Friday, March 21, 2014

Sweet Sharon

After work yesterday, I got on the Scotlandville bus and rode to the main terminal where I transferred to the Highland bus to get home. A lady ended up sitting near me. She had straight, thin, wispy red hair with bangs, pulled behind her head with a clip. She had on a white t-shirt under a light blue sweater that gaped a little at the buttons and a pair of khaki slacks that were too big for her. She looked to be maybe in her 50's and looked like she didn't have a lot of money. With some soft, minimal wrinkles, had a few small scabs on her face and forehead. Her happy brown eyes sparkled and she was alternately very quiet or talking to anyone around her whether they answered her or not!

I started thinking about her, and praying for her in my mind. "Lord, I don't know if she has anyone in her life who treats her kindly and loves her. Please let her know YOUR love. Please send people to her to show her Your love. And if there's something You want ME to do, please just tell me."

Looking over, I saw that this lady was bent forward with her hands covering her face. She was rocking back and forth saying over and over, "Mercy, Jesus. Mercy, Jesus. Mercy, Jesus."

Later in the ride, I noticed she had on bright green fingernail polish! I couldn't really guess her age, but wondered if maybe she had a granddaughter or someone who decided to paint her nails green. That, I decided, was a perfect conversation starter. :)

"So where'd you get green nails?" I asked her.

"From a bottle." She smiled and laughed. "It's cause I GO, girl!! Green means GO!" She laughed more. This lady had a great personality!

She continued, "That's what I told the lady when I bought it at WalGreens. 'Go, girl!' And it's also green for St. Patrick's day."

"Oh that's right," I said. "That was only last weekend and I had already forgotten!"

She said something about her medications, maybe for diabetes or blood pressure... how they were so expensive and she couldn't afford them. Then she perked up, looked at me and said, "The other day I was out in a store parking lot and this guy walked up to me and gave me $40! He said, 'God told me to give this to you' and just handed me $40!'"

WOW,I thought! God is ALREADY looking out for this lady!

I asked her if the money was enough. She looked at me, and I added, "To get your medicine."

Her face immediately brightened into a huge smile! "Every one of my medications!"

Then she added, "That's scary...".

"Scary?" I asked,

"YEAH that's scary!! Can you imagine?

Momentarily confused, I was not afforded the time to ask for clarification.

She burrowed forward. "It'd be nice if He'd throw me out a HOUSE! Ha!"

"You don't have a house?" I had been wondering that.

Leaning forward as if she was confiding in me, she said, "An APARTMENT. I have an apartment. I want my OWN HOUSE. Not where I have to deal with damn property inspections every six months, make sure I'm not messin' their sh** up."

I would LOVE to have my own house too,I thought.

Moments of silence passed. All of a sudden, she burst out: "I just wish I could find my TEETH!"

She laughed. I noticed then that her bottom teeth were in place, but she sure was missing teeth on the top. I wondered if her bottom teeth were real or if they were dentures, but decided that was not my business and probably would not be cool to ask.

She went on to describe to me how the floors in her apartment were "like a hospital" - contextually, I took that to mean tiled, smooth and very hard. She told me she dropped her dentures on the floor and they broke right in half.

"$500 to replace 'em. FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS! Can you believe that? It'd be $250 to fix 'em, but I don't think they can fix 'em. I don't know. Five hundred dollars."

I wondered if she had Medicaid... wondered if Medicaid paid for dentures or if they were considered "cosmetic," perhaps, or not vital enough for government money. I didn't say anything.

We chatted a little more. I enjoyed her company and even thought we could become friends. When I got off the bus, I introduced myself. "My name is Nicole." I extended my hand.

She took my hand briefly and smiled. "I'm Sharon."

I like Sharon. I hope I see her again. Please pray for her! God provided her the money for her medications; of COURSE He can provide the money for her teeth!

One thing I did learn from Sharon was to keep a good attitude and laugh, even if everything in your life isn't just the way you want it. Sharon seems to be able to go through the rubble of everyday life and pick out things to smile about, things to laugh about, and reasons to be friendly to people she encounters. I want to be that way, too.

