This is where it all begins… again

where it all begins
Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

So, where to start? Where to begin again, after the longest summer ever, and in Shanghai to boot… I’ll go back to my roots and start with logistics…

It’s September 1, 2020 and all three kids are back in school. Day 1, Term 1. A fresh start – and one of my favourite times of year.

I can’t dream of a full school year yet, but I can hope for a good solid start – a day, a week, the month of September. Full days, every day, with the promise of after school activities starting again, as usual, in a couple of weeks time. The schedule repopulating (but not too much, please?)… piece by piece.

The eldest cycles in, ready to take her place in amongst the rulers of Junior School. I wonder how quickly the swagger of Yr 6 will descend upon them all. This should be a wonderful year for them all, the BIG KIDS on campus, but I wonder what shifts, what distinctions, COVID-19 will bring for them over the course of the year. Less playtime with friends from other classes, no residential trip (for now)… and what other subtle variations from what would have been ‘expected’? Will they notice?

The middle one hates having to tuck in his shirt. Feels heavy footed in his new, smart school shoes. (I’m fairly certain he’s been in flip-flops since mid January.) Has forbidden a haircut (which he desperately needs) and loses his hand-sewn mask before he’s even left the our compound.

And the littlest? She’s ready to move up into Key Stage 1. Her new backpack almost as big as her, proudly carrying in all her library books to return. Buoyed, rather than weighed down, by all she has to learn. I was allowed onto campus today with her. Just this once. To see her to her classroom. In theory to meet her teacher, put a face to a name… but her teacher hasn’t made it here and through quarantine yet, so I smile and say hi to her substitute teacher – who we both already know – and in little one runs. Ready for her friends. No kiss, no goodbye, no concerns.

And then there is… me.

And so this is where it all begins again

I got side-wiped by a rush of tears as I cycled past the main campus. A traditional dragon dance to welcome them back. I was just so very grateful. And that is my COVID story – from beginning to end. All these months on, what I have is gratitude. In small fleeting moments… and in huge waves of appreciation. (For the travel adventures we did get to have, for the relationships that blossomed in these strange circumstances, for our wellbeing here in Shanghai, for the swimming pool, for the fact that my kids are getting to go back to school… a never ending list…)

I know I am essentially ‘stuck’ in Shanghai for the foreseeable future (it’s so hot, so humid, I miss the sea & time outside in nature, and god only knows when I’ll get to be with my family and ‘elsewhere’ friends again) but as I see my long-missed expat allies finally returning to this place we call home, I can’t help but feel that I am unbelievably lucky – to be able to knit a new way forward together, in this mish-mash community of hopes and dreams.

So, no more excuses for me. No more stories of not having the time or space to concentrate on anything.

I have time back. To refocus on my work, my various courses, my continued desire to learn more and serve better, always.

I will write, try new things. I’ll fail – and I’ll try again.

Because, three years ago I set myself off on an adventure so huge that I mastered the art of time-travel. And I realised that, no matter what… Actually, I can.

The difference now is that I don’t want to ‘go back’ and have my time again. I want to move towards that golden glimmer of hope and keep on going.

Because, no matter what, this is where it all begins again.

And it’s up to me to make the most of it.

What can change in 100 days?

100 Days
the becoming | wing – by nayyirah waheed, salt.

100 days

In ‘normal’ times, what changes would I really notice in 100 days? Not many, I reckon. But we are not living in ‘normal’ times, are we?

100 days ago (January 16, 2020… so I can keep my dates straight in the years ahead) I was on a plane, heading to New Zealand with my family – making the most of the Chinese New Year break to go visit my favourite place on the planet. Footloose and fancy free, as the saying goes. The longest time away on holiday we would have had as a family, with plans to explore and adventure and just breathe in all the being outdoors and away and in heaven.

My time in NZ will go down in my memory as some of the very best days of my family life. And they will also always carry the stain of a murky shadow; a storm building on the horizon at the end of a glorious afternoon, rolling closer, threatening to break at any moment, making me nervous as to whether I should risk a little more fun, or just gather everyone up and run for home before we got drenched (with the children screaming that I am ruining their fun.)

