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in the midst of so many suicides that have taken place this year— i feel terrified. sometimes i myself feel so trapped in the dark it feels like the only way out is to end it all. i know that’s not the answer. i’m lucky that the other part of my mind— the one that feels like it still belongs to me. the part fighting the darkness wins and i find the motivation to walk out into the sun and try another day. 🌸 depression has its phases. this sickness is more difficult to understand & comprehend than any other experience i’ve had. 🌸 when you hear the news & you see musicians artists and folks you deeply admire take their own life — it leaves me speechless. i always feel 2 things: 1) if they with all their knowledge support & access to resources couldn't beat this thing- how the hell will i? & my next thought is — 2) we will get through this. we have to. i message my loved ones who are suffering from depression & other mental illness & tell them that we are in this lonely battle TOGETHER 🌸 today i feel broken but i feel hopeful. & i’m sharing these details because it breaks me how some of you feel so alone you want to leave. i don’t want any of you to feel stuck at the first feeling that i mentioned above. i do not want you all to think that depression is an end & that there’s no way out. that’s the sickness talking. IT IS NOT YOU. when you feel low & find it difficult to reach out because your mind says “no one cares or understands” or “i’m bothering folks” THAT IS THE SICKNESS TALKING. pick up the phone. call up your loved ones. we’re not going to get through this battle alone. it takes a village. we have to keep trying until we find solutions that work for us. (strict routine. drawing. exercise work for me) we as a society have the power to make things better or worse. even when it comes to this sickness. we have to hold ourselves accountable for how we treat people. how we have dialogue in public & private spaces & ask ourselves: could i have been kinder? & more supportive? & then be kinder. be more supportive. sending all my light to those who’ve lost loved ones to this disease 🌸 i love you. i love us. i love the potential of humanity.

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remindyourself 💅🏽 #thesunandherflowers

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sometimes you log onto social media and it might not be a good week. a good month. or even a good year. you scroll through a feed where a never ending list of bright smiling faces share their daily accomplishments and all the wonderful things they’re up to. suddenly you feel even more defeated. it seems you are the only one experiencing the darkness. the sadness. the loneliness. that’s the thing about social media. it gives us a space to carve a reality of ourselves by selectively choosing what we want people to see. so we share the good. the funny. the sexy. the inspiring. but rarely the ugly. the lonely. or confused. believe me. someone’s profile could look like the most perfect thing- but no one’s life comes close to perfect. i wrote this poem as a reminder to myself that everybody is going through hardship no matter where they are in their trajectory. sometimes we have to logout to take care of our mental health. especially when another person’s accomplishments begin to feel like your personal failures. that’s when you know you need a little self loving 💓

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🌞💛

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✖️✖️✖️

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🌾🌾🌾 page 99 from #thesunandherflowers

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writing this book was extremely difficult for my spirit. i've never faced more self doubt than i have over these past two years. so to sit here now and read all your words of support helps transform how i see myself and my work. your kindness has brought in some radical self love. thank you. since i opened up to the craft of writing and i first took the stage to perform in 2009 i’ve always gone out of my way to work really hard and strive to make my vision come to life. but no one makes it happen on their own. since day 1 my family and best friends have always taught me to speak up and speak clearly. the activists and teachers that i did community work with helped build the ideals i stand by today. my team holds me down on tour. at the office. in spirit. 365 days a year. my agent and the publishers who trust my vision no matter how ridiculous it may sound have such a big part to play. and you all. your love of the art gives me the strength to continue to write and share through the most difficult times. someone once told me "the centre of the wheel spins because of all its surrounding parts" and it's true. this journey is possible because it goes beyond me. the wheel turns with support. this has become a movement because we are standing together. and i am just deeply thankful for all of it.

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Slow Fashion October: What’s your look?

Slow Fashion October is a collective call to action to reflect on our contributions to the fast fashion industry and consider the role our wardrobes can play in slowing down an industry which is out of control. Hosted by Karen Templar at Fringe Association, I’ll be recording my thoughts here throughout the month in response to a series of prompts and challenges each week.

