A story about vulnerability for kids

I wrote this short story with my nearly-7 year old after we saw a jacket hanging abandoned on a fence.  It reminded me of the work on the importance of vulnerability by Brene Brown and within U.Lab.

 

Under the Armour

 

The boy was late for school.

His bag had broken and he lost his homework, his snack for break and…

“OH NO! MY PROTECTIVE ARMOUR HAS GONE!”

 

His armour stops him from getting hurt.

Like when someone throw 26 boxes in under 2 seconds at him.

Or if they shout mean things at you.  The words just bounce off.

 

But then the boy remembered.

The armour doesn’t always work.

Sometimes a mean word can slip under the cloak and pull your pants up!

 

And the boy might donk someone first because his armour protects him.

He might say a mean word and a friend does something mean back.

Then he does something MORE mean and it goes on and on.  Until a grown up steps in.

FullSizeRender (1)

 

The boy sits on the bench and sighs.

He sees the Big Boy picking on another boy.

If he had his armour on, he would feel brave and go help.

 

He loves his armour, even if it gets him in trouble sometimes.

It’s blue and shiny and hard and makes him look cool.

Now, all he has on is his… “Oh no! My pyjama top with the kittens on it?!”

 

The Big Boy spots him and starts to laugh and point.

Lots of kids crowd round and start to laugh and point.

But a few sit next to him and one girl holds his hand.

 

“I didn’t know you like cats,” she said. “I do too.”

Another boy says, “One time at school, my trousers fell down!”

And the other kids tell their stories.  The boy feels much better for sharing something he would normally keep hidden.

 

“Who wants to play Tig?!” the girl shouts.

“Me!” the boy says and he runs like the wind.

No one can catch him.  He doesn’t have his clunky, heavy armour on to slow him down.

 

All the way home, the boy is smiling.

He finds his protective armour hanging on a fence.

The boy gives it a fond pat and leaves it right there.

 

 

Energy and time – how I got more of both

Photo via Flickr by Mattysflicks (CC BY 2.0)

Photo via Flickr by Mattysflicks (CC BY 2.0)

January – the month of reflection and setting of goals for the year ahead.  I’d spent so much time reflecting over the last year that tbh, I couldn’t be bothered to do it this month.  Instead, I decided to give myself a break.  Work has been extremely busy and challenging over the last few months and I just needed to ease up coming into Christmas and at the start of the year.

But a conversation I had with a friend made me remember that this time last year, I was really struggling with my energy levels – in fact that’s been a continual problem for me for a number of years. I know I’m not alone. It appears to be a part of modern living.  As I reflected on this and looked back through my journal (I’m not an avid journal writer but I find it helps when I want to work through an issue or remember something interesting), I realised that this isn’t the case any more.  What a shocker!  Something I had been struggling with for years had eased up considerably and I hadn’t even noticed!

So, what’s happened?  I put it down to two changes I’ve made over the past year.

The first (and you’re probably going to go eugh…) is that I started exercising more.  In March last year, I read Surprisingly…Unstuck: The Power of Small Healthy Habits, In a World Addicted to Instant Results by Maria Brilaki (I wrote about it here) and switched my 20 min bus ride to work for a 30 min walk.  I get half an hour of exercise for the price of 10 mins.  Bonus.  And I started running.  Ha!  I don’t think you can even call it running yet.  It’s more moving-slightly-faster-than-I-can-walk but I found the trick was to keep my pace right down and build up my endurance.  I had a couple of false starts during the year but can now run 20 mins.  This amazes me every time, especially when I think back to the horrible feeling that my lungs were going to burst when I first tried to run for one whole minute.  I’ll work on my pace once I can actually run 30 mins without stopping.

