Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New York in the Winter

I devised a plan to move back to Tallahassee in the Fall of 2006. I had called my former beautician in Tallahassee and asked her if I could do lashes in her shop. Her reply? “I would be mad if you didn’t.” That made me happy and so I got to work. I started saving money and buying products that I would need for my eyelash business. I called Sprint and added an additional cell phone line with a Tallahassee area code so that potential clients could contact me. I enlisted in one of my friends who was a whiz at graphic design to make my business cards jazzy. He did a wonderful job. I bided my time by squeezing in any last traveling conquests that I were on my to-do list. There was one conquest that wasn’t on my list but I decided to go for it anyway.

It was New Year’s Eve and I had never been to see the ball drop in Times Square. I didn’t want to just watch it on television. I wanted to be there. So, at the very last minute, I decided to catch an 8 o’clock flight to New York’s La Guardia Airport. I got dressed and poked my head into my mama’s room. “Hey, ma. I’m about to go to New York to watch the ball drop,” I said. “Watch a ball drop? What kind of ball?” So I explained to her what I was referring to. She looked very solemn and scared to death. “Well who are you going with?” she asked. “By myself.” Her voice got really low. “Okay, then. Be careful.” My poor mother probably fell out by the time I made it to the car. Now, being a little older and a little wiser, I don’t believe I did wandered off by myself. I mean really, what was I thinking? I didn’t even have a plan for when I deplaned in New York. Was I going to walk to Times Square? Was I going to take a taxi? Furthermore, where was Times Square? To be young and stupid, I tell ya, to be young and stupid.

The saying is true. God protects fools and babies. Once I arrived in New York, I saw one of my co-workers whom I just knew in passing. He was headed to Times Square with his little sister. It was her first time experiencing a New Year’s Eve in Times Square as well. She took my hand and never let it go. Thank God.

I don’t even remember their names but he navigated everything for us. He put us on the shuttle bus to Times Square. Since some streets were blocked off, he made up stories to tell the NY police so they would allow us access that got us closer to the festivities. Once we were in the thick of things, the energy was awesome. People from every corner of the earth had converged on Times Square. Cameras were everywhere and my friend Mat even called my cell and said that he saw me on MTV. I even saw my baby’s daddy, Clay Aiken, on the big screen.

At midnight, the ball fell. Confetti was everywhere. Soon after, we evacuated Times Square. Then we ate pizza, rode the subway, walked around and slept outside of security at the airport as we waited for our 6 a.m. flight back to Detroit. Lupus be damned. I was living my life and lupus wasn’t stopping the Sherri Train. Choo-Choo!

What I remember most about that experience wasn’t that I saw the ball drop or that I was in New York celebrating a New Year. I remember God’s hand being on my crazy self. I literally didn’t know what I was going to do when I stepped off of that plane. God interceded and said let me help out my wacky child. He sent my co-worker and his sister to guide and protect me that night. Women come up missing everyday but because of his mercy, I was not to be one of them. The duo was genuinely nice to me when they could’ve acted like they didn’t want to be bothered. Bless them. Like my mother has always said, you reap what you sow. That’s why it is always important to treat everyone you meet with kindness because you never know when you will need someone’s kindness to prevail.

In Times Square December of some year. I forget.

The folks that were sent to protect the fool. Can't recall their
names but I pray for them to this day.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Paris in the Fall

It’s a funny thing living with a chronic illness. Curious folks want to know more about your disease but don’t know how to ask. Then when they do ask, it is prefaced with “but you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.” The person living with the illness isn’t sure how much to tell and rethinks if they should even tell because they don’t want people to feel badly for them. Sometimes, it’s a difficult scenario to navigate.

I'm an open book and I'll tell everything that you want to know. From my experience, lupus feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and your head is light like a balloon. It feels as though any moment the balloon t is about to fly with a string attached. Just the thought of standing upright makes you exhausted and just to lift your hand to wipe your brow seems like the distance is a mile. Then twenty minutes later, a totally different feeling comes over you.

I don’t really talk about my lupus ordeal except to say “I have lupus.” The Social Worker at the Lupus Alliance, which is also where I work, came into my office one day and gave me some real things to think about. Mama D, as I call her, was concerned because she has never seen me sad, upset or angry. Her concern was very valid and she went on to and added that she was hoping that I wasn’t covering up what I went through or perhaps, not dealing with it all. That day, I totally appreciated her intervention because I’ve been struggling with those same feelings since I’ve returned to my right mind. She asked me the same questions that I had been asking myself. “Have you given yourself time to grieve?” “Have you owned your feelings?” The only thing that I could do was offer her the same answers that I had given myself. “Yes” and “yes”.

