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 km.hr.

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.