Category Archives: Parenting

Keep Your Skeptics in the Stands, Then Jump In

I wasn’t ready!

My seven-year-old daughter tested into level three of the youth swimming program at the local aquatic center. She can swim, but needs to learn technique. On the first day of her swimming lessons, we met on the same deck of the four-foot pool where she tested. She got into the water and practiced some moves. Then an employee came to me and said they are moving to another pool and parents should proceed to the stands.

As I looked at the employee confused, two other mothers came to me assuring me that everything would be alright. “Don’t worry. We were scared the first time too. It’s deep, but she can do it.” I was even more confused. What were they talking about? They continued, “17-feet sounds like a lot, but it’s okay.”

“You mean 7-feet of water!” I exclaimed. “No, 17-feet,” the mom, who I later learned is DeeDee, said. I was in disbelief as I headed to the stands with these women. I usually don’t allow my daughter to swim in more than 5-feet.

By the time we got to the stands my baby had just jumped into the water and was swimming from one end of the pool to the other. I sat with my eyes bulging, heart palpitating and stomach churning. I just wasn’t ready for that! I thought that she would have gotten a prior pep talk. I wished that I was close enough to whisper some affirmations before she jumped in.

My daughter swam with all her might. When she reached the other side, she looked up to the stands where I smiled and gave her thumbs up. But I was still very scared. I wondered if she knew she was in 17-feet of water. I wondered if she would have the urge for her feet to touch solid ground. I wondered how skilled the lifeguard on duty was at rescuing children. I wondered about the expertise of the young instructors to recognize if she had lost confidence and needed to leave the pool.

When she motioned to me that her goggles had fallen to the bottom and that she was going to get it, I almost lost it. I stood immediately, wildly motioning “NO!” with my mouth, head and hands. An instructor soon got it for her.

After they had done some swimming, they came on the deck to practice diving. I could see her little face. She was so excited. I kept clapping, giving thumbs up and blowing kisses. She was really having a great time. And I had to go along with it for her benefit. But I was an emotional wreck for the entire 50 minutes.

I couldn’t wait until it was all over – for my own nerves and so that she could share her experience with me. The first thing I wanted to ask was, “Weren’t you afraid?” But I resisted. Instead I asked, “How was it?” The water was cold at first, it was tiring, it was fun – that’s how she described it. Afraid, scared, frightened – the words that expressed my emotions, did not enter her mind. When we made it to the car I cautiously asked, “did you realize the pool is 17-feet deep?” At first she didn’t, she said, but when they went on the deck to dive, she noticed. “That’s the deepest water I’ve ever swam in mommy!” she said excitedly, assured of her skills. She was never fearful.

As I thought over everything on the drive home, I realized that my position in the stands was the best thing for my daughter’s progress. I am my children’s biggest supporter. I love them with all my heart. Yet, I almost became my daughter’s main skeptic. I was cautious, fearful, doubtful and worried. Had I been closer to her, it’s likely that I would have unintentionally transferred these same feelings to her.

Thank God they sent us parents to the stands!

Here it was that I invested my time and money in swimming lessons, yet, had it not been for the distance from her, I could have sabotaged my daughter’s entire learning with my uncontained emotions.

So imagine your skeptics. The ones who have no vested interest in your development or growth.  Imagine if you allow those people close proximity to you, how their own cynicism, fears and negative energy can influence your progress. Imagine if you allow any and everyone access to your life, how their perceptions, based on their personal baggage, can slow your growth. Imagine that even the people who you love and mean well, may have unchecked emotions that stunt your growth.

I ask you to examine your life. Identify your skeptics. And place them in the stands. Let them watch you swim from afar, but never close enough to negatively affect you. Surround yourself with instructors, coaches and lifeguards – people who are already experts in your field – and let them guide you.

After you have properly prepared yourself for something, placed your skeptics in the stands, and surrounded yourself with the best – don’t look back, don’t hesitate, don’t doubt yourself – JUMP IN!

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Do it Now! Do it Afraid!

Last year my mother went on an amusement park ride with me for the first time in my life. And I’m a grown woman with children of my own. Growing up mom didn’t do any rides – no spinning saucers, no bumper cars, not even the slow moving merry-go-rounds. She would stand at the side of the rides smiling at me, encouraging me and waiting for me to get off – but she herself never got on any. Plus she’s afraid of heights.

