Author Archives: Melissa Edmondson

Let Us Grieve

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”
– Bryant H. McGill

***

So, here’s the thing. I have a little favor to ask of you, my fellow Americans. It’s not much. Just a tiny little thing you might be able to do for me.

STOP MINIMIZING OTHER PEOPLE’S FEELINGS.

Okay?

Seriously, y’all. Stop it.  Now.

What does that mean? you ask.  “Minimizing other people’s feelings?” Valid question. So here, let me give you a few examples:

“Stop whining.”

“It’s not that big of a deal.”

“Calm down.”

“Get over it.”

If I had a dollar for every variation of those I’ve seen in the past 24 hours, I’d have enough money to advance to the presidency myself.

Here’s the deal. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, okay? Ready?

We don’t give a shit who the president of the United States is.

Yup, there it is. I said it.

Is that not very patriotic of me? Eh, maybe not. But it’s the friggin truth. Are we going to be inviting him over for dinner? Is he going to be babysitting our kids? Giving us marriage advice?  Exchanging presents with us on Christmas Eve?

No. He is nothing to us.

WE DON’T CARE.

But here’s what we do care about.

How the rhetoric and example of the person in the highest, utmost position of honor in our country is going to trickle down to the people we are around every day.

Think it doesn’t really matter?

Think again.

Yesterday, kids all over America asked to stay home from school. I know, because mine was one of them. Were they overreacting? Making a big deal out of nothing?  I don’t know. You tell me.

“I turned out the lights on my third graders at 7:38. They come in my room at 7:35. They were arguing about the election within minutes of walking in my room. I turned out the lights and told them that the election was not going to change how we treated each other and we would not be discussing it. They are eight years old. My class doesn’t fight. They were yelling at each other. If kids are acting this way, how far will adults go?”

These are the words from a THIRD GRADE teacher in our small, rural town in North Carolina today.

Third graders.

A facebook status from a concerned friend of adoptive parents:

“So, I’ve been holding this in all day but would like to share it with you now. A friend of mine and his wife have an adopted son from Central America. He came home scared and confused from school yesterday and said that some kid told him that if Trump wins the election then would be sent back to Mexico. My friends had not discussed Trumps policies with their son so this idea was coming straight from others. Connect the dots. This is simple and basic and real. It’s not some media pundit taking up air time. This is our America and it pisses me off. If you think this a problem in our society and would like to discuss how we can fix it then I welcome your thoughts. If you don’t recognize this as a problem then you are part of the problem…”

Again. Right here in Nowhere, North Carolina.

Or better yet.  Here.  How about this one?

“’Yes, sweet boy, God loves you. I love you too.”’

A co-worker whispered these words in answer to a sobbing student today. A student who was born in America, just like my girls. A student who takes care of his siblings and takes on more responsibility on his shoulders than my girls have ever known.

This student walked into his school today to taunting, “You’re going to be sent back to Mexico.” He buried his scared, hurt face in his teacher’s shoulder, and we found a safe place for him to cry. Through my own tears I said, “Find the good people to hang out with today. There is bad, but there are always good people.” And I prayed in my heart, please God, keep letting the good show up.”

That was a middle-school teacher in our same little rural town.

“Please God, keep letting the good show up.”

We are in the middle of nowhere, people. Obama, Trump, Hillary…those people are never going to step foot in this little town that is so far off of an interstate we barely know how to tell people to get to one. We don’t care which one of them is sitting in the oval office at any given time. We really don’t.

THIS is what we care about.

Each other.

If you think this election doesn’t affect every single person walking across this land we call home, you are sadly mistaken. If you are one that can just shrug it off and go about your business and not let it affect you – hallelujah. Good for you. I’d trade places with you in a heartbeat.

But I’m not.

These parents aren’t.

These teachers aren’t.

These students aren’t.

We are in pain, people. Our country is broken. Our hearts are broken. For lack of a more eloquent term, we are treating each other like shit.

And that hurts.

Some of us cry. Some of us rage. Some of us become smartasses. Some of us hide, some of us fight. We all have different ways of dealing with our emotions, but the underlying emotion remains the same.

Fear.

