Imagination

I got home and dinner was ready at the table. The kids were seated nicely. The placemats were set so that the tablecloth wouldn’t get dirty. The house was clean but messy…you know…lived in. The love hit you at the door along with the smell of biscuits. There was yelling but not the “nails on the chalkboard” type. When dinner was done I didn’t have to load the dishwasher. No blaring flat screen to misuse the little time we had to spend with one another. We had quality conversation.  We looked in each other’s eyes. We connected with one another.  He took care of everything.

By the time I came out of my work clothes, my shower was running.  There were lavender scented candles in the room.  The kids were in bed. Their bedtime stories already read. The profits he made for the day were displayed on the laptop.  Our household “to do list” had a few more items checked off of it. He rinsed the day off of me. Covered my skin in a rich lather of mango and cinnamon scented body wash.  I patted my skin dry and moisturized in coconut oil.

The sheets were newly cleaned and had the slight scent of peppermint linen spray. He held me like he had been waiting to be close to me all his life.

He told me every nook and cranny of his day.  He vowed we’d never argue again.  We chuckled at how silly it sounded. We engulfed ourselves in one another.  We planned a new family vacation.  We discussed politics and our plans for the future. He didn’t mind that it was time to get my hair done or that my toenails needed to be painted.  He didn’t mind anything at all. He was so content with being able to make me happy.

It took sometime to get here…
.. this place that could now exist outside of my imagination.

By: Shaun M N

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Show Em Whatcha Got

Recently I went to an annual gathering with some close friends from college.  We’ve been doing it since we were in school. We used to do secret Santa and potluck. We’d play games and tell stories. Over time our lives have evolved. Everyone is pushing thirty and growing families.  So last year we brought our significant others. We had a great time and the guys got better acquainted with one another. This year it was ladies only.

We ate food we couldn’t pronounce at a cute restaurant in the city.  Then we walked down the block to a little lounge. Now it was only 9:30 so no one was there but that was OK! We have always been that way. Never needed to fraternize in order to have fun. Just us girls, a comfortable place and maybe a couple of drinks and we would certainly have some laughs. Besides most of us have children now and have to do the mommy thing when we get home.

We sat in the lounge laughing with one another and seat dancing to the music. I glanced at my friend in a leopard mini-dress and envied the fact that her shower must be long enough to shave above the knee. With my crying little one, I have to make it quick. Sometimes shaving gets cut! I donned leather pants and a fur vest. The others were in cute and classy ensembles. We were all equally excited to see one another. There was only one issue…the music.

I don’t know if he was warming up but DJ Pandemic (or something like that) just couldn’t quite get it together. He would cut songs at the wrong time. He would let some songs play out too long. It just wasn’t going well for him. Then it happened!
DJ Terrible (or something like that) played “Love U Better” (2002) LL Cool J. Everyones head went back, hands went in the air, and eyes closed. It was like an r&b prayer.

“A toast to the queen, you’re back in my life
But this time I’m a do it right
Trust me from the bottom of my heart
Nothin’s gonna tear us apart, promise…”

That’s when I thought about the power of music and creativity. How can a song do that? How can music take you so far away?  Words are so powerful. Everyone was in the same reflective space. LL was singing our ghetto pledge of allegiance.

With one Old School at Noon hit on your local radio station, we get time travel.
“Flashlight” by Parliament and I’m in the basement dancing with my eccentric father.
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“The Power” by Snap and I’m back at St Benedict School of Dance onstage in Jamaica Queens. I’m back to dreaming of being a singer, then a lawyer, and then a physical therapist (I was an indecisive child.)
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Back to the sole responsibility of keeping my room clean. Back to a place in my heart I faintly remember where all you are expected to do is dream. If I hear “Weak” by SWV, I’m in my bedroom rewinding the cassette tape over and over on my karaoke machine. Careful not to rewind too far back because then you would hear the commercials from me taping the single from the radio. I’m in size 6 old navy jeans and a Tommy Hilfiger t-shirt and baby blue and white Nike uptowns with the strap undone.

