Thursday, 28 August 2014

Upper or Downer: Which Are You?


Before being accused let me raise my hand and enter my guilty plea.

"Let he that has no guilt cast the first stone," it is said, therefore I cannot and will not.

That, however, does not prevent me from stating that negativity is the poison ivy of any relationship.

My desire in life has been for some time now is to be an "uplifter." However, I quickly learned that my chosen  "job" would of necessity have to start in me. One of my favourite analogies is that of being on an aircraft and the steward or stewardess directs you to put on your oxygen mask first before assisting the child on your lap, for example. Why? You can be of no help to that child if you cannot breathe. Simple.

Another hackneyed phrase that I like is "Physician heal thyself."

After living most of my life in negative, even toxic environments well into my 30's, it became clear to me through the teaching of my former church home, The Universal Centre of Truth for Better Living, that if the rest of my life was to be the best of my life - then the change, peace must begin in me.

Claudette Estetine
Change is a gradual process and it would take me 10+ years and two suicide attempts after hearing this "truth" for the first time to start making a concerted effort.

Actually, the correct word would be that I became "intentional" about 'Positivity'. I am still walking the line, often stepping over into the 'dark side." Even today my daughter scolded me as we lunched together. I commented on my upcoming death and she rebuked me that I am always, according to her, predicting my early demise.

The difference now is I have an internal kicking mechanism that automatically delivers a swift one as soon as negativity crosses my mind. I am knocked out when it passes my lips. 

Some people think I am either cold or stupid when they begin to tell me their tales of woe, litany of health "problems," and attempt to gossip. Again, I fall into the trap sometimes and most often with my daughter - especially on the gossip. I would rather call it a mother's warning to her much loved child to be mindful of her interactions. She told me today, "I am not discussing her with you!" This was after I laughingly remarked how much weight one of her friends had gained. Honestly, I did not immediately recognize it as gossip but as soon as she said it the "kick was delivered.

I intentionally do not engage with others when they want to list problems, woe, bad luck and the gamut of negativity that we so love to share. Like attracts like and I want none of it. I am grateful to my daughter for stopping me in my tracks today. Negativity is like that glue trap that we set for mice. Once on, it is hard to get loose.
“People tend to be generous when sharing their nonsense, fear, and ignorance. And while they seem quite eager to feed you their negativity, please remember that sometimes the diet we need to be on is a spiritual and emotional one. Be cautious with what you feed your mind and soul. Fuel yourself with positivity and let that fuel propel you into positive action.” ― Steve MaraboliUnapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
My cousin who lives in Australia and who I am yet to meet face to face is my best gal pal. We are thicker than peas in a pod. She and I can chat for hours on Facebook Messenger then transfer to the telephone without skipping a beat and go on for a couple more hours. We share the most delicate details of our lives. She knows things about me that people who see me every day would never imagine that I am capable of doing or being. The same is true of her - I have knowledge about her that maybe another human should not have! Our connection is simply amazing. As we converse via whichever medium, once one of us veers off track into negativity zone, the other grabs her arm and pulls her back onto the dividing line at least.

What I love about my relationship with Beth is whenever I truly need to bitch and/or bawl - in one of the most beautiful Ozzie accents you have ever heard, she brings me back to centre. I remember a few months ago, on the verge of giving up and unable to tell even my other Sistahs of DOS or others who would swear they know me, it was Beth who held my hand; fearlessly but gently spoke truth to me in words that I needed to hear. She was my uplifter.
“Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being.” ― Albert Schweitzer
I like to think that I do the same for my cousin, as well as for others. After all, it is the mission for the rest of my life. Sometimes, I fall short - we all do. Yet, after every fall, I rise stronger and more focussed on the lesson and a more grace-filled way of moving forward.

Are you an upper or downer? Do you know when to stop talking and simply be there for another? Have you learnt the art of being an uplifter without merely parroting platitudes? Share with us here or on our Facebook page.

Have a great rest of the week!


Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Four Reasons To Create Just Because Memories

There was a time in my life when if asked by someone that I am intimate with and supposedly in love, why I loved them, my response was “Just because.”

My intention was not to be cute or evasive. I simply could not say why my heart would skip a beat when they entered a room, heard their voice on the other end of the line after a stressful day at work or to sniff their ear (yes, I have a way of doing that – still do) and soak in their scent.

