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How a failed business idea led me to exactly where I am supposed to be.

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When I turned 40, as part of my Festival of Mel celebrations, I decided I wanted to do something a bit out of the ordinary with my four best girlfriends.  Something that would be exciting and thrilling, without the inherent danger of say, jumping out of a plane (after all, we had 13 small children between us!)  We ended up going ziplining in the Otway State Forest- it was great fun if you ever get the chance to do it, and we came away feeling happy and exhilarated. Later that week, once I had recovered from all my festivities,  I was thinking to myself that it would be great if there was a website that sold gift vouchers for experiences for women, as this would be a fantastic 40th birthday present.  When I started looking online, it seemed that a lot of the websites selling experiences were geared towards men e.g. hot laps in a V8 (I know this might be some women’s idea of a good time, but it ain’t mine). However, anything targeted towards women tended to be along the lines of spa treatments and massages (now I love a good massage as much as the next person, but it hardly gets the heart pumping- unless of course it’s by Ryan Gosling).

With that, an inkling of an idea began to form- maybe I could start a business that sold gift vouchers to women for experiences rather than products- things like cooking classes, dance lessons, jewellery making, and swimming with dolphins (I still think it’s a good idea by the way, feel free to steal it if you want to!)  I talked to my best friend about it, and we both agreed it was a fabulous idea, bound to be super successful, make us a motza of money, and would eventually be bought out by a large corporation so that we could spend our twilight years travelling the world together in style (did I mention that I’m a glass half full type of gal?) So we decided to go into business together, and diligently started our planning.  We chose a name (Your Time Off), registered it, got a logo designed, did a business plan, researched potential suppliers, started getting a website built, and……..

Nothing, we really didn’t do anything.  The above took us two years to come up with.  Yes, for two whole years we would meet once a week, catch up with each others news, complain about our children, complain about our husbands, laugh about life in general, have a cup of tea, have some lunch, oh, and maybe spend an hour or two on the computer (while easily getting sidetracked by Between Two Ferns– you can thank me later if you’ve never watched it before!) So what happened? We both thought it was a great idea, but neither of us had any motivation to do any work on it outside of the few hours we caught up once a week- basically we didn’t have any passion for our business.  What we did enjoy was spending regular time together, and having the excuse of our start up business meant we made consistent time for each other in our busy lives.  Now you would think that two girls who met whilst studying psychology, would have realised sooner that running an online gift voucher business would not be their strong suit, but no, we kept going as neither of us was willing to disappoint the other by pulling out.

It was only earlier this year, when a friend convinced me to attend the Big Hearted Business (un)Conference and I heard Danielle LaPorte speak, that I started to question what I was doing. I really started listening to my inner desires, and pushed my fears aside and enrolled in a life coaching course that deeply resonated with me.  I knew that helping women like me live their best life on the other side of forty was where my true passion lay. I finally felt I could let Your Time Off go without feeling like a failure. My friendship is still rock solid (and lets face it, it may not have stayed that way if we went into business together).  Not surprisingly, I have achieved more in the last few months, than I did in the last two years, because I believe so much in myself and what I want to achieve.  I built this website myself, I have rediscovered my long lost love of writing, I have embraced social media, and I am loving my life coaching course.  I can’t wait until I start taking clients on next year, and I’m already thinking ahead about publishing e-books and running retreats in the future.  Yes, I am thinking big, because I am believing in myself  and what I have to offer the world. I may have gotten here via the long route, but I wouldn’t trade those days with my best friend for anything either- they helped get me to exactly where I am supposed to be.

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On the Other Side of Forty- Nothing Good Ever Happens After Midnight

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When you are a kid, midnight seems an elusive and magical time- impossible to stay awake for, but so full of promise (did anyone else dream of midnight feasts with ‘scrumptious tea cakes and lashings of ginger beer‘ or was that just me and my Enid Blyton obsession?)

In my late teens and early twenties, I often didn’t even consider going out until after 10.00pm, so most of my night out occurred after midnight, and usually included lots of dancing, drinking, and fun times. Seeing the sun come up after a dance party was not unusual, and my body seemed to function pretty well on a small amount of sleep and an egg & bacon McMuffin or two (this was an unfortunately small period of my life when my body reacted so well to alcohol, lack of sleep, and fast food- those days are looooong gone!)

In my thirties, I wanted nothing to do with midnight, I was all about sleep and how to get more of it. Throughout the night there was often a baby wanting to be breastfed, a toddlers wet bed to deal with, or a young child’s nightmares to soothe. My husband and I often enjoyed the fun bonding game of “I’m going to pretend I’m still asleep, so the other person gets up first.” The only thing I learned about midnight during this period is that there is nothing good on TV when you have to feed a baby in the middle of the night, and never ever purchase anything on a late night shopping channel, even if it is going to revolutionise your life (unless it’s one of those rotating hot iron hair straighteners- you should buy that and tell me if it really will smooth my frizzy locks!)

