Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What are you waiting for?

When I was pregnant, I felt like I was in limbo. I gave up my job in Belfast to move home, be closer to family. I applied for jobs back home, but once the bump began to show, there was no point. No one was going to hire a pregnant woman. Of course, they'd never tell you that was the reason, but what employer would take on someone who was only going to leave in a few months anyway.

So, I spent my time reading and listening to music and feeling trapped. Some songs I listened to on a loop. One of these was Colin Hay's Waiting for my real life to begin. Have a listen... don't worry, I'll wait for you.

When I listen to this song now, I find it hard to imagine how sad I was back then, but I was terribly sad. I'd listen and just cry. Up to that point in my life, I'd never been unemployed. In fact, most of the time I had two jobs, or a college course and a job. It was very hard to be idle. It was unbelievably difficult to imagine how my life was going to change when the baby was born. But, for those months, I was just waiting.

After Beth was born, it still felt like that for a long time. I was waiting for my real life to begin, waiting for something, anything to happen. Then, it hit me. Nothing was going to change unless I did it myself. No one was going to hand me my dreams on a silver platter, some Tuesday afternoon in October. It's about three years now since I quit my day job and dove head first into writing for a living. I don't regret that decision for one minute. 

The last three years were not easy. Rejection and doubt come hand in hand with being a writer. I couldn't imagine being anything else though. 

I wish I could reassure that pregnant girl, sitting on the floor crying, that everything would be fine. That all she has to do is get up and start doing things for herself. No one else is going to make you happy or fulfill your dreams. That's your job and it's never too late or too early to start living the life you always wanted.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

September Shenadigans

Yikes, we're a week into October and I'm only doing my September catch up today! It was a manic month with birthdays, christenings, weddings, parties etc. Of course, one event stood out among all others. On the 18th September, my little girl turned five. On her actual birthday, we went for lunch at a restaurant, Beth picked and then on to the cinema to see Box Trolls. Great movie, like Tim Burton meets Charles Dickens. I think I enjoyed more than Beth and her Dad. Then, on the Saturday, we had a Barbie themed party for a little girl dressed as Elsa from Frozen... even though she's no longer a fan of Disney Princesses.
Our little Box Troll

I had this idea to set up a Barbie dress up area at the party. Beth wanted to call it "The Groove". Barbie clothes can be expensive, so I made these out of bargain fabrics I bought in Penney's. "The Groove" was our old three man tent and, within minutes of the party starting, the boys had commandeered it as their den. So much for that idea!
My next idea started off like this...


The next stage...

Some wrapping later

Almost there 
The finished product with beautiful Elsa. The idea was a photo booth, allowing the kids to be Barbie in the box. Pinterest is great for party ideas!
Beth's bouncy castle. She didn't want anything princess-y at her Barbie party, but allowed this. Bouncy castles are possibly her most favourite things in the world.
Beth had her hair styled for the event ;) It was part of a birthday treat from her Great Aunt. Apparently, she conversed well with the hairdresser, giving her all the details of a fantastic party being thrown in her honour.

They didn't sit for the whole party, but no girl's party these days would be complete without a bit of Frozen

The goodies I prepared (more came later). The cake pops went down a treat!

She had an absolutely brilliant time and was spoiled by the guests. We also had a pinata, beaten to a pulp by twenty-one children aged 3-10. What a day!

Photo of my Mum and I at a wedding two weeks ago. Wonderful day. A humanist ceremony followed by  a gorgeous meal at the Ballymascanlon Hotel

 I need a new laptop! Uploading photos for this blog takes forever on this old thing.

My third book is coming along nicely. I have a plan right up to the climax and I'm somewhat on schedule to finish the first draft by the end of the month. Very excited to start NaNoWriMo and see what new characters I'll be meeting :-)

Hope your Tuesday is as sunny as mine, wherever you are!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


What is it about deadlines that make me want to clean my house?? Devil in the Clouds is due to go to my editor on Friday. I'm doing a final read through before then and have found loads I want to change and correct. I'll be very busy for a few days.

After DITC is gone, I plan to dust off Allie's Return and finish the first draft! I'd like to have that completed before 1st November. I want November free for NaNoWriMo. I haven't a project in mind, but I'm sure I'll scare up something before then. Hopefully!!
Feeling a bit like Calvin today!
Has anyone a plan for NaNoWriMo yet?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Back to Normal

It's been over a month since my last blog post! I'm terrible, but I decided to take a break from everything and spend August having a good summer with Beth. She went into Junior Infants last week (28th Aug). So, there it is. My daughter is now (officially) part of the system. Last year, she started in pre-school within the same infant school and loved it. She was wearing a tracksuit, the jumper had the school crest. This year, she is a pinafore, shirt and tie. I love seeing her in her uniform. She looks so grown up!

