Soooo, there’s a gorgeous Hindu temple in the middle of Georgia and we found it. No, seriously. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’ve lost my damn mind. But I swear, there’s a gorgeous Hindu temple in the middle of Georgia, right past a Home Depot. And we found it. Stay with me here, it’s a long sordid story full of grandmas, and shopping, and a trip to Cook-Out, but it ends with a gorgeous Hindu temple in the middle of Georgia, so it’s totes worth it.
It was last summer and my mom was in town visiting. She decided she wanted to go to Kohls to look around because #KohlsCash and #SeniorCitizens go together like Taylor Swift and shorty shorts. Some things are just meant to be, that’s all. So we headed to the nearest Kohls, which is like 20 minutes away. Along the way I caught a glimpse of something poking over some trees, just outside our city limits. Over yonder, as they say in Georgia, just past the Home Depot.
I wasn’t sure what I was looking at, just that it was something possibly grand, exquisite even, and that I would need to do some digging. But then my mom was all, “Is anybody hungry?” which is her way of telling us that she is hungry and we need to stop for food. Like now. (Side note: She also says things like, “Is anyone cold?” and “Does anyone have to pee so bad they think they might pee in their pants?” You know, things like that.) Anywho, Jerimiah pulled into a Cook-Out because honestly it was the first one we saw here in Georgia and having just moved from North Carolina it, well, it felt like home. If you don’t know about Cook-Out now you do. #Amazing
As we ate lunch at Cook-Out I Googled: “Big white temple looking thing in Lilburn, Georgia” and lo and behold the Google Goddess answered.
There is indeed a giant, gorgeous Hindu temple in the middle of Georgia. It’s in Lilburn, Georgia to be precise, but since Atlanta has the largest Metro area ever, it’s considered the Atlanta temple.
The temple itself was built strictly by volunteers on top of what used to be a skating rink. Volunteering is a cornerstone of the Hindu religion and it is known as Seva, or selfless volunteering. It took 1.3 million volunteers working two million (wo)man hours to complete the temple in a little over 17 months. It is made of three types of stone, Turkish Limestone, Italian marble, and Indian pink sandstone. That’s it. Just those three stones. According to their website more than 34,000 individual pieces were carved by hand in India, shipped to the USA and assembled in Lilburn like a giant 3-D puzzle in accordance with the ancient Hindu architecture scripture. I can feel you guys still think I’m a liar, liar pants on fire, so here’s a picture of Jackson standing in front of it in a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, which is fitting because this place is BIG! Like Disney BIG!
The Temple, or Mandir, is a place of worship for people who practice Hinduism. This particular Mandir is for people who practice Swaminarayan Hinduism and, although there are two million Mandirs globally, and 450 in the United States (with the most in Texas) the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Lilburn is the largest Mandir outside of India. Whew knew?!
Okay, so there we were back at Cook-Out and we were debating to stop by the Mandir after our trip to Kohls. I’m pretty sure my Mom had no idea what we were talking about and I was not pronouncing Swaminarayan correctly, but we decided since it was on the way home, why not? I think my Mom was still a little nervous, being a Baptist and all, but she went along with it. I bought her ice cream. Then helped her use her Kohls Cash, so it seemed fair for her not to complain.
When we got to the Mandir we weren’t sure where to go, or how to act, or what have you. I mean, we are not Hindu. We didn’t want to pretend to be. And I can honestly say that none of us have ever been to a sacred temple of any kind. Not our style (previously). So we drove very slowly in, thinking we might get asked to leave, but no, they waved at us, showed us where to park, and were all around very friendly. Though I think my Mom and Jackson were still a bit confused by the whole thing. Me? I was just in awe. This is the picture I took when we got out of the car.
A storm was rolling in and I think my Mom was both worried about her hair getting wet and about all the people who did not look like her. This was a lot for a 75-year-old from Kansas, but she didn’t say much. She just looked around, slowly climbed the steps, and stood in awe. I even caught her snapping a few pics, which may seem weird to some, but it is encouraged here. They worked hard on this building and they want you to take pictures. Of the outside, not the inside. Since it is a traditional Mandir the inside is a place of quiet and calm. A place reserved for meditation, prayer, and solitude. But in order to get inside you have to your legs covered, of which none of us did! But don’t worry, they are prepared for crazy, white people.
When we reached the top of the steps a man greeted us and asked if we wanted to go inside. We said, “Of course,” though again, I was the only one super sure about it, and he told us we’d have to cover our legs. He gave us all a long black piece of cloth, and we wrapped it around our legs like a skirt, then we were allowed to enter.
Inside was like something I had never seen before. There were beautiful carvings everywhere, and the room used for prayer and meditation was covered in marble and glass (all the floors are marble and you have to take off your shoes at the entrance too).
It was very quiet in there, as most of the visitors were praying. But upstairs there was a room not unlike the main floor of a cathedral. In fact, I was suddenly transported back to that time we spent an hour or so exploring St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. There were people worshipping in the middle of a large room, sit on the marble floor, and others walking all around the edges to visit statues of various deities in the Hindu faith, much like at St. Patrick’s and St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square in New Orleans. It was just that instead of the bust of Joan of Arc, there was a statue of Brahmaswarup Yogiji Maharaj. Same. Same.
I was totally drawn into the quiet of the place, like most churches I have been in. I like quiet, have I mentioned that? I’m a fan of quiet. Though I did feel rushed by my Mom who asked, “Does anyone have to pee?” and my son who was asking in very loud tones, “Why are they walking in circles around that statue?” (See postscript). I did not have an answer for him, but I did sense it was time for us to leave the inside. So we did. But I tell you what, I have plans to go back. Alone. And if you’re ever in Atlanta, maybe I suggest you check it out too? It really is a lovely place. The last picture is from the back of the Mandir. I made Jerimiah stop as we were driving out to take it. I mean, come on!
We were all impressed by the structure, and I think we all learned something that do too, though it may have been different things, we all learned something.
When we got home I posted some of the pics on FB and told people to get there if they are in the area. My Mom asked me to tag her in the pictures, so I did, and one of her “church friends” commented immediately that she “felt sorry that we were in an area that had a large Hindu population” and continued to display her accepting, Christian nature, by adding how disgraceful it is to worship more than one God and asking when Trump was going to send them all packing. Then she blessed us, I’m pretty sure, and my Mom said, “Oh, she’s crazy. Delete that comment.” And so I did.
PS… I have an answer for Jackson regarding his astute observation, “Why are they walking in circles?” It’s called circumambulating. Because Hindu temples are built where positive energy flows, the main idol is placed in the center of that gravitational force on a copper plate so it can beam the waves of positivity. People who practice Hindu believe that our energy is drained throughout the day (I hear that!) and when they visit the temple they are restored, particularly if they go to the main idol. Thus a person regularly visiting a temple and walking clockwise around the main idol receives the beamed magnetic waves and his body absorbs it.
Today was another oppressive day of rain in Atlanta. I had some errands to run, and some dry cleaning and donations to drop off, so I piled up the car with all my errands and headed to grab Jackson. Jackson is released a little earlier than the other kids because he’s a “walker,” meaning we walk home most days, though as of late I can’t recall the last time we were able to walk home a full week. It’s a nice treat to get my kid before the chaos of carline, which we were used to at previous schools. On days when the weather is bad, I park in the school lot and walk up to the “walker” door to grab him. I’m usually the last parent there, because he’s usually the last kid to leave. He makes sure all the others get safely to their parents before he departs. Part of his “Safety Patrol” pledge.
Today I parked close to the school because of the rain. I decided to sneak up in front of the school so I could stay under the school’s awning for as long as I could before I headed to the walker door. As I hopped up onto the dry sidewalk in front of the school I noticed three young boys standing around the flag pole at the entrance, and recognized Jackson immediately. His favorite Under Armor coat on over a hoodie whose hood was shielding his head from the rain, and his black Nike glasses being pelted with the big, round droplets. I was surprised because he doesn’t have “Flag Duty” right now, so I was just about to call over to him and ask what he was doing when I noticed they were having some trouble.
There are two flags on the pole at Jackson’s school. On top is the US Flag, which is customary to have at all public schools, and just under that one flies a smaller white flag recognizing Jackson’s school as being part of the International Baccalaureate program (they are also a STEM Certified school from AvancED). An IB school, according to an article at Great Schools, was created in Switzerland in 1968 for students in international schools. Great Schools says that IB is now offered in 5,175 schools across 157 countries — with about 1,800 public and private schools in the U.S. IB has gained popularity for setting high standards and emphasizing creative and critical thinking. IB students are responsible for their own learning, choosing topics and devising their own projects, while teachers act more as supervisors or mentors than sources of facts. IB emphasizes research and encourages students to learn from their peers, with students actively critiquing one another’s work. Beyond preparing students for critical thinking and college-level work, the full IB program calls for students to express themselves through writing, requires community service, and aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.
