Category Archives: Inspirational

Evidence of Abundance

Life is happening all around me and I am part of the flow, the change, the acceptance, the reaching for something else, the transIMG_8702forming to become winged.

The caterpillars are eating the Frangipani tree. They are so beautiful and the tree is almost stripped clean –all the leaves have been devoured.  I wonder what the tree says to the caterpillar? Do the caterpillars apologize, say they are partial to the leaves and purple flowers. I nibble at everything in sight.

IMG_8712 Down the road, the horses are horny.  As I begin my walk I watch them sniff each other then the males mounts the female until she shakes him off.

Returning from my walk, the mare is wallowing in the dirt, rolling around as if to dislodge something…The stallion is no where to be seen.  Often, after intercourse couples turn their backs to one another.

The bees love the Haita/Sea Hibiscus/Maho. IMG_8708The swarm it.  They have been frisky and lost, flitting everywhere, seemingly confused in search of the queen or a hive.  Death might be eminent as the pollens swirl in the wind and the petals fall to the ground. Love is like that sometime — it hits rock bottom then soars.  Figures!

There is so much abundance I swoon. The fruits ripen all at once.  We spent almost an hour sighting and picking belle apples.  The nease berries/mesple/sapodilla/chicle are in fruit.  The custard apples/coriazon are in the trees and the ackee branch is so weighted it broke.  Bats and birds prey and we do what we can to have enough and leave them some.

I pop 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 belle apples in my mouth. IMG_8733 I slice off the top and suck the seedy juice in my mouth.  I want their juice to lather my skin.

I want to run naked.

I want to fly away to India.

I want to stop wanting to make a contribution, and really contribute.

My mind finds the words then hold them in my mouth until they vanish, not saliva, not meaning, not fact just a promise that is coming…

Women Marching For Justice

womenstxIt has been a week since women and men and children all over the world took to the street demanding justice and equity. Reportedly , On January 21, there were 673 Sister Marches all over cities in the USA, the largest in Washington, DC,  as well as the rest of the World, including Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.

I participated in the Women March in St Croix, USVI, led by a group of women with about 4 thousand participants. In good St Croix fashion, the participants were multicultural, and the event include blowing the Tutu  –the conch shell horn, music, dancing, singers, speeches, recitation of poetry reflecting the diverse range of this community.

womenempoweredadisaWhy were women marching?  What did they hope to achieve?

It was a call to action, a call to unify against the current US President who appears to want to turn back the clock.  It signals the forging of  alliances across lines of race, gender and sexual identification, and was a demonstration of the willingness of those individuals who want to ensure justice for all.

Above all it was a hopeful and positive event that made it clear that many people understand their self-agency and will not sit back and allow their rights nor the rights of others that many died for, be overridden.

frontwmarchingadisa17 At the end of this positive and moving event, several women took the mic and said what they were marching for, and central of course was for their grandchildren and the future generations so that they will have a voice, but also for able-bodied and physically challenged people, for Muslins and religious freedom, for the right of gays to marry, for women’s right to own their bodies, for democracy, for freedom. I was marching to say thanks to my ancestors for taking us this for and to end child abuse and domestic violence.

Although we were each marching for different causes , the common denominator was our humanity and the continuation of all our basic rights as people to live as we choose as long as we do no harm to others.

I am positive and optimistic that this movement has just begun world wide, and women who have held up and continue to hold up much more than half the sky/world, will truly rise up and take our rightful place in a feminist/womanist manner that will heal the world and bring compassion and mindfulness to all we do, and how we nurture the world.

Having What You Want

img_5958Do you really want to have what you want?

Do you even know what you want and not what the media or your neighbors or even your parents and what others tell you that that is what you should want?

Do you daily see yourself having what you want?

Do you have love and share love freely and daily with everyone you encounter?
Are you thankful for what you currently have?

Do you complain and put others down?

Do you envy or celebrate other’s accomplishments?

Does your joy and happiness feed others?
Do you marvel at the sun, moon, the people you see, the animals around you?

Do you spend quiet time reflecting on your life?

Do you eat what is right for your body because you have checked in with your body and not what is trending?

Do you exercise so you limbs and joints can rejoice at their power?

Do you keep all promises your make, regardless of how small or large?
Do you just speak thoughtlessly, saying all the things you can do, or are going to do, but forgetting the moment the words are out of your mouth?

