Keeping On

It’s the middle of the night and I’m awake again and I need to pee but the dog is laying on my leg and she’s breathing hard, those quick, hard puppy breathes that mean she’s sleeping soundly and I don’t want to wake her. We don’t all need to be awake. We don’t all need to be prowling around the house in the middle of the night.

I’m two books in to this semester and I’m having bad dreams. Maybe not bad dreams, but certainly strange ones. Dreams about ghosts, and kudzu, and pits that are black and don’t end. I’m dreaming about the Civil War and death, and I’m seeing relics from another time.

I’m fighting back a bout of lows that always comes this time of year, but some years I don’t have the time for it to come and this is week two of my MFA program and I’m two books in, 10 articles, three discussions, a handful of Zoom calls, and I’m tired. I want to sleep most of the day because I’m awake most of the night and this cloud is following me around but I’m managing. And I’ll manage. Until I won’t anymore.

I’m crossing my fingers for December.

Keep on keepin on, y’all.

M.

So Common…

The first semester of my MFA program starts on Thursday. I spent yesterday combing through syllabus after syllabus, trying to figure out why the hell I am even doing this, and not one syllabus gave me an answer. What good are they if they can’t answer the mystery of my current life’s question? Bleh. I did start to get organized, and I did freak out and sorta scream-cry into my fan like Tommy Boy when he’s doing the Darth Vader thing. It sorta came out like, “LUUUUUUUUKE, why are you doing this to me?!” Turns out the Force couldn’t give me an answer either.

Most of this week’s work is standard, run-of-the-mill, first week stuff. Introductions, why are you here, what do you plan to get out of this program, on a scale of 1-10 how much do you LOVE Eudora Welty? That sorta thing. But I did stumble upon one project that a professor wants me to do that sort of peaked my curiosity. It’s for my creative non-fiction forms class. She wants us to keep a commonplace book. A what now? That’s what I said. A commonplace book. A commonplace book is just a notebook, or a moleskin, or a word doc, or a stack of notecards where you write down ideas, quotes, conversations, etc that delight you, amaze you, amuse you, etc, etc. With me now? I was all, Ohhhh, yeah I have like eight of those! I didn’t know they had a name.

I routinely use the “Notes” app on my phone. Or I take a picture of a page of the book I am reading, or a fold the corner down. Sometimes I think, hmm, I should get a recorder for this shit. Sometimes I just text Jerimiah. I will be all, “…my mother’s refrigerator in Chiang Mai, Thailand…” and he will be all, “Huh?” And I’ll be all, “It’s for me to remember later.” So yeah, I’m versed at this, but keep it all in one place? That might be the hard part.

So I started thinking, where is somewhere I could keep this Commonplace book? Should I do notecards, should I do digital? Turns out yes, because I have to turn in my Commonplace Book at the end of the semester and it has to be at least five pages, single-spaced. Well, shit.

So I decided since I come here every day, why don’t I just make a commonplace book on this here blog. So I did. It was easy. So now you have access to my crazy random thoughts–as if you didn’t before–and I feel more organized. Look at that, us working together.

Love you guys so much.

M.

M-I-Crooked Letter…

This MFA program I am starting in oh, 19 days, has me nervous, true. My inbox is full with submissions for our lit review, my email is blowing up with announcements, financial aid is like, Hellerrrrr, welcome back thanks for paying us, but you need to do this and this and this... Ahhh, it’s a lot. I forgot how demanding grad school was and I’ve literally only been out for two years. Okay, enough complaining, truth be told I have very little to complain about these days so I’m working on doing less of it. I’m actually here to say I am a wee, little bit excited about the program, and here is why.

First of all, the program is through Mississippi University for Women and no, it’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s an old name that stuck around. And by the way, is anyone watching “P(ussy) Valley” on STARZ right now? If so, you know what I think of when I hear “M-I-Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, I, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, I, Humpback, Humpback, I”! 🙂 All good things, all good things. Anyway, this program is fairly new and mostly virtual. There are a few times a year where we will meet in person, two separate residencies on campus, or at AWP, then when you defend your thesis and graduate. They are doing everything through Zoom right now, though, so I am getting a great look at what the process is like and it has helped calm my nerves. I mean, I am still fighting imposter syndrome, but it’s nice to be included in all these festivities, albeit virtually.

They include everyone on all the progress of the current class, and they share small victories (and big ones) with each other through social media, email, and on Canvas. It’s pretty cool. I am seeing faces and recognizing names already and it is making me feel better. It looks like they have their shit together for being such a new program, which is what I read about them when I did my research, but it’s nice to know it is true. They are very inclusive and they want everyone to get to know each other. I like that, since one of the reasons I decided on an MFA was to meet like-minded people whom I could connect with in this broader thing we call life. Whew. I’m hopeful.

Anyway, no complaining here, just a bit of nervous excitement. I’m not sure if the fall residency will be in person or not yet, but I’m betting not. I certainly hope we will be free to travel by next spring because the AWP is scheduled for none other than, Kansas City! Haha! Yea. No, it’ll be good. Now, I guess go forth and find something to be hopeful about today!

You are wise. You are kind. You are compassionate.

M.

Spades and Hearts

There’s an interesting thing that happens in Small Town, USA. When one of the “pretty girls” who barely graduates high school, marries a man with a little money, after her inevitable “Sleeping with as many men as she can” phase (no shame here ladies, you do you, BooBoo!) she settles down, with the man with money. Maybe he owns his own small business. Maybe he has inherited a bit of cash. Maybe he has inherited the small business and some cash, but either way he’s the best thing she’s ever had, and they get married. Now she already has a kid or two from other men (that’s she has most surely missed out on from time to time on account of her partying well into her 20s), but the nice, business man takes them on as his own. Then suddenly, this trashy, “street-wise” girl is an upstanding citizen in the small town she grew up in. Funny thing is though, many of the people who knew her way back when, still remember her. So she has two choices: She either embraces who she was, who she has always been, or she starts to turn on them. Even turning her back on the people who knew her the best.

