Monday, January 31, 2011

Tax Time: Know Who You Owe

Taxpayers, please keep in mind that if you owe back child support, student loans or back taxes to state or federal entities—they will get their money. Please don’t curse out H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt or even Internal Revenue Service, because you were expecting a $4,000 to $7,000 refund but were told that your refund will be reduced or completely offset because you owe a government agency.

I haven’t worked in the toll-free customer service department at IRS in 10 years, but I still remember getting cursed out on a daily basis. Based on a few conversations with my co-workers, things have gotten worse because of the recession.

As a newbie in the department, I dealt with the taxpayers that were expecting a refund and transferred the more complicated calls to the more experienced tax examiners. People would call to see if their returns have been processed and to find out when they could expect to receive the check or direct deposit. Most of the calls I handled ended on a happy note, but it never failed, by the end of the day, I always got at least two irate callers that were mad at me (at IRS, at the government, at their baby’s mama or daddy) because their money was going to be used to pay old debts. I used to get cursed out so bad that I cried. Not necessarily because they hurt my feelings, but because I couldn’t curse them out back.

Just so there won’t be any misunderstandings, I’m going to spell it out for those that may end up in this situation one day.

• If you have been ignoring those delinquent/default letters from Sallie Mae—your refund may be offset.

• If you know you haven’t made your child support payments in a while—your refund may be offset.

• If you owe state or federal taxes from a previous year—your refund may be offset.

• If your spouse owes any of these government entities—your refund may be offset—only if you do not file an Injured Spouse Claim (Form 8379) with the IRS.

If the IRS ever does reduce or offset your refund, you will get a letter in the mail letting you know how much money was sent to pay your debt. If there is any money left over, you will receive it by check or direct deposit.

Just in case you’re curious, you can either call your debtor or the Department of Treasury’s Financial Management Service (1-800-304-3107) ahead of time, just to see if your file has been submitted for a tax refund offset.

So if you call IRS, and the nice lady tells you, “I’m sorry but your refund has been offset to pay a debt owed to a federal agency,” just say “DAMN” and get off the phone. If you didn’t know you owed somebody, you should have.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Color-treated Natural Hair

I read a blog post a couple of weeks ago where this woman talked about all the things she would never do to her hair. The main thing that she said she would never do that stuck out to me was color. She said that she would never color her hair, say blond, because none of her ancestors had blond hair. I found that kind of funny because almost every African American in the United States has some white ancestors whether it was the slave owner that crept into the bed with great-great-great-great-grandmother or there was a “real” interracial couple on the family tree.


I’ve been coloring my hair since I was in the 9th grade, because hey, I was sick of my two-tone hair. Of course when I did it, I didn’t think that I would have to color it so often to keep it from being chemically two-toned. Over the last six or seven years my reason for coloring my hair has changed, it’s because I have a whole lot of gray hair. At first it was just one string here and there, now every week I spot two or ten more.

I love changing my hair color, even though I try not to do it too often. The main colors I rock besides black or dark brown are honey blond and red. My hair has been honey blond for almost a year so now I’m itching to get some red. I’m going to have a red afro, cool. I think it’s going to look great but if I don’t like it, I may end up wearing a wig for a while until I feel comfortable putting a rinse in it to tone it down until either the color grows out or I get sick of it and cut it off. I’m hoping it doesn’t get to that point but I’m prepared for whatever happens.

In my recent video, I do address my hair color but the main objective is getting my hair straight. Check it out and let me know what you think. Advice or recommendations are welcome as well.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Other Side of the Story

This week’s Short Story Saturday is gonna be told from Cortez’s viewpoint. I’m trying to tap into my idea of the male perspective. I interviewed a couple guys to see why they cheat or have cheated in the past. One said because he wanted something different and at the first sign of conflict between he and his wife or girlfriend, he went in search of another woman. The other one said that his girl isn’t a very experienced lover and he doesn’t feel that he should have to tell her what he wants, she should have figured it out within the four years that they have been together.

“What’s up, Tez?” Dillon said once I had opened the door to let him in.

“Same old, same old.”

“A, man, was that Tamesha I just saw driving out the parking lot?”

“Shit, you spying on me or something? What’s up?”

“Man, ain’t nobody spying on you, I was just asking. That’s your business.”

“Yeah, it is, so stay out of it.”

“Damn, dog, forget I said anything.”

The last thing I needed was for anybody to know that I was still messing around with Tamesha. But she had insisted on coming over so I let her. Quintina was at work, so it was all good. We usually went to a hotel or her house but she was in the area so we figured why not take care of business right here.

D was killing me in NBA Jam because my mind was on Tamesha. I knew I shouldn't have let her know where I live because, I got the feeling that there was gonna be some drama somewhere down the line. I shouldn't have banged her here either, if Quintina found out she would lose all of her religion...but it was good though.

