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.

Georgia Election

There I was, promising my family I would NOT go to sleep until Ossoff was ahead in the polls. Then there I was, passed out with my phone on top of me when he was still down by 400 votes, but the truth is I went to sleep happy and excited because I knew what was about to happen. I knew that a lot of people in Georgia (and not in Georgia) worked their asses off to get people to the polls. To get people to understand what could happen. What is possible in a state like Georgia when people vote. It wasn’t possible for some people to see until November. But that win for Biden, with just over 12,000 votes, well, it lit a fire under people. It made us realize that yes, actually anything is possible. It is possible that the revered of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr’s church, could rise up and become the first Black senator in our state. It was a glorious sight to behold.

And listen, as I write this Ossoff is ahead in the polls, but they haven’t called it for him just yet. I’m expecting them to shortly, but already it is said that Chatham, Fulton, and DeKalb (my county) counties are cheating and lying and stealing this election. I don’t have words to say about that, except that we still have some work to do, as a state, as a county. But the truth of the matter is that it’s always hard to lose. It’s always hard to explain something like this. Explain why the people who have always been in power, are losing their power. So while I understand what they are doing, the science and psychology of it, I won’t let it stand. Not in my presence.

Today Congress will “debate” the presidential election, but the constitution, the power of the people, the “right” thing will prevail. Now we can look to the future with those who want to come along with us, and for the others, well, they can stay back and scream and yell. We don’t need them, we’ve made that clear.

Today is a good day, America! WE believe in you, Rev!

M.

Thoughts on Zoom

Is it just me, or do you have a hard time reading the natural end to the conversation with your therapist via Zoom? I adore my therapist, but these Zoom calls have been increasingly difficult. Same with my rheumatologist, who has a heavy middle-eastern accent. It’s hard to hear her and hard to decipher her words through her mask in person, but via Zoom is even worse. I feel really bad because I already have a hard time with accents and naturally ending conversations, but it’s been even worse over the last year because I feel like I am always on edge, always forgetting things, always have a ton on my mind, and it’s getting worse not better.

Last week I called the meeting quits a good ten minutes before my session was supposed to end because I was like, well is she done writing? Is she checking her clock? Does she have notes to do before her next patient? It feels like there are just way more things to worry about via the Zoom calls and I don’t feel like I can read the room, mainly because there is literally no room to read.

To make matters worse we are so “close” in a Zoom call, like closer than we would be in real life, that it makes me uncomfortable. Have you noticed this? Like I can see the fine lines and wrinkles in people’s faces on Zoom. I can see if something is hanging from their noses. So I sit way, way back away from the computer because it scares me. Meanwhile some people sit with the computer so close all you can see is their face. Back up, y’all! Back up! It’s too close.

I don’t know what my issue is, not really. I just know that Zoom freaks me out. It always has. Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, whatever you use or want to call it. It’s not my favorite, most effective form of communication and I hate that this is how we have to do things now. At the same time, I can be in my pajamas for therapy, so… I guess it’s still a win.

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.

If My Fatness Offends You…

Now that the new year is upon us, I’ve noticed the “New year, New Me” self talk starting. I guess it’s not self talk if you are sharing it with social media but you know the deal, people (women mostly) sharing goals about how what they want to change about themselves in the new year. Most of it is weight or size related. Most of it is masked under this “I want to feel healthy” but what they are really saying is that they are unhappy with themselves and need to change. Here’s where I get my stomach into some knots. I’m fat, in case you don’t know me IRL. I am overweight. Medically obese. My BMI is too high. However you want to measure it, I am overweight and have been literally all of my life. Literally here is used literally, not figuratively. I wasn’t a skinny kid who put on weight in puberty. I was a chubby kid who put on weight during puberty, which was coincidently when I was put on my first diet too. But that’s not the story I am here to share with you today, the story I want to share with you came much later.

I worked for Ruby Tuesday. They are a family-style, casual dining restaurant throughout the country. You might know them from their extensive salad bar. I worked for a franchise in Southern Missouri owned by a man named John. Now John had some unchecked mental health issues, and can be best described as a “Mini Trump.” That is to say he was a big fish in a weird pond. Or at least he thought he was. People didn’t like to tell him no because he flipped the fuck out if he was told no. People didn’t like to tell him yes because then he’d abuse them in some way, you get my drift.

He owned several, maybe 10, Ruby Tuesday restaurants. Now owned is a stretch. You know how it is. He was a franchisee, but he rented most buildings, the company itself had control over most of his dealings, etc, etc. And he owned two of the restaurants in Branson, Missouri. First he owned a free-standing one that was open for a decade and did very well before he opened a second location in a strip mall sandwiched between Walmart and a grocery store. Why he decided to open a second one a half mile away from an already popular one is beyond me. Beyond any business class you might take. And as you can imagine it isn’t open anymore. It closed down less than a decade after opening considering it didn’t make enough money. That’s not hard to figure out, but I digress.

