Search for Meaning from Life’s Chaos..A Young Friend shares a powerful message

This I Believe


You have to live with what is handed to you.

by Sarai Age 14

The most important thing to know about the world is that it is not fair. As life goes on, it does not keep you in mind as it does what it does. It doesn’t  work to be in anyone’s favor. It doesn’t try to be fair to anyone, ever. Things happen, and they keep on happening, all the time. No matter what.

People will tell you this as life goes on. Probably adults, who have already been through it, when there is no explanation for what has happened. I was told this too, but I didn’t really understand until it happened; my it. The it I am talking about happened in the summer of ’09. July 3, to be specific. My family lost an important member; my aunt. She left behind two children.

Now at this time there was no answer to explain the reason for what happened.  Because there is no reason. This is when adults will start to tell you, what I am telling you now. It’s just one of those things about life that you have to understand, without really being able to grasp it.

You have to learn to live with what is handed to you. The only thing you can do is make the best out of the messes life throws at you, and learn to clean them up as they come. I realized this all, when I figured out that we could all still be happy even after our loss. See, what happened wasn’t good; it was the worst, actually. But still, good things can come from anywhere, and anything. You just have to find them. Search for those things, because they are always there.


I tell you this now, but you still may not understand it. Or maybe you do understand, but to comprehend how cruel the world actually is, may be difficult. It also may be challenging to constantly keep in mind, that the world does not have you in mind. You are minute in the grand scheme of things, so why should it? Until something you can call it happens to you, you probably won’t understand completely. As we live through our experiences  life will put you down. Just remember; fall down 7 times, get up 8. This I believe.

Posted in Circle of Life, Enlightenment, Family Life, relationships | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

My Husband/My Friend & the Cookie Isle at Publix by BB Gould [Guest Blogger]

My pastor realized she could not help me anymore and suggested a more qualified therapist was what I needed. Following Frank’s death my sadness spiraled into clinical depression. A bone-aching sadness was how I described it. The laughter and playfulness was drained from my life like water drained from a colander.

One would think the hardest part of my day would be dinner time or even crawling into an empty bed. But I had survived seven months of loneliness while Frank was recuperating in the hospital. After my darling succumbed to his injuries sustained in our accident, the grieving began.

Shopping at Publix had been a real joy for Frank and me. We created our list and off we went. Sometimes we stayed together, Frank enjoyed pushing the cart. Other times he would venture off and I would find him in his favorite aisle – the cookie aisle as we called it.

I realized I was in big trouble when I could barely bring myself to go grocery shopping. I would sit in the car and sob – sometimes uncontrollably. In I would wander, swollen eyelids wiped momentarily. Grabbing a cart and hanging on for dear life I resembled a zombie. Each step was agonizing. As I approached the cookie aisle the crying would begin. Out came the Kleenex.

My therapist gave me a brilliant suggestion. The next time I entered Publix, instead of pushing the cart to the right I was to start on the far left of the store. Lo and behold, the suggestion worked. My pattern had been broken. In fact, I traveled aisle by aisle, each step becoming easier. Suddenly having found myself in the middle of the cookie aisle, I started to laugh out loud. I’m sure Frank was laughing with me.

BB being Just silly!

BB [second left] laughs out loud with friends.

B.B. Gould  is a nationally certified, state licensed massage therapist. A long- time resident of tropical North Miami Beach, Florida she worked as a biology teacher and later, a media specialist before entering her current field of Reiki Energy Work, Geriatric Massage, Hot Stone Massage, and Lymphatic Drainage Therapy.  Known as the “punster” her hobbies include singing, gardening, swimming, golfing and public speaking. She hosts the workshops, Chakra Energy Balancing, What Jesus Taught Us About Healing, and Bringing Healing Back Into The Church. Website

Posted in Enlightenment, Family Life, relationships | 3 Comments

Circle of Friends International Welcomes Guest Blogger, Claudette White from St. Andrew Jamaica

Essential Tracks: Walking the Path of Age Old Remembrances of Childhood Friendship

Tattered butTreasured Books

“Why is it that you women who came of age in the 70’s are so strident?”

