Well Hello…

I have some new followers! I love new followers, but I hate that word “follower.” I prefer friends! I have some new friends! We shall all welcome them with open arms. Hello, friends! Welcome! Grab a White Claw, or a bottle of wine, or maybe some iced tea (we are in The South after all) and sit a spell while I tell you a bit about myself. My name is Missy. (Really it’s Melissa but when I was a born in the 80s my stone-washed jeans wearing sisters thought Missy sounded radical, so there you have it.) I go by Melissa when I am feeling “formal” or when I don’t know people very well, but I do prefer Missy. I’m not the type of person to offer that up when we first meet, nicknames sometimes scare people, so you’ll usually know me a little while when someone will call me Missy and you’ll be all, Wait, who is Missy? You mean Melissa? And they will be all, Who is Melissa? And that’s pretty much all you need to know about me. Just kidding.

I’m married to a lovely middle-aged, white man whom I often make fun of for being a middle-aged, white man but check this, he is faaaaar from the kinda guy you are thinking of. Sure, on the outside he looks the part, and a lot of old ladies grab his hand to tell them all about his church (like his atheist-ass cares), but he politely listens, nods along, and says, That sounds really nice! Occasionally other middle-aged, white men who do not know him very well will suggest having a beer, and they will end up saying some whacked-out racist shit, or something about how our current president is “fiscally responsible” or maybe throw in a homophobic joke, and my husband will be all, Oh, so you’re an asshole. Then he will pay his tab (but not theirs) and leave. He’s cool like that.

We have an 11-year-old son who is starting sixth grade in the fall. Middle school. I’m not going any further than that because I remember middle school, vividly, and I am terrified for him and for me. He’s supersonic smart though. He’s in the STEM program, robotics team, band, etc, etc. You’ll like him a lot and often remark how mature he is for his age, but that’s just because he doesn’t feel comfortable enough around you to make fart noises under his arm. Just yet. Otherwise he is honest, kind, considerate, and his three favorite television shows are: The Office, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

The dogs, Jesus I forgot about the dogs. Okay listen, we had this amazing dog for nearly 14 years. Her name was Bentley and she was my actual ride-or-die (yeah, I say ride or die and I don’t know if it is hyphenated or not). She was a chocolate lab mix and also the best dog in the whole world. But in 2018 her health problems caught up with her and we had to put her down a couple months shy of her 14th birthday. Then I did what I always do, I had a breakdown and over-compensated by getting not one, but two dogs. Sir Duke Barkington of Charlotte came first. He is a standard poodle and he’s hella fancy and honestly I can’t with him sometimes. He wears bow ties, and prefers to be professionally groomed with a blow out. We just celebrated his second birthday with a surprise celebration on April 30th, because quarantine.

Then there is Lady Winifred Beesly of Atlanta. Winnie came to us at the beginning of quarantine because who didn’t think it was the perfect time to go on Craigslist and adopt a dog that someone had bought and realized they were allergic to and didn’t know what to do with?! She’s part standard poodle and part great pyranees and I know what you are thinking, what does that dog look like? Answer: A hot fucking mess. But we love her.

Okay, so I think that’s the gist of life around here. We live in Metro Atlanta. We are pro-choice (I’ll tell you about my daughter sometime), LGBTQIA+ allies, active members in the Black Lives Matter Movement, and we are Bernie supporters who will be voting for Biden in November because shiiiiiiit. My husband has his MBA and works in finance, I write and piddle around the house yelling about politics and who the hell shit on the floor?! It’s usually a dog.

This blog houses everything from my distorted, meandering thoughts to stories of my childhood, to actual lists of whatever I am thinking at any given moment. I talk a lot about mental health, family, and writing. I made a promise to myself to blog everyday this year, and with the exception of two weeks ago when I took a break to help #MuteTheWhiteNoise and #AmplifyBlackVoices I have written everyday this year. So, there’s a lot to read and digest here. I also have a page with my published writings if you are so inclined. Thanks for reading today and thanks for being on this crazy ride!

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Grad School

Yous guys, this MFA program I’m headed into in the fall got me buggin’. Like, I’m NERVOUS. One, I don’t like most people. Two, I am definitely afraid of new people. Three, I’m just learning how to take myself seriously as a writer. Four, Imposter Syndrome. This isn’t my first rodeo. Five, I gotta stop making lists. That’s why I’m in the mess I’m in today, I made a list. I made a mental list of all the ways I could fuck up grad school and the list is exhaustive. I won’t share it now, cause most of it is bogus and you’d be like, really, Missy? And then I’d have to defend how crazy and dumb I am, and I’m not good at defending myself, which meeeeeans (making full circle motions with my hands) when I have to defend a BOOK LENGTH work at the end of this program I will die. Literally. Then the ghost of Missy will have to finish the program, and honestly, I don’t trust that bitch. She shady.

So why did I even do this? Why did I even apply for an MFA program? That’s a great question you guys, and one I don’t have an answer for. I’m hoping to write my way to answer, meanwhile I’ll just sit here and wonder about all the ways I am meant to watch my life ignite, sizzle, and burst into flames.

Stand back.

M.

New-to-Me Office

If you’ll remember last month I got mad at Jerimiah for not telling me that he secretly wanted a home office and I maybe overreacted and immediately bought him a giant office suite and moved my shit into an extra bedroom upstairs? Yes? Remember I shared pictures of his office, which was my old office, but was totally made for him. Okay, anyway, it has taken a month, but my new-to-me office is finally done and I have the pictures to prove it. Now before I show them to you, just know that this was an extra bedroom upstairs that basically acted as a storage room/closet, it was stupid and it needed a purpose. Also know that I haven’t written anything of substance since I have been in my new-to-me office, but I have high hopes. Okay, that is all enjoy.

