Losing my cousin, Jessica LaTrease Jones

Heyyy y’all.

I’ve been away for a few weeks and I’m gonna tell you why. Something unexpectedly tragic happened to me and my family. I lost my FIRST cousin in a house fire.

If you’ve been following my YouTube Channel, Address NOT Suppress Series, there’s one particular segment where I talk about my Family. In a nutshell, I grew up not knowing anyone on my paternal side and only my grandmother, an uncle, an aunt & her 2 kids on my maternal side. The unfortunate part about it all is, I come from a ginormous family. Like I mentioned in the video, my father has something like 8, 9, or 10 siblings. My maternal grandmother had 3 brothers, which one of them has, like, 13 kids alone. I did grow up with a host of “adopted” cousins, aunts, uncles. But for the sake of this post, I’m referring to blood kinfolks.

My Aunt Regina, my mother’s baby sister, is my favorite aunt because she was a constant in my life. She taught me to drive. Took me everywhere she went. We were joined at the hip. And because we’re similar in complexion and both used to rock long, straight hair, people thought she was my mom.

My oldest daughter, Reyonna, and my aunt’s 2 kids, Jessica and Jamaal, were raised as if they were all siblings. There’s a picture that was taken at Olan Mills (indication of how old the pic is) of the 4 of them. Yup. Just them. My aunt held a newborn Reyonna while her children flanked by her sides. Those were all her chirren. I just so happened to birth one of ‘em. :)

Jessica & Reyonna were joined at the hip, like their parents used to be…

There’s an 8 year age gap between Regina & I; 11 years between Jessica & me; and 7 years between Jessica & Reyonna. Just like I looked up to Regina, Reyonna looked up to Jessica. Like I said, they were sisters more so than cousins.

In 2006, Jessica & I were prego at the same time…

My, then, 19 year old cousin reached out to me for advice on the best way to tell her mom (my favorite aunt) that she was pregnant. She knew I was a young mom when I had Reyonna and felt my opinion was important.

“How did you tell Auntie Selina when you were pregnant with ReRe?”

“I wrote a letter.”

Then she laughed that raspy, goofy way that she did. I found out later she texted her mom the news. Sign of the times…LOL.

In my 39 years, I had yet to experience the loss of anyone close to me. Reyonna’s father passed in August 2012. That was pretty close and I was deeply saddened, but losing my first cousin, who I watched grow up and establish a tight bond with my daughter impacted me in a completely different way.

Jessica & Reyonna partied September 27th, 2014 ~The night before…

I’ll never, ever forget. I plopped down on my sectional with my laptop. But before I got started, I called my mom to wish her a Happy 58th Birthday. She emphasized that she didn’t have anything planned but watching sports. Soon as I hung up, my aunt Regina called, looking for Reyonna.

I informed her that Reyonna was over a friend’s house and that she could reach her there if she wanted. She said “alright.” That was it. Just one word. And from that one word, I could hear that her voice was shaky. I come from a family where we all act tough, like hard asses. Never exposing our mushiness, softness, or vulnerable side. In laymen’s terms, I’ve never seen my aunt cry. Not at her dad’s funeral nor when her son Jamaal’s fathered was killed. So, needless to say, I can detect a shaky voice, especially when coming from her.

I called right back and didn’t get an answer. I was in panic mode for a nanosecond because I knew what I heard and was determined to get to the bottom of it STAT. When I went to press redial, my grandmother called. I knew something was up.

She asked was Reyonna home, too. At this point I’m like why are y’all looking for ReRe. She said “Jessica’s house is on fire…and they found a body.” Surprisingly, I did not panic because I was 100% certain that it wasn’t Jessica. Not because I had any proof of such, but simply because I was in denial.

“OK. So where is Jessica?” I asked my grandmother.

Even though it was her house and I was just told that a body was found, I asked my grandmother where Jessica was. Straight up denial. Then my aunt called me back and said “I think Jessica might be dead.” She was full-blown crying. I told her I was on my way and got there in record time.

My whole body trembled as I walked around the corner from my grandmother’s house to Jessica’s. There were already a bunch of folks on the scene, including the police and firemen. You could hear howls and screams of heartache and pain as we all waited in anticipation for someone to disclose who the hell’s body was in that house. Because we all knew it wasn’t Jessica. We all hoped it wasn’t Jessica. We all prayed to all the deities known to man that it wasn’t my little cousin, though a grown woman, Jessica LaTrease Jones.

September 29, 2014 ~The Morgue

Seeing her face on the screen made it really real. Reyonna, then me, then my cousin Dee Dee, then my Aunt Regina…one by one, broke down. The office worker briefly prepared us for what we were about to see. He said one side of her face was badly burned but not that bad. Then he flicked on the monitor. “Is that her?” He asked Regina. She nodded and softly said yes, closed her eyes, and lowered her head.

After several minutes, we gained some composure. We were all able to look at our Jessica, though 20 times darker than her normal complexion and with charred flesh to the right side of her face, and find a little resolve.

“Her lashes are still on. We know how she loved her lashes.” Reyonna broke the thick tension of sadness.

We all chuckled and agreed.

“You’re still beautiful, girl.” Reyonna said before slightly breaking down again.

Pain is information trying to tell you something. ~Susan Taylor

With all healing, we must nurture the root of the pain. The loss of my cousin is devastatingly painful, for a few reasons.

**I empathize for her son, DJ, who has to grow up without his mother.

**In addition, I feel sad for the pain my daughter, Reyonna, is experiencing, as well as those who were truly close to her. Friendship is a treasure, and I can only imagine the emptiness Jessica friends feel.

**Her vibrant presence is gone. There’s no question that when Jessica walked up in the place, any place, you felt it. She was tall, lean, physically fit, beautiful, loud, personable, and loving. Who wouldn’t miss someone like this?

How I’m coping with the pain…

1. The number one thing that is helping me deal with this loss is knowing that she no longer has to struggle, while dealing with the ills of this world. She no longer has to tire endlessly looking for a job nor deal with personal issues. She’s at peace.

2. Knowing that she lived life to its fullest. She unashamedly and unapologetically did what she wanted. I respected her for that.

3. DJ’s father and paternal grandmother are the best anyone can have. So, he will be more than okay.

I know my posts usually aren’t this long and you’re probably feeling like you’re reading a dissertation, but it’s for a good reason. Plus…I’m almost done. :)

To Jessika (she informally changed the “C” to a “K” when she was in high school),
Thanks for blessing me with your no nonsense but caring demeanor and, not to mention, your hella fashion sense. From here on out, I will rock cheetah print in your honor and hold you 4ever in my heart.

To her friends and family, be a beacon of light. Give love and live life without regrets…the Jai way.

With much love,

Phette (fee~ETT)

jaicheetah

How I found my passion & how you can, too! — @phetteogburn

Heyyyy…and, did y’all enjoy the weekend? Mine was spent having a sleepover for my almost 8 year old (her birthday’s tomorrow, 9/15). They had tons of fun and actually didn’t stress me out as much as I thought they would.

As I was cleaning up the mess my daughter made hiding in my closet as the others seeked (yes I said it) her, I found on the floor 2 pieces of paper where I wrote down the results to a personality test. I’ve taken a gazillion of these tests over the years, but this was the first one that registered. This was 2 years ago.

According to the test, I am an:  INFP – Introvert, Intuitive, Feeler, Perceiver.

Introvert = I like to spend time alone, and I listen more than I talk.

Intuitive = I get bored quickly and I like new ideas and concepts.

Feeler = I naturally like to please others, show appreciation easily and desire to be appreciated.

Perceiver = I’m happiest keeping my options open and I have a “play now” work ethic.

The 2 things that stand out in this assessment are:

  1. I would most thrive teaching and counseling and helping others to grow  & develop their human potential.
  2. I would enjoy the process of understanding others as I come to understand myself.

EUREKA!!!!! #2 Is exactly what my Address NOT Suppress Healing Series is about. I did not know, however, that I was walking in this process until I found those 2 pieces of paper and it was confirmation that I’d, in fact, been listening.

So, what is your purpose? Do you know what you are here to do?

I watched a Ted Talk by Adam Leipzig called How to know your life purpose in 5 minutes. This sealed the deal for me. I followed what he said and came up with my purpose. After watching my vid, please check out his, if you or someone you know needs help finding what it is they’re meant to do.

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My many personalities…ALL are authentically ME! @phetteogburn

Hiiiii!!!!

I hope everyone is enjoying this Labor Day. I’m off work today, but I’ve been working on my new home: unpacking, putting up pictures and finally got around to getting my blinds put up. It’s finally feeling like home and starting to look lived in. :-D

This week’s vid is is about my many personalities and how everyone has them… NOT just Geminis –who get a bad rep. We are all multi-faceted and not one dimensional. Having different personalities makes for more fun anyways. :-D

I made this video because I was told that I look mean, unapproachable…aloof, which is to the contrary. I am a serious person by nature and am always, always, always thinking, in deep thought, thinking of a master plan. Those things warrant a serious face, ya know? But moving on, just wanted to share that there are other sides to me, fun sides. And if you see me in these streets, don’t be afraid to speak. Promise I’ll speak back.

Here is a link to the YouTube Channel of the weekly dance/fitness/hustle class I attend: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_bu4R34xYN-jKUwIKMipuw/videos

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What is your pain trying to tell you? @phetteogburn

Hi y’all. I’m back.

The reason for my one week delay is because my laptop is semi-functional and causing me some grief…

laptopFor a couple of days, it wouldn’t allow me to log in. Now that I’m able to log in, I have to be crafty and minimize the programs I’m working in just right AND to the right in order to accomplish anything. :-(  Guess it’s better than not having a computer at all, right?

OK, now about this quick video, I attended a Girls Empowerment Workshop back in 2003, where former Editor-In-Chief of Essence magazine –Susan Taylor, was the keynote. She said a quote that has stuck with me since then: Pain is information trying to tell you something. Whenever you feel anger, sadness, bitterness, etc., whatever adjective you associate with pain, pay attention because that’s information alerting you that something’s amiss.

Let me know what you think. Remember, ADDRESS NOT SUPPRESS. In order to heal, you gotta keep it real. –fee~ETT

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Reflection ~One Year Later: 5 Things I Learned After the Divorce @phetteogburn

Happy Monday!!!!

Let me say off the rip, please excuse the quality of this video. I recorded it late last night with no natural light (which works best for my webcam).

This is not a comprehensive list, but just a few things I’ve learned since my divorce a year and a half ago.

1. Pace NOT Haste
2. Say THANKS but NO THANKS to unsolicited advice
3. All situations are not created equal
4. STFU = SHUT THE F@CK UP
5. My ex-husband is NOT the enemy, some of my so-called friends were

This vid is a part of my Address NOT Suppress Series. Be sure to ck out the other vids here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLrtlqyiDLW7jYABXF74TfnWtmJQsHjO96

Let me know what you think. Remember, ADDRESS NOT SUPPRESS. In order to heal, you gotta keep it real. –fee~ETT

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Author Imprints|Superstar Authors I Dig @sylviahubbard1 @kaiology @JPSimmons @Rayven_Skyy @pcbrown09 @TC_Mattison @SoulofaWriter

Happy Sunday!!! I hope you’re enjoying your weekend.

This video is dedicated to those authors who’ve left an imprint/impact on me. I began my author journey in 2010 and published my first book in August 2011. These are some of the authors who have offered words of advice in regards to publishing, editing, writing, etc., or who have not only supported my works, but have treated me like the person I am and not as “competition.”

So here goes….

* My author mentors – Sylvia Hubbard, Kai Mann, TC Mattison, Rayven Skyy

* Author imprints: Phoenix Brown, Jade Jones, Julia Press Simmons, Fabiola Joseph, Monique Mensah, Jumata Emil Jones

Check out the reviews I’ve written and links to the authors’ works:

REVIEW: STRAWBERRY MANSION BY JULIA PRESS SIMMONS ~ http://phetteogburn.com/2012/12/18/book-review-of-strawberry-mansion-by-julia-press-simmons-jpsimmons/

REVIEW: NEVER DEAD BY JUMATA EMILL JONES ~ http://phetteogburn.com/2012/08/23/my-book-review-of-never-dead-by-jumata-emill-jones-jumataemill/

REVIEW: DAMAGED GOODS BY PHOENIX BROWN ~ http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/495292972 –Damaged Goods review for Phoenix

REVIEW: TANGLED BY PHOENIX BROWN ~ http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/436998002 –Tangled

REVIEW: NO GOOD SPOUSES BY JADE JONES ~ http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/446831393 –No Good Spouses

REVIEW: RUMBLE IN VA BY RAYVEN SKYY ~ http://www.amazon.com/review/R3OMD821BBBOFR/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm –Rumble

MENTOR PAGES
KAI MANN ~ http://kai-mann.com/

SYLVIA HUBBARD ~ http://sylviahubbard.com/ –The Literary Diva and Cliffhanger Queen

T.C. MATTISON ~ https://www.facebook.com/pages/TC-Mattison/131831333496152 –T.C. Mattison

RAYVEN SKYY ~ https://www.facebook.com/skyyrayven

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**Don’t stop until you get there. –fee~ETT**

Are your words helping or hurting?|Watch your mouth!!! @phetteogburn #VerbalAbuse #TongueLashing

Hi!!!!

This episode is about watching the words that come out of your mouth. Are you mindful of what you say? Are your words healing or hurting people?

For many years, I was known for having a sharp tongue, cussing folks out and cutting them with my words. I often did this when I felt attacked, betrayed, used, or just downright slighted. And to think, once upon a time, I prided myself in being verbally abusive, thinking that doing so was much better than physically attacking someone.

WRONG

What people have said to me has had a greater impact than any fist fight I’ve been in.

Check out my vid to see what a former co-worker said to me over 10 years ago that lingered and stuck with me up until very recently. Choose your words carefully.

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**Don’t stop until you get there. –fee~ETT**