Truth and Honesty

“‘What is truth?’ said Pontius Pilate, who probably wrote elegant essays in his spare time. I would be more willing to attach myself to the word ‘honesty’. We may not ever be in possession of the truth, but at least as nonfiction writers we can try to be as honest as our courage permits. Honest to the world of facts outside ourselves, honest in reporting what we actually felt and did, and finally, honest about our own confusions and doubts.”

That’s a line from Phillip Lopate’s To Show and To Tell, a craft book on creative nonfiction and obviously a line in my commonplace book. This struggle for truth I’m on. This constant trying to get it right, to the best of my memory, well, it’s a slippery slope. A hard time. And more and more I’m wondering about being the most honest version of myself. Regardless of how others want to claim my truth, their truth, the truth. Whatever the truth is.

But am I courageous enough? That’s the real question. Here I am twiddling my thumbs, asking for others to give me permission, but for what? To speak my own honesty? To give myself permission to go there, wherever there is?

I think I’ve been seeking permission for too long. I think we probably all have, in our own small ways. I think it’s time to be done with that. Be courageous in your honesty. Courageous in your doubts and confusion. Let them have their truth.

M.

It’s Just a Swimming Pool

“Which pool do you belong to?” Is a question that has popped up more than I’d like to say since we’ve lived in Georgia. I didn’t know the pool you belong to, sets you up for success or failure in Atlanta. I didn’t know a pool membership could set one up for success or failure. I didn’t know pool memberships were even a thing. But I didn’t know much about the Deep South until I got here.

Back home in the Midwest, and even just a few states North of here in Charlotte, pools are just public watering holes you pay a couple bucks to go to for an afternoon of fun. All the best subdivisions have them, but there’s no membership forms, a key fob just comes with your HOA dues. And I know y’all weren’t around back then, but we used to have a 31,000 gallon pool in our backyard, so your pool has to be top-notch to impress us. But, here. Well here the competitive summer swimming pool racket is crazy. With some pools touting swim teams, and three level slides, and chili-cook offs (in this southern heat?!) and meal swapping, and babysitting, and new cars! Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but what I’m not exaggerating is the cost.

We were quoted from one “neighborhood” pool a price of $1,200 for our family of three to enjoy their amenities for three solid months. A “wise investment” the membership woman told me, at the start of a global pandemic. Think of the money I’ll save. Save from what? From whom? How? What is happening?

If you’re confused about what I’m saying right now, welcome to my life. This is a real thing, y’all. Just another way for people to judge you, I suppose. Which pool do I belong to?! I don’t. Not yet anyway.

That was a really long intro to say that we got invited to a pool party this weekend and we went and we had fun and it was with good people at a nice pool (that doesn’t cost $1,200 to join, and you don’t have to make reservations at because it’s not crowded because it isn’t a “cool” one.) It was quiet. It was carefree. People social distanced. Disinfected the tables and chairs. Kids jumped off the diving board. The crowd cheered. Libations were shared. It felt almost, for a split second, like summer. It was magical.

So I dunno. Maybe I’ll join a pool, after all. But until then, no, I don’t want to hear about your membership dues and no I don’t care if your private-school kid meets his friends under the purple umbrella, and nah, I know your kind and I’m good. You stay in your swim lane, I’ll stay in mine.

Jesus, y’all. It’s just a swimming pool.

Missy

Sweeping The South

I’m sitting in my sun porch in Central Georgia, on a humid summer day, drinking a glass of iced tea, re-reading Eudora Welty’s “The Ponder Heart” in preparation for my entrance into Mississippi University for Women’s MFA program in about three weeks, and I can’t help but wonder how a Kansas girl, Midwest born and bred, ended up here, in the Deep South, with a penchant for Mississippi history, iced tea with lemon, hot, pan-fried chicken, and monogrammed towels. When did this happen? How did this happen?

I don’t feel Southern. At least not in the ways that one thinks a “Southerner” should feel, yet I’ve lived in The South for 16 years now. I’m fast approaching that point in my life where I’ve actually lived in The South longer than I was in the Midwest. Kansas is the Midwest, though sometimes it’s just west. It is not part of The South, that we can be sure of, never was. Considered itself a Northern state. Kansas, the Free State, a refuge for the Southern enslaved people. It was just unorganized prairie during the 1850 Compromise. Didn’t even have a name or a state line. Wasn’t born yet. Wild. Scattered. Unexplored. Out West. But it is still really, really close to The South, and by association sometimes lumped in with it.

