Things are a hot mess in Atlanta right now. We had a deadly Fourth of July weekend, several children have been shot in the last week, and Covid-19 never really left. But yesterday morning our governor decided to be a real governor and say something about the violence. I mean, God forbid he take action to help save us from the global pandemic that is sweeping our state, or listen to what the people in Atlanta (the largest municipality and the capital of the state) are angry about, but “extra” violence in Atlanta, that warrants a stern talking to. Matter of fact he said, “While we stand ready to assist local leaders in restoring peace and maintaining order, we won’t hesitate to take action without them.” Well, hold up, let me rephrase, he Tweeted that. So he didn’t actually address the problem on a public stage, he didn’t actually do anything, he just sat at his desk and Tweeted his ideas. Sound like anyone else we know?
The problem isn’t so much the fact that he threatened the city, it’s that once again he didn’t do shit about a problem until a domestic spotlight was shone upon us, then he threatened. Remember how we have talked about leadership coming from the top down? Atlanta, like all other large municipalities, has a very particular set of problems, and because of it’s shear size, it makes it difficult to fix many of these problems, especially when you want to just fix them overnight. Listen, I’ve only been here a little over a year, but I can already see that the way things have been going, are not helping. This is an instance where, “But it’s always been done that way,” isn’t working and things need to be changed, and I know I sound like a broken record here, but it starts with voting. Then it moves out from there. Volunteering. Donating. Sharing knowledge you gain. Educating people.
When we moved to Atlanta a year ago we were nervous. We had heard horrible things about the city we have come to love. The horrible things were mainly racist bullshit that out-of-towners don’t feel comfortable talking about. That was our first lesson. Because when you really strip Atlanta down, down to its roots, it isn’t pretty, but it’s important. Vital, even. Like did you know Atlanta and the Black vote was the single biggest game-changer in getting John F. Kennedy elected back in 1960? I didn’t either, until I came here and had a history lesson.
Say what you will about Atlanta, but until you are here, living in it, taking the Marta to historical places, reading about the culture and society (which by the way some people who have lived here for 20 years don’t even do or know about) then I won’t listen to you anymore. I can’t. I won’t listen to our racist, hypocritical governor either. I can’t. Too many people are dying here. Too many people need help. And I’ve been waxing for a year now about how I can help. Saying I can’t, or I shouldn’t, it isn’t my place. But the fact is, this is my place. This is my home. I don’t know how long it will be, but it is now and that is all that matters. I’m a Georgian now. I live in a suburban town just steps outside the perimeter and I have two choices: I can tell people I live in Tucker, where the schools are sweet and the people are all wonderful, and the houses are big and there is opportunity for growth, or I can say I live in the Atlanta Metro and we need help. A lot of fucking help.
When I was little and I needed to make a decision about one thing or another, about what my actions needed to be, and I was stuck and so very afraid my mom would say, “Welp Missy, it’s shit or get off the pot time,” and I’m finally feeling that here in Atlanta. It’s time to either dig in and help, put in the time, and the effort, and the heart, or it’s time to leave. Stay my happy-ass in the comfortable parts of life. I’ll give you one guess what I’m about to do…
It’s time to shit or get off the pot, y’all. What are you gonna do?
We’re heading home today. I’d normally say we are heading back to reality at this point in a vacation, but this time reality never really left us. Or maybe it didn’t leave me. I was keenly aware, all day, everyday, of the realities of life. That masks were necessary, and that even in outdoor events, social distancing is key. It wasn’t part of the original plan to leave so soon, but plans change. You get new information, you make educated decisions. Our new information came like this: 1. Jerimiah was suddenly thrust into a large corporate deal (think a bidding contract worth millions) that he needs to be “present” for. “Present” here doesn’t mean in actual person, as of now anyway, but there’s a chance. He does need high-speed internet though, an issue we’ve been battling out here in the country, and he needs a shirt with a tie, and some semblance of an office (he’s currently working with a large, blow-up dartboard behind him). 2. This global pandemic isn’t going anywhere. Not sure if you’ve seen, but uhh, it’s here to stay awhile, and things are changing daily. A week ago, the state we live in (Georgia) was “steady” and the state we are currently in (Missouri) was on the decline. Now, two weeks later, things have changed drastically. Covid-19 is running rampant again, in both states, and the truth of the matter is I need to be at home, socially distancing from others, in the safety of our bubble, with my immune-compromised husband and my asthmatic kid. It’s the only way. The way of life here is too lackadaisical, and that’s okay for some people, but not for us. The risk, in this case, is not worth it.
So goodbye Table Rock Lake. Goodbye family! Thanks to those of you who were able to visit with us. Thanks for self-isolating for a couple of weeks, thanks for taking our safety concerns seriously. Thanks for the late-night talks, the boat rides, the floating and laughing and singing. Thanks for the best version of a summer vacation we could ask for this year, hopefully we will see you all soon, but if not that’s okay. Your safety, our safety, the collective safety is the most important, and besides, one day life might be back to normal, isn’t that neat? Something to look forward to!
Hi, hello, how are you? Wonderful I hope. I hope you took some time over the last week to be quiet, to reflect, to amplify Black voices, to unlearn some of the things you have been taught in this life, if you are white person anyway. That’s what I did. I also protested, donated money and time to the Black Lives Matter movement, and I followed many new people on social media in an effort to better understand the movement, the revolution that is happening, and how I can learn to be a better person. And while I was doing all of this, I made some mistakes. Some big ones. I want to address some of them now and I want to tell you one of the things I learned from listening this week. The rest will come in little bits here and there because y’all know I process at a slow rate.
First, I need to apologize to the Instagram and Facebook spheres for giving you wrong information. I listened to the creators of #AmplifyMelanatedVoices do a wrap up yesterday (you can read more about it on my previous post) and I realized I didn’t do exactly what they wanted. I got my information second-hand from other white women and certainly the “telephone tree” missed some important points. The point of the challenge created by @blackandembodied and @jessicawilson.msrd was to mute white activists and let the Black activists have the floor. It was not to mute ourselves. We should have been sharing Black activists work/art/words/stories as well as taking the time to check other white people. I did that in my Stories, but I did not do it on my page and for that I apologize. I am committed to working on that and making it part of my normal life now. I apologize to anyone who was following my lead.
I am more conscious of my place in social media, especially places like Instagram where I share my space with so many Black women who are working hard to create open dialogue. I need to let them do the talking, especially when it comes to race. This is my space here, and while I will be sharing more that elevates both the conversation on structural racism, white supremacy, and how white people can unlearn what they know, I will also be sharing my lessons, thoughts, and stories like always. The point here is that life is not “back to normal” around here. It can’t be. It never will be again. The Goodnight House has turned a very important corner, and there is no looking back.
In the midst of my mistakes I did receive grace from a few people. In fact I read often, especially from Black women, that mistakes will be made. They will be made in the early days and in the later days. We are learning and they do not expect us to be perfect. They do, however, expect us to be present and continue to be present. To hold other white people accountable, to teach other white people as we learn, and to continue to support the movement. And just so we are clear, for those of us who can, supporting the movement is not just making our picture profile say, “Black Lives Matter,” it means to donate. And I don’t mean time here, I strictly mean money. Cold, hard, cash. Again, I’m talking to those of us who can. Donate money to the cause, donate it to the movement, donate it to the activists. Subscribe to their Patreon pages. Buy their books, their art, their time. Learning isn’t free, so put your money where your mouth is. You know I love y’all, but we have to do better.
