The unlikely geniuses among us

“Look, dad! That’s the man who read us the rap the other night,” squealed a youngster during a chance encounter. Then there was the church member. “Man, I’d pay you for some of them poems.” And the one time he and a friend was at a gas station and didn’t have enough money for something. “Don’t worry ’bout it man I’d take care of it.” He swaggers inside the store and recites a poem to the cashier. If she felt it was good, would she help him out? He got what he wanted plus a a couple of beers and pack of cigarettes. That’s my brother-in-law, William. Being a writer I’m a bit bias but I’ve always considered him a poetic genius. Not so much for the profoundness of his poetry, although some of his poems are quite profound, but that he can quite literally go in the back room and emerge within an hour with a poem or rap that will knock your socks off.

My brother-in-law has his demons but I truly believe if he had money he would figure out a way to reach today’s youth. For now he reads them his poetry and rap songs. Stuff to enlighten them and get them to focus on their books. I wish I could quote a few lines from the rap he recited last night. Teenagers could stand to hear more of the positive even if it’s coming from an older person. That’s another thing. William is getting up in age, as am I. The thought of a mountain of poetry languishing unseen unheard, is just wrong far as I’m concerned.

He tells me he reads and/or recites some of his poems at different venues in the small towns down there in Eastern NC. He receives voluminous accolades but his genius, in my opinion, remains trapped there in the small towns. He’s even written a manuscript, its never been typed, hundreds of rhyming pages telling a story about a country girl living in the city. Couple that with his many poems and the sky’s the limit if he’d just go for it. Not only that, with his gift of gab, the man doesn’t know a stranger, he would be a publisher’s dream. William would have no problem promoting himself. His account of the nun who liked one of his poems so much she made copies and they were later distributed.

Sometime, according to William, people who don’t know him and hear him recite one of his poems, are usually floored by his obvious talent. I said to him last night he’s got to get all of that work typed up and get it out there. Here are a couple of his poems he gave me years ago. One poem is on the original paper he wrote it. He was much younger and had hit a rough patch. Maybe that time in his life is partially responsible for the genius. It’s obvious he wrote from a dark place of pain. He said it was an attempt to ease the pain his parents were going through over the whole ordeal. Maybe he and my sister wasn’t married at the time. Anyway, he said it’s okay for me to show these two. They were scanned into PDFs. If you have Acrobat Reader, a click or two should reveal an image. Hopefully sometime in the not too distant future the world will hear more from this unlikely genius and others like him. Like diamonds in the rough they are among us. You probably know one or two yourself.






Update on Zoey

Zoey went to the vet last Friday. To get her there took an act of congress but once she was inside the carrier she maintained her dignity. Unfortunately I couldn’t accompany her but was told once she was in the examining room she didn’t run or meow, not even once. The results from the blood test won’t be back until sometime next week. Hopefully, she doesn’t have diabetes or any other dreaded disease cats are prone to. If she does, I’m sure she’ll show strength like always.

This little cat, is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I mean she takes a licking and keeps on ticking. For days she subsided on grass, water, and probably the fat stored on her body. Each time I lost hope and said to myself, ‘this is going to be her last day,’ out came Zoey, little pig tail raised, purring up a storm. If it wasn’t for the jutting bones and wizened head, I would’ve thought she was a-okay.  All last week my heart was heavy because I was sure she had one foot in the grave. Nope, not yet. Matter of fact, all slimmed down, she was jumping on the bed like a mountain lion. Zoey usually claws and tears her way on top the bed. Showing such strength during her weakest moment. Like I said the little cat is like nothing I’ve ever seen.

Yesterday she ate and didn’t throw it back up. Today she ate even more and so far has kept it down. Already she seems to be putting on a little weight. A sure sign that she’s back or nearly is she meowed at my closed door this morning. When I let her in she jiggled to me curly tail raised high, purred and rubbed against my legs as I stroked her. Then she pranced off to the kitchen and sniffed at the food bowl. Yeap, Zoey’s back.

