Thursday, December 27, 2007

Forget your troubles...

Welcome to the annual New Year’s Resolution column. You just knew I was going do this, didn’t you? I mean what else can a woman write about a few days before the start of the new year than what she is going to do to change herself and finally get her life in order?
I considered writing about how Christmas went over in our house - but it was largely uneventful and I would only be boring you with tales of the boy and his many weird and wonderful Christmas questions. (Does Rudolph like broccoli mammy? When will the baby Jesus be old enough to play with me? etc etc).
Or I could do one of those things were I look back over the last year - but elsewhere in this paper you will find my tales of all the good things book related and if I were to talk about the bad things (bereavement, illness and poverty) I’d only end up maudlin and it really would take the glean of my new Next sale purchases.
So instead we’ll look forward but with only a hint of cautious optimism because last year I was bouncing off the ceiling with excitement only to have the best of times matched with the worst of times.
So now I’m going to look forward and take positive steps to make myself a little happier. When I do the sums, life is pretty happy as it is. I have a lovely husband, a wonderful family (with the best mammy and daddy in the world, so there!), a most gorgeous and hilarious child and a nice, comfy home. I work in a job where they actually pay me to do the two things I like most in the whole world which is write and talk to people.
But still, like most people I suppose, I like a good grumble. I would like some more money in the bank, a nice holiday in the sun, health for those I love, a nice trim figure and a nice new car on the driveway as opposed to the chugging monster I currently possess. (I do love my wee car, but I feel like kissing it every time we arrive at our destination for not conking out on me midway).
I guess, however, it’s all in my mindset. When I was at school we had a substitute RE teacher with us for a few months and while I don’t remember her name, or even what she looked like, I do remember that on the day she left she gave us all a little card with the serenity prayer printed on it. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
Those words have stayed with me in times of sorrow and joy and perhaps it is my biggest resolution of all for 2008 to find peace with all that will happen. I’ll try not to chew my nails down to the bone when my second book comes out and I’m waiting for the reviews. I’ll try to have the courage to keep trying to change myself - losing weight and getting healthy, even when I want to comfort eat myself into oblivion.
I’ll try not to beat my chest in protest at the fact my granny has Alzheimer’s and is sick in hospital and instead make the effort to visit her a little more - even if I know she doesn’t recognise me from Adam.
I will try and retain my patience with the boy when he asks his many, many questions about Rudolph and his favourite vegetables or goes into his refrain of “Mummeeee, Mummmmeeeee, Mummeeeee” like a fog horn waking me from my sleep.
I will try to appreciate the things my darling husband does do around the house instead of focusing on the things he doesn’t. (Although in fairness, my patience may be severely tried with that one and I don’t expect it to last beyond the 3rd or 4th of January at the very latest.
I’m also determined to be a little kinder to myself. Thanks to a lovely giftset from Lush! this Christmas (Why does Derry not have a Lush!? We need Lush! - perhaps I’ll start a campaign) I spent several evenings in the bath, candles lit, glass of wine at my side, good book to read and pampered myself. It felt deliciously indulgent and was the highlight of my festive season. I’m determined to keep that tradition up and put myself first for a little bit in the new year.
I will also, I sincerely promise, try to not to spend my days moaning and groaning about every little detail of my life. I have definitely found that a negative frame of mind is contagious and the more I grumble and complain, the more I find to grumble and complain about.
I won’t go as far as becoming one of those relentlessly cheerful people who says “Smile, it might never happen” to the point where people will want to beat me around the head with my own shoes, but I’ll try and not let the little things in life get on top of me so much.
If I manage that, I’ll be happy (or at least happier) and perhaps that the best we should all aim for in the New Year?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Does Rudolph like broccoli?

