22 years ago, when I'd first started grad school at a prestigious school in my city, I had a chance to see Maya Angelou give a speech.
I didn't jump at the chance to go. I'd seen the announcement in the school paper, but one of my Jewish classmates was so excited and wanted me to go with him. I was much more interested in the latest Chronic CD and some Snoop Dogg than Maya Angelou visiting our campus and giving a speech. I'd seen the movie I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. But I wasn't interested in going.
After much talk and discussion, I actually broke down and went with him.
I found it to be a very good speech. I, like everyone present in the auditorium, sat quietly listening to her words of wisdom.
Some 22 years later, something she said stuck with me:
She said that when you go out into the world, to give an interview, to speak before people, or whatever it may be, you are not alone. Your family is there with you, your ancestors are present with you. All these people go with you to handle whatever it is you have to handle.
And that stuck with me. In the midst of all the nervousness and uncertainty when standing before people, I have always reminded myself that people who love me unconditionally are with me. They have help shape me into the person I am, so therefore they are with me in these situations.
And that, at times, has made all the difference. You know how I am, I will spend time chewing on something like that. And over the years, it has meant different things at different times. She sowed a good seed in me that day. She sure did.
If you get a chance, go read a write-up of her life over on wikipedia. (She has written 7 autobiographies... wow. I never knew that).
What an intense life she has lived, packed tight with all the ups and downs and in betweens.
What a loss.
I am just glad some 22 years ago, my classmate said "Lee, you gotta go see Maya Angelou. I love her. She's awesome. Go with me. You want me to get your ticket?"
"If there had been a headstone it should have read Sister Callie not mad with nobody because people had always said that about her. Stripped of all her family, and living in a house with a leaky roof and a sagging front porch, she had faithfully visited the sick, kept a bird feeder in her yard, and given motherly love and teacakes to anyone stopping by. "Work with willin' hands, Esther Fay," she had often told me. "That's the Bible." A broken heart could not kill her. She had been a strong woman long before there were Rose the Riveter posters to encourage us. Never in the church house, even to clean it, with her head-rag as if it were a crown, all the time humming blues songs like they were the gospels too. I liked to think of her here looking down on me with satisfaction. Of course I'd get back to Jimmy's legacy one day, but for now at least I was keeping faithful to hers."
Oh how I love that character in the book Solomon's Blues. That was the first time I'd read a character in a book that was deceased, but was just as alive in the memories of the main character.
I told Jo Garner, the author of the book, over lunch that I was looking for a girl kitten and that I was going to name her Sister Callie, because that was my favorite character in Solomon's Blues.
And her middle name would be Jo in honor of Jo Garner.
(I am a true stalker stan.Yes. I am.)
So how did I find this kitty?
Well, Sam, aka "Cinnamon Sugar", was in town staying with me over the weekend. I was going to take her down to Forsythe to take a test. Not a big deal, since it's only 60 miles away. That is just an hour's drive. I tell you one thing. I suck big time when it come to entertaining folk. I fail miserably at such. But I am more of a person who is on your utility or support team or personal usher board, i.e., when you got some business to take care of, I got your back.
So we went to this place down there, and she found out where the test was. My goal was to wait around for her until she finished, which was to be no more than 3 hours. It was a nice beautiful day, not too hot, not too cold, but just right. I had a book to read on my kindle, and I also had downloaded a few episodes of Game of Thrones. I can hook my kindle into my car stereo system and it's like I'm at the movies.
But much of this was thwarted by one thing: I was a bit sickly. I'd been dealing with a neck sprain for the past week, and I had a dry sinus infection issue (I don't know what it's called, but I that is what I call it). I'd been living off of 2-3 hours of sleep a night. So I was a bit irritable.
I decided to go back up to a nearby CVS to look for something to help my sinuses. Everything was too high, but I did come up on some IcyHot patches. I figured I could slap one on my neck to stop the pain. I thought it would at least give me a little more range of motion with my neck. (Those patches are AWESOME. Chock full of bad chemicals, but who gives a damn. I was hurting bad!)
Anyway, if I am in a new town, I like to do a little exploring. Plus I thought I might happen upon a Wal-Mart and cop some some cheap stuff for my sinuses.
