Falling gently into fall

Fall
Image courtesy of Jakob Owens – Unsplash

Fall vs. Autumn

Autumn is finally here in Shanghai.  I am loving it.  The skies are blue. The air is (currently) fresh and the temperature is wonderful.  Back in Britain, these days wold have felt like the heady days of Summer. Here though, it is wonderfully Autumn.  But it makes me struggle with the Fall vs. Autumn thing.

The leaves here are very reluctant to fall.  They change colour (a bit… my soul belongs in New England in the Fall) but they hang on to the trees, they linger.  They do not ‘fall’.  It seems they wait until Spring when new leaves literally have to push them off the branches.  So I am missing the piles of dry leaves to kick around it, and I therefore am struggling with the concept that this is Fall.  It’s not.

So I get to remain British and claim the word Autumn instead.

The air in the morning, as I cycle the eldest down to the school gate, is fresh and crisp.  It wakes me up and makes me smile.  Plus it means that I need a ‘pointless top‘ to just keep the chill off – so, I am in heaven.  I was built for Autumn.

And still the golden sunlight in the mid to late morning is warm – and so I can happily sit on the football field and wait for however long, as whichever of the kids finishes off playing.  These days are rare.  I’ll be less keen on the early Sunday football starts when I need to bundle everyone up and keep jogging on the spot to keep warm while watching…

Fall away

Now is also one of my favourite times to start afresh.  The ‘other‘ Spring clean time.

We have had a habit of moving house (country, continent) around this time. So with that, and the new school year, it is always a time of clearing. Decluttering. Letting things ‘fall away‘ to create some space for growth, for change.

The storage cupboard was finally tackled at the weekend. As was ‘the study‘. It was a room that we really didn’t use.  It had sofas and bookshelves and tables and… and… boxes of paperwork that had never been sorted through.

It’s still (very much) a work in progress. But it is less cluttered.  We can see the wood for the trees.  I can sit on the (one) sofa now and look out of the window, towards the trees and the sky and I can see how I can create a room of my own here.

My space. For my work. (It’s a L’Oréal moment – because I’m worth it…)

It’s just one of those things that a woman should have…(OK, a dubious link to this, but – a good friend shared this with me yesterday and it was too good to not pass on…This is the woman I hope I can grow into)

Fall. Let it Unfold

Another wise friend shared this post with a gang of us – about letting life unfold – and it seemed to sit well with the slowing down of Fall. Of Autumn.

What would happen if I stopped trying to rush. Stopped trying to ‘achieve‘ and instead just ‘experienced‘ all that life was sending my way?

What if I could stop trying to fast-forward through the awkward bits – to get to the so-called good bits – and instead trust that it was all moving along just as was intended?

What if, like the Shanghai trees, I could just let it unfold – knowing full well that everything would happen just in time for the next thing?Even if it didn’t fit into my pre-ordained schedule.

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing?

 

Can I have some help please?

Help
Image courtesy of Nikko Macaspac – Unsplash

Help anyone?

So, the Leadership course that I’m (super enthusiastically) working my way through sets us tasks and inquiries – to support the learnings we had while we were all together. And this weeks inquiry is to do with our relationship with asking for help.

Any in all honesty, my relationship here sucks.

So, the task to undertake was to try and find at least five opportunities to ask for help where you might not normally, and see what happens.

So… this is where the challenge starts… but I’m going to claim an early win here, from the return leg of our vacation.

Help me to fly

Ok, so that’s a bit of a stretch but…

We had a great Golden Week holiday in Bali.  And I’m a fan of direct flights where possible… but the reality of 01:30 kicked in loud and clear at about 20:00 on the night of the flight, and suddenly our allocated seats at the busy front end of economy (to hit the Immigration Hall as swiftly as possible) were not looking so charming – with three tired, grouchy and borderline unwell kids.

