Month: April 2018

Mind the Generation Gap Please

Mind the gap, please when you are communicating with your parents. Sure, mind the gap is a London underground catchphrase but not doing so can lead to serious consequences. And so can not considering that there are likely many generation gaps between you and your parents. This gap, unto itself, can raise illusive barriers as well as very tangible ones that makes it very difficult to communicate during the best of times, let alone during the worst of times.

When I was a teen girl, a very long time ago, mind you, I didn’t have the nerve to speak to my parents about certain topics that were looming large in my life—dating, peer pressure, body image concerns and so on. It was not the done thing and quite fankly, the assumption was that they were not interested and even if they were they wouldn’t share my viewpoint on the issues anyhow.

Make no mistake about  it, my parents were not evil people, quite the opposite, but like most of their peers they seemed to have a closed door policy, if you will, concerning certain issues. They set the boundaries, the rules, and we followed them or not as best as we could and suffered the consequences later.

Looking back, however,  I can see the errors in my thinking. I could have saved myself a lot of time, emotional outbursts and even heartache, had I even knocked at the door, let alone pushed at it gently.

Fast forward, parental styles nowadays do seem to be more open, but even if they aren’t, there is too much margin for error to allow the door to stay closed. It is crucial to take the lead and gently push the door open to communicate with your parents.

In doing so, however, there are just a few things to mind that might help bridge the foreboding generation gap.

  1. Maintain Good Terms – Make an effort to maintain good relations with your parents and/or guardians, not just when you need a ride home, money for an activity, etc. But keeping up your end as a family member and actively seeking out opportunities to do something together whether in the kitchen, in the yard, etc. Thinking back, I had some of the best conversations with my dad, when I helped him wash the car.
  2. Speak Their Language – Sure times have moved on and so many phrases are yesterday, however, not understanding where someone else is coming from raises barriers and causes feelings of exclusion. So TEACH THEM YOUR LANGUAGE, TOO.
  3. Honour Boundaries – Every family has them, even if they are unspoken but particularly when they are spoken, honour them. Try to do what you agreed and when you can’t acknowledge that you didn’t. However if trying to do something is causing great stress, explain this and try to negotiate a middle ground. What I am not saying is to disrespect the parental no.
  4. Respect Their No – They have a right to set rules, as they are responsible for you. Having said this, I firmly believe teens have a voice, collectively and individually. Do use your voice respectfully. Throwing the phone down or slamming doors won’t get you a yes anyhow. It is likely to keep the door that you’re trying to open tightly shut. But finding the right time, telling them that it is important to you, that you really need to talk, will help you share your views more confidently and feel valued and assured that your parents are listening, even if they still say no.
  5. Listen To Them – It is a a two-way street, right. Just as you want them to listen to you,  you need to do the same thing. Just because someone else is doing it, doesn’t mean it is right for you. Listen without thinking of your comeback or paying lip service quickly and then doing your own thing anyhow. Listening involves processing information and understanding what it is being said and why.

When it is all said and done, remember you might find that you still have fundamental disagreements, considering the generation gap(s), tried and tested values, traditions and so on that contribute to your parents thinking and decision making processes.  Still keep in mind that most parents have your best interest at heart and want what they believe is right for you. Take a deep breath, mind the gap please, and gently push the door open to communication that feeds into interdependence for healthy family relations.





Seeing The Light For A Happy Holiday

There’s nothing like negative energy to put a dampener, even a darkness, over a holiday. It moves fast. Once it takes hold of you, you change, go up in arms and see the world through cloudy eyes. And the cloud can hang around for days and make a good time bad, certainly if you are not intentional about lifting it.

There goes my holiday, I thought, watching everyone around me being served, including my husband on a business-class flight, where this kind of thing is not supposed to take place, right? Wrong, as it happens.

All I could think as we neared the male-dominated culture where I was hoping to broaden my horizons, while relaxing a bit as well, was: it is going to be a long two weeks. Never mind that that it had been a smooth ride so far, turbulence had hijacked my heart, as well as my mind.

