Achieving retirement goals….

In her attic bedroom, Winsome, wrapped in an old patchwork quilt, sat at the end of her bed and watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind. Behind the trees, clouds scudded frantically across the sky. Every few moments the moon ripped through them, creating wraith-like shadows that raced along the ground. It was only yesterday that she enjoyed the sunset from the same place in her bedroom. She was reminded of the days when she sat on a wooden bench with her husband at the beach and enjoyed the sunset. The weather changed and that change did not bother Winsome. She was busily fulfilling one of her retirement goals. Winsome was fulfilling the goal of making a beautiful sweater for her grand daughter. She loved knitting and her bedroom was her most creative space.

Winsome retired two years ago. She prepared for retirement and she knew then that she would never again work in a corporate entity. She desired to engage in activities that would yield her lasting pleasure. She wanted to make items that people would enjoy for a long time.

Tonight, she is continuing to knit the pink sweater in anticipation of surprising her seven-year-old grand daughter who she had not seen last winter. Winsome’s grand daughter hopes to visit in March. It is now the middle of January therefore Winsome has little time to complete the sweater and package it nicely.

Winsome lives alone and likes to knit during the night. The nights are quiet and the sounds, though sometimes eerie, do not frighten her. She grew up in a large family and everyone would tell stories about the dark nights in rural Jamaica, but Winsome knew the family meant well and the stories were meant to drive fear into the teenagers who liked to frolic with friends after dark.

Winsome especially likes to knit during the nights, because her days are busy. She has the most beautiful flower garden in the neighborhood. She likes tending the plants during the mornings and she is almost certain to have two or three uninvited visitors who stop, commend her, ask her questions and engage her in some village gossip.

Tonight, Winsome hums a tune and sets a goal of completing the right sleeve of the sweater before midnight. The sweater is taking form and to see that finished sleeve before midnight would be a great achievement. Suddenly, the quietness is disturbed by the screeching sound of a car and a banging sound as if someone crashed a vehicle in the dumpster at the end of the road. Without switching on any light, Winsome peeps through a space in the curtain in her bedroom. Lights are on in all the houses that are in close proximity to the accident site. People are pouring out of their houses on to the street. Sirens are blazing, and the road is now crowded with people.

Although Winsome is curious she decides to wait until the following morning to hear the news about the accident. Winsome watches the street for a while and then she retires to bed, disappointed that she did not complete the right sleeve of her grand daughter’s sweater. Tomorrow night, she hopes to start knitting a little earlier. Would she achieve this retirement goal? Only time will tell…….

Talk soon…..

When the great unforeseen occurs……….

person wearing black nike low tops sneakers playing soccer
Photo by Markus Spiske on

No one should start playing soccer after retirement. I was not convinced. So, that is what I was doing when I fell and fractured my right wrist. My life changed, and I lost interest in some activities I previously enjoyed. However, I promised myself that I would begin to write again before the end of 2018.

During the months following the accident, I fell in love with my left arm. I realized that I took my right arm for granted. I valued the Jamaican saying, “Cow never knows the use of its tail, till she loses it.”

I learnt to do the following “difficult” tasks with my left hand: taking a bath; combing my hair; writing my name; sweeping the floor; and making my bed.

For six weeks while my arm was securely positioned in a cast, there was so much swelling, so much pain, and I was impatient because I was not managing my expectations.

Finally, the day came for the cast to be removed. And…what a horrible looking wrist!! My son and I cried because my wrist was as stiff as a flat piece of board that was pressed out of shape. My fingers were swollen and lifeless. I hurried to the physiotherapist who chided me. “Why didn’t you come to see me while the cast was on?”

“No one advised me”, I replied.

I knew that I was in trouble and all the research I did convinced me that full healing could take a long time… long as a year.

Here are a few lessons from my experience. When the great unforeseen occurs:

  • Be patient with yourself;
  • Be humble, the great unforeseen does not discriminate;
  • Be creative and find other ways to do things.
  • Use the available technology;
  • Show more love to the people you now come to depend on;
  • Do not be shy to ask for help; and
  • Focus on the happy ending, nothing remains the same forever.

Talk soon……Claire


My child hates reading

hide and seek

“My child hates reading, and she hides whenever it is time for us to read”. 

I hear you, but, do YOU like to read? Do you have books at home for your child to read? Does you child observe you reading books?  Do you encourage reading books at home?

If you answered ‘No’ to any of those questions, you have some work to do. In this blog post, I will help you.

If you have two minutes, I encourage you to go back to one of my earlier blog posts entitled, ‘Making Home More Learner-Friendly’, and there you will learn some no/low cost ways of setting up a reading corner at home.

You will notice that in framing the three questions I asked earlier, I emphasized ‘reading books’.

I am sure that you read books on your I-pads, kindles and computers. However, for a start, please introduce your young child to paper books. Then, allow him/her to transition to E-books.

Below are a few suggestions that are easily implementable.

  1. Enroll your child at the nearest public library.
  2. In Washington D.C. and Maryland, public libraries are fun places for young children. There are friendly staff and attractive reading spaces/corners. Parents and Nannies find these spaces inviting and have remarked that the children love these spaces. In Jamaica, the staff at public libraries arrange reading competitions and other fun-filled activities for young readers.
  3. Give children books as presents.
  4. Set up a reading corner at home, if you do not already have one.
  5. Be authentic; set a good example; and read with your children every day. Read! Read! Read!
  6. Encourage your children to read, by praising them and rewarding them whenever they deserve to be praised.

Talk soon……. Claire Spence


Some of you may be too young to remember that slogan, “Two are better than two many”, which was used in several family planning advertisements nearly forty years ago. So….I am sharing the photograph below, with that phrase in mind. I believe these birds are satisfied that two are better than too many….and indeed three may be a crowd.

two is better

I took an unscheduled break from writing for a few weeks and I cannot explain why….I did not squeeze an article on to my blog site. So while I work to catch up, let me invite you to view some photos from the space I share with some birds, cats, lizards and butterflies.

               Orchid Glory   orchids glory

           Pretty in red    pretty in red

Resting……..          resting

Weed in bloom  weed blooms

Lovely in pinklovely in pink

Talk soon…………….

Claire Spence


Lost children


Is my granddaughter lost? No….I think not. She just had her hair styled so she is showing the back view.

I decide to use this blog post to focus on ‘lost’ children. Yes, they are many. But……all are not physically lost….many are psychologically lost. To be lost is to be ‘unaware’ of one’s present location. In this blog post, I am defining a lost child as one who is ‘unaware’ of who (s)he is.


Let me indulge you with two brief scenarios with two six-year-olds.

Scenario No. 1: “So Paul, what would you like to become when you grow up?”

“A gunman,” Paul replied.

“So, why?” I asked.

“A gunman told me I don’t need to learn to read to become a gunman,” Paul replied.

Scenario No. 2: “So, Betty, how do you feel when you are placed last in your class?” I asked.

“I feel good, because I only like to play and to color,” Betty responded.

“Why?’ I enquired.

“Because I know I can’t read, so I play alone while the others are reading,” she said.

So, what have I done? I helped Paul with his reading until he migrated to join his parents, and I am still helping Betty improve her reading skills.

On this retirement journey, I am seeing many ‘lost’ children who are living with one or both parents. So, how come? How can they be lost? By now, if you have been reading my posts, you will see that I like to redefine terms. You will also see that I am not particularly fond of theories. You will also know that I am also not fond of high scientific studies and analyses that leave the common (wo)man wondering what is being said. I like to write it as I see it. After sharing my experiences, I like to recommend easily implementable actions.

About eight years ago while conducting a site visit at another XYZ inner city school, I stopped at a Grade 1 classroom. By now, you know that I love Grade 1 classrooms. By now, you know that my past work was concentrated in areas characterized by high incidences of poverty and crime. Six-year-olds have been my best teachers. I never visited a school without visiting Grade 1 to chat with six-year-olds.

On the day I visited a Grade 1 class, there was a little boy who needed a pencil. He came to school without books and pencils. On this particular morning, the teacher had not noticed that this boy had no pencil prior to my intervention. I asked the teacher to give him a writing book/exercise book and I gave him one of my pencils. By the way, I never visited a Grade one class without many pencils. There is always a child who needs one.

The little boy thanked me, but he had no intention of writing anything. He got up and proceeded to attack another boy with my pencil. The other boy’s eyes were at risk. I was confused. What could I do? This was serious. I had to retrieve my pencil, gently and kindly. Obviously, I gave him a weapon.

I was distressed. I enquired of the teacher, the reasons for the boy’s behavior. She told me that this boy witnessed his father being killed and his aunt being stabbed, and he had not been the same after witnessing the two incidents. So, I wanted to know what the principal of the XYZ school was doing about this or whether he knew about this behavior. This boy needed some help to deal with the post traumatic behavior. Did teacher report the behavior and seek help? No! Was the principal aware of this child and of the child’s disruptive behavior? No! Another lost child? Perhaps… Maybe so.

There are many children who have been affected by traumatic experiences. Among the common horrible experiences children face are: having to cope after their  parents’ marriage/union ends and coping after a parent dies. Parents – when you are experiencing marital problems, think of the unimaginable stress that your children will experience after the divorce/separation and do not be selfish when working through your difficult circumstances. Your final decisions cannot always only be about your welfare!! And it should not always be. Remember the children!

Teachers, whenever children experience shootings, stabbings, killings and loss of significant others, please ask for help. In Jamaica, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has a team that readily reacts like ‘First Responders/Grief Counselors’ after children experience traumatic situations like those I mentioned, but I believe that some children need a sustained level of tailored intervention to recover. Parents and caregivers….. the following are a few easily implementable actions to help our ‘lost’ children.

  1. Communicate. Let the child know what is happening.
  2. Reaffirm your love and positive concern for the child.
  3. Do not condemn the child’s behavior or the child’s reaction to the grief.
  4. Explore simple coping skills with the child.
  5. Seek out the help of the Child Development and Child Care agencies in your town.
  6. Help the child manage the grief or loss by speaking only positively about the departed parent.
  7. Seek social services, and counseling services whether they be free or paid services.

Talk soon……. Claire Spence