Monday, December 24, 2012

The annual Christmas poem

From our house to yours
.A Christmas Carol

Oh little town of  Alexand how still we see thee lie,
Can only mean we’re not outside,
my daughter, son and I
Yet in the dark street shineth an everlasting light,
 I think it be my Christmas tree, those flashing things are bright!

How silently how silently the cat comes sidling in…
Since joining us in February, she’s had us in a spin
She sulked for the first week or two then hid under the bed,
And though she should be TLE's cat she fancies the Queen instead

Listen and you just might hear some voices singing gaily
Could be Kapa haka (her) or him and ukulele
Born to please a crowd they are, with not a hint of coy
On the stage or a YouTube clip, that’s my girl and boy

Out in the garden -  one for each-  lots of plants abound
Berries, peas, and spuds and beans are all there to be found
The Engineer's the green thumb, the Dancing Queen, likes cooking
(Though more whipped cream and chocolate cake is pinched when I’m not looking)

The adult of the house is great – in work and home life too
The job, the gym, the Village Voice, the dancing that I do
A special friend to share my time, (who’s learned to dance as well)
In retrospect I must declare the year has turned out swell

Happy Christmas from Us

Saturday, December 01, 2012

the shape of things to come

A couple of months ago I won two months gym membership in a Facebook competition.  It included a session with a personal trainer, and although it took me a few weeks to actually get in there, once I'd had the assessment (surprisingly good), and got my workout plan, I found I was quite excited about the idea.

I'm no couch potato (I walk or use my bike to get about every day and dance at least once a week) but I also knew that my body could use a bit of work - I treat it well most of the time, but like most women in their mid-40s, I probably spend more time on the peripherals of exercise, and more money on my face/skin/hair than I do on maintaining good fitness and tone.

So, fast forward 8 sessions or so and I'm starting, ever so slowly, to see some changes.  I can do more whilst I'm on my circuit (eg up to 20 flights of stairs on the stepper, having started at 15, rowing for 7 minutes rather than 4), and although there's certainly no dramatic changes to my shape I do feel just a little bit straighter and fitter - and yes maybe even a little firmer in some spots.

Its been a bit frustrating that ''the weight isn't falling off''.  Like most people I'm always thinking I could do with shedding a few kilos and I (somewhat unrealistically) thought this gym thing would make that an easy task.  Here's the downside - I'm so hungry all the time!  I guess its all that exercise but I'm sure I am eating more now than I was a month ago.  I get hungry at random times too - late in the evening, early in the morning, neither of which have been typical eating times for me.  So, when I lamented about this to the trainer (also a good friend) she suggested I keep a food diary for a few days and she could analyse it for me.

Well, if there was ever a motivation to change what went into my mouth, that was it!  NOT the goal of losing weight, oh no.  The thought that I would have to write down that a bag of chips fell into my mouth was just too horrifying and so I now find myself thinking ''hmmmm, maybe I could have an apple''.  It's the darnedest thing!  I don't want my friend thinking I eat rubbish (actually I don't ...really.....) and I don't want to see a list in black and white of what went into my stomach either!

And so whilst I have still had a couple of major pig outs (today an example when I attended an event with catered deliciousness), I am certainly more aware of everything I'm consuming, and I'm hoping that this will be the difference between getting fit, and getting into shape.

Monday, November 26, 2012

tis the season to be thankful

The words that have been on my mind this week are grateful and  content.

As the avalanche of flyer's for Christmas shopping grows at my gate, and there seems to be more advertisements on television than actually programming (all which tell me I will be a better person/happier/smarter/more attractive if only I purchase from a particular store) I am reminded again of how easy it is to lose sight of the concept of being happy with what I already have.  And its particularly challenging having two small people in my house who are so easily influenced by the media.

Certainly it is unreasonable to expect a child to easily understand that they already ''have so much'' when they are subjected to this constantly, and also don't have a world view as broad as an adults.  And all children see more of what they don't have than what they do.

But Christmas is surely a time we should be taking a breath and remembering just how much we DO have and being glad for it.  Grateful for me means adopting some humility and being reminded of the abundance we live in as a society, as a community, and as a family. It means being thankful and gracious even when I don't necessarily feel like being either.   Content means being able to accept that I really do have enough - even though they may be times I still crave a particular thing or experience.  It goes beyond resignation (that will have to do), and  not as far as complacency (I no longer need to have goals or drive) and allows me to appreciate the small things in life that tend to get overlooked - especially in the crazy time that is December.

What are you grateful for this Christmas?  Can you look at your life and feel content?  What might need to change in 2013 to get you closer to this?

I am grateful for the amazing community I live in - the friends around the corner, the abundance of local produce I can buy, the incredible view of Mt Pirongia I can see every day.  I am content with my smallish house, my oldish car and my longish grass.  And this year I want to make a real effort (that's the non-complacency bit) to share that gratefulness and contentment with my family over the crazy pre-Christmas season.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

perception is reality: a view from the shop front

I live in a town that has traditionally been a place of independent store owners.  Businesses that have been run by generations of shopkeepers and tradesmen, where everyone knows your name and shop fitouts are of an indeterminate age.
About ten years ago things began to change.  The ''big guns'' came to town - the Warehouse and its ilk, and of course we saw the birth of the sometimes described scourge known as the $2 shop.   There was an influx of national chains, mainly clothing and stationery.  There were cafes opening on every corner too and some of the long time retailers shut up shop.  Farmers closed its tired old store. As did Hallensteins.  The shops who appear in malls declined to come.  Things were looking grim.  A large format development was started on the outskirts of town.  McDonalds and several other takeaways turned up.

Fast forward on and we are now in a state of flux.  This month, there are 7 empty stores on the main street - all independent retailers that have shut down.  It sounds bad.  In some ways it IS bad.  But there's a hidden side to this story.

One of those retailers has moved to a premise 3 times the size of his previous building.  Another national chain has come to town and taken the old space.  Three new large businesses have come to town.  The stores that were high prices,  low value or low volume are finding it hard to compete - but the big shops ensure that our town is now competitive with the city just up the road.  And surely the fact that big players are coming here - employing locally, spending a heap on a shop fitout, and giving a streamlined look to our retail strip - suggests that they believe our town is worth investing in?

Sure, there's lots of vintage/second hand/op shops.  There's more than our fair share of cheap imported goods shops.  There's lots of low cost takeaway outlets.  But there's also plenty of boutiques, expensive hairdressers and gorgeous gift shops too.

Today GrabOne presented to a group of businesses.  We sat in a fantastic restaurant, eating great food and hearing about some real success stories - mainly, but not only, in retail, around New Zealand.  Then we talked about our upcoming Christmas parade, in which we expect 60 floats, and about 5000 people to come and enjoy.

Seems to me the economy is not as grim as one might believe.  It's all about perspective.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

gimme gimme gimme

Okay, I confess. I lost the plot a bit on Friday.  I raised my voice...nay, shouted. Quite a bit.

It was Friday night.  We'd had a busy week, the kids and I.  Athletics, Guides, playdates, music lessons, the Light Party, a trip to BK.  Hardly a tough week when it came to kid indulgences.

