Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chronicles of Life … The least of these

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matt. 25:40 NIV
‘Tis the season of giving, but how quickly do we often forget to help our fellow (wo)man? Christmas was barely out the door before I started becoming Ebenezer Scrooge, but I had a change of heart on Sunday.
My 9-year-old cousin and I were in Walmart when I heard someone psst at me. It was a random woman, we’ll now call Jessie. She was missing teeth, and the few she still had were rotten. Jessie looked homeless and without a friend in the world. I guess she thought I could be a friend. She beckoned me closer and asked if I had $3 to spare for her rent.
Over the years I have become very cynical. I thought to myself. “She probably wants to just buy some drugs.” Give money to some random stranger inside of Walmart: I think not. Do I have Foo Foo the Fool written across my forehead? Her basket had a few essential items. She could just put something back if it was that serious. I simply told her I was paying with a card. Mind you, I had the $3. Jessie told me thank you anyway and “God bless you.”
I thought that would be the end of her, but she kept appearing. First she waved while passing by on a nearby aisle. Then she was right behind us in the checkout line. After paying for my items we headed to the exit, but I heard Jessie call out, “Thank you again, and God bless you.” Thank me for what? I didn’t give her anything.
On the way to the car my little cousin and I wondered about Jessie’s life situation and the validity of her needing the money. Was she homeless? On drugs? A prostitute (my cousin’s thought)? By the time we reached the car I felt really bad. I could have easily given her $3. What kind of example was I setting for my little cousin, especially during the holiday season? And my daddy had just preached that morning about being you’re brother’s keeper. I didn’t know her, but Jessie was still my sister.
“I should have given her that money,” I told my cousin. “That could have been the difference between her getting put out in the cold.”
“Or she could be getting drugs,” she said.
“I’m going to find her and give her this money,” I said.
Thus began my search for Jessie. Up and down each row of parking we looked and looked. But we didn’t see her. Phase two of the search took us back inside Walmart.
“We are not leaving this store until we find her,” I said. “Otherwise, I might cry.”
“You should have just given her the money in the first place,” my cousin said. “Then we wouldn’t have to walk all around in this cold.”
“What if that was God in disguise?” I said. “He said ‘I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat.’ ”
If this was a test from the Lord, I had failed miserable. I didn’t give her anything. I was determined, to find Jessie; my little cousin, not so much. We were just about to give up when I saw her by the exit.
“We’ve been looking for you,” I said. “Here’s the money you needed.”
“Thank you so much,” she said.
She was happy to receive it, but I was even happier to give it. All was right in life, until she asked that next question, “Are you going downtown by any chance?”

OK maybe that wasn’t the Lord. Maybe she was a druggie. And maybe you should just call me Lollypop because I am a sucker. But I did feel better giving her the money. I just hope my few little dollars are a blessing to her in some way – whether it’s by actually paying rent, getting high or fixing her teeth (my cousin said that one).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chronicles of Life … Unexpected visitors

I hate moving. Absolutely. Hate. It. Yet in a year’s time I have moved thrice. When opportunity strikes you just have to take it. But my parents are starting to hate moving me too. Fortunately I had awesome friends help me move this last time, and my parents missed out.Ma and Pa Dukes haven’t seen the new digs yet. Actually I can count on one hand how many people know where I live right now. So I was completely thrown off guard when my roomie, Katie, said I had visitors Saturday morning.

I was in a deep sleep dreaming of seeing Tangled with my little cousin when she knocked on my door.

“Antonia you have company,” she said.

“Visitors for me?” I said. “People know where I live?”At first I thought it was my little cousin, my parents or some other relative. It took a moment for reality to register. NOBODY KNOWS WHERE I LIVE!In a daze I rushed to make myself look semi-decent. The hair rag had to come off. A bra had to come on. And I had to eat two of my Marvel Superheroes gummy vitamins (don’t judge me). Then I went to greet my visitors.Sitting on the couch was my derby wifey/friend-worker Leanne. To the side were two random young women. I thought they were friends of Katie. They had Bibles, so I pegged them as church members there for a small group meeting. Obviously, Leanne was my visitor, or so I thought. No, it was the two women. I HAVE STALKERS!One of them came by the house last week to witness to me about Jehovah. I was on my way to work, so she left a Watchtower and said she would be back. I didn’t know chick was the Terminator and literally meant it. Back she came with a witnessing buddy.I made the mistake of telling her my name on that first visit. She used that as a ploy to get into the house. Home girl came in and made herself comfortable. She had my roomie thinking we actually knew each other.