Thankfully, however, I had just read an InStyle piece by writer–filmmaker Ava Duvernay, about the concept that darkness moves faster than light in her new film, A Wrinkle in Time.[1] Though she believes the idea is true, she still maintains that light is stronger than darkness.

Ah ha! Here was a chance for me to see the light. So as the words ‘sexism’, ‘racism’ or both, or plain ole ‘trifling-ism’, floated around in my head like several overactive helium balloons, I remembered the article, reached for it and reread it and, in my negativity, begrudgingly agreed with Duvernay.

Still, no matter how I spun my situation, I had been overlooked, which consequently led to a feeling of marginalization. I could feel the negative energy rushing through my head. Then oddly, I remembered two descriptions of mismanagement of anger from The Marriage Book by Nicky and Sila Lee: the hedgehog and the rhino concepts.[2] Yep, these concepts are exactly like the animals they are named for.

Momentarily, I became a hedgehog, most uncharacteristic of me, and curled up into a prickly ball and threatened to stick anyone who came near me, and in the next moment, my rhino tendencies took over.  And just as I was about to charge, an air steward rushed over with a tablecloth bearing an apology, which actually seemed sincere.

Only then did I call upon my positive strength to ward off the negative energy that was ruining the holiday that hadn’t even begun. Attentively, I listened.

There had been a mix-up. As I was in a middle seat and there was no one to the left of me, each steward had thought the other was taking care of me. It happens, right? Never mind the iPad(s) they walked around with listing all passengers and where they were seated.

So there I was with two paths before me: I could let the darkness hang over the situation, exacerbated by the inflated balloon of thoughts; or I could let light push through.

In a flash, I took a middle ground. Through gritted teeth I accepted the apology, but only after I mentioned how terribly upset and disappointed I had been, and that I hoped it wouldn’t happen again … to anyone. Full stop!

There, I could get back to looking forward to my holiday were it not for the balloons of negative thought. Though somewhat deflated, they were still bobbing in the background. Even after the cabin manager had rendered an apology and came bearing an expensive bottle of wine, followed by yet another apology from another big wig, I couldn’t quash the negative thoughts.

They had to go to make way for the light. But how? Then I had a lightbulb moment: I had to be intentional. End of story. They were my thoughts, mine only, and only I could get rid of them.

So, after some serious reasoning with my subconscious mind, it happened – it was addressed, there was no need to harp on all the –isms because, after all, doing so was going to ruin our holiday, no one else’s, so I had to let it go. The message got through.

That’s when I heard the voices of many happy Minions – you know, the ones that cheer when you win a video game. And then I saw fireworks exploding with beautiful light. So glad I caught it … the light, that is. A happy holiday was ahead.


[1] InStyle, March 2018, Let There Be Light by Ava Duvernay.

[2] The Marriage Book: How To Build A Lasting Relationship by Nicky & Sila Lee (Alpha Resources, 2000).

Travelling To Make And Celebrate History

School years do whiz by and all the while talk about the future runs rampant—whether to go onto university, take a gap year, do an internship and so on. All good stuff. Still I firmly believe living in the moment is key, too.

This got me thinking about how to make experiences of today beneficial tomorrow and immediately, the topics of travelling and history came to mind, two concepts that are indelibly linked.

While travelling often feels like a light topic, something for fun, perhaps for a gap year and so on, history is a heavy one, recording the good, the bad and the indifferent. It is a topic that some love while in school, others find it hard to come to grips with. I have always fallen somewhere in between, a curiosity to know as much about the past as I could, quickly followed by a sense of information overload. Enough already, so there went my A’s.

However, as I got older and honed my research skills, my brain developed more of a tolerance for history—the more I knew, the more I wanted to know. And then I started travelling. And the rest is, well, history.

While I wanted to have a fun holiday or a good work experience, don’t misunderstand me, I immediately saw the benefits of getting to know a new culture, seeing life through the lenses of the locals, learning about their trials and tribulations, the things that shaped them, fashioned their history.

Post Master in traditional dress

My first memorable experience of doing so was co-leading a group of students to the Philippines on what we called a work camp many years ago on behalf of my then employer Habitat for Humanity International.  Quickly, I learned the difference between living on the surface of an experience and delving into it.

Admittedly, I had never felt so far from my comfort zone that I wanted to run for the hills or rather for the city, the creature comforts, except for one night when I couldn’t bear to sleep outside all night on the grounds of a mall. Pathetic, if I must say so myself. But while I could leave my tent unpitched in Albany, Ga, I couldn’t do that in the Philippines and I am glad I couldn’t. It was the beginning of a raised consciousness, which instantly made me a more compassionate, more open-minded, more grateful person. In short, I became a better person and thankfully that betterment has continued.

All I was asked to do was live a certain way for a couple of weeks if that—no electricity, no running water, sleeping under mosquito nets, etc., when much of the world’s population has no choice but to live this way indefinitely.

Sounds like a bit of reality TV, doesn’t it? But it was and still is the real deal for many. Admittedly, I hoarded a lot of guilt to begin with, as if I had somehow contributed to the situation, but over time I have learned to turn that guilt into positive action in my thinking, my giving, my doing and not just when I travel.

But particularly when I travel, which I do quite a bit of nowadays, I make an effort to get to know the people. Make no mistake about it, I still don’t do camping and therefore cannot recommend it, but what I do, as I did in Sri Lanka, is to try to dine with the locals when possible, talk with them, contribute to the economy, represent humanity as decently as I can, learn something about their joys, their sorrows, their pains, their pleasures, share in them as and when appropriate, and it not only makes my holiday richer, but it has a bearing on my life experience—on theirs, on history.








Wearing Hair Braids Well Throughout The Ages

Hairstyles come and go but one that always seems to be all the rage is braiding in various ways. From traditional African cornrow styles to ultra-modern twisting, braids have been a go to hairstyle throughout the ages, whether for style (Egyptians), status (Romans) or spiritual endeavours, such as was used by the Native Americans.

In some instances, nowadays braids have become quite practical, too. According to Joy Miller, co-owner of Junior Green Hair and Beauty and guest of UIO: Your Hair Inside Out, braids are a great style for playing sports and so on. You don’t have to worry about your hair… That’s my point. Anyhow, Joy points out that braids can give hair a needed break from endless styling, too.

Not that you don’t have to look after braids, you do but it is an altogether easier task. I should know I jumped on the band wagon for my trip to Sri Lanka recently. Having struck up a love affair with my hair goodness knows how long ago, it was an easy, yet stylish, way to look after it in a sweltering climate, where no one, including me would have a clue how to manage it.

Thankfully, braids, rather twists, were just what I needed. When the heat got too hot, I could tie them up and at night when it was a bit cooler, not much, I could let them down.

Though it took three hours and counting to get the style, it was worth it with all the curiosity raised amongst the locals. A conversation starter for sure with both men, who likened my hair to Bob Marley, and women but particularly young women and teenage girls wanting to know how to get the style.

While I didn’t have any fast answers for them, I thought I’d offer a few tips here from UIO: Your Hair Inside Out on this all the rage hairstyle:

  • While braiding can be great for the hair, avoid tight braiding and ponytails by all means. It breaks the hair. Been there, done that. Keep it lose.
  • Ignore stereotypes! Love, love, love Bob Marley but sadly braiding does not hitch me to the star. Sometimes it is easy to pigeon hole people by hairstyles. Other than perhaps our African heritage, not sure what else we have in common- maybe a big heart. Yeah!
  • Give your hair a break from braids from time to time. Pulling it too much in the same style can cause breakage, too.
  • Shampoo, even if it is dry shampoo, if braids are worn for a short period of time.
  • And do moisturise, key to managing any and every kind of hairstyle.

Oh yes, how to get the style. In some cultures, such as mine, people learn to braid when they are young. My sister did, even if she doesn’t braid professionally. Others check out YouTube videos to learn.  Thankfully, however, there are professionals out there such as the one who styled my hair. My best advice is to opt for the latter if you can for the best experience.

Speaking of: the best comment from friends and family and acquaintances I heard repeatedly—the style makes you look younger. No wonder braids have been all the rage throughout history. There is something youthful about them. But here is the thing teen girls, you are youthful, with or without braids. Keep wearing them well.