17 Musings of a Jamaican Canadian

A few musings and nuggets that highlight the random thoughts of a Jamaican bred, Canadian.

  1. Packing so I’m not overweight is my struggle. I have definitely been ‘that’ person moving things from my checked bag to carryon at the airport – and more than once.
  2. Yes, I’ve felt the lack of diversity at school and in the workplace like so many minority professionals. But the sole advantage of this is being able to kiss my teeth freely (if you don’t know what this is – urban dictionary is your friend) knowing no one is there to chastise me for it. I have and will continue to take full advantage of this solitary pro.
  3. I’m always on the hunt for a quality box lunch (Jamaican take out lunch meal) in Toronto.
  4. There is absolutely no reason why the line at the bank and the passport office in Jamaica need to be THAT long and THAT slow.
  5. The look of confusion on my face is downright obvious when people say they can’t tell that I have an accent. Is this because I’m speaking standard English and not patois? *waiting for an explanation*
  6. But at the same time I walk into Canadian Tire (home and hardware store) and have a conversation like this:
    1. Me: “Excuse me where are the portable heaters?” (because I’m obviously always cold)
    2. Sales Rep: “sorry?”’
    3. Me: “the portable heaters”
    4. Sales Rep: “I’m sorry, what?”
    5. Me: “the portable heeedders”
    6. Sales Rep: “oohh, aisle 7”
    7. Me: *still waiting for an explanation*
  7. I still struggle with these lake “beaches”. I have yet to full enter into one. I think I’ve stuck my big toe into the water twice – that’s about it.
  8. Sometimes I let out those old(er) English words and phrases in regular day to day conversation… words like “abreast” .
  9. Living in Jamaica I always thought it was better to be cold than hot. Canada has revealed the fallacy behind that thought process.
  10. Canada and the US are definitely not the same. And I came to this realization well before Trump was elected.
  11. Living outside of the Greater Toronto Area I question: WHERE do all these people of colour (I’m talking like entire families!) come from every spring? It’s like they’ve been hibernating all winter making me feel like more of a minority than I actually maybe am.
  12. Can you really call yourself my friend if I’ve never busted out some random patois phrase or Jamaican idiom in conversation, regardless of whether or not I think you can or would understand?
  13. When you complain about the potholes in Jamaica, but also complain about the road construction every spring in Ontario to avoid the same potholes you can’t stand and would otherwise complain about. A bit cyclical isn’t it?
  14. Tim Hortons is basically the Jamaican equivalent of a patty shop. More or less everyone can appreciate Timmy’s in Canada or a patty in Jamaica – regardless of your background.
  15. I’m pretty sure Goodlife fitness sells more Goodlife branded gym bags than actual gym memberships.
  16. *fries plantain* …. *eats entire plantain while frying said plantain*
  17. When people open the car door in the middle of oncoming traffic in Toronto I have to wonder – do you want to keep your car door? In other places in the world (Jamaica) that would be detached from your car before you could blink.

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A glimpse into Cuba … My top 5 tips

There’s a lot you could say about Cuba, and on a number of different topics: politics, art, government policies, music, education, healthcare….

But as a visitor looking to get a glimpse into this unique island nation, there are a few things I think my girlfriends and I did right.

So here are my 5 tips for making the most of your experience while visiting.

Say yes to una casa particular

I’ll declare my bias: I’m generally not a huge fan of weeklong vacations at chain all-inclusive resorts.

Sure – I understand why the convenience is attractive in a lot of different ways. And don’t get me wrong, if you give me a free vacation to a resort with luxurious amenities – I’m definitely going. But I just don’t think we can equate spending a week lounging at an all inclusive with actually seeing and appreciating a country.

If what you want is to get a glimpse into Cuba:  the history, the people, the politics, the grit, the old marble staircases in century old buildings, the reggaeton playing from the house of a neighbour, the man selling bread while singing his ‘jingle’ on the streets: then stay in a Casa. Trust me.

A casa can take the form of a room in a Cuban’s house, an apartment Cubans have rented out, or a bed and breakfast. We did all three and we had no regrets. Our hosts were all amazing and extremely helpful. You can access a number of casas through airbnb… but even before airbnb the casa system had long existed in Cuba.When you’re there you’ll see plenty of options that aren’t necessarily all available online. And because I know you’re wondering – yes, we felt very safe. Overall, we felt safe in Cuba. But when booking we also paid attention to reviews. We were also reassured of the system as while we were at one of our casas, a polite but firm immigration official came to ensure that the proper processes were in place and being followed by our host.

