Dear Dad

I’ve spent the last two nights staring at an empty screen wondering what to write. Writing is how I process things, but I have so many things to process I don’t know where to start. First I found out who my dad is, then I connected with relatives and learned so much in such a short time. I was so happy, elated. But also overwhelmed. It’s a lot. And at a time when you have to rely on strangers to help you out, I was fortunate to find some good ones. But then the attacks started. People told me I was wrong and an embarrassment to their family name. A family name I don’t even want. A family name from a family in small town in Kansas. It was a little absurd.

The truth is, I have a family, I don’t want another one. And I know they are trying to cope just like I am. They are angry with me because they can’t write the narrative on this one, but it’s misplaced anger and besides, they shouldn’t get to write the narrative. This is my life, my dad, my story. It shouldn’t be this difficult to be compassionate, but for them it is. I wasn’t raised that way. I was raised to be kind. My family made me who I am, with a little bit of DNA from my dad, and a whole lot of loving from my mom and my sisters and my brother and my aunts and uncles and cousins and friends.

Yet here I am, wishing I could talk to my dad one time about that little bit of DNA. I have no idea where to start tonight, but I have to start getting something out so I figure I’ll start here.

Dear Dad,

I know you are gone. And I’m not sure where you are. I’m not too religious, don’t believe much in life after death. I don’t think we are reincarnated or made to burn in hellfire damnation for our sins, which is probably good, cause it sounds like you were no stranger to a good time.

It’s only been a few days but there is a theme occurring each time I talk to someone new about you: Oh your dad was funny, they tell me. Oh, your dad was so sweet. The best Uncle! The nicest guy. A little rough around the edges, but he’d give you the shirt off his back.

Opinionated. Kind. Thoughtful. Chubby.

Seems we have a lot in common.

My mom said you drank beer. Lots of beer. That you took her to your bar once to eat sandwiches. That you played pool. Do you remember that? You called her a wallflower. Started dating someone else to make her jealous. It worked.

She told me when I was 10 years old that you had a massive heart attack and ran your car off the road. I didn’t know then that you were my dad. She never told me that, I truly don’t think she knew. I think she wanted me to belong to someone else. And I think when we believe something so much, we make it so. But I remember that day. The day she told me, the day she said your name. I remember thinking that we had the same initials: M.M. Like an M&M.

Years later when I came across your obituary in my mom’s old dresser I wondered more about you again. You must have meant something to her, something special to have this old, faded cut out from the newspaper. She obviously still thought about you from time to time.

My sister said you were the nicest boyfriend our mom ever had. She said you called her princess, gave her a ring. She said you wore overalls. Always wore overalls.

I know you knew about me, but I don’t think you knew I was yours. You asked, but you weren’t told the truth. A mom trying to protect her kid, her heart. I’m not mad at her. I’m not mad at you. I’m sort of tired of being mad at anyone.

The thing is, I spent a lot of time being mad at a man who I thought was my dad. A man that I thought deserted me. A horrible cheating man. But it wasn’t him. It was you all along. I’m sorry I didn’t find out sooner. I’m sorry I didn’t push more for the truth. I’m sorry I didn’t ask for help.

You have a son-in-law. I think you’d like him. I hope you’d like him. He’s kind. Genuine. He can work on cars, he can skin a fish, he can run a budget for a multi-million dollar company. He works so I don’t have to. He supports me in all my crazy ideas.

You have a grandson. He’s 12 years old. He has blond hair and blue eyes and he’s smart. Really smart. He’s funny too. Talkative. Opinionated. The real life of the party, always has been. Doesn’t get that from me or his dad. I think maybe he gets it from you. It’s a funny thing, genetics.

It’s a funny thing, family. Yours doesn’t want me. Don’t worry, I’m okay. I don’t have much room in my life for them. They aren’t like me. We are different at our core. But I do want you to know that I tried. I tried and will keep trying, other cousins, there’s so many cousins, Dad! Someone will want to know me, someone will want to know my son, see him grow, watch what he becomes since you can’t.

I don’t know what you look like, Dad. I can’t close my eyes and remember you like other people can because I never met you. I used to dream about you. Not you exactly, but who I thought you were. Who I hoped you were. When other kids at school who would make fun of me for not having a dad, I would tell them that you were dead. I just wanted to stop the teasing. I didn’t know it was true.

