Process versus people

I am an organised person, I like lists, I like thinking through processes.  But the more I think about it, the more I realise that I don’t get any energy from that part of my work and play.  It’s the people part that I love.

Last week was a combination of work meetings and evening meetings for various volunteer roles and little time in between.  I was filled with a rising sense of panic that all the many meetings I have attended this month have needed some process before and afterwards, but  I couldn’t find the time for the process.

I possibly don’t plan for the process, but will always say yes to a meeting.  Why?  Someone said on Thursday “it’s all about just sitting down for a chat and listening to each other”.  It really is, isn’t it?  I have met so many genuinely interesting people, with interests, skills and expertise so far removed from mine.  I find it fascinating and energising and I am a bit addicted to “just having a chat”.

The week culminated in a lovely day of “Just chats”, one with a colleague in an informal meeting, just chatting about stuff at work.  It was potentially the most productive meeting of the week.  Swiftly followed by just chatting with offspring about how the week had gone, which led to a bit of a light bulb moment for me. Then a bottle of wine and a chat led to some other ideas of future projects.  And culminating with a meal and chat with the husband I have barely seen this weekend, which prompted some other plans.

So many thoughts and ideas and plans.  Now I just need to focus on the process to make them happen.  If you are waiting for an email from me, I am spending the weekend catching up, but do feel free to nudge me.  Plenty of good intentions here, but you know what they say about good intentions.  And if anyone suggests a meeting, you know I’d much prefer that to an email.

None of my meetings looked quite this hip.  But that should be a goal?


Blogging on demand

I am having trouble writing about anything but yesterday’s St George’s Day Parade for my local Scout District.  I volunteer in the background of Scouting as a trustee and so have got to know some of the other trustees and leaders in the area.  Some of whom read this blog. One group’s farewell was “we want to read about this in tomorrow’s blog”.

But it’s not just my need to obey orders (subject of another blog?), but actually it was a really fun morning.  The beauty of Scouts, or any volunteering in any community group, is feeling part of a community.  Being recognised, being greeted, feeling a part of something.

Yesterday about 400-500 Scouts and their volunteer leaders all paraded around Cannon Hill Park, possibly my favourite place in Birmingham.  There was a real feeling of community, amongst young people and all their accompanying leaders and parents.  The whole thing is supported by a brilliant tech team, who just get on with their roles of setting up sound systems with great humour (and demand blogs) and a great team of organisers creating a day where young people really get to shine.

Young people led the celebration, it’s a cliché I know, but whatever else is happening in the world, watching two young people speak clearly, confidently and incredibly well in public – from a bandstand in a park for goodness sake, with hundreds of people watching and potentially hundreds more in the park hearing it – is a huge hope for the world.  Those two young people are out there being a positive part of their local community.  They are world changers.  As is everyone who goes out on a Sunday morning wearing a uniform to parade around a park on a Saints’ Day, just because they want to celebrate their community (St George is the patron saint of Scouting) which is built on the premise of helping each other and having fun whilst doing it.  My fervent hope is that community grows, involving more young people in South Birmingham, coming together, having fun, changing the world.  All are very welcome.


PS I keep repeating ‘volunteer’, as it amazes me how many people are very aware of Scouting, often their children attend groups, but still think the leaders are paid – they are not.  None of them.


Family connections

I am always intrigued by families, many of us, maybe even most of us, tend to speak about the strangeness of our families, or the unusual connections between different members of the families.  So much so that I tend to doubt the existence of the so-called normal family.  It’s not to be found in my life anyway.

For a whole complex variety of reasons, I have only recently met my extended maternal family, sadly it was instigated in the first instance by a funeral after the sad death at a young age of my cousin, may he rest in peace.

That funeral opened connections, and those connections continued thanks in a large part to social media platforms.

Happily, there are weddings also bringing us together, and yesterday was the second of those.  I am fascinated to discover shared family traits and a whole history I didn’t know about.  It’s a wonderful adventure to learn more about cousins – what their tastes are, what their jobs are and so on.

