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.

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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!

Today I’m Shifting Into…

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Today,I’m shifting into a place of thankfulness. Lately,I’ve been working with Shug on her spiritual life. Every night(almost) we read a story that teaches an important lesson from the Bible. She is also learning how To apply her lessons to real life. With all that going on, I have also been trying to reconnect with the Most High. Yesterday, I fasted from social media as a sign of good faith to God that I want to be obedient. In the past couple of days I noticed that because I’ve been preoccupied with trying to get close to the Creator,I haven’t had time to worry about the things that keep me up at night.

Today, I’m choosing to keep seeking God’s comfort and guidance because it is bringing me peace. I want Him to change some things in my life and I realize that I have to draw closer to Him. Don’t get me wrong,I’m not getting closer simply because I need something but because I know who I am to Him and it’s time for me to be the amazing woman that He knows I am. Can I get an amen?

Lucille!!!

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Those of you who follow my Instagram account, know that this past weekend I was gifted with my very FIRST slow cooker.  I have decided to name it Lucille, a moniker I have to a favorite pen I had in 8th grade. Actually, I named the pen after the Little Richard song ‘Lucille’,after I watched the Little Richard biopic,starring a favorite of mine, Leon ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜. But, I digress.

I CAN’T WAIT to make my first slow cooker meal and so I got Pinterest and found quite a few I want to try. But one that stuck out to me was actually one I had seen done by my favorite television chef, Ree Drummond AKA The Pioneer Woman. It also just so happened that my mother mentioned that she had a taste for homemade lasagna,and then I got the slow cooker,all in the same week. Talk about fate,huh? Without further ado, here is the recipe for slow cooker lasagna. Enjoy!

   

Ingredients

Meat Mixture:
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion diced 
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
  • One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes 
  • One 6-ounce can tomato paste 
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • Freshly ground black pepper 
Cheese Mixture:
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan 
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano 
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 2 large eggs, beaten 
Lasagna:
  • Nonstick cooking spray, for spraying the slow cooker
  • 15 uncooked lasagna noodles 
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

ADD CHECKED ITEMS TO GROCERY LIST

Directions

For the meat mixture: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add the ground beef, sausage and garlic and cook until brown, 7 to 9 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, tomato paste, basil, parsley, oregano, salt and some pepper and stir. Set aside.

For the cheese mixture: In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, Romano, basil, parsley, salt, pepper and eggs and stir together well.

For the lasagna: Spray a 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray.

Spoon in one-quarter of the meat mixture on the bottom and top with 5 lasagna noodles, broken to fit. Add a third of the cheese mixture, then sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella. Repeat this layering twice, starting with the meat mixture and ending with the mozzarella, for 3 layers total.

For the fourth layer, top with the remaining meat mixture and remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. Turn off the heat and allow the lasagna to sit 30 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Show: The Pioneer Woman

Episode: Hay There!

Halloween This Or That Tag Questions

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1. Chocolate candy or fruity? I like a nice balance. NO CANDY CORN!!!

2. Witches or Vampires? Vampires!!!! That is why I am obsessed with Anne Rice’s classic The Vampire Chronicles


3. Trick or Treat? Treat. I hate being pranked. If you EVER prank me ,I will slowly get my revenge on you. AndI dont do revenge in a big way,nope, with me it will something small that will drive you mad. Ask my brothers. Two of them are still receiving their revenge from me and dont even know it…BWHAHAHA!!!

4. Halloween Party or Scary Movie?

I prefer getting a serious sugar rush at home with a  good scary movie!

5. Skeletons or Zombies?

Zombies. Who the hell is afraid of the foundation of the human anatomy?!


6. Trick-or-Treat or Hand Out Candy?

 How can I watch scary movies if I’m  out trick or treating…duh!

7. Hay Ride or Corn Maze?

Hay ride. I have this dream where I get stuck in a maze that has black panthers hiding through out the maze chasing me and snapping their huge vicious teeth at me…

8. Scary Costume or Funny Costume?

Depends on the mood I’m in that year. Like this year, I’m doing quirky,but last year I did sexy.

9. Pumpkin Seeds or Pumpkin Pie?

Pumpkin pie definitely! Think I’m going to attempt my first homemade  one this year.

10. Bottle Feed A Baby Zombie or Walk Alone Through A Dark Forest?

Compliments of the Twisted Beanstalk Nursery

Bottle feed a baby zombie of course. It’s a baby vs. the unknown. I choose the bay,because if it starts doing all that zombie shit, I could just kill it. Sorry, creepy cute baby. 

11. Bats or Black Cats?

I am a proud black cat owner!

12. Pumpkin Spice or hot Chocolate?

Pumpkin spice ALL.DAY. Check out my Instagram to see all my pumpkin goodness food!

13. Celebrate in your neighborhood or at the mall?

Neighborhood. In my house. Watching the scary movies…didnt we go over this,already?!

My Fall Favorites

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What is your favorite Halloween candy?



Hmm… I love anything except candy corn.

 

What is one of the worst โ€œtreatsโ€ you ever received in your candy bag? 

See number 1.

 

What was one of your favorite costumes you wore when you were a kid?

Darn, I wish I had a picture of it. I got my first costume when I was 11 years old and it was a teeny bopper outfit. Complete with poodle on skirt and saddle shoes! I was too embarrassed to tell my classmates what it was because I felt like they would call me a nerd. My teacher explained my costume and everyone complimented the poodle on my skirt.

 

 

How about your favorite costume as an adult?

As adult I’ve only ever been SEXY Snow White

 

What scares you most on Halloween? Spiders? Zombies? Axe murderers? Eyeballs in a jarโ€ฆ 

This is Pumpkinhead and he scares the shit out of me! Bleh…


 

So then, what is your favorite scary movie??

Invasion of the Body Snatchers(1978)

The Fly (198?) It was gross and I loved it! Plus…Jeff Goldblum naked!!!

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

What is you favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal?

Hmm… well this year it will be celebrating my daughter’s first decade on Thanksgiving Day!

 What is your favorite piece of clothing or accessory to wear in the Fall?

Scarves are my favorite thing to wear.  And the best part is,I make my own!

 

What is your favorite pie?  If you do not like pie I will forgive you but then what is your favorite Fall dessert?

Lately, it’s a pumpkin pie cheesecake that I found in my local supermarket

The cheesecake is underneath the bagel covered in pumpkin spice cream cheese as seen on my 

bookstagram

 

Do you live where there are four seasons? If so, where is your favorite place to see the fall colors?

There is beautiful foliage on the walk to my daughter’s school. As soon as it’s in full effect, I will post pictures!

 

This is the above mentioned area pre Fall foliage

What is your favorite fall tradition?

Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Every year I try to catch a picture of the Spongebob balloon as he floats by because he’s one of my favorite cartoon characters. It’s become my own quirky tradition!

 

Is there anything else special about the Fall to you?

 Some close relatives of mine that have passed away have birthdays in November so I like to remember them by picking leaves of different colors,saying a prayer,and watching the leaves float away out to sea. I also have a two nieces with birthdays and a couple of friends with birthdays as well! So I guess I’m celebrating all through November!!!