People Like Us

Because of Helen

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Helen Gabriel and her family literally changed the course of my life. That’s a pretty dramatic statement and not one I make flippantly. Still, I am sitting here on my couch today, thirty-five and a half years later, overwhelmed with love and gratitude for one of the most generous and loving families I know. They were led by their matriarch, Helen.

The Gabriels lived on a dairy farm just outside of Rockdale, in a large white farmhouse that was always filled with the sounds of conversation, laughter and the smell of home-cooking. There were six children in the family, all were older than I. Our families had become acquainted years earlier and had known each other for longer that I could remember. I suppose it should not have been a surprise that when the five of us had nowhere to go, had no money and were living in a single-cab truck, that we would reach out to the Gabriel family for help.

I was riding in the back of the truck in a fever-induced haze when I heard the crunch of gravel beneath our tires and felt the truck slow to a stop. I had developed a high fever while riding in back of the truck and was lying on soggy boxes while it rained that late August day. The next few days were a blur. Helen and her family welcomed us warmly, fed us and let us gave us a place to rest. A few days later I recovered from my illness after receiving lots of love and care from Helen. This sweet family offered us housing there on the dairy, in a 23-foot travel trailer located behind their home. I was so embarrassed to impose on them, but so thankful to be out of that truck. I loved visiting the dairy barn, watching the dairy process in a spotless barn that smelled of bleach, milk and of cows.

I began school in a nearby community and rode the bus home to the Gabriel’s house. When I got off the bus each day, I pretended that the large farm house was actually my home, too embarrassed to admit to my fellow bus riders that I actually lived in the trailer behind the house. Though I had typical teenage pride, I still loved the dairy and so appreciated our time there.

The first weekend at the Gabriel Dairy Farm, one of Helen’s daughters convinced me to go on a blind date with the cousin of her then boyfriend. It took a lot to convince me. Helen told me from the beginning that Mark was “as good as they come” and she was right. I finally agreed to go on that first date and was courted there at the Gabriel Dairy by the man I eventually married thirty years ago. A few months later, after meeting Mark, our family moved into a home in the area where we lived until I graduated from High School.

Through the years, I continued to visit with Helen and would see her around Rockdale on occasion. When I did happen to run into her, brilliant blue eyes would light up, her face would soften and I knew I could count on her to hug and kiss me and call me “baby”. She was excited about our wedding, the birth of our children, our careers and the purchase of our homes. She was one of the few constants in my life. Though I could go months and sometimes years without seeing or talking to her, when we did get to visit it was like we were never apart. She loved me, I knew and felt that and I loved her in return.

Last year, when Helen fell ill, I visited her a few times at the Dairy. We reminisced and talked about those tough early days. One day, I asked Helen about the day we showed up at her house unannounced.

“How in the world did you do it– a family of five led by adults with questionable decision-making skills, there unexpectedly on your doorstep when you had a full house already. I just don’t know if I would have opened my home like you did, I don’t know what I would have done.”

Helen smiled and shook her head. “Oh baby, you needed help and I had what you needed. That’s just all there is to it.”

How can it be that simple? There she lay, in pain, her face still glowing with that sweet smile, with such certainty.

“Helen, you completely changed my life, you know that right? I feel I can never repay you.”

“Oh baby, I just helped a little. You would have done the same thing.”

“I love you, Helen.”

“I love you too, baby.”

I remember clearly when Helen kissed my cheek and hugged me one last time.

She died on a Monday, April 10, 2017. The world lost such a bright light, but I know Heaven rejoiced. I believe that we are each a part of a master plan. I think God puts people in our lives at just the right time to guide us, encourage us and sometimes even to challenge us. Because of Helen, I knew the true meaning of compassion. Because of Helen, a prayer was answered and after years of attending numerous schools each year, I finally got to end my high school career in one city, one school. Because of Helen, I met and married the love of my life. Because of Helen, I got to know unconditional love for most of my adult years. Because of Helen, my life has been enriched and I look for opportunities to give back. Thank you God, for sweet Helen.

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The Voices

I stood on a pedestal in front of a well-lit mirrored wall, staring at my reflection with disgust. I saw an overweight, middle-aged woman who looked really tired.  Those 12-hour work days in front of the computer and almost a year of wedding planning in my “spare” time had really taken a toll. We were nearing the wedding date and it was time for me to select a mother of the bride dress. My daughter really wanted me to wear something formal, sparkly and “fancy” and as a lover of fashion, I was of course happy to comply.