Yesterday’s post has set the pace with my quoting of lyrics. Writing on this “Just Because” Day, I cannot avoid quoting another song lyric – Just Because by one of my favourite songstresses Anita Baker:

When I think about how much I'm loving you

No limitations, no set of regimented rules

I'm amazed how much this love has touched my life

And the commitment that we share is a welcome sacrifice

This must be, sweet fatal attraction
My life-long date with destiny
Love this strong, it just brings out the passion
I never knew was here in me

I love you just because
I love you just because
Just because I do, my darlin'

Emotions more than words can help me say
I love you, baby, just because you're you
Just because you're you

You're a diamond in my mind. a treasure found
A precious gem to me. you're so nice to have around
I'm so glad I took the path that led to this
And it's amazin' loving you, I'm doin' things
I never thought I'd do

I don't know, there ain't no explanation
Of why I'm sharin' love at last this way
I won't try to work out all my reasons
I'II use these words to simply say

I love you just because
I love you just because
Just because I do, my darlin'
Emotions more than words can help me say
I love you, baby, just because you're you

Today’s post is not about romance but what better way to expound on this issue of being and doing who and what you are, loving who you want – Just Because?

Basically I am a risk taker. I will do just about anything at least once Just Because:
  1. I have never done it
  2. It seems interesting
  3. I am curious to experience it
  4. I never want to regret not doing what was calling me

Since I am never running for political office, and even if I was it matters not to me to state this, I tried pot – once in my life. Never did it again as it took my control away. I was laughing like a hyena and that is not my preferred profile. This was over 30 years ago and I have never even puffed the stuff again.

Relationships with people who would not normally cross my path, dishes that I have no idea what the ingredients are, communities described as ghettoes, online dating and, like tonight, going to a Meetup for Karaoke and wings with a group of people who I might never see again, these and many other situations I have done or been in – Just Because.

Now my belief is firmly rooted in doing what makes my heart sing! Love this quote by H. Jackson Brown, Jr:
People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they're not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost.H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

What road are you taking, just because?

Share your road map with us here or on our Facebook page and have a great journey today!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Equal Pay For Women: What's Taking So Long?

The late Honourable Michael Manley 
My political life began at a very tender age. I grew up in a Jamaica that was very ripe with equality and justice for all. Democratic Socialism was the order of the day and the leader of the country, The Right Honourable Michael Manley, was my god.

One of my favourite songs was and remains, “The Message” My then tiny waist would gyrate when the words “equal pay for women" rang out but I had no real clue what that truly meant.

"My father born ya
My father born ya
My grandmother born ya

My grandmother born ya

I and I born ya

I and I born ya

My leader born ya
My leader born ya

That's why I nah leave ya

No I nah leave ya

He gave I a message
Who are those people
Who no love progress
Who no love progress

Equal pay for women

Equal pay for women

Juck them with the minimum wage
Juck them with the minimum wage
My leader born ya
My leader born ya.

I left the shores of Jamaica thrice now in my life but that song still transports me to a time in our history when the idea of equality for women rang true. Moreover, the then wife of Comrade Leader (as he was called by Members of the party) looked just like me – black Jamaican with an afro, and dare I say beautiful.

A more recent Beverley Anderson-Duncan
She was my mirror for many years, reflecting to me what I could become – an educated, professional woman, mother and leader, earning an income to take care of my family. So, I thought.

Seven years in University, I returned to a country and a world that paid me 30% less than the fellows I went to school with and graduated with higher grades than. The sad part is that this story was being lived out across the world – not just in the “Third World” economies of the world.

Fast forward 20+ years and not much has changed:
“While there appears to be widespread consensus that closing the global gender pay gap is essential, as demonstrated with ILO equality Conventions 100 and 111 among the most widely ratified, pay equity continues to arguably be one of the most violated labour and human rights standards.” Mary Cornish, Closing the Gender Pay Gap: SecuringJustice for Women’s Work 

We are told that women lose out due to:
  • Discrimination in hiring practices and salary negotiations
  • Education choices
  • Differences in the types of positions held by men and women and the salaries paid in the fields typically chosen by men as opposed to women (especially highly paid high risk jobs)
  • Breaks in employment (usually to have children and raise them)
This blog is not on a mission to save the world. However, it is hard on Women's Equal Pay Day (August 26) to ignore that it is high time that this gross inequality ends. Check out this report entitled “Frozen In Time,” that was published last year and provides great insight to the status of women around the world on this survival issue. 

