Archive for December, 2013

novel lessons

December 14th, 2013 | no comments

For years, now, I’ve wanted to participate in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The premise is that you commit to writing a 50,000-word novel in one month,1384414 egged on by a community of writers all over the world who are doing the same thing.

Every November, life seems too busy, and this year was no exception, so I did it anyway – because if not now, when?  Thirty thousand words later, I fell 20,000 words short of the target and am 30,000 words ahead of where I might have been had I not participated.

It reminded me of not doing the 14km City 2 Surf in August and then running the 10km Canberra Times Fun Run in September. Falling just short of a lofty goal still places us way in front of where we’d have been if didn’t give it a shot.

My next lesson was in ‘niche’. As the novel is for teens and includes a character from a boy band, it became clear that I needed to include some original song lyrics.

I put up a post on my Facebook timeline asking if any of my friends happened to know how to write a hit song, and within about 30 minutes, one of them had written a duet for me! Four verses, the chorus and a bridge. The lyrics were perfect for the storyline (which she hadn’t read) and I was in awe! (She will of course be properly acknowledged as the author.)

She said she’d been scribbling song lyrics since she was a kid, but isn’t ‘musical’ and couldn’t imagine the tune. I could hear the tune, but couldn’t think of lyrics – a little like the storyline of “Music and Lyrics” with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore.

It had me thinking about what it looks and feels like when we’re in our ‘element’ – when we’re doing something we love that feels effortless – or pleasantly challenging. When others look at us and say ‘You make it look so easy!’ and it feels easy, and enjoyable. The kind of thing we can do with our ‘eyes shut’.

My friend really undervalued her ability, and it wasn’t until I pointed out that not everyone can churn out a full song in 30 minutes that she began to think about it… and that’s the thing about our element. We become so comfortable there, it can be easy to under-value our skills. We can second-guess ourselves with thoughts like ‘I’m not that good! Anyone could do this…’

Most of the time, anyone couldn’t. It was a great reminder to celebrate our strengths and admire the strengths in others.

Where might you have been under-valuing yourself lately?

why I ate a banana as my house flooded

December 14th, 2013 | no comments

On Wednesday last week, I had a bit of a turning point in my career, but haven’t had a moment to process that yet because, when I walked into the house after running a 1369768workshop, I heard what I thought was a shower running. I knew something was amiss when I found myself sloshing around ankle-deep in water in the hall, staring at ‘torrential rain’ falling from the ceiling, through the heating and air-conditioning vents and streaming down through the light fittings in the bathroom and laundry.

I sloshed further up the hallway – flung open my 15-year-old daughter’s bedroom door and… gasp! It was POURING rain from the ceiling in there, all over everything she owns, including my $3.5K laptop computer, which was swimming in a puddle on the sopping-wet carpet.

Right. I scooped up the computer, books, photos and Justin Bieber posters and phoned my husband, who was about to escort the Greek ambassador in a tour of his workplace and then MC a book launch for two of the colleagues he most respects. Bad timing. But not as bad as the timing would have been a few days earlier, when he was embedded in the research library at Princeton, near New York.

I shut off the valve and taps in the backyard that control the evaporative cooling system on the roof, which I assumed was the problem. The torrential rain continued.

So I called my dad and also my sister – who lives up the street and brought reinforcements (her four-year-old). We shut off the mains water tap and the rain continued.

As the workshop that I’d been leading was from 11am-2pm, I hadn’t had lunch, and was quite peckish. So I had a banana. I stood there, watching the water ransack the house, enjoying the banana, and posting on Facebook.

By the time my husband walked in the door, I was sitting on the lounge, feet up on the coffee table consuming a toasted cheese sandwich and a cup of tea. Drip, drip, drip…

The point that I want to make is that stuff happens that is outside our control. All we can do is ‘what we can’. Step 2 is ‘take care of your well-being’.

I was hungry. Yes, my house was awash, but there was nothing else that I could do at this point other than phone the insurance company, air-con people and a plumber (and my husband was onto that), so the best course of action was:

a. Have lunch

b. Read feedback forms from workshop

I’m writing this on Sunday night and we still have five industrial blowers and a de-humidifier blaring in four rooms. The building inspector is coming in the morning to investigate the staining on the ceiling, and the fact that it’s warping.