Unfortunately for me (or them, as they pointed out), the circus was in town and we weren't going.  I'm not one for circuses myself, something about the clowns that freak me out, and so it's not something I am particularly excited about going to.  Especially at $35 a ticket - and that's not even a seat near the front.  They begged. I said no.  They pleaded. I said no.  They whined.  I said no, more vehemently. They told me Everyone Except For Them would be going.  That if I Really Loved Them I Would Take Them.  That they didn't get to go ANYWHERE and it WASNT FAIR.

I pointed out the previous weeks activities.  And yes, I'll admit it, my voice got a little louder with each thing on the checklist.  I reminded them that I Wasn't Made Of Money.  I explained my position.  I didn't bother with reasoning, I just put it all out there.

Finally, eyes agog as they witnessed me lose the plot on the fifteenth (or was that fiftieth) ask, they conceded that they wouldn't be going to the circus.

The next day one child went for a playdate/sleepover at best friends, and the other went to an all afternoon and most of the night birthday party.  On Sunday we had errands to do, but I added in Subway for lunch and a quick coffee stop at a kid-friendly cafe.  We saw more friends.  It was a lovely day.

Until, on the way home, I was told:  ITS NOT FAIR! WE STILL DIDN'T GET TO GO TO THE CIRCUS

Thursday, October 25, 2012

pride and prejudice

In a recent conversation with a (child free) friend about teaching kids respect, she said ''What I am fascinated by is the absolute hatred in some people for a particular type of person - particularly when they are parents, or want to be - and yet have no idea how their child may be in adulthood.  Will they love that child or be proud of them? What pressure goes on a child to be a certain way, or to not become what the parents despise? How does that pressure show itself in a child?''

As the parent of two inquisitive kids, I am often confronted with some tricky questions - why do they believe that Mum? Why is that person fat?  What does gay mean?  You know the stuff... I want to raise my children to be tolerant of others, to accept differences but to remain true to their own beliefs and values.  So this poses an interesting question:

If there's a  particular belief/lifestyle choice/view that I strongly disagree with, how might that affect the way I parent? What if YOUR child grew up to be the ''someone'' who chose to live a lifestyle you found totally offensive?  For example, what if they are a supporter of a political party you abhor, or in a religion you find unacceptable, or chose a path - stumbled into a path - you didn't understand and couldn't condone - atheist, gay, obese, drug addict, alcoholic, criminal, bankrupt, hermit, abuser.  Whatever.  Its not an exhaustive list, and it's not my own personal record of no goes - just some examples to get you thinking.

My own view is that it is imperative to teach some tolerance, with boundaries, to our children.  So that might mean explaining the impact or consequences of certain behaviours, but giving children the freedom to choose a path for themselves.  Which is all very idealistic when the child is 7 or 8, and less realistic as they approach adulthood.  My main concern is that I do not allow any hatred to form, particularly when it relates to people who are different to ourselves - and yet make it clear that there are certain behaviours (as opposed to beliefs/values/inborn characteristics) that are not OK.

How about you?  Do you have a no go area?  Is it ok for children to know their parents own prejudices? Are there prejudices you are aware you are passing onto your children?  Why?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

a lifetime in a decade

This time ten years ago I was on the brink of first time motherhood. And it certainly is true what ''they'' say - that nothing, absolutely nothing, can prepare you for this experience.

Its still all SO clear to me, from the first labour pain, to holding that beautiful new baby in my arms.  Her first words, first steps, first trip to the beach.

The ten years have been a lifetime of ups and downs for our family, and although much of it is not the path I would choose, I have, sleeping just down the hall, an amazing human being.  A feisty girl with talent and spirit and spark.  One who has a very defined sense of right and wrong, one who is quick to react and just as quick to forgive others.

My ten year old has a great group of friends, many of whom are coming to share the day with us tomorrow.  Doting grandparents and adoring cousins.  A little brother who thinks she's absolutely wonderful and also his favourite person to tease and squabble with.

She is brave and fearless in a crowd, or on a stage, but still cries if she skins a knee.   A great sense of style and a love for  sparkle and bling - and a penchant for comfy trackpants and a pair of crocs.

A love of pop music and, surprisingly obscure jazz.  A taste for spicy curry, imported olives, iced chocolate and chicken chips.  She loves to read magazines and cookbooks, watch Masterchef on TV and transform her room into a hairdressing salon one day and a beauty spa the next.

Shes a water baby who can spend an hour in the bath, or a day in a swimming pool and still want more.  She dances, every day, and has taught herself to play the piano.  She has an affinity for language and dreams of one day visiting Paris and speaking French.

We are best friends most of the time, arch enemies occasionally, and share a fierce and protective love for each other.

To my amazing dancing queen: I love you to the moon and back.

Monday, September 24, 2012


I'm an independent kinda girl.  I'm also not one for dwelling in misery, let alone sharing it with others, and yet in the past couple of weeks I have found myself telling the story of my current family stresses over and over.  And over.  In fact its getting kind of boring, even for me.  My friends and SO have been incredibly supportive and positive, offering all kinds of help and insights and for this I am truly grateful.

Its incredibly hard to ask for help.  In some (yeah, screwed up) kind of way, to me to ask for help feels like a weakness. Like I'm saying I have failed rather than that I am just as human as everyone else.  And when that help needs to come from professional quarters it seems to me like even more of a failure, more of a weakness.  The reality is of course, that to ask for help - to acknowledge one needs it in the first place - is probably a good thing.  In fact the deep irony is that I ''help'' people for a living.  My job is to help people get better at what they do and to identify the areas they need support in.

But, seek help I have.  I have a list of things to do - a kind of action plan I guess, that I am hoping are going to make a difference.  A bunch of cheerleaders around me to keep me on track (and quite possibly, accountable).  A couple of very clear outcomes I want to achieve, and at last a sense of hopefulness that this thing, this horrible challenging, exhausting thing, might get sorted. Eventually.

How are you about asking for help?  Do you have a good support network?  Are you a lone problem solver or do you feel OK about enlisting the help of others?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

posted with gratitude

I started preparing for dinner at 7.30 yesterday morning, putting a gigantic piece of (home kill)  corned beef in my slow cooker - and reflected on the marvels of modern appliances as the day wore on.

I walked to school with kids, in the sun, and stopped to chat a while with other mums not seen for some time.

Back home to work - remotely and in the quiet - before I  picked up my son and took him to an ear/nose/throat specialist who explained the amazingly complicated human body in simple and 6-year-old friendly terms, and handed me a quote for $5000 to fix some ongoing health issues.  We stopped at the McDonald's drive through for some hot chips and returned to school in time for a PTA fundraising sausage sizzle.

All the while, the slow cooker bubbled away, the potatoes baked in the oven.  The bread maker did it's thing. The spa pool heated gently.  The ice cream waited in the freezer.   The ipod blasted out sounds whilst I vacuumed and steam mopped before guests arrived.  I wandered about Facebook in between times, catching up with friends in three different countries.

At three o-clock, I met with four other friends and their children at the ice cream shop, where we sat in the sun and the kids chased each other with over sized sticks and threatened each other with sticky fingers.

By 4.30 I was back home, pouring a glass of wine and surveying a clean house and a nearly cooked meal.

And then my friends arrive for dinner.  Four adults, 4 kids and teenager all enjoyed slow cooked corned beef, baked potatoes, massive platter of salad and home made bread.  We had a simple dessert of ice cream in a cone and warm mini donuts.