So there it is, mistakes will happen. But we need to learn from them. “Know better, do better” said Maya Angelou. Every, damn day.
Speaking of donating (I think you brought it up), I’m leaving you with a photo of some postcards we made and passed out at one of the protests we attended over the weekend. We protested for four days straight, but more on that later. These postcards have organizations you can send money to right now. If you can’t donate money, think about sharing the names of these organizations, or making your own postcards to pass out. Because now it is time for action.
At the protest Jackson and I walked up and down the line of people and passed them out. He explained that they could donate, then they could send the postcard to someone else who could donate as well. We passed out a total of 40 of these, because we didn’t get the idea in time to do more! There were nearly 300 people at the protest and people wanted them when they saw them, so please know that people will DONATE if given the opportunity and they will SHARE the message. It was a small gesture on our part, just the cost of postcards and stamps, that resonated with people so much that they were finding us afterward to thank us, tell us what a great idea it was, and that they would donate and make their own postcards! We were happy with the outcome.
Please note that these are all Georgia organizations, mostly Atlanta-based, but a simple Google of similar organizations in your area can be done if you want to support local as well.
Remember, we are all learning here. We, as white people, can hold each other accountable, and we can help teach each other. Please do not bother your Black friends, and certainly not Black strangers, with your questions. I’m here as a resource, and so is Google. Today, reflect on your mistakes, take action, and donate. Tomorrow we will work our way through another way to help.
I’m a shower shaver. Always have been. I remember learning to shave my legs in a tub of luke-warm water, after years of being tormented about my long, black leg hair by my sister, while my mother refused to let me near a razor. I was in fifth grade when I eventually stole my mom’s razor, sat in a tub for much longer than I should have and contemplated it. Then I just did it. My mom got mad. My sister laughed. I was bleeding from knee to ankle, but I was proud, so proud of my smooth legs. Now I wish I had never picked up a razor.
Shaving my legs, tweezing my eyebrows, waxing my mustache, Jesus, I’m so over all of it. I wish I was so body positive that I could stand proudly and say, Fuck you, World! While I flip the world the bird, and my mustache blows in the wind like Tom Selleck’s. But alas, I succumb to societal beauty standards, well some of them, like waxing, shaving, plucking, and zapping unwanted hair. Bleh.
The day we signed the papers on our current home my vision was clouded by the master bathroom. It’s beautiful. Small, but mighty. There’s only one small vanity and a toilet, but there is this wonderful shower! It is all glass, with stone floors (the bathroom itself has heated floors), and artful tile work throughout. It is floor to ceiling and has all the fancy accouterments that a shower should have. And it’s huge! It easily fits Jerimiah and me. Or Duke and Jackson and me, when we are in swimsuits trying to scrub mud from Duke’s legs while he attempts to run through the small opening that we leave in the door to let the smell of wet dog escape. It’s perfect.
But the first time I took a shower in it I realized there was nowhere for this shower-shaver to stick her legs when I shaved. It needed a bench. So I did what anyone would do, I hopped out of the shower, threw clothes on, ran to Homegoods, and bought a bamboo shower bench. Perfect. Except, well, today was the first time since I owned the bamboo bench the I actually sat on it to shave my legs.
Listen, I’m a creature of habit. Years and years of awkwardly standing in the tub, with my leg perched on the edge has made me think this is the only way. So the first time I shaved my legs with my bamboo bench in place, I just stuck my leg up on the bench and shaved standing up like usual. Then I kept doing it.
Don’t get me wrong, I use the bench. I sit on it regularly while the hot water from my raindrop faucet drips onto my head and I think about the world. I cry on my bamboo bench. A lot. Y’all know I’m a shower cryer, I don’t have time to defend that. I cried on that bamboo shower bench the first week we lived here because I missed Charlotte and I didn’t want to live in Georgia. I cried that summer when my son was sad that we didn’t have any friends yet. I cried when my friend called with bad news about her parents. I sat on the bamboo bench and cried when that student opened fire on the UNC Charlotte campus. When they couldn’t find that little boy with autism for days. I cried on that bamboo bench when I thought we were going to be transferred to New Orleans. I cried when my son cried when a friend was being bullied at school and he realized he needed to stick up for her. I cried when the spring tornadoes sprang up the Midwest, when we had to cancel our trip home because Covid-19 was here. I cried for Ahmaud Arbery, for my state, for our country, for this world.
But today, for the first time in a year, I sat on that bamboo bench and I shaved my legs. I let the water fall on me. I didn’t cry. I just sat and shaved. I wondered about all the times I should have done this before. All the times I let my own stubbornness stop me from doing things. My own stubbornness, my own ignorance, my own self-doubt. I thought about shower-shavers. I thought about women who wish they had clean water. I thought about women who refuse to shave their legs and under arms. I thought about little girls with no mother to teach her how to do it. I thought about the good I have learned by others, but society, by my environment, and my world. And then I thought about the bad. But I didn’t cry, I just shaved my legs.
On Friday I woke up, looked at the news and knew exactly what most of my friends and family would be talking about on social media: Riots. Looting. How violence was sweeping our nation in the wake of the murder or George Floyd. My first thought was, great, here we go again. Then I thought, wait, Can I help in some way? Can I try to open a dialogue with my white family and friends about why this is happening? I’ve been trying for the last year to understand the structural racism that our country was founded on. The same structural racism that our country began with–kill the Native Americans, move them to reservations, and take their land–and kept up with like an unspoken mantra for decades. The same structural racism that made Black people a fraction of a person. That made a rich country on the backs of minorities. The same structural racism that allows us to be okay with children dying in cages at the border, today. The same that makes “Not all cops are bad” as the only proper response to the killing of George Floyd. What I know and what other white (and some Black) people don’t yet realize is that our country was founded on these idea. Keep the minorities down. And as long as we don’t talk about it, just do it, all will be well.
So I got the bright idea to let myself be on Facebook all day long. Now y’all know I have been limiting my access to Facebook to 15 minutes a day for about eight months now, and it has done wonders for my mental health. I mean I would spend all day on there. I would work with the Facebook tab open. I would compulsively check my phone all day to see if someone “liked” or commented on something. That’s how I got my news, my recipes, my pictures of cute dogs and babies. But alas, I learned you can get all those from other places, and that the less time I spend on social media the better I feel. Now I know this is not the case for some of you. We know what social media is at its worst, but at its best it can do amazing things. It’s just that I am programmed to focus on the bad stuff, so it doesn’t work for me like it might others, and that’s okay. But yesterday I asked Jerimiah (the keeper of my Facebook time) to give me access all day. He put in the password, handed me the phone, then asked if that was a good idea. Of course, I almost screamed, I’m doing good today!
What I ended up doing was getting sucked right back into the “bad.” I got sucked back into sharing my opinion on other people’s pages, who quite frankly, were not as “woke” as me? Yeah, let’s say that. White fragility is real, y’all. I’ve been reading about it, but I wasn’t sure until I read something that a Black activist wrote a few weeks ago and suddenly I was offended. All, Well how could she say that about me? How could she clump me in with those white people? She doesn’t know me, look I’m different, I have experience with this, I blah, blah, blah… Then I was like, Oh shit, I just highlighted her point exactly.
White people, especially women, get so upset when you share truth with them, so offended, that they lash out. Not all, but most. Count me as one of them. One of them who is working on not being that way. How dare we suggest white women are just more of the same? Well, how do you think it makes Black people feel when you use stereotypes on them? When our culture, our society, has taught these stereotypes. Jesus, more than half of my white friends and family aren’t even friends with a Black person. They don’t even know Black people. Or they haven’t lived in a predominantly Black community. So they only know these stereotypes and these ideas about Black culture from what they have been taught by society.