I started thinking about writing this post after I read the hugely impactful Guardian newspaper article 100 Days That Changed The World. It’s taken me the 2 &1/2 weeks since to get anywhere close to being able to process my version of those 100 days… Three things prompted me to start putting pen to paper (so to speak…)

Firstly, I stumbled upon the fact that today, April 24, is both 100 days since I left Shanghai and exactly 100 days until my birthday. Something about this seemed significant to me. (I’m very well aware no-one else on the planet thinks this matters, at all…I’ve tested it out for significance on a couple of people and they did not bat an eyelid!)

Secondly, I am becoming more and more aware that I have no desire for things to ‘go back to normal’ – prompted somewhat by this piece written on Medium (Read it – it’s US focused but relevant elsewhere and I found it to be hugely thought provoking.) I want to use this ‘pause’ to re-evaluate what I want to bring into my world. I want to use this time to change things up.

Thirdly, I was speaking to a good friend earlier this week and they told me that they felt I came alive in my writing. It’s true. I love having the time and space to process my thoughts into written words… and up until now, during this ‘crisis’, I have chosen to not ‘allow’ myself this luxury. Well, it’s clear I’ve reached a breaking point, so it’s time all my disparate thoughts came tumbling out so I can let them go and see if my head clears a little. Here goes…


At the start of the year (& the decade, let’s not forget that it’s a whole new decade going on here…) my intentions were: to choose slow, to move towards minimalism, to focus on the essentials (I wrote about it ‘humorously’ in my last blog post here).

In many ways, COVID-19 has walked me towards all of these goals… but I have not felt ‘at choice’. It also foisted so many other changes on me that I could never have been prepared for (multiple location shifts, work pattern adjustments, “home schooling” in multiple formats over multiple weeks, fear of my kids getting ‘lost’ in a healthcare system I would never understand… mainly due to my own language deficiencies…) that I am now at the point of being able to see, and say, that I am (mentally) exhausted.

I know I have been, and still am, drinking too much – to numb the sadness, the anger, the anxiety…

I’m finding it hard to focus on anything other than very practical day to day matters (like food and laundry… things I can ‘control’)

I have walked myself right into the gender based stereotype of a 1950’s housewife (baking bread, home schooling, nagging the kids – constantly) while getting more & more narky with the husband as he gets to ‘waltz off to the office’ (my words) each day – as he’s the one with the ‘full-time job’ (his words – and you can imagine how well they went down with me…)

And by feeding my saboteur ‘the pleaser’ this emotional diet for the past few days / weeks / months I’ve made it all the way through ‘martyr’ (the one role I swore I would never take on) to breaking point.

And so now, it’s time to regroup and start making some different choices.

The next 100 days

The image at the top of the post is my favourite poem ever, by the magically talented nayyirah waheed. (So few words, so much emotion.)

I am taking the next 100 days, up to my birthday, to ‘be easy‘; to come home to myself.

There are things I need to do for myself personally (meditate more, start to run again, do some stretching, run a bath more often...) and things I need to do for myself professionally (I’m a thoroughly average stay at home mum, and a much nicer person generally when I do good work, I need to actively remember that) and so I’m stepping ‘into choice’. I’m actively working on what I can choose to change in the next 100 days.

And as my new (online) yoga teacher tells me, recognising what is going on and what you need is the first step.

If I show up (which I have been doing… it’s Saturday now, so day 2…) then I am already half way home.

displaced but…not entirely displeased

Stormy in Sydney – Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash

Hello. I’m Nicki. And I’m displaced.

So, it’s been a while since I posted here. Enjoying the ‘busy‘ that was my life. But right now, I’m displaced from Shanghai… temporarily living in Glebe, Sydney, courtesy of the Coronavirus (or should I say, the nattily renamed COVID-19) and I’m leaning in so blooming hard that, at times, I am truly amazed that I haven’t fallen over.

