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.