At one point I mouthed to Leanne, “I have no idea who these people are.” I also told Katie, who was in the kitchen, and she started laughing. Leanne made polite conversation and asked them how they knew me. All one could say was she didn’t. The other said she came by before. Did I mention I still don’t know either of their names?

Then there was awkward silence. Normal people can take hints when you don’t want to be bothered. Not these two. They were going to tell me about Jehovah even if I was half awake and still in pajamas.

It took one of my coughing fits to make them leave. I made sure to mention I have bronchitis, and out they went, but not before the Terminator said they would be back… again. Are you kidding me? There is no coming back. We are not even cool like that.

I can’t knock the hustle of a Jehovah Witness. They have this witnessing thing on lock, unlike a lot of Christians. Most of us won’t even witness to a friend. But what I will knock is this appearing at my house out the matrix and acting like we’re BFFs. Not. Cool. At. All.

If the Terminator and her sidekick return I’ll be ready. Next time I’m asking for their address. Then I’m going to roll up at their house while they’re sleeping, get comfortable and witness to them. Let’s see how they like unexpected guests.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Derby Chronicles ...The Skate-less Sensation

It is official: I need my own skates like yesterday! The rentals available at the skating rink are just not cutting it anymore. They are subpar and limiting my roller derby success. I can't be bothered! Interesting how all of this is coming from a person who couldn't skate about a month ago.

Once upon a time, well actually just last week, I thought rentals were sufficient. I knew I needed to get my own skates. My theory was I needed to learn how to actually skate first before dropping a stack on the official gear. Sure several Alachua County Rollers mentioned how craptastic the rentals are, but I didn't really understand. Then I tried on the real deal.

My new play cousin, Gabby ­– deemed so because this Roll Bouncesque skater man thought we were related – and I went skating Wednesday night. The night started off with me slowly easing into my grandma skating. I always have to warm up, for at least five hours, before I feel semi-comfortable on skates. Mainly it's because there is an epic battle between the rentals and my body. Right now I think the rentals are winning. Fellow Hunny Nikki Tikki Tavi was already out skating and looking like poetry in motion. She saw my struggles and came over with several pointers. It helped, but one can only do so much with faulty equipment. So she let me to try on her skates. According to the ACR website she wears Riedell 265 boots.

I was scared to death to put them on. What if I broke them? What if they broke me? Why am I broke? At first a new epic struggle began with getting my foot into the skates. I have big, fat feet because I am the Queen of Stompingham. My father used to say if I kept walking around barefoot I would get big feet. Maybe I should have listened. We finally squeeze my feet into the skates without cutting them off. Nikki had me take a lap around the rink in them. It was like a whole new world opened up. My skating skills are still fairly non-existent, but for once I didn't have to struggle with the floor. And I was going fast; faster than ever. I didn't even fall. It was as if the skates had a mind of their own and were leading me around the rink. The skates were so smooth that I began to floating on wheels. I became a skating angel (one without wings or a halo, but I'm working on it).

When I took the Riedell's off and switched to the rentals, it was back to reality. Oh what a harsh world it is with rentals. I proceeded to try to go slightly as fast as before. It was not happening. Before long, I was taking several nasty falls. The rink staff came to check on me not once, but twice, after two particular falls. Then Roll Bounce dude came to help me up after one tumble. Finally my play cousin became concerned following another fall. I was fine after each fall. The only thing I hurt the entire night was my pride.

I am too through with rentals, well at least until I get paid next month. Or I could speed the process up if people wanted to donate to the Toni Needs Skates Foundation. We are a for-profit organization that exists for one purpose, to get me skates. Sure it's not tax deductible, but you will have helped save a life, namely mine.