Now let me stop for a second because you are probably like this sounds really pointed, Missy. Sure. I know some people who have done this, and they now believe themselves to be a big fish in a small pond, because, well they are. It’s true, they are big fish, but the point is actually really very small, and kind of trashy. The fish are stocked. And they are farm-raised. Eww. But the person I am envisioning right now could be any woman, in any small town, in any community, a woman so rooted in fear, hate, and ignorance that she can only thrive on putting other women down. She’s incredibly shallow and so materialistic that she enjoys talking money with people that she suspects has less than her, so she can, what? Feel better about herself? I suppose if she were happy in her life, like really happy, she wouldn’t be this way. But she isn’t. She’s actually very unhappy. If she were a kind person, she wouldn’t need to embarrass those same friends who have stood by her, even at her worst, and believe me, we’ve heard the stories, saw them with our own eyes, there were worsts. But she isn’t kind or nice. And she isn’t classy. Which is ironic and sad, because that is the only thing she actively strives to be, yet she never will attain.

Yeah, we all know someone like this, and we all talk in certain circles about how horrible of a person she is, some of us even pray for her, some of us just stay far away from her. But we can’t anymore, y’all. We have to call a spade a spade. Call it like we see it. She will. She likes to remind us that she speaks truth, even the hard stuff, but we know that’s a lie. She only speaks rudeness and abrasion. She couldn’t speak truth if it came up and bit her. All her truth is filtered thorough a set of rose-colored glasses sprinkled with money and privilage. Like when someone accuses her child of say, raping a girl he went to high school with, she can say, “Well, I never…” in a raspy kinda way. And go on to talk about all his accolades, as if he isn’t an actual piece of shit. Rose colored glasses. Money. Privilege. Yes, we all know someone like this, but what should we call her? I have an idea, let’s give her a nickname let’s call her “T”. Yes, “T”, short for “Texarkana.” So who is this Texarkana?

Texarkana didn’t have the best life growing up, but who did? Most normal people battle against the current, try as they might to make something better of themselves. But not Texarkana. She just relied on men to bring her all the things she wanted. Just like how she now relies on the outside world to keep a spotlight on her. To fulfill her desires. Because she can never fulfill them herself. Oh Texarkana, you are enough, if you’d just look within. Or go to therapy. Yeah, therapy would probably help you a lot. Something about inflated ego. But instead you self-medicate. It’s okay a lot of common people do.

Texarkana likes to say things like, “Remember when…” because she likes to envision herself as she used to be. Way back when. Wayback When Texarkana had so much joy, pure joy, albeit not a lot of money (she still doesn’t by the way, she just has a lot of debt, you can pull public records and see that) and Texarkana likes to talk about how “badass” she was back then. As if physically fighting other women is a mark of a pure genius. That’s that lack of education I eluded to earlier, are y’all following along? Ra, ra, ra! Go Texarkana!

Texarkana likes to invite people to her house. People she assumes have never been in such a self-described “lovely” place. Then she likes to talk about how much she paid for this, or how much she paid for that. You know those people. The ones who think money makes you a good person. It’s sad, and a little bit outdated. I’m speaking of both Texarkana and the lovely house. They both need some work on the inside. But the visitors smile and nod anyway, they have to, or she won’t invite them to drink her medication, err, booze.

Something I’ve noticed about people, growing up poor like I have, wealthy people, like really, really wealthy people, never discuss money. Not with their friends, not in mixed company. They only discuss assets and money with their accountants. They never say things like, “My house is worth $1.2 Million” (wouldn’t “T” love to have a house that nice!) instead they say things like, “We’d love to have you join us at our summer home in The Hamptons sometime,” and they truly mean it. Class speaks for itself. Trash, well, it has to do all the talking.

Which brings me back to “T” and her constant, oppressive desire to make all her “old” friends, the ones who know the truth about her, the way she really is, feel like shit because they didn’t “make it” like she did. But in reality she just needs to keep them in check. Needs to make sure that they know she is the spade Queen, in case they get out of line. In case they say something like, “Remember when you slept with So-and-So?” and So-and-So is not a likable fellow, she can smack them, figuratively of course, by saying something like, “Have you paid that large debt off that you owe?”

“T” thrives on making herself feel better by putting others down. No one is off limits. She will only tell you the best things about her kids, and never the worst, while often reminding you of all the bad stuff your kids do. But come on, we’ve met her kids. She dropped the proverbial parenting ball big time. But remember the free booze and her Instagrammable backyard?! She will make you feel bad about your kids, your divorce, your grandma. She will talk about you behind your back, then embrace you when you walk in her “lovely” door, all the while smiling that knowing smile to her “rich” (read: equally in debt) friends behind your back. Have you ever felt like everyone is looking at you when you walk into a room? It’s because “T” told the whole room your dirty little secrets before you got there in order to make herself seem important. She’s such a great friend, isn’t she?

Now every once in a while a funny thing happens to “T”. Something doesn’t exactly go her way. Her stock plummets. Not real stock, she puts all her money in home accents and ATVs. No her brand, her reputation. Something happens outside of her control and it makes her look bad. It makes her outside match her inside. Maybe her husband loses an important business client. Maybe her drunk brother resurfaces. Maybe her child marries someone she rather despises like a butcher or a mechanic! Oh my! A mechanic, well we all know mechanics are not the highest class of people. The drama! It’s okay, no worries. Texarkana lives for this shit. I mean, when your whole world revolves around what others think of you, and you have very little worth inside, you have to love drama, it is escapism at its finest.

