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April 2014

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Catwoman Cosplay

Catwoman Cosplay as my first official cosplay photo shoot of the year 2014? With one of my favorite cosplayers ever?! CAN YOU SAY HELL YES?!!! Cosplay is something that I’ve always admired but never been able to get into myself. I can alter outfits to look as punk as I want them to, but it will be nothing like the stunning ensembles I’ve seen at conventions like Anime Central. One of the most impressive members of the Chicago Cosplay Community is Kali Chillis who I had just been dying to shoot with for so many reasons.

The Background Of The Breakthrough In the Cosplay Community

Kali represents a small budding fraction of “Honey Dipped Cosplayers”. I have definitely become accustomed to calling it that after I was invited into the Facebook group that supports any woman of any size, color, or age cosplaying. (I do believe it’s a closed group, but if you share the interest among the other girls, it’s not hard at all to become a member.) For years, it’s seemed as though someone’s decided that “black people can’t cosplay white characters, superheroes, or anime characters” which is not only extremely unfair but embarrassing. A friend of mine put it best, she said: “I hate it when people say things like ‘Look, it’s a black Poison Ivy!’ Why do people say that?!'” I completely agree! Skin tone doesn’t define the time, effort, creativity and hard work that a cosplayer puts into their creation. They eagerly and diligently work for months on the art and it’s impressive! Yet, beautiful, well-done, cosplayers are getting labeled with terms like “race bent” as a representative of who they are. In case you’re not familiar with the term, it’s a spin-off of the word “genderbent” where fans create a gender switched version of a character.

That being said, I will willingly support any well-done cosplay regardless of the color simply because I can appreciate anyone who takes the time out to really create something amazing. Kali is the perfect example. She has folders  upon folders dwelling in her Facebook where she showcases patterns she’s created and step-by-step progression shots showing off each and every intricate design she’s created from scratch! It just so happens that her Catwoman Cosplay is actually fashioned from a Deviantart Fan Art that features an absolutely kawaii cartoon of Catwoman in a studded denim vest.

Personally, I think that Kali did a PHENOMENAL job even sporting green contacts to make it completely authentic, but I’ll let you be the judge officially! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Catwoman, and trust me when I say that this kitten’s got claws.  The mini session took place in downtown Chicago where Kali fearlessly walked the mysterious dark alleyways and underpasses slinking about as Catwoman herself would really do.

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Behind-The-Scenes-Teaser

The Model: Kali has a Facebook as well as a DeviantArt   where she showcases many of her other cosplays. Trust me, pick a link and venture through it. You’ll be impressed. Also! The artist who made the cosplay that Kali is modeling also has a Deviantart where she shows off that lovely Catwoman drawing.

What Have I Been Up To Lately?

 

I can’t tell you much but I can tell you that it involves a bow tie, me being extremely awkward and a lot of hotel room laughs. No! It’s not what you think it is, but it definitely was going on next door, and that was the scariest thing ever. Other than that, I’ve been having lots of meetings filled with lots of caffeine and consultations which are now free for aspiring Chicago models who may or may  not be looking to book me. Seven people have searched the words “Jasemine Denise Photography prices” or “Jasemine Denise Prices”, let me tell you, search high and low you will not find them.

Why?

I don’t want my clientele to look at my site, go “Hm, seems affordable” and click “book.” No, I want to see what you see when you sought out to book me. I’m not gonna charge you an arm and a leg, there’s no secret… Just know, if I’m going to photograph you I want it to because you saw the product, not the price tag. (Though you’ll find that my prices are pretty damn low.)

Know that you can always book me, with the contact link above and don’t forget to subscribe! I’ve got a looooot of cosplay shoots coming up, so you should be here to check them out!

Happy Convention Season
Jasemine-Denise

 

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Lighten Up: Weight Bashing.

Warning: This Lighten Up Thursday is so high up on the passion ladder that it may offend some close minded, judgmental people but I don’t care. Prepare for me to get completely real. Today’s Lighten Up Thursday discusses the big, bad W. Weight. 

The Story

In my family, I was always viewed as unhealthy for not having a “normal” petite. I eat like a bird but not on purpose and not all the time. It’s just the way I am. Family members have always expressed worry and suggested that I get tested for anorexia or bulimia. It bothered me so much that I stayed in my bedroom for family events and did my best to avoid any and all family events that involved food. Being raised in a family where being called “Fat” was an insult, I desperately craved answers to why it was completely okay to call me “unhealthy” in regards to the weight I physically couldn’t gain despite my best efforts to eat more.

