Reflections of 2014

I’m currently sitting at home, in Darwin, outside by the pool but under the cover of the roof as the first day of 2015 has begun with a wonderful tropical rainstorm. The dogs, Janie and Mollie, are curled up close to me, one at my feet and the other on the outside couch. We are all enjoying the coolness that the beautiful rains have brought this morning, the grass is almost growing right before my eyes and the pool is overflowing.

If you’ve never experienced a Darwin wet season it is indeed something very special. The senses come alive as you inhale the unique smell of fresh, tropical rain, the humidity seems to disappear and the chorus of frogs sing their joy at the arrival of the rains.

2014 has be10410992_10152931194254551_6878165051114676969_nen an incredible year and New Years’ Day is a time to reflect on how blessed I have been. 2014 was the year that included Sasha graduating in February from Bond University. We used the time to have a family catch up and all booked into the Sofitel at Broadbeach for 3 nights which was just lovely as precious time was spent with Mum, Dad, my sister Yvonne, niece Ellie and of course Sasha. The graduation itself was a very proud moment for everyone.

In June, my Uncle Harry, the eldest of the Van Buerle clan, passed away suddenly but peacefully in Perth which was a very sad but his funeral was a family occasion which allowed a reunion and reconnection with distant family members and the Van Buerle connections all over the globe were strengthened.

July saw me relinquish my role as CEO of Lifeline Top End as the time had come for me to concentrate my energies on other areas which included, hopefully, living in Europe for a year.

August was the biggest change of all as this was when I left Australia for the World Club Crews Dragon Boat championships in Ravenna with the Waterfront Warriors team. After the championships I remained in Europe catching up with former collegues and friends in Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels.

I ended up basing myself in Spain which has allowed me to have precious me time to take a well-earned rest from the last three and a half very hectic years in which so many things have changed in my life.

It’s been wonderful to be at home for the Christmas holidays, fantastic to see Sasha and Wayne again who’ve done a wonderful job of looking after the house. I’ve also really enjoyed spending my birthday with family and friends, Christmas Day with my cousins, and now having my brother Robert here from the UK.

Myself with Wayne and Sasha – my two beautiful adult children

I’m very fortunate to have two wonderful children who are always supportive of each other and our family, great parents, a wonderful brother and sister and 2 fantastic nieces.  Although we might not all live close by, or even in the same country we are always there for one other and in a time of crisis can be by one others side very quickly. This is the gift that was given to us by my parents – a strong family unit.

May 2015 be another year of wonderful opportunities for everyone and I look forward to sharing many more adventures, making special memories and helping many of you achieve your maximum potential over the next 12 months.

Michelle

A wonderful world……..thank you Abreast In A Boat

What a wonderful surprise it was last night to walk into Ca’de Ven (an amazing local wine bar) and hear a voice yell out “Michelle. Michelle Hanton”- I turned around and there was Cheryl Watson coming towards me along with Juanita Pegler. It is almost seven years since we last saw each other. We had no idea we were all going to be in Ravenna so it was a delight to catch up with these amazing women whom I first met in 2002 when I put together the Internationally Abreast (IA) team for the World Club Crews being held in Rome. Juanita and Cheryl along with Deb Thiessen and Linda Acosta were the Abreast In A Boat representatives from Vancouver.

IA team members - Rome 2002 reunited in Ravenna 2014
IA team members from Rome 2002 reunited in Ravenna 2014 – Juanita, Michelle & Cheryl

It was soooo fantastic to see the girls again. We hugged and reminisced about those early days and that incredible time we had in Rome. It was also where I met Donna Leon, as she was there to film our journey for her program They’ve Got Game – Water Works.

The world of dragon boating for breast cancer survivors has changed so much since those early days but the friendships made by those of us who were pioneers remain strong. It’s funny that in the last 2 months I’ve also had a reunion with Elspeth Humphries – who was also in the IA boat in Rome – she swept the 2000 metre race – first time a breast cancer survivor crew took on that race – and today it is so common place for survivor crews to compete and indeed, to do well, in these races. Janelle Gamble, another of our Internationally Abreast originals will also be here but this time as an IDBF official and I will be sweep for the Waterfront Warriors team.

If it was not for breast cancer and Abreast In A Boat I would not be sitting here today writing this bog. Funny how the darkest moments in our lives can turn into some of the very best opportunities. As they saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I have to say, based on what has happened in my life, this is most certainly true.  Before signing off this blog I also want to make a special mention and say, I always remember with great affection, two special women who have lost their battle with breast cancer, Sandy Smith from Abreast In A Boat who was a guiding light in setting up Dragons Abreast in Australia, and of course the unforgettable Orlanda Capelli who became our drummer in Rome and the then went on to establish the first Italian breast cancer survivor team.

Michelle

 

Me Time

Eating, sleeping and waking up when I feel like it has been wonderful – no alarm clock , no plane to catch, no deadlines. Absolutely bliss. The time in Bologna has been a wonderful luxury as I can actually hear myself think properly without a hundred different competing deadlines and thoughts popping into my head.

Nothing like 'me time'
Nothing like ‘Me Time’

I’ve walked everywhere, even up and down the four floors from the lobby to my hotel room, stopped to eat when I felt hungry and watched the passing parade of life in Bologna. The markets yesterday were quite fascinating with a large turnout of what must be the multicultural community, Chinese, Indian and lots of Muslim ladies who were having a great time shopping for headscarves as there is such a fantastic selection to choose from here. All were speaking Italian and as a TESOL teacher it intrigued me to hear the accents. I wonder was it as hard for them to learn Italian as it is to learn English?

Menswear stores are plentiful with great choices and it is lovely to see lots of colours and styles as opposed to the more staid selections which are generally found in Australian menswear shops.
I had also forgotten how everyone smokes here. Cigarettes are openly on sale everywhere. Immaculately dressed, beautifully tanned and accessorised ladies spoil their look with the presence of a fag in their hand.

Each evening I’ve sat in the lovely garden and enjoyed a glass of wine – only the presence of a ‘’zanzare” (mosquito) yesterday drove me in a little earlier than usual. These 3 days alone have been good for my soul. This afternoon I move on to Ravenna where I’ll be joining my team mates.

Michelle

MY CAMINO Part 4

When I said I was going on the Camino everyone told me that it would be life changing. From personal experience I can now say that the Camino forced me to slow down and provided the gift of time for myself. In my regular lives the chattering monkeys of my mind are rarely stilled as there are constant outside demands on my time and even through I might have the very best self-care strategies in place I never have a whole week or more to indulge just to my own personal reflections.

Symbol of the camino
Symbol of the camino

On the ‘way’ the only really pressing concerns are where is the next coffee shop/bar, will my feet hold up for another day and making sure we do not get lost. However getting lost is not a major concern and even the route markers seem relaxed. Yellow arrows and the symbol of the shell are placed haphazardly, but always in the right direction, on items that range from stone fences, the road, house walls, gates, trees, and more.  Some are really easy to see, others are more faded and almost hidden, but they are there. Worst case just wait  a few moments and someone else will come walking along and together you continue. There are also the occasional marker stones counting down the kilometers and as my feet grew wearier these become a sight to look forward to – some come decorated with evidence of past walker with blown out shoes.

blown out shoe
A marker stone complete with blown out shoe

The Camino trek sees us traverse ‘undulating’ hills (well that is what we were told but some are more like great BIG hills and then we had to get down the other side too!), beautiful shaded wooded trails and across streams.  It is very rural, farming country complete with wafting farmyard aroma in certain spots.  We share the track with plenty of cattle, a few horses, ducks and more.

Some of the villages and tiny churches date back to medieval times and the yellow markers of the way lead us down cobblestone paths right through farm yards and past front doors and open windows from which locals pleasantly wave and wish us buen camino. The Camino is most definitely not commercial and those who live along the route genuinely welcome the perigrinos and we do not feel like intruders in their lives. Then again this has been happening for thousands of years so it is no doubt just a part of their lives.

Michelle

Success

Success – what does it mean? Different things to different people and I suppose the most common myth is that those with the trappings of wealth, status or fame are successful – at least this is what the media would have us all believing. But these are purely external – it is what the world sees on the outside.

Success and happiness do not go hand in hand. Often individuals push themselves so hard to achieve more in terms of material wealth and status that they forget to stop and enjoy what they have already achieved. There is then a very real risk of losing the most precious commodities of health and family.

In my eyes you are a success when you are happy. Now this may sound a bit strange to some but based on my personal experience I believe this is absolutely the case.

To qualify I am talking about being in the here and now and accepting that you are achieving what you want as opposed to what everyone is considering or thinking is appropriate. We must accept that it is only ourselves that are responsible for how we feel. It does take some time and work to actually have the skills and experiences in life to come to a place where we are able to “live in the moment” – believe me I speak from personal experience.

Living in the moment means taking the time to enjoy what are often the very simple pleasures of life – for me, because I am single and pressed for time due to my heavy work schedule, this means things that are also never-ending chores. The lawn mowing and dump run are weekly occurences that become my opportunities for embracing the moments.  I relish the exercise and enjoy the satisfaction of seeing the cut grass whilst my nostrils are tickled and my senses stimulated by the fresh scent of freshly mowed lawn.

Similarly when I walk Janie (the dog) I enjoy allowing my mind to wander where it chooses, as I take the time to appreciate the cool of the early morning, watching the birds dart about as they chirp enthusiastically to each other as they too greet the dawning of a new day.

The alternative to enjoying these moments would be to see them as chores and a burden. It is my choice that these are pleasure moments and therefore I am a success.

Love to hear your thoughts …..

Michelle

Self Care

Self care – taking care of number one – me! This is not something that comes easily but is absolutely essential for both personal and professional wellbeing. In fact, the more senior the role the more important to have a self care strategy in place as in today’s electronic age it is too easy to always be ‘on’ with the expectation that emails are checked and mobile phones answered at all times.

At management level we are faced with tough decision making and coping with the heavy demands that go with expectations of senior roles which frequently includes a tightened budget that often means less human resources to tackle tasks which leads to longer hours. It is easy to become bogged down with a heavy work load and forget to make time to smell the roses.

Having a self care plan in place is essential to maintaining wellbeing. For me it means setting boundaries which include:

  • Only a few people have my personal mobile number and that is the only one which I answer once I sign off for the day
  • I try to take an early morning walk each day – this is my thinking time as well as an opportunity to repeat affirmations and connect with nature.
  • If I happen to sleep in (and that’s okay too) I still take the time for affirmations that set me up for the day
  • On a regular basis I book out for a couple of hours of ‘me time’- no friends, no family – just me!
  • About every 6 weeks I allow myself a couple of day where I just do what I want to do as opposed to what I have to do. This usually involves sleeping in late, sitting around in my pj’s reading, meeting good friends, eating what I want and when I feel like it.

Self care techniques need to be embedded into our working lives and it is worth spending a little time thinking about which strategies work best for you.  We are all different and there is no one size fits all but the one thing that is common to us all is the fact that unless we practise self care we will not thrive and function at optimum levels. Learning to say no is also a very large part of successful self care. I will be expanding on this and other aspects of self care in further articles.

Love to hear what kind of self care techniques others are using….

Michelle