Bringing Dignity to an Undignified Departure

Dear Andrea,

My friend’s husband has been seeing a woman he works with for quite some time now. He moved out of the marital home and got his own place about a year ago. The wife lives in the marital home which is located in a gated community, but the husband still uses his access in to the community and his key to the house to spontaneously visit the wife.

On the other hand, the wife keeps showing up at the girlfriend’s house when the husband does not answer her calls. And, he is usually there. She only approaches him when he gets to his car to let him know she knows what is going on. His girlfriend sometimes calls to “cuss” the wife every now and again, telling the wife, “Your ex- husband does not want you so leave him alone.”

The girlfriend, who has been unsuccessful with keeping  the husband from being involved with his family (there are 2 teenage children), has now filed a harassment suit against the wife.  What should the wife do?
1. Should she file for a divorce she cannot afford, or keep living in this immoral situation?
2. Should she change the locks and disable the husband’s community access?

She needs your advice.



Dear Mikhaila,

What a distressing situation for your friend. First thing your friend needs to do is ask herself why she so desperately wants to get back a man who abandoned her without affording her the dignity of properly concluding the marriage. What does she believe about herself, God, and this world that makes her think that the best choice for her right now is to actively pursue her philandering husband? Yes, marriages collapse and people fall in love with other people, but there are dignified ways to deal with the disintegration of a union.  The husband’s apparent expectation that the wife should exist in this state of limbo and anguish is heartbreaking, and wife’s acceptance of this new role as “occasional” wife (which she clearly does not want to be) and her assumption of the role of occasional stalker is even more heartbreaking.  She needs to abandon both these roles as they degrade her and suck the marrow out of her soul (not to mention  that the stalker role has landed her in trouble with the law).

So to answer to your specific questions,

1. Should she file for a divorce she cannot afford, or keep living in this immoral situation?
2. Should she change the locks and disable the husband’s community access?

I say she should do whatever it takes to bring dignity and peace into her life. Filing for a divorce is a legal activity that will need to happen at some point, but it is not guaranteed to bring her peace, so her getting divorced is not my primary concern right now. At this moment, she needs to let go of the marriage and accept that it’s over. Completely over. She needs to be clear that she is the only one holding her happiness hostage by believing she can’t have it without her husband in her life, and this letting go process will set her happiness free.

First, she needs to fully acknowledge how much her husband has hurt her with the understanding that it is only a wounded heart that can wound others. His behavior may be monstrous, but he’s not a monster, just someone doing a bad job of figuring how to live his best life. She also needs to acknowledge the ways she has hurt him and contributed to the demise of the marriage—no marriage ever tumbles from solely the actions of one partner, even if the other partner’s only offense is denial.

Next, she has to forgive him and forgive herself then take every single object in her house that represents her union with her husband and get rid of it! Her ring, cards, photos, and even the special underwear she bought because he liked it all need to go.  She should carry out this ritual without malice, and allow herself to cry as much as she wants. In fact, while she packs everything in boxes for Goodwill, she should play music that reminds her of when they first met and allow herself to weep until there are no more tears left within a mile of her.

When she has done all this and prepared herself to flood her life with more joy than she has ever had, she will know how to proceed with calling locksmiths and lawyers. Not sure which should come first, but at that stage I don’t know if it will really matter—she’ll figure it out.

Good luck to her!




Excusing an Unfulfilled Promise

Dear Andrea,

I’m recently divorced and share an 8-year-old daughter with my ex-husband who lives in a different country.  The problem is that even at a distance, he’s an unreliable parent.  For example, they have skype sessions scheduled twice a week at his request.  It seems I’m always making up excuses for him as to why he couldn’t be there for her when he’s supposed to.  Generally, I feel like I’m doing a lot of good “PR” for him where he probably doesn’t deserve it.  My question is, do I continue to do the work of building the relationship between them in order to protect my daughter, or do I leave it to him to sort out and let the chips fall where they may?

 Renee R


Dear Renee,

Thanks for your question. I think you have a golden opportunity here! But first: Have you had a discussion with your ex in which you’ve pointed out your daughter’s disappointment when he does not turn up for his Skype sessions? I’d suggest starting there; ask him what he suggests that either of you could do to mitigate the frequency of these disappointments. Avoid sounding accusatory, and be sure to position your daughter as the central concern, not the inconvenience of you having to run interference for him, as this is your choice and not by his request.

