Tag Archives: Australia to USA

Three tips for the TSA from a mum at Christmas

I have four kids. I believe in Santa. This Christmas, we saw yet another moron decide it was a good idea to try and blow up a plane. At Christmas. Christmas is my favourite time of the year and I’ll be blasted (no pun intended) if anyone’s going to take that away from me. So I’ve decided that I’ll let the TSA in on some key things they could be doing to really make a difference at Christmas.

This is important to me. My 15 year old flies to America from Sydney today, with smoke and mirrors security that I have been unable to prepare him for. The fear level is at orange. I think they’re going to pat him down. He might just enjoy that.

But I digress.

Instead of ramping up their already failing theatre of security, the TSA should just ask mums what the best things to do to keepare, given our Santa expertise and knowledge. So here are three little suggestions from the mum who still helps Santa and has never denied his existence, even to her 18-year-old adult daughter.

1. Warning people that they are being watched. My kids know Santa’s watching them. (Sidenote: Saying the Easter bunny watching you isn’t as effective. He doesn’t have as much power. Santa’s the big guy.) Maybe if the TSA ensured all their security staff were trained in really watching people and their behaviour we’d see some real changes.

2. Keep a list – and freaking well check it. There’s nothing worse than having a list of gifts and sorting them when wrapped to find that one kid has more gifts than the Brangelina clan, and another has 3 tiny boxes – and they all came from the Dollar Store. That happens when you make a list and ignore it. The massive failures of the TSA have been associated with administration stuff-ups. The terrorist watch lists are not shared adequately, efficiently or effectively. You can do cavity searches, but getting the terrorist watch list information shared properly might be a little easier. Just sayin’.

3. Hide stuff that you don’t want them to see. For years, I’ve hidden gifts from my kids in nothing more than a few striped raffia big bags with some sheets thrown over them in the formal dining room. (We don’t live there any more, so if my kids are reading this, sucked in.) It kept the gifts a secret because I knew the kids didn’t look in obvious places. While you TSA people are obviously inspecting our belts and shoes and don’t care who knows it, you’re missing the powdered explosive taped all over the body, and the stressed out guy walking around with it taped to his genitals. If I were a TSA officer I’d rather find out about that explosive from the observation of the sweaty guy than a standard genital frisk of every passenger. Unless they’re all Mark Harmon.

So there you go, TSA. Please ensure the safety of my kid and don’t harrass the 99% of people who really don’t need it. Merry Christmas.

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Thank you bus girl, happy holidays

Sometimes something in your daily routine can remind you of how connected we can be.

This semester I’ve caught the bus to campus on monday afternoons, on my way to my Human Computer Interaction class. When you catch the bus on a regular basis at a regular time, you’re quite often joined by a few others who have the same schedule.

And so I was joined on Mondays by a beautiful young girl – I’m guessing she was about 10 or 11. She was always on the bus already when I got on, and rode past my stop. But every time she was there, she made me smile.

This wonderful young lady was equipped with a CD player. And big headphones. She had a penchant for the Spice Girls.

How do I know?

She sang at the top of her lungs, along with the CD that nobody else could hear. Some people pretended not to hear her. Others grinned and went on with their newspapers. But most people really enjoyed listening to this singing that had absolutely no tune, and no back beat to drum out the bum notes. Everyone was grinning. With her, not at her.

On my last Monday of class, our nightingale was there. And this time the bus driver (who wasn’t the same person every time), kept turning his head to look at the young girl. I wasn’t sure if he was going to ask her to stop – she was really making quite a bit of noise. I couldn’t read his expression when he turned his head.

But after a couple of miles, he turned, looked at her, and began to click his fingers along with the beat.

We couldn’t hear the same music as the girl. But we all left the bus with her song, and were reminded to feel free in finding our own.

Happy Holidays.

