Shit or Get Off the Pot

Things are a hot mess in Atlanta right now. We had a deadly Fourth of July weekend, several children have been shot in the last week, and Covid-19 never really left. But yesterday morning our governor decided to be a real governor and say something about the violence. I mean, God forbid he take action to help save us from the global pandemic that is sweeping our state, or listen to what the people in Atlanta (the largest municipality and the capital of the state) are angry about, but “extra” violence in Atlanta, that warrants a stern talking to. Matter of fact he said, “While we stand ready to assist local leaders in restoring peace and maintaining order, we won’t hesitate to take action without them.” Well, hold up, let me rephrase, he Tweeted that. So he didn’t actually address the problem on a public stage, he didn’t actually do anything, he just sat at his desk and Tweeted his ideas. Sound like anyone else we know?

The problem isn’t so much the fact that he threatened the city, it’s that once again he didn’t do shit about a problem until a domestic spotlight was shone upon us, then he threatened. Remember how we have talked about leadership coming from the top down? Atlanta, like all other large municipalities, has a very particular set of problems, and because of it’s shear size, it makes it difficult to fix many of these problems, especially when you want to just fix them overnight. Listen, I’ve only been here a little over a year, but I can already see that the way things have been going, are not helping. This is an instance where, “But it’s always been done that way,” isn’t working and things need to be changed, and I know I sound like a broken record here, but it starts with voting. Then it moves out from there. Volunteering. Donating. Sharing knowledge you gain. Educating people.

When we moved to Atlanta a year ago we were nervous. We had heard horrible things about the city we have come to love. The horrible things were mainly racist bullshit that out-of-towners don’t feel comfortable talking about. That was our first lesson. Because when you really strip Atlanta down, down to its roots, it isn’t pretty, but it’s important. Vital, even. Like did you know Atlanta and the Black vote was the single biggest game-changer in getting John F. Kennedy elected back in 1960? I didn’t either, until I came here and had a history lesson.

Say what you will about Atlanta, but until you are here, living in it, taking the Marta to historical places, reading about the culture and society (which by the way some people who have lived here for 20 years don’t even do or know about) then I won’t listen to you anymore. I can’t. I won’t listen to our racist, hypocritical governor either. I can’t. Too many people are dying here. Too many people need help. And I’ve been waxing for a year now about how I can help. Saying I can’t, or I shouldn’t, it isn’t my place. But the fact is, this is my place. This is my home. I don’t know how long it will be, but it is now and that is all that matters. I’m a Georgian now. I live in a suburban town just steps outside the perimeter and I have two choices: I can tell people I live in Tucker, where the schools are sweet and the people are all wonderful, and the houses are big and there is opportunity for growth, or I can say I live in the Atlanta Metro and we need help. A lot of fucking help.

When I was little and I needed to make a decision about one thing or another, about what my actions needed to be, and I was stuck and so very afraid my mom would say, “Welp Missy, it’s shit or get off the pot time,” and I’m finally feeling that here in Atlanta. It’s time to either dig in and help, put in the time, and the effort, and the heart, or it’s time to leave. Stay my happy-ass in the comfortable parts of life. I’ll give you one guess what I’m about to do…

It’s time to shit or get off the pot, y’all. What are you gonna do?

M.

Well Hello…

I have some new followers! I love new followers, but I hate that word “follower.” I prefer friends! I have some new friends! We shall all welcome them with open arms. Hello, friends! Welcome! Grab a White Claw, or a bottle of wine, or maybe some iced tea (we are in The South after all) and sit a spell while I tell you a bit about myself. My name is Missy. (Really it’s Melissa but when I was a born in the 80s my stone-washed jeans wearing sisters thought Missy sounded radical, so there you have it.) I go by Melissa when I am feeling “formal” or when I don’t know people very well, but I do prefer Missy. I’m not the type of person to offer that up when we first meet, nicknames sometimes scare people, so you’ll usually know me a little while when someone will call me Missy and you’ll be all, Wait, who is Missy? You mean Melissa? And they will be all, Who is Melissa? And that’s pretty much all you need to know about me. Just kidding.

I’m married to a lovely middle-aged, white man whom I often make fun of for being a middle-aged, white man but check this, he is faaaaar from the kinda guy you are thinking of. Sure, on the outside he looks the part, and a lot of old ladies grab his hand to tell them all about his church (like his atheist-ass cares), but he politely listens, nods along, and says, That sounds really nice! Occasionally other middle-aged, white men who do not know him very well will suggest having a beer, and they will end up saying some whacked-out racist shit, or something about how our current president is “fiscally responsible” or maybe throw in a homophobic joke, and my husband will be all, Oh, so you’re an asshole. Then he will pay his tab (but not theirs) and leave. He’s cool like that.

We have an 11-year-old son who is starting sixth grade in the fall. Middle school. I’m not going any further than that because I remember middle school, vividly, and I am terrified for him and for me. He’s supersonic smart though. He’s in the STEM program, robotics team, band, etc, etc. You’ll like him a lot and often remark how mature he is for his age, but that’s just because he doesn’t feel comfortable enough around you to make fart noises under his arm. Just yet. Otherwise he is honest, kind, considerate, and his three favorite television shows are: The Office, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

The dogs, Jesus I forgot about the dogs. Okay listen, we had this amazing dog for nearly 14 years. Her name was Bentley and she was my actual ride-or-die (yeah, I say ride or die and I don’t know if it is hyphenated or not). She was a chocolate lab mix and also the best dog in the whole world. But in 2018 her health problems caught up with her and we had to put her down a couple months shy of her 14th birthday. Then I did what I always do, I had a breakdown and over-compensated by getting not one, but two dogs. Sir Duke Barkington of Charlotte came first. He is a standard poodle and he’s hella fancy and honestly I can’t with him sometimes. He wears bow ties, and prefers to be professionally groomed with a blow out. We just celebrated his second birthday with a surprise celebration on April 30th, because quarantine.

Then there is Lady Winifred Beesly of Atlanta. Winnie came to us at the beginning of quarantine because who didn’t think it was the perfect time to go on Craigslist and adopt a dog that someone had bought and realized they were allergic to and didn’t know what to do with?! She’s part standard poodle and part great pyranees and I know what you are thinking, what does that dog look like? Answer: A hot fucking mess. But we love her.

Okay, so I think that’s the gist of life around here. We live in Metro Atlanta. We are pro-choice (I’ll tell you about my daughter sometime), LGBTQIA+ allies, active members in the Black Lives Matter Movement, and we are Bernie supporters who will be voting for Biden in November because shiiiiiiit. My husband has his MBA and works in finance, I write and piddle around the house yelling about politics and who the hell shit on the floor?! It’s usually a dog.

This blog houses everything from my distorted, meandering thoughts to stories of my childhood, to actual lists of whatever I am thinking at any given moment. I talk a lot about mental health, family, and writing. I made a promise to myself to blog everyday this year, and with the exception of two weeks ago when I took a break to help #MuteTheWhiteNoise and #AmplifyBlackVoices I have written everyday this year. So, there’s a lot to read and digest here. I also have a page with my published writings if you are so inclined. Thanks for reading today and thanks for being on this crazy ride!

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Facebook Friday

On Friday I woke up, looked at the news and knew exactly what most of my friends and family would be talking about on social media: Riots. Looting. How violence was sweeping our nation in the wake of the murder or George Floyd. My first thought was, great, here we go again. Then I thought, wait, Can I help in some way? Can I try to open a dialogue with my white family and friends about why this is happening? I’ve been trying for the last year to understand the structural racism that our country was founded on. The same structural racism that our country began with–kill the Native Americans, move them to reservations, and take their land–and kept up with like an unspoken mantra for decades. The same structural racism that made Black people a fraction of a person. That made a rich country on the backs of minorities. The same structural racism that allows us to be okay with children dying in cages at the border, today. The same that makes “Not all cops are bad” as the only proper response to the killing of George Floyd. What I know and what other white (and some Black) people don’t yet realize is that our country was founded on these idea. Keep the minorities down. And as long as we don’t talk about it, just do it, all will be well.

So I got the bright idea to let myself be on Facebook all day long. Now y’all know I have been limiting my access to Facebook to 15 minutes a day for about eight months now, and it has done wonders for my mental health. I mean I would spend all day on there. I would work with the Facebook tab open. I would compulsively check my phone all day to see if someone “liked” or commented on something. That’s how I got my news, my recipes, my pictures of cute dogs and babies. But alas, I learned you can get all those from other places, and that the less time I spend on social media the better I feel. Now I know this is not the case for some of you. We know what social media is at its worst, but at its best it can do amazing things. It’s just that I am programmed to focus on the bad stuff, so it doesn’t work for me like it might others, and that’s okay. But yesterday I asked Jerimiah (the keeper of my Facebook time) to give me access all day. He put in the password, handed me the phone, then asked if that was a good idea. Of course, I almost screamed, I’m doing good today!

