I reviewed my friend Hilary’s book about her “new normal” after surviving a stroke at the relatively young age of 51 three years ago. As you would imagine, Hilary’s life changed in an instant. She had to contend with her altered appearance and independence due to challenges with her mobility. In the last 3 years, Hilary has worked very hard in concert with her doctors and therapists to get to the stage now where she can move largely unassisted and can once again perform basic self-care tasks. In her book, Hilary explained very clearly what strokes are and how they are caused. And I started to think. You see, in the last year and seven months that I have changed my diet to the keto diet, I have discovered a direct link between the food we eat and our health. The keto diet was originally conceived and implemented as part of the treatment protocol for epilepsy, a disease of the brain. My own improved general health while eating the keto way, prompted me to do some digging, and I have discovered links between keto and other diseases and conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, PCOS , high blood pressure and even mental health. So could the keto diet be useful in the road to recovery for survivors of stroke?Continue reading The Keto Diet & Recovery After A Stroke
We were stunned at work back in late 2015 when we heard that she had had a stroke. What?! Hilary was just 51 and in apparent good health. Heck, I’d seen her that day at work! As the months following that day in November in 2015 changed to years, I’d see a pic or two on her Facebook page. It was evident that her life had changed, literally in an instant. Facial features had changed and mobility was most definitely a challenge. We saw each other once when she visited the office. She was moving around with assistance from a caregiver, but seemed so happy to reconnect with her former colleagues. Then I stopped seeing her on Facebook. I wondered what was happening and thought of her frequently. So imagine my joyful surprise when Hilary reached out to me on Twitter with an invitation to her book launch!Continue reading “My New Normal: Reflections of a Stroke Survivor” A book review.
I literally stumbled upon a great, new small business right here in Jamaica and then I had the pleasure of sitting down with the owners/operators and chatting with them. I left our conversation shaking my head in wonderment and wishing that we could replicate their spirit across the length and breadth of this island. The Instagram account was what had caught my eye. The pics were mostly befores and afters of shoes of every description. Grungy looking sneakers were transformed into new literal works of art. Leather shoes, both men’s and women’s, were revitalized and good to go all over again. Bridgett sandals that were worn and shabby were reborn into their shiny new, well heeled former selves. I saw shoes that had they been mine, I’d have dumped them, restored so perfectly that I was amazed. And all of this was happening right here in Jamaica! What was being showcased was way beyond basic shoe repair. I had never seen this beforeContinue reading Innovation, Customer Service & Business: A Jamaican Story.
I first mentioned the concept of Livity here, when I shared my friend Marlene’s story about running her first marathon at 58. And recently, something happened that caused me to reflect on Livity once again. A few mornings ago, I sat in my living room sipping a cup of coffee. It was a cool, quiet, beautiful morning in my neck of the woods in Jamaica. Then I heard chirping, a little louder than usual. I live in the hills and we have lots of birds in the bushes and forest around us, so bird sounds are a constant part of the soundtrack around us. But this was distinct and louder than normal, and sure enough, a little birdie had flown inside and appeared not to know how to get back outside.Continue reading Life Lessons from Birdie: Another study in Livity.
I knew she had taken up running. In her 50’s. Then she announced that she planned to run a marathon in late 2018. Wow. This wasn’t some athlete or super-star person with oodles of time and resources on some PR kick. This was my friend Marlene, an ordinary mother and friend living her life on her terms, setting goals and going after them.Continue reading She Ran Her First Marathon at 58: A Study in Livity
Just after Christmas, I received a message via Facebook messenger. The content of the message jarred me, and after stewing for a day, I ranted on Facebook thusly:
Dear Facebook Friends:
I invite you to contemplate the issue of Manners. Yes, manners. I realize that we communicate these days in a very informal ways via Whatsapp, FB Messenger and so on, with phone calls and emails taking a back seat. I’m all for it. I hate phone calls…so intrusive.
Anyway, in using various instant messaging applications, we tend to economize on characters used and so shorthand communication is the order of the day. Please be aware that in your quest for brevity and conciseness you sometimes come over as rude, imperious and demanding. And I’m not here for it in 2018. I know this is not your intention. But I’ve rolled my eyes and sighed one time too many this year at some of your messages to me. Please don’t force me to ignore or block you in 2018.
