Silver Linings

I have this problem where I can’t move past something until I write about it. It’s a bad problem to have, especially when you are in a writing “funk.” A “funk,” yeah let’s call it that. As in I haven’t written anything substantial since early-May and even then it was just an assignment for class. it ended up having a tiny shred of something that could be more, but still, when you’re in any kind of funk, writing or otherwise, it’s hard to see the silver lining. So here I am, back at the old blog which I have apparently dismissed after my year of writing everyday. I think maybe it became more like a job last year and that made me hate it. I’m rambling now.

I’ve had kind of a shitty summer. There have been silver linings.

I got to go to residency in person. I got to meet my awesome friends whom I only knew digitally before. There’s something pretty magical about sitting in a room with people who think and write and drink like you.

Then there was my two-week trip to Kansas to see my family and best friend. It didn’t start out as a two-week trip, but that’s what it ended up being when I felt the need to stay. That was a first. The first time I ever felt called to Kansas to recharge. I suspect it was the stress from my residency showing itself.

In July we went to Florida for a week with friends to celebrate Jerimiah’s 40th birthday. I planned this all, to be sure, and because of it was under immense pressure for the first several days to make sure everyone had a good time, even though I explicitly told them to make their own good times. In the end I said fuck it, these people are adults and can do it on their own, which means I actually did enjoy myself quite a bit. Doing what I pleased, when I pleased. Jerimiah had a good time too, especially on the actual party day when we drank fun drinks, played outdoor party games, and ate lots of food!

I was published in Litro in June.

I was offered a chance to write my first book review this month.

I got to watch my son enter his middle school building for the first time, all masked up, and excited.

I got to celebrate the man I love turning 40 years old.

I got to see friends I haven’t seen in over a year (some much longer!)

Jackson and I got to spend some time traveling together. We even did some of Route 66!

I got to help my mom with all the things in her house she has been wanting to accomplish.

Those, I think, were the silver linings. There were other things to be sure. There was the overcommitting I did to start the school year off. “Sure, yes!” I said so many times. It felt good to be back at it, you know? To have some sense of normalcy. You want me to be on the executive board of not one, but two middle school organizations?! ME? Sure! It has all caught up now and I’m feeling overwhelmed.

There was the car accident. Look it wasn’t anyone’s fault, not really, it was a total accident. Everyone was safe, meaning they all walked away. Though there is some trauma for sure. My car was totaled, but I didn’t really like that car so much anyway. The most important thing was everyone was safe and there were lots of lessons learned. I for example, know that when in an emergency situation I am a “flight” kinda person, while my best friend and husband are both “fight.” Which is probably why they are my best friend and husband.

Then there was that thing that is nagging me. That thing I have to spill out of me or I won’t feel right. The disappointment I feel from a summer of seeing people for who they really are after a year and half of imagining who they are. Who they were. It’s startling. It’s hard. Geez it’s been a tough year and a half. And it doesn’t seem like it will get any better. Because of that I have told myself repeatedly that I need to show grace, just as much as I need to ask of it from people. But repeatedly this summer I have been disappointed by the actions of others. I have come to see flaws in people that I never noticed before. Jerimiah and I are at a loss. I’m sure people are thinking the same thing about us. What has happened to us over the last year and a half? As Americans? As people?

Personally we realize that the two of us have done a substantial amount of growing into who we are. Who we are meant to be. We have become more eager to do what makes us happy. To be around people who make us happy. To not waste more time than we need with with people and situations we do not like, that make us feel uncomfortable. If I have to spend one more second with a straight, white, male that turns everything into a competition, y’all, I can’t. I won’t with toxic masculinity anymore.

And just like that people that you like, that you love. Family members. Close friends. They start to slip. And maybe, probably, it was our fault. Probably we put them on a pedestal. We thought wow, they are great people. But the truth has surfaced for me this summer and I no longer feel like some of the things we thought were great about people, are in fact that great. It’s a shitty realization to have, but it’s the truth. So now what? Gotta look for those silver linings I suppose. Always keep looking for those silver linings.