I hope I run into her again. :)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Licked by a Zombie

Sitting in Radio Bar, Natalie and I had finally gotten a chance to hang out. We've known each other for about 2 years but have only had chance meetings and brief conversations. It took determination and lots of rescheduling, but we finally set aside time to sit down and have a relaxed conversation.

So of COURSE I took advantage of the opportunity and got her permission to record a story for this blog!

Natalie had been telling me about different types of counseling and spiritual therapy she'd been experiencing. Topics like this fascinate me. She told me a little bit about her therapy and then moved on to sharing about a recent dream.

"Well, I’ll draw… we’ll draw mandalas and stuff, we’ll do art therapy and… she actually works at the Tau Center on the side and then counsels on the side and everything."

"Um, so I had a dream last night that I was on a space ship," Natalie ventured, "and something, some liquid, was leaking into the, the space ship. You know, and it hit like a crease in the floor and it started to run and if you touched it, you’d turn into a zombie."

"And then, but you could turn other people into a zombie if you were a zombie… you’d have to lick ‘em," she elaborated. We both laughed. "And so," Natalie said, "I pretended I was a zombie so I wouldn’t get licked."

That sounds to me like a VERY intelligent idea and, should I ever find myself in similar circumstances, I hope to implement this same tactic for my own safety....

"I have a lot of alien movie, alien dreams," Natalie explained.

I asked, kind of teasing, "Are you on any medication?"

"Yes," she said plainly.

(I couldn't help but laugh out loud; I can relate to the dream thing. Heh...)

"I am," she affirmed, with a twinge of humor in her voice..

"Because," I explained, "I am on medication and I know that makes me have a LOT of vivid dreams." I confessed... "I love it!" Eh, what can I say. I like to dream crazy dreams I can remember and sometimes even write about.

Natalie continued, "I have alien dreams… I have alien robot dreams, too!"

"Really," I inserted.

"Yeah," she said. "Alien robot dreams. So, okay, so I’m on this, I’m on this spaceship, this liquid starts coming, I don’t know how to stop it; I don’t have anything to stop it. It’s nighttime, and then, somehow it kinda transitions into like a mall. And so every, like, so a lot of people who turned into zombies kinda start movin' through the mall to get to people who haven’t been turned into zombies yet. So, I pretend that I’m a zombie so nobody’ll lick me."

"Okay!" I laughed.

Natalie continued further: "And, um, so, you know, there’s like the, the store keepers for each of these little stores, you know? And like, um, we’re moving through the mall and then we get to, like, an office and we go through all the offices so I kinda take the lead so they think I’m a zombie, right? And so we find these two executives hiding; they’re, like, tryin to hang in this closet but you can see their feet… you know? And so, like, I’m licking them; I’m like," she mimics whispering to the characters in her dream, "'Just pretend.'

"Um, and then, I’m on the ground and they wanna lick me I’m like, 'I’m one of you!' And… and so, this um, and so it’s a black guy, I don’t know why, he goes, 'Let me lick you anyway.' And I’m like, 'Honey, I don’t want you to lick me.' But he, you know he’s like, and I’m like, 'Help me up and let’s get goin.'

"And, you know what I mean, so we’re, like, moving through this hallway and then, like, we come to this thing and you have to get across… and you see all these different levels and you have to kind of get across to safety or whatever… and, um, that’s kinda where it ends.

"But, I don’t remember if I… I think I could fly… cause I can fly in a lot of my dreams."

"Okay!" I laughed again.

"You know, though lots of times I don’t have control over, um, my flying… but I can fly. So maybe I can’t quite get high enough, I can’t… steer how I wanna steer, but I can fly."

Natalie grew up here in south Louisiana, went to school at St. Joseph's, and lived in Chicago for a number of years. She recently moved back to Baton Rouge because her teenage niece has been fighting a rare strain of cancer. Fighting, and winning! Natalie loves her family; it's obvious from the way she talks about them.

Natalie's main interest is photography. In her spare time, just to pay the bills, she lends her services to a local Starbucks.

In short, Natalie rocks.

