Sharpie Feet

You don’t really know how talented the world is, until you watch a man unroll three feet of paper, take his shoes off, stick Sharpies between his toes and draw a portrait of you and one of your best friends inside a Ruby Tuesday. Then, and only then, as you stand wide-eyed and wondering, do you realize you have witnessed the art of human nature. The art of imagination. The art of so many what-the-fucks that you have dreams, nay nightmares, for weeks about this particular man’s feet. And sweaty toes. And the courage, or is it madness, that some people possess inside their minds and bodies. Am I being a little over the top? Well, sure. But he could have warned me when he asked to borrow my Sharpies.

I worked in the restaurant business for years. Eventually I was in management, where I excelled at training people, making angry customers happy, and was the first line of defense in the interview process. We had this system at Ruby Tuesday. When someone would walk through the door with an application, an unsolicited one, a shift leader, or an assistant manager, or a trusted bartender, whomever was around, would be called to the front door to greet them. Then we’d do what we called a 60-second interview. Maybe it was 60 seconds. Maybe it was 90 seconds. I know there were people I spent less than 30 seconds with, people with sores around their mouths, itching their skin that appeared to be crawling with an unseen bug, while they asked about being paid in cash and whether or not we offered paid training.

Then there were people who caught my attention, who I invited to sit for a spell. I might even offer them a Coke or a Sweet Tea if they tickled my fancy. That’s what happened the day I met the man who would draw me with my own Sharpies. I was back in the kitchen, counting burger buns on the line, when the hostess caught my attention across the heat lamps. “You’re gonna wanna see this,” she said, then motioned to the front door. I gave her a quizzical look, and she mouthed, “I’m getting Erica too,” and headed to the manager’s office. I scrambled to take off my apron and beat them both up to the front. I always liked to get to crazy before Erica. Assess the situation, beat her to the punch, so that later when we laughed about the incident I could say I saw it first.

I jogged up through the restaurant like there was a salad bar emergency, which happened more than you’d feel comfortable knowing, while I smiled at customers who were shoving sliders and soup into their mouths. When I got to the front door there was a man at the hostess stand wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt, holding a roll of white paper under his arms. An application was sitting on the hostess stand. I introduced myself, keenly aware that neither the hostess, nor Erica had made their way up to the front yet, which means they were sitting in the office watching me and this man on video to see what type of craziness was about to unfold.

I introduced myself. He handed me his application and asked me if I wanted to see something “cool as shit.” I looked up toward the camera and smiled. I did want to see something cool as shit, and I knew other people who did too. I escorted him to the larger dining room that was usually only opened for the dinner rush. It was quiet, empty, and a little dark since the lights were still turned down.

Erica and the hostess walked through the “Do Not Enter, Employees Only” door on the side of the dining room from the dry storage area. They were cautious, but smiling. We all knew something great was about to happen, but we had no idea what.

This man unrolled about three feet of paper from his roll, laid it flat on the ground. I moved some chairs out of his way so he would have more room. He stood up, looked at the three of us, and asked if someone had something to write with. I handed him the two Sharpies I had in my shirt pocket. Erica offered the pencil from her hair. He passed on the pencil, but took the Sharpies with appreciation. I hadn’t had a moment to look at his application since we walked over, so I took this opportunity to glance down at it. I don’t remember his name. I don’t remember his date of birth, his previous employer, I don’t even remember if he filled it out completely, all I remember is that while my eyes were looking down at the paper in my hand, Erica pushed her whole body into mine with such force I was inclined to say, “Ouch,” then I looked up at the man. He had suddenly taken his shoes off, stuck the Sharpies in between his toes, and started to work on the paper.

Twenty minutes later, as my best friend Erica (the General Manager of the restaurant) and I looked at caricatures of ourselves on this three foot wide piece of paper, drawn by this man’s feet (and my Sharpies) we didn’t know what to say. We wanted to ask when he could start work. We wanted to ask him to pick up his paper and leave. We were shocked and awed and I offered him a Sweet Tea. He accepted. Thirty minutes later we really just wanted him to pick up his paper and leave. Well, technically we wanted to keep the paper, it was a portrait of us after all, and have him put his shoes back on and leave. But it seemed like he was there for the long haul. He was asking about a burger.