The thing that took the longest was getting my vintage Rand McNally map back up on the wall. You have to find two studs, you need certain screws, it’s heavy as shit, it was a whole thing. But he did it.
You’ll also recall I said my desk had a chandelier over it, did you think I was lying?
This bookcase, while it doesn’t match my others, was already up here. Which means I had more room to organize my books how I wanted to. This one has “classics” on it, along with some of my childhood toys, and all my man dolls. I put Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain so people would stop thinking he’s Colonel Sanders…
My cheap IKEA bookcases got a facelift with some llama wrapping paper! This is my “Ladies and Llamas” corner. Books are categorized by genre. Non-fiction on one side, poetry in the middle, and only female authors on the last one. To be fair, most of my books are edited and/or written by females.
Trying to keep my desk organized. It won’t last.
Sir Duke Barkington of Charlotte is looking for the pet beds. There aren’t any. They are in Daddy’s office for a reason, asshole. (They still lay on the rug under my feet.)

So there you have it. I have tons more room on my shelves now, since I had those extra bookcases, which means MORE BOOKS! I had to get rid of so many when we downsized a couple years ago. A common question I get about the map is “WHERE DID YOU GET IT?!” I bought it off a woman on Craigslist back in Charlotte. You can buy them on the Rand McNally website, but they are hundreds of dollars. I paid $10, so check Craigslist first, then the yard sale sites, then the thrift stores! There are also some really cute ways to make hanging maps yourself from cheaper maps you can also buy on their website. Google it, I don’t have time to tell you about it because I need to go eat some Cheetos.

Thanks for looking!

M.

Reliving the Truth

I’ve always been warned, since the first time I took a creative nonfiction class, that people will not remember the things you remember, the exact way you remember them. People will not have the same memories, they will not reframe times, or situations, or people the same way. Even Jerimiah and I, who have spent the last 18 years together, sometimes look at each other when we are retelling a story, an important story, like the death of our daughter, we will look at each other like, “Dude, that’s not how it happened!” And we both think we remember it the “right” way, when in reality the truth lies somewhere between us.

I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days. I share a lot about my life, about my childhood. I share from vivid, vivid memories I have. Sometimes they are corroborated by my family members, sometimes my family members have no idea what I am talking about. I’ll say to my mom, for instance, remember that time our car broke down and that guy we didn’t know gave us a ride to Ruthie’s house? And she will be like, “That never happened, I would never take a ride from a stranger.” Meanwhile, I remember the way the stick shift of his truck brushed up against my leg. I remember my mom nervously fumbling the door handle. I remember we weren’t going far, and she thought we’d be safe. We were safe. Maybe that’s why she doesn’t remember, because it ended up not being a big deal. We made it to her friend’s house, who took us back to Food-4-Less with a gallon of tap water to put into her overheated 1972 Dodge. I guess the ride with a stranger turned out to be not that big of a deal. Or he wasn’t really a stranger to her, just to me? So why remember it? Why do I? Why does she not? Does it matter at all?

I’m thinking about this today for a number of reasons. One of them is that I have finally started to write a little bit, and the stories that are coming out of me are stories that are stemming from fear and anxiety. They are stories from my childhood, stories that take me back to dark times. Times when I would lie awake alone at night and hope that my mom was okay, cause she was all I had. She was it. I didn’t have a dad around. My siblings were grown and out of the house. It was just my mom and me, and if something happened to her I would be all alone. So I’d lie awake at night, even if my mom was sleeping peacefully in the next room, and I would worry about the next bad thing that was going to happen.

I’ve started writing about it, because I’ve started doing it again. Only this time it isn’t my mom that I’m worried about, it’s my son. My husband. They hopped into the car the other day to grab some take-out food and I immediately thought, there goes my whole world in that car, what if something happens? What if they are in a car accident? Maybe it won’t be bad, but if they are taken to the hospital right now, then what? My people are not here with me. I can’t be with them. What happens if they get sick? What happens if I can’t make it all better? What happens if I lose my whole world?

I’ve started thinking of all these times because my anxiety is high right now and when my anxiety is high writing helps me. And my writing comes when I spend the time thinking about my life, my childhood, my past. And up until this point in my life I’ve had these oppressive thoughts about whether what I write will upset my family, my friends, my siblings, my mom. I’ve said to more than one professor, “Oh I can’t write about that until so and so is dead…” But this week I turned a corner. I realized that I write for me. I write for others like me who can’t share their stories. I don’t write to make people upset or angry, and if they get upset or angry over my truth, or think that is the reason I am doing it, that is on them. That is probably because they do things to intentionally upset people, but I don’t. That’s not how I operate. I operate from truth. And maybe my truth isn’t in line with theirs, but that doesn’t matter. It is mine. When I write my name to a piece of creative nonfiction, it is, to the best of my recollection, true. All of it.

There’s a million quotes that I could share now to explain this, but this morning while talking with Jerimiah about my new-found courage to write about whatever the hell I want to write about, he reminded me of something I say a lot, “If you don’t want people to know you did it, don’t do it.” I’ve said this since I was 16 years old, and it pissed my family off then, and I’m sure it does now. But it’s, well, it’s the truth. For now I’ll be going about my business while I remind myself, “I’m responsible for telling the truth, not for how others respond to it…” after all, truth doesn’t come as easy to others, as it does to people like me.

Thanks for reading.

Now go write YOUR truth.

M.

Becoming Time

I was complaining to Jerimiah the other day about my lack of writing. Not on this here blog. I write everyday here, but as you can see it’s not important stuff. It’s not my “real” writing. It’s my musings, mainly for posterity, mainly because I promised myself on January 1st of this year that I would strive to write a blog post every single day for a year just to prove to myself that I could do it. And so far I have, even on days when I feel like shit and don’t want to get out of bed, or see my own family, I still manage to write a few paragraphs on here. It’s healing in some way, just haven’t had the time to consider how or why or any other W there might be, because truly my brain is a messy fog and I can’t keep it together right now.