I was sleeping good when Quintina woke me up asking me about a rubber she found under the bed. At first I just blew it off, like girl you crazy, but then I remembered that Tamesha and I had been doing the damn thing on the floor so she wouldn’t mess the bed up. Obviously, I wasn’t as careful as I thought I was.

My eyes were still closed and I could only pretend to be half asleep so long. Quintina was a sweetie pie but when she got pissed off and demanded answers, I had to tell her something.

“Baby, it ain’t mine.”

“What do you mean it’s not your’s? Whose is it then? Did someone break into the house and screw some chick in our bedroom?”

I laughed, “No, baby, I let Dillon bring a girl over here. They didn’t have any money for a hotel so I let them do their thing here.”

“You did what? Why would you let Dillon bring his skank over here? He should have been at home with Shameka instead of out here banging some chick in my bed. A least you washed the covers.”

“They did it on the floor.”

“Oh wow that makes it better.”

“I’m sorry, baby. Dillon’s my best friend, through thick and thin. When he needs me, I’m there. I guess I’m used to this still being my bachelor pad, my stud stable, my house of pain,” I said rubbing her thigh.

She slapped my hand away, “Stop, nasty, this is serious.” Then she smiled. She believed me.

“Cortez, please don’t do this again. I don’t want anyone screwing other women in my house.”

“Okay, baby, I’m sorry.” I kissed her softly and when she didn’t respond. I grabbed her and pulled her down on the bed with me. She giggled. Yes, it was all good again.

After Quintina had fallen asleep, I called Dillon. Just in case she got on Dillon about bringing a girl over, I had to give him the head's up.

“A, man, if it comes up, you have to have my back on this,” I said to Dillon.

“Cortez, what are you talking about?” I had woken him up out of his sleep.

“I told Quintina that you brought a girl over here.”

“For what…awww. You and that damn Tamesha gone mess around and get y’all domes split. How long do you think Quintina is gonna put up with y’all shit?”

“Man, are you gonna help me or not?”

“I gotcha but damn, from now own leave me out of it. I don’t even know what you see in Tamesha.”

“Dog, her ass can swallow up a g-string. And man, I shouldn’t be telling you this, but Tamesha’s nasty as hell. I love Quintina, but she’s kinda boring, I need some excitement sometimes.”

“Why don’t you just leave her and be with Tamesha?”

“Shit, Tamesha ain’t the wife type. She’s just the type of chick you can hang out with. Quintina’s the kind of chick you can have babies with and not worry about no baby mama drama.”

“All right, Tez, I hope you know what you’re doing.”

“Hell yeah I know what I’m doing. Did I say anything to you when you moved in with the chick that the whole hood ran through?”

“Man, that’s my baby’s mama. I was raised with both my parents so I owed the same thing to my kid.”

“Whatever, man. Do your thing and I’m gonna do mine.”

In all actuality, I didn’t know why I cheated on a woman that loved me as much as Quintina did. The only way that I could explain this dilemma was that I had a habit; it was like a disease that I couldn’t just get a shot in the ass to cure. It was also something that every man in my family did, even my father. I knew all about the other women and the other children that my father had. I had two sisters my age and a brother Charles’s age, but had never met any of them.

My brother Charles often said, “Always take care of home, bro. Don’t let these chicken heads keep you from doing what you are supposed to do to keep your lady happy”. With that in mind, after every rendezvous’ I had, I treated my baby like a queen whenever she came home. From cooking dinner to having Quintina’s bubble bath ready, I did whatever it took to keep her happy. Even when she suspected I was cheating, she didn't say too much because she couldn’t prove it.

Every time I break ties with Tamesha, I change my number or move to a different part of the city, she always finds me and literally suck me back in. I don’t think I could ever be in a relationship with her but she is one of the greatest lovers I’ve ever had. Quintina has learned a lot over the years, but she and Tamesha are in totally different leagues. Say for instance, Quintina goes down on me because she likes to make me happy. Tamesha does it because she likes to do it. Even when I’m ready for the real deal, I have to wait until she’s had her fill, you know what I’m saying. Tamesha’s just nasty and I can’t help but like it. Tamesha can always find that good dope too, which makes the sex even more intense.

To read more about Cortez see The Unexpected.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I Love It

I decided not to rant about anything today because, hey, I'm in a good mood. Instead I will be paying homage to a very special entity--YouTube. If you have never taken advantage of the many uses of YouTube, you should start today.

If YouTube was a dude, I'd marry him.

I'm in love with YouTube because it has so many uses and I have learned so many things from it. Plus, when I want to hear a certain song, all I have to do is type in the title, or just a few lyrics, and it plays the song for me.