I’ll leave you with a few of my silver linings now.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Hiya

Hiya, everyone. Y’all. You people. Folks. I had a jump in new followers and lookie-loos when I posted about my Dad recently and I suspect that I had some “new relatives” find my blog, probably because they don’t like me and want to keep tabs on what I say about them. But I think maybe some of y’all are in the same boat as me and have some questions about DNA tests and relative stuff and how to navigate that and I want to help and tell my story. And wow do I have stories for y’all, but first I want these “new relatives” to back off me a little bit, then I can tell you all what wonderful and horrible things that happen when you are in a situation like me. For real, I have one story about these two sisters who are my first cousins, even though they desperately do not want to be, and how they really showed the world their true colors and I am dying to share it with y’all, but I’m waiting till they lose interest in me. Until then, let me just re-introduce myself and thank y’all for being here!

I’m Missy. I was born and raised in Leavenworth, Kansas (not on a farm!) and am a graduate of Leavenworth High (go Pioneers, Class of 2000). I am married to Jerimiah, have a son Jackson who is basically the smartest, coolest kid ever. I have two dogs, Winnie and Duke, and we live in the Atlanta-metro. We are straight-ticket Democrats (you’re welcome, love Atlanta). I did my undergrad at Missouri State (we lived in the Ozarks for ten years). I have an MA in Creative Writing from UNC Charlotte (we lived in Charlotte-metro for five years) and am currently in an MFA program. I turn 40 this year and have a list of things I want to accomplish and one of them was to find out who my dad was. I wasn’t adopted, but my mom was dating two guys on and off again, and she loved one a lot and thought the other was nice and funny, but the one she loved was married (a real asshole) and when she got pregnant with me she just sort of assumed I was his and dumped the other guy. Long story short, turns out the other guy is my real dad!

I know this because I did a DNA test earlier this year and was shocked when I got the results because I believed the married asshole to be my dad this whole time. It was a relief to find that the man who was my real dad actually didn’t abandon me, he passed away when I was nine months old. It’s good too that we didn’t know back then that I was his, because as I stated, his family is full of crazy, Kansas hillbilly (not the good kind) types and I am so glad I wasn’t raised in that mess.

So as you can see I am going through a lot right now and so is my mom, but we are both incredibly happy that we have an answer. And I am also happy to report that because of “nice cousins” I have access to the full family tree, which I wanted for my son, and health and medical information that I wanted for me. For example, I was just diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that does not run in my mother’s family and my cholesterol jumped up really high in a short amount of time and the docs were concerned. Then I found out people in my dad’s side have lots of autoimmune diseases and my dad died of a massive heart attack at the age of 42, so this was good, valuable info to find out. Albeit sad.

So there’s that. If you are even considering a DNA test please do it. This is sound, basic science that has been around for a very long time and it can be trusted (yes, it even holds up in court), even if some of my “new relatives” don’t believe in science. (They are legit going around telling people they don’t trust it because I am “not recorded in the family bible” and because you have to “draw blood” to have a DNA test done. That is incorrect, but you probably already knew that because you are smart.) And don’t even try to convince them because they are Trump supporters, so even if they were presented with facts in their face, they would deny it. You can’t win with people like that.

Anywho, my blog is usually a mess with my random thoughts and things that happened to me or adventures my family and I have been on, but seeing as we haven’t even eaten in a restaurant in over a year, it’s been light on adventures and heavy on other shit.

I’m also coming off 2020, the year I wrote a blog post everyday, so I have been taking a wee bit of a break on the blog, kind of not reliable at this moment, but I am coming back around. But if you are bored you can read through last year’s posts. Did a lot of musing on political stuff and some protesting and a lot of “Wear a fucking mask” posts. You can also read some of my published work if you go to my “Writing” tab.

So there you have it! That is my in a quick nutshell. I have a large family whom I love dearly, though I don’t get to see them often as they are mainly still in Kansas, and I have friends literally all over the place. My bestest friends are in Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, and Rhode Island, so that is a challenge, but what are you gonna do? We make it work and I wouldn’t be able to get by without them.

