School’s in Session

Well, not exactly. Not quite yet, but school around here does start on August 8th, which means we only have two weeks left of “summer” which makes me incredibly sad. I love having my kid home with me, being able to run off whenever we want to, not having to plan things, or worry about after-school rehearsals and meetings. Bleh. But alas, I’m not educated enough in some subject areas, ahem, math, I can’t do math, y’all, to home school so here we are, bent to the damn will of the public school system. Cause y’all know how I feel about private school, but that’s a whole other post.

Because school starts in two weeks our schedules have already exploded with things to do. Jerimiah and I have to work the Open House table for Band Boosters. We have school-wide beautification day, I have PTO duties, including serving an awesome breakfast for 125 teachers and staff on their first day back, and then there is the last-minute additional school clothes shopping (I know he didn’t buy enough new underwear), the cleaning out of the band boosters room, the list goes on. It’s also that time of year for other parents to start bitching about buying school supplies.

I know, I know, I’m like a broken record with this shit, but I have to be because some of y’all are like broken records with bitching about buying school supplies. You’ve also recently taken to being mean to the PTO/PTA, and saying shit like, “We need some big changes!” Then when asked how and if you will help, you suddenly disappear. That’s infuriating, but all too common. Also, another post.

Let me get back on track and just say: BUY THE DAMN SCHOOL SUPPLIES AND SHUT IT!

Now, if you are the parent of a middle schooler or higher, please DON’T actually buy the school supplies until the end of the first week of school. Those teachers will give you specific lists for their own classrooms. It is always safe, of course, to send your child to school the first week with a bag (and here I mean every day with a new bag for a new teacher) of hand sanitizer, Kleenex, and TICONDEROGA pencils. Say it with me:

TICONDEROGA!
TICONDEROGA!
TICONDEROGA!

If you are chanting the brand of pencil and it doesn’t sound like you’re summoning a sea God from an obscure society in a sci-fi novel, you are buying the wrong brand of pencil.

Dixon!
Dixon!
Dixon!

Paper Mate!
Paper Mate!
Paper Mate!

See, it’s not right.

I feel like I’ve been enlightening you all enough over the last eight years that I don’t need to explain why it has to be Ticonderoga, or why it is so important that you buy school supplies for you kids, so I won’t go into this year. You’re welcome. But I do need to remind you that I am talking to those parents who can legitimately afford school supplies, and who will probably buy them, but will bitch the whole time and just make your life and anyone who will listen for that matter, full of school-supply-buying drama. Stop! Everyone talks about you behind your back. *Raises my hand as I have been a “Mean Girl.” (We just watched that movie over the weekend for family movie night. It’s still a 10/10.)

If you are a parent who cannot afford Ticonderoga, any pencil brand will work and be appreciated. If you are a parent who cannot afford pencils, your child will be provided pencils from parents like me, who will load up Jackson’s teachers with them, as well as the teachers themselves, who know kids will need pencils so they buy them with their own money year-round. Also, there are many places to find donated school supplies. If you need help you can check out this website for ideas on who to contact. Locally, there was an enormous school supply drive for DeKalb County Schools this year, as well as a separate one for Atlanta Public Schools. Even the smallest school districts have ways to get free supplies for your children, just ask around.

I want to mention something I saw on FB the other day. FB, as you know, and I have a love/hate relationship and currently it is a hate/hate deal, but we must trudge on. The other day in a local mom group I saw a mother ask what it is exactly teachers “do” with plastic bags. Let’s let that just sit there a moment. She wanted teachers to explain to her what EXACTLY they use plastic bags for. She wanted teachers to “educate” her, like teachers owe her an explanation.

Now, did I want to jump in and give a myriad of ways that teachers use plastic bags? Yes, I did. Because even as a person who is NOT a teacher, I can think of at least 10 ways elementary school teachers use plastic bags on the daily and how this particular mom couldn’t figure that out on her own and instead had to take it to the collective seemed, well, passive-aggressive to be nice.

Bitchy. That’s the word I was looking for.

She posed it as just “wondering,” just wanting to be educated on “the elementary school use of plastic bags” that she never sees again once she takes them in. The audacity of teachers to not return unused plastic bags or get her those bags back in some way or another throughout the school year! She obviously doesn’t spent enough time in the classroom or she’d see them littered all over the place. Holding take-home-books, headphones, children’s shirts they vomited on, lost teeth, etc. She also, feeling the dial of the heat she started turning on her, said she had “environmental concerns.” *Side eye.*

Stop.

Stop.

Stop.

If your kids teachers asks for five gallon-sized boxes of plastic bags, just get your ass to Sam’s Club and shut up, middle-class moms.

If y’all remember (raising my hand) I was a free-lunch kid. I had a parent who was generally unable to buy the whole list of school supplies, though she often put a layaway on at K-Mart at the end of one school year for supplies for the next, that’s planning and thinking ahead! Even then, my school supplies were always off-brand. I got RoseArt Crayons, y’all. RoseArt.

But the thing I remember more than the shame of RoseArt Crayons, was the kids who came into class empty handed on the first day of school. The kids worse off than me. I was in a Title One school, there were kids worse off than me. So, I always slipped those kids something. A pack of pencils, or some erasers. Something to let them do the march up to the teacher’s desk with a school supply. I knew our situation and I felt shitty for it, so much shame, y’all. So I can only imagine what the kids worse off than me felt like.

All I’m saying here is that we all find ourselves in different difficulties in life, but when it comes to our kids and school supplies, stop talking about it with them around. Again, if you can’t buy school supplies, your kids will be okay, they will be provided. If you can and you just walk around bitching about it, stop. Kids see and hear all of this, then they take it into the classroom with them.

YOU bitching about supporting YOUR KIDS’ teachers sits there in the subconscious. Teaches them that their teachers don’t deserve their support, and that has far-reaching consequences. It also sits on their hearts and is reflected back at the kids who couldn’t support teachers in that way, either positively or negatively.

I think that is all I have to say today. This has in fact been my annual bitching about parents who bitch about school supplies. And I feel better.

Stay safe and sane, y’all,

M.

