Ditch Witch and Other Things

The neighbor Dale and her husband Old WhatsHisName had a Ditch Witch up and running at nine in the morning. On a Saturday. Listen, I like Dale and Old WhatsHisName, but mostly I just like their dog Cookie. She’s a chocolate lab and she’s beautiful and friendly and she likes to play tug in her front yard with her favorite rope toy and she reminds me of my dearly beloved, Bentley, whom we had to put down two years and some change ago on account of her arthritis and her slow doggy dementia. She was nearly 14 years old and sometimes she forgot who I was, but mostly she sat at my feet and watched squirrels out the window and listened as I read her bits of essays and stories and she always, always let me cry into her neck fat. Dale and Old WhatsHisName are sort of afterthoughts. I like their dog so I tolerate them. I listen to Dale tell me stories about how she used to live in Charlotte too and really she didn’t like it as much as I did being a make-up exec is hard work and do I ever use eyeliner, because I have beautiful blue eyes, but…

The Ditch Witch at nine am was a bridge too far. Especially because I didn’t sleep well last night on account of it being week eight of my semester and why does everyone suddenly need me to do something for them and yeah I’m aware that I need to make some important decisions about residency and candidacy and my thesis in the upcoming weeks and when is the last time I cooked dinner for my family and hey they are opening school back up and Jackson is too afraid to go and I agree especially because a custodian in the district just died from Covid, but I mean half of the teachers are vaccinated and MAP test scores don’t really matter much this week and maybe we should just keep compounding this mom guilt on top of wife guilt on top of whatever it was that made me give that cash to that woman today in the Sam’s Club parking lot.

So the Ditch Witch sprang to life at nine am and I rolled over to my husband all, what the actual hell is that and he said how should I know it sounds like some type of heavy machinery and I knew right then that Dale and Old WhatsHisName were doing some yard work because about a month ago I was violently awakened from the loud diesel noises of a wood chipper from Sunbelt Rentals.

I wish I had a point. And I was drinking a glass of wine on a beach somewhere all alone. I feel all alone all the time, but it’s not possible because I am with my family all the time and I love them dearly and also I need a fucking break and a vacation and someone to tell me that it will all be okay. I know that it’s usually me reminding you all that it will all be okay, and really I know that it will, but sometimes when you haven’t been sleeping and your medicine is making you sick but you have to keep taking it or you’ll really get sick and you have no means of escaping this life that is really actually quite beautiful and you are thankful for it so much but that sometimes sucks like it does for all of us right now in varying degrees you just have to get on your old blog and yell about Ditch Witches and neighbors who really aren’t that bad and things that are absolutely outside of your control and some in your control but you that you don’t have answers for and you have to say your dead dog’s or your dead kid’s or your dead dad’s name because it matters at that moment.

That’s all I’m saying.

Damn it, y’all. It will get better and I love you and you have pretty eyes and you don’t need eyeliner but if you want to use it then use it because you are responsible for your own happiness and one day when we can hug each other again I’m gonna hug you so tight you might have a hard time breathing but you won’t mind cause you’ll get it. I hope you get it.

M.

Going Higher

“When they go low, we go high.” Damn you, Michelle Obama! Yeah, I know, I know, take the high road. But taking the high road is sometimes hard. I do know that it’s better to ignore the people and things that want to bring you down. I know that it’s best to “walk away from trouble,” as Kenny Rogers says, when you can. But come on every time?! Can’t I get into a little trouble?

In all seriousness I’ve been struggling lately. I’ve been struggling to turn my brain off and to keep my mouth shut. I’ve been lying awake at night thinking about all the things I’d like to say to some people. Mean, rude, hypocritical people. Sometimes it’s Texas senator Ted Cruz, sometimes it’s the bully from 6th grade..

When I can’t sleep I just rehearse over and over again in my head. I find their email address or their home address. I write an imaginary letter to them in my brain. A letter I convince myself I’ll actually send. A letter telling them exactly what kind of person they seem like. How they’ve hurt me. How far I’ve come regardless. In spite of. Maybe I’ll make a personal dig at them just for fun. But then at some point I’ll hear Michelle Obama’s voice. She says, “Missy,” she calls me Missy. “Missy,” she says, “when they go low, we go high.”

Damn you, Michelle.

I’ve written, deleted, and written this paragraph about three times. Each time I started to explain a situation, a particular person who is making me upset now, go into detail about what I want to say to them, but I keep deleting it because Michelle Obama says I should. So I do. It’s healthier. It’s better. It used to be that I took great pride in my ability to use my words to make people feel incredibly small, when it required it. But now I’d rather use my words to elicit change, to bring people together, to remind people that we should want the best for each other, even those who may not like us.

We do have to keep doing this, y’all, going higher. I know it doesn’t always feel right, but it’s important. If we stop going higher, who will? If we stop being the bigger person, the kinder person, it won’t suddenly make them better people. It will just make us like them. We will be the people we don’t like and it will make us feel crappy. It hurts our heart and it’s counterintuitive to forgiveness. So we press on, going higher and higher, keeping our mouths closed but our hearts open.

M.

Rest

“Rest is a requirement, not a reward.” I read that sentence the other day on some random, encouraging Instagram account I follow and I realized that this is what I’ve been trying to convince myself of for several weeks now, but it’s actually a really hard thing to do. To convince yourself that you need to rest. That it isn’t you shutting down or not dealing with things, it’s actually a requirement for life. Why is it so tough? Especially for women. Probably because we tell ourselves if we are resting then we aren’t productive. And if we aren’t productive who will get all the things we’ve convinced ourselves that needs to get done, done?

I haven’t been sleeping. At first I thought it was because, you know, life, but when I mentioned this aggressive non-sleeping that’d I’d been having to my Rheumatologist she said, “Oh, it’s the medication.” Turns out some of my medication can cause this to happen. It’s considered an “adverse side effect,” as it’s not terribly common, but can happen to some patients. So she promptly took me off of it, and said it might take a couple of weeks to get back to normal. I felt immediate relief.