Anyway, I was complaining to Jerimiah the other day that I am not writing anything substantial, and that is scaring me because I start an MFA program in the fall at Mississippi University for Women (Go Owls!) and I really wanted to have some stuff, some new stuff, going into the program that I was working on and as it sits I got nothing. Nada. Zero new “things.” I was feeling pretty shitty about it. I was telling myself all sorts of lies, like I bet I’m the only writer this is happening to. I bet “real” writers have their shit together and are getting so much done. I suck. Yada, yada, yada. Then Glennon Doyle, one of my favorites, shared this:

Okay, what? I mean, I know she is busy with a virtual book tour for “Untamed” which I have yet to read so don’t spoil it for me, but it’s on my list (so many books on my list) and what not, but it made me feel immediately better to know that I am not alone. That this thing we are living through is doing things to creative people. Empathetic people. Writers. Artists. Musicians. We are all struggling right now, and it is making the art sort of struggle too.

I also know there are people who are writing, and making, and creating, and my hat is off to them. I’m amazed at the people still out there doing it, but I can’t feel bad for being immobilized anymore. I just can’t.

Last week I got another very nice rejection letter. This one came with a note that my work had made it to the final round with the editors, and they loved it, but couldn’t make it fit in with the issue they were working on. Then the editor gave me some great feedback on how to help it a bit, asked to continue to send them more pieces for consideration, and said she knew this work would be picked up by a lit mag soon. I love those kind of rejection letters. It was for a submission I made at least six months ago, so not new work, but it did light a fire under me to start editing. So I’ve been editing for a week now, hoping this is my way back into writing. Small steps, you know?

Then I saw this from Glennon and I was like THANK YOU! It was seriously the permission I needed to be okay with what is happening, or not happening, in my case. It reminded me that I am the kind of person who is always “writing.” Meaning, I think about things all the time, I slosh my way through these big things, and eventually, eventually they become something. I’ve been so scared about what writing will look like for all of us on the other side of this, that I was consumed and unable to actually do the writing, but that doesn’t mean I’m not working still. Thinking still. Taking this all in. And who knows, maybe one day it will all become something. Until then I’m gonna try to give myself some grace. You should give yourself some too. We all need a little grace these days. It’s time to accept that and do it.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

And Just Like That…

Poof! Elementary school is over. I’m sitting here in a bit of a haze, trying to remember how it all started. The day I dropped him off for Kindergarten, kissed my husband bye in the school parking lot, then drove to Walmart, alone, crying. Then proceeded to sit in the car at Walmart, alone, and cry. I wasn’t used to being alone. I was used to my little 50-pound shadow following me everywhere I went. I was used to arguing about whether or not he could ride in the cart. Used to having to hit the toy aisle to look at Hot Wheels, when all I needed was milk and bread. Used to a little voice coming from the backseat to ask, “Can we stop for ice cream if I’m good?” Of course we stopped for ice cream. Of course he was always good.

Today when I do a Target run he says he doesn’t want to go. He’d rather log onto Minecraft with friends. But then right before I walk out the door he comes running up, throws his arms around me. “Mommy, bring me back something,” he will say. It’s pretty different now, but also pretty much the same. Now I have a 100-pound shadow. This shadow follows me around to tell me about YouTube videos and this “sick” arrest he made in this “pretty cool” cops and robbers game on Roblox. Now I have to remind my 100-pound shadow to wear deodorant, to do the dishes, to figure out where that smell is coming from in his room. And I hear it only gets worse.

Friday morning we all gathered around the living room television to watch the live stream of Jackson’s Fifth Grade Graduation. Jackson wore a suit, with my cap and gown on top of it. Jerimiah wore a button-up, I donned a summer dress. We watched for an hour as the teachers and administrators shared touching memories, heartfelt messages, and love, so much love, with the only class in the school’s history to not have a Fifth Grade Graduation on stage. It was different, but also the same.

Jackson won several awards, including being named a DeKalb County Board Scholar, along with five other fifth graders. He is one of the smartest, the brightest, of the group. Of course we didn’t need an award to tell us that, but it was nice to be recognized for all the hard work. His hard work, our hard work as parents, and his teachers’ hard work as well. For being a kid that went to four different elementary schools, in four different districts, in three different states, you certainly would never know it. He’s been steadfast about two things: Making friends and doing his best, and that has been abundantly clear over the last few months. His friends blow up his phone all day with messages, emails, FaceTimes, and then there are the cards that arrive in the mail from different places. We shouldn’t be surprised, but sometimes we are.

Mr. Budd read a poem to his class this afternoon and it was the only time that I wanted to cry. The past two months have been a blur of activity and of hard work. Of moving from one fire to another, but the hardest part was stopping myself every time I made a decision about my son. Was this going to be good for him? Help in some way? Do I make him structure his day like school? Take breaks? Get it all done in one setting? Do I let him play Minecraft for four hours on a Tuesday while he Facetimes a friend? Of course the answer to that one is yes, because I have a social child who needs interaction. He saw his classmates six hours a day, now he could sit in isolation all day long if I let him, but I refuse to do that. I don’t want him to be lonely, to feel left behind. I want him to know that there is a wide world of people out there just like him, and hopefully they have parents that understand this too. The poem reminded me of this. Reminded me of the way we are all probably feeling from time to time right now. Alone, without a clear path. The poem Mr. Budd read was Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. The last two lines go like this, “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely/the world offers itself to your imagination/calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–/over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”

We have a running joke in the house. Jackson was working on a project early in the school year and as usual his mind was working quicker than his mouth and he was trying to say, “I’m in fifth grade” and “I’m a fifth grader” at the same time and he blurted out, “I grade five!” We all cracked up. And all year whenever he thinks too hard, or gets frustrated with himself because he thinks he can’t “get” a math question, we stop and say, “I grade five!” It gets us back on track. Let’s us laugh. Slow down a minute. Reminds us that we are all in this together. That we have each other. It means love. So yeah, we are proud of this kid of ours beyond measure. And yeah, we hope that his successes in elementary school equate to big successes in life, but we know there will be struggles along the way. We know there will be crying in parking lots. There will be hours upon hours of virtual playdates. We will feel lonely. He will feel lonely. Because we know this isn’t fifth grade anymore. But we are ready.

We love you, Jackson. We are so proud of you. We hope you always listen to the geese.

I grade six.

