Sunday, 18 November 2012

How do you know if you're depressed?

I've been thinking about writing this post since I confessed I'm not okay but I'm not sure I will be able to express myself properly. I tend to store my blog posts in my head lately so how well this will translate into "the real world" is anyone's guess!

With the benefit of hindsight, I can see I was depressed when I went to see my doctor back in January if not before, but then I started my Grr Argh challenge and I felt better for a while. I really thought I had beaten whatever it was that had been making me feel so low but reading my blog posts back, I can see it was still there and it was only ever going to be a matter of time before it made a reappearance.
It started innocuously enough, probably around the same time I finished my maternity leave and went back to  part-time work at the start of August 2012. I felt exhausted every day, which wasn't exactly unexpected and on my days at home, I struggled to get going and to properly engage with the boys.
I could rationalise all of that away though. Learning to juggle work and home was challenging, Randall had only just started to sleep through the night and I hadn't had an unbroken night's sleep since before I fell pregnant in 2009. Given time and enough sleep, I figured I'd be fine.
But then, there was one day when I just stopped doing everything that I normally did for me. No blogging, no twitter, no exercise, no more working on my latchhook rug, and sometimes no conversation. There was no part of me that had any interest in engaging with my normal hobbies; I just wanted to sit and not have to do anything.
A part of me knew that wasn't right but I told myself I was obviously recuperating from two close together pregnancies and 2 young children under 2, and I'd get back into doing "stuff" eventually.
I want to say I realised I needed some help when the thoughts started up again. But for a while, they were so convincing that I didn't realise how distorted my thinking was, or how anxious and paranoid.
To me, there was no question that I was boring, useless, unattractive, not good enough and a rubbish mum, and it was only a matter of time before my husband left me.
It was obvious that everyone would be happier without me around and I could tell there were people who wanted to take my children and thought they could do a better job of raising them.
Every illness was never just a cough or a virus; it was Cancer and I was going to die and my children would be too young to remember me.
I cried pretty much every day, or was close to tears. But I figured my hormones were all over the shop with my periods having restarted.
I can remember the times of clarity when I knew my brain wasn't working right and when I would spend the evening googling post-natal depression and depression and desperately hoping I would find something that would tell me in black and white whether I was or not. Was I depressed? Was I sleep-deprived? Were my hormones still settling down? or was it something else? I was so confused.
In the end, it took 2 things to make me take action. The first was a day when I thought "I'm not cut out for this. I should go back to work full-time" and the second was when I made my husband cry. I knew then that if I didn't go and see the doctor, I was going to destroy my family.
Seeing my doctor and starting anti-depressants has transformed my life. It's only now I can truly see how warped my thinking was and I never, ever want to feel like that again. It was really hard to talk about how I was feeling but I am so glad I did. I wish I'd realised earlier that I didn't have to have all the answers and didn't need to try and fix things myself (how I thought I'd do that is anyone's guess!).
Sometimes we all need a little help. This time it was my turn. Next time it could be yours. But it's okay. We're not weak or a failure or a freak or crazy; it's just one of those things and if we all talked a bit more about it, we'd realise how normal it is and how many other people feel exactly the same way we do.
Honestly, they really do.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Review: Blood Bath & Beyond by Michelle Rowen

BLOOD BATH & BEYOND (An Immortality Bites Mystery)
by Michelle Rowen

PUBLISHER: Obsidian Mystery

RELEASE DATE: 04 October 2012

GENRE: Paranormal Mystery / Crime

Sarah Dearly is adjusting to life as a fledgling vampire but when her fiance, Thierry, takes a job with the Ring - the secret council in charge of keeping vampires in line - she gets more than a taste of danger.

In Las Vegas for Thierry's first assignment, they encounter a child beauty pageant from hell, as well as a vampire serial killer who threatens to expose the existence of vampires to the whole world.

And when Thierry's truly ancient history comes back to haunt him, it's up to Sarah to clear his name before their immortal lives come to an end.

It was love at first sight when I saw the cover art on this book. The colours are eye-catching and the style is classy and very graphic novel-ish. I immediately wanted to start reading it, which is no bad thing!

The opening sentence caught my attention: "The fangs don't get nearly as much attention as you'd think". And before I knew it, I was caught up in the lives of Sarah Dearly, a recently turned vampire, and her fiance, Thierry de Bennicoeur, a six hundred year old master vampire.

Sarah is a strong character who always sees the best in people. However, she absolutely has the worst luck! She is forever ending up in unexpected and sometimes life-threatening situations and it's amazing she manages to survive her trip to Las Vegas in one piece!

