New commitments

IMG_1863A couple of weeks ago, Matt and I got tattoos. His first, my second. Matt’s realisation and acceptance that “what’s next?” is his default state, led to the homage to his healthy ambition for the big picture. So, for his 40th birthday and in the spirit of Jed Bartlett, he got What’s Next? tattooed on his forearm in the West Wing font.

“Nevertheless, She Persisted”, in the script from Sarah Becan’s design, refers to Senator Elizabeth Warren and her standing up to the Republicans But it has more layers for me. It isn’t just the more expansive feminist shoutout to the women who’ve pressed on in the face of male oppression and glass ceilings, it’s also acknowledgement to my own fortitude in the face of procrastination and challenging times; it’s a tribute to a 16+ year marriage that’s endured hard times and individual growing pains. It’s encouragement to keep writing, keep learning, keep pushing, even while it can be hard to find the time or the energy.

When you consider our choices together, it just goes to show how different we are in our approaches to life. Yin and Yang. Sometimes our contradictory opposites have repelled rather than complemented. I’m sure those hard times—when we’re both negatively charged electrons—will come up again from time to time, but we’re still here and that’s a positive sign.

Not a writer

I tweeted to a Buzzfeed article the other day. It was twenty-something words that mean something different to a writer. I tweeted that I didn’t think of myself as a writer, but the listicle made me wish I was.

I don’t see myself as a writer, because I don’t write fiction.

I don’t have an Evernote full of ideas. I have an Evernote full of links to other people’s ideas, industry news, “how to write” tips. I’m a commercial writer. I’ve been paid to write other people’s ideas. I procrastinate over that so much, though, I hate it. I hate that I have to write something and I put it off, and put it off. And then I get into the flow of the writing, and then I love what I’ve written. And then I hate getting the feedback. Unless it’s good.

Bowral to Brunswick

So, do you know what’s been going on? Shame on you.

Just kidding.

Holy wow! It’s been almost a whole year since I posted here. I got over the guilt a while back. I’ve learned that when I write for a living, I stop writing for fun.

On with the N.E.W.S.

We redecorated our house. Got a new paint job inside, fixed our outside drainage issues so that our garage would stop flooding with heavy and prolonged rain, put two skylights in, installed a new kitchen, replaced blinds, carpets and old laminate wood floor with vinyl. Here are a couple of peeks.

With flooding:

The back yard2

Without flooding:

Untitled

Kitchen, before:

Purple kitchen

Kitchen, part-way through renovation:

Untitled

Kitchen, after:

New kitchen splashback.

I’ll do a walk-through and post a video up in a couple of weeks. The place looks uh-mazing. The weird/frustrating/not-that-uncommon-for-us thing is that I got all this done within a matter of weeks after us having paid a designer for drawings of a super-awesome extension and then deciding we would up-stumps and move to Melbourne.

WHAT?!

Yep.

May 2013 will be known as “the month we spent torturous weeks deciding what to do when we realised living in Bowral wasn’t serving our careers or our family life very well.” Also in the mix, was Matt wondering about his career moves and finding that he didn’t want to be a developer anymore. In June, he committed to a career change and a daily commute to Sydney for the past 5-or-so months.

We contemplated a move to San Francisco, a move back to Sydney, and a relocation to Melbourne. And by “contemplated”, I mean some yelling and much crying. I cried just about every one of those May days and even thought I was in the midst of a slightly early mid-life crisis.

Because this was a fork in the road.

And when you get to a fork in the road, you have to decide whether to pick up your baggage and keep going with the flow, or to examine it and choose what you need.

Classic Aprill behaviour is to go with the flow, and because I’m a laid-back sort of person, I’m generally just tagging along. I’m nearly 40; I don’t want to just tag along anymore. I want to be where I’m going, on purpose.

We’re keeping our Bowral place and renting it out—just in case we want to pull the ripcord—and we’ll be moving to Brunswick a few days after Christmas. We’ve found a great place to live and the boys are enrolled at school.

Change is hard, but I can already feel my brain and my creativity waking up again.

I’m feeling positive, though I know I’ll be lost without my sister-friend around the corner.  xx

Dear band: it’s not you, it’s me.

