Monday, December 26, 2011

New Year's Eve At Zaire's Place

It’s almost party time! Before I had baby girl, New Year’s Eve used to be my favorite holiday. I would dance and drink until I couldn’t dance and drink no more! (Yes, I used a double negative. LOL)

In honor of NYE, here’s what the ladies at Zaire’s Place are up to. This is an excerpt from Aisha’s chapter.

Happy New Year, everybody, and don’t forget to party like a rock star!


Zaire's Place
(Book Description)

When thirty-four year old Charlene Wilson discovers she is dying, she makes the biggest move of her life and leaves her abusive husband. Not knowing how many days she has left, she is determined to spend them in peace. She turns to Zaire's Place to find comfort.

Aisha Carter can be found at the center of every conflict at Zaire's Place. While she plots disruption, Aisha finds herself on an alternate path that takes her on a course she'd never imagined.

Rebecca Reich was raised in a prejudiced home and has issues with black people. A fish out of water at Zaire's Place, a predominantly African-American shelter for abused women, she is forced to rethink the lessons of her youth.

Zaire's Place explores the relationships among these women as their lives converge, as they make decisions, large and small, that will impact the rest of their lives.

***

“Amy, can I ask you for a favor?”

I was in Amy’s closet of an office, standing next to her desk. She was suspicious, immediate distrust on her face.

“Well, you know, it’s New Year’s Eve. Do you think me and the girls can stay in the common areas past midnight?"

I wanted to kill the girls for putting me up to this. What if she went to the counselors and snitched on me, saying I was trying to break the rules? But, hell, it was New Year’s Eve. It wasn’t like we had nowhere else to go to get our party on, and Lord knows I wanted to party.

It took her a while to respond. Finally, she said, "I'll turn a blind eye." I knew what that meant. She was gonna stay in her office so we could have a good time.

We mapped things out carefully, deciding who would get the liquor, who would get the snacks, who would bring the music—which all of us looked to Rose to provide. We knew she’d have that base covered, considering all the DVDs and CDs that girl had.

At ten-thirty, after the little ones were put to bed and the older kids were left in their rooms, we made our way down to the Happy Room. When I got there, twelve women were already sitting around chatting and eating chips.

“Let’s get it started in here,” Trina shouted, coming through the door, switching her behind. She walked over to the table and put her bag on it, revealing six large bottles of wine and liquor. The orange juice was already on the table, swiped from the kitchen.

“Girls, we gon have some fun tonight!” I said, picking my glass up and filling it with Peach Schnapps.

“You think the ones who don’t come are gonna tell?” Bianca asked. It didn’t look like she was too concerned, because she was filling her glass to the brim with two kinds of liquor. “You know Debbie won’t approve of what we’re doing.”

“Debbie ain’t gonna say nothin’. Just let her keep saying the prayer over our meals and she’ll be all right,” I said. The ladies laughed. It seemed like their nerves about breaking the rules was easing.

“You know, if I wasn’t in this shelter tonight, I’d be at some club right now with an itty-bitty-titty-top on shaking my ass.”

The women within earshot looked at Bianca, compassion on their faces because she seemed sad. On the surface, they were just words, a way to make conversation, but when you examined the tone of those words, you couldn’t miss what was beneath them. Those words were saying, “I can’t believe I’m stuck in a shelter with a bunch of women on New Year’s Eve.” Sure, I felt the same way, but I wasn’t going to dwell on it.

You ain’t gonna mess up my party with that depressing shit, Bianca, I thought, filling my mouth with chips.

Almost like magic, Rose appeared with her boom box and the women cheered. She couldn’t have come at a better time. We closed the door to the Happy Room and blared the music, Rose our DJ for the night. As the night wore on, more women came and we turned Zaire’s Place into Zaire’s Palace—of dancing.

“Ah, shit. That’s my jam,” I said. “That’s some old school shit right there. Monique, ya’ll younguns don’t know nothin’ about this. It’s time for the percolator. It’s time for the percolator…” I knocked my knees together, getting low, singing as I went down to the floor.

“I’m not that young, Aisha. They still play it in the clubs all the time,” Monique said, setting down her drink, singing as she got up to dance. All of us knew she was under twenty-one, but that didn’t matter: it was New Year’s Eve.

Before I knew it, the Happy Room was packed with dancing women, kicking it like they did in the club. I glanced over at Charlene and saw her dancing in her seat. She probably dance like she got a stick up her ass, I thought, still swaying to the music. It didn’t take long for me to find out. Charlene seemed to mentally say “fuck it” and got up to join us. I got the surprise of my life when I watched her: she could actually dance!

She must have noticed that I was checking out her moves because she danced even harder, her body moving perfectly to the beat. It was like she wanted to show me what she could do because she knew I was thinking she couldn’t get down like that. It was workin’, ’cause homegirl was giving me a run for my money.