After dinner the children jumped in the spa pool (a new addition to my outdoor living space) and the adults talked about everything and nothing for an hour or two.

It was a day of amazing simplicity - and also a celebration of the marvels of technology.  But overall, it was a day of gratitude.  What an amazing place I live in.  What fabulous friends I have.  How blessed I am to have such luxuries and conveniences at my fingertips.

What are you grateful for today?

Monday, September 10, 2012

grief and grieving

Last week I attended the funeral of a person I had never met.  I was there in support of the closest families members of this woman and it was a strange position to be in.

It was a sad funeral, as of course they are, not least because she was very young, and left behind a young family, but also because she came from a widespread and fairly fragmented family.  My grief was for those children in particular, who I know have a tough road ahead of them coming to terms with the loss of their mother.

Funerals are the strangest things.  A microcosm of society - people from all walks of life whom would otherwise have never met, coming together for an hour and little more.  The ''religious'' and ''non religious'' both having to make sense of the possibilities or probabilities of an afterlife, as a way of coming to terms with death.  Children who barely understand, and old people who have seen too many loved ones go before them.  People who are truly grieving and others who are barely sad at all.  

And for some strange strange reason , those who are hurting the most seem to end up comforting everyone else.  Surely the children or parents or spouse deserve the most support and yet they are the ones who do the back patting, offer the condolences and have to be the 'strong ones''.  And worse still, in some weird way, there is often an intangible competition about who is the saddest. Who misses the person most.  Who had the closest relationship to them.  Who had the most to lose.   I am not convinced that our society has this right!

But there was also a positive that showed itself at this particular funeral, and that was the level of attendance from people who barely knew, or had never met the person who died, and yet came along, as I did, to support the grieving.  What an amazing gesture, and a reminder that perhaps most people really are as decent and kind as I want to believe they are.

Monday, August 27, 2012

emotional kryptonite

Yesterday we had cartoons on the TV, and there was a Batman/Superman/Spiderman thing the children were watching.  My daughter commented she likes Superman - but also Hulk.  It seemed to be about being strong and brave.  So it got me to wondering about how I could relate these ''superhero'' qualities to the values and characteristics I have been trying to work on with my kids.

As I have mentioned over at my other blog as well, there's been a lot of talk at my house of late about hurt and forgiveness.  These are big concepts to grasp, especially for children. And so I had been trying to work out how to get these ideas into practical terms for my 9 year old (in particular) to understand.  We've talked about how being angry is like letting someone mean live in your head.  We've talked about how forgiving someone makes your heart feel lighter.

The superhero thing suddenly made a whole lot more sense.  And in particular I was thinking about what super-qualities might apply to anger.  There it was:  Forgiveness is like kryptonite to conquer anger.   I talked about this with my daughter last night, as she is currently wrestling with the idea of having to forgive someone who hurt her deeply as a very young child.  She says she's almost afraid to do it -  I think perhaps she feels that the anger gives her some power over her thoughts and reactions to that person.

I left the ideas with her, reassuring her that it was not something that might happen easily, and nor would the feelings magically disappear - but that by applying her ''kryptonite of forgiveness'' to the angry feelings, she could take some of the sting out of them.  She understood and promised to think about it.

Keep you posted

Sunday, August 12, 2012

a right to life vs a right to death

When I was a little girl we would often go to visit some relatives who lived a couple of hours north of us, in a beautiful house filled with beautiful things.  We would hear about their latest overseas holiday (a cruise around Alaska perhaps, or a trip to Ascot to the races, or an opera in Italy).  One year my Uncle bought my Aunt a new car and it was put in the garage, completely wrapped in Christmas paper, topped with a gigantic bow.  These people had bowls of cashew nuts about for visitors - no chips and dip in this house  - and a percolator and dishwasher before anyone else we knew.  My Aunt wore gorgeous clothes, fabulous shoes and extraordinary jewellery - including a pearl necklace she had purchased in Japan, having watched a diver choose her pearls for her.  They were extraordinary hosts, holding parties and dinners for friends and family and having open homes at both their beach house and city dwelling.   As a child this life enthralled me and I loved to go and visit and soak up this excitement that was rather foreign to my own normality.

Through it all they were generous and kind relatives and when my Uncle died about 12 years ago at 80, there was much grieving.  Last year, despite vociferous complaints and heel digging, my Aunt had to concede to moving to a rest home.  The family fortune is largely gone (a long and sad story) and so she now lives in a beach side home for the infirm and elderly.  At 96 she remains medication free and incredibly healthy, although her eyesight and hearing are failing and there are times when she is less than lucid.  She remembers little from the immediate past (visitors, what was for lunch) but still has a fairly sharp mind - which is a continual frustration to her due to the eye and ear issues.

Yesterday I went to visit her.  I was, frankly, quite nervous about it.  Rest homes are not the most pleasant of places at the best of times, and so I was bracing myself for what I might find.  As I expected, the place had a kind of fading gentility about it at first glance, but was in fact quite shabby on closer look - and home to mainly infirm and largely uncommunicative geriatrics who spend their days shuffling between dining room and lounge with little conversation or activity.  The staff are mainly young, and ESL speakers, who are efficient enough but not particularly warm or nurturing.

Fortunately it was a good day for my Aunt and although there were moments when she cried and her ''timeline''was rather muddled, on the whole she seemed quite settled there (actually, perhaps RESIGNED would be a better description...).  We reminisced about some of the things I remembered from my childhood visits to her.  Like the first time I ever went to a restaurant was with her.  The gold lipstick case brought back from Japan,  I have used everyday since she gave it to me with my first lipstick at age 13.  The beach holidays.  The year my mother got horribly sunburned.  My children, my job, my house.  Her grandchildren, the business she ran with my uncle, their holidays and experiences. She admired my new shoes.  Looked closely at my iphone with fascination and had a go taking a photo with it.  We laughed and cried.

But the reality of her surroundings were that her tiny single room with barely a treasure or significant memory was a depressing place and I could feel her frustration at being one of the most active and lucid residents with hardly anyone to talk to.  This amazing woman was used to bridge, and golf, and cryptic crosswords, and intricate handicrafts.  Now she is unable to read, or listen to the radio, and can just manage a walker-assisted shuffle around the garden, and yet remains almost as sharp on the inside as she has ever been.  She talked of this, and how hard it is to feel young inside but know that your body is failing.  She told me how she wonders if God has forgotten her.  

And so when I left, promising to return, and leaving a note in her visitors book outlining my visit and what we had talked about, although I was happy to have seen her and had such a lovely time I also had an overwhelming sense of sadness.  I really am not sure that it IS fair that the amazing human body has to go through this.  I am not convinced that we should have to live out the last years of our lives without dignity, or in frustration, or simply being miserable.  It seems incredibly unfair to me that a life so well lived should have to end this way.   And that applies to aging, illness and anything else that leaves our bodies at a disconnect to our minds.

And so that of course led me to one of those ''big questions''.  How can it be that abortion is legal but euthanasia is not? That we preserve life at all costs even if the ''liv-er'' doesn't want it.  That we end up having to fill soulless old buildings with what become soul-less old people who would (in my view and often their own) be rather happier in heaven.

I think that by the time I am old and decrepit, we will be able to choose our exit place and method.  Some would say this is playing God.  I'd say it's just making a decision for our soul to meet Him sooner than our bodies might have otherwise allowed.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

what's the story!?

