Turkey Day

Like most holidays around the Goodnight house, today is just a day to fill ourselves full of turkey and pie with family and friends, and as of late, think about and discuss the people who came before us. Because while we’ve come a long way from where we were twenty years ago, I still noticed like today, in this year, in 2019, that kids are still dressed up like “Pilgrims” and “Indians” and made to put on little, fictitious performances at school, public school, to represent this day. Dude, I’m rolling my eyes so far back in my head right now that they might actually stay that way, which would make my mom right. Again.

Because listen, for the past 50 years, the fourth Thursday in November has been considered the National Day of Mourning to many in the Native American community. Rightfully so. In fact, there’s a plaque in Plymouth explaining the day. Explaining how it was created to remember the genocide that happened on our lands many years ago. To their people. The Native Americans.

So sure, yes. White people like me have a lot to be thankful for today. We have a lot to be grateful for every day. (Side note: so glad that “grateful November” Facebook bs didn’t take this year. Did y’all know you can be grateful without talking about it on social media?!) Okay, whew. I’m being snarky. I’m sorry. I haven’t had my turkey yet.

The point is, many of you probably didn’t know about the National Day of Mourning. Some of you may not even think for one second about the Native Americans on this day, too consumed with football, and not burning the rolls, and whether your kids are dressed better than you sister’s. But that really isn’t what today is about. Of course, what it is really about is way fucking worse. The taking of land that didn’t belong to us. Genocide. And now a racism so steeped in our culture we actually don’t even realize it’s bad. So you know what, scratch what I was saying, go watch football, and eat turkey, and lie to your sister about how cute her kids look. Make today however you want it to be, but remember, somewhere, in our country, a group of people are mourning the loss of not just their land, but of their heritage. The same heritage that you’re poking fun at with feathers stuck in your hair.

But remember, today of all days, that just because something has been done a certain way since you were a kid, doesn’t mean it should stay that way. Doesn’t mean it is the right way. Some things, like the case of the fourth Thursday in November, just make us too uncomfortable to address it. But just because a topic makes you uncomfortable, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak about it. That’s not how this world works. We learn and we grow. We become better. And we should always be striving to do better. To learn and grow, so that we can be better than our ancestors. Better than our parents and grandparents, and better people than we were the year, the month, or the day before. We deserve that. Our kids deserve that.

So, from my house to yours, Happy Eat Turkey Day. Sure, we’ll be watching football, and saying thing we are grateful for, but we will also be learning about the particular Natives who inhabited the state we live in today. Because, duh. Fucking, duh.

Do better. Be better. Gobble, gobble.

M.

Streets of Evangeline

We’ve been listening to Randy Newman as of late. He’s an artist whose work has always sort of lived in the edges of my life. I’d heard of him, I’d heard strong opinions about his music, both good and bad, but I’d never really invested until recently. Jerimiah, Jackson, and I have been spending more time in Louisiana, and while it’s not necessarily by choice (Jerimiah’s job has him traveling to Baton Rouge twice a month on average, and Jackson and I tag along when we can) we’ve taken these trips as an opportunity to learn more about the bayou, the history, the people, and somewhere in there Randy Newman showed up, but it didn’t start with him.

It started with the story of Lester Maddox, the 75th governor of Georgia. A raging, racist lunatic, and his appearance on the Dick Cavett Show in 1970, and as it does, it sort of just snowballed.

“Last night I saw Lester Maddox on a tv show/ With some smart ass New York Jew/And the Jew laughed at Lester Maddox/And the audience laughed at Lester Maddox too…”

This is one of the first Newman songs we came across. After we watched the YouTube video of Lester Maddox and Jim Brown. Which by the way, you should totally watch if you are into this kind of thing. This kind of thing being how racism operates and has operated in our country. So yeah, you should be into this kind of thing.

Anyway, the Randy Newman album that sort of punctuated our summer is called Good Old Boys and there are a lot of good tracks on this particular album, but none of them compare to the song Louisiana 1927. The song is about the Mississippi flood from 1927 that flooded 17 million acres of land and killed 250 people in a prominent Black community. It resembled Hurricane Katrina in scope, and there is something haunting and so very sad about driving across the Claiborne Avenue Bridge in New Orleans and hearing this song. And that’s where I found myself one hot, summer afternoon and I couldn’t do anything but cry.

The song is rife with racial undertones. Matter fact, the whole album is. But it’s clear to those who listen what Randy Newman was trying to say. And it’s true. And it’s sad. And sure it makes us uncomfortable, but we have to hear it. We have to see it. We have to know how they treated, and are still treating, the Black communities in the Deep South. That was the number one takeaway I had from my travels this summer: Racism is alive and well in the Deep South. And it touches EVERY SINGLE part of a person’s life down there, whether they want to admit it or not. And for the record, I’m including Georgia in this, though Atlanta is different, it isn’t hard to see open racism here too, if you know where to look.

This summer was unusual, to say the least. And I made mad fun of Louisiana, particularly Baton Rouge, and although the city and the state deserve it, the people don’t. Not all of them. Louisiana seems a place to me that you just have to see for yourself. And no, I don’t mean getting drunk on Bourbon Street or buying a piece of art at Jackson Square. I mean the seeing the nitty-gritty of the place. Talking to the locals. Understanding how their history, their culture, their language, and their religion has been shaped, by years of torture, from Mother Nature, from their own government, and from each other.

I always run the risk of preaching on here, so I will stop. But I guess I’m starting to realize that I might have been unfair to Louisiana. I might have been unfair to the people, anyway. And without the people, what would there be?

I’m leaving one more video below. It’s the song Rednecks from the same album. **Warning: The N-Word is used freely in this song. It might be hard for some to hear. It was hard for me, but it’s necessary.** The history of this song is even more bizarre. The actual real, rednecks of Louisiana didn’t really listen to the words when this song came out, they didn’t think much on it (you know those important critical thinking skills I always talk about), and they adopted it as their “mantra” for years, without realizing that they were being made fun of and that the whole song was about the rampant racism they were creating. So, yeah… #GoLSU

M.

Down in Lunch Lady Land

I just read an article about a lunch lady who threw away a piece of pizza in front of a kid because he had a $15 bill that wasn’t paid. My head wanted to shake so violently that I would end up seeing stars or birds, but instead of that, I’m here, on my blog, telling you a story. You see, my momma was a lunch lady. She was. True story. She was a myriad of other things in her lifetime too. She took other low-paying, menial jobs to support herself and her four kids, including: A housekeeper, a babysitter, and a bartender, among others, and for a little while, when I was in middle school and then in high school, she was a lunch lady.

I remember this because there is a distinct string of shame that comes from walking through the lunch line, with your “free lunch” card, seeing your mom doing the dishes in the back, waiting to see if she could catch a glimpse of you and give you a little smile, or maybe, if your 8th grade reputation allowed, a small wave. I remember people walking up behind me asking, “Missy, is that your mom making the rolls?” I’d tell them yes, because there was no point in lying, and some of the kids would laugh, and some of them would say, “Your mom makes great rolls.” And I’d smile. Cause she really did. And she was very nice to ALL the kids. In fact, she was too nice. She was often reprimanded for letting kids grab two rolls, or an extra slice of pizza. She never worked the registers, probably because she knew she could never turn a kid away, money or not.

Because there has always been a desire to turn kids away.

That sounds horrific doesn’t it. But in middle school, they turned kids away. In high school, some kids would go through the line twice. Once to get their own food, and once to get a plate for a friend. That’s a real thing that happened. And still does. And lunch ladies like my mom saw this happen. And lunch ladies like my mom threw an extra roll on the tray. Then there are the others.

In case you don’t know, lunch ladies don’t roll in the big salaries like they probably should. In fact, a quick Google search tells me that locally, in DeKalb County, Georgia, lunch ladies are making, on average, $13/hr. That’s $520 a week, before taxes. That’s if they have a full-time gig. My mom, and many like her, were part-timers, who would get there about 8 am and be gone by 1 pm. They were floaters too. Called wherever they needed to be, whenever they needed to be there. But let’s say, for the sake of this here blog, that a full-time lunch lady makes $500 a week, pre-taxes. Let’s also say she has two kids at home, and is a single mom. Whew. That’s not a lot of money. In fact, in most school districts, that lunch lady’s own kids would qualify for free or reduced lunch. Like I did when my mom was a lunch lady.

So here I am, wondering how on Earth a lunch lady, whose kids at some point in their life have probably received free or reduced lunch, can take a piece of pizza off a tray while a kid is standing in line and throw it in the trash only to replace it with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. There’s like, uh, lots of things wrong with that, right?

First, there’s the wasting of food.

Then there’s the humiliation.

Then there’s the evident lack of compassion, either on the part of the lunch lady or, I suspect, the school, or the school district, or maybe just the cafeteria manager. But I do suspect, at least I want to suspect, that this is a top-down situation.

I don’t really think people, specifically lunch ladies, want to see kids go hungry. But I think, like most things, there is a lot at play here. First, we can’t discount racism. That would be dumb, because racism plays a big role in a situation like this. One racist lunch lady can ruin a whole school. One racist lunch lady can decide who eats and who doesn’t. Who gets shame thrown their way, and who doesn’t. In most of these stories I’m reading, and there’s a lot of them if you look, this is happening at schools where the population has higher numbers of “Non-white” kids. That’s what they like to say, “Non-white.”

Next there’s the thinking that it isn’t hard to get free lunch. Maybe the kid standing in front of the lunch lady lives in a household situation that would be approved for free or reduced lunch, but maybe his parents have filled out the proper forms. And sure, the lunch lady can shame the kid, in a roundabout way of shaming the lazy parents, either because they didn’t fill out the forms, or because they forgot to write the check, or because this week, there was no way for them to part with that $15. Pick your poison, either way it’s all coming down to shaming a kid who just wants to eat lunch. And that’s not okay.

Probably, what’s most likely happening, is that the school district is sending out nasty emails about cutting costs in the cafeteria. Cutting waste. Collecting payments. And the lunch ladies are taking it as a slap in the face, and passing that slap onto the kids. Top down.

I wish I had a solution here. I mean, in a perfect world we would feed the kids, then worry about the bottom line later. Wait, hmm, maybe that is the solution? Oh yep. It is. Always feed the kid. Don’t shame them. It only takes one time to say to a kid, “Hey tomorrow, unless your balance is paid, will you grab a peanut butter and jelly instead of a hot lunch? I’m sorry, it’s just the rule.” Listen, that kid will grab a PBJ the next day, because that kid doesn’t want to be shamed. Not now, not ever. Not by the lunch lady. Not by his or her parents. But the least we could do when his parents do shame him, is show a little compassion.

Be kind.

M.

Ok, Boomer

I’m not going to pretend to know what started this #OkBoomer hashtag, mainly because I have been trying not to watch news, or stay abreast on current events as of late because well, shitbag, dumpster fire world, and all, but every once in a while something comes across my social media bubble and pulls me into it. And today it is this #OkBoomer thing. And from what I have gathered it’s a slight, a knock at, a diss to, the Baby Boomers because they have a lot to say about the things Millennials and all the rest of the younger generations are doing, a lot of negative things, and if we really step back and observe, we can see that the Boomers are responsible for a lot of what is happening now. Because it takes literal decades to fuck shit up this bad. Yet, here they are, talking ’bout “Make America Great Again,” but that’s not even what I’m upset about.

I’m upset with the way they have this attitude about how “we,” as in the generations after them, can’t just work hard, pull up our bootstraps when times are hard, make more money, and “get it done” like they did. It’s as if they are so out of touch with reality that they honestly, hand-to-God, believe that’s still a thing that can happen. Uh, no. Times have changed, Boomers. This isn’t 1958. A dollar isn’t what a dollar was. You can’t work a part-time job and pay your way through college. You can’t make $8/hr and raise a family. You can’t have Union jobs now and expect to be taken care of, to not be made to fight for better wages and healthcare.

And a majority of us who are trying to get us out of the mess we are in, don’t remember a world even remotely resembling the one you had. Our childhood is marred with mass shootings in our schools, terrorists attacks, and war. Jesus, our friends are always at war. We all know someone who has been to Iraq, or Afghanistan, at one time or another. And we all know some who never came back. Meanwhile, I saw where that Disney woman, the heiress to the Disney fortune, asked what Millennials have accomplished in their life. What have we done? Um, survived? Is that not enough for you?

My personal favorite is the Boomers whacked-out advice like, “The problem is no one wants to work 70 hours a week anymore,” and “College isn’t for everyone, stop trying to push college on people.” Two things: 1. No college isn’t for everyone, but if you want to be able to survive, and not live paycheck to paycheck, and you don’t want to be in constant fear of losing your job, or going broke if you get sick, then you have to have a salaried gig with benefits, and guess who gets those jobs? College-educated people. And you know how I feel about higher education and critical thinking, you can’t have one without the other… 2. You are right, we DO NOT want to work 70 hours a week, and for the love of all that is holy, if you are working 70 hours a week, you are doing something very wrong. No one needs to work that much anymore. Technology has made our work lives easier, which has allowed us to be home with our families more, which has helped the economy, helped our parenting, helped our marriages, even helped equal out the roles in the home. (Seriously, if you’re working that much you are probably pretty ineffective at your job.) But guess what the Boomers don’t like: Equality. Being at home with family. Men in parenting roles. Because that isn’t how it was done back then, because they still are living in the “way back then.”

I saw this meme the other day that had an older gentleman, a Boomer, and it said, “Back in my day we didn’t get offended so easily…” and at the bottom it said, “Back in his day, they drained a whole pool if a black person stuck a toe in.” And yeah, it made a stunningly great point. But still, that’s not what I’m upset with. Boomers have never claimed to be self-aware, and we know they aren’t, Jesus, they wouldn’t go to a therapist if it meant saving their lives, let alone saving the lives of their children! What makes me upset is this form of nostalgia. That “Back in my day” bullshit. It’s fun for you to sit around in your underwear and yell, “Back at my day” at Fox News, but when it comes up in my newsfeed, you can bet your ass I will have some stuff to say about it.

Whew. I think I flipped my shit, y’all.

Sorry about that.

Actually, no, I’m not sorry.

I’m just a woman, stuck somewhere between a Millennial and who knows what or where else, trying to make my world better, my community better, my family better, by doing what I think is right. Every generation has had its breaking point, and I guess, I hope, this is ours. I hope we can push the Boomers aside (and the rest of the people who have no fucking clue) and actually get shit done. Get our climate straightened out. Get our oceans clean again. Save the damn bees. Elect representation that actually represents us. Educate all the people who want to be educated. Get all kids a hot meal everyday. Raise minimum wage. Lower higher education, prescription drug, and healthcare costs. Pass sensible gun laws. Jesus, there is so much more we want to do, and you know what, we might just do it.

And yes, I know the rhetoric, the discourse on the “Us v. Them” bullshit, unfortunately, that’s what it’s boiled down to. Either you are with us. With this planet, with the younger generations, and making this world better for ALL people, or you are against us. Time to make a choice. As my Boomer mom would say, “It’s time to shit or get off the pot.” Maybe you can relate to that.

M.

Rant About Big Pharma

Has this ever happened to you? Let’s say your health insurance forces you to use one type of pharmacy, a mail-order pharmacy. But they will allow for medication at, say, CVS, as long as you get a 90-day supply. The medication you are on is $60 a month retail, and $25 with commercial insurance and a manufacturer coupon. So you go get your 90-day-supply of medicine and are willing to pay the $75, but CVS says that the manufacturer won’t allow a coupon on a 90-day supply. So you call the mail-order pharmacy to get it filled, and the mail-order pharmacy says they won’t take the coupon. Like, they just say no. No reason is given, just no. “We don’t accept coupons of any kind.” So you can’t get the 30-day refill at CVS, because your insurance says no. And you can’t use the manufacturer coupon because the pharmacy your insurance is making you go through won’t take it. No, this has never happened to you? Just wait, I’m sure it will.

Healthcare in our country is so jacked up, that this is the sort of thing that happens on the reg. Now mind you, this happened to my husband and it’s for medication he could probably come off of for a few months, or switch brands, it’s not like brand-specific or saving his life everyday when he takes it. But, he’s been on this medication for several years now and has been paying $45 a month, then one day they just upped their price of the medication. Presumably they had their reasons. I mean, nothing changed in the way they manufacture or sell it. There were no changes to the “fillers” and what not. But I’m trying to be optimistic here and assume that it wasn’t just the pharmaceutical company being greedy bitches (because I have friends who work for big pharma) but…

I keep thinking about people who are not covered by health insurance. We are. And our doctor is cool, and she can probably just call in a new, generic script on Monday, and sure maybe he will have to make an appointment with her, and pay another $30 co-pay, and take an afternoon off work to get it all situated, and that’s fine because he can do that. But what about the people who can’t? What about the people who have no idea there are other options? What about the people who can’t take an afternoon off work, or that extra $30 co-pay will set them back for the week? What about those people? Who is thinking of those people? Not big pharma. Not United Healthcare. Not Optum Rx. Not anyone like that.

My husband was frustrated, sure. But he will get the problem resolved. But there are people who can’t get their situation resolved. There are people who need much more important medication everyday. Life-saving medication. And it is taking months to get things like this resolved. And months can mean death for some of these people.

I’m probably not saying anything you don’t already know, that is if you’re even a little bit “woke” as the kids say. But just in case you didn’t know, this is the kind of thing that is happening. And it’s happening to people like us. It’s happening to the working middle-class. The upper-middle-class. It’s happening to the lower-middle-class. And it’s certainly happening to the people below that. And no one is benefitting from it, but Big Pharma.

I’m sorry if you’re any of those people. I’m sorry if you’re walking through this right now. Ask your doctor for help. Ask your friendly, neighborhood pharmacist. They want to help. They get it. And please, for the love of all that is holy, find out the politicians in your area, and nationally, who are working to make things easier on the health insurance companies and big pharma, and vote them the hell out, y’all. We have to fight for people that can’t go at it alone.

End rant.

M.

I’m a Georgia Voter

That’s something I never thought I would say. I have often admired the cute, little Georgia peach stickers when friends who live in Georgia voted and shared their picture online. But yesterday I actually got to cast my vote in the state of Georgia for the first time, and it felt kind of good. It felt like I was finally part of my community, like I had the power to make a difference here. There were only two question on my ballot, but I did have to do some research before I went to the polls, which is always important, and I got to take Jackson with me because his school is a polling place, so he was out for the day. It went something like this…

We arrived at the Methodist Church that was assigned to me when I registered to vote in the state back in April. It’s only about a mile from our house but we drove because it’s sorta cold down here, in fact yesterday morning it was a balmy 58 degrees. Whew! When we walked in, Jackson was a big hit with the women working the polls. And it was all women, by the way. Not just all women, but all retired, Black, women which made me very happy. It was 100% the first time I had ever encountered this at a polling place.

They were all very friendly and polite, and I told them all it was my first time voting in the state, so they walked me through the procedure as best they could, without helping me fill out anything (which is not allowed). First I had to fill out a form. This has never really happened to me before. I’m used to just casually strolling up to a table and telling them my name, then the old, cranky, white man finds my name on the registry list, puts a check by it, gives me a sticker, and a ballot and sends me on my way. This is how I have voted previously in Kansas, Missouri, and North Carolina. But things are, umm, different here in Georgia, and now I finally get Stacey Abrams anger.

There were three tables. At the first table I had to fill out a paper that was basically just giving all my information that they already had, so I really wasn’t sure why, but me being me, and having Jackson there, and knowing these ladies were just doing their job, I didn’t question it. I just wrote my birthday, checked that I was a Democrat, wrote my address, and signed my name. Then I gave her the paper, thinking I was done. I was wrong. She then asked for my ID. I was a little surprised, but gave it to her. Then she checked my ID against what I had just written on the paper. I am not sure what would have happened if my ID had been old, or I had written something different on the form. Then she sent me to the second table.

At the second table they again asked for my ID, where one of the women proceeded to scan it into a computer. It apparently came back okay, because there I was given back my ID, along with a little yellow card that read: State of Georgia Voter Access card. Example below:

The card had a chip in it, and I was told to put the card in the machine. There was only one other woman voting at the time we were there, so if I needed further help, it would not have been a problem. But I kept thinking what the next election would look like. What it’s like when there is a line out the door and every machine is full, and people are having troubles with those machines, and cards, and writing the wrong address down, or maybe having trouble seeing the small writing on the half-sheet that I was given. I kept thinking about my mom, and how she would have a wicked-hard time with all of this, and how it would be confusing and hard to read.

So Jackson and I got to the machine and I stuck my yellow card in the slot, which activated my ballot, but first there were a series of windows that I had to click through telling me how the machine worked, and explaining these awkward, not at all intuitive, ways to fix my ballot, if I accidentally hit the wrong box or something like that. Seriously, y’all. I didn’t know how easy I had it in North Carolina, or Missouri, or Kansas. Jackson and I read the instructions and he was all, “this looks complicated” and let’s be real here, if my 11-year-old who lives and dies by technology, who has known how to work on an iPad since he was three, says “this looks complicated” then that is sort of a red flag, ya dig?

Okay so I hit NEXT, then NEXT again, then my ballot popped up. Only two decisions to make. One was a vote for a City Council Member and because I am fairly new here, and because it was a woman’s name and she was the incumbent, I voted for her. Also, she was the only one running, which always pisses me off a little bit. Jackson pointed to the “Write-in” and looked confused. I explained that you could write in anyone’s name if you didn’t want to vote for the person on the ballot. Then I told him if it had been a man’s name, I would have written in my own name instead. I don’t vote for men, as a rule, unless I have to. (Full Disclosure I did once vote for a man, when there was a Democratic woman on the ticket. It was the 2016 Democratic Primary, in which the names on my ballot were Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and I voted for Bernie.)

Anywho, the next question was the one I had done some research on. Lots of trickery here in Georgia. Lots of trickery in the South, I have learned. Looking at you, North Carolina, and your “Snake.” So I knew whenever an “Ethics Board” question was on the ballot, and I had seen a lot of ads to “Vote YES on Ethics” that I probably wanted to vote “No.” And I was right. Trickery, y’all. Trickery.

So I voted no. Then I hit “Submit” and very quickly my screen changed and my yellow card spat out at me. I assumed that meant I was done. So we collected the card, and walked to the third and final table where they were taking our cards and passing out our coveted peach stickers. Of course Jackson got one too, and they were all very proud of him for accompanying me. One woman walking in said, “Well the voters are getting younger and younger,” and everyone laughed. But I mean, yeah, they are. #OurKidsAreGonnaChangeTheWorld

So that was that. My first experience voting in the state of Georgia. That’s what you asked about, right? I hope I made a difference. I hope I voted with intention. I hope I was educated and, made, to the best of my ability, the right decision. But above all else, I hope that my son saw what I was doing, how I made it a priority, and that he will do that his entire life as well.

So here’s to the next election, y’all! See you at the primary, where, well, you know me, I’ll be casting my vote once again, for Bernie! 🙂

M.

Old Eckerd and Gov’ment Cheese

I learned about commodities early on. Maybe first grade with Mrs. Heim, the teacher who also owned a dairy farm. Or maybe second grade with Mrs. Parker, the teacher who taught us how to balance checkbooks and pretended like I didn’t toot right next to her at reading time. Either way, what I was taught in school about “commodities” was not the experience I had with “commodities,” and it took me years to work it all out in my head. My trusty Pocket Oxford tells me that “commodities” is: “A raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold, such as copper or coffee.” But when I was a kid and heard the word “commodities” it meant standing in long lines at the Kansas National Guard Armory on Fourth Street for hours on end, in the blistering cold, and the sticky heat, waiting for bags and boxes of government cheese.

What I am talking about is quite simply the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. It is a government-sponsored program that serves low-income households, with one or more assistance programs in place, several times a year, by supplementing household food staples like rice, canned milk, cheese, cereal, eggs, and non-perishable, canned foods. This was all true when I was a kid, though when I Google the program now it seems to be aimed at people 60 years and older. Which is great, because I know a lot of senior citizens who benefit from this program, but I hope they still offer commodities to EVERYONE who needs it, because I know there are still families and young children who would benefit from this program as well.

Regardless, I have a few, sporadic memories of sitting on the cold, concrete floors of the Armory Building (which is now a CVS Pharmacy, but not before it was an Eckerd Pharmacy, so now it’s just called “Old Eckerd,” by my mother, rather than the “old Armory” or “CVS.” And, as if you needed to ask, she just doesn’t trust “Old Eckerd.”) Anywho, Old Eckerd is where we went twice a year to pick up our gov’ment cheese, among other commodities, but oh the cheese.

What does gov’ment cheese taste like, Missy? The best I can come up with on the cheese is this. Go to Kroger, or Food Lion, and buy yourself a knock-off version of Velveeta Cheese, you know the kind that’s in a cardboard box, and you have to lift the lid off, then pull out the silver-wrapped, sticky cheese? Yeah, buy yourself a knock-off brand of that. Then go home, open it up, place it in your shower and go on about your business. Take your showers, but don’t touch the cheese, then around day four cut a slice off and eat it. Yep, that’s what Old Eckerd, gov’ment cheese tastes like.

Listen, I am not knocking this program. It was and still is a very necessary program. And I am happy that it exists, and I was happy to eat the food when we got it, though mainly it was evaporated milk and the absolute grossest peanut butter I have ever had in my life. It’s the same peanut butter they stick in MREs for the Army when they go out to the field, and trust, it is not good. But again, it’s free. And at the end of the month, when your family’s food stamps ran out, and you were between paychecks, it was the best peanut butter you have ever had. Especially on some unsalted, saltines…

And I know, I know, you think I am making this up. But nah. It’s real. So real in fact, that my mom still, to this day, has canned milk in her pantry. I can’t tell you what year it is from, but my best guess would be 1990, pre-Operation Desert Storm. So yeah, there’s that.

Now don’t all of you run out at once and try to get you some pre-Operation Desert Storm, gov’ment cheese. Check with your local “Old Eckerd” for times and assistance. But if you are ever in the market for some recipes on how to make some scratch biscuits from one can of milk and two packets of salt, hit me up. And if you absolutely have no idea what I am talking about, then good on you, and your rich, son-of-a-bitch family.

But for real, educate yourself on the needs of Americans living below the poverty line (https://www.fns.usda.gov/csfp/commodity-supplemental-food-program) and always vote yes for taxes that help kids and senior citizens!

M.

Crying in Bed

I’ve been in a funk. Maybe a “I got to see my friends and now I’m sad cause I miss them” funk. Or maybe a “I have no idea what is happening in our house over the next six months and I’m stressed” funk. Or, it could be just a classic case of the “I started new medicine and my old medicine is leaving my body and the new one is kicking in and it’s making me crazy” funk. I’m betting on a combo funk this time around, either way, I’m lying in my bed, a half hour before I’m due to get Jackson from school, crying a little, and trying to brighten other people’s days with funny memes and pics of me being a fool. I think it’s working for them. I hope it works for me.

I tend to do this. I tend to “reach out” by actually reaching out and dropping a funny note or a ridiculous picture. Then of course if they want to talk I close up shop, like nah, I’m good. I’m starting to understand this about me. Starting to discover why I do the little things I do. I figure if I’m having a down day, one of my friends is bound to be having one too, so I check on them, ignoring the fact that I’m in bed at 1:30 pm. That I haven’t been able to write in five days. That I’m taking offense to the most bizarre shit and crying because why won’t someone #ImpeachThatMotherFucker already?!

I guess this is my check in with you guys. I’m alive. I’m eating, of course I’m eating. I’m still walking (I just usually forget my Apple Watch so I don’t know how much), and I’m working on things. Always working on things. Tomorrow is therapy. Tomorrow will be better.

Stay happy and safe out there, y’all. And take a day if you need to.

M.

Representation Matters

I had a necessary and slightly concerning conversation with some other parents at Jackson’s school the other day that revolved around a picture that is on a website from the fundraiser that we are doing right now. This is the picture:

It’s cute, right? What sparked the conversation was one of the other mommies telling me she wished we would have made it to Midvale sooner because we have been such a blessing to them and Jackson is such a great kid. I thanked her and agreed. I told her this was the best elementary school we have ever been in, and that we have been in three of them.

The first one, I told them, was also great, on paper. It was not a Title One school, which is very important to some people. Like, very important. Like one of my old friends, upon asking why her daughter went to our kid’s school (at the time) when she lived just as close to another one, rolled her eyes at me and she said (in a voice just above a whisper, even though no one was around,) “That’s a Title One school,” and gave me a knowing smile. I didn’t have the heart, or maybe the nerve, to tell my “sweet” friend that I was raised in a Title One school. That I am a product of poverty. That I got free lunch. Of course, this is the same woman who said she wouldn’t send her dog to the Charter school that was in our town, even though she knows people who work there, kids who go to school there. And I’m guessing I know some of her reasoning. PS… She’s a teacher. #EekFace

Our kids at that time, my son and her daughter, were in kindergarten together in a school that was, in the state of North Carolina, an A-rated school, sometimes an A+. The problem wasn’t so much that it had a 3% free or reduced lunch population (which we were a part of, unbeknownst to my friend I’m sure), it wasn’t even that I could count the number of “diverse kids” as she referred to them, it was that the school itself didn’t reflect real life. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the school. I met some amazing people there. Of course I also met some people who turned out to be some real assholes, but most of them were pretty cool. And I’m still friends with some of them. And I still think they are doing what is best for their kids, given where they live.

Let me quickly address the free lunch thing, since I sorta just snuck that in on you. We were on the free or reduced lunch program in kindergarten because at the time that school started we had just moved to NC, and Jerimiah didn’t have a job yet. We were still living off our savings while he looked for work, so the school district automatically qualified us for the program, and we took advantage of it for a few months, until Jerimiah found a great job, and Jackson started to bring his own lunch to school. But still, it impacted the “numbers” for the school, and still the people who were privy to this probably looked at us differently. Most likely. This may be shocking to some of you who knew us back then, especially because people always assumed that we moved to NC because of work. But no. We moved to NC to find better work. We knew we couldn’t stay in Southern Missouri. We also didn’t know that the town we were moving into was basically more of the same, just with more money. I never told people that because I was ashamed of it. But truth be told, we were kinda bad-ass for doing it. For selling off most of our things, for taking a BIG chance. And we have been reaping the rewards ever since. But, again, that sorta behavior scares people. And you can’t make friends easily with that origin story.

Again the school we were at for kindergarten through half of third grade was great. The real problem was just that 90% of the kids were little white kids with the same socio-economic status. And as some of you might know, some of you who have left your bubble, moved away from the places you were born and raised (unlike my sweet friend mentioned above) this is not reflective of real life. As I told this story to my new friends one of them actually gasped, a white woman, and said that was her worst nightmare for her kid. To go to school with people who looked just like her. I agreed. Explained that it was a driving force for us to move into “the city” and enroll Jackson into the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, even with its many problems, it was much more reflective of real life. Then I brought up this picture.

Again, it’s cute. But, after what I just said, can you see the problem? You might hear a lot of people talk about representation nowadays. And if you are white, you may not pay much mind to that talk, well because, you are represented. Everywhere. But this pic concerned me in a lot of ways.

First off, this is the pic that all the kids and parents see when they first log into the site. So if you are a little Black girl (which we have a lot of at our school) then you see a scene that is not reflective of your life. If you are an Asian boy (which we have a lot of at our school) you are not seeing yourself represented very well either. And so on and so forth.

This might be a good time to add that the county that we live in, DeKalb County, Georgia, is the second most affluent county IN THE COUNTRY, with a predominantly Black population. Let me break that down for you. Most of the money, coming in and out of our county, is from affluent Black families. We are minorities here. Jackson is a minority in his school. Both in sex and race. This is our life. Our community. And it is good. Really good.

Back to the picture. Did you notice all the white kids are on one side, while all the “other” kids are on the other side. See that? See the token Black girl? And the Asian boy? See the two kids that could “pass” for Latino? It’s a bit odd. And maybe I’m reading too far into it, one tends to do that when they have been enlightened to white privilege, but I don’t think so. I also don’t think, or want to believe, that the company did this on purpose. I think it was more of an, Oh shit, we need some “diverse” kids in this pic too! And then they hurried up and made sure they had “one of each.” That’s how I think it went down. Either way. Bleh.

I think I’m just noticing things like this more because I am more aware of the world that we live in. The world advertisers create. The world the white-males make for us, and I’m starting to call a spade a spade, if you will. Like my sweet old friend, who still has others fooled, but I’ve seen her true side. Her “Christian” side, and it ain’t pretty. But more about her in another post.

So that’s what’s been kicking around in my noggin today. Representation. The importance of being around people who do not act like or look like or live like you. The importance of cutting through bullshit and getting down to the nuts and bolts of what needs to be said. So here I am, saying it. Like always.

This weekend, try to step out of your comfort zone a little bit. Eat at a new place, try a new store on the “other” side of town. Start a conversation with that one Black man that lives in your town. I dunno. Try something. Be present. Show up for others. You won’t regret it.

M.

My New Doctor

I had my annual exam this morning with my new doctor in Atlanta. There wouldn’t normally be much to report, it’s usually the same old song and dance. I need to lose weight. Get my medication right. But today I met my new NP, and things were different. She’s sweet, and young, and resourceful. She’s an immigrant, who left Iran ten years ago with her brother to escape religious persecution. She was raised in the Bahá’í Faith. It’s a more progressive sect of Islam. Women are viewed as equals in her religion, but still not in Iran. In Iran she was treated poorly because of her religion. She was not allowed to go to college. Her parents could not own a business, or work for the government, schools, etc. they can only work for private companies. The ones that will hire them. Her life was hard growing up, and if it weren’t for her opportunity to come here, she isn’t sure where she would be.

She didn’t just offer up this information about herself, of course. She just asked a normal “doctor” question.

NP: How many pregnancies?

Me: Two.

NP: How many children?

Me: One.

This is when the doctor usually says she’s sorry for my loss. She may ask what happened, depending on what I’m there for, she may not. Today my sweet, young, Farsi-speaking NP simply said, “Tell me about your baby.”

What came next was a ten-minute conversation about how abortion, especially ones like mine, where the baby isn’t viable, are totally okay in Iran. In most of that part of the world. That this stigma here in the US, we did that to ourselves, and she thinks it’s nuts. “No one,” she told me, “No one in Iran would have expected you to carry your daughter to full-term. You’d seem crazy to them if you did that.” She went on to tell me a bit about her life and religion. She told me she thinks the powers that be in her new country, our country, use the issue of abortion to hide what they are actually doing. It’s all a game with them. They don’t see the women.

It’s weird, and a little funny how things happen. I forget that sometimes. I’ve been torturing myself all week. A wreck with guilt, as I am every year around this time, for something that I just shouldn’t have guilt about.

I was reminded of this today. I was reminded by someone who didn’t need to know my why, or my how, or my when. She just needed to see the struggle in my eyes. She put her hand on my shoulder as I struggled to sit upright, my open gown covering nothing of my upper body, my breasts hanging out all over the place, and she said, “Look at me.” I looked at her. “I would have done the same thing you did. You’re strong. Strong to know the toll that would take on you. Strong mentally to know what was best for you and to do it.” Then she took my hand and helped me sit straight up. Helped me close up the front of my gown. Helped me straighten my crown.

There’s good out there, y’all. Everyday, everywhere. And it comes to you when you need it.

❤️

M.

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.