Should I ever write a children's book, I will call it "Does Rudolph Like Broccoli?" with a subhead of "And Other Random Questions from a three year old".
Christmas morning started this way for us yesterday. The boy crept into our bed at gone 3.30 and climbed down beside us. We urged him to go back to sleep as it was much too early and he snuggled down (pushing me and the husband to opposite sides of the bed).
I was just drifting off to sleep when "Does Rudolph like broccoli?" assaulted my ears. "Muuummeeee!" the boy insisted as I tried to ignore him and fake sleep. "Does he? Does Rudolph like broccoli or is it just carrots?"
"He likes all good food," I answered and shhhed him again.
"But does he like tatoes... and gravy... and turkey too?"
"Yes, yes I imagine he does..."
etc etc etc

My son has developed quite the habit of the random 3am question. It could be (as it has been lately) "When will the baby Jesus be old enough to play with me?", or "Jack in my school thinks he is getting all the toys, is he mummmeee?", or "Can you get me a fire station, not a toy one, a real one to live in?"
Sometimes it's just an observation from his day, like "Harry in my school did a poo at the table today" or "Miss in school is four like me", but you can't get away with ignoring him. Oh no, you must for the love of God answer these and any follow up questions or get no sleep at all whatsoever.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Blissed out

Yesterday I received a present in the post from one of my WriteWords buddies, who I won't name as she is quite shy etc

Anyway I have just soaked in my bath with a Lush bath melt, exfoliated with Lush Aqua Mirablis and slathered Lush Dream Cream all over my skin.

The bath was accompanied by a glass of fine wine and the new Melissa Hill (how the feckity feck does she come up with those plot lines? I *heart* her, although her writing makes me want to give up...)

I am now sitting in front of my chrimblemass tree, slightly fuzzy on the wine, completely blissed out from some pure relaxation.

Thank you oh lovely Write Words friend!

Highlights and lowlights of 2007

Stolen fron ridiculously funny Myrte at "Doing the Compossible"

Best Writing Moment:

Seeing Book One (Rainy Days and Tuesdays) in print and in a proper shop with other books in and everything.

Best Reason To Give It All Up:

Cecelia Ahern and "A Place Called Here" or whatever the bejaysus it was called. Now Cecelia seems lovely and is hugely successful, but for me this was the worst case of the Emperors New Clothes we have seen in the chick lit market this fine year.

Best One-Liner, Guaranteed To Cheer Self When Writing Career Goes Tits-Up:

Courtesy of the soon to be hugely famous Fionnuala from WriteWords "Chin up, Tummy in and tits out"

Best One-Liner By A Blood Relative:

The boy rapping in an Ali G stylee... (See pic) "Let's go to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus"

Best Awww Moment, Guaranteed To Get Things Into Perspective:
The boy telling me I was his hero and the best fire fighter in the world . (?)
Best Blog:
Best 5 Novel(s):
The Seven Year Itch- Josie Lloyd and her husband
Mothernight / Sarah Stovell
Queen Mum / Kate Long
Crazy for You/ Emma Heatherington
erm.. realising I've really not read much this year as I have been so busy writing.... Rainy Days and Tuesdays????

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Yay me!

One of the hardest things I've done since becoming an author is speak to people about myself.
As a journalist and writer I much prefer the comfort of my laptop and home pc than actually talking out loud and trying to be ever so witty and funny with my repartee.
Well tonight I attended a function I had been invited to last week. I went to the Chamber of Commerce to address the local Women in Enterprise group for their Christmas drinkies. (Hark at me, being guest of honour and all that).
Now these are all successful and confident women (their confidence shamed me, to be honest) and there's me, moderately successful with confidence on a zero scale at the moment but aware that my publishers would prefer I actively promoted the book rather than sit in a corner like a sad old wall flower, I agreed to go.
I had to talk, informally, for about 20 minutes about my journey to becoming a writer and I think when they laughed it was at least with me and not at me. (although when I did my impression of Joseph rapping his lines from the school nativity...I think it was definitely at me).

But I did it, and I'm proud of myself because I've been feeling so meh lately that I needed a good old kick up the tush confidence wise.

Tomorrow I drive in the frost! Does my bravery know no bounds???

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Tis the season to be meh....