I don’t mean I started sleeping better, rather I felt relieved to know there was a reason. I found it easier to give myself a bit of grace when I felt sleepy in the afternoons and went to lay my head on the pillow because it wasn’t “my fault.”

Last week I was struggling with the idea that when I did this, when I relaxed, even if it was just to curl up on the couch with a book (a book I was assigned to read for school) I still felt like I was just being “lazy.” That’s what I told my therapist Patsy it felt like, laziness. But the truth is, it’s not laziness. I just have to work on shifting my mindset.

I don’t need a reason to not sleep, so why should I have a reason to sleep? To rest? To read a book? Why should I make myself fill bad for giving my body and mind something they need when it’s been working overtime lately. Between a global pandemic, an MFA program, a pre-teen, two rambunctious dogs, a partner, a house, a newly-diagnosed autoimmune disease, a shocking family realization, more grief to top it all off, and the pressures of you know, everydayfuckinglife, I can cut myself some slack sometimes. And you can too.

My friend dropped a book off to me the other day that one of her friends wrote. I haven’t dug into yet, mainly on account of all the required reading I’m doing, but I have skimmed it. It’s full of beautiful poetry, but more importantly it’s full of encouragement. Encouragement to give yourself permission to do the things that you need to do in order to keep going. And it sort of sings to me.

So go easy on yourself today, y’all. Let your mind and your body tell you what you need and listen, damn it. No hard feelings toward yourself.

I hope you have a lovely, love-filled weekend.

❤️

M.

This is Us

I’ve been gone, I’m sorry. Or maybe I should say, I’ve been gone, you’re welcome. Depends on who you ask, but the fact of the matter is that I have been gone. But not gone, here, all along. I’m contradictory today which is normal, but also abnormal. You see what I mean? I have been so very busy with the first few weeks of the semester starting up again and really everyday I wake up and I think this is the day that everything will normalize. I mean, Kamala Harris is our Vice President and we have two democratic senators in Georgia and the vaccine is slowly, but surely making it’s rounds, yet here I am, still stuck. Still with all this, what? Baggage? Anger? Sadness? Bleh.

I woke up this morning to the news that AOC shared her Capital story and I watched it on Instagram and I was even more sad, and scared, and angry. Have you watched it yet? If not you should. You should watch the 88-minute video of her telling what happened, don’t just read the headlines. You can skip large parts of her telling people hello and what not, but watch a good 45-minute chunk in the middle and at the end. It’s sad and scary and real. It is really us. It is really America. And it isn’t good.

I don’t really care how you feel about AOC. I’m a big fan of hers and appreciate her and hope that she continues in politics on a more national level, but even if you think she is smug, or too progressive, or too (insert reason to hate a woman) you probably will still find something in her story, in her life, that you can relate to and hopefully that will help make you see that we are all connected. That we all have stuff. That we are all bruised and broken and come from the same places inside.

I don’t really have too much more to say on it, actually. We are a mess. We are in need of someone to help us, to listen to us, to show us that we are not alone, to push us to do more and better things. And to love us. That is what we need.

It’s what the people who stormed the Capital need too. During and after their prison time. Because we also need to be held accountable for our actions. Without accountability we will not grow. Without accountability, love, support, and connectedness we will stay those sad, bruised, angry people.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

PS… That bitch Marjorie Taylor Greene needs to go. With love, from Georgia.

I’ll Have a T&T

I’ll turn forty in nine months and while I’m excited about this (I reject the idea that your life fades away into nothingness at forty) there are some unavoidable things that displease me. Like how the eye doctor told me that I’d need readers soon. On top of my prescription. Or how any abrupt change to my medication, diet, or daily activity cause me gastrointestinal upset. Or my new favorite, my routine desire to have a “T&T” which used to mean that I wanted Tanqueray and Tonic. I would say to Jerimiah for example, “I’m making a T&T, do you want something?” Or I’d be at a bar with friends and I’d ask the bartender for a “T&T extra lime.” But as of late I’ve been walking upstairs while I yell, “I’m going for a T&T” which now means, I’m grabbing two Tylenol and some Tums; a T&T.

It was a slow burn from the T&T of my youth to this one. First I stopped being able to control my emotions with a T&T. Then I couldn’t hold the liquor. Soon, in the last couple of years, I’ve rejected liquor all together and now exclusively drink white wine and White Claws (in the summer only), and in fact rarely drink white wine at all anymore. But the new T&T, that’s a regular occurrence brought on by stress, new medication, and I suspect cheese. A rather large abundance of cheese.

I’d love to go in depth here. To really explain my “later in life” situation, but I’m afraid I can’t. I’m too busy at the moment. I’m headed to bed, right after my T&T.

M.

Thoughts on Zoom

Is it just me, or do you have a hard time reading the natural end to the conversation with your therapist via Zoom? I adore my therapist, but these Zoom calls have been increasingly difficult. Same with my rheumatologist, who has a heavy middle-eastern accent. It’s hard to hear her and hard to decipher her words through her mask in person, but via Zoom is even worse. I feel really bad because I already have a hard time with accents and naturally ending conversations, but it’s been even worse over the last year because I feel like I am always on edge, always forgetting things, always have a ton on my mind, and it’s getting worse not better.

Last week I called the meeting quits a good ten minutes before my session was supposed to end because I was like, well is she done writing? Is she checking her clock? Does she have notes to do before her next patient? It feels like there are just way more things to worry about via the Zoom calls and I don’t feel like I can read the room, mainly because there is literally no room to read.

To make matters worse we are so “close” in a Zoom call, like closer than we would be in real life, that it makes me uncomfortable. Have you noticed this? Like I can see the fine lines and wrinkles in people’s faces on Zoom. I can see if something is hanging from their noses. So I sit way, way back away from the computer because it scares me. Meanwhile some people sit with the computer so close all you can see is their face. Back up, y’all! Back up! It’s too close.

I don’t know what my issue is, not really. I just know that Zoom freaks me out. It always has. Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, whatever you use or want to call it. It’s not my favorite, most effective form of communication and I hate that this is how we have to do things now. At the same time, I can be in my pajamas for therapy, so… I guess it’s still a win.

