An Open Letter to the PTA

Good afternoon ladies (and that one weird dad). Let me start off by saying: THANK YOU! You are an amazing bunch, and honestly the school would be in deep doodoo without you. I mean for real. You help raise so much money for this damn school, that it is insane. You support extracurriculars, you help fund teacher’s classrooms, you feed the staff, and spend days getting ready for an event that most of the kids relentlessly make fun of (even when they have a great time)! You are great at all of this because you are mommies. And grand mommies. And that one weird dad. And you are used to doing thankless jobs for no pay. You are used to being yelled at about things that are not your fault. You are used to squeezing the budget as far as it will go and then some. You are used to begging and pleading for people to do one ounce of the work you do, just to keep the wheels in motion. And honestly, most of the time, you are measured not by the good that you do, but rather by the “annoyances” you cause. But I see you. I see you working diligently, and tirelessly, so that your kids and your friends’ kids, and the whole elementary school can have a damn snow-cone maker come field day, And your work does not go unnoticed.

Now, let me get to the heart of the matter, the ways I can help you. First let me say that I have been on both sides of the coin. I was not a member of the PTA, then I was just a “give $10 member,” then I was a committee co-chair, then a co-Vice President, then a committee chair at another school, and now currently I am just a “give $20 member” who has been asked repeatedly to help out whenever I can, and the “whenever I cans” are filling up my calendar. I have been part of three different PTAs, including helping one as it transitioned to a PTO. I have written bi-laws, been in charge of an event, stopped by every single teacher to introduce myself and give them a gift. I have laid mulch and planted flowers, collected money and membership forms, sold t-shirts, and stuffed goody bags. I have given another mom the “stop talking you’re wasting all of our time” look on Friday morning meetings so the President didn’t have to. I have researched grants, and play sets. I have led meetings and worked lunch room duty. Jesus, lunch room duty. I have rallied students with a megaphone, I have hauled screaming kinders out of a quickly deflating bounce house. And the list goes on. I, as you can see, am not afraid to get in there and get my hands dirty. And many, many more moms and dads are the same, but sometimes you don’t give them a chance.

Listen, y’all are seen in a different light because you’re not exactly inclusive. You are not exactly shining rays of light in the hallway. You are not exactly welcoming to new parents, or old parents, or odd parents. And sometimes each other. You have a narrow focus, and tend to keep your friends close, when you should be keeping your enemies closer. You need to remember that the PTA is not a popularity contest. It isn’t part of a social status. It’s work. Hard work and a lot of it. You need help. And dear Baby Jesus, I want to help you set your sights higher! Therefore, we need to take a hard look at your flaws. We need to speak some truth into you. And this is going to be hard, but I have to speak directly to each of you, starting at the top*. Ahem…

President: Hey Karyn, waz up, girl?! Can I grab a sec? Listen, I know you are one busy bee, girlfriend, okay! Aren’t we all (hysterical, sad laughter). But listen, you need to slow down girl, like for real. You need to loosen the reigns and ask for some help. No one is asking you to organize the 5K, the bake sell, the school carnival, the fifth grade dance, and all the teacher breakfasts, okay. You put that on yourself. Why, girl? Cause you’re a little bit of a control freak? Sure, hahahahahaha! We all are! That’s why we’re here, but listen, you’re scaring people. No one wants to join the committees you head because they heard about the spring gala and the shit that went down in the parking lot between you and your co-chair afterward. Did you really pull her weave out? Karyn, did you pay that teenager to key her car at Costco? Be straight with me girl, I won’t tell anyone. Certainly not, Betsy. Eek. But for real, slow down, take a chill pill, smile a little more in the hallway to people who live outside of your subdivision, and learn to use the calendar app, your disorganization is tearing us apart. Okay, love you girl, bye!

Vice-President: Patsy, honey, how are you? I feel like we never get a chance to talk. I saw you sit with your hand raised for fifteen minutes last Friday when the Principal asked for opinions on the food truck, but Karyn would not stop talking long enough for you to say anything. Honestly, we all felt the sting when Karyn reached over and put your hand down for you. I feel like we never get to hear your ideas. But you smile anyway. Although, I did catch that thing you said under your breath to Tina the other day about being “voluntold” to work the Book Fair. Listen honey, Karyn is a bitch. We all know this. We also know we have to keep her happy and that none of this shit would be done, if it weren’t for you. But that day in the cafeteria, when you slammed the tray down on her hand on “accident” girl, you validated a lot of us. Never stop being you. You are the glue to this whole damn thing. And I will respect your wishes and cross your name off the ballot next year. I got your back.

Secretary: Tina, daaayuuum, girl, how long you been doing this? Long time? You have what, seven kids now? Just the other d… uhhh, he spit up a little on you, yeah, right, uhhh, yeah, there, ope you got it. You want me to hold him so you can hold the pen, or, okay, okay, yeah, that works too. Just, I don’t want him to get kicked in the head, uhh, so listen, have you ever considered running for president? I mean, you have the skills for the job, and you’re, umm (motioning to all the toddlers and babies in the room) gonna be around for awhile, so, I think you could make some awesome changes. Oh really? Sure. You could totally start now by um, I think you could start by getting Karyn to be a little more open to new people. To new ideas. Maybe finding a good way to get some kinder moms involved. When I was a kinder mom no one in the PTA spoke to me all year. I really wanted to get involved, but I was painfully shy, and honestly honey, if I would have known what a giant clusterfuck this really is, I would have totally joined up then. Because there I was, thinking you guys all had your shit together, and I was the one who was all messed up, but nah. Nah. Oh, you want me to burp him, okay, sure.

Treasurer: Kevin, hey dude. Listen, I know all the ladies want you to be the treasurer because you are “the man” and well, this is The South, so there is a definite belief ladies can’t do numbers, but, no, no, no, I do not want your job. No, I know. Yes, I understand it is hard. No, thank you. Uh huh. Uh huh. Uh huh. Right. Totally agree. Sure raise ’em up right. Okay, absolutely. Yep. Stop! Stop! Do you see this right here?! You have not let me say a damn word! And maybe it’s because you are a man, but I rather think it’s because you’re an asshole. So shut up sometimes and let other people tell you what they think. And train someone else to do this job. Start now, because I guarantee, your name won’t be on the ballot forever. Also, stop saying your kid is too good for this school. That’s not a thing. No kid is too good for a school and no school is too good for a kid. Period. And one more thing, Kevin, I know you walk around here like your shit don’t stink. But I’ve been in the unisex staff bathroom after you, and well… it does.