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– breakfast by one of our lovely hosts: eggs, fruits, bread, coffee

Sometimes its good to talk to strangers…

Because who likes snobby, entitled tourists? Not me.

I actually run away from those types when I’m overseas. Seriously.

Of course use your judgment and prioritize your safety, as you would anywhere you go. But don’t be afraid to converse with the locals.

Yes, some of us may have to struggle with the language a bit… but struggle if you must! You are truly depriving yourself of adding a whole other dimension to your experience if you don’t at least try to speak with the Cubans… even if speaking = charades. And since English is taught in school in Cuba, and tourism is important to the Cuban economy, it will be easier than you think to find someone who will speak at least a little bit of English with you.

I found most of the Cubans I interacted with to be quite friendly. Somehow with our bit of Spanish we were able to have some really interesting conversations with different people. When we asked open ended non biased questions about how Cubans thought Cuba could change, or how they would like to see it change, we found the individuals we asked were generally willing to share. One Cuban even asked us what we thought of his country – with what I thought was genuine interest.

Other times our conversations were just downright hilarious. And since it was trickier to access wifi and online reviews, we also got our best tips on restaurants, bars, and nightlife locations through asking different Cubans we met.

Consider hobbling over to another city… 

Because why not try and see a little bit more if you can?

And with that in mind, after spending some time in Havana, we kind of stumbled on Matanzas, or the city of bridges as they call it. Initially we thought, well, it’s close to Varadero and offers good value casa options. But what a fulfilling experience we had!

The vibe of Matanzas was completely different from Havana. Immediately we felt that we had left the big city, and arrived somewhere with a very different charm. With mainly one and two storey buildings around, it’s hard to hide from the sun and her glorious rays as you walk through the streets. But with the cool breeze from the sea, the weather is perfection.

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A quieter street in Matanzas…classes were being held nearby.

Not to mention Cubans actually live in Matanzas… unlike Varadero where the beaches are stunning but the tourists and all-inclusive resorts are plentiful.

Matanzas is a little talked about gem … it’s a simple city, but with everything you need.

We even got to share in a game of dominoes while having a beer in the middle of the street with a few new friends (Yes – there was a lot of Spanglish).

Needless to say, we were happy to take a taxi to Varadero to enjoy the beautiful beaches, if it meant that we could otherwise enjoy all Matanzas had to offer – including restaurants, and a nightlife scene.

 

 

 

 

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–  Varadero

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Venture out of the “tourist zones”

For one, it’s cheaper. It was quite shocking to note the difference in the price of food at even one end of the street in Havana Vieja to another, and this is without acknowledging the fact that at many establishments in Cuba there is a local price and a tourist price.

Not only is it cheaper – but it truly is eye opening to see a bit of Havana without the frills. We actually stayed in the core of the city, but outside Havana Vieja. We were close enough to walk into Havana Vieja as we pleased… but far enough to see different versions of the city in the day and in the night.

The malecón is one spot you should definitely make an effort to see. The scene is completely different in the day than it is in the night when Cubans flock the wall to get together with friends, stroll with a lover, or blast some music.

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Inside el Museo de la Revolución

Choose the Cuban food

It’s true. The array of spices and seasonings prevalent in other countries just aren’t as common in Cuba. So don’t expect to have the best pizza in the world in Cuba.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t have some great meals.

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garlic lobster at the beach? YES

I found that I particularly enjoyed the seafood and Cuban dishes that were prepared by the hosts we stayed with. I also found that the food in many of the smaller restaurants was actually quite delicious. Throughout the trip we enjoyed lobster tails, smoked pork (called ‘lomo ahumado’ – thank me later if you enjoy pork), rice and beans, fish, churros with condensed milk, fresh coconut water and jelly, and lots of fresh fruit and juices.

 

PS… don’t forget to sample all the piña coladas and mojitos possible!

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“Especially Hair – Moisture Foundation” Product Review

We received the opportunity to share our opinion on Especially Hair, Moisture Foundation – Deep Treatment Masque, available online here. The company provided each of us with the product and we have tried the masque repeatedly on our tresses over the past couple of months. Read more about our thoughts below!

