Sunday, 28 December 2014

End of Here

Even as I sit here admiring the blank - well, now, sorta blank - page, I'm still not certain what to write about in this post. It's the last one for the year, and, like most of the other end-of-year ones before it, it must take on a hue of the nostalgic. It shan't be an executive summary of the happenings of 2014, or a (long) list of blessings for which I am thankful. No sireee. Like I'd mentioned some time ago, my prayer journal gets it all - and constantly during the year, too.

I experienced many teachable moments this year. Heck. The entire year was a teachable moment!

I learned not to write people off for the occasional hurt. People who love each other will do that. Hurt each other, I mean. I made a note to self: I'm not perfect, either. There's anger and silence... But, it's the love between them that helps them cross over to the other side of the anger or hurt. Not what society or social media thinks of their relationship; not what their friends have to say about it. It's about their mutual love and how much they care about each other. They know they matter more to each other than what "people have to say." Pshh.

Found on the Internet. Somewhere.

Learned that I'm more patient than I thought I was. I've come to know - and be able to tell - the difference between foolishness-up-with-which-I-cannot-put and a cry for patience. At some point in the year, I remembered how, in the past, there were some who were not as patient with me as I had wanted...needed them to be. I understand, now. Life takes funny turns. And gives you 20/20 vision. And then it comes full circle. So, turns out I've become much more patient. Who knew? No, really. Who knew? It would have been nice to have been so enlightened. It sometimes helps to see yourself through the eyes of another. Which brings me to my next moment.

It sometimes helps to see yourself through the eyes of another. As time wears on, it's easy to get lost in the day-to-day. What's that quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson? "The years teach much which the days never know." Unless someone taps us on the shoulder and draws our attention to it, we don't look up long enough to see the positive difference we make in the lives of others. Plus, others see confidence and ability and so much more that we either have a) come to take for granted, or b) not taken stock of, unless we're updating our résumés or Bios. Characteristics like strength of spirit and fortitude and stick-to-itiveness don't really shine until we are rubbed. Hard. Yeah, to borrow the sentiment from that popular ad, "You're stronger than you think."

Turns out I don't need someone's permission to love them. Who would've thunk it? I can love people, whether they like it or not. I've also taken note that love, like a plant when it's not nurtured, may die. And, like a plant when it is nurtured, love grows. Nay, flourishes.

Know what else? I got better at living in the moment. I could get used to that. I'd better. :-)

Turns out, I can learn something new every day. I learned how to make a wicked sweet potato puddn! Lat, one of my sis, taught me.

In 2014, not all my prayers were answered with "Yes." I also heard, "No." A lot. I also heard, "Wait." All in all, thankful. I believe God's heart toward me is beautiful and perfect. He knows what He's about.

Lest I forget, thank you, dear reader, so very much, for reading my blog. It's not a themed blog and I'm not an expert on anything. I simply like to write about life - and how it goes. And how it goes on. Because, if it's one thing we come to understand is that life goes on. And, btw, it doesn't slow down just because you are late or unprepared. I still write to enlighten, educate and inspire. Hopefully, the young'uns in my family will find some gems in these posts in years to come.

We're winding down - and winding up! 2015. God willing, we'll soon be there. We're nearing the end of here. I'm not big on New Year's resolutions. I simply think it'd be good to realize a dream or two - old or new - and be wiser for the journey ahead. Wisdom is the principal thing.

And, one more thing. This became a mantra of mine in 2014: #EverythingIsGoingToBeAlright

Oh, and, one more 'one more thing': Don't blink!


Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Gingerbread House

It's one of those things where, you don't realize you're starting a tradition, until the next time around, 'round about the same time of year.

Now, as Monk would say, "Here's what happened." Minus, of course, a vic and a perp and...wipes.

My six year-old niece got me on the phone a few weeks ago, reminding me of the gingerbread house she and I made "last year." I corrected her.
"It was two years ago, actually. Time flies."
"Oh. So, remember two years ago when we made that gingerbread house?"
"Well, can we make a gingerbread house again this year?"

Her mom and I worked out the details re best date and whose house and all that. The evening came. Durie (sis) and I showed up. We were looking forward to this. Kiki had made such a big deal about making the gingerbread house, her excitement was contagious. Which is not to say that we are great at craft! Minor detail.

As I recall, I might still have had one foot on the outside and one foot in the house when Kiki greeted us! "Yaaay! We're gonna make the gingerbread house!" A few seconds later, even as I tried to get a "Good evening" out of her, she ran off to the kitchen for the box. She squeezed in a hello. Then, seriously, within two minutes of our arrival, we were ushered into the kitchen. She pulled up the little kitchen step ladder to the counter and, being comfortable that she was now on par height-wise, she got to work. Sorta.

As it turns out, it was more of a...supervisory capacity? "We need to open this!" "We need to cut that." Lol! Thankfully, this house was already assembled. Not like the one last year that we had to put together using the icing as "mortar". That was a wise move on her mom's part. Saved us quite a bit of time. So, this was all about the decorations.

Since I was left holding the (icing) bag, I tried my best. At one point, not being comfortable with how rugged-looking the "snow" on the roof was, I decided to use the knife to flatten out the bumps and spread the icing a bit thinner. In horror, Kiki looked away and covered her face, "This is going to be the worst gingerbread house ever!!!" The child was so sure the house was gonna fall apart. Or something. We tried to control our laughter. I explained what I was doing, reassuring her that disaster had been averted.

I let her squeeze some of the icing and we eventually got to putting the colourful candies on the roof, the windows, and the door. Her mom and Durie joined in, too. Then, umm, Santa had an accident. He was supposed to occupy the prime position next to the door - according to the picture on the box. Well, he fell and suffered a few broken bones. I could see Kiki's face on the verge of a cry. We took turns. Before she could take it to heart, we assured her it was gonna be okay. We'd patch Santa up with the icing and, instead of standing on the "snow" next to the door, he'd just be lying on the "snow". Lol! I can laugh at that now. Lol! She was okay with that. Disaster averted. Again.

It mightn't have turned out to be the best looking gingerbread house ever! But, Kiki was happy and we were happy to do the project with her. A new Christmas tradition. Apparently. All being well, I doubt she's gonna skip next year. We got a few pics a couple of days later, showing her enjoying the door!

All in all, it was pretty sweet.

Gingerbread house 2012. Project: Assembling and decorating.

Gingerbread house 2014. Pre-assembled. Project: Decorating.


Monday, 8 December 2014


Some of you have heard my...concerns (yes, let's call them that), about Google's seeming quest for world domination. Well, at the very least, to have at least one tentacle in every area of every person's life. I've ranted online and offline about this. So, I was not surprised, in the least, when I became annoyed on learning that a contact had added me to a Google Plus group. I calmly, but immediately, requested I be removed from the G+ group. I cited my long-held privacy concerns and my reservations about Google+.

Now, I use Google for email, blog and smartphone. I've told myself that I'm probably inextricably linked to Google+ in some hidden way, anyway. Although I use these Google gadgets and apps, I would like to think that I have not completely relinquished all say in the extent to which I've given them access to my data. I relish the idea (however flawed) that I have some control over the extent of my connection with them. Of course, I am careful about the information I provide online, but, most times I imagine them connecting the dots between phone settings/preferences and my contacts; between the pics I take and post - even though I've turned off location - and the appointments in my calendar. It's all connected. I'm sure.

So, why was I annoyed about being added? First, because it was without my permission. Second, it was one of the very tentacles I've tried avoiding, only to be thrown in its grasp without having a say. Like the other day after updating the OS to Lollipop and they replaced the Gallery with Photos - which requires joining G+. The horror! I downloaded another app: Piktures. #TheGooglePlusStaredownContinues.

Anyway, I asked to be removed from the list, and I was. I was also informed that I'd be missing out on group emails, as that would now be the chosen way to communicate with the group. I was okay with that.