Going to gigs is different these days. The gigs themselves aren’t different. Though, many of those old-time venues have closed down. It’s me that’s different. Older.

Last night a group of us went to see The Presets. We were those haggard-looking people sitting at a table in the corner of the lobby with wine in small plastic glasses. We were those people reminiscing about the 90s music scene and bothered by the misspelling on the door to the ammenities [sic].

In the 90s my internal monologue was a bit like this:
This is awesome!
Sing along.
Buy a tshirt.
This is awesome!

Last night it went like this:

Note where the exit is in case I feel like I might faint. (I get claustrophobic in crowded places.)

Gee, the Enmore has a nice ceiling. I’ve never noticed that before.

Oh! cool graphics on the screens.

Hm. The audience smells nice. Not like in the bloody 90s.

Glad we’ve all only got one square foot to dance in. My un-co white-girl dancing is less obvious.

The keyboard/singer guy is quite attractive from back here.

That stack of amps looks like a spine.

I think the Ecstacy just kicked in for those people over there.

Gah! strobe lights! Just close your eyes and clap, for god’s sake.

Why can’t these bitchez stick to their square foot?

Oh! I think I recognise this song.

Beer cans get really flat on a general admission dance floor.

I like those wall sconces.

“I’m here with all of my people..” OH I KNOW THIS SONG!!

Guy in front tries to take photo with old-skool Nokia. His girlfriend and I look at each other and chortle.

It’s hot. Peg an open bottle of water over this direction!

Scan across audience fashions.

Good lord. My back is sore.

Leave at the end of the gig impressed with the Presets and remind myself to listen to them on Spotify tomorrow.

An introvert’s guide to speaking in public

Things have got busy in my little world all of a sudden. Which is great, I’ve got to fund these imaginary renovations somehow, but it does mean less time for things like…well…doing nothing. I have a couple of new ongoing contracts and some other interesting professional-related things are hovering about. But what has been most occupying is the preparation for my first presentation at a seminar that I gave recently. As a self-admitted introvert, I’d never entertained such an idea until late last year. You see, there’s a little part of me that wants to be worshipped. There—I admit it. And that part of me got a little bit of exposure when I gave a brief acceptance speech at the gala awards last year. I wanted more of that. Also, the frequent flyer miles and access to airport lounges that might come along with it. But whenever someone suggested I deliver my topic to a seminar presentation, I said ‘aww, no. I don’t think I could do that’. The dilemma.

It’s March 2012 and I declared this year would be the year of speaking engagements. With one down and three more to go, I’m pretty pleased with how that plan is working out. My first ever speaking engagement was well received, made people laugh, and at least lived up to, if not exceeded, expectations. I had a lovely lady come up to me afterwards and thank me for my talk. She’d come especially for it, and I didn’t disappoint. So, I guess as a first-timer, I must have done something right. Though, I do need to work on not having to refer to my notes.

In the interests of helping other introverts to face these public speaking challenges, I thought I’d put my process here in this post.

How to speak in public like a pro. Almost.

1. Have coffee with someone who will make you commit to the seminar/conference/event in question. After they’ve nagged you about it for the tenth time in as many minutes, call or email the organiser/s of the event right in front of your coffee buddy. Now you have a witness.

2. Start preparing your material. I had 90 days to prepare, and I already had most of the material written as a white paper. I just had to turn it into slides and add some extra content to fill up the 30+ minutes time allowance.

3. Go to bed most nights with “success” or “confidence” or “public speaking” hypnotherapy apps playing in your headphones. Really.

4. Ideally, you will have been to a related event before, so you will already know people who will be there. If not, try and plan a social occasion with a few of them so you can have some friendly faces in the crowd when it’s time for you to present.

5. You will have Powerpoint open for around 80 days, continuously, and you will probably lay awake most nights having great ideas come to you for the content of your presentation. Accept it and leave those mental doors open.

6. Have a talented writer/educator friend check your slides for feedback.

7. Read books on how to give presentations and apply what you learn. Lend Me Your Ears is a good one.

8. Insert more jokes. This is dependent on your topic, I guess. But making people laugh is pretty important, especially when delivering a dry topic area, which is what seminars are typically full of. My Dad is my inspiration. He’s a bigger introvert than me, but he tells a fantastic story. Find the funny stories in your life that you could use to support your subject. Everybody has at least one.

