goes back to his office tomorrow. Le sigh.

Jerimiah has been working from the home office (Lego table turned into a desk in the family room) for about four months now. So we’ve been able to sneak away for lunch dates, and sneak upstairs for, you know, whatever dates, and walk together to get Jackson from school, and such. It’s been quiet, but I always knew I could just yell from my office downstairs to ask, “Can I buy this baby llama on Craigslist or what?!” And he could simply yell back, “I’m going to stop telling you that you can’t buy farm animals, because we live in Atlanta and you are 38 years old and you are smart enough to know the correct answer.” It’s been fun.

But his office has been renovated now, and he’s expected back to work tomorrow, which means we go back to Jackson and I patiently waiting for the headlights to crest the driveway at 6:00 pm so we can pretend like we haven’t already eaten most of our dinner, while we move the food around on our plates. That is to say there will be an adjustment period getting back to real life, and while I am looking forward to being able to play Adele at top volume while I sweep the kitchen, I’m sad about all the other stuff. But, I guess I can buy baby llamas easier now, and have some time to hide them before he gets home. So… Win?

I hope you all have a great “First Day Back” tomorrow. May there be plenty of baby llamas to go around.

M.

Six Million Minutes

Today my husband and I have been married for roughly six million minutes. I gotta be honest, five minutes with me can be difficult, ask around. I can be selfish, and whiny, and incredibly hard-headed. I cry a lot. I have low days and high days, and I never really know which it will be until I’ve had my first cup of coffee. And lately, Christ, lately I’ve been battling a case of the killer blues, mild anxiety, and a bad bout of insomnia wherein I creep around the house at night, making small noises and whispering, “Ope, ‘scuse me” to the dog when we bump into each other prowling, scouring, for scraps of dinner.

Six million minutes, give or take a few. Jesus, that’s a lot of minutes of me. And he’s still here. Still buzzing around my ear telling me I’m pretty, even when I am braless, in an oversized “granny” sweater and shorty-shorts that don’t fit anymore, and I haven’t shaved my legs in weeks.

Six million minutes, give or take a few, and he’s still giving me back rubs when I ask, pretending that he isn’t bothered when my rough feet brush up against him at night, still smiling when I scream, “FUUUUUUCK!” after I’ve dropped the ketchup bottle again, and this time it exploded.

Six million minutes, give or take a few, and my husband is still reminding me that I am capable and smart. He’s still reading everything I write. Still laughing at the pictures I take of our son sleeping, or our dog sleeping, or himself, sleeping.

Six million minutes, give or take a few, and he still laughs at the jokes he’s heard 1,000 times. He doesn’t even stop me to tell me that he’s heard that one, or seen that meme, or read that part. He just smiles and nods his head while I tell him again about that one time I mixed up olive oil for coconut oil.

I’ve had six million minutes, give or take a few, to be the wife of this lovely man. To this man who bestows gifts upon me for no reason. Who says things like, “No, seriously, what do YOU want to do tonight?” Who takes me on trips around the world. Who loves me unabashedly. Whose only goal in this life is to provide the best life for our son and me.

Six million minutes I’ve had. And it’s tough sometimes, I’ll admit. Because that’s what marriage is. There are blue skies, there are storms. Believe me, we’ve had our fair share of both. But for the last six million minutes, walking beside this man, I know I can weather any of those storms. And I know, know for a fact, that there are always rainbows afterward. I’ve learned that in the last six million minutes.

Thank you, my dear. For being a man among men. For always doing what is right, even if it is tough. For standing up for those who need standing up for. For listening. For loving. For understanding, or saying you do, even if you don’t. Thank you, my dear for being worth every minute. Here’s to millions and millions more. I’m the luckiest.

Cheers.

M.

They’re Just Babies!

