A List of Very Useful Things to Do on Your Maternity Leave / In the Last Month of Pregnancy

10 (3)Ahh, the final month. It’s here! I’m finding that whilst I have plenty I want to do, I’m just not capable of doing it all (energy levels, lack of sleep, that whale of a bump). I’ve come to realise that I should listen to all the people telling me I should “rest”, and then I use the times when  I do have more energy to be productive. I hope you can find this balance, too.

Taking this time is really important to set yourself up for success in the first few weeks / months after the birth, and ready yourself mentally, as well as physically and practically, for all the changes ahead.

Here’s a list of things to shop for, along with things to do in these last few weeks before you get to meet your little one and life changes for the crazy better!

Continue reading

9 Things I Learned About Happiness from Living in Japan

japanFrom 2006 – 2010 I lived and worked in Japan; 2 years in the remote countryside and 20 months in the busy metropolis of Tokyo. The two places and experiences were so vastly different that they felt almost like living in two countries, but in both situations I observed and absorbed a lot about what can contribute to daily happiness.

This is not to say that the Japanese are a particularly happy nation; according to the 2016 World Happiness Report published by the UN each year, Japan ranks 53rd in terms of happiness sentiment amongst its population. This is quite a bit lower than the UK (23rd), Canada (6th) and the US (13th).

I can see why Japan ranks so averagely. It’s true that just observing many sectors of the population leaves you a little depressed: the middle aged man who works stressful, high pressure 16 hour days and never sees his family, the teenager who is too shy to leave his room, the woman who married too young and not for love and who was forced to give up all her hopes and dreams to attend to the house and kids. These are stereotypes, yes, but all characters I encountered frequently during my time there.

At the other end of the scale are some of the happiest, most at peace and self-aware people I’ve ever met. Many parts of the culture are just set up and designed to make you feel content. Japan is also the place where I figured out a lot about what made me happy (and quite a bit about what didn’t – perhaps I’ll save that for another time!), so without further ado, here’s my personal list of what Japan taught me about happiness.

ise-udon-696853_6401. A Passion & Gratitude for Food: No deprivation, no guilt, just real food and smaller portions. Japan has a phenomenal food scene. Despite the abundance of fish on every menu, it didn’t matter that I was a vegetarian; I still really, really enjoyed the food. It was seasonal, fresh and appreciated. When you grow up surrounded by rice farms, you know how precious and difficult to harvest each grain is. The same can be said for the fruit, vegetables and fish that make up the diet, and not a spoonful is wasted or thrown away. Each month there is a new fruit in the supermarkets to try, and my coworkers would often bring in boxes of fruit or vegetables sent from relatives elsewhere in the country. We’d all share the food and it was glorious. We all know that food can make us happy; eating healthily, seasonally and sharing food without guilt or counting calories only enhances this pleasure.

2. Bathing (and nakedness) is Great.  Continue reading

7 Tips for Finishing that Book

blur-1283865_1280Here’s something I’m a little embarrassed to admit: my novel has been in a work in progress for 6 years.

6 years!

Except really, it’s been in such fits and starts that it’s not like I’m writing War and Peace. I haven’t really been writing it for 6 years, that’s just how long it’s been in existence, mostly horribly neglected and forgotten about. In the meantime, I’ve finished 6 non-fiction books, ghostwritten a book, written countless articles and blog posts, and published 12 magazine issues.

So, it’s not for lack of time that I’ve been putting off finishing the book.

And the weird thing is, I really want to finish it! Figuring out why I can’t (or rather, don’t seem to want to) complete it has been the first step in getting into a rhythm with it again.

Me, staring at a closed book with a cup of coffee, not writing like I should be.

Figuring out the Resistance

I was on FaceTime to my dear friend Ingrid Ricks the other week, and our conversation forced me to take a step back and examine what exactly is preventing me from just getting it done. Ingrid is a New York Times Bestseller with several published books, so she’s been through the process many a time. That conversation was eye opening and fire-up-the-arse igniting, and ever since our chat, I’ve been working on it a little almost every day. Continue reading