The Italian Job

Since moving to Italy in September, I’ve been doing the Pisa to Gatwick commute. I was never a commuter when I lived in Brighton. Why I decided this commute would be doable I don’t know. I picked a corker!

It seemed a good idea at the time because:

1: I was hungry for new experiences.

2: I wanted to move abroad.

3: I needed time to figure out how I could/would earn a living.

I’m over that now. The winter was beyond doubt a test of my will power and I’ve earned the right to live here full time…secondo me. (That’s Italian for “in my opinion” – check me out!) Now I’m on the hunt. The weather is staring to get blinking gorgeous and everyday is like a holiday given that there is so much to see and do that is all new to me. Every day feels special and I don’t want to waste it on flights.

So how on earth does one create a steady income when you can’t speak the language and are looking to be free range?

I’ve attended a few “women in business” meetings since January. The ideas punted there are pyramid schemes and whilst I accept they are right for some, they aren’t right for me. I’m a figure it out for myself, my way, in my own time kind of girl, so I’ve just started playing Mojo Money & Business online. I love this game because I learn heaps from the other women, who like me, are keen to get into business for themselves or grow their existing businesses.

My problem is I have too many ideas and am chicken when it comes to putting them out there. She says writing all of this in a blog for all to see! Honestly though, the idea that my projects might fail, I’ll discover I rubbish at the thing I’ve always wanted to do or that no one will want to pay is very strong within me.

This feels like a Failure Expert test. A refresher. I need to put my money where my mouth is and spin those negative thoughts on their head in order to demonstrate I am worthy of the title. And those thoughts won’t stop me. They won’t damn it … hell no. I’ve come way to far, invested more cash than I care to mention and I have started nesting.

I’m publicly daring myself to do 1 scary thing a day to get my new venture out into the world and available online so I can become a free range human that is not worried about how she will pay her bills each month.

Dare 1: Contact someone today and ask for guidance. They have done this before. They are ace in my opinion and I trust they will be kind and not tell me to F888 Off. (Not that scary – scary factor of 0)

Dare 2: Commit to facilitating a regular monthly group when I’m back in Brighton, Firenze and Lucca. (Set the dates, invite the people. Scary factor of 2.)

Dare 3: Ask if I can put an advert on the facebook groups in my area. (Bit scary – what if people who don’t speak English come. What if the administrators say no? Scary factor of 3)

Dare 4: Contact the networking group offering a taster session to their membership. (Everyone speaks English but what if the response sucks? Scary factor of 4)

Dare 5: Identify others I could offer a % to in exchange for promoting the product/service (That’s the really scary one! The service available online is my overall goal. If I can’t find a way to promote it and reach my target audience…what then? SCARY BISCUIT rating of 5)

Is there anyone else looking to do something scary business / life wise? Would love to hear how you are moving forward. Virtual support is better than no support in my book😉

Asking myself this daily to remind me to stay open to new opportunities.
Asking myself this daily to remind me to stay open to new opportunities.

Laters gaters and remember to #StayClassy x x x

Stay classy

#StayClassy link party hosted by the fantabulous @mumproject

Werk it Muma!

Ask me to describe my working life and I would have to say it’s been a series of disasters with some moments I am proud of. I pat my self on the back about lots of things I have done but there are ghosts of projects past that haunt me and leave me wanting to hide under the duvet, crying. I am a woman who has failed many times. Not because I constantly go bankrupt (that’s another post) but because I frequently think in order to be a successful business woman I have to be a successful business man.

I know it’s cliché, but I think to be successful, I have to work long hours, be tough on people, have a sense of humour (code for be ok with sexist jokes and take comments about periods on the chin) have a big to do list and get STUFF done. By STUFF I am of course referring to really grown up business STUFF.

Once, in the wisdom of my youth, I tried to beat ‘the men’ at their own game. I feel ridiculous sharing this but I consciously chose to compete and ‘show them.’ After all this is a man’s world and he’d be nothing without a woman or a girl. Right?

I deliberately tried to out fox and distract the opposite sex in order to get what I wanted and hit my targets. I’m became a professional fluffer. For those that don’t know what I’m talking about and don’t want to know…. Scroll down a bit until you see…I’m a fundraiser.

