Category Archives: Life Issues/ Motivational Posts

An Interview With Adio

Adio is a new health and wellness portal that is the brainchild of my guests this week – Jess Braid and Xandra Middleton. These lovely ladies are sisters and both are doctors – Xandra is a doctor of chiropractic and Jess is a trained NHS doctor who specialises in treating patients using alternative health approaches including nutrition, Chinese medicine, etc. I caught up with the busy sisters to find out more about their venture! Hi ladies ….

[Jess} Hi, we’re Drs Jess Braid and Xandra Middleton. We’re sisters, best friends and the founders of Adio! Xandra is a doctor of chiropractic and I’m a former NHS doctor, now IFM (Institute of Functional Medicine) practitioner, qualified Chinese and Western herbalist, acupuncturist, kinesiologist and homeopath.

What inspired you to set up your new health & wellness portal “Adio”?

[Xandra] We own a busy chiropractic and natural health clinic in Cheshire and have treated thousands of patients for well over a decade. But there are only two of us and so many people who we would love to be able to benefit from our approach to wellness. So we set up Adio to empower everyone to take control of their health and to create a community where our members can connect, grow, share and learn together.

What are the benefits of becoming a member of Adio?

[Jess] Through an affordable monthly subscription, our members have unlimited access to a vast resource library of content tailored to 8 zones of health. Whether you’re browsing the Gut Health & Digestion zone for ways to improve your IBS, the Family & Pet Health zone for tips on how to get your kids to eat more vegetables or heading to the Immune System & Infection zone for ways to boost your immunity, you’ll find a wealth of articles, courses, quizzes and webinars. You can participate in yoga or mindfulness classes, learn how to get better sleep or look after your gut heath. You can even enrol for free in Adio’s ground-breaking programmes – Refresh, my revolutionary 30 day “food as medicine” reset and Xandra’s posture transformation programme, Realign.
As a valued member of our community, you can post status updates, ask for recommendations, offer advice and join specific forums where members can support each other. Our members also benefit from exclusive discounts on Adio’s own powerful multivitamin and Plant+ adaptogen supplements that are pure, eco-friendly and perfectly balanced.
[Xandra} A big part of Adio is about giving back. As we grow, we will give more and more of our profits to good causes and establish Adio as a not-for-profit trust. In the shorter term, we are donating 10% of membership profits to ten charities that are close to our hearts and we encourage our members to get involved too – their participation in our community earns them coins, which generate donations. We also partner with Ecologi so member interactions also convert to more trees being planted!

Monte, Madeira © Linda Hobden

Jess, as you are a trained NHS doctor who specialises in treating people using alternative health approaches including nutrition, Chinese medicine etc what common health conditions have had new approaches which incorporate alternative medicine?

[Jess] We appreciate many different approaches to health, from ancient traditional Chinese medicine practised for several thousand years to the latest scientific research and credible thinking. All our articles are backed by citations, references and other sources. We also share our own remedies, taken from home life and our clinical experience. Published research on the gut microbiome exploded in 2012 and turned our understanding of health on its head. Now thousands of clinical studies all point to the same conclusion, that nearly all long-term health problems will have a root cause in gut health – a truly mind-blowing fact.

Xandra, as a doctor of chiropractic, what ways can Adio membership be of benefit to your patients?

 [Xandra] Looking after our joints, muscles and spine is as crucial to our physical and mental health as diet and exercise. My Structure & Movement toolkit in Adio highlights the importance of good posture, mobility and balance and teaches our members how to use movement, fitness and nutrition to heal themselves. My Realign programme shows you how to take control of joint or muscle problems and how, from dedicating just a few minutes a day, you can transform your posture and eliminate those aches and pains for good.

© Linda Hobden

How is Adio funded?

[Jess] Adio is funded entirely by the affordable monthly subscription fee. We do not take payments, sponsorships or incentives for promotion. Anything we recommend is because we have genuinely used it and loved it, not because we were paid to say so!

Adio members are encouraged to take part in conversations and courses on Adio – what health areas seem to be most discussed at the moment?

[Jess] Immunity is definitely a hot topic at the moment and due to the pandemic, more and more people are looking for answers on how to stay well and how to look after their physical and mental wellbeing. So our Immune System & Infection zone is a fantastic starting place for members to dive in and learn more. Plus our popular yoga and mindfulness classes provide the perfect environment for people to feel safe, calm and grounded. 

As you are based in UK, is Adio available to subscribers overseas?

[Xandra] Yes absolutely, Adio is a global brand! The desire for optimal health is universal and the vast number of ways we can all take control of our own wellbeing translate to every corner of the world.

© Linda Hobden

Growing up, did you have career aspirations in the medical field or something entirely different?

[Jess] We grew up surrounded by alternative medicines and therapies. Grandad taught us about plants and herbs, Grandma taught us homeopathy, Mum showed us all about massage and essential oils and Dad was a chiropractor. So it was inevitable really!Our careers have seen us venture off to explore different healthcare paths and travel different routes in our personal lives, but we have always stayed close. These days, we work together virtually every day, live nearby and we both share a vision for what we hope Adio can become. Our shared values and beliefs about what make effective healthcare and the things that can make for a better planet have become central to what we do.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

[Xandra] We’re always keen to support sustainable and ethical brands like Sezane and Giesswein. Jess and I have just got two gorgeous black labrador puppies so at the moment, it’s hoodies and wellies for us a lot of the time! I love Emblazed, a local screen-printing company that embroider all our clinic and Adio sweatshirts that are 100% organic. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)

We love Naturisimo’s range of natural, organic beauty products and skincare

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

[Jess] Xandra has actually just bought me some Muck boots for Christmas after years of telling me how good hers were…..and she wasn’t wrong! They’ve got a memory foam sole so they’re super comfortable and warm and the neoprene means they’re really easy to get on and off. Now I’ve got my eye on a colourful spring shirt from Baukjen.

Boots or Shoes?

[Xandra] You’ll find us both in Veja trainers in the summer for the comfort and support. And at the clinic, Jess lives in her Rothys pumps, made from recycled materials. In the winter, my go-to boots are Timberland and Jess loves her Danish Duckfeet!

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Adio.

www.adio.orgwww.instagram.com/adio_health

https://www.facebook.com/Adiofamily/

Great to talk to you both about your exciting plans for this informative health portal!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Adio , apart from the photographs marked in the article which are by Linda Hobden.

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Being Lean

”Lean” is a well known and scientifically proven idea that has transformed businesses for decades – a methodology for focusing on what is really important. According to my guest this week – Lean business expert Michelle Leong – Being Lean means living efficiently and not wasting time, energy and money on the unimportant. I caught up with Michelle recently to find out more about Being Lean. Hi Michelle!

Hello! I’m Michelle. I’m a self-confessed Lean fanatic & dedicated Lean practitioner with almost 20 years’ experience in changing people’s lives and businesses for the better. I am a very health-conscious keen traveller, a monumental food & drinks fan and it may be a midlife crisis thing but I make every effort to look good for myself all the time.  My quest for perfection in living life to the fullest makes my staunch advocacy and adoption of Lean in everyday life inevitable & necessary. 

Your book, “Being Lean”, is truly inspirational. What made you decide to write your book in the first place?

Actually, Being Lean is the result of my laziness and impatience about doing things twice or taking the long way around. It is basically all about how I increase productivity of my fun time. I hate housework, I hate exercising, I like, but don’t love work. This book is 20 years of how I managed to do lesser of what I don’t enjoy AND still get the same if not better results. 

I was already naturally organised, I’m a keen planner, I’m a fantastic time manager but it was only when I started using Lean as a methodology & a structured approach, that I realised that all this time, I’ve been so effective in wasting my time & effort. I was basically just tidying up clutter, when clutter is clutter no matter how neat they are.

I’m a terrible person. I remember secretly judging my colleagues & peers, all those years, for not being truly Lean. I felt they only do it at work, like switching the lights on & off. Outside of work, I remember thinking “what process slobs” they are 😜! I’ve been collecting scribbles & thoughts along the way, knowing I had to put it on paper in a structured manner…to boast about my processes if anything! I only actually sat down to write this book at lockdown.

