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