Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Well-Meaning White Saviors: Dividing Allies & Stepping On Toes

White people been shaming me for not going to marches and for not feeling I need to "throw hands" as one fb poster said. (You meant fists, dude, but whatever)

What happened in Charlottesville is repulsive. The end result of confronting racist psychos ended in the deaths of human beings.

That is fucking ridiculous, tragic. Worst of all? 

Unnecessary deaths. Makes me sick. Makes me cry. And bless them all, officers who lost their lives who were forced to protect this crowd, included.

But it got me thinking about my place as an ally to people of color and to all humans because racism affects us all.

I did not post rage or violent words. I posted a few sad images that may spark reflection, which all of us should probably do.

What I've chosen to do is delve into my art to change the world (visual and literary) chosen to continue to live my life how I use it daily, which is to be the person who helps other people when they need it and how. I strive for love and justice. I do not get violent in the streets and surely would if I felt threatened. I would rather ignore the Nazis and continue on the path I think is best. 

Then there's why I try not to get too into the business of communities of which I am not a part and who do not need me to come into as a great white savior.

I know some black women who are tired of white feminists fighting "for" them, pretending they know what black women want or need (re: racism, inequality, -isms) I don't think it's appropriate for me to choose what black women should or should not be offended by. Lots of white people been telling me what I need to do for black women though. 

Sorry, sisters. Ain't my place. Not if I ain't asked by black women. 

It's the same kind of shaming when I see whites shaming whites for wearing Day of the Dead makeup without asking if it offends me or my family. Before I decided to observe it, I asked some cousins, and they say it does not offend them if done reverently but I asked since they actively practice this and I am only beginning to learn about it. I'm tired of middle class whites deciding what's best for Hispanic or black or even poor hillbilly communities. 

You know what? Y'all who say I'm nuts for NOT being at rallies screaming at mentally unbalanced idiots ("Nazi's") you all can just either understand and tolerate why some of us resist in our own ways or you can unfriend me. I'm not violent (anymore) and I can't allow stress of an old reality (racism) shut down my ability to function. (It can in people with PTSD. Yeah, there's that, too. Ain't ashamed)

Won't you white people ask some black folks what they want from you before you go yelling at other people (also not in the black community) about what they should or should not be doing on behalf of the black community. I'm not black. I don't know how it feels to see white people doing what they do on my "behalf." I don't know for sure what the black community wants or needs. I do know what it feels like for outsiders (or urban-lachians) to come into my working class hometown and paint their ideas of Appalachia. usually they go for that "alternative narrative" (read: what they say Appalachia is with all the embarrassing realities taken out. Lol

But I digress. I don't know what black people want or need regarding statues or education or other issues and it ain't fitting for me to think I do just because I love my black friends. Not my place. Kind of condescending, too, I think. 

Here's what imma do.

Imma do my best to be an ally through educating college students about socioeconomics and race and gender and theory etc etc etc. Imma write blogs about my experiences in the world growing up in a different kind of marginalized culture. imma make some books with women's essays (women of all shades and nationalities) in them and let THEM women choose what they wanna say. (Soon to be published) And imma make my current art that is a large project about a woman's disease that *I* have. This may save lives and also save women's abilities to have babies...if I can raise awareness. And that's what imma do with my limited talents and abilities. I ain't trying to tear down a statue. I ain't telling nobody what they need. I ain't screaming at idiots or fist fighting or standing on a sidewalk only to make a point. I do what I know. I do it well. I resist my way. And I don't step on anybody's toes to do it. So, white Facebook warriors, get off my fb if yuh don't think my posts are angry enough. But buy my book of women's writing- you might read what THEY want you and the world to hear. 

If this enraged you, get off my Facebook. Better yet, get out of my life. You part of the problem. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Letter to My Lonely Artist Friends: What I Learned from Irene McKinney

(Voice text due to neck injury. Don't you judge my grammar/punctuation)

Dear artist friends, the ones who feel lonely sometimes, especially.

Today, I've been feeling less support from the crowd, feeling ignored by "friends" in the art world, feeling misunderstood. This makes me grumpy.

But before I fell too far down the rabbit hole of self-loathing and self-doubt, I reminded myself of lessons from a brilliant and kind mentor of mine, one I didn't know long enough, my late writing teacher and poet, Dr. Irene McKinney. When I think of things she taught me about writing, about being an artist, I remember I'm on the right road, even if my work ain't always popular, even when I'm met with disapproval or jealousy (or whatever no-fun thing).

Years ago, at her memorial service, a friend of hers gave a speech and said "Irene lived life by her own script- so much so, she could never be fucked with, not in any way that was meaningful." I really loved that about her. We all did.