It’s all just ‘things’. We’re all safe and well – and it’s inconvenient, and our house is in uproar, with only two out of five of us sleeping in our regular spots, but gosh – it could have been so much worse.

Do what you can, first. When you’ve done that, and there’s nothing else that you can do – be kind to yourself.

lessons from an empty pot

December 14th, 2013 | no comments

We are not gardeners (by any stretch of the imagination) but, about six weeks ago, my three-year-old was given a packet of flower seeds at Tania McCartney’s ‘Eco Warriors’1358581 book launch at the arboretum and we have been tending to them ever since.

While everything else in the garden is at wrack-and-ruin stage, this little pot of seeds has been embraced. Every single day for six weeks, my little boy has watered it and made sure there’s enough sun. Every time we leave the house or come in from the car, he checks it, and he proudly shows anyone who calls in. FINALLY, a couple of weeks ago, they sprouted and there were the beginnings of tiny little flower buds forming…

Then the whole thing was eaten by an animal overnight. YIKES!

My heart sank. I took him and showed him the empty flower pot and he said, ‘Oh. Maybe a small dinosaur ate them. Or a tiger. We need to get some more seeds! Let’s GO!’

When I was doing my honours year at ANU in 1996, I lost my entire, 15,000-word thesis in a malfunction of the floppy disc in my word processor. I remember staring at the blank screen in shock, crying for about an hour, then typing the word ‘Introduction’ in a new document – because the alternative was giving up.

Sometimes something very important to us crashes, or is lost, or we mess it up, or it’s ruined. We can fall hard at first, and that’s a natural response.

What matters isn’t that fall, though, but how we rise from it. It’s what we do next that defines us.

We hear a lot about “successful” people, as if they have some kind of magic secret that sets them apart. They don’t. The one thing that everyone shares is falling, failing, losing, messing up – crashing.

When we’re down for the count we can choose to stay stuck there, and start ‘wearing’ our failures like they are an intrinsic part of our characters: “Dinosaurs always eat my seedlings. No point planting any more.”

OR we can understand that we’re not unique here – everyone’s seedlings are attacked by dinosaurs at one point or another – and we can choose to stop taking it personally, get up, change something and have another go.

Without that ability to clamber up, we’d have no Harry Potter or Anne of Green Gables or Peter Rabbit. There would be no Dr Seuss, Agatha Christie or Judy Blume. No Narnia, no Gone with the Wind, no Chicken Soup for the Soul, no Catcher in the Rye, no Da Vinci Code, no Wind in the Willows, no Diary of Anne Frank, no Twilight, no Lord of the Flies, no Princess Diaries, no Wonderful Wizard of Oz, no Colour Purple, no Life of Pi, no The Help, no Time Traveller’s Wife, no War of the Worlds, no Moby Dick, no Great Gatsby, no Little Women, no Watership Down, no Notebook, and on and on and on it goes.

Every single one of these titles was rejected over and over again. Every one of these authors fell, just like we fall. Every one of them decided not to let that failure define them, struggled up and gave it another shot.

So we’re off to the nursery now, for some new seeds, and maybe a bit of netting or something to protect them. Will post a pic when they bloom!

why I deliberately stood in the pouring rain for 5 minutes

December 14th, 2013 | no comments

At one point on Friday night, I went outside and stood in the pouring rain for five minutes, ‘re-grouping’. 1338360

I call it ‘re-grouping’ even though there is only one of me, because by that point I was fractured in so many directions I could barely remember my own name.

  • My husband was packing for a work trip to New York.
  • Our toddler and his unrelenting ‘growth spurt’ was whinging for some post-dinner food because “I’m hungry, Mummy! You have to feed me!”
  • My fifteen-year-old was beside me, shopping online for stilettos and university courses in forensic science and criminal justice – with full commentary about prerequisites and entry marks and heels and leather uppers.
  • The thirteen-year-old burst into the room and made the dramatic announcement that Niall (of 1D) has a girlfriend! She’s an Irish model! Heartbreak, heartbreak…
  • I was, during all of this, actually on the phone to my business partner, attempting to launch our new program (more about that below) and at her end, there were squabbles about drink bottles and Kanga cricket and the twilight meeting of the Little Athletics Club…

Running a small business from home with a young family diverse in ages is crazy challenging at times. People often ask how on earth I get anything done. The answer is that I have a giant sieve through which I filter the endless ‘to do’ list, so that only the ‘bang for buck’ tasks are captured and done.

