Galentine’s Day

Apparently today is Galentine’s Day. I had no idea. It’s a day to celebrate how much we love our gal pals. I’ve just read that it was a joke in a sitcom, that then caught on. 

Luckily I celebrated quite hard with some of my girls on Friday (see previous post) but I haven’t sent them any cards or flowers. 

So here’s to my gorgeous girls nearby and on far off shores. Love you ladies. No cards or flowers today. But I promise I will hug you or comedy-honk your boobs when I next see you. You can choose. Xxx

Feel free or share with your own Girls to send them a Galentine’s message (and celebrate a day you previously never knew existed). Comedy boob-honking is entirely optional.
#GalentinesDay

#BingeFriending

Girls’ night minutes

One of the best things about a night out with the girls is the flurry of messages the next day. It’s like receiving minutes from a business meeting, reminding you of the discussion, decisions made and any actions before the next meeting.

The minutes helpfully also contain photos that help jog your memory of the end of the night when snap chat was introduced… including ones you really don’t remember happening.

Here are my minutes from a meeting of former attendees of Glossop comprehensive school, who met in Glossop public houses for a period of several hours. Seven attendees, three apologies.

Let the official record state that last night a meeting of 7 ladies concluded the following:

1. A recognised cocktail-making expert in our group decreed that the Porn Star Martinis in Victoria Lounge are of the highest grade, equaling only those made in her own household. Samples were provided and the group agreed to further (immediate) consumption. Action: all future meeting to include PSMs. Oh, and cheese platters.

2. The group discussed hair removal techniques. Action: anyone suffering from ‘Jungle Minge’ should consider waxing to remove their ‘thigh-brows’.

3. The group discussed their experiences with nits and fleas. Conclusions: 1) if you are in a hotel bath with fleas jumping on the water – get out. 2) The woman seen in a Disneyland restaurant, picking fleas out of her hair and studying them is officially ‘a fucking minger’.

4. The group found themselves laughing uncontrollably several times. Action required: quickly swallow whatever is in your mouth to avoid spraying (wasting) alcohol, lean into the person next to you and rock slowly forwards and backwards whilst wheezing that your face hurts from laughing. Option to slap yourself or your friend on the thigh during swaying motion. Repeat as necessary.

5. The next meeting will be scheduled shortly, but a future off-site conference is now being planned for a weekend in the sun. The agenda for that conference will include beers at the airport, disco dancing and sun lounging. The option of 7am yoga was raised and seconded, but the other members immediately declined that offer in favour of investment in long term bed-dwelling and fry-ups.

Girls’ nights are officially the best meetings – fact!

End of minutes.

(Photographic evidence of meeting provided by Snapchat)

The F.F.S. Fitness Programme

I’m really enjoying my new FFS Fitness programme. No classes, DVDs or special sports equipment required.

I just wait until I’m almost ready to leave the house then run round every room, and up and down my stair case looking for shoes, then keys, then phone, then bag, then then then… Until I scream “For Fuck’s Sake”!

Bonus fitness points for making it passed the front door or even to the car before doing the final dash. 

Anyone else taken up this craze?

Embrace

If I asked you to describe your body, what’s the first thing you’d think of?

I’ve just been to the cinema to watch a documentary called ‘Embrace’ where people were asked that same question, and their responses were… fat; disgusting; not perfect; I need to lose weight. It was a bit shocking. People of all shapes and sizes all responded in the same way.

Then the film maker, Taryn Brumfitt, points out that almost everyone she asked made a negative comment about the way their body looked, but no-one comments on what their body allows them to do. Her statement is “This body of mine, it’s not an ornament, it’s a vehicle.”

It makes you think doesn’t it?

