Sunday, 11 March 2012

Punching below my weight (hopefully)

I have never been what you might call a sporty person. At school I chose Latin as an option just so I could get out of doing PE. But last September I enrolled in a Government subsidised Get Back Into fitness scheme to do Boxercise - and finally found a form of exercise I love!

Needing to shift a few pounds and not really wanting to go on a diet, I had come to the painful conclusion that I needed to significantly increase my levels of physical exertion. I'd never enjoyed aerobics in the past as I lacked co-ordination and I don't have the body confidence, the disposable income or the fancy sportswear to join a gym. So I searched online and in the local papers for some daytime classes and stumbled across Get Back Into - run by County Sports Partnerships (Regional Sport England) - which runs a range of low cost classes to encourage people over the age of 16 who don't exercise, or would like to start again, to get fitter and healthier.

Something about the sound of Boxercise really appealed to me - mostly, I have to admit, the therapeutic appeal of punching out all my aggression and frustration! As a woman it can be difficult to find an outlet for aggression. All too often those sorts of feelings are internalised and directed inwards which can lead to added problems like comfort eating, drinking and ultimately depression.

And a brilliant stress buster it indeed turned out to be! And as the class was on a Monday morning, it meant I could save up all my weekend niggles and punch them out of my system right at the start of the new week - brilliant!

What I hadn't reckoned on though was how much fun the sessions would be, and how supportive. We spend a full hour running, jumping and punching til our arms are heavy and aching, but the comraderie and encouragement from the others keeps you going. For example, when you are doing sets of 60 or 70 punches in a row, your partner will count aloud for you, spurring you on, so that all you need to do is concentrate on swinging one arm, then the other, and making contact. And breathing. You mustn't forget to breathe......

Yes, it's primitive and it's painful but it is an amazing full body workout, that sorts out your stress levels as well as your bingo wings. Plus, there is something truly empowering about doing something so physical. It makes you feel strong, inside and out, as well as giving you confidence in what your body is capable of. My fitness levels are already way up from when I started - and if I do manage to lose some weight along the way, then that'll be an added bonus.

As I said at the start, I am not what you'd call a sporty person. But finally finding a sport I enjoy has made me re-evaluate this assumption. People who know me well are amazed that I am suddenly so enthused about boxing - I'm a mum in my forties, so shouldn't I be into Yoga or Pilates instead? Thankfully my partner thinks it's great and he surprised me on my birthday this month with one of the best presents I've had in years - my own pads, gloves and a skipping rope!

It does seem a little bit incongruous I suppose - a mild-mannered, middle-aged mother donning her boxing gloves - but a part of me likes to shock, so maybe that just adds to the appeal!

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Not quite myself

A few weeks ago I damaged my glasses. The lenses got so scratched that I could no longer see through them properly so I had to resort to wearing my spare pair.

Now, my spare pair are pretty nondescript and as soon as I slipped them on I didn't seem to look like myself anymore. And this sense of being 'not quite myself' has been following me round more and more just lately.

You know that sense of things not being quite as they should be - nothing specific you can put your finger on - just being off kilter, out of sorts.

Life has a habit of making you lurch blindly from one day to the next, just concentrating on getting by, and then one day you wake up and wonder, in the words of the Talking Heads song "How did I get here?"

And that's where I find myself today. Feeling like I may have taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way. Or missed a turning altogether.

Or maybe I just need some new glasses......

Sunday, 3 July 2011

A life in limbo

September is going to be a watershed month for me as my youngest daughter Molly starts school full time. Whenever I mention this to anyone I always get asked the same question, 'What are you going to do with yourself?". And that all rather depends on the outcome of the next 2 months.....

I've been running my own business from home for the past 3 years, and I'd always envisaged that, when both the girls were at school, this would free me up to work during much more traditional hours - i.e. between 9am and 3pm whilst they are school - as opposed to snatching odd moments here and there and largely working in the evenings and at weekends.

