Fly High Like an Eagle

Criminal statute of limitations: A criminal statute of limitations defines a time period during which charges must be initiated for a criminal offense. If a charge is filed after the statute of limitations expires, the defendant may obtain dismissal of the charge.

Alright, I think we got the important stuff out of the way. When I was a teenager some friends and I defaced a statue at a private establishment that was notorious for showing oppressive racism to certain minorities in and around the community. Whew. As far as I can remember, it went like this: We had this Black friend. (To be fair, we had a lot of Black friends. I am not stating this to then go, “So obviously I am not racist”, I am stating it to make sure that you are aware that this was not a “white only” kinda town. It was a pretty diverse town, actually, for it being Kansas and all. But the point is, at least a quarter of the population is minority and they were/are discriminated against on the reg.) Or maybe our friend was of mixed race, or maybe it was a family member of a friend, either way, we knew someone who was denied acceptance into this club on the basis of their skin color, or so we had heard. That is to say, we didn’t know if this organization was racist, but we had a pretty big hunch. Our friend’s story was one of a dozen or so other stories that floated around our community in the 1980s and 1990s regarding this club, that is part of a bigger group called: The Fraternal Order of Eagles.

The Fraternal Order of Eagles grew out of a theater troop in Seattle, Washington in the late 1800s. They engaged in performing arts and were instrumental in making Mother’s Day a national holiday. The most fun thing about their history is that, at one point the only rules of membership were as follows: One must be 21 years old, possess a good character, not be a communist and be a caucasian.* So, yeah, our hunch was probably accurate.

Anywho, The Fraternal Order of Eagles #55 sits on the corner of 20th and Choctaw Streets in my hometown of Leavenworth, Kansas. I spent many summer days swimming in it’s pool with a number of friends whose parents or grandparents were members. When I was kid it was much preferred to go to a pool a Fort Leavenworth to swim, the Leavenworth Country Club, or The Eagles (as it was affectionally called) as opposed to one of the gross, public swimming pools, and lucky me, I had connections all over. But this particular pool had a twisty slide that really filled up the fun meter. I never even noticed that there weren’t any people of different skin colors there. I just ate popsicles in the sun and took turns looking for that Polo nerd with my friends.

‘The Eagles”
The eagle sits right out front near the sidewalk.

It wasn’t until I was a teenager and heard the grumblings around town, and met actual people who had been banned, or asked to leave, or told they couldn’t come into the pool area, that I started to realize how racists those SOBs were. That’s also when I was called to take action.

One summer night my friends and I were hanging out at one of our houses when someone (I won’t name names here, but she knows who she is, we will call her LouAnn) had the grand idea to make The Eagles pay for being the racist SOBs that they were. She suggested that we walk the few blocks from her house and vandalize (gasp) the eagle. I was a bit nervous about being on foot, so I suggested that our friend, whose grandmother was a well-known member, should drive the getaway car instead. We all agreed.

Next day we got out hands on the brightest, most obnoxious spray paint we could find, gassed up the car, and all piled in. I believe there was five of us, including the driver. We all wore black, and we had a flashlight. After all, it was nearly midnight and we didn’t want to risk being caught, likewise, we didn’t want to risk me tripping over a rock and having to scream at them as they ran back to the car, “Just leave me! Leave me, damn it!” They would have felt guilty. I think.

We rolled up to The Eagles parking lot quite slowly. I wish I could tell you, dear reader, that this was our first foray into misdemeanor-ing, alas, it was not. We were a rowdy bunch, who routinely enjoyed rolling around town in a hot-boxed car looking for trouble, and trouble did sometimes find us. Thank the good, baby Jeebus this was well before Snapchat and Instagram and the like. In fact, while I was already a budding photographer and amatuer filmmaker, I left all that at home this night. If this were today, of course, I would make them all pile around the eagle after the deed was done and take a group selfie. I have very little shame.

Rachel, damn it I mean the driver, rolled to a stop with the headlights off, slammed it into neutral pointed toward a small incline, and said, I’m leaving your asses if this goes south. Ever the supportive friend, that one.

LouAnn hopped out first, always eager to get the party started. Followed by the other two. I took a little longer contemplating my move. I could always just stay here safe in the car with Rachel, damn it, I mean the driver. I mean, I was a lot slower than the other three. If someone did pass by and happen to see, I had no doubt they could take off in a hurry and hide. I sat motionless weighing my options until Rachel said, Go bitch, let’s get this done. Then I rolled out of the slowly moving car.

LouAnn and the gang were already at the eagle when I caught up, out of breathe and wheezing a bit. The eagle just sat there in all its iconic majesty. Should we sing “America the Beautiful” I wondered to myself.

Do it, someone said.

And so we covered that tired-ass eagle in bright orange spray paint, the kind utility workers use to draw lines on the grass.

Fuck you, Eagles, someone screamed into the darkness of the building.

Fuck you, Eagles, we all thought, as the paint made its way from person to person, all taking our anger and indignation out on this statue. This is for our friends, this is for our community, this is to send you a message, you racist bastards!

Soon enough the spray can was out, and Rachel blared on the horn as she circled the lot, a cue that someone might be coming. We ran fast back to the car. I don’t remember running that fast before that day, or ever since. My heartbeat pounded in my ear. My feet hard on the pavement, as I had pulled my flip flops off to run faster.

That night we drove through the streets of our hometown, laughing, and screaming, and singing No Doubt out the window. Sappy pathetic little me, that was the girl I used to be, you had me on my knees…

The next morning the Leavenworth Times ran a pic of the eagle on the front page. They said it was an affront to the town. They wanted to know who was repsonsible. Of course, we were already told about the eagle by the driver’s grandmother, who had cursed on the phone to her Who would do such a thing? As far as I know, the mystery was never solved.

That was 20 years ago, and I can’t tell you where all the people in that car are today. I’m not even sure if the Eagles is still the same old racist hold-out that it once was. But I can tell you, knowing what I know now, we weren’t as wild as we thought we were, and thank goodness for that. Still, those were exciting times, even when we weren’t fighting for social justice. Something changed for me that night. I realized that I had this power. Now I know it as white privilege. I understand now that I can use my life and my work and yeah, even my streak for vandalism, to fight for others who are ignored, bullied, and just plain made to feel shitty about themselves for no reason other than the color of their skin. We called bullshit on all that the night we turned that eagle orange, and I would do it again, with those same people, in a heartbeat.

Be kind, y’all. And use your power for good. Don’t spray paint eagle statues. There are cameras now. 🙂

M.