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This #slowfashionoctober I would love for each of us to actively get one step closer to having a closet of clothes that we absolutely love and wear and feel great in and feel great about. Clothes we want to take care of and mend and make last because we will be so sad when we’ve finally worn them out. If that means a rainbow of color and sparkle and skirts that twirl, then that’s what I want for you. If it means black trousers and white button-downs and grey sweaters, then that’s what I want for you. Whatever it is, it will take time to build it into just what it needs to be — slow fashion is slow — but we’ll talk through how to get there. Because every closet that fills more slowly and thoughtfully, that lasts longer and suits its owner, is a chink in the fast-fashion industry. And chinks add up. Whether you’re brand new to slow fashion or you’ve been working on a slow wardrobe for years, every closet benefits from a periodic assessment and course correction, a reckoning with the wrong decisions we are all capable of making, and a renewal of intention. For more on this week’s theme and challenge, tap the link in my profile. . EACH WEEK this month, I’ll post an Action Item (see image above, also in plain text below), and step by step we’ll work our way through our closets, sorting out what should be in there, what is actually in there, and how to make it better, slower, more loved, more responsible and more rewarding in every sense. Slowly but surely. I’ll also be back with a related list of discussion prompts for this week. Please feel free to screengrab and/or share these images! And I can’t wait to see what you do with it all along the way. Here we go! #slowfashionoctober

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So here it is, my style mood board:

Colour
Like many, I’m drawn towards bold neutrals; black, navy, grey and white appear regularly and they have an undeniable classic appear. I also love lifting myself with a pop of orange to stop my neutral palette feeling corporate and boring. Orange is such a fun colour for me, not only does it compliment blue denim perfectly but it can feel autumnal or summery all in one go. Cozy or bright, it works for both. It’s falling leaves and evening sunshine, it’s cozy knitwear and breezy linen. Perfect.


Icons
I don’t have a style icon in terms of aesthetic, but I do admire those whose style embodies their lifestyle. I feel particularly inspired by the series hosted by Elizabeth Suzann Clothing is… over on her blog which frames clothing as a tool for life and shows how what we wear can empower us to get stuff done. This is my kind of fashion spread, one that places female achievement and creation at the forefront and showcases the garments in the wild. The conversation shifts from “she looks great” to “she’s doing great things and she’s comfortable while she does them”.

What works
My tried and tested silhouette is a nipped in waist with a tucked in t-shirt. Elasticated waists. Deep pockets. Linen and cotton. Clothes that feel like outdoor pajamas. Cropped ankles. Hardy jumpsuits that make me feel like I can get stuck in. Loose enough to move around. Cool enough for Hong Kong humidity. Horizontal stripes.

Pet Peeves
Restrictive tightness across the shoulders, under the armpits and around the biceps. Shallow and non-existent pockets. Sweat marks. Wedgies.

Best dressed
Work: Black cropped trousers and a crisp white oxford shirt. Black sliders.
Play: Relaxed boyfriend jeans and a colour block t-shirt or vest, linen of course.
Always: A black linen jumpsuit layered over a striped t-shirt. Industrious.

#SlowFashionOctober

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We’re not ‘above’ fashion

Slow Fashion October is a collective call to action to reflect on our contributions to the fast fashion industry and consider the role our wardrobes can play in slowing down an industry which is out of control. Hosted by Karen Templar at Fringe Association, I’ll be recording my thoughts here throughout the month in response to a series of prompts and challenges each week.

Slow fashion isn’t just about the environmental and social impact of mass produced clothing, it encourages us to be intentional about the clothing we allow into our wardrobes so that we can shine as our true selves each day. To be interested in fashion often gains the labels of narcissism, shallowness and self importance, and there is a stigma of self consciousness which we attach to those who are “fashionable”. It’s tempting logic to assume that those who are truly happy don’t care about something as shallow as clothing and we even accept rejections of fashion as a badge of our supposed enlightenment to the important things in life. But what if it isn’t as simple as that?

Perhaps we have more choices than happy and unfashionable or self conscious and trendy. The Slow Fashion Movement strives to embody “fashion” as a truly inclusive noun where individuals are empowered to dress in a way which empowers them further to empower other people. Clothing can be one of the tools we use to build our self esteem, to lift ourselves and to lift others. Interested? Watch this TedTalk by Stasia Savasuk for a refreshingly honest and eloquent explanation:

Still think style is for narcissists…?

 

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Keeping work at work: A balancing act

As a recently qualified teacher I am acutely aware of the teacher workload epidemic which is plaguing schools worldwide, threatening teacher retention and causing national teacher shortages. I’ve been trying to find ways to fit my job around my life and move towards a work life balance which works for me. Here’s the things that have added value to my work day and helped to keep work, well…work.

Recognise important emails masquerading as urgent emails

Often importance is mistaken for urgency, we sometimes think that because something is important, it needs to be followed up immediately. This is exacerbated by the use of that tiny passive aggressive orange exclamation mark denoting “high importance” sent by our colleagues. (When do we ever make use of the blue arrow which denotes “low importance”?!) Disconnecting work emails from our phones encourages us to only check emails whilst in work mode, meaning we can dedicate full focus to important tasks and not spend our evenings with them in the back of our minds, or worse, take action at home. If you’re communicating an urgent matter, I would question whether email was the most appropriate form of communication anyway…

Answer “quick queries” on your own schedule

I receive countless questions from students and colleagues which individually take very little time to resolve, “is the homework due Tuesday or Wednesday?” for example. With work emails on my phone it’s very easy to shoot off the answer instantly so I can forget about it. However, this is damaging for two reasons; firstly it allows work to demand my attention not on my terms making me less present and eroding my well being over time. Secondly, it sets expectations for my students and colleagues, if I reply at 6pm on a weekday or at the weekend, they are more likely to email me during these times in the future – it’s a never ending cycle. Disconnecting work emails from my phone is a gentle reminder to both myself and others to only email during work hours. I can normally whizz through these quick queries in 10 minutes or so when I arrive at my desk.

Schedule emails for timely and appropriate delivery

I really can’t understand why this tool isn’t used more widely in any institution which relies on email. If for some reason you find yourself working outside normal working hours, take the courtesy of scheduling emails to be sent the next day at a reasonable time. This simple act boasts the double benefit of taking the pressure off others, but also minimising the chance of your email being read out of hours then forgotten, or lost in the landslide of morning emails we are greeted with when we arrive at work.

Don’t eat “al-desko”

Working lunches are not as productive as you might think, take 20 minutes away from your desk to eat your lunch and chat to others, read a book, or just sit quietly.

Prioritise your tasks and your time

We are stuck with perpetual to do list, no sooner have we ticked an item off then 3 tasks are added. That’s the nature of work and most of us don’t have the luxury of turning work away or delegating. Find a way of deciding which order to complete tasks, this might be by deadline or by order of importance. I used to use a priority matrix but I found it a little complex (though it might work for you), I’ve simplified to a “Someday” and a “Today” list which I spend 2 minutes organising in the morning. “Today” for tasks that are high priority and I think I can reasonably fit into my schedule for that day, “Someday” tasks are those that I won’t have time to do today but will need to make it on to the today list soon. I like this system as I don’t waste time jumping between tasks and when I complete the today list I don’t feel the pressure of the never-ending to do list. If I have more time I’ll look to the someday list to see what else I can work on. (I heard about this method on The Minimalists Podcast).