I was only nine months old when you died. You were only forty two. Forty two is young, too young. I turn forty this year. I wish you could have made it longer. I bet you would have tried, like me.

I think we’d fight. Over politics, certainly. Over other things too. About you drinking too much. About you eating better. About me living so far away. About silly things, and not silly things. But at the end of the day I think we’d hug. You’d tell me that it will all be alright. I’d say see you later. Drive back home, 1000 miles away. Knowing I’d see you again next time.

I’ve never said this to anyone because I never had the opportunity to say it, but I love you, Dad. I know I didn’t know you, but I figure I won’t really ever have the chance to know you so what is the harm? Or maybe I will. Who knows. Not me.

The flowers are still blooming where I am, the rain still slicing through the sickly sweet air. And I don’t know where you are, but I hope you’re happy. Please know that I am. Finally, I am content. I’m the happiest.

M.

White Women, Again

I bought Jerimiah and Jackson matching shirts that said, “I’m Glad Reagan’s Dead” which is of course a lyric from the Killer Mike song, “Reagan.” I will include the link to the video so you can watch it if you are so inclined, it’s pretty good and incredibly informative. Anyway, they LOVED their shirts because they are big Killer Mike and Run the Jewels fans and so they wanted to pose for a picture and have me post it to Instagram so people can see their shirts, so I did. Then I went on with my life as one does. Then a couple of days later I got a Facebook message from a white woman that said, “I just don’t understand, why would you want a shirt that says, ‘I’m glad Reagan’s Dead.'” I responded, of course, very kindly. First I hoped she was having a great holiday season, I remarked about her fun pictures and hoped that she was having a nice time with her family, as one does. Then I politely explained the reasoning behind the shirt, in a condensed version of course. I told her how we have been talking about racial justice in this our country, backtracking what Jackson has learned in school as “America History” and told him some truths. It’s a tough, labor-intensive process, but incredibly necessary.

Then it occurred to me that the audacity of white women truly knows no bounds.

White women get offended by something, a t-shirt that a person 1,000 miles away from them who has no real connection to them is wearing and they demand an answer for it. It sort of boggled my mind.

I personally would never ask about something like that. I would never take the time from my day to demand an answer to something that someone is wearing (unless it was overtly racist, in which case I would publicly shame them for it even though Mama Brene Brown says shame is not an effective educational tool. I know Mama Brene, I know. I’m working on it, it’s hard to change when you grew up that way.) Maybe it’s an age thing? This woman is the mother of a childhood friend. Either way, my own mother didn’t even ask about the shirts, just accepted it as something quirky I did, I assume, and went on with her day.

It was bizarre, to say the least. But still I figured if one white woman questioned it, others probably did too but were just too afraid to ask so I made a Facebook post explaining the shirt (saying I had multiple people ask me, but really it was just the one, I just didn’t want to make her feel bad. But she should kind of feel bad, ya dig?). This is that post, condensed:

Hi Everyone! Jerimiah and I have had people question the “I’m Glad Reagan’s Dead” t-shirts I bought for Jackson and Jerimiah for Christmas.

So if you want to know why I would give my 12-year-old a shirt that says, “I’m Glad Reagan’s Dead” or you want to know why anyone would be happy to say that, then please do read on. Warning: This is tough stuff, because you might be enlightened to a world, community, and culture that is different than your own, and that makes people uncomfortable. So fair warning. 🙂

Let’s start with the song lyrics that the phrase is taken from. The song is called “Reagan” and it is by Killer Mike, a member of the two-person group “Run the Jewels” who happened to win Spin’s “Artist of the Year” for their RTJ 4 album, the one they released free to the masses on account of how horrible the year was going. They wanted to brighten some lives and they did! The song “Reagan” is not on that album, but Jackson and Jerimiah love all the albums and they love Killer Mike (I do too on account of all his grassroots, community work here in Atlanta) and so they did a deep dive on all his work this year where they came across the song, which, in short, lists the litany of Reagan atrocities toward the Black community and atrocities toward other minority communities worldwide and the backlash it had on the ones here in the US, including:

Iran/Contra Scandal (trading arms for hostages), “Oliver North introducing Cocaine on military planes”, the “War on Drugs” which we all know disproportionately affected the Black community and allowed for “policing for profits” leading to “Super Predators” which was a made up term to arrest Black men on drug charges, and allowed the courts to “give drug dealers time in double digits” which of course led to fathers, brothers, uncles, in the Black community being locked up years and years longer than the white people doing the same things, because as Killer Mike says,

“Cause slavery was abolished, unless you are in prison, you think I am bullshittin’ then read the 13th amendment.”

