A Birthday Dare!








Today is my birthday!


As the moon makes its transition to the state of being fully illuminated, I will move into another year with a fervent prayer for my own illumination about the paths I must follow. One thing that has become clearer to me as I’ve gotten older and that is so eloquently articulated in the famous Theodore Roosevelt “Man in the Arena” speech is the value of courage.

I came to know of this speech from writer and social work professor Brene Brown, whose scholarship highlights the crucial role of vulnerability in our search for joy. As I step into a new year, I wish for courage for myself and for you so that as we age and perhaps begin turning away from our dreams towards the safe shelter of settling, we find the will to hold our ground in the arena and “dare greatly” no matter our age.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Coach Andrea


What’s the payoff?

I’ve wanted to have a smaller body from the time I could say the word diet. While I weigh I good deal less than the most I’ve ever weighed, I’m still not the ideal body weight I imagine for myself.

I was recently chatting with my cousin about this, and wondering why I was still struggling with weight after all these years given that every other aspect of my life had evolved into something pretty spectacular. Why was I able to create a thriving career, a beautiful home, and a loving group of friends and family, but not the body I wanted?

My cousin then asked me the best question I’ve been asked in a decade: “What’s the payoff for not being the size you want to be?”

“Payoff?” I questioned. How could there be any payoff for…………and then it clicked.

I simply cannot imagine myself as one of those magnificent women who have it all, and when I do, I feel a giant rush of guilt. With all the pain and sorrow in the world, why should I get to have an even greater life than I already do?

I’ve been sitting with his recognition for the past few days, not quite sure how to move forward, but truly surprised at the guilt and shame I feel simply imagining the life I want.

What are the things missing in your life, and what is your payoff for not having the job, the partner, or the money that you want? Without these desires of your heart, to which groups do you get to belong? Who do you get to resent? What false belief about this world do you get to hold in your heart?

– Coach Andrea


Of Blue Moons and Other Great Things

Hello Friends,

The full moon we will experience on August 31st is technically a blue moon—the second full moon in a month. How fabulous is that? We get to celebrate the power of transformation that a full moon signifies and harness the hopeful energy of anticipation, not once but twice for the month—what good fortune!

Some of us lost our belief in good fortune back when we stopped believing in the tooth fairy. In fact, many of us don’t ever expect a sequence of wonderful things to happen to us. My experience has been that the more we expect things to go well, the more they do. But the challenge is finding the strength to hope our way through the belly bottom of a difficult situation.

This blue moonish kind of hope is what Althea Smith must have had while she sweated in the heat of a tropical sun, selling newspapers to earn a living and put her daughter Neveta through primary and high school, then later university. What in the world would make a newspaper vendor think that she could ever put her child through medical school? In turn Neveta not only studied hard, but helped her mother sell newspaper, even while she was in college, and guess what? A few years ago Neveta graduated from the University of the West Indies School of Medicine!

Althea and Neveta had to have believed in the delight of a blue moon—not just one good thing working out for them, but one after the other after the other.

During the blue moon that is around the corner, let’s take a moment to imagine the sequence of great things we’d love to experience but think is quite impossible—let’s just imagine.

Read more about Althea and Neveta’s story here:


– Coach Andrea


The Value of Vision

Issue 5: July 29th, 2015


I recently had the pleasure of visiting the most beautiful floral gardens I’ve ever seen—Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island in Canada!

At the turn of the 19th Century, the Butchart family established a limestone quarry in Vancouver to supply the family’s cement factory. Years later, when the limestone had been depleted, Jennie, the matriarch of the family, decided to turn the desolate quarry into a garden. A garden? By this time the quarry was simply a gigantic hole in the ground with nothing growing anywhere in the large slabs of rock that formed the abandoned site. Why would anyone imagine that such a location could become a garden?

Well Jennie did. She had tons of soil brought in to line the barren rocks, and she even did some of the work herself, hanging from a metal basket contraption that allowed her to plant flowers high off the ground in the crevices of the quarry walls.  One hundred years later, this garden is rated among the most spectacular in the world.  Shocks of flowers in all the colors in the rainbow explode in each corner of the garden. In fact, the entire place is so mesmerizingly gorgeous that your eyes begin to get drunk on the stunning scenery. How amazing a transformation is that?  (see photos)

There are many of us whose lives at one time or another look just about as bad as that quarry did one hundred years ago—we’ve depleted our personal resources like money, energy, and health, and we don’t feel as if we have enough fertile ground left in our lives to make it into the fabulous thing we’d always hoped for.  But here is where the value of vision comes in—it’s really the only thing standing between us and the lives we want. As you gaze at the next full moon, begin to imagine the amazing life you want, and keep your focus there. Don’t get caught up in the desolation of your reality. What if Jennie had looked at that quarry and only seen a gigantic hole in the ground?

– Coach Andrea

See image on right in black and white of the garden at the start of its transformation. 

Photo Credit: The Butchart Gardens Website  http://www.butchartgardens.com/gardens/story

This is the sunken garden, which grew out of a big hole in the rocks!

Photo Credit: The Butchart Gardens Website http://www.butchartgardens.com/gardens/photos-and-video


When to do nothing.

Over the past week or so I’ve been trying to manage a situation, but each day something new happens, and each day a new approach to managing things occurs to me. Eventually, I started to drive myself nuts, feeling nothing but confused and anxious. What exactly was I supposed to do? Then out of nowhere it occurred to me that maybe I should do nothing! Who knew what the Universe was going to send my way tomorrow in any case, and with the numerous moving parts involved, could I really anticipate everything and put a suitable solution into effect? Scary as it was, doing nothing felt like the solution, and it has been wonderful!

Everything is still not fully worked out, but just the peace of mind I got from no longer feeling like I had to handle every aspect of the issue has left me feeling way better than when I thought I was Superwoman and could fix it all. How many times have you felt as if something in your life is out of control, and your effort to fix things has just made them worse?

My husband tells me that when he was taking flying lessons, one of the things he learned was that if the aircraft went into a spin, one approach was for the pilot to simply let go of the yoke and let the aircraft right itself without any interference. Of course most of us would try to wrestle the yoke into submission–all the way until we hit the ground. And while we may have felt better knowing that we were doing something, what was that worth if in the end us and the aircraft ended up as a pile of debris?

This full moon, think about something in your life that you are madly trying to fix, and ask yourself if you could just step out of the way for a moment and leave the yoke to right itself.

Best wishes for finding boundless joy this full moon and during all those to come!

-Coach Andrea


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 Jamaicans.com 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 Jamaicans.com 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 Jamaicans.com accept no liability for any situation in your life past, present or future.

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The Age of Magic

Image from Disney.com

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.