It didn’t come easy for her to get on that Ferris wheel at the North Carolina State Fair. She reluctantly agreed after countless pleas from my daughters. She was all smiles when we got into the long line. But as the line shortened and we got into the final que for the Ferris wheel, I noticed that mom kept glancing behind us nervously. It became obvious that she was having second thoughts so I asked, and she confirmed that she didn’t want to go on the ride again. “How can I get out of this line now,” she asked, looking at the dozens of people behind of us that she would have to squeeze by to get out of the metal barriers. In my mind I was like “really mom.” We had waited so long, gotten so far and throughout the wait I kept showing her how very slowly the Ferris wheel spun. So I was disappointed that she had given up.

I gave her options for getting out of the line, but reluctantly she chose to stay and got on the ride. She was nervous at first, stepping carefully into the bucket, holding on tightly to the sides, finally sitting cautiously. Then the Ferris wheel began to move. She was scared. Then she started to smile…then giggle. Then my mom literally started laughing out loud! It was contagious. We all started to laugh out loud! There we were – three generations of womenfolk – laughing and giggling and being silly on a Ferris wheel. My face hurt from smiling so much. As a rotation brought our bucket to the top, giving us a night view of entire fairgrounds, mom confessed that it was not as bad as she thought and she actually liked it!

I was so happy we were getting to experience this with my mom. A selfish part of me wished she had conquered this fear earlier. When I was able to think beyond myself, I realized that it was probably harder for mom at this stage of her life to overcome a fear she carried for so long. I realized that you’re never too old to do something you’ve always been afraid of doing. I realized that it’s never too late for anything!

It’s June. 2016 is halfway gone. The world has lost so many icons. I myself have lost four family members in as much months.  Some of you are waiting for the right time to get on your Ferris wheel. You are waiting for the fear to subside, for your money to be right, for someone to admit that they were wrong. Some of us are waiting to do that thing that we’ve always wanted to do but have been too afraid. Why are you waiting? Courage isn’t the absence of fear. Courage is the ability to move forward in the midst of fear. What is it that you’ve always wanted to do? It’s never too late. I encourage you to do it now! Do it afraid!

Two Days of Labor… One Amazing Gift

Cramps. “It feels like really, really bad cramps.” That’s how my friend Debra described the labor pain that she experienced and what I should expect with my first child. Debra, one of my best friends, had given birth on August 13, 2000 to her first child. My due date was late August/early September 2000. I never really had a firm due date because I wasn’t sure of the exact date of my last menstrual period. It was coincidental and helpful that Debra and I were pregnant with our first child at the same time.

Debra’s description of labor didn’t help me one bit. I never got cramps. Growing up my mom would tell me that I’m lucky to never experience the painful abdominal contractions that many women endure monthly. So as childbirth neared, the expectant pain was nothing I could prepare for.

A few months before delivery.
A few months before delivery.

By early September, my obstetrician told me I was past due. Nothing I did helped to induce my labor. At a visit to Dr. Ronald Nimmo on Tuesday, Sept. 5, he said my cervix started dilating. A woman’s cervix must be dilated to 10 centimeters before active labor – the pushing – begins. We went over the stages of labor and he told me if I went into labor overnight to call him then go straight to the hospital; if I didn’t go into labor by morning, I should check into the hospital at 7 am.

I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect. Suppose I went into labor overnight? Suppose I didn’t? You mean I’d still have to interrupt my sleep for a 7 am check in!? There were no contractions during the night. In the morning I decided I wanted to go for one last swim. My boyfriend Vibes advised against it. We needed to check in at 7 am and we didn’t have the time, he said. I told him I needed to feel myself enveloped in the cool buoyancy of the Caribbean Sea. So we went to Magens Bay. The air was cool. The sun had risen over a dewy morning. It was so nice! Vibes kept reminding me that we needed to hurry up. Against better judgment I submersed my entire body in the water, saturating my newly-done box braids. We had to hustle back home so that I could shower before heading to the hospital.

When we reached the hospital, about 90 minutes late, the friendly intake staff told me they had been waiting on me and welcomed us. Vibes gave me an I-told-you-so look. The only thing I could think of at the moment was that my hair was wet and it was making me cold.

I followed the nurses’ instructions putting on the hospital gown, getting hooked up to the IV and those things. When the doctor did his rounds a few hours later and examined me, I was still the two centimeters I was the day before. When he said:  “I can give you something to help you out,” I obliged.