She is completely devoted to Thierry but she's not blinkered. She knows he has a LOT of past and that she's inevitably not going to like some of it but she's willing to deal with that because his past isn't who he is now.

There was never any question that when Thierry was blackmailed into working for the Ring, she wouldn't go with him. And since the Ring primarily exists to police vampiric behaviour, you know that trouble lies ahead.

We meet a whole range of characters in Las Vegas. There's Bernard, another master vampire, and Laura, a newly turned vampire, whose personalities and relationships lead Sarah to reflect on herself and her own relationship. Then there's Victoria Corday; 6 year old girl on the outside, 96 year old vampire on the inside...and beauty queen extraordinare! And Markus, the Ring's enforcer, who arrives in Las Vegas to take care of the vampire serial killer that's on the loose...and Thierry.

There's also some interesting twists on the usual vampire lore, with the biggest being that whatever age you're turned at, you're always inherently that age. So even though Victoria is 96, she's not a worldly vampire in the body of a little girl, she's still a little girl, with just a bit more life experience, particularly when it comes to winning beauty pageants.

The plot is fast-moving and you can see the start of an arc, which the author could explore in any number of ways in future books in the series. I think the series can potentially only get stronger as we learn more and more about the characters and the world they inhabit.

Blood Bath & Beyond was a light, entertaining read, with less emphasis on romance and more on mystery. If you've ever read the Undead series by Mary Janice Davidson or the Dark Ones novels by Katie MacAlister then you'll definitely enjoy this!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Very lush

I had a miserable morning at work yesterday and for the first time in a long time I decided I deserved a little treat to cheer myself up.

I work in walking distance of Telford Shopping Centre and at lunchtime, I made my way over and kept my fingers tightly crossed that Lush still had a shop there.

I love Lush; it's one of my favourite places and it's the perfect shop to visit if you need a pick-me-up. I have NEVER seen an unhappy face in Lush; the bright colours, sparkles and beautiful aromas don't allow it!

I really took my time looking around and breathing in the different scents. I knew I wanted something that I could use in the bath and that would leave me feeling relaxed and at peace with myself, and I didn't want to take the obvious option of a bath bomb; I wanted to try something new.

I eventually settled on a Vanilla Fountain Bath Bomb and a Karma Bubble Bar. When I went to pay, the young guy that served me was so enthusiastic about the bubble bar that I knew I had to use it first.

And that's the other thing, both of the guys that were working yesterday lunchtime were fabulous. There is no other word for them! They were warm, passionate, knowledgeable and just the right level of chatty. They made me feel like I was being welcomed into a special club and really did turn my day around for me. I didn't take their names but Lush, you should be very proud of them!

So, what did I make of the Karma Bubble Bar?

I loved the bright orange colour.

I crumbled the whole bar under the running water and it dissolved quickly and completely; there were no lumps or grainy bits left at the bottom of the bath.

The water turned a lovely shade of orange and oh my, there were a LOT of bubbles!

I don't have the most discerning sense of smell but the sweet aroma of oranges really came through. And as soon as I sank under the water, I felt my limbs relax and my mind still.

The bubble bar left my skin feeling as though it was covered in oil. I felt sensual and indulgent and I had the best night's sleep in a long time.

If you haven't tried a Karma Bubble Bar then you have to give one a go!

Lush, I WILL be back!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Review: Stygian's Honor by Lora Leigh

STYGIAN'S HONOR (A novel of the Breeds)
by Lora Leigh


RELEASE DATE: 04 October 2012

GENRE: Paranormal Romance

Window Rock, Arizona, is the last known location of Honor Roberts, who vanished when she was just thirteen. It was her only sanctuary from the Breed research that would surely have ended in her death - one such insidious experiment should, indeed, have killed her. That she lived is both a miracle - and a great mystery.
Stygian's mission is to find Honor Roberts, no matter the cost. Now, with the help of Liza Johnson, assistant to the chief of the Navajo Nation, he is closer than ever to his goal. But will the discovery of Honor Roberts mean the destruction of the mating heat that has developed between Stygian and Liza?
I haven't read any of the previous novels about the Breeds and although you don't really need to, I think I would have been able to follow certain aspects of the story a bit easier if I had done. For example, there isn't much of an explanation about who the Breeds are and how they came to be, or about the work of the Genetics Council, or what's happened to Amber, Jonas Wyatt's 2 year old daughter. I do wonder whether my opinion of this book would have been different if I'd had a better understanding of the world it was based in.
Although I liked the idea of the storyline, it was very predictable and I knew by the end of chapter 1 what the "twist" was going to be. I decided to keep going and give it the benefit of the doubt but what unfolded before me, rather than being an action/romance/mystery, was sex, sex and more sex. In fact, there was whole lot of Stygian and Liza hanging around a hotel and having sex, and not very much in the way of tracking down Honor Roberts. And lets face it, there's only so many times you want to hear about Liza and her creaming pussy . . .
Both Stygian and Liza were very formulaic characters that didn't bring anything new to the table and I didn't particularly engage with any of the other major characters. There were a few bit players who caught my attention and who I would be interested to read about, notably Cassie and Gideon.
A book about Gideon is a cert as the author has set up what could be a really interesting story arc about the other girl and the 2 breeds that were held captive and experimented on with Honor. But, I suspect it will go down the same erotic fiction route as this book; too much sex and not enough depth and character development.
Overall, I was disappointed with the author's offering and honestly, I'm not tempted to read any of the other Breeds novels. I'll stick to Sherrilyn Kenyon and her Dark-Hunter World and Meljean Brook and The Guardians.
The previous Breeds novels are:

Bengals' Heart
Coyote's Mate
Harmony's Way
Nauti Boy
Lawe's Justice

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Review: Night Seeker by Yasmine Galenorn

NIGHT SEEKER (Indigo Court #3)
by Yasmine Galenorn


RELEASE DATE: 06 September 2012

GENRE: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance

Eons ago, vampires tried to turn the dark Fae in order to harness their magic, only to create a demonic enemy more powerful than they could have imagined. Now, the Vampiric Fae are on the move, hunting anyone in their path. As the war with the vampires ratchets up, Myst, Queen of the Indigo Court, enshrouds New Firest in her chilling grasp.

Cicely Waters, owl shifter and Wind Witch, has rescued the Fae Prince Grieve, at a great cost. Their reunion has lost them the allegiance of the Summer Queen, Lainule - and the tolerance of the vampires. In desperation, they turn to the Consortium - the preeminent magical guild - for help. Now, to regain the goodwill of Lainule, they must dare to enter the heart of Myst's realm. But as Cicely and Grieve embark on their search for the heartstone of Summer, Myst, the Queen of Winter, is already wreaking her terrifying revenge.

I've never read any of the Indigo Court novels before and was slightly worried that jumping into the middle of this series would prove to be a mistake. Fortunately, Night Seeker can be read as a stand-alone book; however, I wouldn't be surprised if, like me, you then end up wanting to read the first 2 in order to find out what you've missed!
It is such a refreshing change to read a book that focuses predominantly on the Fae. Most of the books I read tend to be about vampires/werewolves/zombies so I really enjoyed learning some new supernatural lore.
There weren't any characters that seemed superficially drawn or out of place and whilst I may have found myself questionning some of their names ("Chatter", really?), I was able to suspend my disbelief and immerse myself in their adventure.
I can easily imagine the author writing a spin-off novel for each character and if there was one about Ysandra Petros, an uber powerful member of the Consortium or Kaylin Chen, a dreamwalker with a night veil demon merged into his soul, I'd definitely read it. I can imagine there's a lot of people who'd definitely read one based on the hedonistic vampire, Lannan Altos!
The story unfolded at a decent pace and although the main revelation was, for me, slightly anti-climactic, as I guessed it quite early on from the clues given by the author, this didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book and, in fact, I felt the story unravelled in a very natural way.
I don't want to spoil the series for anyone that hasn't read this book yet by talking about precisely what happens in it but I don't think you'll be disappointed and the ending will certainly leave you wondering what will happen next. It's definitely not a happy-ever-after situation.
And finally, I can't review this book without mentionning the sexual tension within it. And not forgetting some sizzling sex scenes as well! It will be very interesting to see how the relationships between the characters develop and potentially change in the next book in the series.
Overall, I can honestly say I really enjoyed this book and I would definitely read more from Yasmine Galenorn.
The previous Indigo Court novels are:
Night Myst (Indigo Court #1)
Night Veil (Indigo Court #2)

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

I'm not okay

It's been a long time and there's so much to say but I don't have the energy or the inclination.
In a nutshell, I'm not okay.
Just over 3 weeks ago, I went to see my doctor and told him everything about the way I've been feeling over the last few months. I was diagnosed with postnatal depression and given a prescription for anti-depressants. It took a lot of courage for me to start taking the anti-d's but I did because I just want to feel normal again.
I want to talk more about this, share how I was feeling and how the anti-d's have affected me but I'm so very, very tired still. Not tired as in sleepy but absolutely bone-weary. And I've lost my joy for blogging and pretty much all of my hobbies, apart from reading.
To everyone who follows me on twitter, I will be back. I'm just struggling to find the energy and enthusiasm to get involved and connect with everyone right now.
Small steps, right?