I have a tendency to assume there is little point trying to sweet talk airline staff, and so normally would have just ‘made do’ with what we had allocated… but… why not? Why not just ask…? Is the back of the plane quieter? Could you move us so that we could hopefully be able to spread out a bit and find a way for the kids to lay out and sleep a bit on the way home?

One cute toddler smile (littlest is still super useful being cute at this point in her life)… and yes… moved to the back of the plane where our 5 seats managed to spread into 7, and then 9, during the flight.  One tiddler sleeping on a blanket in the floor in front of me (well, she’s still pretty small), middlest and eldest bundled out across 2 seats each… and hubby managed to see off a Chinese contender for three middle seats and a couple of hours kip in between some email clearing.

Yet again, it appears that if you’re able to ask (politely, and without assuming you are owed anything) sometimes the universe comes through for you…

So, what else do I need help with?

My course taught me (very clearly!) not to be overly specific in my demands for help, rather to simply ask and see what might happen when people have the opportunity to help in the way they want – rather than the way I would typically prescribe so…

I’ve decided to lay out my current wishlist – to see what the universe comes back with.

Parenting 101 Help

I’m trying to raise 3 small children, whilst living abroad in a wonderfully amusing yet challenging city, a long way from my small but well honed support network – and I’m finding it hard.  Eldest is a ‘spirited, independent, strong-willed’ chip off the old block (b*gger – it’s sometimes like looking in a damned mirror!), eldest and middlest fight like cat and dogs, and littlest, whilst still super cute, has decided it’s time for her to find her voice in the family… But I don’t need any more voices to try and listen to. I can barely hear my own… Can I have some help here please?

Add to this a desire to still keep a marriage / partnership in tact – rather than just feeling like co-minders of a small zoo.  I think you can sense the personal struggles here…

Friendship 3.0 / 4.0 / 5.0 Help

I keep moving. I keep heading off around the world, and my nearest and dearest have done so well at holding the fort for so long for me that the scorecard is weighted heavily in their favour. How can I keep my longest and most important friendships alive across the miles and years (3.0), whilst truly allowing myself to open up enough to make some real friendships out here (4.0) – without the fear that everyone is essentially just at some part of the ‘moving on’ phase of ex-pat life?

And then how do I successfully manage the amazing new global network of friends (5.0) that I have made through my studies and adventures? I struggle with enough hours in a day, let alone managing the time zone game…

Portfolio Career Help

I’m a solid Gen X, not Millenial.

I’m not a digital native and yet I want to find a way to utilise the new ‘social’ networks to showcase myself as a brand – with multiple, linked, well developed and seriously studied strands of talent and interest.

How can I best serve a company that I still love, whilst also developing myself to be the best leader and coach that I possibly can be? So that my wider aim of inciting positive change, and inspiring real action to support true working ‘equality’ can be met?

And does this one not really boil down to – how can I show up as the best leader I can be?

Answers on a postcard please… Oops sorry, showing my age there.  Add a comment. Email me. Facebook me a thought…

I’ve decided that all offers of help will be welcome – however they show up.

Actually, I can

actually, I can

Can I have two Mondays and enjoy them both? Actually, I can!

A story of Time Travel and Bravery – via the Golden Gate Bridge

So I’ve started in on a ten-month Leadership programme that involves the unfortunate requirement of having to go to Sonoma, California four times.  It’s a hardship, I’m sure you can imagine.

I left Shanghai about midday on the Monday, and thanks to a rather brilliant United flight made it safely to San Francisco for about 0830 on that same Monday morning.  Confused? My head was.

My first Monday, aboard the plane, was about as nice as it can be – aboard a plane.  I ate, I drank, I slept, I read a bit.  Traveling without the three little ones in tow really is a pleasure.  I now truly get why hubby doesn’t mind all his to-ing and fro-ing.  No one gets to ask anything of me on the plane – other than whether I want beef or chicken!

My second Monday was pretty awesome too.

