Purpose

What is StewaRdship???

March 27, 2020

AM I MY BROTHERS KEEPER?

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the definition of stewardship: is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. All of us are stewards of something or other. We care for things both great and small. From stuffed animals to the very Earth we live on. Good stewardship requires only that you care for someone or something that you are entrusted with.

I have had many jobs and careers in my life, but the role that has never ended has been the one of stewardship. In medieval times if you laid siege to and captured a castle you would give orders that the steward be found and not killed. For the steward knew all of the holdings of their liege lord. The steward held the keys to the castle. So, how is stewardship relevant today and why should we care about such an abstract construct in our modern day?

I am convinced that competently caring for the things and people we are entrusted with lead to a life filled with contentment, authentic accomplishment, and joy. This blog is a vehicle to collect all of the resources I know, the experiences I’ve had, the education I’ve received and put them at your finger tips. My sincere hope is that some information I present , no matter how small, will be of use to you. This desire is what led me to create the My Family Steward blog.

Legacy

Generational wealth or what one leaves behind

October 16, 2020

The other day I was speaking to a friend about the challenges of going through the probate process of my mother’s estate. The settling of her estate involves lawyers, courts, documents, and meticulous record keeping. Now I am no slouch when it comes to documentation and filing, but even I have found the probate process daunting. There is a property involved, but strangely that is not what my mother left to me that I found valuable. I had the realization that it was not money and property that were the most important things in a family’s legacy. The things that have enhanced and added to my family’s success here been education, delayed gratification, vision, faith, tenacity, good intentions, and most importantly love.

Both my mother and father’s sides of the family hail from rural Jamaica. This is not their original ancestral home. My mother’s family hails from the horn of Africa. My father’s DNA is obscured by the European slave owners in our family tree. Nonetheless, they each inherited property form their parents. Each property was hard won through sweat equity and sacrifice.

Education is probably the most powerful legacy that has been gifted to me from my parents and handed down from my ancestors. There is more to education than books. There is also the gift of knowing how to create a semblance of safety so that a family can survive in a hostile world. Scholarly success was always emphasized in my family whether you had chores or not. Clearing land and feeding hogs did not get you out of homework completion. I know that the emphasis on academic and trade success took this family from rural Jamaica one room school houses to Harvard Business School in one generation.

The ability to delay gratification is more than the stuff of children denying themselves a marshmallow. The ability to deny oneself the bright and shiny over the authentic and substantial was embedded in our family fabric. We were not necessarily cool, but we were grounded. Being able to see the big picture is a training event. Only some can see in a global manner at an early age. This gift is indeed a great legacy keeping people out of harms way.

Vision is a miraculous gift to pass down as well. Everyone can use a true north. When you grow up in a house with expectations for you wrapped love, you drink the family kool aid. Vision without coercion allows individuals to express themselves and contribute to the family’s well being. Striving for what is not obvious isa skill worthy of any family.

Faith no matter what denomination is a great gift to give to oneself as well as pass down to one’s children. There is something very powerful about a family experiencing great life lessons as one on a recurring basis (aka as church or worship). Faith is a tool that when well honed can carry anyone through difficult times. Faith allows one to stand by a conviction or hardship with the knowledge that you are not alone. What gift could be better than that.

Along with faith, tenacity or steadfastness is a legacy worth passing on. Standing for a principle or a pursuit that may work out favorably is something that must be taught. Successful individuals learn that anything worth having involves hard work and dedication. What better place to witness the struggle than within your own family. Seeing the real life applications of hands on work authentically proves that hard work is its own reward.

Good intentions embody so many character traits that are positive attributes to pass down. Projects and ventures don’t always work out, but if the intention is steeped in positive, loving, and affirming ideas, the endeavors will always have positive side benefits. For example if a family’s intention is to starts a restaurant to showcase their cuisine and supply gainful employment for several people and their family. If said restaurant closes for whatever reason then if it closes there will be some collateral bonuses. For example the children may witness the process of building a dream and be inspired. Many relationships may be started leading to a more successful venture. Or ultimately, this may be time well spent for everyone in the family.