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Abandoned in favour of guest book reviews

It feels like a long time since I last wrote a blog post. In reality, it's been a month. And there are reasons but I'm not quite ready to sit down and write about them. That'll come later.

I've not stopped writing completely though. I've actually been lucky enough to have the opportunity to write a couple of guest book reviews for Amanda at One More Page.

I love, Love, LOVE to read but have only ever written one book review before (which you can read here) so I was very nervous about whether I'd be able to make a good job of it, especially as someone could potentially make a decision to read or not read a book on the strength of what's been said about it in a review. With great power comes great responsibility and all that jazz...

Anyway, here's my first guest book review Demon Marked by Meljean Brook. I hope you enjoy it x

Sunday, 8 July 2012

A hell of a birth story

The birth of my second son was one of those events that people often describe as "something to tell your grandchildren about" and as my beautiful little boy turned 1 today, I thought I'd share the story with you.

I woke at 6am on 8 July 2011 to the feeling of my waters slowly trickling their way out of me. I'd just turned 37 weeks pregnant and I wondered whether to wake my husband or not, as I certainly didn't feel like I was in labour.

I can remember my husband's alarm clock going off at about 6.30am and because I only felt "funny", he suggested he travel into work as normal and come back once labour had started, if it even did.

I lost track of time then. I think it was about 7am when I phoned my mum and asked her to come down and look after my toddler, as I thought I might be in labour. I also remember telling my husband I should phone the midwives at the hospital to let them know my waters had broken and find out if they wanted to check me over.

While my husband was trying to find the right telephone number for the hospital, I can recall it becoming imperative I keep pacing. I couldn't stop or sit down/kneel/bend over onto all fours, as it was much too uncomfortable. Being upright and mobile felt right.

If I didn't know I was in labour then, I did when the first contraction hit and oh my god, the pain. I was scared, my whole body hurt in the most indescribable way and I had to focus on just getting through each contraction....until I felt the most almighty urge to push. I swore at my husband to phone 999 and while he was speaking with the operator, I could feel my baby's head entering the world swiftly followed by the rest of him.

My mum arrived shortly before the paramedics. She told me she'd expected to find it was a false alarm and the last thing she'd expected to see was me sat on the loo in the en suite bathroom holding my newborn baby in my arms. Same here!

The paramedics told us the 999 call had been placed at 7.26am and my husband guessed the time of birth as 7.30am. I actually think he was born a few minutes before this but I can't say for certain as time took on a very different quality throughout the whole affair.

Baby and I were taken to hospital and checked over. He was fine. He may have only been  5lb 15oz but my husband and I could immediately tell he was going to be a feisty little character. There was never any doubt in our minds that the boy's name we'd chosen during my pregnancy was the right one for him; Randall.

Here he is at about an hour old:

And a year later:

How time has flown.

There's much more I could write - about how the birth affected me and how I really found it having 2 children under 2 - but those are posts for another day.

All I want to say now is: Happy birthday Panda Pop! I love you more than you'll ever know xxx

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Stylin' the apocalypse

Saturday nights are rubbish so rather than spend my evening scrutinising the tv guide and getting frustrated at the lack of anything remotely good being on, I decided to have a root through my wardrobe and choose a suitable outfit for the you do!

Here's what I settled on:

I've decided to channel a bit of Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil with this black lace dress from H&M, which I'm teaming up with a red butterfly belt, my favourite brown lightweight utility jacket from New Look, brown tights and brown pirate-style boots.

I find jeans and trousers really uncomfortable since having kids so a dress is definitely the best option for me. It'll give me freedom of movement and allow me to roundhouse kick plenty of zombies in the head!

I do have a red furry jacket which I could have chosen in place of this utility jacket. Although it's a lot thicker and would offer much more protection from zombie bites, it's a bit too bulky for the apocalypse and would be really hot to run in. A number of thinner layers is surely the better option.

The weak point of the outfit is definitely the boots. They're comfy enough but they're not exactly made for running away from the undead hordes. Clearly a bit of looting will be in order for something similar to these, which I think will be much more practical for my running and fighting needs!

Now I want to know about your post-apocalyptic clothing choices. These are the rules:

1) You must construct your outfit using clothes that are in your wardrobe and accessories you already own

2) Come back and leave a comment/link on this post so I know you've taken part and I can pop on over to visit you and check out your outfit

3) Tag as few or as many people as you like to carry on this meme

And to start things off, I'm tagging Mushypea from Mushypea, Sprout et al, Erin from American Mom in England, Claire from Chapters of Claire and Laura from Chez Mummy. Mwa ha ha ha!