I finally gave up and consulted my doctor who {thankfully} is also a therapist. I won’t say I “cried” to her but I mean… Okay, I cried. What’s wrong with me? Why do I have to be the unhealthy one just because I don’t eat as much as everyone else? I eat until I’m full! Why is it only a crime when I do it? On and on I rambled until my doctor put her hand up to tell me to stop. She said that it sounded to her like I was suffering from a case of judge-itis, and unfortunately there was only one cure.

She wrote me a prescription that only had two words: Self appreciation. 

What is “Judge-itis” and What Does It Have To Do with My Weight?

The most talked about picture I’ve ever posted was the hardest one I ever had to take. It was when I made the decision to take my doctor’s advice and refuse to let anyone’s negative comments dictate my comfort level with my own body. I made a day out of it, setting up my tripod and my camera. Slowly, I began to shed layers of clothes one by one in front of my camera which was slightly taboo for me. I was determined to create the image of appreciation. I turned on “Private Party” by Indie Arie blast as I danced around and loosened up. Finally, I achieved it. The feeling of self confidence.

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Family and friends alike were so quick to point at me and add commentary. “How could you, Jasemine? Respect yourself! Why would you post YOU NAKED ON THE INTERNET?” Judge…itis.

The photo was me giving myself the utmost respect and sharing it among those who I felt I could trust to understand. This is not ego or vanity, I’m just celebrating me. The photo was my way of shedding my insecurities and being happy with myself despite all hate campaigns advertising things like “Say no to zero.” Since when was it okay for someone to judge me for feeling confident with myself?

Oh wait. Since weight was something that became a defining factor in attraction regardless of which side of the scale. Since judge-itis became popular on a global scale.

Truth Is, I’m 100 lbs, 4’11, at 22 and Sometimes You Can See My Bones.

I work out to stay toned but trust and believe that when the time comes, I can eat an entire Thanksgiving Dinner in one sitting and not gain a pound. It’s both a blessing and a curse. I’m sick of being called unhealthy because it’s just as BAD AND WRONG as being called fat. It hurts!

One of my best friends is the most gorgeous and snuggly plus sized models I’ve ever seen. She’s drop dead gorgeous and “fat” has never been an adjective that came to mind when I look at her. Individually, we receive a lot of weight bashing. She’s too big and I’m too small but together we are perfect in our own accord because we carry ourselves confidently as any woman should! ANY WOMAN. 

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Lighten Up, Because I’m Not Just Saying Don’t Wash Bash Skinny People, I’m Saying Don’t Weight Bash all People.

Regardless of what side of the scale you’re on, judge-itis can kill. There are just as many gorgeous girls killing themselves for being talked about because of how skinny they are than there are starving themselves because they’re being called fat. Plainly put, there shouldn’t be a single woman anywhere ashamed of the skin she’s in.

When will the world wake up and learn that we were all created in the likeness of beauty regardless of religious belief? Stop being the person responsible for stealing a woman’s joy. (I don’t care how much or little she may weigh.)

Maybe one day a naked back won’t be so easily judged because people will be comfortable enough in their own skin to stop trying to get under someone else’s. Remember that the change begins with you.

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Inspiration Vs. Imitation

Today’s blog is a “Break All Rules” blog that is posted on a Tuesday despite today being “Twisted Tuesday”. We’ve all had an incident where someone we’re close to has done something similar to something we’ve done. Sometimes, it’s eerily similar to the point of having troublesome feelings about that person. It’s hard to approach the issue, because many people derive their personal inspiration from others (We often call that role models.) So I’m going to attack the issue in the best way I know how. Hence today’s “Break All Rules Blog” (I get a freebie right?) entitled “Inspiration Vs. Imitation.

First, Let’s Break Down the Dictionary Difference.

This is the part where you call me bad names because my “Beyonce” diva attitude comes out. Yet, often times we are told “imitation is the best form of flattery” when that is indeed a false accusation. Inspiration is a phenomenal form of flattery. It means that someone saw your work and it touched their hearts, minds, soul, something! But imitation is walking into school tomorrow and seeing someone wearing the same outfit as you and now you feel unpretty.

So let’s whip out the Webster, shall we?

Let’s Start With Imitation

Imitation: (Noun) a thing intended to simulate or copy something else. Copy: a thing made to be similar or identical to another.

So, we get it. It means someone bases their entire foundation off of the premise of another person’s work. In the art world as well as the business world, that is frowned upon. It is seen as competition and immediately backfires. In the business world, it’s a brand. When you copy a brand, you’re basically pirating another corporation’s identity. Remember those commercials you watched as a kid that told you stealing a movie is like stealing a woman’s purse? Pirating. In the artistic world, it’s a style. Each artist has their own style which is their form of expression. When you copy a style, you are stealing. (I don’t know of too many exceptions to said rule.)

Let’s Move On To Inspiration.

