You can’t judge a book by it’s cover

At the job I do to support my writing habit, I meet a lot of international students. They arrive on the shores of the Great White North with designer luggage in their hands and dreams in their eyes.

Okay, so they don’t all have designer luggage (but a lot of them do).

Anyway, they arrive with the hopes of mastering the English language and achieving their college-education-in-an-English-speaking-country goals. What they don’t arrive with, is the expectation that the reality may be far from the dream. They don’t expect to be stuck in a house with bedbugs, or to be locked out at midnight, or have 10-12 housemates. But that is the reality they experience. One student, who kept scratching her legs in class told me that she had barely slept because she would wake up with bites on her arms and legs from the bedbugs at the place she was staying. The landlords told her she was too sensetive. Another student, while trying to keep from falling asleep in class, told me that her landlord ran the washing machine every morning. And by every morning she meant 3am. With the laundry room right beside her bedroom, she was barely getting any sleep. Another student was only allowed one load of laundry a week and was bullied by her landlord.

It sucks to be taken advantage of when you are alone in another country. I should know, because it happened to me too while I was living overseas. Living quarters that don’t look like the pictures. Pay that was half of what was in your contract. Expectations that you should work even when you are so tired you can’t stand up straight. If you have lived abroad and not experienced anything like this, count yourself one of the lucky few.

I thought for a long time that this only happened to westerners in the East. But now I think it happens everywhere. I also used to think that most Asians who came to school in the West were on that Crazy-Rich-Asians life. But now I know that this is also not true. There are so many stereotypes we can hold about people without even realizing that we do hold them. Africans in North America must have money. Brazilians all love football. Men always cheat. Pretty people don’t have problems. I thought I was a free thinking person, but I realized recently that there were still some unproven beliefs that I was courting myself. I guess you are never too old to uncover your biases. And you’re also never too old to change them either. Anyone else got some weird assumptions?

…“Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.” –  1 Samuel 16:7

Don’t stop believing

At your fingertipsI love travelling. The nervous anxiety of preparing for a trip; the picking out of the travel outfit; even the airport food. I love it. What I don’t love is booking accommodation. I don’t love the games these booking sites play with my emotions; the way they tease me with these reasonable prices, make me add them to my list of favorites, then turn around and jack up the prices the moment I am actually ready to book. Now I am out here juggling browsers, using incognito windows, creating alternate profiles, just so I can get to the truth. It feels like stalking an ex on social media. Which, of course, I would never ever do. Ever.

But yeah, I hate the booking part, which is why I have been procrastinating on booking  rooms for my next trip. It doesn’t help that I am on a shoe string budget either. After a week of checking and searching almost every day, I feel like my eyes are about to fall out.

Then today, after work, I checked again and suddenly all the prices at half a dozen of the links I saved had dropped; some of them slashed in half. Thank God! Because I and my pocket had been praying. But it reminded me of how sometimes we give up too easily. Sometimes that thing we are hoping, working and going for is right there, right beyond the tips of our fingers but we stop reaching too soon.

I’ve been reaching for some things for a while now. The opportunity to write commercially again; my dream job; the healing of some friendships; some Isaac-Rebecca style love. And sometimes, I feel like giving up. Sometimes I do give up momentarily. But this simple thing today reminded me to keep reaching, because like my underpriced hotel booking, what I am reaching for might be right beyond my fingertips. And if I reach out a little more, it might be mine.

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” – Dale Carnegie

Jobs, priorities and walking in water

This morning I quit my job.

Well, one of them. You see, as a Jamaican it is required that you hold multiple jobs at all times. If you don’t, they snatch your citizenship. No, I am just joking.

Except not really. Multiple jobs really is a thing.

But anyway, back to the story. This morning I quit my job. A job I actually didn’t hate but which was shredding years off my life.

Truth be told, I should have quit months ago. I was wrestling with the truth of it for weeks. But I hate losing an income stream, especially when I am not sure when or how it will be replaced. But there are things more important than money. (Though my student loan balance doesn’t seem to care about that.) Things like health – mental and physical; things like self-development, which I have been putting off for a long time; things like faith. And that last one was the one that really made the difference for me. Because if I say I trust God to take care of me, then I can’t be hesitating when he tells me to do something. I have to trust that once I take the first step, He will create the dry land for me to take the next one. (That’s a reference to a really cool story you can find here by the way).

So I took that faith step. I quit my job. God help me. I’ll let you know how it goes!

RB

Dealing with the damages

brokennessI spend most of my days with children. Some days I am with children who are functional. Other days I am with children who function differently. Society has lots of labels for this second set, labels that are mostly polite ways for saying they are damaged. We live in a world where broken-ness is not tolerated. Instead it is something to be defined, analysed and fixed. This is fairly easy to do when you wear your damage at a surface level – when the way you walk or talk or behave is clearly different from the way everyone else does. But what about when your malfunction is not on the surface? What about what your broken-ness is so deep inside that no one can see it? Or so deeply woven into who you are that you don’t realize it is broken-ness until you try to untangle the reasons you behave the way you do?

