Friday, February 16, 2018

Help Get House Bill 2106 on the Agenda, West Virginia

I am a survivor of violence. This is my story.

12 years ago, I walked into a courthouse in West Virginia and asked for a restraining order against my then boyfriend, days after he choked me. The clerk told me my protective order was still active. I informed her I never  had one.
Turns out, his ex-wife did. I had no idea he had a long history of violence against women.
My abuser was convicted of assaulting us both, receiving only one year of home confinement for multiple related offenses including restraining order violations. Before it was all over, he would assault me a second time.

Finally, after all that, the next warrant issued was a felony. He ran the night the sheriff knocked on his door and was never found.

This felony warrant will remain active for the remainder of his life. I still hope one day he will be brought to justice. Until then, there are other women out there who don’t know his pattern.
The next victim may not be so lucky as to wake up after he chokes her like his wife did, or to escape his chokehold and run, like I did. His ex-wife and my story were years apart but eerily similar, as were the stories previous partners had alleged but never officially reported. No doubt, they were too afraid.

I told my story to Delegate Pushkin and shared with him my idea of creating a registry for domestic violence reoffenders. In 2016, he introduced the Central Abuse Registry Bill.  (HB 2106)

Unfortunately, it did not make it on the agenda. Right now, Delegate Pushkin needs your support for the Central Abuse Registry Bill this upcoming legislative session. Think domestic violence offenders only abuse their partners? Not so.

Domestic violence offenders are the same violent men who commit mass shootings, such as the Las Vegas shooter of 2017.

As if it isn’t horrifying enough that three women a DAY are murdered by partners and exes, these same men (and women) murder their own children, co-workers, first-responders, family members, and neighbors. They are also more likely to abuse animals.

But do you know who they are? Frighteningly, you don’t. These people don’t wear signs.
What if your daughter just met him? What if you were considering asking him to coach Little League? What if you are considering renting a room to her? Hiring a tutor for your son? This information would be free to request. And it should be!

The Central Abuse Registry is already used to protect the elderly from caretakers with a history of abuse. This bill would amend the already existing registry to include domestic violence repeat offenders.

The information police need to list offenders on the registry is already compiled by local officers and submitted periodically to state law enforcement, so work in creating this registry would be minimal. It already exists; we just want to add to the demographic it protects.

Perhaps it wouldn’t deter future violence. Perhaps it wouldn’t protect anyone.But what if it does?
And what if that someone is your child, your parent, your brother or your best friend?
Please contact your representatives today, West Virginia, by email or phone, and ask them to put the Central Abuse Registry Bill on the agenda this 2018 session! An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

CALL AND ASK THE CENTRAL ABUSE REGISTRY BILL (HB 2106) BE PUT ON THE AGENDA


Andrea Fekete is granddaughter to Mexican and Hungarian immigrants and a native of the southern West Virginia coalfields. She is a proud "Man High Hillbilly."
She is author of the novel Waters Run Wild (Sweetgum Press, 2010) and poetry chapbook I Held a Morning (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Waters Run Wild has served as course material in several universities and high schools. Her fiction and poetry often appear in journals such as Chiron Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Kentucky Review, Montucky Review, Adirondack Review, ABZ, and in such anthologies as Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction and Poetry from West Virginia. (WVU Press, 2017)
In 2016, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation funded her three-week stay at the famous artist retreat, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She earned her MA from Marshall University and MFA in Creative Writing from WV Wesleyan College.
Currently, she is seeking a for her newest novel-in-progress Native Trees. She is also currently seeking a publisher for the anthology of women's writing Feminine Rising: Voices of Power & Invisibility, which she co-edited with the author of the memoir Girlish (SkyHorse Press 2018), Lara Lillibridge.
She lives and writes in West Virginia.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Stigmatizing Mental Illness on the Internet: When YouTube Becky's Spread Misinformation (Social Responsibility Not Included. YouTube Ken Sold Separately.)

NOTE: You can read more about the stigma surrounding mental illness and how to overcome it on Mayo Clinic’s website. If you suffer from mental illness, you’re not alone. You can get help. See the National Alliance for Mental Illness Top 25 HelpLine Resources.

There’s a new video by yet another young, highly attractive internet “star” making the rounds on social media. Her rant about mental illness being all in your head, is going sickeningly viral.

She’s super pretty, super opinionated, and her new video is super terrible. I don’t want to send more traffic her way, so I’ll just refer to her as YouTube Becky. She's internet famous, but I think that's about all she is.



              Wait, "internet" famous? Are there other kinds?

In her video, she demonstrates an extremely basic (sort of) grasp of concepts found in neuroscience to support her equally extremely basic ideas related to mental illness and its treatment options. She presents her unoriginal opinion as scientific fact.

She goes against reputable medical authorities by stating that depression and mental illness is not only, in her words, “all in your head” but self-curable trough “positive thinking.”

She scoffs at the use of proven treatments, shaming those who do use or consider using them. She dumps blame for their own suffering on the burdened shoulders of people with potentially debilitating mental illnesses. Every word of her speech is dripping with condescension and sarcasm.

Internet stars like YouTube Becky's and YouTube Ken's are dime a dozen. They influence what viewers think. There really isn't any way to stop them. But I'm going to try to put a ding in the armor of the ignorant hoards of Internet Talking Heads right now.

Remember back when someone else (besides you) had to think you knew what the hell you were talking about before granting you a massive audience? I do.

This is the late Walter Cronkite. He was a famous newsman. He's from the mythical time when nobody watched television 24 hours a day and you had to answer the telephone to see who it was.

And also, people in the media were expected to know things. And if you didn't know things, you probably weren't going to be heard by millions.


                                         
             I'm sorry, Mr. Cronkite, but that’s just not the way it is, anymore

Now, no one is filtered out. Everyone has power to persuade. Anyone can pretend to be an expert on any topic they choose.

And people will believe them.

It’s a beautiful thing that we can now publish ourselves, our own books, music, and art. We can broadcast ourselves over podcast. We can take photos and blast them out into the internet ether. It's amazing. I love it. My friends publish some great work.

No doubt there are people the mainstream media would silence but can’t, not now that we have this modern luxury of self-publishing. This does, however, come with a price.

Using the power of the Internet, anyone can lift themselves up as an authority on any topic.


         You wouldn't doubt someone wearing glasses and pacing slowly across a stage, would you?

YouTube Becky’s rant has been shared over and over on social media although she’s just another loudmouth, ill-informed kid looking for quick fame and an easy paycheck from advertisers.

YouTube Becky’s and Ken’s can be annoying, but she’s much more than a minor annoyance.
She’s adding to the long list of various ways mental illness is visibly stigmatized. Stigma is the top reason people experiencing symptoms of mental illness don’t seek help.

Mental-illness-related stigma is one of the reasons people actually die of mental illness.
According to the American Psychological Association, In the US, men are least likely to seek help for symptoms of depression or other serious mental illness.

Men are also the most likely to complete suicide. You can view these bleak statistics here.

Call me crazy, but perhaps, as a culture, we should begin visibly accepting mental illness as diseases that require treatment like any physical illness. Perhaps we should encourage our friends and neighbors to seek help.

According to Mayo Clinic, stigma leads to discrimination. Their website also lists these as serious effects of stigma:
  • Reluctance to seek help or treatment
  • Lack of understanding by family, friends, co-workers or others
  • Fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities or trouble finding housing
  • Bullying, physical violence or harassment
  • Health insurance that doesn't adequately cover your mental illness treatment
  • The belief that you'll never succeed at certain challenges or that you can't improve your situation
The most unfortunate part is how convincing her video is. What she says sounds true, when she uses words like neuroscience. But why?

She uses a combination of humor (read: thinly-veiled hostility), pseudoscience, and effective strategies of persuasion to convince you she knows what she’s saying.

While her message is bull, her strategies of persuasion are top notch.

Unlike us boring (underpaid) adjunct English professors (did I mention underpaid?) at your local community college, (we are sooooo underpaid) the average person doesn’t know that correlation does not equal causation, and that total bull can sound like total truth if persuasive strategies are used effectively.

I’m speaking of Aristotle‘s strategies of persuasion most of you learned in (and later forgot) in English 101. The more persuasive she is, and the more confident listeners are of her assertions, the more likely they are to share her videos.

