S#!t or Get Off the Pot

Happy New Year!

I got up this morning to a text alert from my bank. I get messages from my financial institution when any money is deducted from my checking account.  I can snooze my alarm but there is something magical about that quiet little “beep.”

“Who the hell is this? Paging me at 5:46 In the mornin’, crack of dawn an’
Now I’m yawnin’, wipe the cold out my eye
See who’s pagin’ me and why” – Notorious B.I.G “Warning”

So I check my account and it happened!  They jacked me again! I pay $15.00 a month for a gym membership that I haven’t used it 2 months! Ashamed but determined I jumped out of bed. I got my daughter’s bag packed, packed lunch, cleaned,  and then finally packed my hot pink Aeropostale gym bag. No excuses.

I also cancelled my subscription to American Greetings (no one appreciates internet cards), the mail in book club I have for the kids(I buy books all the time in stores), and my free credit report (no comment.) My grandfather used to say, “Either s#!t or get off the pot!”
Its a colorful and effective expression.  There’s no time to procrastinate. I’m also not doing a resolution. I’m not trying to lose weight.  I just want to be healthier and less stressed. 

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What do you do for yourself? When im alone I listen to music loud.  I am scantily clad. I am honest.  Sometimes I just listen for the answers to my prayers in silence.  I used to be a gym rat.I’d stay in there at 3am and leave when the sun came up.  Its a good time to clear your head.
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Before children,  relationships,  expectations, failures, and obligations. ..who were you? What did you do for yourself?  My mother made clothes and dreamed of being a pilot.  My father builds models and customizes them. A friend of mine is a fabulous makeup artist as a hobby. I was an 8 year old practicing my pushups,  weapons, and punching combinations for self defense class on Saturday. I was calm,  reflective,  meditative,  somewhat serene adolescent. Then as a young adult I revisited Muay Thai and personal training.  I may be far from that now but I will take some time for me every once in awhile.

Will you?

By SMN

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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

Not the Mama! (Fears of a working mother)

cold sweat series

cold sweat series

My mother always tells the same story.  She worked long corporate hours.  My father was a blue collar welder.  His construction hours meant he could leave at 5am and be home to his family by 3pm. He spent plenty of time with me.  My mother came home from work one day and she took me out of my fathers arms and I cried. No big deal right?  Well, my mother tells this story every time she is mad at me.  For the past 29 years, I have been hearing this story at least once every 60-90 days.

Now that I am a working mother, I completely understand. My childcare situation is somewhat unorthodox. My work schedule is 1:30pm-10:00pm.  I am never away from my daughter overnight.  On my days off, she is with me.  She’s my sidekick at the mechanic, at the nail salon, church, grocery store etc.  Its not like I don’t have the option of getting a break from time to time.  I am absolutely terrified of losing my bond with her.  I do not want to miss out on crucial moments in her life.  She’s in a babbling stage now.  She says, “dadamamapapababadadmamapapababa” over and over again until someone reacts. I love it!  Yet, I’m still secretly fearful of missing the first real word.  What if I miss the first crawl?  I’m petrified.

not the mama

Remember that old show, “Dinosaurs”?  I still remember the song, “I’m the baby, gotta love me…”  The baby dinosaur used to bust his father upside the head with a frying pan and say, “Not the mama!”  So I have a confession…I’ve had nightmares of my daughter busting me upside my head with a frying pan and saying, “Not the mama.”  Freaky right?  Its just that no one really prepares you for this.  Most of us don’t have the luxury of planning their parenthood.  There is no time to save months of income so you can extend your maternity leave.  I had 6 weeks with my kid after she was born.  I squeeze in every bit of quality time that I can get.  I love family.  I ache for my loved ones when I am away from them.  I brag about them.  They are my prized possessions.  You conceive this unimaginable blessing, then you feel it grow within you, then you painfully deliver this blessing into the world, and then you trust others to help you raise your child and build his/her character.  Children grow so fast and you just don’t want to miss anything.