For those either curious or in the know, yes, I’m saying that I basically sold out and became the girl used to warm up the male act on film sets…sexy style. More often than not, I even gave happy endings. Not literally dirty, dirty, minded you;-)

I noticed I was manipulating opportunities to get the guys on side as a warm up. I’d then start to build the relationship (fluffing) craft and deliver the pitch (turning up the heat) finishing with them giving me money and feeling glad they did (happy ending). How? I wore red lipstick, a black dress and if I was after mega bucks red shoes.

I’m a fundraiser. I was all about the happy ending.

OK I’m being dramatic, but that’s how it felt. I was a sell out and a fraud. I used my feminine ways to charm men folk into giving me their money… ok ok for projects that do make the world a better place but still, it was deliberate and I knew what I was doing.

Besides the game playing, what’s wrong with this picture?

Why did I feel it necessary to go to such lengths? I hardly ever found myself pitching to women. More often than not, then and now, the CEO’s of big companies and wealthy individuals I’m pitched to were male.

Why? What is that about and why does what I’m wearing even make a difference? Aren’t we all equal, free to wear what we please? Clearly not and I’m guilty of contributing to the imbalance.

For women like me who are career minded and seek equal pay, the work place can be tough. Being a single working muma can be hard. Being a working muma full stop can be challenging even with the most supportive partner in the world.

My decision to fly solo came after my last employer tried to limit the number of unpaid sick days I could take to look after my little one, as he felt “There needed to be a cap on how many days where acceptable as it could become a regular occurrence.” I presented him with the staff handbook, pointed him in the direction of employment law and asked him if he would like to repeat that in front of witnesses. He declined, asked me not to sue and insisted on paying me in full for the 3 days I had been absent.

Wowsers!

I’m a single muma who wants to be a great role model for her daughter. If she doesn’t see me rocking it in the boardroom then how will it become her norm?

My challenge is to figure out how to achieve my business goals in a way that l feel proud of, inspired to keep up, without needing to play games. Being the control freak I am, I want to map out how I get there authentically and with integrity.

This week I am going to dare myself and write down what a successful business woman looks like, in my opinion. My head is so full of nonsense that if I’m honest I don’t really know. And, if I don’t know what success as a business woman looks like, how will I know when I’ve got there and shush up and enjoy?

For all I know, I might actually be there already!

What does a successful business woman look like to you?

Tips on inspiring business women welcome!! Who are your role models? Would LOVE to know how you balance work, life and parenting…together we are stronger. Right?😉

#stayclassy ladies😉

Stay classy

Link up hosted by @themumproject

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Karma that is! Note the colour of her lipstick …

Kitchen Disco

Legend has it I used to party from Thursday to Monday. I was 18 at the time and I wasn’t a parent. Being a parent has changed my capacity to dance all night. I pumpkin if I’m up later than 23:00 these days. Call me daft, call me a dreamer, I’m not ready to call time on my dancing days.

A fab blogger (http://www.moderatemum.co.uk) that I am a fan of shared her kitchen disco play list last week and as this is basically how I party these days, I felt inspired to share mine.

Yes I do dance in the kitchen sometimes wine in hand, sometimes cup of tea, mostly to make my daughter laugh and remind me not to take myself soooo seriously!

So, for all you mums staying at home on Saturday night this is for you. I recommend wine.

#stayclassy ladies😉

1: Love on top – Beyonce

2: Back to Life – Soul to Soul

3: Real Girl – Mutya Buena

4: Folding Chair – Regina Spector

5: Someone should tell you – Lemar

6: The sound always shines on TV – A-Ha

7: Together in electric dreams – The Human League

8: The Lovecats – The Cure

9: I want your love – Transvision Vamp

10: Shut up and dance – Walk the Moon

11: Run the world – Beyonce

Stay classy

Link Party Host @themumproject

Teacher’s Approval

I am an Expert in Failure. My specialist area: Work v’s Muma Life Balance. As a single muma that lives in a foreign country and runs her own own business, I feel confident I can back up my claim of being an authority😉

To prove myself, I’ve spent this week gathering evidence. After all, I can’t just say I’m an expert in this area, cross my fingers and hope you will believe me.

I’ve been taking pictures.

Each time I have caught myself giving myself a tough time for not maintaining the work life balance, not doing something right as a mother or business owner, not being good enough, and scolded myself for failing, I’ve taken a picture of the thing that triggered the thought pattern.

Why?

