If I Were Forced into a Court-Ordered OA Group

It is six o’clock in the evening on a Wednesday. I am sitting in a semi-circle staring blankly ahead, trying not to make eye contact with the man directly across from me who has an oxygen tank next to him and keeps talking about how he wishes he could step outside for a smoke. There are only five of us so far. I know this because every fourteen seconds or so I look around the room as if I am searching for a clock on the wall, but in reality I am using my peripheral vision to count heads. Is that meaty woman by the door lingering there because she is afraid to commit, or is the success story for the night. I do not count her just yet.

We are all sitting on hard plastic chairs that are intended for children. That are so small my thighs are spilling over the sides. I shift uncomfortably in the seat, and I just know this will give me a rash, or deep lines in my softness, at the least. We are in the dank, dim basement of church that, five days a week, doubles as a pre-k for tired Methodist mommies who just need a fucking break for three hours in the morning so they can Zumba, then hit Publix alone.

My foot is asleep.

The woman beside me is breathing so heavy that with each intake I brace myself for the warm, garlicky steam to waft toward me. I close my eyes to pretend that I am in one of those funny sitcoms where I look over at her and we make eye contact and I say something funny and she laughs. The laughter breaks the awkward silence in the room and then we all become super best friends, bound together by our inability to control our emotional eating and our desperate desire to hide behind jokes, because that is the only way we think people will love us.

We start to meet outside of our designated meeting times. We start to have potlucks with things like kale salad (because we are trying) and Diet Coke (because we are not trying that hard) and we only refer to each other by the nicknames that we created (my best friend is Wynonna because of her red hair, and I am Momma Naomi because I like to tell everyone what to do). We start referring to ourselves simply as group.

I open my eyes to see a skinny, pale blond woman lowering herself onto a large, comfy rolling chair. Why does the skinny bitch get the rolling chair? Ah, she’s the mentor.

Twenty minutes later I say the first words I have said all night, after the blond says, Missy, tell us about yourself.

I’m quiet for an actual minute because I have learned that if you are fat, and no one knows what you are capable of, you can be quiet for so long that the silence gets awkward and the conversation goes on without you in it. This doesn’t work with the blond, because as much as I want her to be just one of the other fat people’s caring sisters who has volunteered to come tell us about Weight Watchers, she is actually a real, goddamn therapist who has been hired to try to reach us. To get us. To help us with our self worth. She continues to silently smile at me, her piercing blue eyes locking onto mine. Because this isn’t my first rodeo with a therapist, and because this is not the first time I have tried desperately to get a skinny, pale, blond woman to like me, I cave.

Hi! (I sort of wave to the group that I have actively been avoiding for the last half hour). I’m Missy and I’m a bread-aholic.

I laugh trying to ease into it. A few chuckles come from around the room and I am hoping I can figure out, by the end of the allotted time, who it was that laughed, because those my people. Meanwhile, the blond loses her smile. She ain’t playin’.

Uh, I am married and have one son and a poodle who is kinda, sorta, well he’s a shithead, but I love him. The poodle, not the husband or son. But I mean, they are sort of all shitheads sometimes, you know?

More laughter. Her smile comes back. Okay, keep going Missy.

I am 37 and have always been overweight. I was the kid who was picked on in second grade for having a big round belly, and also because sometimes I would toot when I sneezed, but never owned up to it.

More laughter. She doesn’t laugh, but her smile broadens. She is starting to like me now. I feel safe for no reason whatsoever, except that probably these other fatties get what I am going through and I assure myself that I am not the saddest sack this blond therapist has ever seen, so I decide to go all in.

Obviously, I hide behind humor. My biggest problem really is bread. Carbs. Sugar. I eat when I am sad. When I am angry. When I am happy. I enjoy over-processed foods, but could tell you what I am supposed to be eating, what I should never allow into my body, and how important portion control is. I know how sugar releases dopamine in my brain. I know that too many carbs can cause inflammation in my joints. I know that people like me, who eat a lot of added sugar, are twice as likely to die of heart disease. I know I should not drink Diet Coke, but when I’ve had a shit day, that’s all I want to do. I exercise five days a week, but I know that you can’t exercise away a bad diet. I do not jump on fad bandwagons. I don’t Keto, or South Beach, or Slim Fast. I know those are not healthy, and unrealistic for the long run. I know, but I do not adhere to most of it.

The group sits with their mouths agape. Oxygen man turns up the dial on his machine. Heavy-breather coughs. Blond woman’s smile fades away. I decide this is probably a bad time to ask if there is a snack table somewhere.

By the end of the night I haven’t realized anything that I didn’t already know. I grew up on TV dinners and pre-packaged lunch meats because we were poor and those went a long way. I never learned to read the ingredients on the box. When I was a kid they didn’t even have to tell you what the hell was in the food you were eating. This aided in a whole generation of new fatties cropping up. McDonalds became a thing in the generation before mine. By the time I was born we had so many different fast food choices it would make your head spin. It does make your head spin, because mental confusion is a symptom of bad eating. I know. But like most things, slowly but surely food and the elevated importance of it in our emotional well-being took over and no one, no one stood up to say we have to stop.

But, I also know that at this point in my life it is no one’s fault by my own for still being overweight. I have been given all of the tools that I need to succeed. Anyone can now Google how to rid yourself of sugar, how to restart your cravings. I know people who do the Whole 30 every other damn month. And they do it because it is freaking hard to stick to it. It is freaking hard to retrain your brain. Hard to live everyday in a mental fog, wishing and hoping for just a little suckle off the old fructose bottle. Because we all want to be happy, right?

I’ve never been to an Overeaters Anonymous group, and court-ordered would be the only way I would go. Though I am having a hard time figuring out what would make a court order you to a place like that. Do I need to stab someone over a lack of cheese at Taco Bell? What if I lifted a case of Little Debbie Snack cakes from the Kroger down the street? But I suspect if I did go to one of those meetings, it would end up being a lot like the scenario above, because although I do not know yet how to get a handle my emotional cravings, I do know myself.

For now I will continue to dream of the day I can pick up a stalk of celery and it can emotionally fulfill me like that bag of pretzels. I will keep refusing Diet Coke for La Croix, keep buying that damn Halo Top instead of the Ben and Jerry’s that I really want. I will keep buying the damn caesar dressing made from yogurt, because even if all that is bad for me too, it is still a hell of a lot better than I used to do, even I though I will still eat chicken wings whenever I get the damn chance.

For those of you who are struggling with the weight. Struggling with the cravings and the bad choices and the lack of exercise and all of the things, remember that you are not alone. There is help out there if you need it or want it. There really are Overeaters Anonymous groups, and if group therapy works for you, DO IT! There are nutritionists (that your insurance will indeed pay for, you may just have to ask), and there are good, honest gyms, or workout groups, or just people to walk the block with a few times a week. There is therapy to deal with the real root of your overeating, because regardless of what you think, you are probably not just a lazy, slob who doesn’t have the time. There are things, mental and emotional things, that are stacked against you. You just have to be committed to finding what works for you. And remember, one step at a time. Sometimes, quite literally.

I’m always here to lend an ear or a smack on the hand if you need me.


For the New People

There are probably some things you should know about my family, for those of you who are new here, and maybe for some of you who are old here, but who like to hear my crazy stories. So I took some time to tell you a bit about my husband, Jerimiah, and our son, Jackson. Let me first say there is much more to know about them, but these are some basics. I am actively trying to get Jerimiah to start a podcast with me called Peanut Butter and Petty (in which he is Peanut Butter and I am Petty, duh) and we discuss our lives and regular, everyday things so you could learn more about us because I know you want to know more about us, but you are too afraid to ask. He is in refusal mode, as it sits. I’m close though, y’all. Really close. I think Jerimiah’s hold up is that he thinks he isn’t as “funny” as I am, and that we wouldn’t have anything to talk about. Meanwhile I’m like, two things: 1. No one will listen to that bitch except our friends Dave and Beth, your mom, my mom, and my sisters and 2. You give me too much credit and our “boring” life not enough. I really just want an excuse to drop $100 on one of those really fancy microphones so I can look cool in my videos, but that is neither here nor there.

So here we are. The first video is waaaaay off topic and the second one, though it may seem to be mostly about me (let’s be real, I am selfish and this whole thing is always about me) actually strives to give you a glimpse inside my son’s life. So enjoy! Or don’t, I’m not the boss of you. Ps… the three pictures below will only make sense after you watch the first video. Sorry, Jerimiah, but it had to be addressed. ❤

**UPDATE** Jerimiah replied to this blog post on my Facebook page with the following claims:

  1. The shorts were Levi’s not JNCO, although I was known to sport a pair or two. See attached pic.
*I concede on the shirt being green and red. But that is all.

