Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Mammon or more...?

It's so easy to fall into the shopping trap and forget what we're actually celebrating.

I've had a pretty balanced week so far - starting with answering the phone at the Daily Telegraph Charity Appeal. Lots of people disappointed that they couldn't see my face in the paper and so didn't know who they were talking to, but it was wonderful to feel of help and connected to those phoning - being so generous with their money - to the charity and to those others donating their time to fund-raise.

Today at my club we discussed spirituality. A couple of others there who, like me, weren't really sure they were spiritual. One a skeptical scientist, the other an 'I never thought about it' and me, who thinks about it the whole time without really being able to make up my mind.

By the end of the workshop we all saw the spirituality in ourselves and in our lives and how we could build more in. In my life it was gardening that made me feel the most connected. For others it was walking around London, watching the birds on the river, playing music and stroking the cat. Wonderful that all those roads led to Rome.

Happy Christmas.
Nina, Westminster Life Club

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Its the gift that counts

Well I imagine by now that you are well into thinking about what to buy people for Christmas. It seems so difficult to get it right. What do you get for the man who has everything or the woman who says, ‘just surprise me’? What about grandparents and in-laws, your colleague at work, your best friend or your boss. Sometimes no amount of window-shopping, Internet surfing, or crystal ball gazing can supply you with the answer.

How about this year giving them something they really want? Take some time to really think about your family and friends, their lives, their interests, their needs and wants. What could you do that would really make a difference? Maybe your colleague loves a morning cup of tea, your Mother in law hates the ironing, your Mum is stressed by housework and your Dad loves the Sunday papers. How about making them all their own personalised gift vouchers.

Be as creative as you can, show that you have given them thought and attention in your gift. A photo of you in a Christmas hat next to the kettle, placed in an envelope, with 12 teacup shaped ‘I promise to make you a brew’ vouchers, could be just the treat for your colleague. How about doing your Mum in laws ironing and leaving a sprig of Holly on the top next time you visit, A Christmas themed ‘No Entry Mum ‘ sign, for the kitchen door, with a weekly rota for the washing up/cooking/cleaning will be a present she’ll still be thanking you for at Easter. And how about being your Dads personal paperboy and agreeing to go get his paper on a Sunday. You could cut out letters from the newspaper and add a bit of glitter for a themed ‘I promise’ voucher.

Personally I’m hoping to find ‘You’ll never see the sink full of washing up again’ and ‘No really I don’t want to watch the football, why don’t you turn the TV over’ vouchers in my Christmas stocking. How about you?
Leamington Lifeclub

Sunday, 2 December 2007


I, like Nina, worry a lot over Christmas. It all seems so stressful and I worry how I will fit everything in when I'm already feeling stretched to the limit. This year I have decided to focus on the positives stress can bring? Well I figure I'm never going to avoid the stress so I may as well embrace it. Some stress in our lives is totally natural and its this that brings a sense of excitement, enthusiasm and anticipation into all our lives. This kind of stress is a very necessary part of leading a full and happy life. It gets the adrenaline flowing, quickens the mind, energises the body and helps us get on with life in a much more positive way.

So I am entering into the positive Christmas spirit not my usual Humbug Holiday.

So lets get positive about Christmas. Do everything you can to avoid the negative effects of stress and worry – plan well, rest well and eat well, but celebrate the positives too.

This Christmas, shopping, as much as I can, will be done on the internet, especially the supermarket!! Then when I go to the shops, I can just do the shopping I enjoy, soak up the atmosphere of lights and decorations and stop off for a hot chocolate, a cinnamon coffee or a slice of cake (those who know me well have already realised it will probably be all three!) and drink in the Christmas cheer.

I will have Christmas music playing as we decorate the tree. And yes dear Kelly Family I will be singing ‘Wombling Merry Christmas’ again this year.

I'm sure there are a few Christmas traditions I’ve forgotten about and a few new ones I could start. Let this year be the year I take the children ice-skating, I start a secret Santa with my neighbours, break out the Karaoke and resurrect Grannys mulled wine recipe.

I will think, enjoy and let all the worries and stress float by. This is the year of the Magic, Memorable, Merry Christmas.

No worries

Leamington Lifeclub

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Can I worry...? Is the Pope Catholic...?

I can worry about everything and anything from whether my kids love me (big stuff) to what we're going to have for tea tonight (small stuff) to whether my children have done their homework (not my stuff).

I don't think I'm alone either. We all seem to worry much too much about nothing. Christmas is a major month of worry. Who needs cards (does anyone?), who needs presents (they've all got enough already), who needs my time (have I got any to give?).

This week we're going to be tackling all our problems head on and deciding if there's any point in worrying about any of them. I can't wait.

Let's think ... what do I want for Christmas? And (even bigger worry) will anyone ask me?

Westminster Club

Sunday, 25 November 2007

What relaxes you?

How is it that Christmas comes around more quickly every year? I’m sure it was yesterday I attended the obligatory work parties and family gatherings, shopping amongst the twinkling multi-coloured lights, and wrapping what seemed an endless pile of gifts. Surely I just put the tree and decorations back up in the loft…can that really be nearly a year ago?

The time has passed quickly but I’ve learned quite a bit this year that will actually help me this holiday season. I’ve learned to chill. Usually, I’m wound up tight, looking for the perfect gift, the perfect card, juggling my schedule to see everyone and feeling as if I’m disappointing everyone in the process (including myself). This year, I’m taking care of the most important person in my life…me.

Oddly enough, taking care of myself first has left me with much more time and energy to give to others and has enabled me to truly enjoy life. Taking time each day to meditate and treating myself regularly to a facial gave me the down time I needed to turn off that inner voice that keeps reminding me what I need to do, where I need to go, and who I need to see. A break to clear my mind gives me both the focus and energy I need to achieve everything I set out to do and the clarity to enjoy the journey.

What relaxes you? Come to Life Clubs this week and find out. You be taking out ninety minutes for yourself. Just think of all the time and energy you will gain for yourself and others.

Looking forward to meeting you.

Aimee, Hounslow Life Club

Thursday, 22 November 2007


This week we did some legitimate day-dreaming.

We worked out what we wanted for the future and visualised it happening. It was amazing how many of us felt calmer about our future - we could see that things were going to be good.

I'm one of those people who imagines the future - way ahead and then works backwards to see how I'm going to get there. I can do twenty years ahead, no problem. From there I can see what I want and then break it down so I know what I have to do next.

Others work from the present forwards and find it hard to visualise more than six months ahead, but even they felt cheerful about their future.

So much nicer than that day-dreaming we can all do, about whether we've left the cooker on or forgotten our keys or even left them in the front door.

See you soon,
(Westminster Life Club)

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

You say it best when you say nothing at all

Listening seems like such an effortless thing to do doesn’t it. To really understand this, we need to look for the differences between ‘hearing and listening’. Now we begin to see where the difficulties lie. Yes, hearing is a relatively effortless thing to do for most of us. In fact its something we have little control over and we can often find ourselves ‘hearing’ things we would rather not. We can’t turn our ‘hearing’ off. Anyone living next door to noisy neighbours will tell you, that’s a skill they’d give good money to master.

Now ‘listening’ is quite different. We can choose to turn our listening on or off and sadly many of us keep it turned off for much of the time. There are many reasons why we might choose not to fully ‘listen’ when we converse with people, but in doing so we miss far more than we might imagine.

One of the things that many people forget or perhaps never even think about, is that when we communicate with others, talking is only part of the process. What you will notice when you really listen is, that your communication with others and therefore your relationships with them become all the stronger for it. Think back to a time when you have felt truly listened to. It’s a great feeling isn’t it.

So listening may be hard, but it could also be the quickest and easiest way to improve your relationships with others. Now thats got to be worth a try!

And if Hugh Grant or Ronan Keating want to pop round and test my listening skills I'm all theirs!!

Leamington Lifeclub

Doesn't anyone listen to me...?

It's amazing how your energy can change once you feel you're being listened to and have had a chance to say what you think. 12 happy people at my Life Club felt heard.

What started out (or so they thought) as the same old classic moan 'Not sure I like my job...', 'Don't feel at home where I live...', 'Don't spend enough time on myself...' which friends usually deal with as a 'Not that again...', suddenly became a serious thought.

After five minutes of discovering themselves - simply by being heard - there was a lightness and a bonding in the room that was great. Those 12 people have understood listening.

And after that we just had to go to the pub and get in some more serious listening. Great for those talking and great for those being listened to.

This week all Life Clubs are going to be listening hard...

See you there,
Westminster Life Club

Monday, 5 November 2007

Riches of the heart

Money, money, money. I agree with Nina, most people feel more comfortable talking about their most personal lives rather than their finances. Its a real uncomfortable subject - we can be viewed as shallow for wanting it and envied for having it. And why is it that its mostly wealthy people that tell us, 'money can't make you happy'. Oh for the chance to prove them wrong. But I am also reminded of how many so called 'rich' people we hear of who are deeply unhappy and have had tragic lives - The Getty and Picasso families spring to mind.

