Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy "Old Years Day/Night"...

*Click on photo to enlarge.

Blessings, Se'Lah

Festival Day...

Back home, as the sun sets on 2008,
the island springs to life with pulsating music,
hypnotic rhythms, steel bands, costumes, rocking parties,
and dances all night long, with the ever-lingering hope
that the ole volcano doesn't provide the fireworks tonight.

(copyrighted by Se'Lah)

Me Free Paper Bun...

He's been gone for a week.
I was glad for the break
but I really missed him.
Now, it's time to come home.
Me Free Paper Bun.

(copyrighted by Se'Lah)


. The size of a baby 4 weeks from Conception:
utter joy,
are you sure?,
still small enough for an abortion.

. Menstration:
my baby girl is turning into a young woman,
why this shit have to come today?,
Thank God I'm not pregnant for this tool (whew).

. Punctuation:
to end a sentence,
to begin a new thought, and
THAT'S IT dammit !

(copyrighted by Se'Lah)
.inspired by Hermie

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dedicated to my "Circle"...

I call it my "circle" and it is as complex as the geometric figure. It is the eclectic circle formed by a diverse, multi-cultural, multi-national, multi-racial, multi-religious crew who collectively are the support beams of my life. They have all contributed, and continue to contribute, to my very being. This segment is dedicated to them.

We have, at some point, been stuck in our private hells and needed either an escape or to be rescued. We sometimes had to rescue ourselves.

We have survived in spite of child molestation, domestic abuse, rape, depression, suicide attempts, abortions, being the black sheep in our beloved dysfunctional families, racism, sexism, tokenism, religious discrimination, cheating boyfriends, cheating husbands, husbands, boyfriends and lack thereof.

We have endured the challenges of infertility, fibroids, hysterectomies, pregnancy, miscarriages, toxemia, postpartum, motherhood (or the unfulfilled desire thereof), stay-at-home-motherhood, the career mom, single parenthood, the single life (oh the single life), dating, marriage, separation, divorce, unhealthy relationships, shitty jobs, dead end jobs, no jobs, being broke, hunger, and financial struggles.

We have been there through tears, laughter, worry, fear, insecurity, excitement, impulsiveness, heartache, heartbreak, sickness and loss.

We advise each other to "Be Still".

We love each other, support each other, keep each other's secrets, and some of us can only be trusted to keep certain secrets (you know who you are ;-).

Others had to create *vaults* to secure some of those secrets.

We are Rasta, West Indian, Black, Hispanic/Latino, African, African-American, Indian, and White. We are Irish, British, Monterratian, Bajan, Antiguan, Kittitian, Cruzan, Cape Verdean, Trinidadian, American, Jamaican, Polish, German, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Italian, Portuguese, and Swedish. We are Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Jehovah Witness, Seventh Day Adventist, COG7, Baptist, Southern Baptist (there is a difference), Methodist, Lutheran, Nondenominational and Still in search of ourselves. And yet, we are so much more.

So, I simply say this to my "circle" to wrap up 2008: THANK YOU for being (and remaining) in my life !!! Happy Holidays and Happy New Year !!! Now saddle up for another wild ride ;-)

Foot planted in the sand and ready to sway to whatever music life plays.

To Infinity...

One Love, Se'Lah

p.s. To BJ: Love You Sis !!! We are here to support you in your fight!!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bouncing off the walls...

It's three days before Christmas and my daughter, like many children out there, is absolutely bouncing off the walls. She is simply overexcited to a degree that I've not seen in a long, long time.

This weekend, we had our first snow storm. We got about 3 feet of snow! My daughter was so wired she demanded to go outside and play in the snow during the storm. This is the most snow she's ever seen in her life and I imagine (or am hoping) that in a few weeks, the novelty will wear off and this Caribbean Queen can enjoy the heat I pay so dearly for in my rent. Lest I was fun to watch her enjoying was as innocent as the white driven snow she was frolicking in. I watched as she rolled down a hill of snow and giggle uncontrollably. And I thought to myself, "These are the moments".

Today, she had her first snow day. I, however, still had to go to work. I left her and my hubby outside with her playing in the snow when I pulled off this morning. After I returned home and released my work energy, I sat down with my daughter to listen to Christmas Carols on the radio station. She informed me that we had exactly one hour left to call the station because Santa was calling in from the North Pole to talk with some lucky children. After 73 busy calls, we finally got through. She told Santa her wishlist, "Pet Shop, an iPod and an iDog", and it was broadcasted live on the radio. Now, she is *really* wi-red. Her lips are moving uncontrollably as she is pacing incessantly..."Santa's going to come to my house first; I was the first one to talk to Santa; I forgot to tell him about Super Pink Kirby; I forgot to tell him about Pixos...". Thanks a lot Santa.

And I have to remind myself, "These are the moments".

One Love, Se'Lah

Sunday, December 21, 2008

About "Shapeshifters"...

I was fortunate enough to have met the distinguished poet, writer and educator, Lucille Clifton, in person during my junior year of college. She was a guest speaker during Black History Month. Her quiet demeanor gave no hint of the power her words would possess. But after hearing her read her "shapeshifter poems" in her own voice, with her own deliberate inflections, my ability to relate to those who endure childhood sexual abuse forever changed.

Today, I had a conversation with a friend, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and I had to share these poems. The consequential and residual effects of a mother who does not believe, or chooses not to believe, their own child's report of sexual abuse are profound. It can create a level of dysfunction in a family that is far beyond imagination, recognition, and if left unaddressed, beyond repair. So, I write about this today in hopes that some mother out there will not discount or dismiss these reports without validation, regardless of personal feelings of perhaps failure to protect, shame, and/or inadequacy. For who is left to protect your child when you have chosen to protect the shapeshifter?

