Teaching bike riding
Less instruction and more space
A lesson for me
Teaching bike riding
Teaching bike riding
Less instruction and more space
A lesson for me
One of my favourite posts to write last year was a wrap up of what worked for me in 2017. This 2018 edition has been sitting in a half-completed draft form for weeks, and although the time for new year reflection has probably passed (now that we’re more than a full month into 2019!) I wanted to publish it anyway! Some of those things from 2017 (like journalling and decluttering) continued to be an important part of my life in 2018 and others dropped away (like the TV-ban for Ella!). Here’s what stood out as things that worked for me in 2018….
Walking E to school
We live a few hundred metres from the local primary school. When we bought our place I don’t think either of us imagined that we would be living there 10 years later, so proximity to schools wasn’t something on our radar. E started pre-school in 2018 and walking her to and from school was an unexpectedly delightful part of my week. It’s a short amount of uninterrupted time to connect and hold hands and have random conversations.
Taking a daily probiotic
I was quite sick in 2017 with persistent pneumonia and had more courses of antibiotics than I could count. While filling another prescription in late 2017, the pharmacy assistant recommended I take a probiotic. Perhaps it’s just a placebo effect, but I had no further chest infections in 2018 and largely avoided any significant colds.
A weekly reflective practice
In March 2018 my friend Emily and I started exchanging a weekly email based on a series of reflective question prompts (which were suggested to me by my friend Amanda (who has a similar regular email exchange practice)). The questions focus on what worked well, gratitude, and values and intentions. The simple act of asking (and answering) these questions makes me more alert to the good things in my life.
I’ve gone through periods of meditating consistently in the past and always found it beneficial but I tended to let it go during periods when I was busy or stressed at work and actually needed it most. Since March 2018 I’ve had a pretty consistent practice – not every day – but something I do more often than not. And my meditation bar is pretty low – it’s typically just a 5 min guided meditation using the Calm app.
Returning to work
After the blur of maternity leave and sickness in 2017, I returned to work in 2018 doing more of the training, facilitation and coaching work I love. I am so grateful to have work that I enjoy and that energises me and has the flexibility that I need at this stage in my life. I look forward to going to work and I think it makes me a happier, (mentally) healthier mum and partner.
Splitting caring days with J
One of the things that helped the return to work was splitting care days with my husband, J. It’s much easier to leave the house to get to work when you don’t also have to stress about getting little people clothed, fed, cleaned up and to daycare/school at a certain time. It also helped me to reduce any tendency toward maternal gatekeeping and created the space for J and E to bond and develop their own little weekly rituals.
I discovered I actually enjoyed running about 9 or so years ago and did it pretty consistently until E was born. Since then I’ve struggled to get back into it. But in 2018 I actually finished the C25K program and did a 5k fun run. Using a C25K app was great as I just did what the friendly voice told me to do – there was no thinking or planning required on my part, and slowly building up run/walk intervals helped to avoid any injury. I didn’t maintain the running in the second half of the year, so am starting again – with the goal of doing a 10k in 2019.
Cancelling our credit card and negotiating a better home loan rate
I read The Barefoot Investor back in 2017 but have been pretty slow to fully jump on board. In 2018 I took a couple of positive steps toward getting our financial s#*t sorted – cancelling our main credit card and negotiating a lower interest rate on our home loan. Related – Season 1 of The Pineapple Project podcast was also really good and prompted me to make a few other changes like buying more second hand clothes.
Completing a coaching certification
When I look back at old journal entries and angsty ‘what am I doing with my life?’ notebook scribbles, it’s clear now that coaching others (in an informal sense) has been something that’s provided much joy and energy in my work life, so I wonder why it took me so long to actually do some coach training? The IECL Level 1 course in February exceeded all my expectations. I learned so much – not only about coaching, but about myself, and about facilitating engaging training. This course has had a massive impact on my coaching practice and has provided the foundational skills and confidence to start coaching in a more formal capacity. What I wasn’t expecting was the significant impact the course would have on how I approach other close relationships in my life – I think I’m a better listener and better at maintaining ‘detached empathy’. On a related note, asking what rather than why has also been a beneficial habit to practice.
