I’ve moved

Hello, lovely followers.

Just to let you know that I’ve recently moved blogs. You can now find me over at www.freefallinginto.com

Pop on over, see my new latest post and follow me on Blog lovin so you don’t miss out on anymore.

Bella

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I’ve Moved

Hello, lovely followers.

Just to let you know that I’ve recently moved blogs. You can now find me over at www.freefallinginto.com

Pop on over, see my new blog layout and follow me there.

Bella

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Workfest hosted by Mumsnet

Hello to all my blog followers.  I’ve just moved to a self hosted site so you’ll need to follow me at http://www.freefallinginto.com in order to keep getting my posts delivered to your inbox!  :)

I was very lucky to win a ticket to go to last Saturday’s Workfest hosted by Mumsnet at Bafta in London.

Although I won the ticket through my blog I was not under any obligation to blog about the event, drum up business or do any sort of sponsorship for it.  I am going to write about it though, because it was a very inspirational day and I picked up a more than a few tips that I’d like to pass on to you all.  As one of the keynote speakers said; “We are all in this together”!WorkFest-logo

I won’t pretend I wasn’t incredibly nervous about the day.  I didn’t really know what to expect and although I had pre-booked my breakout sessions I was thinking it was going to be a bit like an expo with lots of stands all trying to entice you in and sell their idea.  It couldn’t have been further from the truth and I think that’s why I was so pleasantly surprised.  I also thought I’d be a bit “billy no mates” as people would go in groups, but that also wasn’t the case. I would say that close to 100% of the delegates who attended, went alone. Which of course meant that every coffee break or the lunch break, was an opportunity to chat to the person sitting next to you, listening to their working life vs home life story and discuss our aspirations for the future.  At no point did I feel lonely or uncomfortable.

I arrived at around 9am for registration and coffee/tea and pastries.  This was my first opportunity to discover how lovely it was to be chatting to other working mums. Within 5 minutes I was talking to a woman who had a parallel life to mine, right down to the job she did and the people she managed. Bizarre!

We were then ushered into the Lecture theatre for the Welcome and Introduction and the Keynote Panel.  I didn’t take any notes as this was laying down the common issues we all face as working mums.  The Panel were made up of a pretty inspirational bunch of women, notably Lorraine Candy, Editor of Elle, who pointed out that production of the magazine had been altered to accommodate her hours.  Justine Roberts, CEO from Mumsnet, Sarah Brinkley who was a head teacher who has done all sorts of permeatations of part-time working, Karen Lynch, CEO of Belu, Amanda Mackenzie from Aviva and the Chair was Gaby Hinsliff who is a journalist and author.  They covered such topics as starting your own business with young children to the split of housework between both parents. “Share your housework.Stop emasculating men.Give them some power in raising their children.Share housework=better marriage”.  Something I am quite passionate about myself.  Not really sure why, in this day and age we are still doing the bulk of childcare and cleaning.

After the keynote panel we went into our Breakout sessions.  I went to the CV session but I could have also gone to “build your confidence” or “Running a franchise”.  I found the session really useful.  Here are some of my notes:

  • Keep your CV simple
  • On average it takes 45 seconds for someone to read your CV. That means sometimes it might be 20 seconds. Make sure that in those 45 seconds the points you want to get across are put across.  Ask a friend to read your CV and time them. Find out what they see. Move your CV around if the wrong things are being picked up.
  • Nowadays there is no need to put date of birth or marital status.  Keep your name and address and email on 3 lines maximum.  Don’t fill up the top quarter of your CV with a fancy, centrally aligned address.
  • Don’t put useless interests on there and if you do put interests on your CV, write around them.  Don’t put “reading” down.  Say “Reading thrillers when I get the chance”. That tells the reader you are busy and you like thrillers.  Lots of people “read”.
  • Personal statements aren’t highly regarded, especially when spoken about in the third person and “big upped”.  For example “Rachael is an exceptional Project Manager, with the skills to deliver….”  You’ve written it yourself. Of course you’re exceptional.   Better still to write around facts in your business history, pinpointing the challenges and achievements you’ve made.
  • If you can put a third dimension activity on your CV, all the better.  Charity work for example.  This can be very helpful if you’ve taken time off from work to raise children.  Keep your hand in doing something, so there is no gap in your CV.
  • If you have a degree, put that in first on education.  Don’t mention A levels or GCSEs.  If you don’t have a degree, don’t have an education section.
  • Latest employment is always first!
  • Keep your CV to one page

We then had a morning break, more chat and then off to my second breakout session.  I went to Personal Branding with Zena Everett but there was another “Build your confidence” session and “Get Ready for Business” which was run by Barclays, one of the sponsors of the day.