Inspiration: (noun) the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. Creative: relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

Note the word original in the definition. In order not to to crowd you with more definitions, “Original” implies that it is genuine. You reached somewhere deep down in your imagination and concocted said idea. Yet, with inspiration, you didn’t exactly reach all the way down. You saw something on Pinterest, maybe a rad deck decor for a skateboard, and it made you think “What if…”

Jazz, I don’t see the difference.  Well dear reader, you’re in luck. This photographer had an brain blast!

This is Renee Jordan.

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Let me tell you that when I got home from this shoot with Renee, I was feeling inspired. She reminded me of what I loved most about fashion. The ability to look fierce but also to have fun. Suddenly, I wanted to start taking fashion portraits again. Maybe not on the same calibur but I just couldn’t get my mind off of it. Everyday proceeding this shoot, I kept an eye on my clothes. I kept waiting for something awesome that I could wear that could convey to Renee the inspiration that radiated from her and passed on to me. She sparked a creative flow in me.

Finally, this morning it happened. I remembered Renee and I talking about deals that we get on our clothes, and I sprung to some of the places I knew would have a deal on the image I saw in my head.

Let me tell you exactly what inspired me.

  • Renee puts her outfits together by herself in bulks which I think is awesome. She can spot a good deal from miles away. I could tell that just by our preshoot conversation.
  • Her poses screamed confidence in her clothes combinations all throughout the shoot. It wasn’t someone who had thrown things together, it was carefully created.
  • Lastly, each set of photos were all a different style of clothing but somehow still Renee’s style.

So. Oddly, I have a pretty unique style. At least, I’d like to think so. So, when it came down to it, I wanted something like Renee’s second shoot. It was natural, it was hers, it was business friendly, but it also was daring. (I mean a leather skirt, get out. who would’ve thought?”

This is what became born of it:

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Notice how the styles are different. The poses change, the setting is different, the outfits are different. Yet, if you look closely, you can tell where the inspiration is from. I’ve developed a pose that I would like to assume defines my fashion persona. Much like Renee’s it’s confident, it’s flexible. It’s not the same pose but it does to give a similar vibe.

Coincidentally, Renee and I both have a thing for heels. Mine moreso fit my specific style but they can easily be noted as well. By the offchance, this part is just coincidence but notice how I’m also wearing stockings. I hate my legs and though I think Renee is amazing for having the confidence to strut her bare legs, I much prefer my spiderweb sheer.

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Now do you See what I mean?

I was Inspired by Renee without actually stealing her entire shoot and calling it my own! All I’m saying is that if you want to be established in the world as your own business, your own artist, your own style… You need to do the research and a lot of it. I’m pretty sure Renee has worked for years to develop her identity as a fashion designer. I mean, simply put.. If you’re looking for someone who’s going to steal a person’s entire artistic style for their own, it ain’t me babe. I’m no fashion designer, but I did have a little fun in my closet and I hope Renee can tell when she sees the photos.

I can vouch for anyone when I say that it isn’t easy to become who you are but it’s a blessing once you do. You feel like you earned it instead of taking the easy way out. It’s okay to be inspired but know the line. There is one, and it’s no longer flattering when someone looks at your work and sees a mirror of themselves completely. It feels more like stealing. Then it becomes competitive, then you lose your inspiration forever due to your own carelessness.

Think about it.

PS: Sorry for interrupting your Twisted Tuesday, we will resume regularly scheduled programming come next Tuesday! Thank you all for reading.

for now, this fashionista is hasta la vista!
*high pitched voice* Dueeeeeces.

Jasemine-Denise

Writing

Twisted Tuesday: Writers And Structure

Structure

I had a lovely lady request we meet up because she wanted to discuss my writing process. All week, I wandered around and was baffled. What would I say? I didn’t want her to be underwhelmed when she found out that my progress was merely putting my pen to my paper. Yet when it finally became time for the meetup, both she and I learned a lesson on how important it is as a writer to have structure. So this Twisted Tuesday suggests to you the beauty of structure.

Expectations Vs. Reality: How Structure Came About.

When I walked into my meeting, I was nervous. Talking to people is scary. I say the “F” word a lot. I’m loud. I’ll ramble forever if you let me. Yet, I had a system. Hug, smile, get coffee, and then engage. This particular meeting was with this awesome young woman.  She was just like me in a sense that she did a lot. She mentioned that she was a writer, a massage therapist, she did theater, she had a daughter, she had a business degree and so much more. She could have been a model too. Seriously, she was gorgeous.  “Finally!” I thought. I’ve finally found someone who understands what it’s like to be both an artist and a human.

Then. She asked the question and it made the entire “Writing process” make perfect sense.  She asked me “How do you juggle it all?”

My Answer.