M.

Happy New Year!

Hi, hello, it’s New Year’s Eve! Time to celebrate the ending of a weird, bad, absurd, crazy, frustrating, educational year. And the new year gives us a little hope, doesn’t it? It does, sure. A little hope. But I feel like we are putting a lot of stock in the new year. Like some of us want to think we will wake up tomorrow and the news won’t be so bad. And the Covid-19 will be gone. But the truth of the matter is we know, deep inside, that isn’t the case. At last I hope we do. There is no fresh start tomorrow. There is no change to the way the world is. It’s just more of the same and some of y’all need to hear that because I suspect some of y’all have plans to “abandon the mask” for the new year or some other crazy shit, but please do not. The New Year isn’t magic.

Now listen, I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, and I know some exciting things are happening, including the FIRST EVER Madam Vice President! And I also know that most of us are not expecting the clock to strike midnight and some Cinderella-type shit to happen. Most of us know that we will wake up on New Year’s Day and it will be the same shit, different day. Most of us know this. But some of us, well I worry.

I worry even more for the people who think that we will be “back to normal” in 2021. I worry that you are being too optimistic. I worry that you are setting yourself up for failure, and negatively impacting others in the process. Because at some point your desire to be “back to normal” will cause you to act drastically, endangering others along the way. I worry, that’s all. I worry.

Today I am worrying about all of those things. I am worrying, but also trying to enjoy the day. To look back at what we have lived through this year with a sense of pride for having made it to this day. There was some dark days this year right? Personally I watched my son end his elementary school days and start middle school virtually. We watched loved ones get sick. We missed out on family vacations we had planned. Jerimiah missed out on enjoying the transition to his new job at an office. Jackson has been struggling with virtual learning. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and have spent the majority of the year in pain. We have had struggles, but also there were other things.

I have been in my house, with my son and husband for nine months now and I’m not sick of them, I’m not mad at them, I’m not even a little sad. I love them so much and have grown accustomed to having them home so much that transitioning back to normal life will be very hard.

Then there is Winnie, the puppy we got in April. Our quarantine puppy, who is amazing and crazy and giant and so, so loving.

There was my first semester in my MFA program, where my lowest grade was a 98.7 and trust I was upset with it. I met some great new friends, learned a ton, and got to work on the lit mag. Not to mention I wrote some good stuff, some of which has already been published!

There was the marching for racial justice. There was the shedding light onto the structural and institutional racism that was allowed to run rampant in our country.

There was the unfriending of toxic people.

The pulling back form social media.

The playing of board games and doing puzzles. The afternoons at the lake. The cool evenings in the hot tub. There was driveway meet-ups, front porch talks. There was love in abundance through it all.

Then there was this here blog.

I wrote everyday this year, a goal I gave myself on January 1, 2020. I wrote everyday with the exception of the week in June where I participated in the “Muted and Listening” campaign, in which white people were asked to be quiet, to go dark on social media and blogs, etc, and listen to the BIPOC community. It was an amazing, educational experience and I learned so much.

Aside from that week I made a blog post here everyday. And I realized, for the first time, that I was capable of writing everyday. It is helpful and encouraging and I even found material to write about, albeit some days were better than others. I am thankful that it was 2020 that I decided to do that because I can look back on this year with a different eye when this has passed, and trust this will pass. We just have to be patient.

I’m not setting any goals for the new year. Not officially. I have a couple of things swimming in my mind, but honestly, I turn 40 in 2021, and my biggest goal is to enjoy life. To be okay in my skin. To take some deep breathes. To keep up the work I am doing. But those are my goals all the time, nothing special. Just to keep living, and living well. I hope that is your goal too.

Happy New Year’s to you all! Thank you for being around this year, for helping me learn and grow. For supporting me. I hope you have found some help here too, some support, or just a laugh every now and then. I can’t say what this blog will look like tomorrow, or a month from now, but I’ll be around, regardless. You can always find me.

Sending love and light to you this evening and every evening. Stay safe and sane.

M.

If My Fatness Offends You…

Now that the new year is upon us, I’ve noticed the “New year, New Me” self talk starting. I guess it’s not self talk if you are sharing it with social media but you know the deal, people (women mostly) sharing goals about how what they want to change about themselves in the new year. Most of it is weight or size related. Most of it is masked under this “I want to feel healthy” but what they are really saying is that they are unhappy with themselves and need to change. Here’s where I get my stomach into some knots. I’m fat, in case you don’t know me IRL. I am overweight. Medically obese. My BMI is too high. However you want to measure it, I am overweight and have been literally all of my life. Literally here is used literally, not figuratively. I wasn’t a skinny kid who put on weight in puberty. I was a chubby kid who put on weight during puberty, which was coincidently when I was put on my first diet too. But that’s not the story I am here to share with you today, the story I want to share with you came much later.

I worked for Ruby Tuesday. They are a family-style, casual dining restaurant throughout the country. You might know them from their extensive salad bar. I worked for a franchise in Southern Missouri owned by a man named John. Now John had some unchecked mental health issues, and can be best described as a “Mini Trump.” That is to say he was a big fish in a weird pond. Or at least he thought he was. People didn’t like to tell him no because he flipped the fuck out if he was told no. People didn’t like to tell him yes because then he’d abuse them in some way, you get my drift.

He owned several, maybe 10, Ruby Tuesday restaurants. Now owned is a stretch. You know how it is. He was a franchisee, but he rented most buildings, the company itself had control over most of his dealings, etc, etc. And he owned two of the restaurants in Branson, Missouri. First he owned a free-standing one that was open for a decade and did very well before he opened a second location in a strip mall sandwiched between Walmart and a grocery store. Why he decided to open a second one a half mile away from an already popular one is beyond me. Beyond any business class you might take. And as you can imagine it isn’t open anymore. It closed down less than a decade after opening considering it didn’t make enough money. That’s not hard to figure out, but I digress.