I’m not a threat. No-one was at risk of getting ill or passing on the virus. We didn’t ‘run’ to escape Shanghai. We were already in New Zealand when concerns started escalating. (On a rather epic and wonderful big family holiday, making the most of the early Lunar New Year break to celebrate a certain someone’s big 5-0. If you haven’t been there – go, now…It’s amazing.)

So when the office and the school extended their holiday closure, and we were unsure what exactly to do for ‘the best’… we took the decision to make the most of the opportunity to come to Sydney – to give us a little time & space to see how things panned out. 2 & 1/2 weeks later, we’re still here… and no more sure of anything than we were as we boarded our plane from Queenstown…

Grateful… for ALL the things (big & small)

Being displaced is hard going on a day by day basis. There are screaming matches and tears. There are promises that tomorrow will be ‘better’ (calmer, more organised, less organised, more fun, more productive… whatever it was that today wasn’t). But I’m not going to moan about the continual logistics that swallow my days when it is making me so very aware of how lucky I am. I am grateful…

To have choices. About anything.

To have the options we have had – which now find us here, in yet another Airbnb, with enough bedrooms and beds and wifi and Netflix and… and…

To have an unbelievably supportive office set up available to us here. With IT support so the kids can do their elearning each day. Meeting room space so I can continue to work myself… and long known, yet never actually met before, friendly faces that ask how we’re doing and invite the kids to raid the chocolate stash and join the Friday nerf gun fights…

To have friends from our school in Shanghai, here, in the city. (The real bonus of ex-pat life…) So we can go on ‘learning adventures’ to the zoo and the aquarium and the huge play area and splash park… Ticking off so many kids ‘bucket list’ items that we never would have considered possible… Enabling me to talk, process, moan, groan and laugh with a friend who is going through EXACTLY the same reality as I am right now. (The biggest concern being to ensure we’re all alive & talking at the end of a day’s e-learning. Teachers are, as I have always known, saints, magicians and gods...)

To have family here, who I last saw in 2006. Who I can now grab a drink with, or dinner, or brunch… Who can meet the kids and make them smile with their van for Dogspeed, the ‘coolest business ever’ of a pet transport service here in Sydney.

To be able to WeChat my friends from Shanghai who are now all over the place… living their version of ‘what to do for the best’ as we sit it out & wait for further instructions…

Oh, how the universe provides…

At the beginning of the year, I commited to find a way to live more in the present… less long term planning, more ‘in the moment’.

I also decided that I really wanted to embrace minimalism. I dislike ‘stuff’ (it has a tendency to stress me out) so I wanted to start paring things back to the ‘essentials’.

Well, now I laugh… (Back to that old adage of ‘Be careful what you wish for’…)

Yes. I am displaced. It is not easy, or simple. But for all of the above reasons and more, I am not, entirely, displeased.

Choosing busy (the right kind of busy…)


Choosing busy
Image courtesy of Unsplash

I keep getting told how busy I am – the inference being that it’s a bad thing.

And sometimes it can be… and… mostly, right now, I feel lucky that I’m choosing busy.  My exact design of busy.

Choosing Busy

I am choosing to study – and I love it.  I really love learning.  My Wednesday mornings spent studying (group calls, reading, audios, notes) are such a joy.  Me. My (newly tidied) desk.  My view out the window.  Devouring knowledge.  What a luxury.

I choose to work at Imagination (part time, a definite choice on my part, out here) – and I enjoy the people, the conversations, the ability to provide a space for options and discussions and thoughts and … well, just a space for people to breathe.

I choose to coach bright, sparkling individuals – more conversations, which lift me up, make me feel lighter and buoyed by all that is possible in this world… The chance to be a mirror to all their talents and gifts and value.  This is a real honour – that literally feeds my soul (quite possibly more than it does theirs… but I hope not…)

I choose to go boxing.  Michele Aboro at Aboro Academy is not only an undefeated world champion, a Londoner, and a resident of Shanghai – she also makes me laugh more than anyone else I know could at 7am in the morning!  Her classes make me ache SO much… and yet the sense of pride they bring out in me, when I can still walk the next day… they keep me coming back…

I choose to run and to cross train and to cycle and to move this body of mine every day (ok – most days) for at least a little bit.  And I’ve learnt (thanks to my 100 day challenge) that this is not a chore.  It gives me space. It lets me burn off and work out and process all sorts of thoughts and issues and ‘stuff’ that would otherwise consume my brain.  Sometimes on my own. Sometimes with others.  Both are useful.