Turns out the man had no experience in the restaurant business. He had no experience as a cook. He had a “slight” drug problem, that he was working on, and while he technically didn’t have an address, he was living in a tent by the lake, he planned on getting one soon enough. He had was a artist, which was plain to see. He was in Branson to be “discovered.” He wanted to be on America’s Got Talent. He wanted to be a Hollywood star, he wanted to know if we could foot him the money for a burger. Foot. Haha. We could not. We did not. He put his shoes back on. Called us assholes, I believe, grabbed his roll of paper, and walked out the front door. Erica shook her head, told me to bleach those Sharpies and went back to the office. This was not her first rodeo. But I was shook.

It would take a couple more years of meeting people like this, seeing people live like this, one job application to another. One choice of drug for another, before the plight of the human condition would start to sting my heart. A couple more interviews with people who said they were “working on getting a place to live,” a couple more transients who were addicted to meth, or crack, or just looking to steal from the bar. I always had a knack for picking the “good” people. I was trusted for my innate ability to read someone’s face, their actions. But the whole experience took a toll on me. Sure there were days where I saw a man draw my picture with his feet and I found it amusing, then frantic, then sad. But then there were really bad days. Days where a single mom, addicted to ice, would walk in with an application and her two-year-old daughter on her hip. And I desperately wanted to give her a chance, but there are just some things you can’t do. So you feed them. You notify child services. You go sit in you car and scream at the top of your lungs for a little while. Whatever it takes to make it all better.

I had a friend say to me one time, “Well you work in the restaurant business, you aren’t exactly working with the highest class of people.” I nodded, and moved on. I knew what he meant, but I didn’t have the energy to fight. To correct him. To explain to him that sometimes, in this midst of the shit, of the counting of burger buns, and of the standing for hours on your feet. In the midst of having ketchup spilled all over your white shirt, or having a man scream at you because there isn’t enough spinach in his spinach and artichoke dip, sometimes those “low-class” people teach you what it means to be human. You learn, then you grow. Or you don’t. Either way, we are all still there.

Miss you, Erica. And the fun that was scattered throughout.

M.

Life Carries On

I’m wide awake at 5:00 am on a Saturday, staring at the crack in the curtain as moonlight, streetlight, and a small sliver of day stream in. I’m awake because I heard footsteps in the hallway. Our house is old. Creaky. Drafty, sometimes. The squeaks were from Jerimiah, who heard our puppy vomiting in the hallway and went to her rescue. He cleaned up the vomit, soothed her jittery nerves, and now they are both asleep again next to me. Why she vomited I can’t be sure. She had her last round of puppy shots. She maybe ate her dinner too fast. She maybe ate another random stick in the yard. Puppies vomit. Life carries on.

I can’t get back to sleep tonight. Today. This morning. I’m thinking about that time, 1998, maybe ‘99, when I was standing in line at the cell phone store. Remember the cell phone store? Not Verizon, or Best Buy. This was a smaller store, where you could buy prepaid flip phones, or pay your AT&T bill, still buy a pager? That store. They were usually in a failing mall, or shopping strip, next to an anchor store like JC Penny or Radio Shack. They had names like Clear Choice Cellular or Cellular One. You had a Motorola Star-tac, or maybe a Nokia with a small yellowed screen. You played a game with a long snake that would maze around in different directions, eating food, while it grew, and grew, and grew. The game was dumb. It was dumb and it was addictive and did it have a name? Maybe it was just called Snake. Just, Snake.

I’m thinking about this time I was standing inside this store and I was waiting, and waiting, and waiting to pay my cell phone bill. It was hot outside, I was in flip flops, it was hot inside the crowded, little store, across from ACE Hardware, next to the movie theater and the arcade that folded a couple years later. I was still in high school. Still learning how the world worked. I had a wad of cash in my hand. Maybe $70. Cell phone bills were expensive back then. But I had a job. I worked the “10 Items or Less” register at Food-4-Less. On the lucky days.