Okay, that is, until I learned a few months after that there had been a reception for the group - a group of volunteers - and, believe it or not, I had not got wind of it! (Where's the sarcasm font on this thing?) Silly wabbit. I was of the impression that the recognition and appreciation of volunteers would spur the organizers to seek us out - all emails were still available - to shower us with love and appreciation. Then I reminded myself that that was something I would have done. And, a few other people I know would have done that, too. But, alas, I had not made it easy for them to reach me, having sought and received removal from the G+ list.

Months came and went. I enquired about upcoming volunteering opportunities. I was reminded that I had requested removal from the list (in case I'd forgotten, I s'pose) but was also told I could send an email to find out whether extra help was needed on any given weekend. I agreed to that.

Finally, I had a free weekend - no fighting a cold; no entertaining out-of-towners, etc. - and I considered sending an email. Gotta say, I thought long and hard. I had reservations about doing it. But, I had no excuse to opt out that weekend. In my mind, I imagined they must've decided to teach me a lesson - our way with G+ or else! Also, what if I volunteered and they sent back to say they were already full - because people from "the list" (that stupid list, again!) had already signed up. And, if so, would I have to relent and join the (stupid) list?!

Of course, that's what your mind does. All sorts of negative thoughts, or, as Desiderata calls them, "dark imaginings" take over if you let 'em. Coupled with those "what ifs" was the chiding I gave myself. Was I volunteering to be recognized and shown appreciation, or was I volunteering out of a heart to serve? Welllllll, on that note, I was properly admonished. I sent the email.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I received a quick reply that "that would be GREAT" and "thank you SO MUCH." I was like, whoaah! Guess they need the help. But, what was more, was that I felt this amazing sense of triumph! I felt like I'd pushed the devil off one shoulder, and gave a high-five to the angel on the other!

The volunteers who worked the shift before mine were overjoyed when I got there. They were royally pooped! I immediately got to work in preparing what needed to be prepared. As promised, I checked back in sometime after and helped another volunteer with cleaning up.

There's no denying it. Sometimes the right thing to do isn't always the easiest (or most comfortable) thing to do. But, it pays off. And, when it comes to giving, as that little girl had said after giving out toys for Christmas, "It gives you a warm feeling in your tummy!"


Friday, 28 November 2014

Two Feelings - They Don't Mix

This past summer, sis and I were with our then 5yo niece as we headed to my home for a Girls' Night. Pulling her lil carry-on beside us, I noticed she didn't seem her usually excited self. I asked her what was up.
"I'm happy and I'm sad," she said.
"Oh. So, mixed feelings?" I asked.
"No. Two feelings," she replied in a beat.

Sis later made a joke about that moment, saying Kiki was very clear about her feelings; that "they don't mix." Lol!

I thought of that moment sometime earlier this week. It came to mind shortly after the Grand Jury's decision on whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson was announced. Wilson was not (even) indicted for the August 9, 2014 killing of Michael Brown.

Much has been written about this, including: how the prosecutor's statement sounded more like a defence of the officer; the theories behind waiting until late evening to make the announcement, and so on. A quick Google search will reveal tonnes of articles.

My two cents' on it is about my two feelings - unmixed - that came after the announcements and the protests.

There will always be racism, as long as people exist.

We should not give up advocating for respect and justice for Blacks. Black Lives Matter - as the recent online and offline campaigns remind. Yes. Strides are being made.

Black people in America are hurting like crazy; it's like a wound that doesn't heal. I've said it in another space (in writings of yesteryear) and I might write about it some other time in this space. I am sensitive to the racial tension that exists in the USA. But, it is not my lived experience. My experience, growing up in Jamaica, has entailed run-ins with colourism. But, more anon.

On the first point, I believe people have their biases and prejudices. Generations to come will have biases and prejudices. There is something inherent in some human beings that, for some reason, makes them believe they are better than others in some way. It may concern race; complexion; social status; money... And, people don't change. I've heard my dad with this Jamaican saying: What born inna kid, dead inna goat. Another 50 years from this, there will still be run-ins between Black people and white officers in America. There will always be that officer. Laws, policies, protocols, etc., hopefully, may allow for greater accountability and for justice to be done - and to be seen to be done. I saw a picture on Twitter shortly after the shooting occurred in Ferguson in August. (Pardon the language, btw.) For me, it sums up the feeling of frustration and yet, an acknowledgement, that the fight doesn't end, only the fighters change.

(Pic via Twitter. Happy to give credit. If you own this pic and wish it removed, please let me know.)

And that's where the second feeling comes in. The fight, the advocacy, the campaigns and awareness-raising must continue. Because they do make a difference. Blacks - and the general consciousness of racial injustices - have come a long way since the 1960s. I wrote a piece along those lines during my early days on this blog, shortly after the announcement of President Obama's first win. A cursory glance would reveal that much has changed since the '60s - for the better. And, 50 years from this, much will have changed - for the better.

In a real sense, it is a realization of that truism: The more things change, the more they remain the same.


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Freak Out...Then Figure It Out

About a year or so ago, a sis and I were having a conversation about a new opportunity. It was not a hand-in-glove fit, but that did not make it any less desirable. My advice was to say yes. After all, strengths, transferable skills, and experience would help her be good at it in no time. I shared with her my approach:
  • Say yes to the opportunity. 
  • Freak out about how daunting it looks. 
  • Figure out how to do the task. 
Here's the thing: You don't want a great opportunity to pass you by, all for the sake of lacking a bit of experience in a particular area. If you pass that up, thinking there's no use going after it, you'd have done yourself a disservice. Go for it. Let the recruiters/selectors decide. If your résumé, or a contact, gets you an interview/meeting, make the best of it. Don't keep yourself off the list when, had you tried, you would've made the shortlist - and likely got hired/selected.

Funny, but, some months after the conversation with sis, I saw a quote by Richard Branson making the rounds on social media. It was, essentially, the same message. Given that I had shared my approach with sis long before I got wind of his quote, I have no reservations about expounding on what I shared with her here.

I'm not shy when it comes to networking, nor about letting the right people know I'm on the lookout for something new. There have been people who've given me a heads-up about new opportunities, simply because I was top of mind when the news landed on their desk - because they knew I had an interest. Additionally, along the way, I've participated in mentorship programs - as mentor and mentee. In these professional relationships, the terms of engagement are made clear at the outset. Whatever they may be, as a mentee, I never lose sight of one thing: I have a responsibility to honour the time and effort my mentor puts in. It may come in the form of making time in a busy schedule to have a chat over coffee/hot chocolate. Or, it may be in the form of helping me make connections. So, even if I feel under the weather when that email comes in - "I got you 20 minutes with so-and-so. Schedule something with her Admin." - my immediate response is stteo: "Great! Thank you! I'm on it!" And, I get on it. Right away. I can always climb out from under the weather later. I respect my time, too. So, I have to ensure my preparation (research pre-meeting) and execution time is not wasted.

There have been lessons along my career path. For sure. I remember there was a time when I used to allow awful co-workers or bosses to ruffle my feathers. But, I later learned a precious gem from a manager who was as frank as she was brilliant. "Claudia," she said, "I just tell myself I'm not taking them home with me." That became a mantra for me. Since then, co-workers and I live happily ever after. Well, not exactly. But, close enough. :-) So, lessons, yes. But strides and triumphs have been far more and far greater. My journey has been blessed.

In a nutshell, this is how I've been moving along the path:
  • Pray.
  • Seek a new opportunity. (This includes networking.)
  • Give thanks for closed doors. (There's something to learn from every interview.)
  • Be ready for open doors. (Can't pray for rain then leave your umbrella - ella - ella...) :-)
  • Accept the challenge. 
  • Freak out! (If need be. Even phone a friend and share the adrenaline.)
  • Work hard and figure it out.
  • Excel.
  • Give thanks.
What's sometimes surprising is how others see you (doing a great job) vs. how you see yourself. There's a thin line between confidence and hubris, but, it's good to believe in yourself. No use in playing small. Shine. Your light will help others. I've learned that, too.