I struggled to find the right gown; most stores had either frumpy, matronly gowns or the “off to the club” variety, leaving little selection in the “simple-elegance-that-makes-me-look-like-a-super-model” category I hoped to find. I finally found a gown I wanted online and had come to this store to order it. After much discussion with the sales clerk, it seemed necessary to try on gowns of the same brand, to ensure the fit.

I lamented the fact that I never got around to losing all the weight I planned to lose for the wedding, the 20lbs I had managed to lose was not enough. Still, there I was staring at myself in the sequined, sleeveless gown listening to the words of the numerous influential figures in my life, a running dialogue in my head:

“You really need sleeves, I know you don’t want to show your arms”

 “Honey you know you can’t wear a straight skirt, we need to accept what looks best on us”

 “You have thunder thighs like your mama”

“You have such a pretty face, but…”

I was also hearing my own thoughts, which were not exactly encouraging either:

“You should have tried harder earlier and you would have lost the weight”

“Look at you, you are going to waddle down the aisle”

“Maybe you should just wear a plain black dress, at least you won’t be as noticeable”

“You will forever look pudgy in those wedding photos”.

“Your kids will be so embarrassed at how you look.”

It was a battle I felt I always lost. Even when I lost weight, it was never enough for me or for the owners of the voices. Worst yet would be when I was told that I “may just have to accept that I will just be big like the other women in my family” leaving me feeling angry and a little hopeless. The truth is, like all the rest of the overweight people in the world, I know better than anyone that I need to lose weight and nobody has to tell me or hint that I need to do so. Like most people, I also actually have a lot of knowledge about how to lose the weight. When it comes down to it, I know those with successful weight loss experiences have made a decision for themselves. I was struggling to make time for myself and that decision.

I was thinking about those voices, as I stood there staring at my reflection. I was sure that though the gown was a gorgeous teal color, I probably looked like a busted can of biscuits encased in sequins. The sales clerk had convinced me to try on the dress, though I was embarrassed to show my arms in a sleeveless dress and my hips in a straight skirt in front of everyone in the shop. I was so focused on those voices in my head, I was a bit startled when I realized that the clerk and customers in the store were staring at me and not because of how hideous I thought I looked.

They were actually admiring me in the dress.

One customer said:  “That is gorgeous on you, you have to get that one!” she was also really good at gasping and going on about how beautiful I was, making me want to take her home with me.

I immediately said “oh no, I have to have sleeves. My arms are terrible” and “no, I can’t wear a straight skirt”.

Both the clerk and the customer looked surprised. The clerk said “oh girl, that is NOT true. Seriously, your arms are just fine and you look great in that straight fit. It’s actually really slenderizing on you. I can’t imagine why you would think that about yourself!”

I was a 49 year-old woman, clinging to the positive words of strangers. I tried on several more gowns, the customers and clerk were my cheerleaders and fashion advisors. Within an hour or so, with the encouragement of my new-found friends, I had tried on many beautiful gowns-gowns I would previously would have never considered. I finally settled on the dress that I fell in love with and had originally come to the shop to order. It had sleeves and a full skirt. The voices had won, but I did and still do love the dress.

What I discovered that day went beyond my dress shopping. Like most women, I had been listening to and believing lies for most of my life. The people who profess to love us the most can often be our worst critics. They become that negative voice in our heads that deafens the positive voices. By the way, it takes a whole lot of positive words to overcome just one negative word from someone whose opinions we value. I also recognized that while there was truth in some of the dialogue in my head (I mean, it is true that I do not have the perfect figure) there were words of advice that were unnecessary and damaging. As a result, my own thoughts had become just as damaging.

This is less about the struggle with weight loss and a whole lot about how we make people feel about themselves. About learning to love yourself. The truth is, it is okay to be less than perfect. My mind knows this, but my heart struggles. I struggle with accepting who I am with imperfections and it is a daily battle for me.  I have since begun to examine my own criticisms of others. I pray my voice is not echoing out there in someone’s head, spewing negative words. I think we are all guilty of blurting out unsolicited opinions on occasion, unintentionally releasing poisonous thoughts in that person or about that person. I guess I hope we can all remember that we are all on a journey and for many of us self-love is often just out of reach. May we all speak words of affirmation and be a mirror that reflects the best in those around us.