Ditch the paper trail

There’s no need to hang on to paper unnecessarily, especially “just in case”. I’ve stopped printing spare copies of handouts, I can always print more if I need to. I’ve started distributing digitally if appropriate. Get rid of bits of paper that you are hanging on to as it might be useful one day, instead, get yourself a scanning app on your phone and scan in those things which “might” be useful. I started off using Tiny Scanner but have recently switched to Scannable as it seamlessly integrates with Evernote which I use to organise and back up my personal and work documents. I’ve also started clearing out my bag at the end of the day to free myself from the bits of junk that seem to collect there throughout the day ready for a fresh start the next day.

How about you? What do you do that helps you keep work at work? 

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Books for unstoppable women, tiny ones and grown-up ones

Running out for some last minute gift purchases? Here’s my pick of empowering books for the women in your life, both tiny and grown-up, that you still have time to purchase and wrap before the big day!For little athletes: Women in Sport: Fifty Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win

A beautiful collection of stories about female athletes accompanied by quaint illustrations and inspiring quotes. Featuring a diverse range of athletes including Paralympians and women who have overcome all manner of challenges to chase their dreams – perfect for future Olympians.

And for grownup athletes: My Fight Your Fight: The Official Ronda Rousey autobiography

Love her or hate her, Rousey made herself a household name and completely redefined the world of mixed martial arts, and not just for women. Until recently Rousey was undefeated with an impressive fight record. My fight, your fight is a compelling narrative of resilience, insolence and a fiery refusal to accept the status quo.

For tiny stargazers: A Galaxy of Her Own: Amazing Stories of Women in Space
Fifty stories of unsung female heroines to infinity and beyond. Accompanied by striking art work from students at London College of Communication, this book will have little explorers gazing at the stars with the power of possibility behind them.

And for grown-up star gazers: This Book Is a Planetarium: And Other Extraordinary Pop-Up Contraptions

A fantastic example of how the magic of books can infect all of us, this book shows us that what we expect from books is not nearly ambitious enough. Raising the bar for books everywhere, this fully interactive, expertly constructed part book, part art exhibition will have even the most disillusioned space enthusiasts reaching for their coats and heading into the night armed with a newly recaptured sense of wonder.

For tiny girls with big dreams: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
100 bedtime stories that ask the question, what would happen if the princess didn’t marry the prince but changed the world instead? Featuring women from throughout history who left their mark on the world from Coco Chanel to Simone Biles. After one the most successful Kickstarter campaigns and critical acclaim, Rebel Girls is back with volume II, a curated collection of stories suggested by the Rebel Girls community from Beyoncé to Amna Al Haddad, a kick ass Emarati weightlifter. A welcome reminder that you can be anything you want to be.

For grownup girls with big dreams: The Female Lead: Women Who Shape Our World

The perfect coffee table book to show the world that you mean business. Created by a non profit led by Edwina Dunn, this book hopes to highlight the lesser know successes of women in industry  in order to encourage others. With research indicating that a lack of successful female role models acts as a barrier to raising aspirations and ambitions, The Female Lead hopes to provide this access and effect change. As if you need any more convincing, the publisher is giving away 1000s of copies of the book to schools in the UK and the USA – nominate a school here.

For tiny trailblazers: Anne of Green Gables: V&A Collector’s Edition

A fictional story of a couple who want to adopt a boy but are sent a girl instead. This story follows the journey of acceptance as her imaginative and fiery personality wins them around while overcoming a lack of self esteem and distaste for her red hair. This children’s classic has been released with a beautiful new cover courtesy of the V&A museum.

And for grown-up trailblazers: The Power: WINNER OF THE 2017 BAILEYS WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION

This novel challenges perspectives by presenting a dystopian matriarchy instigated by the awakening of electrical energy in young girls. Developing into a dark exploration of power and its potential for abuse, this novel will provoke conversations and debate. With high praise from Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, Alderman thrusts herself to the forefront of modern feminist literature.

Spot something which would bring joy to a woman in your life? The good news is that all of these books are available for delivery on Amazon prime, and most are available for click and collect at Waterstones. You can still get them in time for Christmas, and if not, why wait for Christmas to gift a great book? Any other favourites? Recommendations welcomed in the comments section.

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