One of my favourite Monk lines is from Mr. Monk Meets His Dad. He was trying to convince his dad that his boss was "The guy." His father wasn't buying it. Monk looked him in the eye and asserted that he's a detective. "It's my job, and I'm good at it."

Love that.


Saturday, 8 November 2014

Some Writing Should Not Be Read

Some writing should not be read. That's a pretty forward statement for a writer to make. It is also a conclusion that comes weighted with much thought and second guesses. For, after all, aren't all writers on a journey? Each travelling a path which, although similar in some ways, is very different in others? The struggle is similar; the struggle is subjective; the struggle is real.

Given the uniqueness of the journey, and the fact that each of us faces the next step for the first time, our readers understand that we are prone to errors. We don't always strike the right note. And, if it's one thing that every writer comes to find out, it is this: Words are powerful beings. They take on a life of their own. They cut; they heal; they hurt; they mend; they build; they destroy. And when you think you're finally over them, a familiar scent can bring memories of words spoken - and how - rushing back, unheralded and unhindered. There will be blood. Yes, things will sometimes get real messy up in here.

But, while we understand the limitations and ramifications of words uttered and media used, we do not have to subject ourselves to crap. And I'm not talking about the saying, "Bad writing is contagious." I don't know about you, but I have to be careful about what I take into my system.Things have a way of...lingering, for better or for worse. So, if I simply get wind that a piece of writing is crap (not crappy - I trust you to infer the difference), I stay away from it.

To me, writing that puts some persons up only by putting others down; that makes a person question their value and self-worth and feel they're sorely lacking; that reinforces the notion that one group is better than another, is not the kind of writing that should be fed upon. It gets into the psyche and...and does things - ugly things. Quite simply, it may leave someone feeling that they are not good enough; that the quality of life they heretofore enjoyed is, all of a sudden, not up to par. I've written before about people making different choices and doing what makes them happy - Squeezing Life Out of Life. What they do and how they define success and perfection will very often not be the same as someone else's. One of my grandmothers used to say, "Everybody pot nuh boil at the same time." We will not all get what we desire at the same time. As a matter of fact, given our differences as...oooh, I dunno, human beings? We do not all have the same ingredients cooking in our pots. And, to boot, it bears recalling that tastes do differ. Imagine yourself coming to my house and telling me that the delicious spread I've spent all day preparing is not...'ow you saaay? (French accent) ideal, because it does not resemble my neighbour's? The struggle is real for everybody. And, if the struggle is subjective, then, so too, is the definition of success.

What really saddens me is there are those with much influence - well, if you can call it that, in a small pond where the little fish thinks he's a shark - who are looked upon as thought leaders. (A moment of silence as we let that sink in.) It is neither fair, nor right, for young minds to be subjected to, and shaped by, writers and spewers of ideas who translate and transfer their insecurities into words on a page to be consumed as truth by the malleable. Ideas that feed divisiveness; that drive a wedge between haves and have-nots; that cause young minds and hearts to feel they've failed even before they've begun, and slap the cheeks of unsung heroes, are unwelcome 'round these parts.

When it comes right down to it, are we too busy brown-nosing, or trying to be validated by someone, or serving the Kingdom of Me - population One? Or are we performing the random acts of kindness, or helping someone who can't repay us, or hugging a child, or stopping to smell the roses...? You know, like gems we love to post in our Social Media fiefdoms.

Sigh. We don't always get it right. But, I really believe it is important to try to make a positive difference. Like that quote by Woodrow Wilson says, "We are not here merely to make a living, but to enrich the world with a finer spirit of hope and achievement and we impoverish ourselves if we forget the errand."


Tuesday, 28 October 2014

*Side-Eye Jamaica*

Res Ipsa Loquitur: The thing speaks for itself.

David Cameron was plunged into a double crisis on Saturday after one of his ministers resigned over a sex scandal and another MP defected to Ukip.

On the eve of the Conservative Party’s final conference before next year’s election, Brooks Newmark quit as Minister for Civil Society after he was caught sending an explicit photograph of himself over the internet.

Sources told The Telegraph that Mr Newmark had sent the pictures to someone he believed was a woman using a social networking website, as part of a tabloid newspaper sting operation.

In a statement, Mr Newmark said: "I have decided to resign as Minister for Civil Society having been notified of a story to be published in a Sunday newspaper.

“I would like to appeal for the privacy of my family to be respected at this time. I remain a loyal supporter of this Government as its long term economic plan continues to deliver for the British people."

The married father of five, added that he was "so sorry”, after the scandal came to light.

Taiwan's Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta has resigned over a food safety scare that has gripped the island after hundreds of tonnes of products made with "gutter oil" were removed from sale.

Chiu had repeatedly offered to step down after the tainted oil case surfaced last month, and his resignation was finally approved by Premier Jiang Yi-huah late Friday (Oct 3), a cabinet statement said. He is the third minister to have stepped down in recent months. Economic affairs minister Chang Chia-juch resigned over fatal gas blasts in August, while education minister Chiang Wei-ling quit in July after he was implicated in an academic scandal.

Chiu's resignation came as prosecutors on Friday indicted Yeh Wen-hsiang, chairman of Chang Guann Co., on 235 accounts of fraud and food safety violations for selling hundreds of tonnes of "gutter oil" to food companies, bakeries and restaurants. Three people, including the manager of an unlicensed factory that supplied the firm, were indicted for the same offences while four others were charged with violating waste disposal law, prosecutors said.

South Korea's prime minister announced his resignation Sunday morning, taking responsibility for the slow initial reaction to a ferry's sinking that has left nearly 200 dead and scores more still missing.

Prime Minister Chung Hong-won explained his decision on national television. He apologized "on behalf of the government for the many problems that arose during the first response and the subsequent rescue operation," in addition to "problems that existed before the accident."
"During the search process, the government took inadequate measures and disappointed the public," Chung said. "I should take responsibility for everything as the prime minister, but the government can assume no more. So I will resign as prime minister."

Chung urged South Koreans to stand united, rather than divided.

"This is not the time for blaming each other but for finishing the rescue operation and dealing with the accident," he said. "In order to get over these difficult times, I ask the citizens for help."

Chung becomes the highest-profile public figure to fall after the April 16 capsizing of the Sewol ferry that carried more than 300 South Korean high school students. Many in the country have lambasted the government's response to the disaster. 

Downing Street said there was "no suggestion that Mr Harper knowingly employed an illegal immigrant", but Prime Minister David Cameron "accepted his resignation with regret".

The Forest of Dean MP made the decision after being told the cleaner for his London flat did not have indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

He admitted he "should have checked more thoroughly" that the documents provided to him when he took her on in 2007 were genuine - a copy of her passport and a Home Office letter which said she was allowed to stay.

Mr Harper decided against checking her status twice after that - when he was appointed a Cabinet Office minister in 2010 and after being named immigration minister two years ago.

The former minister said he thought it was "prudent" to check her status again last year as the Immigration Bill was going through Parliament.

The legislation doubles the fines for employers who take on illegal immigrants without proper checks.

Gabon's education minister has resigned due to a scandal after hundreds of students failed the country's high-school exams, local media reported on Monday, AFB reports.

Prime Minister Daniel Ona Ondo "acknowledges the resignation of the Minister of Education and Technical Education, Leon Nzouba," said government spokeswoman Denise Mekamne.

Nzouba is the first Gabonese minister to step down from office in almost 20 years.

He was heavily criticised for his handling of a dispute involving 900 students who were deemed to have failed their high-school exams but who challenged their grades.

The students claim to have been penalised by recent reforms meaning their marks obtained during previous years no longer count towards the final exam result.