Our bodies are amazing. They are so clever, and they allow us to get to places, have life’s adventures and perhaps even create new life. How come we take all that for granted but criticise if they are not the ‘perfect shape’ to LOOK at?

embrace1

Now I’m not a person who spends that much time thinking about what I look like. I’m really not that bothered most of the time. Let me give you an example…

I once met a friend of a friend who does cosmetic treatments. Within an hour of meeting her she had focused in on a frown line above my nose (not prompted by me) and told me, “I could easily remove that for you”. If she could have read my mind she would have heard two things: First my desire to twat her square in the face, and second a very sarcastic tone which said, “I’m about three stone over weight love, do you think a care about a little line on my forehead?”

But I just smiled and said, “Oh it doesn’t really bother me”. Now to be fair, she was a lovely lady and she was talking with a very positive intension – she meets women every day who obsess about they way they look and she has a way to make them feel better and more confident. What’s wrong with that?

But, let me be honest, even though I don’t care about that line on my face enough to want to remove it , tit’s still the first thing I notice every time I see a photo of my face. Let me be REALLY honest, even though I’m not bothered enough to diet, I still delete the pictures where I think I look like a total heffer, and share the ones where someone else is standing in front of me and taking focus away from my size.

It seems it’s part of our wiring to care about how we look and how others judge our appearance. Because they do. We do. I do! And now I’m questioning why. If I know it’s wrong, why do I care? Why do I judge others?

The answer, according to Taryn, is everywhere. We all know about the ‘bad’ magazines, and the photo-shopping and the adverts for diets  and beauty products that don’t work. God-damn money making twats, selling the impossible.

embrace3

Yes, of course. But it’s not just ‘them’. She pointed out some of the ways we talk to each-other…

“Oh you’ve lost weight, you look amazing.”

“I daren’t have a cake, I don’t want to get fat.”

“I’ve got to get back to the gym, my thighs are like tree trunks”

Holy fuck. We say this in front of our kids, and then wonder why they start using appearance comments as insults.

The real standout of the film for me was a lady who had been badly injured in a fire and was scarred across her face and body. She received supposedly well-meaning comments that she was lucky to have such a good husband who stayed with her. Which made her question – Is that all I was before? A pretty face?  Was there not more to me than how I looked? She ended with the killer line… “Actually I am pretty awesome.”

I’m not ashamed to say that I cried.

embrace2

Thought-provoking, heart-breaking, hope-inspiring. And a whole lot of fun too. I laughed out loud several times, not least when Taryn visited a surgeon who told her what ‘normal breasts’ look like. She has even better self-restraint than me!

Please, PLEASE find a way to see this film.

Watch the Embrace trailer.


Here’s how you can see Embrace

There are screenings across the UK now. But you wont find this film as a normal cinema listing. It’s an independent, crowd-funded film, being promoted via Demand Films, and Taryn herself is in the UK hosting some of the events. (She is a-may-zing. I heart her.)

The idea is that people like me, who feel passionate about sharing this story with more people, will create demand for more screenings, and host our own events. And hopefully that will create demand for more and more screenings. You see?

Find a screening near you

Or host your own event.

There’s no financial outlay. Demand films help you set everything up at your local cinema and help you promote it to your friends and local community. If enough people buy a ticket the show goes ahead. If not enough tickets are sold, it is cancelled and no money is taken from people’s payment cards.

The Sick Rules

Yep, this post is about sick. Actual vomit. Don’t read this if you are feeling queasy.

I had forgotten how utterly repulsive that sick smell is. Not just the smell, it’s very existence. Now we’ve been reacquainted by a 7 year old vomiting volcano who has erupted across my house. I’ve realised that it is my parental duty to make sure my offspring learns some clear rules about being sick – behaviours that I had previously just assumed were natural instinct. Apparently they are not.

My little boy is 7 and has hardly ever been poorly. He loves his food and (before this episode) I actually can’t remember the last time he parted with any unwillingly. He must have been very small. Luckily me. Yay. Ah but there is a flip side, because now he’s a much grown child with a stomach capacity for a high-volume vomit. And he hasn’t yet learned the ‘Rules’.

