This time last year I committed to two things. To my surprise, both turned out to be far more sustainable options than my usual last minute random NYE resolutions.

The first of these commitments was to choose the word active to be my compass for 2017, to help me to focus on completing projects, starting new ones, trying new things and making the most of opportunities.

The second was to start a happiness jar. I hoped this would encourage me to be more present in my life and to pay attention even when things got busy or difficult.

I aimed to think of one thing each week that had made me smile, write it down on a post-it note and then pop it in the jar. All year.

 When I opened my jar of happies on New Years Eve I found 54 post-its – clearly a longer than average year!

Friends and I took turns to read them aloud as midnight approached. Each note reminded us of what sorts of things make me smile, many of them to do with my garden, the dogs and the people I love. They brought the year back into focus, although it was rather reminiscent of listening to a story I know, but have half forgotten. So many  ‘ah yes’ moments, laughter and even a little sadness.

2017 was certainly a busy, sometimes overly active year and, whilst blogging (and writing in general) took a bit of a hit as a result, many things were achieved personally, professionally and creatively.

Selecting a word for the year and gradually filling my little jar of happiness made me feel positive about the year as it unfolded, and I’ll be taking both ideas forward into the years ahead.

My jar has been emptied and awaits its first post-it for the year.

For a multitude of reasons, I’ll be focusing on resilience as my word for 2018.

I could have chosen fortitude or exercise or creativity or fun – they all popped into my head as possibilities last night. But resilience carries with it the notion of strength that could provide me with the framework for everything else this year. It encapsulates a level of both mental and physical robustness, the ability to bounce back, to cope with change, plan for the future and enjoy the present.

And that’s what I need this year: more bounce, more plans, and a whole lot of enjoyment!

How about you?

Whatever you choose, I wish you the very best of years.

With Christmas on the horizon I’m starting to feel I ought to get organised, plan menus, shop for gifts – do all the things that I do every year to ensure my family has a good time over the festive period.

We’ll start the season with a trip to Mandurah to admire the Xmas lights in early December and follow that up with our (now) traditional eggnog night a week or so later. Some of us will make gifts to share, we’ll shop for get our Secret Santa gifts and – with luck – move smoothly through the rest of the Xmas festivities. It’s a happy, sociable time for all of us.

Sadly, Christmas isn’t a happy time for everyone. For many it’s stressful, bringing feelings of desperation and sadness rather than joy as people struggle to provide for their families over the holiday season.

According to the 2017 Foodbank Hunger Report, more and more Australians have to choose between feeding their families and paying their bills – and this is never more apparent than over the Christmas period.

So what can we do? We help – in any way we can.

In December 2015 Daughter Dearest and I took part in a reverse advent activity, collecting food items over several weeks and then delivering the hampers to Foodbank just before Xmas that year. Shopping for other people, thinking about what they might need or want was a real feel-good experience and we wanted to do it more regularly.

So, in 2016 we launched a quarterly food drive. We set up a Facebook group, called it Food Fight and invited a few people to join in. It started out small, with just a few of us contributing whatever non-perishables we could every three months.

In 2016 we collected and delivered over 200kg of food to Foodbank for them to distribute to those in need. This year we overtook that target in September, when we reached the 236kg mark. A great result.

The challenge is to see if we can crack 300kg by mid-December 2017. Can we do it? Can we, between us, contribute at least 70kg of food within the next month?

I believe so – and hope you do too. If we work together we can and will make a difference to some of Perth’s least advantaged people this Christmas.

How?

  • Get a box
  • Add a couple of extra items to your shopping trolley each time you shop over the next few weeks.
  • Choose some of items suggested by Foodbank (below) – but please remember, NO GLASS
  • Deliver your box of goodies to Menagerie10 (our place) by Thursday 14 December or contact Nik to arrange for a pick up run on Sunday 10 December.

Let’s work together to make Christmas a little brighter for some Perth families this year.

Life got busy over the past few months. Really silly, mind-numbingly busy. It crept up, tasks and commitments snowballing over us and gathering us up in their wake. It’s the kind of crazy downhill slalom that I find tends not provide much in the line of personal satisfaction, even if I know that the end result will be worth it.

Then, this evening, two things happened: I noticed we still had a giant pumpkin in the fridge – and a friend sent me a link to this video.

Ignoring the pumpkin, I sat down to watch the video. The take-home message for me was that being super busy can end up being isolating.

But we all need to eat – and eating together is more fun. And I have a giant pumpkin…

So, busy or not, the giant pumpkin’s been cut up and vat of soup is underway. Sourdough bread mix goes on next – and will be baked tomorrow when we randomly open our very sandy, discombobulated home to whoever feels like sharing a spontaneous pot luck meal.

Hope you can make it 🙂

His name is Spot, for fairly obvious reasons. I have no memory of actually playing with this toy dog, only of having him, of knowing he was mine. His tail is chewed, as are the edges  of his ears and his right front foot. I don’t know if that was done by a proto-version of me, by a real dog with a taste for soft plastic, or by a toy-destroying-sibling. What I do know that it was me that wrote my name across Spot’s brown and while rear end, irrefutably claiming him as mine.