Nzouba initially awarded the students with the qualification following protests, before changing his mind.

The former minister was pictured in August on his knees in front of protesting students, an image that made the rounds on social media and sparked public ridicule for Nzouba.

Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis abruptly resigned Wednesday, saying he was taking “political responsibility” for a supermarket collapse that killed more than 50 people last week and caused outrage in the small Baltic nation.

Dombrovskis, who took office at the height of the European economic crisis in 2009, told reporters that the country needs a new, broad-based government that will have the support of Parliament.

"I wish to thank Latvia's society for support during the trying period when the country was battling the economic and financial crisis to return to the path of growth,” Dombrovskis was quoted as saying by the Latvian news agency LETA. “I also apologize for all that we have failed to achieve."

At least 54 people, including three firefighters, were killed and dozens injured in the Nov. 21 collapse at a Maxima supermarket in the Zolitude neighborhood of the capital, Riga. First, part of the roof caved in, then a wall came crashing down as rescue teams worked at the scene.

According to local news reports, it was the largest loss of life since Latvia declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Three ministers from the autonomous Greenland of Denmark resigned on Wednesday amid a misconduct scandal surrounding the island's government leader, Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond.

The Industry and Mineral Resources Minister Jens-Erik Kirkegaard and the Education and Culture Minister Nick Nielsen, both from Hammond's social democratic Siumut party, announced their resignations while the prime minister is investigated for allegedly misusing 106,363 kroner of public funds for private use.

Hammond narrowly escaped a vote of no confidence on Tuesday and lawmakers granted her temporary leave.

The liberal Atassut party, without which the government lacks a parliamentary majority, said it would also leave the coalition and called for fresh elections.

The party's health and infrastructure minister, Steen Lynge, announced his resignation earlier on Wednesday.

A report from the Greenlandic parliament's audit committee on Friday said the prime minister had used public fund to pay for airline tickets for herself and hotel costs for her family.

France's new trade minister Thomas Thévenoud was forced to resign Thursday because of "problems with his taxes", a government source confirmed, in a new blow to embattled President François Hollande.
The socialist deputy was only appointed less than a fortnight ago in a reshuffle after a revolt over austerity measures threw the French government into crisis.

A government source told AFP that he stepped down after admitting he had a "problem about the declaration of his taxes... he has not resigned because of any political disagreement".

The resignation has uncomfortable echoes of the so-called Cahuzac affair, when Hollande's budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac was sacked in March 2013 after he was accused of evading tax using non-declared Swiss bank accounts.

Indonesia's energy minister stepped down on Friday, a presidential spokesman said, after anti-corruption officials named him a suspect in the latest graft case to embarrass the president's fractured Democratic Party.

Mr Jero Wacik resigned as minister for energy and natural mineral resources after officials accused him of raking in almost 10 billion rupiah (S$1.1 million) for his ministry's budget through illegal means.

Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) officials named Mr Wacik a suspect on Wednesday, saying he had collected kickbacks and claimed money for arranging fictitious meetings. They accused him of extorting state funds and abuse of power.

"The letter of resignation was received by the President this morning. Perhaps he will appoint someone to fill in as an interim energy minister," presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha told reporters. Mr Wacik has neither admitted nor denied the accusations, saying only that he would respect the legal process.

Haderthauer, a Christian Social Union (CSU) state minister, is under investigation after a business partner accused her of cheating him out of tens of thousands of euros and has been facing down calls to resign for weeks.

Although the case didn't oblige her to resign, she said at a hastily-called press conference in Munich “that my office and the political themes that go with it would be totally overwhelmed after my experience with all the public press coverage in recent weeks”.

Haderthauer and her husband Hubert were partners with Frenchman Roger Ponton in Sapor Model Engineering. The company sold model cars built in prison by criminals under treatment by psychiatrists, including a man, Roland S., convicted of three sex murders.

Just a week after NSW Premier Kristina Keneally put her MPs on notice about bad behaviour, Ports and Waterways Minister Paul McLeay has resigned over a sex and gambling internet scandal.

Mr McLeay was forced to quit the frontbench on Wednesday after admitting to using a parliamentary computer to access gambling and adult websites - making him the fourth Keneally minister to leave cabinet this year.

"Some people may choose to undertake similar activities in their personal lives, but I cannot condone the use of parliamentary resources by a minister in this way." - Keneally

In an uncomfortable, 11-minute media conference outside Parliament House, the married father of two admitted being humiliated and embarrassed by the revelations.

He apologised to his colleagues for further denting their chances at the March 2011 state election, saying his behaviour was not of the standard expected of cabinet ministers.

Breton was already in hot water over his alleged intimidation of government employees. But on Wednesday it came to light that he had $8,000 in unpaid rent, had been convicted of employment insurance cheating and had speeding violations, one which saw him clocked at 275

Some of Breton’s infractions dated back 25 years, but whether they should factor into how he’d perform now as a cabinet minister has become academic. Breton has resigned from cabinet.

Given that resignation, the fact the Charbonneau inquiry was able to learn this week just how many politicians were having lunch with how many construction bosses at Club 357 and the fact nobody can do anything without its being tweeted seconds afterward, a question needs to be asked:

Are we in the process of witnessing a transformation of the political landscape? One where the theory of being a model of virtue and probity is now being brutally turned into practice?

Simply put, are we witnessing a raising of the bar for political conduct? And if so, how can the political establishment react?

Yes, I'm looking at you, Jamaica.


Saturday, 18 October 2014

Think of This As Practice

Today is Kiki's birthday. She's now Six. We rolled into the day on the back of a Girls' Night. Now, our day started at six o' clock. As in, one hour after five o' clock. On a Saturday. Morning.

We read. We talked. We made room for her animated two-year-old brother. Sis and I entertained.

Then, out of nowhere, Kiki advised, "This is what happens when you get married and have children! Mmhm. Like what's happening with your nephew." As sis and I cracked up, she continued, "You can think of this as practice!"

Lol! This child.


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Hair's The Thing

I recently discovered - in a Christine Columbus kind of way - a new hair product. As with all things new that I "discover" and try and realize it's worth sharing, I shared it. I still use it, but, not as much as I did when I first started. The reason is a simple one: I like to wear my hair in many different ways. Ease of flexibility is one of the reasons I've never done the sister locks/dreads thing.

There is a certain satisfaction for me in being able to do all sorts of things with my hair: afro, chiney-bump, cane-row, pony-tail, press and hot-curl, press and pony-tail... You catch my drift. Little did I know at the time of my purchase and new interest in this product, that, as one of my sis mentioned, "It's a whole natural-hair industry out there!" I think my reply was along the lines of: "I don't want to be a part of an industry! I just want to not go "Ow! Ow!" when I comb my hair!"

My mom (one of my earliest hairdressers) had cut my hair when I was about 16-yo. You see, it had gone through the relaxing process and, true to stressing-about-exams form (at least, that was the governing theory), much of it had started breaking. So, she did what had to be done. I sported a low 'fro for much of my Lower Six year at Wolmer's Girls. On a recent trip to Jamaica, I came across a photo I had taken with Isabel, an exchange student from Spain. We were enjoying a hearty laugh, but, I could not have looked more boyish if I'd actually tried. Very low-cut hair, small boobs... The more things change. Oh! I digress.

Years later, on the last lap of reading for my degree in English at the UWI, I had to cut it low - again. Same reason: exam stress. My story. Sticking to it. Those days saw me in more chiney-bumps than the average bear. I had someone do it in twists for the graduation picture at the assigned studio. (I did not attend the graduation.) During the two years of doing the MA in Communication (without the 's') at SUNY, I wore my hair in a variety of the ways mentioned earlier. After graduation (I did attend), I relaxed it again. The Rochester, NY weather did take its toll, but not as much as an exam stress would have, I imagine.