When I'm trying to find a new hairstyle to do with my nappturally (nappy and naturally) curly hair, I search for styles and watch the tutorials.

I listen to YouTube when I'm at work to drown out all of the foolish talk going on around me so I can concentrate on my work.

When my son is begging to see a certain cartoon that he hasn't seen in a while, I check YouTube and there it is. Yayyy! (He watches it for 5 minutes then goes in the other room to watch some other kiddie show.)

YouTube even has videos on how to make videos and how to upload them. I put together a few pictures and some music in Windows Live Movie Maker and TADAA a video. It's only a little over a minute long, but I'm proud of it. The music's kind of loud so you may want to adjust your volume (I haven't mastered that yet).

Alexa ranks YouTube as the third most visited website on the internet, behind Google and Facebook. I kind of agree with the ranking except I think Twitter should be a lot higher than number eleven, but that's a story for another day.

Do you use YouTube? If so, what interesting things have your learned from it?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Unexpected

Cortez and I had a joint account for paying bills, but we also had separate accounts that we used to support our habits--his was smoking and video games mine was shopping. I hadn't had the time to shop in quite some time so I had a nice little nest egg. Reluctantly, I withdrew the $3000 to pay SaLynne's debt. I also drew up a promissory note that detailed the payment arrangements and had her to sign it.

"If you don't pay me back, we're going to court," I said to her.

"Girl, I got you."

I wouldn't really sue her but I wanted her to know that she had to be responsible for her own foolish actions. I didn't want to see her fired or put in jail. Hopefully, once everthing was taken care of no one would find out what she had done. I also hoped that I didn't get myself in trouble for covering it up.

Traffic was insane when I got off work. Sleet had fallen at lunch time, so the streets were slick with ice. The news had reported that the city's public works division had actually run out of sand to cover the streets. Now, I wasn't an expert, but I didn't see sand being hard to come by. They could truck it in from Mississippi or one of the other coastal states.

It took me two hours to slide home, which was an hour and thirty minutes longer than usual. Cortez had called a couple of times but I was concentrating on driving and didn't want to pick up the phone while I was on the interstate. I should have just ignored his calls completely like he did when he was out and about, but I called him once I got off at my exit.

"Hey, hun, I'm not too far from home."

"Good, I was worried about you."

"I'm fine. See you when I get home."

I had the hardest time going down Tchulahoma, the two lane street that led to our townhouse. The twists and turns weren't easy to maneuver but I made it home without crashing into a tree or another motorist.

Cortez was lucky enough to be off that Thursday so he was at home, probably sitting in front of the TV. He was a Nintendo 64 junkie. NBA Jam 2000 was the lastest addiction. He, his friend Dillon, his brother Charles and sometimes some other random guy usually played the games from the time they got off work until the wee hours of the morning. They would be screaming and cursing until I walked into the living room and gave them a dirty look. Playtime was usually over by then.

As I had guessed, he was playing the game but Dillon was the only one playing with him.

"Hey baby," Cortez said once I walked in and kissed him on the cheek.

"Hey," I said, walking over to Dillon and pulling one of his locs.

"What's up? I'm good. How you doing?" Dillon asked.

"I've scratched my brains out all day, so I'm going to wash my hair." Both Dillon and Cortez laughed.

When I got to the bedroom, I added my suit to the bag of clothes that needed to go to the cleaners, kicked my heels into a corner in the closet, and shoved my tights and other unmentionables in the hamper. I put on my "around the house" dress that pooled around my ankles if I didn't have the hem up in a knot. I gathered up my shampoo, conditioner, big tooth comb, and towel and headed to the kitchen sink. Going natural had been on my mind for a while but I hadn't totally decided to do it yet. The two inches of new growth was going through creamy crack withdrawals, but I had planned to think about the natural thing for one more month.

Bent over the sink attempting to detangle my semi-naps, I felt a hand run across my butt and lift my dress up.

"Stop freak. Don't you see that I'm busy?"

"I'm busy too," he said rubbing his hand between my thighs.

I straightened up, squeezing water from my hair before turning to face him. "What about Dillon?"

"I put him out."

"Cortez, if you help me with my hair, then I can help you with your problem," I said tapping his extension with my comb.

"Hey, watch that," he said, protecting his crotch.

I loved it when Cortez washed my hair; he was always so gentle yet firm. He turned hair washing into foreplay. I watched him pour conditioner in his hands before I leaned over the sink again. Cortez massaged the cream into my hair and scalp on the left side of my head. He grinded against my butt a couple of times on his way to the work on the other side of my head. He combed through my hair several times to make sure every section of my hair was covered. After about ten minutes, he rinsed my hair and towel dried it. Then he wrapped the towel around my head, grabbed the comb and led me to our bedroom.

"Have a seat," Cortez said.