Communications Chair: Hey Betsy, so glad I caught you! Listen, I did get your 18 emails last night about the use of the school’s Instagram account, and honestly I’m gonna guess that no, we aren’t breaking Rule XVI, Law i of the school conduct code by using a picture of the janitor hoisting up the flag. Uh, huh. Uh, huh. Oh no, I don’t think the threat of a new civil war in any way impacts what we say on our Facebook page, just because, well, we mainly say things like: “Book Fair, Friday Night!” We aren’t like, you know, getting political. Yes, we can be political people. I know you saw me at that rally and you’re nervous I’m gonna fly off the handle, but um, you did take my Box Top access away, and I really needed to get some templates printed off. How bout this? How bout I promise to not talk about politics ever again with you, and you promise to stop making us all sign releases saying that we won’t share pictures of your child at lunch in a public forum. I really don’t think anyone is doing that, so I feel like it is saving us both some time and energy. No, I did not hear that Patsy wasn’t going to run for president next year. Hmm, that is interesting. No, honey. I think you should take a little more time learning the ropes before you throw your hat in the ring. You’re just, well, annoying.

That One Mom Who Said She Would Help a Ton, But Only Shows Up When It’s Convenient: (Long sigh). Hey, Becca. So, are the third Thursdays on a month ending in -er just the best days for you, or, no? Okay. Sure, I get it. Yeah, yeah, sure. You work full-time, two kids, omigod, I know, I know. But listen, everyone is really tired of your shit. You send these hateful emails about all the things we are doing wrong, then I have to passive-aggressively respond all and remind you that you need to be the change you wish to see, you know. It’s getting old. I hate to be so crass with you, but you know where I’m coming from, it’s shit or get off the pot time, Becca. And the least you could do, on the days you are scheduled to show and you don’t, is text a bitch okay. And you know what, this is one of those times when throwing money at a problem does help. So get your husband to write a fat-ass check to the PTA, and we will see if we can make this all work. Okay, girl. Okay! See you in six weeks.

Beautification Co-Chair: Hey, girl, hey! Listen Rhonda, I’ve heard some murmuring after the meetings lately that people feel like you are a little pushy and maybe some of your ideas are, ummm, unrealistic? Ummm, what would you say… uh huh. Oh no, I’m not saying you’re pushy or unrealistic, I’m just saying that maybe you shouldn’t try to put new siding on the school this year, when we are trying to save for new chrome books for the classrooms. Also, a fifteen foot palm tree flown in from Florida would be amazing! I mean, really. But… I don’t know that our money should go there…right now. I know, I know, you and your husband are paying for half the palm tree, but the other $8,000 seems to be big part of our Chromebook budget. Okay, so you talked to the other school down the road and they are getting two palm trees. Okay. Okay! I see. So maybe, I dunno, I’m spit-balling here, maybe we could wait until one of their palm trees inevitably dies, and get it donated to us? Then we can have a dead palm tree too? No? Okay. Here’s all I’m saying. You tend to do things waaaay big! Like off the charts awesome! Yay! But, you’re scaring the other moms, and making a lot of people feel bad. And I know, I know that is not your intention, it’s really just to seem awesome, probably because you lack self-esteem, we all do, ha! But, I just need you to reel it back a bit, okay. I mean, you know I will keep it real, I always said I’d tell you if people are talking about you behind your back. Hahaha! They are.

And that is a start with you, PTA. That’s a start.

Best,

Missy, the forever PTA Mommy

*These are all fictional people, but you know, very real people.

Keep it Positive, Y’all

Something funny has occurred on my Facebook feed. Listen, I know I talk about Facebook way too much, but it is in fact how I stay connected to most of my family members, where I share pics of Jackson, and also where I get my news, besides Jerimiah’s weird, but informative podcasts. The funny thing that happened is all my friends and family members who were/are Trump supporters no longer share Trump things. Instead, they share things like recipes, and positive quotes, and a lot of stuff about God. Then they implore all of us on FB to “keep it positive” by not sharing political stuff. Meanwhile, a year ago that is all they shared, hate-fueled, non-factual, political stuff.

So now here I am wondering: Do they still support Trump or are they FINALLY embarrassed about what they have done? I’m also thinking, nah, I won’t be just sharing positive stuff, because we don’t live in a positive world and those Trump supporters are to blame for it. So, they can keep seeing my political/sad stuff or they can unfriend me. Their choice. You don’t get to run your mouth and say mean and hurtful things, then get a pass because you had a “change of heart”. I see you. I know you. And now I know the kind of person you really are.

I’m thinking about all this today because I am wondering about the next election. I am wondering if they will feel compelled enough to not vote the same way again. They got us into this mess, they should be the ones to step up and get us out. But they won’t. We know that. It is up to us, y’all. I am positive about that. We have to keep doing what we are doing. Bringing the injustices to the forefront, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes people feel. It needs to stay fresh in their minds, in our minds, in all of our hearts. This evil that has taken over needs to be remembered come time for elections. We can’t sweep it under the rug, not now, not ever. Something has changed in our country and there is no ignoring it.

The Georgia Democratic Party came to my door yesterday. The representative was a lovely man, with a deep, deep desire to overturn HB 481, Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act; enact which was introduced this session by the following people:

Ed Setzler, 35th district

Jodi Lott, 122nd district

Darlene Taylor, 173rd district

Josh Bonner, 72nd district

Ginny Ehrhart, 36th district

Micah Gravely, 67th district

It’s important to name the enemy of the people.

It’s also important to say that, while Atlanta Metro is a bright blue dot in a red state, the 7th district still has pockets of deep, deep racial divide. Including, but not limited to, the town of Cumming, Ga who up until the 1990s had a sign at their town entrance warning “N-words” to stay away.

I needed this reminder. We all need this reminder. There is nastiness, racism, injustice, hate, and bigotry in our country and it comes from the top. We aren’t bottling it up. We aren’t sweeping over it with recipes and pictures of dogs playing with sticks. This is real. And the people who no longer want to face it are the people who help make it this way. So no, I won’t be “keeping it positive” to make you feel better. This is us now.

Stay strong, y’all. And remember to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.

M.

Right to Bear a Tomahawk Thrower

Listen, I’ve gone from sad to angry as shit in two days. This here video is about the Second Amendment. You probably don’t want to watch it if you A. Love Trump or B. Have ever said, “…from my cold, dead hands”. The rest of you, enjoy. And call your senators. Get loud.

RIP Zoe (bottom right)

M.

Attn: Facebook Friends

Sometimes when I am in a bad mood I seek out my republican friends and look at stories they have posted. Mostly it’s made-up stories from unreliable sources like, “American Patriot News” and “The Party of ‘We Stand for the Flag’ News”, but every once in awhile they share something from the Post or the Times, an article they haven’t actually read, but the headline has made it appealing to them (on purpose, you’re so clever DC and NY) and then all their friends have commented, also without reading the article, and then I comment and say, “Here is what the article actually says…” 

Then one of their fellow republican friends will try to “debate” me. My friend usually doesn’t get involved because they know. They’re just like, “Shiiiiiit, I forgot I was still friends with Missy…”

I put debate in quotes because 1. They are uneducated on the topic at hand (see above) and 2. They usually lead with calling me a “sheeple” or “snowflake” or “leftist nutcase” (so articulate they are) then they just say a bunch of things about Trump that usually have nothing to do with the article or the topic. They sometimes bring up Hillary or Obama. Seriously. 