Mommy

Wallpaper

One of the first stories I read in a college lit class was “The Yellow Wall Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and I’ve always remembered it. If you haven’t had the pleasure, please partake. It is a short story full of madness and powerlessness, a true Gothic Lit masterpiece in my opinion. And since it was published in 1892, there’s the whole portrayal of female oppression and societal expectations, you know early feminism. Good. Good. Good.

In short, the woman in the story is sent to a house for a “rest cure,” you know, she’s mentally unstable and her doctor/husband thinks she needs sunlight and rest, because that’ll fix ya right up, when really she just needed to stab her doctor/husband. Anywho, she starts to actually go crazy cause he keeps her in one room. The room has, you guessed it, yellow wallpaper. And as the days go on, and she starts to really lose her shit, the wallpaper “changes,” and suddenly she thinks she’s trapped in the wallpaper! Haha. What a silly girl!

Missy, why you telling us this? Listen, y’all I’m way into wallpaper right now. I’m not sure what sparked it, but I’ve been researching it, perusing wallpaper sites, googling things about how many square feet one roll can cover, etc. etc. I’m on a mission to wallpaper my office and I’m pretty close to figuring this whole thing out. But I think what is really happening is that I’m pretty close to losing my shit. I think it falls in line with me not dealing with the real shit of the world right now, sorta like if I keep my mind and fingers busy on a project, I can forget the world is horrible. Yeah, that’s it!

But even as I lay in bed at night and envision my dream accent wall, or a wallpaper shop that lets you design your own wallpaper, I still can’t shake the woman in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” her plight, her mental health, her asshole husband. Her life is wrapping itself up in mine alright. And yeah, I get the irony. The undertones. The whole shebang. But I’ll tell you one thing, I’m not buying damn yellow wallpaper.

M.

Someone Else’s Shoes

We hear a lot, and I say a lot, that we should strive to see different points of views. We should try to walk in someone else’s shoes. But I wonder if you’ve ever tried it? I have. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer. Or maybe it’s because I’m a mentally ill, but I have these elaborate talks with myself in the shower. Sorta like Ted Talks. Missy Shower Talks. I’d invite you all, but well, I’m naked. In my shower. Talking to myself. I can’t expect you to want to attend. The topics are far reaching, while the sanity is completely gone. But sometimes in my Missy Shower Talks, I talk with people who have made me mad. Last week I tried that with this guy I used to know. The one who reached out to me in the middle of his own crisis to tell me I was a judgmental bitch because I don’t think we should “reopen America” quite yet. With him I decided to put myself in his shoes. Just for a minute.

–I’m an immigrant, who has been in the USA for almost 20 years. I am finally at a point where I am a small business owner, and while I did some dumb stuff when I was younger, I am pretty much straightened out now and just trying to live that American dream like everyone else. I live in an area that relies on tourists, year round, and my business relies on them. This is not a good time to be in this business. But I have a family to keep fed, and a business to keep from sinking. I do everything I am supposed to do. I pay my taxes. I pay my employees. I treat everyone fair. (I have no way of knowing he is this good of a guy, but I’m trying to be the best version of him.) When the pandemic hit where I live I did what I could to get help. I submitted a loan to the Small Business Association. I was turned down. I filed for unemployment. I was denied. Now I am stuck. I’m angry and frustrated, and I see my friends on Facebook who still have jobs and who can stay home, and not run around trying to scrounge up work. Okay, shit, I get it. “We should stay home!” But I CAN’T STAY HOME OR I DON’T EAT! Ahhhhhhhh!–

End scene or something. Wow.

I imagine this is incredibly frustrating. I can see why he would want to reach out to people and explain to them. To say, look at me. I’m not doing well. Look at what is happening to some people. He wants to make sure others see and hear his story. I can appreciate that. I want to know what is happening. I want to see what people are going through. I wish I could have helped him in some way, but he wasn’t asking for help, just asking to be seen. And I saw him. More than he knows. So what’s the deal here, Missy? What is the take away?

First, people want to be seen and heard. We need to remember that when we are talking to people. A lot of people only share the good/happy/funny news on social media. And that’s cool and whatever, but they are still there when the bad happens. We tend to forget about them because they are being quiet. No one wants to openly share that they were denied unemployment, or that their small business was not in a place that was making profits, or saving for the future. You have to reach down, dig further, and find out what is really happening. And sometimes you have to do that from trying to see the world from their point of view. Finding the story within the story.

From the outside this guy was rocking it. Taking fun vacations, partying all night, with the nicest, most trendy clothes, cars, and people. So how did it only take a month of his business taking a hit before he was in need of a SBA loan? And why did he think I needed to know about it? As I mentioned, this guy is an immigrant. He is originally from Russia, if memory serves, and he has a lot riding on him. He is someone’s grandson, son, brother, uncle. A whole family is looking at him while he lives the American dream for them. Now his dream is shuttered. Doesn’t matter how or why, it’s shuttered. And he is at a pretty low point and obviously needs a place to vent. Can he call up his family in Russia and tell them? Probably not. Can he turn to those flashy friends and vent, most likely, umm, no. So what does he do? He turns to relative strangers on the internet to be seen. To be heard. To make sure they know there are people like him. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s what he chose to do and it impacted me. And ultimately I unfriended him because I don’t like being unloaded on by relative strangers, but I did try to see life from his POV.

That’s my point. Trying to put on someone else’s shoes for a minute. Maybe we need to work on that. Sure, most people will never be able to understand another person’s life. And that’s okay. But shouldn’t we at least try to walk in someone else’s shoes occasionally? To keep us connected. To keep us open-minded. To keep us grounded and grateful. Maybe. Try it.

M.

Fifteen Minutes of Fighting

Y’all know I have limited my Facebook access to 15 minutes a day. I started this back in January. It was very helpful then, and has been VERY helpful now. The only problem is that when I decided to do this I made Jerimiah password protect my access so once my 15 minutes are up, I am kicked off Facebook. UNLESS… I beg and plead with him to give me more time (I don’t really have to beg, he gives in easily). WHICH IS THE PROBLEM! Today I got sucked into FB for three hours because I made a post that ruffled some feathers with my “Truth bombs” as my husband likes to call them, and then I had to spend the next two hours explaining to people, in the nicest way possible, how wrong they were. I even had a family member chime in and say that she was “tired” of my posts and thought we needed to talk about the real truth, which is that the “Chinese have been trying to get us for a long time now and this is all their fault.”