Essentially these kids are learning to set themselves, and each other, up for success at problem solving, among of a myriad of other important lessons about life, culture, and critical thinking. The problem solving though, is a big topic for fifth graders. Problem solving on the fly, as well as researching and planning solutions to larger, global problems like world hunger, city infrastructure, and urban decay. I tell you all this so you understand what I saw yesterday in the rain. Two boys attempting to take down two soaking wet, tangled flags, relying on each other and their ability to problem solve, work through creative solutions, and recognizing when it was time to ask for help.
It wasn’t raining that morning, they would come to understand, when the morning safety patrol put the flags up. But it had started raining right after, which means it rained steadily on the flags all day. As the day waned on, the IB flag tangled itself into a knot at the clip that attaches to the cable that hoists the flags up and down. Which means, try as they might, they were only able to bring the flags halfway down, then they would stop.
One glance up at the flags told me that they were tangled, but I couldn’t see how from my vantage point. Later, I learned that within a few minutes of discovering a problem, one of the boys had bowed out, opting instead to stand under the awning in the rain and yell possible solutions to his friend. That’s when Jackson happened by the front door, was spotted, and his friend called to him. Essentially his buddy needed a little help and knew just who to ask. Great start to the problem-solving, knowing who can help.
As the rain beat down on Jackson and his friend, they tried, and tried, and tried to get the flag down. They shook the metal cable that hoisted the flags up and down, the tried to move the white flag around the flag pole to see if they could stand in a different spot to get it off, that’s when they saw the tangle and realized what had happened. All the while I silently watched under the dry awning, as did the Assistant Principal, who was between shuffling kids back and forth from the door and the line of busses. Neither her nor I ever stepped in to offer advice or assistance. Why would we? They didn’t ask, and they are fifth graders. IB model tells us both not to help quite yet. So instead we stand, me under the awning and her under an umbrella nearer to them, and we watch.
Several minutes go by. They have been able to get the flags down to their lowest point now by shaking the cables, which have dislodged a portion of the knot on the white flag. They hoist the two flags back up again, then quickly back down, assuming at this point that they have solved the problem. The get them almost within reach (so they can just unclip the flag) when boom! The cable is caught again.
The boys are apoplectic. Jackson slams his hands down to his sides, and his friend in a show of frustration throws his hands up in the air. They look at each other, then back toward the draining sky. They are cold, they are wet, they are out of ideas. That’s when they make eye contact with the Assistant Principal. She saunters over with her umbrella, pretending to have no idea what is happening. She says, “What’s up, guys?”
Jackson’s friend tells her that the white flag is tangled. Jackson adds, quickly, the various measures they have tried in solving the problem. She says something like, “That should have done it. Do you want me to try?” They shake their heads in tired agreement. She sticks the handle of her umbrella in the space between her chin and shoulder and goes to work on the cable, essentially doing the same thing the boys were doing, but with a mighty strength that only a Principal possesses. Her umbrella falls behind her. She ignores it, keeps going. Now she’s getting pelted in the face by the rain, and I think for a minute to run over and help, then I notice Jackson run behind her, grab her umbrella, and hold it over her head while she looks straight up to the sky.
Eventually she gets the flag untangled with her pure might, gives Jackson’s friend the cable, and we all watch as he lowers the flag. Jackson hands her back her umbrella and they say thank you. She smiles, and walks back to the busses.
I stand, sort of in awe of what I have just witnessed. The third boy is nowhere to be found, he’s abandoned his post years ago, and Jackson and his friend stand in the rain and fold each flag the correct way, then take them back inside.
Minutes later, as we are walking out to the car I ask him what happened. He relays the story about the friend who needed help with the flag, how the other boy chased him down in the hallway to help. Then he tells me about the knot. That’s when I say that I saw them eventually figure it out. He stops me and says, “No, it was Ms. Young who figured it out.”
“No,” I assure him, “it was you two who figured it out. Ms. Young just had the strength to do what needed done.” He smiled a little.
I’ve been wanting to share about my mom’s friend, Ruthie, for some time now, but I have been unable to. Ruth was one of my mother’s oldest friends and she died recently. She was a fiery, friendly, funny kinda gal, whose antics litter my childhood memories. I have so many stories to share about Ruthie, that it was hard for me to pick which ones to share. I wanted to share the kind of stories that would highlight who she was, at her core. I was going back and forth wondering if I share how she would let me sit up front with her in her VW Beetle and move the stick shift when I’d ride along on a beer run with her? What about how she would laugh at me while I danced around her dining room at the old house on Pine Street, while she played 1970s country music on her large stereo, shuffled cards and drank beer with my mom and a few others? What about when she lined all the neighborhood kids up at the pool down on Fourth Street and taught them all how to dive? Or her jokes, her hilarious, sometimes crude, usually not age-appropriate jokes? I just couldn’t decide. I couldn’t even decide if I would actually ever write about Ruthie. I couldn’t decide until two Sundays ago*.
Two Sundays ago the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Tennessee Titans to clench the AFC Title and waltz their way into their first Super Bowl in 50 years, which they will be playing in this evening. Now listen, I don’t believe in angels. I don’t believe in heaven or hell, or purgatory (unless you’ve even been stuck in line at IKEA), but I do believe in the human condition. I believe that people we love don’t really ever leave us. It’s something I can’t explain. It’s something I don’t care to have explained to me. But I know we are all made up of stars, and I believe, with no real reason or explanation, that Ruthie had something to do with the Chiefs’ win that night, and that’s when I knew that I had to tell the story of Ruthie.
I don’t know much about Ruthie’s life before she met my mom in the 1970s. I know she grew up in Leavenworth, I know she went to Leavenworth Senior High School in the same building that was my middle school many moons later. I know she was loved in the community. I know she was funny, and smart, and I knew as a child, that she had a pure heart. But otherwise, the Ruthie I know is the Ruthie she had became after marriage, and kids, and heartbreaks. Still, she was a force to behold.
Ruthie and my mom met when my mom was new in town. My mom walked into a bar with a run in her pantyhose one night. She didn’t have a car, and the night was young, so she walked up to a man sitting at the bar and asked him if he would give her a lift to the grocery store so she could buy a new pair of pantyhose. She offered to give him a couple of bucks for gas. He laughed at her and said, “Sure thing, as long as you can clear it with my wife.”
“Well, where’s your wife?” my mom asked, clenching her hose so they wouldn’t fall down.
The man pointed to the woman behind the bar. She was funny looking, a little rough around the edges, a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, her own full draft beer sitting on the bar.
My mom walked right up to her, said her name was Margie, showed the woman the run in her hose, and asked if she minded if her husband gave her a lift to the store to buy a new pair. She offered the couple bucks in gas. Ruthie pulled the long 100 out of her mouth, looked my mom up and down, and said, “Sure thing, Sis. If you’re balls enough to ask me if my husband can take you to buy pantyhose, you’re alright.”
The man at the bar was Ronnie, Ruth’s husband, and Ruth, in case you missed that, was the bartender. Ruth and Ronnie became a part of my mom’s life from that day forward, and would remain, well into their seventies. They fussed and cussed at each other sometimes. They had spats and disagreements. They didn’t talk for some time toward the end of Ruthie’s life, but over all those decades, their families merged.
I was the youngest of all the kids in both families. I was so young that I grew up with Ruth and Ronnie’s grandkids, rather than their kids, though their youngest Julie was my primary babysitter after my sisters moved out of the house when I was in kindergarten. Mostly though, I got to hang out with the adults, because by the time I came along in 1981, they spent more and more time at home drinking beer, than hanging out at the bars. Some of my earliest memories are of Ruthie and some other ladies coming over to our apartment to play cards at our small kitchen table. They would drink beer and listen to sad country songs, Patsy, and Loretta, and Hank. They would play so long and so late that I would make a little pallet on the kitchen floor under the table, right next to my mom’s feet. I’d fall asleep there and wake up the next morning in my own bed. It was comforting, the cold linoleum under my Care Bears sheets. The smoke rolling over my head (my mom didn’t smoke, but she let Ruthie smoke in the house back in those days).
Later, when the card playing meandered over to Ruthie’s house, I’d climb onto their sofa, one room over from the dining room, I’d watch cable television (we never had cable) and I’d drift off to sleep with MTV on mute, while I listened to those familiar, sad songs from the dining room.