MFnA, Y’all

Whew, it’s been a whirlwind kind of summer so far. I haven’t even been here on the old blog in several months and it shows. It’s looking a little shabby around here. Sorry about that, but thank you for your continued support even in my absence. I’ve received at least two comments telling me that they could optimize my platform or something like that and one more calling me an “asshole,” which I mean, I should take offense to, but it is slightly accurate as of late so Imma let it slide.

Well then, how the hell have you all been? Good I hope, all things considered. I have nothing enlightening to say today, only here to catch you up on some things: 1. My dogs are still crazy. 2. It’s hot as shit in Atlanta right now and 3. I’m officially finished with grad school, all school actually, and at the end of the month I graduate, earning my second masters degree, but honestly this is the good one.

Yep, it’s official. My 150-page thesis, a collection of short stories set in the Ozarks, is off to the Trappist Abbey Monks to be bound, my signature pages are signed, all assignments are completed and as far as the world is concerned I’m officially: Melissa Goodnight, MFA. Though because of my friend Andrew and his absurdly wonderful outlook on life, I will only sign my emails, Melissa Goodnight, MFnA because really that’s more inline with the truth of things.

There is actually a ton more going on in my life than finishing up grad school, but there’s a ton going on in everyone’s life right now so I’m gonna spread my shit like a Roomba that got hold of the puppy’s accident, that is to say I’ll gonna make a trail of shit over the next several weeks to keep you all updated.

And also, you are welcome for that visual.

Wow, I really did miss you all and I’m super glad to be back. Back to having free time to write on my blog, back to reading what I want to read, and back to being able to make up outrageous lies for how to get out of social obligations since I can’t blame it on thesis anymore…

So as usual, stay safe and sane, y’all! Let’s talk again soon.

M.

Sexualizing Kids

Friends,

Please don’t say that you don’t agree with “sexualizing” children in relation to Florida’s “Don’t say gay” bill, because if you are a parent you know that since the age of like two, people have been sexualizing your kids, saying to you things like, “Ohh, she’s gonna break hearts!” Or “Ohh, he’s going to have so many girlfriends!”

Adults actually asked my KINDERGARTNER if he had a girlfriend. Repeatedly.

Adults actually asked my second grader if he thought “blonde girls are the prettiest!”

Adults consistently ask my middle schooler if he has kissed his girlfriend.

Are. You. Kidding. Me.

Society “sexualizes” children all the damn time in their clothes, their hair/makeup, the way they are taught to look at the other gender, etc.

So say what you really mean, “Gay people make me uncomfortable and I don’t know what to do with that emotion so I have to freak out so everyone knows I don’t like it.” Or something like that.

I actually know parents, today, who think this way, say things like, “Kids shouldn’t be ‘dating’ or discussing sex in school, that’s not why they are there,” then want their sons and daughters to go to school dances or let their kids wear attention-seeking clothes.

What do you actually think your child is talking about in middle school with their friends?! Newsflash: Sex is a topic, whether you like it or not.

Stop.

You look just as ridiculous as the adults out there sexualizing our kids. It’s bigoted and it’s hate-filled rhetoric. It’s from far-right republican leaders who lack critical-thinking skills.

Don’t be that.

Do better.

Lastly, some of y’all need reminded to love your kids for whomever they are, whomever they turn out to be. Gay, straight, trans, gender fluid, a high-school graduate, a PhD candidate. Love your kids and make sure that they know it’s okay to be who they are in their hearts.

That’s how this world gets better.

Thanks for coming to my TEDTalk.

M.

Cognitive Dissonance

Can we talk about cognitive dissonance for a sec? Cognitive dissonance is when we hold two opposing cognitions (beliefs, perceptions, opinions, etc.) at the same time and so we make excuses so we don’t have to live in that uncomfortable space.

Here’s an example that I’m pretty sure we all know:

A Lifelong Smoker: I know that smoking is bad for me, but we are all gonna die one day, amIright?! Plus, if I quit I will gain weight and that is just as bad!

It is not.

That’s classic cognitive dissonance.

The smoker knows they should quit, knows it is unhealthy and will lead to an untimely death, but they like to smoke and they are addicted and stopping is hella hard. We all do this at some point in our lives. (Not the smoking, though I certainly did when I was younger and thought it was cool!) I mean we all struggle with cognitive dissonance.

I am addicted to food. Always have been. It’s my go-to comfort and it’s why I have liver problems and it’s why I have high cholesterol and it’s why I am at risk for heart disease. Genetics play a small role, but much smaller than you’d think.

Over the last year Jerimiah and I have changed our eating habits and we are constantly side-eyeing each other’s cognitive dissonance. Like when my doc asked me to cut out red meat this Midwestern girl was all, “HOW DO YOU EXPECT ME TO LIVE?!” I absolutely said to Jerimiah, “It will make me sad and that’s just as bad as heart disease!”

It is not.

Jesus, I’m dramatic. And also full of cognitive dissonance. As if I need certain foods, drinks, or things to lead a happy, fulfilled life. Bleh.

Jerimiah is guilty of cognitive dissonance in work-related ways. Corporate America has done a number on him and he truly believes that if he is not available for certain people the world will come crashing down. He says shit like, “I have to reply to emails while on vacation or they will back up and it will be more work for me when I’m home.”

One day we discussed him telling people that when he is on vacation he will not be accepting emails and when he is back, if they still need to talk to him, they can just send another email. He thought that was ABSURD, at first. Then, not so absurd.

He knows that he needs to relinquish work to enjoy his time off, he is even quite aware that his company relies on him to never be “off work,” even when he is “off work,” but he also knows that he deserves time off fucking work! He has to have it to function properly. He hates that uncomfrotable knowledge so he says shit like, “Well the work will just pile up.” Not if you don’t let it.

Some of you are like where’s the new, interesting stuff, Missy? Because you are working on your shit. You see a therapist regularly, you read Brene Brown, you have open and honest conversations with your loved one.

But there are some of you who will be learning what cognitive dissonance is for the first time on this bleh Tuesday morning and all I’m asking is that you consider if for a bit. Because what’s worse than just run-of-the-mill cognitive dissonance is ethical or moral dissonance, and I think many of us struggle with that more often than not these days.

I’m including a short video that I found helpful in wading through all this, I hope it sparks something for you today.