9. Admit your insecurities to a few select fans and supporters. They will build you up.

10. Have coffee with someone who can give you some public speaking techniques.

11. Watch TED videos. Susan Cain is an introvert.

12. Rehearse. Some people say it’s better not to over-rehearse. As introverts, we need to know our material well to feel comfortable enough to share. For us, there is no over-rehearse. I felt better rehearsing to the cat, than to friends or family. I’m weird like that. I would rather deliver to a room full of mostly-strangers than to my loungeroom with my husband and kids.

13. Be like Barney. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says, you just feel like you can’t pull this thing off. At times like these, you need to find your inner Barney—your inner Awesome. Believe you are awesome and others will think so, too.

Because you are awesome, and people want to hear what you have to say.

RIP Steve Jobs

I’m still a bit lagged so will be in with some vacation posts sooner or later, but I did want to make a note today on the passing of Steve Jobs. Yes, we are a fanboi household with at least ten Apple products. This is one man who has changed the world.

An innovator. A motivator.

The inspiration he provided my generation will live on in the ones that come after.

RIP Steve Jobs.

Here is a tribute from fellow Apple devotee John Birmingham.

Success: Good luck or positive thinking

Before we take off to Europe for 5 weeks, I wanted to leave you with something potentially useful. I’ve always measured success by the positive feedback I receive from peers in my industry—whether that was going to be through my freelance copywriting or involvement in IT.

In the last couple of years, since leaving indentured servitude behind, business has been encouraging. Friends and family have been supportive, clients have been positive. It’s been a slow burn, but that suits me fine. It might seem like all the the great stuff that has happened lately—landing new clients, accepting an award, and the resultant interest in the topic—has been a case of good luck and good timing.

I beg to differ.

Here are some airy-fairy tips for positive thinking and how I’ve had a lot to do with creating this outcome.

  • I did Susannah Conway’s Unravelling eCourse a couple of years ago. This made me realise I had more to offer than what I was doing at the time. I learnt to acknowledge my dreams and motivate myself with them. I stopped defaulting to saying (or thinking) “No” when a contact approached me for some writing. I started saying “Yes”. And I still do it.
  • I still suffer the anxiety after I hand over anything I’ve done and wait for feedback. I acknowledge it, know that I can review and refine anything, and then do my best to get on with the next thing I need to do.
  • In life, I refuse to dwell on the negative. If someone says or does something unfriendly, I don’t over-analyse. If I feel it requires confronting, I’ll do it gently so that I can move on. I’m a firm believer that we can bring our own bad luck if that’s all we focus on.
  • I recently started writing out the things that I wanted out of life on paper. Every night. It helps to solidify the swirling thoughts in my mind and maybe even puts it “out there in the Universe”.
  • People often say “be authentic”. I’ve often thought they were wankers. But they’re right. I am the same person on Twitter as I am in the workplace, with friends, and with family. You’ll get good humour and my loyalty. I do what I can but I don’t promise the world. The only acting I do is pushing that little rockstar self out of my introvert exterior when the need arises. And that’s where I go back to what I learnt from Unravelling.

Take care. Watch Flickr or Facebook for European vacation pics.

 

(Oh yes! I still must put up the interview with 7 year old. Tomorrow, people. I promise!)

The week I won an award

Just when I had been pining for a work-related junket (to Melbs, to be specific), I got a phone call from the IT Service Management Forum that a white paper I submitted for their white paper competition a few months ago had been nominated for White Paper of the Year. Well, it didn’t happen quite like that. They first called a few weeks ago to ask if I could forward high-res photos of myself and would I be attending the gala dinner and awards night, in Perth. Of course, in the intervening weeks between submission and phone call I’d forgotten about it. We’d been busy moving house, settling in, and planning for a big European holiday, which starts this Saturday!

