White Women, Again

I bought Jerimiah and Jackson matching shirts that said, “I’m Glad Reagan’s Dead” which is of course a lyric from the Killer Mike song, “Reagan.” I will include the link to the video so you can watch it if you are so inclined, it’s pretty good and incredibly informative. Anyway, they LOVED their shirts because they are big Killer Mike and Run the Jewels fans and so they wanted to pose for a picture and have me post it to Instagram so people can see their shirts, so I did. Then I went on with my life as one does. Then a couple of days later I got a Facebook message from a white woman that said, “I just don’t understand, why would you want a shirt that says, ‘I’m glad Reagan’s Dead.'” I responded, of course, very kindly. First I hoped she was having a great holiday season, I remarked about her fun pictures and hoped that she was having a nice time with her family, as one does. Then I politely explained the reasoning behind the shirt, in a condensed version of course. I told her how we have been talking about racial justice in this our country, backtracking what Jackson has learned in school as “America History” and told him some truths. It’s a tough, labor-intensive process, but incredibly necessary.

Then it occurred to me that the audacity of white women truly knows no bounds.

White women get offended by something, a t-shirt that a person 1,000 miles away from them who has no real connection to them is wearing and they demand an answer for it. It sort of boggled my mind.

I personally would never ask about something like that. I would never take the time from my day to demand an answer to something that someone is wearing (unless it was overtly racist, in which case I would publicly shame them for it even though Mama Brene Brown says shame is not an effective educational tool. I know Mama Brene, I know. I’m working on it, it’s hard to change when you grew up that way.) Maybe it’s an age thing? This woman is the mother of a childhood friend. Either way, my own mother didn’t even ask about the shirts, just accepted it as something quirky I did, I assume, and went on with her day.

It was bizarre, to say the least. But still I figured if one white woman questioned it, others probably did too but were just too afraid to ask so I made a Facebook post explaining the shirt (saying I had multiple people ask me, but really it was just the one, I just didn’t want to make her feel bad. But she should kind of feel bad, ya dig?). This is that post, condensed:

Hi Everyone! Jerimiah and I have had people question the “I’m Glad Reagan’s Dead” t-shirts I bought for Jackson and Jerimiah for Christmas.

So if you want to know why I would give my 12-year-old a shirt that says, “I’m Glad Reagan’s Dead” or you want to know why anyone would be happy to say that, then please do read on. Warning: This is tough stuff, because you might be enlightened to a world, community, and culture that is different than your own, and that makes people uncomfortable. So fair warning. 🙂

Let’s start with the song lyrics that the phrase is taken from. The song is called “Reagan” and it is by Killer Mike, a member of the two-person group “Run the Jewels” who happened to win Spin’s “Artist of the Year” for their RTJ 4 album, the one they released free to the masses on account of how horrible the year was going. They wanted to brighten some lives and they did! The song “Reagan” is not on that album, but Jackson and Jerimiah love all the albums and they love Killer Mike (I do too on account of all his grassroots, community work here in Atlanta) and so they did a deep dive on all his work this year where they came across the song, which, in short, lists the litany of Reagan atrocities toward the Black community and atrocities toward other minority communities worldwide and the backlash it had on the ones here in the US, including:

Iran/Contra Scandal (trading arms for hostages), “Oliver North introducing Cocaine on military planes”, the “War on Drugs” which we all know disproportionately affected the Black community and allowed for “policing for profits” leading to “Super Predators” which was a made up term to arrest Black men on drug charges, and allowed the courts to “give drug dealers time in double digits” which of course led to fathers, brothers, uncles, in the Black community being locked up years and years longer than the white people doing the same things, because as Killer Mike says,

“Cause slavery was abolished, unless you are in prison, you think I am bullshittin’ then read the 13th amendment.”

Blah, blah, blah, it went on. Explaining more about Killer Mike, about supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and the community, asking people to vote consciously and to donate money to Black businesses, etc. It was liked by a few people, loved by some of my Black friends, and thankfully no one commented. Of course I blatantly told white people not to comment, cause I know a few other white women who would normally hop on a post like that like flies on a shit sandwich. I didn’t want to have to unfriend anyone over the post, at the same time, I kinda did want to unfriend some people over the post. You know how it is.

Anyway, I’m sharing today to remind white women to chill the fuck out and sit the fuck down. And yes, I am aware that I am a white woman. Which gives me the power to say that to y’all. Cause Black women who say it get screamed at, and called mean names, and ostracized. I don’t care, y’all can scream at me and ostracize me, Jesus I welcome it, but leave people alone.

No one owes you an explanation for a damn thing, and more importantly your opinion on the matter doesn’t in fact matter. Literally no one from the Black Lives Matter camp is looking at you to help them. I’m included in that. They don’t give a fuck about me, and I don’t need them to. I don’t need a pat on the back or a nod to know what I am doing is right. I just need to figure out how to walk this line of keeping white women in check and not overstepping any boundaries with my BIPOC friends. I’m working on it, always working on it.

But white women, for the love of all that is holy, no one is looking at you to be the moral center of our country, so stop it. That job is for Tom Hanks and Tom Hanks alone.

That is all, good day sirs!

M.

PS… “I’ll leave you with four words: I’m glad Reagan Dead.” –Michael Render, aka Killer Mike

Onward

As the year draws to a close I’ve been thinking back on how crazy it has been and wanted to share a story. On Sunday, March 8th of this year, my friend Torey messaged me to see if Jackson wanted to go to the movies to see the movie “Onward.” “Absolutely,” I told her excitedly. Jackson and I had just been talking about that movie that day, discussing when we would go see it. “Next weekend?” I asked Torey. She responded quickly. “I think we should go tomorrow after school.” I sat looking at my phone for a minute. We have rarely, if ever, gone to the movies after school. In the summertime we might go to the movies in the afternoon, but generally speaking we go to the movies on Friday or Saturday nights along with all the rest of the crazy world. “Sure,” I said. After all, it is cheaper than the weekends and with the three kids, Jackson and Torey’s two, Megha and Taran, there would be less people to worry about. I told Jackson we were headed to the movies after school the next day with his friends and that was that.