Claudette Esterine
I am one of the many hundreds of thousands of women who have spent many years earning a degree or two, raised children, maintained a household while working full time. As a community, we must continue to take a stand, speak truth to power and get what is rightfully ours – equal pay for equal work.

“Today there are people trying to take away rights that our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers fought for: our right to vote, our right to choose, affordable quality education, equal pay, access to health care. We the people can't let that happen.” Kerry Washington

Share your story with us here or on our Facebook page and let your voices be heard. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Truth or Crap: Pride Goeth Before A Fall?

Claudette Esterine
"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." Proverb 16:18 is phrase I had thrown at me for many years growing up. I believe the intention was to cut me down to size.

Recently, my daughter and I had a hearty laugh remembering a few incidents that had my mother spitting bullets. One of them was my method of “cutting and folding” cake batter as I was taught in Home Economics class.

It was approaching Christmas and this was my first time making Christmas cake for our household. Feeling very confident in my ability, after all I was getting good grades in Cookie B’s class at my high school, I proceeded to “rub the butta with the suga,” until it was light and fluffy. To capture the air and ensure that the cake rose nicely, I diligently followed the cut and folding technique taught to us in class. My mother came into the kitchen and saw me painstakingly capturing air and asked me what the heck I was doing. My explanation did not cut water with her and she ordered me to “rub the cake!”

My teenager argumentative nature took over and I proceeded to give her a lesson in the art of proper cake making. She was not impressed. The expletives that followed the clout over the back of my head knocked any further argument out of me.

“Pride goeth before a fall! Yuh tink yuh betta dan mi, gal?” [Translation: Do you think you are better than I am, girl?)

That biblical verse would often be repeated in my house until I moved out. Its echo followed me for many years.

False humility became ingrained and I would do everything to not behave as if “mi betta dan” anyone. How many young people have been stopped in their tracks by those words or ones similar to them? Many I am sure, giving in to pressure to fit in, hide their light, pretend to be ignorant or failed to celebrate their achievement so as not to behave “betta dan” others?
“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. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. 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. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ― Marianne WilliamsonA Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles"
Another woman would ask me a similar question many decades later. My aspiration to write and communicate with a wider group evoked her wrath. “Who are you to be writing that?” By this time, I was beginning to open up to Life and learning Whose I am. Nervously, as she was the mother of my then partner, I responded, “I am Me,” and continued writing.

My own interpretation of the much lauded biblical passage is an egotistical, cocky and boastful attitude. That is not the same as being proud of one’s achievements.  One person wrote this about that kind of pride that this Proverb relates to  – an analysis with which I wholeheartedly agree:

“…The next step after being all puffed up with arrogance could be falling flat on your face….'Pride comes before a fall' means that one becomes over confident and stops thinking sensibly when success goes to one's head and which is a sure indication of the fact that that person is bound to suffer or face disappointment because of the wrong decisions that he or she might make. In other words too much arrogance and self pride are sure to bring bad and disappointing results. “ (Source:

There is another interpretation that one could make about this expression: "Pride goeth, before the fall." It is one that is more in keeping with my own thoughts on the matter and how I have tried to live my life. Without flaunting my accomplishment – big or small – in anyone’s face, I allow them to spur me on, to challenge me to be and do more.  Instead of regarding “pride” as something to be ashamed of, I take “pride” in my abilities and use it as fodder for pushing myself even more. “The moment you lose pride in "whatever", it shows that you are on the way down…” a falling from grace, we might say?

Once you lose a sense of worth, in yourself and in your abilities, then a fall will follow.  Jane Austen wrote: 
“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”  Pride and Prejudice
Are you vain or are you proud of your journey and the possibilities ahead of you? Share with us here, or on our Facebook page and have a beautiful rest of the evening. 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Making A Difference: One Life At A Time

Ralph Waldo Emerson said,"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful,to be honourable, to be compassionate to make some difference that you have lived and lived well"

Guest Author - Clara Brown
For about five years, I was a very active member of the Kiwanis.  I volunteered on various committees, chaired a couple of Boards within my club and took numerous outings in support of club initiatives and projects.  

