The Mess

RECOVERY

The Reckless Glorification of the Good Ole Boy Mentality

It’s a killer concept.

Photo by Austin Pacheco on Unsplash

I’m not known for the popularity of my views. I’m also not one to keep quiet when I have something significant to say. The difference is, I’m writing this strictly for myself.

I understand that my words may not be well received by a certain group of people, particularly a subculture of society who identifies strongly with the rural southern USA. So be it. I’m working all these thoughts onto paper because somebody has to say it. It might as well be me.

I’m not against the Good Ole Boys, generally speaking. I love them. It’s simple to navigate. They’re part of my own culture–where I’m from. I also identify with this way of life. It’s all I’ve ever known.

There’s an abundance of good things about men who grow up in the South, particularly in the area where I live. Here are a couple of quick ones:

  • They’re raised to be strong providers. At least, that’s the tradition. A strong work ethic, rough, working-man hands, backs that don’t break with the weight of their families’ needs. Baby boys are born strong; Daddy and Grandpa smiling down upon them, ready to impart the wisdom of generations.

Like I said, that’s the tradition. In many cases generational strengths have been replaced by the new generational curse of addiction. A boy who would have once turned his hand to the plow may find himself battling to keep his life from becoming meaningless in the trail of destruction left by methamphetamines or alcohol dependence.

  • Many of them can live off the land. This area is known for hunting and fishing and raising crops.

If an apocalypse happens, you’d want to be with one of these guys. You might live through it. Not every kill is taken legally, not every rule is followed, but the survival skills prevail.

Here’s what I’m not doing in this article:

I’m not writing to address the “Good Ole Boy Network” as it does or doesn’t exist today. That’s not my goal or intention. 

There’s no question that racism and misogyny exist in the South.

There are plenty of people who are more qualified to speak on those subjects and who are doing so eloquently. I’m glad of it. Things need to be said. Things need to change.

What I do want to talk about hurts me on a deeply personal level.

As a mother and grandmother, I have the responsibility to speak up. To call it like I see it, whether it begs to be heard or not. I’m doing this for me, to get it off my chest. Maybe I can move on once it’s said. Maybe I never will.

That’s because I’m a mother who has buried a teenager in the South. In my mind, this gives me the authority to shout from a rooftop if I feel like it. You don’t have to agree with me. That’s what you get to deal with. It’s not my problem.

I’m not insensitive to your feelings.

I just don’t care. Unless you’ve walked a mile in my shoes, this is not about you.  

If you hold fiercely to your way of life as the be-all and end-all of a perfect existence, the truths I point out may cause you to want to stone me. I don’t blame you. It’s going to be hard to look at. Look anyway.

You may see something that makes you think a little harder about it yourself. Ideally, if you have the opportunity, maybe you’ll choose to do better than what’s been done in the past.

Perhaps a life might be saved.

If so, this would serve to be my greatest work ever, even if I never get the first clap or “good job” on it. I’m stepping up to say it, no matter what the outcome may be, because the truth is ugly.

Around here, teenage boys drop like flies.

And by that, I mean they die. Disproportionately.

Check out the statistics for yourself. There are plenty of ways to do that. The internet is amazing. I did some research based on my personal knowledge, which was enough to convince me. Then I checked some sources and found out how right I am.

At first, my major question was whether this was really a culture thing or not.

Kids die all over, for lots of different reasons. Data suggests that I’m onto something.

There’s no question that young men in urban areas die at an alarming rate from gun violence. It’s an awful reality, and we need answers on how to stop it. However, death from firearms is not limited to violence inflicted from one individual onto another.

Photo by Nagy Szabi on Unsplash

Sadly, the suicide rates for young men, adolescents and young adults, has increased dramatically in the last ten years. Check out this report and this article. What it boils down to is that boys are far more likely to take themselves out by suicide than girls (although girls are trying to catch up), and that when they use firearms (which is most of the time), they are most likely getting them from their parents. 

According to worldlifeexpectancy.com, Louisiana ranked 2nd in teen deaths for 2017, surpassed only by Alaska. They die by guns and car crashes the most, no matter what area they’re in.

There’s also no question at all that substance abuse plays a huge part in these results. Opiates, alcohol, and meth.

Add a kid, a car, and a gun and you have a recipe for disaster.  You have a tragedy that some mother will never recover from.

I have the experience to call out the truth and the guts to dare anyone to contradict me. My child’s decomposing body is all the proof that I will ever need. You can say that I am misplacing the blame for his death on whatever external factor I can find that might explain the tragedy away. I know that there is NOTHING that can explain it away. He died because a good ole boy didn’t want to acknowledge that his illegal drugs were accessible to a teenaged boy with emotional problems.

He died because “boys are gonna be boys.”

If you took the town I live in and mapped off 100 miles in any direction, you’d see a pattern. There’s a way of life here that is as deadly as it is beautiful.

It’s a way of life that encourages young men to live recklessly; to risk their lives in pursuit of one-upmanship.

What I find most astonishing is the apparent denial of this phenomenon! Surely I can’t be the only person who notices?

Teenagers. Young men with their entire lives ahead of them are trading everything for the chance to beat a train, make a faster curve, smoke another pipe, kill the biggest buck, drink one more beer…you get what I’m saying here. It’s not always because of drugs. Sometimes drugs aren’t even involved. They’re just “being kids.”

They live to show off. Impress the crowd.

And they die for it too.

This is what I find most disturbing about this: their parents encourage them.

Don’t you?

Who buys the fast cars, big trucks, and the guns? This is what we reward kids with around here. This is how the adults show off. Impress the crowd.

There’s nothing wrong with the competitive nature of boys.

It’s when they’re encouraged to live with reckless abandon and without consequences that you manufacture the disaster that’s inevitably going to show up for some poor mother. Death is going to eventually come calling. Is it going to be your son this time? Your grandson?