The contractions started coming! The nurses kept offering me pain meds, but I was determined to have a natural childbirth. The contractions kept coming stronger. When I told the nurses I was ready to have my baby they said I was a private patient, so I had to wait until my doctor came back. What! I was ready to have the baby and they were telling me I had to wait! When the doctor finally came back for his afternoon rounds around 5 pm and examined me. I was still two centimeters! After five hours of contractions I was still dilated at two centimeters! Dr. Nimmo said he would give me something to stop the contractions. It was only then I realized my labor had been induced. Earlier when he offered to “give you something to help you out,” he meant an induction. I was totally upset. I never wanted to be induced. And I was hungry.

The contractions slowed within a few minutes and I was ready for dinner. When I told the doctor, he explained that once someone was admitted to the Labor and Deliver unit they couldn’t eat. Who the hell came up with that stupid rule! Now I was furious! “So I can’t eat anything,” I asked the doctor. He told me I could have as much ice chips that I wanted. If looks could kill, Dr. Nimmo would be dead.

The plan was that I would get my rest, and more than likely I would go into active labor overnight. The doctor allowed me to walk the halls while he was there. But as he was leaving he suggested that I rest. So I did. As soon as he left I told Vibes to go buy me some food. Vibes told me no. I was shocked. My wishes were his commands throughout my pregnancy. And now he tells me no? I asked him if he wanted me and the baby to starve. He still wouldn’t get the food. This was getting ridiculous. I was in labor all day and now I was starving. And my usually defiant boyfriend was on the doctor’s side.

I was totally frustrated! I decided to stop talking to Vibes. I buzzed the nurse and asked her to help me out of the bed so that I can walk. She said she couldn’t, Dr. Nimmo had ordered bed rest. I didn’t understand. The nurse explained that the doctor ordered me on bed rest so I had to remain in bed. This was beyond ridiculous! I reasoned with her that just a few moments ago I was walking up and down the halls. She didn’t budge.

This was torture. Starving. Bed rest. And I had to lie on my left side only. I don’t remember much about the rest of that night. I made up my mind I wasn’t talking to anybody!

Second Day of Labor

By morning I felt a bit of calm because I knew my mom would be flying in first thing from St. Croix. I wasn’t sure what to expect from my mom. She initially felt I was young to have a baby. But I already had a degree, a full-time job, some savings, no debt and lived on my own. I was overjoyed when she arrived. Surely she would be compassionate. Surely she would tell my doctor and nurses I needed to eat and to walk. Seeing her brought a smile to my face. I filled her in on everything that had happened. My mom brought an unbelievable comfort when I needed it the most. Then it happened:

“Betty!” Dr. Nimmo exclaimed when he saw my mom. She had been a nurse at the Roy Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas, where I was in labor, for about 15 years before moving to St. Croix. Everyone loves my mom. And I would soon find out just how much. Dr. Nimmo hugged my mom and they chatted a bit. Soon Vibes, who the nurses sent home for some rest the night before, showed up. That was a perfect time to voice my complaints. I was starving and wanted to get out of bed. The doctor agreed that I could get out of bed. Food, he said, I couldn’t have. My mom agreed. What! I began my protest. Vibes just watched as I argued with the doctor and my mom that I was pregnant had not eaten for a day. Finally Dr. Nimmo said I could have some sports drinks and hard candy. The sugars would provide energy for the labor, he said. Vibes headed out to get them.

And so it started. One by one all of my mom’s friends heard that she was at the hospital and began showing up to see her. One of the first was Denise. “Bettttyyyy!” Denise exclaimed when she saw my mom. The hugs, kisses and laughter ensued. Then Denise turned to me:

Denise: Nanyamka, how are you doing?

Me: *groaning* I’m in pain

Denise: Yea, that’s how it is with your first child. Just hang in there. We’re here for you.

Then she was back to the giggling catching up with mom. And that’s how it went all morning with my mom and her friends. Because I had to lie on my left side, my back was turned to the door. So many of her friends’ faces I saw only briefly when they came around to see me. While it seemed like the entire nursing staff at the hospital came to see my mom, I wasn’t allowed to have visitors in Labor and Delivery. But my friends kept calling. They kept demanding: did she have the baby? Was it a boy or girl? After a while the nurses seemed to be annoyed with their phone calls. “Can you take this call,” one of the nurses said to my mom. “I keep telling them I can’t give out patient information.” The contractions kept coming. Against what I had planned, I accepted pain medication when the nurses offered.