WARNING: The "shapeshifter poems" may be very difficult reading for sexual abuse survivors. Please do not read alone without necessary support. A list of support resources is provided further below.

shapeshifter poems


the legend is whispered
in the women's tent
how the moon when she rises
follows some men into themselves
and changes them there
the season is short
but dreadful shapeshifters
they wear strange hands
they walk through the houses
at night their daughters
do not know them


who is there to protect her
from the hands of the father
not the windows which see and
say nothing not the moon
that awful eye not the woman
she will become with her
scarred tongue who who who the owl
laments into the evening who
will protect her this prettylittlegirl


if the little girl lies
still enough
shut enough
hard enough
shapeshifter may not
walk tonight
the full moon may not
find him here
the hair on him


the poem at the end of the world
is the poem the little girl breathes
into her pillow the one
she cannot tell the one
there is no one to hear this poem
is a political poem is a war poem is a
universal poem but is not about
these things this poem
is about one human heart this poem
is the poem at the end of the world

Credit: Copyright © 1987 by Lucille Clifton.

*You can buy this specific collection in her book Next: New Poems.

*For more books by Lucille Clifton:

*If you have been the victim of sexual abuse or violence, you are not alone. To get immediate help and support (24 hours a day, 7 days a week), you may contact the resources listed below:

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TDD)

National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

*You can also visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline:

*You can find contact information for crisis centres and like organisations in your state at: and

*For FAQ on sexual assault and a list of helpful tips, visit:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

An excerpt on meritocracy...

When I arrived in this country, I never imagined such a separatist society. From the day I was born, my family (and the entire island of Montserrat) had always celebrated our unique African-Irish heritage with a week-long celebration in March. I was now in Boston, Irish central, and I'll never forget that first St. Patty's Day. There is a huge St. Patrick's Day parade held in South Boston annually, and as was customary, I wanted to go. At school, I mentioned to some classmates how excited I was about going to the upcoming parade only to be told that it was not safe for me to go because I was Black. Huh? Where are these people from? Why was it not safe for me because I'm Black? Do they not understand that I'm a "Black Irish"? And so began my lesson in race relations in the United States of America.

I then decided to attend a private, elite college in Maine. Seemingly more than the amount of white snow that falls there is the amount of white people there. I was there for one purpose - to acquire my education - so it did not matter to me the race of the people surrounding me. However, something always intercepted my tunnel vision and kept it real. I learned that some people had never seen a black person in their entire life. How deprived? Some were literally scared of my beautiful, chocolate hue though I only stood five feet tall. How ridiculous? Others wanted to prove that they were not racist by associating with me. How baffling that this society outside Boston was still focussing on "race" to define themselves? My ruler has always been the "person within". So, if I wasn't feeling you, you were not given a key to my world and race was not the deciding factor. I formed a few of my lifelong friendships in the microcosm created in the woods of Waterville, Maine. And those friends are of diverse races, religions, cultures and nationalities.

While interviewing for post-graduate school employment, it was not hard to notice that some of my white counterparts with less impressive academic records were being chosen for the more prestigious jobs. Despite my academic achievements, my race still apparently mattered to those in positions of power. And that's when I realized meritocracy is a myth to many. Oftentimes, candidates for jobs were chosen based on who they knew or were connected to, regardless of merit. Consequently, I decided that irrespective of what challenges life may offer, I would always remain true to myself. For my merit is not decided by what job I have or material gains I possess. It has definitely been quite a sacrifice at times but I stand firm knowing that JAH will always provide.

So now, I have a Black child and she is being raised in American society. She is the only Black person in her class. What do I teach her? Always do your best and maintain your personal values. JAH will provide.

Yet hope prevails. There remains hope that her world will be better than the one I've experienced. Massachusetts now has a Black man on the highest court, and is governed by a Black man. And on January 20, 2009, the United States of America will call a Black Man, "Mr. President". All are historically the first of their kind.

One Love, Se'Lah

*For a snapshot of hope, check out

*For an interesting read, check out this book written by my friend:

*And finally, an interesting article on the "Myth of Meritocracy":

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Safety First - Protecting Our Children...

I just had to set my first firm rule at this stage in my daughter's life. I didn't have to sit her down in some sort of uncomfortable manner and have an instructive conversation. The opportunity presented itself naturally, without any effort on my part at all.

While we live in a world that is inhabited by those who would, without hesitation, prey upon our children and defile them in the most unimaginable ways, it is our duty as parents to teach our children about safety and protect them to the best of our abilities. Today, the world is much more complex. It is not as it was when we were children. This generation is much more technologically advanced than ours, as we were more advanced than our parents.

We just activated our wireless internet capability. Although my daughter has been enamoured by using her new laptop (my old laptop) to watch movies in any area of the house, we decided to allow her to use the internet on her computer today. I am technologically-challenged so my husband did the necessary limitation of access to only child-friendly sites.

After my daily "necessary room" moment, I went to her bedroom to continue hanging out with her after a long day of work. There, on her bed, as it has been many times before while she watched a DVD, was her laptop. Except this time, the internet was active. And that is when I had to lay down the law in this house. "Absolutely no internet in the bedroom -- only in the living room at the table with me and/or Daddy!" She started to gear up for a whining session but I stopped her dead in her tracks. This is important. I firmly reiterated the rule and explained the consequences for nonadherence to this rule. Of course, Ms. Inquisitive had lots of questions but I gladly answered them all because this rule is of utmost importance and is unwavering.

In my years of practising law, I have seen several different perspectives regarding the sexual molestation of children. One disturbing fact remains, there are some sick people in this world and they will not hesitate to sexually molest your child given the opportunity. One method of luring children into their dangerous clutches is through use of the internet. It is my responsibility to ensure that my daughter remains in safe surroundings when on the internet in this house. So, we sat together at the table, the internet active on her computer and I could see her screen as she designed a picture with pixos with my own two eyes.

