Category Archives: Writing

I Didn’t Know it was rape

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I pulled into the parking lot and waited on him to arrive. He was old enough to buy beer, so I’d asked him to meet me and get me some. I was upset. My boyfriend had broken up with me, and at 17, I thought that that merited a drunk night.

“Why don’t you ride with me?” he asked as I went to grab the beer. “I’ll drive while you drink.”

I didn’t want to get a DUI, so I agreed. He was a friend of my boyfriend, so I thought that it would be fine. I hopped in his truck, grabbed a can, and popped it open. He was listening to some sad country music, so I turned the dial to find something more upbeat.

As the alcohol started kicking in, I loosened up and started dancing to the music. I remember glimpses of his Pepsi can fading in and out, and I remember offering him a beer. He refused and said that he needed to drive.

I was passed out when we pulled up to his house. He grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the truck. I mumbled something about what we were doing, but I just remember him pulling me into darkness. Flashes of his sand-paper skin thrashing against me. Waking up to the smell of cigarette smoke.

The next day I got a call from the ex-boyfriend. “You fucking whore. You fucked my best friend?”

I didn’t know what to say. I had.

Afterwords, when he came around, I was still polite. The boyfriend had taken me back, made me pay for my whorish behavior. They were still friends. He came to our house.

Years later, I read a similar story, but the woman was accusing the man of rape. I did not know that this was a possibility. I thought it was my fault. I got into his truck. I drank the beer. I didn’t say no.

Then I replaced myself with someone else in the scenario. What if it had been my daughter? Would I have still felt like it was her fault? No. If she was not in her right mind, she could not consent. Why did I feel so differently when it came to myself? Was it because my boyfriend told me that it was my fault? Was it because no one talked about rape in my town? Was it because women are held responsible for what men do to their bodies?

What if I had gotten pregnant? Did I have the ability to ask him to wear protection? No.

What if I had gotten a disease? Did I have the ability to make sure he wore protection? No.

I physically survived unscathed thankfully. Unfortunately, the mental and emotional scars are deep. I hated myself. I probably made decisions based on this hate. I still feel responsible. I have lost many nights of sleep wishing that I could go back to that night and not get into that truck. I cannot even express the damage that this does to a person. I probably missed opportunities to improve my life because I did not feel that I was worthy. I still battle with my confidence. I also have issues with my body. I want to look nice, but I don’t want to attract the wrong attention. I am not strong in my skin. I have been weakened. It takes a lot to fight. It takes a lot to speak. I could not even name his name in this story because I am still ashamed.

Unsung Hero

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Unsung Hero

This weekend I was awoken by the dreadful sound of a cellphone ringing at 3:30 in the morning. You know those calls…they’re never good. My heart stopped as I jumped out of bed to retrieve it. It was my stepson calling my wife. First of all, our story is complicated, as many people know. We joke about it because of the stereotypical nature of us being from the South–implicit jokes about inbreeding and such nonsense. But, the truth is that we are just two souls linked together in unusual circumstances. We are a blended family. My stepson is also my wife’s stepson, but she raised him like her real son. So, he has basically become our son. At first, he was reluctant to cross over into my dark side of culture. I was an alien with my record player blaring anything from Louis Armstrong to David Bowie and my sauteed vegetables and my refusal to fry anything. It took us both a while to adjust to each other, but now he is family. So, when he called to say he’d been in a wreck, I too jumped up, dressed, and tried to suppress my fear.

I was scared not only for his safety, but my wife’s as well. I know how deeply she cares for him. She never actually birthed any children, but she’s mothered two and is now mothering my two as well. She tells me all the time that she doesn’t have the mother thing, but she just doesn’t realize that she does. Perhaps she has the mother thing more than most birth mothers. She shows it in her unwavering commitment to her children. As much as she wants to be free from the worries, responsibilities, and headaches that come along with mothering, she can’t. The mother thing inside her won’t allow it. She loves her son as if he was her own. She pushed him through high school even though it killed her to fight with him. She just wanted what was best for his future. She bought him a truck even though she was struggling financially at the time. She wanted to teach him responsibility and pride of ownership. She is plain out rude to the girls that he brings home who don’t deserve him. She just wants to make sure he finds a good relationship. She forced him to become responsible and get his own place. She just wanted him to be independent for when she can no longer help him. I’ve watched them fight, and at times that I would have given up, I’ve watched her persevere out of love. Now, I think he is finally seeing what she has done.

