First blog post

This is my very first post. Well, not exactly, but it is my first post in years. I love to write; it’s how I best express myself when I’m nervous, scared or simply shy. Which I am. But no one believes that.

I’m actually the editor of two magazines where I live out my life as a parenting expert and lover of food and wine. But here…this is where I’m free to be me. The me that laughs, cries, fails, succeeds, does stupid shit, awesome shit and everything else in between.

This is me…mother, daughter, sister, friend, lover, dreamer and schemer. #nofilter

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Being Bold & Beautiful

Being bold …. simply means that the fear of failing is smaller than the hope of succeeding, and that hope is bigger than the dream itself.

 

I spent this past summer encouraging children to be BOLD. When my daughter asked me what makes me bold, it forced me to think.

I was 15 years old in High School when I was presented with the challenge of completing my Grade 13 thesis. Truthfully, I had no clue what a thesis was, and when I saw the options offered I knew it wouldn’t have ended well.

You see, I was never an academic rock star. In fact, I hated numbers and calculations, although my mother reminds me that I got a 1 in CXC Math. Science confused me, History frustrated me and Geography went straight over my head. But people always excited me. I knew I was artistic, but I wasn’t an artist. My obligation to complete school at the high level, forced me to think outside the box.

 

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Me, 15 years old, at Ridley College

I approached my Art teacher – a burly and kind-eyed soul who had little patience for ‘foolishness’ in his class. Being new to the country and their school system, I silently hoped my strong Jamaican accent would woo him and elicit some compassion for the ‘new foreign student’. I told him that I didn’t know what to do or how to do the assignments presented. I asked him very kindly, if I could create my own project and still be judged by his criteria. “What was my proposal”, he wanted to know. I was nervous because I fully anticipated that he would dismiss my idea and me, and that I’d be relegated to analyzing Claude Monet’s Poppies, or some other revolutionary great who bored me stiff.

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The Way You Make Me Feel (Art Project Fashion Show, 1989)

Instead, I wanted to produce a fashion show, soliciting the support of businesses in the small town where we lived. Apparently he listened while he laughed. He would give me no money to do it he said. I had to present a project plan and periodic analyses. It had to be presented to the entire school body and I had 8 months to complete it. He eventually said yes, and I then realized what I had done.

Now imagine, in a then-hick town with no black folk (the only ones were the 7 of us students at my boarding school), I walked the town for days canvassing support for a project I really had no idea how to do. I had doors closed in my face, and was ushered out of stores when owners assumed I came to steal. But I found support in a few students who thought my idea was ‘rad’. Yes, that word was cool then.

 

After months of dreaming, creating, researching, planning, praying and working, I presented the most out-of-the-box assignment to an audience comprised of the students and faculty of my entire school. Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” was still topping the charts and that song became the theme for my Grade 13 thesis. The show was a hit and the A+ that I got, contributed significantly to balancing what would otherwise have been an ‘average average’.

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The Way You Make Me Feel (Art Project Fashion Show, 1989)

My teacher told me that I was brave and stupid at the same time, because if I’d gotten a failing grade, I would also have set a precedent of preventing students to attempt non-traditional projects. He told me that the teachers in the Art Department had discussed my proposal and though they agreed to let me proceed, the decision was an arduous one.

That’s the first time I remember being deliberately BOLD.

BOLD

Since then, I’ve been scared as many times as I’ve been bold, if not more. The ‘NO’s weren’t easy then and they’re no easier now, but having tasted the sweet nectar of what felt like success, I know that there is no greater feeling than accomplishing a task set.

Today I’ve learned that boldness does not happen on it’s own. It co-exists with fear, and in a weird yet almost logical way, the two thrive on each other. The one that wins is inevitably the one that had received most of my attention.

I was 12 years old when I first travelled alone. I went to visit family in Houston and to this day, I clearly remember the trepidation I felt when I was leaving. The anticipation of spending 2 weeks with my Texan cousins had me excited in the weeks before – much like the thrill I get when I think of the end result of a new project. But when I was finally faced with the act of leaving the safety and familiarity of my parents and home, I died a thousand deaths. My mother ignored my separation anxiety and the tears that came with it, and I boarded the plane for the first time without my family. I traveled solo, as a UM; airline lingo for unaccompanied minor. Looking back, I think this may have been the root of the genuine care I gave the UM’s I encountered in my former life as a Flight Attendant. (side note)

The amazingness of that summer remains with me today. I made my own decisions during those 2 weeks, albeit while in the care of guardians, and I began to develop a sense of pride in doing things on my own.