I started there as a server, then quickly became a bartender, then a shift leader. A shift leader is paid hourly ($13/hr back in 2005-ish) and is expected to do all the things a manager does, but obviously make a lot less doing it. I’m not sure what the hell that position was supposed to look like, but it seemed to be this thing where they said, “Oh we like you, and you are a great worker, we will give you keys and official sounding title and let you do all the dirty work for nothing for awhile so you feel important.” And I bought it. I was like 23 years old, that should be noted.

It was also a pipeline to management, obviously. You had to be a shift leader to be a manager and while I was there (about five years) I saw many a shift leader and managers come and go. There is high turnover in the restaurant business. It’s a shitty, thankless job and it gets even worse the higher up you go. Add to that the maniac I worked for, and well, there you have it.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were good things about the job, especially for a 20-something. I met a lot of great people, people who became my best friends and still are my best friends. I made it through some wack-a-doodle experiences, and I learned an enormous amount about people and myself. One does that when they tend bar, cook on the line, and watch employees smoke cigarettes in the cooler. It’s a smorgasbord of bad decisions, unruly employees, and fun. I could never, ever work in the restaurant business again, but I am glad for the experiences I had. Even the one I am here to talk about.

One day, around year three I sat down in the back room of the store with the District Manager. I was a shift leader, had been for about a year, and was doing really well. The employees liked me, the managers couldn’t function without me (there was one who routinely forgot where he parked his car), and the Spanish-speaking cooks respected me enough to allow me on the line with them. I was a good, nay great, employee and I was ready to be promoted and they were ready to promote, only one problem: I was fat.

Now I don’t need to remind you that I have always been fat. I had been the same size the day I was hired there as I was the day I was sat down and told that they would love to promote me, but they couldn’t on account of my fatness. That’s a thing that was said to me, while also being told that other shift leaders were also having this talk. There was Jodie who was missing several teeth and was so skinny people sometimes thought she was a drug addict. They didn’t like her image and they told her to work on it and then promoted her. Then there was Kyle, the owner’s nephew, who was also fat. He was told to work on his image (and he did by drinking Bud Light and taking Hyroxycut) and then he was promoted. Here’s the rub, I was told I was fat and then not promoted. Told that I had to show them I was working on losing weight before they would promote me.

Nola told me this. The DM. Now I liked Nola. She was nice and funny and she came around to our store a lot and she was very involved. And I think she liked me too. And I think she was very sad that day she had to have that conversation with me. It came from the top down, and to be fair John didn’t like me for a myriad of reasons, least of all that I was incredibly vocal about all the shortcomings at the store and the with the employees because I wanted the place to do well. But he did see that I was good at what I did, so he was stuck, I guess this little dig was just for him to have fun, maybe “put me in my place” or what not. It worked.

For the next several months I tried to lose weight. I did it blindly. I took what Nola said, which was basically “You’re too fat and we don’t want the customers to think that is on brand with us,” and I tried to get on brand. Now to be clear, I was about 195 pounds during this time. I stayed right around there. I am about 5’5″. I was fat, sure, but I didn’t have to have a wall in my house removed to walk outside or anything like that. And I was smaller and more fit than Kyle and I was actually healthy. I went to the doctor every year for an annual, I was active, but I was incredibly broken down mentally. I was depressed. I was small-minded. I was constantly berating myself. Then here was my job, a thing I was very good at, doing the same thing. Berating me, telling me I was fat, making me sad. But I went along with it.

The short of the story is that I lost about 15 pounds, nothing life changing (Kyle gained weight and was a dumbass, like truly he had a hard time with simple math and Jodie got her teeth fixed, but people hated her and I actually do think she was on drugs) and then they asked me to be a manager and I said no. Their jaws hit the floor of course, but it was the first time I felt like I did the right thing for me. The job was nuts, the hours were crazy, and if they were the kind of people who promoted the likes of Kyle and Jodie, while telling me I was fat, well obviously they were not of sound mind. I got married, got pregnant, and ended up quitting anyway about a year later, but it was nice to look them in the eye and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I should have added, “Y’all nuts,” but I didn’t. Also, the store itself was shut down about a year after that. And I did a little happy dance cause I am petty.

So why I am sharing this story today? It’s funny that I have never publicly shared it before. I think a lot of my close friends don’t even know the story, save Kasey and Mel and Jerimiah who were all there when it happened. I think it’s because I was ashamed it happened in the first place, right? I mean I don’t give a fuck that crazy John thought I was too fat (you should hear all the bad things I said about him, ha!) and I’m not even mad at Nola, who later said that conversation with me was the worst thing she ever had to do while she worked for him, which is hard to believe because he had to have sexually harassed her a lot. I’m not even made at Erica, the GM and one of my best friends at the time, who knew it was going to happen and didn’t warn me, instead she left.