P.S. check out the Alachua County Rollers at http://www.alachuacountyrollers.com/index.htm.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chronicles of Life … The grudge

Sometimes the easiest thing to do is the hardest. For me, it's letting go of the past. I tend to hold grudges for years. My anger doesn't disappear easily. I have let most of my grudges go, but some linger on. There is one that has stayed in the forefront of my mind for more than 10 years. It stems back to a person who took pleasure in terrorizing me during sixth grade. To protect the (not so) innocent, she will only be referred to as "Ella Mentry."

I hated my life at Highlands Middle School because of her. Apparently having coke bottle glasses, wearing penny loafers and being smart made me a prime target for bullying. Ella Mentry frequently led her crew in called me "Nerd Girl" and taunting everything about me. She often snatched my homework, copied it and threw it away. Once in gym class she demanded a spare t-shirt from me. Being a kind, naïve soul, I let her borrow one. Do you think she gave it back? When I asked about my shirt, Ella Mentry acted a fool and said she didn't have it. I left in tears because once again I had been bullied (and lost my official gym class shirt). I later found it thrown in the trash. Ella Mentry was that kind of person: rude, crude and with an attitude. Most of the students, and probably some teachers, were scared of her. The first time I tried to stand up to her, she came at me with a warning to back down and pushed my head.
Eventually, I gained courage. Ella Mentry skipped me in line in art class one day. I politely tried to get my spot back, but she pushed me. I snapped and pushed her back. It was on like Donkey Kong, and we started fighting. Surprisingly it wasn't that bad. Highland's Unholy Terror did not beat up Nerd Girl, and we both received in-school suspension. Ella Mentry tried to be nice to me after the fight, but it was too late. The grudge was born.
I transferred schools the next year, but often wondered what happened to Ella Mentry. I saw glimpses of her twice over the years. It was my hope that she would end up on crack, in prison or worse. It didn't happen. Instead, who should I see singing in my grandma's church choir when they came to my daddy's church last month? Yes, Ella Mentry is a new member at my old church home. I was so upset, which is kind of sad considering I'm holding on to a childhood grudge.
The problem is this ruined a longstanding dream of mine. I wanted to one day appear on the Oprah Show for a segment on childhood bullying. I – a successful, award-winning writer – would share my own tale of horror. Then Oprah would bring out Ella Mentry and her minions. Their lives would be in shambles, of course. Ella Mentry would lead them in apologizing to me. I wouldn't gloat in their lives' failures and would simply respond, "You tried to break me, but you didn't. Despite your evil ways, I forgive you."
All my grudges boil down to one thing: an apology. If everyone I held a grudge against would just say "I'm sorry," I could let it go. All I want is a nationally televised apology from Ella Mentry, and then all will be forgiven. That's not too much to ask for right? But in the words of The Rolling Stones, "You can't always get what you want." And my mother says I can't expect God to forgive me if I can't do the same.
I have to accept the fact I probably will never get a grandiose apology, or any type for that matter, from Ella Mentry. I'm still a little – maybe a lot – bitter about being bullied. But after 13 years, it's past time to move on. So Ella Mentry, I forgive you. Besides releasing a grudge from middle school should be elementary, my dear readers.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chronicles of Life … Dream on

“The best thing about dreams is that fleeting moment, when you are between asleep and awake, when you don't know the difference between reality and fantasy, when for just that one moment you feel with your entire soul that the dream is reality, and it really happened.” Author unknown

Sometimes I have really vivid dreams that make absolutely no sense and obviously were not real. At the very least they are entertaining. Like the one where I was able to blast a bunch of bad guys just by rolling an apple core in my palm. The dream involved orbs of light, a little romance and at one point my mother. The part I remembered would make a pretty good basis for a Sci-Fi book/movie/TV series. I like these dreams.

Then I have dreams that make me think the events really did happen. Like my parents having a baby, me losing my teeth and more. Usually those are the not so good dreams. Such is the case with my latest one. It all stems from my new foray into the world of roller derby. Yours truly starts training for a local roller derby league Monday.

