Donna C. Terrell

I Was Just Thinkin'

The Struggle With Stress

So I was back to nagging my husband about how he eats. I was telling him about how his food choices leads to clogged arteries, which leads to other detrimental consequences. Between mouthfuls of Captain Crunch, he matter-of-factly replied , “You’re always worried about stuff. Stress. Now that will kill you.”

That hit me like a ton of bricks.

I have been stressing out about tons of stuff over the last few months. Money, bills, future bills, things that won’t happen for another 30 years, you get the drift. I overly think about what I’m going to cook, what I’m taking for lunch, what I’m going to wear, and on and on it goes.

So allow me to talk to you as I talk to myself.

  • CALM DOWN!
  • Stop thinking about things that haven’t happened yet.
  • STOP RUSHING. Be ready 20 minutes before your departure time. Sit down and relax before leaving.
  • Make a plan and stick to it. Plan what you’re taking to work for your lunch, and don’t decide 90 seconds before you’re supposed to leave the house that you gotta grab that bag of Cheetos. If it’s not in your lunch bag, forget it!

I’ve been working for a lot of years now, and I’ve yet to master this. Why do I rush around in the mornings? Why do I do things at the last minute? I get up a full 2 hours before I have to leave, because I like to give myself time. Yet that only works in theory. I know I must leave at 7:57. So why do I make last second decisions? What have I been doing with the two hours?

We also need practical tangible ways to relieve stress and worry. This is what I did:

LISTEN TO MUSIC. I went back into time before my time and I listened to The Emotions’ So I Can Love You like 20 times! I really wanted to sing it but I was at work. Then I listened to Satisfaction by Smokey Robinson over and over again. I tell ya, I would have loved to have been a Motown background singer! Those Miracles were jammin’ behind Smokey! The iPod is one of the greatest inventions of our time. I remember if you wanted to hear a song over and over again you had to keep rewinding a tape. Now you set your iPod to play only one song. Lovin’ it!

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GET A COLORING BOOK. Adult coloring books are all the rage! They have intricate patterns that you can really lose yourself in. I got crayons, markers and coloring pencils, and it’s very relaxing. You guys might think that’s too girly, which it’s not, but maybe you can work with models or something. My husband paints football figures sometimes. It’s really cool.

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The point is we cannot let stress be strong in our lives! Combat stress now!

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No Satuday Morning Cartoons??

So I was up early last Saturday morning, and out of curiosity I decided to see what was on network TV. I was simply amazed that THERE WERE NO CARTOONS!!

NO CARTOONS on Saturday morning.

Saturday morning cartoons defined my childhood. When I was in grade school, there were only 3 networks. All 3 had extensive programming all morning, starting at 7:00! I would get up early, sit in front of the TV with my cereal bowl, and settle in for a good 5 hours. I’d watch until Bandstand came on, or made to get up and do chores.

Now my childhood best friend Linda and I had a system for cartoon watching. We would plot out which ones we were going to watch. Then we have our individual reviews of the shows, talk about what we liked and didn’t like, and which ones were worthy of our continued loyalty. Then after we’d seen all the episodes on one network, we’d go over to another network. We’d never get bored!

And another cool thing about cartoons—the theme songs! Everybody knew The Banana Splits, The Cattanooga Cats, The Road Runner, George of the Jungle, I could go on and on! What I didn’t like is when they started altering characters and bringing in secondary ones. Who cared about Pebbles and Bam-Bam as teenagers, and was Scrappy-Doo really necessary?

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Some folks argue that kids shouldn’t be allowed to vegetate in front of the TV for hours at a time. But we turned out alright. I think that all those cartoons fostered creativity and critical thinking. Didn’t you always figure out the crook on Scooby Doo before those “meddlesome kids?”

I know kids have different options these days on Saturday morning, but in my mind, they’re a deprived lot indeed.

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Waiting on the Minute

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Sometimes the Lord speaks through the TV.

Seriously.

