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Put A Label On It

Put a label on it 4

Putting a label on things used to be bad. The 90s were interesting that way. We wanted to have a DTR, “Defining the Relationship Talk”, but because we thought labels were so bad we made fun of the fact we had a label for it. . Then we got into slogans, mantras and mottos for people, products and places. Now it seems like everything has a label on it. I hadn’t even noticed, but then the other day I was out shopping and bought instant soup. There were two kinds of powdered instant soup and one kind said, “Made with responsibly grown New Zealand pumpkins.” Can you guess which soup packets I bought? Yes, I bought the reconstituted pumpkin with maltodexin thickener, sugar, creamer, glucose syrup and hydrolyzed corn protein. I felt good too, until I realized how ridiculous that was. I mean what does responsibly grown even mean? On top of that, it is powdered soup so does that even make it taste better? Does anything make powdered soup taste better? I guess in the end I am really happy for those pumpkins because they were raised well. The label did make me feel better though. It made me feel better long enough to pick up two packets of that soup and bring it home.
After I thought about how silly my responsibly grown pumpkin soup was, I started to wonder how many labels were on things in my house. I found quite a few. My lotion says, “Gentle formula for sensitive skin.” Our peanut butter said, “Never oily, always smooth.” I am not sure how on earth peanut butter is ever not oily. My tomato sauce says, “No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives”, but it lists sugar and food acid as main ingredients. My brownie mix says, “premium brownie mix.” Any time you put premium on a mix I PUT A LABEL ON IT 2think a chuckle is deserved. My coffee has a fair trade logo on it but I will be honest and say that I don’t know exactly what the details are of why one product is allowed to put fair trade on it and another product isn’t. Is it actually a fair product which helps people in need or does it just make me feel less guilty? Does it make me feel like I have done my part without actually researching what I am putting in my pantry? I found a drink mix online and its slogan was, “There is love in every cup.” It also said, “Australian Brand.” I am not sure that love is something I can taste, contrary to what pop culture might tell me. Also, being an Australian brand doesn’t actually guarantee that the product is made, packaged or grown here.
Now if you think I am getting snarky, well maybe I am, but my point is not that the products may be misleading us, but that we like to read those things on our products. We buy those things for our house and feel just a put a label on it 3little better, maybe we even feel a little healthier because someone wrote five words on a plastic bottle.  Maybe you don’t, maybe it is just me and my premium brownie mix but I felt good about that too. I may buy brownie mix instead of making brownies from scratch but gosh darn it is premium brownie mix. It says so right there on the box. My zip lock bags have, “Secure lock guaranteed”, printed on the front. I don’t know for sure that they work better than the other brand but I sure do like it when someone prints guaranteed on the front of something. My dishwashing liquid is apparently, “safe for hands and for the environment.”  I am not a scientist, so I have to trust that the label on that dishwashing liquid actually means what it seems to say.
Some of those labels mean something so I don’t think we should do away with labels all together, no matter what the 90s taught me. I just think we have to be really careful about letting the labels make us feel better about the kind of person we are. Do I feel like I am a better person because I have a label on the soup in my pantry which says the pumpkins are responsibly grown? Does the fair trade label on my coffee encourage me to feel superior?  Sometimes we just let it makePut a label on it 1 us feel healthier. My soup must be healthier because it says the pumpkins are responsibly grown. I let that label make me think that, even if only for a short while. I think marketing companies are talented and I think sometimes I am silly. I do not think you will see me reading the back of every product in the grocery store, but if you have time to do that then more power to you.  I don’t think you should put the fair trade coffee back and go home and research the fair trade stipulations on the internet before you purchase coffee again. I would be in real trouble if I suggested that, because I can’t make sense out of the written word until I have had my coffee in the morning. I just think we need to buy what we buy without thinking it changes the person we actually are. No matter what those labels say it does not make me healthier. I am an exercise-hating, chocolate eating and coffee-drinking booklover and no amount of responsibly grown pumpkins is going to change that.

Finding Time to Learn a New Language

treasure-chestThe last thing a busy person need is another job to put on the list. What they really need is more fun. So instead of making the issue of time another chore where you must rearrange your schedule, why not make it more like an adventure. Time is the treasure. You are the Treasure Hunter. Time is there. We all have it. Try getting creative and finding that hidden time in your day that could be used for something important. Here’s some examples from my life.

language CDs1. Driving to work – great time to listen to a language CD/tape or foreign radio. Depending on how long it takes you to get to work, this could be a substantial part of your learning time. And the great thing about being in the car is that you can practise your speaking without worrying about too many people listening (only your passengers).

