The Right Words

I’ve been trying to find words. That’s actually something I do a lot. The Oxford Pocket Dictionary sits on my desk, in part, because I am always looking for words. The right words. The good words. That is to say I’m trying to discover what I think, how I feel, and put that into words. But this week has been hard. It’s hard for me to smile this week. It’s hard to be positive. It’s hard to feel happy, for the “right” words to come when all I can really think are sad words. I want to write words that are jovial. Carefree. Radiant. But what is finding me is Maudlin. Saccharine. Indignant. Here are some words that are finding me:

I told you so.

Liars.

Now you know how school kids feel.

Terrorists.

If you support this…

Pissed.

And while these might not be a helpful response to the situation, while people are calling for unity, these words and phrases are my truth. They are what I am feeling. I am battling within myself now. Do I let this go, do I let people say and do what they want, even if what they say and do is hurting others? I think we all know the answer to that, but then why do I feel so bad?

“I told you so.” That’s what I want to say to my friends, many of them “previous friends” who voted for Trump in 2016 and who still, up until this week fully supported him even though their own doubts were creeping into their throats. I told you so. But I’ve heard that “I told you so” never helps. It’s an unhelpful phrase. So what do I say?

“Liars” that is what I see when I watch and listen to Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham and Mike Pence. They never apologized for their support of a crazy person. A crazy person who 80 million of us knew was capable of what we saw this week. They knew it too. They also know they had a hand in it and they are liars. But I have family and friends, real people I love and respect coming out to say that they are proud of these men. I am not. It was too little too late. What do I say?

“Now you know how school kids feel,” should not come as a surprise that this was my first thought. Early on when the siege was happening there was video of Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington State. She was on her hands and knees in the gallery of Congress, a police woman next to her yelling to “Get down,” and I saw the fear on her face and I thought this is exactly what our school children face in our country on a regular basis. This is exactly what many of us have been saying for far too long about guns, about security measures, about the results of a generation of children who can’t go to school without looking, knowing, being trained, to find the escape route.

“Terrorists.” These people are terrorists. We need to stop calling them protesters. Protesting is what we saw this summer when people were protesting for equal justice under law and for civil rights. The people who stormed the Capital were terrorists. They were there to overthrow our government. To bend the will of the people to their decision. We can’t say apples to apples when it is in fact apples to white supremacy.

“If you support this then you are (insert any number of things).” This one I’m torn up about. I wrote on social media if you support this unfriend me right now. And I meant it. Still mean it. I can’t be friends, not even fake, social media friends with you if you can in any way shape or form understand or empathize with the people who broke out windows, who desecrated our Capital, or who took down an American flag to replace it with a Trump one. I can’t make that make sense and I can’t sit with that and I don’t want to be associated with you. But in this moment we are called to unify. My desire to bring peace and civility is inching up in my throat and I am conflicted. Still, as of right now, if you support those people you and I are fundamentally different and I can’t be around you. And I do believe you should be called out for your way of thinking. You need help. But still, as I write this I am thinking of ways I can help you. But I’m mad, so I will need time.

“Pissed.” I’m pissed, y’all. I woke up on Wednesday so happy with my state. So proud to call myself a Georgia Democrat. A DeKalb County Democrat no less. We made history. We swung a whole state. We changed the course of our nation and for that I am humbled and grateful. But now I am pissed. I’m really pissed and I don’t want to be. I hate this feeling, this anger rising up. Of course this is how I felt in 2016 too, so while I am pissed today I know I will not always be. And when that anger subsides I know I will be left with a desire to make changes. And I know that means I will. We will. As a collective.

But for today, I am pissed. And I think it is a rightful feeling and emotion. And I won’t be made to feel shameful about it by people who are saying, “We need to come together now.” They are right, these people. “We” as in the decent people in our country, need to come together. But “we” as in the racists, the homophobes, the “Stop the Steal” people, the terrorists, no. There is no coming together with them. We have given them too many tries to get it together and this was their last one.