Nothing else compares to the feeling of fulfillment I got every third of each month. We would visit the club's adopted Golden Aged Home to care for the residents and spend quality time with them.  The interaction with them was indescribable.  The value immeasurable.  Their faces glowed when we shampooed and groomed their hair; their grateful but feeble hands shook ours after they were fed and the emotional expressions of gratitude upon receiving goodies baskets - these were our rewards for making a difference, one life at a time.
"It's the action , not the fruit of the action that's important.  You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean you stop doing the right  thing.  You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result." Mahatma Gandhi
Image: ameharome.wordpress. com
There is a young university student from my Home Town who one day visited me at my office. This 6-foot, well poised young man knocked slightly on my door and inquired whether I would like to purchase chocolates. My friends know that I am intolerant of chocolate but I decided to patronize this young man as he was so polite and without pressure approached me. My intention went beyond that, as my plan was to pass on the sweet delights to the chocolate lovers in the office and there are quite a few.  My purchase surprised the young man who found it difficult to hide his emotions.

After completing my purchase, the young man asked whether I had a minute to spare.  His eager eyes told a story. He wanted advice.  Basically, I found out that he was selling chocolate to raise money to complete his college education. His mother (a single parent) had suddenly fallen on extremely hard times. She was working so hard that she had a mental breakdown and could no longer work. The choice for Adam (not his real name) was to either quit college or find some other means to raise his tuition. Quitting would have had a more devastating effect on not only him but his mother, so he stayed in college.

I became one of his regular customers as well as a fierce cheerleader.  Adam, through the patronage from others within my office, the adjoining offices and me was able to purchase a motor cycle (at a discounted price, virtually a gift). Through our influence, as an insurance agency, he was able to insure his motor cycle again at a very discounted rate. Needless to say, at the end of each semester, Adam takes his "Report Card" to us to keep us up to date on his progress.  He promised all of us that he will never let us down.

Making a difference, one life at a time.

Mentoring is one of my passions. Witnessing the achievements of those I mentor gives me unspeakable joy.  Frequently I have asked others whether if they feel that they could make a difference in the world.  More often than not the response is "No."  Well, guess what? They are wrong.

Image: powerofadvocacy
Not only can each of us make a difference but our influence could have a far greater impact on a greater number of people than we could ever imagine. Stop and think about your potential circle of influence: your employees, co-workers, bosses, vendors, customers, family, friends. Lots and lots of people. You may have already influenced dozens more without even realizing it.

The Universe supports all our efforts geared towards the advancement of humanity. As Martin Luther King said: "No work is insignificant.  All labour that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken painstaking excellence."

So RISE and RESOLVE to "Make a difference, one life at a time"

Visit our Facebook page or leave a comment here, share some ideas how we, as ordinary citizens of the world, might make a difference.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Scattered Pictures Of Our Lives

Image: uncountablereflections
Today was full of it.

Travelling to work this morning, much earlier than my usual hour for a Wednesday, it struck me.

Twelve years ago when we moved to Edmonton, Alberta, we lived in the neighborhood I had returned to set up house the night before.

What was more...startling let us say, were the memories that surfaced. Our first apartment, our yappy dog that we had snuck in, the fire alarm that would go off ever so frequently in the building at which said dog would bark, giving away his presence, our first Christmas in Canada and me hurriedly baking Jamaican Christmas cakes to help my teenaged daughter feel less isolated.

A tear kissed my cheek as I bowed deeply in my heart to my ex who would trudge home a couple miles through the snow after closing the branch of KFC where she was a cook.

Driving by my daughter's former high school here in Edmonton, I could not help but laugh remembering her passing out on the basketball court. She is almost six feet tall but basketball player we all knew she was not! Trying desperately to fit in, however, she succumbed to the coach's "You are so tall" speech. That was the shortest basketball career in history.  Our laughter echoed from years gone by in my ear as I drove by Ross Sheppard High School.

"Memories, light the corners of our mind..."

My mind drifted forward, to a late summer evening in 2006 in a cottage community just outside Edmonton. It was easily one of the most beautiful homes I have ever had the honour of visiting.  We were house sitting for friends and had taken along another friend of mine as well. Our absentee hostesses had a great album collection and as my ex made breakfast, I was the dee jay.

Our friend snapped a picture of my ex and I slow dancing in the kitchen to one of our favourite songs. The love between us was dying. The song transported us both to happier and more promising times.

Several months later, as I sat by a fire engine red stove burning photographs of our 16 years together, that picture was the last to be thrown in.

Yet, here I was in 2014 feeling every pain, pleasure and promise of then , now and to come.