I am very glad to have gained Natalie as a friend and hope, in the future, we can make some more time to just hang out and chat over a few easy drinks. She's a lot of fun and a good person to know.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Keep Going!

My friend Reggie is someone from whom I had thought getting a story would be easy. He's a really likeable, fun, easy-going guy who always has something to say. When I put him on the spot, though, Reggie seemed to really struggle to come up with a good story to share.

"What haven’t I done?" he asked, laughing.

"I just don’t… cause… I mean… nothin that I want you blogging!" he said as he stuffed down a sandwich.

"You didn’t ever do anything good?" I pressed.

"No!" he half-laughed. "That really would take some thought!"

One of his sons, around 7 or 8, is named Dylan. Awhile ago, Reggie was telling me about Dylan. For awhile, Reggie had been calling him "Juice" as a nickname. On the drive to elementary school one day, Dylan asserted to Reggie, "Dad, I want to be called 'Rick Juice,' not just 'Juice.'"

SO CUTE!! Anyway, we still refer to him as Juice. So, from time to time, Reggie tells me stories about what Juice has been up to. When I was trying to interview Reggie, I prompted him, "You could tell me a story about Juice. He does good stuff, huh?"

"That’s my son. Of course he doesn’t." Such irony. He grinned.

"I thought you would be the easiest person to ask," I said, "because you have so many things that you talk about all the time!"

"Yeah, but it’s never any GOOD stuff!"

Reggie cocked his head to the side as one idea hit him. "Well... I always wanted to be an architect."

"Yeah?" I asked, trying to encourage him.

"But, um, my aspirations to be an architect were cut short when I started bein' a father. That shit went straight out the window."

Yep, he's sired quite a fold of youngins. Busy fella.

"And, you know, the same old chestnut fell in with the wrong crowd, started doin' dumb shit. Went to jail a few times. Probably actually more than a few times."

Has Reggie made some mistakes? Yes. Are there NO good things about Reggie? Of course not! I don't know the Reggie who WAS; I know my friend Reggie TODAY. Reggie is kind. He has a great sense of humor. He can be trusted. He has a lot of life ahead of him; he's only about 35 or so. It made me sad that my friend thought he had nothing good about his life to share.

This is me sitting by Reggie in the Superdome when a group of us from work went to see the Saints play the Raiders - 2013

I am a strong believer that there is lots of good in EVERYONE. As much good as anyone wants to pull up out of themselves, is there for the taking! But, I will step off my soap box for now.

Let the stories begin!

***************************************************

Reggie, the youngest of 8 children, finally began sharing with a story about his dad.

"My dad wasn’t, like, MEAN… he was just like… big disciplinarian… I can remember when… they had… well it was 8 of us that lived with my mom and dad. He had bought my brothers and sisters some bikes for Christmas. Told ‘em, 'Don’t ride 'em in the street.' So he come home from work, everybody ridin’ bikes down the middle of the street."

"Nothing good can come of this," I thought silently. Aloud, I muttered, "Uh-oh."

Reggie went on: "So he told ‘em to get off the bikes, take ‘em in the backyard… took ‘em in the backyard, he took an AX… and," he said matter-of-factly, "cut them all up."

"Nooooo!" I lamented.

Reggie said, "I swear."

"Brand-new bikes?"

"Brand-new bikes. I mean, he bought ‘em in December for Christmas, this had to be February. So yeah, everybody got their bikes sma… to, like, totally demolished. By my outraged dad."

That would teach ME a quick lesson about listening to my father! Man, that is so extreme!

Reggie went on to tell me more about when he was a kid.

"And, yes, he used to call me outside, call me from outside from playin’ with my friends, to tell me to go get him some Kool Aid.

"Yes, Kool Aid. And he’ll put his fingers on the glass to show me just how much he wanted, and he’d make me put my fingers in the same spot so I always had to walk to the kitchen with my fingers holding against the glass cause he didn’t want any more than that. If, he, if I poured him any more than that, he’d make me pour it out."

I contributed a quick, "Really."

"He really would. He, he… I think he got it from his dad who was… he left home when he was 18 years old and didn’t go home for 30 years."