I picked me up a fantastic little Fiesta (can’t kick the Ford-ness out of me, no matter how you might try) and headed from the airport through San Fran and out across the Golden Gate Bridge and down in to Sausalito.  How could that drive not make you smile?

I can

When did I last get to explore on my own? To just meander around, stopping whenever and wherever I wanted?  Well, on this second chance Monday, that’s exactly what I did.

Iced coffee and cookie overlooking the city? Yes please.

Hearty singing to a truly bad playlist, whilst happily following Google Maps? Actually, I can. (With a little help from SYNC technology – sorry, couldn’t help but put that little plug in there!)

And then a night to myself in a gorgeous hotel in Napa – the River Terrace Inn.

And that’s when I decided to be brave.  (After a little power nap to head off the jet-lag snoozes.) I could have just hibernated in my room. Grabbed some room service, watched some bad TV and gone to bed early.  I was on my own after all. And I didn’t know the place at all.  But instead I decided to take myself out for dinner.  To get in the car, and drive myself 30mins up the road to head to the Auberge du Soleil for dinner.

In pre children times, hubby and I had talked about heading there for a Napa Valley vacation, but it just never happened. Other things did instead.

So I took myself there.  I got a table out on the veranda. And I sat there, with my book, surrounded by people on dates, and I felt brave and happy. And well fed!

Actually, I can!

And that kind of sums up how the rest of the week went.  I got to challenge so many of my own assumptions of what I can and cannot do.

Can I walk into a room of 20 or so strangers and tell my story of why I’m there? Actually, I can.

Can I show up and really listen to all their stories, even when uncomfortable, or heartbreaking, or both – and not try and ‘fix the problem’ but instead just listen? Actually, I can.

Can I climb a 20ft wooden pole, stand on the wobbly top and then jump off it – knowing that this group has got my back?

I can
Yep – that’s me up there. Crapping my pants!

Actually, I can.

There were a whole pile of other, smaller wins as well.

Can I sit and talk with this group of new friends about my biggest fears – without a glass of wine in my hand?

Can I dance as if nobody is watching? (Um… this one, maybe not quite so easily.  I can shuffle from leg to leg, and then slowly and gently be persuaded that with my hair and my dodgy rock loving past, I could manage a ‘rock-on’ that no one would laugh at too much!)

Can I enjoy whatever food happens to have been made that day, without getting fussy? (Um… yes, the food at Westerbeke Ranch where we were staying was unbelievably good.  I was so sad to leave it. Shanghai, you are sorely lacking right now.)

It was a great few days that put the sparkle back into the tired old (jet-lagged) eyes.

The question now is whether I can put what I’ve learned into practice in the real world?

And whether I can enjoy the next three trips out there as much?

And I know the answer…

I Have All The Time In The world

all the time in the world
Photo courtesy of Crew – Unsplash

It’s been a busy week.

Everyone had a full week at school. I was in the office 4 days.  Hubby was off travelling. And all the kids after school activities kicked in. Plus we had a little Parent Teacher Conference tucked in there as well. And a trip to IKEA for some salmon.  (Yep, really, people round here go to IKEA to buy their salmon steaks…)

Now, I’m no Tiger Mom (largely because I’m British – and so I like the right vowel in the right place – thank you – what do Americans have against the letter ‘U”?) but if my kids wants to get physical after school and there is some way to do that without it just meaning a large scale fight in our house, I’m all up for it!  So, Kung Fu, Football, Swimming – I’m with you.

Add in a little technology club, ‘film studio’ and science lab time – and what you have is me wondering how on earth I’ll ever keep up this level of entertainment for my kids as the years go on.  The kids are 7 & 5. (School hasn’t yet started providing these such delights for the littlest pickle – she feels aggrieved!)  They are officially spoilt for choice at this wonderful school.  And I am thankful for the fact that we live 2 minutes away from the place.  Otherwise this schedule would not work.

A combination of these things got me thinking this week.