Lastly, love is the most important thing to pass down. Love makes all of the other legacies that I have discussed become life affirming and illuminated with warmth. The ability to love is something to be taught and passed down and around. A well loved human being is the finest legacy that a family can produce. If you don’t believe me just observe the damage that unloved humans can wreak on others and this planet. Forget Aunt Harriet’s pearls, love is what you want to leave behind.

Purpose

Planet Work

September 30, 2020

It’s not what you do for a living…It’s what your living does for you

Most people remember being asked what they were going to be when they grow up. As we grow, we set our sights on a dream profession or enterprise. The dream often morphs and expands as we mature, On average people have about 5 careers/jobs in their lifetimes. While the pursuit of your dreams is admirable and profitable; there is another benefit to all of your hard work.

Very often the work that we are drawn to do serves our family and friends in way we didn’t consider when we started our careers. Often, our career choices benefit the people that we care for the most and create our family legacy.

This may have been obvious to other individuals, but I had only perceived a part of my life’s picture. I am retired educator and librarian. I knew that my training would benefit my children and give them a leg up as I was trained in pedagogy. I knew how children learned: I had the materials, insights, and motivation to help them reach their goals. Even if they had no idea what they wanted to do when they grew up; I could prepare them for a future of options. These gifts were obvious to me. It was later in my life I observed my planet work.

I may have become a educator/librarian, but I was brought to the planet to preserve my family’s legacy. Legacy is the “gift of property, especially personal property, as money, by will; a bequest. anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor” according to my Google search. We take it for granted that we will always be here and that our family’s will always thrive, but this year more than others has given us time to ponder what is really important. Many of us have lost the our precious elders. The loss is twofold as both their beloved personalities and their historical witness have been snuffed out as well.

This is why I know that my short lived Librarian career continues on in the guise of my family’s keeper. I am the keeper of our family tree, photographs, letters, hand made items, journals, and recorded testimonies. It ia a heady title to be your family’s Keeper. All of that education may have afforded me a decent living , but t also provided me the skills to deal with probate, document preservation, and caretaking.

I challenge you to reflect upon your life and profession. You are so much more than whatever your title may be. The skills that make you good at what you do provide benefits to your family beyond the money it provides. If you are still a student; you are our passport to the future. You are filled with promise and ready to gain your stamps of achievement. All we do adds to what we leave behind for the next generation. Our life purpose spills over everyone around us. Stop a moment and acknowledge all that you bring to this world.

Herstories

Lessons from avocado hunting season

September 22, 2020

Avocadoes are known as pears in Jamaica, West Indies. I believe it is the similar shape and the fact that standard pears (ie: Bosch, Anjou, Bartlett) don’t grow in Jamaica. We have three such trees growing on my family home in the hills of Mandeville. I have never been here for the bounty that these trees provide; since my retirement I have been able to experience the full growth cycle on this property. Now, to avocado harvesting and the one that got way.

I bought a fruit picker at the local Agro store. My father laughed at my “new fangled” picking device. May father finds me just as entertaining now as he did when I was a teenage. Since my role here is to steward ; I don’t mind providing comic relief.

The avocadoes appeared huge quantities. I asked my father if this was the case every year and he assured me he had never seen such a harvest. Many weeks passed with both of us standing in the back yard culling reluctant fruit into our basket. We tsked the fruit that lay ruined on the ground by powerful deluges that frequent our afternoons. We pondered the fruit that appeared to be eaten in the trees; we eventually tallied it up to birds. I learned how to flash freeze. puree with lime juice, and mash the perfect guacamole.

Eventually , the season came to an end leaving only the beautifully ripened fruit suspended 30 ft above ground. Neither, my picker paired with my ladder could access these fruits. I gazed forlornly at them for many days before I got the message:

Everything is not always for you.

Somethings you should enjoy from afar.

To pursue the bright and shiny can sometimes lead to a bad fall.

Enjoy the season and be grateful for the days spent in the sun with your father hunting for avocadoes.

Purpose

Love in the time of covid19

September 11, 2020

The other day, I was listening to a news program and the commentator read off the statistics claiming that 52% of young adults lived with their parents. What I found alarming was not the number of young adults returning home; it was the implied censure in the article that presented having to return home as something bad. There are many reasons to return to the nest in adulthood and not all of them are a failure to launch.

I am a child of immigrants and I remain one to this day having recently immigrated to Jamaica. My parents are native Jamaicans who met and married in England; that was where I was born. We moved to Canada for better opportunities eventually settling in America. At every step of the way there was an extended stay with family who were already based in country. So many people lived with us (in various locations) over the years that I never realized that I supposedly had my own room. I was always sharing.

Returning to a family home base is not a bad thing. There are many life interruptions that can lead you home. Divorce, illness, the starting up of your first IPO may require assistance from those who love you the most, Of course, the privilege of family ties like many things can be abused. Almost every family has a deadbeat or manipulative person in their midst; even those individuals have a role to play in family life. Even if they are held up as a example of what not to do.

There are those who return home, those who leave later than society deems proper, and those who never leave home. Mental and physical illness do not just affect the old. Many children and young people can have their launch into society waylaid or cancelled altogether by a tragic accident or affliction. I know of two individuals who have had their launch delayed by circumstances and are having an extended childhood because that is what was needed for them to thrive. Their families have supported them on their path to whatever independence their circumstances dictate.

I choose to see the gifts of God’s blessing in every difficult situation. In times of world crisis or war, we are afforded an opportunity to draw closer experiencing a greater connection with our family members. Returning to home also allows for the healing of old wounds. Let’s face it. If you can live with your parents or siblings again; you can work out whatever petty grievances you may still carry from childhood.

I grew up with my grandmother, grand aunt, uncle, aunt, various cousins, and an ornery step-brother, I know their presence in my childhood made me who I am today. Currently, I am living my second childhood with my father in a house in Jamaica. Jamaica is where the root of my family began after slavery. You could say that this is a full circle moment in time for me. Living with my parents again has ushered in a full pallet of emotions. I have been sad, mad, irritated, filled with love, and I can honestly say I have laughed so hard that milk shot out my nose. Where else can you get all of that , but at home!

In this time of COVID19 when families are being tested in both loving and tragic ways; it helps to have additional resources and a place to return to when everything goes wrong. We all need a place to shelter from harm and revamp our dreams. This is not the first time we have had to pull together to survive and it won’t be the last. There is always another event around the corner albeit, a world pandemic is (hope to God), a singular event. Moving in with those you have a bond with might be the ultimate collateral beauty of a terrible time.

Legacy

Reinvent your legacy

September 4, 2020

All Baby no bathwater

I was speaking to a dear friend of mine the other day about a recent realization I had about myself. Let me preface this story with the statement, “I am not a hoarder”. I just have a lot of stuff. A lifetime of teaching, multiple hobbies, a book/magazine addiction, and a mad streak of sentimentality means that I will never live the spare elegant look that I see in some homes. I will forever live with piles of books, art supplies, pillows, and more fabric than can be sewn in this lifetime. I digress. I was sharing with my friend that I have shipped 2 -20′ containers of goods across an ocean to my new island home. Yet, I am still obsessing about the 6 items that I cannot find after a year of living in Jamaica.

It occurred to me that I was not acknowledging the safe arrival and deposition of thousands of other objects that made it to this destination. This led me to the thought that if I truly needed these items ; I should stop wasting creative time looking for them . I should just replace these items. DUH!!! I wasted so much creative energy searching through boxes incessantly. So, that is what I finally did. I replaced the things that worked for me. There’s this place called Amazon and they will bring you stuff you need. And, quite a few things you don’t need.