My favourite things
I’m continuing to try to declutter and be more intentional about ‘stuff’ but there were definitely a few ‘things’ that added value to my life in 2018.
My big baby turned 5 a couple of weeks ago! Ella’s birthday is always a time of much reflection and this year I’ve found myself considering how becoming a mum, and Ella’s mum specifically, has changed the trajectory of my life. Her arrival felt like an asteroid had rammed into me and thrown me from my orbit leaving me lost and spinning out of control. But now, as we traverse further into this new identity and relationship I feel more confident that this path I’m now on is providing me with the lessons and opportunities I’m meant to have. In the lead up to her birthday I also found myself filled with enormous gratitude for all the wonderful people that have come into my life that I probably wouldn’t have connected with otherwise – my mother’s group, working at YWCA Canberra, the She Leads students and facilitators, Lead Mama Lead, my new colleagues at the APSC…
With each birthday it’s interesting to notice how parenting challenges shift from the basic needs around sleeping, eating etc, to deeper ones around raising a decent human being. This post on fitting in vs belonging was one worth reading and will be something I try to remember as Ella gets older and continues to navigate friendships and social structures.
I love love love this idea! If you’re expecting a baby, or know someone who is, why not skip the baby shower and throw a post-partum party instead?
Recent favourite podcast discoveries that I’d recommend include Self-Helpless (3 comedians discuss various self-help topics/books) and Briget Shulte’s Better Life Lab (on the art and science of living a full life). I’m also excited to see that Jamila Rizvi’s new podcast, Future Women, is launching next week. I also really enjoyed this episode of Hidden Brain – The Edge Effect – which includes some fantastic stories about diversity and creativity.
Some people in my network who are doing great things and that I think you should know about….
On the topic of photos, Ella uses an old iPhone to listen to podcasts and audiobooks. She’s recently discovered the camera function and has taken (quite enthusiastically) to documenting her life and creating movies! It’s been fun to look through the pictures and videos and get a glimpse of what the world looks like from her perspective. There are lots of selfies and posed pictures of toys and hundreds of walls and windows and floors and ceilings (some quite artistic, some not so much).
I particularly love this one – mainly because exactly 5 years and 12 days earlier I’d taken a very similar shot (in almost the identical spot) as I paced my lounge room in early labour about 10 hours before we met Ella.
The other big news to share since my last H&H update is that I’ve returned to (paid) work following my maternity break. I’m pleased to be facilitating some of the core skills and graduate development training programs at the Australian Public Service Commission, and I’m also doing some freelance facilitation, coaching and training. Helping individuals and groups to learn and change and to see themselves and the world a little differently has been a pretty consistent thread through my work for the past 8 or so years, but facilitation has been a somewhat peripheral part of the various jobs I’ve had. I feel so excited to be diving deeper into this work and to commit to building my own skills, knowledge, experience and practice – it feels like the work I’m meant to be doing. I have some availability for work for the remainder of the year, so if you need some support with running meetings, workshops or training, please get in touch. All the details are over on the Sticky Note Consulting site.
Finally, I’m going to trial sending out Head & Heart updates as a newsletter which may make them easier to follow (for the handful of dear friends that actually read them)! If you’d like to sign up, you can do so here. I’ll keep posting them to the blog too!
Last week, in addition to my daughter starting pre-school, we achieved another family milestone – our first bout of gastro through the household – and the experience got me thinking about change.
When you’re in the throws of a gastro bug often all you can do is wait. Although you feel absolutely horrible, there’s some comfort in knowing that things will change and in 24-48 hours you’ll almost certainly feel much much better. All you have to do is simply survive (and try to maintain some humour and perspective). Similarly, in parenting, what I’ve learned 4 1/2 years in is that sometimes just waiting it out is just what you have to do to get through a period of discomfort, pain, frustration or suffering (whether that be related to sleep, toileting, eating etc). Often trying to initiate, force or speed up change is ineffective or just not worth the effort. It makes me wonder how often I’m getting stressed and trying to intervene and change something in other parts of my life, when I’m better off just having faith that the hard stuff will eventually end? But on the flip side, how often am I clinging to some hope that things will be different without making any (or sufficient) effort to bring that change into being???
In other news, I’ve taken my friend Summer’s recommendation and started using some bluetooth headphones (well, I’ve appropriated Jason’s AirPods) and am finding evening chores much less painful with a good podcast or audiobook to listen to. A few new podcasts that I’ve been enjoying over the last week or so are Women At Work from HBR, The Pineapple Project (which actually makes personal finance interesting), and Anecdotally Speaking (a business storytelling podcast).
I read this article – Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read – and saved the link in my journal. A day or so later when reviewing my saved links, I couldn’t remember what the article was about, or why I thought it was important to save, which just kind of just proves its entire point! On re-reading, the key takeaway was acknowledging the difference between simply acquiring information and actual knowledge. Often I’m sucked into seeking out new information and the momentary experience of feeling like I’ve learned something, without actually learning. So one thing I’ve decided to do, instead of always focusing on the new article/book/podcast, is embracing re-reading and re-listening. This week I’ve relistened to Episode 1 of the brilliant 3-part Making Oprah podcast series (if you’re searching for it in your podcast app search for ‘Making Obama’ – the new series name), and I’ve just started re-reading Sarah Ferguson’s The Killing Season Uncut. So many life and leadership lessons from both (and plenty of #stickywisdom too) that I plan to blog about separately.
Stephanie Coontz (a historian who studies family and marriage) has been popping up in my feeds in several places this week – in episode 2 of Women at Work on couples that work, on the most recent episode of Hidden Brain (When Did Marriage Become So Hard?), and she also wrote this NYT opinion piece – For A Better Marriage, Act Like A Single Person. Date night always feels like enough of a logistical challenge to try and organise, but this article has inspired me to try and schedule in a few double dates this year!
Finally, I’m really enjoying walking Ella to and from pre-school. It’s so nice to live within walking distance from the school and it’s great to have the opportunity to chat. Asking ‘how was your day?’ is a hard habit to break, but I’m trying hard to ask better questions that get her sharing more. This list gave me some good ideas to try.
**Head & Heart is an occasional capture of what I’m thinking about, doing, reading and listening to**
As I approached the end of 2017, the two things that stood out when looking back over the year were 1) Lincoln’s birth and the vortex of life with a newborn, and 2) illness (lots of it)! It seemed like a year of survival rather than flourishing or achieving, and honestly, by the end, I felt a little defeated and knocked around.
But I spent some time over the new year reviewing my journal entries and writing and reflecting, and I discovered that there was so much more to the year that I feel grateful for and want to remember. I love reading end-of-year wrap-up posts and particularly like the ‘what worked’ format from Modern Mrs Darcy. Although it’s now a full month past the end of the year, I still felt it was important to capture and to share, so here (in no particular order) is my list of what worked for me in 2017…
Banning TV for Ella
A one week TV ban back in late June was far and away one of the most positive parenting moves we’ve made, and seven months on the ban is still in effect. This change was motivated not by concerns for her development, but entirely by a self-interested desire to avoid the whinging and tantrums that went along with her wanting to watch ‘just one more?’! It worked!
Family gratitude practice
One of the advantages of J working from home is that we’ve always been able to do an early dinner as a family. Last year we started a practice of taking turns at dinner time to share something from the day that we’re grateful for. Dinner time is a challenging time of day – everyone is tired, hungry, feeling rushed and ready to get through the bath/bedtime routine – so this practice temporarily pulls us out of that mindset and forces us all to reflect on our day and find the good. It also feels important for me to set up small practices now that may help my kids’ mental health as they get older. Thanks to Kristen for recommending this!
We didn’t do heaps of it in 2017, but Ella is now at an age where she is more capable of independently walking a few kilometres, so we did manage a few longer walks at Tidbinbilla. Walking in the bush makes me happy and relaxed, and with nothing else to do but walk and talk (no housework, meal prep etc) I find I’m a more present and engaged mum. I think this is another little practice that will be increasingly important for our relationship and mental health as she gets older, and I love developing a shared passion with her.
