Kanye-Westism, Tina Fey, Dominicans and Donald Trump Supporters

A big surprise this semester was how many students correctly identified 5 non-Christian religions. I push my students to write ANYTHING, and mark them off if they leave the question blank, so please know that some of these religions were created under the mental duress of a fast paced stressful History Quiz.
  • Monarchy
  • Troy
  • Dominicans
  • Aquatic
  • Baptism
  • Kanye-Westism
  • Soldanism
  • Schools
  • Maoism
  • Chinese
  • Mermaids
  • Romans
  • Aliens
  • Volleyball
  • The Day People
  • Football
  • Lindoism
  • Donald Trump Supporters
  • altruism
  • Catholics
  • Timids
  • Canadians
  • Shiism
  • Strawberries
  • Zin
  • Tina Fey
  • Communism, 
  • Gothic
  • Yazi

Saturday Morning on the Kitchen Floor

It isn’t even 8am and I’m up.  

No problem, I take no pleasure in waking up late on weekends especially if it means waking up after the kids are up and clunking around.

 Ideally I need at least an hour spent alone mulling over life, staring into space,  looking at the stars, feeding my fish, watering my plants while drinking coffee in order to be “the best Melissa” I can be (“civil”).

Strangely enough, Zack is up.
This early.  Two days before school starts.
A damn miracle ya’ll. A damn MIRACLE.

 Anyway, I hear him talking to the dog in the tone of voice one uses for puppies and toddlers (the good toddlers, not the ones who head butt you etc), and I’m not proud of what I did next.

I sat down on the floor in the kitchen,  hugged my knees and hoped he didn’t know I was up because if he sees me he’s going to ask me to get him Chickfila breakfast, and I’m an hour away from wanting to think about leaving the house.

And yes, I could tell him no, or put him off for later, but if I talk to Zack the DOG will know I’m awake and then she will want to go out.

And I know, I just know that  and when I try to take her out she will back away from the leash and bark at me and run away from the door, hoping that I will give her peanut butter in her bone instead of making her go outside and get her dainty girl dog paws wet (the. Horror.)

At that point, I will throw my hands up and maybe growl or something especially if getting up and getting the leash means that I would move my coffee and lose it and have to retrace my steps.

So I’m sitting here on the kitchen floor,  hiding from my son and my dog, but I’m almost ready to get up because the coffee isn’t going to make itself.  

I stand up.  I make my coffee.

The noise and smell summons the dog. She isn’t a morning dog, and she’s never really THAT happy to see me, so we don’t have some wonderful hug fest. I try to take her out.  She refuses to go outside and instead brings me a bone, tosses it at my feet and barks at me.  I realize I can’t find my coffee. I find it.

Zack hears all this and comes out to say good morning.   
I admit I’d been hiding from him on the floor so he wouldn’t ask me for Chickfila for breakfast.

He asks for Chickfila breakfast.

I answer him with silence, taking three long three sips of coffee then I crack a little and tell him to ask me again in an hour.  

What Would Langston Do?

Langston Hughes
Beaumont to Detroit: 1943

Looky here, America
What you done done--
Let things drift
Until the riots come.

Now your policemen
Let your mobs run free
I reckon you don't care
Nothing about me.

You tell me that hitler
Is a mighty bad man.
I guess he took lessons
from the ku klux klan.

You tell me mussolini's 
Got an evil heart.
Well, it mus-a been in Beaumont
That he had his start--

Cause everything that hitler
And mussolini do,
Negroes get the same
Treatment from you.

You jim crowed me
Before hitler rose to power--
And you're STILL jim crowing me
Right now, this very hour.

Yet you say we're fighting
For democracy.
Then why don't democracy
Include me?

I ask you this question
Cause I want to know
How long I got to fight

The Veteran with the Snoop Dogg Pigtails

One of my favorite parts of *many* episodes of Orange is the New Black is repeated use of flashbacks and backstories to illuminate the particular series of (often disturbing, unfair, violent) events that lead to one of the characters ending up in jail.

I’ve been volunteering at Veterans Village for a long time now, and each time I go I try to imagine a new story about how someone got to this place, to being a homeless Veteran in Tallahassee Florida, eating dinner with me and my friends and our students.

 Most of the Veterans I talk to give me pieces of their story and I try to not fill in the rest using my overactive imagination. 

This past week I didn’t have to imagine anything for one of the Vets who opened up to me.

 This is how it went down.

 I arrived during at Veterans Village with two trays of cakes, two trays of arroz and a crockpot of corn and bean fiesta from a cookbook my mom sent me.

 When I went upstairs (carrying a cake… on slippery stairs during a thunderstorm --- who trusts me to do that, who?) to the room we usually serve dinner, the door was locked.  I walked back down and asked if anyone could call someone to unlock the door.  Yes, I could have called myself but I already spent enough time cooking and driving and all that, and now that I’m here surrounded by people with cellphones, I trust one of them will help. And while I wait and trust, one of the veterans came up to me.

I didn’t ask his name, but you would know him right away. He’s taller than 6’0 (I’m so short, I only know to look up at people and judge: “shorter than me” “short like me” “not so tall” and “OK, you’re tall”) and probably my age.

I say this because of his choice of hairstyle:  he has his hair is parted down the middle and braided into two pigtail braids, just like Snoop Dogg.  I recognize it. I recognize him. We hug.

After we hug he asks, “You’re the doctor, right?” and I say yes because I’m not always here and I’ve been a blonde and I’ve had longer hair and I’m sure I’m a blur as I race by anyway.

He thanks me for the dinners we bring and then he tells me he used to live in Los Angeles on Skid Row.  I nod, still holding the cake, ready for what is coming.

“We had to look for food, no one was feeding us,” he told me.  “So I went into dumpsters looking for food. Mostly at night.”

I don’t say a word, just leaving space for where he is taking our story. I’m still holding the cake.

He continues, “One night I was behind a grocery! There was so much!”
I smile back, nodding, imagining the moment.

“But it was dark and I was in there going through bags and then BANG someone else jumped in and almost landed on me.”

I’m silent.

My friend continues, laughing…. “He starts going through the bags and I was afraid he would find me and so I sat so quiet….”

I clarify, “He didn’t land on you, right? You were ok? I bet that was the scariest thing ever!”

He laughs more. Yes, he was OK.  We don’t talk about Veteran stuff, about army stuff, about VA stuff. This is just human stuff. Hunger. Loneliness. Fear.

I put the cake down and hug him and tell him he never has to look in a dumpster for food again. 

He agrees, he never has to do that again. Never.

We hug again. I hug him for his mother, his grandmothers, his aunts, for the people who for whatever reason aren’t here for him tonight and have sent me and my friends and students instead.

Just then, someone tells me that the room has been unlocked upstairs, and so I pick the cake up and carry it up there and get on with what we were all there for.

Thrift Shop Chronicle: Wu Wei Way and the Coach Purse

Most of the year I have to wake up and get people places, be here and there and back there and then the other place at EXACT times or all hell could break loose.

Summer is different, summer is mine, my time is my own, and I genuinely don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do (except take the dog out).  I have spent the better part of this summer practicing wu wei – the zen art of not doing, and leaving nothing undone. 

I try to practice silence, to not write what doesn’t need to be written, and I find a generosity and grace in that disciplined pause, intentionally creating a place for thoughts and stories to grow roots.

Of course, I’m not sitting around here doing nothing.

I have cakes to bake, veterans to feed, a floor to sweep and  laundry to do over and over and over, but I only do it when I feel like it.

And yes, the dishes will get put away, when I’m ready. 

And yes I will go for a run, maybe for 2 miles, maybe for 10, I don’t know when I set out because I give myself freedom to choose and change my mind at any time, to go faster, to go slower, to find new paths.

Wu wei is so quiet that it roars,  keeping me awake, forcing me to ask myself hard questions about how I spend my energy, and cultivating  a gentle response to myself that I absolutely don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do, and doing nothing doesn’t mean I’m less of a person. This is hard to say, hard to think, and I'm not sure it's true.

One thing I don’t love to do is shop for clothes, and so I just really haven’t. My closet is simple: 4 pairs of assorted jeggings jeans from American Eagle (size 8),  one pink blazer from H&M that is 2 sizes too big, 8 tshirts from Target, 3 pairs of yoga pants and that blue shirt I wear way too much.  

This is enough for me.  It is. I’d rather spend my money in other ways, and I usually do.

This summer I asked a colleague if I could lecture in jeans and t-shirts “if I add cute heels” and she reminded me that’s what I’ve been basically wearing for a year.  She was right.

All the sudden I didn’t want to just show up in jeans, I wanted to wear skirts and dresses again and look like I was happy to be at work, but I’ve given all my stuff like that away over the past 2 years.

Time to shop, right? Nope.

 I waited. And I waited. And I didn’t go to the mall.

And I didn’t look at anything online or on TV shopping shows.

On Sunday, when I was ready and when the universe was ready for ME, I suddenly had to go visit a consignment shop that I’d never been to before, mostly because I don’t shop, much less consignment shop, but now we are going in circles, please keep up.

After meeting a student who gave me 2 lucky rocks – one from the Grand Canyon and one from the Pacific, 2 places I’ve never been – I absolutely had to go to that store, and when I saw a sign on the door that everything was 50% off, I ignored it because no way there are sales like that. No way.

Ten minutes later and I am ready to take home 6 suits. An hour later and I have 8 suits, 2 shirts and 3 pairs of super cute heels.

I’m looking through shirts when a woman asks what I think of a particular shirt.

It’s a good one for her, but it has these stripes and she has stripes on her skirt and if she ever work the shirt with that skirt she’d look crazy.

So I ask her, not with that skirt, right? And she laughs.

And we become friends, the kind of friend who says YES buy that! NO that does nothing for you! Try that with a different bra, maybe? And Ooh that’s way too OLD for you (my favorite). She never shops. I never shop. We are both stocking up on a ton of things, giddy like Christmas.

Two hours later the store is closing and I’m in the process of checking out and paying.

My new friend is in line behind me and asks the guy behind the counter if he would show her this cute purse hanging on the wall, and when he grabs it, we both swoon because it is a super cute baby Coach purse.

 I’m not big on status symbols, and neither is my new friend, but this purse was super cute AND a great label.

And it was $13.  She pondered it for a minute and I stopped her from that thinking thing and grabbed hands between mine and said, “It’s $6.50. For a Coach purse,” which was enough to make us both burst out in giddiness.

Just then he hands me my receipt.

My  total is $98.

This can’t be.

The three pairs of shoes, together, should be $100. 

Each suit should be $100.

  I’m dying here.  I really can’t take all this home and not spend $100, it feels unethical, like I’m not doing my part to support local businesses and fight global warming.

I ask my new friend to hand me the Coach purse, and her face falls like  child who has to hand over a baby kitten they had fallen in love with.

I buy the purse for her. I’m now someone who met a complete stranger and bought her a Coach purse. This is awesome, better than any Calvin Klein suit for $11.

 We hug and then I head out in the car, in the rain, readying myself to practice quiet again.