We are scared. We are petrified. We don’t know what is happening to us because most of us haven’t lived through something like this. This is new to us. Those of us under a certain age don’t remember segregation. Stories of the Holocaust are just stories in a history book. Same with stories of the misplaced Indians (well, unless you’re paying attention to the non-front-page headlines these days). We read those stories and we try to empathize but we weren’t there. We don’t understand it.

But when we see a little Mexican boy crying because his peers are telling him he’s going to be deported to a country he has never even seen?

Yeah. Suddenly, it’s real. We feel that.

If you don’t feel it, if you don’t have to experience it, if you’re not around the people who are acting like this – good for you. Really, good for you. I’m happy for you. I hope the rest of the world catches up to the utopia you’re surrounded by.

But for the rest of us out here?

This is very real.

We are hurting. We are scared.

And we deserve your respect.

americacry

Vote for Me! (No, don’t.)

 

Just sitting here thinking about how much I have in common with Trump.

– I’m orange-ish. (My hair anyway.)
– I have a horrible temper.
– I don’t take criticism very well.
– I tend to run my mouth about things I don’t fully understand.
– I love attention.
– I’m writing a book that I’m probably going to have to get someone else to actually write because I don’t know what I’m doing.
– I’ve been married three times.
– I say inappropriate things.
– I post too much on social media.

And, finally, for all of those reasons and more,

– I should NOT be President of the United States.

(Well, except the hair thing. #GingerForPrez2024)

 

noprez

 

***

If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read: ‘President Can’t Swim.’
– Lyndon B. Johnson

Time to Rebuild

“People are constantly not feeling, but numbing themselves, either through medication or playing on their phones. If you start feeling bad, it’s like, ‘Distract! Distract! Put on Storage Wars!’ And I know because I’m guilty of it, too.”
– Mary Lambert

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m the biggest “non” Donald Trump fan that is currently walking the planet. But in this blog, I have to borrow one of his stupidest ideas and use it as my own.

Sometimes, a “wall” really might be the only answer.

And it’s time to rebuild mine.

A few months ago, I made the decision (together with my doctor) to discontinue depression medication. It was not an easy decision, physically or mentally. If you’re not a regular follower of this blog, I wrote once about how “addicted” I was to the medication I was on (see here). It was a timely and difficult process of weaning, but here I am on the other side and all is well, right?

Wrong.

And here’s why: I feel things again.

You know that feeling when you’ve been sick for a very long time and you finally get the inklings of starting to feel better? That the end is in sight? You become so appreciative and aware of how great it is to not feel sick. It’s almost like euphoria.

Well, what I’m feeling right now is the exact opposite of that.

I had a random discussion with someone once who declared himself an empath. As I listened to him talk, I wondered if that was what I am – if I had finally found the right “diagnosis.” An empath feels things. Not just temporarily and not just on the surface, but they feel them. That doesn’t mean they are just sensitive. Being sensitive means that you feel your own feelings very strongly. No, an empath not only feels their own feelings – but they feel others’ feelings at the same level that they feel their own (sometimes even more). It’s actually a fascinating phenomena. But the more I researched it, the more I realized that even though it may be fascinating, and even though it sounds like being this way would be a good thing, it’s actually quite horrible.

For instance. When my children were small, whenever they’d have a tummy ache, my stomach would hurt too. When they had their tonsils out, I could hardly swallow anything for a week. When my son had yet another bout of strep throat in his toddler years, my throat would not only hurt but I could ‘smell’ the sickness on him. Crazy, right?

Well, over time, I just passed all that off as a mother’s intuition. But it just wouldn’t go away.

And it’s not only my children anymore.

In fact, I don’t even have to know the person.

National news; the political firestorm that is surrounding us right now; the constant struggle for equality; the bombing and devastation in foreign countries – I literally cannot stand it.  I can’t sleep. My stomach hurts. I cry.

empaths

See? I read that quote and it started to make sense to me. Is this what is wrong with me right now?

And you know how I handle all of these feelings welling up inside me? Oh, it’s a complicated, difficult method that I’ve worked hard to hone over the years.

I get pissed.