Fun Fact: I have a Type A Personality. I’m always urgent about projects and I’m also never satisfied with them. I melt down when it comes to problems and it always tends to be horribly stressful. Structuring my life was the best thing that ever happened to me. I liked making plans and goals. My anxiety attacks decreased so much since I started effectively building my structure. More importantly, my writing increased as well as improved.

Writer to writer, artist to artist, person to person.. It doesn’t matter who you are. Everyone gets overwhelmed and if you’re a person like me who wants to do a lot at once, it gets scary. I can’t count how many times I’ve missed my writing for weeks or had to cancel meetings because of stress, conflict, problems or just plain being exhausted.

What’s my solution? It’s simple. Structure. 

Remember When You were In School?

Wait, wait! Stay with me!

Remember when you were in school? Did you know that school provided you with structure? It gave you deadlines and allotted times due to the way a teacher’s lesson plan had each subject scheduled at a certain time of day. It was professionally designed for you to succeed provided you maintained discipline. It sounds silly but school instilled structure upon you. Some people were extremely responsive and carried it over to adulthood. Yet most of us, especially artists, have neglected the tradition. (I don’t know about you guys but I’ve missed meals to finish projects! NO REGRETS) So, why not try making a schedule? It doesn’t have to be completely set up like school either. It can be anything from just setting a reminder on your phone about eating to building a full-on time table.

My most efficient technique is probably my blog planner. I bought a 5 subject notebook and sectioned it  off so that I had a different subject for each section on my blog. Each blog has a scheduled day, and I programmed reminders in my phone the morning of to remind me that a blog needs to be posted today. It made such a big difference. Soon after, I found a blog calender online for my website which allowed me to see my blogs posted in calender view. I often look at the times because then I could tell which times I struggled to get the blog up, how long it took, what time is easiest for me to focus, etc. I found it was most efficient when I had already had a draft of my blogs written because then I could flow freely with my already organized thoughts. Therefore, my most efficient technique was the planner notebook. $3.  Years of sanity and organization.

So upon discussing My Writing Process, I Taught Both Myself And Her Something..

As I gave my structure speech to my new writer friend. I realized that my life as well as my writing career have changed immensely since I found my structure. Little things turned into something big. I was actually proud when she said that I should teach a class.

So this Tuesday, I just had to share little tidbit with my fellow artists, especially the ones like myself who wear quite a few hats at once. It gets scary, I know. Keep calm and make a plan or a schedule and stick to it.

It helps, I promise. Now it’s your turn. How do you balance your life and art?

Note: I have to give the biggest thanks to Sarah Syhakhoun. She doesn’t know it but she was the start of my structure and accepting how much I relied on it. She made me feel okay with it. Her blog shares personal stories of how she stays organized in both her business and her marriage. It was inspiring.I remember gushing about how phenomenal her binder tips are and now, a half a year later, I am writing in my blog planner how to share her wisdom with others who crave structure much like mine. She’s also a photographer and you guys should check her out.

But for now, this naturalista, is hasta lavista. 😉

Jasemine-Denise

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Lighten Up: Spring.

It’s finally spring and let me tell you Chicago, I am rejoicing for this weather. I’ve grown so used to cold nights and even colder mornings that I forgot that spring was even a season. Even better, spring is the season of awakening. It’s when all the flowers start to bloom and people start bringing out their sweat season smiles! This Lighten Up Thursday is a Spring Appreciation Post! It also goes hand in hand with today’s Project 365.

What did I Do On My First Witnessing of The Spring Season?

It’s been a rough winter. A lot of it was spent working, the other half stressing. When I looked back, the same could be said for my spring of 2013. This year was supposed to be about change. Good change. So, I went out and bought some clothes. They were brighter than my usual style and when I checked them out and put them on, I was impressed. Something different that still made me feel good. I also got a few denim jackets on clearance and all was good.

I don’t know about you, but I love feeling good. When I got home, I realized how this spring would be different. This spring, I wouldn’t let anything stop me from feeling good. I mean, that’s one of the reasons I quit my job. It didn’t make me feel good. 

So, I made A Jar.

No, not a jar of dirt (Although that’s good too) I made a jar of love letters to myself. This jar was for the days that I felt like winter from the days where I feel like spring. What better way to feel better than to be reminded that you are loved? Who better to love you than yourself? So many people are so hellbent on society’s views of us that we stifle the most beautiful parts of ourselves. Not anymore. 

For me, anxiety was one of the many reasons I didn’t feel good. People would say negative things about me that sat with me until I couldn’t take it anymore. I had a vision board with all my goals that I started in January of the new year, and I destroyed it. The fear and apprehension combined with the negative energy made me feel as though I wasn’t good enough to achieve any greatness at all. At first, quitting my job made me feel the same way, but then I started to feel good about myself. I took a stand for my emotional well-being. How many people do that? How many people are more upset after they do that then when they were experiencing it?