2. While I was the proselytizing Juggalo trying to get his Juggalette, I never owned a shirt, but did attend one concert.

3. My green on green combo was hard to beat, let’s be honest here.

4. While you might make 50% of the shots you take, you miss 100% of those you don’t take. Remember that. 😂

A “wife beater”. While I do not agree with the term and know that it is offensive, I didn’t create the name. Also, don’t hit your fucking partners, you assholes. And remember, mental and emotional abuse is just as bad.
See, they existed. Still do, in fact. You can buy these bad boys on eBay for $30. No, Jerimiah, they are not your size. Ps… His were actually blue, remember?
This is as close to the actual shirt as I could find. I had to Google: “Vintage Adidas Front-Button Shirt”, but still this one is not exactly right. His was green and I not so, umm, easy on the eyes.
A bit about Jerimiah. And laundry baskets, and some tips on “changing a man”. Also, who wants to buy a used Poodle?
A little bit of soccer, little bit of basketball, a little bit of we are not good at either. Learning about Jackson Riker!

The Man Who Fathered Me

The story goes like this: My mother was the bartender at his favorite watering hole. He was married with three kids. They hooked up a few times, that led to a few more times, then more times, and eventually who could keep track. My mom loved him, and to hear her tell it, he loved her too, but you know, not enough to be with her. People knew about the affair. People at the bar knew. My mom’s friends knew, his friends knew, his wife knew, but still things kept going like that for years. I don’t know the specifics. I don’t know what he said when she told him she was pregnant with me, a 36-year-old, single mother of three knocked up with her married boyfriend’s baby in a small Catholic, midwestern town in the 1980s. I’m sure it didn’t go over well.

It’s tough to be the kid of a single mom. It’s tough to watch the father/daughter dances pass you by. To pretend that you are happy to make Father’s Day cards for your mother at school, after all, isn’t she my mom and my dad? It’s tough to see this man, the man who fathered me, day after day because my mom moved us into his neighborhood. It’s tough to watch your mother love someone so much, who just treats her like a pile of heaping trash (when he didn’t need her).

Then there is the stigma in the community. Adults knew who my father was. People mentioned his name to me on the street. In fact, I first learned his name from one of my mom’s friends. “Oh you know that old Ralph, your mom still loves him,” then laughter. I laughed too, even though I had no idea what or who I was laughing about.

Once when I was too young for my feet to touch the floorboard of the car, my mother drove me up to the IGA on 10th Avenue. It was a hot sticky day and we didn’t have air conditioning in the car so my skin was stuck to the seats and I was angry. Then, out of nowhere she points to a group of men working in the parking lot. They were all wearing construction hats and vests. One of the men, a tall, dark-haired man started walking over to our car.

“That’s your daddy,” my mom said. “That’s Ralph.”

For the first time in my life I remember getting a rush of excitement over the word “Daddy”. I had never heard it in relation to me before. I was the girl who didn’t have a daddy. As he made his slow, measured walk to our car I thought, for the first time, that my life was about to change. I thought this man, my daddy, was coming to us like he had promised. I thought we would do father and daughter things. That he would teach me to ride my bike, where my sister had failed, or teach me how catch a pop-fly. I thought we would go to the movies together on hot afternoons, and that we would eat around the dinner table like I had seem other families do. For the first time in my life, I was excited at the prospect of “Daddy”.

He made it to the car, as I was unsticking my legs from the seats and smoothing out my shirt. I wanted to look nice for him. He leaned into the car on my mother’s side, they said some things in a whisper, then he came to my side. He bent down, my face plastered with a huge smile, and he smiled back. He said, “Hi there, Missy.” And I thought my heart would explode. I was as happy as I had ever been.

That was the last time I would talk to my father, until the day after my 16th birthday when his name popped up on our caller id. I grabbed the phone and lurched into a tyraid. I called him a motherfucker. Cause he was. And an asshole. Cause he was. And a host of other names, ending with “Don’t ever call my house again, she doesn’t want to talk to you!” Only, I was wrong. She did still want to talk to him. Here they were all these years later, his kids long-since grown and out of the house with kids of their own, him still very married to his wife, and he was still calling her.

Well, to be fair, three out of four of his kids were grown and out of the house. His last kid was an angsty teenager with a bone to pick with him. But the time never came. In fact, I didn’t talk to him ever again. My mother did, to be sure. Years later, after his wife died, they hung out again. He was an old man by then, enjoying the solace of having lived a long life, surrounded by his kids and grandkids. Well, most of them.

My son was two years old when the man who fathered me died. My mother called me on the phone from 300 miles away. She told me that he died. I wasn’t sure what she was expecting from me. I’m not sure that she was expecting anything, possibly just informing me of his death, either way I said, “Hmm. That sucks.” Cause it did, for her.

For me, it was a relief. For me it was the end to having to worry about things. To having to make lists of things I wanted to say to him if I ever ran into him on the street. The end to ever having to wonder if he was proud of me, if he knew my accomplishments. Would he be happy to know that I am a grown woman with a wonderful husband who loves his child? Would he be happy to know that his grandson is gifted and enjoyed mathematics and technology? And is kind and humble? Would he be happy to know that I am smart? That I have earned a masters degree? That I strive to put the emotions and feelings of others before my own? Would he be happy to know that I turned out nothing like him, in spite of him?

It doesn’t matter anymore. Because for the first time in my life I have realized that the kind of man he was, the kind of man who lives a life of lies and deceit. The kind of man who fathers a child then runs from his responsibility, the kind of man that is exactly 50% to blame for all of it, but puts 100% of the blame and burden on his mistress, is not the kind of man that I care to impress any longer.

My mom used to whisper to me, “He is the one missing out, Missy,” and I never believed her. I always believed instead that I was missing something because I didn’t have a dad, but now I see that she was right. Now I see what I have accomplished in my life without him, and I am grateful for being the kid without a dad. Grateful for the lessons it taught me. For the conversations it provoked. I am grateful that I had someone in the back of my mind to do better than. If nothing else, I strive every day to be a better human than he was.


PS… I forgive you Ralph. You can rest in peace now.

Mornings with Missy

I’ve been making these absurd videos for several years now, wherein I sit in my bathtub, or my closet, or my bed, or my car and I bitch and complain about life, or politics, or the wild animals. They were originally just for me, so I could look back and see how ridiculous I was being, but one day I shared a video on Facebook and it got a lot of reactions. Like a lot. Some people loved it and said I should be on television or radio. Some people hated it and didn’t want to be my friend anymore, of which I said, “This isn’t high school, dearies. Grow the fuck up.”

Either way, I have been amusing (for better or worse) my FB friends for some time now with my videos. Today I am sharing some of my earlier videos here, along with my newest one (where I am hiding in my bathroom reading Craigslist Personal ads for everyone’s enjoyment while I eat cheese). So, please do enjoy.

The day I had a standoff with that damn groundhog that terrorized me for months.
Hiding in the bathtub (back when I had a bathtub to hide in), PMSing and eating chocolate
Remember when everyone threw their coffee makers out, then got pissy because they didn’t have coffee makers anymore so they had to buy new ones? #FoxNews

Y’all eat a ton of horse shit all the time. #Nike
Craigslist personal ads. Also: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body. It’s tougher to treat than most strains of staphylococcus aureus — or staph — because it’s resistant to some commonly used antibiotics.

Into the Fold

A whirlwind is really the only way to describe the four days that we spent in Washington D.C. this last weekend. A complete whirlwind. Jerimiah, Jackson, and I have been to D.C. once before, but only for one day while we were visiting Jerimiah’s mom in Maryland. Back then Jackson was just learning to walk, we had not yet made it to his first birthday, and President Obama had just been sworn into office. In short, we were in a very different time in our lives. So was our country.

Fast forward ten years and suddenly my little guy, who last time in D.C. was toddling across the Washington Monument, was marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, a smile on his face and a megaphone in his hand. He was marching for women’s rights. He was marching for his friends and his family. He was marching for his mommy and for his sister. He was marching for his own reasons too, recalling the first time he heard President Trump talk about “the wall” and asking whether his Hispanic friend, Angel, would be sent away. He made up his own chant: “Be a leader, not a Tweeter!” It was sort of, well, perfect.

Though Jackson may not have grasped what was happening around him, may not have caught the meaning of many of the signs, or heard the rumblings under foot of anti-semitism, or noticed the anti-abortion counter protesters, at one point he walked up next to me, grabbed my hand and said, “Mommy, I see why we came now.” And that was all I needed to hear. I, on the other hand, I had been a mess leading up to last Saturday.