I acknowledge that as parents, sometimes we have to thrust boldness upon our children until they actively seek it for themselves.

My son loves the ‘video light’ and my daughter is naturally very shy. I accept that when parenting multiple children, we must recognize that boldness comes in many forms. The praise and encouragement that my daughter needs to come out of her shell, doesn’t always work with my son who doesn’t even know where his shell is. I want them both to be BOLD, but I have to approach them differently.

I try to teach my children about the spoken word, constructive criticism and negative comments. They’re all a part of life and to me, the earlier they understand the power and purpose that each serves, the sooner they’ll be able to fend off some of the realities of life. From bullying to bad grades to heartbreak – and everything in between. Boldness involves many things, but giving up is not one of them. I can’t fight their battles for them, neither do I wish to, but I can provide them with the tools to protect themselves as best as possible.

Being bold doesn’t mean that we’re invincible. Nor does it mean that every goal will be accomplished. It simply means that the fear of failing is smaller than the hope of succeeding, and that hope is bigger than the dream itself.

I have undertaken a retail store, a magazine, series of events, public speaking ventures and now my boldest move to date – a children’s modeling agency!

When the butterflies flutter uncontrollably, and my nerves rattle louder than the naysayers around me, I still choose to be #BOLD. That is what I want for my children… and yours. Each and every time.

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Photo courtesy of The Jamaica Observer Ltd.

Consequences, Lessons & Finding Mommy’s Groove

… 8 years a divorcée, I can say with certainty that I now know that I left my marriage because I was impatient.

I was one month pregnant when I left my husband.

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A crazy decision you might say, but it was one that I made thinking that I had it under control. I was no different from any other woman in a marriage who had had her fill of unhappiness. But the truth is, while there was nothing special about me or my situation, I knew that my emotional state of mind was critical to the well-being of my child, and I walked away because at the time I believed that the alternative would have been better.

If I’ve learned nothing else, I’ve learned that there are always consequences for our actions. I didn’t leave an abusive marriage, I wasn’t crying myself to sleep every night and I wasn’t burdened with regret. However, now 8 years a divorcée, I can say with certainty that I now know that I left my marriage because I was impatient. The things that needed fixing weren’t being fixed quickly enough and I walked away simply because I could.

It was already too late when it occurred to me that maybe I hadn’t thought it through carefully. Shortly after I was on my own, I craved intimacy. My daughter was 8 months old when my divorce was finalized and retreating to my ex was not an option. Yup – I definitely didn’t think this thing through all the way at all! The road ahead looked long and lonely, since being circumspect was the only expected path for a new mother to take. No?

Today, I’m raising my two children as a single mother, and when the going gets rough and tough, the instinct to walk away is quelled, because unlike a marriage, there is no eject button in motherhood.

IMG_3987.JPGNeither is there is an option to pause, delete, rewind or fast-forward. The only button here is real-time play, which sometimes get complicated when I try to balance my life in equal measure of what my head, heart and body want.

You see, my head is smart; it wants the structure of a disciplined life, complete with annual vacations and a pension plan. My heart is soft; it wants world peace and smiley faces all around, but my body is plain worldly. It still thinks it’s 25 and has an acute sex drive, (yes, it’s true about women in their 40’s). Fortunately, I’ve attained some of the wisdom of maturity that comes at this time.

Interestingly though, since my re-entry to the dating world (ugh), I’ve had a relatively easy time in choosing who stays and who goes. Though they don’t know it, my children are the ones who inadvertently help me to make that important decision. #KidFilters I call them. The thing is, if he won’t be able to ‘fit in’, then he won’t be able to ‘get in’. I had promised myself from the get-go, that my children would never be exposed to Uncle This or Uncle That. That’s my grown-up mommy business. If Uncle This is eventually deemed worthy of our late-night pool escapades, camp-outs in the backyard and endless rounds of playing BoyGirl and Kalooki, then there may be a chance he could be approved for a Level 1 soft introduction. If he gets a soft intro, he’ll be known as Mr. So and So. Uncle status is only achieved in the ‘friend-for-life’ category, or in dating Level 3 and higher. This is some serious stuff here and yes, there are levels to this ish!

I try to instill in my children the virtues that I believe are needed in relationships. Being thoughtful and considerate ranks pretty high for me, so when a potential interest was completely oblivious to and uninterested in a recent accomplishment of mine, (of which I was especially proud), I knew immediately that he would not pass go on my Monopoly board. #Filtered

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Mr. Inconsiderate was is a hottie who exciteds me on several levels, but I don’t want to wake up one day and regret choosing the wrong influences for my children just because I want a brief moment of pleasure. (Or not so brief..)

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They’re gonna make enough mistakes on their own – I definitely don’t want to contribute to that by having them see their mother date an asshole. My kids are smart and yours are too I’m sure. We’re parenting in a very different era where our children know far more than we did when we were their age, and in some cases, they know more than we do today and we are fooling ourselves if we think otherwise.

Last week, I cancelled Friday night dinner-on-the-town plans with my children due to heavy rains. On my way home, I sent my son a Whatsapp message as follows:

Me: Hey hon, I had wanted us to go out to dinner tonight but this weather is not conducive, so maybe tomorrow night

Me: Back-to-school dinner **smiley face**

Son: **Sad face**

Me:  Have you eaten yet? Netflix and Chill for us tonight!

Son: Mommy

Me: Yes son?

Son: Please never use that term again. Netflix and Chill means that  you have intercourse whilst a movie is playing in the background

Me:  **Shocked face**

Me:  Ooooooooops

Me: **Laughing**

Me: Ok then…

Son: Mommy, this is not funny. This is a very serious matter. Where  did you hear that term?

I was chastised by my 12-year-old child.

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Up until that point, I didn’t know that my son knew the word ‘whilst’. I also thought I was a really hip mother, up-to-the-time, with a handle on all things cool.

Well… I. Got. Schooled. By my pre-teen son nonetheless, and apparently I am in the minority of adults who think that the term in question actually means to watch a movie and relax. Duuuuuuh. My mind took me back to when I was 12 and a French-kiss during spin-the-bottle meant we were living on the edge. I made a mental note to keep up, because it’s easier to revert to how I was parented than to adapt to how I should be parenting today.

As Mother’s Day approaches, I look back at my 12-year stash of Mother’s Day cards. There have been some flattering words told to me by my children over the years; Beautiful, loving, patient (hah), kind, special, inspirational and important are just a few of them that come to mind. Then it dawned on me that despite all of my perceived shortcomings, I really am all of those things, (and more) to my children. Earlier this year I committed to be more present in moments shared with my children. I’m still not 100% successful with that, because no matter how hard I try, there are sometimes when zoning them out, being completely selfish and ignoring them, is just the medicine the doctor ordered. The point is I’m trying – I’m trying not to lose sight of the fact that only yesterday I was choosing between Desitin and Vaseline, and today , in the blink of an eye, I’m absorbing my 12-year-old instructing me on proper use of urban vernacular. Let’s make the time count!

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Oh by the way…I produced a short film reminding mothers just how important we are to our children. CLICK LINK BELOW TO VIEW.

Watch, enjoy and share. 

Happy Mother’s Day!

No Shame in the Mommy Game

Several years ago, while driving through Acadia in Kingston, I had an interesting (and telling) experience with a few little girls who were no more than 4 or 5 years old at the time. It happened at a section near to Roseberry Drive, where there’s a significant dip in the road – noteworthy enough to require drivers to reduce their speed somewhat.

I didn’t slow down and this is the conversation that ensued.

Girl 1: Ooooh Aunty, can you do that again? 

Me: Do what dear? 

Girl 1: Drive there again. 

Me: Where sweetie? 

Girl 2: By the roller coaster in the road. 

Me: Hmmm, why hon? 

Girl 2: Because it tickles my vagina.

Wow. Not exactly the conversation I expected on our quick run to Tutti Frutti!

I know little girls because I have one and I used to be one. I know what it means to be a girl, but it was at that moment I first realized that my daughter was a sexual being. You see, I know that feeling very well; it’s a sensation that many parents never consider their children could experience because they think that they’re just too young.