2. Public Transport to work – You can still do the listening, but will probably be limited with your speaking practise! If you are privileged to have a seat it would be a good time to practise your reading and writing.

flashcards3. Waiting to pick up children – If you have kids you will know how much time in your week is spent sitting waiting to pick up your children. Apart from school 5 days a week there are after school activities, and if you have a few children, this time really adds up. So keep a few memory cards in the car so you can use those snippets of time to practise what you’ve been learning. You can even get flashcards for you mobile phone! Every little bit counts. Little and often is the best.

4. Computer Time: There are plenty of great free online language tools. Pick one and spend 5 minutes a day playing on there. Here are some sites I have found helpful:

duolingoBusuu

Memrise

Duolingo

Tranparent Language

learnchineseeveryday (This one I have only just found but looks really good for Chinese!)

Apart from the last one, I have used all these resources and enjoyed them. Some are better for particular languages. Get in there and have a go and see which one you like. There are so many resources out there, just start with one.

If you are already using sites let me know which ones you like.

5. Stick words around the house – this is a classic one and so effective. After the initial work of making your signs, all you do and go about your normal business and you are continually reminded of the words you are learning because they are staring you in the face. The added bonus is that there is a visual memory tag that goes with the word – stick the word to the thing – “book” on a book, “table” on the table etc. See the movie The Colour Purple for a great example of this!

words around the house

Please let me know how your treasure hunt for time goes, and where you uncover that hidden time that allows you to do something new (like learn a language) today!

 

Visual Calmness

Have you ever flicked through one of those magazines like Home Beautiful and wondered why your house doesn’t look like the houses featured on its pages? Even though reality tells me that a team of designers, stylists, photographers and editors have helped transform already incredibly beautiful homes into exquisite images of homes, some how the illusion that one can live like that continues. Experience tells me that even if my family did live in a house like the ones in that magazine it would not look like the images for long – because it would become lived in, and so it should.

So why do I continue to pursue tidiness? 

(1) It makes it easier to find things when they have a spot where they belong.

(2) Organisation is an important skill to practise and to teach to my children.

(3) I find it calming to walk into a tidy room.

I used to think that if I could just keep one room in the house tidy, then I could cope. At least I could leave the mess of the house behind and sit in that one room and relax, unwind, and not think about all the housework that needed to be done. Now that I have a husband, 3 kids, a dog, a cat and a new business even this seems out of reach. I can’t even keep my desk at home tidy because I share with my 3 children who invariably bring with them ‘stuff’ and leave it there.

So I don’t always have a tidy room, I don’t always have a tidy desk, where can I go for visual calmness? I have discovered a new corner of the house to bring a moment of calm and order – the cup cupboard. Now this may sound a little strange, but it works for me. I used to have a hotch potch of cups, mostly with chips and scratches. Lately I’ve splurged on 9 new mugs ($2 each from Coles!), 3 sets of 3. I take great pleasure in lining them up neatly, in their colours and rows, then selecting one and pouring myself a cup of tea. My love of stopping for a cup of tea is evident in the fact that one of my 2 year old’s first words was “hotta, hotta” followed closely by “hot tea, hot tea”. So my little corner of the house, the cup cupboard, affords me a moment of peace with its tidiness, in an often chaotic house.

Where do you find moments of peace in your day?

What images of calmness are around you during the day?

Resilience

Resilience is a bit of an IN word at the moment. But I certainly think it deserves its moment in the sun.

Here are some definitions of resilience:

1. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity: oxford dictionary

2. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness: oxford dictionary

3. In less than a decade the term resilience has evolved from the disciplines of materials science and environmental studies to become a concept used liberally and enthusiastically by policy makers, practitioners and academics. It suggests an ability of something or someone to cope in the face of adversity – to recover and return to normality after confronting an abnormal, alarming and often unexpected threat. It is used alongside security to understand how governments, local authorities and the emergency services can best address the threats from terrorism, natural disasters, health pandemics and other disruptive challenges. Torrens Resilience Institute

4. Put simply, resiliency refers to the capacity of human beings to survive and thrive in the face of adversity. Resiliency Resource Centre