The second change I made was to find a way of being more organised.  At times, I feel like a personal assistant to three people – myself and the kids.  And I realised my old habits of organising weren’t cutting it any more.  The stress of balancing work, social life, homework, studying and finding some time with Steven was exhausting.  Most of the time I felt like a headless chicken trying to juggle ten plates and dropping them all over the place.  At my work, lots of people had been talking about a book by David Allen called Getting Things Done (GTD) so in desperation I got it out of the library to see what all the hype was about.  The main premise is that you need to build one system to collect everything you need to do in your life so that it can free up your mental energy to focus on other things.  You know what it’s like – you remember you need to make an opticians appointment but your phone is upstairs and by the time you get up there you can’t remember what you came up for.  When you have your phone, you can’t remember who you were supposed to call.  Then you remember again when you’re in the shower. So you’ve thought about this task three times and still not done it.  What a waste of mental energy.

GTD is based on some fairly simple but powerful principles:

  • set up collection “buckets” where you can collect all the tasks you need to do – these can be physical places to hold things or a list where you can write things done.  e.g. I’ve got an electronic task list at work, a small notebook for when I’m at home and a couple of baskets to my house to collect physical stuff (bills I need to pay, presents I need to wrap etc)
  • Regularly go through these buckets and for each item in them decide two things:
    • can you do something with this task and if so what is the next actionable step e.g. I’ve had “Write a will” on my to-do list for years. But the next actionable step is not to write the will.  It’s to find out how you actually go about writing a will as I had no idea!
    • decide what context you need to be in to action that step
  • Instead of one large to-do list (which makes your heart sink every time you look at it) start a set of to-do lists based on where you need to be to do a particular action.  For example, I can call/text a friend from anywhere so I have a list called “Electronic contact” and usually do this on the tram or when I’m waiting somewhere but I prefer to to write a blog post at home on my PC which I put on my “At home computer” list.  To clear out the drawers in my study, I need to be “At Home”.  I also have a set of lists for my kids and Steven that I can put things on that I want to speak to them about and usually forget when I’m actually in a room with them.  Setting up these lists is one of the hardest but most important bits because you need to experiment with what to call these lists, but after a couple of months, I think I’m getting there.  Now when I’m at home and have a spare 15 mins, I can look down a much shorter list tailored with tasks that can only be done at home and actually get something done!  I love the feeling of ticking something off my list 🙂
  • Use your calendar to put in tasks that have to be done on certain days. We’re used to putting in appointments but perhaps don’t always put in time for things like renewing library books on specific days etc.  I also block out time to do particular tasks like studying or completing a project at work.  Top tip! We’ve installed Cozi, a free family organiser app which I am loving!  All four of us have our own colour so we know who’s appointments and tasks are who’s.  Steven and I can both add appointments to one calendar and assign who’s involved e.g. what birthday parties the kids are going to, the address and times and which one of us is taking them – no more looking for the invite and making sure the right person has it 🙂
  • Set aside time to review your list once a week to add or drop tasks and plan what you’ll do that coming week – I admit, I’m not so good on this yet but working on it.

This is the bare bones of GTD and what I’ve found most helpful so far.  It goes into much more detail about setting project objectives and the importance of writing down your life goals so that you can keep an eye on them and make sure you’re doing something about them over time but it’s a bit too complicated to go into in one blog post.  If folks are interested, I could write about this part in a future post.

I was fortunate enough to go a GTD training course and while it was interesting, I didn’t learn much more than I had from reading the book.  One thing I have found is that you need to put quite a lot of work into tinkering with setting up your system and don’t give up if you find it doesn’t work so well at first or if you give up on it for a while.  Just put a bit of time aside to try something a bit different with it and then try again.  For the time investment, it’s paid a lot back to me in terms of peace of mind.  While I don’t think I have absolutely everything I need to do on one of my lists, I know I have the most important stuff and that makes me feel much happier and in control.  If you use GTD or something else, I’d love to hear from you.  I’m always looking for ways to improve my system!  I wish I’d know about this growing up particularly as I got into exam territory so think it will be something I’ll speak to the kids about when they’re a bit older.