If you’ve already had such a conversation and nothing has changed, you could consider telling your ex that you will only sit your daughter down for a Skype session with him after he has contacted you within a specified period of time to confirm that he will be able to participate in the session. In this conversation, make it clear that you want him and his daughter to be in communication and that this new arrangement is only with the child’s best interest in mind.

While your impulse to save your child from disappointment is understandable, if your ex has a pattern of not following through, she is going to have to encounter this disappointment sooner or later, and you will do better to begin to give her the tools to handle the sting of a broken promise from now rather than shield her from her reality.

The thing that hurts about people not following through to do with us or for us what they promise is that we assume their action is a reflection of how much they value us, and hence our intrinsic value in this world.

So here’s your golden opportunity! Use the current situation to help her begin unhinging this assumption about her self-worth from unfulfilled promises. As life is, one of the things she is guaranteed to face in her life is people she loves sometimes not living up to her expectation of them, but what does not have to be a guarantee is that she believes their behavior is her fault.

Good luck!



“Dear Andrea”

This blog started life as a venue for my exploration of those tiny anointments of insight that provide some options for how we see ourselves and our world. It has now emerged as an advice column, of the “Dear Aunt Abby” sort. I welcome questions on how to navigate any of those personal challenges life has a habit of throwing our way.

Send me your questions at [email protected]!

The advice offered by Andrea Shaw on is intended for informational purposes only, and is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, legal, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. Andrea Shaw and are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions. Andrea Shaw and accept no liability for any situation in your life past, present or future.

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The Age of Magic

Image from

Lamps with genies slumbering inside, beanstalks that tower into the heavens, mirrors that speak—all the stuff of fairytales, right? Well, not anymore. The last few decades have proven that the age of magic has fully arrived!

One hundred years ago you would probably have been chased out of your hometown by cousins brandishing pitchforks if you proclaimed that a century later we would have tiny boxes that tell us where to turn as we drive around in larger boxes shaped something like a carriage, but without a horse.

Imagine what those cousins would have done to you if you said there would be a small, flat contraption—a mirror of sorts—that lights up and allows you to not only see but speak to someone on the other side of the planet!

At my college’s end-of-year meeting last week, my dean gave all his faculty members such a mirror—brand new iPads! While I knew about the various functions provided by iPads as I’d come close to buying one a few months back (thank goodness I didn’t), the next day when I got my first Face Time call from a very good friend, I was thrilled to be able to see his face while I shuffled around my bedroom with my personal magic mirror in hand.

While most of you in our tech savvy generation are probably rolling your eyes over my amusement, think about what this means for our future and the exciting and useful ways technology can move us forward in upcoming decades. Imagine what our grandchildren will take for granted that will have us gripping our walking sticks in shock.

Also intriguing is the way that technology can inform and energize our spirituality.

I’ve always taken Jesus’ words with a grain of salt when he says in the Book of John that we will do “greater works” than him. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m still not anywhere close to walking on water. And while I do believe that without the benefit of one byte of technology we can accomplish things we can’t even conceive, it seems that in another manner we are fulfilling Jesus’ promise every day through the amazing gadgets we’ve created for ourselves.

So after all this talk about Jesus, magic and miracles, my latest venture has been trying to figure out if I should get Angry Birds (not, I’m sure, what my dean had in mind when he gave us the iPads). Any thoughts? Is it really addictive?


“Somebody Who Loves Me”

Whitney in 1983 Issue of Seventeen


While growing up in Jamaica I was painfully sure that my life was not the real deal. My father’s ancient Austin Cambridge sputtering along Red Hills Road; my unruly hair that began escaping from its plaits the moment my mother put down the brush; and mosquitoes that sounded like helicopters hovering over my ears while I slept were never part of the lives of the authentic girls who peopled my favorite books (like Nancy Drew) and TV shows (like Scooby Doo).

 As a teenager, I wanted this fictional life more than ever. I wanted to somehow make what I had, mosquitoes and all, into a remotely acceptable version of what it was supposed to be, and my chubby, black body became the site for this phenomenal transformation I longed after.

 Meadowbrook Pharmacy was just a short walk down the street from my house, and the pharmacy became my arsenal of supplies defining what a “real” teenaged girl’s life should be like. A small magazine rack huddled in a corner near bars of Cadbury chocolate and bottles of Limacol, and each time new issues of Seventeen appeared on the rack, I was first in line. I’d eagerly rush home and inhale all those images of beautiful (white) girls whom I must have imagined that I could one day look like: shiny long hair, a svelte body, perfectly applied makeup.