I’m not saying you don’t love your kids. I know you do. This way of life was handed down from your own parents. These things we give our children to kill themselves with are STATUS SYMBOLS. They’re also how we survive.

How is it that life and death are delivered in the same package?

We hunt for food, so we buy guns. We teach our kids gun safety, but somewhere along the way the recklessness with which our own lives are lived trickles down to our children. A good hunting story around the campfire with a 12 pack of beer is a regular weekend event, and it’s GLORIFIED here in the South! Sometimes a pipe is even passed around.

Bottles of pills get bought and sold like any other commodity. Pain management is big business. Our kids see all this. It’s how they grow up.

We love the way we live.

Sometimes we fail to recognize the danger.

Suicides, accidents, and homicide are not events that we would regularly associate with children, and yet they are reality.

As parents, you tend to want to look the other way when your boys get in trouble. Remember? Boys are gonna be boys. I’ve heard it too many times. I’ve also heard this one, “I’d much rather he drinks at home where I know he’s safe than out running the roads with his buddies.” So, the idea is to just allow the unhealthy behavior, because after all, you do it too. Right?

That’s how we live! No one has the right to take our way of life away! We’ll die to protect our rights.

Sacrifices to the cause. Is that what our children have become?

Here are some tragedies I’ve had to witness in my neck of the woods. Keep in mind that I’m not saying these happened because their parents weren’t responsible or didn’t love them. I’m calling out our way of life, because it needs to be called out. I’m calling out our mentality. I’m saying we need to wake up, because our children never will.

  • I lost my son to a morphine overdose in 2006 when he was 16 years old.
  • In 2001, teenage cousins were killed when the oldest one lost control of the vehicle he was driving.
  • I know of more than one train accident in recent years that has taken the lives of kids within 30 miles from my house.
  • Another young man hung himself, in 2005 I believe.
  • One boy was driving way too fast late one night and somehow ended up missing a road, which ended in his death.
  • A boy from the school my kids attended was being bullied and took his own life with what I believe was a handgun a couple of years ago.
  • A 15-year-old young man lost his life a couple of months ago to a gun in the neighboring town. I believe that was an accident.
  • Someone I worked with had to try to help her son put his life back together after he accidentally shot his best friend.

These are just a few of the ones I know about and just the young men. I didn’t bring up the tons of them who died in their early twenties. If we lived in a large city, this wouldn’t be as unusual. This is small town America. A lot of boys are born here; not as many grow up.  

What is our responsibility?

We need to stop the madness. I know accidents happen. Bad things happen to good people. It’s not about blame.

I’m not advocating for gun control. I’m not suggesting that we end a way of life. 

It’s about RESPONSIBILITY. It’s about our little boys. Surely, we can at least entertain the idea that maybe something needs to change.

This hasn’t been as cohesive a piece as I would like. It’s one thing to know something, another to be able to prove it.  

But if you’ll just think about it–if it changes one thing–if it causes you to think twice about the glorification of things that kill our children…that’s enough for me.

A couple more sources for you to check out:

https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/death-by-gun-top-20-states-with-highest-rates/20/

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/states/louisiana/louisiana.htm

Do your own research and do something about it.

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RECOVERY

I Don’t Know How to Do Any of This Stuff

I’m just over here stumbling my way through life.

This probably isn’t even a surprise to anyone who knows me. If you look at my track record, you can tell I’m not getting anywhere fast. Not really.

I’ll tell you something else.

I’m directionally challenged.

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Let me explain.

I can walk into a place (for example, a store at the mall), and when I walk out, I choose to go the exact opposite direction of the way I meant to go. Why? I have no idea what direction I was originally heading.

I’m not observant.

I don’t notice things like landmarks or stores I may have passed already. I’m too caught up in my own thoughts—too wrapped up in my world to notice that there’s another one apart from me, unless it includes flowers or other brightly colored objects that grab my attention.

It’s like I just wander around aimlessly, hoping I end up where I thought I wanted to go. And that pretty much sums up my entire life.

It even sums up my writing. This was penned sitting in the dollar store parking lot. I stopped to get cheese and dog food when I realized I didn’t have my life together and knew I needed to get that on paper, instead of doing what I meant to do.

I’d love to say that my insight and self-awareness were leading me to a new path of intentionality, but I’d be lying. How would I know?

I always think I’m going in the right direction, even though I seldom see a thing that indicates the truth of that.

It’s usually only after I end up in some strange place where I never intended to be that I realize I should’ve taken a different road altogether.

“So,” I think, “I should plan better,” and I make a 60 page to-do list. About two items in on the doing side, I get overwhelmed with the sheer enormity of tasks I’ve created for myself and quit the whole thing. This is further complicated by the fact that I’m a compulsive notebook buyer, and each one is filled with similar lists of things I will never accomplish.

The great thing about having the notebooks with me is I get to write random nonsense and interesting ideas in them, and they’re always handy if inspiration strikes.

Otherwise, I find it hard to justify the fact that I’ll never measure up to those spiral dictators. I don’t give up, though.

One of my favorite blundering-through-life techniques is a little thing I like to call INFORMATION OVERLOAD.

This is where I begin to watch videos, listen to podcasts, voraciously read books, blogs, and everything else I can get my hands on. These help me plan a million and one no-fail ways to get my life back on track based on what everyone else says works.

Guess what? This doesn’t help. I get so much stuff in my head that I couldn’t make a rational decision to save my own life!

Besides, who’s trying to make decisions? I have all this wonderful INFORMATION to sort through.

Sometimes it crosses my mind to wonder if I’m the only one. Do other people plan out their lives and work those plans, or do they just let life happen to them and hope and pray for the best?