I started there as a server, then quickly became a bartender, then a shift leader. A shift leader is paid hourly ($13/hr back in 2005-ish) and is expected to do all the things a manager does, but obviously make a lot less doing it. I’m not sure what the hell that position was supposed to look like, but it seemed to be this thing where they said, “Oh we like you, and you are a great worker, we will give you keys and official sounding title and let you do all the dirty work for nothing for awhile so you feel important.” And I bought it. I was like 23 years old, that should be noted.

It was also a pipeline to management, obviously. You had to be a shift leader to be a manager and while I was there (about five years) I saw many a shift leader and managers come and go. There is high turnover in the restaurant business. It’s a shitty, thankless job and it gets even worse the higher up you go. Add to that the maniac I worked for, and well, there you have it.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were good things about the job, especially for a 20-something. I met a lot of great people, people who became my best friends and still are my best friends. I made it through some wack-a-doodle experiences, and I learned an enormous amount about people and myself. One does that when they tend bar, cook on the line, and watch employees smoke cigarettes in the cooler. It’s a smorgasbord of bad decisions, unruly employees, and fun. I could never, ever work in the restaurant business again, but I am glad for the experiences I had. Even the one I am here to talk about.

One day, around year three I sat down in the back room of the store with the District Manager. I was a shift leader, had been for about a year, and was doing really well. The employees liked me, the managers couldn’t function without me (there was one who routinely forgot where he parked his car), and the Spanish-speaking cooks respected me enough to allow me on the line with them. I was a good, nay great, employee and I was ready to be promoted and they were ready to promote, only one problem: I was fat.

Now I don’t need to remind you that I have always been fat. I had been the same size the day I was hired there as I was the day I was sat down and told that they would love to promote me, but they couldn’t on account of my fatness. That’s a thing that was said to me, while also being told that other shift leaders were also having this talk. There was Jodie who was missing several teeth and was so skinny people sometimes thought she was a drug addict. They didn’t like her image and they told her to work on it and then promoted her. Then there was Kyle, the owner’s nephew, who was also fat. He was told to work on his image (and he did by drinking Bud Light and taking Hyroxycut) and then he was promoted. Here’s the rub, I was told I was fat and then not promoted. Told that I had to show them I was working on losing weight before they would promote me.

Nola told me this. The DM. Now I liked Nola. She was nice and funny and she came around to our store a lot and she was very involved. And I think she liked me too. And I think she was very sad that day she had to have that conversation with me. It came from the top down, and to be fair John didn’t like me for a myriad of reasons, least of all that I was incredibly vocal about all the shortcomings at the store and the with the employees because I wanted the place to do well. But he did see that I was good at what I did, so he was stuck, I guess this little dig was just for him to have fun, maybe “put me in my place” or what not. It worked.

For the next several months I tried to lose weight. I did it blindly. I took what Nola said, which was basically “You’re too fat and we don’t want the customers to think that is on brand with us,” and I tried to get on brand. Now to be clear, I was about 195 pounds during this time. I stayed right around there. I am about 5’5″. I was fat, sure, but I didn’t have to have a wall in my house removed to walk outside or anything like that. And I was smaller and more fit than Kyle and I was actually healthy. I went to the doctor every year for an annual, I was active, but I was incredibly broken down mentally. I was depressed. I was small-minded. I was constantly berating myself. Then here was my job, a thing I was very good at, doing the same thing. Berating me, telling me I was fat, making me sad. But I went along with it.

The short of the story is that I lost about 15 pounds, nothing life changing (Kyle gained weight and was a dumbass, like truly he had a hard time with simple math and Jodie got her teeth fixed, but people hated her and I actually do think she was on drugs) and then they asked me to be a manager and I said no. Their jaws hit the floor of course, but it was the first time I felt like I did the right thing for me. The job was nuts, the hours were crazy, and if they were the kind of people who promoted the likes of Kyle and Jodie, while telling me I was fat, well obviously they were not of sound mind. I got married, got pregnant, and ended up quitting anyway about a year later, but it was nice to look them in the eye and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I should have added, “Y’all nuts,” but I didn’t. Also, the store itself was shut down about a year after that. And I did a little happy dance cause I am petty.

So why I am sharing this story today? It’s funny that I have never publicly shared it before. I think a lot of my close friends don’t even know the story, save Kasey and Mel and Jerimiah who were all there when it happened. I think it’s because I was ashamed it happened in the first place, right? I mean I don’t give a fuck that crazy John thought I was too fat (you should hear all the bad things I said about him, ha!) and I’m not even mad at Nola, who later said that conversation with me was the worst thing she ever had to do while she worked for him, which is hard to believe because he had to have sexually harassed her a lot. I’m not even made at Erica, the GM and one of my best friends at the time, who knew it was going to happen and didn’t warn me, instead she left.

The person I am most mad at is myself. I still can’t believe I allowed people to treat me that way. I still can’t believe that I took on others’ words and feelings and ideals of “being on brand” or their damn beauty standards or their distaste for “fat people” and I pushed it deep inside into my core and I tried to appease them. What the actual hell?! Obviously 39-year-old Missy is embarrassed and sad that 20-something Missy did that, but at the same time I didn’t know any better. I had spent my whole life being made fun of, even by people who loved me, being teased at school, being called names because I was chubby or overweight. I didn’t know I could say, “Shut up, you assholes. I’m fine the way I am.”

It was a hard lesson, but I learned it and I am glad that I did and I desperately wish that more fat girls would learn it. Maybe not in the way I did, but just figuring out that you are okay, you are good, you are perfect the way you are and you don’t need to make a change for anyone but yourself. If you are happy at your size, then shine on, girls (or guys). And if you are not happy with your size there is a whole community out there to offer support and help as you set goals and strive for them. But the point is, it is your choice, not anyone else’s. It is your decision how you live your life and don’t buy into this “Fat isn’t healthy” shit, because that’s not true. I was incredibly healthy at about 180 pounds, working out five days a week, busting my ass in the gym, all the while the doctor told me I was good to go, but “fat” according to the charts. They can shove those charts up thy ass, and so can anyone else who has an opinion about my body or my life, right up thy ass.

