MFnA, Y’all

Whew, it’s been a whirlwind kind of summer so far. I haven’t even been here on the old blog in several months and it shows. It’s looking a little shabby around here. Sorry about that, but thank you for your continued support even in my absence. I’ve received at least two comments telling me that they could optimize my platform or something like that and one more calling me an “asshole,” which I mean, I should take offense to, but it is slightly accurate as of late so Imma let it slide.

Well then, how the hell have you all been? Good I hope, all things considered. I have nothing enlightening to say today, only here to catch you up on some things: 1. My dogs are still crazy. 2. It’s hot as shit in Atlanta right now and 3. I’m officially finished with grad school, all school actually, and at the end of the month I graduate, earning my second masters degree, but honestly this is the good one.

Yep, it’s official. My 150-page thesis, a collection of short stories set in the Ozarks, is off to the Trappist Abbey Monks to be bound, my signature pages are signed, all assignments are completed and as far as the world is concerned I’m officially: Melissa Goodnight, MFA. Though because of my friend Andrew and his absurdly wonderful outlook on life, I will only sign my emails, Melissa Goodnight, MFnA because really that’s more inline with the truth of things.

There is actually a ton more going on in my life than finishing up grad school, but there’s a ton going on in everyone’s life right now so I’m gonna spread my shit like a Roomba that got hold of the puppy’s accident, that is to say I’ll gonna make a trail of shit over the next several weeks to keep you all updated.

And also, you are welcome for that visual.

Wow, I really did miss you all and I’m super glad to be back. Back to having free time to write on my blog, back to reading what I want to read, and back to being able to make up outrageous lies for how to get out of social obligations since I can’t blame it on thesis anymore…

So as usual, stay safe and sane, y’all! Let’s talk again soon.

M.

(Fr)Eke Out

I’ve been eking out work these days. Like squeezing the water out of a wet swimsuit kinda stuff, y’all. Like every time I think I can get it all out in one squeeze, I can’t. Where does the water come from?! Don’t tell me, I know it has something to do with the type of material the swimsuit is made out of, but Christ I’d like for the water to just come out all at one, you know?

No, you probably don’t know because you have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m talking about my thesis, y’all because of course I am! What is the deal with this thesis? Why can’t I write right now? Do I need to just drop everything and go to DisneyWorld? Well, the answer to that is yes, always yes, but won’t that just be procrastinating? But isn’t that what I’m doing by writing this blog about how I can’t write?

Here’s the thing, I sit down to write a full short story, maybe a 10-pager, hopefully a 20-pager, and I all I get is about five pages. That’s it. I squeeze and squeeze and squeeze and it dribbles out. This is highly unusual for me, that’s why I’m telling you this. Normally I think about a story for a few weeks, then sit down and it pours out of me. But I have been thinking about TWO stories for OVER a month now and nothing happens when I sit down. Just drip, drip, drip…

Maybe the stories have no merit? Maybe they suck and I know it subconsciously? Or maybe I’m just so freaked out by these deadlines that I am sabotaging myself? Or maybe I think my thesis advisor is tired of my shitty work? Or maybe, just maybe, I’m afraid of the work I know they will take and I don’t want to do it?

All these questions.

All this water.

Send help. But not a life raft. I’m still on dry land.

M.

Chaos and Control

Whew. It’s been a hectic season and I don’t just mean the holidays. When it gets too crazy I tend to shut down and shut down I have. I haven’t written anything new, not even on this here blog, for quite some time now and while I have a lot I want to say, a lot I want to fill you all in about, I really just wanted to jump on today to say that I am still here and so are you and isn’t that just dandy! Yes, I think it is.

The truth is that I don’t know what my life is going to look like six months from now. Like, actually, I have no idea what my life will look like in very big ways, like we might be moving from Atlanta, I might be having a major hip surgery, I might be put on a medication that requires infusion every six weeks, big things (not all good, not all bad) are afoot here and it feels a bit like things are spinning out of control, so I want to focus on the things I can control. Doesn’t that make the most sense? Yes, yes it does.

Let’s make a list of things we can control. If you are feeling like me, or have ever felt like me, or (most likely) will ever feel like me, lists sometimes help. Try it! Here is mine.

