Happy Father’s Day

Untitled designIt’s Father’s Day today – so I’d like to dedicate today’s blog post to my Dad.

I spent some time looking for the perfect poem, or the perfect little meme to demonstrate what my Dad means to me and what he’s taught me, but after much trawling of the internet, nothing seems to be quite right.

So instead, here are a few inelegantly put together anecdotes that stand out in my memory…

  • When I was a teeny tiny toddler, I wasn’t well.  To distract me from my pain my dad played horsey with me into the early hours of the morning.  Even when my mum pointed out that I might be taking advantage of this new development, he just shrugged and carried on until I got tired and eventually fell asleep.  This continued for many a night until the illness was long gone and forgotten.
  • When I was an annoying teenager, he once offered me a lift home from the school summer fair.  I was so incensed that he had dared to come and check up on me, I refused the lift and insisted on walking home.  He didn’t argue – he just followed me along the street slowly, until I came to my senses and got in the car.
  • When I was first learning to cook, my very first attempt at a potato curry was truly terrible.  Far too much turmeric and not enough of anything else.  My Dad declared it to be the most delicious curry he’d ever had and ate it all.
  • When I’d be diagnosed with cancer, he calmly talked me through the MRI procedure (he’d been through it himself six months earlier) and what to expect, to take my mind of the enormity of what I was dealing with – it worked.
  • Ever since I’ve had my gorgeous pooch Simba, he has walked him, popped in every evening to let him out for a wee, and has done more dog-sitting than I could ever have expected, hoped for or imagined.
  • He has turned up at my house at 3am, because there was a huge spider on the stairs and I was too scared to catch it, and too scared to leave it there.
  • He has supported me in whatever I’ve wanted to do, whether he understands why I want to do it or not.

For all of this, as well as the myriad other ways he has been there for me, loved and supported me, and generally been the most amazing Dad ever – THANK YOU.

Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful men out there bestowing lifts, loans and love on their daughters. 🙂

A little adventure…

A Little AdventureI apologise in advance for the ridiculously short blog post you’re about to read.  It is for very good reason though.  Actually – it is for two very good reasons.

And the combination of those reasons makes me think of the last part of the quote I used at the start of Chapter 8 of the book

“…behind clouds is the sun still shining; Thy fate is the common fate of all, into each life some rain must fall. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow”

And the reason I think of that quote is that it has been raining a little bit in my patch of the world – my pooch is still poorly and we’re on the treadmill of vet visits, blood tests, medication, monitoring, more tests. I know he’ll pull through – as my brother has mentioned more than once, he’s a tough little mutt.  To be fair, if he can survive digesting a DVD, a pair of brand new leather gloves, almost an entire birthday cake and a walletful of credit cards and cash – not all at the same time, I hasten to add! – then he can survive this, we just need to work out what’s actually wrong and how to treat it.  So – that’s the rain part.  And one of the reasons this post is so short – I need to spend a bit more time with him and a bit less time on the laptop.

The other reason is the sun part of the quote – and it kind of counteracts the one above – I need to spend more time on the laptop.  For good reason.  I’ve started work on a new book.  So now I’ll have to be a bit more careful when I talk about the book so you know whether I mean the current published non-fiction book or the new unpublished but in progress fiction book.

And I’d like to invite you on this little (or not so little) adventure with me.  If you’re interested, I’d like to share some of the highs and lows (let’s hope there aren’t too many lows) with you – and in return, I’d love to hear what you think.

So – my first little share…I’ve been working on character outlines for the past week – I think I’ve got the rough outlines sorted, although I need to type it all up and go over it again next week – but it’s exciting.  These new people are starting to take form in my head and on paper, and I can’t wait for you to meet them!

Which leads me back to the apology – I have to rush off so I can take care of my pooch and my new imaginary friends – but let’s meet here again, on Wednesday, for the next step of the adventure?

Richard Branson – You’re Awesome

Richard BransonI don’t know if you’ve already seen it, but if you haven’t, there’s a great article on a new policy Richard Branson has initiated at Virgin – essentially the company is allowing new fathers a whopping twelve months of paternity leave, on full pay. I know, it sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

To be fair, there are some limitations – length of service being one – and it isn’t a policy available to all Virgin staff, only those at Virgin Management.

But in addition to being fantastic PR for Sir Branson and the Virgin brand, it does also highlight something that is becoming more and more important to employees across the globe. That something is our work-life balance and the willingness of companies to participate in the precarious balancing act that for too long has been all about give from the employee and take from the employer.

