Friday, 26 February 2010

Fulfilment is a radical act

Wow what a week it has been. I have been out every night this week and that will continue tonight and tomorrow night. Then on Sunday we are at friends for Sunday lunch before going on holiday for a week and a much needed rest! I thrive on being busy and the week has been so varied, more anon but there is a down side: OH gets grumpy because he has to adapt his work plans and fend for himself and sometimes the girls too at dinner time. It reminds me of one of those little personality tests one does where one ranks animals and it tells you which of five things are most important to you: they include career, love and family. I remember when I did it many years ago family was the least important and career was the most important!

All that has changed now of course but there is a cost to all this activity. On the more trivial side it has been two weeks since I last saw sight of the two year old's doodles. The shoe rack has been tidied and the utility room searched to no avail. It irritates me but I try to let go of it as there is very little more I can do and they must be somewhere in the house so why waste energy fretting about it. Similarly we have just noticed that Erin's favourite CD is not where it should be above the CD player on the shelf and she keeps asking for it. We have checked the car and as it has not been played for a couple of months I have no idea where it is and again it is minor. Underlying these kind of minor irritations, is something that is potentially much larger. I have noticed that the more that I go out to work, the more the running of the house grinds to a halt.

However this observation leads me to reflect on the words of a very powerful motivational speaker whom I was privileged to hear earlier this week and that was the Investigator. In essence having a vision and following it, whilst it can be empowering and lead to great things like seeing the first black man in the White House; it comes at a price. In the case of Obama, there was a photo of him sprawled across a chair with his feet on the table. The soles of his shoes were visible and had virtually worn through from all the walking he did on the campaign trail. Quite different from the videos of his inaugural speech where he was saying yes we can.

In short, many people never get to the stage where they have articulated a compelling future and therefore can be envious of those that have. Yet even when we have a clear sense of the direction of travel and our purpose here on earth, fulfilling it comes at a price. I am now beginning to understand what Jesus meant when he told his disciples that he had no family and that they were his family. He knew what he had to do and there was no space for family ties and loyalty within that. It is also becoming clear to me why I kept reading references to the CTI quotation fulfilment is a radical act. I had to grasp it, absorb it and write about it.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Can we take thrift too far?

Inspired by Josie's writing workshop prompts this week, I decided to write about my personal motto. Now I am cheating a little in that this is a family motto that I grew up with but there are some funny stories attached to it; and it fits with a theme on the blog at the moment which is around being stewards of the earth by conserving energy in all sorts of ways. It also, as with most of my posts, tells you more about me and my values.
The family motto is It's a pity to waste it with a gannet as a logo. As you probably know the gannet's ability to eat huge quantities of fish has led to gannet becoming a slight used to describe someone who eats excessively. I guess that is something that one could be accused of, if one adhered to the motto strictly. Interestingly in some middle Eastern cultures if you finish everything on your plate then you are considered to be hungry still and your plate is refilled.
I still remember a holiday that we took in the Brecon Beacons when I was a teen. We stayed in this lovely little cottage and went pony trekking every day. It was lovely but what I remember most were the size of the portions at each meal. We had very generous hosts and as well as breakfast (which was a full Welsh breakfast with cereal and half a grapefruit and toast) and dinner which was always three courses with several side orders of veg with the main, they always packed a substantial lunch. The first night we tucked in and in true Griffiths style made sure that we ate everything on our plate and what was on the table. Our hostess came out and saw all our clean plates and went out and refilled all the plates and dishes. It was quite a funny sight and after that we ate only what we needed as we knew we could never match their hospitality.
More recently, my husband has become aware of this family saying as it invariably comes up at meal times when the Griffiths clan are gathered and he really finds it irritating. It probably does not help that one year for Easter or some other occasion, my Mother presented him with a plate on which she had written the saying round the edge and drawn a gannet in the middle! Needless to say it has been buried at the back of some cupboard! And who can blame him as he has been on the receiving end of my fixation with the motto. I will share one such example with you now.
We had not been dating long and OH came up to Liverpool to visit me. I pulled out all the stops putting together what I thought was a delish meal, possibly a little '70s for the '90s: truites aux amandes with boiled potatoes (one of his least fav vegetables) and broccoli. The piece de resistance was serving it with a chilled Chablis which I had been saving for just such an occasion. Unfortunately when I opened it, it was quite clearly corked so we had to resort to a bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc which was not quite the same. As you may have guessed I do not like waste and the very next weekend, OH was back for some more fun. I prepared him a delicious meal which included aduki beans in white wine and yes you have guessed it, I used the corked wine. I figured that no one would be able to tell and at least it was not going to waste. Unfortunately OH remembered that I had been low on wine and guessed what had gone into the sauce when he was halfway through his meal. All I can say is that I must have had other charms because he stayed the course in spite of my hatred of waste in any form. Well we all have our little foibles, don't we? It does mean that I am quite inventive when it comes to thinking of what to do with the left overs. Anyway I would love to hear about some of your foibles and your views on thrift so do leave a comment.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Transition Towns: the way of the future?

So here's what I am thinking about at the moment. Just back from a meeting to set up a Transition Initiative in Hitchin. For those who have no clue what I am talking about the Transition Town Initiative's purpose is to encourage sustainable communities and provide advice on how to achieve them.

On the one hand I am very excited because the movement has grown from Kinsale, Ireland to more than 160 initiatives across the world. When one looks at what has been achieved already - the spotlight on Totnes , the first UK transition town, thanks to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who was so inspired by the local food hub that he set up Landshare to connect landowners and growers nationally. More recently Lewes got involved and introduced the Lewes pound as a way of strengthening the local economy whilst preventing money leaking out.

All inspiring stuff and I have said to the main organiser in Hitchin that I am happy to get on board as part of the steering committee providing they have a specific initial project in mind like producing a local directory of local produce. I wait to see what happens.

So the focus is on creating a local community we would all like to be part of that becomes less resilient on oil and fossil fuels because the world's supply is diminishing. What this means is finding ways to share what we have whether that is car sharing schemes; giving neighbours without gardens a space in our garden if it is large enough so that they can grow their own fruit and veg; clubbing together with neighbours to get a solar panel for each roof and thereby cut the costs because companies are often based a fair distance (read several counties away) from consumers.

This is where I have a question. To what extent are people prepared to share their resources? How much do people want to create community? How far are people prepared to go to make a difference? How bad does it have to get before there is an attitudinal change, a willingness to get involved? There has already been lots of debate about whether climate change is real. All this confusion means it is easy to ignore these cries for change by focusing on more immediate concerns.

This sounds depressing and before we decide to give up, it is worth remembering the daffodil principle. One woman had a vision which was to cover fields with daffodils as far as the eye could see. After a number of years and having planted one bulb at time, her dream was realised. We can make a difference, one person at a time. So what can each of us do to make this a better place for our kids and our grandchildren? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

From Slummy Mummy to Yummy Mummy

I remember how eye-catching the above title was when I read it as the subject of a talk aimed at Mums considering going into their own business. It's not mine but it encapsulates what I want to write about and that is about image.

For those of you that do not know me, I had two girls within 15 months of each other. That meant that any figure I once had just disappeared. As a consequence and due to being physically and emotionally exhausted post the second birth, I spent the best part of two years as slummy mummy. I lived in jeans and as I had told myself that I would not spend money on clothes in a size that I did not intend to inhabit for long, most of them were not in anyway stylish.

So what changed? Some things did not change much in that I am much happier in an informal environment and will still wear jeans frequently. Using my coaching techniques and my will power which can be formidable, I lost the baby weight and am now five pounds heavier than I was pre-children. Not bad when the experts say that one should expect to gain half a stone with every child one has! So that meant I was able to reward myself and buy some new clothes. And yet it was more than that, I realised that I was the face of my business and therefore it was worth getting dressed up and wearing make up for networking meetings and tweet ups. It also made me feel more confident. Around the same time I discovered eye brow plucking in a big way. I don't do it methodically but I swear it makes me look younger which, when everything else is going south, is a bonus! I also have a three year old who, when asked what she wants me to wear, always says a dress. Sometimes I comply but normally I compromise by going as far as skirt.

So that's me but I found something that is a bit of fun and can be used to help you decide who you are, so tick off mentally all the ones that resonate with you:

Slummy Mummy
  1. You always wear the same clothes as they are practical, and often covered in food.
  2. You may occasionally get to brush your hair before you go out.
  3. You have turned up at a class only to find that it is half term and you had forgotten
  4. You do the odd class only because you want to get out and meet people for your sanity
  5. The house is always an absolute tip and you don't care - what is the point of tidying up when all the toys will come out again anyway?

Yumy Mummy

  1. You are always perfectly groomed
  2. You wouldn't dream of taking your children swimming yourself as you would mess up your hair - they have a personal instructor
  3. Your children wear designer clothes
  4. Your children have a strict timetable of classes from birth to ensure their education is top notch, they will never be allowed to jus play
  5. The house is always perfectly tidy, and you would never know children live there

This post has been written for Josie's writing workshop and was inspired by Nicky's post, which when I read it, I knew that I just had to write my own version. So thank you Nicky and Josie for giving birth to this post so to speak.

Getting the balance between work and the family

It's Wednesday and we are mid-way through the half term break so it seems a good point to reflect on life as a Mumpreneur and share what I really enjoy. This is only possible because I am a WFHM so I have the choice of how to manage my work. It struck me because I was at a networking meeting last night where one couple who are also business partners were there, and their kids were upstairs using laptops because they have no back up support and could not leave them at home. In that instance it meant that one of them kept nipping out to go and check on the kids and therefore could not be fully present. More than that, I think it means that it is difficult to get into the different rhythms that a half term break offers.

What I have enjoyed this week is the fact that I have not had to jump out of bed early o'clock to get the breakfast conveyor belt going. We had a lie in this morning and were finishing up breakfast at 9.45am which was delightful. No need to hurry the girls into the clothes or have the mad hunt round for someone's indoor shoes or gloves that have gone missing. We then sauntered into town and had a delightful morning before returning for lunch.

We are also using this week to catch up with friends that are a little further afield or whose kids have different routines during termtime. This is very valuable because in some cases we have known the families since our eldest was born in 2006 and strong bonds have been formed by all concerned. In particular, I am looking forward to having dinner with a member of our antenatal group tomorrow night, who emigrated to Canada almost two years ago, and is back on a short holiday.

I like to remember these times and celebrate them because it is a reminder to me about the reasons why I forego returning to a corporate environment and all the financial perks that went with that. I did it because I wanted my girls to form a stronger relationship with me than the workers at their nursery.

However there is no perfect answer. There are all sorts of reasons why women go back to work full-time after having children. Further more there are down sides to the choice I made such as the fact that my hands are a little rougher from washing up on a daily basis all that does not go in the dishwasher because the water is so hard round here. There is an unspoken agreement that that falls into my domain because my OH is now the main breadwinner. This is something I rail against from time to time as it is not what I signed up for when we got married. However I do not push back too hard because I enjoy the benefits of having time with my girls whilst they are young, and the challenge that comes from running one's own business to make a profit.

Monday, 15 February 2010

What happens 24 hours from Tulsa/ home?

I am conscious that as I sit here I am feeling really invigorated. I also know the reason why: my weekend was completely different from usual. For 24 hours A and I had no children. Much as I love my toddlers, one always knows when they are around because there is a constant stream of chatter and set of demands until bed time.

We spent a night with the girls at my parents' house and then on Saturday morning they went off to the theatre and we set off for a wedding. We managed to fit so much into 24 hours. We discussed what we wanted to get out of 2010 as a husband and wife team. This means that I will be commiting my business plan to paper for the first time with monthly targets around income. Even more important than that we had fun as a couple, giggling as we looked round Frome trying to find a shop that sold lingerie that was aimed at the under 60 market!

Later on we partied hard at the wedding and were amongst the last to go to bed at around 2am. Last night I had the aches that proved I had spent around three hours on the dance floor. It was also a chance to catch up with friends we have not seen for a long time. All great scene setting for some fab sex later, followed by a glorious lie-in. We did not stir our stumps until after 10am!

So why am I telling you all this. The purpose of this post is not to promote Valentine's Day - too commercialised for me - also the timing was by chance. It is to highlight the importance of balance in our lives. It is easy to talk about and often hard to do when we work full-time or even part-time running our own businesses and managing a family. Often time as a couple gets side lined. A and I have made a commitment to do something together more regularly as I believe it will have benefits for us as a family. If you are interested in learning techniques on how to get more balance in your life then check out the workshops on this website.

Friday, 12 February 2010

The lion's strength lies in its vulnerability

Do you find that you have patterns of behaviour that repeat themselves over and over until you are sick of them, they are so familiar? Every time you think that you have got to grips with a particular pattern something happens and before you know it you are back in the same old trap? I am imagining you nodding your head. If you talk about it do you find that people become all censorious about it or perhaps overly understanding? Neither help because in the end we have to make peace with ourselves, accept ourselves for who we are. Or if we cannot, then it is time to go down the path of change which can be tough and rewarding all at the same time.

We are always at choice. When something happens, we can either respond to it or ignore it. What we decide to do to some extent depends on our values and what is important to us. At school I was not popular and one of the main reasons for this was because I always supported the underdogs, those that were bullied or picked on because one of my core values is social justice and equality. This has stayed with me so that often at great cost to myself, I find that I am speaking out about injustices that I notice.

This goes counter to another tendency that we all have to some extent and that is the desire to belong, to be part of something bigger than ourselves. This is so important to some people's identities that they will defend and protect it to the point where they will turn on the person who has brought into question some of their practices rather than remain curious to new ideas, and by so doing grow and learn. Change can be painful and not everyone is ready to embrace it.

One of my favourite patterns when I feel vulnerable and raw is to withdraw so that no one can see my pain and then when I am strong again, I bound back and rejoin the throng. I have decided to challenge that way of being this time and share my observations and pain whilst it is still very real so do remember that when you read this post and if you decide to comment.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

What does community mean in a business context?

There are a number of things that have been mulling around my head recently that I have wanted to put into a post but it is difficult to know where to start especially when people and emotions are involved. In broad terms, it is about community.

For some, my notions about business may seem quaint and old-fashioned but time again I see them being reaffirmed in the transactions that I observe around me. Right now I feel the need to share them. This is in part because of a recent incident in the twitter community of Mums, for more do check out Vicki's excellent post, which brought home the importance of being surrounded by people that care. In addition I have pointed out that online social networks could play a much bigger role in building community in a post for Mumsrock.

As a Mumpreneur with my own business, I have an underlying desire to establish my credibility and of course enjoy the fruits of my labour. That said those things are not what drive my business. For me it is part of a bigger vision. I want to make connections with people, support them in their endeavours by sharing what has worked for me and learn from them all at the same time.

I also recognise that it is very tough in part because of the economic climate but also because if one has a small business and/ or is a sole trader then one does not have the brand of a company like PricewaterhouseCoopers. We all know that for every lead generated it can often take months before there is paid work coming from it and sometimes what happens is that one come up against a series of dead ends which can be frustrating at best, soul destroying at worst.

That is why all small business people need a support network around them so that on those occasions when resilience fails and it seems impossible to bounce back and try something else, you know to whom you can turn to facilitate that turnaround. For that reason I am passionate about community and creating it wherever I can.

This does not mean we should be surrounding ourselves with "yes" people or those who have the same world view, as sometimes we need to hear tough messages in order to grow. In fact one of the Mumpreneurs that I speak to regularly has a very different energy to me. She is very driven and focused and some may see her as quite hard. What I take away from our exchanges is that I may need to re-examine my stretch targets and ask myself is this really a stretch for me as she never settles for second best. This is invaluable to me and helps me to grow as a person and a business woman.

I also believe in the adage that people do business with people that they know, like and trust. One of the reasons I spend so much time on twitter is that I see it as a quick way to get a feel for what a person is like and to start building a relationship. Recently I met two wonderful men through connections in twitterverse. We then had a tweetup and were surprised at the level of synergy there was between us. We are now looking at how we could work together and I am so looking forward to our meeting next week. Who knows there may even be a co-authored book in the mix.

It does not always work that way. One thing I find less helpful is when I feel that a contact is building a relationship with me because they have an ulterior motive in mind such as selling me something or getting me to attend one of their events. I guess that is because it feels like they are trying to manipulate me and that at some level they take me for fool for not realising that I would suss out their game. In those situations trust is lost.

So how easy is it? To an extent it is straight forward. Currently I get a great sense of support and camaraderie from members of Minerva's Mind, Judith's Room and an offline community called Enterprising Mums. Can you ever have enough? Probably not but it comes back to the age old issue of needing to juggle time and other resources so that they are spent wisely. And this is why I am wondering about whether to involve more time in other networks that I have dabbled in and new networks that I have recently become aware of.

As with all these things there are no easy answers. It is about experimenting with things and sticking with what works and letting go of those that prove to be time wasters.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Real mothers

Real mothers don't eat quiche;

They don't have time to make it.

Real mothers know that their kitchen utensils

Are probably in the sandbox.

Real mothers often have sticky floors,

Filthy ovens and happy kids.

Real mothers know that dried playdough

Dosn't come out of carpet....

Real mothers don't want to know what

The vacuum cleaner just sucked up....

Real mothers sometimes ask 'Why me?'

And get their answer when a little

Vice says 'because I love you best.'

Real mothers know that a child's growth

Is not measured by height or years or grade...

It is marked by the progression of Mommy to Mom to Mother

Author unknown

So how many of these stanzas do you read and think yes that's my experience. I am very grateful to Sandra Solano Huber for sharing this poem.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

My Dorian Gray moment

One of the things that I love about Josie's weekly writing workshop is that it ensures that I write up my blog regularly. It also introduces me to new blogs and this week I found a very funny one which is well worth following because the post I read had me in stitches and has inspired this one...

I turned 40 last year and unlike turning 30 it was not a cause for great celebration as to me it was a very real sign that I could now be classed by that dreaded term: middle aged. It was only reading some magazines more recently in which the common thought is that 50 is the new 40 that I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. Does that mean I can claim I am really 30 and just like the hobbits have ended my youth and am starting my journey into adulthood?

If only it were that simple. In terms of radio I cannot remember the last time I listened to radio 1. There is loads that I like on radio 4 and more often than not you will find me flipping between Heart and Magic105.4. So what does that make me?

As for wearing what's ultra trendy and cheap because it is only supposed to last one season, I have not been able to do that for a very long time. I now feel like my Mum in that I buy fewer items but of a higher quality. Yet I say to myself that with a body that has survived two natural births this is an inevitable development.

I know I cannot escape my age when I look in the mirror. Hitting 40 has led to an increase in the number of wrinkles - those on the forehead are much deeper now, they only disappear with soft focus on my camera. I am also beginning to see those fine lines around the mouth appear. This is not helped by the fact that with two young children I do not have time for a daily care regime. Add to that the fact that I do not like drinking water and that we live in a very dry house and it starts to make sense.

On Sunday however, I had to face a real horror. My husband claimed he saw three hairs on my chin when he was up close and personal. One of my lasting memories is of my Gran's beard and how bristly her chin felt when we embraced! Does that fate await me too?

In other words age is hardest to ignore in its physical form. Inwardly I feel like the Dorian Gray who everyone knew, outwardly I look like the picture in the attic!!

Well perhaps the picture above is a bit of an exaggeration...!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Cartoon funny

This really made me laugh - I am so grateful to Jen Tiller for sharing it. Enjoy - hope it brings a lift to your day.