Do you truly value yourself, thank your mind, your spirit, your heart, your body for contributing positively to life?

Do you feel connected to others, and are you willing to work with others for the greater good?

Do you feel empowered and that you, and you alone can single-handedly make a difference for someone other than yourself.

Are you willing to grow and change, when necessary, an out-dated idea, belief, action, way of being?

What are you thankful?  To whom are you thankful?  To whom are you accountable?

Who helps you to grow outside and beyond yourself?

Can you measure or demonstrate ways you have changed and grown in the last year, in the last two years, in the last five years?

Who have you helped lately, and in what way was the help tangible?

Having reflected on all of the above, go in peace, be peace and share your divine peaceimg_5945 with others.

Walk Good

 

Blessed and Doing the Work

I sometimes forget how blessed I am to have an endless stream of creativity, to care about the world and contribute to help make it better, to be alive at this time and know that right now is the absolutely best time of my life, that everyday I get stronger, better, more inspired, and that I have always been able to find people who love me to support my artistic expressions and my cultural activist work.seahibicusadisa16

Although it is not always easy to make my dream a reality, and sometimes I get frustrated and ask where is my help, why do I have to do so much of the leg work alone, where are the billions to fund my project –after all I want to do good in the world, I don’t want six cars and a diamond ring that cost millions.  I just want to create an amazing  artists colony with a profuse Caribbean garden with sculptures and an orchard with all the many fruits, and ponds and flowing water and wide open space to dream and think and create.

I want to leave my children a legacy of land and ownership, in addition to my writings, so each generation is not beginning from scratch so that we never make any ground way .  I don’t want to go out the same way I came, unknown, unheralded, without leaving monuments that document that I was here, I had dreams and plans which I implemented that will exist long, long after i have gone, and will contribute to humanity.

The Cock Crows Our Secrets Flier Final

I want it all.  I deserve it all.  I will live my dreams.  I will continue to create and leave a lasting legacy.  I will continue to help heal the world, and expose child abuse, and provide victims and parents with a voice to say no more enough. Our community must talk out, blare out, expose, eradicate and heal.  To this end I have written, The Cock Crows Our Secrets, to begin the dialogue.  I cannot do this without out. So support in all ways you can, spread the word, send contribution to the St Croix Foundation care of Moving Women. Raise the conversation with friends, family and colleagues, and most importantly do not be silent about these crimes that impact the entire community.

I am blessed and grateful and each day I am doing my part.  Join me in happinesses and wealth building to support all our dreams. Support Moving Women’s theatre efforts.

Purple Rain: Inspiring Poetry in Youth

Summer of 1984, a girlfriend who was a long-standing, avid Prince fan invited me to see Purple Rain with her. Up until then, I had been on the fence about Prince, but Purple Rain made me a believer. I cannot express the electrifying transformation.  However, the movie and its theme song captured me with its lush purple majesty. I heard the song in my sleep, and the following Monday I went and purchased the album.

I had just been contracted by two  schools in Oakland, deemed challenging, and located in the flat-lands (another term for ghetto/underfunded marginalized) to do poetry work shops, with 8th graders who were failing.  I had convinced the head of this program that I could get students reading and writing through poetry, working with these students twice weekly for ten lessons, under the umbrella of California Poets in the Schools.  I was motivated.  I was determined.

The Tuesday after seeing the movie, I brought in the sound track of Purple Rain and the class went wild. We had one of the most engaging discussions we had ever had, and several of the boys who had not written any poems before, (only turning in blank sheets with their names as I had insisted every time, every student had to turn in something) actually wrote poems about what they taught Purple Rain was. The last 10 minutes of the class when I asked for volunteers to read their poems, almost every hand shot up, and we went over the class period. I was elated.

I wish I could put my hands on the class anthologies I produced that year with those two classes, but they are in storage somewhere. I was as proud of those students as they were of themselves, as were their teacher and the school. They all dug deep and wrote some amazing poems. I used Purple Rain for many years, but it was that album, and that moment, that made me incorporate playing music and discussing lyrics into teaching young people to write poetry, and I still do, even with college students.