Things That I Can Do to Feel Like I am in Control or Things I Actually Can Control

  • Getting enough doggy pets in everyday
  • Logging what I eat
  • Making healthier choices with food/drink
  • Writing again
  • Watching trash television that will help me feel better about myself, or at least take away my intrusive thoughts for 30 minutes at a time
  • Focusing on my family, getting quality time, cooking together, shopping together, playing more games
  • Ask questions, or at least tell the person, “I do not have questions now, but I will. How may I contact you about them?” (This is really important with my medical stuff right now because when I am inundated with new info it takes me awhile to process it before I have questions)
  • Doing something creative every day
  • READING MORE!
  • Ask my doctor for some help sleeping (ie…get some prescription sleeping meds, y’all because this not sleeping just adds to the damn problem)
  • Get 10 hours of sleep! (Yes, I need 10 hours of sleep to function and you’re kidding yourself if you are one of those, “I just need four and I’m good.” No. Everyone needs at least 6-7 hours, most of us need more we just refuse to admit it. GET SOME SLEEP!)
  • Work to block intrusive thoughts (I’ve been thinking about scheduling “Intrusive Thought Time” into my day. I know that sounds nuts, but that way if an intrusive thought comes that I have no control over, I can try to take control by being like, “Nope. I will deal with that at my scheduled ITT.” I’ll let you know how that goes..)
  • Stretching, lots of stretching
  • Calling/texting friends more to check in
  • Planning a vacation to literally anywhere

Okay I am feeling better, y’all. Just knowing that I took the time to write a list that may be helpful, just knowing that I took the time to check in here, it all helps tremendously. I hope you take a moment today to do something you like.

Take a walk.

Watch the birds in your backyard.

Buy a new sweater online. (Brr, it’s like 40 degrees here!)

Call your mom (or someone you love like a mom)

Those are just some ideas, but the truth is we all have our own things, just find yours and do it, just for ten minutes. I think it will help.

Stay safe and sane.

M.

Thesis, The-ses, The Cesspool

I’m working on my thesis this week, in case you can’t tell by the title. It’s a collection of short stories and it’s the first time I’ve really tried my hand at fiction and it is tough. Really tough. I have been reading all these great short stories for like a year now by famous writers, no-so-famous writers, friends, colleagues professors, all of it. I’m taking it all in and today I had a breakdown, err, breakthrough, breakthrough. Sorry, I’m so used to writing, “Today I had a breakdown.” I had a BREAKTHROUGH!

I wrote this story a couple of weeks ago that I thought was utter nonsense, actually just me working on some childhood bullshit and it was time to send my third set of thesis pages to my advisor so I sent that bullshit in with a note: “This is pretty much bullshit. But you wanted something.” My advisor wrote me back something like, “This is great. Let’s talk!” So we talked. And she liked it. She liked it so much that she said something about it being the “anchor” story and I almost screamed a little because I didn’t think I’d ever write a story that might carry a collection and then there is this and the more I thought about it the more I realized that it probably is the anchor story, and the title story of the collection, and holy shit it’s all the theme for the whole collection and what do I do now?!

Then as breakthroughs go, I had another one. They come in succession in case you didn’t know because it has yet to happen to you, and in this succession I saw very clearly the ending image for my thesis and it’s marvelous, just marvelous, only now the problem is that I have to write it. And my advisor has to think it’s doesn’t suck all that much. Then I have to defend it all of course, which makes me sick to my stomach, but this is not my first rodeo, so I know it’ll be fine.

So like usual I have no real point with this post other than to say, things are looking up. And last week, they were not looking up, and remind you that this is life, up and down, down and up. I hope this is an up week for you too, but if it isn’t then next week surely will be!

M.

Be Brave!

Well I did it, I wrote my first book review and it wasn’t too bad! I mean it was horrible on account of how stressed I was about getting it right, about doing good for the book (which I LOVED) and all the things, but you know, it was good in the end. While I was writing the review last month Jackson asked me what I was doing and I told him that I was writing a book review. When he looked confused at me I explained that my professor knew someone who needed a book review and the book was about The Ozarks, where we lived for ten years, where Jackson was born actually, and she thought of me. That I had been nervous but that in the end my professor told me to, “Be brave!” and I took her advice. And now here I was stressing about this review, even though the book was great, full of history and funny anecdotes and deep, deep research on the place we loved/hated to live. He looked at me, shrugged and said, “Oh so you wrote a book report. It’s no big deal, Mommy. You’ll get an A.”