But this plummeting of stock is when we see “T” at her finest. Oh, glory, glory! She starts plotting and planning! How can she turn this into a win? How can she get the universe back into her favor? You’re right, on the backs of other people. Her friends. Her own family. She starts fights within the groups, pits this one against that one. Uses her control (money) to buy affection, alliance. She will plant an idea in the simple brain of the simple people she keeps around her, then watch as it sprouts and grows. As those simple-minded people then turn on their own friends and family. Wow, maybe “T” isn’t as uneducated as we think? I mean she lacks book smarts, sure, but when you can get a mother and daughter to turn on each other, ones who have nothing to do with your life, that’s impressive. And also like, really, really pathetic. Don’t you sorta want to grab “T” and yell, “Get a life, girl! Go to college! Get a hobby! You’re more than this. You have self worth! I hope you can find it!” Did I mention Texarkana is extremely jealous of big, happy families who love and support each other? Two guesses why that is…

Now let’s discuss the people who let her treat them the way they do. You might be wondering, what kind of hold does she have over them? And if your guess is money, you’d be right. There is no friendship still there. They don’t like her, not really, and she certainly wishes they would go away, but everyone is aging (did I mention “T” isn’t aging well? All those days spent in tanning beds in the 90’s.) Anywho, as we age we start to feel nostalgic for those people who knew us when we were all cranked out on MiniThins and going to three different tanning beds a day to tan for a solid hour. So the people who knew her, her best friends, start to come around more. They want to drink wine and talk about the good days. But you can’t have real, honest-to-God talks with “T”. You can’t have them with anyone who thinks they are a better person that you at their core, just because they are a small business owner and you make $14/hr. There’s too much space, too many bad words (even if you don’t know she said them) to make much headway. So you go to her “lovely” house. You sit on her “lovely” deck. You drink her boxed wine, and you discuss the good old days through those rose-colored glasses she is so fond of. But in reality, you’d rather be somewhere else, she’d rather you be somewhere else. You remind her of a girl she is desperately trying to run from, all these decades later. She’s full of shame and guilt. You’re full of shame and guilt. But she has the money and credit to go buy a new car today if she wants to. So she wins.

It makes me think about Trump. What, come on Missy, why you always gotta bring Trump up?! No hear me out! The people who LOVE Trump, his honest supports, of which “T” and her whole family are, the real Trump supporters don’t really even like him. They don’t know enough about him to like him. They like the idea of him. They only vote for him for three distinct reasons:

1. They desperately want to BE him. They wish they had Trump money and power. They have a small taste of it in their little, trashy pond, just enough where they feel like Trump would love them if they met. They think they are so much like him that he would totally love and respect them if they met. Ha! They really think that, I promise! They are sitting, right now, in their little 4,000 square feet, barely more than half a million dollar house (public records, y’all) and they think they are just like Trump! True story.

2. They have so much hate in their hearts that they want him to be the president just so they can say, “WE WON! WE WON!” and call you a Snowflake or something, while they prance around in their red hats. They have to always believe they are winning at life. Always. Otherwise they downward spiral.

3. They are desperately afraid. They are so afraid that their way of life, the one they have carefully curated over literal decades will somehow be taken from them. Maybe they will have to pay more taxes. Maybe their “poor” friends will get a leg up on them if they finally get affordable health insurance. Maybe people in their periphery, the ones coming up behind them, the ones making more money, living well-adjusted, meaningful lives, the happy youth (raise you hand here), will take over and they will be left with, what? They certainly don’t have their self-worth to fall back on. So good thing that have that old house?

Well, I’m spent. Here’s the gist, y’all. If you have a Texarkana in your life you have get the courage to stand up to her or him. To finally call a spade a spade, because make no mistake, they will call it if you don’t. Only the spade they call will actually be a heart they have twisted in their small, common minds to look like a spade, then they will run out and tell everyone it is a spade before you can get a chance to defend your heart.

As for Texarkana, I can only hope she uses her fast-approaching senior years to learn more about the world, to step outside her comfort zone, to learn and grow as a person. I don’t hate the Texarkanas of the world. I know it may seem like that, but y’all know I don’t hold hate in my heart like that. But I also don’t admire her, and I certainly don’t respect her. How can you respect a person who preys on the simple, the weak, the less fortunate? In fact, a whole lot of the people she surrounds herself with don’t actually admire and respect her. They placate her. They see her life, her marriage, her kids. The fact that she has to work so hard all day, everyday just to keep up the facade in order to feel better about herself, and they pity her. They pray for her. Her name is passed around in Baptist prayer circles for wishing her some peace and kindness in her heart. They know that she has struggles, has had them, still continues to have them, just like they do, but that unlike them, she refuses to acknowledge her real struggles, with your real heart. She keeps that spade around instead. But there they are, still coming around, probably for the free booze, but also, more likely, because they are the hearts, and they wish more for her. There was a time when she had those real people, their kindness, their true friendship, their whole hearts. She had their admiration and respect. But she lost them. I hope it was worth it for her.

M.

Sweeping The South

I’m sitting in my sun porch in Central Georgia, on a humid summer day, drinking a glass of iced tea, re-reading Eudora Welty’s “The Ponder Heart” in preparation for my entrance into Mississippi University for Women’s MFA program in about three weeks, and I can’t help but wonder how a Kansas girl, Midwest born and bred, ended up here, in the Deep South, with a penchant for Mississippi history, iced tea with lemon, hot, pan-fried chicken, and monogrammed towels. When did this happen? How did this happen?

I don’t feel Southern. At least not in the ways that one thinks a “Southerner” should feel, yet I’ve lived in The South for 16 years now. I’m fast approaching that point in my life where I’ve actually lived in The South longer than I was in the Midwest. Kansas is the Midwest, though sometimes it’s just west. It is not part of The South, that we can be sure of, never was. Considered itself a Northern state. Kansas, the Free State, a refuge for the Southern enslaved people. It was just unorganized prairie during the 1850 Compromise. Didn’t even have a name or a state line. Wasn’t born yet. Wild. Scattered. Unexplored. Out West. But it is still really, really close to The South, and by association sometimes lumped in with it.

