Rest in Power

I was excitedly texting a friend Friday night about the new season of “Pen15” when she wrote, “Fuuuuck.” I Haha-ed it and she said, “No. RBG.” “What?!” I texted frantically. “Yeah,” she wrote back. “CNN just reported.” And then the curtain sorta fell. Only it didn’t, because Jerimiah and Jackson had downloaded the new Tony Hawk and were pumped to play it with me. So we played Tony Hawk, while my phone lit up. Text after text. “Can you believe it?!” And “Now what do we do?” I turned my ringer off and tried to master a Kickflip.

I haven’t had the bandwidth to process this and I’m not sure when I will. But it will come. Until then, we answered Jackson’s questions the best we could today. We talked about standing on the steps of the Supreme Court a couple of years ago. Jackson remembered the “big, bronze door” and how we waved to the building, hoping RBG was looking down at us. We watched the RBG documentary on Hulu as a family tonight, then we watched “Twins” with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, because sometimes you have to laugh when you want to cry.

Jerimiah reminded me not to say Rest In Peace to RBG, after all she’s Jewish, wouldn’t care much for it anyway. I told him I’ll say rest in power then. But the important thing is just that she rests. She did her job, one hellava one at that. And we are so appreciative.

Rest in power, Notorious RBG. We’ll be down here picking up where you left off, and waving like crazy. I hope you can see us.

M.

Apropos Andalusia

Jerimiah sent me an article yesterday: “Apropos your paper,” he said. It was from the New Yorker, it was titled: “How Racist was Flannery O’Conner?” Great, I sighed toward him, sitting across the room from me. Thanks for this. He smiled. Seemed appropriate. He’s not wrong. I’ve been assigned Mary Flannery O’Conner for my presentation next month in my Southern Fiction class, and I’ve decided to use “A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories” as my in, as I also have to do a scholarship review of her work, and a semester-long paper on her as well. I’d been debating, as late as this morning, whether I’d hit the road for Andalusia this week.

Andalusia is O’Conner’s estate in Milledgville, Georgia, a two-hour drive from my house. I’ve decided, as I approach my 39th birthday and await the test results for this autoimmune disease I’m battling—likely Lupus (O’Conner died at 39 from Lupus), that I should make the pilgrimage. But I’ve been dragging my feet, for reasons above, and now this.

I’ve always been a fan of O’Conner. Always stood up for her, always sidestepped any unseemly information, but this time I can’t. What I can’t decide, and what the articles ask us to consider, is whether O’Conner was just a product of her raising. Or if something more sinister went on there, between her writing about racism, and plucking along among the peacocks.

I read the article. I looked at the stack of scholarly reviews I have sitting on my desk. I tapped my fingers on my chin. I cursed my husband. Misdirected anger.

I’ll go to Andalusia because I want to see for myself. Because I’m just curious enough to want to turn the knob on the old farmhouse door, just naive enough to believe an old cotton plantation in central Georgia will fill me in on the past.

Besides, it appears I have a deadline now. And it’s coming up fast.

M.

Just a List of Beaches

Feeling like I deserve to be on a beach today. Feeling like I want to be on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, or maybe on the rocky shores of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Perhaps walking along the water with my friend Beth in her small town in Rhode Island or laying on a water trampoline off the coast of the British Virgin Isles as my son bounces around me. Yes, any of those would work today. Instead, I wrote my name in the sand on the side of the road, while I walked incredibly close to my neighbor’s sprinkler to get hit in the face, like when the waves come at you out of nowhere. Yeah, that’s a thing I did. So today, in honor of me wanting to be at a beach somewhere, here are a list of beaches I have been to that I would love to go back to again, right now, at this moment. Any of them will work, because at this point, let’s be real…

  • Maho Beach, Sint Maarten
  • Folly Beach, Charleston, South Carolina
  • Lullwater Beach, Panama City, Florida
  • Emerald Isle, Outer Banks, North Carolina
  • E-Beach Little Creek, Norfolk, Virginia
  • Ocean City Beach, Ocean City, Maryland
  • Pitcher Point Beach, Gulfport, Mississippi
  • Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida
  • Huntington City Beach, Huntington Beach, CA
  • Playa Pena, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Juniper Point, Salem, Massachusetts
  • Surfside Beach, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  • Cable Beach, Nassau, Bahamas
  • Coronado Beach, Coronado, California
  • Whitecap Beach, Corpus Christi, Texas
  • Newport Beach, Newport, California
  • Beavertail State Park, Jamestown, Rhode Island
  • Sandbridge Beach, Virginia Beach, Virginia
  • Ocracoke, Outer Banks, North Carolina
  • Biloxi Beach, Biloxi, Mississippi
  • Cypremort Point Beach, Cypremort, Louisiana
  • Daytona Beach, Daytona Beach, Florida
  • Wrightsville Beach, Wilmington, North Carolina

This is not an exhaustive list. We are beachgoers. Always have been, always will be. So many more to see. So many more to dream about. One day. Where would you go if you could go back to one of your places?