“Go, Charlene! Go, Charlene!” Monique chanted, moving her hands in the air while she eyed Charlene’s swaying hips. It was obvious that she had spotted her next target.

“Come on, Becca,” I heard Charlene shout over the music.

Rebecca shook her head, eyes wide, telling Charlene no. But Charlene wasn’t having it. Rebecca gulped down her glass of wine, stood, and moved back and forth to the music, which no one in their right mind would call dancing. Later, once the liquor set in, she loosened up, but her “dancing” still wasn’t even close to what us black folk consider dancing. But she wasn’t making a fool out of herself like I would have expected, so I gave her points for that.

More songs and more liquor passed. By the time midnight rolled in, all of us was raising the roof.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas At Zaire’s Place

It’s almost Christmas! I already shared excerpts from Zaire’s Place for Halloween and Thanksgiving. In continuation of that tradition, here’s an excerpt from Charlene’s chapter. Merry Christmas!


Zaire's Place
(Book Description)
When thirty-four year old Charlene Wilson discovers she is dying, she makes the biggest move of her life and leaves her abusive husband. Not knowing how many days she has left, she is determined to spend them in peace. She turns to Zaire's Place to find comfort.

Aisha Carter can be found at the center of every conflict at Zaire's Place. While she plots disruption, Aisha finds herself on an alternate path that takes her on a course she'd never imagined.

Rebecca Reich was raised in a prejudiced home and has issues with black people. A fish out of water at Zaire's Place, a predominantly African-American shelter for abused women, she is forced to rethink the lessons of her youth.

Zaire's Place explores the relationships among these women as their lives converge, as they make decisions, large and small, that will impact the rest of their lives.
 
***
 
Christmas was coming and I wanted to get Rebecca something real special. She had been so good to me, so attentive since [blank]’s death. Slowly, I was getting back to normal, but I couldn’t help but notice the eight pounds I’d shed even though I was still eating like I normally did. Rebecca noticed, too, but I tried to divert her and hoped it worked.

[Blank]’s death had me thinking more and more about my own. People always talk about bucket lists, grandiose things they want to do before they pass on. Not me. I just want to simply be … taking in all the little pleasures of life: the stars, the wind on my face. Those are the things that I think we miss most when we’re gone. I do believe that we still experience them when we’re in our different form—perhaps energy that travels through the universe at the blink of an eye. But without this body, all those things—the wind, the stars—would be different somehow. And I was certain I wouldn’t be able to play Scrabble.

Speaking of Scrabble—Rebecca was getting better and better every day. It was common for both of us to get at least one BINGO during a game, but I would still come out on top, even after I lagged behind sometimes. I was starting to look forward to our games again and even entertained the thought of throwing a game just to let her win at least one time. But I didn’t. I enjoyed the determined look she had on her face too much to sit back and lose on purpose. That look: absolutely priceless.

[Deleted Scene]

ZP staff asked for a volunteer to oversee the putting up of the Christmas decorations around the building and Jennifer took the initiative. Taliyah was thrilled. She would run around carrying a Christmas bulb or a handful of tinsel, waiting for Jennifer to tell her where to put them. That little girl was too cute.

Everybody seemed like they were in the spirit of the holiday season. Christmas music filled the halls from many a room and accompanied us as we put up the tree.

“Ma, I want to put the star on the tree,” Tristan told Bianca, his voice sweet, which was such a contrast to how he normally carried on, running around the shelter and wreaking havoc. Bianca looked at Jennifer, pleading with her eyes. Jennifer looked at Taliyah like she was wondering how Taliyah would handle the request. Taliyah nodded.

“Go for it.” Jennifer handed the star to Tristan and gave him a lift.

 It was then that I understood why the staff at ZP gave us so much autonomy: to foster bonding moments like these. And it worked, because I had come to regard them as family. I folded my arms around my chest and sighed, feeling content as I watched Tristan put the star on top of the tree.

***

“Charlene, you shouldn’t have. It’s beautiful,” Rebecca exclaimed, holding the necklace up in the air and fawning over it.

I’d gotten the silver necklace with its teardrop-like pendant yesterday and couldn’t wait to give it to her.

Rebecca stood up and walked over to her mirror, putting the necklace on, fingering it. She picked up a gift-wrapped present and walked back over to the bed. “This is for you. Merry Christmas.”

I tore into the package, curious to see what she got me. It was a burgundy leather-bound journal with my name monogrammed in beautiful cursive writing on the cover.

“I see you writing on the computer all the time and thought it would make a good gift.” She looked at me like she was trying to determine how I felt about her present. “I hope you like it.”

