Monthly Archives: April 2013

Week 12: An early work challenge

Week 12 arrived and I already had a challenge scheduled in my diary for the week ahead – a person with a plan – get me!  This week my challenge was to be work related; the first work related challenge of my 52 week journey. The fact that I was able to find a work related challenge was pretty darn exciting for me.

You see, when I first made the decision to move back to the small town of my childhood I had just enough time to ponder whether (a) I would be in the town long enough to require a job; and (b) if I was going to be in town long enough to require a job, whether I would actually be able to find a job. With one of the highest unemployment rates in the state and a scarcity of jobs for which I had been accustomed, I was doubtful that I would find anything suitable in said town, let alone anything that would challenge me.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think I would be sticking around town long enough to require a place of work. That was a difficult realisation, because inherent in that realisation was the fact that my dad was not going to be with us for very long. So whilst I didn’t really fancy being in the town, I also didn’t fancy leaving, because of what leaving would actually mean to my family. It was a very difficult place to be in emotionally. (If you have no idea what I am talking about, you may wish to recap on why I started this challenge which you can do here).

As it turned out, one week before I was due to board the plane that would take me from my beloved London, a friend rang me to let me know about a job opportunity that had just opened up in my home town (and I would like to take a moment here to thank that friend for looking out for me – you are my guardian angel). Whilst it wouldn’t be at the same level as the jobs I held in the past, it did fit easily within my skill set and it was in the exact area of my expertise. I could not believe that my home town would have such a job available, and at the exact time that I was on the lookout for a job. It was the craziest and best coincidence I could have hoped for. In fact, no one could have written the script better for my life at that moment. To make a long story short, I applied for and got the job and started just over a month after I moved back to my home town. It was a true Hollywood storyline in real life, albeit with the main character played by me rather than Angelina Jolie.

Rightio then, now that the scene has been set, I can move on to the challenge for the week. Drum roll please [I’ll have to leave this drum roll to your imagination as I have no idea how to add sound effects to this blog]……..

My challenge for this week was to give a presentation in front of 100 of the town’s finest business men, women and Councillors. Whilst presenting in front of crowds was not a new thing for me, the time of day of the presentation certainly was. You see, I was going to give the presentation at a 6:30am breakfast function. That is where the challenge (and new experience) kicked in.

Now some of you may be thinking – so what? Why would this be a challenge? Some others, those who know me well, will be laughing their socks off (banana bean, I know you are – I can hear you from here). Because those who know me well know that this little lady is not a morning person. No siree Bob. I do not like mornings. Never have, probably never will. Whilst I can force myself out of bed for my 530am boot camp sessions 3 days a week (it helps that I always have a shot of coffee before I leave the house) that is a brand new phenomenon, and one that doesn’t require any brain power, just some strong motivation (and strong coffee).  Mornings and I…well, we have never been friends. We tolerate each other because we have to. So, for me, having to be coherent and mentally alert at 630am was going to be a challenge. But I knew that it was important for the program I was working on, and therefore I agreed that I would attend and present despite the hour of the day.

And that was how I found myself talking to the mayor of the town surrounded by a room full of people at a time when I should have been lying in bed, or rousing myself gently with a morning coffee. Ahhhhh mingling and oozing charm in high heels at 6:30am – how my life had changed!

With great thanks I gulped down the coffee and breakfast that were provided, all the while mentally coaching myself to stay awake and look alert. Then before I knew it, the time had come for my presentation. By my side was my very lovely co-presenter, and together we took to the stage to spruik our message. The presenting part was easy – after years of theatre and speech and drama lessons I was confident being in front of an audience. And thanks to the large amount of coffee I had consumed I was very much alert and able to remember all of the information that we wanted to get across. Happy days.

I can happily report that we generated a lot of attention and interest for our program; in fact, we really couldn’t have asked for a better reception. By the end of the presentation I was feeling pretty darn proud of myself for (a) being coherent at ungodly o’clock; (b) not tripping over my feet or the microphone cord; (c) not stumbling over my words; (d) remembering what it was that I had to say; (e) not falling asleep during the spiel; and (f) gaining the interest of the crowd at such an early hour of the day. And better still, the weekly challenge was completed by 745am.