I mean, being perpetually lost is NOT the worst thing. I’ve stumbled into places and people I would’ve never encountered had I had a legitimate goal in mind, or at least a goal that came with a plan.

There’s been a bountiful amount of beauty on my spontaneous and confusing journey.

I’ve learned so many things I would have been cheated out of in an ordinary goal-driven, plan-based life.

I’m extraordinarily grateful for my experiences and the savage joy accompanying them, even as I daily attempt to narrow my focus and thereby create some kind of directional path I can follow.

In fact, I’m going to work on that right now. Well, almost right now.

First, I’m going to go find a flower to pick.

Photo by Mat Reding on Unsplash

I noticed daffodils are blooming, and they’re my favorite. Nothing smells sweeter, and one will look pretty in my hair.

I’ll take my notebook with me just in case.

grief, RECOVERY

Six Simple Truths About Grief

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

I talk a lot about grief and recovery. I probably always will. My son was 16 when I found him dead on the couch one October morning. You can’t go through that unscathed. You don’t ever get to a place where you stop talking about it. 

https://medium.com/the-emotional-mess-2/i-found-your-body-426643165555

Love always comes with the risk of loss.

Death happens just like life does. It’s inescapable. I’m not the only one who grieves. I’m constantly learning things that I want to share, hoping it may help someone else.

Here are six simple truths I’ve picked up along the way.

1. It’s deeply personal.

People get caught up in thinking that because I’ve lost a child, I should be an expert on grief—especially since I seem to have survived it. I can’t count the number of times someone has minimized their own grief in a conversation to me, as if acknowledging the extent of  their own pain somehow makes it seem as if they aren’t aware of mine.

They use phrases like, “But it’s nothing like losing a child…”

Mikey, photo by A Bridges

You’re right. It’s not.

Your grief is your grief, just like mine is mine. It’s not “lesser than,” it’s just different.

We all go through things in our own way.

Sorrow is personal and indescribable. The bereavement you feel is unique to you. You don’t have to throw me a bone in the midst of your crippling loss. I already know how I feel. I don’t need your reminder that you know too. I’d like for you to give me the chance to be there for you.

2. Sometimes being there is all you can do.

I don’t have a collection of magic words to say because I’ve been through hell and back. The truth is, I’ve been through hell, and I’m not back. I’m never coming back. I carry hell with me every day.

Let me explain the loss of a child to you:

“When someone asks me when my son died—it was yesterday, it was a thousand years ago, it’s right this minute, it’s tomorrow.

He will never stop dying.

When a person who experiences such profound sorrow says, ‘You never get over it, you just learn to live with it,’ think about this.

They never stop dying. We have to live every second of every day with that.”


It’s an every day for the rest of my life kind of thing. I can’t always summon up the courage to tell you that grief never really ends.

All I can really do is be with you in your sorrow, hold your hand, wash your dishes, and take out your trash. I can listen when you tell me the same story over and over again, because I know there won’t be any new stories to tell. I can hold you when you realize you will never have another opportunity to take a picture or say, “I love you.”

3. There’s just no answer for some things.

God laid it all out in the Bible for us, so it shouldn’t come as any big surprise. Ecclesiastes says that there’s a time to be born and a time to die. Hebrews tells us that we are appointed once to die. Psalms 139:16 says that “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

God knows when our time to die is. We don’t.

It hurts like hell to look at the world and realize some people live to be 100 but you have to bury your 16 year old.

Or your husband. Or your best friend. Or your sister. It doesn’t seem fair or natural. That’s because it isn’t.

4. Death isn’t natural.

That’s why if feels so off when you grieve for someone. How many times have you thought, “This can’t be real?”

Sure, God knew how it would all play out from the beginning, because He made us and He gave us the free will we would use to self-destruct. He knew, but man made the choices. I don’t have to remind you of what happened in the Garden. It’s LITERALLY the oldest story in the world.

You know it by heart. If you don’t, you can find it at the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis 3.

We’re still making those choices every day.

I remember the second I realized that Adam and Eve didn’t pay the ultimate penalty for bringing death upon all mankind. You can disagree if you want to.

Picture this: they threw immortality away for the frailty of humanity. They were looking to be gods and the consequences were dire. Immediately, they knew they messed up. They realized they were naked—out in the open where they were vulnerable to attack from every kind of enemy, targets for pain, fear, and death. All of these were new to them. They had no protection other than their Creator.

What did God do? Immediately He covered them in animal skins, so they weren’t naked anymore.

He covered their sin and their shame. There were consequences to their actions, but He covered them, physically and symbolically. It was a picture and a promise of the Lamb that would be slain to cover the sins that created death.

5. All hope lies in Jesus Christ.

What I know about grief—what I REALLY know about grief—is that I couldn’t face one moment of it if not for the fact that God sent Jesus to redeem our lives.

I put my hope in this because it’s all I CAN do.

If I didn’t know there was something beyond this life, I couldn’t go on.

I remember in the early days of horror when I was still very crazy. I went running down the dirt road, screaming at God, “Where were You? I did EVERYTHING I thought You wanted me to do and You still took my son!”

I’d wrestled with my faith since Mikey died. How could a loving God allow death at all? How could God even exist? I said I didn’t believe. I was looking toward the sky and screaming when it hit me.

“I’m screaming at God. I’m screaming at God because I know He’s there.”

I learned that grief is not enough to take away the love of God. God has been with me from the beginning. He has been the constant of my life ALL my life. I didn’t lose faith in Him. I was just mad at Him because I didn’t understand.

I still don’t understand.

What I know is that I don’t have to know WHY anymore. God always provides everything I need to get me through, even when I can’t see it. He’s there, even when I think I don’t believe.