Lean  is a well known and scientifically proven idea  – a methodology for focusing on what is really important, and being lean means living efficiently, using time and energy and money effectively … when did you first realise this empowerment that being lean can have over businesses and life in general? 

Lean has been around & popularised here in the West by the car manufacturing industry since the very early 90s. Thanks to discovering Lean 10 years later for my work in construction that I’ve been living Lean for almost 20 years. I started consciously applying the methodology “Doing Lean” for work mainly but once I got my Lean glasses on, it felt applicable to all processes including outside of work. Gradually, I evolved to doing Lean outside of work and since then evolved again to “Being Lean” i.e. naturally rather than contrived.

Your book is jammed pack with hints and situations which will help to apply the lean approach in all aspects of life – workplace, wardrobe, home life, travel food and health- even down to sorting your laundry! I was quite pleased to see that my method of sorting out washing  being endorsed!  Were there any aspects of writing “Being Lean” that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected? 

I realised that applying Lean to work is SO much easier. There are many relevant examples and much expertise out there for us to learn from and even duplicate. At the same time, we are held accountable for our productivity and quality of work so we do it more consistently as it is necessary for our livelihood. We push ourselves more and we try harder. Whereas, privately, we only have to account to ourselves. There are no immediate consequences, or if there are, we deem them to be of less magnitude as time loss is less apparent than the loss of cold hard cash from a paycheque. Hence, application of Lean outside of work is so much less consistent. I am actually surprised after-the-fact that I have enough to structure this book in a coherent and hopefully, easy to follow way. When I finished it, I felt incredibly lucky that I had been doing Lean for such a long time and so consistently that I was able to follow through, fill out that many chapters and achieve the flow. 

You have been advising businesses on lean practices for 20 years and you were part of the team that introduced lean to the construction industry in a government funded Construction  Lean Improvement Programme (CLIP).  What sort of lean recommendations were introduced?

We started from scratch with Construction. Everyone was strongly sceptical. CLIP offered the industry free consultancy & lean projects hoping to get wide uptake of the thinking & practice. We went out touting companies to apply Lean to their construction projects. Construction teams are dynamic & they change with each project so you can imagine how difficult it is to achieve sustainable organisational results. You keep starting from scratch with each new project, teaching them the theory & methodology then applying it practically on site – learning by doing. We persevered & slowly noticed the difference when project percentages slowly evolved from 90% on building sites & 10% in boardrooms to 50%-50%. This meant the industry was starting to adopt the Lean approach of looking at the bigger picture, doing a diagnostic i.e., identifying waste in the process & doing the business case of prioritising where best to invest in improvement efforts. It’s always leaner eliminating waste further upfront the process when they aren’t as big, before they snowball & become more expensive problems down the line i.e., manifests when you are actually constructing the building. 

What aspects of Being Lean did you personally find hardest to adopt and adapt into your own lifestyle?  What aspects did you find easiest to incorporate?

As human beings, we rotate towards the easiest to do. For me, with Lean, it was a gradual process. It started out with huge concerted effort to learn & then to do. But with each effort, like everything one does, it got easier & the interest grew because the benefits prevailed & I wanted to know more. It became a challenge to be better at it & a lifestyle and quest to make as much of my processes leaner. Suddenly, I’ve become anal retentive, which I take as a compliment. I have to say it is a creep process & still creeping! Unlike weight creeping up with age, this is a positive creep from flexing & using the Lean muscle. I just transitioned from consciously Doing Lean to Being Lean. I ended up getting flow in my processes without thinking about it. I see waste & combat them bit by bit, it’s no effort for me but might be a crazy effortful to a beginner. Whatever my processes are now, it’s taken 20 years of Being Lean. I’ve even process mapped my relationship, doing risk analysis to look for issues & their impacts. I use root cause analysis to manage my “flare-ups” to maintain that precious relationship. I’ve just celebrated my 31st year anniversary with my husband 🥰😎.

Growing up, what career aspirations did you have?

I was born in Singapore & became a “Singapore Girl” (flight stewardess) very young at 18 so never “had time” to aspire to be anything else. I regretted not going into higher education then as there was no such thing as mature student in Singapore in those days. Once the opportunity passed you by, it’s gone! Thankfully I met my husband & got a second chance when I moved to Sweden in the very early 90s. I learnt the language & took the university entrance exam & never looked back. It is thanks to this, that life led me to Lean. 

Is “Being Lean”  available to purchase worldwide?

The book is available for sale on Amazon & many bookshops like Waterstones online. On the Being Lean website, the hardcopy is available worldwide, IF one is willing to pay postage at cost. The e-book is available on the website for download wherever you are in the world & the audiobook is underway and will be available on the website soon.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

When applying Lean Thinking to our Health. Lean states that ill-health & bad lifestyle are defects in a System, our System. Whether it is self-inflicted or due to circumstances or environment, the point here is not to blame but to find out why. What are the wastes & what are the root causes? If we apply the methodology & use the Waste Glasses, we will get a diagnostic of the causes of these defects so we can work on preventing or managing them. I’ve worked really hard on my health & fitness. As an outcome of Being Lean, I’ve been fasting & lifting heavy weights for the past 10 years. I am at my tippest-toppest condition having just turned 50 this year and planning to keep it that way.

I adopt the Lean visual management tool to maintain status. My wardrobe has been designed to induce my correct behaviour. I no longer have baggy clothes that allow me to hide the consequences of long-term unhealthy living or bad choices, whether this is food, fitness or the mental confidence to rock an outfit. I only wear snug clothes to restrict the amount I can indulge in. Snug clothing visually displays quickly and obviously when I over indulge in one meal but also when I have been lax over a longer period. This triggers me to rein things back. My reward for the consistency is looking & feeling strong & powerful.

I have been wearing a LBD (little black dress), benchmarking (a Lean tool) for my 40th, 45th & 50th birthday. We’ll see if it fits on my 55th!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I used to shop quantity above quality & have loads of unused clothes that I’m still going through. Nowadays, I only shop online and for specific style/design that I know flatters me and I never follow trends. I’ve taken on board the Lean concept of modular dressing i.e., having a few different basic accessories & layers of clothing, mixing/matching & getting triple the look from them to suit all occasion & seasons. I’ve got a few websites bookmarked including The Outnet, Joli Closet, TK Maxx, Selfridges (when on sale), occasionally ASOS etc. and charities like Sea Shepherd, which don’t have much of what I want to wear but I buy for presents periodically to give them support. 

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I’ve got more clothes & shoes enough to wear a different outfit every day of the week! But I’m also a huge accessories person so I’ve got a couple of items on my wish list currently including a Gucci Lionhead gold-toned brass and bead ring & Maje’s Precious Day of the Week ring.

Boots or Shoes?

I’m a wedge (ankle & knee) boots for autumn/winter & wedge sandals for summer, kind of gal. Wedge being key because it started with me having plantar fasciitis from training too much and not being able to wear flat shoes. Now I can’t be without them because they are very Being Lean! It allows me to not compromise on “quality” as they are comfortable, looks good (feminine the way I like it) & gives me the height to make me look tall & slender. I can walk on wedges for hours on a glorious fun London shopping day out! I’ve got 3 colours of the same Hush Puppies wedge sandals that are very comfortable.

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

Personal Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011056549136

Being Lean Website: https://beinglean.net

Being Lean Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/beinglean.net

LeanPac Website: https://www.leanpac.co.uk

LeanPac Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/LeanPaccouk-1614091645336481

LinkedIn Page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-leong-94837918/

My thanks to Michelle for agreeing to be interviewed and to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity for a copy of Michelle’s book “Being Lean”. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Michelle Leong (apart from the Pinterest & header pics which are by Linda Hobden)

Linda x

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Spotlight On IDD Therapy

IDD Therapy – “Intervertebral Differential Dynamics” is the fastest growing non-surgical spinal treatment with over 1000 clinics worldwide – 34 of them in the UK alone. I talk to Michael Furlong, an osteopath for over 20 years and Clinic Director at Balance Health Centre in Liverpool. Michael is passionate about spine care and so is the perfect person to answer my questions about IDD Therapy and back pain in general. Hi Michael and welcome! 😊

Hello 😊 My name is Michael Furlong. I am 55 years old and have been a registered osteopath since 1999. I have two sons and the younger is also training as an osteopath, and two cockapoos: Bobby and Dexter.