That was the question posed to me in 1997 by Anne, my young neighbor who was then all of 25 years.  The ‘women’ to whom she referred were my group of female friends, most of them in their early to mid forties, with whom she was fully acquainted through her sister who was part of our network.

She posed the question as I was sharing some tidbit about how I had handled an intimate matter in a previous romantic relationship.  Although I was a fairly private person I decided to risk exposing this rather personal detail in an effort to help her, I thought, understand how confused and contrary men could be. Especially when they were in relationships with women whom they did not deserve (that would be ‘us’, of course).

Whatever did she mean?  As I paused to roll her question around in my head I gave my current situation a quick once over …I had a decent job that allowed me to travel internationally, I was in a stable relationship …of sorts, but, most importantly, I enjoyed that coveted ‘independence’ which I had been told was the ultimate goal for every woman of substance.

Then I remembered something.

My good friend Marva (author of this Blog) and I as schoolgirls would observe with disdain how tough, critical, acerbic and just plain ol’ miserable many older women were in their interactions.  We vowed NEVER to be like them when WE got older. No, we were going to be women of substance, strong, independent, assertive, loving, and generous as we balanced careers and family. I even remember Marva suggesting that she would be content to be a housewife as long as she had her books around her.This  raised eyebrows in our A Level English  Literature class and left me wondering if my good friend was not taking this nurturing thing a bit too far. Too many Jane Austen novels, perhaps?


Tattered but Treasured books from Marva’s Childhood Library

On the other hand, the arguments and reflections from our weekly debates and interrogation of ideas as we studied the French Revolution, West Indian slavery and emancipation, juxtaposing the world of Chaucer, the poetry of Eliot with the writings of Virginia Woolf and Joseph Conrad pushed us headlong onto a track of argumentation that served to keep us on the edge as we contemplated our own place in what we had already discerned to be a complicated world. We decided that when the tough times came, as they would, we would embrace our challenges with grace and elegance, with deep reflection of the ideas confronting us balanced with an assertion of our own perspective.  (Years later Marva left for the United States and contact became occasional at best.)

So why was Anna describing me as strident?  Had I become the very persona that I had once rejected?  It was true that I had had a few knocks as could be expected, including…

  • Two major heartbreaks
  • One significant career setback that left me shaken and uncertain about my future as a corporate player
  • Several personal encounters with unwelcome corporate competitors that left me battered and bewildered
  • The loss of a chunk of my significant friendships to migration, marriage, divorce and death

I also recalled that once my tennis partner threw his racket into the net in exasperation because he thought that I was too uptight.  “Can’t you RELAX!” he shouted, before striding off the court. The interesting thing was that at first I was unaware that he was addressing ME (LOL).

This remembrance fueled by Anne’s question pushed me headlong into a wave of critical self- assessment.

Had I really become one of THEM?  Was I ALWAYS one of them? For years after that encounter with Anne I would check my actions against the yardstick of them especially when I was in a position of power in my dealings with co-workers, staff and friends. Some days I felt that her comment was justified, other days I felt the comment was quite south of who I was inside.

Reconnecting with Marva through social media brought back some of these remembrances of those school days when we knew it all and with the bold exuberance of youth, began to lay down the tracks of the path we would travel towards our future selves. Today, my perspective, though firm, is balanced by an understanding of how life can intervene and throw experiences in one’s path that no-one could have discerned so many years ago.  I laughed heartily at a photograph of Marva on Face Book, posing like a diva in a vacation photo taken on one of her annual summer trips to Jamaica.  I thought, that girl is still as crazy as ever, embracing life, refusing to give in, refusing to be cynical.

Sand Sea Sunshine & Me!

