Is it ok to be Vulnerable?

It’s been a while, I’ve been busy making work and life balance exactly how I want it too and so far there is some success.  I’m enjoying my role in school (I’m currently leading writing and have been given the additional responsibility of Keystage lead starting in September), I’m spending time with my family and friends and I’ve even done a cheeky bit of shopping.  The only thing not currently happening for me is travel; I’m itching to jump on a plane again.

I’ve tried to write a couple of times but each time what I want to say either doesn’t quite come out or has made me feel overly exposed.  Funny that, I write this blog with the aim of being 100% authentically me but when things get too personal I pull back and give 0%.  If I was like that in my every day life I’d never get anywhere.  So this post is just a catch up to say hello and perhaps make myself a little vulnerable in the process.

During the height of the pandemic, when gatherings were locked down, restaurants weren’t available and church was an online only event, I spent a lot of time doing not much at all except work, in some ways this was a good thing, it gave me time to do things around the house and make some financial investments however it also left me secluded, I forgot how much fun it was to go out with friends and family and instead got very comfortable with being in my home.  As things have gradually started to normalise my feelings about getting out and about haven’t.  I’ve converted to forcing myself to attend social events because I know once I’m there I’ll have an amazing time.  I’ve even told my friends and family that with my 40th birthday coming up, barring catching a flight, there is nothing I would rather do than stay at home and cuddle up with a hot drink and a book.  This of course has been met with hard resistance and family telling me I have no choice but to celebrate with them.  In my heart of hearts I know I’d probably regret it if I didn’t celebrate but currently my mind is screaming a big fat NO.

I’ve joked at the presence of a mid life crisis but in reality I’m probably just about to step into the best days of my life. Yes, I’m still single and longing for my Boaz to take me out of the barley fields but I’m also glad I didn’t choose to settle out of desperation. It’s easy to look back and think perhaps I missed out on the person that was for me because I wanted the complete package, even though I wasn’t the complete package but in reality they were never for me because I wasn’t ready.

Now I’m ready.

I have an adult daughter and a son who is in his last year of primary school. I have a good job and a decent side hustle. I have investments and savings for the first time in my life and a handful of solid friends who I wouldn’t change for the world. That’s not to say I don’t miss some of the friends that drifted. I’m a very sentimental person and there are people who for whatever reason left my life that I am not afraid to admit I miss. I’ve always said that love is something you can’t just erase, once someone had my love, they will always have it, perhaps not in the same way but love doesn’t just vanish.

So what’s next? God knows. I have plans and dreams to accomplish so I’m going to stay focused and continue to work towards the life I desire.

Is it ok to be vulnerable? Yes!! We have all been there and in those moments you have the opportunity to grow the most.

What’s next for you?

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Let’s save the planet

After a very serious topic last week I thought today I’d go for something a bit more light-hearted.¬† The simple topic of saving our planet sprang to mind.¬† We are absolutely terrible at protecting our worlds resources.¬† We chop down the trees, pollute the oceans and send toxic fumes into the atmosphere on a daily basis yet we sit in our coffee shops with a latte and some avocado on toast claiming that we’re interested in building futures for our children.

I got a major case of the guilts this week when I read that it takes 10,000 litres of water to grow the cotton needed for my favourite pair of jeans, yet there are still hundreds of millions of people who don’t have access to clean drinking water.¬† My little monthly donation to Water Aid is like putting a pacifier in front of a 3 week only baby and expecting them to get it themselves.¬† I’m not saying don’t donate of course, the more of us that do that, the better but perhaps what I am saying is, maybe don’t buy that 6th pair of jeans that look like the other 5 in your closet, except for the ribbed detailing over the left pocket.¬† There is nothing wrong with re-purposing an old pair or going to vintage or charity shops for a second hand bargain.