*As of 2019, membership is open to any person of good moral character, and believes in the existence of a supreme being, and is not a member of the Communist Party nor any organization which advocates the overthrow of the United States government. Uh huh…

Bartending, and What Not

Y’all remember that time I worked at a country club for four years? If not, get yourself up to speed here: https://missygoodnight.com/2019/02/03/beer-cart-girls/ When I quit serving at the country club to move to Southern Missouri in 2004, I swore off restaurant work forever. I had seen all I needed to see, and learned all I needed to learn. But, I still wasn’t ready to get, like, an office job, and I was far from being mature enough to give college a second try, but I still needed a job, which meant one of two things: Either sell drugs (which was a super easy job to break into along the I-44 corridor) or work in a restaurant. Now to be fair, there were obviously other jobs out there, but I already knew how to do the restaurant thing, so I shrugged my shoulders, applied to the first place I found that was hiring, and got hired immediately, because duh, look at me.

This place was a popular, casual dining establishment. It’s funny to me that I seldom name the actual place in conversation. It’s like I am protecting it for some reason. But to be honest, it did me no favors, so I worked for Ruby Tuesday. To be specific, I worked at the Ruby Tuesday at the Branson Mall in Branson, Missouri. At the time it was built it was part of a franchise owned by a man we will call Johnny B., who was total fucking nutcase. The restaurant was short-lived. In fact, not long after I quit they boarded that bitch up. Which has always brought me great joy, cause I was one loyal SOB to that place, and they took me for granted.

Though to be fair, I met some of my bestest friends and worstest enemies at Ruby Tuesday, and I still love and hate them just as much as I did back then. Shout out to the P-Trio Plus! We were some bomb-ass playas, ya dig?

Anyway. Things I learned from transitioning to a private country club in Leavenworth, Kansas to a public, casual dining establishment that actually had to for real, publish their health code violations:

  • You cannot stick your finger in the food of people you hate
  • It is frowned upon to carry cases of beer wrapped in trash bags out to the “dumpster” when the “dumpster” is actually your friend’s car
  • You don’t just walk up to the line and ask your favorite cook, the one who you sometimes make out with in the linen closet, to drop you a cheeseburger and fries, you have to like, ring up and pay for the food you order, because: inventory?
  • But, you actually don’t even really need to do that, cause you can just graze on the awesome salad bar all day long, which for real, is awesome, go eat it right now
  • You have to tip the bussers, but also, you don’t have to keep a detailed list of all the times you clocked in and out because the GM was stealing your tip money and/or a portion of your $2.35/ hour paycheck to pay for his mistress to have an abortion
  • Oh, but there are still people who scam the system: Looking at you, Hugo or “Richard” (who is now, no shit, working for Taney County in some real, adult role and trusted with money) and Jerry (who last I knew drives a cab and delivers pizza)
  • Again, how to make a realistic looking police report

I learned a lot in the serving industry. In fact, like most places, you can always learn from those around who have done more and seen more. Take for instance, Truck-Stop Judy. Now, I did not make up that name for her. She had that name when I arrived at Ruby’s, but it would appear that she came by it rightly. She, in her manners, look, speech, and demeanor, looked like a woman a man may find soliciting herself at a truck stop. But, she was kind of nice, sometimes, and she was the day bartender when I started working.

She was the first person to think I was worth more than the job I was doing. She told me this in between smoke breaks and what must have been a painstaking process of apply enough eye liner to stay on through the sweat of the day, but just a bit too much so that it would often run down her face when she’d sling the ice into the bar bucket. Truck-Stop Judy said that I was fit for “management” (cue that scene in Waitingwhere the guy is holding an ice pick and erratically jabbing at the ice, and if you haven’t watched the movie Waitingplease stop reading this and run now to watch it. It is real, real life).

Anyway, one day Truck-Stop Judy asked me to “watch the bar” for her while she ran to Walmart to pick up some Mucinex or some other over-the-counter drug that you probably use to mix up meth in your bathtub. I said sure, unknowingly walking into the late-afternoon bar rush. That’s when all the people who work first shifts, in retail, other restaurants, and down at the charcoal factory are done for the day and pick places that have cheap burgers, but also tequila. Shout out to Jimmy Cuervo, the mid-day manager at the McDonalds across the street who would come in every afternoon for two shots of, you guessed it Jose Cuervo, in the middle of his shift. Hey, we all have our things.

Anyway, she set me up. Hard. So I should have been mad, except I rocked that shit like I was rocking the cash bar (which is how I heard the song in my head), and I made a hell of a lot more money than I did serving soup to senior citizens at three o’clock in the afternoon. I was hooked on the bar and she was happy to have someone getting ice for her, so I unofficially became the bar bitch.

That lasted for a few short weeks until Truck-Stop Judy didn’t show for work one day, then the next, then the next, and they were like, “Hey Missy you wanna be a bartender?” And I was all, “Shit yeah, but does anyone know what happened to Truck-Stop Judy?” And they were like, “Ehh.” And I was like, “Who cares?! Dolla, Dolla, bills y’all!” And just like that I was a bartender, only this time it was legal and I was making a hell of a lot more money.

Being the day bartender at a casual dining establishment like Ruby Tuesday in the middle of Branson, Missouri isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. But to be fair, I tried the weekend shifts, and the Sunday morning shifts, and the only nights thing, and the day bar worked best for me. I didn’t have the right mentality to flirt with drunk men on Saturday nights, I didn’t have the desire to hear old-timers impart wisdom on me after they left church and stopped by for a Bloody Mary or two on the way home to their extended families, and I certainly wasn’t built for the sad sacks that roll in at 9 pm on a Wednesday all alone and tired of watching porn in their hotel rooms. Jesus, I have some limits.

The Monday-Friday day bar shift was the shit. I could roll in about ten am, eat some breakfast from Jimmy Cuervo’s McDonalds, set up my tables, get the bar rolling for the day, and usually not have a single guest until noon. Then from noon to 2:00 pm be balls to the wall busy, then have a small reprise from 2:00 to 3:00 to scarf down that salad bar, stock up for the next rush, and talk shit with the other servers. Then promptly at 4:00 I’d get the second bar rush of the day, usually women meeting after work (while they were still supposed to be at work) bitching about their bosses and their husbands, and families with a couple of kids who were headed to a show later, but who were totally hip enough to take their kids to the “bar area” of the restaurant. By the way, we were a “smoking” bar. This was before they passed the law in Branson that you can’t smoke inside, so people could puff it up, then blow their smoke directly into my face and their tiny kids’ faces. And they did. All the time. Eww.

Shift change was at 5:00 and nothing is sharper than a shift change at a bar. If the evening bartender was not there at 4:55, their ass was getting a call from me. “Where you at, Bro?” and “I’m not fucking kidding you better be here at 5:00 if you want you bar stocked.” Because I had to stock the evening bar up for them, you know, “Set them up for success” but I wouldn’t do it until they got there and took over the guests. So the longer it took for them to get there, the longer it took me to get home, and the longer it was before I was in pajamas in front of the tv watching Brokeback Mountain for the fifth time. That bitch needed to hurry.

