Sunday, 18 April 2010

A word about Heroes

Catherine showed me her homework today and it made me cry. Here it is for you:

My Hero
A hero is someone that helps people and everyone loves, they are nice and they are unique. A hero is someone who most people want to be. They are willing to help people and they are skilful, and even when times are bad they don’t give up.

Most people might think that a hero is someone in a comic book, or someone with superpowers, like Wonder Woman or Superman, but my hero isn’t like that. My hero is my mum, and her superpower is herself. My hero is my mum because when she was little she lived in a nice, sort of big house, and life was generally good, but her parents split up and that changed quite a few things, and she had to live in a flat. Her mum worked most of the time and they didn’t have much money, but although times weren’t the best, she still grew up to be clever and became a teacher. She is also working really hard to become a good toastmaster, because that is what she wants to do the most. You can only do what you want to do in life if you work hard and that is what my mum is good at, working hard. My mum is a teacher and that means she is caring, because to be a teacher means that you care about a child’s future, and their progress, and my mum works hard for her students. My mum is also good at taking control of a situation, because she has a clear voice for everyone to hear, and she is clever so she always knows what to do.

So these are just some of the things that make my mum great and because of these things, I look up to her, and that is why she is my hero. She is caring and put others before herself. She has a dream and is going for it, and she’s just a great mum, this is why she is my hero.

Monday, 22 March 2010

And She's OFF!!

Well, I was going to be disciplined and tell you all about my second day's training, followed by my third... so much for that idea!

On Tuesday, two days before my second day's training, received a phone call from a lovely man named Roy Austin, a fellow toastmaster with the English Toastmasters Association. I knew his name, because he'd been kind enough to contact me to welcome me to the association (such a lovely bunch of lads, I'm thinking!) and I thought he was calling to arrange a coffee date or something.

No such luck.

It was better.

He referred me a job! My first real job! I was so excited I literally jumped for joy. Of course, I'm now back down to earth and the job isn't mine until I've received full payment, but the client seemed very positive and didn't have any problem with my fee. I called the client on Wednesday, full of nerves at first until I remembered something very important a dear friend of mine told me. The client is just a guy with a problem, and I have the solution. With that frame of mind I was able to confidently talk about his needs, sent him off a quote and now I'm just waiting for the money. I still need to set up a business account though, otherwise I'm not going to be able to cash the cheques....

So, to my second day's training.

Again I flew anti-clockwise around the M25, smiled at the SwissAir jet as it passed in front of me on its way to land and thanked God over and over and over for the blessing of this new change in direction for me. I was even later leaving than last week (no surprise there) but I arrived by 9.30am which was perfect.

Much of the first half of my second day's training was spent talking through my concerns and issues with my first client. Richard is just the most generous man with his time and knowledge. Sometimes I find myself sitting there on the couch while he's talking, wondering what he's getting out of all this, other than my money. He's a man on a mission and it's not an insignificant one. He wants to take a profession steeped in tradition and standardise it. He wants to see all toastmasters working to a high standard of ethics and professionalism and I tell you what, he's got me on board, for certain. As he talked about standards of service, dealing with venues and other wedding professionals, I realised he and I think very similarly and excitement overflowed once again. I did a role-play where I interviewed Richard and his office assistant Lindsay for the planning meeting and it was incredibly valuable. The form made sense, the flow of the day really came together for me and I left the farm filled with confidence that this indeed is the career for me.

The next week was spent in a haze of activity, designing my business cards and website, getting the right domain name and setting it all up, investigating business bank accounts, thinking about how to administer the business and keep track of everything... it was a brilliant week!

The following, final week was not so smooth. I woke up feeling dreadful and just felt worse as the day wore on. I met another guy finishing his training and we went out for lunch with Andrew Morgan, a lovely man who was very generous with his time, advice and stories of the fabulous and interesting experiences he's had in his three years as a toastmaster. Unfortunately though I ended up with a migraine so had to leave early. I tell you, being stuck in stationary traffic at the Heathrow junction due to an accident was not fun at all. Still, I made it home, crawled into bed and passed out.

Now I've finally managed to get my web site up and running, I've got two clients on the boil and I'm feeling more confident about it all the time. I'm itching to do my first function, I know it's going to be fantastic fun!

In closing, I would like to say how much I appreciate all the positive, encouraging comments I received via Facebook from so many friends all over the place. Words can't express how much your words have meant to me, and if I am a success in this toastmastering caper it will be thanks in no small part to you. So, THANK YOU!!