Jeans all have holes in them nowadays anyway

Water is just one thing, the amount of plastic waste we produce is beyond ridiculous and where is it all going?¬† The answer may seem simple, it’s goes to landfil, our oceans, our parks all over our environment.¬† It’s so widely spread it’s even in our food and our excrement.¬† It’s definitely a worrying trend and not something that we can just wait for the plastic industry to respond to.¬† Yes they do react when there is government direction to do so but we all know that when consumers speak with their money, companies listen.

I was lucky enough to receive a gift from one such company who wants to ensure our children are not met with toxic play toys. For me that’s definitely one way to make a change.

This gorgeous set is made from bio plastic, is toxin free and as environmentally friendly as a new toy can get.

I haven’t got babies anymore, what else can we do? This is a good question and one that I’m still trying to answer. So perhaps whilst we’re still looking for solutions, let’s start by walking more, jumping on our bikes or, in my case, our roller skates and taking on some of this traffic pollution. I have to admit that I’m rubbish at swapping my car for my legs because I hate the cold but we are still a little way off affordable electric vehicles so I will have to make more of an effort and get peddling.

Another thing I really want to do is pick up some of the trash in my local park. I literally saw a bird trying to eat the ring from a plastic bottle that had been chucked in the bushes. F.Y.I litter bugs, parks have bins and if you can’t seem to find one there’s nothing wrong with shoving it in your pocket until you get home. If anyone fancies a day out litter picking with me please let me know and we’ll make an event of it, if we don’t start trying to save our plant, who else will?

We’re not racist!

The outraged voices of white Britain have spoken.¬† Even the hint of such an outdated critique on the morals of our¬† Great British soul has us hiring the other, to write reports that defend our covertly racist systems.¬† Though The Comission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: The Report, admitted to “some evidence of bias.” It placed the onus on black and ethnic minority stumbling blocks, squarely at the feet of the individual.

Now, this blog post is as diverse as the leaders in the education system or the board of directors in a finance company.¬† It’s diverse in reverse.¬† The people I spoke to are a group of 30+ year old professional women 4 black, 1 Asian and a white woman thrown in for good measure.¬† If you dig deep enough, you might even hear the echoes of a man I spoke to in passing. He’s not quite made it to leadership in my established friendship group, so his voice doesn’t really matter.

This may sound crazy to you, but this is our lived experience.¬† We are used to being the only ‘ethnic minority’ in the room, or for some, the only woman¬† at the table.¬† When the colour of your skin grants you privilege, you tend to forget that not everyone has access to life in the same way you do.

The report suggested that, “we have a reluctance to acknowledge the UK had become open and fairer.” This leads me to wonder who did they actually speak to?¬† Every one of the women I interviewed led with the fact they acknowledged things had become better from when they were younger, they were no longer subject to having abusive language freely thrown at them as in their 1980s and 90s childhoods, yet being told, “I hope you catch Sickle Cell or Thalassemia.”¬† Was a reality for one of them.¬† Sophisticated use of language that might be missed by the more liberal of society, has become the new way.

Us women are the first to admit that the breakdown in families plays a part. It seems stupid to ignore the fact that slavery ripped our men from the family home and created a damaging mindset for both men and women.¬† Our women are used to being ‘Strong, independent,’ doing things for ourselves.¬† We don’t need men.¬† But of course this is not true, we know that the more successful of our children are those that grow up in well rounded households, something that the report agrees.

A couple of the women I spoke to questioned the use of stop and search and suggested that it was more used to assert dominance than to actually impact on knife crime.¬† Why if police are stopping and searching more, are our young men still being killed 24 times more than their white counterparts?¬† It’s not that they are apposed to stop and search, they just want to see a correlation in the number of searches and a downward trend in knife crime.¬† The report recommends a ‘reconceptualised idea of stop and search.’ Of course we will have to wait and see what that actually entails when¬† the time comes.¬†¬† What we want are to know our children will be safe walking the streets.

We agreed that access was a key stumbling block and although the report states that there is no evidence of systemic or institutional racism, it does highlight that the doors to opportunity, although open, are still only half open to some and the “snowy white peaks at the top of private and public sectors” don’t do much to indicate lasting change.