I am intrigued by my need to find shared traits though, I made it to my mid-forties not knowing if our need to get up early is a family thing – it is.  Or if a stubborn insistence in some of my immediate family to challenge authority is a maternal or paternal heritage – maternal it seems. But listening to stories of cousins and aunts and uncles, I am keen to find patterns.  I want to find me in the stories and the faces.

But much more than being intrigued, I am overwhelmed by their welcome to me.  And looking forward to forging more connections and finding more family links.   Now I need to organise a family party I think. I think it could be chaotic, I know it will be loud (that is definitely maternal heritage), but I am also sure that it will be great fun.

Here’s to family.

I have regaled with tales of canals, not peaceful green canals, way more Peaky Blinders.

De-booking the house

I can hear the cries of outrage from two friends in particular as I write this (not sure they will read it, but I know they will feel so strongly, that they will sense this anyway).   I intend clearing book shelves this afternoon.

I am very much loving reading at the moment, really loving it.  I suspect one of the reasons is that I am also not buying new books.  I have a habit of heading into a bookshop and buying various books, which I have no plans to read right now, in fact sometimes I wonder why I ever bought them, as I can’t foresee ever having a plan to read them.  Amazon is even worse for this.  Someone recommends a book and it appears like magic in my home the next day.

At the moment I am borrowing lots from the library and a couple from friends.  I am listening to a few on Audible, which is even more magic than Amazon, but I share my allocation of credits with the whole family, so that gives me pause before ordering.

I have even bought a couple of Kindle books, just because they were very cheap.  And I read them immediately.

The ones on the shelf are not helping me love reading though.  I’m not sure I have that many books in total, definitely not compared to some.  But I am sure I have a higher proportion of unread books.  My brain seems to think that buying a book is the job done, I never bother to read it.

I borrowed Marie Kondo’s Magic Tidying Up Book (that is not its actual title, this is the version that has lodged itself in my brain): the book is a fascinating insight either into Japanese culture (I quizzed a friend on that) or a fantasy world; it did not really inspire me to origami my clothes, or to start talking to my handbag.  What it did do was give me the confidence to know that I really do not need to keep things that do not serve a proper purpose. That is greatly adapted as Kondo only keeps things that spark joy.   A sense of purpose is enough for me, but where I am in agreement with Kondo, a sense of “but I really ought to read that someday because…” is not.  What I did love about the book was the mindfulness of choosing what to keep, of having your home filled with stuff you have chosen and therefore treasure, not just things that we acquire.

So, book clearing it is. Hopefully it will inspire me to read more of the books in the house. And the resulting left overs will be sold to raise funds for CAFODin a couple of weeks’ time.  If you have any books to donate to the sale…


Taking it even sloooower

Sometimes stuff just does not go to plan, or at least not to the plan that was forefront in my planning brain.  Easter is full of pretty frocks, warm spring sunshine, egg hunts in the garden and lots of fizz. Right?

It’s not a weekend of mud and rain and cold.  The plan does not include the extended family being struck down one by one with a vicious lurgy.  Nor is it a weekend when one realises that having given it up for Lent, one’s tolerance for prosecco is about zero and for red wine, only marginally better.

The saving grace this weekend – my beloved resolution to go slower.  A long weekend of snuggles on sofas watching movies, naps in whatever bed we can find free, gentle dog walks instead of muddy hikes, less wine but more tea is what we are enjoying.  And, you know what, that fits right in with what I had planned overall this year. Hopefully, as I am not particularly bothered that the original plans have not come to fruition, no one else really minds either.  Well, apart from those who are poorly of course, it does indeed feel a bit rotten for them.  And I have had to postpone the traditional Wii Just Dance fest to later in the week when I am feeling more able to keep up with my niece.

My resolutions for this quarter were getting a bit less slow to be honest, this weekend is a reminder to dial it all back again.  I think I need to add a resolution to watch loads of kids’ films.  Challenge on.


In need of sunshine

I read a great line yesterday about snow in late March no longer feeling like weather, but more like a personal attack.  The sentiment does ring true now.  There is a running joke in the family that every time we pack away the thermal layers it snows.  Yesterday, they were put back into their cupboard and an hour later the Met Office issued a yellow warning for snow on Monday.

Today, Good Friday, is traditionally a clear-up-the-garden day in our house, so we can be ready for the weekend’s visitors and lovely hours spent sitting in the gentle spring sunshine on the patio chairs, all newly brushed down, whilst the children rush around finding eggs.  Well that is what happens in my head anyway.

Instead, we are checking weather reports and challenging my planning abilities.

Fortunately, we always have a wet weather alternative, and although I am relinquishing day dreams of Sunday afternoon spent on the patio sipping prosecco whilst the youngsters entertain each other by hunting eggs, we will of course have fun.

Meanwhile, I have memories of a glorious warm sunny spring day last weekend, which felt like it topped up fuel reserves for a few weeks.  I am continuing taking Vitamin D and getting outside as much as I possibly can.  My other tactic is booking camping trips, that always gives me hope that summer is inevitable.

And I possibly ought to remember that it is just weather, it’s not a personal attack at all.


Putting rest on the list

I had a chat with a colleague earlier this week who was struggling with finding balance to deal with illness and work and family, and well, we know the feeling I would say.  I suggested she put resting on her to do list for the weekends.  There was a surprised silence as this had never occurred to her.  Of course I don’t always put the word ”rest” into the weekend plan, but when I know I have a bit of a hectic time in work or an upcoming event, or whatever it may be that will leave me feeling a bit frazzled, I do plan the downtime too.  Sometimes that is literally putting “have a nap” on the list, I am comfortable with being the only person on the planet who adds napping to her to do list, it works for me.  I like feeling intentional about resting, it is something I really want to do and feel is important.

The usual one that I add into the list is reading.  I am a member of two book groups and also use the library lots, so deadlines and reading seem to go together.  I feel wonderfully justified in having “finish Marie Kondo by Saturday” on the to-do list, otherwise I may get charged an overdue fee.  Heavens forefend!

This week though I have a self-imposed deadline.   I discovered that I have read 10 books so far this year, which is more than I expected, but of course it makes a neater pattern of three per month if I could fit in another couple this week.  So that is my focus for the week – two more books.  One on audio, a self-help style non-fiction: Shawn Achor’s Big Potential and on the Kindle (it’s been a long while since I used it) a light read, lots of fun and easy to have as an alternative to TV: The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star in the delightfully silly detective series by Vaseem Khan.

It feels like a wonderfully productive way to ensure I sit down for a bit every day,  or encouraging me to go to bed a bit earlier to fit in some reading time.  I have a fair amount of driving and bus travelling to do this week, so the audio book soothes some of the traffic stress.

If I can get them read, I will be chuffed with 12 books in the first quarter of 2018.


Here’s to a weekend of success

In any context where you are trying to change something – losing weight and getting fit are the ones that spring to mind – you are generally encouraged to make your intentions known, to be as public as possible, so that you have an accountability measure in place.

I am not sure that works.  I mean, we are all generally very polite.  I know to my health cost that no one I know would ever say “ummm Abigail, that is your third chocolate biscuit in ten minutes you may have now exceeded recommend calorie intake for today”.  I thank you for not saying it, my waistline is mine, keeping judgements to yourself is highly appreciated.

But I can totally see why people reach out for that support, knowing that you are not in a solo battle with your own willpower is helpful indeed.

I know there is some cynicism about folk having a social media presence which makes them out to be eating only green foods and running a marathon every weekend, but I, for one think it’s great.

Keep posting your weight losses, your miles run this year, your pbs over 5k, the hours you have spent meditating, the number of books you have read, the distance you have covered with an injured knee, the artwork you have created, the allotment produce you have grown, and most of all your beautiful dogs, cats and children.  I love it.  I love your success and I love celebrating it with you virtually.

Creating good habits in what is an unhealthy world is hard.  The negative judgement is within us and around us.  We are all being the best we can be and let’s keep celebrating that.

Here’s to a weekend of sharing the successes. Just so you know, my aim is to sleep 26 hours between Friday evening and Monday morning.  I’ll keep you posted on progress: 7/26 done so far.

not my cat, not my photo