Purple Rain expanded my pedagogical practice.  To be effective at teaching, you have to meet students where they are before you can take them somewhere else. You have to know their language, what turns them on, who they are being and who they are afraid of being. You have to delve into the mystery of Purple Rain and see what you make of its meaning, just like they are trying to fashion meaning out of their life.

Prince, thanks for helping to make me a more effective teacher, and for providing a space for students to hear, translate and share their voices.

purple rain, purple rain

i find you in the wetness

of this magical purple rain…search

 

Writer/Teacher: The Importance of Play

Anyone who knows Winifred “Oyoko” Loving will confirm that she is a happy, inviting person, who loves to laugh.  Hence it comes as no surprise that her second children’s book, My Grandma Loves to Play, 2013, has a jolly, inviting tone. An ideal book for a grandmother to read to her grandchild, it is also a great read for any adult to read to any child, especially as it is about togetherness and having fun.

bio picture from cruise_BwOPA: You are a poet, a children’s writer and a retired teacher. What grades did you teach and for how many years?

WOL: I taught all elementary grades from Kindergarten through 6th grade over a period of 31 years.   In preparation for working with young ones, I received a Masters in Early Childhood Development from Wheelock College in Boston back in 1972.  I am ancient!

OPA: You have written 2 children’s books, most recent, My Grandma Loves to Play. I know you are a grandmother. Was this book inspired by your grandchild?

WOL:  I have three granddaughters who are the inspiration for most of my writings, and for this book in particular.

OPA: In the notes at the back of the book, you say you emphasize play and family time?  Why is the value of both?

WOL: Time spent having fun is more precious than gold to little children.  Many life lessons can be said in a funny, animal voice, making it engaging and non-threatening to communicate with a child.

OPA: The book is beautifully illustrated by Niarus Walker, a local artist and teacher, can you talk about how that collaboration came about?

WOL: I went to an art exhibit here on St. Croix, and Niarus was the featured artist.  I love her work, so it was only natural that I re-introduce myself a year or so later when I needed an illustrator for My Grandma Loves to Play.  Without hesitation she agreed to the job.  Niarus has two, beautiful daughters of her own and I do believe she has images in the book that “vaguely resemble” Keren and Rayna!  Even her puppy is featured in the story line!  I am so grateful that we were able to find time to work together on this book.

OPA: The entire tone of the book is playful, one of patient exploration, and it rhymes.  Was the use of rhyme a deliberate choice?

WOL: Oh, yes.  It is always fun to rhyme with little ones.  If I say hickory, dickory DOCK; the mouse ran up the…(pause)  All the kiddies will (more than likely) yell the word CLOCK!  Of course, if the class is unfamiliar with Mother Goose, I can begin slowly by teaching rhymes and the meaning of rhyming words.  Rhyming poetry is another fun vehicle for learning vocabulary.  Memorizing poems at an early age helps the children gain confidence in other learning areas.  My story offers a look at a Caribbean grandmother and grandchild, which is a change from mainstream rhyming stories.  All my stories, so far, are based in St. Croix, I’m happy to say.  This is my home.

OPA: Was there a particular memory or incident that prompted this book, maybe an unmade bed…?

WOL: My own grandmother, rest her sweet soul, taught us manners, the books of the Bible, how to sing three-part harmony, and our bedtime prayers.  Those lessons instilled so much confidence into my siblings and me that I now find myself  doing the very same things she did!!!  To this day I can sing and recite all 66 books~~both old and new testaments!

OPA: How has your years as a teacher, helped you to capture the right tone that would appeal to children?

WOL: Be prepared.  Be flexible.  Keep it short, keep it sweet, make it fun.  Laugh a lot.  That’s it!

OPA: When can we expect your next children’s book, and are you willing to share what it is about?

WOL: Most definitely, Opal, my next book will be about a boy who is eagerly waiting for an important event.  (I will leavethat for your readers to imagine!)  I would like to publish it in 2016.  I already have Bethany Kennedy~~an awesome illustrator! (Finally,  I have yet another idea looming in my imagination about  a book I began while visiting the Philippines last summer.)  LOL   I am laughing out loud, indeed!

51t3YBKteNL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_ Available @ amazon.com and from author:

oyoko_viayahoo.com

Force Ripe: A Painful Slice of Girlhood

Cindy McKenzie’s Force Ripe (2015) presents a poignant tale of parental neglect, community indifference, sexual abuse, isolation and ignorance of  Lee and her brother, Rally. Told through the eyes of Lee, who is not yet six years old when the books begins, and ends when she is in her teens, this story of Caribbean life in Grenada is not one you have likely read before. Honest and revealing, Force Ripe takes you on the journey with Lee, and you get to witness first hand, the uncertainty that is her life and world, replete with verbal and other abuses. It is sure to make you cry.  I recommend it to be included in Caribbean literature and sociology courses.

cover pic01

OPA: This is your first book, what have you written before and where have you been published ?

CM:   Apart from a response to a letter published in Mslexia Women’s magazine and a star letter in Woman & Home Magazine- for which I won a hat box of lovely French Chocolates and allowed myself to bask (just a little bit) in the novelty of seeing my name in print – I had not been published before Force Ripe. Previous writings include bits of prose, some poetry and short stories prompted by various online Writing Courses.

OPA: Roughly speaking, how long did it take you to write?

CM:   It was a long process. I can’t remember how long, but I think I completed the first draft in a few months. I started writing – what I then titled “Celestial Shades,” back in 2001. I have a “registered to myself”, two hundred and ten pages, double-sided first draft, dated June 2005. So much has happened along this journey I have travelled with this book.  And what took me a few months to write, took me fourteen years to publication.

OPA: Can you share your process of writing this novel? What are some of the ranges of emotions you experienced?

CM: The process. Hm. Writers have so many theories and rules about what works, how it should be done, when it should be done. And I have tried some of them. For me, it was handwritten notes of memories, ideas and then I drafted the chapters. Next, I typed them onto the computer. I still do it this way.

I knew nothing about rules or the fundamentals of writing at the time [I began the novel.]. What I had was this story. And I was very determined to tell it my way. I learned along the way –from the first terribly written draft– which I sent to Ian Randle Publishers, to the creative writing classes taken after the first draft, to revising, dealing with critique etc. And the learning continues.

Writing Force Ripe was therapeutic for me. I had to make that journey, all the way back and step inside Lee’s head- see through her eyes, listen with her ears, feel what she felt, talk the way she talked, walk with her again, so readers could also make that journey with her. And this journey evoked every kind of emotion in me. These emotions changed with every corner I turned, and every chapter I wrote.

OPA: This is not an easy subject, what prompted you to write this novel?

CM: This story has lived in me for as long as I have lived with it. And for a long time it has been nagging me, begging to be voiced. So I listened.

OPA: Force ripe is a Caribbean term that I heard it growing up in Jamaica.  How would you describe that term for non-Caribbean people, in particular as it relates to Lee, the protagonist?

CM: To Force ripe something, for example a fruit, is to ripen it prematurely, before it is fully matured and ready. In the Caribbean, the term Force Ripe is used to refer to girls who try to be mature, who act like grown ups, too early. In many instances, as was the case with Lee, the child has been forced ripe, having to grow up too quickly, not by her own doing or choosing, but because of circumstances, choices made by the adults in her life and because of neglect. Perhaps unintended, but neglect all the same. Lee was forced to do adult things, have adult experiences, look after herself way before she was ready, before she was mature enough.

OPA: Who do you see as the audience?

CM: Because of the language, and topics presented, I see Force Ripe as suitable reading for a wide audience – from the young adult, to the very senior. I believe Force Ripe has a little bit for everyone, especially our Caribbean audience, who will be able resonate with the scenes, characters, the places, the culture and the language. I want readers to want to read this book and want to share it with others. Selective parts can even be read to the very young audience.

Cindy McKenzie reading from Force Ripe

OPA: Are you inspired by other writers from the Caribbean, especially Merle Collins, a fellow Grenadian?

CM :I am not as widely read as I would like, however, I am inspired by writers who are bold and brave enough to step outside of conformity and write the truth, write about the taboo stuff which are unspoken and frown upon. I admire those who are not afraid to use our “Nation language” and to quote you on that, “… there are just some things that don’t have the same sense of intimacy or color if not said in Nation language…. I use nation language… to say what I mean from the center of my navel… to jolt readers to listen and read more carefully, to glean from the language the Caribbean sensibilities that I am always pushing, sometimes subtly, other times more forcefully. Nation language allows me to infuse the poem with all of the smells and colors of home…” I too believe this to be true. I thoroughly enjoyed Bake Face & other Guava Stories and Merle Collins’ Callaloo poem. When I was writing this someone very close said to me, “enough bakes and cocoa tea stories.” Am glad I didn’t listen, because bakes and cocoa tea to me is like roast beef and Yorkshire pudding to him! And I still Love my bakes and cocoa tea.