My son, on the other hand, is the only true Southerner in our family. He was born in Southern Missouri, has lived in both North Carolina and Georgia, and is starting to develop a bit of a drawl, depending on the word and the company. He’s spent his whole life south of the Mason Dixon, but you wouldn’t actually be able to tell, if you didn’t know. He’s all Northern in manner and way of thinking. If we are still prescribing to the ways people in the North and South think. For me it depends, some days I see the differences, some days I don’t.

The biggest lessons for me since living in The South has been the debunking of some long held beliefs I had:

  • Southern hospitality thrives here
  • All Southerners are dumb
  • Racism left with Jim Crow

These are all inaccurate and based on harsh stereotypes, and even harsher realities. I only share them now to let you have a glimpse into what is said about The South from people who have never been here. Those are three popular things.

  • Not everyone in The South is hospitable. And it’s usually the people you would think would be, that in fact, are not.
  • Not everyone in The South is a dumb, uneducated, hillbilly. To be fair, there are far more of them here than anywhere else, but they are not the majority. It is true, however, that the further from civilization you go, the more frequently they surface.
  • Racism is alive and well here. Just like it is everywhere. It never left. You can look it straight in the eye at your neighborhood Winn Dixie, your local YMCA, your kid’s elementary school, your husband’s office. In Atlanta. In Biloxi. In Memphis, and in Orlando. Racism is everywhere, and everyone knows it, but most people just sweep it under the rug.

Which leads me to the biggest lesson of them all: The sweeping.

That’s a truly Southern thing. Sweeping things under the rug. Uncomfortable things you don’t want to deal with. Unsightly things you don’t want to see. Sweep. Sweep. Sweep. We don’t have racism here because we sweep. We don’t have a drug problem here because we sweep. Human trafficking, crimes against children, gangs, and addiction? Not here. Sweep. Sweep. Sweep. Sweep. Here we just have a rowdy history, or “heritage” as the true Southerner has been programmed to call it. I remind my son quite a bit that the history of his home is riddled with hate, addiction, racism, uneducated bullies making a mockery of our country. I want him to know the truth. The harsh, unbridled truth. I want him to learn it, see it, and then grow from it. I don’t want him to get comfortable with the sweeping.

So I guess here I am. Sitting in my sun porch, on a humid Central Georgia day, thinking about how I have navigated the last 16 years. What I have learned, how I have grown. And wondering how to keep learning and growing, in a place that sometimes makes learning and growing hard to do. I’ll do my best. You do the same.

M.

Walking the Boundary Line

Let’s talk about boundaries today, y’all. I am 38 years old and have just realized for the first time that people will do anything they can to overstep your boundaries. Seriously. I know some of you are like, Damn, that is naive Missy, and you are right. How naive of me! I truly used to think that if you set your boundaries and told a normal person, like a family member, someone you love and who loves you, that they will respect those boundaries. They usually didn’t. And when they did not respect them I made excuses for them. Like, Well, they must be going through a lot right now, so I will just pretend like I didn’t set those boundaries and I will just let them mow right through them. Eek. That’s not good.

What are boundaries even? Well, some are just absolute truths about yourself that people should know and respect. One of mine is that I am painfully honest. So if you tell me to be honest with you, I will. You don’t have to force me, or ask me more than once. I am very comfortable in complete honesty. I can sit in truth for long periods of time, even the uncomfortable kind. And if you are new to this, it can be hard to be around me. But it is something that people know about me, it’s a boundary that I have. The particular wording for this boundary might be that I will not accept lies, or half-truths, or bullshit. I did that for too long. I know a few people who have their own, opposite boundaries when it comes to truth, and I try to respect those, but we don’t have the best time together. I will never be fully open with someone who can’t accept my complete truth and the way I approach it. Because truth should be universal, but it isn’t, that’s where my boundary gets tripped up. And I have spent more time than I would like taking shots about telling the truth. Having family members try to shush me. Trying to guilt me one way or another into not telling the truth. Usually they are just afraid I will say something bad about them, but what they don’t get is this is my truth. That’s all I share. If they are in my truth they are in my truth, I can’t photoshop them out of memory. Believe me, I wish some people I could.