He doesn’t know…

1.  That a person who feels sick should head towards the bathroom / sink / easily wipeable surfaces. Not, most certainly NOT carpeted stairs, near a doorway with fancy woodwork ‘crevices’.

2. That once vomiting has occurred it is possible, if not probable, that you will do it again, so fucking STAY in an easily-cleanable area. Do not move to another room that you think would benefit from a pebble-dash-pasta paint effect on the walls, skirting and floor.

3. That whilst mummy loves you more than the world, there are some times that she would rather not wrap you in her arms and snuggle into your face. Those times include occasions when you are literally dripping from your nose to your toes in your own vomit.(But of course when you stand sobbing in an ever spreading pool of sick, with your arms outstretched, mum will OF COURSE run to you, skidding the final inches and almost taking you down like a bowling ball, so that she can comfort you. She will not intend to have a look of disgust on her face as she holds you and tries not to breathe through her nose.)

And also, there are things that I had forgotten.

1. Kids time sickness to perfection. They wait until Dad is out for the evening and Mum has just settled down in the sofa with a nice hot cup of tea and her favourite TV programme.

2. That it is wise to keep carpet cleaner in the house at all times. For fucks sake. Of all the times to run out.

3. That it’s slippy. Yes I slipped in it, yes I put my hand in it and yes I nearly threw my own guts up straight over the top.

4. That THAT smell won’t go away. Even when you’ve washed your hands 15 times, finally acquired carpet cleaner and wiped down/ soaked / boil washed everything in your house, that stench is now embedded in your nostrils. Forever.

Thankfully my little vomiting volcano is feeling much better now.

But sod that cold tea, where’s that bottle opener.

I’m a Tapas Mum

Since going to see the film ‘Bad Moms’ I’ve been thinking about which stereotype of the mums I most relate to. Stay at Home Mum; Working Mum; Single Mum; Yummy Mummy etc etc. I’ve decided none of them sound quite right for me. So how about a new one… The Tapas Mum.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve never ‘wanted it all’ as the phrase goes to describe those who want a perfect family, great career and to be a permanent Goddess in the bedroom and the kitchen. I’ve never quite believed in that!

I do like the idea of having just a taste of each though. A little bit of everything. Like choosing a few small Tapas plates, instead of a massive portion of one meal.

For example:

  • I don’t need to be a high-flying, top of my organisation, cracking-through-the-glass-ceiling, role model career woman.
    But I do want a job that I enjoy and that I feel I’m pretty good at. 
  • I don’t need to be perfectly turned out in full make-up and 4 inch heels whenever I leave the house.
    But I do want to feel good when I go out to nice places. 
  • I don’t need a perfectly presented show home and a manicured lawn.
    But I do like to be able to relax in the evenings without spearing my bum on a pile of toys or yogurt-smeared cushions.
  • I don’t expect to have weekly meet ups with my girls for cocktails, dinner and dancing.
    But I do enjoy the occasional chance to get together with a friend or two for a brew or a shit-load of wine. 
  • I don’t need a pre-planned date night and a massive bunch of flowers delivered on a whim.
    But I do appreciate the times we get to go out and be a couple in a kid-free / no judgement, adult environment. 
  • I don’t expect my kid to be an Olympic-level athlete, mastermind of science or musical prodigy.
    But I do want him to have nice manners, have enough confidence to have a go at stuff and laugh a lot. 
  • I am never EVER going to be Nigella Lawson, in cooking skills or body confidence.
    But I will occasionally make a nice family meal that tastes half decent and give my husband a snog by the sink. Sexy! 
  • I most certainly don’t bake delicious pastries for the school summer fayre.
    But I do show up, donate a load of supermarket-bought chocolate for the tombola, and happily hand over every coin in my purse for the lucky dip. I even buy and eat the cakes that other people have made (that’s really not a chore, I really love the school fayre!)

Being a Tapas Mum is pretty great. So what do you say… can we create a new stereotype?