6. The death of someone you love feels like the worse thing you’ll ever go through because it is.

It can leave you confused, lonely, cold, and empty. The light at the end of the tunnel is an eternity where there is no fear of loss or death. It doesn’t exist. There will be no more tears. It’s a promise from God to those who believe in Him.

I won’t have to visit a cold stone to talk to my child. God has prepared a place.

Hope to see you there.

RECOVERY

Let The Good Times Roll

Things happen.

Things that are unfair happen, and you end up in places you never intended to go.

What do you do about it?

Well, you can try to reason it out and get back on track.

The problem is you don’t always know exactly where you veered off course.

Things looked all right! Actually, they looked pretty good, like your life was finally falling into place.

It goes down something like this:

Photo by Anastasia Vârlan on Unsplash

The road looks familiar to you at first, so you think everything’s okay. You’re passing landmarks that you swear you’ve seen before. You know just when to lean into the curve and when the road is straight for a while. You just ride along, letting the wind blow your hair and think, “I’ve got this!”

When you look from side to side, you swear you can see people lining the highway, cheering you on. That’s what people do isn’t it? So you keep on going, because you know this is right where you need to be.

Suddenly, you reach the end of the road and you don’t even know where you are. What was familiar just a few seconds before is stretching behind you like the big lie that it is. It wasn’t the right road. It wasn’t YOUR road.

It looked like your road and felt like your road, but it wasn’t your road, and it couldn’t be more obvious than it is now. You feel lost and defeated. You feel alone.

The thought crosses your mind that you’re too embarrassed to turn around. Everyone will see you. You can’t go back down the road you just traveled.

They’ll know you were going the wrong way! Maybe they already did.

All those people who were standing on the side of the road to cheer you on could have reached out to stop you at any time with a question or a warning.

Like, “Hey, do you think maybe there’s a better choice for you?” But they didn’t, and they’re still standing there, waiting for you to ride past them again.

You think about continuing to travel in the wrong direction. After all, who but you would know? It’s either that or face that crowd of people waiting to tell you how you failed. Again, you went the wrong way.

https://medium.com/@allisondivinebridges/6-useful-things-you-can-learn-from-road-construction-272e0a9c05b5?source=friends_link&sk=524499f5d3e5348dca8870e5a08b3512

“But I tried,” you think. “I tried. I did my best and gave it all I had to give! I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought it would turn out okay in the end.”

Since you don’t know what else to do, you take a moment to reflect on your roots. You remember where you came from.

So, you go shopping.

Wearing the most outrageous outfit you could come up with, you paste a beautiful smile on your face.

Photo by Ugur Arpaci on Unsplash

Then you turn around, face the road you just came down, and march down that b**** like the queen you are, throwing out candy and beads, shouting, “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”

HUMOR

The Rat Killin'

This is a true story.

Photo by Eternal Seconds on Unsplash

You can choose to believe it or not; that’s up to you. It was funny to me at the time, and God knows I needed some humor in my life. Things weren’t that great.

The first man I married—I have to number ‘em because there’s been so many—maybe wasn’t a great choice for me. I’m tryin’ to be nice here.

The rest of his family is pure gold. He just came out wrong. Wasn’t nothin’ you could do about it, and I didn’t know to try. I was as naïve as a girl could be back in those days. I’ve learned a lot since then, and not all of it’s good.

My education has come with a price I’d rather not have paid.

At first, I thought Bubba Jr. hung the moon. He could do no wrong in my eyes. It’s like God sent him to rescue me from a life of normalcy.

By the time we got a divorce, I realized he was the devil and could make you think anything he wanted you to. If anybody was a rescuer, it sure wasn’t him. He got me in more messes than I knew a person could get into.

That ain’t really part of my story though, at least not this one.

I can’t name too many good things that happened while I was married to Bubba Jr. Most of them were pretty dang bad. Of course, there ain’t no sense in bringin’ all of that up right now.

What I want to tell you about is the rat killin’.

That first husband of mine wasn’t very good at workin’. Well, that ain’t exactly true. He might’ve been good at workin’, but he sure wasn’t good at showin’ up to do it. I didn’t know that at first. I thought he was like all the other men I’d known in my life, strong and steady and a hard worker.

He wasn’t any of that. Lookin’ back on it now, I can’t see how I ever thought he could be. It was like I just fell off the turnip truck right into his arms. I didn’t know any better back then. I sure do now.

I was big and pregnant til the baby (I ain’t gonna say his name. He’s still my kid, even though he’s grown.) was born. I didn’t really know how to be a good wife, it being my first time and all.

I was determined to give it all I had.

That’s why I got up at four o’clock every morning to make Bubba Jr.’s lunch in those early days. I made his breakfast too. He just laid there, sleeping through my wifely duties.

Biscuits and gravy for breakfast; 2 big ole’ sandwiches for his lunch. Yes, I made my husband sandwiches. I know I oughta’ be ashamed. I haven’t done it since though, and I probably won’t ever. He ruined it for the other three.

I’m thinking now that the reason all my marriages went to hell may’ve had something to do with the way I got tricked in the beginnin’.

I had a hard time trustin’ anybody after him, and it wasn’t because of anything in this story. Well, maybe a little bit.

After I cooked, I’d go put his socks and pants on him while he was lyin’ there. He still wasn’t tryin’ to get up. Finally, with me naggin’ him ‘til I was blue in the face, he got out of bed and rolled on to work.

At least that’s what I thought he was doing. Why else would somebody get up that early in the mornin’ and let his wife cook and make sandwiches for him?

Well, two weeks later, I asked him where the paycheck was. We needed some more sandwich stuff, and I didn’t know how we were gonna get it.

That’s when I found out the truth.

I can’t remember if he told me or if the lightbulb finally came on in my brain. Either way, the gig was up.

