Giving Thanks to the Muskogee (Creek)Tribe

Educate yourself: http://www.britannica.com/topic/Creek-people

The Muskogee Tribe lost the land that accounts for the state of Alabama and most of Georgia in The Creek Battle against the US in the 19th century. The people in that tribe, as well as other smaller tribes in the Southeast, were sent away in the The Trail of Tears to “Indian Territory” which we now call Oklahoma, and they lived happily ever after. Just kidding. As you probably know many of the Indigenous People in our country were forced into horrific conditions, had their land and their liberties taken from them, and then were forgotten about, murdered, exploited. If you don’t know that, stop what you are doing now and write your eight grade history teacher. Thank them for teaching you what they were told to, then ask them to kindly petition our American government to do more for Indigenous People who for too long have been marginalized and vilified by our government. Or, Google how you can help. Whatever makes you feel more productive today.

Perhaps you want to follow tags and groups and people like:

  • #DecolonizeMyself or @DecolonizeMyself
  • #DecolonizeYourBookshelf
  • @NativeAmericanArt
  • @NativeMovement
  • @ChiefLadyBird
  • @ShariceForCongress
  • @IndigenousRising
  • @RepDebHaaland
  • @AvisCharley
  • #LandBack
  • @IndeginiousClimateAction
  • @SeedingSovereignty

These are examples of artists, coalitions, politicians, and movements on Instagram (and other social media platforms) that can help educate you on the history, strength, and tenacity of the Indigenous People in our country, and what better day to do that than today, the day we give thanks for our great nation. The one we stole from these people and their ancestors.

As we celebrate as a family today, we will be celebrating with the Muskogee Tribe in mind, as well as the Plains People because we are partial to the Great Plains of Kansas as well. We will be discussing their history, the food they eat, ways we can help them now. We will be teaching Jackson the real history of these people, which is our history, our country’s history, and like the rest of our history there are some horrific things to discuss, but there is also so much to be thankful for, starting with the people who lived here before us.

We hope you have a good day of thanks and we hope you remember and honor the people who made it possible.

Oh, and wear a fucking mask. But don’t wear feathers, and I don’t believe I have to say this in this day and age, but I have seen it with my own eyes so I do have to say it: DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT DRESS YOUR CHILD UP LIKE A NATIVE AMERICAN.

That is all, thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.

M.

Good Ombre

I don’t make pies. I don’t bake. It’s not something I enjoy. I never have and quarantine has not helped me with that. I didn’t start a sourdough roll or learn how to expertly frost sugar cookies to look like Kamala Harris, though I do wish I had done that one. But I did google “What is the easiest pie to make when your husband asks if you want to make homemade pies for Thanksgiving” and this Apple Ombre pie popped up so I decided to try it.

All you do is buy varying shades of apples, thinly slice them, layer them in a pie crust (you can make your own if you’re that kinda person) then sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the top and bake it low and slow. Like for real, that’s it. I bought a pie crust because I’m easy and cheap, yes I mean that, and took a painstaking amount of time picking out apples the right shade of green, yellow, pink, and red, like too much time. Like, I spent too much time inside a Kroger during a pandemic picking out apples.

I used the largest jar of Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cinnadust I could find at Sam’s Club, then I baked that beast. I ended up making two of them because they were so easy to make and we legit ate one right after I pulled it out of the oven with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top. So yeah, good stuff, y’all.

So if you Google “Ombre Apple Pie” the picture you get will not look like mine because this was my first time, but I will make this pie regularly now, it’s that easy and delicious, and so I hope to get better, but for now look at this gloriousness.

Yum. That is all.

Also, I decided to do some more baking since I had all the shit out and I made my first cherry pie ever, while the boys worked on almond silk and pecan pies. Then I threw in some pumpkin bread before we called it a night. Yes, I did this all for the three of us a to eat dinner together on Thursday. I’m a mess, but at least I’ll be all carbed up that day!

Happy Pre-turkey Day!

M.

Do You Look Foolish?

You know any of those people who are convinced that when the election is over Covid-19 will be gone? I know a few. Am related to a few. Conspiracy theorists who honest-to-God think Covid-19 is a political… what? Stunt? A political stunt? My mom called me this week to tell me that her friend from church, the one she hugged a couple weeks back, the one who got sent to the hospital for Covid-19, the one who infected her husband, then they were both intubated, that friend, that friend that was four years younger than my mom, she died alone in her hospital room. Wow. I don’t know what to say to people who call Covid-19 political, but they are wrong. In some cases, dead wrong.

Jerimiah and I were discussing mask-wearing. We live in a county that mandates it. Which is nice. It takes pressure off of us to even think twice about wearing one, as if we wouldn’t wear one. But when I talk to my family and friends back in the midwest I hear stories of people who do not wear masks, like the majority of people. And now Covid-19 is spreading like wildfire there and they are all shocked. Like legit surprised that people in (gasp) Kansas (gasp) could get sick.