“Hi Kelly. Please give me your email address. I have an assignment that I’d like your help with.”
This assumes that we already had an agreement in place that I’d assist you. And of course I’ll help. It’d be my pleasure! But your presumption was offensive. And even after I overlooked and assumed that your motives were pure, and took my valuable time and shared with you, you never ever came back and told me how your final assignment turned out. Shame on you. This is how you should have approached the situation:
“Hi Kelly. I would really like your help on an assignment I have. Could you? I’d happily email the brief to you. Please let me know.”
“Hi Kelly. Hope the holidays were good. Please call me at 1234567.”
This was from someone who I haven’t spoken with in years. Let me fix it for you:
“Hi Kelly. Hope the holidays were good. I’d like to ask you a question about xyz. May I call you? When is a good time?”
“Give me a number for xyz”
No “Hey Dog” or “please”.
You will be blue ticked.
Even if you are my bosom buddy, if you message me requesting something from me without saying please I will ignore you. Y’all have a nasty habit of typing in short-hand which seems to include omission of manners.
Use my name please. It’s a mere 5 letters. Hell… you can even stick with “K”. In face to face communication I prefer eye contact. In digital communication, I prefer establishing the interaction with the use of my name. C’mon. It’s not that hard.
If we speak after a protracted period of non communication, for God’s sake do NOT begin with “yuh dash me weh.” I most certainly will if you go there though. We’re now speaking. Let’s get on with it and keep it moving.
So in closing, as you seek to economize across your various communication modalities in 2018, do not skimp on good manners.
I felt good after hitting Post. “That will show them. People must have manners” I congratulated myself.
Then I received another notification via FB Messenger. The person who had messaged me and prompted my rant had something to say to me, and it went like this:
Good morning Kelly. I apologize for the approach previously in asking you to call me. I was diagnosed with Z (condition redacted) and I’ve been home couple months immobile, having to be attended to from bathroom help to feeding. While I can touch even to type, this is major improvement. I wanted to tell you two things. Like I called X and Y (names redacted) in person to thank them for their contribution to what I am today. I wanted to tell you in person how much unknowingly you have made me who I am. You have inspired me from my education to growing my children unknowingly. Thanks for sharing your life that has inspired me in so many ways.
- Was the content of my rant wrong?
- Was I being unreasonable?
- Did the fact that my friend was ill change the veracity of my post?
“There’s a lady on Church St with the loveliest poinsettias at good prices” she offered.
I was looking for fluffy, good looking poinsettias that wouldn’t break the bank and a colleague at work tried to help. She too wanted some and we agreed to pay this downtown Kingston vendor a visit. She reassured me that I would get parking (in the JPS parking lot…she had business to do at JPS so we wouldn’t be lying) and that she would direct me.
So at the appointed time, we removed our jewellery (Downtown Kingston, DUH!), grabbed our tiny purses (no need to advertise) and headed out in my car. Traffic was heavy going up Duke St. The commercial district that is Downtown Kingston was a bustle with pedestrian and vehicular traffic. On a regular day, Downtown is a bargain hunter’s paradise. So everyone and their mother trying to maximize their Christmas spend was out in the brilliant December sunshine in the middle of the day in the middle of the week.
The traffic was sluggish and I decided to make conversation as we slowly made our way up the road. You see, my passenger/guide is my co-worker but we’re not close friends, if you understand what I mean.
“So what are your plans for Christmas dinner?” I enquired. Food is always a great place to start as far as I am concerned.
“Well…” she hesitated…“We would normally go to my in-laws, but for the past two years we’ve done nothing.”
There was an awkward pause. But not for long. I sensed a story.
“How come?” I pushed.
She sighed. “Two years ago my sister-in-law was rude to me at dinner, Kelly. I was hurt but I held it in. And I decided that I didn’t need to put up with that ever again.”
As I listened, I sensed that she was conflicted, that she responded the only way she thought she could have, but that she wasn’t comfortable with her own decision.