My son, on the other hand, is the only true Southerner in our family. He was born in Southern Missouri, has lived in both North Carolina and Georgia, and is starting to develop a bit of a drawl, depending on the word and the company. He’s spent his whole life south of the Mason Dixon, but you wouldn’t actually be able to tell, if you didn’t know. He’s all Northern in manner and way of thinking. If we are still prescribing to the ways people in the North and South think. For me it depends, some days I see the differences, some days I don’t.

The biggest lessons for me since living in The South has been the debunking of some long held beliefs I had:

  • Southern hospitality thrives here
  • All Southerners are dumb
  • Racism left with Jim Crow

These are all inaccurate and based on harsh stereotypes, and even harsher realities. I only share them now to let you have a glimpse into what is said about The South from people who have never been here. Those are three popular things.

  • Not everyone in The South is hospitable. And it’s usually the people you would think would be, that in fact, are not.
  • Not everyone in The South is a dumb, uneducated, hillbilly. To be fair, there are far more of them here than anywhere else, but they are not the majority. It is true, however, that the further from civilization you go, the more frequently they surface.
  • Racism is alive and well here. Just like it is everywhere. It never left. You can look it straight in the eye at your neighborhood Winn Dixie, your local YMCA, your kid’s elementary school, your husband’s office. In Atlanta. In Biloxi. In Memphis, and in Orlando. Racism is everywhere, and everyone knows it, but most people just sweep it under the rug.

Which leads me to the biggest lesson of them all: The sweeping.

That’s a truly Southern thing. Sweeping things under the rug. Uncomfortable things you don’t want to deal with. Unsightly things you don’t want to see. Sweep. Sweep. Sweep. We don’t have racism here because we sweep. We don’t have a drug problem here because we sweep. Human trafficking, crimes against children, gangs, and addiction? Not here. Sweep. Sweep. Sweep. Sweep. Here we just have a rowdy history, or “heritage” as the true Southerner has been programmed to call it. I remind my son quite a bit that the history of his home is riddled with hate, addiction, racism, uneducated bullies making a mockery of our country. I want him to know the truth. The harsh, unbridled truth. I want him to learn it, see it, and then grow from it. I don’t want him to get comfortable with the sweeping.

So I guess here I am. Sitting in my sun porch, on a humid Central Georgia day, thinking about how I have navigated the last 16 years. What I have learned, how I have grown. And wondering how to keep learning and growing, in a place that sometimes makes learning and growing hard to do. I’ll do my best. You do the same.

M.

Virgo Rising

Listen, I don’t pay much attention to the zodiac. In fact, outside of those Seventeen magazine horoscopes that I read religiously as a kid, I haven’t done too much looking into how I supposedly “tick” because I was born under a Virgo sun in retrograde. When I think zodiac, my first thought goes to the Zodiac Killer. Wow, what a crazy dude. What’s just as crazy to me is that people spend their lives reading what their stars and signs tell about them, and are fully convinced that they play a role in their life. Well, that did seem crazy, until I read mine…

Listen we are a tactical group, us Virgos. First and foremost we are Virgos comma The Virgins, so I mean, yeah we are very nice and polite and pure. So pure. Haven’t you guys got that fucking pure sorta feeling from me? I hope you have. I hope I rep the Virgos really well.

We fit in between the 150th and 180th degree of the zodiac. (I can’t decide whether that is capitalized or not, certainly when we talk about the Zodiac Killer, proper noun, but what about the zodiac? I mean technically the zodiac here is just an area of the sky, but it is a certain area of the sky. I wish I cared enough to Google it.)

Our symbol, according to the ancient, wise truths of the website Wikipedia, is the maiden. Our element is Earth and apparently our ultimate nemesis is Venus, which seems weird because I thought women were from Venus. I’m confused again. But check out this badass.

Uhh heller, she cool. And not just because that looks like an “M” as in “Missy.” But I mean, that’s cool too.

So why I am talking about this today. Well, have you ever checked out your zodiac sign? I hadn’t really paid much attention to mine and then a friend was all, “Ohhh, you’re a Virgo? Whew.” And I was like what the hell does that mean? And she was all, “That’s why you’re so honest, like, uhh, too honest, Missy.” And I was like ain’t no sign gonna get up in here and tell me how to live my life. So then I started reading about Virgos and Christ, y’all, the zodiac has me pegged (not the killer, thank goodness) starting with the backstory.

Every good sign has an awesome backstory. The Virgo sign involves an oops pregnancy, a murderous/distant father, a very special bottle of wine, and a pig. I know right?! IS THIS MY LIFE?! Here is the story, and for sure I just copy and pasted from the ancient scroll of Wiki, college professors look away:

“In the legend, Parthenos is the daughter of Staphylus and Chrysothemis and sister to Rhoeo and Molpadia. Rhoeo had been impregnated by Apollo but when her father discovered her pregnancy, he assumed it was by a random suitor and was greatly ashamed. As punishment, he locked her in a box and threw her in a river. After the terrible fate of their sister, Parthenos and Molpadia lived in fear of their father’s terrible wrath. One evening, Staphylus left his daughters in charge of a very valuable bottle of wine. When they both accidentally fell asleep, one of their swine broke the bottle. Terrified of their father, the sisters fled to a nearby cliff and threw themselves off. But because of his previous relations with Rhoeo, Apollo saved his two sisters and delivered them to the safety of nearby cities in Cherronseos. Molpadia ended up in Castabus where she changed her name to Hemithea and was worshipped as a local goddess for many years. Parthenos settled in Bubastus where she was also worshipped as a local goddess. According to another story, Parthenos was a daughter of Apollo who made the constellation to commemorate her death at a young age.”

