Quote Of The Day

I haven’t had one of these for a while. Came across this on John C. Maxwell’s page and loved it.

The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.

    Chinese Proverb
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Good Day

Sometimes your children make you proud. And other times you want to give them away. Or at least strike a deal to take them back when they are adults. That’s just the reality of parenthood. Today was a good day. Helpful, thoughtful, compliant, quick to respond, use of own initiative, no whinging, no fighting amongst themselves – just simply a good day. I can’t really place my finger on why they were more like angels than monsters inc. today. All I shall do is try my best to savour the moment for who knows what tomorrow may bring. 😉

There Isn’t One View Of Womanhood

When Beyoncé released a song which samples an excerpt of a TED Talk by Chimamanda Adichie and in the same song uses the phrase ‘bow down bi***es’, there was a bit of a furore amongst my Facebook friends about the validity of her new found feminism and the incongruence of the ‘b’word and the feminist speech sampled on the track. I thought they were at logger heads with each other myself as did a few people. The discussion strayed a bit but invariably got on to feminism and one of my friends made a comment “there isn’t one way to be a feminist”. And you know what, I think she’s right.

A feminist can’t look attractive; a feminist can’t wear girly clothes; a feminist can’t be a home maker; a feminist must get to the top of the ladder; a feminist must …., a feminist must …… – so many musts thrust upon women.

Since my friend made that comment it has been reverberating in my head. What does it mean to be a feminist? Not necessarily the definition but the daily working out of it in my life. Can I fly the flag for all women? I don’t think so. Can I set an example for other women? Certainly! Some women but not all. I get a bit put off by the celebrities and successful women telling women what and how they should be. The empowerment of feminism is the right to choose – whatever that may be. Whilst we may not be happy about some of the things that other women do, I think we have to acknowledge that it’s their life, their choice.

I think rather than spending our time writing books that tell us what to do; that time would be better spent eliminating inequality in the workplace, sexual harassment, abuse, misogyny, rape culture, low self esteem – all the barriers that stop women from being the best THEY want to be.

As much as sometimes I will have to bite my tongue or close my eyes when I see some stuff; I think we all need to learn that everyone has an different idea of success and every individual should be faithful to theirs and not impose it on others.

Happy Father’s Day

Divorce doesn’t necessarily mean your father isn’t there any more, but in my case it meant my father was absent from my life. My mother’s younger brother, my uncle Sola, voluntarily stepped into that vacuum with seamless ardour. I’m not sure if he ever had a discussion with my mum about it or if it was a conscious thing for him. He was, and still is, a deeply compassionate man and I guess that’s what motivated him.

Until we were much older and ‘settled’, every Sunday, he would stop by the house after church to spend time with us. He wasn’t a man of great means but whatever he had, he shared with us. He was there for every birthday; usually the first guest to arrive whether we had a party or not. When we did poorly in our exams, my mum would report us to him and he would calmly reprove us. He never lost his temper with us, he is such a gentle soul. I remember soon after the divorce, I told my cousin, his daughter, that I wished he was my father. Children have the weirdest way with words, she said something to the effect of she wished he could be too. Even at ten years old, she also knew she had a great dad. If I’m honest, I envied her.

His greatest sacrifice was sharing his time with his own family with us. Sometimes he would just pick us up, maybe to give my mum a break and we would spend the whole day with our cousins. Most times it was mayhem because we were all about the same age; restless children whose sole mission was to frustrate their parents. ;). My fondest memories are of our trips to Apapa amusement park (in Lagos). My uncle had three kids and one saloon car which was sufficient for a family of five but not for one of eight. That didn’t stop him packing us in his car like sardines for our trips to the amusement park. Those were the fun pre-health-and-safety days. He was also a Grammy award show fanatic and after every trip we would end up watching every video imaginable plus listen to him disapprove of any ‘wild’ performance he didn’t want us to emulate. Specifically -Madonna’s. 🙂

He was proud of every graduation and success we had. He sat by my mother at all our weddings; always her rock. He has celebrated every childbirth with her too like a doting grandfather. I am eternally grateful to my aunt and my cousins for sharing their husband and father respectively with us.

Thank you uncle Sola for being a wonderful father when we needed one the most.

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Redefining Wonder Woman Series 4: Obsessed With Scuttle Flies

I’m always intrigued by people who have discovered their passion. However, of all the passions I have witnessed or heard about; the subject of this interview has got to be the most fascinating. I interviewed Dr Henry Disney about his passion for scuttle flies. Never heard of them before? Neither had I until I met him. Dr Henry Disney graduated from Cambridge University as an ecologist in 1962. Fifty years later, he works as a Senior Research Associate at Cambridge University Museum of Zoology. I hope you find his interview as inspiring as I did.

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RWW: Could you describe in a few words what you do for a living?
DHD: In my ‘retirement’ I continue my research on the scuttle flies (Diptera, Phoridae) of the world. This family of insects has a greater diversity of larval habits than any other family that has evolved. I essentially identify, or often describe as new, specimens from around the world that I am requested to name; because they have new data or they are of applied importance (as a pest, in a forensic case, as a biological control agent, as a monitor of pollution, etc.)

