Friday, December 30, 2011

out with the old

A couple of days before Christmas I decided it was time for another cupboard purge.  I asked each child to take a good look in their room and bring out 10 things they no longer wanted (either outgrown, broken, whatever).  The dancing queen came out a few minutes later with a plastic bag full of half used colouring books and a pile of felt tip pens.  I followed behind and filled a few more bags....The little engineer proceeded to remove every single thing from his bedroom and put it in the middle of the lounge floor, announcing that he didn't want any of it, and anyway he would be getting plenty of new things for Christmas.

It took most of the afternoon, but we sorted through it all.  Now I'm a less is more kind of person, and was amazed that there was really anything to be thrown out, but we managed to put together 6 banana boxes of stuff - for rubbish, recycling, donating and storing.  Extraordinary!

It also threw into the sharp relief, the childrens expectations that there was ''plenty more where that came from''.  Come Christmas day, there was actually little that came in - gifts had been carefully thought out and  included a minimal amount of ''stuff'' - and the children were more than happy with that.

What amazes me most though, is how I consider myself clutter free, junk free and as consumable light as I can be, and still we managed to find a carful of stuff no longer wanted.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

building traditions from the traditional

Christmas turned out to be a simple and relatively low key affair in my house.  Quite a bit of the day was spent alone (ie just the children and I) with people coming and going.  Dinner was a ''bring your leftovers'' affair, with 4 families sharing - and this was possibly the highlight of the day.  the kids played and danced to their new CD's. the parents got to enjoy each others company, sitting in fading light on the deck.

I love that we went ""mnmlst"" this year.  The food was delicious but simple and I resisted the temptation of having laden plates of calorific snacks out all day long.  The company was awesome - people who really mattered were here.  The gifts were also thoughtful.  I asked the children to pack up everything they had been given and they filled only one paper carry bag each.  And all were things I know they will use and love and treasure including books and games (oh and chocolate...).

We've followed this way of doing things for years, but this year it somehow felt more meaningful and purposeful.  The season has been about people and experiences.  Carol singing, supper with neighbours, light trails. Small but meaningful gifts.  Church. Lights.  Evening barbeques.   A nod to the past and also bedding in some new habits.    I have a resolve. Sharing the meaning of christmas in ways that are Yep, meaningful, purposeful - and deliberate.   I want this to be our family tradition.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

what if...

Have a look at your diary.  Are there many (any!) days in December that aren't filled already?
School events, work and club Christmas parties,  shopping, family functions, a bit more Christmas shopping, possibly a trip to the hairdresser, the car needs a service, need to sort the mortgage, get a school pool key, start stocking the pantry for christmas day, organise the summer holiday....I'm getting tired just thinking about it all!
My editorial from the latest issue of the Village Voice....

It's a been a busy year - busier that most I am sure - with irregular school terms, national tragedies and celebrations punctuating our seasons, and a higher than normal incidence of bugs and germs ''doing the rounds''.

So as you read through this Village Voice - and marvel at just how busy our town is - I would like you to consider a challenge.  what if, just for a a few hours (or longer if you dare), you cancelled all those urgent, and important, and also the urgent and important  engagements, and just stopped.   Stayed home.  Kept the television, computer and telephone turned off.  Or went for a walk, leaving the mobile phone at home.  Or chose to turn down yet another party invitation? Or made just one less trip to the shop for an √©mergency'' ?  It's possible no-one else would even notice, or if they did, they could well be wistfully imagining it was them who had not raced to get to the party on time.

Imagine what you could do with the three extra hours that a Christmas party comes in.  Or the hour circling the car park at the shopping mall.  Or the 45 minutes in the queue at the supermarket checkout.

Consider what you might do to make life just a little simpler, a little easier this christmas.  It might be as simple as saying ''no''.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

living deliberately

The buzzwords these days, especially in Christian circles, are purposeful, and intentional.

Me, I like deliberate.

Deliberate says...I've weighed up the options.  Deliberate says I've thought this through.  Deliberate says I'm going to do this deliberately.  Without wavering.  With purpose.  With an expected outcome.  Carefully.  Mindfully.  

The other buzzword doing the rounds is authentic.

Now this one I like.  If I am authentic I'm being true to myself.  I'm not compromising. I'm being honest, even if it's not in a widely accepted form.  I'm real.

When I reflect on what I have achieved this year, I can, hand on heart, say it has been done authentically and deliberately.   I've stayed true to myself.  As a result  I've made a couple of spectacular errors of judgement, and a few more awesomely effective decisions.   I've ticked off all the 'to do's'' on my list of resolutions.  I've looked after myself, deliberately, spiritually, physically.  Emotionally it's been a bit touch and go but I'm working on it;)

So my question for you is this:  Whether it be in your business, work or personal life, have you been deliberate in your actions this year?  Why or why not?  Does this resonate with you?  If you've been floundering a bit, could it be a new way forward for 2012? 

Monday, December 12, 2011

All I want for Christmas for my family to be able to be in the same room for more than two hours and get on - or at least pretend to for the children to get through til New Year without being stuffed full of sugar and artificial colourings (given to them by others, not me) a good nights sleep to be able to get a pile of cherries from the tree on Christmas morning to get through the next ten days of madness and stay sane (or pretend to be...) to avoid hearing Snoopy's Christmas, which I'm sure contributes to the spike in crime, alcohol consumption and bad tempers the world over because it's just so darned annoying to resist the shops for just a few more days and be satisfied with the shopping I've done
... is the company of wonderful friends and family, some good food, an engaging book, and maybe a nice glass of champagne a few fine days, maybe a couple of hot ones, and not too many rainy ones lots of kisses and cuddles from the people who matter most

Saturday, December 03, 2011

acts of kindness

It would seem that the cynics might be conservative Christian friends believe that the world is an inherently bad place...that people are are born ...evil...or flawed...or whatever term you want to use to describe the humanness of us all.

Today I am feeling sceptical...disillusioned even.

I want to believe that the world is full of good people.  I want to believe that people are basically good.  But time after time, I put my faith in another person (perhaps that is flawed in itself) and find myself being let down.  I understand that we are not perfect  - and I certainly take no issue with the idea that as humans we are  capable, even gifted, at falling short.   But what I'm talking about here is the ability to simply be kind.  

Whether it be in word or deed, surely the world would be a better place - and we would get on a whole lot better in it - if we tempered our actions and thoughts with kindness.   When we are kind to our bodies, our environment, the people around us,  surely the knock on effect can only be positive.  And conversely, when someone is unkind to us, it is all to easy to respond the same way, creating a butterfly effect of discontent.

Words can be harsh...and needlessly so in my opinion.  I accept that many things are said from raw emotion, that often we don't think through the consequences of our words and actions before ''getting them out there'' but surely this is another good reminder of the need to think twice, act once?

I have heard way too many stories this week of real unkindness.  Meanness.  Selfishness.  Narcissism.  Misogynistic behaviour.  It grieves me deeply.

Kind words make people feel valued.  Harsh words don''t.  It's that simple.  If we live by the maxim of loving each other as we would love ourselves then I would have to ask this question:  what value do we put on ourselves when we speak unkindly to others?

Honesty is essential.  Integrity too.  And to cloak these qualities in kindness must surely be one the greatest challenges of all.

Friday, November 18, 2011

the secret to a successful partnership

the conversation went like this...
I've never wanted children...but she I'm thinking, well, perhaps I could be persuaded

the proposal went like this...
marriage is really important to me...i know you're kind of would you do it for me?

the partnership went like this...
i think this is a really good idea and we should steer the business in this direction.  i know you're not super enthusiastic about it, but if you're comfortable with me driving it, let's go ahead with it

In watching many many business partnerships develop, grow, and often disintegrate, and similarly seen way too many marriages fail, I started thinking about what might have lead to such breakdowns.

