Thursday, August 28, 2014


Today, I am traveling the world without leaving town.  It is letter writing time to my six sponsored children who reside on different continents in this wonderful world of ours.  Each letter received has a request to come see them.  I have been fortunate to visit a few of the children in the places they call home and what delightful journeys.  And as a child outgrows the sponsorship program and I gain a new child, the invitations begin again.

I am determined to make as many trips as I can and to keep encouraging these wonderful children to stay in school.  This I know for sure is their hope out of poverty.  And as the world turns, there is a good chance that today's learners could become tomorrow's leaders.  For now I will continue to write and help them strive toward a productive future and certainly when the chance appears, I will RSVP to their invitation to visit, knowing all things are possible.


This year my prayers were answered when I received the invitation to sell discounted coupons in Macy's flagship store on 34th Street.  Choose To Care  has participated for the past three years by selling these coupons to friends and families. This year the kind folks at Macy's must have read my mind and I did not hesitate when the invitation arrived, I sent my RSVP with lightning speed.

The offer consisted of  working for a few hours for two days in-store.  On Friday before the event I worked for two hours, and I discovered this was not an easy task;there were rejections after rejections. Some shoppers had already purchased a coupon because there were other organizations with the same pitch. "Buy a discounted coupon for a good cause," we all said.  I managed to convince thirteen giving souls and I was a happy camper.

On Saturday,the day of the event, I worked far more hours, six hours and received more rejections, sometimes with a smile as the shoppers politely showed me their coupons.  They had done their kindness some where else.  Some shoppers promised to return and a few did others pretended they did not hear my appeal and kept walking with quickened gait. I had fun studying their reactions to my requests and kept feeling so lucky for the opportunity this exposure gave me, to talk about CHOOSE TO CARE to total strangers.  Today I fared much better and ended the day with heartfelt gratitude for all I had received.


I was invited to mix and mingle with the teachers from the Bronx.  This  came from the organization:
Teachers Ask, Donors Choose.  This online charity allows you to fund projects for the teachers classroom,making a difference in the lives of their students. It was an enchanting evening, rooms occupied with passionate staff who wanted  to give me a tour of their interesting workplace.  These friendly and enthusiastic staff had only great things to say about their place of employment and the work they and the CEO and founder of this outstanding non-profit,are engaged in.

The teachers were excited, there was chatter everywhere and then the founder began to speak.  He announced that there were four teachers and he named them, whose classroom projects would be fully funded.  There was clapping and widened smiles.  Then he retracted the offer, saying he had made a mistake and he apologize profusely.  There was a look of diappointment on the faces of everyone.  "How could he have made such an error?"  My thoughts were quickly put to rest as he announced with a boyish grin that all the projects in the Bronx Schools were funded.  The generous donor came to the front and described how much in awe she was of the work the teachers do each and every day.  So this fascinating organization had scored big again, only a few days ago Bill and Melinda Gates had offered to help teachers and students get the things they needed.  They would pay for half the cost of each project. Choose To Care did their part to help Ms Wehrman's  Tip Tap Toe project in New York City, New York.  The students now have 23 pairs of tap shoes to enhance their dance moves.

I am glad that I have accepted each precious invitation.  They have provided me with a sense of peace and purpose and a profound sense of responsibility.  They have allowed me an expanded worldview, whether the invitation was to travel to my sponsored children distant land or to mingle and mix with the teachers from the Bronx or Macy's generous offer to outreach to shoppers in their store, I have benefited tremendously.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Last Supper

This Morgan valley Farm was a progressive place where everyone gave a helping hand.  In this idyllic village lived Josephine Carter James, the pillar of the community.  She knew well the history of the village and welcomed all newcomers to town.  She was also the "Botanist", knew what plant cured whatever ailed the residents and even the animals loved her, she cured them too. Josephine Carter James wore many hats.  She was a woman on the go during the day so at night time when the chores were completed, Josephine and her husband, Bancroft James would sit on the veranda with the rest of the family and her only grandchild, Ramila.  Josephine always seemed at peace, she protected the brood in her household and showered them with lots of love.