My session was very helpful and dovetailed beautifully with the CV one.  It focussed on remembering that you are a brand and you project that brand onto others, so you need to work out what you want to project before hand.    She says “Stop LOOKING for work. Create an opportunity”. 20% of all jobs are advertised, including through recruitment agencies. That means 80% of openings are created or managed via companies being approached directly.

  • There were 4 key things to bear in mind and unfortunately I only scribbled down 3, but these were “be visibly good at your job”, “Have a good reputation in your own job”, “Project a good reputation outwardly to others too”.  You can do this via linkedin, this is used a lot by employers.  By keeping your CV up to date on Linkedin, you are doing all of the above, reminding your current employer about how good you are too, so don’t feel you will look like you are touting for a new job.
  • Be specific about what you can do for an employer / client and do people favours. If you do favours for other people, they will do the same for you.  You never know, that might be a job in the future.
  • On average employers receive 300 CV’s per job, they need to cull, so if you apply to a job that requires a qualification you don’t have, don’t bother.  They won’t read through your CV to find out what other skills you have.  However, you may find a way to create the skill based on what you do now, so think outside the box.  If they ask for communication skills, demonstrate this.
  • Write this out, fill it in, memorise it and use it in interviews: “I am a person who can…………and…………and………..  I am looking for an organisation that is/needs/does……………….. and…………………………………….
  • CV is a marketing piece.  Sell yourself!

I noted much more, but don’t want to write it all down here.

After a really lovely hot lunch and an opportunity to win a new car by doing an “elevator pitch” with Honda (which was lots of fun to do after I got over my nerves), I went to “Taking the Plunge” but also available was “Returning to work” and “Build your confidence”.

Taking the plunge was chaired by Carol Smillie who had recently started her own business and she was so slick and perfect in the role of chair, the whole Panel discussion worked really well.  We had Lynne Franks from SEED (the inspiration for Eddy in AbFab), Kate Hardcastle, Katie Powell and Gemma Payne.  Perfect split of experience and new businesses.  Gemma ran a small craft business from her house.  I quite liked the idea of this workshop even though I have no immediate plans to start my own business.  Here are some gems from the discussion:

  • Make sure you have a good business plan, even if it’s just a single A4 page scribbled with info about projections, margins and marketing plans, what is your product?  Market research is essential.
  • Find a mentor. Banks will often help you create a business plan.  There are a lot of mentoring websites that will hook you up with someone, but perhaps you have a friend who runs a business and you can use them
  • Get a business idea that fits around your life.
  • Do a wishlist but accept you won’t get all of it.
  • It is difficult but not impossible to run a business alongside your day job
  • Be strict about your working hours, be flexible but when you are with your children, don’t dip in and out of work.
  • It can be isolating running your own business so focus on your confidence levels and keep reminding yourself what an amazing job you are doing.
  • Don’t be afraid of failure.  Making mistakes is a learning opportunity.
  • Set small targets and congratulate yourself at every stage as you climb your “Everest”.

I took so many more notes, but can’t share them all here.  I found this the best session of the day!

My final breakout session was the weakest.  It was about online marketing and spent a lot of time explaining google ads (which I guess, I now understand) but I thought was too detailed.  Then a bit about creating a Facebook page for your business (did you know you can sell from that page? for Free?  I didn’t).  Overall though I found this information too simple.  I didn’t take as much from this session as I had hoped, but I’m sure there is a need to have a session like this. Maybe one for beginners and those that already have their own business.  I’m sure some people found it very useful.

We then had 2 Keynote speeches at the end.  The first one was by Thomasina Miers who was a masterchef winner and runs 9 restaurants. Her story was very interesting and inspirational.  She reminded us that it’s all hard graft and that we should always ask for help when we need it. As embarrassing or awkward as it is, it will always push you on.  My favourite comment from her was “As mothers we know what it’s like to get everyone’s shit together”.  That makes us good at business!

Last Keynote was supposed to be James Caan, but he couldn’t make it as he had a family emergency so Yasmina Siadatan did it.  She is currently in partnership with James but had previously been a winner of the Apprentice.  Her story was great and she was a natural presenter.  She ended by explaining the company “Start up Loans” was setup to receive money from the government to give to new businesses. It currently gives to new businesses run by 18-30 year olds but will shortly have that age gap lifted and it will be open to everyone.