I then proceeded to check the daily news and coincidentally a featured top story today is the solving of the murder of John Walsh's 6-year-old son. And not so coincidentally, but most unfortunately, his son was murdered by a convicted pedophile. Here's the link to the story:

Most, if not all, states have some public notification system of the sex offenders and predators who live in the community. It is simply an informational tool. Lack of registered sex offenders in your community should not be equated with the nonexistence of sex offenders in your community. They live stealthily among us. So, continue to proceed diligently with caution and strenuously strive to keep all of our children safe.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this blog entry should be interpreted as withdrawing the blame and/or responsibility for the despicable acts committed by sex offenders from the offender him/herself.

Below please find some useful links.

*You may also use this Sex Offender Locator link and click on your respective state:

*Check out Oprah's coverage regarding the "Protect Our Children" Act:

*And for some levity, "The Mom Song":

One Love, Se'Lah

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Montserrat recently featured on ABC Television...

Below please find some recent media coverage on Montserrat - The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean:

Montserrat featured on the ABC Television
By Cherise Aymer
Published: November 25, 2008

Montserrat was featured on the ABC Television's Good Morning America weekend edition programme on Sunday November 16th, 2008. Good Morning America's Weekend Edition is nationally televised in the US and around the world to an audience of about 15 million viewers. It ends with a "Weekend Windows" piece in which a place of great beauty and interest is highlighted and Montserrat was the first Caribbean country to be featured.

A three (3) person film crew from Good Morning America visited Montserrat on 30th October 2008 to film segment and they were facilitated by the Montserrat Tourist Board. To view the piece online see link below (the video is on the right hand side of the page -*view more video results* November 16, 2008 entry).

An editorial piece on Montserrat was also done for ABCs website (see link below)

Road Trip: The Ice Man Cometh...

It's been a very stressful week for a variety of reasons. Needless to say, overcomed with emotion and responsibility, I needed to get away. Completely impromptu, we decided to meet my brother and his family at our family timeshare. We jumped in the car and took off on our first unplanned road trip. I had no idea of the natural beauty and awe that was to behold.

I had one word for what I first saw when I stepped out to go to work the morning before, "BEAUTIFUL". I distinctly remember taking a moment to breathe deeply and take it all in. I did not know the extent of the damage from the ice storm at that time. I took a few photos with my daughter for posterity and headed off to work (but not before I called the job to make sure work wasn't cancelled). There were downed trees and loss of electricity and traffic lights in surrounding towns but I took my detours and carefully drove the icy, rainy, country road to work. Thankfully, my daughter's school was cancelled. Since there was no sign of ice, but only regular rainy conditions in the city where I work, things were already starting to look better.

At 9:30 am, the Governor declared a state of emergency with over 350,000 people losing power in the western part of the state. Only nonessential workers from that area were given the day off. It was then that I realized that it was much worst than I thought. We contacted my sister who attends college in that area and ensured that she was safe and headed back to the city until at the very least power is restored.

At lunch time, we had a pizza party and baking contest at work which turned out awesome. After all, I am on the holiday planning committee ;-) At 5:00 o'clock, (ok maybe a little before), I started out on my commute home. I drove slowly and carefully because with the cold nightfall, the roads were sure to be a bit icy. As I drove along, however, I noticed that conditions had apparently improved and by the time I arrived in my surrounding towns, they had regained electricity and traffic lights.

So, on Saturday morning when my brother called me, it took all but one minute for us to decide to join him at the resort in the Berkshires. My daughter requested some Christmas music on the car radio and we sang almost all the way there. Trees were completely covered in ice, even bending to kiss the ground because of the weight on their branches. It reminded me of when SUBZERO said to BATMAN "The Ice Man Cometh". Everything was covered in ice. Random pines tree tops curiously peeked their heads up sometimes, appearing slightly unscathed, but everything else was frozen in time.  It was beautiful.

And for exactly one day, my daughter was completely entertained by her cousins and she did not call me one, single, time. Aaaaaaah...

(frozen beaver's nest)

One Love, Se'Lah.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Are we human beings having a spiritual experience or are we spiritual beings having a human experience?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Breastfeeding: Nature's Baby Bottles...

Growing up in the Caribbean where breastfeeding is the cultural norm, I never had any inhibitions about breastfeeding. It was just a natural way of life. I relocated to the United States in my early teens and didn't really think much of the absence of breastfeeding women as I went through my daily travels. As an adult however, I began to notice, with confusion, the prevalence of the anti-breastfeeding culture in American society.

Now, let me be the first to say that I respect everyone's personal choice to (or not to) breastfeed but it became evident to me that everyone does not feel this way. I decided to perform my personal research project to explore this phenomenon. I would strike up a conversation with noticably pregnant women, and after discussing all their plans for their bundle of joy, I would asked, "Are you going to breastfeed?". More times than not, I would be presented with a readily apparent look of disgust at the idea of breastfeeding. Usually an explanation of how society has evolved and baby bottles were now readily available would follow. It was all incredibly confusing to me. Didn't the fact that our bodies naturally produced milk during and/or after pregnancy indicate that there was probably some designed purpose?

When I decided to get pregnant, there was one decision I knew I didn't have to make. I would be breastfeeding my baby. I didn't know how long I would or should breastfeed so I had a discussion with my doctor. Fortunately, I had an OB/GYN who originated from South America and was a strong proponent of breastfeeding. He and I decided that I should breastfeed for at least two years due to my history of severe allergies. We also discussed other practical and medical benefits of breastfeeding. I was now equipped with the imputed medical knowledge of the benefits of breastfeeding. From that day, I was just laying in wait for that person who would be offended by my decision to breastfeed.