Michela 

Overall Product Grade: A-

To provide some background, I have type 4 curly kinky hair. My hair is fairly thick and quite resilient. However I will admit that over the past few months I have neglected to deep condition it the way I should and could sense it was a little drier than usual. As you can imagine, I was quite excited to try this masque in my hair.

Especially Hair – Moisture Foundation is a gel like, thick consistency. I enjoy the scent – it is fresh, warm, with hints of natural oils and coconut. I tried using the masque as both a deep conditioner and a leave in conditioner, and overall was very happy with the way my hair absorbed it.

On one instance, I left the product in my hair overnight as a deep conditioner. I then used it as a leave in conditioner. The slippery gel like consistency eases the detangling process. My hair felt moisturized and soft when I separated the twists in my hair.

I also tried the product as a deep conditioner alongside a different leave in product. My hair felt soft and moisturized after washing. Again I was happy with the final result, and found the product could also be paired well with products from other lines. This could be a good way to maximize your use of the product, considering it retails at $32 a jar.

Overall, I am really pleased with this product and would recommend it!

 

Rebecca

Overall Product Grade: A

My curls land between a Type 3B and 3C. I have tight ringlets that get dry and frizzy pretty easily, but my hair is also quite fine – a unique combination that can be tricky to find good products for. Like Michela, I was excited to receive the Especially Hair – Moisture Foundation as I had been looking for a deep treatment product for some time.

The product was more slippery and gel-like than I expected for a masque/deep treatment, but it was thicker than most leave-in’s I have tried. The smell was very organic and quite pleasant. In fact, I received more than a few compliments on how nice my hair smelled after using it!

I used Especially Hair – Moisture Foundation regularly for about one month. The first few times I tried it, I used the product as a leave-in conditioner. While my curls looked good, this leave-in method left my hair really heavy and the product residue was too much. So I switched to using it as a deep treatment that I rinsed out. After a couple more tries, I realized the best application of the product for my Type 3B-C curls was to use it as a deep treatment for about 3-5 minutes and half rinse it out. I do this every other time I wash my hair (in between I use a different leave-in conditioner that is a bit lighter). I really loved the way my curls looked and felt after using this product. It restored the moisture I needed and my curls were shiny and frizz-free.

In short, I would definitely use Especially Hair – Moisture Foundation again – in fact, I am placing my next order very soon! I have also recommended it to my mother and sisters, whose hair ranges from 3A to 3C.

Valerie

Overall Product Grade: A-

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I have a 3B curl. When I tried the Especially Hair – Moisture Foundation I initially used it as a styling product. Right after the shower i flipped my hair over and combed the product through my hair with my fingers. With scrunched the excess product into the tips of my wet hair and dried with a diffuser. I would use the product again.

Pros: I love the smell – it lasts all day and I get compliments on the way my hair looks – styled, minimal frizz (I never have no frizz – let’s be real), shiny and soft.

Cons: It’s pricey (approx. $40) but I found it lasts long even with regular use – also the second day my hair felt slightly weighed down and as I used the product over a few days I found it better to alternate between using it as a conditioner and as a styling product

Jean

Overall Product Grade: A-

My curl is a 3A/3B blend – as seen in this pic:

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I used Especially Hair – Moisture Foundation for a month and a half primarily as a deep conditioner.

The smell is intoxicating – a light blend of vanilla, coconut, and cocoa butter scents. Every time I wore Especially Hair, I received compliments on the smell.

The texture is very rich. Prep the ‘that’s what she said jokes’ because there’s no better way to describe it than: thick and creamy. The consistency is a cross between a cream and a pommade. You can feel all the oils in the product.

As Becca noted, I also thought it was a bit heavy at first. When I used more than a quarter-sized amount as a deep conditioner, it weighed down my curls. I halved the amount and I immediately noticed a difference. No residue and my curls were soft, shiny and moisturized. The masque has a luxurious feel, so I found myself looking forward to Sunday applications.

To tame the ‘fly-aways’ on my scalp, I used a tiny amount of Especially Hair and it was just as effective as my usual coconut oil styling remedy.

If your curls need some TLC, this is absolutely the product for you! Start with small amounts and then increase if you don’t see results.

My meeting with the office floor

There’s not much buildup to this story.

I fell on my butt on the office floor. plain and simple.

You know that out-of-body feeling where you can almost see yourself falling, there’s nothing to grab or catch, your feet have completely left the ground, and you realize mid air that you’re going down?