It was after 1 p.m. Dr. Nimmo was getting concerned. He told me if the labor didn’t progress, he would have to do a cesarean section. I protested. He explained that the baby’s vitals were fine, but I was in labor for over a day, partially dilated, couldn’t eat and if I remained in that state I could put both the baby and myself at risk. I signed the surgery consent forms and he allowed me to walk the halls. Both my mom and Vibes felt a cesarean section was an option. I didn’t! Nor did my dad, who was on St. Croix, but had been calling regularly. Vibes didn’t want to put me or his first child at risk with a prolonged labor. I could sense the fear in my mother as we weighed the options. She too had rough childbirths and had a cesarean section to deliver me.

I told everyone that could listen that I was not having a cesarean section. Ms. Maria Rivera, the mid-wife on duty sympathized with me. At the time I was dilated about five centimeters and the contractions were regular – as they had been all day. She told me that she’s not my doctor, but if I allowed her, she could help me. I had heard that line before. The induction didn’t work, I reminded her. She said no, she would massage my cervix so that it could dilate. I agreed. She said relax, suck on your lollipop (one of the hard candies I was allowed to eat), and by the time you are finished with the lollipop you’ll be ready to have your baby. I was unsure, but my options were few.

Ms. Rivera went to work while I sucked on my lollipop. Sure enough, as I had finished my lollipop Ms. Rivera announced that her work was done. When the doctor checked me, alas, I was dilated to 10 centimeters. It was time to push!

Dr. Nimmo assembled the team. It was a tight fit in my room with the doctor, nurses, Vibes, and my mom. Just as I had learned in Lamaze class, I pushed on the doctor’s counts. Vibes held one leg and my mother held the other. The doctor was down the middle. I pushed for about 30 minutes. But the baby didn’t come. The doctor gave me a 15 minutes break and I resumed pushing. I was annoyed with Vibes who was all up in my face screaming “push, push!” After about 30 more minutes of pushing – still no baby. The pain was excruciating and my back felt like it was splitting down the middle.

I kept telling everyone that I needed to squat. Or I needed to be on my knees. The doctor gave me another break from pushing. The baby had already crowned. Everyone could see a tiny bit of the head, but the baby won’t come down. As I was taking this second break from pushing I overheard a nurse telling my mom. “She ain’t really pushing. It’s the Demerol, it has her drowsy.” And my mother nodded in agreement. I was so pissed off! I had pushed with all my might! But I didn’t have the strength to respond with anything else but the rollong of my eyes.

The doctor told me we would try the pushing again and if the baby didn’t come we would go into surgery. I begged him: I need to go on my knees in a squatting position! He gave a command. The next thing I know the nurses had transformed the bed, putting up rails around the head of the bed. They helped me to a kneeling position on the bed, using the rails for support. I felt relief in my back immediately! Then I started pushing without the doctor’s count – and Vibes noticed. He started telling me I needed to wait on the doctor. Schupees! Whatever! Soon Dr. Nimmo’s commands to push caught up with me. After this third round of pushing, the doctor checked me and said it was time.

“The baby is coming. Let’s get her in delivery,” Dr. Nimmo said. I was confused. The baby was coming and I had to be moved? They put me to lay on my back and wheeled me out of my room into the most sterile-looking room I had ever seen – there was stainless steel and white tiles everywhere. Someone explained that it was the delivery room. In the delivery room I got a strange urge – I needed to vomit. Before I could fully explain it, the nurses had a basin to my mouth. I felt like I had lost all control of my body. The contractions kept coming.

The doctor instructed me not to push. Again, I was confused. I had waited two days to deliver this baby and now he was telling me not to push? Dr. Nimmo said that it was important for me to follow his instructions so that I didn’t hurt the baby or me. He said he was going to make a small incision to help the baby come out, but first I would feel a little pinch as he numbed the area. I wanted to push so badly, but Vibes gave me that look. Dr. Nimmo made the incision quickly and I was back to pushing.

“Push with all your strength!” Dr. Nimmo said. And I did, screaming at the same time. I glimpsed at Vibes for a split second and he looked like he would faint. The head came out! Instant relief! I stopped pushing. Then Dr. Nimmo started the count again. With a few more pushes I had given birth to my first child!

“It’s a girl!” everyone screamed. “Congratulations!” were ringing in from everyone in the room. And I exhaled. It was 5:25 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7.