Le sigh.

I’m tired of “fighting” on Facebook, y’all. I’m tired of having to correct people (some of them are really intelligent) yet still, I have to give them facts that they could easily find on their own but are too mad or too scared to search for. One could say I am not the “truth police” and you would be right. I don’t NEED to put these people in their place, but if I don’t then who will? Who will stop them from saying shit like, “This is the fault of Chinese people!” Who else will say, “Umm, I think you are reading from Breitbart again. Remember that Breitbart is not considered a ‘factual news source’.” Does it come off as jerky? Yes! Does it come off as uppity? For sure. But I’m not trying to be, I’m trying to make them understand that if they get all their new from InfoWars, they are sorely misguided.

I guess I just need people to remind me that it does no good. I always think, this will be the person. This will be the time they “get it.” The time the see that our president holding up checks to sign his name on them is not a good thing, rather a very bad, very horrible, very “I’m gonna buy your vote, remember I’m the one who saved you, Trump2020” thing. I look over at my exasperated husband and ask the question on all our minds, “What the hell would they have done if Obama would have insisted on signing his name to those stimulus checks?” Dear Lord. We know the answer. And we know he would have never even considered doing it.

All this snowballs, and there I am three hours in and mentally and emotionally drained. How many times can I yell, “OMIGOD what is he trying to say?!” at my dogs, or discuss with my husband whether that mutual friend of ours is trying to be an asshole, or they are just completely dumb to the real world? It’s exhausting.

Today I had people jump all over me because I said I got a stimulus check and was donating to the Biden Campaign. First of all, it was a joke. Ta-da! I already donated all I will (monetarily) to a presidential campaign this year. And it was $50 and it was to Bernie. But I don’t need to explain that to anyone. Look dumb if you want to, which is how that same family member looked when she outright asked on my FB page how much I sent Biden, and if I had the money “diverted” to him? Is that even a thing? How? What? I don’t know you guys, but I’m only giving man hours now, not money, through the Postcard to Voters campaign (shoutout to my friend Jenn for telling me about this). I wish I were making this up cause it would make my family seem less crazy. But you know me and the truth… We didn’t donate to Biden, but we did actually donate money (and you can too) to Hope Atlanta and to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, which is helping feed kids in our school district who need fed. But is that anyone’s business? Nah, dawg. Nah. Then I kindly explained to my family member that, “Asking people what they do with their money is rude.” Then other people got mad at me for doing that. “Cause you know Missy, she’s just uppity”. Throws hands up in the air.

To make matters worse, my nerves are shot, I’m not sleeping, and every time someone says something to me I’m taking it personally. Like I assume that they are trying to start a fight with me, even when they maybe aren’t? I just assume that. And if I’m doing that then I know other people must be doing that. Are we doing that, y’all? Are you doing that? I haven’t changed a thing about how I run my life (other than not leaving my house) or how or what I write about in the last month (other than writing about Covid-19 more), but people are coming out of the woodwork to tell me how horrible of a person I am for saying what I say and writing what I write. And all I can think is that they don’t agree with me about my opinions, and because they are also not sleeping, and scared, and angry, they have decided to take it out on me because I routinely put it all out there for everyone to consider.

I bet some of you are feeling like the friend/family scapegoat these days too, and if you are, man, I’m sorry. This will all pass, I promise. And maybe you will have less “friends” on social media when it does, but at least you will know who truly supports you and who doesn’t, right? Silver lining? Something to look forward to. I can’t tell you how many times my husband has been like, “That’s it, I’m deleting my FB account!” But then I have to remind him that if we do a joint account people will think I cheated on him. So he keeps it. But like, should we though?

I dunno you guys. I guess I’m here today to ask for all of us to exercise a bit more grace? I know I need to, and I assume you could manage it too? I think we all could right now. I keep reading Mama Brene’s inspiring words every day thinking, “Jesus, how many iterations did she have to go through to get to that?” Because even Mama Brene isn’t that nice right now. She can’t be. Because being nice takes a lot of work, especially at a time like this, and if we aren’t mindful of it, if we don’t recognize that we aren’t being nice, then we are already two steps behind. I think. Again, I feel like I need to apologize for MY OWN DAMN OPINIONS on MY OWN DAMN WEBSITE. What has this world done to me?!

Let’s make a pact: I will try to ignore haters, and spread some goodness today. You will try to take a deep breathe today when you are feeling reactionary. I will do the same. You will not respond immediately to a source on the internet, until you have fully given it thought and research. I will not pass off indifference for kindness. You will not get too down on yourself. I will look at pictures of llamas. You will look at puppies. We will text each other and say hi. You will send a hug emoji to a friend. I will send flowers to a family member. WE will lift up others and try to show some grace, otherwise, shit is going to go downhill fast.

Remember what Michelle Obama (OUR BELOVED QUEEN) says, “When they go low, we go high!” Let’s go high today, y’all! (Or get weed-high, whatever helps.)

Stay safe and sane.

M.

For you… You can click on picture to take you to website to purchase!

Virtual Meet-Up

I did my first virtual meeting last week with a group called “The Quarantine Book Club” (I first told you about them in my “Submitting” post last week.) I stumbled upon them on Instagram. They are a group of readers, writers and designers, all around cool people who are hosting virtual meet-ups on Zoom with writers who are promoting books, or essayists and others like them. I stumbled upon them because one of my favorite writers, Megan Stielstra, was the guest. The tickets are $5 through EventBright, and I will post their events, website, and other links at the bottom of the page if you are interested in learning more. But for now I want to tell you about the hour I spent with 55 really nice, really honest, really empathetic and compassionate people at my desk in my pajamas.

