Monday, November 29, 2010

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Yesterday was Cara's first real snow. I say her first real snow because last year she was too eeny to really make much sense of it. Yesterday however the verdict was in. Snow is good. She loves it almost as much as her brother.
Snowed in and "forced" to spend the day playing on the floor with my kids and watching cheesy movies, I had one of those "Would it be great if it was like this all the time?" moments.

Fleeting as it was it put everything into perspective even if just for a short time.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Random Conversations With the Boy.. Cont.

Devastating news here this morning folks. The boy's rock band (made up of him, his wee friend Dylan and his wee cousin Ethan (who is two)) Rock Bros have disbanded. In fairness as Dylan lives in Scotland I don't think he ever knew he was in Rock Bros in the first places...

But this morning in the car, the boy announces. "Me and friends in school are forming a band. I'm not in Rock Bros anymore.Our new band is calling Rock Lightning."
Me: "And what songs are you going to sing? Bon Jovi? Aerosmith?"
Him: "The songs from our Chirstmas show. We're very good".

Prepare for a rocking version of 'Little Donkey' then folks....

Have a rock and roll Christmas.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Random conversations with the boy

His letter to Santa .... umprompted by anyone... started with..

Dear Santa,
I know this year has been a bit of a curvy line....

At least he's honest.

She's hot and she's cold

The last week has been even stranger than the week before. On Sunday, while wandering through Prestwick airport I came to the conclusion that I was never going to write again - apart from blog updates and Facebook statuses. And of course journalisty things because, obviously, they pay me to do that. And Christmas cards and signing the boy's homework. But when it came to my novelisty ambitions I decided, very firmly, that I was done. I made peace with it, if the truth be told.
It has felt like hardwork lately and if the truth be told once again, it hasn't been working particularly well. I've not felt in the zone since about August - and even then it was a brief visit.  So I decided it would become one of those things that I once did but didn't any more and I could always tell my children and grandchildren that "I wrote a book, or four, once, so I did. I wasn't always a doddery old dear."
In making that decision it was as if a switch flicked on (or off) and I felt lighter than I had done in a very long time. That wasn't just because I was flying at an altitude of 15,000 feet either. (Ryanair, there's a joy...).

But then, as if by magic, something remarkable happened. As I went to bed that night the ending of book five became all to apparant to me and I felt excited by it - more excited than I had done in quite some time. Certainly more excited than during the last two and a half months when I battered out a measly 10,000 words
I got up on Monday and wrote. And then on Tuesday  I wrote again. I was lying, prone in bed with a fever and a cold, and I had to write - 2000 + words spewing onto the screen. And they were good words - words I felt the buzz about.
Today I wrote some more and tomorrow I will as well and now when I go to bed my brain doesn't scream "No! No! No more about the book!" - it screams "Tell me more, ah go on, tell me more!"
And even better Kitty from Book 6 is knocking on the door wanting to come in.

I think in letting go, entirely, for even those few hours, something clicked back into place and I live to write another day.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

This week has been a crazy week

First of all it has mostly be dominated not by the news of the royal engagement but instead by the introduction of the Atex Content Management system in the Derry Journal (feel free to fall asleep now).
A quick Google (always love saying that word in a soft Galway accent, for the record) of Atex and Johnston Press (our parent company) will show that the move has not necessarily been a popular one throughout the group.
And I can tell you all now, it has been a stress fest here. Most of this admittedly from the lowly reporter's point of view (that's mine...) has been because it is very different to how we worked previously. VERY different. I've worked all week with three crib sheets in front of me, what feels like 100 different windows open on my desktop and amid an atmosphere of sheer insanity.
I have sworn quite a lot.
But we will get there and it is just a matter of things bedding in.

What did make me smile though was a lovely review on Chick Lit Reviews which said IGTBP cemented as one of Ireland's finest Chick Lit writers -which was a very nice thing for them to say indeed. The reviewer wasn't so keen on the sexual content in the opening chapters which I think painted a picture of the book as a bonkbuster... I can assure you it's not. There's a bit of innuendo and some near the knuckle humour but there isn't actually all that much sex... not really. Swear to God. There isn't even a single throbbing doodah....

Finally I booked tickets for Bon Jovi playing in the RDA in Dublin next June. Yes, I will be the almost middleaged saddo sitting in the comfy seats asking them to turn it down a bit. Or maybe I'll just rock it out.