When we met Torey and Megha and Taran at the local theater, the Movie Tavern with the brand-new plush seats that recline all the way back and have tables attached so you can order giant meals (and wine) and have it brought to you, Torey was so happy to see us. The first thing she did was thank us for coming on such short nice. “Of course,” I said, “it’s a good idea.”

“I thought so too,” Torey said, “I was talking to my family in Hong Kong over the weekend and they were telling me about Covid-19 and I figure this is our last weekend of freedom.” She said this with a small laugh and a wave of her hand at the concession stand, as the kids mindlessly scanned the glass to pick out their favorite candy.

I smiled, but inside I was very confused. I had not been paying much attention to the news. I was trying to stay away from social media too. The only thing I had heard up to that point about Covid-19 was what Jackson and Megha had told us at dinner a week or two before. Torey and I had taken the kids out for dinner at their choice of restaurants back in late February. They chose IHOP, because of course they did. So there we were, the five of us, Torey’s husband Vishnu was at work still and Jerimiah was on a plane back from Baton Rouge, and we were one of two tables at our local IHOP. Megha and Jackson started telling us all about Coronavirus and how it works and what they knew about Covid-19.

Their fifth grade teacher Mr. Budd had enlightened them all. Jackson said Mrs. Budd worked for the CDC and that Mr. Budd was a little concerned about the Covid-19 virus and wanted the kids to know the facts. Jackson and Megha then enlightened us with those facts. Torey was nodding along as they talked, our waitress Maria and I listened intently, eyes wide.

“It’s a particular strain of Coronavirus,” Megha started.

“It came about in 2019, that’s why it has the 19 after it,” Jackson interjected.

“Yeah,” Megha said, “And it transmits from person to person like other viruses.”

“Like the flu,” Jackson added.

“Yes,” Megha said, nodding her head at Jackson.

“Oh, and it’s already here in the US and the CDC thinks it is about to get very bad here,” Jackson was on a roll now. “We have to wash our hands for 20 seconds and cover our mouths when we talk.”

“And tell them about the social distancing, Jackson,” Megha said.

“Oh yeah,” Jackson started. “We should start social distancing, staying at least six feet from people when we are out in a crowded place.”

This was the first time I heard the term social distancing, from a pair of fifth graders at an IHOP table. Torey looked at me and smiled that smile that said, “We do have the smartest kids ever,” and of course she was right. Maria walked away smiling and thanking them for the information, and I sat a little nervously at the other side of the table while the conversation turned to some Korean pop band I also did not know anything about.

The next afternoon at the school pick-up picnic tables I sat around and listened as other parents discussed the coronavirus. Mainly they were saying that it was just a bad flu and it was nothing to worry about. In hind sight, that is what they were being fed from the top down. That is what we were all being fed. Our President was down-playing it. The media was too focused on other things. And really, really what was happening was that people were not okay with the thought that life as we know it might end, even temporarily. People were scared and they didn’t know what to do or say so they said, “It’s no big deal” and “I’m not worried.”

Meanwhile Torey, whose family and friends back in both Hong Kong and China were telling her to prepare for the worst, and she was listening. She was listening to her family, to the science, and to the rest of the world. And she was preparing. That’s why on that dreary Monday after the movie was over (and we were all crying, it’s a great movie!) she gave me the biggest hug and whispered that she didn’t know when she would get to see me again. I smiled a nervous smile, but I wanted to say, “Oh stop, I’ll see you next week,” since we had plans to do something fun with the kids the following week, after Jerimiah and Jackson and I got back from our short trip to Kansas City. But I didn’t say anything. There was something so ominous about Torey’s face, so sincere, so truthful. It was the first time I knew for sure that life was going to change and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it.

The rest of the week was sort of a blur. Torey had started to send me news articles from the BBC and other international places that were actually being truthful about Covid-19. Jackson was coming home with new bits of information each day from Mr. Budd who was getting the info from Mrs. Budd. It was sounding bad. Really bad. But still we pressed on. By that Thursday after school most of the mom’s were in complete denial, while the kids, after dismissal, ran around playing, “Covid is Coming for You” which was just a game of tag wherein the person who was “It” was actually a deadly virus. Hmpf.

Finally, on Friday, March 13th, we got the messages. First, there was the text from Honor Band. “Honor Band is cancelled for the rest of the school year.” Then came the baseball team, “No more baseball practice, will most likely resume later in the spring.” Then, as Jerimiah and I debated calling Delta to cancel our flights, the big one came from DeKalb Schools, “School is closed out of an abundance of precaution.” And that was that.

I messaged Torey.

“Oh my goodness, I’m sorry I didn’t believe you when you said we may not see each other for a while.”

“It’s okay,” my friend said, “It’s tough news.”

All I could think was, this can’t be. This just can’t be. Then Torey said,

“At least we got to see Onward!”

I smiled. I had no idea what was next, but at least we had “Onward.”

M.

Fireworks for Christmas

On Christmas Even Jerimiah and I had just gotten Jackson to bed when the fireworks started. I immediately remembered the very long, very loud fireworks from the Christmas Eve before, the one that took us totally by surprise. Last year we were a bit annoyed, asking each other, fireworks for Christmas?! Who would do such a thing? The truth is though, it isn’t horrible people who just want to keep your kids up and your dogs terrified. Bringing in Christmas with fireworks is actually a Latin America tradition and honestly we’ve just lived such sheltered lives (read: such white lives) that we have never encountered this before. But here in Atlanta, where the diversity kicks it up into double digits, we have been exposed to numerous things we never have been exposed to before and honestly, I wasn’t even mad this year. All I kept thinking was, it’s been one shitty-ass year and if people want fireworks, let them have their damn fireworks!