She's often quoted as saying, "I’m a hillbilly, a woman, and a poet, and I understood early on that nobody was going to listen to anything I had to say anyway, so I might as well just say what I want to.

And she did. And her poetry was beautiful. Her personality broke the mold of the academic. She came from a farm. She didn't come from money or poets. She came from authentic, working-class, salt-of-the-earth people. And she stayed that way. And she rose to Poet Laureate of West Virginia, to a beloved teacher and friend. I'm not sure if she suffered a lot of criticism early in her career but I imagined she had her share like we all do. I do think I know how she'd handle it though. I want to share that with you.

It has been my own experience that people either love me passionately or hate me with as much vehemence. But they always, always have a strong reaction to my work (and me as a person). Approval gives an artist the warm fuzzies and disapproval feels, well, like disapproval. But I try to derive my worth as an artist in my honest pursuit of creation, not always the quality of each piece created. Each piece cannot possibly be great. That's impossible. I derive my pleasure from pulling my art from my higher self. I "honor" spirit in my work, I honor "the divine" as Irene told us to do. And that is what makes me un-fuckwithable.

Boy, do they REALLY hate me more when they hear me say that. It takes away the Power of the Haters. (I capitalized that because I just decided it should be an Official Thing)

Not everyone loved Waters Run Wild (a lot of people did) but my novel was honest, like my poetry. My novel included pieces of me. It wasn't bullshit. It wasn't what I thought people wanted to hear. I wasn't adhering to stereotypes of Appalachia OR actively battling those stereotypes.

I was writing from Real. I didn't shed myself. I didn't "gloss over the hard parts" as Irene told us once to NEVER do. "WRITE YOUR SHAME!" is the piece of her advice I really cling to. If you write your shame, your hard parts, how can they shame you if you've given it away? You've infused it into your work. It's no longer inside you.

I admit, sometimes, if someone suggests I'm a dumb hick or they dog my work, I retreat into a corner and rock myself to sleep while hot tears warm my cold, cold face.

Ha ha ha! Yeah, right.

But I admit, it ain't always easy to be Real because when you get criticized harshly, it's because of EXACTLY who you are, not some polished, bullshit image. This can be painful. This can feel lonely.

BUT if you live by your own script, put yourself and your art out there, then there's no "dirt" people can expose. No real harm they can cause you. What are they gonna do? Say they hate your book or your song or painting? And?

What is the worst thing that can happen?

Maybe somebody will say, "You're a jerk because your opinions are wrong!" Or "Damn, that was off key tonight!"

And the authentic person replies, "Yes, sometimes I am. I do. I mess up. I'm off-key. I pick the wrong word. I slip. I fall. So. I still spoke. I sang. I danced. I painted. I put it out there. And I'm not afraid of your mouth because your judgment is worthless since I accept my imperfections. I accept myself.

And so does Mr. Rogers.....and that's all Gen-xers really need, right?

The authentic person has no image to maintain. No shits to give. If you don't waste time giving these out, you'll have more ENERGY to focus on your art instead of your critics. (or your fans)

You know, critics--those people who spend their time trying to impress others instead of making real art. Those people who cultivate carefully crafted images instead of making down deep, from-the-gut art, the kind that BREAKS the dirt open and leaves a big, big mark. No one whoever broke ground gave a true, long-lasting damn about what other people thought-they were too busy with their hands in the mud and the clay in their nails and the ink on their shirts and the paint in their hair (Ok, *I* get paint in my hair but...nevermind).

My advice for the lonely artist? Like Irene said, you might as well just say what you want to. Don't gloss over the hard parts. Write your shame. 

Don't be ashamed of your hillbilly or your inner city or your trailer "trash" or your creole, your southern, your Asian, your black or brown, your pasty white body or black or red hair you came by honestly, your bold, your messy, your cracks-in-the-glass. Whatever it is you are. Put it out there, put it into your paint or songs or words, and you cannot be fucked with, not in any way that's meaningful. Not us, says me.

Thank you, Irene, for that, and the other words you gave us- those in poetry, in class, and in private conversation. They all meant, so, so much. When I forget myself, I remember you, and there I'm found again.

Monday, July 10, 2017

White Trash: My Acceptance Speech

Someone I barely know called me spoiled white trash last week. 

*tears welling in my eyes*

What. An. HONOR. It's been so much hard work earning this esteemed title. A life's work. I'd like to thank my family for raising me to burn *all* my shits to give before the age of 18. 

         Yeah, those are thermal underwear.
Yeah, I'm pulling them up my butt...because FUNNEH, is why!