Then I continue to explain the article to them. How and what is actually happening. I stay sane and kind, because that’s my truth, for the most part. I don’t live in fear or hate like a lot of these people. Then they go off the deep end. I’m not sure if they don’t like nice people, or they start to realize they are being made to look like the kind of person they actually are. They start telling me that we live in a country being taken over by Communists, or Socialists, or Immigrants. Again, the article is about ohhhh, let’s say taxes. Then I remind them that this is America, and as an American citizen it is our right, nay our duty, to support all Americans and to be kind. We shouldn’t hate anyone unless they have given us a reason. We should meet all new people with open arms, regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. 

This is usually when other people start to chime in. Fellow Sane People start to see where I am going and coming from. They try to bring the other person back to the topic, with polite pushes like, “Missy was saying that she doesn’t think trickle down economics is helpful, and you called her an ‘Obama-loving piece of dog shit’ and yelled, “I SUPPORT OUR TROOPS!” Then sometimes, just sometimes, they will calm down and say something unsuspecting like, “I had health insurance for a little while when Obamacare came out. Was able to go to the doctor and get my shoulder worked on.” Then I will ask how they liked that and they will derail again writing in all caps, “IT WILL BE A COLD DAY IN HELL WHEN THE GOVERNMENT TAKES MY GUNS AWAY!” 

Then I thank them for their “debate” and tell them they have added some sort of value to the conversation and to the world, in hopes that maybe they will feel a bit better about themselves in the end. Then they tell me something so totally off the wall, unrelated like, “Hillary Clinton owns a pizza place full of rats and underage hookers!” In hopes, I suppose, to continue the “debate” so they can add devastating blows like, “You probably like AOC, huh?!” 

Listen, that’s my MO. I’m sorry if I have done it to you, and thanks for being smart enough to not get involved. I’ll try to stop doing this. It just makes your friends look like big idiots, and I shouldn’t be preying on the uneducated, I’ll continue to leave that to the republicans.

M.

Run, Hide, Shelter, Fight

On April 19, 1999 my mom took me to the doctor because I woke up with ear pain that wasn’t going away. My doctor diagnosed me with an ear infection. He put me on a round of antibiotics and told me to stay home from school the next day. I was grateful because the pain was pretty intense and I tossed and turned all night. I woke up late the next morning. My mom was at work, a note stuck to the refrigerator said to call her if I needed anything. I was a junior in high school and I scoffed at the note: “Love, Mom”. Geez, mom, I’m fine, I can take care of myself. I made myself a bowl of cereal and set up shop on our old, comfy couch. I grabbed the remote control and flicked on the television. I’m not sure what was on tv. Maybe Price is Right, maybe one of those daytime talk shows, Sally Jessy Raphael or Geraldo, was he on the air then? I flipped the channel between bites of off-brand lucky charms, stopping occasionally at a funny commercial or to raise my hand to my throbbing ear, did I take my medicine already? At about 11:30 a.m. I stopped on Channel 9, KBMC, the local ABC affiliate in Kansas City, because something caught my attention. The scene showed a SWAT team, with automatic weapons drawn, running into a high school in Colorado.

The tragedy that unfolded in front of me that day on KMBC, was the catalyst for my high school to implement a safety protocol for an active shooter situation. I suspect Columbine, and the 15 students fatally wounded, was a catalyst for many schools across the country to implement comprehensive safety plans. To teach their children how to respond in an emergency situation. Bombs. Active shooters. School Emergency Response Plans. School Preparedness. They assessed by color. Code Black. Yellow. Red. Blue. Unsafe odor. Lockdown. Even for a Kansas kid, this was a lot. Kansas kids are used to drills. Leavenworth kids were able to tell the difference between a tornado siren and an inmate escape siren. We knew when the doors to school locked. We remembered when the doors to our school didn’t lock. We wrestled with our anxiety. Our constant barrage of drills, butting up against our desire to be cool and unbothered. The day after the Columbine High School shooting, though, things changed.

Our lunch room chat was spent on deciding with your best friends where you would meet if it ever happened to us. We all developed our own action plans, unbeknownst to each other. Those of us in the journalism room, we knew how to lift the handle of the dark room just right to jam it a little. We knew it would buy us time. We started getting cell phones. Little brick Nokias with emergency numbers and a game with a long snake. Active Shooter Drills became commonplace. We dreaded them. We stood in lines across the street from the school as the administrators would “sweep” the classrooms. We laughed and talked. Secretly assessing who we thought would be wearing long, black trench coats at our school. Our teachers told us to be quiet. They listened intently on their walkie talkies for the all-clear. We joked and made fun of their seriousness. But inside, we were a mess.

At home my mother would want to know what happened. “Where do they send you?” she’d ask, as she sloshed mashed potatoes onto my dinner plate. “How will you call me at work?” I’d shrug off her questions. “Stop worrying, nothing is going to happen at our school.” Still, she asked more. She started to leave detailed instructions on the fridge for me after school. Chores, directions to start dinner, anything to keep me home, keep me safe. “Call me if you need anything,” they would say. “Love, Mom.”

I stopped sleeping altogether. My anxiety crept up. Panic attacks started. Once I was in the back of our library. I was working on a research project. It was the big one. The last big project before school was out for summer. I was doing a close reading of a poem. I was engrossed in the book I had, sitting along the back wall, the stacks covering my view of either door. I heard a loud bang. My heart leapt into my throat. I froze. A moment later the librarian walked around, looking for each of us, asking if we were okay. She said someone slammed a door across the hall. We smiled, eased our backs into our chairs again Laughed a little. “We’re fine,” we said. “Totally good”. We were not fine. We were not totally good.

Years later I was sitting in a classroom at Missouri State University when my professor came into the room in a panic and told us to evacuate. She saw a man walking into the building with a gun. By this time I was a mother. I had a toddler at home. I froze again. Someone tapped me on the arm, “Let’s go!” We all ran down to the basement of the building. We grabbed our phones, waited for the all-call. The text to come in. The beeping and the signal: Run. Hide. Shelter. Fight. This was drilled into our head from the first day. That familiar feeling crept up into my throat just as my teacher walked down the stairs. The man was a plain-clothed officer, she explained. He forgot to notify anyone that he was coming into the building, and he hadn’t taken his gun off his hip. She felt bad for overreacting. She was clearly distraught. I hugged her. I didn’t mind her overreaction.

In grad school at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, we had routine preparedness thrown at us. Text messages would go out, followed by emails. Drills. Make sure the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has your cell phone number. Make sure you are getting the Niner Alerts. I was diligent. Drills don’t bother me anymore. Overreacting doesn’t bother me. Be Niner Ready they would say. I was always Niner Ready.

And then the day came when all the practice, all the prep, all the drills became useful. Thankfully I graduated last May. Thankfully I was not on campus last Tuesday. Thankfully I didn’t need to get a Niner Alert. Or sit in a classroom, crouched against the wall, desks stacked up against the door, calling loved ones on the phone to check in, to say that I am okay. But there were people who did. And there were, as we soon learned, people who were not okay.

Kennedy, the building the shooting happened, is a lovely building. I led class discussions in that building when I was a Graduate Assistant for Prospect for Success. I remember that it was very high-tech, for being such an old building. The outside was deceiving. On my first week of grad school, I sat just outside Kennedy, out in the fresh air surrounding the Belk Tower, which was dismantled my second year, wondering how I was so lucky. How I had managed to get into a graduate program. Wondering how I had landed my cool new job at Colvard, the building just across from the Library. My library. Our library. Whose full, bright, stacks I occasionally roamed with no purpose other than to be in the library. To smell the familiar smell of books, and feel the collective tension of students with heads in folders, and in computer screens, and in their own thoughts. Kennedy is near the library. It is near the Career Center. It is right next to the Counseling Center.

I had friends on campus, and thankfully they are all okay. I had friends, professors, former classmates, and fellow Niners. I’ve checked in. I’ve seen their “Marked Safe” flags. I’ve cried for them. For my school, my community, the city that I miss. But, I can’t cry anymore. We can’t cry anymore.

You never think it will happen to people you love. You never think until it just does. And then when it does, all the pain, and all the fear, and all the anger builds up inside of you. How did this happen? Why did this happen? Will this happen again? Why is this okay? I was shocked and afraid on April 20, 1999 as I watched armored officers run into Columbine High School. I was afraid it could happen at my school, to my friends and to me. I was afraid, but I was hopeful. I just knew that this incident would be the one that would make my country work together to ensure that this never happened again. I just knew that our politicians, our representatives, our parents and teachers, the adults in charge, would protect us. Would work together to ensure that every child was safe while they were at school. Yet here we are. Twenty years later and mass shootings at schools and universities have become so commonplace that we don’t even blink an eye. We shake our head and say, “Heaven’s sake” or “Christ, it happened again,” while we make dinner, and help our kids with homework, and turn the channel to a comedy. We send thoughts and prayers. We make memes. We make hashtags.

Honestly, very honestly, I was angry the first time I saw the image on the top of this post. I was very angry. How can they sum up what just happened, hours before, into a picture. It felt too soon. It felt wrong. It felt like it was already made, just sitting there on someone’s hard drive, waiting to have the newest school’s tragedy stamped on it. Yes, I thought, Charlotte is strong. Yes, UNCC will come together and they will mourn and remember. Yes, my school, my community, my people will do the right thing. But what about everyone else?

I don’t want to get too political here. And all I can say is what a million angry mothers and fathers, and teachers and officers have said. We have to do better. And in order to do better we have to make major, sweeping changes to our guns laws, to mental health care, to insurance, to the angry in the community, to how we treat and respond to the bullied, the marginalized, those in poverty, those misunderstood. We have to revamp the systems. The public school system. The higher education system. The welfare system. The foster care system. And I know that is a lot, and I know it makes people afraid because it seems like it can’t be done. But it can, with small steps. It starts in our homes. In our backyards. In our communities. It starts with the way we treat each other every single day. Who we vote into office. Who we allow to represent us. It starts with boots on the ground.

Yesterday another gun attack happened, in another Colorado school. And today, like all the other days after a tragedy like this, we are learning of those killed and wounded. Learning about how they had to run, hide, shelter, and fight. These are children. Children. Children whose parents could not protect them. Whose teachers and administrators and classmates could not protect them. Who may have thought they didn’t need protecting from anything. I can’t stop thinking about the parents. About the mom of the boy, Kendrick Castillo, who tried to stop the gunman. I can’t stop saying his name. Wondering what his mother is going through. What about Riley Howell’s mom? What about Reed Parlier’s mom? They won’t leave their children notes on the refrigerator ever again. No more reminders of appointments, no more directions to bake the lasagna in the oven, no more “Love, Mom”.

I’m not sure what my plans are from here on out. But I have a 10-year-old son, and middle school is fast approaching and I am terrified, y’all. I have been, since April 20, 1999, and you should be too, and together we should work toward a solution. Together we should protect our children, at all costs.

M.

Mornings with Missy

I’ve been making these absurd videos for several years now, wherein I sit in my bathtub, or my closet, or my bed, or my car and I bitch and complain about life, or politics, or the wild animals. They were originally just for me, so I could look back and see how ridiculous I was being, but one day I shared a video on Facebook and it got a lot of reactions. Like a lot. Some people loved it and said I should be on television or radio. Some people hated it and didn’t want to be my friend anymore, of which I said, “This isn’t high school, dearies. Grow the fuck up.”

Either way, I have been amusing (for better or worse) my FB friends for some time now with my videos. Today I am sharing some of my earlier videos here, along with my newest one (where I am hiding in my bathroom reading Craigslist Personal ads for everyone’s enjoyment while I eat cheese). So, please do enjoy.

The day I had a standoff with that damn groundhog that terrorized me for months.
Hiding in the bathtub (back when I had a bathtub to hide in), PMSing and eating chocolate
Remember when everyone threw their coffee makers out, then got pissy because they didn’t have coffee makers anymore so they had to buy new ones? #FoxNews

Y’all eat a ton of horse shit all the time. #Nike
Craigslist personal ads. Also: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body. It’s tougher to treat than most strains of staphylococcus aureus — or staph — because it’s resistant to some commonly used antibiotics.

Into the Fold

A whirlwind is really the only way to describe the four days that we spent in Washington D.C. this last weekend. A complete whirlwind. Jerimiah, Jackson, and I have been to D.C. once before, but only for one day while we were visiting Jerimiah’s mom in Maryland. Back then Jackson was just learning to walk, we had not yet made it to his first birthday, and President Obama had just been sworn into office. In short, we were in a very different time in our lives. So was our country.

Fast forward ten years and suddenly my little guy, who last time in D.C. was toddling across the Washington Monument, was marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, a smile on his face and a megaphone in his hand. He was marching for women’s rights. He was marching for his friends and his family. He was marching for his mommy and for his sister. He was marching for his own reasons too, recalling the first time he heard President Trump talk about “the wall” and asking whether his Hispanic friend, Angel, would be sent away. He made up his own chant: “Be a leader, not a Tweeter!” It was sort of, well, perfect.

Though Jackson may not have grasped what was happening around him, may not have caught the meaning of many of the signs, or heard the rumblings under foot of anti-semitism, or noticed the anti-abortion counter protesters, at one point he walked up next to me, grabbed my hand and said, “Mommy, I see why we came now.” And that was all I needed to hear. I, on the other hand, I had been a mess leading up to last Saturday.

The women in our family.

The idea to go to the Women’s March had come to my friend Beth and me (like most of our ideas) in a bursting blaze of wine and lingering indignation. We were at my kitchen island one evening a couple of weeks before, catching up on our recent holidays (complaining really about lack of sleep and lack of sound judgement) when she said, “Hey, the Women’s March is in a couple of weeks, wanna go and take the family?” “Uh, duh,” I responded, as I finished off the bottle of my Target “Clearance” red, and she started pulling up AirBnBs on her phone. It wasn’t long before we had roped in both husbands, our friend Meredith and her two sons, and a third friend, Merrily, who like Beth had the experience of the first march under her belt. The house was booked, the days requested off, the scene was set. Then came the shitstorm.

First there was the weather. I mean, who could have possibly known there would be a Nor’easter in January?! No one. No one could have predicted that. Washington got what five inches the week before the march. Or was it 15? 50? I dunno, but the temps were about to, as Lil Jon, The East Side Boyz, and Ying Yang Twins would say, “Get low, get low, get low, get low…” Yeah. It got low.

Then days before, the news broke about the march administrators. Now I can’t really speak a lot to this. I caught it in passing, Beth could probably tell you more, but it seemed like women fighting each other and accusing each other of saying things that should not have been said. It made people nervous. It made people scared to come to the march, scared to stand in solidarity with one another. Honestly I stayed far away from it, figuring I’d learn more when we were actually there, seeing these women in person.

Then there was the news of the change of venue. Originally the Women’s March had obtained a permit to march at the National Mall, but with the shutdown, the National Parks Service was afraid they would not be able to keep the mall clean and the snow removed in time for the march, so at the last minute a permit was issued for 10,000 to march on Pennsylvania Avenue. The one saving grace that the march would go right by Trump’s Washington Hotel, all was not lost.

Then the night before our president himself tried to steal the thunder by saying he would make a “Big, Yuge, Terrific” announcement at 3:00 pm on the day of the march. Then it was promptly changed to 4:00 pm, considering that is when the march ended. I think he knew better than to piss off 10,000 women marching past his house. Good on him.

Then of course, was the fact that hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans had gone without pay for a month now. That weighed heavy on our minds and our hearts, and we tried to figure out how we could help them, while marching at the same time.

Le sigh. It was sort of chaotic to say the least, but still, we persisted.

Everyone made it to DC safely, having made the six hour drive from Charlotte on Friday. Saturday morning came and our crew readied ourselves for the street, even though we were all a bit groggy and some of us were, ahem, a bit hungover. The kids though, they were amped up! They had their signs (most of them made by Beth) and their megaphone and their marching shoes. Not to mention their hats, gloves, and layers of clothes. (In the end though, this day would prove to be the warmest of our time there.)

Spencer, Jackson, and Cooper (“The boys”) ready for action!

They boys seemed hellbent on making as much noise as they could, as well as giving out a number of “free hugs”, cause yeah, these are cool kids. Meanwhile, Morgan (the lone girl in the kid group) showed up ready for battle, her handmade sign garnering a lot of attention from us, as well as many people at the march. We will call her, well, wise beyond her years. (Basically, she pities ‘da fool.)

Morgan, who knew immediately she would tackle gerrymandering in her own district. (Yeah, she’s ten years old.)

At this point no one had any idea how many people would be at the march, what the scene would look like, how the marchers would react to one another, and whether it would be anything like the other two marches. I had never been to a march, period. I was nervous, I was anxious, and I was a little numb to what I was walking into. But I was ready. We all were. We were ready for whatever was headed our way, snacks and toe warmers in our bags, and smiles on our faces. At about 10:15 a.m. the whole crew took off from our house for the metro. We were only five stops away from the crowd that awaited us.

About twenty minutes later we rounded the corner of Freedom Plaza and saw a sight that I am not sure we expected. Well, I didn’t expect it. Thousands of men, women, and children lined the streets. Vendors selling merchandise, food, and hot coffee. Pink hats, 12 foot signs, and amped up fellow Americans ready to take to the streets together in love and in light. It was all a little much for me to take in.

The Crew (minus Jerimiah who was taking the pic). We were standing outside the Warner Theater, Freedom Plaza is in the background.

There was so much to see. It was like being at a circus, a parade, a concert, and a play all at once. There were smiles and voices. There were high fives and handshakes. There were hugs, lots of hugs. There were women crying. There were funny signs and serious signs and necessary signs. There was a camaraderie I don’t think I was fully prepared for. I simply stood, silently looking around trying to take it all in, trying to sear this image into my mind to recall at a later time, on an idle Thursday when I am in bed, my blankets pulled up over my head and I am sad. I wanted to bottle it. I wanted to capture the essence of the mood, the sight, the sounds all around me. In short, it was pretty fucking cool.

Waiting for the march to begin on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 13th Street.
Beth’s handiwork.
Merrily found her march sister! ❤
We had just been talking about the women marching in Mary Poppins!
Lots of signs wishing RBG well!
#ThanksObama
I liked the “Where’s Mitch?” sign, but I mean, come on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr has some wise words too.
Solidarity, sisters.
Marie Kondo would be proud.
I saw a few women with his poster, but this young lady said nothing, did nothing. Just stood in silence and a smile as the speakers took the stage. She didn’t need to. Her sign said it all.

We started marching and chanting and laughing and hugging promptly at 11 am. The march was just around one city block, but it took about two hours. In the middle of it Merrily, Beth, and I popped into a coffee shop to get the crew all warmed up with cups of joe, when a slight scare happened upon us. Meredith came in asking if we had seen Cooper. He had walked over to throw something in a trash can and the sea of people had swept him away. We tried to remain calm. He had his cell phone. The crowd was slow moving. And we had eyes all over.

His momma ended up finding him just a few feet away after a frantic look for about ten minutes. When he had realized he was separated from the group, he found a police officer and stood by him, looking for us and trying to call his mom. (Did I mention how smart these kids are?!) He seemed okay, we were all a little shaken up, though no one wanted to admit it, and after a small break to regroup we joined the masses again. At one point after we found him, Beth, Meredith, and I all looked at each other, a knowing smile spreading across our faces. Had we been worried? Yes. But this was a sea of mommies. A sea of grandmothers. Of women who have birthed and held and bathed these babies, the generations before us. Women who have seen more in their lives than we ever will. Our babies would be just fine among them.

Taking a snack break after we were all reunited again.

As the march wrapped up we saw more sights that conjured up pictures from the 1970s. Women in trees leading chants, women in bikinis (in that weather! Oh my goodness we wanted to put sweaters on them!) women holding hands, forming chains, women screaming, women with fists in the air, women with an air of determination to be heard and seen. And they were.

Upon seeing this Jackson really wanted to do the same thing. I said no. In hindsight, I should have let him… Next time.
Group signs, human chains, working together to get the message across.

Around 1 p.m. the march wrapped up at Freedom Plaza where a stage had been erected to house the speakers, of which there were many. There were speakers from the Women’s March itself, the very women who were reportedly arguing just days before taking the stage, including Tamika Mallory who went after the rumors head on, telling her Jewish sisters, “I see you.”

About 3 p.m. the kids lost steam. It started to sprinkle and everyone was a little hungry. That’s when Beth’s husband Dave, Meredith, and Merrily offered to take the kids for food and all meet back later. Beth and I wanted to stay to see more of the rally and Jerimiah was sort of along for the ride, so we split up. I’m not sure what the other group did, but I was sent screenshots of giant cinnamon rolls, so it must have been good! Beth, Jerimiah, and I walked to the other side of Freedom Plaza to try to get a better view of the stage. That is when we found the counter-protesters.

To the bitter end!

Calling them counter-protesters might not be accurate, I don’t know what they were or why they were there. I don’t know who they were trying to scare or upset. I don’t know whether they were there on their own ambitions or whether they were paid by some larger organization, though my money is on the latter. But they were there, and they weren’t going anywhere.

At first I didn’t see them. In fact I stepped right past them and didn’t even notice their signs, as I was fixated on trying to get closer to the stage and by this time of the day was ignorant to signs above my head. It wasn’t until Beth and Jerimiah made eyes at each other and Beth said, “They are trying to cover up their signs” that I looked over. There was a circle of women standing in front of a young man. They had him surrounded and they were holding their signs up above their heads, ushering people around him. I stepped around Jerimiah to get a better view. That’s when I saw the man’s sign.

It was a graphic depiction of a “late-term abortion”. Graphic in the sense that it was made to conjure up a disgusting scene of a dead baby, supposedly at five months gestation, outside of its mother’s body, cut up in many parts and covered in blood. Of course it was a depiction. It was not an actual baby, but a doll made to look like one. On the other side of the sign was what appeared to be a dead woman. It was all very morose. I spun back around trying to again focus on the stage, but I could not get that image out of my mind, which I what I assume they wanted.

Within a couple of minutes I found myself standing in front of the man, my signs held up above my head, giving the other women in the group a reprise from the sign holding. Beth was next to me holding her signs and Jerimiah was across from us blocking the signs of a young woman who had popped up. I’m not sure how long we stood there, but it felt like half an hour or so. At one point I lowered may sign and another woman took over for me, so I could take a picture of Jerimiah across from me. Another image I wanted seared into my brain for later.

I snapped this picture of my husband blocking the anti-abortion signs so I would remember it always. Remember his quick response. Remember our collective anger.

It wasn’t long before I overheard a discussion behind me. Another young woman had shown up, anti-abortion signs in hand, to spew ignorance at the crowd. Some marchers had stopped to try to talk to her. It sounded like a civil discussion. No one was yelling, no one was even raising their voice. The young woman was talking about science. About how babies are made at conception. About how they feel pain during an abortion. About how babies are “sawed into pieces” to get them to come out.

I stepped in. I didn’t plan to. My body sort of just moved over to her. I knew as I was walking that I shouldn’t do it. I felt the emotion rising up in me. I felt my head getting hot, giving me this sort of groggy feeling. Maybe it was the rain, maybe it was the cold, or the steam forming at the corners of my eyes, but I walked up and I told her Lydia’s story. I started with, “I gave birth to a dead baby.” The crowd of women went silent and all their eyes turned to me, the young anti-abortionist as well. They listened intently. They listened to me describe the chromosomal disorder. They listened to be explain the choice I had. The one I had because abortion is legal. They listened to me say her name, over and over again. Lydia. Lydia. Lydia.

Then when I was finished. When the tears were streaming down my face, Evangeline, the woman who was holding the disgusting sign said, “I’m sorry that happened to you, but that is different.” I wanted to scream at her. IT IS NOT DIFFERENT. But I didn’t. Eventually I walked away. I felt beaten down. I felt abused and assaulted. Even now today, I am not sure why.

Later that night I wasn’t so cordial with the crew. We ended up all meeting again at our AirBnB. I got to hear Jackson tell me all about the big cinnamon rolls, and listen to the kids run around upstairs playing Harry Potter and Monopoly and recounting the fun they had that day. I lay in my room, listening the talking and the laughing and the love being passed around the table. Everyone came to check on me. Beth and Meredith offered encouragement, you’re not alone, we are here if you want to talk. Jerimiah offered his love. His strength. His solidarity. After all, we had went through it together. Always together.

I eventually drifted off to sleep that night with horrific images in my mind, but I dreamed about my daughter. About the women I had met that day. About the women I have come to know. Come to call my friends. About all the daughters and all the women and all the lives that were lost, are lost. All the women I marched for.

It’s been a few days of processing for me. And I’m still working through my experience, but so far there is one thing I am sure about. I am so happy that I was able to be part of the Women’s March. I am so happy that I was able to use my voice for those who cannot. I am so happy that I stood with my husband and son by my side. That Jackson saw a strength in his mommy that he may have forgotten existed. That he saw his Daddy triumphantly helping women. That he understands what our powers can be used for. I am so happy that I stood alongside friends that I did. Women of caliber like those with me that day. I am so happy to have those women in my life. In my heart.

I am so happy to think that my daughter knows what I do, how I share her story, how I speak of her and about her, is to remember her. To better the lives of all girls and women, to keep her present always in this world and in my heart. I am so happy to have been on the right side of history. To have walked the walk many before us have walked. To have done my part, as tiny and as insignificant as it seems, I know in my heart that it made a difference for someone. And that will carry me for many more years.

I’ll leave you with this thought: As women we can’t allow the world to change us, to rearrange us, to divide us, or to deride us. We have to act responsibly and respectively toward one another if we are to get anywhere. We have to lift each other up, step on the backs of those who first carried us, then become the backs for the younger generations to hoist theirselves on top of. We are part of a fold like no other. And we must welcome each other with open arms, open minds, and open hearts.

M.

Ps… Below is our march song. 🙂 Enjoy.

Broken Record

I feel like a broken record sometimes, y’all. And believe me, I know what a broken record feels like. Just last week my dog ate one of my vinyls, Alabama’s Greatest Hits. At first I was so distraught, all I could do was throw myself onto the floor in a fetal position and cry, while I slowly sang:

There’s an old flame, burning in your eyes
That tears can’t drown, and make-up can’t disguise

Yeah, it was as emotionally-charged and odd as it seems. But later, when I tried to duct tape the record back together, telling Sir Duke Barkington that I wasn’t so much mad, as I was disappointed, I realized maybe it was a lost cause.

Maybe a lot of what I try to fix is a lost cause. Maybe a lot of people I try to convince are lost causes, not because they aren’t capable of learning, knowing, or growing, but because they are shut off to anything they do not understand, anything that scares them, anything that goes against their beliefs, set in stone, unchanging.

This past Saturday I had an encounter with an anti-abortion protester at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.. I have never been face to face with a person like this before. Her name was Evangeline, she introduced herself after she asked my name. I told her it was Missy, and that I was the mother of a daughter who was not alive because she was very sick. Because she could not live outside of my body. Then I told her, unprovoked, Lydia’s story in short. She smiled as I spoke and nodded her head along like she was listening, but when I was finished she said just this: “I am sorry that happened to you. That is different than an abortion.” I explained that is not different. That in my hospital discharge paperwork I was released after having had a “late-term abortion”. And that if abortion rights were taken from women, I would not have had that choice.