M.

The Ozarks

Dollar General and Jesus. Lakes and guns. Fishing and methadone clinics. Oh my! We just got back from the Ozarks yesterday and I wanted to share some pictures I took while I was there. I’ll let you form your own opinions about where exactly some of these were taken, but I’ll give you a hint: Very near Arkansas. It’s important to keep an open mind about what is beauty up there, but some things you just have to see to believe. Glad to be home. Hope you’re all well, let’s touch base about our mental health tomorrow, today take a gander of some of the wonders of the Ozarks.

M.

Jim Bakker’s home! Is it two “K”s or three in Bakkker?

Heading Home

We’re heading home today. I’d normally say we are heading back to reality at this point in a vacation, but this time reality never really left us. Or maybe it didn’t leave me. I was keenly aware, all day, everyday, of the realities of life. That masks were necessary, and that even in outdoor events, social distancing is key. It wasn’t part of the original plan to leave so soon, but plans change. You get new information, you make educated decisions. Our new information came like this: 1. Jerimiah was suddenly thrust into a large corporate deal (think a bidding contract worth millions) that he needs to be “present” for. “Present” here doesn’t mean in actual person, as of now anyway, but there’s a chance. He does need high-speed internet though, an issue we’ve been battling out here in the country, and he needs a shirt with a tie, and some semblance of an office (he’s currently working with a large, blow-up dartboard behind him). 2. This global pandemic isn’t going anywhere. Not sure if you’ve seen, but uhh, it’s here to stay awhile, and things are changing daily. A week ago, the state we live in (Georgia) was “steady” and the state we are currently in (Missouri) was on the decline. Now, two weeks later, things have changed drastically. Covid-19 is running rampant again, in both states, and the truth of the matter is I need to be at home, socially distancing from others, in the safety of our bubble, with my immune-compromised husband and my asthmatic kid. It’s the only way. The way of life here is too lackadaisical, and that’s okay for some people, but not for us. The risk, in this case, is not worth it.

So goodbye Table Rock Lake. Goodbye family! Thanks to those of you who were able to visit with us. Thanks for self-isolating for a couple of weeks, thanks for taking our safety concerns seriously. Thanks for the late-night talks, the boat rides, the floating and laughing and singing. Thanks for the best version of a summer vacation we could ask for this year, hopefully we will see you all soon, but if not that’s okay. Your safety, our safety, the collective safety is the most important, and besides, one day life might be back to normal, isn’t that neat? Something to look forward to!

M.

Hashtag Blessed

Woke up this morning thinking that I’m too stressed to feel blessed. You read that right: I’m too stressed to feel blessed. My stress level is off the charts. I’m not home during a global pandemic. I’ve got my kid traveling all over, seeing people who have not been taking this pandemic seriously. The lack of masks, social distancing, and isolation here is crazy. People are totally pretending like the numbers aren’t spiking. They think wearing a mask is sufficient. What the what? I want to be back at my house, alone, ordering my groceries again. I’m scared. I’m stressed. And if you aren’t, you are not paying attention.

Don’t get me wrong I’m having a good time, occasionally. Occasionally I forget that the world is a shitbag, upside place. Occasionally I drink so much wine with my husband and best friend that I forget. Or I’m on the lake, enjoying a boat ride. Like yesterday when we rolled up at the marina to get gas and snacks. It’s called “What’s Up Dock” and it’s cute, and lively, and had all the gas, Sprite, and potato chips we needed. They also has a ton of people. People walking around aimlessly, asking about jet ski rentals, and trying on “Table Rock” t-shirts, buy one, get one free. For a split second I forgot about Covid-19. It all seemed so normal. So free. So every, other summer of my life. Then I remembered.

I saw a bumper sticker on a car coming up here: “Too Blessed to be Stressed.” I smiled and thought, wouldn’t that be nice.

M.

