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Things I’m going to miss about Valdosta

I’m going back to New York, baby! 

I’m starting the New Year off right. I’m on my way to being back where I belong and back in action.

Me rejoicing

I’ve been thinking about what I’ve wanted to do when I get back to New York, once I’ve gotten the vaccine and the whole world has reopened up. But first, I think I need to make mention of where I spent a majority of the year 2020. I spent two months shy of a year in Valdosta and while I love my family, I understand why living with your parents is so made fun of. It’s pretty unsexy to live with your parents but my bedroom managed to stay cool, when it wasn’t cluttered with junk. I’m going to miss my tranquil, matcha-green walls, which are covered in postcards of icons and museums from around the world, an orgy of evidence that I love all things cosmopolitan. Then there’s the rococo mirror that I got, courtesy of the Turner Center’s Gogh-Green initiative, where they auctioned off previously-owned paintings and other artistic bits. I’m pretty sure that the word “eclectic” is used to refer to mix-matched home decor, so that’s how I’ll justify the fact that I matched a golden mirror with a silver bed and portrait frame, a far-throw from the symphony in coordination.

Speaking of my silver portrait frame, Marilyn Monroe now hangs in my room again, just like she did at my old house, and Raquel Welch stands guard on the adjacent wall in her subtle furry underwear. My painting of an exotic femme-fatale, who I have since named Scarlet, hides behind my door, right beside my aforementioned mirror. This and more is how I made the space my own.

Now, I’m on my way to a charmingly cramped dorm room at the notorious Hill House. I’m going to have to get used to shared toilets, a possible roommate, and little to no room for style. Yet, there are some things that I am going to miss in particular, such as: 

My kitten Calypso:

She ate me up and left no crumbs

There’s a reason why she’s named after a goddess… and no it’s not because I’m pretentious. 

She is a regal-looking cat, with amber eyes and slits for pupils like a snake’s eye. They say that a person’s cat is exactly like them, which is really fitting since we have the exact same personality. She’s antisocial, aloof, doesn’t like to be touched, has huge eyes, and wants the finer things in life. She’s always either lounging around in her hammock all day or she’s trying to steal every bit of human food she can find. I love her. She loves food. 

Apollo: (probably)

Apollo is more my mother’s cat than mine and my mom’s cat is a himbo (a male bimbo for those who don’t know). He claws holes into my clothes and likes to scratch a bit more, but that’s just because he’s snuggly and affectionate and purrs like a motor when he’s lying in your lap. He is sort of like a happy idiot–I say this in the nicest way possible–who always foils Calypso’s plans because of how loudly he clobbers around, while she slinks around the house undetected, up to no good. Apollo is our little lion cub: a mini king of the manor.

Tea from a local tea shop:

“Just Love Coffee” is an aptly named and savory alternative to Starbucks. My brother and I love it there so we took our 91 year old Great Aunt Mac there for a trip, since she loves getting coffee with us. It’s calm and uncrowded, exactly what a local coffee shop should be. 

Before & After
We explained to her what a selfie was as we took this picture
One last one

My mother’s tea

Throughout my year-long quarantine, my mother and I made tea almost every single day. By the end of it, I got to return the favor and make her some tea when she was in bed with COVID. I make my Earl Grey with cloves, half-and-half, and some valhalla spices. Usually, I had a cat in my lap while sipping tea. 

My pool house/art studio/conservatory:

It’s a pool house that I use, as did the previous owner, as an art studio, but she probably didn’t use it as a place to store all of our potted plants when the weather got cold. The plants being inside the pool house made it balmy and humid, so when I went to paint in the winter time, it wasn’t chilly inside. I regret not painting more, but I’ll be able to return and hopefully then I’ll know exactly what to paint. 

My job at the Turner Center

Since working there many of the people in my life have received some lovely artistic gifts from the Turner Center Gift Shop, whether it’s a hand carved pot or a locally-manufactured necklace. I’ve also sold a few pieces of art, manned the desk, answered the phone, and sold some of the gift shop merch to people who aren’t me. It was a great start to entering the workforce, because it offered me a great foundation that I can apply to so many other jobs. 

