I feel like all I write about is going to the dentist. Probably because as a writer I write about my life and my life is just a series of times in between my next horrific dentist appointment. What gives, y’all? I went to another dentist visit yesterday, this one was with the Endodontist. What the heck is an endodontist, Missy? Great question, so glad you asked. Endodontists have additional training that allows them to focus on diagnosing tooth pain and performing root canal treatment and other procedures relating to the interior of the tooth. The experts say that in many cases, a diseased tooth can be saved with endodontic treatment. I’ll give you two guesses what I have?
If you didn’t know, like I didn’t know, some root canals can fail. The very first one I had when I was 20 years old has failed. Thanks Heartland Dental in Leavenworth, Kansas. Now sometimes it isn’t the dentist’s fault, things just happen. In my case though, well it would appear that the root canal was never actually finished correctly, and here I am two decades later paying for it, figuratively and literally (about $1,000). They didn’t actually pack both roots. Bitches.
Nevermind all that, have you or have you not ever had lidocaine accidentally shot into a nerve in your mouth?
If you have, you probably just grabbed the area in which it happened, involuntarily. When I asked Jerimiah this question he make a pucker face, tilted his head to the left, and tried to remember. No need. If you need time to think about it, the answer is a big no. You don’t forget pain like that. The pain that feels like you stuck your tongue into an electrical socket. Right after the first jolt yesterday the endodontsit asked me, “Does it feel like your were shocked?” Yes, yes it does. Then she told me that she must have struck the nerve. What she didn’t tell me was when the needle came out the shock came again. Fun times.
Turns out, are you ready for this, the diseased tooth was infected and had to be packed with penicillin and I had to be put on a course of amoxicillin and pain meds after she drilled down into the old root canal, dug around, and pulled out the stuff. Which by the way, smelled of rotting flesh and infection. Sort of like what you think a dead body that has been left in the sun and half eaten by lazy house cats might smell like.
Christ, that might be enough for today. I’m sorry you read this. Consider it a cautionary tale, per usual.
Today is a day to celebrate America’s Indigenous People, and while I support today as that day, I implore y’all to not forget about Indigenous people tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after. In fact, too little is said about Indigenous people, the way our country has treated them, the reparations they are owed, and how the colonization of their lands has negatively impacted them, and if this isn’t on the forefront of your mind most days, you will miss an opportunity to help.
For starts you can follow accounts on social media like: @IndigenousPeoplesMovement, @IndigenousRising, and @DecolonizeMyself, as well as @ChiefLadyBird for starters. You can also follow hashtags like: #IndigenousPeople or #IndigenousArt or #DakotaPipeline which can be a good way to start getting more recommendations for pages and accounts to follow so you can learn more about the struggle Indigenous People live through in “The land of the free.”
Please educate yourself on Indigenous People. Please vote with them in mind. Please respect and honor those before us, and those still struggling.
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?
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.
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.
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:
This post isn’t about Reading Rainbow, but do you remember that show? I loved the shit out of some Reading Rainbow. LaVar Burton was an actual celebrity at my house, in my school. In fact, every week my teacher would wheel in one of the tv’s and pop a VHS tape in and we would get to watch a Reading Rainbow. It was usually Friday afternoons, right after lunch and recess. Right about the time we would want to fall asleep, but shit nah, man, ain’t nobody sleeping when Reading Rainbow is on! For those of you who have absolutely no idea what I am talking about, please Google it! And also look at this sexy MFer:
Whew! Let’s all take a minute to compose ourselves. My fifth-grade ass was certainly in love with LaVar. Anyway, like I said that is not what this post is about. It’s about reading in general, but more specifically what I am reading.
People text me, inbox me, call me, and DM me and ask shit like, “Whatchu reading, Missy?” And I’m usually not reading some shit other people want to read. I’m all, “Oh, I just finished The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats,” or I’ll be all, “Omigod, have you even read The Sacred Wisdom of the Native Americans” or “Oh, I’m just re-reading Joan Didion.” And they are like, “Oh, okay.” Then under their breath they are like what the hell is her problem? But turns out when we started a book club a couple months ago (that is now disbanded because of Covid-19) I made a list of more “popular” books to read, and I’ve been sticking pretty closely to that list while in quarantine. So I thought I’d share some thoughts on what I’m reading, what I plan to read, and what I have read. Ready? Here goes!
I read Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby. I like Irby. I like her style, her sense of humor, I like her balls to the wall attitude. I like that she shares it all, puts it all out there. She’s kind of like me in that way, but of course much funnier and her stories are way ‘mo better. Mine are always sad and shit. Gotta work on being less sad. Anyway, I was introduced to Irby when I downloaded her audiobook We are Never Meeting in Real Life a couple years back when I started walking my senior dog to try to help her shed some pounds (and me too). Turns out it was HILARIOUS, and I would actually laugh-out-loud on my walks around the ‘hood in Charlotte and my neighbors thought I was crazy. So I ran and grabbed her book, Meaty and that cemented my love for her. I anxiously awaited for the release of Wow, No Thank You which happened since we’ve been in quarantine, and I ordered a copy from an independent book store in Chicago (that’s where she is from, and I had stopped into a shop that sells her books while I was there, so I ordered it from them) and had it shipped to me. Hilarity ensured. Listen, Irby is crass, sure. She’s a little too open for some people, and she sometimes make you think, like for real? Did that really happen? And yeah, it did. But mostly she’s just funny. Her books are all collections of essays about her own life, and she’s like the kind of person you want to be friends with, but neither of you ever make meeting up a priority cause you’re a little nervous around each other, and also you’re both introverts and really don’t like to leave your house, so you just admire each other from afar. Yes, that’s it. I’m an Irby admirer. Also, look at these covers!
I read Crossing to Safety back in March, because I had already started it for Book Club before we had to cancel. Crossing to Safety legit made me say aloud, “It’s kind of like Seinfeld.” Because it was kind of like Seinfeld. It’s a book that seems to be about a lot of nothing, just a pair of couples who “grow up” together in a sense, have careers, children, stresses, fun, highs, lows, and all the in between. So it seems, on the surface to be about nothing, but it’s actually about a lot of things. Really, really, real things. It’s about love. About that sort of intimate love that comes along with friendship. It’s about growing up, into ourselves, into our relationships, into the people we are supposed to be. It was released in 1987 and written by Wallace Stegner. It’s semi-autobiographical, and it defiantly feels like you could be reading creative non-fiction. It also had an Olive Kitteridge vibe to it for me, because it was so inside these relationships, and these people. It was sad, it was happy, it was funny, it was all the things. I definitely recommend it. Jerimiah read it with me (Book Club and all) and he liked it too. Though he did note some slow parts, and there are some parts where you are like, wait that has to be important, and it is, so pay attention!
