Posted in International Initiatives, Leadership, Meet Ordinary People Doing Great Things!, People who inspire others, St. Lucia, Work

Recognizing Mrs. Ruth Magdalena Louis, a retired St. Lucian School Principal who saved me and inspired my life and the lives of many others!

As a tribute to observe St. Lucia’s 35th Independence Day Celebrations on February 22nd, I am featuring 10 St. Lucians on my blog who are making (or have made) a positive difference in uplifting the human spirit and adding inspiration and motivation to the lives of others. Today, I would like to recognize Mrs. Ruth, Magdalena Louis, whom most of us know as Ms. Brett, who was the principal of the Augier Combined School from 1970 – 1979. She in now 76 and I feel blessed that she is still with us and I can say thank you to her for the great impact which she had on my life as a little girl of 3 years old and which until today, she has no idea about!

“Thank you Ms. Brett!  Your gentleness, sweetness and empathy for me and others, left an imprint on my life, which I use every day to further help others.  By breaking the ‘rules’ you saved me.”

( Mrs. Ruth, Magdalena Louis below embracing her daughter Kay at Kay’s Graduation as a lawyer.)

Mrs. Louis

Here is my recollection of what happened.

My earliest memory of myself  is about 3 and a half years old and it is still quite vivid. My mom had six of us and I was the 4th girl.  Every morning she walked the three older girls to the Augier Combined School where they all attended school.  I was too young to go to school so she would carry me on her hips back to our house which was about  20 minutes away.  Every morning, we went through the same drama – she would let the older girls go the school yard and I would start my yelling and screaming, “I want to go to school too!”  One day, she lost all patience with me.  In my screaming match at the house, she hitched me back on her hips and walked back down the road shouting, “You want to go to school… I will take you to school.” Of course, I got a few spanks along the way too.

And that was the day, I met Ms. Ruth, Magdalene Louis, whom we knew as Ms. Brett.  My exasperated mother went to her office (with a dishevelled me) and bluntly said, “Do you have space for this child?  Every day she cries that she wants to go to school. I don’t know what to do with her!” 

It was the gentleness in Ms. Brett’s eyes I will never forget.  She looked at me in the sweetest way and said, “You want to go to school my child?”  It was the look that said, “Poor child, I need to save you and save your mother too!”

I nodded “yes.”

Now, I think that my mother’s plan was get me to hear Ms. Brett say that she could not accept me because I was too young to be accepted at the school and the morning drama would stop.  Surprisingly, Ms. Brett told my mother to leave me with her that day and she would find a space for me. (On  that day, I learnt that rules could be broken because my mother told me all along that the school would not accept me because I was not 5 years old yet.)

That was the first time Ms. Brett saved me.  She saved me from staying home with my mother!  She placed  me in Stage1 and I remember overhearing her conversation with the teacher. “Just keep her in your class because she is too young for us to register her.” 

I loved Ms. Brett because she was so sweet and kind to me.  She looked out for me because I suppose she knew that I was just a baby really.  There were two situations where she intervened and I will never forget them because to a larger extent it  inculcated in me a deeper sense of empathy towards the vulnerable, simply because she stood up for me.

The first instance was being in that Stage 1 class.  The teacher was not at all pleasant to me.  Maybe she did not like me because I was not supposed to be in school.  Every single day, she would beat me on my head with an open Math book.  It would start out with her calling out the name of each student and  would hand them their Math book.  She would deliberately ignore me when my hand went up and then after handing out all the books except mine, she would say, “Why didn’t you raise your hand?” and before even hearing my answer, she would beat me with the my Math book on my head. I hated that math period.  I hated being beaten and I felt powerless.

One day  Ms. Bret walked into the class just when the teacher was about to hit me. I heard her voice say, “Why didn’t you give her the Math book? She raised her hand.”  From that day on, the beating stopped but this created a lifelong trauma for me with Mathematics and with that teacher.  That was the second time Ms. Brett saved me!