(This post was also shared on SelfishMother.com)

Literally Unbalanced

Hypothetical question: Due to illness you are told that you need to do less and rest more, you can probably only manage 80% of what you did before the illness. Would you:

  • A. Cut down your work hours, and therefore your salary
  • B. Spend the weekend resting at the expense of family time
  • C. Make like an ostrich, stick your head in the sand and pretend you can still be Wonder Woman (until you collapse).

This is the question I’m currently battling with, and the reason I started writing as Unbalanced Woman. It’s become a sort of therapy – a way to get thoughts out of my head and make sense of them. A way to accept that I’m not Wonder Woman and stop (try to stop) feeling guilty about it.

(If you’re interested in what’s wrong with me you can read What’s wrong with the miserable bitch anyway? below – but I’m giving you the option to skip the moaning parts and get straight to the point)

Here’s the point… Illness or not, do lots of women battle with this conundrum? I know I did before I was poorly. I can name so many Wonder Women in my life who struggle to manage everything they want to do, think they have to do, feel they don’t have choices. Is this part of the female make up?

This is probably illustrating that I have so far been attempting Option C – refusing to admit that I am not Wonder Woman. Of course I covet her figure, her graceful running ability and her sparkly knickers. Who doesn’t? But Wonder Woman is also a Super Hero. She can sort out the world, do the right thing, make everything better, and of course with glossy hair and full make-up every minute of every day. She’s like a modern day Facebook thread. You’d never see her posting photos of her losing the battle with the bad guys because she’s got a phone in one hand, a child on her hip and wearing old, elasticated-waist pants because her lycra body suit is still in the wash.

Well this Wonder Woman is admitting defeat. I’ve tried. God I’ve really tried. But I’m knackered. I’m fucked. I’m crying. Is this the point where something has to give? But again…. what?

I still can’t shake the feeling that being poorly is an ‘excuse’. That I need to get over it. People talk about ‘invisible illness’ being so hard to explain to others, but actually it’s so hard to explain to myself. I have got into a habit of saying “Last year I got dizzy. I still get a bit tired some days” – soft, non-threatening words to gloss over a problem and move on.

My Neuro Physiotherapist (who knew they even exist?) is a wonderful lady with a heart of gold, a wicked sense of humour and some hard truths. Her tough love is just what I’ve needed. She says the only way I will face up to what’s really happening is if I start being honest about it. She has urged me to start to tell people that I’ve had, and I quote, “a horrendous brain dysfunction” and actually also makes me say “not had, but have” – present tense, because – and this is the hard bit – I’m not better. I’m significantly better than I was a year ago, but I’m not fully ‘recovered’. I might never be.

That shit is hard to say because it’s hard to accept. If I say it, it means I believe it. It means it’s true.

I’m trying it out, I’ve said it to a few people but it’s so dramatic and it turns into a longer, more invasive talk. Whilst I’m a confident person, this type of attention actually makes me squirm and I just want to go back to being a Wonder Woman impersonator, using my metalic wristbands to deflect any uncomfortable sympathy.

But again it makes me think… we all do it. All the time. A woman who feels like she should have cartoon-style match sticks holding her eye lids open will typically say “Yes, I’m fine. Just a bit tired. Anyway how are you, you look amazing!” and then order a triple shot coffee and anything with sugar in it.

Deflect. Cope. Crack on. (Crack up?)

Can I change? I think I have to. I’m told by everyone that my health comes first. Perhaps I need to listen. But why didn’t I listen before I became ill? Why don’t any of us?

I’m really trying to lift my head out of the sand. Perhaps I can do it bit by bit – be an ostrich but wearing sparkly knickers and shiny wristbands.

Now there’s a picture I like. Can someone draw that for me? I think that would help!

x

What’s wrong with the miserable bitch anyway?…..
I year ago I started feeling dizzy. Just for a few minutes here and there. I remember the first instance was in the shower and I had to hold the walls to finish getting washed. It was a really weird sensation.