After a bit of “what are you talking about?” and “Gala dinner? In Perth?”, I called the itSMF directly to make sure someone hadn’t slipped me a hallucinogenic, or worse, made a mistake. (Australia’s Next Top Model, anyone?) I ummed and ahhed about the expense of flying to Perth and finding accommodation (not to mention the associated conference ticket), before finally deciding to do it. Even if I was about to collect an award, I didn’t want someone accepting on my behalf. It would have seemed Oscar-esque. As though I was too high or drunk to make it to my own presentation.

Trans-continental junket, here I come.

I can’t tell you how glad I am that I went. Apart from the conference, where there was a great lot of useful info, I met some stellar individuals who were kind enough to give me career-related tips and advice; and who made me feel like one of the bunch, even though it was my first itSMF conference.

And then I really did win the award.

I performed a relevant standup comedy routine for my acceptance speech, which got some laughs. I’ve always wanted to write someone’s speech—Jed Bartlett’s State of the Union, to be exact—but I never expected to be making my own. What a ride. Since then, I’ve had offers of work coming left, right and centre. Be still, my burgeoning hat size.

Finally, I am famous. As long as I’m in a room full of IT Service Management nerds.

Why do you blog?

One of my faves, Lady Smaggle, retweeted a link yesterday to the Yes and Yes blog. Sarah made a terrific post about steps you can take to boost your blog profile when you don’t follow a particular theme. Yes, that’s me. Alive since 2003, this blog started as chronicle of pregnancy and parenting milestones for the purpose of informing family and friends. Then it became more self-indulgent; posts didn’t really have a purpose, they were becoming infrequent. Sure, I piped up every now and then with a plan to share something useful on a scheduled basis but it quickly fell over. I think it’s because I don’t have any one particular activity or thing that I’m passionate about.

When it’s all boiled down, this blog is simply my legacy (and a chance to show off). Not a legacy of heartfelt honesty and unicorns, but mostly just the entertaining—occasionally exasperated, often mundane—parts of a memoir. By reading this blog, especially way back when my writing was a lot less polished, you will come to know much about me, but you won’t know everything. I haven’t treated this place as a journal. My innermost thoughts are still my innermost thoughts. I always strive to entertain, so the hard stuff and the sad is usually saved for in-person encounters. Want some deep and meaningful conversation from me? Have a coffee or a champagne with me and ask the big questions. I love to stay out late talking about all kinds of stuff. I just don’t like the next morning.

Do you blog your passion? Do you blog about nothing in particular? Do you have a question for me?

p.s. I asked Fraser the same questions that I asked Lincoln. I’ll put his interview up soon.

The tattoo? I got it.

bird tattoo

After years of wondering, I finally went out and got myself that tattoo. I’d been putting it off all these years because I was worried about the pain and the permanence. Well, I have children, so what was I so worried about? At least with the children I can send them to boarding school, a tattoo would need to be lasered off. (Though, when the kids are young and clingy you might think about lasering them off you, too.)

When I arrived we talked about the design and placement of the tattoo. Angus, the tattoo artist had drawn the birds on paper. He cut each one out then applied some sort of cream to my skin and pushed down on the paper in the required spot, leaving behind a stencil of where each bird would go. The stencil can be rubbed off and moved if you’re unsure about placement, but I went with his suggestion.

Then I sat down, undid my shirt, took out my left arm and braced myself. At this point I would suggest wearing a singlet so your lacies aren’t all out in front of everyone else, but fortunately this was Newtown, so I felt entirely comfortable. Angus prepared my skin, gloved up and tried to explain what sort of pain to expect, then got to work. It’s not dissimilar from acupuncture, though it’s not a sharp needle-like sensation. It’s more like a scratching, which intensified the closer he was to my shoulder bone. It was  a completely bearable level of pain with only a small amount of wincing. The outlines were done first and then the equipment was changed to do the shading. The tattooing process took a touch over an hour.

I was sent off with my shoulder and top of my arm covered in Bepanthen and Glad Wrap with instruction on taking care of it and how it would progress through healing. That afternoon and the next day it felt like a mild sunburn when touched, and since then it’s been a little itchy. I can’t scratch though, so I’ve been rubbing through my shirt.

I’m really happy with it and would totally recommend LDF tattoo in Newtown, Sydney to anyone who might be toying with the idea of getting one.