To be fair, it’s a cool backstory that is totally relevant to my life, but it doesn’t explain the “honesty” gene that I inherited from my grandpa Apollo (I obviously don’t know how any of this works). That comes from math, signs, moons in retrograde, and interestingly enough, the exact time I was born.

Horoscope.com, which I have spent way more time on than I’d like to admit since I was told my Virgo Sun rising was the cause of my problems, is pretty adamant about these Virgo truths: My flower is a sunflower (I already knew this as I am a Kansas girl, born and raised). I am supposedly smart, sophisticated, and kind. I think we can all agree on the second one, I drink White Claws. I’m apparently an amazing friend, always there to lend a hand and advice (especially the unwarranted kind). I’m practical, a big-picture thinker, and a little shy when you first meet me. Okay, this is getting creepy. Here are some other apparent traits of mine.

Apparently, I’m a passionate lover.

Apparently, I am Type-A personality.

Apparently, I enjoy digging in deep, getting to the truth of people. It’s apparently the only way I can gain their trust, and let them gain mine.

Apparently, I strive for perfection and make my friends and family suffer when it isn’t attainable.

Apparently, Beyonce is a Virgo.

Damn, I buried my lead.

M.

Know Better, Do Better

It was January 26, 1992. I think. It could have been another day, earlier than that, but in my mind it was January 26, 1992 and the Washington R*dsk*ns were playing the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI in Minneapolis. I feel like it had to be a big game, because there was a lot of commentary. But it could have been years before. It could have been just a regular football game, I’m not quite sure, but as a kid I cared not for any of it. I do recall, however, being at my best friend Rachel’s house and her dad, having grown up in D.C., was a Washington fan, and there was a game on her grandmothers large, floor model television.

Rachel and I were playing in her room when we decided to run out and get snacks. The game hadn’t yet started, but there were some people discussing the name of the football team. It could have been one of the sportscasters, it could have been an old player, maybe it was a Native American advocate, but someone said it was time for Washington to change their name and Rachel’s dad yelled, “Bullshit!” He didn’t want to hear any of that nonsense and he went into some tirade about it. We gathered plates and ran back to Rachel’s room, but I never forgot that moment because I wondered for years why anyone would want to change the name of a football team.

That is one of my “I grew up in white supremacy” stories. I was so sheltered and ignorant that I had no idea, for many, many more years, why that name would upset anyone. Then when I did know I realized there were many other sports teams that used Native Americans as mascots. And I was sickened by it. I knew better, and wanted everyone else to know better, and most importantly to do better.

That was 28 years ago. Twenty-eight years. For twenty-eight years this has been on my radar. I have rolled this idea over and over in my head, and this week, this week the Washington football team finally did something about it. That’s a long, frustrating time for anyone to wait for change. Now imagine how long the Native Americans have been waiting…

Thanks, Washington. I hope you have started a bigger change.

M.

Four Days of Protests

I’ve been trying to write this post for a couple of weeks now, but every time I sit down to write it I get upset and I can’t find the words. The thing is, we are not new to protesting. We are not new to marching for what we think is right, for having counter-protesters scream horrible things at us, but for some reason this time it was harder than before and I couldn’t pinpoint what made it so difficult to stomach.

Last month Jerimiah, Jackson, and I took part in socially-distanced, peaceful protests in our suburban Atlanta town with our friends Kelley and Bella, and it was exactly what we needed to be doing. We met Kelley and Bella through school (Jackson and Bella were in the same class) and immediately felt connected to them. They are cool, too cool for us. They are kind. They are smart, and funny, and socially conscious. We feel so proud to call them friends, which is why the day we drove by (after getting ice cream) and saw them standing on the corner of Lavista and Main Streets with signs supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement, along with about 20 other people, we were like SIGN US UP! That sparked three days in a row of us standing on the same corner with our friends holding homemade signs (that we hastily made from material from The Dollar Tree), as well as taking part in a much larger protest on Saturday, June 6th with about 300 people. It was an amazing learning experience for the kids, for both good reasons and not so good ones.

Of course protests, especially ones in small towns like ours, are sure to bring out the counter-protesters, or simply the mean people who are mad at your very existence. They see protestors as “unsightly,” and of course they feel guilty when they see you out with your “Silence is violence” signs. But I honestly didn’t expect it on that first night we were out there with our signs, and if it weren’t for seeing it with my own eyes I would have not believed how horrible people could be. How filled with hate people are. How angry and afraid full-grown men are, that they feel called to lash out at people, even women and children. I’m not going to talk about them here, because it detracts from what we accomplished, but just know that grown men and women flipped us off, screamed things back at us, and even walked up and down along with us trying to push white supremacy agendas. It was sad and gross, and yes, we let the children watch them, because they need to know that there are people like this in the world.

Meanwhile our kids, our smart, strong, funny, rising 6th graders, smiled at everyone, held their fists up in solidarity, took a knee, not once but twice, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on hot, crowded streets to show their solidarity with George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and people who are like them, and not like them. We were so incredibly proud. They even made up their own chants, and taught them to the other kids. Then they separated themselves in front of what will one day be their high school and chanted IN THE RAIN. For real. Look.

But this was on the second night of protests, the first night was very hot, and a little more crowded, and somewhat chaotic.

The first night of protests (for us) we met with the Mayor who, although I am not a fan, was very polite. He thanked us for what we were doing, and gave the kids a token of appreciation to remember the occasion. It was a coin with out town’s logo on it, and Jackson thought it was pretty cool.

The second night we were rained on a bit, but didn’t mind, it felt nice after the heat. We had police escorts at all protests, thank you DeKalb County Police, and we had city council members, and supporters who honked, honked, honked all night at us in solidarity. Some screamed “Black Lives Matter” out the window, some threw their fists in the air, some just smiled and waved.

The Essentials: Masks, hand sani, signs, and water. Thank goodness for the other protesters who shared with us that first night. We were not prepared!