When they would stroll in at 5:05, I would be pissy and short with them, and head back to dry storage with my list. Five Budweisers, three Mich Ultras, 15 PBRs, and napkins, tooth picks, and sugar packets. I would end up inside the beer cooler longer than I wanted because someone had knocked over a keg, or dropped a beer bottle and not cleaned it up. Assholes, I would mumble. Sometimes someone would walk by and lock the cooler up when I was in it and laugh and laugh. I would of course get them back by writing, “Sometimes I drink so much I pee my pants when I am asleep” on the receipt paper right before they printed off their table’s ticket and they would be met with laughter when they stopped back by the pick up the payment, realizing as they open the book what had happened. It’s the little things, really.

For all this bullshit, I still made only about $100 a day in tips, and that was good for this joint. Of course, the management liked to remind me, I’m still making my $2.35/hr while I am mopping up spilled vodka from the bar floor, or carrying a dead mouse out of the beer cooler, or ushering 22-year-old girls into the bathroom to vomit. So, there’s that silver lining.

I don’t know how normal fucking people make it in the service industry. I was not normal. I lived with my boyfriend, who always worked a “day job” in an office somewhere, and worked a couple bar shifts a week himself. We lived on a beautiful lake, in a house that his parents owned and we paid very little to live there. We both had working vehicles, and insurance, and some sense of obligation and duty to our community. We even fucking volunteered on Sunday afternoons at the damn library helping senior citizens learn how to work computers. But there were an awful lot of people that I worked with who did not have our life.

I quickly worked my way up through the ranks and before I knew it I was the manager on duty. I was doing initial interviews with possible candidates, I was making schedules, and helping people fill out I-9s. That is when I really learned the shit people go through for a crappy job.

Branson is a highly transient area, with a large hispanic population and many of them do not make it here in legal ways. This was my first experience with this and the first time I ever learned what a “coyote” is. We had a couple of them who worked in the kitchen from time to time. So I was forced to have uncomfortable conversations with immigrant workers who I knew for a fact where in the US illegally. I had to repeatedly ask them to bring in a social security card that was real (I had been trained to spot the fake ones) or an ID with their picture on it. “No me importa qué nombre es,” I’d say in broken-ass Spanish, “pero tiene que ser tu cara.” They’d smile and say no problem and promise to bring it in the next day, then I’d never see them again. I didn’t realize when I was living this life, and I lived it for nearly six years, how much of an impact it would have on me. Hindsight, right?

Today I tip the fuck out of people, yo. I tip servers and bartenders at least 20% even if they sucked, cause yeah, we all have bad days. I tip valet dudes. I tip hotel workers. I tip the dog groomer. I tip the mailman, but in baked goods cause I am still not sure how that works. I tip anyone in a service job who I think would appreciate a tip, and sometimes people who I shouldn’t tip. They look at me nervously and say they can’t accept that and I want to scream, take it, you deserve it, to the lady filling up the salad bar at Harris Teeter.

And you need to be doing the same. And if you are in a situation where you are not sure if they can get a tip, ask them. If it is someone who does something for you and you know they can’t be tipped, like the guy who drops off your Amazon package or the dude behind the deli at Walmart (I’ve asked), tip them in compliments. Tell them they are rocking it back there and that they are the best at cutting your roast beef. Tell them you like to come see them. Tell them their smile made your fucking day. Do it. And do it some more.

Serving sucks, y’all. My husband and most of my friends have lived that life and if you haven’t, then count yourself lucky. It takes a certain kind of attitude to do that work. To have a service mentality toward others and to outwardly show it. To deal with the day to day bullshit of what is thrown at you. And make no mistake. Servers you come across are not in that line of work “for fun”. They are there because that’s the only place they can get a job at that moment. Or it was the only place hiring. Or they live close and don’t have a car. Or they aren’t comfortable in an office, or a strict 9-5 and there are not a lot of other places that offer that. So remember to be kind. Especially to people who can totes stick their finger in your mashed potatoes and you’d never fucking know.

M.

Into the Fold

A whirlwind is really the only way to describe the four days that we spent in Washington D.C. this last weekend. A complete whirlwind. Jerimiah, Jackson, and I have been to D.C. once before, but only for one day while we were visiting Jerimiah’s mom in Maryland. Back then Jackson was just learning to walk, we had not yet made it to his first birthday, and President Obama had just been sworn into office. In short, we were in a very different time in our lives. So was our country.

Fast forward ten years and suddenly my little guy, who last time in D.C. was toddling across the Washington Monument, was marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, a smile on his face and a megaphone in his hand. He was marching for women’s rights. He was marching for his friends and his family. He was marching for his mommy and for his sister. He was marching for his own reasons too, recalling the first time he heard President Trump talk about “the wall” and asking whether his Hispanic friend, Angel, would be sent away. He made up his own chant: “Be a leader, not a Tweeter!” It was sort of, well, perfect.

Though Jackson may not have grasped what was happening around him, may not have caught the meaning of many of the signs, or heard the rumblings under foot of anti-semitism, or noticed the anti-abortion counter protesters, at one point he walked up next to me, grabbed my hand and said, “Mommy, I see why we came now.” And that was all I needed to hear. I, on the other hand, I had been a mess leading up to last Saturday.

The women in our family.

The idea to go to the Women’s March had come to my friend Beth and me (like most of our ideas) in a bursting blaze of wine and lingering indignation. We were at my kitchen island one evening a couple of weeks before, catching up on our recent holidays (complaining really about lack of sleep and lack of sound judgement) when she said, “Hey, the Women’s March is in a couple of weeks, wanna go and take the family?” “Uh, duh,” I responded, as I finished off the bottle of my Target “Clearance” red, and she started pulling up AirBnBs on her phone. It wasn’t long before we had roped in both husbands, our friend Meredith and her two sons, and a third friend, Merrily, who like Beth had the experience of the first march under her belt. The house was booked, the days requested off, the scene was set. Then came the shitstorm.

First there was the weather. I mean, who could have possibly known there would be a Nor’easter in January?! No one. No one could have predicted that. Washington got what five inches the week before the march. Or was it 15? 50? I dunno, but the temps were about to, as Lil Jon, The East Side Boyz, and Ying Yang Twins would say, “Get low, get low, get low, get low…” Yeah. It got low.

Then days before, the news broke about the march administrators. Now I can’t really speak a lot to this. I caught it in passing, Beth could probably tell you more, but it seemed like women fighting each other and accusing each other of saying things that should not have been said. It made people nervous. It made people scared to come to the march, scared to stand in solidarity with one another. Honestly I stayed far away from it, figuring I’d learn more when we were actually there, seeing these women in person.

Then there was the news of the change of venue. Originally the Women’s March had obtained a permit to march at the National Mall, but with the shutdown, the National Parks Service was afraid they would not be able to keep the mall clean and the snow removed in time for the march, so at the last minute a permit was issued for 10,000 to march on Pennsylvania Avenue. The one saving grace that the march would go right by Trump’s Washington Hotel, all was not lost.

Then the night before our president himself tried to steal the thunder by saying he would make a “Big, Yuge, Terrific” announcement at 3:00 pm on the day of the march. Then it was promptly changed to 4:00 pm, considering that is when the march ended. I think he knew better than to piss off 10,000 women marching past his house. Good on him.

Then of course, was the fact that hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans had gone without pay for a month now. That weighed heavy on our minds and our hearts, and we tried to figure out how we could help them, while marching at the same time.

Le sigh. It was sort of chaotic to say the least, but still, we persisted.

Everyone made it to DC safely, having made the six hour drive from Charlotte on Friday. Saturday morning came and our crew readied ourselves for the street, even though we were all a bit groggy and some of us were, ahem, a bit hungover. The kids though, they were amped up! They had their signs (most of them made by Beth) and their megaphone and their marching shoes. Not to mention their hats, gloves, and layers of clothes. (In the end though, this day would prove to be the warmest of our time there.)

Spencer, Jackson, and Cooper (“The boys”) ready for action!

They boys seemed hellbent on making as much noise as they could, as well as giving out a number of “free hugs”, cause yeah, these are cool kids. Meanwhile, Morgan (the lone girl in the kid group) showed up ready for battle, her handmade sign garnering a lot of attention from us, as well as many people at the march. We will call her, well, wise beyond her years. (Basically, she pities ‘da fool.)

Morgan, who knew immediately she would tackle gerrymandering in her own district. (Yeah, she’s ten years old.)

At this point no one had any idea how many people would be at the march, what the scene would look like, how the marchers would react to one another, and whether it would be anything like the other two marches. I had never been to a march, period. I was nervous, I was anxious, and I was a little numb to what I was walking into. But I was ready. We all were. We were ready for whatever was headed our way, snacks and toe warmers in our bags, and smiles on our faces. At about 10:15 a.m. the whole crew took off from our house for the metro. We were only five stops away from the crowd that awaited us.

About twenty minutes later we rounded the corner of Freedom Plaza and saw a sight that I am not sure we expected. Well, I didn’t expect it. Thousands of men, women, and children lined the streets. Vendors selling merchandise, food, and hot coffee. Pink hats, 12 foot signs, and amped up fellow Americans ready to take to the streets together in love and in light. It was all a little much for me to take in.

The Crew (minus Jerimiah who was taking the pic). We were standing outside the Warner Theater, Freedom Plaza is in the background.

There was so much to see. It was like being at a circus, a parade, a concert, and a play all at once. There were smiles and voices. There were high fives and handshakes. There were hugs, lots of hugs. There were women crying. There were funny signs and serious signs and necessary signs. There was a camaraderie I don’t think I was fully prepared for. I simply stood, silently looking around trying to take it all in, trying to sear this image into my mind to recall at a later time, on an idle Thursday when I am in bed, my blankets pulled up over my head and I am sad. I wanted to bottle it. I wanted to capture the essence of the mood, the sight, the sounds all around me. In short, it was pretty fucking cool.

Waiting for the march to begin on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 13th Street.
Beth’s handiwork.
Merrily found her march sister! ❤
We had just been talking about the women marching in Mary Poppins!
Lots of signs wishing RBG well!
#ThanksObama
I liked the “Where’s Mitch?” sign, but I mean, come on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr has some wise words too.
Solidarity, sisters.
Marie Kondo would be proud.
I saw a few women with his poster, but this young lady said nothing, did nothing. Just stood in silence and a smile as the speakers took the stage. She didn’t need to. Her sign said it all.

We started marching and chanting and laughing and hugging promptly at 11 am. The march was just around one city block, but it took about two hours. In the middle of it Merrily, Beth, and I popped into a coffee shop to get the crew all warmed up with cups of joe, when a slight scare happened upon us. Meredith came in asking if we had seen Cooper. He had walked over to throw something in a trash can and the sea of people had swept him away. We tried to remain calm. He had his cell phone. The crowd was slow moving. And we had eyes all over.

His momma ended up finding him just a few feet away after a frantic look for about ten minutes. When he had realized he was separated from the group, he found a police officer and stood by him, looking for us and trying to call his mom. (Did I mention how smart these kids are?!) He seemed okay, we were all a little shaken up, though no one wanted to admit it, and after a small break to regroup we joined the masses again. At one point after we found him, Beth, Meredith, and I all looked at each other, a knowing smile spreading across our faces. Had we been worried? Yes. But this was a sea of mommies. A sea of grandmothers. Of women who have birthed and held and bathed these babies, the generations before us. Women who have seen more in their lives than we ever will. Our babies would be just fine among them.

Taking a snack break after we were all reunited again.

As the march wrapped up we saw more sights that conjured up pictures from the 1970s. Women in trees leading chants, women in bikinis (in that weather! Oh my goodness we wanted to put sweaters on them!) women holding hands, forming chains, women screaming, women with fists in the air, women with an air of determination to be heard and seen. And they were.

Upon seeing this Jackson really wanted to do the same thing. I said no. In hindsight, I should have let him… Next time.
Group signs, human chains, working together to get the message across.

Around 1 p.m. the march wrapped up at Freedom Plaza where a stage had been erected to house the speakers, of which there were many. There were speakers from the Women’s March itself, the very women who were reportedly arguing just days before taking the stage, including Tamika Mallory who went after the rumors head on, telling her Jewish sisters, “I see you.”

About 3 p.m. the kids lost steam. It started to sprinkle and everyone was a little hungry. That’s when Beth’s husband Dave, Meredith, and Merrily offered to take the kids for food and all meet back later. Beth and I wanted to stay to see more of the rally and Jerimiah was sort of along for the ride, so we split up. I’m not sure what the other group did, but I was sent screenshots of giant cinnamon rolls, so it must have been good! Beth, Jerimiah, and I walked to the other side of Freedom Plaza to try to get a better view of the stage. That is when we found the counter-protesters.

To the bitter end!

Calling them counter-protesters might not be accurate, I don’t know what they were or why they were there. I don’t know who they were trying to scare or upset. I don’t know whether they were there on their own ambitions or whether they were paid by some larger organization, though my money is on the latter. But they were there, and they weren’t going anywhere.

At first I didn’t see them. In fact I stepped right past them and didn’t even notice their signs, as I was fixated on trying to get closer to the stage and by this time of the day was ignorant to signs above my head. It wasn’t until Beth and Jerimiah made eyes at each other and Beth said, “They are trying to cover up their signs” that I looked over. There was a circle of women standing in front of a young man. They had him surrounded and they were holding their signs up above their heads, ushering people around him. I stepped around Jerimiah to get a better view. That’s when I saw the man’s sign.

It was a graphic depiction of a “late-term abortion”. Graphic in the sense that it was made to conjure up a disgusting scene of a dead baby, supposedly at five months gestation, outside of its mother’s body, cut up in many parts and covered in blood. Of course it was a depiction. It was not an actual baby, but a doll made to look like one. On the other side of the sign was what appeared to be a dead woman. It was all very morose. I spun back around trying to again focus on the stage, but I could not get that image out of my mind, which I what I assume they wanted.

Within a couple of minutes I found myself standing in front of the man, my signs held up above my head, giving the other women in the group a reprise from the sign holding. Beth was next to me holding her signs and Jerimiah was across from us blocking the signs of a young woman who had popped up. I’m not sure how long we stood there, but it felt like half an hour or so. At one point I lowered may sign and another woman took over for me, so I could take a picture of Jerimiah across from me. Another image I wanted seared into my brain for later.

I snapped this picture of my husband blocking the anti-abortion signs so I would remember it always. Remember his quick response. Remember our collective anger.

It wasn’t long before I overheard a discussion behind me. Another young woman had shown up, anti-abortion signs in hand, to spew ignorance at the crowd. Some marchers had stopped to try to talk to her. It sounded like a civil discussion. No one was yelling, no one was even raising their voice. The young woman was talking about science. About how babies are made at conception. About how they feel pain during an abortion. About how babies are “sawed into pieces” to get them to come out.

I stepped in. I didn’t plan to. My body sort of just moved over to her. I knew as I was walking that I shouldn’t do it. I felt the emotion rising up in me. I felt my head getting hot, giving me this sort of groggy feeling. Maybe it was the rain, maybe it was the cold, or the steam forming at the corners of my eyes, but I walked up and I told her Lydia’s story. I started with, “I gave birth to a dead baby.” The crowd of women went silent and all their eyes turned to me, the young anti-abortionist as well. They listened intently. They listened to me describe the chromosomal disorder. They listened to be explain the choice I had. The one I had because abortion is legal. They listened to me say her name, over and over again. Lydia. Lydia. Lydia.

Then when I was finished. When the tears were streaming down my face, Evangeline, the woman who was holding the disgusting sign said, “I’m sorry that happened to you, but that is different.” I wanted to scream at her. IT IS NOT DIFFERENT. But I didn’t. Eventually I walked away. I felt beaten down. I felt abused and assaulted. Even now today, I am not sure why.

Later that night I wasn’t so cordial with the crew. We ended up all meeting again at our AirBnB. I got to hear Jackson tell me all about the big cinnamon rolls, and listen to the kids run around upstairs playing Harry Potter and Monopoly and recounting the fun they had that day. I lay in my room, listening the talking and the laughing and the love being passed around the table. Everyone came to check on me. Beth and Meredith offered encouragement, you’re not alone, we are here if you want to talk. Jerimiah offered his love. His strength. His solidarity. After all, we had went through it together. Always together.

I eventually drifted off to sleep that night with horrific images in my mind, but I dreamed about my daughter. About the women I had met that day. About the women I have come to know. Come to call my friends. About all the daughters and all the women and all the lives that were lost, are lost. All the women I marched for.

It’s been a few days of processing for me. And I’m still working through my experience, but so far there is one thing I am sure about. I am so happy that I was able to be part of the Women’s March. I am so happy that I was able to use my voice for those who cannot. I am so happy that I stood with my husband and son by my side. That Jackson saw a strength in his mommy that he may have forgotten existed. That he saw his Daddy triumphantly helping women. That he understands what our powers can be used for. I am so happy that I stood alongside friends that I did. Women of caliber like those with me that day. I am so happy to have those women in my life. In my heart.

I am so happy to think that my daughter knows what I do, how I share her story, how I speak of her and about her, is to remember her. To better the lives of all girls and women, to keep her present always in this world and in my heart. I am so happy to have been on the right side of history. To have walked the walk many before us have walked. To have done my part, as tiny and as insignificant as it seems, I know in my heart that it made a difference for someone. And that will carry me for many more years.

I’ll leave you with this thought: As women we can’t allow the world to change us, to rearrange us, to divide us, or to deride us. We have to act responsibly and respectively toward one another if we are to get anywhere. We have to lift each other up, step on the backs of those who first carried us, then become the backs for the younger generations to hoist theirselves on top of. We are part of a fold like no other. And we must welcome each other with open arms, open minds, and open hearts.

M.

Ps… Below is our march song. 🙂 Enjoy.

Broken Record

I feel like a broken record sometimes, y’all. And believe me, I know what a broken record feels like. Just last week my dog ate one of my vinyls, Alabama’s Greatest Hits. At first I was so distraught, all I could do was throw myself onto the floor in a fetal position and cry, while I slowly sang:

There’s an old flame, burning in your eyes
That tears can’t drown, and make-up can’t disguise

Yeah, it was as emotionally-charged and odd as it seems. But later, when I tried to duct tape the record back together, telling Sir Duke Barkington that I wasn’t so much mad, as I was disappointed, I realized maybe it was a lost cause.

Maybe a lot of what I try to fix is a lost cause. Maybe a lot of people I try to convince are lost causes, not because they aren’t capable of learning, knowing, or growing, but because they are shut off to anything they do not understand, anything that scares them, anything that goes against their beliefs, set in stone, unchanging.

This past Saturday I had an encounter with an anti-abortion protester at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.. I have never been face to face with a person like this before. Her name was Evangeline, she introduced herself after she asked my name. I told her it was Missy, and that I was the mother of a daughter who was not alive because she was very sick. Because she could not live outside of my body. Then I told her, unprovoked, Lydia’s story in short. She smiled as I spoke and nodded her head along like she was listening, but when I was finished she said just this: “I am sorry that happened to you. That is different than an abortion.” I explained that is not different. That in my hospital discharge paperwork I was released after having had a “late-term abortion”. And that if abortion rights were taken from women, I would not have had that choice.

She again smiled and said that she was sorry that happened to me but that my case “was different”, and most people just don’t “understand science”. I asked her what she meant by that, and she told me that babies are made at conception. I explained that my own children, one born healthy, one not, were fetal poles until 6 weeks gestation, no heartbeats, just a cluster of cells (I had ultrasounds to show it) and she again said, “I am sorry you do not understand science.”

I am sorry you do not understand science. I am sorry, but your case is different. I am sorry you do not understand science. I am sorry, but your case is different.

Around and around and around.

I am sorry, but your case is different.

I am sorry you do not understand science.

I am sorry, but your case is different.

My husband and best friend moved to block other anti-abortion protesters with their signs as I spoke with this woman, who was utterly mis-informed and completely lacked the ability to reason for herself. All I can hope is that when she packed up her signs, promptly at 3:00 pm (we assume she was paid to be there for a certain time) that she thought about my words and my story as she walked back to her warm van.

I know that sometimes I sound like a broken record. And I apologize for that. I apologize that you all have to keep reading my words and listening to Lydia’s story, especially when it makes you uncomfortable or brings up your own memories that you would rather forget. But for those of you still around, I applaud you. I thank you.

I see you. Trying to understand, to learn, to support me and the millions of women like me. Because there is no difference. There is no difference between my case and the millions of others. We are all women. Women doing what is best for us, for our mental health, for our economic or educational success, for our children, for our families, for our futures. And until EVERYONE can attempt to understand, can accept that legislating morality will not be tolerated, and can give grace, even to those who they fundamentally disagree with, then I will keep spinning this record. Around and around and around.

M.

My daughter’s hands and feet were perfect. The only parts of her body that were.
Lydia Elizabeth Goodnight
B: August 25, 2011

Brown Butterflies

I’ve been thinking lately about the different stages of life and how it feels like they sneak up on us, but upon closer examination, we sort of knew the changes were coming long before they came. But still they blindside us on some idle Tuesday when we feel wholly unprepared to take anymore shit from that particular Tuesday. They smack us on the hand, or the head, or if we are lucky, on the rear, and they shake us into a violent spiral of self-loathing and pitiful dread. And just like that, the person we thought we were is gone, and this new person has emerged. It’s sort of scary and weird and totally, totally jacked up.

I was complaining about this aloud to my husband last night. I complain to him a lot, especially on days when I have been complaining to myself aloud and my self hasn’t been able to come up with any answers. My husband, you see, is a saint of a different kind. He is patient with me. He listens to me while he rubs my feet or my back. He doesn’t get angry at me, unless I am down on myself and then he tells me to treat myself better. He even pretends like he doesn’t hear me talking to myself in the shower, or the bathroom, or the closet, or the kitchen, least I think of myself as crazy. He just listens and tries to help.

So there I was trying to explain to him that I don’t feel like any particular kind of “me” anymore, because the last set of changes in my life really did me in and I am super scared of the next change. He looked confused. I reasoned that approximately every three years I change. I go through a complete metamorphosis, sort of like a caterpillar, but instead of turning into a beautiful butterfly who flies through the rain forest, I get stuck being a brown butterfly. Not that being a brown butterfly is bad, it’s just that brown butterflies always seem to have short, tumultuous lives inside one of those manufactured rainforests at a children’s museum. Red butterflies with yellow and purple markings sail through the humid air of Ecuador, racing each other, making children stand in awe, and women look to the skies, close their eyes, and imagine a world unlike their own. Brown butterflies end up getting sat on by an oxygen-tank-wielding grandpa who was dumped in the “rainforest” because he couldn’t keep up with the toddlers and someone said, “You know what, I bet Dad would enjoy the butterflies.”

Again, there is nothing wrong with brown butterflies, they are just “eh” and “eh” is how I have come to see this “Missy”. The one right here, right now, in this present position in life. I’m not alone, I know that. My friend just asked me this morning, in a desperate voice in search of relief, “What the hell is in retrograde right now?” Eh.

Maybe it’s the time of the year. The “winter blues” is very real. Maybe because my whole life is in this sort of holding pattern that I have never been in before, and it is forcing me to work with and against questions that I just do not have answers for. It sucks, truly, but I am also grateful for so much. This leaves me feeling, well, eh.

I’ve been really fixated on these shifts of time lately. I remember visiting a butterfly “sanctuary” when Jackson was a toddler. (I’m using quotes for sanctuary because, uh, there is no real reason to have a butterfly sanctuary, other than to breed butterflies for human viewing in an enclosed space, yeah, I’m weird about animals in captivity.) But still it was kind of neat to see that many butterflies in one place. That is also where I learned, or maybe relearned, that butterflies have an incredibly complicated life cycle, and an incredibly short life span. Adult butterflies only live for weeks.

I started thinking about the stages of the butterfly, and of course to the stages of my own life, and I became really attune to the changes that have happened every three years or so. There seems to be a pattern. Like it takes three years for me to make any real progress. Or to make any big change. Or to even deal with simple things. I’m a slow learner I suppose. But, I’ve been able to trace my changes back as far as thirteen years, and it is a weird, ugly road.

Thirteen years ago I became a fiancée. I changed from just a girlfriend to someone who needed to start planning for a life together with this man that I loved, in a very pointed and serious way. Planning for the future was a BIG change for sixteen years ago Missy, whose only real job was to have fun. I bartended on weekends, spent money like an Arabic Sheik, and occasionally danced on tables, if the bar (more importantly the music) allowed.

Three years later I became a mother to a happy, healthy baby boy. If you don’t think parenthood pulls you into a new version of yourself, think again. And while you are at it, that isn’t just the “baby blues”. Get yourself to your doctor and say yes to the Wellbutrin with the side of Xanax, then figure out whether your body can tolerate both pills and a glass of wine each night at ten p.m. while you binge watch Netflix and secretly eat candy from the floor on the side of your bed that can’t be seen from the hallway.

Becoming a mommy was the biggest wake-up call I had ever had. Until three years later, when I became a mommy to an unhealthy, dead baby girl. Whoa. Another Missy came along. This Missy was sad most of the time. She struggled to conjure up new ideas. She regretted most of the decisions that brought her to that point. She blamed herself for much more than was her fault. She worried what this new mommy was doing to this little boy, who was tottering behind her everywhere she went.

Three years later I was no longer a mommy with a little boy tottering along behind. I became a kindergarten mom. That freaked me out so much, that in the same breath I became a grad student with two part-time jobs, and a myriad of obligations just to try to deal with the horrible quiet in my house. But, I settled nicely into that routine for, you guessed it, three years. Then last year, everything changed again. I graduated, stopped working, moved to the city, had a hysterectomy (changing both my attitude toward the future and my actual body), and I started to devote more time to myself than ever before. And I know this all seems great, and trust me it is, but sometimes the lack of things, things to learn, things to do, things to accomplish, makes me feel, well, eh. Because even though Missy keeps changing, there are some things that don’t change.

Missy has always been kind, empathetic, and open-minded. But Missy has also always been reactive, anxious, and diffident. Always. Through each set of changes. Through each three-year block. And those are the sort of things that don’t just go away with time. They also make changing and growing and being at the sort of crossroads that I am in now, hard to get through.

So now here I am. In what I am calling the “Eh Stage”. The “Eh Missy”. This Missy is not the most fun to be around, I’m really sorry you guys. This Missy likes to sleep longer, likes to dawdle over what to cook for dinner or what kind of scarf to buy. This Missy loathes small talk and would rather just sit silently, in her own mind, while others jabber around her, then get caught up in the middle of it. Content to do so. This Missy thinks slower, even slower than high school Missy who was always a little, tiny bit high, and certainly never understand chemistry.

But, like most things in life, it isn’t all bad. This Missy doesn’t shy away from waxing political, or making some waves in an attempt to better things for others. This Missy is finally able to admit that she needs to “think on things” before she can add value to the conversation. This Missy listens with her whole heart when someone needs an ear, she doesn’t let her mind race frantically to all her problems and responsibilities and just nod her head along occasionally. And like usual, some days are better than others.

Maybe this “Eh” stage is something you are going through too? And maybe it is because life has taken its toll on you. Maybe you find yourself in a rusty patch. Maybe the political world makes you want to vomit. Maybe you are almost 40 and freaking out (WE ALL DO, RIGHT?!) Maybe, probably, it is just a stage. A phase of life. Maybe today you feel like a brown butterfly. But maybe tomorrow you will end up all red and yellow and purple, and soaring through the humid, lovely air of Ecuador. Because really, it’s all so very temporary.