There were a couple women working two different counters. It was all very hectic in there. People were forming a line to pay their bills, people were forming a different line to purchase a phone, a process back then as complicated as buying a car. Long, arduous, taxing. There was another line to look at cases, another to pay their landline bill, buy phone cards to call their families in countries I’d never heard of, let alone visited. Not then. Not that day.

The line was moving. The woman in front of me was motioned to a desk. I was up next. I nervously moved my toes up and down in my flip flops. Someone was waiting in an idling car outside for me. My mom, or my sister, or my best friend. I was keenly aware that I was keeping someone from getting somewhere they needed to be. I was hot. I was sweating in my Walmart flip flops, I was next to be called.

The chime on the door jingled, and the line turned to look. A young man walked in, looked at the line exasperated, and walked inside the store. The line looked back toward the women at the desks. One of them tiredly said, “Come on, whoever’s next.” I started toward her when the man that had just walked in raced past me and got to her desk before I did. I stopped dead in my tracks. I looked around in disbelief. I looked back at the line behind me. They looked at me with searing eyes. Why did I let him cut in line? Why didn’t I say something? What could I have done? Anger. Pity. I stepped back to my spot in line and sank into myself a bit. He finished up his business, then turned to leave. He smiled at us as he walked by. Smirked really. He was no dummy. He wouldn’t wait in line. The woman at the counter motioned me over.

I sank into myself a bit that day and I never fully came back up. I don’t know why. And I don’t know how. I just did. And sometimes when I can’t sleep, when it’s 5:00 am on a Saturday, and my puppy has vomited, and the light from the moon and the sun streams into the cracks of my window I think about that day. About that man. About what nearly-40 Missy would like to say to him. To the line. To the women at the counters. To the little, dumb Missy who sank into herself. And I just can’t sleep.

Hope you’re sleeping peacefully this morning.

M.

Begin Running!

Warm up walk, run, walk, run, walk, run, walk, run, walk, cool down. That is what the Couch to Five k is like. It’s an app. To be fair there are several of them. But I use the “C25K” one because it’s the one I have always used and I’m a creature of habit. But they all help you train to go from not running to running for long periods of time. To be fair here when I say “run” I don’t mean sprints or anything even remotely close to that, I mean more of a slow, turtle jog. I mean that someone who runs marathons could walk next to me talking their head off while I “run” without the ability to talk and with sweat seeping out of every, single orifice of my body. My ear canals sweat, y’all. My ear canals. I know this because sometimes my headphones fall out from all the moisture.

It’s week four of the couch to five k training for Jackson and me. He is doing it with me, and so far it has been good, bad, horrific, tolerable, and stupid. Stupid. A word we don’t even use in our house. It’s stupid on some days. Some days we look at each other while we are lacing up our shoes, or while I am taping my shins, and we shrug and think, This is so fucking stupid. Probably my 11-year-old doesn’t think exactly that, but I do.

While it is technically our fourth week of training, I repeated week two last week because it felt hard, so hard, to keep up. Then Jackson repeated week three this week, so we are back on the same week. I asked him if he was doing it to make me feel better and he straight-up said, No Mommy, my feet hurt. So, there’s that.

The app talks you through the process. The first five minutes are a warm-up, wherein we walk at a steady pace, get our AirPods all situated, our running mixes loaded, chat about our running path, then take long, deep breathes while we wait for the other one to be like, I dunno, you wanna skip today? Neither of us ever says it.

Then the app’s sweet, female voice pops up and says, Begin running! She’s so cheerful that at first it is hard to be mad at her. But by the third, Begin running! you want to slam your $1000 phone onto the ground and hop up and down on top of it while you scream to the empty, humid air above your head, I hate you, you piece of shit!

Okay, you’re all caught up now. I’m gonna go ice my shins. Maybe drink a gallon of water. Maybe drink a gallon of wine. Whichever is handy.

Cheers to running, running buddies, and wine.

M.