My struggle with depression is well documented on the pages of this blog and believe me, I thought I was doing okay. I really have felt (apart from the PMT monsters) much brighter, calmer and generally more zen.
I've even spoken to my doctor about coming off medication after almost five years and the thought didn't terrify the bejaysus out of me for once, but God I'm in a dark wee place at the moment and I want out of it.
(Now I'm not thinking of jumping off bridges or taking overdoses or the like so please noone worry on that score). I just feel meh.
It seems that the last two months has been a series of knocks in my personal life which are now affecting my ability to think rationally in the day job and the night job.
I'm also immersed in a pretty serious storyline for my third book and when I'm writing about human misery I have to kind of feel it for it to be honest.
I'm paranoid, weepy, whiney and generally in that place in my head where I want to take to my bed and do mny dying swan routine until it all goes away.
I hate this feeling - when my bad days become a bad week - but I know it will pass and I'll come out the other side soon (I hope).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I've become quite addicted to

The Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl who has lost HALF HER BODY WEIGHT!
I put that is caps because c'mon, the girl lost 12.5 stone, not a measley 17lbs here and there like moi. (Although by the end of this I hope to have 4-5 stone off... but I digress
Not only has she lost HALF HER BODY WEIGHT she also writes a very funny blog.

I so related to this post today...

Can I just say I am having a dirty cow of a week. I would like to know what
are you supposed to do when you feel ultra-stressed that doesn't involve diving
face-first into a vat of Smarties or buying stuff. I went out at lunch today and
the brain was racing: CHOCOLATE no don't need any more chocolate STUFF no don't
need any more stuff OK THEN WHAT ABOUT A MAGAZINE coz that's not edible.
So I stood in the queue at Marks and Spencer and by the time it was my turn I
realised the magazine was a bit shit. January issues of magazines are always so
skimpy. Anyway, I skulked back to the office and wondered if my head would
This never really gets any easier, does it? Stress is always going to come along and my reaction is always going to be: how can we instantly soothe
this uncomfortable sensation? You can't Take A Bubble Bath or Phone An Understanding Friend when you're in the office at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

I think that is the reason I had a Chunky Kit Kat this week!

Getting my bling back

I’ve spoken frequently in this column about my struggle with my weight. My weight has gone up and down like a dog’s hind leg more times than I care to think about and if I’m honest, it has tended to err more on the side of up than down.
Since having my child I’ve gone on diets too numerous to mention with varying degrees of success and then have inevitably fallen off the wagon at some stage and spent the following number of months in a cycle of negative thoughts and self loathing (while wadging some chips and curry sauce down my gob.)
Of course it all came into sharp focus this past summer when I went on the book tour with ‘Rainy Days and Tuesdays’. I had the joyous experience of going on live TV with impossibly skinny and glam presenters and having my photo taken numerous times while talking about the importance of being happy with yourself and proud of who you are.
And yet I refused to look at the photos which had been taken or watch the video back of my TV appearances because I didn’t want to see me, very un-bling-like, slobbing over the UTV sofa. (And my sister’s friend said I sounded “wile snobby”).
“So you lost weight then?” one presenter asked and I snorted in response. “Erm, no. The book isn’t actually about me, but now that you mention it I could be doing with a couple of months on the salads and grilled chicken.”
It’s kind of sad to say my enjoyment of the summer was marred by feeling exceptionally self conscious despite a neat line in lovely bootcut jeans and nice tops bought just for going on the telly.
I became resigned to giving Dawn French a run for her money and tried to convince myself that good things come in large packages. (Although for the record I fecking hate that Mika song ‘Big Girl You are Beautiful’ - you’d have to be off your head to dance to that. I mean you might as well drape a “Fat and Alone” sign around your neck. It’s perhaps the most patronising piece of musical rubbish of recent years.)
But for a number of reasons - not least my plummeting self esteem - I decided two months ago that desperate times called for desperate measures. I saw a picture of myself at fellow writer Emma Heatherington’s book launch and I felt sick.
Surely I hadn’t let myself get THAT big? Surely it was a trick of the light or photoshop or a weird digital imaging glitch which meant me - and my big, red, moonface - were grossly distorted. Alas everything else in the photo - including Emma’s perfectly toned arms- was in perfect proportion so maybe, just maybe it was time to make some real changes.
So eight weeks ago I went to Tesco armed with an impressive shopping list of GI (Glycaemic Index) friendly foods and bought more fruit and veg than I would normally consume in a month. Out went “Healthy Option” ready meals. In came new potatoes, lean beef and chicken breasts. Out went salt, vinegar and tubs of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream and in came herbs, spices and low fat probiotic yoghurt. Chocolate is a no- no. But then this diet promised that if I was a really good girl and stuck to the rules I wouldn’t crave chocolate anyway. Ha! I scoffed. Me? Beat the chocolate cravings? You’re having a laugh, I chided, slipping a few low fat chocolate mousses in my shopping trolley under the lettuce, onions, tomatoes (God, so many flipping tomatoes!) and butternut squash - just in case.
I stopped off at Argos too, buying a griddle pan and a steamer and vowing, in a Scarlet O’Hara style that I would never go hungry for healthy food again.
I’ve spent seven weeks teaching myself to cook with varying degrees of success. Beef Goulash? Yummy. Home made turkey burgers? Not for the faint hearted. And with my transformation I’ve seen my weight start to slide off. So far I’m 17lbs down. I have a long way to go, but it doesn’t phase me the way it used to. My posture has changed, my confidence has improved and my bling - well, it’s getting there.
That’s not to say there haven’t been wobbles (and I’m not just talking about my spare tyres). There was one unfortunate Pizza Hut incident and the strange case of the Friday morning sausage roll but overall my entire attitude to food and eating has been changed.
It’s my goal that should ‘the UTV’ invite me back on the sofa next summer I’ll be able to watch the videos back without cringing (although, maybe I will at my ‘wile snobby’ accent). But more than I want to get my confidence back - just like Grace does in ‘Rainy Days and Tuesdays’ and realise that while size doesn’t really matter - happiness does. And, for the record, I didn’t eat the chocolate mousse and no, I didn’t even want it anyway.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