The Portrait

This is a short, necessary story. Yesterday my husband and son made a quick trip over to the Tulsa area to meet up with my father-in-law. I didn’t go for a multitude of reasons, which means I wasn’t there to see my son drive his papa’s 1970 Chevy Blazer all over Hell’s creation. I wasn’t there to see him shoot the 45-magnum revolver. But I did get to hear about how his ears were still ringing when he got home. And lastly I wasn’t there to say, “Ohhh, no thanks,” when Jerimiah was sent off with this creepy portrait that his Uncle JR (Jackson and Jerimiah’s namesake) had commissioned of a preschool Jerimiah in 1985. What’s that? Yeah, that’s a for real thing.

There you go. Now we have this portrait, the same one I had nightmares of the first time I saw, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to hang it over our fireplace because why not? Why not indeed.

Have a safe, creepy-portrait-free day, y’all.

M.

Wordsmiths

I’ve officially been at the lake for a week now. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel being away from home this long, but so far so good. I’m not missing my bed yet and I’m certainly not missing cleaning my house. In fact, I’m not missing anything except maybe the fact that I can have take-out delivered to all day. Oh city living, you’re a fun time. We’ve been staying busy, but not too busy. You know, the right kind of busy. For instance yesterday we went out on the boat for most of the day, which really takes it out of you, but if you don’t go on the boat you don’t get pics like these:

And everyone wants pics like these.

Which means today we are taking it slower. In fact, I’ve been up for a couple of hours. Jerimiah and Jackson left for Tulsa early this morning, so I’ve been laying in bed. I’m slowly drinking my coffee, and I’m playing a rousing game of Wordscapes with Madi and Rachel. The fun thing about this game is that I’m winning! Ha! Just kidding, the fun thing is we can all play on our own phones, help each other out (if we want to), and most importantly lay in bed while we play. It’s a win-win-win. Oh, and did I mention that I’m winning? For now anyway…

I hope you all have the most relaxing of days!

M.

My Best…

It’s Thursday. I know, I know, it’s actually Friday, but I’m writing this yesterday, so it’s Thursday. I’m writing this yesterday? Yeah, that’s a thing I said. Let me start over, it’s Thursday morning. About nine o’clock. I’m sitting at one of my best spots, a pavilion that overlooks Table Rock Lake, and I’m drinking coffee. I just got off the phone with one of my best friends, Beth. We’ve been trying our best to stay connected. Writing cards, texting hello, catching up on little calls here or there. It’s working. I think. It’s helping. I know.

But it’s Thursday and I’m sitting in one of the best spots. Today is the day my best friends, Rachel and her daughter Madi, come join us at the lake. Today is the day I get to see one of my best little buddies, Nashville. He’s my best friend Melody’s son. Melody can’t make it down here, but her parents were able to and they brought Nash and we get him for the afternoon. Today is a best day, no doubt. But for now, for just this little moment in time, it’s quiet. It’s calm. I’m alone, and I’m having the best time.

Hope you have the best day today. Here’s my view.

M.

Yeah, that’s a mule. Good eye! 😉

First Four Days

I’ve only been on Table Rock Lake for four days, but the adventures are constant. First, there’s my damn dogs and their “quirks.” The bribing them to be on their best behavior, the training collar (which arrived today), the constant picking up of dog poop, and the ever-present sad eyes when I’m eating a burger. Le sigh. Adventures, yes adventures. Look at these damn dogs.

Then there is the lake. It’s pretty high right now, and it’s recently turned over so there’s an occasional fish odor, but you know, that’s lake life. Still, Jackson and his buddy Tate have been kayaking up a storm!

Then there’s the food. My mother-in-law loves to cook and I love to eat, so it’s a pretty good deal. Not to mention the sunrise and sunset walks with my husband while we wax intellectual on how to save the world.

It’s an interesting dichotomy, this place. A little bit country, a little bit lake. Not at all how I remember it, but also exactly the same as it always is.

I hope you are having a splendid week, friends. Stay safe and sane.

M.

Coming Home Again

We got to Table Rock Lake Saturday night, just before dinner time. Well, our family’s dinner time, nearly 8:30 pm. We were welcomed by my mother-in-law, her husband Tom, her brother (Uncle Jim), and some big, juicy homemade cheeseburgers. We didn’t mean to get here so late, but the eleven-hour drive turned out to be a 13-hour drive, with two stops for a vomiting puppy, a long walk to stretch our legs at Elvis’ Birthplace, and three or four potty breaks. It was worth it though, as soon as we hit the familiar roll of the Ozark Mountains, we smiled our relief.

