Un-caged & Soaring

On August 18th 2014 at the age of 48 years old I started a 6 months internship at the head office of Software Company in Coconut Creek. I was so excited that on that day and for almost 2 weeks I couldn’t eat while I was there. Was this my dream job? No, but I saw it as a springboard for anticipated change. As I mentioned in a Sun Sentinel article several months prior I felt like I was stuck in a ‘Call Canter’ box and needed to get out so that I could spread my wings and soar. Telephone Customer Service was like breathing to me, it is automatic, doesn’t take much effort on my part. I monitored my stats and adjusted my behavior to ensure that I qualified for my bonuses every month. Horrible attitude right? Not really. I made sure I offered my customers top notch service as I expect nothing less for myself but I didn’t feel like I was using my talents or brain cells. So when the internship opportunity was offered to me ‘mi glad bag buss’ (Jamaican for I was ecstatic). From the interview process I gathered that they were forward thinking and realized that each member of staff is critical to their success. I also got the impression that they craved feedback which took me back to my American Express (my all-time favorite employer) days when their mantra was ‘feedback is a gift.’ I believe that to this day.

The office is almost always very quiet but I felt welcomed. I got some great advice from a few of the ladies there that serves me well. In tune with my ‘try something new for 2014’ philosophy I decided to ask one of the Vice-Presidents’ to give me a shot at writing a White Paper for him. Bing defines a White Paper as:

“A white paper is an authoritative report or guide helping readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision. White papers are used in two main spheres: government and business-to-business marketing. They may be considered as grey literature.”

Investopedia defines it as:

An informational document issued by a company to promote or highlight the features of a solution, product or service. White papers are sales and marketing documents used to entice or persuade potential customers to learn more about or purchase a particular product, service, technology or methodology. White papers are designed to be used as a marketing tool before a sale, and not as a user manual or other technical document developed to provide support to the user after making a purchase.”

These papers are normally written by industry experts especially as the company operates in the niche market of providing cutting-edge software solutions for insurance companies (Carriers, large agencies and large brokers). When he said yes I felt like I’d won the lottery. Ok, ok so that’s a bit extreme considering I was doing it for free but the fact that he had only known me for just over a month and was willing to give me a chance to show my ability/capability meant a lot more than money.

When I was in high school my 4th form (10th grade) my English teacher told mom I was an excellent writer and I could get a 1 in the CXC exam in 4th form but told her not to tell me (I found out years later) out of fear that I would let it get to my head and I would stop working hard. What my teacher didn’t realize was that my love of words and the English language were my life’s blood. When people started to publicly praise my writing skills I was already an adult and they were friends and family. Although I accepted the compliments and felt good, I craved what I considered the unbiased opinion. He was the second person in the company who endorsed my writing skills. The first was my co-worker, Ana. She read one of my blogs and told me she thought I was really good and I should be writing the press releases etc. for the company. She planted a seed. When the paper was mentioned in a meeting I was hoping I would be asked to do it. I wasn’t, but I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. The strange thing was I didn’t even know what the topic was and I was new to the industry. After going on a ‘short gander’ and having a ‘wee natter’ with another co-worker the seed became a shoot bursting from the fertile soil of my brain and I decided to ask if I could give it a shot.

Three weeks later I submitted the first draft. Waiting for the feedback was excruciating as I am that person who wants to know now. I had to engage every fiber of my being to exercise constraint as I kept wanting to burst into his office and force him to read it and tell me what he thought on the spot. “Instead, I lived in a space where I was grateful, excited, happy and felt like I could conquer the world.  When the feedback came weeks later I was told the paper was good but based on my lack of industry experience some of the information wasn’t quite right. That’s also when I was told that thought leaders in the industry struggled with the topic as each person had a different opinion of what it was/meant. I decided to work even harder at learning both the insurance and insurance technology industries so that my writing would be authentic and it has paid off. Almost 3 years later I write blogs, press release, case studies, web page content, SEO (search engine optimization) content, read, edit and approve 95% of the content my company shares daily. My job title is now Content Marketing Manager. Why am I sharing this story? To show people that they should never limit themselves, or allow anyone to limit them. Go after what you want regardless of your age as talent will take precedent over age any day. I also want to remind you that if at first you don’t succeed try and try and try again.Bald Eagle in mid-air flight over Homer Spit Kenai Peninsula Alaska Winter