This town was basically a one street town. I saw City Hall and all the city buildings on the main road. I saw the local high school. And the rest was pretty much residential.
So I was driving down a street and I saw a makeshift sign that read "Free Kittens" in front of a business. It was a business where one could rent tractors and stuff like that. So I parked and walked in and asked to see the kittens.
"You have to go upstairs," the black lady behind the counter said in a country accent.
I looked around. I didn't see an "upstairs". I looked back to the cashier for direction.
"You have to go upstairs," she repeated.
There was a random dude in the place. "Come on, I will show you."
If you know me, you know how scary I am. I followed him... from a distance, no less.
So he lead me outside to a building next door, and pointed me to some stairs.
"Go on up there," he said.
So I negotiated the rickety metal steps, ever holding on to the makeshift wood railing. I was doing all I could not to bust my tail. But I made it up the steps. And I was looking behind me to make sure dude who directed me up the stairs didn't run up on me. The dude had walked on back up the street somewhere.
An older white man opened the door and told me to come in.
*fear and silence*
I could not run. I could not run left or right. The only way out of there was back down the metal stairway. Sigh.
I am reading a book right now titled Lady52.
There's a dude running around in the book killing folks and cutting off their faces. And he's hiding out in a old house with some other homeless folks. And he cuts off people's faces and hides them under the bed.
So here's this man hollering "Come on in so I can show you the kittens!"
I walked in and this man closed and locked the door.
It was a small efficiency apartment. A dirty mattress was on the floor in the corner, covered with a bedspread. There was a small kitchen in the back. He had a lot of windows, but only two had glass window panes. The rest had cardboard as windows instead of glass. The place was spare and clean. And there were a pile of little kittens fast asleep on the mattress.
But I was standing there, in the apartment of some strange man, clutching my purse and screaming on the inside. OH LAWD THIS IS DANGEROUS!
And I had been reading that book. I'd read many of Konrath's books, and there are serial killers all throughout them. Let's just say that this Oldgirl don't fool with strangers too tough.
No ma'am. No sir.
There is NO way I would've went up in some strange man's place.I thought the "free kittens" sign was outside of a business. That's what it looked like to me. I gripped my purse tightly by the handle. My kindle was in my purse, amongst other stuff. So it was heavy. If I had to swing on this man, I was prepared to. I was even prepared to do a round house kick, like the detective lady in that book.
"Here are the kitties," he said. "Two boys and two girls. And they are 5 weeks old."
"I am looking for a little girl," I said, still gripping my purse tightly.
He picked up one girl kitty and handed her to me. She was a big puff ball, all black, white and orange, and staring at me with too beady eyes.
"She's real calm, gets along easy with people," this man Mark said.
Yes she appeared to be. But I was NOT going to be dealing with no long haired cat. Kramer had long hair, and that dude use to sit around picking his hair out. That was some craziness. And I didn't see myself taking a cat to the groomer every couple of months. Nope.
He handed me the other kitty. "Now she is a feisty little something. Just loves to play."
Now I could deal with that. I can deal with feisty. I could not deal with a bunch of hair. Short haired tabbies are fine with me.
He said the mother was around. But she was in the kitchen, and I would have to lean down and look under the sink.
I didn't move an inch. I watched as Mr. Mark went over to the sink and opened the cabinet at the bottom of the sink.
"Come on over and see her," he beckoned.
I VERY reluctantly walked across the room and looked under the sink. I had to remind myself of part of my confessions and prayer that I say every morning... "Lord keep me from the evil of the day so that it grieves me not!"
"You gotta lean down closer. She is back there in the back,"
I did this. And there was the mama cat, staring out me with the same look of fright that I had.
"Oh okay," I said. "She looks like the kitten, only she is orange and white."
"She is a good Mama," Mr. Mark said. "Never too far away from her kittens."
We talked a little while longer. I don't know what it is about me, with me being the notoriously quiet and distant chick that I am, but people, strangers in particular, like to tell me their WHOLE life story. This man was very interesting, and very nice. He even told me about some of his lady friends, lol. Just a really kind-hearted man who loved animals.