Let me know if y’all are in the same boat as me, need to vent, or just want to say hello! I hope this year treats us all a bit more gently than the last.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

It’s nice to meet you.

M.

Damn, Y’all

Damn we can’t catch a break this week, y’all. First it was the crazy white man who murdered Asian women because he “had a bad day,” then today I woke up to storms knocking the trees outside, and an Amber Alert wherein an Uber Eats delivery driver was working at 2 am, had her baby with her asleep in her carseat in the back, and her car was stolen while she ran the food up to the door. The baby was nowhere to be found for 10 damn hours which is 10 hours longer than a baby should be, lost, away from her mother. A mother who is literally trying to make ends meet by delivering food in the middle of a stormy night. And the kicker, the kid that stole her car was a baby himself. A 14-year-old! A. Fourteen. Year. Old.

Sigh.

It’s tough this week. It’s tough for a lot of reasons, but these two in particular.

The baby is okay, y’all. She’s safe. She was found 10 hours later on a woman’s front porch. The woman didn’t know. She heard a knock on her door and answered it and there was a passerby standing there to tell her that they saw a car stop, drop the baby in her yard, and drive away. She recognized the baby from Amber Alert, thank goodness, and she was taken to the hospital and reunited with her mom.

I imagine the 14-year-old’s own mom had a hand in this. I’m sure the 14-year-old had no idea there was a sleeping baby in the back of an Uber Eats car, and probably freaked out. Rightfully so. I hope he learned a lesson here. And I hope other kids thinking about trying to make a quick buck or go for a joyride will think twice now. All we can do is hope.

I woke up today with a little hope, but it was quickly sucked out of me after reading the news and it’s been hard to get back.

We went to Mercedes-Benz Stadium and got vaccinated today. That was good. That gave me hope for about an hour. But the whole time Jackson and I were grabbing our phone for news alerts. He got the Amber Alert too, and for awhile this morning he sat silent after asking me who would take a baby. When we found out it was a kid he could be in school with we were even more shocked. The whole day was just, bleh. Just bleh.

Jackson ran upstairs tonight to tell me they found the baby and we were incredibly relieved and we hugged each other. Damn it, y’all. Just damn it.

The murder of the Asian women isn’t so easily resolved. Today we found out that the Sheriff who spoke at the news conference yesterday. The one who blamed the white, male terrorist’s actions on “a bad day” peddled racist shirts earlier this year. It’s all around us. Especially here in the South. There are honestly people saying that racism had nothing to do with it. Honey, learn how racism works. How it infects. How it spreads. Then get back to me. The very fact that this maniac fetishized these women, assumed they were sex workers, the very basics of this whole thing, rests on racism.

Ahhhhhh!

Okay, well I’m a sad sack tonight, obviously. My heart hurts for so many people. People I know, people I don’t know. People in my community and not in my community.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Tennis ’til I Die

This weekend was lovely. Just lovely. Today we walked to Target to grab some household stuff, just so we could be out and about, and yesterday we went to the park where walked on a trail and played some tennis and confronted a racist. Just another fun weekend in Georgia. Okay, listen. I know I live in the “Progressive South” which is an oxymoron of sorts, but if we are going to believe that we really do have a more progressive South, Atlanta is the place to believe that. But the truth of the matter is this is still Georgia. This is still the South, regardless of how blue our state gets and I was aptly reminded of that this weekend.

Jerimiah loves to play tennis. Jackson and I could take it or leave it, but we’ve been promising to hit the courts with him for awhile now so we did on Saturday. We have a public park in our quiet, little suburban town. It’s nestled deep in the woods, between lovely houses and adorable elementary schools. Truth be told it’s a gem of a park, with a large pond, hiking trails, a waterfall, tennis courts, soccer fields, a dog park, and several playgrounds. It’s kinda great.

So when we got to the park the tennis courts were full. We waited on the bleachers for a court to open up, as one does, common tennis etiquette and what not, and then court three opened up. We waited for about 45 minutes which isn’t too bad. There are signs that ask you limit your play to an hour if people are waiting, so it makes sense. We got to court three and started playing.

