No Limits!

I love living life through my children’s eyes.  As I said this is the first time that they are aware that they are travelling and the excitement was palpable and audible.  My daughter was squealing à la Macaulay Culkin and my son was dancing and running on the spot.  You couldn’t help but smile. 

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As adults we lose the ability to be in awe of experiences we’ve had over and over again.  For them, travelling was a big deal.  And it was lovely to behold; to see that child like zest for life, living the moment, soaking in the present.  It was truly a sight to behold and I lived every moment with them, particularly my daughter as we sat together.  She payed so much attention to the safety video that at the end of the flight my daughter bent down and said she wanted to see her life jacket.

I happened to be chatting to my manager, before I left, about how my daughter had said she wanted to be a pilot earlier on in the year.  And then one day, after talking with some friends at school, came home to say she wanted to be a flight attendant. WonderWoman rebelled.  ‘No’ I said, ‘you will be a pilot’. My issue isn’t what she wanted to be but that she had been convinced to change her ambition.  So my line manager suggested I get her to meet the pilot as that may get her interested all over again.  I wasn’t aware that could still happen post 9/11 but apparently it could. Then I made a joke and said it would be even better if I could orchestrate a female pilot for the day and we laughed.

After we boarded the plane, that Captain’s voice boomed over the intercom to welcome us on board and IT WAS A WOMAN!!!   Aaaaaaaaarggggh.  I could not miss this opportunity.  I asked an male attendant (the irony of the moment wasn’t lost on me)if it was possible to meet the female pilot.  I explained that my daughter wanted to be a pilot and as it’s a woman today it would be great if she could meet her.  To which my daughter responded, ‘mummy I don’t want to be a pilot’.  To which I responded, ‘ssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh’. It was a funny moment which I may blog about separately.  The attendant came back with an affirmative Yes!  Even my too-cool-to-be-perturbed-by-anything-husband was clearly excited at the prospect.  

After we landed in Lagos, the attendant had clearly forgotten but I most certainly did not and asked another one 🙂 who went to confer with her colleagues.  He apologised for forgetting and took us all the way to the pilot who was outside the cockpit.  And then she took us into the cockpit.  Aaaaaargh!!  I was clearly more excited than my daughter.  Lol.  

After a six hour flight, I would imagine you wanted to get off and rest but this lady showed us all the buttons, switches, videos and talked us through some of the detail involved in flying the world’s longest aircraft, which we happened to have been on.  Surreal does not begin to describe the moment.  Truly life is for living!

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112 Weddings

112 Weddings was the in-flight entertainment I chose on my flight to Nigeria.  A curious filmmaker, Doug Block, wondered what had happened to 112 couples whose weddings he had filmed.  The documentary interviews couples who had been married for two years of marriage to fourteen.  It’s a bit slow to start but quite insightful and an affirming reality check.  A few marriages had ended in divorce and most of the marriages had ‘evolved’.  Whether you are in a marriage or a long term relationship, relationships are tough.  First you are thrust into an unknown future; no knowing what tomorrow may bring. And in the words of Doug, ‘the wedding day is a celebration’ and not an indication of what the future will bring.  When you say ‘I do’, you don’t know if you are going to battle infertility, adultery, a terminally ill child, depression, abuse, poverty, hatred for one another, the stresses of parenting or the illness of a spouse.  You just don’t know what it going to happen.  

I often smile when I see wedding photos.  There is so much joy splayed over the faces of the couple.  The first dance is both touching and endearing; seemingly giving an insight into how much the couple love each other.  Family members and guests are happy to share the breathtaking moments of the day.  And then it happens.  The guests all go home and you are left to work it all out on your own.  The one thing the wedding day will almost never reveal is how your marriage will be tested but tested it shall be!

For the couples interviewed in 112 Weddings, it was interesting to see that there was not one couple immune from the test.   It really is the slap in the face for all smug couples who like to make everyone believe they are in the perfect relationship.  All marriages have challenges.  The key to longetivity is to know that challenges are part and parcel the package.  It’s just that Disney and Hollywood have given us a diet of mushy, romantic drivel that mislead people.  