My family have had an opportunity to build up their resiliency muscles this school holidays. After 2 weeks of my youngest son being sick with the flu, the entire family came down with gastro. It was like a rolling wave of sickness that started with me, then gradually engulfed each member of the family, one after another. As I crawled out of bed, my husband was struck, then my daughter. My eight year old was nursing us all for a day before it struck him. Not my ideal family holiday. But amazingly there were positives in it. Adversity brings opportunity to develop excellent character traits. Who doesn’t want their kids to have compassion, be helpful, caring, unselfish, sacrificing, and serve others with love. The whole family being sick meant we all had to look after each other in new ways. We bonded as a family in a new way. We cared for and encouraged each other. I certainly don’t wish for another bout of gastro, but I recognise the value in fighting adversity together as a family. The joy that resilience brings when we all bounce back from illness and charge into our various pursuits. This life will certainly bring trials. We cannot avoid them. As Paul said in Romans “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character, hope”(Romans 5:3-4). Maybe resilience is the new way of understanding this old concept, that those who suffer, who are not defeated by it, can become stronger through it and develop those character traits that make them more able to succeed and prosper in life. So whether it is in your family and children, education, emergency services or whatever field you are in, resilience offers the perspective that says don’t be afraid of adversity, it just might teach you something!

Janet Stacey

I had a wonderful visit with my Grandma last week. She had put aside some photos and certificates to show me. This photo is from 1941 – the beautiful Janet Stacey, after whom the college is named. Another certificate is from 1933 when she graduated from business college. She had her heart set on being a teacher, but as a country girl she had started school late, and was then considered too old to train as a teacher. Her Grandma paid for her to go and spend a year at Business College instead.

Talking with Grandma, who is now 94, the fiercely independent spirit of the eldest child of 5, is still obvious. She told me how she would not marry the man everyone expected her to, how ‘Miss Stacey’ took no cheek from her boss, started learning the keyboard at 60 years old, and in her 70’s decided to study a Diploma of Christian Ministry. Fluent in French in her youth, Grandma could read it without translating it back into English. After retiring from managing a book shop for 8 years, she then went and did volunteer work in England. A love of learning and interest what other people think has kept her active her whole life.

I feel proud having a Grandmother who has maintained such a sense of dignity throughout a long and diverse life. I look forward to placing her photo and certificates on the wall in our new building (when we get it!).

Sushi: Keeping it all together

Tonight I made sushi for the first time. None of the males in the house (3 including my not even 2 year old) would go near it. My daughter, who had inspired this crazed attempt at a new recipe in the middle of the week, gave it a 6 out of 10. “I’m hard to please,” she said trying to compensate for my disappointment.

The real story behind sushi making is I got an idea, and ran with it. Sushi! Unfortunately there were a few things going against it. Whenever I am learning something new my anxiety levels go up exponentially. Mid week and I was tired. I knew all the males in the house would not be impressed. The whole family has had the flu for the past week and we are generally a little run down. Instead of starting early in the afternoon, and having everything ready to go, I spent the afternoon working at the computer, then tried to rush the sushi when my 2 year old was tired, hungry, and yelling “chicken” over and over again. A headache sprung up, I began to yell, and the utopia of sushi quickly collided with the reality of a Mum overload.

That shouldn’t surprise me. The delicate balance of keeping it all together is a constant theme for most women. If only we had some of that stretchy seaweed to wrap around all the parts of our lives, and draw them into a nice neat sushi package. But no, we struggle away. Kids pulling in one direction, work in another, marriage, family, friendships, goals, plans, hopes…

Some days are a win. Some days we’d rather forget. Over all keeping it all together is mostly fun as I enjoy the mix of flavours in my life, a little squished and compacted by pressure, but a nice package!

I have been featured on Katie Raspberry’s Creative Blog about Business – check it out…

Time for Holidays

We have just had a lovely holiday in Dawesville, just past beautiful Mandurah south of Perth. Exquisite beach, blue skies, luxurious apartment, relaxing with the family. We went to Cicerellos for dinner. Lining up in a busy restaurant with a huge menu I had a moment of panic trying to order for myself and the kids. I ended up with Chicken Parmigiana. As I sat down to my meal I was kicking myself. I mean, I like chicken parmigiana, and this was a really nice version of the classic, but who comes to one of the best seafood places in WA and eats chicken?! Note to self – I am not great in the heat of the moment, therefore a little thought before the event is always helpful.

Making vision statements, goals, and priorities all prepare for the sudden moments when a decision has to be made. Making family a priority from the beginning is important for me. My business partner has always said, if this ever gets in the way of family life, just walk away! I know that sounds pretty strong but knowing that he thinks this gives me the confidence to start the whole endevour. I certainly don’t mean that Stacey College will come a poor second to every whim and fancy of the family. I mean that business will never be a priority over family. I love the idea of running my own business so my kids can come in with me and see how the world of work operates. How they can learn the business and become a part of it if they want. How I can structure work commitments around family priorities. Of course at this stage it is mostly theory. But if I don’t have the theory in place before the business heats up I will just get swept away by the stresses of the moment, and family will probably suffer.