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Phenomenal Woman

After life and my family my special gift from God is music. It uplifts me, motivates me, seduces me, inspires me and heals my pain.  Before I was aware that it had such power it enthralled me. My senses are all intact but the sense of sight is not my best, my hearing makes up for that. I can hear the individual instruments playing in any song but my joy is the melody from a pure voice singing acapella. So at the age of 17 when I heard a voice so pretty and crystal clear wafting through the air I sat completely still and was transported to the most beautiful place. I refused to turn around to see who God had blessed with creating such beauty for fear that it would stop and when it did I was shocked to see who it was. It was the always smiling/laughing /talking Andrea Lawful. She was always moving and seemed to possess a kind of energy that was alien to me. I got up walked over to her and begged her to sing again and for the entire school year every day I would find different ways to try to coerce her into singing. My favorite was when she belted out those Whitney Houston hits as effortlessly. We left high school and lost touch but I never forgot her or that voice and in the back of my mind I kept expecting to hear her voice on the radio. Three years ago when we reconnected on Facebook I wanted to know if she was still singing. She told me that due to an illness her voice had changed and I mourned its demise. However after following her activities for the past three years I came to the realization that the ultimate decision maker had other plans for her so he only allowed her that gift for a season. His ultimate gift, that of change-maker, motivator, educator and child advocate has impacted and continues to impact countless lives (some that she is aware of and some that she isn’t as many of her friends and social media followers share her stories daily).

Andrea Lawful Trainer1The now Andrea Lawful-Trainer has become a force to be reckoned with. She is still  smart, eloquent and talkative (smile) but I have been seeing a side of her character I had no idea existed, that of a brave warrior. She is not afraid to attack the status quo, voice her opinions publicly in any forum, stand up for the disadvantaged  and her children (like when she took on the police department after a cop broke her son’s hand and won) and challenge activities that the faint of heart refuses to even look at. I have been a voyeur standing on the sidelines watching her tackle weight loss with gusto. She tackles her exercise s like a star athlete training for a heptathlon. I watched as she posted pictures and wrote about racing around a track in a go-cart at 60mph with her son. I could feel her glee and her energy through her words. There have been other exploits but this week she amped it up to the Nth power when she for a ‘spin’ with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds in an F-16 fighter plane. My initial reaction, “WOW!!!!! Now I’ve seen it all. Who would believe 30 years ago that skinny little Andrea Lawful from the tiny island of Jamaica would be flying with the Thunderbirds as a civilian!!! Well after the shock and awe wore off I wondered what she would do to top that. Well as of now she may not have a clue but I know there will be something else on the horizon. To make this awesome feat ever more awesome I just read in one of her Facebook posts that this was a gift she got for working so hard to make others’ lives better, she said and I quote, “It was sheer luck, Antonio Jones, and my work with parents that landed me here.. I was nominated as a hometown hero and given the once in a lifetime opportunity to fly with the Thunderbirds.” Luck my foot!!! Hard work and good Karma is what landed you there! I am so proud of you Andrea Lawful-Trainer keep kicking down doors and saving lives my sister. Bless.