Tonight, she was extremely joyful.  She had fought nail and tooth for Reverend McMillan and although the men who sat on the Church's Advisory Board battled her, she would not let up.  She was that kind of woman, brave enough to put up a good fight and she was the only woman in the village who could argue against the laws of the men.  She could not take her eyes off her granddaughter,Ramila stood tall and thin like a bamboo shoot, the spitting image of her great grandmother, Ma Mabel, who had long passed on.  Ms Josephine had told Ramila stories of her descendants, the maroons, as it was told to her.  She wanted this part of their history to be kept alive, she was proud of her family.  Tonight, Papa Bancroft James did not join his wife and granddaughter because he was busy preparing for a fishing trip.  The men from the village would be gone for a few days, leaving the women behind.

The Reverend McMillan came to see them off and pray for their safety.  They joined hands, forming a tight knit circle.  The men were overjoyed that this man of God cared enough about them to visit and offer a prayer for their safety.  He had scored big,a brotherhood was formed.  There are different ways to recruit for that church upon the hill, he just knew that when the men returned they will be filling those empty pews.    At the supper table, The Reverend had a good share of the delicious meal and he could not stop praising the hands that prepared it, hands that belonged to none other than Josephine Carter James.  She was delighted that her meal pleased the holy man and she invited him
to stop in any time, since it took little effort to whip up a meal.  The Reverend had scored again.

It was time for the men to depart and the women and Reverend McMillan walked the men to the coast.  They would be gone for three days.  there was excitement when they departed and there will be excitement on their return.  Their catch would be plentiful, enough to go around for the families;some  will be stowed away in their freezers, others will be sold in the market in the square.  Two days into the trip, Josephine woke up sweating and shaking with fear.  She knew something was wrong but could not pinpoint what had caused this nightmare.  At daybreak she began her chores with a heavy heart. Later that day the news spread like wildfire, Bancroft James and all the other men had lost their lives in a boat accident.  They had all perished at sea when the boat capsized.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Reverend McMillan Settles In

The Reverend McMillan was in his late forties, with looks that soon had the young women weak at their knees.  It did not take long for the mothers of these single women to start saving the best fruits, vegetables and eggs from their small but bountiful gardens for the dashing Reverend.  They became regular suppliers, trekking up the hill, and as they put it, they were getting to know the holy man.  They did not miss a chance to slip in a few good words about their daughters.

The Reverend made daily walks in the community, he too wanted to get familiar with the Parishioners and to pull in those who had not stepped into the church for years.  He had noticed the men congregating at the corner shop in the square,  some sipping from a brown bag while others openly drank from the familiar rum bottles.He knew that this would be a prime project for him, to get the men from the corner into the church.  All the ministers before him had tried to convert the men gathered at the Ridge Hill Corner shop and no one had been able to move them. The men aged, sometimes death took a few away and there were new recruits.

Reverend McMillan came from Johns Town, a very big and modern city, so everyone was puzzled why he would settle for unassuming Ridge Hill.  But he is a man of the cloth and he had taken an oath to lead and it should not matter who his flock was or where they lived, he must follow his calling. Of course the busy bodies of the community were ready to dig up some dirt, just give them some time and they will be on this case.

Grannie Madelyn and her friends always have first hand gossip and whenever Leila heard the women calling out for Madelyn and her grannie invited them in; she always placed herself in the room next door, keeping busy with her ears cocked.  Leila's grannie had warned her over and over to not allow a peep out of her mouth about her lady friends visit and their conversation because she was  an upright woman in the community and could not afford any scandal.  The women, the men hanging out at the corner shop and even the Reverend seemed to be on daily fishing trips of some sort.  That's just the way things were in Ridge Hill.

And yes, there was Morgan Valley Farm where most of the men from the community worked.  The farm was actually located in Ridge Hill, just on the outskirt but it could easily be described as a village unto itself.  It was breathtaking, the air was clean.  The fruit trees, vegetable plots, the animals were something to behold.  The persimmon trees were laden and yam vines were climbing the stakes. The pineapples gave off a sweet odor and the oranges were juicy and sweet.  The cacti have grown so huge they stood like giants in the field.  There were five overgrown tamarind trees with branches spread wide, that stood majestically side by side, almost reaching the sky.  These were god sent, they provided shade for the men during their breaks from working on this vast farm.  The huge tree trunks formed a plank, providing comfortable seating for six muscular men.

Today, the Reverend ventured past the men at the corner, he was invited to Morgan Valley Farm to meet Josephine Carter James and her workers.  He had heard about her influence in Ridge Hill and just maybe she would be able to steer him in the right direction on how to deal with these men who it seemed had taken up a permanent position at this corner. They too were plotting to show him that they would not bow to his demands and unless he had something different to tell them, they would remain in their spot, unconvinced that the church on the hill was their saving grace as the other ministers before him wanted them to believe. Reverend McMillan was determined to change things in Ridge Hill but knew it would take time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


The staff at the Neighborhood WIC Program has made the Kid's Eat Right  Campaign a mainstay of the various activities we bring to the WIC participants and their families.  At our 9 WIC Centers, the Ambassador for the Kid's Eat Right Project are charged with ensuring that the Monday Morning messages are shared with participants and colleagues alike.

When you enter any of our WIC Centers you will see health and nutrition messages proudly displayed as "Brought to you by Kid's Eat Right"  The Ambassadors enlighten their colleagues with an article chosen from the Kid's Eat Right collection on a monthly basis and the discussion that usually ensues has become fuel for our goal to make all of our WIC Centers kid-friendly and healthy.

We are all revved up for the first Kid's Eat Right celebration.  At one of the Center, the staff plans to give a history of Kid's Eat Right and will focus on the importance of breakfast, using the "Make time for Breakfast" article.  A smoothie will be served using one of the delicious recipe garnered from the website.  The event will continue with an exercise activity in the form of a game called: Red light,Green Light"

Not to be outdone, another WIC Center will focus on three key principles:

  • Shopping for healthy foods
  • Cooking nutritious meals and snacks
  • Eating together as a family
They will also have a variety of exercise activities to get the participants moving.

The staff is encouraged to submit their Kid's Eat Right activities for the month of August along with testimonials as requested.  This is our chance to showcase our commitment to get our young WIC participants excited into eating meals that are tasty and healthful.

The winning recipes, the many imaginative ideas, that just keep coming from this wonderful initiative have kept us hungry and challenge us to get the kids and their families on the right track.

Getting with the Program - A winning situation for the kids!

Friday, August 15, 2014


There was not much more to do in this sleepy town.  There was school and an occasional dance,highly chaperoned by the women of the Church.  There were prayer meetings, six nights a week and Friday nights were reserved for the young folks but grannie and her clique were forever present.  The whole town looked out for each other, if Leila and her friends stepped out of line, the parents would hear about it.  Still the women gossiped about each other and the older Leila got she discovered that there were a lot of secrets in this town.

Ridge Hill was almost off the map.  There was a post office near the square, a grocery store, a clinic that was suppose to be opened once per month but was really only opened periodically when the Public Health Nurse could get away from one of the big towns to give shots to the children and tend to anyone needing help.  As you may guess a lot of home remedies were used.  Then there was Ms. Nora's shop where you get the tarts and the meat pies that all the women pride themselves on making
but the children swore they tasted better from Ms. Nora's stand.  There was a bar attached to the only grocery store in the village, where the men gathered to shoot the breeze and have a few drinks.  There you can find the village drunkard from sun up to sun down.  Sometimes he needed to be controlled, giving the only Constable hired to keep peace something to do and to justify the salary he received for doing so little, since you had to search hard to even find a petty crime.

Then there was Ms. Gwyneth's daughter, Prudence who could be found many an evening taking a swig from a beer bottle and sharing dirty jokes with the men.  The Church women looked the other way when they passed and saw her acting the fool as they like to call it.  Her mother prayed longer and louder than anyone else at the prayer meetings so that her daughter's soul could be saved.  But Prudence who worked for two teachers in the village doing housework, liked the men and they liked her and besides she felt she would get to the pearly gate before many of those who had lashed out against her.  Leila thought she was a daredevil and smirked when the women passed her by and she never failed to greet grannie with the same line, "what a way your granddaughter is growing."  Ms. Madelyn would grudgingly acknowledge her but would pull her granddaughter closer to her with the command to look straight ahead as if greeting Prudence meant that Leila would follow in her footsteps.