I sat on the ottoman in front of the chair and he went into the bathroom. He came out with a jar of grease and a scarf. Cortez sat in the chair behind me, his long legs stretched out with me in between. He oiled my scalp and wrapped my hair around my head. By this point, he usually had had his fill of playing in my hair so I was surprised when I glanced in the dresser mirror and saw that he had done a lot better job than I ever had.

"You should do this all the time," I said.

"Why, it ain't my hair."

"Ooo, you so low down."

"I'm just playing. You know I got you. Whenever you want me to, just say the word," he said tying the scarf on my head.

He hugged me from behind and kissed my neck. A spark ran through me when he cupped my breasts and pinched my nipples simultaneously.

"Quintina," he whispered, his lips brushing against my ear.


"You ready to mess this hair up?"

Cortez was dead asleep when I woke up. It was almost ten. We had thrown clothes all over the room and I wanted to get the room looking halfway decent before I went back to bed. I walked from one side of the bed to the other to make sure I had gotten everything. I bent down to check under the bed and saw a small wrapper and picked it up. Magnum. Cortez and I hadn't used condoms since high school, so what was really going on?

This is a continuation of "Money Funny".

Monday, January 17, 2011

Teen Pregnancy Prevention

In my not so humble opinion, I believe that parents should introduce their teens, especially their girls, to birth control and condoms as soon as they hit puberty. We all wish that our children would remain virgins until they are 25 or married, whichever comes first, but that is unrealistic. We must explain to our children that it would be better if they waited to have sex, but we should still give them the tools needed to protect themselves from disease and pregnancy.

Susie Q (1994)

My Twitter and Facebook friend, Lakisha M. Johnson (@MySoulOnPaper) posted a link on Facebook to the story about the 90 pregnant girls at Frayser High School here in Memphis. I had heard about this on the radio last week and the first thing that came to mind was--whatever happened to the free clinic?

Here's the link to the story ( )

I moved to the Frayser area when I was fifteen years old. Having lost my virginity 4 years prior, I was blessed and lucky that I didn't already have two or three crumb snatchers by the hand. When I moved in with my dad, he took me and two of my older sisters (ages 16 and 17) to the clinic to #1 get tested for STDs, #2 get birth control pills, and #3 get a bag of condoms. Daddy told us from day one that he was not condoning any sexual behavior but he wanted to make sure we were protected, just in case. "I don't need any accidents keeping me up all night and drinking up all the milk," he always said.

The reason why he did this was because he was a truck driver and was only home every other night. He didn't have time to watch us. We had to be in the house before the street lights came on but we could stay out until no later than 10 pm, when he was home. If we disobeyed these rules, we would be on punishment for two weeks to two months depending on how late we were out past curfew and what he thought we were doing while we were gone. (I was on punishment the whole summer one year, shaking my head.) My stepmother was always in a world of her own, so I and my sisters pretty much did whatever we wanted until dad asked the neighbors to start spying on us.

Even though my dad did the unthinkable in the eyes of most parents, he still taught us that we shouldn't just lay down with any old dude and that neither the birth control pills nor the condoms were 100% effective. He also schooled us on the importance of getting an education and having faith in God. As a scare tactic, he often used family members as examples of how not to be--Young mothers with three kids by three different fathers; living in the projects with a new car and big screen TV; those that had no job and weren't looking because (they said) "the man" was holding them back: high school dropouts that complained about cleaning hotel toilets.

My sister that was 16, at the time, didn't have a baby until she was around 18 or 19. She married her son's father, he joined the army and they hit the road. The sister who was 17, at the time, doesn't have any kids at all. And I waited until I was an old maid (31) to have a kid.

Even though he took us for the initial doctor visit, it was up to us to make our subsequent appointments, to take the pills and to make the guys use the condoms even if we had to put them on "the thing" ourselves (which I got pretty good at, LOL).

Parents, please help your children to enjoy their childhood and not try to grow up so fast. Set rules for them and enforce those rules. Stop trying to be friends with your kids, they have enough of those, they need guidance. Once the babies come, playtime is over. Once HIV hits, their lives may be over.

Like another one of my Twitter/Facebook buddies, Rob Grant (@Ima_Writer) says, "Condoms are cheaper than diapers, B, wrap it up."

Proofreading is the Key

After reading Julie's (@WritingSpirit) blog post about keeping the way Facebook posts links in mind when writing opening paragraphs for your blog, I took a look at mine to see what it looked like.

There are two things wrong with this link. First of all, the comment, "Please forgive the formatting" was written a little after 1:00 am, when I was very sleepy. I wanted to make sure my post could be read at the top of the morning for Short Story Saturday before I went to bed. After tinkering with the HTML coding, I have corrected the formatting issue. Also, there's a misspelled word in the link. "The reports were off and some of the clients had been calling saying significant somes..." This should be sums not somes. This has been since corrected but just because I have changed the blog itself, the link on Facebook is still the way it was when I first uploaded the post. The lesson I learned from this is that I will definitely have to do a better job of proofreading before I hit the publish button.