What are the common causes of back pain?

The most common causes of back pain I see regularly are predominately muscular skeletal lower lumbar sacro-iliac with related disc problems. This then causes symptoms throughout the body causing knock-on compensatory symptoms. 

Why is it important to get treatment as soon as possible for back pain, neck pain & sciatica? 

It is important to seek help immediately once you are in pain. If you leave it too long, the problem becomes chronic. Chronic pain basically means the problem has been there for 6 months and longer. 

That means you have been living with pain for a long time, this becomes harder to treat and takes more time to improve due to compensatory changes in the body.

There does seem to be an order for back pain. The patient will try medication, then their GP, who will refer to a physiotherapist, then the client will try acupuncture and / or sports massage. Then they end up at the last chance saloon, which is me. This pattern only changes once the person has attended my clinic.

One of the treatments you offer is IDD Therapy – what is this treatment?

IDD is a non-invasive spinal disc treatment. Basically, it means non-surgical spinal decompression! In other words, it’s a very specific scientific traction that works on a particular segment of the spine and not just general traction. This allows the discs to heal naturally in a controlled, safe way.

IDD has been a revelation for me personally. I discovered IDD after I had a disc problem causing complete numbness from my knee down into my whole foot. I attended the Buxton clinic where Phil sat with me, explained everything and recommended two sessions a week, with a minimum of 10.

Every session there was an improvement until I had feeling back. Amazingly, I had so much more movement in my spine that I actually started laughing in my yoga session at the increase.

Who are the typical candidates that you would recommend for IDD Therapy?

Typically, a candidate for IDD needs an up-to-date MRI scan. This will show up people with trapped nerves, bulging discs and arthritic changes in the lumbar spine causing bony growths known as spurs which pinch the nerves. Age is not a factor. I have had 20-year-olds up to 90-year-olds. As long as it’s safe to do so, you can treat anyone.

Although you are based in England, is IDD therapy available to use throughout the UK and worldwide?

IDD is becoming a worldwide phenomenon. In the UK it is becoming widely available, with more clinics adding this amazing treatment to their new and established clinics.

 You have been an osteopath for over 20 years – have you always wanted to be an osteopath or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere?

When I was younger I was a youth player with a professional football club. I received an injury that effectively stopped me from playing. Quite simply, it was an injury that wasn’t diagnosed properly. After 3 years of incredible pain I ended up at the door of an incredible osteopath, who not only diagnosed my problem but eventually relieved the suffering.

That was it! I wanted to be an osteopath. There was no internet or mobile phones to research courses but, after a few years, I eventually got accepted into Oxford Brookes. I have never looked back. I love my job and I am learning new things constantly. 

Apart from IDD, what other treatments do you recommend for back pain?

Apart from IDD I truly believe that any therapy that helps you personally has a place in treatment. Obviously, I am an osteopath but physiotherapists and chiropractors all do incredible work. Massage and acupuncture both work. I am a firm believer of prevention, so yoga, Pilates and tai chi are also high on my recommended to do list.

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I am from Liverpool, so there seems to be a uniform ethic with clothes. The influx of students brings an amazing, eclectic style.

During the week, for getting to work and dog walking, I am a North Face Berghaus style; comfortable weather proof. I love North Face reaction t-shirts.

At weekends, its more jeans or chinos, but definitely Hugo Boss. I love their fit and the quality is very good.

I am a bit off a coat freak. I have way, way too many coats but I love to layer my coats when I can.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I am always amused, every year how a fashion brand can update the good old polo t shirt. I have tried so many styles, but Hugo Boss fits me perfectly. Ralph Lauren and Sunspot do nice polos.

When it comes to sunglasses, Oliver Peoples does amazing designs and Persol always look classy.

Online, I use a site called Thread. They give you a personal shopper and tend to style for age, I have bought from them a few items.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I have just ordered a nice Harrington jacket from, again for layering and am getting into new balance trainers. They do some nice designs for the older person.

Boots or shoes?

Boots all day. I love Ben Sherman desert boots and have 4 pairs in all colours. They look amazing and feel amazing. I like the lightweight Timberland boot for everyday wear.

Links:

www.balancehealthcentre.co.uk

www.iddtherapy.co.uk

Web: http://iddtherapy.co.uk/

Facebook: IDD Therapy Europe

Twitter: https://twitter.com/IDDTherapyDisc

Thank you for explaining all about IDD Therapy, Michael, and it is really a privilege to meet a coat freak !!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Michael Furlong / IDD Therapy UK

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Spotlight on NABAS

Party season is fast approaching and if you are looking to decorate your party room with balloons and other event accessories then who better to give advice than NABAS – The Balloon And Party Professionals Association – the only registered trade association for the balloon and party industry in the UK. I caught up with current chairman, George Oustayiannis… hello George and welcome…

Hello! I’m George Oustayiannis and the current Chairman of NABAS, and Director at GO International, the UK’s leading importer and wholesaler for everything party!

What is the story behind setting up of NABAS?

NABAS was set up almost 35 years ago (2022 will be our 35th Anniversary). All the leading manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and decorators came together to form a non-profit association, run for the members, for the members, with a number of benefits. It was created to be a voice for the industry.

What would you say are the pros of hiring, say a balloon professional that is a registered member of NABAS?

 Without doubt, the knowledge that a NABAS member is insured, and that they have a network of over 650 members willing and able to help and support them.

What perks does being a NABAS member offer a balloon and party specialist?

The ability to network with your peers, as well as having access to leading manufacturers, wholesalers and balloon decorators. We also have dedicated team of NABAS approved instructors, as well as the most comprehensive insurance on the market.

Apart from being Chairman of NABAS, what specialist balloon & party profession are you in?

I’m also on the Board of Directors for The Impact Group – an invitation only organisation of the UK’s leading wholesalers.

Have you always wanted a career in the balloon/party professional spectrum or did you have other aspirations?

As the eldest son of a very traditional Greek family, I had two choices. I could be a lawyer or a doctor.  But if I wasn’t that bright, they’d settle for accountant. I actually started in law, and became a city broker, and was the youngest divisional director for one of the city’s leading firms. But my wife decided I didn’t want to be a broker anymore! I’m afraid I took away my parents “Church Bragging Rights” with the “What does you son do for a living?” question.

What advice would you give to anybody thinking of starting up as a balloon and party  professional?

Join NABAS! The wealth of knowledge and support is unparalleled.


Personal now, what outfits/footwear would you normally wear when in “party mode”?

As casual as the host allows. I spent far too many of my earlier years in a suit and tie. I try and avoid fancy dress, and only ever looked remotely acceptable as Batman, because I could hide my true identity behind a mask!

Boots Or Shoes?

Shoes, as a Piscean, I hate any kind of footwear and  can’t wait to go barefoot! Shoes are so much easier to kick off, or quickly put on when need be!

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can learn more about NABAS

www.nabas.co.uk  

www.gointernational.co.uk 

Thank you George for chatting to us today. Let’s hope the parties can go ahead as safely and as healthy as possible this year!

Linda x

All photographs (apart from the Pinterest and header pic ) have been published with kind permission of NABAS.

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An Interview With Meee

Not an interview with me but an interview with Sid Madge, founder of Meee (My Education Employment Enterprise) ! To date, Meee has transformed the lives of over 20,000 people, from leaders of PLCs and SMEs to parents, teachers, students, carers, the unemployed and prison inmates. That is a lot of people! I caught up to Sid to find out more about Meee ….Hi Sid and welcome 😊

Hi, my name is Sid Madge. 


