Sunday, 3 January 2016

All Things New

This photo means a lot to me. I took it one morning at the beach just after a hard 45 minute fit camp session.  It was to be a glorious spring day, but was still a little chilly at 6.45am when I got out my phone and took a series of three photos so I could catch the exact moment the sun burst into the sky signifying a new dawn, a new opportunity to make it the best day it can be.

Last year I learnt a lot about myself, good and bad. I also learned to appreciate what I have, which made me realise that I am extremely fortunate, and always have been. Every day I write something in my journal to remind me of this.

I also took stock of my stressful work situation and with the support of my wonderful husband decided to take a chance and put into practice something I'd wanted to do for years. Start a training business based on my coaching and creative experience.  Little did I know that for weeks afterwards my head would be spinning with ideas, and more ideas as I planned and completed online courses to help me understand marketing and social media and art classes to rejuvenate my creativity.

Being in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance allowed me to access a business mentor who gave me information and guidance in the early stages.  I put together a business plan, which when authorised would allow me to access a business grant for the first six months of the business.  It's not a huge amount but better than nothing as I find my feet.

I delayed the launch due to Christmas, assuming that most people would be far too busy with other things to take much notice of what I had to offer.  This was beneficial as it gave me a little more time to create resources and also relax and enjoy the festivities, although I still found time to decorate and move all my art and craft supplies into the spare room which became my cosy workroom.

the new workroom - complete with whippet 

On New Year's Eve I looked back over the year with relief that I no longer felt the fear of dread I had last year at the thought of going back to work. In fact it was the opposite. I can't wait for the new 'working' year to begin so I can start making calls and talking to people about my training. I launched the website and advertised my first workshop via social media. I already have enough people for a Bullet Journal Workshop.

I am so excited about what lies ahead.  I'm not naiive enough to think I'm going to be inundated with requests for my courses as I know it will take a lot of hard work, self belief and perseverence to make it sucessful.  I also want to get a part time job doing something where I can turn up, do my job and go home without taking the job with me.  Something with flexible hours so I can plan coaching and training around it.

my 'Happy New Me' sketch 

The money will be helpful and I need to have something to do to connect with other people. Working at home has it's advantages but I missed the physical and verbal interaction with others in a workplace and got far too comfortable slobbing around in my hoodie and trackies.

So, my alarm will go off at 5am tomorrow morning. I will struggle into my gym gear and drive off in the blackness for the first fit camp of the year. I'll huff and puff through the session but feel totally invigorated afterwards and totally motivated to kick start healthy eating and daily goals.  Sometimes we need the excesses of Christmas to remind ourselves how much better we feel when we are eating better and focused on our health.

Tomorrow, in my workroom I will start my new job as Owner/Manager/Administrator/Marketing person for Green Hat Coaching.  How cool is that?

My hand drawn logo
I have always believed that life is too short to be miserable. You have no idea what fate has in store for you but unless you go out there and give things a go, you will never know what you could have achieved.

Of course I'd not be doing my job if I didn't post the link to my website and encourage you to have a look, add it to your favourites and share with your friends and colleagues. It's so new you can still smell the paint - but it is going to develop and grow with new content, new courses and creative ideas for everyone to try.

A very HAPPY and HEALTHY NEW YEAR to you all.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Doo-ing a Doodle

One of mine
One of my earliest childhood memories is of being severely told off by my parents for scribbling with wax crayon on the hall wall. It was followed not long afterwards by another for doing the same on the back of my Mum’s suede jacket as she sat asleep in the car on the long journey to see my grandparents. I’m not sure if at that point they actually realised that I was going to be quite good at art in the future, but I did point it out to them whenever they told the story.

Large telephone directories got a lot of use in our house. Luckily we received two each year, meaning more space for me to doodle on while spending hours chatting to friends in the days before mobile phones. My Dad would be cross when he couldn’t find the important number he had written down because of the flourishes and swirls that had camouflaged it since.

In the years that followed, I was occasionally reprimanded during training sessions, meetings and other times when forced to sit still and listen. Covering the edges of the meeting notes, agenda or anything else that lent itself to doodling.  Looking back, I could have been forgiven for thinking that Doodling is nothing but trouble but it didn't stop me.

There are those among us that are fantastic listeners, who can sit for hours, undistracted and then take away pages of well written notes or information from a lecture or meeting, and recall it all weeks later.  Then there are people like me who can’t. 

Meeting doodles
Present me with pictures, video, slides and activities and I’ll give listening a good shot. Talk at me and I’m away to some distant place within fifteen minutes. My eyes glaze over and the fact that my oven is in desperate need of cleaning becomes far more interesting. I’m not an auditory learner at all. Give me a nice pen or pencil, a piece of paper and I am likely to sit and listen for the duration because I can distract myself from the state of my oven or shopping list by doodling.  

There has been a lot of research into this over the last few years, all indicating that listening and doodling are suited to each other and help us to engage ‘executive’ skills such as planning, multi-tasking and processing.  Making you more receptive to the information being given and also remembering it afterwards even though the doodles may have no relation to what you are being told. 

Doodling can also help release creativity. Artists having a creative block can come up with new ideas after ‘mindlessly’ doodling and reflecting on where they are or events they have experienced. It allows you to forget about a problem but at the same time may give you the answer of how to solve it. 

The recent popularity of adult colouring books have brought back the feeling of contentment we all had while children of sitting at the table with a big colouring book and collection of pencils.  Life has become so fast paced now that we have forgotten how to stop and take ourselves away for a few minutes to relax and unwind. We need to learn to do this for our health and sanity, but often comes way down on the list of 'Things to Do'. Unless of course you doodle while compiling the list itself.

Colouring in progress
Of course with fads and trends comes pressure of its own. I have seen people on social media flaunting their personal collection of dozens of colouring books and pen sets basically saying…”I’m richer, more dedicated, better than you”. This worries me because the whole point  of doodling is to be yourself, allow yourself to draw or colour in your own style so that you gain peace and clarification while doing so. It’s not about how many Mandala books you can complete each week or how aesthetically pleasing your doodling is. It’s the process of doing it that is important. One thoroughly enjoyable book and a handful of pens will have exactly the same effect.

I love this doodle
For a while now I have been torn between using pen and paper or the latest ‘app’ to draw and make notes.  I love proper notebooks, and nice pens, but I also like technology and having access to all my work on different devices.  I’m typing this on Evernote, so I can edit it on my laptop, iPad or phone and then post it to my blog with lovely images for worldwide publication when ready.  The alternative is to hand write it in a journal that will get out away somewhere eventually and probably never to be read again. 

The ease of writing and creating electronically makes life so much more efficient, but without the physical satisfaction of holding a pen in your hand. Oh I have a stylus, or three but they aren’t the same. I began to realise that there is room for both in my life. That I use the creative power of doodling and drawing to help me with ideas and plans for what I’m going to type. I feel the need to purchase an Evernote Moleskine Notebook so I can write and draw by hand and then upload electronically, especially now I am forced to use my creative and planning skills in my new venture.  That in itself is liberating. 

Evernote Moleskine Notebook 

Monday, 12 October 2015

For the Record

One of my first LP's

For some time now husband has been wittering on about getting his beloved Arcam Hi-Fi system out of storage in the garage. When we moved we didn't really have the space in the sitting room so opted for a Sonos system dotted around the house - which is fantastic I might add.  The first port of call had to be for new speakers, as the previous ones had got damaged in the last house move. So one day I came home to find the room scattered with speakers, cardboard boxes and husband chuntering under his breath at the shortage of cable.  Eventually they were connected to the rest of his gadgetry storing hundreds of songs and tested by playing Santana and Fairport Convention - loudly.

Happy as a pig, he spent the next couple of weeks playing all his favourites, absorbed in nostalgia and the quality of digital sound.

Then came the suggestion of a turntable. Oh and surprisingly there was a really good one on Gumtree and was local! It would be daft not to! So it was only a matter of time until we would be out buying records. Another coincidence that there was a record fair on in Newcastle the very next day. 

Fortunately the two boys were being entertained elsewhere and we had a rare day to ourselves. We braved the hordes of Scots and South African rugby fans invading Newcastle centre and paid our two pounds entry fee. 

Music has always been a big part of my life. Dad loved it, Mum hated it, but tolerated it as long as nothing was played while she was in the room.  It was Dad who agreed to me getting my own record player for my birthday.

Mine was something like this

I can still smell the vinyl and plastic aroma that you got when playing one of these, the clunk as the arm swung over and the next single dropped down seconds before the crackle and hiss started.

I remember getting record tokens for christmas and buying these. It was years later that I realised they weren't the original artists!

Put them away dear!