Today, life continues to throw me curved balls that constantly jerk me out of any complacency I might have assumed on this essential path called life. As I recall my youthful days as student poised to conquer the world with the rightness of my ideas, a modern female empowered to lead others by my own example, I have learned that the cynical insistence on independence and the truth of my perspective is really a mirage because we do need to embrace the wisdom of each other’s experiences, realizing that  giving and receiving is part of the flow of life and that the greatest gift we can give each other as friends is the freedom to express our essential selves without assigning labels. It has been a hard lesson. And there are times when I protest…loudly…no, I am not that older woman! But I reflect and realize that there is beauty and joy and fulfillment in every age along the continuum and it is essential that we view life through wide angle lens regardless of where we are located and embrace the possibilities that our experiences present to us.  And so today, I strive to keep my composure under pressure. I look around at the friends and acquaintances with whom I constantly interact and I seek opportunities to replace cynical with questioning, hard with insightful and hope that the next time I run into Anne, she will smile and think, there goes an empowered woman.

Claudette White is a business consultant who specializes in project development and management. She lives in St. Andrew, Jamaica where she volunteers with the National Children’s Home.

Posted in Education, feminine leadership, creativity | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Breakfast by the Beach


A simple meal with a friend can be rich, layered & powerfully sustaining to the soul

I have long been fascinated by the allure of the ocean; its vastness, the majestic movement of the waves.  Beachside on any day, especially sunny days, brings me pleasure and always awe. So when my friend called me up and invited me to an early morning breakfast on Independence Day, my response was a resounding Yes! While the meal of coffee, pancakes, eggs and bacon was unremarkable, what was special was the conversation and the view of the ocean as we ate.


We have been friends since 1993 and although a decade separates us [she being the younger] we both have a love of nature and in particular, a love of the ocean. I recall last summer along with her four boys and a host of friends from her alma mater, we spent a day at Dubois Park in a sort of beachside reunion that was raucous and energizing. Today, minus the loud banter, our conversation flitted from one topic to the next: work, children, spouses, friendships, family. The crashing of the waves, the tourists under the umbrellas and the folk gathered at the pier fishing, was a fitting backdrop to the conversation that reminded us that the community we have become provides a kind of accountability which is mutually reinforcing instead of competitive or wasteful.

This wasn’t mindless chit chat, but part of the building block of a reinforcing discourse that serves to bolster; a way of connecting and supporting, incorporating the beauty and power of nature into the walk of friendship. The essential focus of our conversation was how do we engage the resources around us to realize our creative potential? To be sure, we did not find the answers that day, but the probing and the honest feedback provided food for thought that will lead to further contemplation that no doubt will prove revealing along the way.

MarvaLous2                     Xtine2

Christiane Northrup, MD & author, states that immersing yourself in an activity that you find pleasurable can trigger a state in which your creativity is heightened and the neuro- chemical dopamine is increased in your body, upping your happiness factor. For me, this kind of camaraderie satisfies the need for gossip &testimony, dreaming & support.  Fellowshipping with my circle of friends over the years, I have come to realize that such simple experiences are rich, layered & powerfully sustaining to the soul.

And so I bow to the power of the ocean, for it is an apt metaphor for the journey of friendship as we communicate with each other & chart our dreams. As I think about how breakfast with a friend and a simple walk by the ocean is an experience of empowerment and self –affirmation,  I believe that I am growing in understanding of the words of  Camus, come walk by me and be my friend.

Beachside Dubois Park

Posted in critical conversations, friendship, travel & culture | 3 Comments

The Discipline of Friendship: Truth Seeking

Circle of Friends Photo 2007

When friends stop being frank and truthful with each other, the whole world loses some of its radiance.  C. Broyard

I have long held the belief that friendship is the most important, most meaningful and lasting of relationships. One of the most important reasons we develop relationships with others is to become part of a community of fellowship in which we feel welcome and validated. We are seeking to be counted, respected, and accepted for who we are and to be allowed the opportunity to grow and shine radiantly within that environment. As friends grow together and their relationship deepens, an automatic standard is set and this is what makes the friendship so special. The mutual respect and awareness of the ways of a friend, her idiosyncrasies, strengths and weaknesses are factors central to the bonding between friends.  Many times we see in a friend some vital quality that we ourselves may lack. Your friend may be a pragmatist while you are quick to action and so you turn to her steadying influence when you need to take slow deliberate steps.  How wonderful to hear the compliments and words of support from a friend, or to hear her encouraging words when we feel like we may falter and cannot take another step.