"Memories...may beautiful and yet...what's to painful to remember, we simply choose to forget..." 

Back to where it all began, our lives in Canada, what I now choose to remember, to cherish is every single minute that we grew. With these lessons, I am living as fully as I can in the now - on the strength of what has gone but graced us all.

What about you? Close your eyes right now for five minutes and allow your mind to bring forward a precious memory. What would that be? Share it with us here or on our Facebook page and have a good rest of the week.

"So it's the laughter
We will remember
Whenever we remember...
The way we were...
The way we were..." (The Way We Were by Barbara Streisand)

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Deadly D Word: Divorce Part II

Claudette Esterine
For some it is a more dreaded word than “Death.” Actually, I remember going to the pool with my young daughter and would hear parents scold their children for using another “D” word – drown.

“Divorce” holds the same deadly connotation for many and you my dears know that I am not one of them. Been there, done that – a couple times, okay a few times, and have no intention of going down that “D” road again!

My first kick at the bucket was the most painful. When my first husband and I divorced, the events leading up to it were devastating – on both sides I guess but in the moment it felt as if I was the “victim.” Truth be told, I was the Victor as the course of my life soon after that took me along the long and yes, winding road called Personal Freedom.

The second time that my signature was affixed to an application for a Decree Nisi it was a blur – just like the marriage. That is a story that I am not ready to get into at this point, however, rest assured it will be told.

My last wedding day
Now on the third marriage, I really do not give two or three hoots whether we get divorced or not. Frankly, it suits me not to file for a divorce as it legally prevents me from doing something that I know I will regret (and I have none) – that would be to get married again.

Please, do not get me wrong. Marriage is a wonderful “institution” for those who like that kind of living.

I remember when we migrated to Canada in 2002 and specifically to Alberta which was one of the last holdouts on “same-sex marriage,” few within our immediate circle could understood why I was not hopping on that particular bandwagon. Obviously it was not due to my abhorrence for gay marriage or any thought on my part that the institution of marriage is for man and woman. Absolutely not.

Having been twice married prior to coming to Canada and being in a 11+ year relationship at that time with the love of my life, the beauty of sharing one’s life with another person was something I cherished. Not enough though to think that marriage was the only or the best way to prove it.

I raise a glass to those of you who have been married for years and the love is still going strong. You are invited again to share your story with us and offer any suggestions you may have to keep the fire burning in marriages and long term relationships. I have always admitted that I am not the best person to offer such advice as my journey has not been one that equipped me, to now, with any such wisdom.

What I do know is that:
  1. Marriage is not something to enter for any reason other than deep respect and desire to share not just your beauty, possession, charm, etc but your darkness and your wounds.
  2. One ought not to remain in a spirit-killing relationship for “the children’s sake,” as you are not teaching them about living a joyous, peaceful and purposeful life.
  3. If you have to insist on your fiancé or fiancée signing a prenuptial agreement, you might be better off marrying your money.
Many use divorce as an excuse, as they do not want to really try to make the relationship work. In other cases, it is an option that was on the table from day one, an exit strategy. Some see it as an escape – from a life they had not visualized or a nightmare.
“Divorce isn't such a tragedy. A tragedy's staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce.” ― Jennifer WeinerFly Away Home
Looking back, none of my marriages was for the only reason that I would marry again – that I have met The One who has shown (not said) that they are willing, ready and capable of accepting my deep desire to share all of me – the good, the bad and the in between – with and in love.

Are you married? How is it going? Is divorce on the cards or do you keep shuffling it out of sight? You can talk with me privately if you wish by messaging me here; otherwise leave a comment and/or visit our Facebook page to see our posts on various topics of interests.


Monday, 18 August 2014

Serendipity: Such A Lovely Word

Serendipity…such a lovely word. They even made a movie of that name, one that I really ought to watch if only to see whether they have done justice to the word.

The first time I encountered the word, I did a “seren…what?”

Serendipitous I believe was how it was used, the adjective: “Occurring or discovered by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”

Actually, a man that was sojourning with me recently said as we pulled out of a parking lot something about a “positive serendipity.” He quickly corrected himself, realizing that his statement was inaccurate. “That’s wrong,” he said, “There is only serendipity which is a positive thing. Serendipity cannot be negative!” He seemed almost angry for despoiling such a beautiful word.