We moved on to more advanced technology a few years later and when Dad treated us to a new Hi-Fi system. 

all hi tech in our house

It was about the same time as Punk rock appeared and I really got into music.  I worked in Ames' record shop in Clitheroe, Lancashire on Saturdays and loved the combination of serving customers while listening to music. We sold tickets for events at King George's Hall in Blackburn and so got two free tickets and often backstage passes for doing so.  There were only two of us who like punk/Indie music and so whenever the likes of The Clash, The Buzzcocks, The Damned etc played, I was there at the front of the queue and managed to get autographs on many occasions.

The Clash 
Of course I also got staff discount and had a lot of singles and albums ranging from Mud's 'The Cat Crept In' to The Sex Pistols' 'Anarchy in the UK'. Below is what's left of my chewed up by a puppy singles box from the 1970's and a sample of the singles you might find in there. 

My chewed up singles box and dodgey singles

When I left home to join the Navy in 1981, my Mum decided to have a clear out in my room and threw out my beloved green plastic mac which had autographs from the likes of The Undertones, Siouxsie, The Skids and Stiff Little Fingers. I also had a couple of Pils bottles and beer mats, autographed after meeting bands backstage.  The screaming fit I had at her when I realised what she had done fell on deaf ears.

Sunday night recording the hit parade

When these came out I had to record all my singles and albums onto cassettes - so I could play them on my philips Cassette player when out and about. See I was always up with geeks! Stupidly making a little arrow mark on the label as I did them so I knew not to record them twice. And we all had these on and off record/pause for an hour on Sunday evenings while listening to the Top 20 on the radio.
The new record player

So back to 2015 -  forty years or more since I was buying and playing vinyl records I was there flipping through boxes full of 12 inch vinyl, albums and singles. Smiling to myself as memories of gigs or nights with my friends flashed through my mind. The smell of plastic covers, carefully removing inner sleeves and flipping the disc carefully without touching the surface to check for scratches. 

There were lots of punk and Indie records, apparently they are quite popular these days. So while husband searched for his weird and wonderful Prog Rock albums I took a trip down nostalgia lane, wondering how much my autographed singles and albums would fetch should I want to sell them...not to mention the green plastic mac! 

A good couple of hours later we wandered out with half a dozen records. I bought myself this one. I wasn't really into The Mission until cassette/CD days but wanted to see what it was like on vinyl. I also bought Prince 'Purple Rain'. One of my favourites from the 80's.

We stopped off at HMV and to my surprise saw loads of 12" albums on display. Lots of old ones but some newer bands too. I expect the market will be mainly those of our age or older, but at anything from £10-£30 for the new presses, they aren't cheap. 

Would I swap vinyl for Google Play? Definitely not. We are still debating where to keep the records without cluttering up the place. Imagine finding space for the 176 singles I currently have in my 'Faves' playlist. I love digital music, but there is nothing quite like listening to a bit of hiss and scratch on a turntable.

There's another record fair in December...

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Learning Stuff

A while ago I posted about my decision to quit my job and do something I've wanted to do for years on my post 'I'm a Caddisfly'. Since then I have completed 10 webinar seasons, and five assessments to achieve a distinction in Social Media Marketing and Online Reputation Management. Yes that means I know a bit about how to do this online stuff properly...

...however, it didn't actually tell me how to get more 'time' in which to keep on top of it all.

My goal is to deliver a programme in creative coaching using social media with an arts and crafts theme. I need to be able to use social media properly, not just dipping in here and there, but using data and making sure I post quality content regularly across all the key platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

As is the case, when you really 'want' to learn about something it's so easy. When you have a reason to learn about something you look forward to the lesson or webinar and complete all your homework at the earliest opportunity. It's not rocket science.

I don't mind admitting I was probably hard work as a school pupil.  I went to a Grammar School but would probably have done better at the comp.  I struggled to get past the halfway mark in most subjects, and only in Art and English did I have work regularly pinned on the 'swot' boards. Coincidentally,  the only two subjects I really enjoyed and were totally relevant to the career I wanted  as a graphic designer/illustrator - until an advert for the Royal Navy lured me away to 'see the world'.

Science, maths, history, domestic science and French were all purgatory. Geography and RE merely tolerated.  PE, a welcome distraction - especially since the hockey field was on the same level as the first floor classrooms which meant being able to watch the other girls playing whenever we were up there supposedly learning other stuff.

School was more about friends and discussing what to wear for the disco at the weekend, which lads at the Boys Grammar school were fit and who was going out with who. Lengthy chats about music concerts and records, or whose poster we had on the wall right beside the bed. It wasn't about how much we could learn to help us provide for our families or achieve job satisfaction in our chosen field.