Not looking forward to “week four”…

Reading Rainbow

This post isn’t about Reading Rainbow, but do you remember that show? I loved the shit out of some Reading Rainbow. LaVar Burton was an actual celebrity at my house, in my school. In fact, every week my teacher would wheel in one of the tv’s and pop a VHS tape in and we would get to watch a Reading Rainbow. It was usually Friday afternoons, right after lunch and recess. Right about the time we would want to fall asleep, but shit nah, man, ain’t nobody sleeping when Reading Rainbow is on! For those of you who have absolutely no idea what I am talking about, please Google it! And also look at this sexy MFer:

Whew! Let’s all take a minute to compose ourselves. My fifth-grade ass was certainly in love with LaVar. Anyway, like I said that is not what this post is about. It’s about reading in general, but more specifically what I am reading.

People text me, inbox me, call me, and DM me and ask shit like, “Whatchu reading, Missy?” And I’m usually not reading some shit other people want to read. I’m all, “Oh, I just finished The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats,” or I’ll be all, “Omigod, have you even read The Sacred Wisdom of the Native Americans” or “Oh, I’m just re-reading Joan Didion.” And they are like, “Oh, okay.” Then under their breath they are like what the hell is her problem? But turns out when we started a book club a couple months ago (that is now disbanded because of Covid-19) I made a list of more “popular” books to read, and I’ve been sticking pretty closely to that list while in quarantine. So I thought I’d share some thoughts on what I’m reading, what I plan to read, and what I have read. Ready? Here goes!

I read Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby. I like Irby. I like her style, her sense of humor, I like her balls to the wall attitude. I like that she shares it all, puts it all out there. She’s kind of like me in that way, but of course much funnier and her stories are way ‘mo better. Mine are always sad and shit. Gotta work on being less sad. Anyway, I was introduced to Irby when I downloaded her audiobook We are Never Meeting in Real Life a couple years back when I started walking my senior dog to try to help her shed some pounds (and me too). Turns out it was HILARIOUS, and I would actually laugh-out-loud on my walks around the ‘hood in Charlotte and my neighbors thought I was crazy. So I ran and grabbed her book, Meaty and that cemented my love for her. I anxiously awaited for the release of Wow, No Thank You which happened since we’ve been in quarantine, and I ordered a copy from an independent book store in Chicago (that’s where she is from, and I had stopped into a shop that sells her books while I was there, so I ordered it from them) and had it shipped to me. Hilarity ensured. Listen, Irby is crass, sure. She’s a little too open for some people, and she sometimes make you think, like for real? Did that really happen? And yeah, it did. But mostly she’s just funny. Her books are all collections of essays about her own life, and she’s like the kind of person you want to be friends with, but neither of you ever make meeting up a priority cause you’re a little nervous around each other, and also you’re both introverts and really don’t like to leave your house, so you just admire each other from afar. Yes, that’s it. I’m an Irby admirer. Also, look at these covers!

I read Crossing to Safety back in March, because I had already started it for Book Club before we had to cancel. Crossing to Safety legit made me say aloud, “It’s kind of like Seinfeld.” Because it was kind of like Seinfeld. It’s a book that seems to be about a lot of nothing, just a pair of couples who “grow up” together in a sense, have careers, children, stresses, fun, highs, lows, and all the in between. So it seems, on the surface to be about nothing, but it’s actually about a lot of things. Really, really, real things. It’s about love. About that sort of intimate love that comes along with friendship. It’s about growing up, into ourselves, into our relationships, into the people we are supposed to be. It was released in 1987 and written by Wallace Stegner. It’s semi-autobiographical, and it defiantly feels like you could be reading creative non-fiction. It also had an Olive Kitteridge vibe to it for me, because it was so inside these relationships, and these people. It was sad, it was happy, it was funny, it was all the things. I definitely recommend it. Jerimiah read it with me (Book Club and all) and he liked it too. Though he did note some slow parts, and there are some parts where you are like, wait that has to be important, and it is, so pay attention!