Blah, blah, blah, it went on. Explaining more about Killer Mike, about supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and the community, asking people to vote consciously and to donate money to Black businesses, etc. It was liked by a few people, loved by some of my Black friends, and thankfully no one commented. Of course I blatantly told white people not to comment, cause I know a few other white women who would normally hop on a post like that like flies on a shit sandwich. I didn’t want to have to unfriend anyone over the post, at the same time, I kinda did want to unfriend some people over the post. You know how it is.

Anyway, I’m sharing today to remind white women to chill the fuck out and sit the fuck down. And yes, I am aware that I am a white woman. Which gives me the power to say that to y’all. Cause Black women who say it get screamed at, and called mean names, and ostracized. I don’t care, y’all can scream at me and ostracize me, Jesus I welcome it, but leave people alone.

No one owes you an explanation for a damn thing, and more importantly your opinion on the matter doesn’t in fact matter. Literally no one from the Black Lives Matter camp is looking at you to help them. I’m included in that. They don’t give a fuck about me, and I don’t need them to. I don’t need a pat on the back or a nod to know what I am doing is right. I just need to figure out how to walk this line of keeping white women in check and not overstepping any boundaries with my BIPOC friends. I’m working on it, always working on it.

But white women, for the love of all that is holy, no one is looking at you to be the moral center of our country, so stop it. That job is for Tom Hanks and Tom Hanks alone.

That is all, good day sirs!

M.

PS… “I’ll leave you with four words: I’m glad Reagan Dead.” –Michael Render, aka Killer Mike

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.

Christmas Lights! Winter Solstice! Oh My!

We did one of those drive-thru light displays the other night and it was better and also worse that I thought it would be. A few years back we went to the light display at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and that was cool. Cool in the sense that it was huge and you got to drive onto the speedway which Jackson really liked. Although we are not NASCAR fans, we were car fans and he thought it was pretty cool. This year we went to the display at Six Flag’s White Water in Marietta. It’s a city just up the Perimeter about twenty minutes from us. Six Flag’s commissioned a company called “World of Illumination” to set up a display in their parking lot. They charge people $50 a car and all in all it goes pretty smoothly.

It was my mom’s second time at a drive-thru lights display. We took her to one way back in the day in Branson, Missouri. A place called Shepherd of the Hills does a little one every year and she enjoyed that one so we thought we’d take her to a larger one. As far as drive-thru light displays go, they are better when they have a theme and this one had a theme: Candy Rush. So all the lights were different kinds of sweets. Enough to give you a heart attack! But like others the lights flashed and swirled to the beat of the music, which was tuned in on 87.9 FM. My mom thought that was pretty cool too.

Unlike Charlotte, the whole thing takes place in a parking lot, so it’s easy to get caught up in other cars and people and while it is amazing to see all those lights, it was a bit chaotic. Again, compared to Charlotte who utilized the whole racetrack. It was much more spread out and darker, so it was better, in my opinion. As if you even asked.

My mom and Jackson really liked it though and I took some videos for her of the lights and you can hear her in the back of the car commenting on them. She did enjoy herself, even though it was 9:30 pm when we were heading home. And of course Jackson watched from the moonroof the whole time, which he always enjoys.

When we got home we decided to take a gander at the stars considering it was Winter Solstice (and our wedding anniversary!) and Jupiter and Saturn were having their love thing. It was a nice clear night and we were able to see so much. It was truly breathtaking and a great ending to a great evening.

Hope you all got to see some beautiful lights this year from the safety of your car. If not, there’s still time!

M.