The words of Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh carry such poignancy; they will forever resonate with me:  “If ever there is a tomorrow when we are not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we are apart, I will always be with you.”

I have remained friends with a group of girls I went to school with from elementary through high school and have continued the ties into adulthood for decades. The remembrances and laughter come easily when we get together and our grasp is steadfast and strong when we stretch our hands across the miles to lift another up in the face of trials and tribulations that are inherent in the journey. This bond is a circle of reassurance; of validation.  As the years pass and changes take place in our lives, we have extended our persona –and we have come to realize it’s not about becoming different people, but extending the definition of who we are. In much the same way we work to validate each other, it is also important that we acknowledge and honor the changes that take place.

A recent disagreement between a friend and me, reminded me that while there is no standard writing of the script for friendship, what should never change is our commitment to honesty and the fortitude to maintain the integrity of the relationship. This requires work and often, making sacrifices and journeying into unfamiliar territory that may leave you uncomfortable. Yet, this is the very test of friendship; seeking the truth, speaking the truth, as it is the hallmark of our growth and development in the relationship.

As I found out, these muddy waters are critical spaces that facilitate blossoming and the journey into another phase of our own development. There is a popular saying, in order to gain a true friend, you must first become one. Although we tend to form friendships with people who are similar to us, part of the lure of friendship is also the difference between us. And it is this difference that often pushes us to learn from a friend and stretch ourselves.  We tell the truth to our friends even when it is a challenge to do so.

As we look critically at a friend we also see a mirror reflection of ourselves, one which, if we are willing to experience the hard edge of truth, reflects to us a view of our own selves: Our similarities, our differences, and the passion that binds us together. How powerful this invitation to grow and the realization that truthfulness and honesty reside at the heart of the relationship; for as C. Boyard states: When friends stop being frank and truthful with each other, the whole world loses some of its radiance. 

Posted in feminine leadership, creativity | 4 Comments

Friendship Nurtures the Soul

The company makes the feast.  How wonderful it is to find words that so readily convey the sentiment behind the rituals of the meetings of Circle of Friends, International. I cannot think of words more suitable for the experience of dining with my circle of inter-generational friends at ad hoc times during the year and then at our scheduled annual Christmas celebration the Sunday before Christmas. Over the years, getting together with friends to share a simple meal has become a central part of my life; an activity that  brings in great dividends beginning with the anticipation prior to the event and the actual event of breaking bread together in fellowship. At times like these our conversations will stretch the gamut of easy talk, to nonsensical dribble to deep examination of life altering issues sometimes centering on hard to swallow truths that we realize somehow must be told.  At other times, it is the easy camaraderie of catching up or just drifting in and out conversation over the course of a meal. But always, the easy familiarity is reassuring of the connections we have forged and the central force of friendship in our lives. We talk about the challenges of being creative, of working to realize our goals, facing the realization that change is imminent, and that whatever the next step may be, we do not have to tackle it marching single file.

I especially enjoy these interludes as they help to bring clarity to the journey. On one such afternoon in April, a small group of us got together and laughed and chattered like middle schoolers over drinks and a diverse and resplendent array of appetizers, all the while teasing each other, and laughing insanely at each other’s jokes ….yet experiencing the empowering effect of the circle of friendship to uplift and help us to face the questions, If not now, when? If not you, who?  This kind of fellowship becomes a feast of the senses; a gentle reminder that we have the ability and the experience to become the protagonist of our own development and to write our story as we have dreamed it.



Posted in critical conversations | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Hands across the Globe Newsletter Volume 1 # 2 June 2013

Build a dream and the dream will build you.
Marva McClean-Editor

Dreaming about life’s possibilities works to point us to our potential for success; for realizing our ambitions & achieving our greatest dreams.

June! This is the time of holiday plans, graduation, and wedding bells. For those of us living in tropical climates like south Florida and the Caribbean, it is also hurricane season. In addition to the push and pull of the season, at this mid- point in the year, many of us are feeling the pressure of family, work, and our personal goals pulling us in many directions. What of the plans you made at the start of the year? How close are you in realizing those goals you set?

Stepping Boldly
My dear friends, now, is indeed a good opportunity to take a few moments to reflect on the directions you would like your life to take for the rest of the year. As you assess the pathway you are taking to achieve your material goals, such as increasing your income [one of mine] or improving your home [another one of mine], it is very important to be realistic. In measuring the extent to which you have realized your goals, reflect on your shortfalls but don’t dwell on them. Take some time to critically assess those goals you set and determine whether or not they were really feasible. Now might be the time for you to rethink and refocus. As you do so, identify the resources you will need to achieve these goals by the end of the year, and if you determine that they are not feasible, then identify what is indeed within your reach and outline a realistic plan that will get you there. Remember, the steps you outline to reach your goals must be specific, measurable, and attainable and you must have the resources to achieve these within the specific time you earmark. From this period of quiet reflection, outline a direction to follow for the rest of the year. I truly believe in the saying: Build a dream and the dream will build you.

Seeking Spiritual Inspiration: Bettye-Ann & Marva at the Spanish Monastery in North Miami Beach
As we hurtle headlong into summer, let’s share ways we refresh and recharge our body, mind, and spirit. If like me, you are feeling pulled in many directions, give yourself permission to seek balance. Indulge in a family weekend out of town, a walk in the neighborhood park, or an afternoon with a magazine or a good book. Leonardo da Vinci put it so aptly hundreds of years ago: Every now and then go away, even briefly, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. At the time of writing, I just came in from the beach and I must say, the experience was revivifying. I cannot help but marvel at the power of Nature.

Where do you find mental sanctuary? How do you know what revives and refreshes your mind? Outside of work, who are the people, and what are the pursuits, that you most value?

Drum Roll for these Bold New Moves……….
Within our Circle, a significant part of what we do is to hold up our friends and recognize their accomplishments, knowing that as they succeed, they stand ready to pull us up too. So let’s hear a drum for……………..

• Christine has now transitioned from doctoral candidate to ABD as she
completes the writing of her dissertation with plans to graduate in the fall. Massive!

• Rhonda Nicole recently took on the role of Program Coordinator at Fulford United Methodist Church and is sailing on a wave of creativity with ideas to build programs that will inspire children and youth and propel them to great success. Motivated!

Rosie GW recently returned from a leadership retreat with the National Institute for Leadership in Portland, Oregon which she describes as a transformational experience. During her time there, Rosie notes she worked with an intergenerational group from diverse backgrounds who demonstrated a commitment to holding time and place sacred. There were no cell phones, no television sets, no outside distraction. Rosie reflects that the activities they participated in guided participants into probing what is most meaningful in life, an activity which brought her center forward in the acknowledgement that Compassion, Fairness & Consistency are central values in her moral compass. Introspective!

[Marvalous]Marva was recently appointed Publicity Officer to the Board of Directors, Florida Association of Multicultural Education. She was also invited to sit on the Program Planning Committee of the Florida Department of Education’s 2013 Charter School Conference. Inspiring!

Adriana is leading a literacy initiative with a team of volunteer readers as part of The United Way’s involvement in the broader Broward County School Board Reading reform program. The program seeks volunteers who will commit one hour a week for 25 weeks to read to an individual child for that duration of time. Dedicated!

Natasha, twenty- something supermom/student/wife is working on becoming a nurse anesthetist and has begun her studies at Central New Mexico Community College. Empowered!

Marva’s Words

Looking Forward
Whether you travel or remain at home this summer, try to experience something new. I am constantly amazed at the possibilities that abound for new insights and new discoveries even within our local neighborhood when we take the time to seek out new experiences. This summer I will be flying kites in Miami Beach, visiting with kinfolk in St. Mary, where my ancestors lived as far back as 1855. It was there my great-grandfather settled after journeying from Scotland to marry my great-grandmother Elizabeth Martin who bore him seven children. Even as I visit Dressekie, the town that bears the family name, I want to learn more about my roots and some of those invisible factors that have shaped me. I believe the more we experience life, the more we grow.