The house we just moved into

You’ve probably got to be surprised that this wasn’t higher up on the list. The shut down, having started when we were still stuck in our prior small house, was the impetus for our move. Over the summer we swiftly moved into our new house after eyeing it once. I unpacked, swam in the pool, painted in the pool house, played with my cats, and slept for copious hours upstairs in my bed, all while in that house. I also zoomed in for the first semester of my sophomore year and did all of my schoolwork, which included presentations, essays, and learning a second language, in that house, usually seated comfortably at the kitchen table.


Now that I’ll be up at college, I’ll get to witness the first one hundred days of the Biden administration and experience some college normalcy. Obviously, I’ll miss my parents and the few friends that I managed to see during this pandemic, but I am excited to be going back up to the place that I love.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Reading in 2020

I don’t need to tell you guys that this was a trash year. If I’d read a book that had this year as a plotline, I wouldn’t have made it to the end, because I would have considered it to be “too unrealistic.” Thankfully, I read several books this year that managed to make the year marginally better. Honestly, I wish I’d read more. I thought that this would be “the year of downtime,” where I’d do nothing but sit around and plow through book after book. However, I soon realized that sitting down with a book when your mind is on so many other important things (global pandemic, presidential election, racial injustice, California being on fire) isn’t the easiest task in the world, nor is it your first priority. Of course, there are so many people who didn’t make it through 2020, so if not reading as much as I wanted to is my biggest complaint, then I suppose I had a pretty great year. That and the fact that I had COVID, but let’s sidebar that for a moment. I’m sure that there are a few books that I forgot to include, but through the books that I am telling you about now, I will be putting very beautiful and complicated novels into your hands. 

Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates is an incredibly written memoir, written in the form of a letter to his son, chronicling his first-hand experiences with racism. He clearly lays out his points, making it read more like a lengthy and compelling New York Times article, than a full-fledged letter to his son. He makes it personal by relating relevant anecdotes from his life. The most searing part of the whole novel for me is when he becomes embittered because he has pondered how much effort, energy, time, discipline, and love must be poured into a person, only to have it all wiped away in a senseless tragedy; like the frequent deaths of unarmed black men. Coates employs an uncommonly candid and highly powerful voice.   

Mrs. Bridge (Evan S Connell)

I didn’t take a single good photo of myself with a copy of this book

Mrs. Bridge is uncommonly introspective for a novel from the 50s and offers no nostalgia for the era it takes place in. Mrs. Bridge looks into the unfulfilling life of a 1940s housewife and how she must raise her kids. The story has many themes including the ending of innocence. As a child, reading a book that is told from the perspective of the parent was interesting because I have never felt the moment when a parent realizes that their lecture has fallen on deaf ears or that their reverse psychology isn’t working. The book doesn’t really follow a plot, just the realistic lifestyle of a woman who often acts as the foot soldier for her husband. This novel is an underrated classic that needs way more hype than it receives.  

Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison)

Invisible Man is one of those novels that is so jam-packed with everything that the author wants to say that you almost feel like you can’t unpack it all. His look at the realities of racism in this country may shock those who have never experienced or witnessed what he is talking about, as was the case with many of the people I read the book with in class, but that alone should be reason enough for people to pick up and read it. Regardless of your level of exposure, “Invisible Man” is a provocative think piece and now, with so many people in this country, “waking up” to the realities of racism it might not be a terrible book to revisit. When it was first published, it was instrumental in the civil rights movement. 

Beloved- (Toni Morrison) It’s no wonder that Toni Morrison went on to win the Nobel Prize for literature seeing as to how she wove this deeply haunting and profoundly disturbing (in a good way) novel. Many people use words like “beautiful” and “haunting” to describe novels, but none so deserving as this one. Many themes such as intergenerational trauma and the horrors of slavery, come across in this novel. There is a looming constellation of trauma that surrounds the family, as they live in a house that is practically a character of its own.  

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) Reading “Pride and Prejudice” was a big feat for me because I have attempted to read it over the past few years. I was always too young and the language was always too much for me to get through. I also watched the “Pride and Prejudice” BBC mini-series from the 90s, which is practically verbatim from the book and I was always disinterested in reading a book in which I knew almost down to the letter what was going to happen. One of the things that you cannot tell from a film adaptation is the compelling way with which Austen writes it (something I can now appreciate). 

Ms. Eliza Bennett perfectly encapsulates what it means to be a Jane Austen heroine. An Austen heroine’s genuineness and ability to “go against the grain” can get her married so long as her authenticity is not being used to this end, or to any end. Although Austen never got married herself, she clearly saw the value in it and rewarded her heroine’s unwillingness to conform with the greatest reward a woman in her society could receive: marrying well. It’s ironic, rewarding a woman for her nonconformity by allowing her to conform as best she can. 

Steering the Craft (Ursula Le Guinn)  Le Guinn presents you with several intensive writing tasks that target specific aspects of writing. These tasks, which often focus on such topics as pacing, dialogue, adjectives, or ambiguity, get watered down until you eventually know how to form proper sentences. In order to get the full effect of the book, you must do every writing exercise. With a confidence and a smoothness, Le Guinn explains to the reader, in great detail, why you are doing these tasks and the importance of them. Conversations surrounding the art of storytelling can get very conceptual and abstract very quickly, but Le Guinn never allows it to go there, remaining accessible to the reader until the end. This book will undoubtedly make any person a better writer in ways that they can’t possibly know.   

Little Fires Everywhere (Celeste Ng)

Wanting to read more modern novels, I decided to settle on this one, because, not unlike “Normal People,” it was a New York Times Bestseller with a highly-anticipated Hulu adaptation. When I first read it, I loved it. I thought it was complicated and was always eager to see where it was going next. I do remember thinking that the ending was a bit anticlimactic, but otherwise fine, which is more than I can say about its lackluster adaptation. Overall, it was a strong and taut novel, but despite it taking place in the 90s, it felt very contemporary. I can’t put my finger on it, but modern novels have a feeling and a tone to them that I’ve noticed when reading “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins and others, and it isn’t just the absences of the smudged typewriter font. Perhaps it is the pop-culture references or the lax tone of the storytelling. Whatever it is, this book has it.

Normal People (Sally Rooney) People who’ve read my blog before will already know my views on this novel, but to be fair to its lovely novelist Sally Rooney, it is probably excellent if romance novels are your cup of tea. They are not mine. Rooney does seem to be deeply interested in human relationships. The most common in literature being, of course, romantic. She and I both definitely want to take a look at human intricacies, but we both seem to want to go about them differently. I was mostly frustrated by her lack of quotation marks (as you might be too) and can’t for the life of me figure out the reasoning behind that decision. It was just lines of dialogue not bracketed off by quotation marks. It pained me. 

The Queen’s Gambit- (Walter Tevis) This has got to be one of my all time favorite novels. It had a compelling female character, which is not always a guarantee, who subverted my expectations time and time again. It was a gritty look at drug addiction and alcoholism. Other themes included feminism, introversion, and chess fundamentals. They were all handled well, even if you are not a chess enthusiast. The pacing was surprisingly good since we follow a young woman throughout most of her early life, ending when she is nineteen and at the top of her craft. Most people will recognize this entry by its adaptation. By the time I read it, 60 million people had watched the Netflix limited series by the same name. My plan, as with three others on this list, was to read it and then watch it. The two versions were virtually identical, except for one fundamental difference.

Enola Holmes (Nancy Springer) Technically this book is for preteens, but I started reading it when I was a child, didn’t finish it, and then accidentally gave away my copy. When I saw that Netflix was making a version of it, I decided to buy it again and read it. It is not bad a little novel, albeit a bit immature for me at this juncture. It is a proto-feminist novel geared towards young girls, so what can be better?

A Study in Scarlet (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) So long as I was reading “Enola Holmes,” I thought that I might as well read some actual Sherlock Holmes, so I started with the first book in the series. It wasn’t very long, but it might as well have been because of how slow-moving it was. The whole middle section about the Mormons in Utah, took the life out of me. The last time I read that much about a Mormon in Utah, I think that Mitt Romney was conceding the 2012 election. Much of the glamor and the hype surrounding Sherlock Holmes came later, I am now sure. It was great, but perhaps not as great as some of its modern day adaptations. 