Little Plans, Big City

There are normally a ton of things to do around Atlanta at Christmastime and last year we did a lot of them. Last year we went to the Christkindl Market. We rode Macy’s Pink Pig, which is a thing all Atlantans have to do at the holiday, saw the World’s Largest Cruise Ship made from gingerbread, drove through neighborhoods with amazing Christmas light displays, saw Santa, drank hot cocoa, and went ice skating atop the Ponce City Market. And of course we are so glad we did that for our first Christmas in Atlanta, because our second one is shaping up to be pretty boring.

My mom is in town, which is helpful especially for Jackson who always likes to have visitors around the holidays. When Jackson was a baby we told our family that we would not be traveling for Christmas and we have stayed true to our word. A kid wants to be home for Santa to visit each year and as long as Santa visits us (he still does) then we are at our home. We also said anyone is welcome to come spend Christmas with us because of that rule we live by and many times we have had visitors. Mainly grandparents, and it has been very nice. Of course this year is different. We can’t have a house full of people this year so my mom is here and that is enough for us.

We also can’t go and do all the fun things that a big city offers at Christmastime because the big city isn’t offering it this year and even if it was we would not go because global pandemic. Still, there are ways to have a big city Christmas in little ways.

First, we snatched up some tickets to the drive-thru light display at Six Flags! We are excited about this one because we went to one at the Charlotte Speedway a couple of Christmases ago and Jackson really liked it. Of course he was 10 back then, but still, we hope Jackson and Grandma will be amazed at the sheer magnitude of the display! The running joke in our house this whole pandemic has been, “What do you want to do today?” (The correct answer is not Six Flags.) And then someone says, “Six Flags!” And someone else says, “Dead.” Cause yeah, if you go to Six Flags you probably gonna get the COVID. But next week I get to say, “What do you want to do today?” And someone can say, “Six Flags!” and someone else can say, “Let’s do it!” It’s the little things, y’all.

Then there is the Ponce City Market. This is one cool and happening place, too cool for us, honestly. But we happened upon it last year and spent a whole evening there ice skating, playing mini golf on the rooftop amusement park, seeing Santa, and eating a ton of good food. While all those things can’t happen this year, we can don our best Christmas sweaters and head up for some pictures outside. In fact, they decorate so well the pics could work as your Christmas cards! There is one big neon sign that we particularly like to have our picture made with as it says, “Merry Christmas You Filthy Animal!” Ha! Yeah, we’re doing it!

Next up is a drive-in movie. Now we are on the fence about this one just because we aren’t sure how easy it will be for Mama to see/hear the movie so we can’t decide if this is a whole-family thing or a Jerimiah and Missy celebrate their anniversary as best they can thing. We are gonna wait to see what Mama decides on, but we are hoping she gives it a whirl. It’s a double-feature, “Elf” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

Christmas lights! Did I mention Christmas lights! There are always more lights to see. People take the lights real serious like around here and there are some magnificent houses to drive by while we eat popcorn or ice cream, depending on the weather!

Lastly, there is the fun thing we do each year where we spend a couple of days baking treats then taking them to friends’ houses as a surprise. Elfing, as we call it. There will be some elfing this year, though socially-distanced porch drop-offs are all the rage.

There you have it, our Christmas plans in miniature. Little plans, big city.

M.

There’s No Place Like Home

Meaning, there’s no place like where your home is. The home that has your actual shit in it. Your bed. Your favorite toilet. You hidden stash of chocolate. But alas, for the next 24 hours my “home” will be in a rented Chevy Suburban since Jerimiah, Jackson, the dogs, and I are leaving tonight to drive to Kansas to get my mom, to then turn right around and drive back. Twenty-four hours of being in the car with gas and bathroom breaks with my kid, my husband, my dogs, and my mom (for 12 hours). This should be fine, totally fine.

Listen, we haven’t seen my mom in over a year and she wanted to come visit for Christmas and while she is mentally well, she is physically not able to make it around an airport without help. Plus, she would have to fly into, literally, the world’s busiest airport in December. So that’s a no. Plus, who is flying right now? And if you are, why? That’s all. Why? It’s bad enough to have to chart out the gas stations on the way to Kansas and back that you think might be the cleanest (that is to say all the Quik Trips) but how could you navigate a small space like an airplane and not constantly be bothered by the fact that you are sitting so close to other people. Like those people who flew from Mainland to Hawaii against doctor’s orders because they had all tested positive the day before but I mean, fuck everyone else on the plane, amiright?

So we are loading up today to make the trek and hope to be home by Saturday evening. We are taking the dogs because otherwise we would have to leave them outside all night (with the doors to the screened porch open of course, for shelter) because Winnie hasn’t learned to not chew up all our shit when we leave them alone for an extended period of time. We would board them overnight but Winnie, being a quarantine puppy, isn’t well socialized with people. That is to say people terrify her. She shakes and hides. So there is that. As you can see our dogs rule our actual lives.

We have all been tested. We have quarantined since tests and we are not making stops, going inside people’s houses, etc. We might make a couple of driveway stops to say hello to my sister and best friend, who are also not infected with the virus, with our masks on, no hugging, to say hello. Otherwise, nah dog. There are too many variables and too many people have not been tested and are around people who are not tested and who are regularly not taking this seriously. This, we have deduced, is the safest way.

So wish me luck. Or don’t, doesn’t matter much to me either way, but I do hope that you are wearing your mask, avoiding excessive and unnecessary travel (do as I say, not as I do) and are considering getting the Jolene Vaccine (The Moderna One) in the spring when it’s safe to do so.

Love to you all!

M.

My First Reading

I was invited to a reading the other day via Zoom for one of my new pieces that was published. This particular piece was published with Welter at the University of Baltimore and while this was not my first time being asked to do a reading, this was the first time I said yes and it was two-fold. The first reason is because this piece, I thought, was very important. Socially it was important and it meant a lot to me. You can read the piece yourself here: Welter Online. The second reason was that because I am now in an MFA program, I should be reading my work when asked. I need the practice and truth be told it was on Zoom so there wasn’t high risk. Worst case I freak out and “go dark” and blame my internet. Win-win.

But the fact is I did it and I am proud of myself and I had a really nice time. The people at Welter were incredibly nice, albeit overwhelmed and overworked (they had over 1200 submissions to wade through) and now that I have done a semester at Ponder Review (The W’s lit mag) I get it. 1200 Submissions must be a nightmare! At the same time, my piece was one of like 15 to make it to publication out of those 1200 submissions, so… I am thankful for them.

It was a nice feeling and not just because I was accepted and liked and my piece made people cry, which is always a bonus when you feel like you wrote a highly emotional piece and you see people respond, but also because I did the reading, I didn’t “go dark,” my husband and son got to watch it, and I had a really nice time, met some new friends (and got to read with one of my friends I met at The W this semester!) and gained some valuable experience. It was not what I anticipated when I spent the day, nay the weekend, envisioning all the horrific outcomes. So there you have it. I survived. I wasn’t too scared. I was calm and I had a nice time.

I am always thankful for people who give my work (and me) time and space to be read and heard. So thank you Welter, for holding space for all of us the other night and thank you for being part of this thing we all do, for helping eager writers and for putting goodness into the world. The other readers that night knocked my socks off as well (especially Josh, William, Stephen, and Shannon, if you get a chance read all the pieces over at Welter Online they truly were fantastic!) There was not one piece I didn’t emotionally connect to at the reading, and many of them were pretty funny to boot! It was an amazing evening.

If you’re at all interested in going to, watching, or participating in readings I highly recommend it. It is a nice way to save soul points inside your heart for a rainy day.

Remember to support local artists of all kinds.

Be safe and sane.

M.

Long Days, Quick Years

Sometimes when I’m in the bathroom taking a shower, or peeing, or crying while I eat chocolate and slide down the wall dramatically, I think I hear Jackson on the other side of the door. I think I hear his little preschool voice, the one I miss oh so very much, saying, “Mommy? Mommy?” Now way back when the soft “Mommy” would be followed by an adorable, “Are you in thwere, Mommy? Are you pwooping, Mommy?” Because sometimes I would pretend to poop to get some alone time.