Overall, exercising more and using the GTD system have definitely helped my energy levels.  As I feel fitter and more organised, I have managed to cram even more into my life but doing the things I want to do, rather than wasting time looking for things or having that nagging, draining feeling that I should be doing something but can’t remember what.  Both of these changes have taken commitment and an initial outlay of energy, and it has probably taken the best part of 2014 to get them to be natural parts of my life but it has been so worth it.  If you try them and find you stall or fall back to old habits, go easy on yourself and just try again.  The more you do it, the easier it gets.  I promise.

Shiny, Noble & Awesome – Leadership Embodiment for Kids

Last week, I finished a two-year long personal development course.  At the celebration event, we were all talking about the journey we had been on and the fact that this isn’t the end.  It can’t be – we are always changing and developing, whether that is because we want to or because we have to.  The difference is in how conscious we are of it and what direction we take it in.  Throughout the event I was thinking, how would be life have turned out if I had know some of this stuff as a child?  Granted, much of my learning wouldn’t transfer easily to the kids but some of the fundamentals should.  Being open to leading on things that matter to them (i.e. leading for a purpose not for status or power), working with people effectively and in a way that fits with who they are as people, knowing who they really are in the first place – all things that I’ve been learning to be more open to and yet see in the kids every day.  What the hell happens to us during the transition into puberty and then adulthood that suppresses this and how can I help them keep open to it?

A huge area of my development recently has been learning to work with a range of different people to deliver on some tricky, messy stuff, in a way that feels natural/right and fits with how I want to work (I’m trying to avoid the word authentic here but that’s what it is).   A huge eye-opener for me was learning to acknowledge how I was feeling about a person or situation.  Maybe it’s a societal thing, or the culture in which I work, or how I grew up (I suspect probably a mixture of them all) but I realised that I suppress a lot of how I’m feeling but it still has a big impact on what I then do.  Now! I thought, if I could help my kids stay in touch with this side of them as they grow and encounter what life has to offer, wouldn’t that be a gift?  And that’s exactly what my mum has been doing with the kids for some time now – adapting what she’s learned about Leadership Embodiment to help the kids recognise the fact that they have a choice about how they react in any given situation if they can be aware of how they are feeling about it.  Ok, it might seem like some hippy-dippy s**t when you first hear about it but if you can get passed that, there is definitely something valuable here.  I’ve been encouraging her to develop these ideas further as I think parents (and even a wider audience) would find it really helpful.  It’s a different approach to parenting and so far, while it’s not a silver bullet, I’ve seen some amazing results.  So, as a starter, I asked her to write a blog post about it.  Really keen to hear what you think!

*   *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Mischa being "shiny" when her unicorn poked her in the eye

Mischa being “shiny” when her unicorn poked her in the eye

When Keira asked me to do a blog post on what I’ve been learning and doing with Leadership Embodiment I thought, ooooo interesting, and this is such powerful stuff I’d love to share it people.  But the clue’s in the title, embodiment is about your body’s reactive patterns to situations, how do I put that into words…

Here’s my take in it (so far).  When we’re faced with a situation, whatever kind (exciting, scary, annoying) we react.  I can’t really explain the ‘embodiment’ bit and that’s where the real insights come from but your physical reaction to a slight nudge can tell you loads about how you react to non physical ‘nudges’: coming back from holiday to 300 emails or having to have a tough conversation with your boss . This work helps you to explore how your head, your heart and your gut (Amanda calls it your hara) react.

Imagine a family member says ‘what are we doing for Christmas this year?’

Head might say “I don’t really mind, what do you think?”

Heart might sink: “just don’t make this a big deal

Gut instinct might be “I wish I could go to Hawaii

Or

Head, through gritted teeth, “I think it’s our turn, how about you come to us?”