Buying a second car
In many ways (financial, environmental) I would like to have fewer cars, so I was a bit reluctant to include this in a list of what went well. We could have made do this year, but with the additional stresses and logistical complexity of a new family member, Jason and I could do without the potential source of stress and conflict in negotiating car use.
Small improvements to our home
In 2017 we did a few small things to improve our home. None were done cheaply (but they weren’t expensive major renovations either) – new dining chairs, a new back fence, replacing the back sliding door, a block out awning for our west-facing deck – but they added a lot of value to our lives. Spending money to make our home more enjoyable and comfortable feels like a worthwhile investment.
Midwife-led care for Lincoln’s birth
L was born through the Canberra Hospital’s Birth Centre program (as was E). I had another hugely positive experience and received excellent care from a wonderful midwife. I am so grateful for the access to this program and can’t recommend midwife-led care highly enough.
Decluttering and being more intentional about our ‘stuff’
Last year we transformed our spare room (junk room) into a guest bedroom where we accommodated family members for over four weeks, and then into a nursery for L. As our family has expanded, our home hasn’t, so it’s really prompted us to get rid of a lot. I’m far from my ideal decluttered home, but it’s a journey and we’re making progress. We’re also being much more intentional about toys and gifts for the kids and our families are getting on board too. For Christmas 2017 the kids got fewer toy gifts, and more practical or experience ones (a trip to the zoo, new sandals, a cupcake and movie date, a new lunchbox etc).
Journalling using Day One
I’ve been using Day One for a couple of years and it has certainly made it easier to maintain a regular journaling practice. Last year I upgraded to the subscription-based version – it’s one of the best things I’ve spent money on. I have several journals set up – including one for each of the kids. Having it always available makes it easy to just snap a photo, jot down a funny thing they say, or capture a few words to remind me of what we did on that day. The ‘on this day’ feature and the practice of re-reading and reviewed past entries is also something that I get more benefit from than I expected.
Lead Mama Lead book club
I’ve wanted to be in a book club for ages but never found one that read the kind of books I did – non-fiction, mainly psychology, management, and leadership. Joining the LML book club has been such a delight. I’ve read some books that I wouldn’t have otherwise, the act of discussing a book reinforces the learnings and deepens my reflection, and I have a regular time set aside to spend in authentic conversation with some wonderful women.
Getting a regular babysitter
Without family support in Canberra, I was much more realistic this time around that we’d need to pay for support. Having time away from the daily ins and outs of child care has helped me mentally and to maintain my sense of self. I believe it’s also valuable for my kids to interact with and be cared for by other trusted adults.
Standing up for myself and the people I love
I learned and forgot and re-learned this lesson several times over 2017! I pride myself on being an easy-going, low fuss kind of person and I hate feeling like I’m inconveniencing people or taking up too much of their time or resources. But in 2017, in some big and small ways, I had situations where I had to back myself and be really clear about what I, or my family, needed and wanted – telling my GP that I still wasn’t well and wanted further investigations, making a complaint at the hospital my mum was in and advocating for improvements to her care, getting Ella the help she needed from a more experienced swimming instructor. And every time I raised an issue or asked for additional support, things got better.
Although it may now feel like a distant memory, I’d love to know what worked well for you in 2017?!
Whenever E wakes in the night to tell us that she’s scared of monsters, spiders, or a Backson (thanks Winnie the Pooh) we tell her that we’re nearby and that ‘mummy and daddy won’t let anything bad happen to you’. This shooting in Las Vegas just makes me realise that of course that’s a promise that is impossible for us to keep. Pain and hurt and fear and disappointment will inevitably be part of our kids’ lives, and I need to remember that it’s not our job to protect them from it, but rather to ‘assure them that when the turbulence comes, we will all hold hands and get through it together’ (and keep serving the peanuts!).
On a happier note, we got out for a family bushwalk at Tidbinbilla and it was great. I’ve mentioned it before, but bushwalking is really my happy place and it’s so nice to be sharing this with E. I listened to a recent episode of the Australian Hiker podcast on hiking with kids (#40) and used some of the tips on this most recent outing – getting E to be the guide, hold the map and look for the trail markers, and to carry her own water and snacks. She really took to the leader role (which won’t be a surprise to anyone that knows her) and managed to walk 3.3km herself (although there was a fair bit of whinging at the end and we had to pull out the promise of an icecream).
…one of my biggest takeaways was that we shouldn’t lie to children when they are asking us about grown-up words or ideas — otherwise, they will just ask Siri. If it’s between YouTube and me to explain prostitution, I pick me.
Part of supporting kids through hard stuff is being honest (in an age-appropriate way). While I try to avoid lying to E (as I know she’ll figure it out eventually and I want us to have a relationship that has a strong foundation of trust), I find it difficult to find truthful and acceptable alternatives to ‘we won’t let anything bad happen’, and the more innocent ‘I don’t know where that picture/bag/toy is’ (when it ended up in the bin during last night’s clean up)! This piece has prompted me to pay more attention to those moments duing my day where I have to make a choice about honesty.
This is my latest podcast discovery (thanks to Carly Findlay’s recommendation). I started with the latest episode (#14 – Best Friends Forever) and I’ve been thinking about it for days. It made me cry and reflect and filled me with gratitude for the wonderful friendships in my life. I’m now making my way through the back catalogue. Such a great podcast about love and loss and the hard and beautiful parts of being human.
Most of us, I think, have had this experience: behaving quite differently according to the people in the room at the time. With some people we feel in perpetual shadow; with others, the sunlight seems to angle in and we are aglow.
This piece by Richard Glover was published almost 5 years ago, but it’s one that I think and talk about often. This week it came up twice in conversations, so I thought it was worth sharing here too.
I feel a bit like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day at the moment – reliving an experience over and over until I’m finally able to reflect and learn some lesson. But instead of watching Punxsutawney Phil emerge from his hole, I just keep getting sick – over and over again!
In my quest to figure out the lesson, I’ve been thinking about ‘me’ and ‘my body’ and the connection (or lack thereof). I tend to think of my body as something that serves me – or that can fail me and let me down, and that something that is somehow separate from ‘me’. I don’t think that this is particularly uncommon. Just the way that we talk about someone’s relationship with their body implies some kind of distinction between the two. By definition, a ‘relationship’ requires a connection between two or more things. I’m not quite sure where this thinking will lead and I haven’t tied the ends together to make a neat and coherent answer, but I do wonder if I could be healthier and happier if I was able to integrate my body and physical health more with my sense of self.
When I’m sick I also do more mindless scrolling and Netflix viewing than reading, but I still found three things worth sharing this week…
Related to the above thinking about my physical health, I’ve also found myself asking ‘why?’. People who have worked with me will know that I’m always trying to analyse failures and improve systems/processes, so I’ve naturally being asking ‘what went wrong?, what could I have done to avoid this?’. It’s impossible to know for sure, but one of the possible answers I’ve come up with is sugar. In my subsequent Googling I came across this piece which reveals that glucose can dramatically impact the type of inflammation that different infections cause.
The increased light was making the algae grow faster, but they ended up containing fewer of the nutrients the zooplankton needed to thrive. By speeding up their growth, the researchers had essentially turned the algae into junk food. The zooplankton had plenty to eat, but their food was less nutritious, and so they were starving.
This is a long but fascinating (if rather depressing) read on the impact that increased carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are having on plants and the potential implications of this for human health. It also makes me wonder how we can get more smart people to solve problems that matter.
Teenage girls now live in a world where reality is warped by Instagram filters and Photoshop, where friends look like models and models feel like friends. They exist in a society that values ‘likes’ and ‘comments’, ‘follows’ and ‘shares’, one where beauty is defined by brands that profit from your insecurity.
So what does all this have to do with hiking? Everything. Because hiking can dismantle it all.
Although E is only 4 I already feel a little anxious about how best to support her through the social/emotional challenges of being a teenager! In recent years I’ve been noticing more and more just how beneficial walking in nature is for my own mental health, and I’ve loved beginning to share the joy of bushwalking with her (the 800m Koala Path at Tidbinbilla is one of her favourites and manageable for little legs without too much complaint!). This piece makes me feel excited and optimistic about continuing to build on our little nature strolls.