What I ended up doing was getting sucked right back into the “bad.” I got sucked back into sharing my opinion on other people’s pages, who quite frankly, were not as “woke” as me? Yeah, let’s say that. White fragility is real, y’all. I’ve been reading about it, but I wasn’t sure until I read something that a Black activist wrote a few weeks ago and suddenly I was offended. All, Well how could she say that about me? How could she clump me in with those white people? She doesn’t know me, look I’m different, I have experience with this, I blah, blah, blah… Then I was like, Oh shit, I just highlighted her point exactly.

White people, especially women, get so upset when you share truth with them, so offended, that they lash out. Not all, but most. Count me as one of them. One of them who is working on not being that way. How dare we suggest white women are just more of the same? Well, how do you think it makes Black people feel when you use stereotypes on them? When our culture, our society, has taught these stereotypes. Jesus, more than half of my white friends and family aren’t even friends with a Black person. They don’t even know Black people. Or they haven’t lived in a predominantly Black community. So they only know these stereotypes and these ideas about Black culture from what they have been taught by society.

Then there were the Not All Cops Are Bad people. No one that I know, or have talked to recently has claimed all cops are bad. Matter fact, I know several people in Law Enforcement. And the people I know and am related to would probably, I’d like to think at least, stick up for people like George Floyd. But who can say. Atlanta’s Police Chief Erika Sheilds said it best, she said, “As law enforcement officers, we tend to put ourselves in the shoes of the police officer who is detaining. We have been there. We get that space. We need to stop seeing it that way. We need to step back and see the whole situation. Some people just should not police, and those people should be swiftly seen for who they are and removed.” Yeah, that’s part of the whole point. That’s why we need mental health checks, and psych evaluations on people before they become police officers. Better training, oversight committees formed by the people of the city, the very people the police are policing.

If you think about it, being a LEO is just a smaller version of a politician. They are there to serve the community, to keep people safe. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights era when police officers were tasked with spraying SILENT protestors with hoses and pelting them with rubber bullets, that suddenly police (some of them) began to see themselves as the keeper of “right” and “wrong.” We gave power to them that must be restored. Do they have a dangerous job? Absolutely. Do they get shot at in the line of service? Do they die for no reason? Yes. Yes. What does it stem from, do you think? Structural racism? Lack of mental health care for people who need it? Yes. And yes. I’ve met, had actual conversions with LEOs who truly believe they are God. Who put on the uniform and become someone else. I once knew a cop in Leavenworth, a young guy, new to the force, who was married with a baby at home. He liked to use his badge to fuck with young people, young men especially. Why? He liked to have sex with guys, but he couldn’t tell his family he was gay, so he’d use his badge to prey on young men. Should he have been policing? Uhh, no. But did people think this stand-up, married, dad was doing what he was doing? Uhh, no.

Just because someone has a badge doesn’t make them inherently good. You should hear the stories I have heard about male police officers and how they have random sex and affairs with women. Take advantage of women. Rape women in custody. Cheat on their spouses, and think it’s okay because they are “the law” and besides, don’t women always says shit like, “I love a man in uniform…” Le sigh. That sort of power can go to someone’s head. I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes. And those people should not be policing. I also think many law enforcement officers have witnessed their colleagues say and do things to Black people that is offensive, violent, etc, and have stayed silent. No one wants to piss off a co-worker. No one wants to piss off people they have to see day in and day out. But when you do you are aiding the problem. I know this is hard for people with loved ones who are LEOs to hear. I know it is hard for the “Thin Blue Line” people to hear. But it doesn’t make it less true. Think on it.

Then there are the protesters. I had a couple of people reach out, which I always prefer, and ask why I condone rioting and looting. I don’t. They just assumed that I do because I called bullshit on structural racism. I reminded people that the anger and hatred that fueled the Boston Tea Party and the rioting and looting there is now taught in school as “Patriotism.” I reminded people that last month white men walked into their state capital with Ak-47s and demanded to be able to eat at TGIFridays without a mask, and our president called them “Good people who are just angry.” Then I reminded them that if a group of people protesting at a #BLM rally turn to looting (which by the way is not the intent of the #BlackLivesMatter movement), they are “thugs” and it is “violence” not “patriotism.” Why do you think that is? I have a hunch.

Jerimiah and I sat in awe last night as we watched instigators tear down Atlanta. It was shameful to see. Damn it, Jerimiah sighed. Because he knows, like I do and a lot of us, that now people will only see this protest, this peaceful, non-violent, planned protest, as a “riot.” And I get the anger from people who say, “I don’t condone this.” Most people don’t. Most of the protesters were long gone, and their were more than enough people telling CNN reporters, as they stood outside CNN and watched the agitators break the glass windows to their office, that they do not condone this. That isn’t what it was supposed to be about.

The thing that got me was the amount of white people they were interviewing, who were A. Not from Atlanta and B. Just there to start some shit. White people busting out windows, white people screaming at the cops, white people burning the flag, which by the way, doesn’t bother me. You can hate me all you want, but I don’t give two shits about the burning of a piece of cloth. Would I do it? Probably not. Not unless I thought I had a good enough reason, like my son was killed by cops then my president didn’t give a shit, or you know, something like that. But the newscaster was all, “This is hard to watch” as two white people burned an American flag, and Jerimiah and I looked at each other and were like, This? This is hard to watch? This is the part that is hard to watch? Now we see how infuriating it must be to silently protest and be told you’re doing it wrong. You can’t kneel. You can’t burn a piece of cloth. You can’t stand with your hands up. You can’t form a chain and peacefully walk from one part of the city and then back again. You can’t call out white supremacy.

I know too many people who have watched the KKK burn down a Black church and sigh and go, “Well, what can you do?” then to sit and listen to them bitch about a Target on fire. (Eye roll). But it doesn’t matter how people protest, it’s wrong in the eyes of the US government. Unless, as mentioned before, you are a white male protesting with automatic weapons on the steps of your state capital, then you cool. Otherwise, no. No kneeling in silent protest. No walking across bridges. No burning the flag in protest. No standing in the street with your hands raised. No chanting, “I can’t breathe.” You get what I’m slinging.

I was actually really happy with the way Atlanta handled it all on Friday. And I was really happy with the protest itself. We did not go because we don’t feel comfortable going to fucking Wingstop to pick up chicken wings right now, so you won’t find me at any political rallies, but I was happy that people let their feelings out. That pastors spoke. That healing happened. But it was negated by the chaos that followed. So now we have two choices: We can either focus on the rioting, or the problem and solution. Too many of y’all wanna focus on the rioting and I get why. It’s easier. It is a cut and dry situation. They burned a cop car. That is wrong. And easy to fix. And a pretty agreeable stance. Burning cop cars is bad. Killing and imprisoning Black men, hmm, that’s harder for some of you to work out.

The last thing I saw before I turned off the television was Dr. Bernice King. She came to the press conference Mayor Bottoms held in Atlanta. Mayor Bottoms was a mother up there. “Go home,” she said. “If you love this city, go home.” Of course as I said, many of the instigators were not from Atlanta, so no, they do not love this city. Most of Atlanta was already at home, worrying about how the city would look in the morning. Then T.I. spoke, then Killer Mike, then Dr. Bernice King. She reminded people that what you miss when you use her father’s words, “A riot is the language of the unheard…” is the part about the “unheard” and as long as there is rioting, you will continue to be “unheard.” And she’s right. But, we are taught, in this white supremacy world that we live in, to accept that the murder of an unarmed Black man in daylight by a police officer as “non-violence” but looting a Target as “violence.” And until we can all get on the same page about what the “problem” is, no one will be heard. On thing is for sure about watching angry people light cop cars on fire in the middle of downtown Atlanta, we have a problem in this country, and you can’t ignore it any longer.

Listen, I shared the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quote the other day on Insta and FB. The one that said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” And a lot of people “Loved” and “Liked” it. Then when the protestors took to the street, y’all lost your voice. Got upset if someone put you in your place. Let your white fragility show. So which is it? Are you ready to speak up for all people. Black people being killed by cops. Brown people held in cages. Learn how to deal with it, learn how to combat it, learn how to better yourselves, or not? I know it is hard. I know it is hard to look at your overtly racist family member and say, “Stop. That is is not okay.” But if you don’t do it, who will?

I don’t know if I helped on Friday. I know I made my day a mess. My nerves were shot, and I just slipped into the hot tub with a glass of wine to forget it all. Isn’t that nice that I can do that? And I know I made mistakes. I know I reacted strongly to people, or didn’t truly understand what they were trying to say, all because I didn’t let it sink in. And I always welcome anyone to message me. To tell me how my words made them feel, even if it is anger. But I won’t tolerate passive-aggressive remarks, or blanket statements aimed at me. Like when the teacher yells at the whole class because they are mad at one student. Call me out on it, I don’t mind. You’ll feel better, and maybe I will have learned to see things from a different point of view. Or maybe I’ll realize you are a crazy person and unfriend you, who knows! And remember, that street goes both ways, y’all. You’ll never offend me if you need to unfriend me for your mental health. I will only respect you more.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Now if you have read to the bottom, thanks! And if you really want to educate yourself, and you really want to try to do better then do what I have been doing for months. Read books about how to be anti-racist. Follow accounts that teach you how to help the Black Community. I’m leaving some suggestions below.