Some time after moving to Canada, I decided to give it a break from the relaxing. These temps don't play! Plus, there had been the stressful period of unemployment shortly after relocating. Take my word for it. That is a horse of a different pigmentation altogether. So, first I tried weaving in hair. You  know, where it's sewn in? Worst. Mistake. Ever! As in, ever! I had never done that before, and that was the first and the last time. As the hairdresser took out the weave bit by bit, my resolution grew firmer and firmer. That thing was nothing short of damaging to my hair. It was a tad traumatic for someone who was severely lacking in adventures of the hair kind - never bleached it; never coloured it...  Anyway, moving right along.

On a subsequent visit to Jamaica, I had a talk with my hairdresser. She cut it and did the short twists. In a few months, it had grown so fast - beyond even her expectations. I've kept it unprocessed and I do like it. This is no hurry-come-up decision. It was, as before, borne out of necessity. But it has...grown on me. Badam tsss! :D  Here's the thing (Monk voice), I honestly don't think I could manage the "black women's hair industry" thing. For a moment I did consider selling the product, but, I...I talked myself out of it. I hear lingo describing hair types and all I can think of is that I give my hair 5/5 Ows! I am thankful, however, that the variety of styles I wear, (see above) I can do myself. Saves me quite a bit. Plus, they all suit my face. I have that kinda face. Lol! That reminds me of a scene in a Monk episode - Mr. Monk Goes to the Theater - where he joined the line-up for the speed dating. One of the women says to him: "I like your eyes." Monk goes: "Well, thank you. They came with the face." Hahahahaha!!! Ahhh #ILoveMonk.

Anyway, it did still hard fi comb! Another one of my sis told me about the Curl Enhancing Gelly product. After the second or third time trying to convince me (I was sure it wouldn't work on my 5-Ow! hair) we placed an order. In the comments section: Please hurry. Hair emergency. And, hurry they did! I'm happy with the purchase and would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to try for soft twists that last a while. Funny. This came to mind.

Now, to colour it red!


Sunday, 28 September 2014

I Should Get Out More

Last evening, I had the pleasure and honour of participating in the 100 Thousand Poets for Change poetry event. The session in which I participated was one of two that marked the event in Toronto.

Truth be told, I was a tad nervous about reading...delivering my poems to that crowd. Most of my readings, to date, have been to smaller Literary Café crowds. And, as I mentioned to the gathering last Sunday afternoon, I always feel I'm in a welcome and comfortable space when sharing my poems there. But, I was not sure whether - and how - the Toronto mix would be different. I simply counted on them being poets or lovers of poetry.

My preparation took me to a new place. I asked a (really nice) co-worker to give a listen. Well, according to her, seeing me in that element for the first time, "You're gonna kill it!" :-) Okay, so, I dunno about that. I do know I put a lot into preparing for performances and speaking events. I recorded myself; timed myself and was glad I came within 20 seconds of the allotted 15 minutes. But, it was good to see that a total stranger to my poetry didn't break out in hives.

The highlight of the evening was not the fact that everyone was noticeably quiet during my set - unlike the much chatter during those of others. (I read from my upcoming "Fourteen to Fortyish: The Formative Years".) Neither was it the wonderful compliments I received right after and long after, in person and in email. No. The highlight of the evening was that one of my sis, Durie, was there to cheer me on. Well, she also helped me out by recording the set. Heh heh. But, I was really glad that she came to keep my company and give moral support.

Further to a few conversations I had with a couple of the organisers just before I left, it turns out I will have opportunities to deliver my poems to more audiences. I like the sound of that. It's one thing to be home, or wherever, writing. It's another to share the created pieces with others. And, the more I do share - online or offline - the fewer butterflies I have to whip into V-formation each time. Go figure.

Yeeaah. I really should get out more.


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Your Voice Will Find You

There is a plus to writing often: One becomes better at putting one's thoughts into words. After a while, you are so in tune with knowing what you want to say, and saying exactly that. No more; no less.

There is also a plus to writing regularly. Keeping a writing date with yourself helps keep you disciplined. As you know, my dates are the 8th, 18th and 28th of the month. As you live up to your self-imposed expectations, meeting that regular commitment like clockwork, you come to appreciate that particular meaning of self-respect.

For, it is true that holding yourself to a high standard and honouring your commitment to self, show that you respect and value your own time. See,  you could easily put off doing the thing, because, after all, "It's just for me. It's not like I made a commitment to someone else." Fact is, if you don't value yourself and your own work or creative process, don't be surprised if others don't; if you're often asked to blow off your creative moment, in deference to someone else.

It is usually said that, as you keep writing, you will find your voice. I've taken that to mean, over time, you will come, more and more easily, to rest on and write about that thing that stirs you the most. That thing that makes you mist up; or makes you laugh out loud; or makes you angry; or makes you feel nothing but contempt; or makes you sad, even to tears. And you'll be so drawn to it that you find you want to write about it, even if not all the time, but, certainly more often than you want to write about other things. And, that does happen.

Over the years, I've come to realize that I take great pleasure in writing about the little people in my life. Of them all, I've written most about my niece. I've found writing about her to be joy-infusing. It's delightful, really, to have a conversation with her, then quite easily, preserve that moment by putting it into words. Who knew I'd come to look forward to writing about (and for) children? And, who knows? She might come to be amused by some of it later on. As a matter of fact, we're collaborating on a writing project. Uh-huh. Well, she's doing (most of) the talking, and I'm doing the writing. More to come. Suffice it to say, we're very excited about it!

But, also also? The biggest plus of all to writing often and regularly: Your voice will find you, at long last, ready and willing and strong and disciplined enough to carry and convey the sentiments and messages for the season. You will find, even though the fear that "everybody's gonna hate this piece!" never entirely goes away, there's far, far less of it. You will find you've grown courageous enough to not require several prompts - from yourself, or others - to "put it out there." You will find you are able, and willing, to swim against the current; say the unpopular; write your heart out, and know, finally, that it's okay. Yes, there may be reactions to what you write - some positive, some negative, and some outright snubs. And you will find you don't care about that - and wonder why you spent so much time caring about that in the past. :-) You will begin to write with clarity, saying what you mean to say; realizing those who are for you are more than those who aren't (plus, they're better looking!) learning as you go and grow, and reading the good ones. (I hear bad writing is contagious.)

And, what is more - for me, at least, where it used to come down to #writeorsuffocate - one finds that it becomes far easier to breathe.

Monday, 8 September 2014

"Fourteen to Fortyish: The Formative Years" An Intro - of sorts.

Yaaay! First post kicking off Year 7! Yes. Yes. I am getting waaay ahead of myself. Just a tad excited, is all.

For a moment there, I was beginning to wonder whether I'd finish coining the title of this post.

There are a few writing projects in train. The one I'd like to mention tonight is the poetry. You've heard about the poetry, yes? No? Well, allow me. (I have, in fact, mentioned a bit about the poetry in a few posts, and have also shared a few poems. But, I digress.) Over the weekend, I continued to work on my poetry project. It's a book of poems spanning quite a few years. After much to-ing and fro-ing, I've decided on the title and subtitle: Fourteen to Fortyish: The Formative Years. I also have a sub-subtitle, if you will. (If there's a more technical term, do share.) The sub-subtitle will be written in italics right under the title. I thought of it just today, so, there's no way I'm ready to share that here. But, I love you! :-)

Man, those things really added up! I'm looking at scores and scores of poems out of the lot. Like, seriously. They do, after all, span the years between 14 and 40-ish. Hence the title. Any surprises there? Okay. Who did not see that coming? As I've envisioned, the book has three phases, with a few pieces of short prose in appropriate spots. It's taking shape, from my mind to the page, and I like that.