I knew that day, the relationship I would develop with my daughter could not be patterned off the one that I, like many in my generation, had shared with my mother. Sex was never a comfortable subject. Don’t get me wrong…we had the mother/daughter talk – once I recall, over some requisite book, which had a few boring pictures and lots of text.

I like pictures.

Our children don’t suddenly wake up one day and develop sexual energies. We may not care to admit it, but they’re there all along. And as astute parents, it’s important that we recognize when those feelings kick in. It’s important that we know how to help them to process what they feel – all part and parcel of raising tomorrow’s generation of young men and women with a healthy view on sex, relationships and dare I say marriage.

I was wise enough to determine that at 4 or 5 years old, they were too young for me to tell them that I too enjoyed that same feeling. It was a special feeling that Mommies felt when…. Sorry, I digress.

But thankfully, wisdom prevailed and I simply told them “…Yes, our bodies can tickle us when we’re happy and excited.” I continued along our journey pretending that we were driving a race car, much to their delight and love of fast driving.

fast-car

I might have been about my daughter’s age when I got ‘the talk’. I don’t recall the details, but I knew it was something along the lines of me becoming a woman and developing breasts and growing hair ‘down there’ and something about menstruation and then having a baby. Oh, and I was to read the book. Honestly, in my 8 or 9-year-old mind, it really meant nothing other than confirming to me that I would never have children. It was gross.

In my 44 years, I’ve learned a lot. (Yes, I’m still in the acceptance stage of ageing..) And some of my greatest lessons have come from my own parenting ups and downs, my personal upbringing and more recently, from the experiences of other parents around me. Truth is, it’s still trial and error for most of us. But becoming a woman is so much more than getting a period. I mean, this is it – the penultimate goal, right? We mature and grow and sprout new parts, and then suddenly, we are women. No where else to go. So there must be more to the process. And then what happens when we get there? Do we just prepare to wear deodorant for the rest of our lives, welcome our ‘Aunty from Red Hills’ once a month, and still not understand how to know, love and value our own bodies and ourselves?

Debra Ehrhardt, the actress and playwright, recently created an entire monologue called ‘Cocktales’ that offered a great laugh with a deep message. The play took me on a personal journey that was long forgotten – one that spanned simple seeds of curiosity and distrust. From an older cousin whose hugs felt different from the rest, to my first French kiss lesson with a tangerine- when I was 9. Yes, 9 years old. My teachers were the 13-year-old friends of another cousin. For me, I was simply thrilled that I was even allowed to hang out with them. Little did I know that I had signed up for French Immersion class.

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Back then, I don’t know what force on earth could have made me tell my mother. And it’s not that I was afraid of her, but the channel of communication required for that type of conversation just wasn’t open. This is the force that causes children to keep secrets and it’s the same force that I pray to God will never come between my children and me. This is one of the reasons why I parent the way I do. My methods may be faaaaar from perfect, but I really believe that so much of the way parents a generation ago related to their children and vice versa, just simply cannot apply in today’s Information Age. Our kids today are exposed to so much more than we knew when we were their age. When my son came to me at age 6 to ask me if bitch was a bad word, my answer was simply “No. A bitch is a female dog.” Ok, he continued, “Can I call someone a bitch?” “Would you like someone to call you a dog?” My response was my straight-faced and his answer was ‘no’. #nuffsaid. And when my daughter asked if ‘fuck’ was a bad word, I nonchalantly said “Yes, honey. That’s not a word for children to use. “Oh, so can adults use it?”

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Aaah bwoy…You see, outside influences are inevitable; especially from friends who have older siblings. But if we play our cards right, our influence will be stronger and last longer.

There are certain words in circulation today more frequently than any parent would want. Abuse. Pedophilia. Harassment. Rape. Bullying. We may not like these words, but the truth is, we can’t ignore them. Though it’s impossible to be with our growing children 24/7, it is possible – and imperative that we create a space where our children can share their silliest tales, as well as their deepest and darkest secrets. If keeping close to them is important to you, then open communication is probably the best way to maintain that relationship as they get older.

