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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#OurSons is for My Son and Yours

#OurSons is very dear to me for a number of reasons…

As a first-time mother-to-be, when I found out I was having a boy, I was extremely excited. To be honest, I really wanted a boy because it felt like I was being given an opportunity to raise a KING. Like many other mothers, I believed I could somehow find the solutions to any and all ‘boy problems’.

My then untested and unproven theory was simple; all my son would need is love, affection, discipline and attention. Simple, right? Hah!!! On paper it was perfect, but in reality, not so easy….

I am fairly old-fashioned in my thinking, and while many women’s lib groups may chastise and berate my thinking, I still believe that the man is the head of the home. The fact that so many women are running households, doesn’t mean that that’s how it SHOULD be. It is that way because as women, we do what we have to do, because it has to be done – especially if there’s no one else doing it.

I believe with all my heart that the ‘don’t cry’, ‘be-a-man’, tough-it-out, tales that our men today were told as boys, have helped to create a generation of emotionally disconnected men – the same men that women struggle to have relationships with. Yes – the playas, the ballas, bad man, ‘gyalist’, girls man, cocksman, don – you know the type… They formed a few generations of men who were never really held accountable for their actions. I’m not sure if it’s that mothers were afraid of their sons, or that we just revered them too much… But I do know that in much the same way the women seek and need emotional support, our men do too. But when you’re told not to, that you don’t need it, you fill that gap in other ways. Enter the anger, violence and mistrust…

We’ve heard it said over and over again – boys are marginalized, they are adrift, they need help. They are, and they do.

#OurSons isn’t about who is above or below the poverty line. Or whether they are black, white, brown or any variation of same. It’s not about what they look like, how they sound, or where they go to school. And I care zero if OurSons have mother and father, mother OR father, or neither. The issues OurSons face are universal and they are no respecter of persons.

Now, I don’t purport to have all the answers, but I do know that collectively we can make a difference.

I’ve reached out to like-minded persons who not only have a passion for the well-being and success of their own sons, but for that of all boys who will become men, making decisions that will impact their lives, their families, their own children (some day) and ultimately, our nation.

#OurSons is not about academics or simply listening to parents, or cleaning up after themselves. Education, respect and discipline are crucial and I believe that those things will fall into place in time, once a solid foundation, including the right influences, has been laid.

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What #OurSons is, is simply a different way to engage our boys to help them recognize the role they play in their own lives. It’s the accountability factor. (Not the strongest attribute of most teens) And this year, we’re using sports to do it. By and large, boys are attracted to sports. The speed, the competition, the high energy, the WIN – all magnets for boys. But not all of them. The good thing, is that the lessons of #OurSons are not lost on boys who like to draw, or play an instrument, or like physics or drama. Because at the end of the day, just like a good coach, we are helping OurSons to find their own greatness by engaging with them in ways that they both relate to, and actually like.

The same words coming from a parent or caregiver, sound different when coming from someone cool.

Thank God for our ‘cool’ motivational speakers! Sean Williams and Andre Virtue… and by digital extension, Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Raheem Sterling, Bibi Gardener and Young Don The Sauce God… Thank you gentlemen, firstly for being the examples that you set in so many ways. And secondly, for sharing your voices with #OurSons!

Now, please don’t think that because I’m putting on this event, that I’ve got this boy-raising thing down pat… not even close! I’ll be there to listen and learn as well, cause TRUST MI…. I get exasperated almost daily!

My #OneSon and Me

What I do know is that I love my son enough to never give up on him, his friends and young boys in general. And I know most mothers and fathers out there share this sentiment… raging testosterone and all!

OurSons is for my son and yours.

CLICK TO REGISTER YOUR SON FOR #OURSONS

Perfectly Imperfect

#PerfectlyImperfect

Almost 15 years ago and less than 2 weeks before becoming a mother for the first time, I stood at an abandoned ferry dock on Yonge Street, Downtown Toronto, capturing the glory of my big belly, before maternity shoots became all the rage that they are today.

I knew that I wanted to capture the moment in ‘my way’, and since I was never really one to follow [all] the rules, the fact that it was 47 degrees out, made it even more exciting for me. I bared my heart, mind, soul and body to the elements, with wild abandon. Pretty much how I’ve approached my life. More heart than head. 

Today, as a mother, I bare my flaws for my children to see that their mother is far from perfect. I am not afraid to show them that I as much as I laugh, dream and joke, I also cry, get angry, am afraid and sometimes, I have no clue what I am doing. But they know that somewhere in my imperfections, is honesty, vulnerability and a whole lot of love. My big, soft heart opens me up to hurt and disappointment, but unfortunately, I don’t know how to be anything but. 

I think being a mother does that to you… it did to me.

I remember standing on the dock that afternoon, considering the wisdom (or stupidity) of my decision to stand naked in the cold, and it dawned on me for the very first time during my pregnancy, that my life was about to change drastically. I look back at these pics and I remember every emotion; I was scared shitless, my marriage was teetering on one of it’s edges, I was far away from friends and family back at home in Jamaica, and yet I felt excited beyond belief. I also felt sexier than Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct – but that’s another story. 

I braved the cold, did my shoot and I loved every one of my pictures. I was sooooo ready to become a mother! 

Today is my 15th Mother’s Day, and two children later, I still experience those same emotions, plus a host of others. Throw in pride, fatigue, optimism and even a little embarrassment sometimes. But thankfully, one of them has never been regret. 

Wherever you are on your walk as Mom, take the time to remember and savour your journey, knowing that each step takes us closer a destination where our babies grow up and we grow old.

From my heart to yours, Happy Mother’s Day. 

What My Mother Taught Me Without Knowing She Was Teaching

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For the most part, I grew up seeing my mother at home. I remember her as a student at the University of the West Indies, when she studied for her Diploma in Education. Then I recall her working for several years at Ardenne High School. Mummy was a Spanish teacher, and I thought with my own innocent simplicity, that she was ‘living her best life’. She was at school when we [children] were at school, and she was home when we were at home. We shared the same holidays and pretty much had similar schedules. 

Perfect, right?

What could a mother of 4 girls want more than spending almost every moment of her life caring for her husband and daughters?


Breakfast was always home-cooked; boiled bananas and corned beef were a favourite, cornmeal porridge ran a close second and sausage with ketchup never failed. (Quite unlike the many ‘cereal and toast’ mornings that greet my two children nowadays.) I don’t recall joining any cafeteria lines, which means our lunches were always packed, and I’m yet to replicate my mother’s perfect Shepherd’s Pie that waited for us on Wednesdays. Saturdays were reserved for hair-washing and Tom Redcam Library, and then Daddy joined in the fun on Sundays, when Creamy Corner in Savannah Plaza was turnt. Lol

Mummy’s sewing machine was always ‘on cock’. My dolls and I wore several of her pieces. Little did I know how much love went into her stitches, when I rolled my eyes at my ‘non-store-bought’ dresses. I never knew what a secateur was until I saw my mothers’ own in action each time she cut and made her Ginger Lily arrangements. And there was no fruit in our garden that was safe from the juicing process. Depending on when you visited our home, you were guaranteed a glass of soursop, mango, orange, otaheti apple or cherry juice.  If those weren’t in season, you’d have to settle for her freshly squeezed lemonade.

I recently saw a quote that spoke to a woman not valuing her mother’s journey until she herself becomes a mother. 

Understood.

I genuinely struggle to recall my mother’s spa dates or ‘me time’ of any sort. You know the ‘stress relievers’ that today’s modern woman needs? Yeah, my mother didn’t need those things… or so I thought. What I do remember is a woman who did just about everything… for everybody else. If she complained, we didn’t hear and if she was unhappy, we didn’t see.

She was the consummate wife and mother, checking all the boxes on life’s little ‘to do’ list. But what about the woman within? What of her dreams and passions, her hopes and goals? Did she even have those things? 

You see, my mother (lawks Mummy, don’t kill me for writing this!) hails from the era of poise, perfection and pride. Now that I am a mother, and though our parenting styles are vastly different, I have come to understand my mother, and more importantly, I have come to understand her journey. It is this understanding that makes me even prouder of her, knowing that the limitations of fear that captured her generation, were not strong enough to hold my mother forever. 

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Mummy went back to school in 1990 when she was already in her 40s. She enrolled at The Edna Manley School for the Visual Arts, in search of her passion, and completing a journey she began as a student at Westwood High School for Girls in 1961. She had loved art from then, and while she knew she was gifted, she never allowed her talent to manifest itself until she returned to the classroom years later – this time as a student, and not as the master.

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I remember her stories about sketching and drawing when she was a little girl, and I can only imagine what that era would have to say about becoming an artist, versus entering the honourable profession of teaching. 

I see my own daughter now 10 years old, gifted with a pen in hand and wit of words, creating the most beautiful calligraphy pieces, and I pray that her artistic light is never dimmed. 