Much love,
Vanessa King, professional toastmaster

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Toastmaster Training, Day 1

On the road to Essex by 8am, not bad going for me, considering I intended to leave at 7.30am! As I sailed past Heathrow (yes, I really sailed, the traffic was flowing beautifully) a 747 passed in front of me and watching it seemingly stapled to the blue sky I was filled with such joy and excitement that brings true meaning to the phrase 'my cup overflows...' I felt immense gratitude for the wonderful man at home looking after my children and who encourages me to fly daily, for my husband Peter who let me go, and I wonder what I have done to deserve such happiness and fulfilment.

Then I hit the traffic at Junction 18 *lol* Even that wasn't a problem, really. I stopped at the South Mimms services and enjoyed a tea and toastie with the businessmen before finally arriving around 10am at the farmhouse near Chelmsford in Essex where my training was to be held.

A warm welcome from Richard and the first installment of a bottomless cup of tea from Lindsay commenced my morning of education in the art of the professional toastmaster. We sat on comfortable couches and Richard and I discussed some of the history of the profession of toastmasters, touching on Richard 'Beau' Nash of Georgian Bath, William Nightsmith, the first toastmaster to don the distinctive red tailcoat and moving on to matters of protocol and ettiquette. Then Richard showed me a dvd of a function he served at a few years ago and pointed out the little things he does that make this most special of days in the life of two people who have decided to dedicate themselves to each other. I was in awe of all the things he does, but left in no doubt at all that this is the career for me!

Lunchtime came upon us quickly so we made our way to a local venue, where we met David Court, Master Photographer. David was delightful company and so generous with his time and advice. From him I learned two very important things - never undervalue yourself, and find out what it is that makes you different from everyone else. The first is almost completely counter to everything most people are brought up to believe, perhaps women more than most, but it's something that I'm willing to change! The second is going to be quite a challenge. Of course, I will stand out as a lady toastmaster, but there will gradually be more ladies joining the profession and there has to be something more than that. I'm sure I'll find something. At the moment, I can help clients with speech-giving, I intend to have some more dancing lessons so I can offer help with that, I can sing and I'm improving my public speaking skills all the time. Who knows what more I can offer, I'm open to anything.

David asked me why I am becoming a toastmaster and the simple answer is this: it's a profession that brings together all the skills I'm very good at and all the hobbies I love to do. I can't think of a better job to have, and I hope I never retire! I'm looking forward to meeting many different people from all over the country and from all walks of life.

My first business lunch ended at about 3.30pm, and Richard took me back to the farmhouse where we watched a dvd of the toastmaster from hell. It was so encouraging, not only because I was able to spot easily the things he was doing that were so wrong, things I would never dream of doing. I was greatly encouraged by the dvd, because I thought if this toastmaster of many years' experience, could get work, I will certainly hit the ground running, because on my worst day I know I will be better than that guy!

By 5.30pm I was yawning. The day had been full of fun, information of course and affirmations that this career is indeed the one for me. I'm looking forward to my next session with much anticipation and excitement.

The highlight of the day was definitely putting on the uniform of the professional toastmaster for the first time. Of course it was borrowed, but I felt fabulous in it. Do check out my website, it's only very basic, but it's a start!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Happy Valentines!

Well, it's been a while between posts, so what better way to say I'm back than to share a little poem my Valentine wrote for me...

Shining bright
high in the sky,
encouraging me to fly.
My darling moon
I'll shine my light,
until you join me
on the flight.
Our dreams becoming
ever real,
I hope my love
you'll always feel
Until the day
we never die,
When you become we
and we become...

My life has been far from straightforward lately. So much has changed. I've changed. I can cope with change much better now. I see my feet on the path, even if I can't always see where the path leads.

I have crystallised some goals for myself for the first time in my life and I'm going to share them with you. Writing down your goals makes them real and sharing them with others makes you accountable. It helps you to make them happen, rather than just sit and think 'wouldn't that be nice....' because people will ask you how it's going. Their interest and excitement spurs you on, so here goes.

I'm going to be a successful English Toastmaster. I start my training on March the 4th, one day a week for three weeks. I aim to get 20 bookings by December and to double that next year. I plan to be a full time toastmaster in 2013.

I'm going to get my pilot's license. That one's a bit harder, think it might not happen until 2014, when I've got more money. It's so expensive, but I really want to get a night rating and complex engine rating too.

I love my public speaking at Guildford Speakers Club. I'm going to complete my Competent Communicator manual by June this year and hopefully the Competent Leader manual by December. I want to immerse myself in the club and take on leadership roles, growing myself and the club. I would like to be president in 2012 and move on to area and district roles in the years to come.