I've had two beta readers so far. Yes. One of them was my mom. Of course. But, as thankful as I was/am for her positive feedback, it's...advisable to get feedback from folks who aren't family. The other was an editor I'd met via Twitter. I won't share much of what he said here. After all, I am thinking of asking him whether I may reproduce some of it in the book. However, one thing stood out. He said, afterward, that he felt like he knew me. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm still not sure whether that's a welcome thing. And, yet, here I am about to publish the book of rather telling poems! Hmm. For, you see, they are rather telling. I write from the heart - and wear it on my sleeve. An English Lit professor had once told me/the class: "Poetry comes from a place of deep emotion." Over the years, now and again as I wrote the poems, I'd remember him saying that. And I'd understand all over what he'd meant. The poetry itself is in the composition but you can't make that stuff up.

I'm getting the doc ready for another beta reader. Daniel Kojo Appiah is a poet from Ghana I met on Twitter. We'd had a few exchanges long before he was named the winner of the inaugural Ghana Poetry Prize in 2013. Just sayin'. He goes by the handle: @OZionn. During a quick chat the other day, the thought came to mind to ask him whether he would do it. He said he would. I'm looking forward to his feedback. I shall have to remind him not to be gentle.

As I prepare to get the poems out, I'm also getting ready to read a few of them at the upcoming 100 Thousand Poets for Change, Toronto, later this month. One of the organizers said she thought of me and so extended an invitation. We'd met at the Lit Café in town a few years ago, and she's heard me read my poems. She added, "...your poems reflect a depth and a beauty more than you realize." She said a few other heart-warming things, but I'll save 'em. :-) So, this weekend, God willing, I'll be sure to show up at the Lit Café to practise...I mean, perform. The pieces I've done there on repeated visits have been appreciated. This time around, I'll be one of the featured poets. That'll help.

(And, I simply must find a way to tie in my pen name - reserved only for the poetry - Dnafcnatgada. No. I do not know what it means. It came, quite simply, out of the air, as I pondered, at 14 years old, what my "poet name" should be. Yes, that's a silent "D", to boot. If it rings close to something in your frame of reference; your knowledge base; your linguistic armoury, or your stream of consciousness, do share.)

So, you understand my excitement. Rather, so, you understand my excitement! I'm so psyched! Getting this book published will be a huge deal for me. Always thankful for family and friends who've been über-supportive. Can almost hear a few of them going, "Finally!" Lol! Ohh, the sound of it: "A published poet." Tee hee. God continues to order my steps and each day brings me closer. And, what's that word again? Ahh, yes. Relatability.

"Funny, isn't it, how one moment can change a million after it." - Raya (Movie: How She Move)


Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Journey

Six years. My dad has a saying, "The time is moving so fast, people don't have time to age." :-) I get that. My lil home here in cyberspace started six years ago today. And, it's still under construction. As I am. As we all are. Still here? You're still a work-in-progress.

I won't be long tonight. (Don't all rejoice at once. Heh heh.) More than anything, I wanted to say thanks for sticking around; for reading each post, or most of them...even a few. When I started this blog, it was so that I'd have an outlet. #writeorsuffocate. I still keep journals. They've metamorphosed into prayer journals. But, this place in cyberspace is kinda special. It helps keep me disciplined in my writing. To be honest, I've started to breathe easier. So, the writing here has helped. :-) The journals do have their place, of course. For Him, a place apart.

Funny. An insurance agent asked me recently about my prized possessions - Jewellry? I told him nope. I do have a favourite pair of earrings going 20 years now... The stuff I treasure are more of sentimental than monetary value. Like the journals I've been keeping since I was 14. If those go, I told him, they couldn't be replaced anyway, so let's move on. He agreed. We moved on.

So, back to the outlet. This has been great. And, it continues to be great. I get to write whatever the heck I want. You've seen the posts - or not. If you're new to this blog, welcome. Feel free to scroll though the years. It's important to me that I write whatever I want. So, the subject matter and content - and, occasionally, style - do vary. From Buju to Baby Shower; from McLuhan to Marley. In the end, I would have written what was on my heart and mind. And, out of 220 posts, I'd say one - no more than two - left me a bit bothered about whether I'd said exactly what I'd set out to say.

On the cusp of the seventh year, I am thankful. I am thankful to God for this blessing to create and write. I am thankful for my life. I have been wondering how, my life being spared, the next year of writing will be shaped. What new experiences will inform my writing; whether there will be more passion about certain things; to give or not to give even more of myself and share a few testimonials, all for the sake of lending a hand. As I've said many times, one of the best things someone could possibly say to me, having read my writing - be it prose or poem - is how well they can relate. Relateability. (I keep using that spelling...)

Don't you ever wonder why it's so important for someone else to know they're not the only one who's going through a particular time of despair; a certain trial; a rough patch that seems unending? That someone else has, too? I've wondered about that. Why is it important for someone to know a certain bad situation is not unique to them? Why does it matter that Tom, Dick and Harry have made it through this? Or, are going through it as well. Good for them. This is me, and I know how it feels and they couldn't have felt this way and things could never have been so bad and so on and so forth. As I thought about it, all I came up with was hope. It's a simple answer, really. Hope that if someone else made it through, maybe you can, too. If someone else is strong enough to continue enduring, maybe you can, too. Relateability makes my heart glad, because it says, someone read my work and saw themselves in it, and were encouraged or inspired by the how I came through/am going through a similar mess; bore/is bearing a comparable cross. And yet, I'm still here! And how.

We all have something. No one has "got it all together". Some don't say much; some find an outlet and some, well, with them it's TMI. Point is, one doesn't have to be an expert in any field of study to offer a hand to hold. It's a human thing. I'm big on hand-holding in a time of despair or anxiety. Hold my hand. No words. I've found it to be comforting. I suppose that's the other thing with relateability (a tweep assured me it is a word). Hope is one thing; the other thing is comfort. Perhaps that's one way of looking at it. I'd also like my writing to be seen as offering my hand to hold.

This paragraph is dedicated to family and friends who've held my hand - figuratively and literally - on this journey.

Now, the writing doesn't have to say, "There, there," to be comforting. Even if it simply evokes a feeling of, "You know what, the way she writes? All is not lost in today's world. I'm inclined to believe everything is going to be alright." That'd make my heart glad.

The recent passing of a few famous people has reminded us that the journey of this life does not go on forever. Robin Williams' passing saddened me - for a number of reasons. Lauren Bacall's evoked tributes that reminded the world of her love for Bogey. (I also finally figured out the lyrics to Key Largo. Don't ask!) And, today, Roger Clarke, Jamaica's Minister of Agriculture, passed away in Florida, as he prepared to travel to Jamaica. Walk good, Roger Clarke.

As that line from Wear Sunscreen says, "The race is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself."

Here's to more creating, more writing, and more glad hearts on the journey.


Monday, 18 August 2014



There are no holes in my arms.
Like the girl - early twenties?
Pants - if you could call them that -
Maybe the Lululemon yoga sort
They had to finally recall
Too sexy; too sheer; too revealing
Shares fell after that.

Her pants - as she stooped to get
Something from her bag -
Slid below the crack. Way below.
So far down, I looked away
For shame for her.
Did she not feel cool air
Against that vanilla-pale, soft, smooth skin?

Then, as I stole another glance -
Or, maybe it was just that her move to stand
Caught my peripheral vision -
She stood
She rummaged
Pants still half-way down.

As she rummaged through her bag
Just moved to the top of the table
Her hands came into view.
They bore holes - large, healed, gaping
From the back of her hands to her forearms
Wherever there could be a vein.
They held my gaze for more than the polite two seconds
When I finally looked away
I cast my gaze upon nothing in particular
Pretending I could taste
The iced tea I was sucking through a straw
Too large for that.

She found what she'd been searching for
She must have
She abandoned her bag
- Not caring, it seemed
Whether any of the hundreds of
Food court patrons
Would prove themselves untrustworthy -
Reached into the upper part of her pants
Pulled them up just a little
Before going for a refill.

It was on her return
I saw her face
Too young
Too old and long a story
Too weak
Too worn
Too familiar
Too easy to get sucked back in.