These days, midnight is no longer something to be feared, as all my children sleep through the night. If they get up early (as they invariably do) they all know how to make themselves a bowl of cereal and keep themselves amused until I come down the stairs to see the kitchen in a complete shambles (they never get tired of delighting me with that vista). However, I am speaking from experience when I say that on the other side of forty nothing good ever happens after midnight. Let me give you two hypothetical scenarios to prove my hypothesis (ok, so they both might have happened to me!)

Example one: You have paid for a babysitter to look after your children, while you and your partner go to a real life actual grown up party in your local neighbourhood- yippee! You confidently tell the delightful young babysitter that you’ll be home just before midnight. So off you go wearing grown up high heels, and soon you are talking to real life grown ups, having a real life grown up great time, when you suddenly notice that it is 11.58pm (when you last checked the time it was 9.30pm- how did that happen?) Somehow you have to remove your husband from his life or death conversation about sport, say good bye to everyone, have a fight about who’s going to drive, look for where you left your jacket, and then as neither of you can safely drive, you walk home in bare feet with your uncomfortable shoes in hand. When you finally arrive home, you end up giving the babysitter a big tip because you are so late, and see a note from your son on the kitchen bench informing you he has an away game of soccer at 8.30 in the morning, he can’t find his soccer boots, and you are on orange and lolly duty…

Still not convinced?

Example 2: The girls night out. You and your besties have all cleared your schedules, left plans and dinner with your significant others, and have managed to put on an outfit that makes you feel somewhat young and with it (or at the very least not too old and without it). You are going out for a nice dinner in the city, and decide to have a glass of champagne at a friends house before you catch the train. Two glasses later, you are feeling on fire, and head into town, where the hip new restaurant that doesn’t take bookings informs you that the next table of 6 will be available at 9.45pm. You decide to go to a bar because tonight you are young and wild and free- a few more drinks are had and the conversation and laughter is flowing. By the time you are seated for dinner it is past 10.00pm, and you would eat the coasters you are so tipsy and starving. When the food finally arrives you wolf it down, and end up eating a number of kimchi tacos and mini sliders at $12 a pop, that you barely tasted. Someone decides that an espresso martini is a good idea for dessert, and you miss the last train home and have to get a taxi. You finally get home at 1.30am, tired, starving, quite possibly drunk, and have spent a small nations GDP on your night out. Oh, and your husband has left you a note reminding you that you are on canteen duty for soccer in the morning…

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Do you have any great stories about the other side of midnight? Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me (more or less!)

On the Other Side of Forty I love…a Mumcation

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As those of you who follow me on Facebook or Instagram will know, I recently spent 5 nights on beautiful Hamilton Island with 5 lovely mums from my kid’s primary school.  This the third year we have done a girl’s trip, with an extra mum and and an extra night being added on each year (I think we’ll be up to a planeload of women flying around the world for a month in a few years!) Now, before you all roll your eyes and think there is no way that could be me, let me tell you I was the same initially.  The thought of a trip away without my husband and kids sounded as fanciful to me as getting a massage from a shirtless Ryan Gosling (but enough about my dreams…)  However, after a couple of Friday night planning (drinking champagne) sessions we discovered the secret to making your desires for some me time a reality.  Now listen closely my friends, for I am about to unlock the key to your dream getaway- seven little words that may just change your life:

YOU JUST HAVE TO MAKE IT HAPPEN

Yes I’m sorry to break it to you, but your husband isn’t about to turn to you one night as you are emptying the dishwasher for the third time that day, and whisper lovingly in your ear, “Darling you look exhausted, why don’t you hop onto Trip Advisor and find a nice spot for you and the girls to go and sip espresso martini’s for a few nights.”  That ain’t happening, it’s more likely Ryan Gosling will come knocking at your door with a portable massage table.  Your darling offspring aren’t going to lift their precious heads from their iDevices and say, “Mum you do such a great job of getting us to school, soccer, ballet, playdates, and into the shower on occasion, you should have some fun with your friends, please don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine.”  Likewise your employer isn’t about to acknowledge all your dedicated hard work and suggest that you take some well deserved time for yourself while they pick up the slack.  No, all these things are unlikely to occur (and if they do occur for you, can we please swap lives?)