Yup.  I get pissed right off.  Because anger is the easiest emotion to deal with, right? When everything starts piling up and I can’t stand it anymore, I just get mad. Those other emotions are hard, but mad? Oh, mad is easy. It’s my favorite.

picDoes it solve anything? Nope. Does it make me feel better? Nope. But what else am I supposed to do?

Oh yeah. Now I remember.

Drugs.

I sound like I’m joking, but I’m not.  That medication is apparently the only thing that’s going to “save” me. I can’t live like this. I just can’t. The medication serves as somewhat of a blinder. It helps me not “see” all that I’m seeing right now. People are so damn cruel. They just are. They are egotistical, they are condescending, they are furious and taking it out on any and every one who is around them. And me? Hell, I’m mad too. I’m so pissed I can’t even think straight. I start having a conversation about current issues or political happenings and what happens? The convo turns to criticizing and belitting me. Simply because the person doesn’t agree with me or doesn’t see things my way.

What the hell, man?

I recently started a fundraiser in my area called Agreeable Disagreers.  And even though it has done a tremendous amount of “good” in my little county, I’m starting to realize that everything has a price. Because of the title of the group, I have been personally attacked and ridiculed many times because I engage in controversial discussions on Facebook.  The last attack was just too much. The entire fundraiser’s goal was challenged because I, the leader of the group, chose to write a negative review about a local restaurant. Apparently “agreeing to disagree” is supposed to be interpreted as never opening your mouth and saying a word. I was made out to be a liar, a hypocrite, and a fraud, simply because I choose to place a review on a restaurant’s website when they asked for it.

I guess I didn’t make myself clear with the title of the group.

It has the word “DISAGREERS” in it. Do you know what that means? It means we still disagree. People aren’t going to agree on everything all the time. They just aren’t. But when you don’t agree, you don’t personally attack a person. Because this restaurant is in a small town, it was viewed as a “personal attack” on the owner because I wrote a bad review. To me, that is absurd. It’s a BUSINESS. I don’t know that owner from Adam and I personally don’t care who she is. She’s running a business and she has a website that asks for reviews. I gave one.  (Incidentally, this “negative” review included how fabulous the food is, but that the wait time is ridiculous. I’m sure I shut the place down with that, right?).

And here’s the thing – I’m sure people aren’t going to like a negative business review. And I’m sure that business owner has friends who aren’t going to like me now because I gave it. Fine. Be that way. But to publicly humiliate me?  Move to shut down a fundraiser that I run because of my “hypocrisy?”

What the hell is wrong with people?

And most recently, I had someone who was supposed to be a “friend” bring this up as well – throw it my face that I set out to intentionally harm another person with that review.  Are you kidding me?  Me?  Set out to intentionally harm someone? Why on earth would I do that?

I feel their pain too.

I would never ever intentionally harm an individual. Ever. Trust me on this. Sure, it might happen – but it is never my goal. And I know I can be a fiery fighter when I feel like someone has been wronged, including myself, but I would never want to personally attack a person for some kind of personal gain. That’s just plain ridiculous.

Unlike some of my other blog posts, there’s no happy ending to this one. There’s no life lessons, no rays of sunshine, no finding the silver lining. No sir, this blog is just pure and simple telling it like it is. People treat each other like shit now, and I absolutely hate it.  It hurts me to my core and I don’t think I can stand it anymore.

Time to rebuild. Back up goes the wall, and I’m checking out.  You guys duke it out on your own, I’m choosing not to be a part of it anymore.

***

“Depression is something that doesn’t just go away. It’s just… there and you deal with it. It’s like… malaria or something. Maybe it won’t be cured, but you’ve got to take the medication you’re prescribed, and you stay out of situations that are going to trigger it.”
– Adam Ant

Where’s the Respect?

“We don’t need to share the same opinions as others, but we need to be respectful.”
– Taylor Swift

Respect, Respect, whereforart thou, Respect?

Cue the moans and groans.

We sit around typing away on our phones and computers about how the youth of today have totally lost respect for their elders. We rant and we rave about how this country has “gone to hell” and how this new generation has no morals or ethics. We wonder what has happened and we cast blame, blame, blame. [Thanks, Obama.]

But ladies and gentlemen, guess what? I’ve single-handedly figured it all out! I know whose fault it is and I’m here to tell you the answer once and for all. You ready?

YOU.

It’s your own damn fault.

And here’s why.

web1_KeanTriplettBarackObama-1

Photo from Jefferson Post 5/30/2016

An article was just posted in our tiny little town’s newspaper about a local teacher, Keana Triplett, who was named North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year. As part of this major honor, she was given the opportunity to meet President Obama. (Read the article here.) The article had only been posted online for about 10 whole minutes when the negativity started rolling in.

“I feel sorry for her.”

“He’s not my president!”

“I would have passed on meeting Obama – I’ve got better things to do with my time.”

“The president and his family sure haven’t been respectful to America, why should we respect them?” [Note: His family?? What did those little girls ever to do to you??]

What in the hell?

Okay, tell me what on Earth these comments have to do with Keana Triplett, North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year? You know that lack of respect you’re bemoaning in your children? Well, right here is where they learn it, folks.

Right here.

Where is the congratulations for this insanely huge distinction given to a woman who is teaching your children? Where is the admiration for the honor of a small-town hero being afforded the opportunity to meet the leader of our country?

YOU are teaching your children not to have respect.

Yes, YOU.

The next time you go blaming Obama or “the gays” or whoever else is on your radar at any given time, take a look at yourself, okay? Look at how you’re acting. Look at what you’re saying. Look at how you’ve totally twisted a news story about our small-town hero into your own personal political agenda. Look at how full of yourself you are and how much more important you think your opinion is over the intention of this story.

And hey, while you’re at it – take a good long look at how you’re treating the man who runs this country.

You want to know where our country’s morals and ethics and RESPECT have gone? Take a look in the mirror, people. Take a look in the mirror.

You’ll find your culprit staring you right in the face.

***

 

 

Agreeable Disagreers

“If you have learned how to disagree without being disagreeable, then you have discovered the secret of getting along – whether it be business, family relations, or life itself.”
– Bernard Meltzer

Last week, I was a mess.

In case you missed it, I wrote a blog late one night called In Hate I Trust. That night was a rough one. After participating in a peaceful protest against a waste of taxpayer funds in our small mountain community in North Carolina (read the local newspaper article here), I became the target of much vitriol from many locals who disagreed with my stance. Because our protest was tied into religion, the “you’re going to hell” folks came out in full force. One of whom even targeted my child with her “God-fearing” bitterness and hatred.

and

Photo by Cassondra Greer

The night I wrote that blog, I thought I was done. I thought I would never speak out about anything ever again because I would only be misunderstood and condemned, and my children would be the ones to suffer the consequences.

But. As it always does, morning came.

And in the days to come, for a multitude of reasons, my heart was healed.

First, after a teary apology to my daughter the next morning for what had happened, I was greeted with a blank stare and a simple, “Why are you sorry? You didn’t do it.” Oh, the simplicity of a child. She saw right through my misplaced self-contempt and redirected it to where it belonged – onto the person who had wronged her. “What did I ever do to her?” was her question. And what a good one it was.

With my daughter’s blessing, and a newfound determination, I got back up on that horse and continued fighting.

And thus, Agreeable Disagreers was born. Let me explain.

igwt going up

Letters going up – April 19, 2016

A few days before the peaceful photography protest mentioned above, a conversation was started on my Facebook account over the $2500 in taxpayer funds used to place “In God We Trust” in big golden letters on our local courthouse. When I posted a picture of the letters going up and expressed my controversial disagreement with such, a multitude of viewpoints started rolling in. One of which came from Teresa Kimberlin Martin, a faith-filled Christian who grew up in Ashe County with my husband. Teresa’s comment was, “Private contributions paid for this. No public funds were used. Why is it an issue?.”

And there was the crux of the problem.

Private contributions did not, in fact, pay for these letters. Without a vote or say from the county’s citizens (many of whom are not of the Christian faith, as shocking as that may be), the five county commissioners decided to allow taxpayer funds to cover this expense. (Read this story in more full detail here.) Once the Facebook conversation led to this fact, after snippy comments back and forth, suddenly Teresa had a thought:

Ok. So I have an idea. Melissa, you and I differ on most things political. Well, all things political and religious. Since…the county has decided to pay for the letters, why don’t we have a fundraiser and split the funds to homeless shelters, food banks and any other program that needs funding?…We may not share the same views on all things, but we DO share the same views on helping others. Your thoughts?? And I am serious about this. Why not use our differences to solve some really serious issues??”

And with that, an idea was born.

What could have continued like any other Facebook argument between people who don’t see eye-to-eye, suddenly, with one change of attitude and heart, blossomed into a compromise. And not only a compromise, but a mission.

No, I do not think “In God We Trust” needs to be on a courthouse building that serves a Christian and non-Christian public. Yes, Teresa, thinks those letters do belong on that building. We disagree, that much is obvious. But what we both do agree on is this: in a poor county like ours, a county that has captured both of our hearts for different reasons (hers because it was where she came from, mine because it’s where I finally found a place to call home), $2500 could have very well been spent in a more logical manner.

After a few conversations back and forth between the two of us, we decided to put this idea in motion. I suggested the name Agreeable Disagreers. Teresa contacted the local bank to get our account set up. I went by and signed for it, ordered checks, etc.

And a fundraiser was born.

AD logoAt first, I was skeptical. I knew that others would see this as an “anti-religion” fundraiser.  In fact, I’ve heard those very words. But that’s not what we are at all. Actually, we’re quite the opposite. We’re pro-religion: all of them, including the lack thereof. Our foundation is based on inclusiveness. Our co-founder is a faith-filled Christian in every sense of the word. We are anything but anti-religion. Our goal is to help others, without any prerequisite of a particular political or religious affiliation. In other words, we don’t care. We welcome all, and we want to help all.

Because of our controversial start, and this misconception associated with our mission, I wondered if we’d receive any donations at all. Our goal was originally just to raise the $2500 in funds and distribute them back into our community. We didn’t know how long that would take (still don’t) and hadn’t give much thought to what would come after that.

My, how much can change in just a few weeks.

AD shirtsAs of today, May 6, 2016, Agreeable Disagreers has taken in $1,520.  We are only $980 short of our original goal. One member, Kizil McCay, volunteered her services to create our fabulous logo. Another member, Loni Miller, offered her screen-printing services and set us up a website, offering t-shirts and bumper stickers supporting the cause (all profits going directly into the fundraiser – click on the photo to the left be taken directly to her site). One member donated a whopping $300, and another offered a donation match of $500, which was met within three days! People are hearing us. They know what we stand for, and they believe in us.

Six donations have been distributed from the fund so far. Two to local charities (the homeless coalition and the food bank), one to a local fundraiser celebrating diversity among our county’s middleschoolers (click here to read about that and support them if you can!), and three to local individuals suggested to us who had fallen on temporary hard times and needed a helping hand.

We have started something beautiful, and we are not ready to quit anytime soon.

We have developed a board of four members who meet periodically to discuss distributions and future plans. Some of these future plans include volunteer work. (AD member Cassondra Greer has submitted an application for an Adopt-a-Highway in our name and the local food bank has provided us with a list of times and locations for opportunities for group volunteer efforts). We are all agreed that this fundraiser will not stop once that $2500 has been met. We are going to keep going.  We are going to keep funds and helping hands available to spread into our community when needs arise.

If you’d like to learn more about Agreeable Disagreers, visit our Facebook page by clicking here. Donation information is found there if you’d like to donate, and volunteer opportunities will be posted as they become available. Also, most importantly, if you know someone in our local area who needs our help, whether it be monetarily or through volunteer services, please let us know!  Just post in the group that you’d like to be contacted by a member and we’ll gladly get in touch with you asap.

I am proud of what we’re doing here. I’m proud of the helping hands that have stepped up, and the hearts that see beyond the differences that could divide us. It’s such a tough time in our country right now. Differences are glaring more than ever. We are all screaming to be heard. I’m not preaching here, I’m guilty of it too. It’s the climate that this country is in right now, and it’s sad. It’s truly sad.

But maybe there’s a little hope.  Right here, in little bitty Ashe County, North Carolina – there are a group of disagreers who are putting their differences to work.

It’s amazing what happens when we take the time to actually hear one another.

peace

***

“There are those in need who really don’t care which side of the aisle you sit on,
they would just like a seat at the table.”
– Agreeable Disagreers co-founder, Teresa Kimberlin Martin

 

 

In Hate I Trust

 

On April 24, I participated in a peaceful, silent protest in Ashe County, North Carolina.

This is me:

kindness

Note that you don’t see my face in this picture.

I’ll come back to that. First, let me pause here and tell you about my life for the past few days.

Right now, it’s 1:30 a.m. My husband is trying to sleep beside me and I’m still lying awake after having cried my eyes out for the past few hours. Here’s why.

Hours ago, following two days full of verbal attacks and name-calling, I received a public notification on my facebook page that contained a hurtful, harmful comment about my child.

My child.

When I joined in this silent protest, I joined for two reasons. The first was that a staggering amount of money was used in taxpayer funds to place “In God We Trust” on a courthouse in one of, if not the, poorest counties in North Carolina. Regardless of my religious affiliation, I could not sit idly by and watch as funds went into a boastful display of Christianity on a public building while my neighbors in this county are going without food and a place to sleep. I wanted to do something about it. After a conversation with a Christian who didn’t mind the letters being on the courthouse, we realized that were more alike than we thought. While one of us was fine with it and the other was not, we could agree on the fact that the funds could have and should have been spent in more needed areas. Together, we developed a fundraiser called Agreeable Disagreers. Our goal was to collect the amount of money back that was used on this sign and put it back into the community where we felt it was needed most.

My second reason for joining the protest was that I believe in humanity. In diversity. In inclusion. Just the same as the speech I gave against HB2 last week in this small conservative community, I felt it was important to speak up for the minority. For the people who did not believe in the Christian God. Was I one of them? No. Just like I wasn’t a member of the LGBT community when I gave the speech, I was also not a “non-Christian.” I was just speaking on their behalf.

Now I wonder what I’ve done.

My life, and the life of the photographer who envisioned this protest, have been nothing but a living hell for the past few days. We have been called every name you can think of. We have been threatened. We have been told to get out of town. We have been called attention-seekers and cowards in the same breath.

All in the name of God.

But we kept going. We kept moving because we felt it was worth it. We felt the stares in public (real or imagined? we didn’t know) and feared the backlash. We were told by “well-meaning” friends (ha!) to worry about things such as our jobs and our standings with our hobbies and interests in the area. We were told both blatantly and subtly to shut up.

But we didn’t.

I was attacked by a “Christian” who was the recipient of my help a few Christmases ago. He and his girlfriend needed help providing presents for their children at Christmas because of their financial situation. Without knowing this man at all, I rallied the troops and my husband and I showed up at their home a few days before Christmas with a truck and carload full of presents for their four children. I’m not telling you this story to tell you what I did. I’m telling you this to tell you what he did. In the name of his God, he accused me of being someone who would go to hell because of participating in this protest. Me. The person who provided a Christmas for his family.

And he did this all in the name of God.

And then, to add to everything, tonight happened.

Tonight, someone brought my child into it. They told me that my child and I were going to hell. Yes, they told a mother than her child was going to hell. Along with also posting private information about her and her previous school.

And then you know what else? In my fury and rage while conveying the events to members of my family, they sided with this person. They said that I shouldn’t be doing all of this. That I started it.

I am beat up. I am tired. I am defeated.

Is it temporary? I don’t know.

I started this peaceful protest as a person who believed in love. Who believed that love would win in the end. A person who believed in tolerance. In compassion. I was a Christian who believed that everyone had the right and privilege to live in this beautiful America and be whomever they wanted to be.

This was me. Three days ago. A Christian who believed in kindness.

kindness

Not anymore.

I respectfully apologize for being in that picture holding that sign. I no longer believe in kindness. I no longer believe in anything.

And I will never call myself a Christian again. I wouldn’t stoop that low.

My face was hidden in that picture because I live in an area where I would be blasted and condemned for taking a stand like this. This photo and the others were symbolic of what it’s like to have to hide your voice in a land of bullies. But it doesn’t matter anymore. I’m turning around.

My name is Melissa. That was me in that picture.

But it’s not anymore.