“So how do your hubby and your kids feel about your decision? Don’t they miss the jollification and family togetherness?” I asked gently.
Another sigh. “I’ve encouraged, I’ve begged them to go without me, Kelly, but they don’t.”
I explained to her that as mothers WE are the nucleus of the family, that everything revolves around us, and that if we aren’t happy, no one else is really happy. Then I felt led to share a story with her.
I told her about my friend Rachel Cunning. I met Rachel on Twitter. She was a thirty something professional who was suffering from Lupus when we met. She was a lively and engaging tweeter, posting links to interesting topics and offering witty comebacks up and down my timeline. She tweeted in passing that she was spending Christmas alone. Immediately I perked up. No one should be alone at Christmas unless they choose to, is my belief, handed down to me by my own mother. Now let me confess, I am not the most sociable person. I am no social butterfly who loves to entertain. Not me, no Siree. But Christmas has always been a time for family and food and fellowship and so I reached out to her. She immediately accepted my invitation to dinner. It was a bit of a logistical challenge for me as she was not mobile and she lived all the way in Portmore, miles and miles away from my Coopers Hill home. But I planned around it, picked her up early, and warned her that she would have to watch me cook and prepare and just spend the day with me. I got a bedroom ready for her in case she needed to rest and took out blankets and socks since Coopers Hill is delightfully cool at this time of the year. I fussed for nothing. Rachel fit right in with the family and we all embraced her immediately. Our other guests came later in the day and December 25 2016 was another warm, enjoyable, fun time.
One Wednesday in early October I spoke to Rachel. She was in hospital but was upbeat that she would be discharged on the weekend. I was supposed to call her that weekend to make arrangements to get something to her later that week or so. I didn’t call her. The weekend passed and on the Monday morning heading out I remarked to Nick that I had to call Rachel “today today today.” Imagine my horror when I saw “RIP Rachel” on my twitter timeline later that Monday morning. Two phone calls later confirmed the worst: Rachel had passed away in hospital the previous evening.
“Life is short” I told my colleague. “At the end of the day, is whatever you’re holding on to really worth it?
By this time, we had parked and exited the car. All the nice poinsettias were sold off. But I wasn’t disappointed. I had the distinct feeling, almost certain knowledge, if you will, that the drive out for poinsettias was not really about poinsettias, but more about the delivery of a well needed, perfectly timed message to my colleague that could potentially impact her life and her family’s life for the better: something infinitely better than potted plants for my home.
This morning she came in late and came straight to my desk. She was beaming and bubbling as she pulled up a chair.
“I know you were disappointed about the poinsettias, Kelly. But I have to tell you, I think the reason for our little outing was bigger than poinsettias.”
She shared how late into the night she wrestled with the challenge I offered her. She felt compelled to reach out to her sister-in-law to resurrect family dinner on Christmas day. She had discussed it with her husband and children and they all eagerly encouraged her to reach out. They were in full support. She eventually Whatsapped her sister at 7:30 this morning and almost immediately her phone rang. Sister-in-Law was on the other end, happy and eager to pick up where they had left off two years ago. My colleague told me that she felt a great weight off her shoulders and lightness in her heart. She was excitedly working out menu plans and best of all, the family was going to be together for Christmas. She knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that she had done the right thing. I have a feeling that this Christmas will be a very special Christmas for that family.
Is there a fractured relationship that you need to address? Christmas is as good a time as any to deal with it.
Is there a lonely person in your circle that you can include in your plans? Christmas is a great excuse to intrude.
Are you the lonely one? Are you the hurt one? I am sorry for your pain and hurt. I encourage you to reach out. You’d be surprised at the welcome waiting for you at the end of that call or text message.