If you are looking for something to pass the time

You could do worse then check out Emily's Blog "Doing the Compossible"
Emily is a very talented writer who makes me howl with laughter, but she is also a very lovely person and very adept at naming books. (Rainy Days and Tuesdays was borne of her name choosing ability).
Anyway, checking out her blog today I found this post on the Seven Signs of Ageing.
And yes, I nodded in agreement the whole way through.


Look what's now available for pre-order on Amazon! (Apart from the paperback of Rainy Days and Tuesdays that is)
All 704 pages! (704! Wow!)
Roll on May!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Well hark at me - award winner

For my journalism - and it's only an internal award (well throughout Johnston Press' 30 Northern Irish titles).
My Children of the Year Awards (and yes, I do feel a certain ownership of them after six years of reading about sick and courageous wains) received the 'Life is Local: Community Initiative of 2007' Award.
For me, writing about 'real' people and true human stories is my favourite aspect of my chosen career (the day job anyway) so this was a great boost.
Sadly I wasn't at the awards ceremony so didn't get to do my Oscar style speech, but I'd like to thank my colleague Erin for sticking the lollies in the lid of the box on the night and supplying hankies when I sobbed at the stories. I'd also like to thank my husband, my child, my mammy, my agent, my window cleaner and my driving instructor.
You love me, you really love me!

(Above speech was written with tongue firmly in cheek - just in case you wondered).

2008- afraid to put the blah on it

Last year I posted about how I was vay, vay, vay excited about 2007 and how it was going to be the "best ever year ever".
I was vaguely smug and the Karma fairy bit me in the arse fair and square over it.
Yes, I had the wonderful, wonderful high that was getting published and reaching the top ten with RD&T. The whole experience was beyond my expectations and made me feel very lucky.
But there was a great deal of heartache in the last year too - the death of my father-in-law, my uncle and my sister's new father-in-law on her wedding day; the closure of my mother's amazing charity due to a lack of funding, my granny's deterioration with Alzheimer's.
So while there are things I'm excited about for next year, I'm going to stay relatively quiet (and unsmug) about them. I hope that the paperback of RD&T goes down well. I hope people like 'Blue Line Blues' and start to believe that I didn't write RD&T as an autobiography.
And I hope for personal contentment for my and my family in the coming months.
This last year has made realise that is more than enough to ask for.