OPA: Are you currently writing or thinking about writing  another novel?

CM: I have to. I already have a few chapters, which I had cut from Force Ripe, so I have a start. I would like to get right to it now, but life happens in between.

OPA: What are you hopes for this novel — in other words who do you want it to reach, which in my mind is different from audience, what place do you hope it will have?

CM: I would like to see Force Ripe in the schools, especially the secondary schools. It would be great to have it on the school curriculum, and not just in our local Grenadian schools, but as far as it can reach, throughout the Caribbean. I really hope it will find a place on the shelf of book stores, in-spite of the self published taboo which hangs over it. And I would love to see Force Ripe as a movie.

OPA: Your children certainly were involved in the production of the book, how does being a mother inform the writing of this book?

CM: Being a mother has made me look at the characters with different eyes, especially the main character Lee. As I wrote about Lee’s experiences, I was able to compare her with my own daughter at different stages in her life, particularly at the age of 10. Being a mother has made me look at myself and where my children would have been had I make different choices, like my own parents did.

An excerpts from Force Ripe

“The convent girls gather up the front gate and line up the steps like a firing squad when they hear the Rastaman daughter coming. Me legs tremble. Me chest get heavy with fright. So I pull meself inside me like a soldier crab. I could do it real good now. And sometimes, I does even forget to come back out (p.272)”

Website:http://cindymac.info

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Cindy-McKenzie-Author-295573863938027/timeline/

 

The Rain of Life

IMG_0986 We depend on rain for our water supply.

We depend on oxygen to breathe.

We depend on day to work and play.

We depend on night to rest and sleep.

We do not create or have anything to do with any of these so called “natural” phenomena.

More often than not we take them for granted.

What or who else are you taking for granted in your life?

Where are you just showing up and receiving blessings without giving something in return?

In order to have water all the time, even when we go for periods without rains, we have to built dams and wells and cisterns.

We accept the oxygen by breathing, and some of us practice deep breathing as we have learnt that this habit expands our lungs and helps the oxygen to circulate more fully throughout our bodies.

Similarly, with the day and night, we have learnt how to harness and maximize both times, and the benefits and necessity of each for us.

So it is not really true that the good things in life are free.  Nothing is free.  Everything requires our conscious or unconscious reciprocal energy.

Therefore, if you want rain in your life, make sure you have a container to store it, and you plan for its uses so you will always have water when you need it.

Think about all the people and the plant and animal life throughout the world who die from lack of water.  Pause now and send them a drop of daily rain. You and your thoughts are that powerful.

The Island of Your Mind

FullSizeRenderSome of us live on islands and for us these islands are the world, as big as the African continent, the 2nd largest, but depicted inaccurately on most maps to look smaller.

Some people dream of owning an island, while others have purchased islands for their own private resorts or play ground.

Each of us possess an island, also known as your mind, and as such, you  get to decide what you allow in and out.

As you begin a new year, honor and protect your mind by being mindful of what you eat, who you associate with,  what information you allow to enter, and most importantly the thoughts you allow to linger and upon which you ponder.

No need to enter a race if you decide in advance that you cannot win.  Similarly, whatever thoughts and ideas you feed to your mind will grow. Plants flowers and fruits on your island, not weeds and despair.

My island is 360 degree of positive inspiration and creativity.

Get Busy Living the Life You Want

FullSizeRender All too often I hear people making all kinds of excuses about why they are not living the life they want, why what they want is not impossible or they have to wait until the time is right.

Toss excuses into the garbage.  If you want it and think it then it is possible. The time is now. The time is right, if you make it so.

Live your life fully today. Take baby steps towards your goals. Love every moment of every day.  Don’t sweat the small things.  Forgive people’s haste and ignorance.  Be bigger than the small minded.

When I wake up and look out at this beautiful environment that nurtures and protects me, I know I am on the right path and my life is unfolding like a glorious sun-flower.

Joy and gratitude are the stepping stones to achieving your goals.