I also want to thank Man, West Virginia, the southern coalfields in general, for surrounding me with accents so thick I couldn't shed mine even if I tried, and thanks to the city girls I met in college who called me Hilljack, hillbilly, and country bumpkin....and often looked at me like...

Usually only when I said "Shit fire!" or "Vieeny weenie"....or sometin like that...

Thank you so much, my classmates from NYC, New Jersey, Boston, and Philly in particular- for your frequent questions about my indoor plumbing and access to shoes- y'all encouraged me to hang onto exactly who I am just to piss you off. 

And BIG thanks to my friends from childhood- Kristi, Misty, the Conn girls- and all my mean as shit Ojeda cousins-without y'all training me in the art of stubborn smart ass, I would've given up being myself years ago. I couldn't have done it without you. And most of all I'd like to thank my producers, my agent, and The Academy, and God. I'm so humbled.

And Saint Dolly....Patron Saint of the Hilljacks and Hollers


God bless you all! *wipes tears*

And to my name-caller- please feel free to come over and kiss my pasty white derrière any time, night or day. I owe you that much at least.

Ain't she a beaut?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

My Name is Andi and I'm a part-time City Mouse

 (Pardon the bad grammar and spelling. I have to voice text this and do minimal editing)

I'm going to make fun of you City Mice, also you Country Mice. I live with a foot in both worlds, having been born and raised in the southern coalfields of West Virginia and then residing 20 years in the big West Virginia towns that like to think of themselves as cities So, I'm making fun of y'all, City Mice more, I guess. But I'm part of both worlds, ok? So, simmer the hell down. Let yourself laugh.

Be tough, y'all. Be tough as nails.

Like 10-year-old Andi....

10-year-old-Andi ain't skeered a' the likes a you

or...deer hunter Andi. Just imagine the cat is a deer, a dead one, I mean, like, that I killed. (well, I though it was hilarious at the time. Guess you had to be there)

You people just don't get my humor

I wrote this post because I watched this video making fun of us Hillbillies (posted below) and it got me thinking. I like the video. It's funny. And then I thought--waaaaaait a minute...


Here's the offensive video that features Logan County (My Back Home)

I laughed my ass off when I watched it.

Me liking that video is me being a GIANT hypocrite. Because it's OK for ME to laugh at us Country Mice, but if somebody ELSE makes fun of my home of West Virginia and more specifically Logan County, we gonna have words. Wait. Then I started thinking about how I am from the Country and I live in the City and how I still visit the Country al the time and what does it all mean!?!??!

And then the differences between those two worlds. One is language. Slanguage. Another is just everyday behavior, personal motivations, authenticity. (or not) Social norms.

Honestly, I don't know if City Mice say "have words" or know what it means but in rural Appalachia,us hillbillies, us Country Mice, do say, "have words."  People from urban parts of Appalachia are calling themselves Appalachian so I have to specify for accuracy. Urban West Virginians do not talk like us from the rural areas and coalfields. We are not the same and have a different vernacular. A totally different accent. A totally different, well, everything.

So, no more "Appalachian" word for Andi, since it no longer feels right to me. I'm just going to use the word Hillbilly. Or True Southern Smartass. Country Mouse.Or just Baby. My family has called me Baby my whole life. Hell with it. I'll go with that.

Anyway, "we're gonna have words." It means we're going to argue, more specifically, first imma mean mug ya, (give you dirty looks) then imma give ya down the road. (Tell you off) Sometimes people back home (and I still say) Maybe she'll cuss her till a fly won't light on her or rip her up one side and down the other. All of these typically are used to describe verbally attacking someone. If somebody makes fun of my state, particularly the rural parts, I may "get all Billy badass" or "get red on ya." Ha ha! Or if people want to get physical they might say "I'll stomp a mud hole in your ass" or maybe slightly less painful (?), "knock her ass into next week."
I'm never sure what City Mice (which includes our urban Appalachians) don't understand until someone urban tells me. My friend Lara, also a writer, who lives in (yes, all three places) New York, Cleveland, and Key West, sometimes will say "Mean mug?! What the hell does that mean!?" and we'll laugh about it. I forgive Lara her City Mousery. She is a City Mouse but she is my best friend. And an Honorary Hillbilly. I plan to knit her a shirt that says Honorary soon as I learn to knit.


I've learned so much from City Mice..... like how to be passive aggressive, (which I excel at) how to eat sushi (which I still suck at), how to be a terrible driver when it snows, (or just in general), how to order over-priced coffee, and also, how to do things like use public transportation, and lie to people's faces. That's such a major difference between rural and urban communities, this Country Mouse thinks.