And if you've read this and fancy taking part as well then consider yourself well and truly tagged!

Go get stylin'!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Lost my way

Week eight: Begin with a brisk 5-minute walk then 28 minutes running.

Last week I was supposed to complete 3 runs. I didn't.

This week I devised a catch-up plan with the aim of completing week 8 by today and starting week 9 on Friday. I haven't.

I've totally lost my way and the worst thing is I'm not sure I even care.

There's a part of me that still really wants to finish the Couch to 5K plan and put a big tick mark against my Grr Argh Challenge but there's a bigger part of me that thinks "what's the point? you've proven to yourself you can run, you know you can do it so lets move on to something else".

The big question is though would I be thinking this if I didn't feel so ground down by life at the moment? Because if the answer is no then I have to keep going otherwise I'll just end up beating myself up about yet another project that I've started but haven't finished.

And deep down I know the answer to that question is no but you know what? it feels easier to make excuses not to run right now:

  • It's too hot
  • The muggy weather's antagonising my asthma
  • My period's finally come back
  • My back aches
  • I'm tired
  • I'll do it tomorrow
Lets face it, they're rubbish excuses; even I can see that. But they're a symptom of the miserable, fed up attitude that kicked in when, in the same short space of time, the car broke down, 3 big household appliances went to household heaven, and everyone started to sleep badly.

I can't see a way out at the moment. Like I said, I just feel so ground down by it all and I find myself over-analysing everything. I am so tired of feeling haggard, exhausted and frumpy. I hate feeling like an empty shell that has nothing to offer, no special skills or interesting conversation; it makes me feel really insecure and vulnerable.

Starting to run gave me back some of my original sparkle but it's gone again. So what do you do when this happens to you? Inspire me world! I can't stand feeling like this.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Happy birthday popsicle!

Today, my dad is 60. Happy birthday daddy!

I'm going to let you into a little secret; I've had a horrible time trying to choose a birthday present for my dad.

I really wanted a meaningful gift (rather than a useless  bit of tat with 60 scrawled over it that would soon be forgotten about whilst simultaneously cluttering up the place) and I only had a small budget with which to find one. It shouldn't have been that hard a task should it? Aargh!

Although I eventually settled on a gift, it's not the ultimate birthday present I was dreaming of for him. But I recently realised that's because what I really wanted to give him isn't a tangible, material object, it's what's in my head and my heart when I think about him.

So dad, if you're reading this; I love you!

When I think back over the years, there are certain memories that jump out at me:
  • Burying you in the sand on our holidays in Wales
  • Getting the dinghy out whenever we went to the seaside
  • Exploring your shop, which seemed like an Aladdin's cave of wonder and mystery to the (much) younger version of me!
  • Watching the Tour de France with you
  • Mammoth Sunday bike rides
  • Hanging on for dear life on the back of your motorbike
  • Scrubbing the Sunday roast tins with Jif
  • Sliding around in the back of that old Jag you loved (but which made me feel really car-sick)
And while there are lots of memories that make me smile and laugh, there is one in particular that fills me with a very different emotion...

All my life you've been passionate about music and I can't put into words how incredibly proud I am that at "a mature age", you learnt to play the guitar and then threw yourself so wholeheartedly into singing and playing in a band as well as running a local open mic night and organising other music events. You may not do all of those things now but I will forever think of you as my father, the rockstar!

And this is why I struggled to choose a birthday gift for you; because what means something to me isn't a "thing", it's the memories conjured up by the music we've shared and the music to which you've introduced me. And this song here is, randomly, the one that means the most to me:

I'm going to stop now because I've made myself cry! Just, Happy Birthday! You mean the world to me xx

Friday, 22 June 2012

I am a runner

There are times in your life when you meet someone, quite unexpectedly, with whom you have an immediate connection. This happened to me not long after I joined twitter when I started to exchange tweets with today's guest poster, Liz.

There aren't enough words to express the depth of my admiration for this lady. Not only is Liz warm, friendly, kind and funny but she has a wonderful attitude towards life. She's not one to be found on the sidelines watching it passing her by; she gets in there, tries things out and embraces opportunity and experiences joyfully.

Getting to know Liz has also given me the opportunity to get to know more about myself but I'm not going to talk about that right here and now because I've promised a guestpost on the subject for Liz's blog. You'll just have to keep your eyes open for that instead!

You can find Liz on twitter here and seriously, follow her!