In a Forbes article I came across, only 13% of employees globally are engaged. Thirteen percent – that is a shocking snapshot of employee unhappiness. And it’s not all entwined in how much we’re getting paid either.

Which brings us back to Branson and his new policy. It might be a great PR winning headline grabber and as difficult to implement as his ‘Unlimited Leave’ policy, but what he’s got absolutely right is the underlying fact that the happier the employee, the more likely they are to be engaged and committed to the firm.

And I say that from very recent experience in my own current contract.  I’ve had a very poorly pooch to look after recently.  This has meant a lot of unexpected and unplanned time off work.  I’ve been worried about how my manager will see this, and today I had a quick chat with her.  Luckily for me, the company I am working for has some great flexible working policies, as well as managers that absolutely buy into those policies.  Which means I had an extremely reassuring chat with my manager, and now feel much less stressed about having to book time off (which I will have to do again next week).  That relief and gratitude has translated into me wanting to find a way to give back to the manager and company. I am willing and happy to go the extra mile for a company that has shown such understanding in a stressful time for me. And I’m actually only a contractor. I have no long-term vested interest to consider. Imagine the buy-in from permanent staffers…

It’s a win-win situation.  All that’s needed is some enlightened companies to show us the way.

So thank you Richard Branson, for shining a light, in audaciously inimitable fashion, for the rest of us to follow and add to. You’re awesome.


Brotherly love

IMAG0251_1This weekend has been a pretty momentous one.  My brother turned forty yesterday.  Forty.  FORTY!  When did that happen?  How did we get here so quickly?  It feels like only yesterday he was sixteen and excited about college and visiting me at University.

So today’s blog post is dedicated to my brother Ajay, on his fortieth birthday weekend.

It’s a chance for me to say thank you – for all the support and encouragement and hugs and kind words and deeds over the years.  It’s a chance for me to say how much I appreciate the friendship we’ve developed over the years – my siblings (unluckily for them, and very luckily for me) are two people I not only consider my brothers but also my friends.  And it’s a chance for me to say thank you for all of the IT support, all of the ‘can you do this for me?  Yes.  Can you do it now?  Ummm – not sure, I’ll try.  But I really really need your help now.  OK – I’ll drop everything else, and do it right now.’  Thank you for that unlimited reserve of patience and good will and for helping me ‘right now’.  And finally, thank you for helping me co-create the cover of Coping with the Horroffice.

I also realise how very lucky I am, and we are as siblings, to have such a wonderful level of support available to us.  It’s much easier to be fearless and brave and take chances and try new things when you know that if it all goes wrong, there is someone who will help you dust yourself off, pick yourself up and start all over again.  And to know that not only will they do all that for you, they will actively encourage you not to give up or give in, but to try it again.

So thank you Ajay, for all this and so much more.  Happy Fortieth Birthday. And here’s to another forty years of exciting adventures!


Block by block

block by blockToday was a big day at the day job.  I finally completed the project I’ve been working on for the last three months.

It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride.  Initially, the scope and scale of the what I needed to achieve scared me, especially given my starting point of zero background and zero knowledge.

Then I started to get into it, and realised that the way my manager had proposed I move forward wasn’t going to work – it wasn’t going to give us the end result we wanted.  So I came up with another way around the issue.

That was fine, everyone agreed with it, and I was left to implement it.  It involved weeks upon weeks of slightly tedious mapping of one set of data to another.  There was a point where I almost lost track of the end goal, I was so deep into the detail.  We gave it a test run.  There were snags which needed ironing out.  We had to tweak our methodology, and with that came more re-mapping of data.

But we’ve mapped, tested, re-mapped, re-tested, double-checked and….it’s there.  It’s really there.

And the reason I’m sharing this with you?  Well, firstly, I’ve shared some downs so it’s nice to share the highs too.

Secondly, and most importantly, the one tool I’ve used throughout the project, the thing that’s kept me focused and kept me going is this (Tip 2 in Chapter 6) – block it out.

When it felt overwhelming, I took the big picture and blocked it out, so I could see, block by block, what I needed to work on, and how it would fit in to the overall goal.  When i was getting lost in the detail, I went back to those blocks, so I could zoom back out and see where the detail should be leading me, where it fit into the big picture.  And when the task felt overwhelming in length, blocking things out helped give me a timescale and a perspective I could work with.

Blocking things out works just as well in a home environment as it does in an office one.  Re-decorating the bathroom and getting overwhelmed?  Work it out block by block, step by step – you’ve just created your own action plan and to-do list.

And once you have a plan?  Well, then you’re armed, dangerous and ready to rock ‘n’ roll – block by block, of course!