Then there were the Not All Cops Are Bad people. No one that I know, or have talked to recently has claimed all cops are bad. Matter fact, I know several people in Law Enforcement. And the people I know and am related to would probably, I’d like to think at least, stick up for people like George Floyd. But who can say. Atlanta’s Police Chief Erika Sheilds said it best, she said, “As law enforcement officers, we tend to put ourselves in the shoes of the police officer who is detaining. We have been there. We get that space. We need to stop seeing it that way. We need to step back and see the whole situation. Some people just should not police, and those people should be swiftly seen for who they are and removed.” Yeah, that’s part of the whole point. That’s why we need mental health checks, and psych evaluations on people before they become police officers. Better training, oversight committees formed by the people of the city, the very people the police are policing.
If you think about it, being a LEO is just a smaller version of a politician. They are there to serve the community, to keep people safe. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights era when police officers were tasked with spraying SILENT protestors with hoses and pelting them with rubber bullets, that suddenly police (some of them) began to see themselves as the keeper of “right” and “wrong.” We gave power to them that must be restored. Do they have a dangerous job? Absolutely. Do they get shot at in the line of service? Do they die for no reason? Yes. Yes. What does it stem from, do you think? Structural racism? Lack of mental health care for people who need it? Yes. And yes. I’ve met, had actual conversions with LEOs who truly believe they are God. Who put on the uniform and become someone else. I once knew a cop in Leavenworth, a young guy, new to the force, who was married with a baby at home. He liked to use his badge to fuck with young people, young men especially. Why? He liked to have sex with guys, but he couldn’t tell his family he was gay, so he’d use his badge to prey on young men. Should he have been policing? Uhh, no. But did people think this stand-up, married, dad was doing what he was doing? Uhh, no.
Just because someone has a badge doesn’t make them inherently good. You should hear the stories I have heard about male police officers and how they have random sex and affairs with women. Take advantage of women. Rape women in custody. Cheat on their spouses, and think it’s okay because they are “the law” and besides, don’t women always says shit like, “I love a man in uniform…” Le sigh. That sort of power can go to someone’s head. I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes. And those people should not be policing. I also think many law enforcement officers have witnessed their colleagues say and do things to Black people that is offensive, violent, etc, and have stayed silent. No one wants to piss off a co-worker. No one wants to piss off people they have to see day in and day out. But when you do you are aiding the problem. I know this is hard for people with loved ones who are LEOs to hear. I know it is hard for the “Thin Blue Line” people to hear. But it doesn’t make it less true. Think on it.
Then there are the protesters. I had a couple of people reach out, which I always prefer, and ask why I condone rioting and looting. I don’t. They just assumed that I do because I called bullshit on structural racism. I reminded people that the anger and hatred that fueled the Boston Tea Party and the rioting and looting there is now taught in school as “Patriotism.” I reminded people that last month white men walked into their state capital with Ak-47s and demanded to be able to eat at TGIFridays without a mask, and our president called them “Good people who are just angry.” Then I reminded them that if a group of people protesting at a #BLM rally turn to looting (which by the way is not the intent of the #BlackLivesMatter movement), they are “thugs” and it is “violence” not “patriotism.” Why do you think that is? I have a hunch.
Jerimiah and I sat in awe last night as we watched instigators tear down Atlanta. It was shameful to see. Damn it, Jerimiah sighed. Because he knows, like I do and a lot of us, that now people will only see this protest, this peaceful, non-violent, planned protest, as a “riot.” And I get the anger from people who say, “I don’t condone this.” Most people don’t. Most of the protesters were long gone, and their were more than enough people telling CNN reporters, as they stood outside CNN and watched the agitators break the glass windows to their office, that they do not condone this. That isn’t what it was supposed to be about.
The thing that got me was the amount of white people they were interviewing, who were A. Not from Atlanta and B. Just there to start some shit. White people busting out windows, white people screaming at the cops, white people burning the flag, which by the way, doesn’t bother me. You can hate me all you want, but I don’t give two shits about the burning of a piece of cloth. Would I do it? Probably not. Not unless I thought I had a good enough reason, like my son was killed by cops then my president didn’t give a shit, or you know, something like that. But the newscaster was all, “This is hard to watch” as two white people burned an American flag, and Jerimiah and I looked at each other and were like, This? This is hard to watch? This is the part that is hard to watch? Now we see how infuriating it must be to silently protest and be told you’re doing it wrong. You can’t kneel. You can’t burn a piece of cloth. You can’t stand with your hands up. You can’t form a chain and peacefully walk from one part of the city and then back again. You can’t call out white supremacy.
I know too many people who have watched the KKK burn down a Black church and sigh and go, “Well, what can you do?” then to sit and listen to them bitch about a Target on fire. (Eye roll). But it doesn’t matter how people protest, it’s wrong in the eyes of the US government. Unless, as mentioned before, you are a white male protesting with automatic weapons on the steps of your state capital, then you cool. Otherwise, no. No kneeling in silent protest. No walking across bridges. No burning the flag in protest. No standing in the street with your hands raised. No chanting, “I can’t breathe.” You get what I’m slinging.
I was actually really happy with the way Atlanta handled it all on Friday. And I was really happy with the protest itself. We did not go because we don’t feel comfortable going to fucking Wingstop to pick up chicken wings right now, so you won’t find me at any political rallies, but I was happy that people let their feelings out. That pastors spoke. That healing happened. But it was negated by the chaos that followed. So now we have two choices: We can either focus on the rioting, or the problem and solution. Too many of y’all wanna focus on the rioting and I get why. It’s easier. It is a cut and dry situation. They burned a cop car. That is wrong. And easy to fix. And a pretty agreeable stance. Burning cop cars is bad. Killing and imprisoning Black men, hmm, that’s harder for some of you to work out.
The last thing I saw before I turned off the television was Dr. Bernice King. She came to the press conference Mayor Bottoms held in Atlanta. Mayor Bottoms was a mother up there. “Go home,” she said. “If you love this city, go home.” Of course as I said, many of the instigators were not from Atlanta, so no, they do not love this city. Most of Atlanta was already at home, worrying about how the city would look in the morning. Then T.I. spoke, then Killer Mike, then Dr. Bernice King. She reminded people that what you miss when you use her father’s words, “A riot is the language of the unheard…” is the part about the “unheard” and as long as there is rioting, you will continue to be “unheard.” And she’s right. But, we are taught, in this white supremacy world that we live in, to accept that the murder of an unarmed Black man in daylight by a police officer as “non-violence” but looting a Target as “violence.” And until we can all get on the same page about what the “problem” is, no one will be heard. On thing is for sure about watching angry people light cop cars on fire in the middle of downtown Atlanta, we have a problem in this country, and you can’t ignore it any longer.
Listen, I shared the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quote the other day on Insta and FB. The one that said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” And a lot of people “Loved” and “Liked” it. Then when the protestors took to the street, y’all lost your voice. Got upset if someone put you in your place. Let your white fragility show. So which is it? Are you ready to speak up for all people. Black people being killed by cops. Brown people held in cages. Learn how to deal with it, learn how to combat it, learn how to better yourselves, or not? I know it is hard. I know it is hard to look at your overtly racist family member and say, “Stop. That is is not okay.” But if you don’t do it, who will?