I’ve never shared this with anyone except my journal, Mama Jones and Brynna. On February 4, 2002, the day Dr. Mates called and said that I had discoid and systemic lupus, I was ecstatic about the challenge. I’ve always known that wasn’t wired correctly in my head but I am wired correctly enough to know that God’s grace won’t carry me anywhere where His grace won’t cover me. When I left my dermatologist that day in January of 2002, I walked through Henry Ford Hospital with a grin on my face and my fists balled up. I was ready for a fight in the supernatural. I wanted to see for myself if this God thang was real. The dermatologist had done a biopsy which means she took a skin sample from my face and placed it into a tube to be tested for lupus. She also had me do bloodwork to test for lupus. As she was slicing skin from my face, a single tear fell from my face. She asked me what was wrong. I couldn’t articulate what I was feeling. That’s when the Holy Spirit stepped in. “It’s a lot isn’t it?” she asked as she sewed up the spot over my eyebrow where she removed the sample. I just nodded slightly. Yes, it was a lot. I was a month removed from college graduation and had encouragement and the promises of all of the great things that were to come. But now I am laying on an exam table and a doctor is literally cutting flesh from my face. You can talk to me about life being fair a little bit later.

As I grew up my mom, aunts and uncles told me to mind my manners, treat people right and go to college. They don’t tell me about Equifax, TransUnion or incurable diseases. Damn them. That’s okay. They can’t protect me from everything. Some things I just have to find out on my own.

So picture me almost eight years ago, walking through the parking garage to my Cavalier knowing that God was going to do some things, was going to make some miracles using little old me. Oh honey, I talked real tough until those pains started setting in. Haha. Some days, I replay that scene in my head and chuckle to myself. God wants you to be hung-ho for Him but don’t get crazy. Don’t encourage devastating things to happen. As sure as you live and breathe, trouble will find you. As my mama (or maybe it was Marvin Gaye) has said you won’t get anywhere without any trouble.

Lupus ravaged my body soon after the diagnosis. I lost 30 pounds in the 28 days in February. My hair fell out on my pillow. My hands hurt so bad that I couldn’t turn the little thingy on the can opener to open a can of soup. Every joint in my body hurt from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. I went through it. All I had was my faith and your prayers.

I went to bible study one day and the pastor asked the congregation, “what is it that you would do if you were told you would die tomorrow?” I went home searched the Internet for flight attendant jobs. I had an interview and was offered a job all within one week of that church service. Due to my ignorance, I was told that it took folks years to become flight attendants. I mean, they literally interview for months to become flight attendants. Of course, that was the topic of many folks conversations. I forgot to tell folks that when they meet me, they meet the favor that is covering me. I packed up three large suitcases and went to Eagan, Minnesota for six weeks of training. Lupus had wrecked my hair so badly that I had invested in a wig that I wore to Eagan. I remember one day in training we had to slide down the emergency slide of the aircraft. I swear I saw groups of my fellow trainees taking bets on whether or not my wig was going to fly off. It didn’t. Thank goodness that stocking cap hugged my brain so tight.

So after the tight wigs, observation flights, friendships formed that I am proud to say that I still have, study groups, exams and lots of laughter, I was now a bona fide flight attendant. On my off days, I pimped the aviation system and travelled to all of the places that I read about. My non-swimming self jet skied in Nassau, saw the joy in my God-Mother’s eyes when I spat out ‘Madame, it’s the Eiffel Tower’ as we walked up the steps from the subway in Paris, was met by protestors at the hotel in Honolulu as I celebrated my 25th birthday and was driven around by the same guy that was initially arrested for kidnapping Natalie Holloway in Aruba. I wasn’t even 30 years old yet and had stories for days.

Even though being a flight attendant allowed me to the opportunity to poke around in the world, I was lacking something. Flying around wasn’t fun anymore and besides I had been everywhere that I wanted to go. I wanted something that was mine, mine, mine and decided to go back to Tallahassee and start an eyelash business. My mother looked at me sideways (as I am sure dozens of people did) and said, “Eyelashes? How are you going to support yourself doing eyelashes?” My answer didn’t go over well with her because she then said, “you are going to come back home disappointed and embarrassed.” Ouch ma, now that’s kinda rough. My reply? “Mom, grab that box for me and take it to the car.” For the record, that was the only time in my life that my mother has ever said anything against a dream that I had concocted. I have a wonderfully supportive mother and at that time she was just speaking out of fear. I didn’t take it personal at the time nor do I take it personal now. I was never a bad child but I am definitely a live-on-the-edge, pretty fearless adult. I’m surprised my mother’s health isn’t bad. I remember calling her at 2 a.m. one morning and telling her that I was going to get on a plane on the morning to run with the bulls. Her reply? “$@#%#$@%#$@T^$^@.! and don’t call me no more.” I mean, that could’ve easily been heart attack number 1. Then, a while later I told her that I was going to go sky diving. Her reply? “Well, you know what fool? Hell ain’t crowded yet.” That was her way of saying that she loved me. I just know it. But I put the sky diving on the back burner—for now.