However, last month, I took the unexpected decision to apply to do a PhD. It's 20 years since I graduated from Kent University, where I studied Comparative Literary Studies & English, and I can honestly say that in all those 20 years it had never crossed my mind to go back to university. However, a chance remark from a friend who had seen this particular research studentship advertised at my local university sparked my interest, and when I read the advert it seemed like it was made for me - it was almost too good to be true.

I contacted the supervising Professor and gave her a summary of my academic background and subsequent career and asked if it was worth me making an application. Her reply was positive and she gave me lots of advice as to what I should include in my application and research proposal.

The position is within the Research Institute for Media Art & Design, and the area of study is Cross Media - books that have crossed over into digital media, i.e. film, TV, ebooks, games etc. The whole subject area got me ridiculously excited and for weeks my mind was bubbling over with great books that have been adapted into films or TV series. I revisted old favourites, I rented DVDs to watch and I made lists of book/film combinations I would love to study. Quite frankly I was spoilt for choice but in the end I decided to mix the old with the new and apply some of the newer skills in social media that I have aquired over the past few years with my marketing background and I came up with the following area of research:

What can be learned from the phenomenon of Twilight and its main characters Bella & Edward, which could be used to ‘rebrand’ Emily Bronte’s Cathy & Heathcliff for young readers in 2011?

I have no idea if this is any good or what the Faculty might be looking for. I feel completely out of touch with the world of academia and I'm aware I may be way out of my depth compared to some of the other candidates.

But what it has done is allow me to dream a little. What if I do get accepted? I would get to spend the next 3 years steeped in books and learning and research - things I absolutely love and never thought would be part of my life again. My 3 years at university, between the ages of 18 and 21, were happy and life changing in so many ways, but the academic element was almost incidental. 20 years on I would appreciate the opportunity and the experience of student life in such a different way. I almost don't dare allow myself to dream that it might actually all come to pass.

The closing date for applications was 30th June so I am currently watching my post box and Inbox with fear and trepidation to see if I get selected for interview.
But everything about it just feels right. The timing, the subject, the location all couldn't be more perfect.

So, when someone asks me what I'm going to do with all my free time, come September, I just cross everything and dream a little dream.....

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Supreme Bad Hair Day (and How To Fix a DIY Hair Dye that Goes Wrong)

The other week I coloured my hair. It was 4 days before Cybermummy and I made the really stupid decision to abandon my normal, perfectly acceptable colour and go for a darker shade - just four days before a really big event where I was going to be meeting hundreds of people. I mean, what was I thinking?!

And of course, it went wrong. It went way too dark. It had that bluey, black hue that is all the rage with Goths, but that's not such a great look on a middle-aged mum. Plus it made my skin look a funny colour. And I only had 4 days to put it right.

The next day, on the school run, I had a couple of people say "Oh you've dyed your hair, it looks nice," (they were lying), one person who say "Did you know someone has attacked your hair?!" (hurtful but more honest) and most tellingly, the majority of my actual friends who said absolutely nothing at all (which was the final nail in the coffin).

So on returning home, I fired up the laptop, and consulted the oracle (aka Google). I typed "hair dye too dark" and was presented with a vast array of options, the first of which were quite condescending - "you shouldn't dye your own hair, you should always have it coloured by a professional". Yep thanks for that.

Then, by chance, I stumbled across a site where someone had posted a question almost identical to mine, after which someone had posted a reply. There then followed a hundred or so comments from people saying thanks for the tip, it had saved their hair. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I thought and I gave it a go - and it worked!

So for anyone else who suffers a hair-dye that goes wrong (it works for too dark or for grey/green highlights apparently), here's what you need to do:

* Mix 1 part conditioner with 3 parts lemon juice
* Saturate hair with mix and leave to work its magic (the first time I left it for 30 mins, the 2nd time for 1 hour, just to be sure!)
* Dry hair with a hairdryer (with mixture still in) until it's crispy
* Wash with shampoo & rinse (you will probably see dye coming out as you rinse)
* Dry and style as normal and marvel at how your hair has been restored!