The person I am most mad at is myself. I still can’t believe I allowed people to treat me that way. I still can’t believe that I took on others’ words and feelings and ideals of “being on brand” or their damn beauty standards or their distaste for “fat people” and I pushed it deep inside into my core and I tried to appease them. What the actual hell?! Obviously 39-year-old Missy is embarrassed and sad that 20-something Missy did that, but at the same time I didn’t know any better. I had spent my whole life being made fun of, even by people who loved me, being teased at school, being called names because I was chubby or overweight. I didn’t know I could say, “Shut up, you assholes. I’m fine the way I am.”

It was a hard lesson, but I learned it and I am glad that I did and I desperately wish that more fat girls would learn it. Maybe not in the way I did, but just figuring out that you are okay, you are good, you are perfect the way you are and you don’t need to make a change for anyone but yourself. If you are happy at your size, then shine on, girls (or guys). And if you are not happy with your size there is a whole community out there to offer support and help as you set goals and strive for them. But the point is, it is your choice, not anyone else’s. It is your decision how you live your life and don’t buy into this “Fat isn’t healthy” shit, because that’s not true. I was incredibly healthy at about 180 pounds, working out five days a week, busting my ass in the gym, all the while the doctor told me I was good to go, but “fat” according to the charts. They can shove those charts up thy ass, and so can anyone else who has an opinion about my body or my life, right up thy ass.

So, if my fatness offends you, if my fatness makes your life unhappy, if my fatness makes you sad for me, please stop and explore your inner demons, explore what makes you offended by fat people, what makes your life so unhappy, what problems you have to say horrible things to people who are just trying to get by in this life.

And for the love of all that is holy, stop talking about the weight you gained during a global pandemic! This has been a nightmare for a lot of people and you aren’t special, we all made bad decisions just to get by (I watched the entire “Tiger King” series for fuck’s sake) and gaining a little weight isn’t the end of the world and if you treat it as such, if you start to say, “Shut up” to the people who think it is, then life would be better for all of us.

M.

White Women, Again

I bought Jerimiah and Jackson matching shirts that said, “I’m Glad Reagan’s Dead” which is of course a lyric from the Killer Mike song, “Reagan.” I will include the link to the video so you can watch it if you are so inclined, it’s pretty good and incredibly informative. Anyway, they LOVED their shirts because they are big Killer Mike and Run the Jewels fans and so they wanted to pose for a picture and have me post it to Instagram so people can see their shirts, so I did. Then I went on with my life as one does. Then a couple of days later I got a Facebook message from a white woman that said, “I just don’t understand, why would you want a shirt that says, ‘I’m glad Reagan’s Dead.'” I responded, of course, very kindly. First I hoped she was having a great holiday season, I remarked about her fun pictures and hoped that she was having a nice time with her family, as one does. Then I politely explained the reasoning behind the shirt, in a condensed version of course. I told her how we have been talking about racial justice in this our country, backtracking what Jackson has learned in school as “America History” and told him some truths. It’s a tough, labor-intensive process, but incredibly necessary.

Then it occurred to me that the audacity of white women truly knows no bounds.

White women get offended by something, a t-shirt that a person 1,000 miles away from them who has no real connection to them is wearing and they demand an answer for it. It sort of boggled my mind.

I personally would never ask about something like that. I would never take the time from my day to demand an answer to something that someone is wearing (unless it was overtly racist, in which case I would publicly shame them for it even though Mama Brene Brown says shame is not an effective educational tool. I know Mama Brene, I know. I’m working on it, it’s hard to change when you grew up that way.) Maybe it’s an age thing? This woman is the mother of a childhood friend. Either way, my own mother didn’t even ask about the shirts, just accepted it as something quirky I did, I assume, and went on with her day.

It was bizarre, to say the least. But still I figured if one white woman questioned it, others probably did too but were just too afraid to ask so I made a Facebook post explaining the shirt (saying I had multiple people ask me, but really it was just the one, I just didn’t want to make her feel bad. But she should kind of feel bad, ya dig?). This is that post, condensed:

Hi Everyone! Jerimiah and I have had people question the “I’m Glad Reagan’s Dead” t-shirts I bought for Jackson and Jerimiah for Christmas.

So if you want to know why I would give my 12-year-old a shirt that says, “I’m Glad Reagan’s Dead” or you want to know why anyone would be happy to say that, then please do read on. Warning: This is tough stuff, because you might be enlightened to a world, community, and culture that is different than your own, and that makes people uncomfortable. So fair warning. 🙂

Let’s start with the song lyrics that the phrase is taken from. The song is called “Reagan” and it is by Killer Mike, a member of the two-person group “Run the Jewels” who happened to win Spin’s “Artist of the Year” for their RTJ 4 album, the one they released free to the masses on account of how horrible the year was going. They wanted to brighten some lives and they did! The song “Reagan” is not on that album, but Jackson and Jerimiah love all the albums and they love Killer Mike (I do too on account of all his grassroots, community work here in Atlanta) and so they did a deep dive on all his work this year where they came across the song, which, in short, lists the litany of Reagan atrocities toward the Black community and atrocities toward other minority communities worldwide and the backlash it had on the ones here in the US, including:

Iran/Contra Scandal (trading arms for hostages), “Oliver North introducing Cocaine on military planes”, the “War on Drugs” which we all know disproportionately affected the Black community and allowed for “policing for profits” leading to “Super Predators” which was a made up term to arrest Black men on drug charges, and allowed the courts to “give drug dealers time in double digits” which of course led to fathers, brothers, uncles, in the Black community being locked up years and years longer than the white people doing the same things, because as Killer Mike says,

“Cause slavery was abolished, unless you are in prison, you think I am bullshittin’ then read the 13th amendment.”

Blah, blah, blah, it went on. Explaining more about Killer Mike, about supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and the community, asking people to vote consciously and to donate money to Black businesses, etc. It was liked by a few people, loved by some of my Black friends, and thankfully no one commented. Of course I blatantly told white people not to comment, cause I know a few other white women who would normally hop on a post like that like flies on a shit sandwich. I didn’t want to have to unfriend anyone over the post, at the same time, I kinda did want to unfriend some people over the post. You know how it is.

Anyway, I’m sharing today to remind white women to chill the fuck out and sit the fuck down. And yes, I am aware that I am a white woman. Which gives me the power to say that to y’all. Cause Black women who say it get screamed at, and called mean names, and ostracized. I don’t care, y’all can scream at me and ostracize me, Jesus I welcome it, but leave people alone.

No one owes you an explanation for a damn thing, and more importantly your opinion on the matter doesn’t in fact matter. Literally no one from the Black Lives Matter camp is looking at you to help them. I’m included in that. They don’t give a fuck about me, and I don’t need them to. I don’t need a pat on the back or a nod to know what I am doing is right. I just need to figure out how to walk this line of keeping white women in check and not overstepping any boundaries with my BIPOC friends. I’m working on it, always working on it.

But white women, for the love of all that is holy, no one is looking at you to be the moral center of our country, so stop it. That job is for Tom Hanks and Tom Hanks alone.

That is all, good day sirs!

M.

PS… “I’ll leave you with four words: I’m glad Reagan Dead.” –Michael Render, aka Killer Mike

Onward

As the year draws to a close I’ve been thinking back on how crazy it has been and wanted to share a story. On Sunday, March 8th of this year, my friend Torey messaged me to see if Jackson wanted to go to the movies to see the movie “Onward.” “Absolutely,” I told her excitedly. Jackson and I had just been talking about that movie that day, discussing when we would go see it. “Next weekend?” I asked Torey. She responded quickly. “I think we should go tomorrow after school.” I sat looking at my phone for a minute. We have rarely, if ever, gone to the movies after school. In the summertime we might go to the movies in the afternoon, but generally speaking we go to the movies on Friday or Saturday nights along with all the rest of the crazy world. “Sure,” I said. After all, it is cheaper than the weekends and with the three kids, Jackson and Torey’s two, Megha and Taran, there would be less people to worry about. I told Jackson we were headed to the movies after school the next day with his friends and that was that.

When we met Torey and Megha and Taran at the local theater, the Movie Tavern with the brand-new plush seats that recline all the way back and have tables attached so you can order giant meals (and wine) and have it brought to you, Torey was so happy to see us. The first thing she did was thank us for coming on such short nice. “Of course,” I said, “it’s a good idea.”

“I thought so too,” Torey said, “I was talking to my family in Hong Kong over the weekend and they were telling me about Covid-19 and I figure this is our last weekend of freedom.” She said this with a small laugh and a wave of her hand at the concession stand, as the kids mindlessly scanned the glass to pick out their favorite candy.

I smiled, but inside I was very confused. I had not been paying much attention to the news. I was trying to stay away from social media too. The only thing I had heard up to that point about Covid-19 was what Jackson and Megha had told us at dinner a week or two before. Torey and I had taken the kids out for dinner at their choice of restaurants back in late February. They chose IHOP, because of course they did. So there we were, the five of us, Torey’s husband Vishnu was at work still and Jerimiah was on a plane back from Baton Rouge, and we were one of two tables at our local IHOP. Megha and Jackson started telling us all about Coronavirus and how it works and what they knew about Covid-19.

Their fifth grade teacher Mr. Budd had enlightened them all. Jackson said Mrs. Budd worked for the CDC and that Mr. Budd was a little concerned about the Covid-19 virus and wanted the kids to know the facts. Jackson and Megha then enlightened us with those facts. Torey was nodding along as they talked, our waitress Maria and I listened intently, eyes wide.

“It’s a particular strain of Coronavirus,” Megha started.

“It came about in 2019, that’s why it has the 19 after it,” Jackson interjected.

“Yeah,” Megha said, “And it transmits from person to person like other viruses.”

“Like the flu,” Jackson added.

“Yes,” Megha said, nodding her head at Jackson.

“Oh, and it’s already here in the US and the CDC thinks it is about to get very bad here,” Jackson was on a roll now. “We have to wash our hands for 20 seconds and cover our mouths when we talk.”

“And tell them about the social distancing, Jackson,” Megha said.

“Oh yeah,” Jackson started. “We should start social distancing, staying at least six feet from people when we are out in a crowded place.”

This was the first time I heard the term social distancing, from a pair of fifth graders at an IHOP table. Torey looked at me and smiled that smile that said, “We do have the smartest kids ever,” and of course she was right. Maria walked away smiling and thanking them for the information, and I sat a little nervously at the other side of the table while the conversation turned to some Korean pop band I also did not know anything about.

The next afternoon at the school pick-up picnic tables I sat around and listened as other parents discussed the coronavirus. Mainly they were saying that it was just a bad flu and it was nothing to worry about. In hind sight, that is what they were being fed from the top down. That is what we were all being fed. Our President was down-playing it. The media was too focused on other things. And really, really what was happening was that people were not okay with the thought that life as we know it might end, even temporarily. People were scared and they didn’t know what to do or say so they said, “It’s no big deal” and “I’m not worried.”

Meanwhile Torey, whose family and friends back in both Hong Kong and China were telling her to prepare for the worst, and she was listening. She was listening to her family, to the science, and to the rest of the world. And she was preparing. That’s why on that dreary Monday after the movie was over (and we were all crying, it’s a great movie!) she gave me the biggest hug and whispered that she didn’t know when she would get to see me again. I smiled a nervous smile, but I wanted to say, “Oh stop, I’ll see you next week,” since we had plans to do something fun with the kids the following week, after Jerimiah and Jackson and I got back from our short trip to Kansas City. But I didn’t say anything. There was something so ominous about Torey’s face, so sincere, so truthful. It was the first time I knew for sure that life was going to change and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it.

The rest of the week was sort of a blur. Torey had started to send me news articles from the BBC and other international places that were actually being truthful about Covid-19. Jackson was coming home with new bits of information each day from Mr. Budd who was getting the info from Mrs. Budd. It was sounding bad. Really bad. But still we pressed on. By that Thursday after school most of the mom’s were in complete denial, while the kids, after dismissal, ran around playing, “Covid is Coming for You” which was just a game of tag wherein the person who was “It” was actually a deadly virus. Hmpf.

Finally, on Friday, March 13th, we got the messages. First, there was the text from Honor Band. “Honor Band is cancelled for the rest of the school year.” Then came the baseball team, “No more baseball practice, will most likely resume later in the spring.” Then, as Jerimiah and I debated calling Delta to cancel our flights, the big one came from DeKalb Schools, “School is closed out of an abundance of precaution.” And that was that.

I messaged Torey.

“Oh my goodness, I’m sorry I didn’t believe you when you said we may not see each other for a while.”

“It’s okay,” my friend said, “It’s tough news.”

All I could think was, this can’t be. This just can’t be. Then Torey said,

“At least we got to see Onward!”

I smiled. I had no idea what was next, but at least we had “Onward.”

M.

Fireworks for Christmas

On Christmas Even Jerimiah and I had just gotten Jackson to bed when the fireworks started. I immediately remembered the very long, very loud fireworks from the Christmas Eve before, the one that took us totally by surprise. Last year we were a bit annoyed, asking each other, fireworks for Christmas?! Who would do such a thing? The truth is though, it isn’t horrible people who just want to keep your kids up and your dogs terrified. Bringing in Christmas with fireworks is actually a Latin America tradition and honestly we’ve just lived such sheltered lives (read: such white lives) that we have never encountered this before. But here in Atlanta, where the diversity kicks it up into double digits, we have been exposed to numerous things we never have been exposed to before and honestly, I wasn’t even mad this year. All I kept thinking was, it’s been one shitty-ass year and if people want fireworks, let them have their damn fireworks!

Of course the people on Next Door were not so thoughtful.

I was perusing the site for sale items, something I do a lot at night when I am trying to fall asleep. Occasionally, between Craigslist and NextDoor I find some gems, and people were bitching about the fireworks. As I lay in the dark, my phone screen illuminating my face and the sound of fireworks bursting around me I read:

“I don’t care who celebrates this way, I’m trying to sleep!”

“This is America! They can go back to their own country to do that stuff!”

“How dumb are these people? Dumb and tacky.”

“Call the cops, it’s illegal!”

The truth of that last one is no, it isn’t. Christmas Eve is one of the nights here that fireworks are legal because we have so many transplants from other countries that they made it legal here. That got me to thinking about all the calls flooding DeKalb’s Police force on Christmas Eve and how mad these nasty, white people are when the dispatcher on the other end tells them they won’t be sending a police officer out. I smiled in satisfaction.

Because the truth is last year when I first heard fireworks on Christmas Eve I Googled it, as any of the people on NextDoor are capable of also doing, and I found out all of this information.

The other truth is this: What the hell is wrong with you people? You white, privileged people? What makes you the superior people? Oh, you don’t have to answer that we already know the answer: Structural racism makes you believe that.