At one point Kelley and I saw an older man walking his dog in front of the high school. We were a little worried at first, he looked like a lot of the people who were flipping us off, but he walked up behind us smiling and meandered toward us sort of unsure. Kelley, being the outgoing and friendly person she is, said hi to him and told him that his dog was so cute. He smiled and walked a bit closer. He introduced himself as Joe and said that he loved that we were out there. Then he told us to look straight down Main Street. He asked if we knew that yellow building, the one that was a Halal restaurant. “Sure,” we said, “it is called Bombay.” It’s an old building that sits on the corner or Main and Lawrenceville Highway, about half a block from our kids new middle school.

“Well,” said Joe, “did you know that used to be the office of the Grand Wizard of the KKK?” Kelley and I were stunned. No, we didn’t know that. We didn’t realize how close we were to KKK territory. He said this sight, our children protesting on this corner, was just, well, perfect. He told us to keep on keeping on, then Joe and his old doggy walked back home.

The next day Kelley confirmed the story. She had researched it when she went home and found that along with our town once being an epicenter for the KKK, Stone Mountain, yes that Stone Mountain, was also. I mean it makes sense if you’ve ever visited Stone Mountain, but it was new to us since we are still fairly new to this area. If you’d like to read more, check out this article about Stone Mountain, our town is about ten minutes from the mountain.

We protested on this street corner for a few more nights, then we met up on a Saturday for the bigger protest. For a couple of city blocks, people were standing six-feet apart, masked up, with signs, chanting and raising fists. Ten minutes before we left we took a knee. Three hundred or so people taking a knee on the city streets as cars whizzed by honking and waving and yelling, “Thank you!” That was my favorite.

After the protest I asked Jackson what he learned. What new information he gathered from his days of protesting. “Not much,” he said. “I already knew that most people are good, and some people aren’t, and those people will probably never change.” Man, he’s right. I told him so. Then I added that those people aren’t worth your energy to try to change. I reminded him to start with the people who want to listen and work your way out. I told him to always vote. Always speak goodness into existence. Always, always do what is right and true. He shook his head and said, “That’s what we did.” We sure did. I told him more that day, but I think he learned more from my actions than my words.

Thanks, Kelley, and Bella, and Jackson, and Jerimiah. Thanks to those of you all over the world who are striving to do what is true and what is right. We have your back. Always.

M.

The Upcoming School Year

Man, I know as parents we are worried about what this upcoming school year will look like, but I gotta say, some of y’all need to take a step back, do some deep breathing exercises, and maybe take a nip of gin, ya dig? We are going to be okay. Your kids will be okay. This world will be okay. And listen, if it’s not okay, if this world of ours implodes, then let’s be real we will be dead and won’t know what happened anyway, so I mean… Bonus? Okay, this might not be helping. Let me start over.

I know that there are some parents that are totally upset with how the end of last year happened. Count me as one of them! I had a fifth grader in his most favorite class, in his most favorite school, with his most favorite teacher ever. It was a bummer to do a virtual graduation. But that is what needed to happen to keep our kids safe. I had, and still have, faith in the educators, in the administrators, and in the school district. If you live in a place where you don’t have that kind of faith, I’d recommend either finding a new place or getting more involved. Those two things can do wonders for how your child’s education goes, and how you feel about your school district.

I had so many friends with kids who were seniors last year. I was so sad for them, but let’s be real: It’s high school, y’all. Now I get it, if you peaked in high school you might have been extra sad. But most of these kids are going off to college, will get another graduation, more dances, more friends, etc. Cry, be sad for a moment, then realize this situation, this place we find ourselves in today is so much bigger than you, and whether or not your daughter got to go to prom, that you have to know how silly you look. If not, consider this your wake up call. It’s over, stop talking about it. Let’s instead turn our sights on how to help for the upcoming school year, and the first step is to calm the fuck down.

You calm now? No? You just hate me? Cool, stop reading, it won’t change things, but if it makes you feel better I understand. But what can change things is your ability to trust the professionals, understand and communicate with your child about their comfort levels, stay current on the CDC recommendations, talk to other parents in your community, and gin. Did I mention gin before? You should drink more gin.

I already have parents emailing me about homeschooling, and while I appreciate their concern, I have to say, I don’t even know what DeKalb County has decided on yet so I won’t be investigating homeschool until I know that is my last option. In case you don’t know me, or somehow have be pegged wrong, I will NOT be sending my child back to school full-time in the fall. I won’t. So I am crossing my fingers for a virtual option, at least until there is a reputable vaccine. I am tentatively okay with an A/B schedule, but there has to be many precautions put in place, that I can see with my own eyes, before that is to happen.

Some parents are screaming, “Kids need to be back!” Some are parents who need to get back to work because their companies are not taking this seriously either. Some are stay-at-home parents who are just tired. I get it. I do. But is risking the teacher’s lives, livelihood, their families, and most importantly ALL THE KIDS, worth you getting a day of silence? No. That is the only answer. No. Hire a babysitter. Hire a tutor to help.

The thing I can’t get my mind around is that everyone is saying, “Kids are not affected.” Meanwhile, have you seen all the summer camps and daycares that have opened up and have kids that got Covid-19? I have. I’ve been keeping track. Plus, what the hell is Covid Toes?! It’s a thing, Google it. Kids are getting it. They probably just have it a lot less because we STOPPED SCHOOL VERY QUICKLY! Now, when the numbers are skyrocketing you suddenly want school to go back in session. I’m just gonna say it, that’s a bad idea. And I hope against all hope that I am so very wrong, and kids really don’t get it, and teachers won’t pass it around like the damn flu, and have to be out for weeks and infect each other, and students, and their own damn families. Not to mention that I hope teachers are given more sick days, because if they get Covid they have to isolate for at least 14 days, which is ALL the time off they have. Did you know this? Now you do.