Glade’s sweet smell of good social media PR with Edelman

This week I was happily invited to join some other Colorado-based bloggers for a few adult snacks, refreshments and the opportunity to build a basket of goodies to take home. It was a great evening, put on by Glade’s parent company, S. C. Johnson’s wonderful PR team from Edelman in Chicago, to promote their Sense & Spray product.glade scent sense and spray air freshener

This event demonstrated Edelman actively identifies good people for brands to work with, and can put together an event that suits all parties. Edelman has fantastic staff, for a start. The company also teamed with social media expert, Ann-Marie Nichols, to ensure they are hitting the right targets.

If you ask me, Ann-Marie and Edelman are smart operators. After meeting/catching up with them on the evening, my belief is that the bloggers were hand-picked to represent ethical, good quality content providers who actively engage with their readers. Women who are authentic. At a time when companies are seeking out mommybloggers more than ever, there are now bloggers who do nothing more than run around the USA for the opening of every envelope. Smart companies, like Glade and Edelman, see beyond what I’ll call “the usual suspects.” (Yes, I’m biased. I was invited.)

Edelman’s staff were well equipped with plenty of information for us to take home in the best format – a USB drive. The activity of putting together our basket of goodies allowed us to chat about the product informally, and we also had fun coming up with possible names for a new Glade scent. (Yes, someone said Bacon. I said Aussie Bush. Ambiguity FTW.) I was so lucky to have Jen Goode so kindly say yes to drawing by freehand (magic marker) one of her lovely penguins on my mug. jen goode penguin mug

It has pride of place on my desk and reminds me how special women entrepreneurs like her are. I have always loved Jen’s designs and you can check the penguin ones out on her blog, and buy a whole range of stuff featuring them. She also does other designs too. She’s an amazingly talented woman in so many areas. I feel so lucky to have actually met her too now.

The event was a great success for Glade. The bloggers discussed myriad issues beyond and including the product, and we all came away feeling positive – and that associated value rubs off. Edelman gets it.

But the goal kick for me was the extra mile Edelman went for me. Here’s the thing:

We were all offered a basket to give away on our blog. Awesome. However, I asked if it would be okay for me to give it away to anyone, anywhere – given some of my readership is in Australia. Glade is a global brand, but I completely said I understand if that’s not okay. I just needed to be clear on my blog. On the spot, the Edelman ladies said “Absolutely, we will make it work. We will send the basket to anyone who wins.” So I’m stoked. I love that foresight and appreciation of my needs.

And I’m excited to give away this lovely basket of goodies to you, even if you’re an AUSSIE!

glade basket

What you'll win! (The mug will be a fresh one that you can draw on. Great if you're like Jen Goode!)

The basket contains a snuggly IKEA blanket/picnic rug, Swiss Miss mix with mini marshmallows, eye cover, ceramic mug and some permanent markers to decorate it with, and the wonderful new Glade Sense & Spray plus a refill that we have had now in our bathroom for a few days. It smells great and with the refills costing under $4 each (USD), and them lasting about a month each, even graduate students and startups can afford it (ahem).

HOW TO WIN!

To enter is easy – Leave a comment below with your recommendation for a new scent for Glade, focused on Australia. It can be funny or serious. The winner will be picked by Harry and Charlie on Wednesday and I’ll contact you via Twitter/email (make sure you leave contact details). I’ll also announce the winner on the blog. Go for it!

Airlines don’t understand mums and marketing

There’s something magical about arriving at the airport with all your luggage and just two of your kids for the upcoming 28 hours of travel between countries, and reaching the check-in counter to find out every bag comes in just under the 23kg weight limit. Score.

And there’s something even more special about being handed your boarding passes and passports, turning around and seeing the 11yr old has just decked the 9yr old, and he is laying on the floor groaning loudly, holding one leg to an audience of passengers who are surely thinking ‘Oh My God, I hope they’re not sitting next to us.’

5 minutes in, 27 hours, 55 minutes to go.