Because in the moment I tore strips off myself. The triggers are laughable! Seriously. You should see the things that have sent me into a tailspin this week. None of them confirm an inability to parent or highlight a lack of competency in the work department. In my expert opinion😉

As embarrassing as it is to admit, I spin out big time during the morning school run. School gate research suggests I’m not alone in this department. So I want to focus on this for a moment.

Earlier this week I actually heard myself say to my girl, “I don’t feel like we’re a team in the mornings. I NEED you to be on my side because it’s just you and me. Muma has to do EVERYTHING all by herself.”

Wide eyed, Ilyana stood looking at me. Probably thinking WTF…woman I’m 8?!

She was refusing to get dressed, which she does most days. She was being a perfect 8 year old, doing what 8 year olds do. In her case this involves laughing at me doing ‘the botty dance.’ The look on her face after my plea for co-operation suggested she was considering what to do before responding:

  1. I’ll draw her a picture.
  2. I’ll get her some water.
  3. She looks tired I’ll suggest she has a lie down.

However, she replied with “Muma, remember to breath.” Not what I was expecting at all.

It cracked me up snapping me out of my head and back into the room. I was doing a number on myself for failing to get her to school at 08:30. Class doesn’t start until 09:00 and there I was stressing myself out.

In my mind I could hear the teachers commenting on my inability to cope as a single mum. I pictured the other mums smiling at me sympathetically. They are always there at the gate chatting as I leg it into school and then wave bye too as I head to work.

They’re lovely and often comment that I’m inspiring because I get up at 06:00 to exercise, I always have somewhere to be and something to do…and they just have coffee mornings to look forward too. The grass is always greener!!

How is this relevant to being a failure expert?

My skill lies in transforming feelings of failure into feelings of acceptance, improvising until success has been realised. I keep going until it is sustainable. Then I move on. A bit like Nanny McPhee.

Changes occurred in me this week when I decided to accept my failings. This is why the pictures helped. When I was no longer reacting, I was able to look at my trigger and see the truth using each image. Hand on heart the result has been trouble free school runs. This is a massive result for me.

School runs are the worst part of my day.

Arguments in the morning knock me off balance. Instead of being productive, I beat myself up and commit to delusional ideas I think will make me a better mum.

My photos prove to me that I can have a successful business and be a great mum. I may have to do the dishes later or put the washing away at the weekend. If it means I finish my workload before school ends, the reward is I will be at the gate on time. When it’s bedtime I’ll be there for stories instead of at my computer. This feels balanced.

Who knew all I had to do to feel differently about the school run was accept I am unlikely to make it for 08:30?

If you can relate, I’d love to hear what nonsense you tell yourself that just isn’t true. Send me a pic if you get stuck…challenge those unhelpful thoughts and remember to #stayclassy😉

Stay classy

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A successful working Muma puts away the clothes.

The Failure Expert

Last weekend, I attended an Expo called ‘The Best You.’ Normally I love this sort of thing. I’m always up for listening to people talk about personal development and things they are passionate about. This one wasn’t what I was expecting.

Either I’m doing much better on the personal development front than I thought or the world’s gone mad. We where surrounded by steps!

Almost every exhibitor had a step programme they had created that could transform my life. My favourites included: 7 steps to a happier life (my friend said no to this and the girls on the stand couldn’t understand why), 5 ways to establish a great business and 12 steps to getting everything in the world. I made that last title up to give you a flavour of the others. I’m exaggerating but only a bit. One of my friends counted a total of 84 steps on offer. It was very convincing. I was almost seduced into spending £1.5k on expert coaching for my business. With an expert on my team, I’d be able to buy the flashy Bentley I’ve got my eye on in three months rather than three life times. Right?

The problem is I’ve never completed a programme like that. Not fully. Whilst I may resonate with some of the steps, I don’t want to take all of them, as they don’t feel right. So I stop and I’m left feeling like a failure who tells herself the reason she isn’t living the life she dreams of is because she can’t commit.

Hand on heart I accept such programmes have transformed their creators. I don’t doubt they have worked for many others too, but I am not them. I need to figure out my challenges my own way, in my own time. Of course I ask my mates for advice and everything kind of has a framework. I like frame works. I’m a control freak and I love models I can bend to suit my needs. I just hate being told what to do so maybe that’s why I don’t complete the programme. I’m rebelling😉

In one talk the speaker told us, “You must be an authority on something” if we are going to be successful and get the attention we want for our business. I sat there asking myself how on earth I would ever do that without lying. Honest.