I encourage you to “dig in the crates” and listen to the music that used to make your parents want to hide your Sony Walkman (yeah no iPods back then.) I encourage you to take a journey away from bills, car repairs, pressures, work, and the credit card debt you just accumulated from Christmas shopping. Go to that place…tilt your head back…raise your right hand…close your eyes or ShutYaMouthAndCallMeUgly.

By SMN

Jealous or joyous?

“JOY IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF SADNESS”-MY PASTOR

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Joy is finding peace during the most turbulent times in your life.  Joy is learning to smile so much through your pain that you convince yourself you are happy. Happiness is a fleeting emotion so don’t be frustrated with yourself if you don’t have some invisible joy juice that everyone else seems to have a lifetime supply of.

This is the time of year where you get holiday cards. You get pictures of former co-workers’ children.  You see empty boxes on the curb from lavish gifts. You get solicitations to join bourgeois gyms so you can fulfil your new years resolutions.  Does envy creep in? Does it block your joy?

One year I got an email from a former close friend.  I hadn’t spoken to her in over 5 years. She apologized for a falling out we had.  She proceeded to tell me she was married but going through a divorce.  She said she would find used condoms in her husband’s car. She said he was so physically abusive that she had been hospitalized multiple times. She lost custody of her daughter from a previous relationship.  Her ex was now happily married raising their daughter in a beautiful apartment in the Bronx.  She was discharged from the military.  She hadn’t heard from her biological mother in years. Her step mother wrote her off and was also divorcing her father.  She was alone.  She was dissatisfied.  The correspondence she sent was long. She told me about failed relationships she’d had and how she begrudgingly began to resent me because my life was “so great .” She remembered Christmas mornings seeing me open a multitude of gifts. She hated getting hand me downs from me. She hated tagging along on my family vacations.  I always thought she appreciated my acts of kindness but she resented them.

I was so astounded to receive that email.  It had been so long. There were things I’d heard through the grapevine.  There were things I never knew. I could have responded with an equally lengthy email but I didn’t see the point. The purpose of her email was to use her dysfunctions as an excuse for her deplorable behavior.  I don’t think that’s fair. I got a multitude of gifts on Christmas because my family was compensating. First I was the only child then my sibling was sickly and finally she perished.  She passed on the Fourth of July. If that wasn’t enough, she was in the backseat of the car with me when she died. So while this old friend was jealous of my Barbie condominium with the elevator,  I longed for siblings to play with. I longed for my sister and her exuberant smile.

I went to a private university but I took out loans to do it. I only received a $2000 scholarship.  She had better grades. She was more disciplined.  She could have gone anywhere she wanted but she conceived her daughter on prom night. She decided she couldn’t juggle parenting and studying.  She quit and she followed one man after another. 

We cannot blame others for our lack of joy. We cannot use our handicaps as excuses for our hangups. Dysfunction is true normalcy.  Its just that it takes a lot of courage to be honest about your hurt. There’s victory in vulnerability.

This was a rough year for me. I’ve been through way too much to type.  I’ll tell you what though! Next year will be better. I love getting pictures of my friends families.  I love seeing others unwrap their hearts’ desires. I pray diligently. This holiday,  I watched reruns of “Martin” with my 6 month old. I cleaned her up and dressed her in warm pajamas.  I told her about Santa and Jesus and rocked her to sleep. I sang Mariah Carey’s version of “All I Want for Christmas” and I wrapped a few gifts. 

The lights flickered on the artificial tree and I think I felt it pass through me…I felt joy.

Merry Christmas ♡

-SMN

Dreams- Realize Who You Are, When You Are

My aunt says she has a friend who proudly wears a t-shirt that reads ” If your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough.” I love that. It made me realize my own ambitions may be dwarfed. 

In fourth grade I wanted to be a singer.  I would draw pictures of myself with sequin gowns on and a mic in my hand. By sixth grade, I wanted to be an attorney.  Ironically,  by high school I had already performed at Carnegie Hall and Westbury Music Fair. I sang for McDonald’s Gospel Fest and Pathmark Gospel Fest at Penn Station.  I represented my school at a debate at Fordham Law School. It seemed as though my dreams were being realized.  The problem was they weren’t my dreams anymore. 