A gaunt and thin Zoey


The vet said no more dry food for Zoey. To keep her away from it, we feed Tigger on the kitchen table. Zoey has never attempted to jump that high. I started feeding Zoey Purina One Smartblend. The so-called Premium Pate. I switch between it and Fancy Feast, so-called Appetizers for cats. The names they give this cat food is unreal.  And don’t get me started on the flavors: white meat chicken appetizer in a delicate broth, classic turkey recipe, chicken and turkey casserole with greens. Yum-yum.

Tigger and Zoey before she got sick


I’m just glad Zoey’s back to eating.  Thanks for your prayers. A special shout-out to Funkykarmamagic. Pluma is beautiful. So glad she took time out of her busy day to purr-yer for Zoey. On top of everyone’s purr-yers, Zoey got kisses to the forehead from her mommy. Zoey is loved and I think she knows it. I was told when she returned from the vet she flaunted herself in front of Tigger and nearly paid dearly. Tigger is very very jealous when it comes to their mommy. I guess he smelled her on Zoey and went berserk. His uncharitable behavior toward the in-valid earned him an extended stay outside. Which I’m sure he didn’t mind.

Will continue to keep you posted on Zoey’s progress.

Steppin’ up the pace

Recently opened Whole Foods Market

June 21 will be exactly a year I walked out my patio door and kept on steppin’. I’d only been out the hospital a few days after suffering a diabetic coma. At the time, I was injecting 20 units of slow-acting insulin first thing in the morning and again between 7 and 8. Depending on my blood sugar reading, I also injected the fast-acting stuff before each meal. Anything over 121 meant injecting the appropriate amount of the fast-acting stuff to keep my blood sugar from going through the roof.

Tired of feeling like a human pin cushion, I took a friend’s advice and strapped on a pair of sneakers. Diabetes, get thee behind me. It would be just a matter of time before triumph was mine. I’d heard how diet and exercise had weaned many off the teat of insulin and oral diabetic medication. I just knew in several months time I would be counted teat-free. Today, I promise you, I can walk five miles at a brisk pace without breaking a sweat. Today, I am still suckling and my weight has barely changed.

I hear you saying, “she probably hasn’t changed her diet.” Well let me stop you right there. I cut out all sugary beverages, pork, fried foods, white bread, white potatoes, white rice, butter, and pretty much every food considered ‘bad’. My main food staples now are: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, vinegar, baked fish, roasted chicken, whole grain bread and rice, and lots and lots of kale, romaine, cabbage, cucumbers, collards, etc.

I admit when I get tired of whole grain cereal for breakfast, I eat a couple of eggs and a couple slices of low-sodium turkey bacon with a slice of toast or a packet of instant grits. I hardly eat any ice-cream. Dessert  is now some type of fruit eaten alone or with cottage cheese. I’ve eaten so much non-fat yogurt, I can’t even eat it anymore. If I eat a cookie or candy bar it’s the whole grain stuff, no Snicker or Heath bars, Oreos, or even Vanilla Wafers. Okay, maybe an occasional Graham Cracker, yuck.

Because of the carb counting I sometime snack on pork rinds. Last time I ate pork rinds I got sick. Salt is my achilles heel, of which I’ve cut back considerably. One good thing. I’ve saved more money than ever since I hardly ever eat out. Most restaurant meals have a high-sodium content. After enduring the pain, I don’t understand the lack or very little gain.

Why the walking hasn’t shown any results continues to be the bane of my existence. Feeling exhilarated and  on top of the world after getting back from an hour-long walk/jog today, I asked myself why the weight JUST WON’T BUDGE. The insulin and oral medication I’m on states the side effects of use is a weight gain of 10 pounds or more. At first I just blew it off thinking long as I walked and kept the ‘bad’ stuff out my diet, the weight would come off. Well, guess what? The joke’s on me.