Me being me, I have been thinking about this.

If you look at my life and score it against what we are told success looks like, then I would be a failure. I have a failed marriage, lots of failed relationships, failed in business, failed to get the grade I wanted in my degree, I fail to balance work and life, I fail to keep when my cool everyday there is a morning school run, I fail to monitor my accounts every month because it’s boring and I clearly like the January panic, I fail to eat natural organic foods only…I could go on.

However, I’m not for one second buying into it. Why? Because I’m a master at turning this stuff around. I embrace failure and I improvise with the curve balls until it’s a success. I believe it’s why I’m a mighty fine fundraiser. I’m also incredibly modest😉

I’m a failure expert!

Finding my posto felice is all about that. It’s experiencing the failures and having the courage to hit the reset button.

It’s International Women’s Day today and I have just played Mojo with some of my closest girl friends. It’s amazing! I get to figure things out my way, in my own time with no one telling me I’m broken or what I should be doing…

So, I’m going to commit to exploring what it means to be a failure expert and how that helps my business grow. In fundraising, I collect the no’s to find the yeses. So this is gonna be fun. She says famously!

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I can’t even walk past the Leaning Tower of Pisa without needing to do the tourist ‘let’s pretend we are supporting it’ pic. Fail!

Happy International Women’s Day y’all!!!

Being irresponsible

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In honour of Saint Valentines day, I wanted to write about loving myself this week. Why? Because:

1: I want to “Love myself the way I want you to love me.” – Katy Perry – Love me. It’s cheesy but gets my girl and I singing and dancing in the kitchen like crazy thangs. It’s fast becoming my new mantra😉

2: If I truly want to enjoy the love of another and build a relationship that will last, I believe I have to love myself in every way so I don’t sit there expecting them to take responsibility for my happiness.

Loving myself is not something I’m good at. I struggle with it so much that I don’t believe the compliments people give me. Equally I go over and above the call of duty in order to feel like I’m a good person and that maybe just maybe someone somewhere will see me and love me just as I am. (Bridget Jones and Mr Darcy flashback!)

Moving to Italy is something I have done in the name of self love. It’s massive for me. I have wanted to live here since 2005. As I sat on the steps of a building in Florence soaking up the vibe, I promised myself one day I would return and I would live here.

The external feedback the move has generated from my friends and family is fascinating. It’s confusing, supportive, heart breaking and for the first few months sent me into a tail spin. Those who know how much of a dream this is for me have been awesome. They have told me how brave I am, how proud they are of me, that they wish they had the courage to do it. Whilst others who say they are on team Nina, have told me how irresponsible I am, how selfish and self centred I am and that I need to think of my daughter.

Being me, my mind has of course attached and honed in on the criticism. Even though as I walk the streets of my new home town, noticing how alive I feel, experiencing every part of me relax and KNOWING I am in the right place, the critical voice is still the loudest. I get it’s because on some level I am judging myself. I’d be lying if I tried to pretend I didn’t wake up every morning and ask myself “What am I doing? Am I doing the right thing?”  

This become so confusing in the first weeks of adjusting to life in Italy, I began to pray. I’d been here full time for eight weeks and I was not at my best. I was struggling to meet my work commitments and crying several times a day. At the week 10 mark, I asked the universe for a sign. I asked for a sign that I was doing the right thing. If this was a mistake I needed to know because I didn’t want to f**k my kids life up. So I made a deal with the universe “If I should go home now before things get bad, let me know and I will pack up. If I should stay, tell me. Make the sign I’m where I’m meant to be so big, I can’t ignore it and I will embrace the opportunities I can’t yet see and go for it.”  

Then one night 12 weeks in, I had a dream. It was summer and I was somewhere in the south of Italy. I was having the time of my life, dancing like no one was watching, wearing a pair of black sparkly trainers with chunky white soles. I woke up feeling great and it rippled through influencing how I felt for the rest of the day.

Less than a week later, I took some friends who were here visiting to Florence. I hadn’t been since I moved. It’s obligatory to go to Patrizia Pepe if you are me when in Firenze. Guess what I saw on the shelves the second I stepped through the door…Black Sparkly Trainers…That was my sign and it appeared in Firenze where I first promised myself I would live here!!!!!!

I bought them…see the above pic. Ok they don’t look as amazing as they are with me wearing Nora Batty style coloured tights, but in defence of the tights, they rocked the outfit they were meant to be with that day. I was in a shop trying stuff on😉

So, I’m staying.

I’m staying because I deserve to live the life I envisage for myself. If I am the best me I can possibly be, then I will be a better parent and the role model I want to be for my daughter. I want to show her that you can do the things you dream of. If it’s possible for her to learn through me that you can make your dreams a reality, then it’s worth it. If she understands how to be brave even when the world feels scary and you just want to cry, and knows how to move through all of that head stuff, then I will be dancing in the kitchen until I’m ready to be put in a box. I want to know for myself that this is possible. Not to piss anyone off. Not in spite of those who think I’m irresponsible.

I see that judgement and I welcome it. I see that from certain angles it is irresponsible to move to a country where you have no friends or family, and even mad because I can’t speak the language. If loving myself and living the life I know is possible is irresponsible, then I’m going to be as irresponsible as I can be. I love myself that much and I love my daughter more.

Firenze is a magical place for me and I’m heading to an international meet up today of other women who moved to Italy, in pursuit of a dream. So I am not alone, I’m not special. I’m just doing what is right for me.

Bring it Italy!

 

What am I thinking?

There’s no escaping it. In my quest to find my posto felice, my self observation this week confirms I’m my own worst enemy.

I crave raw, honest, heartfelt conversations with people but have a panic attack the moment the conversation shifts toward me. Seriously, what’s that about? I’m getting what I want and I’m literally choking on my own words. Particularly with someone I fancy, want to be/stay friends with, am trying to impress…everyone really.  Not because in the back of my mind I’m secretly thinking, “You’re an idiot mate and I’m bored.” It’s because I’m driven by a need to be liked.

I have to mentally prepare myself when I know there is something I want to communicate. I fear getting it wrong. Sometimes, it takes days of rehearsing the conversation in my head. Yes, I have also practiced in the mirror. It doesn’t even have to be a major event, my pattern is the same. I could be asking an acquaintance for coffee, sharing how I feel about something at work or telling a guy I like him. All of which I have done in the last few days.

As my time to be brave approaches my heart goes like the clappers. It’s that old rejection chestnut. I hide behind humour and crack inappropriate jokes to pave the way for the inevitable, “No you’re not that interesting,” “We don’t click,” or their laughter in my face. Honestly, it’s ridiculous. There I am with an opportunity to engage in real conversations and I’m playing the clown trying to “make ’em laugh, make ’em laugh.”

Unless, I know the person in question like the back of my hand. Then, although I still find it hard to be bold and share what is bubbling under the surface, I can force my words up and out. I can name 10 people I can do this with and know that they will not judge, critise or correct me for feeling what I am feeling in that moment. I know that I’m lucky and I’m grateful daily for each one of the 10.

But but but, I feel like a coward. I have put myself in a mental prison. I’m blindfolded in a room that has broken glass on the floor. Outside I can hear a party and people asking where I am but I can’t move. This imaginary horror is my starting point for so many of my relationships. It keeps me 10 steps away from being fully present and connecting to the person in front of me. When I notice this feeling, I’m physically there but I haven’t shown up. My friends can spot this and some have asked me what’s happening as they can feel I’m out of reach. They’re right. It’s boring me now.

In truth, I find it equally hard to be honest with myself and present. It’s also worth mentioning that no one has ever laughed in my face, said no to coffee or told me (to my face anyway) that I’m simply not interesting to be around. To knock this one on the head for good, I have taken up a daily practice to let the judgments and anxieties out. (I say daily but it’s more a few times a week jobby. It’s only daily when I’m freaking out.)

So I’m going to be brave and share one of my moments captured on paper this week. Why? Clearly because I’m looking for your approval😉 Seriously though, because if I really am going to find my posto felice, I have got to start by being honest with myself. I believe I am getting better, but given I see ALL of the thoughts, I know there is still some ground to cover. This share is a safe share in my opinion but it gives you an idea of the verbal diatribe driving me. Reading it now feels comical, but on that day, in that moment this was under lying everything, stopping my true brilliance from shining.

I hereby commit to sand blasting my belief in my own perceptions and challenging my excuses. I commit to questioning why I don’t want to say what is in my heart and speaking up if the root is entrenched in fear of being “disliked/kicked to the curb” in what ever form that arises…

Mmmm wonder how that’s gonna play out this week.IMG_4747