There is a perfume that I love to use, not because it smells better than any other perfume ever made. I love it because of how I feel when I am wearing it. Anais Anais is the name of my favourite perfume, just in case you wanted to know. That perfume wears me. It does things to me. It makes me sashay and glide. I feel sexy, ultra sexy when I spray it behind my ears, on my wrists, over my body. My world somehow feels in order.

When the word “serendipity,” rolls off my lips that is exactly how I feel – everything is order.

Like so many of you, I have fought against life and the circumstances that it has brought me. As far back as I can recall, life felt as if it was a constant struggle, a war that I would never win. Battles here and there I won but the real big fight, the war seemed doomed from the start.

How could a girl like me win a handsome, rich man? When would my boat come in with my white picket fence life? Never it felt.

A few years after graduating from University, my degree felt like a worthless piece of paper as all the doors closed to the career that was supposedly on the horizon. Being a single mother and smack dab in the middle of the parent-young child sandwich, I was not sure what to do. Without even knowing what was happening, Serendipity stepped in. She never left me for long after that.
“There's always going to be the circumstances you can't plan for. There's always the unexpected relevance and the serendipity.” Jason Silva
It was never in my plan to get into communications. Politics was my love – was since I was old enough to climb onto a soap box and share my opinions. Circumstances had it that I would meet someone who hated politicians and especially the political party that was very much part of my journey up until my 35th year. 

People and their concerns were always at the core of my being and so although elected politician I never became, they were never far from me for over 10+ years of my professional life.

Serendipity it was then as I launched into a fairly successful life as a public relations executive in government and the political sphere. She turned up again when circumstance took me to Canada and opened the window to fields that I would never have thought of entering – chaplaincy and criminal justice. 

It was at the crossing of those two rivers that my life changed for ever – again.
“I have never chosen my next job. I focus on what's in front of me, and serendipity steps in.” Susan Brooks
Almost twelve years after leaving her shores, there were no reasons to continue ignoring the desperate longing in my heart to return to Jamaica. I was terribly unhappy with my life in my new city of Toronto, a place that I had gone to two years prior to my decision to finally go home. A numbing kind of loneliness had set in, one that taught me to be so comfortable with my own company having been abandoned and dumped by those who promised to be different and to be my family. I knew if I did not escape my self-imposed isolation sooner rather than later, a convent or an asylum would be my next home.

Yet, Serendipity was not finished with me.

My old friend led me home but quickly started whispering to me to be careful of what I wished for. Soon, another set of false promises, lies, and outright “two-faced” attitudes – started to reveal themselves. I was at another crossroads but this time, I knew I was not alone. So after almost five months in “paradise,” in five days I made the call, bought my return ticket and was on a plane back to Edmonton, Alberta.

This time, She came as the face of my grandchild. Still in her mother’s womb, this child called to me to come “home.” My DOS Sistahs know the full version of this story, this segment of my journey. All I will say now is that it was a call that no mother could miss – even though it came via Facebook, by way of a photograph. I remember receiving the message and in an instant knew I was returning to Canada, no longer interested in waiting for the “contract,” to be signed. I left on April 19, 2013 and this might very well have been a life and death decision – for my Kitten.

There are times when it seems as if nothing is going your way but I am here to tell you that more often than not everything is in perfect order. A wise woman once said to me that it get “worsa than worse, before it starts to get better.” For me “worsa” were suicide attempts, bankruptcy, a totally shattered heart, utter betrayal and abandonment.

“Better,” has been the breath of the Divine that breathes in and through me, reminding me constantly and when I will stand still enough, that All Is Well.

Awww…Serendipity, you are Beauty Itself.

Claudette is the Founder of DOS Foundation and the Editor of this blog. You can reach her by leaving a message here or through our Facebook page.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Blooming Amazing!

Clara Brown
A few weeks ago, on one of our locally produced TV shows, there was a discussion with a group of brilliant students who will soon be entering secondary level schools. The host asked each of student to describe their feelings regarding the school at which they were placed. In Jamaica, we have a system that places students based on their grade at the final, Common Entrance, examinations.

The only girl on the panel of five, aged 12, declared excitedly that she was very happy and was looking forward to going to High School even though the school at which she was placed was not her first choice. This young lady said she believes one should always strive to "bloom where they are planted."

Soon after, I saw that my 'Champion Sister' (my nickname for Claudette), posted a similar message as this 12 year old had said that had me 'flabbergasted'. I was surprised, proud of her and her words at such a young age caused me to reflect and introspect.  