This little slice of a book

Carrie (Stephen King) They say that reading for just six minutes a day can reduce your blood pressure by up to 60 percent. Unless of course you’re reading Stephen King, in which case, your blood pressure is liable to go up. I bought “Carrie” about a year ago at a bookstore in Maine, which, as you can imagine, had an extensive King collection. I’ve been trying to get into his work for a while now and since “Carrie” is a story about a misfit teenage girl who gets even with her classmates, I thought it was a good place to start. King has a very distinctive voice; he writes in fragments, shifts perspective, and uses parenthesis constantly, three pretty big no-nos in the industry, but, as usual, it works for him. I was going to read “Emma,” but decided that I wanted something a little bit more plot-driven than character driven. So, I was having to choose between two young women: either Emma or Carrie.

I chose Carrie and decided to leave Emma, so that I can have something waiting for me in the New Year. I just received an amazing collection of books for Christmas that’ll keep me occupied throughout 2021. Hopefully, they will be just as good if not better than the books that I read in 2020.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

My Post Christmas Post

On Christmas morning, I had my hair set in waves and my nails painted cranberry red. My pajama shirt had a New York scene on it, telling Santa directly what I wanted for Christmas this year. My family likes a big Christmas, with an obscene amount of gifts wrapped around the Christmas tree. Christmas was a bit of a somber occasion without my aunt, who always spends Christmas with us. Unfortunately she lives out of the country and therefore couldn’t make it this year due to COVID restrictions. She seemed to have a good time in Singapore though, and we likewise tried to make the best of our situation here. For Christmas Eve dinner my mother and my brother made Beef Wellington and Risotto, which they learned how to make with the help of Gordon Ramsay, and on the actual Christmas day we had “It’s a Wonderful Life” playing on repeat. 

The Beef Wellington, cleverly decorated with a “G”

This year I decided to only buy ethical gifts for Christmas, all naturally sourced and sustainable, purchased independently, avoiding Amazon. Not to do too much virtue signaling, but I’d like to do a bit of a humble brag and inform everyone of how ethically I shopped this Christmas. Yes, I did break my rule once or twice so that I could order a few last minute gifts in time for Christmas, but for the most part, I was discerning with where I put my money and discovered some amazing companies in the process. 

A copy of Richard II, given to me by my good friend, Sofia.

Since Bobby is going through his anti-big-business and his I-will-only-wash-my-hair every-other day-phase, with my full support, I decided to get him ethically sourced Bombas socks. Bombas is a company that gives a pair of seamless socks to a homeless person, with every pair that you buy. I also got him a pair of boots to go with it, making up the toes in the head-to-toe ensemble he got for Christmas. 

Bobby insisted that we have a photoshoot with our new Christmas clothes and of course I would never say no to that

My father also got a pair of bombas. The theme inadvertently became “dad’s optimum comfort.” I got him a comfy sweater from “Toad and Co.,” a pro nature business, because every person needs a comfy sweater. His one rule for buying gifts is “any color, so long as it’s blue,” so I got it for him in cobalt blue and a corresponding pair of slippers to match. I wanted to get my dad a fiction book, since he usually only reads business and self-help books, and after consulting GQ’s “The 92 Best Books to Read in 2020,” I decided on “The Fall” by Camus, an older book of repute. I also bought him “Becoming a Writer,” by Dorothea Brante, a book that has been used by many for business and entrepreneurship, because of how universal her messages are. They were both bought from “The Strand,” one of the best independent bookstore in the world, located, of course, in New York City. 

The family zoom call

My mother’s Christmas gifts were some of the best I’ve ever purchased. I decided to get her an assortment of bath supplies. Since “Lush” began the ethical-and-sustainable bath movement, I started with them and their matcha exploding soap and twilight bath bomb. Then I got some body wash from “Bath Culture” and a “Honey Moon cleansing bar” from Solo eclipse, which is a renowned black-owned business. 

A “neatly” wrapped gift

I’ve gotten lotion, perfume, bath salts, bath crystals, bath bombs, bath elixirs, and even more moisturizer, so I should be smelling great from now until judgement day. I’ve also received books and canvases so the artist in me will never die. I received some clothes, but mostly gift cards, so your girl will be hitting up her favorite second hand boutiques before she returns to college.

The haul

In case you’re interested in what those ethical companies were, here’s the full list:

Lush

Bath Culture

Solo Eclipse

Bombas

The Strand

Toad and Co. 