Yeh, that happened. And yes, you can laugh.

Am I surprised that this happened? No. not really. And I don’t think me walking around hastily in heels was really the cause. If I am to be honest, I was particularly antsy that day. And I knew I shouldn’t have been, the stakes weren’t nearly as high as other situations I have been in at work, but I had put an unnecessary amount of pressure on myself to perform in this instance.

We all know those “strengths” that we throw all over our resumes and recite in interviews. I see “performs well under pressure” as a sort of “aspirational strength”. The one you claim, but yet are always striving to achieve: Can I continue to do this well? Can I continue to think calmly and rationally in tense, time sensitive situations? Can I meet this deadline when work isn’t the only thing on my mind – when my thoughts are plagued by other issues outside the office that garner my attention? (see Rebecca’s post on Balance: Making Space)

What do you do when you need to get something done and your nerves are firing up?

As I said, on this particular day, I didn’t think my nerves were warranted – it was a simple project in comparison to others I have done. But there I was, still nervous.

So because hindsight is 20/20, I’m taking the moment now to reflect on how I ended up on the office floor. I’m working on developing my strategies for figuring out how to keep those nerves at bay in truly stressful situations at work. Because it’s easy to say to yourself “don’t be nervous” – but what’s your next step when you still are?

As annoying and embarrassing as it was to fall crashing onto the office floor. It forced me to look at, and re-frame the situation. I wasn’t anywhere closer to where I needed to be, and it was clear to me my nerves were getting in the way, when the product needed to get out the door that day. I was less productive, and less careful.

It’s quite difficult to coach yourself in the middle of those situations, especially if you’re trying to meet a deadline – because you just “don’t have the time”. But after my meeting with the floor, I realized that I was doing myself and my work a disservice.

So I took a few minutes to breathe and to pray. Just a few. Some may opt to meditate, take a few deep breaths or maybe just take a quick walk down the office hall. The point is to take a moment to re-focus – however you’re best able to. I found those few minutes did a lot to allow me to calm myself.

And with that little bit of calm I gained from those few moments, I could look at the situation with fresh eyes. I was still antsy, and the work still needed to be done. But I could also distinguish a bit more between the pressures of the situation, and the pressures I put on myself. The pressure I put on myself was only compounding the pressure of the situation. I needed to focus more on all the steps I could take to meet the deadline, as opposed to telling myself – I just need to meet the deadline.

The difference between those two trains of thought is quite surprising.

All of a sudden accepting my limitations allowed me to focus on developing tangible steps within the parameters of my situation. I was now finding solutions geared towards the situation, as opposed to setting a forced benchmark for myself, with no framework, and no foundation.

I think this is the switch we have to have to figure out how to flick in each of those “hot” situations where the pressures in the work environment kick in. Somehow in that moment we need to focus on the problem, and less about the ideal that the outcome of the problem is sole validation of our strengths and our abilities. I think, with that, the angst can subside, and we can focus more on getting the task at hand done.

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Hair Tips for the Woman On The Go

 

Us curly girls know that if we let it, washing, conditioning and styling our curly hair can take a ton of time – and frankly, as much as I love my curly tresses, I just don’t have it. I’m not professing to be an expert on hair care, but I’m sharing with you some of my strategies for limiting the amount of time I spend on my curly, kinky, type 4 hair (see http://www.curlambassadors.ca/curly-hair-types/ or http://www.naturallycurly.com/hair-types for a simple breakdown on hair types). For all my ladies with straight hair, these tips can likely work for you as well!

 

Deep condition the night before a wash

To avoid lengthening what is already a long washing and conditioning process, I deep condition my hair the night before I wash. I typically spritz the ends of my hair with water and apply the deep conditioner throughout, focusing on the ends. I then twist my hair, or put it in a bun before I wrap it for the night (see tip #2 on wrapping). I wash and condition as usual in the morning.

 

Get some of the work done the night before.

Many black women have been wrapping their hair with scarves for eons. Ladies, If you haven’t yet tried this strategy, trust me, wrapping your hair with a silk scarf or wearing a silk bonnet while you sleep will preserve your curls and lessen frizz and dryness. Guaranteed. You can try experimenting with keeping your hair in a loose ponytail at the nape of your neck or on the top of your head to see which method gives your hair a better shape in the morning. When you wake up, just fluff your hair, maybe add a little moisturizer and go.