Have I always bloomed wherever I am planted? In my blooming, am I hurting others as I allow my blossoms to burst forth?

Seeking external motivation, I frequently listen to the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jnr. They are all favourites but one that resonates with me most is the "Street Sweeper" speech:
"If you cannot be a pine on the top of a hill be a scrub in the valley, but be the best little scrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can't be a tree. If you can't be the sun, be a star. It isn't by size that you win or failBe the best at whatever you are."
Another excerpt that stands out with me is: "My friends, even if it falls your lot to be a Street Sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures: sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.  Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of Heaven and Earth will have to pause and say,"Here lived a great Street Sweeper who swept his job well.".

A lot of my friends  are not very comfortable with their status  right now.  They continuously  are seeking ways to get themselves out of their present situation with such a rush, hoping to make a 'better life'.  What challenges me however, is that they seldom spend enough time to study their lanes and run their best race.

Charlotte Beck said:
" Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment.  This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, , every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious Supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy, or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath-----every moment is a Teacher."
Life also has a way of putting a hold or pause button on our journey.  You can  either sweep your job well or frustrate yourself by cursing where you are and make plans to escape from the situation. Be warned, however, that if fate dictates that you stay in the 'holding' position, the escape plan will be an effort in futility.  It is best that you embrace and till the soil, bringing forth plants which bloom until the change comes along.

To bloom does not always have the same look.  A huge sunflower and a small daisy both bloom - different sizes but both bring so much pleasure and joy. Size does not alter the impact.

Sunflower, daisy or dandelion, bloom where you are planted, accept your present circumstances and make the best of the situation.  Accept that you cannot control everything and make the best of the situations you are presented with. There are many things in life we cannot change but it will be a much more pleasant experience if you keep a positive attitude.

This is my status on BBM and I am in no hurry to change it:

"Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people cannot take their eyes off you."

That, in my view, is blooming exactly where you are planted. Would you agree?

Share your blooming story with us, here or on our Facebook page and have a great rest of the week!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Butt Out In Three Steps

This is something that I have written on before, however, the recent passing of Robin Williams has brought it to the fore again, at least with me.

Why is it that we spend so much of our lives concerned with what others are doing with theirs? Why are we so nosy and incapable of staying focussed on our own affairs?

My view, unasked as usual, is that if each of us would spend more, if not most, of our time concerned with what is going on in our hearts and homes, paying more attention to the issues of both, then there would be less drama all around.

Facebook has turned many of us into voyeurs, full time snoops into other people’s business. I raise my hand in guilt of being one of those who would regularly look at my friends’ pages and even look up people from my past. Guilty and ashamedly so I am.

This is no longer my practice. I have left the private investigation business to those who care.

In the early days of this particular social medium, I spent too many hours checking out other people’s business. So much so that my own daughter would block me from hers! Yes she did, as she was fed up with my contentious behaviour with people who made negative and disparaging comments on her page – about her, about people of colour, about women or just about anything that ticked me off!

Maybe I should not have confessed that? I believe in full disclosure and for me to share my view on any topic, it behoves me to confess or admit my digressions from which I learned valuable lessons.

Another lesson in “minding my own business,” came a few weeks ago and again with my daughter. She is way more private than I will ever be so some of the details will remain private. Suffice it to say, we parted ways physically because again I did not keep my mouth shut and out of her affairs. This was a hard lesson to have repeated but one that I got, finally.

Let me quickly add that this whole issue of “minding your own business” is not about turning a blind eye to injustice, abuse or any action or behaviour that demeans humans and animals alike. What I am referring to here is:
  1. Not offering unsolicited advice
  2. Not interfering or attempting to dictate to others how they should lead their lives
  3. Checking your intentions before responding to another’s request for advice/suggestions

A fourth could be: Keeping your lioness caged when you perceive your adult children’s dignity is being challenged but they have not asked you to go to war with them.

That was the lesson taught to me recently by my daughter and one that I have taken fully onboard. Now, I have don my cheerleader gear – hot pants and all – and encouraging her from the sidelines.
“Let people do what they need to do to make them happy, mind your business, and do what you need to do to make you happy.”
Are you in the habit of giving unsolicited advice or taking care of other people’s business without being asked? Want to learn how to stop butting into other people’s affairs and pay closer attention to yours? It really is simple and I am willing to share with you how I am doing it. So drop me a line and/or visit our Facebook page for more details.

