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.

Widening Scope

My mom sent me this picture the other day and I was totally surprised, for the first time in a while (not really I’ve been watching Downton Abbey) because I hadn’t seen this picture in a very long time, probably since it was taken. And I remembered very little about it. In fact, the only thing I remember about myself in this picture is that I found that purse (Baby’s first Coach) at the Tanger Outlet Mall in Branson, Missouri for $79 and I thought that was a steal! Therefore two things must be true: 1. I was still young and naive enough to think that spending $80 on a Coach purse made you an adult woman, nay, a cool adult woman and 2. I was definitely in my early 20s.

The more I looked at the picture though, the more the scope widened. Funny how pictures that take us by surprise on Thursday afternoons can do that, isn’t it? The more the scope widened, the more I resented the person that was in this photo. She was a total wanker. I mean, who wears a damn denim skirt? And what is that shirt even? I looks like it’s some type of half-hoodie? But I did have make-up on. A feat that is very, very difficult for me to accomplish now, on the backside of thirty. Then I realized, like we all do sometimes, I was focusing on the wrong things. I was selfishly focusing on me, and not the man standing next to me, and the moment that is, to my utter displeasure, captured in time.

You see, I was in my early twenties here. I can’t pinpoint exactly the year, but I can say, with certainty, that it was somewhere between 2004 and 2006, and come to think of it, maybe “early” twenties wasn’t right. Maybe I was exactly 25. Maybe he was too, and maybe this was our actual first step into real adulthood.

A year or so earlier we had fought about something in particular. The fact that I wanted Jerimiah to go back to school. I wanted him, in the least, to finish his associates degree, which we had both been working on at Kansas City Kansas Community College when we started dating. That date I am more clear on, St. Patrick’s Day, 2002. That wasn’t our first date, our first date had come a couple months prior, but we hadn’t really thought anything past the tip of our noses back then, so while we were standing on the corner of 42nd and Broadway, in Old Westport, we looked at each other and smiled the kind of smile that you know you will be giving that other person for a very long time. And so months later, we decided on that day as our “anniversary,” and it stuck.

Anyway, a couple years later we were living at his parent’s place, a resort they bought on Table Rock Lake down in Southern Missouri. He was working for them, and I was serving and bartending in Branson, and I looked at him one night and thought, “He’s wasting his damn time.” What’s funny is that it never occurred to me that I was doing the same thing. Here we were, frighteningly close to the end of our early twenties, not a college degree between the two of us, and although it was fun, sure, yeah, we were having fun, we were definitely stalled. So I suggested he apply at Ozark Technical Community College and finish up there. Maybe, maybe, then he could transfer to a four-year college. And oh hey, Missouri State was just up the road in Springfield.

He fought me at first. He was helping his parents out, after all, and he didn’t really know if college was for him. I had to remind him how smart he was. I had to remind him that WE had bigger dreams. Bigger than Southern Missouri, bigger than him working for his parents, bigger, I would suppose then living in wedlock and partying with friends on the weekends. So he applied. And a year later he was the Vice President of the student body. And a year after that, I think, this picture was taken.

This was, of course, the beginning of both of us committing to higher education. Which in a sense, has been us committing to ourselves, to each other, and to our child. To our futures. A year after he started at Ozark Technical Community College, I went back. Then he graduated, we got married, got pregnant, then he started at Missouri State University, and I, six months pregnant, transferred to Missouri State to once again follow this man, whom I knew was finally on the right path.

The next few years were a blur. In fact, having a baby your second year of college isn’t ideal, regardless of how old you are (I was 27). It’s just tough. But, it makes you a hell of a lot tougher, that much I know. We ran into a few snags along the way, we both took longer than we intended, him working full-time and going to school full-time. Me working part-time, having a baby, and going to school full-time. But we managed, and eventually we both graduated with honors from Missouri State. Jerimiah with a degree in finance and and me with a degree in English.

Years later, when Jackson started kindergarten and I was looking for a purpose in this here life, I applied to grad school and was accepted. I began that transition from “Jackson’s Mommy” to the woman I am now, whoever that is. That forced Jerimiah’s hand once again. Here I was, killin’ it in grad school (in my head), working again, and being a kick-ass Mommy. So he decided to go to grad school too, and wouldn’t you know that he graduates in one month with his terminal degree, an MBA. I don’t have my terminal degree, I only have an MA, so you know, I’m scouting schools now. Because that’s what we do, Jerimiah and I. We push each other to do better. We always have.

So, yeah, I don’t remember a lot about this particular picture. But the widening of the scope brings me back to memories I had stored away. I do remember those two kiddos. And believe me, we were kiddos in every sense of that non-sensical word. We were just two kids, crazy for each other, so much in fact that we pushed and we pushed, making the other one do more than they thought possible. And that’s the code we live by now. The force we have created in our relationship. We are heading into year 18 now, with brighter eyes than we’ve ever had. And more opportunity, more possibility, more love, more admiration, than this denim-skirt wearing, naive little girl ever thought. And for that I am thankful.