 

Detangle in Sections

I’ve tried detangling my hair all at once, thinking it will save me time. Big mistake.

The truth is parting my hair into 4 sections (or however many work for you) always, ALWAYS leads to a smoother detangling process.

 

Avoid shrinkage when wet

This may not be the case for all of us – but my shrinkage is REAL.

Shrinkage usually makes the detangling process harder, so I try and avoid it.

As soon as my hair is wet I start finger combing it – ensuring it stays elongated. When I apply conditioner to my hair, I immediately start detangling with a wide tooth comb. After I finish detangling a section, I twist the section before I  move on to detangling the rest of my hair.

 

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ah  yes, the shrinkage is real. 

Trim Regularly

Curly hair can be a handful to detangle. However, I’ve come to realize that it isn’t so much my new growth that makes my hair more difficult to manage, but the unhealthy ends that sometimes come with it. The truth is, a fresh trim makes a huge difference on the detangling process for my hair. So I’ve learnt to let go of the ends, because I can’t keep breaking combs ladies…

 

Break the routine down into two parts

There are times when I just don’t have the time to wash, condition and style my hair in one sweep. On those busy days when I need to wash my hair, but I also need to leave home early, I break up the process of washing and styling my hair.

I usually start by washing and detangling. I then put my hair in a bun while I set out to accomplish the tasks for the day. Later on in the evening, I’ll take down the bun, spritz my hair with water and twist it if I plan on rocking a twist out.

 

Hopefully at least one of these tips was worth adding to your curly hair arsenal!

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Carnival and the Freedom of “di road”

Your alarm goes off, you peer out of one eye thinking if I don’t get up now I’ll be late.

Maybe you love your job, and are growing in your role, but you’re tired.

Maybe you’re in a transitionary period, and going to work is simply that. Work.

Or maybe you’re somewhere between those extremes.

There are a myriad of things happening at home, with your partner or with your family, which confront you, pushing and pulling you on a daily basis.

But all that aside, what you know is next week is carnival, and you’re going to fete.

This is a pretty familiar theme in soca music, the respite of carnival, the welcome relief that comes from jumping up on the road, with your friends, and even with complete strangers.

I think for many this is exactly what carnival is. A break. A moment to quiet the mind, and to seek reprieve from the day to day grind.

I appreciate that there are different versions of the event, and I acknowledge that my outlook on Carnival is shaped by my experience as a Jamaican living in Canada…

I am a Jamaican who grew to love soca long after her love for reggae was formed, and a Jamaican who sees and recognizes that a lot of this love is shaped from embracing the differences, but recognizing the similarities of the West Indian experience – and how this is manifested in the Carnival experience.

 

When I think of West Indians, it’s hard to overlook our pride.

We are proud of the things in our culture that make us special and unique – and this can’t be discounted.

But across the Caribbean, our people have shared experiences.

We know what it is like to have a history of colonization and slavery.

We know the stories of our beautiful isles trading hands between the French, the English and/or the Spanish.

We also know about Independence.

We know about curry and jerk, we know about rice and peas (or peas and rice), plaintain and the beauty and marvel of mango season.

We know about the emigration of our nationals from our homelands in the 60s and onwards. If this is not your story, maybe it’s the story of your brother, your aunt, your parents. Regardless, it’s a story you know far too well.

And you likely know that when we’re abroad, we see our cultural similarities a whole lot more than we did before, recognizing our mutual understanding on many fronts.

 

Carnival can spark a lot of discourse in the West Indian community about shadeism, classism, and it’s accessibility to those by whom and for whom it was made for. All of which are important conversations to be had to preserve the carnival experience. Let’s not forget that Carnival in its current form was meant to addressinaccessibility”.

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Carnival was created after our black ancestors were basically shunned from the festivities of the Europeans.

Carnival to our ancestors was an outlet – a means to embrace themselves and their own culture, in a free and open setting, after being uninvited to and unwelcome at the pre-lenten parties and galas of the colonizers.

Eventually it was our Carnival that prevailed, that spoke to the masses and was supported by the people.

That freedom that Carnival represented then is still palpable “on di road” whether abroad, or back home. You feel it as the music pulses through your veins, as you smell the food from the nearby stalls and street vendors, as you see the smiles of the faces of the revelers. As you say hello, and “get on bad” with people you may otherwise never have met.

