Posted in Family, Inspiration, Living from the soul, Motivation

Memories of Mom Living her Passion.

IMAG3216“Come and look at the sewing machine with me.” My mom beckoned me to follow her to the dark corner where the old singer sewing machine had been stored for several years since she became blind.

She uncovered the sewing machine.  The cloth over it was a heavy linen which had covered it for decades. She pulled out the small wooden draws on the side and took out a small brush to dust it. She gently pulled it out from the dark corner to the light and then started to test the peddles which seemed to be stuck and made a funny creaking sound.  She found an old bottle of  machine oil, safely tucked inside the drawer and applied it to the various small machine parts while she tested the peddles over and over until it rolled with ease. Her numb hands fumbled with the parts and they dropped from her hands occasionally. She bent her head and strained her eyes as much as she could but she did not stop  until she felt that she had given the sewing machine the proper care and touch which it needed.  It seemed to me that at the end of that experience she looked exhilarated.

IMAG3217

My tears flowed nonstop as I helped her with the sewing machine and observed the pensive and thoughtful look on her face.  I know how much this sewing machine meant to her and I am sure that if she was right here with me, she would tell me that it was her lifeline. Back in 1929, women like my mom did not have the fair advantage to go to school.  She was denied an education because she was the eldest child and had to stay home to help her mother with the house work.  I believe that she must have been about fifteen when she learnt how to sew with one of the top seamstresses from the neighbouring village of Laborie.  To get to her sewing classes, she had to walk almost an hour to and from the class.  She got married about fifteen years as well and her father, who had been physically absent from most of her life,  gave her  the sewing machine – I believe as a wedding gift. She smartly invested her time in mastering the art and developed her small business in sewing tailored made clothing for  the people in the community.  She was one of the few seamstresses in the community.   Many people came to our home with bags of cloth and styles of clothes from catalogues and gave countless instructions to my mom so that she could turn their visions into wearable garments.

Looking back, I can see what a great mom and entrepreneur she was!  She kept everything in balance by waking up early, getting us all ready for school, cooking meals, doing all the house chores and creating the time to live her passion for sewing as well as earning an income. She sewed all of our clothes and uniforms as well as my dad’s pants and shirts and even the undergarments. Just before his death, he showed me some of the pants which she had made for him and which we still wore up to 2012!   All of my three sisters and I learnt how to sew by watching her.  However, she never wanted us to  sew as a means of earning an income. She believed that we could do more than that and ensured that we had the support which we needed to have a good education.

As an adult, I appreciate all what my mom did a million times more now than I did while I was growing up.  She had a lot less to work with – no education, less money, less opportunity, no management training, no marriage counselling, no parenting classes, no brands, no luxuries… but she had courage, faith, vision, great time management skills and knew how to prioritize her time to get things done. She lived her passion for sewing.  I can only imagine the devastation she felt when she became blind and could no longer live her passion.  Yet, she courageously accepted her fate and one of her favourite lines were “It is not my will but if God wills it for my life, I accept. ”

Those photos were taken in 2007 on my first visit to Saint Lucia after migrating to Canada in 2003. She crossed over in 2011.  I will always hold on to those memories and I am glad that I captured those moments with those photos.

Live your future now.  Do what matters to you and don’t wait for perfect circumstances.

Love,

Magdalene

Posted in Inspiration, Love, Relationships

First and last drink with my father – a life changing experience.

Pap

At 43, I had the first and last drink with my father, a man whom I loved dearly but we had a great divide between us – alcoholism. Upon the request of a friend on my way to Saint Lucia in 2012, I brought my dad a beautiful bottle of Crown Royal, a Canadian whisky. At first, I resisted getting that bottle, knowing full well that if I gave it to him, none of us would have peace in the house until it was finished. My friend said, “You must bring him something he likes.” Alcohol was the thing and against my better judgement I brought if for him.

One night, after visiting my mom from the hospital, my dad and I were sitting in the verandah and I had the sudden feeling to have a drink with him.  I got the bottle of Crown Royal and I poured a drink for both of us. It was the first time in my life where I was having a drink with my father, as a “comrade” and a “daughter.” We raised our glasses for a toast and drank that wonderful whisky. Unexpectedly, a quiet feeling of relief settled somewhere deep in me and there was a feeling of unity with my father – sharing with him that thing which he loved  and which was a huge part of his life. In that moment, my eyes saw my father in a light of compassion and love. I suddenly saw the little child in him who had grown up with a habit which had obviously given him some comfort. I saw that bottle taking all his fears away and making him feel like a strong man.  I saw the young man who had no one to counsel him and befriend him or to give him an alternative to drinking. I saw the father who provided for us and did his best, even with the demons of alcoholism. The resentment which I held against him for so many years, suddenly released it’s grip on me and a feeling of acceptance came over me. In the quietness of the evening, we drank, laughed and had a deep conversation about life.

Several nights later, after my mom crossed over, we spent hours looking for him, worried that something dreadful had happened to him. Someone referred us to a small rum shop  a distance away from where we lived. My sister and I found him there without shoes, completely drunk and “preaching” away to the folks in the rum shop. That evening, when he saw me, he said, “My child, how did you find me here? How did you know I was here?” He came towards me in his drunkenness and held me, half falling over. I held him, put on his shoes, paid his bill and led him to the car to take him home. A man in the rum shop shouted, “Mr. Cooman, you have a beautiful daughter.” He laughed, swaying away,  as I struggled to help him keep his balance.

The funny thing is that I too felt I had become a beautiful daughter by accepting him for who he was.

For the days that followed, even after his death, I realized that I had let go of all the pent-up anger I had towards him. It did not matter any more. That anger  had prevented me from seeing all the wonderful things my father brought to my life. All my life, I wanted to change him to be a good man who did not drink and felt disappointed that no matter how hard I tried, he did not change. The truth is that it was not my work to change him. My dad was a good dad who had a generous spirit, a genuine concern for others, a deep mind and a humble spirit which I have  found in few people.

Alcoholism puts a different spin on everything and I know from first hand experience the damage it can cause to a family. I remain grateful that God gave me the opportunity to heal this wound with my father before he crossed over. One of my greatest moments was having that first and last drink with him and accepting him for who he is, without having the need to change him anymore.

All of us have our imperfections. Maybe we come into each other’s lives to teach love, compassion and acceptance.

mom and pap with the girlsdad 1dad 2Dad graduation

 

 

Love,

Magdalene

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