Roller derby is a contact sport which involves skating on an oval track. Two teams with five players face off on the track. One player from each team is designated the “jammer.” The other four are blockers. A jammer scores points by lapping around all the blockers, who will do everything possible to stop her. Players usually have tough, fierce nicknames and come from a variety of backgrounds and ages.

I used to watch roller derby on TV when I was younger, but didn’t think too much about it until someone jokingly mentioned I had the persona of a player. That sparked my interest. I had the opportunity to talk to a co-captain of one league. After she answered my 20 million questions, I was intrigued even more. Then some friends and I went to an informational session. I was hooked.

Here I am two weeks later about to start training. There’s just this one little catch: I can’t skate. It’s number three on the list of childhood activities I never learned how to do, right behind riding a bike and swimming. I am happy to announce I learned how to hula hoop in college. And I’ve been able to jump rope since elementary school, albeit not double Dutch.

The good thing is no matter the experience level, the league will teach the fundamentals of skating during training. I won’t get out on the track until I can skate and skate well. I have nothing to worry about. Or at least I didn’t until I started dreaming.

Earlier this week I dreamt I was at practice and the coach was yelling at me nonstop because I was a horrible skater. This wasn’t the first week of training either but my 20th. For some reason I just couldn’t get the whole skating thing down. After weeks of practice, it was still a hassle for me to get onto the track without falling head first. I woke up from that dream scared to death and almost ready to call it quits.

I think deep down I’m afraid I’ll be the worst skater in the history of skate kind. Most people learn how to skate as a child. Can you really teach an old dog new tricks? There’s only one way to find out. You didn’t think I would let some dream keep me from training? And If I should ultimately realize that I’m a hopeless case skating, I’ll move on to my next endeavor: writing my book/movie/TV series based on that other dream. At least a girl can dream.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chronicles of Life… tea time memories

Complaining is a semi-professional hobby of mine because I do it quite a bit. Sometimes it’s necessary, like when I visit my parents and complain about them never having any food. Maybe they’ll actually listen one day and stock the fridge and pantry with stuff I can pilfer.

Knowing when to complain is an important skill, but so is knowing when to give a compliment. Therefore let the records show I think Celestial Seasoning’s tea is wonderful. Recently, I bought a package of peppermint tea to aid me during one of my many sick days. I’ve realized there’s nothing better than an herbal tea during the “ick.” Also tea holds a special sentimental value for me.

My granny and I used to always have a weekly tea time when I was growing up. Tea time involved several elements. The tea had to be sweetened in a particular manner. Granny didn’t use regular sugar but sugar cubes. I thought those were the coolest things in the world, especially when she asked, “one lump or two?” Next came the snacks, Pepperidge Farm cookies: Chessmen for her, Pirouette for me and Milano for the both of us. Then we would sip tea, eat cookies and watch TV shows such as “Murder She Wrote,” “Matlock” or “Perry Mason.”

Tea time varied. Sometimes it was early evening on a school day before my mom picked me up. Or it was at night during one of the many sleepovers at my grandparents’ house. No matter the time it was always fun. I enjoyed the tea, but spending time with my granny was even better.

Granny had a strong affinity for any of Celestial Seasonings herbal teas. We drank everything from lemon zinger to Mandarin orange spice and raspberry zinger. None can quite compare to peppermint. Granny enjoyed the teas so much she once wrote the company a letter of praise. They responded with a thank you letter and coupons for more tea. Score one for Granny.

Those memories all came back during my latest tea time, and I began to feel all warm and fuzzy inside. So I followed Granny’s example and sent Celestial Seasonings a message via their Web site (thank you modern technology). They received a gushing compliment on how great their tea was umpteen years ago, how it still tastes just as good today and how drinking it brought back fond memories of tea time with my granny. Celestial Seasonings sent me an automated e-mail response with a “thank you for your comment” message the next day, but I didn’t think too much about it. Then a few days later I got a package in the mail from the company. Along with a response letter were packets of peppermint tea and coupons. Score one for me.