In between Crossing to Safety and deciding what book we were going to read together next, I made Jerimiah read one of my favorite short stories from George Saunders so we would have something to talk about. I have only read a few of Saunders stories, even though I bought 10th of December a couple years ago in hopes to read it all quickly. Haha. I have a lot of hopes. Anyway, the story The Semplica Girl Diaries is one of my favorites because the first time I read it I was so throughly confused by it, that I had to read it again, and now every year I read it just to be like, what they hell? And also, how can people write like this? It’s one of those stories that keeps my faith in writers alive. Anyway, Jerimiah read it, then when I asked him about it, he was like, “Oh no, I have to read it again before I can talk about it.” So yeah, there’s that. Read The Semplica Girl Diaries and also if you have time My Chivalric Fiasco.

When Jerimiah and I actually decided on a new book, it was Little Fires Everywhere, because it had been suggested in Book Club. The television version had just released on Hulu, so we thought it would be fun to read the book (another I bought eons ago in hopes to read one day) and then watch the series. I mean, we have the time… Anywho we were wrong. The show is so totally different than the book that I am now mad and a little pissed off at Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. Misdirected anger, I know, but come on people! I get that there are certain things that have to be changed to catch the attention of television watchers, but I’m just, well maybe I’m not mad, just disappointed. To be fair we are only on episode three, so it might get better, but so far we don’t like it. We were a fan of the book though. We had only heard good things, then when I said I was reading it people came out of the woodwork to tell me they thought it sucked. And I could see why some people would not like it. First, it’s a short read. We did it in a weekend. Not too much “thinking” happening, unless you let it take you there, but there are really A LOT of things to dissect in that book. Race and class are the most evident, of course, but the idea and the topic of motherhood really took my breath away. I think maybe people who identify with Elena Richardson might not like it as much as us Mia’s out in the world, ya dig? Either way, I’d say give it a shot. Don’t be a Mrs. Richardson about it, assholes.

That brings me to what we are reading now and what we are planning to read. We just started one of Jerimiah’s picks, The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers Game by Bridgett M. Davis, and I am smitten! I had no idea what to expect from this book. Jerimiah heard about it on one of his “numbers” podcasts and suggested it knowing that I like creative non-fiction and he likes numbers. I’m only on chapter five, but I think Davis does a great job explaining her mom, the Numbers (which is not a thing I had any idea about) and Detroit in the 1960s, particularly Black Detroit, another topic I have no idea about. I’m laughing, learning, and thoroughly enjoying this book.

Now my To Read list is nuts you guys. I finally ordered Untamed by Glennon Doyle, I know you guys are tired of hearing me talk about this book, but I think I was sort of putting it off because I know it’s going to be a hard read for me. A lot of truths I don’t want to deal with. But I ordered it (from an Indie Bookstore, duh). Then there is The Gum Thief which was another Book Club pick that I had already bought and readied myself to read (and I think Jerimiah might like). Then there is Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng who several people have told me is better than Little Fires Everywhere, then there is Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore, which I think is gonna be hella sad, so I keep putting it back on my shelf, then there is Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb, and D-Day Girls by Sarah Rose. Lastly, there is Biloxi by Mary Miller, who is teaching one of my classes in the fall so I’m kinda scoping her out before I scope her out. You know how it goes. I’m obvi really into female authors and female stories right now. And I won’t apologize for that.

But you guys! This amazing thing happened to me. The other day I was sitting here minding my own business when a package arrived from one of my best friends and it included the following: The recipe to her famous chocolate chip cookies, a letter, two cassette tapes (Linda Ronstadt’s Greatest Hits and a homemade mix tape of Garth Brooks’ Ropin’ the Wind from 1991), AND a signed copy of Objects in the Mirror: Thoughts on a Perfect Life from an Imperfect Person by Stephen Kellogg. I’m not kidding. Phew. I’m booked solid you guys.

Okay, now go read something better than my blog!