That’s true on both the work and domestic fronts. There is so much more that I could do if I chose to be Super Woman, do everything and be all things to everyone but I tried that a few years ago with disastrous results, so now everything is put through the sieve and a lot of it is let go. The secret to ‘doing so much’ is doing much less.

There was a time when I would hold out for great swathes of time to ‘do things properly’. Now I sieve ‘all the things’ and choose only the important ones and focus on doing those well (rather than perfectly), in the nooks and crannies of time that crop up – while Play School is on, or waiting outside the school, or in the shower or while driving (when creativity is at its best). The list of what I don’t do is longer than the list of what I do – which is why most nights I don’t feel the need to stand in the pouring rain.

Last week, I wrote 15,000 words of my teen novel. It seems implausible even as I write that here, to have somehow crammed that in on top of everything else, but it was surprisingly easy – because of the sieve. During the week, some things that are usually higher priority were let go through the sieve and the novel replaced them. It’s not about piling on more and more things at once, it’s about rotating around different things according to what matters most right right now.

Then, on Saturday morning, having taken those deep breaths in the rain on Friday night, and with my husband in flight to America and the program launched, dirty dishes in the sink and washing in the machine, I said to the kids ‘Get in the car! We’re going for fish and chips!’

They thought I meant down to the local take-away, but I meant down to the coast – two hours away – because it’s the spontaneous family time and the fun that you grasp as your life whips past that makes all the difference.

Are you wrangling a small business on limited time?

If you’re struggling to see the wood for the trees, you’ll love My 15 Minutes – Small Business. Based on our popular My 15 Minutes life transformation program, this 90-day business course guides you through each aspect of your business, in a series of achievable daily 15-minute actions designed to help you claw back control and fall in love with your work again, in just a sliver of your time each day.

Visit the website and download your free ‘Business Wrangling’ checklist to assess how you’re travelling in terms of planning, level of control, competitive edge, branding, positioning and communication, products and programs, use of time, profit, and more…

how purple feathers can change your life

December 14th, 2013 | no comments

I’m reading a book at the moment called ‘E Squared’ by Pam Grout. It’s a bit ‘woo woo’ – or at least I thought it was, until the woo-woo experiments contained within it started 1319727unfolding with bizarre accuracy…

I’ve just been away on a gorgeous weekend with my three high-school best friends – celebrating our 40th birthdays. I took the book along and said, ‘Guess what! We’re participating in some experiments this weekend!’ They no-doubt thought, ‘LOVELY! Emma’s off on one of her tangents!’ (but they agreed to play along).

The first experiment was to put out there into the ‘universe’ the intention of securing some sort of unexpected ‘blessing’ or ‘gift’… You didn’t have to be specific, but I said “Right. We need a one-hour massage under $100, available this weekend, for four people, and preferably with hot rocks…”

Everything on the net said $130 plus. Hot rocks up to $170.

Before we’d even arrived at our accommodation my friend had phoned around with no luck and then said, ‘I’ll try La Vie En Rose’ and we said, ‘That’s the one!’ and the woman said, ‘It’s $85 and if you come into the studio we’ll provide complimentary hot rocks therapy.’

Experiment #1 done and dusted!

The next chapter asked us to count purple feathers in the next 48 hours. Purple feathers! Not bird-coloured, normal-looking feathers. Purple ones. Sounded challenging. We thought we might fail.

We settled down to watch ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’ and Judy Dench swanned onto the screen wearing an elaborate hat exploding with about fifteen purple feathers.

The next day, we saw five purple-feather quills, a purple feather boa, several paintings of purple feathers … in fact, at last count, there were about twenty-five or more instances of purple feathers in our day.

The whole weekend transpired in this way, until we were convinced about the power of focus. And, as we parted ways, we started thinking about other ways that we can ‘look for’ or ‘manifest’ the things that we’re seeking.