Then go and read her beautifully written and very eclectic blog called "Margot and Barbara" here.

But before you do either of those things, have a read of this...

I am a runner.

It happened almost by accident. In 2006, I was pregnant with my first child. In the twenty-nineth week of that pregnancy, during a routine appointment, the midwife realised that I had all the signs of early onset pre-eclampsia and I was sent to the hospital. I was there for a few days, injected with steroids and told to expect an early delivery to save both of us. A couple of days later, I went home, only to end up doubled up in pain. The pre-eclampsia had got worse and I’d also got HELLP syndrome. The pain that I thought was indigestion was really my liver shutting down.

I was rushed into hospital, stabilised and then given an emergency caesarian section. My daughter was born weighing only 2lb 11oz and was rushed off into the neonatal unit before I’d even seen her. I didn’t find out until much later that they’d had to resuscitate her at birth. Thankfully, nine weeks later we were able to bring her home and she’s now a bright and beautiful five year old with no signs of the story of her dramatic arrival.

Despite going through all of this, which really was the most difficult time of our lives, we decided a couple of years later that we’d like another baby. To assess the risk of me having pre-eclampisa again, we had a meeting with a specialist consultant. His advice? There was a one in ten chance of it re-occuring and the best thing I could do to bring down my risk and lower my blood pressure was to get fit. The fastest way to get fit? Running...

The problem with running was that it initally brought out the child in me. The one who took extra German classes so that she could miss PE. The one who hated sports day. It’s not that I didn’t like to be active, I rode, ran and played outside as a child all the time. I just hated the competitive nature of PE at school, whether that was as part of a hockey team or running the 800 metres and that was what I still thought of ‘running’.

So, I struggled with the idea of running as an adult. I needed to get fit quickly, and cheaply though so really I had few options. The treadmill was quickly ruled out. I didn’t have one of my own so it would have meant joining a gym which I wasn’t going to do. I am a member of a gym now, but still haven’t got over the ridiculous progression of our lives that means we have to go to a special place to run, row and climb nowhere!

I also knew that, left to my own devices, I’d carry on with the sedentary lifestyle that had contributed to the pre-eclampsia in the first place, whatever my good intentions were. I needed a running partner. Someone to encourage me to start, and to keep on going. Someone with a vested interest in keeping me fit and healthy. My husband.

We started running together each week. When I say running, I really mean jogging a few steps, keeling over with breathlessness, walking a bit, running a few more steps, and so on. Over the following weeks, I was running a little more, walking a little less and feeling better than I’d done for years. Yes, it was painful. Yes, I was slow. And yes, I spent a lot of time lagging behind my already-fit husband cursing in his direction as he reminded me of the good it was doing me; the most maddening thing I could ever be told.

Apart from knowing that he was right, and that I was working for a healthy pregnancy, I kept going because I had muscles in my thighs that I never knew existed and I was surprising myself by enjoying it. It worked too - in May 2009 I gave birth to a healthy baby boy after a normal pregnancy, with my blood pressure only going up during the birth. I even managed to run a 5k race in the early stages of my pregnancy before my anxiety about keeping the baby safe made me give up running until after he was born.

We ran, and still do run, off road. This has made a huge difference to me, because it appeals to that child who spent her time outdoors. I run through the woods and along bridle-paths. In the Spring, there are bluebells scenting the air and keeping me going. In the Autumn I run through crunchy piles of leaves, kicking them in the air as I go. In the Winter, I skate like Bambi over frozen puddles or sink in the snow. Always, I run through or jump over puddles. It is fun. I’m not the fastest of runners, I know that I’m slow, but it doesn’t matter.

These days, with two small children and a full time job, I have less time to run. My knees are creaky and my feet are often sore. But when I have the time, I run.

I have run. I do run. I will run.

I am a runner.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Look at me! I'm really, really running!

Week seven: Begin with a brisk 5-minute walk then 25 minutes of running.

Without doubt, week 7 of my Grr Argh Challenge has been my most successful.

Each workout, I managed to run about 2 miles in 25 minutes, sometimes just over this, and although this is a little short of the 2.5 miles that the plan indicates is needed to put me on target to be able to run 5k in 30 minutes, it's phenomenal to know a couple of months ago, I couldn't, and didn't, run at all. Look how far I've come!

The high spot of the week occurred just as I was about to start my 5 minute cool-down walk in workout 3. Husband had put together a playlist for me to listen to and had snuck one of 'our' songs on, which he knew would a) make me feel good and b) put a big smile on my face. It did both of these things when it came on and I really couldn't have ended my session on the treadmill in a better way.