Heart, ever hopeful “please say we can come to you

Gut, churning

Or

Head “We’ll do lunch this year, I want to try out a Nigella cranberry sauce’

Heart “I love doing Christmas dinner

Tummy rumbling at the thought

This last one is aligned.  What would it be like if you could have more of this in your life?  And it doesn’t have to be exactly aligned in order to say yes, it could be:

Head “I’d like to do something different this year

Heart ever hopeful

Gut, be brave

I’ve being playing around with these ideas with my granddaughter.  She was a bit upset one day, she was five at the time, and I said to her, imagine you have three boxes.  One is labelled ‘shiny’, one is ‘noble’ and one is ‘awesome’ (this is how Wendy Palmer’s guru describes head, heart, hara).

What do you think would be in the Shiny box?

She thinks for a bit and says “toys?”.

Ok, anything else?

em crayons?”

And what do you think is in the Noble box.  I’m not sure what she’ll make of this, is this word in her vocabulary…

helping the teacher to tidy up

What else?

being kind

And what about the Awesome box?

going really high on the swings

More recently, she’s seven now, I said, if shiny and noble and awesome were music what would they be.

Shiny?

No hesitation “classical

Noble?

She’s started to speak in that American/Australian way when her voices lilts up at the end of sentence? Like everything’s a question? “ that’s like when you put on a CD? And there’s a story? But there’s also music?”

And what about Awesome

Rock

Mischa and Jude being "noble" with their cousin

Mischa and Jude being “noble” with their cousin

Here’s an example of how I’ve helped my grandson put it into practice.  I came home one day and he was having a major melt down with his Dad (he’s a kid, that’s his job!).  He went into the kitchen in a huff.  I said to him “that’s one awesome voice you have there but I think you could use it a bit more effectively”.  Grandad arrives with a load of shopping, grandson starts to build a tower out of soup cans.  “That’s pretty shiny dude!  And how about you tune into your noble and help granddad put the shopping away?”.

I came back into the kitchen 10 minutes later and grandson is helping dad chopping vegetables for the stir fry.  I like to think he found some of his shiny, noble and awesome and it helped him to cheer up a bit!

The idea is that when our shiny (creativity, sense of humour, logic), noble (kindness, thoughtfulness, honour) and awesome (courage, strength, rock n roll) is tuned into and aligned we can be ‘centred’.  Then it’s much easier to say and get what we need.

Jude being "awesome" holding a giant snake skin

Jude being “awesome” holding a giant snake

For more stuff about this, check out my guru Amanda Ridings and her guru Wendy Palmer.

Comments welcome.   And check out the first sentence, did you see what I did there 🙂

Lorna

Reflecting on backpacking with kids – would we do it again?!

CIMG3652My word, time has flow and I can’t believe I haven’t posted for over two months!  That’s insane as it feels like only a few weeks have gone by.  And ironically, rather than having nothing to blog about, I’ve got loads but I’ve put my energy into doing them which has detracted from writing about them, for example, we’re preparing for Christmas a bit differently this year which I’m loving but definitely takes more time, trying to convince my kids’ school to support the kids start a social enterprise and taking part in Dinovember (you can see the photos on Twitter @EllaRove).  I hope to write about all this soon but wanted to finish up my little series about backpacking with the kids first.

Personally, and with a few months of hindsight now, I think this was one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on.  It was a gamble but what we learned about ourselves and each other was something I don’t think we would have got on a normal beach holiday.  I’ve been wracking my brain to think of anything that was less than positive.  Am I being selective in my memories? Other than a woman in Paris trying to scam us into giving her money (which lasted all of 20 seconds as Steven quickly clocked what was going on and politely and quickly moved us on), I can’t think of anything.

Why did it work?  The key was the amount of prep work we put in beforehand and this is made infinitely easier these days by the number of helpful blog posts out there (e.g. step by step instructions about how to get from the terminal in Charles de Gaulle airport into central Paris by train – total bonus for control freaks like me :)) and Google Earth so could find landmarks ahead of time making navigating around where we were staying much easier.  Deciding beforehand what we definitely wanted to do and what would be “nice to do” also helped us focus and not put too much pressure on us. Overall, we wanted to give the kids a sense of what it means to be a traveller (which for us was about spending our short time experiencing living in Paris) rather than being a tourist (packing in as much as possible into your time there).