The Church,the only one recognized in the village sat upon a hill and a few people had broken away to form their own. Ms. Nora held prayer meetings in the week and Sunday church in her house with four others.  It seemed that Ms. Nora's husband had taken up with another women,living openly with her and the men of the Church had decided that she could no longer break bread in the Church on the hill.  Ms. Nora was a stalwart  and proud woman and she immediately became a self-proclaimed minister, preaching fire and brimstone with her four recruits.  So this is where the men ruled, although no fault of hers, Ms. Nora had become an outcast.  When Leila mentioned how unfair this was to grannie Madelyn, she told her, "this is the way things are, and there is nothing that we women can do about this."

This Minister had a lot on his plate and it won't be the Sunday collection.


"Onward christian soldiers, marching as to war...."  leila sang out loudly.  She hit a note that she did not mean to and Carlton turned around with one hand cupped over his mouth to laugh at her but his grandmother pulled on his ears and he turned his head to the front, sulking.  Leila took up the tempo,looked at her grannie who smiled approvingly.  The church was jumping tonight; you would think it is a revival night but it was a big occasion,it was the installation of the new minister.  Leila had lost track of how many came and left and knew for a fact that everyone badly wanted to impress this new preacher.

Ms. Gwyneth had moved out of her seat and into the middle of the aisle, egging the congregation on. You could always depend on her to put on a show.  They clapped, they swayed, they sang out of tune, sometimes two octaves higher; young and old enjoying the merriment of the night.  Although leila was having a great time dancing up a storm to the Lord's songs, she was secretly hoping this hoopla would end now.  leila's mouth watered from the smell coming from the kitchen, the women had prepared an elaborate feast.  There was not a cook book in the village but whatever these women cooked, left the villagers begging for more.

Tonight was no different, grannie and her friends had perched themselves behind the serving counter, ready to take charge.  This was the only time the women openly showed their strength and the men minded their business.  This was territory that the men dare not trespassed on.  leila was trying to be first on the line but Ms. Gwyneth whose gyration left her bunions hurting, was sitting down with her plump feet spread out on top of her shoes, picked her out of the group of young people to help feed the elderly first.  leila pouted her lips, cut her eyes, mumbled under her breath but got started right away with the order so she could feed her own stomach that was growling.

Her plate was running over, fungi, codfish cake, akkra, conch, rice and field peas, hoe cake and an assortment of meat and poultry dishes with names long forgotten, were among the choices.  Leila greeted Ms. Mavis, one of the servers with a wide grin, told her how beautiful she looked and it worked like a charm.  Leila received a big portion of her favorite dessert.

Leila overheard grannie singing her praises to Ms. Mavis, telling her how proud she was that her granddaughter could quote so many scriptures, because this was the only way to go, keeping close to the Church.
Ms. Mavis nodded in agreement, "we have to keep these young people in the Church." She kept repeating over and over as if in a trance or maybe because she knew that this was no easy task.

HELLO CONTENTMENT {From the jump for joy series}

We sat on the deck in a high rise apartment and stared into a man made lake.  From where we
were we could see pedestrians going about their daily chores.  The scenery provided a tranquil setting for our conversation.  We chatted about anything and everything that came to mind.  We laughed, we screamed with excitement when one of us found the right words to give life to our story.

We stopped a moment for hot and spicy chai and between bites of sweets and sips of that delicious beverage our souls warmed up even more. We tapped our feet, shook our heads, beat on our legs and doubled up in excitement because our story telling brought out the happiness in us.

We lingered, refilled our cups with piping hot chai, eager to continue down HAPPY ROAD, as if we did not have a care in the world.  It was late evening before we became conscious that dusk had fallen.  We jumped, in a hurry to get going, in disbelief that we had allowed time to slip by without us noticing.  But our thoughts meshed and we immediately sat back down fully contented.  We knew it was important to let the joy and high spirit take root before we returned to a hurried life.

Aware of the simple and splendid time we experienced, just talking and living in the moment, we smiled broadly as we calmly rose to bid farewell and promised to do this again.
Life is beautiful!


Chai Tea delights me and when I start my day with the perfect cup of tea,
the possibilities seem endless.  Keep adjusting until you get the flavor that
suits you best. I love the taste of ginger so I add more.

2 pieces of ginger root, peeled & thinly sliced
1 cinnamon stick
4-6 cardamom pods, crushed
6 peppercorns
6 cloves
5 cups water


In a medium saucepan, combine ginger, cinnamon stick,cardamom, peppercorns, cloves and water.
Boil for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover saucepan and let steep for 15 minutes.

To enjoy a cup:
Strain  mixture in a cup, add a tea bag and steep for 3-5 minutes.
Add milk and sweeten with honey or brown sugar to your taste.

 Refrigerate the mixture for later use.
 Use within 2 days.



Sunday, August 3, 2014


Try as she may, Suzie Mae could not get the terrible incident out of her mind.  It was a long time since she last saw Mendacity and it was coming up to the anniversary of that fateful day, five years
ago when she was stripped of her dignity, accused of stealing a 'diamond' ring that she had only seen on the accuser's finger.  Suzie Mae knew that she had been wronged!  That public humiliation was etched in her mind.  She began to feel an awful pain moving through her body.  The memory seemed to grab hold of her mind, no letting go.  Suzie Mae sought relief, a big cup of herbal tea would be able to cure this she thought or at least soothe the constant drumming she was experiencing in her head.  After a few gulps, the pain seemed to lessen, that African Rooibos tea worked wonders all the time.  She sat in her favorite chair with the cushion fluffed up, about to get lost in her thoughts and as she sipped the red bush tea,she felt calmer.  Her mind took her to that fateful day when she was questioned for hours in a small room.  She was left for moments at a time while the 'authority' stepped outside to compare notes and decide her fate.  The room reminded her of the cell she was sure to occupy if she could not defend herself.  She had read stories of people who were wrongfully accused and had a difficult time proving their innocence.  Would this happen to her too?

There were no angry thoughts, a strange reaction she recalled; she had allowed herself to quickly remove anger.  She felt hurt, no denying that but anger would have taken up too much space in her life.  she was a fighting spirit and needed to pack her mind with fighting tools as she called them;faith,hope,belief and gratitude.  there was no time to feel downtrodden.  Only for a short moment did she stop to think why this was happening but she needed all the strength to fight this malady, she could not afford to slip into bitterness.

As she sat there waiting, her mind wandered to the day in question.  It started out great, a bright sunny day.  She was in a good mood, later that night the group as she called her like minded friends and a few others who like to hang with them, would meet for their charity date.  They were ready to do some good for the women in crisis and make a difference in this great wide world.  This was the beginning of their meet-ups that Suzie Mae was putting together to benefit their newly planned organization.  The spices from today's dishes filled the room and as they unwrapped the foils, and uncovered the dishes, each surprise was met with cheers.  Their appetites seemed to open but Suzie Mae was anxious to  get the meeting off the ground before digging into the meal.  She eyed the onion pie and the lentil stew filled with chunks of pumpkin and scallion, that basmati rice with its nutty smell permeated the air.  The very humble bread pudding made in a mold was all dressed up with a creamy sauce running down its sides.  As she secured the dishes,keeping them warm or refrigerated as needed, she marvelled at her small group of friends, coming together was part of their makeup, they were always ready and willing to go the extra mile.

Mendacity was part of this group but it was evident that her interest was elsewhere.  She was constantly promoting herself without a care for anyone else.  Suzie Mae allowed her to join the group knowing that we come in all sizes and shapes and may be she would have a change of heart and gain a sense of community at these gatherings.  Today she came late, decked out in 'mink' and 'diamond'while everyone else was casually dressed, she was one for attention seeking.  As the others gawked, Suzie Mae wanted to get on with the business at hand and so she paid little attention to the distraction.

