What Do You Want to Do Today?

Productive standstills are the worst. Even when I’ve accomplished something, I always feel like I’m two steps behind, because I’m accomplishing what I intended to accomplish the day before. I survey my day by asking, “What did I do today?” My brain may tic of one or two accomplishments, then it goes into overdrive into all the things I failed to do. (Beauty Jackson – Chronic Self-Flagellator.) I had a great conversation with a friend last night and he said, “I think you need to stop coming down on yourself regarding the things you don’t do and look at the things you do.” And then I totally missed a deadline for something.

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But I had an epiphany and being the helpful sort, I’m going to pass it on to you. I approach the day with no plan. I wake up, brush and wash things and places, verbally jerk off on twitter, fly out the door, then I just let God sort out the rest. I’ve already set myself up to fail that night’s “What did I do today” quiz. How can I not plan to do something, then beat myself up for not doing it, when I never once told myself that I wanted to do that thing today? (Say that shit five times fast.)

So today, I’m getting ahead of things and asking, “What do I want to do today?” I have a list:

  • Not get fired.
  • Finish this survey I’m working on before Classick kills me.
  • Finish my filing at work.
  • Not call anyone “the most annoying motherfucker this side of creation.” (You would be astonished at how difficult this is.)
  • Do one thing to help a friend.

I can literally do everything on this list (except maybe the first one, because they truly hate me and the feeling, as the prolific El Bloombito would say, esta hella mutual). So tonight, before I go to bed, I can look back at today and put it in the W column. Because your girl desperately needs one.

The Eternity of Mama

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Today is your 65th birthday. Would you already be retired? Would you spend your off days going to IHOP, telling the waitress about Jesus and inviting her to learn with you? Would you hair be grey just at the temples, or would you have a full head of salt and pepper like your mother? I’ve filled the last 21 and-a-half years with questions that will always be unanswered, because you died when you were only 43 – just a little more than three years older than I am now. You passed away when I was ready for you to teach me everything. I fought through my teenage angst and finally believed you when you told me that you were my friend.

Fortunately, you gave me a good enough foundation to piece together the things I believe you would have taught me. I’m not the person you raised me to be, Mama – not entirely. There are vast swaths of my life that you would categorically disapprove of. This is the first year that I realized that’s okay. Perhaps it’s because my own kids are approaching adulthood. I won’t always like the things they do or the choices they make, but I will always be their mama. I think through our fights, my stubbornness, and your tight-lipped disapproval, we would have found our own rhythm.

You never get used to not having a mama. My brilliant friend Deesha said it best in a Facebook post last week:

I just sighed a long, long sigh and suddenly had the urge/thought to call my mother, as if I really could. I actually sat up to do it. As if I had forgotten that my mother died in 2005. The last time I had that impulse/urge/thought was about 5 years ago. In joy and in sadness, I guess it’s always there.

My brain is wired to do things that don’t make sense. Sometimes I scour my brain trying to remember your email address, despite the fact that you’ve never had one. I wanted to call you to tell you that BB made the cheer squad and that Tyson performed at the Gene Kelly Awards, despite the fact that you’ve never met my children. We had a full-blown argument in my head when I moved to Maryland, though you had been gone almost eleven years by then. This is because you’re not really gone.

They always say the Devil is in the details, but Mama, it’s you. You’re everywhere. You’re in Shaun’s love for God and Kelly’s fighting spirit. You’re in the set of Chloe’s jaw when she realizes someone is trying her and she’s ready to let them know she ain’t the one or the two. You’re in the shape of Tyson’s finger and toenails. You’re in BB’s jawline and her elbows and knees when she dances. You’re in my compassion. And when the world is falling down around my ears and I want to crawl under my bed, YOU are right there saying, “Keep getting ready, Melanie,” because you know I have a goal. Right before you died, you said, “At least I know Melanie will be alright. And if Melanie is alright, the rest of the girls will be too.” So, I’m alright, Mama. I refuse to make a liar out of you.

I love you and I miss you, even though in a million ways, you’re still here. Today, rather than feeling sad, I’m basking in that blessing.