One of the things I have always loved about America is the diversity. The learning of other cultures I would not know about if I didn’t live in a melting pot of a country. As Americans, as such a young country, we don’t have many traditions. The ones we do have are from other countries, brought here by the immigrants who are still coming to the “Land of Opportunity,” so to have the audacity to say some shit like, “This is America, we don’t shoot fireworks on Christmas Eve” is crazy. Because yes, this is America and those people shooting off fireworks are American, so yes, we do shoot off fireworks on Christmas Eve.

So fucking deal with it.

M.

Why Would Someone Do That?

Crying alone in my bed isn’t the best way to end Christmas, but it’s the most honest way. It’s not all bad. And in fact, my life is fine. It’s not really my life I’m worried about. Right after we finished opening presents yesterday I got an alert on my phone that said a bomb exploded in Nashville, a city that I love. I tried to ignore the news a bit longer, but I kept being drawn back to that story. I just couldn’t wrap my head around what had happened, and honestly I figured it was some sort of mistake. That maybe something benign happened and it would come to light later in the day. I saw that no one had been seriously injured and I shelved it for the rest of the day.

Then, as I crawled into bed last night I pulled up the news and there it was. I watched a couple of videos. Saw the video of the blast. Looked through photos on social media. It was like a war zone. That’s when the tears came. I just kept shaking my head, saying aloud, “Why would someone do this?” Why indeed.

It’s not hard to see that this year has been capital-B Bad for a lot is us. Most of us, I’d venture, unless you’re filthy rich or completely ignorant. It’s been a bad year. We just mucked it up, as grandpa Clark would say. We mucked it up big time. But I can’t for the life of me work my head around this Nashville bomb. I know many of us are trying to figure it out today. The FBI, sure. The Nashville Police, yeah. But there’s also an awful lot of us shaking our heads in disbelief at the images and videos.

How completely terrifying to live through that. What comes next for those people? What do they say to their children who woke up Christmas morning expecting to be met with Santa’s gifts, and instead were rushed off to Nissan Stadium to hide from a bomb. Then to top it off it was a real threat and now their apartment is gone. Destroyed. Or their small business. Or the heart of their vibrant city. It’s all so much. It’s too much. It was too much for me last night.

I hope there are some answers as the days drag on, but more importantly I hope that we don’t let this year break us. This year, this pandemic, this dark, dark light that seems to be growing across our country. I hope that the new year ushers in some humanity back into our hearts. But I know banking on a new year to change the world is a bad bet. We have to start banking on each other and ourselves. We have to rise up with the light. Shine it into those dark spaces and places and hearts. Turn it around. Quickly, y’all. Quickly.

I’m thinking of Nashville today. I’m thinking of the city and the people and the children. I am thinking of the law enforcement and the morning cashiers at Starbucks. The day shift at the local Honky Tonks and restaurants. The bomb squad and the candy store clerks. The moms and dads and sons and daughters. I’m thinking of you all today. I believe in you.

M.

Merry Little Christmas

My favorite version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is Frank Sinatra’s three-verse version. And this year that last verse has been hitting extra hard.

“Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow. Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow. So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”

I hope you all had a merry little Christmas. And I hope you have muddled through this year the best you can. And I hope one day we all will be together again.

Merry Christmas.

M.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

I’m struggling a bit today, y’all. I just read an article about the 1960’s Rankin and Bass classic, “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” and I am conflicted. You see I have always held fond memories of this movie, since I was a child. And that’s because my mom watched these movies with all her kids during the holidays, so she was always so happy to see them come on back in the 1980s when I was little. She would be excited and make us some popcorn and we would sit in the low light of the Christmas tree and watch all the Rankin and Bass stop motion movies, as well as this cartoon called “Twas the Night Before Christmas” which I am sure I have talked about before because some of you remember it. It’s about a mouse family who saves Christmas. Anyway, I have fond memories of this Rankin and Bass Classic because of the way it all made me feel, but mainly because of my mom and what we did. I always, in the back of my mind was uneasy about it, but could never say why. Maybe the Abominable snowman, maybe because of the mean other reindeer, but I could never place it. Until this week.

This article I read was mainly about how this little boy, now grown, grew up watching this movie too and it gave him nightmares. Not because the Abominable Snowman tries to kill Rudolph’s parents in front of him, but rather because he identified with Clarice, the Elf who didn’t want to make toys, who instead wanted to be a dentist and was berated by all the other elves. In short, this story is a story about bullies. And sure, Rudolph wins in the end, but holy crap, him and Clarice have to go through a lot to get there. In fact, there are some pretty sad scenes that unfold while it is all happening. Reminiscent, for the man who wrote this article, of being berated and banished from his home for being gay. An all-too familiar sight these days, even with teens. You can read about the gay, homeless teen population here.