Continue reading

Higher Thoughts: Getting Unstuck

stuckI am an over-thinker. I get hung up on what people say and what they don’t say. I obsess about what I say and how I think people may have interpreted what I said. It may be a bit neurotic, but I know I am not the only one with hang ups. I have a co-worker who gets hung up on dirt, so as soon as she comes in to work she starts wiping down everything with Lysol. I know someone else who is obsessed with their food preparation, so they need to know who prepared what they’re going to eat before they eat it. Naturally, this person finds it difficult to eat out. A lot of people have quirky hang-ups. Continue reading

Higher Thoughts: Pre-Problem Solutions

Funny-Elephant-cartoon-9I have the memory of an elephant. An elephant with short term memory loss. So in order to ensure that I get things accomplished I have to make lists and use calendars and the like to remind myself of what I need to do. It doesn’t help that I usually have a million things going on from week to week. Between my ever-changing work schedule, my activities at church, appointments with my family, favors for friends, and the volunteering I manage to squeeze in, I can barely keep track. Continue reading

Masters of our domain

exercise-weight-lossThis week, after a long conversation with my best friend about our mutual unfitness, I decided to join the gym. Now if you have ever tried to join a gym, you know they try to upsell you on a whole bunch of extra stuff. In my case they insisted that I do a health assessment with a personal trainer. I did said assessment and turns out that I am overweight (no surprise) and also at risk for lifestyle related diseases (big surprise). Naturally I immediately set out on a mission to lose that extra weight and get my health right (more water, more exercise, more sleep). The problem with all of that however is that it requires a lot of self-discipline on my part – something I have always struggled with. Continue reading

Growing Periods

gardenEvery spring I have listened to a few inclined girlfriends talk about their gardening. I withstand the stories about mulching, watering and bugs and have even eaten from the harvest of their vegetable plots. I have never been interested. This year however I decided to try sprouting some beans, in preparation for a similar activity I wanted to do with the kids at work, and somehow caught the garden bug. Now I’m watching lentils, kidney beans, basil and chives (don’t laugh. I’m new at this!) sprout in pots near my backyard, as I wait for Toronto weather to make it permissible to replant them outdoors.

I don’t know why this year has been different. Maybe because I am older now and I suppose these are the things that interest women when they get older. Maybe because making things grow has turned out to be therapeutic for me as I face (or  avoid) the heartache of other things dying in my life. Whatever the reason, it is becoming more and more of a joy to see the stems on my plants stretching longer each day, to see new leaves opening and growing, and to watch the miracle of life. It just reminds me of how amazing God is, and how he can create something new and beautiful from something small and simple. It is teaching me to hope that He will do the same in me.

Happy Birthday to me!

Happy BirthdayYes! That’s right, it’s my birthday!

Okay, so it’s not my birthday today. It was actually last Thursday that I officially increased a year in age. But I have to say this has been my best birthday in a while. Usually I spend my birthday super quietly, on my own. I don’t tell people about it, and I breathe in the ‘joy’ of getting older in solace. This year, it was still pretty low-key, however I did allow myself the company of close friends and family. There are a few things I have learned through this birthday however that I want to share:

1. It’s not the quantity of friends you have, but the quality
As I get older I realize that I don’t have the whole swath of friends I had in my high school, college and early adult days. In fact, my friend pool has condensed down to a few. But the few that I have are people I really love, people I want to be with, and people with whom I have a mutual understanding. That is more priceless than I ever realized.

2. Family rocks
Family have always been an essential part of my life. In fact, in terms of priorities, it has always been God first, family next and everything else after. However, as I get older the value of my family, who make me laugh, cry, scream and sometimes do all three at the same time, has sky rocketed. After all, when you’re old, they’re the difference between nurse-like care and nursing home.

3. Its easier to be honest
I have always admired the way elderly people say whatever they want without caring much what people think of them. I don’t think I am totally there yet, but I am learning that it is easier to be yourself, say what you want, and like what you want (and who you want) without apology than trying to fit into other people’s perception of who you should be. At the end of the day, the people in #1 & #2 will accept you regardless, and that’s all that matters.

And that’s my birthday wisdom for 2013. What have you learnt on your birthday?

Higher Thoughts: Just Stop

worryingI woke up this morning feeling restless. And if I am honest it didn’t just start this morning. In fact, the past couple weeks I have been simmering in a low level of anxiety as I bob from one life drama to another. At the start of the year it was school/work issues. Those kinda got handled and then it was friendship-relationship issues. Then those sorta got dealt with and then came author issues. And these definitely have not been dealt with. In fact, as I sit her typing this I am trying to ignore the unease that comes from knowing that I am less than 6 months from the deadline for my fourth novel and I haven’t even written a chapter yet. I certainly hope my editor doesn’t read this. Continue reading