Andrea Lawful Trainer

Letter to my son

This is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to my son when his second princess was born on September 8th 2013. She subsequently transitioned to be with our maker May 8th 2014 (R I P my darling). I am working on writing about that traumatic yet beautiful experience but it is very difficult, so for right now I am sharing this. I hope it will resonate with all the dads out there especially the young ones.
Dear Son,
I am writing to you with my heart overflowing with love today. I felt like I was there with you in spirit throughout T’s labor. It was just a joy to me when our little princess arrived. I had a bad migraine throughout the labor and felt a strange shift in my womb a few minutes before you called to tell me she was born. The migraine disappeared after you called. It is now 6:05pm my time and I have so much that I want to tell you. I came up with a few things that I hope you will adopt to help make your children the best that they can be and give them a head start in this rough game called life. Here goes:
1. Treat their mother with love, care and respect and they will not accept less from any man or anyone. Never speak badly about her in their presence it will damage their self-esteem and self-worth. They are a part of her.
2. Form a strong and loving family unit where they can rely on your presence. They need two loving parents in their home who shows them it is possible to have a loving family and home. I know fathers that are excellent providers and good men but messed up in some aspects of being a father, like teaching their sons to be men and their daughters how to recognize and choose good men. These things are taught by example not words. Don’t make those mistakes. Those men love their children but left holes in them that cannot be filled as we cannot change the past.
3. Tell your girls they are beautiful, smart and important every day, several times a day if you can. They will believe you even if others tell them they are not.
4. Read to your children every day, yes I am including the new baby. It develops their listening skills, imagination and thirst for knowledge and we know that knowledge is power. Make your girls powerful.
5. Always use positive words and a loving tone of voice when you speak to them. You can discipline without shouting or hitting. You just have to start early. This will make them respect you. Respect is far more effective than fear.
6. Hold their hands and teach them to form letters and even when they do a horrible job encourage them with positive reinforcement. Say “that is really good princess but if you practice it will get even better.” I am so proud of you.
7. Use your daily experiences in your home and on the road to teach them colors, shapes, animals, things etc. It will be fun and easier for them to learn. You will be surprised at how quickly they will grasp what is in books from this form of teaching.
8. Treat everyone the way you want them to treat you and your children and if you can’t treat some people like that, there is a reason, so stay away from them.

9. Teach them that whatever their minds conceive they can achieve and always encourage them to dream big. Instill in them that word without work is just words.

I leave you with one of the first quotes we were taught at school in Jamaica. I know you know it but I am not sure if you ever absorbed the meaning of those words.

“The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.”

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Blessings & Nuff Love.

Egomaniacs: Women are more egotistical than men.

According to Sigmund Freud’s theory of personality the id is one’s natural instinct which seeks instant gratification. Reality and society deems that kind of barbaric so as we evolve we learn to curb these impulses and present/express them in a manner that is acceptable in the real world.
The oxford dictionary defines ego as “a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance” therefore an egomaniac is a person with an over-inflated sense of his/her value or self-importance. In our society we are quick to label strong confident men as egomaniacs, and some of them are, as is evidenced by their behavior. However I am of the opinion that more women suffer from this psychological condition than men. I know my ladies are going to balk at this concept but lend me your ear for a few minutes. Let me offer a few simplistic examples to back up my opinion.
• Most women refuse to go on a date without adequate notice i.e. several hours or days. Why? Because their hair and nails have to be done. They have to find the perfect outfit and accessories regardless of how many are already in their closets. The reason they give is I have to feel comfortable or I won’t have a good time (most of the time the heels are too high and cause pain and the clothing defy any meaning of comfort). The real reason, I have to be on point because everyone will be checking me out.
• More women than men will date and marry someone who is wrong for them because they are gorgeous and their sex is so good that person will change who they are to please them. Reality check, you cannot change anyone but yourself.
• More women than men post selfies on Facebook, Instagram and twitter. Go have a look.
• Most women think they are smarter than men (well we are) but even the really clueless ones are of that opinion.
• Most women share their accomplishments on social media (go check your Facebook page and twitter feed).
• Accomplished women think they are single because men are intimidated by their success. They are so beautiful and fabulous, they earn 6 figure or more salaries, own their own home, fabulous car, go on fancy vacations and consider themselves alpha-females. Consider this, if women are naturally smarter than men and you are an alpha-female where can you find a man that can be the ying to your yang? Well duh he doesn’t exist so of course you are single. This is utter rubbish you are single because you are too egotistical.
• I can think of many more examples but my final one will be the enchanted fairytale wedding that will cost more than you both earn in a year or maybe even two or three. The groom would be very happy to run down to city hall and have a nice family dinner afterwards but he would never dare verbalize that. Instead he will spend countless hours to figure out ways of paying for that ego booster for his beloved; after all it is her day to shine as the belle of her own ball. Is all that razzle dazzle to make her day really special? Nope!!! It is to outshine the wedding of all her married friends and to show the single ones that she is more special than all of them, after all she has her prince charming and will be living happily ever after.
Ok I admit it I can see myself in a few of these examples so I will say it here. My name is Margaret Livermore and I am an egomaniac.