And all these choices support the day to day running around that I do in honour of the little people and their schedules.  Football, choir, netball, craft, swimming…

Yes, I am frequently rushing (cycling, mostly) from a to b to c and back to b (again and again and again) AND…. this is the choosing busy that makes me smile and feel grateful.

I know how lucky I am to have been able to create this life that I love out here in Shanghai.  It keeps me in action.  It is rarely static.  And there is always a ‘balance’ to be moving towards…

And sometimes, I get to choose stopping. Sitting. Reading. A cup of tea with a friend. An evening on the sofa (currently chomping my way through This Is Us – which I love!).  Or today… a massage at Dragonfly… a short cycle ride down the road…

It’s not overwhelm.

This is the choosing busy that makes me feel alive.  My choices.  Changing all the time.

How to say goodbye

how to say goodbye

I’m working on learning how to say goodbye.

It’s come round to that time of year again in Shanghai and so on top of goodbyes for the summer, there are the longer term ex-pat life goodbyes as families head off on the next part of their adventure.

I’m trying to get better at making the goodbyes feel less awkward. And it’s hard.

There are the people that I have spent the last two years with, closely connected. The people who made our move out here so much simpler than it ever should have been. Who found houses and school places. Who had BBQ’s and beer and ‘gave’ us their network of friends. What words there can express my deepest thanks and the strange shaped hole that will be left?

And then there are the people who smiled and said hello whenever they saw me and the gang. Who knowingly laughed along as I cajoled three kids on bikes with bags to school in the morning. Who took 3 minutes out of their day whenever I saw them to ask how I was doing. Who had the kids over for play dates or took them to parties to make my day a little easier when it was all a bit chaotic.

These are the unsung players in our adventure out here. We each have our own network of close friends, but these ‘extras’, these friendly faces, these awesome supporters… how can I say goodbye to them appropriately?

Each person I interact with out here shapes my overall experience. And yet the majority of these interactions are just so transient. Adding up to mere minutes of a life well spent… and yet…

I don’t want to ignore or avoid the goodbyes. I want to find a way to honour them. To let them know that their small kindnesses won’t be forgotten. They had an impact on me. They made a positive difference to me and my family.

And it’s been made more awkward for me this year, as I run off early from the school year – to have my own goodbye elsewhere…

I’m on my way to California for the last time – finishing up my Leadership course. How on earth do I say goodbye to those guys? My tribe. Well, maybe with those I’ll stick to Au Revoir or Hasta Luego…

Because what I do know is that these days, goodbye never has to be final. But for me, it does need to be heartfelt.

So maybe that is how to say goodbye.



From the heart.

I will miss those that I no longer get to see regularly. And I will look forward to those precious moments when our paths unexpectedly cross again.

Leaning in to the Gender Pay Gap

Leaning in to the Gender Pay Gap

How do we go about leaning in to the gender pay gap?

This story began a long time ago for me.  While I can’t quite pinpoint the exact moment in time when gender equality became a ’cause’ for me (as opposed to something that I just thought I could work myself harder to get over), I know that the flames were fanned by the publishing of the phenomenon that was Lean In.

A friend of mine, the uber talented Harriet Minter (journalist, speaker and women in leadership advocate) wrote a great piece last week in The Pool about whether Lean In was still relevant today – concluding that yes it was, even with all its faults.

“It’s relevant because it shows all of us clearly exactly how the power structure is set up to support men and discourage women. It’s relevant because it challenges us all to take action in our own lives and not settle for less than we’re worth. And it’s relevant because it started a discussion about women and work without which I’m not sure we’d be where we are today.”

So what now?