It’s been so long since we have been away from our house, I thought I’d be a little sad. Homesick, even. But no, turns out I was just homesick for this place, as the flicker of the lightening bugs on the freshly cut field and the starry sky soon reminded me. I’ve been away for so long, that I’ve forgotten how the stars look way out here, away from the bustle, away from the lights, and the sirens, and the stress of the city. You never know about going home. It can be nice, it can be tough, I’m usually ambivalent at best, but not this time. Not in the state we find ourselves. Things smell and feel different.

I hope you are all well today, and you are taking care of yourself and each other. But most importantly, I hope you get to go home again sometime soon.

❤️

M.

On the Road Again

If you’re reading this, I’m loading up the truck with Jerimiah, while Jackson walks around in circles complaining that he is tired, and the dogs bark from inside the house because they think we are leaving them, and going on a super, cool vacation in the tropics. Probably. Most likely. It’s Saturday morning and we are headed on an 11-hour road trip this morning and I’m already stressed about all the things. Things like: Where will we use the bathroom, how bad are the places we are headed into, is it safer to use gloves at the gas pump or not, will Winnie vomit all over everyone like she usually does, why do we have to go anywhere near Little Rock, and should we have just packed food and not relied on drive-thrus? But the motion has already started, and like most things in life we will just have to wait and see.

That doesn’t stop the mind from wandering though. That’s what medication is for, so damn it I hope I remembered to pack the Klonopin, and where did I put those “Relieve Stress” Gummies?

There you have it, 11 hours through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, a teeny bit of Tennessee (not the good part), and Arkansas. I mean, under normal circumstance this isn’t a worrisome trip. Whenever you’re going to pass Elvis’s birthplace AND Johnny Cash’s in the same trip, well, Lord help us all.

See you on the other side.

Be safe!

M.

Road Trip To-do List

  • Shave the dog
    • But do I really want to shave the dog?
      • Yeah, I need to shave the dog
  • Bathe both dogs
  • Order dog food
  • Why is my whole damn life about dogs?
    • I mean, like, why do we even have two dogs?
      • What happened to me as a child that I need to overcompensate with animals?
  • Laundry
  • Order the dogs waterproof collars
    • I swear to Baby Jesus, I am so tired of getting the dogs new collars for different occasions
  • Pick up that giant llama float I saw in that ad one time from one of the stores that sells large llama floats
    • Wait, I don’t want to go inside one of the stores
      • Did I even look to see if they had a poodle float instead?
        • STOP IT WITH THE POODLE SHIT!
  • Tires for truck
    • Already did that
  • Floating cooler?
  • Print out map of trip and circle all bathrooms I suspect might be the “cleanest”
    • Print out directions? What is this 2005? I’m not MapQuesting that shit
      • The dogs would eat the map
  • Wait, we are going through Memphis and Little Rock?!
    • We will need to pee on the side of the road at all times
  • Gloves
  • Maybe we should drive at night so no one will see me pee in the bushes? What if I have to poop?
    • Quik Trip?
  • Fill up the dog’s poop bag satchel
    • Could I poop in a poop bag if I needed to?
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Where will I get coffee?!
    • I can’t get coffee or I will have to poop!
  • Can you ship wine?
  • Books
  • Burn a Road Trip CD
    • What the what?! Burn a CD?!
      • Make a Road Trip Playlist, make sure it has enough Suzy Bogguss
        • “I don’t wanna be standing here, and I don’t want to be talking here, and I don’t really care who’s to blame…”
  • You blame the dogs, even if it was you
    • Oh shit, is that why I have dogs?
  • Swim trunks for Jackson

Tentative, Stressful Vaca

The Goodnights are going on vacation! Woohoo, us! If you have been around awhile you might know we are travelers. Nothing soothes our wandering souls like a good road trip out West, or a quick flight to NYC to get some pizza and see a show. But this Covid-19 has put a real damper on traveling plans. As it sits we have five airline flights to anywhere in the US, but we are a little too risk-averse to fly right now, and well, all the places we love to visit are/were hotbeds for the Coronavirus, all except one: Table Rock Lake.

We lived on Table Rock Lake for five years in our early twenties. It was the place I first learned to swim (I was terrified most of my life to swim), it was the place we got married, got pregnant with Jackson. It’s a big lake, surrounded by small towns on the Arkansas/Missouri line, and it just so happens that my MIL owns a place right on the water. We try to get down there every summer, and for awhile it looked like we wouldn’t be able to pull it off this year, then well, we decided to try. So, I guess what I mean to say is the Goodnights are tentatively going on vacation! We are planning, but we won’t know for sure until we hit the road the day we are slated to leave. Wish us luck that things don’t change too drastically as of June 30th.