In all my moves, from house to house, across continents, Spot has been a constant. Relegated to my memory-box, he grins up at me whenever I make foray into that Aladdin’s cave. It’s as if he’s asking me what I’m looking for, as I ferret around amongst birthday cards, diaries, theatre programmes, children’s drawings and report cards.

Spot keeps me company as my fingers wander idly through my past. I drift, lost on a sea of memories, oblivious to the the fading light as I take a brief holiday from the reality that is now. For a while we travel back to other times, other countries, shows I’ve seen, people who have disappeared from my life. Wisps of memory cling like fairly floss, leaving a residue of half-remembered moments that slowly dissolve, little more than a taste and a yearning for more.

Any time in the past 40 or more years I could have ‘re-homed’ Spot, passing him on to a child or dropping him off at a Thrift Store. After all, he’s faded and worn with time, my autograph is barely legible and his little body is no longer flexible. But somehow the moment of betrayal didn’t arrive. I’ve never been able to relinquish this one tangible piece of proof that Nicky-the-child, owner and protector of Spot-the-dog, really did pre-exist the Nicky of now.

How desperate was that little girl to assert ownership if she was prepared to forego the household rule of ‘do no damage’ and actually scrawl her name on this one toy? Was she punished for that, Spot? If so, it was worth it: the predator siblings left you alone. We are still together to share our past.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a micromanager (mM), then you probably know just how frustrating and demotivating it can be. The mM blithely delegates tasks and then follows up on them in painstaking detail, seemingly never quite satisfied with the outcomes. Indeed, their responses imply regret at having delegated the tasks in the first place.

The perceived lack of trust that piggybacks on this style of management invariably results in loss of productivity and generalised workplace dissatisfaction. Oddly enough, as often as not, the mM seems not to realise what they’re doing – or the impact they’re having.

This is where I confess that I’m something of a control freak (!). I like having things around me organised, straightforward and on track – and preferably done my way. I don’t enjoy having things random and disorganised – at home or in the work place. It’s a thing.

On the upside, my EQ has developed sufficiently with time for me to self-manage this personality ‘feature’ reasonably well. I’ve come to accept that even if I have a preferred way for a task to be accomplished, once I’ve allocated the task to someone else, whether at home or at work, then I need to step away from the process and let things take their course.

Sometimes things don’t pan out the way I’d hoped – but, in general, most things work out most times. Tasks are conquered, the responsible parties achieve job satisfaction and I haven’t had to do whatever it was that needed doing. Communication and pragmatism are key elements.

An example of this was when I suggested handing the catering arrangements for Christmas lunch over to DaughterDearest, BoyChilde and their partners a couple of years ago. To my surprise they agreed with a fair amount of enthusiasm. Time passed… Then, about a month before Christmas, just when I was starting to have some doubts, they let me know they’d scheduled a get together to plan the menu and to allocate tasks.

In due course I was presented with a shopping list (my agreed contribution to the process) and informed that everything was on track and that I should just sit back and let it happen. So I did.

On Xmas Day, I armed myself with a good book, settled down in a hammock next to the pool and left them to it. I admit that at some level I was itching to get in there and be involved, but it was their gig – so I kept out of it. Their collaboration produced a fabulous spread for 20 people – and they’re now officially in the catering chair for Christmas events. A win all round.

In a work situation, things are sometimes less straightforward. Perhaps it’s the lack of hammocks, but micromanagement is ubiquitous in the work place and can wreak havoc. Poor communication results in task lists getting longer rather than shorter, promoting a perception of worker incompetence. The mM often exacerbates this by stonewalling, subtly or overtly withholding resources and information to a degree that can make workdays frustrating for individual staff members and for the team as a whole. Overall it hampers productivity and increases staff stress levels as people fell unable to do their job effectively. These frustrations often mount when micromanagement escalates to loosely disguised bullying.

It occurs to me that this style of management may be based on fear. Perhaps the manager fears a loss of control and associated status?

From the subordinate’s point of view it really doesn’t matter. Finding any sort of rationale for the negative behaviour is well nigh impossible, reminiscent of trying to wade through marshmallow – messy and unsatisfying.

Industry advice suggests prioritising tasks, devising request lists, scheduling meetings and setting limits on direct contact hours. And all these work-arounds can help to off set the impact of the micromanager to some degree. But they can also result in an escalation in all the existing passive-aggressive behaviours, along with a few new ones for good measure. To stay ‘in control’ the micromanager may well start to actively interfere, send prescriptive text messages and introduce delaying tactics of various sorts.

The quandary for the micromanaged often comes down to trying to figure out how to resolve the situation with the least damage to all concerned. As it seldom self corrects, grievance complaints, mediation and even staff losses are not uncommon.

Perhaps management training should include a greater emphasis on the difference between ‘managing’ and ‘micromanaging.’ Or perhaps some sessions on how to improve your EQ might do the trick.