M.

This Week Isn’t Bringing Me Joy

I’ve had one of those weeks where I wouldn’t mind starting over. Not because something innately bad happened, just because a pile of small annoyances have gone to bat against a small amount of good moments. It’s just that, at this point, the annoyances are winning. In an attempt to not let one “eh” week turn into another I want to take stock for a moment.

How did I go from relaxing on the sofa with my boys on Sunday night, dreaming about how fun and productive this week would be, to standing at my kitchen sink eating a leftover pork chop with my hands, while I yell toward the utility lineman who cut my internet line on accident last week and never bothered to tell anyone? Well, it was a slow process…

Monday was alright, as far as Mondays go. I have to be honest though, I have never met a Monday that I liked. Mondays are like women named “Karen”, but everyone calls them “Kare” or “KareBear”. Karens can be your best friend one minute, then the next they can be telling you how to run your life, because as they mentioned, “If you just follow everything Marie Kondo and I tell you to do, your life will not be so upside down.” Thanks, Karen. I really appreciate it, but I think maybe Mondays just do not bring me joy.

Monday was uneventful, save the short period of time between school pick-up and dinner. I had Morgan and Jackson that afternoon and they were hellbent on turning a glass of water into rum with their Harry Potter wands. Now normally I would make a Jesus joke about this, but I tried it on them and they didn’t appreciate it. 10-year-olds (eye roll). Anyway, at this time I was also trying to feed them dinner so that I could get Morgan to her acting class on time (a favor I was doing for her mom who was stuck with work). Also, for some reason, Duke decided to lose his shit that day. He wouldn’t go outside, then he wouldn’t come inside. He paced around my legs while I was running around trying to make eggplant parm for our dinner, while feeding them a “first dinner”, while taste testing the “rum”. At some point I eyed the actual rum on the top shelf, closed my eyes and tried to Wingardium Leviosa the fucking rum to me. It didn’t work. But I was finally able to convince them that they had in fact done it. That they had turned the water into rum! Then I shot that glass of water like it was Mexican Tequila and I was a bleach blond beauty on spring break in Cancun, trying desperately to forget about my short fling with the RA Anthony, who everyone called “Tony” because even though he was in a band, he still collected Star Wars memorabilia and “OH MY GOD, KAREBEAR DO THIS SHOT WITH ME! FUCK TONY!” Fuck Mondays.

Tuesday was a bit more, shall I say, tedious? I started out fine. In fact, Jerimiah and I started a workout competition on our watches and I was killing it. I had already done my 1.5 mile walk with Duke, who seemed to be getting his shit together again. Then I did my “Seven Minutes in Hell”, which is not at all like “Seven Minutes in Heaven”, but is in fact a seven minute High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout. Then I did the stationary bike and lifted some free weights, all while I pretended that I was in a closet with Jake Gyllenhaal and we were awkwardly groping at each other and sliding our slippery lips together trying to avoid each others braces. Then I sat down to write a blogpost about how people who are on welfare are taking money from the government the same way that people who get tax discounts for various reasons are also taking money from the government, we all take from the government at some point either for crazy-ass tax deductions (like when you buy a “work” car for your “work” but not really you just want an expensive ass Suburban cause you are a mom and live in a sub-division and your name is Karen) or because we need temporary assistance or unemployment when we lose a job, etc, etc. IT’S THE SAME THING! Anyway, I never got the chance to write that post because as soon as I sat down at my desk, my neighbor came over and quietly knocked on my door asking if I would call the police for her. Yeah, my Tuesday got weird after that. In fact, I had a friend coming over for coffee, so when she got here she got to meet my neighbor, who was here with her one-year-old using my phone because her asshole, abusive, son-of-a-bitch husband had taken her phone and her tablet and every possible way she had to contact her family in the Philippines. So there is that. Tuesday got better (for me) when I got to spend three hours with my friend, reconnecting, and learning about her life, and dispensing my ill-thought out advice. Have you tried Marie Kondo?

Wednesday was the real shit-kicker. Again, it started out superb. I dropped Jackson off at school then went to a quiet, cute coffee shop near his school where I met two friends for coffee. We brought coloring books, Bob Ross and The Golden Girls (Thanks for the awesome gift, Susie!) and we colored and drank coffee and solved the problems of the world. Or tried to, at least. We talked about immigration, and our school system, we planned a trip to march on Washington (for real, we leave next weekend!) and we discussed domestic violence help for my neighbor, we talked about how hard it must be to live a life unlike the ones we are fortunate enough to have. We complained about complaining and we hugged each other. My soul was restored. Then I got home. I had been gone for five hours. Duke had apparently not been happy with that. He had torn apart most of my record sleeves and he actually ate one record to pieces: Alabama’s Greatest Hits! (KASEY, HELP! He ate the shit out of it!) Then he dug through the shoe bench and got a few pairs out, then he started to eat the wood of the bench. By the time I got there he was sound asleep in his bed, looking angelic. I screamed, “WE ARE CRATING YOU, YOU LITTLE ASSHOLE!” Then I spanked him (because although I don’t spank my child, I do spank my dog because you can’t reason with a dog, sue me if you want to) and I sent him outside. I was frustrated, but it wasn’t just him, and I knew that. So eventually I let him back in and pet him and gave him a new toy I had bought him. (Insert another eye roll).

It wasn’t Duke at all, it was all the things that I had talked about that day. It was the fact that I want to help all the people in my life, but I feel helpless. It was that this world is a shit-bag, upside down world right now, and how will my marching even help? It was that I hadn’t had any alone time this week. It was that I was biting off more than I could chew. It was that I don’t know what to do if I don’t know how to help. I sank lower and lower last night, until finally at 8:00 pm I crawled into bed feeling defeated and deflated. I had been so pumped that morning. I had been feeling like we could change the world, but instead I let the world work me over, again. It’s a gross feeling.

So today I woke up and thought, “Today is Thursday and by God it will be different!” And it was, for a few minutes. Here’s the thing. When you get down in this funk, not a lot will pull you out. And normally I know what it is I need to help pull me out, but today I couldn’t tell you. I have no idea what I need, so I guess I will just keep looking and keep trying. Maybe the march will help. Maybe we will get some concrete news about the move soon, maybe things will settle, maybe they won’t. But I won’t stop looking for things that bring me joy. It’s like Marie Kondo says, “ストレージのエキスパートはardersです”. Yeah, I don’t speak Japanese.

M.

One Saturday a Month

Today we went to the monthly “giveaway” for the homeless in Charlotte, North Carolina. This event’s name doesn’t speak to what it really does and how people in the community really come together, so I wanted to give you a closer look.

For many years Jerimiah and I have been looking for an organization to support, a cause to get behind, something that was close to our hearts, something tangible, a way to hit the streets and feel like we were making a difference. Up until last year our “charitable service” involved checks to the DAV, occasional donations to friends and family who were taking them for a cause they felt strongly about, checks to the Trisomy 18 Foundation, the American Heart Association, etc. We shop at thrift stores when we can and we donate regularly. But basically we felt like we were phoning it in.