The most Impactful thing I did get from my friendship group is that all of us wanted to see change, all of us want to be a part of that change and all of us recognise that the change must come not just from the way systems operate but also from an individual level.  What are we doing to grow our communities and push through the media blackout when it comes to our successes?  What are we able to do to ensure our youth are not wrongly prejudged before even lifting a hand to knock the door? 

We call “bullshit” on the idea that systemic and institutional racism doesn’t exist in Britain and yes it does exist alongside geographical, family, socio-economic, cultural and religious issues but our experiences are not to be swept under the rug because they are not understood.¬†

What we need is meaningful discourse that doesn’t wipe out our truth like the history books entwined in our outdated education system. We need leaders that aren’t afraid to push for the black man or woman because they’ve worked to hard to get in position.¬† We need representation that lets everyone know that we are an integral part of this country’s success.¬† We need people to stop gaslighting us as though we don’t know what racism is and we need to “self govern, protect, teach and nurture,” in order to become the community we desire to be.

Our rebellion does not have to be armed with weapons meant to kill or harm, our rebellion will be one armed with knowledge and wealth to promote change.

Single and Sharing

This could simply be a me thing but I find when I’m single and by single I mean not claiming anyone as my man, the left side of my bed tends to be occupied by books, devices, confectionery, anything other than a man. I read somewhere once, that you should prepare for what you want; set an extra plate at the table; leave a space in the closet etc and for a little while I actually did this madness. It’s no wonder my favourite ex used to tell me I was book smart but not street smart. In fact he would go as far as to say, “You have no sense of the common kind.” God rest his soul.

There is always so much pressure on a woman to fill that side of her bed. Either to have children, help raise existing children or generally just have a help mate. I get it, all of those things are important, if, you want them. What they do though, is impose a false narrative that without them you can’t be fulfilled. They make men feel empowered because they are needed, yet make some women feel a sense of desperation causing them to settle for way less than they deserve.

In 2019, I was in a long distance relationship with a guy I had met on holiday. I had insisted on the no sex before marriage rule so he was putting on the pressure to come and stay with me in the UK. When I told him he’d have to get a hotel or stay with friends he got very upset.

The offers of marriage had been flooding in from him and had I been back in my 20s, I probably would have agreed. He started getting possessive and wanting to know where I was and who I was with every minute of the day. I get that long distance it can be difficult but I didn’t share the desire to know his every move and at this point, I decided to call it off. His response, “You’re never going to find anyone like me who’s willing to marry you.” Strong words, which after hearing my response he soon retracted, but the fact he had the nerve to even think it, was everything that is wrong with the way society empowers men to think they are better than women.

Beyonc√© put it best when she said, “I can have another you in a minute…”

What men fail to understand is that we don’t have difficulty getting a man, men are always ‘available’. Most of us could have been married 3 times over if we chose to settle. What we do have trouble with is finding a man who is committed and doesn’t view monogamy as a straight jacket made to stop them ‘living their best life.’

I refuse to idolise anyone’s relationships because we all know that behind closed doors anything could happen but I do love some of the wisdom that comes from the mouths of men like Steve Harvey, he recognised his woman as an asset, his best one. He teaches woman that as misogynistic as it may seem, a man should profess you are his, provide for you and protect you. There is a lot to be said for this.

So whilst my bed might be taken up by chocolate wrappers and the latest self help guide to a better life, I’m going to enjoy my freedom and fill my time with friendship and laughter and maybe the next guy that comes along will be at a stage where their community cat days are over and they recognise the value that a good woman has to bring, perhaps they’ll even buy me another bedside table for the left hand side of my bed.

How well do you know your vagina?

If the word vagina gives you shivers down your spine, talk of a cervix has you sweating and the mere mention of discharge has you running to grab a sick bucket, this is just the post for you.

This week I will be talking all things fannies and pleading with men and women to normalise talking about changes in your intimate areas. 