When it comes to personal experiences, there’s a thin line between sharing and over-exposing. I believe that where others see shame in past experiences, I see great opportunity to share wisdom with my boy and girl. My children are super curious and yours are too, I’m sure. I try to be open and honest with my children, considering age-appropriateness, of course. But every once in a while we have to employ some creativity and a bit of wit. Like when my daughter asked me if I’d had sex twice and I said yes…

I didn’t tell a lie…

#lifeofmom

The Incredible Hulka Says Sorry

Somedays… They. Drive. Me. Batty.

I hate school mornings.

I morph into an ugly, wingless, extra terrestrial being and no matter how hard I try, I can’t control it. I completely get what David Banner went through whenever Hulk was summoned to the surface by the anger gods. (If you’re under 20, you may know him as Bruce Banner, doesn’t matter, he’s the same hero in my books.)

Enter ‘Hulka’, my occasional alter ego. She is not as muscular as Hulk and she doesn’t become green, but she does come to life Mondays to Fridays, between 6 and 7am and again for a few minutes in the afternoon around 5.

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What’s incredible is that as soon as they are out the door, and I’m halfway through my second cup of coffee I feel a semblance of my calm, loving self, return to my being. The ‘they’ that I refer to are my children. My children whom I love more than life, the ones I work tirelessly for and the same ones I could easily sell on any given morning, or late afternoon.

Somedays… They. Drive. Me. Batty.

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Particularly in the mornings when the plea for “Five more minutes pleeeeease” is on repeat and no one is ever satisfied with the food prepared. The other day, they came downstairs for breakfast before running off to school and each found a glass of water and their vitamins. That’s it. There would be no bacon or French toast or corned beef left on the table that morning. Not even a bowl of cereal. I’d had it and could endure no more.

Breakfast.jpgI guess that’s the price I pay for giving up a live-in helper. Sigh.

The thing is, I know my limits and I try to operate within them. That said, my children now know (by trial and plenty error) that calling Grandma or Grandpa for homework help is always a safer bet than asking me. The Incredible ‘Hulka’ shows up at these opportune moments. I used to feel like a borderline failure as a mother – ashamed almost, because I was unable to assist my children with their basic homework assignments. But I quickly got over myself with that dream. I had honestly heard enough of “…that’s not how ‘Miss’ does it,” or “…Mummy, this is how it’s done in modern times.” Soon enough I learned that my brain operates on a different frequency than my children’s. “What do you mean that you don’t understand 2+2 = 4??? Isn’t it obvious?”

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I recognized fairly early that my involvement in the process would cause my children to become emotionally and academically scarred. So I took myself away. Scubaaay. When my son whispered to his sister that he thought I honestly didn’t know the answers (due to the length of time since I had last been in a classroom), my daughter (also my biggest cheerleader) advised him that “Mummy knows everything!” (She’s 8, so in her eyes I’m still the authority on all things!) I listened to their conversation while pretending not to, and gracefully gave up the homework ghost that day.

Clearly, David and I have much more in common than I ever dreamed of as a child who was completely fascinated by his timely metamorphoses. Yes, I’m talking about David Banner again. I always I liked him. Next to Wonder Woman (naturally), Hulk was my favorite superhero. Little did I know that we were kindred spirits, affected by like stimulants and now as I grow older, my tolerance threshold gets lower and lower. I’m working on it though…

Much to my mother’s chagrin, I have always spoken to my children in conversational adult language. I discuss topics with them that my parents and quite likely yours, would never have considered. Truth is, I screw up more often than I care to write about today, but I take no shame in letting my children know when my cup is full. As best as is appropriate, I am quick to explain to them that although they are correct to think that their mother is an amazing woman, I occasionally make mistakes. And when I do, I say that I’m sorry. It’s not always easy to apologize, but they too are learning that the road to change begins with the art of forgiveness. I am human after all. If nothing else, my boy and girl will know the value of an apology, and when and how to say sorry.

I grew up thinking that my parents were immaculately perfect. I have no recollection of any discord, argument or even a heated exchange – well, maybe once, but that’s a whole other story.  My sisters and I were shielded from anything untoward that may (or may not) have taken place in our home. And while that worked for them then, today I choose to do it differently. In creating the bed of roses for their lives, it’s important for me that they understand that those beautiful, fragrant roses come with delicate petals, necessary leaves, some dirty soil including a mandatory worm or two and of course, prickly thorns. It’s all part of the beauty and intrigue of this thing called life.