Overall Workfest was brilliant. It was inspirational and informative and the opportunity to speak to other mums in a similar situation as me was fab.  I got talking to another ticket winner at lunchtime who admitted (like me) that she hadn’t planned to come and pay for a ticket because she was still trying to figure out what she wanted.  What we both agreed was that this was the perfect time to visit an event like this because it helped us to start to formulate that plan.  For that reason I would recommend an event like this to anyone who is unhappy with their current work life balance, but can’t quite work out what they do want!  I’ve already started to think about possible businesses I might like to run and I didn’t even know I wanted to run my own business.

Next year’s Workfest?  Bring it on!!

 

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For My Sanity

I was at Mumsnet WorkFest on Saturday and it was a very inspirational and interesting event aimed at mothers returning to work after a career break or maternity leave, wanting to look for another job or starting their own business. I’ll be blogging about it shortly. 

One of the discussions that came up during the introduction was the topic of finding time to do things for yourself.  For one of the panel she always made time for running, that was her “me” time.  For the other 5 on stage, they admitted that juggling a family and work was keeping them busy enough for the time being.  One person admitted that they weren’t really thinking about hobbies at this age and imagined they would be off in a villa somewhere painting and doing poetry when they retire.

 As many of my regular readers know, I have gone on a bit of a mission in my life to try as many things as I can. I have the philosophy of “don’t put off tomorrow what you could be doing today”.  You never really know what is around the corner so you really do have to seize the day.  It’s why I created the joy jar.  Anyway, I really stepped it up when I turned 40, my little midlife crisis, as I became more and more aware of time slipping away.  I don’t think I’ve got the time to keep putting things off forever.  I made a decision that I was going to start to make time to ensure I was happy as well and I was going to try and do all the things I’ve quite fancied trying.  The only issue being I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. 

 I’ve done my half marathons now (pre dodgy knees) and I have my Psychology degree under my belt (graduated the month after I turned 40) and so I set my eyes on having a go at blogging and here it is.  More enjoyable than I ever dreamed but most importantly constantly pushing me on to try things, improve my wardrobe, seek out new makeup and generally be more positive about getting older.

 What I really wanted to try was painting and I previously blogged about this so I won’t go into the details of why, now.  Suffice to say I have done 6 weeks (on and off, brilliantly I was able to roll over days if I couldn’t make it) and I loved every minute of it.  I think I got very lucky with the teacher and the way she ran her business.  It was very often one on one tutoring and about half the lessons there was one other person there, usually more advanced than me.  She hovered a bit on day 1, hovered less on day 2 and then went about doing her own painting either alongside me or in her other studio, popping in every 10-20 minutes to offer guidance where necessary.

 I had to start from the beginning. Apart from a few recent sketches in a moleskin pad that I’d started at the beginning of the year I had not done anything remotely artistic since I was 16 and that was at school.  I didn’t show a particular flair for it either, I remember quite enjoying it but not being very passionate about it.  As I’ve said, my sister was the one labelled “creative”.  She started by making me sketch cups mostly.  Lots of the buggers.  So sick of cups and mugs.  However, she said they are the hardest thing to get right (those ellipses at the top are tricky sods) and it is a good solid ground for learning shading.  So I sketched about 4 mugs over around 3 of my lessons.  We then moved to the paints.  I painted one mug with acrylics which was enjoyable. I liked what I’d done. It wasn’t spectacular but I was pleased at my detailed painting and the shading inside the mug.  When you paint, you don’t have to be true to the colours you are painting so for me, that was the hardest part.  Accepting that a cream mug, needn’t be cream if the overall picture suffered as a result and that I could experiment with different colours, shade in different colours, bring a random colour in, was very freeing but also petrifying in places. She picked up on my particular style of painting and suggested oil paints to aid with blending, so I progressed to those.

 Some nights I was so tired I would get a bit fed up, especially when things weren’t going to plan.  Some nights I was just switched on and time flew, I enjoyed the process and I was pleased with what I had done.

 So now I’m done. I did two little paintings that I worked on in the last 3 weeks or so.   I was going to buy a canvas and pick a subject I could paint, but my teacher has decided to take some time out from painting and her classes as she is in the throes of becoming a guardian to her sister’s daughter and so I will have to go it alone through the summer until she decides to return.