Well, right now in the UK (which still counts as home whenever I get a chance to rant…) companies with over 250 employees are required to publish their gender pay gap figures for the first time by end of day today.

This has been a hanging question on my part for at least the last three years – since just before I went on my final maternity leave when it was just starting to get discussed as a possibility.

To find out what UK employers are required to publish, together with the explanations of the data requested – plus a link to the database of what companies have published –  click here

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks reading a selection of the published reports.

Some have made my blood boil. Made me so angry that I didn’t know what to do or say in response. The tone cursory and derisive.  Explaining that it really wasn’t an issue at all. Just historical fact (repeating itself, again and again).

Some have come across as transparent and written in good, if slightly awkward, faith – making me believe that closing the gender pay gap is being taken seriously in at least some quarters.

And some have had positive stories of negative pay gaps that could have been spinned…but instead they faced the fact that they had other gender equality issues to face. Other areas to improve.  That their work was, in fact, far from done.  These are the ones that had the most uplifting impact on me – the ones that openly acknowledged that there were still so many ways to be better.

And then as a working female, I was left with a lingering, uncomfortable question.

What’s next?

What’s the next step?

I’m a firm believer that once a step is taken, once we get beyond thinking and into action, the ground will rise to meet the foot to complete the next step.  The path will become clear.  But this time? I wasn’t so sure…

Until I started talking about it with some of my Leadership tribe – who made me realise that my staying quiet was just my own fear getting the better of me…(& if I can’t face my fears of not being liked and speak out, in the absurdly lucky & enjoyable position that I have managed to create,  then who the hell can? )

Plus a non-response would be a complete disservice to the empowerment & equality of women – something that I have been working on for years – for myself, my teams and anyone who in any way stood to benefit or be inspired by even the smallest step in the right direction.

So here goes…

Here’s how I think we can start leaning in to the gender pay gap

Firstly, if you’re angry (as I most certainly have been) then read this – some of the tone still chafes a little, suggesting that now is not the time to be belligerent (which I get, but – if not now, when???…) – but their proactive suggestions around actively making your bosses feel the heat, interrogating the promises to do better and being on the look out for corporate hogwash are helpful – and if followed en masse, might just help keep the fires of discomfort burning a little longer, which can only help shift the conversations along another notch or two…

And then I came up with my own list of questions that I would want to be finding answers to, if I were an employee in the UK today…

If the gender balance of the company is significantly out of kilter – what are the Leadership of the company doing to balance that out? Diversity (in all its forms) offers a strategic and financial competitive edge to companies.  McKinsey have been reporting on this for years.  If the company isn’t actively listening to that message and acting upon it – why not?

How many Board & Senior Management positions are held by females?  On the assumption that this is not sat at the same level as males, what are the company’s plans to address this? What initiatives do the Leadership Team have in place to support the promotion of women into more senior positions?  How do they actively support and promote flexible working? What % of their women who leave on maternity, return?

Do the company have a good story to tell on a role-by-role basis?  If yes, why not openly share that data? It is illegal to pay men more than women for the same work, but it’s hard to get actual data here as no-one likes to talk about money and companies often make it feel as if it is  ‘not allowed’ to talk about your salary (& bonuses & package etc etc).   However it is important to know that The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to prevent employees from having discussions to establish if there are differences in pay.  So be brave. Get asking… (More info from ACAS on that and what ‘equal pay’ actually means here…)

What are the Leadership actually DOING to address the real-time pay differential? What is their plan? What are the details?

What timescale do they have in mind to achieve what hoped for results? Do they have a Diversity Champion on the Leadership Team? What diversity metrics are being tracked at Board level? And how often?What are they aiming for – and by when? It’s sad but true that there won’t be an overnight fix but… when it comes to efforts, what gets tracked, measured and reported gets focused and acted upon…

Do they have a clear, open channel of communication for anyone who wants to talk about the Gender Pay Gap Report data now that it is published? If not, why not? If yes, has it been strongly communicated to all employees (from the top down, at each & every level) that the Leadership want to actively engage in this conversation with people?

