Wednesday, 25 December 2019

#19fof2019 update

There's only a week left of 2019 (it's Christmas Day) so I might as well have a look at this. 

1. Get the flu vaccine.
Did this and very glad I did. Was an easy win. 
2. Plant my planters.
Still didn't do this. 
3. Find or hire some-one to put up the things in the house that need putting up.
Didn't do this either. 
4. Do the 90 Day No-Shopping Challenge.
Did this and going to do it again this year. I think I might start a bit later than 1st January, although in retrospect I don't regret not buying any of the things that I regretted not buying in mid-January. I thought I had started too early, but I actually hadn't.
5. Instigate and stick to a #26habits programme.
I shouldn't have included "stick to". 
6. Plastic-free July.
Did this. Have given up shower gel. One thing I've found out is that the plastic wrapper that comes on the slab of Diet Coke isn't recyclable. That's something I should give up this year. I am using a re-usable for my gym water. 
7. Start a podcast.
Disgraceful. I depended on some-one else to sort this one out for me, instead of just going for it myself. 
8. Speak at least one education conference.
Biggest success of the year. Spoke at two and will do more next year. 
9. Save all the videos and photos on my phone somewhere safe so I can delete them and free up storage.
Worked out how to do this. 
10. Make a will.
Zero progress.
11. Grow out my fringe.
12. Cycle my bike.
Disgracefully haven't done this. .
13. Go to at least three arts/literary festivals.
Did this. 
14. Organise a Gateway Women Meetup in Cork. 
15. Go to France. 
Done. I went to Nice for three days. Not the holiday of a lifetime but I went. 
16. Accumulate a lot of rejection letters. 
Slowed down on this lately but did get a lot. 
17. Meet the 7th January deadline for my two MEd assignments. 
18. Have a meeting at work about my timetable for next year.
19. Surprise myself. 
Haven't really done this yet.  

12 out of 19. Enough to make me write a similar list for next year. And there is still a week to do some of them. 

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Giving Up

I have been trying to set up a new blog, using This was working quite well until the free name they gave me turned out to be exactly the same as the wordpress blog that is my main, professional blog. Bummer.
I think the new project deserves a new blog so I will be working on that. There is no point paying money for a blog name. On the other hand, it is just for me, so I could go ahead and use it as unpublished. I think I might do that.
Things I want to work on in the six months
-being more generous and more expansive generally
-putting myself out there into the world more
-being less controlled by fear
-getting into excellent physical condition
-upping my physical appearance to a new level.
All of these are variations on the same theme. Being a bigger, more adult person who focuses on doing things for others. I suppose I am saying that I want to be more extroverted. I hide myself away too much as if I have given up on connection with other people.
Very tired today as I have been at a wedding. It was good. I will add
-take more photographs.
Well, this is me. I need to come up with some actions for the above, or is just a re-calibration of attitude enough?

Friday, 9 August 2019

Phew! Big New Project

My next project is Change Your Life in Six Months. This will take me to Sunday, 9th February 2020. The goal is going to be six months of doing what I want.
Just putting this here to bookmark it.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Revisiting the Past, Reimagining the Future #WTS2

I have been reading my old diaries, specifically the one from 2012. That was the year I bought, renovated and moved into this house. There is a lot of justified stress on those pages. But there is also unjustified stress, like worrying what other people would think or say. 
One thing that really struck me was how trapped I felt. I felt trapped between competing, adjacent and moving walls such as my then boss, my parents, the builder, money, living at home, being single, everyone around me having babies, and time pressure. Most especially I felt I couldn't move without considering how my parents would react to my behaviour. Would they approve or disapprove? How would it fit in with their schedule? Their schedule being sparse but there was, and still is, an expectations that the family's various schedules will align. The problem with this is that as the childless, single person who lives locally my schedule is the one that does the fitting in. I felt a pressure that really didn't exist.There would be this small reaction, if I said I wouldn't be there when the siblings were visiting and it is amazing how trapped I was by fear of this reaction.
I can see with hindsight that I was much freer than I thought. Free to go and do the things I wanted to do. Handily I would make lists of these things, yet didn't do them. I would write "I wish I could..." with the corollary "if I were free". Except I was free. Maybe not as financially free, but free enough. It used to surprise me how much colleagues would spend on holidays at times they were planning a wedding or buying a house or expecting a baby. I didn't get that you have to live too, that - if you're lucky - in your later years you will not be able physically to travel. 
Even small things. I am making a little list of trips to take before the end of the holidays
-early morning coastal walk
-day-trip to Dublin.
-trip to work to pick up parcel I stupidly got delivered there instead of here. 
I was thinking of staying overnight in Dublin, but I do have a weekend up there coming up in October. I know this is fear again holding me back. I should "correct not protect". But a day trip is a start. There is nothing really else I want to get done. Maybe the bigger issue here is anxiety and feeling anxious about things. But the anxiety does take one particular form....
It is Thursday so I suppose I should go to the market in Mahon Point. I don't really want to go there, but I suppose I could to with buying pesto to see me through the winter. So in a way I want to go there. Could do with some chorizo too. 