I was nervous when I first logged onto Zoom, so nervous in fact that I didn’t even connect with video. That is an option you have. You can just stick a picture of yourself up, or it will just show your name. I chose this pic of Jackson and me as my image:

I couldn’t decide what I was nervous about, I think it was just the idea of meeting new people, yes, even virtually. I did feel a little better when Megan’s sweet face popped up, but I was still like, “Oh my goodness, what if I do or say something crazy and someone notices me?” So yeah, I sat in relative obscurity. For the record, I also didn’t ask any questions (though there were a so many for her we didn’t even get to them all), all I did was thank them at the end in the little chat bar, but I did listen, something I am really good at, and I did soak up some inspiration from one of my favorite writers and some really awesome new friends! (For real, some of us connected on Insta afterward.) And although I took four pages of notes just from listening, these were the big takeaways for me:

Because although Megan is a great essay writer, we didn’t really want to know about how to write an essay, we were all wondering instead, how you an keep writing, how you can survive, in a times like today. And she spent a lot of time telling us how she thought we could do that, how she was trying to do that, and how we as a community must do that. She talked about fear and sadness. About how we can service our communities with our writing. About how it’s okay to be down on the ground. It’s okay because there are people are around us who are not on the ground when we are, and we need to rely on those people, because one day we will be upright and walking, and our friends will be down there and they will need us like we did them. Really. Truly.

Don’t get me wrong, she did talk about writing. She gave some great tips on how to find where you should be submitting. She encouraged us all to get our words out there, but when one woman was unmuted to ask her question, and was crying alone in her bedroom because Megan had just given us all permission to be scared and sad, we all took a long breath in. We were all this woman. Or we have been. Or we will be. And it is scary and it is sad, and we feel bad about it, even though there just isn’t a need to.

I don’t know, listen, I’m still trying to wrap my head around all I learned in one hour with 55 strangers on the internet. I’m sure something good will come from it, but in the meantime here is the link to the Quarantine Book Club again, and here is an essay from Megan Stielstra’s book “The Wrong Way to Save Your Life” and here is a list of my favorite Indie Bookstores you can buy her, or any of the cool, fun, new books from. I’m sure you have your own Indie Booksellers too, but if not, check out Indie Bound.

Quarantine Book Club Twitter

Megan Stielstra Essay “Here is My Heart”

Some of my favorite Indie Booksellers, the kind of places you can get lost in for hours. Most of them are closed now except to online orders, but most are offering free delivery right now too. And if you’re ever in any of these areas, check out these fun shops, I’ve been to all of them and can vouch for their cold-hard coolness!

Okay, take care of yourself and each other.

M.

Submitting

I just got a message from a literary journal and they told me that some flash fiction I submitted to them for consideration is moving to the second round of reading. I’m trying not to get my hopes too high, this isn’t the first time I’ve got an email saying that, and if they decide not to publish my work, to reject it instead, well, that isn’t my first rodeo either. But in the sad days that we are living in now, wondering how I can be of service to others, getting my work published feels more urgent. I’m sure a lot of artists and creative types are feeling that way now, and I hope you are finding ways to get your work out there, because man it is helping. It’s helping me, for sure.

I started sending work out for consideration about two years ago and sometimes I look at my numbers and want to scream. Two years of submitting and I have eight publications (mostly online) and about 47,659 rejections. Okay, maybe not that many rejections, but doesn’t one rejection feel like 20,000? It does to me. I wish I could say I found some way to combat this. Help you out in some way, but I haven’t. I think maybe my skin is just tougher now. But honestly, really, I wish there was a way we could all get our stories, our poems, our artwork, our ideas to those who need them the instant they need them, wouldn’t that be amazing.

I still get random people who contact me about my daughter’s story. It’s been two years and they find me and they thank me for sharing, and I think, I think, that’s what makes it all worthwhile. The long nights of staring at a blank screen. The torment when a rejection comes in and I just knew I shouldn’t have aimed so high. My constant inner critic, who really is just a jerk. It all makes it a little better for a day or two.

I have no good news for you today. No funny anecdotes. No reassuring words. I just want to say to keep creating whatever it is that you are creating. Keep moving forward, even when it feels like you can’t. And it’s okay if you can’t create right now. If you can’t physically put paint to canvas, or pen to paper, or needle to needle. Lying on the floor and feeling the weight of the world on your chest while you eat Cheetos is totally okay too. There will be other days to get rejected.

Best of luck!

I love you and your art!

M.

Some Stuff That is Keeping Me Going Right Now

tapas: Bite-sized stories you can’t find anywhere

Tapas is a free online space to support artists who are doing comics and graphic novels. I found some of my favorites from Instagram and followed them on tapas. They get compensated each time someone clicks or subscribes. It’s a lot of, umm, unusual stuff (I like the “Slice of Life” stuff as you can see) but there are a ton of artists on there so I’m sure you can find something you like.

Quarantine Book Club: Connecting writers with other writers and readers through Zoom meet-ups. You can buy tickets through EventBright, they are only $5! I just did one this week with one of my favorite authors, Megan Stielstra. @QuarantineBook

The MET is streaming free operas online RIGHT NOW! (Deborah Voigt and the company of Die Walküre Ken Howard/Met Opera)

Ever visited The Louvre? No? Me neither, well not physically, but virtually, well that’s another story…

Artist Gemma Correll (@gemmacorrell) has free, downloadable coloring pages. They are cute, and fun, and amazing. You can find them at Badge Bomb where you can also order cool pins, stickers, etc made by Gemma and other artists.
When in doubt, there is always gardening ideas on Pinterest.

Here’s Some Good News

It’s been a damn week, hasn’t it?! It has. It has. That’s why when I received good news the other day I was shocked, and then happy for a second, and then sad again. It’s a hard time to feel happy. It feels selfish to feel happy right now. It feels selfish and inconsiderate. I mean look around, people! There’s no damn toilet paper! I’ve been trying really hard to keep my life in perspective. This life, this sad, upside-down life. I’ve been focusing on the helpers, as Mr. Rogers wanted us to. I’ve been looking for good news in strange places, which I should be accustomed to now, but I am still not. It feels like for every bit of good news, a stack of bad news is thrown at me. It’s like I don’t want the good news anymore, because I know what will happen next. But the good news came this week, without an apology, and hit me square in the face. It reminded me, more than anything, that the show must go on.

