New Year’s Day Tradition

It’s funny how memories are suddenly triggered. I haven’t spent New Year’s Eve (NYE) with my mother in over fifteen years but yesterday I remembered one of her traditions.

Every NYE we would start to say prayers as a family about 11.30pm. After midnight,  we would say Happy New Year, give each other a hug and toast with champagne. My mum would bring out a plate of segmented oranges and pass them round.  And then say in Yoruba, “odun yi a san” meaning this year will be good or better. (I hope no one corrects my translation ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚)

As we drove home from NYE’s service at church, I told my husband this story.  When we got home, he took out some oranges from the fridge and cut them up. And so the tradition is passed on.

Just as oranges bring sweetness and refreshment to the palette, may 2017 be a sweet and refreshing year for you and your loved ones. English doesn’t do justice to what Yoruba could have done but I’m sure you get the sentiment.

Happy New Year!

Thanksgiving

โ€‹I tried to capture the beauty of this tree but the sunlight was overpowering. Maybe I was standing in the wrong position. Perhaps I should have had the sun behind me. Dunno. I’m not a photographer, I’m a writer; but I love taking pictures.

Autumnal colours were in full bloom on it. Nature is truly an extraordinary artist. I simply bow as the beauty of creation.

Lately I’ve been taking a lot of pictures on my phone. I post them every morning on my instagram account.  

And I’ve been wondering lately why I’ve suddenly started taking pictures and more importantly, sharing them.

Well my first thought was my route to work is absolutely gorgeous. It makes the gloomiest days perfect. If you ever visit Cambridge, you must go to Jesus Green. I’m sure I’ve said this before. Well it’s stunning.

I digress. As I continued taking shot after shot, day after day, I realised that they are my expression of gratitude.

All my ducks may not be in a row, they certainly aren’t, but as I look around me each day, there is something worthy of my undivided attention. I sometimes stop for a few minutes to take in the view and some days I don’t see it immediately but others, like today, it’s on full display. Not to be ignored or overlooked.

If you look around you I can guarantee you there is something to be grateful for, even on the darkest moments.

We as humans are really doing a great job of messing up this world but we as humans also have a great capacity to make it beautiful every day.

Today I am eternally grateful for life. To be able to wake up each day, get out of bed myself, walk, hug my children, yell at my children ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ˜ƒ, and just breathe and look up to the sky. I am simply grateful.

Ignore the Naysayers

Yesterday, my son and I were having a conversation about his impending match, which was today.

He had been telling his friends at school about the match and there was a plethora of opinions about the opposing team.

  1. They trashed J’s team and J’s team is good
  2. They are better than you guys, you can’t  beat them
  3. They are too good

So the conclusion was, you aren’t going to win. Don’t bother.

Way to encourage a friend! 

So I simply said to him, “it doesn’t matter that they beat J’s team, they don’t have you. So go out there and do your best”. 

For all I knew this team might be the spawn of Barcelona FC but I didn’t really care. You can’t acheive anything without first believing you can. You may not always win but you will most certainly lose if you give up before you start.

I asked what his response was and he said, “I told them I bet you I’ll win). *sniff snifff. Proud mama moment*

I don’t care how delusional I may come across. I will chose delusion any day over thinking I’m a loser before the game has even started.

Pssssh. Anyway, they haven’t met the son of Wonder Woman. He went, he scored, our team won. 

Life is in Seasons

A few months ago, my older sister and I spent a weekend together and we got talking about how life is in seasons.

We concluded that you can have all the hopes and aspirations you want; you can believe for great things; you can hope for a wonderful life but one thing that is constant to all people is that life will always certainly have highs and low. It’s the basic tenet of existence.

It’s a fallacy to believe that life will be a constant high. And a lot of us struggle with this because whether we say it or not, we have a sense of entitlement to a ‘good life’.

And don’t get me wrong, we do deserve a ‘good life’, whatever that is for you but it’s not an entitlement – it happens by grace.

The older I get, the more I am able to master the changing seasons. When I was younger, I viewed them as a sentence being meted out to me. I would often ask why is this happening to me? What have I done to deserve this? Why does it always happen to me? When is it going to be my turn? Why, why, why, why, why, why,  why? However, after going through a fair number of seasons you learn to ride the waves – maybe even control their impact on you or your reaction to them.

I hope to God I do not become an expert on changing seasons LOL but I have come to understand that if you can be still in the storm, it will pass. If you can stop yourself from making decisions when you are desperate or scared, you’ll make better choices for yourself. If you can look at the season not as something being done to you but a process of refinement, then you might just learn something through the process. If you can try your darnedest not to see the season as a reflection of your esteem but see it for what it is – a bad time. And if you can yes, hold on for that ‘good life’ it will come – even if it does tarry (oh I sound ancient now).

The opening line of one of favourite songs by Maxwell is, “I was reborn when I was broken“. Only seven words, not a very long sentence, but they speak volumes to me. A different perspective perhaps to pain and disappointment. Lots of people talk about how they go through a tough season and come out of the other side a different person. The loss of a loved one, the loss of a home, redundancy, divorce, a betrayal, an unexpected diagnoses; so many different seasons we find ourselves in; often without warning. Can we be reborn as we pass through them? Perhaps the season may take a part of you and enable a different you to surface. I was reborn when I was broken.