Today my mother turns 70, and I share her story because I know that it’s not easy to just get up and follow your dreams, especially when you’ve passed the 40 milestone, and are already set in your ways. It could not have been easy to leave the comfort and security of a trusted career, to pursue a lifelong passion. But you did Mummy. And I’m glad you did, because not only have you inspired me and those of us close to you, but your story can serve to inspire so many other women who are afraid to step out from behind proverbial safety nets, to do and be more. #JustDoIt

Thank you Mummy.

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Happy Birthday. 70 looks AMAZING on you!

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NB.

It took some amount of convincing to get my mother to agree to a photoshoot to celebrate her fabulousness at 70. Her naturally shy personality keeps her away from the spotlight that she beautifully deserves. Thank You to:

Tiffany Lawson, for the ‘no make-up’ make-up look.


Norma Williams, for her impeccable styling.

Dwayne Watkins, for beautifully capturing this moment in time.

ONCE UPON A TIME…

At some point in the life of ALMOST every little girl, she dreams of being a princess.

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I said almost because I know that there are some girls who really don’t care and that’s fine. If you’re not into fairy tales and fantasies, you can stop reading this right now. I’m here for the tea, tiaras, the sugar and spice, cos that’s what little girls are made of, right?

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I was 8 years old in 1981, when Diana Spencer married Charles, the Prince of Wales and became a real life princess. I remember it as if it were yesterday. My mother, sisters and I were on summer holidays in New York City. It was my father’s birthday, July 29th and he was still home in Jamaica because he had work. I remember not understanding his nonchalance when I excitedly recounted my tv experience of the wedding when we spoke on the phone that evening. I don’t think he could have cared less, and while this should have been a clue into the average male perspective on pomp and pageantry, his lack of excitement did very little to dampen my royal spirit that day.

I was glued to the television for what I recall being forever. Diana’s dress, the parades, the flowers, the adoring fans… In my 8-year-old mind, it was magical. And I wanted to experience that kind of magic. The story from one of my beloved childhood books was happening right before my eyes. I was intrigued by her gentile spirit and over the years, I watched from afar as Diana lived, loved and then died.

Life…

During those years, I saw a young lady who seemingly had it all. She was beautiful, money was no object and her little family was as picture perfect as it could get. Who wouldn’t want a fairy tale wedding and a life cushioned with regal trimmings and accessories.

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But Diana’s life would play out a different narrative, hinged on genuine emotions and cold harsh reality. The beautiful princess would eventually show the world that while dreams do come true, the best moments in life come when we seek and live with authenticity. That’s where true magic lies.

May 19, 2018 was a magical day for my daughter. Magical, yet real. We baked blueberry scones and banana bread the night before the royal wedding. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were getting married and after hearing my stories of me watching Di and Charles, we simply had to have our own little shindig! We had watched Lifetime TV’s biopic A Royal Romance twice already that week and other than covering her eyes in shame each time they kissed, she never took her eyes off the screen. She was completely enthralled.

As was I.

We planned our breakfast menu two weeks in advance. I think we both knew that neither of us was going to eat at 4 o’clock in the morning Jamaica time, but it was cute and we were going all out! We planned our outfits – pajamas and tiaras, and made sure we had all the tea we’d need that day! My precious, innocent 10-year-old baby girl had so many royal questions. Where would they live? Will she still be an actress? “Oh Mummy! Wow. She was divorced, and then she married a prince.”

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Meghan Marries a Prince

We watched a simple and homely, mixed-race, divorced young woman with a dysfunctional and fractured family, turn the world upside down with a paradigm shift like no other.

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Meghan Markle

When Karen Gibson and the Kingdom Choir leaned in tandem during an emotional rendition of Ben E. King’s Stand By Me, Britain’s monarchy wasn’t sure what to do. And when officiating American Episcopalian Bishop Michael Curry threw a little bit of fire and brimstone, the earth opened and swallowed up centuries of medieval customs.

 

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Times have and still are changing. And I’m happy to be a part of a generation that is not just raising our children, but we’re growing along with them. We’ve taken notes over the years and I believe that while we’re trying to right some of the wrongs with modern applications, we’re still wise enough to hold on to some of the traditions that form such an integral part of who we are and who we will become.

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My Princess at 18 months old.

Today, I want my daughter to know that she is a princess, whether or not she chooses to wear the store-bought tiara I got her. She is a princess whether she is short or tall, or fat or slim. Whether her hair is long and straight or short and ‘picky picky’. If she gets an A in class or a C, she is still a princess. (Sidenote: C’s aren’t allowed, ok Amanda?) And most importantly, she is a princess whether or not she finds a prince. We’ve grown up in a world where the story books and the movies tell us that a princess needs a prince. Don’t get me wrong because I’m an advocate for marriage, but I need her to know that if she does find and marry her prince, she will still be a princess if their fairytale marriage doesn’t work out.
I want her to know that there are some things in life that will always be more important than others. I watched Meghan as the centre of attention for millions across the world who marveled at her. Yet I can’t help wonder if her beautiful smile was hiding the ache and reality of loneliness that can sometimes beset us. Our relationships with family and friends are important. They are never perfect, but they are important enough that we must look beyond squabbles and disagreements as we seek to build and maintain those bonds.

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My Princess Panda and her Princess friends. Princesses all.

Hugs and kisses and touches are important. They speak volumes when our words fail us as they do from time to time, when ego gets in the way.

The Oxford Dictionary defines a princess as the daughter of a monarch. I want her to know that she is a princess not just because her mother is a Queen, (yes, I’m a Queen!) but she’s a princess because she puts the needs of others above her own. Because she will always try to help someone who can’t help themselves. Because she doesn’t judge people based on how they look or speak or where they live. My daughter is a princess because when things get too hard for her, she still tries. Sometimes she may cry, but then she tries. “Straighten your crown kiddo, and get back in the game!”  And until she can fully fend for herself, I’m the Queen Bitch who has her back.

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As parents, we think long-term for our children. (Or so we should). We have the savings plans and the college funds. We don’t miss the medical check-ups and organized playdates. We enroll them in more extra-curricular activities than they can handle, but we do all this because we are concerned about their future. We want to make sure that we give them all the tools to survive and thrive when they’re eventually on their own.

I challenge myself to be concerned about the princess (and prince) I am raising to possibly someday, be someone else’s princess and prince. I want my daughter to be the kind of princess that I want to be and I want my son to be the kind of prince that I want for me. Open-minded, thoughtful, kind, considerate, compassionate, relentless, patient. None of these qualities is male or female – they’re simply royal. My daughter is a princess and I can’t wait for the day that she discovers just how regal she really is.

 

Fun Fact:

Jamaica has more female babies registered and nicknamed ‘Princess’, than any other nation on earth.

 

Forty Five Years (B)OLD!

It’s taken me a long time to figure me out.  45 years to be precise. Like most women, I’m a complex creature, but I’m not totally impossible. It’s been an interesting journey of hills and valleys, smooth roads, potholes, head and tail winds. It’s taken me 45 years to get here. Here, where I’m BOLD. Here where I’m happiest because for the first time in … 45 years, not every opinion matters anymore.

In these short 45 years, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve been around the world and I I I… (cue Lisa Stansfield)  Some things have been easy and some hard, some I’ve already forgotten and some I pray I’ll never forget. Here are 45 of them, in no particular order of importance.

