Monthly Archives: January 2018

We All Fall Down…

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Write about a time you fell down.

When I was 5 years old,I was living in Brooklyn with my foster brother and great aunt. We were well taken care of and life was good. On rare occassions in the Summer, my great aunt would close down her daycare ( she was a Black business owner for 30 years) and take my brother and I to the park. This day we went to Prospect Park. On our way there, we ran into our sometimea baby sitter, Trina. She wasn’t doing anything that day and tagged along.

When we got to the park,my brother took off for the jungle gym and I made a bee line for th slide. Trina followed us to keep an eye on us while my aunt sat down and chatted with a long time girl friend(I forgot to mention she was there as well)

I climb the somewhat intimidating rungs leading to the to top of the slide. As I’m preparing to sit and slide down,a little girl around my age sqyeezes herself next to me. Before I could utter a word of protedt,she knocks me from my seat and I kand with a thud to the pavement. I scream even though I feel no pain at first. Trina, rubs over and helps me up. She looks concerned but not panicked. She knows how clumsy I was prone to be. I relieve ger concern by insisting I’m okay. I feel a small pang in my collarbone but ignore it. I want to go on the see saw immediately to avoid further embarrassment. After looking up to sneer at the jerk who pushed me, I walk to the see saw.

As soon as i put my hands on the handle bars if the see saw, a sharp pain shoots up my right arm and it literally takes my breathe away. I pull my hand off the handle as if it had burned me. That gesture is met witha pain worse than the one before. I cry out and jump off the see saw. Trina is there in a flash asking me what’s wrong while looking around for the culprit she thought was responsible for my outburst. Tears well up in my eyes and I start sobbing uncontrollably. Trina has given up trting to understand my nonsense and leads me to my aunt and her friend.

My aunt jumps up and holds her hand out to me while asking what happened. Between breaths, I tell her that something is very wrong. I motion towards my shoulder with my head,she furrows her brow, looks and puts her hand on her hip. “It’s broken”, she says matter of factly. Before owning a daycare,she was a pediatric nurse for many years. She was known throughout the maternity ward for her distinct…sashay. I cry even harder as we head for the hospital.

I remember the smell of some strong cleaner with a tinge of medicinal something in the air of the hospital.I also recall finding out I had broken my shoulder. But that’s all I remember. The next memories are of the awful hard cast and sling I had to wear for 3 months. After it came off, I had to do rehabilitative exercises that my aunt made sure I did. The worst thing about it was I was a hard core thumb sucker and could not enjoy my precious “lovie” for 3.MONTHS.

That was 23 years ago and the only lasting result of that incident is my permanent crookedness. My right arm droops just a little and that causes my glasses to also appear crooked on my face. Sigh.

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Vibrant Eighty Eights

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I felt the most vibrant the first time I played the piano…okay,it was a keyboard,but tomato, tomahto I say.

The first time I played the piano(yes, I mean piano) I was 5 years old. My great aunt Gladys had signed me and my brother up for instrument lessons. I chose the piano because I remember the first time I saw one I thought it was the most elegant thing I ever saw. My brother chose guitar and I think he chose it because our school music teacher was a funny Jewish man named Mr.Wilde. The coplest thing about him, aside from his humorous nature was his guitar. He was a genius with that thing.

I dont remember how long I took lessons but I stopped after my great aunt died. That sucked so I gave up piano all together. But whenever I heard if there was a stirring and I would immeidately become distracted. And it affected my writing. The sounds of the keys made me write the truth.

In high school, I took band as a sophmore. My best friend, Krissy, and I played the clarinet. I oassed the classed…barely. I was excited to be involved with music because my love of old school r and b was budding. In my senior year,I got to choose keyboard as my music elective. I knew the teacher from my days in the band so I was comfortable telking him that I hadnt played since my aunt’s death. He was pleasantly surprised and assured me I would do fine. He was right.

Months into instruction,most of my classmates still were unsure of how to place their hands,ehich notes were which,and were veru choppy when practicing a song. Not me. I loved to play all my practice songs well(though now I cant think of the names of any of the songs). My teacher even let me assist struggling students. That I didn’t care for because the music made me feel so alive. So…renewed and without worry. Every crisp up and rich doen of the keys became akin to my own heart beat. It spoke to my teen agnst and the rare monents of joy I felt then.But only when I was alone with the music did I feel that way. A bored and failing student wouldn’t understand.