Turns out he never went to work at all. I don’t know if he didn’t show up or if he just never had a job to start with. There wasn’t any paycheck coming in though. I figured that out pretty quick.  

We had to move out of his grandmother’s house.

When your own grandmother throws you out ‘cause you’re no ‘count, you do the only thing you can do.

You go live with your other grandmother ‘til she puts you out too. And that’s just what we did.

He didn’t even pretend to work after that. Oh, He might keep a job for a week or two to get the first paycheck, but then he’d quit. It was a hard life for me and the baby. I never knew how we were gonna eat. I didn’t, a lot of the time. I always managed to take care of my little boy though.

We ended up having to move every time the rent was due because we couldn’t pay it, being that Bubba Jr. chose his bed and a whole lot of other stuff over a job.

I don’t know how, but he could charm the skin off a rattlesnake. He was able to talk many unsuspecting people into letting us stay in places that needed work. He get a cheap deal by promising to fix everything good as new for ‘em, only he never made good on those promises.

He’d start out strong by tearing everything up pretty good. Hardly ever put it back together. I doubt if he even knew how.


That’s how the rat killin’ came to happen.

We were “renting” an old house in exchange for redoing it. The kitchen was the only room that showed any improvement when this all went down. It was painted a bright yellow color. It almost hurt my eyes walkin’ in the room, but I complimented Bubba Jr. just like a good wife should, even though by this time I was pretty much over bein’ his wife at all.

The old house was filled with rats.

They probably came through the holes in the floor, but I’m thinking they’d been there long enough that they thought we were intruding on their territory, and I wasn’t about to argue with ‘em.

These weren’t little mice, although those are scary enough. I ain’t ever seen anything move as fast as those, unless it’s me tryin’ to get away from one of ‘em!

These rats were huge, what we call wood rats.

We set out on a campaign to rid the place of the evil vermin, or at least he did. They were bigger than my sweet baby, who was about three months old at the time, if I remember right. I wanted no part of ‘em.

I kept telling that stubborn man there were rats living in our stove, but he didn’t believe me. Every time I cooked, I could hear somethin’ moving around in the space beside the oven. I was scared to death it was gonna jump out and get me!

That night, I was cookin’ with one arm and holding the baby in the other. I heard somethin’ movin’ again, so I called Bubba Jr. to come listen.

He said, “There ain’t no damn rats in the stove,” which started an argument, because I knew dang well somethin’ was in there makin’ noise. He always had to be right though, so he said it again.  “There ain’t no damn rats in the stove, see?” And he shook the stove to prove it to me.

Photo by Brendon Thompson on Unsplash

That was his first mistake.

He made countless others, but that right there was enough for divorce court.

The biggest rat I’d ever seen (and I still ain’t seen a bigger one to this day) was living in there after all, and that shakin’ stove made him MAD.

He decided to make a grand entrance into our obnoxious yellow kitchen, and not in a graceful way.

He came out of the back of the stove, ran up the curtain, and kind of hurled his body across the room. Straight at old Bubba Jr.’s stubborn ass head.

I ain’t ever heard a grown man sound so much like a girl, before or since!

He screamed, I screamed, and the baby screamed! I ain’t too sure the wood rat didn’t scream. Hell, he had a right too. We probably scared him just as bad as he scared us.

Well, I took off running with the baby and jumped up on the dining room table. My mentally deficient husband grabbed the broom and took off after that maniacal, jumpin’ rat.

He chased that stupid thing for an hour at a hard run. It might’ve even been longer than that. I was up there on the table, hollerin’, laughin’, and dodgin’ the slingin’ broom.

He was as determined to kill that rodent as it was to stay alive.

I ain’t ever laughed so hard and screamed so much in all my life.

Finally, Bubba Jr. caught a break. The rat ran up in a piece of rolled up carpet we had ready to use on the bedroom floor. Bubba Jr. was yellin’ like a Comanche. He hollered “I’ve got you now, you spineless devil!”

It was a foolproof plan.

I can’t say I found any fault with it. I sure thought it would work.

When the varmint ran into that rolled up piece of carpet, he stood it straight up on end, trappin’ what had to be a terrified and exhausted rat at the bottom.

Bubba Jr. motioned for me to grab the sledgehammer leanin’ against the wall by the door. I reluctantly got down, gave it to him, and dragged a chair over to him too. He stood on the chair and dropped the sledgehammer straight down toward the rat in the rolled-up carpet.

Like I said, it was a perfect plan. There wasn’t anywhere for the rat to go. No way he could miss.

Except he did.

Smilin’ like the demon he is, he laid the carpet down to look at the rat’s dead body.

That rat just screamed with glee and took off runnin’ again.

I darted back to the dinin’ room and leapt back up on the table. Bubba Jr. was madder than I’d ever seen him be. He grabbed the broom and started cussin’, runnin’, and swingin’.

About an hour more of solid runnin’, and the rat raised up on its back legs and fell over, dead as a doorknob.

I guess he was just worn out from tryin’ to save his own miserable hide.

I ain’t sure, but if I had to guess, I’d say that’s still the most honest work Bubba Jr. has ever done in his life.

grief, RECOVERY

Side Effects of Tremendous Loss

Grief sucks.

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

I’m going to go over a little bit of what happens when you have to say goodbye forever to someone you love. First, a bit of context.

Shock.

I lost my kid.

Well, I didn’t exactly lose him.

Horror.

I know where he is. I hardly ever go there. There’s something disturbing about standing on a bit of cold ground while your flesh and blood decomposes beneath your feet.

Unrelenting Pain.

Even more devastating is the crushing sensation in my chest when I drive up to the cemetery. It doesn’t just happen in that moment though. It comes unbidden in unsuspecting scenarios for the rest of your life.

I mean, you know the holidays will be hard. That’s expected. And birthdays. Dates of departure are devastating, but you know those days are coming and can kind of half-ass prepare for them.

