My greatest lesson learned at the Kentucky Derby

My little Trini family had great timing when we arrived in Louisville, KY – just in time for the Kentucky Derby Festival. After enjoying days of fireworks, Chow Wagons, fair rides, an airshow and parade, the great Kentucky Derby raced on the first Saturday in May. While admiring the hats, horses and the “most exciting two minutes in sports” my mind raced back to when I was an 18-year old volunteer at historic Churchill Downs.

As an Oldham County High School Beta Club member (Go Colonels Go!) I had the opportunity to earn all my service hours volunteering over two days for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. It was then that I got my first REAL lesson in presenting myself.

After a previous orientation where we received uniforms that made everyone look like white-jacketed-khaki-bottomed boxes, hundreds of students from multiple schools gathered in what seemed like the basement of Churchill Downs. In there adult group leaders assessed us in a glance as they walked by, selecting boys and girls for specific jobs. We didn’t know what those jobs were until we were separated into our work groups. This was all new to me. The first day (Kentucky Oaks Day) I was selected to take tickets at the grandstands. Not a bad job. All patrons were nicely donned and mostly pleasant. But on the bus ride home I heard about the jobs my friends were selected for: ticket takers in the Infield (oh the crazy stories), other Grandstand positions (pleasant and easy), and Millionaire’s Row (oooooooohhhh they even got tips). Now, in those days Millionaire’s Row was IT. You could get no more glamourous.

So … on that bus ride home I decided to do something to improve my chances at a better position on Derby Day. The next morning, I hotrolled my hair, put a ribbon in it and put Lip Smackers lip gloss on (makeup wasn’t familiar territory back then). Later when a lady briskly walked through the throngs of students in that basement room and pointed her manicured finger at me, I was eager to know what assignment was in store for me. I followed her along with four other girls into an elevator and then into a nice room with an astounding view of the track.

“Your job is to stand at the doors for the horse owners, trainers and their guests. Ensure they have a wristband on, open the doors for them and be pleasant. That’s it.” She gave us a smile, introduced us a man in charge of the room who placed one of us at each door and left. It was a lovely day.

That experience has stuck with me for more than 20 years. Image matters. Just with a little extra effort, I was able to improve what I was able to do. Now … I’m not at all saying that appearance is the only thing that matters. It isn’t. But no one can deny that others tend to make judgments based on how your present yourself. Neat and tidy doesn’t mean high-brow fashion labels but it is the fundamental rule of presenting yourself. And it’s also important to remember that internal beauty always reflects externally.

So thank you Churchill Downs staff of 1995 for teaching me a lesson that will forever stay with me. It has, and will continue to, serve me well.

 

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Fab Four Things I Learned While Living in the West Indies

For the past 12 years I’ve had the privilege of working and living more than 2400 miles away from my native land. The experiences garnered throughout these years have made me into a better person, more effective leader and aware global citizen.  Here are four fabulous lessons I learned from my time in the West Indies:

  1. Open up. Forget the A/C and open up those doors and windows. More importantly, open up yourself. Don’t close off the sun, breeze, neighbors, and all those opportunities outside. Sure …  at times it may get uncomfortable but it’s worth it. Live life with an open door, mind and heart.
  2. Being different may describe you but doesn’t define you. I appreciate the frank manner in which people in the West Indies describe others: chinee, dark, white, red, indian, shorty, tallman, blondie, thick, etc. But I most appreciate that people usually don’t take offense to those terms – it is just a description after all. While stereotypes do exist (gotta be real), I learned in a very personal way that what you do is more important that what you look like. Actions are what define us.
  3. Go brave. Whether it is donning a tiny carnival costume, exploring the islands, meeting new people or owning your own insecurities … just DO it. It took a few weeks in Trinidad & Tobago to get over years of personal limitations related to body insecurities and self-imposed inhibitions. While I’ve always been a fairly confident person, I finally felt completely comfortable with all my imperfections. I finally realized that being genuine, real, honest and relatable is what makes up real beauty and what drives greater success in life.
  4. Social currency is the most valuable kind. It is true … who you know makes a difference. Always work to build positive relationships and help others when you can. Being in a position to help others – and actually doing it – means I have a positive balance in my social currency account from which I may withdraw should I need assistance. Word of advice: You also have to know yourself. Are you a valued colleague or a sponge who appears only when you need something? No other time better uncovers the sponges than Carnival time in Trinidad & Tobago. I’m looking at you free fete and costume seekers.

7 Must-Try Items at the Tobago Blue Food Festival

As written by Laura for and published by Propa Eats Magazine.
If the drive along the Caribbean coast and through Northside Road’s misty hills doesn’t lull you into anticipation of what awaits at the Tobago Blue Food Festival, the smells that waft into your nose as you exit your car will certainly do the trick. This weekend, the Blue Food Festival marked its 19th year celebrating Tobagonians’ unique creations using the ground provision dasheen. Locals call the root vegetable “blue food” for the indigo colour it embodies while cooking.