How are raises given? And bonuses awarded? Are there standard procedures? Scales against which these are awarded based on merit? Are they transparent? These factors can weigh more heavily the more ‘loyal’ you are to a company and if they are entirely ‘discretionary’ based on individual Managers feelings, then you are at more risk.  Be aware.

Why do women leave the company? What Exit Interview data do they hold on this? And what actions have they taken to address any recurrent issues?

And what if you feel that your working life is okay right now?

Well, firstly – hurrah – I’m super pleased for you.  Share your story – and that of your company, because right now, I feel we could all use some good news.

And still…

My advice would be to read the data, and the stories, from as many similar or interesting companies as you can. Get a feel for the tone, the words, the personal, the truth…

Even if you think it’s not relevant to you now, I can promise you that knowledge, and informed opinion, can quickly become power in the right hands.  So better those hands be yours…

Work out what IS important to you right now about the company you work for (or the company you want to work for) and see how they stack up against your desires.  You are entitled to want things.  You do not have to simply be ‘grateful’ for the fact that you have a job.

It is by being curious and voicing your questions that we all get to start leaning in to the gender pay gap.

Leaning in to leaning out


leaning in to leaning out
image courtesy of unsplash

Leaning in to Leaning Out – the beginning

This journey started a long time ago – way before I could ever put words to it.

I spent my twenties working hard.  I got the job of my dreams and threw myself into it – heart, soul, hours, days and months. And I loved it. I stepped up and did things I could hardly believe. I worked with great people. Helped amazing events be realised. Worked for more hours than I would have thought physically possible. And I loved it.  And I was leaning so far in that when I fell over – I didn’t think anything of it. I just got back up & started again.

I got to travel and live abroad. I knew how ‘lucky’ I was and I loved it.

I got to choose to go ‘back home’ and carry on working with an amazing team. And I remember saying to my boss, one appraisal time, that what I really wanted was HIS job.

And what I remember now, more than anything else, is that he said: ‘Be Careful What You Wish For.

That was it though. I had set my stall out and that was what I was going to achieve.

Except when I started to get close, I started to realise that I wasn’t loving it quite as much any more. And this is where time started to slow.



It took years for me to realise that I didn’t want to go to where I was headed anymore.  That my heart was no longer in it. I was too scared and embarrassed to change course. To stop leaning in to what I had ‘wanted’ for so long – because if I stopped leaning in to that, what would support me? What would hold me up?  Who could I possibly be without the title, the pay cheque, the benefits, the ‘status’?

Leaning In to Leaning Out – the middle

Two years ago, I wrote this post... about how I was feeling. About the questions that were starting to form in my head. The options that were (slowly) becoming visible…

And I realised that I could ‘lean out’ from my previous choices. From what I assumed was ‘expected’ of me by others. From ‘the norm’. From the ‘corporate ladder’.  From London and everything I thought I had wanted…

I could lean out and follow my hearts desire – even if friends and family thought I was mad.

I could lean out and risk the loss of personal benefits for the gain of feeling like I was helping others little by little, to make some small corners of the world a little bit better, brighter, and less rigid.

Leaning in to Leaning Out:  The end?  No.

The Fresh Start!

So, two years on – and this week I got to set the new baby live:

Nicki Leaper Coaching

It’s petrifying.  My name, my words, my hopes and dreams are out there for everyone and anyone to comment on – and I’m well aware that it won’t all be kind.

And you know what? I don’t care.

Because this time round, I was a lot more careful what I wished for – and my leaning out has opened up a whole new world of possibilities – and I can’t wait to see where this adventure takes me.

(PostScript: I need to credit the rather wonderful Jessica McClure for the use of the phrase and sentiment behind Leaning Out.  When she told me about the Lean Out groups she runs, something just clicked – and so if you’re in or around the Seattle, WA region, and this has touched a nerve – get in touch with Jessica.  You won’t regret it.)

Leaning in to family adventures

leaning in to family adventures

Leaning in to family adventures… not falling over(board)

It’s amazing how one shift can change everything.