Now, I'm guessing this could be the reason why I used to get so many rejection letters when I was actively submitting short stories and poems for publication. Who wants to publish someone who can't even write a single paragraph without a misspelling? I wouldn't if I were the publisher.

Please be careful how you send things out in the world, as they say, you only get one try to make a first impression.

In response to--Shine Online Blogging Tip 2

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Lock Debate

It took me years (see My Natural hair Journey) to decide to go natural but now I'm like, what now? I really love my natural hair--the softness, the curliness, the way it makes me look like my ten year old sister when I wear it in a puff. The pictures below are some of the hairstyles that I've rocked over the past year.

For the last few months, I've been thinking a lot about getting locks (or locs). I have several co-workers that have the sisterlocks my little brother has the traditional locks and their hair looks nice and neat to me. I've also seen some really pretty lock styles on the internet. The only thing holding me back is the fact that I am somewhat addicted to changing my hairstyle. I mean, I plan to be natural for many years to come but I still want to have the option of wearing a fro, twists, twist-outs, puffs and braids. I also want to be able to cornrow my hair and wear quick weaves for a protective style.

If I decide to get them, YouTube has schooled me on how to remove locks without having to cut all of my hair off. Although, I did read a statement that a lock specialist made that basically said if the client is concerned about taking the locks down, she doesn't put them in. So what do I do? I'm gonna wait. If I keep looking at other people's hair and thinking about it, eventually I may get locks. I just hope I won't want to take them out after a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, I think I'll be getting comb coils/finger coils. They have the semblance of locks without the permanence. (Plus they look like ring curls, a style that I really liked when I had relaxed hair.)

If you have any advice or suggestions, please feel free to leave me a comment. Thanks.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Money Funny

I was sitting at my desk with my shoes off, wiggling my toes. It had been a long day and a break was very much needed. The reports were off and some of the clients had been calling saying significant sums of money had been coming up missing.

My eyes were fixed on the computer screen when SaLynne walked in. "Hey, Quintina, are you really busy?"

"It can wait a few minutes," I said, moving away from the keyboard. "What's going on? Why are you so dressed up?"

"I've got a hot date. Remember that corner store owner I told you about?"

"The guy from Africa?"

"Yes, girl, he got money and I'm trying to find out if he's willing to share some of it."

I picked up a pen and tapped the end of it on my desk a couple of times. SaLynne was a very smart, ver nice woman but she had gold digger tendencies. I admired her tenacity but there was no way I could blatantly come out and ask some random guy for money. Especially a guy I just met. Something about that sounded a little too hooker-ish to me. Fortunately, I've never found myself in that sort of predicament. My no good husband was good for something, but that's another story.

"So where are you two going?" I asked.

"Girl, I don't know. He just told me to wear something sexy and I did."

"What if he's just taking you to a hotel?"

SaLynne put her hands on her hips, "As long as he drops the money off first I could care less."

I shook my head. "Girl, get your crazy butt out of my office."

After work, I headed straight home. I was hoping that Cortez would be home when I got there but no such luck. There was a note on the fridge that said he was helping his brother move. On a Wednesday? Yeah, whatever. Cortez like leaving notes. I couldn't get him to call or just send a text when he was going to some where. I called his phone to see when he thought he would be finished, but it was turned off. I hated that I always wondered if he was out messing around, but I knew how he was when I married him. I just hoped that he would change. So far, he hadn't.

On Friday, the report from security came. I didn't want to look at it but there was no point in putting it off. The report showed the last employee to access the accounts that had discrepancies. I picked up the phone.

"Can you come to my office?" I said.

"I'm on the way."

SaLynne had a big smile on her face when she walked in. "Hey, girl, what's up?"

I printed the email and handed it to her. She scanned through it. "What does this mean?"

"It means that you have been stealing. Why SaLynne? You could have come to me."

"Girl, I didn't do this."

"SaLynne, that's your access number."

"I don't care. Somebody's trying to set me up," she said staring at the paper.

"SaLynne, you know you could get in trouble for this."

" I said I didn't do it. You mean you don't believe me? I told you this is a set-up."

"Who would set you up?"

"Shit, I don't know. Did you set me up?"

"Why would I do that?" I wondered if she was on drugs.

"Because you're miserable and you want everyone else around you to be sad too." She was referring to my marital problems. That was a low blow, but I knew she was upset so I let it slide.

"SaLynne, $3000 is a lot of money. You could get fired. This is a felony, you could go to jail."