Let me paint an example:

In the city, we have a fictional Elizabeth.  Elizabeth, 40, a very white suburban lady with a little bit of money to make her feel she's better than you but not quite enough money to give her reason to actually think this, despises Brooke, and she runs into Brooke at some boutique when looking for something overpriced status symbol to put on her person or carry. Elizabeth sees and hugs Brooke, saying, in that gawd awful high-pitched nasally white suburban lady voice "Well, I would LOVE to have over-priced coffee with you later this week, Brooke! We can even purchase status symbols together! Call me!"

In that scenario, Brooke has no intention on having overpriced coffee with Elizabeth. She hates Elizabeth BUT Elizabeth hates Brooke. Something to do with who hosted the Christmas party one year  for the women's club and bought the cheapest table cloths available instead of the nice ones but couldn't explain where the rest of the budget went. (She has a bit of a Xanax and Bourbon habit...)

Brooke and Elizabeth are awful people. Awful. Not in an evil kind of awful, but more like a blissfully- contributing-to-the-moral-decay-of-society kind of awful.

Saint Dolly pray for them, for they know not what they do

Where I've lived the past 20 years SURE has been urban compared to my coalfields. People here are pretty friendly and I like it here very much. The artist community is great.

BUT I do have to say hillbillies are way more authentic than many of the more pretentious City Mice. I don't blame the City Mice. I love the City Mice. There  are so many socioeconomic circumstances that make their way of life the way it is just like ours makes ours the way it is. (Or was, for me when I was still living in the Country)

When I'm here in the "city,"  I run around in red heels and polkadot dresses and read poetry about sexual assault and angry vaginas and nobody bats an eye. It's great. I can be expressive artistically and as eccentric as I want to be and I'm still accepted (ok, in the communities I care about, that is)

But When I'm back home in the coalfields,  I often go without make up and rarely wear heels and my accent switches from slightly softer back to thick as molasses in January. (Not on purpose. It's a thing called "code switching" that's involuntary)  I'm very comfortable in both places.

But there is a certain amount of freedom that comes with coalfield living, freedom with everyone knowing exactly who you are and who your family is. They know if they can trust you or not. They know if you're a good person. And you don't have to be full of shit or have lots of status symbols to convince them. If you're an asshole, they already know, anyway.

         These are not assholes. This is me and my sister-in-law and two of her babies. My family. The opposite of assholes.

Somewhere in Man, WV conversations like this are taking place RIGHT NOW:

"Hey, that's Kelly in that picture! Who'd she marry?"
"She married that Fekete boy."
"Oh, I know them, I think."
"Yeah, you do. You dated his brother in High School"
"The brother that owns that place or the brother that drives the bus?"
"He owns the Depot? Oh, that's where Tim stayed when he come in for Christmas from South Carolina. Ok! He said they was a real good family."


Back story unnecessary, which is nice! And also terrible sometimes. Because sometimes it's nice to live in a bigger place. Then, when you lose your job, you can lose your mind one night and go to Wal-Mart shit-railed drunk in your pajamas at 3 AM and not worry about who sees ya. Right?

I wish I had a picture for that image.

If I'm Back Home, there's no backstory I have to explain. There's no need to try to convince anyone of anything. They know it. There's no pressure to have utility in other peoples lives – people Back Home like being around you because they think you're funny or they like your smile or your voice -  or maybe they just know your mama and want to talk about her and how she made  all the women that worked in the cafeteria cackle when she was still alive.

Or maybe they don't want to talk about anything at all. And you stand on their porch and have a 45 minute conversation about Christmas decorations.  (When you were just there to deliver the paper)

 Or you end up with an in-depth talk about the neighborhood stray cats being in heat and how you think maybe somebody ought to call the pound.

 Or cake. And how to get it to be fluffier how Missy's are down there at the Baptist Church at all the fundraisers.

 Or who wrecked her car last week or who cheated on her husband or who flunked out of night school or who had a baby by somebody that wasn't supposed to be with to begin with.

I can hear it now, "I ain't one to talk about nobody...but she's a mess. Lord. Bless her heart."

 And by the way city mice, sometimes we say bless her heart and mean it. And sometimes it means what a dumb ass. God lover her, cause nobody else does.

More urban areas seem to have a larger segment of people who only like you when you have utility for them. But of course! There's more class-climbing to do and more money to be had in urban areas. In the coalfields, neighbors have to take care of one another. Nobody gonna make you meatloaf when you have a funeral in the family or help you bury your dog if you're an asshole, now will they!

Everyone is blue collar working class just about.  Since the communities operate on Mutual Reciprocity. it means that everybody pretty much has to be good to everybody. Sometimes that means telling someone what you really think of them. Sometimes that means swearing somebody off for good. Usually it means civility but without ass-kissing.

I'm still not comfortable with the Elizabeth's and Brooke's of the city. Taxis are great and I love Starbucks and all the other places like it. But YES still means yes in this Country Mouse's world.

Country Mice, tolerate the Elizabeth's. Just pray to Saint Dolly for strength. City Mice, when you go down south to the coalfields, don't be fake. Invite somebody to coffee. And actually go. You might make a new friend!

 (But leave Elizabeth at home. Everybody in TOWN know that bitch is ratchet)

      Guess which photo below was taken Back Home by my Country Mouse niece, Taryn?
     My name is Andi, and I'm a part-time City Mouse


Sunday, June 18, 2017

It's All Your Fault, Dad: Thinking of You on Father's Day

As always, this is voice text due to problems with pain. Therefore, forgive the crappy grammar. Also, forgive anything else I can blame on it, pleasenthanks. Difficult to edit this way.

I used to blame my parents for a lot of things. Right now, for Father's Day, I want to talk about the things I blame my dad for.

(Pause for mom and dad to say, oh lord, here we go)
This is all positive.  No worries, Mom and Dad. Look, see? I even put a happy photo here!

   I'm the one smiling. Had to point it out since you can't tell which one of us is a boy.

Little girls swam without shirts in the 1980s, at least back on Buffalo Creek, we did. Anyway, I'm an "old spinster." Yep. I'm almost 40 and never married. While I know the more higher education a woman has the more likely she is to remain single, (oooh, I got a bunch and I') I now realize that isn't the entire reason I turned down all my 456,987 marriage proposals.

Wrong. Just 3. (but who keeps track). I'm so funneh! To me. Mostly to me.

I used to wonder exactly why I never settled down, wondered why every guy disappointed me in the end. Was I choosing bad guys because my parents weren't good enough? Because they screwed me up in the head how all parents screw up their children?

Like all young people who have spent 5 minutes in therapy, in my early 20s, I happily learned to blame my dad for my choosing to go out with "the wrong" guys. Mom was, of course, to blame for everything else. EVERYTHING. You're welcome, Mom.

Also, every. thing.

My parents aren't perfect, duh, so I thought, of course anything shitty I've done is completely their fault! Man, makes growing up to be kind of not perfect way easier to accept, huh, if it isn't your fault, right?

Now that I'm an adult, er, at least on paper, I realize I never settled down for very long because I grew up with this particular image of what men should be. It's kind of unrealistic. Mostly. It's mostly unrealistic.

How does a person meet anyone who could ever measure up to her idea of what a man should be if she has been raised around only the highest quality men? Imperfect men. Flawed, of course, like all of us. But good men. Men with honor and purpose. Dignity. Smarts. Men made of durable and quality fabric--the men in my family certainly are made of just that. Not just my dad, but my cousins, uncles, and my brother. Now, I also have an honorable, high-quality man-in-the-making teenage nephew. Good men raise good men, apparently. 

I have another post I haven't yet finished about my extended family. Stay tuned. But I digress...

I've always cared so much about Dad's opinion. He may not know this, especially after all the yelling and blaming and shit he's had to put up from me my entire life. AND I'm an author, so I'm really, really good with words.

You're welcome, Dad.

Kids grow up and do that to their parents, blame them. I'm sure it wasn't in the "What the Expect When Expecting" book. Pffft! Wait a second, I was born in 1978, nobody read manuals like that back then. It was sort of learn-as-you-go style of parenting.

                            Monsters, lady. You can expect little monsters...

How I still have brains in my head after all the helmet and seatbelt-less activities I did as a girl, I'll NEVER know.

Back to my point. Dad. I didn't realize how great my dad was until I hit maybe 30. Maybe I was immature until then (riiight, as if that's changed much). Maybe that was normal. Or maybe I'm dull because of all the aforementioned helmet-less stuff. I was a badass on roller skates...

....outdoors. On asphalt. On dirt. Downhill.

Ok, maybe he wasn't THAT responsible of a dad. (I'm kidding. Mostly)

Dad was always respected by everyone. Still is. ANYBODY with any sense who knows Dad cares about his opinion because he's a stellar person, a rarity these days, especially in my state of West Virginia where SO many have fallen into drugs and deadbeat fathers are in abundance. The fact that my dad is a successful businessman and has been a strong leader in the community, is very impressive considering he was a camp kid raised up a holler in the hills of West Virginia. (like his daughter)

Coming from where we were raised, becoming someone so intelligent with so many talents is VERY difficult. Urban children in decent urban areas had (and have) advantages people from my creek could never dream of. But here he is, a successful businessman, self-taught craftsman, and a natural leader. Smart as a tack, too. He doesn't lose his temper, even faced with a complete idiot who can't hold his tongue. Which is more than I can claim about myself. Ask the last idiot I ran into. (wheeee!) Again, I'm joking. (mostly)

His word is completely his bond. He is responsible and dependable. He's honest. He became all of these things even being raised in a coal camp, a neighborhood of four-room houses (many with no plumbing). Getting soda or a new toy was a major treat when he was a kid, never mind having more than one coat or pair of shoes, never mind having lots of books.

Dad was kind of a bad ass. Look at him standing around with some of my uncles. They were all badasses. (Ok, they thought so least in this picture they appear to have thought so)

                         Dad is pictured here in the sweater vest

My God, that is a sweater vest. Well, nobody's perfect.

Dad was a coal miner for years. He had a wife and two children and managed to drive to classes at Marshall University in the meantime. Marshall is 2 1/2 hours away from our camp, I might add. He earned a BA and became an RN as well. He would serve as a beloved union leader throughout my childhood and later go into business for himself with help only from my mom.

Without many advantages, he became successful and a good person, even while people with all the advantages in the world turn out amounting to shit. He can hold his own in conversation with the most educated and he can get along with just about anybody else, too. He isn't quick to judge, something I'm still trying to master. 

Dad always did what he had to do in life to care for his family but he sought his dreams, too, in spite of whatever obstacles. I will never forget when I was a kid and I found 100 books in the attic all about building and plumbing and wiring a home, and some blueprints. The list of things he has taught himself is long. If he wanted to know how to do it, he learned. You can kind of see where my high standards come from. I was raised thinking men should be like all the ones in my family. I expected a lot. 

When a healthy man complains about working 8 hours because he doesn't think he gets paid enough for sitting in an air-conditioned environment typing on a computer, (aaand his job is a 10 minute drive and adjacent to Starbucks), I'm not really sympathetic. When a talented, healthy, intelligent man won't get off his ass and make his dreams come true but bellyaches about oppression or how hard his pampered life is, I'm not sympathetic. When a man isn't honest when no one is looking, he has no integrity and integrity is what matters to me. If a man won't stand up for his family or community, he has no honor. And dependability. A man has to have that.

In college, I always knew that if something went wrong that Mom couldn't help with, I could call Dad. I did. Well, because, most of my life, there was nobody as dependable as my dad.

I call and ask about car trouble, apartment trouble, job trouble, health trouble, people trouble… come to think of it, almost everything kind of trouble. And I've seen my brother becoming the kind of man his family calls, too.

Me and my brother Johnny, learned from him that any problem can be solved by making a plan and there's almost always a solution to every problem, but if the crap situation is the one time out of 1 million problems to which there is no solution, we are strong enough to tolerate whatever, because we come from good, strong men. People have complimented me my entire life about my strength. It was gifted me.

My curse of having high standards began young. If Dad was disappointed in us, it was the WORST thing in the world. Dreaded words: "I'm really disappointed in you, kids."

                         Boooo. Can't Mom just whip me instead?

He was a man of few words, and so when he said anything you really paid attention.  I grew up in an old coal company owned neighborhood we still refer to as a "camp" although the mines no longer own it. We were all called "camp kids." Anyway, the camp kids cared if they disappointed Dad, too.

I remember when one kid stole some fishing gear and Dad gave him a good talking to. That boy had tearful eyes after. He was a "little shit" as people on Buffalo Creek called kids who were constantly in trouble. (Ok, sometimes we all got called that) This specific little shit did not care at all what his mother said or what the teachers at school did but was bothered deeply by Dad calmly expressing his disappointment.  I saw that kid's face after he talked with Dad and it was the only time I ever felt sorry for that brat. Ever. 

Being an adult whose dad is highly respected in his community and family gives you high standards for the people around you, gives you higher standards for yourself. But being a 10 year old who sees her dad respected by even the meanest of "meaner'n snakes" camp boys was probably where my impossible standards were truly born.

Then, dear Lord, Mom just had to come from a family of nothing but honorable men who  also raise honorable children. Talk about making dating difficult for me, y'all. Gawd.

But I'm glad I never settled. For one, living alone most of my life gave me lots of time to write and accomplish things that mean the world to me, like spending lots of time undermining my brother's authority with his three children who I love dearly (I don't really undermine him...much) and writing, also singing and doing a million other things that have been amazing and fulfilling (and some things that turned out to be worthwhile mistakes).

Thanks to my extremely high standards, I've had LOTS of free time to not get married and thusly, figure out who I am and to figure out how to care for others, to nurture children that aren't even mine who needed me at different times in their lives (I don't just mean family). Etc. etc.

If you ask my partner, the one who finally suits, who finally measures up (almost all the time) he'll tell you I tried to run him off for quite a while because I was SURE he HAD to be full of crap. (Re: too good to me to be true)

But he won, finally, after much trouble. Poor guy, bless his heart.

It only took dating boys since I was 15 until 38 years old to find this unicorn of a person (but that's another essay, too)

I finally have some good friends in my life, too. Good, high-quality folks. Three children who aren't mine but who I'm grateful I had all this time for.

And finally, after all these years of being completely mistaken, I am correct in saying, I'm a really happy person and Dad, it's all your fault.

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Love, your youngest, whom y'all still refer to as, 


Monday, June 12, 2017

Nipples Don't Need Freed: Women and Girls Do

(First, ain't nobody got perfect grammar in here, specifically people who have to use their voice to write blogposts on their Iphones. So, get over it Grammar Psycho)

On the "Free the Nipple" march. 

I have some free unsolicited (you're welcome) advice- instead of marching and/or gathering to "free the nipple" (you're gonna see some boobs if you attend) out of some misguided idea that walking around with your boobs hanging out while demanding people not sexualize your boobs (thinking it will end sexual assault or somehow make people look at your boobs as a non-sexual body part,) go DO something actually constructive with your time. 

Women and girls need you. 

Your nipples are fine. Sorry. I didn't mean "fiiiine", I meant they're not under some kind of threat just by being covered by your shirt.

Why, instead of helping their local community in a Real Way, are "feminists" standing around with a bunch of like minds congratulating themselves for being so creative in coming up with yet another non-issue to "tackle"? I will tell you why. Because today's fighters for equal rights are out of touch with Real Work for the highest good of all. And they don't really want to do the Work, even if they are old enough to know what that work is.

Unlike back in the day of sane feminist leaders, "feminism" today (I don't use that word no mo') isn't focused on making martial rape illegal or earning us the right to vote or getting us into college for an education equal to that of men or giving us the legal right to sue a boss who says he'll fire you if you don't screw him. 

Those were Real Issues. That shit was worth fighting for and our grandmamas and our mamas did just that. They fought hard and won, handed us a bright torch and we..... 

...stayed home from work one day to make a point. (Which po' women can't do) Put on pink "pussy hats." (Which just keep your head warm) Stood around with signs. (Which. Yeah; he's still president) We even put Ashley Judd on a stage and let her spit her righteous indignation at women and men who already rabidly agree with her. 

We wear ALL the t-shirts. We got ALL the cool bumper stickers. (Don't forget your jacket button!) and we got refrigerator magnets with cool quotes from famous women. but now? Now, we are really working hard! We are coming to a street near you and showing our tits to end the sexualization of tits. 

Um. *scratches head* Huh?

Way to go, new generation.

*slow clap*

Today "feminism" is sexy. It's trendy. It's very, very WHITE, middle-class-self-serving soft-core feminism, a feel-good "movement" where we don't move shit but our OWN emotions. These events make us FEEL like we are changing lives of women and girls by sitting out on work that day or marching with our tits hanging out. 

It's exciting. I get it. Carrying signs and wearing hats and letting your boobs hang out can be exciting and feel really in your face.

Sorry about the pun. It just came.....OUT.

Ha! (Oh, laws a mighty somebody stop me)

While you are walking through the street with your boobs hanging out, there are kids (mostly girls) being sexually molested by their family members. We have too few CPS workers and the ones we do have are far overburdened and so kids don't get rescued. But to solve this weeeee.....what do we do? We walk by their houses with our boobs out. These kids live on every street. Our self-serving parades help them NADA. 

How about instead of protesting the illegality of showing your nipples, an "issue" only privileged women give a shit about, why not go raise money for a domestic violence shelter or donate items? Maybe go volunteer at a rape crisis center? Hell, BUILD a rape crisis center. Go become a CPS worker. Start a program for School teachers that will help them recognize children who are being abused at home and put in place a protocol for teachers to follow if they have suspicions? Come up with an idea for a law to help assault victims and suggest it to your legislators. Maybe tackle the problem of insensitivity to victims of rape in the judicial system and even hospitals. Start a program for at-risk kids who need extra help at school. AND, start that program in the BIGGEST SHIT hole neighborhood you can find. Many of these ideas are already in place. Sometimes they aren't as refined as they need to be. Often, they aren't perfected. Go help make the work mama and grandmama did more perfect. Go do NEW work, too.

Maybe go write a book like bell hooks or start a magazine like Gloria Steinem. Maybe do something, anything TANGIBLE to lend a hand to women and girls affected by REAL issues. Hell, you can even write a bitchy Blogpost like this one, urging women to ACT now to help underprivileged women and girls get a better education, to ACT to help end sexual violence in homes and at school. Maybe you can convince your school district to offer a sex ed for boys (and girls!) where teachers talk about rape. Maybe "normalizing" (y'all's word) talking about sexual assault will offer Real Results? 

And while you're at it, accept the fact that other people will always sexualize other people. Men and women. Gay and straight. Trans or not. It's a thing. In every culture. And just because it's a thing and boobs are parts that men (and women) really like, does not make it inherently bad or sexist. It makes us sexual creatures looking for visual aids. 

I NEVER imagined I would, 20 years after beginning my involvement in equal rights, be looking at the very people whose ideas I used to support and shaking my head because their ideas are useless, impractical, and completely ridiculous. I never thought I would be embarrassed because the Real Movement our mamas and grandmamas started would be turned into this parade of self-aggrandizement by my misguided, undereducated generation. Sigh.

The advice part?

Take that pink "pussy hat" off, put your tits away, put the sign down, and go buy 25 boxes of tampons for the domestic violence shelter, while you're at it, drop off a coat for a homeless woman. Buy her some coffee.

They sleep all over the city.

The nipples ain't what needs freed. WE are.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dear Reckless Driver Barbie

Dear (unhinged) Reckless Driver Barbie: You may remember me. I may or may not be the only person you nearly hit with your car last week. (This is in West Virginia, in case you're one of those traveling acts)

But I'm the one you nearly hit with your two tons of steel, then cussed until a fly wouldn't light on her. (As we say down in southern WV) Well, you need to sit down and listen to a gown-up before you hurt your traffic-law-ignorant, big-mouth, bullet-proof self. Listen here.

After you failed to yield and I slammed the brakes to avoid your hitting me, you rolled down your window and went on a pretty spectacular tirade. I tried to gently respond to you so you'd calm down. Never escalate Crazy is my rule. Treat Crazy like Sane and you may come away without bullet holes, I always say. Who knows if Reckless Driver Barbie is packin', right? Accessories sold separately but still, you never know. First lesson, stupid young'n, cussing a stranger is serious danger. 

You don't know it but you're LUCKY I'm who you nearly hit. Me? I'm the person who picks moths out of mud holes so they don't drown. I can think of half a dozen psycho hillbilly bullies I grew up with would've been tickled to have an excuse to drown YOU in a mud hole had you cussed them. HORRIBLE  things could've resulted from your ridiculous behavior had I been the type who carries a weapon and goes around looking for a fight. You can't act that way. You're going to get killed or best case scenario, get your ass beat.

I didn't even yell at you, though you deserved it. How did I keep my cool?

Second lesson. Calm the F down by thinking about someone besides yourself. I was getting angry. Really angry. I was in a lot of physical pain that day, (a solid 8). So, to stay cool, which is what smart people who like to keep out of trouble do, I told myself, maybe you were having too bad a day to be kind. Maybe your mother just died and you were leaving the nearby hospital. Maybe you just found out your child has cancer. Maybe your fiancé was killed. Maybe you're actually a good person having a momentary lapse in judgment because your life is riddled with unsolvable problems right now. (Those exist) We all have lapses. (And some unsolvable problems) It's a rule. Being wrong sometimes is also a rule.

Lesson three. Do NOT presume you are correct. All of us are wrong sometimes.

For example, I am not a "stupid fucking bitch" and you DID have to yield to me. I even went home and googled, double-checking traffic laws to make 100% sure I was correct (and I am). There ain't no way to learn a damn thing in this world if you never consider the possibility you're wrong. (Even when you know you're right)

You looked like one of my Freshman students, so you're getting the student treatment. I wanted to talk to you and teach you these lessons. (I can't help it. It's a problem) But you were too loud to hear me. I feel sorry for your boyfriend if he ever pisses you off. 

He's probably the poor guy in your passenger seat. Bless his probably at the-end-of-his-rope little heart. I hope he corrected your knowledge of intersections so you don't do similarly in the future. I hope he took time (before he dumped you) to teach you the first two lessons, too.

Also, if he forgot to suggest it--join a metal band. Seriously. 

Your voice reached such decibels that I'm sure every elementary school kid within a ten-block radius now not only knows the words "fuck" and "bitch" but can put them in a sentence. Effectively.