Early this afternoon I was in Kmart getting a swing tray booster seat for the little one (she eats solids now!!! 🙂 )  While I was on the check-out line, the woman behind me smiled at my kid and said, “She’s getting so big.”  I was instantly uncomfortable.  I thought the lady was insane and thought she knew me or my daughter from somewhere.  This was a mistaken identity situation.  It had to be an error because I don’t know this lady.  Finally, sensing my uneasiness and attentively watching me as I hurriedly attempted to speed up my transaction, she spoke again.  She said, “I live across the street from your aunt.”  Now it all made sense.  My aunt is retired and watches my kid 2 days a week.  I noticed the cute Christmas outfit she had in her hand and she said, “This is for my grand-daughter.  She’s the same age as your little girl.”  We continued talking while I bagged and loaded baby food and diapers into the cart. She proceeded to tell me that she was starting to butt heads with her grand-daughters mother.  She said the mother was starting to feel threatened.  I asked if she had an example of something she was accused of doing that may have been out of line.  She told me she bought the baby’s Halloween costume.  I was brutally honest.  I said, “Yeah, that was out of line.  Of course you meant well and your heart was in the right place but “firsts” are off limits for grandmas.”  She was receptive and we continued to chat while we rolled our carts out to the parking lot. I took holiday pictures with my own professional camera for Halloween and Thanksgiving with attire specially picked. Sometimes Mommy’s and Daddy’s get possessive or have disagreements, let alone…grandmas.  I would have hung that costume in the closet and bought my own. With some things its just the principle.

Parenting is extremely difficult.  A fellow working mom confided, she has had day-mares of forgetting her son and nightmares of hearing him screaming and she jumps up to check on him and he’s comfortably resting.  Till this day if my baby sister is asleep (she’s 14 by the way), I still put my finger under her nose to make sure she’s breathing.  The fear of losing a bond with a child.  The fear of losing a connection with a loved one.  The fear of doing your best but not being good enough is enough to wake you up in a cold sweat. Sweet Dreams.

By: Shaun M Nickens

 

 

A Bisness or a Business? (Cold sweat series)

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While at a stoplight the other day I saw a sign. The sign read “Support small bisness. I employ 7 local people.” It was one of those moments when you second guess yourself. 
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“Wait…how do you spell business? ”

I sent a text to myself just to use the spell check.

Once I reassured myself of the spelling (my second grade teacher Mrs. Kunz would be so disappointed) I then became angry.

Why didn’t someone (preferably one of those 7 employees) tell that “bisness” owner that his sign was incorrect?! As a consumer I have always been infatuated with marketing.  I like aesthetics.  I used to drink Nuvo just so I could save the bottles.  My business cards for this blog are gorgeous.  The   logo is in the center with a glossy finish.  Ambiance is everything. Your product can be average but the way its packaged will determine what target audience it attracts. 

My grandmother was a small business owner.  She had a wedding and party center. She was a very proud woman.  She poured her life into that little shop on Farmers Boulevard.  There was no official closing time. All Occasion Decor Inc closed when all orders were done or when diet Pepsi couldn’t keep her awake anymore.  She would then go to her nearby apartment and eat Breyers vanilla ice cream and fall asleep with the TV watching her. She was dedicated but was she studious and detail oriented?

She left a legacy. The hood still misses “The Balloon Lady.” There was standing room only at her funeral.  Yet I wonder if she ran a business instead of a “bisness”, would she have been more successful?  Orders could have been more timely.  Bookkeeping could have been tighter. I’m sure there were seminars that could have been attended or more books to be read. Meanwhile, she missed crucial turning points. We were family owned and operated because that was the only time we could spend with her.

Ask yourself this…

Are you going to leave behind generational wealth or debt? Are you a “bisness” or a business?

How do you market yourself?  Are there poisonous pessimistic pissy people pushing you down?

What fear causes you to wake up at night in a cold sweat? 

Are you a small “bisness” with the potential to be a large globe changing BUSINESS? 

~Shaun M. Nickens

 

Something Like A Classic

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Rivaling with myself
Running, jumping and climbing through the dimensions of my identity

In my mind I’m sipping Baileys and Hennessey on ice in a jaccuzzi
In a black string bikini with my skin glistening in the moonlight
I’ll take flight into another realm of my imagination
No anger
No punctuations in life
No periods
No stops
No exclamations of uncontrollable emotions
I’ve rarely just gone through the motions
Deeply connected although sometimes rejected but never rehearsed
I step on the worlds stage and expose myself to its critical audience
I’ve cried out on the behalf of my occulent heart
Its been gagged and muted
In fear of making a sound and exposing what’s left of it.
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I envision the princess turned pauper at the bar
Self medicated and confused
Thinking her riches are Bacardi Gold and 1800 Silver.
Her pumpkin has been repossessed
Her pride has been pulverized

I see the elder
She’s slaving over a meal
The kids feed the vegetables to the dog under the table
Her clothes are classy and discreet
Her hair is radiant and neat
Her home is immaculate
Her soul has been restored

I see a ’67 Dodge Charger
Its the color of Cabernet Sauvignon
Gold speckled
Dark tints
No wheels
No engine
A shell of hope

By Shaun M Nickens