Wednesday, 28 January 2015

"Back to Life"

What's a new year without poetry? C'mon. There's always room for poetry. Back to Life was written...ok, I won't say when it was written. Let's just say it's on the sunny side of Without the Kill. Because, well, seasons change.

Back to Life

I thought I had
No more strength or time for love
Until you came
I made the time
Your love gave me strength.

I wanted more of you
Wanting me
You said I gave you hope
By just being me.

In your eyes I see
How you take pleasure
In pleasing me
My love, no need to fear
Losing me at all.

For the first time
No second thoughts
Your strong arms
And long kisses
Comforted me home.

Your words wooed me
Your actions moved me
Into the new me
As you loved me
Back to life.

- Dnafcnatgada


Sunday, 18 January 2015

The Waffle Prayer

Okay. Before I tell you what The Waffle Prayer is about, let me tell you what it's not about. The Waffle Prayer is not about a compartmentalization of prayer requests. Y'know? Where each request, or each kind of request, is packed neatly inside a lil space, 'til you have rows and rows of prayer requests neatly laid out, then hope that God will grant them in order of priority. No. It's not about that.

What is The Waffle Prayer about? Well, here's what happened. A few years ago, Kiki, my niece, then going on Four, came to spend a Girls' Night with me. Her parents dropped her off on the Friday afternoon. The plan was that we'd spend the night; spend all day Saturday together; I'd take her to church with me on Sunday morning, and take her back home Sunday afternoon.

We had a fun Friday night. I don't quite remember how we spent the evening before bedtime, but, I'm pretty sure it involved reading - and Dora. Much has changed since then. Let it go! Let it go! (Gee, thanks, Frozen.) Before tucking her into bed, I asked her what she'd like for breakfast in the morning. I said, "I was thinking we could have waffles!"
"Yes! Yes! Waffles! I love waffles! Let's do waffles, Aunty!"

I guess that was the best idea, ever!

Anyway, come morning - and, by morning, I mean waking-up-at-5:45-on-a-Saturday-morning morning - I awoke to her shaking my shoulder, "Aunty! It's morning!"
"It's kinda early, though, don't you think?"
"No. No, it's not! The sun is up. It's light outside!"

She was right. The sun was up. It was light, outside. Who knew? She did. Apparently.

I struggled out of bed. After a quick trip to the bathroom, I was ready to start the day. Almost. I told her I was gonna take a moment to say prayers, then I'd be right with her. I took that moment and, as soon as I was done, I asked Kiki whether she had said prayers, too.

"Yes, I was praying that you would finish praying so we could go make the waffles!"

I'm still crying! Lol!!!


Thursday, 8 January 2015

What's Your Story: Gordie

I met Gordie. He was seated in his wheelchair at the bottom of the escalator. I had just alighted at Dundas subway station from the train heading north. Amidst the throng of people walking through the adjoining level to the Atrium, I saw him perched under the direction signs. He called out to no one in particular - it seemed to me - for "spare change for a coffee." The handle of my lunch bag was perched in the crook of my left elbow, so I made the universal sign for "I got nothin'," with my right hand. And I kept walking. It was Monday morning - the last Monday in December 2014. I wanted to wrap up the year with super early arrivals at work.

I made it about four or five steps away then did the U-turn thing that Torontonians recognize and appreciate. Because, in Toronto, one simply does not stop in one's tracks to turn and head in the opposite direction. The rule is to make a quick glance in the direction of your intended turn - while you keep walking - then, when the pedestrian traffic allows, pull a U-turn and safely blend in the pedestrian flow from the opposite direction. Trust me. After a few attempts, it's like second nature. And, while I'm up, the escalator rule is: Stand Right; Walk Left. And, and, the door rule is: Relieve the other person holding the door open for you (assuming they do) AND hold the door open for the person behind you. Don't worry. If it's longer than two seconds, you can let go - guilt free. There, there. You'll thank me later.

So, the U-turn. I made the safe turn and went back to stand in front of him. I said hi, and asked him whether he wanted me to buy him a cup of coffee. He thanked me profusely. That's so nice of you; I really appreciate it, and so on. I'm not a coffee drinker. Tried it one afternoon several years ago and I did not sleep that night. The fact that I had the beverage at about 2:30, and not being accustomed to it, might have had something to do with that. I do like the scent and taste, though, so I go with decaff once in a while. Where was I going with this? Yeah, I made sure to ask him how he wanted it. Triple. Triple. Medium or large? Large, please. Okay. I'll be right back. Thanks again. That's so kind. I assured him I'd be back. (Not in Schwarzenegger's voice.)

I took the nearby Up escalator, hurried through the two sets of glass doors, then joined one of the three queues at the Tim Horton's in the Atrium. My line was long, and the guy at the front didn't seem to be sure of what he wanted. That happens. Then, a voice to my left called out, "I can help you over here!" He'd just opened his station. I scurried over, "Thank youuuu!" He smiled. I ordered the large triple triple. In a jiffy, I was back through the two sets of glass doors, down the steps (no Down escalator) and across the floor back to Gordie.

As soon as he spotted me, he started thanking me again. I handed him the coffee and assured him it was no problem at all. Then, I did something out of the ordinary. As the crowds passed us by, I sat on the bench next to his wheelchair. I asked him how long he'd been sitting there. He said he'd been there a while. I then said, "You know, I know people don't choose this. Do you care to share what happened?"

He had been working as a contractor with an energy provider and, one day, he fell off a scaffold. Hospital stay, specialized care and loss of income took their toll. In three short years, his common-law wife left, and he lost his home. He's now on Ontario Works (financial assistance). "That's just enough to pay the rent for the rats' nest," he said. He has applied for ODSP - Ontario Disability Support Program - and is waiting to hear back. He told me there were so many times he used to sit and simply feel angry or sad, and that he's also battled depression. "But, you know what I thought of?" He asked, stroking his beard, not expecting a response. "I remembered that poem," he said. He started, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can..." I nodded. He paused, "There's a third bit." I helped him out, "And wisdom to know the difference," I said. He joined me at " know the difference."

We talked for a little while longer. I was gonna be super early for work, but, by this time, I was now gonna be right on time. He told me a story about a homeless person who, clad only in a shirt and pants, found little comfort sleeping on a sidewalk grill years ago. It wasn't the dead of winter, but it was cold. Pretty soon, some people from one of the homeless shelters pulled over, helped him up and took him in. It doesn't happen like that a lot, he explained. I listened as he made the point. "People just walk on by when they see people on the street. People don't care. How do you get people to care?"

I didn't have an answer. I told him I don't know. I paused.
"Maybe one way is to help people become aware?" I asked. I told him I'd like to write about what he told me.
"To try to educate people, you mean?"
I nodded, "Yeah."
"Yeah, people need to know that something like this can happen to anybody," he said.

I stood as I told him it was nice talking with him. He said thanks for taking the time to chat, I must be busy, and so on. I pulled off my right glove and we shook hands.
"You have a strong handshake," he said.
"Yeah. I know. I got it from my dad," I smiled. It's my go to reply when people say that.

Earlier this week, January 6, it was reported that a homeless man was found dead after a bitterly cold night in Toronto. He was found, without vital signs, at Yonge & Dundas, clad only in a T-shirt and jeans. As a result of the Artic Air Mass that descended in this neck o' the woods, temperatures have been hitting -18C and lower, but feel like -27C and lower, because of the wind chill. My mind ran on Gordie. Early reports had said the man was in his late 40s. Gordie had looked older. Later reports said "in his 50s" and "55 years old." On second and third thoughts, I don't think it was Gordie. No mention of a wheelchair, and, even though it's a "rats' nest" he has somewhere to go. Still no word on the identity of the man they found at Yonge & Dundas. He was one of two homeless people found dead this week in the bitter cold.

Life. How it goes - and how it goes on.

May your 2015 be a good one.


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.