🙂

I hope I got an A.

You can read the review at the University of Mississippi Press’ book page (published with the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger) and you can buy the book here if you want to go on a wild ride.

Remember to support local, indie publishers and booksellers. And remember to Be BRAVE!

M.

Writing, But Not Writing

I’m not sure why I can sit down every day now and hammer out a blog post, but I am incapable, quite suddenly, of writing for my thesis. Like in the first month of school I wrote two, TWO short stories. I guess I took that for granted because now here I am, sitting alone in my quiet house (Jackson is back at school in person and Jerimiah is at the office for his yearly budget reviews) and I still cannot write anything new for thesis. Meanwhile, I am here on my blog complaining to y’all. I guess it’s just the nature of the beast, yes? I don’t have to think much here. Y’all offer me a “no-thinking zone.” That’s not a bad thing, it’s not, it’s a really good thing. I can just log on here and share something ridiculous, whatever I am thinking about that day, and usually someone will find goodness in it, even if it’s just me blabbing my mouth about conservative republicans. Thanks, y’all. I appreciate you.

Maybe that’s all I have in me to say today. Thank you for being you, for reading or at least skimming, and for nodding your head in agreement or maybe shaking at my absurdity. Either way, it’s important for me to know that someone, out there in the ether, is having the kind of day where they need to just sit and read the random thoughts of someone else. It’s always good to think about how humanity works in that way.

Maybe my next post will be more concrete with themes and pictures and funny one-liners, maybe it will be more bitching about Mitch McConnell, who’s to say, but I’m glad someone out there will be into it.

Take care of yourselves today, won’t you? Lighten up. I’ll try to take my own advice.

M.

Last First Day

Today is my first day of the last year of grad school. I know I’ve been here before saying it was the first day of the last year of grad school but this time I am serious. This is my last year in my MFA program and while the year didn’t exactly look like I wanted it to (whose did?) I am still having all the emotions today, but mainly I am stressed, per yoozh. *Bonus Side Tangent: There is no definitive answer on how to shorten the word “usual.” Even Merriam-Webster sorta just gave up, but it is important to note that while I rarely say the abbreviated word in spoken form, I do like to write with it especially because of the ending with the, what did they call it, a post-alveolar fricative (duh I know exactly what that is I’m an English major) because well, it’s just fucking fun.

Anywho, today is truly my last first day and I’m feeling all the feels. I’m super nervous because I have to start thesis this semester and while I’ve already written a thesis before, umm, no, I have not, not like this. This one is me pushing me way out of my comfort zone. Plus it’s a whole lot more than I wrote last time (like double!) and I don’t feel ready or excited at all. If it weren’t for my advisor, a person I’ve only known for a year, but feels like way longer you know those kinda people, I’d be a hot fucking mess, but as it sits I’m just a hot mess.

The other good thing, nay great thing, is that I have a group of friends to get through this year with. In fact, these people have been amazing and wonderful and all the things. It was by far the most important thing for me in finding an MFA program. I wanted to find a place that felt like home, even though y’all know I have no idea what home is anymore but I am happy to report I found it and it includes a group of women who are kick-ass and truly supportive and who “get it,” which is by far the most important.

Oh wow, I could go on but I won’t instead I will say this, last first days are scary and hard and emotional. But we will make it through just fine. Just fine.

Go forth and do something scary today, you’ll be okay. Just wear your mask.

M.

Silver Linings

I have this problem where I can’t move past something until I write about it. It’s a bad problem to have, especially when you are in a writing “funk.” A “funk,” yeah let’s call it that. As in I haven’t written anything substantial since early-May and even then it was just an assignment for class. it ended up having a tiny shred of something that could be more, but still, when you’re in any kind of funk, writing or otherwise, it’s hard to see the silver lining. So here I am, back at the old blog which I have apparently dismissed after my year of writing everyday. I think maybe it became more like a job last year and that made me hate it. I’m rambling now.

I’ve had kind of a shitty summer. There have been silver linings.

I got to go to residency in person. I got to meet my awesome friends whom I only knew digitally before. There’s something pretty magical about sitting in a room with people who think and write and drink like you.