When my baby was born prematurely via unexpected emergency c-section, my only concern revolved around saving her life. During her first few hours, I was oblivious to much of anything because of the effects of the surgical anesthesia. I knew that my husband, my mom, and one of my bestest friends were with her in the hospital and they would make sure I knew if anything was amiss. When the anaesthesia began to wear off, I begged to see her. I was then informed that she was in an incubator in the NICU on the other side of the hospital. "What the hell are these people talking about, NICU?" My mom explained that she was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I then demanded they bring her incubator in my room, after all I see on TV all the time women laying in their hospital beds with their babies alongside them and dammit, I wanted my baby next to me. She needed me. The attending nurse explained that she cannot be removed from the NICU nor can her incubator. I imagine I was getting a bit more perturbed because they quickly increased my drip and I was off to la-la land soon thereafter.

As I awoke, my husband tried to reassure me that she was alright. I longed to see her, and hold her for the first time. I was overjoyed when the nurse retrieved a wheelchair. As much pain as I was in, I climbed out of the bed and prepared to go visit my newborn baby. We didn't move two inches before my motion sickness decided this visit was not to be. I was placed back in bed with some anti-nausea medicine and sent back to sleep.

The nurses then decided to wheel my bed to the NICU for my first visit. Again, my motion sickness decided it was not to be. And as before, I was given more anti-nausea medicine and sent back to sleep. When I awoke again, the nurse was at my bedside with a strange looking machine. I was like, "and what the hell are they gonna do with that? ". She explained that it was a breastfeeding pump and she was there to gather my liquid gold , colostrum. So we attached these huge suction cups to my breasts and the machine began to play a rhythmic song as I watched my body produce the first droplets of breast milk. It wasn't much but off they went, like some secret agents, to the NICU to deliver my package to my daughter. Although I couldn't be there to see it, I felt incredibly proud and useful as a mother for the first time because I was doing something to help. I then continued my scheduled pumping throughout that first day as the nurses returned for more breast milk to feed my daughter.

It would be an understatement to say that it was a long night. As she laid attached to those strange machines in her incubator in the NICU, I could only imagine what was happening to and with her. I kept asking every person who entered that room to tell me over and over again how she was doing, what she was doing, what she looked like, was she crying, was she eating?

The next day, as I woke from one of my many naps, I was surprised when the nurses wheeled another strange looking machine into my room. This time, it was an incubator transporting my daughter. Knowing that I desperately needed to bond with my daughter, rules had been broken. I cannot describe in words what I felt inside, all over, when I first held her. Since we didn't have a camera with us (something we didn't realize until that very instant), the nurses quickly retrieved a polaroid camera and we were able to capture that priceless moment with a few photos. It was way too short a visit but her incubator could not remain unplugged for any lengthy period of time. She was returned to the NICU and I replayed that moment in my head a million times over.

The nurses came back to give me their hourly report: my daughter was now refusing to bottle-feed and they had been forced to insert a feeding tube. I couldn't move. My mom immediately went to the NICU to assess the situation. When my mom returned, she said that my baby was still alright but that she told the nurses that my daughter was seemingly pulling on the feeding tube. They assured her that a 2-day old child does not have the fine motor coordination to do any such thing. They were wrong. A short time later, the nurse reported that my daughter had removed her feeding tube. Sheer pride is what I felt. This was definitely my child. She did not want any stinking bottles or feeding tube. She wanted some breast milk straight from the cow. :-) I decided that if I had to crawl on my hands and knees, I would make it to the NICU.

It was a long, arduous journey, but I walked to the NICU assisted by my husband. When I arrived, I had to jump through more hoops: I had to wash up like a surgeon before surgery, put on a sterile gown, hat, gloves, footwear (like it was a biohazard area). Again, they explained that due to the preemie babies' susceptibility to infection, it was a necessary measure. They did not need to say more. I gladly obliged as I peered through the glass window trying to see if I can identify my child among the sea of incubators.

With butterflies in my stomach, I was escorted to her incubator. She was so tiny and fragile. I was so afraid to touch her. As I inspected every inch of her body with my eyes, I noticed an unsightly pacifier in her mouth. Upon my request, the nurses immediately removed it and I instructed them to not give it back to her, ever.

I was then seated in a feeding chair next to her incubator. The nurse began to instruct me on how to hold her to breastfeed but before she could finish her instructions, my daughter had latched on and was sucking away. She needed no instructions. What could be more natural?

For the next THREE years, I breastfed my daughter. I breastfed through the nipple soreness and discomfort of the first few months. I breastfed through thrush. My breasts were her comfort during every vaccination (a subject I will discuss at a later date). I breastfed in church. I walked around stores nonchalantly breastfeeding my daughter while I held in her carrier. I breastfed wherever and whenever I needed to, without apology !!! If bottle feeding a baby was acceptable, then society just needed to respect my choice to breastfeed my baby.

So, I will continue to brag about breastfeeding for three years because it works. I have firsthand experience that my daughter reaped the benefits of breastfeeding. She is now 7 years old and has never had an ear infection. She did not catch a cold until she got her first tooth at 16 months. She does not have my severe allergies. In all, her immune system is better equipped because I breastfed her. And let's not forget the fact that breastfed premature babies have a higher IQ by the time they are 7 years old.

And just in case you were wondering, she never bit me.

One Love, Se'Lah

*For breastfeeding support, refer to :,0,0 and

*For information on the breastfeeding law in the USA, refer to,1,0

Monday, December 8, 2008


I don't know if it's because the holiday season is naturally a more stressful time of the year, but a few of my sistahs are going through some rather challenging times as of late. In one of my more difficult moments, my sistren texted me this passage regarding the Buddhist concept of impermanence. I had to read and re-read it a few times but somehow, it all made sense. And so, tonight, I am not going to write much but will just share the passage with you. I hope it helps.