Once you’ve had a team of doctors staring up your canal to check if you’ve stretched enough to push an entire human out of you, all sentiments of dignity go out the window.¬† From that moment forward you know doctors have seen it all.¬† That being said when I made a call to my surgery this week to discuss intimate matters, they did ask if I was ok speaking to a man about it, very considerate, though at this stage of my life the sex of my doctor is irrelevant.

I’ve always been very aware of what my vagina looks like, I was never afraid to sit in front of a mirror legs akimbo and check what I was working with.¬† To some extent the “pretty” vaginas in porno and songs that talk of “designa vagina” had a lot to do with that but I also wanted to know me so I could spot any changes.

Having been obsessed with human mortality since the age of about 5 I’ve always needed to know what my normal was so I could keep it that way.¬†

This goes for your discharge too.¬† Throughout a woman’s cycle our discharge changes slightly in texture and colour but at no point should you have green or smelly discharge and think things are still “A ok” down there.¬† Don’t get me wrong, it could just be a mild infection that triggers drastic change but any change is definitely worth getting checked.

The same goes for you fella’s too, grab your balls cop a feel and know what your normal is or better still let your significant other have a feel for you!

This Monday marks the 12th Anniversary of Jade Goody’s passing and that in itself is a reminder to get yourself checked out and don’t miss a single smear test.¬† My recent smear came back all clear but the nurse did notice a cervical entropic, which explained a number of issues I had been experiencing.¬† Thankfully it’s nothing serious and I’ll live, I may even be lucky enough that the issue fixes itself but once again it is a reminder to keep checking, know your body and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Now on another note, the first (living) human to exit my vagina turns 21 tomorrow!¬† Yes, that means I’m no longer a spring chicken and will have to stop insisting that I’m still 21 myself so happy 25th birthday to me!

What is a family?

Strange title today I know, surely everyone knows the answer to that one, or do they? I literally had to wonder if I was missing something when a friend of mine told me she had lost out on a property because they had given it to a “family”.

It angers me that on a clubhouse stage another friend of mine was told that she shouldn’t talk about mental health from the perspective of race, and it certainly angers me that despite living in a so called libral society free from the bonds of slavery my people are still shackled.

I can only speak as a single mother, because I am a single mother. I can only speak as a woman because I am a woman and I can only speak as a black person because I am black. When you ask me to offer my opinion on something I offer it as a black woman who also happens to be raising her children alone and the thought that in the eyes of someone else that means my children and I are not a “family” makes me angry beyond words.

I am unapologetically black and nobody has the right to tell me I shouldn’t talk about my trauma from my perspective as a black woman. Like it or not, we face the system differently to others. I remember the pain I was suffering on the labour ward with my son and being told I was exaggerating and just needed to use the gas and air and I’d be fine, before having to be rushed into surgery for an emergency c-section because apparently my word as a black woman means nothing. Before you tell me that this happens to other women too, black women are 4 times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than a white woman and it’s no coincidence that black people are more likely to die of covid either. Why do you think the results of those investigations are still hushed? The only reason for it is the disparity of care they receive due to their perceived “strength” After all isn’t that the reason we were brought and sold in the first place?

I remember as a teen, being told that perhaps I should be a nursery nurse instead of my ambition to be a lawyer or social worker, despite having better grades than many and I’m not saying there is anything wrong with being a nursery nurse, I did go on to do the job and love it but why couldn’t I get a job that required a degree? What was it that the career advisor saw in me that told her it was unachievable for someone like me? Nothing but the colour of my skin. P.S madam career advisor, I now hold 3 degrees.

I also remember sitting in the staff room of one of my previous work places and listening to the other teachers rant about particular children and how, “It’s the single mums that are the problem.” I kindly had to remind them that this single mother sat right next to them as a peer, not only works her ass of to provide for her children but has worked since the age of 15 and is raising children to be non-judgmental human beings. This is one of the reasons I got into teaching, I didn’t want children, especially black children, to continue to be told they could not achieve all that they wanted to in life.

So back to my initial question; what is a family? A family is, in my humble opinion and closely agreed with by Google, a group of people who love each other where there is at least one adult that has people that depend on them. When you start saying that single parents living with their children are not a family, you shackle them, you tell them that in your eyes they are not whole. You tell them that despite how they got to that position, they are not worthy of the same life chances as everyone else and you feed into their already fragile self confidence.

Something has got to change and I will be one of the change makers.

How to Succeed in the Struggle

I sometimes find it hardest to write when I’m happiest, it’s as though pain causes me to express myself in a way that no other emotion does. Strange that. Or is it?

Pain is, in my opinion, the body’s way to trigger our minds into searching for solutions. Without the pain of slavery causing my ancestors to be separated from their loved ones, would they have found a way out? Without the recent pain of watching George Floyd murdered on our TV screens, would my community have pulled together in such a way to start a wave of change, unity and passion to break down systemic oppression?

Without the pain of rejection and the fight to be seen for the work we do would migrants continue to create great works in London, ‘the melting pot of creativity’?

This week’s London Fashion Week has shown a great deal of fashion created through struggle. Whether that be the struggle of acceptance in the mixture of Western meets West Africa (Labrum SS 21 ‘The Cotten Tree) or those who champion fashion design for social change (Tolu Choker).

Labrum
Getty/Tristan Fewings
Labrum
Getty/Tristan Fewings

The offering this year, in these unprecedented times has been bold and exciting. From collections that get you thinking about what you would do if you knew these moments were your last (IA ‘Hour Glass’) to the fun vibrant crystal jewellery collections. We have surely been spoilt for choice.

IA London Women’s Fall 2021

What have been your highlights of fashion week so far? Last week I touched on New York Fashion Week. Do you excel in pain or triumph in happiness? Let me know.

How To Show Up For New York Fashion Week

Fashion season is about to be lit! With all of us biting at the bit to get out of our homes and on holiday, we’ll be watching the fashion world for the next new thing to jump off the runway and straight into our holiday suitcases.

I know what you’re thinking, did I watch the latest broadcast from our very own poor excuse for a prime minister? The one who effed up by not listening to any of the early lockdown advice and landed us up shit creek without a paddle? Well yes, I listened to him attempt to make us lose all hope in a summer back on the beaches, enjoying a swim with our loved ones. As I listened, I thought, and this may be very selfish of me, I’m a Barbadian national, so I’m going home!

With that said, how are we going to see all the latest on the runway for Fall? Don’t panic E! has you covered. There will be live broadcasts of all the wonderful new trends beginning on Valentines day, so if you’re stuck for a date, it’s ok I’ll be virtually sat next to you taking front row to watch Jason Wu’s collection at 10pm UK time.

How I’m Showing up fir NY Fashion Week

Being that February is also Black History Month in the US, they will have special offerings during the month to showcase the black fashion icons who have been trailblazers and changemakers in the fashion industry. I, for one, am looking forward to finding out all the inside secrets of what goes into styling Beyoncé, being that I consider my alter ego a bit of a Sasha Fierce.

Alter Ego

So here’s to a month filled with a dollop of love, a sprinkling of fashion and a whole lot of fierce.

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

It’s now that time of year where the shops have swept out the last of their Christmas goods with January sales and are stocking their shelves (all be it virtual at this point) with chocolate roses, stuffed teddies, drinking mugs with affirmations of love plastered all over them and fluffy socks, just in case your partner has cold feet.

Now, I’m going to start off here being very clich√© and letting you know that the best gift you can give is the gift of love. I can almost hear you cringing but hear me out…

We are in the middle of a pandemic and Covid is killing off loved ones and ripping away the finances of many. It has been attributed to the rise in domestic violence and some studies suggest a rise in suicide rates. Now, I’m no expert in those areas but what I do know is that the mental health of our nation has been hampered by the lack of available services.

Reaching out to people, especially those who you know live alone, is even more so important in times like this when popping to the local community centre and having a chat with those around, is no longer an option.