Some of the most dynamic answers to prayer have come to me while watching or just listening to the TV. I was once in an up-and-down, on-and-off relationship with a man who kept me on an emotional roller coaster. I was fretting and carrying on in my mind about what I should do about the latest situation of the week.

For one minute my mind quieted down long enough to hear a guy say through the TV, “Sometimes when you don’t know what to do, just don’t do nothin’.”

ABSOLUTE REVELATION. I felt like a weight had been lifted off of my entire world. It went straight to my spirit. It didn’t even come from a TV preacher—I was watching a western. I have applied that wisdom to many a situation for years now. I have never tried to back it up with scripture, but if I looked hard enough I’m sure I’d find something to support it from the Bible.

When I first got married, one of the things that shocked me was how my husband eats. No fruits and vegetables. Massive amounts of bread. Bottom of the barrel crap like Twinkies and cheap frozen meals. Eating large meals and then going to bed. Never going to the doctor. He high-tailed it to the dentist only because he was in serious pain. I nagged, prayed, even tried to shame him into different behavior. Then I let it go, figuring he’s grown; I can’t tell him what to do. So I say nothing as he devours half a pound of super-caloric cashews in one sitting.

So I’m watching The Biggest Loser one night, and a person said of the contestants that at one minute of one day in their lives, they made a decision to make a change, a change that they were willing to commit to and be serious about.

One minute of one day.

ABSOLUTE REVELATION. That went straight to my spirit. I don’t need to worry about my husband’s health habits! One minute of one day, he’s going to get it! He’ll make a decision to change his life! God can turn anything around in one minute! We just have to wait on the minute!

That’s the hardest thing—waiting for change. But we know that God works in secret and he does it little by little. Isaiah 43:19 says “Behold I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?” If you should get discouraged, just say to yourself, “I believe that God is working in this situation.”

Now when my husband eats a bowl of chili with his signature peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the side, I don’t cringe. I think, one minute of one day…

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Salute to 4 Moms

With Mother’s Day 2015 in the books, here is a salute to 4 strong black mothers who knew how to come into a situation, analyze it, take control and diffuse it.

In the aftermath of the Freddie Gray tragedy, Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called a curfew in order to squelch the escalating riots in her city. She called the governor and requested the National Guard and that he declare a state of emergency. She has vowed to outfit the police department with body cameras by the end of the year. She is a mayor who is not afraid to ask for help, unlike some big-city mayors.

Major General Linda Singh, newly minted Commander of the Maryland National Guard, enforced the peacekeeping efforts. Linda Singh is the first black and the first woman to hold that post. She has been on the job for 3 months.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, 35 years old and 4 months on the job, took decisive action by charging the 6 police officers connected with the murder of Freddie Gray with second degree murder, manslaughter and assault. She said to the city, “I heard your call for ‘no justice, no peace, “Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man.”

Marilyn Mosby also said “I’m going to go after individuals whether you’re a police officer or a violent repeat offender. If you break the law and you believe you are above authority, then I will go after you.”

Baltimore’s Rev. Jamal Bryant called Mosby a “rock star” in the black community.

Toya Graham, also known as the Riot Mom, snatched her son out of the full-blown riot and literally knocked him upside his head. Several times. It was the slap seen round the world. When asked about her explosive actions, she said, “I’m a no-tolerant mother. Everybody that knows me know I don’t play that.”

Strong black women. I applaud these bold women in tough demanding jobs.

What if more mothers—and fathers—took such bold, purposeful stands everyday? Snatching their sons off the corner, out of the gangs and drug houses? What if more parents would be that resolute? Can you imagine how much less rioters and looters there may have been, and not just in Baltimore but throughout crime-ridden cities across the country?

Proverbs 23:13-14, New King James Version reads, Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he won’t die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell. And, if I may add, you’ll save his butt from jail.

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All a Kid Wants to Eat

The Prompt: Write about a favorite childhood meal.