It’s those other days, days when things are good. You’re happy and laughing and….

Guilt.

How the hell could you possibly laugh when your child is dead? What kind of monster are you, anyway? Thoughts like these come to your mind and even though you know they’re irrational, you think them anyway and you can’t help it.

And it hurts so bad. Worse, you know it always will. The lump that you keep choking back in your throat is always going to be there. You’re never not going to cry when you hear the song that YOU chose for the funeral because it was a favorite.

Hopelessness.

You can’t fix this. The very idea of that is overwhelming. You feel helpless because you ARE helpless. Looking down the road at life you wonder if you even want to go on at all. Several times you decide that you don’t.

Sometimes you can count on one hand the reasons to stay. I’ve been there.

A few years ago, a young man in the town next to mine committed suicide. It wasn’t long after that his mom laid across his grave and did the same.

Heartache.

I spent an entire day grieving for her, even though I didn’t know her. Or maybe I was grieving for me. I knew what drove her to it. I live it every day.

Isolation.

When it’s your kid who dies, you separate yourself from other mothers. The ones who have never lost a child. They don’t know. You don’t want them to ever know.

You can pick out your worst enemy on earth, and you won’t wish this on them.

This grief is something you hold close.

But you DO want to talk about your loss. You want to talk about WHO you lost.

It doesn’t take you long to realize that people are tired of hearing it. They’re also AFRAID to hear it.

It’s as if the whole world thinks that talking about death means it will come to call.

Maybe it does.

Cold Loneliness.

I always hear the gravel fly from under my truck tires on that final stretch to the stone. I remember walking that road a hundred times. I also remember always ending at the cemetery and not being able to walk back. Someone always had to come get me.

Numbness.

How can everything be so intense when I’m so numb?

It’s like standing under a tree hearing a leaf fall without being able to move to try to catch it.

Photo by Keenan Constance on Unsplash

Reality can’t be real when you bury your baby.

Insanity.

Looking back, I realize I’m lucky. I walked through the woods so many times with a gun in my hand. Utterly crazy. Hunters would come down from their stands and lead me out. They didn’t seem to mind that I interrupted their hunting. I don’t know for sure. We never talked. I only talked to Mikey.

One day I stumbled upon a skunk. I was carrying a .22 rifle that day. No matter how crazy a person gets, you always know you don’t want to smell like a skunk.

I realized it was either him or me. He fell over like a cartoon character. I walked around him, probably giving him more space than he needed.

It felt good to kill something.

Then I found the couch. It wasn’t hidden very well. I would have done a better job of it myself. Something like that, you don’t leave to chance.

We called those woods the “forty.” It was forty acres of good hunting land. Full of deer, squirrels, and mosquitoes. Apparently, it had the occasional skunk as well.

The first thing I saw when I came through the pine sapling thicket into the clearing was that couch.

 It had been in my living room just a month before when I found my son on it, face down and stiff. Already starting the rigor process.

Anger.

I unloaded my gun on the couch. Killed it dead, the way it killed my son. My thought process wasn’t lining up with reality. After I shot it, I laid on it and cried myself to sleep. That’s how they found me later.

The couch was burned and buried after that. I never saw it again. It’s a good thing. I would have killed it again.

Disbelief.

You should never have to find your child’s body. It should never be cold and stiff. Your child should not die. It’s a travesty. It’s an injustice. It’s the worst thing that can ever happen to a Mama.

I feel all of this again as I pull up to the cemetery.


Tinnitus.

My ears have been ringing since the day the keening started. The doctors call it tinnitus. I know it’s the echo of my own voice screaming for the life of my child.

Another side effect of a morphine overdose I didn’t take.

Flashbacks.

Call it PTSD or call it whatever. I have flashbacks. Who wouldn’t? Not as many as before, but they still come. Usually when I’m driving, which is inconvenient at best and life-altering at worst. I don’t drive to the cemetery much.

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

It triggers me.

Anxiety.

I doubt it will ever go away. Terror has a strong grip on me. I wake up at night with my heart pounding and all I can do is call out to Jesus. No one else can help.

I’m afraid when my kids are out of my sight and I’m afraid when they’re with me.

He died on my watch.

My watch is scarier now. I will never not check to see if my kids and grandkids are breathing. I always think about it.

All night long.

Insecurity.

As a Mom, you think there’s an instinctive way that you’ll know when your kids are in danger. It’s hard to wrap your mind around the fact that instincts can fail you. I didn’t know. You don’t always know. I question my ability to be a parent and keep my children safe. I question my grandchildren’s safety when they’re with me.

Children can die. The headstone in front of me is proof of that.

Side Effects.

I’ve only gone over a few of them. I wish that life and death were an easier process, or maybe I don’t. What makes it so hard is also what makes it worth it.

Love comes with a potentially high price tag.

We don’t know how things are going to turn out. It would be less risky to never take a chance—refuse to love—but life wouldn’t be worth living.

It would be a simple choice to never have children or truly love another human being because of the chance you may have to bury them one day. To make that choice is to choose to live without the greatest gift of your life.

Even knowing what can happen, I will always choose to love. It’s hard to say it, and hard to know it, but it’s infinitely worth the pain.

RECOVERY

Hell In A Handbasket

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

That’s where the whole world is headed.

I was standing in my bathtub hanging curtains that didn’t quite match my newly painted walls when I realized I’m scared. Don’t try to reason that out. It is what it is.

I don’t know what’s wrong with people today, but I know for sure something is. It’s possible that we’ve all just gone crazy. Maybe we’ve always been crazy, or selfish. 

Whatever it is, it’s getting the best of humanity.

I’ve never seen so much bickering before over things that don’t matter at all. The things that do matter are just being ignored.