As for me, I’m going to go have a whole wheat bagel with avocado instead of cream cheese because it is heart-healthy and the world is not going to implode and I am not going to live a sad sack of a life with no purpose just because I am cutting back on dairy. Yes, there was a time I thought cheese was the be all, end all to my world, but it is not.

That’s ice cream.

Have a happy, healthy day, however you do it!

M.

Be Brave!

Well I did it, I wrote my first book review and it wasn’t too bad! I mean it was horrible on account of how stressed I was about getting it right, about doing good for the book (which I LOVED) and all the things, but you know, it was good in the end. While I was writing the review last month Jackson asked me what I was doing and I told him that I was writing a book review. When he looked confused at me I explained that my professor knew someone who needed a book review and the book was about The Ozarks, where we lived for ten years, where Jackson was born actually, and she thought of me. That I had been nervous but that in the end my professor told me to, “Be brave!” and I took her advice. And now here I was stressing about this review, even though the book was great, full of history and funny anecdotes and deep, deep research on the place we loved/hated to live. He looked at me, shrugged and said, “Oh so you wrote a book report. It’s no big deal, Mommy. You’ll get an A.”

🙂

I hope I got an A.

You can read the review at the University of Mississippi Press’ book page (published with the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger) and you can buy the book here if you want to go on a wild ride.

Remember to support local, indie publishers and booksellers. And remember to Be BRAVE!

M.

Snacks, Snacks, Snacks

The other day on my sobriety post I promised to talk about how people like to pass judgement on my “dietary” choices all the time. Generally it’s because they see me, see I’m fat, and assume I am doing nothing about it and eat snacks all the time. Ho hum. This is true for a vast majority of people, others make assumptions about their eating habits because everyone thinks their choices are the best. Some people are like, “Yay for you for eating more veggies!” while others are like, “Oh my goodness, you still eat cheese, that’s disgraceful.” Okay, assholes, who asked you? Even though I no longer eat meat I still do it, I still pass judgement, not about people who eat meat, about other stupid things. Like when I see a kid’s lunchbox full of “snacks” I’m like, “Really?” Like how do you let your kid eat only snacks all day? See? I’m judgey, we all are. Maybe they can only afford that kind of food? Or maybe that kid will refuse other food and at home the parents will have that fight, but they’ll be damned if they will put that fight on the teachers at school? Or maybe they grew up poor like me and learned unhealthy habits that are super fucking hard to break and they are trying desperately to stop the cycle with their children, but they slip-up sometimes? Or maybe they don’t fucking care and their kids metabolism, their metabolism, is great and I should just mind my own fucking business? Sure, sure. It’s all possible. So I should mind my own fucking business.

Anyway, I don’t want to be accused of hating snacks! I love snacks! Always have (see above tangent). But when Jackson was small we *literally* (I put the asterisks there to make sure you know I actually mean *literally* as it is supposed to mean, not as figurative language) we *literally* did exactly what our pediatrician told us to do with him for fear that if we didn’t he would learn our horrendous eating habits. We did not feed him “real” food until he was a year old. We introduced baby food when she told us we should and we started with vegetables only. I bought organic peas and mashed them up and gave them to him. We only supplemented breast milk when we had to. When he turned a year old we *literally* (again) threw the bottle away on his birthday and switched him to sippy cups with only milk (2% because “not every baby needs whole” the pediatrician said) and water. No juice. No soda. No nothing. 2% milk and water.

When he started eating “real” food we NEVER made him “clean” his plate. Eww. That is what we had to do when we were kids, umm, weight problems because you don’t understand how to read the signals from your stomach? Youbetcha! We also never made meal times a big deal. We ate as a family at the table. That was our only grand gesture. And we did eat at the table, not in front of the television ( and our families legit thought we were weird for it, they judged us a lot.)

Whew. It was tough. Really tough. But it paid off. Jackson is totally a teenager who stops eating when he is full. He will walk away from a cheeseburger (his absolute favorite meal) after taking two bites if he picks up on that signal from his stomach. He will ask the server for a box and he will take it home to eat it later or the next day, whenever he’s legit hungry again. I am in awe of him each time he does this, I’m like, wow. I think I did that. I mean I can’t do it to save my life (I’m learning, Jerimiah and I have even been splitting meals when we eat out just to help when we can’t pick up on our signals) but just wow, you know.

What’s always been funny to me though, is that people see Jerimiah and me and then they look at Jackson (who has always, despite all the work we have done, been in the 90th percentile for weight, like since he was born, but he’s never been overweight) and they assume things about us. They assume we don’t make our kid eat healthy. They assume, when they see him with a soda or a bag of Cheetos that this is the way we live our life and it used to bother me something fierce (I guess it still does to some extent cause I’m telling y’all about it) but lately, probably because my own relationship with food is changing, I’m realizing I gotta care much less about that shit. Much less.

I think it’s just that I don’t know how to navigate this world without being a fat person and because of that, because of how the world treats fat people, I have all this shame around what I eat and what my kid eats and how I move around in this body. I look at “normal” sized people and think, wow, they must have this eating thing all figured out, but no, they don’t. They just have better genes, or grew up eating veggies first, they aren’t coming into middle age with this weird deficit that Jerimiah and I are. We have to start considering everything we eat, all we do to keep ourselves healthy because of where we are coming from, meanwhile some people just don’t. They don’t have to constantly talk about it or think about it, and when we do it makes them uncomfortable. That must suck for them, but not as much as it sucks for us.

I know a person who 100% drinks hard liquor most nights of the week, but who has 100% told me that I don’t eat enough fruit. Did I want to slap the shit out of that person, sure? Did I? No, it was a family reunion and that felt like it would cause too much drama, you know? But that was old Missy, I’d like to have that convo again…

The point is I have changed. We do that as we grow. Well some of us do. And when we grow we make changes based on new information. This year I learned who my real father was through a DNA test. I also learned that he died when I was 9 months old from a massive heart attack. That’s some new info that will fuck you up. It sure did me. I learned too that he drank beer every day of his life and that he often threw them back with a cheeseburger. Eek face.

But I can’t just flip a switch overnight. I can’t unlearn 40 years of nonsense, so it takes time, and I have to give myself the time to get there. There are no quick fixes with this. Sure I could get weight-loss surgery or take some kind of pill, but we all know that won’t touch the root of my problems. So here I am. Blogging about this all to you, eating veggies, listening to people tell me how they think I should eat and live to be healthy, and trying to smile through it all, but I think we all know I won’t be able to sustain that either.