ENOUGHIt’s been a funny little four-day week.  I had a lovely long ‘to-do’ list all lined up.  For starters, I had the whole of the Bank Holiday Monday all to myself – so I was going to power through a course I’ve signed up to.

I was also going to push ahead with some book marketing, start work on the new book, kick-start some exercise and healthy eating, and go to bed early every single night.

But things didn’t quite go to plan.  I had a lovely bank holiday weekend with friends and family, but Monday’s plans got shelved as family plans took precedence. The poorly pooch got very poorly on Tuesday so all of Tuesday’s plans got shelved whilst I ferried him to and from the Vet and spent time looking after him. I still shudder when I think of Wednesday night and ‘spider-gate – eek!  (I caught him in the end, but it was a long, fraught night).  The rest of the week went on in the same vein, and all my book-related plans have come to naught.

And you know what – that’s ok.  Although writing is what I love to do, being with the people I love is even more important.  What I am choosing (with the help of the fabulous Judith Morgan) is not to feel guilty for not getting through my ‘to-do’ list each and every day of the week, or even week.

I’m pretty good at going with the flow.  What I’m not so good at, and am working on is letting go of the idea that I’ve somehow failed because I haven’t managed to do it all.  I haven’t been able to tend to ill pets, spend time with friends or family, hold down a day-job and still cover half of the course in a four-day week.  When I write that down, I see how silly I’m being.  But when I’m reshuffling my plans, there are definite moments of ‘I should be able to manage all this – what am I doing wrong?’.

And that’s what I want to share with you – I’m not doing anything wrong.  Neither are you.  We’re just doing what we can, with what we have, from where we are.  And that’s enough.  We are enough – you and I.  beautifully, chaotically, messily, lovingly enough.


SMILE!It’s the week after the bank holiday, so those of us at work are probably enjoying a slightly quieter, easier journey in and out, and a slightly less frenetic pace.  On the other hand, we’re also maybe feeling a little bit glum because that’s the last bank holiday until the end of August (sorry folks).

So the best thing I can do today is keep it short and sweet, and give you one teeny tiny little tip to make your morning better.

And to that end, here’s a random fact – when you smile, even if you’re in a lousy mood, it’ll boost your mood.

Yup – even a fake smile will make you feel better.  Studies have confirmed that even the act of moving your mouth to form a smile activates the part of the brain linked to reward.  In addition, the act of smiling (real or fake) causes a release of dopamine (the happy hormone), so even a fake smile will start to make you feel better.  And if you feel better, you’ll start to think more positively, and then you’ll start to behave more positively.

AND smiling is contagious.  Once you start grinning like a loon, you’ll find your colleagues doing it too – so go ahead, start a smile epidemic.

I’ll leave you with this uplifting little quote…

“Life is like a mirror – we get the best results when we smile at it.” – author unknown.

And if you want to find even more ways to make work a happier, smilier place, check out the book 🙂

No shame

No ShameI went to see a play last night.  Nirbhaya.  It was the most gruelling, painful, heartbreakingly difficult piece of theatre I’ve ever watched.  I’m not going to talk about the play’s main subject matter – that’s for you to look into, if and when you’re ready.

But there was a word that came through again, and again, and again – not only in the play itself, as those brave incredible women told their stories, but also in the discussion with the actors and directors later.

That word was shame.

Here are a couple of definitions of shame, from the dictionary.

  • A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour:
  • A loss of respect or esteem; dishonour.

And it got me thinking – we spend so much of our lives either allowing ourselves to feel shame, or allowing other people to make us feel shame.  I’m not talking about shame within the context of the play either.  I’m talking about the everyday, little incidences of being made to feel shame, or ashamed.

How many times have you felt foolish, or been made to feel foolish when you have done something that made you feel great initially?

Let me get you started with something really easy.  When I was a little girl, I was a bit of a tomboy.  I wasn’t a very girly girl.  I liked playing football and pirates with my brothers and cousins.  I didn’t like dresses much, I didn’t really like hanging out with other girls – they played boring games.  My aunts used to tell me off for this choice.  I should be ashamed of myself.  I was made to feel foolish for playing with the boys.

When I was a bit older, my natural food preferences were Italian.  I’m Indian.  But for a long time, I wasn’t particularly good at cooking Indian food, because I didn’t really relish the flavours (I do now!).  I remember an uncle telling my how embarrassed I must feel not be able to make basic indian food – how shameful it was.