Meth is killing our country.

It’s for sure not the only drug that is, but from all that I’ve read, it’s doing a hell of a lot of damage right now and there’s very little chance that those addicted can even recover. Think about that for a minute.

Mothers are killing their babies all over America.

What the hell?

Everybody’s killing everybody. And no one cares.

Australia almost burned down recently. Earthquakes and volcanoes are happening across the globe. So are terrorists and missiles.

Our children are being stolen and sold into slavery.

In some places, parents are willingly pimping them out for drugs and money.

America is full of resources, but people are starving, both here and abroad.

Refuse litters our streets. Hatred abounds. Racism is back in full swing.

Hell has come calling.

It seems there’s barely a shred of humanity left on this earth.

You don’t even have to be a believer to know that a day of reckoning is near.

RECOVERY

How do you handle life when everything goes wrong?

Sometimes I wonder if it’s even worth getting out of bed.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Two flat tires.

That’s how my day started. I was driving to work on these fantastic Louisiana roads, and the best I can tell, I went in a pothole.

I’m not sure why it took out two of my tires on the sidewalls, but there were a couple of huge holes looking back at me. This is certainly not how I meant for my morning to go. I had higher hopes than that when I crawled out of bed.

It seems like bad luck comes in waves. First, I caught the hubs cheating. Okay, that’s awful—maybe not even comparable to a flat tire or two. In the end, that one will cost me a whole lot more.

This tire thing was just like icing on the cake.

For a few minutes, I thought about hurling myself into traffic and taking my chances with one of the eighteen wheelers barreling down the road. Luckily, I gathered my wits together and called a tire store instead. $421 dollars later, I was fixed up. They even gave me a ride to the office while they worked on my vehicle!

So, what DO you do when life gets crazy and overwhelming?

One answer (and not a very good one) is to isolate.

Isolating means to withdraw from other people and try to get through everything on your own.
It can also mean to withdraw from other people and AVOID dealing with anything.

Often when we isolate, we use distractions or substances to keep us from acknowledging our mountains and doing the work it takes to overcome. This causes more problems to pile up until our lives become completely unmanageable. That’s 12-step talk, for anyone who hasn’t been through it. Recovery is an amazing thing.

Isolation is NOT the preferred solution but it’s something I’ve tried and made bigger messes with before.

Another choice that you could make (and I’m guilty of this one as well) is VENT.

Everyone knows what venting is, but here’s an explanation anyway.

Venting is when you seek validation, approval, or sympathy by telling your side of a story (often with dramatic emphasis) on social media or to another person or group of people. This is my own definition, just like the definition for isolating, but it’s basically what venting boils down to.

Here are some ways that venting can be damaging:

  • Feelings often change, but once the spoken or written word is out there, it’s out there. You can apologize, but you can’t unsay it. Someone can forgive you, but they’re unlikely to forget.
  • You can hurt someone’s feelings. Maybe you mean to rage about someone and at the time, it doesn’t make you feel bad (even though it should). Collateral damage happens. That person may have children, parents, grandkids, or other individuals in their life that you just victimized unintentionally with your words. It hurts to hear bad things about people you love, whether it’s true or not. It isn’t fair to throw shade on everyone even if a certain person is shady and you want it known. Please think twice before venting!
  • Venting often damages the venter more than the ventee. I don’t think that’s proper terminology, but you get my meaning. It makes you look bad. JUST DON’T DO IT.

It’s okay to cry.

It may be hard to go through a bad time without crying. So, don’t. There’s a lot to be said for the cleansing and healing effects of a good, blubbering, crying session!

Get it out of your system.

Just don’t make it a long-term event. Cry, then stand up, wash your face, and move on with life!

Community.

Photo by Phil Coffman on Unsplash

I find it useful to plug into a community of like-minded people when going through the rough times of life. Ideally, you already have a group like that. If you don’t, seek one out. Look for people that you know or know about who believe like you do, worship like you do, and who will hold you accountable for getting your life back on track.

The truth is it’s YOUR LIFE!

How you live and whether you end well is ultimately up to you. You can hang your head in defeat and quit trying, or you can shake it off and get back behind the wheel.

For me, the most important thing I can do is lean on God.

He’s my constant whether things are going good or not so great. He’s my shelter in a storm and the rock I’m standing on. No wind will blow me away, and no waters will drown my soul if I cling tightly to His hand.

My faith isn’t what gets me through; it’s the One I’m faithful to.

This is why two flat tires and an impending divorce didn’t defeat me today.

There will always be potholes. And there will always be God.

RECOVERY

Cheating Often Leads to Drastic Decisions

At least I didn’t cut my bangs.

Photo by Cata on Unsplash

I also didn’t burn all his stuff in the front yard, although the thought did cross my mind.

Radical things happen when I’m upset, but so far, I’ve avoided any major destructive action.

I just got out the paint.

Breakups are hard. It doesn’t matter if they’re “what’s best in the long run” or not. They’re freaking hard.

So much to consider.

Who gets what? What to do about this and that. Hiring a lawyer when you just found out you’ll be broke for the rest of your life. Yep, they’re hard all right.

Especially when you get to the age where you think all that’s left is to ride out the status quo until you skate into glory.

I’ll even venture a little further out on this limb and go ahead and say breakups suck even when you have quite a few under your belt.

More than a couple decades of life ought to be enough to prepare you for the devastation divorce brings. Sadly, it isn’t—especially when it all kind of came out of the blue.

I’m not saying I’m not ready to move on. Truth is, I’ve already cut the ties, both in my mind and elsewhere.

One day I was married and losing my mind because I discovered he was cheating on me. I was mourning the loss of trust and love. 

The next day I woke up DONE.

It happened just like that.