Cheers to you, my darling. To this day, to the first time you graduated, to the second time you graduated, and cheers to the next month, though it will be hard, it will be worth it. Onward and upward we row.

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.

Things I’m Mad About Today

Listen, some days are better than other days. Ya dig? I went to see my therapist on Monday afternoon this week. I usually go on Thursday or Friday mornings, but she was all booked up when I made my appointment. And she’s so booked up through the holidays that I had to pick another weird time for my next visit, a Wednesday at lunch time. Her lunch time. She is seeing me instead of eating on schedule. WHAT?! I didn’t realize that seeing your therapist was like going to church, the holidays are in big demand (check the list for a bullet point that relates to this). I mean I get it, family and what not, but come on, y’all that is jacking up the people like me who have to go every two weeks. Okay, deep breathes. That kinda put me in a foul mood all week and today that foul mood, mixed with sad documentaries I watched last night, mixed with reading the news this morning, has really blown up. So this here post is just a list of shit I am currently mad about. Read at your own risk.

  • The woman, in the documentary I watched last night, died and it was a total surprise, and her and her wife were together for 40 years, and her wife really needed her, and I can’t stop thinking about being left partnerless when you have all these amazing plans. First I was sad, now I’m just mad.
  • That family who was murdered in Mexico. I have questions, mainly because I didn’t read past the headline. Like, were they missionaries? Or were they living in Mexico to avoid religious persecution here in the US, because of Mormonism+Polygamy. And if either of these two things are accurate…
  • Why are people doing missionary work in Mexico? In Honduras? Anywhere outside of the USA? Listen, I am a globalist, don’t get me wrong, I think we should be helping all people who need it. But I also personally know people who travel to different parts of the world to do “missionary work,” and I KNOW for a FACT that the biggest reason they go is to SAY THAT THEY WENT. It is not to help those people, it’s a combo of feeling better about yourself and being able to tell people you went to Thailand on a mission trip. I’m not impressed, assholes. You know what would impress me? If you went to Detroit and helped build new pipe lines, and helped them get water that isn’t slowing killing them. You know what would impress me? If you went to the coal mining regions of West Virginia and set up a mobile health care center, some Doctors Without Borders type-shit, but you know here, in the US, where people also need vaccines and access to reproductive healthcare. You know what would impress me? If you did mission trips in pockets of the Deep South where racism is most prevalent. If you went down there and preached the “Good word” to those white folk who still think it’s funny to dress their kids up as the KKK for Halloween. Also, why are we still persecuting people for their religious beliefs?! I am not into polygamy, but I don’t give two fucks if my neighbors are, that’s they bidness.

Whew. I need a Tylenol.

  • Speaking of church and religion. How bout those people who don’t go to therapy, but really need to go to therapy, but pretend like going to church is like going to therapy and think that God has healed their broken bits. Nah, dog, that’s now how it works. Faith is good, don’t get me wrong, but faith ain’t helping you get to the root of the trauma. Faith is just telling you to ignore that trauma by “forgiving” the people who hurt you. And while therapy also wants you to forgive, it certainly wants you to also do some actual work on yourself so you can get to the point of complete self-awareness so you realize how shitty you sound when you tell someone who had just lost a baby that they need to just “pray a bunch” and they will feel better.
  • While I’m on the topic of therapy let me address the people who think therapy is dumb. You know why you think that, cause you’re scared. You are scared as shit about therapy. Cause you see how it works and you know it requires work and deep-diving into your life and your mistakes and your trauma and that scares the shit out of you so you are all, “That’s some whackadoodle shit, Missy.” And I smile and laugh and say, “Oh I know,” but inside I’m feeling very sorry for you because you just aren’t ready, and I’m afraid you never will be. Listen, I know because I was that person. And “I know there’s pain… why do you wrap yourself up in these chains, these chains…” #WilsonPhillips
  • The Dakota Pipeline leaked oil. Duh. You see why people didn’t want it built now, or nah, you still dumb?
  • Drug smugglers sawed their way through Trump’s “Impenetrable” border wall. Duh. You see why people didn’t want it built now, or nah, you still dumb?
  • This picture:
  • I had to go to the Walmarts the other day because it was the only place that I knew I could find all the weird-ass shit that I needed at that exact moment, and I saw a woman with a baby who wasn’t dressed appropriately for the weather and a toddler standing up in the cart while she was rolling it into the store and she was yelling about who knows what into her cell phone and I had a moment of, “That poor mom” then I was like no, you know what, people can do better than that. Which made me remember that I desperately wanted another baby and I would have another awesome kid right now, meanwhile this crazy lady got two and she’s probably treating them like this all the time and how in the world is that fair and it isn’t. This happens to me sometimes. I get very angry at the unjust world we live in. It’ll pass.
  • But before it passes I will think about all the other unjust things, like about how that McDonald’s CEO that slept with a subordinate was being paid $5,317/ hour and that the normal McDonalds employee is making $8/hour and what the actual fuck, y’all?!
  • It’s Native American Heritage Month but none of my motherfucking FB friends wanna talk about that. Meanwhile, I read how Native American Reservations were the first form of concentration camps and that Hitler saw what we were doing over here and was all, “Oh snap, that’s a great idea!” And then modeled his camps after that. But, yeah, nobody wanna talk about that, huh?