Later in life, I remember not telling very many people I was into Agatha Christie novels – it was a bit twee and a bit nerdy and definitely not cool.  I felt ashamed to admit I enjoyed them.

If you start to think about the number of things, actions, likes, dislikes we either choose to hide, because we’re ashamed of what others might think of us, because those things are not cool, or clever, or whatever, it’s slightly scary.

When did we become so scared of being ourselves?  When did we become scared of being a little bit different?  When did geeky or nerdy or bookish become something to be ashamed of?

So I’m doing something that the play encouraged, in my own little way – I’m standing up and saying – I will not be shamed anymore.  I will not be shamed for my likes and dislikes, for my decisions or for my life choices.  They are mine.  They are the things that make me Heena.  And I’m good with who Heena is.

I would love for you to do the same.  Embrace your quirks, own your choices, liberate yourself from the need for anyone else’s approval or disapproval.

Let’s live by these two words, as often and joyfully as we can – NO SHAME.

Einstein’s Three Rules of Work

Three Rules of WorkI might have mentioned that I had my first little misunderstanding at work last week. I thought one thing, my manager thought another, and the resulting minor collision left me a little metaphorically bruised.

It’s been a few days since that little skirmish, and for the first two days I let my fears and insecurities come to the fore. As a writer I’m always playing out scenarios in my head, conjuring up all sorts of crazy stories from random coincidences. It’s a useful skill when I’m working on the plot of the new book (which I really MUST get on with!). It’s not a useful skill when I use that most powerful of all tools, my imagination, to think about the possible consequences of that skirmish.

And as we all know, how you feel has a direct impact on how you behave. How you behave has a direct impact on your results, and those behaviours and results lead to interactions with others. So clearly, allowing my imagination to get carried away with worst-case scenarios is not healthy. I needed to nip it in the bud quickly, before it started affecting my work. Luckily, those two days were the weekend.

A good chat and some excellent advice from my siblings (thanks very much guys!), led to a more reasoned assessment of the situation, which both agreed was trivial. They pointed out that after three awful contracts I was almost expecting something to go wrong. And they were right (don’t you hate when that happens?) – I was thinking this contract really was too good to be true. And so of course I was looking for something to go wrong. Luckily for me, that something was tiny, I’m rectifying it already, and my manager will hopefully forget all about it.

So what can I learn from this? Well, I think it might be this – if I change my thinking, it’ll change my attitude. If I change my attitude it’ll change my actions. If I change my actions, it’ll change my results. So I’m choosing to think it’s all going to be fine, or better than fine. I also came across Einstein’s Three Rules of Work, which felt particularly apt…

Out of clutter find simplicity.
From discord find harmony.
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity – Albert Einstein

So my plan going forward? I decided to take my own advice from chapter one of the book – here’s a little excerpt…

“What is important is that you take emotions and other people’s agendas out of it – make it only about the work.”

So that’s exactly what I’m going to do – make it all about the work. I hope that helps you next time your feathers get a little ruffled at work too.

Rainy Days and Sunny Afternoons

Rainy days and sunny afternoonsIt’s been an up and down kind of week.  Some rainy days, both in the metaphorical and literal sense.

This week I’ve had a slightly poorly pooch, a very poorly car, a severely bruised bank balance, hot water pipes that have gone on strike and a slight miscommunication at work which left me feeling a little bit bleugh.  None of it is particularly serious.  All of it has been dealt with and is either resolved, being resolved, or I have a plan in place to resolve it.

Everything I can do, I have either done, or will be doing.  I saw a quote somewhere this week (and I wish I could remember where it was, and who it was – sadly I can’t) that I really resonated with.  It started with friends of this person commenting that life seemed to be so easy, and the person replied that she (I remember it was a she) had worked hard at cutting out all the negative drama in her life and at making it as straightforward and easy as she possibly could.  Eliminating all the negativity had the inevitable result of making her life easier and happier.

And I suppose, in my own small way, I’ve done as much of that as I can this week.  I’ve sorted out what I can.  But I’ve still ended up feeling a bit battered and a bit ‘meh’.

Life has a funny way of balancing itself out though – after a week of sorting things out I’ve enjoyed a weekend of family birthday meals, sunny afternoons in the park with a recovered pooch, and catching up on much-needed sleep.  I’ve found some space to recharge, and really enjoyed the simple pleasures of an afternoon in the park and an evening of shooting the breeze over some food and wine.

So I want to ask you, if you’re going through a tough time right now – please keep the faith, remember that it’s not all down, the ups will come – life is a crazy mix of rainy days and sunny afternoons.  Know that your sunny afternoon is just around the corner.