I had a thought to try to learn the piano version of a song I really loved then, Being With You by Smokey Robinson. There was a Spring music festival at school but when I came up with my idea, it was Winter. I wanted to learn the song myself(relying only on what I had learned in 4 months),impress Mr.Thompson with it so much tghat he would beg me to perform at the festival. I never came close,y’all. YouTube wasn’t a thing so that was out. The written music looked like gibberish and I struggled. So, I gave up.

I haven’t given up wanting to learn to play Being With You via piano its just at that time,I got distracted with other things (read:boys). On my bucket list is this abandoned hobby but I hope to pursue it again real soon.

My PurposeFULL Life

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I have heard about God my whole life.  My first experiences with the Omnipotent were from my great aunt(Gladys) who played Shirley Caesar incessantly on the weekends. According to family lore, she never went to church because she had a thing about the crosses with Jesus nailed to them that most churches have in the sanctuary. My brother and I owned large King James version bibles. Gladys put our names in them but for the most part they went unused. There was a Bible in the back of the apartment my great aunt used as a daycare facility.  The kids took naps in there. I spent the majority of my time getting locked in there until dinner for some juvenile indiscretion I had committed.

One day, I looked at the Bible on the table and picked it up. I was an avid reader by then so of course I was curious about the most serious of books. It was the heaviest book I ever held,which made it intimidating. I started from the beginning getting confused right after Cain killed Abel. Satan,  to me then, was powerful. He talked someone who had the literal definition of “heaven on Earth” into doing something that damned her forever. Wow.

Miss Gladys was having none of that when I presented my thoughts on Satan. She explained (read:damned me to Hell) that Satan was bad,not powerful.  She also said she wasnt surprised  I had a rebellious streak “seeing how your mother is” she said. I didnt understand:According to the Bible(Ezekiel 28:12-19) Satan was the most cherished of God’s angels. Surely God has given him great power. But, as a child, I let it go. After, I moved in with my mother’s sister at six years old,God took on a different meaning.My aunt(now my adoptive mother) grew up in a family where her grandmother and a grandfather owned a church. They attended church all the time but as adults she( as well as her 4 other siblings) stopped attending church and went to gospel shows.

Gospel shows are concerts with different gospel artists and groups performing their hits and new music(which is sold outside the venue). The first one I went to was so much fun. The music was loud, everyone looked Sunday morning sharp, and there was a beautiful  feeling of camaraderie.  People shouted or cried, depending on how the Spirit or music moved them to do so. I was hooked on gospel shows as was my mom. She had a book filled with professional shots of her favorite groups or artists. After the shows, while the artists mingled with the audience, my mom went around collecting autographs and taking pictures.  I would follow her around excited to meet people I viewed as celebrities. I even saw the gospel artist standard of past generations, Shirley Caesar,in person. I was awestruck to see my dearly departed great aunt’s idol a few feet in front of me. I was dumbfounded when she sat IN my mom’s lap. My mom was sitting next to me,Ms. Caesar serenades my mom,puts her arm around my mom’s shoulder  and sits in her lap never once missing a note. Great memories. Did I mention we never went to church unless there was a gospel show there. Oh, and the 2 Easters…3,once I was baptized at 17.

As my brother and I became teenagers my mom worked a lot more and we were left to our own devices.  The gospel shows stopped mostly because the NY promoters went down south and took the talent with them . We were left in the care of a pretty capable special needs aunt that lived with us while Mom worked overnight shifts as a home health aide. My brothers and I were never too much trouble and made our own fun. We had no social activities,though I tried desperately to be more involved in some only to be curbed by my mom’s overprotective nature. So, I settled for books and being an invisible nerd. When I was  17,my mom finds God again. She impulsively takes my brother and I down to a church that she’s been obsessed with for years and decides we are to be baptized. Everything in me screamed that I wasn’t ready and I didn’t want to do it but to say that would incur my mothers wrath until I left for college. So I was baptized on July 6,2006.

My life changed quite a bit after that. My mother became super religious and immersed in the culture of church. She would pray for hours,constantly speaking in tongues.  I admired her fervor for God. I became closer to her in a way when I received the gift of the Holy Ghost. I felt peaceful and happy.  My friends were supportive and everything was  good. But I noticed that my mom started thinking that every opposition against her was to be ignored and blamed on the Devil.It got so I couldn’t talk to her mother to daughter. All her wrong doings against us were somehow forgiven under a twisted interpretation of the Word. We spent every evening for months in church coming home late,grades failing for homework not getting done. And when I would approach mom about it,it was dismissed with a “nothing else matters but church” and “Stop letting the Devil use you”. I was starting to resent church…and God.