Of course the people on Next Door were not so thoughtful.

I was perusing the site for sale items, something I do a lot at night when I am trying to fall asleep. Occasionally, between Craigslist and NextDoor I find some gems, and people were bitching about the fireworks. As I lay in the dark, my phone screen illuminating my face and the sound of fireworks bursting around me I read:

“I don’t care who celebrates this way, I’m trying to sleep!”

“This is America! They can go back to their own country to do that stuff!”

“How dumb are these people? Dumb and tacky.”

“Call the cops, it’s illegal!”

The truth of that last one is no, it isn’t. Christmas Eve is one of the nights here that fireworks are legal because we have so many transplants from other countries that they made it legal here. That got me to thinking about all the calls flooding DeKalb’s Police force on Christmas Eve and how mad these nasty, white people are when the dispatcher on the other end tells them they won’t be sending a police officer out. I smiled in satisfaction.

Because the truth is last year when I first heard fireworks on Christmas Eve I Googled it, as any of the people on NextDoor are capable of also doing, and I found out all of this information.

The other truth is this: What the hell is wrong with you people? You white, privileged people? What makes you the superior people? Oh, you don’t have to answer that we already know the answer: Structural racism makes you believe that.

One of the things I have always loved about America is the diversity. The learning of other cultures I would not know about if I didn’t live in a melting pot of a country. As Americans, as such a young country, we don’t have many traditions. The ones we do have are from other countries, brought here by the immigrants who are still coming to the “Land of Opportunity,” so to have the audacity to say some shit like, “This is America, we don’t shoot fireworks on Christmas Eve” is crazy. Because yes, this is America and those people shooting off fireworks are American, so yes, we do shoot off fireworks on Christmas Eve.

So fucking deal with it.

M.

Why Would Someone Do That?

Crying alone in my bed isn’t the best way to end Christmas, but it’s the most honest way. It’s not all bad. And in fact, my life is fine. It’s not really my life I’m worried about. Right after we finished opening presents yesterday I got an alert on my phone that said a bomb exploded in Nashville, a city that I love. I tried to ignore the news a bit longer, but I kept being drawn back to that story. I just couldn’t wrap my head around what had happened, and honestly I figured it was some sort of mistake. That maybe something benign happened and it would come to light later in the day. I saw that no one had been seriously injured and I shelved it for the rest of the day.

Then, as I crawled into bed last night I pulled up the news and there it was. I watched a couple of videos. Saw the video of the blast. Looked through photos on social media. It was like a war zone. That’s when the tears came. I just kept shaking my head, saying aloud, “Why would someone do this?” Why indeed.

It’s not hard to see that this year has been capital-B Bad for a lot is us. Most of us, I’d venture, unless you’re filthy rich or completely ignorant. It’s been a bad year. We just mucked it up, as grandpa Clark would say. We mucked it up big time. But I can’t for the life of me work my head around this Nashville bomb. I know many of us are trying to figure it out today. The FBI, sure. The Nashville Police, yeah. But there’s also an awful lot of us shaking our heads in disbelief at the images and videos.

How completely terrifying to live through that. What comes next for those people? What do they say to their children who woke up Christmas morning expecting to be met with Santa’s gifts, and instead were rushed off to Nissan Stadium to hide from a bomb. Then to top it off it was a real threat and now their apartment is gone. Destroyed. Or their small business. Or the heart of their vibrant city. It’s all so much. It’s too much. It was too much for me last night.

I hope there are some answers as the days drag on, but more importantly I hope that we don’t let this year break us. This year, this pandemic, this dark, dark light that seems to be growing across our country. I hope that the new year ushers in some humanity back into our hearts. But I know banking on a new year to change the world is a bad bet. We have to start banking on each other and ourselves. We have to rise up with the light. Shine it into those dark spaces and places and hearts. Turn it around. Quickly, y’all. Quickly.

I’m thinking of Nashville today. I’m thinking of the city and the people and the children. I am thinking of the law enforcement and the morning cashiers at Starbucks. The day shift at the local Honky Tonks and restaurants. The bomb squad and the candy store clerks. The moms and dads and sons and daughters. I’m thinking of you all today. I believe in you.

M.

Merry Little Christmas

My favorite version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is Frank Sinatra’s three-verse version. And this year that last verse has been hitting extra hard.

“Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow. Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow. So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”

I hope you all had a merry little Christmas. And I hope you have muddled through this year the best you can. And I hope one day we all will be together again.

Merry Christmas.

M.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

I’m struggling a bit today, y’all. I just read an article about the 1960’s Rankin and Bass classic, “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” and I am conflicted. You see I have always held fond memories of this movie, since I was a child. And that’s because my mom watched these movies with all her kids during the holidays, so she was always so happy to see them come on back in the 1980s when I was little. She would be excited and make us some popcorn and we would sit in the low light of the Christmas tree and watch all the Rankin and Bass stop motion movies, as well as this cartoon called “Twas the Night Before Christmas” which I am sure I have talked about before because some of you remember it. It’s about a mouse family who saves Christmas. Anyway, I have fond memories of this Rankin and Bass Classic because of the way it all made me feel, but mainly because of my mom and what we did. I always, in the back of my mind was uneasy about it, but could never say why. Maybe the Abominable snowman, maybe because of the mean other reindeer, but I could never place it. Until this week.

This article I read was mainly about how this little boy, now grown, grew up watching this movie too and it gave him nightmares. Not because the Abominable Snowman tries to kill Rudolph’s parents in front of him, but rather because he identified with Clarice, the Elf who didn’t want to make toys, who instead wanted to be a dentist and was berated by all the other elves. In short, this story is a story about bullies. And sure, Rudolph wins in the end, but holy crap, him and Clarice have to go through a lot to get there. In fact, there are some pretty sad scenes that unfold while it is all happening. Reminiscent, for the man who wrote this article, of being berated and banished from his home for being gay. An all-too familiar sight these days, even with teens. You can read about the gay, homeless teen population here.