Since I was not an “officially registered” student, by the time I was ready to move to the next grade, she placed me in Stage 2B.  Back then the classes were graded A and B, with the “bright students” going to A and the “not too bright” one going to the B class.  The Stage 2B teacher was sweet and loved me.   Her name was Ms. Edith. I loved being in her class and I won all the prizes for spelling and daily quizzes.  By the time that year was over, I had figured out the “A” and “B” system and I knew that I did not belong to a “B” class.

The following school year, I was determined to go to Stage 3B but didn’t know how to do it. One morning, it dawned on me that maybe all I needed to do was just simply go to the Stage 3A line… and I did just that!  That morning, my move caused a huge commotion in the school yard.  The students in the Stage 3B line started shouting, “Magdalene, come back to your line,” and the students in the Stage 3A line were yelling, “Magdalene, this is NOT your class… go back to your line!”  I remained rooted with my little bag on the Stage 3A line.

That was the 3rd time Ms. Brett saved me.  She came over and said, “Why are you not on your line?” Again, in her  gentle, sweet voice.

“I want to go to Stage 3A,” I answered.

“O.k. You go there only for the morning, but in the afternoon you will have to go back to your class.”  She said a bit more firmly.

The students were all shocked but I felt  elated that I could go to the “A” class.  She spoke to the teacher.  That very day, I got a beating from the  Stage 3A teacher because I could not spell the word “umbrella” which we had not learnt yet in  Stage 3B!  Stage 3A was quite  a learning curve for me!

I never went back to Stage 3B.  I remained in Stage 3A.  No one ever told me to go back.  I have no idea what Ms. Brett did but she always smiled at me when she run into me at the school.  I continued my education as an A student.  I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had remained in Stage 3B.

Those examples I have mentioned above may seem to be quite trivial but they were critical in my development as a child. I am grateful to Ms. Brett because as a  head teacher she did not have to break those school rules, but she did to give me a chance and to give my mother a break. She did not have to stop the teacher from beating me – she could have ignored it, but she challenged the teacher and protected me.  She did not have to let me stay in Stage 3A but she never bothered to send me back to Stage 3B.  Most of my life I have worked with vulnerable people – both children and adults.  Often enough I have broken a rule to support someone else to get to his or her goal and I often draw strength  from people like her, who did what they needed to do for  others with humility, integrity and genuine concern.

“Thank you Ms. Brett!  I have never told you this story but I am so glad that I have finally let you and the world know, that you are indeed a beautiful and gentle soul, and I was truly blessed to have you in my life at such a young age.  Thank you!”

(The picture below is of the beautiful family with her husband Watson Louis, amazing children, in-laws and grand children.)

Mrs. Louis with family

Sons and daughters of St. Lucia, love the land that gave us birth….keep on flying high!

As we celebrate 35 years of independence, let us all remember that our greatness is in our service to others!

(My mom and I below – I know about the boobs – it’s o.k. It is my favourite picture with her and that makes the boobs o.k  :))

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flag of St. Lucia

TuneIn today to all the people who have been instrumental in shaping your life!  StepUp to express  gratitude to them and let them know how they inspired your life.

You can also support my Ist TuneIn and StepUp Challenge by joining us for our Independence Day Gala here in Ottawa where we will further celebrate St. Lucia and St. Lucians. Read more: https://tuneinandstepup.com/2014/02/07/my-1st-tunein-and-stepup-challenge-for-2014-supporting-20-families-who-have-been-affected-by-flooding-in-st-lucia/

Yesterday, we recognized three St. Lucians in Ottawa who are making waves in using their talent to bring a Caribbean cultural experience to people in Ottawa.  Read more here: https://tuneinandstepup.com/2014/02/16/three-inspiring-st-lucians-in-ottawa-providing-a-culturally-rich-experience-which-brings-the-caribbean-to-the-people-of-ottawa/

Spread the good karma by sharing this blog! You can also FOLLOW the blog by subscribing to it (on the side bar) or LIKE our  FB page!