  1. If you have to ask who Lisa Stansfield is, you’re too young to be reading this post. Hah! 😁
  2. Every time I’ve been intentionally mean to someone, it’s because I’ve been wronged by them in some way, shape or form. ‘Hurt people hurt people’ is not nice, but it is real.
  3. Black girls need to hear and believe from a very young age that they are beautiful. It’s too hard to convince them of that when they’re older.
  4. When I was in 3rd form, a friend told a lie on me. She said that I copied her test. I was devastated because not only did I not cheat, but everyone believed her initially. (I must have been an idiot to cheat and still fail, so that tall tale didn’t last long!) I later found out that the boy she liked, told her no because he had liked me. Poor thing. I learned at 13 that women will lie to get what they want. Especially if it’s a man.
  5. Trying to fit in with the ‘in’ crowd was exhausting. I look at the ‘in’ crowd of my 80’s and 90’s today, and I thank God that parents didn’t allow me to follow every ‘drum that knocked’.
  6. I have a type. All the men I’ve ever loved are from the country. Born of the soil, rough around the edges but with a heart of gold.
  7. I trust people so easily it’s embarrassing. I tried not to trust so much, but I didn’t know how to not. So instead, I became a skeptic. Presently, I’m trying to revert to trusting.
  8. A mother’s instinct is rarely ever wrong. So when she says she really doesn’t like that person, trust her. She may not know exactly why, but she knows what’s good for her child.
  9. No matter how much you’ve moved on, your first love will never die. For me at least.
  10. Time is truly the master of all things. We just have to savour it minute by minute.
  11. The friendships that last are the ones where God is in the centre.
  12. I have never heard my father speak ill of another human being. I wish I were more like my father.
  13. It’s ok to cry. I cry a lot. And I’m not afraid to let my children see me cry. It’s important to me that they know that I’m not perfect; that I struggle and I sometimes need help.
  14. The best therapy for me is a makeover, a new outfit, a good wine and a good laugh. Then the other good whine.
  15. It is not possible for my friend to be friends with my enemy…and still be a true friend to me.
  16. Feeling invincible at 20 or 30 is the greatest deception known to woman. Don’t be fooled by tight skin and perky breasts. Eventually, everything starts to fall.
  17. Having my parents so actively involved in my life is such a blessing. I give thanks for them daily.
  18. I won’t give up anything temporarily that I know I will re-introduce after a short while. I’d rather cut down, than cut out. I’m talking about food.
  19. I’m spoiled. But only about 85% spoiled. I like to have my own way. I won’t throw a tantrum to get it, but I will annoy and nag you until it happens.
  20. Life is so much sweeter when someone you love loves you back.
  21. I recently threw out a pair of $600 boots I had once bought. Sigh. I wish I had saved more money when I had no responsibilities or obligations.
  22. Letting go of relationships that no longer serve you is hard, but necessary.
  23. I walk naked through my house. My parents walk naked. My children walk naked. We’re not crazy. We just aren’t afraid to be naked.
  24. I need to work on showing those I love that I care more. It’s in my head and my heart. But sometimes I struggle to show it.
  25. I disagree with the saying that people can’t change. They absolutely can – if they want to.
  26. If it looks like a duck, quacks and acts like a duck, it’s probably a duck. I’ve learned to stop looking at people for who I think they can be, and just take them as they are. It’s hard though, but I’m learning.
  27. I’ve learned that nothing is impossible with God. Like, really learned that! I started a business literally on a wing and a prayer.
  28. It’s hard to walk away from someone you love, but if they’re not loving you back, it’s just stupid to stay.
  29. Blood really is thicker than water. Perfect families only exist on NBC and FOX. In real life, mine is fabulously flawed and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
  30. The one that ‘got away’ got away for a reason! And today I’m thankful that I didn’t force the issue. Phew!
  31. The most demeaning feeling is intentionally making someone else feel ‘less than’.
  32. I know far too many people who genuinely feel that their light skin color and straight hair entitles them to privelege. I really dislike people who treat others like second-rate citizens. Hate it actually.
  33. I’ve always been BOLD. It just took the right circumstances and blend of friends and family to bring it out of me.  Thanks guys!
  34. I love when my home and fridge are full. I’m no Martha Stewart, but I love to entertain. Nothing sweeter than games night with plenty wine.
  35. Every opportunity to celebrate should be used. Life is one big PAR!
  36.  I’ve discovered that I’m a bit selfish. So this is a Public Service Announcement: “We are aware of an ongoing malfunction with the 2017 Michelle model. Our technicians are working to have the problems fixed. Thank you for your patience and understanding. The 2018 model promises improvements.”
  37. I will do all I can to mend broken relationships. If you and I have one of those and there is no repair work in progress, it means I’m done with you, for good.
  38. I believe in love. A pure unadulterated, priceless love that has no end. That is what I offer. If that’s not the kind of love you give, I don’t want your love.
  39. Unless you’re a pathologically hopeless abuser of people and substances, chances are your family will never ever leave you. Value them.
  40. I’m blessed with the most loyal and supportive friends anyone could ever want. I just wish they were wealthier! 😉
  41. I’ve learned not to make important decisions while drinking wine, after sex, or after the Windies win a game. I’ve accepted that I’m emotional at these times and there is a propensity to make poor decisions when endorphins are elevated.
  42. I was 22 when my mother was 45. I thought I knew more than she did. Now that I’m here, with children of my own, I realize that I was right. I’m learning to keep up with my children so that I don’t get left behind with their rapid development.
  43. I was 21 when I decided to give my life to God. I had lost my first true love but I found so much more. I love that I love God and my children know and love Him too.
  44. I feel so much smarter and wiser now that I’m in my forties. I made most of my stupid mistakes when I was in my 20s and 30s. Today, I feel settled and I’m happy to be here at 45. Healthy and happy.
  45. I push envelopes and test limits. Always have and I suspect I always will. #NoApology

Life lessons abound and my journey continues. Happy 45th Birthday to me.

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#SELAH

Being Bold & Beautiful

 

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

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.

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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

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…