The women in our family.

The idea to go to the Women’s March had come to my friend Beth and me (like most of our ideas) in a bursting blaze of wine and lingering indignation. We were at my kitchen island one evening a couple of weeks before, catching up on our recent holidays (complaining really about lack of sleep and lack of sound judgement) when she said, “Hey, the Women’s March is in a couple of weeks, wanna go and take the family?” “Uh, duh,” I responded, as I finished off the bottle of my Target “Clearance” red, and she started pulling up AirBnBs on her phone. It wasn’t long before we had roped in both husbands, our friend Meredith and her two sons, and a third friend, Merrily, who like Beth had the experience of the first march under her belt. The house was booked, the days requested off, the scene was set. Then came the shitstorm.

First there was the weather. I mean, who could have possibly known there would be a Nor’easter in January?! No one. No one could have predicted that. Washington got what five inches the week before the march. Or was it 15? 50? I dunno, but the temps were about to, as Lil Jon, The East Side Boyz, and Ying Yang Twins would say, “Get low, get low, get low, get low…” Yeah. It got low.

Then days before, the news broke about the march administrators. Now I can’t really speak a lot to this. I caught it in passing, Beth could probably tell you more, but it seemed like women fighting each other and accusing each other of saying things that should not have been said. It made people nervous. It made people scared to come to the march, scared to stand in solidarity with one another. Honestly I stayed far away from it, figuring I’d learn more when we were actually there, seeing these women in person.

Then there was the news of the change of venue. Originally the Women’s March had obtained a permit to march at the National Mall, but with the shutdown, the National Parks Service was afraid they would not be able to keep the mall clean and the snow removed in time for the march, so at the last minute a permit was issued for 10,000 to march on Pennsylvania Avenue. The one saving grace that the march would go right by Trump’s Washington Hotel, all was not lost.

Then the night before our president himself tried to steal the thunder by saying he would make a “Big, Yuge, Terrific” announcement at 3:00 pm on the day of the march. Then it was promptly changed to 4:00 pm, considering that is when the march ended. I think he knew better than to piss off 10,000 women marching past his house. Good on him.

Then of course, was the fact that hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans had gone without pay for a month now. That weighed heavy on our minds and our hearts, and we tried to figure out how we could help them, while marching at the same time.

Le sigh. It was sort of chaotic to say the least, but still, we persisted.

Everyone made it to DC safely, having made the six hour drive from Charlotte on Friday. Saturday morning came and our crew readied ourselves for the street, even though we were all a bit groggy and some of us were, ahem, a bit hungover. The kids though, they were amped up! They had their signs (most of them made by Beth) and their megaphone and their marching shoes. Not to mention their hats, gloves, and layers of clothes. (In the end though, this day would prove to be the warmest of our time there.)

Spencer, Jackson, and Cooper (“The boys”) ready for action!

They boys seemed hellbent on making as much noise as they could, as well as giving out a number of “free hugs”, cause yeah, these are cool kids. Meanwhile, Morgan (the lone girl in the kid group) showed up ready for battle, her handmade sign garnering a lot of attention from us, as well as many people at the march. We will call her, well, wise beyond her years. (Basically, she pities ‘da fool.)

Morgan, who knew immediately she would tackle gerrymandering in her own district. (Yeah, she’s ten years old.)

At this point no one had any idea how many people would be at the march, what the scene would look like, how the marchers would react to one another, and whether it would be anything like the other two marches. I had never been to a march, period. I was nervous, I was anxious, and I was a little numb to what I was walking into. But I was ready. We all were. We were ready for whatever was headed our way, snacks and toe warmers in our bags, and smiles on our faces. At about 10:15 a.m. the whole crew took off from our house for the metro. We were only five stops away from the crowd that awaited us.

About twenty minutes later we rounded the corner of Freedom Plaza and saw a sight that I am not sure we expected. Well, I didn’t expect it. Thousands of men, women, and children lined the streets. Vendors selling merchandise, food, and hot coffee. Pink hats, 12 foot signs, and amped up fellow Americans ready to take to the streets together in love and in light. It was all a little much for me to take in.

The Crew (minus Jerimiah who was taking the pic). We were standing outside the Warner Theater, Freedom Plaza is in the background.

There was so much to see. It was like being at a circus, a parade, a concert, and a play all at once. There were smiles and voices. There were high fives and handshakes. There were hugs, lots of hugs. There were women crying. There were funny signs and serious signs and necessary signs. There was a camaraderie I don’t think I was fully prepared for. I simply stood, silently looking around trying to take it all in, trying to sear this image into my mind to recall at a later time, on an idle Thursday when I am in bed, my blankets pulled up over my head and I am sad. I wanted to bottle it. I wanted to capture the essence of the mood, the sight, the sounds all around me. In short, it was pretty fucking cool.

Waiting for the march to begin on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 13th Street.
Beth’s handiwork.
Merrily found her march sister! ❤
We had just been talking about the women marching in Mary Poppins!
Lots of signs wishing RBG well!
I liked the “Where’s Mitch?” sign, but I mean, come on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr has some wise words too.
Solidarity, sisters.
Marie Kondo would be proud.
I saw a few women with his poster, but this young lady said nothing, did nothing. Just stood in silence and a smile as the speakers took the stage. She didn’t need to. Her sign said it all.

We started marching and chanting and laughing and hugging promptly at 11 am. The march was just around one city block, but it took about two hours. In the middle of it Merrily, Beth, and I popped into a coffee shop to get the crew all warmed up with cups of joe, when a slight scare happened upon us. Meredith came in asking if we had seen Cooper. He had walked over to throw something in a trash can and the sea of people had swept him away. We tried to remain calm. He had his cell phone. The crowd was slow moving. And we had eyes all over.

His momma ended up finding him just a few feet away after a frantic look for about ten minutes. When he had realized he was separated from the group, he found a police officer and stood by him, looking for us and trying to call his mom. (Did I mention how smart these kids are?!) He seemed okay, we were all a little shaken up, though no one wanted to admit it, and after a small break to regroup we joined the masses again. At one point after we found him, Beth, Meredith, and I all looked at each other, a knowing smile spreading across our faces. Had we been worried? Yes. But this was a sea of mommies. A sea of grandmothers. Of women who have birthed and held and bathed these babies, the generations before us. Women who have seen more in their lives than we ever will. Our babies would be just fine among them.

Taking a snack break after we were all reunited again.

As the march wrapped up we saw more sights that conjured up pictures from the 1970s. Women in trees leading chants, women in bikinis (in that weather! Oh my goodness we wanted to put sweaters on them!) women holding hands, forming chains, women screaming, women with fists in the air, women with an air of determination to be heard and seen. And they were.

Upon seeing this Jackson really wanted to do the same thing. I said no. In hindsight, I should have let him… Next time.
Group signs, human chains, working together to get the message across.

Around 1 p.m. the march wrapped up at Freedom Plaza where a stage had been erected to house the speakers, of which there were many. There were speakers from the Women’s March itself, the very women who were reportedly arguing just days before taking the stage, including Tamika Mallory who went after the rumors head on, telling her Jewish sisters, “I see you.”

About 3 p.m. the kids lost steam. It started to sprinkle and everyone was a little hungry. That’s when Beth’s husband Dave, Meredith, and Merrily offered to take the kids for food and all meet back later. Beth and I wanted to stay to see more of the rally and Jerimiah was sort of along for the ride, so we split up. I’m not sure what the other group did, but I was sent screenshots of giant cinnamon rolls, so it must have been good! Beth, Jerimiah, and I walked to the other side of Freedom Plaza to try to get a better view of the stage. That is when we found the counter-protesters.

To the bitter end!

Calling them counter-protesters might not be accurate, I don’t know what they were or why they were there. I don’t know who they were trying to scare or upset. I don’t know whether they were there on their own ambitions or whether they were paid by some larger organization, though my money is on the latter. But they were there, and they weren’t going anywhere.

At first I didn’t see them. In fact I stepped right past them and didn’t even notice their signs, as I was fixated on trying to get closer to the stage and by this time of the day was ignorant to signs above my head. It wasn’t until Beth and Jerimiah made eyes at each other and Beth said, “They are trying to cover up their signs” that I looked over. There was a circle of women standing in front of a young man. They had him surrounded and they were holding their signs up above their heads, ushering people around him. I stepped around Jerimiah to get a better view. That’s when I saw the man’s sign.