Yesterday morning as I watched my full-grown adult husband throw the trimmer to the ground and run up the driveway toward me with a wild, reckless glare in his eyes and strip his shirt off, I thought Really, Jerimiah, sex outside? In our driveway? In the morning? I mean don’t get wrong, I was game, but it was just out of character for him. I’m usually the one to suggest this sort of raunchy stuff. But I shrugged and stripped my shirt off as well. Then he yelled something like Bees! But not bees! Everywhere! All over me! And just as I was about to pull a boob out I was like Wait, what? Turns out he did not want to take me in the carport as Mrs. Kim peeked out of her garage window. Turns out, he was attacked by what we later realized were baby yellow jackets. About 15 of them. At one time. And then I felt kinda dumb and put my shirt back on.

Apparently, being stung by 15 baby yellow jackets isn’t ideal. Not at all. Apparently though, it could have been a lot worse. Jerimiah is not allergic to bees, or wasps, or yellow jackets, but if you are allergic and get stung 10-15 times you should seek medical assistance. Jerimiah did not. He went inside and took a shower and put some triple-antibiotic on his welts and said he wasn’t working in the yard anymore that day. But still, maybe he should have sought medical attention. I dunno. This was after he tried to go back and get the trimmer, but the baby yellow jackets had descended on that bitch like the trimmer was Meatloaf and they were fans of mild 1970s rock. I stood on the street and screamed at him, at them, at whomever was listening, But they are just babies! Why?! Why?! They LOVED that trimmer. And they would do anything for love…

Anyway, my husband woke up this morning a little swollen on his eye lid, and his cheek, and his thigh (they climbed inside his shorts), and his shoulders and ankles, then he went to the dentist, and loaded up in an Uber to head to Baton Rouge for the week. Because my husband is a fucking rockstar, like Meatloaf, but not really.

But I never got my driveway sex. Which is sad. Maybe I’ll track old Mr. Charlie down later, but for now I’m here to tell y’all to have a safe day. And a really happy, baby-yellow-jacket-free week. If you can.

M.

Tender Wings of Desire

I’ve been reading a collection of essays titled “Growing Up Poor.” I’ve been reading this book because one, I grew up poor and figured I could relate to some of the essays. Two, I am currently working on an essay about what it is like to grow up poor, and one should read what one writes. And three, the cover was so enticing that I had to buy it. Yes. I judge books by their covers. Le sigh. We all do. Am I talking about just books here? Yes. But also no. We do judge actual books by their covers because for the most part it’s easy to do. Some authors lay it all out there on the cover. Romance novels are my favorite. Not to read, just to look at the covers. Here, let’s look at a few together, shall we?

Boats, and horses, and hairy chests, oh my! That last one is not real, but man oh man do I wish. Colonel Sanders, a drumstick, and a pretty lady, that’s a love triangle I can get behind. And the other ones, well you know the whole plot before you even open the book: Intimate moments in a horse barn, with a hairy-chested dude who you should not want to have intimate moments with because he is:

A. A servant on your father’s farm

B. Your dead husband’s best friend

C. The stranger you met in the Motel 6 hot tub

I used to read romance novels. I did. When I was a teenager I got way into them, like Tina from Bob’s Burgers and Jimmy Pesto’s butt into them. Hormones. Gross. I read mostly V.C. Andrews. You know who I’m talking about, that Flowers in the Attic shit. Your mom thought it was no big deal because it’s most likely just a suspense novel. I mean it’s about kids locked in an attic, what could be romantic about that. #Incest

I’m a little more mature in my reading choices now, though I still judge books by their covers. A brightly colored cover can grab my attention from across a bookstore faster than the Dollanganger brother and sister can make a baby. I’m drawn to bright covers with geometric colors, just as much as the sad ones with a dark hues and an old dog sitting under a willow tree. I guess it’s not so much what the cover says about the book, as much as it is about what the cover says to me. Here are a couple of my current favorite covers (I have not read all of these books quite yet, but the covers make me want to):

I guess maybe I don’t have a book cover “type,” but I certainly let the covers guide me. I have read two books just this year based solely off their covers, and I enjoyed each of them. But maybe I was destined to? Anywhere, these are the two:

And countless more pretty-covered books are waiting on my bookshelf to be read. That’s it then. I judge books by their covers, and I am okay with that.

M.