When we got to him, it was a relief to see that he was okay. He would be in pain, but he would recover. His truck, not so much, but material things can be replaced. We took him home, and she was the one who helped him when he felt that he could not take the pain. She was the one who insisted he go to the hospital. It wasn’t convenient. It would have been easier to let someone else take him, but she wouldn’t have let that happen.

People like to share their opinions on lesbians having kids. They like to say that kids need a traditional family. They say that kids need a mother and a father. I’ve seen those traditional families. Sometimes they are fantastic. Sometimes, however, they are not so great. I’ve seen the mothers who become addicted to pills because their husbands are abusive. Neither of those parents are good for the kids. I’ve seen the fathers who work 40 hours a week and then complain that they are too tired to spend time with their kids. I’ve seen the mothers who do the same.

People also like to say that kids raised in a homosexual household will end up becoming homosexuals. Homosexuality is biological. Scientists and researchers have proven this time and time again. No one can make anyone gay. Our sons are great examples of this. Both of them like women. And, they have an advantage by being raised by two women: they will know how to treat women.

My wife is an unsung hero to the children that she did not birth. She is the one who makes sure they are taken care of. She is the one who will be there when others walk away. She is the one who will fight for them. She is the one who will sing happy birthday with her guitar even though she can’t play or carry a tune. She is the one who will push them to be better students and parents and lovers and friends and people. And, because they know this, she is the one they will call when they need someone.

Divorce Sucks but the Results Are Great

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Divorce Sucks but the Results Are Great

I stayed in a marriage for too long because of the frightening process of divorce. I had kids, so I was scared to hurt them. I was a woman, so I was scared to be financially screwed. However, as I was writing my book this morning, I realized that I focused a lot on the process and not the product. Most of the time, the process is more important than the product, but not in divorce. The product of divorce is freedom! Nearly nothing is better than freedom. I wish that the many times I had attempted to end my marriage I could have seen the freedom. I would have pushed through all the bullshit sooner so I could quit wasting my time.

I talk a lot about divorce in my book because it was a major turning point in my life. I was a different person before I got a divorce because I was trapped in a bad situation. Being free has allowed me to change in so many ways for the better. My health has improved, my financial situation has actually improved, and my confidence has improved. I am following my dreams (cheesy, yes, but true!) because I am no longer held back by a negative view of life. Divorce sucked. People got hurt; money was blown; things changed. But, at the end of the day, these struggles were invaluable learning experiences. And, the light at the end of the tunnel is amazing. It was truly worth it.

I am in the editing process of writing, so, fingers crossed, the book will be out soon. I’m self publishing for the first time and am super nervous and excited about it. I will be writing about the process as well. The book is going to be called, Evolving Through Bullshit. Maybe you’ll try it out.

Struggles Teach Us Something. Listen to Them.

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I was forced out of bed this morning by thoughts of writing. It’s amazing how passion can make us do things. As I was proofreading the second chapter, I decided to share my thoughts on struggle. I have struggled for years, no, decades, with wanting to write, but I have never followed through. I actually finished a book last year, but have not touched it sense. This struggle is one of self-doubt. However, as you’ll find in my book, I do not believe that we struggle for no reason. Our bodies physically try to protect us, so they get confused by our fears. When we fear something, the body turns away from it as a means of protection. Unfortunately, these fears are often irrational and reinforced by a false sense of security. My fear of writing is that I won’t be good enough. It is that someone will read it and think I’m stupid. Or, no one will read it. Why do we fear these things? Because we have struggled with something similar. Someone somewhere has put these thoughts in our heads, whether it is social media, television, friends, enemies, family…But, a cool thing can happen when you realize that this struggle was just meant to be a lesson, not a debilitating reality. This struggle was meant to prepare you for the possibility of rejection. But, this struggle is not permanent. No struggle is. That’s why it’s a struggle. It’s hard, you push through it, and you’re better on the other side. You can appreciate it more. With me, I’ve learned that I don’t care if I’m rejected. I have been there. I don’t care if someone thinks I’m stupid; I know plenty of stupid people. What I care about is finding my voice and letting it out. It’s been screaming at me for decades inside my head. It needs out. SO, if you are struggling with something, take a good step back and try to see what the lesson is within the struggle. Then, push past it. Get on the other side and remember it for future struggles may come, but they too can be lessons rather than realities. Happy Wednesday!

No More Bullshit?

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I’ve finally decided to jump in to my dream of writing and stick with it. I’ve always had a writing project in the works, but I’ve never felt so passionate about it as I do this new one. So, I’m going to share some of it with my audience in hopes of finding encouragement to keep up the momentum. I’m 20,000 words in, so I feel pretty confident about it. If you have any opinions, please share.

I’m still playing around with a title, but I like No More Bullshit: Life Lessons because it encompasses the premise of the book, which is ultimately about the changes I’ve made in my life after becoming more enlightened. The book also contains my real voice, which is a potty mouth accompanying my Southern accent and intellectualism. I want people to be aware that this is supposed to be a humorous look at the experiences that prompted me to change. It is not faith-based although I do incorporate some spirituality that has helped me, so I do not want the wrong audience to pick up the book and be offended.

So, if you have any feedback, I’d really appreciate it. Feel free to comment.

Sexual Harassment Training

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As a consultant, I identify problem areas, research best practices, put my own spin on these practices, and conduct training. With sexual harassment, it’s personal. I have been a victim of sexual harassment all too often. Unfortunately, the online training and video training that I have always been required to participate in has not helped me in any way know how to actually handle sexual harassment in the workplace.

What happens to organizations when sexual harassment training fails?

  • They are at risk of a lawsuit
    • Lawsuits are expensive, duh
    • Lawsuits are time-consuming
    • Lawsuits can be detrimental to an organization’s reputation
  • A hostile work environment is created
    • Even if there is no lawsuit, problems are still created
    • Employees need to feel safe and protected by the organization
    • When employees do not feel safe, they lose their loyalty, their enthusiasm, and their confidence in the organization

The misconception that you are safe if you are not involved is being torn down. If you are a leader and you do not practice due care to prevent sexual harassment, you can be held responsible for someone else’s actions. Look at Penn State. Leaders who had nothing to do with the charges are responsible for the lack of handling the situation.

It’s time to be pro-active and get proper training!

WHY CHOOSE ME?

I understand sexual harassment from the inside. I know that it is not easy to deal with sexual harassment at a job that you have worked hard to obtain. I know that people get backed into corners and file lawsuits out of desperation. But, I believe that lawsuits are not the answer. They do not help the situation. I want to help both victims and organizations avoid lawsuits and end sexual harassment. What has been done is not working, so it’s time to try something new.

My sessions will not only cover the legal and organizational needs, but they will also help to develop stronger employees. I have researched the problems with current training and developed solutions for better training. The sessions are fun and interactive, which means that they will last. I will continue to provide assistance as needed even after training.

OSHA says that online/video training is not sufficient for sexual harassment training. What does this mean? That if this is the only method of sexual harassment training an organization employs, and there is a sexual harassment incident at that organization, the organization can be held liable for not having proper training.

FOR VICTIMS:

Everyone knows what sexual harassment is, and everyone knows that it is illegal. However, you may not know how to deal with sexual harassment when dealing with it threatens your career and your livelihood. You are not alone in this.

For information on how to book my services go to my website: julietsmilesconsulting

 

Why I Will Continue to Support Black Lives Matter Even Though I’m White

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First ofblack-lives-matter all, I shouldn’t have to write “even though I’m white,” but I feel that it is necessary because I’m hoping that this will reach at least one white person who doesn’t think it’s okay to support the Black Lives Matter movement as if it will harm their white privilege in some way. Secondly, I will attempt to refrain my anger and sarcasm as much as possible, but I can’t make any promises. These are my disclaimers.

As a teacher, I have witnessed many forms of oppression in our society, especially against black people. I see that the public school system reinforces many of this oppression. What do I mean? Let’s look at desegregation. When black children were finally allowed to attend “white” schools, how much did the schools change to include their culture? Did the history books change to include positive attributes made by black people? No. Did literature books change to include a fair amount of black writers? No. The only thing that changed was that they were allowed to attend. When I look back on my education, I think about how much I did not know about black people as a child. I didn’t have the pleasure of reading Toni Morrison,  Langston Hughes, Eudora Welty, Richard Wright, etc. All that I was exposed to was the “norm.” So, looking at this from the perspective of a black child (if I may venture to do so), what would this tell me about my race? As a white child of a racist mother, I learned that white was normal, good, accepted. I was taught that black boys were rapists and violent. I was taught that black women were bitches. And, I was taught that all black people were stupid and did not belong in our society. My mother would say that she wished that black people would be sent back to Africa. I want to add here that I have long since departed from these teachings, but I’m afraid that many people still have this mentality. So, in 2016, has the public school system changed? No. They simply added a month to celebrate Black History–the shortest month of the year. Yes, they have included more black people in history and literature, but the narrative is ultimately the same. EXCLUSION OF BLACK PEOPLE BEGINS IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.

As a college English teacher, I emphasize the fact that we are all basically bilingual. When I’m at home, I sometimes say things like, “He done started something,” or “She gone get in trouble.” This is our dialect. I know that it is technically incorrect, but I do not dismiss dialect because it brings richness, culture and identity to people’s voices. My black students are not used to this. They are not used to their speech being accepted as a language. They look at me like I’m an alien. EXCLUSION OF BLACK PEOPLE CONTINUES THROUGHOUT HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE.

Don’t get me wrong, black people are strong. I admire them for their perseverance. They have made tremendous strides considering the lack of acceptance in our society. They don’t need my support. It’s the white people who need to know that it’s okay to support them.

In fact, white people could benefit majorly from true inclusion. Look at the school system again. Now tests are the ultimate basis of knowledge. If a student doesn’t pass the test, the student is judged, the teacher is judged, the school is judged. The problem with this is that not all student knowledge can be measured by a test. And, ultimately the tests do not reflect the differences in race. This is a difficult subject because it may sound bad, but hear me out. When black people were allowed to attend white schools, they had basically no education besides the little bit that other black people could teach them. They were not up to white people’s “standards.” So, instead of changing the system and letting the black students catch up, they just kept going in hopes that they would give up. Then, legislature is passed that says that all schools must be performing. These black students who couldn’t catch up were hurting the numbers. What happens? They lower the standards. Now middle and lower class white students are also suffering. And, this is pretty much where the education system is today.

Also, some black people did give up. They recognized that they couldn’t survive this system. This system NEVER really let them in. So, what do they do? Turn to ways to survive that don’t include getting an education.

Another form of oppression is the welfare system. The welfare system was set up initially to help people get back on their feet after the Great Depression. Now, it reinforces a cycle of slavery to poverty. I once overheard a conversation among a couple of black seventh graders (ages 13-14). They were talking about naming their babies. I heard one of them say that she hoped that she would have twins so that her grandmother would get two more checks. When a person only knows one way of life, it is difficult to break out of it. It is the norm. It is a cycle. I’m going out on a limb to say that I’d bet most of our politicians know this, which is why welfare continues. I’m not saying welfare should disappear because I understand its important in helping people in need, but it should be a means to an end, not the end. So many white people disagree with me on this point because they are jealous that the government gives black people money. This is so stupid because 1. white people get welfare too, and 2. a life depending on the government is not a good one. White people say “I wish I could drive a Cadillac and get on welfare,” but that Cadillac does not make up for other hardships, and this is just nasty ass stupid prejudice assumption. Think of it this way: Do I want my daughter at 13 to be thinking about naming her child, the child that she is having so that her grandmother can get another check? Nope.

I could go on and on about the systems of oppression (a.k.a. slavery) that are thriving in our society, but this is supposed to be about Black Lives Matter. I’m writing this in response to white people trying to diminish this movement by using the term Blue Lives Matter as a rebuttal. NO NO NO! This movement was not established as a blow against police officers. It was established as a cry for help. Mothers of victims. Mother of victims. They lost their children. They lost their children to the violence of our society. Our society excluded their children, and they ended up dead at young ages. This is the problem. Stop trying to stifle their voices. Stop ignoring the exclusion. Stop saying that they can’t speak up for themselves without taking away from white people. Do white people need black lives to not matter?

No one said that blue lives don’t matter. No one said that white lives don’t matter. When a police officer shoots a black man sitting in his car unarmed, he is saying that his life doesn’t matter. When a white man shoots a black teenager for wearing a hoody and playing loud music, he is saying that his life doesn’t matter. When a child is gunned down for having a toy gun, it shows that someone believed his life didn’t matter. There are methods for preventing this violence, but they are not exercised. Are all instances of police violence about race? No. Am I saying that police officers should not protect themselves? No. I am saying that racism and oppression exist and cannot be ignored. I am saying that black lives do matter, but that does not have to take away from others’ lives. I am saying that if there are instances where a black person is targeted, then there need to consequences and recognition.

I don’t worry that my son will get shot because of the color of his skin. I don’t worry that my son will be excluded in school because of the color of his skin. I don’t worry that my son will be profiled because of the color of his skin. I enjoy white privilege in this way. I do not want to have to worry, but I want to share those same privileges with my black neighbors. I want my students to feel accepted in my classroom. I want my students to succeed and become productive members of society. I want to live in a society where we stop lying and start fixing the problem. If you want to say ALL LIVES MATTER, fine. THEN ACT LIKE IT! Until then recognize that BLACK LIVES MATTER.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modern Fairy Story Reveals Social Commentary

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a1ffac38-681f-48ff-8992-986c22d2c028-large16x9_PLT_Shrek_HeroLast night my wife and I took my kids and her niece to see Shrek: The Musical at the Pensacola Little Theater, and it was a treat! The costumes were fantastic, the setting was amazing, but what I loved the most were the hidden meanings that made me like this modern fairy story in the first place.

My favorite song was “Let Your Freak Flag Fly.” In the play, most of the characters are “outsiders”–the “Big Bad Wolf” is dressed in drag, witches are “not so wicked,” and many of the others are part of the B list fairy stories. What do they tell us? That we should celebrate our differences, and that being divided makes us weak and vulnerable to tyrants and society.

Of course, these characters are the side story, and Shrek and Fiona are the main protagonists. Shrek is definitely not the prince charming, although he rescues Fiona. He does so without violence. He is actually very logical. His whole analogy that ogres are like onions is hilarious yet meaningful. Fiona, as we soon find out, is also an ogre on the inside. She tries to be the typical princess. She shows us that little girls are given expectations based on fairy tales that do not come true. Shrek and Fiona are real life: reality.

One of the most evocative parts that I wish I could have recorded even though I know that’s not cool was when Shrek was mad and hurt and retreated to his swamp to build a wall. A giant green ogre dancing around on stage singing about how a wall was a solution to his problems was just too reminiscent of Donald Trump to go unnoticed.

However, the best example of irony was636053273925510881-Shrek-The-Musical-Farquaad-3 Lord Farquaad–the tyrant who wants to kick out all of the “freaks” so that he can have his perfect kingdom. His size is a realistic portrayal of his brain more than his body.

I appreciated this play, performed mostly for children, so much that I felt compelled to share. Please share your thoughts as well. 636053273954059064-Shrek-The-Musical-Shrek-Fiona-2

 

 

 

 

One White Feminist Who Wants to Talk about Racism in Feminism

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Let’s start a dialogue. I don’t want to be racist. I understand white privilege. I am a feminist. I recently read “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay, and I very much see her points. I agree. I will not be “free-bleeding” or whatever the fuck it’s called to not wear a tampon. I will shave my armpits, and my legs, and my vagina. I love some men–my father, my son, my girlfriend’s son, my friends, etc. So, I guess I too am a bad feminist. However, I’m not ashamed to call myself feminist in any situation. I’ve gotten over a lot of shame by coming out as a lesbian, so feminist is something that is low on the totem pole of shame. However, I do understand that there are negative connotations and associations with the term or label because of certain issues. We can’t just tuck our tails and run from these issues, though. Many feminists who fought for women’s rights and suffrage were working with black people to gain the same rights. Even those who weren’t should not carry the name of feminist into the mud. This is a new time, and it’s time that our views on feminism change. It is about empowering all people. Everyone can gain from feminism.

I am ashamed that some people are ashamed to call themselves feminists. While I’m writing this, I was thinking of comparing the idea of being ashamed of feminism to being ashamed of the white race because of the many fools in the white race that take things to the extreme and make me ashamed of my color. Then I thought, I would not be ashamed of anything that feminists do, even if I chose not to do those things, except for excluding people of color, and that’s something that apparently feminists share with white people, so I’m ashamed of racist feminists and white people.

 

 

But, not all white feminists are racist. Can I say that I’m not? I do see color. I think color should be embraced. It’s a part of what makes people who they are. It’s their heritage. Saying “I don’t see color” is an insult because it stifles the uniqueness of the people of color. It’s like saying “I don’t see gender.” I want you to see my gender. I love my gender. I get angry when people stick me in a box with all people of my gender (those who love making love to men) because that is not part of my gender identity, but I don’t want you to not see my gender. Asking, “Why do you have to make it about race?” is also ignorant. Because it is about race. It is personal.

I’m not going to claim to have black friends. I don’t. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t, it just means that I haven’t made friends with a black person that I hang out with (you’d have to understand the small-town lack of social gatherings, but that’s another blog). However, I have many black colleagues that I respect. I have many black students that I want to see succeed. I want to see equality for all. I want to see fairness for all. I want to see the liberty match the freedom that was granted. Isn’t that what feminism is supposed to be?

Small Town Festival Opens the Door to History and Art

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William Station’s Day takes place on Pensacola Avenue in Atmore, Alabama, in early October. Half of the street closes, and vendors bring their best goods to display. You might think that this is another one of those festivals where if you’ve been once, you’ve seen it all. I used to think that, but when I began taking a folk-lorish lens, I discovered the unique history and array of art that this small town has to offer.

Here is a bit of the history behind the founding and the naming of the town from http://www.cityofatmore.com:

Long before settlers came to the area that is now Atmore, The Creek Indians inhabited the virgin forests of longleaf pines settling along the creeks and rivers. The development of this area began in the 1860’s following the Civil War as the Mobile and Great Northern railroad extended its line south to the Tensaw River near Mobile.

Workers who moved through the area laying track for the railroad were drawn by the rich farmland and abundance of timber. Agriculture and timber are still major factors in Atmore’s economy.

The first structure in what is Atmore was a small shed built along the railroad at which supplies were left for William Larkin Williams who had a logging operation ten miles down in Florida. In 1866 the site was first called Williams Station, just a supply stop along the railroad.

By the 1870’s there were several buildings; a railroad station, a store containing the post office, and one dwelling. Late in 1870 the first sawmill was put into operation. However, it was the sawmill built by William Marshall Carney in 1876 that sparked the growth of the community. Recognizing the potential of this area which abounded in cypress ponds and virgin forests, legend says Carney hitched a mule to a boat and set claim to most of the area. Because of his many contributions to the growth of the community Mr. Carney is often called “the father of Atmore”.

Many people often overlook the importance of Atmore’s agricultural economy as part of its foundation, but those “virgin forests” are possibly the only reason the town succeeded. Descendants of the sap-collectors have held on to some of the equipment, and they proudly display it at William Station’s Day. Below are some pictures of their display.

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In addition to the agricultural history, storyteller and historian Robert Thrower tells great tales of Indian folklore. He also brings artifacts that he has collected to demonstrate the history of the natives of Atmore and the surrounding area.

 

Soaking in all of the history is fun, but discovering the art of various vendors can be intriguing as well.  I was fortunate in meeting Ikna Smith, creator of these unique pieces of jewelry. I asked her what inspires her, and she answered, “Life inspires me. I like to work with metal and discover all the different ways to shape it. And, I like to play with fire!” IMG_2818IMG_2819IMG_2820IMG_2821

The Gulf Coast Authors also take the stage with their display of their published works ranging from historical fiction to collections of stories originating in the Gulf Coast.

 

 

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Atmore resident Lloyd Albritton displays his publication, Baby Blue.

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Many vendors have a theme that appeals to Southerners and Rednecks, which are in abundance here!

 

 

 

 

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A friend of mine and his wife make these awesome jewelry hangers and pieces that have an artsy flare:

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Some vendors even send their proceeds to benefit different causes!

 

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Sometimes we take the small stuff for granted. I often hear people complain that there is nothing to do in this small town, but these vendors prove that wrong. This town is full of creativity and a rich history: it just takes a different perspective to find it.