In between Crossing to Safety and deciding what book we were going to read together next, I made Jerimiah read one of my favorite short stories from George Saunders so we would have something to talk about. I have only read a few of Saunders stories, even though I bought 10th of December a couple years ago in hopes to read it all quickly. Haha. I have a lot of hopes. Anyway, the story The Semplica Girl Diaries is one of my favorites because the first time I read it I was so throughly confused by it, that I had to read it again, and now every year I read it just to be like, what they hell? And also, how can people write like this? It’s one of those stories that keeps my faith in writers alive. Anyway, Jerimiah read it, then when I asked him about it, he was like, “Oh no, I have to read it again before I can talk about it.” So yeah, there’s that. Read The Semplica Girl Diaries and also if you have time My Chivalric Fiasco.
When Jerimiah and I actually decided on a new book, it was Little Fires Everywhere, because it had been suggested in Book Club. The television version had just released on Hulu, so we thought it would be fun to read the book (another I bought eons ago in hopes to read one day) and then watch the series. I mean, we have the time… Anywho we were wrong. The show is so totally different than the book that I am now mad and a little pissed off at Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. Misdirected anger, I know, but come on people! I get that there are certain things that have to be changed to catch the attention of television watchers, but I’m just, well maybe I’m not mad, just disappointed. To be fair we are only on episode three, so it might get better, but so far we don’t like it. We were a fan of the book though. We had only heard good things, then when I said I was reading it people came out of the woodwork to tell me they thought it sucked. And I could see why some people would not like it. First, it’s a short read. We did it in a weekend. Not too much “thinking” happening, unless you let it take you there, but there are really A LOT of things to dissect in that book. Race and class are the most evident, of course, but the idea and the topic of motherhood really took my breath away. I think maybe people who identify with Elena Richardson might not like it as much as us Mia’s out in the world, ya dig? Either way, I’d say give it a shot. Don’t be a Mrs. Richardson about it, assholes.
That brings me to what we are reading now and what we are planning to read. We just started one of Jerimiah’s picks, The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the DetroitNumbers Game by Bridgett M. Davis, and I am smitten! I had no idea what to expect from this book. Jerimiah heard about it on one of his “numbers” podcasts and suggested it knowing that I like creative non-fiction and he likes numbers. I’m only on chapter five, but I think Davis does a great job explaining her mom, the Numbers (which is not a thing I had any idea about) and Detroit in the 1960s, particularly Black Detroit, another topic I have no idea about. I’m laughing, learning, and thoroughly enjoying this book.
Now my To Read list is nuts you guys. I finally ordered Untamed by Glennon Doyle, I know you guys are tired of hearing me talk about this book, but I think I was sort of putting it off because I know it’s going to be a hard read for me. A lot of truths I don’t want to deal with. But I ordered it (from an Indie Bookstore, duh). Then there is The Gum Thief which was another Book Club pick that I had already bought and readied myself to read (and I think Jerimiah might like). Then there is Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng who several people have told me is better than Little Fires Everywhere, then there is Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore, which I think is gonna be hella sad, so I keep putting it back on my shelf, then there is Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb, and D-Day Girls by Sarah Rose. Lastly, there is Biloxi by Mary Miller, who is teaching one of my classes in the fall so I’m kinda scoping her out before I scope her out. You know how it goes. I’m obvi really into female authors and female stories right now. And I won’t apologize for that.
But you guys! This amazing thing happened to me. The other day I was sitting here minding my own business when a package arrived from one of my best friends and it included the following: The recipe to her famous chocolate chip cookies, a letter, two cassette tapes (Linda Ronstadt’s Greatest Hits and a homemade mix tape of Garth Brooks’ Ropin’ the Wind from 1991), AND a signed copy of Objects in the Mirror: Thoughts on a Perfect Life from an Imperfect Person by Stephen Kellogg. I’m not kidding. Phew. I’m booked solid you guys.
Hoppy Easter, y’all! Not even gonna pretend to know what today is about for you, but for us it’s about the Easter Bunny visiting (yes, still) and that makes us very happy. He did come! He brought dog toys, and filled eggs, and even a candy bunny for me! Yay, Easter Bunny! More importantly it’s the last day of Jackson’s spring break so we go back to school tomorrow, virtual school of course, but school no less. Tomorrow is also the day I officially register for my fall classes at Mississippi University for Women. So a lot to look forward to, but for now I just wanted to say Hoppy Easter, or Christ Coming Back Day, or Happy Sunday, or whatever today is for you!
I’ve been fighting the urge to say, “Happy Day Covid-19 is Gone and Life is Back to Normal Day” because I distinctly remember our president saying today would be the day. (I guess I didn’t fight that too hard.) Oh well, it’s never a bad day to remind us all that our president is a steaming pile of dog shit!
Okay, whew! So much to tell you this week (like how Bernie is awesome but I’m voting for #Biden2020, and that we did a family campout last night) but that will all have to wait until later this week because well, our family did a campout in our backyard last night which means I’m exhausted, so I’m going back to sleep.
Stay safe and sane out there, y’all. Remember, you matter in this world.
Stimulus checks should hit in the next few weeks, and if you’re like us you’re still working and getting paid normally, a stimulus check is nice and all, but what are you gonna do with it? Personally, I’d like to head on down to Southern California for a few days of sand and sun in San Diego, but… well that’s not in the cards right now. So sure, you can save it for a rainy day, even buy some cheap-ass airline tickets for future flights, if you’re gutsy enough. Or you can do some good with it. What’s that? You’re gonna buy a baby Tiger? Yeah, that checks out.
Here’s the first thing I’m gonna do, find some local food banks in Atlanta to help, like Atlanta Community Food Bank. Then a couple of homeless shelters, like HOPE Atlanta. Money is what they need right now, y’all. There is no volunteering happening, but it might be good to keep that in the back of your mind for the future. Volunteering is always needed. Cash is king now though. And with your unexpected influx of cash, it would be nice to do something nice for others. Even if it’s just $100 of your $1400 or whatever it is you are getting.
I’m going to help my community first, then I’m going to log onto Kiva and donate some money there. If you don’t know what Kiva is, sit back and let me spin you a yarn. For Christmas last year friends sent us a Kiva gift card. We had heard of Kiva before, but never invested, because honestly it seemed like a lot of work and I’m lazy. But when a gift card came our way, we were like okay, let’s do this!
Turns out it’s super simple and necessary, and it was a really engaging way for us to sit together, look through profiles (which is the hardest part for us), then decide who to lend to. So Kiva.org allows people who can spare money (like $25) to lend to others who don’t have it, but have a very specific need. Usually your $25 goes a very long way to the people on Kiva. Our first $25 went to a group of women in Uganda who sell smoked fish as their primary means of supporting their families. They were requesting a loan of $675 or 2,400,000 Ugandan shillings. Essentially they are getting a loan from a local bank, and the people who fund their account are backing the loan. There are loan terms and limits like a real loan, and we are on a repayment schedule with the group.