Here are a few photos from our August. Next week, I'll get back to my usual posts. I'd like to do something about my dreadfully slow laptop too! Like a snail at the moment and it takes ages to transfer photos from my phone to the laptop to use on the blog. Grrr...
Beth messing with my phone's camera

Our new tent. A trial run in my mum's back garden

Mum's back garden

Chocolate biscuit cake mmmm

Still really enjoying her Martial Arts classes

I took her on some back paths in Dundalk. The ones  I used to take to visit my Granny

We spent a few nights in Dublin. This is in the Disney Store on Grafton Street

More camera antics

Beth and my mum's dog, Jenny

Posing in Penney's

The height of fashion!

She loves to dance and perform

We camped in a place called Kilbroney, Rostrevor, NI

Playground, Kilbroney

Playground, Kilbroney

Heaven on Earth, Kilbroney

Friends at Kilbroney

Blackberry picking, Kilbroney

Looking like a farmer, Kilbroney

Enjoying the view, Kilbroney

The woods, Kilbroney

Going home, Kilbroney

Beth and her 3rd cousin Lugh, home from Oz for a few weeks

Throwback to a friend's wedding last year. This beautiful photo was taken by Enda Gartan Photography

I'm on day 5 of Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred. I ache all over!

Beth's first sparring match

Funny faces

Trad session with the O'Connor's (Mum's cousins)

First day of Junior Infants on the left, first day of pre-school on the right

She doesn't like heights!

In her new classroom

She just loves corn on the cob

Big hair!

More from our exploring day

Beth and Tedaline, the bear who shared her cot in the hospital when she was born
It was a full August!

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Annual Birthday Introspection

Last week, I was asked do I ever feel like I haven't achieved all that I should have for my age? Now, of course, that's not the question word for word, but it is the general jist of the question posed, out of the blue, on a sunny Friday evening. The person asking, aiming the question first at themselves, was wondering if I ever felt the same. The question threw me. It's a BIG question. I'm pretty sure everyone asks themselves this at some stage in life, others might ask it everyday. I know I go months asking myself this question. Sometimes, it feels so scary to think about, I try not to think about it at all. 

At the beginning of the year, I had an "What am I doing with my life?" blog post. In real life, this happens AT LEAST once a week. When it happens, I try to focus on all my achievements in my life, rather than the failures*. I have a Masters degree, a diploma from the OU, written two books and nearly finished a third. Academically, I believe I've achieved enough. Personally, I have a beautiful, intelligent, funny daughter whom I love with all my heart. She is my muse and (stealing a line from a movie here) she makes me want to be a better person. I haven't travelled extensively, however I'm pleased with the amount of Europe I have seen. The furthest I have been is to Bialystok, Poland. My CV is as diverse as they come. From factory worker to cabin crew, bartender to teacher, I've covered a lot. So, what's missing?

Book deal, own home and husband, I suppose! The only one that causes me to miss any sleep is the book deal. Being a writer is something I've wanted to do since I was seven. For a long time, I didn't allow myself to think or even dream about it. I thought being a writer was impossible, but I want to follow my dream now, for as long as possible. I want to be able to tell Beth that she can be whatever she wants to be and I'm proof. If you work at it, dreams can come true.

I'm turning 33 this week and although I don't have everything I would like in my life, I am happy with what I have. I have my health, wonderful family, great friends and a dream. 

At the wedding last week. Hope the other ladies don't mind being on my blog ;-)

(*I used the word failure, but, in truth, I don't believe in failure. Any time I haven't achieved something I see it as a learning curve. I almost failed my Leaving Cert when I was 17. I was a cocky little madam. I thought I could coast by on the bare minimum of study. I passed the exams by the skin of my teeth, all bar one. It was a huge slap in the face. It humbled me. It didn't change me there and then, but it was the beginning.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Art of Being Feminine?

My wedding season is starting a little later this year. Last year, we crammed two weddings into three days during April! Tomorrow, my good friend of twenty-four years is getting married here in Dundalk. I'm very excited to watch her walk down the aisle and will probably shed a tear or two (Yes, I get emotional at weddings!). After the church service, we will take a ten minute drive to the Crowne Plaza for the reception. I'm delighted the couple have chosen this particular place (I've heard very good reports about their wedding receptions), mainly because I don't have the added expense of staying over! I'll be a ten minute drive from home :-)

And now, to my blog title:

For a man reading this, you'll probably stop reading here. This is about the prep *most* women go through on the lead up to any wedding. Feel free to continue, if you're nosey ;-) I suppose there's not really much to it, but it certainly seems a lot to someone like me. I'll explain further down. 

It's easy for a man. They shave, put a suit on and voila, a stud is born! How I wish we had it that easy. Firstly, there is the dress. It usually *can't* be something worn before. Also, what suits a summer wedding, definitely won't suit a winter one. Summer dresses are generally easier, less formal. However, with the way Irish summers are, you could end up needing dressy shawls or even an umbrella! Forecast for tomorrow isn't looking great. I may need an umbrella.