So why don’t people want to wear masks? They say it infringes on their rights to be told to wear a mask. “It’s my right!” they say, and certainly it is their right to decide to wear a mask, but it isn’t their right to spread a lethal virus.

See the flaw in their logic there?

They wear seatbelts, these people. They don’t drink and drive, these people. (Well, actually most of the conspiracy theorists I know are the first ones to admit to having a couple DUIs on their record. They are heavy drinkers, these conspiracy theorists.) My point is that they have accepted other mandates to secure public safety. To make it harder for their choices, ill-advised at best, to hurt someone else. So why can’t they wear a piece of cloth on their face that could save lives? Because they look foolish?

There’s another theory out there, the old: “I’m gonna get it eventually” theory. This theory comes from the same people who refuse to take responsibility for their actions. You know the type, nothing is ever their fault, the universe just hates them, bad juju and what not.

No, it isn’t likely you will get Covid-19, unless you actively take steps not to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you. Unless you put yourself in situations that are hotbeds for Covid-19. I’ve heard people say, “Oh darn, I’m probably gonna get Covid,” as they head off to concerts, do bar crawls, and attend football parties with 50 people crammed into some dude’s basement. Uh, no shit you’re probably gonna get it. But it wasn’t the universe that dictated that, it was your dumb decisions.

Listen, we fucked up. As a country, we majorly missed the mark back in April when we started to open up again. It is 80% the fault of our current administration, the lack of leadership from the top down, and 20% because we are selfish sons-a- bitches who don’t want to be bothered, or have our lives changes in any significant way. But we did. And we do. And this is the new normal. People are getting sick. They are dying. And you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.

It’s time to make a decision. Learn from your mistakes.

And for the love of all the cheeses in the world, stop with the conspiracy theories, you look like a lunatic and I assure you EVERYONE is talking shit on you behind your back. Talk about looking foolish…

Be better.

M.

Curing Ballots

People in the state of Georgia have until 5 pm today to cure their ballots. There’s something like 40,000 that need cured in DeKalb County alone. We need your help. If you can help cure ballots today and even later this week for other states (it can be done in-person or virtually) please help. I’m including a couple of links below for you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for voting, y’all, but this isn’t over. Please help ensure that all votes get counted.

And keep faith.

M.

I’ve signed up to attend a meeting with Democratic Party of Georgia on Thursday, Dec 3, 2020. Are you free to join me? Use this link to sign up:https://www.mobilize.us/georgiademocrats/event/277342/?referring_vol=1836799&rname=Melissa&timeslot=1550927&share_medium=email_link&share_context=email_1

https://docs.google.com/document/u/0/d/12zlvKNHmoqxOmtEGsbX-AWQz5bkahYtnHPmbg173xQI/mobilebasic

Angry Today

I’m trying to stave off anger today. I’m so tired of seeing these Covid-19 outbreaks all over the country. I want to scream, “Did you learn nothing from us?!” Like, hello?! Did y’all learn nothing from Georgia, from Atlanta back in March and April when we exploded and our trash governor opened up too soon and it spread like wildfire? Do you even watch the news? We, the people, had to make changes. My county had to make a mask mandate, because our state leaders wouldn’t. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms had to hold Atlantians accountable to stop the spread, and it worked but it was hard. Meanwhile my family and friends in the midwest and the west were like, “Well it won’t happen here.” And now it’s happened there and still, still like yesterday, I saw pics of family and friends celebrating in bars and restaurants. What gives you guys?

STOP IT!

PLEASE.

And yes, I know that was an aggressive please.

And yes I know that you are over “this Covid stuff,” but this “Covid stuff” isn’t done with us. It doesn’t how much you wish it away, it’s here. So start acting responsibly.

PLEASE.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

VOTE!

Homegood’s Art

Listen, I like to collect art from every state we live in. Local art, fan art, and yes corporate, stuffy art from big box stores, essentially whatever tickles my fancy, though to be fair I’m partial to the homemade kind. Still, whenever I come across state art I stop and take a gander. There’s flea market finds, yard sale finds, Etsy artists, Instagram artists, printmakers at art fairs, and Homegoods. This is a story about Homegoods art and the city of Atlanta.

We moved to Georgia last April. April first to be exact. And by April 10th, we were completely unpacked, thanks to the help of my mother-in-law and some very handy movers. So by the end of April I was already shopping around for home accents. My first stop was Homegood’s. Duh.

While there I came across an adorable work of art, complete with the artist’s note on the back to try to make me think the artist was getting some sort of compensation for their work. Listen, I’m not going to pretend to know how the art world operates, but I’m pretty sure Homegoods/TJ Maxx is not offering artist in residence. Anywho, there I was face to face with something I thought would look adorable in my dining room:

Here’s why it caught my eye: The framing job. Perfect! And the cute paper. The signed work. The pastel colors (that were bound to match the new curtains I’d just bought). So I paid what I paid, maybe $40, and took my cute art home.