Some patrons come to the festival with their coolers (empty to take home spoils from the culinary booths); some just come with empty stomachs and open minds. Dasheen is more than the commonly known leaves that make callalloo, but an extremely versatile root vegetable. The local cooks at the festival show off traditional and innovati

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ve culinary dishes to tantalize patrons’ taste buds and for competition (a.k.a. bragging rights).

As I navigated through the boothsand tables with kids in tow (it is a kid-friendly event, after all), I tasted, talked and observed to compile this list of must-trys at the Tobago Blue Food Festival, so you won’t miss them next year.

Dasheen Ice Cream

Nearly everyone named dasheen ice cream as one thing they couldn’t leave the Blue Food Festival without having. It’s creamy, a bit nutty and just plain good.

Dasheen Wine 

The wide variety of dasheen wine options indicated its popularity. Big bottles and small bottles of the sweet liquor were widely “finished” as the event progressed and in patrons’ hands on the shuttle ride back home. Who knew such a starchy product could  make such a delicate wine?

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Dasheen Punch 

For those looking for a softer beverage, dasheen punch offer

s a creamy sip with bits of the earthy dasheen to add some texture. Alcoholic versions are also available for those who really like a “punch” (pun intended).

Dasheen Khurma

With all the sweet treats available, my kids still selected, devoured and voted dasheen khurma as the best. The little sticks were crunchy, gingery and sugary—not to mention gluten-free, which was really the only difference between them and the sweets you’re used to enjoying.

Bush Meat with Provision 

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If you followed the crowd, it led to you to where the wild things were. Dasheen dumplings and cut-up provision accompanied an array of stewed iguana, tattoo, rabbit, goat and, of course, Tobago’s famous crab. While dasheen took a humble backseat to the wild meat, it served as the perfect partner to sop up all the yummy sauces.

Light Dasheen Fruit Cake

There were very heavy black-cake-like versions of dasheen fruit cake but the lighter ones available offered a feathery alternative using dasheen flour. You can eat whole slice before realizing it’s done. I know… I did that. And no… I don’t regret it.

Blue Food Shop

The by-products of dasheen were just as impressive as the edible creations. And some looked good enough to eat. Seriously, there was one dasheen soap shaped like cake. Soaps, creams, oil, and candles were available for those looking for organic, locally-made home and body products.  Dasheen cake soap

So next year, when you go to the Blue Food Festival, take your sense of adventure. Be prepared for muddy feet (it’s rainy season, you know), try something new (dasheen pizza, anyone?), go on the Dasheen Farm Tour (the largest of its kind in Tobago), and look around to appreciate the beauty of the earth that provides and produces the provision. The charm of Tobago’s culinary heritage integrated into modern innovation will have you coming back for more.

Top 10 Timeless Quality of a Lady

A “lady” has evolved significantly throughout the ages. While at one time ladies were expected to wear hats and gloves in public, today’s dress standard doesn’t include such wardrobe details. And while it was once required for a lady to have an escort to attend functions, today’s lady can go about independently. What is ageless are the characteristics of a lady that express her consideration and respect for others. Here are 10 timeless qualities of a lady:

  1. Accepts gentlemanly gestures: A lady allows a gentleman to show his respect and courtesy for her. She also allows other women to assist should she need. A lady understands that allowing others to be courteous is a powerful thing. (So say yes to his offer to help with your carry-on bag.)
  2. Watches her mouth: A lady uses the magic words (thank you, please, and excuse me) in her everyday language and avoids foul language. She also doesn’t assume that casual acquaintances are interested in unsolicited dialogue about personal troubles and keeps such conversations for the appropriate confidants. (And a lady knows when to close her mouth and be a good listener.)
  3. Primps in private: Should a lady need to touch up her makeup, reapply nail polish or adjust her clothes, she removes herself from the view of other people and goes to a washroom or private place. (What about perfume you ask? Same rule applies.)
  4. Greets people properly: A lady knows that it is a time-honored display of respect to stand to greet someone who just entered the room. (That rule isn’t just for men any more.) She also knows to smile, make eye contact, and give a firm handshake when meeting a person.
  5. Respects other people’s time: A lady tries her best to be on time. She understands that lateness may be interpreted as “I am more important that you or this event” which could cost her a friend, a job or an appointment. If being late is unavoidable, a lady will always contact the appropriate person to inform them of her estimated time of arrival with an apology.
  6. Deals politely with rudeness: A lady knows the true test of her grace and poise is when it is challenged by inconsiderate behavior. When someone is offensive, she gives the person the benefit of the doubt (knowing most people don’t mean to be rude) and never responds in the same way. She picks her battles, always thinks before she speaks, and chooses to be civil rather than to demean.
  7. Makes those in her presence feel valued: A lady will give genuine attention to those in her company and give them priority over those who communicating with her via phone. She understands it is rude to text or scroll through social media while speaking or listening to another person. (Yes, that means in a meeting, party, church, lecture, etc.)
  8. Knows how to say no: A lady knows how to respond to an unwanted advance in a way that will stop the behavior while not humiliating the other person. (“Sorry, dearie, I’m already taken.”) She also knows that while she should make herself available for family, friends, and career that she needs be aware of feeling stretched thin and pull back to sort out her priorities. A lady also knows to never say yes if she does not intend to keep the commitment.
  9. Gives and accepts compliments: A lady give compliments when they are deserved and sincere. She also graciously accepts compliments when offered to her. She doesn’t wave them off with a “Oh, it was nothing” but rather responds with a heartfelt “Thank you” or “You are so kind to say so.”
  10. Is prepared: A lady considers where she is going and carries items that are necessary to ensure a comfortable experience for herself and others. While certain events may require specific items (such as a scarf for the theatre or cough drops for a ticklish throat) basic things like tissues, aspirin, a pen, breath mints, and vex money are staple supplies in her bag.