It felt a bit like when I was working full time.  It felt a little bit like I was rushing from here to there, and back again… always trying to beat the clock. LIke there wasn’t enough time.

I could feel it tightening across my shoulders and my chest. Rush, rush, rush. Don’t be late…

But actually there was.  There was exactly enough time for all of these brilliant things that the little ones wanted to do.  And enough time for the food and the water that needed to happen in between.

There was enough time for me to slow down just a bit.  To say hi to the new mum I didn’t know outside Film Club.  To wait for the queue on the swings so that the middlest could show me quite how high up in the air he can get himself these days. To watch and be proud as the biggest one finally masters doing her own shoelaces on her much loved football boots.

And I made a decision.  I decided that I was going to choose to think that I had enough time. I was going to give up on this continual notion of scarcity of time.  I was just going to do the thing that was happening right then, and then move on to the next one.

It’s hard. And it’s not my natural state, by a long shot.  But I am beginning to really understand, that the days may indeed feel long – but the years. They are really short.

Back to work joy

The summer has flown and it’s back to work time. And do you know what? I am just full of joy to be back at it.  For lots of reasons.

Two months off has been a long break. I’ve been able to slow down, operate at a snail’s pace, see friends, miss the worst of the heat, settle the kids back into school with no additional pressure to get out the door, or get to bed.

I’ve had time to think – about what I’m doing, about what I want to do – and I am genuinely excited about what the next (school based) year can bring about.

The kids schedules are (almost) sorted and now I get to put some order back into my days and hours.

And I am more conscious than ever of how lucky I am to have been able to create this random world.

I was so excited this morning about heading back to work that I put on a smart dress and some ‘special’ jewellery – when my usual office casual attire would have done just fine.

And 5 hours later I am heading home – to start the kiddie pick up. It looks like it’s about to tank down on me, and still I am full of the joys…

It’s not as hot as it was. I had a good morning of both meetings and ‘productive’ work… I have a good selection of things on my to do list. And most importantly, I’m looking forward to heading back to work tomorrow again.

My Summer of Friends

 

Friends
Photo by Hannah Rodrigo on Unsplash

And so I am slowly returning to ‘normality’ after my first expat summer. My first summer of children.  My ever grateful summer of friends.

I still have a little while until full normality returns. The eldest and middlest are (very happily – both for them and for me) back in school – loving new things and new people and the fact that they have a lot less time with each other (to wind each other up).  The littlest has started in on her every other day ‘settling in’ routine to the new Toddler House at school – and she took all of 2 minutes to leave me this morning – calmly heading off to find something and someone more interesting than me to hang around with. But this on / off routine for the next couple of weeks leaves me in an odd state of limbo. Neither here nor there, as such. But as with everything else this summer, I’m learning to go with it.

It was a good summer. In fact, it was a great summer.

7 weeks of people and places (& a large scale avoidance of the worst of the Shanghai heat).  And whilst I billed it as my first summer of children, it also very quickly became the first, true summer of friends.

The Summer of Friends

Now I know I have good friends. Not lots and lots of them, but the ones I have are solid and they have seen me through some stuff!  But this summer, I truly began to understand their greatness. I owe them. Big time.

I’m the friend that keeps disappearing. And everytime I come back, I need more of their help and support to keep it all together.

Life as an expat is great fun.  But returning ‘home’ is hard. Harder than I ever really understood.

We no longer have a car, or a house back at ‘home’. So we needed to get a car, and a place (or two) to stay.  With 3 small, loud, untidy, unruly kids and a pile of suitcases, a small car doesn’t quite crack it and we are less than an ideal houseguest.

But, as they say (& as I have begun to preach…) “Ask, and you shall receive…”

A big enough car was available to us, miraculously.  One of the wonderful friends was able to get the car somewhere useful for us (their house!) – and so we could just descend on them once we were off our flight. Let the kids run wild for a while. Enjoy a cup of tea. Get some help loading the car. And then just disappear off into the night – leaving the chaos behind us.