It could be the Freedom to belt out in the most unfiltered version of your accent and dialect, in the middle of the street downtown Toronto when the day before the representative at Subway corrected you when you said you wanted “coo-coom-bers” on your sandwich (since when is it queue-cum-bers?).

Or it could be the freedom to defy and ignore standards of beauty and size promulgated by the media.

Or it could be that moment that you share with yourself dancing on di road, where you temporarily forget the problems that plagued your thoughts yesterday.

 

So what does Carnival really represent?

In my mind it epitomizes Freedom.

But also Pride.

Culture.

And Unity.

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Converting Doubt into Fuel

“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.'” – Maya Angelou

Shortly after being called to the bar I had a conversation that sounded like this:

  • “So what do you do?” I’m asked by an acquaintance
  • “Oh I work in the legal industry”
  • They look at me as if they’re waiting for the rest of the answer… because clearly that was only half the answer to the question.
  • My friend chimes in, in a very matter of fact tone she says “she’s a lawyer”
  • Then feeling the need to affirm my friend’ s statement, I say “Yes, I’m a lawyer”

Why did I do that? Why did I somewhat unknowingly attempt to shy away from what it is that I do? Why was it that in that moment I felt the need to deflect, and detract from what I worked hard to accomplish? A lot of long hours and hard work went into me being able to say “Yes, I’m a lawyer”.

As a newly minted lawyer I suppose I still had doubts about professing myself to be one. It was almost like saying it too loud or too proud would create the expectation that I would have the knowledge base of a lawyer 25 years post call [to the bar]. Maybe I felt that if there was a legal question I couldn’t answer, I’d be a poser.

I had similar thoughts during undergrad. And at the same time that I had my doubts, there was always this air of over-confidence, sometimes even downright smugness, that seeped through the pores of some of my classmates. Yes, a lot of the men carried that air (some stunk of it), but so did a lot of the women.

“Do I even “fit” in this programme?”

Frankly, I confuse myself, because even in those moments where I had my doubts, nobody could tell me I wasn’t capable of doing the work and nobody could deter me from prying all that I could from that learning environment. I was going to do it and do it well.

At some point in law school the concept of the “impostor syndrome” came up in class. And I remember thinking to myself – I can relate. I’m not going to recount the scientific or psychological bases and implications of impostor syndrome. But for those who don’t know, I think of it as that feeling of being out of place regardless of your success – the questioning of how you arrived at any given point in school or your career.

Whilst I consider myself to be a confident woman (insert finger snaps), there are moments when I have my doubts, when I question my abilities and my success.

The doubts that prevent me from acting, the ones that stall growth, while not always easy, those are the doubts that I know I can’t keep around – those have got to go. I think we all have different strategies for figuring out how to get rid of those doubts, whether through turning to a network of family and friends or seeking the advice of those we admire and respect. There are different things that work for each of us.

But how can we make our doubts something else?

This is something I’m working on myself.

For one, I definitely subscribe to the “fake it til you make it mentality”. I also subscribe to the “say yes I can help and then figure it out later” mentality. I believe in forcing myself through situations where (in my head at least) uncertainty looms. Sometimes I say yes before I have a moment to think too deeply about what I’ve committed myself to. Once I say yes I’m less likely to withdraw, and more likely to charge forward. In those moments of doubt, I’m more likely to come up with and justify a “no” response, when I take longer to make a decision. Once I commit – that’s usually it. It’s a big part of the reason I rarely ever return clothes.

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I also oddly embrace the presence of some doubt in my life. I think in some respects when these doubts are converted into action steps for improving and bettering ourselves, they keep us in check. Perfection is an illusive concept. There is always room to be better. That’s something to be embraced, not condemned. If we wait for things to be “perfect”, or for the timing to be “perfect”– to me it seems we’d never move forward with anything.

Fear and doubt are real factors in our lives – maybe sometimes it hurts us more to be on a quest to ignore them. Maybe our focus should instead be on progressing, moving forward and challenging ourselves to address that fear and that doubt. There’s a sort of peace that comes with saying to myself: “I’m not sure, I have my doubts, but the fear of not knowing/doing/acting is even worse”.

positive-954797_1920Don’t let your doubts inhibit you. Like Maya Angelou, you keep writing, fighting, singing, lawyer-ing, starting your new business, studying, teaching, drawing, styling, or whatever it is that you do. Use that fear and doubt as fuel for growth and a means to avoid complacency. Turn something that on it’s surface level isn’t good, and make it work for you.

Hey, I may be an impostor, but the goal is to be so good at it, I’ll even convince myself.

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Not just speaking practically…

One thing the four of us ladies can agree on is how much we love, LOVE food (and wine).

IMG-20150919-WA0007But, before we share ‘foodie’ experiences, new and old recipes and stories of meals shared with others, I thought I would share some of my deeper foodie musings…

At a basic level – we need food to survive. Yet, food has always been about more than just sustenance for the lives of people. Besides the practicality of food, there’s just so much we can experience through sitting at the dinner table. Not to mention the simple joys of having a meal that takes you back to your cultural roots, allows you to learn about the cultures of others, reminisce about a past experience, or creates an opportunity for you to engage with family, friends, and maybe even strangers.

But even on a deeper level, whenever I think about food, I rein myself in with the concept of “everything in moderation”…

Life Exhibit “A”

For YEARS I couldn’t eat macaroni and cheese (I’m talking that good homemade macaroni and cheese).

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– A healthy appetite indeed…

When I was younger it was one of my favourite dishes, and I think we’ve established that I have a healthy appetite.Though she was hesitant, I reassured my mummy than I wanted more. Of course I did – who wouldn’t want more of this cheesy, warm lusciousness?

Bad idea.

I overdid it. I ate so much it all came up.

Lesson learnt.

But then on the other hand there’s Life Exhibit “B”….

Every year my grandmother, mother, sister and I, together bake traditional Black/Rum/Fruit/Christmas Cake – a Jamaican Christmas time essential.

I remember those days when my Grandma led the baking, with my mummy as sous chef. My sister and I were given the simple tasks: butter and flour the tin, crack the eggs, blend the fruits…

The years passed on, my mother was now the head chef and my sister and I were given more responsibility – we started to play a role in the aspects of the project that were more pivotal to the outcome of the cake. And eventually grandma played more of a supervisory role (though tasting the batter is a very important role in its own right).

There’s something special amount those moments. To be honest, as much as I enjoy the cake, which every year we say we’ve made the best batch yet (except that one year when we burnt it, but somehow still managed to “fix” it), it was always the process of baking the cake that I think was most memorable for all of us.

Contrasting these two experiences, I have come to a few conclusions:

As amazing as food is, overdoing it is bad for you.

As amazing as food is, we can’t forget that a lot of people work hard to grow, harvest, (or rear) and transport it so we can have food on our plates at home.

And as amazing as food is, at the same time you’re indulging in a fabulous meal, someone else is going without one.

 

I think this train of thought transcends into a lot of areas of life. This idea that we should be grateful for what we have, maximize our potential, and use the opportunities given to us – appreciating the support we receive from others in achieving our goals, and recognizing that not everyone has had the same opportunities before them.

 

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Dark Fruit Cake

Ingredients (recipe makes 2-3 cakes)

  • 2 lbs raisin
  • 1 lb currants
  • ½ lb prunes
  • ¼ lb dried cherries
  • ½ lb mixed peel
  • ¼ lb sugar
  • 1 cup rum/port wine (Jamaican “red label wine” is preferred)
  • ¼ lb chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1½ lb brown sugar
  • 10 eggs
  • 1 lb flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 lb butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tblsp almond essence
  • 1 cup port wine
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ bottle brown colouring (browning)

 

Instructions

Soak the fruits in 1 cup of rum/wine in a jar for 4 weeks or longer

When ready to bake the cakes (recipe makes 2-3):

  • Mix butter and sugar well until creamy. Add the eggs (beaten) one by one, to the butter/sugar mixture. Mix in eggs thoroughly as they are added to the batter.
  • Cook the fruit mixture over low heat with a cup of water for 15 minutes, constantly stirring.
    • Optional- Blend fruits after cooking.
  • Sift the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder, spices etc).
  • Alternate mixing in portions of the cooked fruit mixture and the flour mixture into the batter.
  • Stir in browning into the mixture to obtain a milk chocolate colour (once baked the cakes will look darker).
  • Add the vanilla and almond essence.
  • Pour the mixture into baking tins lined with grease paper, or tins greased with butter and floured thereafter, to prevent the cake from sticking.
  • Bake at 275 degrees for 2-3 hours according to the size of pans.
  • After the cakes are cooked and removed from the oven, pour a mixture of rum and wine on top.

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