The problems seem to come when a big decision (like having a child, or investing in a new business idea) is not shared in equal amounts of enthusiasm.  The minute things get difficult it is all to easy to start a blame game (your idea your responsibility) or when things are more successful that envisioned for one to take the kudos.

I am convinced that the secret to success in a joint venture of any kind,  whatever that success is, or looks like, is that both parties must be completely in agreement on direction.  Yes, sometimes one will lead the way, or need to present a pretty convincing argument in order to win over the other...But at the end of the day, unless both people are committed to the same outcome, it''s just asking for trouble.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

spoiled for choice

I recently started a new job and one of my first tasks was to organise a cocktail party with an expected guest list of 150.
The party is tomorrow night and RSVPs are still trickling in.

I guess it's possibly because people are not particularly interested in it...but I suspect it's more likely that they are leaving it until the last minute to reply, just in case something better comes up.

A friend organised a party for a dozen or so people...on the night, all but one cancelled.

I have so often organised an event and not had people confirm their attendance until the very last minute.

It seems to be indicative of our society.  We have so much choice, so much immediacy of information (remember the days when one would phone a week ahead at least to confirm something!) - I think it is turning us into a bad mannered and selfish world.

It seems to stretch to relationships (see the serial dater), careers (few people stay in the same career for a life time), hobbies and interests - we do lots but rarely commit to something for more than a short time.  Or we will happily give something up in favour of a better opportunity and to heck with commitment or just giving our word.

Have you ever been dumped for a better offer?   Ever ditched a friend or an event because something more exciting came up?


Wednesday, November 02, 2011


The little engineer loves to garden.  At the moment I have a bucket mushrooms growing in the bottom of the hot water avocado seed and pumpkin seeds drying in anticipation of a bumper crop, and he is currently outside with the dancing queen putting in giant sunflower seeds in random places around the garden.

When the dancing queen brought me in a beautiful daffodil from the garden he did not marvel - but growled her vociferously for picking ''his'flowers that HE planted!

I am not a great gardener, choosing to have an adequate vegetable garden and little more - plenty of fruit trees to be sure but not a whole lot else.  I like the idea of gardening far more than the reality of weeding, mulching and digging.  The dancing queen is one for instant results and tends to choose fast growing lettuce and herbs.

But at only 5, the engineer seems to have found a passion.  And he gets us much pleasure from picking as from growing - happily spending hours shelling peas and beans or pulling weeds.  I love that he chooses interesting plants - this week heritage tomatoes from the farmers market, and a snow pea.  And he loves to eat the fruits (or is that vegetables...) of his labours.  I can only hope that this will become a lifelong pleasure.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

feel the stress

How busy are you?  Do you race around with a to do list a mile long, one eye on the clock, one hand on the phone, the other on the steering wheel?  Do you ever feel like you are not doing a good enough job?

And how come other people who seem to be as equally busy as you...maybe more so, never seem to get stressed at all?  They sail through, confidently checking emails, and calendars and answering calls all the while cooking nutritious meals for their families and keeping the house clean, not a grey hair or wrinkle in sight? (eerm no...not me, not quite;))

I have come to the conclusion that stress is not necessarily related to busy-ness. It is however, all about our values.  So when we are busy, as long as we are happy with being busy, feel like we are achieving at the pace and standards we want to, we won't be stressed.

So it follows then, that in periods of high stress, the answer might be to simply stop what we're doing and examine which part of our live is causing the pain.  The answer to being busy might not actually be slowing down - it might be staying busy but lessening the things we are committed to.  It might mean making a deliberate effort to lower a particular standard, or change a deadline.

I work best under pressure.  If there's a deadline I work to it, in just-in-time fashion.  I guess I work well with all the adrenaline!  But that's different to stress.  Stress is when I feel out of control - like I am either going to let myself, or someone else down.  When that happens, I go into methodical mode.  Tasks are mentally prioritised and ticked off.  As each thing is complete it is posted, or packed or put out of my mind.  Leaving space for the next.  And this is also allowing me to be true to my values of timeliness and results.

What stresses you?  Do you see a link between values and stress?

Thanks PM for the inspiration for this one:)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween vs All Hallows

I have spent many a post discussing my tussles with my faith.  This year has certainly been one of questioning, challenging and evaluating (and that's just from within!).

And this weekend is Hallowee'n.      Rather than dismiss the whole occasion out of hand I felt it important to get a little more knowledge in order to make an informed decision.  There's so much conflicting information to be found about this (though Google and Wiki are two of my closest friends, in this case they have not been so loyal).

After a fair amount of reading (well, skimming really), I feel no clearer.  Whilst it seems fairly obvious that the celebration has it's roots in Christianity (All Saints Day), there is just too much that is close to darkness for comfort for me.  I like that some churches have chosen to make a clear separation and reclaim Halloween as a Christian celebration.

But as much as I loathe Trick or Treating (glorifed begging as far as I'm concerned), I am not entirely convinced that a Light Party is that much better...a church scrapes together all the money it can, and then as an alternative to guising (ie trick or treating) children can come along and be given the same ''high quality'' lollies and have a couple of hours of free entertainment.  Where's the Christian celebration in that I ask?

I am going to a party tomorrow night with Halloween theme.  I'm taking it lightly - dressing up but not as a ghost or ghoul.  The organisers have, partly as a result of a conversation with me, changed some of their decorations, as they are conscious of not wanting to offend or scare anyone (which demonstrates huge integrity I think, considering their religious leanings...or not).

I am most interested in an event being held in Australia this weekend:

What are your feelings about Halloween?  Religious occasion, too close to darkness, American sensationalism or something else?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

does my bum look big in this?

Human beings are programmed to seek approval.  We want people to LIKE us.  We want to feel needed, wanted, desired.

And we will go to all kinds of lengths to get that approval.  The way we dress, the car we drive, the food and drinks we consume.  A career path, a parenting style, the place we choose to live.

You'd think, that with so many different places to go to get 'fulfilled'' we'd be all walking around loved up and  giving it all back right?  so how come most of us feel like we are on a mouse-wheel to happiness?

There's plenty of material out there telling us how to find inner peace...or to be satisfied with our lives...or to live happily with less.  We buy the books and download the podcasts but it's still not quite enough...

Does having approval make us feel safe? Or loved?  Who's approval matters most?

Who's approval do you seek and why?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

circles of influence

I am fascinated at how circular our world is.  We move in the same circles throughout our lives, bumping up against the same people time after time, and only just missing others by days or metres.  Sure there's the obvious things - like shared interests or mutual friends, but I am amazed by how often one or two people turn up in more than one of these eddies of connection.

I have recently come into contact with someone whom I have never met in person but have about a dozen connections in common with (over several different groups of people).  We have a number of shared interests and life experiences and yet have never physically crossed paths.  There have been a few occasions over the past several years when we may have had opportunity to meet but for some reason it has never come to pass.

Is this co-incidence?  Fate?  Fluke?  Bad timing...good timing?  Just as well...?

Much as a good novel draws together seemingly unconnected people, I love to see how each of us has the potential to share a section of each others lives and experiences.  It reminds me that the world is a big place, but also a village, where each of us has the potential to draw from and share from each other.

Even if we never actually meet in person.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What's your name again?

There's one thing in life that absolutely drives me crazy (well actually there's several but today it's the turn of...)

People who get my name wrong.

I have never, ever had my name shortened.  I have never really even had a nickname.  I have never changed the way my name is pronounced.  My name is Susan.  Not Sue.  Not Suzy.  Not Suzanne.  (oh and not Sharon either, as I often get).

I am astounded at how often I introduce myself as Susan and get a response - oh nice to meet you Sue! Excuse me?  Did I say my name was Sue?  I really don't think Susan is difficult to pronounce or remember - or spell for that matter!    Usually I correct people - because although it might be slightly awkward for them to have it pointed out that they got it wrong  I have decided that this is probably the only thing ever in my life that I am going to own and not have to change, amend or alter for anyone else.  So you can empathise I am sure, when, upon saying, actually it's Susan, not Sue, I am gobsmacked by how often later in the conversation the person will continue to call me Sue.  To me it's rude.  It's a different name to me - I don't see it as a derivative. 