It was a graphic depiction of a “late-term abortion”. Graphic in the sense that it was made to conjure up a disgusting scene of a dead baby, supposedly at five months gestation, outside of its mother’s body, cut up in many parts and covered in blood. Of course it was a depiction. It was not an actual baby, but a doll made to look like one. On the other side of the sign was what appeared to be a dead woman. It was all very morose. I spun back around trying to again focus on the stage, but I could not get that image out of my mind, which I what I assume they wanted.

Within a couple of minutes I found myself standing in front of the man, my signs held up above my head, giving the other women in the group a reprise from the sign holding. Beth was next to me holding her signs and Jerimiah was across from us blocking the signs of a young woman who had popped up. I’m not sure how long we stood there, but it felt like half an hour or so. At one point I lowered may sign and another woman took over for me, so I could take a picture of Jerimiah across from me. Another image I wanted seared into my brain for later.

I snapped this picture of my husband blocking the anti-abortion signs so I would remember it always. Remember his quick response. Remember our collective anger.

It wasn’t long before I overheard a discussion behind me. Another young woman had shown up, anti-abortion signs in hand, to spew ignorance at the crowd. Some marchers had stopped to try to talk to her. It sounded like a civil discussion. No one was yelling, no one was even raising their voice. The young woman was talking about science. About how babies are made at conception. About how they feel pain during an abortion. About how babies are “sawed into pieces” to get them to come out.

I stepped in. I didn’t plan to. My body sort of just moved over to her. I knew as I was walking that I shouldn’t do it. I felt the emotion rising up in me. I felt my head getting hot, giving me this sort of groggy feeling. Maybe it was the rain, maybe it was the cold, or the steam forming at the corners of my eyes, but I walked up and I told her Lydia’s story. I started with, “I gave birth to a dead baby.” The crowd of women went silent and all their eyes turned to me, the young anti-abortionist as well. They listened intently. They listened to me describe the chromosomal disorder. They listened to be explain the choice I had. The one I had because abortion is legal. They listened to me say her name, over and over again. Lydia. Lydia. Lydia.

Then when I was finished. When the tears were streaming down my face, Evangeline, the woman who was holding the disgusting sign said, “I’m sorry that happened to you, but that is different.” I wanted to scream at her. IT IS NOT DIFFERENT. But I didn’t. Eventually I walked away. I felt beaten down. I felt abused and assaulted. Even now today, I am not sure why.

Later that night I wasn’t so cordial with the crew. We ended up all meeting again at our AirBnB. I got to hear Jackson tell me all about the big cinnamon rolls, and listen to the kids run around upstairs playing Harry Potter and Monopoly and recounting the fun they had that day. I lay in my room, listening the talking and the laughing and the love being passed around the table. Everyone came to check on me. Beth and Meredith offered encouragement, you’re not alone, we are here if you want to talk. Jerimiah offered his love. His strength. His solidarity. After all, we had went through it together. Always together.

I eventually drifted off to sleep that night with horrific images in my mind, but I dreamed about my daughter. About the women I had met that day. About the women I have come to know. Come to call my friends. About all the daughters and all the women and all the lives that were lost, are lost. All the women I marched for.

It’s been a few days of processing for me. And I’m still working through my experience, but so far there is one thing I am sure about. I am so happy that I was able to be part of the Women’s March. I am so happy that I was able to use my voice for those who cannot. I am so happy that I stood with my husband and son by my side. That Jackson saw a strength in his mommy that he may have forgotten existed. That he saw his Daddy triumphantly helping women. That he understands what our powers can be used for. I am so happy that I stood alongside friends that I did. Women of caliber like those with me that day. I am so happy to have those women in my life. In my heart.

I am so happy to think that my daughter knows what I do, how I share her story, how I speak of her and about her, is to remember her. To better the lives of all girls and women, to keep her present always in this world and in my heart. I am so happy to have been on the right side of history. To have walked the walk many before us have walked. To have done my part, as tiny and as insignificant as it seems, I know in my heart that it made a difference for someone. And that will carry me for many more years.

I’ll leave you with this thought: As women we can’t allow the world to change us, to rearrange us, to divide us, or to deride us. We have to act responsibly and respectively toward one another if we are to get anywhere. We have to lift each other up, step on the backs of those who first carried us, then become the backs for the younger generations to hoist theirselves on top of. We are part of a fold like no other. And we must welcome each other with open arms, open minds, and open hearts.


Ps… Below is our march song. 🙂 Enjoy.

Broken Record

I feel like a broken record sometimes, y’all. And believe me, I know what a broken record feels like. Just last week my dog ate one of my vinyls, Alabama’s Greatest Hits. At first I was so distraught, all I could do was throw myself onto the floor in a fetal position and cry, while I slowly sang:

There’s an old flame, burning in your eyes
That tears can’t drown, and make-up can’t disguise

Yeah, it was as emotionally-charged and odd as it seems. But later, when I tried to duct tape the record back together, telling Sir Duke Barkington that I wasn’t so much mad, as I was disappointed, I realized maybe it was a lost cause.

Maybe a lot of what I try to fix is a lost cause. Maybe a lot of people I try to convince are lost causes, not because they aren’t capable of learning, knowing, or growing, but because they are shut off to anything they do not understand, anything that scares them, anything that goes against their beliefs, set in stone, unchanging.

This past Saturday I had an encounter with an anti-abortion protester at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.. I have never been face to face with a person like this before. Her name was Evangeline, she introduced herself after she asked my name. I told her it was Missy, and that I was the mother of a daughter who was not alive because she was very sick. Because she could not live outside of my body. Then I told her, unprovoked, Lydia’s story in short. She smiled as I spoke and nodded her head along like she was listening, but when I was finished she said just this: “I am sorry that happened to you. That is different than an abortion.” I explained that is not different. That in my hospital discharge paperwork I was released after having had a “late-term abortion”. And that if abortion rights were taken from women, I would not have had that choice.

She again smiled and said that she was sorry that happened to me but that my case “was different”, and most people just don’t “understand science”. I asked her what she meant by that, and she told me that babies are made at conception. I explained that my own children, one born healthy, one not, were fetal poles until 6 weeks gestation, no heartbeats, just a cluster of cells (I had ultrasounds to show it) and she again said, “I am sorry you do not understand science.”

I am sorry you do not understand science. I am sorry, but your case is different. I am sorry you do not understand science. I am sorry, but your case is different.

Around and around and around.

I am sorry, but your case is different.

I am sorry you do not understand science.

I am sorry, but your case is different.

My husband and best friend moved to block other anti-abortion protesters with their signs as I spoke with this woman, who was utterly mis-informed and completely lacked the ability to reason for herself. All I can hope is that when she packed up her signs, promptly at 3:00 pm (we assume she was paid to be there for a certain time) that she thought about my words and my story as she walked back to her warm van.

I know that sometimes I sound like a broken record. And I apologize for that. I apologize that you all have to keep reading my words and listening to Lydia’s story, especially when it makes you uncomfortable or brings up your own memories that you would rather forget. But for those of you still around, I applaud you. I thank you.

I see you. Trying to understand, to learn, to support me and the millions of women like me. Because there is no difference. There is no difference between my case and the millions of others. We are all women. Women doing what is best for us, for our mental health, for our economic or educational success, for our children, for our families, for our futures. And until EVERYONE can attempt to understand, can accept that legislating morality will not be tolerated, and can give grace, even to those who they fundamentally disagree with, then I will keep spinning this record. Around and around and around.


My daughter’s hands and feet were perfect. The only parts of her body that were.
Lydia Elizabeth Goodnight
B: August 25, 2011

Brown Butterflies

I’ve been thinking lately about the different stages of life and how it feels like they sneak up on us, but upon closer examination, we sort of knew the changes were coming long before they came. But still they blindside us on some idle Tuesday when we feel wholly unprepared to take anymore shit from that particular Tuesday. They smack us on the hand, or the head, or if we are lucky, on the rear, and they shake us into a violent spiral of self-loathing and pitiful dread. And just like that, the person we thought we were is gone, and this new person has emerged. It’s sort of scary and weird and totally, totally jacked up.

I was complaining about this aloud to my husband last night. I complain to him a lot, especially on days when I have been complaining to myself aloud and my self hasn’t been able to come up with any answers. My husband, you see, is a saint of a different kind. He is patient with me. He listens to me while he rubs my feet or my back. He doesn’t get angry at me, unless I am down on myself and then he tells me to treat myself better. He even pretends like he doesn’t hear me talking to myself in the shower, or the bathroom, or the closet, or the kitchen, least I think of myself as crazy. He just listens and tries to help.

So there I was trying to explain to him that I don’t feel like any particular kind of “me” anymore, because the last set of changes in my life really did me in and I am super scared of the next change. He looked confused. I reasoned that approximately every three years I change. I go through a complete metamorphosis, sort of like a caterpillar, but instead of turning into a beautiful butterfly who flies through the rain forest, I get stuck being a brown butterfly. Not that being a brown butterfly is bad, it’s just that brown butterflies always seem to have short, tumultuous lives inside one of those manufactured rainforests at a children’s museum. Red butterflies with yellow and purple markings sail through the humid air of Ecuador, racing each other, making children stand in awe, and women look to the skies, close their eyes, and imagine a world unlike their own. Brown butterflies end up getting sat on by an oxygen-tank-wielding grandpa who was dumped in the “rainforest” because he couldn’t keep up with the toddlers and someone said, “You know what, I bet Dad would enjoy the butterflies.”

Again, there is nothing wrong with brown butterflies, they are just “eh” and “eh” is how I have come to see this “Missy”. The one right here, right now, in this present position in life. I’m not alone, I know that. My friend just asked me this morning, in a desperate voice in search of relief, “What the hell is in retrograde right now?” Eh.

Maybe it’s the time of the year. The “winter blues” is very real. Maybe because my whole life is in this sort of holding pattern that I have never been in before, and it is forcing me to work with and against questions that I just do not have answers for. It sucks, truly, but I am also grateful for so much. This leaves me feeling, well, eh.

I’ve been really fixated on these shifts of time lately. I remember visiting a butterfly “sanctuary” when Jackson was a toddler. (I’m using quotes for sanctuary because, uh, there is no real reason to have a butterfly sanctuary, other than to breed butterflies for human viewing in an enclosed space, yeah, I’m weird about animals in captivity.) But still it was kind of neat to see that many butterflies in one place. That is also where I learned, or maybe relearned, that butterflies have an incredibly complicated life cycle, and an incredibly short life span. Adult butterflies only live for weeks.

I started thinking about the stages of the butterfly, and of course to the stages of my own life, and I became really attune to the changes that have happened every three years or so. There seems to be a pattern. Like it takes three years for me to make any real progress. Or to make any big change. Or to even deal with simple things. I’m a slow learner I suppose. But, I’ve been able to trace my changes back as far as thirteen years, and it is a weird, ugly road.

Thirteen years ago I became a fiancée. I changed from just a girlfriend to someone who needed to start planning for a life together with this man that I loved, in a very pointed and serious way. Planning for the future was a BIG change for sixteen years ago Missy, whose only real job was to have fun. I bartended on weekends, spent money like an Arabic Sheik, and occasionally danced on tables, if the bar (more importantly the music) allowed.

Three years later I became a mother to a happy, healthy baby boy. If you don’t think parenthood pulls you into a new version of yourself, think again. And while you are at it, that isn’t just the “baby blues”. Get yourself to your doctor and say yes to the Wellbutrin with the side of Xanax, then figure out whether your body can tolerate both pills and a glass of wine each night at ten p.m. while you binge watch Netflix and secretly eat candy from the floor on the side of your bed that can’t be seen from the hallway.

Becoming a mommy was the biggest wake-up call I had ever had. Until three years later, when I became a mommy to an unhealthy, dead baby girl. Whoa. Another Missy came along. This Missy was sad most of the time. She struggled to conjure up new ideas. She regretted most of the decisions that brought her to that point. She blamed herself for much more than was her fault. She worried what this new mommy was doing to this little boy, who was tottering behind her everywhere she went.

Three years later I was no longer a mommy with a little boy tottering along behind. I became a kindergarten mom. That freaked me out so much, that in the same breath I became a grad student with two part-time jobs, and a myriad of obligations just to try to deal with the horrible quiet in my house. But, I settled nicely into that routine for, you guessed it, three years. Then last year, everything changed again. I graduated, stopped working, moved to the city, had a hysterectomy (changing both my attitude toward the future and my actual body), and I started to devote more time to myself than ever before. And I know this all seems great, and trust me it is, but sometimes the lack of things, things to learn, things to do, things to accomplish, makes me feel, well, eh. Because even though Missy keeps changing, there are some things that don’t change.

Missy has always been kind, empathetic, and open-minded. But Missy has also always been reactive, anxious, and diffident. Always. Through each set of changes. Through each three-year block. And those are the sort of things that don’t just go away with time. They also make changing and growing and being at the sort of crossroads that I am in now, hard to get through.

So now here I am. In what I am calling the “Eh Stage”. The “Eh Missy”. This Missy is not the most fun to be around, I’m really sorry you guys. This Missy likes to sleep longer, likes to dawdle over what to cook for dinner or what kind of scarf to buy. This Missy loathes small talk and would rather just sit silently, in her own mind, while others jabber around her, then get caught up in the middle of it. Content to do so. This Missy thinks slower, even slower than high school Missy who was always a little, tiny bit high, and certainly never understand chemistry.

But, like most things in life, it isn’t all bad. This Missy doesn’t shy away from waxing political, or making some waves in an attempt to better things for others. This Missy is finally able to admit that she needs to “think on things” before she can add value to the conversation. This Missy listens with her whole heart when someone needs an ear, she doesn’t let her mind race frantically to all her problems and responsibilities and just nod her head along occasionally. And like usual, some days are better than others.

Maybe this “Eh” stage is something you are going through too? And maybe it is because life has taken its toll on you. Maybe you find yourself in a rusty patch. Maybe the political world makes you want to vomit. Maybe you are almost 40 and freaking out (WE ALL DO, RIGHT?!) Maybe, probably, it is just a stage. A phase of life. Maybe today you feel like a brown butterfly. But maybe tomorrow you will end up all red and yellow and purple, and soaring through the humid, lovely air of Ecuador. Because really, it’s all so very temporary.


How to Make Eggplant Parm

I made eggplant parmesan the other day. Let me write a really long run-on sentence now so that you have time to truly understand the significance of that previous statement because seriously I made eggplant parmesan the other day for my family and they ate it and they liked it and they said they would eat it again. Whew. Run-ons actually come easy to me which is probably why my gig as a stringer for the paper was short lived. Well, it was either that or that time my editor asked me what the role of a newspaper was and I gave him the standard journalism school response “to inform people” and he said, “Wrong! It’s to make money” (he was Trump before Trump was a thing) and I was all, “Wrong! It’s to inform people. It’s greedy bastards like you that made it into the other.” And then I got less leads.

What was I talking about? Eggplant Parm! Here is the thing. I don’t like to cook. Like, do not like it. I’m sort of like a toddler in the kitchen. I go in there with one thing on my mind: Oreos, and when I walk out there are pots and pans all over the floor, flour all over the counters, grapes stuffed into the garbage disposal, and sometimes there is crying. But, I do get into these weird moods where I have a hankering for something like eggplant parm and I am like, “Welp Missy, let’s try it.”

First I googled “Eggplant Parmesian” because generally speaking I can’t spell. Then I googled “Eggplant Parmasian” because Mrs. Albright (my fourth grade teacher who deserves her own blog post) said that people tend to mix up “a”s and “e”s. Then I just clicked where it said, “Did you mean ‘Eggplant Parmesan’?” Why yes, I did. Thank you Google, you sly fox.

Now usually what happens when I Google a dinner dish, is that I get so lost in all the recipes that I can’t decide on one. Then the multitude of choices forces me to stress-the-fuck-out, and I forgo cooking all together. By the end of the night I am confused, in my bathroom (where I sometimes hide from my family) sliding down the wall while I cry and watch myself in the mirror for added effect. Oh the torment! Do my eyes always look this tired? Jesus, do I need eye cream? I’m almost 40 for fuck’s sake. When did that happen?

But this time was different. I honestly can’t say why, other than I knew it was time for me to master something with red sauce, because the last time I made lasagna it was a NiGhTmArE. Listen. No, nevermind. It is too difficult to talk about. I need more time.

So I closed my eyes and clicked on a link. Lo and behold I was taken to this website that not only had the recipe “Easy Eggplant Parm” but there was also a video! Now, this may not seem too exciting to some of you, but I have come to understand myself as what people refer to as a “visual learner”. I need to be shown how to do something, rather than just told. My husband is the exact opposite and because of that he comes off as the “smarter” of the two of us because you can tell him something and he can go and do it. Whereas I need several attempts at doing it myself first. He is also known as the “less crazy” of the two of us, but that is for different reasons.

Okay, so I saw this video of eggplant parmesan being cooked and I was in heaven! All I had to do was gather the ingredients, start the video, and follow along. Saaaaweeeet!