She again smiled and said that she was sorry that happened to me but that my case “was different”, and most people just don’t “understand science”. I asked her what she meant by that, and she told me that babies are made at conception. I explained that my own children, one born healthy, one not, were fetal poles until 6 weeks gestation, no heartbeats, just a cluster of cells (I had ultrasounds to show it) and she again said, “I am sorry you do not understand science.”

I am sorry you do not understand science. I am sorry, but your case is different. I am sorry you do not understand science. I am sorry, but your case is different.

Around and around and around.

I am sorry, but your case is different.

I am sorry you do not understand science.

I am sorry, but your case is different.

My husband and best friend moved to block other anti-abortion protesters with their signs as I spoke with this woman, who was utterly mis-informed and completely lacked the ability to reason for herself. All I can hope is that when she packed up her signs, promptly at 3:00 pm (we assume she was paid to be there for a certain time) that she thought about my words and my story as she walked back to her warm van.

I know that sometimes I sound like a broken record. And I apologize for that. I apologize that you all have to keep reading my words and listening to Lydia’s story, especially when it makes you uncomfortable or brings up your own memories that you would rather forget. But for those of you still around, I applaud you. I thank you.

I see you. Trying to understand, to learn, to support me and the millions of women like me. Because there is no difference. There is no difference between my case and the millions of others. We are all women. Women doing what is best for us, for our mental health, for our economic or educational success, for our children, for our families, for our futures. And until EVERYONE can attempt to understand, can accept that legislating morality will not be tolerated, and can give grace, even to those who they fundamentally disagree with, then I will keep spinning this record. Around and around and around.

M.

My daughter’s hands and feet were perfect. The only parts of her body that were.
Lydia Elizabeth Goodnight
B: August 25, 2011

Food Stamps

I was a welfare kid. I always knew I was a welfare kid, even when I didn’t know what it meant to be a welfare kid. The word “welfare” was casual in our house. When I was small it was whispered, but as I grew, the word gradually become part of the normal conversation. It gradually became who we were.

When I was very little I didn’t know we were poor. But I do remember being very happy every month when the check came, or the book of food stamps showed up at the door. Food stamps were my favorite. Food stamps meant we could go to the grocery store. By the end of the month all that was left in the fridge was milk, condiments, and maybe some leftover vegetables. There would be bread, tuna, Ramen Noodles, and off-brand cereal in the pantry, but nothing that I wanted to eat. Food stamps meant meat. They meant sausage gravy and real biscuits, not the scratch kind that my mom made out of flour and water at the end of the month. The lumpy kind that always managed to bake hard on top, and break off in crumbles as soon as you bit down. Food stamps meant those little packets of lunchmeat that are packed with sodium and carcinogens, but only cost nineteen cents. Food stamps meant beef to mix with Hamburger Helper, and spaghetti, and tacos. Food stamps meant off-brand cereal, but the good, chocolatey kind that came in a bag found at the bottom shelves of Food-4-Less.

I’m actually not sure how my mom got the book of food stamps, she just had them on the first of the month. They were probably mailed to us, or maybe she had to go to the welfare office to get them. That’s what we called the office that was housed in the white, concrete slab building on the corner of Delaware and Esplanade, across from the riverfront. We called it the welfare office, but its official name was the Kansas Department of Children and Family Services. Today that building sits in the same space, with a fresh coat of paint, remolded from the inside out, and can be rented for various occasions; weddings, reunions, art galas, and piano recitals. I can’t imagine what it must look like inside, but I’m sure it is better than the orange and green walls that housed screaming, cranky children and sad, overworked mothers for many years.

The food stamps, I am fairly sure, were mailed to us. This was back when food stamps were actually a book of “Food Coupons” with the likeness of our forefathers, in various colors representative of their value. They looked like Monopoly money to me, though they were much more valuable.

My sister and I would argue about who could hold the book in the checkout line, and she usually won because she was older and more mature. As she got older though, she didn’t want to hold them anymore. She also didn’t want to go to the grocery store with us anymore. She didn’t want people to see her standing there, her mother painstakingly pulling out the right amount from the book, holding the edge, as to not rip them, and tearing down the perforated side.

If my sister had to come, either to keep me occupied or to help carry the groceries home back before we had a car, she would leave us at checkout and go sit on the benches just outside Food-4-Less while my mom checked out, and I bagged the groceries. If there was any food stamps left, my mom would tell me that I could buy a candy bar, and she would tell me to pick something out for my sister. This always made me mad. After all, she wasn’t helping bag the groceries.

Sometimes, my mom would tear a $1 coupon out of the book and hand it to me when we walked into the store. I would get to buy a five-pack of gum at the beginning of the grocery trip! Then she would hand my sister one too. My sister would roll her eyes and walk away. I would follow close behind, until she would shove me into a checkout line away from her. We had to checkout at different registers. I was always excited by this. There I was, just five years old and checking out at the grocery store. Buying my own gum, with my own food stamp. It was years before I realized what I was actually doing. Food Stamps came in $1, $5, $10, and $20 increments. So if your change was less than $1, you were given back change in actual cash. So, if you purchased a food item with a $1 coupon, the cashier had to give you back the change. When I paid 11 cents for my five-pack of Fruit Stripe, the cashier would hand me back eighty-nine cents. I would take that eighty-nine cents back to my mother. She would combine that with my sister’s eighty-nine cents and she would use that money, actual real money, to buy a pack of toilet paper and a bottle of shampoo. Or maybe a box laundry soap, or, at certain times of the year, a gift for someone.

The older I got the more I understood what my teenage sister had been feeling in those days. In fact, the older I got, the more I understood about a lot of things. I understood why every six months we would have to go the welfare office and sit in uncomfortable chairs for hours, until my mother’s name was called. I understood why my mother would remind me to tell them that I didn’t know who my father was. Of course, I didn’t know who my father was. I had heard his name a few times before, when he would call the house and my mother would hang up the phone in tears. I knew that I had a father. I also knew that he was married to someone who was not my mother, but I never asked. The welfare lady would want to know though, she would want to know if I knew who my father was, and if my father was giving us money. No, he wasn’t. He never did give us money, not to my knowledge. Though sometimes I laid awake in bed and cried, hoping that my father would give us money.

My mother always did her best, it was all she knew, having been a single mother of four. She worked when she could, doing odd jobs that could be paid under the table. Bartending, daycare, taking care of senior citizens, cleaning houses, places she could bring me before I was in school. When I was in school she got a “real” job, housekeeping, and by the time I was in third grade she was making minimum wage: $4.00 an hour. The older I got the more I understood the sadness and anger that she carried with her. It wasn’t from being left with four children to raise alone, it was from the fact that she needed help, government help, to care from them.