The pride and the pain of motherhood

There is nothing which makes a mother’s heart sink to her boots as much as being told her previously darling three year-old has taken it upon himself to turn into an extra from ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and high-kicked a fellow classmate at nursery school.
The injured party (a girl, which makes it all the worse - I’m raising a woman beater) survived with minor injuries and after a scolding from me, his teacher, his daddy, his granny, his auntie and his overbearing five year-old granny-mush of a cousin, the fruit of my loins is suitably mortified and promises never, ever, ever to do it again - not even if someone hits him first, or kicks him or steals his favourite toy.
It has been a hard lesson to learn that once children step out of the warmth and love of your home, they will spend the next 15 years (or longer) making you both cringe with embarrassment and burn with pride as they find their way in the world.
I take him to school each morning, watching in that uber paranoid manner of mine which children he talks to and which talk back to him. I smile when I see him run off with his little friends, or help them find their name symbols to stick on the register board. When his teacher told me she was impressed with his verbal skills I grinned with pride. That’ll be because I’ve pushed his language development from the day he was born, chatting nine to the dozen to him about almost anything and everything, I thought smugly.
When she commented on his imaginative play, I beamed. Sure, wasn’t I just great? Encouraging my child’s wild imagination. He is surely a wee creative soul like his mammy.
Somehow that pride evaporated in 0.3 seconds when I learned of his Hong-Kong-Fuey moves at school. I was horrified. I started thinking back - had I let him see something unsuitable on TV? Had I given him any indication that lashing out was acceptable?
Had I been too lenient with naughty-step punishments, letting him away with the odd minute here and there or finding myself unable to stop the laughter at some of his recent indiscretions? (The child protesting his innocence while covered in chocolate with sweetie wrappers from the Advent calendar all around him was too cute to take seriously). It dawned on me that much as I know and accept my child is an individual with his own personality, I will always in some way see him as a reflection of me and my parenting.
I desperately don’t want him to be the class bully - the one child the other mammies steer their little darlings away from in case he becomes a bad influence on them. And up until now, he hasn’t given me too many worries on that front. For the most part he is a caring, loving and very sensitive child. If I’m sick, or upset, he will run over and smother me in kisses until I’m better.
When his darling Grandpa was ill in hospital he insisted on praying every night for his recovery. When we told him the doctor’s weren’t able to make Grandpa better he simply said he would take Grandpa to his doctor instead, as his doctor always made people better. I myself succumbed to a nasty stomach bug on Monday (not great news for my stomach, wonderful news for my diet), Joseph played the role of mammy’s nursemaid beautifully. “Mammy, I’ll get you a basin. Hold the sickies in, I’ll be quick,” he shouted, bumming his way down the stairs at the speed of light.
And when the said basin was in place, he demonstrated how I should lie over the edge of the bed and be sick and that “getting rid of all the bad sickies would make me better”. At times like that I want to keep him close to me always (Not in a weird Norman Bates /Psycho way, you understand - just in a Derry mammy way) but there are other times when I would gladly stick him up on Ebay. (One child, almost new, in good condition, obsessed with ham sandwiches.)
I doubt Joseph will forget in a hurry the lesson he learned this week at school - that if you do hit out no-one will want to be your friend. (Although bless the wee classmate who made him a pretend cup of tea after the incident to cheer him up). At the same time I won’t forget it in a hurry either.
When I left the wee man into school the following day I scanned the classroom for a sign of a wee girl in obvious distress or with any bruising so that I could personally apologise to her mammy and let her know that such behaviour is not typical of my son. Because believe me I don’t want to turn into one of those mammies who shrugs such things off with a “kids will be kids” attitude, or worse still a “My wain wouldn’t do that” attitude.
I imagine before school days are done - and probably well into adulthood - there will be many (well, hopefully only a few) such embarrassing episodes and I suppose like all aspects of parenthood I’ll have to take the rough with the smooth - encourage the good and deal with the bad head on and hope the former outweighs the latter. And if all else fails, there is always Ebay.
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