As the days and weeks went on it happened more and more often so I went to the doctor. Assured that dizziness was almost always an ear infection or low blood pressure I continued putting up with it. But when I got worse and worse and it became clear that it was neither. A couple of MRI scans and visits to a Neuro Consultant, I was diagnosed with a ‘Vestibular Dysfunction’ which means that my brain had forgotten how to balance properly and had to work much harder to keep me upright.

It’s relatively new in terms of understanding it, which is why it’s hard to explain what’s wrong and when I need help. But I’ll try.

Where our brains normally scan our surroundings and ‘orientate’ to judge space and distance, my brain will respond to all movements by becoming disorientated – whether that is me moving, or things moving around me. So I could sit still, in an room where nothing else was moving and feel fine. But if I walk, go to a busy place or even watch ‘action’ on TV, my brain gets confused.

The same for ‘scanning’ with my eyes. So reading and shopping (looking around for things) can completely throw me. Even now.

In the past I have described my symptoms as like being permanently drunk. At my worst I would wake up feeling like I’d had about three glasses of wine – a bit floaty and not too confident in myself. I’d be able to walk, but not too quickly, and certainly not drive. As the day went on, it was like adding several shots of tequila – feeling like I should sit down and be looked after until someone could take me home and put me to bed. At worst, it’s like being in a washing machine or on the waltzers and even when lying down with my eyes shut, I can’t get off the ride.

Lots of people said that feeling permanently drunk must feel fantastic – cheap date etc, but it’s also like having a hangover at the same time. And sometimes I will look like I’ve been drinking – I’ll walk unsteadily, needing to hold on to things. I’ve heard of others becoming quite reclusive because they are scared to be in pubic in case they fall or people judge them for daytime drunken behaviour.

I considered wearing a T-shirt saying “I’m not a drunk, I’ve got a vestibular dysfunction”, but no one knows what that means anyway.

I’ve been very lucky to be referred to an expert Consultant and Neurological Physio who have helped me to retrain my brain, eyes and vestibular system to balance me again. I have great understanding of my triggers which means I can avoid certain activities and I know when I need to rest.

As I say, I’m not recovered, but I’m doing really well and I’m incredibly grateful for the progress I’ve made. I know there are many, many others who have not had the same support and have to cope with life on long term medication just to manage the nausea.

TV Voiceover… If you have been affected by any of the issues covered is this blog, you may find this website useful:
http://vestibular.org/understanding-vestibular-disorder

Binge Friend-ing

Just like drinking, these days I don’t see my friends as often as I used to, but when I do, I do it ‘properly’.

Like many women of a certain age, I felt like I grew up with Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda. The Sex and the City ladies were a bit older than me and so watching them, I was guided into a lovely security that my own circle of friends would easily be able to stay close, meeting for dinner or drinks or even a posh breakfast at least once a week. Forever.

As the series and their lives progressed that never waivered. They welcomed their kids into the four-some’s social engagements, but that never distracted from the conversation about relationships, sex (once sensitively renamed ‘colouring’) and other intimate details of their glamorous existences. They even strolled down streets together afterwards, in their posh shoes, to complete any unfinished conversations. Such, I assumed, would be the reality of my long standing friendships with MY girls in my thirties and forties.

Let’s re-examine that… Getting my group of girls together in the same place, at the same time, ideally without children, is like trying to reunite the actual cast and crew of SATC.

There are text messages spanning about two weeks as we first try to find a Saturday night when everyone is free. When we’ve moved three months through our diaries we typically declare it a ridiculous state of affairs and try for a Friday (less ideal due to the number of Saturday morning clubs that require an early morning chauffeur).

Recently, we moved through Saturdays, Fridays and Thursdays, Sunday lunches and Saturday brunches, before finally landing on a Wednesday for a curry, in six weeks time.