Going on a mumcation is akin to planning a secret reconnaisance mission in wartime- it require tactics, logistical manoeuvring and determination. For us, the date is set months in advance, and once you have all agreed on the date, and how long you’ll go for, the next important step is to choose a destination and just book it Danno! For me and my friends, we like sun, a bit of shopping, some good restaurants, and somewhere scenic to walk it all off the next day. A bonus of it being booked so far in advance, is that you can save money that you might normally spend on yourself and put it towards your mumcation, so as you don’t go into credit card shock at the end of it (I may have forgotten to take my own advice on this last point!)

Once the actual holiday details are locked in, then the real intensive planning begins. Yes, it is likely you will have to ask some people for help- the majority of dads cannot do both drop off and pick ups for school or kinder, as well as all the other activities most kids are involved with.  But guess what?  Most people are more than happy to help you out if you just ask them, and every parent likes having a favour or two up their sleeve to call on when required (I know I do).  In my case, my wonderful mother in law comes to stay- her only stipulations are a detailed running sheet of where everyone needs to be and at what time, and a fridge full of cold NZ Sauvignon Blanc (done and done!)

But that all sounds like a lot of hard work, I hear some of you ask, is it really worth it? My answer to you is a resounding Hell Yes!  On my recent trip, I felt younger, relaxed, joyful, in the moment, and free to be ME.  I laughed until I cried at least once every day (I might need to work on my pelvic floor muscles before the next trip!) Yes my liver took a bit of a pounding, but with no one to get up for in the morning- who cares?  This stuff is important in our lives, we are all much better mums, wives, daughters, employees, and friends if we get to manifest some much deserved self care and self love every now and then. Besides which, as my husband likes to say, “A happy wife means a happy life” (he can be remarkably smart on occasion!)

So there you have it, on the other side of forty it is possible to have a fantastic mumcation- it just requires ditching the mother guilt, getting some good friends together, a bit of logistical planning, and a suitcase filled with champagne (man, those Island alcohol prices are a killer!)

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Are you a fan of the girl’s trip?  If so, how do you make it happen and where do you go- I’d love to hear from you…

A crazy afternoon at my place

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Let me give you a rundown of my afternoon the other day. My oldest came through the door after school tired and emotional because he felt he was being unfairly picked on, and proclaimed it to be ‘the worst day ever’. Then, when I told him we were having roast chicken for dinner, he put on an Academy award winning performance of such abject despair that it would have made Hugh Jackman in Le Miserables proud (I mean I could have understood it if it was cauliflower soup, but it’s roast chicken!) Miss 9 promptly burst into tears when I had the audacity to suggest to her that she didn’t need to buy a present for the student teacher that had been in her classroom for a whole two weeks- what a crazy mother I was for thinking that a nice home made card would suffice. Then my youngest, confronted with the two other sad sacks, joined in and started crying when she realised that I had forgotten to go to assembly and watch her sing the national anthem with the rest of her prep class- yes, my mother guilt was well and truly activated.

Trying to be the caring earth mother that I like to pretend I am on occasion, I quickly pulled out the dairy free, sugar free, gluten free “ANZAC” biscuits that I had sourced from a wellness blog on the strength of a a good Facebook photo for afternoon tea. Not surprisingly, these were were thoroughly rejected by all (myself included) as taste free (why did I think a recipe by a 22 year old skinny yoga goddess would taste good?) But really, the piece de resistance of the whole afternoon, was when one of the kids yelled out “Mum, Otto’s just pooed out my sock!” Now, I’m sorry if you just spat out your delicious Arnotts ANZAC biscuit, but yes it’s true, our rather large and crazy puppy Otto does have a sock eating problem. Before you ask, we do try not to leave socks lying around, but this dog hunts them down like Kim Kardashian hunts down a photo opportunity!

All in all, it was quite a crazy afternoon at my place, and at the time I really couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry or do both. It was only after I called my sister to vent, that I could really laugh at the ridiculousness of it all- I mean what do you do with a dog like that! Which in turn made me think, that when times are a bit crazy or if everyone in the family seems to be having a bad day, sometimes we just need to take a deep breath, have a laugh with someone, and put it in perspective (maybe with a large glass of wine thrown in for good measure!) So often in these Facebook times we often focus on maintaining a perfect outlook to the rest of the world, and I for one always feel a tiny sense of relief when I know that other peoples kids behave as poorly as mine do sometimes, or that not every healthy snack tastes good or is worthy of posting to social media.

So in conclusion, if you need to feel better about your own family today, please feel free to compare yours to mine, but whatever you do, don’t come around to my house and leave your socks lying on the floor!

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I know I’m not the only one- How do you cope with a crazy afternoon at your place?

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