My first letter to myself was “Dear self, remember your vision.” Although I tore apart a huge map to my year, I didn’t lose my destination. I still have all my pit stops in my head. Nothing stops you on the road to success. There was so much I wanted to have done when Spring started, and now I’m finally remembering. My vision is coming to life before my eyes. It’s crazy.

My second was a bit more complex, but a lot more universal. Lately, I’ve been feeling down about photography. All of my friends are getting fancy new cameras and learning to do the things that I’ve been doing for years, and that’s scary. Yet, I felt great taking pictures this week. I always feel good. It’s something that brings out the joy in me. So, the joyous me who took pictures wrote a letter to the me that gets down on herself and doesn’t take pictures. It was a reminder that no matter how many photographers come into this world, that every single one has a unique thing to share.

I am Confident Catipillar

So Lighten Up!

Spring is about awakening and renewal. Why do you think we do spring cleaning? As the weather changes and it starts to feel good outside, you have the chance to feel good inside. When you’re feeling good, you take in the fresh smell of the flowers, the dirt, the love… This spring you should cleanse your winter blues and love yourself. Get out there! Try something new, try on a “funky” color, write love letters to yourself… DO whatever it takes.

Take time out to love yourself. This spring could be the season that changes your life.

Lighten Up. For your sake.

Namaste,
Jasemine-Denise

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Twisted Tuesday: Writer’s Block

I’ve officially dubbed all Tuesdays… Twisted. Twisted Illusions is now available to buy and right now you can even get a signed copy. So if you’re looking to get caught up in a juicy trilogy filled with drama, action, romance and so much more, now’s your chance! The next book in the Twisted Trilogy won’t be out for a while, but in the meantime, Twisted Tuesdays will give you a glimpse of what’s happening right now! This week, it’s less about the series and more about the making of! I know my fellow writers out there get writer’s block a lot, so I felt like I could offer some of the things that I do to beat it.

First, How Far Am I?

Right now, I’m in the seventh chapter of Twisted Abandon and emotions are about to start running. It was right around mid-chapter five when I hit writer’s block and nearly cried over the fact that I had hit a bump. It was this really pivotal scene, one that I felt was subtle but crucial to the story line and I just couldn’t get past it. I had a few drafts of it that weren’t good. I had a few ideas that could jazz it up, but at that point, I was just plain not into what I was writing. The scene was missing something. I couldn’t put my finger on it but my brain wouldn’t let me move on without it.

There Are Different Kinds Of Writer’s Block, But There Are Two That I Encounter Most..

Everyone knows what writer’s block is. I’m not gonna lie, I like Wikipedia’s definition of it the best.

Writer’s block is a condition, primarily associated with typing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition ranges from difficulty in coming up with original ideas to more extreme examples in which some “blocked” writers have been unable to work for years, and some have even abandoned their supposed lifelong careers.

Well, okay. I like some of that. I don’t like the part where they mention abandoning lifelong careers. Writing’s something I”ve been doing forever. If they just cursed me, *knocks on wood* I’d be devastated.

Type One: How Did I Get Here and Where Can I Get Out?

The Problem: I’ve found that my books are like movies to me. I play them in my head and run different scenarios until I envision one that fits. A lot of the times, they tend to write themselves. Sometimes when I’m writing, I’m not even looking at the paper. I’m observing things around me, and when I look down I will have written a sentence that I didn’t even plan. A great example of that is the scene from Twisted Illusions where Chris Harrison confronts William Kelly and Matthew Stevenson. (You can actually read that because it’s the official snippet for Twisted Illusions). I didn’t mean for it to happen but I liked it. I was thoroughly confused though. Where was I supposed to go from there? This opened up a brand new wormhole for all the characters involved. I mean, how could our beloved Matthew Stevenson just become so soft like that? I thought he was the macho man!

My Solution: Then, I started playing around with it. I started writing down things about Matthew I liked. I referenced things I didn’t as well. Matthew has certain personality flaws and strengths that would make him more relate-able as a person. Honestly, that’s how Matthew’s addiction was born. At first it was like, Matthew has a few out-of-character moments that turned into Matthew is completely out of character. So, “how did I get here?” turned into “HEYYYY I LIKE WHERE THIS IS GOING” after days and days of confusion. Best case of writer’s block ever. It took me two weeks and to draft up an entire character evaluation document to fully map out a small scene in order to make it important enough to not be strewn on the cutting room floor later.

Type Two: OH GOD NO, I’M STUCK. COME ON BRAIN FIX YOURSELF!

The Problem: Sometimes it can be a sentence, sometimes it can be a scene, sometimes it can be an entire book… The most common and my least favorite form of writer’s block is when you just draw a blank. You’re writing, or typing at 1,000 mph and then your brain just stops. You leave your characters standing in that room arguing with each other and because you can’t figure out what that one character says to make the other smack him in the face with the frying pan (If you even want to use a frying pan. Why not stab her?), they’re inevitably stuck there.

Fun Fact: I picture my characters as real life people and when I hit writer’s block, my characters are in limbo in their own lives. To be or not to be, that is a question that my characters can’t control because they can’t live their own lives unless I tell them to. (Like The Sims!)

My Solution: Lately, I’ve been playing instrumentals and cinematic scores to locate one that fills the empty moments in the scenes that play in my head. It helps to watch movies that have a lot of rises and falls. For instance, I remember watching “The Vow” a few years ago and loving the earthly scenes where a lot of emotion was completed with moments where the camera panned around the apartment. I loved that it was shown from the view of both main characters, and the music corresponded with the emotion that that particular character was feeling in that setting. Anxiously, I rewatched it and bought the soundtrack. I listened to the entire thing with my eyes shut.

Eventually, listening to the music forced my mind to paint a picture. The blank, empty canvas of  the missing sequence of the scene I was “blocked” in began to come to life. Yet,  there was not a song in my library that described the atmosphere of the moment so I resulted to my personal favorite… Soundcloud. I love Soundcloud, I constantly find myself on it after the first time I heard “We Found Ourselves Lost” which if you haven’t heard, you need to. As a writer, I’m a storyteller and “We Found Ourselves Lost” tells the story of love. Upon a diligent search, my ears heard the song that painted the full on image that completed the scene. Writer’s block gone! It really helped me! Music inspires the mind.

One of these Tuesdays, I’ll make a playlist that gives you a look into how many songs have saved scenes in Twisted Abandon, alone.

So What Broke The Writer’s Block This Time?

A song entitled “Lay Beneath Your Beautiful” was the perfect moment of background music to describe a sentimental moment where a character ends up stumbling across an item that reminds her of her teen years. She takes the time to gingerly place it down and there are paragraphs of describing her amorous emotion toward this dress. I chose this cover of the song by Labrinth because it’s a piano instrumental and it definitely gives off a subtle cinematic vibe as if it could be playing quietly in the background. You can hear the original song here. 

That song right there is what finally pushed through Chapter Five.

So, what’s your Writer’s Block Buster?

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Lighten Up! Why Me?

Have you ever had an instance where you asked yourself, “Why me?” Why have I been “chosen” to bear the heavy load? Why am I the leader? Why was I born in this family, at this time, in this place? When you’re asking yourself these questions, it’s normally proceeding some horrible turn of events. You know what? You’re not the only one who asks the big “W.” Today’s Lighten Up Thursday may answer the question, “Why me?”

The Story: Priscilla Jackson

Down the street from me is a lady named Miss Jackson. (#IamForReal) She’s lived there for as long as I could remember. She had pink walls that aligned her stairwell, a loud laugh, and nine cats. I hadn’t visited her in years, but last night, I was locked out of my house for hours. “Why me?” I asked to no one in particular as I rang her doorbell and bounced on my heels to fight the cold chill of the Chicago night air. Why was it always me?

For the first fifteen minutes after she answered the door, Miss Jackson limped around her intricately decorated home and yelled at me about being a user. It had been years since I visited and despite the fact that I spoke to her everyday as I walked past her house, I never had come to check out the earrings that she had mentioned to me several times upon my trips to work. I apologized many, many times but I still kept wondering Why me? Why did I have to be locked out? Why was she the only safe neighbor to come to? Why did my phone have to die upon exiting my school after orientation?

She suddenly calmed down and smiled. She had been idly staring at her rocking chair which was beside my place on the couch. She began telling me the story of how she got it, and it was quite a story. To be an older lady (mid-70s to early 90s) she had lugged the sizable chair up an entire flight of stairs. This story transformed into a tour of her entire house including the infamous closet bed that I will be telling people about for centuries to come. The houses on this block were built with long, walk in closet and while mine is filled with my grandparent’s junk, Miss Jackson had put a twin sized box spring in hers, surrounded it with Christmas lights and turned it into her very own “closet bed”.

As she ushered me into her bedroom, she showered me in gifts including several pairs of earrings and a hat. She doted on toy hamsters, her curtains, the way everything in the room matched and then she spoke words that I will hear eternally. “Sometimes I wish I had a granddaughter to show this off to. All I have is four boys and they’re all grown. But.. You, you will never be outside again.” I froze. This was that thing that your parents told you about when they tell you about what strangers could do to you. Years and years this elderly lady had been friends with my grandma and she was about to kill me. I sputtered a bit and she continued, smiling. “I’ll get you a key to my house and if no one is home at your house and your grandparents won’t give you a key, you can come and stay here until they get home. You can stay in the closet bed but you can never be outside again.” She was inviting me to come back.

Why it Had Been Me.

As I was leaving, I noticed that Miss Jackson had changed emotionally. She was practically gliding among her rooms, stepping over cats, beaming as she led me to the door. She had enjoyed my company despite the way I’d rudely entered demanding to have a phone. As I was leaving, she mentioned she was out of tissue, nonchalantly as if an afterthought. Then she began to talk about loneliness and how she never felt lonely but sometimes it was quiet in her house. I realized that I had an opportunity there. I could bring a small bit more of joy to her life.

So I offered to buy her tissue and to come back. Truthfully, thought it was 100 degrees in her house and I was constantly having to look out for cats, Miss Jackson wasn’t that bad and the happiness my visit had brought to her made me feel good. This morning, as I was writing this blog it occurred to me that I’d almost forgot. I raced through the rain of the dreary Chicago street and brought her toilet paper. When she opened the door, I could tell she wasn’t expecting me. She smiled and gave me a long hug and although I didn’t stay long I could tell it made her morning.

It was me that had been locked out because I’m always racing through everything. I never slow down and really take the time to enjoy the intricate moments of life. It was her that was the only neighbor who answered the door because she was in need of a companion. It was my chance to cheer someone up because lately I’d been feeling slightly low and a little useless. We served as a reminder to each other that people still need companionship.

After all that time, I finally realized why it had been me.

The Lighten Up Lesson: Why You?

We were all chosen for greatness. Sometimes we are destined to be great, but often times we overlook it because we have to know “why!” The real why is why question it? Life has a strange, mysterious way of constantly moving and changing and we can’t always have the answer right then and there. I think we question it because we fear that if we don’t know the answer, we can’t control it. Yet, there are somethings in life we can’t control. They weren’t made for us to understand. Believe that your path was designed and created for you to travel and though we hate hearing it, I am a strong believer in the theory that everything always happens for a reason. It’s just that sometimes, we don’t know it but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t all for a greater, higher purpose.

When I was out there, shivering, wondering how much longer it’d be until I got in my house and had a nice warm meal, I was only asking why I was stuck out there. I didn’t think why was I placed in this particular moment. The real question should’ve been “What.”

“What can I do to seize this moment and turn this negative into a positive?”

I’ll end this Lighten Up Thursday with a quote. It’s one that is probably overplayed but also overlooked. When you read it, think about the last time you’ve wondered “Why me?” and ask yourself

“How can this very moment make me greater in the eyes of myself.”

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. -Timo Cruz, Coach Carter

Why you? Because you have a light inside of you that sometimes is brightened by the darkness surrounding you. Do not fear light or darkness, liberate yourself. Forget about the questions. Find your answer.

Lighten Up. Happy Thursday.
Jasemine-Denise

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Chop Chronicles Chapter 6: Destiny

I was nervous about sharing this story but I said I wanted to bring you guys down this journey with me. Destiny as well as my resignation is a huge part of it. Like my hair, this decision was made to better myself. It’s amazing what talking, thinking, and a bottle of hair dye can do to a naturalista. That being said, Chapter Six of the Chop Chronicles is entitled “Destiny.”

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March 2014: The Month of Destiny and Determination

March 30th 2014 was my last official day of work. No fooling. I mean, I know it’s April and all but come on. Freedom is no joke. It took a lot of courage and pep talk, but things became clear. I was missing out on what I’d sacrificed when I began working there. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t time, money, real respect or maturity that made me quit. All of those things played small parts but in reality it was destiny.

Destiny is A Big Word.

In the month of March, I’ve learned a lot about jail. Imprisonment comes in many forms including both physical and mental. One thing that comes to mind when I reflect back on this month are the lyrics from the play Aida.

You are your own master. There are no shackles on you.

I’ve imprisoned myself in this case of social anxiety this year. I’ve spent many days questioning myself, my relationships with my coworkers, my worth and my importance. My general manager asked (And I quoted it in my last CC blog) if I was going to be this way my whole life. I insisted that I was going to be because I knew he was referring to my hair and “alternative lifestyle” (which is pretty much my piercings.). As I sat down and talked about it with my friends, I recalled that I was wrong when I told him that. The Jasemine who stood in front of him that day was not the Jasemine I wanted to be forever. It wasn’t who I was destined to be. In fact, the “Jasemine” that I envisioned that I should be was someone who I was terrified to be.

I wanted financial promise twenty-four seven. That meant no risks and little to no freedom. It also meant riding two hour bus routes to get to and from work each day. It meant working more hours than the average person would even if I wasn’t always working my hardest because I needed it. I was proud to have my fraction of fairness and completely imprisoned by fear until I was given two words.

That Power.

Have you heard the song That Power by Childish Gambino? If you haven’t, I’m not gonna force you to, especially if rap and educated rap metaphors aren’t your thing, but if you have listen to it again. Listen until you hear your own message. Don’t skip the outro either because it’s my favorite. Camp is gold if you don’t know by now. It’s one of my favorite records of all time. I played “That Power” on repeat as I stared at a blank Microsoft Word document that would later contain my two week notice. Then. I heard it. It was clear as a bell and directly in my ear. Destiny.

Destiny is a noun. It means: “what happens in the future” or “the things that someone or something will experience in the future.” It also means “A power that is believed to control what happens in the future.”

When “That Power” ended, “We Aint Them” came on. I hadn’t really dipped into Royalty that much but for those of you who are familiar, “We Aint Them” is the song where Donald makes reference to leaving 30 Rock. He never implied that his job writing for them was bad. He just mentioned that it was time for more. 

“My mama said why you wanna leave a good job?”
“My Dad said do ya thing, boy don’t stop.”

When I talked to my grandparents about my decision to resign, I was anticipating getting a lot of backlash. Instead, they listened and were proud. Finally, I was accepting my destiny wasn’t what I’d been chasing.

So, What Is My Destiny? Surely It’s Not To Quit My Job and Become Financially Unstable.

Was quitting my job scary? It was. You quit your job, you scratch your head, you cry a little and when you start to wonder what’s next it starts to get a little liberating. Things have been falling into place since the day I slid that typed letter across the counter. I enrolled in college. That’s right! I’m finally going to get my business degree. It happened so fast. I didn’t even question it. Yet, in my mind I kept asking “What next? What about money? Freedom costs!

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I bet you were wondering why this was a chop chronicles post… Like, what it has to do with my hair, right? Well.

A week of worrying went by when I got called in for a job interview. Several actually. It seemed as though my personality had attracted attention. In these interviews, I was calm and I only ever had one question. What about my hair color? It’s no surprise that I went into a few of these interviews with my real natural hair instead of a wig. Sometimes I feel like within the wig, I’m hiding my identity.

4/5 places that I wore my natural hair to? They didn’t care. Two managers were enthralled asking if they could touch it and how I got it that shade. Suddenly, freedom was there. The experience was on paper and the personality was right there… I mean, come on! You try explaining to someone that your last job was to host birthday parties, sing and jump around stage. For once, I could say that I was being considered for hire based off of my work, not my appearance. That’s when I realized it. There it was.

My destiny. 

I couldn’t explain it but it made me shake a few hands and simply thank them for opening my eyes. For the past year, I wanted so bad to make people happy that I wasn’t aware that I was hurting myself. I stifled my own personality, safety, needs, because.. Because I was afraid. I was afraid that if I truly was myself and did things to make myself happy that I couldn’t be successful.

Now I know. It’s my destiny to prove to everyone else and myself that destiny is unavoidable.

You’re looking at an African American published writer, a professional photographer and a college student with a bright red naturally curly mohawk and a drive for success.

 

This journey never ends.
It’s destiny.

Before this Naturalista is Hasta La Vista.. I wanna speak words to my coworkers.

 

For the past year, most of you have been an absolute joy to work with. I loved that I could come to you. I loved that you would meet my energy with this fire of your own and you would be beyond excited to see me each time I walked in. The fact that all of you signed a petition saying that you wanted me to stay really brought tears to my eyes. I mean, I honestly can’t believe that each of you have felt I made that sort of an impact on this moment in your life. Please know that there were times that I was counting down the hours to clocking out but even moreso, there were times when I didn’t want to leave. A lot of you are like family to me and although as I’m typing this, I am overwhelmed with sadness to even have to tell you all, I am promising that there are moments I won’t walk away from. There are some of you who have made permanent impacts on my life and I plan to still see you. Whether I have to come up and visit like Tony or whether you guys personally invite me out, I’m always just a phone call, a text, a facebook message away.

Even though, I won’t be working full-time everyday, I’ll still be around. I might even still be hosting birthday parties! I want to give thanks to all of you for giving me so many kind words and supporting my decision whether it was to stay or to leave. I was told recently that I was a negative influence on all of you. So let me plant one small seed in your head, one last one that I hope can make a major impact.

You are phenomenal. You are smart, a leader and a person who is just as enthusiastic as you are great. Don’t push back on your dreams, don’t let anything or anyone stop you. You guys are such a unique bunch and you don’t need the negative energy. No one does. Spread the love. We all talk each day about how grossly negative that environment can be… Be the change. Show each other the bond that was once there is still alive, it just takes teamwork. It’s so easy when everyone plays a positive part and I believe in you all. 

This naturalista, is hasta la vista. 😉

Jasemine-Denise