 So I think I’m going to take the plunge.  Buy a canvas, buy some oil paints and all the bits and bobs that go with it (brushes, white spirit, oil mix) and see how I am going to fit it into my home life.  I’m actually going to have to give this a lot of thought, because it’s all fine and well heading off to a purpose built studio on a Monday night, but I’m not sure I’d have the discipline to do that at home.

 Who knew, hey.  I not only enjoyed it but according to my teacher I am a bit of a natural.  The lesson : Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today, you never know what talents lie beneath.

My painting…..not perfect, but I’m a little bit proud of it.

painting

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Visiting with gifts

You’re about to visit a friend for lunch who lives about 2 hours away.  What do you take?  What’s the etiquette for gift giving?  I’m asking genuinely because I have no idea!

We have some new friends who we have met through my husbands work.  They live quite a way away so when we visit each other we tend to stay over.  When they come to visit us we receive a bottle or two of wine, flowers or a potted plant, a gift for Pickle and a gift for The Monster.  To me, that feels a bit overkill.  It’s a lovely gesture, but is that really the norm?  We see each other about 2 or 3 times a year, so maybe that’s the criteria.

3 x visits + 2 hours journey + overnight stay = 4 gifts

Of course what it means is that every time we visit them I have to find a similar number of gifts.  A sticker book or book or small dinosaur for their child and some flowers and wine for them.  Still, I’m not doing it because I want to, I’m doing it because I always try to match the recipient previous gesture.gifts for visitin

We have other friends who live about 45 minutes away.  We don’t see them that often, maybe twice a year despite their proximity.  We usually get invited to their first bbq of the year, the only invitees, for a proper catch up.  When we visit them for lunch we take a bottle of wine.  That’s it!  When they visit us I think they give the same. Maybe once or twice I’ve got flowers. I really can’t remember.  I guess we’ve known them a long time.

2 x visits + 45 min journey + old friends = 1 gift

Then I have a friend nearby and we try to catch weekly or fortnightly. Our daughters are friends as well, both parents went to secondary school with my husband and it takes 10 minutes to get there.  We don’t give them anything, except if they are hosting dinner or lunch and then it’s a bottle of wine. Occasionally the visitor brings dessert to the others house.

40 x visits + 10 min journey + old friends = no gifts

So, it got me thinking.  What is the etiquette for gift giving when visiting people. Is it really something that you can work out mathematically?  If I’m doing the first visiting and we aren’t there for a meal, we generally take nothing, unless it’s a housewarming and we probably take a pot plant or something similar.  Then what happens is they visit us with gifts for our children, something for me and I end up feeling a bit guilty, make a mental note and copy them for the next visit.  It shouldn’t really work like that, though, surely?  When did arriving with copious volumes of gifts become so normal?

I’m visiting a work colleague on Sunday. I see him every day at work but we only visit each other about once a year.  They had a baby in February and this will be the first time I’ve visited them since.  I’ve given them a card and present for their daughter’s arrival, but as they arrive at ours with a gift for me and gifts for my children, I HAVE to arrive at theirs with similar. So I have reluctantly bought their children a book each and will take 2 of my tomato plants over.  That’s alright isn’t it?  That’s acceptable? We aren’t going for lunch.

When did this become so darn difficult?  Am I the only with complicated gift giving when visiting?

Posted in Age, Relationships, Socialising | Tagged , | 12 Comments

What’s in a Name or… Telling My Husband I Blog

So, what’s in a name?  Well a lot apparently!  Especially when you have the opportunity to change your name.

 I’m talking blog name of course. I’m planning on going self hosted shortly (paying for my page and getting a personal URL) and so I have this little window of opportunity to sneak in a name change if I so wish. I’m very tempted.

 You see, as well as taking this momentous decision to move to self hosted I decided to come clean to the hubby about my blogging.

I KNOW!

It only took 18 months. To be honest, it’s a huge weight off my mind and he took it very well, partly because I was mumbling along trying to find the right words and mentioned something about the laptop and he thought I’d broken it, so to discover I hadn’t, made the impact of my secrecy seem very tame.  He didn’t ask that many questions but I did keep talking about it to make sure he understood what I was saying. He was cool about it. Didn’t seem overly concerned. Didn’t ask for my blog name.  A little later on in the day he didn’t admit to wondering what I blogged about, so I told him the content of the last 3 posts I had done. He was ok about it.  I guess time will tell.