I developed a passion for writing.  At first I didn’t know if I was any good but my teachers and my family were taking notice. So I submitted a few articles to New York Newsday and they published four! I remember getting the checks in the mail. You would think that would help me focus. Focus. Focus.

Focus. If I could write that word 15 more times and not lose the attention of the 60 followers I have (lol), I would. I think of where I would be if I realized who I was when I was. I’m starting to see that as convoluted as it may seem, YOUR AMBITIONS HAVE TO MATCH YOUR ABILITY AND CURRENT REALITY. The peers I have who explored their musical talents when we were young are making a living doing music. Some are producers or music instructors but they’ve succeeded.  The girls on my debate team are lawyers now (well one is a paralegal but you get it.) It’s all about timing.

So what are my dreams now? I literally dream about my family. I dream about being someone they know they can trust and rely on. I want to age gracefully.  I want to meet my great great grandchildren one day. I want them to see all the things I’ve accomplished through life because I couldn’t “focus” so I did it all! I’m going to prove to them that you can be a jack of all trades and a master of all! As corny as it sounds I dream of love. The kind I read about as an adolescent.  With the right partner, you can be motivated to accomplish ANYTHING.  Everyone guides their decisions with love or lack of it, whether they admit it or not. So I’m going to focus on everything because my REALITY is I’ve never failed at anything I’ve attempted to do. I just didn’t do it for long! The constant in my life has been my dedication to good and my commitment to the human spirit. That’s who I am. Hate it… love it or shutyamouthandcallmeugly.

-SMN

Mothers Morning Reflection

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I’m laying in bed next to my 5 week old baby girl.  Sure I could have put her back in her crib after her last feeding and diaper change but I love being close to her. I’m still working on the detachment thing.

A mosquito bit me twice while I was burping her and I went into an immediate frenzy. Funny thing is I didn’t get upset because I got bit but because I was afraid the mosquito would bite my daughter. I hunted it and killed it. It now rests in peace on the sole of my Old Navy flip flop. Let us bow our heads…

I do at least 3 loads of laundry a day. It’s a never-ending cycle of filth. I’m  going grocery shopping in the am to get cake mix because I promised my two year old step daughter that we could bake this weekend. 

I eat only because I know I have to nurse and have some energy for my family. If I get to choose between rest or food…rest wins hands down.

I want to finish everything I’ve ever started. I want to be better than I’ve ever been.  I strive not for public acceptance but to be my daughters’ heroine.  I’ve become a woman who can be relied on. I’ve become a woman who can be trusted. I’ve become a woman who can be admired. I’ve become a woman who can be a loyal partner. I’ve become a woman who can provide.  I’ve become a woman…

If you are a mother in the ShutYaMouthAndCallMeUgly family,  stand up! Stand up in your t-shirt and panties, in your granny robe, nude, in your spit up stained pajamas,  in your nursing bra,  in your lingerie,  and take a bow. I salute you. I salute your sacrifices. I salute your class. I salute your maturity.  May you be encouraged this morning.

By : Shaun M Nickens

It wasn’t all bullsh*t!

When I was a child my Nana Bea would call me princess. princess My chariot was her white mini van and my ball was a shopping spree at Syms Clothing, lunch at Old Country Buffet, and a Tweety chain I picked out at a discount jewelry store. In my neighborhood there were no gowns, just Reebok, Kani, Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Mecca, and Calvin Klein. If you had a Bear bubble jacket in the winter, you were “cool.” That’s what hood princesses wore . My maternal side would spoil me with name brands from QVC that I was too young to appreciate and I had a standing hair appointment every two weeks. I didn’t know what a luxury that was. There was a manicure specialist named Jackie who did my tiny 6-year- old nails while my hair would dry. My friends wanted to eat at my house.  They’d call home and ask for permission. I didn’t know what a  luxury that was. To have enough food to feed
your family and feed unexpected guests.