Reggie continued describing his dad: "He was from Portsmouth, VA. He left home when he was 18, and he didn’t go back to Portsmouth, VA for 30 years, until one of his sisters died, and he went back. But, his dad used to make him tie his shoes. Like, 'You tie my shoes; I don’t feel like it.' "Yeah. And I’m thinkin' that’s where he got that from? But wasn’t like abuse because, I mean, I was spoiled rotten.

"I was still an asshole, though," he grinned.

I laughed and shook my head.

He added, "Still did dumb shit. Not until he died, though! I didn’t start doin' dumb shit until he died."

"Yeah," I thought aloud. "You knew better."

"Yeah!" Reggie agreed. "Yeah, he’s one a those kinda parents, you know, like..."

"Like, 'Don’t let me catch you,'" I filled in.

"Yes. 'I’m gonna beat you. I don’t care about the cops comin’ to pick me up cause I’m still gonna beat you even more.' It’s true!"

I wondered to myself what kind of trouble Reggie would get in if his dad heard him telling all his business like this. Heh...

He continued, "One time the cops came to the house for my brother. This was, like, on a weekend. So he always go out and get drunk on Friday night, so,"

"Who – your dad or your brother?" I asked.

"My dad. My brother, too, by that time! But, just this instance, the cops came for my brother. They’re beatin’ on the door; you know that police knock – BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM!! Everybody know the police knock. So, he come to the door, in his underwear, as usual, my height, my size, so you know he ain’t scarin’ nobody."

We both laughed at that point. Reggie's taller than me, but shorter than a lot of guys... and he's a very LEAN fella. (Please note, I did not say "skinny.") :-)

Reggie went on with the story: "He say, 'Stop beatin’ on my mother f***in door!' The cops went BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM! They just got louder with it. So he swung the door open and punched the first person he sees in the face – BAM!! JUST so happened it was, like, a cop that was, like, 6’3”, 6’4”…"

Oh no.

"Yeah, and they took my dad to jail."

Well, yeah...

"I mean, f*** that!" Reggie said on his dad's behalf. "Don’t beat on his f***in door; he told ya! He warned you before he opened it; he ain’t care who it was on the other side of it. 'Stop beatin’ on my F***IN door!' So, instead of takin' my brother to jail, who they actually came to get, they took my dad."

"So they forgot about getting your brother and just took your dad," I summarized.

"'We ain’t worried about him'," he said, pretending what the furious policemen must have been thinking.

We both laughed.

"We ain’t worried about him," he repeated.

Reggie taking an alcohol-induced nap in the freezing-cold Superdome... almost on top of my friend Angela, who was less than amused... LOL

That's my Reggie. What I learn from him is, you take what life gives you and you make the best of it. You don't quit, give up, throw yourself on the ground and cry... you just keep going.

So I guess my message from this story to all you readers is, "Just keep going!"

KEEP GOING! :-)

"Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!"

Thursday, February 6, 2014

When Time Paused

Terri Lynch is a Chemical Engineer out of Mississippi State University. She is kind to people but never afraid to speak her mind. I met Terri at my job about 2 years ago and have enjoyed getting to know her. She is friendly, not pushy, ostensibly open-minded... basically, Terri is a really, really cool person to get to know.

I caught up with Terri recently and had a chance to sit down and record a story from her college years in Starkville, MS. The story she shared reminded me once again, sometimes you will never know what people have experienced until you ask.

Terri began, "Back when I was a sophomore in college, I had some friends that, um, they lived on campus but then they moved off campus."

"A couple of the guys were rugby players, and two of the guys weren’t. But there was four guys that always hung out together; they were always good friends. Three were white, one was black. One of the white guys and the black guy had an apartment together."

(Couldn't help it; made me think of "New Girl" with Zooey Deschanel... the situations both probably started out remarkably similarly... only Terri has red hair.)

Back to Terri: "Over a weekend… you know… you’re in college, you cut up; you goof off, you drink, whatever. So these guys were at their apartment hanging out and drinking and, for some reason, they decided it’d be funny to go throw the black guy into the pool. Because he had been out at the pool with ‘em before.

