Beach Breakfast (Sausage gravy recipe)

Last week the whole HeeHaw gang went to the beach for our annual beach trip—me, my darling Thunder, both my gorgeous sisters and their incomparably handsome husbands, my niece (aka the Most Perfect Teenager on the Planet), and my beloved bestie. And yes, it was weird being there without either of my parents. Lots of things were different this year. We stayed in a condo tower instead of the ramshackle house we stayed in every summer for decades with Mom and Dad. We rented chairs and umbrellas like rich Yankees instead of trekking out to the beach to set up a camp Mad Max would be proud of every morning. We had our groceries delivered instead of fighting the crowd at the Wal-Marts that first night. (The lady in front of us in line with a cart full of milk and hot dogs and a fist full of expired coupons back in 2018 will forever live in family legend.) We ate a lot of sandwiches and takeout instead of doing a lot of cooking. But Sunday morning, our first morning, I did my mama proud. I got out of bed at the ungodly hour of 7:30 and made Beach Breakfast.

Katie (the aforementioned MPT on the P) coined the phrase Beach Breakfast when she was six for the big spread we put on the table most mornings on vacation that we would never attempt most of the rest of the year. (Christmas Breakfast is related but not identical, relying heavily as it does on Danish and Christmas cookies.) The standard menu is scrambled eggs with cheese, grits, whomp biscuits (to steal the perfect term for canned biscuits coined by author Jill Conner Brown, the Sweet Potato Queen herself), and either bacon or sausage and sausage gravy. Sliced cantaloupe and sliced homegrown tomatoes are optional but always welcome.

I can literally cook this stuff in my sleep, as I proved again last week, and so can my sisters. But it has come to my attention that some people labor under the misapprehension that making sausage gravy is hard. (I blame the Cracker Barrel and every other “country cooking” restaurant that ever got away with charging the starved and unknowing an arm and a leg for it.) I promise you, it’s not. Here’s how I make mine.

Sausage Gravy

Ingredients:

2 lbs of sausage (I prefer regular, but if you like mild or spicy, go right on.)

¼ cup of all-purpose flour

¼ cup of butter

Enough milk to get the right consistency; 2-3 cups. Whole is probably best, but I usually end up using 2% because that’s what we drink

Salt and pepper

Directions:

Form the first pound of sausage into patties and fry them in a great big skillet, preferably non-stick. (For those of you who don’t know how to fry sausage patties, put the sausage patties in the cold skillet, put the skillet on the stove, turn the heat on to medium high and leave it until the sausage starts to sizzle. Crank the heat back to medium low and cook until it’s done all the way through, flipping often—this usually takes about 10-15 minutes.) Remove the sausage patties and put them on a plate covered with a paper towel to drain. Put a lid over them if you want them to stay hot.

Crumble the second pound of sausage into the grease from the first and brown it thoroughly. Keep an eye on your heat and knock it back if the bits stuck to the pan start to get too dark—dark brown is fine; black is not.

Melt the butter into the crumbled, browned sausage, using a whisk safe for your skillet to scrape up the stuck bits. (Is it de-glazing if you do it with butter? Hell if I know, but that’s the general concept.) Sprinkle in the flour and stir with the whisk until the sausage is all coated and the flour is slightly browned—this takes 30 seconds to a minute. If you have more grease floating around un-pasted, sprinkle in a little more flour and stir it in.

Pour in about a cup of milk and whisk until it’s a thick, smooth, bubbling sludge, then pour in another cup and keep whisking. Ina Garten advises that you heat up your milk before you put it in; I have not found this to be necessary. It takes a little longer to come up to a simmer and thicken, but just keep whisking. It’ll happen even if you poured it cold straight out of the refrigerator. Keep cooking, whisking, and adding milk in splashes until you get the consistency you want, keeping the gravy bubbling but not boiling over.

Salt and pepper to taste. I like some salt and LOTS of pepper.