McDonald’s. Plain and simple. I RARELY got McDonald’s when I was a kid. I had to BEG to go to MickyDee’s, so when I did get it, it was a serious treat. My mother, excellent cook that she was, was of the mndset, “You got food in the house.” Then McDonald’s was not this huge Zagat-rated sit-down restaurant. They didn’t even have seats. You walked in, placed and received your order, and promptly left. The big thing for McDonald’s at the time was “change back from your dollar.” We would get our food and go and eat in the car. That was fun then.

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Ice cream from the truck. The bells would chime, or whatever annoying ice cream truck music  would be heard, and we kids would scramble to our respective houses to beg for ice cream man money. I would get,”You got ice cream in the freezer.” I didn’t want a grocery store popscicle!! I wanted a big, red, white and blue BOMB POP! Or a orange and white dreamscicle! Now I’m not saying I never got these delicacies, but it was rare. I also learned that if Dad happened to be talking to a friend when the ice cream man came, that was the time to hit him up. He didn’t want to appear cheap in front of his friends.

 

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But the best meal I ever had as a kid was the one I had for my 9th birthday. A chicken breast and rice. Finally, a chicken breast all to myself! When my mother would fry chicken, I would covet Dad’s piece, all big, juicy, white and tender. I always had to eat the drumstick. I didn’t want that anymore. The drumstick was alright when I was 5, but now I was in fourth grade! Surely, it was time to move up in the culinary world. So when she fried that succulent piece of prime chicken just for me, I was elated! I loaded up my rice with butter and sugar. From that day to this, the breast is all I eat. Now I only do boneless and skinless, but my 9th birthday meal, simple as it may be, was delicious and truly a heart’s desire.

 

 

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3 Cats and a Dog: The Losses of My Life

My father is the best man I know. He’s the greatest father, and I can write pages and pages of testament to Dad. But there are 3 witnesses against him:

Tammy, Spooky, and Candy.

Tammy was my first kitten, and with her began my love affair with cats. She was a cute little black and white kitty, and the way the black on her face framed her eyes made her look like a little bandit. Tammy and her playful antics would have me, Mommy and Dad cracking up.

Now I don’t know exactly what happened that caused Dad to decide to get rid of Tammy. After all, that was decades ago. I thought it was because my mother was allergic. Dad once said years ago that it was because I wasn’t taking care of the kitten. C’mon I was EIGHT!!!! What did I know about pet care? But all I do know is Dad and I took cute little Tammy to a GROCERY STORE several miles away and LEFT HER THERE! I was so upset. Dad’s thinking was someone would feed her. Well, I hope that was the case. I’d like to think that Tammy lived out her life, fat and content, as the grocery store cat who kept the mice away and was rewarded with delicacies from the seafood department.

Then there was Spooky, an all black kitten with white tips on all four paws. Spooky lasted around the household long enough to grow into an adult cat. Spooky fell out of favor the day she had the runs and pooped all over the couch. Dad didn’t play poop. The black cat was brown when he got done with her, and then was banished to the backyard. He told me to find someone to take her because Spooky would not be allowed back in. So I started going house to house, asking if anyone wanted a cat. Luckily, kind Mrs. Dunbar took Spooky in. She said that I could visit the cat anytime, and I did. Spooky even had a litter of kittens!

Candy was a toy fox terrier that Dad got from a coworker. He brought her home unexpectantly one day. What a surprise! It was fun to have a dog. I would take Candy all over the neighborhood. She would follow me to the bus stop and wait with me. I would be outside at my best friend’s house, and someone would say “Donna, here comes your dog!” Candy knew where to go to find me. Candy was a white dog with black and brown spots, and a big black spot on her side. I wondered why the previous owners didn’t name her Spot.

One night, something strange was going on outside. Candy would not stop barking. I got out of bed and looked out the window, and I saw someone run through the yard. Terrified, I ran down the hall and woke up Dad and the stepmother. Then we heard someone at our back door! My father grabbed his gun and ran downstairs. The stepmother called the police. These people were trying to get in! Turns out the intruders had the wrong house, because they kept demanding to see “Rudy.” Guess my father’s gun scared them off, and they were gone. Who knows what Rudy did to them.