Then there was my two-week trip to Kansas to see my family and best friend. It didn’t start out as a two-week trip, but that’s what it ended up being when I felt the need to stay. That was a first. The first time I ever felt called to Kansas to recharge. I suspect it was the stress from my residency showing itself.

In July we went to Florida for a week with friends to celebrate Jerimiah’s 40th birthday. I planned this all, to be sure, and because of it was under immense pressure for the first several days to make sure everyone had a good time, even though I explicitly told them to make their own good times. In the end I said fuck it, these people are adults and can do it on their own, which means I actually did enjoy myself quite a bit. Doing what I pleased, when I pleased. Jerimiah had a good time too, especially on the actual party day when we drank fun drinks, played outdoor party games, and ate lots of food!

I was published in Litro in June.

I was offered a chance to write my first book review this month.

I got to watch my son enter his middle school building for the first time, all masked up, and excited.

I got to celebrate the man I love turning 40 years old.

I got to see friends I haven’t seen in over a year (some much longer!)

Jackson and I got to spend some time traveling together. We even did some of Route 66!

I got to help my mom with all the things in her house she has been wanting to accomplish.

Those, I think, were the silver linings. There were other things to be sure. There was the overcommitting I did to start the school year off. “Sure, yes!” I said so many times. It felt good to be back at it, you know? To have some sense of normalcy. You want me to be on the executive board of not one, but two middle school organizations?! ME? Sure! It has all caught up now and I’m feeling overwhelmed.

There was the car accident. Look it wasn’t anyone’s fault, not really, it was a total accident. Everyone was safe, meaning they all walked away. Though there is some trauma for sure. My car was totaled, but I didn’t really like that car so much anyway. The most important thing was everyone was safe and there were lots of lessons learned. I for example, know that when in an emergency situation I am a “flight” kinda person, while my best friend and husband are both “fight.” Which is probably why they are my best friend and husband.

Then there was that thing that is nagging me. That thing I have to spill out of me or I won’t feel right. The disappointment I feel from a summer of seeing people for who they really are after a year and half of imagining who they are. Who they were. It’s startling. It’s hard. Geez it’s been a tough year and a half. And it doesn’t seem like it will get any better. Because of that I have told myself repeatedly that I need to show grace, just as much as I need to ask of it from people. But repeatedly this summer I have been disappointed by the actions of others. I have come to see flaws in people that I never noticed before. Jerimiah and I are at a loss. I’m sure people are thinking the same thing about us. What has happened to us over the last year and a half? As Americans? As people?

Personally we realize that the two of us have done a substantial amount of growing into who we are. Who we are meant to be. We have become more eager to do what makes us happy. To be around people who make us happy. To not waste more time than we need with with people and situations we do not like, that make us feel uncomfortable. If I have to spend one more second with a straight, white, male that turns everything into a competition, y’all, I can’t. I won’t with toxic masculinity anymore.

And just like that people that you like, that you love. Family members. Close friends. They start to slip. And maybe, probably, it was our fault. Probably we put them on a pedestal. We thought wow, they are great people. But the truth has surfaced for me this summer and I no longer feel like some of the things we thought were great about people, are in fact that great. It’s a shitty realization to have, but it’s the truth. So now what? Gotta look for those silver linings I suppose. Always keep looking for those silver linings.

I’ll leave you with a few of my silver linings now.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Shine On

Hey y’all. Whew, this sentence is proving hard for me to write. Write. Write. Write. I have not been writing for about two months now and this might be the longest time I have done this in years. I’m stuck. I don’t want to call it writer’s block because I think that’s a weird, made-up term. I think it’s stress. Stress makes me not want to do anything. Stress and anxiety clog up the whole system for me. The things I need to be doing like writing and working out suddenly stop and instead I sit in my pajamas all day and watch Teen Mom OG. Don’t get me wrong Teen Mom OG is great and really helpful in showing you that your problems are in fact not so bad, but it also prevents me from dealing with all the things I need to be dealing with. This creates a cycle. A cycle of not writing, not working out, not taking care of my mental health, then hiding from people. I really wanted to break that cycle last week so I packed up my car and kid and drove home for a few days which means I’m writing this blog post, my first one in a couple of months, from my best friend’s couch in Lansing, Kansas. But still I am not feeling whole. Rested. Rejuvenated. In fact, I feel like I am paddling hard against a current that is inevitably going to take me under. Wow, what a sad sack I am tonight, y’all. Then again, I never really promised y’all a rose garden anyway so no offense, but you need to quit your bitching.