Anywho, lately that has been happening to me. I think I am hearing Jackson on the other side of the bathroom door asking for me when I am in the shower and I turn the water off and say, “What’s up, baby?” And no one is there. No one is ever there. And I am feeling sad about that. I think I am spiraling. I think I am wishing my little boy was running to find me when he realizes he hasn’t seen me in a few minutes and wants to make sure I am okay, or just needs to tell me that he made a new Lego house. I miss those days, even though I thought I would never get through them.

Is that what happens as your kid grows up? Am I just experiencing the age-old “I miss when they were little”? Is this when I start telling people to enjoy those little moments because the world moves so fast and the kids grow so fast and if you close your eyes, or even wish for a second for it to be over, when you open your eyes again it will be and then what? Then what?

Listen, I love the life we have now. A kid who can make his own lunch. Who can do the dishes and bring me a glass of wine when I am in the hot tub soaking my problems away. But somedays I desperately, desperately miss my little guy running to find me, a diaper sagging to his knees, or a trail of some sticky candy behind him, or a car in his hand asking me if I am ready to play. It’s all so much.

The days are long, but the years are fast. Really, really fast.

Take care. Be safe. Enjoy the little moments.

M.

As For Me and My House…

It’s late, 1:15 am and everyone is asleep in my house but me. Me and that damn Elf on the Shelf. Yes, he’s back. And yes, he’s a hot mess. And yes, Jackson whole-heartedly believes in him and in Santa and doesn’t get why people could believe in Jesus, a man who causes so much pain, but no Santa, a man who brings so much joy. To be honest, I’m at a loss myself. I guess as for me and my house, we will serve the Elf.

Our Elf on the Shelf’s name is Jackson because Jackson got him when he was four and that is when he had just learned to write his name and he had to write the Elf’s name in the book, so there you go. Jackson Elf is a little bitch. He makes messes in the kitchen, he creates works of art from my magazines, he once built a zip line from one end of the dining room to the other and invited his other elf friend, Elf Cam Newton (hey, we lived in North Carolina) to ride it with him. The hole zip line was made from paper clips. Literally hundreds of paper clips clipped to gather then carefully arranged into a zip line, all awhile we slept. And of course, they were my paper clips.

Jackson Elf doesn’t operate like he is intended. He doesn’t sit on a shelf all day watching, judging, then report to the big man at night about the chaos and sin he has witnessed. He’s not a priest. He’s an elf, and elves have fun damn it. Plus, we’ve never needed to scare our kid with Santa or Elf on the Shelf, though we once knew a little boy who only listened to his mother when she said two things: “Wait until I tell your Daddy!” and “Santa is watching!” Whew. What a life that must have been.

So Jackson the elf is plotting downstairs right now. I can hear him. The dogs can occasionally here him. The floor creaks, the boards rumble, the lights flicker. I don’t know what he is doing but I’m sure whatever it is it will bring a giant smile to my child’s face and shit man, isn’t that worth all the paper clips in the whole world?

M.

There’s More Than One Way to Crack a Nut

Jackson asked if we could get some nuts to use our nutcracker on. What nutcracker, I asked, perplexed. That one, he said, and pointed toward the mantle. Ohh, Jerimiah and I laughed, that’s not a real nutcracker, that’s a fake one. Why would there be fake ones Jackson wanted to know. Good question, I said. Then I explained that we have a silver, handheld nutcracker that does the job he wants to do and that the bearded man in buffalo check on the mantle is just for decoration. Then I went down a rabbit hole so big that I woke up yelling, Kurt Adler Nutcrackers!

Kurt Adler nutcrackers are the actual bees knees. I told my family this over breakfast. And if I had the money to blow on the one-of-a-kind Wizard of Oz one they sell at Macy’s then my day would be made.

My family looked at me with confusion in their faces and I had to agree, what the actual hell Missy?! But look at it though:

That’s one MFing cool nutcracker. Not like the ones I buy at Target on clearance two days after Christmas.

Anyway, if you are in the mood for a new nutcracker this year may I suggest you check out Kurt Adler Nutcrackers. You’ll find just what you are looking for! If you actually want to eat nuts though, well then, just throw a bag on the driveway and run them over with your car like my mom used to do. But wear a helmet, those suckers can fly.

Now let’s go crack some nuts!

M.

Christmastime is Here

We decorated for Christmas, woo, what at time. Well, we partially decorated. It’s more like a decorating weekend around here. Not that we can’t do it all in one day, I just never know what I want to do, how I want to decorate, what new items I may need to incorporate, then we realize we need something because we misplaced an item or it broke (this year it was the star for the “big” tree) and Jerimiah has to run to Target, then there’s the whole Jackson gets bored and spends hours chasing the dogs around trying to put a Santa hat on them, and then it finally happens (only with Duke this year) and hilarity ensues. At that point we are hungry and take a break for dinner, then decide enough already and watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to start the season off right. Yesterday was no exception. So enjoy the photos of the mantle, the family room tree, and the living room tree. That’s as far as we got!

Hope you’re feeling a bit of Christmas magic this week!

M.

Good Ombre

I don’t make pies. I don’t bake. It’s not something I enjoy. I never have and quarantine has not helped me with that. I didn’t start a sourdough roll or learn how to expertly frost sugar cookies to look like Kamala Harris, though I do wish I had done that one. But I did google “What is the easiest pie to make when your husband asks if you want to make homemade pies for Thanksgiving” and this Apple Ombre pie popped up so I decided to try it.

All you do is buy varying shades of apples, thinly slice them, layer them in a pie crust (you can make your own if you’re that kinda person) then sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the top and bake it low and slow. Like for real, that’s it. I bought a pie crust because I’m easy and cheap, yes I mean that, and took a painstaking amount of time picking out apples the right shade of green, yellow, pink, and red, like too much time. Like, I spent too much time inside a Kroger during a pandemic picking out apples.

I used the largest jar of Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cinnadust I could find at Sam’s Club, then I baked that beast. I ended up making two of them because they were so easy to make and we legit ate one right after I pulled it out of the oven with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top. So yeah, good stuff, y’all.

So if you Google “Ombre Apple Pie” the picture you get will not look like mine because this was my first time, but I will make this pie regularly now, it’s that easy and delicious, and so I hope to get better, but for now look at this gloriousness.

Yum. That is all.

Also, I decided to do some more baking since I had all the shit out and I made my first cherry pie ever, while the boys worked on almond silk and pecan pies. Then I threw in some pumpkin bread before we called it a night. Yes, I did this all for the three of us a to eat dinner together on Thursday. I’m a mess, but at least I’ll be all carbed up that day!

Happy Pre-turkey Day!

M.

Hello, Karen?

We’ve been phone banking for the Democrats of DeKalb. We live in DeKalb County Georgia. You’ve probably heard of us on the news lately, and hopefully they are pronouncing it correctly, it’s “Duh-Cab.” Anywho, we have over 500,000 registered voters in our county, but our population is about 800,000, so as you can see we have some work to day. DeKalb Democrats tries to get people registered to vote, it doesn’t matter how you register, which party you affiliate with. They also do phone banking to make sure people know they can vote in Georgia both in-person early (starting three weeks before Election Day) and also vote by mail, anyone can, you don’t know a “reason.”

That should probably explain all you need to know about how the state was flipped this year, considering you already know about Stacey Abrams and if you don’t then go ahead and Google her, or maybe read this.

Anyway, we have been phone banking and we let Jackson do it too. He actually really liked it. Might be illegal, might just be morally wrong, but he had a great time calling people and telling them how they can request an absentee ballot, he is a civically engaged kid, what a great way for him to learn about the voting process too!

So the other day while we were all phone banking, well Jackson and Jerimiah were, I did it one day then decided it was not for me (I am writing and sending postcards to voters instead) Jackson was getting some really lovely people on the phone, older ladies are his sweet spot of course, and they were chatting away with him, telling him all about their grandkids and what not. He ate it up, and can tell you all about Debra and her absentee ballot that she had to do because she’s been living in California with her grandkids for the last six months to ride out the pandemic. Anyway, so Jerimiah gets this really nasty lady on the phone and then we did something bad.