One Love, Se'Lah


(by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh)

Nothing remains the same for two consecutive moments. Heraclitus said we can never bathe twice in the same river. Confucius, while looking at a stream, said, "It is always flowing, day and night." The Buddha implored us not just to talk about impermanence, but to use it as an instrument to help us penetrate deeply into reality and obtain liberating insight. We may be tempted to say that because things are impermanent, there is suffering. But the Buddha encouraged us to look again. Without impermanence, life is not possible. How can we transform our suffering if things are not impermanent? How can our daughter grow up into a beautiful young lady? How can the situation in the world improve? We need impermanence for social justice and for hope.

If you suffer, it is not because things are impermanent. It is because you believe things are permanent. When a flower dies, you don't suffer much, because you understand that flowers are impermanent. But you cannot accept the impermanence of your beloved one, and you suffer deeply when she passes away.

If you look deeply into impermanence, you will do your best to make her happy right now. Aware of impermanence, you become positive, loving and wise. Impermanence is good news. Without impermanence, nothing would be possible. With impermanence, every door is open for change. Impermanence is an instrument for our liberation.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday, Fun Day...

By far, my favourite pastime on Sundays is baking with my daughter. I admit, I was not very big on baking until my husband bought me all new kitchen appliances a couple years ago. They were so shiny and new, I just had to use them but who has time to read instructions? I mean, it's a simple concept: throw all the ingredients in the stand mixer, turn on the oven to the desired temperature, throw in the cookie dough, and voila, you have cookies, right? Not right. After a hideous first attempt at baking chocolate chip cookies, my dear friend DP, a typical Southern Belle, gave me a hands-on tutorial in the "labour of love" that baking entails. I was hooked.

Every Sunday morning, before my NASCAR race, (yes, Black people watch NASCAR too), I would spend some quality time with my daughter baking something special. We started out with chocolate chip cookies at first. Now, we have graduated to more complex sounding recipes, which gives her a sense of growth and accomplishment. Of course, the recipes are still quite basic but who's gonna tell her? Today, we are making homemade "Sicilian Styled Pizza".

Baking with a child is really simple when you've got great tools. My favourite kitchen gadgets are my KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer and the KitchenAid Food Processor, again courtesy of my husband. Pizza dough takes all but 15 minutes in prep time and mixing in the food processor. And my daughter loves the baking process. There's added educational benefits as well. She gets to learn math measuring the ingredients. She learns reading comprehension following the recipe. And at the end of it all, after much patience, she gets to eat her favourite dish, pizza.

One Love, Se'Lah

For some great child-friendly recipes, check out:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Don't Break The Ice...

Although my daughter was born in Massachusetts, this will be her very first winter living in the North.  She has been fascinated with every single meteorological and natural development that demonstrates to the rest of the world that winter is here.  First thing this morning, she looked up the weather forecast on my iPhone and noticed that snow is expected tomorrow.  I could just see the thoughts churning through her brain.  I tried to distract her with other subjects but I could no longer contain her cabin fever.  Fortunately, she is a lover of nature and our apartment complex is nestled on a very large river.  The light bulb went off - I can take her for a walk by the river.

The words didn't even get out of my mouth before she was ready to go on our trek through the path in the woods that led to the river's edge.  She even had her own walking stick.  She was overly enthusiastic about leading the way and since I had never been down there (and I have no sense of direction), I figured why not?  

She did a fine job until she got distracted when we came upon a brook that was beginning to turn to ice. "Mommy, can I break the ice?"

I watched as she stategically gathered all different shapes and sizes of sticks from the forest floor and threw upon the ice trying to break through to free the fallen leaves that were trapped beneath its frozen layer.  "It's just like the game, Don't Break The Ice".

It was sheer joy hearing her laugh more and more with each attempt to break the ice.  Eventually, we decided to continue to the river bank where there would surely be more to see and do.  On the way there, we talked about how to make sure we stay safe around frozen water bodies during the winter.  Of course, there was a lot more questions than anticipated (as always) but she got the point.

We soon arrived at the river.  Again, she was absolutely fascinated by the ice formation at the river bank. The ice was formed as if it had been frozen in time the moment the waves decided to lap the shore.  

She grabbed a piece of the ice and inspected it extensively.  You would think she had never seen ice before.    She traced her fingers over the curves, looked through it, and then I heard a crashing sound.  "Mommy, it's like glass".  And it sounds like glass too baby.  "Can I break more?"  Why not?  So she got a few more pieces and broke them too.  

It was getting a bit cold so we decided to return home but she had to bring a piece of ice to show her daddy.  She rushed me the whole way to make sure that her "pet" ice did not melt before we got home.  And tomorrow, we expect snow.  I can hardly wait.

One Love, Se'Lah

Friday, December 5, 2008

When Mother Nature Speaks...

When the Soufriere Hills volcano became active in 1995 in Montserrat, the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean, I did not know what to think or how to feel. No one or nothing could have prepared me for what was to come. Afterall, the volcano had been dormant throughout recorded history (at least over 400 years since it was inhabited by our native, aboriginal Arawak and Carib Indians on what was then known as Alliouagana "Land of the Prickly Bush").

I distinctly remember taking school field trips to the volcano as a young child. Our teacher asked one requirement of us: to bring along an uncooked egg. We were all fascinated by the mystery of it all so everyone obliged. We excitedly boarded the bus, fighting to get the back seat first, as we set off on our adventure to the hills.

I could smell the overwhelming scent of sulphur in the air (which by the way is reminiscent of a rotten egg) and it grew even stronger as we approached the top of the mountain. We would then hike up the volcano which was more crater-like than I had expected. It was really a mountain with secret caves and pockets hidden within. When we reached our destination, our teacher asked us to remove our eggs. We were then instructed to gently place our eggs in one of the volcano's pockets which was filled with steamy, hot water. Carefully, we placed the eggs in and watched in amazement as Mother Nature cooked our eggs to perfection.