Another boundary I have is that I expect kindness. Not niceness. I don’t want to be around someone who is fake and who does things and says things for accolades. I want kind people. The real, salt-of-the-Earth, honest (because that goes hand in hand with kindness) people. I want to surround myself with people who do selfless acts and tell no one. Not a soul. Those my people. It’s like donating to a charity. Jerimiah and I do that regularly, and sometimes I share it online in order to guilt other people into doing it. (Hey, some people only work from a place of shame and guilt, just ask Mama Brene.) But I don’t do it to say, “Look at me! Look what I did!” I don’t need a pat on the back to know I did the right thing, I do the right thing because I know it needs done. And some people can’t respect that. Don’t understand that. And will spend many, many days and nights showing me how they are “nice,” but not kind.

Sometimes boundaries are actual, physical boundaries. Have you ever went in for a hug with someone and they sort of stiffened up? Or backed away? Or put their hand out for a handshake? Take note of that. They are telling you they have a boundary. A physical one. Not me. I’m a hugger. I often want to hug people I have just met if I get a good vibe from them, but that’s weird, and goes against a lot of people’s boundaries, and some social norms, so I don’t. But once I get the go ahead from you, I mean just one hug, that’s it, I’m done. Hugging all the way. But I do know and love people who do not like to be hugged, and I am absolutely aware, and I try to keep the hugging to a minimum. I also know and love people who have a hard time saying, ‘I love you.” Got it, we can do that in other ways too. But I DO LOVE YOU, YOU ASSHOLES!

Boundaries for your kids is nuts. Not boundaries with your kids, that’s a parenting deal, I mean boundaries for your kids. Like when you have a baby and have all these ways you want to raise them and people just won’t shut the fuck up and let you do it that way. Too many opinions. Too much judgement and shaming. Jerimiah and I had THE hardest time getting our parents to understand that we did not want Jackson to have food, actual food, until his first birthday. Only breast milk and formula as needed. It did not compute to them. How could a child not eat food? Well, he was eating food, the right food for him. Seriously, I know that is weird for some people to hear, but babies absolutely do not need to eat anything other than milk for the first year and they are totally okay and living and all the things. It’s just a hard thing to set boundaries for your kids. Another example, I have always told Jackson that he does not have to hug a single person. Not one. He doesn’t even need to hug me if he doesn’t feel like it. I mean I kid him all the time and tell him to come give me a hug, and he does willingly, because we are all huggers (even Jerimiah although he doesn’t look like it), but I was very clear that he need not hug a second-cousin, once removed that he has never met before. And he won’t if he doesn’t want to. And we have gotten some looks from family and all I can say is, it’s called boundaries people. Learn them, live them, respect them.

Anyway, those are just some boundaries I have been thinking about today. Do you know what some of yours are? Do you talk about them with your family and friends? Your therapist? Therapists are awesome at helping you set boundaries, or learning the tools/language you need to set them yourself. And as usual, I’m here to help to, though I am not a trained professional, I can help you find the resources you need.

Sending love and hugs, and wishes that your boundaries are respected today and everyday.

M.

News Alert

I‘ve been struggling to stay away from the news lately. Struggling because it’s important to stay informed, but I also know what the news does to me, and I know that the way people respond to news is even worse. It’s one thing to get an alert that says our president is threatening to cut funding to schools if we don’t go back full time in August, it’s another thing altogether to see family and friends share his sentiment in agreement. Like really?! Weren’t you just saying three months ago how awesome teachers are, and how important school is for your kids, and how everyone should have more money?! It’s disheartening to say the least.

The news alerts I get on my phone are usually the worst, and they have been coming fast and furious over the last few months. The ones that tell me another child was murdered. Or police killed another Black man, or that the cases of COVID-19 have skyrocketed. Shit man. It’s like we can’t catch a break.

I know I’m not alone in this. There are a million memes about how fucked up 2020 has been, about how we wish we could just wish it all away. But the thing is, we can’t. And maybe that’s good. Maybe it’s time we face the news. So much has come to light over the last few months. How much we have realized about how disgusting, and backwards, and ridiculous our country really is. How gross we treat each other. How one minute we say things like, “Teachers are saints who should be paid more!” Then the next minute we say, “I don’t care if teachers get COVID, the economy needs to get back to work!” Wow. Just wow.