Maxwell’s response is to “take it one day at a time”. Those sound like wise words to me. Maybe he’s walked through a few seasons too. The season always has a byline. It has a knack of revealing it usually at the end though. If maybe at the turn of a new season, we could learn to turn the volume down a bit, we may hear the whispers of the byline; the story it seeks to share. Then perhaps we too can we say, “we were reborn when we were broken”.

 

I am really determined to learn something new in every season. Almost like a do your worst, I’m-going-to-grow-through-this-sort-of-growl. As long as there is life, I can be stronger and say I was reborn when I was broken. I may cry a little but I will be reborn.

Life is a Roller Coaster

If the word ‘life’ had a picture in the dictionary, it should be a roller coaster. Not just a tame, baby ride but one with loops and turns and twists that elicit blood curdling screams. Can you tell I’ve been on a few? ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

I love roller coasters. For me there are the ultimate thing to conquer. I love the sense of accomplishment I feel after getting on one. I love the feeling of freedom when you are high up in the clouds and arms extended to the heavens. It is exhilarating.

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The thing is, even though the fun might be tinged with some fear, you know it’s going to end soon. You can close your eyes and wait for the ride to end. Here is where the similarities end with life. We usually don’t know when the circumstances we find ourselves in are going to end; particularly when it’s relentless.

Sometimes all we can do is be brave, pray, hope and wait. Sometimes, simply refusing to give up is all the bravery you need.

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Keeping Hope Alive

There’s an apt verse in the book of Proverbs that goes, Hope deferred makes the heart sick ………..” It really does.

Sometimes when I write these posts, I have to be honest, I want to say to myself, “just pull your boot straps on and get on with it”. If I were living in Syria and my home and entire neighbourhood had been decimated by bombs. And members of my family killed and I was homeless with children; keeping hope alive would not be an option. Survival would be priority. And so sometimes, I feel like these posts are for us; the myopic, spoilt ones in the relatively peaceful West who lack perspective on what heart sickness really means.

I think it’s incumbent on us to ensure that we don’t live our lives like there is no hope, for we have so much more. Nonetheless, the fact that the degree of pain suffered by others is greater than ours, doesn’t mean we don’t suffer. For despair is no respecter of class, nationality, social standing, education,  job title, Instagram followers .. whatever. Despair has one aim and that is to steal hope.

I’m not a psychologist or counsellor so I’m simply going to say what works for me.

  1. I pray. Lord knows when despair hits, we need divine help. Help may come immediately or it may come at the end of the day, help may come through angels in disguise, help may come through music, help may come through a friend or a stranger. I don’t know how help will be manifested but a little prayer never ever hurts.
  2. I immediately do something that makes me happy and gives me hope. For me, that’s writing. I take out 10-15 minutes to write a blog post or continue some previous piece of writing I’ve started and suddenly I’m seeing my name in lights. Hey, hey, hey. Whatever floats my boat right?
  3. I listen to music that lifts up my soul. Usually that’s Motown, 80s/90s R & B and Gospel. Nostalgia can do a lot to lift up the soul. It has it’s place to play as long as I don’t live in the past.
  4. I surround myself with joyful people and things. Now is not the time to listen to sad love songs and people who believe they are doomed for failure.Practice some self-care people. If there is no one around, I watch a good comedy. Laughter is an amazing medicine or put on my ear phones and listen to some sermons and Ted Talks.
  5. I really understand like Scarlett O’Hara, tomorrow is another day. If I cry today, I cry today. I get up tomorrow and start again with prayer and a little more hope than I did yesterday.

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RWW

 

Thought of the Day

When faced with an obstacle,  it’s always worth taking a step back and give yourself time to breathe. It’s amazing what a fresh pair of eyes can do the morning after or the perspective of valued counsel. 99% of the time, there’s a way round it. The 1% is the exception.
 

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The Kindness of a Stranger

Iโ€™ve been feeling really low and finding parenting quite challenging. There are many obvious reasons that I wonโ€™t bore you with but the reality is that my children are growing and I am being challenged to grow along with them.

I realise now that I canโ€™t parent the same way in perpetuity. I have got to evolve as a parent as my children grow. So Iโ€™ve been thinking about what this means for me and them. And if youโ€™ve been following my blog youโ€™ll know that involves a lot of talking it out with them as well.
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I attended my sonโ€™s Easter Parade performance and as heโ€™d done so well and since I didnโ€™t have to return to work, I treated them to tea at Costa โ€“ on the proviso that they finished their homework there. So over hot chocolate, caffe latte for moi, sandwiches and marshmallow chocolate squares; we just sat there with no agenda. Eating, drinking and talking.
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As we got up to leave, a gentleman seating a couple of tables away from us come up to me to say. โ€œI just wanted to say Iโ€™ve been watching your children and they are so well behaved. Well doneโ€. I tell you I could have cried. I almost did, I certainly did internally.
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It didnโ€™t fix any of the issues we are having but it felt good to hear that.