A lady knows that beauty may fade and wealth may be fleeting but her character is how others will judge and remember her. Being considered a “lady” should be one of the highest compliments for a woman because it means she recognises her infinite worth and uses it to positively impact others.

Want to help polishing up your image? Contact me at laura@pearl-strategies.com for a coaching session.

THIS ALSO WAS PUBLISHED IN THE AUGUST 2017 CARE MAGAZINE DISTRIBUTED WITH TRINIDAD & TOBAGO GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER.

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Top 10 Behaviors of a Modern Gentleman

Some say they miss the ol’ time chivalry. Some say chivalry is dead. Some say they don’t even know what the word “chivalry” means. Well … dear readers unaware of the combined qualities once expected of a man, here is a quick list of the classic behaviors and manners that distinguish a true gentleman.

  1. Go to their door: When a gentleman picks up his date, Granny, or little niece or nephew, he should go to their door and politely make his presence known. (Honking his car from the street doesn’t count.) And when the outing is complete, the man should walk his companion back her door or otherwise ensure she safely makes it back inside her home.
  2. Open the doors: A gentleman never lets a lady’s hand touch a door (on a building or a car) if he is around. This also applies for holding a door open for any one of any gender going through a door directly after him.  There are few things that show you have complete disregard for someone else than allowing a door to swing back in their face at full speed.  (Hello man at the bank.)
  3. Stand up: When a lady enters a room a gentleman should stand to acknowledge her and wait to sit until after she takes her own seat. If she doesn’t have a place to sit, the gentleman should offer the lady his own seat. And if he really wanted to make an impression he would assist her with pulling out and pulling in her chair. (Nice and slow … no bumsie-hit-floor fiascos please.)
  4. Walk along side of your companion: A gentleman doesn’t walk ahead of his lady companion, providing a challenge for her to keep up or to not lose him in a crowd. Rather, a gentleman should walk at his companion’s side (hey … even have a conversation). If the pair is walking on a sidewalk, the gentleman also should walk on the side closest to the road with the lady on the inside to offer her protection from traffic.
  5. Assist with carrying objects: A gentleman will always offer to assist a lady with lifting or carrying an object, especially if it is heavy. And he should carry it all the way to its intended location. (No halfsies please.)
  6. Offer your jacket: If the movie theatre is cold or the breeze outside turns chilly, a gentleman should offer his jacket or sweater to the lady in his company so she can be comfortable. He also should keep a handkerchief in his pocket to assist in a myriad of situations: sneezing, sticky hands, wet seat, etc. (He also would find it valuable to learn how to fold it after it has been used, too.)
  7. Is never rude or crude: A gentleman keeps his burps and other bodily noises in check when he is in the presence of others. (Yes, that means noises emanating from up high and down low.) And his language is as clean and appropriate as if his saintly grandmother was listening. Vulgar words and actions never add polish to a man.
  8. Demonstrate courage for others: If a gentleman sees an injustice against any one of any race, gender or age, he has the courage to stand up for them. This doesn’t mean starting a fistfight or a shouting match, but rather he will politely defend their right to be treated fairly.
  9. Ensure proper introductions are made: A gentleman always ensures his companions are properly introduced when joining a dinner party or family lime. He will always try to prevent his companions from feeling awkward and out of place. (Ummm … so who are you again?)
  10. Keep commitments: A gentlemen always keeps his word. If he says he is going to pick you up at 7 p.m., he will be there on time. If he said he will send that email, it will be sent. And if he promised to keep your secret, it will remain confidential … always.

While some may think that these gentlemen gestures are out-of-date and old-fashioned, there is nothing more timeless than a courteous man. A person who shows respect and consideration for others will always be in style and in demand.  True chivalry is a two-sided effort in which both men and women are equal warriors.

What to help your big or little man unlock his inner gentleman? Contact me at laura@pearl-strategies.com for a coaching session.

THIS ALSO WAS PUBLISHED IN THE AUGUST 2017 CARE MAGAZINE DISTRIBUTED WITH TRINIDAD & TOBAGO GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER.

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