I thought we would work it out. I was searching for answers, reading everything I could get my hands on about how to “get over” your spouse cheating on you. Angry and hurt, I felt helpless and lost, even asking myself what I did (or didn’t do) to make him cheat.

And I prayed. I prayed for myself mostly, but I also prayed for him and for us. I looked EVERYWHERE for answers and there weren’t any to find.

So, I quit.

Maybe because of the silent treatment he was attempting to use to manipulate me into doing what he wanted me to do.

It had always worked before.

I’d get enough of it and apologize to him for everything I could think of that I’d ever done wrong in my life. I’d be so relieved and grateful when he would suddenly act as if nothing was wrong.

This time, the silence was nothing but a welcome relief from all the lies. He tried using the same worn out technique to control me AFTER he CHEATED on me!

It’s possible that he genuinely didn’t realize that I had proof of his infidelity. The lies were the same. I just didn’t believe him anymore.

He thought it was “business as usual.” I wondered how he could still try to manipulate me after what he did.

How do you even dare?

For the first time, I could see his disrespect was intentional. Sounds moronic, I know. I was just so used to making excuses for him that I believed them myself.

It’s so obvious now.

What a delicious game he played with me for so long! But to what end? What did he hope to gain? Did he set out just to hurt me? What would be the point of rendering our entire marriage obsolete?

Instead of ending up with a devoted wife, he will likely end up alone. If not alone, he will surely settle for less than he had.

I loved him.

And I trusted him. I wanted the best for him.

Then, I caught him cheating and I LET HIM GO!

And painted my bathroom.

Photo by melissa mjoen on Unsplash

Looks good too.

RECOVERY

A Closet to Myself

I want to thank you for cheating on me.

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

All that glorious room!

I especially want to thank you for doing it in such a crappy way. Now there’s absolutely no chance that we could ever get past it.

At least as a couple…

I’m planning how I’m going to reorganize my clothes.

Oh, and the fact that you did it so openly, in such a humiliating and public way, means that although I can and do forgive you, I will NEVER take you back.

Thank you for including all YOUR friends in your lies. It makes me feel great to know who can be trusted. I feel awesome when I think that everyone knew but me.

Shoes on that shelf, boots on the other.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Knowing how many of the ones I called my friends were lied to behind my back and fell in with the “let’s fix that poor girl” plan infuriates me. I may be broken, but not the way you said.

My brokenness comes from the sorrow of losing a child, not the pettiness of a twisted relationship.

But I kept my head held high and pretended I didn’t know about the lies you told and how my own friends believed and validated your truth.

You did me a favor.

I can hang my caps on the right, scarves on the left.

I never realized how much time I spent tending to your life instead of my own, until I didn’t have to do it anymore.

I made sure your clothes were picked up off the floor, washed and folded them, put them away. I gave you the top bar because you’re taller than me. I always used to joke and ask if you knew you were way too tall for me.

I already moved all my shirts to the top. Color coordinated.

I made sure all your bills got paid on time, fielded phone calls, and reminded you to pick your phone and debit card off the restaurant table.

The credit rating that you now enjoy was a gift from yours truly. You’re welcome.

I also set up all your accounts, including your online accounts, and kept track of all your passwords because you kept forgetting them and refused to write them down. That’s what you had me for, you said.

My jeans will hang nicely on the bottom bar.

I can only surmise that you took the plane down in flames on purpose, realizing that I have access to EVERY SINGLE ACCOUNT, including all the social media accounts you own, SINCE I SET THEM UP!

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

I like to color coordinate.

Sometimes I had to tell you when you didn’t quite match, but I always tried to do that in a respectful way. I knew you were colorblind. It wasn’t really your fault.

I also made excuses for your behavior to my friends and family.

“He was abused when he was a kid,” or “He didn’t really mean it,” and “His bark is way worse than his bite.”

When you started getting physically aggressive, I found ways to blame myself for that, just like you did.

After all, I’m not the perfect wife.

I could probably cook more or clean better. I’ll always lose the comparison game you play, because you never explained the rules.

My clothes aren’t always the latest style, but they’re always my style.

I don’t know how many times it’s been pointed out that I’m “not from here,” so I’ll “never really fit in.”

Photo by Camila Cordeiro on Unsplash

It’s true. It’s not just my clothes that are different.

I don’t place value on status, possessions, or money, and I couldn’t understand your obsession with all three.

So, when you tried to control me with money, it wasn’t ever going to work.

I could see it for what it was—a last ditch effort to gain the upper hand in a relationship that should’ve been a loving and giving partnership, not the competition you always tried to make it.

I hate shopping, but my clothes will fill this space nicely.

I’ll never forget the day you waved your hand across our living room and said, “I love what you’ve done in here. It looks like something from a magazine.”

I was stunned.

Before I could stammer my thanks, you pointed to my desk in the corner and my art on the wall and said, “We just need to get rid of everything like that.”

Everything of me.

You wanted a perfect, storybook cookie-cutter kind of wife, and you ended up with me.

It seemed like it became your main goal in life to squash everything about me that you loved at first—my openness, my artistic nature, my free spirit. To kill all my dreams so I wouldn’t try to outshine you.

Or maybe that’s not why you didn’t want me to shine.

If the light was on me, it couldn’t help but also fall on you.

You didn’t want to be seen.

Maybe you’re content in the dark, with someone else fighting your battles and matching your socks for the rest of your life.

Perhaps you want to crowd out anyone who might make it seem as if you aren’t living up to all YOU can be.

I don’t know.

I just know I have all this space now.

I’m sure that your old (and now new) girlfriend has zero expectations of you. You can just go through life half-ass forever, never striving to do better, be better, learn better, or reach beyond what you can see.

That’s okay with me.

I’m glad you cheated. I didn’t even have a decent space in the closet.

Now I have the whole thing.