What made you decide to launch Meee (My Education Employment Enterprise)?

I started the Meee program after I was giving a talk in a school in Wales to a group of young teenagers. I asked them to describe themselves using one word. 

The first lad I asked answered “weirdo”. I smiled and said well what a great word, so creative. And he said, “No I’m bullied, I don’t like being at school, don’t see the point in education and don’t like learning”. I was horrified. I went round the rest of the class andothers used words such as freak, misfit and weirdo.

That session had a profound effect on me, so I did some research on young people and mental health. I started running workshops in schools with teachers and then worked with the unemployed and people in prison. I did a Tedx Talk and wrote my first book and followed up with two more.

My belief that this really could work, grew.

We started working with businesses and we’ve had tens of thousands of people through our programmes. We’re developing specific tools for personal development, and professional development around leadership, around culture. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m very grateful.

I guess your job isn’t an easy one as some people’s aversion to change is not that easy to solve! What sort of reasons hinder their adaptability?

Yes, people have multiple barriers to change. There’s a great saying is there no one likes change, except a wet baby!

Too often we see the process of change as negative and that’s what makes it so hard. We have to accept the situation we’re in and then create change – think of those amazing people who have got through extraordinary adversity, for example, Helen Keller, John Wilson who started sightseers International. It’s those people who have determination and the ability to regard change as positive. Others include Kobe Bryant who sadly died last year, Michael Jordan Ariana Huffington. They embrace change and that’s what Meee does. 

What approach do you tend to use to help people believe in themselves?

It’s best to start in safe conversation, exploring values and where our thinking comes from.We’ve got a great programme called Fuel and that’s all about Feelings and Understanding Emotions and Logic and Learning. I think once you start having those conversations around values, purpose and your own performance goals people start to change. They realise that they are their own instruments of change. They may have developed negative beliefs but a process like this can help them change their internal script, and help them change their lives. 

What is it about your job (& Meee) do you enjoy or gives you the most satisfaction? The downside?

I love what working both with young people and adults and taking them through a process of change. People of all ages have change their lives, but they do the changing and we’re there to guide and support.

When you listen to the stories of what they’re achieving for themselves, for their families, for their friends, for their communities there is no greater gift. 

The downside? I want more people to do the programme but finding the money is often challenging. But we’re getting more corporations involved so that we can then subsidise the education work and work in prisons. 

You are also an author of “Meee in Minute” series of books which each offer 60 ways to change your life – work or family – in 60 seconds.  What are 5 of your top tips?

• Words matter – think about the words that you use and how they impact others

• Never stop learning – there is so much to learn from yourself, from other people from going places, from doing things e.g., reading, writing, watching films etc, exploring the world. There is learning in everything that we do.

 • Remember that we all matter. Every single person matters. We’re all in this together and everybody can make a huge contribution to this wonderful world when you find your purpose and your passion.

• Think about the energy that you have – it’s a finite amount that we get every day so spend it wisely, 

• Honour your negative feelings. We all have them in a regardless of who we are. What’simportant is to acknowledge them but not to feed them. If you’re in a bad mood find out why, and what you can do to move the dial and put yourself in a better mood.

Growing up, did you always want a “People related” career or did you want to pursue a completely different direction?

At one point I wanted to be a vet, but I thought I wasn’t clever enough! I discovered the world of branding and design which has been great to work in, but it was never truly fulfilling. When that young lad said the word weirdo that changed everything.

Do you think the COVID pandemic has made a difference in the people’s mindset regarding change and life in general?

I think Covid has changed a lot of things. It has made some people more fearful but it’s made some more optimistic. It’s made us question things and what is truly important. I hope we’velearned that we’re not invincible and need to look after each other and this wonderful planet.

As you are based in the UK, are your services available worldwide too?

We are based in the UK but we deliver worldwide

©Linda Hobden. – Jeffrey West store in Piccadilly, London

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Trainers shorts and T-shirts mainly. I love being casual but also love dressing up smart too for the right occasions. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love John Lewis and Fortnum & Mason. For convenience Amazon is useful – although I don’t think they aren’t doing the retail world a huge favour at the moment.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

My clothing Wish List is more about the children. I have three young children and I like buying clothes for them. I also like finding second-hand clothes. Recycled cool stuff is good for me especially as since the start of Covid I haven’t had any in-person meetings.

Boots or Shoes?

I used to wear a lot of Jeffrey West boots love love love his boots but now it’s trainers, it’s shoes and I love my slippers.

For More Information:

For Pinning Later. Lincoln’s Lego Exhibition 2019. ©Linda Hobden

Web: www.meee.global

Web: www.meeebooks.com

Twitter twitter.com/Meee_HQ
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/MeeeHQ/
Instagram www.instagram.com/meeehq
YouTube https://youtu.be/fISupZWZMQc 
TEDx https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bR3Cyjs62c8

Photographs have been published with kind permission of Meee (apart from header, Pinterest photo, and Jeffrey West shop – ©Linda Hobden)

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An Interview With Author Shaun Hand

During lockdown I read a book that was sent to me to review by book publicity agent Ben Cameron – a book which made me laugh, cry and pine for a night down at my local pub to “people watch”! This book was called “The Sadness of The King George “ by author & musician, Shaun Hand. It was a book that was laugh out loud funny; the characters were absolutely believable; and, as it says in the book blurb, “unflinchingly honest”. The story is set in a local, rundown pub “The King George” in the West Midlands – an old style pub that has sticky carpets and tables, soggy bar towels, regular customers who sit or stand in the same places exchanging the same words of wisdom; the Saturday night aggro; run by the pub landlord, the Gaffer, who no one sees; the mouthy barmaid, Siobahn, who runs the place like clockwork although no one really appreciates her; the pompous barman; the young 20 year old barman who wonders if there is more to life than pulling pints, pondering over love and looking forward to the next fag break; and Amy, the new young barmaid – full of hope and object of desire. Written from the viewpoint of the 20 year old barman as he tries to find his way through life especially when it comes to love, work and being cool. So, it was with great pleasure that I was able to catch up with the author Shaun … Hi Shaun & welcome…

Hello, I’m Shaun Hand. A life-sized writer, musician, charity shopper, and amateur gardener from Birmingham (the UK one).

“The Sadness of the King George” is a refreshing modern tale of life from the old pub – a young 20 year old unconfident lad who serves the locals, the confident barmaid, the landlord, the characters who frequent the local on a daily basis –   What made you decide to write “The Sadness of The King George”?

Thanks! I wanted to write it ‘cos that’s the world I lived in from the time I was 18 to 35, pretty much half my life! It’s a world that’s dying as the 21st century establishes itself, and so I wanted to capture it realistically, good and bad.

The book characters are all absolutely believable and probably found in most pubs in the UK – as you worked in pubs and bars in your twenties too, were your characters based on observations of people you’ve come across in the past and incidents you’ve experienced ? Who were the hardest characters to portray?

Totally — although some were exaggerated or embellished for effect. The hardest one to portray was probably the narrator because although he was partly based on me at 20, he was also based on about four other people, and so I had to be careful sometimes not to just make him do or think what I would do in real life.

Copyright © LindaHobden

Your first book was “Pop Art Poems: The Music Of The Jam”  – vastly different genre to “The Sadness Of The King George”. Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected? 

It was the first time I’d ever written a long-form piece of fiction, and I think the biggest, most pleasant surprise for me was a point pretty early on where one of the characters started telling me what they should say and where the story should go rather than the other way round — I realised that they’d come to life and that it was becoming more of a novel than an idea.

Hypothetically speaking, if you could go anywhere in the world to get inspiration for another book, where would you go and why? 

I don’t think I’d need to go anywhere specific, really. I tend to write about smalltown, suburban England, so maybe somewhere to escape that! I’ve got a romantic notion of going off to a B&B in Llandudno or somewhere for a week and just writing.

Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or did you have other aspirations? 