I don’t know if I helped on Friday. I know I made my day a mess. My nerves were shot, and I just slipped into the hot tub with a glass of wine to forget it all. Isn’t that nice that I can do that? And I know I made mistakes. I know I reacted strongly to people, or didn’t truly understand what they were trying to say, all because I didn’t let it sink in. And I always welcome anyone to message me. To tell me how my words made them feel, even if it is anger. But I won’t tolerate passive-aggressive remarks, or blanket statements aimed at me. Like when the teacher yells at the whole class because they are mad at one student. Call me out on it, I don’t mind. You’ll feel better, and maybe I will have learned to see things from a different point of view. Or maybe I’ll realize you are a crazy person and unfriend you, who knows! And remember, that street goes both ways, y’all. You’ll never offend me if you need to unfriend me for your mental health. I will only respect you more.
Stay safe and sane, y’all.
Now if you have read to the bottom, thanks! And if you really want to educate yourself, and you really want to try to do better then do what I have been doing for months. Read books about how to be anti-racist. Follow accounts that teach you how to help the Black Community. I’m leaving some suggestions below.
The Conscious Kid on Instagram
Rep. John Lewis
Rachel Elizabeth Cargle
Dr. Bernice King/The King Center
Brittany Packnett Cunningham
The hashtags: #BlackLivesMatter #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd #IRunWithAhmaud #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor
The Goodnights are going on vacation! Woohoo, us! If you have been around awhile you might know we are travelers. Nothing soothes our wandering souls like a good road trip out West, or a quick flight to NYC to get some pizza and see a show. But this Covid-19 has put a real damper on traveling plans. As it sits we have five airline flights to anywhere in the US, but we are a little too risk-averse to fly right now, and well, all the places we love to visit are/were hotbeds for the Coronavirus, all except one: Table Rock Lake.
We lived on Table Rock Lake for five years in our early twenties. It was the place I first learned to swim (I was terrified most of my life to swim), it was the place we got married, got pregnant with Jackson. It’s a big lake, surrounded by small towns on the Arkansas/Missouri line, and it just so happens that my MIL owns a place right on the water. We try to get down there every summer, and for awhile it looked like we wouldn’t be able to pull it off this year, then well, we decided to try. So, I guess what I mean to say is the Goodnights are tentatively going on vacation! We are planning, but we won’t know for sure until we hit the road the day we are slated to leave. Wish us luck that things don’t change too drastically as of June 30th.
In preparation we invited the regular crew down to hang with us, including my best friend Rachel and her daughter Madi. Rachel and Madi and the rest of their family have been quarantining like us for the last 80 days or so, and are happy to continue to do so until they meet us at the lake. But because we are coming from DeKalb County, Georgia (a hotbed for the virus) and going to Southern Missouri, with family from Kansas (both places with low incidence rates of the virus) we are preparing by getting tested before we leave. The idea of even possibly putting anyone is danger horrifies us.
Because of the high-rates in our county and state (about 3,500 cases/45,000 cases) and the fact that we are not trending down (wait, what?! You guys opened like a month ago and the ‘Rona didn’t disappear?) Le sigh. Where was I? Because of high rates in our county and state, drive-thru testing is open to all residents. You don’t have to be showing symptoms, or have been exposed to anyone. All I had to do was call DeKalb County. They gave me a website to pre-register. I did it. Picked a date and time, June 5th, and boom, we are registered. We were sent a confirmation email with a QR code for each of us to bring with us to our appointment, which is actually just a ride through a church parking lot on the other side of town and boom, we are done.
We picked June 5th because we plan on leaving at the end of the month. That gives us a weekend before the test to stock up on food and essentials so we don’t have to leave the house until we head for Missouri. We have scoured the CDC and WHO websites, and we think this a “low-risk vacation,” but a little extra caution never hurt anyone. Honestly the scariest parts for me are the drive (it’s a ten-hour drive, so at least two stops for gas), the risk that we will be exposed by a family member or friend who stops by unannounced (don’t be surprised if we just wave and walk away, we love ya, but we didn’t quarantine for 80 days for you to roll up and hug us without a mask on), and/or exposing the people back home to something we picked up along the way. So this isn’t really a stress-free vacation, but it’s the best we can muster at this point.
So there you have it. Our tentative, stressful, summer vacation! I’m excited, and nervous, and prepping like mad, but I think it will be totally worth it to see our people.
Poof! Elementary school is over. I’m sitting here in a bit of a haze, trying to remember how it all started. The day I dropped him off for Kindergarten, kissed my husband bye in the school parking lot, then drove to Walmart, alone, crying. Then proceeded to sit in the car at Walmart, alone, and cry. I wasn’t used to being alone. I was used to my little 50-pound shadow following me everywhere I went. I was used to arguing about whether or not he could ride in the cart. Used to having to hit the toy aisle to look at Hot Wheels, when all I needed was milk and bread. Used to a little voice coming from the backseat to ask, “Can we stop for ice cream if I’m good?” Of course we stopped for ice cream. Of course he was always good.
Today when I do a Target run he says he doesn’t want to go. He’d rather log onto Minecraft with friends. But then right before I walk out the door he comes running up, throws his arms around me. “Mommy, bring me back something,” he will say. It’s pretty different now, but also pretty much the same. Now I have a 100-pound shadow. This shadow follows me around to tell me about YouTube videos and this “sick” arrest he made in this “pretty cool” cops and robbers game on Roblox. Now I have to remind my 100-pound shadow to wear deodorant, to do the dishes, to figure out where that smell is coming from in his room. And I hear it only gets worse.
Friday morning we all gathered around the living room television to watch the live stream of Jackson’s Fifth Grade Graduation. Jackson wore a suit, with my cap and gown on top of it. Jerimiah wore a button-up, I donned a summer dress. We watched for an hour as the teachers and administrators shared touching memories, heartfelt messages, and love, so much love, with the only class in the school’s history to not have a Fifth Grade Graduation on stage. It was different, but also the same.
Jackson won several awards, including being named a DeKalb County Board Scholar, along with five other fifth graders. He is one of the smartest, the brightest, of the group. Of course we didn’t need an award to tell us that, but it was nice to be recognized for all the hard work. His hard work, our hard work as parents, and his teachers’ hard work as well. For being a kid that went to four different elementary schools, in four different districts, in three different states, you certainly would never know it. He’s been steadfast about two things: Making friends and doing his best, and that has been abundantly clear over the last few months. His friends blow up his phone all day with messages, emails, FaceTimes, and then there are the cards that arrive in the mail from different places. We shouldn’t be surprised, but sometimes we are.
Mr. Budd read a poem to his class this afternoon and it was the only time that I wanted to cry. The past two months have been a blur of activity and of hard work. Of moving from one fire to another, but the hardest part was stopping myself every time I made a decision about my son. Was this going to be good for him? Help in some way? Do I make him structure his day like school? Take breaks? Get it all done in one setting? Do I let him play Minecraft for four hours on a Tuesday while he Facetimes a friend? Of course the answer to that one is yes, because I have a social child who needs interaction. He saw his classmates six hours a day, now he could sit in isolation all day long if I let him, but I refuse to do that. I don’t want him to be lonely, to feel left behind. I want him to know that there is a wide world of people out there just like him, and hopefully they have parents that understand this too. The poem reminded me of this. Reminded me of the way we are all probably feeling from time to time right now. Alone, without a clear path. The poem Mr. Budd read was Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. The last two lines go like this, “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely/the world offers itself to your imagination/calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–/over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”
We have a running joke in the house. Jackson was working on a project early in the school year and as usual his mind was working quicker than his mouth and he was trying to say, “I’m in fifth grade” and “I’m a fifth grader” at the same time and he blurted out, “I grade five!” We all cracked up. And all year whenever he thinks too hard, or gets frustrated with himself because he thinks he can’t “get” a math question, we stop and say, “I grade five!” It gets us back on track. Let’s us laugh. Slow down a minute. Reminds us that we are all in this together. That we have each other. It means love. So yeah, we are proud of this kid of ours beyond measure. And yeah, we hope that his successes in elementary school equate to big successes in life, but we know there will be struggles along the way. We know there will be crying in parking lots. There will be hours upon hours of virtual playdates. We will feel lonely. He will feel lonely. Because we know this isn’t fifth grade anymore. But we are ready.