Here’s to an abundance of love and happiness this Christmas.
|Courtesy Marion Ann|
Dysfunctional organisational culture. Toxic relationships. Self- doubt. Mistrust. Misaligned objectives. Perverse metrics. Silo-ed-approach to business. Misunderstandings. Wasted time. Defensivenes.
|Courtesy Jane Genova|
|Courtesy The American Negotiation Institute|
|Courtesy Wheeler Blogs|
I love mushrooms. I can eat them raw, sauteed in butter by themselves, cooked up with bacon, perched atop a thin crust veggie pizza (yum!), paired with tender chicken in a creamy sauce…you get the picture. Typically, mushrooms in Jamaica are premium offerings, imported and resold at high prices in the more upscale supermarkets. But in the early ’90s, there was a local project that saw oyster mushrooms produced by small farmers in rural Jamaica available on supermarket shelves. They were different from the typical button and portabella mushrooms that I was familiar with, but they were half the price and they were fresh and I lived for the times when they made their appearance. I can’t recall the details on the project that brought this exotic food local. It could have been RADA or JADF (Think inland shrimp farming, ornamental fish rearing, bee keeping,small farmer orchid production in Yallahs, cassava and tobacco farming, greenhouse agriculture…some of the more well known agriculture based projects that were initiated with the aim of transforming lives & communities. Too bad scaling up seems to elude us. I stand to be corrected). They soon ceased to be available, much to my dismay. There’s that scaling up issue again.
Over the years I have mourned their absence until a few weeks ago when I stumbled across an article in the local papers signalling a new project and the availability of locally produced oyster mushrooms again! Oh happy day! I immediately went to the Facebook page indicated in the article and enquired. Production was happening in Manchester. Were they available in Kingston? Where? How much? I eventually got a response stating that deliveries were going to be made in Kingston on Nov 16, please place orders at a specific email address. So I did. The minimum order would be a half pound at J$2500.00. More later on the pricing.
On Thursday I got an email indicating the approximate time of delivery and in the afternoon, the front desk at my office called me advising me of a delivery for me. I rushed out and was greeted by an elegant woman, with a slightly foreign accent, with 2 boxes and 2 jars for me. She introduced herself as Pauline Smith with a firm handshake, instructed me to immediately place the still warm and oh so beautiful mushrooms in cool storage, uncovered!, she was careful to admonish. She also said that as a first time customer I was getting two new products to try on one condition, that I give her feedback. The jars were labelled as mushrooms in bamboo vinegar. I was intrigued.
|Look at that! Fresh and beautiful. One half pound of pale creamy and delicate salmon coloured mushrooms|
|Same label, but two different products I think. One had smaller bits with a firmer texture, and one had larger softer pieces.|
I asked her to tell me more about this project. She explained that she was part of a cooperative aimed at empowering women and attacking rural poverty. She explained how they had worked to demystify mushroom cultivation and evolve a system where it become a plug and play endeavor. They had developed starter kits, very little land space was required, and that value added products was seen as the real value added side of this industry. Oh wow! I was intrigued. I love food. I love food innovation. And woman empowerment was simply the icing on the cake. Absolutely.
Pauline gave me more strict instructions on how to use the jarred products. “The mushrooms are a great meat substitute” she advised. “Simple use a little virgin coconut oil or sesame oil, sautee the product straight from the jar and then add a little of the vinegar it’s preserved in at the end.” “Oooh” I rejoined. “So it’s like an escoveitch then” I asked excitedly? “Not really…” she replied. “It’s more like a…like a…” she searched. “Like Thai food!” I jumped in as a light bulb went off. “That’s it exactly!” she agreed. I knew that I was in the presence of real foodie. Hey, Sis 🙂
I put my treasures in my igloo that I keep under my desk (don’t ask…I do, and it has come in handy on multiple occasions) and on cloud nine, I went home that evening my head swimming with all the ways I was going to enjoy my mushrooms.
On Friday evening I decided to have a light supper of lettuce roll ups. I put slices of ham and chicken processed slices in lettuce leaves, added cream cheese, olives, onions, pepper sauce and some of the mushroom pieces pickled in the bamboo vinegar and rolled them up. Delicious! These mushroom pieces were crisp and slightly sweet and went well with the other ingredients in my roll ups.