I would just like to take a minute now to acknowledge my key supporter for this challenge – coffee. I really could not have completed this challenge without coffee, and I would like to say a very big thank you to coffee for all that it has given me, not just today, but over the years. I owe so much to the coffee bean, and I am just so happy to know that wherever I go, and whatever I do in life, coffee will always be right by my side, egging me on and helping me to achieve my goals and dreams. Coffee, I thank you for all of your support, and for your role in making me the person that I am today. I could not have done it without you. You are my inspiration, my motivation. Coffee – you rock my world and make me a better person.

Reflection time

So what have I learnt this week from my new experience? Well I have learnt that:

  • I can be coherent, charming and well dressed at 630am – who knew?!
  • There is a great sense of achievement in completing important work tasks before 8am.
  • When I set my mind to something, I can achieve it. Anyone can. Sometimes you may have to make sacrifices, but if you put in the effort, the rewards will come.
  • The work day is very long when it starts at the crack of dawn.
  • I may be slightly addicted to coffee.

And with that, I say farewell to another week. Until next time, remember:

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” ~ Wayne Gretzky

The project we presented

The project we presented

Week 11: Hoy, cent sale, and inspiring strangers

Helloooooooo week 11. I was looking forward to my new experience this week – attending a Hoy and cent sale afternoon.

Before I delve into the experience, I feel the need to raise a technicality regarding my experience this week. This was not the first time in my life that I have attended a Hoy and cent sale afternoon.

[Pause for effect………………ok, continue on]

When I was 4 or so years old my grandmother took me along, on several occasions, to similar afternoons. However, I am classing this as a new experience as this was the first time I was going to such an afternoon as an adult. Furthermore, given that I hadn’t played the game for 30 years, and the last time my grandmother essentially played it on my behalf as I was too young to be able to play on my own, being responsible for my own game would be a new experience. And most importantly, I am the maker of the rules of this challenge, and I decree this a new experience and hence in keeping with my 52-week challenge. Now that is out of the way we can move on…

I have very fond memories of my afternoons spent with my grandmother playing Hoy with the (generally older) ladies at the CWA (Country Woman’s Association for those not in the know), being spoiled with cakes and winning things in the cent sale. So when I learned that some of the women from my exercise class were hosting a Christmas Hoy and cent sale I was determined to go. And because I had such fond memories from attending when I was a child, I asked my niece if she would like to go with me. She readily agreed.

Off my niece and I trotted on a glorious Sunday afternoon to a hall at the seaside where we were greeted warmly by some lovely ladies who walked us through the process for the day – buy some raffle tickets, buy some tickets for the cent sale, get our game cards, look at the craft that was on sale, find a seat. I also had to work out how to play the game. After all, I had been a child when I played the game the last time, and that was quite some years ago (I don’t like being reminded how many years ago that was!)

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the game of Hoy, it is very similar to that of bingo. But rather than play with balls, the caller uses a deck of playing cards. Each player has at least one sheet with 13 cards marked on it (including the number and suit of each card), and players must mark off all of the cards on their sheet before anyone else and shout “hoy” to be crowned the winner. The game play sounded quite simple and my niece and I were quietly confident that we were ready for the challenge. And then the caller started…

My word the game was fast-paced! And the women in the hall were dab hands at the game. We were having our butts kicked by septuagenarians! It certainly took a lot more concentration than I thought it would and we didn’t win a single game. But we laughed our way through it and enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. The cent sale was also a lot of fun. Effectively a cent sale is a big raffle in which you buy multiple tickets to win a random prize – of which there were at least 40 – some good, and some, well, very funny (2 cans of baked beans was one of the prizes). The ladies were so sweet and asked my niece to be one of the people to hand out the prizes. She loved it and I loved them for asking her. And we even managed to get ourselves a good prize – happy days!

To top the afternoon off we were fed yummy cakes and sandwiches, along with the obligatory cup of tea (and cordial for my niece). Before we knew it 3 hours had gone by. The ladies were truly lovely and both my niece and I had a great time.

I was also randomly surprised with a new experience this week; an experience that I didn’t have to do anything to achieve. Another blogger, someone who I have never met or spoken to in my life, read my blog and was so inspired by it that she started her own personal challenge (you can read all about it here). I was totally blown away by this unexpected event. To know that you have inspired someone who you have never met is such a gift. And knowing that someone else was inspired by my journey in turn inspired me to stick with my own challenge.