So my take home from this week is that life is full of twists and turns. So I will now take on the form of a chameleon. ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

When it comes to parenting, rigidity doesnโ€™t work; you only create more stress for yourself. After all there isnโ€™t a one size fit all rule. The personalities and peculiarities of our children determine how we raise them not want someone else is doing with their children.

I recall a previous boss asking me how I was finding my new role as a manager. And my response was ‘it would be perfect if there were no people involved.’ Similarly, I would be a perfect parent if I had robots for children.
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I would simply program them to do as I say; not talk back; pick up after themselves; definitely no tantrums and most definitely no mess.

My kids have challenged me this week and Iโ€™m grateful for a teachable spirit โ€“ at least for this week I do. They are actually helping me out with parenting. I’m doing a lot of listening. Sometimes it is unspoken, but it is there. Rigidity doesnโ€™t help to uncover it. We really all should be more like the chameleon and adapt to change.

Nonetheless, Iโ€™m ever so grateful to that man who walked to me at Costa in Tesco on Newmarket Road. Thank you for doing what you didnโ€™t have to. Thank you for being the hands and feet of God. Thank you for simply being kind.

The Problem With The Rat Race ……

A few days ago, I came across this quote on Instagram by Lily Tomlin; allegedly I should add.

The problem with the rat race is that even if you win you’re still a rat.

I remember reading it and thinking, what an odd quote.

Yesterday I was presented with an opportunity that I had been waiting on for a VERY long time. However it would be at the expense of relationship that is dear to me. Even if the person wasn’t important to me, what I was being asked to do would have compromised my standards.

There are times when you weigh your options and you are genuinely confused as to what to do. This was not one of those times. The choices were clear. Say no thank you or be a rat. I chose not to be a rat. And hope I will always have the integrity required not be a rat.

For me, there is no value in success if it’s an ill-gotten gain. I want to succeed with my integrity intact.

Today, that quote makes a whole lot of sense. I will not be a rat!

Stylist Live Review

Yesterday, my sister and I attended the girl-fest that was Stylist live. I can only describe it as a celebration of womanhood in all her diverse forms. Starting on the 15th of October and ending yesterday, it was four days of fashion, learnng, inspirational talks, food, beauty, exhibitors, books …….. amidst a sea of women.

  

If you live or work in London, Stylist magazine should be familiar to you. If not, where have you been??????  I remember taking detours just to get a copy from the station when I lived in London.  Stylist knows their readership well – women who work but also want to nurture a passion and possibly grow that passion into a business. And I guess this was the motive for launching Stylist Live  – everything you would get in their magazine , but in real life.

So naturally, you know before you get there you are going to get fab products, a foodie area, fashion and how-to sessions. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know the how-to-sessions were my motivation for signing up – aptly called the Learning Labs. And lastly, for a little fee, you could attend a session on the Stylist Inspires Stage, to hear speakers such as Lorraine Pascale, Davina McCall, Caitlin Moran, Nigella Lawson and Katie Piper. And did I mention I won the tickets in a competition? Whoop whoop! ๐Ÿ™‚

My first stop was the catwalk. I’d never been to one before so it was great to have front row seats to view the autumn winter tends. I’m a bit sceptical about the return of the 80s trend is but you’ll be glad to hear that there are no shoulder pads, although sequins are going to be very much alive.
   

The Learning Lab I attended was by The Cambridge Satchel Company founder, Julie Deane OBE on How to Start a Fashion Business. An amazing and quietly inspirational bold woman who started a million pound company from her kitchen table. Her talk was probably the best business seminar I’ve ever attended purely for her refreshingly simple and honest approach. It wasn’t filled with platitudes and business cliches. It was from a view point of how to start small, create a brand and keep it simple. Utterly inspirational.

   

Sadly, I wasn’t able to get into the Learning Lab on How to Write your First Novel as it was over subscribed. A bit gutting but the plus side is that I got to spend more time with my sister. 

 

I’m on the left in case you are wondering. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Our final session of the day was at the Stylist Inspires Stage with Katie Piper, who survived rape and a viscous acid attack in 2008. I sort of approached her session from an I-already-know-your-story point of view and was hoping it would be inspiring. However, nothing could have prepared me for the depth of suffering this woman endured, overcame and lived through. She epitomised the strength of the human spirit. Her session was challenging , very challenging just because it confronted you with the insatiable search for the superficial or ephemeral vs what is truly lasting. My take home quote from her session was, 

Humans can survive three weeks without food, three days without water, three minutes without oxygen but we cannot survive without hope.

It’s rare to attend an inspirational talk where people aren’t clamouring over the mic to ask questions. There were only two questions from an audience of over 200 women. I think it was because -perhaps – when you meet a genuine article, words are few. It was simply prudent to listen. 

 

As an inaugural event, it accomplished it’s goal –  to inspire women. If I’m honest, because I’d seen a few moans on social media I was better prepared for what to expect. There were definitely a few teething problems which I’m sure the organisers will take on board. However, I would go again next year and take my daughter with me.

A huge well done to the team at Stylist magazine and thank you again for the tickets!