I remember a time when I could say, “I don’t care who you voted for, I still like you.” That isn’t the case anymore. If today, you would still walk to the polls and cast your vote for Donald Trump, then I don’t want you around me or my family. You’re toxic and sorely misguided. You’re a racist. You are willing to put your beliefs above the collective country we ALL belong in. And I won’t stand for it anymore.

I’m pissed. I want to say I told you so. Explain that those people are terrorists, white supremacists, that this is EXACTLY who we are as Americans, regardless of how many times Papa Joe says we aren’t. This is us. We need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and make a change, or this will continue to be us.

Hmm. I guess I did find the words.

Be safe, friends.

M.

I’m Back!

Hi-dee ho, neighbors! Remember Wilson from “Home Improvement.” It’s been a few days. Wow, that is weird to say. Because last year I wrote a blog post every day and this year I couldn’t decide what I was going to do and then decided, fuck that I’m gonna take a break. So there you have it. A break was had. For two days. Actually, I’ve been writing everyday still, but I just haven’t posted everyday because I’m not trying to write a blog post everyday this year, instead I have decided to take that time and write toward my thesis everyday, which seems like a much better use of my time. That is not to say that I don’t like my blog, or love you all, or think it’s important to be here and share my wild, crazy stories about toilet paper and swallowing a dry White Castle French fry down my windpipe and vomiting on the side of the road somewhere in Tennessee, that’s a good story I needs to share sometime, but you know thesis work should come first, considering I start that beast in the fall.

But I’m back. And although I never really left, I’m excited about this new year and hopeful that we can accomplish some great things. I am patiently waiting for my turn at THE vaccine, and I am planning a couple of vacations that we will partake in as soon as it is safe. Other than that I am eating leftover chocolate from Christmas, I started new medication, and I bought a keyboard and have been furiously teaching myself “Fur Elise” because I literally have that much time on my hands.

I hope you have all found things that bring you joy, lighten your heart, and propel you into goodness this year. I hope you are staying safe, wearing a mask, social distancing, and following CDC guidelines as best you can to ensure that we all get through this alive and well.

Big hugs.

M.

Happy New Year!

Hi, hello, it’s New Year’s Eve! Time to celebrate the ending of a weird, bad, absurd, crazy, frustrating, educational year. And the new year gives us a little hope, doesn’t it? It does, sure. A little hope. But I feel like we are putting a lot of stock in the new year. Like some of us want to think we will wake up tomorrow and the news won’t be so bad. And the Covid-19 will be gone. But the truth of the matter is we know, deep inside, that isn’t the case. At last I hope we do. There is no fresh start tomorrow. There is no change to the way the world is. It’s just more of the same and some of y’all need to hear that because I suspect some of y’all have plans to “abandon the mask” for the new year or some other crazy shit, but please do not. The New Year isn’t magic.

Now listen, I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, and I know some exciting things are happening, including the FIRST EVER Madam Vice President! And I also know that most of us are not expecting the clock to strike midnight and some Cinderella-type shit to happen. Most of us know that we will wake up on New Year’s Day and it will be the same shit, different day. Most of us know this. But some of us, well I worry.

I worry even more for the people who think that we will be “back to normal” in 2021. I worry that you are being too optimistic. I worry that you are setting yourself up for failure, and negatively impacting others in the process. Because at some point your desire to be “back to normal” will cause you to act drastically, endangering others along the way. I worry, that’s all. I worry.

Today I am worrying about all of those things. I am worrying, but also trying to enjoy the day. To look back at what we have lived through this year with a sense of pride for having made it to this day. There was some dark days this year right? Personally I watched my son end his elementary school days and start middle school virtually. We watched loved ones get sick. We missed out on family vacations we had planned. Jerimiah missed out on enjoying the transition to his new job at an office. Jackson has been struggling with virtual learning. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and have spent the majority of the year in pain. We have had struggles, but also there were other things.

I have been in my house, with my son and husband for nine months now and I’m not sick of them, I’m not mad at them, I’m not even a little sad. I love them so much and have grown accustomed to having them home so much that transitioning back to normal life will be very hard.

Then there is Winnie, the puppy we got in April. Our quarantine puppy, who is amazing and crazy and giant and so, so loving.

There was my first semester in my MFA program, where my lowest grade was a 98.7 and trust I was upset with it. I met some great new friends, learned a ton, and got to work on the lit mag. Not to mention I wrote some good stuff, some of which has already been published!

There was the marching for racial justice. There was the shedding light onto the structural and institutional racism that was allowed to run rampant in our country.

There was the unfriending of toxic people.

The pulling back form social media.

The playing of board games and doing puzzles. The afternoons at the lake. The cool evenings in the hot tub. There was driveway meet-ups, front porch talks. There was love in abundance through it all.

Then there was this here blog.

I wrote everyday this year, a goal I gave myself on January 1, 2020. I wrote everyday with the exception of the week in June where I participated in the “Muted and Listening” campaign, in which white people were asked to be quiet, to go dark on social media and blogs, etc, and listen to the BIPOC community. It was an amazing, educational experience and I learned so much.

Aside from that week I made a blog post here everyday. And I realized, for the first time, that I was capable of writing everyday. It is helpful and encouraging and I even found material to write about, albeit some days were better than others. I am thankful that it was 2020 that I decided to do that because I can look back on this year with a different eye when this has passed, and trust this will pass. We just have to be patient.

I’m not setting any goals for the new year. Not officially. I have a couple of things swimming in my mind, but honestly, I turn 40 in 2021, and my biggest goal is to enjoy life. To be okay in my skin. To take some deep breathes. To keep up the work I am doing. But those are my goals all the time, nothing special. Just to keep living, and living well. I hope that is your goal too.

Happy New Year’s to you all! Thank you for being around this year, for helping me learn and grow. For supporting me. I hope you have found some help here too, some support, or just a laugh every now and then. I can’t say what this blog will look like tomorrow, or a month from now, but I’ll be around, regardless. You can always find me.

Sending love and light to you this evening and every evening. Stay safe and sane.

M.

My First Reading

I was invited to a reading the other day via Zoom for one of my new pieces that was published. This particular piece was published with Welter at the University of Baltimore and while this was not my first time being asked to do a reading, this was the first time I said yes and it was two-fold. The first reason is because this piece, I thought, was very important. Socially it was important and it meant a lot to me. You can read the piece yourself here: Welter Online. The second reason was that because I am now in an MFA program, I should be reading my work when asked. I need the practice and truth be told it was on Zoom so there wasn’t high risk. Worst case I freak out and “go dark” and blame my internet. Win-win.

But the fact is I did it and I am proud of myself and I had a really nice time. The people at Welter were incredibly nice, albeit overwhelmed and overworked (they had over 1200 submissions to wade through) and now that I have done a semester at Ponder Review (The W’s lit mag) I get it. 1200 Submissions must be a nightmare! At the same time, my piece was one of like 15 to make it to publication out of those 1200 submissions, so… I am thankful for them.

It was a nice feeling and not just because I was accepted and liked and my piece made people cry, which is always a bonus when you feel like you wrote a highly emotional piece and you see people respond, but also because I did the reading, I didn’t “go dark,” my husband and son got to watch it, and I had a really nice time, met some new friends (and got to read with one of my friends I met at The W this semester!) and gained some valuable experience. It was not what I anticipated when I spent the day, nay the weekend, envisioning all the horrific outcomes. So there you have it. I survived. I wasn’t too scared. I was calm and I had a nice time.

I am always thankful for people who give my work (and me) time and space to be read and heard. So thank you Welter, for holding space for all of us the other night and thank you for being part of this thing we all do, for helping eager writers and for putting goodness into the world. The other readers that night knocked my socks off as well (especially Josh, William, Stephen, and Shannon, if you get a chance read all the pieces over at Welter Online they truly were fantastic!) There was not one piece I didn’t emotionally connect to at the reading, and many of them were pretty funny to boot! It was an amazing evening.

If you’re at all interested in going to, watching, or participating in readings I highly recommend it. It is a nice way to save soul points inside your heart for a rainy day.

Remember to support local artists of all kinds.

Be safe and sane.

M.

Declinations

Nine. Thirty one. Twenty. Those are the numbers of declinations sitting in my “Rejection Folder” right now, by year. Nine rejections in 2018, the first year I started sending out work for consideration. Thirty one rejections last year, in 2019 and twenty so far this year, but please be advised there is still time in this year to get a few more! This is all to say that I have to change the way I see rejections, and I think it starts with what I call it.

I like the word declination better. As in the publication has declined your submission at this time, but thanks for trying and please try again. It seems better than the publication “rejects” your work and you and all the values you stand for, which is how I take it every time I get one.

Recently a friend told me about these groups of writers on line with goals like “100 Rejections in one year!” and I was terrified to even think of such a thing. Why would you want to be rejected so much?! But the truth is if you are rejected that much, that means you are sending out a lot and it probably means you are sending out to better publications, publications that won’t just print whatever, and trust I have found some that will, and you are being active about sending out your work. I figure if I can manage to write every day this year, then I should be able to amp up my declinations next year. I’m not saying I can get to 100, but I mean, it might be worth a shot, right?

I’m not setting anything in stone right now, just thinking about it. Putting into the universe to see what will happen. Hope you are thinking about how to make next year better than this one too even if it feels like it can’t be done. It can!

M.

One Year of Writing

The graphic above is a screenshot of my “insights” one of the ways WordPress tracks how you run your blog. There are various tools that help you track who is coming to your page, how they found it, what Google term brought them here, there was an awful lot of people here who were searching for “M-I-Crooked Letter-Crooked Letter-S…” as well as “Charcuterie Boards” which in fact was a blog post that in no way could help one with making or understand a charcuterie board. But I digress. These little blocks keep track of how many days I have blogged. My goal for 2020, my New Year’s Resolution as it were, was to write on this blog every, single day. And, well, so far so good.

Now you might be wondering, Missy I can see the little blocks, but what do they mean? Those blocks represent days in each month. They are not in order, that took some time for me to figure out, they are just blocks that change to blue when I post a blog. More blogs the bluer the block gets, but as you can see I only manage one a day on average.

So here it is. It is early in the morning on December 1st. It’s actually 1:00 am and I am wide awake, hopped up on steroids to help with my pain, and unable to sleep so I am writing a blog post about how this “Insight” tool works. It’s boring as shit, I know. I’m hoping it will put me to sleep. I’m also hoping this will end up being somewhat cohesive and I can post it this week.

Anyway, you can see that December is basically gray because I haven’t written in it yet. Technically I wrote tomorrow’s post today, but it hasn’t posted yet so it won’t show, but what you can see is that every day this year, with the exception of the week in June with I took part in #AmplifyBlackVoices and shut down the blog to learn, read, and support Black female writers, I wrote every, single day.

And to be fair, even though I didn’t post those days in June, I did write those days. I just didn’t want to share my writing, instead I went to social media and shared Black voices all week the best I could. I shared Black artists, Black fashion, Black-owned businesses, etc. I called out racists on my newsfeed (mostly family) and I unfriended said people then DM’d them to tell them why. We also marched for justice five of the seven days that week, passed out post cards with ways to donate to the #BlackLivesMatter Movement and donated money ourselves. I hope I did my part that week in other ways, besides writing, but either way it was worth it.

So there you have it. I have one month left to finish off my New Year’s Resolution and listen, I have NEVER finished a New Year’s Resolution so this is kind of a big deal. I hope I can make it and I hope that whatever you promised yourself at the beginning of the year, back before it turned into the year it turned into. I hope you kept your promises too. But if not, there’s always next year!

Love and safety to all! If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing!

M.

Flannery O’Connor

So I have this term paper due on Flannery O’Connor and her collection of stories, A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories and if you don’t already know this, then you haven’t been paying attention. I’ve been complaining about Flannery O’Connor since the moment I was assigned her back in August, even though it was my own doing, like, I picked her from a list of authors and books, authors and books I would gladly trade with a classmate right now because I swear to all the holy peafowl the name Flannery O’Connor is getting on my last fucking nerve at this point.

Whew. Okay, deep breathes.

My paper is due…ummm… yesterday? Today? Friday? Our professor has moved the due date because she is gracious and kind and because we are all, “Uhhh, umm, about the final paper…” Our professor is cool. I like her. I hate Flannery O’Connor at this point.

Lately I’ve been waking up arguing with myself. I’ll be coming out of that dreamlike trance one is in upon their dog licking their face first thing in the morning and I’ll be thinking, “Flannery O’Connor is a raving racist.” Then my dog will lick my face more, and I’ll be all, “No, Flannery O’Connor was commenting on racism,” then more licks and then, “Flannery O’Connor was just a victim of her time.” Then finally I’ll yell, “Stop licking my face, God damn it, Flannery! Err, Winnie!” And I’ll begrudgingly start my day.

Life is weird.

Anyway, I better go work on this damn paper. Have a pleasant, Flannery O’Connor-less rest of your day, assholes.

M.

Missed Connections

I was tasked with writing a Hermit Crab Essay in class this week. My professor suggested we don’t give it too much thought, don’t belabor it (we have a ton going on right now) so I didn’t. I sat on my front porch, felt the cool wind blow, and wrote for fifteen minutes on my phone, then copy and pasted this mess to the message boards. Then I thought you all might like it too. I hope you do. Remember, it’s not all terrible right now. We still have words, and art, and Craigslist Missed Connections, and funny Hermit Crab Essays about the things we cherish the most in this life.

M.

Craigslist Missed Connections

Atlanta Metro

Posted 10/21/20

Respond to: BasicBitch@basicbitch.com

I’d just left my therapist’s office, and decided I needed a kiwi. I was looking for any reason to be happy after crying for forty-five minutes. I decided on a kiwi. I drove to Kroger as the wind picked up and the small drops of rain started. This time of year isn’t my favorite. The cold, the rain. On top of what we’ve been through already. It’s all too much. 

I hurried inside the store while struggling to get my mask in place properly, and shielding my hair from the rain drops when I caught the first glimpse of you up ahead. I stopped dead in my tracks and the memories came rushing back. 

I’d been dreaming about you for months. In all my hopes for happiness, for normalcy, you were there, always just out of reach. This realization came to me quickly, brought me back to reality, forced my feet to slush faster through the puddles now forming. I sprinted past the pumpkins on display on the haystacks outside, grabbed the first cart I could find, not even bothering to sanitize it, and ran toward produce where I saw you again. 

You were there, right near the caramel-covered apples, but you weren’t alone. You never are. This time you were with a petite, blond woman. She seemed frail and cold, wrapped in a grey scarf, rubbing her hands together to warm them before wrapping her hands around you. The sight sent a shocking sensation through me, like when you get a lidocaine shot at the dentist and they accidentally hit a nerve. The sight of you hurt, but it was worth it.  

I’ve been a mess, honestly. I’ve been stretched to my mental, physical, and emotional limits this last year. My therapist says I need to look for positivity, wherever, whatever that is. She says I need to stay optimistic that the future will hold goodness, and I want it to hold goodness. But now, more urgently, I want to hold you.

I watched you walking with the blond woman, further away, back toward the deli, so I followed. I’m not sure why I did it, I just did it. Moved my body without thinking much. My therapist’s words echoing in my head, desire pumping through my veins, propelling me toward you, but for what? You were with her. And I didn’t dare get too close. I stayed well over six feet away.

And what did I expect to happen? Did I think I’d be able to snatch you away from her? Did I think I had some possession over you, some agency that she lacked? Was I more deserving, would I treat you better? No. I know I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. Plus, this damn mask. How would I…? And in a Kroger of all places. 

So there we were. So close, yet so far away. I’m sorry I wasn’t brave enough to make a move. I’m sure next time it will be different, but for now I sit and wait for word from you. I sure hope you’re the goodness I need.

If you were in that Kroger last week, if you were with the woman in the grey scarf. If you were that tall, piping hot pumpkin spice latte, please write back. You know who you are. The one in the white cup with PSL written in sharpie on the side. I’m waiting. 

Yours Forever, 

Kroger Woman in a Black Mask

Andalusia: Part Three

You’re possibly fed-up with me at this point. Couldn’t this have been one blog post? Sure, but then I wouldn’t have the space to tell you about the Hungarian Bible Salesman that came calling on Joy/Hulga, err, I mean Flannery O’Connor, when she lived at Andalusia. The Bible Salesman loved Flannery, but the love wasn’t reciprocated and she sent him broken-hearted back to Hungary. Without an artificial limb.

Flannery and her mother inherited this farm as a dairy farm from Flannery’s uncle sometime around 1940. He wasn’t the first owner of Andalusia, which had been a plantation when he took it over in the early 1930s. He made it into a dairy farm, then when Flannery’s father died in 1941 from complications of Lupus, her mother made the decision to run it alone as a widow. Righteous.

The only piece of furniture in the house that predates the family is an absolutely hideous and disturbing sideboard that Flannery’s entire family hated and wanted removed, but she begged her uncle to keep it on account of the “pleasure of the hanging pig,” and so he did.

A dairy farm proved to be too demanding for Regina Cline O’Connor, so she made it into a beef farm. Beef cattle are easier to run than dairy cattle. She hired a family who moved into the house behind the main house, Hill House, and much like Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman, the ladies would chat in the kitchen in the mornings as Flannery readied herself in her room, before entering the kitchen to make her way to the bathroom.

Flannery and her mother lived on the first floor of the house, as Flannery couldn’t successfully navigate the stairs. The original parlor of the house was turned into Flannery’s room and a second parlor was added on. The women’s bedroom’s were separated by Regina’s office, which housed, among other unique artifacts, an artist’s rendering of Jesus Christ that was signed by a Pope. Which Pope I can’t recall. I wish I could.

The second parlor housed a set of bookcases that her family hated so much, they sold them to a man in Savannah who drove up and picked them up while Flannery was away. When she returned, she immediately called the man in Savannah and purchased them back from him and he returned them post haste.

Thanks for going down this rabbit hole with me. I hope you are learning things you never knew before and I hope you don’t mind my foggy memory and horrible literary jokes. Remember, you are what you read…

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.

Ding Doooong

I ran around cleaning my house yesterday before the housekeepers come today. That’s a thing I did. But why? I made Jackson clean his room, I made Jerimiah tidy up his office. I got all the laundry done, all so when they arrive they won’t think we live like animals? I don’t know, but I know I’m not the only one who does this. When I used to go with my mom as a child and she would clean houses, the woman of the house always said, as soon as we got there, “Margie, I’ve been cleaning all morning!” Ha! My mom thought that was funny, but she understood.

My mom cleaned houses for decades. She cleaned houses, she cleaned motels. She cleaned military barracks and lodging for over a decade as a civilian employee on Ft. Leavenworth. It was in fact the only job she secured a retirement check from, and it small amount comes in handy now as a 76-year-old.

I used to go with her on the weekends when she would clean houses. Really big three-story houses with full basements and adorable dogs to run in the backyard with. I used to dream at night, in our two-bedroom apartment, about having my own big house, my own adorable dogs to run in the backyard with.

When I first called the house cleaning service I felt shitty. But I haven’t been able to keep up with things like I used to. I’m in near-constant pain when I do a little light-cleaning (I have my second visit with my rheumatologist this week to go over more testing) and we are all so busy, and home. We are all so HOME all the time now, that the house is sort of swallowing us up whole, spitting out our remains by way of unwashed rugs, dirty baseboards, an oven I can’t get clean. All the little things have started to add up to one big mess and we need help. Still, I felt bad for hiring someone to do something I can do, so I called my mom.

“Shoot,” my mom said on the phone, “if I had the money I’d hire someone. Don’t feel bad about it, honey. A house your size, they’ll send over two or three people and have it done in a few hours.” I felt relieved to hear my mom say that, and I guess less guilty.

Guilt. That’s what I’m trying to write about today. But I just haven’t found a way to convey it through a story on a page. Not quite yet.

Take a load off today, y’all and maybe cut yourself some slack.

M.

500 Posts!

We are pausing for a celebration today: This is my 500th blog post. So I guess if you’re still reading, and some of you are, thank you! And look at you! You have nothing better going on in your life?! Really? Are you just shirking responsibility to be here? I mean, I don’t mind if you are, I do it ALL the time. Just this weekend I had about 19 chapters to read, so I went to the pool and to Target. Cause when I have a lot to do I find other shit to do instead.

Off topic.

Five hundred posts!

Now listen, they haven’t all been good. Matter of fact, I’d say the fast majority of them are me just complaining about one thing or another. But that’s the beauty of having your own blog, you can say whatever you want!

I’ve been writing every day this year, this horrific, bitch of a year. And it’s been great. Something I never thought I’d be able to pull off. Unfortunately it hasn’t really upped my craft, but, and this is a big BUT, it has kept me regular. Like when you take probiotics.

I’m veering off again.

I love y’all, those of you who have been around awhile and our new friends. You make this community fun, my days have some kind of meaning, and hey, who else would I want to talk about probiotics and regularity with?! No one else.

Thanks.

Keep being you, and I’ll keep being me.

M.

Wonderstruck

I have favorite words. I keep a list of them in my mind. Words that I’m eager to see out in the real world. Then when I come across one, I am overjoyed. I’m sort of like a birder who is traipsing across the American Southwest and comes across their first elf owl. They stand in awe of the world’s smallest owl, burrowed deep in a woodpecker’s saguaro hole. The birder might snap a picture, they might just look from a safe distance, their necks craned, their binoculars on high. That’s how I feel when I read someone else’s work, and one of my words pops up. Magic.

Yesterday I was thumbing through the newest Pushcart, an assignment for school, and I decided on an essay to read. Three paragraphs in was the word, tintinnabulation. Sweet Jesus, I could hear the tinkling when I saw the word! There it was, in all its glory! I wanted to snap a picture. I wanted to run downstairs and show Jerimiah. Then it hit me. I was forced to face my own nerdy ways. I’m a mess, a nerdy mess. So instead I read the paragraph over and over again until the ringing stopped.

M.

Truth and Honesty

“‘What is truth?’ said Pontius Pilate, who probably wrote elegant essays in his spare time. I would be more willing to attach myself to the word ‘honesty’. We may not ever be in possession of the truth, but at least as nonfiction writers we can try to be as honest as our courage permits. Honest to the world of facts outside ourselves, honest in reporting what we actually felt and did, and finally, honest about our own confusions and doubts.”

That’s a line from Phillip Lopate’s To Show and To Tell, a craft book on creative nonfiction and obviously a line in my commonplace book. This struggle for truth I’m on. This constant trying to get it right, to the best of my memory, well, it’s a slippery slope. A hard time. And more and more I’m wondering about being the most honest version of myself. Regardless of how others want to claim my truth, their truth, the truth. Whatever the truth is.

But am I courageous enough? That’s the real question. Here I am twiddling my thumbs, asking for others to give me permission, but for what? To speak my own honesty? To give myself permission to go there, wherever there is?

I think I’ve been seeking permission for too long. I think we probably all have, in our own small ways. I think it’s time to be done with that. Be courageous in your honesty. Courageous in your doubts and confusion. Let them have their truth.

M.