We love you, Jackson. We are so proud of you. We hope you always listen to the geese.
My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Albright, was sorta a hot mess. At least that is what I thought of her in fourth grade. She seemed a little scatterbrained, when in reality I think she was one of those people whose brains worked faster and harder than she could communicate her thoughts. Plus, she was a fourth grade teacher at a Title One school in the middle of Leavenworth, Kansas, she had other troubles. Jackson’s fourth grade teachers were absolute saints and you won’t change my mind. And he had several of them.
We were still in Charlotte, still at Mallard Creek STEM when fourth grade started, and he got Mrs. Duggins, the teacher I had met at the end of the school year, heard amazing things about, and decided I wanted Jackson to have. I tried to figure out how I could to that, but you have to remember I was new at this school, not well known, and my pull wasn’t that great. But I did know people… Anywho, you know the deal, he got the teacher I wanted him to get, she had some smart kids, and he even tested right into the “Gifted” program during the first week of school, which means he also had a new teacher, Mrs. Campbell. And she was THE BEST!
At this point at Mallard Creek STEM we already knew most of the other teachers, and had our favorites, like the STEM teacher Mrs. Chambers, who introduced Jackson to Lego Robots and his first foray into the STEM Club. Matter fact, in Mrs. Duggins class they had their very own 3D printer! Right there in the classroom! This was a very tech-savvy group of teachers, and Jackson fell right into line with them.
The only problem was that we knew by mid-november we would not be finishing fourth grade there. We had already been told we would be moving to the Atlanta Metro, and I had already started freaking out. Two moved in less than two years! AHHHHH! But Jackson took it all in stride. We often reminded him that had we not left St. James, he wouldn’t have all these awesome new friends, nor would he have been in a school play, or be able to 3D print in his classroom! He recognized his luck and began the process of leaving again.
Before we left though, we did some cool field trip, made some kick-ass robots, and secured some lifelong friends, as one does.
In December of fourth grade, Mrs. Duggins had her baby, and went out for maternity leave. This threw a small wrench in the plan, but I was already very involved with the classroom, I was a room-parent again, and Jackson had a steady stream of work with Mrs. Campbell keeping him busy. Plus their long-term sub, Mrs. Kinney, was sweet and smart and funny, so it all worked out. Jackson became her “tech guy” always getting her connected to what she needed to connect to and generally fixing glitches around the classroom.
Truth be told, Jackson did most of the year there. We didn’t move to Georgia until April 1, 2019 which was the first day of spring break down here, so he only did about seven weeks of school in his new Georgia school, but it was just long enough to make some friends and make a name for himself as a funny, smart, trustworthy guy, which made his transition into fifth grade much easier. In fact, we had only been there for six weeks when I was asked to help out in the classroom, which also made my transition into a room parent easy for fifth grade as well. The more you know… stars and what not.
Mrs. Butler was his fourth grade teacher at Midvale, and she was young and sweet and totally reminded me of Miss Honey from Matilda. As soon as we saw her we looked at each other and Jackson mouthed, “Miss Honey.” I was all, “I know right?!” She turned out to be just as sweet, albeit a little overwhelmed, and she recognized Jackson’s potential pretty early on, which is usually the mark of a great teacher. Though we didn’t get to know her much, we are appreciative of the time she gave to Jackson, and the trust she instilled in us from the beginning.
There you have it, fourth grade. Short, but long. Long, but short. Five important teachers, two schools, and two states. It was much easier than fifth grade, and the whole mess we found ourselves in over the last few months. Though to be fair, it wasn’t so bad. Sad that we missed so much, or feel like we did, but we are healthy, we are safe, and so are all of our friends, so we count ourselves lucky. We hope you are safe too.
I was born and raised in Kansas. But not the kind of Kansas you’re thinking of. I wasn’t Dorothy, living on a pig farm with my aunt and uncle. I didn’t know any farm hands, I didn’t run to the cellar when the twisters came (we ran to an interior closet, because we could never afford a house with a basement), and I didn’t have any ruby red shoes. Rather I grew up in Leavenworth, a small albeit diverse* town, in the statistical Kansas City-metro area. I was born in one of the two hospitals in town. I attended Leavenworth public schools (mostly Title One schools), and I graduated from Leavenworth High School with a class of about 1200 kids. My best friends in first grade were two little white girls, two little Black girls, and a boy from Pakistan whose dad was an officer in the Indian Army, and was stationed at Fort Leavenworth that year for Combined Army and Services Staff School or CAS-Cubed. So no, it wasn’t Oz or anything like that.
When I was 21, Jerimiah and I moved to Southern Missouri to live at the resort his parents bought on Table Rock Lake. Like really, really Southern Missouri. We lived about four miles from the Arkansas line, and had many run-ins with what I’ve come to know as “Hill People.” We spent five years on Table Rock Lake, where I couldn’t tell you that I ever saw a person of any skin tone other than white (other than our friends we worked with in Branson). We moved into Branson for the first five years of Jackson’s life, where at least it was a little more diverse. Still, we knew it wasn’t the place we wanted to raise our son. Southern Missouri is not reflective of real life, and we never wanted our son to stay there, so we figured we best move somewhere with a little more diversity.
We ended up in Denver, North Carolina because my brother-in-law said it was nice. And it was, but it was more of the same. White. Middle-class. Lake. Boats. Second homes. Sub-divisions. We lived there for nearly four years before we moved to Charlotte and actually lived the sort of life we wanted for our son. He finally had a diverse set of friends, he was in a Charter School during that time, but it was racially, economically, and academically diverse. We liked our little Charlotte neighborhood, and we were happy. Then we got the news we needed to move again. This time to Atlanta.
We’ve been in the Atlanta-metro area for a year now. We are in a small, diverse town on the edge of the Perimeter, which is the highway that runs around the city. We are twenty minutes from downtown. We can catch a bus, ride the MARTA, or Uber to one of the busiest airports in the world with great ease. We have everything we need here, and we are happy. But there is one little thing: Racists. And I’m not talking about the men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery. That is a different kind of racism, and it is my opinion that the man who pulled the trigger should die. The others should serve life. But I am not the judge, nor am I the jury. (Don’t worry I’m not gonna pull some “Jesus is Lord” shit here, I’m saying I am not actually in charge and my opinion doesn’t matter, but I hope the GBI does right by Ahmaud.) The kind of racism I’m talking about here is the kind of racism you find up the road in a town like Cumming, Georgia. It’s covert, not overt.
Cumming has a population of less than 10,000 and no, they are not all racists. I’m sure there are some fine people in Cumming, Ga I don’t know them. I don’t know anyone there because I have never been there, because I refuse to go there because the things I know about the city are not good. I’ve heard about “Sunshine Laws” in Cumming. You might have heard of Cumming from a story that Oprah did on the town in 1987. It’s known for it’s racism around these parts, and even if it is on Lake Lanier I’m just not interested in knowing “that part of Georgia.” The problem is Cumming isn’t a stand-alone, small Georgian town full of racism and unchecked bias. Cumming seems to me, in the year I have spent traveling through the state, to be normal. And it isn’t just Georgia.