So, if my fatness offends you, if my fatness makes your life unhappy, if my fatness makes you sad for me, please stop and explore your inner demons, explore what makes you offended by fat people, what makes your life so unhappy, what problems you have to say horrible things to people who are just trying to get by in this life.

And for the love of all that is holy, stop talking about the weight you gained during a global pandemic! This has been a nightmare for a lot of people and you aren’t special, we all made bad decisions just to get by (I watched the entire “Tiger King” series for fuck’s sake) and gaining a little weight isn’t the end of the world and if you treat it as such, if you start to say, “Shut up” to the people who think it is, then life would be better for all of us.

M.

Onward

As the year draws to a close I’ve been thinking back on how crazy it has been and wanted to share a story. On Sunday, March 8th of this year, my friend Torey messaged me to see if Jackson wanted to go to the movies to see the movie “Onward.” “Absolutely,” I told her excitedly. Jackson and I had just been talking about that movie that day, discussing when we would go see it. “Next weekend?” I asked Torey. She responded quickly. “I think we should go tomorrow after school.” I sat looking at my phone for a minute. We have rarely, if ever, gone to the movies after school. In the summertime we might go to the movies in the afternoon, but generally speaking we go to the movies on Friday or Saturday nights along with all the rest of the crazy world. “Sure,” I said. After all, it is cheaper than the weekends and with the three kids, Jackson and Torey’s two, Megha and Taran, there would be less people to worry about. I told Jackson we were headed to the movies after school the next day with his friends and that was that.

When we met Torey and Megha and Taran at the local theater, the Movie Tavern with the brand-new plush seats that recline all the way back and have tables attached so you can order giant meals (and wine) and have it brought to you, Torey was so happy to see us. The first thing she did was thank us for coming on such short nice. “Of course,” I said, “it’s a good idea.”

“I thought so too,” Torey said, “I was talking to my family in Hong Kong over the weekend and they were telling me about Covid-19 and I figure this is our last weekend of freedom.” She said this with a small laugh and a wave of her hand at the concession stand, as the kids mindlessly scanned the glass to pick out their favorite candy.

I smiled, but inside I was very confused. I had not been paying much attention to the news. I was trying to stay away from social media too. The only thing I had heard up to that point about Covid-19 was what Jackson and Megha had told us at dinner a week or two before. Torey and I had taken the kids out for dinner at their choice of restaurants back in late February. They chose IHOP, because of course they did. So there we were, the five of us, Torey’s husband Vishnu was at work still and Jerimiah was on a plane back from Baton Rouge, and we were one of two tables at our local IHOP. Megha and Jackson started telling us all about Coronavirus and how it works and what they knew about Covid-19.

Their fifth grade teacher Mr. Budd had enlightened them all. Jackson said Mrs. Budd worked for the CDC and that Mr. Budd was a little concerned about the Covid-19 virus and wanted the kids to know the facts. Jackson and Megha then enlightened us with those facts. Torey was nodding along as they talked, our waitress Maria and I listened intently, eyes wide.

“It’s a particular strain of Coronavirus,” Megha started.

“It came about in 2019, that’s why it has the 19 after it,” Jackson interjected.

“Yeah,” Megha said, “And it transmits from person to person like other viruses.”

“Like the flu,” Jackson added.

“Yes,” Megha said, nodding her head at Jackson.

“Oh, and it’s already here in the US and the CDC thinks it is about to get very bad here,” Jackson was on a roll now. “We have to wash our hands for 20 seconds and cover our mouths when we talk.”

“And tell them about the social distancing, Jackson,” Megha said.

“Oh yeah,” Jackson started. “We should start social distancing, staying at least six feet from people when we are out in a crowded place.”

This was the first time I heard the term social distancing, from a pair of fifth graders at an IHOP table. Torey looked at me and smiled that smile that said, “We do have the smartest kids ever,” and of course she was right. Maria walked away smiling and thanking them for the information, and I sat a little nervously at the other side of the table while the conversation turned to some Korean pop band I also did not know anything about.

The next afternoon at the school pick-up picnic tables I sat around and listened as other parents discussed the coronavirus. Mainly they were saying that it was just a bad flu and it was nothing to worry about. In hind sight, that is what they were being fed from the top down. That is what we were all being fed. Our President was down-playing it. The media was too focused on other things. And really, really what was happening was that people were not okay with the thought that life as we know it might end, even temporarily. People were scared and they didn’t know what to do or say so they said, “It’s no big deal” and “I’m not worried.”

Meanwhile Torey, whose family and friends back in both Hong Kong and China were telling her to prepare for the worst, and she was listening. She was listening to her family, to the science, and to the rest of the world. And she was preparing. That’s why on that dreary Monday after the movie was over (and we were all crying, it’s a great movie!) she gave me the biggest hug and whispered that she didn’t know when she would get to see me again. I smiled a nervous smile, but I wanted to say, “Oh stop, I’ll see you next week,” since we had plans to do something fun with the kids the following week, after Jerimiah and Jackson and I got back from our short trip to Kansas City. But I didn’t say anything. There was something so ominous about Torey’s face, so sincere, so truthful. It was the first time I knew for sure that life was going to change and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it.

The rest of the week was sort of a blur. Torey had started to send me news articles from the BBC and other international places that were actually being truthful about Covid-19. Jackson was coming home with new bits of information each day from Mr. Budd who was getting the info from Mrs. Budd. It was sounding bad. Really bad. But still we pressed on. By that Thursday after school most of the mom’s were in complete denial, while the kids, after dismissal, ran around playing, “Covid is Coming for You” which was just a game of tag wherein the person who was “It” was actually a deadly virus. Hmpf.

Finally, on Friday, March 13th, we got the messages. First, there was the text from Honor Band. “Honor Band is cancelled for the rest of the school year.” Then came the baseball team, “No more baseball practice, will most likely resume later in the spring.” Then, as Jerimiah and I debated calling Delta to cancel our flights, the big one came from DeKalb Schools, “School is closed out of an abundance of precaution.” And that was that.