"I have given away over 200 cats and kittens," he said. "I just love cats.'
I myself don't consider myself much of a cat person. Not in the way real cat lovers are. I like having them around as compared to dogs because they are self-sufficient and low maintenance. I would lose my mind if I had to walk a dog every day. Oh my. The horror.
We talked for a good half hour or so. By this time the father cat had walked up. (And he was looking at me all crazy). Mr. Mark asked if I wanted to sit down.
Uh, no. Not on your bed, sir.
With all this chiropractic work I have had done on my back, I can stand up a VERY long time. Long long time.
But if he would've had a table and some chairs and a TV up in there, I would've hung out with him until Sam texted me to let me know she was finished with her test. I had over an hour left before that was to happen.
But this had to be one of the nicest people I've met this year. He just really had a good heart. I could tell that just from the conversation.
We were fast friends by the time I left!
I told him that I needed to talk to Sam first to see if she needed to stop anywhere, or if I could get the kitty and go straight home. I told him I would give him a call.
I headed back to Sam's testing place. I sat in my car, a bit terrified from watching Game of Thrones in full stereo. Sam came out an hour later, and I told her about the kitty. She didn't have anything else to do, so we headed back to Mr. Mark's place.
By that time, I didn't care about being afraid. I had talked to him enough to figure out he was cool. We managed to find a box around his place for the kitty. He had an interesting collection of FUBU skull caps and offered one for the kitty to lay on, but I declined it. (I wanted to say "You know your FUBU is out of style now, right?" lol). I had a couple of scarfs in the car.
He carried the box downstairs to my car.
"Is that your friend?" he asked.
"Yes it is. That is Sam. She took her test and she passed it. Sam, this here is Mark. Mark, this is Sam!"
(I know Sam had to be O_o).
But I talk to him a moment longer. And he said "It's such a blessing when a kitty finds a good home. I know you will enjoy her."
I thought he was going to bust out crying. I hurried and got in the car... before he could snatch the kitty back.
What a nice man he was. One of the nicest I've met in a long time. Very genuine.
Yes, I know I need my behind whooped for walking up into someone's house. I live in one of the downtown ATL enclaves, so I KNOW better. You walk up into someone's house in my gentrified hood, you better have your hand on a glock. But I think it was meant to be. Why?
And here's the Food-for-Thought part.
I walked into a person's dwelling... a very spare dwelling. And he treated his place like it was a wonderful mansion. I was more afraid because I have been reading a crime thriller book with a killer running around. So that makes me a bit skittish, to say the least.
But the thing is, I live very spare. Over the years, I've gone up in many of my friends houses, and it is so beautiful... everything is perfect... the hardwood floors, the paint on the walls, and all the gorgeous furniture and artwork I question myself: I can afford all this on my salary. Shouldn't my house be decked out like this?
I have none of that. I am your tomboy friend. Give me a light bulb with a string attached to it, and I am GOOD. Just very spare. Much of that has come from a time some 20 years ago of not having a place of my own, and having to live with friends. I was thankful just to have a couch or floor to sleep on, and a pillow for my head. Anything more than that is sufficient.
I have no real sense of decoration. . I remember one of my book club sisters was SO nervous because she had to host a meeting at her one bedroom apartment. She was so afraid. I told her not to be, because yes, everybody has these big huge houses that are all laid out. I have a very small spare house, and I was able to get ten folks up in there for a meeting and we had a decent time. So don't be ashamed of what you have. Some of us don't have much. And some of us can afford it, but don't have it. I remember another book club sister saying "Yes, Lee has a small house" in a sarcastic way, and I felt bad about it. This chick has 6 people in her household, so of course she has a half million dollar house. That is not necessary for me (My house is too big for me. If I could shave the whole upstairs off, it would be just right). And to this day, I am a bit apprehensive about folks coming over. No I ain't trying to impress people, but just the same, who wants to deal with crazy comments? Comparison is a strange thing sometimes. We all do it, but when folks use it in the wrong way to prove that they are better than someone else (i.e, my house is bigger than your house), then that is a problem. And it is just as dangerous when comparison makes one come to the conclusion of "What I have is not enough".