These days, I’m making tea for one. Granny is gone, and as much as I would like to complain about it, I won’t. Instead I’ll just sit back, have a spot of tea and remember those fun times. I have our memories, some free tea and coupons. That’s worth a compliment or two. Celestial Seasonings is the tea of my memories.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chronicles of Life ... Look, don’t touch

I love my hair, especially touching it. I rock the natural look and the compliments flow in. Hearing them is always greatly appreciated; however, people who touch my hair without permission are not. Few things irritate me more than random strangers touching my hair. It makes me feel violated in at least 10 different ways. Unfortunately, it’s happened more times than I care to count. Now I must take action. The next nimrod that touches my hair unsolicited is going to get slapped. My pimp hand is ready.

It's been a few months since someone had the audacity to touch my hair. Then it happened again Saturday. I was talking to two men, and to my horror one placed his hands all over my head. I froze. It wasn’t even a quick touch a go, but an all out hair groping. I should have saw it coming when he said, “I love your hair.” I had to inch away so he would stop touching me. It lasted for maybe about 10 seconds but the damage is done. I am a hair assault victim. Someone please call 9-1-1.

Just when I thought the worst had passed, another violator appeared. “Your hair is so cool,” she said. Up went her hands, and the first man joined he assault on my hair. I froze again. You just don’t expect to be violated twice in one day. Then they both said my hair reminded them of Tracy Chapman. I wasn’t sure if I should take that as an insult or compliment (Side Note: After looking up pictures of her on Google, I am thoroughly insulted. Macy Gray would have been a compliment). I think a little part of me died inside. It was all I could do to walk away from the situation, with some dignity. Immediately, I called a friend and my parents to share my tale of woe. “I have just been violated,” I said. Everyone says I should have slapped their hands away or called security. I was just too shocked to do anything.

To me, hair is a part of the body, akin to breast. Imagine having random strangers touching your breast all the time. You would feel violated. People can compliment my hair all they want, but touching it is humiliating. I feel like in their eyes I am no longer a person, but a puppy to pet or some side show freak, a la Saartjie "Sarah" Baartman. I shouldn’t have to feel like that. It is blatant disregard of my personal space and shows I am not respected as another human being.

I was always taught hair is the woman’s glory. Hair touching is an intimate act that should only be shared with close family and friends. There is an elite group of people who can touch my hair without asking. Half the reason I went natural was because I didn’t like having any and every beautician in it. If I won’t let professionals touch my hair, then strangers can forget it. I don’t know you or where your hands have been.

There is also a racial issue often perceived from these types of situations. I can’t speak for all of us, but the black women I know ¬– relaxed or natural – hate when strangers touch their hair. I won’t get into the whole historical context, but I always wonder, “Would they have been so intrigued if I wasn’t black, especially with natural hair?” There are hundreds of blog posts all over the internet dedicated to the issue of touching a black woman’s hair. Renee, of womanist-musings.com, wrote it best, "My blackness and your curiosity does not give you the right to touch me."

This whole experience has been traumatic. I probably need therapy. Washing and styling my hair always soothes me. I just washed it Thursday, but that unwanted hand residue makes my hair feel dirty. I’m thinking about writing Oprah. Maybe I can share my tale of woe on her show. I know I’m not the only victim of hair assault (black or otherwise).

One day I will get through this, and when I do, all the hair violators better beware. My hair may be the eighth wonder of the world. My natural coils might look so soft and inviting. You might get seasick by my waves. But I’m giving you fair warning, you can look, but don’t touch. Lest ye want to feel the wrath of my backhand.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Chronicles of Life… The sweet search

It’s starting to heat up outside and that can only mean one thing: it’s time for a honey dripper. I am now on a quest to find one (or more). One of my cousins mentioned honey drippers a few days ago, and that sparked my sudden craving. Sadly, I haven’t had that delicious goodness in about two years. I think it’s high time that changed.

A honey dripper is the quintessential warm weather treat. The key ingredients are Kool Aid (in different flavors) or Hawaiian Punch and pineapple juice with mixed fruit sometimes added as a bonus. You combine the ingredients together in a paper/plastic cup and freeze it solid. The finished honey dripper equals a taste sensation like no other.

My daddy was the first one to introduce me to the joys of a honey dripper. I was in pre-k at the time. Someone in my grandma’s neighborhood made them. He bought us both one and the first taste blew my little mind. It had fruit in it, tasted sweeter than honey and dripped all over as I slurped it down (thus the name honey dripper).

I had more honey drippers through the years, but my last experience was in college. My community service organization, SISTUHS, Inc., often volunteered with a local Girl Scout troop. These were no normal Girl Scouts, mind you. They were Girl Scouts in the hood. Those little girls always kept things interesting, especially when it was cookie selling time, but that’s another story. One Saturday I saw a scout slurping down a honey dripper. My mouth watered, my heart leaped and I only had one question, “Where can I get one, too?” A woman in the neighborhood was selling them. Immediately a group of us flocked to her door. Soon there were Girl Scouts and college students walking around with several flavors of honey drippers.

Honey drippers are not a popsicle or an ice cream treat which you can merely get at a grocery store or from an ice cream truck. They are a rarity sold only in a neighborhood home. Usually somebody’s mama, grandma, aunt, or whoever has a side hustle of a snack shop. She probably sells hot sausages, pickles, chips, pickled eggs, boiled peanuts and candy. The shop, however, is not complete without honey drippers: 25 cents without fruit and 50 cents with.

Thinking about this is starting to feel like torture. I need a honey dripper ASAP! Or should I say frozen cup, sherbet or lily dilly to keep confusion down? I found out through my Palatka family and college friends that while the product is universal, the name is not. Honey drippers are called many things throughout Florida, and probably in other states too. At least the ingredients are always the same. Push cup, sweet treat, frozen sweet, whatever. Honey dripper is clearly the best name. Then again I am biased. So call it what you want. I simply call it good. Now I just need somebody to tell me where I can find a honey dripper.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chronicles of Life ... The Water Snobs

Here in Casa de la Robinson Dos, we are connoisseurs of good quality water. Sadly Florida just doesn’t make the grade. Ralphie, my red betta fish, is a water snob. He doesn’t like the water in Florida. Then again, I can’t stand it either. We both wonder if the water here is safe for fish and human consumption.

This never was a problem in Georgia. We loved the water there. I regularly drunk faucet water via a filter. Ralphie’s bowl water came straight from the sink too. If I changed his bowl on Sunday, the water looked pristine and clear for the entire week.

Such is not the case in my home state. The first time I tried the water here, it didn’t taste right, even at water fountains. The taste can only be described as yucky with a hint of eww! Poor Ralphie’s water starts to look murky after three days. Imagine having to live in this water? The little guy can only tolerate it for so long.

I should have known there was something wrong with the water from growing up here. My parents and grandma have always kept case after case of bottled water in their homes. You would think they have stock in Zephyrhills. My dad says the faucet water here is only safe for bathing. I’m not too sure about that either.

Initially, I resorted to buying bottled water for my household of two. That soon became a problem. I drink too much water a day. A pack of 32 bottles may seem like a lot of water, but I drink at least four bottles a day. One pack only lasts me about a week. That doesn’t even factor Ralphie’s bowl water into the equation.

Sure, I could buy cheaper water than Zephyrhills. But why bother? Most of the time its purified water. I hate purified water. It doesn’t taste right. And I don't even like other brands of water. Aquafina, Nestle, and Dasani: all are pitiful excuses of water, if you ask me. Once I even tried “smart water.” I didn’t feel smart afterwards. It probably dropped my IQ that day.

Only in extreme cases will I tolerate other water brands. My first choice is always Zephyrhills (or Deer Park in Georgia). If it’s not spring water, why even drink it? But who has money to spend on packs of water every week? Not me.

So Ralphie and I are lowering our standards a bit. We both just have to tolerate the faucet water. Now his bowl water gets changed every five days. I fill a jug with water and a dash of lemon juice and keep it in the fridge overnight to enhance the taste. It’s not Zephyrhills, but we make it work.

For now, our water snobbery has ended. But occasionally I’ll get us a case of Zephyrhills. Just so we can remember what the finer things in life taste like. One day we shall snob again.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chronicles of Life … No. 2 dilemma

Pencils are a danger to mankind and should be described as weapons, not writing utensils. Therefore, I am personally boycotting the use of pencils. Oh sure, pencils look all safe and appealing. You sharpen it to a tee and prepare to write away. Don’t fall for it. Pencils will injure you. I have learned one too many times about the dangers of pencils.

My pencil injuries started off with randomly poking myself occasionally. I always seem to write on myself. It’s not so bad with a pen. All I end up with is ink. Write on yourself with a pencil and you get scratches. Really painful scratches that sometimes draw blood and not lines.

Just this week I somehow managed to scrape off a bit of skin on my hand. Don’t ask me how. Of course it bled profusely. I had to treat it with a whole bottle of peroxide and a tube of Neosporin. OK maybe just a capful of each. But the bad thing is the cut is so awkward I can’t get a Band-Aid to stick there. So now I’m walking around with an open wound. Even worse I could cut myself in the same spot again.

However, none of these incidents compare to my worse pencil experience ever. One day I was walking with a pad in one hand, pencil in the other and a camera around my neck. I made a sudden movement to take a quick picture. Before I could push click, I felt a sharp pain shoot up my hand. I thought I was dying. I looked down and realized in my haste the pencil had collided with my hand. In the process, an inch of pencil lead broke off in my thumb. I almost fainted from the sight of it. And I couldn’t get it out.

I thought about calling 911, and then I went into panic mode. I just knew doctors would need to amputate my thumb. I called my parents in tears, but they thought I was over dramatizing the whole situation. Excuse me, but there’s a pencil lead in my thumb. HOW WOULD YOU REACT? Pain soon started spreading to my whole arm. Something had to be done immediately. So I stopped crying long enough to pull the lead out with tweezers. Left behind was a big bleeding hole in my thumb. I probably used half a bottle of peroxide and globs of Neosporin to clean it up.

Currently only two pencil battle scars are visible on my body: my new open wound, and a little gray circle under the skin of my thumb. This will forever serve as a reminder of why I must boycott pencils. Of course I’ll probably be back to using a pencil again in a few days. Scars fade and the gray circle’s not that noticeable. One silver lining is I won’t get lead poisoning. Pencil lead is made from graphite. However, pencils still aren’t safe for human use. At least not for me.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Chronicles of Life … Dueling Memories

Not so long ago, I was one of the best duelers in the West. At least I was in my mind. Granted, I’ve never actually been there. For me, the West was at my grandparents’ house. There I fought many a battle. My granddaddy often played the villain in our imaginary town, and I was the sheriff. We would fight for the title of “Quickest Draw in the West.”

“This town ain’t big enough for the both of us,” someone would say. “I challenge you to a duel!”

Granddaddy would count out “One, two, three,” and yell, “Now draw!” We both would respond with a loud, “Bang!” as we pointed our weapons (fingers, random objects and of course toy guns).

“Oh you got me!” one of us would yell.

Sometimes Granddaddy would draw first and get me. More often than not, I got him, because I was the quickest draw. Or at least he let me think I was. Dramatics would ensue with his death drop. And oh what a drop Granddaddy could do. He always managed to fall into his favorite chair. Some days he played possum, and would jump up saying I missed him. The duel would have to start anew. After checking to see if he was really gone, I would gallop off into the sunset (actually the kitchen) on my faithful steed Widow Maker.

Now Widow Maker was no ordinary horse. For one thing, she had the head of a horse and the body of a broom. You know those old school stick horses. Nonetheless, I loved Widow Maker to death. Granddaddy would share tales of all the riders Widow Maker took down. She turned many a wife into a widow. Only I was able to calm Widow Maker enough to ride her.