Today I hosted a lunch for 23 business owners.  Over fantastic food (thanks to Fahrenheit Restaurant) we had the privilege of hearing the stories of 4 different entrepreneurs.

 I'd booked a Banker, a Jeweller, a personal assistant and a school principal.  The brief I had given them was to share their ''why and who'' rather than the ''what, where, and when'' of their business life.  And so the audience heard about a person who understands and is passionate about finding financial solutions, a woman who creates precious memories, someone who frees up time for others, and a man with a vision for creating a voice for young people in our community.

It was inspiring!  The ''back stories'' of how each of these people had come to their chosen professions, what motivated them, the most unusual or memorable experiences they had had, the people who influenced and challenged them - this was what made them real.  No more were these names - worse still, email addresses - on a mailing list, or a business card on the table.

This process can be applied to anyone in just about any situation, but is particularly relevant to a career, or business, or investment in social enterprise.  Understanding what makes you ''tick''  - and being able to confidently share that, in person, with others - adds an element of personality that no blog, website  or vibrant facebook page can ever match.

So what is your story? Why do you do what you do? How does this impact on what you do?  Who have you told about it?

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Go ahead: make my day

After all the stress and late nights, at last the Business Awards have been and gone.  The process took, all up, abut 9 months, and culminated in a very fancy night at a very fancy venue, for 300 guests in very fancy dresses.

I didn't know any of the winners - or even the finalists - until they were announced on the night and so it was a nailbiting and exciting couple of hours - and great elation when many of the businesses I work closely with were given awards.

And, as always there were a number of businesses and individuals who didn't make it into the top two or three.  For them I was disappointed - partly because every one wants to win on the night don't they? - and also because there were a few that I felt were extremely deserving.  To those businesses I offer both condolences and encouragement that they will enter again next year.

I a society, do we do well at recognising excellence? Are we good at celebrating success?
Sure, there are amazing events like the Olympics, and grand ceremonies such as these Business Awards held all over the country - but I would suggest that on a day to day kind of basis, we are not so good at giving praise or honouring those that excel.

When was the last time you offered positive feedback to someone?  When did you last send a letter - an email or text even - to a business that gave you great service?  Do you make a habit of thanking people for what they do for you?

We are pretty good at telling our kids that they are terrific.  Most of us do an 'okay'' job at giving positive feedback to friends and partners.  But in the wider community, I'd suggest not so much.  Sometimes it can take a whole lot of of your own effort to acknowledge someone Else's effort.  But a simple 'well done'', especially if its in writing can really make a persons day.  Given to someones boss or their colleague, can have a real impact on a persons performance.

My challenge to you is this:  next time you receive great service in a store, or notice an educator going the extra mile for your child, or see a friend go ''above and beyond'', tell them.  Write it down.  Buy them a card.    Make their day.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

belief versus action: beyond thought and deed

As human beings we often define ourselves by what we believe - spiritual beliefs (I'm a Christian, I'm an atheist), or values (I'm honest, I'm hardworking) - or we use adjectives based on how we see that we fit in the world (I'm a mother, I'm a salesman, I'm a greenie).

My thoughts today are following on from my post on integrity (read it here).

This week I delivered a workshop on strategic planning, and finding some correlation between what a business owner needs to define for the long term goals of their business AND how that fits with their own personal goals.  I used the example of how I decided that in 2011 I wanted to learn how to spin wool.  I visualised myself sitting in my living room, spinning wool whilst my handmade bread dough was rising,  looking out on my flourishing vege garden, and generally being an earth mother.  What I hadn't considered was that the reality of bags of wool everywhere, and the time required to make the dough - and the effort the garden was going to take...none of which I had the inclination to enjoy.

So whilst I wanted to BELIEVE that I was an earth mother at heart, the reality is that I don't really have the follow through.  Now this is a simplistic example I know, but I do think it can be translated into lots of different areas of life.

You might believe that you are a great business leader.  Or you might want to be come one.  So what are you doing to make that happen? Is it a realistic goal when lined up with the rest of your life?

You might want to be really fit and healthy.  That's a great goal and attitude.  But do you really want to put in the time and commitment to be that fit and healthy person?  And if not, is hanging on to the idea helping or hindering you to achieve other goals?

Do you have a vision of the person you want to be, or are already?  Does what you believe match what you do?  Why or why not?

Sunday, July 01, 2012

when men were men and sheep were scared

I've been following a humourous Facebook thread today about ''what makes a man manly''.  There was a bit of a list put up by the person who started the thread, which included stuff like beer and fishing and rock music.  I added in mowing lawns and bathing regularly.

There have been one or two who have been offended by the comments - declaring them gender neutral or sexist.

I think in our heart of hearts most people have a fairly defined view of what a mans role and a womans role is in life, and where we fit.  Personally I think this is probably a good thing - after all the world has survived rather well for the past 5000 years based on these general kind of values and suppositions.

But MANLY? What does this mean to you?  Conversely, what is WOMANLY.  Most people, I think would say that a manly man is the guy who does things that are masculine (as mentioned above), and the womanly woman is soft and curvy and feminine - not too much room for cross over there.  Others would say that the manly man is the one who is comfortable carrying out tasks traditionally done by women (am I brave enough to say....hanging out the washing, changing nappies, child rearing), and yes I think it unlikely that one would describe a huntin'fishin' whisky drinking woman is ''womanly''.

Drilling down further we describe 'boyish'' as the guy who is young at heart, or in looks.  And girlish tends to be overly feminine, giggly or childlike.

To me, womanly means being proud of my gender. Being glad to be feminine but also having some backbone.  Not being too proud to ask for help with things I can't do myself.  Allowing men to be men.

And, 'Manly'' means the guy who is comfortable in his own skin - whether thats gutting a fish or changing a nappie is irrelevant.

your thoughts?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

the wave of success

This week I have been very busy with planning for our regional Business Excellence Awards.  I've been dealing with printers, judges, entrants, and now that the actual application process is finished, we are encouraging people to start buying their tickets for our Awards night dinner.  I also had my monthly newspaper column published this week, where there is a real focus on strengthening business and ''growing success''.

So today, when I bumped into a client and the conversation turned, as it usually does, to the economy and the general business climate in our town, I was in sales mode, doing all I could to sound positive about the growth and excitement I'm trying to engender in our retail sector.  I was, effectively, flying the flag of business success, - with plenty of extra spin - and not in just a little way!

There were others around that could hear the conversation and she nodded and made encouraging noises about her own business - that is until we had walked out of earshot of the audience.  And then I heard the real story.  Business was tough. Their main competitor has closed down.  They are working very hard to keep the business bouyant but every day is a struggle.

It was another great example of how we tend to ''keep up appearances'' for those around us.  And this is wider than just business.  But the thing that really struck me was a comment she made about the Awards.  ''the thing is that the success being celebrated at the Awards is now our success'' she said. "Our success is that we are still in business, and only just".

So the question today is: how do you measure success? Is it based on the perceived outputs and outcomes of others? Do you have a plan in place to measure yourself against?  Is success a tangible thing, or a feeling?  Is success simply not failing - or should it be more than that?

Here's some food for thought, and I'd welcome your responses

I've failed over and over and over again in my life 
and that is why I succeed.

