Aunt Phyll passed away June 15 this year. She was living in a retirement home. She was to be 97 years in 2 months. Aunt Phyll didn’t have children of her own, and at the age of 97, she didn’t have peers in this life to gather and mourn her passing. She had relatives though, scattered across the world and a few right here in Jamaica. So at the behest of the family matriarch residing here in Jamaica, we gathered last week Saturday to celebrate and honour Aunt Phyll’s life. A grand total of four of us assembled, masks on, six feet apart to speak about Aunt Phyll and mark her passing with respect. And it got me thinking…Continue reading Of death, Life, growing old and Family: Reflections on Aunt Phyll
Sometimes you’ve just got to get out of Kingston… know what I mean? Like any major city, Kingston, Jamaica has its fair share of stressors: traffic, ongoing road improvement works, horrible taxi drivers that force your soul into your mouth with every drive, noise, searing heat especially now that they’ve removed what seems like every living tree all in the name of road network expansion and the everlasting presence of garbage. Everywhere. So two weekends ago H insisted on heading out of the city for the day. Who am I to fight against a drive out of town, that’s likely involve a beach stop and yummy food 🙂 Here’s what we did and how we stayed keto (and happily so!) on a perfect day on the road.Continue reading Road Trip While Keto: Our Day in Treasure Beach, Jamaica
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.
“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|
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.
It’s July 31, and all of Jamaica is waiting on track and field to start, me included! I can’t help but feel though, that Beijing was as good as it’s gonna get for us. Look at the USA male gymnasts and swimmers…not living up to expectations are they! The thing is, there are so many extremely hungry competitors just straining at the bit to compete and win. All of this notwithstanding, I remain respectful and in awe of the talent of our athletes. I sincerely hope that Usain Bolt not only defends his titles, but that he sets some new world records too. Greedy? I think so…but hey…Usain is a SUPERSTAR, in terms of his amazing talent (have you ever really looked at him over the last 40m of his race?) and also in terms of his natural ability to interact with people…so darned comfortable in his own skin.
And I absolutely love VCB and Shelly-Ann and ma girl Melaine. Man…I wish them well. And as for Asafa…I’m going to say it here: if anyone is to beat Bolt, I would like it to be Asafa. I would be happy. I am so nervous though. In the sprints there is absolutely zero room for error, and the rounds are taxing, and the whole false start thingy….we just have to wait and send love and positive vibrations to our Team over there. GOOD LUCK, GUYS!
Let me say, I enjoyed the opening ceremony. It was entertaining and not too long, and reflected what Britain is quite well. I still say that LA 1984 will remain my favourite opening ceremony. Who can forget the 84 grand pianos playing in unison? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_B-lgIc2_w I will admit that the fact that I was watching the opening ceremonies with my family while enjoying pizza and drinking rum could have contributed to my overall enjoyment of the proceedings! And then came Team Jamaica on to the filed, resplendent in their edgy and colourful uniforms. Awesome! I suspect that at the next staging of the games, Olympic uniforms will undergo a paradigm shift from the traditional boring and stodgy to something more in the vein of our uniforms, and the parade of the athletes will take on a vibe not unlike a haute couture fashion show! No problem as far as I am concerned.
I am pissed at the fact that I can’t watch the games on NBC. It’s great that we can watch the events live. But I don’t think our local station would lose viewers if we had the option of watching the games on cable that we have already paid for! I guarantee you that in any event with a Jamaican, Jamaica would turn to CVM. Simple. But I want the option to take in NBC’s perspective too, and to relax and enjoy the delayed coverage that they are offering.
On now to the Jamaican athletes who have done well so far. Samantha Albert (equestrian) remains a puzzle in my mind. I wonder why she didn’t represent Canada or the UK…methinks she should have been able to do either…anyhows, good effort on her part. Yes, my enthusiasm is muted, but is so it go.
Alia Atkinson copped a great 4th place in the 100m breaststroke swimming. She competed like a champion and I wish her all the best in her two remaining events. She’s strong, and fit and fast with the heart and demeanor of a champion.
In closing, allow me to ask some questions that have come to mind:
1. If there’s table tennis in the Olympics, why isn’t there netball. Just saying…
2. Why can’t the genders compete together in events that don’t require speed or strength? Take for instance shooting…that requires a steady hand and a good eye. Methinks the sexes can compete fairly here.
3. Where are the breasts of the female swimmers? Is it the swimsuit that has crushed them flat?
4. I wonder if the condoms that they have distributed in the Olympic village are being used up? I am somewhat intrigued by reports of sexual activity in the village. As one person in the article I read said: “everyone in the village has a great body!”