A bit like the war, we'll not mention the book.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Not that kind of girl

My sister (the younger one) has worked exceptionally hard and has managed to shed an amazing 78lbs this year (that over five stone in old money).
She has blogs about it here - and also about her new cooking habits which have, no doubt, aided her weight loss.
You see Emma is what is known as a foodie. She sees a cupboard of ingredients and conjures up something exotic, tasty and healthy. I am not a foodie. I see a cupboard of ingredients, get myself befuddled and order a pizza, or whizz up an exceptionally uncreative jacket potato.
I have berated myself about this for a while. I would love to be the kind of person who pours over books from Nigella/ Jamie/ Hugh/ Gordon and who creates amazing meals for my family. The sad fact is, I'm not. I think I'm the bees knees if I whip up a quick vegetable soup and or home made lasagne but that is about as far as my culinary skills go.
I do rely, perhaps too heavily, on tinned soups, pasta and sauces and yes, potato waffles and it does annoy me. But I have to remind myself that I am just not that kind of person. I never will be. I simply do not have the time to slave over a cooker for hours - not with the two jobs, two kids and house that messes itself to look after.
I am jealous though - especially of the results Emma has achieved. I also think it is amazing that her children - even the baby who is just a year old - will eat almost anything put in front of them while my two are fusspots.
I refuse however to beat myself with a stick over my lack of culinary flair and remind myself that no one does as good a cheese on toast as I do.

These shoes were made for walking...

The quest to lose a bit of weight and shape up has stepped up a gear. Let me say for the record I had diastrous summer putting back on a healthy portion of the weight I had lost at the start of year.

I have to take my oil - this was all entirely my own fault. I stopped going to my WeightWatchers’ meetings and ignored the gentle nudges my class leader. I figured I knew it all and anyway, it was summer, it was the one time of year when weight is guaranteed to fall off you whether you try or not. Sure don’t we all go swimming and walking and running around on the beach like eejits every summer? Aren’t there healthy salads almost coming out of your ears during the warmer months? I was bound to end the summer month a skinny minny - it was inevitable.

I didn’t take into consideration the barbecues, and how much I love burgers laden with cheese. I didn’t take into consideration the bottles of wine, and the crisps and dips and, looking back I didn’t do so much of the swimming, walking or running around the beach. I did a great deal of watching the kids swim, walk and run but I took on more of a supervisory role which, while important, is not so great as a cardiovascular work out.

So it was hardly surprising that come two weeks ago I found myself in the uneviable position of having to walk, shamefaced, back into WeightWatchers and ask very nicely to be given another chance. (You always get another chance, for the record, but I still felt like a gack.)

I decided however that it would take more than a weekly weigh in and a bit of counting points to help me along the way. I would have to do some exercise - and by that I meant actually moving not just supervising the moving from a comfortable seat.

I thought about it. My fitness levels are disgraceful. The sum total of my weekly activity involved the aforementioned supervising and walking from the car to the school gates/ office/ round Tesco and little else. I don’t think that I have ever been so unfit before in my life. There was a time I could have danced all night and would have barely broken a sweat, or a time when I could have swum a good 50 lengths of the pool without calling for a cardiac ambulance afterwards. These days walking up the hill to my house leaves me done in.

So I decided to take things relatively slowly and do something which would allow me to build up my fitness levels gently. Ladies and gentlemen, I have become a walker.

I have become one of the fearless souls who walks at a speedy pace along the highways and byways of Derry in the early evening huffing and puffing as I go and waving my arms around in a bid to really get my blood pumping.

Now walking, in theory, sounds easy. After all I’ve been doing in since I was 18 months old (I was a late starter). I figured it would be a case of simply putting on a pair of sensible shoes and putting one foot in front of the other.

The only problem was, I don’t actually own any sensible shoes. So first of all I had to go and buy some. It’s long accepted that I am marketing man’s dream so I was persuaded to buy a pair of magic trainers. They aren’t, of course, actually magic but they do claim to help work your thighs, bum and abdominable muscles extra hard while you walk so that you tone everything while you tootle along.

Slipping my feet into them that night I felt like I could take on the world - or the two bridges - no bother to me. In fact I felt like ringing up Ilex and telling them to get a bleeding move on with the third bridge just so that I could walk it as well.

But stepping out, my body quickly seized up in shock. I was walking, at speed, in extra sensible muscle stretching shoes. My body did not like this. Not. One. Bit. And as I walked I was sure the shoes were getting heavier with each and every step until, by the last assault on a very hilly street in the Waterside I had taken on the appearance of Herman Munster clumping my way up the hill while snails whizzed passed laughing their shells off at my feeble attempts.