Missy

Warning: I’m Mad

A few sessions ago Patsy and I were discussing the way children of alcoholics turn out. There are three ways that children of alcoholics combat what they see. Let’s say there are three siblings. As they age one of them will become self-indulgent and most likely repeat the behavior they saw as children. So they themselves will become an addict of some kind. Find a way to numb the pain. Then there is the martyr. The one who feels like they have to take care of all the people and all the things and it is the way they deal with their childhood. Then there is the functioning adult. The one who escapes it all, seemingly unscathed (usually with plenty of mental illness) but who can see it all, and them all, for who they are. This lines up perfectly with my family. Guess which one Patsy says I am: The Functional Adult! I know, I know, I was just as shocked as you are. Here’s the thing though, that word “martyr” kept popping up in my brain. Because I don’t always feel like a functioning adult and when I don’t, I feel like a martyr. And I’m really fucking tired of feeling that way, but I think I’ve been programed to feel that way. I think all women have.

Before you ask, no I have not read Untamed by Glennon Doyle, per my last post, but I do want to and I know she talks about this because I have heard her talk about the book on her Insta stories and I’m ordering the book today and it’s now catapulted to the top of my reading list. But this word “martyr” and I go way back. Way, way back. Back to the day I chose to end my pregnancy in 2011 because my daughter was “incompatible with life.” Since I made that decision I have always felt part murderer, part martyr. But what I didn’t see, or realize until Patsy told me about this whole idea, is that that word and I actually go back even further than that. Way, way back.

When I was a little girl I would not tell my mom, for example, that my friend was having a birthday party because I knew I couldn’t afford to bring a present. So instead I would stay home, call my other friends after and ask all about it. I would feel this rage fill up inside of me, but I had nowhere for it to go. Or on Friday nights I would sit at home alone all night and wait for my mom to come back after the bars closed at 2am, just to make sure I unlocked the door for her (because she never could, she was too drunk), make sure she got into pajamas, had some bread and milk so she didn’t vomit, and then fall asleep. That’s a thing 10-year-old Missy did. And 10-year-old Missy was trained to do that. Not intentionally, but still, trained to do. The next day I wasn’t allowed to talk about it with others. I wasn’t allowed to ask questions, or laugh at my mom for falling down the steps, or bring it up at all to anyone else, because that isn’t what good girls do. And that’s when this whole thing with this word and I started. And I think it happens, nay, I know it happens, to all little girls in different ways.

Be quiet. Be sweet. Say thank you and hello. Hug your relatives. Offer your assistance. Always be helpful. Don’t tell your business to strangers (something my family still attempts to make me feel guilty about for doing).

These little girls grow up to become women who are partners, and mothers, and daughters, and friends, and members of the community. And they are active. Active to the point of having breakdowns because they do too much. Give too freely. Don’t talk openly about their problems. We actually want to be viewed as martyrs, because that’s how we are supposed to be. We want people to look at us and go, “Oh poor Missy, she has so much on her plate.” We think that means we are doing what we are supposed to do as women. Meanwhile, we are suffering. We start to take less care of ourselves. We start to skip doing things we want to do, we start to give more and more to people who now expect it. If we are lucky we have partners, like mine, who try to tell us to stop. Show us what we are doing. Tell us to take care of ourselves. But we don’t listen. We are programmed to know what is best for us. What is best for everyone.

We hide behind lies. We hide behind PTAs, room-parent responsibilities, we hide behind “hectic” jobs, behind “challenging” children, or ailing parents, or partners who don’t know how to do their own laundry. Guess what, they are adults, they can learn to do their own fucking laundry! We hide behind “projects.” We hide behind “my time management skills are not great.” You’re an adult. Learn better time management. We hide. It’s all just excuses, and we as women nod at each other and say we understand. Because we do, we are trained to. We hide and do all the things for all the people, then when there is a little bit of time for us we squander it by faking a headache to get alone time. Or crying in the shower (raising my hand here). Or, or, or…

I’m done with that shit, y’all. Done. And I’m done coddling family and friends who are okay playing the martyrs too. I love y’all, but if you can’t stand up to people, say things like, “No, I need this time for myself.” Or “Hey, cook your own dinner, clean your own laundry, let someone else worry about the thing” and take care of yourself first, I can’t help you.

I have yet, in my life, to meet a woman who does all the things for all the people, who keeps herself feeling well, and who keeps herself happy by doing what makes her happy with regularity and doesn’t drink a ton. Or doesn’t have to hide in her closet from time to time, or who is told she can’t share her truths with the masses, so she holds it all in until the first chance she gets to spew all the things to her best friend because she has no other way to let it all out. I haven’t met her. She doesn’t exist.