Hush, Sweet Caucasia

Or Here’s Why You Should Shut Up

Dear Oblivious Caucasia:

You woke up to the news of another black person being murdered by the police. You woke up to a sea of hurt, outrage, and arguing. You woke up to another hashtag. You woke up once again thrust into a world that you may well never have to deal with solely because of your whiteness. You woke up to discussions of police brutality, white privilege, and why #BlackLivesMatter. The world around you is in a tizzy and you don’t completely “get it.” As the day wears on, your tolerance of the topic may wear thin – because you’re a good white person. You’ve had nothing but great encounters with the police. And sure, some of them may be bad, but not all. And don’t all lives matter? And oh yeah, what about black on black crime? It’s gone too far. Someone has to speak out. You are ready to be the hero. Dear White Person, I implore you:

Maleficent_telling_you_to_shhh

Some may cite statistics about how black people are disproportionately affected by confrontations with police. Others might point out the numerous incidents of actual murderers and attempted murderers (who just happened to be white) who were coddled while in police custody. Another person might mention how the all lives matter crowd only seems to raise its head to shout down #BlackLives Matter, but have barely whispered the name Dylan Noble, murdered by Fresno police while on the ground. Still others might point out that not only is intraracial violence common among all racial groups – not only black people – but it differs because once apprehended those perpetrators are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law (hello disproportionate sentences handed down for black people). But I’m not going to do that. I am not here to “incite dialog.” I’m here to

zach shhhhh

I want you to be quiet, because now it’s your time to listen and acknowledge that maybe this racism jazz has gotten a little out of control. It’s your time to recognize that there are things that you will never have to face as a white person, and black people don’t need your advice on how to stay alive in confrontations with the police. It’s your time to realize that if you can see this endless stream of black bodies murdered by the people ostensibly sworn to protect them – often for the most arbitrary reasons – and not feel outrage, then you are on the wrong side. The police operate under the same rules as the gangs and mobs they fight against. You don’t speak against the family. You don’t snitch. The Fraternal Order of Police is the largest and most fearsome organized gang in the United States of America.

Be quiet, because it is the decent thing to do when people are hurting and you don’t know what to say. And while I understand that talks of white privilege may cause you to feel guilty and indicted, YOU must understand that this is not the time to play “What about my feelings?” In less than 24 hours two black men – Alton Sterling pinned to the ground, Philando Castile in compliance with police – were murdered. One of them was shot in front of his four-year old daughter. The flood of images of black people being murdered by agents of the state is played and replayed on the news until we choke on it, because in 2016, black pain is theater and we are going to discuss that shit. THEREFORE WE CANNOT WORRY ABOUT HURTING YOUR WHITE FEELINGS TODAY. So before you bring them up

michael scott shhhh

Before you feel the need to let us know that you are a good white person, as though our problem is with individual white people and not a centuries old system established to oppress the people who built it

tina fey shhh

Before you passive aggressively ask “Don’t all lives matter?” while completely ignoring the centuries of actions and countless hashtags chronicling murdered black people in the past two years alone

Castiel dean shhh

Before you see an entire race of people in pain and anguish, expressing simply that we don’t want to have to fear being killed in the streets for our blackness and part your silly ass lips to say “Well…you’re the real racist”

Fergie shut up

My goal is not to “win you over to my side.” I’ve learned that right-minded people don’t need extensive convincing to see what has gone terribly wrong. People of all races who truly want justice don’t need Alton Sterling’s twitching body played ad infinitum on the news for his child to see. They don’t need pleas. No one is born aware of the needs of people outside of the groups with which they identify, so you’re not expected to get it all at once. It takes time and patience on both sides. But the onus is not on black people to address oppression with niceness. We are not your tour guides. So, when you don’t know, or don’t understand, just do yourself a favor: listen and

dale shhh

Because black people do not have time to coddle you in your gossamer blanket of Caucasian oblivion today.

The Communion of Tangible Media

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My parents had just finished dancing to “I Wish.” They collapsed on the sofa laughing. “Knocks Me Off My Feet” started to play, which meant my parents would start kissing. If they started playing romantic Stevie, I was getting put out of the living room early. I grabbed Innervisions, excitedly waved it at my parents, and asked to play “Living for the City” – safe from smooching and my favorite. Of course, this meant someone would have to change the record, and my parents weren’t about to move.

My father lazily asked, “You think you’re a big enough girl to change the record by yourself Star Face?”

Of course I was. I was seven and I’d been asking to change the record on my own for at least a year. I’d already changed a diaper by that time. Technically, that’s more dangerous than changing a record. (I’m calling my sister tonight to tell her that her infant self was worth just a little less than Tapestry.) The first time my father almost allowed me to change a record, I ran into our speaker then bumped our towering sound system in my excitement. Needless to say, there was no record changing for me that day. This time around, I played it cool.

“Sure, daddy. I can do it.”

“Okay. Let me see.”

I wedged Innervisions between my parents marking my spot so there could be no funny business. Walk to the turntable. Don’t run. Don’t bump into anything. Don’t touch the grooves. I held my breath to perform the most fearsome task in record ownership – move the needle. Deftly, I lifted the needle and moved it to the holder. I turned off the turntable, carefully put my middle fingers on each edge, and lifted the record. Balancing the label on my finger, I slid the album in to the sheet, and then slid the sheet into the jacket. I sat between my parents and repeated the same motions in reverse. Remove sheet from jacket. Remove album from sheet. Don’t touch the grooves. Place the record on the turntable. Our turntable operated by touch sensor. If you dragged your feet across the carpet, static electricity would do the trick, just by pointing, so I did a little dance in my socks to get the turntable in motion. I eyeballed the needle like a great dragon’s head. I must have taken too long.

“You’re doing good. Do you need me to do that part?”

“No, thank you. I can do it daddy.”

I placed the needle shortly before the groove and  voilà! Music. I patiently endured the first two songs, waiting for my jam. And then, I came to life.

A boy is born…in Hard Times, Mississippi…

I sang and I shimmied. I shook and I bounced. I sang “his hair is long, his feet are hard and gritty,” with all the growling black angst my 61 pound frame could muster. And when the song was over, I wedged myself between my parents again. My father squeezed my hand and said, “Pretty steady there, huh Star Face?”

This is how memories were made in my analog childhood. I came of age during a time of communion. The silent, bonding connections formed in these moments remained with us. Remember the ceremony of loaning a treasured book? The loaner’s intense gaze let you know that this transaction was serious business. The recipient’s returned gaze would promise it was safe to entrust your treasure with them. I learned to cherish and appreciate tangible things through unscratched records, unbitten pencils, and books with seamless spines.

Indy
Me the first time my Grams pulled back the protective plastic in the photo album so I could get a closer look.

As I grew, so did my universe. I still remember how the cool air hit my face the first time I walked into a record store alone, bringing with it the subtle smell of incense. The first time I walked into a bookstore, I was so transfixed, I was pushed out of the doorway. I remember sealing the envelope to have my first roll of film developed. The faces of the people who helped me stay with me. They were always smiling; bringing me into the fold, helping me navigate their world of music, written word, and pictures. As I became a regular, our bonds became almost a sacred conspiracy. “I put this on the side for you. I thought you’d like it.” I would always grin. Who doesn’t want to leap over the precipice of being a treasured customer into the gulf of friendship?

These places and the people inside became essential parts of my tangible universe. That’s something that I miss as I, like millions of people, make greater use of digital shopping and media. Of course, there are benefits to the availability of digital media. Outside of the convenience for those of us who simply don’t have time, it’s a great tool for people with physical disabilities and social anxiety disorders.

However for me, I find myself missing the ceremony. I’m slightly weirded out by what feels like an aversion to touch. I still take time to visit bookstores, but I haven’t touched a physical picture in ages and haven’t been inside of a music store since Nelly was hot. I miss the need to cherish those things. There was no backup or cloud. If you lost or broke something, it was gone. I can’t help but wonder what removing that part of reality has done to us as a society and how we appreciate art. We glut our clouds with things we may never consume. Tons of us cast indicting looks at our unread Kindle library and shake our heads, because we’re never going to read that crap. The combination of being abundant and out of sight makes much of what we consume digitally, ultimately forgettable.

My selective dinosaur tendencies are funny. I refuse to buy a watch, because my cell phone has the time, but the first draft of virtually everything I write is in longhand on a steno pad. I live and die by Grub Hub, but I refuse to own a microwave, because food needs fire. And tonight – after I finish podcasting, but before I drift off into a Neflix-induced haze – I’m going to huddle under my blanket and gleefully turn the pages of a book, because I still like to touch things.

 

The Curious Case of Sansa’s Stupidity

This photo is not the property of Red Bean Dreams and may be subject to copyright laws
That awkward moment you find yourself defending Sansa Stark*

 

“You’re going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. Sleep well.”
– Sansa the Comeback Kid

 

Warning: This post may contain a spoiler or two. But it’s Tuesday, so why the hell haven’t you watched Game of Thrones yet?

I, like most Game of Thrones fans, cringed every time Sansa Stark appeared onscreen. She was snarky, self-absorbed, and entitled. Of course, in the cruel world of Westeros, even the slightest character flaw can have grave consequences. Sansa committed an unforgivable sin early on: she sided against her sister in favor of her beloved, monstrous Joffrey. That was all we needed to hate her.

As seasons went by, we made room for several characters’ growth. Jamie Lannister, despite his incestuous relationship (and the fact that he pushed a child out of a window almost killing him) is seen as a complex, almost likable character. Sandor Clegane (“The Hound”) has experienced a similar ascension into our good graces. Heroes and anti-heroes (many of whom committed inexplicable horrors as adults) rise and fall, and we can objectively note their change.

Yet, we still hate Sansa – mostly for being a 13 year-old girl. Arguably, her romantic naiveté not only drove a wedge between her and her family, but was instrumental in her father being killed. Episode after episode, season after season, we’ve watched people leapfrog over the actions of adults in power and place the blame on squarely on Sansa’s shoulders. Discussions about Sansa without the words “stupid,” “bitch,” or some colorful combination of the two making an appearance are rare to nonexistent. Even once she clearly saw the error of her ways and suffered greatly, it was not enough. That stupid little bitch got what she deserved.

Sansa’s naiveté evolved into a fierce, cunning survivor’s spirit. Season six Sansa made it known that she is here to play, and will not go down easy. Nothing showcased this like Battle of the Bastards (S6, E9). Sansa saves Jon’s ass. The end. Yet somehow, after warning him of Ramsey’s strategy, after telling them that they were woefully outmanned, after coming through; much like Tywin Lannister did at the Battle of Blackwater; much like Stannis Baratheon did at the Battle of Castle Black, Sansa was still labeled as stupid. Among the reasons I received:

  • She trusted Little Finger;
  • She didn’t trust Little Finger;
  • Because she sent a raven and didn’t tell Jon;
  • Because the Nights of the Vale weren’t certain to come;
  • Because the Nights of the Vale were definitely coming;
  • Because she wanted Jon to lose;
  • Because Jon wouldn’t have trusted Little Finger; and
  • Because Lysa Arryn (who had been dead for god knows how long) didn’t let the Knights of the Vale help Robb and how was Jon to know that she was dead…it’s not like they could FaceTime him this information (This was my personal favorite. A raven could make it to Little Finger and Sansa, who knew that Lysa was dead was right there, but there’s no way Jon could know she was dead. Twitter snarkarati…never change.)

Somehow, Sansa Stark, who has spent the majority of her adolescence emotionally abused and imprisoned, was the war hero Jon (former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch) and Davos Seaworth (former Hand to the Daughter-Burning King) needed. Quite a few people said that Sansa was stupid for not accepting Little Finger’s help at the outset, but totally gave a pass to Jon for not seeking his help because Little Finger sold out his sister, so why would Jon trust him. Jon – who went to his “father’s” (*wink*) sworn banner men who formed an alliance with the Boltons. Why is Jon able to have reservations about trusting Little Finger, but Sansa, whom Little Finger actually sold out, is not? Don’t answer that.

Sansa’s plan was arguably a dirty game that required a lot of moral maneuvering. Sansa’s plan required cunning which she learned/developed from her time with the Lannisters and Baelish. Cunning is a foreign language to the Starks, which is why Ned, Rob, and Catelyn were dead. It’s why Jon would have died.

THIS fucking guy.
THIS fucking guy.*

Starks move in straight lines and Jon is without a doubt a Stark through and through. Hell, Ramsey was able to kill Rickon because that poor child didn’t even possess the cunning to run serpentine when arrows were at his back.

This is the first time I have ever seen the clutch performer be labeled stupid so vehemently. Sexists are as creative as racists in their attempts to legitimize their prejudice. And make no mistake, this reeks of sexism. You can ‘ship Jamie and Brienne (who is too good for him, by the way) despite the fact that he has sister kissing lips. You can feel compassion for Theon the child murderer. You can ignore The Hounds atrocities, and even cheer FrankenMountain. Because you’re certain that Sansa Stark is the “real” bad guy here. She is the reason the Direwolf is waving at Winterfell, something no one hoped to dream of, but she’s the stupid one.

Cut the shit.

 

*These images are not the property of Red Bean Dreams and may be subject to copyright.

The Red Bean, The Dreamer, and Me

FINALLY! RED BEAN DREAMS! IS BACK! IN THE BLOGOSPHERE!

I’ve missed this. I’ve missed you. Too much. So much. I dipped my toe in the water with medium.com (A great platform with an awesome community). I started a bit of blogging on my podcast website, The Good and Terrible Show. (Also awesome. Are you listening to us yet? You should.) But it just wasn’t the same. I couldn’t let Red Bean Dreams go gently into that good night.

To my new readers: welcome. To my OGs: welcome back.

Let’s dream.