RWW: How did you go from entomologist to ecologist to taxonomist? Phew!
DHD: In the 1960s I was a medical entomologist in Belize and then Cameroon. Every problem ended up in a taxonomic problem. In the 1970s I was intrigued by the larvae of meniscus midges and ended up writing a Handbook on the larvae, pupae and adults of the British species. I then got interested in the diverse habits of scuttle fly larvae and ended up writing a two volume Handbook on the British species. People from around the world then started asking me to identify their scuttle flies. So I had to write many identification keys and revisions in order to do this.

RWW: What Were your interests as a child?
DHD: I was always interested in natural history and archaeology from an early age.

RWW: I understand your expertise helped solved a crime.
DHD: As some larvae of scuttle flies feed on corpses they are occasionally critical in solving a crime. The commonest question is when was the first egg laid that gave rise to the larvae in the corpse? Thus in a case last year I worked out that this was a few days BEFORE when the accused said he had been talking to the victim!
Other larvae may occur in food. Thus in a French case a company blamed a French supply company, who said they had imported the package from Japan. I found that the species was a Japanese species.

RWW: What has it taken to become an expert
DHD: Obsession! Close attention to detail. Hard work. Being prepared to question the textbooks. My career has had a series of unexpected changes, but I have continued my obsession with small flies throughout.

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    A scuttle fly laying its egg into a prepupa of a ladybird beetle. Its larva develops as a parasite in the pupa.

RWW: Writing is your other passion and you’re also a poet. What do you love writing about the most?
DHD: My poems are meditations on events in my life, on people, on issues of the day,etc. – but all with reference to Gospel values and insights.

RWW: Writing and Entomology are two diverse passions. Do they collide or complement one another?
DHD: They complement each other. Scientific writing aims to be objective. In poetry, one is trying to explore the subjective along with the surface narrative.

RWW: You also explore your faith and science. Can you tell me a bit about that?
DHD: The blurb on the back of my third collection of poems said that I regarded “observed facts and authenticated experience as sacred but all interpretation as provisional”. Where I deviate from Richard Dawkins is in disagreeing with his claim that there is no evidence for the existence of God. I have encountered too many people whose lives have been transformed following their turning to Christ. I interpret this as evidence of the Holy Spirit at work. When asked what is God like I respond that we will be able to answer that question in the afterlife. For now He is the being Jesus referred to as Our Father and My Father. In this life our concern is to allow the Holy Spirit to align our actions and relationships with the values and purposes of His Kingdom. That is all we really need to know this side of death.

RWW: What are your cherished moments of being a father and grandfather?
DHD: My three children and four grandchildren are a great blessing. They are all different and it has been wonderful seeing their differing personalities develop.

RWW: What are your regrets about fatherhood?
DHD: Work leading to me not spending more time with my children, especially when I had extensive admin and teaching commitments when in Yorkshire.

RWW: Do you have any advice for fathers today?
DHD: Spend more time with your children before, too soon, they leave home. Some of those ‘important’ distractions can be postponed or ignored!

My sincere thanks go to Dr Disney for taking the time to answer my questions. You can read more about Dr Disney’s work here.


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*Felix Bennet

PS There’s a lot I could write about after this interview but I’m going to be brave enough to let the words speak for themselves. Note to parents – please encourage whatever passions your children have.

I Missed The Memo About Beards

Everywhere I look, men are sporting beards. Every race, colour or creed. There is no discrimination where these beards choose to hang themselves. Long ones, short ones, shaggy ones, slick one, grizzly ones, groomed ones, prickly ones and stubbly ones.

Oh spirit of the beard, please stay away from my home!

Integrity Matters To Children

My husband thought it would be a great idea to sign our children up for roller-blading classes. His opinion is that it’s a life skill that’s more valuable than ballet or football. 😐 Totally different conversation and post – don’t go there.

Moving swiftly on. The thing about it is my son had to give up his beloved art club which he absolutely adores to accommodate roller-blading. So my husband said, as a compromise, he could do it next term which is this term. Now, come to the end of roller-blading lessons, we ask if they want to go back. My son promptly reminded us that we said he could do art club. (It would not surprise me if he kept a rule book somewhere) So it would appear we had no choice really. Or do we?

The dilemma is my daughter did not want to do art club any more. She wanted to continue with roller-blading. She usually has a way of convincing her brother to let go of what he wants so she can get her way. He has lost many turns on the iPad, TV, snacks, games, etc. as a result. This is a ‘habit’ that I am monitoring with the eye of an eagle. Trust me! My son being the perfect gentleman says “it’s ok”, forlornly, and offers to give up art. I said no, we’ll discuss it and get back to you.

My husband’s solution was for them to do what they both wanted. Please note – we only have one car. This would mean picking my daughter up from school, rushing to roller-blading classes (which is five minutes from home and twenty from school) and dropping her off. One of us would have to stay behind with her whilst the other zooms back to school (add another twenty minutes) to pick up my son from art club. And then make our way back to pick my daughter (cue a further twenty minutes). This running around like a headless chicken, all in the name of school clubs, is the sort of parent I really do not want to be. Seriously!