 Seventeen and its army of fair maidens, their images embedded in a web of ads for tanning lotions and articles on how to select the right shade of pink lipstick, did little more than aggravate me, but year after year I kept on reading. Then one day my heart sputtered when I came across a picture of a gorgeous girl with short hair and dark skin! She was in a swimsuit posed on the sand next to a foamy ocean, and her skin glowed as if she’d been coated in pixie dust.

 In the weeks after I got the magazine, I’d flip through the pages each day and marvel at the photos of this girl. I guess I kept checking to make sure she was still there, a girl as real as me and not some river mumma causing mischief. It was not until years later when I’d gone off to college and Whitney Houston became a household name that I realized she was the girl who had magically emerged from the depths of the oceans; and now she’s gone back there just as suddenly as she came.



“What a Coincidence!”

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a coincidence as “the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection.” Another definition that I find even more useful comes from Deepak Chopra in his book The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence where he explains that a coincidence is God trying to get our attention. Isn’t this idea that God actually takes the time to chat with us simply spectacular? My son recently had one of these conversations with God. No, he didn’t receive guidance on how to create world peace, but still…


So, my son, Dean Jr., returned home from college a few months ago. He’s at that early twenty-something stage when everyone expects that you should have your life together and be zooming ahead in a straight line towards professional success. But like his mother when she was that age, he’s still figuring out precisely what to do with himself.


He could go to grad school, but isn’t in the mood at the moment. When I mention the GRE and possible graduate programs (which I have mentioned many, many, many times) he looks like I suggested that he should eat a poisonous caterpillar for lunch, so I’ve stopped (I think). He’s considering changing his career focus from film, radio, and television production to the visual arts, but isn’t sure. And though we love and support any career choice he makes, I’m haunted by visions of him still living at home at 58 while trying to market his first animation project  (a fear I’m very ashamed to admit given that I’m a creative soul myself).


From time to time he’s mentioned starting a business with his friend Mitch—I think he said something about video production services—but alas, about this he doesn’t seem quite sure either. So to solve his dilemma he’s gotten a job at Starbucks, where he spends his days serving lattes while he contemplates his future.


When he lived at home (oh, but he lives at home now)—when he was kid and lived at home, we had him enrolled in all kinds of stuff, including Taekwondo. He did it for several years and eventually earned his black belt. He was good: broke boards and all that super hero business. So recently he and his friend Mitch (the one with whom he hasn’t started a business—but might) decided to begin doing Mixed Martial Arts. They considered taking classes but could not find a school that was affordable, so they were going to begin by practicing at home. Dean Jr. planned to order the equipment they needed online, but he says that out of nowhere he had the thought that he should go to an actual store (what a novel idea). He did, and had the sense that the guy at the counter seemed familiar. The guy at the counter thought my son seemed familiar too and that maybe they went to high school together. Turns out they didn’t.


During my son’s next visit to this martial arts supply store, he thought that the familiar guy perhaps used to teach at his Taekwondo school way back when, but he decided not to bother mentioning this as he could be wrong and the young man may think he’s crazy. But last minute he decided to ask him, and lo and behold the young fellow did teach at Dean Jr.’s old school. They chatted for a little then this guy told my son that one of his past teachers just opened a school nearby. My son went to visit this school and saw his teacher who’d been in business for all of two weeks. The rates were affordable, plus he gave my son a free two-week pass to attend classes! On top of this the teacher mentioned that just a couple weeks ago he was chatting to his wife about our family and wondering how we were doing. So there you have it: voila, Dean Jr. is about to begin his second life as a martial arts champ and he got a little help finding a school.


In the scheme of things I’m sure this is not the most dazzling coincidence you’ve heard about, but I still find it fascinating how things muddled together for my son, and my guess is that he’s been led to the precise place where he should begin stage two of his martial arts journey. I’m also reminded that when our own mini-miracles occur, we have to take some time out to think about why the Universe might want to grab us by the shoulders and give us a shake at that particular moment and how we can use the nudge we’ve gotten to make the best decisions for ourselves.