Follow:

The Conscious Kid on Instagram

Rep. John Lewis

Stacey Abrams

Rachel Elizabeth Cargle

Dr. Bernice King/The King Center

Brittany Packnett Cunningham

The hashtags: #BlackLivesMatter #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd #IRunWithAhmaud #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor

Read:

Lagniappe

We met a man last summer in Coastal Louisiana who was raised on the bayou. He used to hunt for and collect alligator eggs as a child, then hatch them and raise them in his bathtub until they got too big, then he and his brothers would take them back out to the swamp and drop them near where they found them. He spoke Louisiana-French, a creole language spoken across ethnic and racial lines, by people who consider themselves to be Cajun or Louisiana Creole, as well as Chitimacha, Houma, Biloxi, Tunica, Choctaw, Acadian, and/or French. Creole is the type of language they speak, but Cajun is derived from that. There is always a dominate language with pidgin languages known as the superstrate language, while the lesser is the substrate. In the case of the Cajun there is English, then French, then African, Spanish, and Native American. When it all converges in one person, the result can be wonderful and confusing. He told us how to “pinch the tail and suck the head,” showed us places we had never seen before, and explained that Lagniappe just means getting a little something extra than you paid for.

He would speak to the alligators primarily in French, then speak to us in English, then speak to his friend in Creole. He would codeswitch from one being to another, never skipping a beat, never missing an opportunity to tell his story to whomever would listen. Always with an eye on the alligator.

The man was our tour guide on the Atchafalaya River Basin, a combination of wetlands and river delta where the Atchafalaya and the Gulf of Mexico converge. The basin contains 70% forest habitat, and 30% open water. As far as wetland river basins go, it’s almost stable. It’s the largest contiguous block of forested wetlands left in the lower Mississippi River Valley, and the largest block of floodplain forest in the United States, with 260,000 acres of cypress-tupelo. It’s iconic, and terrifying, and a little bit surreal.

Soaring over the Atchafalaya Swamp we watched a baby and momma Osprey spread their wings from the top of a hollowed cypress. We saw a 12-foot alligator lead his blind friend to food. We overheard the story of the Louisiana Black Bear, and the floods, and the inoperable South Farm, and the ATV-traffic that threatens many of the existence there. We saw beaver dams, and otter running for their lives. We felt the slap of an alligator tail against the oiled metal of the boat. For the first time in my five years in The South, I let it grip me. Take ahold of my head and my heart. It was something I didn’t expect to happen, but something I am glad did. Like when you get an extra donut in the box.

M.

Sharpie Feet

You don’t really know how talented the world is, until you watch a man unroll three feet of paper, take his shoes off, stick Sharpies between his toes and draw a portrait of you and one of your best friends inside a Ruby Tuesday. Then, and only then, as you stand wide-eyed and wondering, do you realize you have witnessed the art of human nature. The art of imagination. The art of so many what-the-fucks that you have dreams, nay nightmares, for weeks about this particular man’s feet. And sweaty toes. And the courage, or is it madness, that some people possess inside their minds and bodies. Am I being a little over the top? Well, sure. But he could have warned me when he asked to borrow my Sharpies.

I worked in the restaurant business for years. Eventually I was in management, where I excelled at training people, making angry customers happy, and was the first line of defense in the interview process. We had this system at Ruby Tuesday. When someone would walk through the door with an application, an unsolicited one, a shift leader, or an assistant manager, or a trusted bartender, whomever was around, would be called to the front door to greet them. Then we’d do what we called a 60-second interview. Maybe it was 60 seconds. Maybe it was 90 seconds. I know there were people I spent less than 30 seconds with, people with sores around their mouths, itching their skin that appeared to be crawling with an unseen bug, while they asked about being paid in cash and whether or not we offered paid training.

Then there were people who caught my attention, who I invited to sit for a spell. I might even offer them a Coke or a Sweet Tea if they tickled my fancy. That’s what happened the day I met the man who would draw me with my own Sharpies. I was back in the kitchen, counting burger buns on the line, when the hostess caught my attention across the heat lamps. “You’re gonna wanna see this,” she said, then motioned to the front door. I gave her a quizzical look, and she mouthed, “I’m getting Erica too,” and headed to the manager’s office. I scrambled to take off my apron and beat them both up to the front. I always liked to get to crazy before Erica. Assess the situation, beat her to the punch, so that later when we laughed about the incident I could say I saw it first.

I jogged up through the restaurant like there was a salad bar emergency, which happened more than you’d feel comfortable knowing, while I smiled at customers who were shoving sliders and soup into their mouths. When I got to the front door there was a man at the hostess stand wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt, holding a roll of white paper under his arms. An application was sitting on the hostess stand. I introduced myself, keenly aware that neither the hostess, nor Erica had made their way up to the front yet, which means they were sitting in the office watching me and this man on video to see what type of craziness was about to unfold.

I introduced myself. He handed me his application and asked me if I wanted to see something “cool as shit.” I looked up toward the camera and smiled. I did want to see something cool as shit, and I knew other people who did too. I escorted him to the larger dining room that was usually only opened for the dinner rush. It was quiet, empty, and a little dark since the lights were still turned down.

Erica and the hostess walked through the “Do Not Enter, Employees Only” door on the side of the dining room from the dry storage area. They were cautious, but smiling. We all knew something great was about to happen, but we had no idea what.

This man unrolled about three feet of paper from his roll, laid it flat on the ground. I moved some chairs out of his way so he would have more room. He stood up, looked at the three of us, and asked if someone had something to write with. I handed him the two Sharpies I had in my shirt pocket. Erica offered the pencil from her hair. He passed on the pencil, but took the Sharpies with appreciation. I hadn’t had a moment to look at his application since we walked over, so I took this opportunity to glance down at it. I don’t remember his name. I don’t remember his date of birth, his previous employer, I don’t even remember if he filled it out completely, all I remember is that while my eyes were looking down at the paper in my hand, Erica pushed her whole body into mine with such force I was inclined to say, “Ouch,” then I looked up at the man. He had suddenly taken his shoes off, stuck the Sharpies in between his toes, and started to work on the paper.

Twenty minutes later, as my best friend Erica (the General Manager of the restaurant) and I looked at caricatures of ourselves on this three foot wide piece of paper, drawn by this man’s feet (and my Sharpies) we didn’t know what to say. We wanted to ask when he could start work. We wanted to ask him to pick up his paper and leave. We were shocked and awed and I offered him a Sweet Tea. He accepted. Thirty minutes later we really just wanted him to pick up his paper and leave. Well, technically we wanted to keep the paper, it was a portrait of us after all, and have him put his shoes back on and leave. But it seemed like he was there for the long haul. He was asking about a burger.

Turns out the man had no experience in the restaurant business. He had no experience as a cook. He had a “slight” drug problem, that he was working on, and while he technically didn’t have an address, he was living in a tent by the lake, he planned on getting one soon enough. He had was a artist, which was plain to see. He was in Branson to be “discovered.” He wanted to be on America’s Got Talent. He wanted to be a Hollywood star, he wanted to know if we could foot him the money for a burger. Foot. Haha. We could not. We did not. He put his shoes back on. Called us assholes, I believe, grabbed his roll of paper, and walked out the front door. Erica shook her head, told me to bleach those Sharpies and went back to the office. This was not her first rodeo. But I was shook.

It would take a couple more years of meeting people like this, seeing people live like this, one job application to another. One choice of drug for another, before the plight of the human condition would start to sting my heart. A couple more interviews with people who said they were “working on getting a place to live,” a couple more transients who were addicted to meth, or crack, or just looking to steal from the bar. I always had a knack for picking the “good” people. I was trusted for my innate ability to read someone’s face, their actions. But the whole experience took a toll on me. Sure there were days where I saw a man draw my picture with his feet and I found it amusing, then frantic, then sad. But then there were really bad days. Days where a single mom, addicted to ice, would walk in with an application and her two-year-old daughter on her hip. And I desperately wanted to give her a chance, but there are just some things you can’t do. So you feed them. You notify child services. You go sit in you car and scream at the top of your lungs for a little while. Whatever it takes to make it all better.

I had a friend say to me one time, “Well you work in the restaurant business, you aren’t exactly working with the highest class of people.” I nodded, and moved on. I knew what he meant, but I didn’t have the energy to fight. To correct him. To explain to him that sometimes, in this midst of the shit, of the counting of burger buns, and of the standing for hours on your feet. In the midst of having ketchup spilled all over your white shirt, or having a man scream at you because there isn’t enough spinach in his spinach and artichoke dip, sometimes those “low-class” people teach you what it means to be human. You learn, then you grow. Or you don’t. Either way, we are all still there.

Miss you, Erica. And the fun that was scattered throughout.

M.

Life Carries On

I’m wide awake at 5:00 am on a Saturday, staring at the crack in the curtain as moonlight, streetlight, and a small sliver of day stream in. I’m awake because I heard footsteps in the hallway. Our house is old. Creaky. Drafty, sometimes. The squeaks were from Jerimiah, who heard our puppy vomiting in the hallway and went to her rescue. He cleaned up the vomit, soothed her jittery nerves, and now they are both asleep again next to me. Why she vomited I can’t be sure. She had her last round of puppy shots. She maybe ate her dinner too fast. She maybe ate another random stick in the yard. Puppies vomit. Life carries on.

I can’t get back to sleep tonight. Today. This morning. I’m thinking about that time, 1998, maybe ‘99, when I was standing in line at the cell phone store. Remember the cell phone store? Not Verizon, or Best Buy. This was a smaller store, where you could buy prepaid flip phones, or pay your AT&T bill, still buy a pager? That store. They were usually in a failing mall, or shopping strip, next to an anchor store like JC Penny or Radio Shack. They had names like Clear Choice Cellular or Cellular One. You had a Motorola Star-tac, or maybe a Nokia with a small yellowed screen. You played a game with a long snake that would maze around in different directions, eating food, while it grew, and grew, and grew. The game was dumb. It was dumb and it was addictive and did it have a name? Maybe it was just called Snake. Just, Snake.

I’m thinking about this time I was standing inside this store and I was waiting, and waiting, and waiting to pay my cell phone bill. It was hot outside, I was in flip flops, it was hot inside the crowded, little store, across from ACE Hardware, next to the movie theater and the arcade that folded a couple years later. I was still in high school. Still learning how the world worked. I had a wad of cash in my hand. Maybe $70. Cell phone bills were expensive back then. But I had a job. I worked the “10 Items or Less” register at Food-4-Less. On the lucky days.

There were a couple women working two different counters. It was all very hectic in there. People were forming a line to pay their bills, people were forming a different line to purchase a phone, a process back then as complicated as buying a car. Long, arduous, taxing. There was another line to look at cases, another to pay their landline bill, buy phone cards to call their families in countries I’d never heard of, let alone visited. Not then. Not that day.

The line was moving. The woman in front of me was motioned to a desk. I was up next. I nervously moved my toes up and down in my flip flops. Someone was waiting in an idling car outside for me. My mom, or my sister, or my best friend. I was keenly aware that I was keeping someone from getting somewhere they needed to be. I was hot. I was sweating in my Walmart flip flops, I was next to be called.

The chime on the door jingled, and the line turned to look. A young man walked in, looked at the line exasperated, and walked inside the store. The line looked back toward the women at the desks. One of them tiredly said, “Come on, whoever’s next.” I started toward her when the man that had just walked in raced past me and got to her desk before I did. I stopped dead in my tracks. I looked around in disbelief. I looked back at the line behind me. They looked at me with searing eyes. Why did I let him cut in line? Why didn’t I say something? What could I have done? Anger. Pity. I stepped back to my spot in line and sank into myself a bit. He finished up his business, then turned to leave. He smiled at us as he walked by. Smirked really. He was no dummy. He wouldn’t wait in line. The woman at the counter motioned me over.

I sank into myself a bit that day and I never fully came back up. I don’t know why. And I don’t know how. I just did. And sometimes when I can’t sleep, when it’s 5:00 am on a Saturday, and my puppy has vomited, and the light from the moon and the sun streams into the cracks of my window I think about that day. About that man. About what nearly-40 Missy would like to say to him. To the line. To the women at the counters. To the little, dumb Missy who sank into herself. And I just can’t sleep.

Hope you’re sleeping peacefully this morning.

M.

Racism in The South

I was born and raised in Kansas. But not the kind of Kansas you’re thinking of. I wasn’t Dorothy, living on a pig farm with my aunt and uncle. I didn’t know any farm hands, I didn’t run to the cellar when the twisters came (we ran to an interior closet, because we could never afford a house with a basement), and I didn’t have any ruby red shoes. Rather I grew up in Leavenworth, a small albeit diverse* town, in the statistical Kansas City-metro area. I was born in one of the two hospitals in town. I attended Leavenworth public schools (mostly Title One schools), and I graduated from Leavenworth High School with a class of about 1200 kids. My best friends in first grade were two little white girls, two little Black girls, and a boy from Pakistan whose dad was an officer in the Indian Army, and was stationed at Fort Leavenworth that year for Combined Army and Services Staff School or CAS-Cubed. So no, it wasn’t Oz or anything like that.

When I was 21, Jerimiah and I moved to Southern Missouri to live at the resort his parents bought on Table Rock Lake. Like really, really Southern Missouri. We lived about four miles from the Arkansas line, and had many run-ins with what I’ve come to know as “Hill People.” We spent five years on Table Rock Lake, where I couldn’t tell you that I ever saw a person of any skin tone other than white (other than our friends we worked with in Branson). We moved into Branson for the first five years of Jackson’s life, where at least it was a little more diverse. Still, we knew it wasn’t the place we wanted to raise our son. Southern Missouri is not reflective of real life, and we never wanted our son to stay there, so we figured we best move somewhere with a little more diversity.

We ended up in Denver, North Carolina because my brother-in-law said it was nice. And it was, but it was more of the same. White. Middle-class. Lake. Boats. Second homes. Sub-divisions. We lived there for nearly four years before we moved to Charlotte and actually lived the sort of life we wanted for our son. He finally had a diverse set of friends, he was in a Charter School during that time, but it was racially, economically, and academically diverse. We liked our little Charlotte neighborhood, and we were happy. Then we got the news we needed to move again. This time to Atlanta.

We’ve been in the Atlanta-metro area for a year now. We are in a small, diverse town on the edge of the Perimeter, which is the highway that runs around the city. We are twenty minutes from downtown. We can catch a bus, ride the MARTA, or Uber to one of the busiest airports in the world with great ease. We have everything we need here, and we are happy. But there is one little thing: Racists. And I’m not talking about the men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery. That is a different kind of racism, and it is my opinion that the man who pulled the trigger should die. The others should serve life. But I am not the judge, nor am I the jury. (Don’t worry I’m not gonna pull some “Jesus is Lord” shit here, I’m saying I am not actually in charge and my opinion doesn’t matter, but I hope the GBI does right by Ahmaud.) The kind of racism I’m talking about here is the kind of racism you find up the road in a town like Cumming, Georgia. It’s covert, not overt.

Cumming has a population of less than 10,000 and no, they are not all racists. I’m sure there are some fine people in Cumming, Ga I don’t know them. I don’t know anyone there because I have never been there, because I refuse to go there because the things I know about the city are not good. I’ve heard about “Sunshine Laws” in Cumming. You might have heard of Cumming from a story that Oprah did on the town in 1987. It’s known for it’s racism around these parts, and even if it is on Lake Lanier I’m just not interested in knowing “that part of Georgia.” The problem is Cumming isn’t a stand-alone, small Georgian town full of racism and unchecked bias. Cumming seems to me, in the year I have spent traveling through the state, to be normal. And it isn’t just Georgia.

We spent six weeks last year in Louisiana. We drove down there on three separate occasions and stayed for two weeks at a time. We drove through places like Birmingham and Biloxi, sure. But we also drove through towns like Newnan, and Opelika, and Chickasaw, and D’Iberville, and Thibodaux and I promise they are all more of the same. Covert, overt, unchecked aggressions and bias, and everything in between. Here read this blog post I wrote about Baton Rouge, or this one, or this one. I tried to share what I was seeing and hearing. The rampant racism that sits just under the surface and is ALWAYS present there is present all over the South. It is present in every, single state in The South, and I’m not saying it isn’t in every state in our country, it’s just so much more pronounced here, that it is hard to look away from.

It is present in my county, DeKalb county, where statistically speaking we are minorities. The Black people in DeKalb County make a lot of money. A lot of it. We are the second richest county in the country with a predominantly Black population. But guess what is here, covert and overt racism, unchecked aggression, and bias. Cause it doesn’t matter if you have money or not. It doesn’t matter if you are educated. It doesn’t matter if you are the kindest person ever. It doesn’t matter if you are small business owner, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company in Atlanta, there are people who will hate you if you are Black and there is nothing you can do about it. And some people truly don’t know this. Some privileged white people really think racism is under control here, and they are walking around trying to save face with the rest of the country, but friends there is no face to save.

As I said, I’ve lived in some different places. Some backwards sorta places, where people chase their lost donkeys in the middle of the night, then smoke meth all day, and still the racism here, in Georgia, in The South, is the worst I have seen in any place I have ever lived. And it is sad. And scary. And unfortunately what happened to Ahmaud is not unique down here, and we all know that. And I think everyone needs to know that. We need to know it, discuss it, and deal with it.

Stay safe, y’all.

M.

*I’m not doing that thing white people do when they say “diverse” and just mean “more Black people” I mean truly diverse when I use the word. Ethnically, culturally, spiritually, educationally, and economically, and yes, varying races represented in the community. That’s the ideal place for us, and one similar to where I grew up.

Privilege

In a lot of the conversations I’m having with others these days, the word privilege seems to surface. Whether we’re discussing the plight of people all over the world, or in our own backyards. Whether we are discussing the global pandemic, or gun violence, or mental health, someone will mention privilege and the conversation will inevitably blur into a new one about how we can help, how the privileged classes can impact the lives of others, whether or not we should ever feel bad for ourselves.