Here it is for your delectation:

I'm keeping it on my playlist as I think the number of bpm will help me keep a nice, steady running pace plus it's really happy and uplifting.

Another surprise track on my playlist was "Just Like A Pill" by Pink. I would never have thought to add this myself but thanks to husband, it's another song that's staying on and which gave me a much-needed boost due to its energy and attitude. In case you haven't heard it, here it is:

And finally, I need to ask a question. What do you do if you get a stitch when you're running? Am I supposed to stop? keep running and breathe through it? or is there something else I should be doing? I'd really appreciate any advice you can offer.

Now bring on week 8!

Friday, 15 June 2012

The zombie apocalypse handbag of joy

I've managed to lure the delightful Amanda Jennings to write a guest post for me. She's an actual, real, published writer whose first novel "Sworn Secret" is out on 16 August 2012, which I'm incredibly excited about on her behalf!

Amanda's currently working hard on her next book. At least she is when I'm not distracting her with talks of the apocalypse! You can keep up with all of her shenanigans by visiting her official website and following her on twitter. I can say with complete authority that she loves a good natter!

And now, over to Amanda: no pressure, but this had better be good!...

When the zombie apocalypse is upon us, when the virus has attacked 90% of the human population, when hordes of dead-but-walking bodies romp the planet in search of living flesh in a gluttonous frenzy akin to students with the munchies craving Monster Munch from the late-night garage, the lucky few – of which I intend to be one – will need their wits about them.

They will also need a carefully packed handbag.

My pre-Zombie Apocalypse handbag – a cheap, mock-leather shoulder bag – at the time of writing, holds the following: some used tissues, a manky apple core, some loose coppers with bits of chocolate and biscuit crumbs stuck to them, crumpled Tesco receipts, a lip gloss, a hairy hairbrush, a book of stamps with no stamps in it, and two pens, one that works, one that doesn’t. None of these things is going to be remotely useful when the undead are attempting to chow down on my softer bits. So as soon as the first zombies appear I shall jettison this and replace it with my Zombie Apocalypse Handbag of Joy.

How to Put Together the Perfect  Zombie Apocalypse Handbag of Joy

The bag itself: Practically speaking, this should ideally be a medium-sized, robust rucksack with multi-pockets and adjustable straps. However, I suggest now is the time to grab a Hermes Birkin, the must-have bag beloved of celebrities of the likes of Kim Kardashian and her pals. You won’t have to pay the $10,000 price tag, of course – and this is one of the Zombie Apocalypse plus points – you can loot one! I do think this is worth doing as one should never underestimate the importance of looking stylish whilst running for your life.

Sugar: You will need some sweets. When being chased by salivating zombies it’s difficult to predict how long you’ll need to keep running. There are bound to be times when you need a rapid injection of sucrose to give you that extra energy boost. But what to choose? Now this is important. You mustn’t go with your favourites – in my case these would be Werther’s Originals or Swizzels Love Hearts – if you do, you’ll eat them all in one go. You need to pack something not-so-tasty. Top of the list is a tin of Fisherman’s Friends though a decent second choice would be a dozen party-size packets of ParmaViolets.

Weaponry: In an ideal post-Apocalyptic world you would have a handgun. However, it’s tricky to walk into a shop and buy one. If you can, great, if you can’t, you will need a good alternative. In this case, a sharp implement that’s sturdy enough to penetrate a half-rotten skull is essential, but not something so lethal that if you fall whilst fleeing you run the risk of impaling yourself. Go for something handy-sized, pointy and made of metal, like a sharpened marquee tent peg or a WWII Japanese Samurai Katana with sheath.

Condoms: Assuming your current partner becomes a rancid, bloodless zombie, you will need to consider protection of the sexual kind. Who knows what urges may overcome you in the Apocalypse. A handsome living man, in fact ANY living man, is going to look irresistible next to those leering, putrid corpses. Stress, excitement, an overdose of Parma Violets, all these things are likely to weaken your resolve. WARNING - this is NOT the time to fall pregnant!! Morning sickness, sore feet, backache, indigestion, and an extra two stone are the last things you need when trying to escape a dead dude’s mouth. Not only that, but nobody knows how long the undead will remain walking and hungry. Childbirth leaves you vulnerable, prone to tears, and desperate for doughnuts. You do not need this. Condoms are essential.

Sparklers: It’s been suggested that fireworks in the night sky can distract a herd of zombies and hold their attention just long enough for the averagely fit human to make their escape. It’s impractical to carry fireworks, not to mention unwise, but a pack of sparklers might just save your life. I’m of the belief that no zombie could fail to be mesmerised by a sparkler. You will obviously need a lighter as well. A wind-resistant Zippo is ideal.