Hmm, scolding y’all makes me feel a little better. Thanks.

I’m not even sure what I want to say here other than sometimes the things we love to do, the people we love to be with, the places we love to visit, the moments we look forward to give us experiences that we can hold deep in our hearts for sad days when we can pull them out, dust them off, hold them up to shine for us, even those days, experiences, people, and places are harder to see when we are actually living them. That feels weird, I know, but it’s the truth. Sometimes our own heads get our hearts all twisted up. The day to day of living breaks us away from our gratitude, from our love, from our search for the sparkle, from ourselves and we wind up blogging incoherent sentences at midnight on a Sunday in the middle of the midwest.

Which is to say, let’s try to stop. Stop spinning ourselves up. Stop stealing our own joy. Stop overthinking everything. Stop and relax and thank each other and ourselves for where we are right now. Or at least go and eat some peanut M&Ms in your closet while the world keeps spinning all around you.

Take care of yourself and let’s talk soon, okay?

M.

The Right Words

I’ve been trying to find words. That’s actually something I do a lot. The Oxford Pocket Dictionary sits on my desk, in part, because I am always looking for words. The right words. The good words. That is to say I’m trying to discover what I think, how I feel, and put that into words. But this week has been hard. It’s hard for me to smile this week. It’s hard to be positive. It’s hard to feel happy, for the “right” words to come when all I can really think are sad words. I want to write words that are jovial. Carefree. Radiant. But what is finding me is Maudlin. Saccharine. Indignant. Here are some words that are finding me:

I told you so.

Liars.

Now you know how school kids feel.

Terrorists.

If you support this…

Pissed.

And while these might not be a helpful response to the situation, while people are calling for unity, these words and phrases are my truth. They are what I am feeling. I am battling within myself now. Do I let this go, do I let people say and do what they want, even if what they say and do is hurting others? I think we all know the answer to that, but then why do I feel so bad?

“I told you so.” That’s what I want to say to my friends, many of them “previous friends” who voted for Trump in 2016 and who still, up until this week fully supported him even though their own doubts were creeping into their throats. I told you so. But I’ve heard that “I told you so” never helps. It’s an unhelpful phrase. So what do I say?

“Liars” that is what I see when I watch and listen to Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham and Mike Pence. They never apologized for their support of a crazy person. A crazy person who 80 million of us knew was capable of what we saw this week. They knew it too. They also know they had a hand in it and they are liars. But I have family and friends, real people I love and respect coming out to say that they are proud of these men. I am not. It was too little too late. What do I say?

“Now you know how school kids feel,” should not come as a surprise that this was my first thought. Early on when the siege was happening there was video of Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington State. She was on her hands and knees in the gallery of Congress, a police woman next to her yelling to “Get down,” and I saw the fear on her face and I thought this is exactly what our school children face in our country on a regular basis. This is exactly what many of us have been saying for far too long about guns, about security measures, about the results of a generation of children who can’t go to school without looking, knowing, being trained, to find the escape route.

“Terrorists.” These people are terrorists. We need to stop calling them protesters. Protesting is what we saw this summer when people were protesting for equal justice under law and for civil rights. The people who stormed the Capital were terrorists. They were there to overthrow our government. To bend the will of the people to their decision. We can’t say apples to apples when it is in fact apples to white supremacy.

“If you support this then you are (insert any number of things).” This one I’m torn up about. I wrote on social media if you support this unfriend me right now. And I meant it. Still mean it. I can’t be friends, not even fake, social media friends with you if you can in any way shape or form understand or empathize with the people who broke out windows, who desecrated our Capital, or who took down an American flag to replace it with a Trump one. I can’t make that make sense and I can’t sit with that and I don’t want to be associated with you. But in this moment we are called to unify. My desire to bring peace and civility is inching up in my throat and I am conflicted. Still, as of right now, if you support those people you and I are fundamentally different and I can’t be around you. And I do believe you should be called out for your way of thinking. You need help. But still, as I write this I am thinking of ways I can help you. But I’m mad, so I will need time.