"So they threw him in, they knew he was gonna be mad, so they all high-tailed away from there!

"Well, a few minutes later, they didn’t see him back at the apartment and one was wanting to get back into the apartment and couldn’t find his keys so he said, 'Well I need to go find my keys.'

"And they didn’t understand why they couldn’t find their friend, either."

"Mmm-hmm," I said, paying close attention to what I was hearing.

"So they went back to the pool," Terri said, "and the guy was like, 'Well I musta dropped my keys in the pool; I’ll go to the pool.' Well, the pool… number one, it was at night. Number two it’s a nasty pool; they didn’t have it cleaned…."

"Ewww..." I contributed.

Terri nodded and continued. "Um… so the guy got in the pool to find his keys and…

"...he found his friend."

Wow. If you're anything like me, you felt a sinking in your heart and stomach as soon as you read that last phrase. I can only imagine how those guys must have felt. Horrible! Terrified! Undone! I have a million words to fill in that blank of possible emotions... they probably felt a thousand things at once, mostly SHOCKED! How terrible, how terrible. Oh my goodness. Oh... my... WOW.

Hearing this story for the first time, the only words my mouth found to utter were, "Oh no!"

"Yes," Terri agreed. "It was pretty horrible."

"Oh my goodness." Mentally, I was placing myself in that situation and feeling a sense of what it must have been like. It was rough.

"He drowned. But they didn’t know that he couldn’t swim. They had no idea… that he couldn’t swim. Or else they woulda never thrown him in the pool!"

Of course not, I thought.

"Okay, well, let’s see… sophomore year was… was over 20 years ago… okay… there was still a lot about racial stuff goin' on. You know, 20 years ago, 25 years ago," Terri said.

"And Mississippi…" I added. Mississippi has an ugly racial history.

Terri stated, "NAACP got involved. And they claimed it was a racial hate crime. The three guys, three white guys got arrested and were taken to jail. Two of the guys, their parents came and got ‘em outta jail. Third guy, his parents were like, 'We’re not coming down from Tennessee to bail you outta jail. You’re gonna have to find somebody down there to, to bail (you) out'".

"Mmm-hmm," I murmured. This story was one that should only happen on TV, in a melodramatic soap opera or the like. But this was, and still is, reality.

"I got the phone call." The third guy called Terri to come get him out of jail.

"So I went and got him outta jail and I’m like, if you nee… and I’m na├»ve, okay, and I don’t know what to do, and all I’m doin is signing something and I thought I was either gonna have to be responsible for the money or I’d have to go to jail so I threatened him…" she laughed. "I said, 'I’ma beat your tail! If you jump… you know… if you go jump bail, I will hurt you!'

"And he was a rugby guy! I didn’t care. And back then I weighed… 95 pounds? 5 foot 2, 95 pounds? I’m tellin the rugby guy, 'I will hurt you.'"

"Well," I commented, "the little ones can be the meanest sometimes…"

Terri agreed with me and continued the story. "Um, got him outta jail, they did go to trial, they got acquitted… cause it really was not… racial. They really... it was truly an accident. They couldn’t go to the funeral. You know, because the parents didn’t want them coming."

That must have hurt so badly.

"But it was… never, never take it for advantage that you think… you know if… even if somebody’s sittin' out by the pool with ya… never take it for advantage that they know how to swim."

Yes indeed.

What was meant as a joke between buddies ended up dousing the flame of a valuable human life. I feel certain none of those three guys have forgotten, or will ever forget, that night and the events that followed.

They will always remember how, that night, time paused... then slowly ground its way back to normal pace again.

The one light in this dark story... is the fact that the one guy who was so downcast... so hopeless... left alone by even his own family... had a true friend who came to his aid.

Terri concluded, "And if you’re a good friend, you call them and say, 'Hey, come bail me out.' Or even if you’re not a good friend, you call Terri." She smiled.

Who would you call? Or, better yet, who would call you if they were alone and in desperate need? I encourage everyone who reads this to think that over.

Everyone needs a friend who cares unconditionally. Who will help and not judge us, who will fill a role in our lives that we, on our own, cannot fill.

May we all be that friend to someone.