I saw a meme the other day that said, “You want schools to control Covid-19? Sure, no problem. Look how well they control head lice outbreaks…”

Take some deep breathes. This will be over one day, but now is not the time to go back to school. It just isn’t. Sorry you don’t want to hear that, but I’ve been listening to you say things like, “Teachers are so lucky they get all summer off…” and other whacked-out shit for too long. Y’all need to get on better terms with some teachers so they can throw some truth at you. I have a few close friends I can send your way if you need a damn wake-up call.

M.

PS… ALWAYS VOTE FOR SCHOOLS AND TEACHER PAY INCREASES, YOU ASSHOLES

News Alert

I‘ve been struggling to stay away from the news lately. Struggling because it’s important to stay informed, but I also know what the news does to me, and I know that the way people respond to news is even worse. It’s one thing to get an alert that says our president is threatening to cut funding to schools if we don’t go back full time in August, it’s another thing altogether to see family and friends share his sentiment in agreement. Like really?! Weren’t you just saying three months ago how awesome teachers are, and how important school is for your kids, and how everyone should have more money?! It’s disheartening to say the least.

The news alerts I get on my phone are usually the worst, and they have been coming fast and furious over the last few months. The ones that tell me another child was murdered. Or police killed another Black man, or that the cases of COVID-19 have skyrocketed. Shit man. It’s like we can’t catch a break.

I know I’m not alone in this. There are a million memes about how fucked up 2020 has been, about how we wish we could just wish it all away. But the thing is, we can’t. And maybe that’s good. Maybe it’s time we face the news. So much has come to light over the last few months. How much we have realized about how disgusting, and backwards, and ridiculous our country really is. How gross we treat each other. How one minute we say things like, “Teachers are saints who should be paid more!” Then the next minute we say, “I don’t care if teachers get COVID, the economy needs to get back to work!” Wow. Just wow.

That’s where I find myself today. At the crossroads of wanting to be informed and wanting to crawl into a hole and never come out. How about you?

Be safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Teaching Cursive

Jackson and I were going through his registration packet for middle school yesterday and we got to a page he needed to sign. It was about attendance, being on time for school and each class. He read over it, then grabbed the pen. He stopped short of signing and said, “Can I print?” My instinct was to say no, it asks for your signature. So that’s what I said. Then I offered to write his name in cursive so he could see, and he could copy what I did. I immediately thought those thoughts many people have. Why have they not taught our kids cursive?! Then he said, “Mommy, I just don’t understand why when it says to ‘sign’ your name, it has to be cursive. Why is it that way?” Then I answered the answer I hate, “That’s how it’s always been.” He shook his head and signed a very long, careful signature that, in all honesty, doesn’t have shit to do with literally anything. Literally. Whether or not my rising-sixth grader can sign his name in cursive matters not to a damn person. To a damn thing. And why is it even a thing? And why are people so bent out of shape that learning cursive is not a priority anymore. I would have much rather not learned cursive as a third grader, and instead been pushed to actually learn how fractions work. Or how to play a musical instrument, or how to speak Spanish. I could give two shits that I know how to write just one language in two different ways. Why wasn’t I instead taught how to write in two different languages?!

Okay, whew. I didn’t realize I was so mad about this, but the truth of the matter is, it’s ridiculous what we put on our teachers. It’s ridiculous how little they are paid, how much they do, and now how they will LITERALLY be putting their lives at risk to help you “get back to work” and yet people still have the audacity to say shit like, “Well my kid isn’t learning cursive!” Get your shit together, y’all. Our kids are learning how to hide in closets in case masked gunman storm their classrooms. They are listening to a man run our country into the ground while he says things like, “I like to grab ‘em by the pussy.” They are watching their angry adults say hurtful things like, “All lives matter,” deciding if they can deal with the stress of wearing masks at schools or virtual learning, meanwhile you’re mad that our teachers are pushing back. That our local and state officials want to get this all right the first time so it’s taking longer to get answers to you, and yeah, some of y’all are still mad your kid or grandkid isn’t learning cursive. Get the fuck outta here with that. If you want your kids to learn cursive, teach them. You have no problem teaching them how to hunt or fish, which is as useless today as writing in cursive. You have no problem teaching them how to shoot a gun, how to hate someone not like them, how to go sit in a church pew. Teach them cursive. And give the teachers a fucking break, you couldn’t do their job if your life depended on it, meanwhile our lives do depend on teachers. Because without them, who knows where your kid would be. Where you would be. So shut up, sit down, and vote for schools, for teachers, for education, every, single time.

M.

A Whole Bunch of Racism

Here are some things that have been said to me, in front of me, I have overheard, or that I have witnessed in my lifetime that are acts of covert racism (and sometimes overt). This is not an exhaustive list, just top of mind stuff. These are all bad. They are wrong. They are part of the cog in the structural racism wheel. Recognize if you have heard or said any of these things, and change them straight away. This is not okay. It wasn’t okay in 1987, it is not okay now.

  • They are good athletes
  • Don’t date a Black boy
  • I would hate if my child had a mixed race baby
  • We look like Mexicans headed to El Paso (in reference to a loaded truck)
  • It’s a very “dark” place (meaning a lot of Black people frequent it)
  • All Lives Matter
  • That is reverse racism (that is not a thing that exists)
  • They are “thugs”
  • I have a Black friend
  • They are probably smuggling drugs
  • I can’t tell my husband I dated a Black guy
  • My family never owned a slave, so we aren’t racists
  • I don’t see color
  • They smell like rice and beans
  • She’s a Welfare Queen (said by a white woman who was on welfare, discussing her Black neighbor who was also on welfare)
  • All her kids probably don’t even have the same dad
  • The only way we will move forward is to stop talking about the past! (Then one moment later) We can’t take statues down, we can’t just erase our history!
  • I hear they eat their own dogs
  • It’s heritage, not hate
  • They should just go back to where they came from
  • They get a Black History month, we should get a white history month too!
  • Black women use abortion as birth control
  • What are you?
  • “Kung-Flu” (I think we all know who said that)
  • But I was discriminated against too, we all are
  • She’s really pretty for a Black girl
  • I just don’t understand why they are so angry? I grew up poor too.
  • Rap music is too explicit
  • (People whispering the word Black)
  • BET exists?! What about White Entertainment Television? Why can’t we have our own channel?!
  • I just think the way they dance is gross
  • I say just let them all kill each other
  • How can they see through those slanted eyes?
  • Black on Black crime

Yeah, that’s a thing.