I messaged Torey.

“Oh my goodness, I’m sorry I didn’t believe you when you said we may not see each other for a while.”

“It’s okay,” my friend said, “It’s tough news.”

All I could think was, this can’t be. This just can’t be. Then Torey said,

“At least we got to see Onward!”

I smiled. I had no idea what was next, but at least we had “Onward.”

M.

Why Would Someone Do That?

Crying alone in my bed isn’t the best way to end Christmas, but it’s the most honest way. It’s not all bad. And in fact, my life is fine. It’s not really my life I’m worried about. Right after we finished opening presents yesterday I got an alert on my phone that said a bomb exploded in Nashville, a city that I love. I tried to ignore the news a bit longer, but I kept being drawn back to that story. I just couldn’t wrap my head around what had happened, and honestly I figured it was some sort of mistake. That maybe something benign happened and it would come to light later in the day. I saw that no one had been seriously injured and I shelved it for the rest of the day.

Then, as I crawled into bed last night I pulled up the news and there it was. I watched a couple of videos. Saw the video of the blast. Looked through photos on social media. It was like a war zone. That’s when the tears came. I just kept shaking my head, saying aloud, “Why would someone do this?” Why indeed.

It’s not hard to see that this year has been capital-B Bad for a lot is us. Most of us, I’d venture, unless you’re filthy rich or completely ignorant. It’s been a bad year. We just mucked it up, as grandpa Clark would say. We mucked it up big time. But I can’t for the life of me work my head around this Nashville bomb. I know many of us are trying to figure it out today. The FBI, sure. The Nashville Police, yeah. But there’s also an awful lot of us shaking our heads in disbelief at the images and videos.

How completely terrifying to live through that. What comes next for those people? What do they say to their children who woke up Christmas morning expecting to be met with Santa’s gifts, and instead were rushed off to Nissan Stadium to hide from a bomb. Then to top it off it was a real threat and now their apartment is gone. Destroyed. Or their small business. Or the heart of their vibrant city. It’s all so much. It’s too much. It was too much for me last night.

I hope there are some answers as the days drag on, but more importantly I hope that we don’t let this year break us. This year, this pandemic, this dark, dark light that seems to be growing across our country. I hope that the new year ushers in some humanity back into our hearts. But I know banking on a new year to change the world is a bad bet. We have to start banking on each other and ourselves. We have to rise up with the light. Shine it into those dark spaces and places and hearts. Turn it around. Quickly, y’all. Quickly.

I’m thinking of Nashville today. I’m thinking of the city and the people and the children. I am thinking of the law enforcement and the morning cashiers at Starbucks. The day shift at the local Honky Tonks and restaurants. The bomb squad and the candy store clerks. The moms and dads and sons and daughters. I’m thinking of you all today. I believe in you.

M.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

I’m struggling a bit today, y’all. I just read an article about the 1960’s Rankin and Bass classic, “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” and I am conflicted. You see I have always held fond memories of this movie, since I was a child. And that’s because my mom watched these movies with all her kids during the holidays, so she was always so happy to see them come on back in the 1980s when I was little. She would be excited and make us some popcorn and we would sit in the low light of the Christmas tree and watch all the Rankin and Bass stop motion movies, as well as this cartoon called “Twas the Night Before Christmas” which I am sure I have talked about before because some of you remember it. It’s about a mouse family who saves Christmas. Anyway, I have fond memories of this Rankin and Bass Classic because of the way it all made me feel, but mainly because of my mom and what we did. I always, in the back of my mind was uneasy about it, but could never say why. Maybe the Abominable snowman, maybe because of the mean other reindeer, but I could never place it. Until this week.

This article I read was mainly about how this little boy, now grown, grew up watching this movie too and it gave him nightmares. Not because the Abominable Snowman tries to kill Rudolph’s parents in front of him, but rather because he identified with Clarice, the Elf who didn’t want to make toys, who instead wanted to be a dentist and was berated by all the other elves. In short, this story is a story about bullies. And sure, Rudolph wins in the end, but holy crap, him and Clarice have to go through a lot to get there. In fact, there are some pretty sad scenes that unfold while it is all happening. Reminiscent, for the man who wrote this article, of being berated and banished from his home for being gay. An all-too familiar sight these days, even with teens. You can read about the gay, homeless teen population here.

I know, I know, why are you being a bummer around Christmas, Missy? Well, to be totally honest I have seen a lot of younger homeless people in the streets this year than ever before and I suspect that a lot of them have a falling out with their parents and end up there. Much like Clarice did.

I’m not saying stop watching this Christmas classic. But I am saying that we need to remember that not all “classics” hold up. And not all people see it the same way we do, and certainly not all kids will. I never identified with Clarice, but I did with Rudolph. I had horrible anxiety as a kid and the thought of something happening to my mother, my only parent, kept me up at night. Thinking back, that is why it never sat well with me, but there are a lot of reasons movies don’t hold up. Which is why I will still watch these movies, but I wouldn’t pass it up for this one:

Oh man! Good stuff.

Enjoy your holiday and remember, there is so much we don’t know, but if we put ourselves in the shoes of others (humans or mice) we can learn a lot.

M.

Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, Structural Racism is a Bitch

A couple of weeks ago Jackson asked about the nutcracker that sits on top of the mantel. I explained that it was a decorative one, not a real one. He asked if we could get a real one and I said yes. So I ordered a real nut cracker from the internets and bought a bag of assorted nuts for him to try his hand at and we had everything ready to go yesterday morning. So while Jackson was finishing up the dishes after breakfast, I grabbed a bowl and went back to the table with the nutcrackers in hand. Jerimiah was sitting there watching as I opened the bag of nuts and poured them in. They were the assorted kind with pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and Brazilian nuts. The kind we both remembered from our childhoods back in the Midwest.

I pulled a walnut out first and cracked it open. Jerimiah said that was his favorite kind, so I used the pick to dig the rest out for him. Then came the almond, then the hazelnut. Then I pulled out the Brazilian nut and I stopped, my hand holding it up in the air when I had a memory blaze across my mind. Jerimiah had the exact same memory I had, even though we lived in two separate places, hundreds of miles away from each other. We looked at the nut, then at each other. We weren’t sure what to say, so Jerimiah spoke first.

