Monday, October 29, 2007

A Little Dirt

This is an excerpt from "Embrace the wonder," a collaborative book/cd project in progress...

A paradigm is your belief system. The way you know things to be. Everything you see or do is filtered through your paradigm, thus giving it meaning. And when you have a paradigm shift, it instantly changes the way you see things.

As a boy, I grew up in a poor household. Mama said that my Daddy left right after I was born. So having to raise a family of four, she did the best she could. I had very old, worn out, hand-me down clothes. And most days, I walked to school unwashed and dirty. To say that I had low self-esteem is an understatement. I had absolutely none! I did poorly in school and saw myself as a loser. What a PARADIGM for a boy my age to see the world!

January 28th, 1974, was a day I will never forget for as long as I live. I was about seven years old and a second grader in Mrs. Chaney's class. On this particular day, she decided that we needed to focus on science. We started off by studying different kinds of rocks, stones, and gems. As usual, everything was moving along… I sat quietly in my corner; content and really didn’t care or want to participate. Next, we transitioned to Language Arts. She asked us to compare other classmates to the stones we had just learned about. We were all silent for about a minute or so. Little heads turned from side to side, back and forth. Suddenly, a hand went up...

"Lisa's eyes are blue like a Sapphire".
"Very good Alvin." replied Mrs. Chaney. She took the Sapphire from her table, walked over to Lisa and placed it on her desk.
"Joey’s hair is ruby red," added another student.
"Excellent." Again, she strolled over to Joey and positioned the Ruby on his desk. This went on until most of the obvious comparisons had been made.

"Does anyone else have a comparison he or she would like to share with the class?"
I saw Mikey Taylor’s hand go up and immediately thought... Uh –oh. Mikey was the class wise guy; always going for a laugh and even Mrs. Chaney was aware of this.
"Well, well, pay attention class, I believe little Mikey has something reeeeaally important to say. Yes, Mikey?"
"That old rock on the end there is like Timmy, because both are dirty."
Instantly, the room erupted into a buzzing laughter. I dropped my head and stared at the floor. I just wanted to crawl under my desk, never to emerge again. I figured Mrs. Chaney would sense my hurt and quiet the room. But to my disbelief, she blurted, "Mikey, I think you are absolutely correct!" She grabbed the filthy rock and headed in my direction… Then it happened! It didn’t seem like a moment that would change me forever, but it did! Half way down to my desk, Mrs. Chaney stopped and smiled at me. She raised her hand and threw that rock on the ground, breaking it in two. The room was filled with ooh’s and ahh’s as she held up both pieces. Purple light radiated from them and danced around the room revealing the most beautiful crystal formation any of us had ever seen. There was utter silence as we all gazed at this dazzling discovery. Mrs. Chaney finally made it to my desk; handed me the rocks and said, "Don’t be so quick to judge a rock by a little dirt." She then picked me up and added, "underneath that dirty rock, there just may be a beautiful treasure waiting to be discovered, just like Timey!"

As the class began to file out for recess, everyone stopped at my desk to hold and admire the rocks as if they were important and magical. It did take me awhile to crack that hard outer shell. However, I realized that one day, I too would be beautiful, important and discover that magical treasure within me. I never even told her. Mrs. Chaney, you changed my whole world in a single moment. THANK YOU!

-John Droese-

Wednesday, October 24, 2007 Rocks!

I'd have to say that life is not the only thing that's like a box of chocolates. Cyperspace continues to amaze me with all the contagious technology that's just floating around. Yesterday, I stumbled upon, I don't feel so technologically challenged. Hope you enjoy my first slide show.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Garbage, Garbage Everywhere!

I am angry. I am appalled. Angry at those low-class scumbags who continue to adorn grassy areas of highway medians, sidewalks, and other public areas with soda cans, beer bottles, cigarette butts, fast food bags and other rubbish. I am appalled that the powers that be are not doing more to put an end to this despicable activity. Cherokee! Cobb! Fulton! Pick a county…any county around the Metro Atlanta area. Then take a drive through some communities including those well manicured "swim and tennis" neighborhoods. I am not a gambling woman, but I’ll bet you a fistful of dollars that you will find pockets of areas that are reminiscent of an abandoned "section 8" slum!