“Like ain’t the word. I love it,” I said, fingering the pages, which were edged in gilt. The color reflected on my fingertips. I leaned over, giving her a big hug. “Thank you. I couldn’t have asked for a better gift.”

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What To Throw Away And What To Keep

2012

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago—mostly because by the time February rolled around I had already jumped off the resolution wagon. However, I do take stock of my life throughout the year and make note of where I want to be. I also write a year-end letter in my journal recapping the past year and committing to what I want to “manifest” in the coming year.

As 2012 comes closer, I find myself wondering what do I want to take into the new year? In questioning what I want to keep, naturally, the question of what I want to leave behind comes up. In honor of 2012, here’s my list:

What I Want To Leave Behind

Frenemies
For some reason, I have been a frenemy magnet this year (or perhaps I just woke up and began to notice all the frenemies in my midst). You know who your frenemies are…the ones who throw subtle jabs your way to make themselves feel better than you…the ones who outwardly wish you the best, but are secretly hoping for your demise. Unfortunately, I have too many of them in my life and I have begun the process of moving away from their negativity. You should, too.

Drama
Lord, have mercy—2011 has been so drama-filled for me that it left my head spinning. Drama seemed to come at me non-stop, and just when I thought things were beginning to quiet down, something else would pop up to get the whirlwind going again. Here’s to hoping 2012 will be quieter.

Negativity
I want to move away from negative people, including the negative person that lives in my head. The saying “you’re your worst enemy” became a saying for a reason. I could go on a negative cycle and get stuck spinning those thoughts like a washing machine spins clothes. That has to stop in 2012 and that means moving away from the people who keep me stuck in the spin cycle of negativity.

What I Want To Take Into 2012

Healthy Relationships
I’ve been blessed with a daughter that I love to pieces. Because of her, I have pressed on in spite of all the challenges I’ve faced. May God continue to let us spend our life together.

I also want to take true friends with me…those friends who stick by you when you’re down and out and have nothing. I’ve been blessed with a couple of them. Here’s to hoping I can spend more time with them in 2012.

Prosperity
I’m tired of being broke and broken down. I don’t need to be rich, but I’m praying that 2012 will bring me the financial stability I used to be blessed to have. I want my own: my own house, a reliable car…the basic necessities that make you feel better about your lot in life.

Discernment
This is a biggie. If you hone the gift of discernment, you will be able to weed out anything in your life that doesn’t enhance it…fake friends, financially unsound decisions, bad relationships, horrible business partners. With discernment, I can make better decisions that will put me safely in the driver’s seat of my life.

Well, that just about covers it for me. Happy New Year, everybody! Here’s to hoping our new year will be better than our last.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

5 Reasons Why We're Obsessed With Reality TV

Tiny and T.I.

We have a new addition to the reality TV family. T.I.’s “The Family Hustle” just premiered and it already has the Internet abuzz with commentary on the new show. Unfortunately, I don’t have cable, but I know if I did, I would be sitting in front of my tube like millions of others checking it out.

From “Real Housewives Of Atlanta” to “Basketball Wives”, folks are addicted to reality TV. Hey, I still watch “Survivor” and “America’s Next Top Model” (don’t judge me). So, why are we so obsessed with the reality TV genre? Here are the top five reasons I came up with:

  • A sense of voyeurism – Reality TV allows us to peep in on our “neighbors” and see what they are doing, how they are living and what they have. In other words, we are nosy. We want to know how “Nay-Nay” is doing and, naturally, we compare our lives to hers.
  • Escapism – Many of these shows cater to a lifestyle that most of us won’t obtain…the luxury cars, the swanky parties, the luscious meals that they dine on. “Basketball Wives” is a prime example. We’re in a recession. It’s kind of nice to see people who appear to have no limits when it comes to cash. 
  • To feel better about ourselves – While we like to see their upscale lives, there is one thing that many of us feel better about when we watch reality TV: we can tell ourselves “thank God I’m not like that”. For example, people talk about how drama-filled and “hoodish” most of the women on reality TV are. The next step is to feel better about yourself because you’re different. (Well, hopefully you are.) We watch these type of shows to feel better about our moral compass.
  • It makes a great conversation piece – I can’t tell you how many times a reality show has saved me in a conversation where I had nothing in common with the other person. Reality TV allows us to come together. Co-workers line up at the watercooler to talk about what happened last night on the hottest show. Women gossip over the phone about them. They are the universal connector.
  • Drama – Lo and behold, we cannot forget the main reason why we tune in: drama drama drama!  I can’t tell you how many times my pulse raced and my eyes bulged as I watched the latest cat-fight. The executives of these shows know this. That’s why they purposely cast people who will bring on the drama.
So, in closing, reality TV does serve a purpose. For those of you who don’t watch, it’s a trend that’s not going anywhere anytime soon.