Then last year I met a women who volunteered her time at the holidays making meals for families at one of the many shelters for women and children in Charlotte. She told me all about how wonderful it was to meet and talk with these mothers, who generally were victims of domestic abuse and who were seeking better lives for their children. I was taken with how genuine she was in her belief that she had a real impact on the lives of the women she met. The only problem was, she was a Christian fundamentalist. So she took that time, above all else, to try to “bring these women to Christ”. She said it was sometimes difficult and she sometimes had to be direct about it, and that sometimes she got the sense they didn’t want to talk about it, but she still did. The more I talked to her the more uncomfortable I felt. It doesn’t seem like a good thing to try to weasel your love for the Lord into a conversation with a woman who has run from an abusive husband, left her home in the middle of the night, and is looking for a comforting ear and a bit of safety. It seems rude to try to make her believe in your beliefs or even make religion a priority at a time in her life when she has a million other things to deal with. In my experience it makes people feel worse, not better. Not to mention that it can turn people off religion altogether to think that in order for people to be nice to them, they have to accept Jesus Christ.

Now listen, I am a Christian. A Baptist to be clear. I do not attend church, nor do I proselytize. I do not feel called to share my faith with others, even though my church has told me many times that is my job. It is not. My job, as a Christian, is to help others and to be kind. I feel called to understand and be accepting of other beliefs. I know full well that others’ beliefs have nothing to do with me, and that they are entitled to them. I am not so ignorant to think that my God is any more powerful or “right” than any other God and there are many, many Gods (Hinduism alone has over 10,000,000). Having said that, any missionary that puts God above the people they are helping is not for me. It was also not for my Atheist husband. We also did not want to teach out 10-year-old son that you can only help others who believe what you believe. Because the truth is that you can help anyone, at anytime, even if they believe exactly the opposite of you.

Having said that, Jerimiah found the Atheist Alliance Group on Facebook. This was a nice group, full of, you guessed it, non-believers, who are loosely associated with the larger group Atheist Alliance International. We don’t know much about AAI, because we are not members, but we do know Shane, who runs the local “giveaway” each month. We know him and we have talked to him. We found out why he does what he does and it is pretty simple: Because he is fortunate and he can help those less fortunate. Period. Bottom line. End of story.

Shane and the group of people who work tirelessly each month getting donations, organizing volunteers, and hauling around Amazon boxes full of flashlights and Q-Tips, recognized a problem and worked toward a solution.

In Charlotte there are several shelters for both homeless men, and women with children. On Tryon there are two in particular: The Men’s Shelter and the Urban Ministry Center. At 8:00 sharp, the men’s shelter kick the men out for the day. This serves a couple purposes: 1. It helps get the men out and moving, hopefully to find work, even temporary day labor and 2. It allows the staff to clean the facility, and work on getting people in and out, on a more permanent basis.

Urban Ministries takes men, women, and children, but they do not open until 11:00 for food and shelter, so Shane decided to set up shop in an empty parking lot on the corner of Tryon and Dalton, once a month, at 8:00 am sharp and run until the last person walks up, which is usually about 10:00 am. It isn’t until you go a few times that you realize that right across the street, next to the 7-11 with no public restroom, is also a homeless village. A large grassy area full of tents and sleeping bags strategically hidden behind the blacked out fence of a body shop. It’s a good spot to set up shop.

This is one of two giveaways Shane does. He also holds one each month in Spartanburg, South Carolina, but we do not go to that one as we like to save our resources for the homeless in our community. Shane lives in SC and makes the trek up to Charlotte each month because the need is present.

Today was like any of the other giveaways we have been to over the last several months. It was not the coldest we have worked, but it was by far the windiest. The highs today are supposed to top out in the 60s, but the wind this morning was fierce and the temperature never above 40 degrees. Of course, we have a nice, warm home to go home to after we work our two hours, but the people getting our assistance do not. They also had nowhere to go when it rained for four days straight, raining so much our backyard flooded and the rain penetrated roofs and flooded small creeks. But they came out this morning in full force, enjoying the rain-free morning and even more so the hot breakfast.

Shane and his core group serve up a piping hot breakfast, which has just gotten better over the last few months with a donation of a large, portable, flat-top grill! They can cook loads of pancakes and sausage and bacon on that puppy at one time. And they do! And the men and women who stop by for breakfast appreciate it.

The food is all donated or purchased with donated money, either from the people there helping pass it out, or the many donors (some anonymous) that the Atheist Alliance Helping the Homeless receive each month. This month my own mother-in-law (not an atheist) sent us $100 to spend on what we saw fit for the giveaway. We were able to buy, in addition to our own donations, flashlights, deodorant, more non-perishable food items, and washcloths, among other things. (We usually bring hand sanitizer every month. It is one of the most liked items and we routinely run out.) We always ask Shane to see what is needed that month, most people do, and many of us in the group have taken to bringing the same items each month, sort of taking charge of that item. It helps Shane a lot to know he can count on certain items from certain people month after month.

No that all that is out of the way I want to tell you about a man I talked to today, his name is Willy.

Willy is a “frequent shopper” at the giveaway. He has been there every month that we have been going and his state of consciousness changes drastically. I am not sure if Willy is a drug-user, if his old age plays a part, or if he is, like so many others that are homeless, is mentally unstable. But sometimes Willy is very nice and friendly. Sometimes he says, “God Bless, y’all” or thanks us, sometimes he demands help and tells us that we are going to hell. It sort of just depends on the day.

Today Willy said all of these things, then he high-fived a kid, told him that he was awesome, hugged a woman who gave him a belt (his pants were falling down), then told me he didn’t “give a shit” when I told him that his bag was unzipping and the contents were spilling out. I just smiled and said, “Okay Willy”. I guess today was a bad day.

The blond woman working next to me was watching the scene unfold and she wondered aloud what was wrong with him. I didn’t know, I told her. I explained that he once hugged me and assured me that Jesus loved me, and that once he had cried when his coffee tipped over and I helped him clean it up. A woman on the other side piped in and wondered if the majority of these people were drug addicts. There’s a good chance, I told her with a shrug. And then the blond woman said, “Who cares. Drug addicts need to eat and be loved too.” And we all agreed. Because that is the truth.

For as much as we want to see these people succeed. As much as we don’t want to ever see them there again, we do see them. Month after month, the same faces. The man who can hardly stand up-right, the woman who cries about being raped when she was fifteen, the transgender woman who doesn’t talk, the lady with the stroller, the man in the tire shop shirt who promises us that he does work, but he has just been laid off for a while. It doesn’t matter, I tell him. Because it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter which side of the table you are on. It doesn’t matter if you work, it doesn’t matter if an addiction controls you most of the time. It doesn’t matter if you can’t control your emotions or if you don’t understand why we do what we do. It only matters that you are there, and you know that you matter to someone, even if it is just one Saturday a month.

M.