The Art & the Life
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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Vegetable variety at a produce market There I was, in the middle of downtown Montego Bay, Jamaica with a growling stomach that could rival the loud music and honking cars in the streets.  

Had it really come to this?  

I mean, it felt like all of my options had disappeared like a magician’s rabbit by sun down.  I don’t even eat rabbit though.  But soon, it was looking like I was going to have to feast on fish.  An absolutely dreadful thought for one who enjoys a plant-powered diet.  




Place after place claimed that all of their vegetables were gone for the day.  Not that I didn’t believe them but come on; how can you operate a cook shop with no veggies??  Sometimes I inquired twice or would ask for specific types of vegetables just to be sure I did my part in effective communication.  I should have known.  Friday nights in Jamaica come with fish: fried fish, steamed fish and grilled fish.  All cuts of fish cooked every way imaginable.  

Thoughts of vegetables appearing on the “Endangered Species” list began to fill my head.  The delirium from lack of nutrients will cause one to see strange things. 

The only thing I had eaten earlier was a piece of bread, sky juice with lime, a swig of Pepsi, and a bite of pudding loaf made by a Rasta woman who used coconut milk instead of dairy for extra flavor.  I was so involved with my family and helping out at the market that I wasn’t concerned about food despite being around loads of it.  The lively conversation and my cute baby cousin I picked up to feed and put to sleep, occupied me.  

All of the neglect my belly felt sounded like an angry lion that missed one too many meals.  The quiet desperation that threatened to overwhelm me physically manifested as beads of sweat on my brow just as the fifth cook shop said, 

Sorry, no veg.

Oh my goodness, it was looking pretty bleak.  I was really going to have to eat fish.  It wouldn't be the first time faced with temptation.  There was this one time at my family's annual seafood boil that will power failed.  That was a long time ago.  Now, I am much more fortified in my stance against feeding on flesh.
   
Giving up was not an option.  It would be easy to pretend like some trait involving highly developed tenacity in times like these was what kept me fighting to find food.  But actually, what propelled me was more primal.   I was extremely hungry and had no food at home.  It was a matter of survival.  Grocery shopping would have to wait until tomorrow.  My mission that night was all about nourishment in the now.  

After walking down several windy roads, side streets and alleys, I finally came across something promising.  A station wagon with the back window extended upward, prominently displayed steaming cook pots of what I hoped to be vegetables.  When I asked the head chef of this five star mobile establishment about his options for Rastas (those who don’t eat meat), he boasted about the fish of the day.  You see, some Rastas don’t eat meat but will eat fish.  Flesh is flesh to me, but in my experience from traveling to places like Jamaica, Panama and Ghana, when you say you don’t eat meat, it is assumed you still eat fish.  I was almost too weary by the journey to ask about the precious vegetables that seemed to have gone extinct.  There were just too many pots bellowing aromatic puffs of steam for them not to contain vegetables.  

Do you have any veg?

The chef looked at me quizzically, as if I didn’t hear him talk about the fish.  He reached back a bit into the station wagon and opened a pot of not only stewed vegetables (completely untainted by meat) but also a pot of fluffy coconut rice and peas.

I just wanted to cry some tears of joy as I promptly placed my order.  The chef smiled and packed up my rare find.  Immediately, I began to make the trek home in a taxi.  

I.  Tore.  It.  Up.  That food was so delicious!  In fact, it was so delicious and I was so hungry that I didn’t mind the fish filet that sat on top of my rice and peas.  I just used my fork to flick it over to the top portion of the food container.  I chuckled to myself and recalled the way that chef smiled as he packed my food.  It wasn’t a smile.  It was a smirk.

That sneaky chef!

Well, the closest I got to feasting on fish that night was the filet that sat about five inches from my rice and peas.  Whew!  That was a close one!

A not so close one: ART OF MY SOUL DAY 3: PRESSURE OF SEAFOOD BOIL FORCES VEGETARIAN TO FALL OFF THE WAGON!  I jumped off the wagon that day.  Just take a look at the pictures and you will see why I was of so little faith.  

If you enjoyed this story, share it with a friend or five (wink).  We all could benefit from reminders to maintain The Art of Determination in our lives.  Can you recall a time when your determination levels were on all cylinders?  Share in the comments.

Friday, February 20, 2015

As soon as the plane starts to taxi and the seatbelt light makes that familiar ding sound, the foggy haze that seems to be in slow motion begins.  You know that feeling, right?  It is your basic case of jet lag and it absolutely sucks.  But I assure you, tropical jet lag is much worse.  I have been suffering from a horrible case of TROPICAL JET LAG.




What is tropical jet lag?

Tropical jet lag is a combination of traditional jet lag but with a strong desire to sip piƱa coladas on a black or white sand beach while gentle waves kiss your perfectly manicured toes or put more simply, a desire to return to paradise 

What causes tropical jet lag? 

The primary cause of tropical jet lag is the abrupt departure from paradise.  Unfortunately, there are not that many documented cases.  The most famous case would be that of Adam and Eve's banishment from the Garden of Eden.  They were NOT happy to leave, okay?!

Their symptoms were extreme.  Adam had perpetual sweating of the brow, while Eve suffered severe cramping and pain associated with birth.  

Nowadays, a milder strand of tropical jet lag is experienced compared to some of the earlier reported cases.  



What are the signs and symptoms of tropical jet lag?

Fatigue

Sleeping for 2 days straight is not uncommon.  There have also been reported cases of waking up in the middle of the night to cook an entire island inspired meal while singing something about a lime and a coconut just because.  Seriously though, what does one have to do to get some decent plantains in Seattle??





Confusion

You are just left with so many questions.  Questions like the following:

Why don't all drinks come with umbrellas?


Why did I board that plane, again?

Why does half the country look like The Chronicles of Narnia?  


Storytelling on Repeat

I absolutely love it when someone asks me about my trip.  There are so many stories to share but for some reason I have developed a tendency to repeat a select few.  Experts suggest that this phenomenon is caused by vitamin D deficiencies.    

There are no variations in tone, no remixes just the same stories over and over to different people.  It becomes a rehearsed show but you don’t care because you know the way you tell the story about drinking real coconut water straight from the coconut, is always a crowd pleaser.  Matter of fact, if you have stories mentally filed away as "crowd pleasers," this is definitely a sign of tropical jet lag.   





Remedy for tropical jet lag

Due to the longterm effects of tropical jet lag, the only known cure is simply to relocate.  Forever.  Permanently.  Never.  Look.  Back.  

Your joy may depend on it!




Saturday, February 14, 2015

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

S
o many talents. So little time.  It’s not like we are bragging or anything.  It is a fact that we just so happen to be blessed with multiple talents. 

Every year, usually around January 1st, we decide which talents to employ and highlight for the next 365 days.  

For those on the outside looking in, it may seem as if we are flighty or can’t make up our minds about what it is we want to do.  

If this is your first thought, you can’t sit with us.  You are one of those outsiders who just doesn’t get it.  





When you have multiple talents, it isn’t necessarily logic that leads.  It is your heart.  Your soul takes control of the wheel and drives you to a whole new creative destination.  It tells you what gifts and talents to pack on this particular trip.  

It’s an adventure that requires complete trust and faith in not only oneself but in that higher calling whispering in your ear where and what to do next.  If you think we are cool now, just wait until the version released in 2025!




This higher calling is dripping with bloody guts of courage and colossal cojones.  It must be this way simply because the screams of society’s naysayers and conformists are so loud that if you allow the negativity to pierce your ear drums, you might end up dancing off beat to a tune you never wanted to two-step to in the first place.  



Sure, this may result in a detour of sorts but you will make it all your own.  Eventually, that undeniable special brand of “you” will be what leads you back home to your highest self.  

So go on and be C.E.O. of that startup, make your first investment in a new pair of sneakers for your new gig as a Zumba instructor, or write that business plan for that awesome idea that came to you in the middle of the night.  

The world desperately needs all of the talents you have to offer and whatever amount of time you can spare to dream out loud.  


Show your creative friend(s) some love and share this post with them.  Let them know, you get it. Happy creating!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I
t is hard to believe that I have been an international traveler for almost ten years now.  My voyages started as a law school graduation gift from my travel pal and aunt named Lea.  We, (as in Lea, her son and I) traveled to her favorite city in the world, Paris.  

The deals back in 2005, were crazy good!  For only $399, you could get airfare and hotel (with breakfast and free wifi) for 5 days.  Nowadays, deals like that are rare but I do manage to stay on top of low international airfares with the daily newsletter from The Flight Deal.

If it weren't for my very thoughtful aunt's reminder that my passport was on the brink of expiration, I would have attempted to board my international flight only to be turned away.  Phew!  That was a close one but it was no easy feat.  It was like straight Hunger Games at the passport agency.   

Now that I've successfully made it through the passport renewal gauntlet alive (with only a few bumps from microaggressions), I thought I’d share some tips for the things they don't tell you or include on the government passport checklist.  If you plan on renewing or applying for your first passport, chances are you will unknowingly find yourself in the middle of a round of PASSPORT GAMES.  


Prepare for airport security

The Seattle Passport Agency, which is where I went to expedite the renewal of my passport is in a federal building.  Upon arrival, you will be subjected to T.S.A.-like (Transportation Security Administration) security procedures.  You will be asked to remove your shoes (yes, so wear socks even if it's summer time), belts, jewelry, watches, show identification and empty your pockets.  One thing you also must not do is make jokes.

The guard, in a very no-nonsense voice, told this woman to remove her child from the stroller.  The mother of the young toddler, jokingly told the guard that removal was probably not a good idea.  The guard stared at her blankly and waited for her to comply with his commands.  It was quite comical despite the guard thinking otherwise.

Leave courtesy at the door

Make your way through security and onto the elevator ASAP.  Don’t bother holding the elevator door for others, either.  I almost made that mistake with the mother and the stroller.  It's a trap.  The cute toddler is a distraction only meant to get in the way of completing the task of pulling a number.  I kept it pushing and hurriedly hit the button to close the elevator door.  Remember, this is a fierce competition to see who can get in and out the fastest with the passport prize.  This is another reason why you should take the early appointment if possible.  I know 8am seems early especially if you don’t live that close to your local passport agency but there will be less people to compete with.

Start times are to be determined...

Call ahead of time to make an appointment.  For renewals that need to be conducted in person, this is mandatory.  Unfortunately, you are really just making an appointment to pick a number to wait for this number to be called.  

The guy in front of me described it as the "privilege of waiting."  I thought that was hilarious but also annoying because he was right.  Arrive about 15 minutes before your appointment time so that you can at least be one of the first numbers called amongst all of the other competitors similarly situated appointment holders.  

I was about 1 of 3, people with a 10 o' clock "appointment."  I didn't make it back to the car until 11:23am.  In the previous post I mentioned that all I had to do was drop off documents.  That's it.  It.  Took.  Forever.    

Warning...hapless environment approaching...

Speaking of waiting…be sure to bring your own entertainment.  I had no idea that setting an appointment was futile and expected to be seen at my designated time.  I was so wrong and hence, ill-prepared but you don’t have to be.  Remember, someone is always watching your every move.  Therefore, you become the entertainment.  Just do your best to blend in and keep your head low and stuck between the pages of a good novel.   

Lacking a good book to read, I opted to engage in some “inner-taining.”  I whipped out my journal and started jotting down my observations.  What I saw inspired this post.  So, you see, efficiency and productivity can be had despite such a hapless environment. 
  

Pay the proper tribute

Feed that parking meter well.  You don't know how long the competition might last.  You don't want to risk parking penalties.  I am constantly surrendering my parking opportunities to Jesus.  You know He is always on time!  Case in point:  I paid for parking up until 11:25am.  Tell me why I made it back to the car at 11:23am!  Won't He do it?!

Another strategy involves taking the bus.  But see the above tip.  You may want to bring a few things for entertainment, just in case you get bored on that long bus ride or you want to send a strong message to other potential bus riders that you are not in the mood small talk.

Kids are greedy

Eat before you arrive.  All of the kids with their ample supply of Cheerios, fruit snacks and gold fish crackers will make you hungry.  Oh, and lest we not forget how kids enjoy staring you down while slowly chewing.  No matter how loud your stomach growls, they are simply impervious to the cries of a belly that forgot about breakfast.  They are not too keen on the whole sharing thing either.  Tread lightly.  

Conclusion

I wish there was a separate line, room, office, and/or building for those of us who just have a quick renewal.  So many people arrived without the proper documents and were consequently turned away, only to return another day.  Do not be that person.  You can be in and out by following the tips above.   I hope these tips are somewhat helpful.  Happy Passport Games and may the odds be in your favor!
I
thought I did everything right.  I called ahead of time, made my appointment, printed off the requested documents, arrived early and waited patiently for my number to be called.

It was 3 days before my trip back home to Jamaica.  My passport was on the brink of expiration and I needed some expedited services from the Seattle Passport Agency.

The place was packed as are most government agencies.  Kids were running up and down the dull linoleum floors trying to entertain themselves.  Guards were on deck.  Numbers were being called and displayed on the monitors.

I looked around and found an empty seat to wait patiently for number C368 to be called.  Just as I was sitting there thinking to myself of ways this place could be ran more efficiently, I overheard a perturbed patron state:

So, basically there’s absolutely no point to making an appointment because we just have to pull a number and still wait?!

This is exactly what I had been thinking.  It really doesn’t make any sense.  My appointment was scheduled for 10am and I did not get seen until 10:45-ish.  All I had to do was drop off my documents and pay the fees.  

I just knew I had everything prepared.  I double checked my checklist.  What I didn’t expect was to be hated on for having long natural hair that can defy gravity in a super fly updo.  But they hated on me y’all.

The picture that the Walgreen’s Photo Specialist took weeks prior to my appointment, actually cut off the top part of my hair.  All passport photos must have a border of white towards the top of the image.  My hair in all its natural glory, dominated too much space according to their standards.  


Screenshot from http://travel.state.gov for educational purposes: no decent afro would be deemed appropriate for a passport photo under these current restrictions.


Perhaps, if I had taken it upon myself to oppress my own hair for the photo, that would have been a little more acceptable.  My old passport did a good job of conforming.  I had my hair chemically straighten in that picture and it laid down in obedience. That image was no problem.  But I am not that person today.  I have embraced my hair's natural state and love it to death.  None of that matters though when it comes to an image that represents who one is now.  Therefore, the passport agency would not accept me the photo.  I had to haul ass to the nearest overpriced Fedex and get my money picture retaken.  

Microaggression is a form of "unintended discrimination". It is depicted by the use of known social norms of behavior and/or expression that, while without conscious choice of the user, has the same effect as conscious, intended discrimination.—Wikipedia

Did I mention that I was wearing your typical running errands during the winter Pacific Northwest attire??  Better known as college sweats, Ugg Boots, sweater and my hair wrapped to the heavens.  I had zero makeup on and my brow appointment wasn’t until the next day.  This was supposed to be an in and out operation.  Arrive, wait and drop off documents.  That’s it.  It was never meant to be captured in a Kodak moment.  

They made me wear my locks down so that my beautiful hair could be subjected to the 1/4 inch oppressive off white borders required on top of the photo image.  I am now stuck with a photo that clearly reads struggle, for the next ten years!!!  It doesn’t help that I was half sleep and clearly pissed in the photo either.  No one will ever see my passport photo unless required by law.  You all know I am a cutiepie in person!  This picture does me absolutely no justice.  Ha! 



I can laugh now and make jokes but this little incident has me thinking of things in a bigger context.  I just feel like nothing here in good ol’ Murica is made for my people.  I mean even something as simple as a passport photo requires one to conform to a government approved brand of blandness that literally can leave parts of you cut off and underrepresented

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I
didn't know whether to throw a shower or what?! All I knew was that this moment was definitely worth celebrating.  The whole process felt like a tormented gestation period of too many weeks of waiting for delivery.



Delivery, as in waiting a whole week for UPS/FEDEX to get their lives together to drop off my friggin' baby.  It was the longest week of my life.  The anticipation and the agony was almost too much to bear.  All of these "birthing pains" coupled with the emotional roller coaster the Seahawks had me in during the NFC Championship game against Aaron Rodgers and the Greenbay Packers -- I was a wreck.

However, I pulled it together enough to Google the number for my local Apple Store.  After several phone calls to John at the Apple Store, I finally received the text message that my package had arrived.  Luckily, I was already driving and pretty close to the destination.  I mashed down all of the highways and raced to the delivery room.

All of that hard work saving, especially when there were so many plane tickets I wanted to purchase immediately after Dec. 25th, had finally paid off in the form of a beautiful new life.  I named him Maximillion.  He is absolutely adorable.  One of my students in mock trial was named Maximillion.  He told me it means greatest.  I had already picked out the name before Max (what we call him) informed me of the meaning.  I felt this name was even more appropriate given my technological past.

My previous laptops were a gaggle of virus infected Dells and HPs.  They got the job done but blogging on a Macbook Pro 13 with Retina Display is truly magical.  It was totally worth the many limbs that were forked over to cover this investment.  

You would roll around the floor in laughter if I still had the little beat up envelope I used as my "Mac Fund" to show you.  I don't care what anyone says, that envelope savings/budget method works.  I only dipped into it a few times for very important purchases like an unbelievably low ticket price to Jamaica but other than that I did well.  

There are still apps (some free, some not) to download like the following in no particular order:


  1. Blogo
  2. Xmind
  3. Wunderlust
  4. Final Cut Pro X
  5. Microsoft Office for Mac
  6. Fantastical
  7. Alfred
  8. Instacast
  9. FocusWriter

This list is a work in progress.  If you have some apps you just cannot live without and they make your life better and more productive, please do share in the comments.  For now, I am super content with this preinstalled application of joy!








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