“Pissed.” I’m pissed, y’all. I woke up on Wednesday so happy with my state. So proud to call myself a Georgia Democrat. A DeKalb County Democrat no less. We made history. We swung a whole state. We changed the course of our nation and for that I am humbled and grateful. But now I am pissed. I’m really pissed and I don’t want to be. I hate this feeling, this anger rising up. Of course this is how I felt in 2016 too, so while I am pissed today I know I will not always be. And when that anger subsides I know I will be left with a desire to make changes. And I know that means I will. We will. As a collective.

But for today, I am pissed. And I think it is a rightful feeling and emotion. And I won’t be made to feel shameful about it by people who are saying, “We need to come together now.” They are right, these people. “We” as in the decent people in our country, need to come together. But “we” as in the racists, the homophobes, the “Stop the Steal” people, the terrorists, no. There is no coming together with them. We have given them too many tries to get it together and this was their last one.

I remember a time when I could say, “I don’t care who you voted for, I still like you.” That isn’t the case anymore. If today, you would still walk to the polls and cast your vote for Donald Trump, then I don’t want you around me or my family. You’re toxic and sorely misguided. You’re a racist. You are willing to put your beliefs above the collective country we ALL belong in. And I won’t stand for it anymore.

I’m pissed. I want to say I told you so. Explain that those people are terrorists, white supremacists, that this is EXACTLY who we are as Americans, regardless of how many times Papa Joe says we aren’t. This is us. We need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and make a change, or this will continue to be us.

Hmm. I guess I did find the words.

Be safe, friends.

M.

I’m Back!

Hi-dee ho, neighbors! Remember Wilson from “Home Improvement.” It’s been a few days. Wow, that is weird to say. Because last year I wrote a blog post every day and this year I couldn’t decide what I was going to do and then decided, fuck that I’m gonna take a break. So there you have it. A break was had. For two days. Actually, I’ve been writing everyday still, but I just haven’t posted everyday because I’m not trying to write a blog post everyday this year, instead I have decided to take that time and write toward my thesis everyday, which seems like a much better use of my time. That is not to say that I don’t like my blog, or love you all, or think it’s important to be here and share my wild, crazy stories about toilet paper and swallowing a dry White Castle French fry down my windpipe and vomiting on the side of the road somewhere in Tennessee, that’s a good story I needs to share sometime, but you know thesis work should come first, considering I start that beast in the fall.

But I’m back. And although I never really left, I’m excited about this new year and hopeful that we can accomplish some great things. I am patiently waiting for my turn at THE vaccine, and I am planning a couple of vacations that we will partake in as soon as it is safe. Other than that I am eating leftover chocolate from Christmas, I started new medication, and I bought a keyboard and have been furiously teaching myself “Fur Elise” because I literally have that much time on my hands.

I hope you have all found things that bring you joy, lighten your heart, and propel you into goodness this year. I hope you are staying safe, wearing a mask, social distancing, and following CDC guidelines as best you can to ensure that we all get through this alive and well.

Big hugs.

M.

Happy New Year!

Hi, hello, it’s New Year’s Eve! Time to celebrate the ending of a weird, bad, absurd, crazy, frustrating, educational year. And the new year gives us a little hope, doesn’t it? It does, sure. A little hope. But I feel like we are putting a lot of stock in the new year. Like some of us want to think we will wake up tomorrow and the news won’t be so bad. And the Covid-19 will be gone. But the truth of the matter is we know, deep inside, that isn’t the case. At last I hope we do. There is no fresh start tomorrow. There is no change to the way the world is. It’s just more of the same and some of y’all need to hear that because I suspect some of y’all have plans to “abandon the mask” for the new year or some other crazy shit, but please do not. The New Year isn’t magic.

Now listen, I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, and I know some exciting things are happening, including the FIRST EVER Madam Vice President! And I also know that most of us are not expecting the clock to strike midnight and some Cinderella-type shit to happen. Most of us know that we will wake up on New Year’s Day and it will be the same shit, different day. Most of us know this. But some of us, well I worry.

I worry even more for the people who think that we will be “back to normal” in 2021. I worry that you are being too optimistic. I worry that you are setting yourself up for failure, and negatively impacting others in the process. Because at some point your desire to be “back to normal” will cause you to act drastically, endangering others along the way. I worry, that’s all. I worry.