I got to be cheeky and suggest a proper barbecue catch up with them the next day… which they got to host. With more food than would feed an army and more good humour than ever thought possible – for having been so wonderfully ‘dropped in it’.

My oldest friends had moved house. Had two spare bedrooms and enough mattresses for all the kids to be catered for.  We took over their house for 3 weeks.  If I’m being generous to myself I could say we were ‘house-sitting’ while they went on holidays for a while.  But if I were being honest, I’d say I was chancing my arm and banking on two decades of friendship to see us through the noise and the mess and the sheer chutzpah of my request.

Then there’s the friend with the seaside cottage – who greeted us with smiles and laughter – and then dealt with the littlest one’s over excitement of peeing herself the moment she walked into the house (just after I had left to go collect Daddio from the station.)  Buckets, spades, body boards, flip-flops, ice creams – plus the repatriating of all the things we ‘left behind’.  The kids toys, the forgotten about laundry, my watch!

The list goes on and on – ending with a last night bedroom provision, a beautiful roast dinner, a bottle of Bollinger (well, I was turning 40) and a 430am wake up call – that quite clearly is not quiet when it involves a 7, 5 & 2yr old.

I cried when I left their house in the taxi, airport bound.   Not for leaving the place, lovely as it is, as such.  But for leaving such friendship. Such kindness. Time, effort, care, food, wine, space – all given without a comment about the personal cost to them, of which I’m sure there was plenty.

With family, there is more of an ‘obligation’ to provide this level of support.  (And believe me, it is still appreciated. I know the chaos we cause whatever we arrange, and wherever we turn up!)

With friends – it’s done, and received, out of love.

What else I learnt about Friends

I also learnt that its much easier than I thought to ‘claim’ friends.

I’ve never been the most sociable of people. A little anxious and nervous around people I don’t really know.

But by coming back for a short period of time, and wanting to fill it (for me, and for the kids) with as much fun as possible, I had to reach out to people I vaguely knew. That I used to know – but not that well – and make plans. Claim their attention and their time – so that the kids could see their old friends and create their own world and memories.

So we saw old school friends, Old nursery friends. Old friends of friends. Old old friends who have moved away and it would have been easy to not see really but…

And I got to see my little ones stepping straight back into old friendships. Not fazed by the weeks / months / years apart.  Just picking up the conversation where they left on and moving forward.  Making plans for what other greatness they could create together. (There is a sideline Star Wars movie in the making as we speak… it should be complete within the next 4 years or so I’ve been told.)

And it made me realise that friendship can be easier than I sometimes make it out to be.

And so that is what I bring back with me to Shanghai – after my summer of friends.  A plan to be that little bit braver with my offering and claiming of friendship here.

The Summer of Children

Summer of Children

School’s out for Summer!

We introduced the kids to the genius that is this Alice Cooper track last weekend and I’m pleased to say that the air guitars came out in force immediately – and we all appear to share the same inherent family lack of musical talent.

That’s it. Term is done. The first year of school in Shanghai has been successfully completed and we have three kids that can now all converse with each other in their own secret language – that most people over here (other than me & hubby) can understand.  This is not going quite as planned.

It seems to have come around so quickly.  I was just getting myself sorted. Just used to how the routines ran and worked.  Just feeling like I was getting to know the amazing community that exists here – and boom – all change (again).

Point to note number one: Ex-pats leave town really quickly. 3pm school finish. 5pm car to the airport.  For those of us who have stayed around a little longer, it becomes a ghost town pretty swiftly.

Point to note number two: Kids aren’t just breaking up for the holidays.  Families are not just heading off on a nice two-week sunny vacation.  Families are leaving – for good – and lots are departing much quicker than anyone expected (themselves included.) Such is the temporary nature of ex-pat life.  Friendships are formed, and then ‘lost’, quicker than in normal life.  The fact that they get formed quicker is a good thing, yet also a little challenging I think – and I’m only on round one of this cycle.