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An Atari Kind of Christmas

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Just in time for the season, a reblog–why you should never ask children what they got for Christmas

Faith Walk

People Like Us

Cool mountain air rushed past our faces as we followed the narrow, rocky trail framed with green fern and smooth Aspen. We could hear the sound of rushing waters in the distance, and we knew our destination was near. Suddenly, the trail seemed to end at a small stream lined in dark rocks. The small cascade of water flowing smoothly over rocks almost didn’t even count as a waterfall. The scene was beautiful, but not the majestic flow we had all expected. We had driven well over an hour in rough, mountainous terrain before we had even begun to hike. The disappointment was palpable.

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Thou Shalt Obey Your Father

There was a lot of tension in the tiny, makeshift school house.
“Lisa, why didn’t you do all of your homework?” I asked. Lisa didn’t answer.
I leaned in closer.
“Lisa, you will never learn unless you do what I say. So, do what I say! I will call your parents this afternoon.”
Still no answer. I scooped up the paper from Lisa’s desk and put it on my desk to send home later. She was in deep trouble.

I turned back to the chalkboard in the front of the room and began to instruct my students while writing on the rough surface. I wrote my name in my best handwriting on the board then wrote the titles of two stories from my 3rd grade literature book.
“I want you to read these two stories and then do your spelling,” I instructed. I paused dramatically. “Then do 100 math problems.”
I could see my breath as I spoke, puffs of steam in the frigid air.
I turned to my students who, as usual, had nothing to say. Lisa’s blue, glass eyes stared back at me blankly from her porcelain face. Thumper’s black bunny eyes were fixed on the shovel in the corner of the room and Baby Alive was still slumped over in her chair, with one eye partially closed and her legs in the air.
I gathered all of their papers from the cardboard box desks in front of them and began to mark them with my red crayon. I had just begun to make a large “X” on Lisa’s paper when I heard my mother calling me:
“Karen Denise! Do you hear me? Come eat!”
I sighed and surveyed my “classroom”, where light filtered in through ancient, broken pine boards onto the dirt floor which I had swept clean. I decided my “students” could stay outside in the shed for the night.
I slammed the framed, chicken-wire door shut and walked back to the pink house that sat low beneath the cluster of tall pine trees, which lined up shoulder to shoulder like soldiers guarding our home. I could see the marshy area that lined our yard though the trees, and the pungent, damp smell greeted me in spite of the cold. There was a narrow, winding, black-top road that disappeared into the trees to the left and eventually led to the Hoke’s house; to the right the road led to a dead-end just past the Robinson’s house.
My siblings and I had become close to the Hoke family, a devout, charismatic Christian family who lived about a mile down the road. The Hokes had two children, Shannon and Gerald, who were about my age and frequently came to play. My sister Norma traveled to church with the Hokes often, and sometimes my brother and I went with her. Norma loved going to church more than anyone I knew, something that really irritated my father. She not only rode to church on Sunday mornings and evenings and to youth meetings on Wednesdays, but she also journeyed across the county to camp meetings and “brush arbor” meetings with the Hokes. I sometimes went to the camp meetings with them. Camp meetings were held in the summer under a tent on the side of the road or in a pasture, and featured lively music and hell-fire and brimstone preaching. I looked forward to attending these meetings, the positive and exciting atmosphere was such a stark contrast to the darkness I felt at home.
On rare occasions Mama would come with us to camp meetings and she absolutely loved the music. She was astonishingly tone-deaf and would sing very loudly and with such joy in a high, falsetto voice in church, especially when they played her favorite hymns, “Jesus Hold My Hand” or “I’ll Fly Away”. She clapped her hands with delight in time with the music, her plump arms jiggling and her tiny feet tapping. During the service, I would help her mark her large white bible with notes from the sermon and loved to read the family milestones she documented in the family section. Sometimes those meetings lasted for hours, so I would sleep in Mama’s lap until alter time came and someone “got the Holy Ghost”; their shouting always jolted me from my sleep.
Norma’s love for Jesus and for going to church was always a point of contention in our house.
However, that cold, grey, January day when I walked into the house to eat supper I could hear a serious argument brewing between my father and Norma. This one was much more heated than usual.
I had not even closed the front door when I heard my father’s raised voice.
“Brain-washed! Those people are just brain-washing you. You ain’t comin’ in here with all that religious crap and preachin’ to me! AND you will not be going back to church with those people. I told you there ain’t no such thing as no Holy Ghost! You will never learn!” My father was sitting in his recliner, shaking my sister’s bible at her. He was livid. It reminded me of a previous argument they had a few months before when we lived in Livingston. In that argument, Norma read scripture to my father about the Holy Ghost and as a result he chased her around the yard with the wrench he had been using to work on his car. The entire time he yelled at her about how “God ain’t real” and Norma rebutted with the appropriate scripture.
This time, Norma was angry–angrier than I had seen her. She pointed to her bible in my father’s hands and said: “In the book of Acts it speaks of how ‘all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues’ and how the Holy Ghost gives us power to—“
“I said there ain’t no Holy Ghost! This bible is just a book written by somebody, it’s nothin’ special. And you are DONE sitting around here reading that mess all the time, I will just be keeping this book or maybe I will throw it away. You ain’t going to church either and you won’t be talking to those holy-rollers. AND you can start wearing pants again, we ain’t religious nuts around here.” My father pointed to Mama. “Go get me a pair of her pants.”
Norma continued to argue. “Daddy, I don’t care what you say—the bible and God are real. He takes care of us and He answers our prayers. The Holy Ghost is real. You need to read that bible and you will see—“
Mama returned with the pants, and my father held them out to my sister. “Get out of that skirt and put these on right now, right here. I want to see you do it.”
Norma shook her head and was crying. She changed out of the long denim skirt, one of many she had begun to wear in the past few months. She believed at the time (like many at the Hokes’ church) that women should only wear skirts, out of modesty. I had even tried to wear only skirts for a few weeks, out of adoration for my sister. That endeavor ended the day I tried to put my jeans back on again and they were too tight. I thought being that devout made you eat too much. Someone once told me that there are lots of overweight Pentecostals because gluttony is the only sin they will tolerate. They also told me that there is nothing else to do but eat when you don’t watch television.
Norma put on the pair of jeans my father held out to her, stripping down in front of the entire family. I was so embarrassed for her.
“Now you git to your room and stay there. You will NOT be able to come out unless you are cleaning the house or going to school. You will NOT go to church or read this Bible again,” my father commanded.
Norma began to make her way to her bedroom, but then turned to my father and said: “You can stop me from going to church, make me stay in my room and wear pants but you can’t stop me from praying!”
I heard the door slam to Norma’s bedroom. I wasn’t hungry anymore. Silence filled the room like the cigarette smoke that curled from my father’s nose as he sat in his recliner. He threw Norma’s Bible on the floor and turned up the television. Mama went back to the kitchen to serve up the Hamburger Helper, which had begun to cool in the iron skillet.
I crept down the dark, cold crooked hallway to my sister’s room and could hear the soft sounds of “The Hinson’s Greatest Gospel Hits” playing on Norma’s record player. She was still crying when I opened the door, and I crawled up on the bed next to her. I stared at the ceiling for a while and watched my breath blow out above me in the frigid bedroom. There was one gas heater in the very drafty house and it was in the living room. We all piled blankets on at night to stay warm. Some nights when I slept in Norma’s room, she told me to lay on her side first to warm her spot until she got into bed. I would do so, then scoot to my side while Norma warmed me with her body and taught me to pray.
“Norma, do you want me to warm your spot for you?” I asked.
She didn’t answer. After a few moments, I realized she was praying. It seemed she didn’t stop praying for the next few weeks while she was banished to her room. I thought it would never end, my father was so stubborn. Someone once said that sometimes, the most stubborn people learn the most painful lessons in the harshest of ways. As it turned out, it was only death that would distract my father from punishing my sister any further.
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Horses and Elvis