I am also reminded of a story of my own when I think of this subject

Its the story of a family friend of ours. He visited us when we were newly weds, with little money, living in a freezing rented flat in Dundee. He had married the week before us and joined us in Dundee with his new bride. We ordered a chinese takeaway and as we went to collect it I over heard the conversation between the two. They were dissecting the menu and their choices piece by piece and dividing the cost of their individual meals down to the last 1p. Then I heard one say to the other 'oh yes, but if you remember, on the train here I paid for your magazine so actually you owe me £2.00 aswell'.

Their marriage lasted less than a year.

For me a generous heart, a giving nature and a rich laugh are gems in anyones personal account.

Leamington Lifeclub

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Circle of friends

Oh I love this weeks Lifeclubs topic, LIFE CIRCLES. Its a really really great exercise that appeals hugely to the Visual learner in me (steady on all those nodding and saying 'I knew she only ever looked at the pictures'). I have played with this exercise a lot and have added not just people, but things, events, feelings, friendships etc. I've had great fun giving each a different shape and then the kids joined in and they added colours too.

This half term we have had many visitors. Marianne, best friend of eldest child, stayed for 4 days, posing interesting questions on Immac V. Lady shave. Her two Dads, who also stayed for 2 days, suggested I might be better able to answer this than them (I booked her in for a leg wax). Lesley my lovely friend from the Isle of Wight stayed 3 days to get her fix of shopping before starting treatment for Cancer and many of the neighbours and their children joined us at various times during the week for drinks, meals and laughs.

When the last of our visitors left this evening and we loaded the dishwasher for the 100th time, my daughter turned to me and said "you know mum we haven't so much got a family as a Venn diagram". I think she may have a point!

Leamington Lifeclub

Monday, 22 October 2007

Winter Wonderland

I have always said, if there are such things as 'former lives', I was definately from a very hot, sultry climate. I love, sun, heat, humidity, long days, strappy sandals, the smell of coconut oil and yes, yes Sangria, pina colada, pimms, any alcohol served with an umbrella and ice. So as you can imagine I don't take kindly to these dark cold evenings and frosty mornings. My usual cure for this is to batten down the hatches, switch to mulled wine and moan til May. Not so much a cure as a nest.

But you know I got to thinking that my negative energy about winter might just spread . I don't want my clubbers to read my mind, agree with me and all stay at home under the duvet with Cadburys and Corry.


I will be embracing my winter self. I am going to think positively about all the lovely winter woolies on sale, scarves, ooh I love boots and I could really get into that layered look. I will be leaping out of bed boyed by the thought of natures own blusher- a bracing walk and setting off for work with my head held high and shoulders back. Already I can see how my hunched in a duffle coat look gives out the wrong message. I am going to take on winter and win. I will be as energised and enthused as if it were spring. Winter is not a sleepy, dark, cold season. Its just a matter of perspective. Its invigorating, bracing and breathtaking!

My energy will spread and the doors to my winter Lifeclub will be flapping like Santas letterbox.

I look forward to the rush (and the mulled wine!)

Leamington Lifeclub

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Half full? Half empty?

This week we're going to be looking at how we look at things, and how we can CHOOSE to look at how we look at things. Clear as mud? Well, the thing is that looking at things from a different perspective is very often a great way to make progress. There is no one fixed, "correct" way of looking at anything. Choosing how we see things makes a big difference to what we think of as being possible in any given area of life. In this week's Life Club we'll be exploring what we can do by taking control of those perspectives.

Mark Lister

Edinburgh Life Club

Sunday, 14 October 2007

What's in my Family Tree?

This evening I went and saw Vanessa Havell (who just stopped running the Islington Life Club as she's going to get married!!!) perform as one of the trio 'The Marjorie Belles' and she was wonderful. It was the Andrews Sisters all over again - only with a twinkle. I was sitting next to Vanessa's mum and asked her if Vanessa had inherited her fantastic voice from her. There was a resounding 'No'.

Who we get what from is fascinating and, what can be even more interesting, is what else we could get if we just looked around at all that talent in our family tree and realised it could be ours too.

I bet you had an uncle somewhere who did the most wonderful wood carving and a grandfather who won prizes for tap dancing. If we just check out who exactly was part of our family we can find out fantastic stuff that could be in our genes too, and also which of our family might be affecting the way we look at the world and our life. Maybe we could even switch perspectives.

I mean, who do we really get what from. Yes, baby wipes from Anthea Turner (see below), but what else - and from whom? Watch this space as we discover all this week.

Any household tips gratefully received.
Westminster Club

I love Anthea

At the last Lifeclubs sponge day a fellow host stunned me by sharing her admiration for Anthea Turner and saying how this woman and her household tips had changed her life. My giving up gossip (see my last post) prevents me from repeating my less than kind words about Anthea! But hey if you can afford a cleaner, why wouldn't you?

But now I find I am a convert.

The tip shared was:

Keep a pack of Baby wipes in the loo. Then, if you have unexpected visitors, whilst you put the kettle on you can excuse yourself for a moment, dash to the loo and give everything a quick swish round with a wet wipe. Gleaming taps, sparkling credentials!!

What a gift this tip has been. Not only do I now have a new labour and reputation saving tip, but I now know that I am not alone in having that heart sink feeling when unexpected guests ask to use the loo. It seems others too wonder if the 9 year old has aimed well, if the 14 year old has left black kohl all round the sink and whether loved ones have left the crossword half done on the cistern.

Heaven, I am a domestic Goddess and an Anthea fan after all!!

Leamington Lifeclub

Thursday, 11 October 2007

But is there time...?

This week at Life Clubs we're tackling time management and discovering that (unlike Bob - see below), none of us have time to read Heat, whether we want to or not.

The Westminster Club it seems, are all constantly at the mercy of people interrupting us - phones ringing, e-mails pinging and so on, over-whelmed by the amount of things in our diaries and endlessly procrastinating - whether through indolence, distraction or perfectionism. Much of it (as usual) down to our inability to say 'No'.

Strategies were put in place to clear our diaries and our heads and focus on what we had to do so we would have time... for reading Heat - what else?

Hope you have a good week making time.

Westminster Life Club

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Biting My Tongue (or my keypad)

"If you haven't got anything nice to say, come sit next to me." So said one of the ladies in Steel Magnolias (and several of my friends as well).

So good luck to Kim.

I've found myself in a situation this week where I've got nothing good to say. I'm in a book club and the book I'm reading is totally grating on my nerves. I think it's overwritten. The characters are all despicable, whiny, spoiled twits and all need a good slap upside their privileged heads. And the narrative voice is condescending.

The critics love it, and the author has won many awards. I think that being married to one of the world's premier literary critics doesn't hurt her cause, but that could be me just being my cynical self.

Nick Hornby once wrote that there are too many good books out there to read something you don't like. Normally, I'd take his advice on this one and bin the book. But in this case, I'm going to plow through. I've already joined in the group discussion (which the author is a part of) and I'm really hoping for some a-ha redemptive moment.

Plus, every week, when I talk Life Clubbers through the creativity spoke of the Balance Chart, I talk about trying new things. So I'm reading this like a writer ... trying to keep an open mind, pay attention to her craft (her CV indicates she's no slouch) and try not to be too bitchy in my discussion so that I can gleam some insights from a critically successful novelist.

Just because I don't like something doesn't mean I can't learn from it.

And when I finish it, I'm reading this week's Heat from cover to cover.

Marylebone Life Club

Saturday, 6 October 2007

The Britney Challenge

This week Nina and I joined a very successful Leamington author and freelance journalist for lunch. She was a vibrant, witty and entertaining lunch date who once lunch was over, left me with a real challenge on my hands.

During lunch she told us how she had given up all forms of gossiping. She said the results of this had been nothing but positive and she felt all the better for it. I listened open mouthed and some what ashamed. I have certainly entertained and enjoyed my own fair share of gossip and bought magazines and newspapers to gloat over whose lost a million, put on weight, or been behaving badly.

As this weeks Lifeclub topic was 'Creating Success' I began to wonder if the succesful me would be so hooked on 'heat' magazine, would she be retelling stories at the school gate of the hilarious antics of my next door neighbour, charging after his escaped dog, in his boxer shorts, at six this morning, would the succesful me be taking bets on which 'spicey' is next to have 'lipo'. What do you think? I guess not.

I am resisting the urge to think that my life will be duller and no where near so funny if I give up on gossip. If I haven't got anything nice to say I will say nothing (Yes folks me saying nothing.....now that is a challenge). Yes, I am going cold Turkey. I will gossip no more. I know tomorrow is Sunday and I usually fold the News of the World inside my copy of the Sunday Times, but no more. I will not be seduced by the promise of a free weekend at Butlins or a DVD of old Carry on films, the N.o.W must go too! I will rise to this challenge and I will succeed. Do me a favour though, help me out here, if you see me round Leamington in the next few weeks, please,please don’t ask me about Britney!


Friday, 28 September 2007

Balance the Seasoning

Sometimes you find validation in the oddest places.

Remember last week I was prattling on about autumn being a time of assessment and change for me? No, well then go back and read if you like.

Anyway, on Sunday I found myself on top of Primrose Hill watching a Druid ceremony welcoming the first day of fall. One of the speakers said that autumn was the seventh part of a cycle of change. It's the time to harvest what's grown over the summer, decide to keep what you want, and let the rest go its own way (whether that be to the bin, to seed, or to lie fallow to fertilize something else).

