Cook’s Best of 2017

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Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

Happy New Year everyone! How’d you bring it in? I went to Junkanoo with a cousin (I never ended up going on Boxing Day, like I mentioned last week), and today my family had a house party.

I really enjoyed writing in this space over the last year. Somewhere around the end of January I decided I’d try to write once a week, and I succeeded! There were times I didn’t know what to say, or felt I didn’t have enough time in the day, but I stuck with it and now I have 49 posts to look back on. Although I only shared a few of them on fb, I was still surprised at how widely everything was read! Thanks to all of you for sticking around to see what I came up with. 🙂 These are the 5 most popular:

1. I Met My Grandmother at the Art Gallery
2. The Woman Who’s Mad I Went to College
3. The Name My Mama Gave Me
4. UB Lessons: Taking Hard Things a Day at a Time
5. Fighting Fear, Being Generous

City Soundscape didn’t make the top 5, but it’s my personal favourite.

I wish you peace and joy in 2018, and steady progression toward your goals. I haven’t made any resolutions but there are things I want to continue to improve, like my photography, and doing more to share my creative work. I’m off to think some more about that stuff, with a view to hitting the ground running. I’m one of those love-to-make-lists people – how about you? Cheers!

 

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Merry Christmas!

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Hello! Just popping in to wish you all a Merry Christmas. 🙂 Today for me has involved wrapping presents, lunch with family, dinner with family, and I’m about to go to midnight mass, with more family ;). Sounds pretty stereotypical doesn’t it? Well it’s been lovely, and I’m feeling thankful and happy, and I’m excited for more of all this tomorrow.

Then on Tuesday or Wednesday there’ll be Junkanoo, which I’m excited for as I wasn’t here for it last year. I’ve written a little about Junkanoo before, but basically in The Bahamas Junkanoo and Christmas are intertwined; I’ve even heard it said that Christmas is more about Junkanoo than anything, or anyone, else. Usually it’s held early on Boxing Day morning, but there’s bad weather forecast for Tuesday and so it’s been pushed back to Wednesday. We’ll see if that holds up – I don’t know how the country is going to manage without a holiday afterward to recover!

I hope that you’re having a great time this weekend, whatever that means for you. Perhaps your Christmas Eve is more low key, or maybe today is just a regular Sunday. Whatever the case may be, I hope that things are still going well, and that you’re being kind to yourself at the end of this year. Peace and love!

Don’t Tell Me How to Deal with My Harassment, Especially If You’re Only Here to Judge

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Photo by Olesya Grichina on Unsplash

Yesterday I was reprimanded for confronting a man who sexually harassed me.

You read that right. During the reprimand I was thoughtful, and listened. I knew that the person – my friend’s husband – was speaking from a sincere place. Furthermore, I was too shocked to firmly agree or disagree with what he was saying. When I got home and thought more about it though, I felt like he was completely wrong.

Here’s a summary of what happened: My friend, her husband and I were volunteering at a children’s Christmas party. Before the organisers decided what they needed us to do, we were standing outside, waiting. A man was sitting on a bench underneath a tree next to where we were standing, staring at me. His gaze was relentless.

I turned my body away. I walked a few steps closer to my friend’s husband, so he could partially shield me. I sat on the opposite side of the tree, behind the man’s back. Always, his eyes followed me. He shifted his whole body to turn and look at me. It was disgusting. Even in this short retelling I feel disgusted.

Finally, I walked over to him. I asked him why he was looking at me and told him he was making me uncomfortable. He mumbled some nonsense about me looking nice and him wanting to tell me – telepathically?? – and I asked him to stop. Then I moved away and again tried to stand in a place where he couldn’t see me.

A few seconds later my friend and I had to cross the lawn in front of the man to get to the room where we would be working. I didn’t want to move. Though it had only been a few minutes, I was psychologically affected by his gaze. I felt exposed, and violated.

Later, inside the room while we were working, my friend’s husband told me that I shouldn’t have confronted the man. He said I didn’t know how the man might have reacted, that things could have gone poorly. I was surprised, since although he was standing near me I didn’t know he saw what had happened. In any event, I told him that he was right, but since we were in a public space I didn’t think the risk was that high. Then he went on to tell me that I could have used that moment for evangelism. I could have chosen different words in order to ask the man if he knew about Jesus, or invite him to church with me.

Are you kidding me?

I was floored. This man saw me literally hiding from the harasser, and said I should be asking the harasser to spend more time with me? Our conversation continued with some back and forth. My friend’s husband compared my situation to a time when he was catcalled by a woman, and he did what he suggested to me – invited her to church. He also compared my response to a time about an hour earlier, when we were driving to the party site. He was aggravated with the slow driver in front of him, but in our conversation acknowledged that he didn’t need to respond as aggressively as he did.

These examples only showed me that he had no real understanding for what I felt under the tree. I tried to explain the powerlessness, the fact that I was on the defensive, that I felt alone, but the disconnect remained. He acknowledged that I was in a difficult position, but said although it wouldn’t be easy, evangelising in these moments was still something I should be aiming for.

I don’t remember how the conversation ended, but it did, and only left me feeling more upset. In fact, I probably would have forgotten about the creep under the tree if I hadn’t had this discussion afterward. Unfortunately, it would just be added to the pile of similar incidents.

I believe my friend’s husband said what he did out of concern for me and zeal for our faith, but all it did was rub salt in my wound. It was not his place to criticise my actions; all that did was make me wonder why he didn’t come to my defence on his own, or say something to the creep after I did. Moreover, I didn’t do anything wrong in choosing to stand up for myself. In a situation where no one else was going to do it for me, I took control of things in a way that made me feel less helpless. The contradictory statements – not to confront a harasser, to evangelise in confrontation – both encourage harmful behaviour that minimize the action of the harasser.

We are in a time now when many women are stepping forward and speaking about their experiences of abuse, assault and harassment at the hands of powerful male public figures. We are applauding their bravery and doing our best to honour their courage; we want to bring their perpetrators to justice. In telling me to be quiet, my friend’s husband only contributes to the culture that allows sexual misconduct to continue. Telling me to evangelise – to stay in harms way – contributes to people thinking of Christianity, and Christian men, as backward and oppressive.

I share this story to reject both those things. I share this story so that you, especially if you’re a man, will reconsider any situation where you think you ought to correct a woman for choosing to speak up. I share this story to call for more empathy from men, for the awful experience of any kind of sexual harassment or assault. We have a long way to go before we have totally shifted our attitudes and strategies dealing with sexual misconduct, and the vulnerable populations cannot be fighting on our own.

UB Lessons: Taking Hard Things a Day at a Time

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Happy Sunday! And to all my American readers, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. As close as we are to the US, Bahamians are well acquainted with your grateful feast. Many restaurants and families organise Thanksgiving meals, but it’s by no means the big deal that it is for you, and definitely not a holiday. For plenty of people the day passes like any other, as it did for me this year. The date barely registered for me, and if it weren’t for instagram I probably would’ve had no idea. I’ve eaten no turkey or mashed potatoes, no pie or green beans – it was just a Thursday in my world.

Well, not any Thursday – the last one of my semester! I have final papers to mark now, but the teaching part of this term is o.v.e.r. I am so happy, as well as proud and thankful. I won’t say that the time flew by, because I felt every day of the last 14 weeks, but I do look back in satisfaction at how far I’ve come.

In the beginning, the close of the semester seemed like a horizon stretched out in front of me – far away at the end of my vision, out of reach. Learning how to manage each classroom, brainstorming activities to keep my students engaged and interacting with one another, planning how to actually deliver the material, and marking, I was swamped. On top of figuring out how to teach, there were many admin and/or tech related issues to resolve; as soon as I settled one another took its place. Focusing on the end of the semester didn’t give me any relief, it just made me feel tired. I wondered how I was going to make it to the finish line, and what state I’d be in when I got there.

Instead, it was more productive for me to consider my work in small chunks, taking the semester one class at a time. I celebrated at the end of every week and as time went on I became more comfortable at the front of the classroom. Many of the side issues went away, and for the ones that didn’t I found workarounds. Now here I am, having taught a semester of college! I handed out surveys in my final classes and the students all reported greater confidence since they’ve learned things, so that’s marvelous haha.

I’m sharing my accomplishment to encourage you in whatever hard season you might find yourself: this too shall pass! Maybe thinking about the end isn’t helpful because there’s so much to do between now and then; taking things a day at a time might be a better strategy. Then one day you’ll look up and realise – hey! I’m doin this thing! – and a few days after that you’ll look up and say – hey! I’ve done this thing!

I’d feel silly sometimes about being frustrated and upset, knowing that 14 weeks isn’t long, and there were surely people with much bigger problems in much longer seasons of difficulty. But it was still my season, new and hard to me, and I still had to work my way through it. It’s important to keep our problems in perspective, to recognise our privileges and luxuries, but not as a way to dismiss how we’re doing. And in whatever difficulty we’re having, breaking things down into smaller pieces, moving through with a view to steady improvement and skill development, our mountains can become molehills. Or maybe not, but we’ll certainly climb them. 😉

Forgive me for that corny analogy. I’ve gotta go mark now.

Freestylin On My Birthday!

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Photo by Lucy Heath on Unsplash

It was my birthday last week! I had an amazingly joyful day, spending time with friends and family, baking and keeping myself amped up with cheers and freestyle raps. Yes, you read right! Driving to my dad’s house for dinner after work, and then at my dad’s house getting ready for dinner, I was coming up with rhymes about it being my birthday. That was pretty much as deep as they got haha. Here’s one that stuck with me:

Bakin’ chocolate cookies
Eatin’ chocolate cake
And she celebratin’
Because she’s 28!!
28 yup! 28 yup!!

Now imagine appropriate arm movements and head gestures, plus some jumping around, and you’ve got a better idea of how said rap was performed. I had so much fun. I was loud. I felt free. I just let everything else go and focused on the fact that I was alive and had a whole day to celebrate.

The day started off just fine, more on the low-key side. Then somewhere around mid-afternoon it was like a switch went off in my head. I don’t remember there being much of a coherent thought process, but I felt an urgency to be enthusiastic, and grateful, and to create more excitement for myself. It was my birthday! Who better to feel it than me?? So I started, and once I got going there was no dampening the turn up.