I am sure there are garbage control and pick up crew - employed by the county or city - who periodically patrol highly visible roadways to tidy things a bit before they get way out of control. I have seen them and would like to use this opportunity to give them a high five! (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know they are just doing their job-but still…)

Back to the subject, any government official or officials who want my vote, together with the votes of everyone I know, ought to do more! He, She or They, need to address this issue head on by looking for creative ways to effectively fight this eyesore of mini epidemic proportion.

Put up signs at strategic locations that say “LITTERERS will be TORTURED or BEHEADED for all I care. Just do something! Set up a phone line or an online forum so that residents who give a hoot would have the opportunity to get involved. Encourage them to call in license plates of offenders and promptly report every trashing activity they witness. Remind them that looking the other way translates to not doing the right thing. If you must offer incentives such as printable coupons to Kroger or property tax credits, so be it! I think that Cherokee county can set a precedence of “zero tolerance” for littering. Hopefully, bordering counties will follow in our footsteps as well.

Let’s go get those litterbugs and make them pay! Northern Georgia is blessed with natural beauty. We should try to keep it that way!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Tribute to Irresponsible Dog Owners

Did you know that pet waste left on sidewalks, yards, streets and other places can be transported by rainwater via storm drains into streams, lakes, rivers and other waterways?

Did you know that doggie doodie may contain harmful bacteria such as E.Coli and Salmonella, which can cause disease in humans?

Man’s best friend may live in every household in America except mine. There is a good reason. While three out of five of my family members will wheeze, itch and scratch, or break out in hives whenever we’re in close proximity to these furry creatures, there is a more compelling reason that Dogs are not welcomed inside my home or anywhere near my lawn. You may call me crazy. You may call me mean. In fact, I’ll even let you get away with sticking a "Psychotic” label on my forehead! But one thing is for certain. You will find me standing guard by my window or front door-each time I see you or your four legged amigo sniffing its way down my cul-de-sac. Lawn by lawn. My visibility is not intended to be a subtle hint. My visibility should serve as a firm warning that my front yard is a "NO, NO, CRAP ZONE."

Legend has it that some crazy woman once tracked down a pet owner to return a very special present . Trust me, I can give that legend a run for its money. Don’t even think about pulling a “crap and run” hit anywhere inside my property line unless you’re prepared to receive a huge payback package by your front door. And I am not just talking about Dog S.h.i.t!

Yes, there are a few pet owners who don't mind doing the right thing by cleaning up after their dogs. It only takes a poopie scooper and a bag. Still, many continue to allow their precious pets to leave mine fields on someone else’s yard and casually moosie on their merry way. Shame on you! There is an explanation why some of us don’t have a dog. We don’t want a dog! We don’t care for a dog!! And we most certainly don’t want the responsibility of picking up after yours while mowing our lawn!!! I am tired of trying to duck from one pile of dump after another during my leisurely evening stroll in my community and sometimes at public parks.

Guess what? The holidays season is right around the corner and I’d like to kick things off with a very special wish for every negligent pet owner out there…

Each morning, while you’re out and about walking your dog, may you accidentally slip and fall face down into a pile you’d left the day before. May your dog -intentionally- step into the foulest smelling doggie doodie out there and track it all the way back into your home- sweet- home. All over your fabulous carpet! And as far as dog crap goes, may you always reap what you sow. Happy Holidays in advance!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Not my Style

This is an excerpt from "Embrace the Wonder," a collaborative book/music project in progress...

I had never lost my wallet before, but it happened just the other night. After chugging a couple pitchers of tap beer and some tequila shots, I stumbled out the back door of my local dive bar, flat out of my senses. See, Casey and her fancy lawyers had taken everything from me save for the clothes on my back and a pocket full of some worthless change. Climbing out of my twin sized bed each morning was turning into a big production. My car was one speed bump away from total disintegration. Eating out, meant Jack in the Box or Taco Bell. Here I was... a 47-year-old man still living at home in his mother's basement; clinging to a dead end job that offered zero promise of a lifestyle upgrade. So, I began to entertain some pretty crazy ideas. It wasn't like me to drink that much; but I was sitting on the edge, getting ready to leap into some illegal avenue of opportunity. If I could get my hands on a pistol… I thought, the liquor store across the street from the pub would be easy pickings. I could be in and out in thirty seconds with enough cash to set me straight for a while. What the hell was I thinking? It just wasn't me. It's not my style…but it would be easy. I hoped it was just the liquor thinking!