My friend admitted that she’d recently put ‘out there’ in the ‘universe’ a description of exactly the kind of man she wanted to meet. She is now engaged to exactly that kind of man.

In my case, what I’d love to ‘manifest’ is a second publishing deal. I wanted a sign that this would happen, and then one of my friends read my fledgling chapters and said, ‘I can’t put this down. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!??!!!’

She’s my BFF though. She’s equivalent to my mum loving it…

And that’s when it occurred to me that we frequently ‘talk down’ the universe (or whatever you wish to call it). We say things like, “That’s never going to happen”, or “Yeah, but you’re my best friend – of course you’re going to say to you love it!”

From now on, I’m going Purple Feathers all the way. I’m putting things out there, and actively seeking them – including seeking the good in people, the upside, the joy in the ordinary. What we focus on, we get – so let’s focus on the things that will enrich our lives.

5 life lessons from the One Direction concert

December 14th, 2013 | no comments

Before you click out of this post because it’s about One Direction, I promise that it isn’t. It’s about adult stuff, which became obvious as the hysteria unveiled.1304120

We bought our tickets 18 months ago in a Ticketek bun-fight the likes of which I’ve never seen before. Imagine that the Internet existed in the 60s and people were trying to secure tickets to the Beatles…. it was beyond feverish.

My parents turned 80 that month, and I was hosting their family lunch that very day. When they arrived – several things were happening (none of which, unfortunately for everyone, involved the cold roast lamb sitting in my fridge).  I was glued to my computer madly refreshing the Ticketek page, my daughter was glued to a laptop doing the same and my toddler was at one point trapped in a magnetic-latching TV cabinet. (It was one of those unclear moments in parenting where you think, ‘Eek! What’s more important? Securing these tickets or ensuring oxygen?)

People said, ‘Are you crazy buying tickets this far out? They’ll have gone off them by the time it comes around!’

But, no. The ‘crazy’ hadn’t even started yet…

I won’t even begin to go into the events of 1D-day, other than to say it involved bouts of anticipatory tears and a mercy-dash by foot to a chemist in Bankstown in 33-degree heat by me after my fanatical child, whose ENTIRE LIFE depended on this concert, came out in HIVES two hours beforehand…

Here are the life lessons that I learnt from the experience:

Aim higher

In diligently researching for this article (and co-efficiently procrastinating on a speech that I was writing for the Australian Multiple Birth Association’s Convention yesterday), I somehow became trapped in a vortex of YouTube videos about the band’s rise to fame. In one of these, Niall (my future son-in-law) said, ‘We just want to win X-factor. We want that more than anything else in the world.’

They didn’t reach that goal. They came third.

They have since sold 19 million singles, 10 million albums and represent a $50 million business empire. They have over 80 million followers on Twitter and over 30 thousand likers on Facebook.

Lesson: You may not be aiming highly enough. Failing in one goal isn’t necessarily the end.

Be careful what you wish for

My 13-year-old lovingly made a poster to attract Niall’s attention. It featured a neon-orange backdrop, sparkly paper and glitter, and cost us about $23 at Officeworks to produce.

I said, ‘Wow! Imagine if he notices this and comments on it!’

She visibly shrank, and said, ‘What? No! I would faint! I don’t want him to!’

Lesson: Sometimes the very thing that we want the most is the one thing we back away from. Fear of success and change is one of the top reasons that we sabotage ourselves.

Have something else in life beyond parenting

I watched a clip taken shortly after the band had made it through on X-factor – when they returned to their home towns for the first time after they’d started to become well-known. They showed footage of the boys reuniting with their mums after weeks and weeks away on the show.

Harry Styles’ mum sat with him on the couch, hugged him, looked into his eyes and said, ‘I’m so proud of you, Harry – no matter how famous you become, you’ll always be my baby…’

He effectively left home then, at sixteen, and has been swept up in his career-whirlwind ever since.

Lesson: Have other things in your life beyond your kids

Sometimes there’s a price for happiness

There’s a scene in the movie ‘Shadowlands’, where the couple is regretting their upcoming loss of each other through death. They say, ‘The pain then is part of the happiness now. That’s the deal.’