On warm summer nights, before the sun went down, Mom and Ruthie and Ruthie’s older daughters, Rhonda, or Robbie, or Debbie, would sit on the small front porch of their house on the corner of Pine and Fourth Streets, and listen to music, and drink beer, and talk about their week, how the Royals were doing (it never was too good), or who Ruthie had cut grass for that week. Ruthie would be propped up in her corner spot near the back of the porch in a lawn chair, a table next to her with a small radio (for the Royals and country music), a Diet Pepsi if she’d just come in from mowing, in a styrofoam Wood’s Cup. She’d have her Royals cap on, her cut off denim shorts, and a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. Her shoes, once white, by this time in the summer were faded green from grass, and her knee-high men’s socks would be pulled all the way up, with grass clippings hanging on for dear life. Summer Ruthie was a sight to behold. And I loved her for it. She was sweaty, and covered in grass, and she would sit there in that corner and wave at the people who drove by, drink her Diet Pepsi, until it was time to switch to beer, and she would tell stories. Ruthie was an amazing teller of stories, and she always had plenty, and my ears were always open, sitting on the cooler lid across from her and my mom on the tiny porch waiting for whatever was about to happen, because at Ruthie’s house something was always about to happen.
The summer was Ruthie’s time to shine. At some point in her life, she stopped bartending and switched to mowing grass. Ronnie worked construction, and devoted a lot of his time to the Mormon Church, of which Ruthie did not belong, and together they were staples in the community. Do-gooders, who would help any lost soul they came across. My mom was often on the receiving end of their goodness, often relying on Ruthie to fix a broken muffler on one of my mom’s old junkers, or let us sell items at their yard sales, which were always a big hit since their house was so well known, and in a great location on a busy street. Ruthie would swing by and cut our grass if she was in the neighborhood. Ronnie would slip my mom a $20 bill, that my mom always paid back, in between pay days at her job as a housekeeper. They were friends. And well, that’s what friends do.
I’d spend my summer days running up and down along the house with Rags, their dog. I don’t know what kind of dog he was, but he was friendly, and furry, and he was permanently attached to a run on a close line, right next to the back door, which was sometimes used as the front door for the people in the know. In the evenings Ruthie’s grown kids would wonder over with their families and their kids, who were my playmates on those long nights. We’d catch lightening bugs and smear their light on our arms, chase each other around the backyard, filled with cars, and lawnmowers, and Rags’ excitedly wagging tail chasing us as far as his line would allow.
Cars would drive by and honk, and we’d stop and wave. Everyone waved when the cars honked, even though they cars were just honking for Ruthie. They all knew her and loved her. From the stuffiest, most uptight old ladies to the men who sometimes didn’t have a couch to sleep on, people drove by and honked, they walked by and sat for awhile on the stoop. Ruthie always offered a smoke, or a beer, or a Diet Pepsi. Ronnie often offered a ride to wherever they might be going. There was a lot of laughing on those long, humid summer nights. A lot of friendship, kinship, and fellowship.
As the sun would go down the party would move indoors. More people would stop over. One of Ruth or Ronnie’s sisters, or a neighbor. Julie might show up with a group of her teenage friends. One of my sisters might stop by if they were back in Leavenworth. And there always seemed to be more kids. Kids from everywhere. We’d stay outside until the called us indoors for the night. We’d tell ghost stories about the old house on Pine Street. Like the ghost that we were sure lived upstairs, which also happened to be the only place there was a bathroom in the house. Up a long, curvy, old, creaky staircase. I spent many nights holding in my pee for as long as I could, then running up and down those stairs, while Ruthie would yell, “Be careful, Missy. God damn, you’ll break your neck!”
As the years rolled on I stopped going over to Ruth and Ronnie’s with my mom, in lieu of slumber parties with my friends, or even later when I was a teenager, I’d rather stay at home alone and watch television, or listen to my music while my mom went over, or the adults went out to play darts or go bowling. I became “too cool” to sit on the stoop. God forbid someone see me. What I didn’t realize back then, was that Ruthie’s stoop was the cool place to be, and there have been many a nights since then that I have wished for just one more summer night on the corner of Pine and Fourth.
After I left Leavenworth, married, and had my first born, we went back to Leavenworth for a visit and stopped by Ruth and Ronnie’s. They had moved a couple of houses down, and the old house on Pine and Fourth was torn down. It was beyond repair. We introduced Baby Jackson to Ruth and Ronnie, and Ruthie bounced him up and down on her lap like she had all her grandchildren. Laughing and telling him inappropriate jokes.
Years later, the last time we saw Ruthie and Ronnie, Jackson was five years old. It was the summer before we moved to North Carolina. We took a long weekend in Leavenworth, and just as we were headed back to Southern Missouri I grabbed Jerimiah’s arm and said, “Wait, let’s run by Ruth and Ronnie’s!” It was evening time, and the Royals were playing, I knew they’d be at home.
When we got there we parked at the end of the long line of cars outside their house. We were about three houses down from where they lived, and I recognized most of the cars. There was Debbie’s car, and Ronnie’s old work van. There was Ruthie’s black Chevy, and another truck that I assumed belong to her son Johnny, or maybe Billy was back living with them. We walked up to the front door and knocked, as we peered inside. We didn’t see anyone, but we heard them. A whole clan of Logan’s from the backyard. We let ourselves into an empty house and followed the noise. When we stepped onto the back patio, the veranda Ruthie called it with a laugh and a slap on your arm, we were greeted with cheers and hugs.
“Well, look who it is!” Ruthie yelped, getting up from her recliner she had brought onto the veranda, along with a television, a stereo, and a ton of Royals and Chiefs memorabilia, under a canopy tent. Jackson stood and looked around, taking in all the noises and people. Ruthie grabbed him up in a big hug, and then offered him a Diet Pepsi. Then she showed us around. We hadn’t seen her in years by then so she wanted to show us all the updates, which were really just more Royals and Chiefs decorations, signed balls and posters, a Gretchen Wilson poster hung in her “Royals and Chiefs” room. We walked around and followed her as she pointed out pictures of grandkids, and great-grandkids by then. She offered Jackson every piece of candy or sweet we walked by, and he obliged, eating pie and a lollipop that she kept around for the kids. I caught a glimpse of her red Chief’s “brick.” The foam one from my childhood that she’d throw at the television and yell, “Sonofabitch!” when the Chiefs made a bad play. I smiled. Smelled the familiar smells. Remembered all those many years ago. The house was different and Ruthie was smaller by then, more frail looking, but somehow still mighty, still strong, still able, I knew, to entertain, to amuse, to tell a dirty joke or two. And I’m happy that my son got to meet the woman I knew and loved for so many years, even for just an hour.
On Sunday, August 18th, 2019, a week after the Chiefs beat the Bengals in a preseason game 38-17, I got the call that Ruthie had passed away. I cried, but not for long. Too suddenly the memories came flooding back, and I was forced to smile. The stoop on the porch. The Chief’s Brick. The day in the alley behind her house when she tied my mom’s car muffler up with a wire hanger, while she cursed and hammered under the car. The night I stayed up way past my bedtime to help string up lights on Ruthie’s St. Patrick’s Day float. The dirty joke about the nun I heard on her front porch when I was 12 years old and didn’t quite understand. I laughed aloud. Jerimiah asked me what was wrong, then I told him…
A bus full of Nuns falls of a cliff and they all die. They arrive at the gates of heaven and meet St. Peter. St. Peter says to them “Sisters, welcome to Heaven. In a moment I will let you all though the pearly gates, but before I may do that, I must ask each of you a single question. ”
St. Peter turns to the first Nun in the line and asks her “Sister, have you ever touched a penis?” The Sister Responds “Well… there was this one time… that I kinda sorta… touched one with the tip of my pinky finger…” St. Peter says “Alright Sister, now dip the tip of your pinky finger in the Holy Water, and you may be admitted.” and she did so. St. Peter now turns to the second nun and says “Sister, have you ever touched a penis?” “Well…. There was this one time… that I held one for a moment…” “Alright Sister, now just wash your hands in the Holy Water, and you may be admitted” and she does so. Now at this, there is a noise, a jostling in the line. It seems that one nun is trying to cut in front of another! St. Peter sees this and asks the Nun “Sister Susan, what is this? There is no rush!” Sister Susan responds “Well if I’m going to have to gargle this stuff, I’d rather do it before Sister Mary sticks her ass in it!”
Hey Ruthie, thanks for the laughs. Thanks for the memories.
*I wrote this post last week in order to honor Ruthie the day the Chiefs play in the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years, and I woke up yesterday morning, Saturday, February 1st, to the news that Ronnie had passed away. My heart is heavy today knowing that the Logan family is going through the loss of their father, and I’m sending love and hugs to all of them. This family, that was such a special part of my life for so many years, is having to bury a second parent in the coming days, and my heart breaks for them during these struggles. But the thing I know about the Logan Clan is that they are supported in a community who loved their parents, and they are supportive with one another. They will get through this. Ronnie was a religious man, and he devoted his life to two things: His family (even the ones not related by blood) and the Mormon Church. I know he is where he needs to be today, and I’m pretty sure it’s kicked back in a chair watching Ruthie throw her red brick at a television screen once again. ❤
Saturday, January 25th began the Chinese New Year, which in case you are taken back to your childhood and remember those placemats at your Mom’s favorite Chinese food joint, you know the ones I mean, the ones that showed the Chinese zodiac so you could look up the year you were born and see which animal you were (Year of the Rooster, represent), while you waited for your sweet and sour chicken and water—because your Mom never let you order Coke—then you know each year gets assigned an animal. This Chinese New Year is the Year of the Rat. Now that that’s out of the way, I can tell you about all the fun we had ringing in the Chinese New Year with friends at Atlanta’s Chinatown on Sunday. Spoiler: There were no rats.