The second loan we gave out, also in the amount of $25, was to Adelaida in Moldova. She was was requesting a $2,900 loan to rebuild part of her house after a landslide. Here is a snapshot of what you see on Kiva.org:
She’s already paying back. So is the other group, in fact we have made $5.00 back on our loans so far, in just a few months. Which will sit until we earn $25 back, then we will reinvest in other groups. But I’ll be using some stimulus money to aid other people as well. And yes, there are people in the US who are on kiva.org. Like Jennifer, who is looking for $3,000 to help pay rent for her business, get permits, and pay fees. So if you are one of those people who are all, “I only HELP PEOPLE IN THE U S of A…” You’re an asshole, and also there you go. Help Jennifer with your stimulus check.
The point here is to inform you of a way to help people, because there is so much need out there, in our country and every, single, other one, that when we band together, like you can do on Kiva, it helps a little. This is one of those places where a little can go a long way if you truly want to help and see change.
So there you have it. Kiva.org if you are in a giving spirit this Stimulus Check season. Otherwise, I think you can search Craigslist for codewords and find you a baby Tiger. Best of luck.
PS… Some links to sites that are taking monetary donations in our country right now. And websites to connect you with local programs in your community.
Women’s Shelters – Can help you locate local shelters for women and children to either donate to, or if you are in need of assistance. This is important right now, as there has been an uptick in domestic abuse cases since stay-at-home orders were put into place.
ASPCA – Many animal shelters are looking for help right now. A simple Google search will connect you with those closest to you, but if you want to help in general, may I suggest donating to the ASPCA.
Come again another day. I mean I know you will, because it’s Georgia for fuck’s sake and apparently Georgia needs rain in order to survive. Why else would it rain EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. in the wintertime? What’s that? Gulf Stream weather patterns? No, I don’t believe you. I’m claiming ignorance on that one. Sticking on a red hat and saying, “But I’m cold, so Global Warming is just a liberal hoax.” Side note: Did you see that it was 70 degrees in Antartica the other day and the penguin babies had to roll around in mud to keep themselves cool?” No? Look.
Okay, I don’t feel so bad about the rain now, this baby penguin has it much worse.
Soooo, there’s a gorgeous Hindu temple in the middle of Georgia and we found it. No, seriously. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’ve lost my damn mind. But I swear, there’s a gorgeous Hindu temple in the middle of Georgia, right past a Home Depot. And we found it. Stay with me here, it’s a long sordid story full of grandmas, and shopping, and a trip to Cook-Out, but it ends with a gorgeous Hindu temple in the middle of Georgia, so it’s totes worth it.
It was last summer and my mom was in town visiting. She decided she wanted to go to Kohls to look around because #KohlsCash and #SeniorCitizens go together like Taylor Swift and shorty shorts. Some things are just meant to be, that’s all. So we headed to the nearest Kohls, which is like 20 minutes away. Along the way I caught a glimpse of something poking over some trees, just outside our city limits. Over yonder, as they say in Georgia, just past the Home Depot.
I wasn’t sure what I was looking at, just that it was something possibly grand, exquisite even, and that I would need to do some digging. But then my mom was all, “Is anybody hungry?” which is her way of telling us that she is hungry and we need to stop for food. Like now. (Side note: She also says things like, “Is anyone cold?” and “Does anyone have to pee so bad they think they might pee in their pants?” You know, things like that.) Anywho, Jerimiah pulled into a Cook-Out because honestly it was the first one we saw here in Georgia and having just moved from North Carolina it, well, it felt like home. If you don’t know about Cook-Out now you do. #Amazing
As we ate lunch at Cook-Out I Googled: “Big white temple looking thing in Lilburn, Georgia” and lo and behold the Google Goddess answered.
There is indeed a giant, gorgeous Hindu temple in the middle of Georgia. It’s in Lilburn, Georgia to be precise, but since Atlanta has the largest Metro area ever, it’s considered the Atlanta temple.
The temple itself was built strictly by volunteers on top of what used to be a skating rink. Volunteering is a cornerstone of the Hindu religion and it is known as Seva, or selfless volunteering. It took 1.3 million volunteers working two million (wo)man hours to complete the temple in a little over 17 months. It is made of three types of stone, Turkish Limestone, Italian marble, and Indian pink sandstone. That’s it. Just those three stones. According to their website more than 34,000 individual pieces were carved by hand in India, shipped to the USA and assembled in Lilburn like a giant 3-D puzzle in accordance with the ancient Hindu architecture scripture. I can feel you guys still think I’m a liar, liar pants on fire, so here’s a picture of Jackson standing in front of it in a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, which is fitting because this place is BIG! Like Disney BIG!
The Temple, or Mandir, is a place of worship for people who practice Hinduism. This particular Mandir is for people who practice Swaminarayan Hinduism and, although there are two million Mandirs globally, and 450 in the United States (with the most in Texas) the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Lilburn is the largest Mandir outside of India. Whew knew?!
Okay, so there we were back at Cook-Out and we were debating to stop by the Mandir after our trip to Kohls. I’m pretty sure my Mom had no idea what we were talking about and I was not pronouncing Swaminarayan correctly, but we decided since it was on the way home, why not? I think my Mom was still a little nervous, being a Baptist and all, but she went along with it. I bought her ice cream. Then helped her use her Kohls Cash, so it seemed fair for her not to complain.
When we got to the Mandir we weren’t sure where to go, or how to act, or what have you. I mean, we are not Hindu. We didn’t want to pretend to be. And I can honestly say that none of us have ever been to a sacred temple of any kind. Not our style (previously). So we drove very slowly in, thinking we might get asked to leave, but no, they waved at us, showed us where to park, and were all around very friendly. Though I think my Mom and Jackson were still a bit confused by the whole thing. Me? I was just in awe. This is the picture I took when we got out of the car.
A storm was rolling in and I think my Mom was both worried about her hair getting wet and about all the people who did not look like her. This was a lot for a 75-year-old from Kansas, but she didn’t say much. She just looked around, slowly climbed the steps, and stood in awe. I even caught her snapping a few pics, which may seem weird to some, but it is encouraged here. They worked hard on this building and they want you to take pictures. Of the outside, not the inside. Since it is a traditional Mandir the inside is a place of quiet and calm. A place reserved for meditation, prayer, and solitude. But in order to get inside you have to your legs covered, of which none of us did! But don’t worry, they are prepared for crazy, white people.
When we reached the top of the steps a man greeted us and asked if we wanted to go inside. We said, “Of course,” though again, I was the only one super sure about it, and he told us we’d have to cover our legs. He gave us all a long black piece of cloth, and we wrapped it around our legs like a skirt, then we were allowed to enter.
Inside was like something I had never seen before. There were beautiful carvings everywhere, and the room used for prayer and meditation was covered in marble and glass (all the floors are marble and you have to take off your shoes at the entrance too).
It was very quiet in there, as most of the visitors were praying. But upstairs there was a room not unlike the main floor of a cathedral. In fact, I was suddenly transported back to that time we spent an hour or so exploring St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. There were people worshipping in the middle of a large room, sit on the marble floor, and others walking all around the edges to visit statues of various deities in the Hindu faith, much like at St. Patrick’s and St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square in New Orleans. It was just that instead of the bust of Joan of Arc, there was a statue of Brahmaswarup Yogiji Maharaj. Same. Same.
I was totally drawn into the quiet of the place, like most churches I have been in. I like quiet, have I mentioned that? I’m a fan of quiet. Though I did feel rushed by my Mom who asked, “Does anyone have to pee?” and my son who was asking in very loud tones, “Why are they walking in circles around that statue?” (See postscript). I did not have an answer for him, but I did sense it was time for us to leave the inside. So we did. But I tell you what, I have plans to go back. Alone. And if you’re ever in Atlanta, maybe I suggest you check it out too? It really is a lovely place. The last picture is from the back of the Mandir. I made Jerimiah stop as we were driving out to take it. I mean, come on!
We were all impressed by the structure, and I think we all learned something that do too, though it may have been different things, we all learned something.
When we got home I posted some of the pics on FB and told people to get there if they are in the area. My Mom asked me to tag her in the pictures, so I did, and one of her “church friends” commented immediately that she “felt sorry that we were in an area that had a large Hindu population” and continued to display her accepting, Christian nature, by adding how disgraceful it is to worship more than one God and asking when Trump was going to send them all packing. Then she blessed us, I’m pretty sure, and my Mom said, “Oh, she’s crazy. Delete that comment.” And so I did.
PS… I have an answer for Jackson regarding his astute observation, “Why are they walking in circles?” It’s called circumambulating. Because Hindu temples are built where positive energy flows, the main idol is placed in the center of that gravitational force on a copper plate so it can beam the waves of positivity. People who practice Hindu believe that our energy is drained throughout the day (I hear that!) and when they visit the temple they are restored, particularly if they go to the main idol. Thus a person regularly visiting a temple and walking clockwise around the main idol receives the beamed magnetic waves and his body absorbs it.
Today was another oppressive day of rain in Atlanta. I had some errands to run, and some dry cleaning and donations to drop off, so I piled up the car with all my errands and headed to grab Jackson. Jackson is released a little earlier than the other kids because he’s a “walker,” meaning we walk home most days, though as of late I can’t recall the last time we were able to walk home a full week. It’s a nice treat to get my kid before the chaos of carline, which we were used to at previous schools. On days when the weather is bad, I park in the school lot and walk up to the “walker” door to grab him. I’m usually the last parent there, because he’s usually the last kid to leave. He makes sure all the others get safely to their parents before he departs. Part of his “Safety Patrol” pledge.
Today I parked close to the school because of the rain. I decided to sneak up in front of the school so I could stay under the school’s awning for as long as I could before I headed to the walker door. As I hopped up onto the dry sidewalk in front of the school I noticed three young boys standing around the flag pole at the entrance, and recognized Jackson immediately. His favorite Under Armor coat on over a hoodie whose hood was shielding his head from the rain, and his black Nike glasses being pelted with the big, round droplets. I was surprised because he doesn’t have “Flag Duty” right now, so I was just about to call over to him and ask what he was doing when I noticed they were having some trouble.
There are two flags on the pole at Jackson’s school. On top is the US Flag, which is customary to have at all public schools, and just under that one flies a smaller white flag recognizing Jackson’s school as being part of the International Baccalaureate program (they are also a STEM Certified school from AvancED). An IB school, according to an article at Great Schools, was created in Switzerland in 1968 for students in international schools. Great Schools says that IB is now offered in 5,175 schools across 157 countries — with about 1,800 public and private schools in the U.S. IB has gained popularity for setting high standards and emphasizing creative and critical thinking. IB students are responsible for their own learning, choosing topics and devising their own projects, while teachers act more as supervisors or mentors than sources of facts. IB emphasizes research and encourages students to learn from their peers, with students actively critiquing one another’s work. Beyond preparing students for critical thinking and college-level work, the full IB program calls for students to express themselves through writing, requires community service, and aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.
Essentially these kids are learning to set themselves, and each other, up for success at problem solving, among of a myriad of other important lessons about life, culture, and critical thinking. The problem solving though, is a big topic for fifth graders. Problem solving on the fly, as well as researching and planning solutions to larger, global problems like world hunger, city infrastructure, and urban decay. I tell you all this so you understand what I saw yesterday in the rain. Two boys attempting to take down two soaking wet, tangled flags, relying on each other and their ability to problem solve, work through creative solutions, and recognizing when it was time to ask for help.
It wasn’t raining that morning, they would come to understand, when the morning safety patrol put the flags up. But it had started raining right after, which means it rained steadily on the flags all day. As the day waned on, the IB flag tangled itself into a knot at the clip that attaches to the cable that hoists the flags up and down. Which means, try as they might, they were only able to bring the flags halfway down, then they would stop.
One glance up at the flags told me that they were tangled, but I couldn’t see how from my vantage point. Later, I learned that within a few minutes of discovering a problem, one of the boys had bowed out, opting instead to stand under the awning in the rain and yell possible solutions to his friend. That’s when Jackson happened by the front door, was spotted, and his friend called to him. Essentially his buddy needed a little help and knew just who to ask. Great start to the problem-solving, knowing who can help.
As the rain beat down on Jackson and his friend, they tried, and tried, and tried to get the flag down. They shook the metal cable that hoisted the flags up and down, the tried to move the white flag around the flag pole to see if they could stand in a different spot to get it off, that’s when they saw the tangle and realized what had happened. All the while I silently watched under the dry awning, as did the Assistant Principal, who was between shuffling kids back and forth from the door and the line of busses. Neither her nor I ever stepped in to offer advice or assistance. Why would we? They didn’t ask, and they are fifth graders. IB model tells us both not to help quite yet. So instead we stand, me under the awning and her under an umbrella nearer to them, and we watch.
Several minutes go by. They have been able to get the flags down to their lowest point now by shaking the cables, which have dislodged a portion of the knot on the white flag. They hoist the two flags back up again, then quickly back down, assuming at this point that they have solved the problem. The get them almost within reach (so they can just unclip the flag) when boom! The cable is caught again.
The boys are apoplectic. Jackson slams his hands down to his sides, and his friend in a show of frustration throws his hands up in the air. They look at each other, then back toward the draining sky. They are cold, they are wet, they are out of ideas. That’s when they make eye contact with the Assistant Principal. She saunters over with her umbrella, pretending to have no idea what is happening. She says, “What’s up, guys?”
Jackson’s friend tells her that the white flag is tangled. Jackson adds, quickly, the various measures they have tried in solving the problem. She says something like, “That should have done it. Do you want me to try?” They shake their heads in tired agreement. She sticks the handle of her umbrella in the space between her chin and shoulder and goes to work on the cable, essentially doing the same thing the boys were doing, but with a mighty strength that only a Principal possesses. Her umbrella falls behind her. She ignores it, keeps going. Now she’s getting pelted in the face by the rain, and I think for a minute to run over and help, then I notice Jackson run behind her, grab her umbrella, and hold it over her head while she looks straight up to the sky.
Eventually she gets the flag untangled with her pure might, gives Jackson’s friend the cable, and we all watch as he lowers the flag. Jackson hands her back her umbrella and they say thank you. She smiles, and walks back to the busses.
I stand, sort of in awe of what I have just witnessed. The third boy is nowhere to be found, he’s abandoned his post years ago, and Jackson and his friend stand in the rain and fold each flag the correct way, then take them back inside.
Minutes later, as we are walking out to the car I ask him what happened. He relays the story about the friend who needed help with the flag, how the other boy chased him down in the hallway to help. Then he tells me about the knot. That’s when I say that I saw them eventually figure it out. He stops me and says, “No, it was Ms. Young who figured it out.”
“No,” I assure him, “it was you two who figured it out. Ms. Young just had the strength to do what needed done.” He smiled a little.
I’ve been wanting to share about my mom’s friend, Ruthie, for some time now, but I have been unable to. Ruth was one of my mother’s oldest friends and she died recently. She was a fiery, friendly, funny kinda gal, whose antics litter my childhood memories. I have so many stories to share about Ruthie, that it was hard for me to pick which ones to share. I wanted to share the kind of stories that would highlight who she was, at her core. I was going back and forth wondering if I share how she would let me sit up front with her in her VW Beetle and move the stick shift when I’d ride along on a beer run with her? What about how she would laugh at me while I danced around her dining room at the old house on Pine Street, while she played 1970s country music on her large stereo, shuffled cards and drank beer with my mom and a few others? What about when she lined all the neighborhood kids up at the pool down on Fourth Street and taught them all how to dive? Or her jokes, her hilarious, sometimes crude, usually not age-appropriate jokes? I just couldn’t decide. I couldn’t even decide if I would actually ever write about Ruthie. I couldn’t decide until two Sundays ago*.
Two Sundays ago the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Tennessee Titans to clench the AFC Title and waltz their way into their first Super Bowl in 50 years, which they will be playing in this evening. Now listen, I don’t believe in angels. I don’t believe in heaven or hell, or purgatory (unless you’ve even been stuck in line at IKEA), but I do believe in the human condition. I believe that people we love don’t really ever leave us. It’s something I can’t explain. It’s something I don’t care to have explained to me. But I know we are all made up of stars, and I believe, with no real reason or explanation, that Ruthie had something to do with the Chiefs’ win that night, and that’s when I knew that I had to tell the story of Ruthie.
I don’t know much about Ruthie’s life before she met my mom in the 1970s. I know she grew up in Leavenworth, I know she went to Leavenworth Senior High School in the same building that was my middle school many moons later. I know she was loved in the community. I know she was funny, and smart, and I knew as a child, that she had a pure heart. But otherwise, the Ruthie I know is the Ruthie she had became after marriage, and kids, and heartbreaks. Still, she was a force to behold.
Ruthie and my mom met when my mom was new in town. My mom walked into a bar with a run in her pantyhose one night. She didn’t have a car, and the night was young, so she walked up to a man sitting at the bar and asked him if he would give her a lift to the grocery store so she could buy a new pair of pantyhose. She offered to give him a couple of bucks for gas. He laughed at her and said, “Sure thing, as long as you can clear it with my wife.”
“Well, where’s your wife?” my mom asked, clenching her hose so they wouldn’t fall down.
The man pointed to the woman behind the bar. She was funny looking, a little rough around the edges, a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, her own full draft beer sitting on the bar.
My mom walked right up to her, said her name was Margie, showed the woman the run in her hose, and asked if she minded if her husband gave her a lift to the store to buy a new pair. She offered the couple bucks in gas. Ruthie pulled the long 100 out of her mouth, looked my mom up and down, and said, “Sure thing, Sis. If you’re balls enough to ask me if my husband can take you to buy pantyhose, you’re alright.”
The man at the bar was Ronnie, Ruth’s husband, and Ruth, in case you missed that, was the bartender. Ruth and Ronnie became a part of my mom’s life from that day forward, and would remain, well into their seventies. They fussed and cussed at each other sometimes. They had spats and disagreements. They didn’t talk for some time toward the end of Ruthie’s life, but over all those decades, their families merged.
I was the youngest of all the kids in both families. I was so young that I grew up with Ruth and Ronnie’s grandkids, rather than their kids, though their youngest Julie was my primary babysitter after my sisters moved out of the house when I was in kindergarten. Mostly though, I got to hang out with the adults, because by the time I came along in 1981, they spent more and more time at home drinking beer, than hanging out at the bars. Some of my earliest memories are of Ruthie and some other ladies coming over to our apartment to play cards at our small kitchen table. They would drink beer and listen to sad country songs, Patsy, and Loretta, and Hank. They would play so long and so late that I would make a little pallet on the kitchen floor under the table, right next to my mom’s feet. I’d fall asleep there and wake up the next morning in my own bed. It was comforting, the cold linoleum under my Care Bears sheets. The smoke rolling over my head (my mom didn’t smoke, but she let Ruthie smoke in the house back in those days).
Later, when the card playing meandered over to Ruthie’s house, I’d climb onto their sofa, one room over from the dining room, I’d watch cable television (we never had cable) and I’d drift off to sleep with MTV on mute, while I listened to those familiar, sad songs from the dining room.
On warm summer nights, before the sun went down, Mom and Ruthie and Ruthie’s older daughters, Rhonda, or Robbie, or Debbie, would sit on the small front porch of their house on the corner of Pine and Fourth Streets, and listen to music, and drink beer, and talk about their week, how the Royals were doing (it never was too good), or who Ruthie had cut grass for that week. Ruthie would be propped up in her corner spot near the back of the porch in a lawn chair, a table next to her with a small radio (for the Royals and country music), a Diet Pepsi if she’d just come in from mowing, in a styrofoam Wood’s Cup. She’d have her Royals cap on, her cut off denim shorts, and a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. Her shoes, once white, by this time in the summer were faded green from grass, and her knee-high men’s socks would be pulled all the way up, with grass clippings hanging on for dear life. Summer Ruthie was a sight to behold. And I loved her for it. She was sweaty, and covered in grass, and she would sit there in that corner and wave at the people who drove by, drink her Diet Pepsi, until it was time to switch to beer, and she would tell stories. Ruthie was an amazing teller of stories, and she always had plenty, and my ears were always open, sitting on the cooler lid across from her and my mom on the tiny porch waiting for whatever was about to happen, because at Ruthie’s house something was always about to happen.
The summer was Ruthie’s time to shine. At some point in her life, she stopped bartending and switched to mowing grass. Ronnie worked construction, and devoted a lot of his time to the Mormon Church, of which Ruthie did not belong, and together they were staples in the community. Do-gooders, who would help any lost soul they came across. My mom was often on the receiving end of their goodness, often relying on Ruthie to fix a broken muffler on one of my mom’s old junkers, or let us sell items at their yard sales, which were always a big hit since their house was so well known, and in a great location on a busy street. Ruthie would swing by and cut our grass if she was in the neighborhood. Ronnie would slip my mom a $20 bill, that my mom always paid back, in between pay days at her job as a housekeeper. They were friends. And well, that’s what friends do.
I’d spend my summer days running up and down along the house with Rags, their dog. I don’t know what kind of dog he was, but he was friendly, and furry, and he was permanently attached to a run on a close line, right next to the back door, which was sometimes used as the front door for the people in the know. In the evenings Ruthie’s grown kids would wonder over with their families and their kids, who were my playmates on those long nights. We’d catch lightening bugs and smear their light on our arms, chase each other around the backyard, filled with cars, and lawnmowers, and Rags’ excitedly wagging tail chasing us as far as his line would allow.
Cars would drive by and honk, and we’d stop and wave. Everyone waved when the cars honked, even though they cars were just honking for Ruthie. They all knew her and loved her. From the stuffiest, most uptight old ladies to the men who sometimes didn’t have a couch to sleep on, people drove by and honked, they walked by and sat for awhile on the stoop. Ruthie always offered a smoke, or a beer, or a Diet Pepsi. Ronnie often offered a ride to wherever they might be going. There was a lot of laughing on those long, humid summer nights. A lot of friendship, kinship, and fellowship.
As the sun would go down the party would move indoors. More people would stop over. One of Ruth or Ronnie’s sisters, or a neighbor. Julie might show up with a group of her teenage friends. One of my sisters might stop by if they were back in Leavenworth. And there always seemed to be more kids. Kids from everywhere. We’d stay outside until the called us indoors for the night. We’d tell ghost stories about the old house on Pine Street. Like the ghost that we were sure lived upstairs, which also happened to be the only place there was a bathroom in the house. Up a long, curvy, old, creaky staircase. I spent many nights holding in my pee for as long as I could, then running up and down those stairs, while Ruthie would yell, “Be careful, Missy. God damn, you’ll break your neck!”
As the years rolled on I stopped going over to Ruth and Ronnie’s with my mom, in lieu of slumber parties with my friends, or even later when I was a teenager, I’d rather stay at home alone and watch television, or listen to my music while my mom went over, or the adults went out to play darts or go bowling. I became “too cool” to sit on the stoop. God forbid someone see me. What I didn’t realize back then, was that Ruthie’s stoop was the cool place to be, and there have been many a nights since then that I have wished for just one more summer night on the corner of Pine and Fourth.
After I left Leavenworth, married, and had my first born, we went back to Leavenworth for a visit and stopped by Ruth and Ronnie’s. They had moved a couple of houses down, and the old house on Pine and Fourth was torn down. It was beyond repair. We introduced Baby Jackson to Ruth and Ronnie, and Ruthie bounced him up and down on her lap like she had all her grandchildren. Laughing and telling him inappropriate jokes.
Years later, the last time we saw Ruthie and Ronnie, Jackson was five years old. It was the summer before we moved to North Carolina. We took a long weekend in Leavenworth, and just as we were headed back to Southern Missouri I grabbed Jerimiah’s arm and said, “Wait, let’s run by Ruth and Ronnie’s!” It was evening time, and the Royals were playing, I knew they’d be at home.
When we got there we parked at the end of the long line of cars outside their house. We were about three houses down from where they lived, and I recognized most of the cars. There was Debbie’s car, and Ronnie’s old work van. There was Ruthie’s black Chevy, and another truck that I assumed belong to her son Johnny, or maybe Billy was back living with them. We walked up to the front door and knocked, as we peered inside. We didn’t see anyone, but we heard them. A whole clan of Logan’s from the backyard. We let ourselves into an empty house and followed the noise. When we stepped onto the back patio, the veranda Ruthie called it with a laugh and a slap on your arm, we were greeted with cheers and hugs.
“Well, look who it is!” Ruthie yelped, getting up from her recliner she had brought onto the veranda, along with a television, a stereo, and a ton of Royals and Chiefs memorabilia, under a canopy tent. Jackson stood and looked around, taking in all the noises and people. Ruthie grabbed him up in a big hug, and then offered him a Diet Pepsi. Then she showed us around. We hadn’t seen her in years by then so she wanted to show us all the updates, which were really just more Royals and Chiefs decorations, signed balls and posters, a Gretchen Wilson poster hung in her “Royals and Chiefs” room. We walked around and followed her as she pointed out pictures of grandkids, and great-grandkids by then. She offered Jackson every piece of candy or sweet we walked by, and he obliged, eating pie and a lollipop that she kept around for the kids. I caught a glimpse of her red Chief’s “brick.” The foam one from my childhood that she’d throw at the television and yell, “Sonofabitch!” when the Chiefs made a bad play. I smiled. Smelled the familiar smells. Remembered all those many years ago. The house was different and Ruthie was smaller by then, more frail looking, but somehow still mighty, still strong, still able, I knew, to entertain, to amuse, to tell a dirty joke or two. And I’m happy that my son got to meet the woman I knew and loved for so many years, even for just an hour.
On Sunday, August 18th, 2019, a week after the Chiefs beat the Bengals in a preseason game 38-17, I got the call that Ruthie had passed away. I cried, but not for long. Too suddenly the memories came flooding back, and I was forced to smile. The stoop on the porch. The Chief’s Brick. The day in the alley behind her house when she tied my mom’s car muffler up with a wire hanger, while she cursed and hammered under the car. The night I stayed up way past my bedtime to help string up lights on Ruthie’s St. Patrick’s Day float. The dirty joke about the nun I heard on her front porch when I was 12 years old and didn’t quite understand. I laughed aloud. Jerimiah asked me what was wrong, then I told him…
A bus full of Nuns falls of a cliff and they all die. They arrive at the gates of heaven and meet St. Peter. St. Peter says to them “Sisters, welcome to Heaven. In a moment I will let you all though the pearly gates, but before I may do that, I must ask each of you a single question. ”
St. Peter turns to the first Nun in the line and asks her “Sister, have you ever touched a penis?” The Sister Responds “Well… there was this one time… that I kinda sorta… touched one with the tip of my pinky finger…” St. Peter says “Alright Sister, now dip the tip of your pinky finger in the Holy Water, and you may be admitted.” and she did so. St. Peter now turns to the second nun and says “Sister, have you ever touched a penis?” “Well…. There was this one time… that I held one for a moment…” “Alright Sister, now just wash your hands in the Holy Water, and you may be admitted” and she does so. Now at this, there is a noise, a jostling in the line. It seems that one nun is trying to cut in front of another! St. Peter sees this and asks the Nun “Sister Susan, what is this? There is no rush!” Sister Susan responds “Well if I’m going to have to gargle this stuff, I’d rather do it before Sister Mary sticks her ass in it!”
Hey Ruthie, thanks for the laughs. Thanks for the memories.
*I wrote this post last week in order to honor Ruthie the day the Chiefs play in the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years, and I woke up yesterday morning, Saturday, February 1st, to the news that Ronnie had passed away. My heart is heavy today knowing that the Logan family is going through the loss of their father, and I’m sending love and hugs to all of them. This family, that was such a special part of my life for so many years, is having to bury a second parent in the coming days, and my heart breaks for them during these struggles. But the thing I know about the Logan Clan is that they are supported in a community who loved their parents, and they are supportive with one another. They will get through this. Ronnie was a religious man, and he devoted his life to two things: His family (even the ones not related by blood) and the Mormon Church. I know he is where he needs to be today, and I’m pretty sure it’s kicked back in a chair watching Ruthie throw her red brick at a television screen once again. ❤
Saturday, January 25th began the Chinese New Year, which in case you are taken back to your childhood and remember those placemats at your Mom’s favorite Chinese food joint, you know the ones I mean, the ones that showed the Chinese zodiac so you could look up the year you were born and see which animal you were (Year of the Rooster, represent), while you waited for your sweet and sour chicken and water—because your Mom never let you order Coke—then you know each year gets assigned an animal. This Chinese New Year is the Year of the Rat. Now that that’s out of the way, I can tell you about all the fun we had ringing in the Chinese New Year with friends at Atlanta’s Chinatown on Sunday. Spoiler: There were no rats.
There was however, some great food, for starters. Jackson opted for dumplings, which is one of his favorites when we visit Hell’s Kitchen or Chinatown in NYC. He also ate a bowl of rice, cause why not? Jerimiah chose a pork roll, which was sweet and savory, and something neither of us had ever tried before. And I had the Beef and Bitter Melon. The beef was amazing good, but the melon had a weird taste and I couldn’t eat it. I kept trying, but my body was just rejecting it. Jerimiah asked me what was up and I was all, “I dunno try this and tell me what it tastes like, I just can’t place it, it’s not spicy, it’s just…” Then he took a bite and he said, “Jesus, it’s so bitter.” And I was all, “Oh that’s it! It’s bitter!” Then he asked me what the dish was called and I confidently said, “Beef and Bitter Melon” and then we looked at each other directly in the eye for a few seconds, wherein I realized what had happened, and he, I suppose, started to wonder how he got stuck with me as his wife.
Luckily just then a little boy came running toward us yelling, “Jackson! Jackson!” The little boy was Jackson’s friend’s little brother. He is in first grade, but he legit. He grabbed Jackson and immediately took him over to see the koi pond. Then came Jackson’s friend, her Mom (and my friend) who legit was born in China, but raised in Hong Kong and Ohio, and speaks Mandarin and is a badass, and her husband, who is from a remote village in India, but works for the State of Georgia. They are amazing, and they had invited us to see their daughter perform at the Chinese New Year celebration, which she does every year with her ballet/Tae Kwon Do team. PS… They all do Tae Kwon Do. No shit. How do we meet such cool people?!
Anyway, her performance was about to start, so we found a good spot to watch and cozied up. It was a pure delight, the favorite of the whole celebration year after year. First her ballet dance team came up and performed, then she had a violin solo, then the Tae Kwon Do team came out and did an amazing performance wherein I, for a split second, thought that I could probably do jump kicks and break boards with my feet too. I mean, probably.
Afterward we meandered around a bit more. There are a lot of shops, but the place was so crowded we vowed to come back another time to do our real shopping. Then suddenly someone was shouting that the lion was coming so we followed the crowd outside to see what this all meant. We were not disappointed.
The Lion Dance is a traditional Chinese dance where performers mimic a lion’s movements in an elaborate costume in order to bring good fortune for the new year. The Lion was running a little behind because they had many performances that weekend all around Atlanta. Atlanta, particularly the area of Chamblee/Dunwoody/Doraville has a large Asian population, and the Lion had a lot of performances and this was their last one, the grande finale. While we waited for the Lions to get there (there was actually two Lions) the announcer told us the story of The Lion Dance. (After she had Jackson run through the whole Chinatown Mall and yell for everyone to hurry up and come see the Lion. For real. He was happy to do it.)
The Lion Dance starts with firecrackers, so she warned us that it would be loud. Then the Lions would fall asleep and we would have to wake them with cheering. These are not Serengeti lions, y’all, don’t try firecrackers and screaming on your safari, okur? Then someone, an unsuspecting young boy and slightly scared white dude, were chosen to “feed” the Lions lettuce. Why lettuce? Lettuce is the color green. What else is green? Money, you nailed it! The Lions would eat the lettuce, then regurgitate it, for real, then you would run and get pieces of eaten lettuce from the Lions to bring you good fortune all year. Oh, and also you can and should feed the Lions actual money, for your prosperity, and for theirs. Get it yet? No? Here’s a video:
Atlanta’s Chinatown is not really what you think of when you think of Chinatown in a big city. It’s not like Chinatown in San Fran, or NYC, or even Chicago. It is more spread out, sort of like Atlanta, but there is this one mall where you will find a grocery store and several shops, and authentic food, and that is sort of the center of the Asian culture in that area, so this is where they do all the celebrating. It’s unique and fun, sort of like the rest of Atlanta. We had a really nice time and can’t wait to go back and explore more when there are way less white people to ruin the exploring!
So Happy Chinese New Year! And Happy Year of the Rat. I asked my friend how to say this in Madarin, but I have literally no idea what she said, so I will just copy this from Google translate: 新年快乐
And here are some more pics from our day in Chinatown. Enjoy.
I know y’all tired of hearing me talk about fifth grade. I know y’all tired of me talking about the boy/girl drama. Think of how tired you are of hearing me talk about it, then think about how tired I am of being smack-dab in the middle of it. Jerimiah says, “Just don’t let it get to you. He will figure it out.” And I’m sure he will eventually, but over the last few days this love triangle my fifth grader has found himself in, has required a parent to step in, and it was obvious none of the other parents were, so I did. And it has escalated so quickly that Jerimiah is involved now too.
So Shirley and Jerkface are still a thing, but Shirley has been “flirting” (and I put this in quotes because again, THIS IS FIFTH FUCKING GRADE) ahem, Shirley has been “flirting” with Jackson, while still “dating” Jerkface. She appears to be doing this on purpose in order to make Jerkface mad at Jackson. Da what?! How is a fifth grader capable of such high-school-girl-drama? It’s called Abuse of Power and Jackson wants to call the senate to have her impeached.
In case that doesn’t work out, after Jackson decided he was tired of the lovely couple’s bullshit this week, like how Shirley added Jerkface into their friends’ group chat (even though no one likes him because he’s a, well, jerkface), and how Shirley encourages Jerkface to be mean to Jackson on the playground, Jackson wrote Shirley a private text and said, “Hey, when you’re ready to be cool again, like you used to be, just friends, let me know. Until then I don’t really want to hang with you. Sincerely, Jackson.”
Shirley replied with, and I quote, “Are you faking because if you are I do horrible things…” What the actual fuck, y’all?! Who is this girl?! And who does she think she actually is?!
So after that, she was texting him and trying to FaceTime him to beg him to talk, but at the same time texting the other friends and threatening to “share all their secrets.” Then they were taking screen shots of what she was saying and sending them to Jackson, and I had enough.
I told Jackson to go ahead and let them know that I read ALL his text messages, because I do. I trust my son, but I obviously do not trust these other kids. And as you can see, that is based in good reasoning. Then to go ahead and let Shirley know she’s real close to getting her contact blocked in the “Mom Mode” of his phone. She proceeded to say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about Jackson!” Then she sent him a picture of her puppy and said, “Look how cute my puppers is!” Uhhh… I know I’m not supposed to dislike a kid, but…
Then Jackson proceeds to tell me all the rude things Jerkface has been saying to him in the hallways and in PE class (their two classes go to PE together.) On Wednesday he pulled Jackson aside in PE and said, “Shirley broke up with me, so you can go ahead and be her boyfriend now.” Jackson was very confused because he knew that if Shirley had actually done that she would have told him, she would have told EVERYONE because #drama. So he just sort of ignored it. Turns out is was not true. Jerkface was just baiting Jackson to see if he would move in on Shirley. And Shirley knew about the whole plan. What the actual fuck?!
On thing Jerkface ACTUALLY said to my fifth grade son was, “You better not be fucking my girl!” Yeah, that’s a thing fifth grade boys are capable of saying to other fifth grade boys. Then he stopped Jackson in the hall on Friday and said, “I saw you sitting next to my girl in class, and you better not do that again, aight?” Jackson and Shirley are classmates, project partners, robotics team members, and friends. On Friday Jerkface walked by their classroom and saw Jackson and Shirley sitting next to each other, working on their project together in their classroom, and Jerkface made a mean face at Jackson and Jackson got nervous, then he told him this after school. THIS IS FOR REAL, Y’ALL!
So I told Jackson that I was not above talking to the Assistant Principal about all this, and y’all know I’m not, so he needed to let Jerkface know he wouldn’t be bossed around or cursed at anymore. Jackson sent Jerkface a text that said all that, including that he had no desire to be Shirley’s “boyfriend” and he was happy they had each other, (I am too, because they are both just as crazy as each other and I want my son far away from a girl who says, “I will do horrible things”), and then decided it might be best to distance himself from Shirley for a bit as well. Good choice.
So then Shirley called him, crying, unable to say anything, just crying. And Jackson said, “I can’t hear you, maybe call back when you’re not crying.” And I support that.
So there you have it, the short of the long. I’ll let y’all know when/if I have to get more involved, but right now just know that this shit is happening in fifth grade. I’ve heard of it happening in fourth and even third grade. Matter of fact, in Jackson’s second grade class there was a love triangle he was involved in and didn’t even know about, with some nightmare teacher’s kid and some little blond girl. No shit. This is happening. And no, it’s not just happening from technology. Because all the mean stuff Jerkface has done has been in person at school. And he’s (I’m pretty sure) being led by Shirley who wants two boys to fight over her. Thankfully, my son ain’t no dummy.
So what’s the point of all this, other than to alert you to the fact that there is a rapid change in fifth graders, and it happens in the second semester and if you aren’t one of those parents who keeps up on all of it, asks your kids about school EVERYDAY, and uses instances like this as a learning experience to prepare them for even more craziness in the future, then you better jump on board with this sort of parenting, and fast.
Raise yo kids right, y’all. And be involved. Be vigilant. Don’t be afraid to be that parent that “is in everyone’s business” because there are far too many parents who don’t give two shits about how their kids are treating others, and we need to pick up the slack. Geez, I don’t remember this kind of drama in fifth grade. I mean I remember drama, but not this sort of shit. WE need to do better.
Today seems like an appropriate day to share a little story of how Jackson was introduced to the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., first in Memphis, years later in Birmingham, then again in Atlanta. We’ve been fortunate to travel to these historical places, as well as many others, in Jackson’s first 11 years, and we always took the opportunity to speak truth to him, even when he was obviously too young to “get it.” Which was the case in both Memphis and Birmingham (the first times around), but recently he’s been more capable of understanding the way our country was several decades ago, and he’s starting to make some big connections to the world we live in today, like how things haven’t changed as much as we would have liked.
The first time Jackson heard of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and his important work, his life and his death, was in 2012. Jackson was three-years-old when this picture was taken outside the Lorraine Motel on the south side of Memphis.
That’s an amped up guy, who loved old cars, smiling at his grandma and daddy standing just outside the shot. He had no idea why we were there, what had happened there, or whom those cars belonged to, but he liked them. He fell in love with finned cars on that day, but he was far from grasping the complexities of what he was looking at, or the spot he was standing on. Still we tried to explain, hoping something would stick.
It was a mildly, warm spring day in Memphis the day we visited the Lorraine Motel, and it was my first time paying homage to the late Reverend Doctor as well. I remember the somberness that followed me around for the rest of the day. That is until my toddler bought a blow-up guitar at ten pm on Beale Street and showed us all how to get down. A reminder that it isn’t all bad.
Our next attempt at teaching our son about the important work of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and his many comrades, was during a trip to Birmingham a couple years later. We sat on the grass at the Kelly Ingram Park, formally West Park, and had lunch while we introduced racism to a wily four-year-old.
Kelly Ingram Park is directly across from the 16th Street Baptist Church in downtown Birmingham. In the 1960s it served as a gathering ground for large-scale protests led by the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and others like him. The church, of course, was the first “Colored Baptist Church” in Birmingham, and was infamously bombed in 1963 killing four young girls–Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair–and injuring 22 others. This was the first time, sitting in this lush, green grass, surrounded by the statues built to honor the Black community of Birmingham, that I realized the depth of what I was trying to talk to my son about. I worried it was too much, too soon. Frankly, I thought Jerimiah and I might be crazy. Extreme even. But when Jackson looked up at us and said, “People hate others because of the way their skin looks?!” I knew it was necessary. And I knew then, that something was sticking.
The next time we would encounter the life and work of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was when we visited Atlanta for the first time in 2016, and then a couple years later, when we had the opportunity to move to Atlanta, a city rife with its share of racial division, yet home to the King family. We’ve learned so much about the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. since then, and about the people who supported and worked with him. About Rep. John Lewis, about Reverend Hosea Williams and Harry Belefonte, about the work they put into the Civil Rights Movement. We are so lucky to live in such history, fifteen miles from the King family home, from Ebenezer Baptist Church where Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. and his son lead worship for many years. Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. taking over in 1927, and his son becoming co-pastor in 1960 until his death in 1968. We’ve visited this landmark, the King family home, and the National Historical Park named after the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., and the King Center, where the King’s are buried, several times since 2016 and each time we have learned something new, and had some tough conversations with an ever-growing child who still occasionally has to grasp at what we are saying. But little by little, it’s sticking.
Today we honor the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. His life and his legacy. We honor those who fought alongside him. Those who peacefully protested and those who didn’t, because honestly, it was all necessary. We are not part of the Black community, but we strive everyday to be as educated, as kind, as accepting, as we can be. Because Black Lives Matter. And Black History Matters.
We want to lend our support to a fight that is still raging in our country. I’d love to say that an end is coming soon, but I don’t think it is. Instead, I put my faith in the next few generations. In my son’s generation. In the kids with extreme parents. With access to history. With open and loving hearts. We must remember that we have come far, but not far enough.