That’s where I find myself today. At the crossroads of wanting to be informed and wanting to crawl into a hole and never come out. How about you?

Be safe and sane, y’all.

M.

A Whole Bunch of Racism

Here are some things that have been said to me, in front of me, I have overheard, or that I have witnessed in my lifetime that are acts of covert racism (and sometimes overt). This is not an exhaustive list, just top of mind stuff. These are all bad. They are wrong. They are part of the cog in the structural racism wheel. Recognize if you have heard or said any of these things, and change them straight away. This is not okay. It wasn’t okay in 1987, it is not okay now.

  • They are good athletes
  • Don’t date a Black boy
  • I would hate if my child had a mixed race baby
  • We look like Mexicans headed to El Paso (in reference to a loaded truck)
  • It’s a very “dark” place (meaning a lot of Black people frequent it)
  • All Lives Matter
  • That is reverse racism (that is not a thing that exists)
  • They are “thugs”
  • I have a Black friend
  • They are probably smuggling drugs
  • I can’t tell my husband I dated a Black guy
  • My family never owned a slave, so we aren’t racists
  • I don’t see color
  • They smell like rice and beans
  • She’s a Welfare Queen (said by a white woman who was on welfare, discussing her Black neighbor who was also on welfare)
  • All her kids probably don’t even have the same dad
  • The only way we will move forward is to stop talking about the past! (Then one moment later) We can’t take statues down, we can’t just erase our history!
  • I hear they eat their own dogs
  • It’s heritage, not hate
  • They should just go back to where they came from
  • They get a Black History month, we should get a white history month too!
  • Black women use abortion as birth control
  • What are you?
  • “Kung-Flu” (I think we all know who said that)
  • But I was discriminated against too, we all are
  • She’s really pretty for a Black girl
  • I just don’t understand why they are so angry? I grew up poor too.
  • Rap music is too explicit
  • (People whispering the word Black)
  • BET exists?! What about White Entertainment Television? Why can’t we have our own channel?!
  • I just think the way they dance is gross
  • I say just let them all kill each other
  • How can they see through those slanted eyes?
  • Black on Black crime

Yeah, that’s a thing.

Also, I Googled Susan Smith because I remembered how she killed her children then blamed a Black man. That sent me down a long rabbit hole on the internets and I came across this video from 2012. The creator is Calvin Michaels, and he shared things he’s heard white people say. It’s pretty spot on. It’s only six minutes and totally worth a watch.

And while we are at it, in The Long History of Racism Against Asian Americans from PBS, you can read about how Asian Americans have always been discriminated against.

And you can educate yourself about how Latino Americans have been and still are treated in our country with The Brutal History of Anti-Latino Discrimination in America.

Thanks for stopping on by. Hope you learned something. Read on, y’all.

M.

Shit or Get Off the Pot

Things are a hot mess in Atlanta right now. We had a deadly Fourth of July weekend, several children have been shot in the last week, and Covid-19 never really left. But yesterday morning our governor decided to be a real governor and say something about the violence. I mean, God forbid he take action to help save us from the global pandemic that is sweeping our state, or listen to what the people in Atlanta (the largest municipality and the capital of the state) are angry about, but “extra” violence in Atlanta, that warrants a stern talking to. Matter of fact he said, “While we stand ready to assist local leaders in restoring peace and maintaining order, we won’t hesitate to take action without them.” Well, hold up, let me rephrase, he Tweeted that. So he didn’t actually address the problem on a public stage, he didn’t actually do anything, he just sat at his desk and Tweeted his ideas. Sound like anyone else we know?

The problem isn’t so much the fact that he threatened the city, it’s that once again he didn’t do shit about a problem until a domestic spotlight was shone upon us, then he threatened. Remember how we have talked about leadership coming from the top down? Atlanta, like all other large municipalities, has a very particular set of problems, and because of it’s shear size, it makes it difficult to fix many of these problems, especially when you want to just fix them overnight. Listen, I’ve only been here a little over a year, but I can already see that the way things have been going, are not helping. This is an instance where, “But it’s always been done that way,” isn’t working and things need to be changed, and I know I sound like a broken record here, but it starts with voting. Then it moves out from there. Volunteering. Donating. Sharing knowledge you gain. Educating people.

When we moved to Atlanta a year ago we were nervous. We had heard horrible things about the city we have come to love. The horrible things were mainly racist bullshit that out-of-towners don’t feel comfortable talking about. That was our first lesson. Because when you really strip Atlanta down, down to its roots, it isn’t pretty, but it’s important. Vital, even. Like did you know Atlanta and the Black vote was the single biggest game-changer in getting John F. Kennedy elected back in 1960? I didn’t either, until I came here and had a history lesson.

Say what you will about Atlanta, but until you are here, living in it, taking the Marta to historical places, reading about the culture and society (which by the way some people who have lived here for 20 years don’t even do or know about) then I won’t listen to you anymore. I can’t. I won’t listen to our racist, hypocritical governor either. I can’t. Too many people are dying here. Too many people need help. And I’ve been waxing for a year now about how I can help. Saying I can’t, or I shouldn’t, it isn’t my place. But the fact is, this is my place. This is my home. I don’t know how long it will be, but it is now and that is all that matters. I’m a Georgian now. I live in a suburban town just steps outside the perimeter and I have two choices: I can tell people I live in Tucker, where the schools are sweet and the people are all wonderful, and the houses are big and there is opportunity for growth, or I can say I live in the Atlanta Metro and we need help. A lot of fucking help.

When I was little and I needed to make a decision about one thing or another, about what my actions needed to be, and I was stuck and so very afraid my mom would say, “Welp Missy, it’s shit or get off the pot time,” and I’m finally feeling that here in Atlanta. It’s time to either dig in and help, put in the time, and the effort, and the heart, or it’s time to leave. Stay my happy-ass in the comfortable parts of life. I’ll give you one guess what I’m about to do…

It’s time to shit or get off the pot, y’all. What are you gonna do?

M.

The Ozarks

Dollar General and Jesus. Lakes and guns. Fishing and methadone clinics. Oh my! We just got back from the Ozarks yesterday and I wanted to share some pictures I took while I was there. I’ll let you form your own opinions about where exactly some of these were taken, but I’ll give you a hint: Very near Arkansas. It’s important to keep an open mind about what is beauty up there, but some things you just have to see to believe. Glad to be home. Hope you’re all well, let’s touch base about our mental health tomorrow, today take a gander of some of the wonders of the Ozarks.

M.

Jim Bakker’s home! Is it two “K”s or three in Bakkker?

Political Masking

I can’t sleep. It’s three am, and I’m awake watching the light from the window stream in. The light is different out here in the country. It’s softer. It’s the moonlight. Starlight. It’s the things you can see more clearly in the dark. I’m in bed, awake, thinking about kindness. About masks. About how different the world suddenly is for my child. But mainly I’m thinking about kindness.

The fact that wearing a mask for public safety right now is a political stance, or an opinion, or a whatever the hell it is, is making me very upset, and I think what it boils down to is kindness. Not niceness, not a performative act (although shame might be the driving force for some people to wear one), but rather the ability to think about someone other than yourself. If your concern with wearing a mask is your freedom, or how you look in one, or how it will negatively impact you, you’re completely missing the point of the masks. This isn’t about you, it’s about us, the collective. It’s about saving as many fragile lives as we can. It isn’t about you, it’s about your friend’s great-grandma, or your sister’s mother-in-law, or your child’s friend with a compromised system. It’s about wanting everyone to survive this. It’s about doing the most good for the most amount of people, which is probably why you’ll find mask-wearing will fall along political lines. The most good for the most amount of people, yeah, we don’t all want that. And I’m just laying here tonight, watching the moonlight stream in, and I’m wondering how we came to a point when genuine kindness, generosity, and care for humankind become a political stance. Maybe it always has been, I was just too naive to notice?

Take care, be safe, wear a mask, stay home if you can.

M.

Hashtag Blessed

Woke up this morning thinking that I’m too stressed to feel blessed. You read that right: I’m too stressed to feel blessed. My stress level is off the charts. I’m not home during a global pandemic. I’ve got my kid traveling all over, seeing people who have not been taking this pandemic seriously. The lack of masks, social distancing, and isolation here is crazy. People are totally pretending like the numbers aren’t spiking. They think wearing a mask is sufficient. What the what? I want to be back at my house, alone, ordering my groceries again. I’m scared. I’m stressed. And if you aren’t, you are not paying attention.

Don’t get me wrong I’m having a good time, occasionally. Occasionally I forget that the world is a shitbag, upside place. Occasionally I drink so much wine with my husband and best friend that I forget. Or I’m on the lake, enjoying a boat ride. Like yesterday when we rolled up at the marina to get gas and snacks. It’s called “What’s Up Dock” and it’s cute, and lively, and had all the gas, Sprite, and potato chips we needed. They also has a ton of people. People walking around aimlessly, asking about jet ski rentals, and trying on “Table Rock” t-shirts, buy one, get one free. For a split second I forgot about Covid-19. It all seemed so normal. So free. So every, other summer of my life. Then I remembered.

I saw a bumper sticker on a car coming up here: “Too Blessed to be Stressed.” I smiled and thought, wouldn’t that be nice.

M.

Church

I woke up thinking about church today. Probably because it’s Sunday, certainly not because I’m a churchgoer. I’ve never been a churchgoers. I was never forced to go to church as a child, never had religion thrust upon me. My mom used to say she’d let her kids decide what to believe, though she herself was a Christian, it didn’t much matter back then what we believed in, as long as we were good, kind people. And we are. All of us. But we maybe didn’t go the path she expected.

I’m married to an atheist. The good kind. He doesn’t need a higher power to keep him in line. He likes to say that he does all the raping and pillaging he wants to, which is zero. He isn’t “acting” good in this life for fear of what the next will hold. He’s a good person because he’s a good person.

I’m in a “complicated” relationship with Jesus. God, well, I’m not a fan. But Jesus seemed cool, the man Jesus anyway. But even on my best days I can’t wrap my mind around church. Around organized religion. Too much hate, judgement, and evil takes places in many of those four walls, and I’ll pass. I’ll get my “church” the old-fashioned way, walking with Jesus alone, communing with nature, talking to y’all on this here blog.

My son has been raised with grandparents who don’t shy away from talking religion with him. My mom taught him to pray (she’s become very religious in her senior years and I’m sure regrets that whole “let my kids figure it out themselves” deal she did). So since Jackson was small she’s talked about her love for God to him, which is why I was pretty surprised the other day when he said, “Santa Claus is real, you know. He’s a real person, not like God who is just a belief.” Ouch. That’s some shit he made up in his own mind. Seems Santa, a jolly man who has magic and cares about all the children in the world, is easier to believe in than a God who makes people spew hate and judgment towards others. Of course my happy, kind, empathetic son believes in a man who has flying reindeer and brings smiles to children. And of course my smart, logical, realistic son can’t get behind a belief that spreads hate and has caused war and killing and disease. A belief people blindly stand behind. A belief that neglects some children based on how they came into this world, where they live, or how they practice their own faith. Of course.

So yeah, we aren’t headed to church today. But we are headed down to the lake for some fun, food, and fellowship. Is there anything else you can ask of a Sunday?

M.

Bitches, Bad and Boujee

I’m a White Claw drinker. That might take me down a peg or two with some of y’all, but I’m willing to risk that to assert my truth. I drink White Claws, and I like them. I’m a fan of seltzer water anyway, so you add alcohol to it and a little bit of watermelon flavoring and let’s be real, I’m fucking in. White Claws have a bad reputation, mainly because people are jealous, and don’t like to have fun, and are boujee with their alcohol choices, so they try to pass judgement on me but it won’t work. Fight me. I’m a bad bitch.

Anyway, White Claws keep me hydrated, and I never seem to get drunk on them, just a little tipsy, which is a good thing. It means I can drink all day at the lake for funsies and not feel bad the next day, which might be why there are no laws when you’re drinking Claws. (Disclaimer: There are in fact laws when you’re drinking Claws, as my 11-year-old likes to remind me.) But I mean, is there? Cause my White Claw koozie says otherwise.

Anyway, White Claw is owned by Mark Anthony brands, the same company who brought us Mike’s Hard Lemonade and totally changed the high school girl experience for the better back in the late 90s. The owner, Anthony (not Mark) started his company by selling wine out of the back of his car, which is both badass and boujee, so who’s a bitch now? Thanks Anthony, for all your hard work. I salute you.