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Isn’t it funny how the most memorable moments are often the ones that you want to forget? Sometimes I think we are allowed to have those memories etched into our hearts and minds because those are the moments that shape us. They are NOT what define us, but without them we would be one dimension less of who we are. That belief is one way that I cope with what happened.

I was eight years-old when I was forced, kicking and screaming, into a shared secret.

We lived in Jackson, Mississippi in a trailer park on the outskirts of town. A white-gravel road snaked through the park, which consisted of a plot of pasture land dotted with trailer houses in various conditions, some newer than others. There were absolutely no trees surrounding any of the trailers except for a wooded area with barns beyond the property, too far away to offer a reprieve from the heat. It was a blazing hot, airless summer.

A couple of memories dominate my mind when it comes to our time in Mississippi. The first memory, is of the time I was standing in the middle of the gravel road that wound through the trailer park the day that Elvis Presley died. It happened on my brother’s birthday. My brother and I were playing freeze tag with other kids in the park when Mama came bursting out the door to our trailer.
“I can’t believe it—Elvis is gone! He died, and on your brother’s birthday!” she said breathlessly. She still had her apron on and a dish towel in her hand.

She was very upset, which is one reason I remember that day. She later swore that the spirit of Elvis must have come upon my brother, since “he did die on his birthday and he was being chased by girls at the very moment of Elvis’ death”. Like I have mentioned before, Mama always did have a dramatic flair.
The second memory is much more significant, the day I kept a deeply-hidden secret and my trust in adults was shattered. My father had a few oil rig friends who lived in our trailer park. My brother and I enjoyed playing with the other kids and we visited several different trailers fairly often. One of my father’s friends had a wife and three teenagers. We would pass by the trailer and Mr. Stout almost always had the door wide-open while he sat in his recliner drinking beer. The house was cooled by a water-cooler, which blew a fine mist into the living area. The air in the trailer was musty and thick, the odor of old beer and unwashed bodies met us every time we went to the door. My father enjoyed an easy banter with Mr. Stout and we kids stood around listening to them talk about work on a regular basis.
Mr. Stout called out to us almost every time we passed by his trailer. One particular afternoon, he got our attention.
He was sitting in his avocado green vinyl recliner without a shirt, his large hairy midsection protruding over the faded jeans he wore.
“Hey you two, remind me and I will take you out back to see my horses.”
We were too shy to answer at first. We stopped in the road and moved closer to the his front door. Everyone knew Mr. Stout had horses in one of the barns in the woods. All the kids fantasized about  getting to ride those horses. Mr. Stout pulled the tab on another beer with a hiss, and smiled. He nodded at me, his balding head beaded with sweat in spite of the efforts of the water cooler. I wondered why he didn’t just keep his door shut.
“You sure are a pretty thang. I bet you would love to see my horses.” His glassy eyes never left my face.
I nodded vigorously, as I had always wanted to ride a horse. I was an animal-lover, even then.
“I wanna go!” my brother answered. Mr. Stout didn’t seem to hear. He nodded at me again.
“You wanna  go now?” he asked, staring at me.
“We have to ask first,” I said. I knew we would be in big trouble if we ever went anywhere without permission.
“You do that,” Mr. Stout said. “You hurry now and come back over here once they say yes. We need to feed the horses.”
My brother and I ran down the road to our trailer where we did indeed receive permission to go see the horses. My father really seemed to like Mr. Stout and seem pleased we had been invited.
“You two use your manners,” my father instructed as we took off running for Mr. Stout’s house.
We saw him waiting for us on the edge of the woods right away. My heart leapt—maybe he would let me ride one of the horses!
We had almost reached where Mr. Stout stood when my bare feet found the sticker patch. My brother and I were usually barefoot and never gave a thought to this being an outing that would require shoes. Mr. Stout came over to us as we pulled out the stickers, then instructed me to climb onto his back. I stared at the dark blue t-shirt covering his back. Suddenly, I was shy.