It’s been a few years since I was that amped about my birthday, but I plan to continue this trend in the future. Aside from making my day even more enjoyable, it was a chance to just be and tap into the spontaneous, exuberant side of myself. Days like my birthday remind me that even being fluid and carefree can involve conscious decisions.

Anyway, I know you can’t hear my actual birthday rap performance, but I can leave you with one of my favourite songs of late. I love to dance to this one, and often dream of learning the choreography. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do, and have a great week!

Introducing the Tines that Bind

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Hello! How are you this fine Sunday? It’s fine in The Bahamas anyway. And I have a little extra pep in my step thanks to the time change. You too? This extra hour will soon be lost in the whole ‘shorter day’ thing, but right now it’s making a world of difference.

Remember those times when I mentioned having a new project, and telling you about it eventually? That time is now haha. I’ve started a food blog! It’s called the Tines that Bind, and it explores the way food shapes place and relationships. You can imagine that the first part of my inspiration came because I love food. The second part came from loving this (Bahamian) landscape, this community, and wanting to make it real to non-Bahamians.

The Bahamas isn’t just a tourist destination. People – I – live the mundane and the frustrating and the joyful here too. I hope that in sharing recipes and talking about the everyday things that becomes clearer to readers around the world. Moreover, I consume a lot of food media and have often wondered where ‘my’ voice was in the conversation, why people weren’t talking about the food that I see around me and grew up eating. Initially I figured someone more qualified would get to it at some point, but then I realised since I was the one wondering I could also be the one writing!

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I went to an exhibition opening at our national art gallery over the summer. During the artists’ talk one of them said that there’s something about our (Bahamian/Caribbean) landscape that erases us as people in the psyche of everyone else in the world. That’s the poetic version of what I’m talking about. I felt people around me nodding in agreement, and I know at least one other person wrote his statement down. We want to feel seen, and taken seriously, and not just because we have lovely places for you to stay or have your destination wedding.

As I travel I plan to include food stories from the places I visit as well. The word tines refers to the prongs on a fork (or animals’ antlers) and in the bigger picture I’m thinking about how food is one of the great equalisers. We all have to eat! Whether we live in a powerful city or dreamy paradise. We all have different customs around preparing and eating food. I’m excited to learn some of these traditions and then share them on my blog.

So there you have it! The project I’ve been working on for the last few months. I hope you’ll go and check it out, and maybe become a follower! I still plan to write here, although I’m not sure what that’s going to look like in the long term. I do know that I love how easy and relaxing it is. On an ideal day, I wake up on a Sunday morning excited to write something, and then after an hour or so I’m done. I look for a photo from my gallery or on the web and then come back a few hours later to reread and post. Voila! TiB (Tines that Bind) isn’t nearly as simple. In fact, for any professional and/or veteran bloggers who may be reading, I’d appreciate any tips you have!

Have a great Sunday and a wonderful week. I hope to see you on the TiB side of things! 🙂

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UB Lessons: On Being Less Judgemental

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Photo by Redd Angelo on Unsplash

I have four more weeks of teaching left in this semester, and if you ask anyone who knows me they’ll tell you I can’t wait. This has been a challenging position in so many ways, and at the end of each week I breathe a sigh of relief and say a prayer of thanks that I made it.

Issues regularly crop up in every corner: administratively, technologically, logistically and interpersonally. I have a mixed bag of students: some older than me, though most of them are younger; first years and students ready to graduate; singles, married people, more parents than I expected; and they all have quite different levels of ability. On top of all that, although I’m teaching one course, one section meets in the morning and the other in the afternoon, and they have completely different vibes.

One thing that’s stood out to me in the last few weeks is how well some of my students are managing their private difficulties. You wouldn’t know it from their behaviour in class, but some of them are going through really trying times – those major life experiences that can derail you or cause long ‘delays’ as you work your way through them.

I get a glimpse into their personal struggles when they need to explain absences or ask for flexibility with assignments, but if it weren’t for that I’d be like any other student in the class – oblivious. I wonder about the students that don’t know,  that are wrapped up in their own worlds. They have opinions about their classmates, I can guess at some of them from comments and body language, and they’re based on the somewhat shallow interactions they have with each other every week. Maybe they think that students who are regularly absent are lazy or disorganised; maybe they assume that students who don’t speak up in class don’t take the course seriously or aren’t prepared for the lesson. None of these assumptions would be correct.

I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. It’s a reminder for me to give more grace to the people that I meet. Not necessarily to give them a free pass to do poor work, or excuse them if they’re behaving badly, but just to be kinder in general and more forgiving when things go wrong. Even with people that I interact with on a semi-regular basis, I hope I can be more gentle and less judgmental – I don’t know everything about them, after all.

Despite being the kind of truth that we grasp on an intuitive level – we aren’t sharing everything that’s happening with each person we encounter – it is so easy to forget. I hope this post is a nudge for you to refresh your attempts at being broad-minded. I’d also love to hear if you’ve had any interactions lately that have brought this truth back to the front of your mind as well!

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