Another favourite pastime on these field trips was to bathe in the natural hot springs bubbling out of the earth at the base of the volcano. The heat from the volcanic activity would keep the water at the perfect temperature. Relaxing in a natural, outdoor sauna atop a lush, tropical mountain overlooking the Caribbean Sea was simply a magical experience.

Over the years, many tourists have graced those hotsprings as well as enjoyed many other attractions, like the natural water springs, on this beautiful 39 square foot island. Much of the island had rivers flowing throughout its lush, green landscape, from the mountains to the sea. As children, we always knew the rule of thumb: if you ever get lost, follow the river downstream and you will eventually reach the sea. From there, you can find your way home to any given location depending on which bay you ended up on.

It has been said by locals that during the early 1990s, some brilliant capitalists decided to harvest the waters of the rivers for a water bottling project. What they didn't respect was the fact that the waters necessarily cooled the veins of the volcano. Fast forward a few years to July 18, 1995, and the volcano retaliated from the human invasion and decided to roar in opposition. Montserrat has never been the same since because the volcano eventually rendered more than half of the island uninhabitable, buried the island's Georgian Era capital, Plymouth (including Montserrat Secondary School-my alma mater) in mud and ashes, and destroyed the airport and docking facilities. (For people from the Caribbean that meant, "no more barrel a come"). For me, it meant that a tangible part of my personal history was literally being erased and that any future child of mine would more than likely never see or experience on a first-hand basis these historical places that had been so instrumental in my upbringing. It was not an easy concept to digest or accept but I found some solace in the fact that I was born and raised in the northern part of the island (which used to be the "country"). At least for now, that was not in the direct path of the volcano's pyroclastic flows.

So, as Christmas approaches each year, it's bitter sweet for me. I can only tell my daughter of one of my most memorable, childhood holiday traditions where hordes of festive children and families would flock around the evergreen tree in the centre of Plymouth waiting patiently for Santa's arrival from the North Pole, for in reality, she will not be experiencing that with me during her childhood. However, now that she's at an age to remember, she is going to hopefully experience her first "white" Christmas. She has never seen real snow and is ridiculously looking forward to it. Tonight, we went to our new town's tree-lighting ceremony and she even asked me to turn up the Christmas carols on the radio as she peered out the window at the newly hung decorations while we drove to the centre of town. The excitement and anticipation is unbelievably infectuous.

And yet, I continue to remember my fellow countrymen and women during this holiday season because as we celebrate today, they are still literally living under the imminent threat of Mother Nature's fury as her volcano continues to erupt.

One Love, Se'Lah

*For you browsing pleasure, visit and

*Also, check out this tribute to Montserrat on YouTube: and

*National Geographic coverage, "Seconds from Disaster: Eruption on Montserrat": (part 1) (part 2) (part 3) (part 4) and (part 5)

*And finally below, The Associate Press' coverage of today's eruption:

Montserrat volcano continues violent explosions

Published: December 5, 2008 (The Associated Press)

OLVESTON, Montserrat: Montserrat's volcano fired glowing red rocks and towers of gray ash into the sky early Friday for the fourth time this week, but no injuries or damage were reported, scientists said.

The pre-dawn blast followed three explosions earlier in the week, which released blistering gases and steam from inside a hardened lava dome topping the Soufriere Hills volcano, according to Roderick Stewart, director of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.

The first explosion on Tuesday at the cloud-shrouded volcano — the first in nearly six months — occurred without any seismic activity. Subsequent explosions sent glowing streaks of red from pyroclastic flows down the mountain's western side.

"The activity this week has demonstrated that explosions and pyroclastic flows do occur without any warning whatsoever," said Stewart, one of the scientists who monitor the volcano and report any changes to the island's 4,500 residents, who live in northern areas declared safe.

The volcano sprang to life in 1995. More than half the British Caribbean territory's 12,000 inhabitants moved away. An eruption in 1997 buried much of the south and killed 19 people.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Follow the logic...

I wrote:

We were sitting on the bed playing her new board game "Sorry" when my husband told us to look outside. Snow flakes were falling. My daughter and I quickly threw on some warm clothes and our jackets and ran out on the balcony. She opened her mouth to try to catch the flakes but they were too sparse. So we held hands, jumped up and down happily til the snow disappeared. So what if it only lasted a minute. It was awesome!

My daughter's former speech therapist replied:

What are you two going to do when you've got 2 or 3 feet of snow!!!!!

My daughter's instructed response:

"We are going to make a snow WOMAN"

Need I say more?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Highest Court in MA backs Rasta, but the Struggle continues...

Below you will find the media's coverage of this monumental legal decision. At first, I was just ecstatic that my brethren was getting his day in court in his fight for equality, and that the media was covering the event. As I reflected on the strategic use of words by both the Jiffy Lube attorney and the media, and the tone evoked therefrom, I became a bit more unsettled.

Why is it that Brown, a man, deserves to be treated any less than a human being by being banished to an unheated basement with no customer contact? Would society tolerate such discrimination were it based on another religion like judaism, or a decision based on a person's physical appearance such as Down's syndrome?

Why does a Rasta's image present an "unprofessional" first impression?

Why is there mention of a "caveman look" in comparison?

I'm certain Jiffy Lube has a non-discrimination policy based on race, religion, sex, etc. But somehow, in this day and age, they find it acceptable, and even defendable, to exile a person to an unheated basement because of his religious preferences. I'll be following this legal decision closely to see how the actual lawsuit resolves itself. Needless to say, however, you won't be finding this Rasta in a Jiffy Lube establishment.

Story # 1: The Boston Herald

The Dread Lock decision: SJC backs Rastafari

By Laurel J. Sweet
Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Rastafarian can haul the owners of Jiffy Lube into court for religious discrimination now that the state’s top justices have ruled the oil-change chain got on a slippery slope when it ordered him to hide his beard and dreadlocks from public view.

Bobby Brown - a western Massachusetts man who is not Whitney Houston’s ex - claimed that when he refused to adopt F.L. Roberts and Co.’s grooming policy of “clean-shaven” faces and “neatly trimmed or arranged” hair two years after he went to work for the Jiffy Lube in Hadley, he was exiled to work in an unheated basement with no customer contact.

State Superior Court Judge Bertha D. Josephson ruled it was an undue hardship for Jiffy Lube to exempt Brown from the policy for his Jamaican-based religion. Brown appealed. The SJC found the company didn’t fully explore how it might otherwise accommodate the Rastafari doctrine of letting one’s hair grow with abandon.

“They’re not saying you can’t have a grooming policy, you can,” said Brown’s attorney Joel Feldman. “But if you’re going to claim it’s a real burden to deal with someone’s request, you have to prove it with facts. Jiffy Lube had not really engaged in a dialogue with Mr. Brown.”

Attorney Claire Thompson, representing F.L. Roberts, said she is confident jurors will side with the company’s expectation that employees like the aggrieved Brown make a “professional” first impression.

“Our policy was completely neutral. It had absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Brown’s religion. It’s essentially the Johnny Damon story,” she said, recalling how the former Sox slugger had to shed his trademark caveman look in 2006 to don Yankee pinstripes.

Here's the link to the story:

Story # 2: The Associated Press

Mass. high court: Rastafarian ex-Jiffy Lube worker kept from customers because of hair can sue
By DENISE LAVOIE Associated Press Writer

BOSTON (AP) _ A Rastafarian man who refused to shave off his beard or cut his hair to comply with a Jiffy Lube employee grooming policy can take his religious discrimination case to trial, Massachusetts' highest court ruled Tuesday.

The Supreme Judicial Court reversed a decision by a Superior Court judge who had dismissed Bobby T. Brown's lawsuit against a Jiffy Lube franchisee before a trial.

Brown worked as a technician at a Hadley Jiffy Lube business owned by F.L. Roberts & Co. Inc.

In 2002, after a new grooming policy was put in place requiring employees who worked with customers to be clean-shaven, Brown told management that his religion does not permit him to shave or cut his hair. Managers then said Brown could work only in lower bays where he did not have contact with customers.

Brown filed a discrimination lawsuit in state court in 2006. A Superior Court judge agreed with the company that it had the right to control its public image and found that it would be an undue hardship on the company to grant Brown an exemption from the grooming policy.

But the Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, saying the company had not proven that no other accommodation was possible for Brown without imposing an undue hardship on the company.

"Here ... because the defendant did not discuss alternatives with the plaintiff, the defendant cannot show conclusively, on this record, that a total exemption from the grooming policy was the only possible accommodation," Justice Roderick Ireland wrote for the court.

Brown's attorney, Joel Feldman, praised the ruling. He said Brown no longer works for the company, but will take the case to trial because he believes the grooming policy discriminated against him based on his religion and that he is entitled to damages.

But a lawyer for F.L. Roberts said that after the grooming policy was implemented, the company continued to employ Brown and gave him merit raises.

"The policy was not aimed at an individual's religion. What the policy said was if you want to continue to have customer contact, then you must be clean-shaven and have neatly trimmed hair," she said. "Otherwise we are still going to maintain your employment ... but you can't have customer contact."

The Rastafarian faith urges followers to let their hair grow unbridled. Many grow their hair into long, matted strands called dreadlocks to express a oneness with nature.

Here's that link:,0,7063375.story

Story #3: An unrelated story in the Jamaican Star: Employment Agency Refuses to Hire Rastafarian...

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Loss For Words...

When my daughter was a little over 2 years old, I *knew* she was different. I had no actual frame of reference as a new mom but I just knew that maybe, just maybe she should be talking a little bit more. I asked her pediatrician and he asked me some random questions about how many different words she speaks. Like I count them. I guessed a number. That was enough for the pediatrician as he told me she was alright.

When she was approaching her 3rd birthday, my husband and I decided to enroll her in a local Montessori school which came highly recommended by a friend. What attracted us to that school was the diversity of the student population and individualized manner of alternate teaching. We had our enrollment interview and I asked, "Is it okay if she doesn't speak fluently?". "Of course", replied the Directress, "we have had students from all over the world who does not speak English, including Russia and China, and they learn just as well." I was relieved. So, we enrolled her and she started preschool in September.

By our parent-teacher conference in December, the Directress was now concerned about how much my daughter didn't speak. My heart sunk to an unimaginable depth. Not my child. I did not really hear much else of what the Directress said except her recommendation that we proceed to testing her through a early intervention program called ChildFind, which by the way is free. For more information, refer to their website:

January rolled around and we received the results of the ChildFind testing. Although my daughter had a high IQ (which normally would have made me incredibly proud), she also was diagnosed with Speech and Language Delay. I went home, locked myself in my bathroom and cried my eyes out. I felt so helpless that this disability had befallen my child because this was way out of my league and my doctorate degree was useless in this field. I did not know how to fix it. I felt responsible for any cross-wiring of the speech part of her brain because I failed to carry her full-term during pregnancy and she was born way too early at 3 lbs, 12 oz.

I could not console myself so I reached for my phone and dialed my heartical sistren. I was always able to honestly explain how I *really* felt without holding back. So, I told her how it was all my fault because I must have done something wrong during pregnancy to cause my daughter's premature birth and this was a direct consequence. Wisely, she redirected me towards being proactive. She reassured me that early intervention is a good thing and that I'd one day wish my daughter would talk a little less. I hoped she was right.

The Montessori school was kind enough to alter their enrollment requirements and allow my daughter to go to their school two days a week while my daughter enrolled in her Speech Therapy class full-time the remaining three days of the week at a local public school. My daughter now had an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) because she had a legitimate disability. The speech class had only 7 children ranging from ages 3-6. I cannot sing the praises of my daughter's Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) enough !!! She was also a mother of an only child and was very supportive. She also provided much needed advice regarding parenting a child with a disability and support services available.