There was however, some great food, for starters. Jackson opted for dumplings, which is one of his favorites when we visit Hell’s Kitchen or Chinatown in NYC. He also ate a bowl of rice, cause why not? Jerimiah chose a pork roll, which was sweet and savory, and something neither of us had ever tried before. And I had the Beef and Bitter Melon. The beef was amazing good, but the melon had a weird taste and I couldn’t eat it. I kept trying, but my body was just rejecting it. Jerimiah asked me what was up and I was all, “I dunno try this and tell me what it tastes like, I just can’t place it, it’s not spicy, it’s just…” Then he took a bite and he said, “Jesus, it’s so bitter.” And I was all, “Oh that’s it! It’s bitter!” Then he asked me what the dish was called and I confidently said, “Beef and Bitter Melon” and then we looked at each other directly in the eye for a few seconds, wherein I realized what had happened, and he, I suppose, started to wonder how he got stuck with me as his wife.
Luckily just then a little boy came running toward us yelling, “Jackson! Jackson!” The little boy was Jackson’s friend’s little brother. He is in first grade, but he legit. He grabbed Jackson and immediately took him over to see the koi pond. Then came Jackson’s friend, her Mom (and my friend) who legit was born in China, but raised in Hong Kong and Ohio, and speaks Mandarin and is a badass, and her husband, who is from a remote village in India, but works for the State of Georgia. They are amazing, and they had invited us to see their daughter perform at the Chinese New Year celebration, which she does every year with her ballet/Tae Kwon Do team. PS… They all do Tae Kwon Do. No shit. How do we meet such cool people?!
Anyway, her performance was about to start, so we found a good spot to watch and cozied up. It was a pure delight, the favorite of the whole celebration year after year. First her ballet dance team came up and performed, then she had a violin solo, then the Tae Kwon Do team came out and did an amazing performance wherein I, for a split second, thought that I could probably do jump kicks and break boards with my feet too. I mean, probably.
Afterward we meandered around a bit more. There are a lot of shops, but the place was so crowded we vowed to come back another time to do our real shopping. Then suddenly someone was shouting that the lion was coming so we followed the crowd outside to see what this all meant. We were not disappointed.
The Lion Dance is a traditional Chinese dance where performers mimic a lion’s movements in an elaborate costume in order to bring good fortune for the new year. The Lion was running a little behind because they had many performances that weekend all around Atlanta. Atlanta, particularly the area of Chamblee/Dunwoody/Doraville has a large Asian population, and the Lion had a lot of performances and this was their last one, the grande finale. While we waited for the Lions to get there (there was actually two Lions) the announcer told us the story of The Lion Dance. (After she had Jackson run through the whole Chinatown Mall and yell for everyone to hurry up and come see the Lion. For real. He was happy to do it.)
The Lion Dance starts with firecrackers, so she warned us that it would be loud. Then the Lions would fall asleep and we would have to wake them with cheering. These are not Serengeti lions, y’all, don’t try firecrackers and screaming on your safari, okur? Then someone, an unsuspecting young boy and slightly scared white dude, were chosen to “feed” the Lions lettuce. Why lettuce? Lettuce is the color green. What else is green? Money, you nailed it! The Lions would eat the lettuce, then regurgitate it, for real, then you would run and get pieces of eaten lettuce from the Lions to bring you good fortune all year. Oh, and also you can and should feed the Lions actual money, for your prosperity, and for theirs. Get it yet? No? Here’s a video:
Atlanta’s Chinatown is not really what you think of when you think of Chinatown in a big city. It’s not like Chinatown in San Fran, or NYC, or even Chicago. It is more spread out, sort of like Atlanta, but there is this one mall where you will find a grocery store and several shops, and authentic food, and that is sort of the center of the Asian culture in that area, so this is where they do all the celebrating. It’s unique and fun, sort of like the rest of Atlanta. We had a really nice time and can’t wait to go back and explore more when there are way less white people to ruin the exploring!
So Happy Chinese New Year! And Happy Year of the Rat. I asked my friend how to say this in Madarin, but I have literally no idea what she said, so I will just copy this from Google translate: 新年快乐
And here are some more pics from our day in Chinatown. Enjoy.
I know y’all tired of hearing me talk about fifth grade. I know y’all tired of me talking about the boy/girl drama. Think of how tired you are of hearing me talk about it, then think about how tired I am of being smack-dab in the middle of it. Jerimiah says, “Just don’t let it get to you. He will figure it out.” And I’m sure he will eventually, but over the last few days this love triangle my fifth grader has found himself in, has required a parent to step in, and it was obvious none of the other parents were, so I did. And it has escalated so quickly that Jerimiah is involved now too.
So Shirley and Jerkface are still a thing, but Shirley has been “flirting” (and I put this in quotes because again, THIS IS FIFTH FUCKING GRADE) ahem, Shirley has been “flirting” with Jackson, while still “dating” Jerkface. She appears to be doing this on purpose in order to make Jerkface mad at Jackson. Da what?! How is a fifth grader capable of such high-school-girl-drama? It’s called Abuse of Power and Jackson wants to call the senate to have her impeached.
In case that doesn’t work out, after Jackson decided he was tired of the lovely couple’s bullshit this week, like how Shirley added Jerkface into their friends’ group chat (even though no one likes him because he’s a, well, jerkface), and how Shirley encourages Jerkface to be mean to Jackson on the playground, Jackson wrote Shirley a private text and said, “Hey, when you’re ready to be cool again, like you used to be, just friends, let me know. Until then I don’t really want to hang with you. Sincerely, Jackson.”
Shirley replied with, and I quote, “Are you faking because if you are I do horrible things…” What the actual fuck, y’all?! Who is this girl?! And who does she think she actually is?!
So after that, she was texting him and trying to FaceTime him to beg him to talk, but at the same time texting the other friends and threatening to “share all their secrets.” Then they were taking screen shots of what she was saying and sending them to Jackson, and I had enough.
I told Jackson to go ahead and let them know that I read ALL his text messages, because I do. I trust my son, but I obviously do not trust these other kids. And as you can see, that is based in good reasoning. Then to go ahead and let Shirley know she’s real close to getting her contact blocked in the “Mom Mode” of his phone. She proceeded to say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about Jackson!” Then she sent him a picture of her puppy and said, “Look how cute my puppers is!” Uhhh… I know I’m not supposed to dislike a kid, but…
Then Jackson proceeds to tell me all the rude things Jerkface has been saying to him in the hallways and in PE class (their two classes go to PE together.) On Wednesday he pulled Jackson aside in PE and said, “Shirley broke up with me, so you can go ahead and be her boyfriend now.” Jackson was very confused because he knew that if Shirley had actually done that she would have told him, she would have told EVERYONE because #drama. So he just sort of ignored it. Turns out is was not true. Jerkface was just baiting Jackson to see if he would move in on Shirley. And Shirley knew about the whole plan. What the actual fuck?!
On thing Jerkface ACTUALLY said to my fifth grade son was, “You better not be fucking my girl!” Yeah, that’s a thing fifth grade boys are capable of saying to other fifth grade boys. Then he stopped Jackson in the hall on Friday and said, “I saw you sitting next to my girl in class, and you better not do that again, aight?” Jackson and Shirley are classmates, project partners, robotics team members, and friends. On Friday Jerkface walked by their classroom and saw Jackson and Shirley sitting next to each other, working on their project together in their classroom, and Jerkface made a mean face at Jackson and Jackson got nervous, then he told him this after school. THIS IS FOR REAL, Y’ALL!
So I told Jackson that I was not above talking to the Assistant Principal about all this, and y’all know I’m not, so he needed to let Jerkface know he wouldn’t be bossed around or cursed at anymore. Jackson sent Jerkface a text that said all that, including that he had no desire to be Shirley’s “boyfriend” and he was happy they had each other, (I am too, because they are both just as crazy as each other and I want my son far away from a girl who says, “I will do horrible things”), and then decided it might be best to distance himself from Shirley for a bit as well. Good choice.
So then Shirley called him, crying, unable to say anything, just crying. And Jackson said, “I can’t hear you, maybe call back when you’re not crying.” And I support that.
So there you have it, the short of the long. I’ll let y’all know when/if I have to get more involved, but right now just know that this shit is happening in fifth grade. I’ve heard of it happening in fourth and even third grade. Matter of fact, in Jackson’s second grade class there was a love triangle he was involved in and didn’t even know about, with some nightmare teacher’s kid and some little blond girl. No shit. This is happening. And no, it’s not just happening from technology. Because all the mean stuff Jerkface has done has been in person at school. And he’s (I’m pretty sure) being led by Shirley who wants two boys to fight over her. Thankfully, my son ain’t no dummy.
So what’s the point of all this, other than to alert you to the fact that there is a rapid change in fifth graders, and it happens in the second semester and if you aren’t one of those parents who keeps up on all of it, asks your kids about school EVERYDAY, and uses instances like this as a learning experience to prepare them for even more craziness in the future, then you better jump on board with this sort of parenting, and fast.
Raise yo kids right, y’all. And be involved. Be vigilant. Don’t be afraid to be that parent that “is in everyone’s business” because there are far too many parents who don’t give two shits about how their kids are treating others, and we need to pick up the slack. Geez, I don’t remember this kind of drama in fifth grade. I mean I remember drama, but not this sort of shit. WE need to do better.
Today seems like an appropriate day to share a little story of how Jackson was introduced to the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., first in Memphis, years later in Birmingham, then again in Atlanta. We’ve been fortunate to travel to these historical places, as well as many others, in Jackson’s first 11 years, and we always took the opportunity to speak truth to him, even when he was obviously too young to “get it.” Which was the case in both Memphis and Birmingham (the first times around), but recently he’s been more capable of understanding the way our country was several decades ago, and he’s starting to make some big connections to the world we live in today, like how things haven’t changed as much as we would have liked.
The first time Jackson heard of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and his important work, his life and his death, was in 2012. Jackson was three-years-old when this picture was taken outside the Lorraine Motel on the south side of Memphis.
That’s an amped up guy, who loved old cars, smiling at his grandma and daddy standing just outside the shot. He had no idea why we were there, what had happened there, or whom those cars belonged to, but he liked them. He fell in love with finned cars on that day, but he was far from grasping the complexities of what he was looking at, or the spot he was standing on. Still we tried to explain, hoping something would stick.
It was a mildly, warm spring day in Memphis the day we visited the Lorraine Motel, and it was my first time paying homage to the late Reverend Doctor as well. I remember the somberness that followed me around for the rest of the day. That is until my toddler bought a blow-up guitar at ten pm on Beale Street and showed us all how to get down. A reminder that it isn’t all bad.
Our next attempt at teaching our son about the important work of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and his many comrades, was during a trip to Birmingham a couple years later. We sat on the grass at the Kelly Ingram Park, formally West Park, and had lunch while we introduced racism to a wily four-year-old.
Kelly Ingram Park is directly across from the 16th Street Baptist Church in downtown Birmingham. In the 1960s it served as a gathering ground for large-scale protests led by the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and others like him. The church, of course, was the first “Colored Baptist Church” in Birmingham, and was infamously bombed in 1963 killing four young girls–Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair–and injuring 22 others. This was the first time, sitting in this lush, green grass, surrounded by the statues built to honor the Black community of Birmingham, that I realized the depth of what I was trying to talk to my son about. I worried it was too much, too soon. Frankly, I thought Jerimiah and I might be crazy. Extreme even. But when Jackson looked up at us and said, “People hate others because of the way their skin looks?!” I knew it was necessary. And I knew then, that something was sticking.
The next time we would encounter the life and work of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was when we visited Atlanta for the first time in 2016, and then a couple years later, when we had the opportunity to move to Atlanta, a city rife with its share of racial division, yet home to the King family. We’ve learned so much about the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. since then, and about the people who supported and worked with him. About Rep. John Lewis, about Reverend Hosea Williams and Harry Belefonte, about the work they put into the Civil Rights Movement. We are so lucky to live in such history, fifteen miles from the King family home, from Ebenezer Baptist Church where Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. and his son lead worship for many years. Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. taking over in 1927, and his son becoming co-pastor in 1960 until his death in 1968. We’ve visited this landmark, the King family home, and the National Historical Park named after the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., and the King Center, where the King’s are buried, several times since 2016 and each time we have learned something new, and had some tough conversations with an ever-growing child who still occasionally has to grasp at what we are saying. But little by little, it’s sticking.
Today we honor the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. His life and his legacy. We honor those who fought alongside him. Those who peacefully protested and those who didn’t, because honestly, it was all necessary. We are not part of the Black community, but we strive everyday to be as educated, as kind, as accepting, as we can be. Because Black Lives Matter. And Black History Matters.
We want to lend our support to a fight that is still raging in our country. I’d love to say that an end is coming soon, but I don’t think it is. Instead, I put my faith in the next few generations. In my son’s generation. In the kids with extreme parents. With access to history. With open and loving hearts. We must remember that we have come far, but not far enough.
It’s a unique experience driving through Northern states during the winter. We’re in day five of our eight day trip now, and just safety arrived in Rhode Island this afternoon. The weather is cold, but it’s not snowing. At this moment anyway. We realized, most suddenly today, that we’ve lived in the South for too long to remember that frost clings to trees in the wintertime, in long, thick icicles. That ponds freeze over. That snow storms drop out of nowhere. That people own boots, and several pairs of ski gloves, and say things like, “They’re out salting tonight.” It’s astonishing and slightly absurd how fast it’s all slipped from our Midwest memories.
Jackson asked what that “tepee looking thing” was, while driving east from Buffalo to Syracuse. I explained it was where they kept the salt. He hmpf’d and went on about his business. I thought nothing of it, then a few moments later he said, “Wait, what salt? Table salt?” I guess he thought they liked all their meats brined here. I mean, that’s not wrong, but what I meant was the salt for the roads.
Because in New England and in the Midwest, from Maine to Missouri, Kansas to Connecticut they still salt the roads. They roll out in big trucks, hours, sometimes days before a storm is expected and they lay down a coat of salt. It’s funny how easily I forgot about the way the lines form in the road from the backs of trucks. How K-Mart parking lots turned into makeshift salting HQs. How men smoking cigarettes, with snow plows fastened to their old Chevy trucks, run up and down the road in the dead of the winter and layer this protection on our roads.
Geez, I’m sure there are ramifications. Of course there are. The rusting from the salt. The money for infrastructure. The tax dollars. The equipment, the salt “tepees.” It adds up. And probably, likely, there are safer, more cost-effective, more environmentally-conscious ways. And maybe I’ll investigate more one day. But for now, for tonight, I’ll lie in my hotel bed and remember the men and the trucks. The salting and the K-Mart parking lots. And I’ll miss the Salt Belt a little more.
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.
Some of you may remember, from my earlier days, that I did a regular little ditty called, Thoughts in the Car Line wherein I waxed intellectual on a number of topics while I waited to pick Jackson up from school. At the beginning of my years in the car line I was always very early so I could be up near the front, which is in fact, a total waste of time. BUT, I did get a lot of writing and reading done in those times, and they will always be fond memories for me. Still confused? Let me show you a bit of what I mean with some classic Thoughts in the Car Line Moments:
I think Jon Bon Jovi lived on more than a prayer. Cocaine, y’all. He lived on cocaine.
I bet I’d run more efficiently on cocaine.
We’d all run more efficiently on cocaine.
I’m not sure if the family behind me doesn’t enjoy my dancing or if they just hate Dwight Yoakam in general.
There are men out here “surveying”. I keep yelling, “Hey, why don’t y’all come survey this” and then I pull my shirt down really low, but they just don’t seem interested. It must be the sports bra.
This guy looks like he might be named Eddie.
Maybe I shouldn’t harass men?
I dunno. I’m so conflicted y’all. It’s like, cocaine is bad, but then it’s good.
What if Mumford doesn’t even have any sons and it’s all a damn lie?
I used to like Eddie Murphy. I thought he made a great donkey, but then he got all high and mighty and I was kind of like, you know what Eddie Murphy, I’m done with you. But I still like Donkey.
Butyraceous: Of the nature of resembling or containing butter. New stage name. Missy “Butyraceous” Goodnight. One woman act. I roll in butter while I scream “Suck it, Paula Dean!” Tickets can be purchased at Food Lion for $5 and one pound of butter.
I’m not a scientist, but I feel what I lack in common sense I make up for by drinking copious amounts of wine.
“I have a dancer’s body. In the trunk.” That would be a good bumper sticker.
Some parents suck. Some are great. And some listen to Rod Stewart.
It snowed in North Carolina the other day and my mom called from Kansas to tell me that she saw Dale Earnhardt and he said not to drive on the roads, and I didn’t know if she meant that she saw the ghost of Dale Earnhardt or if she ran into Jr. at the Walmarts and he told her to tell me that the roads in North Carolina were bad, but I decided it could go either way, and everyone knows you should always trust a ghost who wants to share traffic advisories.