Now go forth and have a safe, happy, law-free day, y’all.

M.

My Feelings Today

Sometimes when I don’t have the words, and I can’t figure out what is happening, or how I feel, or when I just can’t sort out my emotions I make little diagrams. It takes my mind off the stuff whirling inside, it makes me feel productive, it helps me figure out what I’m feeling. I drew this little ditty last night. Maybe you could try too? Maybe it will help you sort out your thoughts. This is just one tiny nugget of what I was trying to wade through last night, I could have ten more of these with different topics, but you know, the same topics. Most people I know and respect are somewhere in this web with me, and it isn’t fun. But if we don’t talk about it, openly, honestly, we won’t get very far.

I know this is a hard time for a lot of us. The ones paying attention, anyway. The ones trying to be better. The ones actively protesting against racism. And especially the ones living in the middle of it. I just want you all to know that you can feel lots of ways, about lots of things. And we will make mistakes. Geez, I’ve made a ton this last week. And I’ll make a ton more. And there have been people that I respected and admired fall, but man I’m trying to show grace. I really am.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Edit: I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, and didn’t share it because I was working on the #AmplifyMelanatedVoices Challenge. Then I thought it wasn’t really relevant anymore, but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if it still might be helpful for people who need an action to help them figure out their thoughts. So there you go. If it helps you great, if not, that’s okay too. Thanks for reading!

Muted and Listening

“Ideal Bookshelf: Anti-racism”, illustration by Jane Mount (www.idealbookshelf.com)

I’ve decided to take part in the #AmplifyMelanatedVoices Challenge created by @blackandembodied and @jessicawilson.msrd. I won’t be blogging, posting on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook from now until June 7th in an attempt to #MuteTheWhiteNoise. Instead I’ll be listening to what Black people have to say. I’ll be watching and looking at art created by Black artists and activists. I’ll be reading Black authors. I’ll be looking inward and reflecting on what I’m learning, how my world views need changing, and how I can help elevate the Black Community. Please follow the hashtags and the original creators of this challenge on Instagram.

Below you will find links to articles about white fragility and anti-racism by Black authors, as well as Black activists to follow on Instagram. I hope you can find time to educate yourself on these topics and listen to the unheard voices in the Black Community. Please remember that Google is your friend. Don’t rely on the people below, or any of your Black friends, colleagues, or Black people in your community to educate you. They are too busy and it isn’t their job. White supremacy and racism work because white people do not take a stand against it. It is a problem that white people created, and it is one that we need to work to end. It is time to take a stand, even toward people you love and admire. Our silence is deafening to the Black Community.

If you don’t already, please follow: @berniceking, @thekingcenter, @theconsciouskid, @rachel.cargle, @ckyourprivilege, @Ibramxk, @taranajaneen, @thegreatunlearn, @mspackyetti, and @staceyabrams. Check to see who they are following, and follow more. Be present in the conversations this week, but do not speak up. Just read and listen. Just listen.

Follow the hashtags #AhmaudArbery, #BlackLivesMatter, #BLM, #IRunWithAhmaud, #GeorgeFloyd, #RevolutionNow, #RadicalEmpathy, #BreonnaTaylor, #BlackoutTuesday, #MutedAndListening, #AntiRacism, #ICantBreathe, #WeCantBreathe, #SayTheirNames, #NoJusticeNoPeace to keep informed with the movement. **Please do not post with these hashtags, it was brought to my attention that some people are using them to follow the rioters and put them in harm’s way, and that coupled with the Blackout Tuesday movement, is blocking important #BLM info from getting out to the Black Community, just follow them for now.**

Read, read, read! Read the books listed in the illustration above for starters, and follow the authors on social media or on their paid Patreon accounts. Please keep in mind that some of these books have become very popular in the last few weeks (which is great), but I have heard of price gauging online. This in no way benefits the authors. Whenever possible, order the title from your local independent bookstore who supports Black writers. It may take a couple of weeks to get the book, because some are on backorder, but it is worth it. The titles from the illustration above are:

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? by Mumia Abu-Jamal
The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong
America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Good Talk by Mira Jacob
Blindspot by Mahzarin R. Banaji & Anthony G. Greenwald
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? by Moustafa Bayoumi
The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
When They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele
An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Mindful of Race by Ruth King
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson
Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
This Book Is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell & Aurélia Durand

In the meantime, here are some articles to get you started reading and thinking now:

https://www.theconsciouskid.org/white-fragility

https://medium.com/@ralindaspeaks/black-parents-know-about-the-talk-white-parents-its-your-turn-a6a1209e5be2

I’ve had a lot of white friends tell me they had no idea about the Tulsa Massacre. History.com has great information on what happened to the thriving Black Community in Tulsa in the early 1900s: https://www.history.com/news/black-wall-street-tulsa-race-massacre

As always, be well and safe. And please remember what Maya Angelou said: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

M.

Shower Shaver

I’m a shower shaver. Always have been. I remember learning to shave my legs in a tub of luke-warm water, after years of being tormented about my long, black leg hair by my sister, while my mother refused to let me near a razor. I was in fifth grade when I eventually stole my mom’s razor, sat in a tub for much longer than I should have and contemplated it. Then I just did it. My mom got mad. My sister laughed. I was bleeding from knee to ankle, but I was proud, so proud of my smooth legs. Now I wish I had never picked up a razor.

Shaving my legs, tweezing my eyebrows, waxing my mustache, Jesus, I’m so over all of it. I wish I was so body positive that I could stand proudly and say, Fuck you, World! While I flip the world the bird, and my mustache blows in the wind like Tom Selleck’s. But alas, I succumb to societal beauty standards, well some of them, like waxing, shaving, plucking, and zapping unwanted hair. Bleh.

The day we signed the papers on our current home my vision was clouded by the master bathroom. It’s beautiful. Small, but mighty. There’s only one small vanity and a toilet, but there is this wonderful shower! It is all glass, with stone floors (the bathroom itself has heated floors), and artful tile work throughout. It is floor to ceiling and has all the fancy accouterments that a shower should have. And it’s huge! It easily fits Jerimiah and me. Or Duke and Jackson and me, when we are in swimsuits trying to scrub mud from Duke’s legs while he attempts to run through the small opening that we leave in the door to let the smell of wet dog escape. It’s perfect.

But the first time I took a shower in it I realized there was nowhere for this shower-shaver to stick her legs when I shaved. It needed a bench. So I did what anyone would do, I hopped out of the shower, threw clothes on, ran to Homegoods, and bought a bamboo shower bench. Perfect. Except, well, today was the first time since I owned the bamboo bench the I actually sat on it to shave my legs.

Listen, I’m a creature of habit. Years and years of awkwardly standing in the tub, with my leg perched on the edge has made me think this is the only way. So the first time I shaved my legs with my bamboo bench in place, I just stuck my leg up on the bench and shaved standing up like usual. Then I kept doing it.

Don’t get me wrong, I use the bench. I sit on it regularly while the hot water from my raindrop faucet drips onto my head and I think about the world. I cry on my bamboo bench. A lot. Y’all know I’m a shower cryer, I don’t have time to defend that. I cried on that bamboo shower bench the first week we lived here because I missed Charlotte and I didn’t want to live in Georgia. I cried that summer when my son was sad that we didn’t have any friends yet. I cried when my friend called with bad news about her parents. I sat on the bamboo bench and cried when that student opened fire on the UNC Charlotte campus. When they couldn’t find that little boy with autism for days. I cried on that bamboo bench when I thought we were going to be transferred to New Orleans. I cried when my son cried when a friend was being bullied at school and he realized he needed to stick up for her. I cried when the spring tornadoes sprang up the Midwest, when we had to cancel our trip home because Covid-19 was here. I cried for Ahmaud Arbery, for my state, for our country, for this world.

But today, for the first time in a year, I sat on that bamboo bench and I shaved my legs. I let the water fall on me. I didn’t cry. I just sat and shaved. I wondered about all the times I should have done this before. All the times I let my own stubbornness stop me from doing things. My own stubbornness, my own ignorance, my own self-doubt. I thought about shower-shavers. I thought about women who wish they had clean water. I thought about women who refuse to shave their legs and under arms. I thought about little girls with no mother to teach her how to do it. I thought about the good I have learned by others, but society, by my environment, and my world. And then I thought about the bad. But I didn’t cry, I just shaved my legs.

M.