I always wanted to be a professional musician, but having tasted the reality of the work involved to barely make ends meet (leaving your family for months on end to go touring etc)and some of the darker side of it, I think I’m happier and more fulfilled being a writer who does books, music, poetry, whatever takes my fancy. Right now, that feels more liberating to me than any amount of distance I could travel to play to four people for no money (or even no people for four money).

Copyright © LindaHobden

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

I am, and I read more and more avidly as I get older, but I don’t have a favourite genre. I love anything with a good story and vivid characters, but then I also love a good music or author biography (I’ve just finished Billy Bragg’s book about skiffle, which was brilliant). The only author I’ve read everything by (even the bad stuff) is George Orwell. My wife put me on to Sarah Waters, and I’ve really got into her; Fingersmith is a brilliant book. Also slowly working my way through David Bowie’s 100 Favourite Books list, although some of it’s a little too dry for me.

And books, absolutely, every time. I can’t walk past a charity shop without having a nose. Kindles just don’t have that magic, or the smell.

 Is “The Sadness Of The King George ” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes. You can either line Jeff’s Bezos’ pockets or contact your local indie bookseller. It’s orderable through Waterstones too.

You are also a musician with your band FABRIK – what instrument do you play? What music genre?

My main instrument is the guitar, but I also play piano and bass and make drum loops for us to write songs over. We’re pretty trip-hoppy but a bit weirder. If you like stuff like Portisheadand Massive Attack, then we’re probably your kind of thing.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I flit between two extremes: trackies and trainers if I’m round the house, just nipping out, or just want to be comfortable. If I’m going out, DJing, gigging, or just want to look good, then it’s a suit with some nice loafers or these black-and-white 1920s-style shoes I got from one of those “4 shiny suits for £10” kind of shops years back.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

For clothes? Probably H&M. I live in Wolverhampton and everywhere else decent has shut down. Increasingly, I’m getting stuff from charity shops; I don’t like buying clothes online really.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I’ve got me brother-in-law’s wedding coming up, and I’d really like to get a decent dark blue, fitted double-breasted suit for it, but I can’t find one that wouldn’t make me look like an early ‘90s Tory MP. Beyond that, I’ve got a few suit jackets from charity shops that need taking in.

Shoe-wise, I’d love some decent brogues and could do with some boots — trainers with jeans limits the kind of top you can carry off, and loafers with jeans can be dangerous territory. I need some new wellies too for me gardening.

 Boots or Shoes? ( & Why?)

Shoes because I like wearing brightly coloured socks (teddy-boy style, not ones with novelty patterns).

For Pinning Later

 Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

Buy book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sadness-King-George-Shaun-Hand/dp/1916084575/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Instagram: @shaunpatrickhand

Twitter: @shaunhandauthor

FABRIK: https://www.fabriktheband.co.uk/

Thanks very much for the nostalgia trip – I really enjoyed the book and the customer antics! Thank you Ben Cameron for sending me the book to read and review in the first place.

Linda x

The photographs of Shaun have been published with kind permission of Shaun Hand; the other photographs were taken by LindaHobden.

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An Interview With Judy Piatkus

I’m excited to introduce my guest this week – entrepreneur, publisher and business coach Judy Piatkus! Judy founded Piatkus Books in 1979 and in April 2021 she released her first full-length book & memoir “Ahead Of Her Time: How A One-Woman Start Up Became A Global Publishing Brand”. Without further ado, let’s say Hi to Judy …

Hello! My name is Judy Piatkus and I am an entrepreneur and former publisher, wife and mother.

What made you decide to write your memoir ahead of Her Time: How a One-Woman Startup Became a Global Publishing Brand?

Throughout my working life, women have asked me how I grew my company alongside bringing up my family as a single mother. I wanted to share my story now to help women who want or need to start up on their own.

You founded Piatkus Books in 1979 from your spare bedroom. What inspired you to start your own business?

I had a dream of starting my own business and being my own boss and I built my first business with a partner. When that business relationship didn’t work out, I started again on my own.

Were there any aspects of writing your memoir that surprised you either by being harder or easier to relate than you expected?

The book tells the story in a linear way. However, I wrote the chapters that I found easiest first and then put the whole story together.  

As well as being a keynote speaker, you are also a coach/mentor to business startups. What main parts of your management style and experience from owning Piatkus Books do you try to impart to other budding entrepreneurs?

I believe that every one of us wants to have the opportunity to do good work. The onus is upon the leader of an organisation to create a culture in the workplace that empowers and inspires people to give of their best. This requires the leaders and the managers to understand themselves well and to treat their workforce with respect and in the way they themselves would like to be treated. 

Have you always wanted to have a career in the book/ publishing industry or did you have other aspirations?

From a young age I was an avid reader and I could think of nothing better than working with books all day long. I always felt very lucky that I was able to work in publishing and read and publish novels that people enjoyed and non-fiction that opened their minds to new ways of thinking about their lives.

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors. Kindle or actual book?

After I sold the company I thought I would read more than I do. Like so many of us, I get distracted by reading articles on the internet. However, I always read a lot on holiday. The topics I still enjoy most are the genres we published – popular fiction especially crime novels and books about relationships – and interesting new books about personal growth and spiritual development. I always prefer to read a printed book and avoid another screen but kindle has its uses.

Is Ahead of Her Time: How a One-Woman Startup Became a Global Publishing Brand available to purchase worldwide?

Watkins, my publishers, have sold copies of the book all over the world. You can buy the printed book, download it onto your kindle or buy the audio version and listen to it.

What do you enjoy most about speaking to audiences?

Speaking is an opportunity to inspire people to follow their dreams. I like to find out about the audience before I speak so I can target my talk to what I think will be of interest.  Publishing is a very complex industry but it’s one that everyone can understand. I am usually asked many questions about becoming an entrepreneur or how to get a book published and that keeps me on my toes.  

Personal now – what outfit and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I like to look smart but I am a lazy dresser. Throughout my publishing career I got up every morning and put on a black top and black trousers and I had a variety of different jackets to go over the black top. That way I didn’t have to spend too much time thinking about what to wear. My favourite designers are Armani and Max Mara but I could only afford 5 outfits – one for each day of the week – and when one wore out, I replaced it. I usually wore comfortable but smart Russell and Bromley boots so I didn’t have to think about footwear either.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Large department stores such as Selfridges, Harrods or Harvey Nicholls always excite me. I also like individual carefully-curated small boutiques especially in towns outside of London.Its been such a tough time for the retail industry and I do hope that many of these shops are able to survive. Now I don’t have to go to an office every day I buy a lot of clothes in Gerard Darel as I like the variety and the cut. I much prefer trying before buying so that I can choose clothes that fit well.

Aside from clothes stores, I am unable to walk past a bookshop without popping in. I try and buy as many books as I can in bookshops because if we don’t support them, we won’t have the luxury of browsing and discovering unexpected treasures.  

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wishlist?

I want to have exciting places to go to where I can wear some of the clothes in my wardrobe that haven’t had much of an outing in the last eighteen months. Yesterday I was walking down the street and a very elegant woman came out of a block of flats nearby. She looked amazing and it reminded me how we have all got used to dressing-down. I want to dress up again.

Boots or shoes? (& Why?).

I have always been a boot person. I want life to be easy and I have always found it more comfortable to walk around town in boots rather than shoes. Wearing my favourite pair of boots with heels, I always feel I can conquer the world!

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share.

www.amazon.co.uk

www.bookdepository,com

www.judypiatkus.com

www.consciouscafe..com

Twitter: @Judypiatkus.com  

Instagram: Judypiatkus

Fabulous to “meet” you Judy and thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. I am so with you on the dressing down issue … I can’t wait to start dressing up again and visiting exciting places! 😊

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Judy Piatkus.

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Sins Of Our Mothers Book Tour

I’m pleased to be part of the “Sins Of Our Mothers “ book tour to celebrate the latest Dystopian fiction by author Nicole Souza. Dystopian fiction isn’t a genre I’m familiar with but as I read “Sins Of Our Mothers” with an open mind, I found myself getting totally engrossed with the storyline and the characters. This is a great book to read on the sunbed as summer approaches….