The other thing about a summer dress is the amount of flesh on show. This obviously requires a morning of de-hairing. However one does it, with blades, Veet or wax, it must be done. No bride wants a gorilla at her wedding!

Next, we have the hair (on the head this time). I had mine tidied and re-styled yesterday. It was in dire need of a cut! Lots of women will have their hair done on the morning of the wedding. The bride, in this case, has considerately booked her wedding for late in the afternoon, leaving loads of time for us ladies to prepare. Tomorrow, I'll straighten the long bits and poof out the fringe and hope it lasts the day!

More beauty preparations include the make-up and tan. Being so white I'm almost translucent, I really need the fake stuff. I have booked myself in for a professional spray tan this evening and I'm praying it'll look alright. I had one done for a wedding a few years ago and it looked lovely. Though, three days later I looked like an Oompa Loompa. You can see my lovely tan here. I think I looked quite nice. Usually, in photos with my friends, I look like I could disappear against a white wall!

Finally, the shoes. I'm wearing my Irregular Choice Scottie Dogs. Terribly high heels! I've bought extra gel inserts and hope the don't kill me by the end of the day! Have to wear them or I'll be a foot smaller than everyone around me. Conversation tends to go over my head at that point ;-)

This *art* of being feminine is a pain. I know I don't have to do it, but those photos... They'll be around forever. It's a lot of pressure on women to live up to this coiffed, hairless ideal. Don't get me wrong, I love to dress up now and again and I'm enjoying getting ready for this wedding, but I wonder is it possible to be feminine without it all.

In my teens, I was scruffy beyond belief! My jeans/combats were as baggy as I could get them and I often wore shapeless hoodies. When I became an air hostess at twenty-two, my friends laughed. "Nessa in heels, make-up and a skirt everyday?" Oh, yes, big laugh. But, I did it, for a full year. When I stopped, I didn't wear make-up for a long time! 

Before Beth and my weight loss, I didn't really feel feminine. I only wore skirts on nights out and only if I couldn't find a pair of jeans dressy enough. Now, I wear skirts almost everyday. I spend a little more time on my hair, make-up, clothes. I'll never be as well put together as some of my friends, but my femininity is beginning to show through these last few years. Maybe it is my age or maybe I'm just more aware now of how I look (wrinkles and grey hairs!). Whatever it is, I definitely feel like more of a woman than I did when I was dragging a trolley bag through Stansted Airport at twenty-two!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Having a Life

From the moment Beth was born, I stopped having a life of my own. In fact, in those first few months, I didn't even have a mind of my own. I was barely sleeping and my brain had turned to goo. This, I'm sure happens to most parents. I hope you'll forgive my bias if I suggest this is largely a mother's role. Of course, the men become fathers, but, at 3am, who is the person standing over the cot watching a tiny chest rise and fall. Some nights, I would spring from my bed in the middle of the night, terrified she had stopped breathing. I continued this practice for years. It has been about six months now, since my last late night sprint between our bedrooms.

Losing your identity, for the mother, could begin from the moment a second pink line appears on a pee stick. For the father, it is usually when a little, wrinkled newborn cries for the first time. Then life changes. Suddenly, your world revolves around bowel movements of another human being, christenings, themed birthday parties, picky eaters, uniforms and school lunches.

Until quite recently, I hadn't had much of a life outside of my role as mum. I would have nights out with my friends, coffee mornings and the odd night away, but these were few and far between. When I went away anywhere substantial, Beth came too. Spain, London, Blackpool. She is good company and I love to show her new things. However, I feel the time is right to start partaking in activities just for me. Like kickboxing and a local drama group. I'm not talking about dating here, that is still not on the cards, life is complicated enough!

I think it's important for parents to have interests outside of the family home. It is all too easy to live through your kids, especially for the stay at home parent. The working parent has an altogether different set of obstacles before them. They need to balance the time outside of work between family and "me-time". Obviously, "me-time" must be a much smaller percentage when you have kids, but there still needs to be some.

I want Beth to see that I have interests outside of home and writing. I think it will encourage her to be out-going in her own pursuits as she grows older. If she sees me stick with an activity/sport, this will give her confidence to stick at something herself.

We have joined a Martial Arts Academy locally. We are in different classes so we don't have the same training. Beth's Lil Dragon class is good exercise, but they also play games and is an excellent start to martial arts training. My class, well, it's tough. I've pulled muscles I didn't know I had. I reckon I'm finding it tougher than the other newbies because of my age. When I get home after class, I collapse onto the couch and find it hard to move for several hours! I love it! I love the challenge and I'm so excited to be back to martial arts after a fifteen year break ;-)

The drama group I'm involved in will be putting on a show in October. I'll be on stage this time. First time in seven years.

I'm slowly rebuilding my own interests. Writing is a solitary profession and I need to be out meeting people. not spending my free time with imaginary ones. My characters have lives, so should I!
Beth with her Martial Arts grading class

Me with mine