I know, I know, why are you being a bummer around Christmas, Missy? Well, to be totally honest I have seen a lot of younger homeless people in the streets this year than ever before and I suspect that a lot of them have a falling out with their parents and end up there. Much like Clarice did.

I’m not saying stop watching this Christmas classic. But I am saying that we need to remember that not all “classics” hold up. And not all people see it the same way we do, and certainly not all kids will. I never identified with Clarice, but I did with Rudolph. I had horrible anxiety as a kid and the thought of something happening to my mother, my only parent, kept me up at night. Thinking back, that is why it never sat well with me, but there are a lot of reasons movies don’t hold up. Which is why I will still watch these movies, but I wouldn’t pass it up for this one:

Oh man! Good stuff.

Enjoy your holiday and remember, there is so much we don’t know, but if we put ourselves in the shoes of others (humans or mice) we can learn a lot.

M.

Christmas Lights! Winter Solstice! Oh My!

We did one of those drive-thru light displays the other night and it was better and also worse that I thought it would be. A few years back we went to the light display at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and that was cool. Cool in the sense that it was huge and you got to drive onto the speedway which Jackson really liked. Although we are not NASCAR fans, we were car fans and he thought it was pretty cool. This year we went to the display at Six Flag’s White Water in Marietta. It’s a city just up the Perimeter about twenty minutes from us. Six Flag’s commissioned a company called “World of Illumination” to set up a display in their parking lot. They charge people $50 a car and all in all it goes pretty smoothly.

It was my mom’s second time at a drive-thru lights display. We took her to one way back in the day in Branson, Missouri. A place called Shepherd of the Hills does a little one every year and she enjoyed that one so we thought we’d take her to a larger one. As far as drive-thru light displays go, they are better when they have a theme and this one had a theme: Candy Rush. So all the lights were different kinds of sweets. Enough to give you a heart attack! But like others the lights flashed and swirled to the beat of the music, which was tuned in on 87.9 FM. My mom thought that was pretty cool too.

Unlike Charlotte, the whole thing takes place in a parking lot, so it’s easy to get caught up in other cars and people and while it is amazing to see all those lights, it was a bit chaotic. Again, compared to Charlotte who utilized the whole racetrack. It was much more spread out and darker, so it was better, in my opinion. As if you even asked.

My mom and Jackson really liked it though and I took some videos for her of the lights and you can hear her in the back of the car commenting on them. She did enjoy herself, even though it was 9:30 pm when we were heading home. And of course Jackson watched from the moonroof the whole time, which he always enjoys.

When we got home we decided to take a gander at the stars considering it was Winter Solstice (and our wedding anniversary!) and Jupiter and Saturn were having their love thing. It was a nice clear night and we were able to see so much. It was truly breathtaking and a great ending to a great evening.

Hope you all got to see some beautiful lights this year from the safety of your car. If not, there’s still time!

M.

Christmas 1980-something

Evidently I was a spoiled kid. As spoiled as the youngest child of four can get. As spoiled as a child of a single mom who worked cleaning hotel rooms can be. I was that sort of spoiled. Spoiled in the sense that while my Christmas list was usually very specific and exhaustive, every year I got at least one item on it because my mother made sure I had something to look forward to, something to believe in when sometimes our life wasn’t a life that offered hope or belief in things getting better. I remember many of those one-off gifts. Those miraculous ones that showed up, I thought, from Santa in the true spirit of the holiday. One year I got a Popples, which were all the rage in the 1980s. One year a Strawberry Shortcake doll. One year a Barbie (a real Barbie not one of the knock-off dolls) so cool, so rad, that she had her own leg warmers and boom box.

In the second grade I wanted only one thing: A Baby Shivers Doll. Do you remember those bad-bitches? They were dolls that actually, for real, shivered as if they were cold. It was the same year that the Baby Alive Dolls first came out and I had a ton of friends asking for them, but I didn’t want to press my luck, so instead I asked for the older doll that only shivered. Besides, I wasn’t so sure about a doll that wet herself. I mean, was I ready for some real shit like that? I figured I’d let my best friend Rachel get that for Christmas and I’d play with it when I wanted, but didn’t have to take the responsibility for changing the diapers and what not. This is some real shit, it’s not made up, check it out:

Listen to me when I say this, these were some badass babes, though to be fair it set me up for failure when I had an actual baby and asked too many times what to do if he started to shiver. Turns out babies shivering aren’t like a real big problem. Who knew?!

Anyway, I remember writing Santa to ask for a Baby Shivers of my own. I may have even named dropped Rachel or her grandma, who was bound to buy her any type of doll she wanted. And on Christmas morning when I woke up and ran into the living room I was 100% expecting a Baby Shivers from Santa and for the first time ever I was disappointed. There was no Baby Shivers under the tree. Just some other random toys I don’t remember and some fruit and candy. I was upset, but tried not to let my disappointment show. That is certainly not something you did in my house. You sucked it up. Plus, I figured Santa had a legit reason not to bring me that hypothermic baby. Maybe all the electronics in her back forced her to short circuit and catch little girls’ hair on fire? I could only hope that was the reason because I was Peppermint Petty even at a young age.

So there I was playing with my toys I didn’t much care for after the wrapping paper tornado when my mom said, “Ope Missy, I found one more gift.” Yeah, she pulled the old “A Christmas Story” deal on me and handed me a wrapped box. I could tell right away she had wrapped it because she is not a good wrapper. The edges were a little frayed and the tape didn’t hit all the spots right, and there was a different type of wrapping on the edges. “Who’s it from,” I asked, hoping beyond hope it was from Santa.