It’s funny how I should think of Widow Maker and those duels after all these years. That was well before my brother was born. I probably was 5 or 6 at the most. Just today, my mom sent me a text message asking if I remembered Widow Maker. Indeed I did. Those fun times with Granddaddy and Widow Maker first came back to my mind on Sunday. While leaving the library, I noticed someone had this giant rocking horse on the back of a truck. Immediately I thought of Widow Maker, Granddaddy and those duels.

These days, I don’t find myself in many duels. My best dueling opponent ever has gone to Heaven. And Widow Maker has long since gone out to pasture. Actually, I think my granny took her to the glue factory. She didn’t like Widow Maker for some reason. Once while cleaning up the house, Granny told Widow Maker to get her behind out the way (in not such nice terms).

I’ll always have the precious memories of my dueling days. And the title of “Quickest Draw in the West.” Don’t believe me? In the words of yesterday, “I challenge you to a duel! One, two, three. Now draw. Bang!”

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chronicles of Life ... the cook war

An epic battle is upon me. It cannot be won with guns, cannons or violence. Instead it requires preparation, planning and food. Yes, food, glorious food. My mother and I are in a cook war. We are fighting for the title of top chef in the family. Normally my parents never cook, especially when I’m home on the weekend. Then one day that all changed.

A few weeks ago, Ma Dukes decided to cook shrimp etouffee over rice, along with sourdough bread and a Cesar salad. And on a Saturday nonetheless! WHAT? Mind you I was by my lonesome in Lake City and Brother was out of town. She never cooks when we’re around. My poor brother has to cook for himself at home. I’m lucky if I can find a potpie when I visit. It’s been some years since I had a mama cooked meal.

Apparently she can wine and dine her little husband but not her children. She even had the nerve to post pictures on Facebook. Everybody was asking for a plate. It was on like Donkey Kong after that.

I didn't need her little meal anyway. I could cook my own. Immediately I went to the kitchen and pulled out my arsenal of ingredients. The end result was pecan encrusted chicken, seasoned brown rice and a medley of mixed vegetables. I quickly let her know there’s a new chef in town. War was immediately declared.

She accepted the challenge and came back that next week with Tuscan roast pork loin, a wild herb rice pilaf and a vegetable medley of asparagus, squash, broccoli and water chestnuts. It was all good until she busted out with a surprise sneak attack: a rum cake! That blasted cake ruined everything! My meal of chicken jambalaya was good but no match for a cake. She knows I don’t normally bake. Curses! I was foiled this time. She may have won the battle, but the war is far from over.

Today I plan on knocking her socks off with my rosemary-onion roasted chicken. That's all I can share for now lest she steal my menu. Just know it will be a delicious meal.

This cook war is about more than just my mother not fixing a home cooked meal. It’s about respect. My family seems to think I can’t cook. I merely don’t like to cook. I never said I can’t. I did demonstrate my cooking skills on New Year’s Day with this shrimp and rice pilaf dish and oven fried chicken wings. Everyone was surprised I cooked it, but they enjoyed the food. That was just a taste of things to come.

The “Art of War” says you must know your opponent. I know mine very well. Sure, she's got years of cooking experience on me, but I have a secret weapon. It's so secret, even I haven't figured it out yet. But when I do, the cook war will be over.

Only one can be the victor of this war. It shall be me!

Monday, January 18, 2010

A new year theme again

Happy Belated 2010 to my faithful readers (if I may steal a line from Cee, “all four of you”).

I am supposed to “Do It BIG, Then” in all areas of my life this year. Clearly I’ve been slipping on the blog game. Well worry no more. I’m officially back.

Cee is not participating in Writing Wednesday anymore, so official posts will be moved to at least once a week. I’m aiming to keep it on Wednesday, but as the need arises, I will post on other days.

In my quest to “Do It BIG, Then,” I have set a goal of 52 posts this year. So expect several this week. Not all on the same day though. Fan Club Prez dislikes multiple posts as it is, but even more so when I give a three in one special.

Another goal is to write tight. No more 500+ words. This will aid me in my career because space is limited and I have to tell the story as concisely as possible. Don’t worry. It won’t be less than 150.

I hope everyone is enjoying their year so far. If not, take the necessary measures to make it better. I already am by posting back on my blog.