Sunday, 4 August 2019

#WTS2 Doing Nothing

It is Sunday. I have barely left the house for the week apart from going into town yesterday to do my few bits of shopping, and going to the gym. I also collected my brother from the train station on Thursday night and dropped him back into town on Friday morning. No socialising to speak of and no phone conversations to anyone except my mother. It is true that I am going to an event tomorrow night and meeting a friend for drinks and food beforehand. It is also true that I could have gone to MeetUp but didn't bother. 
I has occurred to me that I am modelling my life on a colleague who is a borderline recluse. That in true ASD fashion I am masking by adopting the behaviour of some-one is slightly similar circumstances. Almost all my other friends are married and/or have children. It is true I have one unmarried friend with a frenetic social life, who is forever jumping on planes, canvassing for politicians and getting involved in all kinds of events and causes. That's not what I want either. Then there is Instagram, according to which everyone is spending their bank holiday weekend either in the picture-perfect wilds of Kerry or at age-inappropriate festival Indiependence, or age-appropriate festival, All Together Now. 
We can discount Instagram. It is all curated and these people leave out the boring bits of their lives. Still, though I need a role model. 
One possible candidate is Rebecca Solnit. I am reading her book "The Mother of All Questions" and really liking it. All those essayists singing her praises are correct. It is far too woke in parts but that could be a cultural thing between here and there, but the writing itself is par excellence and makes me want to try the essay crack again. She is single and has no children, although she says this is by choice. I think I will write an essay about social infertility. It has to be done. The difference between wanting "to be a mother" and wanting a baby. It'll involve baring my soul and all that. I have done mental illness, now I will do this topic. Feel all excited about this already.  I will start work on this in the morning. 
I had a bath. Having a bath is great. I have only recently realised the power of baths and this is probably middle-age. It isn't...lots of women wax lyrical about baths, so much so it is a cliché. I used up two products as I did so. Lately products out has exceeded products in. I can't say the same for clothes.

Friday, 26 July 2019

It All Adds Up; July Budget Demolished. #WTS2

Lads, seriously.
Remember how I said I was going to swear off Style n Beauty spending and buy nothing new until 1st January? Guess how much I have spent so far this month? 297.96 euro.
Yes, that is almost three hundred euro in a month where my actual budget is supposed to be zero. It is down from last month, it is true, but that month was June where sales of clothing and footwear are to be expected and I was on holidays so a chunk of it was duty-free make-up. I can say that 80 euro of the July spend was from giftcards from my birthday. This brings the total from my own money to 217.96. This is still a lot and I am counting the vouchers as cash as I could have spent them on homeware or just saved them until January.
Where did this go?
1. Shoes.
I have a wedding in two weeks time and I wanted a pair of nude court shoes since I do not have said staple in my wardrobe. I couldn't find a pair on sale so bought a full-price pair in Clarks. They are fine, and a staple. While looking I also found a pair of black court shoes in Ecco for sixty euro. Half of the shoes I own have been in search of the Holy Grail of comfortable black court shoes. These are them and I am sucking it up.
2. Clothes
Not much on the clothes this month. I bought a blazer and shirt in TXMaxx. Whole thing came to less than fifty-five quid and I am happy.
3. Make-up
This is where I spent my Brown Thomas voucher. I bought some Laura Mercier powder, which is fabulous and also a Charlotte Tilbury pressed powder back-up. I am so happy with the Laura Mercier that I think my days of buying the Charlotte Tilbury one may be over. I suppose it is handier for travelling/ doing my make-up in work but the Laura Mercier one is nicer and around three times the value. Powder isn't exciting but it's not a waste because I'll work my way through it eventually. I also bought a make-up brush in Boots. It's grand and I did have a need for a third one now I have added bronzer to my collection.  I also bought a bottle of Tan Organic that was on sale in Boots and the bottle I have is almost gone. So only the make-up brush as a non-replacement.

There. This shows why keeping the spending spreadsheet is such a good idea. It shows that even while I think I am buying nothing except replacements and needful items, it is still not long adding up. The budget for next month is zero again. We will see how close we get to sticking to it. In other beauty news I got fillers this morning. I am delighted with them. They are just in my naso-labial folds. I think I will be back next year when they will have worn off. No bruises or swelling to speak of and the effect is subtle; the lines are still there but a lot less noticeable.
I am doing much less well with the Getting Out There project. Going to a memoir-writing workshop on Monday and there is Fiction at the Friary on Sunday but that is it.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Failure #WTS2 #19for2019 update

I am reading Elizabeth Day's "How to Fail", which is a good read and I recommend it. It got me thinking about if there is a difference between failing and being a failure. I think for a long time I thought of myself as "a failure" and I would have looked at some-one like Elizabeth Day as a success. I can no longer say I am an abject failure in life, even if I have failed in many important areas such as my journalistic/writing career [so far], relationships and motherhood.
I think you can fail without setting out to fail. I didn't have a plan to be a mother, I just thought it would happen. And I used to keep telling myself I didn't mind not being a journalist and that being a writer was just some kind of dream. I never really set out to do any of these things with a proper plan, besides relationships. This one I would tackle sporadically and my main strategy was "getting out there" and internet-dating. The phrase "getting out there" is in inverted commas because it's one you hear an awful lot but people are very vague in what they mean by it. I have heard people who literally never go out exhort others to "get out there"like we were all still twenty-three with a choice of four parties on a Friday night.
I am redefining failure to say in order to fail at something you must first have a plan of how you're going to success. And some kind of goal. Only when you have not met this specific goal can one say one has failed. I will look again at my #19for2019 goals. I am not sure if these serve an overall goal. What is my overall goal, or my most important goal? I think for right now it is writing. How can "writing" be a goal?

Here is the Update
1. Get the flu vaccine.
Still not seasonally relevant.
2. Plant my planters.
We are past the time when this was seasonally relevant so this is very close to being marked as a failure. There is still just about time if I do it really soon. 
3. Find or hire some-one to put up the things in the house that need putting up.
Nothing. I was going to ask one of the neighbours but I'm not going to now because I suspect they have been putting weedkiller on my property. This is partly my own fault for being lax about home maintenance but I am still fuming. 
4. Do the 90 Day No-Shopping Challenge.
Yes. I did this and am getting a real taste for this kind of challenge. I have opened up a Style and Beauty spreadsheet where I am logging all my spending and buying the absolute minimum between now and January. Then will do a substantial amount of shopping while the prices are at their lowest and again then nothing until June. The decision to not buy any clothes for ten months of the year has made leisure shopping more or less a thing of the past. 
5. Instigate and stick to a #26habits programme.
This is a complete fail and I had forgotten this was even on the list. I don't mind though: it was only ever going to be an experiment. 
6. Plastic-free July.
Doing this at the moment. I can't say I am plastic-free but I am improving year on year. I have moved to the pasta in the cardboard boxes, bought a better refillable water bottle so I actually use it and made some zero-waste swaps like a coconut-doughnut thing instead of a plastic scrubber and a bamboo toothbrush which makes me feel super smug. I also got two new pairs of Thinxx. 
7. Start a podcast.
No progress since last update.
8. Speak at least one education conference.
This is in the bag except I have to write and submit my final proposal, the one that'll go on the programme. This is the big job of this week and what I am procrastinating on as I type this. 
9. Save all the videos and photos on my phone somewhere safe so I can delete them and free up storage.
Making progress.
10. Make a will.
Zero progress.
11. Grow out my fringe.
12. Cycle my bike.
Doing this this week. .
13. Go to at least three arts/literary festivals.
Have been to two so far and going to a third one next week. Significant progress. 
14. Organise a Gateway Women Meetup in Cork. 
15. Go to France. 
Done. I went to Nice for three days. Not the holiday of a lifetime but I went. 
16. Accumulate a lot of rejection letters. 
Doing well on this one. 
17. Meet the 7th January deadline for my two MEd assignments. 
18. Have a meeting at work about my timetable for next year.
Did this. It's not definite by any means. I still feel anxious when I think about this. 
19. Surprise myself. 
Nothing yet to report here. 

Six down. One that's a write off. And 12 yet to do. Not too bad really. It is half way through the year already. There are some that require urgent attention: numbers 2 and 7 especially. 

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

West Cork Literary Festival #WTS2

I haven't been writing this blog as much as I did last year, not that it makes any difference as according to the stats even the bots have abandoned me. How bad. It is easier to write freely in that case.
I am in the Maritime Hotel in Bantry. The decision to stay here for three nights was definitely a good one and if I were back again I would have booked the four nights and not gone home last night. I am having no end of UV damage, mostly just from driving places and then today I walked up to the library to print something that I could have printed at home in my house but didn't bother. Equally, I could have asked at the reception desk and I am fairly sure a hotel has printing facilities for those who might require them. My skin is in shit. I don't like that word but there is no other term for it. I have booked an appointment to see about fillers on Friday week. I am wary of tweakments, particularly Botox, but feel my skin is deteriorating rapidly. Perhaps this is worsened by going to the gym where some of what I do is high-impact aerobics. Maybe this is partly responsible for the sagging. But I don't do loads of it and I feel as well that the weight-training aspects are good for my skin (as well as my brain) as they encourage production of growth factor.
I think I have damaged my liver. On and off I get a terrible night-time itch that I thought was some kind of bugs and which I did not connect with increasing number of thread veins all over my body and the pains in my right-hand side that I was getting last week. It turns out to be something called cholestatis (thank you Dr Google) and is most likely a reaction to penicillin. I hope it gets better properly or returns so I can go to the doctor and get it sorted. I feel kind of funny about this as it is a potentially serious health problem. It can also lead to malabsorption of nutrients, which is a bit of a worry and may explain my shit skin, but more worrying still is the list of things that might cause it. Part of me wants to be sick, to have the excuse it gives you to be terrible at life.
This is my second literary festival and I must do one more to meet my #19for2019 target. I have decided that I will count the Short Story Festival and I have not been the last two years. So even one event will be an improvement. There is movement on my submittable account. Tiny movement that I cannot disclose here, but movement all the same. I have had a glass of wine with my dinner and the reading I am going to does not start for another hour. I can read, FFS. 

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

It's Here: Plastic Free July #WTS2

One of my #19for2019 resolutions was to do Plastic Free July. I have done this for the last few years and for me it has been Less Plastic July rather than Plastic Free. There are things I do not seem willing to let go. I have made changes like bar soap instead of shower gel and bringing my own bags for fruit and vegetables and giving up the ready meals that come in the non-recyclable black plastic. There is a way to go though. This morning I had a plastic-free breakfast of omelette with spring onion. I'm not sure if I could do a whole month of eggs for breakfast. Alternatively I can buy some porridge oats and make porridge in a saucepan (no microwave). It is handy to have milk in the house in case people call. Another possibility is toast for breakfast.
I went to the zero-waste shop in Clonakilty the other day. Twig it's called.Were there such a place closer to home I would use it. I can say that a lot of the things were replacements for things I don't buy anyway: like clingfilm. Or they were very expensive, like ten euro for washable eye pads. I mostly use the corner of a face cloth, unless I'm actually applying something like toner. I don't do this every day. Once or twice a week mostly. I did buy a bamboo toothbrush and I have heard they have some in Tiger for two euro. This is a switch I could probably make. I'll also say I have used more pregnancy tests in the last month than toothbrushes in the last two years and every one of those sends at least as much plastic into the oceans. False alarm (false dawn?) in any case.
A thing I did buy there was a kind of coir doughnut that is supposed to replace green plastic scrubbers. I am extremely happy with this product, even if it is ludicrously priced at three euro each. It does a good job in cleaning the frying pan. It also looks nice and natural in the kitchen instead of a manky piece of green plastic. Other than that they had expensive water bottles, which I am a bit sorry I didn't buy and think I will get one if I am down that way again soon. The one I have is plastic and doesn't keep the water cold. Switching to tap water would be a good thing for me to do. Switching away from the drinks in cans. One thing I am trying to do is drink water while I am driving. This is a habit change. I could also buy a mint plant, which I find makes the tap water more palatable.
Plastic-free July is easier than Plastic-free November would be, as it's the summer and I have time to shop in the market and cook a dinner every day. It is putting habits in place to sustain me over the winter that is the challenge. There are also things I am so far unwilling to give up, such as 24-trays of Diet Coke. This comes with a plastic cover on it. I also use shampoo in plastic bottles, albeit in litre bottles that rarely run out. The New Yorker comes wrapped in plastic and giving up the subscription would be an idea that would also save money. I would have been better off ringing around for car insurance which I renewed this morning at an exorbitant cost.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Health is Wealth #WTS2