How to make a flight a dreaded experience

We flew back to the US yesterday on United Airlines. Apart from the following treasured moments, we arrived safely:

a. Wholly inedible ‘food’ which really was probably the worst I’ve ever had on the long haul part, and food that’s more expensive than eating at Spago for the domestic route. (And far less tasty. Yes, I’ve eaten at Spago. Once. It was wonderful. I’m classy. I am. Stop laughing.)

b. Lack of in-seat entertainment which is very entertaining for my spoilt kids who were expecting personal movies and tv, yet had to watch tv shows like Desperate Housewives on the screens in the aisles instead. (I do remember my own childhood flights to the UK when there was just one movie for the whole flight, and the headphones never worked. I tried telling them that but they didn’t care and then they got more annoyed. They did manage very well in the end. But I digress).

c. Being checked into three seats on the US domestic part of the journey which were single seats in equidistant, very distant seats which I find very difficult to believe was accidental because we checked into the domestic flight, getting boarding passes an entire day before (see earlier part about children punching each other). There is no way there weren’t three seats together when I checked in. Mind you, I was easily trumped by a poor woman with five kids under five, who had all been seated all over the plane. That’s just completely stupid. I was momentarily tempted to tell the attendant not to bother reseating the kids, but just to reseat this other mother and myself somewhere and bring us a bottle of bubbly.

d. The lack of real assistance for a woman with four children travelling alone, whose 3yr old would NOT stop screaming for about 3 hours in the last quarter of the long haul flight. She was forced to stay in her seat with that kid because she couldn’t leave the others. I knew that. I’ve got lots of kids and have usually travelled alone with them. One kid will cry, or take a particular liking to the novelty of the plane’s bathroom and insist they have to go constantly, or need something from the one bag in the overhead bin. It’s a drama. Something simple could have made her journey easier. Such as a flight attendant saying, “what can I do to help?” instead of ignoring her.

Sidebar: I’ll never forget the Qantas flight Jed and I took while I was still nursing Charlie, about 6 years ago. The dinner came, and there was no way I could cut it up – my arm was indisposed with nursing child. I said to leave it with Jed and I’d get to it later. The Qantas attendant decided that was okay and she’d do it if I preferred, but how about if she cut the dinner up, and just left the dinner and a fork (rather than the whole tray), and then I could manage it while it was still hot? She was awesome. I remember that still. Six years later. I even remember what the flight attendant looked like. That’s good branding.

Market your flights to mums

This is a trip that costs about $US1000 a seat return – minimum. There are a couple of hundred people on the plane, who’ve all paid at least that amount. This is not a bus. People are tired, stressed and emotional. Being an attendant on these flights is hard work. But it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a flight attendant go beyond the most basic of service effort and everyone’s flight would have been better if that kid had stopped screaming.

On our trip over another woman was left standing in the queue with her three kids. The flight had been delayed. It was 2am. The smallest kid was asleep. She had carry-on luggage. She was really struggling. And the attendants all ignored her.

Yes, I helped her as I could, and Charlie even offered too. If an 9yr old gets it, why don’t the airlines?

When we finally boarded that flight, the ground staff said the standard “how are you?” I said “good, and you?” His reply was “tired.”

Well stuff you.

My reply? “At least you’re getting paid.” I should have added ‘and don’t have to sit on the plane for the next 16 hours with kids, and haven’t just had a 3 hours flight to get here, and then waited 9 hours for this delayed one.’

Sheesh. I wonder who’s more precious? My kids completely expecting video on demand in their seats, or these airline staff who seem to think we owe them something more than the price of a ticket.

Instead of focusing on leg room, loyalty programs and discount prices, it would be great to see an airline focus on really going beyond the call of duty to make your flight the best you’ve ever had. If an airline marketed to mothers, they’d see these women are the decision makers, who travel with their families (more ticket sales), and to be honest, it’s the simple things like offering a pair of hands when needed that will make a mother like you more.

Or maybe that’s just too hard. Too much to ask.

The chick flick of startup founders

Sometimes I get reminded why I’m doing this.dreamstime_2419283

There’s so much going on right now. I’m exhausted a lot of the time. I have no idea how Jed keeps this relentless pace up. No wonder I’ve called him robot boy for so long.

Today I managed to squeeze in coffee with my good friend, Mark (@soctechnologist) after my first meeting for the day, and before I came home to hit more screen time. During our chat, we talked about something that happened in my TheFunded class last night. One of the mentors asked who planned on building the next billion dollar company. Many hands went in the air.