“Climb on, I will just carry you the rest of the way.” I was uneasy but decided to take him up on his offer, my feet were throbbing.
My brother sulked. “I want a ride!” Mr. Stout shook his head. “Girls first!”
Soon, a rustic old barn appeared in a clearing. The horses grazed in a pen next to the barn, but came over to the fence to greet us. They were beautiful animals, a chestnut mare with a white star on her face and a solid black horse with a shining coat. I reached out to rub those velvet muzzles, and inhaled deeply. I loved the smell of horses!
“Why don’t you stay here while we go get some hay to feed the horses?” Mr. Stout suggested to my brother.
“I want to go too,” my brother said. He jumped down from the rail fence where he had been standing and prepared to go with us.
Mr. Stout looked annoyed. “You stay here and pet them, we will be right back. Then you can feed them the hay.” My brother nodded reluctantly and resumed his position with the horses.
Mr. Stout took me by the hand and led me around the corner to the window of the faded, red barn. There was hay spilling out of the window, just like in the movies, I thought. The horses would love all of that hay! He stopped a few feet away and said, “Go ahead, get some of that hay so we can take it to the horses.”
I reached into the window to grab an armload of hay and suddenly felt the weight of Mr. Stout’s body against me. He spun me around and slammed me against the edge of the window, the wooden edge jabbing into my back as he bent my body back into the window. I was startled into silence until Mr. Stout’s large wet lips bore down on mine. He forced his tongue into my mouth and stifled my screams, while grabbing my crotch. He was hurting me. I could taste beer and smelled that heavy, acrid smell I smelled in his house. My heart hammered in my chest and I fought, I pounded his chest and kicked him as hard as a terrified third-grade girl could muster. Suddenly, I heard my brother’s voice and Mr. Stout released me, but not before whispering harshly in my ear: “You better not say NOTHIN’ to NOBODY”.
“What is taking so long, I think the horses are hungry.” I heard my brother say over the roaring of my heartbeat in my ears.
“We are just trying to get enough hay to bring to them,” Mr. Stout answered casually. He and my brother grabbed armloads of hay and I slowly followed them to the pen on shaky legs.
I gave the hay to the horses. They didn’t look so hungry, or quite as beautiful to me. “I don’t feel so good,” I said, refusing to make eye contact with Mr. Stout. “I’m ready to go back.”
“Aw man, already?” My brother asked, annoyed. He sighed, exasperated. “We just got here!”
“Sure. We can head back,” Mr. Stout said slowly. He looked at me steadily. “Hop onto my back and I’ll carry you again.”
“No, I’ll walk,” I didn’t look at him again. I began to walk swiftly back toward our home.
“I wanna ride!” My brother said. My heart stopped briefly, until Mr. Stout said, “Naw, you are too big for that. Girls only!”
My brother scowled and we all walked back home in silence. I wanted to run the entire way, but dared not until we got to the gravel road. Then without a word I ran home as fast as I could.
It was bath time when I returned home. I turned on the water as hot as I could stand it and scrubbed my lips and entire body until I was almost raw. Mama came into the bathroom while I was bathing.
“You still in here? What are you doing?” She asked while putting away clean towels.
“Almost done,” I said. Just like that she left the room.
She had no idea, none at all. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t know what had happened, I felt different—didn’t I look or seem different? I wanted her to ask me if something was wrong, but was also terrified she would. When I thought of telling my mother I was afraid that she wouldn’t believe me, after all Mr. Stout and my father were good friends. I was also terrified that they WOULD believe me and my father would go after Mr. Stout, maybe kill him. Then my father would go to prison and it would be my fault. My fault. Had I done something to deserve this?
I pushed this event out of my mind and didn’t “say nuthin’ to nobody” until my first year of marriage. It was during one of the rare, peaceful stretches in my relationship with my parent and somehow I mentioned it at dinner one evening. Once I said the words, it was surprisingly easy to talk about. It was like it had happened to someone else, I even believed back then that it hadn’t changed me. But it did, it changed so much.
My father seemed stricken. “Why didn’t you tell us?” he asked.
I explained my reasoning and as expected he said, “Well, you are right. I probably would have killed him.” I wondered about that. This was before I knew the truth about my father, about the hidden things that had happened during those years.

Accidental Target, Part 2

People Like Us

“A young girl next door was walking along that road right there,” the officer said …“She was shot in the neck … It looks like you were the only one shooting.”

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Accidental Target

People Like Us

20131112_112938The day my father shot the neighbor’s child was just like any other warm, September day in the South.


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Fat Like Your Mama

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Mama loved to cook almost as much as she loved to eat. Her chicken-fried steak with gravy, smothered potatoes fried with onions, chicken and dumplings, Mississippi Mud Cake, Banana Pudding and every calorie-laden, heart-attack inducing dish you can imagine were the staples of my childhood. I always woke to the smell of breakfast cooking, even on those early pre-dawn mornings before school. She managed to make homemade biscuits and gravy for us on most mornings, her apron tied around her round midsection, before leaving for work as a cook in either a nursing home or school cafeteria. For Mama, feeding us was her way of showing her love for us.

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An Atari Kind of Christmas

It’s that time again-teachers, don’t ask your students what they got for Christmas

People Like Us

        I just knew everyone could see straight through me… After a brief jackhammer like pounding, my pulse began to slow, and I could feel the fire leaving my face. My body was like rubber, and I felt like I had just walked a tightrope over a sea of piranhas.

 

 1479289_10202812808820528_576699923_neditThe holiday break was over. I could still hear the sound of the bell ringing in my ears when Ms. Hurto made the announcement that would cause my stomach to plummet to my feet.

“Everyone, put your chairs in a circle,” she began. “We are all going to take turns telling what we got for Christmas.”

The sounds of almost twenty, seventh-grade girls sliding metal chair legs across the pale green, industrial tile almost drowned out the sound of the roaring in my ears. With sweaty palms I gripped the back of the bright-green, hard, plastic chair…

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