The group enjoyed putting their ambitious plans together and as they shared their pot luck meals and belly laughs, this soiree was happy to get their project off the ground.  "We will call it Bringing Salvation" Tandem proclaimed and a new project was brought to life.  Suzie Mae laughed as she recalled the antics of the night, the spirits were high, they even allowed Mendacity to strut her stuff and everyone clapped and cheered her on as she worked the crowd.  That Mendacity sure loved the limelight.  And when they said goodbye as the sun began to rise, Suzie Mae sat contented, listening to the soothing voice of Seal pealed out "A Change Is Gonna Come" until she fell asleep.

Her spirit was soaring as she worked on their "Bringing Salvation" project.  it was in the midst of this uplifting project that she was summoned to face false accusations made by Mendacity.  Suzie Mae remembered that Mendacity had her ring finger pointed out, forcing everyone in the room to stop and adore it and she told them that it was a gift from her beau and it cost a whopping six figure.  She also remembered the chuckling from the group and someone muttering under her breath that it was a fake.  That is the last memory Suzie Mae had of this "diamond ring."  Mendacity kept a straight face and ignored the chuckling and snide remarks from the group.  She did not bat an eyelid and did not pay any attention to the silly remarks; she had gotten their attention.  They had noticed her masterpiece and that was her intention.

Mendacity told the authority that the crowd of women wanted to try her ring and the last person wearing it was Suzie Mae.  Suzie Mae gave her side of the story remembering the distraction.  She recalled Mendacity prodding everyone to look at her ring and to try it on and a few may have but not Suzie Mae.  She is serious minded and knew that tonight at the firm(the place of gathering) was not merely for gallivanting but to get down to business.  Suzie Mae was accused of robbery, she was shaken, broken in spirit, feeling downtrodden.  Although the evidence was not strong, Suzie Mae's reputation was tainted.  This left her despondent, empty, every last drop of energy poured out of her.
After the initial shock had worn off she forgave Mendacity,only then could she forge ahead.  She made a promise to herself that one day when the time was right she would seek and find Mendacity and ask "why?"  She wanted to restore her honor, worth and reputation.  She wanted redemption.

Staring with a new fervor, she opened the window of her soul and let the bad air out.  And with passion she continued to fulfill the promises she made to bring the project to fruition.  she had lost hope but restored it.  Sometimes we are the victims of pure bad luck, she thought, trying to console herself.  But as she milked the red bush tea and listened to Bob Marley's "No woman No cry" she knew for sure there was no time to wallow in her sorrows as she fervently worked at their Bringing
Salvation project.

It has been five years but something was different about this anniversary.  She had glimpsed Mendacity only a few times since this groundless incident; yet they carried out their lives in close proximity.  Today Suzie Mae was fidgety, the memory of that call began to position itself in her mind.  This was not good, she thought. "I have to remove this poisonous thought."  Right about now a good cup of tea would soothe her soul and she stepped into the cafe to mull over this thing that has never left her mind.  She had just settled into a cozy corner when she heard someone called out her name and soon they were facing each other.  Mendacity pointed to the ring on her finger and Suzie Mae let out a loud gasp.  She was lost for words, but Mendacity explained that she wanted to teach Suzie Mae a lesson and so she pinned the story of the stolen ring on her.  Mendacity was seeking forgiveness.  This was the opportune moment Suzie Mae was hoping for, this was the "why"? time.  Yes indeed, it was the chance to close the book on their unfinished business.


  1. Suzie Mae described packing her mind with what she called fighting tools.  How is faith,hope, belief, gratitude, fighting tools?
  2. Name other fighting tools of your own.
  3. "Bringing Salvation" seemed a peculiar choice of name.  Name some ways this group could bring salvation to women in crisis?
  4. Did Suzie Mae find redemption when she came face to face with Mendacity.  How would you handle the confession of the accuser?
  5. Unfinished Business is the title, why is it appropriate?
  6. Continue Suzie Mae's story after her path crossed with Mendacity.