It is true that without health you really have next to nothing. I am sick. I have been sick since returning from France. First with diarrhoea and then with a sore throat that seems to have become a chest/ear infection. I am not exactly dying, but feel too ill to do anything and have been fairly much confined to the house. The house is clean and tidy and I have Kon Mari'd my workout clothes basket. It is now over a fortnight since I went to the gym and I'll be starting again from close to the bottom. I'm hoping to make it there in the morning. I will go even if I last only ten minutes. 
I don't know what I can do to make this frequent sickness less frequent. More diligent use of hand sanitiser may have helped. Also I am not as good as I could be on the Vitamin C. A lot of the time I am great and I definitely have been lately; that is not why I have the chest infection. But a lot of the time I could be better. I have started a new bottle of Alforex and wonder if I should take a probiotic all the time. Probably, and a cheaper one would probably do me. I got the Alflorex because all gut fauna was wiped out by the bug and is now fighting the antibiotics. 
On the topic of spending in general, I have started an Excel file on which to log and add my style and beauty spending. Why did I not do this sooner? The spending for June was a shocking amount. I have to remember that for the first three months of the year I spent hardly anything, and that June is sales month so now and January should be the bulk of my purchases anyway. I have set myself a monthly budge of 250 euro. Even this seems high but I realise from the exercise that this is probably realistic. I have been conscious of what I haven't bought but not what I was buying. The problem, as always, is frittering. And the worst cause of frittering is things that look like a bargain. I bought some Kiehl's face cream (even though swearing off the brand as they're not cruelty-free) because there was 10% off it in Debenhams. I also bought an Avene (another cruel brand) retinaldehyde night cream in France because it was cheaper in France than here. Even though the Drunk Elephant retinol is excellent and all I really need and I am only around a fifth of the way through the tube. Adding these two together would have taken me more than half-way to the nice leather bag I saw in Nice and didn't buy as I felt "I don't need a new leather bag". I didn't, I don't, but it was unique, good quality and I would have used it far more than other things I have frittered (what a good verb) money away on. I have made myself a list of rules as well as the budget and this includes no buying things because they are on sale or because I am somewhere where they are cheap or because there is a gift-with-purchase unless it is the SpaceNK big one, which is allowed. I now feel quite positive about my budget/low-buy detox. Also I am aware I have lots of lovely things, including clothes. Clothes I don't wear and make-up I don't apply as I am all the time stuck in the house being sick. Hopefully this will be it for the rest of the summer. 
I had my PhD interview. It was awful and I will write another blog soon about self-sabotage and the forms it can take. I have done very little writing this week but I am working on something on the days I feel up to it. I have to bring the first four pages of my novel to the workshop I am signed up for next month so I have to start writing that. 

Thursday, 20 June 2019

#WTS2 Back from holidays

I have just returned (late last night) from a short holiday to Nice. If I were any good as a blogger I'd have pictures to upload and stories to relate. But I amn't. I am a useless tourist and saw next to nothing of what the Cote d'Azur (can't bother doing the accent) has to offer. I just relaxed and took it easy. I didn't even do much shopping beyond a couple of pairs of Tropéziennes. I did't get a pair in the colour I wanted though. They didn't have them in my favourite style but I could have persevered and found an alternative style. Still I am very happy with the ones I have and they will get good wear if the weather stays fine. I am also committed to going back there next year, perhaps at Easter when it is less hot. It wasn't very hot by their standards but the intense sunshine was a big shock coming from here, and I am mindful always of the need to protect my skin from UV damage. I reckon I got as little as anyone could reasonably get in the space of time I was there. Unreasonably really as I would have done more exploring had it not been for my photophobia. 
As always when I go on holidays I return with renewed appreciation for what I have and the incentive to value and protect it more. Also to exploit it and to go out. This is a good time of the year for me to get away as it breaks up the summer somewhat and sets the tone. I did feel very relaxed although I still have worries and concerns about things in work. That and my postgraduate degree. Which one to choose etc. I have an interview next week for the PhD. What will I do? It turns out that the work for the MEd was worth it. I have gotten a first in all four assignments that I did since Christmas. It does seem foolish under those circumstances to throw all that work away. Would I be better off continuing? I am starting to think so. 
In other news I am, of course, as always when returning home, committing to living my best life. That is such an abominable cliché, but there isn't really a better way to put it. What does "living my best life" even mean? What's next "being the best version of me"? I think that one works slightly better. Just continue with what I am doing with the habits tracking and the various challenges. WTS2. 

#19fof2019 update

There's only a week left of 2019 (it's Christmas Day) so I might as well have a look at this.  1. Get the flu vaccine. Did this ...