If you’ll remember a few weeks ago I had to get a vaccine because I was applying to an MFA program that required my proof of MMR, but I couldn’t find my proof. Well I applied, then I stressed and stressed for weeks about whether or not I would get into the program. It is the only MFA program I have ever applied to, my first one, and I know people who have been turned down several times before they get in, or who only get into their second or third choice school, so I was scared. Then just like that, I wasn’t anymore, because Coronavirus hit and I had more important shit to worry about.

Then this week I found out that I was accepted into the program. And I was all yay! for a second, then came the “You can’t be happy about this right now” feeling, and I was down again. I know as far as news goes, good news these days, it’s just a little blip on the map, but it did feel good for those few seconds. Then the day I found out I spent all night unable to sleep Googling how kids with asthma fare when/if they get Covid-19. It’s not good. Hmpf.

I have two things to say today. Number one, yay me. And yay you. Because you might be waiting on important answers to important questions concerning your life this week and if the news is good, you should celebrate! And if the news is bad, remember that it isn’t the end of the world. Remember to keep your life in perspective. I know it’s hard when you are out of toilet paper, but please, please, try to remember that there are people out there who are really struggling. And if you are one of those people, man, I wish I could send you everything you need. I wish I could reach out and hug you. And I know hearing that this will pass is not helpful right now, so I’ll suggest this instead: What lessons can you take from the spot you are in right now? How will this help you grow as a person? As a community member? I’m sure there are lessons. There are always lessons.

As always I’m here (virtually, anyway) if you wanna talk. I’m around (inside my house or walking the neighborhood). I’ll listen. I’ll be sad with you. I’ll be happy with you (even if it does feel weird right now). Because we do still need to take care of ourselves, physically yes, but mentally and spiritually also.

So go forth and celebrate the little victories today. You did all the laundry?! Look at you! You cleaned out that linen closet?! Holy cow, you’re getting it done! You finally realized this is serious and started social distancing?! I always had faith in you, friend.

Be safe and sane.

M.

PS… The mascot at my new school is an Owl, so I mean, how cool is that?! Sure, a llama would have been way more cool, but you get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit!

Trouble Writing

If you’re like me, you are having a really hard time trying to write right now. Seriously, I can’t seem to filter out all this negative stuff. It’s very real stuff, that we need to stay abreast on, but it still mixes with all my regular anxiety and nervousness and smushes together in my head and creates this monster who can’t focus on anything for too long. This means that I have all this time now, sitting at home, and I’m unable to actually write. Which seems absurd. So, I’ve taken to using prompts, something I don’t usually like to do, but it’s helping a little. Not with this here blog, but with my other writing, so I thought I would share some prompts with you today that I have come across that have helped me in the past, and some I just made up. It will be fun to see if you can spot the difference. And listen, please try your best to turn to books, and art, and staying in contact (though not physically) with your friends right now. I promise it will help, it might just take some getting used to. Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Writing Prompts

  • Think about all that is worrying you right now, then pick something super trivial that pops up. If you’re like me, I’ve been worrying about what to cook for dinner every damn night. Now write a paragraph from the POV of a person who is consumed with this trivial problem.
  • Write about your writing process. What it means when you say you are writing. What does that look like? How does it feel when you’re “in the zone”? How often does it happen? Can you will it?
  • Write a short story about an alligator farm. At this farm, the alligators run the humans, not the other way around. So actually, literally, the humans are walking around trying to bite the alligators, and the alligators have to jump on their backs to wrestle them? No, can’t do it? That’s weird, because it’s a really (cough) good (cough) prompt. Fine then, write about an alligator wrangler named Boomer Sr. in the swamps of Florida. He has four fingers and a slight limp.
  • Think about your room when you were a kid. Try to get back into that room. Did you have a theme in your room? Did you share it with siblings? Did you have your own radio or television? A computer? Oh, so you were fancy and rich? Think about the carpet. Did you have a toy box filled with your favorite things? What was your favorite toy? Follow this rabbit hole for a bit.
  • There’s a woman on a ferry off the the coast of Alaska. It’s summer, but still cold because Alaska. She’s holding a banjo, and a plate of cookies is wrapped in plastic wrap beside her. What the hell is she doing there? Where is she going? Where did the cookies come from? What’s with the damn banjo?
  • Pretend like you’ve been asked to give a TedTalk on the anxieties of the world today. You can set it in the past, present, or future. What are the negatives? What are the positives? How do you help these people who have come to see you talk? What will you say to improve the moral, but also keep everyone safe.
  • Write about what it means to be mindful. Are you ever mindful? What does being mindful even mean to you? Have you ever caught yourself really engrossed in something that you forget all your other worries? What allows you to do that? Is it that new Netflix show about prison basketball, or is that just me?
  • Think of someone who really annoys you. I mean, you can’t even stand to hear them breathe next to you. You have to actively fight the urge to tell them how you really feel when they are around. You do not like this person. Now write a four-sentence character description of this person.
  • There’s a Netflix show about prison basketball. It’s called “Q-Ball” because it’s about the prisoners at San Quentin. Go watch it.
  • Create a series of comics, mini-cartoons, even just a hand-drawn meme. I made a series of Covid-19 related ones to react to the “Bob the Stickman” memes I saw the other day. I will post them below for your amusement. In your cartoon, however, you are the protagonist, and you are absolutely against, say, helping to stop the spread of coronavirus. Had enough of coronavirus? Cool, then make your protagonist anti-abortion, or someone who doesn’t believe climate change is real. Fun times.
  • Make a soundtrack for whatever you are writing. Oh man, it seriously makes a difference! I am working on a piece from my childhood and my soundtrack is all 80s all the time. But maybe your story is set in the 1950s or San Fran in 1974. Go to iTunes and get you a playlist going. Even if you are not a writer. Just someone who needs a little distraction. Music helps so much.
  • Pick up a project you had previously put aside because you were stuck. Now start it all over again from a different character’s POV. Why? I dunno, why not assholes?
  • Write about a first date. What is the worst thing that could happen? What is the best outcome? Is there sex? If there is please write about it, everyone wants to read about sex. Jesus, write more about sex. And prison basketball. But not prison basketball sex. Or… hmm.
  • Write a ten word story that starts with “Run…”
  • Respond to a series of “Dear Abby” questions, but respond from Boomer Sr in the swamps of Florida.