Last year this time nobody could’ve convinced me I would still be suckling on the teat of insulin and oral diabetic medication. I’m still taking high blood pressure pills too. Nothing has changed. It would be so easy to just give up. My son started walking around the same time I did. He has lost over 30 pounds and insist I go ‘raw’. Which basically means vegetarianism on steroids, far as I’m concerned. But after swinging by the pharmacy to pick up more drugs, I started to give it serious thought. The pharmacy is inside a large grocery store. I came out of there loaded down with veggies.

The idea of going ‘raw’ swirling in my head, I checked my emails. Scanning what to read and what to discard, right before my eyes was the answer. An article that read: ‘The Right Way to Walk Off That Belly Fat’. Divine intervention if ever there was. You best believe it became a ‘must-read’ quick fast and in a hurry. It read: Okay…two women go walking. One finishes quickly; the other takes her time. They each burn about 400 calories. So who sheds more belly fat? The answer, according to a recent study, is the person who walked  fastest. The article went on to say by incorporating three shorter walks at a fast pace with two walks at a more moderate pace per week, more belly fat would be lost.

Whew, I dodged a bullet on that one. The thought of eating ‘raw’ flew right out the window. Hopefully I get at least six hours of sleep tonight. Tomorrow I’m gonna do the darn thing. The thought of going ‘raw’ will be all the incentive I need. With a little luck and divine intervention, my next post won’t be about my knee going out.

Here’s a picture of the park where I’ll be trotting along. Wish me luck. Or, feel free to join me.

Get outta the way ducks. Mary B. is on the trails.

Please Pray for Zoey


A plump Zoey sunning herself

Not accustomed to lots of hands-on, I completely flipped the switch the moment a traumatized Zoey entered my life. I can truly say she has made me a better person. Such a small cat but the only way they could get her to me was in a critters’ cage. She had wedged herself in the nether region of a pool table to avoid capture. A robust eater, food was placed inside the trap and well, Zoey doesn’t turn down a meal unless she’s sick like now. Anyway, she zoomed straight under the sofa the second she was released. She stayed there for hours. The next day she joined the other two in what was once my office/guest room.

She’s next to me on the bed as I type this. Her empty belly just screeched loud enough to beat the band, as one of the local weather guys sometime says during a downpour. The only thing she has eaten in the last couple of days is grass, which she promptly threw up.

Last year round about this same time she started hobbling on three legs. Her owner came and took her to the vet. The vet told us she had bad teeth and was overweight but was otherwise healthy. I wondered how a cat that threw up every other day could possibly be healthy. But I kept mum because her owner was footing the vet bill. I was and am the acolyte charged with Zoey’s upkeep and a fellow named Tigger.

What was supposed to be a one month stay is now going into its third year. It’s been one heck of a roller coaster ride dealing with not only Zoey, but Tigger and the former Cloey (daughter to Zoey), as well. We lost Cloey right out the gate. An infection had spread throughout her reproductive organs and her owner had her euthanized. Fearing Zoey might suffer a similar faith, I sometime put off telling Zoey’s owner about her ailments. Usually she stays close to me when she’s sick, somehow still purring like a motor. If she’s in pain, she doesn’t show it.

My son, Zeke, says he doesn’t know how she’s still alive. He’s the one constantly cleaning up all the vomit. Admittedly, he does all the heavy lifting when it comes to cleaning up after the two. All I do is feed them occasionally and spoil them rotten. So, when Zoey is sick as she is now, I feel I’m the only one emotionally vested. I have only myself to blame.

Normally I’m a rather hands-off person. But with Zoey, I turned into Mother Theresa. The story was she’d been thrown out of a moving vehicle. God only knows what cruelties she’d suffered prior to that. Zoey was terrified of humans and rightly so. Tired of her hiding under the bed all day and running away from us all the time, I made it my mission to socialize her. Before the end of the first year my work was done.

Zeke, on the other hand, remained and still remains pretty aloof with the cats although he does allow Tigger to spend time in his room. If only I’d followed his example I wouldn’t have had and continue to have so many sleepless nights.