I didn’t give up though. Indeed the experience scared me - it is not right for a 34 year old to have the physical agility of an 84 year. On a serious note it dawned on that I was not setting a good example my for two, admittedly very active, children and that if I didn’t sort myself out I may not see 84 years old at all.

So I went out again the next night - and it hurt. And the night after - and it still hurt. Two weeks on it still hurts. The Herman Munster walk has not disappeared but I’m 5lbs down and starting to look forward to trekking the roads each evening.

Who knows, if I keep this up I may even be fit for a bit more that ‘supervising’ next summer?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

That's what friends are for...

Usually I reserve gushing over my fellow writers to the acknowledgements of my books but I want to say a public thank you to two very special fellow Northern Girls for absolutely being there for me over the past couple of weeks when I've been feeling crappy.

These girls, hugely successful and very busy in their own right, have taken the time to call, email and text to make sure I'm okay but have also given me the space to get my head straight. They've also each been dealing with their own issues - but have selflessly been there for me and I absolutely appreciate it more than words can say.

The first is the lovely Fionnoodles, aka Fiona Cassidy and the second is the uber stylish Mrs Sharon Owens who really have proved to me that writing gives you some amazing gifts in your life, not least the support and friendship of your fellow authors.

It's nice to think of summer

Especially when the heavens are opening as they today. Seriously... if I weren't so well mannered I would say it is pishing it down. (Pish is an underrated, if slightly offensive word. But sometimes no other word will do).
Poolbeg have sent me the cover for the summer mass market release of It's Got to Be Perfect - and it's a deliciously frothy wee cover which made me smile.
Hopefully it will make you smile too!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thank you for your kind comments

I've received a number of lovely comments, emails and messages of support following my post last week about how I'm feeling a bit meh just now.
I'm feeling a bit better this week - still very anxious (probably due to the DAMN BOOK NOT BEING FINISHED) - but getting there.
I've tried to get out and about walking a bit in the evenings which seems to clear my head and I've been eating better and taking my happy pills like a good girl.
I feel as though, if I just keep trying, I will get there. So thank you.

Monday, November 08, 2010

No, its not finished yet

... the book.
We are in the endgame though. Almost 80,000 done - the end in sight - the finish line not too far in the distance.
I wrote just under 4000 last weeks of new material and spent a considerable amount of time editing the rest  of the book and reading over it and hoping I didn't hate it.
Thankfully I didn't but dear Lord I am at the stage where I want this book to be done already.
I imagine this is what marathon runners feel like when they hit the wall - knowing that you have to go on but wanting so much to just sit down in the middle of the road and let someone else do it for you.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Sticking up for the fatties

The internet is no doubt a great place for having a row. At any given hour of the day or night you can click online and find some scandal or other brewing.

This week scandal has particularly ripe. First of all proud parents from across the UK got their knickers into a knot when some scurrilous individual reported that a bonny baby competition being run by a highly respected clothing chain was in fact just a cover for a paedophile ring.

Second of all it was revealed that the editor of a US beauty magazine branded her cover star, LeAnn Rimes a ‘husband-stealer’ in an email to readers, prompting anyone and almost everyone to voice their opinion on how the country singer conducts her love life.

And most recently, a US journalist has prompted a massive backlash after hitting out at a new comedy show focusing on - shock, horror- overweight people.

I’ve watched one episode of ‘Mike and Molly’, which tells the story of two overweight people who meet at an Overeater’s Anonymous meeting and fall in love. It’s on one of the Sky channels I pay for but don’t have time to watch very often.It was an okay show. I didn’t find it particularly funny - certainly not as funny as Friends or Will & Grace or any of my previous favourites.

I didn’t find it offensive though. Maura Kelly, however, did. In her MarieClaire column she said: “I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything.

“To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroin addict slumping in a chair.”

Fat is, of course, an emotional issue but sadly it is the case that increasingly these days fat people are considered fair game for people looking to throw cheap shots. (Maybe it’s because we can’t run as fast?).

It’s no longer acceptable to admit to being racist, sexist or ageist but throw a quick “Who ate all the pies?” shout out at a passing fatty and you are likely to get people agreeing with you rather than making you feel bad about being an insensitive feckwit.

It is acceptable for those who have never had a weight problem to sit on their bony rear ends and pass judgement on those who struggle to control their girth. “Eat less, move more. It’s not exactly rocket science,” they cheep. “Fat people are just lazy thickos” they mutter.

In their mind anyone above a size 10 (because, according to the Daily Mail, size 12 is pudgy these days) obviously spend their days lying on the sofa stuffing turnovers down their necks and drinking full fat coke in their tea instead of milk.