We spent six weeks last year in Louisiana. We drove down there on three separate occasions and stayed for two weeks at a time. We drove through places like Birmingham and Biloxi, sure. But we also drove through towns like Newnan, and Opelika, and Chickasaw, and D’Iberville, and Thibodaux and I promise they are all more of the same. Covert, overt, unchecked aggressions and bias, and everything in between. Here read this blog post I wrote about Baton Rouge, or this one, or this one. I tried to share what I was seeing and hearing. The rampant racism that sits just under the surface and is ALWAYS present there is present all over the South. It is present in every, single state in The South, and I’m not saying it isn’t in every state in our country, it’s just so much more pronounced here, that it is hard to look away from.
It is present in my county, DeKalb county, where statistically speaking we are minorities. The Black people in DeKalb County make a lot of money. A lot of it. We are the second richest county in the country with a predominantly Black population. But guess what is here, covert and overt racism, unchecked aggression, and bias. Cause it doesn’t matter if you have money or not. It doesn’t matter if you are educated. It doesn’t matter if you are the kindest person ever. It doesn’t matter if you are small business owner, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company in Atlanta, there are people who will hate you if you are Black and there is nothing you can do about it. And some people truly don’t know this. Some privileged white people really think racism is under control here, and they are walking around trying to save face with the rest of the country, but friends there is no face to save.
As I said, I’ve lived in some different places. Some backwards sorta places, where people chase their lost donkeys in the middle of the night, then smoke meth all day, and still the racism here, in Georgia, in The South, is the worst I have seen in any place I have ever lived. And it is sad. And scary. And unfortunately what happened to Ahmaud is not unique down here, and we all know that. And I think everyone needs to know that. We need to know it, discuss it, and deal with it.
Stay safe, y’all.
*I’m not doing that thing white people do when they say “diverse” and just mean “more Black people” I mean truly diverse when I use the word. Ethnically, culturally, spiritually, educationally, and economically, and yes, varying races represented in the community. That’s the ideal place for us, and one similar to where I grew up.
Soooo, how’s everyone doing? Me? Oh well, thanks for asking. I’m sitting here at my desk, staring out my window at the beautiful sunny skies, listening to the birds chirping and the cars whizzing by wondering why in the hell you would actually go eat INSIDE a Waffle House today?! Yep. Uh huh. Welcome to Georgia. Where everything is made up and the points don’t matter. But, to be fair, it’s more than just the Waffle House opening up, it’s also bowling alleys and theaters. And if you do have the emotional or mental capacity to leave your house for dinner and a movie (who are these people, and what kind of anti-depressants are they on?!) then you know you are safe because you they can only sit four deep at the Waffle House counter. Whew, glad someone is taking this all seriously.
Also, just so we are clear, the servers are wearing gloves and masks at the Waffle House, but can I be real for a minute? Shouldn’t the servers at the Waffle House ALWAYS be wearing masks and gloves? I mean, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing I like more than drinking so much gin that my inhibitions are way, way down, then getting turnt on some OJ and fried eggs at the Waffle House. In fact, 20-something Missy lived and died by WH. But, umm, I still always knew I ran the risk of picking up Hep-b in the bathroom while I was there, and I still used caution. Now you throw in a global pandemic and whaazzzzy, whaazzzzy, wha?!
I’m picking on the WH here but it’s because this is Georgia and people literally cried when the WH closed up shop last month, but truly this is the nuttiest thing I have seen in a while. People actually leaving their house, amid 23,500 cases in our state, with nearly 1,000 deaths, and hitting up the movies and going bowling. Like, I just don’t get it. And the beaches, please don’t get me started with the beaches. Y’all know we love to travel. In fact, I’m simultaneously planning three vacations in my mind right now (a trip “home,” a trip to Southern Cali, and a long weekend in Savannah) but you can bet your ass I haven’t actually booked any airfare, or started looking at hotels. Because shit, y’all. It’s gonna be awhile.
I know there are people who are just trying to get back to work. I know that. Small business owners, or you know, Shake Shack, are really trying to cash in on that money, but it isn’t coming. But to be fair, aren’t their employees making more money on unemployment right now, then if they were working? And don’t they have a “rainy day” fund? Like, certainly they don’t want the government to keep bailing them out, that’s, that’s, SOCIALISM!
I think I’m gonna stop. Take some deep breathes. Pour myself a glass of wine at three o’clock in the afternoon, and sit on the deck and listen to the birds. And the squeal of the tires in and out of the local Waffle House. Be safe, y’all. And STAY THE FUCK AT HOME.
As some of you might know, we had big plans for travel this year. We started the year out with a fun trip to New England for New Year’s, and had a trip planned to Kansas City in March, and one to Florida for Spring Break. But of course all that was cancelled because of the worldwide pandemic. So instead, during Jackson’s spring break last week, we camped out in our backyard! Well, technically we camped out in our sun porch, because, well, I’m not a “camping” kinda girl. And Jerimiah is not a “camping” kind of guy. And Jackson is not a “camping” kind of kid. But we do like s’mores, backyard games, and watching Saturday Night Live as a family, so we compromised.
The sun porch offered the shelter from the cold (it got down into the 40s the night we camped out), and the rain (there was a slight chance), and did I mention that we brought a television out to watch the SNL At Home edition? Duh. We weren’t going to miss that. But otherwise it was a lot like camping! (Except for the hot tub, our own bathroom, and the aforementioned “extras”). Yeah, we totes sun-porch camped!
First we had to set the tent up. This was all Jerimiah and Jackson, while the dogs and I supervised. I think camping is a waste of time, generally, because of the all the set-up, the tear-down, and the amount of money you spend just to “save money” camping. (I’m more of a “rent a log cabin in the woods” kinda gal, especially if you only camp for a weekend. I can see the point if you are somewhere for a week or more, but geez, it’s a lot of work to cook your food on the ground and swat away mosquitos. I can do that in my backyard.) And this was no exception. But Jackson was so pumped about it, so I was like, “Yay! Camping!” I was a little surprised we even had a tent and a blow-up. mattress.
After we were all set up in the tent, we started making dinner. Grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, uh duh. Then ate on the deck. At this point it was in the mid-70s, sunny, and nice. We had big plans for the night that included a fire pit and the hot tub, so we were hoping it would cool down. Don’t worry, it did. It cooled way down.
After dinner it did start to cool down so we started the fire pit. We are not 100% sure of the “open fire” restrictions in our county, Jerimiah read them a bunch but still couldn’t decide if a fire pit was legal or not. But we would be amazed if a fire pit is illegal, so we ran with it. Only when we heard massive firetrucks whizzing by did we get frightened, but turned out it wasn’t for us. Thank goodness the neighbors didn’t call the cops on us. S’mores were a go!
As the night calmed down, we talked a lot, ate more s’mores, and enjoyed the fire. The dogs played, Jackson played with the dogs, then we had our own game of “manhunter” in which I was a fugitive hiding from the law at a national park, and Jackson had to arrest me. I wish I were kidding. Later, when Jerimiah and I were in the hot tub, Jackson even changed into what he thought an undercover National Park Ranger/Detective would wear. Hilarity ensued. I went screaming through the backyard, dogs biting at my heels, Jackson chasing me, threatening to “tase” me, and Jerimiah watching in disbelief. This is when the neighbors should have called the cops.
Finally we talked the detective/ranger into joining us in the hot tub, by promising we wouldn’t break any more laws that night. Even though I was drinking White Claws and you know what they say about that, “Ain’t no laws, when you’re drinking Claws…”
After a refreshing dip, we headed back to the yard to play Washers and talk more around the fire pit. Family bonding at it’s finest. It was like we haven’t been in the same house together for a month…
Around 10:30 we put the fire pit out and headed into the sun porch. It was cold in there. We had left the fan on, and the temperature had dropped. Couple that with my Claws buzz was wearing off, I needed some blankets. So jerimiah pulled the sun porch blinds down, stuck the canopy on the tent, and put socks on my feet. I wish I were kidding. He’s too good to me.
Then we had a dance party, because that’s what Jackson wanted to do. In it he taught us how to do “The Scarn” which is a fictitious dance, by a fictitious character, based on a fictitious movie, played by a fictitious office manager on The Office. For real.
Afterward we got all cozied up inside the tent (well I did, with the dogs) and watched the At Home Edition of SNL, which was amazing! They did a great job. Then it was time for bed, so we all snuggled up for the night.
And then we all fell into a wonderful, quiet night of sleep! Just kidding! It was freezing cold, our air mattress apparently has a slow leak, and Jackson was unable to sleep because it was the night before Easter and the damn Easter bunny was set to come. So, yeah, it was like every, single night camping I have ever had. It was a hellish nightmare and I simply don’t want to do it again. But the next night, ahhh, we slept in our own bed again.
There you have it, backyard camping. That’s what you asked about, right? Silly me, you didn’t ask for anything. You never do. You are a giver, not a taker. And I love you. Now go forth and backyard camp. Can’t you see how fun it is?
Three months ago we were planning a trip to Florida for spring break. We were deciding which Disney parks we wanted to visit. We decided just Epcot and Magic Kingdom, maybe a stopover at Legoland, since Universal is still out. (Jackson hasn’t finished the Harry Potter series yet. We are on the last book as a family, but that’s the deal, we have to finish it before we go to Universal. We read at a pace he sets, so honestly this is on him.) But none of that matters because Florida is closed. Well, unless we want to go to church. Or to a gun store. Or to Publix. But I think we will skip all that nonsense. So what are we doing now? We are deciding where to camp in the backyard. For real. Things are a little smaller and slower now.
Traditionally we have spent time with loved ones during spring break or gone to a really cool place, like NYC. Last year we had just moved to Georgia during spring break, so we spent the week unpacking our house and getting pumped up for a new school. This year we thought would be totally different and fun. We were wrong. I mean different? Sure! A worldwide pandemic is different, but fun… Well, we are working on it.
It’s been three weeks now of hanging at home together, and although virtual learning is a real thing that has been happening, our days have been a mixture of games, and walking the neighborhood, and doing nice things for our community, and cleaning. Ah the dreaded cleaning. Jerimiah is still working, which means (even though he sets up shop most days at our dining room table) he still has stuff to do most hours of the day between 8am and 5pm. Jackson, on the other hand, has been finishing his school work in record time on account of the whole “he doesn’t have classmates causing distractions” thing. It’s amazing what he can get done in a short amount of time when his friends aren’t sitting next to him chatting about Minecraft.
Which means he’s been FaceTiming friends and playing Roblox with them. Or Minecraft, or dutifully taking part in whatever “fun project” I have come up with that day. Then there’s been the deep cleaning of his room. The yard work we’ve been doing (for real, I’m sunburned from it. It looks like I actually just came back from the beach, but alas no. I’ve just been pruning and what not.) The most fun has indeed been sitting in the hot tub at night listening to music while we relax our tired muscles and talk about what we will do and where we will go when we can in fact, go again. Current favorite plan: Southern California with friends in the fall!
Until then, we think we have a solid spring break plan. Backyard campout. Maybe in the tent, maybe just pulling the blowup mattress into the sunporch (which we spent an entire afternoon cleaning, so much damn pollen). S’mores on the table top fire pit? Sure! Ghost stories? Absolutely! Card games and a cookout? You betcha! All in the comforts of our own home. Uh huh! This might be a new tradition. Who knows! If nothing else, it’s the best we can come up with and it’s fairly exciting, so let’s do this!
“I’ll tell you what…” What, Missy? That’s what my Mom says, she says, “I’ll tell you what…” usually followed by something Dr. Phil said on t.v. or how mad she is at Trump. (My Mom’s a secret Democrat, shh, don’t tell anyone. She voted for Hillary.) My Mom also says things like, “Shit! Ope! I didn’t mean to say that.” Cause she’s a Baptist. But when I was a kid she used to say things like, “Well fuck me runnin’,” and “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.” I don’t know about that last one. What are you even talking about today, Missy? I don’t know. Listen, I don’t know you guys. I just got off the phone with my mom and she said “I’ll tell you what, Dr. Phil said mothers should be paid $100,000 a year salary, and if that ain’t the truth.” That’s another of Mom’s lines, “If that ain’t the truth…well then I don’t know what is.”
I think what you are seeing now is a small glimpse inside my brain and how it is functioning nowadays. It’s off kilter. To say the least. I think probably everyone’s is. My husband’s is. My son’s is. My Mom’s is. It’s mainly stress-induced, yeah? And we are all battling it. If you aren’t battling it right now, then you just aren’t paying attention. This is a trying time. A chaotic, miserable, traumatic time, and if you are getting up everyday, opening up the blinds, reaching out by telephone or text to someone, saying hello to a neighbor when you check the mail, actually walking to the end of the driveway or the end of the porch to check the mail, well then, you’re doing it! Look at you! You’re making it work. Because this sucks, y’all. There’s no way around it. And if that ain’t the truth…
Yesterday Jackson painted small birdhouses that I had bought eons ago and stashed away for a rainy-day art project. He painted them and rode his scooter around the neighborhood sticking them on front porches to brighten up our neighbors’ days. We hope it worked to put a smile on their faces, but what it really did was brighten up our day. Then I shared pictures of him doing it on Instagram to hopefully brighten up friends’ days. I hope that worked too. I’ll share them now with you guys too.
We also started painting rocks to hide for kids to find on our walks, because we have been walking everyday and everyday we see families out and about with small ones, burning off energy. Today we started another family art project. Because art seems to bring us back to center. I think it does a lot of people, if you let it.
Our governor finally did the right thing this week, and he announced a shelter-in-place order, and he announced that we won’t be going back to school this year. And I know, man I know, it’s tough for kids, espeically my kid. My kid, who’s been to three elementary schools and who really wanted to finish strong at this one, with the best teacher, and the coolest, smartest, kindest classmates anyone could ask for. But we are making it work, and we know it’s sad that they won’t have a fifth-grade graduation or a fifth-grade day ‘o’ fun, but it’s okay. It’s one more way we are learning about selfless acts, and helping the greater good. Fifth grade is turning out to be a massive learning experience.
So that’s the bright side, yeah? The one I’m looking at anyway. The learning, the loving, the community that is going on around us. I’ll tell you what, we are watching our world change, in real time, and it’s scary, and sad, and traumatizing on the bad days. But on the good days, it’s an exercise in patience, in kindness, and in love. Geez, if that ain’t the truth.