Subconsciously, I think that’s why I don’t want to have any children. They say that your children give you double what you gave your own parents and I don’t want any part of that. I’ll be damn if my kid calls me and tells me that he is going to walk on glass or if I get a call from my daughter saying she a storm chaser. No ma’am. I can feel the unsupportive words forming on my tongue now and I haven’t even birthed a child into the world. It’s just a parent’s nature to want to protect their child. I understand that. With all that said, I come along. Good thing the stork dropped me off at a praying woman’s home. Any other woman wouldn’t have made it this far parenting me. Sometimes, I tease my mother that I’m the reason she trusts in God so much. “Lord, please don’t let that child ‘o mine bungee jump. I’m trusting in you God. Amen.” “Lord, please don’t let this child of mine decide to take piloting lessons. She don’t need to be driving no planes. I’m trusting you, Lord. Amen.” “Lord, it’s me, again. I’m trusting you not to let this crazy child of mine buy a motorcycle. What’s wrong with her Lord? Amen.”

Well, her prayer for my return from Tallahassee was answered...but not without any trouble. *Come back next week for the continuation. I need a snack now.*

Me in the P (Paris) representing the D (Detroit) in October 2006.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Push Past Pain

I can identify with the saying that the road to hell is littered with good intentions. Good thing I was granted this day to make this blogging thing right. I’ve always said that it is my plan to write an entry once a week. Clearly, I am almost three weeks behind. At least, I have a great excuse. And the great excuse is….I’ve completed a 50,000 word novel!!!! About darn time, right? My cousin Natalie told me about a writing competition (November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo) that challenged writers to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. It sounded like a good idea at the time but baby, by the 22nd word, I was asking myself, “what in heck have you gotten yourself into this time, girl?” That’s the Aries in me. Just jumping into things without looking.

So I wrote and created characters. I created characters and created plots. I created plots and plotted storylines. The storylines morphed into chapters. Watch out now. By the 15th of November, I was more than halfway there. But by Monday, November 30 at 10 in the morning, a sister was tired and I had 4,000 more words to go. The light was at the end of the tunnel but my choo choo train had slowed, slowed down. I wanted to nap and I wanted to eat. Once I finished napping and eating, I wanted to do anything but write. It’s funny because when you need to do something you come up with all sorts of things to do in order not to do what you are supposed to do. I was wiping down walls, washing the dog’s clothes, blowing my breath in my bedroom window and writing my name in it with my index finger. I even went in the basement, turned the fan on high and sang “P.Y.T” into the rotating blades. Yes, I knew I needed to get ahold of myself but first, I needed a nap.

My Facebook friends encouraged me to keep going. I appreciated that but I had to encourage myself at this point. I was no where near motivated to do anything. My motivation just left me. It just went. I guess I had worn myself out by moonwalking and singing in the fan’s blades. By this time, it was 8 p.m. Then it became 9 p.m. Then, I had a talk with myself. “C’mon, girl. You didn’t come this far to throw in the towel. Sit your behind down and do what you need to do.” I hate it when I’m reasonable with myself. It’s no fun and more than likely that part of myself isn’t doing the moonwalk.

So I sat down and wrote until I had scribed 50,148 words. I would say that I was overcome with joy but that would be a fib. I would say I did the “happy dance” and patted myself on the back but I would be lying. I downloaded my award certificate and got my little self in the bed. That was Monday night. Now it’s Thursday and I still haven’t looked at my manuscript. I did check my email and received delightful news though. CreateSpace has offered me and the other participants that finished the 50,000 words a soft cover copy of our books. I can build my own cover, add pictures and everything for free. The company will bound it for me and make it look all professional. Then “you can then choose if you want to make it available to the public at large-everything from showing up for sale on to complete invisibility.” Now which option do you think that I’m going to choose?? The offer expires on July 10 which is right around the corner in my eyes. Finally something that has me perking up!

Lesson learned: We have to do the grunt work to see the results. I dreaded writing. I absolutely, positively didn’t want to write a syllable towards the end but I pressed through what I didn’t want to do. It is written that we must press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. There is a blessing when we press through. Sometimes, these occurrences are unexpected blessings. I guess that further drives home the belief that we walk by faith and not by sight. We have to persevere and push through. We owe it to ourselves to see what beautiful surprise is on the other side.