On Saturday morning I tried the preserved mushrooms in exactly the way she advised. I used sesame oil. The end result was a meaty, slightly sweet perfect side accompaniment to my bacon and hard-boiled egg breakfast. I imagined that it would also be perfect in a 100% veggie stir-fry creation that included baby corn, onions, sweet peppers and broccoli. Yum! My family concurred. Definitely a winner.
|Oyster mushrooms picked in bamboo vinegar, sauteed in sesame oil, a little of the bamboo vinegar added at the end.|
|Don’t mind the shape of my eggs. It’s magic! The mushrooms were a delicious part of my breakfast.|
For dinner, I decided to make chicken and mushroom in a cream sauce. Perfection! These oyster mushrooms have a meaty texture and they were so fresh and unblemished and unbruised (is that even a word?) unlike the imported options we have that have been cold storage for sooooo long and are soooooo far away from their origins. The end result was a delicious, easy to make meal that we all enjoyed.
|I sauteed the cut up mushrooms with onions in my wok.|
|After stir-frying boneless, skinless chicken thighs, I added the sauteed mushrooms and onions. Fresh ginger, loads of fresh garlic, heavy cream, a dash of freshly grated nutmeg and fresh parsley brought it all together.|
|I served the chicken and mushrooms with a garden salad, and stir fried chayote and zucchini. All locally grown.|
I did a little digging of my own. I visited Pauline’s Facebook page (she accepted my friend request), I visited her cooperative’s website and I read two Gleaner articles on her movement here and here. What I came away with is this: Pauline and her team have a vision. A great vision, that, if realised in full, will see women with an option for economic independence, a new healthy addition to our food options locally, an opportunity for exciting new food innovations with mushrooms as the base, and hopefully an abundance of fresh mushrooms at a reasonable price in supermarkets, so I can enjoy one of my favourite foods with ease. Like so many similar projects, this one seems to have had its problems: in-fighting, funding, support, etc. But they’re still going. Pauline has had her own health challenges, but she’s still going. And they’re working hard to spread the message. At a recent event at Devon House, they were fully present, selling “grow-kits” to allow people to grow their own mushrooms in their kitchen! I’d love to try that.
Now, I work in the food industry…commercial manufacturing and distribution. So I always think commercial viability of any food innovation. Was the J$2,500.00 value for money? Perhaps…these are organic, fresh offerings delivered to my door. I haven’t done the gram for gram comparison with the imported options. And maybe I shouldn’t. But premium-offerings consumers are a niche market, and there is still a mass market out there who think out-of-pocket-spend instead of premium-and-healthy and may be put off by such a huge outlay. The mushroom project will ultimately choose their target demographic and proceed accordingly. I wish them every single success.
I have another tray of fresh mushrooms left and I am conspiring to sautee them with garlic and veggies and enjoy. By myself. No easy feat in house of foodies. Selfish? Yes. Without apology 🙂 #causeImworthit.
I got a beige pedicure this week.
Four days before the climax of the Festive Season and I did my toes beige.
I actually took up a bottle of a deep, beautiful red, but then I put it back. I was not feeling red. I was feeling beige. And I was and am cool with it.
No, I am not depressed. Nope, I’m not even sad. This year went by in a mighty rush. At least that’s how it felt to me. It feels as if it was just last week I was here struggling to set my quantifiable targets at work for me and my team and now here I am doing the same thing over again for a brand new year. This year saw opportunity after opportunity for me to grow professionally (note: I did not say challenge after challenge. Perspective, right?). From building my team in the face of strong internal opposition from all directions, to digging deep to challenge and change systems to support organizational objectives, some of which I agreed with, some of which I did not agree with, to mastering new technical skills, I have had a humdinger of a year here on the grind. And 2016 crescendo-ed dramatically with my organization enacting significant structural change, bringing with it personnel changes, the expected heightened uncertainty and feelings of personal vulnerability. So here I am at the end of 2016, content to get off the merry go round, if only for a few days, to simply breathe. Inhale 2-3-4, exhale 2-3-4. Repeat. Repeat again.
Today is my last work day for 2016. I go off to cook Christmas dinner with the help of my husband and children this weekend. We’ll light candles and open gifts and share dinner with a small gathering of extended family and friends old and new on Sunday.
And I give thanks. I give thanks for opportunities to earn, to learn, for my beautiful and loving and healthy and extremely supportive family, for good friendships. I give thanks for rest and respite. With my beautifully beige toes.