When we were back in London, we planned holidays to be as stress free and simple as possible… for the kids.  Portugal worked well. Short flight. No time difference. Resort life with buffet breakfast and kids club activities. A couple of hours ‘off’ in the afternoon with a book and a sunlounger.  Perfect.

And don’t get me wrong.  They worked. The little people were happy (relatively). We knew what we were buying into. We could pretty much guarantee sunshine. Our best friends were down the road.

And then came Shanghai.

Suddenly, holidays took a different slant… and we needed to find a way to embrace the changes.

Shanghai is a very long way away from most places, it would appear (other than the rest of China, obviously) –  but sometimes, we really want to get away from China… for a few days…

Plus… we’re in Asia.  We have chosen to change our entire world.  So we need to change our outlook on holidays as well…  It’s time for us to really start leaning in to family adventures.  Because adventure was the main reason we made this life change and it’s a huge value for me to honour (read more about that here).

And so this Lunar New Year we headed off to Hoi An, Vietnam – after a busy start to the calendar year.

And there starts the adventure…

Whatever it takes to get everyone to the final destination in one piece is just fine…

We had connecting flights via Hong Kong (which is a very civilised transfer airport, I must say…)

LeapPads while queuing for immigration? Fine.

Fries for breakfast while waiting for the flight? No problem.

Every single adult device known to man running the plane movie selection – with and without headphones involved – yep, that works for us.

The kids hate the travelling.  “It’s a dull and boring day” as the littlest one took to shouting.  Loudly. & Frequently.  So I’ll bribe any moments of non shouting peace I can get.

We made it to our hotel – and we were all still talking. Result.

(The fact that us grown ups had to climb through our wardrobe to get to the bathroom for the first two nights is irrelevant – another story for another time about cultural differences that do not show up on TripAdvisor!)

The little ones are brave

And I am a wussy-wuss.  Official designation, given to me by the eldest.

The swimming pools were not heated, and lets not forget that Vietnam is still northern hemisphere, so this is winter!

Do the kids care? No.

Do they laugh when I care? Yes.

Every single day I ‘ooohhed’ and ‘ahhhed’ my way into the swimming pools to join them on whatever freeze-inducing adventure they were creating.  They just leapt. Time and time again. Until they were blue and their teeth were chattering.  Then they got out. Asked for a snack. And went and did it all again.

The youngest and middlest went in fully clothed because they just couldn’t wait.

I couldn’t drag the eldest one out at the end of every afternoon.

And the littlest spent most of her time wandering around talking to any and every stranger she could find.  She co-opted more people to help her gather her swim toys every day than I thought possible.  She wanted something – she just asked whoever was nearest to help.

The little ones have absolutely no interest in sight-seeing

They are (mostly) happy to ‘see’ whatever happens to be passing them by on route to the swimming pool. Or to more food. Or to the people selling the LED ‘flingy things’ that they want. But if we try to take them ‘sight-seeing’ – no way.

They just take it all in their stride.  Everywhere they look is new and different and they just swallow it all up.  They don’t need to feel like they are ‘doing’ Hoi An.

The little ones amazed me by expressing gratitude

Ok, it was short lived. And did follow a supply of treats one afternoon.  But as I was waxing lyrical about the joys and privilege of travel (& how different it felt all these years on from my big Asia adventure with my father in tow) the middlest one said to us that he was grateful that we were spending the money we worked for on taking the gang to different places… and the other two begrudgingly agreed that it was indeed, quite a nice thing for us to do. All together. As a family adventure.

That made me quite proud of our gang.

And that’s a feeling well worth leaning in to whenever possible.

A Bridge to the New Year

Photo by Joseph Barrientos on Unsplash

The Bridge

It started out as an end of year review.  My completion ritual (you can read more about that here).

I like finding the time to look back and celebrate the year that has been.  Take stock of the positives – what I’ve done, what I’ve learnt, how I’ve grown – rather than just focus on what ‘next’ I want for the New Year.