Book Summary

It has been fifteen hundred years since the solar flare devastation of the Global Catastrophe. Due to the radioactivity in the harvesting fields, society dismisses its defective children as nothing more than flawed products of the malfunctioned seeds in the field.

But Lyratelle, a hyper-observant musical prodigy, believes these “defects” are intelligent, particularly her own sibling, the youngest child of her impervious mother. Abandoning her dream career, Lyratelle climbs the bureaucratic ladder to run the Defect Research Center, where she can safeguard the child.

With an underground team of women who share her uncertainties, Lyratelle unearths the Old History truth that womankind’s survival actually hinges on the existence of these defects.

When General Sarah Love, the city’s most powerful advocate against the defects, detects Lyratelle’s sympathy toward the creatures, she threatens the life of Lyratelle’s sibling.

Now Lyratelle’s desperate attempt to save this child endangers everyone she loves—her team, her family, even the existence of the defects themselves.

Print Length: 358 PagesGenre: Dystopian FictionASIN: B08FNMQ3XVPublisher: E.L. Marker  
Sins of Our Mothers is available to purchase now on Amazon.com.

MY INTERVIEW

It is with great pleasure to welcome Nicole Souza onto the blog. Hi Nicole!

Hi! I’m super envious of ancient philosophers. I imagine they gathered in groups, passing around their favorite snacks while stretching their aching joints, immersed in discussions surrounding the questions that link human hearts: Where did we come from? Why are we here? What is truth? How can we maximize joy and minimize suffering? What is the meaning of family relations? Where does death take us?

I’m envious, that is, until I realize this is the very scene at my family girls’ nights. Though overall our society dedicates less time to questioning mortality and our existence in general due to the insane velocity of modern demands, we’re all philosophers in our souls.

Conversation is my fuel. I love people. I love others’ unique stories. I love finding connections with members of the human family who live oceans apart from me, who speak other languages, and whose experiences are vastly different from mine. While I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, my husband was born and raised in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil. Our upbringings, and the way we experience life, are so distinct. I’m profoundly grateful.

Among my immediately family—parents and eight siblings—are spoken seven languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Tongan, Mandarin, and Dutch. Among my siblings-in-law, including one who passed away thirteen years ago, are five ethnicities and four nationalities. My nieces’ and nephews’ heritages span the globe. Most are being raised in bilingual households, three of whom live in beautiful Taiwan where English is their second language.

If all I had in life was a pretty piece of land and my family to enjoy it with, I’d want for nothing. I love my people.

As if I don’t get enough language in my personal life, I also got my B.A. in Languages with a minor in Women Studies. Growing up I thought I’d study music. I’ve played piano since age five and violin since age eight. Teaching violin was my first job and I thought it would be my last. But I’ll be honest, as much as I love people, especially kids, I’m not equipped with the divine patience needed to teach them how to play musical instruments. Oh, my heart; how terribly, terribly hard that was for me. I’m grateful to have found my thing—writing stories alone in my room surrounded by dogs and donuts.

Who or what inspired you to write “Sins Of Our Mothers”?

In college, I made an astounding observation: nearly all my straight, married girlfriends, and those with a live-in boyfriend, were the sole providers in their relationships. Each one of their husbands or boyfriends was profoundly unhappy and had developed at least one addiction that was affecting their relationship. Though all relatively close to my age, these weren’t just friends here in the states. These were women of multiple ethnicities and cultures.

Some spoke English, some didn’t. Some had children, some were students, some had mortgages, some were renting, some lived with parents or in-laws. The one thing they had in common was an unemployed adult man depending on their salary. The most bizarre detail was that none of the women with children depended on their male partners for childcare, even though they were home all day. They either relied on relatives or paid for professional childcare.

The men’s addictions ranged from simple things like alternate realities to more intense things like pornography and even detrimental things like alcohol and destructive drugs. Some of the men were students. Some were college graduates, some high school graduates. All had essentially disappeared from their families, their communities, and society—a trend I began to notice extended far outside my circle of contacts.

While several of these couples split or divorced, many pulled through and have progressed together. The fact that so many close friends—wonderful, intelligent people—intersected in this weird place all at once felt significant. I remember thinking, “These women literally do everything. They could just remove the men and their lives would remain the same, but without the stress of supporting a grown man and his addictions. All women really need from men is their sperm, right? Aside from that, are men even necessary?”

Settlement 1163 in the novel represents the struggles of those men. Lilac City, where the women live, represents women who bear and raise their children, as well as provide for their families, alone. While the burden of supporting men in their homes is gone, they still, unknowingly, support the men in the settlements through taxes. But the emotional burden of feeling like they do everything alone doesn’t exist in the book because the only world the characters know is a completely female one.

The first draft of Sins of Our Mothers sent me on an arduous journey where I learned that, not only are men necessary, but masculinity is infinitely more valuable than those currently in power would have us believe. There’s a lot of talk nowadays about toxic masculinity. What’s not being talked about is how essential masculinity is to a free, successful, harmonious society. If we’re to achieve our potential as the twenty-first century generation of the human family, and ensure future generations can liberally pursue happiness, we need good men.

The final draft of the book is, I hope, a depiction of what I learned along that journey.

 I really enjoyed reading your book, “Sins Of Our Mothers ” and I particularly enjoyed the character of Lyratelle Faith. What character did you particularly enjoy writing about? What character was the hardest to portray?

Lyratelle is my favorite character, too. She embodies female power and the strengths of womanhood as I’ve come to understand them thus far in my life. I hope one day to see someof her relentless drive in myself. But that’s a far, far distant goal. I most enjoyed writing her, inside and out. It’s so fun for me when readers ask about her because it feels like we’re chattingabout a mutual friend. She’s the kind of woman with whom anyone would benefit from a friendship. She’s compassionate, aware of and concerned for the disenfranchised, and constantly striving to better the world for her loved ones and, consequently, the human family.

The character that was the hardest to portray was Grace, hands down. She’s so brilliant and passionate about technology and electronics, which is quite the opposite of me. While I do love many virtual reality games, especially Beat Saber, I have no idea or desire to understand how it all works. I’m grateful there are people like Grace in the world so people like me can undeservedly enjoy their hard work. If everyone were like me, we’d literally sit around all day, passing around our favorite snacks while stretching our aching joints, immersed in philosophical discussion. Grace is so rad because she would dominate those discussions while simultaneously programming virtual worlds and haptic suits.

Researching for your novel must have been quite interesting… did you discover anything that shocked you or uncover some nugget of information that was unexpected?

I learned a lot about IVF. It astounds me that doctors have developed medicine to the point where they can initiate humanlife in a petri dish and reimplant the fertilized egg into the woman’s uterus. Again, I’m grateful these kinds of advanced humans exist in the world. It makes me appreciate even more profoundly the variety that exists among our human family.

Studying pregnancy in general made me appreciate men far more than I did previously. Of course, growing up with an awesome dad, grandpas, three brothers, and more male uncles and cousins than I care to count, I always loved and appreciated men. But really internalizing, not just casually knowing, that women can’t bear children without men was strangely humbling.

I’m so accustomed to women being these independent powerhouses that push through mortal suffering and just get stuff done. Even within pregnancy, the participation between the female and male is so mind-blowingly lopsided, and yet, a woman cannot have a child without the sperm of a man. I spent a ton of time just pondering the significance of this fact. I’d known it since I was a child but somehow maintained this superior image of women that was so distinct from the simplicity of men. I didn’t realize I’d been subconsciously questioning men’s significance.

Well, I don’t doubt it anymore thanks to the research and careful consideration that went into writing Sins of Our Mothers.The world needs good men more than anything else right now. I hope that came across clear in the book.

This novel comes under the genre of Dystopian Fiction  – have you ever explored or hoped to write under other genres?