The SLP encouraged me to apply through our medical insurance for speech services because since my daughter was diagnosed with a disability, she could get extra, independent speech therapy. We went through the medical evaluations and after five sessions, the insurance discharged my daughter. I requested a second opinion from the insurance but unless I paid for it myself, the decision of the insurance company's SLP would stand.

I was not deterred. I did as much research as I could on my own and conferenced endlessly with my daughter's SLP from school. She told me programs I could buy to help my child at home (e.g. Earobics) and other exercises I could do that would be more beneficial than the 30-minute weekly session the insurance had offered me. I was already a stay-at-home mom for 3 years so far so what was a few more when it would benefit my child for a lifetime. I decided to stay home longer to help my daughter as much as humanly possible.

She continued to attend two schools the next school year until the middle of the second semester when the speech therapy class received enough funding to be offered 5 days a week. At that point, we withdrew our daughter from the Montessori preschool to concentrate on her speech therapy. The end of the school year came and we participated in her year-end IEP. The result: she had not accomplished all the goals in her IEP. It was a tough decision, but after much discussion and anguishing over possible life-long ramifications, we decided to keep our child back one extra year in preschool in the speech therapy program.

After much-needed early intervention of intense speech therapy, my daughter was discharged from the program during the second semester the next school year. Her speech was no longer at a disability level. She remained in the speech therapy class for the remainder of the school year and was the "model" student for the classroom. During that time, the SLP spent some quality time during lunch time reading one-on-one with our daughter.

By the end of her kindergarten year in the Montessori school the following year, my daughter was the top reader and writer in her class. And yes, I can only pray that she talk a little less these days ;-) But I've learned too well to never take her words for granted.

One Love, Se'Lah

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Oh, the best laid plans...

If only we could accomplish all the things we plan in a day.  Seems like our responsibilities as sisters, mothers or otherwise often interject forcing us to veer off our planned course.  That is not necessarily a bad thing though.

After my last entry on Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve, my sister's car broke down.  My husband, who is the most giving person I know, accompanied me to her house to try to fix her car.  Unfortunately, it needed more parts than we could get that day.  I'm the oldest sister and she needed to be able to go to work on Friday.  I find my responsibility as the eldest sister much akin to being a mother.  I just can *not* watch any of my sisters (or sistahs for that matter) in need and carry on with "business as usual".  As family, it is my belief that we rise or fall together.

On Thanksgiving day, I sat here wondering when my sister would arrive at our home with the parts needed for my husband to repair her vehicle.  She is most certainly notoriously late.  It wasn't until afternoon when she arrived but I was very happy to see her.  She could spend some quality time with my daughter, something that she doesn't get to do often because she works 2 jobs, 7 days a week.  Today was one of her only 2 days off for the year (unless she takes a planned vacation of course).  It was awesome seeing them play the Disney Princesses DVD game and just hang out.  

Although I wished I could do more, we basically had to wait until my husband repaired my sister's vehicle.  Then I got a call from my brother...he was on his way to my house with a replacement part he bought to maintain my vehicle.  Now my daughter would see her uncle (who lives in another state 3 hours away) and her aunt.  

After spending time with both of my siblings, and with my sister's car repaired, we all headed to my uncle's house and had a great Thanksgiving Day meal with more family members of all ages.  It was awesome !!!   It couldn't have worked out better had I planned it.

Now, I get to make plans for another day soon to do all that I had planned previously as those visits planned are definitely important.

So, go with the flow of life.  When life throws you scraps, make a quilt.

One Love, Se'Lah

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Change is good...

As I lay here across my daughter's bed, I can't help but try to process how much my life has changed in the last 7 years. It's like a new cycle of life has begun. I imagine I cannot put this new beginning in perspective without understanding the past. So, this moment of introspection is to start that journey.

A little over 7 years ago, I secured a job as a prosecutor. I accepted the position not because it was what I always dreamt of being. But, the prosecutor's office was hiring and I needed out of my job at the time because it felt like I had run into a dead end. I had to start walking down a new road, one which I had no map to.

As I sat in my dad's living room and told him that I had just received offer letter from the prosecutor's office, I could see the pride in his eyes. As vulnerable as I felt, I knew it was safe to tell him everything. So I poured out my internal dilemna, nervousness, and self-doubt that I could the job to the best of my ability. After all, I was born to be a defense attorney, a formidable one who would herald justice throughout the land. My dad would set me straight that day and give me just another piece of life's puzzle.

My dad explained how the prosecutor is the second-most powerful person in that courtroom, next to the judge of course. As the words rolled off his tongue, my interest was peaked. He continued, you must always prosecute fair with compassion, for on any given day, that could be you. Immediately, my grandmother's saying rang in my ears, "There go I but for the grace of God." I kept listening. Dad told me that I can still be a vessel of change, an even more effective one, because now I'll be in a position where I have more discretion in meting out a slice of justice. I wouldn't be a defense attorney begging the prosecutor to do something on behalf of my client in a plea bargain. (I was abundantly aware of the concept that the wheels of justice would come to a grinding halt but for plea bargains.) But now, I would be the prosecutor to whom the defense attorney was begging and, in that chair, I should prosecute fairly across the board and always with compassion. I could bring about justice for victims of crime. I could be the prosecutor who could sympathize with the situation of those in less fortunate circumstances. I wasn't going to win them all and there was no way to make everybody happy. But, I would get more trial practice because a prosecutor has to go to trial more often than most defense attorneys. With that said, I was ready to be a prosecutor. I had never real thought of a prosecutor's role in that way before that day but now I was ready to be one, and I was determined to do it well.

Change is good.
One Love, Se'Lah