My friends usually say something like, “I feel guilty because…” then insert the reason they feel guilty right now. Maybe they have great health insurance. Or maybe they are still working full-time, with full-time pay, just from the safety of their home. Or maybe they have healthy children, or partners they love to spend time with. The point is this here world is made up of a lot of different people, and some of us, just by being born who we are, or where we are, live a life of privilege.

Now would I consider the life I lived as a child a life of privilege. Let’s recap: I grew up in poverty, the last child of a single mom of four, we were welfare recipients, Section 8 people, I was a free lunch kid. I watched my mom struggle to make ends meet every month, play the whole Which-Bill-Is-Skipped-This-Month Game. We didn’t have the best healthcare, etc. etc. So did I live a privileged life? Yep, I did. Because while we didn’t have money, and I missed out on some things growing up, I learned a million life lessons. I’m also, as it happens, a white person, born in America. So even though my childhood was rough, even though I had family members in prison, and several addicted to alcohol, or drugs, or gambling, or all three, I still led and continue to lead a life of privilege.

One of my professors once told me that she hasn’t figured out a way to write about guilt. It’s a tricky subject, a tough emotion. And I suspect as a member of a privileged class she doesn’t want to upset anyone. And honestly, since she told me that I’ve been trying and trying to figure it out too. But have come up short every time. Maybe it’s a dead end. Probably it is, but just talking about it in a space like this might be good enough. Because here’s the thing: Some of us do recognize that we live a life of privilege, and we do all we can to try to help others. To be compassionate, to lend a hand, or an ear. To make donations. To reach back and lift others up.

But it may, at times, seem like we are ungrateful. For example, I’ve stopped myself a thousand times in the last two months from complaining about one thing or another because honestly, it just isn’t right for me to be complaining right now, when there’s so much uncertainly in this world. But the truth is, I have had hard times. I still continue to, even with my privileges, and like all people it feels nice to discuss them sometimes, lest I invalidate my feelings. If I wouldn’t want to invalidate the feelings and emotions of a compete stranger who lives 3,000 miles from me (I’m just wired that way, it makes me sad to think I have unknowingly hurt someone), so why am I okay with invalidating my own struggles and feelings?

Yep. I can see now how this is a messy subject. Can you? I hope you can. And I hope maybe you’ll think more on it. If you come up with anything let me know. I’m drowning a bit here.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Involuntary Autobiographical Memory #9

We’ve talked before about Involuntary Autobiographical Memories (IAMs). I’ve told you about how these random memories surface in my mind when I’m doing something that doesn’t require my mind in any way. Then, if I don’t talk about them, or write about them, they keep recurring for a few days. It’s bizarre, and definitely a mental health question, but not all that uncommon. Though I suspect some of us are more susceptible to it, I often wonder if you have to let the memories in. Like does it happen to me more because I tend to sit in a quiet room, with Adele playing in the background, stare out the window, and just think? Or is this because I once invited the memories in and now they just flood me all the time? Does it happen to all of us and some of us just “shoo” the memories away? Sometimes the memories are bad, but mostly they are odd, with characters from my life that I would like to forget, but just seem to hang on. Okay, having said all that, today while I was switching the laundry I randomly remembered our old neighbor Frank.

When I was pregnant with Jackson, Jerimiah and I moved to Branson, Missouri. We were living on Table Rock Lake, which is about 30 minutes from Branson proper, but we were both working in Branson, and we were both going to school in Springfield (Missouri State–Go Bears!) so it made sense to not only move to “town” as it were, because it was close to our jobs, close to the only hospital in a 40-mile radius, and closer to school. Jerimiah’s parents wanted us to buy a house, but truth be told we knew we weren’t made for a life in Branson. It was a stopping point for us, so we rented an adorable little bungalow in a historic part of Downtown, a couple blocks from “The Strip” and walking distance to all our favorite restaurants, bars (not that that mattered anymore), and the aforementioned hospital. I was six months pregnant when we moved in, and the house was so small that when we passed in the hallway my belly pushed Jerimiah out of the way. It was wonderful, and adorable, and super cute. The perfect little place.

The neighborhood was older, well established, and going through a revitalization of sorts. The woman we rented from had bought the bungalow, stripped it to the studs, and renovated it. It was charming, all the way down to it’s original hardwood and super-pimp kitchen. The same was happening to a couple other houses on the street, and some houses were in disrepair, waiting to be snatched up and reno’d (this was at the peak of HGTV in our house and a couple times we thought about snatching up one of those $40,000 houses and doing the same thing, but I always talked us out of it. Remember, no forever homes quit yet.)

Across the street we had a small family, next door was Russ and his odd wife, who would sometimes ride with her head down in the car like she was a wanted person, and diagonally from us was Virgil. Virgil was a 92-year-old man living in the house he built in his 40s. It was a lovely house, and secretly, if I were to buy a house on that street, it would be Virgil’s. We took Jackson over for Halloween only weeks after he was born and Virgil invited us in. He was bent, with a cane and suspenders that had to have been from the 70s, and the biggest, brightest smile. He made us sit on his 1980-something sofa, and eat mints from his candy dish. He wouldn’t hold Jackson, but stood next to me and made faces at him and smiled. He recounted his own children, now gone, and all his grandkids and great-grandkids. We adored Virgil, and from then on always looked out for him, walked Jackson over to say hi, and talk about what was happening in the hood. He was the neighborhood’s official “Nice old man.”

Then one day, while Jackson crawled around Virgil’s deck (which was painted blue to match his house and had blue indoor/outdoor carpet on top of the wood) Virgil and I stood and talked to the mailman. It was this day that Virgil dropped the bomb. His son was coming from Washington to get him. His house was officially sold. Things were changing and although he was nervous, he was also excited to be with his kids and grandkids again. Virgil had been widowed in the 1990s and lived alone in that house since. I was sad for him, but happy at the same time. I inquired about his house and he said his son had already sold it to a friend’s dad. It was all very quick, and it hadn’t even hit the market. I smiled and nodded, I figured another Virgil would be moving in and I was good with that. Later that week we said our goodbyes to Virgil, as his son pulled up with a small U-haul. Seems he left most of his furniture to the new owner. And that was that. No more Virgil. And for a few weeks, no movement at the little blue house on the corner.

It was a Sunday morning. I remember because Jerimiah and I were both at home. It was just after I had quit my job to stay home with Jackson full-time, so we finally had our weekends back, though sometimes Jerimiah would pick up a bartending shift on Saturday to make ends meet. But we were all in bed together, a cranky, teething Jackson between us, Jerimiah was snoring loudly, and I was preoccupied by an unusual noise outside. I slowly got up as to not wake anyone, and walked over to the large windows in our incredibly small bedroom, and peeked out. I was met with a sight. An old, large camper was parked between our house and the empty one next door that was being renovated. There was an alley that separated our houses, and the camper was blocking the alley. I was just sitting there, idling. It’s loud muffler roaring, and something was banging. The door to the camper was open, but I couldn’t see anyone. There was an extension cord coming from the inside, and it was running alongside the camper, then out of my view. I kept looking down the alley toward Mary’s house, the family whose backyard backed up to ours. They used the alley quite a bit, and I wondered if this camper somehow belonged to them.

Jerimiah woke up and asked what was happening and I explained the situation. A camper? An extension cord? He had questions. He crept out of bed to join me at the windows and we watched, for what was so long that at one point he went to the bathroom and started the coffee, and came back. At some point Jackson woke up, and we all went into the living room to get a better view. Bentley our overweight chocolate lab was asleep in the dark living room. When we opened the blinds Bentley lost her shit, wanted to know what the hell that camper was doing, wanted us to take her outside. I obliged, because this camper had piqued my curiosity. Jerimiah and Jackson had already moved on to breakfast, but I was hooked. I leashed up Bentley, threw some flip-flops on, and we headed out the front door. Be careful, Jerimiah told me, holding a bouncing Jackson and pulling pancake mix out. I nodded.

Outside Bentley calmed down, when there wasn’t an apparent human with the camper. She sniffed around the edge of our yard. I was too nervous to walk into the alley. Then suddenly a man jumped out of the camper and yelled something toward us. Bentley flipped out, and I pulled her closer to me, which was always harder than it seemed since she was usually using 110 pounds. He started toward us. Bentley was hackled up, and at this point Jerimiah had noticed. He put Jackson in his walker in the living room and walked out onto the porch.

The man was stumbling, obviously drunk, and very loud. Maybe to talk over the camper’s noises, but Bentley did not like him, and as he walked toward us I was a little scared too. He stopped short of our yard, Bentley barking and nipping toward him. “Is that a damn bear?!” He yelled, pointing at Bentley. Rude, we both thought. I mean, she was a sturdy girl, but a bear? Come on, man. I managed a smile, Jerimiah asked if the man needed anything.

Nope, he just wanted to introduce himself. He was Frank, our new neighbor. He pointed toward Virgil’s house. I was agitated at this point, and asked why his camper was here (motioning toward the alleyway), then he started saying something about this being America and he could park his RV whenever he pleased. That was just the beginning.

It didn’t take long to see that Frank was suffering from mental illness. I tried to be as nice as I could, but when I finally broke down and called the police on him he lost it. One day Jackson and I came home from the park. We had walked, him in his stroller, and I turned the corner to head up our street and immediately noticed that same extension cord from the RV. But this time it was coming from the screen door of Frank’s house. It crossed the street and was plugged into an outdoor outlet at Russ’ house, our neighbor. I was furious. At this point we had several run-ins with Frank, including him day drinking and walking up and down the street screaming about the military and President Obama (he was a conspiracy theorist and one heck of a racist). So I called the police.

It was a nice day and my windows were open so I heard the entire incident. They came over, asked him why the extension cord appeared to be plugged into the neighbor’s house, and explained at length why this was dangerous and also illegal. He spat at them, cursed them, and was very close to being arrested, when he finally unplugged the cord and went inside. The police left. All night he stood on his porch and yelled at our house. I was at my wits end.

We only lived at that house for a few more months, it was all too much. I called the police on him a couple more times, and once he did get arrested. The day we moved he had hoisted a very large sign in his front yard to announce his bid for Mayor. I just shook my head. He seemed to be the epitome of a man let down by the system. It turns out Frank was a Veteran, like Russ had been, but he suffered from PTSD and a myriad of other health problems, and was unable to get the care he needed at the VA. It was sad, and scary, and I wish there had been a better way for me to have handled the situation back then. But I was young and green, and this was my first go round with someone like Frank.

The truth of the matter is, we’ve had other odd neighbors. Other people who have made us scratch our head, call the police, and even try to befriend to just understand them more. But Frank was beyond my help. And to this day I think of him. Wonder if he’s okay. And wish him comfort.

I think of Virgil too. And that little blue house on the corner. I think of the early days. I cherish a lot of memories from that house, those streets, but Frank. Ah, sometimes there are things we’d like to forget, but just can’t. I guess there’s a reason.

Wishing you rest today, Frank. Wherever you are.

M.

Meet Ya at The Waffle House

Soooo, how’s everyone doing? Me? Oh well, thanks for asking. I’m sitting here at my desk, staring out my window at the beautiful sunny skies, listening to the birds chirping and the cars whizzing by wondering why in the hell you would actually go eat INSIDE a Waffle House today?! Yep. Uh huh. Welcome to Georgia. Where everything is made up and the points don’t matter. But, to be fair, it’s more than just the Waffle House opening up, it’s also bowling alleys and theaters. And if you do have the emotional or mental capacity to leave your house for dinner and a movie (who are these people, and what kind of anti-depressants are they on?!) then you know you are safe because you they can only sit four deep at the Waffle House counter. Whew, glad someone is taking this all seriously.

Also, just so we are clear, the servers are wearing gloves and masks at the Waffle House, but can I be real for a minute? Shouldn’t the servers at the Waffle House ALWAYS be wearing masks and gloves? I mean, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing I like more than drinking so much gin that my inhibitions are way, way down, then getting turnt on some OJ and fried eggs at the Waffle House. In fact, 20-something Missy lived and died by WH. But, umm, I still always knew I ran the risk of picking up Hep-b in the bathroom while I was there, and I still used caution. Now you throw in a global pandemic and whaazzzzy, whaazzzzy, wha?!

I’m picking on the WH here but it’s because this is Georgia and people literally cried when the WH closed up shop last month, but truly this is the nuttiest thing I have seen in a while. People actually leaving their house, amid 23,500 cases in our state, with nearly 1,000 deaths, and hitting up the movies and going bowling. Like, I just don’t get it. And the beaches, please don’t get me started with the beaches. Y’all know we love to travel. In fact, I’m simultaneously planning three vacations in my mind right now (a trip “home,” a trip to Southern Cali, and a long weekend in Savannah) but you can bet your ass I haven’t actually booked any airfare, or started looking at hotels. Because shit, y’all. It’s gonna be awhile.

I know there are people who are just trying to get back to work. I know that. Small business owners, or you know, Shake Shack, are really trying to cash in on that money, but it isn’t coming. But to be fair, aren’t their employees making more money on unemployment right now, then if they were working? And don’t they have a “rainy day” fund? Like, certainly they don’t want the government to keep bailing them out, that’s, that’s, SOCIALISM!

I think I’m gonna stop. Take some deep breathes. Pour myself a glass of wine at three o’clock in the afternoon, and sit on the deck and listen to the birds. And the squeal of the tires in and out of the local Waffle House. Be safe, y’all. And STAY THE FUCK AT HOME.

M.

Not A Real Breed

Listen, there are some things that I do because I am straight-up trash. Like when I subscribed to the Facebook standard poodle sites, I knew I was being an uppity bitch, but I have this adorable standard poodle and I wanted to share him with people who would love him like I do. People who would appreciate him and swoon over him and say things like, “Sir Duke is ADORABLE! The perfect poodle!” And I have. And they did. Then I was wasting a couple of my minutes of Facebook time the other day on one of them there sites and I saw someone post a picture of a doodle. I gave it a heart, and then immediately I was like, “Oh no!” I felt bad for the poster, a common poodle mommy who was just trying to share a cute pic of her babies. Now she has a poodle, but she just got a doodle and she decided to share a picture of both of the dogs together and I knew they were going to jump all over this poor girl. And they did.

Here’s the thing about “breedists” as I have come to call them: They cray. Like Lucious Malfoy cray. Like “There shan’t be any MUDBLOODS in here!” Cray. They started out nice. Someone was all, “Ohh, is the golden one a standard?” She knew the answer, but she wanted the poster to admit to it. The poster was all, “Oh no, that’s our new doodle pup! Isn’t she sweet?” Yes. Yes, she was sweet. Then someone else chimed in, “There are a lot of doodle sites all over.” Like, wow. Really, bitch? Then someone finally said, “I can’t believe these ‘designer’ breeds that just keep popping up. And they will keep popping up as long as there is demand for them…”

Now, did I do the right thing and come to her rescue? No. No I did not. You can’t “fight” with these breedists. They are like Trump supporters. Matter fact, I think most of them are Trump supporters. It’s just not what I do on there. I heart pics of puppies, and ask things like: When did y’all get your boy neutered? Who’s microchipped? Is stomach tacking worth it? I don’t get involved in the “Poodle Politics.” I know this sounds not like me, but the truth is, I always kinda knew I’d own a “designer breed” one day, and IDGAF what these people think about that.

And now here we are. Me feeling guilty that I am still a member of these sites, and an owner of a PyreDoodle, which by the way is not a recognized breed by the ACK or the CKC but I mean, have you seen her? Have you seen her?! Look it:

Guarantee if I were to post this pic to one of those poodle sites the first thing someone would ask me is, “Oh, is this a standard?” And they would already know the damn answer. They could tell by looking at the pads of her feet. See that little bit of white there? Uh huh. Dead giveaway. She actually has a white chest and some of them would actually die upon seeing her white chest, then come back to life to remind me that this is a “poodle site” and that there are several other places where I might feel more comfortable sharing this picture. Le sigh.

Why am I actually telling you this today? I dunno, I guess to make you feel better about your own life? Like, at least you don’t cruise dog sites looking for a fight. At least you aren’t the semi-proud owner of a dog that is “not a real breed.” Or maybe you are. Maybe you “adopt don’t shop” (I support this so very much, and often feel like a piece of shit because we didn’t find a dog that fit well with us when we went to seven damn shelters. But I also support buying puppies from local, reputable breeders who don’t over breed and have like family farms and shit. That’s supporting local business.) But dear dog lord do not cometh to that group with that mantra. They can tell you 187 reasons why your pit-bull mix you adopted from the local shelter is a big pile of anti-Christ dog shit. And they truly believe it. #TrumpShitGoingOnThereYall

So why then Missy do you belong to these sites? I told y’all. I’m trash. Oh, and the puppies are cute.

Have a safe and happy day!

M.

Ps… Here is a pic I’ve been itching to share on one of the poodle sites, but can’t for fear that I’ll wake up with dog shit in a brown paper bag on my doorstep placed there by an 83-year-old retired librarian with three pure white standards.

Someone Else’s Shoes

We hear a lot, and I say a lot, that we should strive to see different points of views. We should try to walk in someone else’s shoes. But I wonder if you’ve ever tried it? I have. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer. Or maybe it’s because I’m a mentally ill, but I have these elaborate talks with myself in the shower. Sorta like Ted Talks. Missy Shower Talks. I’d invite you all, but well, I’m naked. In my shower. Talking to myself. I can’t expect you to want to attend. The topics are far reaching, while the sanity is completely gone. But sometimes in my Missy Shower Talks, I talk with people who have made me mad. Last week I tried that with this guy I used to know. The one who reached out to me in the middle of his own crisis to tell me I was a judgmental bitch because I don’t think we should “reopen America” quite yet. With him I decided to put myself in his shoes. Just for a minute.

–I’m an immigrant, who has been in the USA for almost 20 years. I am finally at a point where I am a small business owner, and while I did some dumb stuff when I was younger, I am pretty much straightened out now and just trying to live that American dream like everyone else. I live in an area that relies on tourists, year round, and my business relies on them. This is not a good time to be in this business. But I have a family to keep fed, and a business to keep from sinking. I do everything I am supposed to do. I pay my taxes. I pay my employees. I treat everyone fair. (I have no way of knowing he is this good of a guy, but I’m trying to be the best version of him.) When the pandemic hit where I live I did what I could to get help. I submitted a loan to the Small Business Association. I was turned down. I filed for unemployment. I was denied. Now I am stuck. I’m angry and frustrated, and I see my friends on Facebook who still have jobs and who can stay home, and not run around trying to scrounge up work. Okay, shit, I get it. “We should stay home!” But I CAN’T STAY HOME OR I DON’T EAT! Ahhhhhhhh!–

End scene or something. Wow.

I imagine this is incredibly frustrating. I can see why he would want to reach out to people and explain to them. To say, look at me. I’m not doing well. Look at what is happening to some people. He wants to make sure others see and hear his story. I can appreciate that. I want to know what is happening. I want to see what people are going through. I wish I could have helped him in some way, but he wasn’t asking for help, just asking to be seen. And I saw him. More than he knows. So what’s the deal here, Missy? What is the take away?

First, people want to be seen and heard. We need to remember that when we are talking to people. A lot of people only share the good/happy/funny news on social media. And that’s cool and whatever, but they are still there when the bad happens. We tend to forget about them because they are being quiet. No one wants to openly share that they were denied unemployment, or that their small business was not in a place that was making profits, or saving for the future. You have to reach down, dig further, and find out what is really happening. And sometimes you have to do that from trying to see the world from their point of view. Finding the story within the story.

From the outside this guy was rocking it. Taking fun vacations, partying all night, with the nicest, most trendy clothes, cars, and people. So how did it only take a month of his business taking a hit before he was in need of a SBA loan? And why did he think I needed to know about it? As I mentioned, this guy is an immigrant. He is originally from Russia, if memory serves, and he has a lot riding on him. He is someone’s grandson, son, brother, uncle. A whole family is looking at him while he lives the American dream for them. Now his dream is shuttered. Doesn’t matter how or why, it’s shuttered. And he is at a pretty low point and obviously needs a place to vent. Can he call up his family in Russia and tell them? Probably not. Can he turn to those flashy friends and vent, most likely, umm, no. So what does he do? He turns to relative strangers on the internet to be seen. To be heard. To make sure they know there are people like him. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s what he chose to do and it impacted me. And ultimately I unfriended him because I don’t like being unloaded on by relative strangers, but I did try to see life from his POV.

That’s my point. Trying to put on someone else’s shoes for a minute. Maybe we need to work on that. Sure, most people will never be able to understand another person’s life. And that’s okay. But shouldn’t we at least try to walk in someone else’s shoes occasionally? To keep us connected. To keep us open-minded. To keep us grounded and grateful. Maybe. Try it.

M.

True Colors

I don’t dye my hair, but I have a lot of friends who do. I support dyeing your hair if that makes you feel better. I have several things I do that make me feel better as a woman, as a person, and if I were in a situation where I was not allowed to do those, I would be upset. So while I can’t empathize with people who are staring at their roots right now wondering how the hell they are going to cover them, I can sympathize. And I support you adding dye to your Walmart order, or if you’re like my best friend, having the in with your stylist, so that she drops all the required items on your front door with instructions. Amazing! But here is something I can’t support: A person saying that we can deal with a couple hundred deaths, if that means she can go get her hair extensions put in next month.

Missy, what are you talking about?! I’m talking about a friend on FB, well a former friend, who actually said that her state better not push the “stay-at-home order” into mid-May because she has an appointment to get hair extensions and she needs them. Was she joking? Man, I hope so. But I think it was based on a very real frustration that her life is being messed up. And that’s where her caring for the world stops. That’s her limit. Too many times the last month her world has been stopped in its track and now she is drawing the line. Wow. Real life.

This global pandemic is certainly a chance for us to put our best foot forward, and obviously some of us just aren’t up to the challenge. In another post, while she obviously spiraled out, this same friend said she knew the “real” reasons this was all happening, but that she wasn’t going to share them because people on FB are mean. You might be wondering, how does she know the “real reasons” when medical experts, scientists, doctors, and governments all around the world don’t have the answers. Another friend suggested perhaps a degree in Mystical Science? But alas, no. She doesn’t know the real reason, but she is certainly showing her true colors during a crisis, and frankly she isn’t alone. And it’s sad, and scary.

There is a whole swath of people who truly believe that the experts, people who went to school for years, who are infectious disease doctors, who are in labs creating vaccines, are out to get them. Out to ruin their life. Why? They must think themselves so important that they are worth ruining. It never occurs to them that this life is MUCH bigger than them. And if this is you, if you think this way, then I suggest you spend a little bit of time in your backyard on a clear night, looking up at the stars, and understanding you small, very small, minuscule, place in this world. You’re just not that important. None of us are. Yet here we are, saying things like, “What matters if a couple hundred people die? They can’t take our liberties!”

Yeah girl, your roots are showing. But even worse, your disgusting display of arrogance, ignorance, and unhealthy world image is showing. Your lack of sympathy and empathy is showing. Your total inability to see past your own life, you inability to love the entire human race is showing. I see now. As long as your life is going well, we can all sit back and share funny memes and laugh. But the moment you had a vacation cancelled, or can’t get hair extensions, or have been out of the dating pool too long, then we will all pay. I see you now, and your true colors. We all do.

M.

Losing Sleep

Everyday I wake up with a fresh mindset about the world we live in right now. Then everyday by dinnertime I’m either angry, sad, or sangry. Yeah, that’s a thing. At least, it is now. So today, while I’m still in a relatively okay-ish mood I’m trying to decide what exactly is making me sangry. It seems hard to pinpoint when I’m sitting alone in my office pontificating on the state of things with my friends.

All these thoughts going through my mind, making me crazy. Patsy thinks I might have ADD, but that’s a whole other post. Today I’m telling my friends about what makes me lose sleep and it boils down to this: I am so upset about how our country reacts (as a collective) to basically every bad thing that happens to us. Seriously. I think that’s what is making me sangry right now. I know that is broad, and I know, yes I know, that there is nothing I can do about that, but that’s what keeps me up at night. The way that, unlike say how New Zealand does things in a wake of a tragedy, we as Americans (may I remind some of you that we are US Citizens, we are not the only “Americans” in the whole world, there are a lot of “Americans” in South America for example) react so negatively, so ridiculously when we are hit with tragedy that it makes my heart hurt.

I mention that whole “Americans” thing, because I think it shines a light on what drives us to be total batshit crazy at times of crisis: We are so self-indulgent. So egotistical. We care so much about ‘Merica and ‘Merica only, that we forget there is a whole wide world out there, a whole planet that we share with billions of people, and what we do, and how we act, has repercussions.

Now it is true that since Trump was elected the world has taken us less seriously. With Obama they looked to us to see what we are doing, so they could do the same thing. Now they look to see what we are doing so they can do the opposite, because they want to save their people and the planet. So a lot of what I am feeling has been creeping up in my throat for the last three-and-a-half years. And I am hopeful that we will put an end to this fuckery this year, but it has allowed people, people I know and love, to show their true colors, and y’all their colors aren’t pretty. And some of them aren’t even red, white, and blue. Some of them are just white. Ya dig?

So yes. I think that is it. I think that I am embarrassed to be a US Citizen right now. I think I’m embarrassed that the whole state of Oklahoma is trying to find The Tiger King employees at the local Walmarts, while they buy up all the tp, and plan family and church outings because they literally don’t believe that Covid-19 is real. (I’m picking on Oklahoma, but those ideas are rampant all over the south as well.)

I’m embarrassed that people are picking fights on social media, saying things like, “Y’all are so divisive!” as they share doctored photos of Barack Obama at an ISIS meeting (still, they are still sharing this made-up bullshit), or continue, continue to talk about Hillary Clinton and Benghazi. Literally four people died there. Four people. We are at 20,000 now. Guess what that makes us in the USA for Covid-19 deaths? Number one. Yeah, “We’re number one! We’re number one!” PS… I’m leaving a map here to show you where Benghazi is, because the other day (not exaggerating like two fucking days ago) a long lost cousin shared a meme to remind us all about Benghazi (not sure why, must be the same reason Trump is still talking about the impeachment hearings, sleight of hand shit) and people on their page were legit arguing over where Benghazi even was. Did y’all know it is in the country of Libya, on the continent of Africa? I’m sure you all did, but there are a lot of people who DO NOT KNOW THAT. Did y’all know that Africa is not a country? Again, I’m sure you did, but some people DO NOT KNOW THAT.

Someone said they knew it was where those “Sand (N-word)” lived, but that was it. (Long, audible sigh). Most of these people are related to me by marriage, if I may.