GPS photo credit Digital Trends

Have you ever made a not-so-great choice that you can’t undo and that you realize is going to forever change the path your life takes? Maybe you ignored your parents’ desperate pleas (your father even cried) for you to finish your bachelor’s degree and not take that semester off. Fast forward to the present: you’re finally back in college after a semester became a decade, but now you’re married with kids and a fulltime job you hate as much as a castor oil washout, and you’re guzzling Red Bull while trying to prop yourself up over your dining table and study for a calculus exam—at 1:37 in the morning!

Or you’re relaxing on your couch, unwinding from a busy day, when you see David Smith (of Olint Investment fame) or Bernie Madoff (no explanation needed) in handcuffs, and you realize your life’s savings are not only down the toilet but flushed all the way to the Arctic Ocean—in other words, gone forever unless you can befriend a polar bear to help you find them.

Who would have Continue reading…


“Nobody Canna Stop Laughing”: Language, Cultural Anxiety and the Clifton Brown Commotion

Clifton Brown--photo credit TVJ


Several weeks ago, parts of Jamaica experienced extensive flooding after days of heavy rains that rivaled the deluge which set Noah’s ark afloat some millennia past. Bridges, roads, homes and businesses were washed away, leaving residents in various parts of the island stranded, unable to navigate flooded streets, swollen gullies, and overflowing rivers.

Jamaican television station TVJ covered the floods in the Mavis Bank area of Jamaica in the parish of St. Andrew, and reporter Dara Smith’s interview with a bystander and resident of the area, Clifton Brown, is now perhaps the most famous TV interview in Jamaica. In the interview Brown offers an earnest, thoughtful, and passionate explanation of the challenges being faced by residents of Mavis Bank and the surrounding communities, including Robertsfield and Davis Hill, and he elaborates on the dangers posed by the flooded Yallahs River. Brown’s colorful and animated conversation is further characterized by his attempt to speak with a foreign accent (in this case American), known in Jamaica as a “twang.” Here is the most comprehensive version of the interview I could find, despite the unexplainably interspersed images of Bounty Killer:  Continue reading…


Tia Dalma’s Portrayal in Pirates of the Caribbean


Tia Dalma, sorceress from Pirates of the Caribbean series


Tia Dalma is featured in the second and third installments of the series, and she is shrouded in magic and mystery. She lives in the remote interior of a creepy swamp, her home a sinister tree house with a massive snake loitering in a branch at its doorway.  Our initial encounter with her is occasioned by Sparrow’s terrifying but urgent trek to see her and solicit her help with getting information about a certain key. As Sparrow anticipates, Tia Dalma is able to explain the origins and purpose of the key.

Sparrow leaves Tia Dalma satisfied with the outcome of his visit. However, by the close of the movie Sparrow has a new set of troubles: he and his ship have been dragged into the sea by the Kraken, Davy Jones’ sea monster. Dead Man’s Chest closes with Sparrow’s crew and comrades returning to Tia Dalma for refuge. She consoles them and promises to lead them on a journey to rescue Jack from the underworld. At World’s End begins with that rescue mission. Tia Dalma has joined Jack’s crew and repeatedly uses her intuitive powers to help guide the crew to Jack. Before the film is over we come to understand that Tia Dalma is in fact the sea goddess Calypso, bound in human form, a lynchpin in the film’s plot, and the cause for Davy Jones’ monstrous embodiment. Continue reading…


Pirates, Dreadlocks, and Captain Jack

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow


Below is an excerpt from my paper that I will present tomorrow morning at the Caribbean Studies Association Conference in Curacao.

My paper today is concerned with Hollywood’s representation of the Caribbean in film, specifically films that feature a supernatural or fantastical element. These films include early efforts to render a haunted Caribbean such as White Zombie and I Walked with a Zombie, to more recent productions like The Serpent and the Rainbow and the Pirates of the Caribbean series.  In a region where literature, music and its own film production have been significantly influenced by Hollywood, where the eyes of the Caribbean voraciously consume an infinite number of moving images created outside of the region, how do the creators of these images that have in some ways transfixed the region’s gaze, gaze back at us?  This paper is part of a larger project that contemplates representations of the supernatural Caribbean and more precisely part of a book chapter that explores Hollywood’s representation of the Caribbean in films that feature a supernatural or fantastical element. While the completed chapter will probe a range of films, including crime thrillers, like 007 Live and Let Die and Marked for Death, both profusely garnished with Obeah and witchcraft, my paper today focuses on Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean series. Continue reading…