Volunteering Makes Me Happy

It’s National Volunteer Week and this year is the first time in over 18 years that I have not been involved with volunteering or organising something for volunteers. Last year doesn’t count because I was in Spain.

You know me, I can427740_550783328282897_1194873830_n‘t just sit on my hands, so when I saw the appeal go out for help, I stuck up my hand – or more accurately I filled in the online box.

We are in the age of technology after all and it was all just  a matter of type. Click. Upload my Working with Children card. Press submit – so easy!

So where am I volunteering? This is something different for me – it’s the Starlight Foundation Ball tomorrow night at the Convention Centre. Instead of being a guest, I’ll be helping out by donating my time as a helper for a very worthy cause to raise much needed funds to benefit Territory kids.

I’m lucky I never had to go through the anxiety of a sick child in hospital, but for those who do, it’s nice to know the Starlight Foundation is there to help make things a little easier.

It’s always a personal pleasure to give my time to worthy causes – I enjoy volunteering and meeting new people. It’s usually hard work, but also lots of fun and best of all, I almost always learn something! I’m sure tomorrow will be no different.

As I sign off, I just want to say how grateful I am to have worked with so many fabulous volunteers over the years. Many of my great friendships have been made as a result of volunteering.  Volunteers are the life blood of this country. 

Love to hear how other people choose to volunteer – there are so many worthy causes in the world.

Michelle

Yes! I’m still alive and kicking!

Thanks to my followers for being in touch and asking me how I’m going. I find it hard to believe that it’s been a couple of months since my last post here!

I forget that not everyone has Facebook to keep up with the news as I post it.

I’m here in Darwin still, but had a quick trip to Brisbane to catch up with my godparents (Allen & Rose Jagger) when they were in Australia. It was wonderful to be able to spend almost a week together – been so, so many years since we did that. In fact, I think it was when I was at Rishworth!

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Allan Jagger OBE, Ellie (my niece)Yvonne (my sister) and Rose Jagger

Not enough time to catch up with friends, but I hope to get back that way in May and catch up with all friends then.

On the home front, I still keep busy with the gardening – never ending trips to the dump with all the palm fronds. They might seem exotic trees to others and look like low maintenance, but they are a pain!  On the plus side, Molly and Janie are always up for a trip and love going out there for a drive.

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Janie & Molly just love a ride in the ute!

Really exciting news is that two of the books I’ve been working on with clients are published. One has hit the best seller list in its category. I do enjoy editing, as it combines my love of reading and English skills. Who would have thought that it would lead to this?

Sasha and I have just finished working on the edits of a biography for an Australian client. It was nice to collaborate together and the book is currently doing the round of publishers. Once again, because of confidentiality, I am unable to reveal titles or authors.

The Dry Season is finally arriving, so walking around Darwin is once more very pleasant, as opposed to the hot, sticky humidity that’s been greeting me for the last 6 months!

Given I’ve got so many overseas followers, I’m going to start a regular weekly update to inroduce you all a little more to Australia, and I’ll be starting with Darwin.

That’s all for now folks. It’s girls night so Sasha and I are about to kick back and relax with the latest Season of Game of Thrones!

Michelle

PS – our business blog is here

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Enjoying a vino with my sister 🙂

 

 

 

Sailing off into the Sunset…

It’s a glorious Sunday morning here in Darwin. I’ve had a bright and early start to the day. An hour of gardening while it was still nice and cool; the ground was easy to dig after the rain last night. Next task, cleaning the pool filter, two load of washing on the line and all before breakfast. The lawn needs mowing, but that can wait till it’s cooler!

There’s always a bunch of stuff to be done when you have a house and garden. Sometimes I think it would be quite wonderful to just sail off into the sunset.

My friend Toots has done just that! I first met Toots, through the world of breast cancer, when we were introduced by Pat Hancock. Toots was always a staunch supporter of Dragons Abreast, helping out in different ways over the years.

Show Stoppers 2006
Toots  (L front on the end) & her team Show Stoppers – Dragons Abreast NT regatta 2006

 

 

Today, Toots is living a life many dream of – retired and sailing off into the sunset. On Australia Day, this post appeared on her wall:

‘We interrupt this transmission to bring breaking news from aboard ‘Niaete’.. where a clandestine operation of war against terror has been won.

Ratty Bin Liner member of the cell group known as ‘FR’ .. (F&@‪#‎ing Rats) .. not to be mistaken with that other cell known as ‘FC’ (F&@#ing Cockroaches) has been captured.

Ratty Bin Liner caused havoc on board in food lockers completely disrupting life on board as it was known!

After attacking cartons of UHT milk, it was a real threat to the crew that the supply of cafe lattes and cappuccinos may be short, and in the rush of it all, ingredients for ‘elevensies’ were briefly misplaced.

The comment of ‘Praise be that the wine is in glass bottles, not casks!’ was heard uttered a few times.

Ratty Bin Liner was escorted off board with a resounding farewell from all crew of ‘F@$‪#‎k off yah l’il bastard!’ and being Australia Day, sent off on his own sticky glue surf board, of which he seemed quite attached!’

PS. No photos of Bin Liner available as the photographer was at the other end of the boat, far away as possible!

I had a great chuckle, and it made me smile all day. It also confirmed I do not want to live on a yacht! Instead, I’ll follow her adventures from the safety of my house where the exterminator is only a phone call way and stick to harbour cruises!

Michelle

PS – There is also the small problem that I don’t sail!

PPS – Toots kindly gave permission for me to use her post in my blog.

There’s always a silver lining :)

This time last Sunday I was in Ecija, having breakfast with Anne and Miguel plus the gorgeous Hugo who is growing up so fast!

My quick trip to Spain last week came out of the blue. Although it was a very short trip, there is always an upside to everything.

For me, these were the special moments:

    • Having a great friend who dropped everything and drove me to Darwin Airport, plus came armed with a thoughtful E200 in cash so I didn’t have to worry about changing money immediately I landed.

      Juana, Guiselle, Mario and Wayne
      Juana, Guiselle, Mario and Wayne
    • A lovely opportunity to catch up with former colleagues (Myriam, Juana and Anne) who have become friends.

      Palace of the Christian KIngs (Alcazar) by night.
      Palace of the Christian Kings (Alcazar) by night.
  • An opportunity to see Cordoba by night. It is truly magical and totally different from the day time. Plus there are less tourists at this time of year too!
  • A chance to practice my Spanish, to eat jamon and beautiful olives.
Anne, Hugo and myself
Anne, Hugo and myself last Sunday

Life is funny, we never know what each day will bring us in terms of both challenges and opportunities.

Being appreciative of our families and special friends is so important. I am blessed to have wonderful, caring friends right across the globe and a fantastic family.

I’m also really fortunate to have a profession that means I can work while on the move!

Michelle

P.S – my professional blog is here

 

 

 

 

Quick Personal Update

I owe many of you phone calls and emails, but it’s been a really hectic few weeks. I’ve finally got a few moments to sit down so thought using the blog would be a great way of reaching everyone at once with a quick personal update.

Dad (aged 87) was diagnosed with Alzheimers in November, so it was really important to have Christmas together. For the first time in goodness knows how many years (about 20 we think!) the whole family were together for Christmas and New Year. We are all actually in the same country for once.

The Queensland based family members, Mum, Dad, Yvonne (my sister) and Ellie (my niece) travelled to Darwin, as both Sasha (my daughter) and Robert (my brother) were working, plus I have room in my house to accommodate all. They arrived 20th December.

Darwin turned on the rain and it poured for the first week. Thank goodness for the swimming pool to cool off in, and the blessing of airconditioning or I think my visitors would have melted!20140517_181344

On Christmas Day, we were joined by my only other family here in Darwin – my cousin Cheryl, her husband Darryl and their son Jonathon. It was great to see the three young cousins getting together.

We enjoyed a very leisurely day of loads of feasting that stretched over several hours. It was very relaxing and not the least bit stressful! Exactly how Christmas should be.

Dad thoroughly enjoyed eating all the Asian foods from Rapid Creek and Parap Markets, plus the lovely tropical mangos, rambutans and pawpaw. He’s not up to going out to the markets himself these days, but loved me bringing back all the treats for him.

Mum and Dad have now headed home, but Yvonne and Ellie are still with me as poor Ellie has an ear infection and cannot fly. Bonus is we are able to spend more time together.

This is shaping up to be another very busy year – nothing new! But what is new are the changes taking place on the business front.

The new Dragon Sisters blog – which will focus on business aspects is here. Pop over and join us if you like. My blog (this one you are reading now), will continue to be my eclectic collection of news, views and ideas.

May 2016 bring you good health, great joy and success in all your endevours. Hope to catch up with many of you during the course of the year.

Love

Michelle xx

 

 

 

FREE Marketing tools that make life easier!

As some of you already know, I think LeadPages is pretty fantastic. And, they just got even better. This week, LeadPages launched a new resource that will help everyone, whether you’re a LeadPages member or not.

600x368_marketing_library2_360On Tuesday, LeadPages announced the Grand Opening of their all-new Marketing Library. It’s full of some of the most helpful marketing resources I’ve seen in quite a while. And, for just a couple of days they’re giving them away to help you promote your business.

As my subscriber, you can get access to every resource inside this entire Marketing Library—at no cost. It’s my gift to you. Click here to get started.

Here’s just a glimpse at all the phenomenal resources inside this Library.

  • Free Downloadable Images: LeadPages has collected hundreds of stunning, Creative Commons Licensed images you can use anywhere in your marketing.
  • Free Marketing Courses: LeadPages has created some of the most valuable, in-depth marketing courses I’ve ever seen. You’ll get access to all of them including their Facebook Advertising course, Affiliate Marketing course, List-Building course and more.
  • Free Educational Videos: LeadPages’ curated video collection includes tutorials on how to quickly grow your email list, launch a new product, choose the right landing page for your marketing, and awesome marketing wisdom from the founder of LeadPages, CEO Clay Collins.

And that’s just a sampling of what you’ll find in the LeadPages Marketing Library. Plus, they’ll be adding more incredible resources on a regular basis.

Even better: To celebrate the launch of the Marketing Library, LeadPages is giving away gourmet coffee gift cards. Get all the details on how you can have your next latté on them. It might just be USA only for the coffee cards – not sure! Either way, go take a look and download everything you’ll need to run your next promotional campaign.

To your success,

Michelle

 

Christmas – a global marketing feast!

If there is one holiday in the world that has a sweeping impact on everybody, it has to be Christmas. What unifying theme inherent to Christmas makes it one of, if not THE most awaited time of the year? This seems to be true regardless of race, social background, creed, or religion.

Is it the extravagent meals, the parties, or the family gatherings that make this holiday so special? Dare I say it just might be the outrageously priced presents and the spirit of giving and receiving that has created such a global buzz – in other words commercialism! Very, very clever marketing tactics. In fact, quite brilliant – just about everyone buys into it!

Whatever it is, no one can deny that Christmas is the most expensive holiday there is, and many are saying (quite rightly in my opinion) the true spirit of the season has been missing since retailers started to realize the money making opportunities Christmas can offer.

Food for thought – many have been complaining about how Christmas mutated into a crass, and wantonly commercialized yearly event way back in the late 1800’s. While it is untrue that the Victorians came up with this holiday, they are credited for having “invigorated” it. From what used to be a solemn family occasion, manufacturers, shop owners, and industrialists cottoned on to the fact that Christmas had the potential to be turned into a profit maker.

In the quest to drive profits higher, entrepreneurs found innovative ways to get the cash registers ringing well into the 21st century. Today we see Christmas decorations and hear holiday carols playing in the background since November, or in some cases even earlier – drives me nuts!

Let’s dive a little deeper into how it all started. Perhaps by doing so, we can understand how it’s got to this ridiculous point. At the turn of the 19th century, when shop windows start displaying hand-painted Christmas cards, it signaled the start of the holiday season. A great way to remind people to buy the Christmas cards for friends and family!

Christmas comes early in Selfridges’ Oxford Street store. Photograph Anthony DevlinPA
Christmas display at Selfridges, London. Photograph Anthony DevlinPA

Then there were the department stores who created a whole new Christmas tradition – obsessive and excessive shopping. Case in point, JP Robert of Stratford was the first to incorporate a Santa for the children to visit. It was the perfect marketing ploy! A mother would bring her child to the shop knowing it would be fun and exciting to the child. Similarly, Gordon Selfridge coined the phrase “only X shopping days left to Christmas,” and made sure his department store – Selfridge’s – was at its most glamorous to tempt shoppers to come to spend their money.

Even during the outbreak of World War II, although austerity measures dampened Christmas buying, it never came to a grinding halt. By the time rationing ended the British actually encouraged everyone to go on spending sprees.

It doesn’t take a historian or an economist to figure out that Christmas has been well and truly commercialized for a very long while. It is far worse today, with easy access to credit cards, online shopping, Boxing Day sales and so much more, all designed to part us from our money.

In my book, the true gifts at Christmas are the presence of loved ones, not the presents. Sure, gifts are nice, but they are not the be all and end all – unless you’re a small child and even then, they do not need to be madly expensive!Christmas 1

My most favourite memories are of the build up to Christmas Day. The tree used to be a live one that went up in time for my birthday (Dec 23rd), Mum would always make me a chocolate cake and that was the start of Christmas for us.

This year, for the first time in a very long time, I’ll have all my family here with me for Christmas, all us siblings, Mum, Dad, nieces and nephew.  There won’t be massively expensive presents, but there will be a whole lot of love and that’s what the true spirit of Christmas is to me.

Michelle

PS – I might just get a chocolate cake again as Mum will be here for my birthday 🙂

 

My Epiphany

It’s been a little while since I’ve done a personal update on my blog, so here goes…

Where am I now?

I’m in Darwin, Australia. It’s my home base, my house is here and so are my kids, Wayne and Sasha (albeit they are adults. Well, most of the time!) and of course our dogs, Janie and Molly, who are two very spoilt pooches.

Janie - a faithful old friend
Janie – a faithful old friend

Since I got back, it’s been wonderful to sleep in my own bed, be with my family, see friends of 30+ years and to re-engage with the special places and people that make up ‘Territory’ life.

Things like gorgeous sunsets, noodles at Parap Markets on a Saturday morning, midnight swims in the pool to cool off on these terribly hot nights! Thank goodness for airconditioning is all I can say.

As much as I would love to return to Europe, at the moment that’s just not possible until probably later in 2016 – but that’s not far away! SO, I’ll definitely be in Darwin till February at least. If any of you are headed this way (to Australia), I’d love to see you!

There are very good reasons for staying put here in tropical Oz for the duration of the Northern Hemisphere winter – the obvious one is that I really do feel the cold – a lot! I hear from my friends in Spain and it’s pretty chilly at the moment. I think I prefer being hot to being cold.

Another reason, is that I have had a bit of an epiphany!!

My Epiphany
I’ve always been passionate about creating and maximising opportunities, which has stood me in good stead commercially for years and, I am very proud of the professional recognitions I’ve received.

Yet, I’ve always been more interested in helping people and that passion translated to making a real difference – more so since my breast cancer diagnosis some 18 years ago.  I give thanks everyday that I have been fortunate to survive thus far!

The diagnosis was the catalyst that led me to establish Dragons Abreast Australia, a national charity of 2000 members embracing the life-affirming, health promoting, benefits of dragon boat paddling for breast cancer survivors.

Maureen & Darryl Manzie, Marco Montenuovo, Lara Riva, Peter Hazelman & his lovely wife. Volunteer of th Year Awards 2014
Maureen & Darryl Manzie, Me, Marco Montenuovo, Lara Riva, Peter Hazelman & his lovely wife. Volunteer of the Year Awards 2011 where my Lifeline volunteers – Marco & Peter were recognised.

Since I stepped away from the day to day operations of Dragons Abreast, I’ve been involved with refugees and asylum seekers, teaching English as a Second Language, and, as CEO of Lifeline Top End, within the mental health arena.

I’ve always been able to juggle my not-for-profit work, travel and time zone variations, with that of my own business, Dragon Sisters. But I must confess that, like many who espouse an important cause, I’ve often left a great deal of Dragon Sisters work to my associates – frequently flitting off around the globe on some quest or cause.

Over the past 12 months, whilst I’ve been based in Europe, there’s been more and more people asking me for help. Help to enable them to create and maximise their own opportunities.

Working with so many different clients has also made me really aware of how simple it is for me to help people who want to help themselves.

The other week I received a lovely note from a client, it said, ‘thank you for being the angel sitting on my shoulder’. This really touched me and it meant a great deal to me, as you can imagine.

Regardless of whether I am engaged with charity work, working with clients half way across the globe or with one on one personal development coaching, mentoring and English teaching, I find that we are all in the same boat. We want to be empowered and effective at getting meaningful and positive outcomes. 

I also realised this is something I truly love doing! I love working with individuals towards achieving a better outcome either personally or in business. It really is my passion! But, in addition to being my passion, it’s something I am really good at. Yeah, I know, we’re all good at things we like. Simple really!

Over the last 8 years Dragon Sisters has developed strategies and resources to help people achieve what they want, or at the very least get them on the right pathway.  Everyone wants to realize their true and full potential, and that is my life and Dragon Sisters’ ethos.

The downside, for me personally, is that time is a massive constraint. There are only 24 hours in the day and, much as I’d love to, it’s simply not possible for me to help everyone. This frustrates me, because I know the strategies I teach  work. They are also not rocket science!

Soooo much of what Dragon Sisters has on hand has proven effective for so many (myself included), that I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great to parcel up those resources and make them more accessible and available to anyone who needs them?’  This was my epiphany moment!

Challenges of the Virtual World

Maybe I’m a slow learner, but I realised the way forward has to be via the virtual world.  It offers me the ability to share helpful techniques.

Given that I mostly work with clients scattered across 5 continents, one of the challenges has been coming up with a way of recreating face to face workshops and personal one on one sessions.

I’ve been forced to think outside the square, embrace new technology (big learning curve!) and to create new ways of presenting information.

Judging by the reaction to the first release – over 2,500 people engaged with this – means I’m definitely on track. I am extremely excited! If you want to take a peek it’s here.

As always, love your feedback here or via a personal email or note.

Michelle

Thanksgiving is Thanks to a Woman!

Are you thinking: gee Michelle’s a bit behind the ball on this one – Thanksgiving has been and gone!

Indeed the date has passed; and I hope all my American friends and connections received my good wishes post on Dragon Sisters Facebook page?

In Australia and in many other cultures, we don’t have Thanksgiving Day per se. But like many of the American global cousins, when it comes around, I share in reflecting upon all the good in my life which I have to be thankful for. I’m not forgetting, Canadian Thanksgiving in October or the similar secular observances around the world.

You may not know but until Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation in 1863, each American state scheduled its own Thanksgiving date.

What I think is just fantastic is that he did this because of a 74 year old magazine editor, Sarah Josepha Hale. Ms Hale had been lobbying for 15 years(!) as editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book.

Until President Lincoln responded, she had been ignored by past Presidents. Her letter asked him to have the “day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.”

She explained, “You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution.” (Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler et al.)

And that is how the last Thursday in November became American Thanksgiving Day.

Forgive me for crowing about girl power again – but there you have it: all thanks to one persistent lady!

Maybe my blog title today is a bit cheeky because, of course, Ms Hale can’t be credited for the existence of Thanksgiving, but wasn’t she an extraordinary woman?!

I found that little snippet about her very inspirational. I hope you do too.

Michelle