“Talk about overt racism,” he said, and I nodded.

The memory that Jerimiah and I share from our separate childhoods is horrific. I’m full of shame just writing about it today, but certainly we are not the only ones who were forced to hear this as children and certainly we can’t shy away from the facts of this here country and the way white people are. The nickname passed down from generation to generation for this particular nut is a “N-word Toe.”

That’s how I knew the nut growing up and I had completely forgotten about that particular part of my childhood Christmases, then there it was, quite suddenly in front of me once again. Jerimiah told me his grandparents called it that. I told him my mother called it that, and so did all her friends. My mother was born in 1944. She was 13 years old before she saw anyone who was not white, only heard about people of color in terms not so polite. The N-word was used regularly during her childhood, on the tobacco farms my grandfather tended and in the rural schools she attended in Platte County, Missouri.

This was a normal way of life, but why this particular nut was nicknamed that I do not know. I refuse to know, actually. I refuse to Google it, give it any validation. I have suspicions of course, but we will leave them where they lie. All I know is a pit came up in my stomach when I saw that nut again after all these years and I didn’t know what to do. Neither did Jerimiah, so we did what we thought was right. We explained all of it to Jackson.

Jackson sat and listened intently, but when we shared the nickname his jaw dropped. I wasn’t sure how to take that. First I thought how good it is that he’s astounded to hear such nonsense, then I wondered if I am shielding him too much from the way structural racism, including covert and over racism, works. I wondered whether we need to do a deep dive into how just 20 years ago this was the way of the world, and explain in some parts of the country, in some small towns, in some homes, homes of family members we know and love, this is still the way of the world. I was at a crossroads and I guess I still am.

I’m not incredibly sure why I’m sharing this today. I could have kept this a secret. I think, however, that shameful secrets can bog you down. And I know, like with most of my writing, that I hope to evoke some kind of social change by sharing. But that’s at the macro level I suppose. Quite specifically, most days I feel a large responsibility toward others. Toward validating the lives of people who carry shame from their families and their childhoods and who are still working and learning to get things right, as well as toward the people who are oppressed and hurt by people like me. That’s a tall order, I know. But one I will keep plugging at for the rest of my life.

M.

False Positive

Well it happened, it was bound to right? All these COVID tests we have been taking out of precaution when we go somewhere or have visitors here. We got a false positive. Let me first say that we absolutely trust science, we trust the process, we trust the testing, we also know that human error exists and we think that is what happened here, but I don’t want anyone to read this and think I’m spiraling into some kind of conspiracy theorist who believes that all the positive are false. Uh, no. It just happens occasionally, we all know this, the experts say it, and it happened to us. More specifically it happened to Jerimiah.

We went to Kansas to get my mom last week so obviously we were all tested before we left and she was tested in Kansas. My mom got a negative, I got a negative, Jackson got a negative, and Jerimiah got a positive. We were all, what now? See the thing is we don’t go anywhere. And when we do go, say to Target to get cozy winter socks or to Kroger to get milk, we wear a mask, we stay six-feet away from people, some of us say in a loud voice to people who aren’t wearing their masks correctly, “Excuse me, hi, it needs to cover your nose too!” We don’t eat in restaurants (we haven’t since March 10th, yes I remember the exact date because I am missing my favorite burrito from my favorite Mexican joint and I refuse to have it delivered), we don’t go to gyms and bars (we haven’t in like literal years), we all work from home (we have since March), and we don’t go bowling or get tattoos, which seems to be an important thing here in Atlanta. Having said all that we are relatively safe and cautious.

Now the week before Jerimiah got the positive he did give blood, which was out of the ordinary for his normal day. He was also antibody tested and it came back negative, so he knew at that point he had never had the virus. Fast-forward a few days and he gets the positive. So the only thing we could think was maybe he picked it up while he was giving blood, but he said it was so sterile and clean in there and everyone was in several masks and he was like, “Nah, shit nah dog.” So there we were. Wondering how one of us had this positive and worried that his symptoms would start for him soon.

The day he got his results he put a mask on and didn’t take it off for a few days. We pushed our timeline back to get my mom, and the next day he went to get another test at the same location. But let’s talk about the location.

The first day we all went to get tested the location we went to was a new location to us. It was a new testing location and the place was pretty hectic. In fact, it was so hectic that at one point a woman with a tablet came over and placed a testing bag on our car and said to Jerimiah, “You’re Henry, right?” And he started to roll his window down more to say no, when another woman walked over and said, they are fine, they are the Goodnight family, go, go.” And ushered us through the line. We weren’t really sure what happened, but when she said our last name we figured she knew what was up.

As we were waiting to get our swabs, we saw a lot of dysfunction, the most we have ever seen at a testing site. At one point a person working almost got hit by a car because they were talking to someone else and just blindly walking through the line of cars. Then a cooler with tests toppled over and lay there for a bit, until someone noticed and ran over and started picking them up. In short, we were like uhh, maybe we don’t go to this testing location again? But we never thought we would get a false positive.

So how do we know it was a false positive? Well, we followed false positive protocol. The day he got the positive the health department called him to make sure he knew. He said he did, but that he was headed back to get another test because he had no symptoms and he hasn’t been exposed by anyone. They asked why he got tested then and he told them about the planned trip. The woman on the phone said for him to get tested at the same location, which he had already done and if that was a negative, wait a few days to see if symptoms posed up, then proceed with caution. Basically to treat it as a positive since it was “inconclusive.” So he got the second test back and it was negative. Then he started using our shared bathroom again and he took the mask off, but you know me, I wasn’t satisfied.

So the next day he went to get a different test. The test we took at the testing site was an antigen test. This new test, the kind you overnight to some lab in California, was the other kind of test. Basically it looks for other things. I would explain it all here, but I don’t want to bore you. If you are interested in the different tests you can get more information here.