Then, advertisers pay her more, based on her hits.

A Few Examples of YouTube Becky's Strategies:
  • She successfully uses pseudoscience to back up false claims. Her rant sounds just jargon-y enough to sound as if she’s an authority.
  • She uses humor in the form of sarcasm.  We are more likely to listen and be open to someone who is funny.
  • She sneakily taps into our shared human emotions of fear and pride. 
YouTube Becky’s Desired Reactions:

Fear based reaction: I agree with her! If I just think positively, I’ll continue to be safe (or will become safe) from mental illness. 

CLICK. SHARE.

Or 

Pride-based reactions: I agree with her! The mentally ill are weak. I’m not mentally ill. Therefore, I am strong.

CLICK. SHARE.

Primal-based reactions: Ooh, she is really, really, really pretty!

CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK! SHARE!

Don’t make the world dumber by sharing false information. Avoid doing so by checking the reliability of your sources. Here’s a link to a Georgetown University site on determining the reliability of an online source.

Stop sharing stupid shit that isn't true, internet people. You're making babies dumb!

This is a meme I made that won't make babies dumb. 


Anyway, back to YouTube Becky...

You don’t see similar rants about physical suffering. No one goes on YouTube telling individuals with muscular sclerosis if only they did more yoga and got "woke" the disease would be magically cured.

No one goes online and rants about the “negativity” of people with Parkinson’s or those damn whiny diabetics.

No one does that. That would be considered wrong. That would be considered unkind. That would make YouTube Becky a great big jerk. But YouTube Becky isn't a jerk, really. I think she's just irresponsible.

Because mental illness is poorly understood and stigmatized, people feel comfortable with criticizing sufferers.

It’s difficult enough to put on your pants and show up for life every day. It’s even more difficult if you live with illness, but being ill and being shamed for it online? That's not difficult, that's just terrible.

That’s enough to make some people feel pretty isolated. A new study out of Bringham Young University suggests social isolation and loneliness are serious health risks.

Don’t take my word for it, or even that of Bringham Young University researchers, do some research of your own and draw some solid, evidence-based conclusions. Learn about the topic that interests you and make sure, before you spout information online, that your message is, to the best of your knowledge, accurate.

But please, if you plan to later share your research findings online, don’t use Wikipedia and for the love of  The Andy Griffith Show, please don’t involve YouTube Becky. (Logic and social responsibility, not included. YouTube Ken Sold Separately.)

Use the internet responsibly, people. And please, don't believe everything you see online.



I'm going to go post pictures of my cat riding a lawnmower on Instagram.





Andrea Fekete is granddaughter to Mexican and Hungarian immigrants and a native of the southern West Virginia coalfields. She is a proud "Man High Hillbilly."

She is author of the novel Waters Run Wild (Sweetgum Press, 2010) and poetry chapbook I Held a Morning (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Waters Run Wild has served as course material in several universities and high schools. Her fiction and poetry often appear in journals such as Chiron Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Kentucky Review, Montucky Review, Adirondack Review, ABZ, and in such anthologies as Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction and Poetry from West Virginia. (WVU Press, 2017)

In 2016, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation funded her three-week stay at the famous artist retreat, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She earned her MA from Marshall University and MFA in Creative Writing from WV Wesleyan College.

Currently, she is seeking a for her newest novel-in-progress Native Trees. She is also currently seeking a publisher for the anthology of women's writing Feminine Rising: Voices of Power & Invisibility, which she co-edited with the author of the memoir Girlish (SkyHorse Press 2018), Lara Lillibridge.

She lives and writes in West Virginia.














Monday, January 15, 2018

Embracing Anger: Being “Negative” on Dr. Martin Luther King Day

I just stumbled across this angry woman on a friend’s Facebook. And I love her. 

Humans of New York Video

This New Yorker’s comments started me meditating on what it means to be angry. If so many “woke” people think anger is “negative,”  is anger “bad?”

I became a feminist at 19. I was always pisssd off. I was pissed when my friends ended up raped and not taken seriously by cops. I was pissed off frats encouraged sexism. I was pissed of when gay boys got beat up for being “sissies.” (Read: woman-like) I was pissed off when I learned how common domestic violence is in the US. I was pissed off when I learned of “honor killings” and sex trafficking.

I was pissed off it took my going to college to find out there were LOTS of women writers in the world. I felt betrayed. I’d went my entire life thinking only white men and a couple white ladies (like Emily Dickinson) could be successful writers. Women’s accomplishments just were not taught in public school. 

Aside: Emily’s work wasn’t even published until after her death because she didn’t share it with anyone! Pretty depressing outlook for a teenage girl who wants to be a writer, right? 

Then, in my mid-20s, I was really, really pissed off when I became a victim of violence.

Though I’ve shed the label “feminist” for now (to make a point), AND I tried to “retire” from activism a year ago, (not possible) I still use my writing to fight for the rights of women and girls. Why? 

I’m still pissed off. 

This video today reminded me being pissed off is not only natural, but a positive thing if you use it productively, but first, you need to allow the emotion. Listen to it.

Yesterday, on Facebook, a “woke” fella brow beat me when I became angry with his assertions mental illness can be meditated away, that depression and even schizophrenia is “all in one’s head.”

He called me “negative” and laughed when I became angered by his publicly declared judgments about the mentally ill. 

“You’re so angry. Lmao” he mocked. Anger, to him, is bad. He’s all “love and light” he said. “I’m glad I could help you work out some negative emotions. You’re welcome,” he said, condescendingly, as if he’s above anger, as if insensitivity to others’ reactions to his words is a virtue. Stay tuned. I’m writing a post about how his views on mental illness promote stigma. Thanks for making me angry, “bro.” I’m using it, not smoking some weed or meditating it away. 

Frustration and anger are not “bad” or “negative.” It might be hip to get “woke” and white-western-culture pseudo-yogi your way through unpleasant emotions or to blame oneself for “negative” emotions. I think it’s a sign of evasion and immaturity, not enlightenment. But I’m sure that’s another post altogether.

Anger can be harmful BUT  it’s up to you if it’s harmful or helpful. You can hate your boss so much, you punch the Xerox machine or you can look for a new job. It isn’t anger that was the enemy here, but how you used it. (Or didn’t) 

BUT anger has a job. Anger is a good thing if you do something with it.

Anger tells you you’re being mistreated or that someone else is. It points out injustice and abuse. Immorality. It is what made me verbally reprimand a man in a parking lot who I witnessed abuse a child. Anger is what made me get a felony arrest warrant on an abusive ex over a decade ago. Anger is what makes me use my writing to help women and girls. 

Anger is a helper, a sign. It tells you when something is wrong and it forces you to notice. Anger asks your brain, “Ok, so, you’re mad. This situation is bullshit. Fix it. Take action. So, now what? Fight or flight?”

If we direct fear into anger and anger into action, anger and fear are gifts.

Fighting is how we change the world into a more just world. It was MLK who advocated for peaceful protest but who also acknowledged that violence can and will erupt if a message of discontent is ignored. 

Dr. King said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Listen to your anger and direct it. Anger at oppression is natural and yes, positive, if we give it the attention and hence, justice it requests of us.

Ignored and avoided anger makes the emotion useless and harmful, as it poisons the mind of the person who attempts to or pretends to defeat it by “letting it go and breathing.”

Dear Yogi-school dropout, the world is under the control of humans, and we will recognize what needs changed by our emotional response to it. Justice is won by people who begin the journey with anger.

I don’t believe Dr. King encouraged us to be violent without first attempting nonviolent means to our end. But I think what he meant was anger has to go somewhere. Anger must be addressed. It must be answered if we wish to avoid the toxicity and destruction of violence. 

Anger must be addressed. I’d like to end this post with a note from the formidable Langston Hughes, a black poet I knew nothing about until I escaped the confines of my public school upbringing and found out there were not only women writers I didn’t know about but people of color who wrote, too. 

Harlem

BY LANGSTON HUGHES

What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up?

      like a raisin in the sun?

      Or fester like a sore—

      And then run?

      Does it stink like rotten meat?

      Or crust and sugar over—

      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags

      like a heavy load.

      Or does it explode?

It’s MLK day. Think of what makes you angry and then, ask yourself, “Now what? Fight or flight?”

Happy Dr. King day. ❤️


Here’s a great link for more on Dr. King 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Help Delegate Pushkin Battle Domestic Violence in 2018

I am a survivor of violence. This is my story.
12 years ago, I walked into a courthouse in West Virginia and asked for a restraining order against my then boyfriend, days after he choked me. The clerk told me my protective order was still active. I informed her I never  had one.
Turns out, his ex-wife did. I had no idea he had a long history of violence against women.
My abuser was convicted of assaulting us both, receiving only one year of home confinement for multiple related offenses including restraining order violations. Before it was all over, he would assault me a second time.
Finally, after all that, the next warrant issued was a felony. He ran the night the sheriff knocked on his door and was never found.
This felony warrant will remain active for the remainder of his life. I still hope one day he will be brought to justice. Until then, there are other women out there who don’t know his pattern.
The next victim may not be so lucky as to wake up after he chokes her like his wife did, or to escape his chokehold and run, like I did. His ex-wife and my story were years apart but eerily similar, as were the stories previous partners had alleged but never officially reported. No doubt, they were too afraid.
I told my story to Delegate Pushkin and shared with him my idea of creating a registry for domestic violence reoffenders. In 2016, he introduced the Central Abuse Registry Bill. 

Unfortunately, it did not make it on the agenda. Right now, Delegate Pushkin needs your support for the Central Abuse Registry Bill this upcoming legislative session. Think domestic violence offenders only abuse their partners? Not so.
Domestic violence offenders are the same violent men who commit mass shootings, such as the Las Vegas shooter of 2017.
As if it isn’t horrifying enough that three women a DAY are murdered by partners and exes, these same men (and women) murder their own children, co-workers, first-responders, family members, and neighbors. They are also more likely to abuse animals.
But do you know who they are? Frighteningly, you don’t. These people don’t wear signs.
What if your daughter just met him? What if you were considering asking him to coach Little League? What if you are considering renting a room to her? Hiring a tutor for your son? This information would be free to request. And it should be!
The Central Abuse Registry is already used to protect the elderly from caretakers with a history of abuse. This bill would amend the already existing registry to include domestic violence repeat offenders.
The information police need to list offenders on the registry is already compiled by local officers and submitted periodically to state law enforcement, so work in creating this registry would be minimal. It already exists; we just want to add to the demographic it protects.
Perhaps it wouldn’t deter future violence. Perhaps it wouldn’t protect anyone.But what if it does?
And what if that someone is your child, your parent, your brother or your best friend?
Please contact your representatives today, West Virginia, by email or phone, and ask them to put the Central Abuse Registry Bill on the agenda this 2018 session! An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

CALL AND ASK THE CENTRAL ABUSE REGISTRY BILL (HB 2106) BE PUT ON THE AGENDA

john.shott@wvhouse.gov
Capitol Office: 
Room 418M, Building 1
State Capitol Complex
Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 340-3252
Home:
422 Oakhurst Avenue
Bluefield, WV, 24701
Home Phone: (304) 325-7534
Business Phone: (304) 327-0573
CONTACT
roger.hanshaw@wvhouse.gov
Capitol Office:
Room 408M, Building 1
State Capitol Complex
Charleston, WV 25305
Capitol Phone: (304) 340-3252
Home:
5341 Wallback Road
Wallback, WV, 25285
Home Phone: (304) 587-9947
Business Phone: (304) 347-2115



Andrea Fekete is granddaughter to Mexican and Hungarian immigrants and a native of the southern West Virginia coalfields. She is a proud "Man High Hillbilly."
She is author of the novel Waters Run Wild (Sweetgum Press, 2010) and poetry chapbook I Held a Morning (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Waters Run Wild has served as course material in several universities and high schools. Her fiction and poetry often appear in journals such as Chiron Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Kentucky Review, Montucky Review, Adirondack Review, ABZ, and in such anthologies as Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction and Poetry from West Virginia. (WVU Press, 2017)
In 2016, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation funded her three-week stay at the famous artist retreat, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She earned her MA from Marshall University and MFA in Creative Writing from WV Wesleyan College.
Currently, she is seeking a for her newest novel-in-progress Native Trees. She is also currently seeking a publisher for the anthology of women's writing Feminine Rising: Voices of Power & Invisibility, which she co-edited with the author of the memoir Girlish (SkyHorse Press 2018), Lara Lillibridge.
She lives and writes in West Virginia.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Only 10 Rock Songs in the Entire Universe aka Songs That Stalked You Your Entire Life

I was stuck at physical therapy yesterday and realized American oldies rock stations only play 10 songs. On a loop. And they will do so forever. Or at least until death do we part. They’re overplayed. Wait. Not just overplayed. These 10 songs are so, so nauseatingly overplayed.

You can’t remember the first time you heard Stairway to Heaven, can you. (No question mark. We know the answer) 

No, you can’t. Because you heard it through your mama’s belly while you were still in the womb and she was smoking and drinking at the bar. (Oh, don’t get offended. She didn’t knowYour uncle Jim said you were an accident, remember?)

It seems no one, no business owner of any kind, no radio station, no dentist’s office, gives the slightest shred of a shit that every person who is not dead or deaf despises these songs. These songs have been stalking us our entire lives. Resisting is futile. 

For as long as we ALL shall live, we will never escape these songs. Not ever. Oh, dear sweet baby Jesus, not ever. Ever.

Ever. Ever. Forever ever. I’m sorry, Miss Jackson, (I am for real), you are sentenced to Journey in every public place you visit. 

Hate Journey? Hate Rush? Foghat? TOUGH TITTY, SAID THE KITTY. You. Will. Listen.


“Tough shit, you big whiner. At least people don’t steal your poop out of the box where you put it.”

These songs stalked you your entire life and by the age of 15. you learned to love them. 

Or at least, by the time you reached college and learned to binge-drink shots of very bottom-shelf tequila, you hated them less

And now....as if you don’t already know what they are, here’s the list:

The Only 10 Rock Songs in the  Entire Universe  (that you slowly learned to like)

Or at least learned to hate less while drinking shots of rot-gut tequila at college parties in that one guy’s off-campus pad, the guy who sold the good weed. Remember him? He was 35 and still played Hackysack and called Pearl Jam, his jam, like it was still 1996. We didn’t tell him it was 2008. (He sold the good shit)

I’m just listing titles. Not names of the bands. Because I hate them so much I don’t care. (And you shouldn’t either)

1-Sweet Home Alabama

2-Feel Like Makin’ Love (you have to leave off the g. Apparently, it means somethin’ slightly different without a full -ing.)

3-Smoke on the Water

4-Take it Easy 

5-Black Dog

6-Don’t Stop Believin’ (again, without the g)

7-More than a Feeling

8-Sweet Home Alabama

9-Everybody’s Workin’ For the Weekend (Wtf is up with everybody leavin’ the g off. It’s f*ckin’ stupid)

10-Free Bird 

11-Sweet Home Alabama 

12-Sweet Home Alabama 

13-Tom Sawyer (for good measure)

14 Taking Care of Business 

15-Evil Woman 

16-Sweet Home Alabama 

17-Turn the Page

18-(I can’t get no) Satisfaction 

19-Carry on My Wayward Son

20-Sweet Home Alabama 

Ok, that’s 20. Whatevs. 

Now, where’s my black REO Speedwagon shirt? I’ve got to get dressed for a cocktail party. I hope they play my jam

Long live the Only 10 Rock Songs in the Entire Universe. (Unless I can kill them dead. Then, may they die very, very shortly) 



Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Very Deep Christmas Cookie Poem, Inspired by William Carlos Williams' Poem, "This Is Just To Say"

THIS IS JUST TO SAY

By William Carlos Williams
1883 – 1963 
(Those dates just mean he’s dead. Very, extremely dead, because 1963 was a while back)

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold



A VERY DEEP CHRISTMAS COOKIES POEM 
By Andrea Fekete 
Based on "This Is Just To Say"

(Who is not yet dead, which is awesome, especially for her cat, Pinto Bean)

Yes, there are Christmas cookies somewhere in this gift box, 
not that many because
I ate them while I baked.
I ate your                          cookies

I didn’t put a period after cookies and added a 
weird space because
spaces make poems deep 
even if you don't know why 
you use them.

I'm sorry I ate your cookies. 
I feel like a terrible person.
Not really. They were awesome, warm
chocolaty goo-ness. Is that a word? Goo-ness?
It should be.

And now, a series of words for no reason at all,
capitalized. Words like
Pen. Poem. Paper,
and a dash I do not need--
the word cookies again,
by itself this time, 
after a dash, 
to make it look meaningful--

Cookies.

Now for the big finish with
a slight change of subject after another dash-- 
My cat Pinto Bean is grateful 
I'm alive to feed her cat food, 
but not Christmas cookies, 
because cats do not eat cookies. 
They do not know it's Christmas,

so I'm not sure why my cat, 
who is named after a bean, is 
mentioned in this poem. 
I am also not sure why I named her Pinto Bean. 
I am not necessarily partial to pinto beans.

I like all beans.
Green beans. Kidney beans. Black beans.
Lima, as well.
All of them.

All the beans. 
All the beans...
the beans.

The cookies were so warm and gooey,
but this poem is terrible.
I think maybe I'm an asshole.
Alright, well, I am a little bit sorry.
Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 15, 2017

“It’s Like a Sore Pecker: Granny’s Teeth” Guest Blogger Cooter Rasputin’s Thoughts on Growing Up a Grandson in West Virginia

Dear Reader,

I’m Introducing my first guest blogger, Cooter Rasputin. Local and national media usually only give voice to artists who are NOT working-class or rural to sit around talking about Appalachians who ARE working-class and/or rural. We have few places to speak, while other people make money telling our stories. 

To working-class and/or rural Appalachian artists: I don’t have a radio station or gallery or the money publish books. (I wish) I don’t have a quilt you can sit in front of in a rocking chair at some academic conference where birds not of our feathers both demean and romanticize our songs, but I DO have a place where you can talk about who you are, even though it’s just a modest little corner of the Internet nobody gives a shit about: my (free) blog. (where I do voice texting and minimal editing due to neck injury. HA! Top notch. I know)

Now, my guest blogger, my old college buddy, photographer and writer, Cooter Rasputin. 

#OurStories #GetYourOwn #SitDown #ListenHere 

Signed, Andrea Fekete 

It’s Like a Sore Pecker: Granny’s Teeth

By Cooter Rasputin 

Something that just crossed my mind is how my grandma would break out some funny Appalachian-granny sayings occasionally. . . some I've forgotten and some I recall. There are a few reasons this crossed my mind, but mostly. . . I guess it's because I'm killing time before a final that I gave up caring about studying for and I was holding her dentures in my hand this morning while going through some of my stuff in my home office (which, I guess, I'll tell you about in a minute now that I've brought it up). 

But before that, I should mention -- I was in a movie my friend made once. . . and, because he didn't care enough to rein us in like some cruel dictatorial director, we were allowed to rewrite our lines a little just to make them flow easier with our own natural cadence. For fun, I threw in a line about a saying that could have, but didn't come from her. . . .

"Like grandma always said, 'it's like a sore pecker, you just can't beat it'."

That line made the final cut and, after the film debuted, my friend told me, "yeah, that was the first line in the film where people would start walking out. You could tell who was in it for the long haul by whether or not they stayed after you came on screen.”

I'd like to imagine that's because my stage presence and my raw talent was just overwhelming to them, but I would accept the fact that it could be something a little more harmful to my ego. . . . Either way, even if she never said that, I'm glad I could somehow carve another facet onto the story of her life. She was an amazing lady and, really, she had a great sense of humor even if she didn't make a lot of dick jokes in her spare time.

A good example would be this one time she was on an extended visit with us at our old house out on the West End. I was maybe 3 or 4 years old. . . old enough to be able to talk and see and hear things that I didn't understand and then repeat them (which is how I ended up alienating an elderly lesbian couple next door to us -- which is another story altogether). I figure I'd watched Dynasty or some soap opera and the question of inheritance came up because I remember there was a long stretch where, any time a friend or family member had something that seemed cool to me, I would ask them if I could have it when they died.

Dad was sitting at the kitchen table using his old Buck knife to cut a cardboard box into smaller pieces for the garbage can: "Dad, can I have that knife when you die?"

"Sure, son."

Mom using a pretty comb to straighten her hair before we left to walk to Midway to get a hotdog: "Mom, can I have that when you die?"

"Yes, you can."

Anyone who was around me believed it to be some passing fascination and, for the most part, it was. I'm sentimental and cherish the relics that've been left for me now, but I've mostly stopped asking if I could have someone's belt buckle because it had a cool looking animal head on it. One thing I asked for, though, still stands out in my memories.

Grandma was in the bathroom and our house was small enough we just had the one available. The door was open and she was standing at the sink brushing her teeth. I had to go pee, but I was fascinated by how she could brush her teeth by taking them all the way out of her head.

"You need to use the bathroom, P?" she asked me, using my middle initial like she always did. I think it's because she called her daughter Janice's husband "PW" and we both shared the same name.

I can't remember what I said to her or even if I walked into the bathroom to use the toilet at that point -- I can only remember staring at her face -- she was a short woman but seemed so tall to me then. Giving me a toothless smile, I felt comfortable enough to ask, "Grandma, can I have your teeth when you die?"

She laughed and said, "I'll give you my teeth when I die."

Satisfied that I had sorted that out, I'm sure I walked into the bathroom and probably pissed all over the toilet seat. . . . What can I say, I was 3 years old?

About 17 years later (which is such a short amount of time, really, but was literally a lifetime to me back then) she died. I had been at work because she said she would be fine and, at her age, little health scares were normal. I got the call that she was in the hospital and my dad was going to come pick me up from work so I could go see her -- it was "serious this time".

She died while I was on my way there.

I felt guilty that I hadn't been there and hadn't been in a position to tell her I loved her one more time. I felt guilty that I would never let her iron my work shirt when she asked me if I needed help (I didn't, but she could have probably done it faster, better, and it would have made her feel good to show her love for me by doing it). 

I felt guilty for how I never fully allowed myself to relate to her as an adult woman with an intense and rich life story that stretched far beyond her role as "just" my grandmother. . . shit. . . she raised EIGHT KIDS basically on her own. It's wild to even think about the lifetimes she managed to live in her time on the planet.. . . heavy feelings are normal when these deaths occur, but I managed to get past a lot of the guilty feelings I had. 

I loved my grandma and we were close. She and I talked often and she encouraged me in whatever I was trying to do. We watched about a thousand hours of Gameshow Network together. Once, we even watched a good portion of Pink Flamingos together after I ended up buying the first VHS copy I ever saw at our local mall (click the link for that story). 

The last kind act I could do for her was to be her pallbearer and, as much as I hated feeling the weight of what was left of her leave my hands and sink into a grave, I was glad to be there for her however I could.

It was maybe a month later when we finally let the family members come into her room to take little things of hers that they wanted. Before anyone went in, my mom straightened it up a bit and, after, said to me, "your grandma wanted me to give you these." I turned away from whatever it was I was doing and looked up at my mom as she thrust a double handful of stuff to me. 

One was the copy of the Bible my grandmother read from daily. She had fancy ones, but this was the one her son in law found in a car he was rebuilding and gave to her since it was much more portable than her others. 

In her other hand she held a white plastic dome with little angel stickers on it. I didn't know what it was until I opened the lid and saw the slots that allowed denture cleanser to drain away when the inner portion is lifted out.

"Oh no shit. . . I can't believe she actually did it," I said, while I unwrapped the little fragment of silk surrounding them. Sitting in the palm of my hand was the pair of dentures she'd been cleaning way back around 1983 when I had asked to have them. I was blown away by her sense of humor and how thoughtful she was to fully commit to her joke for almost 20 years... I sat there with them for a second as I laughed and cried at the way my grandma found a way to smile at me from beyond the grave.

So what's the moral to this story aside from how I had an awesome grandma (and maybe how you should hug yours if you can)? If there is one, I suppose it would be to honor the commitments that matter. . . even if you make that commitment to a three year old -- when he's 20 years old he'll remember it and be so glad you did.

ARTIST BIO: Cooter makes photos, writes, and works in West Virginia. Some of his efforts, and links to his ongoing work, are available on his website: www.mostexalted.com