Tuesday, 22 July 2014

With A Mad (Almost Cackling) Laugh

It’s the air.

Sometimes I think I might live somewhere other than Ireland. I went to visit my dad in Germany over the weekend, and remembered with a sigh how much cheaper everything is there, and that healthcare is free and that there’s a proper summer (I had three days of around 30 degrees) and so on. Also, two of my dearest friends are in Germany, and spending an afternoon and evening with them really brought it home how much I miss them, well, all the rest of the year.

It’s not the first time I’ve had thoughts like that. But every time I only need to step out of the plane back home and smell the air, and I’m reminded why I could never leave.

Yesterday evening, I was initially robbed of the experience because the plane door opened right into the terminal, which is also where I’d parked my car, and so I rolled down the window while I drove onto the motorway. A gust of wind leapt into the car, and with it the humid, fresh Irish air with the unmistakable salty scent of the sea mixed into it. I laughed out loud in delight, almost drunk with happiness. Home, sang my senses. Home!

I think I went over the speed limit quite a few times on the way back, because I just could not WAIT to see my budgies. Thankfully there’s hardly any traffic late on a Monday evening. I found the budgies fluffed up and sleepy, and slightly alarmed at my excited: “Cutest!! I’m back! I missed you sooo much!” I tried to calm down and sat on the sofa until they were all fluffy again, then I tiptoed upstairs to give them the peace and quiet they need.

So those were my most “immediate” news. A lot else is going on: I’ve got a new job with Hewlett Packard! It’s going to be a bit of a commute, but I think it’ll be worth it. During the interview, I was worried I might sound as if I was telling them just what they wanted to hear, but every last thing they said about the job was indeed exactly what I do best and like most. It was supposed to be a 2-3 phase process, but they kept me there for over two hours and in the end, offered me the job on the spot.

I said a very warm good-bye to my previous job and was invited to lunch as a good-bye present. I’m sad it didn’t work out there because of our client, but I have this unshakeable faith that things happen for good reason, and maybe HP is where I need to be now. "Now" meaning from next Monday on, which is when I’ll start.

In the meantime I have a bit of time off, and I’m working on a new Coaching offer. This will be slightly different than my existing offers, which are for everyone. The new program will be specifically for HSPs (Highly Sensitive People), it’ll consist of modules which a “theme” each, that people can pick and choose from. It’ll also be a combination of workbooks and actual 1-on-1 Coaching. I think it’ll be great and I hope people will agree! It’ll take a while to finish, but I’ll of course let you know when it’s done and available.

My days consist of work on the new program, and otherwise lots of time for myself and my hobbies, like reading and playing World of Warcraft. Above you’ll find some of my favourite music from WoW; I hope you’ll enjoy it. I’ve also just discovered my new favourite flavour of Magic Mayan Chocolate – Oriental Orange! It tastes of cinnamon and spices and just ecstatically sinful.

I hope your summer is as wonderful as mine! I feel rather like I’ve strayed into a fairyland dream these days. Long may they last!

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Friday, 27 June 2014

Welcome To My Life Plan

Long breaks between blog entries – I'm sorry!

A lot is going on, but you see, most of it is happening on the inside and it's not always easy to explain – or interesting to read, for that matter. I'm going through some major shifts and dealing with very old baggage, clearing my energy and gaining insights that are profound not because I didn't know these things before, but because I'm understanding them on a deeper, almost physical level. Do you know what I mean?

And really, it's the best time of the year to understand and be en-lightened. I'm relishing the long, bright evenings. The Solstice this year has been extraordinary for me. I always love this time of the year, but I get to enjoy it more this time because a) my hayfever is not as bad (I think my cleaner eating habits are having an effect) and b) the weather has been spectacular, with a few days' exception. When I went to bed on the night of the Solstice, after my usual walk and ritual, I left the blinds open and just sat there in bed watching the sky slowly turn from light grey to medium grey. It didn't even go any darker than that until almost midnight. Magical.

It's such a beautiful time of the year, and I'm always awake more, sleep less, and think more during these weeks. This year is no exception, and here's what's going on.

It looks more and more as if I'll have to look for a new job. Is that a catastrophe? No. I'll never regret taking this job, it's reminded me of my priorities and what I'm looking for, as well as the things I'm not willing to compromise on in a job. There's nothing new on the horizon yet but once there is, I'll let you know.

In the meantime, I'm dealing with working “late shift” to eight thirty every night. It does not suit me, in fact it's dragging me down a lot. But it's necessary for us to be able to work on the US market, which is our only option at the moment. It does mean that my already limited social life goes to zero during the week, including the online part – World of Warcraft raids happen on weekday nights with my group, because the others all work regular jobs. I miss them, and I hope I'll soon be on normal hours again.

The inner changes I've been talking about concern the whole subject of working on my own terms. You know my story, my financial troubles of the past. I'm not willing to take financial risks any more, I did it once and got burned. Then again, at the time I liked what I was doing but it wasn't my life's dream. It's different with Coaching and having a Bird Sanctuary - these are things I identify with 100%.

As you also know, part of the dream is having my own little hag cottage somewhere quiet, and that requires having a “regular” job to get the mortgage. So it looks like I'm going to work an office job for at least the next year or two. Once I have the mortgage, I'll look at work-at-home options, which companies like Apple offer here in Ireland (I've worked for them before and would do so again at the drop of a hat), not paid as well but probably enough to live on and pay the mortgage rates.

I can see myself working from home and doing the Coaching and my Bird Sanctuary on the side. Travel to and from work takes up so much time and energy, not to mention money! I've worked from home before and know what it entails, so no problems there with discipline etc. And if and when my business evolves to the point that I can live on it, I might one day be able to give up the steady job altogether. I'm just not in a terrible rush to do it.

Here's the plan:

  • Get a new job with a good work-life balance (overtime every now and then is fine, but not all the time).
  • Keep saving. In about a year's time, apply for a mortgage.
  • Get hag cottage, move hag + budgies in.
  • Get work-at-home job when I can afford the lower income.
  • All the while, keep Coaching and being happy.
  • Set up Bird Sanctuary.
  • Be even happier.

How's that sound?

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Thursday, 5 June 2014

Don't Try This At Home

So, I fell down a number of stairs.
The short version? I don’t recommend it. The slightly longer version is, I slipped for no reason on the stairs I run up and down 20 times a day at least. I was in socks as usual and there’s carpet on the stairs, but really they are very even and safe, and nothing’s ever happened in the over 1 ½ years I’ve been living in my flat. Crazy! I tumbled down all the way to the bottom and landed in front of the window, on my left side and my back, and also banged my head.
I was incredibly lucky as usual. People break their necks falling down the stairs; I had no broken bones, not even a concussion (turns out my head is harder than that). Now don’t get me wrong, I was in a lot of pain for most of the last two weeks, I had contusions on my left elbow and shoulder and the blackest knee you’ve ever seen, apart from deep muscle bruises on my lower back and legs. Absolutely everything hurt. My arm was in a sling for a week and I couldn’t use it for several days, but you know what? Painful as it was, none of my injuries will take more than a few weeks to heal. I have every reason to be grateful – and as usual, I found a light at the end of the tunnel and enjoyed two quiet, comfortable weekends with my budgies, reading and watching movies.
In short, I’m fine so don’t worry! It could have been a lot worse.
Things have been a little more quiet than usual because of my injuries but I’ve still got news to share. For one thing, I wrote down the story of my journey to coming to terms with being highly sensitive, and it was published on the lovely Renee Leverington’s blog. Let me know what you think, and if you leave a comment there, you’ll make both Renee and me happy.
My job continues to be lovely, although we are facing some challenges. The client we were supposed to work for has pulled the plug on the EMEA project, so now we’re starting later and working later and phoning US hospitals instead. It’s a lot of fun but we’re really too expensive to work on a different continent, so we’re going to have to find business in Europe soon. I appreciate this company so much – other companies would have kicked us out the minute the main client’s project was pulled. It’s really all about the people in this place, but at the same time we need to become profitable at some point, or they won’t be able to afford us any longer. Exciting times, if slightly scary as well!
The changed working hours mean that I’m more flexible in my Coaching as well. I can now offer morning sessions on some days, as well as evening. If you or anyone you know is looking for a Coach, please direct them to my website and the free initial consultation I offer. It comes with absolutely no strings attached and serves to explore what the potential client would like to work on and whether or not Coaching is a good option for them. 
I also keep my eyes open for property. Sure, it’ll be another year or so until I can afford the mortgage, but dreaming is fun and keeps me motivated. Sometimes it can be a little heartbreaking too: last week I saw the perfect house for sale. No, not a log house but otherwise just what I’d need, in great condition on a sizeable plot of land and a garage with a large window which would be perfect to start my bird sanctuary in! It was even affordable – but also in Arklow, which is miles from anywhere and would be far too much of a commute to Dublin. Rats! Then again, by the time I have the deposit together it’ll probably be sold anyway.
Still, these things keep me dreaming and remind me of the reason why I’m saving so hard right now. I love sitting on the couch and telling the budgies about the lovely places I’ve seen, and how we’re going to buy our own next spring and how wonderful it’s all going to be. They are listening very attentively and I have a feeling they’ll hold me to the promise!
Right, I’m off to work now. I’ve just been grocery shopping and bought a metric ton of asparagus, which is my current addiction. I just LOVE asparagus, it’s one of those vegetables that I prefer not in a fancy meal, but simply steamed and with a few potatoes, salt, herbs, and maybe some soft cheese. Yum. I’m looking forward to dinner.
Have a lovely week, and I promise I’ll write again sooner this time, provided I don’t find another flight of stairs to fall down…!

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Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Chocolate And Mornings By The Beach

Oh. My. Gods.

Imagine chocolate. Now imagine all the guilt that's often mixed into eating chocolate: There's all the sugar, for one thing, and the dairy elements which are bad for your body. Then there's the knowledge that the vast, overwhelming majority of cocoa beans are grown under horrific conditions, with extensive child labour under slave-like conditions.

And then imagine there's a chocolate which is responsibly sourced, organic and under fair working conditions, which doesn't contain refined sugar (and instead coconut sugar, which is actually good for you), and which is hand-made by a few amazing people who put their hearts and souls into their work. Best of all, it tastes DIVINE.

Meet Magic Mayan Chocolate.

Every bite puts me into chocolate ecstasy. And every single thing in it is good for you! It's got to be the ultimate chocoholic's dream. I'm telling you this in so much detail because they ship worldwide, and as you know, I'm all for supporting small businesses (if you watch their video, you'll see this truly is handmade chocolate and not a factory. They even fold the wrapping paper around each bar by hand, individually). So goeth forth and buyeth their entire stock!

D'you know, the precious, valuable, mostly organic and always whole foods I eat these days have a remarkable effect, not just on my body. People often complain how organic is expensive, and yes, it certainly isn't cheap. But I find that, all in all, I'm not spending that much more money on food. Work lunches were never cheap, even when they were a sandwich or wrap full of wheat, dairy, and wilted lettuce. Takeaways cost money, too, and so did all the little chocolate bars and packs of crisps I used to buy during the day. Now I spend 8 Euro on a jar of coconut oil that I know will sustain my body and make me feel amazing. It just underlines how precious food is.

Alright, I'll shut up about food now, I promise! What else is new?

My job continues to be a joy, although we're going through some trials that are probably normal for a newly set up branch (our company is American and we are its first non-US location). Currently we're working in the US market, and that's why we've agreed to work later for three out of five days to somewhat off-set the time difference. Today, for example, I'll start at 10.30am and finish at 7pm. It's only temporary but I have to say, I don't mind it much. The days are long and the sun is still shining when I get home, plus there is practically zero traffic this late. And I get to spend half the morning with my budgies, who are birds after all, and therefore liveliest in the morning.

So lively in fact, that they chirped me awake at twenty past six this morning. Ugh. I briefly considered murdering them and then couldn't help smiling as I recognised each one's voice in the racket they were making. So I got up and joined them downstairs, and now I'm sitting here with the sun streaming in through the window, a mug of peppermint tea next to me. Life is good.

I get some work done in the mornings too, which is great because I've been busy! I have been writing two very personal articles about my journey to a positive body-image, and about my life as a highly sensitive person, and they'll be featured as guest posts on two amazing women's blogs in the next weeks. I'll let you know when that happens!

I'm counting my blessings, and there are many, among them the light, balmy evenings of spring, the incredibly beautiful, almost ethereal light blue of the sea when I get home from work, and things like strawberries to look forward to in the next few weeks. There, I'm back on food again – gaaah! Sorry!

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The mug of tea is finished, and I'm off for a morning walk. I took the above picture on one of those, just to give you an idea! Have a lovely time, and enjoy spring.

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Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The Magic Fiddle, And My New Love

Some days are just magical.

I mean, most days are, but some stand out for sheer perfection. I'm seeing a lot of those right now, but I'll just give you an example, last week when the weather was still mild and sunny. I'd had another wonderful day learning about advanced wound care and talking to my lovely colleagues, and then on the way home I stopped by the health food store.

The sun was still shining (a few months ago it was already dark when I drove home from work!) and when I went to pay for my parking, I passed a fiddler playing trad in the street. I listened for a while and dropped a coin into his hat, and then accompanied by the music on the air, I went to buy some whole-food ingredients for more gorgeous, nutritious, and oh-so-yummy meals.

Then I went home to my new love. My love is black and sleek and sexy, and we have a date every evening, one as delicious as the next... I'm talking about my new food processor!

You see, I decided that with all the saving I'm doing, not going out, not buying more than the most essential of clothes and the like, it was time to spend some money on a. myself and b. some amazing friends I love so much I want to give them the world. I ordered a Kenwood food processor for me (it was reduced in price, so I paid under 100 Euro! We were clearly meant to be together), and some presents for the aforementioned friends. When the last of the presents arrive, I'll pack a parcel containing my heart, and send it off.

I'm all warm and fuzzy.

As for the food processor – I can't believe I'm writing a blog entry about a food processor, and be excited about it – that was necessary because so many of the ingenious Emily's recipes require one. How come I un-cook raw food these days? Well, it was like that:

Remember how I wrote a while ago, that I've freed myself from the pressure of being thin, of conforming, of “being good” - and how I've completely dissociated food from my own self-worth? That I love my body curvy or not-so-curvy? All that is still true. Actually, it's true more than ever.

Over the past few years, I needed some protective layers because I felt I had to put on a different persona for my daytime work. I wasn't happy in those places, although they had their redeeming factors, like a few precious people I can relate to and became friends with. I loved my expanding body; it's exactly what I needed at the time, and with my long-fought-for freedom of judgment, I was and still am at peace with myself.

Now that I can be ME at work and enjoy every minute of every day, I found that I don't need the protective layer any longer, nor do I need the fatty, unhealthful foods I have been eating. I don't actually like junk food, I find it distasteful, and so I started to eat whole, taste-explosion types of food like the above vegan pizza, or the to-die-for raw lasagna with cashew cheese and broccoli sun-dried tomato pesto.

I've done this for nearly four weeks now and while I eat about 80-90% vegan, I'm not putting labels on what I'm doing. Why? Because you can be vegetarian or vegan and still eat crap like sugar or processed plant-oil fats like margarine (yuck!!). My motivation is different, and simple - I eat what does me good. All my life I've been in mild to moderate pain from my digestion. I thought it was NORMAL because it's all I've ever known! Only recently did I realise that when I cut out sugar, gluten, and dairy, the pain miraculously disappears.

And that's the sum total of my philosophy. You won't find me preaching! It feels good and tastes amazing, so I eat it. If it stops doing me good tomorrow, I'll start eating differently tomorrow.

It's so simple. And having known eating disorder and guilt and shame around food, I'm eternally grateful that I've arrived in this place. I've never enjoyed eating so much. And now excuse me while I devour the last of the chocolate almond butter cups!

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