I see nicknames as endearments.  In other words, until I know someone well enough to use one I wouldn't. And I consider a shortened name a nickname.  Now if I am introduced to someone by a shortened version that's a whole different story, but I'm talking here about voluntarily changing a name myself without getting permission of it's owner!

Am I being inflexible and judgemental?  Are you a name shorten er? Or have a habit of mispronouncing - whatever the reason?  

Frankly, I think the very least anyone can do is get someones name right.  Preferably the first time.   It's good business sense, it's good social etiquette and above all it's good manners.  You've been warned:)

Monday, October 10, 2011

the album launch

This weekend I had a brand new experience - I went to an album launch party.

Held in a fairly well known pub in town, the evening comprised of the band playing through the songs on the new album, and then some socialising while the CD played in the background.

Knowing the kind of music one of the band members plays (he's a friend of mine), I really wasn't sure what to expect but went with an open mind.  And it was fantastic!

Paul Symons is an incredibly talented songwriter and musician, and every song was a hit with the audience.  He had a few anecdotes to share about the lyrics of some, and many had a lot of truly 'kiwi lifestyle'' references in them - which made the music have a comfortable, familiar feel, even though the songs had never been heard in public before.   There were some clear influences in the music - shades of Greg Johnson set, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Jack Johnson - but the music was still unique and easy to listen to.

The band comprised of a drummer, steel guitar, double bass and Paul on acoustic (and sometimes electric) guitar.  All amazing musicians in their own right, and an absolute winner as a band.   How wonderful if this album was to be released widely in NZ and get airplay on some of the commercial radio stations.

You can find out more about Paul here:

Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Monastery

By chance (or was it...) I picked up a book in a church library when visiting there for a work meeting.
Called 'Finding Sanctuary'', it was written by the Abbot of Worth Abbey, after an incredibly successful BBC series was filmed there.

You can find more information at :

At the beginning of the documentary the Abbot describes silence (a key aspect to Benedictine life) as a spiritual bath, that you can get into to relax your spiritual muscles .That has to be the best way I have ever heard a way of embarking on a spiritual journey described, and it motivated me to look at an episode in entirety...And so I have spent this afternoon watching the complete series on YouTube and found it absolutely compelling.  the warmth and human-ness of the monks, the fact that the BBC didn't make this some sensationalised or titillating bit of reality-TV, and that the programme is about the real struggles of real people and trying to make sense of the world.

The book is much the same - sure it deals with spiritual matters, but it's written in such accessible language and is so hands-on one could almost forget it's intention!  I've been dipping in and out - just like a warm bath, and finding each chapter leaves me just a little more relaxed, a little more at ease with my spiritual life and body.

Friday, October 07, 2011

strategic planning for people

I reckon that the same planning process that was used at my meeting yesterday would probably translate pretty well for the ordinary person.

Consider this: what if you could define and write down what your purpose in life was? In other words, what is your vision for your life, your reason for living, the thing you most want to leave as your legacy?
And then what if you could list your core values - the things you really believe and stand for, and try to live your life by?

How much easier would it be to make plans and set goals if you already had a life vision, and a set of guidelines!  Imagine the dream...apply the boundaries (ie does it fit my vision for my life, does it fit my values).  If it does, make the dream a plan...if it doesn't, start again, or find a redirection.

I think if we did this - and went back to it each year for evaluation, just like a business does (or should!), not only would our lives be simpler, more focussed, more DELIBERATE, but it would be so much easier to stay true to ourselves and reach the goals we really want to reach.

What is your purpose in life?  What are your values?  Do they match your hopes and dreams?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

the overflowing brain

Today I started a new job.  In many ways it's a bit of a dream job too - great hours, good pay, convenience location, uses my skill set, but still gives me room to grow.

And I am feeling a bit overwhelmed - as today was strategic planning day for the upcoming year.

The first challenging thing was that I was part of the process not facilitating it (a bit of a shift for me who is usually the one wielding the whiteboard marker!).  Which meant not only was I learning about this new organisation (being day one and all) but also that I was contributing to the goals and outcomes.  What a great way to start a job!

Secondly I was sitting with twelve almost strangers - the only people I knew were the facilitator, the two people who had interviewed me for the job, and the person I am replacing - and I have only met them once before!  So I felt like I had to be on my best behaviour and at the  sharp end of what was happening all day (so much for under promise and over deliver...)

Finally, by the end of the day it had transpired that a very big proportion of the goals set will be either driven by me, or I will be doing the actual work to make them happen.  That's a heck of a lot of pressure for a first day!

My mind is bursting.  I have a huge pile of mind maps, illustrations and flowcharts that need to be turned into a strategic plan document (my first job!) but I don't think my head is up to it tonight.

There's new technology to master, new computer programmes, new routines and procedures, a lot of people to establish relationships with, a website to overhaul, and big shoes to fill.

I am really excited about the challenges of the job...just as soon as I get enough room in my brain to process them!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

the ultimate blog challenge

I recently announced on Facebook that I was close, oh so close, to reaching 3000 views of my blog.  To me, this was a previously outrageous goal - in fact I was thinking that if I reached 1000 in the whole life of my blog I'd be a happy girl.

It must be said that my goals and in fact much of the content of this blog has evolved  - especially from it's beginnings 5 years ago (apparently blog years are like dog really it's a 35 year old blog...) and particularly as I've "caught my stride" over the past 6 months.

I like blogging.  I like the idea that maybe someone, somewhere might read my words and be challenged or inspired, or think ''gee she's just like me''.  I've become a vociferous reader of other blogs too, and have about 70 in google reader as well as a number of direct to email subscriptions.  I understand that for the most part, bloggers are not getting rich from their blogs - in fact most do it purely for the enjoyment of writing - but there is always that thought at the back of my mind that perhaps one day the book that is said to be in all of us might come to fruition in part as a result of diligent blogging!

Three months ago I started a second blog.  It's kind of anonymous due to the subject matter, and so now I furiously write for two.  Both in different styles on completely different topics, and yet I think perhaps my "voice" is clear in both.

For me, the challenge is about refining my style, my voice and my subject matter - especially for this blog.  I like knowing I'm part of something worldwide, even though we are all mostly lone voices sitting in front of our own laptops.

Come along for the ride - 30 days of blogging...and beyond:)  

Sunday, October 02, 2011

role modelling part 2

A slightly surreal feel to my day today.

The Dancing Queen decided she wanted to make her bedroom 'beautiful'.  Which means a pile of white towels with chocolates perched atop, at the end of the bed.  The pictures and mirrors moved around, and dresser top cleared.  It looks like a hotel mum!

Then the little engineer and I were invited into the room to play.  The desk was set up with her pretend laptop, a pad of paper.  A hat and glasses on the side.   We were invited to sit on the couch in her room.  She swung round on the office chair to face us and said 'right so I hear that you have a few problems and you need to talk to someone about them, so where shall we start?"...''

And finally, after dinner the engineer asked if he could have candles on the side of the bath 'because otherwise it's not a real spa'...

Oh dear...what have I been modelling!!!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

finding role models

Once a week I meet with a group of women and we talk about the big stuff.  The group is partly bible study (although often we do not even get a bible out), and partly provoking and challenging discussing about life issues.

Today I posed the questions:  who do you feel accountable to?  And who are your role models?

The general feeling was that we felt mainly accountable to ourselves - that as usually wise, and mostly sensible, adults, we knew the difference between right and wrong, and in exercising good judgement had our own consciences as our guide - our accountability partner as it were.