My daughter was maudlin for two days after the concert – it was everything she’d been looking forward to for a year and a half.

Lesson: The price of experiencing wonderful things – events, trips, relationships – can be feeling deflated for a while when it ends. It’s still worth risking that pain in order to have the ‘wonderful’.

Glass half full

The day after the concert, we went to Bondi Beach. Liam, from the band, had announced that he would be surfing.

One of my girls could barely consume her iced chocolate through her post-concert funk. The other wore a bikini in case they ran into the group, and had a great time in the surf even though we didn’t see them.

Lesson: Make the most of your circumstances, even if they’re not ideal…


first aid for crazy busy

December 14th, 2013 | no comments

Like many others, I’ve been devouring Todd Sampson’s three-part ABC documentary ‘Redesign my brain’. It follows his journey as he undertakes a radical ‘brain makeover’ 1235921using cutting-edge neuro-plasticity techniques to boost thinking speed, attention, memory and creativity.

As part of his brain training he is required to learn to juggle with the help of an expert – Nic Price, who explains that the trick to juggling is to stare into the vacant space above the balls. Never focus on an individual ball, or you’ll drop the lot.

As I watched the experiment, I thought of all the times that managing our careers with the rest of our lives has been compared with juggling. People often talk of the balls they have in the air, and about their fear of dropping them.

For successful juggling, perhaps all we need do with our health, family, careers, friends, homes and personal downtime is to switch ourselves to auto-pilot. Stare off vacantly, without a proper glance at any of them – and we should be able to keep going indefinitely.

Stick to the juggling rule and life would effectively pass before our eyes in a whirl of getting out of the house in the morning, attempting to stay motivated and focused at work, feeling as though we’re never getting through as much as we want or need to and chasing it all down with a cocktail of dinner/bath/bed chaos. Repeat.

The juggling experts are right. We can’t focus on everything at once or we’ll drop something.  But putting ourselves into an almost trance-like state of groundhog day – absently allowing everything to revolve around us – isn’t really ‘living’ – it’s ‘surviving’. It’s as if we’re experiencing our own lives in a state of relentless numbness and exhaustion…

So what’s the alternative?

Ebb and flow

There are times when life is crazy busy. It just is. We’re going through a patch like that here. As a family of five, we spent last week deftly passing a stomach virus like a baton in a relay. One of the kids wound up in hospital. I’m two days behind with work ahead of a week involving two days away for One Direction, two speaking engagements on new topics, two birthday parties on the weekend (at our house!), and all with a step-daughter submitting her Honours thesis and a husband who has a looming book deadline.

Sounds ridiculous, and would be – if it was the norm.

The week after is a ‘normal’ work week (no travel, normal childcare situation etc). I’m having lunch with a friend and going away with my three best school friends for a long weekend of pampering to celebrate our 40ths. That’s pretty much it…

There needs to be ebb and flow. It’s not about creating an artificially ‘together’ or peaceful state at all times. It’s about noticing that you’re in a peak state of ‘busy’, recognising in your body and behaviour the signs of increased stress and building ‘white space’ in your diary to compensate. If stretching before you is nothing but ‘full speed’ – if there are no lulls built into your schedule by you – that’s when the cracks begin to show…

First aid for the chronically overwhelmed

Reaching this see-sawing state of ‘busier’ followed by ‘white space’ – probably won’t happen immediately, unless you’re unfortunate enough to be side-swiped by one of life’s wake-up calls (often in the form of a physical or emotional collapse, or through relationship or work problems). It’s a way of living to strive for and, in the meantime, if things are beyond hectic, sometimes what’s needed is some ‘first aid’.

Take your calendar and identify one thing that you can cancel, one thing that you can postpone and one thing that you can delegate. Add in one thing that will enhance your well-being.

Seize the moments

Look for the nooks and crannies of time. We’ve had a tremendous response to our My 15 Minutes program with people seeing significant improvements in their lives by investing just 1/100th of the day. Most of the participants have been surprised to find that fifteen minutes is ample time to do something meaningful and purposeful, and when we carve that time for ourselves each day – revolving our attention through the parts of our lives that matter most – the habit acts as ‘compound interest’ in building the fulfilled lives that we’re craving.