Listen, I know this is hard for some of you to read. It was hard for me to process. I kept thinking of people in my life who seem to have it all together and then I would be like, “Ope, wait, she hates her husband,” or “Hold on now, she has a secret gambling addiction,” or “She thinks she is a horrible mother” or “Now I remember, she’s the one who lost her shit at the PTA meeting.” We are all flawed, every single one of us. And most of the flaws come from deep, deep family shit from way, way back in our childhood. Our alcoholic parents. Our absent parents. Our abusive parents. And most of us are repeating that cycle, just in a different way. We are repeating the cycle of making ourselves feel less than. And our children are watching. Jesus, they are watching. That’s the biggest problem, children are always watching. We were watching as children, that’s how we got here. We were watching, and listening, and learning, and repeating. So ask yourself this, just this one thing today: When my children look at me what do they see? I hope what you think they see, and what you want them to see line up.

Stand up for yourselves, ladies. Reclaim your time. Take care of yourselves.

I’ll be here, trying to sort this all out.

M.

Becoming Time

I was complaining to Jerimiah the other day about my lack of writing. Not on this here blog. I write everyday here, but as you can see it’s not important stuff. It’s not my “real” writing. It’s my musings, mainly for posterity, mainly because I promised myself on January 1st of this year that I would strive to write a blog post every single day for a year just to prove to myself that I could do it. And so far I have, even on days when I feel like shit and don’t want to get out of bed, or see my own family, I still manage to write a few paragraphs on here. It’s healing in some way, just haven’t had the time to consider how or why or any other W there might be, because truly my brain is a messy fog and I can’t keep it together right now.

Anyway, I was complaining to Jerimiah the other day that I am not writing anything substantial, and that is scaring me because I start an MFA program in the fall at Mississippi University for Women (Go Owls!) and I really wanted to have some stuff, some new stuff, going into the program that I was working on and as it sits I got nothing. Nada. Zero new “things.” I was feeling pretty shitty about it. I was telling myself all sorts of lies, like I bet I’m the only writer this is happening to. I bet “real” writers have their shit together and are getting so much done. I suck. Yada, yada, yada. Then Glennon Doyle, one of my favorites, shared this:

Okay, what? I mean, I know she is busy with a virtual book tour for “Untamed” which I have yet to read so don’t spoil it for me, but it’s on my list (so many books on my list) and what not, but it made me feel immediately better to know that I am not alone. That this thing we are living through is doing things to creative people. Empathetic people. Writers. Artists. Musicians. We are all struggling right now, and it is making the art sort of struggle too.

I also know there are people who are writing, and making, and creating, and my hat is off to them. I’m amazed at the people still out there doing it, but I can’t feel bad for being immobilized anymore. I just can’t.

Last week I got another very nice rejection letter. This one came with a note that my work had made it to the final round with the editors, and they loved it, but couldn’t make it fit in with the issue they were working on. Then the editor gave me some great feedback on how to help it a bit, asked to continue to send them more pieces for consideration, and said she knew this work would be picked up by a lit mag soon. I love those kind of rejection letters. It was for a submission I made at least six months ago, so not new work, but it did light a fire under me to start editing. So I’ve been editing for a week now, hoping this is my way back into writing. Small steps, you know?

Then I saw this from Glennon and I was like THANK YOU! It was seriously the permission I needed to be okay with what is happening, or not happening, in my case. It reminded me that I am the kind of person who is always “writing.” Meaning, I think about things all the time, I slosh my way through these big things, and eventually, eventually they become something. I’ve been so scared about what writing will look like for all of us on the other side of this, that I was consumed and unable to actually do the writing, but that doesn’t mean I’m not working still. Thinking still. Taking this all in. And who knows, maybe one day it will all become something. Until then I’m gonna try to give myself some grace. You should give yourself some too. We all need a little grace these days. It’s time to accept that and do it.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

And Just Like That…

Poof! Elementary school is over. I’m sitting here in a bit of a haze, trying to remember how it all started. The day I dropped him off for Kindergarten, kissed my husband bye in the school parking lot, then drove to Walmart, alone, crying. Then proceeded to sit in the car at Walmart, alone, and cry. I wasn’t used to being alone. I was used to my little 50-pound shadow following me everywhere I went. I was used to arguing about whether or not he could ride in the cart. Used to having to hit the toy aisle to look at Hot Wheels, when all I needed was milk and bread. Used to a little voice coming from the backseat to ask, “Can we stop for ice cream if I’m good?” Of course we stopped for ice cream. Of course he was always good.