A vial and syringe: When you reach Nirvana or the Ark – or whatever the VIPs have decided to call the zombie-free haven in the Highlands surrounded by barbed wire and heavily armed snipers – they are going to want you to fill out forms, sign papers, and provide proof you’re definitely alive before they call off the dogs and open the gates. Syringe some blood, fill the vial, and post it though the letterbox as soon as you arrive. Hopefully, they’ll have the results of your blood test back before the ungodly swarm of dead locals in tattered kilts surround and dismember you.

Methylated spirits: At some stage during the Zombie Apocalypse, when life itself seems futile, you will need a little drink. But rather like the sweets, there’s no point in packing a beer or a Tesco Finest Pouilly Fumé because you’ll drink it before the Apocalypse has even been declared official. Meths will make you go blind or kill you, but without doubt death by Meths is preferable to death by ravenous zombie.

So there you have it, my Zombie Apocalypse Handbag of Joy. Obviously, you can customise your own handbag by adding a few items of your own choosing – fiendish Sudoku or a small colouring book perhaps – but as long as you have the above ‘capsule items’, you’ll give yourself a fighting chance.

Good luck and see you at the Ark!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

How to run for longer periods of time

Week six: There are three different workouts for this week. They are as follows:
Workout 1: brisk 5-minute walk, then 5 minutes running, 3 minutes walking, 8 minutes running, 3 minutes walking, 5 minutes running.
Workout 2: brisk 5-minute walk, then 10 minutes running, 3 minutes walking, 10 minutes running. 

Workout 3: brisk 5-minute walk, then 25 minutes with no walking.

Both last week and this week, I've been fortunate to chat to a few other people on twitter who are at a similar stage of this Couch to 5k plan as myself. What struck me is we pretty much all feel the same way about the workouts that involve pure running; the head says no and the more we put off doing it, the more daunting it seems.

So in case this helps anyone else, here are the techniques I've used to get me through the workouts that involve long(er) periods of running:

1. It will never be as hard or bad as your head tells you it will be. You will get through each workout and you'll feel relieved and incredibly elated at your achievement.

2. Try not to think of The Run as being 25 minutes long (or however long it may be). I find it really off-putting and quite scary to think of myself as having to run for that long.

3. Consider breaking The Run down into mini-sections or markers in your head. This will make it much more do-able and easy to tackle. For example: I will run at this speed for the next 5 minutes/for the length of this song. When you hit that marker, immediately set your next goal based on how you're feeling right in that moment. My markers are never longer than 8 minutes as in my head, I'm confident I can manage to run non-stop for at least this length of time.

4. Listen to music that you love and which inspires you to keep moving. Earlier this week I started a run with only the radio for company and the majority of the music that was being played was appalling. It made my run so much harder because I couldn't distract myself from the timer on the treadmill and boy did that make the minutes stretch out!

5. You'll hit a point in The Run where your head will start shouting at you to stop as your legs can't keep going. It's a lie! Keep running! This has been happening to me in the first 8 - 10 minutes of the workouts and once I've pushed through this point, I find my feet start to find a natural rhythm and my body relaxes into it too.

6. Make yourself accountable to someone and agree with them you'll complete The Run by the end of a certain date. Having a deadline will give you that push to get on and do it and the support and encouragement of a good friend is invaluable. If you want to, you can tweet me and we can motivate each other!

Have you got any tips for completing longer runs? How do you push through the mental barriers that try and stop you from physically reaching your running goals? I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, 8 June 2012

My fantasy zombie apocalypse survival crew

If you want to increase your chances of survival in the zombie apocalypse, and you have a choice of anyone at all, who will you recruit to your ultimate zombie apocalypse survival crew?

My choices are drawn from my favourite tv programmes and in no particular order they are:

Quick reflexes
Experienced fighter
Not phased by the undead

  Debra Morgan

  Good in a crisis
  Takes no-nonsense

 Jessica Hamby

My girl crush

 Tom McNair

Strong                    Werewolf
Trained fighter       And look at those puppy dog eyes!

Daryl Dixon

Experienced tracker and hunter
Willing to do what needs doing
Has a crossbow
Can ride a horse
Has a motorbike

Jaqen H'ghar

Pays his debts

 Tyrion Lannister

Able to laugh at himself
Loves deeply
Willing to fight

 Jason Stackhouse

Isn't he pretty?!
Unintentionally funny
Handy with a gun
Has a truck

What do you think? Are the odds of survival a bit more in my favour now?

I'm interested to know who you'd choose so let me know!

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