Today is our one year anniversary of living in Georgia, and I’m happy to report that things have gone much better than expected. When we got the news about 18 months ago that we were headed to the Atlanta-metro for Jerimiah’s work, I had an actual, fucking breakdown, y’all. Georgia?! I mean really?! We already lived in North Carolina, the plan was to go further north, not further south. Like, ever. Plus, we had visited Altanta, exactly once, and swore we’d never go back. Le sigh. Life is funny, isn’t it.
April 1, 2019 I watched as my son and husband climbed into the car and headed south, then I went to Denver, NC (the place we lived for four of our five years in North Carolina) one last time. I had to see my dentist to finish my “procedure” that had taken months to get done. (I had a tooth implant put in and that day my favorite dentist in the whole world was actually cementing the implant in place.) So the last thing I did in North Carolina was grab coffee from my favorite DD, then I head south to my new home.
When I got here I was overwhelmed to say the least. It is difficult. Sitting alone in my empty house, boxes stacked up all around me, chaos and clutter. Orchestrating movers, and trampoline setter-uppers. Signing paperwork that never ends. Enrolling your kid into a new school system, all while wondering how long you will be here, yeah, it was tough. But this year has been totally worth all of it.
First there are the people we have met. The cool, awesome, kind, welcoming people. I learned about what I thought Southern Hospitality was in North Carolina, then I really learned what it was in Georgia. The Charlotte area has a semi-Southern Hospitality vibe, Georgia, well they live and breathe it. They welcome you, first thing. Ask where you are from, what you like to do. Invite you to join their communities, their churches, their friend circles. I had to work my ass off to meet people in North Carolina, in Georgia it felt sort of like I inherited them. Like it was my right when I moved into the neighborhood. It’s sorta nice. It’s actually, really nice.
Charlotte is a great place. Don’t get me wrong, and I actually love it and would probably move back tomorrow if given the opportunity. And I will fight anyone who says otherwise, and people have said otherwise, even close friends, but I stand my ground. Charlotte has all we need, without the hassle of “big city” living. But I have to say, Altanta has even more. A lot more. And we are just now, a year into this whole Georgia thing, discovering it.
Next is the school system. I know, I know, everyone is partial to their system, but Jackson was in three elementary schools. THREE! And the one he is in here in Georgia is THE BEST we have been in, hands down. And the school he is in is a Title One school! Gasp! (Did I ever tell you guys about his first elementary school, and how the other parents talked about the Title One school down the road? I should have known then.) Anyway, it’s also an IB-STEM school. The only one in the state. And it’s also a popular school for School Choice, which is another cool thing they do in Georgia. Even if you don’t live in our neighborhood you can go to school at Jackson’s school. How cool is that? Giving other kids a fighting chance. It’s also the MOST diverse school Jackson has ever attended, with kids from 50+ countries. It’s great, we love it and are sad that his fifth grade year has been cut short with Covid-19, but whatcha gonna do? Even the virtual learning is top-notch. I can’t say enough about his school and the school system in DeKalb County.
Then there is the city itself. It is rife with history. So much history. And people are eager to talk about it, eager to share their stories, and the stories of the people and generations before them. You just have to find it.
Then there’s all the cool stuff. The amusement parks, zoos, aquariums, Centennial Park where the Olympics were held. There’s so much to do in Atlanta that it makes your head spin just thinking about it. And the people are friendly and cool. The art scene is amazing. The city itself diverse in a way that scares most people who aren’t from ’round these parts (mainly racists). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if you don’t like Atlanta it’s because you haven’t spent enough time here (guilty!) Or you’re a racist. The traffic isn’t a real excuse to not like it, all big cities have horrible traffic, so stop with that nonsense and just admit you’re a racist.
(Stepping off high horse.)
So there you have it. The first year of life in the ATL has been so much better than we could have ever imagined, and to top it off, we just found out that Jerimiah is being promoted within the metro area, so we are here for a longer time than we thought we would be. (Had a scare a couple of months ago and thought we might have to move to Florida! Yikes!) But no, we are buckling down here, and we couldn’t be happier.
Thanks Georgia, for your welcoming spirit, your abundant opportunity, and your stone-cold awesomeness. Remember, home is where you shit is. Thanks for welcoming us home, Atlanta.
I’ve always been partial to living in the city. So close that I can feel the heartbeat of the place. I never knew why. I was born and raised in a small town in Kansas. At least that’s what I tell people, but since I’ve left Leavenworth I’ve realized how much it wasn’t a “normal” small town, like other places I have lived since. Or like the place my husband grew up, or friends who tell me stories about the same 25 kids they went from elementary through high school with. When I was growing up in Leavenworth I felt stifled. But I’m learning it was more about my fear of never breaking the poverty cycle. Of never striking out to other places, meeting new faces, tacking chances. I didn’t want to fall in a rut, stay put, never grow as a person.
But Leavenworth itself wasn’t too bad of a place to grow up in. There was plenty of diversity and culture (for Kansas anyway) and it was a short 20 miles to Kansas City (Missouri or Kansas, take your pick). It had museums (if you took the time to find them), multiple elementary, middle, and high schools. Private and public. It had Fort Leavenworth, the Federal Penitentiary, and we were a cool 20-minute drive the other way to the University of Kansas. It was actually an okay place.
And because my mother rarely had a car when I was very young, we walked a lot of places. Which meant we were always near the places we needed to get to with regularity. The bank, the grocery store, the hospital (just in case) and my school. Which also means we were usually in the heart of the city. In fact, one of the coolest places we ever lived (in my opinion) was in this large house half a block from the main artery in Leavenworth, Highway 7, aka 4th Street. Here I am, standing in the front yard in an awesome bathing suit (probably had me a kick-ass Slip ‘n Slide).
I think I’ve shared this pic before, but for a different reason. Trying to figure out who that truck belonged to (I’m pretty sure it was my sister’s friend Shane) and how/why we had a Polaroid camera. Might have been Shane’s too, as she was obviously very rich with a vehicle and what not.
The house sat diagonally, as you can see, from Burger King. It also shared an alley with Kentucky Fried Chicken, where my sister worked in high school, and Taco Johns was just across the street. Why yes, I do have a weight problem, but no, I have no idea why. Also, that BK had the most KICK-ASS play place, with a ball pit! A Ball Pit! Outside! I mean yeah, it makes me shake with nervousness just thinking about it now, and I’m compulsively dowsing hand sani all over my body, but it was pretty awesome in 1987. And I’m pretty sure my mom would scrape change together on nice afternoons, enough to buy a Diet Coke, and we’d walk over, and she’d sit and sip Diet Coke while I played all afternoon in the ball pit with whatever random kids happened over. So it was sort of like my own personal jungle gym. Cool. Maybe that’s why my pain threshold is so high?
McDonalds had the only indoor play place, with one of those really cool slides and that Hamburgler-Jail thing. So when it was cold, she’d scrounge up enough change for a cup of coffee and a Happy Meal, and we’d walk the extra half mile to McDonalds to play.
I’ve spun off topic. Imagine that.
I lived in the heart of the city. That’s my point, but I’ve lived in the country too. And fallen asleep to the sound of the lake, or the sound of the frogs chirping, or the crickets singing, or the Meth heads next door out at three am looking for their horse that got loose (true story). The country is nice, for awhile, but it just isn’t my thing.
I like the bustle of the city. The ease of public transportation. The events that are always happening. The people to watch. I like the way that, if I fall asleep with my windows open on a cool, crisp spring night here in the Atlanta metro, I can be lulled to sleep by the train, or the ambulance sirens speeding to the Perimeter. It’s not the Burger King play place, but it will rightly do.
Enjoy wherever your home is right now. Just make sure to stay there until it’s safe to go out again.