Obligatory Easter post

My family is a strange mix of German and Welsh these days, but it settles out pretty well if I do say so myself. Family is so unbelievably important, especially when you’re feeling down, tired, stressed or sick. I spent this morning coughing up a lung while my Mother-in-law cleaned my living room and kitchen in preparation for our little Easter gathering.

Obviously, she’s made exclusively of win.

On the table was a little representation of a tree, from which we hung painted eggs as offerings to the fertility gods of old. I don’t know if she did it on purpose or not, but the eggs *I* decorated were hung upside down! Hubby and I are done with kiddy making now, so we don’t mind so much.

German/Welsh family Easter

German/Welsh family Easter

My father-in-law set up an egg hunt for my eldest in the back yard. She was so excited by the whole thing that she didn’t pick up the eggs to begin with, she just ran around looking at them!

It’s unbelievably hard sometimes, raising a family, keeping a house, and trying to create something for yourself. I still have trouble trying to get the time and the motivation together (at the same time) to get the things I want to do done, I have the utmost respect and admiration for people who manage to do it alone, because I don’t think I could.

This Easter, I’m grateful for my family, for my friends, for my voice and for my usually decent health (this week it’s kicking my ass, but normally I’m pretty good.)

What are you grateful for? How do you get organized, and how do you manage to get yourself motivated to do the things you love?

Define ‘successful’

One of the things business coaches and life style guru’s alike will tell you is that before you can be successful, you have to define what that means exactly. Does successful mean having a lot of money? Being a millionaire? Does it mean having influence in an industry or with a demographic? Does it mean being famous and/or respected in your field? What exactly is it that you’re after?

In my experience, vague plans make for vague outcomes. That’s not always a problem, I know plenty of people who are skating through life by the seat of their pants and loving every second of it. No idea where they’re going or how they’re going to get there, but they’ve got faith they’ll know it when they see it. More power to them, to be honest, if only we could all be like that! Unfortunately most of us aren’t. We want some kind of stability in our lives, we want to feel like we’ve achieved a goal, accomplished things, left a mark or maybe just want to feel like we’ve ‘made it.’

For me, it’s less about money (although money is nice!) and more about people. I want people to read the things I write, I want them to feel something when they read it and I want to feel that I’ve connected with them in some way.

Personally though, I do have a little bit of that ‘keeping up with the Jones’ appearances problem. I haven’t lived in a house that looked like it was on purpose since my Nanna passed away when I was 18. She’d always lived with us and was very big on keeping house. Art on the walls, decorative bits and bobs here and there, couches that actually matched. I’ll be 30 this year, so it’s been better than a decade since my domicile looked like a grown up lived in it.

I still HAVE a load of beautiful things my Nanna left me, but I’ve never had anywhere to display them. Every time we move, I unpack them, make sure nothing is broken, give it all a quick clean, and back into the box. My living situation has been so transitory over the past 10 years that I’ve never really personalized a house and made it a home. We buy run down shacks, do them up, and rent them out… but none of them are OURS.

‘Successful’ for me, would be to have a home in order. Something that we decorated, something that we put our hearts into. A place to display the beautiful things I’ve inherited and to house some of the things I fell in love with myself. Recycled Interiors is a blog I’ve recently discovered that I think might help me in this direction.

What does being successful mean to you? What are your win conditions? If you don’t know where the goal posts are, how can you ever score?

Think outside the box, or redefine what the box is

‘Think outside the box.’ Advice so overused as to be almost meaningless in the modern world. We’re all busy thinking outside the box, which actually kinda means that no one is… Juxtaposing two completely unrelated things be they products, services, events or abstracts, or any combination of the above, isn’t really thinking outside the box, it’s just throwing random stuff together until something works. Not that that isn’t a valid way to go about things!

This last week I had a meeting with another local mum who runs a music school. It’s kickass just by the by and if you’re in Hobart with a hankering for some tutelage in vocals, guitar, piano or violin, CMW Music is where you want to go!

That meeting made me so happy, in ways I can’t even fully explain. Michelle, apart from being an amazing musician married to another amazing musician, is a first rate geek, married to another first rate geek. In their spare time, they produce The Game Maestro, a web series you’re going to want to check out if you’re into D&D. I love meeting my own kind, we’re a little thin on the ground sometimes, but once we recognize each other everything usually proceeds pretty swimmingly.

I’m helping them out with some marketing, about which I am both excited and elated, and in return I get the use of an office, which is almost more exciting than the work! More importantly though, we’re spit balling some truly ‘out of the box’ concepts.

unconventional conventionalists

My unconventional conventionalists!

See, we’re nerding it up, we’re looking at community building and ways to expand into different areas while remaining true to our passions and our joys. Sounds cool huh? Really, I suppose, we’re not going ‘outside’ the box at all, we’re just changing it’s shape.

Lots of people get quite hot under the collar and turned around, trying to come up with the newest concept. The most unusual or out there idea… get out of the box, everyone says. Relax a little… don’t worry so much about what the box is, or isn’t, and think more about reshaping your parameters. Reassessing your boundaries, and including as many of the things that get you excited as possible!

Learn to take a compliment

How many of you need to learn to take a compliment?

I am surrounded by awesome people, pretty much all the time. They’re so awesome they make me kinda sick actually, because I’m so ordinary. I sat in my best friend’s kitchen last night and watched her make a cake. a spectacular thing of cascading fondant and chocolate penguins (seriously) all formed into an ice flow on glittery blue board. This thing rocks, we’re going to eat it later today *g*. When it was done, she slipped it into the fridge, looked at me and said, “Thanks for the help.”

Help? Me? I sat on this here stool and watched you make something awesome! I didn’t help. I controlled the music, that’s about it…

She told me that wasn’t true though. When the fondant stuck and wrinkled, I suggested we use some of the blue dust stuff to colour it so it looked like an ice flow breaking away, which worked pretty well. When she couldn’t get it to set quite right, I suggested a brush stroke technique to get the colouring where she wanted it. She said I had an artists eye, and that it had made a difference.

A cake with an artists touch

The ice Flow populated by penguins. Not bad, eh? Was rich as all get out though!

Artists eye? I can’t draw or paint for peanuts! I used to live with these mad art geeks who are totally amazing (Gosh they made me feel useless, notice how everyone else is always sooooo much more talented, soooo much more worth while…?) Not me though. I’m just ordinary.

It’s so much easier to see these amazing things in other people. To recognize a skill or talent that we don’t have and be envious of it… but if *I* can do something, then it must just be an easy thing to do, right? Well how come that is? I’ve read that it’s a woman thing, that we have a habit of under valuing ourselves. I’ve read it’s a self esteem thing, and that it stems from deep doubts about our own worth.

Whatever the case, it needs to stop.

I helped my friend to make something beautiful (and tasty) that she’d have had trouble with on her own. I certainly couldn’t have made it on my own, I can’t cook to save my life, but together we did something cool! How many things have you done this month, this week, or even today, that someone else thought were pretty cool, but you dismissed… because it was you who did them?

My guess is quite a few. From the perfect pantry organization (which, like cooking, is completely out of my reach) to hitting a high note, you’ve done something lately that another person would be envious of. You have talents, skills, worth and value, and a lot of us aren’t taking them seriously.

You don’t have to want to make a living out of them (though some certainly could) you don’t even have to want to show them off, that’s fine. What you shouldn’t be doing though, is dismissing them as though they were easy, as though they weren’t as good as the things others can do.

 

One year – now what?

So, turns out I’ve been banging on at this blogging thing for just about a year now… sometimes I’ve had to back away, like when my pregnancy practically put me in traction, or when renovating the house became so all consuming there was no time for anything else. Still, a year in and I’m not unhappy with how everything has been going.

Now what?

This year I took the step of officially starting my copy writing business, which has been one of the most frightening things ever (after first baby and first mortgage!) The support I’ve received from friends and clients has been spectacular, and I’m so grateful to be moving forward in this adventure with them.

One of my major goals for this year was to maintain a relationship with a client and secure repeat business, something I’m proud to say I have done with a beautiful local business here in Hobart. Salon Red, and their associated kid’s salon, Little Red, have been wonderful and offered me the opportunity to work on a number of pieces for them which has been really exciting! They offer a great range of services, in a beautiful and truly decadent feeling location, as well as acting as a host venue for the Worlds Greatest Shave this month (I’ve written a bit about this before.)

I’ve made a bit of a habit lately of writing media releases, and I have to say, it’s some of the most fun you have have copy writing! I get to play journalist, publicist, writer and interviewer, all of which is very cool. Keep your eyes open for the AusMumpreneurs Business Awards this year, I was heavily involved in the copy and I couldn’t be prouder to be associated with such a brilliant business.

Beyond these, I’ve been inspired in a number of ways to explore some other writing options. I’m sure you’re all waiting with baited breath for more news on those, but suffice to say that they encompass digital, print and screen media (I hope)  so keep an eye open for my name in interesting places. If you never see my name in interesting places… never mention this paragraph again *g*.

On the 15th I’ll be catching a plane up to NSW, and on the 21st chugging out of Sydney on a three day cruise to attend the 2014 Digital Parents Conference. I attended last year with my then 5 month old baby girl, which while beautiful, did mean that I didn’t get to see and do as much as I might have liked. Flying sans kids this year, so I’ll be far more involved!

As for what ‘do I do now?’ Everything, my friend. Everything!

What to expect when you’re expecting copy

I’m asked often by potential clients, how all this works. What’s the process?

It’s not what most of them think it’s going to be, and in all honesty, it isn’t what I thought it was going to be when I started out in this business. What the average client and I had in common was this idea that a brief would be presented, it would be complete, organized and thorough, and from it, the copy writer would spin amazing words that would sing clients down from the tree’s…

I’m a romantic, what can I say?

I have never once had a job go that way. The brief is never complete, and that’s no one’s fault. When I sit down to write for myself, there’s something organic that happens, I bash out the idea as it comes to me, then I go back and re read it. At this point everything that’s wrong with it becomes painfully apparent. I allow myself that space, the room to write whatever comes out first, and permission to go back and mold it into the piece I actually want.

Clients need permission to do this too.

Upon first contact what I get is often bare bones and lists of statistics. Pieces of information that are absolutely necessary to impart… So I write the piece, and send it back. Very quickly there will be a reply, ‘that’s good, but I’d really like XYZ.’ The very first time this happened to me, I was upset. If they wanted XYZ, why didn’t they say so at the beginning? Why let me write the piece and only come to me with XYZ afterwards?

Because they didn’t know. They weren’t aware until they read it, that it was lacking XYZ, they had to read the information, they had to have the piece in their hands, before they could see what it was missing. My relationship with my clients is more than a simple two step process… I’d be unreasonable to expect their process to be any more refined or perfected than mine. We’re in this together, and the process is one of collaboration, not a simple contract to be filled.

So, for people toiling in the industry, who find themselves caught in the net of feeling slighted or judged when a client sends back copy, try to remember that if they were able to articulate fully and perfectly the copy that they wanted… you wouldn’t have a job. For clients, past, present and future, our endless e-mails back and forth aren’t a bother. I understand that we’re both struggling towards the best possible expression of your business, the best possible way to give your customers a clear understanding of who you are and what you do. No one can be expected to pull that off in a single sitting… that’s lazy. So we’ll go back and forth, and if something new occurs to you, something sparks and you feel that you can see what was missing, then that’s something to be celebrated, not complained about.

If you need help with your business or organization copy. If the weight of it is taking your attention away from the task at hand, or if the sight of someone picking on your choice of pronouns, personal or otherwise, makes your palms sweaty… then I’m here to help you out. Together we can polish your prose until your customers see what I see; something worth writing home about.

The World’s Greatest Shave

>>The below is from an article I wrote for the Hobart Mum’s Network Newsletter this month<<

On Friday the 14th of March between 9am and 1pm, Salon Red will be hosting the Leukaemia Foundation’s World’s Greatest Shave, one of Australia’s largest fund-raising events, and vital to the organizations mission to care for sufferers, and to find a cure.

A few decades ago only 20% of children diagnosed with lymphomoblastic leukaemia could expect to survive their treatment and be cancer free, today, that number is over 80%. Research makes a difference, and the donations the Leukaemia Foundation receives save lives! More than 50 000 people are living with blood cancer or related disorders with roughly 31 new diagnoses every day.

Between the 13th and 16th of March, more tan 150 000 people will shave or colour their hair to raise money, and express their support for those who have been diagnosed with blood cancer.

Salon Red will be offering;

  • hairchalk for a$10 donation
  • spray colour for a $20 donation
  • and of course the traditional shaving station for a $30 donation

Donations can always be made through the Leukaemia Foundation website, and the Salon will be accepting Donations on site on the day taking donations ($10 minimum). All donations received will place you in a draw to win an Ipad mini, proudly donated by Next Byte Hobart!

The World’s Greatest Shave is about more than money, the support of their community is important to the quality of life of sufferers, and the deliberate destigmatisation of baldness can go a long way towards boosting morale.

In conjunction with the Leukaemia Foundation, Salon Red is also opening a hair bank for collections. Donated hair will be used to make wigs for those undergoing chemotherapy, so make sure that you let the staff know if you’re having a drastic length cut and you’re happy to make a donation. That way, your fabulous new do, courtesy of Salon Red, can be a fabulous new do for two!

Why are we ashamed of ‘the messy phase?’

As a teenager, my room was a mess.

As a young adult living away from home, roughly half my house was a mess, and I felt no shame what so ever! There weren’t any rats, I could find most of my stuff when I wanted it and I had better things to do than clean house.

That’s not true anymore.

My husband and I have a bit of a mad obsession. We buy junk houses, live in them and do them up, which financially speaking is great… it does mean that most of the time, I’m living on a construction site. The moment the house is ‘finished’ we move on. I haven’t lived in a finished house since before my eldest daughter was born almost 6 years ago.

Our current domicile was a two bedroom shack which hadn’t been updated since the 70′s, and then it was only to fix the things that had fallen apart since the house was built in 1945. The carpet is foul, the kitchen is terrible, the entire house has 2 circuits so we’re always blowing them and the living room has an entire wall done in burnt orange tin tiles. No, I’m not making that up.

It’s now almost three bedrooms (the wall of the third bedroom isn’t finished yet) and we’re on our way towards planning all the other stuff that needs changing. The issue is… I don’t want to have people over. The place is a dump, I know that. It’s a bomb site half the time (I have two daughters) and even when it’s not, it’s unfinished and the bits that are complete (that is the bits we haven’t attacked yet) are all ugly! I don’t want people to SEE this eyesore.

Why is that though?

The first time we did this, in a little town outside of Hobart, the outcome was UNBELIEVABLE. We bought it for a song (because it was a dump) literally bled to fix it up (stories for another time, I promise) and it’s now rented out. Not only is it rented, it’s completely positively geared. By that I mean the rent covered the mortgage, the land lord insurance, the rates, the water, and all the little bibs and bobs… and it puts away enough money that we’ve never had to make a repair out of our own pockets. It’s a success. A huge success… but someone else is living in it. My friends have never seen it finished, and short of waving my bank account around there really isn’t any concrete physical proof that my family accomplished this awesome thing!

What there is, is another dump. Another dump whose destiny is the same as the  first. To be spruced, shellacked and loved until it glows… and then installed with another family who’ll get to enjoy it.

My life is constantly ‘in the messy phase.’ Just once I’d like to be able to spontaneously say ‘hey, why don’t we hold XYZ at my place?’ But I don’t… I don’t because I’m ashamed… and that’s dumb.

How many of you are in ‘the messy phase’ of something? Business, life, study etc. That part of the thing where it doesn’t look so hot. A huge number of things we’ll do in our lives have this messy phase, and most people handle it one of two ways. They do what I’ve done, which is effectively try to hide the mess from their peers… or they spend too much money, effort or energy trying to cover the messy faze so people won’t notice. Neither plan is helpful, healthy or conducive to long lasting success or sanity.

I’m going to tidy up around here a bit. Stack away all the things I don’t need, and invite some friends around to my travesty of a 70s interior design show, and I don’t care one bit. The one’s who can see what my family and I are doing, they’re going to be impressed… and the one’s who can’t see it… well, really what are they doing on my invite list?

Love, Loss, Hope, Repeat

And when then high wind blows everything
Like the lion attack in the spring
I love you more than I’ll ever let on
And that’s a fault of mine I’m workin on
I’m workin on

This song always make me think about the way that people relate to each other, and the kinds of things we all do wrong, and we know they’re wrong even as we’re doing them, but it’s so hard to stop!

I love you more than I’ll ever let on

How powerful is that? Not just the honest revelation that your loved, but that there is a deficiency in me such that I’ll never really be able to show exactly how much I love you.

I really love songs. The good ones have poetry and honesty in them, and some of the turns of phrase are so lovely and poignant that I’ll actually listen to a whole song waiting for that one particular line of phrase that really speaks to me. You see the same kinds of things in kindle books (bit of a leap, I know, stay with me.) There is a thing on your kindle called ‘highlights’, these are bits of the book you’re reading that other people have underlined. When you turn it on you can see in the text as you read the number of people who have been touched by various lines. It’s quite cool really and I love the idea!

If you had to pick a line out of one of my posts, something that you thought was particularly relevant to you, what would it be? I’d love there to be a way to get that kind of feedback straight away when people read my blog. Wouldn’t that be great?

Secret Dreams

As you know, I am a wildly enthusiastic person, my eyes are bigger than my stomach when it comes to dreams and ideas, and I can fly into a frenzy of activity at a moments notice over the most offhand and random concepts you can imagine. This isn’t a complaint, I actually rather like that about me.

The best thing about enthusiasm is that it’s often contagious. Take for example when I feel a fit of activity come on and start cleaning the house, quite often my husband will, after a few minutes, start feeling like he ought to be doing something too! … You think that might not be the best example? Ok, maybe you’re right, but you get the idea. When energy, enthusiasm and dreams are shared, they grow and expand. They take on momentum and a life of their own!

This is why it’s a little bit dangerous to mention your idea’s around me. Quite quickly you can find yourself committed to delivering on them, because I think just about everything is a brilliant idea!

Do you have secret dreams?

Deep in the silence of your soul, do you have a mad desire, an impossible half-plan? Something that might make you rich or famous or change the world forever? Is there something so far outside your usual, dependable, ordinary self that you’ve never dared tell anyone about it? You sit on it. Day dream about it. You long for it and pine for it and you want to realize it so badly you can taste it, but you’ve never whispered it to anyone.

I am the Queen of ‘secret dreams’. Loves that dare not speak their names. Though I wouldn’t want to cast aspersions on the reputation of one who has passed on, I think a bit of it might be lain at the feet of my departed grandmother. You see, I used to be a singer. No, seriously. Almost no one in my life these days knows this, but I sang at the opening of the olympic and paralympic games in Sydney. I’ve performed at the Opera house, on Darling Harbor, more places than I can count really. My poor dad had to drag my overly enthusiastic ass all over the state and beyond so I could sing my little heart out. I wanted to go to NIDA. I wanted to sing, and act, I wanted to make people cry and laugh and FEEL things. I wanted to tell stories and have them touch people…

My grandmother, God rest her, was quite old, already in her late 70s by this stage and when I confessed my longing to her… it wasn’t pretty. Actresses and singers are all prostitutes! It’s not seemly! It’s not proper! Why oh why didn’t we force you to keep up the violin? None of this would have happened if you were a proper, delicate, refined girl.

My dreams of NIDA died, and I haven’t sung in public in over 10 years. Even now I’m a little teary writing about it… it wasn’t just Merel of course. Life got in the way too, things happened and I had other responsibilities that I simply couldn’t shirk… but my fear comes back to that one conversation. I don’t want to show you my dreams, because I couldn’t stand for you to stomp on them.

Many people have had similar experiences, or they’re afraid of having a similar experience. It comes down to the same thing. You want to protect the perfect sanctity of your dream. You want to cradle it close, coo to it, love it, and allow it to while away the time, in the dead of night, when you can’t sleep. It’ll always be shiny and perfect. All your decisions will be ‘the right one’ and everyone who ever doubted you will see how wrong they were.

Perfect. Shining. Sacred… and unfulfilled. That’s how your dream will stay if you keep it secret. If you squat over it like a toad, unwilling to let it see the light of day. Your dreams need light. They need air and space! They need to see the warm glow of interest from others, and they need to stand firm against the buffeting of ‘that’ll never work.’