As Vibes cut the umbilical cord, I was worried that he would pass out. They brought me my baby girl and I took her into my arms. At that moment I felt a love like I had never before felt toward another human being. Then they pulled her away. “We have to clean her up,” a nurse said. “We were only showing her to you.”

At that time I wanted to tell Vibes to keep a close eye on our daughter. I didn’t want any switched-at-birth mishaps. But no one could find Vibes. Dr. Nimmo told me I wasn’t done yet. I had to deliver the placenta. A few moments later I pushed it out. Dr. Nimmo began the process of stitching me back up. I could feel every stitch! I tried to close my legs and pull away from the doctor. A nurse told me “you want the doctor to do a good job, right? You need to open your legs.” I obeyed. The entire lower half of my body felt numb with pain.

Everyone was asking for Vibes so a nurse left the room to find him. “He out there crying,” the nurse said when she returned. “Give him a chance to catch himself.” The nurses all laughed.

Shortly after delivery I got a burst of energy. I started telling my mom of all the people she needed to call to tell them the baby was born. I started telling Vibes to look for distinct marks or features on the baby so we could always know she was ours.

“Rest,” my mom had told me. “You did good. Now rest yourself.” The nurse told me they would wheel me into a recovery room where I should rest for a while. I told her I wanted my daughter.

“She is fine,” the nurse assured. “She has her father and grandmother watching her.” All of a sudden I felt very cold. I started to shiver. The nurse covered me up. I was still cold. She told me she would get some warm blankets that just came out of the dryer. That did the trick. Being the daughter of a well-loved nursed served me well then and throughout my stay in the hospital.

Then, as if a switch inside of me had been flipped, I instantly felt tired – totally exhausted and drained actually. And I fell asleep to recover.

With my newborn.
With my newborn.

Editor’s note: As I fulfill my life’s purpose to “tell the story” I’ll soon be writing biographies, memoirs and other pieces that will require people to be open and honest with me about very personal aspects of their lives. I decided to share a very intimate part of one of my biggest transformational experiences – childbirth. If you have enjoyed this personal part of my story, I hope that you will trust me to share the story of others with you.  No part of this story may be reused, reproduced, or otherwise copied without direct written approval of the author Nanyamka Farrelly.

Yesterday I Had a Shower in the Street

I live on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands where public transportation is unreliable, taxi service is expensive and the most dependent form of mass transportation is unregulated. Still, I felt it was time to teach my 12-year-old how to navigate the island without depending solely on me and my trusty 10-year-old Toyota. When I gave her instructions for catching the “safari” – the open air, unregulated form of mass transportation most popular on the island – she told me she was scared. “Yeah right,” I thought to myself. She had caught the safari dozens of times with her grandmother. But as her mom, it’s my duty to remove her fears, right? So it was her first day of summer vacation when I decided to take her to work with me. I would park my car downtown and we would take the safari to work. Rain was forecasted for the day, but it was only overcast when I was lucky enough to find a parking space. So I took my chances. My first pointer to her: when depending on the safaris take an umbrella – you never know when it may rain.

The ride to work was great, as I continued to give her pointers. She confided that riding the safari with me was embarrassing. Why, I inquired. “If you ride the safari by yourself that means that you’re independent. If you ride the safari with your mom it probably means that she doesn’t have a good job, so she can’t afford a car.” I was surprised at the junior high logic. When I asked her “where does that leave us?” she couldn’t answer. “You should never make assumptions,” I told her, “cause we can never really know.”

I counted the walk up the hill to my office a good early morning activity. By lunchtime it was pouring and VI Alert messages to my phone confirmed that we were under flood watch. My plan of walking to and from the cafeteria had to be reworked. Umbrella in hand, we caught the campus shuttle to the cafeteria. An hour later, it was still pouring – hard. We had missed the shuttle back to the office. Luckily we were able to catch a ride with a colleague in a company vehicle. There were only two seats in the vehicle, so my 5’7” daughter had to sit on my lap.

The rain continued.