And I was struggling hard last week with that, as I knew that I was having a guest over. Sure, Sam is on the same level with me as my sister Kentucky, but I was still a bit nervous. The upstairs of my house was pretty much straight, as I don't go up there much. But I was scrambling trying to get things more presentable downstairs where I live and dwell, in the midst of having these neck and sinus issues. So I was a bit bummed out about that. I almost threw a bunch of artwork on the wall, but I didn't have the time or energy, lol. Plus like I said, I suck at entertaining people. I am your utility gal... when you gotta take care of business, I am your girl. And I am also a bit worried when I deal with anybody tied into Twitter or social media. Things can go south real fast. No chance of that with she and I, but lawd have mercy, , with the beef that pops off from time to time on social media, that do be on this Oldgirl's mind.
I thought much about this and the lessons I needed to learn from all this, and what I needed to improve.
And yesterday, I thought about this kind man that I met in a country town... who gave me a free kitty... who was oh so proud of his little place, even though most of us would frown at living in such a small efficiency. He didn't even have table or chairs. I remember thinking how my master bedroom was larger than his entire place. The two upstairs bedrooms that I rarely use were bigger than his little room.
And I thought about how I need to be proud of what I have. I am reading a book right now, and in one of the chapters in there where there were statements about how we spend so much more time talking about what we don't have than what we do have. We live so very abundantly, yet we wake up talking lack ("I didn't get enough sleep", I don't have enough time to get to work," etc). That's not good. It cultivates an attitude of lack. We shouldn't be whining about anything when we have 100 pairs of shoes in the closet. (Well, I only have 4 pairs of shoes. That's more than plenty folk in the world have).
So that was my lesson learned from the kitty Sister Callie Jo and the circumstances around getting her. You know me, I learn a lesson in everything. All kinds of interesting things happen in my life. And they all have a lesson tied within.
So back to lil' Sister Callie. She is a ball of energy. A straight up spitfire.
Oscar-Tyrone isn't all that pleased with her, as you can tell.
He tolerates her presence.
She gets too feisty, he'll smack her. His paw stretches across her frail chest, holding her down. She goes and sits her lil' tail down somewhere after that. The other morning he was fussing so hard at her that it woke me up. Not sure what she did to get such a tongue lashing, but she sat down somewhere for awhile.
She attacks my eyeglasses and tries to snatch off my earring. Let's just say she understands "NO!" very well. And I let her play all morning, so as to wear her out. She seems to understand that when it is time for me to go to work that she goes into her kennel. She immediately lays down and goes to sleep. So she seems to fitting in well with the routine.
I hope she is a girl. One of my coworkers was telling me that 99% of orange tabbies are boys. It is rare to find a little orange girl.
I asked Mr. Mark, while looking at the all of the kitties' genitalia, how to tell that it's not a boy.
"Because she has no balls!" he said.
I lifted her little leg up higher so I could see a little better. "Uh yeah. I don't see no little puffy sacs down there."
My Auntie had a little kitten name Phoebe. Turns out as Phoebe got older, she was a boy.
Phoebe was renamed Peabo.
If this one turns out to be a boy, she will be renamed Brother Cally Joe.
I've been checking her. Still looks like a girl to me!
So I hope you enjoyed this post. There was a little comedy, a little almost-horror and even some food for thought.
Look at what I saw when I was leaving for work the other morning:
A fat one at that!
I wonder where he came from. There is a rabbit hole in my front yard. (I thought it was a snake hole until I saw one come out of it last year. I was thinking about filling it up with some dirt, but decided against if for some reason. (Might have been a snake hole afterall.
Some years ago, there was a turkey in my neighbor's backyard.
Not sure where he came from. I live downtown, so he has to be lost.
I also live a little over a mile from the Atlanta Zoo.
I don't think I will worry about this issue until I see a giraffe or gorilla or elephant prancing around my back yard.
Until then, let the rabbits and turkeys have their fun.
I have on internet. I have no internet. I HAVE NO INTERNET.
And no landline phone service.
More on that later...
Anyway, it is a beautiful day in my beloved ATL. It's 70 degrees and the sun is shining high in the sky. And it's going to be a beautiful weekend.
I woke up this morning to meticulously cut grass, in the front yard and back. O_o. Now, a couple of days ago, when this boy asked me if I wanted my grass cut, I said no. I guess he wanted to cut it anyway. I have to pay him, as I don't care to come home to my door being kicked in. But he's gonna get a good talking to.
I have been cutting my own grass as of late without much problem. Mr. Thomas usually does it, but he likes to "contract" the work out to other folk. Odd to see some strange dude cutting my grass. That's not right for only $15. And Mr. Thomas probably pays this person only $5. You KNOW that's wrong for all that work. Sigh.
Back to my phone and internet service being shot.
It's hard to blog when I don't have all that. I have no way of uploading my pictures.
I still have no internet or landline service. But you know me an how, uh... bootleg, I can be. So I'm up and running right now.
All I know, I was in the shower at 6:30 am on Tuesday morning, singing down, and all sudsy...
And the lights went out. It was pitch black. Just me and the running water...
And a lone meow from the Oldcat Oscar-Tyrone.
The stormy weather hampering the southeast was the problem. Here in the ATL, we had high winds and thunderstorms producing some 4 to 5 inches of rain. It was so bad that it woke me up that morning.
It was hard getting around and getting ready for work that morning just armed with a flashlight. Oscar had to be fed. I had to make my lunch. I finally just decided to wait until it got light outside before I left for work.
And since the garage is electric, that meant no Lucy, Jr. I needed to drive Pam.
And Pam was dirty, covered in pollen and leafy debris despite the torrential rains. So I had to get out there and clean Pam before I left for work.
(I know folks were like "What is this fool doing out here washing the car?")
And come to find out that the lights went out because a HUGE tree fell a few houses up from my house. It knocked down a bunch of power and phone lines.
By this time, the power company trucks had arrived.
Everyone was outside, just a eyeballin' them.
I noticed they taped off the street when I was leaving that morning. When I drove onto my street after work, the power company workers were out there working hard on it.
I had to go around the block to get to my house. That is fine. As long as my lights were turned back on.
And they weren't, even though I received a message at work that they were back on. I got home around 3. Lights were back on at 4:30.
BUT I had no internet or phone service. And I HATE calling the phone company. It takes at least an hour for them to figure out what is wrong.
The next morning I drove down the street to have a look at the damage. (It wasn't on the news, so that meant that no houses wer hit).
Look at that. They cut it enough to clear the street, and that's it.
Look at how big it is!
Wow! I am thankful it didn't hit those people's house. That would've been disastrous.
Here is the debris on the other side of the street.
Apparently the tree fell out over the street and hit the wires, which broke it's fall. I am glad no cars were hit. When this type of things happen in Atlanta, someone gets killed or hurt by falling trees. And this time, the news reported that hundreds of trees fell during this storm. Sigh.
I don't have phone service or internet service. I called the phone company, and apparently, the power company repairs their power lines, but leave the phone company lines on the ground (and there were lines all on the sidewalk. Seems odd that they would leave them down like that).
I took half a day off because someone had to be home to get service from the technician. This dude saw the wires down and walked off. I got a call later that night that the phone cable division had to deal with it, and something would be done within 24 hours.
So when I arrived home the next day, they were out there putting up phone wires.
That dude was looking at me. Yeah buddy, I am out here taking pictures. Whatcha gonna do about it? *ladylee scurrying into house before dude comes down out that bucket and snaps*
STILL no phone service.
So I called the phone company from my cell phone once again. The ticket was still open. So hopefully they figure something out.
I just got a call from the technician saying that everything was working. We will see when I get home.
This is such a minor inconvenience.It is quite the high class problem. There were over 150 tornadoes over the past couple of days in the south and midwest. Pensacola Florida got over 24 inches of rain. Other places were flooded out also. We've been under a flash flood warning. People have lost their houses and everything they have. Over 20 people have lost their very lives.
So this "no phone/no internet" is what it is: a minor annoyance. It is remarkable how much we are dependent on such things.
I am thankful to just be fine. No worse for the wear. It's been a pretty decent week, it has.