Okay, so I promised I’d share my stick-figure people I drew to combat “Bob” who I was really tired of seeing, y’all know Bob.

It’s not that I hate Bob, it just seems like Bob is a little, umm, how should I say this, well he’s lacking in his thinking. Plus the same people who were sharing Bob, who claims to “listen to science” are the same people who legit don’t listen to science, their hypocrisy was pissing me off. In return, I created these five stick figure people to add a little more dimension to this pandemic. Enjoy! And please, go forth and write about Boomer Sr, then send it to me so I can read it!

Private Lives

It’s fun to imagine what happens in the private lives of others. I think that’s one of the most pointed reasons I am who I am today. I spent years in quiet solitude. My nervous energy was too much for my little brain, so I’d opt to sit and watch people while I rocked back and forth on my knees. I’d hide in my closet or my toy box, or in clothes racks while my mother shopped, and I’d just watch the people around me go about their day-to-day lives. At some point I started to wonder what their lives looked like in the quiet of their own home. When they weren’t in public. I started to envision how that woman buying toothpaste brushed her teeth. Did she put the toothpaste on before or after she rinsed her brush? Did she do circular patterns? Did she brush her gums, like I just learned to do? What about her tongue? I guess this might be how writers are made. Hiding. Wondering. Eavesdropping and watching, in secret spaces and places.

I remember when I was about four or five. We lived in a basement apartment in Leavenworth, and there were two large windows near the top of the living room wall. If I stood on the wooden arm of the couch, I could peer out the window, relatively undetected, like a cat who just wants to feel the warmth of the sun. And some days that’s all I’d accomplish. Alternating between an hour of watching people, then an hour of Care Bears, until something exciting happened inside my house, like my sister came home from school or one of our neighbors stopped over to say hello.

The window looked directly into the parking lot of our apartment complex. Which means I could watch people getting in and out of their cars, which was my favorite, because as you might imagine our vehicles are our own little houses. Public, sure, but just private enough to let us sing our favorite song, or practice what we are going to say to the people we are headed to see. I liked to watch the people as they prepared themselves in their cars. Some of the women put their make-up on, using the rear-view mirror as their vanity. Some of them yelled at their kids in the backseat. Some men sat, silent, for long periods of time before they either left for work, or came home from work. My favorite people were the couples. They’d sneak kisses. They’d argue. I couldn’t hear them, just knew from their body language, their red faces, their hand movements, that they were upset. There are a lot of breaks up, and reconciliations, in the parking lots of low-income apartment complexes.

I learned in these long hours, that if you are quiet, if you are still and relatively unseen, you can gain more knowledge about a person than any other way. I learned to sort of fade into the background in those days. A trait that has served me well in my life and in my writing.

But still I wondered what the people did in the privacy of their own homes. I wondered if they had a cat, a cat that would rub itself against their legs as they cooked dinner. I wondered if they prayed before dinner. If they slept without clothes on. If they sometimes wondered about each other. Later in life, as I grew and discovered what really drives people, I wondered if they kissed each other after an argument. If they made love with the lights on. If they had sexual desires they kept secret. I think it’s human nature, to wonder these things.

It’s part of who I am, as a person and as a writer, wondering about the private lives of others. Fantasizing about how others move in the night, when they think no one is watching.

M.

You’re Not Alone

Hey, psst. Yeah, you. Come closer, I have something to tell you. You know that “weird” way you see the world? That way that makes you cry at things you think you shouldn’t cry at, and laugh at things you shouldn’t laugh at? It’s not so weird, the way you manage this world. I get by the same way, and there’s more of us. There’s a whole army of us. We’re just too shy, too introverted, too busy, too preoccupied, too stressed, and/or too scared to admit it. Or reach out.

I feel too much sometimes. I feed off the energy of other people. I sense, without knowing why, when someone else is having a shit day. And sometimes it makes my day go to shit. And other times I kick into high gear and try to turn their day around. I haven’t figured out how it works. I’m a novice. Too young maybe. Too chaotic of a brain, perhaps.

You know how you think of someone, then later that day they call you. Or you run into them at the grocery store. Or you find out something has happened to them. Or maybe something stops you from reaching out to them and you don’t know why, and you wish you didn’t have that little, nagging voice sometimes. Yeah, me too. Ignore the voice.

You think too much. Me too. I get it. But it goes beyond thinking. You think, then you fixate, then you stress, then you think. It’s a cycle. It feels like there’s no way out when it starts and I doesn’t only happen on Sunday afternoons. It’s sporadic. Maybe it coincides with he moon phases. Maybe it’s hormonal. You’ve thought of all the possible scenarios.

Some days, my thinking/feeling/sensing renders me useless and I spend more time than I should in bed staring at the ceiling, or playing solitaire on my phone, or reading a book, or making up lists of things I’ll do when I’m not bogged down. Some days my thinking/feeling/sensing makes me want to eat Oreos and listen to sad music. Some days it makes me want to call up a friend I haven’t talked to in years. Some days, if I’m lucky, it makes me want to write and I feel a little productive. Some days.

But usually I’m just here. Somewhere. In the middle of this swirling tornado of overthinking, asking why, feeling overwhelmed, stressing about all the things, and wondering why the people who love me, actually love me. Worrying I’ll never really trust the love. Wondering if I’m worthy of it, if I return the love in kind. Pleading with the universe to keep me in their favor. In her favor. In your favor.

So I guess what I mean to say is, you’re not alone. Geez, I know it feels like you are some days. But you’re not. There are more of us out there. A whole army of us. And when/if you’re ready to mobilize, count me in.

Sending virtual hugs, and copious amounts of tea to you today. Try not to overthink it too much. But if you do, it’s okay. I still love you.

M.