I asked Steven and the kids what they remember and what they learned from our holiday.  Steven’s reflections were remarkable similar to mine: that he (we) could be overprotective and hold on to the kids a little too tight at times but that because we were away from everyday pressures such as work and housework, we enjoyed our time together much more and, ironically, didn’t feel we needed a break from the kids as much as we might do when at home and work and home and school pressures can feel overwhelming.  It helped him learn to let go a bit more and see that the kids are capable of so much more than we sometimes realise.  Mischa learned that she’s good at trying things she was maybe a bit scared of to begin with – sleeping in a tent, going on a boat – and that what she enjoyed most was spending time with her family.  Even Jude.  Jude, being the youngest, found this question harder to answer.  Whenever we ask the kids where they want to go next, they say back to France, but when I delved a bit deeper with Jude, he can’t remember a lot of what we did and saw.  However, I think he remembers how he felt there and that’s why he’s keen to go back.

So, did we met the criteria we set for ourselves before our backpacking holiday?  Pretty much:

  • Flying from Edinburgh Airport  – TICK
  • Should include at least two foreign countries – one of which being France as Mischa had just started learning French – TICK (and she used some of her French too 🙂 )
  • The trip should feel as close to a backpacking holiday as possible so we decided no hotels but also, to reduce the stress factor somewhat, no hostels – TICK (Airbnb apartment and camping)
  • The kids wanted a swimming pool at some point and a chance to meet other kids. – BIG TICK
  • The main part of the trip to come in at around half of what we would pay if we were to go back to Tenerife during the first week of the summer holidays (which would have cost us £3,000 – WHAAAT?!!) –  the main part of our trip (flights, train and accommodation) came in at approx. £1,600.  We then had local transportation and food on top of that so it was probably closer to £2k.  I might be rationalising here but given that the holiday was 10 days rather than a week and the quality of the experience we got, it was worth every penny and more.

I would wholeheartedly encourage anyone to try something similar to this.  To go off the organised holiday route a bit – when it makes sense and it doesn’t scare you so much you’d never do it (for some of the other holidays I want to take the kids on, I’ll definitely be signing us up for an organised tour).  But amazing things can happen when we try to be even a little bit braver and not let ourselves be scared by thoughts of what might happen.  The week running up to the holiday, I was swinging between feelings of total excitement to those of dread and thinking “why the hell are we doing this to ourselves??!!”  But I am so glad I didn’t listen to that last voice.  This next year, money is going to be tight because we want to do some stuff to our house so we won’t be doing any backpacking around Europe for a while, alas.  But Steven and I have decided to take what we learned and try to do something different in the UK next year.  Can’t wait to see what we decide on.  For me, the value of a holiday is as much the anticipation and deciding what to do as a family, as it is the experience itself.

Reflections by torchlight: how my kids are helping me find my direction

Photo by Don O'Brien via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Photo by Don O’Brien via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

I have been doing a lot of reflection over the last couple of years. So. Much. Reflecting, reflecting, re-bleugh… I’ve grown up on self-improvement books and courses since I was a teenager and my mum, who was doing a lot of personal development herself at the time, would pass on her books and course notes. But lately, reflecting so much has got really old and really hard work.

In the last few months, I have been feeling pretty stuck again and on reflection (see there I go again!) I have probably been spending too much time thinking and not enough time doing. The result being that I haven’t managed to get much out of all this reflecting. Instead, I’m stuck in my head, unable to come up with anything new.

And then – BAM! Today, I hit on a doozy of a reflection. Continue reading

How to have a mini backpacking adventure with two young kids: It’s all about the planning, folks

For a while now I have been slightly annoyed by how easy my kids expect things to come to them. Now that might seem a little harsh. Surely we want life to be easy for our kids. Well, yes and no. I don’t want my kids to suffer unnecessarily but I want them to develop perseverance and grit.  Not too much is known about how to develop grit but I had a sense that we better start doing something about it early.

