Virtual Meet-Up

I did my first virtual meeting last week with a group called “The Quarantine Book Club” (I first told you about them in my “Submitting” post last week.) I stumbled upon them on Instagram. They are a group of readers, writers and designers, all around cool people who are hosting virtual meet-ups on Zoom with writers who are promoting books, or essayists and others like them. I stumbled upon them because one of my favorite writers, Megan Stielstra, was the guest. The tickets are $5 through EventBright, and I will post their events, website, and other links at the bottom of the page if you are interested in learning more. But for now I want to tell you about the hour I spent with 55 really nice, really honest, really empathetic and compassionate people at my desk in my pajamas.

I was nervous when I first logged onto Zoom, so nervous in fact that I didn’t even connect with video. That is an option you have. You can just stick a picture of yourself up, or it will just show your name. I chose this pic of Jackson and me as my image:

I couldn’t decide what I was nervous about, I think it was just the idea of meeting new people, yes, even virtually. I did feel a little better when Megan’s sweet face popped up, but I was still like, “Oh my goodness, what if I do or say something crazy and someone notices me?” So yeah, I sat in relative obscurity. For the record, I also didn’t ask any questions (though there were a so many for her we didn’t even get to them all), all I did was thank them at the end in the little chat bar, but I did listen, something I am really good at, and I did soak up some inspiration from one of my favorite writers and some really awesome new friends! (For real, some of us connected on Insta afterward.) And although I took four pages of notes just from listening, these were the big takeaways for me:

Because although Megan is a great essay writer, we didn’t really want to know about how to write an essay, we were all wondering instead, how you an keep writing, how you can survive, in a times like today. And she spent a lot of time telling us how she thought we could do that, how she was trying to do that, and how we as a community must do that. She talked about fear and sadness. About how we can service our communities with our writing. About how it’s okay to be down on the ground. It’s okay because there are people are around us who are not on the ground when we are, and we need to rely on those people, because one day we will be upright and walking, and our friends will be down there and they will need us like we did them. Really. Truly.

Don’t get me wrong, she did talk about writing. She gave some great tips on how to find where you should be submitting. She encouraged us all to get our words out there, but when one woman was unmuted to ask her question, and was crying alone in her bedroom because Megan had just given us all permission to be scared and sad, we all took a long breath in. We were all this woman. Or we have been. Or we will be. And it is scary and it is sad, and we feel bad about it, even though there just isn’t a need to.

I don’t know, listen, I’m still trying to wrap my head around all I learned in one hour with 55 strangers on the internet. I’m sure something good will come from it, but in the meantime here is the link to the Quarantine Book Club again, and here is an essay from Megan Stielstra’s book “The Wrong Way to Save Your Life” and here is a list of my favorite Indie Bookstores you can buy her, or any of the cool, fun, new books from. I’m sure you have your own Indie Booksellers too, but if not, check out Indie Bound.

Quarantine Book Club Twitter

Megan Stielstra Essay “Here is My Heart”

Some of my favorite Indie Booksellers, the kind of places you can get lost in for hours. Most of them are closed now except to online orders, but most are offering free delivery right now too. And if you’re ever in any of these areas, check out these fun shops, I’ve been to all of them and can vouch for their cold-hard coolness!

Okay, take care of yourself and each other.

M.

Winnie, The Doo

Last week a friend of ours called to ask if we could dog sit while she goes out of town to stay with family while we are in this quarantine. Her husband still has to physically go to work in Atlanta and she didn’t want to leave her pup all alone all day. We had previously discussed the idea of trading off dog-sitting duties with each other if we ever needed to, so our dogs already know and like each other, so we said sure thing. Two days with our friends’ sweet Doggo Nola, a yellow-Lab mix, and my puppy-mommy uterus was exploding. Jerimiah and I have been in talks for several months about the idea of a second dog. In fact, if you’ll remember we went to a couple of shelters, but didn’t find a doggo that fit our family. Then after having Nola around, seeing how cool she is with Sir Duke, how he has a playmate and that helps out a lot, well, we just did it. We totally adopted a dog over the weekend! May I please introduce to you Lady Winifred Beesly of Atlanta:

Now, I know what you are thinking: That’s a beast of a name, Missy! How did you ever come up with it? Super simple. My friend Madison suggested Winnie, while we were stuck on “D” names that would be cute with Duke. Names like, Dixie, Delta, or Dolly. But I knew since she was a Lady, she needed a noble sounding name, so I said make it Winifred and you’ve got a deal. Jackson was hellbent on Beesly, as a nod to the fictional character Pam Beesly in “The Office” (of which we just finished the whole series as a family and that was a hot fucking mess, with not one, but two emotional breakdowns for my 11-year-old). And of Atlanta is of course necessary, considering she is a Lady. But like Duke (whose actual name is Sir Duke Barkington of Charlotte) we call her by her nickname, Winnie. Or more usually, Winnie the Doo, because she’s an 8-week-old F1B PyreDoodle.

What the actual hell is an F1B PyreDoodle? Winnie is 3/4 Standard Poodle, 1/4 Great Pyrenees, and 1/1 awesome. Her biological mommy is a Standard Parti-Poodle and her biological daddy is half Standard and half Great Pyrenees, giving her the F1B status. Now listen, I don’t know anything about dog breeding. Nor do I know anything about these fancy-ass designer breeds that I am apparently drawn to, but she isn’t AKC registered like Duke because she can’t be, because she’s, well, let’s just call her “too special.” Yes, she’s “too special” to be recognized as a reputable dog breed by the American Kennel Craphead Uppity Bitches Chamber of Cocksuckers. I think that’s their full name. But listen y’all, true to Missy fashion, I had to Google what a Great Pyrenees looks like after we had already adopted her. Side note, they look like this:

Did you know they were really big? I did not.

Anyway, even though she’s mostly SPOO, she looks mostly like a Great Pyrenees puppy, which makes me a little nervous cause the doggy door we bought isn’t all that big. But that’s shit to worry about later, for now, please look at these pictures:

Now, how are Sir Duke and Lady Winnie getting along? Well, the first day was ruff. He was really sad that she was getting a ton of attention, and he withdrew a bit. He even refused to sleep on the bed with us because she was up there. Then by the next day he had convinced himself that she was a Covid-19 carrier because Great Pyrenees are mountain dogs from France and Spain, and he’s slightly racist. Later that night we found and burned his MAGA hat, had a stern talk with him, and he’s coming around. He even lets her eat next to him, as you can see in the above picture.

Yesterday they started to play together. And whenever I tell her “Outside!” and rush out the door with her peeing down my arm, I think I can see a twinkle in his eye. He knows he is the superior being, he doesn’t feel pressure to prove it anymore. Also, he’s a little scared of her. But to be fair, she’s kinda ferocious for such a tiny thing.

So there you have it, Winnie the Doo. And yes, we made a song for her set to the Winnie-the-Pooh theme song and it’s dropping fresh today straight from the 100-acre wood. You’re welcome.

M.

Winnie the Doo (Sung to the tune of Winnie-the-Pooh)

Winnie the Doo, Winnie the Doo,

Fuzzy little puppy, all stuffed and fluffy,

Winnie the Doo, Winnie the Doo

Silly, willy, nilly old girl!

Welcome to the family, Winnie-girl. You’ve got some big shoes to fill, but we think Bentley would be proud of you.

Bonus Post

I don’t usually post twice in one day, but I decided to make an exception today for fun. We’ve been walking our neighborhood every day in an effort to just get outdoors. We wave at those we pass, but keep our distance. We have noticed that the foot traffic has picked up, which is nice, and some people are hanging lights and signs in their windows. A couple of days ago a house hung up all sorts of flags in their trees. It was pretty cool to look at and it gave me an idea. The next day I drew my “Flags of Quarantine.” It’s just a little something to make you smile. Here: Smile please.

Then today, feeling artsy again, and inspired by Jackson drawing “Virtual Learning Bingo!” for creativity day in school, I drew an adult version as well.

So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this bonus post and our very amateur artwork!

Stay safe out there!

M.

Submitting

I just got a message from a literary journal and they told me that some flash fiction I submitted to them for consideration is moving to the second round of reading. I’m trying not to get my hopes too high, this isn’t the first time I’ve got an email saying that, and if they decide not to publish my work, to reject it instead, well, that isn’t my first rodeo either. But in the sad days that we are living in now, wondering how I can be of service to others, getting my work published feels more urgent. I’m sure a lot of artists and creative types are feeling that way now, and I hope you are finding ways to get your work out there, because man it is helping. It’s helping me, for sure.

I started sending work out for consideration about two years ago and sometimes I look at my numbers and want to scream. Two years of submitting and I have eight publications (mostly online) and about 47,659 rejections. Okay, maybe not that many rejections, but doesn’t one rejection feel like 20,000? It does to me. I wish I could say I found some way to combat this. Help you out in some way, but I haven’t. I think maybe my skin is just tougher now. But honestly, really, I wish there was a way we could all get our stories, our poems, our artwork, our ideas to those who need them the instant they need them, wouldn’t that be amazing.

I still get random people who contact me about my daughter’s story. It’s been two years and they find me and they thank me for sharing, and I think, I think, that’s what makes it all worthwhile. The long nights of staring at a blank screen. The torment when a rejection comes in and I just knew I shouldn’t have aimed so high. My constant inner critic, who really is just a jerk. It all makes it a little better for a day or two.

I have no good news for you today. No funny anecdotes. No reassuring words. I just want to say to keep creating whatever it is that you are creating. Keep moving forward, even when it feels like you can’t. And it’s okay if you can’t create right now. If you can’t physically put paint to canvas, or pen to paper, or needle to needle. Lying on the floor and feeling the weight of the world on your chest while you eat Cheetos is totally okay too. There will be other days to get rejected.

Best of luck!

I love you and your art!

M.

Some Stuff That is Keeping Me Going Right Now

tapas: Bite-sized stories you can’t find anywhere

Tapas is a free online space to support artists who are doing comics and graphic novels. I found some of my favorites from Instagram and followed them on tapas. They get compensated each time someone clicks or subscribes. It’s a lot of, umm, unusual stuff (I like the “Slice of Life” stuff as you can see) but there are a ton of artists on there so I’m sure you can find something you like.

Quarantine Book Club: Connecting writers with other writers and readers through Zoom meet-ups. You can buy tickets through EventBright, they are only $5! I just did one this week with one of my favorite authors, Megan Stielstra. @QuarantineBook

The MET is streaming free operas online RIGHT NOW! (Deborah Voigt and the company of Die Walküre Ken Howard/Met Opera)

Ever visited The Louvre? No? Me neither, well not physically, but virtually, well that’s another story…

Artist Gemma Correll (@gemmacorrell) has free, downloadable coloring pages. They are cute, and fun, and amazing. You can find them at Badge Bomb where you can also order cool pins, stickers, etc made by Gemma and other artists.
When in doubt, there is always gardening ideas on Pinterest.

Internet Trolls

As you know, I’ve had my fair share of trolls over the last year. Matter fact, trolling seems to be a full-time job for some people. You can always tell who they are because they have screen names like TitsMcGee and @BigDickDaddy. Oh, and they are usually white males, not always, but the majority of mine have been. Some are bots from Russia. Had one of those on this here blog the other day. His name was DJT45. He followed me, then when I went to his page it was in all Russian. I quickly deleted him. In my experience it’s always the white guys with red hats that follow like CNN or WaPo and comment in the comment section crazy, straight-outta-left-field-bullshit conspiracy theories. Like why are you even following this “liberal bullshit” anyway? Answer: To troll.

You guys know I had to limit my Facebook time to a tight 15 a couple months back. Part of the problem is that I was reading the comment sections. Big mistake. I’d read say, a NYTimes article about global warming, and then I’d scroll the comment section. I’d come across no short of 100 trolls. People there just to argue and fight. They’d type in all caps: GLOBAL WARMING IS A LIBERAL HOX (they’d usually spell something wrong). Then about ten people would attempt to “school them” and it would just escalate. I usually wouldn’t comment, because I realize the game and I don’t want to play. But sometimes I literally couldn’t help myself. Like when it was a story about the polar bears dying in Antarctica and someone said, “This is all Hillary Clinton’s fault!” Dafuq?

I started to realize, on FB anyway, that some of my own family members are trolls. For sure. They will post a crazy, off-the-wall conspiracy theory meme then try to downplay it with an “LOL” or a smiley face emoticon and be all, “Haha.” But really, really, they want someone to comment. They are trying to start a fight. Engage. Flex their poorly-educated egos. My husband and I used to engage, now we just scroll past, or copy the meme and share it for our friends to laugh at it, or in some cases “unfriend” the ill-informed family member. Because you can do that, y’all! Not sure if you know that, but you can unfriend family members. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about them, or that you aren’t family anymore, it just means you’re hella tired of seeing their ridiculous, one-sided, fear-mongering shit on social media. It helps. Trust, it helps.

Last week I got sucked into the comment section of an Instagram post. I haven’t been limiting my Insta because I can normally control myself there. Plus, it’s a way for me to share pics and not have to log onto FB. Anywho, there I was scrolling the people I follow, a mix of friends, family, old classmates from both my schools, new friends, politicians, and celebrities, and I came across Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley reading a children’s book with her stepdaughter. I love Congresswoman Pressley, and the rest of “The Squad” of young Congresswomen who came to power in 2018. Like, I heart AOC. Anyway, Pressley isn’t my representative, she reps the 7th District in MA. Think: Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and the like. But as I said, I follow her personal account because I think she’s a badass. I also follow other politicians who are not mine, like Mayor Lightfoot in Chicago, Rep. John Lewis (who is the rep for the district next door to me), as well as Lucy McBath (my representative) and other local, state, and federal representatives who I respect.

Okay, so I’m enjoying Rep. Pressley doing a reading of “The Story of Coretta Scott King” by Patricia Pingry, and I’m seeing comments pop up but I’m ignoring them. My son’s school has been doing a “Mystery Reader” since they started virtual learning and I’ve been watching all these wonderful teachers read these adorable kids’ books all week long and I’m rather enjoying it. Jackson is too. So I settle in to watch Pressley and her stepdaughter read, but I can’t stop myself from looking at the comments because one of the first ones is in all caps and it says something like this (I’m paraphrasing): WHY DON’T YOU STOP READING AND DO SOMETHING FOR YOUR DAMN CONSTITUENTS!” Ahh, that was fun. Pressley had responded. She was very nice, explained that she was working to help, but that taking a break to read with her stepdaughter is something she does, so she decided to share with everyone that day in hopes of spreading this good book, and cheering some people up.

Geez, aren’t people the worst sometimes?

Anyway, I scrolled down, knowing it wasn’t safe at this point. And remember this is her personal Insta, not her work one. I scroll, scroll. Then I come to TitsMcGee’s post. Did you think I made that name up? Nah, he’s real. He’s a white dude. Big shocka I know. He comments, simply: “Thanks for wearing a hat.” Seems like no big deal, right? Except that Rep. Pressley has struggled with Alopecia her whole life. She’s has no hair on the top of her head from it. And before about a year ago she wore wigs when she was outside her home. Then she decided to stop. She wanted to bring awareness to the condition, and show support for others who have it, so she stopped wearing wigs. And that made white men upset. For reference, here she is in her official photo and one from an article she did explaining her decision to show her head:

Beautiful, right? Also, a strong, Black woman who has zero fucks to give. So yeah, Tits McGee was none too happy with her.

I regret not taking a screen shot of the conversation that ensued, but I don’t usually do that with my internet trolls, unless they come for me afterward like Crazy McCrazyPants, remember him? So I will do my best to recall the comments for you now.

TitsMcGee: At least she wore a hat.

Some Rando: Do you feel good about coming here just to say that?

Tits McGee: I don’t feel good about anything. Ever. But I can sleep better at night now.

Me: @TitsMcGee you lose sleep over whether or not a woman reading a book with a child is wearing a hat? There seems to be a lot more to lose sleep over nowadays.

Tits McGee: She looks like a comic book villian. (Shrug emoticon)

Me: Ahh, I see @TitsMcGee! You are just scared of powerful women. You should have led with that. I hope you get some rest.

[End Scene]

So that’s it. That’s all that transpired. I went on about my day. It was a good day actually, I adopted a new puppy, whole new post coming about that later this week. And then when I logged into Instagram later that day I was expecting to find that Tits McGee said some more gross stuff. Instead, I found that Rep. Pressley had deleted the whole encounter and followed me on Instagram. No shit! I know you don’t believe me, so I did screenshot that!

In fact, I immediately sent the screenshot to my friend Beth, the only one who I thought would appreciate my excitement, and she did. So there’s that.

I guess for one my “sticking it to the trolls” paid off. But honestly, really, there are some things you can’t just scroll on past. I wish I could, but I’m just not that kind of person. So watch out, trolls, cause now I’m on a troll roll. (That includes you fam and friends!)

M.

Guns and TP

When I first heard that people were hoarding ammo, along with toilet paper, I couldn’t believe it. Like, why tho? Why are you hoarding ammo and buying new guns? Then a family member on FB shared a meme that said something about “Happy Hunting” in terms of shooting people who were possibly, most likely, going to break into their house when “all hell breaks loose” to steal the goods they hoarded for themselves. That’s when I was like, wow. Wow to a couple of things. Wow to the fact that you think it’s okay to say, “Happy Hunting” about human lives, and wow to the fact that you went out and bought enormous amounts of toilet paper or hand sani or bread or whatever it is you are afraid people will try to steal from you. Maybe if you would have left some items on the shelf for your community you wouldn’t be fearful of robbery. And doesn’t this all stem from fear? Yes. Yes is the answer.

Jesus, I bet the psychologists are having a field day with human behavior right now. I mean, I’m no doctor but it all makes sense to me. The idea that your community members will steal from you, the fear, the constant, constant fear, all stems from one place: an angry heart. This is basic psychology 101, y’all. But I’d like to add a lack of education to the mix. Most of the people I know who are hoarding guns and ammo and tp, do not have a college education. Most of them are acting on impulse. Three days in a row they went to buy more toilet paper at Kroger. When it wasn’t there they deduced that it would never be there again (I think because they don’t understand supply and demand, basic economics) and they freaked out and bought ammo instead. Because if the tp isn’t there, what if the ammo won’t be?! Le sigh.

These people obviously don’t even trust their own communities. And should we be living in communities that we don’t trust? Should we know our neighbors’ names? Should we be the ones giving the excess that we hoarded to them, before it even gets to the point where someone might have to consider stealing it? I mean these are big, important questions, y’all. Things we should be considering, instead we are buying toilet paper and ammo.

I know I sound like a broken record, but I wish college was an option for more people. I wish people didn’t say things like, “I didn’t go to college and look at me, I turned out fine.” Is fine all you want to be? Cause if it is, then yeah, you’re “fine.” I mean, you panic bought 127 rolls of tp and bottled water and ammo, but sure, let’s call you “fine.” College should be affordable (or free!) it shouldn’t be looked down on like it is in some sub-groups, it should be the first step out of high school, at least a two-year degree, just to get an idea of how the real world works, because Jesus y’all, a lot of these people just don’t know how the real world works. They claim “street smarts,” but they haven’t ventured past their own street. It’s sad, pathetic, and at time like these, when the majority of us understand human kindness, compassion, and respect, they are out there saying things like, “Happy Hunting” about other human beings over a $12 package of toilet paper that will be back on the shelves in droves next week because that’s how the actual world works.

This is a rant, sure. But I hope I have enlightened some of you to how other people act and react in scary times. An angry heart is incapable of sharing their hoarded face masks, it doesn’t matter how many puppy videos they share. An angry heart is incapable of understanding anything past the tip of their own nose. They don’t see how their impulse to buy all the TP forced a chain reaction. That it forced people to go without. People who work in the restaurant business, or retail. The actual people stocking the shelves full of tp. People who live paycheck to paycheck, and by the time they got their paychecks last week all the tp was gone. And the craziest part is most of these people, the ones stocking up on tp and ammo, are living paycheck to paycheck. The ones I know anyway. They just thought it would be better to blow all their money on tp and ammo right now, because God forbid they be embarrassed to ask a neighbor for tp, or God forbid they don’t have 1,000 boxes of ammo like “a real man.” Like, for real, y’all. There are angry, angry hearts out there amongst us. And they need some therapy. But you know, they can’t afford it/don’t think it’s real science. I mean, you don’t see no therapists on FoxNews do’ya?

And lastly, a note about those who are keeping this world moving along: the retail workers, the truck drivers, the restaurant servers working the To Go door. The delivery drivers. The people stocking shelves at Kroger overnight. I want to say thank you. And I want you all to know THEY ARE NOT FINE. They are working right now to keep your supplies with tp and ammo. They wish they could be home with their kids, away from all these people who are sick and are bringing the virus to them because they won’t stay the fuck home. But there they are. Because if they don’t work they don’t get paid. Because if they don’t work, we don’t get supplies we need. So the next time you’re all, “Well if we pay a McDonalds employee $15/ hr then my Coffee will be more expensive…” sit down, pull out those critical thinking skills we talked about and vote to help out other human beings.

And to the doctors, nurses, and Emergency service workers, thank you. This should open your eyes to our healthcare industry and how completely jacked up it is.

Stay safe out there, y’all. And in some parts of the county, be careful when you knock on your neighbor’s door asking for help. You’re liable to get shot.

M.

Here’s Some Good News

It’s been a damn week, hasn’t it?! It has. It has. That’s why when I received good news the other day I was shocked, and then happy for a second, and then sad again. It’s a hard time to feel happy. It feels selfish to feel happy right now. It feels selfish and inconsiderate. I mean look around, people! There’s no damn toilet paper! I’ve been trying really hard to keep my life in perspective. This life, this sad, upside-down life. I’ve been focusing on the helpers, as Mr. Rogers wanted us to. I’ve been looking for good news in strange places, which I should be accustomed to now, but I am still not. It feels like for every bit of good news, a stack of bad news is thrown at me. It’s like I don’t want the good news anymore, because I know what will happen next. But the good news came this week, without an apology, and hit me square in the face. It reminded me, more than anything, that the show must go on.

If you’ll remember a few weeks ago I had to get a vaccine because I was applying to an MFA program that required my proof of MMR, but I couldn’t find my proof. Well I applied, then I stressed and stressed for weeks about whether or not I would get into the program. It is the only MFA program I have ever applied to, my first one, and I know people who have been turned down several times before they get in, or who only get into their second or third choice school, so I was scared. Then just like that, I wasn’t anymore, because Coronavirus hit and I had more important shit to worry about.

Then this week I found out that I was accepted into the program. And I was all yay! for a second, then came the “You can’t be happy about this right now” feeling, and I was down again. I know as far as news goes, good news these days, it’s just a little blip on the map, but it did feel good for those few seconds. Then the day I found out I spent all night unable to sleep Googling how kids with asthma fare when/if they get Covid-19. It’s not good. Hmpf.

I have two things to say today. Number one, yay me. And yay you. Because you might be waiting on important answers to important questions concerning your life this week and if the news is good, you should celebrate! And if the news is bad, remember that it isn’t the end of the world. Remember to keep your life in perspective. I know it’s hard when you are out of toilet paper, but please, please, try to remember that there are people out there who are really struggling. And if you are one of those people, man, I wish I could send you everything you need. I wish I could reach out and hug you. And I know hearing that this will pass is not helpful right now, so I’ll suggest this instead: What lessons can you take from the spot you are in right now? How will this help you grow as a person? As a community member? I’m sure there are lessons. There are always lessons.

As always I’m here (virtually, anyway) if you wanna talk. I’m around (inside my house or walking the neighborhood). I’ll listen. I’ll be sad with you. I’ll be happy with you (even if it does feel weird right now). Because we do still need to take care of ourselves, physically yes, but mentally and spiritually also.

So go forth and celebrate the little victories today. You did all the laundry?! Look at you! You cleaned out that linen closet?! Holy cow, you’re getting it done! You finally realized this is serious and started social distancing?! I always had faith in you, friend.

Be safe and sane.

M.

PS… The mascot at my new school is an Owl, so I mean, how cool is that?! Sure, a llama would have been way more cool, but you get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit!