Views From Here: running, health and the world around me

November 24, 2014
by Shalama Jackson
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Mary J. Blige – The London Sessions (Album Review)


Queen of Hip-Hop Soul and nine time Grammy Award winning artist Mary J. Blige is back with a new album. The soulful singer, who is known for pouring her heart, soul and vulnerability out through her music is providing her fans with new music and some new sounds. I was provided her new album, The London Sessions, to review before it drops on December 2 as a member of One2One Network.

Mary’s music has spoken to me on a personal level and I have been a fan since her album, “What’s the 411?”.  She’s so raw and shares her story through her music whether you are ready or not. This album does it again. But that’s just one thing that draws you in.

The song “Doubt” was one of my immediate favorites. It speaks to being strong and victorious, which we can all use at some point in our lives. My favorite lyrics/lines in the song, “You think you know. But you don’t know the half. You think you beat me down. But I’ll have the last laugh.”

I believe that MJB reflects struggles and accomplishments through her songs and that is why so many people can relate! When she sings happy songs you feel happy and when she sings songs that can make you cry, you do. With this album, you can add dance songs to the list. The beat gets you moving and stays with you long after the song has ended.

Mary recorded the album in three weeks in London with some of London’s best talent, including Sam Smith, Disclosure and Emile Sandé. Most people know Mary J. Blige for her more sad and heartbroken tracks. This album is not that exactly. They are fun, therapeutic and yet soulful.

While I like this album, it took a couple of listens for me to get into The London Sessions. I didn’t skip any songs. I just let them play and listened to the beat, then the lyrics and then them together. However, for a couple songs, all I needed was one play because they resonated  instantaneously.

The song playing on the radio, “Whole Damn Year”, is one of those and one of the reasons I wanted to get a first listen to the album before it was released.


“Right Now” and “Nobody But You” are two that had me grooving to the beat between sets at the gym last night. The lyrics are strong and thought provoking. And the beat was what I needed to keep going.

And then there is “When You’re Gone.” I am still dealing with the loss of a good friend and this hits on it. Being away from anything or anyone you care about gives you clarity and reminds you why they are important in your life.

The London Sessions has been on repeat since this weekend. You can get your own when it’s released on December 2. It’s available for pre-order on iTunes and Amazon. You can also tune into Mary’s YouTube channel to have a listen to some of the songs and watch a couple videos from the album.

What’s your favorite Mary J. Blige song or album?

November 21, 2014
by Shalama Jackson
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It still doesn’t seem real

kendra cusaacI am typically a very strong person. I pride myself in being able to handle lots of things by myself. But this week has been one of the hardest times in my life.

Earlier this week, I found out that one of the closest people in my life died.

She was a very private person and it almost kills me to write about her because she would prefer me not to. But not writing about the way she impacted my life also seems wrong.

It just doesn’t seem like this week has been real. I’ve been walking around in a fog hoping that I would wake from this nightmare. But still as of this morning, that has not been the case. On Sunday,when I went to the women’s USC basketball game it was odd not seeing Cusaac just a few rows down below. I knew something was off, but not sure what because I hadn’t heard from her in a few days. Then again last night when I was there, it almost tore my heart out. I knew she wouldn’t be there but I kept looking as if she would walk in any second.

You see, Cusaac basically saved my life. Several years ago my father was killed when he was hit by a car crossing the street. Life as I knew it changed. A lot of people that I thought would be there to support me somehow disappeared except for one – Cusaac. She is the one person that stood by my side without hesitation. The months and years since have been hard, but whenever I have needed her she has been there.

It’s been several days and the tears are still flowing. I’ve worked behind a closed door because spontaneously I feel my eyes fill up with tears and I can’t stop them. I  know we are all human, but I never thought in a million years that I would not hear her voice outside my head or see her at some USC event. There’s one thing to not have someone as your professor or stop being their client, but it seems inconceivable that she is no longer here with us.

She has made a huge difference in ways that I can’t express to anyone. I know she has made a difference for a lot of others too by reading a few of the social media posts about her. I’m grateful for the time that we did have and how she allowed me into her personal life. We were working on a few things for 2015. I plan on following through with them because not doing it would go against everything we talked about.  One of my goals is to put into action things that I know she would have steered me towards.

I’ll remember her laugh. And I will remember the faces she would make or how she would raise her eyebrow depending on what I would tell her.

As I work towards keeping those memories alive, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I am deeply saddened and my heart remains heavy.

November 18, 2014
by Shalama Jackson
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Peanut Butter Lovers Unite

peanut butter cookiesFirst thing first. Creamy or crunchy? Which way do you like your peanut butter?

Personally, I am all about creamy peanut butter. Creamy peanut butter with some grape jelly makes for the best PB&J sandwich.

But now that we’ve gotten that settled, did you know there is such a thing as Peanut Butter Lovers Month? Well, there is and it’s time to celebrate. I just found out that peanut butter lovers were suppose to celebrate the entire month of November.

According to the National Peanut Board, about 94% of American homes have at least one jar of peanut butter in the pantry, and chances are you grew up eating the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Besides my traditional PB&J sandwiches, I also love peanut butter cookies, Nutter Butter cookies, Nutter Butter milk shake from Smashburger. The milkshake is so delicious! Yes, I like the sweeter things in life.

Do you like creamy or crunchy peanut butter?