Point to note number three: Time passes very quickly out here.  Our (almost) 11 months out here has gone by in a flash.  We transitioned from ‘newbies’ to feeling like locals before we even realised it – and it will soon be our turn to pay it forwards and welcome the newcomers into town.  To help them adjust, settle, integrate.  I am excited and amused by the fact that people will think of us as ‘experts’ out here.(Ha! How little they know!)

And all of this brought me round to thinking about how odd it is that I have 3 children, one of whom is now 7, and I have never yet spent a whole summer with my kids.

In the UK, I always worked.

The children were all at nursery in their early years – and so I had no childcare issues to worry about.  Nursery was always open.

8 – 6.

51 weeks a year. (Luckily the office closed for Christmas in the same way nursery did.)

When our eldest started at school, we were worried about what we would do to cover the 6 week summer holiday.  We planned summer camps. And split vacation leave. Plus a week together somewhere in the middle.

But in the end, we didn’t need that plan because Number 3 arrived and Hubby scheduled his Paternity Leave to kick in as the school year ended.  I went back to work.  Hubby had some quality time with the 3 of them (or something like that.)  Summer survived. Jobs in tact.

Then there was last summer.

Moving to Shanghai at the end of the school year was an extreme way to deal with the summer childcare issues that would have faced us – but it did the trick.  I honestly don’t know how we would have managed the 6 week break without feeling stressed, full of guilt (about both the kids and work) and without being significantly lighter in the bank balance department.

And now there is this…

My (first) summer of children

So the Shanghai plan has allowed for me to create what is my first summer of children.

Today was my last day in the office for two months.

We fly back to the UK on Saturday – with Hubby in tow for the first week – and then I get three weeks of me and the kids. Before we head off to Helsinki to meet up with the Hubby again and disappear off to a little lake house for a week – to celebrate a big birthday of mine, in a rowboat, on a lake, in the never-ending sun of a Finnish summer!

(Please let it be warm. Please let it be warm. When I’d sold the idea of making use of connecting flights to the hubby, I know he had been thinking of Bali or Thailand – and I appreciate the good humour with which he has accepted Finland!)

I’ve given myself some homework tasks for those quiet evenings when the kids are asleep and I’m on my own. And I have a plan for my return to work come the end of August. And I know how lucky I am. To have been able to design this plan and then put it into action.

Because after this year of upheaval and excitement and adventure, I am so looking forward to my summer of children.

I have (almost) no plans. (Which I will admit, for me – the planner, is a little frightening.)

I have good (no, great) friends helping us out (above and beyond, as always) – sorting meet & greets and places to stay, and tea and wine and the sort of catch ups that never-ending friendships allow for.

And we will play.  We will sit outsides in the fresh air (when the weather allows for it.) We will go to bed late.  We will swim and get messy. (We will argue and shout and have many a tantrum, I am sure – and that’s not even taking the kids into account!)

And I will be forever grateful for the mere fact that I have this time.  (It was not something that had ever crossed my mind as a possibility while I was a working parent in the UK.)

To make some more memories with the family – with people and in places that will stay in our hearts forever.  That we will talk about as we return to the crazy that is Shanghai.

And we will then have completed one full cycle of expat life.  And we will be raring to go for round two.

Bring it on.

Coming Home from Lopez

Coming Home

Coming Home

I travelled about 13,500 miles – from Shanghai, to Seoul, to Seattle, to Lopez Island, back to Seattle, to Taipei, To Fukuoka, to Tokyo… and then home. To Shanghai.

I took one maglev train, six flights, one seaplane, one ferry, one road trip style car journey – and plenty of connecting shuttle buses.

coming home

It still seems slightly odd to claim I’m ‘coming home’ to Shanghai – but I did.  I do.

And this time, I was coming home from Lopez Island.

My big, brave, grand, solo adventure. (The first in a very long time…)

It took 6 days in total – and almost 3 of them were travelling.

I had two Thursdays.  But not much of a Monday. (Hard to manage for a compulsive, daily diary writer.)

coming home

I had sunshine, rain, a double rainbow, a full moon, visiting seals, more eagles (Golden & Bald) than I could count (they were everywhere – lined up like seagulls on the beach),  and just to top it off a passing Orca or two.

I finally met a friend from Seattle, who I had only ever connected with over the airwaves – yet who comes from about 5 miles away, back in the previous life.  (And the good news was, we got along in person… it could have been rather uncomfortable otherwise…)

And why did I do this?

I hear somebody (not sure who) ask.

Because an amazing, intelligent, inspiring bunch of women (a branding expert, a Google exec, an Olympian – just to highlight a few) were invited together there (by a magical Coach) to talk about Leadership.

And what ‘Women’s Leadership’ might look like as we move forwards.  As we deliberately try to steer ourselves away from the current line of masculine lead history.  And that topic fascinates me. It is what I am working to build and grow, both for myself, and for the people around me.

It was an amazing weekend.

Coming from Shanghai, there was more fresh air, more big sky, more water, more nature, more SPACE (to be, to think, to dream) than I have experienced in a very long time.

And it was exactly what I needed. To lift me up. To propel me forwards.

And homewards.

We were left with a poem – from one of the wonderful women (from a rather marvellous & beautiful poetry book called ‘salt’ – by nayyirah waheed)

This really sums up how I feel about the whole experience.

It felt like coming home.

coming home

 

Enjoy the silence – you can find it in the most surprising of places

Enjoy the silence

Enjoy the silence

It’s funny, but the more silence I find, the more I hunt it out – and it might be a cliché, or it might just make you think of an old Depeche Mode song – but I truly do enjoy the silence.

I meditate each morning – first thing, before anyone else is up & about. And even though my mind still wanders all over the place (and this is after years of start / stop mindfulness, plus a cracking 130 day run of just doing it, no matter what) I love my few minutes of silence.  The peace and calm it brings me is huge – my early morning conscious pause before the chaos begins.

And still I search for more quiet.

It’s heading towards the end of the school year here and everyone is tired, and getting grumpier (though the sweltering heat may have something to do with that as well.)

But us parents got a day of respite on Monday – when the International Schools were open, but offices closed for the Dragon Boat Festival weekend.

Hubby and I headed out on a Wheely Bike Tour of the Former French Concession district of Shanghai – and in amongst the chaos of the city, with the huge roads and the millions of people, we were taken to what were referred to by our guide as Shanghai’s villages.  Lilongs – old alley communities – and beautiful Shikumen houses,  with potted gardens and decorated front doorways.

enjoy the silence

enjoy the silence

And it was silent within those alleyways.  Just peace and quiet and calm – and even a small breeze, which was very welcome.

It felt so different to Beijing 10 years ago – where I only realised how much I missed the silence when we left the city for a weekend – and my whole being was so shocked by the quiet that my ears started to ring – like at the end of a concert when you leave the stadium.

It was wonderful – a really great day out exploring this place that we now call home.

And more adventures…

And so the quest for quiet (& adventure) continues… and is leading me towards Lopez Island.

A catch up with a friend, talk of a Women’s Leadership retreat, a joking conversation about wouldn’t it be lovely if I could make it out there from Shanghai…

An insanely supportive, travel-obsessed hubby, with a love of route maps and flight info, happily accompanied by a selection of airmiles and upgrade vouchers…

And I’m off…

Next Thursday I get on a plane and head to Seattle, via Seoul.

Where I then get on a seaplane (hubby has never done this – travel trump card time!!) and fly up & out to Lopez Island, where I’m spending 3 days in a beach-house next to a Nature Reserve, with a wonderful bunch of 9 women (mainly from the surrounding areas, it must be said!) and I cannot wait.

This is a treat beyond treats. An extravagance gifted by the sheer magic of believing that anything is in fact possible if you ask.

A long haul flight, on my own.

The beauty and expanse of the Pacific North West coastline.

My soul is singing already.

I will enjoy the silence.

Training wheels off

Training wheels
Photo courtesy of Daniel Cheung – Unsplash

Here we go again…

Just as things get in to a routine and I (foolishly) think that we’re all solid and stable for a while, something goes and changes and we’re all back to learning again.

Training Wheels Off

This time, it’s training wheels off – in both a literal and figurative sense.

Middlest son was fighting having the stabilisers taken off his bike.

He hated the uncertainty and lack of balance. He hated that he might fall and hurt himself.  And so he decided that he hated his bike.

Except… he didn’t really.

He kept eyeing it longingly and then stomping away from it and grabbing his scooter instead (which he used to hate as well.)

And so, after weeks / months of nothing but scowls and shouting matches, I resorted to out-and-out bribery.

Weekend one: If you do 15 minutes practice on your bike then you can have a treat. (Cue tantrums, “stupid bike” shouting matches, and a minute by minute countdown request.)

Weekend two: And now if you do 20 minutes practice you can have a treat. (Cue slightly less tantrums, but a request to know EXACTLY what the treat would be…)

And finally – By Jove, I think he’s got it!

“Mummy, I LOVE cycling. It’s the best thing ever!”

Now that he ‘can’ cycle, I just get the major panics whenever we do go anywhere on the bikes.

Slow down! Be careful! Look out for cars, for scooters, for people, for bumps, for everything!!!!

But he’s doing okay.  And the best thing?  He now realises that the fear and the challenge was worth it – as it’s opened up a whole new world of possible adventures. (But if you see him coming, I’d still stay clear for a while – he has the poise and sense of direction of his mother!)

Training Wheels Off – Part 2

Now this one is messier…

Littlest one has decided it’s time for her to ditch her nappy…

And this is one lady that won’t be dissuaded without a fight so…

With the vision of a nappy free summer trip on the horizon (joy: less stuff to transport across the globe;  fear: we’ve got to get this cracked before we fly) we’re daytime nappy free… and I’m reminded how grateful I am that my kids have all gone to nursery.

For a few hours each day, it’s someone else’s duty to remind her to go to the toilet / to accompany her each time she wants to go and sit.

I’m lucky. She’s taking to it well, but still…

I seem to have blanked the memory of this process with the other two out of my mind.  I have a rosy little picture that it took a few days and they had it sussed.  I’m pretty sure this was not the reality that I lived with at the time but…

And Gina Ford – I have loved you well over the years, but re-reading your Potty Training book, and getting to your comment of “Most children are clean before they are dry“… Hmmm, not so much is all I can say with decency here.

But we’re going with it.  There’s no turning back.

Littlest Miss is proud and excited.  Who am I to quash that sense of achievement just because of a few puddles? (I’ll just follow behind with a mop at a safe distance…)

And what about me?

Well, I’m coming to the end of the official training period for my coaching, and so my training wheels are about to come off too…

It’s daunting and exciting – and I’m just so unbelievably happy that I’ve been able to study and train whilst on this Shanghai adventure.

And I’ve decided that I’m going to carry on with the learning and spread my wings a bit further – heading off into Leadership training (both for myself as a person, and also then as a coaching direction.)

And that means more adventures for me.  And no doubt some accidents. I’m going to need to get a lot braver again.

And so I’m going to run away for a few days to Lopez Island (thanks to an amazingly well timed conversation with a very good friend) to start answering the question “Who am I becoming as a Leader?

And then, on the promise that I will return from the paradise that Lopez Island looks to be, I’m going to start in on the 10 month Co-Active Leadership programme come September.

Four trips to Sonoma over the course of the ten months.

Hubby thinks the wine might be the real draw, but… This is a big one for me. This is me standing up and saying “This is what I want to do. This is what I am going to do”

Bring it on.  Bring it all on.