Hmm ... so the Druids agree. Now's as good as time as any to decide what it means for our lives to be balanced according to our needs at this particular time. What's unbalanced for me might be perfectly balanced for someone else. And what's balanced for us this autumn might not make us feel balanced next year, or even next season.

So why not check in with yourself and see what it is you need to feel balanced for the next few weeks/months/seasons?

And to all those people who say I'm unbalanced ... well, it's just a matter of perspective, innit?

Marylebone Life Club

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Playing with the scales of Life

This week we're looking at that ongoing balancing act we all have to deal with - life. Or rather, all those many things that have to be successfully slotted together and prioritised to make it all happen somehow. To have the life you want, you must have all the right elements - but you also need to get them in the right balance. There's many aspects to this. Work / life balance is something we hear about quite a bit, but there's more to life than just work and everything else. That's why our balance charts have ten sections, not two!

If life's even slightly out of balance, things can seem very overwhelming. Obviously nobody can do everything - and actually, nobody wants to. Life balance is about being clear about what you want, and not letting things from lower down the list dominate the more important things. It's like sound engineering. If you're mixing a piece of music or a film soundtrack in a recording studio, everything has to be at just the right level relative to the other elements. There's no one right mix; that depends on the overall sound you want. But when you're clear how you want it to sound, you can achieve it, by getting the mix right.

So in this week's workshop we'll be exploring how we can make changes by fiddling with the mix of life.

Mark Lister
Edinburgh Life Club

Thursday, 20 September 2007

New Routines

This is one of my favorite times of year. The air gets a little fresher and we all of a sudden find ourselves in what I like to call jeans jacket weather. The new TV season starts (well, back home in America at least). It feels like "back to school" even though I haven't really been back to a fall term for eons. Plus it's right after my birthday, so I feel like everything is new and fresh.

The beginning of fall is one of my more motivating times of the year. Change is in the air. It's time to hunker down , revisit goals and get ready for the approaching holidays. Time to go for walks, put on that new jeans jacket (yup, I bought myself one for my birthday and it already feels like an old friend), and find new creative sparks in the autumn air.

It's also a good time to get back into the routines that I let slip over the summer: that gym thing; getting back into a writing workshop, decluttering that bookshelf that I'm going seeing more because it gets darker earlier.

Maybe I'll even take some time to decide on some new routines and motivations to carry me through the next twelve months.

Why wait till New Years to make those resolutions and changes?

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Ready, Steady, Go

I don't know how I did anything before I discovered what motivated me - guesswork I suppose and maybe not achieving as much as I could have.

Anyway, now I know, my present goal is to get fit. I don't want bulging muscles, I just want to be able to do the kind of things my body used to do.

Monday saw me at the gym with a free trainer on my special introductory offer. It was hard. Supple I wasn't and aching I was. Rubbish music that didn't inspire me and a room that smelt of rubber. I did not like it.

Tuesday had me beginning to notice a few benefits. I was running up the stairs and sitting with my legs over the arm of the armchair as if I was 16 again - that felt good.

Today, Wednesday, I really didn't want to go to the gym again. I felt tired, stiff, slightly achy and had loads of excuses as to why I was needed elsewhere.

But one of my motivational tools is fun. Another is dancing. So I made a 'Workout' playlist on my i-pod and took it along. Oh yes.

Just like Ready, Steady, Go.

Hope you have a lovely week,
Westminster Life Club

Sunday, 16 September 2007

OK, let's get motivated!

Motivation's one of those things a lot of us would like more of these days. It can even seem like the big key to many of those elusive successes we'd like - from losing weight to setting up that business we've always dreamed of.

So motivation's likely to be something you've thought about quite a bit before. At this week's workshop we'll be having a really good look at it, including looking at it from some different perspectives. Thinking "I need more self motivation" is a very common Limiting Belief, which can hide a great deal of personal strength.

So come along, and prepare to discover how much motivation you can really call upon!

Mark Lister

Edinburgh Life Club

Sunday, 9 September 2007

How you're finding Life Clubs

What I'm finding interesting is how you're finding out about us. From Mind, Body & Spirit Magazine to MoneySavingExperts.com, via Psychologies, Health & Fitness Magazine and so on. The range of things we're mentioned in keeps getting wider and wider. All I can say is keep spreading the word.

How can we become a household name quickest? Please send any ideas in to nina@lifeclubs.co.uk.

Looking forward,


We're talking about body language in Life Clubs this week.

You've probably heard that old saw about how only 14% of our communication is verbal. You don't have to think about that for very long to realise it makes a lot of sense - in evolutionary terms, our verbal language is very recent. We've still got the non-verbal language, even if we don't rely on it quite as exclusively. That doesn't mean it's not important - far from it. Indeed, since verbal language tends to push body language into the background, you could say it has a more subtle impact.

What's interesting too is what you say to yourself with your body. Listening to your body can help you discover a lot. For example, have you ever noticed how your posture shifts in parallel to how you relate to the people you're with? Changing what your body says can change how people experience you and who they think of you as. So body language can be very powerful. I'm looking forward to taking a good look at it in this week's workshop.

As you can no doubt tell from the confident, manly way I'm striking the computer's keys as I write this.

Mark Lister

Edinburgh Life Club

Monday, 3 September 2007

Bring out yer clutter!

Decluttering is our theme this week at Life Clubs, and a mighty useful skill this is. What's interesting about decluttering is that it's not just about the obvious clearing out of last year's now hideously unfashionable shirts (or were they like that when I bought them?) Decluttering's about letting go, and every area of life can hold things we could do with letting go of.

Clutter is anything which gets in the way. It could be material things, but equally it could be habits. Smoking is something which I used to keep lying around like an old chair - I didn't get anything out of it, it was just part of the scenery. While I did it, it didn't really seem to do any harm; but once I decluttered it from my life, it's amazing what there was suddenly room for. Including meeting the love of my life! We met two weeks after I stopped smoking. She later told me that if I'd been a smoker then, we'd never have got as far as a first date.

So I'm looking forward to exploring what sorts of decluttering we can do and how in this week's workshop.

Have fun making space!

Mark Lister
Edinburgh Life Club

Friday, 31 August 2007

we could be heroes just for one day

Now I promised myself I wouldn't write about the new tv show heroes, but look at me writing away I can't stop my fingers from tap tap tapping!

I really love the show, it's on straight after my group, and it's about all these people who suddenly develop superpowers such as flight, hearing people's thoughts, stopping time, and remembering everything (one I wouldn't mind inheriting!) and it deals with how they are adapting these powers and coming to terms with them.

Accepting how great you are can be really difficult, most of us are great at self-deprecating but acknowledging our strengths and unique qualitites is much harder, but really worth the effort and very empowering.

'Cagney and Lacey'

If that is too much, be empowered by your heroes. I once gave a talk about fans, not the flappy things but fans of shows, bands etc and through my research I found that loads of women had been empowered by the cop drama, these characters had inspired people to set up businesses, leave parteners and lots more!

who knew!!!

I meant to post my blog on Wednesday, but I have been really busy being inspired by some of my idols. I have set a singing group based on the Andrew Sisters, (the 1940's close harmony singing group), and we've been rehearsing like mad for a gig in October. I have loved their music for years and this admiration has been the catalyst for something I am really proud of.

Vanessa x

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

So many heroes came to help

It seems ages ago that the sun shone (well, sort of) and we pitched up in our yurt at the LoveBox festival. Many festivals have come and gone since then, but it was Life Clubs first - and so, important. Wanted to show you a few of our pics. I hope some of the fun we had comes across - and some of the serious thoughts.

This last one is of me showing off our yurt. I have to say, that much as I love our Life Clubs T-shirts (you can buy them for £10), they aren't me at my best. But I hope you've enjoyed the other pics - of Bob (Marylebone) running a Life Club, my kids posing with their friends and Flo (brilliant camera woman), Susan (Romford Life Club) and Juliette (Watford) all hanging out. Plus Tommy having a Harry Potter moment.

See you soon,
Westminster Life Club

Super Heroes

If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?

Invisibility? Flight? Time travel?

Oh wait ... those are the ones I always choose for myself.

Sometimes we think "wouldn't it be cool if we could only do [insert amazing activity here]" ?

Maybe we already have our super powers and just haven't tapped into them.

Try being invisible for a few hours ... just sit back and watch and listen ... either to yourself or to those around you.

You want to fly? Learn to hang glide, go play on a flight simulator, or take a course in lucid dreaming.

Time travel? Pull out an old scrapbook, or sit down and write down evertything you remember about your 6th birthday. Or maybe what things will be like when your grandkids turn 60.

Just remember to use your super powers for good (but that's a given, because surely no super villains are reading this blog).

Sunday, 26 August 2007

My hero, myself

I was sharing a leisurely beer in a pub last summer with an old friend who, like me, used to be a musician. There was a guy sitting a couple of tables away who, we thought, looked somehow as if he too was a brother musician. So we asked him. We said, "Excuse us asking, but are you a musician?" "Yeah," he said, "I used to be in the biz." A bit more desultory chat and then we got on with our respective pints.

Six months later my pal reminded me of this incident. "Do you know who it was?" he asked. "Well, no," I said. Of course. With a lead up like that I perhaps shouldn't have been surprised when he said "It was Ray Davies, front man of the Kinks." Golly. What a hero. And I hadn't even noticed. What a missed opportunity that was.

It got me thinking, what other heroes am I blissfully unaware of? One hero nearly all of us fail routinely to give sufficient acknowledgement to is ourself. Just take a moment and consider - what opportunities would noticing your own brilliance open up? What difference would it make? Think of the other way round - if you don't look at yourself as a unique, talented and important person (and make no mistake about it, you certainly are), isn't it going to be a lot harder to be all you are?

So this week in Life Clubs, that's what we'll be talking about - you and your greatness.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Moving on

Wow - that's been quite a week. As I write I'm finding it hard to move on to the week ahead; this week we're looking at letting go of the past (I know, the irony's colossal), yet Bob's Auntie Lorna is a great example of something inspiring to remember. In all sorts of aspects of life we tend to let ourselves be run by past experiences, even though we might be fully aware that the "lessons" we once learned are no longer relevant and need to be abandoned. It can seem tricky to let them go. It's a lot easier than it usually looks though, and we'll be exploring that in this week's workshops.

Part of the trick is discerning what's useful to keep and what we really would be better off without. We do learn a lot of valuable lessons as we go through life, often from amazing people such as Lorna. Perhaps it also helps to acknowledge that those experiences are the ones we should keep, just as we leave some behind. Recognising the good stuff only helps sift out the crap we no longer want to be colouring our judgement.

It all helps create that ideal life we started thinking about last week...

Mark Lister
Edinburgh Life Club

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

it's a wonderful life

There is a woman in East Kilbride, who has just won 34.8 million on the lottery.
As I heard this on the news, i began fantasising about what I'd do with all that money...this isn't the first time I'd played the, what would i do if I won game, (an interetsing past-time seeing as I don't play), but I haven't done it for a while.

My thought process went something like this..
i wouldn't have to work..great....I could afford to do all those courses I wanted....not much point if I wasnt going to use it in my work...I could buy a theatre and put on a play...nah..I like to do it the normal way...ok well I'll just hang out and go to lunch with all my friends...no can do, they work, and after a while I'd be bored of that....hang on I want to work, i have to work, It's what my life is about....ooooh I'm happy as I am, even with all the problems and upsets I have, I'm working towards my ideal life, and I'm actually doing pretty well, and you know what, I'm enjoying the process.

To the woman in East Kilbride, I wish you well and hope you enjoy creating your ideal new life, and me, I'll keep plowing on with mine.

Vanessa x

What's the Big Ideal?

This from the Compact Oxford English Dictionary ...

ideal (adjective) 1 most suitable; perfect. 2 desirable or perfect but existing only in the imagination.

Yikes. Perfect. That's raising the bar.

How about just thinking about what makes you (or could make you) happy right now, and realizing that at least some nugget of that is in your world right this minute?

For instance ... I came home tonight after a 13-hour day to learn that my partner's aunt, who's been ill for a while now, passed away this afternoon.

Not ideal at all.

Yes, she's out of pain, but now the grieving begins for those who've been watching her fade away over the past few months. I've known Lorna for the last fifteen years, and despite her woes, she was one of the happiest people I've met.

Last September, at her youngest granddaughter's wedding, she asked me to get her a glass of wine. She was having cancer surgery the following week, but delayed the surgery until after the wedding.

"White or red?" I asked.

"Red, please."

"Merlot or Pinot Noir?"

"I don't give a shit, just pour me something."

And that was Auntie Lorna in a nutshell. May she rest in peace.

She will be missed, and I'm happy to have known her and grateful that she went out of her way to make me feel a part of her family.

Count your blessings, my friends. The more we pay attention to them, the more they'll come into our lives, taking us closer to whatever it is that we define as "ideal."

Sunday, 12 August 2007

This week: Creating your ideal life

This week's special topic is about your ideal life. Most of us would like life to be better in some way, and in this week's workshop we'll spend the time to get down to specifics. What would your ideal life look like? Looking at the life you've got, what would you add, take away, and keep to create your ideal life? Then we'll consider how we can do something about putting it in place. This is about the little everyday things as well as the the big ones - even an ideal life involves details, and it's surprising how much impact those details have on our happiness. Not feeling rushed might give you more happiness than a fancy car.

You might of course decide that both would be part of your ideal life - and that one is achieveable sooner than the other! The thing is, actually knowing what you want to head for beats that vague 'I wish things were, er, better' feeling hands down, because it lets you see ways of actually doing something about it. So this week, our discussions and exercises will be aimed at discovering just that.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Yeah but No but Yeah but No but ...

Here are a couple questions ...

1. What's your first instinct when somebody offers you some friendly (or perhaps not so nice) criticism in the name of "feedback"?

If your like me or the others at our workshop last night, it's to immediately go on the defensive.

"Yeah, but I did it the way you told me to."

"Who are you to judge?"

"I did the best I could with the resources I had."

Et cetera.

2. What's the first thing you do when you're giving feedback and the person you're trying to talk to gets all defensive?

Last night's group all answered the same way ... we get more defensive right back at them.

Creates an interesting little circle of non-communication, doesn't it?


So here's an idea ...

Next time you get some feedback, just bite your tongue and listen. Let it wash over you like you're sitting on a beach and a big, unexpected wave crashes on top of your head. It's just a wave. You know it will pass, and flow back into the sea from whence it came.

Then shake it off, have a think about it, and deal with it once you've had time to get over the shock.

Let's extend the metaphor a bit. Indulge me.

You might want to take a minute while you're underwater, and just slowly breathe out. 'Cause what's going to happen the minute you take a deep breath to support your well-deserved "no but yeah but no but ...." speech?

Well, you're probably gonna choke and sputter on all that water. You won't be able to soak in what's really being said, let alone take in a drop or two of potentially salient information. It might not be what you want to experience (or hear), but it's certainly not going to kill you to pay attention.

Some of us hate getting feedback because we already know what's right and wrong with what we've done, and we certainly don't want to be reminded of it from someone who seems to think they know better.

But odds are, that "know it all" is just doing their job. Our teachers aren't doing their work unless we keep learning. Our bosses are being scrutinized by their bosses. Our coaches (at work, at the gym, or on the phone) are just doing what we pay them to ... push us a little bit out of our comfort zone.

Sure, feedback (especially from people who don't know how to give it) might be uncomfortable. But why prolong the discomfort but getting into a battle of the wills?

Listen. Breath out. Take what you can use. Let the rest go back to where it came from.

Sunday, 5 August 2007


Well, this is going to be fun! This week our topic is giving feedback. To put it a couple of other ways, offering criticism, and telling it like it is. It can be sooooo tricky saying what we mean to people; for starters, there are all sorts of reasons why we don't wish to offend people. We have concerns that they might be unpleasant to us, or fire us, or spread rumours about us. Basically, telling others our honest, warts-and-all opinion is a place where our insecurities can have a field day. So instead we end up being tactful, evasive, or downright silent. Sound familiar?

Most of us do this with at least one or two people, some of us do it with nearly everyone. But even if there's just one - your boss maybe, or your father - that's enough to undermine you and make you feel compromised in the honesty department. It might not even just be about negative feedback either - for example, in Britain we're notoriously bad at handing out compliments and acknowledging each other. And while we're on the subject, we're not much good at receiving compliments either.

Why is any of this worth doing anything about? Only for the sake of having clarity and honesty in the communications you're involved in in your life!

One last thought. I think many of us fight shy of opening up and saying what we mean because we've got used to thinking that the alternative is confrontation - one extreme or the other. So in this week's Life Clubs, we're going to be exploring ways of giving feedback that enable us to get across the positive, constructive messages we really want to convey.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Glad I didn't have me as a mother

My 17 year old daughter just handed me the copy of Cosmopolitan magazine she'd bought. There, in the middle of this article about what men like in bed, she pointed out four quotes from me, her mum. Luckily my words of wisdom had linked back to Jane Austen rather than anything more lascivious, but I felt it must have been strange for her, thinking she'd learn about sex and finding her mum in the middle of it all.

I'd forgotten that interview had ever happened, but it certainly was one of my raunchier ones. My 19 year old son was in the room at the time as I was spouting words of wisdom about how men like a laugh in bed. As if I knew.

You never know as a parent how you're going to **** up your child. Often it's probably the things you aren't aware of that will do it. When I wrote the feedback workshop we're running this week I wished I'd thought more about feedback before. It's so easy to criticise negatively and so difficult to do it so that your relationship is enhanced.

So, darling daughter, what the hell were you doing reading an article about what men like in bed in the first place?

See you there,
Westminster Club

Thursday, 2 August 2007

no means no

Every week i prepare my notes and practice at home.....
This week was about saying no, and in my talk I was giving examples of different ways to say no and it gradually dawned on me that as I was saying, "No, I can't do that" or "No, I can't I'm really sorry"
No matter what version of No I was saying, as I spoke I...nodded my head!!!!
So every time I am saying no to things, in fact through my body language I am saying yes....
This is all I have to say on the subject at this present time.
Vanessa x

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Friends will be Friends

So, I got in the car to drive to my Life Club yesturday, and turned on the radio to 'Friends will be friends', by Queen from the sound of it, which luckily prompted me to mentally go through the evening ahead and then realise I had left all my notes at home!

Also luckily, I had left more than enough time to get to the venue, so all was well.

It was really interesting to look at why we have certain people in our lives and why we find it hard to let go of certain people. It was REALLY nice to think about all the people that lift us, and what it is we like about them so much.

Talking of friends, I have my close friend staying with me at the moment as she is in London doing a voice course. This is a friendship that started at college and has continued to grow and develop into this relationship that I cherish so much, and feel so blessed to have.

So I'm off to enjoy some quality hanging out time with my friend.

Vanessa x

Monday, 23 July 2007

All the people... so many people

The topic for this week is relationships. There's all manner of relationships in our lives - family, friends, romantic, professional, even the people we buy our food from - and we're going to be looking at ALL of them! I'm pretty excited about this, because the focus is going to be on the things all relationships have in common. I think that's really important.

It's easy to think of different types of relationships as being entirely different species with completely different rules. All of your relationships have something in common though - YOU! And with you go all your ideas, assumptions and limiting beliefs about how people are with you and how you are with them. If you find it hard to say 'no' to your boss, you'll probably find it hard to say 'no' to your friends too. If you feel you're not good at connecting with your family, perhaps you also feel you're not great at connecting with your neighbours.

The thing is, the rules that govern your relationships tend to be pretty universal. And what's more, guess who made them up? That's right, you did! So this week's workshop is an opportunity to make a big impact on all areas of your balance chart.

Mark Lister

Edinburgh Life Club

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Yes, it was a blast

Wasn't sure that I was the festival type anymore and at times this weekend focusing on other people against the din of the music felt tough, but going out in the crowd and dancing with the music felt wonderful, exhilerating and fun.

Our 'enjoy all of your life' smiling skull T-shirts were a great hit. Photographed, bought and worn by the select few I know they were one of the stars of LoveBox.

Our yurt was colourful too - covered with balloons and cheerful in the sun - and rain. Today was sunny all day which was lovely. We even ran a few Life Clubs outside.

I know I've missed Glastonbury, but I'm sure there are a few more festivals left in me.

Hope you caught us - or will at the next one.
I know I'm going to be grooving all week now.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007


I haven't written for a couple of weeks as I've been away working.

It was great to come back to this weeks topic, I love it!


I remember the first time I participated in this workshop, the thing that really struck and stuck with me was unearthing the benefits of behaviours that are limiting, (eg I'm disorganised-hidden benefit-I don't have to be on time for anything!), hard to think of at first but when you get that light bulb moment and realise ' Oh, that's why I'm really behaving and thinking like that', it's an amazing feeling!

As I'm writing this I'm trying to remember what I worked on that first time, as It'll be interesting to note the changes I've made.

I'll let you know!

Vanessa x

Monday, 16 July 2007

More creative than I thought...

Hi all,

Well its a few weeks on and the message from the presenting me workshop is still ringing in my ears. Its surprising how much we forget the things we achieve over the years and focus on the things we fear.

I was asked to provide the cake for my step-daughters birthday party and was about to order one from my local bakers, to the tune of £60 when I thought back to the various things that I have done over the years and started thinking about when I was at catering college and took a cake decoration course. I made a few cakes for people years ago when the children were small and although that was nearly 25 (gulp) years ago; I thought of the presenting me group work and started coming up with a list of skills and achievements that I had completely forgotten about.

Well I decided to jump back in at the very deepest end and make the cake myself. After two evenings of the kitchen looking like an explosion in an icing sugar factory not to mention feeling sick from eating cake mix, butter cream and icing... the cake was finished. And guess what? Not only did it go down a storm but I received 2 requests from guests for more cakes. So not only did I save £40 but the boost to my confidence was priceless... something else to add to my mental CV.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

All change!

There's all sorts of things that stop us taking on the changes we really want in our lives. Change can be challenging or scary for many reasons, but when we finally take it on, we rarely regret it. This is what we're exploring in this week's Life Clubs.

Change can be thrust upon us, and therefore seem traumatic, unexpected, unpleasant. What's intriguing is that the other sort - change we decide we want - can seem just as horrible, or even more so, even if it's very clear that the change is all cons and no pros. Three years ago I was still a smoker, and had wanted to stop for some time. I drew up a pros and cons list - the cons list was huge, and I couldn't think of a SINGLE thing to put on the pros. And yet, the thought of changing was still really uncomfortable. (That's what REALLY keeps people smoking, by the way - the physical addiction's over in no time.)

It's got a lot to do with the Limiting Beliefs we looked at last week. In the Edinburgh Life Club, someone raised the interesting question 'How do you spot limiting beliefs?' One answer is 'By initiating change.' They'll appear right in your sights, between you and your objective.

And yes, that means if you deal with a limiting belief to make one change, that belief will also stop being so in the way of another. So change enables change. Win win.

Have a different week!

Mark Lister
Edinburgh Life Club

Monday, 9 July 2007

Can't wait to get reading

My club had so many budding writers it was really exciting. It felt a creative force in the centre of London. I can't wait to read what everyone is going to write. So many characters with so many stories.

It's interesting how reticent we are at saying how we'd like to be feeling. It's easy to think of all the child-like negative thoughts we're having, like 'I'm no good with money' or 'I'm scared of meeting new people' or 'no-one's going to like my book', but replacing those thoughts with 'I'm ruthless' or 'I'm great with new people' or 'my book will be a best-seller' seems tough.

Sometimes it's even hard to think of a goal we want to achieve. 'I want to pass my history degree' - when actually you really want to get on with being a DJ - feels a little like putting life on hold and a bit of a 'should' rather than 'want' goal. What about doing both - the former big-time and the latter in small doses.

These are a few of the things I observed tonight.

As well as seeing everyone sit up straighter and smile as they realised their lives could be a little different.

Watch this space.

Nina (Westminster Club)

Sunday, 8 July 2007

The week ahead: Limiting Beliefs

Ever said "I'm my own worst enemy" or "I'm holding myself back"? That's where limiting beliefs are at work. Something you believe to be true about yourself or your life that restricts what you think is possible. They fence you in and constrain you. They can seem insurmountable, like they're just The Truth. They can affect all sorts of areas of life. The thing is though, beliefs are something you have, and like anything else you have, you can change them.

This week's Life Clubs are about tackling your limiting beliefs, and expanding what's possible for you. Should be fun!

Thursday, 5 July 2007

What do we all look like?

I've had a great week listening in to everyone bemoaning the way they look - or at least the clothes they wear. And that includes me too.

It's amazing how clothes can keep us hidden. If we dress quietly we'll get ignored and won't have to say anything interesting, if we wear a uniform we will be more in control, if we wear a suit things might happen to us - and that might be scary.

I wear my uniform too. It's so easy getting out of bed and pretending to be a man and just putting on a pair of trousers and a stripey shirt - I love it. But maybe it's keeping me small.

Just watch this space. This week I'm going to buy something totally different. Major prize to the first person who catches me in my new dress.

Hope to see you soon,
Nina (Westminster Club)

Sunday, 1 July 2007

How do I look?

Self-image. It's totally internal, yet it's something we think about as being part of everyone else's reality. Hmmm. It's plainly got a lot to do with what we looked at last week, selling oneself. A positive self-image is certainly a big help to presenting yourself positively.

I don't know about you, but when I feel insecure about something, I can't help thinking everybody can see it. I don't even have to be terribly sure what I'm insecure about. And what are they going to think of me? That's why self-image can be such a minefield - it seems to us that what we FEAR may be true about ourselves, others are CERTAIN is true. That of course only makes us all the more convinced they're right (even though we don't actually know they think that at all). It's a vicious circle.

The good news is that the reverse is true too. Feeling good about yourself makes you feel others see you in a positive light too. So taking control of your self-image is something that can make a really big difference.

Here's an inquiry to start the week with then - what would you love other people to think of you?

Thursday, 28 June 2007

don't sell yourself short!

Ah it's good to be back.

So, Wednesday I filmed a corporate short for a major company. Looking back I can see how I presented or sold myself differently throughtout the day to different people. For instance, to the director I was professional, one take wonder girl (except when I dismally failed to pull a pint-a bit of a problem as I was playing a barmaid!), I presented myself like this because I wanted him to think I was talented, good to work with, and took direction well.

With the costume department I was much more friendly funny and cheeky because I wanted to keep the shoes I was wearing for the shoot, (they go beautifully with my new maxi-dress).

It was interesting thinking about all this as I made my way to my Lifeclub. How as an actor in auditions I am constantly selling myself. So for my audition today I consciously thought about who I was selling to, what I wanted from the meeting and how I wanted to present myself.

Now I can't vouch for the impression I made on the director on Wenesday, but I can tell you that I have a lovely new pair of shoes!!!!!!

Oh and I got a second audition.
Vanessa x

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Hey ... We're Back!

And look at the cool new digs. Very nice and definitely worth the wait.

I've been doing a little self-selling lately. Not so much selling, as a bit of promotion for a project I'm having fun with. Some might call it pimping, but this is a family site.

Here's the lesson I've learned ... be careful what you wish for, because all you have to do is ask and people will help if they can.

And you know what else? The success you'll achieve might make other people jealous and cause them to react negatively. Don't let that stop you from reaching for your own brass ring.

Maybe that's what they call "fear of success." I don't want to do well, because someone might question the authenticity of how I got what I asked for.


Figure out what brass ring you want, brainstorm a few different ways to reach for it, then try one and enjoy the ride.

image from www.worth1000.com


Sunday, 24 June 2007

This Week: Selling Yourself!

So, this week the theme's how you put yourself across. Not just in interviews and marketing and so on, but in every interaction we have with other people every day. What this immediately brings to my mind is how shy I've realised I can be - I'm a past master of hiding myself away. I've not even noticed how good I am at it, which is probably why I've let myself get away with it for so long.

In putting yourself across, there's three areas to get clear about - who are you, who are you talking with, and what outcome do you want. I could generally do better at all of those, but for me the biggie is who the other person is. All too often, I imagine them to be in some way scary or angry with me, so I clam up. Or maybe I don't talk to them at all. So I'm really looking forward to what comes up for me in this week's exercise, which, suffice it to say, involves role playing situations.

Or perhaps I'm not.

Fortunately, that's usually a sign I'm about to learn something.

Have fun with it!

Mark Lister

Friday, 1 June 2007

Focus Dude.

My title this week comes from one of our favourite family films, Finding Nemo. 'Focus Dude' is what Crush, the very laid back sea turtle, says to Marlin, the pretty high-strung clownfish who is regaining consciousness after being stung by some jellyfish. It's also a phrase we often use around our house when someone isn't paying particular attention to what they are supposed to be doing. This happens quite a bit with my eight-year old son, who although smart and philisophical beyond his years, can often forget that I sent him into the bathroom to brush his teeth only having gone straight from the living room, through the kitchen, to the bathroom in a matter of seconds. 'Oh, yeah, I forgot!' he says, as if it was something I might have mentioned days ago. He's off in his mind focusing on something else that is far more important in his world.

It happens to us too. We're going along doing one thing when out of the blue comes something else and we lose our original focus. There are always options of things we can focus on in our day or our life. We need to make a choice because in choosing we focus our energy. This in turn creates the grounding, satisfaction and control to take us forward.

Creatively, one way to focus is to get a visual image of what you want from your goal, the thing you are focusing on. Imagine yourself on top of that mountain you dream of climbing. Create a collage with an image of the mountain and put a photo of you on top! Keep this image in a prominent place that will keep you focused on taking the steps you need to achieve that goal. Whether the goal is a five year or a life goal, making an image of you succeeding will boost your energy and drive to go for it.


Wednesday, 30 May 2007

makin' your mind up

Ahh Bucks Fizz, I remember the Christmas I was given their album....What pearls of wisdom..'Makin' your mind up', and don't get me started on 'The Camera never Lies', but I digress, which of course means I'm not focussed on the task in hand.

Focussing is so important and yet can seem impossible. Ever been encouraged to constantly learn, and take on new things, 'strings to the bow' ? I have, and to tell the truth sometimes my bow is at breaking point, (flat hunting will do that to ya).
Not that I'm complaining, I love having lots to do, but I recognise that to do something really well, you need to focus on it. I wouldn't have been a very good host this evening if my mind was everywhere. My entire focus needed to be in the room, and that is what made it a great evening, well that and the great material and wonderful clubbers!

Deciding what to focus on, 'makin' your mind up' if you will can be the tricky part, how you do it is your choice, throw a dice, write lists, ring everybody you know and ask for their advice, get a million different points of view and be none the better, (a past favourite of mine!) like I say it's your call, but if you really concentrate on one thing, you'll reep the benefits.
Vanessa x

Ps for past readers, I have made a discovery concerning the food diary. It's not enough (for me) to simply write down what I've eaten each day and forget about it, you have to look back to highlight the patterns, or in my case the complete denial, to truly see where to go. It's all very exciting. Will let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

It's All a Blur


Too much to do today. Lesson plans to sort, a staff meeting to get to, a Tuesday 200 to write, a Life Club to get ready for, and now the cat's walking around squealing in pain and throwing up on the carpet that I just got steamed cleaned last week.

Did you ever have one of those days when it's all just swirling around you and the duvet seems to be half-calling you and half-mocking you, knowing that there's no way you can succumb to its warm cocoon?

It's mornings like this when I forget to breathe. Forget to sit down, take things one step at a time and focus on the task at hand.

Okay then, the vet's been called and an appointment's been made.

The cat sick won't leave too horrible a stain. Nothing that the steam cleaners can't get out next time. Why'd he have to barf on my side of the bedroom? Let it go. At least it's not in plain site.

I did more prep work over the weekend than I thought, so the lesson plans (at least today's) will be fine.

We've done tonight's workshop before, so it will be like visiting an old friend.

And the plot/characters for today's story will probably come to me on the tube or during the staff meeting.

Ahhh, I'm calm and centered and, well, reasonably focussed again.

It's so easy to get caught up in everything and lose sight of what we can actually accomplish. Wouldn't it be nice if we came with the auto-focus settings that the snazzy digital cameras come with?

Auto-focus. How do we install that in ourselves?

Maybe that's what a few deep breaths and this cup of tea are for.


Sunday, 27 May 2007

Focussed as a locust

That's how I'm approaching this week. Oh yes I am.

It strikes me that very geometric language is occuring to me here. There's 'FOCUS', which is the subject of this week's Life Clubs; CONNECTED to, or DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSED to that, is going off on TANGENTS (a forte of mine). I could go on, but I'll get to the POINT. Geometry has a simplicity, a beauty and a clarity to it. That's what we get when we're focussed. When we're not, everything's messy and confused and full of struggle.

The funny thing is how easy being focussed seems to be when you actually are being focussed. I'm going to hang onto that thought this week and see where it gets me.

Friday, 25 May 2007

Dancin' in the streets...or maybe the living room!

At Salisbury Life Clubs this week, we explored Where the Heart is in terms of how we use the space that is our home. Also, if that space seems unable to support some expression of our self, where can we find the place that best suits our heartfelt desires to dance, exercise, relax, calm down and a whole host of other activities and moods we might want to create.

Although Dancin' in the Streets is a great tune, it really is not advisable if you live anywhere that there is traffic. So the living room might just fit the bill as the place to crank up the tunes and "get on down with your 'bad'self" as a friend of mine used to put it. Maybe the club scene is where you can let all that creative dance expression out.

I had an idea about how you might broaden your horizons as to places you can do your thing. You could make a collage (cut out images from magazines and stick them on paper or card) to correspond with either each activity (be creative, romantic, relax, exercise, etc) or for each room of your home, and see what fits where for you. Maybe the kitchen is the place to do the salsa as well as make it! It then might become a place for some romance as well...

Have fun with it-


Thursday, 24 May 2007

Home coming - by Kimx

Home Coming

After all the talk about home this week it really got me to thinking about the chaos I call home. Four children, husband, dog, numerous neighbours and friends constantly in and out. I always say how much I love the chaos and the buzz. I love never knowing how many for dinner and can I make sausage and mash stretch thaaaaaat far. But this week I got to wondering…..do I really enjoy it ,what about relaxation.

Ho Hum I’d have liked to have taken a quiet moment to contemplate this and navel gaze a while. But I couldn’t find a quiet anything, all bathrooms taken up with a massive teenage ‘dye in’ of Goth black hair, back room full of 8 year olds wii-ing and front room full of those who missed Ugly Betty on Friday having a second chance Sunday.

You see!! Ha ha !! revelation I have no place to call home – for me!

Someone at our sponge day said ‘what if you became ill’. That statement was sent off into the gods…….and it happened. I spent the next two days in bed with an ear infection.

The tornado that was my house had shifted, it was now my head. I spent two days feeling extremely drunk, with the room spinning and not a drop of alcohol to show for it. As I spent two days with one foot on the floor trying to steady the room the strangest thing happened.

The house went quiet.

Neighbours, children, friends and Goths were shoo’d away. Coffee. Biccies and sarnies appeared and no one came near nor by with a request for dinner money, school shoes or keys.

I had been given peace.

Its great to know that out of the wonderful chaos, a little quiet and thought for mum can be found, when she really needs ‘to come home’

Now which one of those black haired Goth kids IS my daughter!

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

show me the way to go home!

I am currently house, well flat, hunting for my first property, and the process has really made me think about what I want from a home, need from a home, how much influence I want over the decor, am how important the area is to me, and how in the end most considerations fall by the way side when you find a place and just 'know' it's yours.

It's taken me the prospect of spending vast amounts of money to think about this, but that doesn't have to be the case.Just looking at how you use your home can make you see it in a whole new light. I realised that I don't think of the bedroom as a place I use to relax....no wonder I don't sleep well!

Having lived in various places in my life, the most challenging and colourful being the student flats I shared, and touring where you spend each night in a different hotel and most of the time on the tour bus, I quickly learned to adapt and feel at home in new places. For me it's about feeling at home in yourself, being flexible, creative, having a comfy bed, and (the realisation that one of the questions tonight prompted), having somewhere to dance!

I'm off to start making my bedroom a place to relax, and then I'm off to sleep! The dancing will have to wait til tomorrow.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

There's No Place Like It

I was standing at the back of the crowd on the Astoria's dance floor last night, listening to Fountains of Wayne. They're a power pop band from New Jersey, and they'd pulled in a crowd of loyal fans into a smallish club in London. The boys were at home on the stage. The crowd was definitely at home with the band (are there really that many transplanted 20-somethings from Jersey in London?). And me, I was just enjoying the tightly constructed guitar riffs and the catchy lyrics, which are often all about living in New York City ... a place I called home for over a dozen years.

Home. It's a odd concept, isn't it? I've pondered it before. As adults, most of us pay good money for our own places to live, but we often talk about "going home" for Christmas. Many people spend more time in their offices than they do in their living rooms. There are all kinds of television programs and books on how to make a house a home.

Just what is a home?

I think for me, over the past couple years, I've realized that home is more of a state of mind than a mailing address. Sure, you can create areas in your flat that are full of beautiful things or physical reminders of people you love. Or maybe you're a zen minimalist, and find joy in an abundance of clean, clear surfaces.

But perhaps those physical things and spaces are just reminders of the "home" that's inside each of us ... a soothing blend of comfort, peace, and tranquility that comes from getting to know ourselves.

What's home for you? And how can you take that along where ever you go?


Monday, 21 May 2007

Where the Heart is

I really enjoyed the club on Saturday. I think it was interesting how for many of us it really brought "home" to us how much we really love where we live.

I'm really excited about doing this with my group tonight.


Friday, 18 May 2007

Creative Conscious Eating

So we're thinking about cutting out the excess by being conscious when we shop, cook and eat. To make this process more fun and colourful, and tasty!, I've got a few ideas that might kick-start the changes you'd like to make.

When you have the chance to go to the supermarket and you are not in a hurry, turn it into a new experience for your senses. See the food as works of art. This helps with the healthy eating as fresh things are out there for us to pick up, feel the texture, and appreciate the varying colours.

I chose some organic gala apples yesterday. As I looked at each one I picked up, I noticed the beautiful range of colours from yellow to deep crimson. The different patterns were gorgeous as well. This led me to anticipate just how crunchy and sweet this apple would be to taste when I got home.

A nutritionist I know suggested that I 'eat a rainbow' each day. What a great way to combine our creative nature with our desire to eat consciously. Create a colourful plate or bowl of food for yourself. Challenge yourself to get as many colours as you can into a meal. They are more appetising and as you slow yourself down to get involved in the process of consciously choosing what to put together, you will make changes in your eating and eat what appeals at the moment, and not just what is habitual.

Have a yummy weekend-

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

I'll have a pizza you!

I've just driven back from my Lifeclub and saw a man struggle with his impratical 'Fresh and Wilde' bag filled with healthy organic food. He was struggling because he was cycling at the same time. This made me giggle, and of course worry for his safety! Is his conscious eating damaging his health?

To borrow a phrase, 'You are what you eat'. True, it's important to really look at what you're putting in your body, what really nourishes you and gives you the energy you need to tackle all the other areas of the balance chart you want to work on.
I, like many of us think about the outside first, (why can't I look like Angelina Jolie?) but thinking about how food actually makes you feel can really make a difference.

I've been writing a food diary for a month and was asked tonight if it makes me think about what I eat throughout the day, and I have to say that sometimes I think, 'I don't want to have to write that biscuit down later', so I don't eat it. More importantly though is how interesting it is to really look at what you are feeding your body.

In our club we talked about planning, so that you have good food in the fridge and can make good food to have on the go. One woman does her food shoppping online so not to get swayed by the smells from the bread machine and many tempting treats in the supermarkets.

Me? I'm going to keep on with my diary, and see how the lists shape up!

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Just One More ...

This week is all about indulgences (not the Papal kind), or at least becoming aware of our habits around what we indulge in. This is especially interesting for me as I’ve just come back from a “Yay I finished my course, let’s celebrate” weekend in Amsterdam, where it seems indulgence reigns supreme. As I say all too often in our workshops, “there are no coincidences.”

The takeaway from tonight’s workshop was by making ourselves more aware of what we’re doing (overeating, lighting up, worrying about what we can’t control, etc.) we can control the habits we wish to change. We might not be having that extra helping of crisps because we really want to, it’s just because we’re bored and they’re there.

I remember my wake-up call about smoking being an unconscious habit. I was living in New York. I rode the tube subway home almost every day. When I got to my stop, I’d have pulled out a pack of cigarettes and have one ready to light as soon as I got upstairs to the pavement sidewalk. One afternoon, I was about 200 yards from my flat apartment and decided to light up a cigarette. I took the pack out of my jacket, pulled out a fag smoke and put it in my mouth, simultaneously reaching for my lighter.

The glitch was that I already had a cigarette, lit and half smoked, in my mouth. I had become so accustomed to the habit of lighting up, that I wasn’t even paying attention to the cigarette I’d already started when I got out of the train.

That’s when I knew it was time to quit. I was no longer making conscious choices, just doing things by rote.

Pay attention to make sure your habits are good ones. Try keeping a journal of whatever you want to stop overdoing (eating, drinking, smoking, spending, trying to decide between British and American words). Don’t judge yourself, just start making yourself aware of when and where and why you do what you do. You’ll have a whole set of new, healthy habits in no time ... even in Amsterdam.


Monday, 14 May 2007

Skipping out of our club

At my Life Club we had a few who, like me, did a bit of excess eating, but more who were excessing on the worrying and a few who were excessing on the under-confidence. By the end we were all skipping out, ready to enjoy the rest of the evening.

When have I been in a similar situation and overcome it? I've lost weight before.

What did it take? Determination and desire.

Can I do it again? I'm sure

What's my commitment to losing weight? 8 out of 10.

What's my first step? Fruit for breakfast.

Watch this space.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Visualising isn't fattening

Someone very skinny told me the other day that her method of losing weight and remaining wonderfully svelte was to just wait until she visualised the food she wanted to eat in front of her before eating anything.

Now that's a good idea. Since she passed on this little tip, I've been realising how rarely I wait until I actually visualise food, I just eat it even if I'm not hungry. I actually find thinking about what I really want to eat extremely difficult. I tend to just eat what's there.

So, this week, I'm going to wait until I can see my craving in front of me before I start eating anything.

I wonder where it will lead me - steak for breakfast? muesli for lunch? chocolate mousse for supper?

Life Clubs is all about indulgences this week - could be sleeping (too many duvet days), drinking, smoking, working, working out or any other excesses - I'm looking forward to hearing what other hints I'm going to get.

See you there,

Overdoing it? Moi?

Looks like we're going to be thinking about trimming the fat this week then. Pun intended - this is both literal and metaphorical fat. I certainly have rather too much of the literal sort; wherever I go, I carry a brie tyre with me. Trimming my bacon would be a good idea. This I know, and happily pass on this advice to anyone who'll listen to it. But I have no sense at all that there's a causal link between large helpings and my own personal waistline.

On retreat this week, I had a bit of a revelation which connects with the time management we looked at last week. I've felt for some time that I'm great at ideas, but my weakness is the whole Doing thing. What I realised is that in fact, I'm very good at doing stuff; if it's in the diary, it'll get done. It's the executive stage, the picking which stones for each day that trips me up. My focus needs to be on decisions and planning.

This connects to this week's contemplation of excess too. One of the first things we do when dealing with excess is to decide where the lines are drawn: how much is too much, where can we make cutbacks, what could we actually do without altogether. That's the challenge for me - making the decisions. I could be perfectly happy with the weight I am, for example, or I could choose to loose 20lb. (That'd make it a lot easier going uphill on my bike.) Pick one and commit, Mark.

So it's simply a set of options. I just need to get clear about what actually constitutes eating the right amount for me - because the fact is, I haven't a clue and don't give it a thought. If I did, I'd probably be the one that dictates my weight, not the cheese counter.

I know other people will have different challenges with cutting down on things. What's interesting for me though is how one's own personal themes, strengths and weaknesses make repeat appearances in different Life Club workshops.

Now - what other choices am I hiding behind a cloud of indecision?

Friday, 11 May 2007

Would you like your stones plain or with glitter?

Having the visual image of the three stones being the priorities I would like for the day is a powerful one. Everyone at the Salisbury Life Club talks about 'their stones'. It gives a sense of something tangible to hold on to. That's what we want when we're talking about making time for our most important goals. We want them to be something we can touch and see and be inspired to do, for no other reason than that is what we have chosen to be the things that we value the most for this day. The things when achieved will take us closer to the next level we are striving for in whatever area of our life.

It got me thinking about actually having some stones that you might collect to carry with you in your pocket, if small enough, or to place somewhere that you will see them throughout the day- maybe your kitchen counter or desk. Choosing your actual stones might be a lovely exercise to try. Go for a walk, in the woods or on a beach, and take in your natural surroundings. See what stones you find or rather what stones find you! I often find when I am walking a stoney path near our home that I'll look down and amongst the many stones will be one that for some unknown reason appeals to me. They are often smooth and rounded. These to me are the ones that feel good to hold, the weight and texture seem just right. Perhaps you might find some to which you are attracted. In the realm of creativity there is no need for justifying or logical reasoning, so just go with it. There might be something about a particular stone that as you ponder it actually reminds you of what that stone could represent for your day's priority.

Taking the time to do this exercise is also a great way for you to get in touch with some of the things that are important to you, that you really do value, but might not have been given the place in your day that they deserve. Allow yourself that time to reconnect with what it is you would really feel great about having done as you look back at the end of your day.

Here's another idea for getting creative with your stones. In remembering that these stones represent something special, why not make your stones a bit more showy, if that's what you like. Get some paint out and see what colours inspire you. Most of us relate certain colours to certain feelings and so this could work for your stones. Perhaps some racing stripes for that goal of running today, or a soft blue to remind you of the calm you'll feel after meditating. You could, for that extra wow goal, cover your stone in glue and then coat it with multi coloured glitter! Why not!!

Here's one last way to make those stones work for you and make you go for it. Take a trip to your local shop that sells crystals. They can be quite inexpensive for some beautiful variety in your stone collection. Again, with all the different textures and shapes, colours and sizes, see which ones jump out at you. (Obviously, not literally. That might hurt.)

So, like your life and all the things you value doing: get your stones, plain or with glitter, and play with them, move them around and see how you like what you create.


Thursday, 10 May 2007

That reminds me

I really like this weeks Life club topic. It reminds me to think about 'me' and put 'my' important things first. It reminds me to plan for 'me'. It reminds me to make time for 'my' life.

All this reminding reminded me of how not taking the time to think and plan had seen the neighbours almost lose their will to live.

I shall explain

Having spent a lovely long weekend with the caravan club, next door neighbours returned home, caravan in tow. Whilst trying to park the caravan on their drive, one wheel had sunk firmly into the mud. It was not going to move, no way, no how. I watched as they got all the more frustrated and wife and husband fought....... hard to resist the urge to have a full on domestic in front of all the neighbours.

I offered a few words of encouragement and support and then (as we entered the second hour) red wine. All the time their 10 Year old son, Callum, had been whittering on about something, but he had to be silenced, this was serious adult work. As we wondered whether rotating the house would be easier than rotating the caravan, young Callum stepped forward removed the jack from the boot of the car, placed it under the caravan and invited his father to jack up the wheel, so that he could place a plank of wood under it, drive caravan forward out of the mud and onto the driveway.

The moral of this story is, take time to relax, plan and think things through, often a simple solution is not so far away

.........or borrow a ten year old!


Don't Stone Yourself

This week's workshops are all about prioritizing. Thinking about all the things we have to do in our lives and realizing that we have to make choices to get things done.

Bottom line, pick three priorities for your day and focus on them. They're the stones that go in the jam jar of your day and all the other minutia of your world can fall in to place around it.

But sometimes, even with your best intentions and planning, you can't get to one of that day's priorities.

What went wrong?

Maybe your car broke down. Maybe a friend or relative called and needed your support. Maybe it was the last day of your TEFL course and you couldn't keep your eyes open long enough to see the front door, let alone write a blog post.

I'll go out on a limb and say that maybe nothing went wrong. Maybe you simply decided to be flexible focus your energies elsewhere, on things that became more important to you as your day went on. Or maybe you just gave yourself a lesson in choosing more realistic priorities.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's really important to set your goals and put your energy towards small, daily accomplishments. Just make sure that your goals are for *you* as much as you can ... not for your boss or your boyfriend or your mother.

And if, for some reason, the occasional stone slips past, don't beat yourself up over it. Think out what you can do to make the next day's goals more achievable.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007


As an actor organising your time can often be not only difficult but a fruitless task as things can change so quickly. I remember a friend who went into an audition and got offered a job on Friday, and had to leave to go on tour for six months the very next day! So you think what's the point of planning!. Well, the point is that on the days that your life isn't completely turned upside down (in a good way) leading a balanced life makes you feel amazing, and this weeks topic offers a tool for doing just that.

What are the important things in your life?, What really excites you and what do you feel passionate about? Make those the first things you plan into your day, (you may not do them first thing, but you will do them). This was new to me, I always thought that the horrible things that had to take priority...even thinking about the things I love first sends a tingle down my spine.

The club really went for it and light bulb moments included one girl realising that she was allowed to sleep and that was a justifiable goal to plan for in her day.
"Praise be for that", as my Granny would say.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Busy, busy, busy

I'm one of these people who likes 'doing' things - whether it's working, taking photographs, chatting to friends - it doesn't matter, so long as I'm busy.

Better still is multi-tasking, one of the reasons I loved being pregnant. Even if you're doing nothing, you're still busy creating.

This week's Life Clubs theme (First Things First) is great for people like me who hate those days which are eaten up by e-m and phone calls - other people's agenda. By knowing what I want to achieve the next day, I can do it.

Hope to see you this week. If Life Clubs is one of your goals for the day, you'll be there.

Looking forward...
Founder Life Clubs

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Making space for the good stuff

Time management's not really one of my strengths. In particular I'm rubbish at drawing those lines that say 'This happens in this part of the day, that happens after lunch, and after X o'clock, no more working.' (It's currently 10pm on Sunday and I'm still doing this and I have a whole bunch of stuff to do before bedtime and... well, you get the picture.) Worst of all is making time for myself. It's all interconnected though, and the messier my organisation of work tasks and time gets, the more fallout there is on the rest of my day. What's more, these days all add up to ongoing, month-in-month-out temporal chaos and frustration. And the fallout lands on the other peopple and commitments in my life too.

The bottom line is that anything you want to do needs space to be done in. So an essential part of taking control of life is assigning the space to put the good stuff in, so it doesn't get left out. And for all the other stuff too, so it gets done and doesn't intrude on the good stuff's space. Not rocket science, but that doesn't mean it isn't easier said than implemented. The good news for me, and you if you're in any way a fellow sufferer, is that there's a great system in this week's workshop for getting on top of all that. I've found it really works, even for me.

This week I'm going to be doing this big-style - I'm going on retreat. Not quite the same as what the workshop's about, admittedly. Or is it? I'll be locking out everything else for a bit, so I can focus on certain things without pressure to do anything else. It's about ring-fencing time for things. Another thing going on retreat has in common with time management in the real world is that it's hard to say 'During this period of time, no!' to everything else that's not assigned to that time. The thing is that everything and everyone else can have their turn with your attention - and if it's one at a time, everyone gets more out of it.

Including you.

Have a great week


Saturday, 5 May 2007

Ya can't roller skate in a buffalo herd!

All these great blogs on happiness had me singing, literally!

This of course is another way to being happy: bringing more laughter and play into our lives. The song by Roger Miller, 'Ya can't roller skate in a buffalo herd' reminds us in it's uniquely funny way that there are certain things you just can't do,BUT 'you can be happy if you've a mind to... all ya gotta do is put your mind to it Knuckle down, buckle down, do it, do it, do it.' It's the bottom line to happiness really. Let go of all those other things and focus your mind on actively doing the things that make you happy. Sing a ridiculous song, play with your children or borrow some friends kids- they know how to play and get lost in feeling happy.

Lighten up, let go (for awhile at least!), be grateful and enjoy the present.

Here's something to try: Smile at EVERYONE you see today, go on, say 'Hi!', see what happens. You might just suprise yourself!

Smiling in Salisbury-

Friday, 4 May 2007

An outbreak of Happiness

Last weeks Leamimgton Life Club had to be abandoned due to an outbreak of Happiness.

Our normally peaceful Life Club venue had been taken over. French students loudly and very very happily celebrated the last night of their UK tour with a booming Disco.

This week we considered abandoning once more. The outbreak had spread!

The main hall of the venue had been stormed by Muskateers. The local Am Dram group were Swash Buckling, with great energy, enthusiasm and YES it has to be said Happiness. This was the final dress rehearsal and not man nor beast could stop it. I suspect not even Spiderman 3, half man, half beast and in all good cinemas from Saturday, could have stopped it.

We battled on (pardon the pun), waging our own war on noise pollution, injustice and 'we were here first' blues. With liberal applications of glooms arch enemy - HUMOUR- we ended the evening victorious. And what do you know the Happiness had spread. Its a 'positive' epidemic!!


Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Is porridge all you need to be happy?

2nd may

Thinking about happiness certainly helped me through the London traffic today! So I was looking forward to tonight. It was great to just think about where we are happy in our lives and not to take it for granted. People in the group said that it was lovely recognising what things make them happy, and one person said at the end of the group that tonight had made her realise just how happy she is!

As is often the case in my Life club, breakfast and in particular porridge was discussed in detail! We all agreed that it is hard not to find deep satisfaction in a good breakfast!

One area we all felt we could do more in was doing things for others, so we have set ourselves tasks to do in the week which include:
Giving up your seat on the tube for no reason.
Smiling at someone in the street.
Making a neighbour a cup of tea.
and to join in with Bob's group, write five things that have made us happy each day...prompting the breakfast discussion.

Happiness is subjective but these are some things that make Islington happy:
We are going to dance in the morning while we get ready.
Making small and achievable goals
Not comparing ourselves to others
Seeing our friends and relatives more
and you guessed it...porridge!
Is that bowl of oats all you need....It's a start!

Vanessa x