Accountable has always sounded like a negative word to me - as in, you will be held accountable for your actions, which has a vaguely threatening tone in my opinion - but put this way it makes a whole lot more sense.  If we have a sense of self responsibility, then we make our own judgements (and therefore can be aware of the consequences) of and to our actions.

Similarly, if we hold ourselves accountable to ourselves, then it seems to me that the best role model we can find is also ourselves - the best version of ourselves that we can strive to be.

I'm thinking this might be a great angle to take with the children.  Instead of offering (or having them find) role models that they can either never live up to, or are unrealistic examples (like book characters), I think I'm going to talk more about self responsibility, and listening to the small voice of reason that we all have within us.

And if I can convince them that the best example they can follow is their best version of themselves, then maybe, they will be default become a great role model for each other as well.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

life is not a competition

I'm just amazed at how many companies have got on the bandwagon of online competitions.  And they've made it so easy to 'win stuff'' just at the click of a button.

which sounds so appealing - two seconds and I'm in the draw to win a years supply of biscuits, or a new kind of deodorant, or a flat screen tv.  Who wouldn't want to do it?

Well, me for one.  In keeping with my ''simplicity'' mantra, I am making a deliberate decision not to LIKE anymore product pages on Facebook, and not to enter any of the competitions that come my way via email. (I don't get circulars in the letterbox so don't even know about the paperbased ones by default).

I figure that almost of the things we are being offered are just more stuff.  Sure some of it's consumable (like the deodorant or the biscuits) but most is just going to be new replacement stuff for the things I already have.  And realistically I don't need or want 25 packets of chocolate chippie biscuits in any case.

The idea of winning an overseas holiday is kind of appealing.  Or even a new car.  But again, the reality is that I probably couldn't afford, let alone justify, the spending money for a trip - and the insurance on a new car would be crippling (well I guess I could sell it....) - and besides the likelihood of winning those are pretty remote.

So, thanks but no thanks to the ipod, the makeup samples, the years subscription to SKY.

In the interests of simplicity, and as my own small move against consumerism, I choose to ignore the spam and concentrate on enjoying the things I already have.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

making time

I receive about 20 different regular subscriptions into my email each day.  Several are around the themes of simple living and time management. The common theme is to DO LESS.

How has a week managed to rattle past without a post from me? I was so full of self-congratulatory motivation, posting every day...what happened?

Life happened.  I applied for another job (still waiting for the outcome but heard it's a neck and neck race...), I worked all weekend.  There was kid stuff, school stuff, house stuff.  The other two jobs to do some hours on.  A newspaper to write.  A scout meeting.  Time with family and friends.  Dancing. (of course...).  Rugby - I admit I watched a few minutes.  Some exercise.  Bad weather, good weather.  Groceries to get.  A crossword to complete.  Blogs and subscriptions to read.  A couple of lovely skype catch ups with friends not seen.

It's funny though, despite looking back on 7 days of apparent frenetic activity, I don't feel like I'm out of control, or not getting through my to do lists.  (And yes I know there is current thinking  - as per sites such as those above - that one should do away with lists altogether, but not from this choir!)

I like being busy.  And I like feeling like my busy-ness is productive.  And for me, that's the key.  It doesn't really matter how your time is spent, as long as it feels meaningful, purposeful and satisfying.  If that means two hours hugging a tree, reading a book, or working in the office  - or cleaning the house so what?  If it means packing the day with back to back appointments then all power to you.

I often joke that in a fire the first thing I would grab would be the laptop- only because my life would not function without google calendar!

Stop listening to how others tell you to relax or make your life meaningful and satisfying, and listen to what works for you.  Starting now.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

time for reflection

I am a bit of a laundry queen.  Self confessed and proud of it.  My washing machine is on most days.  I iron at least once a week - just about everything.

There's an argument that says life is too short to iron.  A similar argument says that it's just fine to wear something  for more than a day as long as it doesn't look dirty.

Well in this house, the clothes go in the laundry every day at bath time. (And yes, the children get compulsory baths every day).  Whenever I can, I peg the washing on the line to dry rather than using the dryer.  And pretty much everything except socks, towels and sheets gets ironed.

When the children were very young, hanging out washing was a bit of a nightmare.  They always NEEDED me right as I was heading for the line.  Ironing was a pain too - I couldn't do it when they were haring around the lounge for fear of the board being knocked over.

But now they're a bit older I have discovered something rather wonderful.  The time I spend hanging out washing has become my reflection time.   The children rarely come out (boring!) and so I can usually guarantee fifteen uninterrupted minutes  Many an epiphany has been received while I've been standing at the line!  It's a time to think about the stuff that matters!

Similarly, ironing night is my time too.  .  I usually take around an hour to do the ironing once a week.  I might watch a DVD or have the radio on (no TV in the lounge).  But like hanging out washing, it doesn't really take  any brain space to do, it's not noisy or physically draining - like mowing lawns say , and it's something that really needs to be done in one burst.  So it's the perfect time to think, to reflect, and to be a bit introspective. Which is something I think we should all do, and don't indulge in often enough.

So when someone says to me ''ironing!?! - I don't know where you find the time!'', or even ''ironing!?! - waste of time" - my response is, no way, that's one of the best hours I spend each week.

Monday, September 12, 2011

but it doesn't really fit with my lifestyle...

I have a huge admiration for people who make deliberate choices about life.
The ones who make a decision - and follow through -  to say, exercise every day, or become a vegetarian, or commit to a course of study.

The ones who say, NO! I will NOT work 50 hours a week.  Or even the ones who say, actually yes I will work 50 hours a week because I have a goal and I need to do that to reach it.

I am amazed by the ones who manage to fit in two or three jobs, as well as family commitments, and volunteer time and still are able to put effort into looking after themselves by way of sport, or some other interest.

And I am saddened by how often I hear, particularly in my work, 'but i don't have time for that'', or ''I would love to do that but I just can't afford to, or ''i would give anything to be able to achieve that but it's just not possible right now''.   And I'm partly sad because it's possible that those excuses - oops, I mean reasons - are valid.   But I think more often than not those answers are excuses, not reasons.

If you don't have time for something, why not?  Are the other things you are spending time on more important?  Or just more urgent?  Can you really truly not afford to do something (obviously there will be some things that really are out of your range right now) or is your money going elsewhere, maybe into something less satisfying?  Would you really give anything to achieve that goal? Or is saying that just a way to make yourself feel better about the fact that you don't want it that badly?

I think we all make choices.  I can argue that I don't have time to exercise every day.  And that's true.  But only because I don't seriously make it a priority, every day.  I like the IDEA of exercising daily, but not the reality.  That's the reality!

I can't afford to take the kids to Europe this year.  Or next year.  Or probably in the next 5 years.  But if I really, really want to make it happen, I could plan for it and redirect some of my money toward saving for it.

I often hear myself saying, oh I would give anything to be able to go and be a full time writer.  Well, maybe not anything.  It's a figure of speech if I'm honest.  I'd love to be a full time writer - no, let me say I love the IDEA of being one.  But in reality? Maybe not.

My ''lifestyle'' allows me to do just about anything I want, within reason, and with focus and determination.  It's just a matter of deciding what my real priorities are- (defining them), and then making some intentional plans to make them happen.  Which might mean changing my lifestyle, or it might mean changing my priorities.

How about you?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

i want i want i want

Following on from the (dubious) success of the bead reward system, I agreed to take the children to spend their earnings.

The little engineer has developed an aversion to the $2 shop (et al), thanks to the last couple of purchases breaking almost immediately.  His response - well it's just cheap rubbish there!   The dancing queen is really only interested in buying lollies and stationary.

So, in a flash of inspiration I offered to take them to the Saturday market in the city.  The main street of quite a poor neighbourhood is shut down every weekend and the street is filled with stall holders selling second hand clothes, imported Chinese knock-off games, dodgy jewellery and food of questionable nutritional value.  Add in lots of buskers selling Cd's of their music, thousands of people negotiating prams and dogs, and it has quite the atmosphere for a morning out.