I had exactly the same type of hair disaster about 6 years ago, the result being I had to go to the hairdressers, have all my hair bleached and then dyed mid brown, which is obviously not a great thing to do to your hair. This time I had neither the time nor the finances to fund such a rescue mission. And the biggest bonus - apart from the disappearance of the blue black tinge - was the fact my hair was so silky soft, having been bathed in conditioner. Yay!

I honestly can't tell you how relieved I was. And it certainly spared my blushes at Cybermummy and prevented anyone from thinking I was Siouxie Sioux! So this blog post is a chance for me to pay it forward and pass on this DIY fix. And my opportunity to publicly thank God for Google and lemons!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Bad Habits

It’s so easy isn’t it, falling into bad habits. For me it’s a mixture of lack of time, laziness and doing anything for a quiet life. But over the next 6 weeks I’m going to try and break some bad habits that both the girls and I have got into.

Going to the loo

I hated potty training my eldest. I found it frustrating and stressful and, probably because of this, she took a long while to ‘get it’. Which is why I have deliberately put it off with my now 3yo. But she starts preschool in September so over the next 6 weeks I have to bite the bullet and feel the potty training pain! At the same time though, I plan to break my 4yos habit of holding on until she’s fit to burst. She can hold on for hours, which is not good for her, and I have struggled to get her to go at school. Because of this she continues to have regular accidents at school. I’m assuming that, by now, she probably feels that being ‘busting’ is normal. So to retrain her brain I am resorting to good, old fashioned bribery and have told her that every time she goes for a wee she can have a Party Ring. Hopefully then she will get used to the sensation of a comfortably full bladder and will go more regularly once she’s back at school.

Eating Well

I’ve been quietly ignoring the fact that my weight has been creeping up and up over the past year. However 2 things have happened this week to give me the wake up call I needed. Firstly, I went up a clothes size, to a size I never wanted to reach. Secondly, last weekend I had a really bad headache and spent much of the weekend in bed. It made me realise how important it is for me to be well, and in order to be in good health I have a responsibility to look after my body. So I am going to try really hard to eat better – not for purposes of vanity or to lose weight (although I hope this may be a happy consequence) but for my wellbeing.

And along with this I will be encouraging the girls to do the same. Again, through laziness, I have got into the routine of buying food for them that I know they will eat rather than encouraging them to try new things. So while we have some time I’m hoping to get the girls cooking and shopping for some new things to try.


If I'm honest, the last 6 months have been a bit of a disorganised mess. As the business has grown, the housework has slipped and I have lost my control over things like the household paperwork, the clutter of the kids toys etc. So I need to regain a bit more structure. So rather than my normal laissez faire attitude, this holiday I’ll be planning things to do and making this visual so the girls know what we’re up to, to prevent the next 6 weeks just merging into one long lazy day. I’m also going to try and stay on top of the housework, using the little and often approach. And I’m going to get on top of the paperwork and the clutter, so that in September, when term starts again, I can start afresh as I mean to go on.

Me Time/Us Time

My evenings have ended up being the time when I work, blog, tweet, shop online, you name it – none of which is relaxing or has anything to do with my other half. Some evenings we sit on separate sofas on separate laptops with the TV on in the background – not exactly conducive to sparkling conversation and keeping the romance alive! So I want to reclaim my evenings – to do relaxing things like reading, taking a bath, having a conversation (shock horror!) and generally making time more time for me and us.

I don’t suppose any of this will be easy. I’m great at starting things – I’m not so great as a finisher. But as this quote from Doug Firebaugh nicely sums up: “Something must die in order to grow - your old habits, your old self image, your old thinking, your old life - must be weeded out for the seeds of success to grow.”