Also, I Googled Susan Smith because I remembered how she killed her children then blamed a Black man. That sent me down a long rabbit hole on the internets and I came across this video from 2012. The creator is Calvin Michaels, and he shared things he’s heard white people say. It’s pretty spot on. It’s only six minutes and totally worth a watch.

And while we are at it, in The Long History of Racism Against Asian Americans from PBS, you can read about how Asian Americans have always been discriminated against.

And you can educate yourself about how Latino Americans have been and still are treated in our country with The Brutal History of Anti-Latino Discrimination in America.

Thanks for stopping on by. Hope you learned something. Read on, y’all.

M.

Church

I woke up thinking about church today. Probably because it’s Sunday, certainly not because I’m a churchgoer. I’ve never been a churchgoers. I was never forced to go to church as a child, never had religion thrust upon me. My mom used to say she’d let her kids decide what to believe, though she herself was a Christian, it didn’t much matter back then what we believed in, as long as we were good, kind people. And we are. All of us. But we maybe didn’t go the path she expected.

I’m married to an atheist. The good kind. He doesn’t need a higher power to keep him in line. He likes to say that he does all the raping and pillaging he wants to, which is zero. He isn’t “acting” good in this life for fear of what the next will hold. He’s a good person because he’s a good person.

I’m in a “complicated” relationship with Jesus. God, well, I’m not a fan. But Jesus seemed cool, the man Jesus anyway. But even on my best days I can’t wrap my mind around church. Around organized religion. Too much hate, judgement, and evil takes places in many of those four walls, and I’ll pass. I’ll get my “church” the old-fashioned way, walking with Jesus alone, communing with nature, talking to y’all on this here blog.

My son has been raised with grandparents who don’t shy away from talking religion with him. My mom taught him to pray (she’s become very religious in her senior years and I’m sure regrets that whole “let my kids figure it out themselves” deal she did). So since Jackson was small she’s talked about her love for God to him, which is why I was pretty surprised the other day when he said, “Santa Claus is real, you know. He’s a real person, not like God who is just a belief.” Ouch. That’s some shit he made up in his own mind. Seems Santa, a jolly man who has magic and cares about all the children in the world, is easier to believe in than a God who makes people spew hate and judgment towards others. Of course my happy, kind, empathetic son believes in a man who has flying reindeer and brings smiles to children. And of course my smart, logical, realistic son can’t get behind a belief that spreads hate and has caused war and killing and disease. A belief people blindly stand behind. A belief that neglects some children based on how they came into this world, where they live, or how they practice their own faith. Of course.

So yeah, we aren’t headed to church today. But we are headed down to the lake for some fun, food, and fellowship. Is there anything else you can ask of a Sunday?

M.

Bitches, Bad and Boujee

I’m a White Claw drinker. That might take me down a peg or two with some of y’all, but I’m willing to risk that to assert my truth. I drink White Claws, and I like them. I’m a fan of seltzer water anyway, so you add alcohol to it and a little bit of watermelon flavoring and let’s be real, I’m fucking in. White Claws have a bad reputation, mainly because people are jealous, and don’t like to have fun, and are boujee with their alcohol choices, so they try to pass judgement on me but it won’t work. Fight me. I’m a bad bitch.

Anyway, White Claws keep me hydrated, and I never seem to get drunk on them, just a little tipsy, which is a good thing. It means I can drink all day at the lake for funsies and not feel bad the next day, which might be why there are no laws when you’re drinking Claws. (Disclaimer: There are in fact laws when you’re drinking Claws, as my 11-year-old likes to remind me.) But I mean, is there? Cause my White Claw koozie says otherwise.

Anyway, White Claw is owned by Mark Anthony brands, the same company who brought us Mike’s Hard Lemonade and totally changed the high school girl experience for the better back in the late 90s. The owner, Anthony (not Mark) started his company by selling wine out of the back of his car, which is both badass and boujee, so who’s a bitch now? Thanks Anthony, for all your hard work. I salute you.

Now go forth and have a safe, happy, law-free day, y’all.

M.

Grad School

Yous guys, this MFA program I’m headed into in the fall got me buggin’. Like, I’m NERVOUS. One, I don’t like most people. Two, I am definitely afraid of new people. Three, I’m just learning how to take myself seriously as a writer. Four, Imposter Syndrome. This isn’t my first rodeo. Five, I gotta stop making lists. That’s why I’m in the mess I’m in today, I made a list. I made a mental list of all the ways I could fuck up grad school and the list is exhaustive. I won’t share it now, cause most of it is bogus and you’d be like, really, Missy? And then I’d have to defend how crazy and dumb I am, and I’m not good at defending myself, which meeeeeans (making full circle motions with my hands) when I have to defend a BOOK LENGTH work at the end of this program I will die. Literally. Then the ghost of Missy will have to finish the program, and honestly, I don’t trust that bitch. She shady.

So why did I even do this? Why did I even apply for an MFA program? That’s a great question you guys, and one I don’t have an answer for. I’m hoping to write my way to answer, meanwhile I’ll just sit here and wonder about all the ways I am meant to watch my life ignite, sizzle, and burst into flames.

Stand back.

M.