We'd only been there 2 minutes and it started.  I want this.  I want that.  I want candyfloss.  I want hot chips.  I want that plastic helicopter.  It was revolting.  Whilst I was happy for the children to have some jurisdiction over how they spent their money ($5 each), I also had some restrictions.  Unfortunately, everything they wanted was on the embargoed list.

I endured an hour before escaping to the calm and order of K-Mart.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

pondering the meaning of life

Once a week, for the past two years, a group of women have been meeting at each others house.  

We spend about 2 hours together and during that time, as well as eating the yummy morning tea put on by the hostess, we talk about the meaning of life.

This started as a result of a couple of us wanting to join a bible study group.  The group has evolved as some have moved to full time employment.  New people have joined us and we have sadly said goodbye to others.   Our kids ages and stages have changed a bit - most are now at school - and for some of us there have been shifts in life circumstances.   

Sometimes we actually do study bits of the Bible, but more often than not we talk about broader issues - for example today we tackled the idea of 'narrow minded-ness'- a word often used to describe Christians, but which just as easily could apply to staunch atheists - or any other '-ists'' for that matter!  We've looked at friendship, the importance/point of prayer, our gifts and strengths, parenting, stress, and social  and moral issues/dilemmas

We've shared a lot of ups and downs in each others lives, there's been some crying, a fair bit of laughing, lots of sharing of disastrous parenting experiences, a bit of spouse-whinging, and great celebrations of milestones in each others lives.

These women are my friends, my confidantes, my cheerleaders, my shoulder to cry on.  And I for them.  On many things we agree to disagree, on others we are staunchly in harmony.  there's some ground rules - such as honouring and respecting each others points of views - but it's also OK to challenge - gently! - or question someone more on their thoughts.  It's made us all think a whole lot more about what we really believe in, and why.  

Even in my busiest week, these two hours are precious and I do my very best to keep this time un-challenged by other stuff.   It's awesome and I feel privileged and humble to belong to such a circle of amazing women.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

what? I can't hear you!

Sometimes there's things that just have to be said.
Sometimes the right thing to do is to be a bearer of bad news.
Sometimes you are going to be the messenger that someone wants to shoot.

It can be really hard to tell a person something they don't want to hear.  If it's particularly ugly, they'll probably go through the Kubler-Ross defined cycle of  shock-anger-denial-depression (or bargaining)-acceptance.

You will probably get told that you're not very good at communicating.

Now, it could be true.  You might not be a good communicator - but it's just as likely that the person you're communicating with is not communicating so well at that time either.   That's because there's a good chance that your message isn't really sinking in.  And after all, why would it - the recipient is being told something they don't want to hear.

I reckon this applies to kids, to customers, to significant others, to just about every situation in our lives when we are having to deliver, or receive, a bit of news we don't want to face.

But the fact remains, that sometimes the truth hurts.  And just because you don't like the message you're being given, that doesn't mean that the person giving it to you is doing a bad job of getting it across.

Monday, September 05, 2011

what world cup?

I'm seriously underwhelmed by all this Rugby World Cup hype.

Yes I know that probably makes me unpatriotic, but there it is.  Frankly, I think the country can ill afford it.
I could count on one hand the number of people I know who have tickets to live matches.  Another hand might be filled with names of those who are intending to go and watch at one of the public mega-screens (is that what they are?).

I guess I'll watch the opening ceremony - but only because that's the bit that is the most interesting to me, much as the ceremonies for the Olympic Games seem far more exciting that watching the actual sport.

I feel I should be more enthusiastic.   This is after all, an international sporting event being held in almost my own back yard.  It's supposedly going to put NZ on the map (eerm aren't we there already) and bring millions of dollars into our economy (yeah right).  It's going to unite us as a country, give us a national focus away from the doom and gloom of the economy and post-Christchurch stress, and of course, we (as in NZ, the All-Blacks) are going to make the final.

I really know nothing about rugby - I don't get the scoring, I don't really understand the rules, and 90 minutes of having to sit and watch other people running around getting hot and sweaty? Well, no thanks.  I like to participate in things not spectate.  Guessing no-one's going to ask me over to watch the match next week!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

omnipotence and other things 8 years understand without asking

We have had a young house guest for the weekend.  Following the success of her younger sisters visit a couple of weeks ago, she asked if she might attend church with us this morning.
I am a somewhat estrwhile attendedee these days - as I work for a Christian organisation as well as being involved with several ministries locally, I often find by Sundays I am rather churched out!
But today i knew there was to be a Christening, and so I was happy to accomodate.
We walked there as it was a beautiful sunny morning.
She asked some questions - what was church like? what would we do there/ who would be there?
I answered vaguely but with enthusiasm.  She was interested and intrigued, as only an 8 year old can be, by the explanations of something she knows nothing about.
Then a series of questions which absolutely blew me away:  Is God at church? Yes, i said, He is.  How do you know? Have you seen Him?  Me: well not seen, but I have felt him, like a warm breeze at the beach.
Reflective silence.
What's this christening thing?  It's where we introduce a baby to God and tell the baby how special he is to us and to God.
Ok, so is God at church or is God everywhere?  Me - well I think He is everywhere.
So why do we need to go to church then?

I had a moment of blind inspiration ( A god moment!!!).  Well, you know how your Mum teaches people to dance?  And you can dance anywhere right?  But sometimes you want to go where you are will other people who are dancing, and where you can learn more about dancing.   She nodded, she got that.
So, that's kind of like church.  But instead of learning dancing we learn and think about God.

I was pretty proud of that answer.

But it made me realise - she is right.  God is everywhere.  And whilst I'm sure he is glad that we make an effort to turn up in church on a Sunday, if it's not part of what we do on a regular basis, he probably doesn't mind to much about that either.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

onwards and upwards

I've had a really busy work week and still have a couple of fairly big deadlines that are getting closer - instead of waving at me from a safe distance they are now at the finger-wagging-directly-in-my-line-of-vision stage.

But despite being busy, the time has come that I cannot survive with a couple of 'nice little jobs'' any more.  Business is tough right now.  In fact I'd say that the past 6 weeks or so have been the toughest I've seen and I'm hearing that from everyone

So I have been quietly sourcing other work, and looking at how I can increase my income without increasing the hours I work too dramatically.  No easy task. But I am delighted to have found a couple more good potential clients and this is spurring me on.

I am exceptionally proud of my other big achievement this week though - I have built, pretty much from the bottom up (although using a template....) a website for my consultancy. have a look here!

This is the second website I have done this year (the other one is here!) and there is huge satisfaction in it for me, even though I am not, by nature, a detail kind of person.  Writing the content is my favourite bit - and working out how to get everything in the right place and correctly formatted is certainly my least favourite.

It's a good skill to have though I think, and another 'string to my bow'.  I am carefully looking at each of my skills and working out how best I can utilise them. .

The biggest challenge for me is actually putting into practice the advice I give my own clients!  I can happily tell others to plan, to be judicious, to evaluate, to take advice, to be impartial, to focus on the things that are the simplest - all that great advice! - but it is way way harder applying it to myself.

Perhaps I need a coach?

Thursday, September 01, 2011

salt of the earth

I recently gave some salt to a friend as a gift.
It was in a tiny tin - perfect for travelling, if only one needed to carry such a thing!

I admit, the cute packaging was an appeal when i saw it on the shelf.  But that little box of salt resonated on a deeper level for me.

Salt is amazing stuff. 

It can cure, it can soothe, but on a raw wound it can cause incredible pain in the process of healing.  
It can enhance something delicious but just as easily ruin it, if administered in the wrong volume. 
It can be used to make something last for a very long time.
It can be used to protect and cherish something special.
You don't need much to make a real difference.
It comes in many different colours and shapes and sizes - and origins!, from all over the world, but essentially it  is the same on the inside no matter what it looks like or where it's from.
If it's not well looked after well, it will change it's form and can become almost unusable. 
It can, if cared for well, last forever.