This time round, I used a format suggested by Unstuck (which you can find here) and enjoyed thinking about what my achievements had been (personally & professionally), how I had grown and what I had enjoyed most over the year.

What surprised me here was how many physical things were on my ‘most enjoyed’ list: Lake swimming in Finland, my pole climbing escapades in Sonoma, yoga classes that made me cry… I hadn’t realised how alive doing that kind of stuff really made me feel.

A good friend then suggested that we build on the reflection – and create our plans for 2018, based on appreciation for the positives of 2017… So creating a bridge between what has been, and what is yet to come…

For anyone who wants to do the same thing, the questions that got added in, to look forwards, are:

  • Who did I become in 2017, to achieve, learn & enjoy so much?
  • Specifically, how would I like to deepen this learning and forward this action in 2018?
  • Who will I need to become this year to do that?

My bridge

Well, my bridge very clearly stems from ‘challenges’.

Last year I really challenged myself – to step outside of my comfort zone (and not just physically) – to see how I could grow.  I made myself act braver (& then found out that by acting braver, I became braver).

I took one step. And then the next step. And by the end of the year I found myself somewhere quite different to where I had expected – in lots of ways.

I can run 10k (slowly, and with little style, but…).

I do write (and people do respond).

I have a (small and perfectly formed) roster of coaching clients and I LOVE coaching.

I allowed myself to go on big adventures, not knowing quite what they would bring.  I made myself uncomfortable and I kept on trying new things, in new places, with new people – all of which has had a huge impact on how I head forwards.

And so how do I want to deepen this learning and move the action forward this new year?

I want to do more. Try more. Challenge myself more.

I want to move my body more. And more often. In new and different ways. (Hawaii / Paddleboarding here I come…)

I want to keep ‘in action’.  Do / move / fail / recover / repeat.

Who will I need to become this year to do that?

Me.  Just braver.  More passionate. More vulnerable.  More willing to try and fail.

The Golden Gate Bridge

And the best part for me? The bridge at the top of this post, the Golden Gate Bridge, will get to be a powerful reminder, at least twice more, of the choices I’m making and the actions I’m taking as I head back out to Sonoma for the next half of my Leadership studies.

I’m not sure its possible to drive over this bridge without smiling and feeling inspired – as to all that is around us, and all that is waiting for us on the other side.

Here’s to a great 2018.  Where is your bridge going to take you?

Full of Thanks

Image courtesy of Jessica Bristow – Unsplash


Just the best holiday ever, as far as I’m concerned.  I adopted it wholeheartedly when we lived in NYC and with an American daughter, it’s now a firm favourite in this English / American / Chinese household.

Why do I love Thanksgiving so much?

Because it’s not about presents.

Because it is about people. And gratitude.

For me, it’s about putting words of thanks together into sentences and saying them out loud to the people who really matter in my world.

To my eldest, the American: to say thanks for the spirit with which she shows up to everything in her life.  She is like a tornado – moving at speed, causing untold chaos around her, very focused on the current ‘thing’ and then very fast to switch attention to the next ‘thing’.  She is strong willed, independent and fiery – and she challenges me every single day to be a better person.  So I can set the best possible example to her of a life well lived.

To my middle one, the Brit: to say thanks for the emotion that he brings to all that he does.  He is full of hugs and laughter and tears and rage and he lets it all run through him openly and then, exhausted, lets it pass and moves on swiftly.  He is the performer and the kind hearted caregiver.  This is the boy who is not afraid to love.  He reminds me to apply ‘equality’ in his direction as well as his sisters.

To my littlest, my ever-more Chinese bundle of joy: to say thanks for the joy and the cheek with which she embraces her world.  She takes her chances, she embraces risk.  There’s nothing her older siblings can do that she wouldn’t try (if I would let her!)  She uses her charm to her own advantage… and melts the heart of whoever is trying to tell her to do differently.  She reminds me to have fun – every day, in the smallest of ways.

And to my hubby.  My globe-trotting partner in crime.  Thanks for the continued adventure of a lifetime.  It may not always be easy, but it is never dull.