Contact me if you would like me to highlight someone you think is truly inspiring!

Love,

Magdalene

Posted in Family, Relationships

What gift would you like to be imprinted on the hearts of your children?

family

A few weeks ago, I attended a baby shower for my dear friend’s daughter-in-law. Prior to the  baby shower, she requested for the guest to write some words of wisdom for this new mom-to-be.  I am no expert at parenting but still, here were my words of wisdom.

The moment a baby is born, the mother is also born.

She never existed before.

The woman existed but the mother, never.

A mother is something absolutely new.”  Rajneesh

I never planned to have children but somehow God chose me to be a mother to three wonderful children – a gift I could not have possibly imagined  that would bring me so much joy,  tears,  love,  pain, anxiety… that turned my predictable life upside down as I learnt how to be a mother and to parent those young ones entrusted to my care. I don’t know if anyone can prepare a mom-to-be for this moment when she gives birth to a new life and in a few months, you will know what I mean.

As a young mom, I tried hard to get my lifestyle before motherhood back until one day, I realized that there was nothing to go back to.  My children were my life. At that moment, I decided to embrace all that motherhood dished out to me – and I can tell you, that lots of it is pleasant but some of it is not. But being a mother is a gift because you get to discover a new dimension to yourself, which you could not have possibly known about before you become a mother.

There will be days when the baby is a total bundle of joy and days when you wish so much you could have some more sleep or have just a simple quiet moment to yourself. On days like this, when you need just a moment, you need to call your best friend, your partner, your mother-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, neighbour, grandparents…. whoever is in your circle of love.  Know always that there are good people around you to support you but you too must also give them the opportunity to be part of your child’s life.

I learnt along my journey that it is very important to keep our children grounded in real values and to expose them to the people who matter dearly to us and who are good role models for them.  Apart from their accountability to us, they also need to be accountable to other people in our lives and in the society as large. I quickly learnt too that I needed to role model what I taught because even without words, their mindful eyes and ears absorb all that is going on around them. That in itself still did not prevent me from making mistakes but letting them see my own vulnerability as a person was just as important  to the their growing minds. I have learnt that when blood family is absent, we need to create family around us, with good reliable people. This is how we create a community.

I learnt that the best gift I could give to my children is  that of myself and what I have.  Not what I do not have.  My presence. My time. My love. My strengths. My weaknesses. My joys. My life lessons. My faith. As they grew up, I constantly asked myself, “What gift do I want to leave imprinted on the hearts on my children?”  My answer was “The gift of faith.”

I want them to have the faith that while there is fate and destiny or faith in religion or God,  having faith in themselves is above everything else. I want them to have faith that all things are possible; that they can achieve their dreams; that even in their darkest moments, they will have the faith that God is watching over them and dark moments are all part of life as equal as light moments. I want them to always know that their power house is really in their mind and their ability to overcome obstacles, without being derailed by their negative experiences of life.   This caused me to make sure that they are rooted in prayer and had a strong, firm foundation of love around them as they formed their own personalities.  I made sure that they saw the beauty and possibilities in life and their minds were fed with all that is positive while helping them understand that we are all vulnerable to the unfortunate circumstances in life.

I also learnt that spending time together and sharing meals bond a family more than anything else. Children do not need us to buy them expensive gifts.  They need us to play with them, have conversations – just to be there whether we are washing dishes together or going to the movie theatre.

As you embark on this new journey of motherhood, I would like to wish you an amazing journey of re-discovering yourself through the eyes of your baby as you also discover him/her.  May you and  your partner have a lifetime of loving memories and may this baby bring much joy and happiness to your life.

Love,

Magdalene

Posted in Uncategorized

Can you live your future in the NOW?

” Do you live your future in the now?”  I asked Mr. Luis on the train while he took a break from attending to the passengers.