By 4:50 p.m. I got concerned. I started to feel that I had made a mistake in choosing this day for our safari ride. It was raining harder and harder. And it was flooding. We walked from my office down to the bus stop sharing our sole umbrella. I was thankful though – it was a covered bus stop. Well all of a sudden gusty winds began blowing the rain directly under the bus stop. I screamed out as the cold water wet me from waist down. And with everyone one else, I jumped on the benches. By this time, it made no sense wondering if I had made a right or wrong decision – I accepted that this was going to be a learning experience different than I had planned. Standing together on the bench with my daughter, cold wind and rain blowing up against us, I began laughing. Burst out laughing! She was pissed. We were drenched. She found nothing funny to laugh at. One by one everyone under the bus stop had gotten rides. That left the two of us. Then she began: “Mommy my shoes are soaked. Now I know what my friends were talking about….” “Mommy this safari is taking too long…” “Mommy do you realize that this was the worst day for us to catch the safari…” The most impactful: “Mommy, I can’t wait to get into our Toyota, without the rims…” I assume that she added “without the rims” because she had desperately missed the vehicle that, at this time may not look the best, but served a good purpose.

On the safari ride back to town I realized that my daughter had learned more than I ever expected. “It feels so good to sit in a moving vehicle,” she said. “I don’t know how anyone could not learn to drive, like my grandmother. I must get a car,” she continued. “Mommy imagine that some people have to do this every day…”

When we made it into the car she shouted out: “Yes! Yes! Yes! I missed my car!” The look of relief on her face was priceless. She took off her shoes and showed me her feet. They were wrinkled as though she had been swimming. I must admit, this whole thing was likewise an experience for me. It reminded me that I have so much to be grateful for.

As the rain continues to pour outside, I’m now safely at home, wondering how the homeless are making out. I wish that there was no homelessness and that safe, reliable transportation was available for everyone. I can’t change everything in the world. But right now I’m grateful for everything I have been blessed with. I can guarantee you that my daughter is too. She learned a much greater lesson than I even imagined.

FYI: I’m Single

A few months ago I was having a conversation with a male colleague. The conversation veered into our weekend sleeping habits, and I happened to mention that my daughter still sleeps with me. “Your daughter sleeps with you!” my colleague exclaimed in great disbelief. I was shocked at his outburst. His comment made me feel like an incestuous monster that was doing something wrong. So I began explaining how I would put my two-year-old daughter into her own bed, in her own room, only to have her wake up in the wee hours of the morning calling for me. I explained to my co-worker that for my own sanity and good night’s rest, I’ve let my child who is only 26 months old sleep with me.

After explaining away, I started to wonder if in fact I was doing something wrong by allowing this co-sleeping habit. Now, it wasn’t like I had not tried to get her to sleep in her own room and her own bed. As a matter of fact I had succeeded in this feat when she was about 8 months old. But somewhere along the line children develop stuffy noses, coughs and the such. It is so much easier to monitor a sick baby when they are right next to you…. The problem is that after a child regresses into any behavior, it’s back to square one with the re-programing. To make a long story short….she was back in my bed. Not that this was any of my co-worker’s business – a male co-worker at that. But for some reason his comment bothered me, so I decided to do some research.

What I found out is that parents often let their children co-sleep with them into the toddler years. But SINGLE MOTHERS are more likely to allow their children to sleep in their beds. Then it dawned on me! My colleague must not know that I’m single! Finally it all made sense! He surely had known what happened with my daughter’s father. He probably thought I was dating by now. So here I am, a young sexy woman who is also a mother. My co-worker obviously believes that I have steamy love life! Of course no children would be allowed in the bedroom of a vixen! (Yep, I got ego tripping.) Then I started to wonder just how many other men wrongly think that I’m in a relationship! “Oh no. This isn’t good for someone who doesn’t plan on being single for much longer,” I thought to myself. As for my two-year old, she has moved out of my room. And for your information: I’m single.

When Chaos Ensues, Strengthen Your Family

October was a bloody month in the Virgin Islands. Within one week we lived through FIVE MURDERS, which included two double murders, and several other non-fatal shootings. All of the victims were under the age of 40 and as young as 20. The entire territory FEELS the pain associated with those senseless acts of violence. We either were related to the victims, were friends with them, or know someone who was related to them or friends with them.

At the very least, all of us have questioned the safety of ourselves and our loved ones. Then there was a bank robbery and jewelry store robbery. And while violence makes all of us question our safety, we cannot overlook white-collar crime where corrupt officials swindle hundreds of thousands of dollars from government coffers. What is the Virgin Islands coming to? Are we to accept murders, shootings, and crimes as a regular part of our lives? Are we supposed to suspect that most government officials are power hungry, money hungry thieves?

 I have started to seriously question my decision to live and raise a family in the Virgin Islands. It is no longer the community that I was raised in. It no longer provides the foundation that so many of us cherish. Just how do we return the Virgin Islands to the place that we so loved? It will be difficult.