Which brings me to the discussion of legacy. What behaviors and rituals do you have in your life today that serve you? What practices allow you to be better and draw closer to the people and vocations that you love? Here’s a novel idea; Let’s embrace all of those things and let go of all the rest. So how this works is you observe everything that is working for you in your life and drop everything else that doesn’t. Easier said than done you say, so here is my example: My family was not overly demonstrative when I was growing up. We were not touchy feely, say I love you’s before you leave the house kind of people. I’m not sure why because I knew how loved I was and it felt weird that we were not more handsy. So, I decided when I had kids that I would do the uncomfortable and be the I love you spouting parent. No kid would escape my hugs or boisterous encouragement. Well you can imagine what happened… You guessed it. I ended up with three huggy feely, smoochy, talk about your feelings kids. I changed my family legacy. It was and is amazing.

You can change your family legacy, also. Maybe, you might need to eliminate boozy Thanksgivings, so that friends and relatives will still be talking to each other at Christmas. Maybe, you might throw a family reunion, so that your kids become close to their distant cousins. Or maybe, you might nightly read bedtime stories, so that your kids think that bedtime stories are the only way you put children to bed.

It’s amazing to think we have all of that power. We can create a wonderful legacy. We can pull that beautiful baby out of the water, wrap them in a warm fluffy towel, and throw all that unnecessary bath water away.

Legacy

Are YOU a Keeper?

August 18, 2020

Years ago I read a story to my class about a young boy who was especially close to his grandmother. He loved to sit by her while she told family stories. The story concluded with the grandmother revealing to her grandson that he was there family’s keeper. While reading that story I realized that I was my family’s keeper and had been for a very long time.

A family keeper is usually a person in the family who:

-Keeps up with all the activities of their inner and outer family circles.

-Archives and maintains important family documents and artifacts (such as apparel, medals, pictures

, jewelry, etc…).

-Creates opportunities for family get togethers and reunions.

Every generation has one if your family is fortunate. Keepers pass down the collective history and help maintain a family’s story. Keepers do not necessarily have to do all these things. They may specialize in one area. While you may have an aunt or an uncle that keeps up with all of these things, most likely there will be a collection of relatives interested in the areas of family preservation that appeals to them. For instance I love to scrapbook family occasions, trace our family tree, maintain the family seat, and travel to visit extended family. I notice that my daughter has no interest in keeping up with family items or document, but she is in constant communication with all the elderly members of our extended family.

There is room for everyone at the keeper table. As a matter of fact, the more people involved in keeping the family history, the better the chance of that history surviving. Wars, family emergencies, job relocation, and tragedy can interrupt the family history at any time. Having many Keepers who communicate with each other is your best bet to insure the survival of your family’s story.

Please see the following links to articles on this sight about why keeping a family history is important.

ENGAGING CHILDREN IN THEIR FUTURE!

LINKING CHILDREN TO THEIR PRESENT!

ANCHORING CHILDREN TO THEIR PAST!

Purpose

Trees without leaves can’t give shade

July 29, 2020

“A Tree without leaves can’t give shade.”

Jamaican Proverb

The case for self-care

To steward anything of value demands that the steward must be able to care for themselves before they can know how to truly care for someone or something else.

I pass the above pictured “Cotton” tree whenever I run errands. She is magnificent. She is at least 6 feet across in diameter and probably over 4 stories tall. I can’t begin to guess how old this magnificent tree is. The one thing I do know is that she provides shade for several understory trees, varied vegetation, a herd of goats on occasion and the people who feel the relief from the sun when they walk into her large shadow.

This tree does not apologize or shrink from the space that is needed to give shade. She requires loads of water and organic nutrients to have attained her size. While I have no desire to attain her size (though I do have her bulging bell), I do need to take up a lot of space in my life in order for me to steward the people and causes I love.

I NEED TO:

  • Exercise and eat well so I can support the ones who might need my mind to be sharp and my body strong.
  • Rest so that I can work through strenuous time demands (especially in stressful situations).
  • To experience happiness and joy so that I recognize when these things are lacking in the ones I steward.
  • Read so that I stay current about all the resources that are necessary to navigate through my life and the ones I steward.
  • Stay in touch with my higher power so that I can tap into my faith during difficult as well as good times.
  • Live in gratitude so that I can share my good fortune with all that I steward.