On courts one and two there were four men, all playing singles. One set of men were speaking Spanish, the other set was speaking possibly Mandarin, I can’t be sure. The point here is none of them were white. On court four were four high schoolers, three boys and a girl. Two were white, two were Black. Why does this matter, Missy? Just wait.

About half an hour into our play a white woman and an Asian woman, along with two little girls came into the courts. They had tennis bags and were dressed to the nines in tennis gear. In fact, when I first saw them I wondered if one of them was a trainer or something like that. But then I quickly learned, no. I learned this because they came into the courts, even though the courts were full and they walked directly to our bench and sat down. I didn’t say anything to them and they said noting to me, but the white woman was bent out of shape that there were no free courts and she was hellbent on finding the six more courts she thought we had. She argued with the Asian woman about this. I got a very married couple vibe from them. They were however causing a scene and the other players on the course started to look at us. I think they assumed these two women were with us, because I mean, who just comes and sits on your bench unless you know them?

Anyway, while the white woman goes in search of these mysterious other courts another family walked up to the tennis courts and sat their items down on the bleachers outside like we had. They were obviously there to wait for an open court. It’s about that time that the kids were leaving and they asked the new family, which happened to be a Black family, if they wanted their court. They said yes and they started the transition.

Now I didn’t know all of this. I was pretty into this game we were having, and frustrated with the people on our bench who were sitting very close to our shit and causing a scene and I sort of assumed the new family knew the kids, or were with them. But as the transition of the court was happening the white lady came back into the courts and saw what was happening and walked over to the kids and the Black family and started yelling. I immediately knew what was happening. We were about to see a “Karen” flip her shit.

I sort of half listened for a few minutes and gathered that the kids did not know the family, but that they assumed that “Karen” was with us. Meanwhile the Black family had already taken the court and were starting to warm up. The family was a mom and her three high school/college kids and the kids were actually fucking tennis stars or something. Like they started to hit the ball and everyone stopped and watched them. Jackson said, “I didn’t know people were that good.” Like they had to be on a college team. Anyway, this angered “Karen” and on top of the “This was our court” shit, she started throwing in some racial slurs. That’s when I had to step in.

Jackson had hit a wild ball over to their court and I ran over to grab it. They had stopped playing at this point because “Karen” was actually standing in the middle of the court, meanwhile Jerimiah was trying to get the Asian woman to get the “Karen” under control and the Asian woman was yelling her name and begging her to get back over to our bench. Natalie. That was the real name of the “Karen” I wish I’d learned her last name. The kids that were with them looked mortified and sat in silence, while “Karen” and the mom of the tennis stars started pulling their phones out and filming each other. I walked up for my ball and everyone kind of stopped. One of the kids handed me the ball and I apologized to him for what the “Karen” was saying and he smiled and said not to worry about it, happens all the time.

That angered me, so as I walked back to my court I looked at “Karen” and said, “Hey, these kids are just trying to play. Will you get off their court and maybe wait outside the fence, we will be done in a few minutes.” This comment elicited an “Ohhh” from the high school kids who had stuck around to see what was happening and “Karen” flipped out on me. She told me, “I pay fucking taxes!” To which I said, “Yeah, we all do.” Laughter from the kids. This really pissed her off and she said, “I’ve never even been here because I play at (insert some club I’m supposed to know about) and there are no rules posted here.” To which I said, “Well, it’s common courtesy to stay off a court that you’re not playing at, so maybe next time just wait outside until a court opens up.” She starts yelling, “You could have told me that,” and I walk away because there was actually no telling this woman anything.