Zeke’s door just opened. Zoey looks at me with those sad kiwi eyes flecked with brown spots from her constantly throwing up. She threw up the grass I let her out to eat this morning. She’s an indoor cat but I let her out to graze on the grass hoping it might fix what’s ailing her. Yesterday after eating her fill she ran under the barn when I called her to come in. This morning she came right on back in and promptly threw up on the kitchen floor. Phlegm, grass, and a sour odor. I wiped it up with paper towels and followed up with a wet sponge.

Good thing she was fat. I said was because in just a matter of days Zoey’s just a former shell of herself. The furry flesh of her undercarriage still dangles as she rubs herself against my legs. Her purrs are comforting and is all that’s keeping me from crying. This little cat has been through hell and back again. If she’s in pain, she’s right on purring and bearing it. She is now nearly two hours behind the closed door in what was once my office/guest room. Zeke puts them in at night just like they’re children.

My head is filled with prayers for Zoey. I’m nearly two hours late with my insulin injection. I dial up the appropriate dose. The fine fine needle sinks into the flesh of my belly. I thumb down the device as though it’s a fountain pen, thinking about Zoey as it clicks backward to zero. Thinking about Zoey keeps me from focusing on myself. I know what it’s like to go to sleep only to wake up days later.

Zoey has an appointment with the vet on Monday. In the meanwhile I keep her in my prayers. If you stumble across this blog, please pray for Zoey. I will return later with an update.

Zoey after three days of not eating

You Just Might Have Type II Diabetes If…

I started this blog intending to establish a platform upon which I would stand and say, “HELLO WORLD, MY NAME IS MARY B.  AND I AM_____. Then beneath the hot spotlight of your scrutiny, I would fill in the blank with tidbits about myself. My ‘don’t get me started,’ musings on things being discussed around the water cooler and my own personal observations; bore you about my writing aspirations, and stuff like what I’m about to do, which is tell you about this diabetes business.

If someone close had schooled me at least a little about the viciousness of diabetes, I like to think I would’ve altered my lifestyle. Hopefully I would’ve watched what I crammed into my mouth. And would’ve paid some attention to physical fitness, and tried to stress less. Although those things don’t guarantee immunity against the disease.

Unfortunately, and I know it’s not fair one little bit, diabetes could zero in based on genetics. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, are among those most susceptible to the disease. But other racial ethnicities shouldn’t be lured into a false sense of security because diabetes doesn’t discriminate and is quickly becoming an epidemic in this country.

There is no such thing as a ‘lil sugar diabetes.’ Diabetes is monstrous and tricky and will wreak havoc on every organ in your body. When your body doesn’t properly handle insulin, and the cells that nourish those organs can’t do so properly, you are in for a world of hurt. Similarly, when your pancreas is doing one thing and your liver another. How the medication can often make your blood sugar or glucose level too low and that’s just as dangerous as being too high.

Anyway, this blog is geared towards those of you walking around and don’t even know this monster’s inside you literally trying to kill you. And if it doesn’t kill you, will battle you for such things as your eyesight, kidneys, liver, pancreas, even your appendages – fingers, toes, feet, legs. Mess with your blood, keeping it high, working the heck out of your heart. Likewise for the gray matter encased within your skull.

Usually if this monster’s inside you it has already manifested itself. Please pay attention because you just might be on the way to being a type II diabetic, known as prediabetes, or may already be there. Awareness is key to battling this monster and hopefully living to tell. Here are some of the signs. They seem so mundane, so tied to our everyday existence, what with us ripping and running, no wonder they fly under the radar.

There may be a monster, not underneath your bed but rather inside of you.  SIGNS YOU JUST MIGHT HAVE TYPE II DIABETES:

Excessive thirst and appetite
Increased urination
Weight loss or gain(especially when losing weight without even trying)
Fatigue(can barely put one foot in front the other)
Nausea, perhaps vomiting
Blurred vision
In women, frequent vaginal infections
In men and women, yeast infections
Dry mouth
Slow-healing sores or cuts

Itching especially in the groin or vaginal area
Itching and often dry skin

After you’ve been checked, I pray there is no monster. But if it turns out there is just ball your fists, and crack your neck side to side way they do in the movie right before a fierce fight scene and face it head on.