Yes! After the Sins of Our Mothers trilogy is complete, I’ll be working on a fantasy series. I also have a manga-style adventureproject I work on when I need a break from the heavier writing.It’s slow coming because my art skills are about a two out of ten. But I’m inching along. I actually asked my thirteen-year-old nephew recently to take over the drawing part for me as he’s far more talented. I promised to get him some sample pages by the end of the week, so we’ll see.

I’m also working on my mother-in-law’s biography. She has the most fascinating life story and I really want to make sure it’s told.

Growing up, did you envisage yourself as a writer or did you have other career aspirations?

The one commonality I share with Lyratelle is in our youths we both dreamed of being concert mistresses of renowned symphonies, but ultimately chose other career paths. While she went the way of geniuses and hardworking folk, I chose to lock myself in my room with my snacks and write stories.

My private violin instructor was a member of the Utah Symphony. I went to her rehearsals during those career shadowing days in elementary school. I just knew that would be my future. Yet, here I am. It’s been weeks since I even touched my beloved violin.

I did always want to tell stories, too. Being a writer was high on my list of career options. There’s just something about storytelling that awakens my soul. I learn so much better reading and writing stories than I ever have doing busywork. I believe the greatest minds throughout history have taught in parables because stories can be understood by all minds, no matter where they fall on the genius scale. Stories are powerful and unifying.

Is “Sins Of Our Mothers ” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes! Barnes and Noble has international shopping available online. Amazon Kindle International is available in over 170 countries. Amazon also ships hard copies internationally to over 100 countries.

If you could visit any place in the world to inspire your next novel, where would you go and why?

Taiwan, definitely. My sister and her family live there. It’s one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited. Vast cities pressed right up against gorgeous beaches create the perfect setting for a multi-genre/crossover story. There’s so much romantic simplicity in the island’s nature and so much modern hustle and bustle in the thick of the cities. And the Taiwanese people are the friendliest, most generous, polite people I’ve ever had the pleasure of interacting with. I’ve always loved Mandarin Chinese so spending quality time in Taiwan would boost my speaking and listening skills, though I don’t suppose I’ll ever get the characters down.

Having lived in several cities in Brazil, I would say the state Rio Grande do Sul is next on the list. It’s my second home and I miss it every day. Especially the amazing people.

Are you a bookworm yourself? If so, what genres (or authors) do you usually like to read?

My two lifelong favorite books are The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, and The Giver by Lois Lowry. The Hiding Place is a kind of anomaly as I don’t usually enjoy nonfiction as much as fiction. But The Giver fits right into my type of story. In fact, it shaped my reading preferences quite a lot. I first read it when I was really young so every book since has been measured against it.

I don’t discriminate against any genre as there are good books in all. As long as a story keeps me interested, I’ll devour it.

Lately, I’ve been more immersed in manga than novels. Hajime Isayama satisfied my longing for a well-written story with his amazing series Attack on Titan. I don’t suppose I’ll ever love anyone—real or fictional—as much as I love Levi Ackerman. Though Otcho/Shogun from Naoki Urasawa’smanga series Twentieth Century Boys comes close. I guess I’m a sucker for strong, independent men with traumatizing pasts.

I know it’s cliché, but I can’t fail to mention J.K. Rowling’s mind-blowing talent for storytelling. I know I’m not the only one because I’ve heard others mention how reading the Harry Potter series felt much more like watching. That world truly lives on those pages.

For Pinning Later

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

If you ever find me at home, it’ll undoubtedly be in a MooMoo and department store ankle socks with my hair down. On a regular day out and about, I prefer tall, form-fitting print T-shirts (likely featuring Levi Ackerman), loose leggings (deep pockets, of course), and Vans slip-ons with my hair in a messy bun. Not because I’m stylish and rock a messy bun, but because everything I try to do with my hair is messy, and buns are convenient when running errands. I’ll most likely be in glasses when dressed casually.

Because I’m aware that none of these outfits are conducive to an adult lifestyle, I do have an alternative outfit for meetings and social gatherings. There, you’ll find me in boots, a long comfortable skirt, a dressy loose blouse, and oversized earrings. I don’t wear jewelry often but when I do, huge earrings and gaudy rings are my thing. When it really matters, I have my sister do my hair.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I don’t say this as an author: if ever I go somewhere in person to browse, it’s a bookstore. I love the smell of books. Plus, I’m always on the lookout for the children’s book You Are Special by Max Lucado. I keep buying myself a copy only to give it away. It’s such an amazing book. Strangely, it’s often unavailable in stores so I check occasionally to see if it’s stocked.

Online, I spend a lot of time browsing redbubble.com. It’s a great site for personalized gifts and keepsakes, especially if you’re looking for something related to an inside joke. Plus, I adore such shops that feature independent artists.

This might be too bizarre a detail but, being from Utah, I like to hop on ksl.com and visit the classifieds to see what farm animals and RVs are available. I have this dream of buying a little farm and filling it with all the cute animals city living doesn’t accommodate. I also dream of an RV but haven’t found the right one. It’s as important to get right as was choosing my spouse.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

It’s been a long time since I had a proper gorgeous pair of boots. That will definitely be my next big clothing purchase.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots! I love boots! Especially being from Utah. A stylish pair of heavy-duty boots that allow me to hike and also hit the town with friends is the best piece of clothing. Winter, summer, rain, or shine, boots work for everything.

I have the feeling I’ll be browsing for boots online in my MooMoo tonight.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook 

https://nicolesouzabooks.com

https://www.facebook.com/nicolesouzabooks/

https://www.instagram.com/nicolesouzabooks/ 

THE BOOK TOUR DATES

Great to chat with you Nicole! I look forward to reading your mother in law’s biography too. I hope your farm dream becomes a reality and thank you so much for the advance copy of your book and inviting me onto your book tour. I’ve had a blast!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Nicole Souza

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Spotlight On GoBo

Lamonts & Co is a brand that specialises in bringing new products to the UK market first – from zero noodles (calorie free noodles) to the recently developed GoBo – the UK’s first AHA based natural deodorant which uses glycolic acid to neutralise odour whilst allowing the body to perspire naturally. Voted #1 Natural Deodorant by Good Housekeeping Magazine 2021 , this deodorant is ideal for vegans and is cruelty free too. I caught up with Laura Lamont to find out more about her latest creation. Hi Laura and welcome….

Hi, my name is Laura, founder and director of Lamonts and Co.


What inspired the development of your recently launched AHA based natural deodorant, GoBo?

I’m a qualified Nutritional Therapist and so have always beenbig on health and healing through nutrition and plants but it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first child (now 6) that I really started to look at chemicals in cosmetic products and lotions and was horrified at what I learnt.  The first thing I tried to change was my deodorant but was constantly disappointed by the results and never managed to find one that actually worked for me until the end of the day.  I actually created GoBo by accident as it was never something that I set out to do. One day I decided to try my AHA toner on my underarm to see if it could help with the hyperpigmentation I had and then just happened to notice that after 2 days without showering (I probably shouldn’t admit that) there was no smell what so ever!  I was so excited that I spent the start of the first lockdown developing my deodorant recipe so I could share it with the world.

What are the benefits of using GoBo?

Well, the number one benefit is that it’s natural but actually keeps you smelling fresh until the next day.  On top of that,the AHAs help to exfoliate the dead skin cells which leave your skin unusually smooth and soft, and it slowly fades pigmentation caused from shaving.  It also prevents in-growing hairs.  I like to think of it as the first multifunctional deodorant.

Out of the 4 types of GoBo available (Rose, Orange Blossom, Jasmin, Orginal ), which one is proving to be the most popular at the moment?

 Surprisingly the Unscented seems to be the winner, I think a lot of people have irritation from deodorant which they tend to put down to the heavy perfumes or essential oils used.  But even with our scented varieties we only use pure flower waters which won’t cause any irritation and they are so delicate that they won’t interfere with your perfume.

What are the ingredients in GoBo? 

Glycolic acid, Water, vegetable Glycerin, Sodium Bicarbonate, Guar Gum and Arrowroot flour, Floral water.