You don’t need to be doing the guided program to benefit from this approach, and this is where the anti-juggling comes in. It’s a matter of asking yourself ‘what deeply matters to me?’ – then holding these things as precious, saying ‘no’ to give meaning to your ‘yes’ and picking each of them up in turn while you offer your full focus.

Satisfaction in life is found in a quarter of an hour engrossed in ‘real’ conversation with your partner, a few minutes tackling that dumping ground in the corner of your bedroom, half an hour on a walk with the kids, five minutes sipping a cup of tea and watching the sunrise, one focused, internet-free hour on a ‘bang for buck’ work task…

Not all at once. Not even on the same day, necessarily.

Life is challenging enough without us complicating it further. Ride in on your own white horse and rescue yourself.

If you’d like a free printable download of the image above, click here.


when you’re scared of the next stage

December 14th, 2013 | no comments

My younger daughter turned 13 yesterday, and on her last day of being twelve she said, ‘Do I have to? Can’t I stay twelve? Teenagers are weird…’ 1228881

I told her that she can be any kind of teenager she wants, and doesn’t need to be a ‘weird’ one. The coolest people stay who they are, no matter what’s going on around them.

The conversation reminded me of how we all feel sometimes when we’re on the brink of something new. New job, new relationship, new baby, new business, a move interstate or overseas – anything that’s different from the cosy warmth of what we’re used to.

A friend once asked me when she’d know that it was the right time to have children. She found the idea of parenthood particularly intimidating (had never held a baby) and was keen to shelve it until she felt ‘ready’.

I told her there’s never a ‘right time’ – you’ll never be ready. It’s just one of those things where you take a leap into the yawning gulf of the unknown and grow your wings on the way down.

She’s now a mum of three, and each time I see the Facebook photos showing how immersed she is in motherhood I think of our conversation. I wonder how differently things might have turned out for her had she let that voice of uncertainty win.

I went for a walk this week with a another friend who is soon moving to the other side of the country. Her daughter, sixteen, will not only be moving interstate and starting a new school, but re-entering the formal education system again having been home-schooled for several years. It’s a big move for her.

Whether we’re twelve going on thirteen or thirty-nine going on forty, change is as certain as death and taxes. No matter what we do to avoid or control it, change will invite itself into our lives without a cooling off period.

Sometimes we invest energy fruitlessly into trying to ‘manage’ the change – as if we’re standing at the front door in the dark, fumbling through every key searching to unlock it. We overlook that we are the key.

When faced with uncertainty, all we have is ourselves. We’re standing there, equipped with everything we’ve ever been through and everything we’ve ever learnt. We have a bunch of experiences behind us – times when we triumphed, times when we fell – and here we are. Still standing.

When the world is spinning with ‘unknown’ – let it spin. Stand strong and back yourself. You’ve done this before – you’ll do this again. You’re the only constant. You’re the only aspect of this that remotely resembles ‘certainty’ – even when you’re unsure.

The coolest people stay who they are, no matter what’s going on around them.

portrait of a weekend

December 14th, 2013 | no comments

I spent a big slab of Saturday crying, for one reason or another.1218186

I put my daughters on a bus bound for Melbourne on Saturday morning, to spend the holidays with their Dad, step-mum and half-sisters. It never gets easier.

One of them left as a fourteen-year-old and will return fifteen. The age I first fell in love. GAH! I look at her and the part of me that wants her to be independent is at war with the part of me that wants her to keep needing me, forever.

I was given a card when she was born with a piece of advice that hit me hard that day, and has been hitting hard ever since: “The most difficult part of parenting is letting them go, little by little, as they’re able to cope with their independence.”  The fact that I want to phone my mum to talk about this is a good sign that she can be both independent and needy right through to 40 and beyond, but still…

I went to the movies with my sister and our childhood friend, to ‘cheer up’.

I am a Girl trumped Les Miserables by a long shot in terms of gut-wrenching emotion, because it’s real. It profiles six girls on the brink of womanhood, from nations across the globe (including our own), and left me speechless and grateful and deeply sad… (I highly recommend it.)

Later the same night, I had a message from one of my dearest friends to say that she and her family had lost a loved one, in tragic circumstances – far, far too young. It’s beyond awful.