I mean, to coin a regularly used phrase, for fucks sake. A frigging Wednesday! But that, it seems, is the life of Unbalanced Women who may work late, who have Unbalanced Men who work late or who have children who have clubs and commitments that turn us into their P.A., chauffeur and late night chef.

Of course I see some friends one at a time for a quick brew or even one of those coveted posh breakfasts (they’re actually my favourite). Even better than that is seeing friends who live far away, and you travel to get together for 24 hours or more. Now that is a full-on friendship binge.

In preparation for such an indulgent appointment I find myself making a mental agenda of things I need to ask them about. Who am I kidding? I sometimes write an actual agenda of topics. I never wear Carrie-style posh heels, but I do add a bit of lippy because it feels like a special ‘date’.

Time always flies as I try to tick off my agenda as we tangent off to a million topics eventually returning to the original thread after musing “…why are we talking about fridges anyway?”. And we’re usually both clock-watching to make sure we’re not getting dangerously close to missing our next allotted commitment, which we can of course still get to on time if the waiter brings the bill and the card machine RIGHT NOW.

But seeing my Girl Gang is important to me, and that’s why I Binge Friend when we eventually meet. I want to drink in as much as I can and soak up their stories and the wonderful flow of easy conversation, jokey insults and safe judgement of others.

And the added beauty of Binge Friending is that, just like binge drinking, there are usually lots more messages the morning after, to thank everyone for a lovely evening and to comment on our favourite memories and funny stories. But there’s never anyone saying ‘never again’. Unless of course that Clare was in charge of pouring the wine!

Precious moments on a ticking clock

“Make time for fun and silliness”. I must have read that about 20 times. Apparently a necessity if you aspire to be a successful parent, partner, team leader and probably circus clown.

So today that cliché rang in my ears when faced with a particular unbalanced-life experience.

Our morning routine requires precision timing. No matter how organised I try to be there are just so many activities to cram into a short space of time. And our differing personality types add to the challenge: I take some time to warm up in the morning, like an old car in winter, you need to let me tick over for a while before I can even leave first gear. My little boy however wakes up ready to run down the nearest motorway. No car required. As soon as he opens his eyes his brain must say, no actually sing, “It’s morning… Woohoo!”

Fun and silliness are always on his agenda. Of course they are. But my morning routine is ruled by the large ticking clock on our kitchen wall. If we don’t get to school on time the car park will be full. And if the car park is full I will have to park round the corner. And if I have to park round the corner it takes longer to walk back to it (in heels) so I won’t catch my ‘only-make-it-if-I-leg-it-down-the-platform’ train to work.

He was in full-on Woohoo-mode when we went downstairs to make breakfast, yabbering on about something or other. I knew I should be listening, but I needed to make breakfast and…. Tick Tock Tick Tock.

To get his attention, I picked him up sat him on the kitchen worktop. “I have a question for you…” Now this works. He’s at eye level and he loves to be asked a question. And he half knows that the question will be, ‘what shall we have for breakfast?’. It’s a regular morning question because another aspirational quote locked somewhere in my memory, is to offer children choices so they learn independent thinking. Blah blah blah.

But instead, my inner silliness crept in. “Do you looove me?” I sang to him. I’ve recently watched Dirty Dancing and it popped into my head. Big grin from the boy and my silliness took over.

“I can mash potato…” I proved it.
“Do the twist….” Hell yeah.
“Tell me baby…” He loved it.

The clock was silenced. I was Supermum. We danced together. He looked me right in the eye and did that beautiful giggle that kids do when they are truly happy. I felt amazing and we had a precious moment – one of those that makes your heart burst, where you know there is true love in the room. The cliché was right, I SHOULD make time for silliness.

Time. Make time. Tick Tock….. “Oh my god, look at the time!” And there it was, ruined.

“Quickly… Just eat it… Are you finished?… Well where did you leave it?… Come on!… They are not MY shoes, they are your responsibility… For goodness sake, just get in the car… Now!”

Next time I decide to make time for fun and silliness I will schedule it with precision timing.