A bit like friendship really. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

a barrel of monkeys

The children have been away since Saturday morning.  The house was quiet, calm, ordered for a whole 48 hours.
I ate what I felt like, slept in, listened to my own music.

Today I worked. Well, a little!  And then at 3 o-clock I walked down to school to pick them up.
We wandered home slowly and discussed the merits of eating ice cream for afternoon tea (several) and doing homework (few).

Within five minutes the order was shattered.  Bags, coats, drink bottles, homework books, lunch boxes - how can two kids create so much chaos in such a short time!?

We trundled through homework, afternoon tea and so on, and I surveying the mess.

My first thought was to banish them outside and get straight on with recreating order.  Until the little engineer walked up beside me and said 'will you play a game with me'?  Ordinarily I would respond, yes of course, as soon as I have tidied up.   But, something today made me stop.  I looked at him and said, sure! And sat right down before I had a chance to so much as empty a lunchbox.

Now this is no mean feat for me and I had to make a real effort not to look at the bench!

We played Barrel of Monkeys for about 10 minutes - undistracted and just enjoying each other's company.  by 15 minutes he had had enough, and as usual the phone rang and it was work and I was taken away by it.  But he was absolutely delighted with that window of undivided Mum time, and quite content by then to continue playing the game alone.

It was a good lesson for me.  I've heard it said that life is not a Barrel of Monkey's.  But sometimes I think maybe we need to make it so.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

a human doing

There is no doubt about it, I have a busy life.  Yet I also have good chunks of time where I think 'what now?'

It's very unsettling... after all, how could this be? Between my two kids, three jobs, four volunteer positions, and quite an array of interesting hobbies you could argue that there's not much time left over.

I see a similar thing going on with some of the clients I work with - albeit on a slighter different scale.  They are working like mad in their business or organisation, their productivity is at an all time high, and yet they feel like they are not really making any progress.  The business isn't growing, it's not as profitable as once it was, or they are getting lower numbers to their activities.

It's frustrating, disheartening even.  We're told that the harder we work the better the results - whether that be in business, or studying, or in our relationships!

There will always be things we do that are not fulfilling.  But I need to know that at least I am moving forward, and that the things I am doing each day are making a difference to someone else, even if not to me.   Sometimes I probably need to stop evaluating and just enjoy the moment a bit more.

I'm not very good at sitting still and taking stock - which is kind of funny since that's what I teach other people to do!  But sit still I must.  Sometimes it might mean taking a total respite from my daily life - no phone, no email, no jumping in and out of the car.  Sometimes I think I need to take a really hard look at what I 'm actually doing and make a hard call on just how productive or rewarding it actually is.

I need to spend some time working ON me, not just working.

I need to learn to be a human being, not just a human doing.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

101 reasons not to

Yesterday, my word of the day was procrastinate.   And i wrote of the current fashion of  accumulating superficial online relationships in lieu of meaningful, effort-required ones.  What a way to celebrate my 100th blog.

I reckon that putting things off until the last minute would have to be one of my best skills.

I've mentioned before that I work best under pressure, and the realisation I have come to is that when I am in a frame of mind to NOT want to do something (whether that be something I enjoy or not), I am better to just leave it and go and do something else.  No matter that I invariably make the ''something else'' an unproductive, or often not even particularly enjoyable something!

It's hard when it's a frog that needs to be eaten.  It's unbelievably frustrating when I know it's something that will result in income and still I am putting it off.  It's simply discombobulating when it's something I actually enjoy doing.  What is this ability I have to put off and put off and put off?

Right now I have two, no make that three, fairly significant deadlines looming.  A report that is due (and without it in I won't be paid for the month).  An editorial and some articles to write for the paper (a self imposed deadline of this weekend for that one).  And some email that really need to be addressed in the next half an hour.

But what am I doing instead?  Writing a blog about my own procrastination.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

are we friends yet?

I have a friend (a real one!) who has an exceptionally busy and popular facebook page.  there's over 700 'friends'on his list.
I know other people with similar amounts and I many of these people are actually friends? And when did collecting friends become a national hobby?

Someone told me that we can expect to have about 5 real friends in our lives - that is, by the time we reach the end of it all, we can look back and see less that half a dozen people who have lasted the distance and who we could really count as special.  That's the ones who are there for the trials and triumphs, no matter what.

I know another person who used to take literally hundreds of photographs.  Boxes, albums full,  pretty much all shots of  people having fun.  She said that by looking at the photos she could convince herself what a good time she was having.  Which is completely different to looking at photos to remember what a great time you actually had.

So these thousands of aquaintances that we have.. are these also just examples of how we need to be reminded of our own importance...our own significance in life?  Why do we accumulate them in the first place?    If 15 people instant message me each evening can I then be satisfied that I am liked, loved, popular?  And if no-one does, do I then need to consider myself, well, a bit of a social failure?

If I don't answer an email for 24 hours, don't post a facebook status for a week, and don't tweet anymore, who is really going to care?  In fact, who is actually going to notice?

Is this another part of life that needs some serious decluttering?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

you get what you pay for

When it comes to making plans, there are a hundred and one different experts out there ready to tell you how to do it.  My best friend google has literally thousands of  downloadable plans for everything from starting a business, or changing career, to building a house or raising a child!

In my line of work (that would be coaching micro-businesses and NFP sector groups for those who didn't know...), there are websites, books, mentor programmes and personal coaches (like me) who can help keep people on track.

 Most people don't want to pay for advice.  And I understand that for many small businesses, especially in the start up phase, they simply don't have a few thousand dollars to spend on a business coach.   It's seen as an indulgence not an investment.

But it IS an investment! the coaches job varies - sometimes it's helping to set direction. Other times it's being a cheerleader.  Sometimes it's about kicking butt!  But mostly it's to keep someone focussed, on track, and accountable for their actions and goals.

Here's some awesome quotes about coaching...

So, by all means, download something from the internet.  Use programmes like the NZ business mentor scheme.   Join a networking group.  Talk to other business owners.

But know that until you make an INVESTMENT, you are not going to get much of a return.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

flat out doing nothing

How can it be that the busier I am - or at least, the busier I should be - the harder it is for me to find motivation?

Logically, if there's a to-do list as long as my arm - and at least as far as my elbow is going to result in income for effort, I should be right up there ready to get stuck in.

I know I am well organised - there is seldom a long to-do list on my fridge.   But because I juggle several part time jobs around the children and various other commitments, I do have to manage my time pretty carefully.

One thing I have learned about myself over recent years is that I work best under pressure

Most people just can't operate that way.  They need time to plan.  Time to consider, time to organise.

Not me.   So if I have two weeks to complete a project, rather than planning, spacing and timing it over that two weeks, I am far more likely to indulge in some serious faffing for 10 days, followed by one or two days of anxiety and then the final 24 hours in a complete head spin of productivity.

The lesson i have learned through this though, is not that I need to change the way I operate and become better at spreading out a workload, but that if this is my style, I need to work with it.  So now, when a deadline is looming, I know that I am far more likely to need to finish my crossword/write my blog/tidy the pantry than to start work - and that in fact, if I do that I am going to be far more productive in the long run.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

the nightmare continues

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog about my ongoing battle with nightmares.
I'd been feeling pretty smug about things - hadn't had any bad ones for a while and even my sleep patterns seemed to have marginally improved - waking only two or three times in a night instead of the usual half dozen.

But, sadly, the dreams are back, and bigger and scarier than ever.

This is such a frustration for me.  A friend described dreams as simple mental housekeeping.  That makes the dreams seem less scary in retrospect, but gee I wish my brain could come up with a new processing system!

There are recurrent themes, in fact recurrent plots and characters - but none of it makes any sense.

I wouldn't mind, except that I HATE waking up feeling distressed and disoriented.  (And as I've mentioned before, waking up this way on my own).