The older I got, the more I understood. I understood what being a welfare kid meant. The older I got the more I understood how you were treated if you were a welfare kid. How society labeled a welfare kid. The free lunches at school, the waved fees at enrollment, the bags of free commodities twice a year, that you had to wait in long lines to get, in the cold of January and the heat of August. Even when my mother worked full-time, still we had assistance, and I am glad for it. She is glad for it. Somewhere along the line my sister became glad for it too. Because most people who are on welfare, who get help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (the current name for the Food Stamp program), who get Medicare or Medicaid, who live from social security checks, or help from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 program, most of these people do not want the help they get. They need the help they get in order to provide for their children.

People don’t know that, though. People don’t know what it is like to live in apartments too small for you, or to walk through the lunchline in middle school with a bright yellow punch card in order to get your lunch. Most people don’t know the particular shame associated with it. The guilt that follows you around, even when you find yourself very far from those days.

It’s been years now since I’ve slowly torn out a $1 food coupon, careful not to rip the edges. Even longer since I felt the elation of pushing a fresh stick of Fruit Stripe into my mouth, while I hummed a song and cheerfully followed my mother around Food-4-Less, ignorant to the shame that darkened her bright eyes.

M.

Is America Great Again Yet?

I woke up this morning with a bad case of the Tuesdays. Listen, yesterday (the day that shall not be named) was a rough day. It usually is around here, but following a week of no school and a holiday, coupled with the fact that Jackson’s school pushed start and end times back about 45 minutes (blah, blah, traffic patterns, blah) it really started out kinda poopy. We were all a bit tired, a bit cranky, and one of us woke his parents by vomiting on their bed because he decided to eat mulch from the garden that never got planted last spring. (Hint: It wasn’t Jackson.) 

Let me start over. 

Sir Duke Barkington puked all over the damn bed yesterday morning and it started my day off on the wrong foot.

But, like a good day that shall not be named goes, it got even worse. 

I came home from the crowded, confusing carline to find that picture, you know which one, with the toddlers being teargassed as their mother tried to run the other way. 

And my first though was: Is America Great Again Yet? 

Then I started to think about how much hate has to be in a heart to want to spray fucking tear gas over people, including children who have been walking with their parents for weeks and have no clothes and no shoes. Then I started to wonder about the kind of person you would have to be to be working at the border, and what kind of person would not put the tear gas down and say, “Fuck this, I’m out.” Then I started to get an image in my head, without having to see a picture of what was happening. This is maybe the hardest part. Because then I started to realize that the stuff we can see in actual images is one thing. But what about the images that are not coming? What is happening when no one is there? What is happening ten miles down the road in either direction? What is happening under the cover of darkness? 

I can’t claim to know how the Border Patrol works. I don’t know anyone who works there. I don’t live anywhere near there. I have never taken the time to Google how they are employed, where they are employed, or what the vetting process looks like. But I am starting to get a clear picture of what it takes to do this job every day, and it makes me sad. 

I’m sad that people want this job. I am sad that for some it is the only decent  paying job they can find. I hope it is decent paying. I know there are good people who work there. There has to be. I know there are people who are suiting up everyday and feel, deep down in their hearts, that they are in some way serving their country. Many of them, I assume, are veterans. Many have served their country in another capacity and now, having little when they return home, little by way of money and little by way of mental health care to deal with the PTSD, continue on a path of service to their country. And I suspect they believe they are helping make America Great Again. But I can’t be sure.

Who are these people? The people who work the border. The people who lack sympathy, empathy, common human decency? Who are these people who spew hatred over the heads of babies being ripped from their parents? Who are these people who believe that a 22-year-old single mom would walk 2,000 miles with a child strapped to her back, and one holding onto her leg, just for fun? Who are these people that think it is okay to throw tear gas at these human beings? Who are they and what are they being led by? Who are they being led by? 

But, it isn’t just the men and women who work the border. They shouldn’t be blamed for all of this. They are doing what they are told. They are doing what the government says. They are “just doing their job”.

I saw a woman, a grandmother, on CNN the other day. She told the reporter, “Stop trying to make me feel bad for those kids.” 

Stop trying to make me feel bad for those kids.

Are we Great Again yet America? 

M. 

Voting

In fifth grade I went to vote with my mother. It wasn’t the first time she took me to a polling place, and it wasn’t the last. But this time stands out among the others because we were “voting” in school too. We were learning about the government. About checks and balances. We had to take our “ballots” to the polling places with our parents and “cast” them in a box set aside for school children. We had to pick a side. Republican or Democrat. No crazy person wanted to be an Independent. I didn’t know much about much, but I knew that Bill Clinton talked with a funny accent, and that my mom liked him. I remember hearing her complain about George Bush. I remember thinking Ross Perot had giant ears and didn’t like kids. I don’t know why I thought he didn’t like kids. I just thought that. That day I eagerly and easily cast my vote for Bill Clinton. And the next day we found out that he won! I thought I had this all figured out.

On November 7, 2000 I voted in my first real election. I remember walking into the local church with my mother. It was about a mile from our house in Leavenworth. I remember the smell of the musty basement. The fake wooden walls. The senior citizens passing out pamphlets. I remember them asking if I was a Republican or a Democrat. I nervously eyed my mom, who said, “Democrat”, in a low, but prideful voice. I remember showing my id. You had to show your id in Kansas, still do I believe. I remember being afraid they would tell me I couldn’t vote for one reason or another. I remember it all very well. Though at the time, I wasn’t sure why it felt so important.

I remember watching the results come in. Going to sleep that night knowing that Al Gore would be our next president. I was happy and calm.

Then I remember the news the next morning.

The arguing.

The hate from both sides.

The dread.

The recount.

The Court’s decision.

I’m sad and ashamed to say that I didn’t vote again until 2004. I was angry and confused. I had voted. I had done my part and Gore had won the popular vote. I didn’t yet understand the politics in our country. I can’t say I understand why politicians do and say what they do now, but I am better versed at how it all works.

Over the years I’ve seen candidates that I have loved and those that I have despised. They both stick with you. Good and bad. John Kerry was served a disappointing loss. But the happiness and strength I felt holding my newborn son, watching President Obama get sworn in, is one of the most endearing memories of my adult life.

Which brings me to today, in a hurried fashion. I want to say something motivating, something captivating. But again I am at a crossroads of shame and sadness. I am ashamed that we let out country get to this point. I am nervous that the good will not trump the evil. I am ashamed that I have not tried to do more. I am sad that we have all not tried to do more.

But, I march on. We all do. Some with sadness, anxiety, and dread, mixing around in our brains with a peppering of optimism and if we’re lucky, a bit of wine to take the edge off. Some see the significance of today. Others will not. But in the end, we are all in this together, whether we like it or not. And if you’re like me, you’re just trying to make the world a little bit better day by day. And if you’re like me you’re scared and a little sad. A little ashamed and a little anxious. But remember, it will all look better in the morning.

#Vote

M.