In order to succeed, your desire for success 
should be greater than your fear of failure.

One secret of success in life is for a man to be 
ready for his opportunity when it comes.

Success consists of going from failure to failure 
without loss of enthusiasm.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I'm too busy

How many times have you said that this week?

It might have been when you were asked how your week was going - oh! so busy. Or when your were asked to take on a role at  the school/church/soccer - Look I''d love to but I'm just so busy.  

Do you enjoy being busy?  Do you work well when you have a dozen things on your plate?  What constitutes busy for you? Work - play - kids stuff - housework and gardening?

So here's a tough question for you:
Are you really that busy?  And if so, why is that?  I wonder when busy became this normal state of mind.

I'm pretty sure my own mother didn't complain (if that's the correct word) about being busy.  She just did what she had to do each day and that was that.  I don't doubt her life was busy, and in many ways more than mine, in that there was no automatic washing machine, dishwasher, slow cooker to chug away while she did other chores.  She didn't have a car so it took longer to get anywhere.  My brother and I had a lot of after school activities so there was plenty of running around, and the consequent committee meetings and parent help duties to fulfil. She sewed and knits and preserved.  Those things certainly kept her busy (idle hands and all that!) but I doubt she considered this stressful work.

That's the difference I think.  In our society we all too readily equate 'busy'' with ''stressed''.  And we also seem to use ''busy'' as a euphemism for ''I don't want to'', perhaps because it sounds more worthy?

Certainly I have a busy life.  The usual stuff.  But I also think I have plenty of down time.  And whilst I might ''keep myself busy'' ironing while I watch the television, or sorting photographs, or pottering in the garden, I don't consider these things as part of busy-ness, mainly because I would argue they are all by choice.  Kids stuff, yes, that can be busy.  But there's an easy out as far as I can see.  It's a little word called NO.  So when the children ask to do a sport, an instrument a hobbie and whatever else, I say no.  I don't think it will damage them not to start team sports until their older.  It won't hurt them not to be rushing off to some kind of self-betterment three days a week.  And it certainly won't kill them to have to play at home and not at a friends after school.

So my challenge to you, and to me, is this:  next time you are asked how you are, don't respond with ''busy''.  Next time you're asked a favour, and you don't want to do it, don't use the ''busy'' excuse.  And think about how you are actually spending your time.  Are you busy because you want to be?  And if not, what could you stop doing?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Take the day off!

I took the day off today.

Correction, I raced out the door, on time, did some errands, had a business meeting for one contract, whizzed back to the office (where I work for a different organisation)  for a while, and am now sitting at my work laptop - scooped up from the first office -  until my children return from a dinner out.

But it felt like a day off.  Interspersed with all that I had tea in a cafe, bought a new shirt and a handbag, wandered around a mall, caught up with a friend at her house, watched Masterchef.

The work is still there, absolutely.  The in boxes on both computers are full and there's a long to do list on both desks.  I have two days ahead of back to back meetings and so I will be paying for this apparent lapse in productivity tomorrow and the next day.

But it was so worth it.  It was a full and busy day, but not frantic.  I didn't breath work, as I have done for days - no make that months.  It felt delightfully naughty being at a shopping mall mid week.  I liked feeling like I was being a truant even though it was only for a few hours.

Do you ever have times when you just want to shut down the computer and get outside? Or go shopping?  Or hide with a book?

I'd argue - and I'd support a hardworking employee who agreed - that sometimes, the right thing to do is to stop.  Just for a few hours.  Regroup.  Re prioritise.

Take the day off.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

somethings gotta give

May was a month of decisions for me, especially relating to my work/professional life.  After spending almost a year juggling 5 contracts with 5 different organisations - the theory being that I could fit all those obligations around my children more easily than I could a ''full time'' job,  I came to the conclusion that something had to give.

I like to be busy really I do, but things had gotten crazy.  Add in after school activities like swimming and dancing, and not helped by the end of daylight saving, I was absolutely sick of having to push kids out the door in the morning, and often be arriving home in the dark- and sometime having to go back out again for meetings more than one evening a week.  My own interests started taking a back seat - to the extent that I had almost lost interest in the things that were once my passions.

And so, not without sadness,  I resigned from one contract at the beginning of May, and from two others at the end of the month.  It was in some ways a scary decision - not least because of the significant drop in income this will mean for me - and in others so easy.  The appeal of working for one organisation (currently two but I'm working on that!) far outweighed the cons of holding lots of different contracts.  I'm hopeful that I will now have the time - and mind space - to focus on growing my main job more meaningfully, and with any luck make more money that I was before too.

I have also given notice to a community group I have been involved in the leadership of for 7 years.  That was a tough one, and I am still feeling quite conflicted about leaving for a number of reasons.  My contribution is a vital part of the groups success (sounds bold but it's the truth), I really love what I do there, and I see a real need in our community for what we do.  But, it's another day a week that I am committed to non-income earning activity, and the time has come to rationalise that.

In terms of my own career path and goals,  I need to be focused and ensure that my time is being spent in the right places and with the right people.   I'm enjoying going to events I once would never have even known about - even though I can't abide small talk I'm getting better at it.  I am getting to shape my own role and see some good outcomes from my efforts.

I'm hoping that this redefinition will make me a better mother, a better employee, a better boss, a better person.  Time will tell.

Do you ever feel like you are burning the candle at both ends, and sometimes in the middle as well?  What do you do about it?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

blow your own trumpet!

The latest in a series designed to help you get the most out of your business.

Let's talk about why you need to tell others how great your business actually is.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

small talk and the art of conversation

I am currently working in a (great) job that largely entails talking to people.  I get to attend forums and presentation by amazing people, be part of challenging conversations, and also teach others about aspects of business and leadership.

But here's my secret - well it was until now!  I loathe small talk.  I'm simply not very good at it, and my ''results based'' personality is completely at odds with chat about the weather, the short what-do-you-do kind of conversations that invariably fill the first half an hour of a networking function, and the kind of talk that is required when sitting at a table with a group of strangers.

I've been doing this kind of work for the best part of 20 years, and yet still I struggle to cope with this stuff.  And yet I teach people how to do it effectively!  If there's a purpose to the gathering - and therefore a subject to kick off the conversation with, then I can do that well.  If it's a planned meeting with someone I've never met before I have a few stock topics to fall back on.  But to strike up with a stranger that I know I am unlikely to ever see again, well that fills me with dread.

How about you?  Are you good at idle chat?  Do you see value in ''small talk'' or do you tend to leap right in to serious discussion?  How is this received?

Sunday, June 03, 2012

the public face - part 2

In my last blog I talked about the ease with which we can create a public persona - essentially hiding the real us from the world, either purposefully or inadvertently.

Today on Facebook (my favourite place to guess which face my ''friends'' are showing to the world...), I have been part of a thread which asks What are the three most important things you want to accomplish in the next 5 years?

There have been lots of interesting responses - some pipe dreams, some big hairy audacious goals, and some fairly general, pedestrian kind of plans. My response was this: 

The three I might consider important enough to share with 2933 strangers is not necessarily the three most important that are in my journal (or on my blog;)) 

Because this is a page that several thousand people could potentially contribute to, I am on one level less than enthusiastic about sharing my life dreams. On the other hand, i wonder, would putting them out there for such a large audience make me feel more accountable?