My readership has grown since my last post about this - maybe someone else can give me some insights?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

the paradox of living in a world of possibilities

Sometimes it seems that the world literally is our oyster.  The possibilities and opportunities lay spread before us, glittering with potential.
Should i live here? or there?  Should I date him? or him?  Should I take this job? Or that one?  Could I learn this skill? Or that skill?

We live in a world of immediacy where we are promised our hearts desires are literally only a click away.  A new friend, a new career, a new house is there for the coveting 24/7.

Certainly this can be incredibly liberating and exciting - that feeling of being in control of our own lives and our own choices.

But what about when the choices become overwhelming?  Instead of the two or three cars at the yard to choose from, there is now entire websites devoted to convincing you to buy one of 5000.  Instead of a traditional boy meets girl model, you can choose to 'date' as many people as you wish - concurrently - for as long as you wish.  Instead of the well worn path of work, save, buy a house, we have the option of living somewhere new every 6 months.

And yet, for most of us - the reality is we don't make any of those choices.

With all those amazing things just waiting to be experienced, perhaps we don't want to risk missing out on any of it.  Maybe we don't trust our own judgement enough to be able to commit a first YES or NO?  Or maybe we just like having a backup plan?

Partly perhaps because saying YES to one thing, means saying NO to something else. Which requires commitment, and risking ourselves.

I read once of the ubiquitous can't commit man.  He said to his girlfriend ''let's not have a family - when it's just us we can fly off to Paris at a moments notice...or get it on in the kitchen any afternoon we want...or eat out every night.''.  but after 10 years, they had not once been to Paris, the kitchen remained unsullied, and they ate dinner on their laps in front of the TV most evenings.

Seems the possibility of choice is far more exciting that the reality of actually making one.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

when sparks fly

In my line of work it's important to have a connection with my clients - in fact without that I could not do what I do.  Often those clients become friends of long-standing.  We are able to move beyond the professional relationship and find even more commonalities.

I also seem to have a knack for getting alongside people and making friends.  I do feel truly blessed to have this gift too (even though some of the things I know about some of them, I wish I didn't;)).

I have also been blessed to meet a number of people this year that this has happened with.  All different personalities but with some common life-threads.  Men and women, older and younger.

Don't you love it when you meet people and have an instant connection with them?  When conversation is easy, the minutes disappear into hours, when you leave thinking 'gee i would've talked longer'?  Sometimes it's a mental connection, sometimes it's kind of... a boy/girl spark thing...sometimes there's a real spiritual synergy (which sounds a bit cringey and supercilious but the readers who know me will understand my drift here).

These relationships take time to develop of course, but I have at last accepted that there are just some people that you 'gel'with and others you don't.  True, it can be hard to lead a group, or engage with a non-geller, but I am learning to keep those conversations short and to the point, leaving more time to explore the fun and excitement of building connections with those I feel affinity to.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

clearly the worlds WORST parent

describes how I feel, often.

Oh I want to be an ever-loving, calm parent who can gently cajole their children into eating vegetables, having a bath, getting out of said bath, emptying said bath, and reminding children that the water really truly ought to remain in said bath, not on the bathroom floor.

But, instead, at around 5.30 each evening, as the sun sets over my house, I turn into a grumpy grizzly impatient and unreasonable version of myself that knows no bounds when it comes to forcing their kids to eat vegetables, get in the bath, get out of the bath, empty the bath and LEAVE THE WATER IN THE BATH.

By 8 pm, instead of all sitting cosily on the couch playing an educational board games, or sharing anecdotes of the day, I am the mother threatening to withdraw all TV viewing privileges for 2011, using a tightly controlled voice to describe JUST how cross I am becoming, and with my lips set into a definite cats bum, I move from room to room harrumphing and muttering, more early-Alzheimer's-onset than loving mother of two gorgeous children.

By 8.30, having exhausted all possible threats,  bribed, wheedled, moaned and finally shouted (yes, you read that right, shouted) that I WILL NOT come back in ANY more times, and NO you can not have a glass of milk, and YES it is an hour past your bed time, and NO you may not sleep in my bed with me tonight, I look at my sleepy snuggled children, smother them in hugs and kisses, find myself apologising, again, for being a grumpy mummy, and retire to the lounge, where a trashy DVD and a glass of Pinot Noir will accompany me for the evening.

Got to love being a mother aye.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

everyone is entitled to my opinion

Big excitement on this side of the laptop this morning as my blog reached 2000 views.  I can only assume that there must be a heap of secret followers that I am yet to meet!

It's been an evolving process this thing, and I'm not sure if I have really settled into a "theme"yet (which all the blog-mentors tell us we should be doing!).

It seems in some ways like quite a narcissistic pursuit, this sharing my opinions with the world.  But I'd like to think that if nothing else, I'm giving some food for thought - and maybe the odd phew I'm glad I'm not her! response!

I wish, I wish I could write like this for a living.  But the reality is, with 100 million blogs out there, and goodness knows how many freelance feature writers, e-book authors and guest bloggers, this may remain just a hobby for some time yet.

When you hear of someone who wants to actually pay me to give them my opinion...please let me know.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

feeling special

One of the many hats I wear is that of coach.  As part of this,  I do business coaching for micro-businesses (that's the little √°corn' businesses of just one or two people)

I've been doing this for almost 15 years, and worked with literally hundreds of people with great ideas, lots of passion, often plenty of drive and commitment and usually not much money.
Many businesses have done well, and many haven't.
There are just a handful of reasons, I think, why some manage to stay (more than afloat) and go on to become successful.
- the first is that the business owner has a real vision of where they want to be with their business.
- the second is that they have a commitment to that success.  including down the boundaries for what they will and will not do to make this happen.
- the third is they really understand where their skills, and passion lie.

But one of the standout reasons that these businesses manage to keep their customers coming back time and time again?
They treat their customers like individuals.  As a small business they know that the personal touch is what separates them from the big corporates.  In fact that's often their only difference - the product, the margins and prices, even the service standards could well be the same.  But these people KNOW their customers.

They make friends of their customers, understanding them in a way that a large company just cannot do.
They listen, and act, (intentionally and wisely) on the feedback of their customers.  The customers believe that they are cared about and valued.

It can be difficult to maintain boundaries for small business owners - and this is a fine line, especially in a business centred on hospitality or wellbeing.  The successful businessowner finds and keeps this boundary, all the while embracing the unique position they play in the customers lives.  They go the extra mile, they consider each business decision in light of what is already working well in their business with their most consistent and loyal customers.

And, in turn, these customers will, and do, become loyal for life.  They will spend  more money, for a whole lot less effort than the owner might have to make to attract a new customer.  They will tell their friends.  They are often far more willing to offer feedback, both positive and negative, than the customer of a corporate.

They feel special.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

the quest for simplicity

As you know, I'm all for keeping things simple.
That means having less stuff - physical stuff, mental stuff, emotional stuff, even spiritual stuff.
It also means being intentional about the things, people, experiences, that accumulate going forward.

But I wonder - can this go a step too far? is all about really paring down your possessions.  But I think he's missed a pretty crucial point.
 Sure we only need one chair to sit on.  We only need a one-person sized bed.  We really only need one knife and fork for that matter.

The argument goes, according to Dave and his ilk, that when one lives a transitory life (the roving author, the travel guide et al), one can manage with the contents of their backpack.  So good so far.
But the reality is that for most of us, we need a place to call home.  We can't afford to live in hotels.  In fact we probably have no desire to do so.  So that even if we only own 100 things (and this guy takes some poetic licence with that concept), we are still going to need to use a whole lot more than that.

Which means, doesn't it, that we will need to borrow those things from someone else? Whether that be by way of renting them, making use of public ones (hardly likely in the event of a bed or dining table!), or using the ones currently owned by others, we still can't get away from the fact that someday, somewhere, we are going to need more than those 100 things.