You’re never told your Prince isn’t going to fight dragons or “save” you from anything. Relationships require effort and gumption from both parties!
You’re going to win each other. You’re both royal in your own right. You have to be honest with yourself and be willing to admit your flaws so they don’t devour you. You’re as vulnerable to your demons as a ditz is to a poison apple.  My favorite Disney princess was Ariel. Long red hair. A body Jennifer Hudson would kill for so she can keep making money off her weight lossariel commercials. A mermaid with a talking Jamaican crab as an advisor. I didn’t understand how she could be late all the time when she swam so fast. Id always be on time. No car, no traffic, no stopping for gasoline? Perfect! I could relate to Ariel. She was a dreamer who just wanted something different from her norm. She’s never been on land. I’ve never seen blue or clear water. The only waters I know are long island beaches and chlorinated pools. She dreamt of love. I’ve always been fascinated with love.  The only emotion left inexplicable and undefined. I sought it out and have found it and claim it with raw passion and loyalty. She traded in her fins, her friends, and her father for it! She won a mans heart without speaking (I realize now that being mute worked tremendously in her favor.) Ariel bridged the gap for me. The gap between the fairy tales I watched over and over on VHS and real life in Jamaica Queens. Those stories and movies aren’t all bullsh*t.

The bottom line was sacrifice, not allowing fear to hold you at ransom, not allowing your enemies to underestimate you, respecting your parents but choosing to be emancipated from the mistakes they made that they are convinced you’ll repeat. Being a princess wasn’t about a diamond studded crown or my Yankee fitted. It’s about GUTS and the clarity of self to recognize your royal position no matter what your socio-economic status is. You’re royal even of your man has to let down his cornrows and YOU have to climb a tower to get to his heart. The throne is within. So dust off your old
FUBU sweat suit and tell the non believers ShutYaMouthAndCallMeUgly.fubu

-Shaun Nickens

Tell Me How You Really Feel! :-o (Praying for Sagacity)

We all have moments when someone infuriates us.  These are character building moments.  There are people in this world who are optimistic and positive.  These people see the best in others.  As we all know everything in existence has an opposite or a pole.  So of course there will always be someone who thinks you are a loser, a delinquent, a rebel, or a “mess.”  Most of the time, they feel that way because they don’t understand you.  You base your actions on standards, morals or beliefs that they cannot relate to.  My response to that is very simple.  The Creator made us all different for a good reason.  We have different genres of music that we are attracted to.  Libraries and book stores have endless amounts of subject matter.  Even God doesn’t try to affect your free will.  It’s a gift.  We all have to use our discernment to be able to direct our lives in the way we want it to go.  It takes a strong personality, a twinge of patience and humility, and lastly it takes fortitude.  Some of the closest people to me have hurt me the most.  Those are the people you wish knew you the best.  Those are the people who can get under your skin because you hold them in the highest esteem.  However, those people will never be able to live your life for you.  As much as you may love them, only your actions are relevant to your destiny.  Love doesn’t reside in your mind.  Love resides in your heart.  There are practical people who can only live in terms of what they can see.  Then there are enlightened faith carrying people who believe beyond logistics.

Never compare your situation to someone elses.  Stop going through your old classmates Facebook pictures and tweets.  Social media is like reality tv.  People can edit and show you what they want to show you.  They will never share the bad times.  That couple that has been married for 20 years with the matching outfits and the Escalade has gone through some tumultuous circumstances.  It’s always in poor taste to post troubled times.  You will give yourself a personality disorder comparing yourself to others.  Its destructive.  Live your own life.  I’m pretty sure Cinderella wasn’t jealous of Snow White or Sleeping Beauty.  No matter how much hair you purchase from the beauty supply store, you are not Rapunzel.  No man will ever climb up your locs and rescue you from a tower.  Whatever turmoil has you captive in your life, you have to free yourself from before you will find any of the happiness you seek.

I remember childhood sayings like “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”  and “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”  Those were cute but they were crap.  They don’t transfer in your adult life.  People don’t think before they speak and you may get hurt from time to time.  Just make a pact with yourself to do your best always.  Your best is enough.  Prepare for excellence and tell the haters, “Shut ya Mouth And Call Me Ugly.”  😉

By: Shaun M Nickens