And that’s it. This makes enough gravy to slather over four rolls of cheap whomp biscuits or two rolls of not-so-cheap whomp biscuits or a full batch of homemade biscuits if you’re energetic enough to make them just to slather them with gravy. My baby sister, Alexandra Christian, prefers her gravy without the sausage bits in it, so if you’re cooking for her and those like her, just fry up both pounds of sausage in patties and skip the whole browning and crumbling step.

So now you can tell Cracker Barrel to suck it.

So then my dad died …

Heya Kittens –

So yeah, I’ve been away for a while, and regular readers have probably guessed why. My lovely dad who fell almost exactly a year ago passed away on September 18. I just had to go look up the date because I couldn’t believe he’s been gone that long already. I’ve been in a kind of disconnected fog since I got the first call that he was going to the hospital. As I’ve told what feels like every human soul I’ve ever met already, I spoke to Dad on the phone at about 6 pm on Saturday, September 12. (I didn’t see him because I hadn’t seen him since his skilled nursing facility went into total lockdown in March and thanks very much to everybody who refused to wear a mask or acknowledge the danger until it was too late; we all appreciate you very, very much.) At 1 am on Sunday, September 13, I got a call from his floor nurse telling me that he seemed confused and upset and was being sent to the hospital with what they suspected was a very much treatable infection. By Sunday night (we still hadn’t been allowed to see him, by the way), his ICU doctor at the hospital was telling us he was desperately ill with a massive infection throughout his body that was causing his blood pressure to plummet and his kidneys to fail. They put him on high-powered drugs to try to knock back the infection before his organs were too far gone, but by Monday morning, we knew that wouldn’t work, that the most they could do for him was prolong his life in his current state – unconscious, unresponsive, and probably in pain. So following the wishes he had outlined for us very carefully months ago when it seemed ridiculous to even worry about such issues, we opted for palliative care and waited for him to die. They told us maybe hours, maybe days. We got days. He couldn’t talk to us, and we saw very little evidence that he even knew we were there. But at least we got the chance to see him and talk to him. And he was comfortable – I cannot say enough nice things about the care he received from his doctors and nurses during that horrible week or the kindness they showed all of us.

On Friday afternoon about 5 o’clock, he died.

At my sister, Sarah’s urging, I wrote his obituary. “We can’t let everybody’s last impression of Dad be the man they saw at the nursing home,” she pointed out, and of course she was right. So I did the best I could to capture him as he would have wanted to be remembered–if you’re interested, you can read the obit here.

I’ve tried to write a little bit on fiction projects since–I was already up to my knees in Stella 5 and enjoying it very much. But it’s just not happening. I’ve got finished books in the pipeline; I’ve got editing projects for amazing books from other people that I still feel energized about. But I think I’m going to take a break for a couple of months from trying to produce any new story of my own. I talked to my publishers last week, and John and Melissa were, predictably, extremely supportive and keen to help. I’d say I can’t even imagine how I’d get through this if I didn’t know they have my back, but I can imagine it; I went through it when my mom died. And trust me, kittens, if it’s at all possible, always work with people who are decent humans first and talented artists second; it makes all the difference in the world. My little sister and fellow author, Alexandra Christian, has an amazing new book that actually came out the week Dad died, Falling Into Rhythm. It’s so good, y’all, and she worked so hard on it and was so excited about it finally coming out. If you’re looking for a good romance read, you really will love it. And like me, she could really use a win right now.

Anyway … I’m okay. I really am. I have a wonderful husband, and our whole family is extremely close, and we’re hanging on to one another and getting one another through it. And I’m not going anywhere; I’ll still be around, banging on about one thing and another. But my heart is broken, y’all. And I just wanted to tell you why.

Baby Trash Panda!

So yesterday, the Thunder from Down Under and I pulled into our driveway at lunch, and there was this tiny little dark lump near the carport. “What is that?” I asked Thunder. My sister next door has baby kittens at her house, but they’re two different shades of orange.

My massive Viking of a husband, in melting tones, said, “Awww, it’s a baby raccoon!”

And so it was. racoon 1He didn’t seem to be afraid of us, really – he didn’t scamper away when we approached him, just sort of wandered. And he wasn’t bawling like baby raccoons do when they’re scared. But he looked weak and tired.

So Justin the Hubs and our brother-in-law, Derek, caught him gently and tucked him up in our doggo’s travel kennel, and Justin consulted the interwebs for someone who knew how to help.

raccoon 2By the time I got home from work yesterday, Baby Trash Panda had a blankey, food and water, and half a Krispy Kreme doughnut (classic glazed), and seemed a lot more alert and energetic. And Justin had found a certified rehabber who said he’d be glad to take him just as soon as he got home from picking up an orphaned baby possum in another county. We took that as a good sign.

So after dinner, we packed him up and drove off into the boonies to Doctor Doolittle’s house. Truth be told, we were a little apprehensive. But once we saw the guy had “White silence = white consent” painted on the back window of his pick-up truck, we figured we were in the right place–obviously he was our kind of people. And sure enough, he was very, very nice and seemed to know exactly what to do.

And this morning, he texted Justin and let him know that our own little Rocket has settled in nicely. So nicely, in fact, that his new dad thinks someone else must have tried to tame him then turned him loose (because apparently people just suck). He seems to have no fear of humans, and now that he’s had a couple of meals and a good night’s sleep, he doesn’t mind being picked up and handled at all. So instead of being returned to the wild, he will end up being one of Doctor Doolittle’s housepets. And we are very much okay with that.

raccoon 3This is him with his foster sister, a mama cat with whom we understand he has already taken to snuggling when she goes in his cage.

raccoon 4

Have a great life, Baby Trash Panda!

UPDATE: Just in case anybody’s still worried about him. His new name is Shadow, and I think he’s managing.

shadow the trash panda

Con-Tinual! (and ConCarolinas goes online!)

Heya Kittens!

Usually right around this time of year, I’d be crowing with glee that ConCarolinas was coming up at the end of the month and that I was going to be there and that I hoped all y’all were going to be there and how it was going to be awesome!

But this year, we’ve got the Corona going around, and it’s just not safe. So like pretty much every fandom con I know about this spring, ConCarolinas in its known, in-person version is a no-go for 2020. And yes, we are all very sad. I only do one con a year, so I feel like I’ve lost a major connection to my tribe. I have a powerful need to hug other geek necks, and I can’t wait until it’s safe for us all to gather and crow together again.

But all is not lost! Because the people who run ConCarolinas are just as bummed out as we are AND all super-talented and super-tech-savvy and super-committed, they’ve found a way for us to all connect online. The Facebook group Con-Tinual: The Con That Never Ends is hosting an online version of ConCarolinas that has already started and will pick up steam throughout the rest of the month. We’ll have panels (I actually did one last night on Zoom with a bunch of other crazy writers on creating a world bible for your book series), watch parties, vendors, music, and much general hanging out, all from the safety and comfort of your own secured bunker or living room. I’ll check back in here as my own stuff is available, but in the meantime, just go on and sign up. It’s a good time, I promise.

Update: Here’s a link to the recording of our world-building panel: World Building Bibles at ConCarolinas (Me, Alexandra Christian, author and editor Melissa McArthur, author and editor Theresa Glover, author Joelle Reizes (J.D. Blackrose), and author Natania Barron, having a marvelous time.)

Losing My Grip

Heya Kittens. I’ve missed you. I haven’t been around so much the past few months, mostly because I haven’t really known what to write. The fall my dad took on November 4, 2019, the little spill in his bedroom we thought was no big deal, has turned out to be a very big deal indeed. He isn’t “perfectly fine” like I wrote he would be. He’s in skilled nursing care and may very well be there for the rest of his life.

I haven’t written about this stuff not because it hasn’t been a horror tale worth telling but because the story really isn’t mine to tell. Bless his sweet heart, I owe Dad at least that much dignity and privacy. And besides, this is Lucy Blue’s blog, the on-going saga of my writer self–my brand, if we can stomach the word. Beyond my being too tired and heartsick to write because of it, Dad’s story didn’t seem to have very much to do with that.

But in one way, it kind of does. I’ve read a lot of articles and op/ed pieces lately about how pretty much nobody makes a living writing fiction any more. Everybody has a day job, a safety net, another side hustle that pays, a spouse who earns well. The people who make it are the people who can afford to invest the money, time, and effort required to outdazzle or just simply outlast the crappy marketplace and reach an audience, whether that means paying for conferences to make connections or just keeping the lights on at home. And kittens, I’m sorry to say it, but it’s absolutely true. As much as I cherish the story of Jo Rowling writing Harry Potter in a cafe and becoming a billionaire, I know there had to have been a lot of steps in between that don’t get talked about, a lot of support from elsewhere that kept her and her child alive not only while she was writing her masterpiece but while she found a publisher for it. And waited for her advance check to show up because publishers and agents prefer to pay out twice a year. I’ve been in that system for a while now, and I know how it works.

My safety net has always been my dad. I’ve always had a day job. I’ve never had the luxury of writing full-time. But the day jobs I have had have been the kind that let me write. I haven’t had to be a teacher or a copywriter or any of the other careers that would have paid me enough to live but demanded so much more of my time and energy and commitment, and I’ve only ever had one job at a time. And my dad is the one who has made that possible. Any time I needed extra cash to get the toilet fixed or buy a stock photo for a cover, he has always come through. So even though with the exception of a few years writing about sexy Highlanders for Pocket Books, I’ve never made much money as a writer, I’ve always been able to keep writing. I’ve been able to read all those memes that say, “The ones who succeed are the ones who don’t quit,” and think, hell, yeah, that’s me! I’ve been able to keep chasing the dream, keep believing it’s going to happen if I can just hold on. Believe my stories are worth what I give them even if they don’t really pay.

But Dad can’t be my safety net any more. He needs his money, and he needs my time. And frankly, kittens, I don’t know how much longer I can keep on holding on. I love my work. I love the process of writing. I love the stories I tell. I love my publisher. I love being a part of the writing community. All of those things feel vitally important; they have been at the core of my identity for so long, I can’t even picture who I am without them. But the sad, cruel truth is, I’m not sure I can afford it any more.

So I guess my point is, in the wise words of my beloved publisher, buy my shit. Review my shit. Recommend my shit to other people. Because if somebody doesn’t soon, I’m powerfully afraid I might be done.

 

Good Grief

angel-art-black-and-white-96127I know I’m late, y’all, sorry. My dad is in the hospital. He fell again, and even though we’re still very hopeful that he’s going to be absolutely okay, it’s a whole big thing. Anybody who’s ever had a sick parent knows what I mean. Anybody who’s ever had a sick parent who is former military and a graduate of The Citadel REALLY knows what I mean.

I’m usually a pretty roll-with-the-punches kind of girl, but this has really thrown me off my game. And I know it’s because it’s taken me straight back to when my mom died. Unlike Dad, who has been in near-perfect health my whole life, Mama was in and out of the hospital from the time I was eight years old until she died eleven years ago. One of the underlying themes of my entire life and the lives of my sisters was Mama being sick, and the last few weeks when we knew that this time she wasn’t getting better is as close to hell as I ever want to see. Dad’s situation isn’t nearly as dire, but just being in that setting brings it all back.

At that time, I had just finished up my last contract with Pocket Books and just decided I wasn’t interested in writing what they were interested in publishing next from me. My sister was publishing with Ellora’s Cave at the time and looking to write something a little less sexy. Right after the funeral, she found a submissions call for angel romances, and she shared it with me. I needed a distraction, so I decided to give it a try. And I ended up writing the book that eventually became Misguided Angel. (The title is borrowed from a really lovely Cowboy Junkies song you can listen to here.) And y’all, I’ll be honest. It’s crazy.

The heroine is an artist who has just lost her husband to cancer. Her mother was a suicide who Kelsey believes was delusional because she had visions of angels. Kelsey is seriously considering suicide herself, so her dead husband sends Tristan, the angel who guards souls as they transition from one life to the next, to comfort her and stop her. So Tristan, bless him, tries, and in the process, he falls in love with her. But of course when he tells her the truth about himself, she thinks she’s going crazy, too. Lucifer is the big bad–he wants to use Kelsey as leverage to make Tristan fall.

And some of this book is the best stuff I’ve ever written. And a whole lot of this book is just cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. It’s been finished for a while, and I’ve always been conflicted about publishing it just because it’s so raw and weird and so different from everything else I’ve ever done. When I first heard the narrator’s audition for the audiobook version, I bawled my eyes out all over again. Even though it has a sort of happy ending, it’s a sad, sad book. It might well even be a triggering book; there’s a trigger warning on the Amazon page for it. I have often considered asking my publisher to pull it.

But every time I think I will, the same strange thing happens. Some reader will come up to me at a signing or a convention and ask me if I’m the Lucy Blue who wrote Misguided Angel. And when I say I am, they will tell me how my wackadoodle romance novel comforted them when they were completely shattered with grief. I’ve had people tell me my version of faith speaks to them. I’ve had people say it helped just watching my heroine go through the same kind of pain they were feeling and coming out the other side.

For whatever reason, my crazy baby of a book spoke to them in a way that made things better for them in the same way that writing it made things better for me. So while I doubt it will ever sell a lot of copies, I will always consider it a success.

How to Cook Supper on a Tuesday Night (Hamburger steaks & gravy)

My mama worked a nine-to-five clerical job pretty much my whole life. So I learned from her at an early age how to get to the grocery store, get home, and get supper on the table fast before collapsing from exhaustion in front of the TV set. This was one of my father’s favorite dinners, so we had it all the time. Whenever I think about cooking supper, this is still the first thing that springs to mind–the smell of it cooking takes me straight back to 1982. It feels like a real meal, but it’s cheap and fast and by this point, I could make it in my sleep. And bless him, my hubs loves it, too.

Ingredients:

2 pounds of hamburger

2 small white onions or one really big one

2 green bell peppers

2 tablespoons of butter

¼ cup of flour

2 cans of beef consommé

1-2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

1 ½ cups of uncooked white rice

1 can of peas

How to Make It: 

Put 3 cups of water on to boil, liberally salted, with a lid. At some point while you’re doing the next few steps, the water will start to boil. When it does, add the rice, stir, bring back to a boil then reduce heat to low so the water just simmers. Leave it to simmer, covered and untouched, while you cook everything else.

Pat the hamburger into 6-8 patties, depending on how many people are eating. Season on both sides with salt and pepper. Sear on both sides in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, about a minute and a half per side. You’ll probably have to do them in batches; I do mine as I make them out and remove the seared ones to a plate. You aren’t trying to cook them through at this point, just browning the outside.

While your patties are cooking, peel the onions and slice them in half lengthwise, then slice in half-rings, then seed and slice the bell peppers lengthwise. (Cut them big this way so the non-veggie-eaters can pick’em out without whining.) Once the patties are done and out of the pan, add the butter to the pan drippings and let it melt, then add the onions and peppers and sauté them until they’re soft. Add the flour, stirring constantly, and cook for about a minute so the flour doesn’t taste raw. Then add the consommé and stir to make a gravy. Add the Worcestershire sauce. Taste the gravy and adjust with more Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper as needed. Add the patties back into the gravy, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the meat is cooked through and your rice and peas are done.

Open the can of peas, pour it in a pot over medium heat, heat through.

Serve the gravy over the rice and beef patties with peas on the side.

Serves 6-8

 

 

Hippie Juice – Summer 2019

hippie juiceSo as regular readers already know, my family goes to North Myrtle Beach every summer. We stay in the same ramshackle house, flop like beached sea mammals on the sand, eat way too much junk food, play a LOT of contract rummy, and drink. I probably drink more alcohol during that one week than I do any two months during the rest of the year. And usually every year one or the other of us stumbles on some combination of fluids that becomes the drink of the summer. This year it was me, and this was it:  Hippie Juice. And no, I totally did NOT invent the concept. This is my adaptation of something I saw repeatedly on Pinterest, made with ingredients that don’t involve flavored vodka or grain alcohol. Because it’s been a long, long time since I was a college girl cooing, “Damn, y’all, I’m so druuuuuu-unk!” every time a cute boy walks by. (After nine years of marriage, my husband can tell without me telling him. ) But I think I’ve preserved the general spirit–it ain’t classy, but it sure tastes good. And it’s such a pretty shade of pink! These are the proportions for a pint-sized mason jar as shown. (And yes, that IS a Far Cry 5 glass–Hubs got it on sale at Target.)

Ingredients:

1 shot of either Grey Goose vodka OR Malibu coconut rum

About 2 shots of watermelon juice

1 heaping teaspoon of pre-sweetened pink lemonade mix

4-5 frozen strawberries

3-4 ice cubes

Enough fizzy lemon-lime soda to fill the glass – I prefer Sierra Mist.

Pour the shot of liquor into the glass. Add the watermelon juice. Add the pink lemonade mix and stir until it’s completely dissolved. Add the strawberries, ice, and soda, stir gently to combine.

The darlings of Pinterest take the trouble to rim their glasses with pink-colored sugar, and you can certainly do that if you’re of a mind to. But for me, that time is much better spent drinking, sunbathing, and reading trashy paperback novels on the beach.

Please wallow responsibly.

 

ConCarolinas 2019!

ConCarolinas 2019It’s that time of year again – ConCarolinas is back, and I’ll be there! I only consistently show up for one fandom and writing convention a year, and ConCarolinas in Charlotte, North Carolina, is it. And this year’s slate of guests and events is particularly excellent. The people in charge have worked their collective cabooses off making this the best ConCarolinas/Deep South Con ever.

And I can prove it. They invited me. I’ll be there all weekend, Friday, May 31 through Sunday, June 2. I’m officially launching not one but two new books, and I’ll be appearing at the following panels:

bury me notOn Friday, May 31:

3:00 – Whose Story Is This? (in Walden): We’ll be talking about fan fiction; loving it, hating it, what it means, how to do it, what it can lead to. And I’ll actually be the moderator on this one, so batten down the hatches.

7:00 – ConCarolinas Short Takes (in a 3rd floor room, follow the noise): I’ll be one of a whole slate of author guests reading bits from their latest works. It’s a choice crowd, and we’ll all still be giddy with first-night-at-the-con glee. So a good time is pretty well assured at this one.

On Saturday, June 1:

11:00 – Tired Tropes of Women (Keynes): Parsing, bemoaning, and offering alternatives to the timeworn cliches of chicks in space and fantasy and horror, from the sexually voracious pixies who get confused tying their shoes to all those dead-but-loyal superhero girlfriends inspiring their men to greatness. If you’re a woman writing speculative fiction or a guy writing speculative fiction who wants to write better women, hit this one up.

12:00 – Historical Fantasy (Keynes): Ways to write the fantastical while keeping it real–and why it matters.

1:00 – Choosing an Editor (Keynes): You know you need an editor, but what kind of editor do you need? All the basic species will be on display and ready for your questions.

6:00 – There Is No Finish Line: Maintaining Energy and Momentum (Walden): Whether you’re just starting out as a writer or writing Book 27 of your bestselling series, you’re gonna have days when you think you might just quit. A panel of authors who’ve been at this for a while will offer war stories and advice on how to beat those urges and keep going (and why you must). I’ll be the moderator, and I can’t wait to hear what everybody else will have to say.

eat the peachOn Sunday, June 2:

SF/F: Are We Ready to Lighten Up Yet? (Lakeshore 2): A discussion of “Hopepunk”–what it is and why we might really, really need it. Or why we don’t.

I’m Not Bad, I’m Just Written That Way (Walden): Let’s talk about antiheroes, baby. (Why yes, I probably WILL mention that new season of Lucifer on Netflix; why do you ask?)

When I’m not on panels, I’m sharing a table with Alexandra Christian in Authors Alley, and I’ll probably stop in to annoy John Hartness and the rest of the crew at the big Falstaff Books booth. Get all the scoop about ConCarolinas 2019/Deep South Con 57 at their website here: https://concarolinas2019.sched.com/ Can’t wait to see you there!

 

White People Baking Cupcakes

Y’all please pardon my metaphor, but the past day or so, I’ve seen a lot of people getting their feelings hurt when they really shouldn’t, and I’m hoping this will help.

Imagine you find out that your church is holding an all-night vigil for the families of children who have been murdered. You think this is a fantastic idea; you want to help. You’ve read about some of these sweet kids and how they died, and your heart genuinely breaks for them. Your tears are real; you feel for these people so much. You know you can’t possibly ever really understand what they’re going through, but you want to do something, contribute something, let them know that you stand beside them. So you volunteer to help host the event and even bake a bunch of cupcakes–your best cupcakes, the ones you’re famous for.

You show up at the event, and it’s packed–you had no idea so many people had been touched by this kind of tragedy. It moves you more than you can say; you wish you could do more than just offer cupcakes but cupcakes is what you’ve got. So you put them on the buffet.

Now the people who are attending, they are all very different from one another with different personalities, different experiences, different histories, different ways of coping with their loss. Some of them actually know you–you’ve met before, they know what a kind, empathetic person you are, they know cupcakes are what you make when you don’t know what else to say, and they will accept and appreciate your effort as part of the on-going relationship the two of you already have. They might not give a tinker’s dam about your cupcakes; they might not taste a single one; they might even feel pressured and irritated to have to engage you about cupcakes when their minds are so much elsewhere. But they will notice, and on some level, it will mean something to them.

But most of them don’t know you from Adam’s housecat; to them, you’re just the stranger who brought the cupcakes. Some of them, because of their personalities or coping mechanisms or upbringing, will be able to muster up enough social politeness to notice your cupcakes and say thank you even as their hearts are shattered. Some of them are so raw they won’t even see your cupcakes, wouldn’t recognize a ten foot cupcake if it fell on their car on the way home. Some of them might even be furious with you for thinking a fucking cupcake could make the slightest bit of difference to someone who has lost a child–how dare you,  you person who hasn’t felt the pain I feel, show up here with a damned box of cupcakes? What do you want, a medal? But even those people will know you made the effort, that at least one person who doesn’t really understand cares enough to at least make a batch of cupcakes.

And here’s the thing. You don’t get to be mad at any of those people. You don’t get to get your feelings hurt. You don’t get to think they’re ungrateful or that you wasted your time or that next time they can eat store-bought cookies or starve as far as you’re concerned. Because it’s not about you. Did you make cupcakes so people would say, ‘oh how awesome is she? She made cupcakes!’ Or did you make them so people who are dying of grief at least have something good to eat?

Fellow white folks (and cis folks and straight folks and Christian folks and whatever folks who don’t have to worry about getting dragged out of their cars and shot for who they are), on days like today, we just brought the cupcakes. We see the Nazis marching in Charlottesville, and we feel sick to our stomachs. We want our friends and neighbors whose lives are threatened by these assholes to know we stand with them–we HAVE to let them know we stand with them. But on some level, we don’t know shit, and we HAVE to acknowledge that, too. Until we can turn aside this tide of hate for good, until the people who are practicing this hate are no longer using their color or their gender or their sexuality or their religion as an excuse to label other people as un-people, those of us who share the traits they value have to not only get past our raising and stand against them, we have to understand how hard it is for the people they’re hurting to trust us. It’s not about us. We’ve just got to keep on bringing the cupcakes.