Livvy, I wish you all the best for your own personal challenge and look forward to reading all about it. For those who are interested, you can read Livvy’s blog here.  She is an award-winning blogger and her posts are definitely worth a read.

All in all week 11 turned out to be a great week.

A moment of reflection:

So what did I learn this week? I am so glad you asked! I learnt that:

  • Hoy is not as easy as it first appears to be.
  • Septuagenarians are card sharks.
  • Hanging out with a room full of older people can be a whole lot of fun. I get a lot of joy from listening to the stories of older people. Older people have so much to give to society, and it saddens me that Western culture does not recognise that in the way that many Eastern cultures do. We could really learn a lot from the respect that elders receive in other parts of the world. I encourage everyone to take more time to listen to the stories of the older generations, and to spend time in their company. It won’t be time wasted.  
  • My niece and I can have a lot of fun whatever we are doing and wherever we find ourselves – and that is an important thing to be able to do in life. So many people go through life looking at things in a negative light, and never looking for the good and the fun in life. I find that very sad. Despite the sadness that my family has experienced this year, we are still able to get up every day and look for the positives. I am glad that I am able to be part of showing my niece how to look at the bright side of life, and I hope that in years to come she too will demonstrate this to others.
  • You never know when or how your words or actions can inspire someone else.
  • A can of baked beans should never be classed as a prize.

And on that note, I bid you adieu, and leave you with a final thought for the day:

A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.”  ~ Hugh Downs

P1050005

Week 10: Santa Claus run

Week 10 rolled around quickly, and it was drawing very near to Christmas (readers may note that while I am talking about Christmas I am actually writing this blog in April. Yes, I am a little far behind due to some life circumstances that will become clear in the coming weeks on this blog. However, I have still been completing my challenges every week and am doing my utmost to catch up on writing about them. Please stick with me – I have made a commitment to a year of new things, and I intend to keep to that commitment and write about it here. And there are some big new things coming up that I have already achieved or plan to achieve, and I can’t wait to share them here on this blog!).

Back to December….and the perfect time to search for a Christmas-themed challenge. As it happened, this week I came across a fun run. And not just any fun run. A Santa Claus fun run. Yes, this was no ordinary run – in order to participate in this run, one was required to dress as Santa Claus.

Now please allow me to digress for a moment on the topic of Santa Claus. The story of Santa Claus is a lovely one but there is one major flaw in the story for the millions of people living in the southern hemisphere – there is no snow on this side of the world in December. In fact, it is hot; damn hot! Because it is summer. Santa Claus and all of the wintry tales of Christmas work very well when one experiences Christmas in winter time. But the whole idea falls apart when one is sweating it out in 30+ degree Celsius heat.

I have been lucky enough to experience a few winter Christmas’, including one in Lapland – home of Santa Claus. And it made a lot of sense to see a fat man dressed in his winter warmers whilst singing along to Christmas carols that speak of winter wonderlands, sleigh bells ringing and snow glistening in lanes. But here in Australia it is – well let’s be totally honest – ridiculous and illogical to dress as Santa Claus and sing of frosty the snowman when one is dripping with sweat and cranking up the air conditioning to stay cool.

And before you say it – yes I know we have one Australian Christmas carol. One. One whole Christmas carol that speaks of Christmas in summer time – “Six White Boomers” – one of the most annoying Christmas Carols ever. But Christmas as it is traditionally portrayed does not work in Australia; and yes, I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about it! And while I am having a whinge – what in the heck does a “bee in your bonnet” actually mean? Who comes up with these sayings?! Well actually, I can tell you who comes up with these sayings because I bought a book on where popular sayings come from (I know, I am so cool). Apparently this particular saying is thought to stem from the 16th Century saying “to have a head full of bees” and was paired with the notion of a bonnet by poet Robert Henrrick in 1648 in his poem ‘Mad Maid’s Song’. Bet you didn’t think you would learn anything reading this blog today – but now you have. You’re welcome.

Ok, so back to the story where I find myself agreeing to a 5km fun run dressed as Santa Claus in the heat of summer. The run was in aid of charity, and was definitely meant to be more “fun” than a serious “run”. And for the entry price one not only got to donate to a good cause, one also got a Santa Claus outfit. The organisers were definitely on their game in choosing the outfit to fit with the weather conditions – lightweight shorts, wraparound jacket, hat and beard. An outfit fit for the summer….well as long as one wasn’t planning on running any distance in it that is!