My husband would prefer they did roller-blading and so naturally he was pleading a case for my daughter but I wanted us to honour our word to my son. We talked about it again, and agreed that the headless chicken life was not an option and more importantly, we would honour our word to our son. So we ditched roller-blading for the meantime and both of them were signed on to art for this term.

It’s often very easy to forget that children are individuals with brains too. They monitor and cling on to every word you say more so than adults. Perhaps because they believe in you and take you at your word which is a value we sadly lose as we get older. How easy it would have been to ignore my son’s expectations and replace it another promise without thinking.

It’s a real shame when a child or teenager is unable to trust someone they rely on – a parent, teacher or authority figure. It’s an absolute shame. I witnessed the aftermath of such disappointment when I volunteered as a youth worker. It’s soul destroying.

Many parents take integrity for granted. If we want to raise children that value integrity, then it has to be modelled early on in life for children to imbibe it. Any other option would be a poor example and a slippery slope that I most definitely do not want to navigate with my children.

I Give My Children Too Much Choice

Sometimes, in a bid not to stifle them, I just think I give my children too much choice. I wanted my son to attend a poetry writing class during the Cambridge Literary Festival. He was adamant that he already knew how to write and did not need to go. I should have insisted. Two weeks later, he tells me he would like to go. 😐

Trying to get him to understand that even if he is ‘perfect’ he can be better than perfect is the phase we are currently challenged with. Or maybe I didn’t pitch it at the right level for him. I should have said, “you know you are the best writer in the world but there is a course where others can benefit from your 7 year old wisdom. What do you think about sharing your knowledge with them?”

Of course by this time the tickets were all sold out. Sometimes (if not ALL times) mum knows best – note to self.

For all those whose children love reading, try a day trip to the Cambridge Literary Festival. It’s really fun for kids and usually during the school holidays.

Thanks To An Older Sibling I’m A Music Snob

Whenever people ask me about my siblings I crack a joke that my parents missed the day when family planning was taught at school. My older sister is ten years older than me and my youngest sister is eight year younger than me. There’s a whole lot of families in between the eighteen years it took my mother to rear children. 😉

There are many advantages to having a sister much more older than you. I will spare her by not mentioning ANY of the disadvantages but she knows. ;). Firstly she’s old enough to buy you clothes, CDs and generally anything you ask for. Secondly, you get to go to a lot of cool places that you parents wouldn’t take you to. Thirdly, she doesn’t censor what you watch or listen to. ROTFL. I could go on and on but by far the greatest advantage is having access to a repertoire of music that none of your peers were privy to, unless they had much older siblings.

At the age of ten I was rocking to George Benson, Shalamar, Luther Vandross, Gladys Night and the Pips, The Commodores, Off the Wall Michael Jackson not Thriller, the Gap Band, Ray Parker Junior (pre Ghostbusters), Anita Baker, Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon, Quincy Jones, Donna Summer, Marvin Gaye (pre Sexual Healing), Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, The Whispers, Queen, Prince, Sade, Police, Chaka Khan, Tracy Chapman, Randy Crawford, Dionne Warwick, Bill Weathers, The Whispers, Kool and the Gang, Teddy Pendergrass, Aretha Franklin and so many others that could fill the sky and beyond.

Fortunately I was also born in an era when music was still an art and pre auto-tune abuse. The sounds of my youth were New Edition, Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston, Wham, Spandau Ballet, Madonna, Post Thriller MJ, Al B Sure, Fela, Salt ‘n’ Pepa, En Vogue, Gloria Estefan, Five Star, Heavy D, Janet Jackson, Guy, Babyface, Christopher Williams, Tevin Campbell, SWV, Jodeci, Joe, Mary J Blidge, Karen White, Maxi Priest, Sting, George Michael, Maxwell, TLC, Aaliyah, Boyz to Men, and where do I stop.

Come to think of it, being blessed with older parents meant I was also introduced to Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Cliff Richard (oooo I remember playing Summer Holiday over and over again on vinyl), Julio Iglesias (father to Enriqué), Sammy Davis Jnr, Louise Armstrong, Cole Porter, Doris Day, etc.

I am sooooooooooooooooo happy that I was not born in this present era of music. I would have missed so much. Wouldn’t that have been the worst form of ignorance? I shudder at the thought. #Brrrrrr. I couldn’t list as many musicians post the 90s to be honest. That’s partly because they just didn’t grab my interest as much. Don’t get me wrong, I am a pop music girl and partial to a bit of chart music but I will never mistake what I listen to now for real music – they are purely entertainment. Of course there are exceptions but very few that I would buy let alone see in concert.

I should be offended that my soon-to-be-eighteen year old niece refers to Bobby Brown as an oldie but I suppose she is right. Yes I know I sound like a grumpy old woman. I already alluded to that in 12 Ways To Know You’re Getting Old. If I’ve done a good job with this, then you should be heading straight for YouTube right now!