We hear soooo much from the big names about "Black Friday", "Cyber Monday", "Black Friday Week" and now "Extended Black Friday Week"...when will it end? I don't know about you, but I deleted all of the emails that chogged up my inbox. I don't participate in it for that very reason, and I'd rather offer great prices all of the time, not hike them so I can supposedly bring them down for a Black Friday Sale (aparrently a lot of companies use that method according to online reports). I'd rather offer sales when they are unexpected to you.
This Saturday however, it's about something I feel much happier about talking about, Small Business Saturday. In this country we have a wealth of small businesses offering amazing products, unusual products, exceptional customer service, advice and help in a way you will never receive from the big names, and they work at that all through the year. How about this Saturday, Sunday and any other time you are shopping, you take a look at these guides. Amex do a deal if you save the offer to your card and shop at a participating small business, and the others offer guides and product/shop lists. Happy shopping.
A friend of mine told me to listen to this, and I'm glad I did. It's such an eye opener about the attitudes that some women used to have, and how attitudes about women have changed.
I thought she was wonderful as she had such conviction in her thoughts. She was born in 1901, in a time very different to now, had a privileged upbringing and that clearly shaped her views. She went on to have the most amazing novel-writing career, writing one a week, and wrote a total of 723 in her lifetime, which is just phenomenal. My favourite part though was when she said that she had a very poor upbringing, with only 2 servants!
I read about Theresa Kachindamoto this week and I just had to share some of her story here in case you haven't heard of her.
Theresa is a Malawi Chief nicknamed "The Terminator" for her annulment of around 1000 child marriages since she became Chief of her tribe. Not only has she done that, but she has also sent as many of those girls, and sometimes boys, as possible back to school.
In a country with high rates of child marriage, Theresa has done an amazing job of protecting girls from early marriages and the huge risks that come with child pregnancy.
When asked about the annulments,Theresa has famously said:
“When girls are educated, everything is possible.”
It's not been an easy road for her of course, with opposition from male chiefs and parents who benefit from arranged, child and forced marriages, but she has fought them with courage and kindness. Recently, in February 2017, the country took a major step to end child marriage by adopting a constitutional amendment that raises the minimum age of marriage from 15 to 18 years, for both girls and boys.
I'm happy to see that has received global recognition for her work and has been visited by Emma Watson, the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, generating more support for her work and more financial aid to ensure girls can remain in school rather than be forced into marriage.
It's been a tough 10 months for me. I've been physically unwell with nausea, vomiting and tummy pain mixed with headaches, on-and-off since June, and it's really taken its toll. Getting so run down, for this unknown reason, kicks off my lupus and my mental health took a nose dive. I was spending chunks of the day in bed and this was happening many days in the week at the rough points.
Then we finally found out I have stripped the lining in my stomach and developed ulcers in my digestive system, probably caused by my steroids and things I take for lupus. Not good, but great to know what had kept flaring up and making me feel so rubbish.
So, now I am getting physically much better (with yet another medication) and trying to lower my lupus medication so that it helps me but doesn't cause all this to happen again. I am still finding it hard, but I am certainly feeling a lot more positive. I was wondering a little while ago what I can do to help myself more, as self-compassion is something I am very bad at. I'm a real do-er, so I get frustrated when I get knocked for six on a poor health day and I'm not very good at stopping. The fact I had so many bouts, meant my mental health and ability to keep positive and keep going, went out the window. With more energy now, I can work on that even more, so I decided to subscribe to two delivery boxes with my mental health in mind. Like everyone, I am not keen on just getting bills, so I thought I'd try something nicer arriving on my doormat.
At £21.50 it is pricey, but that's because there is so much in it. You can always go for the Buddy Box lite at £12 if it's too much for you to afford. What I did like, is that a one-off box is the same price as the monthly subscription, so you can feel happy about trying it out or treat yourself every 2 months etc. if that's better for you.
I tell you what though, it's an absolutely lovely box. As the foundation say themselves,
The contents of the BuddyBox vary from month to month and remain a closely guarded secret. (The surprise is very much part of the experience.) All the items included in the box are intended to make you feel good: helping you de-stress, find calm, feel pampered, relax, get creative, or simply have fun.
It was exactly what I wanted and it is beautifully done. It's a social enterprise, so profits are channelled back into helping those with depression, and the foundation is also there for you should you need them. So, with at least 5 top-quality items in the box, and knowing that you are doing good with the profit money, it's a real boost.
I got the box that we are all "Winging It", so it has a fab bird theme. I received some a lovely Gull Notebook, a winging it card, a sew your own bird pencil topper, a wooden badge saying "Kindness Matters", some lovely tea bags and some very expensive rose facial oil for my skin.
It's all just so lovely and my cat thought so too. If you fancy receiving a box of surprise gifts, to remind yourself to sit down and take some time out/that you are not alone/to get you trying something new, give them a go. You can also visit their website for some fantastic resources if you are suffering with depression.
There are not many stories that become as iconic as Frankenstein is there?
When we think about the fact that she started writing it when she was only 18, it makes it even more remarkable. It's the anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, otherwise known as "The Modern Prometheus", which was published in 1918.
Mary had an exciting life it seems, travelling around Europe with her lover Percey Shelley, who later became her husband. She also experienced hardship, with health problems, the death of a child, depression, debt, and the societal reactions to her relationship with Percy, who was radical in his views, her Father's political friend and was already married.
These experiences no doubt shaped her life and writing of Frankenstein and the novels she wrote after. Percy died in 1822 and she spent the rest of her life promoting his works, along with her novel Frankenstein. She did however continue to write and there are many other novels out there for you to discover.
A feminist and a good friend, she was also not afraid to follow her beliefs and feelings. Putting herself in jeopardy for her friend Isabel Robinson, she even helped Isabel and her lover Mary to embark on a life together in France as man and wife, by obtaining them false passports. Shelley was also not afraid to show her feminist feelings by offering aid to women whom society disapproved of. About the help she offered, Shelley wrote in her diary: "I do not make a boast-I do not say aloud-behold my generosity and greatness of mind-for in truth it is simple justice I perform-and so I am still reviled for being worldly".
As some of you may know I was in a documentary back in 2012. It followed the PIP scandal, where it had been found that non-medical silicone had been used for internal breast surgery.
I had no idea at the time of filming that it would be on a primetime BBC3 show, or that people would still remember me from it!
I've managed to at last get a copy of it and I've popped it onto You Tube. Hopefully they won't mind now that BBC is no longer a channel apart from online. My shop had a rebrand after the documentary (it used to be called Silicone Sally, and you can see my section at around 48 minutes 50 into the documentary. I would never actively argue against breast surgery and believe in choice for all women, but regardless you may find it an interesting thing to watch.
If you need any help or advice about anything raised in the show you can email me at any time.
I'm not a big reader and oh how I really wish I was. It's something I've tried to change and I'm never giving up hope!
There are some series of books I can read so easily and be so surprised by. Like James Herriot. I wasn't expecting much when I picked one of his up at my Grandmother's house, but there was just something about it. I used to watch the show on the TV, but the books were different. Set in the 1930s, they were real stories with atmosphere and characters from his journey as a new vet, rattling around in the cars of the time in the Yorkshire Dales. I laughed and cried and whizzed through every chapter in the entire series in no time. So I know I can read when I find the right books, it's just that they don't come along too often.
I've read the odd book on and off through my 36 years on this planet, but it did get to the stage when I had 9 part read books on the go. Yes nine, that's not so good is it. The last couple of years have had an extra challenge to my reading. Lupus has entered my life and it's most challenging symptom is extreme fatigue. I get so tired, even when I've only been up an hour in the morning on some days, so sitting down with a book can mean sleep time in around 30 seconds after starting. Needless to say falling asleep is a real challenge to reading and means I don't get too far through books these days!
I realised something I love though that could help though. I always love wearing headphones and I love music, so I thought that I'd give audiobooks a go and woah ...they are great! I can listen to them when I am driving, when I am cooking, doing simple tasks on the PC and other times in life when I would have popped some music on. I can go through books as I've always wanted to, just in a different way and a way that suits my needs better. I can completely focus on the words at times when I am not fighting to keep my eyes open. I am fighting a losing battle with books in printed form all the while I have this extra battle with fatigue going on but I now have another avenue in to reading and that makes me very happy.
So, the point of all this is that I've been reading, well listening to, a great book.
It's called Mastery and it's by Robert Greene.
I seem to have gravitated towards biographies and non-fiction since finding my way to audiobooks, and I saw some great reviews that lead me to this one in particular. It's a beast, as in really long, but I seem to have got that lovely whizzing through feeling like I did with my James Herriots. The book is so interesting as it looks at the reasons that some people master the field that they are in. Rather than just being a huge book of theory, Robert talks us through the lives of Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Mozart and some amazing contemporary masters. It's a bit black and white at points, but I think it needs to be in order to really drive home his ideas and keep us on track with the theory and fibre of his argument at the time. He shows us that we don't need to be born with a gift or be some special human being, we just need to find what makes us unique. We need to keep a wide view of our calling and let life guide us through, even noticing the things we feel are our flaws, and help them guide us. It takes practice to become a master of anything, which is something that we are not so good at during this digital and age of instant gratification. We also need a mentor who can help guide us and impart knowledge to us during our apprenticeship phase, before we break away and find our own path as we follow the last part of our journey to mastery. It's a fascinating book and I've loved it so much it's made me write a little blog post about it. I've even got it as a printed book now too so I can highlight bits and jot my thoughts down in. Who knows, one day I might even be able to kick this fatigue and sit down with a cuppa and read it as well :)
I always think that people should be celebrated, especially those flying under the radar.
I recently heard about this amazing woman and I just wanted to share. Yoky is a Japanese Neurobotics engineer and an absolutely wonderful role model for young women especially. She has spent her life researching neuroscience and robotics and combining the two to create the most phenomenal prosthetics and especially a prosthetic hand.
She played tennis when she was young and was semi-professional until she was forced to retire due to a repeated ankle injury. She dreamed of creating a robotic tennis opponent for herself right back when she was young and this is something that she carried forward when she moved from Japan to the US when she was 16.
She has worked on so many projects during her life and is now in the hands of Apple, but she came to my attention with the prosthetic hand she created. It is an absolute work of art. It is robotic but modelled bone by bone on the human hand with multiple motors each corresponding to muscles and with strings playing the role of tendons along each digit. Her knowledge of the use of a hand in tennis, merged with her knowledge of neuroscience as well as robotics has created something revolutionary. As Matthew O'Donnell, dean of the U.W. College of Engineering states, she is "a mechanical engineer, neuroscientist, bioengineer, robotics expert and computer scientist, all in one… [with] …the ability to see what is possible by combining all these disciplines."
It's a wonderful achievement for a woman to rise so high in so many many dominated fields. She is an inspiration and I salute you Yoky.
I sit on a busy train not talking to the person next to me, but why? Conversation enables us to learn, teaches us empathy, opens us up to the lives of others, makes a tedious train journey fly by, boosts our confidence and self-esteem, acts as vital stress relief and a multitude of other things.
There are reasons against it of course - not wanting to annoy the person next to us, not wanting to come across badly, wanting to catch up with the last episode of Downton, wanting to act like everyone else. It's good to take time out on our own to reflect and chill, but sometimes we should just start a conversation and see where it takes us.
Peter Sharp makes absolutely inspirational videos about this and other social topics.
Take a few minutes out to watch his amazing train dance party in Perth. I should imagine this train ride was the best one these people will ever have:
Next time you sit next to someone you think looks interesting and have some spare time, maybe say hello and see where it takes you.