Honey Versus Vinegar

For me acts of kindness embody the meaning of reciprocity. I work with people on the phone to make a living. I try to be respectful and kind on each encounter regardless of whether the person on the other end of the phone is nasty or nice. A few weeks ago a lady called to apologize for not making her bill payment for two months and was ready to pay the minimum payment on her bill. I realized that her bill was made up of late fees and advised her that I would waive the fees for her. As she thanked me her voice broke and she said I had no idea what a burden I had just lifted from her. He husband had taken ill suddenly and subsequently died and she had very little money which was why her payment was late. I offered my condolences advised her that not only had the fees been removed but the late notification on her credit report would also be removed. She was very grateful. I thanked her for her business and wished her well. I could feel her gratitude. The fact that my little act of kindness made a big impact on her situation led me to a place of gratitude and I was thankful for my many blessings. Being kind really doesn’t take much and it feeds the souls of the recipient and the giver.

Unlocking the box: Parasailing in Key West

I am an Island girl born in Kingston, Jamaica, currently living in South Florida which is reminiscent of my Island home with ‘better opportunities.’ Like many from the Caribbean I never learned to swim but I love the water, especially the open waters of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. I have always wanted to experience water activities but wouldn’t try anything but sitting on a boat or on the shoreline because of my fear of drowning. I had images of Jet Skis tipping over and me falling into the water and drowning before anyone could rescue me and other such dramatic imaginings. So when on a recent day trip to Key West my friend’s boyfriend suggested that we all go parasailing I responded with a resounding NO! In my mind that was just not an option.  I could feel myself being flung from left to right and up and down like a roller coaster ride at the mere thought of trying it (I hate roller coasters). I could feel myself free falling from the sky, oh no, oh hell no, not me!!!!

I was happy to climb the narrow winding 88 steps to the lighthouse observatory. I was willing to step outside on the narrow balcony and do the 360 degree walk to snap my pictures, but parasailing, oh no!!! We stopped for lunch at a lovely Irish Pub and caught the Holland vs Mexico world cup soccer match in the knockout round and after my prediction that Holland would win with a 2:1 score was realized I got even happier. Might I add the gentleman kept saying quietly, periodically throughout the day that we were going parasailing. As we left the pub and happily strolled down Duval St. eating ice cream Mr. Instigator drew to a sudden halt by a kiosk with a quirky Englishman to inquire about his parasailing ambitions for us. He kept trying to convince us to go until the Englishman got a bit fed up and told us to get out s#*t together. At that point I looked at my friend and a silent message was relayed I nodded and we said yes we would go. After that commitment it was on.

Fast forward to the boat. We got on the boat with a very nice couple who chatted and joked with us. My friend and I decided to go up first much to Mr. Instigator’s shock. We were booked on a tandem ‘ride and what happened next was surreal. We put on our life vests, were strapped in the harness and the parachute was opened and in no time we were floating skyward. The take-off was so smooth and quick that before I knew it the boat looked like a toy and the passengers like miniatures of themselves. The aerial view of the blue/green colors of the Gulf of Mexico was breath-taking.  The view of the coast was magnificent. I could see the crew and our friends on the boat waiving at us and I waived back, sometimes with both hands which was amazing considering before I left the boat I held on the straps that connected the parachute to the harness for dear life.  Then I realized that we could hear each other speak without shouting and we happily chatted and laughed about how much fun it was. I felt free, energized, ecstatic and happy. I got an adrenaline rush that was like nothing I had ever felt. Fear was a non-existent memory. Before we went up the crew asked if we wanted to get wet and we said just our feet. On our way down Cap’n Morgan dunked our feet/legs warm turquoise water of the Gulf of Mexico, it was fantastic!!! The pictures the crew member took of us with her telephoto lens shows both of us grinning and happy.

The lesson I took away from this experience is to never assume how anything feels without first trying it. I keep thinking about how amazing I felt floating in the sky and looking down on the stunning view of the southernmost tip of the great USA. Now I can’t wait to conquer another fear. Thank you V Anthony Haynes for encouraging me to jump out of that self-made box.