Courageous Action
Friendship fuels Empowerment. Through our relationships we demonstrate loyalty, consideration, fairness and courtesy. There are times too, when we demonstrate the other side of the coin-abrasiveness, rebuke, anger; it is part of the circle of life. It is always good to remember that when we are in the midst of a negative experience that this is only one of many and not the defining experience of our lives. The human spirit is resourceful and astonishing, for it is able to bounce back after facing the most extreme of adversities. Einstein stated that the solution to a problem must take place at a higher level than the action that created it. What a challenge this poses for us to learn from a negative experience and be empowered by it. Ah my friends, let us take time to rejuvenate, pause, reflect & grow for health is not simply the absence of sickness; it is the presence of courageous action.

Relax, breathe deeply, and look forward. Each day is a jewel with endless possibilities.
Much Love, Marvalous
June 2013

Posted in feminine leadership, creativity | Leave a comment

The Faces of Friendship

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Gallery | Leave a comment

Hands Across the Globe Newsletter Vol. 1 #1 March 2013

Hands across the Globe Newsletter March 2013
Circle of Friends International:Empowered Women Stepping Boldly

Dear Circle of Friends,
A warm greeting to you this March Day! It is always so exciting to welcome Spring with its promise of joys and surprises in the days ahead. I just love the metaphor of the season. I hope that you have been stepping boldly towards the goals you set for this New Year. As for me, I have embedded my actions in themes rather than setting goals. Last year it was simply: Fearless, and this year it is: I am the change I want to see in the world. I am working on embracing a positive outlook towards life, to see the possibilities rather than the obstacles, to celebrate and honor, rather than bewail and criticize. For surely, the glass is half full even as it is half empty.
I want to take the time to say thank you for your friendship and hope that we can continue to work together, dream together, kick up our heels and have fun together. Friendship is indeed the first step towards creating community and we have so much to contribute. As my friends, you know how much I love to communicate, to organize and to celebrate. Circle of Friends has been meeting since 1995 and before that Pam and I had a group called Caribbean Women’s Network in the 1980’s. It was quite successful, however, for some reason we allowed it to falter. I hope you will continue to work with me to keep Circle going strong for as our individual endeavors grow, we provide the opportunity and the support for our friends to blossom as well.
Empowered Women-Stepping Boldly
A special reason to celebrate March is that it is also Women’s History Month. What an opportunity to share our accomplishments and garner support for those to come. As they say in Jamaica, big tings a gwane fi yu baby [great things are happening to you my dear].

Let’s hear a drum roll for:
1. Rosie & DVCAI artists have headed off to Suriname for an International Cultural Exchange and are having a wonderful time there.
2. Christine is preparing for a daylong “interview” with the school board in DC where she is vying for the position of school principal.
3. Marva recently returned from the National Association of African American Studies & Affiliates 21st Annual Conference in Baton Rouge where she presented the paper, Roots/Routes to Success: Disrupting the Discourse of Failure in Urban Schools.
4. Bettye-Ann enjoyed the company of her grand-daughter this Christmas wondering why she ever waited this long to become grandma.
5. Pat [Dr. Patricia Grimsley, former principal & district director] is to be honored this month for her outstanding work in education by the Teamster National Black Caucus Group.
6. Yuki is working on a solo exhibition to be launched April 20.
I know each one of you is up to something good. Please do not hesitate to share with me so that I can send it out to the others. Have an empowered week, the rest of it, and look forward to next week with great anticipation of the wonder of what is to come.
Stepping boldly as always,
Your dear friend, Marvalous!

Posted in feminine leadership, creativity | 2 Comments

The Faces of Friendship

Friends Gather to Celebrate the Christmas Season 2011

Friends Gather to Celebrate the Christmas Season 2011

Posted in feminine leadership, creativity | 1 Comment