So consider this my warning. I don’t want your opinions on the way I eat or what I feed my family and you won’t get mine. In fact, just assume I don’t want your opinion about anything. If I do, I’ll ask. Otherwise, walk on by me while I’m eating my snacks or my veggies. It will be safest for all those involved.

Take care of yourselves, y’all.

M.

That Sober Life

Why are you back on the blog yet again today, Missy? Don’t you have a life anymore? The short answer is no, I never have, the long answer is that I missed y’all so much and I know that you missed me too and I just have a lot to say right now. The honest answer is that I have 20 pages of thesis due, and a book to read so I can write a review on it, and so obviously I’m taking time to write on my blog again. Procrastination at it’s finest, if you will.

Actually today I’m just logging on to say that I am like 30+ days sober. No wine, at all. No White Claws even! Certainly no hard liquor or beer. Not on vacation, not even when I am in the hot tub waxing political (which is how we spent all of 2020). Matter fact, last time Jerimiah and I were in the hot tub bad-mouthing conservative republicans we drank Vitamin Water. Gotta stay hydrated!

We didn’t set out to do this, it just sort of happened. We’ve been tapering off of any alcohol or wine for several months now. In fact, since my liver enzymes first started showing as elevated back in May of this year (and I just recently tested positive for a liver-related autoimmune disease) I have been conscious of how much I am drinking. My liver specialist says an occasional glass of wine is okay, and maybe I’ll end up there eventually, but for now it’s not feeling like the thing to do.

While in Mississippi for residency this year I did not try to keep up with friends and I drank no hard liquor. Everyone was incredibly kind and gracious about it. While vacationing this summer I tried to stick to mainly hard seltzer waters and at no time during my vacations have I been totally drunk (even though Rachel tried to get me there! Damn you and your Fireball, Rachel!) Since my 40th birthday I have had nothing at all that contains alcohol. Though you know I will never turn down a ButterBeer! 🙂

Jerimiah and I are both attempting this sobriety thing, and he’s done just as well. He’s been in several social situations lately where he was expected to drink along with everyone else and he chose not to. It’s important to note here that we are both social drinkers. We don’t struggle with sobriety like some people and we recognize that staying sober is much harder for others. We see y’all trying and we support you. We love you and are here if you ever need an ear.

This is also a no-judgment zone! We would never ask our family and friends to abstain from drinking around us, and if you come over for dinner I promise to have wine available if that’s what you prefer. We totally support your decision to drink responsibly, and this has only been easy for us because we have never been dependent on alcohol. So take all I say about how “easy” it is with a grain of margarita salt. This is the perspective I am coming from.

We decided to try sobriety partly due to my elevated liver enzymes, partly due to not wanting to feel like shit the day after drinking a bottle of wine, and partly due to setting a better example for our kid. It was mainly me, and Jerimiah being the good partner he is said, “I’ll do it too.” I told him to use me as an excuse anytime he needs. Men can be real bitches to each other when one doesn’t want to drink a beer with the group. #ToxicMasculinity

I’m putting this info out here for several reasons: 1. When people talk about things openly it makes it easier, less taboo. 2. For people who have been considering the sober life for awhile to know it’s not so bad, if I can give up red wine, you can definitely do it! 3. Hopefully y’all will see this and the next time we go out you won’t be all, “Why are you not drinking, Missy?!” Then I can just say, “Wow, you really don’t read my blog posts, huh?” (insert winky face)

Speaking of going out, we’ve found club soda and a lime makes us feel like part of the mix, and prevents people from mocking us, people do that, in case you don’t know. And if you are trying the sober thing and people mock you, please don’t take offense, it’s just them projecting. We used to do it too, or at least talk about sober people behind their backs. But really it was because we felt judged, as if someone else’s sobriety had anything to do with us. Don’t be like the old us, y’all. Grow and change.

The truth is I only drank in social situations to feel better, to talk easier with people, to feel like I wasn’t so awkward or forward. And because, well, that’s what you are supposed to do as an adult, right? Mommies drink wine in groups and complain about their kids and husbands, right? (Yeah, I was feeling weird about all of that, probably because I have zero to complain about with my kid and husband.) But now I’m realizing it doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t want to hang with me because I’m awkward or blunt or don’t drink, cool, more time in my pjs on my couch with my family and doggos! Win/Win! And I will still listen to other mommies complain about husbands and kids, I’ll just do it sober. If I’m ever invited again…Hey, no hard feelings if I’m not!

Still, there are bound to be people who won’t support you, there are people who won’t support me. They will poke fun at me, they will ask how “healthy” it is to take anti-depressants to get through the day. (I think I’m pretty open about how I handle my mental health, yes? In case you forgot, I take daily anti-depressants and the occasional anti-anxiety med along with bi-weekly therapy visits with Patsy, my saint of a therapist. I say “occasionally” about the anti-anxiety meds because I am only prescribed 30 Klonopin pills at the lowest dose possible, every three months so I have to make them count. I usually take a half of one to help me fall asleep at night or when I’m in a crowd of people. That’s also why people chose to drink a glass of wine! I’m just choosing to do it differently. To each their own, it’s all substances we are putting in our body to make our brains feel better. Right-io!)

People will also no doubt jump on board to remind me, yet again, that I’m fat so I’m not living the most “healthy” lifestyle. Ho hum. I’ve had so many people talk about my “dietary changes” in the last six months only because I stopped eating most meat (I’m pescatarian now) for no reason other than to make themselves feel better. You know those people, the ones that try to pass shade on what you are eating, without actually saying it. Like, “Well meat is protein and we all need protein.” Yes’m meat is protein, you know what else is, broccoli. But my “unhealthy” eatings habits and he way people react to them is another post, I promise. And again it just boils down to them projecting their own insecurities onto me. Making themselves feel better about their own choices. They will do the same to you. Ignore the haters, that’s all you can do.

Anyway, if you’re a drinker keep on keeping on, responsibly of course, and if you’ve been living the sober life, yay for you! Consider us part of the team now. And if you are considering it, jump on board with us now, we will support each other!

As usual, stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Labor Shortage?

I know, I know, I’ve been away. I wrote on my blog every, single day last year and this year it’s been sporadic at best. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today, in fact, I’ll talk about that tomorrow, is that okay? Catch you all up with my life? It’s been pretty nuts! Thanks for understanding. Today I’m here to talk about the supposed labor shortage, though to be honest everyone I know who was unemployed last year now has a job, and the thing I find slightly odd is that many of them applied to several (like more than twenty jobs depending on how long they were out of work) and didn’t even hear back from some of them, some of the places that proudly had “Now Hiring” signs or “Thank the ones who showed up” signs in their windows, so what gives?

I happened upon a documentary the other day from 2009. It was following people who were on unemployment during The Great Recession back in 2008 and it caught up with a group of people in Long Island, NY who were part of the 99ers. The 99ers are people who were still on unemployment at their 99th week of unemployment which is the last week you can legally get unemployment benefits. These people had applied for literally thousands of jobs over those 99 weeks, you have to when you’re on unemployment because you have to log it with unemployment, but aside from that these were people who had worked all their lives in good, high-paying jobs on Wall St. for instance and when the recession hit they were booted out.

The jobs they were applying for though, were far from where they had worked. They were applying to work the register at Home Depot, to drive a truck for FedEx, to work the make-up counter at Macy’s. Essentially they were looking to take any job at that point, but no one was calling them back. Meanwhile, the media was screaming, “Lazy people need to get a job! Get two jobs if you have to!” These people, these people who had previously made hundreds of thousands of dollars a year were trying to get a job at Target, they would get two jobs if it meant not having to sell their homes or foreclose, but they were being told they were “overqualified.”

This is a real thing that I went through as well. Jerimiah lost his job in that same recession and I had just quit mine to stay at home full time with our kid. Then boom, he lost his and we found ourselves trying to live off the $325 a week from unemployment. Meanwhile he was applying for at least 40 jobs a week, and I started applying too thinking maybe I could snag a lower-paying job since I didn’t yet have a college degree and he did. I was actually turned down at Target to work the cash register because I was “overqualified.” Do you know what that meant in my case? It meant that when they asked what I made in my last job and I put $14 an hour they decided that was too much to pay, so they didn’t even attempt to interview me. Why would they when someone was willing to take the job at $8 an hour? I would have taken that job at $8 an hour too, but I was never even given the opportunity.

Why I am telling you all this? Because I think the same thing is happening now. I think the suppose “labor shortage” isn’t one at all. It’s people who are writing that they want to make $15 an hour on their application are getting overlooked in lieu of people who will make less but it’s taking the companies longer to find people who will work for that low of a wage so here we are. Some people actually believe that these same companies are full up on employees but are looking for ones they can pay lower, or just like to have the “Now hiring” signs up for what? Fun? Belonging? To maintain this idea of a labor shortage? That feels too cynical to me, but not way off base. I’m just saying that it’s the businesses greedy practices that are certainly driving the “labor shortage” not an actual “labor shortage” and it’s probably high time we call it what it really is.

Eventually Jerimiah found work in 2009. He went from being a recent-college grad making $50,000 a year to making $12 an hour, but hey, it was something and he took it. I never got an interview, not one interview from the 40 or so jobs I applied for. I even called my old job back and asked to just come and serve, wait tables, and they told me they already had too many people vying for shifts.

Last week we were traveling to New York and we stayed over at a hotel in Fort Lee, Virginia. The next morning while we were loading the car DuPont, the company that makes pretty toxic chemicals, was having a job fair at our hotel. When we walked outside the job fair line was wrapped around the building at 8:00 am. There were men and women, young and old, some were in three-piece suits, some were in jeans and hoodies. The wages they were advertising were anywhere from $16 to $21 dollars for entry-level jobs and people were there. There was no labor shortage. They would have more than enough people to choose from for their new crews. But all I see when I turn the television on is people screaming, “Get a job! Get two jobs if you need to!”

How are you supposed to get two jobs if you can’t even get one?

As an aside I’ve talked recently to people who believe that a $15/hour federal wage mandate is too much, and all I can think about is how that line at the hotel was wrapped around the corner. How people trying to figure out how to feed their kids in Fort Lee, Virginia were practicing their elevator pitches for a $16/hour job working with toxic chemicals. How if we don’t mandate it federally, states like Virginia, Arkansas, Missouri will give advantage to the companies, not the people, and we will will never climb out of this generational poverty.

Of course these people aren’t from generational poverty, so how would they know. We have to start thinking outside of ourselves or we won’t ever get better.

I don’t have all the answers, and I’m sure I’m seeing this from only one side. But if I’m gonna be on one side, I want to be on the side of the unemployed. That makes me sleep better at night.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Our Daughter’s Birthday

It’s that week. The week where I want to stay in bed and cry. Eat all the carbs in the house. Think about the what might have beens. The could have beens. The should have beens. I should have a daughter who is celebrating her 10th birthday this week. I should be showering her with gifts. The candy she likes, the stuffed animals she loves, her favorite doll or her favorite video game. Laughing in the evenings while we cuddle with the family and listen for the 10th time as we share the story of her birth. Instead, last night Jackson and Jerimiah and I talked about the girl we thought she would she been.

Jackson thinks Lydia would have liked Minecraft. Jerimiah thinks she would have liked whatever her big brother liked. I think she would have been too much like me to handle. Of course that’s the should have, would have, could have beens at work. The very real fact is that our daughter, from the moment she was conceived, had very real problems. Had she survived her birth she would probably not actually be here to celebrate her 10th birthday. The daughter we had had a chromosomal disorder that if she beat the 10% survival odds, would have been wheelchair- bound, unable to care for herself, unable to feed herself, let alone play Minecraft. Our daughter was never the girl we think she should have been, could have been, would have been. But her small, short life has surely impacted a great many people and that is the reality. I need to keep that in mind moving forward this week. I have to, so that I can indeed keep moving forward this week.

Sending love and light to you all. I hope you can move forward this week too.

M.

Last First Day

Today is my first day of the last year of grad school. I know I’ve been here before saying it was the first day of the last year of grad school but this time I am serious. This is my last year in my MFA program and while the year didn’t exactly look like I wanted it to (whose did?) I am still having all the emotions today, but mainly I am stressed, per yoozh. *Bonus Side Tangent: There is no definitive answer on how to shorten the word “usual.” Even Merriam-Webster sorta just gave up, but it is important to note that while I rarely say the abbreviated word in spoken form, I do like to write with it especially because of the ending with the, what did they call it, a post-alveolar fricative (duh I know exactly what that is I’m an English major) because well, it’s just fucking fun.

Anywho, today is truly my last first day and I’m feeling all the feels. I’m super nervous because I have to start thesis this semester and while I’ve already written a thesis before, umm, no, I have not, not like this. This one is me pushing me way out of my comfort zone. Plus it’s a whole lot more than I wrote last time (like double!) and I don’t feel ready or excited at all. If it weren’t for my advisor, a person I’ve only known for a year, but feels like way longer you know those kinda people, I’d be a hot fucking mess, but as it sits I’m just a hot mess.

The other good thing, nay great thing, is that I have a group of friends to get through this year with. In fact, these people have been amazing and wonderful and all the things. It was by far the most important thing for me in finding an MFA program. I wanted to find a place that felt like home, even though y’all know I have no idea what home is anymore but I am happy to report I found it and it includes a group of women who are kick-ass and truly supportive and who “get it,” which is by far the most important.

Oh wow, I could go on but I won’t instead I will say this, last first days are scary and hard and emotional. But we will make it through just fine. Just fine.

Go forth and do something scary today, you’ll be okay. Just wear your mask.

M.

Silver Linings

I have this problem where I can’t move past something until I write about it. It’s a bad problem to have, especially when you are in a writing “funk.” A “funk,” yeah let’s call it that. As in I haven’t written anything substantial since early-May and even then it was just an assignment for class. it ended up having a tiny shred of something that could be more, but still, when you’re in any kind of funk, writing or otherwise, it’s hard to see the silver lining. So here I am, back at the old blog which I have apparently dismissed after my year of writing everyday. I think maybe it became more like a job last year and that made me hate it. I’m rambling now.

I’ve had kind of a shitty summer. There have been silver linings.

I got to go to residency in person. I got to meet my awesome friends whom I only knew digitally before. There’s something pretty magical about sitting in a room with people who think and write and drink like you.

Then there was my two-week trip to Kansas to see my family and best friend. It didn’t start out as a two-week trip, but that’s what it ended up being when I felt the need to stay. That was a first. The first time I ever felt called to Kansas to recharge. I suspect it was the stress from my residency showing itself.

In July we went to Florida for a week with friends to celebrate Jerimiah’s 40th birthday. I planned this all, to be sure, and because of it was under immense pressure for the first several days to make sure everyone had a good time, even though I explicitly told them to make their own good times. In the end I said fuck it, these people are adults and can do it on their own, which means I actually did enjoy myself quite a bit. Doing what I pleased, when I pleased. Jerimiah had a good time too, especially on the actual party day when we drank fun drinks, played outdoor party games, and ate lots of food!

I was published in Litro in June.

I was offered a chance to write my first book review this month.

I got to watch my son enter his middle school building for the first time, all masked up, and excited.

I got to celebrate the man I love turning 40 years old.

I got to see friends I haven’t seen in over a year (some much longer!)

Jackson and I got to spend some time traveling together. We even did some of Route 66!

I got to help my mom with all the things in her house she has been wanting to accomplish.

Those, I think, were the silver linings. There were other things to be sure. There was the overcommitting I did to start the school year off. “Sure, yes!” I said so many times. It felt good to be back at it, you know? To have some sense of normalcy. You want me to be on the executive board of not one, but two middle school organizations?! ME? Sure! It has all caught up now and I’m feeling overwhelmed.

There was the car accident. Look it wasn’t anyone’s fault, not really, it was a total accident. Everyone was safe, meaning they all walked away. Though there is some trauma for sure. My car was totaled, but I didn’t really like that car so much anyway. The most important thing was everyone was safe and there were lots of lessons learned. I for example, know that when in an emergency situation I am a “flight” kinda person, while my best friend and husband are both “fight.” Which is probably why they are my best friend and husband.

Then there was that thing that is nagging me. That thing I have to spill out of me or I won’t feel right. The disappointment I feel from a summer of seeing people for who they really are after a year and half of imagining who they are. Who they were. It’s startling. It’s hard. Geez it’s been a tough year and a half. And it doesn’t seem like it will get any better. Because of that I have told myself repeatedly that I need to show grace, just as much as I need to ask of it from people. But repeatedly this summer I have been disappointed by the actions of others. I have come to see flaws in people that I never noticed before. Jerimiah and I are at a loss. I’m sure people are thinking the same thing about us. What has happened to us over the last year and a half? As Americans? As people?

Personally we realize that the two of us have done a substantial amount of growing into who we are. Who we are meant to be. We have become more eager to do what makes us happy. To be around people who make us happy. To not waste more time than we need with with people and situations we do not like, that make us feel uncomfortable. If I have to spend one more second with a straight, white, male that turns everything into a competition, y’all, I can’t. I won’t with toxic masculinity anymore.

And just like that people that you like, that you love. Family members. Close friends. They start to slip. And maybe, probably, it was our fault. Probably we put them on a pedestal. We thought wow, they are great people. But the truth has surfaced for me this summer and I no longer feel like some of the things we thought were great about people, are in fact that great. It’s a shitty realization to have, but it’s the truth. So now what? Gotta look for those silver linings I suppose. Always keep looking for those silver linings.

I’ll leave you with a few of my silver linings now.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Only Child

Y’all how are you? Like really, how are you doing? Me? Ehh. I mean I’m still on vacation, coming up on the end of my second week in the midwest. Still in Kansas, as it sits, headed to Oklahoma tomorrow for the holiday weekend, then finally I will be sleeping in my own bed again sometime next week, nearly three weeks since I left it. I didn’t intend to be gone from my lovely bed that long, but things happen and I’ve gone where I was needed. Meanwhile, Jerimiah has been at home fielding the chaos that is in Georgia, including a slipped disc in his back, an eye infection (they think he picked up some bacteria while we were camping a couple weeks back) and a dog that doesn’t have Kennel Cough (because she is vaccinated against it) but that also might have Kennel Cough. So there’s that.