I noticed how there seemed to be a hierarchy among parishioners. There were two sisters in particular who judged the hem length of every woman who walked into the sanctuary.  Talking about side eye! Can’t nobody side eye like a church sister. The bishop openly condemned men in the church with long hair. That message seemed so opposite of “Come as you are”, but ok Bishop.

Between the gossipy judgemental church folk and my mother abandoning everything else for church, I was turned off. I started hanging around my daughter’s father while still attending church here and there. Soon I became pregnant. I stopped going to church all together  and barely graduated high school. I knew God was punishing me for going astray because I was getting verbally abused, almost daily, by an aunt I moved in with. (My mom and I had had a particularly  nasty fight and it was decided we should be apart for awhile). The abuse happened during and after the birth of my child. But I deserved it for lying, getting pregnant, fornicating,etc…

But God is MERCIFUL and 3 months after Amani was born, my mom and I were reunited,we settled some things, and I even went back to church with both her and my newborn.

I received the chilliest reception when I walked in the church when I walked in the church with a baby in my arms.  The sister who had helped me seek the Holy Ghost pretended not to notice me when my mother pointed me out to her. Instead she greeted my brother whom she affectionately call her “pot of gold”. The teenagers from my youth group never spoke to me and when I cornered one og them outside he looked like he would drop dead if anyone caught us talking. I felt like a complete disappointment. I couldn’t wait to get out of there but my mom was so happy to show everyone that we had reconciled. But I just thought the shunning was more punishment.  I faked the funk and when service was over, I never went back. I vowed I never would.

That was ten years ago. Today, I am seeking a change in my life. This is the year of change and for me it starts with a change in perception and spirit. The last 40 days have forced me to dig up the ugliness of the past sins and hurts and take from them the lessons that were intended to be learned.  The truth of the matter is this,I have an issue with intimacy. Not sex, intimacy.  My family was never affectionate or talked about feelings and I was starved of it then so I crave it now. The enemy knows this and has, for many years amd in many ways given me illusions of it. But now I have intimacy and closeness in God.

He blessed me with a small community of people to lean on and gain support from solving my intimacy issue. He gave me two beautiful cats to cuddle and kiss and hold,solving my affection issue. He gave me Amani, a child that  he has entrusted to me to guide to Him. A child who He’s already given a thirst for Him to.

All of the worry that I weigh myself down with has disappeared. Yes, I still panic a little when things fall apart. There is still a momentary lapse in my breathing when my plans go wrong,but then I breathe easier when I remember that God has something better for me, I must be mature enough to receive it and for that I must be tested. I think my story of adoption and teen parenthood is going to serve many others. As a matter of fact, I think the very church that rejected me will be asking me to serve the young women of the church. Or maybe writing the newsletter. Whatever He has for me,big or small,forefront or behind the scenes, I am ready to walk and serve in my purpose.

On The Job

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I’ve decided that its time for me to return to the workforce.  I’ve been out of work for a year and the stay at home life is starting to bring me down a little. I have nothing to do once Amani is in school aside from reading and catching up on television. Money is way too tight for me to travel too far, so tvand books take me where I want to go. I’m sick of television!

I’ve brushed off my resume,updated it and starting today,I’ll  be shopping it around.  My hope is to secure a job before my government assistance program sends ne back to their job search program. Dont get me wrong, its a great resource for families on assistance looking for work. I got my kast three jobs thanks to their services.  However, if the job representatives(they look for jobs they think match your skills and set up interviews) have no interviews for you that day or you havent set up any interviews for yourself, you’re in the classroom all day.

Nothing wrong with the classroom either. There is a very capable instructor who teaches classes on interviewing,proper resumes,attire, filling out job applications,and mock interviews. WhatvI don’t like is that it is mandatory to be there from 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday to similate a regular work week. If, for whatever reason,you miss a day you must report back the next day with written documentation explaining your absence. Remember as a kid when you were absent from school and your mom had to send a handwritten note or doctor’s note explaining said absence? Yeah, that.