She jumped to her feet and threw the papers in my face. "I told you I didn't fucking do it. But if you don't believe me, you and this job can kiss my ass," she said and then stromed out.

I decided to let my friend calm down and come to her senses. I didn't want to recommend disciplinary action.

Monday morning, SaLynne knocked on my office door. "Since when did you start knocking?" I asked.

"Since I acted a monkey at work and had everyone looking at me crazy when I walked out." I motioned to the chair in front of my desk and she sat. I didn't say any thing, I just let her get her thoughts together. "I had a dream that I was in jail. All of the people that I stole from had hired inmates to beat me up and do all kinds of things to me," she cringed.

"Wow. That's deep."

"Quintina, I'm sorry. Girl, my money funny and I figured it wouldn't hurt anything to skim a little bit off the top. I mean those folks got plenty money. I didn't think they would miss it."

I just shook my head.

"Quintina, I know that wasn't right, but I was desparate. I had to do something. I got an eviction notice on my front door and my car was on the verge of being possessed."

"SaLynne, you make decent money, you don't have any kids, no sick or needy family members, what the heck have you been doing with your money?"

"Going out to eat, shopping."

"You mean you spent your rent and car note on food and clothes?"



"Okay, okay," SaLynne said, "I go to the casino. They send me coupons for free rooms and free food and $40 to play with. Sometimes they give me gifts like woks and electric skillets."

"That's great but how often do you win any money? I'm sure you give them a lot more than they give you."

"Every once in a while I'll hit for $400 to as much $5000."

"And what do you do with the money?"

"Spend it. More gambling. Sometimes I catch up on my bills.

"That's sad. So you've gotten so behind on your bills that now you're jeopardizing your lively hood?"

SaLynne shrugs, "Shit happens. I'll pay it back."

"It's not that simple. There's paperwork to be done and we may have to put you on a two week suspension."

"I need a vacation..."

"Without pay."

"Quin, girl, I need my cheese. You made me feel so bad about my sugar daddy that I broke up with him. I can't pay back $3000 on my own."

I blew out a sigh. I knew I would regret it, but my friend needed me. "I'll fix it."

"How? How can you fix it?"

"Don't worry about it. I'll take care of it."

SaLynne grabbed Quintina and hugged her. "You're the best sister I never had. Thanks sweetie. I'll make it up to you, I promise."

I watched SaLynne bounce out of myoffice. Then I sighed again, shook my head and laid my head on my desk.

--To learn a little more about Quintina, check out "Behind the Scene: Her Leftovers" and "The Unexpected".

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow Days

I believe if the schools are closed due to inclement weather, all government buildings should be closed and employees of other businesses should be able to take off without penalty.

The reason why I say this is because on Monday morning, Memphis, TN had 4 inches of snow on the ground and parts of neighboring state, Mississippi, had as much as 10 inches. Now I know that's small change to cities that get 12 inches or more but if you lived in Memphis, you would see why it was a big deal. We don't have the equipment needed to remove the snow from the streets. Fancy duds like that are reserved for the airport. The trucks that go around town sprinkling salt and sand on the ground do not have the money or manpower to cover every street. What makes traveling on the snow even worse is that most people in Memphis have no idea how to drive on the snow. Which means there ends up being a lot of smashed up cars before the snow melts.

I had to make the trek across town to my job and just when I was no more than two blocks away, I started to slide on the ice. Apparently, I had encountered one of those spots that the Public Works department hadn't gotten to yet. Now I had called my job several times hoping that the building was closed but only after the third time did it say that the building wouldn't open for business until 10 am. I saw no point in going back home for another hour after I had already dropped my son off so I just took my time. I used the scenic route because hey, I wasn't about to get on the overcrowded interstate and end up taking almost twice as long getting to work, plus running the risk of sliding off the road. Not cool.

The streets were pretty drivable and there was a small number of cars on the road, but every once in a while I ended up having a motorist trailing very close behind me as if there wasn't one or two other lanes to drive in. I hate tailgaters, especially in that kind of weather. I found myself pulling over at least three times to keep from suffering a rear-end collision because some fool wanted to see how fast they could drive in the snow. I'm a chance taker in most aspects but putting my life in jeopardy is not appealing to me in the least.

When I finally made it through the security gate at my job, guess what? I saw maybe 20 cars as I drove around the building to my entrance. Now this is a huge building, the size of a medium sized college campus. The parking lot has never been completely full but cars usually fill at least 90% of the available spaces, but Monday, it must have been less than 9%.