A few hours later, at 1am, my toddler woke at the other end of the house. I rushed to him, in the dark, and a sliding door was further across than usual and I ran headlong into it, cheekbone-first… which is now bruised and sore.

It wasn’t the best of days.


Running group at 8am, along the sparkling lake, with good friends and good conversation.

Coffee in a nearby restaurant, and surprise cupcakes, a candle and a balloon for my 40th birthday.

Brunch with a mentoring group, and stimulating chats about various business ideas.

Home-made chic-chip bickies and tea with my step-children, sitting in the sun and searching for four-leaf clovers with our toddler and three 20+ year-olds.

Gourmet take-away pizza.

It was a gentle, beautiful day in which life reminded me that, while it doesn’t always run smoothly, it’s worth searching for the gorgeousness. A bad day is usually just a bad day – not a bad life.

5 Things I let go in my 30s

December 14th, 2013 | no comments

I’m turning 40 on Wednesday. The big “Four. Oh”.1195545

Turning 40 is as implausible as it seems plausible. As major as it seems like just another day. I feel sixteen. I feel tired. I feel amazing. I LOVE this age!

A decade ago, I had a 30th birthday bash with my three BFFs: Turkish restaurant, photo walls, shared friends, going ‘out’ afterwards (mainly as new-ish mums, which wasn’t as great as it sounds – in fact, I can’t recall it at all, and not for a cool reason).

For this new milestone, we’re ditching a party and going for a kid-free, husband-free weekend in Daylesford, north of Melbourne. ALL THE PAMPERING. ALL THE SLEEPING. 

On Saturday night, I drove some teens home from a night out at a musical. (Footloose: an ancient musical that you may recall from last century, recreated for a modern audience.)

They chatted in the back seat, and I smiled, thinking ‘They’re so funny. Half grown up, but still so much to learn…’

And of course at ‘Nearly Forty’ I am just so-ooo much more knowledgable about life, right?

My mum (81) doesn’t ‘get’ a lot of stuff about 2013. At the same time, my mum gets more about 2013 than most of us do.

With every passing year, I feel truly blessed that the gap is closing between us. I think ‘Can I be more like you?’

The things I thought she was wrong about I find myself thinking, ‘Ah-hh!’ (In the same way that I fantasise about my kids ‘getting me’ one day.)

So, here’s a list of things that I’ve mostly ditched in my 30s (with the odd slip up every so often):


Nearly a decade ago-ish, my book was published. Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum.

Ten years later, parenting is actually far more full-on than it was then (because it’s now an amazing mix of young-adult step-kids, a teen, a tween and a toddler), but I’m making less drama out of it. Way less. The parts of it that I have some influence over are consequently much easier…

Pretending things are okay when they’re not

This was how I did things, even at my 30th, because I didn’t want to disappoint the people I loved. Things have been shaken up since then, with much pain and joy involved. It’s still not perfect, but that’s acknowledged and worked upon.

Needing certainty

I stuck with a career that seemed safe. I hated everything about it except the friends I made. I thought I needed everything to be predictable and sure.

Those were the last things that I needed.

Fear of failure

My novel has been rejected three times. With a major publisher it was a close call. I love it even more now. It might be published this decade because it’s floating around on editors’ desks rather than cowering in my bottom drawer.

‘I don’t have time’

I do have time.

I only whinge that ‘I don’t’ have time’ when I’m talking about things I really don’t want to do. I’ve given up ‘badge of honour’ busy, and ‘nobody does this as well as I do’ busy, and ‘people pleaser’ busy, and ‘running away busy’ and voila! Extra time has emerged!

Fast forward ten years and my nearly 50-year-old self might look at this list and think, ‘Bless…’ And that’s okay. One of the most useful things I’ve learnt in my 30s is how much I don’t know.

We’re a bit like teenagers, really: half-grown up with an enormous amount that we don’t know. The big difference now is that we realise it.

Perhaps that’s why life ‘begins’ now…



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Every entry was beautiful and inspiring.

Congratulations to Rachel Mallia, who has won a copy of the program, valued at $97. (Rachel – please send an email to Audrey and I at and we’ll provide you with access to the program.)