Today I am worrying about all of those things. I am worrying, but also trying to enjoy the day. To look back at what we have lived through this year with a sense of pride for having made it to this day. There was some dark days this year right? Personally I watched my son end his elementary school days and start middle school virtually. We watched loved ones get sick. We missed out on family vacations we had planned. Jerimiah missed out on enjoying the transition to his new job at an office. Jackson has been struggling with virtual learning. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and have spent the majority of the year in pain. We have had struggles, but also there were other things.

I have been in my house, with my son and husband for nine months now and I’m not sick of them, I’m not mad at them, I’m not even a little sad. I love them so much and have grown accustomed to having them home so much that transitioning back to normal life will be very hard.

Then there is Winnie, the puppy we got in April. Our quarantine puppy, who is amazing and crazy and giant and so, so loving.

There was my first semester in my MFA program, where my lowest grade was a 98.7 and trust I was upset with it. I met some great new friends, learned a ton, and got to work on the lit mag. Not to mention I wrote some good stuff, some of which has already been published!

There was the marching for racial justice. There was the shedding light onto the structural and institutional racism that was allowed to run rampant in our country.

There was the unfriending of toxic people.

The pulling back form social media.

The playing of board games and doing puzzles. The afternoons at the lake. The cool evenings in the hot tub. There was driveway meet-ups, front porch talks. There was love in abundance through it all.

Then there was this here blog.

I wrote everyday this year, a goal I gave myself on January 1, 2020. I wrote everyday with the exception of the week in June where I participated in the “Muted and Listening” campaign, in which white people were asked to be quiet, to go dark on social media and blogs, etc, and listen to the BIPOC community. It was an amazing, educational experience and I learned so much.

Aside from that week I made a blog post here everyday. And I realized, for the first time, that I was capable of writing everyday. It is helpful and encouraging and I even found material to write about, albeit some days were better than others. I am thankful that it was 2020 that I decided to do that because I can look back on this year with a different eye when this has passed, and trust this will pass. We just have to be patient.

I’m not setting any goals for the new year. Not officially. I have a couple of things swimming in my mind, but honestly, I turn 40 in 2021, and my biggest goal is to enjoy life. To be okay in my skin. To take some deep breathes. To keep up the work I am doing. But those are my goals all the time, nothing special. Just to keep living, and living well. I hope that is your goal too.

Happy New Year’s to you all! Thank you for being around this year, for helping me learn and grow. For supporting me. I hope you have found some help here too, some support, or just a laugh every now and then. I can’t say what this blog will look like tomorrow, or a month from now, but I’ll be around, regardless. You can always find me.

Sending love and light to you this evening and every evening. Stay safe and sane.

M.

My First Reading

I was invited to a reading the other day via Zoom for one of my new pieces that was published. This particular piece was published with Welter at the University of Baltimore and while this was not my first time being asked to do a reading, this was the first time I said yes and it was two-fold. The first reason is because this piece, I thought, was very important. Socially it was important and it meant a lot to me. You can read the piece yourself here: Welter Online. The second reason was that because I am now in an MFA program, I should be reading my work when asked. I need the practice and truth be told it was on Zoom so there wasn’t high risk. Worst case I freak out and “go dark” and blame my internet. Win-win.

But the fact is I did it and I am proud of myself and I had a really nice time. The people at Welter were incredibly nice, albeit overwhelmed and overworked (they had over 1200 submissions to wade through) and now that I have done a semester at Ponder Review (The W’s lit mag) I get it. 1200 Submissions must be a nightmare! At the same time, my piece was one of like 15 to make it to publication out of those 1200 submissions, so… I am thankful for them.

It was a nice feeling and not just because I was accepted and liked and my piece made people cry, which is always a bonus when you feel like you wrote a highly emotional piece and you see people respond, but also because I did the reading, I didn’t “go dark,” my husband and son got to watch it, and I had a really nice time, met some new friends (and got to read with one of my friends I met at The W this semester!) and gained some valuable experience. It was not what I anticipated when I spent the day, nay the weekend, envisioning all the horrific outcomes. So there you have it. I survived. I wasn’t too scared. I was calm and I had a nice time.

I am always thankful for people who give my work (and me) time and space to be read and heard. So thank you Welter, for holding space for all of us the other night and thank you for being part of this thing we all do, for helping eager writers and for putting goodness into the world. The other readers that night knocked my socks off as well (especially Josh, William, Stephen, and Shannon, if you get a chance read all the pieces over at Welter Online they truly were fantastic!) There was not one piece I didn’t emotionally connect to at the reading, and many of them were pretty funny to boot! It was an amazing evening.

If you’re at all interested in going to, watching, or participating in readings I highly recommend it. It is a nice way to save soul points inside your heart for a rainy day.

Remember to support local artists of all kinds.

Be safe and sane.

M.

Declinations

Nine. Thirty one. Twenty. Those are the numbers of declinations sitting in my “Rejection Folder” right now, by year. Nine rejections in 2018, the first year I started sending out work for consideration. Thirty one rejections last year, in 2019 and twenty so far this year, but please be advised there is still time in this year to get a few more! This is all to say that I have to change the way I see rejections, and I think it starts with what I call it.

I like the word declination better. As in the publication has declined your submission at this time, but thanks for trying and please try again. It seems better than the publication “rejects” your work and you and all the values you stand for, which is how I take it every time I get one.

Recently a friend told me about these groups of writers on line with goals like “100 Rejections in one year!” and I was terrified to even think of such a thing. Why would you want to be rejected so much?! But the truth is if you are rejected that much, that means you are sending out a lot and it probably means you are sending out to better publications, publications that won’t just print whatever, and trust I have found some that will, and you are being active about sending out your work. I figure if I can manage to write every day this year, then I should be able to amp up my declinations next year. I’m not saying I can get to 100, but I mean, it might be worth a shot, right?

I’m not setting anything in stone right now, just thinking about it. Putting into the universe to see what will happen. Hope you are thinking about how to make next year better than this one too even if it feels like it can’t be done. It can!

M.

One Year of Writing

The graphic above is a screenshot of my “insights” one of the ways WordPress tracks how you run your blog. There are various tools that help you track who is coming to your page, how they found it, what Google term brought them here, there was an awful lot of people here who were searching for “M-I-Crooked Letter-Crooked Letter-S…” as well as “Charcuterie Boards” which in fact was a blog post that in no way could help one with making or understand a charcuterie board. But I digress. These little blocks keep track of how many days I have blogged. My goal for 2020, my New Year’s Resolution as it were, was to write on this blog every, single day. And, well, so far so good.

Now you might be wondering, Missy I can see the little blocks, but what do they mean? Those blocks represent days in each month. They are not in order, that took some time for me to figure out, they are just blocks that change to blue when I post a blog. More blogs the bluer the block gets, but as you can see I only manage one a day on average.

So here it is. It is early in the morning on December 1st. It’s actually 1:00 am and I am wide awake, hopped up on steroids to help with my pain, and unable to sleep so I am writing a blog post about how this “Insight” tool works. It’s boring as shit, I know. I’m hoping it will put me to sleep. I’m also hoping this will end up being somewhat cohesive and I can post it this week.

Anyway, you can see that December is basically gray because I haven’t written in it yet. Technically I wrote tomorrow’s post today, but it hasn’t posted yet so it won’t show, but what you can see is that every day this year, with the exception of the week in June with I took part in #AmplifyBlackVoices and shut down the blog to learn, read, and support Black female writers, I wrote every, single day.

And to be fair, even though I didn’t post those days in June, I did write those days. I just didn’t want to share my writing, instead I went to social media and shared Black voices all week the best I could. I shared Black artists, Black fashion, Black-owned businesses, etc. I called out racists on my newsfeed (mostly family) and I unfriended said people then DM’d them to tell them why. We also marched for justice five of the seven days that week, passed out post cards with ways to donate to the #BlackLivesMatter Movement and donated money ourselves. I hope I did my part that week in other ways, besides writing, but either way it was worth it.

So there you have it. I have one month left to finish off my New Year’s Resolution and listen, I have NEVER finished a New Year’s Resolution so this is kind of a big deal. I hope I can make it and I hope that whatever you promised yourself at the beginning of the year, back before it turned into the year it turned into. I hope you kept your promises too. But if not, there’s always next year!

Love and safety to all! If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing!

M.