Lest I remind you all the money that went down the toilets to “investigate” Obama and Clinton over “Benghazi” and how all of a sudden, Republicans are worried about the money we spent on the impeachment, but they were cool with us spending money on 10 separate investigations on Hillary Clinton. And still, they still want to investigate her. All Trump has to do to get people pumped up at his rally is say “We should investigate Hillary” and people are on their feet screaming. Rallies that, by the way, he was actually still holding last month when some of the country was already under quarantine. Le sigh.

So yes, it’s the behavior of my fellow citizens, the current administration, and some very loud, very racist, very naive people on social media that keep me up at night. That mixed with the fear that I think we all have, about what our country, what the world, will look and feel like on the other side of this.

So how do we combat it? The simple answer is that we can’t. Well, I mean, we can vote for Biden in November (you have to vote and you have to vote Biden if you want this to be over). But aside from that, we can only keep doing what we are doing. Worrying, reading, loving, staying home. Writing, baking, dreaming of our next vacation. Creating art. Hugging those you are quarantined with. Sending cards and flowers to those you can’t see right now. Face-timing. Gardening. Going on walks. Binge-watching Netflix. Trying to stay occupied so we don’t ruminate too long on one thing, because that is what gets us into trouble.

This is just a rant post. I know. But thanks for reading you guys. For still being around. I know this is a shitty time, and you’d much prefer I share funny stuff, or just shut the hell up and show pictures (which I promise to do this week), but meanwhile you always seem to “get me.” Even when I haven’t done my best at writing how I feel because there is too much going on in my head. And for that I am grateful. For you I am grateful. And remember, when you think you’re the only one sometimes that feels a certain way, you’re not. No way. We are all in this together.

Stay safe and sane.

M.

Conspiracy Theorists

I have some people on my Facebook newsfeed that believe we are constantly being lied to, about literally everything. Some call them “Conspiracy Theorists” I call them “uneducated rednecks,” because that’s the lot I see most frequently. Yesterday there were two people that made me consider deleting my Facebook account. One suggested that while they believe the Coronavirus is real, they don’t see it, know anyone who is sick, and therefore has deduced that we are being lied to. We are “Sheeple”. Then the post ended with a plea to not be judged by their beliefs, like they won’t judge others for theirs. There is so much wrong with that I don’t know where to start. You will be judged. I will judge you. So will so many others, because when you share stuff like this you put lives in danger.

Listen to me. As it sits, we have more cases of Covid-19 in a four county clump here in Georgia, than the entire state of Missouri. I love you Missouri, but y’all some absolute nutcases. Out fishing in lakes, boating, basking in the sun like it’s vacation time. You know why you don’t know anyone who is sick? Because you don’t leave a thirty-mile radius of your house. You are only friends with people who look and live like you. White people. Rednecks. Other conspiracy theorists. Middle-class. People who own a damn boat. You know what kind of people don’t own boats? The kind that are dying from Covid-19.

Look it, I don’t normally sit back and idly let people spew hatred and misinformation. Yet that’s just what I did yesterday. I stopped myself from commenting on any of the posts. Especially the one that I’m about to share, because what it boiled down to was a mean-spirited attempt to put a value on human lives depending on where they work, and how much they are paid, and whether or not the mass collective agrees with the poster, in order to what? Feel better about oneself? Put down a whole group of people (in this case nurses who are actually working the frontlines of this global pandemic right now). I’ll share what the post said now, but know that I’m paraphrasing:

“Is anyone else really mad that they are paying nurses like double their salary to go to work, and giving them hotel rooms, and discounts like on Starbucks and Crocs, but the military only makes like $2,000 a month while they are overseas being shot at? I mean, are there even really videos of inside hospitals? Do we even know how it really is?”

Ummm. Yes. Yes there are videos. And a cursory search would find you more videos, says my husband, than you can stomach. Also military men and woman are compensated when they go overseas. It’s called Hazard pay. And it’s on top of their salaries, and their housing benefits, free food, and their healthcare. On top of other things, like signing bonuses, discounts on gear, tax-free money, and tax-free duty shops, discounts at many places around the country (including fucking Starbucks), etc. And if that’s what you are really mad about (I too think soldiers deserve more money in war-time and much better mental healthcare upon returning) than vote for people who will make that happen. But, in this instance it’s comparing apples to oranges. It’s misdirected anger. And I suspect it’s a lot more.

What that poster tried to do was belittle a whole group of women and men, but why? Well, science tells us fear, and a hint of jealousy. But I’ve been there before, so angry and misinformed that I accidentally show my lack of critical thinking also, so at first I thought to give the poster grace. But to berate people who are actually out there saving lives, makes zero fucking sense to me. And the more I though on it, the more troubled I became. This person isn’t alone in their backward, asinine way of thinking.

We are a country that cannot think outside ourselves. We cannot think past the very tippy, tip of our noses. We can’t think past what we can see, and we don’t see much. We don’t care to. It’s better to stay in our safe, little 30-mile radius and use essential oils to thwart all that ills us. Stalking behind computer screens, spinning up conspiracies to suit our agenda, and hocking actual lies and utter nonsense.

Also, some people just like drama and “likes.” Lest we not forget that. But when we look at the bigger picture we see how lop-sided this “argument” (if you want to call it that) is. Soldiers know what they are signing up for when they sign up. They know the perils of war, nurses on the other hand, don’t intend to get themselves into a war with death everyday, but it has happened this is where some find themselves today. They are walking into hospitals without the correct equipment to do their jobs. They, unlike the military, are not being funded by the government (and God forbid they come from a state our president doesn’t like). They are risking their own lives everyday just like the men and women on the battlefield do, and yes they should be compensated, like the military. Fortunately many of them work for private-sector so they can be compensated much better than government employees, but again, that’s a choice someone makes. The military even gets free college! And if you ask me, I’m all for nurses and other essential health care workers having their student loans wiped free after this is said and done. Or free college for people who want to go into the healthcare industry, I mean the people who want to be doctors, nurses, surgeons, etc, not the people who call themselves “Healthcare workers” but shuffle papers for the doctors and nurses all day. Those that are actually saving lives everyday. Those are the ones in our world that should be commended. Because not all heroes wear camo, nowadays our heroes are wearing lab coats.

This poster also said we were being lied to. That everything we read has to be fact-checked, meanwhile this poster shares sources that are obviously inaccurate and the poster shared a screenshot of the “nursing benefits” with no actual source. Hmm. Perhaps the poster is just bummed that they aren’t a nurse? Or that nurses are getting more attention now? Or they aren’t able to get free Starbucks? If I send them a Starbucks gift card will they feel better? Stop being cold-hearted? Think a little more?

Because there are actually people dying out there. And I’m sure their loved ones don’t want to read about how you think the people taking care of their dying father is “paid too much.” Meanwhile, what does it have to do with you? And why share something like that, unless you are jealous of the attention nurses are getting, sad that you aren’t someone who can actually save lives, or just a mean person who doesn’t think before you hit “share”? I mean, are there any other reasons to say things like that?

It seems to me to be a mixture of so many things. It’s basic human nature, sure. It’s fear. It’s that feeling of not being in control and needing to lash out at others. You know, bring them down to where you are. Then there is the mental health issue.

If you are told you can’t leave your house except for essential reasons and your mind immediately goes to the idea that our government is trying to control what we do, then you suffer from a mental illness. Probably a host of them. If you hear that nurses on the frontlines of this pandemic, who are using the same medical masks day in and day out, who lack the equipment to do their job properly, who are putting their lives on the line everyday to help, are making more money than you, or getting to sleep a straight six hours in a hotel room and take a shower without possibly infecting their families, and that pisses you off, there is some mental illness there. And a hateful heart. I hope that God can speak to your heart to soften it in some way. Because I’d hate for you, or someone you love, to need the attention of a nurse after you’ve made comments like that. You should absolutely be ashamed of yourself. But we aren’t, are we? We aren’t ashamed of what we say on social media. It’s our right. Our God-given right to share our hate-filled rhetoric with all those who will read it and hopefully agree with it, and hopefully “like” it so we can get the attention we so desperately seek.

Yes, people are this crazy, y’all. And I’m obviously very tired of it. I’m tired of reading half-cocked conspiracy theories that trickle down from our actual president. Then those same people say things like, “sheeple” and “lift the veil” meanwhile they are just touting what they’ve heard on Fox and Friends. What the what?!

People are crazy and don’t understand that hospitals that are empty right now are a GREAT sign. That’s what we were hoping for. We are hoping that you don’t know anyone who is sick, that social distancing worked. That we flattened the curve. That nurses with no work to do is awesome. Nurses with no work to do, and who are going to places where there is more work than can be handled should be paid more. They are going into actual battle zones, willing to risk their lives to help others. Meanwhile, you and I are sitting on Facebook bitching about each other. Way to go, us. How great are we? At least I’m supporting those helping. Trying to make sense of the senseless. Donating money. Asking how to help. Sharing the stories coming from healthcare professionals working the frontlines. What the actual hell are you doing?

M.

#UsingHashtagsDoesntMakeItFactual #HowManyHashtagsDoesOnePersonNeed #ThisWontMakeYouFamousOrABetterPerson #Unfriend