How many raisins can I fit into my mouth?
32. I fit 32 raisins in my mouth.
I ate Jackson’s snack. It was raisins.
If you’ve never bought a comforter from TJ Maxx are you even an adult?
As you can see, they get pretty intense. Luckily for you guys, I got to Jackson’s school a bit early to pick him up from Robotics practice the other day, and I created a new list of thoughts in the car line. No need to thank me, your kindness to each other is thanks enough.
Thoughts in the Car Line:
Does Santa drink egg nog every morning? Like does he just get up and dab a little bit in his coffee, then think, you know what I’m just gonna take a little sip straight out the bottle, then he takes a little nip and before he knows it he drank a bottle of egg nog? Then an hour later, when he’s laying over the toilet feeling like he bout to vomit, Mrs. Clause walks in and she’s all, “Sonofabitch, Kris, I told you not to drink a whole bottle of egg nog again. Christ, you need to be at the shop in a tight fifteen!” And he can’t look up from the commode, so he just makes little noises to himself and his white hair starts to fall from around his face, kinda dip into the water a little bit. Then she starts to get all sad that he lacks willpower and self-control, so she sits on her old, creaky knees on the heated bathroom tile next to him, and starts to rub his back in a half-hearted attempt to burp him, while he cries into the toilet bowl, and she remembers the man in college named Damien Demancus who offered her a life of luxury on his boat docked at the Margaritaville in Key West, and she sighs a little to herself. Is that, umm, probably what happens?
I’ve never been to Key West. I want to go, but I’m also scared to go. Cause I have been to Miami. And I have been to the Bahamas. And I sort of feel like Key West is a mixture of the two places. And I didn’t like either of them THAT much. So…
I think I just tooted, but like inside my intestines. That was weird.
There’s a Margarittaville in Tennessee. It’s over yonder by the Dollywood. I’m sure there is more than one Margarittaville in Tennessee. I just haven’t seen them all. But there are people who have. And those people are named Ricky. Not Richard. Ricky.
Do elves brush their teeth? All that sugar! I hope so.
One time on a cruise ship, we were at sea for two days because we were going from Puerto Rico to some island way the fuck out there and I had nothing to do so I went to the casino and taught myself how to play roulette. Then I taught Jackson how to play. He was in second grade. Rules are lax in the ocean. We won $700. Then we lost $900. Then I got pissed off, cause I was obviously drunk, and I threw my gin and tonic at Red #32 because I thought it was evil. But I think Jackson learned a valuable lesson: Always go find Daddy when Mommy forces him into a casino in second grade.
“We can’t go on together, with suspicious miiiiiinds…”
I wonder if they’d let me into Tyler Perry Studios? Worth a shot. Helllller!
Do I need to make banners for the robotics competition? And bring a megaphone? Or is it not that kinda deal? What about a charcuterie board? There’s always time for a charcuterie board.
Jackson can now play Jingle Bells on his trumpet. But I can play Mary Had a Little Lamb on a touchtone phone, so, who’s the real musician?
We bought a Christmas tree at Target the other night. Let me stop there, this involves a bit of backstory that I know you guys are super excited about! First off, I’m a real tree kinda girl. Always have been. I wasn’t raised with them because I had the kinda mom who would hate having to sweep up needles everyday, and the kind of mom who couldn’t afford to go out and buy a new tree year after year, when a perfectly good artificial tree sat in her bedroom closet waiting to be unboxed, with long strands of silver tinsel wound tightly around old, fake, metal limbs. I always felt like I needed a tetanus shot when we pulled that bitch out. So I mean to say as an adult, I’ve always had real trees. Until last year when Jackson visited the allergist, was pricked a million times, and we were told that he’s allergic to horses, cats, mold, and about 387 types of trees. And you guessed it, my beautiful Douglas Fir was on top of the list. Bah humbug!
Enter artificial trees. Last year we were in Charlotte for Christmas, which means we were in the “Little house.” So the “Little house,” though conveniently located about five minutes from Uptown, was, well, little. Very little. It was 1200 square feet. We had moved into it after living for three years in “The Big House,” which for comparison was 3,500 square feet, with a 31,000 gallon swimming pool in the backyard, situated on a one-acre lot. I tell you all this to say that “The Big House” was too fucking big. It was obscene and unnecessary. So when we moved into the city, we decided to downsize. It’s just that maybe we downsized too good. Yes. Too good. So there we were, in need of an artificial tree, after years of full, real, trees that were, on average, 8 feet tall. Our tree last year had to be much smaller. So we settled on an adorable six footer, pre-lit, and it filled the space perfectly. Below was our last “big tree” at the “Big House” in which, against my better judgment, I allowed them to use colored lights on…
Fast forward to this year. And we certainly learned our lesson with houses. We are comfortably in about 2200 square feet now, with a large great room. We pulled the old six-footer out of the attic this week, set it up next to the fireplace, and looked at each and just knew we needed a new one. It was depressing as shit. Like for real, it looked sickly. And I was all, how is this the same tree as last year? Here, look at “The Little House” in Charlotte, in the heart of Villa Heights.
And Jackson in front of our adorable little tree in our adorable, little great room. Perfect.
So as you can imagine when we stuck the six-footer in this house, we were very disappointed. I wish I had taken a picture of it before I freaked out and was forced to go buy a new one, but I didn’t. I did however take a picture when we got the new one home and set up for comparison.
Ignore the mess, instead focus on the adorable, little tree. Aww, she was cute. PS… the new eight-footer has the price tag on because Target sold us the display tree. A little-known secret coming atcha now: Target can’t sell display trees, say if they are out of stock, UNLESS they are discontinued. We discovered that when we, along with like five other people, were asking if they had any of this particular Douglas fir in stock. Of course when they didn’t we decided to go online and purchase it and just have it shipped to us for free (Target Red Card holder here, huzzah!) But it wasn’t for sale on their website. So when other people heard that they gave up and went on with their lives. Not us! Never us! We called a manager over and asked why it wasn’t for sale. That’s when we found out it was discontinued, and that’s when we found out we were buying a $200 tree for $50! Cha-ching. Have I mentioned that I LOVE Target?! I’m sure I have.
The “Little Tree” did end up finding a home. We stuck it downstairs in our family room. See pics below. Jackson decorated it himself. He also decorated a mini tree for his room, of which he is very proud.
Um, yeah, that’s him in a Sonic shirt, with Harry Potter decorations in his room, and what’s that? Yes, that’s a weather radio he found at a thrift store and HAD to have for his room. He’s such a nerd. But it’s cute tho.
So, I guess this is all to say that we have three Christmas trees in our house this year. I didn’t want three Christmas trees, I wanted one. I’m not one of those crazy Christmas people. I like one tree to place presents under, one mantel all snug as a bug in a rug, and maybe some cute dinner napkins. That’s it. Now I have three trees. But, I’m honestly not sure how much longer we have of Elf on the Shelf (that’s a whole other post) and Santa squeezing his fat-ass down our chimney, so I have decided to embrace all things Christmas this year!
There it is. The tale of three trees. I hope you got your decorations up, whatever they may be, with much less hassle than we did, and I hope you have the merriest of seasons, however you celebrate! Happy Holidays! ❤
Well Fuck a Duck! My mom used to say that when I was a kid. Back before she stopped using “bad words” and certainly before she found Jesus. She also used to say, “Well fuck me runnin’.” That’s sweet. Do you know how many times Little Missy imagined what that might look like in a literal sense? Yeah, kids are literal. So I assumed someone, somewhere, had fucked a duck and that’s why that was a thing. And as an adult I KNOW someone, somewhere has at least TRIED to fuck a duck, and that’s disturbing. Oh sometimes I wish to be Little Missy again.
Anywho, now that I’ve totally disturbed your week with some dangling images to fall asleep to, let’s talk about this “bad word.” You know as an English girl, and a writer, and a dabbler in all things linguistic, I love words. And I’m from the camp that there is no such thing as a “bad” word. Words are not inherently bad, people are bad. The power we sometimes give words is bad. But the word itself isn’t. Can’t be. That’s not how any of this works.
So sure, I say “Fuck.” Always have. You aren’t raised in a house where your mom yells, “Well FUCK ME RUNNIN’” and come out with a holier than thou attitude about “bad words.” Now is my mom proud of that now? No. But that was some shit she should have considered back then, ya dig? I used to be very selective with whom I said the word to. In fact, I was so selective people started to think I never spoke “like that” and I realized I was giving the wrong impression. Here’s the best thing I can say about that word, know your audience. I’m gonna leave it at that.
So where does “Fuck” come from anyway? Great question, I’m glad you asked! Fuck’s etymology is a bit hard to pin down, mainly because it was labeled a “bad word” many moons ago, therefore rendering large blank spots in its history, in fact the word doesn’t appear in any English dictionary from the late 18th century to 1965. Which is no way to treat such a versatile word, in my opinion.