But what they did to Candy was cruel. They cut her, right on her big black spot. When I finally got up that morning, that’s what I discovered. Poor Candy! When I got home from school later, I didn’t see Candy. I asked Dad where was she. Instead of taking Candy to the vet, he took her TO THE POUND! I was so hurt and angry! Candy just SAVED OUR LIVES from the Rudy crooks, and this is how you repay her?!

A couple of years after that, we had intruders of the vermin sort. Mice had got into the house. Dad and the stepmother decided we needed a cat. I was happy when placed with the charge of finding one. Turns out the small drug and grocery store down the block had a litter of kittens, and I got one of those.  Kittycat was white with black and brown spots and a big black spot on her side! She was Candy reincarnate! How ironic that I got her from a grocery store!

Dad really liked Kittycat. He used to loved how she would wait in the window for him to get home every morning. If it turns out she wasn’t in the window, Dad would ask, “Where’s the cat?” Kittycat would come running. When the stepmother nutted up and decided that Kittycat was tearing the house up and couldn’t come back inside until she got declawed, Dad actually paid for this. They say that when cats get declawed, their behavior changes. That must be true, because Kittycat had always hated going outside. After she got declawed, she started hanging out every night. She always came back.

By then I was on my first professional job, and I know Kittycat was home when I went to work one morning. But Dad called me at work later, saying he hadn’t seen her the whole day. He looked all over for her, even in the washing machine. Now I really don’t know what happened to Kittycat, but I have always blamed the stepmother for her mysterious disappearance. Dad is in the clear on this.

Hug your pets, people. Hug your pets.

 

 

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Protected: Writing 101 #3: The Music of My Life

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At My Age

So I fell down in the train station parking lot the other day. I have walked that sidewalk for years now, winter, spring, summer and fall, without mishap. I have ran that sidewalk trying to not miss the train going to work and to be one of the first ones out the lot coming home. However, that day I’m walking and I caught an uneven surface and went sprawling to the concrete. I fell on my left side, my hip taking the impact.

Boy, did that hurt!! A couple of nice ladies helped me up and got my stuff off the asphalt. I limped to the car. For the rest of the evening I sat with an ice pack on my hip, pressing the husband into being my servant.

My Avon rep comes over later. She says to me, “Girl, we can’t be falling at our age.”

At our age? What does that even mean?

Dad calls me at work the next day to see how I was doing. He goes, “I was worried. You know, as we get older, our bodies don’t heal as fast.”

Seriously?

As we get older. C’mon! I’m 54. Only 54. And I’m in better shape today than I was at 24, 34 and 44. FALLING DOWN at any age is not good.

  • When I was eight, I was outside with some of the kids on the block. I tripped backwards over one of the local dogs and hurt my tailbone.
  • At 26 I was trying to be Debi Thomas at the skating rink and fell and sprained my wrist.

I remember other significant falls in my life, but the point is, people fall at any age! It’s not fun! And at my age, I hate when people bring age into the equation. What is the deal with this “old” mindset? The 50s is not old. I’m certainly not an old person. Old is how you look, act, and think. People are conditioned to think that they’re falling apart once they hit their 40s, reveling in every ache and pain and using age as an excuse.

Recently, a fight broke out at a friend’s school. He got roughed up in the melee. “I don’t know why skinny, 53-year old me tried to break up a fight between teenaged boys,” Ron grimaced as he told the story. “There was a time when kids respected their elders!” (Yes, he totally said that.) Another time I was talking to him and he was trying to recall something. “Oh, my memory’s getting so bad…” So Ron is a skinny 53-year old with a bad memory.