I was not worried about the running part of the day – I had been doing bootcamp now for 4 months and was also a recreational jogger, so a 5km course was going to be relatively easy and didn’t require any intense training. Which was lucky since I only signed up to participate the week of the race! I was, however, a little concerned about how I would survive the heat when dressed as Jolly Old St Nick.

Race day dawned bright and sunny – a good and bad thing (on the one hand it wasn’t raining; on the other, it was hot) and I found myself driving to a park to dress up as Santa Claus at 6:30 on a Sunday morning in summer in Queensland. It did make me consider my sanity for a minute or two.

Upon arrival I was greeted by numerous Santas and provided with my outfit for the morning’s event. Sexy Santa I was not – but then, nor was anyone else. The atmosphere was one of frivolity as the sea of Santas grew. I found a number of people who I knew and we entertained ourselves by climbing on the jungle gym to get a photo or 12.

As a warm up, the race organisers held a mass Zumba class – 150 or so Santas sashaying away to “Gangham Style” – it was a sight to behold. Then before I knew it, the start time had rolled around and I was lining up to run for the first time ever as Santa Claus. I was already sweating before I started – not a great sign of things to come.

I find that the first kilometre of any run is always the hardest, and this one was made all the more difficult by having to constantly adjust my Santa suit while running to ensure my Santa jacket stayed done up and my Santa shorts did not fall down around my knees causing me to fall on my face with my bum in the air (hello front page of the NewMail). Definitely no PB was going to be had in this run then! (Just thought I should point out that I was wearing my usual running gear underneath the suit – there was no fear of a nudey run at any stage! And I also note that I have once again mentioned my bum in my blog. I did say a few posts ago that I would stop doing that, but there it is again. My bum. Bum, bum, bum. Ok, I think it is out of my system now. No more bum references.)

I also quickly learnt that running with a beard strapped to your face is not comfortable; and in fact, is quite irritating. But I wanted to keep to the theme of the run and was determined to keep my Santa suit on throughout the duration of the race despite the discomfort.

However, by around 3.5km into the run I was really feeling the heat and decided that the jacket and beard would have to go. When one is running in 30 degrees Celsius temperatures and 70% humidity, jackets and beards are not really the best idea. So I am a little sad to say that while I finished the race, I was only half the Santa I was at the start of the race.

Apart from the heat and mild discomfort from the outfit, it was quite amusing to be running along with a group of Santas past people who clearly had no idea what was going on – we certainly did cause a bit of a commotion with those who were out and about early enough to be greeted by such a sight. And the organisers had taken the time to write some fun notes in chalk on the pavement which kept the participants entertained for the duration of the 5kms.

So all in all, whilst it was a very hot and sometimes uncomfortable run, it was a really fun morning, and the organisers, runners and general crowd were all fantastic. I had a great time, I raised some money for charity, I got my morning exercise, and I felt great for the rest of the day – a good result all round.

Introspection time out

From my Santa Claus fun run experience (and subsequent writing about it) I have learnt that:

  • Santa costumes and running should not mix.
  • That you can have fun and run at the same time – go figure!
  • That if you make an effort to do something, you will be rewarded in any number of ways. For example, by making an effort to get up at 5:45am on a Sunday to dress as Santa Claus and run for 5km, I managed to raise money for charity, get some exercise, meet some new people, and have a lot of laughs. It is important to make the effort, even when the activity is outside your comfort zone. Good things come to those that make an effort. So many people waste their lives waiting for something to happen to them, when really, they should be putting in a bit of effort to MAKE something happen.
  • I have an issue with Christmas in summer time.

Another week down; 42 more to go. So I say sayonara for this week and leave you with the following thought of the day from the musical Avenue Q:

“There is life outside your apartment.
I know it’s hard to conceive.
But there’s life outside your apartment.
And you’re only gonna see it if you leave.
There is cool shit to do,
But it can’t come to you….
There is life outside your apartment.
But you gotta open the door.”

Introducing running Santa Claus

Introducing running Santa Claus

Santa Claus Jungle Gym

Santa Claus Jungle Gym

On your marks Santas

On your marks Santas