I was surprised to see someone sitting in my area when I walked down my aisle. He said that there was one other person there that was assigned to our department. Over the next hour, three other people showed up. I kept getting phone calls from my manager, who was at home with the grandkids, asking about reports and once I had finally gotten over the shock of being in a virtual ghost town, I sat down and attempted to complete what I came to do. It didn't take long to realize that I wasn't going to be able to complete my reports because part of the information I needed was not available because the lady that did it was still at home in her cozy bed. I called my manager and told her that I had nothing to report and she told me I could go home when I got ready. I left 20 minutes later, after fussing at the few people that were there about all matters of foolishness.

I've said all of that to say this--heads of city, county, state and federal government as well as other business owners, IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO TAKE YOUR KIDS TO SCHOOL--GIVE YOUR EMPLOYEES THE DAY OFF.

Please and thank you.

Monday, January 10, 2011

S.H.I.N.E. Online 2011

Beginning January 11, 2011, I will be participating in a challenge where I post entries to my blog at least twice a week for the next 111 days. The name of it is "The S.H.I.N.E. Online Blogging Challenge." Julie Isaac (@WritingSpirit) is the creator of this challenge. Check out Julie's blog over at to learn more about the challenge.

I expressed to Julie that I have a habit of starting off really well with things and then losing steam as time goes on. Meaning that it is possible that for the first month or so I will be a blog writing fool but by the end of the challenge, my muse and I would have had a falling out. This would leave me to search for profound or witty things to say all by my lonesome. *Hugging muse tightly* (I don't want to lose your love. I don't want to say bye-bye...)


Anyway, hopefully I will be able to complete this challenge and it will help me to develop the habit of keeping my blog updated on a regular basis. And since I am the type of chick that has to do pages of research to write only a paragraph of information, I will be able to put this anal retentiveness to good use.

My plan is to blog on Tuesdays and Saturdays, which will give me plenty of time between blog posting days to come up with something else to write about. See the details below.

Two Cent Tuesday is my take on current events, hot topics, Twitter trending topics and Facebook status updates. A lot of things get on my nerves and I'm going to share how I feel about them. I mean, who cares who's gay? If it won't create jobs, put extra money in folks pockets, and nobody got hurt or killed, why is it important? I'm just saying.

On Short Story Saturday (or Sunday depending on how busy I get), I will be posting short-short stories between 500-1000 words. Some would call it flash fiction. This may be snippets of events in the lives of the characters in one of my three novels in progress or an entirely new character that has revealed themselves to me in my dreams. I mean they don't be naked or anything, they just pop in my head and tell me all of their business.

I'm going to need my readers to hold me accountable. If you see me not sticking to my two posts a week, please pull a sister's coat tail. Thanks in advance for your help and encouragement.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Me and These Dreams

I had a dream about my mom last night. It was as if she were still alive and kicking. For some reason she, Donovan and I were walking to her house with bags in our hands. I'm not sure where my car was. Maybe she lived out of town and Donovan and I had caught the Greyhound there and she had met us at the station.

The house she lived in looked familiar but the path that we used to get there was different from the last time I had been there. Now, I guess I had been there before in my dreams because neither she nor I had ever lived in a house even similar to this one. Anyway, it was an addition to a main house where a big tall man lived.

Mom walked in with no problem, but I had to actually lift Donovan up so he could walk through the door. Once they were in the threshold seemed to get even higher. For some reason I wondered if that meant that where ever Donovan and my mom were going that I wasn't supposed to go. I was about to burst into tears when I noticed the tall man standing in the other doorway. He was just staring at me. I don't know what was going on with Mom's doorway, but I had to back up, take off running and jump into her side of the house. I went over that threshold like I was jumping a fence. How weird was that?

I didn't get to see what mom's house looked like on the inside because I woke up (figures). I do remember looking at her and pointing next door and mouthing that dude was crazy. Mom seemed to get scared when I said that and told me not to say it again.

Now, my head is hurting more than it was yesterday. I remember Donovan crying out in his sleep but when I looked over at him he seemed to be okay. (Shaking my head) I hate to think that something would happen to my son, now or in the future. He's just a baby, only three years old. I mean I had my mom for more than 20 years. She was living kind of foul so I knew when I was about 13 years old that she wouldn't live long, but my baby. I don't want to think about him dying. He's perfectly healthy and has more energy than any child I've ever encountered. He's a lot smarter than I was at 3 years old. I just don't know what I would do, how I would be able to function.

I guess I'm having all of these thoughts because next month, February 7th is the 14th anniversary of the day we buried my mother. She was 35 years old when she died, her birthday was August 11th. February 25, 2011 is my 35th birthday. This right here...