No fight
No more
All gone
What's the score?
Doesn't matter
All lives used up
Way too late to start over

As I looked around
And sipped my iced tea
I somehow managed to be thankful
There are no holes in my arms
That you can see.

- Dnafcnatgada


Friday, 8 August 2014

A Few of My Favourite Things - On Writing

August - the anniversary month for this blog. The 28th is the actual date, so I guess I'll wait until then to properly commemorate. Heh heh.

I had a few things in mind for these August entries. However, after much thought, I've decided to place them on hold. Essentially, they had to do with particular journeys. Why mention them? Well, consider this a placeholder of sorts. I do hope to share them in this medium at the appropriate time.

In the meantime, here are a few of my favourite quotes and memes that have inspired me along the writing journey. Many quotes and writings and tips and so on and so forth, may be found in books, on the Internet... It never ends!!! It's very easy to spend more time reading all that, than actually writing. Of the myriad, it's not often that a quote touches me right here - resonating with my own feelings; echoing the rhythm of the lines (poetic and prose) in my blood. It helps to know that the treasure lies not only in the destination - which is subjective, really - but also (if not more so) in the journey. And what a journey this is turning out to be!

Okay, here goes:

"My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way." 
- Ernest Hemingway

"Sometimes a book isn't a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. Sometimes it's the only story you knew how to tell."
- Tahereh Mafi

"Don’t cast sidelong glances, and compare yourself to others among your peers! (Writing is not a race. No one really “wins.” The satisfaction is in the effort, and rarely in the consequent rewards, if there are any.)" 
- Joyce Carol Oates

"Often when he was teaching me to write in Greek the Fox would say, “Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that is the whole art and joy of words." A glib saying. When the time comes to u at which u will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the centre of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about joy of words." 
- C.S. Lewis

"Writing: a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don't want to make eye contact while doing it." 
- John Green

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
- Maya Angelou

"A thousand nations of the Persian empire will descend upon you! Our arrows will blot out the sun!" - Persian  "Then we will fight in the shade." - Stelios (300)

"You think your work is crappy, but it's not. Show it to someone. You're better than you think."
- Claudia (Moi) :-)

"S/O to those who keep getting back up; whose vulnerability has been mocked, but...meh; whose courage yells at adversity: #YouAndWhatArmy??!!"

"Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.
For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit."
- Jeremiah 17:7-8, Bible (KJV)

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Via @i_Author

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Via @DeinaFurth

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Via @AJAsh

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Via @ShaunFrankson

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Via @MyNextDance

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Via @anilawhitney

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Via @BSHMNetwork

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Via Google

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Via @Archnahr

And, a fav fav:

Dear Writer, Please do me right now. On the kitchen table. In your bed. On the couch. Hell, I'll even take the floor in front of the TV, I don't care. I just need you to do me like I've never been done before. Sincerely, Your Writing

Text inspired by:

Image from:
Via @Quotes4Writers


Monday, 28 July 2014

Dear Jamaican Men and Dear Jamaican Women: A Word

Social Media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, can get very noisy. And, when people are passionate about certain issues, even more so. The good thing with the way these platforms are, however, is that you can take in the information or points of view one at a time - if at all. You can always opt not to check out the issue being discussed or the contributions from other authors. When you're good and ready, in your quiet place, you can peruse and scroll to your heart's content.

Some folks have mastered the art of speaking passionately via these media without having their points misinterpreted. The quick posts come a-mile-a-minute, saying exactly what they wish to say. That's good. What is even better, is being able to engage respectfully with people with whom they do not share a particular point of view. I've seen such well-mannered exchanges between folks at opposite ends of a spectrum. On Twitter. The zoo-like, mean streets of Twitter! Such admirable exchanges are a thing of beauty to read. They always remind me that, even though we are behind computer/phone screens, we can be civil. All is not lost.

The Art and Joy of Words
But, some of it is. I've shared a bit of a quote by C.S. Lewis in a previous post regarding the "art and joy of words." There is more to the quote, and, in its entirety, it gets to the heart of what makes saying or writing "exactly what you wish to say" a sometimes uncomfortable thing. A part of the struggle is not about whether you will offend. No. Such an outcome in today's world is, to wit, expected. For, as long as you create/write/say/stand up for/take a position on something, people are gonna pull up their soapboxes and criticize your work/opinion/position, etc. That's a given. It's not even the fear of being labelled a pariah. The part of the struggle that spells discomfort is the knowledge that there are those who will not pause long enough to listen or read through; who will not try to understand a conflicting (worse, less than savoury) point of view. In articulating your own thoughts, you come up against opinions set in stone, which is a part of a bigger stone - a wall, if you will. And, when this meets that, there's little point in adding to the noise. But, a thing that need be said can do no other than to find an outlet.

"Often when he was teaching me to write in Greek the Fox would say, “Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that is the whole art and joy of words." A glib saying. When the time comes to u at which u will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the centre of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about joy of words." - C.S. Lewis

These thoughts came to mind last week as I witnessed the unfolding of a sexual harassment awareness campaign on Twitter. (As you know, with Social Media, campaigns are no longer solely the purview of organizations and their marketing teams. Anyone can start a conversation and, if it catches on, it goes viral - takes on multiple shares or retweets - in no time.) A Jamaican man suggested the use of the hashtag #DearJamaicanMen on Wednesday, July 22. The idea was to help make people aware of the verbal (and sometimes, physical) harassment many Jamaican women are subjected to as they go about their daily lives.  And so they did - and how! The tweets were authentic, passionate, no-holds-barred. I had to take it in, in pieces. Many tweets were being published in a short space of time and it was a lot to take in. Women recounted episodes upon episodes of unwelcome advances; crass behaviour; crude language, and the like, from those men.

The Medium. The Message.
One of my concerns was how to now go about reaching and changing the habits of those men. After all, as that Jamaican proverb goes, "Wha bawn inna kid, dead inna goat." Or, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks." But, we have to believe that there are exceptions to the rule. After all, would we then be saying that people...adults, are unteachable? That's not what adult-learner-based courses presume. How, then, do we go about impressing what is acceptable behaviour upon these minds, and making it stick? Social media provide such avenues.

Is the target group on Twitter? Perhaps there's a presence, yes. The campaign raised awareness, and it was also a call-to-action. Twitter may have been a great starting point. But, needless to say, other media - including (if not especially) word-of-mouth - are critical to the cause.

Respect Due
It would not only be a rather tedious one, but, as well, a very frustrating exercise for Jamaican women to keep reminding/correcting those men each and every single time they are confronted with such crass approaches and, in some cases, inappropriate touches/sexual harassment. Every. Single. Time. This might give the impression that women are saying they meet upon these offences ten times per day. In a word, no. In another word: Thatisnothepoint. What is real, however, is that meeting upon such an offence even once a week is too often. The frequency is one thing; what comes out of the mouths of those men is another. Worse, the touch. The question is what makes them think it is okay? The answer(s) may be varied and may make sense to them. Want to know which answer will not make the cut? "I did not know any better." So, knowing better is one thing. Doing what they do is another. Doing what they do because they know they will face no consequences is yet another.

Those men, in most cases, are strangers to the women they call out to or try to touch or hold. They don't know them from Eve! But, as the saying goes, "Respect due!" Human to human, respect is due. The ugly truth is (although the physical appearance of the truth is irrelevant) we don't always get the respect we deserve. And it is folly to think that we are going to get it from some perv or crass so-and-so on the street. We have zero control over the words that come out of a person's mouth. As crass and crude as they are, trying to control another's words is like trying to take just the right amount of air from a bubble. Even speech writers will tell you they're never 100% successful. (The client/boss will ad lib - sometimes ad nauseam. Smh.) But touching? Nay nay! I get the feeling I should include these reminders a few times in this post; sprinkle them around like Parmesan cheese:

Touching a woman in a sexual way
Without her consent
Is never okay.

It does not matter if she chooses to walk the street clad solely in nipple covers and a skin-toned thong. It. Does. Not. Matter. No one has a right to touch her in a sexual way because she chooses to walk the street half or 90% naked. Whether her elevator goes all the way to the top is another matter entirely. Dressing and showing a lot of skin is not my thing. It's how I was brought up and doing so makes me uncomfortable. But, again, people choose how they want to dress. It is not an invitation for non-consensual sexual touch. So, if one of those men decides to reach out and touch in a sexual way (and, given the context, we're talking without the woman's consent), it just got real. Not only is that scary, it is sexual harassment and it should be reported to the police. I know. I know. "But, this is Jamaica," you say. I know. I know. For one, there's no anti-crass legislation, and, for two, our judicial system is backed up with cases from Whappie killed Phillup. And the jury is still out on that. So, for the system to be "burdened" with these "cho-a-nuh-nutten-dat" cases of sexual harassment, may not be a welcome notion for the long arm of the law.

What also came to mind is that some Jamaican women make it bad for others, in seeing nothing distasteful or wrong with these kinds of approaches. By extension, they encourage this kind of behaviour. Sadly, the message some men get is that it is okay. Encouragement might also come from certain songs/chunes and the like. (That debate continues. Talk amongst yourselves...) As we have called on the men we know to relay to the one or two breddrin they know who fall in the those men category, my dear Jamaican women should also have a word with the one or two sistren we know who encourage "this kind of behaviour". There's a campaign on for good manners in Jamaica. Yes, it's now requiring a movement. There's also the Respect movement. I'm not sure whether there is offline presence, however, Respect Jamaica is all about the message of having and showing respect for one another. Respect for self; respect for others; respect for life. It goes for both men and women. R-E-S-P-E-C-T is a two-way street.

Sigh. For now, it seems "the crass we have always with us." Hopefully, not for much longer. Wouldn't it be great if we could run them out of the gene pool? Just saying. While we work on getting to that point where the awareness and lessons about impact lead to a change in mind and behaviour, let's try not to let it consume us. By the way, if we have to start demanding respect from the men in our lives - the men who really matter - then, Houston, we have a problem.

We are often advised not to take the law into our own hands. In a physical encounter that threatens to hurt you or take your life, defensive action is reflexive. No one has to tell you to try to defend yourself. I'm not going to stay too long on this point because (1) I don't know too much about this (2) The Internet, movies and self-defence classes abound, and (3) The little that I do know, I ponder. Yeah. I imagine that it would be helpful to be mentally prepared for any "light" or serious encounter. We're not able to stop bullets with our teeth. However, it is not sufficient to simply walk with key in hand as I sometimes do - depending. It is important to be prepared to use that key in a way that will incapacitate the person who's physically harassing or attacking you. For instance, you could plan to apply a side kick to an attacker's knee. Would you be mentally prepared to hear it crack? And, knowing you've done some damage to render him immovable, hightail it out of there instead of being paralyzed with fear? How are you with the sight of blood spewing? It is also advised that you make a sound; a shout, even a guttural noise of some sort when fighting off an attacker. So much adrenaline is coursing through you, you need a release. I understand that that is one of the reasons police officers shout their commands: "Hands up!" "Get down!" And so on. If all that is pent up, you might suffer a mild stroke. (The noise you make may even alert someone.) In some jurisdictions, if you apply more force than necessary beyond simply defending yourself, you may end up in court. The goal, as is often said, is to get out of that situation alive. You may get hurt. After all, the person is trying to overpower you. But your goal is to get out with your life. So, be mentally prepared to hurt or outsmart the person enough to achieve that goal.

Needless to say, that goes for anyone - not just women.

Touching a man in a sexual way
Without his consent
Is never okay.

I searched for and found a lil something to get those thoughts a-flowing. This one goes out to my Dear Jamaican People:

(Image found via Google search. If it's yours, I'd be happy to give credit.)

Foreseen Response
But, the messaging continues. Those on Twitter still do. And, like all messages, they earn feedback/responses/criticisms. One of the ones many saw coming was the #DearJamaicanWomen hashtag. It would have been naive to think that that was not going to happen. It would also have been naive to think that people won't and don't appropriate their own meanings to linguistic constructs and even end up turning the original on its head. Again, no control over that. Plus, it's Twitter. The similarity of the workings of the human mind is on fine display. Create an "original" hashtag and you discover it has already been used dozens of times. Also, it may have been used to convey an entirely different thought or used within an entirely different context altogether. So, you put something out there and hope for that folks will stick with the theme.

Upon the creation of the new hashtag, I figured, as many others must have, that the two would not be comparable. Statistically, women are way more on the receiving end of these unsavoury comments  and approaches than men. But, I also figured that the users of the DJW hashtag would use it to express their annoyance with some habits of Jamaican women. That happened. And, believe it or not, they had a right to do it, as the women (and some men) did with the DJM hashtag. My interpretation of that move was: "We know it can't compare, but this is our chance and avenue to express our concerns and annoyances." The subject matter was not the same - and they knew it. But, some of them also came from a place of what was real to them. True, there was little regard to time and place and courtesy/netiquette. However, should their views be discounted or should we close our ears to what they were saying because their views didn't fit the theme; the timing? Some of them tried to turn it into a positive for Jamaican women. And a few of them were just plain stupid. And crass.

Literary Tropes
One comment was that those men should not have to see these women as their family members before showing respect. However, it may very well take a comparison between other women and their mothers, sisters, aunts..., to trigger a change in thinking and behaviour. For some folks, their tropic (trope-ic) view of the world is heavily based on metaphors. They are better able to grasp a concept through association using specific analogies. (Similar to this is metonymy - association based on general understanding. "The beautiful game" is a widely accepted reference to football.) Another trope is synecdoche (not the place in New York). This is where people tend to refer to the part for the whole: "Oh, you've got a new set of wheels!" Or, the whole for the part: "The long arm of the law finally caught up with you!" (Instead of saying the police stopped you for speeding.) Where was I going with this? Yes. So, perhaps, for some of those men, metaphors/associations would resonate more with them. We would like them to exhibit a change in behaviour; get to a higher level. Are we dictating how they get there? Or should we appreciate that they would be choosing to change; making an effort, and that that's a starting point for them?

Ladies and Gentlemen
The task is a challenging one, but it is necessary to begin - if we have not already begun - to raise our little girls and little boys to be ladies and gentlemen. If we don't take the time to do it, they will be raised by wolves. We could leave them to the (societal) elements, be über-liberal in a hands-off approach and simply hope for the best. And it's fine to talk about being prudish, until the day you realize it's your son or your daughter who's being a menace to society. Yes. The same wolf-esque society to which he/she was left to be groomed. As was told to us as students at Wolmer's Girls', "What you will be, you are now becoming."

Here's the thing: Values and principles remain a thing. And, here's another thing: People differ in their definition of values and principles, etc. It's as though we all make it up as we go along. We've made such a descent, and are now we've found ourselves up that creek - without a paddle. But, we gotta find a common standard, man. We all must be able to agree that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable; is wrong. Why can't we all just get along? (Sorry. It's been a long post.)

Decency is not just something to do to get something in return. You could "Good morning, Miss," til you're blue in the face, it doesn't necessarily mean the woman will hand over her telephone number. No, just be decent because it makes you a better you. It helps you on the journey to living a fulfilling and rewarding life - in Jamaica or in Australia or wherever. (I was gonna say "successful life", but the definition of success is not the same for everyone.) You may have heard the saying, "We hire for aptitude. We fire for attitude." Yeah. That.

A Word: Respect
The conversation continues, no doubt, online and offline. The message needs to get through to minds and hearts, and a huge part of that message is Respect.

(Note: Thanks to sis, Durie, for her feedback on the draft of this post. Much appreciated!)