However, many years later when my career turned an unexpected corner and I became a teacher. I suddenly wanted to learn about teaching theories, session planning and psychology.  I completed a total of 15 qualifications in the space of about 6 years including a grand finale BA in Education and Training.

All because it was relevant and I could see the value of studying that particular subject.

Of course most of my teachers would have died laughing at the prospect of me becoming a qualified teacher with a Degree. I was aways the 'could do better' pupil. 'Disappointed at her lack of effort' written regularly on my report. Not exactly a star pupil.

I'm still learning, but only what I need to learn and what interests me. This is a message I want to include in my course. That it's never too late to learn, take on new opportunities and do what gives you enjoyment and satisfaction.

You just have to have courage to start it and the belief to complete it. 

I'm hoping that this day isn't too far away.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Inquisitive Minds

I live in a predominantly male environment - ratio of 4:1. As a child in a small village I made dens and played out with mostly boys. In the Navy I did a 'man's' job as an aircraft engineer. (Yes I will say that because at that time that's what we all said because most people didn't get offended at things like that and I still don't.)

Anyway, making a sharp exit from what could be a very heated post on what offends people, I'm simply making a point that I think I have a fairly strong understanding of what makes the male species tick.  I have a whole cupboard full of instruction manuals, not even opened, still tightly sealed in their plastic bags, cast aside with disregard as you would a price of junk mail.

Men like to tinker, 'faff on' and experiment with all things mechanical. My boys both took so many things apart that I would end up with a whole bag of 'bits' of things, wheels, plastic hands, bits of cars or toys that were investigated and left being deemed to be too hard to put back together or broken beyond repair.  This still happens, even though they are all much older and should have learnt by now but they can't help themselves.

Take last night for example. Alexander had his bath and went off to bed to watch a video. Apart from a goodnight at some point not another word was said. I went into the bathroom a while later to find the water still in the bath, not unusual for a 12 year old, so with my usual grumble, tidied up and went to empty the bath.

Now, we have one of these modern new fangled baths. None of this two taps and a plug on a chain at one end stuff. Oh no, we had to be all posh and have something fancy.  Posh and fancy is all well and good, when folk leave things alone and resist the urge to investigate!

I am now about to use this...

   To empty it so that I can remove this...

Because this...

     A vital part of the mechanics of a 'fancy' plug was removed by an inquisitive 12 year old last night and now when you turn this round silver shiny thing...

   Nothing happens!

I now have to use my problem solving skills to get the damn thing out. So far I'm thinking of big blob of blutack, then if that doesn't work, one of those suction cup hook things. And if all else fails, a new bathroom! *Rolls up sleeves and heads off up to the bathroom........*

....the solution, a crumpled up bit of parcel tape.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Hi I'm a Caddisfly

This week has been quite eventful. Things have happened that wouldn't have happened if I had still been driving around the North East region chasing unachievable targets and biting off heads.

This new happy, relatively stress-free lifestyle suits me and I'm going to make the most of it while I can before I have to start contributing to the family income again. Oh to be wealthy enough to potter about doing this and that or not if the fancy takes you.

Having enrolled on three courses with the intention of self development and having delivered employability courses when working as a lecturer, the JobCentrePlus Job Coach as they are now called apparently, seemed happy enough to leave me to my own devices. Once she had my six sample signatures on the electronic screen firmly fixed to the desk, she sent me on my way with my 'Jobless Person Instruction Booklet'

I have a head full of ideas at the moments. Things I want to do while I have time. Funny how precious 'time' is at this age. Finding 'time' is often harder than finding 'money'. So I've baggsied some and have this week started learning and doing cool stuff.

Online Social Media Marketing Course - I liked the sound of this because it seemed directed at the user geek rather than technical geek, and since I spend much of my life attached to technology and social media platforms, I though that there may be a time in the near future where having this extra knowledge could be beneficial.  One week in and its going well. Today I will watch my last of three webinars this week and complete the weeks assignment. 

Creative Headspace - Creative Marketing course. I have dabbled a little in marketing my crafts -selling a few handmade things on a minute scale I have to say, but since this course is delivered in a create workspace locally I thought if nothing else it would give me the opportunity to start 'doing' something creative with a purpose.  Like creating my own caddisfly. 

Artist at work
I had heard of the caddisfly but hadn't sent any more than a second thinking about it since. I didn't know that has a larva that would stick 'things' from its environment to its shell as camouflage to protect itself. These 'things' would be little stones, twigs, specks of glass, gold..whatever was around it. In the words of the tutor Lynn, "some would be jewels and some just excess weight".