It was revelatory to see that these marriages were not about people who fell out of love or were battling irreconcilable differences.  The challenges were external to them as individuals.  It was about the impact of something like the introduction of a child or caring for a terminally ill child.  It was the impact of external forces that cause couples to break away or converge.  Even where the decision was to stay it was a hard, ongoing and evolutionary process; often unromantic.

There is no such thing as the ideal marriage and 112 Wedding is worth watching if only to see that you are not alone in grappling with the realities of married life.  Find out about it here.

Summer, Summer, Summer Time!

I’m off on holiday for the next two weeks. I may blog, I may not. 🙂

When I started this blog I wrote a post (Mum I Wish I Was White) about my children’s sense of identity and mentioned that we would take them ‘home’ to Nigeria at some point so they could understand where they are from. Well thankfully, that time is here.

If I’m unable to blog whilst I’m away, then be rest assured I’ll have loads to report on my return. Until then, have a lovely summer!

Embarrassing Moments

I recently baked a cake for the christening of a friend’s daughter. As I had hoped, people were making the right noises as they tasted and one person even asked for my card and we had a mini consultation on the spot. Things were going so well until she told me what sort of cake she wanted. She wanted a four letter name spelt out in cake, Without thinking, I blurted out, a little too excitedly, “ooooo is it for your fortieth?” To which her response was to shoot me a drop dead look and say to her husband, she didn’t even say thirtieth”. The cake was for her daughter’s first birthday, Cue the ground opening, digging hole, digging, digging, digging, digging, buried!

In my defence one – most of my friends are turning forty this year; two- I had forgotten that the host was a few years younger than me so her friends were not likely to be turning forty too and THREE – as the design was so elaborate, I just naturally assumed it had to be for a ‘significant’ birthday. I apologised and continued as best as I could with the mini-consultation but I knew this was one cake order I would not be getting. Sigh! The irony of the matter is she actually didn’t look forty, it was just that the cake was elaborate. Truly! I just wasn’t thinking. Sob sob sob sob.

Memories of a similar circumstance when I was a teenager came flooding to my mind after that encounter. I was at a party with friends and for some reason we got on the subject of names we would rather not have. Everyone was reeling off names and I thought I’d join in. I mentioned a name and everyone around me burst out laughing hysterically and pointed to a boy sitting across me. Of course! Of all the names I had to mention as ‘I-would-rather-die-than-have-this-name’, it had to be his. I backtracked with much stuttering and spluttering and finally my brain gave up another option as a ‘suitable’ name. What would you have done? I wanted to die in the dramatic way all teenagers want to die when something embarrassing happens to them. I still recoil when I remember that story and can’t forgive myself at all for falling for such a foolish game. It was the worst night of my life ever! And I vowed never to partake of such a game again. Never ever ever!

And you would think that after such an experience, I would have learnt a grave lesson. Sadly, it would appear I have a sad case of foot in mouth. Luckily, it only strikes every twenty years or so. If something similar ever happens again, I might just have to move to moon!

Out of The Mouths of Babes

Last night, my daughter asked me quietly, “mummy can I whisper something in your ear?”. “Sure” I said and bent down towards hers. “You know how you said Grandma is daddy’s mummy and Grandpa is daddy’s daddy?” “Yes”I replied. Wondering what was next. She giggled and whispered ever so quietly. “Does that mean Grandma and Grandpa are married” she asked shyly, giggling uncontrollably. I burst into laughter and said yes.

Funny the things that randomly pop into a child’s mind.

How To Be Happy In A Job You Hate

5 years ago I decided on a certain career path and went ahead and got the prerequisite qualification. I then approached my boss at the time and asked for relevant experience which thankfully I was given. 2 years later I left the organisation and found that although I had transferable skills, they were very generic and if I wanted to break into this industry I needed to specialise and hone in on specific skills.

Despite my best efforts, I found that I had to start at an entry level position in an administrative role but within the right environment. A job which I did and hated for 18 months. It was whilst I was in this job that I stumbled on an article in Psychologies written by Anita Chaudhuri. It was a sufficient kick up the butt for me.

They were principles that I was well aware of, however seeing it in print that day, particularly within my then present ‘imprisonment’, it hit home. 18 months later, I am now doing what I set out to achieve five years ago and there so much more that I am looking forward to.

Interestingly enough, the article was about how work-life-balance was so yesterday and how blending what you love with what you do for a living is the new trend. A concept propagated by Americans Maneesh Goyal and David Munczinski, co-founders of ‘Live in the Grey‘; a website offering ideas and inspiration for blending work and play. As I was reading it, this line caught my attention –

Although he has made a radical career change, he counsels against making massive changes overnight. ‘It’s OK to start small’, he says. ‘Particularly when you’re just starting out, you need to be open to the idea that your career journey is going to have many different chapters. Your opening chapters are meant to be quite short, they’re meant to be eye-openers’.

After reading that I was hooked and wanted to put it to the test. Being in a job I hated at that moment with very little prospect of advancement, this spoke volumes to me. I knew that I had a lot to learn from the environment but perhaps I was too much in a hurry to pass GO and collect £200.

The article had some key principles but the ones that inspired me were as follows? You can read it in its entirety here.

  • Identify what you love doing and blend personal and professional. Just because you like baking doesn’t mean you have to set up a baking business. You could start by baking cakes for meetings or giving them out as incentives to people who hit targets. – This was one example I took to heart for obvious reasons. The office used to run lunchtime workshops where cross learning could take place. I recommended that in down seasons we could have cupcake decorating sessions which was in line with the health and well being agenda of the organisation. Baking is very therapeutic ;). My boss liked the idea and I was able to run these with a colleague of mine. We had the highest turnout of willing participants at our sessions.
  • Everyone matters. Break down the barriers and see people as human beings first and foremost. Relate to the security guard as your peer and make it your business to know what’s going on in the personal lives of your colleagues. – I started to be a lot more conscious about the people around me. They were certainly more interesting than the job I was doing. 😉 The next day at work, when I started to chat with a colleague, I realised that this was one of the things that made me feel alive at work – getting to know the real person and moving from simply being colleagues to possibly friends. You learn about their spouses, children; you know their names and get updates about what’s happening in their personal lives. You connect and it makes work lively and not so dull. I even started striking up friendships with people in other departments that I had never met but emailed on a regular basis. Careful not to spend all of the company time chatting though. 🙂
  • Action Trumps Intentions. What is holding you back from doing the things you love doing at work? What makes you fulfilled? You need to do more of that.– I was clear about what I wanted to do, I just needed an opportunity to do it. So I started to approach various team leads and just chat to them about what I needed to do to advance my career. Then I offered to help out on various projects if they needed help. This got me good experience that was not necessarily in my job description but crucial for my personal development. Also I made a conscious effort to live in the present which in this situation meant learning from even the most boring task. This helped me to focus on the experience I was getting rather than where I would rather be.

I’m very sure your  interpretation of the article will be different from mine but where I was at that point in time influenced my perspective greatly. I might interpret it quite differently now.  Nevertheless, I started to apply these principles with the best effort that I could. It wasn’t easy and I fell off the wagon a fair bit but I stuck at it.  And this is what made a boring job, interesting for me.

However difficult it may be, I think it is important to use every opportunity to improve yourself. Be strategic about the opportunities you need to exploit. If there is someone who you can talk to in a role you like, ask them for career advice.  Don’t despise the days of little beginnings.  Don’t judge your future by a moment in time.  And most importantly, don’t ever give up!

“Mummy, Why Aren’t There Any Girls in The Tour de France?”