It was about then that my hubby and I started thinking of booking a summer holiday. Up to this point we had taken the kids on a couple of holidays within the UK, a trip to Florida with the extended family and a very easy all-inclusive trip to Tenerife which the kids had adored. We had also enjoyed it and it was what we needed at the time, a lovely no-hassle week away, but I was keen that the kids didn’t see package holidays as the only option. Before having kids, Steven and I had done a bit of travelling but it’s something I really wish we had done more of. That’s one of the reasons “go places” is on our family manifesto as I really hope the kids will do a lot of travelling in their lives. Travelling brings experiences you just can’t manufacture: seeing how different places and people make different choices in how to live their lives, developing self-sufficiency, perseverance, and experience in handling misunderstandings and when things, inevitably, go wrong. The kids are only 7 and 5 but we decided this was a good time for them to start experiencing some of these things and experiment with a mini-backpacking Continue reading

The fear of criticism – with Pinballs and Whisky

“Fear of failure is actually overrated as an excuse. What people are afraid of is not failure. It’s blame. Criticism.

We choose not to be remarkable because we are worried about criticism. We hesitate… because we’re worried, deep down, that someone will hate it and call us on it. 

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!” “Who’s responsible for this?” 

Sometimes the criticism doesn’t have to be that obvious. The fear of hearing “I’m surprised you launched this without doing more research” is enough to get many people to do a lot more research, to study something to death, and then kill it. Hey, at least you didn’t get criticized. 

Fear of criticism is a powerful deterrent because the criticism doesn’t actually have to occur for the fear to set in.”

– Seth Godin , “Tribes”

I had my very own taste of this a few weeks ago when I decided to do that very special project I alluded to in my last blog post. I wanted to make a video for my husband’s birthday that would involve his friends and family miming along to Pinball Wizard and the Alabama Song. I knew this would not be everyone’s cup of tea but after testing the idea with a few friends, I put out a call for volunteers and crossed my fingers. The initial response was underwhelming to say the least. And then, just as I’d feared, came a few not-so-positive remarks. 

“You want us to do what?! Do I have to?” I had to stop myself from ranting back, “Well no actually. You could just politely decline – I’m not making you do this!” Instead I walked around all day with my face tripping and feeling awful. And I had to suffer alone. Steven knew something was wrong but, as it was supposed to be a surprise, I couldn’t tell him that I had put an idea out into the world and it had been shot down.  Oh, poor me!

But I had made a pact with myself to go through with it even if it ended up being just me and the kids prancing around for 6 mins. So I held my nerve and then came a breakthrough 🙂  One of our friends replied, “I’m on it like a car bonnet”. That nearly brought me to hysterical tears of giggles and gratitude. This then seemed to spur others on as another and another came forward saying they’d have a go. I put this down to the fact that at heart, we’re still all pack animals, waiting for someone with the courage to go against the tide of convention and show us that we won’t get eaten.

The result? Well, we’re all busy people and not all the volunteers managed to send me a video but by that point I was just so chuffed that they were willing to have a go. The icing on the cake was the gusto in which Steven’s parents took up the challenge and the fact that some of those not-so-keen participants told me that they had actually really enjoyed doing it. 

Most importantly, Steven loved the finished product but the end result for me was pretty amazing too. Not because of my editing skills (ha ha), but because I found I had really enjoyed the process and had learned something valuable in the process. We all have projects we’d like to put out into the world but fear the criticism we might face. Sometimes it might come, sometimes it won’t but what this taught me was if you are convinced it is worth doing, you should dig deep and find the courage to do it. It will be worth it in the end.

You can take a look at the video here. I’m a YouTube novice and can’t get it to play on mobile devices but I think it has something to do with the music copy write being owned by a third party. I really hope that Pete Townshend and The Doors appreciate the sentiment behind what I was trying to do and won’t take me to court…