“It’s from me,” my mom said. I smiled, but knew I was screwed. I slowly started to unwrap the paper, then my fingers went quicker and quicker until finally I had paper all over myself and was looking at the Baby Shivers box. I was stunned into inaction. My mom was beaming and I could not find words so I just ran over and hugged her. I couldn’t believe my luck and my mom’s obvious good fortune.

I still don’t know how my mom go the doll, or why she chose that year to get the credit for that toy, but it didn’t much matter. I just figured her and Santa hashed it all out and came to this conclusion and in the years to come I was always able to suspend my disbelief like that, around Christmas, but also at other times of the year too. Let’s call it self-preservation. Poor kids know what I mean.

Over the next year I walked around coddling my Baby Shivers, who I probably named but couldn’t tell you at all what it was. She was probably a girl and she probably had “eyes like her Mommy.” Rachel did get a Baby Alive that year and as I suspected that doll was a headache. You had to feed her to get her to poop and she ate this gross pasty stuff and you always had to buy more things for her to keep her in tiptop shape and I’m pretty sure it was short-lived. So was Baby Shivers, but for a little while I had the doll I had waited my whole life for and my mom had her shining moment.

I hope you all have a shining moment this holiday, and get something you’ve been asking for too.

M.

A Whole Lot of Decembers

It’s been 13 Decembers since I married the man I didn’t think I’d marry. Not because he was not the man I loved, rather because I never thought I’d get married. Never thought I’d actually be brave enough to go all in, my track record wasn’t stellar before Jerimiah. Just a few loose odds and ends here and there. A couple of overly-confident football players I made out with in the back of someone else’s car in high school. A couple of college girls, shy like me, unsure like me, who I let open a door of possibilities. Then he came along. On our first date I was calm. It was like going out with a friend, because well, he was my friend. Still is, matter of fact, the best one I’ve got. We sat at a table at a steakhouse across the street from the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. The place we’d both lived for years, both graduated high school from, both knew inexplicably we would one day leave.

It’s startling sometimes to look back over the last 19 years and see how our lives together have unfolded. To see that we did in fact leave Leavenworth together and in a sense we left those dumb kids back there at that dimly-lit steakhouse table. We changed our outlook. We moved away from that every-present fatalism that encapsulates a prison town like Leavenworth. We branched out. We had new experiences, slowly changed our way of thinking to focus on the positive, the optimistic, the opportunity that that whole wider world gives you if you dare to look.

We made new friends, took new paths, moved around. We went to college together, when we finally decided it was time. Then somewhere along the line we merged bank accounts, we started saying things like, “In ten years…” We made even bigger plans, even bolder career moves, moves that benefitted both of us. Then one day, about five years into our relationship Jerimiah sat me in a chair on Christmas Eve, got down on one knee, the white glow of the tree beside us, and pulled an engagement ring from his pocket. I already knew by that time I would say yes, though I still didn’t know if I’d have the guts to go through with it. One year later, on December 21, 2007, I did go through with it. In a small, one-room church in the middle of the Ozark Mountain wilderness.

Today, as I write this, I’ve been interrupted more than once. I’ve been interrupted by our twelve-year-old son who wants to know if the wi-fi is working for us, because his Chromebook, the one he does all his virtual school work on, is acting weird. I’ve been interrupted by our two dogs, pacing and playfully snapping at each other at my feet. I’ve been interrupted by my rheumatologist calling. By my husband’s phone, a call from this boss, a meeting with the company lawyer, an employee with a problem. This is all to say that where we are now, for as lovely as it is, is not always sunny and warm. But alas, that is life.

There have been dark days. Dark moments. When we watched the doctors load Jackson up into a Life Flight Chopper when he was barely a year old. When we signed the Do Not Resuscitate Order for our daughter nearly a decade ago. When we moved, again and again, leaving people we didn’t want to. When we cried together on the veterinarian’s floor as our first baby, Bentley, slowly slipped from us. And now, in this year full of heartache for our community, our country, our world.

Yes, there have been dark days and sickness to endure, but also there is happiness and health. There is safety, opportunity, growth. There is loyalty. There is love. In all of it, because we said I do.

Happy anniversary, Jerimiah. Thank you for loving me so consistently and so warmly for all these years. For running the lantern over the dark days and for always, always letting me, helping me, curse and cry and laugh when I need to. In the end, there is no one I’d rather do this with than you.

M.

Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, Structural Racism is a Bitch

A couple of weeks ago Jackson asked about the nutcracker that sits on top of the mantel. I explained that it was a decorative one, not a real one. He asked if we could get a real one and I said yes. So I ordered a real nut cracker from the internets and bought a bag of assorted nuts for him to try his hand at and we had everything ready to go yesterday morning. So while Jackson was finishing up the dishes after breakfast, I grabbed a bowl and went back to the table with the nutcrackers in hand. Jerimiah was sitting there watching as I opened the bag of nuts and poured them in. They were the assorted kind with pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and Brazilian nuts. The kind we both remembered from our childhoods back in the Midwest.

I pulled a walnut out first and cracked it open. Jerimiah said that was his favorite kind, so I used the pick to dig the rest out for him. Then came the almond, then the hazelnut. Then I pulled out the Brazilian nut and I stopped, my hand holding it up in the air when I had a memory blaze across my mind. Jerimiah had the exact same memory I had, even though we lived in two separate places, hundreds of miles away from each other. We looked at the nut, then at each other. We weren’t sure what to say, so Jerimiah spoke first.

“Talk about overt racism,” he said, and I nodded.

The memory that Jerimiah and I share from our separate childhoods is horrific. I’m full of shame just writing about it today, but certainly we are not the only ones who were forced to hear this as children and certainly we can’t shy away from the facts of this here country and the way white people are. The nickname passed down from generation to generation for this particular nut is a “N-word Toe.”

That’s how I knew the nut growing up and I had completely forgotten about that particular part of my childhood Christmases, then there it was, quite suddenly in front of me once again. Jerimiah told me his grandparents called it that. I told him my mother called it that, and so did all her friends. My mother was born in 1944. She was 13 years old before she saw anyone who was not white, only heard about people of color in terms not so polite. The N-word was used regularly during her childhood, on the tobacco farms my grandfather tended and in the rural schools she attended in Platte County, Missouri.

This was a normal way of life, but why this particular nut was nicknamed that I do not know. I refuse to know, actually. I refuse to Google it, give it any validation. I have suspicions of course, but we will leave them where they lie. All I know is a pit came up in my stomach when I saw that nut again after all these years and I didn’t know what to do. Neither did Jerimiah, so we did what we thought was right. We explained all of it to Jackson.

Jackson sat and listened intently, but when we shared the nickname his jaw dropped. I wasn’t sure how to take that. First I thought how good it is that he’s astounded to hear such nonsense, then I wondered if I am shielding him too much from the way structural racism, including covert and over racism, works. I wondered whether we need to do a deep dive into how just 20 years ago this was the way of the world, and explain in some parts of the country, in some small towns, in some homes, homes of family members we know and love, this is still the way of the world. I was at a crossroads and I guess I still am.

I’m not incredibly sure why I’m sharing this today. I could have kept this a secret. I think, however, that shameful secrets can bog you down. And I know, like with most of my writing, that I hope to evoke some kind of social change by sharing. But that’s at the macro level I suppose. Quite specifically, most days I feel a large responsibility toward others. Toward validating the lives of people who carry shame from their families and their childhoods and who are still working and learning to get things right, as well as toward the people who are oppressed and hurt by people like me. That’s a tall order, I know. But one I will keep plugging at for the rest of my life.

M.

Little Plans, Big City

There are normally a ton of things to do around Atlanta at Christmastime and last year we did a lot of them. Last year we went to the Christkindl Market. We rode Macy’s Pink Pig, which is a thing all Atlantans have to do at the holiday, saw the World’s Largest Cruise Ship made from gingerbread, drove through neighborhoods with amazing Christmas light displays, saw Santa, drank hot cocoa, and went ice skating atop the Ponce City Market. And of course we are so glad we did that for our first Christmas in Atlanta, because our second one is shaping up to be pretty boring.

My mom is in town, which is helpful especially for Jackson who always likes to have visitors around the holidays. When Jackson was a baby we told our family that we would not be traveling for Christmas and we have stayed true to our word. A kid wants to be home for Santa to visit each year and as long as Santa visits us (he still does) then we are at our home. We also said anyone is welcome to come spend Christmas with us because of that rule we live by and many times we have had visitors. Mainly grandparents, and it has been very nice. Of course this year is different. We can’t have a house full of people this year so my mom is here and that is enough for us.

We also can’t go and do all the fun things that a big city offers at Christmastime because the big city isn’t offering it this year and even if it was we would not go because global pandemic. Still, there are ways to have a big city Christmas in little ways.

First, we snatched up some tickets to the drive-thru light display at Six Flags! We are excited about this one because we went to one at the Charlotte Speedway a couple of Christmases ago and Jackson really liked it. Of course he was 10 back then, but still, we hope Jackson and Grandma will be amazed at the sheer magnitude of the display! The running joke in our house this whole pandemic has been, “What do you want to do today?” (The correct answer is not Six Flags.) And then someone says, “Six Flags!” And someone else says, “Dead.” Cause yeah, if you go to Six Flags you probably gonna get the COVID. But next week I get to say, “What do you want to do today?” And someone can say, “Six Flags!” and someone else can say, “Let’s do it!” It’s the little things, y’all.

Then there is the Ponce City Market. This is one cool and happening place, too cool for us, honestly. But we happened upon it last year and spent a whole evening there ice skating, playing mini golf on the rooftop amusement park, seeing Santa, and eating a ton of good food. While all those things can’t happen this year, we can don our best Christmas sweaters and head up for some pictures outside. In fact, they decorate so well the pics could work as your Christmas cards! There is one big neon sign that we particularly like to have our picture made with as it says, “Merry Christmas You Filthy Animal!” Ha! Yeah, we’re doing it!

Next up is a drive-in movie. Now we are on the fence about this one just because we aren’t sure how easy it will be for Mama to see/hear the movie so we can’t decide if this is a whole-family thing or a Jerimiah and Missy celebrate their anniversary as best they can thing. We are gonna wait to see what Mama decides on, but we are hoping she gives it a whirl. It’s a double-feature, “Elf” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

Christmas lights! Did I mention Christmas lights! There are always more lights to see. People take the lights real serious like around here and there are some magnificent houses to drive by while we eat popcorn or ice cream, depending on the weather!

Lastly, there is the fun thing we do each year where we spend a couple of days baking treats then taking them to friends’ houses as a surprise. Elfing, as we call it. There will be some elfing this year, though socially-distanced porch drop-offs are all the rage.

There you have it, our Christmas plans in miniature. Little plans, big city.

M.

False Positive

Well it happened, it was bound to right? All these COVID tests we have been taking out of precaution when we go somewhere or have visitors here. We got a false positive. Let me first say that we absolutely trust science, we trust the process, we trust the testing, we also know that human error exists and we think that is what happened here, but I don’t want anyone to read this and think I’m spiraling into some kind of conspiracy theorist who believes that all the positive are false. Uh, no. It just happens occasionally, we all know this, the experts say it, and it happened to us. More specifically it happened to Jerimiah.

We went to Kansas to get my mom last week so obviously we were all tested before we left and she was tested in Kansas. My mom got a negative, I got a negative, Jackson got a negative, and Jerimiah got a positive. We were all, what now? See the thing is we don’t go anywhere. And when we do go, say to Target to get cozy winter socks or to Kroger to get milk, we wear a mask, we stay six-feet away from people, some of us say in a loud voice to people who aren’t wearing their masks correctly, “Excuse me, hi, it needs to cover your nose too!” We don’t eat in restaurants (we haven’t since March 10th, yes I remember the exact date because I am missing my favorite burrito from my favorite Mexican joint and I refuse to have it delivered), we don’t go to gyms and bars (we haven’t in like literal years), we all work from home (we have since March), and we don’t go bowling or get tattoos, which seems to be an important thing here in Atlanta. Having said all that we are relatively safe and cautious.

Now the week before Jerimiah got the positive he did give blood, which was out of the ordinary for his normal day. He was also antibody tested and it came back negative, so he knew at that point he had never had the virus. Fast-forward a few days and he gets the positive. So the only thing we could think was maybe he picked it up while he was giving blood, but he said it was so sterile and clean in there and everyone was in several masks and he was like, “Nah, shit nah dog.” So there we were. Wondering how one of us had this positive and worried that his symptoms would start for him soon.

The day he got his results he put a mask on and didn’t take it off for a few days. We pushed our timeline back to get my mom, and the next day he went to get another test at the same location. But let’s talk about the location.

The first day we all went to get tested the location we went to was a new location to us. It was a new testing location and the place was pretty hectic. In fact, it was so hectic that at one point a woman with a tablet came over and placed a testing bag on our car and said to Jerimiah, “You’re Henry, right?” And he started to roll his window down more to say no, when another woman walked over and said, they are fine, they are the Goodnight family, go, go.” And ushered us through the line. We weren’t really sure what happened, but when she said our last name we figured she knew what was up.

As we were waiting to get our swabs, we saw a lot of dysfunction, the most we have ever seen at a testing site. At one point a person working almost got hit by a car because they were talking to someone else and just blindly walking through the line of cars. Then a cooler with tests toppled over and lay there for a bit, until someone noticed and ran over and started picking them up. In short, we were like uhh, maybe we don’t go to this testing location again? But we never thought we would get a false positive.

So how do we know it was a false positive? Well, we followed false positive protocol. The day he got the positive the health department called him to make sure he knew. He said he did, but that he was headed back to get another test because he had no symptoms and he hasn’t been exposed by anyone. They asked why he got tested then and he told them about the planned trip. The woman on the phone said for him to get tested at the same location, which he had already done and if that was a negative, wait a few days to see if symptoms posed up, then proceed with caution. Basically to treat it as a positive since it was “inconclusive.” So he got the second test back and it was negative. Then he started using our shared bathroom again and he took the mask off, but you know me, I wasn’t satisfied.

So the next day he went to get a different test. The test we took at the testing site was an antigen test. This new test, the kind you overnight to some lab in California, was the other kind of test. Basically it looks for other things. I would explain it all here, but I don’t want to bore you. If you are interested in the different tests you can get more information here.

Then we waited. Four days later the test came back negative. Which means, by the Health Department standards, the first test was a false positive. We won’t know for sure of course, until he gets another antibody test, but the two negatives right after the positive, the two separate tests, and no symptoms leads up to believe something happened on the testing end that first time. Like maybe Henry is walking around thinking he is negative, but he’s actually positive. That’s in fact, the scariest part.

So there you have it, the false positive. We have a friend here in Georgia that also had one last week and I’m concerned that maybe the testing centers and labs are a little overwhelmed right now, but it will all shake out okay. I do believe.

Be safe, y’all! And please trust the science, everyone makes mistakes sometimes.

M.

Celebrating During COVID

Our wedding anniversary is coming up fast, Monday the 21st in fact, and I keep thinking back to all the other ones we’ve had and well, this year will be somewhat different. Sometimes my mom is here for Christmas, sometimes she is not. On the years she is here, Jerimiah and I usually do something fun. A couple of times we even went out all night, got a fancy hotel room in the city and everything. But this year, considering we don’t eat at restaurants, stay at hotels, fly on planes, or do anything that would even look remotely like “fun” we have to make do with what we can do.

That got me to thinking: This isn’t the first celebration this year that has looked different. I mean we all had birthdays this year, we’ve had holidays, spring break, summer break, fall break. All of us have had those special days that we wish we could celebrate the way we always do, but we just can’t. Some of you did, and that was a risk you felt comfortable taking. Some of you got very sick because of it, some of you saw family members get sick because of it, some of you were lucky, took the precautions, did what was best for you, and made it back home okay. Me? I’m risk-adverse for the most part and I understand that there is always next year and if there isn’t, it won’t matter much anyway, will it?

I think that is what is bothering me today. What the root of this post is: It’s this idea that this year, these holidays and celebrations, can’t suffer because we are in the midst of a world-wide pandemic. This fear that people have that if they don’t have a large family Christmas, then what?! Then what? I’ll tell you what, no one gets sick and dies. Or no one gets sick and has lasting medical problems. You don’t put your loved ones at risk to see them open their presents in person.

Yes, that’s what is bothering me. This sadness I have knowing I can’t celebrate my wedding anniversary with my husband the way I’d like this year, but ultimately knowing that it’s okay cause we will have more, but more importantly I don’t like the way that some people are short-sighted in that sense.

My MIL lost a good friend the other day. It wasn’t COVID related, but it was unexpected. She was a lovely woman with a kind family and the kind of community-support that showed how loved she was. And losing someone is hard. So hard. And living in this world that we live in and losing someone is even harder. And in the end, I can’t shake the thought that there is real death, destruction, sickness, sadness going on in this world, and if you can’t put your holiday plans on hold for one year to help out in a tiny way, then what are you actually doing? What is actually going through your head?

I want to say this is only people who aren’t able to think critically, but I gotta tell you, I know some really smart, educated people, people with Dr. in front of their names, who still think COVID-19 either isn’t real or isn’t something THEY need to worry about. (I know I don’t need to tell you they are white males, but I figured I’d throw it in just to make sure you know. )

Look, this year for my wedding anniversary we are taking the family to see Christmas lights in a drive-through display. Yay! Maybe we will swing through The Varsity and grab burgers before we head home, maybe we will go to Raising Canes?! Who knows! The possibilities are LIMITED! It will not be like it has been the last 12 times we have celebrated and it will not be this way next year, but ONLY if we ALL get our shit together and start trying to do our small parts to make a big impact. Only then will we be able to celebrate next year, do things we want to do, go on vacations again, play sports, go to musicals on Broadway. Oh how I miss thee, NYC!

Please do your part, y’all. Wear a mask. Stay six feet away from people. Wash your hands. Get vaccinated if it is offered to you, and if you live in Georgia VOTE like you have never voted before!

Stay safe and sane, y’all!

M.

Capital B-Bitch

Listen Sam’s Club, I don’t need your shit right now. This whole email titled, “You Have Three Days Left to Save!” is pissing me off. I certainly have more than three days left to save and even if I didn’t have just three days left to save, maybe I don’t want to be reminded. Furthermore, perhaps I don’t even want to save with you. Firstly, you’re straight outta toilet paper right now. B: You are being a capital B-Bitch sending me threatening emails about saving money and 3. Who do you even think you are Sam’s Club? Do you think you’re Target? Cause you’re not and I’m not even 100% sure I would let Target talk to me that way. I mean, it depends on the time of year and how big the sale is, but still.

Frankly, Imma head on back to firstly. Firstly, you are straight outta toilet paper and you have been for weeks now and I don’t know how this keeps happening. One minute I’m there buying my allotted “One pack per customer” and there are literally about 15000 packages and then two days later when I get an email about $5 off protein shakes so I make a pick-up order and decide to see if you have toilet paper you got none. Zero. Nada. Am I out of toilet paper? No, I just bought a 48-roll pack two days before. But I can only get a 48-roll pack on average every six weeks from you and that’s bullshit. You’re Sam’s Club are you not? I can see Kroger or Publix or even Target being out of tp, but Sam’s Club? With all that audacity you have, nah G it don’t add up.

So instead of having the shit I need in stock (maybe I planned to give tp away as Christmas gifts?!) you instead send me threatening emails talking ’bout “YOU ONLY HAVE THREE DAYS TO SAVE” and do you know what you want me to save on?! Let’s take a gander, shall we!

Audio projectors! Robot vacuums! 70 inch televisions (I do want that one)! A new mattress! Toothbrushes! Toothbrushes?! And a playhouse (that’s legit though, I don’t need it but it’s cute)! I see you now Sam’s Club, fuck toilet paper and wine, you are threatening me with toothbrushes! It’s like you don’t even know me and that’s a damn shame cause I’ve been shopping with you for like 20 years now, you Capital-B Bitch.

Okay, wow. I didn’t know I had so much anger wrapped up in this teeny, tiny, pale, adorable body that I inhabit, but I do. And it seems all directed at Sam’s Club.

Sorry. I am so sorry. To you all, not to Sam’s Club.

M.

The Air Up There is Fried

While I was in Kansas last week I heard an awful lot about air fryers. Seems all my friends and family have them. One of my mom’s friends was even trying to convince me on the phone to buy one! “You outta get you one, Missy! They are great!” Well, you know how I feel about small appliances, y’all. If you don’t know this: I HATE THEM. That is legit. Matter fact I went to Target and bought a toaster the other day for my mom’s visit, then told her to take it with her when she leaves and give it to someone. I don’t want a damn toaster. Here’s the thing, I don’t want anything that my oven, stove, or decade-old crockpot can do so that eliminates essentially all kitchen gadgets.

I don’t need an Instant Pot, I have a crock pot and a large ceramic pot and a wok that fits snuggly into my wok rack on my gas stovetop.

I don’t need an air fryer because (and hear me out) an air fryer works by a convection method. So does my oven.

Now don’t think I just blatantly said no. In fact, I Googled this air fryer thing, just like I Googled the Instant Pot thing. I figured out how they worked and the truth is, in the case of the air fryer, we don’t eat fried foods. So if I were to buy one I would just feel compelled to start eating French fries and onion rings, which are not part of our normal meals now. I would hop on board with all these foods, the ones I think we can all agree are unhealthy regardless of how you cook them, and I don’t need that in my life.

My mom’s friend was all, “Shrimp! You can fry shrimp!” And I was like ohhh, that sounds good. Then I realized I never fry shrimp anyway. I bake it or boil it. So I don’t even need to eat fried shrimp, but it did certainly sound appealing for a minute. Besides the fact that people are still adding oil to the air fryers, because as previously stated, the name is a misnomer. It doesn’t actually fry anything, it cooks just like a convection oven. (Throws hands in the air) Maybe it’s faster?!

Listen, I don’t know where my hatred of kitchen gadgets came from. Probably from my desire to have as little as possible on my countertops. I can’t stand a kitchen that has things all over the counter. And I don’t like it when things beep at me to tell me I’m done. It’s like this rice cooker I got when I was way into sushi making. I thought, oh this will make life easier. Well, sushi making is hard as shit, y’all and now my rice cooker sits under a cabinet never to be seen or heard from again.

Oh hey, how about that time I bought a dehydrator because I wanted dried bananas. It took like 12 hours to dehydrate five bananas and then Jackson and I ate them all in one afternoon. Hmpf. Pass. Now that dehydrator has a better home, with a friend who hopefully uses it more than once a year.

Like most of these posts lately this one has no point except to say I appreciate all the people wanting my life to be better. I get it, trust me. It’s like therapy and me. I love therapy and I’m always trying together people to get their own therapists because it is so helpful. You love your kitchen gadgets and you want me to love them too. How about this, when y’all get you a therapist, I’ll get me an InstaPot. Or maybe a toaster I won’t give away.

Deal?

M.