By this time the Asian woman has gathered the kids and all their things and is leaving the court. She got the hint. She goes and gets Natalie and they leave. All play resumes. A couple minutes later I’m fuming still, the mom of the tennis stars is on her phone I think to her husband telling her about this crazy lady and I decide I need to go talk to her. So I walk over and outside the fence where she is and she hangs up and I apologize to her and she thanks me, thanks me for coming over and for saying something to her. She explains that she thought they were with us, again, because they were on our damn bench, and I assured her no, we didn’t know them, they just walked onto the courts while we were all playing. We started to talk about what the woman had said to them, when one of the tennis stars says, “Mom be careful, she’s back.” We turn around and here comes “Karen” up the damn hill again toward us. She had been leaving then saw us talking and decided to stop and say more crazy shit. At this point Jackson starts to meander over and I’m like, okay I have to diffuse, but “Karen” is already screaming up the hill, accusing us of talking about her. Which was right, cause, uhh, she cray.

Sherry, the mom of the tennis stars, is like, “Oh Lord here we go again.” At this point she walks with me into the tennis courts hoping that “Karen” will stay outside, which she does but she’s screaming about Sherry’s “Husband” and that’s when I realize that she thinks Sherry’s oldest son is her husband and Sherry is like, “That’s not my husband, you are screaming at my children. These are my children.” And this sets “Karen” off and she says to Sherry, “Oh you probably can’t even get a husband. You probably want a white one, but you can’t get one.” I’m halfway to my bench at this point because I’ve decided to call the cops, but then I stop. My mind is like a tennis match, y’all. I’m all, don’t be a “white savior” here, Sherry has this, then I’m all, no, as a white woman I need to woman up to this “Karen” and put her in her place. Then I’m like what if she is crazy. But if I call the cops they might assume the Black family is in the wrong because that’s the kind of world we live in. All this is running through my mind, so I start back toward Sherry to ask her what she wants me to do, “Karen” sees me and leaves but not before screaming, “Oh yeah, Black Lives Matter.” Which coincidently was the shirt Jackson had on that day.

Ugh.

Obviously we stayed on the court until a man and his preschool daughter walked up with tennis balls and waited at the bleachers, because there was no way I was going to leave the court open for “Karen” to play at if they came back. I would have played tennis ’til I died, y’all. ‘Til I died.

When we left Sherry and her family thanked us again, we exchanged numbers in case anything crazy happened, I apologized again and I told her to be safe. The high school kids were walking back by and they stopped and we all chatted. They said they had no idea that she was waiting for a court and they just thought they did what they were supposed to do. I told them not to worry about it, that they were fine. That they did do the right thing and then I apologized to them. I was so sad they had to see that. And then we left. I didn’t see the “Karen” so I felt okay about it, but shit y’all.

Be kind to people. It’s not that much to ask.

M.

Ditch Witch and Other Things

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

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

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

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

That’s all I’m saying.

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

M.

Going Higher

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

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

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

Damn you, Michelle.

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

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

M.

Post About Sam’s Club Toilet Paper, for Real, That’s What the Whole Post is About

Welcome class, I do believe I have lectured on the wonders of Sam’s Club toilet paper previously, but I’m glad you’ve come back for another discussion today. First, let me say that if I could give Sam’s Club toilet paper to all of you I would. Like if I won the lottery, which would be hard to do considering I don’t play the lotto, but if I did the first thing I would do is give the world Sam’s Club toilet paper. Then, I would buy 20 acres, a pack of llamas, and donate the rest to charity. Now, before I get into the wonders of Sam’s Club toilet paper (from here on out referred to as: SCTP) let’s take a moment to acknowledge the fact that we all know Wal-mart is a horrific company that underpays their employees, cuts corners, forces manufacturers into cut-throat deals in the name of low prices, and takes out small businesses whenever they come to town. But the truth of the matter is there is nothing I can do about that, ergo every year I pay to have a Sam’s Club membership (actually we started piggybacking on my MIL’s membership this year because why not? Fuck Wal-mart!) just so I can enjoy the SCTP that I have come to know and love. That is to say I am stuck now. Addicted. I can get TP from no where else.

Let’s talk about that other TP. Most of the other TP is what Jerimiah refers to as “John Wayne TP” because it’s “rough and tough and don’t take no shit off anybody.” Ain’t that the truth. Here I’m talking about your run-of-the-mill store brand TPs, your Walgreens brand, your Up and Up from Target (I’m sorely disappointed in your Target), your Kroger brand, and what not. Now Member’s Mark is a store brand. That’s the brand that SCTP is. It is Member’s Mark, but it is quite obvious that Sam’s Club is not the manufacturer. I had a teacher in elementary school whose husband worked for Always Save, which is an off-brand food brand that they sell in those bright yellow boxes. You know the kind I mean, if you were ever at my house in the 90s you saw them in the pantry

Anyway, she told us once that Always Save gets their food and products from the name brand places, but because they don’t have to pay for branding and advertising and all that they can give deep discounts. It’s the same elbow macaroni, for instance, that the name brands sell, it’s just in a different package. She said they would literally get shipments of bags of pasta sauce, green beans, etc from the same places that Del Monte, for instance, is getting them, but instead they just go into the yellow label brands. Now this was back in the 90s, things may have changed since then, and there are definitely differences in the taste of some products (that why I can’t shop at Aldi, I can taste the differences) but this got me thinking about TP. And how there can’t be THAT many TP brands out there, instead Member’s Mark probably pays a brand to make their own label. So you know me, I Googled it.

But… all I could find was information that suggested Member’s Mark TP was made by Sam’s Club in the USA. So maybe it is in fact it’s own brand. I mean I am okay with that, I was just hoping for some secret. I did however, come across the Consumer Report article that exploits the scamming of the toilet paper industry and how they have been shrinking their rolls and upping their prices for years (Hint: They are particularly mad at the brand known as “Angel Soft” for it’s dishonesty and trickery, especially because it is sold mainly at places like Walmart and Dollar General, which means it serves low-economic communities and they are taking advantage of those people.) Nevertheless, here are some other brands to be weary of:

Now Kirkland brand is the Costco equivalent to SCTP and although I’ve never tried it, I’d be willing to. But I can’t bring myself to get a Costco membership for a myriad of reasons.

Now I know what you are thinking: Well this is just like, your opinion man. I get it. But there is actually a whole thread on Reddit about how SCTP is the best, and if you are so inclined to do your own TP test, you can can buy SCTP at Walmart.com. Just click on the image below. It says “out of stock” now, which they have had trouble keeping it in stock during the pandemic, but it will be back shortly I just know it! If you want to read up on other toilet papers and compare them this is a fun little article, and not just because they editor’s pick for best TP was Member’s Mark. That is just a coincidence.

But what makes Member’s Mark so good, Missy? Great question! It is soft like Quilted Northern, strong like Charmin, and a fraction of the price of the other two. In fact, aside from the problem of lint coming off (which is a problem they know about and are working on, but all the softest brands have that problem) it is the best toilet paper I have every had in my life, and yes I have tried many other brands, plus it comes in a minimum, MINIMUM of 45 rolls at a time, which is fantastic (if you have the room to store that much tp) because you don’t have to buy TP all the damn time! Bonus! And did I mention the price. On average, you can buy this 45-roll pack for about $20! TWENTY MFING DOLLARS!

So there you have it, a whole blog post about Sam’s Club Toilet Paper. I told you that’s what it was about.

M.

The Right Words

I’ve been trying to find words. That’s actually something I do a lot. The Oxford Pocket Dictionary sits on my desk, in part, because I am always looking for words. The right words. The good words. That is to say I’m trying to discover what I think, how I feel, and put that into words. But this week has been hard. It’s hard for me to smile this week. It’s hard to be positive. It’s hard to feel happy, for the “right” words to come when all I can really think are sad words. I want to write words that are jovial. Carefree. Radiant. But what is finding me is Maudlin. Saccharine. Indignant. Here are some words that are finding me:

I told you so.

Liars.

Now you know how school kids feel.

Terrorists.

If you support this…

Pissed.

And while these might not be a helpful response to the situation, while people are calling for unity, these words and phrases are my truth. They are what I am feeling. I am battling within myself now. Do I let this go, do I let people say and do what they want, even if what they say and do is hurting others? I think we all know the answer to that, but then why do I feel so bad?

“I told you so.” That’s what I want to say to my friends, many of them “previous friends” who voted for Trump in 2016 and who still, up until this week fully supported him even though their own doubts were creeping into their throats. I told you so. But I’ve heard that “I told you so” never helps. It’s an unhelpful phrase. So what do I say?

“Liars” that is what I see when I watch and listen to Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham and Mike Pence. They never apologized for their support of a crazy person. A crazy person who 80 million of us knew was capable of what we saw this week. They knew it too. They also know they had a hand in it and they are liars. But I have family and friends, real people I love and respect coming out to say that they are proud of these men. I am not. It was too little too late. What do I say?

“Now you know how school kids feel,” should not come as a surprise that this was my first thought. Early on when the siege was happening there was video of Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington State. She was on her hands and knees in the gallery of Congress, a police woman next to her yelling to “Get down,” and I saw the fear on her face and I thought this is exactly what our school children face in our country on a regular basis. This is exactly what many of us have been saying for far too long about guns, about security measures, about the results of a generation of children who can’t go to school without looking, knowing, being trained, to find the escape route.

“Terrorists.” These people are terrorists. We need to stop calling them protesters. Protesting is what we saw this summer when people were protesting for equal justice under law and for civil rights. The people who stormed the Capital were terrorists. They were there to overthrow our government. To bend the will of the people to their decision. We can’t say apples to apples when it is in fact apples to white supremacy.

“If you support this then you are (insert any number of things).” This one I’m torn up about. I wrote on social media if you support this unfriend me right now. And I meant it. Still mean it. I can’t be friends, not even fake, social media friends with you if you can in any way shape or form understand or empathize with the people who broke out windows, who desecrated our Capital, or who took down an American flag to replace it with a Trump one. I can’t make that make sense and I can’t sit with that and I don’t want to be associated with you. But in this moment we are called to unify. My desire to bring peace and civility is inching up in my throat and I am conflicted. Still, as of right now, if you support those people you and I are fundamentally different and I can’t be around you. And I do believe you should be called out for your way of thinking. You need help. But still, as I write this I am thinking of ways I can help you. But I’m mad, so I will need time.

“Pissed.” I’m pissed, y’all. I woke up on Wednesday so happy with my state. So proud to call myself a Georgia Democrat. A DeKalb County Democrat no less. We made history. We swung a whole state. We changed the course of our nation and for that I am humbled and grateful. But now I am pissed. I’m really pissed and I don’t want to be. I hate this feeling, this anger rising up. Of course this is how I felt in 2016 too, so while I am pissed today I know I will not always be. And when that anger subsides I know I will be left with a desire to make changes. And I know that means I will. We will. As a collective.

But for today, I am pissed. And I think it is a rightful feeling and emotion. And I won’t be made to feel shameful about it by people who are saying, “We need to come together now.” They are right, these people. “We” as in the decent people in our country, need to come together. But “we” as in the racists, the homophobes, the “Stop the Steal” people, the terrorists, no. There is no coming together with them. We have given them too many tries to get it together and this was their last one.

I remember a time when I could say, “I don’t care who you voted for, I still like you.” That isn’t the case anymore. If today, you would still walk to the polls and cast your vote for Donald Trump, then I don’t want you around me or my family. You’re toxic and sorely misguided. You’re a racist. You are willing to put your beliefs above the collective country we ALL belong in. And I won’t stand for it anymore.

I’m pissed. I want to say I told you so. Explain that those people are terrorists, white supremacists, that this is EXACTLY who we are as Americans, regardless of how many times Papa Joe says we aren’t. This is us. We need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and make a change, or this will continue to be us.

Hmm. I guess I did find the words.

Be safe, friends.

M.

Georgia Election

There I was, promising my family I would NOT go to sleep until Ossoff was ahead in the polls. Then there I was, passed out with my phone on top of me when he was still down by 400 votes, but the truth is I went to sleep happy and excited because I knew what was about to happen. I knew that a lot of people in Georgia (and not in Georgia) worked their asses off to get people to the polls. To get people to understand what could happen. What is possible in a state like Georgia when people vote. It wasn’t possible for some people to see until November. But that win for Biden, with just over 12,000 votes, well, it lit a fire under people. It made us realize that yes, actually anything is possible. It is possible that the revered of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr’s church, could rise up and become the first Black senator in our state. It was a glorious sight to behold.

And listen, as I write this Ossoff is ahead in the polls, but they haven’t called it for him just yet. I’m expecting them to shortly, but already it is said that Chatham, Fulton, and DeKalb (my county) counties are cheating and lying and stealing this election. I don’t have words to say about that, except that we still have some work to do, as a state, as a county. But the truth of the matter is that it’s always hard to lose. It’s always hard to explain something like this. Explain why the people who have always been in power, are losing their power. So while I understand what they are doing, the science and psychology of it, I won’t let it stand. Not in my presence.

Today Congress will “debate” the presidential election, but the constitution, the power of the people, the “right” thing will prevail. Now we can look to the future with those who want to come along with us, and for the others, well, they can stay back and scream and yell. We don’t need them, we’ve made that clear.

Today is a good day, America! WE believe in you, Rev!

M.

Thoughts on Zoom

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

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

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

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

M.

If My Fatness Offends You…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

M.

White Women, Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is all, good day sirs!

M.

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

Onward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Like the flu,” Jackson added.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I messaged Torey.

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

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

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

“At least we got to see Onward!”

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

M.

Fireworks for Christmas

On Christmas Even Jerimiah and I had just gotten Jackson to bed when the fireworks started. I immediately remembered the very long, very loud fireworks from the Christmas Eve before, the one that took us totally by surprise. Last year we were a bit annoyed, asking each other, fireworks for Christmas?! Who would do such a thing? The truth is though, it isn’t horrible people who just want to keep your kids up and your dogs terrified. Bringing in Christmas with fireworks is actually a Latin America tradition and honestly we’ve just lived such sheltered lives (read: such white lives) that we have never encountered this before. But here in Atlanta, where the diversity kicks it up into double digits, we have been exposed to numerous things we never have been exposed to before and honestly, I wasn’t even mad this year. All I kept thinking was, it’s been one shitty-ass year and if people want fireworks, let them have their damn fireworks!

Of course the people on Next Door were not so thoughtful.

I was perusing the site for sale items, something I do a lot at night when I am trying to fall asleep. Occasionally, between Craigslist and NextDoor I find some gems, and people were bitching about the fireworks. As I lay in the dark, my phone screen illuminating my face and the sound of fireworks bursting around me I read:

“I don’t care who celebrates this way, I’m trying to sleep!”

“This is America! They can go back to their own country to do that stuff!”

“How dumb are these people? Dumb and tacky.”

“Call the cops, it’s illegal!”

The truth of that last one is no, it isn’t. Christmas Eve is one of the nights here that fireworks are legal because we have so many transplants from other countries that they made it legal here. That got me to thinking about all the calls flooding DeKalb’s Police force on Christmas Eve and how mad these nasty, white people are when the dispatcher on the other end tells them they won’t be sending a police officer out. I smiled in satisfaction.

Because the truth is last year when I first heard fireworks on Christmas Eve I Googled it, as any of the people on NextDoor are capable of also doing, and I found out all of this information.

The other truth is this: What the hell is wrong with you people? You white, privileged people? What makes you the superior people? Oh, you don’t have to answer that we already know the answer: Structural racism makes you believe that.

One of the things I have always loved about America is the diversity. The learning of other cultures I would not know about if I didn’t live in a melting pot of a country. As Americans, as such a young country, we don’t have many traditions. The ones we do have are from other countries, brought here by the immigrants who are still coming to the “Land of Opportunity,” so to have the audacity to say some shit like, “This is America, we don’t shoot fireworks on Christmas Eve” is crazy. Because yes, this is America and those people shooting off fireworks are American, so yes, we do shoot off fireworks on Christmas Eve.

So fucking deal with it.

M.

Why Would Someone Do That?

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

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

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

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

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

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

M.