I decided to try the recipe on a Monday so that we could partake in the ever-not-so-popular “Meatless Monday”. Seems like a snazzy idea. Of course I had eggs for breakfast and a leftover pork chop for lunch, but that is neither here nor there. I ordered my groceries with Walmart online pick-up which has helped me keep my sanity. I can enjoy the low, low prices of a huge box store, without having to go inside a huge box store. Other introverts will understand why this is amazing. Meanwhile some of you may be all, “Why not the ‘Teets’, Missy? The ‘Teets’ real cool.” And I will tell you what my husband tells me. “Stop calling it the ‘Teets’ no one calls it that but you and you aren’t going to suddenly make the ‘Teets’ happen, you aren’t an urban influencer.” And, yeah, he’s the “sane” one.

So I picked the ingredients up the Friday before and stockpiled them all weekend, even though my son saw the sauce (yeah, I buy red sauce I don’t make it, you crazies) and asked for spaghetti all weekend. He also kept asking me what the eggplant was for and whether he liked it, and more than one I used it as a weapon, as it lay sullen and alone on the kitchen counter.

Ahem, so Monday rolls around and I decide to start making it. It is right after school and Jackson and Morgan are running through the house with wands trying to make water turn into rum. If you want more of that story check out: https://mrsgoodnight.wordpress.com/2019/01/10/this-week-isnt-bringing-me-joy/. Totes not worth it.

So I have kids running around and a dog who is driving me nuts and I am hellbent on making this damn eggplant parmesan. So I start with slicing the eggplant (per the video) which is harder to watch than anticipated because I have to keep wiping my hands when I stop and start the video. Not to mention that it is on my phone so people keep calling and texting me and I keep getting distracted, then it takes me from the Safari app to the message and I start sending mean-ass messages back to people like they should know I am making eggplant parmesan right now, you assholes, why are you texting me?!

Once I get all the eggplant sliced I realize I was supposed to skin it too. Here’s a tip for ya, skin a vegetable before you slice it. So after I painstakingly skin the eggplants (yeah, I bought two because I didn’t read the whole ingredient list and didn’t realize I would only need one) then you mix up the egg mixture. So now I am stopping and starting a video on my phone with egg running down my fingers. I stop for a second to consider Salmonella, then I am reminded of that one time I went to Tijuana and shit for three days afterward. I often wondered if I contracted Salmonella, or E.coli, or Hep A, or what have you. But to be honest I saw some shit in Tijuana that like burned itself into my retina, and I was a bit more preoccupied with losing those images than whether or not my gastrointestinal upset was caused by the Camioneta de Burrito. Yeah. A Burrito. Van.

Anyway, I start taking the eggplant pieces one by one and dipping them into the egg mixture, then quickly sticking them into the Panko breading. I bought the gluten-free kind of Panko breading because I don’t read shit when I buy things online. I just click on pictures. Not unlike Karen who is going through a divorce in her early 50s and is drunk-buying purses with interchangeable zippers from QVC at two o’clock in the morning. Look it, we all have our reasons.

I keep going from one bowl to the other, while the egg mixture slings across my counter into the Panko mixture. Meanwhile, the dog is hopping up on his hind legs trying to drink the flying egg particles and I’m screaming at him to “Get down! Damn it, Duke! Get down!” and the kids are running in the room asking if I was calling for them. Eventually I get the first pan of eggplant covered and stick it into the oven that I forgot to preheat. So I turn back around and start on the second pan (of which I do not need, but now am stuck with) while I tell Siri to turn on a 15-minute timer.

I keep working on the second pan. Same shit. Dunk in eggs. Sling egg across counter. Kids scream. Dog hops around. People text. I lose my place in the video, and then have to watch a two minute ad to keep watching, and then the timer goes off. I turn around to see that I never actually turned the fucking oven on, so you know, things are going well.

At some point my husband texts me to tell me that he will be home earlier than expected, so I try to double-time that shit. Like suddenly I am in some sort of televised cooking competition and the judge is that guy from the “Cake Boss” and he is walking behind me taking mental notes of the mess that I am making, whispering things into my ear like, “Do you always let your dog lick your pajama pants while you cook?” and “You husband probably expects this to taste really great.” So I freak out a bit and start just throwing ingredients into the pan. I take out the now-baked eggplant and layer them, not unlike my lasagna (not the flashbacks, please not the flashbacks) with the ricotta cheese and basil and what not. Then I lose track of where I am in the video. Now my hands are all covered in this cheese mixture and I am trying to convince the kids that they succeeded in turning the water into rum as I start pulling dry seasoning from my shelf and just sprinkling shit in there. Oh, was that hot red pepper flakes? No one will notice. Then I stick the assembled pan in the oven and wait.

As I clean up the mess in the kitchen, which now looks like the opening scene of a Law and Order: Special Victims Unit episode (red sauce everywhere) I notice for the first time that the dog has egg splattered on his head and maybe, is that, yeah, red sauce on his paws and he is tracking it through the house. Cool. Cool. Cool.

Le sigh. Listen, y’all. My husband and kid were all, “Ohh, this is yummy!” When they ate it and they ate it, all of it. I was too tired to worry whether or not they actually liked it or just knew that I had a hectic afternoon so they were pretending. Didn’t matter. I had defeated the eggplant parmesan. I am sitting at my kitchen island smiling at my husband and son, content for the first time all evening. Then my husband looks at me with a weird look and asks, “What was that?! Whew, something spicy!”.

Ahh, yeah. The red pepper flakes.


This Week Isn’t Bringing Me Joy

I’ve had one of those weeks where I wouldn’t mind starting over. Not because something innately bad happened, just because a pile of small annoyances have gone to bat against a small amount of good moments. It’s just that, at this point, the annoyances are winning. In an attempt to not let one “eh” week turn into another I want to take stock for a moment.

How did I go from relaxing on the sofa with my boys on Sunday night, dreaming about how fun and productive this week would be, to standing at my kitchen sink eating a leftover pork chop with my hands, while I yell toward the utility lineman who cut my internet line on accident last week and never bothered to tell anyone? Well, it was a slow process…

Monday was alright, as far as Mondays go. I have to be honest though, I have never met a Monday that I liked. Mondays are like women named “Karen”, but everyone calls them “Kare” or “KareBear”. Karens can be your best friend one minute, then the next they can be telling you how to run your life, because as they mentioned, “If you just follow everything Marie Kondo and I tell you to do, your life will not be so upside down.” Thanks, Karen. I really appreciate it, but I think maybe Mondays just do not bring me joy.

Monday was uneventful, save the short period of time between school pick-up and dinner. I had Morgan and Jackson that afternoon and they were hellbent on turning a glass of water into rum with their Harry Potter wands. Now normally I would make a Jesus joke about this, but I tried it on them and they didn’t appreciate it. 10-year-olds (eye roll). Anyway, at this time I was also trying to feed them dinner so that I could get Morgan to her acting class on time (a favor I was doing for her mom who was stuck with work). Also, for some reason, Duke decided to lose his shit that day. He wouldn’t go outside, then he wouldn’t come inside. He paced around my legs while I was running around trying to make eggplant parm for our dinner, while feeding them a “first dinner”, while taste testing the “rum”. At some point I eyed the actual rum on the top shelf, closed my eyes and tried to Wingardium Leviosa the fucking rum to me. It didn’t work. But I was finally able to convince them that they had in fact done it. That they had turned the water into rum! Then I shot that glass of water like it was Mexican Tequila and I was a bleach blond beauty on spring break in Cancun, trying desperately to forget about my short fling with the RA Anthony, who everyone called “Tony” because even though he was in a band, he still collected Star Wars memorabilia and “OH MY GOD, KAREBEAR DO THIS SHOT WITH ME! FUCK TONY!” Fuck Mondays.

Tuesday was a bit more, shall I say, tedious? I started out fine. In fact, Jerimiah and I started a workout competition on our watches and I was killing it. I had already done my 1.5 mile walk with Duke, who seemed to be getting his shit together again. Then I did my “Seven Minutes in Hell”, which is not at all like “Seven Minutes in Heaven”, but is in fact a seven minute High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout. Then I did the stationary bike and lifted some free weights, all while I pretended that I was in a closet with Jake Gyllenhaal and we were awkwardly groping at each other and sliding our slippery lips together trying to avoid each others braces. Then I sat down to write a blogpost about how people who are on welfare are taking money from the government the same way that people who get tax discounts for various reasons are also taking money from the government, we all take from the government at some point either for crazy-ass tax deductions (like when you buy a “work” car for your “work” but not really you just want an expensive ass Suburban cause you are a mom and live in a sub-division and your name is Karen) or because we need temporary assistance or unemployment when we lose a job, etc, etc. IT’S THE SAME THING! Anyway, I never got the chance to write that post because as soon as I sat down at my desk, my neighbor came over and quietly knocked on my door asking if I would call the police for her. Yeah, my Tuesday got weird after that. In fact, I had a friend coming over for coffee, so when she got here she got to meet my neighbor, who was here with her one-year-old using my phone because her asshole, abusive, son-of-a-bitch husband had taken her phone and her tablet and every possible way she had to contact her family in the Philippines. So there is that. Tuesday got better (for me) when I got to spend three hours with my friend, reconnecting, and learning about her life, and dispensing my ill-thought out advice. Have you tried Marie Kondo?