But I hesitated.

Why? As a startup founder, I run across lots of other startups whose focus is on the dollar. That’s what they’re interested in. That’s what lots of people create their lives around. For many people, being involved in a startup is kinda like taking an entry in the lottery – it’s that kind of gamble. For some it’s that gambling addiction that keeps them in there. It’s all about the payout. Money is the focus. Startups for them are like a drug.

But not me.

As I said to Mark today, heck, if money was my focus I’d still be living in Sydney, in my house with my secure job (that I loved), our two cars. My family. My friends. My dogs. I wouldn’t have packed it all up and moved here. I didn’t do it for a gamble. While I enjoy the odd flutter, I don’t buy lottery tickets.

I explained, looking around the enormous room we were in at all the people sitting with their coffee and lunch, that if we asked everyone in that room who had used a search engine on their computer the last time they were on it, I’ll bet every hand in the room would go into the air (and in fact, I bet all of them would have said Google was the search they had chosen). People are automatically going to look for stuff online. They do it automatically. That’s what the internet is for, right?

I then said if we asked all those same people who created content at any point in the last week, a minimal number of hands would go up. And I’m talking about any kind of content. Video, audio, text. A reply or comment on someone else’s creation, even.

Everyone looks for stuff, but a tiny percentage actually create it. And that’s bad.

StatementThe democratization of media – the real power of the internet – happens when people create content, not just when they search and read other peoples’ stuff. Democracy is not just about the infrastructure being there, it’s about people using it to interact and get involved.

I am jumping into this startup because my focus is on making creating content easier – for everyone. The internet won’t be fully democratized until everyone has a real voice, and the barriers to using it are minimized. Scribetribe.us will provide the whole world with that opportunity. From a small perspective, right here in America, I want to empower that homeless guy brandishing a cardboard sign outside the supermarket who has access to the internet at the local library for free, to have his presence felt. I want him to be able to more easily build his own blog, interact with others, get onto Twitter. Have a voice.

Imagine what an impact that would have.

And then take it across the world. That’s what I’m a part of. That’s the vision.

As I said to both my team last night and to Mark this morning, I’m probably best described as the chick flick of startup founders. I’d really like to be able to stop scrounging for quarters, but that’s not why I’m doing this. While others in startup land might be chasing the big money payout, my focus is elsewhere. And you know what? I’m more than happy with that.

The Startup Kid

Running a startup isn’t easy on anyone.

The glorious trails of successful entrepreneurs are littered with the scars of broken relationships and bitter resentment of cold dinners and missed birthday parties.

It takes a special kind of relationship to weather the storms of startup life.

At Darling Harbour, Sydney.

At Darling Harbour, Sydney.

It takes a special kind of kid too. A kid who will understand that daddy or mummy can’t make it to every school function. That we can’t afford summer camp.

It takes a special kid who will say okay through his tears as he’s torn from his Australian home, his dogs, his school friends, because he knows that what we’re working on isn’t a normal sort of job like his friends’ parents have.

This week we have begun graduation celebrations for Harry as he completes year 5. I got to make a dedication to him the other day at school, as did all the other parents in his class to their kids.In typical startup style, I did this one alone because Jed’s in Silicon Valley at the moment. The Kleenex was really getting passed around that circle.

Why so much Kleenex? It was his teacher’s fault really. She got us to close our eyes and think of when we were having our child, their infancy, and years in elementary school. And then open our eyes and take our turns to speak from the heart to our child in front of everyone (you could pass if you wanted to, but nobody did – this is Boulder, after all ;)).

Now, I cry at the drop of a hat. I can’t walk into that darned school without automatically tearing up it seems (sigh). But for this dedication, while others were a bit of a mess, I hardly cried at all.

And while it surprised me at the time, I know why.

Harry is an incredible kid. He was made for the startup life. I won’t be a bit surprised if he ends up living it himself. (Good grief, I hope he scores a partner as well as his dad did ;)). Harry’s adaptability is remarkable. Many kids would have resented the move to the US, and that would have been understandable. Not Harry, even though he misses Australia very much.