Oh and by the way,

Happy New Year (and this time we mean “happy”)

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

The Solstice

“Some days you’re the windshield. Other days you’re the fly.” A man tweeted this out after the show he created got cancelled during its first season and I’ve wondered since then if I’d ever know that feeling of being the fly and not the windshield. I’m sure that many of us have felt that way this year. 

I respect the night sky’s unwillingness to be photographed

I’ve never considered myself a very social person, so this entire year has made me realize what I actually care about, based on what I started to miss. For as long as I can remember I’ve broken bread with the village that raised me on Christmas Eve and honestly, I’m not sure how to celebrate without them. 

This year I decided to throw a solstice party. 

Bobby arrived!

The solstice is on December 21st, within spitting distance of Christmas and right in the throes of the festivities. It’s the longest night of the year, perfect for a dusk to dawn party if you’re up for that, or, if you’re a sane person, it is a nice night for a bonfire and being outside. It’s dramatic, mysterious, and non denominational. Welcome all ye to a yuletide celebration! The plan was for my mom to make her famous spinach-cheese dip, I was going to make chocolate cupcakes, and Padgett was likely to bring peach flavored peace tea and hot chocolate bombs, hoping that they wouldn’t clash. But none of it was to be. We ended up cancelling because it’s just not safe. Together, my family and I stood beneath the stars trying to figure out which stars were actually part of the planetary alignment.

We also voted on the Solstice

As I wrap up the holidays listening to Christmas carols, I like to think that Judy Garland was right: “Next year all our troubles will be out of sight” and “faithful friends who are near to us, will be dear to us once more,” although I suppose this year it would be more accurate to say, “faithful friends who are DEAR to us will be NEAR  to us once more.” She really summed up a 2020 Christmas when she said: “someday soon, we all will be together/ if the fates allow/ until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow/ so have yourself a merry little Christmas now.” 

Like all people who get their party plans cancelled, I spent the evening with my cats

So, here’s to muddling through. Have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

And a happy solstice!

The Tragic Queen,

Tis the Season…

Tis the season to be jolly, but also tis the season to go into debt, break the bank, and rush to get work finished. Christmastime is a time of high stress. The holidays cost money and that isn’t made any easier by them sneaking up on us, the way that holidays always tend to do. For me, it always feels like I’ve just amassed the right amount of money in my bank account just for the holidays to come around and suck it all up. 

Is it just me or does this look like a Christmas photo from the 60s?

The holidays have become notorious for making people blue, and rightfully so. What other time of year do we question our lives and the decisions we’ve made? It can easily be a time of hopelessness and despair. If you’re not careful, you’ll spend the whole season trying to just get past the season. 

Me getting into the Christmas spirit. Photos by Lauren Pyrzenski

I get through the holidays the same way that every other sane person does. I avoid Hallmark movies and skip all of the Christmas songs that I hate and trust me there are quite a few. I love Paul McCartney as much as the next person, but once I’ve heard “A Wonderful Christmastime” on the radio five times, it no longer is “a wonderful Christmastime.”

I just finished my semester and by the end of it, I wasn’t just done, I was overdone. Essays have been turned in, finals have been performed, and now all that’s left is to finish up my Christmas shopping. But I am determined to not let this Christmas season pass me by. In order to ensure that this Christmas, of all Christmases, is full of high spirits, I will be sending Christmas cheer to everyone in the most literal way I know how. I have sent out my first ever Christmas cards. Please excuse me while I be a diva. 

The front of the card
The back of the card

The list of recipients was longer than I expected, seeing as to how I keep the circle small. There were professors from college who need to know that I’m not dropping their classes, friends from school who need to know that I still love and miss them, friends of the family who will be on the acknowledgements section of my first ever book, family friends who make up the village that raised me, and of course my whole extended family. If you didn’t make the list, because you are a local friend of mine perhaps, just know that I still love you, but holiday cards are expensive, as I’ve recently discovered.  

Me with my holiday card.

I intend to keep up these cards throughout the years so that my people will be able to measure my progress through life. I want them to be like a polaroid of wherever I am in life at the moment. It has also occurred to me that people only really do Christmas cards once they’ve gotten married and had kids, but since there’s no guarantee that I’ll ever do either of those things, I still want to send out my card every year, regardless of my relationship status. 

While it’ll be awhile before anyone gets their card, my friends from college have just received their gifts. I bought them handmade pots from the Turner Center, where I still work. Some of you might recall that I gave my gal-pals some succulents in observation of “galentine’s day.” Now their succulents have a little home. 

My friend and her cat with her new pot

And speaking of the Turner Center, I attended a small, socially-distanced holiday party for my office. We had a secret Santa exchange that resulted in me getting socks, tea, and Ferrero Rocher, all because I put on my list that I always need more socks, love chocolate, and solely drink tea, never coffee. Ironically, my secret santa pick lives on coffee so for her I got her a Christmas mug filled with special coffee grinds. The night was topped off by playing massive jenga in the center of the room and in a perfect turn of events my boss happened to be the one to top it all over. 

Now Christmas is just around the corner and I feel that not only am I in the proper spirits, but that I’ve done my part to make sure that everyone else is. I can’t wait for the feeling of glorious anticipation on Christmas Eve. I wish everyone a similarly blissful holiday season.

And a happy new year (fingers crossed)

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

A spare photo of me doing Christmas stuff even though this picture was not used in any of my Christmas cards

Tea for Three

“I’ll be mother” = a British expression meaning to pour the tea. 

Not to be mistaken with the American expression “to spill the tea,” which means to tell the hot gossip. 

The thing that I like about staying at my parents house is the quiet. There’s no screaming or yelling or chatter, so you can read a book in the living room or have tea at 4 in the afternoon if you want. The other day was a perfect example of this: it was Sunday, I slept in, I watched some more of the limited series I’d been watching, and then I had my friend Anna over, just to catch up. 

Here’s my friend Anna. She’s quite cute

Anna and I had made plans to make bon-bons that day, but after playing with the cats and clearing away some of the dishes, we realized that we weren’t ready to get all of the ingredients out and embark on a two day baking process just yet. The older I get, the more that I think I want calm interactions with my friends, and the older I get the more in control of that I feel. I was feeling tired but relaxed and that put me in the mood for tea. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a tea-not-coffee kind of girl. 

My suggestion was that we have a casual tea party, if such a thing exists. We selected some tea from our collection and then we cleaned out the pantry looking for some snacks to go with it. My mother joined us and she was mother (see above to understand that reference). 

The spread that we came up with was pecans, chocolate, and some savory chips that my mother insisted tasted like rosemary, although that might have just been the influence of the tea. We had cats sitting in our laps and playing at our feet, while I was drinking tea that tasted like rose petals.

Overall, we talked about politics and our personal lives and then there weren’t any other topics to cover. There never really is. Anna, wearing the Cheetahs in a patch of flowers Hawaiian shirt and “Taylor-Swift-folklore-album-sweater” combo, is a cooking extraordinaire, who treated us all to a dinner of tikka-masala. She made it, while I mostly sat around doing homework and watching the runoff debate. I loved the down time I spent and how mellow I felt. One of the nice things about quarantine has been how I can make myself tea and lay back at home. I intend to do so much more of this as the weather grows colder.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

It’s Christmas time, the only time of year when people casually listen to music from the fifties, because that’s when all of the classics were recorded. Now that we have fully entered December, I can completely embrace the Christmas season. I’m going to watch “It’s a Wonderful life,” cook sweet Christmas treats, and wrap up all of my Christmas presents super sexy (assuming that my cats don’t tear them up before my loved ones get a chance to). I’m now looking forward to Christmas Eve night, wearing some solid black, backless dress, paired with bright red lipstick, if only in my dreams. 

This time last year, I was ice skating in Bryant park with Anahat, while Sofia helped me decorate my door Charlie-Brown style, and Chiara and company helped me through the freezing cold. It was all, as Paul McCaurtney would say, “A Wonderful Christmas Time.” This year, since I had my entire parents’ house at my disposal, I wanted to completely immerse myself into the Christmas spirit, hanging garland in every archway and making everything bright and hopeful. In the end we settled with garland on the balcony, wreaths on every door, strands of fake cranberries, and tiny little Christmas trees standing post all around the house. Despite it being warm and muggy outside, we converted the inside of my house into a winter wonderland. 

The halls have been decked, people have been made merry, and spirits have been made bright.

Now, behold, for I bring you tidings of great joy!

My best friend Padgett has been making me and my family hot chocolate bombs, the first of many festive treats.

A cup of cheer!

My mother, Padgett, and I worked on the Christmas tree and if you think that it looks like a holly-jolly Christmas bomb went off, then you’re not wrong. My mother loves wacky trees, like the kind that one might expect at a Christmas party at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory (said affectionately). Each year it has huge, bulbous ornaments, Charlie Brown Christmas tree lights, Christmas ornaments that I made as a child that my parents refuse to throw away, and a Frosty the snowman hat on top. It has so much more personality to it than your average tree and by the time it is finished, it looks like it belongs on a movie set. 

The perfect gift under the tree

While I do miss, and in equal parts don’t miss, the cold, I’m having fun staying warm down here. It might not be a white Christmas, but my gifts are coming together nicely and the ornaments (aka my cats’ new favorite toys) are beautiful. I hope that everybody, regardless of their circumstances, are having as blissful of a holiday season as I am.

Much love from my family to yours!

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

A pic of me nestled into the tree

In other news, we have no news

All I have to say is that I have nothing to say. I have nothing going on and therefore have nothing to tell you, but am here nonetheless because I need to tell you something. 

It reminds me of when news outlets were alerting us every five minutes on election night to report that they had nothing to report. In case you don’t recall, or had the willpower not to watch until it was all over, allow me to remind you what news coverage was like on election night, regardless of which channel you were on:

*dramatic music plays*

Breaking News! Trump is leading in the state of Oklahoma, but it is still too close to call. That might be because we only have less than one percent of the vote in.”

I was glued to my television set for three days straight, so much so, that I ended up developing mild crushes on the different news anchors. It got to the point where I was going to risk it all for Jake Tapper. 

Although my education is suffering while I stay at home, I am getting my masters degree in bitching. I finally understand the expression “to wake up on the wrong side of the bed,” because sometimes all it takes is getting out of bed to get pissed. 

My cats are still adorable. I’ve officially become one of those ladies who is too obsessed with her cats. Like most of the world, I’ve been watching “The Crown” on Netflix. At just 20 years old, Princess Diana was marrying the heir apparent, while I, at age 19, am doing my homework the day that it’s due. 

I have nothing going on in my life, aside from the part-time job that I go to once a week and the arrival of my aunt, uncle, and two cousins. I then had a full-time job as a babysitter. I’ve been on-call to play pool and chess for the past few days, so I’ll probably come out of this as a grandmaster and a pool-shark. 

Me on my break from babysitting. That’s a lolly pop stick not a cigarette, be not alarmed.

I’ve been reading “Emma” by Jane Austen and thinking that to be a well-meaning, but ultimately selfish, socialite at the top of the landed-gentry social class in regency England, would really be something. I could be like Emma Woodhouse. I have complete confidence that all of my ideas are perfect and that’s the type of willful ignorance a person needs in order to be a match-maker who meddles in other people’s love lives. 

In all fairness, we’ve all had to forgo developments in our personal lives; it’s not just me sitting at home, watching television and trying to rise to the occasion of my school work. Thankfully, Thanksgiving came and broke up the monotony. I ate so much food that when I woke up the next morning, it felt like I had been in a medically-induced coma. Seriously, I felt like a magnet was pulling me down to my bed.

Me gearing up for Thanksgiving feast

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, I can now move on to the most wonderful time of the year.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel 

Once in a blue moon

First thing’s first: I got a cat. I got two of them as a matter of fact but first my family got Calypso, a gray tortie, from the Humane Society, at my request. I named her Calypso after the nymph from the Odyssey, otherwise known as the heathen goddess of the sea. This is quite appropriate because she looks like a goddess, but like most cats, can be a bit of a heathen. A few days later we also got Calypso’s brother from the shelter, who my mother promptly named Apollo, for the sun god. So, I now have my first ever familiars, just in time for Halloween. 

Calypso!
My baby sleeping

With it being my favorite holiday, I celebrated Halloween by participating in “trunk or treat,” an event put on by the Children’s Advocacy Center, for children to get a chance to trick-or-treat in peace. I gave out candy with my mother’s co-workers, who were dressed like salt and pepper (the seasoning, not the rap group) at a car which was decorated to look like Frankenstein’s monster. The only other thing I did on Halloween, was hang out with my friends when we ate Anna’s homemade tikka-masala and watched “Addams Family Values,” for the one millionth time.  

This downplayed (but very spooky) holiday season has gotten me thinking about my ghosts of Halloween past. Back in 2016, my friends had a Halloween kick-back, in which my friend Mary Catherine dressed as John Lennon and I dressed as Yoko Ono, getting so committed, that she played “Imagine” on the piano and I chimed in with the tambourine. The very next year, I decided that I was going to throw a massive Halloween party with my friend Padgett and that we were going to invite everyone. 

And that’s exactly what we did. 

We had strobe lights, black lights, glow lights, glow in the dark paint, and a Halloween playlist. There was no drinking, no drugs, much to the approval of the adults hanging around. Instead, there was bobbing for apples and smashing piñatas, both of which are harder than they look. I went as Puck from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which means that I spent the entire night explaining to people who I was. I was mistaken for Eve, a deer, Poison Ivy, and Peter Pan. 

I laid low the next year and did some face painting at my church’s Halloween carnival, an event that used to be the highpoint of my calendar when I was a kid. For my freshman year at college, as many of you saw, I went as a black cat, my first step towards becoming a cat person.

Me as Morticia, waiting to entertain my classmates on my zoom call

This year, all I wanted to do was dress up as Morticia Addams from the Addams family and to check out the blue moon. I was really eager to see it since I knew that I wouldn’t see another one anytime soon (there’s a reason why we say “once in a blue moon,”) yet when I went outside it was too cloudy for us to see it.

I decided that I didn’t actually care, but I was worried that this blue moon was foreshadowing a much-anticipated bad moon rising that could take place within the next couple of days. We were all impatient for election results, while others, (although not to jinx it) were impatient for a new president. Now looking back at my Halloween greatest hits, I can’t wait to do it all over again, preferably not just once in a blue moon.  

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

The Cold Front

I love fall; I love the colors, the weather, the fashion, and the atmosphere. It makes me want to bake, wear stockings, watch good movies, listen to music that perfectly hits the spot, and start trying on Halloween costumes. I think fall is the true season of rebirth, the way that people usually feel about spring.  

Kicking off this season of rebirth, a cold front came through town a few days ago, leaving us with a chill in the air for a grand total of two days. Everything was cool and relaxed. I had on sweaters and I drank hot chocolate, getting cozy with the not-too-cold-climate. Then the cold front ended and we were back to our sticky, hot-flash-inducing weather. 

I’m trying to live my best life, despite life’s insistence that I do otherwise. Naturally, this phenomenon of the weather has coincided with a cold front of my own. Whether I was rushing to turn assignments in on time, not sleeping through the night, half-assing my attempt to clean the kitchen, breathing into a mask every time I go outside, or timing my tv watching with my parents’ arrival at home, the week seemed to drag on the way only a dry spell can. I have class Monday through Thursday and then I work all day Saturday and do my homework all day Sunday, all of which I do right here at home. 

On the grind

Occasionally something somewhat reminiscent of my life before COVID happens to me, though usually only once the weekend comes around. A few weekends ago, after a full day of my intermediate Italian and ancient Greek literature classes, I got dinner from Giulio’s, a Greek and Italian restaurant. After that, I went to the “Turner’s Center for the Arts” to participate in a socially-distanced screening of “The Price of Everything,” a fascinating documentary about the rigors of the high end art world, mostly featuring artwork that you couldn’t pay me to put in my house.

I turned in my first round of short stories for my creative writing class, which was met with good reviews by my professor. Let me just say that nothing puts me in a better mood than receiving positive writing feedback. I become the very definition of the word “elated.” I start singing in the shower and dotting my “i’s” with hearts if I’m not careful. I’m talking about Julie Andrews spinning around a room singing about her favorite things-level happy. 

Practicing my Halloween costume. I’ll let you guess who I’m trying to be

And that is when I remind myself that college is more about the actual learning than the experiences. I’m more on track to perfecting my craft as a writer than I’ve ever been. I’ve been told that persistence is the number one key to success, not natural talent or smarts (though I like to think that I at least have some of those). So it is with that in mind, that I continue to turn my assignments in on time and contribute in my classes, regardless of how often my computer freezes. I’ve made it through my first month of classes and entered into my favorite month of the year. I’m going into this season with much anticipation for Halloween and with the reminder that every cold front passes.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel