- Create a space for yourself. The ritual element gives the act more meaning and energy. So light that candle, say a prayer, take deep breaths, burn incense, add in some appropriate music [I can recommend anything by Deva Premal].
- Say goodbye to 2010 properly. Take out a sheet of paper, and begin writing all that you are ready to let go of from the last 12 months and even prior to it, all of those things that you recognize have served their purpose and are no longer needed in your life. By "properly", what I mean is that there is a way of letting go. So, rather than saying "I'm so done with that" with an edge of regret or disdain, shift your energy to being grateful for the presence of this thing in your life, and the acceptance that it was there for a reason and there was a gift in it. This can be harder than it seems but is so worth it if you can see what it has given you.
- Letting go. In a safe way, burn the piece of paper, and as you do so give thanks to God, the Universe or whomever it is you appeal to with such things.
- Celebrate! When you are finished, it is so important to celebrate. Not only does it lock in the experience, but it is an acknowledgment of this loving, important thing you just did for yourself. Celebrating can happen in many different ways: maybe pouring a glass of fizz; or eating some dark chocolate; perhaps taking a luxurious bubble bath; or eating a slap up meal with a loved one.
- Invite in the new. On the first day of your New Year, or as close to it as you can get, take some time to tune into and get clear on all that you would like to invite into your life for the next 12 months. Again, create your space and take out a sheet of paper writing out your intentions: what you would like to see show up, both externally i.e material things and internally. This can be done as a list, a letter to yourself, a drawing, whatever works for you. When you are finished, seal it in an envelope and keep it somewhere safe that you woll remember to take out and read in 12 months (it helps to mark a reminder on your calendar).
- Act as if it has happened and walk your talk. Don't simply sit back and wait for these things to show up. In the days, weeks and months that follow, consciously choose to think, speak and act in accordance with the intentions you set. Dare I say it, set some goals and milestones, hire a coach to inspire you and help keep you on track, enlist a good friend to help hold you accountable. All of these things help sustain the energetic path you have created.
Thursday, 30 December 2010
Tuesday, 28 December 2010
This Christmas was different to others because my aunt died on Christmas eve. It was not unexpected and yet the timing was awkward. When my uncle phoned to tell us, my eldest was having a mini melt down because she and I had different views on what dress she was going to wear to the Crib service (she is 4 going on 14) and I was concerned that we were going to be late as it is the most popular service of the year and it was past the time we had agreed to leave. My father had to go outside in the freezing cold so that he could hear his brother and conversed with him for a while. Suddenly what time we got to the service seemed trivial. A day later than usual the absent friends and family toast was more poignant than in previous years as we stopped to remember my aunt and think about those she had left behind.
For me Christmas is all about seeing family and friends to share food and drink and be together. What I enjoyed about this holiday period was the time A and I spent thinking about what meals we were going to cook and what wines we would serve, including some rituals too. This is how I show my love to those closest to me. We baked a salmon for Christmas eve something that goes back to my childhood. My Grandmother's birthday was 23 December so we always had salmon on Christmas eve when we got together because it was her favourite food. Other highlights this year included a game terrine which we had on boxing day evening with a barley and pomegranate salad and crostini of roasted peppers and melted garlic goats cheese. For the major gathering of the clans, I made and served a venison and cranberry casserole followed by trifle or pears in red wine (courtesy of my Mum) and Christmas cake. What was special about the preparation of that meal was that my Mum and I prepared vegetables for the casserole together and it enabled us to bond through sharing a task.
We had the most fun on boxing day morning when we all went out to a field to go sledging. Old and young alike took turns on the sledges, often in mixed pairs. A and I both ended up falling off more than once - and I found myself in front of the sledge at one point! The grannies won the prize for going the furthest on one of the sledges. It was fantastic because everyone let go of their inhibitions, relaxed and had good, clean fun.
Note to self next year I am going to make sure we do something equally silly and relaxing a day earlier. Summing up ours is quite a traditional Christmas, it works and will not change much from year to year. In fact the few Christmases in my life that I have been apart from those closest to me or abroad have felt very strange.
Reflecting on Christmas, how traditional was yours? What went well, what could have gone better? What will you do differently next year? How much did you really enjoy it? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Details of the photographer for the photo can be found here.
Saturday, 18 December 2010
Monday, 6 December 2010
It was a bit more than that! I centred myself and from that space of calm, I was able to say that although I did not know how I was going to get everything done, I trusted myself enough to know that it would get done. It was amazing how much I did get done in one day - Saturday, a day when my OH was off "playing soldiers" and so I was a single parent. The girls and I spent a lovely part of the morning at the Melting Pot in Hitchin because my friend Dawn who runs it, had an open day. They were happy playing with a train set whilst I caught up with a number of people and bought 4 main presents and a couple of little ones. We then went on to the Town Hall where there was a Christmas Bazaar taking place,organised by White Rose Management. My intention was to go and support Sarah and I ended up buying another two presents, some delicious and highly original cupcakes for the home team and placing an order for cardigans for the girls.
What was lovely was how easy it all was. I now have my two international parcels made up to send out tomorrow. The Christmas letter is also written and I am a step closer to finalising another present. Suddenly it all seems much more manageable and I have actually started to enjoy the run up to Christmas - this week both girls have their nativity plays and I can't wait. One of the bonuses of having small children is that their infection is contagious. We have written letters to Father Christmas and they love opening their advent calendars each day and asking how many days it is until Christmas.
In short if you found yourself nodding with the sentiments expressed at the beginning of this post then here's something you can try:
1. Find a space where you can be quiet.
2. Stand with your weight evenly balanced between the front and back of your feet.
3. Take a breath in and then a much longer exhale out that you imagine spiralling into the floor.
4. Check that your shoulders and jaw are relaxed and you have dropped into your gut.
5. Visualise the space that you inhabit beyond your body is evenly distributed front and back; left and right; and above and below.
Now you are centred and from this space say to yourself I don't know how I am going to get everything ready for Christmas (or put in something else that is causing you a certain level of anxiety) but I believe that I can do it. Stay in that space for as long as you can - 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 5 minutes. Then as the days unfold from that point on, watch what happens. It can be truly magically.
Wednesday, 1 December 2010
Monday, 22 November 2010
Friday, 12 November 2010
As you may know, one of the key projects I am currently involved in is looking at how to develop an intense learning environment in a corporate environment where the emphasis is on performance with behaviour a secondary consideration for the most part. Challenging that's for sure.
It was with great excitement therefore that I read about Richard Boyatzis' work, a professor in the United States, who has examined the behaviours linked to attainment for over a decade. He spent two years working with outstanding partners from a very large Professional Services firm to assess their behaviours and subsequent performance. The interesting part was the findings from the monitoring of the partners over seven successive quarters to find out not only how much money they bought into the business but also the profitability of their work. He looked at a range of over 20 skills and the only two that were linked to both revenue generation and profitability were what he termed "values learning" and "facilitates learning."
This is amazing because what it is saying is that contrary to popular belief, it is not only coaches that need to continue their development and learning through adulthood, in fact we all do. Yeung goes on to explain about the T shaped mind being the vehicle for doing that. In other words individuals need to increase the depth of their knowledge in their specialist area whilst maintaining a broad interest in a wide range of topics.
You may say that none of this is rocket science but let me ask you a question. How much time do you put aside each week to keep yourself informed of developments in your field and beyond? Put it another way what do you do to address this need of continuous learning? How do you get a stretch that takes you into your learning zone?
Friday, 5 November 2010
Quite often those of us who are stay at home parents or part-time workers find ourselves drawn into non-paying activities that hold true to our values. For me this year it has been joining the Offley School Association (OSA) as my daughter started at the school. I think it is also dependent on what type of person we are. I cannot count the number of conversations I have been party to where people wonder why so few volunteer to ensure that charitable organisations can run effectively. That is a whole other topic but getting back to this one. If you are the type of person who is good at organising stuff or believes it is important to help create community then you can find yourself over committing yourself.
Context given how does that relate to the conversation I was having with a couple of men who are parents but whose kids have since flown the nest. We were talking about themes around spirituality and business the focus of our current book and issue that often crops up amongst those with a spiritual bent in life. They often keep on giving and are less able to receive what they need. Does this sound familiar? It all came together for me earlier today when I was chatting with a Mum and friend who is also a PTA member but not at Offley. Everything came to a head for her this week. She felt overwhelmed by events because her pattern is to give generously to others of her self until her energy is depleted.
So what is the answer? I don't believe it is about stopping to give tempting though that is at times. The answer for me lies in Conscious Embodiment. In other words seeing our bodies as a vessel through which the Universe's boundless energy of giving can flow. That may sound a bit odd to you which is why it is great to experience it through undertaking Conscious Embodiment - doing physical exercises which demonstrate this principle in action. It is incredibly powerful and more than that it is a way of protecting ourselves in a positive way.
The second part of the answer is allowing ourselves to be open to receive. Easy you say. It certainly has not been for me. I find it incredibly difficult to ask others for help when I need it. Perhaps you are the same holding a belief that it is important to be strong and to hide your vulnerabilities. Quite a few of these realisations came to me as a result of having a conversation about receiving and this is also how the Universe works. It brings things into your conscious thoughts if you start to think and talk about them.
If you would find it helpful to explore Conscious Embodiment further then there is an opportunity coming up in January to find wholeness through connecting the mind and the body here.
Wednesday, 27 October 2010
My first feeling of unease came about when I discovered that because of the nature of the
Photo is by Henning
job, he will have to be office based. Ever since we had the children over four years ago, he has been a home worker which has been a marvellous sense of support. Although moving to an open-plan style barn did mean it had its challenging moments from time to time as he could not just shut the door to stop interruptions from the girls!
Yes it will be different but in many ways I can live with that because I believe he will be happier. So what am I wrestling with you might well ask? The role happens to be top secret which means he has to be security vetted. This means he has to fill in pages of information not just about himself but about me, our siblings and our parents. One question which particularly got to me was the one in which we had to declare whether or not we had loaned a thousand pounds or more to anyone in the last five years. The level of detailed information that they require about our financial affairs is incredible and I want to be able to say that's enough already. Instead I am being the dutiful wife and digging up the information he requires to get clearance. All I can say is I hope it is worth it!
So that brings me to this week's question for you: when do you say enough is enough especially when your actions could impact on the happiness of another? Put it another way what compromises do you make to ensure harmony in key relationships such as a marriage/ long term partnership?
Friday, 22 October 2010
So when did you last take some time out for yourself? How often do you find yourself stressing about work, spending whatever free time you have with your children or your partner? If you are anything like me you also play an active role in your community because that is important to you too. It can mean that most of your week day evenings are taken up in some form or other and if you are lucky you have time for your partner on a Friday or Saturday night. That is if you are not out there socialising with friends or doing some other hobby at the weekend or just spending quality time with the family.
When this happens it can feel that our time is accounted for between the role of partner, friend, mother, work colleague. If we do not actively build in time for ourselves or as the Italians say perfect the art of doing nothing "bel far niente" then we can find ourselves running on empty. Or what's even worse feeling guilty when we do have some time to ourselves or overcome with exhaustion when we finally stop! I know I have been there.
If you live in an Anglo-Saxon culture then it is quite likely that you have been bitten by the work ethic and feel the need to keep busy. If this is your mantra then the beauty of doing nothing will probably seem alien and the ability to seek pleasure virtually impossible.
So if you recognise this in yourself and it is not giving you what you want, make the decision to change something. I can recommend going to Paris with a couple of good friends for the weekend, chilling out and eating gorgeous food. It's great for the soul and you know what I bet you will come back invigorated and with a new lease of life! And you don't have to go to that extreme, you could start by taking a glass of your favourite tipple, pouring a hot bath full of gorgeous bubble and a good book and lose yourself for an hour. Do let me know how you get on...
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
There are those in life that measure success in terms of their material wealth and others for whom this is less of a factor. So what you may say? This post has come about because money seems to be featuring a great deal in many of my transactions at present. This phase started two or three weeks ago when Steve who's co-writing a book with me, asked the other member of our triumvirate how much he would have to be paid to sleep with a stranger a la Indecent Proposal who in turn asked me. In both cases, we initially tried to dodge the question then claimed the moral high ground or created our own rules around it but the bottom line is we all have a price. Try the exercise on good friends of yours and see what happens - one thing I promise is that it will be illuminating.
More recently, money was at the root of a rift between me and another. Naively I had assumed that as both of us would claim to be spiritual beings, we would see situations the same way. If you are a Mum you will understand how flawed that perspective is. Just because two people are Mums does not mean they will get on or have the same parenting style. Likewise in my scenario, I realised it was important to recognise that we are both individuals with our own truth and different values. It was a hard one to learn.
Another issue that came up was around insurance and what adequate cover looks like. We all need some policies in place whether we work for ourselves or are employed. Critical illness insurance is very much a choice and many people decide not to have it believing either that they will never need it and or that it is too costly to justify. There are situations however when having or not having it will determine whether costs such as the mortgage can be paid. My OH and I reviewed our finances recently in particular what arrangements we had in place for getting the mortgage paid if one of us died and decided my cover was inadequate so now we are looking into term life insurance.
Another good friend of mine is in the process of being made redundant and she is seriously considering whether England is the best place for her and her family. Her view is that University tuition fees in the UK will rival those in the States in 15 years time only parents will not have the savings in place to help their children through in most cases. She also recognises how tough this country is to live in from the perspective of quality of life due to the long hours work culture inherent in many well paid jobs. As a result she is seriously considering emigrating to her husband's country as she believes that they will all be better off on a number of levels. On a personal note I will miss her but I can see that it may well be the best decision for her and her family.
This weekend, I spent a day visiting a friend in the rehabilitation hospital in Leamington Spa. She has just had a stroke and also has a pre-teen to care for made more complex by the fact that she is a single parent with no extended family at all. As you may know rehabilitation from a stroke can take months. Said friend is self-employed and due to the cost of critical illness insurance, has no cover. The irony is that she is supposed to be resting and relaxing to ensure a speedy recovery and yet she has some major issues to resolve including the care of her child whilst she is in hospital, which could be several months yet.
What does all this have to do with you is a question you might be asking yourselves. What's the big picture? It is not just that we all have a different take on our financial commitments and responsibility....It's bigger than that. It is to say that no matter how much certainty we have in our lives, insecurity is just round the corner. In fact the only constant theme in life is that change is a given. All we can do is decide how we respond to that. Do we embrace it believing that whatever is happening is happening for a reason which will reveal itself in due course or do we fight it every step of the way in a mistaken attempt to maintain control whatever the cost? Reflecting on it all it makes me realise that Jessica's view that we do not encourage our clients to give up that day job without thinking through how else to deal with dissatisfaction on the one hand and the implications of such a decision on the other.
So here are some questions for you to mull over: What's your relationship with money? Do you know how much you have at any given point? To what extent have you ensured that you have provided for those you have responsibility for?
Thursday, 7 October 2010
What I am dealing with at the moment is anger. I remember when I was much younger the fragments of a conversation with my father, someone whom I consider to be very wise. In it he suggested that I carried a lot of anger. At the time I dismissed that view probably thinking something like what does he know. Of late I have come to realise that he may have been onto something.
Link that to a recent insight I have had about the relationship between letting go, compassion and forgiveness and it feels as if I am drawing together a picture. Let me elaborate. Think about a situation where someone has behaved in a way that does not fit with your values. The example that comes to mind for me is the response I got from an individual when I asked them to contribute towards the cost of the drinks at dinner. They felt it was unreasonable because they had drunk less than some others and the waiters had been over zealous with our last round of drinks and cleared them away whilst we were dancing and before they were finished. They expressed this in quite forthright terms. On reflection, I think their response upset me for two reasons: firstly it was not a reaction I had expected; and secondly it felt as if they were being tight.
For me writing this post is a way of letting go of the negative energy that is tied up in that transaction because it does not serve me or the relationship that I have with said individual. I am not yet able to feel compassion for them but that is probably because I find it very difficult to see the situation from their perspective. I do need to find a way to put myself into their shoes and so forgive and move on because they play quite a large role in my life at the moment and I do not think the time for us to step out of each other's lives has come yet. What is an easier step for me is to feel gratitude towards them for giving me this opportunity to put this way of living into practice and for giving me a topic for my blog.
So what do you do when someone who matters to you does something that goes against your values? How do you react? Do you talk it through with them, do you talk to others? What do you do with the negative emotions it raises? Do you just let it simmer away until there is an eruption? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Friday, 24 September 2010
We embrace this notion of quality time together. Thursday has now become our go slow day. I have a whole morning with my toddler in which we do very little except to be with each other. That said we did have a lovely time last Thursday doing yoga poses from the fab Pretzels collection which are specifically designed for children. I have no car in the morning so am fixed to the house and surrounding village. After lunch the 3 y/o goes for a sleep and my eldest returns from school - she does a half day until December. We then get an hour or so to spend together which includes me watching her do her piano lesson.
Yesterday was slightly different in part because the youngest had picked up a tummy bug and spent much of the day projectile vomiting! Also I had promised to produce something for the World's Biggest Coffee Morning - a charity event to raise money for Macmillan - this morning. Thanks to Mum's the Boss I made their very easy and absolutely scrumptious lemon drizzle cake.
There is always the sense of feeling good when you do something for a cause that is bigger than yourself and your world so that helps to explain some of my sense of well being. Yet it was not so much that as the fact that I found a way of using up a jar of lemon curd that had been sitting in the fridge for a while and a small pack of icing sugar that had been bought with some cake mixture and not used. I love the neatness of the all, it appeals to one of my core values, thrift and not wasting any food wherever possible.
Love to hear from you and whether you got involved in a Macmillan Coffee morning and how that was for you. Also interested in hearing about how you ensure quality time with your kids when you are working
Monday, 20 September 2010
One of the major bonuses of having an au pair is that it costs far less than the other options - we pay under £300 a month. It does mean that you need to be clear about the hours that they do - 25 hours is the norm but I do know of Mums that expect their au pairs to do more. A live in au pair comes into its own once the children are in some form of education. My eldest has just started school and my youngest does 5, 3 hour, sessions at nursery over 3 days so that the au pair does not have sole responsibility for the girls on any day. I think the trick to success is having an au pair that is slightly older and therefore more able to take a more considered view of her situation - mine is 27. Also because she is older, and fortunately for us has a degree in childcare studies, I don't feel as guilty leaving her in charge of the girls. All this of course is based on the assumption that you have a spare room for her to sleep in.
When I was considering the option of getting an au pair, the best advice I received was to be very clear about what I expected her to do and not to treat her like a servant. This was excellent because it made me write out a timetable for the week in excel of what I expected her to do. That was painful as it is not my way of working but at least it laid out the week clearly! The danger is that you think it is all over with at that point but I do need to keep a handle on it each week i.e for show and tell. This morning she did forget the 4 y/o's school bag which means she has not got her next jolly phonics letter/ sound.
Thinking about how to integrate au pairs, our view has been to include her as part of the family especially at weekends when she is not working but has yet to develop a social life. It does mean she has seen the other side of family life in that she is getting to know all the grandparents. I always make sure she does stuff she wants too. This Saturday I drove her to Stevenage so that she could check out Primark, a favourite destination of au pairs because it is cheap!
Talking of cars, the funniest experience to date happened on the first weekend L was here. We live in the country and so she has to drive to get the girls to ballet and get to her English classes at college as the bus service is too infrequent to rely on. I knew she was nervous about driving on the left hand side of the road but thought there is nothing to it, after all I manage driving on the right when on the continent. Well I lost count of the number of times we nearly hit a car on the passenger side because she found judging the distance very difficult!! It did not help that she was used to driving a 17 year old car so revved the accelerator rather than lifting the clutch up more. When we stalled we stayed that way for a while. A couple of left hand turns later saw us ending up on the wrong side of the road; fortunately we were not driving into oncoming traffic, one of the joys of country living. After two experiences like that I made the OH go out with her before it got dark and would you believe, he said she was a very good driver that's probably because my two previous attempts had ironed out the kinks. I still can't believe that I did not go grey from the experience.
It is a small price to pay for peace of mind. I do not have to run out the office on the dot of five pm. There are lots of other benefits too. For the first time in absolutely ages, both the OH and I managed to go out for a drink independently with our own friends. I am now planning trips to the cinema and so look forward to watching films when others do rather than months or years later! It brings so much freedom and at such a small price. The best gift she brings is her calmness and unflappable nature in the face of difficult behaviour from the kids who are finding the transition to the new way difficult.
There are so many other bonuses too. She is Spanish, my choice as I speak Spanish. I am so enjoying the opportunity to speak Spanish daily and am discovering new words and rediscovering what has lain dormant for many years. The girls are picking up some words and hopefully with time some phrases too. My hope for them is that they become bilingual, a real gift in a country like ours which has such a poor record when it comes to teaching foreign languages.
Any niggles you ask. No major ones. She does not enjoy cooking but as we love it that is no great hardship. Our response is to make sure we overcook so that there is plenty for the days we are not around. What it does mean is that she is quite prepared to wash up, a task I loathe so it seems a fair division of labour. In addition, she irons which is fab as I am hopeless at that and would rather buy a dry clean item then have to iron! She tends to spend the evenings in her bedroom out of choice unless we invite her downstairs and we have provided her with a flat screen tv and dvd player. Yes it costs more in terms of what we spend on food per week but it all still adds up to far less than other childcare options with many more benefits.
In short providing you can make time to help them settle in and make their down time fun. I am nadly introducing her to other au pairs and nannies in the village as a way of building her social life. We encourage her to get know people at college and have helped her plan a long weekend in London with friends. In two weeks she will receive a free weekend in Bath, the home of my parents, which is a great city for tourists and shopping. So if you are wondering how to make working and having a family go together, do consider an au pair. My only word of advice is that it is best to wait until your children are out of nappies because most au pairs do not have a child care qualification.
Friday, 10 September 2010
Thursday, 2 September 2010
Next week my eldest starts school, I have yet to buy her a pair of school shoes. An event I am not relishing because she is not a fan of black. That will happen later today.
The au pair arrives on Tuesday and we still need to make some changes to her room, most importantly we need to purchase a duvet as up until recently we only had bedding for double beds.
Ebay items that we sold at the weekend have to be packaged up, labelled and sold so that purchasers get them in a reasonable time frame.
In addition I have two pieces of work that I need to complete before Monday and tonight it is not possible because I hosting my book group. Something I engineered so that I could attend as I have missed the last few. Let's not get started on the state of the house which will need to be tidied up before they arrive at 8pm.
In addition I have until tomorrow to write an article for a magazine that I write for monthly.
To say that life feels a bit squeezed is an understatement. Why I am writing this blog with all of that to face you might ask. The main reason is that I thought this would be cathartic but in the process, my eldest who no longer sleeps has been unable to play on her own and my youngest, who is aware that the eldest is up, wants to get up and forego her nap. The second is a sense of duty. I want to keep posting something at least once a week so that there is new material for my readers.
Ah well onwards and upwards, I probably just have time to find the ralph lauren skirt I sold at the weekend and package it up to post it when we go out.
Thursday, 26 August 2010
How has it been I hear you asking? What changes has it brought? Let's start with the good stuff. I love knowing what I am going to do in broad terms three days a week and being able to rely on regular money coming in. I enjoy being in London and having a 20-30 minute walk each way twice a day. Yesterday was a good example of the freedom I now enjoy which was the chance to meet up with a friend, who is back from Hong Kong, for a coffee at short notice without the girls. It is also lovely to be part of a team that is responsible for large scale change and it is very exciting especially as I believe in what I am doing. The bonus has been receiving compliments about my creativity and my ability to add value from the start.
So what am I less sure about? I do not enjoy the fact that 9 out of 10 women wear black or grey suits in the City, occasionally they add white and beige to the mix! In an act of rebellion perhaps, or just to ensure that I never lose sight of who I am, I have been wearing a lot of orange and coral these first couple of weeks. My girls have had to do two to three days a week at nursery and often 10 hours. Thankfully because of support from my Mum, this has happened less frequently then it may have done. I miss my girls and they miss me and the only good thing is that they greet me with peals of delight every evening when I walk in and both want to be picked up and hugged at the same time.
The least likeable aspects are the politics which are rife in most corporates, I just find the whole thing pointless and energy zapping. Even more concerning is the extent to which fear drives employees and how they behave. People have already talked about being "judged" if the project does not deliver. This is unhealthy on so many levels.
My tips to any other parent in this place is:
- Be very clear about why you are doing this.
- Ensure that the time that you do spend with your children is quality time wherever possible. It assuages the guilt.
- Recognise what you are gaining from being in the workplace - for me I am regaining some of my identity which got rather buried over the last three years!
- Talk through how you are going to make it work with your partner if you both commute and if they are visual, have a week or month's view that shows who will do the pick ups and drop offs; the dinner etc.
- Monitor how the new set up is working. If it really does not work for any of you then change it. If it is tough but works then be grateful for what it gives you and your family
Love to hear your thoughts on this below.
Wednesday, 18 August 2010
Yet the secret to success is not so difficult to obtain. I want to tell you about three women who I think have got it and how they show it in their own unique way. They have two things in common they are all Mums and they have been brought together by the fabulous pair that run Mums the Boss.
The first got involved in Netmums when it was starting out back in 2001. For a small sum of money, she designed one of their sites and got paid £500 for doing so by Tescos. From what I understand, much of it was about putting together a set of templates and yet what the experience did was to sew a seed. Almost nine years later, this woman launched her own website design business with a little support from a skilled coach and her first commission from Mums the Boss. Today her business is going from strength to strength. She is an illustration of what can be achieved when we believe we can do it.
Another who impressed me is the person behind the business blogging carnivals. Like me there is only a gap of about 14 months between her two children and her youngest is just one. Despite all this, and it is a huge obstacle - the first year with two children I was in a fug most of the time - she has created an amazing website. She is brimming with ideas about how to develop her business and takes the attitude that it is all about exploring and experimenting to find out what works. In the midst of all this she is in the process of writing a book with that other well known mumpreneur, Antonia Chitty, about all the different kinds of businesses that you can run around raising a family. What a great idea! So what makes her successful. A dogged but quiet determination to keep on putting stuff out there based on a strong belief that there must be a better way to do business as a Mum than what has been suggested so far.
The final person in this trio also happens to be a self-effacing person. Yet as I talked to her, it was clear that she had a plan about how to make running her own business work for her. First she has a clearly defined niche, essential in a saturated market, and she has realised another secret to success and that is collaboration. She has a network of about six like-minded professionals who all work in the same industry so on the days that she gets stuck for ideas on a pitch, she has someone who can look at it all with fresh eyes and give a new perspective. They also pass on work to each other when they have too much or if it is more suited to another's specific area of expertise.
In essence succeeding in business takes guts, determination and perseverance. As one of the examples shows it often helps to have the support of a good coach so remember I am here if you need dedicated, focused support.
I hope these illustrations give you food for thought and remember we always profile one member a month on Minerva's Mind who has an interesting story to tell. This is in part about enabling people within the community to get to know each other and also about sharing stories that inspire. Please do get in touch, join or leave a comment below.
Three of the top mummy bloggers in the UK, Josie, Mummytips and Nixdminx have been approached by the Save the Children to be the faces a viral multimedia marketing campaign to raise awareness about their work in Bangladesh. What is amazing is the speed with which this has spread through the blogging community and beyond.
What we can all do is add our thumbprint to SCF's petition so that they get 100,000 signatures before Nick Clegg attends the UN Summit in New York in September. I have just done it and it takes no more than a minute to complete so click http://www.facebook.com/savethechildrenuk?v=app_141330322563413. When you have done that, do share the details with all your facebook friends and twitter buddies. Also you can add the badge that I have placed over on the right on your blog or your website. The badge can be found here.
The irony of all this is not lost on me for two reasons. Firstly only last night I was saying to the OH that I wanted to do more worthwhile things with my life and we were talking about Greg Mortenson's fantastic work in Pakistan that's been documented in Three cups of tea. Separately last week, I was part of a conversation in which there was a view that many of the mummy blogs that existed dealt with topics that were of interest mainly to the nearest and dearest of the writer. This campaign goes to show the power of social networking and the benefits it can bring in terms of bringing much needed change to the world. And I am glad to be part of it all in a small way and will be following the updates from our three mummy bloggers avidly. How about you?
Thursday, 12 August 2010
A Bob the Builder balloon and Pingu on my dress!
Monday, 9 August 2010
This is not a piece about my relationship with my OH, it is about something that I have been mulling around in my head for a while. It started off after a conversation with a wise bear I know called Michael who was acting as my mentor at the time. His view was that I needed to think about my value and focus more on what I could contribute by setting up a social enterprise say rather than looking at status and celebrity. At the time the whole idea seemed extremely alien to me. Why would I want to spend my time searching out funding which if I was successful in securing it, I would then give it to one or more worthy causes. It seemed like anathema to me when I first heard the words.
Today I found myself in the company of a delightful woman, Sally M, who has moved to Hitchin in the last year and is getting immersed in a number of local projects where she can make a difference. She is doing it quietly with minimum fuss and is definitely adding value. The reason we came together was because I had volunteered in a rash moment back in January to get involved in producing a directory of local produce. Everything went quiet for at least six months and now we have deadline of October! In an hour we came up with a next step plan, a draft questionnaire and a list of over 20 local business with locally sourced produce.
It is very exciting for a number of reasons. First I have always been an advocate of locally sourced produce, it fits with my views on recycling and reusing stuff. OH and I love great food and so anything that will help promote local food businesses is a win. If, as is hoped, the directory helps to make the Hitchin Transition Town Initiative more real then that has to be a good thing because we need to really think about how we use scarce resources like oil and start living in a more sustainable way. The great news is that since I raised it on facebook I have had a number of fab women come forward and offer their local knowledge which is fantastic. All in all it is a win-win and it makes me realise how true the view that it is the level of contribution we make to the world around us which really counts and also that if we are doing what we love that it all comes together almost effortlessly.
Interested in hearing your thoughts on this and also any ideas of businesses that deal in locally sourced food in a 20 mile radius of Hitchin.
Monday, 2 August 2010
1. Have a deadline in mind: for me it is knowing that I start on 16 August and I want all this sorted by then.
2. If you have one get your partner on board because then you can split tasks and be much more effective and efficient.
3. Be very clear about what price you want for stuff. If you are not sure of the going rate in the used market then check out ebay, there is bound to be a few of the items you are selling for sale. If you are taking it seriously place a watch on a few items because then you can go back afterwards and look at the bid history. This is key because not only do you need to know the end price you want but also the start price needs to be low enough to entice people in to bid so that they keep bidding because they really want the item.
4. Pricing strategy on ebay: start low. We had two items on at the price we wanted and so buyers did not see them as a bargain. This meant we got loads of watchers and in one case no bids.
5. Don't be discouraged. We made a private sale on one item because the buyer saw it and missed the auction. The agreed price was still twice what others were getting for similar items but less than our asking price so it was another win-win.
6. Don't rely on one platform to sell your goods especially ebay. Tell everyone you know what you are doing and you will be surprised who buys stuff. Some relative of our cleaner's has bought the cot bed and we got more than the going rate on ebay for it. Another channel has been facebook. We have also used the local village shop as a place to advertise and online with the local newspaper which means people come and pick up thus saving the faff of posting it.
7. If using ebay then spend a bit more and put on extra photos of big ticket items and use the photo package that allows potential buyers to zoom in and enlarge at will.
8. Give stuff away too. We gave away brand new baby towels and unused sheets and blankets with the cot bed. I am sending an extra toy in a pack of stuff for a friend. It makes everyone feel good. I have also picked out some beautiful clothes for a friend's baby and sent them in two garden waste sacks!
9. Be ruthless about what will sell. There is a bin liner and a huge Next sale bag of stuff including a hardly worn suit of the OH's going to charity because that makes more sense then trying to flog it.
10. Trust the stuff is going to sell and it will but perhaps not the way you intended. It feels great because items that have hardly been used are going to a new home and we are recouping some of the cost back. It's a win all round ;-)
I hope you enjoyed this post and I would love to hear your stories of making money through recycling used items below.
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
I have been blessed this week because someone whom I met when I was going through a very difficult time in my life, has come to stay for a couple of days. I had had prior notice that she might be coming but it was not until I received her text yesterday evening that it became real.
The funny thing was that she arrived to a house in chaos. We had recently received the girls' new bunk beds in the post and my OH had promised to assemble them last night. This was no easy task, it took four hours and A arrived in the middle of it. The mattresses were still in the guest bedroom, there was packaging all over the place and her first words were you should have told me it was inconvenient to which my response was no don't be daft, it will be fine and besides I really wanted to catch up with you. We have not seen each other for 10 months and could easily be that long before we see each other again. She concurred with me by saying that that was exactly what she wanted as well. In the end the girls were up until about 10pm which is an incredibly late night for them. They had a second dinner with us and we all had a Chinese take away because it was just easier.
I was all set to change our plans today because I was keen to spend time with her but she insisted that we kept the girls' original playdate with friends at the splashpark and tagged along. I offered her the opportunity of going shopping but she was keen to spend time with us all and it was lovely. In fact I was so grateful to have her in the car because I was able to leave her watching over my eldest who was fast asleep whilst I nipped into Sainsburys for her school uniform and some sandwiches - there was not enough time to get a picnic together before we left.
I am conscious that as I write this, I am not really defining what sisterhood means to me. It is the ability to reconnect instantaneously with someone without conscious effort. It is picking up the threads of conversations, thoughts and ideas where one left off months or years earlier. It is appreciating everything that the other person is. When I look at my friend, she emanates calm and that may be because she is a highly spiritual person, it may just be her nature. She also has an incredible capacity to give. She realised today that even though the girls were exhausted for different reasons they were going to struggle to sleep so she went upstairs and sat first on the youngest's bed and then on the eldest's bed and patted them to sleep. They loved this unexpected treat and it was so thoughtful because they did need the rest. Other things I value about her is her creative thinking powers, our conversations are always rich and often take unusual twists. I feel that I always have so much to learn from her in terms of her insights into situations.
In short I am grateful that I have her in my life. Such friendships in my experience are rare and I prize them highly. I have not named her because she is a very private person and I respect her wishes to remain anonymous. So what does sisterhood mean to you, what are your experiences of it?
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
1. See this time as an opportunity
I am conscious that this holiday represents a turning point for our family. Come September my eldest will be in school which means no more holidays at off peak times. No seriously it has much larger ramifications. The friends that she has known since she was born live 30 minutes away so will not be going to the same school. Many of their Mums have or are in the process of going back to full-time work so holidays and weekends are going to be the only time we get to meet up. Our postnatal group is meeting next Tuesday for the first time since the rash of birthdays in April. Karie, a professional photographer, has come up with an under the sea theme and we have all responded in terms of what food we are bringing etc. It will be a blast. I have already sent out feelers to some of the others to make sure we have dates in the diary.
2. Catching up with people further afield
I have a university friend who has two girls just a little older than my two but the same 15 month gap who I only see in the summer so that makes this time special. We have agreed the week we will meet but not the date so must get on with that. We also have plans to catch up with my cousin who has two kids and a pool in her house and the bonus is that her Mum who lives in Oz will also be over. That is great because it is a mini break for me and the girls aa my cousin is definitely "the hostess with the mostest" and provides fab food and refuses any major help. A very close friend is also coming over from Zurich for a month and we hope to have at least a day with her and her family which will be brilliant as we only just saw them when we were over there on hols and our two eldest kids played really well together.
3. Mixing business and family life
We have a date to get together with a fellow coach and her son over the break and I am hoping that there will be one or more opportunities like that with people who I respect hugely on a work front and could enjoy hanging out with thus giving our relationship a new dimension. If you feel you fit into that category and I have not been in touch do drop me a line.
4. Enjoying the time we have together
I am very conscious of the need to enjoy this time and that to actualise this thought, my mantra needs to be just that. I don't think that is going to be difficult though because I am aware that we are coming to the end of a phase. Come September it is likely that I will have a contract which will mean I will be working three days a week for a long time. This means I am already feeling that every moment we have together is precious because there is less likely to be free time going forward and so I am less concerned about organising playdates as I want to hold onto this time.
We still have clothes that no longer fit either of the girls and I am sure there are loads of toys they have grown out of. I am definitely going to take some of the toys to flog it! at MAMA on Friday mornings as it will help clear the space. I am considering finding a professional ebay seller to sell some of the other stuff because I can never find the will to do it and whatever money I make, I know I will just be grateful for the space.
6. Days out
Having special treats is a key part of the summer holidays. We plan to spend a few days in North Norfolk and get in some beach action. We are lucky because it is my youngest's birthday in August so that will provide another focal point in the holiday period.
7. Having quiet time
Ensuring there are non-manic days or at least slots in the day so that I can talk to the eldest about school; practise her fine motor skill; and prepare them both for life with an au pair. Now that they are older it is easier to get out of the default mode that we must keep busy to save my sanity and their sanity.
8. Maintaining nap time
My 4 y/o still has a sleep most day as does my 2 y/o. This gives me and them time to regroup before we start again in the afternoon. It is vital to the smooth running of the day. I try to ensure that I either get my feet up with a book or still my mind so I can cope with the onslaught when it all starts again.
So I hope you have enjoyed this post and that it has inspired you to approach the holidays with a spring in your step ;-) It has certainly help me gain clarity on how I am gearing up for the forthcoming holidays. Do share your thoughts in a comment below so I know who has popped by.
Tuesday, 20 July 2010
Wednesday, 9 June 2010
Tuesday, 8 June 2010
Wednesday, 2 June 2010
It is funny how the Universe works. I was reading through the invitations I had received to connect on Linkedin and noted one from Kath Roberts. The first thing that drew my attention was her request to connect - she had taken the time to give some reasons. I then went over to check out her profile and discovered that her business was called Alchemy4thesoul. It really resonated with me and I am indebted to her because her business summary provided the encouragement that I needed to update mine so that it reflected my primary focus at the moment. I was about to sign off when I noticed that her location was Bath which is exactly where I was.
Intuitively I knew that we should meet and that is exactly what we did this morning for just over an hour in Bath where we had a coffee. What struck me about Kath was her naturalness. There was no posturing and yet it was clear that she was steeped in spirituality, if that's possible.
We shared our stories and all too soon it was time to get back to the girls. It felt too soon as there were so many other questions I wanted to ask her. Then I realised that it was just the start of our connection and that will be more and so I relaxed. Her parting gift was to mention two books that it would be worth reading and the funny thing is that I was only just thinking that I wanted to read more spirituality books.
I am so glad to have met Kath and for our paths to be connected even if it is only for a short part of our journeys through life. I have shared this with you because the more we open up to our whole selves, the more opportunities and enriching experiences come our way.
Thursday, 27 May 2010
We all remember Peter Pan, don't we? For me it was a magical book when I was a child as I always liked the idea of a land far away in which children lived who could fly. In fact my copy of Peter Pan has my name written over it many times over as I was keen to claim ownership. Shame I did not know at the time that it was a family heirloom full of pictures by a famous illustrator, ahh well!!
I digress. The point is that the story of the lost boys came to me in bed this morning as I was pondering on how to respond to Josie's challenge. Underneath the outward layer of fun and games, there is a deeper underbelly or shadow side. I contend that to some extent the land of never never was where people went who refused to grow up and take on reality. They wanted to live in a world of fantasy whatever the cost and the cost was huge. The inability to give and receive love.
Does this appear at all familiar to you dear reader? How many people actually take responsibility for their lives and no matter what happens, are willing to say I am at choice here in how I respond. I can blame someone else or something else for what has happened or I can look for the opportunity that the situation presents and from that point start to grow. How many people do you know who actually embrace change? Why are so many people averse to change? Change hurts but as the alchemists discovered it is impossible to make gold without purifying metals and subjecting them to the fire.
Just so we are clear taking responsibility does not mean by default becoming a house owner or a parent. It does not mean the end of play or fantasy. Life can still be an adventure. One of the things that I am passionate about is enabling people to be leaders in their lives and thereby live an enriched life full of possibilities rather than one dogged by fear, uncertainty and feeling lost. Think what life would be like if everyone felt that their life had meaning and purpose.