I woke up the next morning with a mother of a Saturday hangover, and those thoughts still on my mind. Saturday night would mean a big score at the liquor store, I kept telling myself. After a quick shower and a dose of aspirin, I realized it was missing! My wallet (with two credit cards and two week's pay) was gone! My heart started to pound as my pulse raced. How could this happen to me at a time like this? I zoomed back to the pub like an Indy race car with a stomach that quivered with fear and nausea. Things were grim right now; what the heck would I do if I were to lose two week's pay?…

Inside the hazy, musty, smoke filled room, I headed straight to the area where I had camped out the night before. The daytime bartender claimed he knew absolutely nothing about a lost wallet. The only other guy at the bar (one of the regular patrons) was hunched over and didn't utter a word. On my way out I realized I only had one option. Tonight would have to be the night. There was no other way!

Back at home, on top of my kitchenette counter, my answering machine flashed. One of my friends from work had left me a message, asking me to call him right away. He said it was urgent!
"Did you lose your wallet last night?" Troy asked.
"Yes." I replied. "Why?"

Someone had apparently found my wallet in the parking lot and Troy's phone number was the only available contact information.
"Carl would be waiting for you and expects a cash reward," he warned.

Again, to the pub I went. I hoped that I would at least get my driver's license back. To my surprise, there he was! Still stooped over the bar as if he were permanently glued to it. Now the bar fly had a name. I briefly scanned him mentally and quickly labeled Carl as one of those losers who spent their entire day at the tavern. There is no way someone like that could hold down a job of any sort. I snubbed. Where did he get the money to drink all day anyway? Maybe he finds lost wallets all the time. I sneered. As I approached him, he snapped out of his zone and gawked at me with a smile.

"Are you here for the wallet?"
I told him my name and he handed me the worn brown leather.
"How about a twenty for my troubles?"
"I'd love to. But where the hell am I supposed to get the cash from? "I snapped, as I opened my wallet to show him my emptiness. However, to my disbelief and relief, my cash and credit cards were still intact. My cheeks flushed. My mini ego popped. I felt small as if I were standing beside the ocean. Not only had I judged a book by its cover, I had totally misjudged this man. Carl may have looked a lot worse off than me but he had integrity. I thanked him; pulled out a twenty-dollar bill from my wallet and handed it over.

"Can I buy you a drink?" He asked.
"No thanks." I replied. "You've done more than enough.”
I took a few steps toward the exit and stopped. I turned to Carl, sitting there looking so hopeless with his ragged clothes and uncombed hair.
"Why did you do it? Why didn't you just keep all the money"?
"That's just not my style kid. It's not who I am. I may be a little down right now, but I can't let hard times change who I am."

Through the window, I gazed at the liquor store across the street and mumbled, "Neither can I Carl." "Neither can I."

- Tony Andrade-

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Murder for Hire

Yesterday was a pretty darn good day in my household. The kids didn't strangle each other! I didn't have to scream at anyone to pick up. I didn't even have to confiscate Scrawny's Nitendo DS or threaten her with solitary confinement in the basement for being mean to her little sister. Kid Sid's room was a fire hazard. In fact, it looked more like a refugee camp in a third world country, but I didn't care! Furr-ball tried to re-decorated her bedroom wall with my favorite lipstick...lucky kid, she's still breathing. I was in a bloody jolly good mood! I rushed downstairs to check on our favorite red wine-a 2002 bottle of "Toasted Head" Merlot-it was aging and chilling perfectly in the freezer (just like the force of the universe intended for it to be.)

I asked Daddoo to order a romantic pay per view movie while I sashayed into a lavender scented bubble bath. I then finished off with some Johnson and Johnson baby lotion...(hey, smelling like el babe can work wonders. Trust me, I have three kids to prove it!) Afterward, I climbed into bed; snuggled next to him...thinking, hmmm, maybe another baby, perhaps a baby brother for my girls would not be such a bad idea. But all he had to say... after all my effort was, "Babe, you smell like a diaper!"

Anyone care to take him out for me? Be sure you aim for that puny brain between his toes!

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Monday, October 8, 2007

Baby Carrots

I was in the kitchen munching on some baby carrots when Scrawny strolled in and asked if she could have some. I handed her a handful and she disappeared. A few minutes later, she was back asking for more.
“What happened to the ones I just gave you?”
“I ate them all.” She replied.
“You know carrots are really good for your eyes...”
“Mom, you’ve said that like four times. Maybe carrots are not so good for your memory.”

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

High Five for Blogsvertise

Are you a Blogger? Would you like to review or simply mention websites products and services in your blog and get paid for it? If I told you that Blogsvertise does not turn you down because your blog is less than 90 days old… would you hold it against me? If I told you that Blogsvertise would not reject you because your blog has less than 20 pre-existing entries, could you say, “Move over payperpost, there’s a new kid in town? Van Zant once sang, “If you’re gonna go, go all the way." All I’m saying is, if you’re gonna blog anyway, why not earn some cash for it? Swing by today and tell them I sent you!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Home: A Trip Down Memory Lane

This is an excerpt from "Embrace the Wonder," a collaborative and inspirational book/music project in progress...

Some say Home is where the heart is. Others proclaim it’s where you hang your hat. Query Stephen King, he’d probably reply, “Home is where they’ll always let you in.” Just don’t ask my overly animated, “potty humor” obsessed husband; he might regurgitate something like “Home is where I can peacefully pinch a loaf! And in case you’re worn out from all the mutated variations of this ancient cliché, I’d say power up for one more. I intend to whip out a home –grown rendition of my very own…just for you, before this story is over!

Seriously. If home were remotely close to any of the above-italicized descriptions, why then do I ultimately live in the house of my dreams, with a family of my own… yet long for that place? Why is the need to reminisce often strong when I am alone? Why do I feel this void inside my soul?... Then it struck me again like a new idea to a blocked artist! But this time, there was no room to entertain second thoughts or the usual excuses. If I wanted some answers, I had to go back! Back to that place where the child once played hide and seek under the moonlight….

I grew up in “the land of the red earth;” a small town nestled somewhere on the west coast of Africa. I was raised by a single mother in an era when polygamy was rampant and the culture did very little to hold fathers accountable for child support. There were some rough times as I recall. Luckily though, my (gentle, kind, and independent) mother had an entrepreneurial hunger that ensured I always had food on my plate, clothes on my back, a roof over my head and a big mouth to complain about all the other things that I didn’t have. Perhaps watching episode after episode of “Soul Train” made me feel like I was missing out on a whole lot of fun! And like most children my age at that time, I too fantasized and longed to travel abroad. I dreamed of going to America!

Right before my 18th birthday, an extended family member from Texas came home for a brief summer visit. The scoop? His wife had just given birth to theirgetaway 3rd son and they were desperately looking for a live-in help. To me, this was the perfect and several weeks later, I was good to go. So, with a suitcase full of my meager belongings, and a heart full of golden dreams, I hugged my mom and waved goodbye to all the friends and relatives I was leaving behind...

Outside Houston Intercontinental Airport, Mrs. Osaje and the boys were waiting to pick us up. By the time we arrived at their apartment, I knew the household routine like the back of my hand. I would take care of the children while both parents were at work. Somewhere in between, weekend and evening classes were a top priority. Upon my graduation years later, I immediately landed a job as a Child Psychologist at a local shelter working with emotionally handicapped children. That’s where I met my husband, John.

“I can relate to the call of the unknown,” he teased. See, not too long ago, he and his best friend, Tony, had gone on this road trip with no specific destination in mind. They had driven from the Florida Keys, across the Lone Star State; up through the Arizona Desert, down by the Californian Coast to Yosemite, in search of what they referred to as the “Wonder.” If he understood why I needed to visit Nigeria, well, who could argue with that? Unfortunately, my 6-year old daughter, Sidney, didn’t share our sentiments.

"Mama, I don't want you to go to Africa." She whined.
"Honey, I know. But this is something Mommy has to do. All right?"
"Okay. Promise you'll come back home soon?"
"Cross my heart," I said, as I squeezed her gently.

I purchased a round trip ticket and boarded a flight to Lagos. Approximately fifteen hours later, I was a passenger on a bus (similar to a greyhound) en route to my hometown...

To be continued -:)

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