Have a great rest of the day.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

International Youth Day: Time To Start Healing

Claudette Esterine
Idyllic is not a word you would use to describe my childhood or the home that I grew up in. Granted, my childhood friend and member of DOS, Dr. Janice Chang, told me a couple years ago that although we lived next door to each other for many years, she had no idea that my life was less than perfect.

My mother had her masters in pretense. In all fairness to her, she tried to pretend her way into respectability. Little did she know that such is a value that is first engendered in oneself then exuded from one’s being into your world. You cannot buy or blackmail your way into respect.  

This was a lesson that was taught to me over many years and bucket loads of tears.

She was a study in contradiction, my mother. On the one hand, she would always tell me that education is key, as well as manners. At the slightest infraction, she could be heard screaming from down the road, “Manners will take you through the world!” The neighbours, like Dr. Chang, never knew that that lesson was being imparted through fist thumps to my head and whacks to my back. 
I left my mother’s house for the first time at 16. What I did not know then was that depression had already visited me and was setting up house with me.

It was not until my first marriage and its breakdown did it rear its “ugly” head and said hello. Yet, I ignored it. I was in love – with my husband and with the idea of being married – but not with me. He was not my first love. I had several prior to him, including a man many years older than myself. All these relationships taught me one thing – that I was not good enough.

In fact, they merely reinforced what was taught to me through my mother’s fist, knife and any instrument that she could lay her hands on to inflict pain on me. To her, I was being disciplined, taught “manners.” Actually, I was being viciously abused and my self-esteem was being dragged along the streets of hate.

When my daughter and I returned to my island home, Jamaica, upon my completion of studies in the former Soviet Union, her father and I entered another bitter level of battle over her. At the time I was in another relationship with my soul mate, the only person in this world who has every expressed and demonstrated what it means to love someone beyond comprehension. As the battle for my daughter was heating up, distressed and extremely homicidal, a girlfriend gave me a most value lesson in parenting.

“Show Abigail love and only love. Never speak ill of her father and surround her with love. She will figure things out for herself in time.”

Sound advice you know upon hearing. It resonates deep in your soul and this one did. No, I did not manage to keep my mouth shut at all times but I did manage to limit to bare minimum any snide comments or sharing any detail with Abi about her father’s and my divorce.

Does my daughter have the highest self-esteem a human being, particularly a woman, can possess? Probably not, however, as I observe her, even just yesterday, I see a young woman who truly loves herself and is learning more and more how to reach out when she needs help. I am particularly fortunate that in the last few months, she is opening her heart to me – woman to woman.

Our youth are often misguided, lacking in self-esteem and have no true role models to demonstrate self-love. A particular young lady comes to mind as I write this. She believes and behaves as if all that matters is designer clothes, make-up, partying and sex. I am a Facebook junkie of no mean order but this young lady beats me as to what she will post simply for attention. Yet, those who need to or needed to be paying attention and guiding her are too busy trying to be “pals” with her and themselves in need of a good dollop of self-esteem.

We all are here to walk our paths. No one can do the journey on our behalves. Individually we get to choose our companions. Sadly, unless we received the necessary grounding in love, respect, self-worth growing up, we will chose lust posing as love, and cover our pain with drugs, alcohol, food, anything that will allow us to hide the scars inflicted through negligence and ignorance of those who were assigned to show us the way.

Robin Williams’ apparent suicide yesterday (August 11, 2014), I pray will open wider the door to acknowledgment and acceptance that depression is often masked with drugs, alcohol and/or food.

Food was my own mask for many years. I have very little tolerance for alcohol and none for illicit drugs. Lust pretending to be lust was another favourite of mine, especially in my youth. My heart saddens when I observe women of my age still making this mistake. It hurts me even more when they are parents as I know their children are watching and taking notes.

As mothers and even grandmothers, let us show our youths another way. It is time. Einstein it was that said: 
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
It is time to stop this insanity. It is time to speak and about, as well as with our children, grandchildren and wards of another way, a different way of living. My own journey has taught me that teaching manners is only one step (granted not beating it into our children). We ourselves need to learn to love ourselves and not be afraid to show our children that whatever your family has is enough; that they are enough.

Let us teach our children that respect is an inside job – one that you are willing to do, for you and for them.
As a global village, it is time to start the healing. Join us from your little small corner wherever you are in our world and share your journey with us here or on our Facebook page.