And whilst the idea of 'where-ever I lay my hat'' may sound appealing I think it has left out one really REALLY important consideration.

And that is, what about people?  The best way to nurture those we love is to spend time with them.  Which mostly means real human contact - consistently and constantly.  Not so easy when you live out of a suitcase.  The novelty of perching on someones single bed, eating every meal out of the same bowl is going to wear off pretty quick (trust me, I've been there!).  I accept that hospitality is about people not places, but transit lounges and cafes are not sustainable when it comes to building trust and longevity into a relationship of any kind.

Sure, have as little 'stuff'as possible.  Strive to be kind to the earth.  Be responsible with money.  Think how much more time you will have with less things to be concerned about.  But don't make the mistake of paring your relationships down to the bare minimum too.  Because they really can't survive on next to nothing.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

count your blessings

I applied for another job this week.  The upside - a better career path, more variety, more income.  the downside, more hours, more compromise on family, more time in the car.  So why did I apply? Not because I don't like what I do now, not because I am eager to pursue a new career. No, it is because the lure of more money is very attractive.  Now that's not to say that I wouldn't spend that money wisely, but the reality is that the extra income would most likely end up being largely redirected into the 'more of' category.

I heard this today:
Counting blessings helps us want less

One of the themes I keep coming back to in this blog is definitely simplicity, and so this really resounded with me.

It is so easy to want more, to be forever looking for more stuff, more experiences, more satisfaction...which of course is largely a fruitless exercise.  but not so easy to find a real (and simple) antidote to all this want.

I think there's nothing wrong with aspiring for a 'better'life, for having goals and dreams and ambitions.  The problem comes when we lose sight of the important things that we already have.   I'm talking about more than those basic first world commodities like clean water and medical care.  Starting by simply thinking about all the abundance in our lives - our families, friends, assets, depth of experience, reminds us that really, we want for little.  And, by and large, we have everything we need.

It's about the richness that our lives offer - the music, the books, the ease of access to the outdoors, the amazing technology that allows us to so easily connect to the rest of the world.  The relationships we start, grow, and nourish.  The small pleasures of each day spent with the people we value most.

It takes conscious effort that's for sure.  sometimes it's hard! I am the first to admit I get twingey when I see friends with things, experiences, relationships, that I want for myself.

And so back i need to go to my list.

Count your blessings, and want for less.  Yes, that works for me.

Monday, August 01, 2011

was it something I said?

I've got an underdeveloped skill of not taking things personally.
Yep, I'm the one that hears a comment and spends way too much time analysing it.
I'm the one who feels wounded when it had nothing to do with me.

So when I make a new friend and then the friendship kind of...dwindles...i can't help but it me?

The logical response, is of course: don't be ridiculous. that person is probably busy/distracted/oblivious.

So far so good.

But then it happens again.

Manners maketh the man (or woman...)...let's see...

And then last week I had a particularly unpleasant exchange with a stranger. Which included, the second time I met her, me saying, oh I'm SURE I know you, you look so familiar.  And her responding: Well I certainly don't know YOU and last time I saw you no one bothered to introduce us so I just thought I wouldn't bother talking to you.

Which I didn't take personally - I mean, good grief, is that about me? I don't think so!



A woman whom I know slightly.  I say hello.  Offer a boring time of day greeting.  Compliment her on an event I attended that she had run.  She responds with, yes well I'm very pleased for you. Really I am.   I look flummoxed.   She walks off.
I notice she is rubbing her temples.  When I get the chance I go to her, say, oh are you ok, do you have a headache.  She response with a laugh.  Looks directly at me and says No! No I do not! Why would you think that!?  Explain about temples.  She responds: and what if I did, what would you be likely to do about it. I say, oh, maybe offer you a panadol?  She responds again: Well, I think I am quite capable to bringing my own thanks.  AND I am not here to chat you know. I have had a hard week.'' (((me, thinking ffs it's Monday!!!!))).

I know I shouldn't let it bother me.  I know it's about her.
But honestly?
It's put me off ever returning to that place.  I don't need to be around that kind of rubbish.
And twice in a week.
Forget it.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

the window in my diary

I applied for another job yesterday.
It's just part time, like the others. It will probably pay pretty badly, like the others.  It will no doubt require a fair amount of juggling and creativity to get completed, much like the others.

But, it's also during term time. It's working with kids.  It's flexible hours.  It involves me getting out and about (rather than stuck in the office as oft I am).  And so I reckon there's a few small windows in my diary that could easily be filled with income earning, productive activity.

When I updated my C.V. I was almost surprised to read that I'm actually probably quite an attractive candidate (sheesh pity the boys out there couldn't see that aye!)...I have the skills and experience that's required -although not the formal qualifications - and already have good industry contacts and connections.

So, you may ask, why am I mad enough to take on yet more work, when it would appear that my days are already full to bursting?

Well, the fact is, that I can't afford not to.  And while it really is tempting to dump ALL of these part time bits and go find one, simple, wellpaying, full time job, I just can't see how I could get any quality of life from that.  I want to be home for the children after school each day. I don't want to be arriving home at 5.30 on a cold and dark winter's night and then having to start dinner.  I don't want to be spending 90 minutes a day travelling to and from work.  I don't want to have to go and upgrade my wardrobe for office friendly clothes (let alone the extra time it takes to get ready in the morning).

I certainly don't want, at least while the children are young, to have to work through every school holiday, find care for them when they're sick, and miss all their important milestones and events at school.

Yes, it's a juggle with the $$$, and the time - to make sure every bit gets done well - but the payoffs are enormous.

From the outside my life appears to be already pretty frantic with work and family and those other commitments that eat up all the tape on my answerphone message, but actually I could easily fit a few more hours of something in.

I guess another upside of being disgustingly organised at home is that I spend a minimal amount of time on a 'to do around the house' list.  I get to spend lots of times doing the things I love.  

Besides, what would I do if I wasn't busy?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I'm in charge

Reflections on the benefits of working for myself....

- I get to decide when I start and stop work
- Because my office is at home I can wear my slippers to work
- I get to choose when my coffee break is
- the harder I work, the more I earn
- I get to fit my job around my life, rather than my life around my job
- I get to do the things I really love - reading, writing, meeting people, helping, advising, organising (!)
- If I need a day off, I can just take it (although it means working twice as hard the next day)
- I'm a great boss:)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

the best fun you can have with your clothes on

This week I have been going to dancing lessons for 6 months.

I've been to 7 dance parties. One champs.  One workshop.  A couple of privates. About 35 group lessons at 3 different levels.

I've spent goodness-knows-how-much on i-tunes getting all the songs I love dancing to (ouch! and there's still more I want!)

I've been spun, dipped, dropped and seduced.  Lifted, twirled, draped and cuddled.
I can even look at the list of moves being taught and recognise some of them!
I have quite a collection of swirly skirts, and light, dancer friendly tops.  I've had a couple of errors of judgement - the dress that kept falling down (no more halter necks for this kid) and the one that turned out to be completely see through if I was too near the spotlights...
I've had the pleasure of dancing with most of the men I have wanted to dance with - and the dubious honour of a couple I was less than enthusiastic about.  There's still a couple on the list of 'dance with me's!' but I'm even getting brave enough to do the asking myself now.  I've even danced with some of the best in the country (poor things!)

I've danced with the shortest, the tallest, the slimmest, the fattest, the sweatiest, the best smelling and the cutest men ever to be found in one room.
I've been told to use more pressure, less pressure, go slower, go faster, concentrate more, concentrate less, get closer, move back, hang on and let go.
I've woken up aching all over.
I've found some wonderful new friends, both men and women,  from all walks of life, and got way better at small talk.
I've introduced my children to a new way of socialising, exercising and having fun,  and they too can't wait to learn.

I hear the music, see the lights, and my heart sings.

the best fun you can have with your clothes on