Jerimiah is chatting away and then we hear him get quiet and he’s all, “Umm, okay. Not sure what to do about that.” He called this woman, let’s call her “Theresa.” He called Theresa and said, “Hi is this Theresa?” And the white woman on the other end of the line decided to lose her shit on him about calling her. She said he had the wrong number, which is all she needed to say, she didn’t even know who he was or what organization he was with, she just flipped. Then said she was calling the cops, filing a police report, the whole nine yards. Jerimiah just politely hung up and then sat there in stunned silence for a moment before he told us what happened. He didn’t know what to do. Should he alert someone? Is there a no-call list? We shrugged. So he just marked her as “Wrong Number” in the system and hoped no one else would call her. Except…

Well I did call her. I asked for her number and used my Google phone number to ring her up. She answered and sounded like she was driving. She seemed to be a young, maybe 30s white woman with an attitude from hell, like I expected. So this time I said, “Hi, is Karen home?” And she was like, “Oh my God, you have the wrong number.” And I said, “So you are not Karen?” And she said, “Right.” And I said, “Are you sure you are not a Karen?” and we sat for a moment in silence before she hung up on me, and I gotta say, I did feel vindicated. Childish and immature too, but mostly vindicated.

I know, Michelle, I should have went high, but I just couldn’t. I’m all out of patience for people like that, and though y’all know I don’t prescribe to the whole “Karens are evil” thing, simply because I know some really nice Karens and I don’t think it’s fair, it is a social construct that does exist and I did exploit it and for that I am sorry. To all the other Karens, not that bitch.

Be safe and well, y’all.

M.

Fuck the Pilgrims

We wanted to enjoy a nice “Fuck the Pilgrims” Thanksgiving this year, then our family decided they wanted to come here for the holiday, so we scrapped that idea and went all in with a regular old Thanksgiving. Then we decided that Covid has no chill and it was not a good idea to have a house full of guests this holiday, and probably any holiday until this shit is under control, so now we are back to a “Fuck the Pilgrims” Thanksgiving.

We aren’t really sure what a “Fuck the Pilgrims” Thanksgiving looks like, maybe we get pilgrim statues and hang them from their necks over the fireplace? Too gruesome? Or maybe we make a list of all the lands the pilgrims stole from the Indigenous People, and we donate five dollars for each land we come up with? Too expensive? Okay, maybe we just learn about the lands near us that were stolen from the Indigenous People, read about small box blankets and what not, and give thanks that the Native Americans are as resilient as they are? Perfect.

The point is Thanksgiving, like Christmas, is just an excuse for us to be with family, enjoy each other’s company, and eat a ton of good food. We don’t prescribe to the whole “Thank you” toward those first settlers who were monsters, and no, we aren’t grateful for them. I mean, I could be living in London right now, speaking with a British accent and going on about my business and not being led by one Donald Trump, so ehh.

Sure, I’m happy to be in America (sometimes) but I don’t really care either way because the truth of the matter is, you make the most of wherever you are, and that’s that. So yeah, fuck the pilgrims and their blooding and plundering, they didn’t do me any bloody favors.

Happy Fuck the Pilgrims Week, y’all.

M.

It’s Friday

I’ve been waiting all week for it to be Friday! All. Week. Why? Because I’m officially finished with my first semester of my MFA program and I’m not gonna lie, it feels better than I thought it would. Like way better. This was a tough semester, y’all, in a tough year, with some tough moments, and I don’t just mean the political climate, or the pandemic, but I’ve had one of the toughest years in the last decade mentally and emotionally and physically too and I am so looking forward for reasons to celebrate. Today, I have one.

Woohoo! School’s out for one month!

Of course I’m reading for next semester already. And I’m reading for a literature contest, and I’m trying to learn to read for fun again, and I’ll be working on revisions from work I did this semester and I’ll be trying to come up with ideas for all my fictions classes next semester, but still, you know, no deadlines for a month! Woohoo!

Oh, and the holidays at home with my people, just Jerimiah and Jackson and the dogs and me. This pandemic has pulled us all so close that I’m afraid what will happen when life goes back to normal. But, I can’t worry about that today. Today is for celebrating! And maybe eating pizza and ice cream, and certainly watching some old episodes of “The Gilmore Girls” or maybe a sad-ass crime documentary, I don’t know! There are so many possibilities!

Whatever you are doing today, do it with a little pep in your step, y’all because as Rebecca Black would say, “It’s Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday!”

M.