Our education system is substandard and our children fall woefully behind in national statistics. The cost of living here is one of the highest in the nation, while salaries are among the lowest, which means that many adults must work more than one job. So children are left to raise themselves. Even grandma and grandpa aren’t at home anymore to help out– because they too are working. As the VI Police Department buys back guns and steps up patrols, successfully taking more guns off the streets – we see that gun crime is not decreasing. It’s clear that our boarders, ports, marinas and shores are left wide open to the infiltration of guns and drugs.

Fixing our education system, our economy and protecting our boarders sadly will take some time – because of course, politics is involved. But what we can do right now, is strengthen our families. The family is the building block of every society. Strong families make strong communities. Strong communities make strong nations. It is through the family structure that morals and values are imparted. And love is the nucleus of all families. Regardless of how many jobs we have, we must take time to raise our children; and if for some reason we can’t, we must ask for help.

Right now, ask yourself, “What can I do to make my family stronger.” If you don’t have the answer, ask your parents, members of the faith-based community – our simply ask someone whose family you look up to and admire. A few suggestions are to:

• Make your family your number one priority.

• Spend a set amount of time each day together as a family. That time may be eating breakfast or dinner together each day. Or doing daily devotions upon rising or before sleeping.

• Spend as set amount of time each week as a family. For example Friday nights could be family nights – to do something fun with the family.

• Regularly visit your children’s school. Remember that by law, government employees are allowed two hours per month, per child, for school visits.

• Talk to your family, but also listen. Communication goes both ways. • Lead by example.

• Take time to relax, reenergize and rejuvenate so that you don’t get burnt out.

• Most important, do everything with love.

Your family depends on it; and so does this community.

Irony of a Single Mom; 5 Signs of a Pitiful Social Life

What to do on a Saturday night on St. Thomas when the children are gone? My children’s godmother recently offered to keep my children on a Saturday night so that she can spend some time with them and give me a little free time. Yippee! A free Saturday night!

The first thing to do was find out what’s going on for the weekend; so I text a couple of my friends asking where’s the lime to find out what’s going on. “Lime” or “liming” is our word for partying or hanging out. None of them know anything. That’s the first sign of a pitiful social life: your friends, the people who actually hang out more than you, have no idea what’s going on.

I decided to text my friend Rashidi, a radio personality on the popular station 105 Jamz. Surely he should know what’s popping. And he does. His response to me: “U trying to lime?!” Second sign of a pitiful social life: no one takes you seriously when you say you want to party.

Rashidi is hosting a karaoke night with music by DJ Pete after. Sounds good. But his gig is on Friday. My free day is Saturday. The only thing he knows that’s happening on Saturday is something that – let’s say I would have been delighted to attend 10 years ago. Just as I finished my texting session with Rashidi, my daughter brings me an invitation to our cousins’ 10th birthday party on the beach on Sunday. Third sign of a pitiful social life: your children have more invites than you do. But it was still Friday, so I remained hopeful.

Saturday morning I went on a cleaning spree. After all, I would be partying my night away, right. So I decided to do something worthwhile with my day. By 8 p.m. after cleaning, dropping off my children to their godmother and shopping, I decided to text a few more of my friends to see what I should get into. They all mention the same event that Rashidi mentioned the day before. But like me, none of them really want to go to that either. I log on to Facebook. I can get some hints of what’s happening there. Shawna has already said that whatever we do, she isn’t coming. That’s a bummer.  Finally Tiffy mentions a club, this new club that we can go to. Now, Tiffy is a chic that knows how to have a good time. But not even she has been to this club before, so we’re all skeptical. By now it’s 10:30 p.m. My eyes are getting heavy. Fourth sign of a pitiful social life: you’re tired before the party begins.

I’m not quite sure what happened between 11 p.m. on 2:46 a.m. That’s what time it was when I realized that I had fallen asleep. I woke up around 8 a.m. Sunday morning feeling great! Fifth sign of a pitiful social life: sleeping the whole night through feels just as good as “liming.”

Well there you have it. They irony of a single mom – when we finally have some free time, we don’t know what to do with it. I guess I’ll be homebound for the next few weekends until Kassav’s performance at the Reichhold Center on Oct. 28. With this Saturday behind me, I’m really looking forward to Kassav. Bye… we have a beach party to get ready for.

*Everyone whose name is mentioned in this blog gave permission to have their name and likeness used.