It’s evident, even when I take the dog out for a stroll, that people are hankering for human connection. The amount of people who have stood at a distance and attempted to strike up conversation is above and beyond what I’m used to. It’s no longer just a smile for the dog and a nod in my direction, it’s people telling me where they’ve walked from that day, how many days a week they work from home, what they do for a living and whether or not they’re bothering to cook their solitary Sunday roast.

I must say, having my 2 children at home with me is an absolute God send. My 20 year old, the socially conscientious child of my two, struck up conversation about the number of cancer patients that have died, likely due to the cancelling of their treatments because of the pandemic. Not only does this sadden me but it makes me feel truly grateful for the current state of my health. So the next gift I would put on my list is gratitude. Let someone know that you are grateful they exist, let them know you are thankful you can call and hear their voice. We aren’t going to be here forever so let’s make our moments really count.

You get the gist here, the gifts I’m suggesting are more acts of service over physical items however that’s not to say physical items can’t play their role in our humanitarian efforts. I was gifted this great little bracelet from Refocus Bands.

At first glance it’s just like any other wrist band but when you flip it over, there is a reminder on the other side.

They come with many options of messages and there is even the option to create your own message. It’s an affirmation on your wrist and a cute, meaningful alternative to the generic box of chocolates and single stemmed roses (though if you buy me a rose I’ll be beaming).

Now to the more traditional gifts, this one is traditional with a twist. Me, just like a lot of people, love a sweet treat and my girl Nikita over at Kitaskakes has so many offerings for the valentines season. For example this beauty of a cookie, the promo version features my ugly mug but don’t worry, you don’t have to scare your loved ones off with my face, if you get your orders in on time the choice of face they eat is entirely yours.

If all else fails order in a takeaway grab a bottle of wine from the supermarket and Netflix and chill the night away.

If you have a product or service you’d like me to share, ask away, I don’t bite but I usually charge a fee, after all, how am I going to pay for the takeaway?

Is Clubhouse as good as they say?

Fresh new week and after the Sunday snow, there is sunshine.  There is nothing like a sunny day to bring a smile to my face and a dance to my feet.

Last week for me was all about Clubhouse and getting to grips with the app famed to be the next best thing in virtual communication. As a bit of a social introvert, who isn’t the most confident in a room full of adults, the prospect of speaking on a platform full of strangers was not something that appealed to me. However, I went in to network and see what golden nuggets I could pick up from the goods and greats of society.

One thing I’ve noticed so far is that in my corridor there seem to be a lot of people on club house talking about, clubhouse…

Boring.

Those are the rooms that I started off in, as obviously when you get onto the app you want to know how to use it but a couple of weeks in, when the same people are in the same rooms speaking about the same nonsense, it gets tedious. I’ve now found myself in the other rooms in my corridor where business and property are the focus. I have to say that it’s a great space to be in if you really want to learn but it’s also a great space to be in to speak if you know you have something of value to offer.

Club house is a space where, if you want to you can gain tips and tricks from the business world, you can philosophise with brilliant minds and you can pitch to investors. It’s full of creatives, educators, marketing gurus and the like but is also a place where you can bump into sharks if you don’t know which waters to swim in.

Where would little old me land in a room with Keisha Cole and 21 savage? Only in clubhouse. What did being in that room show me? It showed me that these people, at the top of their game industry wise, are just as damaged as the next person and the scary thing is, some of them aren’t dealing with their issues and are living walking time bombs waiting to explode. I won’t repeat some of the things I heard, masked as jokes, but I’ll just say this, revenge is a dangerous game.

So would I recommend Clubhouse? In short yes. It may not be all flowers and roses but it is a space where you can grow in confidence and learn from the best of the best. Don’t go in looking at yourself as an underdog as I’ve heard some people refer to themselves, you have as much to offer as the next person. Our lived experiences give us insite and you never know who can benefit from what you have to say.

And what to wear when you’re there? It doesn’t really matter, they can’t see you. ūüėČ