Then we waited. Four days later the test came back negative. Which means, by the Health Department standards, the first test was a false positive. We won’t know for sure of course, until he gets another antibody test, but the two negatives right after the positive, the two separate tests, and no symptoms leads up to believe something happened on the testing end that first time. Like maybe Henry is walking around thinking he is negative, but he’s actually positive. That’s in fact, the scariest part.

So there you have it, the false positive. We have a friend here in Georgia that also had one last week and I’m concerned that maybe the testing centers and labs are a little overwhelmed right now, but it will all shake out okay. I do believe.

Be safe, y’all! And please trust the science, everyone makes mistakes sometimes.

M.

Celebrating During COVID

Our wedding anniversary is coming up fast, Monday the 21st in fact, and I keep thinking back to all the other ones we’ve had and well, this year will be somewhat different. Sometimes my mom is here for Christmas, sometimes she is not. On the years she is here, Jerimiah and I usually do something fun. A couple of times we even went out all night, got a fancy hotel room in the city and everything. But this year, considering we don’t eat at restaurants, stay at hotels, fly on planes, or do anything that would even look remotely like “fun” we have to make do with what we can do.

That got me to thinking: This isn’t the first celebration this year that has looked different. I mean we all had birthdays this year, we’ve had holidays, spring break, summer break, fall break. All of us have had those special days that we wish we could celebrate the way we always do, but we just can’t. Some of you did, and that was a risk you felt comfortable taking. Some of you got very sick because of it, some of you saw family members get sick because of it, some of you were lucky, took the precautions, did what was best for you, and made it back home okay. Me? I’m risk-adverse for the most part and I understand that there is always next year and if there isn’t, it won’t matter much anyway, will it?

I think that is what is bothering me today. What the root of this post is: It’s this idea that this year, these holidays and celebrations, can’t suffer because we are in the midst of a world-wide pandemic. This fear that people have that if they don’t have a large family Christmas, then what?! Then what? I’ll tell you what, no one gets sick and dies. Or no one gets sick and has lasting medical problems. You don’t put your loved ones at risk to see them open their presents in person.

Yes, that’s what is bothering me. This sadness I have knowing I can’t celebrate my wedding anniversary with my husband the way I’d like this year, but ultimately knowing that it’s okay cause we will have more, but more importantly I don’t like the way that some people are short-sighted in that sense.

My MIL lost a good friend the other day. It wasn’t COVID related, but it was unexpected. She was a lovely woman with a kind family and the kind of community-support that showed how loved she was. And losing someone is hard. So hard. And living in this world that we live in and losing someone is even harder. And in the end, I can’t shake the thought that there is real death, destruction, sickness, sadness going on in this world, and if you can’t put your holiday plans on hold for one year to help out in a tiny way, then what are you actually doing? What is actually going through your head?

I want to say this is only people who aren’t able to think critically, but I gotta tell you, I know some really smart, educated people, people with Dr. in front of their names, who still think COVID-19 either isn’t real or isn’t something THEY need to worry about. (I know I don’t need to tell you they are white males, but I figured I’d throw it in just to make sure you know. )

Look, this year for my wedding anniversary we are taking the family to see Christmas lights in a drive-through display. Yay! Maybe we will swing through The Varsity and grab burgers before we head home, maybe we will go to Raising Canes?! Who knows! The possibilities are LIMITED! It will not be like it has been the last 12 times we have celebrated and it will not be this way next year, but ONLY if we ALL get our shit together and start trying to do our small parts to make a big impact. Only then will we be able to celebrate next year, do things we want to do, go on vacations again, play sports, go to musicals on Broadway. Oh how I miss thee, NYC!

Please do your part, y’all. Wear a mask. Stay six feet away from people. Wash your hands. Get vaccinated if it is offered to you, and if you live in Georgia VOTE like you have never voted before!

Stay safe and sane, y’all!

M.

Capital B-Bitch

Listen Sam’s Club, I don’t need your shit right now. This whole email titled, “You Have Three Days Left to Save!” is pissing me off. I certainly have more than three days left to save and even if I didn’t have just three days left to save, maybe I don’t want to be reminded. Furthermore, perhaps I don’t even want to save with you. Firstly, you’re straight outta toilet paper right now. B: You are being a capital B-Bitch sending me threatening emails about saving money and 3. Who do you even think you are Sam’s Club? Do you think you’re Target? Cause you’re not and I’m not even 100% sure I would let Target talk to me that way. I mean, it depends on the time of year and how big the sale is, but still.

Frankly, Imma head on back to firstly. Firstly, you are straight outta toilet paper and you have been for weeks now and I don’t know how this keeps happening. One minute I’m there buying my allotted “One pack per customer” and there are literally about 15000 packages and then two days later when I get an email about $5 off protein shakes so I make a pick-up order and decide to see if you have toilet paper you got none. Zero. Nada. Am I out of toilet paper? No, I just bought a 48-roll pack two days before. But I can only get a 48-roll pack on average every six weeks from you and that’s bullshit. You’re Sam’s Club are you not? I can see Kroger or Publix or even Target being out of tp, but Sam’s Club? With all that audacity you have, nah G it don’t add up.

So instead of having the shit I need in stock (maybe I planned to give tp away as Christmas gifts?!) you instead send me threatening emails talking ’bout “YOU ONLY HAVE THREE DAYS TO SAVE” and do you know what you want me to save on?! Let’s take a gander, shall we!

Audio projectors! Robot vacuums! 70 inch televisions (I do want that one)! A new mattress! Toothbrushes! Toothbrushes?! And a playhouse (that’s legit though, I don’t need it but it’s cute)! I see you now Sam’s Club, fuck toilet paper and wine, you are threatening me with toothbrushes! It’s like you don’t even know me and that’s a damn shame cause I’ve been shopping with you for like 20 years now, you Capital-B Bitch.

Okay, wow. I didn’t know I had so much anger wrapped up in this teeny, tiny, pale, adorable body that I inhabit, but I do. And it seems all directed at Sam’s Club.

Sorry. I am so sorry. To you all, not to Sam’s Club.

M.