Imma stop. Imma stop you guys. I don’t want to make you all any more mad than you quite possibly already are, and you know what, I am going to feel better tomorrow. I am. But today, today I am going to let myself be angry at the world that we live in, because sometimes we just need to do that. I’m going to go scream into a pillow now, then bake some cookies.

I hope your day is better than mine.

I love you.

M.

Kids These Days…

After I dropped Jackson off at school this morning I stopped by Starbucks to grab some coffee (gift card on a double point Monday, cheah! Sorry, Dunkin, I love you tho). Anyway, on the way back home I passed the high school. I ended up being stuck at a red light right in front of the high school, and it had all the quintessential high school things happening. Cars pulling in and out to drop kids off, teens driving their own cars (their parents old 2005 Toyota Corollas) into the parking deck. It had kids crossing the busy intersection with the help of a crossing guard, and I assume one of the principals, as he was a tall man in a smart, black suit. There was laughing, and tugging at clothes, and fiddling with lunch boxes and backpacks. There were mom’s talking with their hands in cars, and dads, red-faced, yelling at the cars in front of them. It was, in my opinion, the most sincere sorta morning there could be at a high school, at any school. And then it occurred to me, maybe for the first time since I became a parent, that high schoolers aren’t all that scary. High schoolers are just big kids. And now, well, I am changed.

Listen, don’t get me wrong, I recognize that there are many differences between a kindergartner and a senior in high school, but also, there are a lot of similarities. While kindergartners are adorable, with their toothless grins and their round, big eyes (evolutionary trait for us to love them), teenagers lack those adorable quantities. Teenagers are starting to look like adults, and adults suck. We all know this. So it’s difficult to remember that teenagers are still kids. Especially when they do dumb stuff. It’s been a running joke in our house to make fun of teenagers, as of late. No offense to my teenagers (you know who you are, and we love you!) but when Jackson, for example, first learned that teenagers were vaping, or say, eating Tide Pods, or challenging each other to eat spoonfuls of cinnamon, he just shook his head and said, “Mommy, teenagers are dumb.” And yes, he is right, teenagers are dumb (most of them) but that is how it is supposed to be. And we’ve all been there, and I think this is where a little compassion goes a long way.

What is your damn point here, Missy? I think my point is that as children (especially kids that are not our own, or not from our family) grow up, we start, in my opinion somewhere around middle school, to not trust them. To think they are dumb, or weird, or mean, or bad, or not worthy of a hug, or a smile from a stranger, or help when they might need it. Some people even see teenagers as “the devil” (case in point, Greta the Climate Girl, or the kids who are standing up against gun violence versus Republicans). The thing is teenagers, specifically high schoolers, are a lot more awesome than we give them credit for. They are smart, and resilient. They are living in a time when they are nervous about going to school EVERY SINGLE DAY, because they don’t know if today will be the day someone brings a gun to school. Or a fight breaks out. Or the cops have to bring the dogs in to terrify them. Then they get on social media, they see someone like Greta who is out there making a difference, and they get inspired. Then as fast as they are inspired, they are broken down because they see how Greta and the kids like her are treated by grown, actual, adults. What the hell are we doing, y’all?

Listen, I know I am not making a lot of sense today. I am only half done with my free Starbucks Cold Brew, but I think what I am saying is, if you give high schoolers a chance, the majority of them will surprise you. They are, after all, still kids. Whether or not you believe that. A 17-year-old’s brain is still forming, still learning. He still needs to be loved like a kindergartner, and while he might not need to be supervised like one, he still needs to know that people, his parents, his teachers, his friends, his community, have his back. And no, he may not return the love in handmade cards or macaroni necklaces, but if you have raised him right, he might return the love in acts of service to you, in thoughtful gifts, in gratidude! Ahh, every high-school parents’ dream, a “Thanks, Mom, for giving me an awesome life!” accompanied by a hug.

So all I’m asking today is that you take a moment to realize that kids are good. Kids are smart. Kids are resilient. But also, kids need guidance. Kids need to be trusted. They need to know that they have support, even from strangers. And by kids I’m specifically talking about the bigger of them, because we often overlook them.

Much love to my teenage friends! Y’all are awesome. And I love you.

M.

Brains are Funny That Way

I have this friend, I used to consider her a devout Christian, like when she’d say things like, “You can pray the gay away” (I’m paraphrasing), I’d wince a bit, but move on because we all have our unfounded beliefs, that’s how our brains work. This week she shared her belief on social media that good, Jesus-following Christians, should not celebrate Halloween. I pushed back. Because sometimes we all need push back. We all need reminded that just because we think a certain way, because we’ve studied what we think is “the” truth, there are many more “truths” out there. I ended up DMing her, hoping to explain this. Because she kept saying she was sharing “The” truth and I felt compelled to remind her, like all religions, these are beliefs, not truths. But I don’t think she understood.

That’s how our brain works though, y’all. When we believe something and we repeat it over and over again, “Halloween bad,” then our brain starts to go, “Oh yeah, Halloween bad. And people who celebrate Halloween, bad.” And I think I have a good handle on this friend. I think she’s just trying to serve people. I think she has a servant’s heart, for the most part, but she hasn’t yet realized that you can’t “Halloween bad” people into doing things. But, the post she shared came from a preacher, and the one she wrote on the topic was sparked by what she heard a preacher say at his service. Which means brimstone and fire is being pushed from the pulpit. I’ve heard pastors like this. I’ve seen what they do. How they work. These people believe they have Christ on their side and can say and do what they want. But, uh, don’t we all have Jesus on our side? Isn’t that like, his thing? Y’all, I know some of you who hang with me a lot get tired of hearing this, but, Imma say it again, and hope it sticks: Jesus is not a primary source. No one is taking you seriously when you throw down some, “Well Jesus told me…” Well, I guess some people are taking you seriously, that’s how preachers work. And you know what is at the root of that work? Fear.

Back to my friend. What was even more disturbing about this whole conversation with her, was the way she spoke of Halloween. The fear she had of it. She said she puts on an armor, practices “spiritual warfare.” She said this in the same breath (rather paragraph) that she said she doesn’t worry about things because “Jesus is above all of that.” So which is it? Do we have to be suited up, live in a warfare mindset to love Jesus, or do we trust that he’s bigger than any of it? If you ask me, any type of warfare is rooted in fear, and I have enough fear to last me my whole life, I don’t need my religion bogging me down with it too.

But that’s how religion works, right? That’s why our brains love it! Religion eases our fears. It gives us something to believe in, to cling to when life isn’t going so well. Religion explains a lot of shit that our overworked brains just can’t process. The meaning of life. Why we die. Religion can, and does, explain a whole host of uncomfortable topics for us. Hard topics. That we just don’t want to deal with. I mean if you ask me the Greeks did it the best. All those awesome Gods to explain away all the shit they just couldn’t wrap their minds around! Persephone was my favorite, the way she made all the flowers bloom! Girl, you so special!

At one point in our conversation I suggested my friend was a good writer, one who had the capacity to make people feel united. Help isolated mommas who were just trying to find a community, and sometimes a church community is all they have. And I suggested she keep to less trivial topics, least she be part of the cog that is turning young people, young mothers especially, away from church. I was thinking more along the lines of sharing her stories of redemption. The goodness in her church community. Helping to solve hated and bigotry with her words. She said that getting people to see that the celebrating Halloween is not Christ-like is VERY important to her. Right now. I guess I was calling her to something she just isn’t ready for. Spiritually or creatively. Because if celebrating Halloween is one of the worst things that we are doing in our world right now, then well, my friend’s brain is already elsewhere.

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.

Dangers in the MVD

A few weeks ago Jerimiah and I went to switch our tags from North Carolina to Georgia. It’s a lengthy process that involves lots of paperwork, phone calls for titles, insurance, and inspections, and a shit ton of money. This was our second time attempting this, and we were pretty sure we had all our ducks in a row that day. We didn’t, and were there for over an hour, but people were all very nice. That wasn’t the thing that stuck with me from that day. What stuck with me was what happened while I was in line to get into the Motor Vehicle Office.

Jerimiah and I had walked in together, then as soon as he was about to go through the security checkpoint my phone rang, so I stepped back outside to answer it. It was the dog groomer and we had just dropped Duke off for a trim, so I knew it was a question. I was only outside for about five minutes, but by the time I got back inside the door, Jerimiah had a number and was seated inside, and a long line had formed at the checkpoint. So I shrugged my shoulders and prepared to wait. I knew our number wouldn’t be called anytime soon, so it was no big deal.

As I was waiting in line I noticed that in front of me were three young women. They were not together, and they were all carrying folders with paperwork, their car keys, and their cell phones, with crossbody bags slung across their shoulders. At first I didn’t pay much more mind to them. I just noticed, as I do, their presence, as well as an older couple in front of them, and a few single men and women starting to line up behind me.

It wasn’t until the first of the young women walked up to the checkpoint that I made a realization. She gave her purse to the officer to look through, she put her keys and phone in the bowl, and she walked through the metal detector. She reached back for her purse, keys, and phone and the officer said, “You can’t take your mace inside. You want to just leave your keys with me?” She hesitated for a minute, then said, “Sure,” and walked up to the number queue. That’s when I noticed the girl behind her fumble with her keys. She walked up next. Same thing. Keys, purse, phone, metal detector, did she want to just leave her keys? Sure. Third woman, the exact same. So by the time I got to the checkpoint with only my phone, I put it in the bowl, walked through the detector, eyed the three sets of keys sitting with the Sheriff Deputy, and walked to find Jerimiah.

When I sat down next to him, he saw in my face something was up, so he asked. I explained that three young women in front of me all had pepper spray on their key chains and had to leave them with the officer. He shrugged his shoulders and said something like, “Oh sure.” Then I got really mad at him, even though it wasn’t his fault. I got made cause he’s a guy, and for him sure, yeah, that makes sense. You can’t carry pepper spray into the MVD, but that wasn’t what was bothering me. I had already jumped three steps ahead of him. He must have seen the anger flash in my eyes because he said, “But I mean, it’s sad that they have to carry it at all.” Good save, husband.

Because yeah, it is sad, and it’s also total fucking bullshit. It’s total fucking bullshit that as women we know we have to always be on the lookout for someone, ahem a man, to hurt us physically. Or want to. We can never rest. We can never not think about walking to our cars in an empty lot late at night. My husband doesn’t think twice about it, meanwhile I’ve been told countless times, since I can remember, to kick at the groins. To stick my fingers in eye sockets. To hell, “Fire!” To kick headlights out. To never let them take you to a second location. I’ve been those young women. My mom bought me my first can of mace when I was 16, and got my first job. I’ve been scared in a hotel hallway alone with a man I didn’t know walking my direction. I’ve nestled my keys in between my fingers to use as a possible shiv in a moment of panic. We all have. It’s what we’ve been conditioned to do. And it’s such fucking bullshit.

I don’t have an answer here, y’all. Never usually do. But I do want to say that rape culture is real. And we need to start believing victims. We need to start teaching our boys about consent. We need to start teaching our boys that just because a girl wears a short skirt, doesn’t mean anything to you. We need to start having these real, tough conversations. And we need to get people like Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh out of our high offices. Because it starts from the top. I know there is a lot to be mad about right now, but there is nothing more important than helping people feel and be safe. Especially women and children. Especially women of color. Especially transgender women. Especially those who can’t defend themselves. Especially. Especially. Especially.

Take care of yourselves ladies. I wish you didn’t have to carry that pepper spray, but please keep doing it, cause change takes time. Remember to be vigilant. To watch out for yourselves, and for others.

❤️

M.

ATL Traffic

This might be an unpopular opinion, this might even anger some of you who have ever muttered, “Atlanta traffic is horrible,” but I got some truth coming atcha right now: It’s not the locals who cause the problems, it’s all y’all other people. Follow me please, but not too closely. I’ve been in the Atlanta-Metro area long enough to see some traffic patterns, which I think is the first important point. Before we moved here we had only spent a weekend in Atlanta, and most of the people who groaned when they heard we were moving here, and shook their heads and said, “Oh, the traffic!” have only ever spent maybe, I dunno, a week in the area. Most of them were just driving through. You really have to spend time in Atlanta to “get” the traffic patterns. You have to spend time and exercise patience, because Atlanta doesn’t need you to teach Atlanta how to drive, Atlanta gonna teach you how to drive.

Now before I go any further, I want to clarify something. I’m not saying there isn’t horrible traffic in Atlanta, or that it’s isn’t congested, or dangerous, or even scary at times, it is all of those things. In fact, in the INRIX 2017 Global Traffic Scoreboard Atlanta was ranked No. 8 in the race for world’s worst traffic, stuck in between London and Paris. Now mind you that is for traffic congestion only, but still, it’s not all roses, and I’m not claiming that it is. Atlanta is congested because it is populated, yes, but also because in order to get ANYWHERE in the Southeast United States, you pretty much have to travel through Atlanta. We are the convergence of many interstate highways, including our coveted/despised “Spaghetti Junction” named so because from the air it looks like someone took a bunch of spaghetti and dropped it on the ground. So yeah, we play a major role in getting to anywhere ’round here. We have: Interstates 20, 75, 85 and Georgia 400. I-285 forms a beltway around the city, but don’t even think about calling it a “beltway,” it’s colloquially knows as the “God-damned, piece of shit, Perimeter” and that’s how you know where something is. Is your doctor’s office, for instance, inside or outside the perimeter? If it’s inside, then it’s ITP (ITP! That’s for the Goldbergs fans), if it’s outside it’s OTP (OTP!). And also, if it’s inside, then bless your heart.

We also happen to be a hub for Delta, and a southern hub for Megabus, which provides service to Washington, D.C., New Orleans, New York City, Birmingham, Dallas, Nashville, and Indianapolis, among others. So yeah, people get here, and then they leave, but not before driving around a bit. And therein lies the problem.

I have noticed, from real-world Atlanta driving over the course of the last six months, that people who don’t live in Fulton Country, or Cobb County, or DeKalb County just make things worse. And I have boiled it down to three very distinct reasons. 1. They lack speed and 2. They lack confidence. 3. They are not observant.

The first one is self-explanatory. The 70 mph speed limit is more of a suggestion in Atlanta. In fact, if you are ever going less than 70 miles an hour, you are either on a Megabus, an out-of-towner, or in some type of congestion. That’s it. Otherwise you’re cruising along about 85 and slamming on your breaks when you need to. Case closed. Get new brake pads before you come.

The second one takes a bit more explaining. When I say confidence in driving I mean it in every sense of the word. You have to be confident about where you are going, but also confident that if you happen to get forced into an exit that you didn’t mean to take, you have to confidently take it and find an alternative route. Which is really easy because there are like 17 different ways to get to the same place here. Just keep driving and let your GPS reroute. Simple as that.

I also mean confident in your driving abilities and your decision-making. Look it, if you see that open spot in the lane next to you and you think, hmm, I should maybe, well should I get over, I mean my exit is in two miles and… too late! Someone already took your spot. See what I mean? Make the decision, then do it. Be confident. No need to stick a blinker on, just go fast into that spot, beat that Cadillac Escalade, don’t worry your VW has the power. Unless it doesn’t, then please rent a car that does before you get on the highway.

What happens, more often than not, is that tourists and passer-throughs, cause accidents and delays. They think, for example, that just because they are cruising along at 75 mph at mile marker 53, that they will still be cruising at that speed at mile marker 54, when in reality, no. You never go that fast for that long. There’s always a break check up ahead. Which leads me to No. 3.

Let’s say you’re still thinking about that open spot. No one has taken it yet, and you’re gathering up the courage, but still you’re driving along in the middle lane, minding your own business. You look over one more time and see that it is still open, so you decide to move. You put your blinker on to let the other drivers know you are coming over, then you start to go over, but oh no! You’ve taken too long and someone jumped over a moment before you did. Luckily, you were being observant and saw them. They didn’t indicate, so you had know way of knowing what was coming. See what I mean? What is wrong with these people? You think to yourself, as you try to get back to your original spot, but just then the hair on the back of your neck stands up and you see nothing but break lights ahead so you slam on your breaks, mid lane, which prevents you from both hitting the car in front of you, and being hit by the car behind you which had run up very fast to take your original spot. Good on your for being observant!

See, it doens’t take long to “get” Atlanta traffic, just a bit of trial and error, moving at a much higher rate of speed than you are comfortable with, having a sixth-sense about what other drivers might do, and not wasting time with actually thinking about your next move, just doing it!

Hmm, maybe Atlanta drivers are the problem…? Naaaaah!

Come on down, y’all, we’d love to have you! But maybe fly and we’ll just pick you up at the airport. About the airport… Nah, that’s another post.

M.

That Target Lady

On the eve of my son’s 11th birthday I can’t stop thinking about what a woman said to me in Target when he was about nine months old. We were walking along the bread aisle, one of my favorites because as you know my first true love is Carbs. Anyway, we were walking along and I was singing the alphabet song and he was laughing and giggling and pretending to sing along. I stopped to contemplate kaiser rolls vs. pretzels rolls—this was when I could still tolerate white bread, oh those were the days—and a cart came screeching around the corner of our aisle and a very fast-paced, older woman was walking toward us with a smile. I was nervous at first because older women scare me, generally, because they usually say whacked-out things to me like, Why don’t you wear make-up more often? and Ladies shouldn’t use the F-word. I thought, Oh for fuck’s sake, what is this about? She sped up to a stop right next to me and grabbed my naive, fat arm, and exclaimed, This baby! Oh my goodness! He’s a doll! Look at this hair! (He had those blond, wispy baby curls then.) And his laughter! I heard him laughing two aisles over and just had to come and find him! I was a little taken aback. I mean women are usually drawn to babies like Jackson, this wasn’t the first time that I had experienced this, but this woman, she had more to say and she was talking to so fast trying to get it out before the fear in my eyes made me smile politely and wander away.

Listen to me, she started, gripping my arm tighter, this goes so fast. So fast! And I know you’ve heard this. I know you get sick of hearing it, but you hear it because damn it is true. It feels like one day you put them down for a nap and the next you are taking pictures of them at their high school homecoming. Between the practices, the long school days, the arguments over money and taking the car out at night, the piano recitals and the sleepovers, somewhere along the line it speeds up and you don’t want it to, but there is nothing you can do. Nothing! But to enjoy every, single moment. Even the hard ones. Even all the years of puberty. Be grateful. Promise me?

I wasn’t sure what to say, so I just nodded blindly. I may have mumbled a I promise, but honestly I was thinking who is this woman and what is her deal? Is she mentally unstable? Is she trying to steal my baby?

Then she looked down at him once more, gave him a little tickle. He smiled and gave her another adorable laugh. She laughed too, with tears in her eyes, and she told me to have a good day and she walked away.

I’ve never forgotten that lady. She’s made appearances in my writing over the last nine years. She’s appreared in my head when I’m trying desperately to be grateful, but it just isn’t coming easily. She’s come to me in dreams and nightmares. She’s always been there. I wish I would have asked her name, or how many children she had, or grandchildren. How many she had lost, or gained. How to keep them close, even if I can’t keep them little. But I didn’t ask her any of that. I just watched her walk away, grabbed my kaiser rolls, and smiled down at this nine-month-old sweet, monster who had wrecked havoc on my body and was currently wrecking havoc on my home, my life, and my heart.

Last night I laid in Jackson’s bed with him and recounted his birth story. We do this every year. We all do right? Even well after they don’t want to hear anymore. He amuses me. He asks me questions, he laughs when it is appropriate. He knows by now that I need to share the story with him once a year, just as much as he needs to hear it. But this time the Target woman was with us too. Because Christ, she was right.

She was so right.

Hold those babies tight. Rock them to sleep while they still let you. Let them linger in your arms even after your arms are prickly and pained. Let them watch that second episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Watch it with them. Laugh and yell: Mimmie Musse, Mimmie Musse! Cause damn it, one day that will all be gone, and you will wish for just one more time.

And one day, when we are those old ladies in the Target aisle, don’t be ashamed to grab the arm of a naive mommy and tell her to enjoy it, because honestly, honestly, she has no idea.

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.

To the Taffy-pulling Room!

Sonofabitch you guys, I haven’t been watching television enough. Not nearly as much as Mike Teevee, anyway, which is secretly my dream. I’ve been too busy and it shows. Football is apparently back? It’s almost the fall and new shows come out in the fall and I don’t know what any of the new shows are and I’m stressing out because when I do watch television I watch sad Netflix documentaries like that one where that lady with a mental illness lived in an abandoned house for a year and existed solely on apples and then someone found her dead body. Or, hey, what about that one where that lady with a mental illness started collecting ducks, then ten years later the SPCA had to step in and take 96 ducks, geese, chickens, roosters, and turkeys from her house because her husband called them on her and then they got divorced, but not really, then he died from diabetes, so he never got to see how she cleaned up the chicken shed and got a new house but she was only able to do that because he died and she inherited money he was saving for her. Or what about that one where the lady with the mental illness kills her… wait, is there a theme here?

Anyway, I need to branch out and I know it. I mean don’t get me wrong, I watch the jail shows too. Like that one where the teenage girls are given a second chance before being tried as adults and are sent to this like, little girl prison, where they have to go to school and stuff. I’m all caught up on that. Or that one that is filmed in Gwinnett County, Georgia in one of the biggest, most bad-ass jails in the country. I watch that one because Gwinnett County is right next to us. Like my husband works in Gwinnett County. So I mean, we’re like family, the convicts and me.

Speaking of convicted family members, I have several. But that’s another post.

Ohhh, I also watch those home remodeling shows. Not the ones that are on like cable television (we don’t have cable, have I mentioned this?) I watch the ones on Netflix. Like “Tiny House Nation” and that one where that mom and daughter team up in Indianapolis and are like remodeling old homes one-by-one in their own neighborhood. I mean it’s pure gentrification, but their dynamic is funny.

I tried to watch MTV Teen Mom Season 3 the other day but it said I needed an account that supported MTV. Uh… Anyone have a log in for me?

So I guess what I am saying is, hmm, maybe I do watch a lot of t.v.?

Here are the names of the really good documentaries on Netflix now, in case you are so inclined to sit alone and cry one afternoon like me:

There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane

Blackfish

Brother’s Keeper

Audrie and Daisy

Evil Genius

Abducted in Plain Sight

Amanda Knox

Period. End of Sentence.

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

Have You Seen Andy?

God Knows Where

For the Birds

Happy (or mainly sad) watching!

M.

Color Doesn’t Matter

I’m gonna stop you right there. Color does matter, and if you are one of these people walking around saying it doesn’t then you are not paying a lot of attention. Color matters. It matters so much in fact, that for us to brush it aside is actually, literally, killing people. Listen, I’m not stupid enough to think that just because you have uttered the phrase, “Color doesn’t matter” that you are a raging racist. I too have said this phrase in my life. I said it to my son when he was a little guy, trying to explain to him that it doesn’t matter that the kids on either side of him are different shades of brown (not that he cared, or even paid attention), but I said it to make myself feel better, to show that I was hip to this idea. I was, in my own way, trying to dumb something very complex, down, way down to my child, and possibly to myself. But I do not say that to my son anymore. In fact, he will be 11 years old next month and he is very aware now that color matters. It matters in everything we do.

Color mattering is what founded this country. If you were white, awesome! Welcome to this new land! If you were a Native American and already lived here, move over, walk 400 miles from your native Navaho Holy Land because we have better ways to make use of it. If you are black, no problem. You can be brought here, against your will, to be our slaves. Chinese? Want to build our railroads? You are smart, hard workers. Yeah, but you can only do that. See the trend here?

Our history is rife with color mattering, so when you tell your children that color doesn’t matter, you raise the very people that are part of the problem today. The white man who just doesn’t get why the Mexican-American man next to him is asking for a pay raise. You either think he makes the same as you already (but he does not, because color matters) or you think he doesn’t deserve more than you, after all, you are the white man. You don’t get why black people are scared of the police. You don’t believe there is such a thing as “white privilege” because to you, color doesn’t matter. Or at least it shouldn’t. And no it shouldn’t. But it does. And if we keep pretending that it doesn’t, then it always will.

So the next time you hear someone say, “Color doesn’t really matter. I don’t know why they are making such a fuss,” and you don’t step in, and you don’t explain to them why color does matter, well then, you’re just part of the problem. It’s time to take a stand, for everyone.

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.

The In-between Girl

As far back as I can remember I have felt out of place. I’ve felt like I didn’t belong. Like I was one kind of girl, living in a world where it was best to be the other kind of girl. It wasn’t until grad school, and my introduction to the term Imposter Syndrome, that I had some sense of what I had been feeling for so long. Where I come from, people don’t go to grad school. Where I come from, people don’t go to college, some don’t even earn a high school diploma. They opt instead, for their GED at 16 years old or at 40, whenever the need arises for them to get a pay raise at their hourly job. Their hourly job is at the warehouse where they load the UPS trucks at four am, or down at the Walmart, where a HS diploma can mean the difference between $9/hr and $9.50/hr. So you can imagine my surprise, when sitting in a giant auditorium at UNC Charlotte—feeling completely out of place and wondering why the English department let me into their program—when those big, bold letters came across the screen: Imposter Syndrome. My jaw dropped. Me, a small-town Kansas girl who should have just put her head down and taken a job as a receptionist at a doctor’s office or as a cashier at a grocery store, was actually realizing a dream that, to some, seemed ridiculous. Reading those words and finally understanding what I had been feeling my whole life, well it was a surprise, but it was also a new sort of freedom, albeit one that didn’t last very long.

I finished grad school, if you are wondering, and I got by okay. It became clear to other people, pretty quickly, that I should be there. Classmates, professors, my family. But it was never clear to me. I struggled with not fitting in the whole time I was there. I was too old to hang out with the other students, I was too young to feel a camaraderie with the instructors. I was too shy to get involved with organizations, I was too direct to be good at sparking conversation. I showed up to things I wasn’t expected to, and missed events they had planned for me to attend. I didn’t feel like I was in the right concentration, so I switched my major in my second year, where I felt even more out of place than before. The list goes on. And now here I am, a woman from a history of blue-collar workers, explaining why art is important to a family who doesn’t “get me,” while my back is to a world of intellectuals, fellow artists and writers, a new and economically advantaged group of friends who have no idea what government cheese tastes like, and I am feeling out of place, again. I’m stuck in-between these two worlds, and sometimes I don’t think I belong to either.

I’m not unique, then again I’m not claiming to be. There is a whole host of people like me. People who’ve left the Section 8 houses. People who looked into the mirror and decided this life is not for them. People who have scraped their way into college or trade school. People who have taken $100 and turned it into a million dollars. And there they are, feeling like they don’t belong. The weight of their own history pulling them down. I’m not complaining either, even though it might seem that way. I know I did what was right for me. And I know that my family back home is proud of me. They may not get what I do, or what I write, or how I see the world, but I know they are proud that I did what I set out to do. I’m not a cautionary tale, like some of the others, rather an example to follow. And I constantly carry that on my back, as I reach behind and pull up the next generation who are looking for a way out.

But in the moment, in the day to day, I never know how I will feel. I never know how out of place I look toting a $50 bottle of wine to an event I have been invited to because I know someone, who knows someone, who is hosting a writers group that focuses on art as a form of healing. But I feel it. I never know how people will take me when I go back home, run into an old friend at CVS, give them a hug, ask how they have been, with a stupid, genuine grin, as I listen to the happenings of my old hometown. I always wonder if they see me as an outsider. Because I feel like one.

I wish this was a teachable moment of some kind. I like teachable moments, but it isn’t. This is just me, admitting the way I feel a lot of the time. Maybe this will resonate with some of you, maybe not. But if I can, let me just say this: People worry a lot. People feel like they don’t fit in. People feel like outsiders. If you are one of the confident ones, bring those people into your fold. Ask them to participate. Give them a shot. They may never feel like they belong, but at least they won’t feel like they don’t.

M.