I understand that there are rules and sruff but I don’t appreciate being monitored like a child  even though I’m asking fir assistance. Its a bit demeaning. So to avoid all that,Im going to look for work that suits me and my skilss by myself. I have to say my dream job is bookseller at Barnes and Noble. This is a new year of dreams so I will be knocking on Barnes and Noble’s door. After all Matthew 7:7-8 says “ Ask,and it shall be given you; seek,and ye shall find; knock,and it shall be opened unto you: For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth,and to him that knocketh it shall be opened”. Amen,y’all!

I Tell My Stories To…

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I Tell My Stories To…

When I first started writing seriously, I was 9 years old. My mom had started dating someone and i had strong feelings against it. She knew that but continued seeing him. In truth, there was nothing wrong with this man. He showed genuine interest in my brother and I but I didn’t like sharing my mother with anyone else. I already had to compete witha needy little brother and a special needs aunt. So, my first “novel” was 5 chapters long and was about mysrlf and the other members of my household.

My mother’s boyfriend encouraged my efforts with a hearty “You got something there,kid”. My mom was more comcerned about how I had writte the character of myself. I think i described myself as climsy and lonely. All through school, I excelled in modt writing assignments. In high school, I applied for a position on the school newspaper, The Highlighter, in tenth grade only to be told I had to wait another year and to choose it as an elective. I did just that.

I always kept a diary as far back as I can remember. I wrote in it because I wasnt being heard in my house. I was too sensitive and  for my emotionally stunted family. So, I wrote. My biological mother, a sensitive soul herself,gifted me a diary when I was 14. She knew I had to write like I had to sleep and eat.

After Amani was born, I started a blog. I was a teenage mither and I had some thoughys about that.  It felt good to see all my hopes, dreams,fears, and accomplishments all in black and white.
The diaries Ive had since Amani was born are for her. I want her to know all about me..from me. After I am gone from this life,stories from relatives and friends will be told about me to my daughter.  I’d like to think all stories will be drowned in sweet sentiments, but I ain’t no fool.  For the stories that star me as the antagonist, I’d like to tell my side,if you will. I am completely honest with her and sone if the things she will read,I’m glad I’ll be dead for. But she will know my full story and hopefully use them and her own to help others. 

Dear 2018

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Dear 20l8,

Im heading into you with a fsith I did not have in 2017. I spent the majority of the year stuck in a rut and stuck throwing myself a pity party. But not this year. This year, I want to practice Fearless Action. Fearless Action is me talking more risks professionally and personally.

I do not make resolutions because I feel like it’s too much pressure to grow. Growth takes time and to that end, I’ve set some goals. My prayer for 2018 is that I never give up no matter what. I am fearfully and wonderfully made and I must remember that. I was not made for failure and with God on my side,I may fall but I will not fail.

2018 is going to be the year that I say no more. I’m saying no because I need to say yes to me more. I want to thrive and live my best life the way God intended.

In 2018, I also plan on going out more.  Ive lived in New York City my entire life and there is so much I haven’t seen,so much Amani hasn’t seen and I’m  changing that in 2018 as well. So give me your best and worst 2018,because Jennice is ready!

Love,

Jennice

The Reading Women Challenge 2018

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I didn’t make any New Year Resolutions because they are way too much pressure. I did set some goals though.Aside from going back toa full time job, I would like to actually complete more books than I di it 17. To help me achieve this goal, I’ve started a book challenge hosted by The Reading Women. There are 24 categories(the last two are bonus books) and I’ve listed them here as well as my picks. I cant wait to see everyone else’s picks and as always, happy reading!

1) Book by a woman in translation-

2) Fantasy novel by a woman of color-

3) A book set in the American South

4)  A short story collection-

) A graphic novel or memoir-

6) A book published by an indie press-

 

7) A book set in Russia or by a Russian author-

8)– A book with a viewpoint character who is an immigrant or refugee-

9) A book by a Canadian or Australian author-

10) An essay collection-

11) A book about someone with a chronic illness-


12) True Crime-

13) book by an African American woman about the Civil Rights movement-

14) A classic novel written by a woman-

15) A poetry collection-

By Key Ballah

16) A book where the characters are travelling somewhere-

17) A book with food in the title-

18) A book written by a female Novel Prize winner-

19) A book from The Reading Women Award 2017 shortlist-

20) A memoir by someone who lives in a country different from yours-

21) A book inspired by a fairy tale-

 For those of you not following my bookstagram already, please follow me here. Happy New Year and happy reading!