I have decided it would not. The dreams, the PLANS that I have for myself - and in particular those I which to achieve in the short term (5 years or less) are not really for public consumption. Sure there are some that I will need plenty of support for, and to that end I may well need to share them with a wider audience. But the others - they're the the ones that are most important to me are also most likely the ones most difficult to achieve - and so I think I prefer to keep those to myself.

The funny thing about a blog is that it feels like relative anonymity - writing for myself, posting it to a world of strangers, and possibly a few people I know. In fact to share a dream here feels way less scary than sharing it on Facebook where someone I know would surely read it. At the beginning of each year I make myself a ''to-do'' list...all kinds of things from small to audacious, but hopefully achievable, and this year I shared it with my real life friends, as well as on here. But they were pretty general things, nothing too personal, and certainly nothing I would be ashamed to not actually get ticked off this list. 

For all that though, I do like to think I am the same person inside and out, public and private - even if some things are better not shared or broadcasted, and so for my own amusement (and possibly yours...) here's a list of 16 things I'd like to achieve in the next five years - some sooner, some later - and some that are about to get their first public outing

- fall in love (with someone who falls in love back)

- have a regular column in a magazine, or syndicated in a newspaper (maybe grow my blog to something real)

- finally get on with some (real) tertiary study (might need a scholarship too...)

- become a Director of a Board of a large NFP or private sector organisation (in a paid capacity)

- successfully negotiate my daughter to teenage-hood (help welcome)

- have (at least) a weekend in a completely luxurious, outrageously expensive hotel or lodge (like the ones in Conde'Nast)

- be part of a flash mob (dancing)

- eat at the three ''must go to'' restaurants on my wish list: Chim Choo Ree, Huhu, The French Cafe (because I can)

- make a dent in my mortgage (even 10% would be good)

- own a car less than 10 years old (An Alfa Romeo please)

- learn to play golf (simply because I've never even tried it)

- go back to Japan (before I completely forget the language)

- to do a silent retreat/meditation thing (even just half a day)

- learn to make cheese

- be part of a pub quiz team

- get a full nights sleep (even one would be nice....)

What are your goals for the next 5 years? Are you brave enough to share them with the world?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

the public face

As part of my current job, I am required to keep the paper supplied with press releases about various goings-on about town, and I also have a full page each month for my organisation.

Sometimes it can be a challenge to find something that is ''newsworthy'' enough for the paper to pick up.  There's a fine line between advertorial and a story.  I'm very lucky in that the Editor is most obliging and rarely changes the copy I send it, but this is also on the understanding that what I provide is of a certain calibre and style.  And as a result of doing this regularly, I have developed my own ''voice'', which means everything I write is fairly easily identified as mine (much like this blog...)

Recently I was interviewed on video for a project being completed about the top 100 places around our region.   As a result of that interview I was then approached about being profiled in the regional newspaper. It was great - I got a photo shoot (a good excuse to buy some new clothes) and the article went in to the Saturday paper where I was shown in full technicolour along side my interview.  The fun really began when my friends and colleagues opened the paper and saw me - the phone started at 8 am and I'm still getting copies in my letter box 5 days later.  The thrill of being famous for a day - just as Andy Warhol described!

But here's the interesting I read through my article, my first thought was Wow! she sounds fabulous:).  It actually took a few minutes to reconcile that it was about me!  Which made me think about how easy it is to portray one thing to the world and so easily be another in private.

I value the idea of being ''the same to everyone''.  It's that integrity thing I often speak of.  And I'd like to think that in my writing style this personality - and the values that sit within that - are reflected and consistent.

So here's the question for you to ponder this week:

Do you have  a 'voice'' that reflects the real you?  Do you have a public persona? Does it match who you are in private?  Why or why not?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

viva la cliche!: if you do what you've always done....

It occurred to me as I considered the topic for todays blog, that much of what I write about is the frustrations of daily life - that is, the same actions, the same activities, the same outcomes.

And even though my work as a coach is about pushing encouraging people to think and act in different ways, in order to get better results, the majority of us plod through life largely doing the same thing, day in day out, and often getting frustrated at the way things are turning out.

So the cliche ''if you do what you've always done you'll get what you've always got'' has never rung more true.  The reality of life is that we ARE in routine and we ARE creatures of habit.  It's really easy to get cross about that - to feel bored, or irritated or impatient with those routines.

But what if?  What if you applied some fresh perspective to those same routines and outcomes?  Like...

- the same morning routine means at the very least you get to work on time
- having a basic repertoire of recipes means you can whip up a great meal at a moments notice
- using the same route to get to and from work each days means you know where the roadblocks, traffic jams and stop signs are
- wearing a tried and true style of clothing means you can leave the house always feeling confident about how you look
- shopping in the same supermarket/butchery/bookshop means not only knowing your way around (saving time and stress) but an opportunity to support a particular business and get to know it's owners (thus growing better goodwill all round).

Sure there are times when stepping out of such comfort zones is indeed a good thing, and there are times when change is imperative - for example when your health requires it - but don't be too hard on routine either.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

i know you can hear me but are you listening?

As per a previous blog, I spoke of my daughter who can chronic sleeplessness.
It's been making all of us grumpy, and stressed, and frustrated.

This week she had a ''bit of a cough''.  Becuase she is prone to expanding her reality I was unsure if this was simply a tickle in her throat or the start of something more, so I carefully indulged with backrubs and so on, but tried to make light of it.

Anyway, as Murphy's law so often applies, it turned into a temperature and start of an infection.  She also had what appeared to be a minor asthma attack in the night - scary but managed by a friends inhaler.

I rang the Doctors surgery and was unable to see the regular Doctor but was offered an appointment with another, whom I have seen occasionally but don't know terribly well.  By the time the appointment rolled around she seemed a little better but I figured I would go anyway, and went in with a list of ailments and challenges for him.  I was fully prepared fro the ''there there'' approach as has happened so often before.

Anyway, imagine my amazement, when as I listed off my concerns, I was met with ''yes i can sort that'' for every single one of them.

The Doctor seemed in no hurry to push me out of the surgery, in fact, went far and beyond the 10 minutes usually allotted and beseeched me to return in a month if I was still not happy.

Aside from the $100 on fees and medications (inhaler, antibiotics, a footstrap for a recurring injury, referral to a specialist, pamol, melatonin tablets, some practical suggestions), this was probably the best experience of my week,

A professional who gave me more than the time of day, who really listened to my concerns (and hers) and acted on them.   I felt that this time I had truly been LISTENED to, rather than simply filling air with noise and response.  He engaged with me, he validated our concerns and he ACTED on them.

The reaction of my daughter was incredible.  She too felt relaxed and calm as we left, and as owner of an inhaler and footstrap, also empowered to deal with some of this herself.

What a difference a truly listening ear makes.

p.s. she was asleep in 5 minutes after lights out for the first time in 9 years....

Sunday, May 20, 2012

winding down

A departure today, from my usual rantings of life.

I am the proud parent of a tween.  She is full of life - irrepressible, energetic and vivacious.  More is more for this kid, whether it's bling on her clothes, the volume of her stereo, or the number of lollies she thinks she can sneak when I'm not looking.

There's a slight downside to this hurricane of amazingness that is my daughter.  And that is that she can't get to sleep easily.  Every night, like the plot of a bad sitcom, we go through the same routine.  I set the deadline, we have hugs, kisses, prayers, ''çhat'', ''girl time'', quiet reading time, you name it, and it takes her at least an hour, and usually more to settle.

No amount of begging, pleading, cajoling or threatening makes the slightest bit of difference.  From time to time she will despair that she is unable to go to sleep, claiming that she wants to but her eyes/brain/body won't let her.  And, it must be said, by 9.30 or more at night, my patience begins to wear extremely thin, especially night after night after night.

Her diet, routine, evening activity and so on, do not seem to have an effect either way on her ability to relax.  Once asleep she usually is out to it for around 10 or 11 hours, so I know that she is not a child who simply needs less sleep than most.

 And so, today, a plea for help.  Has anyone else had this challenge?  You will know if you've been a reader of this blog for a while that sleeplessness runs in the family, so that is an added hurdle, but i could really use some fresh ideas here.

Your thoughts?

listen to the book...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

product review: Mr Muscle Shower Clean

When I did my renovations earlier this year, I had a shower installed in the bathroom - having only had a tired and relatively ineffective over-bath one for 4 years this has been a revelation.  I bought an expensive one (over $1000) with easily removable curved doors designed for easy cleaning.

I HATE cleaning a shower.  It never seems to look quite perfect and being in the unit with the smell of cleaner is vile. Nothing ever works as well as it promises does it?  So when I discovered this product I was sceptical.  Never scrub again? Really?

Anyway, as per the instructions I cleaned the shower top to bottom and now dutifully spray this on the wet walls after every shower.  And I really cant believe it but it actually works.

I've been using it for a month now and the shower still looks like new.  No streaks, no soapy residue on the walls or glass.  It smells ok and doesn't make me lightheaded with fumes.  According to the back of the bottle, this one will last me about 4 weeks.  I spray once a day and I'm not even half way through it, so at $4 for 750ml its a bargain too.

I have tried other brands with less success, and whilst I agree it's early days, I'm quietly confident.

Finally, a cleaning product I would actually recommend.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

reflections on leadership vs management

yesterday I had the priviledge of attending a full day of discussion on leadership, hosted by the Waikato Management School.

The University has a real focus within the management school on ''leadership'' as the star quality required for business success.  We heard from Jenny Shipley (a compelling speaker who gave some really practical takeaways), Ray Avery (NZer of the year, what a guy!), and Graham Henry (who spoke of the 'team'' aspect of leadership

I spent much of the day furiously writing notes, and trying to absorb all they had to say.  Here's some of the key points I came away with

- sometimes we need to hit rock bottom to have an ''aha'' moment and be galvanised into taking the lead on a project
- when someone says IT CANT BE DONE, the response should be: OK so how do we do it then
- the importance of a supportive partner/wife/husband cannot be underestimated. Great leaders need this.
- leaders are the ones who say ''i can make this happen'' rather than ''someone should do something about that''
- a good leader empowers their team - every person in the team is a leader in some way and needs to be supported in to being the best they can
- leadership evolves and sometimes admitting mistakes, or becoming more flexible is better than having a specific style
- leader have commitment, courage,  and curiosity (I'll vlog on this bit another time).
- leaders are the ones who create the vision that allows other people to manage the outcomes

An inspiring day, which left me wondering, if leadership is where it's at, why is the WMS not called the Waikato Leadership School....

Sunday, May 13, 2012

a trouble shared

Isn't it great to have friends to tell ''stuff'' to?  To be able to share a worry (or a triumph) with someone can be the difference between a bad day and a good day.

People tell me stuff.  And most of the time I am absolutely stoked to be able to listen, and when asked, offer an opinion.  But sometimes it's simply not a good time.  And I find myself becoming bogged down by the sadness or troubles of others.  And I'm guilty of doing it the other way too - I am the first to admit that there have been times that I have unloaded MY stuff on to a friend without really considering if it was good timing, or appropriate.

Of course the true friend will almost always be a willing listener, advocate or cheerleader.  That's what being a friend is.  But isn't it easy to forget that they might have their own stuff going on that is just as important, or worrying?  And the other consideration is that sometimes in sharing your trouble, you might just be doubling it - by confessing something that's really big, it might make you feel better, but you might just also be then adding that burden to someone elses worry pile.

So here's a challenge for you - next time you've got something you just have to get off your chest, or a problem that just needs a second opinion ask your confessor if it's ok to spill first.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

150 awesome reasons to shop pre-loved

In desperate need of some smart clothes for work, but not really in a financial position to go for a big shopping spree, I again this week decided to hit the op shops and ''recycled/preloved boutiques'' in my neighbourhood, as well as trawl trade me and the chain stores for a bargain or two.

I spent an afternoon going through my existing wardrobe and managed to fill one of those massive red and white stripey bags with things that no longer fitted or I didn't care for any more (and yes, the odd ill-thought-out impulse buy).  This reduced my wardrobe by about half - I don't have a huge amount of stuff anyway.

Then I made a bit of an inventory and a wishlist for what I needed - I knew I needed some pants for work, at least one or two skirts and a few tops for under winter jackets.  This making-a-list stage is a bit onerous but knowing I would be getting a whole new wardrobe for not much more than most people spend on one or two items has convinced me this is time well spent.

I set aside a morning to ''do the shops''.  Added a few things I wanted to my TradeMe wishlist.  Had a second whizz around the shops a few days later.   And I'm done.  That's about as much as my brain, and feet,  can handle anyway.  

A quick add-up shows I've spent all up about $150, plus splashing out $25 on a new pair of shoes - only expected to last a season and dress up only. (One thing I do usually spend good money on is shoes).
So in my wardrobe I now have added
- 1 pair of dress trousers
- 5 skirts - 3 wool for winter (all Max), one dressy, one unusual embroidered casual cotton
- 3 jackets - 1 very smart for work, 2 casual
- 2 scarves and 1 wrap
- 3 upmarket long sleeve tops
- 2 short sleeve tops and 2 sleeveless ones - save these for summer!
- 2 shirts suitable for work and 2 vintage ones just for fun
- 2 evening dresses
- 1 boiled wool hoodie
- 1 almost new red leather bag

..and a handful of  other things that have made it in there too...

Nearly everything was either new or almost new, and most had good quality brands/labels - many from overseas.  

Yes it takes some time to find things that are the right size or style.  But it really is amazing what is available if you look - and often there are designer labels, new season,  or never worn clothing at a fraction of retail price.  I'm choosy - unless something fits perfectly I don't buy it, and unless the style is exactly right for me, it stays on the rack for someone else to enjoy.    I also don't buy things that I consider others might need seasonally - warm coats, rain jackets etc.  And I never ever ever buy preloved shoes, nightwear or underwear.  

I do like to collect unusual vintage clothing but am very picky about this - I apply similar rules as below regarding styles, fit,  colours and price and have got some amazing things in my collection now.  I'll share this in another post.

Top 10 tips for buying preloved
- know what suits you (colour, style) and spend less time trawling.  
- even though things will appear incredibly cheap, still have a budget and price limit
- don't buy cheap brand clothes unless it's a must have - often they are priced similarly on sale in the actual store
- have a shopping list (avoid impulse buys) and when you've got all you want, stop looking! (unless this is your hobby, then that's different;)). 
- look carefully for damage and avoid where possible but if you're the creative type do consider how something great could be remade, re-buttoned or hems changed
- never EVER buy something unless its fits you properly - leave it for someone else
- apply the one in/one out rule to your wardrobe so you don't over do it and end up with even more things you'll never wear
- follow your own rules and package up your own unwanted things for the stores you buy from.  Apply the same courtesies and wash/mend things before you donate them.  Don't send in rubbish!
- wear easy to get in to/ out of clothes and shoes to shop in and neutral, conservative underwear. A lot of these shops have very small (and loose curtained!) change spaces.  The simpler your clothes, and the fewer number of layers you have the better. 
- get your kids into this.  My daughter thinks it's awesome to be able to spend $5 and get a whole new outfit.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

boring is as boring does

That's up there with 'stupid is as stupid does'' really, isn't it?

I've been involved in an interesting thread discussion on facebook today about boredom.  Why do people get bored? what are they doing about it?

There's been lots of helpful comments about how BUSY everyone is, and how many couldn't comprehend boredom.

Certainly there are times in life when we have to do things that are boring.  For example, we might say we're bored with housework.  Or a book is boring.  Or our job is boring.  But I think stating a particular task as boring is different to being bored.   

I think its possible to be really busy, and still be bored.  I think it's possibly to have ones brain working hard, but still be bored.  And I think it's possible to be enjoying a task, but still be bored.    I even would go so far as to say its possibly to have a really full and seemingly challenging life and still feel ''bored''.  Because my argument is that the word bored is actually used by a lot of people as a broad term to cover a whole lot of other emotions/feelings, many of which we wouldn't really want to say out loud.

So is it possible to drill down into boredom and see what is really going on?  I think so.  In my business coaching life I use the ''5whys'' to get people thinking about planning and strategy. It's a great way to get thinking about an issue and really get to the heart of it.
for example
I'm bored at work
Because the job is not challenging
because i know it inside out
because I've been there so long....
because i don't think I can get another job......

I go through plenty of phases of feeling ''bored''.   I usually try to ''fix'' it by adding in more stuff to do.   And I already have a pretty busy life.  Which is how I realised that boredom couldn't be fixed with staying busy.  So maybe when I say ''I'm bored'' actually what I'm saying is
- I'm feeling unfulfilled
- I'm not content
- I'm disillusioned
- I'm tired
- I'm lonely

What I learned, is that for me, bored means that my emotional tank is a bit on the low side.  In other words,  I'm probably not bored at all.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


 I have previously blogged about a fantastic television series called The Monastery and the subsequent book 'Finding Sanctuary''.  You can read more about this at

This week my discussion group started on working through this book, with a combination of quiet reflection, journalling and conversation.

We began by talking about thankfulness and this weeks leader of the group asked us to read Psalm 139 and then write down (in our shiny new journals), our reflections, or our list of things we were thankful for.

It was just amazing to discover than in fact, not one of us made a list of things at all.  We all had very different views on what we were thankful for, and most had to do with feelings rather than things, or experiences (well, we are all women after all...).

For me, I got stuck.  I think I already go on too much about all the good things in my life - to the extent that perhaps I sound like I protest too much!  But I wrote down ''thankfullness'' at the top of the page and stared at it blankly for a few minutes.  And there it was:  my untended spelling mistake was my moment of clarity.  Perhaps being thank-full means being content with what you have, and considering that ''á quiver full'' rather than listing everything individually (hence highlighting what we DONT have).  Perhaps being thank-full, or thank-filled, means just being, not doing, saying, acting.  Just being.

What would you say you are thankful for?  To whom?  Are you satisfied with what you have, or are you always looking for the next thing to add to the list?

Monday, April 23, 2012

women's business

Things to consider before getting into self employment - with a focus on women returning from childraising

Friday, April 20, 2012

the mother metamorphosis

Ten signs you know you're turning into your own mother when....

- the children say they are cold and you say: put on another jumper
- you walk around the house turning off lights and muttering about the power bill
- you hear yourself saying: IF you want to talk to me, come and find me, don't shout from another room (and realise you're shouting this from another room)
- you put leftovers into the fridge in smaller and smaller containers until eventually you throw them out
- you can't leave the house  in the evening without leaving a light on for when you get home
- you get told you're the meanest mother in the world but know that actually it's not true (because that was YOUR mother)
- instead of a night out on the town all you want is to get into your pajamas and have a nice cup of tea
- you start buying home-branded things at the supermarket and informing the children that ''there's no difference so stop complaining''
-you take the children to the swimming pool and sit on the side rather than getting in with them
- you'd rather get a handmade card from your children than an expensive piece of jewellery from anyone else

Hurrah for mothers.
What can you add?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

not my best mummy moment

I seem to be having quite a few of these lately.

They usually involve - or follow - a late night, a quantity of sugar food, a houseful of guests, a public outing or a combination there of.

Before I had children, I was the one who would look with disdain at people growling at their children in public.  I would confidently internalise my own response, vowing never to treat MY children in the same manner.  I would never wish for school holidays to be over, or bedtimes to be 7 pm.  I would cheerfully host a house load of other children and know that mine would happily share toys and space with nary a grizzle.

I'd never raise my voice, threaten to withdraw privileges, ban the TV or computer (as if! MY children wouldn't even be aware of such things!).  I'd make play dough, encourage painting on the deck, be thrilled with recycled box-art, enjoy the huts in the lounge made from all the clean and neatly folded sheets.  I'd make marvellous home cooked meals every night, all of which would be consumed with gusto and thanks.
My children would gladly collect their pocket money each week (after Sunday school of course), their reward for completing their jobs uncomplainingly and efficiently.

Seriously, what was I thinking!?!  Yesterday, at end of tether, I sat my 9 year old ON HER BOTTOM, ON THE FLOOR in a madly busy shopping mall for time out, having been nagged one too many times for sweets/smiggle/lemonade/money.  I don't know who was more mortified.

Monday, April 16, 2012

a decade of eventfulness

I had dinner with a group of friends tonight, all bar one of whom I have known for just a very short time.  We had a discussion along the lines of ''where were you 10 years ago''.

I realised, as I related where I had been, that it's been a pretty eventful decade, including:

- buying and selling 3 houses and building a new one
- 2 rounds of renovations
- 4 cars
- 3 pregnancies
- 2 babies
- 2 new businesses
- a new career
- established a newspaper
- started a scout group, a sunday school and a womens discussion group
- became a parent, and then a single parent, and now an effective co-parent with my FDH
- started two blogs and a website
- contracted and survived meningitis, two big operations and two cancer scares
- lost 5 close family members and gained two nephews and a sisterinlaw
- turned 40
- learned to dance, play the ukelele, do a cryptic crossword, and create an excel spreadsheet
- got quoted in the NZ Herald, interviewed by the Christchurch Press and featured in the Waikato Times
- preached a sermon, taught adult learners, and started music classes for preschoolers
- have been a corporate career woman, playcentre mother, and become self employed
- stayed in a 5 star retreat
- learned to use a chainsaw, bought a cordless drill and painted a house
- gone camping, tramping and got dirtier than I ever could have imagined I would do

I've also been blessed with an amazing circle of friends, wonderful family and two incredible kids.


what have the last 10 years brought you?