This clicked immediately with me. I have a load of skills and experiences 'stuck' to my shell - some of it useful, some of it less so and some I can do without.  The purpose of doing this was for us to identify what we had that was useful and what we could discard.

My caddisfly 
The two hours were spent with three others, one my good friend and creative advisor Ann, and another couple of older 'felt makers'. A cabbage shaped teapot and lemon cake. The workshop was full of arty crafty things. The tutor a fountain of knowledge who will I'm sure prove to be very helpful if not inspirational over the five weeks.  

The fact that I actually put something down on paper that I was pleased with was a start. Gave me confidence that I could still do it.  Something I hope to get more of next week when i start the third course which is a Drawing and Painting course. Proper art. I'm a little nervous as I expect there will be the old faithfuls there who do it regularly because they are retired or enjoy the social aspect. I just need to dust off the art supplies and see what happens.

Where all this will take me is yet to be seen. I have an idea bubbling and have already had comments that it could work.  I need to clear my head of the clutter and gain some confidence before I unleash it. 

Let's just say it's under construction.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Floridays15 Finale

So here I am, in my sitting room, looking out of my bay window at the sun streaming into my garden, birds in the tree opposite and the dogs snoring happily by the sofa.  The familiar hum of the washing machine in the background reminds me that I am not on the poolside, on a balmy Floridian morning anymore, but this is where I'd rather be if I had to choose.

Floridays15 is over. We had a great time despite the weather being a bit temperamental, but like everything you make the most of it, and apart from the Orlando City match, it didn't actually stop us doing anything.

The last of the souvenirs have been put away (I have a whole shelf of Starbucks mugs now!),  all the clothes washed and ironed and the jet lag is pretty much over with. The rest of the family are back at work/school and even the poorly dog has perked up into her usual old but cheery self. We are back in 'normal' mode.  Except me - but that's for another post.

I asked the boys what they had enjoyed most this trip. and this is what they said;

Diagon Alley in Universal came up top for most of us, it was pretty spectacular and definitely top of the list for me too. Here's a video I took.

Alexander said he had really enjoyed the indoor Skydiving (all 10 minutes of it!)

..and both boys had enjoyed their morning at The Fun Spot. A place thats been there for years but we have never been to before. I wish we had taken them there before, they both loved the four go cart tracks.

Hubby and I both loved the Orlando Eye. It was a beautiful morning and seeing everything around us from up there brought back memories of previous visits when we had stayed on International Drive with his parents. The 'Eye' was actually built on land that had been the 'Mercado' a Spanish style shopping/restaurant/entertainment centre that we had visited many times and usually for the obligatory 'Bourbon Chicken' in the food court on the first night there.

The new 'Orlando Eye'

View up International Drive

Had the Orlando City match not been a washout and we'd been able to see the game, we would I'm sure have enjoyed that much more. However, just being there gave us a taste and should we be back there in the next few years we can always try again.

One of our favourite pastimes out there is to try new restaurants. Especially those in Disney while on the Dining Plan as many are expensive and you wouldn't tend to eat in them normally.  We had some fantastic food.

Tappan Edo in Disneys Epcot World Showcase was top for the two boys - surprisingly since both aren't very adventurous with food but this was chicken, steak and noodles cooked on a hotplate infant of them. Even Alexander ate most of his.

Hubby and I thought the Filet Minion Oscar Style in The Boathouse at Disney Springs was amazing. A large 14oz Steak topped with lump crab in a bearnaisse dressing followed by key Lime Pie.  Although the meal in Jiko at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and also the Wilderness Lodge came close behind.
Filet Minion Oscar Style...mmm

African pot steak

Creme Brûlée - my favourite dessert

Having said all the above, we all felt that we need a change now. The boys still enjoy the roller coasters and other rides but not enough to stand in a long line in the sun to go on them. The magical 'goose pimple' thrill of walking down Main Street in The Magic Kingdom for the first time has long gone leaving us with the comfortable feeling you get when you know exactly where the short cuts are to get across the park and the location of every restroom.

It will be a good few years before we spend a small fortune on Florida again.  In five years time the current renovations and new building work will be complete and maybe we will consider it. Maybe the boys will be too old and doing their own things by then leaving hubby and I to go alone and have a completely different experience...

Until then we have a lot of fantastic memories to look back on and millions of photographs to smile over. Not to mention my collection of Florida Starbucks mugs.