So there's some of my goals. There are a few others, more personal that I'm not ready to share yet. I would love to hear about your goals, personal, professional, whatever.

All my love xxx

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Being a Working Mum

Today I had my first really serious wobble about returning to paid employment.

It was actually a wobble long in the making, as all serious wobbles are and it started with Parents' Evening. Some bright spark at my school thinks 4 to 6pm is the perfect time to hold Parents' Evening, which it is if you've not got any children or if you don't have any responsibility for sorting out the childcare of your children.

However, it's a total nightmare if you do. 4pm is exactly the wrong time, because kids have to be picked up from school, ferried to clubs and after-school activities, dinner needs putting on the table, homework done... the worst time of my day is between 3 and 7pm, because it's all chasing after one small person or another, breaking up fights, dealing with tantrums, picking up and running around. It's the exact time of day my fight or flight reflex kicks in big time and all I want to do is hit something or run away screaming... I think you get the idea.

So I tried to do the right thing. I asked 5 people to look after my two youngest (the eldest is fine, she can let herself into the house and look after herself for a bit) and not one of them could, because they're all dealing with their own kids and the concomitant issues (see above). Anyone else who could is at work. Naturally.

So the doubt about whether or not I'm doing the right thing starts to creep in. I have to face the probability that I can't attend Parents Evening, one of the key obligations of my job, and that makes me feel like I'm not doing my job properly. If I can't do it properly, what's the point in doing it? The stress built up over a couple of weeks, until I simply had to get it off my chest, so I did the one thing that you know really solves any problem and is the best way to get major wobbles out of your system.

I posted a Facebook status saying: Vanessa Lawrey is starting to doubt whether this whole working mother thing is a)working and b)worth it....

And you know what? I received so much positive reinforcement and encouragement from people I've never even met, it just filled me right to the brim, made me consider what I can do, rather than what I can't. Which is rather ironic because I had a conversation not too long ago with a student about that very thing. This learner is forever saying how rubbish he is at maths, how he can't do this and he can't do that. So I point blank challenged him to list what he can do, and I started him off with two or three things. The small smile on his face as I did so was just such a wonderful reward.

Every now and then, we all need to remind ourselves of what we can do, rather than constantly focussing on what we can't. So, if you feel moved to comment on my humble offering, tell me one thing that you can do.

I'll start. I am good at encouraging others. What about you?

P.S. I did manage to find someone to look after the little ones, so I guess I'm Superwoman after all!!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

A reminder...

Here's a little reminder of how truly awesome this planet is. The video is a collation of absoluteyl beautiful timelapse photography set to some wonderful music. We all need a break at some point during the day.. why not make this your 10 minutes of peace, plenty of time to meditate on the wonder and beauty of the world...

Monday, 12 October 2009

A Little Humour from Down Under!

My friend emailed me this, do read the Q & A at the bottom!

Apparently the following questions were posted on an Australian Tourism website and the answers are the actual responses from the website officials who obviously have a great sense of humour and a low tolerance threshold for cretins (as all Aussies do!)

Q: Does it ever get windy in Australia? I have never seen it rain on TV, how do the plants grow? (UK).
A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.

Q: Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street? (USA)
A:Depends how much you've been drinking.

Q:I want to walk from Perth to Sydney - can I follow the railroad tracks? (Sweden)
A: Sure, it's only three thousand miles, take lots of water.

Q: Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Australia? Can you send me a list of them in Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville and Hervey Bay? (UK)
A: What did your last slave die of?

Q:Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia ? (USA)
A: A-Fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe .
Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not
... Oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Kings Cross. Come naked.

Q:Which direction is North in Australia ? (USA)
A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Q: Can I bring cutlery into Australia ? (UK)
A:Why? Just use your fingers like we do...

Q:Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? (USA)
A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is
Oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Kings Cross, straight after the hippo races. Come naked.

Q: Can I wear high heels in Australia ? (UK)
A: You are a British politician, right?

Q:Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers. Milk is illegal.

Q:Please send a list of all doctors in Australia who can Dispense rattlesnake serum. (USA)
A: Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca which is where YOU come from. All Australian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make good pets.

Q:I have a question about a famous animal in Australia , but I forget its name. It's a kind of bear and lives in trees. (USA)
A: It's called a Drop Bear. They are so called because they drop out of Gum trees and eat the brains of anyone walking underneath them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.

Q:I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in Australia? (USA)
A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

Q:Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia ? (France)
A: Only at Christmas.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (USA)
A: Yes, but you'll have to learn it first