Today when I do a Target run he says he doesn’t want to go. He’d rather log onto Minecraft with friends. But then right before I walk out the door he comes running up, throws his arms around me. “Mommy, bring me back something,” he will say. It’s pretty different now, but also pretty much the same. Now I have a 100-pound shadow. This shadow follows me around to tell me about YouTube videos and this “sick” arrest he made in this “pretty cool” cops and robbers game on Roblox. Now I have to remind my 100-pound shadow to wear deodorant, to do the dishes, to figure out where that smell is coming from in his room. And I hear it only gets worse.

Friday morning we all gathered around the living room television to watch the live stream of Jackson’s Fifth Grade Graduation. Jackson wore a suit, with my cap and gown on top of it. Jerimiah wore a button-up, I donned a summer dress. We watched for an hour as the teachers and administrators shared touching memories, heartfelt messages, and love, so much love, with the only class in the school’s history to not have a Fifth Grade Graduation on stage. It was different, but also the same.

Jackson won several awards, including being named a DeKalb County Board Scholar, along with five other fifth graders. He is one of the smartest, the brightest, of the group. Of course we didn’t need an award to tell us that, but it was nice to be recognized for all the hard work. His hard work, our hard work as parents, and his teachers’ hard work as well. For being a kid that went to four different elementary schools, in four different districts, in three different states, you certainly would never know it. He’s been steadfast about two things: Making friends and doing his best, and that has been abundantly clear over the last few months. His friends blow up his phone all day with messages, emails, FaceTimes, and then there are the cards that arrive in the mail from different places. We shouldn’t be surprised, but sometimes we are.

Mr. Budd read a poem to his class this afternoon and it was the only time that I wanted to cry. The past two months have been a blur of activity and of hard work. Of moving from one fire to another, but the hardest part was stopping myself every time I made a decision about my son. Was this going to be good for him? Help in some way? Do I make him structure his day like school? Take breaks? Get it all done in one setting? Do I let him play Minecraft for four hours on a Tuesday while he Facetimes a friend? Of course the answer to that one is yes, because I have a social child who needs interaction. He saw his classmates six hours a day, now he could sit in isolation all day long if I let him, but I refuse to do that. I don’t want him to be lonely, to feel left behind. I want him to know that there is a wide world of people out there just like him, and hopefully they have parents that understand this too. The poem reminded me of this. Reminded me of the way we are all probably feeling from time to time right now. Alone, without a clear path. The poem Mr. Budd read was Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. The last two lines go like this, “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely/the world offers itself to your imagination/calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–/over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”

We have a running joke in the house. Jackson was working on a project early in the school year and as usual his mind was working quicker than his mouth and he was trying to say, “I’m in fifth grade” and “I’m a fifth grader” at the same time and he blurted out, “I grade five!” We all cracked up. And all year whenever he thinks too hard, or gets frustrated with himself because he thinks he can’t “get” a math question, we stop and say, “I grade five!” It gets us back on track. Let’s us laugh. Slow down a minute. Reminds us that we are all in this together. That we have each other. It means love. So yeah, we are proud of this kid of ours beyond measure. And yeah, we hope that his successes in elementary school equate to big successes in life, but we know there will be struggles along the way. We know there will be crying in parking lots. There will be hours upon hours of virtual playdates. We will feel lonely. He will feel lonely. Because we know this isn’t fifth grade anymore. But we are ready.

We love you, Jackson. We are so proud of you. We hope you always listen to the geese.

I grade six.

Mommy