I woke up after four days in a coma. The doctor came around and started telling me how high my blood sugar was. It was like he was speaking a foreign language. When I told him I didn’t even know I was diabetic, it was his turn to look at me like I was an alien. Now that I’m battling this disease everyday, I like to hear other’s stories. Please tell me yours.

Awareness is light.

“Money can’t buy life”

“Money can’t buy life.” The alleged last words Reggae legend, Bob Marley, said to his son Ziggy. But as I listened to an interview on the radio the other morning, I wondered if perhaps his Rastafarian religion may have played a role in his death as well. Ziggy Marley was out promoting an upcoming documentary about his famous father. During the interview it was said more than once that Marley didn’t have to die. Now some might beg to differ and tell you everybody’s days are numbered. If you subscribe to that line of thought, fine, but the words nagged at me all day: “Money can’t buy life” and Bob Marley didn’t have to die.

Marley, an avid soccer player, sought medical attention for a toe injury that wasn’t healing and in fact seemed to be getting worse. There was a malignant growth (melanoma) on the toe. A doctor suggested it be amputated. Marley, a staunch Rastafarian, wouldn’t allow himself to be cut on. To stay alive he maintained his vegan lifestyle, exercised, and allegedly smoked plenty of marijuana, in the belief it would cure him of the cancer. When that didn’t work he sought alternative medicine in Germany. He was cared for in his final days by Josef Issels, a holistic physician. This too was a failed attempt to live.

An ailing Marley left Germany and attempted to head back to his beloved Jamaica but got sicker in transit and ultimately died in a Miami hospital. The cancer had metastasized and the world lost perhaps its greatest Reggae performer. Marley passed away May 11, 1981, after having first been diagnosed in ’77. At the time I was preparing to do an internship at a prestigious newspaper in Charlotte, NC. The news deeply saddened me. Out of all the Reggae singers, I loved Marley most. Anyway, I digress.

“Money can’t buy life.” If indeed those were the last words he spoke to Ziggy, it would appear he didn’t hold himself accountable for not having the toe amputated when there was a chance it could’ve saved his life. Maybe he should have said, “money is too little too late to save your life if you’ve allowed religion, lifestyle, and alternative medicine to get in the way.”

Some say his ‘Redemption Song’, could be his attempt to offer insight into his thinking. I love these lines from the song:

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
Have no fear for atomic energy
‘Cause none of them can stop the time”

Anyway, we all know great minds, geniuses, gifted folks, are human just like the rest of us. Steve Jobs, Farrah Fawcett, and Steve McQueen, all turned to alternative medicine, with unfortunate consequences. Again, money can’t buy life when it’s too little to late.

Not to berate those who turn to alternative medicine, Patrick Swayze reportedly went the traditional route. When chemo was offered, he went ahead with it. Usually the survival rate is five months. He battled the disease for 20. It should also be noted that Swayze had already reached stage 4 of pancreatic cancer which had already spread to his lungs. During an interview, Swayze said he wasn’t going to chase staying alive by turning to alternative medicine. “If anybody had that cure out there like so many people swear to me they do, you’d be two things: you’d be very rich, and you’d be very famous. Otherwise, shut up,” he said during an interview with Barbara Walters back then.

So, did Marley, Fawcett, McQueen, and Jobs contribute to their own death in not taking the traditional route of surgery and chemo? Did they die because they shunned the norm and chose to do things their way, due to religious belief or what have you? Do you think having money made them pursue options they might not have ordinarily? Swayze chose the traditional route but his cancer, one of the deadliest, had already metastasized to his lungs by the time he was diagnosed. He lived longer than most but also died in the end.

Maybe Marley was right. He, McQueen, Fawcett, Swayze, and Jobs had money and access to the best medical care the world had to offer. They still succumbed to the disease. Perhaps it’s true when your number is called and your time is up, no amount of money can save you. Of course IMHO, when it’s too little too late, “Money can’t buy life.”

During your walks don't bypass the stress-relieving view.