So where do people think it came from? Well there’s some varying thoughts. First it’s believed this word has been around for a looooong time. Like back before the 14th century, but that it’s always had negative connotations, so it was rarely written and certainly not published, which means we have a lack of evidence now. But there is this fun little poem written in bastard Latin from the 15th century titled “Flen Flyys” that has a variant of the word. Allow me to share a line.
“Non sunt in celi, quia fuccant uuiuys of heli.”
“They [the monks] are not in heaven because they fuck the wives of [the town of] Ely.”
Okay, that’s good stuff. Damn monks. I never trusted them, not once. So here the word is “fuccant.” It’s some form of Latin, but no idea where it came from.
One of the other schools of thought is that the word comes from the Norwegian word “fukka” which straight up means “to copulate” or the Swedish word “focka” which means to strike or push, and “Fock” which just means penis. Listen, I’m not a betting lady, but if I were, the Scandinavians are the real winners here. Fucking bless you, you damn silly Scandinavians!
So there you have if. Some of it, anyway. Now go forth and use your secret favorite word today. And if someone gives you grief about it, inform them of the long history of the word, and then tell them to fuck off. You don’t need that kinda negativity in your life.
Like most holidays around the Goodnight house, today is just a day to fill ourselves full of turkey and pie with family and friends, and as of late, think about and discuss the people who came before us. Because while we’ve come a long way from where we were twenty years ago, I still noticed like today, in this year, in 2019, that kids are still dressed up like “Pilgrims” and “Indians” and made to put on little, fictitious performances at school, public school, to represent this day. Dude, I’m rolling my eyes so far back in my head right now that they might actually stay that way, which would make my mom right. Again.
Because listen, for the past 50 years, the fourth Thursday in November has been considered the National Day of Mourning to many in the Native American community. Rightfully so. In fact, there’s a plaque in Plymouth explaining the day. Explaining how it was created to remember the genocide that happened on our lands many years ago. To their people. The Native Americans.
So sure, yes. White people like me have a lot to be thankful for today. We have a lot to be grateful for every day. (Side note: so glad that “grateful November” Facebook bs didn’t take this year. Did y’all know you can be grateful without talking about it on social media?!) Okay, whew. I’m being snarky. I’m sorry. I haven’t had my turkey yet.
The point is, many of you probably didn’t know about the National Day of Mourning. Some of you may not even think for one second about the Native Americans on this day, too consumed with football, and not burning the rolls, and whether your kids are dressed better than you sister’s. But that really isn’t what today is about. Of course, what it is really about is way fucking worse. The taking of land that didn’t belong to us. Genocide. And now a racism so steeped in our culture we actually don’t even realize it’s bad. So you know what, scratch what I was saying, go watch football, and eat turkey, and lie to your sister about how cute her kids look. Make today however you want it to be, but remember, somewhere, in our country, a group of people are mourning the loss of not just their land, but of their heritage. The same heritage that you’re poking fun at with feathers stuck in your hair.
But remember, today of all days, that just because something has been done a certain way since you were a kid, doesn’t mean it should stay that way. Doesn’t mean it is the right way. Some things, like the case of the fourth Thursday in November, just make us too uncomfortable to address it. But just because a topic makes you uncomfortable, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak about it. That’s not how this world works. We learn and we grow. We become better. And we should always be striving to do better. To learn and grow, so that we can be better than our ancestors. Better than our parents and grandparents, and better people than we were the year, the month, or the day before. We deserve that. Our kids deserve that.
So, from my house to yours, Happy Eat Turkey Day. Sure, we’ll be watching football, and saying thing we are grateful for, but we will also be learning about the particular Natives who inhabited the state we live in today. Because, duh. Fucking, duh.
I was religious once. More of a question than an answer. More of a desperate attempt, than a genuine plan. That’s how it is sometimes though. When you’re not sure if you will ever see someone you love again, you tend to become religious. It isn’t the only time, but it’s a time. Every day I wonder if I messed up. If I made the wrong decision. To believe. Not to believe.
Every day I make a conscious decision to stay awake. Every afternoon I start to slip a little. I get drowsy, usually from lack of sleep the night before, and I have to decide if I should just curl up on the couch with a book, or I push through. Plan dinner, do some laundry, make a to-do list for when I will feel like doing more. I usually push through.
I feel guilt over something every day. Some situation, some action or reaction I had. It’s part of the cycle of shame. Of not being in control. I read it in a book. A book about adults who grew up with parents with addictive behaviors. We seek control, and when we don’t have it we blame ourselves. We blame ourselves a lot, for situations out of our power. It’s a cycle.
On occasion I wonder if my husband loves me like he said he does. I wonder it even as he is saying he loves me, or showing me in some way. He has never given me a reason to think any different. Never hurt me in a profound way. I just wonder if he loves me like he says he does. Because on occasion I wonder if I love people the way I think I do, because on occasion I wonder if what I feel is love. Or something else altogether.
On occasion I look into a mirror and feel a strange sense of detachment from my body and my emotions. My therapist says it happens. She says it’s a symptom of trauma. Depersonalization. Profound detachment. It goes by several names. It’s an odd feeling. The feeling of not belonging in your own skin. The feeling of watching your body continue to buzz, but your brain turn off. On occasion I avoid mirrors all together.
I worry about my child. Every day. Every day at some point I stop and wonder what he is doing at school at that moment. If he ate all his lunch. If someone was mean to him. If he was mean to himself. Every day I worry that he got enough sleep the night before. I listen to his breathing while we sit on the couch together. I ensure that he isn’t coming down with anything. I worry that I am messing him up. That he doesn’t have the life I planned for him. That I am disappointing him in some way, some irreversible way.
On occasion I wonder when the other shoe will drop. When this life I am living will end. When the rug will be pulled out from under me. I envision a fiery crash. A break-in. A gunshot. I assume I’ll be taken down in a blaze of some kind, an accident maybe, but a tragedy no less. I think I’ll be blindsides at two am with bad news. I sleep with my ringer on, on occasion.
Every day I work to make my life better. I go to regular therapy. I evolve, try to become more self-aware. I read books that tell me explicitly how to live a whole-hearted life. I practice mindful breathing. I take a pill, every single day.
On occasion all of this works and I have a good day. No self-deprecating devil on my shoulder. No little inner critic. On occasion someone tells me I helped them in some way, and I believe them. My son hugs me tight and tells me he has a great life, and I give myself credit for creating it for him. On occasion a friend texts to tell me that I make her smile, and I smile, because I want to do better. I deserve to do better. To be better. But not every day.
If you’re following along you know two things to be true: I was just last week, six months after we moved to Atlanta, that I was able to get my car tags switched to the state of Georgia and sweet baby Jesus that’s a long-ass story, and 2. Things are sometimes crazy at the Goodnight house. Case in point: last Thursday, the actual day I was able to walk into the friendly DeKalb County MVD and walk out with car tags on my lovely, happy, Volkswagen, I, ahem, had my first car “accident.” Now don’t freak out! I said DON’T FREAK OUT! No one was injured. In fact, no one was driving. We were parked when the accident occurred, but like most things in my life, there’s a story…
There I am, pumped to be able to get Jackson from school in my car, legally tagged, and what not. We walk occasionally, nowadays, depending on the weather, but this was a nasty weather day. In fact, right when I pulled up at his school around 4:00 (he had robotics practice after school that day) it started to rain. I usually try to snatch a spot right in front of the school, but because of the rain the front lane was already packed to the gills, so I snatched a relatively close spot in the parking lot adjacent.
Now mind you, I have been driving Jerimiah’s truck for the last few months because while I was waiting on a title to come to me for my car (which never came, because it was never going to come but the sonsabitches never told me that) my car tags expired and my car was forever parked in the carport, just waiting, with her large, judgey eyes, to be driven again. This bears no weight on this story. Well, it kind of does. See Jerimiah’s truck is different than my car. It’s bigger, and the doors are more “square” and you know what, I’m just gonna move on. (Side note: Is it “bares” or “bears”? Here’s the thing, I never remember, and yes, I am an English major, but I still have to look it up a lot and that’s not the only thing, and honestly I don’t feel like looking it up right now, so can someone just tell me? Okuuuur? Thanks.)
So I go inside and collect Jackson, along with his bag, his untied shoes, his coat crumpled under his arm, and his giant trumpet case. So, we walk out to the car, again, it’s starting to rain and my son is a hot fucking mess, I just want to make sure that I made that clear. He’s a fifth grader. Okay. So he sees my car, her name is Tiggy, and he is all pumped to have her back like I am. We get to the car, I get to my side, he heads over to the passenger side, I hear the back door open, then he freezes. I’m all, “What’s up, dude?” He’s all, “Umm, I think I opened the car door too wide and it hit this car and umm, I think I may have done something bad.” I roll my eyes, because how bad could it be, I’m thinking a little scratch that will buff out with my fingers. This isn’t my first rodeo. So I walk to the other side of the car and that is when I see that this BRAND NEW BMW 330i has a cracked tail light. Like for real.