Life is too short, especially if we make wrong decisions that could cause us not to live a long life. Her thing was using drugs and fighting with men. My thing is stressing over my job and not taking care of my body. If the Lord says the same, I will make it to 36 years old and beyond. And I'm praying that my son lives to be 103, but in good health, lifting weights and running marathons.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Behind the Scene: Her Leftovers

The novel I'm currently working on, Her Leftovers, has been in and out of storage bins in my office since 2001. I've changed the genre of the story twice. The sequence of the events has changed a number of times as well. And finally, after about six titles, I've finally settled on the one that I can live with. The timeline that I created is going to need a major overhaul based on some of the feedback that I've gotten from a couple of my volunteer readers. My best friend even wrote out a whole new storyline, many of the parts I plan to incorporate but others I'll save for the next book. I'm currently at the point where I'm trying to decide if I should tell the story from the viewpoint of Quintina and her husband, Cortez, only or if I should include a few scenes here and there from Tamesha's point of view as well.

Her Leftovers is the story of a young woman, Quintina Mitchell-Robinson, who overcame a rather tough childhood when she lived with her mother as well as easy but strict teenage years under her father's roof. Quintina is kind of a nerd but the people in her life, from her family, to her best friends, to her boyfriend/husband, all have contributed to making her life a lot more entertaining than her comfort zone can handle. The older Quintina gets the more fed up she becomes with the foolishness that goes on around her. Eventually, she stops standing in the background and becomes the leading lady in her own life.

Quintina's struggle to find the perfect man is not an easy path. Every time she thinks she's found the person that she feels she belongs with, she finds out things about them that she is not happy about and knows that she won't be able to deal with.

Cortez Robinson is the type of guy that just doesn't give a ... you know what. He's always in pursuit of temporary pleasures. Drinking, drugs, and chasing women, whatever he feels like doing he does it. He's never been a one woman man and probably never will be. Guys that fall for that okey-doke, in Cortez's opinion, are hen-pecked and he never wants to wear that label.

Tamesha Tate is the woman that always seems to be standing in the way of Quintina's happiness. She believes in doing whatever she feels and really doesn't think about how her actions affect other people. This basically means she's the female version of Cortez. Tamesha is a take charge kind of woman and goes after what she wants even if she decides later on that she didn't really want it in the first place. Sometimes she secretly feels sorry for Quintina but wouldn't dare let on.

I'm going to give myself until October 1st to have a full draft of this story. I'll put it on the back burner during this year's NaNoWriMo and then start editing in December. Then I'll be ready for that long awaited next phase--publishing.

Wish me luck.

Related posts--"Money Funny" & "The Unexpected"

Sunday, January 2, 2011

My Natural Hair Journey

(picture taken June of 2010)

Today, we are trying to make #naturalhair a trending topic on Twitter, so I decided to contribute to the cause by talking about how I got to this point.

Ever since I was a teenager, I've always loved to do my hair, but I didn't always like the end results. Just like most other black women, I was taught that the straighter you can get your hair, the better whether with chemicals or heat.

As a kid, my hair was very long and thick so even though my mom tried to stick to hot combing it, sometimes she did have to put a relaxer in it, if only for five minutes. The older I got, I started doing my own hair and of course I stuck to relaxing because the few times I tried to press my hair, I burned a big section. It was hard to slick my hair down just right so no one would notice my charred tresses. Not really liking the chemical burns I got either, I usually went as long as six months between relaxing treatments. Most of the time, I kept my hair in a bun at the back of my head or at the top. I decorated the bun with scrunchies to match my clothes so it wouldn't look so plain. I even put a hint of color in my hair but that style didn't look all that great to me but I didn't know what else to do with it. My parents didn't have the money to send me to the beauty shop so I had to make do. I did have a few friends who were in hair school that I let experiment on my hair but for the most part I did it myself. But I hated my hair. I wanted to wear it straight and curled on the ends but my hair took a lot of beating trying to accomplish the styles that I wanted.

In my early twenties, I discovered weave. I loved changing my styles from curly and black to straight and honey blond. With weave, I didn't have to be bothered with my hair, well for the most part. I did end up pulling a lot of it out with the bonding glue, so many times I just got my hair braided with extensions.

Since the beginning of my thirties, I've been experiementing with wigs--not lacefronts, I hate those. I even learned how to make my own, since a lot of the wigs I find are too small for my big ole head. One day I could be a brunette and the next day I could be a red head and it was cool. But eventually the wigs started rubbing away the hair on my already thin hairline, so I had to come up with something else. I didn't want to be bald by the time I got fifty, if I could help it.

November of 2009, I decided that I would let the relaxer grow out of my hair. I still wore the wigs sometimes but usually I rocked micro-braids or Senegalese twists. In May of 2010, while on a week's leave from my job, I made the big chop. I didn't like the different strings of black, brown and gray but loved the texture of my hair. So I put some honey blond dye in it and got ready for work the next day. I didn't know what kind of response I would get from my co-workers, but was very happy when people came up to me and said, "I'm so glad you found a style that works for you." And guess what? So am I.