The world is filled with a bounty of gifts. Even as we go through these dark days we have been given incredible gifts. Some of us have grown closer to family , learned more about our self than we thought possible, and some have grown steadfast in their faith. All of these things help us grow leaves and that allows us to shade all we care for in our part of the world. Finally, I noticed that my lovely tree brushes branches with several other large and imposing trees creating a luxurious green canopy. We can do the same. Throw some good shade someone’s way. After all, we are our brother’s/sister’s keeper.

Herstories

21 AND ALL THAT PROMISE

July 14, 2020

21 AND ALL THAT PROMISE

ANN MARIE KNIGHT-RENNALLS

Last Thursday my baby turned 21 and yesterday I threw her an “old lady party” with lots of sweet drinks, sugared desserts, and of course: quiche. The assembled “village”of her life sat in our sun drenched living room with smiles, laughs, and love in their eyes. After tearful toasts, more food, warm hugs, and heartfelt goodbye’s the house was silent. Everyone had left for their lives.
I shuffled to the shower and let the warm water slide over my head. Under my man made waterfall I took a moment to reflect n my life so far. How fortunate I have been so far. Even my heartbreak has been in most ways fortuitous. There is not much else I can ask for in this life and a multitude of things I give thanks for daily.
So, if this is the second adulthood of which I have read and studied, what happens next? I pondered what should I do next. Taking stock of what I have and what I want will be first. The first part is relatively easy, but the latter may take some time. I’ll let you know.

BIRTHDAYS COMING OF AGE EMPTY NEST POST MENOPAUSAL WOMEN YOUNG WOMEN

Herstories

WHEN THE LIONESS IS AFRAID

July 14, 2020

HERSTORY BLOG

WHEN THE LIONESS IS AFRAID

ANN MARIE KNIGHT-RENNALLSLEAVE A COMMENT

I leaped heart racing from my bed this morning as I forgot once again to take the house phone to bed with me.  The ringing at 6 am filled me with apprehension and fear.  Every between adult (one who has almost grown kids, siblings who are evolving,  and ageing parents) knows the times that the phone rings only when there is an emergency.  In this case the caller ID revealed that it was my mother’s cell phone.

Answering the phone with trepidation, it  ushered in my mother’s frantic voice.  “I dreamed that your father died and I did not know what to do”, whispered my mother.  “If that happens, I will come for you”, I said  assuredly.  Weary and shaken, I hung up the phone after talking to my calm as the ocean dad.  My mother suffers from varying stages of dementia and several things chilled me about our conversation this morning. Besides the initial fear of hearing the words that frighten me to my core was the fact that I realized, what do I do when the lion is afraid?

My mother has been the lioness of our family.  There is no hesitancy in her defense , her pride, or her love of us.  Recently, when my dad was mugged he laughed at the memory of my mom’s fight to defend him.  That is who she is, and who she will always be for me.  So, now it seems that I am the head lioness.  Would that I be as valiant and lionhearted as my mother.

DEMENTIALOVEMOTHERSTEWARDSHIP

Herstories

WHAT BECOMES A LEGEND MOST

July 14, 2020

WHAT BECOMES A LEGEND MOST

ANN MARIE KNIGHT-RENNALLSLEAVE A COMMENT

When I was a teenager there was a magazine campaign featuring legendary actresses sporting mink coats. The photos were tres chic but, I was more taken with the tag line: “What becomes a legend most?” I never thought that I would feel the same as those high fallootin’ celebrities. Fortunately, being a mom has become the greatest role of my lifetime.

So, on the anniversary of my daughter’s break out role as a new soul coming to the planet, I want to thank her for the twenty six years that she has allowed me to take credit for her beauty, innate goodness, and fascinating mind. Nikki makes me look good and that ultimately will be what becomes my legend. No mom can ask for more.

BIRTHDAYSGREAT GIFTSMOTHERHOOD