My first reaction is all inside, thankfully. I’m like, “REALLY, BMW?! Really?! Like, you sell a MFing $50,000 car whose tail lights crack in a matter of seconds when faced with an obstacle?” I’m not trying to be that gal here, but my Tiggy has been beat the hell up. Like, she’s a 2013 VW and she looks like she’s been rode pretty hard, because, well, she has, but she still chugging along quite nicely, with all her lights in tact. (But, she does have one of the best safety ratings in her class, so suck on the Bimmer.)
Anywho, this is where it gets a little hairy. First of all, let me just say that I 100% believe that this was a test of my new medication, because just that morning my Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Suzan asked me if my new medication was working, and I was all, “I don’t really know. I mean, I think so.” Oh, it is. Because non-medicated Missy would have said this, “What the actual hell, Jackson?! You need to be more careful! Look what you did, oh my gosh, this is horrible. This is going to ruin my life, how can I ever recover from this?!” Something like that. Instead, I looked at him. He looked at me, a little scared, definitely feeling bad, he never wants to hurt anyone or anything, yes even, nay, especially a nice car. He’s a total car guy, in case you didn’t know and I think it pained him to see what he had done to this nice car.
So then I said, “Let’s call Daddy.” I do this from time to time when I need a second. When I’m not 100% sure what to say, especially when Jackson is present. It’s less, “Oh, dear baby Jesus I need Jerimiah to fix this,” and more, “I need to process this before I can move forward.” So I called, and he was busy, on a conference call with work people, so I told him the short version and he was also very calm and was all, “Just call the insurance and start a claim.” So that’s what I did.
Now mind you, at this point we had no idea who this car belonged to. Jackson didn’t recognize it, which means it was not one of his teachers’ cars, because he knows what every, single, one of them drive. He asks. Like the first time he meets them. Not in a creepy, stalker way, more in a, “Ouch, you drive a Ford Escape? Really? You know those score very low in the crash test ratings, right?” So, yeah, maybe in a creepy way.
Anyhoo, still here? Good. So I’m on hold with the insurance company, who also seems very chill. Everyone is very chill at this point, and I’m a little worried that we’ve all smoked like, a lot of weed, but no one told us. Like maybe they are pumping it through the air? But then it occurs to me, as we are watching every family come out of the school, trying to decide if they are walking toward us, that this car might belong to a real sonofabitch. You know the kind I’m talking about. A man or a woman, who doesn’t have time for my shit, for my kid’s story about how he was just trying to open the car wide enough to fit his trumpet case in the backseat. About how my car door is shaped weird, etc, etc. This makes me panic a little bit, and while I’m on hold waiting for a claims rep, I think for a split second that I could run. As soon as I thought it I was upset with myself, but still, no one had saw this happen. No one could pinpoint that it was us. In fact, the crack was hard to see in the tail light, it might be days or even weeks before the owner notices. Then again, I looked at Jackson. And you know, thought better of it. Parenting is a bitch sometimes, y’all.
So after I completely finish the claim, take pics of the car, Jackson and I look at each other and we just know. No one has come outside. It’s 4:30 by now, that can only mean one thing. It’s a teacher’s car. AHHHHHHH! So we make the slow, measured walk back inside and head to the front office. We tell them what happened and they say, “Oh no!” and they call for the owner of the white, BMW 330i to come to the office. Then a moment later Jackson’s teacher appears and I am actually like, “SONOFABITCH!” Turns out he was just leaving, but the more I considered I knew he would be the understanding sort, so I sort of wished it had been him, then out of the corner of my eye I see a sweet, small woman (think Miss Honey) appear in front of me. She looks sad, and a little tired, but she is definitely a first grade teacher, I can just tell, she hasn’t been beaten down by the big kids yet, she still gets a lot of hugs. She walks in, sees us, sighs and braces herself, as I thrust out my hand and ask her if she’s the BMW with the University of Florida tags. (There are a lot of BMWs in the teachers’ lot at Jackson’s school, I don’t know what the pay scale is here for teachers, but good on them!)
She says yes, and Jackson and I jump into a very apologetic story, reliving each detail shamefully, until the very end when I slide her a piece of paper with my name, number, and the claim number my insurance company gave me. She looks startled, and a bit shaken up, but she smiles and says, “You came in and told me? And you already filed a claim?” I gave her what I’m assuming was my, “Duh” face and she was all, “Thank you. Thank you for doing that. Some people wouldn’t have done that.” Then I got all sorts of fucking sad, because damn it, she’s right and damn it, that did cross my mind for a second, and damn it, I’m a horrible person too.
Then she proceeded to tell me that the car is a lease, because her last car was totaled from a HIT AND RUN! I shit you not. So then I felt 1,000,000 million times worse. That’s why she looked so defeated. That’s why she was so appreciative. Jackson and I looked at each other. We both fought the urge, at that moment, to hug her. He even told me in the car later that he thought he should have hugged her. We are huggers, okay. Mind yo bidness.
Damn it. We should have hugged her.
So, what did we learn? So much, really. I mean really. But the biggest take aways were that we have accident forgiveness with our insurance, that BMW parts are as expansive as you think they might be, and that we did what was right. My son saw me do what was right. It was an accident, after all. And people have accidents. That’s not negotiable. What is negotiable is how you react when an accident happens, what you say in a time of crisis. Especially in front of your kids.
So that’s that. That’s the time, last week, when Jackson slammed my car door into a BMW and we did the right thing. I wish I could say I always do and say the “right thing,” but I can’t. But I’m calling last Thursday’s accident a win. For us anyway, we still feel really bad about the damn tail light.
Has this ever happened to you? Let’s say your health insurance forces you to use one type of pharmacy, a mail-order pharmacy. But they will allow for medication at, say, CVS, as long as you get a 90-day supply. The medication you are on is $60 a month retail, and $25 with commercial insurance and a manufacturer coupon. So you go get your 90-day-supply of medicine and are willing to pay the $75, but CVS says that the manufacturer won’t allow a coupon on a 90-day supply. So you call the mail-order pharmacy to get it filled, and the mail-order pharmacy says they won’t take the coupon. Like, they just say no. No reason is given, just no. “We don’t accept coupons of any kind.” So you can’t get the 30-day refill at CVS, because your insurance says no. And you can’t use the manufacturer coupon because the pharmacy your insurance is making you go through won’t take it. No, this has never happened to you? Just wait, I’m sure it will.
Healthcare in our country is so jacked up, that this is the sort of thing that happens on the reg. Now mind you, this happened to my husband and it’s for medication he could probably come off of for a few months, or switch brands, it’s not like brand-specific or saving his life everyday when he takes it. But, he’s been on this medication for several years now and has been paying $45 a month, then one day they just upped their price of the medication. Presumably they had their reasons. I mean, nothing changed in the way they manufacture or sell it. There were no changes to the “fillers” and what not. But I’m trying to be optimistic here and assume that it wasn’t just the pharmaceutical company being greedy bitches (because I have friends who work for big pharma) but…
I keep thinking about people who are not covered by health insurance. We are. And our doctor is cool, and she can probably just call in a new, generic script on Monday, and sure maybe he will have to make an appointment with her, and pay another $30 co-pay, and take an afternoon off work to get it all situated, and that’s fine because he can do that. But what about the people who can’t? What about the people who have no idea there are other options? What about the people who can’t take an afternoon off work, or that extra $30 co-pay will set them back for the week? What about those people? Who is thinking of those people? Not big pharma. Not United Healthcare. Not Optum Rx. Not anyone like that.
My husband was frustrated, sure. But he will get the problem resolved. But there are people who can’t get their situation resolved. There are people who need much more important medication everyday. Life-saving medication. And it is taking months to get things like this resolved. And months can mean death for some of these people.
I’m probably not saying anything you don’t already know, that is if you’re even a little bit “woke” as the kids say. But just in case you didn’t know, this is the kind of thing that is happening. And it’s happening to people like us. It’s happening to the working middle-class. The upper-middle-class. It’s happening to the lower-middle-class. And it’s certainly happening to the people below that. And no one is benefitting from it, but Big Pharma.
I’m sorry if you’re any of those people. I’m sorry if you’re walking through this right now. Ask your doctor for help. Ask your friendly, neighborhood pharmacist. They want to help. They get it. And please, for the love of all that is holy, find out the politicians in your area, and nationally, who are working to make things easier on the health insurance companies and big pharma, and vote them the hell out, y’all. We have to fight for people that can’t go at it alone.