In short, this has been a hectic summer already and it feels like it’s been a long summer. Almost like it’s the summer that won’t end, and it’s only July 1st! Weird.

So I’m not here to talk about any of that today, what I am actually here to talk about I have already covered with y’all before but it is time to bring it up once again because this week a family member made a comment to me that made me all sideways and I can’t get it out of my head.

As you all probably know Jerimiah and I are proud parents of an amazing 12-year-old son. He’s our P1 in this life and pretty much all we do is for him, always has been, always will be. You may or may not know that we lost a daughter in 2011. Her name was Lydia and she had a chromosomal disorder and she was “not compatible with life.” You also may not know that for many years after the loss of our daughter we struggled with infertility. We tried many things, all the things really, short of IVF which is incredibly costly and in our opinion not worth it considering that money could be spent on the adoption process if we were so inclined to have another child. In the end we decided to be happy with our one and only child and we moved forward with life.

I tell you all this to remind you, nay demand of you, to stop commenting on the number of children people have. And yes I mean don’t say, “Wow! You have six kids that’s a lot,” but also stop saying, “You only have one?” or “Well only children are THAT way,” (whatever THAT way is in your mind). There are many, many reasons not to comment on the number of children people have, but most importantly it is simply none of your business and chances are you are doing nothing to help them in any way, rather just coming off as a judgy asshole.

You only have one? Is my least favorite question in the whole world because it implies so much, and it shows how very little someone knows me. And if the person asking knows me so little, then why are they even considering how and why I have only one child?

So this family member this week was not happy with me (long story) and was making some realizations about my kid, as in my kid is not the way they think a 12yo boy should be (remember you can’t manage other people’s expectations) and they made this comment, something like, “Well, he’s like this because he’s an only child.”

Now this particular family member knows all too well about what we have been through, but couldn’t stop themselves from saying it. (Insert eye roll). I am choosing to think they did not consider the implications in saying that to me. I am choosing to think they were just being reactionary and that eventually they will come around and apologize for their error. I am choosing to think this will happen so that it might assuage my frustration, but who knows if that will ever come to fruition.

Instead I am hopping on here today to remind you all to be mindful of your words. Words have consequences. Maybe not to you, but what you say to other people can greatly change the way they love and respect you. And if someone says some jacked up shit to you, please hold them accountable, y’all. Too many people are not held accountable for their words and they will never learn to stop and think before they say things unless we force them to.

Now go forth today and do good things. Or lay in bed and watch Netflix all day, same, same. But don’t let anyone say something to you that brings you down, but if they do make sure you hold them accountable.

M.

Vegetarian Uprising

At the end of last year I had my cholesterol checked and I was surprised to learn that it was kind of high. It had actually never been as high as it was then (240) and the only thing I could think is that I have been eating low-carb for awhile, which had been helpful in shaving off some weight, but obviously shot my cholesterol up. My doctor was not pleased considering she had told me not to do that. Eek. She said Keto and the like is not a good way to diet and that people are “just obsessed, but don’t understand.” Now listen, I was by no means doing “Keto.” Mainly because I don’t do any “diet” well. But I had backed off most carbs and was relying on protein from meat too much, I can openly admit to that. So I asked her what to do and she said, “Go vegetarian if you can” and then I laughed and laughed.

Then two months ago Jerimiah and decided to try it and well, it’s been really super easy and we don’t eat meat anymore and what the hell is happening in my life?!

Whew. Okay, deep breathes and I’m kind of lying because sometimes we still eat salmon. And by sometimes I mean we had salmon for dinner twice in two months, so sure, I guess call us pescatarian or mainly vegetarian or crazy or whatever you want but I feel so much freaking better that I am actually like why did I not do this decades ago?!

To be fair it was an easy transition now on account of all the meatless options out there. Options that just weren’t there two or three years ago, let alone decades ago. Options that also have Jackson going “mainly” vegetarian with us and so we are all benefitting. We also did it in stages. We didn’t just totally change the way we eat. Last year we started eating off our “small” plates, which are the “lunch” plates. We moved the dinner plates out of the cabinet. This was to work on portion control. Once we did that, we started filling more veggies, then cutting the amount of meat down and down and down, until now, well I had broccoli for lunch yesterday. Broccoli. That’s it. That’s all I had and I was full and I had plenty of protein.

I think being at home all day every day, not eating at a restaurant in over a year, and really being generally pissy about having to feed ourselves food all day everyday has helped tremendously. We’ve also cut way back on drinking alcohol, we have maybe a glass of wine a month now, and if we could somehow give up coffee, then we’d be all set but who are we even fucking kidding. That will never happen. But then, I guess we should never say never.

In fact, the hardest part has been trying to figure out how we will one day have to tell our family back in Kansas City that we don’t eat Burnt Ends anymore, thankyouverymuch, can I have the veggie plate. Hmpf. That might take some time. But for now we will work on kicking our salmon habit (have you watched Seaspiracy?!) and please, if you have any black bean burger recipes send them our way! Talk about yum!

M.

Hiya

Hiya, everyone. Y’all. You people. Folks. I had a jump in new followers and lookie-loos when I posted about my Dad recently and I suspect that I had some “new relatives” find my blog, probably because they don’t like me and want to keep tabs on what I say about them. But I think maybe some of y’all are in the same boat as me and have some questions about DNA tests and relative stuff and how to navigate that and I want to help and tell my story. And wow do I have stories for y’all, but first I want these “new relatives” to back off me a little bit, then I can tell you all what wonderful and horrible things that happen when you are in a situation like me. For real, I have one story about these two sisters who are my first cousins, even though they desperately do not want to be, and how they really showed the world their true colors and I am dying to share it with y’all, but I’m waiting till they lose interest in me. Until then, let me just re-introduce myself and thank y’all for being here!

I’m Missy. I was born and raised in Leavenworth, Kansas (not on a farm!) and am a graduate of Leavenworth High (go Pioneers, Class of 2000). I am married to Jerimiah, have a son Jackson who is basically the smartest, coolest kid ever. I have two dogs, Winnie and Duke, and we live in the Atlanta-metro. We are straight-ticket Democrats (you’re welcome, love Atlanta). I did my undergrad at Missouri State (we lived in the Ozarks for ten years). I have an MA in Creative Writing from UNC Charlotte (we lived in Charlotte-metro for five years) and am currently in an MFA program. I turn 40 this year and have a list of things I want to accomplish and one of them was to find out who my dad was. I wasn’t adopted, but my mom was dating two guys on and off again, and she loved one a lot and thought the other was nice and funny, but the one she loved was married (a real asshole) and when she got pregnant with me she just sort of assumed I was his and dumped the other guy. Long story short, turns out the other guy is my real dad!

I know this because I did a DNA test earlier this year and was shocked when I got the results because I believed the married asshole to be my dad this whole time. It was a relief to find that the man who was my real dad actually didn’t abandon me, he passed away when I was nine months old. It’s good too that we didn’t know back then that I was his, because as I stated, his family is full of crazy, Kansas hillbilly (not the good kind) types and I am so glad I wasn’t raised in that mess.

So as you can see I am going through a lot right now and so is my mom, but we are both incredibly happy that we have an answer. And I am also happy to report that because of “nice cousins” I have access to the full family tree, which I wanted for my son, and health and medical information that I wanted for me. For example, I was just diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that does not run in my mother’s family and my cholesterol jumped up really high in a short amount of time and the docs were concerned. Then I found out people in my dad’s side have lots of autoimmune diseases and my dad died of a massive heart attack at the age of 42, so this was good, valuable info to find out. Albeit sad.

So there’s that. If you are even considering a DNA test please do it. This is sound, basic science that has been around for a very long time and it can be trusted (yes, it even holds up in court), even if some of my “new relatives” don’t believe in science. (They are legit going around telling people they don’t trust it because I am “not recorded in the family bible” and because you have to “draw blood” to have a DNA test done. That is incorrect, but you probably already knew that because you are smart.) And don’t even try to convince them because they are Trump supporters, so even if they were presented with facts in their face, they would deny it. You can’t win with people like that.

Anywho, my blog is usually a mess with my random thoughts and things that happened to me or adventures my family and I have been on, but seeing as we haven’t even eaten in a restaurant in over a year, it’s been light on adventures and heavy on other shit.

I’m also coming off 2020, the year I wrote a blog post everyday, so I have been taking a wee bit of a break on the blog, kind of not reliable at this moment, but I am coming back around. But if you are bored you can read through last year’s posts. Did a lot of musing on political stuff and some protesting and a lot of “Wear a fucking mask” posts. You can also read some of my published work if you go to my “Writing” tab.

So there you have it! That is my in a quick nutshell. I have a large family whom I love dearly, though I don’t get to see them often as they are mainly still in Kansas, and I have friends literally all over the place. My bestest friends are in Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, and Rhode Island, so that is a challenge, but what are you gonna do? We make it work and I wouldn’t be able to get by without them.

Let me know if y’all are in the same boat as me, need to vent, or just want to say hello! I hope this year treats us all a bit more gently than the last.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

It’s nice to meet you.

M.

Whew

I have been walking around for weeks now saying, “Whew” and making animal-like noises or holding a long sigh, or shaking my head in disbelief like a cartoon character. Seriously. I’m sure my family thinks I am tad bit crazy, but I am and this semester has really done a number on me and more than one time in the last month I have yelled, “This is bullshit and I don’t want to do this anymore!” Then I keep doing whatever it is I am doing. Because the truth of the matter is it isn’t just grad school that is knocking me down, it’s life. And it isn’t just me that is repeatedly being knocked down by this life. And some days it feels easier to stay down then to grab hold of something and hoist yourself back up, and then other days you pop right up by using just your own abs, still there are other days where you throw your arms out wildly trying to grab hold of someone else to stop you from falling. Or maybe it’s to bring them down with you? Either way it isn’t your best day and you know that.

What are you saying, Missy? I’m not 100% y’all, but I think I am saying I know what you are feeling right now because if it can happen to person it has happened to one of my family members, friends, neighbors, cohorts, or me in the last month.

I’ve witnessed a loved one lose their partner, their driving force, to cancer. I have listened to a friend desperately try to save her marriage. Waited for news about a grandma in the hospital, a child battling Covid. I have watched more gun violence in my community. I have went to bat for people who come to find out didn’t deserve it. Worried for a friend and a new job prospect. I had an icky reaction to my covid shot. I have been told that I am not a good person from people who have no idea who I am. I have watched heartache on the news, and heartache on my street. I’ve spent so much time trying to not worry, trying to make everyone happy, trying to be involved, but not too involved. Trying to stay connected to people. I have worried about what the next year will look like. If I am safe and comfortable doing things that were so normal and easy a year ago. I have lived my life on that thin line between anxiety and hysteria and I keep pushing back against toppling over that line and don’t like it.

If any of this is resonating with you, then it’s probably time we both take a step back. Stop spinning for a moment. Breath in, then back out. Focus on some good. Watch some doggy videos. Take a hot shower. Plan a trip. Look for the goodness that is still out there. I know it is. It is in your life, just like in mine, but sometimes the not so good tramples over everything else and we are left with those bleak feelings. Very bleak.

What has been good in your life? I’ll go first.

Jerimiah and I had our second covid shots last week.

We leave for Disneyworld in a week.

I have started planning J’s 40th birthday, and so far it rocks.

Jackson was invited to stay in the STEM program for 7th grade because even though he’s a virtual kid still, his grades, attitude, and personality shine through the screen.

Did I mention the new baby? It’s a girl and she’s my great-niece and she’s healthy and happy.

There is one week left of my semester and I start my thesis in the fall and all that is squared away and as of right now my grades in all four classes are: 126%, 100%, 107%, and 100%. I’m doing okay.

My dogs are becoming socialized and barking less at the mail carrier that they see every, single, day.

My mom is doing okay.

My friends are checking in.

My husband and son love me and show me in little ways every, single day.

Did I mention our first vacation in more than a year is next week?!

Now it’s your turn. What are you thankful for today? How are people showing up for you? I hope you have a hundred things on that list, but if you don’t, if you can’t conjure it up today, don’t worry. Don’t get down on yourself. There’s always tomorrow. And I’m always around. You know where to find me. And if I’m not there it’s probably just because I’m crying in the shower. I’ll be out in a minute…

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

Be grateful. It helps, I promise.

M.