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All I’m doing is trying to keep it real…

On Lasco and Falling in Love

As 2016 came to an end and I edged closer to another birthday, I realized that I was developing an anxiety that I had thought was reserved for the ‘old girls’. I was turning 44, staring down the proverbial barrel of 50 and finally had to accept that I was aging.

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For many ‘forty-somethings’ this is a period of mixed emotions including, but not limited to excitement, satisfaction, regret, contentment and fear. As a divorced, middle-aged, mother-of-two, I threw into that mix the additional concerns of loneliness and self-doubt. You see, although I was approaching 44, I honest-to-God, never felt a day older than 30, 31, maybe 35 tops. Until… a friend advised me that “we are no longer Grace™ products on the top shelf, but more like Lasco™ tucked away at the bottom.” I laughed hysterically at her analogy, but have to admit that I started believing it. I was now Lasco™. (No disrespect to the brand, but you get my drift).

To most of my peers, I was being ‘profound’ and ‘ridiculous’ – but I quickly learned that it’s easy to label people as such when your ducks are all neatly in their row.

Let me back up a bit. You see, I consider myself to be a casualty of the fairy tale era (that still exists btw) where my life was marked by a series of specific goals and milestones. High School diploma by age 16, University degree by 20, husband, home, 2.5 children, dog, cat and goldfish, yadda yadda yadda… The plans and dreams were perfect. But on my journey, somewhere around, ahmmm… University, I started to go off-track. (Sorry about that again Mummy & Daddy).

perfect-lifeMy free spirit began soaring to new heights and did so happily for almost 20 years. I traveled the world, broke a few rules, lived, loved, laughed, got married, had children, got divorced, started over and now… today at 44, I am here wondering where the time went, how it went so quickly and why no one warned me about this part of the plan. I didn’t sign up for this part. The sagging breasts, evaporating bank balance and empty bed were supposed to be on The Lifetime Channel™ only – not in real life – and certainly not MY life!

As I reconciled that the fairy tale (now just a plain old tale) was my new frame of reference, some pretty simple but amazing things happened. The people around me (those I often take for granted) reminded me what this journey is all about and helped me to refocus. Thankfully, I’m learning to be patient, because that’s not one of my God-given gifts. I’m learning (slowly) to live in the moment and most importantly, I’m falling in love with me again – because, yes I had fallen out of love with myself.

My friend Dwayne, who happens to be the best photographer this side of the Atlantic (I’m shameless when it comes to acknowledging his gift) agreed to my nagging request for a photo shoot to commemorate my upcoming birthday. I wanted a jaw-dropping, magazine cover worthy photo. He had one rule – no photoshop allowed. If I wanted a ‘hot’ body in the pic, I’d have to wear it naturally. And since that’s what I wanted, I worked for it. I had been working out for a while prior, but now re-energized, I toiled 4 days a week, at the mercy of the tyrants, I mean trainers at the gym. This was harder for me than most for two reasons: one, I’m naturally lazy and two, I didn’t really support my efforts by dieting. I HATE diets because inevitably, I have always reverted to my old habits and ended up much further behind ‘square one’. So that said, the only real dietary effort I made was to eliminate adding sugar, I don’t drink juices and I started chasing my white rum with water instead of Ting™.

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Anyway…on the morning of my 44th birthday – December 1, 2016, I posted an amazing photograph. I was so frigging proud of myself! I enjoyed an overwhelmingly fantastic birthday and began embracing a new lease on my once Lasco life.

dwp10099-edit44 is indeed the new 24!

So there you have it. In 2017, I’m doing me – loud, proud and completely unconcerned about john public. On Christmas Day last, my 12-year-old son decided it was time for me to date again, so he signed me up for an online dating site. Hahaha. At first I thought it ludicrous, but then I figured – what the hell.  So now, I’m ‘dating’ again and guess what? I’m actually enjoying myself. Dates are complete with flowers, dinner and dancing… 2017 is not just looking up, it’s already up. (Insert happy dance here.)

So…cheers to friends who support, children who want a happy mother and Lasco™ rightfully taking its place as a number 1 brand.

If you’re interested in my journey, come along for the ride….