Wednesday was the real shit-kicker. Again, it started out superb. I dropped Jackson off at school then went to a quiet, cute coffee shop near his school where I met two friends for coffee. We brought coloring books, Bob Ross and The Golden Girls (Thanks for the awesome gift, Susie!) and we colored and drank coffee and solved the problems of the world. Or tried to, at least. We talked about immigration, and our school system, we planned a trip to march on Washington (for real, we leave next weekend!) and we discussed domestic violence help for my neighbor, we talked about how hard it must be to live a life unlike the ones we are fortunate enough to have. We complained about complaining and we hugged each other. My soul was restored. Then I got home. I had been gone for five hours. Duke had apparently not been happy with that. He had torn apart most of my record sleeves and he actually ate one record to pieces: Alabama’s Greatest Hits! (KASEY, HELP! He ate the shit out of it!) Then he dug through the shoe bench and got a few pairs out, then he started to eat the wood of the bench. By the time I got there he was sound asleep in his bed, looking angelic. I screamed, “WE ARE CRATING YOU, YOU LITTLE ASSHOLE!” Then I spanked him (because although I don’t spank my child, I do spank my dog because you can’t reason with a dog, sue me if you want to) and I sent him outside. I was frustrated, but it wasn’t just him, and I knew that. So eventually I let him back in and pet him and gave him a new toy I had bought him. (Insert another eye roll).

It wasn’t Duke at all, it was all the things that I had talked about that day. It was the fact that I want to help all the people in my life, but I feel helpless. It was that this world is a shit-bag, upside down world right now, and how will my marching even help? It was that I hadn’t had any alone time this week. It was that I was biting off more than I could chew. It was that I don’t know what to do if I don’t know how to help. I sank lower and lower last night, until finally at 8:00 pm I crawled into bed feeling defeated and deflated. I had been so pumped that morning. I had been feeling like we could change the world, but instead I let the world work me over, again. It’s a gross feeling.

So today I woke up and thought, “Today is Thursday and by God it will be different!” And it was, for a few minutes. Here’s the thing. When you get down in this funk, not a lot will pull you out. And normally I know what it is I need to help pull me out, but today I couldn’t tell you. I have no idea what I need, so I guess I will just keep looking and keep trying. Maybe the march will help. Maybe we will get some concrete news about the move soon, maybe things will settle, maybe they won’t. But I won’t stop looking for things that bring me joy. It’s like Marie Kondo says, “ストレージのエキスパートはardersです”. Yeah, I don’t speak Japanese.


One Saturday a Month

Today we went to the monthly “giveaway” for the homeless in Charlotte, North Carolina. This event’s name doesn’t speak to what it really does and how people in the community really come together, so I wanted to give you a closer look.

For many years Jerimiah and I have been looking for an organization to support, a cause to get behind, something that was close to our hearts, something tangible, a way to hit the streets and feel like we were making a difference. Up until last year our “charitable service” involved checks to the DAV, occasional donations to friends and family who were taking them for a cause they felt strongly about, checks to the Trisomy 18 Foundation, the American Heart Association, etc. We shop at thrift stores when we can and we donate regularly. But basically we felt like we were phoning it in.

Then last year I met a women who volunteered her time at the holidays making meals for families at one of the many shelters for women and children in Charlotte. She told me all about how wonderful it was to meet and talk with these mothers, who generally were victims of domestic abuse and who were seeking better lives for their children. I was taken with how genuine she was in her belief that she had a real impact on the lives of the women she met. The only problem was, she was a Christian fundamentalist. So she took that time, above all else, to try to “bring these women to Christ”. She said it was sometimes difficult and she sometimes had to be direct about it, and that sometimes she got the sense they didn’t want to talk about it, but she still did. The more I talked to her the more uncomfortable I felt. It doesn’t seem like a good thing to try to weasel your love for the Lord into a conversation with a woman who has run from an abusive husband, left her home in the middle of the night, and is looking for a comforting ear and a bit of safety. It seems rude to try to make her believe in your beliefs or even make religion a priority at a time in her life when she has a million other things to deal with. In my experience it makes people feel worse, not better. Not to mention that it can turn people off religion altogether to think that in order for people to be nice to them, they have to accept Jesus Christ.

Now listen, I am a Christian. A Baptist to be clear. I do not attend church, nor do I proselytize. I do not feel called to share my faith with others, even though my church has told me many times that is my job. It is not. My job, as a Christian, is to help others and to be kind. I feel called to understand and be accepting of other beliefs. I know full well that others’ beliefs have nothing to do with me, and that they are entitled to them. I am not so ignorant to think that my God is any more powerful or “right” than any other God and there are many, many Gods (Hinduism alone has over 10,000,000). Having said that, any missionary that puts God above the people they are helping is not for me. It was also not for my Atheist husband. We also did not want to teach out 10-year-old son that you can only help others who believe what you believe. Because the truth is that you can help anyone, at anytime, even if they believe exactly the opposite of you.

Having said that, Jerimiah found the Atheist Alliance Group on Facebook. This was a nice group, full of, you guessed it, non-believers, who are loosely associated with the larger group Atheist Alliance International. We don’t know much about AAI, because we are not members, but we do know Shane, who runs the local “giveaway” each month. We know him and we have talked to him. We found out why he does what he does and it is pretty simple: Because he is fortunate and he can help those less fortunate. Period. Bottom line. End of story.

Shane and the group of people who work tirelessly each month getting donations, organizing volunteers, and hauling around Amazon boxes full of flashlights and Q-Tips, recognized a problem and worked toward a solution.

In Charlotte there are several shelters for both homeless men, and women with children. On Tryon there are two in particular: The Men’s Shelter and the Urban Ministry Center. At 8:00 sharp, the men’s shelter kick the men out for the day. This serves a couple purposes: 1. It helps get the men out and moving, hopefully to find work, even temporary day labor and 2. It allows the staff to clean the facility, and work on getting people in and out, on a more permanent basis.

Urban Ministries takes men, women, and children, but they do not open until 11:00 for food and shelter, so Shane decided to set up shop in an empty parking lot on the corner of Tryon and Dalton, once a month, at 8:00 am sharp and run until the last person walks up, which is usually about 10:00 am. It isn’t until you go a few times that you realize that right across the street, next to the 7-11 with no public restroom, is also a homeless village. A large grassy area full of tents and sleeping bags strategically hidden behind the blacked out fence of a body shop. It’s a good spot to set up shop.

This is one of two giveaways Shane does. He also holds one each month in Spartanburg, South Carolina, but we do not go to that one as we like to save our resources for the homeless in our community. Shane lives in SC and makes the trek up to Charlotte each month because the need is present.

Today was like any of the other giveaways we have been to over the last several months. It was not the coldest we have worked, but it was by far the windiest. The highs today are supposed to top out in the 60s, but the wind this morning was fierce and the temperature never above 40 degrees. Of course, we have a nice, warm home to go home to after we work our two hours, but the people getting our assistance do not. They also had nowhere to go when it rained for four days straight, raining so much our backyard flooded and the rain penetrated roofs and flooded small creeks. But they came out this morning in full force, enjoying the rain-free morning and even more so the hot breakfast.

Shane and his core group serve up a piping hot breakfast, which has just gotten better over the last few months with a donation of a large, portable, flat-top grill! They can cook loads of pancakes and sausage and bacon on that puppy at one time. And they do! And the men and women who stop by for breakfast appreciate it.

The food is all donated or purchased with donated money, either from the people there helping pass it out, or the many donors (some anonymous) that the Atheist Alliance Helping the Homeless receive each month. This month my own mother-in-law (not an atheist) sent us $100 to spend on what we saw fit for the giveaway. We were able to buy, in addition to our own donations, flashlights, deodorant, more non-perishable food items, and washcloths, among other things. (We usually bring hand sanitizer every month. It is one of the most liked items and we routinely run out.) We always ask Shane to see what is needed that month, most people do, and many of us in the group have taken to bringing the same items each month, sort of taking charge of that item. It helps Shane a lot to know he can count on certain items from certain people month after month.

No that all that is out of the way I want to tell you about a man I talked to today, his name is Willy.