I Smile, by Kirk Franklin

Kirk Franklin’s, ‘I Smile’,’ popped into my head this morning as I walked the park. I love that song. So with the spring breeze blowing and the ducks calling to one another across the green lake water, I charged through the trees. My feet crunched through the gravel, shoes digging in and out, making me work that much more harder as I made my way along the trail. Who would’ve thunkit, me, walking and jogging up a sweat?

Anyone who knew the old me would tell you that lady didn’t fool out in the sun. That old girl would circle the parking lot looking for the closest parking space to the building she could find. Exercise was a dirty word.

There are times, like today, I feel old girl trying to seep back in. What with reading essays four hours in the evening, a temporary gig, researching, and writing, and all else I can squeeze in during the day, old girl wrapped herself around me like a warm embrace. But like we use to say back in the day, I thought, ‘I’m hip to your jive.’

Just like when you recognize someone that really doesn’t have your best interest at heart and doesn’t really wish you well, or want to see you prosper, well I recognized that old feeling. So, shrugged it off and climbed on out of bed. Then I walked into the bathroom, looked at myself in the mirror and smiled.

Everyday after I’m dressed, my first order of business is popping pills. Right before breakfast I popped one for diabetes, another for high blood pressure, and a supplement to ward off the effects of neuropathy. My two biggest fans, Tigger and Zoey, hit me up for affection, so I rubbed them and hugged them. Tigger, full of energy, jumped his butt on the sofa, off the sofa then raced to the door like a gazelle. Once he’s out the way, I dragged the blinds up in the their room. Zoey sat there and basked in the sun while I prepared breakfast.

Breakfast was two scrambled egges, pineapple and cottage cheese, and something called apple chicken links I’d picked up at the Whole Foods Market that opened just the other day. I was not instructed on the box of chicken links to place them in the oven, but that’s what I did. While they cooked, I stood in front of the mirror propped against the wall and looked at myself. In sweatpants and a short-sleeve purple shirt, I turned to profile. Old girl whispered sneeringly, ‘you ain’t losing no weight, why do you persist?” I leaned in close, brown eye to brown eye, and said, “Why not?” then strutted away singing,

(I’ll be honest with you)
I almost gave up, but a power that I can’t explain,
fell from heaven like a shower now.

(When I think how much better I’m gonna be when this is over)
I smile, even though I hurt see I smile,
I know God is working so I smile,
Even though I’ve been here for a while (what you do?)
I smile, smile…

I’m glad I didn’t listen to myself and got on out there and did the darn thing. After about 30 minutes, the OJ I had with breakfast kicked in. The closest restroom, well the closest one opened in this particular park, was about 1/2 a mile away. My car was nearer and I thought of going back to it. Old girl did her utmost to urge me back there, knowing full well if I drove off, that would be the end of my walk. My goal was to walk/jog an hour. I’d missed two days, the hour would make up for it. I inhaled, sucked in my stomach, threw up a prayer, and kept on stepping.

I walked/jogged exactly an hour. When I finally reached the car, energized and recharged, I was looking forward to a new day. Sometime we can be our own worst enemy. Even when we try to do a body good, our self can come out and try to sabotage the effort.  I’m 52 I’m not ashamed to say. I don’t know what that’s suppose to feel like. What I don’t want it to feel like is tired and broken down. I won’t be doing any cartwheels and might even emit a grunt before sitting or standing, but even if my weight is being stubborn, I’m going to persist in walking.

Listen to Kirk Franklin’s, ‘Smile’. If that doesn’t help inspire you, I don’t know what will. I know, if that doesn’t work, get a cat. There’s nothing more therapeutic than a purring cat whose paw is pressed gently against your arm while you work. This is in real time folks. My laptop sits on a small table at the foot of my bed. It’s where I work. To be close to me, Zoey has now placed both front paws on my left arm. Her eyes are closed, humming less pronounced, and her belly is making those hunger sound noises. The humming ended. I’m looking at her and can’t help but smile.

Zoey, the fat cat