It took exactly one year of looking at this picture, of learning about our city and state, of having guests comment on how adorable it was before I realized it was racist as hell.

What’s that, you ask. Yeah, I said it, racist as hell.

Check it. From looking at this art you would have no idea that Martin’s Luther King Jr. was such an integral part of the city. There’s no John Lewis. No Civil Rights Museum. But, as Jackson pointed out to me one day, there are four golf courses, two of which I’m pretty sure we’re “Whites Only” well into the 1980s.

There’s also Stone Mountain. Fun. I wonder why they left the KKK hoods out? Artist discretion, I suppose.

There’s also the Tophat Soccer Club. Gee, thanks. And the airport. Really? There’s the airport and some white-ass soccer club, but you had nowhere to stick The King Center? We’re gonna go ‘head and celebrate Six Flags, but pretend like President Jimmy Carter ain’t from ‘round here? Okay, cool, cool, cool. I see you.

Hmpf. So there it’s been. Hanging on my wall. Until this week wherein I replaced it, finally, with something we can all get behind:

Now granted, this was an impulse buy. Just something to get on my wall until I wait for an artist’s rendering of Georgia or Atlanta (preferably a Black artist) to sweep me off my feet. But, the price was good and it matched my new blanket and I feel less gross about the whole thing. Even though I bought it at Homegood’s.

Oh, leave me alone.

M.

Ps… Don’t be a racist asshole.

Bone Thugs

Bone bone bone bone, bone, bone, bone, bone, bone, tell me whatcha gonna do, when you need some new china, what’s the difference between bone and porcelain, who will judge you if you ain’t got either? Tell me… okay, it only works if you know the song “Tha Crossroads” by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony so if not please listen to that and then come back here so we can talk about how I need, nay want, some family heirloom china but didn’t come from a family that could afford family heirloom china so now I have to buy my own and I’ve been living deep down in a rabbit hole of the differences in china and did you know bone china is actually made of bone?

Are you back? Did you listen to Bone Thugs? Are we on the same page now?

Bone china is only legit if it is made from approximately 30% cow bone ash. So yeah. If you’re family has heirloom china and it’s bone china it’s straight up made from the dead bodies of cows. Also, aren’t you a vegetarian, that must be weird for you. Also, real bone china, like the real deal stuff, the old stuff, probably had a little human bone mixed in there. Man, could you be so lucky?

To be fair Josiah Spode the Second (yeah, that’s a person) developed the six parts bone ash, four parts china stone, three-and-a-half parts clay (or was it his dead Uncle Clay?) recipe back yonder in the 1800’s. And for some reason today, in 2020, I want, nay NEED, a set of it. Probably because pandemic.

Now I don’t want the kind of bone china I can get from a trip to the Macy’s at Lenox Square, both because I try to stay away from Buckhead and because I want vintage shit. So it’s a tad harder.

I’ve been perusing Craigslist and people want a lot of money for their family heirloom china. Like Jerimiah was all, “Both the car and truck are getting new tires,” and I threw one of my $16 Fiestaware salad plates against the wall and screamed, “That’s my bone china money, bitch!”

I might have a problem when it comes to dinnerware.

I emailed this woman on Craigslist about a Fiesta platter the other day. She had three for sale for $75 (steal of a deal!) but I already have one of the platters so I only needed two and she was all, “I’m only selling as a set.” So I online stalked her social media accounts to see how much of a bitch she really is, like is she a Trump supporter, and she isn’t so I didn’t make a separate Craigslist post titled “bitch woman who won’t piece out her Fiestaware platter collection.” Look, IDGAF. You don’t jack around with Fiestaware and it’s not even BONE.

Do you see where I am? Like, mentally and emotionally? Do you see it? Is it clear? Is it a little translucent? Does it have a 24-karat gold edge? Is it scalloped? That’s where I am.

Send help.

M.

Raynaud’s Disease

If you’ll remember my Dr. Dickhead story from the other day, you’ll remember one of the diseases I was diagnosed with was Raynaud’s Disease. It’s sounds scary, but it’s really not, especially if I have the stand alone version of it. The stand alone version means that your small arteries contract sporadically and restrict blood flow to certain parts of your body. See, it sounds scary. But for now it’s only happening in my toes and fingers. But I can happen in other, more important parts, like your heart and your deep veins. Which is why answers are still needed.

So what does it mean when the vessels spasm? I get very, very cold. My toes will go numb, I’ll lost feeling in my fingers. In fact, I have slippers that you can microwave for two minutes then stick on your feet to help. Well, I had them. Winnie decided to chew one up this week, so I’m patiently waiting on new ones from Amazon.

The problem is, if I don’t warm my feet quickly, they will turn blue, then purple, then white. Then it’s bad. It can take an hour to regain feeling in my toes when it strikes. Keeping the symptoms at bay are most important. The problem is, it isn’t just a sudden gust of cold air that can make it happen. Stress is a factor.

Yeah, you guys know how great I am at handling my stress! Ha! So over the last year this has been happening to me several times a week, some weeks it happens every, single day. It’s more annoying than anything else, but now that my family is used to it, they act quickly to help out. Warming my slippers, or grabbing me gloves. Sometimes I read with gloves on, while I am sipping hot tea and it helps my hands. Sometimes all I can do is sit on my feet until I regain feeling.

So there you have it, Raynaud’s disease. It’s a thing. If this happens to you, you need to see a doctor quickly. Don’t wait two years like I did, assuming it was normal and you were just getting old. Bleh.

M.

Andalusia: Part Two

Flannery O’Connor was an odd bird, pun intended. She once took a census of her Peafowl (plural of peahen and peacock) and she stopped at forty. Forty. She also hated classical music, stating that, “All classical music sounds the same.” True that, Flannery. But there was one particular song she liked her mother to play for her on the piano. It became somewhat of a party trick. When their house was full of guests, just after dinner, Flannery would open the hand-stitched peafowl curtains, and her mother would play this song, the name escapes me now, but the notes were so sharp that the peafowl would come running into the front yard screaming at the top of their lungs. So yeah, Flannery was my kinda lady.

As a child Flannery had a penchant for dressing her pet ducks up in little costumes that she made herself. Her mother, worried about her daughter’s odd behavior but was assured by many that she would outgrow it.

There were many small trinkets throughout the house, but the majority of the knickknacks were birds of some kind. Chickens, ducks, doves, and peafowl.

Bookcases and birds. That was the extent of Flannery’s bedroom. She kept a tight ship with all the rest. Her bed, desk, and chair were all within an arm’s reach so she wouldn’t need to rely on her crutches when she got around. Her bed was a single, with one small quilt on the top, and a cross next to the cradle Catholic’s window. Make that bookcases, birds, and God.

At one point she moved an armoire in front of her desk to shield her mother from her usually habit of slamming though the adjacent door when Flannery was trying to write, of which she did every day from the from between the hours of nine am and noon, just after a two-hour mass, just before she went into town for lunch. Because she refused to write looking at a window on account of possible distractions, as one might assume with 40 peafowl roaming, she didn’t mind staring at the back of the armoire when she wrote.

There are two peafowl at Andalusia now, Ms. Shortley and Astrid. They didn’t much care for me, and I for them. They are a particular bird, with a certain opinion of themselves that I did not share. Funny, peculiar, opinionated. The birds.

M.

Discovering Andalusia: Part one

I finally did it, I finally made a visit to Andalusia, Flannery O’Connor’s farm in Milledgeville, Georgia. It’s been on my list of places to visit since I found out about it a few years back, and it turns out to be about an hour and a half from my house now that we live in Atlanta. I’d planned to take a day trip over the spring, but Covid set me back, and it wasn’t until I had this looming Flannery O’Connor project for school that I decided to buck up and go. It turned out to be a lovely visit, with a knowledgeable docent and an all around pleasant , albeit warm, morning and early afternoon.

It’s just now apparent to me that I have so many pictures and so much to share, that it would probably be best if I told this in parts. So let’s get started.

I left Atlanta alone about 9:00 am, as I couldn’t talk Jackson into a trip to a dead writer’s house in the middle of Trump-Country Georgia on an unseasonably humid Southern day. Weird, I know. But it was best. I can’t say he would have enjoyed sitting on the front steps re-reading Good Country People, as much as I did.

I got to Andalusia just about ten minutes before the hourly tour started. It was very easy to find, just a straight shot down I-20, then onto Milledgeville Highway. There are ample signs the closer you get.

Traffic was light, and the drive was relaxing, even with the alarmingly high number of Trump signs I saw. These were my favorites…

The American flag really sets them off, huh? Basically, I could tell I wasn’t in Atlanta anymore. I had my windows down and was enjoying the nice back country roads vibe of Milledgeville Highway, until a man at a stoplight rolled up in a big lifted Chevy, looked over at me and said, “DeKalb County, huh?” With a cackle. I was waiting for the banjos to start as the light changed.

A little while later I was safely on the Andalusia grounds, where one would assume big Chevy truck guy was not headed.

Andalusia was gifted to Georgia College by the O’Connor estate in 2017, and since then they’ve been working hard to restore the farm. The house sits right off the Highway, just about a quarter-mile down a quaint, tree-lined dirt road, and although I had looked at pictures before going, I was still a little surprised at how nice the farmhouse had been kept. It’s quite pretty from the outside. And sets you at ease, putting you to mind of the old farm houses you picture your great-grandmother growing up in. Well, if she was a wealthy, white, Southern woman that is.

It’s getting late, and I have some tea to sip on the porch, so I’ll leave you here, with some more pictures of the outside of Andalusia, where after the tour I enjoyed some quiet reading time, while a noisy hawk nested on the large tree beside me (they most know birds of all kinds are always welcome at Andalusia), before heading back to the safety of the city.

Enjoy!

M.

Jackson’s Birthday Surprise

My kid is addicted to cars and has been trying to learn how to drive an actual, real car since he was about three years old. He has been driving a real car since he was about nine, so we haven’t helped much. One of the perks of having grandparents who live in “the country.” Unfortunately, we don’t live in the country, we live in Atlanta, which means no driving around here for our 12-year-old and when he is able to drive I’ll be terrified because, well, if you’ve ever driven in Atlanta you understand my concerns.

This is all to say that Jackson’s BIG birthday surprise involved driving!

There is this awesome place here called Tiny Towne. We’ve been a few times and Jackson loves it. It’s a large building that they have built a little city inside of, complete with “streets.” Kids as young as 10, get to drive golf carts around the town and get some experience behind the wheel, as it were. (Even smaller kids can drive tiny go-karts on a separate track!)

So Tiny Towne partnered with the University of Georgia on a pilot study to see if driving at a place like Tiny Towne over the course of a few years (ages 12-15) is a just as good, if not better (their hypothesis) than taking a driver’s education course at 15, and having to cram in all the tests and driving in one year. Studies have shown kids who are behind the wheel earlier, are more cautious drivers, and that pays off in the long run.

We sort of lucked out because we live about fifteen minutes from Tiny Towne, and had already been there numerous times for fun. Then when Jerimiah got an email about this pilot study we jumped on opportunity. A normal Driver’s Ed course here is about $500, but if you want to do this pilot study it’s only $350 and you pay that over the course of the three years. Every year when you sign up for the next season you pay $80 or so. This covers the cost of the classes, of which there are ten (in person, but because of Covid they are doing them on Zoom now) and the tests (ten total, and the child has to pass all of them at 100%).

There are some added costs. For example you have to pay to drive at Tiny Towne, but you get a 50% discount every time you go, and every time you go counts toward the miles a normal kid has to drive toward their driver’s education. By the time they are 15, they have to be able to parallel park the golf cart, and drive the whole course in reverse! Jackson is actually pretty pumped about that challenge.

So we made the news his final birthday surprise week present last week and we took him to Tiny Towne to sign up on his birthday! He was pretty excited. We even let him drive that day because there was no one else there! Win/Win!

As always, here are the pics that I snapped, and if you want more info I you can click here.

Have a safe and sane day, y’all!

M.

Keeping On

It’s the middle of the night and I’m awake again and I need to pee but the dog is laying on my leg and she’s breathing hard, those quick, hard puppy breathes that mean she’s sleeping soundly and I don’t want to wake her. We don’t all need to be awake. We don’t all need to be prowling around the house in the middle of the night.

I’m two books in to this semester and I’m having bad dreams. Maybe not bad dreams, but certainly strange ones. Dreams about ghosts, and kudzu, and pits that are black and don’t end. I’m dreaming about the Civil War and death, and I’m seeing relics from another time.

I’m fighting back a bout of lows that always comes this time of year, but some years I don’t have the time for it to come and this is week two of my MFA program and I’m two books in, 10 articles, three discussions, a handful of Zoom calls, and I’m tired. I want to sleep most of the day because I’m awake most of the night and this cloud is following me around but I’m managing. And I’ll manage. Until I won’t anymore.

I’m crossing my fingers for December.

Keep on keepin on, y’all.

M.

So Common…

The first semester of my MFA program starts on Thursday. I spent yesterday combing through syllabus after syllabus, trying to figure out why the hell I am even doing this, and not one syllabus gave me an answer. What good are they if they can’t answer the mystery of my current life’s question? Bleh. I did start to get organized, and I did freak out and sorta scream-cry into my fan like Tommy Boy when he’s doing the Darth Vader thing. It sorta came out like, “LUUUUUUUUKE, why are you doing this to me?!” Turns out the Force couldn’t give me an answer either.

Most of this week’s work is standard, run-of-the-mill, first week stuff. Introductions, why are you here, what do you plan to get out of this program, on a scale of 1-10 how much do you LOVE Eudora Welty? That sorta thing. But I did stumble upon one project that a professor wants me to do that sort of peaked my curiosity. It’s for my creative non-fiction forms class. She wants us to keep a commonplace book. A what now? That’s what I said. A commonplace book. A commonplace book is just a notebook, or a moleskin, or a word doc, or a stack of notecards where you write down ideas, quotes, conversations, etc that delight you, amaze you, amuse you, etc, etc. With me now? I was all, Ohhhh, yeah I have like eight of those! I didn’t know they had a name.

I routinely use the “Notes” app on my phone. Or I take a picture of a page of the book I am reading, or a fold the corner down. Sometimes I think, hmm, I should get a recorder for this shit. Sometimes I just text Jerimiah. I will be all, “…my mother’s refrigerator in Chiang Mai, Thailand…” and he will be all, “Huh?” And I’ll be all, “It’s for me to remember later.” So yeah, I’m versed at this, but keep it all in one place? That might be the hard part.

So I started thinking, where is somewhere I could keep this Commonplace book? Should I do notecards, should I do digital? Turns out yes, because I have to turn in my Commonplace Book at the end of the semester and it has to be at least five pages, single-spaced. Well, shit.

So I decided since I come here every day, why don’t I just make a commonplace book on this here blog. So I did. It was easy. So now you have access to my crazy random thoughts–as if you didn’t before–and I feel more organized. Look at that, us working together.

Love you guys so much.

M.

M-I-Crooked Letter…

This MFA program I am starting in oh, 19 days, has me nervous, true. My inbox is full with submissions for our lit review, my email is blowing up with announcements, financial aid is like, Hellerrrrr, welcome back thanks for paying us, but you need to do this and this and this... Ahhh, it’s a lot. I forgot how demanding grad school was and I’ve literally only been out for two years. Okay, enough complaining, truth be told I have very little to complain about these days so I’m working on doing less of it. I’m actually here to say I am a wee, little bit excited about the program, and here is why.

First of all, the program is through Mississippi University for Women and no, it’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s an old name that stuck around. And by the way, is anyone watching “P(ussy) Valley” on STARZ right now? If so, you know what I think of when I hear “M-I-Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, I, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, I, Humpback, Humpback, I”! 🙂 All good things, all good things. Anyway, this program is fairly new and mostly virtual. There are a few times a year where we will meet in person, two separate residencies on campus, or at AWP, then when you defend your thesis and graduate. They are doing everything through Zoom right now, though, so I am getting a great look at what the process is like and it has helped calm my nerves. I mean, I am still fighting imposter syndrome, but it’s nice to be included in all these festivities, albeit virtually.

They include everyone on all the progress of the current class, and they share small victories (and big ones) with each other through social media, email, and on Canvas. It’s pretty cool. I am seeing faces and recognizing names already and it is making me feel better. It looks like they have their shit together for being such a new program, which is what I read about them when I did my research, but it’s nice to know it is true. They are very inclusive and they want everyone to get to know each other. I like that, since one of the reasons I decided on an MFA was to meet like-minded people whom I could connect with in this broader thing we call life. Whew. I’m hopeful.

Anyway, no complaining here, just a bit of nervous excitement. I’m not sure if the fall residency will be in person or not yet, but I’m betting not. I certainly hope we will be free to travel by next spring because the AWP is scheduled for none other than, Kansas City! Haha! Yea. No, it’ll be good. Now, I guess go forth and find something to be hopeful about today!

You are wise. You are kind. You are compassionate.

M.

Spades and Hearts

There’s an interesting thing that happens in Small Town, USA. When one of the “pretty girls” who barely graduates high school, marries a man with a little money, after her inevitable “Sleeping with as many men as she can” phase (no shame here ladies, you do you, BooBoo!) she settles down, with the man with money. Maybe he owns his own small business. Maybe he has inherited a bit of cash. Maybe he has inherited the small business and some cash, but either way he’s the best thing she’s ever had, and they get married. Now she already has a kid or two from other men (that’s she has most surely missed out on from time to time on account of her partying well into her 20s), but the nice, business man takes them on as his own. Then suddenly, this trashy, “street-wise” girl is an upstanding citizen in the small town she grew up in. Funny thing is though, many of the people who knew her way back when, still remember her. So she has two choices: She either embraces who she was, who she has always been, or she starts to turn on them. Even turning her back on the people who knew her the best.

Now let me stop for a second because you are probably like this sounds really pointed, Missy. Sure. I know some people who have done this, and they now believe themselves to be a big fish in a small pond, because, well they are. It’s true, they are big fish, but the point is actually really very small, and kind of trashy. The fish are stocked. And they are farm-raised. Eww. But the person I am envisioning right now could be any woman, in any small town, in any community, a woman so rooted in fear, hate, and ignorance that she can only thrive on putting other women down. She’s incredibly shallow and so materialistic that she enjoys talking money with people that she suspects has less than her, so she can, what? Feel better about herself? I suppose if she were happy in her life, like really happy, she wouldn’t be this way. But she isn’t. She’s actually very unhappy. If she were a kind person, she wouldn’t need to embarrass those same friends who have stood by her, even at her worst, and believe me, we’ve heard the stories, saw them with our own eyes, there were worsts. But she isn’t kind or nice. And she isn’t classy. Which is ironic and sad, because that is the only thing she actively strives to be, yet she never will attain.

Yeah, we all know someone like this, and we all talk in certain circles about how horrible of a person she is, some of us even pray for her, some of us just stay far away from her. But we can’t anymore, y’all. We have to call a spade a spade. Call it like we see it. She will. She likes to remind us that she speaks truth, even the hard stuff, but we know that’s a lie. She only speaks rudeness and abrasion. She couldn’t speak truth if it came up and bit her. All her truth is filtered thorough a set of rose-colored glasses sprinkled with money and privilage. Like when someone accuses her child of say, raping a girl he went to high school with, she can say, “Well, I never…” in a raspy kinda way. And go on to talk about all his accolades, as if he isn’t an actual piece of shit. Rose colored glasses. Money. Privilege. Yes, we all know someone like this, but what should we call her? I have an idea, let’s give her a nickname let’s call her “T”. Yes, “T”, short for “Texarkana.” So who is this Texarkana?

Texarkana didn’t have the best life growing up, but who did? Most normal people battle against the current, try as they might to make something better of themselves. But not Texarkana. She just relied on men to bring her all the things she wanted. Just like how she now relies on the outside world to keep a spotlight on her. To fulfill her desires. Because she can never fulfill them herself. Oh Texarkana, you are enough, if you’d just look within. Or go to therapy. Yeah, therapy would probably help you a lot. Something about inflated ego. But instead you self-medicate. It’s okay a lot of common people do.

Texarkana likes to say things like, “Remember when…” because she likes to envision herself as she used to be. Way back when. Wayback When Texarkana had so much joy, pure joy, albeit not a lot of money (she still doesn’t by the way, she just has a lot of debt, you can pull public records and see that) and Texarkana likes to talk about how “badass” she was back then. As if physically fighting other women is a mark of a pure genius. That’s that lack of education I eluded to earlier, are y’all following along? Ra, ra, ra! Go Texarkana!

Texarkana likes to invite people to her house. People she assumes have never been in such a self-described “lovely” place. Then she likes to talk about how much she paid for this, or how much she paid for that. You know those people. The ones who think money makes you a good person. It’s sad, and a little bit outdated. I’m speaking of both Texarkana and the lovely house. They both need some work on the inside. But the visitors smile and nod anyway, they have to, or she won’t invite them to drink her medication, err, booze.

Something I’ve noticed about people, growing up poor like I have, wealthy people, like really, really wealthy people, never discuss money. Not with their friends, not in mixed company. They only discuss assets and money with their accountants. They never say things like, “My house is worth $1.2 Million” (wouldn’t “T” love to have a house that nice!) instead they say things like, “We’d love to have you join us at our summer home in The Hamptons sometime,” and they truly mean it. Class speaks for itself. Trash, well, it has to do all the talking.

Which brings me back to “T” and her constant, oppressive desire to make all her “old” friends, the ones who know the truth about her, the way she really is, feel like shit because they didn’t “make it” like she did. But in reality she just needs to keep them in check. Needs to make sure that they know she is the spade Queen, in case they get out of line. In case they say something like, “Remember when you slept with So-and-So?” and So-and-So is not a likable fellow, she can smack them, figuratively of course, by saying something like, “Have you paid that large debt off that you owe?”

“T” thrives on making herself feel better by putting others down. No one is off limits. She will only tell you the best things about her kids, and never the worst, while often reminding you of all the bad stuff your kids do. But come on, we’ve met her kids. She dropped the proverbial parenting ball big time. But remember the free booze and her Instagrammable backyard?! She will make you feel bad about your kids, your divorce, your grandma. She will talk about you behind your back, then embrace you when you walk in her “lovely” door, all the while smiling that knowing smile to her “rich” (read: equally in debt) friends behind your back. Have you ever felt like everyone is looking at you when you walk into a room? It’s because “T” told the whole room your dirty little secrets before you got there in order to make herself seem important. She’s such a great friend, isn’t she?

Now every once in a while a funny thing happens to “T”. Something doesn’t exactly go her way. Her stock plummets. Not real stock, she puts all her money in home accents and ATVs. No her brand, her reputation. Something happens outside of her control and it makes her look bad. It makes her outside match her inside. Maybe her husband loses an important business client. Maybe her drunk brother resurfaces. Maybe her child marries someone she rather despises like a butcher or a mechanic! Oh my! A mechanic, well we all know mechanics are not the highest class of people. The drama! It’s okay, no worries. Texarkana lives for this shit. I mean, when your whole world revolves around what others think of you, and you have very little worth inside, you have to love drama, it is escapism at its finest.

But this plummeting of stock is when we see “T” at her finest. Oh, glory, glory! She starts plotting and planning! How can she turn this into a win? How can she get the universe back into her favor? You’re right, on the backs of other people. Her friends. Her own family. She starts fights within the groups, pits this one against that one. Uses her control (money) to buy affection, alliance. She will plant an idea in the simple brain of the simple people she keeps around her, then watch as it sprouts and grows. As those simple-minded people then turn on their own friends and family. Wow, maybe “T” isn’t as uneducated as we think? I mean she lacks book smarts, sure, but when you can get a mother and daughter to turn on each other, ones who have nothing to do with your life, that’s impressive. And also like, really, really pathetic. Don’t you sorta want to grab “T” and yell, “Get a life, girl! Go to college! Get a hobby! You’re more than this. You have self worth! I hope you can find it!” Did I mention Texarkana is extremely jealous of big, happy families who love and support each other? Two guesses why that is…

Now let’s discuss the people who let her treat them the way they do. You might be wondering, what kind of hold does she have over them? And if your guess is money, you’d be right. There is no friendship still there. They don’t like her, not really, and she certainly wishes they would go away, but everyone is aging (did I mention “T” isn’t aging well? All those days spent in tanning beds in the 90’s.) Anywho, as we age we start to feel nostalgic for those people who knew us when we were all cranked out on MiniThins and going to three different tanning beds a day to tan for a solid hour. So the people who knew her, her best friends, start to come around more. They want to drink wine and talk about the good days. But you can’t have real, honest-to-God talks with “T”. You can’t have them with anyone who thinks they are a better person that you at their core, just because they are a small business owner and you make $14/hr. There’s too much space, too many bad words (even if you don’t know she said them) to make much headway. So you go to her “lovely” house. You sit on her “lovely” deck. You drink her boxed wine, and you discuss the good old days through those rose-colored glasses she is so fond of. But in reality, you’d rather be somewhere else, she’d rather you be somewhere else. You remind her of a girl she is desperately trying to run from, all these decades later. She’s full of shame and guilt. You’re full of shame and guilt. But she has the money and credit to go buy a new car today if she wants to. So she wins.

It makes me think about Trump. What, come on Missy, why you always gotta bring Trump up?! No hear me out! The people who LOVE Trump, his honest supports, of which “T” and her whole family are, the real Trump supporters don’t really even like him. They don’t know enough about him to like him. They like the idea of him. They only vote for him for three distinct reasons:

1. They desperately want to BE him. They wish they had Trump money and power. They have a small taste of it in their little, trashy pond, just enough where they feel like Trump would love them if they met. They think they are so much like him that he would totally love and respect them if they met. Ha! They really think that, I promise! They are sitting, right now, in their little 4,000 square feet, barely more than half a million dollar house (public records, y’all) and they think they are just like Trump! True story.

2. They have so much hate in their hearts that they want him to be the president just so they can say, “WE WON! WE WON!” and call you a Snowflake or something, while they prance around in their red hats. They have to always believe they are winning at life. Always. Otherwise they downward spiral.

3. They are desperately afraid. They are so afraid that their way of life, the one they have carefully curated over literal decades will somehow be taken from them. Maybe they will have to pay more taxes. Maybe their “poor” friends will get a leg up on them if they finally get affordable health insurance. Maybe people in their periphery, the ones coming up behind them, the ones making more money, living well-adjusted, meaningful lives, the happy youth (raise you hand here), will take over and they will be left with, what? They certainly don’t have their self-worth to fall back on. So good thing that have that old house?

Well, I’m spent. Here’s the gist, y’all. If you have a Texarkana in your life you have get the courage to stand up to her or him. To finally call a spade a spade, because make no mistake, they will call it if you don’t. Only the spade they call will actually be a heart they have twisted in their small, common minds to look like a spade, then they will run out and tell everyone it is a spade before you can get a chance to defend your heart.

As for Texarkana, I can only hope she uses her fast-approaching senior years to learn more about the world, to step outside her comfort zone, to learn and grow as a person. I don’t hate the Texarkanas of the world. I know it may seem like that, but y’all know I don’t hold hate in my heart like that. But I also don’t admire her, and I certainly don’t respect her. How can you respect a person who preys on the simple, the weak, the less fortunate? In fact, a whole lot of the people she surrounds herself with don’t actually admire and respect her. They placate her. They see her life, her marriage, her kids. The fact that she has to work so hard all day, everyday just to keep up the facade in order to feel better about herself, and they pity her. They pray for her. Her name is passed around in Baptist prayer circles for wishing her some peace and kindness in her heart. They know that she has struggles, has had them, still continues to have them, just like they do, but that unlike them, she refuses to acknowledge her real struggles, with your real heart. She keeps that spade around instead. But there they are, still coming around, probably for the free booze, but also, more likely, because they are the hearts, and they wish more for her. There was a time when she had those real people, their kindness, their true friendship, their whole hearts. She had their admiration and respect. But she lost them. I hope it was worth it for her.

M.