My five year old daughter asked me after we came home from watching the Tour de France. I had always taken it for granted that it was a man’s sport and never questioned why. As I’m ignorant about most sports I said, “you know what? I don’t know. Let’s ask daddy”. My all-sports-knowing husband informed me that there were other less known and (of course) less publicised races for women which I relayed to my daughter. To which her response was, “oh” (à la Charlie and Lola). And then she said emphatically, “that’s not fair!” To which I responded, “I agree”.

What she saw was exclusion. Not the fact that men and women don’t compete against one another. That concept would be difficult to explain to her anyway as her sole ambition now is to run faster than her brother who believes he can run faster than Usain Bolt. Did I mention he is two years older than her? To her, there are no limits, no he or her roles. As far as she is concerned there should be no barriers to entry for women, So I said, “well maybe you can be the first female to ride in the Tour de France”.

As a sports-ignoramus, I do not know what the ramifications of what I said are. I really don’t. I see it as simple as if we have marathons which include two races for men and women respectively, why can’t there be two races for men and women in Le Tour de France? I don’t know. You tell me.

All I know is my daughter said, “maybe I will” in response to being the first female rider. From a child who still uses stabilisers, that’s a big dream. I love it! These are the moments dreams are made of, even ridiculous dreams.

My First Tour de France

Yesterday was one of those days I wished I had begun to cycle in Cambridge. On a whim I decided to take the day off work to be a part of Le Tour de France. Not that I had ever watched it before but as it was passing through Cambridge for the first time, and I happen to live here, I had to experience it.

We parked our car as close as possible to our walking route and set off on our 3.5mile journey on foot and scooters.

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Almost immediately we saw cars with spare cycles driving past and the excitement began to set in. Le Tour de France was in Cambridge. Aaaaaaaaargh!!!!!!

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It was such a lovely day and going on the journey with two young children would have it’s share of challenges but I was determined. 🙂

It was a surreal journey walking on roads that were usually busy, now closed off for the tour.

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And then we saw saw some cyclists. I don’t know if they were part of a cycling club or  Le Tour de France party but it was exciting all the same. 🙂

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And so our journey continued, navigating through the crowds. I thought it was more sensible to avoid Parker’s Piece, where the race kicked off from, and secure a place along the route closer to Round Church or St John’s College. Considering some people were up since 7am, arriving at 11am, we were greeted by crowds.
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Undeterred, we snaked our way through, scooters in tow, and found a spot that gave us all a vantage point. And THEN we waited an hour and half, entertaining ourselves by cheering whenever police cars, ambulances or sponsorships cars passed through the route. There was a funny moment when an elderly gentleman passed by on a moped and the crowd cheered him through. The atmosphere was amazing! Children sitting on their dad’s shoulders because they couldn’t see the street, little ones asleep in their prams, the less able to stand brought along benches, staff from surrounding shops cheering from door frames, students leaning over windows above us – all under the gaze of a bight blue sky and hoovering helicopters of course. It was simply amazing!

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Just as my children were getting restless, my son had the ingenuous idea to set a timer to count down. It certainly helped to while away the time for them. They stared at it for thirty minutes believe it or not. As we got to 5 minutes to go, cameras were at the ready all over the street. And then the moment arrived. The peloton rode by!

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

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I heard a volunteer make a comment just before it happened. He said most of the people here are not going to actually see the Tour de France but will be watching it through a lens and when the moment passes by they would realise they hadn’t actually watched it all. Well, he was partly right. My son was trying to capture the moment on my phone and missed it all. He burst into tears instantly. I guess he got his first lesson on being in the present but how could you not try and capture the moment? You have to. To be fair to him, as soon as the cyclists came through, the maddening crowd blocked the perfect view he had all along. I felt really bad for him though. So I’ve told him what to do the next time we are at a similar event – put the camera down.  🙂

Nonetheless, we had a pretty good time going round car-less Cambridge roads and ended up at Parkers Piece where my son could watch the rest of the race on a big screen.

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And then we commenced our 3.5 mile plus walk cum scoot home.

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