I would bet, based on personal experience, that the rruth is is that most overweight people know they need to change. Many want to change. Some will - and the right support will help them do that. Some won’t. Most will be aware that these days being overweight is the modern day equivalent of walking about with a bell around your neck shouting “unclean, unclean”. You can’t hide from it - it is there with you morning, noon and night.

The best way to help an overweight person find the inner determination to make healthy changes is to build their confidence and shower them with encouragement. It is not to make us feel like useless lumps.

It is quite clear that Ms Kelly thought that she was either being funny - by pointing her fingers at the fatties on the telly and laughing - or trying to be helpful. “I'm happy to give you some nutrition and fitness suggestions if you need them,” she twittered, before later admitting she has a history of anorexia. Now call me cynical, but I’d rather not take my health advice from someone who has an unhealthy relationship with food and what she in her own words describes as a “lifelong obsession with being thin”.

It is clear that she missed the mark. Instead of getting the expected “Hear, hear! Slim down you fatties” responses to her article she has found herself at the centre of a storm.

She has been accused of bullying fat people. Hundreds have called for her dismissal - threatening to cancel their MarieClaire subscriptions if she is not booted out the door quicker than either Mike or Molly could ask for a side order of chips with their burgers.

A little part of me feels sorry for her, but a bigger part (no pun intended) feels that, in the simplest of terms, she needs to take her oil.

It’s time that people learned that it is wrong to pass judgement on someone just because of their physical appearance - be that their colour, their age, their gender or their size.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

I wonder how Marian is doing...

I wonder about Marian Keyes a lot - not just because she remains a real inspiration to me and I feel like I know her even though we've never met - but also because this year she has been battling the horrors.
I know what the horrors feel like. They are like my long lost friends - and every now again they pop up, as if on Facebook - and poke me as if to say "we haven't gone away you know".
Lately I've been feeling a bit 'horrific' again. Some keens observers may have noticed - indeed some have contacted me to ask why this blog has been so quiet. Yes, I have been launching a book, and trying to write another book, looking after kids and taking very funny turns with the old dizzy spells and the like but I've also been feeling mired in, well, crap.
I cannot concentrate. I cannot have conversations - although I do feel as if I'm having a constant conversation over and over in my head with myself.
I feel raw and exposed as if everyone is looking at me and pointing and laughing.

I googled Marian this morning to see if there had been an update and I found her newsletter from May.

In it she wrote

I’ve heard people describe depression as feeling like they’re living behind glass, of being numb and unable to experience anything, but for me, it has been totally different. It has been like being poisoned, it’s felt like my brain is squirting out terrible, black, toxic chemicals that poison any good thoughts

I hear you Marian... I am trying, I swear. I am trying my positive affirmations but the nasty voice is louder.

She also wrote that there are days when her ambition is just to make it through til night time. Thankfully those days are few and far between for me but I do feel as if, well, could it just stop for a while? The routine? The monotony? The pressure?

Generally people have been very lovely indeed and I have some very lovely and supportive friends who have picked me up and dusted me off more times than I deserve, but I feel lost all the same - as if who I am is a mystery and who I might become is a scary prospect. I just want to be me.
The hardest thing is that writing has become a chore - one which I enjoy when I'm in the middle of it but one which fills me with a sense of dread at times. When it doesn't work, immediately, I panic. I panic that I'm broken and four books in, I'm done and that the well has run dry and that I'm done.

Of course all this is a bit self absorbed and waffly, but all in all I wonder how Marian is doing and I hope that she is clawing back from the brink because if she can, I can.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Weighing in again, again

Tonight is my first "new me" weigh in.
I'm nervous people - very nervous. I have been good -apart from a slight (thin crust) pizza incident last night. I have walked - a lot. And I bought those new Reebok Easytones so when I walk it's like really, really, really sore on my arse but still I walked (well it was kind of a waddle by the end but still I was moving... there was a snail, in fairness, overtaking me on the outside lane, but still... I was moving...).
I have cooked almost everything on my "I can't believe it's not a George Foreman health grill" health grill and I only had two glasses of wine - THE WHOLE WEEK. Two glasses. This, my friends, was a huge sacrifice and not at all an easy one to make.
I feel as if I should have lost about half a stone and yet when I stepped on the scales for my "assess the damage" pre weigh in weigh in this morning I appear to have GAINED 1lb.
If you could see me right now you would see that I have my best non-impressed face on ever.

In other news, the wordcount progressed by 3000 last week. This week I've set myself a challenge of increasing it by a further 4000. At that rate the book might get finished before the end of the year.
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