 So, back to my name.  I spent an exceedingly long time picking the one I have now, which sound ridiculous.  I was trying to think of something I could abbreviate and use as my name as well when I was signing off, so Freefalling into 40 (FFF) sounded good. freefallingAs it turned out, I ended up signing off as “the 40 year old” so I’ve never used the shortened version. 

 The name sort of summed up how I felt though.  Like a runaway train, I couldn’t stop my 40′s from happening and it’s kind of a freeing up feeling, free falling.  It’s fun and scary and exhilariting.

 Now, do I want to change it? 

 I was thinking of switching it to just Freefallinginto  or just Freefalling and then doing something with the header to include “40″ and then in time (if I should hang about blogging that long) I could change it to 50 or ……..god forbid 60!!! What would I be blogging then?  Information about pensions and bunions?

 Who am I kidding, I’m not far from those topics now!

 So, is that a good idea?

 Or should I COMPLETELY change my name?  Any suggestions welcome. I’ve come up with these rather limp options (none of which I’ve checked):

  •  Fortyandbeyond
  • Beyond40 or BeyondForty
  • Past it
  • AgeingFabulously
  • Runawayage
  • NoFearAfter40
  • FearingForty
  • MidlifeMusings

 Your help would be gratefully received.  Like my current name?  Or fancy one of the new ones?

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OCD and Me

I’m not really OCD. I don’t think I am, well, not since I was a teenager and had to position things in my room a particular way before I could sleep, or had to tap the door 6 times otherwise something bad would happen to me.

From a cleaning point of view, as a teenager, I was responsible for cleaning the bathroom I shared with my sister. Rather than “actually” clean it, which would have taken less time, I chose to sit on the floor of the bathroom with the door shut for 20 minutes and do absolutely nothing then 5 minutes before leaving, spray the entire bathroom with a fine water mist.  What the….?

Since then I’ve maintained that level of slack. In my 20′s one might say A LOT of slack.  I certainly didn’t need order in my life, or a bacteria free room.  I could have quite happily had a colony of super strain viruses multiplying under several layers of clothes and magazines in the middle of my bedroom floor and not care enough to tidy and clean it up.

In my 30′s I got my first home and I was inviting people around to it.  So I did care.  A bit more.  I got a new bathroom so the incentive to keep it clean was there, I needed to maintain its whiteness and I did.  I did what I could in that little 2 bed terrace and it was the tidiest and cleanest I’d EVER been.  At one stage after my knees flared up with my condition (AS) I hired a cleaner to come once a week.  It was bliss. I was really starting to see how nice it was to have a clean, tidy house.  My anxiety levels dropped significantly when I could find everything and could come home from work and not need to do any tidying.

So, here I am in my 40′s and cleaning and tidying have become a bit of an obsession. I’m not sure exactly where it’s come from.  I think, maybe, from having so much stuff with the kids or maybe my anxiety levels have gone up with the juggling act of children, work and theirs and ours social life.  DSC_0195At any rate I am guaranteed to be in a bad mood if the kitchen island unit has clutter on it, if the lounge has a few toys scattered over it (and aren’t being played with) or if there is more stuff ON the hallway cabinet than IN it.   Hubby only has to open his mouth and I begin a tirade of abuse, not necessarily about the mess, but about something unrelated, but no doubt triggered by it.

As soon as I spend 40 minutes collecting everything up, popping them back where they belong, running the carpet sweeper over the rug, sweeping up the dirt, food and rubbish on our floor and then disinfecting the island unit, I’m suddenly overwhelmed with joy.  I’m relaxed. I’m happy.  Life is good again.

Where the hell has that come from?  What has triggered this degree of inner happiness over a few clean surfaces?  Whatever it is it is both a curse and a joy.  Never have I had such an incentive to get things clean and tidy before and never have I realised how much the saying “A tidy house, a tidy mind” was true.  It has become such an incentive for me to be happy that I would kill myself to try to get as many jobs done on a Thursday evening before the kids bed, so I had less to do on the Friday and could just get up and smile at the kitchen and floor.  Yes…. I smile at it!!

Next step is to hire a cleaner. I’m hoping for a mini pay rise at the end of June and this will be by cue to finally get one for this rather large house.  It will help me to keep on top of tidying (specifically upstairs, where my OCD doesn’t affect me as much because I don’t spend as much time up there) and once a fortnight I can experience that wonderful “sigh” as I walk into a house that has been cleaned to within an inch of its life.

Have you changed since your 20′s?  Always been a cleaning freak?  Obsessed with storage?  Would love to know how it affects you.

Posted in Age, Children, Mental Health | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments