My journal and my life

OK, I fell behind with my blogs and as mentioned in my #Day5 and didn’t have enough time to truly write down my ideal day.  What I did was copy some content from a similar exercise that I did when I first launched my business three years ago.

This was the first time for a while that I’d read what I’d written and do you know what?  I’ve achieved a fair amount of those goals as many of my days actually follow the format that I wrote about!

I do now work virtually most of the time and have regular clients; I network locally to connect with business owners and potential new customers; I’m much more active online with social media and blogging (including certain challenges) and have obtained clients in this way.  I have the freedom to work with the clients that I want to and to refuse anything that doesn’t fit with my dreams – declining a job offer for example.  It felt so liberating and right to be able to say “No!”.

So onto the next stage of living my life on my own terms as my dream has changed.  Instead of owning a lovely house and garden, I want to dogs-112519_150travel, visit beautiful places, gain new experiences and form friendships.  I identified that pet sitting was one way of achieving this without launching into a round the world backpacking trip, so I’m registered with a couple of websites.

To begin with I’ve taken on assignments within a couple of hours from my current home, but by next year I’ll be in a position to travel abroad and for longer periods of time – living my dream life 🙂

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Due to a sudden commitment and life in general, I missed Day 5 of this challenge, which is a shame as I would have loved to sit down and write about my perfect day.  No matter, I’ll do this sometime soon for my own purpose.

However, when I first began as a Virtual Assistant, I signed up for a training course and had to do a similar exercise, so thought I’d quickly copy that description rather than missing a day of the challenge.  Here is an account of my perfect day from spring 2010, which isn’t at all a bad way of spending a day at work:

It’s a sunny day and I wake up at a reasonable 7am – gone are the days of leaving the house at 7.15am to commute into the city and I feel a sense of relief. It’s a lovely sunny day and I’ll enjoy walking my dog to her favourite pond in the local woods as it’s so great to have a flexible start to my work. I turn on my PC as the kettle boils and sit with a cup of tea and cereal to quickly check my emails and be sure there’s nothing needing immediate attention. Yes, there’s contact from my clients, but nothing that has to be done straight away so I mark all the emails as ‘unread’ so I don’t miss them later. The dog is getting impatient for her walk so we are in the woods by 8am.

I can hear the faint sounds of traffic, but I’m not affected & I think that thankfully it’s not me commuting to work as I stroll through the dappled light listening to birdsong. I think how scared I was when I first launched my business, how much courage it took not to fall into the trap of accepting a full-time job, although I was tempted to. I am proud of what I’ve achieved. I knew I could do it and ensured I had the necessary Hayley dogtraining to educate myself into thinking like a business owner. Most people I knew didn’t know what a VA was and I had to find the determination to continue. I surrounded myself with positive people who could encourage me and boy, did I grow. I knew I deserved to be paid my worth and no way would that have happened if I worked for an employer! I mouth my power words that kept me going “BELIEF”, “CONFIDENCE”, “SUCCESS” and “FREEDOM”.

It’s going to be hot day so with a weary wet dog, we return home. My house has tall spacious rooms & my office is downstairs at the back overlooking the garden. The old fashioned French doors are open and I can hear the bees buzzing on my lavender plants in my herb garden just outside. A quick sweep of my hands over the flowers releases their scent to add to the smell of fresh mown grass. In the distance there’s the sound of a lawn mower as my gardener cuts the grass. I can also hear the birds singing in the trees. Indoors there’s the faint sound of a vacuum cleaner as my cleaner goes about her job. I feel contented that I don’t have to do these tasks myself, it gives me more spare time and is a measure of my success that I can now afford to employ people “to do” for me, this is real luxury.

My office is decorated in cream, taupe & duck egg blue, my favourite restful colours with a large soft cream rug. There’s an open fire-place too as I have a real fire in winter when it’s icy outside – how fantastic that I don’t have to leave the house to work in inclement weather, no commuting – bliss! The furniture is a mix of old and new as I sit on a comfy swivel chair which supports my back – gone are the tension knots in my shoulders (helped in some part by the regular massages I have). With my team of Associate VAs, I have a very good income and I could probably even reduce my hours, but I’m a workaholic, always have been, although for a long time expending my energy into someone else’s business and success. Now I work full-time, but can juggle my hours to enjoy time out too as I’m able to knock off early then complete work into the evening or weekend if I choose. Choice, that’s it! I could work 9-5 if I wanted and some weeks I do, but to be able to choose not to without any loss of income – wow.

The computer is humming as I sip fresh coffee and re-check the emails. There’s some ongoing work to do for regular clients and also some new enquiries. A radio plays quietly in the background. My phone rings and it’s a regular client with a query I can resolve quickly and easily. I feel satisfied and even a little smug – this is the life! My clients are mostly sole traders and charity CEOs and I manage diaries and emails; organise meetings and travel; format and proof read reports; produce presentations and newsletters; update websites and undertake research; process new orders and send out invoices – all tasks I can do with my laptop, phone and access to an internet connection.

For lunch I’m looking forward to a fresh salad of seasonal veg, ham and cheese from the food boxes I have delivered from a local producer. I’ve a steady days work to do, then later I’m having my hair done at my regular hairdressers before meeting friends for a meal at our favourite restaurant. There’s a new car parked outside – something economical, eco-friendly and trendy and I’m so relieved that I can now afford all these things without planning, scrimping and worrying. I earn more than I did in any of my paid employment and my income steadily increases as business is good. This means that I can make impulse buys, treat myself to luxuries and go out on spec (work commitments allowing) without having to consider whether I can afford it or if something breaks down and needs repairing or replacing, I have the money to immediately do so. I have savings in the bank, can save regularly, pay my insurances and towards a pension so I can have an income during the quiet times or if I’m ill and be certain of affording a comfortable retirement.

Tomorrow I’ve an early business breakfast meeting, but it doesn’t scare me any more as I’m more than confident in myself, the success of my business and my good reputation to really promote myself without fear. I can even stand up and give a longer speech if necessary as I know what I say is worthwhile and informative. I’m more than happy to talk to people just starting out and it’s such a satisfying feeling to help them along their own way to success. The VA community was excellent for promoting this – where else do you have a network of like minded professionals dedicated to collaboration and sharing? I’m so proud to be a part of it.
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I guess that  I earn a living whilst being location independent as I can work anywhere with a decent wifi and mobile signal.  This morning after a breakfast meeting, I chose to stay in the hotel and work rather than coming straight home.  It was certainly much more interesting as I found myself in the midst of wedding preparations as chairs were set out, tables decorated and guests arrived.  It’s my choice where I settle myself with my laptop and my clients don’t need know where I am so long as I answer emails and phone calls and their work is done, although it may be different if I was in a completely different time zone.

But I also believe that location independent is a mindset, it’s feeling comfortable, contented and in control no-matter where you are.  Some people don’t like a change to their routine as it reduces their confidence and they function less well whilst others find a change of scenery improves their creativity.  It’s also about grasping every new opportunity and being prepared to change plans unexpectedly – some of my best days and most memorable experiences have been when I’ve changed my mind on a sudden whim.back-23788_150

What about being so location independent that you have no fixed abode?  Although I don’t have a house full of expensive furniture and the latest gadgets because they don’t particularly matter to me, I’m not sure how I’d feel not having a home to come back to.  It would certainly be an interesting test to see exactly how much I’d actually need to not only survive, but to be contented enough with.

Perhaps time to make a list – mobile, laptop, lip salve, sun block, Kindle …….

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Freedom in business means being able to choose how and where you earn a living.  Some of the time I can work sitting in the garden or my favourite cafe, even on the bus or in the car park whilst I wait between meetings.  Of course modern technology enables me to do this, it would have been more difficult a few years ago, but that’s why it’s so great to embrace all the IT available.

I’ve been offered a job recently and working for myself gave me the freedom to say “No”!  I think I’ve moved on too far to be able to settle in one office, probably being told what to do.  Every day I wake and choose what I’ll do, how I’ll do it, how much time I’ll spend working and from where – now that’s freedom to me.

What about adventure in life?  Now life’s an adventure from start to finish and for most people that doesn’t have to mean climbing Mount Everest or sailing the Atlantic!  Developing my business is an adventure for me; turning up at networking meetings at silly-o’clock not knowing anyone but beginning new friendships; teaching myself how to write a blog, then build a website – SEO’s the next challenge.

Walking my dog and getting out and about into the countryside, exploring new places; trudging through the snow at midnight; going out with friends; getting lost and finding new places; shopping for a mother-of-the bride outfit are all adventures.  Holiday adventures that I bore my friends with – missing the flight home when the hire car was impounded; grabbing someone else’s luggage from the airport carousel; getting locked into a municipal park with high gates and climbing the castle wall to escape!

It’s my ambition to travel further and experience more, but I feel I have the ability to find enjoyment and adventure in most aspects of life as little things amuse me and make me happy.

Life is good!

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If I woke up tomorrow and were free to do anything you wanted with my life, what would I do and who would I be?

The easiest part of the question above to answer is that I’d still be me!  Yes, I’ve made some blunders in my life and with hindsight, like most of us, I’d do a fair amount differently.  However, I try not to live with guilt or regret, I accept what happened and move forward, hopefully a better person from from what I’ve experienced and learned.

So who am I?  A business owner with an ambition to become 100% virtual and as a Virtual PA, I’m on my way.  Before I discovered The Suitcase Entrepreneur, I’d decided I wanted to travel the world, a decision which was prompted by a big change to my lifestyle.  I’d explored Virtual Assistance for a while as my husband wanted to live abroad and we would still need to earn a living.  Then my marriage broke down and my husband moved out two weeks after I was made redundant.  Left with a mortgage, I could have looked for another full-time job, but took the decision to sell up, split the proceeds and use the savings to become self-employed and start my business.

That was more than three years ago and I’ve grown so much, have improved in confidence and learned an incredible amount.  I like who I am and wake up every morning looking forward to working with my clients.1043964_10201469838176661_48724744_n

I had toyed with the idea of using my savings to buy a round the world ticket and travel, when a random internet search revealed pet-sitting sites and there was my solution!  Pet loving owners around the world need someone to care for their pets in their own homes from a few days to months on end.  I’ve started to do this in the UK around my on-site client commitments, but am looking forward to travelling further afield, meeting some fantastic people and exploring the area where they live.

Even if money was no object, I can never imagine not working and in that instance would most probably volunteer, but I’m happy with who I am and where my life and ambition is leading me – what about you?

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As mentioned in a previous post, some of my days are filled with dog walking & working with very little of consequence to photograph or write about.  So today, I looked through my past photos & came across these beauties – aaaah, kittens!

Kittens

Last year I received a phone call from my daughter who lives in an apartment in a city 25 miles away.  It was gone midnight & she woke me to panic about a cat in the car park who was following them, mewling pitifully.  After a lengthy conversation of me reasoning with her to leave it outside as it would most probably have a home.  If not, no doubt it would still be there to be rescued in the morning. My parting comment to her & her boyfriend was “You’ll only do what you want anyway!”

Kittens

Lo & behold, the following day they had a cat in an apartment where no pets were allowed.  The vet pronounced it a female in good health if a little thin & Sarah posted adverts hoping to find puss-cat’s owner.  She was saddened to receive many calls from people who had lost their cats, but not this one.

Kittens & mum

Meanwhile she became fond of this friendly black & white cutie, but was going on holiday abroad….  Mum, of course, borrowed a cat travel case & fetched kitty home.  Unfortunately although she was affectionate with people, she terrorised both our existing Chloe-cat & Hayley-dog.

But Sookie, as she was quickly named, thrived growing sleeker & fatter – too fat really with a round tummy.  Yep, this stray had obviously been thrown out because she was pregnant!  I was living with my son & daughter-in-law & they were delighted at the thought of kittens – they weren’t disappointed as you can see.

3 kittens needing a home

Post #34 Winter Swim

This is where Hayley should have been, but there she was – gone!

Pleasley Woods

Entering woods from a different direction, I’d forgotten that this path led to an open glade, complete with a pond.  Hayley hadn’t forgotten – she’s a labrador water diviner – I’m sure her dad must have been a seal, her mum an otter.  As she suffers with hip dysplasia, I tend to keep her away from water in winter, but by the time I reached her, she’d actually broken through a thin layer of ice & done this:

A pond full of logs

Hayley has a mission, she has to rescue any branch or log drowning in the water & will amuse herself for ages retrieving pieces of wood, even submerging her head completely to reach them as they bob under water.  There was a large log that proved particularly difficult as it’s girth was too big for her jaws & all she ended up doing was spinning it round & round. So frustrating 🙂

Winter pond

After a good roll in the grass, she selects her favourite branch from the newly rescued wood pile & patiently carries it back to the car.  She’s never happy to leave it behind, but if brought home, she’d set to & shred the wood into little pieces with her teeth.

Carrying a favourite stick home

We have a routine once home, I have to sit down with Hayley on my lap for the first half hour of her exhaustion, otherwise, she follows me round & won’t settle.

One of my favourite walks close to home is on a former colliery site, now a country park & one of many in the area.  These sites are great for dog walkers & cyclists, but their existence means the mines, industry & employment has gone, which is sad.

These parks have great views as you’re actually walking on the pit tip, the slag heap of waste left behind when the mines were dug out.  There’s little nutrient in the great mounds of grey shale, so only hardy grass & scrubby bushes can survive.  It’s not at all suitable for crops, but sheep often graze & there were some woolly brown ones enjoying the sunshine today.  It was a parky morning, clear & bright but icy cold, frosty underfoot so not too muddy.

Brown Woolly Sheep

I love the evidence of history that can be viewed, a full 360 degree panorama from the top of the hill.  Looking east over the top of my house, there’s at least two coal fired power stations on the horizon – the steam from the cooling towers indicating the direction of the wind.  Moving southwards & focusing a little closer, there’s a small valley with the towers of a former textile mill peeping above the trees.  The cotton mills were initially powered by the river Meden which had cut through the limestone & created the vale.  Later they were steam powered, fueled by coal from the mine, delivered by rail & it’s still possible to walk part of the route.  The old mills have been featured on the Most Haunted programme.

Notts Derbys Border

Moving on, just below the horizon & again higher than the trees of Sherwood Forest, the pair of headstocks from the former Clipstone Colliery can be seen.  The workshops were demolished when the pit closed, but the headstocks left intact as a historical monument, although a local MP now wants the land redeveloped.

Pleasley & Hardwick

Continuing south west & the five modern wind turbines featured in my post #5 can be seen on the horizon – no steam from these clean machines!  Further westwards & Hardwick New Hall nestles above the trees.  A grand Elizabethan house built by Elizabeth, Dowager Countess of Shrewsbury – Bess of Hardwick, a magnificent woman who outlived four husbands & amassed their wealth.

I love period dramas & fondly remember Upstairs Downstairs (the original), but more recently I’ve been avidly watching the award winning Downton Abbey.  There’s lots of programmes & series made for UK terrestrial TV, but rarely is there something of pure quality.

Downton Abbey DVD

The storyline is similar to Upstairs Downstairs, following an upper-class family & their servants.  Both groups have their life problems & family disputes which draw in the viewer, but there’s also the interaction between the classes.  Living so closely together, especially as the servants tended to stay in post for years, they would have been involved in each others’ lives.  The loyal servants would have been privy to sensitive information or witness to scandalous events. However, I’m sure the servants’ lives would have been much harder than that portrayed in Downton Abbey, as they do seem to have a fair amount of spare time.

I love the ladies’ fashions of course & the gradual changes from the structured corseted outfits of the Edwardian era, to the softer flapper dresses after the first world war. The change in attitudes is also featured – the beginning of the end of the upstairs downstairs lifestyle.

Although Downton Abbey is set in Yorkshire, it’s filmed at Highclere Castle in Hampshire, home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. It’s fascinating to watch behind the scenes documentary, to learn of the fine attention to historical detail & see interviews of the cast & their stories of filming in such a grand location.  The present Countess of Carnarvon has also written a book about Lady Almina, the 5th Countess who lived at Highclere at the same time Downton Abbey is set.

Highclere Castle

I haven’t taken the photos today as I’ve had a busy day working, end of month invoicing for a client.  But there’s two news stories that made me smile over the last couple of days.  People randomly having good luck & possibly coming into large amounts of cash – how absolutely wonderful for them 🙂

A retired couple in Northumberland had been planting pansies in a 2,000 year old Roman coffin for 30 years!  An ornate marble sarcophagus was sat in the garden of the house they bought in 1982 & not listed in the deeds – I wonder if the vendors have watched the news?  It’s apparently almost identical to another Roman sarcophagus in the Galleria Lapidaria in the Vatican & may be worth as much as £100,000 – brilliant!

Sarcophagus

Then today, the news reported a man & his dog had found whale vomit on Morcambe beach, also possibly worth £100k!  The hard lump of ambergris is used in the perfume industry, especially in very high-end scents.  How on earth did anyone discover that fact?

Sperm Whale Vomit - Ambergris

The foul smelling substance is secreted by sperm whales, possibly to protect their intestines from he irritation caused by the beaks of their prey, squid & cuttlefish.  Once vomited, the ambergris can float around in the sea for years, gradually hardening & developing a sweet smell.

Well, I’ve learned two pieces of trivia – what ambergris is used for, & rather morbidly, that sarcophagus means “flesh-eater” in Greek.

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