Magdalene and Louis - Final

“No.” he said. “My future? I cannot even think about it.  I have to live in the present now, to take care of my wife and children and make sure that they have everything they need.  Having children is a lot of responsibility – I never imagined that it was so much work!”

He shared with me what his single life was like as a flight attendant in Brazil and the thrill of flying all over the world. Settling to having a family, has certainly had an impact on his sense of freedom and adventure although he totally loves his family.  He thinks that one day, he will perhaps have his old life back.  He feels that his life is on pause while he is waiting for the kids to grow up.

But what if there is no pause?

When my kids were younger, I too thought my life was on pause while I raised them.  I could not fully enjoy raising my kids because of the void of not having my previous lifestyle.

However, one day I realized that,  “This is your life.  This family is your future.  There is no pause – you have to find a way to make everything you do now, matter enough so that you can  connect the dots. You can live your future by paying attention to what you do  in the now.”

Years later, I can see that if I had continued to focus on the single lifestyle I no longer had, I would have missed out on the new opportunities that life was presenting to me to grow and invest in my role as a mother and also living in the now with them.

Vietnamese group

Across from my seat on the train,  were three young people, so I seized the opportunity to interview them as well. When I interview people, I actually live my future now, as this is all part of my bigger future and I can feel how right it feels for me.  They were from Vietnam, studying in Toronto and heading to Ottawa for a two-day visit during their study break.

“Do you live your future  in the now?” I asked them.  At first, they looked a bit confused.  Elise tried to explain that the future was something that she was planning for as she is studying Human Resources at school,  Loane said that she plans the future step by step – she needs to have a map of the plans and so far she is on track with the plan;  Will said that he lives fully in the present and enjoys his life in the now, although he has bigger plans for the future. Will shared  his favourite quote by Steve Jobs:

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked  myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am  about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a  row, I know I need to change something.”

Will had only learnt of the trip to Ottawa the night before but he jumped on board because it was aligned with what he likes to do – travelling, exploring, meeting new people. The three shared their life experiences in choosing to study in Canada and I was touched by their motivation to make their lives better, to make sure that their parents were proud of them; to increase their knowledge of life and the world so that they can live better lives.  Will’s contact card. spoke about his own philosophy.  The front was black and gold.

will's card

He designed it himself with the crown symbol at the top and a dot in the center which represents three people.  His belief is that three people makes things better than 2 people when they come together. There is a balance to solve conflict and to create more opportunities. Interestingly enough, he was travelling in a group of three.

The back of his card was black and white and said, “Different is beautiful.”  I think that this says it all!  By just living now from that inner space, does make you live your future now – it is your mental mindset about life.

Will's card 2

The three young people left a few tips to other people to “Live their future now.”

  • Balance your health daily.  Workout, eat right and think positive.
  • Increase your socialization so that you build relationships and not live in isolation.
  • Make a big enough plan as a guide but enjoy your life fully in the present. You need to have an idea of where you are going.
  • Live your life before you die.
  • Increase your knowledge everyday of something which you are interested in. Learn something new – it makes your mind feel fresh.
  • Travel – it makes you see new things.
  • Follow your interest and do what you love.
  • Do good for others because life returns it to you.

Loan shared with me that one way she lives her future now, is by going to various coffee shops and taking notes of how the business  is managed. She is passionately interested in having her own coffee shop in Vietnam one day!

I live my future in the now by consciously creating moments  that naturally leap me into the bigger future. It is all  about the choices were make, moment to moment.

TuneIn today to your conscious choices.  Do these choices feel right for you?  Can you see how each of those small choices are leading to the bigger future?  StepUp to live your future in the NOW, using your imagination and your amazing internal power to create the life you want to live!

Love,

Magdalene

Posted in Uncategorized

Is this one of the ways that little boys learn how to be loving men?

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Mommy!!!! I have some flowers for you!!!” I heard the little voice shouting, full of excitement. He was about 2-3 years old on his dad and held a nice bouquet in his hand. They seem to have just come from the flower shop. His mom was a few meters away but his little body seem to want to jump out of his father’s arms to get the flowers quicker to his mom.

When he reached his mom, he hugged her (still in his dad’s arm) and gave her the flowers. This little boy was all love and when you see him with his two adoring parents, you just can’t help but smile. He beamed with a feeling of safety and security.

Then, I heard him say to his mom. “Mommy, you look happy!” His voice was genuine and full of contentment that the flowers had made his mom happy. For this young age, he was really paying attention to his mom’s feelings.

By then I had walked past them but I could not help but go back to ask permission to get a picture for my blog – and they agreed.

Then the question popped into my head… how do our boys learn how to become loving men? There are so many ways for us to role-model loving behaviours to them. In this one moment, what my eyes saw was a dad who obviously adored his wife and son and his entire body language demonstrated it. I saw a woman who adored her husband and son. That security between the parents is a definite factor in grooming his little mind in positive, loving ways.

TuneIn to small loving actions we can show in the eyes of children. StepUp to offer opportunities for them to demonstrate love to those who are precious in their lives – not only with flowers and gifts but also with the gift of presence.

Love,
Magdalene

Posted in Health and Wellness, Motivation, People who inspire others

Who Inspires You To Be More Of Who You Want To Be?

She calls me Pretty. I call her Pretty too. We don’t know each other’s names but have silently admired each other for over eight years since we first saw each other periodically at the gym. I admire her gorgeous, lean, sculpted muscular body – she is the envy of every woman who works out at the gym. 8 years ago she looked aggressive and I felt intimidated by that strength and aggression she exuded. Unknown to me, she wanted to like me – calm (as she says).

I  started working out again at the gym and so we meet each other…same gym after 8 years! Now, we talk to each other. She is calm. She smiles at me and my intimidation of her melts away. She looks happy. I want to look like her – sculpted and tough! I am curious about her and asked her about life. She shares with me that she is a single mom and raised 4 boys who are all young adults now. She told me that working out regularly kept her sane in the midst her own problems. She told me that 12 years ago, she was over 200 lbs and people teased her about her weight. She left an abusive relationship 10 years ago and she decided to get in shape.  She has kept her routine for 10 years – running and doing weights 5 times a week. She models for a magazine, is a certified hairdresser and a security guard. She loves the combination of things she does and does not feel that she has to choose only one career path.

“I am pretty…” she teases herself as she looks into the mirror. “I am 49. I have to take care of myself – as I get older, I realize more and more, my health is all I have… I am pretty…” I am amused by her teasing herself. She slips on very simple but sexy clothes. When she is dressed she looks 20 years younger. She is not the typical image of “Pretty” but somehow, the way she says it, she OWNS it! She OWNS who she is.

“You are pretty too,” she teases me too. “When you work out, you get even prettier!” She has this gorgeous smile!

It is a nice exchange. As we shared our own life journeys and our impression of each other 8 years ago, we both laughed at our own judgements of each other. She looked aggressive back then because she was fighting trying to save herself and her kids. She was unaware that she left that aggressive impression on others.

It is always interesting to mw how our body language communicated our thoughts without our awareness.

I look forward to seeing her at the gym. When she runs next to me on the treadmill, I push myself harder. I realize that I have “wishy-washy” goals about weight loss and working out but I am not consistent. Pretty makes me think of being consistent and keeping at something, even when I don’t feel like it. We laugh at each other when we both arrive at the gym and express how we did not feel like coming. She says “I come because I know I will feel prettier when I am finished.”

Everyday she reminds me that I look prettier after my workout. She looks prettier too. Exercise has that calming effect on our bodies….I feel prettier!

Maybe one day we will get to know each other’s names. For now, just thinking of myself and her as Pretty, pretty much does it for me.

Who inspires you to reach for more of what you want to be in your life? Sometimes, our heroes are the ordinary people in our midst.

TuneIn to see the support system  that you attract  to yourself. StepUp to be a support for someone who needs you.

Love,
Magdalene