I know, I know, why are you being a bummer around Christmas, Missy? Well, to be totally honest I have seen a lot of younger homeless people in the streets this year than ever before and I suspect that a lot of them have a falling out with their parents and end up there. Much like Clarice did.

I’m not saying stop watching this Christmas classic. But I am saying that we need to remember that not all “classics” hold up. And not all people see it the same way we do, and certainly not all kids will. I never identified with Clarice, but I did with Rudolph. I had horrible anxiety as a kid and the thought of something happening to my mother, my only parent, kept me up at night. Thinking back, that is why it never sat well with me, but there are a lot of reasons movies don’t hold up. Which is why I will still watch these movies, but I wouldn’t pass it up for this one:

Oh man! Good stuff.

Enjoy your holiday and remember, there is so much we don’t know, but if we put ourselves in the shoes of others (humans or mice) we can learn a lot.

M.

Christmas Lights! Winter Solstice! Oh My!

We did one of those drive-thru light displays the other night and it was better and also worse that I thought it would be. A few years back we went to the light display at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and that was cool. Cool in the sense that it was huge and you got to drive onto the speedway which Jackson really liked. Although we are not NASCAR fans, we were car fans and he thought it was pretty cool. This year we went to the display at Six Flag’s White Water in Marietta. It’s a city just up the Perimeter about twenty minutes from us. Six Flag’s commissioned a company called “World of Illumination” to set up a display in their parking lot. They charge people $50 a car and all in all it goes pretty smoothly.

It was my mom’s second time at a drive-thru lights display. We took her to one way back in the day in Branson, Missouri. A place called Shepherd of the Hills does a little one every year and she enjoyed that one so we thought we’d take her to a larger one. As far as drive-thru light displays go, they are better when they have a theme and this one had a theme: Candy Rush. So all the lights were different kinds of sweets. Enough to give you a heart attack! But like others the lights flashed and swirled to the beat of the music, which was tuned in on 87.9 FM. My mom thought that was pretty cool too.

Unlike Charlotte, the whole thing takes place in a parking lot, so it’s easy to get caught up in other cars and people and while it is amazing to see all those lights, it was a bit chaotic. Again, compared to Charlotte who utilized the whole racetrack. It was much more spread out and darker, so it was better, in my opinion. As if you even asked.

My mom and Jackson really liked it though and I took some videos for her of the lights and you can hear her in the back of the car commenting on them. She did enjoy herself, even though it was 9:30 pm when we were heading home. And of course Jackson watched from the moonroof the whole time, which he always enjoys.

When we got home we decided to take a gander at the stars considering it was Winter Solstice (and our wedding anniversary!) and Jupiter and Saturn were having their love thing. It was a nice clear night and we were able to see so much. It was truly breathtaking and a great ending to a great evening.

Hope you all got to see some beautiful lights this year from the safety of your car. If not, there’s still time!

M.

Christmas 1980-something

Evidently I was a spoiled kid. As spoiled as the youngest child of four can get. As spoiled as a child of a single mom who worked cleaning hotel rooms can be. I was that sort of spoiled. Spoiled in the sense that while my Christmas list was usually very specific and exhaustive, every year I got at least one item on it because my mother made sure I had something to look forward to, something to believe in when sometimes our life wasn’t a life that offered hope or belief in things getting better. I remember many of those one-off gifts. Those miraculous ones that showed up, I thought, from Santa in the true spirit of the holiday. One year I got a Popples, which were all the rage in the 1980s. One year a Strawberry Shortcake doll. One year a Barbie (a real Barbie not one of the knock-off dolls) so cool, so rad, that she had her own leg warmers and boom box.

In the second grade I wanted only one thing: A Baby Shivers Doll. Do you remember those bad-bitches? They were dolls that actually, for real, shivered as if they were cold. It was the same year that the Baby Alive Dolls first came out and I had a ton of friends asking for them, but I didn’t want to press my luck, so instead I asked for the older doll that only shivered. Besides, I wasn’t so sure about a doll that wet herself. I mean, was I ready for some real shit like that? I figured I’d let my best friend Rachel get that for Christmas and I’d play with it when I wanted, but didn’t have to take the responsibility for changing the diapers and what not. This is some real shit, it’s not made up, check it out:

Listen to me when I say this, these were some badass babes, though to be fair it set me up for failure when I had an actual baby and asked too many times what to do if he started to shiver. Turns out babies shivering aren’t like a real big problem. Who knew?!

Anyway, I remember writing Santa to ask for a Baby Shivers of my own. I may have even named dropped Rachel or her grandma, who was bound to buy her any type of doll she wanted. And on Christmas morning when I woke up and ran into the living room I was 100% expecting a Baby Shivers from Santa and for the first time ever I was disappointed. There was no Baby Shivers under the tree. Just some other random toys I don’t remember and some fruit and candy. I was upset, but tried not to let my disappointment show. That is certainly not something you did in my house. You sucked it up. Plus, I figured Santa had a legit reason not to bring me that hypothermic baby. Maybe all the electronics in her back forced her to short circuit and catch little girls’ hair on fire? I could only hope that was the reason because I was Peppermint Petty even at a young age.

So there I was playing with my toys I didn’t much care for after the wrapping paper tornado when my mom said, “Ope Missy, I found one more gift.” Yeah, she pulled the old “A Christmas Story” deal on me and handed me a wrapped box. I could tell right away she had wrapped it because she is not a good wrapper. The edges were a little frayed and the tape didn’t hit all the spots right, and there was a different type of wrapping on the edges. “Who’s it from,” I asked, hoping beyond hope it was from Santa.

“It’s from me,” my mom said. I smiled, but knew I was screwed. I slowly started to unwrap the paper, then my fingers went quicker and quicker until finally I had paper all over myself and was looking at the Baby Shivers box. I was stunned into inaction. My mom was beaming and I could not find words so I just ran over and hugged her. I couldn’t believe my luck and my mom’s obvious good fortune.

I still don’t know how my mom go the doll, or why she chose that year to get the credit for that toy, but it didn’t much matter. I just figured her and Santa hashed it all out and came to this conclusion and in the years to come I was always able to suspend my disbelief like that, around Christmas, but also at other times of the year too. Let’s call it self-preservation. Poor kids know what I mean.

Over the next year I walked around coddling my Baby Shivers, who I probably named but couldn’t tell you at all what it was. She was probably a girl and she probably had “eyes like her Mommy.” Rachel did get a Baby Alive that year and as I suspected that doll was a headache. You had to feed her to get her to poop and she ate this gross pasty stuff and you always had to buy more things for her to keep her in tiptop shape and I’m pretty sure it was short-lived. So was Baby Shivers, but for a little while I had the doll I had waited my whole life for and my mom had her shining moment.

I hope you all have a shining moment this holiday, and get something you’ve been asking for too.

M.

A Whole Lot of Decembers

It’s been 13 Decembers since I married the man I didn’t think I’d marry. Not because he was not the man I loved, rather because I never thought I’d get married. Never thought I’d actually be brave enough to go all in, my track record wasn’t stellar before Jerimiah. Just a few loose odds and ends here and there. A couple of overly-confident football players I made out with in the back of someone else’s car in high school. A couple of college girls, shy like me, unsure like me, who I let open a door of possibilities. Then he came along. On our first date I was calm. It was like going out with a friend, because well, he was my friend. Still is, matter of fact, the best one I’ve got. We sat at a table at a steakhouse across the street from the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. The place we’d both lived for years, both graduated high school from, both knew inexplicably we would one day leave.

It’s startling sometimes to look back over the last 19 years and see how our lives together have unfolded. To see that we did in fact leave Leavenworth together and in a sense we left those dumb kids back there at that dimly-lit steakhouse table. We changed our outlook. We moved away from that every-present fatalism that encapsulates a prison town like Leavenworth. We branched out. We had new experiences, slowly changed our way of thinking to focus on the positive, the optimistic, the opportunity that that whole wider world gives you if you dare to look.

We made new friends, took new paths, moved around. We went to college together, when we finally decided it was time. Then somewhere along the line we merged bank accounts, we started saying things like, “In ten years…” We made even bigger plans, even bolder career moves, moves that benefitted both of us. Then one day, about five years into our relationship Jerimiah sat me in a chair on Christmas Eve, got down on one knee, the white glow of the tree beside us, and pulled an engagement ring from his pocket. I already knew by that time I would say yes, though I still didn’t know if I’d have the guts to go through with it. One year later, on December 21, 2007, I did go through with it. In a small, one-room church in the middle of the Ozark Mountain wilderness.

Today, as I write this, I’ve been interrupted more than once. I’ve been interrupted by our twelve-year-old son who wants to know if the wi-fi is working for us, because his Chromebook, the one he does all his virtual school work on, is acting weird. I’ve been interrupted by our two dogs, pacing and playfully snapping at each other at my feet. I’ve been interrupted by my rheumatologist calling. By my husband’s phone, a call from this boss, a meeting with the company lawyer, an employee with a problem. This is all to say that where we are now, for as lovely as it is, is not always sunny and warm. But alas, that is life.

There have been dark days. Dark moments. When we watched the doctors load Jackson up into a Life Flight Chopper when he was barely a year old. When we signed the Do Not Resuscitate Order for our daughter nearly a decade ago. When we moved, again and again, leaving people we didn’t want to. When we cried together on the veterinarian’s floor as our first baby, Bentley, slowly slipped from us. And now, in this year full of heartache for our community, our country, our world.

Yes, there have been dark days and sickness to endure, but also there is happiness and health. There is safety, opportunity, growth. There is loyalty. There is love. In all of it, because we said I do.

Happy anniversary, Jerimiah. Thank you for loving me so consistently and so warmly for all these years. For running the lantern over the dark days and for always, always letting me, helping me, curse and cry and laugh when I need to. In the end, there is no one I’d rather do this with than you.

M.