Willy is a “frequent shopper” at the giveaway. He has been there every month that we have been going and his state of consciousness changes drastically. I am not sure if Willy is a drug-user, if his old age plays a part, or if he is, like so many others that are homeless, is mentally unstable. But sometimes Willy is very nice and friendly. Sometimes he says, “God Bless, y’all” or thanks us, sometimes he demands help and tells us that we are going to hell. It sort of just depends on the day.

Today Willy said all of these things, then he high-fived a kid, told him that he was awesome, hugged a woman who gave him a belt (his pants were falling down), then told me he didn’t “give a shit” when I told him that his bag was unzipping and the contents were spilling out. I just smiled and said, “Okay Willy”. I guess today was a bad day.

The blond woman working next to me was watching the scene unfold and she wondered aloud what was wrong with him. I didn’t know, I told her. I explained that he once hugged me and assured me that Jesus loved me, and that once he had cried when his coffee tipped over and I helped him clean it up. A woman on the other side piped in and wondered if the majority of these people were drug addicts. There’s a good chance, I told her with a shrug. And then the blond woman said, “Who cares. Drug addicts need to eat and be loved too.” And we all agreed. Because that is the truth.

For as much as we want to see these people succeed. As much as we don’t want to ever see them there again, we do see them. Month after month, the same faces. The man who can hardly stand up-right, the woman who cries about being raped when she was fifteen, the transgender woman who doesn’t talk, the lady with the stroller, the man in the tire shop shirt who promises us that he does work, but he has just been laid off for a while. It doesn’t matter, I tell him. Because it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter which side of the table you are on. It doesn’t matter if you work, it doesn’t matter if an addiction controls you most of the time. It doesn’t matter if you can’t control your emotions or if you don’t understand why we do what we do. It only matters that you are there, and you know that you matter to someone, even if it is just one Saturday a month.


Let’s Imagine

Imagine, for just a second, what it would be like for both you and your partner to be working in a minimum wage job in the state of Georgia. One of you works full-time, then is at home with your two kids at night, while the other one works a full-time day job and a part-time night job. Both of you make Georgia minimum wage. Now keep in mind, I am not a math major and these are estimates based on the current tax brackets in GA.

So that is $5.15 an hour times 40 hours a week= $206 before taxes. For you. Then your partner makes $5.15 x 40= $206, but also makes $5.15 x 24= $123.60, bringing your monthly household gross income to a grand total of: $2,146

$2,146 – $129 (GA State Tax Withheld) = $2,017

$2,017 – $129 (Federal Tax Withheld) = $1,888

Okay. Whew.

Your monthly net household income is $1,888. That is from both you and your partner working full-time and your partner working an extra job. Now, assuming there is no money being taken out for healthcare (as most people who pay minimum wage do not provide healthcare benefits for their employees) you probably have no other money withheld, including 401ks and retirement. Because, uhh, who can plan for the future when you make $5.15 an hour?

Now, still here? Keep following me, it gets worse.

On average you spend ⅓ of your income on your house payment, which means your house payment hovers around the $600 mark. Now, because I have been recently looking at housing a ton, I am aware what $600 a month will get you. And to be fair we are talking about rent here, because again, when you make $5.15 an hour, you are not trying to buy a damn house. It’s not pretty. It’s usually, in most places, a mobile home. Nothing wrong with a mobile home, just saying, don’t expect a lot. It could also be an apartment in the “bad part of town”. Which is likely where you work anyway. People on the “good side” are paying their employees more because they can get employees from a wider net. (Read: The exploitation of the poor is real.)

Okay so, $1,888 – 600 (rent) = $1,288.

Now I am not factoring in a lot here. Like, for example, you can pay less for a home in some areas, though in a big city, not so much. You can also live with your relatives, or have two families working, both living together in a three bedroom home. You can also get government assistance for a home. It’s called Section 8 and it is provided through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but don’t even get me started on how they do things, so let’s just say, for lack of argument, you get no help with your home and you live alone (just the four of you). But you do get help with your child’s healthcare, which is awesome, because kids get sick. But, guess what?! In the state of GA you do not qualify for SNAP (Food Stamps) cause, you guessed it, you make too much money…


Which means you have a weekly grocery budget of, oh a family of four, let’s say $100. So…

$1,288 – $400 = $888

Eek. Good thing the kiddos get free lunch at school.

Moving on.

Electric rates in GA hover around the 11.17¢/kWh which gives you an average electric bill of $160/month. Now you conserve energy when you can. You yell at people for turning lights off, etc, etc, but your rented trailer does not have high-effiency appliances, nor does it have good insulation. It’s a trailer. Also, the windows are old and never really shut right and the furnace, well, it has seen better days. Because of this, in the winter your bill goes up quite a bit. Keeping the chill off the air is expensive. But in the summer you just keep all the doors and windows open, choosing to be super hot and trap bugs and insects as they come in to save on the electric. Having said that, you may or may not be on a “Level Pay” plan. In GA you can choose to do a level pay electric bill, which will factor in the very high deposit most electric companies require of you (because you make so little money) and keeps your electric on and away from the constant fear of always being shut off. But you do pay a premium for this kind of monthly pay. So let’s say your electric bill is $200 a month, level pay.

$888 – $200 = $688.

Okay, okay, we are not doing so bad. Still alive.

I forgot to mention, however, that your youngest is in preschool. Preschool is not all day. After lunch (thank goodness) he gets sent by bus to a daycare, of which you have to pay half of the regular tuition because it is on a sliding scale (I’m being nice here).

Normal annual daycare rate for a four-year-old in GA = $6,500
$6,500/2 = $3,250 (half based on government help)

$3,250/9 = $361/month
$688 – $361 = $327

Now, it is possible that you would qualify for free daycare, or that you live in a county that offers all-day preschool (but unlikely in GA, as you know, “We don’t have money for all-day preschool, we only have money for walls.”) But for now, let’s say, since you are working you can afford it.

Okay, so we are here at $327 left for the month. But as you may notice the daycare was only good for nine months out of the year. Because your second grader and preschooler are both out of school for the summer which means one of four choices: 1. A family member baby-sits them for free 2. You enroll them in some kind of free summer school (unlikely as the state would have to foot that bill) or 3. You pay daycare for two kids all summer (how the hell does that happen?!) or 4. You leave the second grader in charge, and leave your two children at home alone all day in your trailer with the doors and windows open all summer. Seems safe.

Now, what are you going to do with all that money you have left?! $327!

Well, you still need to pay the water bill, unless you are on a well (which probably hasn’t been properly tested for a series of problems). But you know what, I am feeling nice, you are on a well and it is clean, good water. You know this because you took a sample to your local health department (where you got your preschooler vaccinated for free) and had them test the water. Look at you, good decision!

Cable and internet? Wait, you don’t have either? With two kids? That’s brave of you.

Okay, your two cell phone bills.

$327 – $150 = $177

Car payments? You only have one car, because uhh, that’s all you can afford. You bought it used at one of those buy here, pay here lots and it is old and routinely needs repair but you deal with that as it comes up. This month the car God’s are in your favor and you have only the payment and the gas. Luckily, the payment is based off your weekly pay, so you only pay $50 a week, so $200 a month. So that is…

$177 – $200 = -$23

Cool. Cool. Cool.

Now gas money. Your partner takes public transportation to and from their day job, while you take the kids to school before yours. The school is close, but your work is across town. At night you pick everyone up, then turn around and drive your partner to their second job, so that you can have the car in case of emergencies. Then you either go out after the kids are in bed to pick them up, or they catch a ride for a couple of bucks with a friend. So that is a full tank of gas each week. It is a small, compact car that gets good gas milage, so $40/week for gas.

($23) – $40 = -$63

Now imagine all this, but with that extra $2.00 an hour from the Federal Minimum wage. You would be “rich” with that extra $700 a month. Minus of course the childcare you have to pay, since you make too much to get a credit now. $700 – $361 = $339. Minus the cost of the state-sponsored healthcare you have to pay now for the kids (at $80 a kid, still way less cheaper than private healthcare) $339 – $160 = $179. Oh, your partner got sick and had to go to the ER for treatment and missed a week of work. Darn. That’s $179 – $15,000 (ER Trip) – $464 (Week of wages) – $100 (Medication with no healthcare). BUT! It is summer time so they can take care of the kids that week while they are laid up on the couch in pain! Silver lining!

Let’s see, what am I forgetting. Healthcare, check. Food, check. House, check. Electric, check. Transportation, check. Daycare, check. I guess that just leaves extra money to buy those boots that you are supposed to have, so that you can pull yourself up by the straps.