In preparation we invited the regular crew down to hang with us, including my best friend Rachel and her daughter Madi. Rachel and Madi and the rest of their family have been quarantining like us for the last 80 days or so, and are happy to continue to do so until they meet us at the lake. But because we are coming from DeKalb County, Georgia (a hotbed for the virus) and going to Southern Missouri, with family from Kansas (both places with low incidence rates of the virus) we are preparing by getting tested before we leave. The idea of even possibly putting anyone is danger horrifies us.

Because of the high-rates in our county and state (about 3,500 cases/45,000 cases) and the fact that we are not trending down (wait, what?! You guys opened like a month ago and the ‘Rona didn’t disappear?) Le sigh. Where was I? Because of high rates in our county and state, drive-thru testing is open to all residents. You don’t have to be showing symptoms, or have been exposed to anyone. All I had to do was call DeKalb County. They gave me a website to pre-register. I did it. Picked a date and time, June 5th, and boom, we are registered. We were sent a confirmation email with a QR code for each of us to bring with us to our appointment, which is actually just a ride through a church parking lot on the other side of town and boom, we are done.

We picked June 5th because we plan on leaving at the end of the month. That gives us a weekend before the test to stock up on food and essentials so we don’t have to leave the house until we head for Missouri. We have scoured the CDC and WHO websites, and we think this a “low-risk vacation,” but a little extra caution never hurt anyone. Honestly the scariest parts for me are the drive (it’s a ten-hour drive, so at least two stops for gas), the risk that we will be exposed by a family member or friend who stops by unannounced (don’t be surprised if we just wave and walk away, we love ya, but we didn’t quarantine for 80 days for you to roll up and hug us without a mask on), and/or exposing the people back home to something we picked up along the way. So this isn’t really a stress-free vacation, but it’s the best we can muster at this point.

So there you have it. Our tentative, stressful, summer vacation! I’m excited, and nervous, and prepping like mad, but I think it will be totally worth it to see our people.

Stay safe and sane, y’all!

M.

Lagniappe

We met a man last summer in Coastal Louisiana who was raised on the bayou. He used to hunt for and collect alligator eggs as a child, then hatch them and raise them in his bathtub until they got too big, then he and his brothers would take them back out to the swamp and drop them near where they found them. He spoke Louisiana-French, a creole language spoken across ethnic and racial lines, by people who consider themselves to be Cajun or Louisiana Creole, as well as Chitimacha, Houma, Biloxi, Tunica, Choctaw, Acadian, and/or French. Creole is the type of language they speak, but Cajun is derived from that. There is always a dominate language with pidgin languages known as the superstrate language, while the lesser is the substrate. In the case of the Cajun there is English, then French, then African, Spanish, and Native American. When it all converges in one person, the result can be wonderful and confusing. He told us how to “pinch the tail and suck the head,” showed us places we had never seen before, and explained that Lagniappe just means getting a little something extra than you paid for.

He would speak to the alligators primarily in French, then speak to us in English, then speak to his friend in Creole. He would codeswitch from one being to another, never skipping a beat, never missing an opportunity to tell his story to whomever would listen. Always with an eye on the alligator.

The man was our tour guide on the Atchafalaya River Basin, a combination of wetlands and river delta where the Atchafalaya and the Gulf of Mexico converge. The basin contains 70% forest habitat, and 30% open water. As far as wetland river basins go, it’s almost stable. It’s the largest contiguous block of forested wetlands left in the lower Mississippi River Valley, and the largest block of floodplain forest in the United States, with 260,000 acres of cypress-tupelo. It’s iconic, and terrifying, and a little bit surreal.

Soaring over the Atchafalaya Swamp we watched a baby and momma Osprey spread their wings from the top of a hollowed cypress. We saw a 12-foot alligator lead his blind friend to food. We overheard the story of the Louisiana Black Bear, and the floods, and the inoperable South Farm, and the ATV-traffic that threatens many of the existence there. We saw beaver dams, and otter running for their lives. We felt the slap of an alligator tail against the oiled metal of the boat. For the first time in my five years in The South, I let it grip me. Take ahold of my head and my heart. It was something I didn’t expect to happen, but something I am glad did. Like when you get an extra donut in the box.

M.