Then again, I know kids who are older than that. Once while subbing in a class of 6th graders, the assignment was to write about a favorite activity. Some time had passed and Jason had nothing. “I can’t think of anything,” he said. “You can’t think of one thing you like to do?” “Sleep,” Jason said, with a shrug. An 11-year old boy’s favorite activity is sleeping? That’s old.
I reject “old”! Let’s redefine it. Let’s continue to learn new things, have goals and do cool stuff. Some folks are well into the 70s and 80s and they’re bodybuilding, running races, earning degrees and doing fabulous things. Ernestine Shepard, the oldest female bodybuilder in the world, started training at 71. Evelyn Stolz jumped out of a plane for her 90th birthday, something she’d wanted to do since World War 2. I want to be like them when I grow up!

I was recently talking to a couple of ladies about cats. One lady, who was probably 80 give or take, said she wanted to adopt an adult cat. “I’m too old to chase a kitten around,” she mused. Yes, kittens are tiny forces to be reckoned with. But at my age, I still have a few kittens left in me!

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Gumballs

Growing up, I felt like I had the best of both worlds. When I hung out with Dad, we were in the car. Dad did the grocery shopping on weekends and we always headed to Western Ave. and parts beyond. Dad rarely went east of our neighborhood to shop.

When I was with my mother, we were always on the bus because she didn’t drive. That, too, was an adventure. Sometimes we caught the bus to the train and went downtown. Most times we went to Roseland, the neighborhood directly east of our Maple Park. Michigan Avenue in Roseland between 111th and 115th streets was as bustling as north Michigan in those days. There were so many thriving businesses and that 4-block stretch was always crowded. There were also 2 or 3 grocery stores in the area, unlike the food desert that exists today. Roseland, also in those days, was pretty much all white.

One day my mother and I were in National Tea, one of the grocery stores. She gave me a few pennies for the gum machines. I scurried off to buy a few colorful gumballs while she waited in line. As I stood in indecision, a white woman walked up behind me with a little girl in tow.

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I deferred to this rude and nasty woman. I ran to find my mother to tell her what happened. The Mama Grizzly Bear rose up in her. “Where is she??!!” But of course, the woman and the little girl were gone.

I think about that incident and I wonder if that woman recalls it. What does she think about herself, bullying a little 4- or 5-year old black girl? Does her daughter remember? How would she replay it?

National Tea grocery store is now a vacant lot by the railroad tracks on 115th street. The heyday of Roseland is long gone. That woman, as a sign of the times, probably flew out of there with all the rest.

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One Snowfall, Two Takes

The weather outside is frightful, but the fire inside’s delightful. But as long as I have you, so let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Snow, snow, snow! It won’t be long until we’ll all be there with snow. Snow, oh! I want to wash my face, my hands, my hair in snow!

Snow is a whole lot of fun when you’re six, or crooner Bing Crosby a la White Christmas.

Kids love snow. The thought of the white stuff sends shivers of delight down their spines. Adults just shiver.

When the city’s schools take the proverbial snow day, adults start scrambling. Where’s little Brattina going to stay for the day? What are we going to do? Worse yet, will I have to take off work? Some folks don’t get paid if they don’t work. And rarer still, adults don’t get snow days!!!

Oh, the historic Big Snow. What fun! We were home from school for several days.

But poor Dad was stuck at work for a day and a half.

We were gleefully diving into snow banks.

That’s because no snowplows came down our block.

The men on the block got together to shovel 117th street out from the clutches of the snowstorm. The women got hot drinks ready for them. We kids watched from warm houses, too small to pitch in. But now we’re the ones out there trudging downtown in double-digit wind chills, bundled up in sweats and thermal underwear, the days of trying to be cute in the cold long gone. There are no gender assignments; if you can pick up a shovel, get to work! You have to get the snow off your car and forge a path through the parking lot or down the street. Please, please don’t get stuck, car! Gotta get to the train station, and pray there are no transit snafus.

We can build a snow fort!

The snow is blocking the front door.

Let’s make snow cream!

How am I gonna get to the grocery store?

We can make a snowman!

Don’t these folks know how to drive in the snow?! C’mon, man!

Oh to be six again, to relax and simply enjoy it.

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