5. What the hell is the Jamaica50 secretariat going to do if Jamaica doesn’t get a gold in the male 100m on Aug 5? They are planning celebrations around the race…talk about pressure! It’s never really a good idea to plan around an unknown. And we still don’t have any guarantee that JA will get a gold in the event. The damn race lasts for 10 seconds (count them!) and every one of the 8 that will be in the race is a competent athlete to say the least.
6. Why do all the female beach volley ballers have ponytails?
7. Why do all the female beach volley ballers NOT get a wedgy?
8. Why do all the female beach volley ballers look so darned good in a bikini? (can you tell I’m a tad obsessed with the the female beach volley ballers?
9. Why hasn’t Yohan Blake uttered a word since he’s been in London?
Let the Games continue!
This week, a friend asked me how I do all the stuff that I do with the kids. “You must have a huge budget, Kelly!” he remarked. The answer is no. I do not have a huge budget. But when you have kids and you work too, it is critical to do stuff together where everyone (and that includes you!) can relax. You get to de-stress and you build memories too. It is possible here in Jam Down with a little planning. So this post is dedicated to EY. May you have fun times with your girls and build memories for a life-time.
MY MUST HAVES FOR A FUN TIME
1. Working vehicle
2. Tank full of gas
You see, with all of the above in place, there are so many options open to you. Here are some of my favourites:
1. BEACH TRIPS:
Ocho Rios Public Beach, Frenchman’s Cove (Portland), Doctors Cave (Montego Bay), Negril, Ft. Clarence. Any of the above can be done in a single day. For Negril and Mobay, leave home early (think 6am). Buy patties en route for breakfast or make sandwiches from the night before. Pack your own snacks and fruit that you bought in the grocery, and pack water and juices, soda and rum for Mummy. Admission to these beaches ranges from 150.00 per person to 400.00. Now many of these beaches don’t allow you to bring your own food. Some of the food options on the beaches are really overpriced in my opinion. So for those beaches with the expensive options, I still carry my snacks and frozen bottles in my beach bag, and promise the kids to stop somewhere more affordable for food on the way back. This adds another dimension to the road trip. Kids are usually more than satisfied with the low budget options available like BK and KFC, and I also use the opportunity to expose them to various jerk spots and “decentish” cook shops where you can get get good Jamaican food for under 500.00 (there are great places with parking along the Northcoast highway like that spot opposite Green Grotto Caves, Lyming, jerk in Blueberry Hill, St. Mary, Spur Tree curry goat. On every road trip I look out for potential stop-offs and plan for them on my next trip.
2. THE ZOO IN KINGSTON:
I think it is now 500.00 for adults and 200.00 for kids. This is a central oasis that doesn’t require big planning. Stop at KFC or your favourite take out place, get your food, carry a blanket (or not!) and head off to the zoo. The zoo has recently been transformed and the grounds which were lovely before with huge expanses of lawn, are even lovelier now with the addition of many many palm trees and the creation of new picnic areas. You can picnic in peace and quiet under the mango trees and enjoy the quietude and breeze. The children will enjoy running up and down looking at the animals and you can walk with them or not. It never gets tired. There are new animals with the promise of more to come. There are interactive exhibits where for a little more money (think 200.00 per person) you can feed the birds or pet specific animals. Check it out! It’s a fun, hassle-free way to take a few hours off and just relax.
3. THE NATIONAL GALLERY
An hour and a half in the gallery on a quiet Saturday morning down town Kingston is a wonderful way to expose your children (and you too!) to another side of our culture. Sometimes there are exhibits and activities there geared towards children. Admission is free I believe. Parking is secure. And when you are finished., just take a walk with your children along Harbour Street. Take them into Burger King for a little treat. Easy, fun and memorable.
4. TOM REDCAM LIBRARY
I could almost copy and paste the verbiage for the National Gallery here.
5. EMANCIPATION PARK
The park is lovely in the evening, just before the sun sets. It’s still light, but it’s cooler. There’s an icecream shop opposite the entrance to the park. Get a single scoop of your favourite flavour and saunter slowly into the park. Chat, walk, people watch and grab a seat on a bench or on the grass. From time to time there are shows there that you can enjoy for free. But even without a show, the park remains a great choice to just exhale and clear your mind. Really young children love it. The huge expanses inspire them to just run, and by the time you get home and bathe them they’re ready to crash! Hint: keep those toddlers awake in the car on the way home so they sleep when you get home, and you can relax with a glass of wine in from of the TV. Heaven!
6. HOLLYWELL PARK
It’s just a 45 minute drive from Papine. Pack a picnic, wear your sneakers, carry your sweaters and lots of drinking water and fruit. A regular car can make that drive. Once there, I think you pay a nominal entry fee (something like 200.00 or 300.00 per adult and way less per child). Park and take one of 2 main hiking trails. Young children can do these walks. Each trail is 45 min long with great views along the way and lots of interesting things to see. Check in at the Ranger cabin so someone knows you are out there. Ensure that you have your cell phone and get to walking. Aim to get there by 10:00 am. and do your hiking then. The afternoons get overcast, misty and rainy…great picnic weather huddled under one of the many gazebos on property.