Harry's idea of cleaning up his room

Harry's idea of cleaning up his room

He’s no angel though. He has a cheeky side and he’s a daredevil. I was told of his decision to ride a waterfall while hiking, stopping just short of a massive drop – nearly giving everyone watching a heart attack. And we will never forget him barrelling down Eldora mountain on a snowboard without a single turn and nearly hitting a bus in the car park – grinning afterwards.

Everyone who knows us as a family will agree that Harry is the one who most wears his heart on his sleeve. He hugs everyone. Repeatedly.

He is honest and open. But he can’t sleep if he’s feeling bad about something – he has to get up and talk it through. And he has a strength of character and self-belief which overcomes every obstacle. He’s never said “I’ve had enough.”  He just keeps going. It’s that tenacity that is so inspiring and awesome.

And I can’t cry about that. I can’t cry about changes at all – for Harry the world is his oyster, and he’s loving the adventure. He doesn’t care that much about stuff he hasn’t accomplished yet – he’s just going to keep trying. And he’s not concerned about being the best at everything. He just wants to give it a go.

Last week his performance on drums at the big 5th grade concert that combined musicians from 3 schools was incredible. He was on time with every beat. He enjoyed it. And he’s such an individual, he wore his lucky hat too 😉

I can’t wait to see what he tries his hand at, and surprises us with, in Middle School. They’re gonna be lucky to have him. As are we.

Congratulations, Harry. We’re so proud of you, and grateful for all you give back to us every single day.

Why my family loves Boulder

I never dreamed I’d live anywhere other than Sydney, Australia.

When you’ve got a good job, a house you’re constantly doing ‘something’ to, kids, dogs, routine… the last thing you think of is moving. Anywhere. Least of all to a country you’ve never been to before. But then I came home from work one day and Jed told me his start-up dreams weren’t done with itechne. He had a bigger one. To go to the US and launch what was to become scribetribe.us.

And I said okay, we’ll Skype and email.

But he had a different plan. He convinced me to take (another) chance.

We packed up and moved to Boulder, Colorado in August 2008.

Now, lots of people have written about the great things Boulder has to offer in terms of nightlife, culture, the outdoors and the tech scene. And it’s all true and fantastic. I am loving being a part of all of those things. But above everything else, I’m a *proud* mum. And Boulder is an amazing place to raise kids.

Harry and Charlie are aged 8 and 11 and have come to Boulder with us. They have swapped their Sydney private school blazers and ties, frenetic life-by-the-clock, mum out teaching three nights a week, no friends within walking distance, and a home where they weren’t allowed to play out the front due to the traffic – for this:

september-2008-002 A lifestyle that is similar to that I remember as a kid. One I thought you couldn’t give your kids any more, because “times have changed.”

They’d never seen snow before we moved to Boulder. Here they love it. december-2008-004

On top of all that, the (public) school they go to has the best educators I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. They have been wonderful in helping my kids move to not only a new home, but a place where feet and inches, and American history are completely different for them. They’ve made the transtition incredibly smoothly – and it’s largely due to the school. (I’ve already celebrated Bear Creek Elementary in an earlier post.)

For me? The start-up widow? I’ve swapped a lifestyle where the drive to work each day took an hour of fume-laden highways, teaching in this college at Granville:

granville-tafe-007

For being a part of the University of Colorado, which is slightly more attractive.

uni-of-colorado1

And on top of everything else, my husband is throwing himself into his life’s dream. He’s happily working on seemingly endless adrenaline, at all hours. But he tries to take a run each day and instead of it being beside a road where it’s simply not safe after a certain hour, it’s up around NCAR where deer graze.

So I guess the thing is, when you think you’re settled and couldn’t think of moving, think again. A bit of unsettling could be the best thing you do for your family. Especially if Boulder is where you end up. If you’re in tech and thinking about moving to Boulder, get in touch with the guys at Boulder.me.

ncar1