GoBo was voted #1 Natural Deodorant by Good Housekeeping in 2021.  Congratulations!  Lamonts & Co have also introduced Zero Noodles (calorie free noodles) to UK. Have you any other new products to add to your range in the pipeline for 2021?

I sure do!  I am always working on new products and business ideas but with two young children I can’t always find the time to launch them.   Eventually I shall expand the GoBo line and create more natural and functional skin care products as well as extending the Zero Noodles line with more varieties and flavours.

Have you always been interested in developing products or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere? 

Yes, I have always been more creative than academic as well as a bit of a dreamer and always wanted to be my own boss.  I remember as a teenager having a note pad where I started writing down my business ideas but it wasn’t until I met my husband, who already had his own business, that I had the confidence and support to actually go for it.  My first business was as a weight loss clinic, offering diet coaching for weight loss… this led onto Zero Noodles which quickly took over.

As you are based in UK, are your products available to purchase overseas?

No – not yet, we hope to expand across Europe eventually but currently can only just keep up with the UK sales. 

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Well, I now live in the New Forest which is very casual, which I find refreshing after living in London for so long and feeling like you have to make an effort just to nip to the shops. So I’m very much a jeans and tee kinda girl now, but I love chunky boots and fun colourful belts.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I’m loving Hush and Mint Velvet right now but for the summer I love Free People for a Bohemian look.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Probably some more bright coloured fun tee shirts for the Spring that I can throw on with my jeans and wellies to play in the forest with the kids.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots always.

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Links you would like to share e.g.website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about GoBo.

https://www.lamontsandco.com

Fabulous chatting to you Laura and congratulations on what you have developed so far…. and I am looking forward to seeing your skincare range in the future too!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Laura Lamont.

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But First Rumi Book Tour

I’m really excited to be able to interview author Chitra Ramaswami as part of her “But First Rumi Book Tour”. “But First Rumi” is a delightful memoir by Chitra Ramaswami. Rumi is a beautiful stray Omani street cat who took a liking to Chitra and trusted Chitra to help him and in return Rumi helped Chitra. This book is more than a tale of a cat being rescued – the memoir explores how love and trust between cats and people can develop, how attitudes towards street cats develop, and how love develops. The book is written in such a refreshingly honest way and I loved reading the escapades of Rumi & co. I really enjoyed chatting to Chitra about all things cats …. But, before that, here is the official resumé of the book:

When Chitra discovered a stray cat in need of help, she never thought they’d wind up saving each other. Struggling to come to terms with an unexpected diagnosis, Chitra returned home to Oman seeking a sense of familiarity. What she discovered instead was a very special cat who changed her life. But First, Rumi is the story of how, day by day, Rumi and Chitra got to know one another, and as she learned to love the little stray, she began to see greater life lessons about herself, her family, her home country and her place in the world. 

What unfolds when girl and cat meet? What happens when you follow your heart? What if the world is not as it seems? Is it worth taking a chance? 

Print Length: 158 Pages

Genre: Memoir

THE INTERVIEW

Hi! I’m Chitra – author of the memoir  “But First, Rumi” . I was born and brought up in the Middle East to Indian parents and now live in New Jersey. I’ve worked in healthcare as a physician and a health educator and now I’ve turned author. This is my first time publishing and excited to see what this experience brings my way. 

Who or what inspired you to write your memoir, “But First, Rumi!”?

I believe the answer lies in my book title 🙂 My cat Rumi inspired me to share our journey with the world. As someone who’s written most of her life, I believe every story has its own predestined time – from when it gets penned down to when it is on its way to its readers where it finally comes to fruition. 

Your book highlighted the life of an Omani Mau/street cat, and your growing love of Rumi.  I found the book interesting as well as entertaining.  I thought how different were the attitudes towards cats, stray cats in particular, in Oman compared with the UK/ USA. Why do you think the Omani street cats are regarded with such suspicion?

Firstly, thank you for reading our story and am glad you enjoyed it. Yes, attitudes towards stray cats are different in Oman as compared to say a Western country. But what makes it interesting is that Oman is  home to people from all over the world added to its own descendants and  this varied demographic may hold the reasons that have led to the current state of the Omani stray cats. We have collectively failed our felines. I believe suspicion towards anything generally arises from a certain lack of awareness or unfamiliarity or a previous negative experience. And yes, this is only a part of the problem as I explain in the book. Another common issue is abandonment either due to misjudgment of what caring for a cat entails or when people leave for their home countries and haven’t planned well for the transition. Ofcourse, COVID-19  has added additional financial strains to the process as well.

Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

The process of writing the book was enjoyable. I also had a great editor and we worked well together. What amused me the most was the amount of work that went into publishing a book outside of actually writing the book! The time and effort needed to get your book in front of your readers has been eye opening. I’ve learnt a lot over the past few months. Maybe I should write about it haha!

What do you enjoy most about having a cat? What did you find most daunting at first?

I’ve come to realize over time that my energy is quite similar to a cat’s. I remember watching a documentary that talked about how cats and humans are actually more alike evolutionarily as compared to say dogs and humans. So it’s not surprising to me that I’m able to just be myself around them rather effortlessly. However, before my experience with Rumi, I  was rather wary of cats and didn’t really know what to make of them. I maintain that I didn’t give them a fair chance and went with the popular notion that dogs were more expressive and loving as companion animals. 

Have you always wanted to have a career in writing  or did you have other aspirations?

Funnily, I never thought of writing as a career even though I always wrote. But moving forward, I’ve decided to share my works with the world. I’m curious by nature – always have been, which in turn has led me to pursue many paths. So be it working with people with various ailments, or teaching or riding horses or ice climbing…. the list is diverse. I’m not really a one aspiration person and am eager to see where my life takes me next. 

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Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?

Yes, I’ve loved to read since forever. Favorite genres – Biographies, memoirs, short stories. I’m not into fiction much but am on board with Haruki Murakami’s magical realism. It’s bewitching almost. Love Khaled Hosseini’s works. In poetry – Works of Rumi, Tabrizi, Gibran to name a few. There’s always more than one story that‘s being told in a book and one of them is about the author themselves, their roots,  convictions, motivations – it all comes through. So I tend to consciously seek out authors from various backgrounds for this experience. I find it as good or even better than travel. 

Nothing beats the feel of an actual book but I’m a recent Kindle convert – saves space, easy to bookmark, or look up anything I need to, can even read on my Kindle app on my phone etc 

Is “But First Rumi” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes worldwide – Both ebook and paperback. It’s also available in a bookstore in Oman and managed to sell out and has just been restocked! 

Will there be more tales about Rumi in the future?

Definitely 🙂 There may be a second book in the works as we speak!

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Hmmm. Depends on the season. I’m a sucker for knee length boots in the winter – I never grew out of my Michael Korrs Preston boots with the golden buckle – love those tiny touches! I also love my riding boots from Dover’s. If I’m going out for dinner or tea I love getting dressed up – A-line skirt and top or a Pakistani embroidered suit( we call it shalwar Kameez), and peep toed heels but overtime I find myself settling for pointed flats – Zara and Rothys always have a lovely line of those. These days, I’m always in my adidas and pumas – thanks to COVID! Not complaining though – I always manage to find something to fall in love with! 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Zara, Kate Spade, J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Image…the list goes on also love custom shirts I design myself. Etsy’s also a very interesting place – be it for custom clothes, accessories etc 

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I’ve been looking into vegan fashion lately. It’s a fascinating world and I’m still exploring it. Love the Dharma Store – fun tees and they have vegan phone grips too! I also have my eye on the Catalina tote from lo and sons – super functional and love the shoe compartment at the bottom. So yes, I won’t be surprised if my fashion choices will be completely different five years down the line. I’m learning and growing every day. 

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
Website: https://cramaswami.com/Instagram: @rumionamission2017


My thanks goes to Chitra for agreeing to be interviewed, for inviting me to join in her book tour and for a copy of her delightful memoir.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Chitra Ramaswami

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