7. DRIVE-OUTS IN AND AROUND KINGSTON:
So I love to drive! Grab your favourite music, make a big deal of it, and load up the car. Head out to the lighthouse near the airport. Watch the planes come in, look at the sea. Talk. Collect rocks along the shore.
Drive through the more affluent neighbourhoods like Beverly Hills, Norbrook, Cherry Gardens and do some harmless House Hunting. It’s fun. You can chat along the drive.
Do the Port Royal Tour. I don’t think it’s more than 500.00 for adults. It’s fun and it’s informative.
I highly recommend the Bob Marley Museum tour. Can’t remember the fee, but it is way less than a movie for sure. Even children will find it interesting.
Go for ice cream at Devon House. Saturday afternoons are good. It’s not too crowded, and it feels like such a treat to break your day and just sit under a tree or gazebo eating great ice-cream.
Mayfair Hotel in Kingston is a great spot for the kids to swim and Mom and Dad to have a drink. For 350.00 you can swim and relax under a huge mango tree out back. There’s a bar and grill. It’s central, quiet and safe.
8. LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!
Palace Amusement rocks. I loooove the movies: the dark and cool and nachos and my sneaked in flask of tonic to take me through animate features (I hate cartoons in any form). Nowadays, I consider movies a big budget item! So I carefully choose what we’ll go to see and make an event of it. And to be perfectly honest, I go by myself after work from time to time. Ain’t nothing nicer than sinking into that cushy seat by yourself, in the dark with your snack of choice, enjoying not having to talk for 2 hours and being entertained. Try it…
Take the kids to an age appropriate local play. My kids enjoyed Breadfruit Kingdom
They enjoyed the Pantomime last year too.
Save some $$$ and look out for all-inclusive hotel specials and do this once per year.
Create your own rituals. In my house, Sundays are special. I throw down on a Sunday and we lounge around at the dinner table for 3 hours eating and talking.
Always be on the look out for festivals, free shows, exhibitions, etc that you and your children could be interested in. Naturally, this list is not exhaustive. There are numerous big ticket items like the Water Park in Negril, paint-balling in St. Thomas, Mystic Mountain and swimming with the Dolphins. You can plan for these. I haven’t spoken about Castleton, heritage stops in various parishes, and the many other beaches around Jamaica Land we Love.
My next road trip will be a drive to Black River to do the Black River safari (1600.00 per person). I may stop at the Grace agro-processing facility in St. Elizabeth on the way back and get a tour of the facilities. We’ll see…
It’s always more about building the memories and creating an environment and context where your children feel safe and loved. Have Fun!!!!!
I don’t aim to be preachy. I’ve been through some tough and painful times and I’ve thankfully been able to extract some key learnings that continue to serve me through the highs and the lows of this thing called life. I’d like to share three truths, lessons, learnings…whatever you want to call them. So here goes.
GOOD FRIEN’ BETTA DAN POCKET MONEY (it’s better to have a good friend than a fistful of cash)
Oh.. this is so true! I remember some pretty dark times when the 7:30am call from one particular girlfriend every single day over a few months, to test my emotional temperature, is what sustained me. She listened to me cry, she commisterated with me, she offered help. I remember after work drinks with girlfriends who listened and shared and supported. I remember calls from my flesh and blood sister at just the right times, with words of comfort and faith and support and love. We laughed, we cried, we cussed. And after all was said and done, I came out on the other side with my friends’ support and love.
SELF FORGIVENESS CREATES THE CAPACITY TO FORGIVE AND LOVE
“Be gentle with yourself” is one of the best pieces of advice I ever got. Face up to your mistakes and missteps. Accept responsibility. Make ammends. And then offer grace to yourself.
I know what it feels like to want a kind word. A sympathetic ear. A word of encouragement. Some tangible assistance. And I know the difference it made when I received them. So I would like to believe that I’ve become a kinder person. Everybody has their own story. You may never know what someone is going through. There are people working with you and people who cross your path as you go about your life that have experienced heartbreak, hurt, rejection and loss. Sometimes a kind greeting or a sympathetic ear may be all that it takes for them to keep on keeping on. Bring to mind the times when you were on the receiving end of an act of kindness and resolve to pay it forward. Resolve to be more understanding and tolerant. Demonstrate kindness at least once per day. Volunteer to help those less fortunate than yourselves. Be kind to those close to you and be sensitive to their feelings.
Have a great week!