1. How do you get your ideas for blog posts?
Generally from what’s going on in my life. Places I’ve been, conversations I’ve had, news I’ve heard and so on. Taking part in these memes helps to get regular posts going too. Many of my posts have been about the research I’ve done for my books.
2. What’s the one piece of advice you would give to new bloggers just starting out?
Blog as often as you can. Blogging, like all writing, is a skill and you only get better with practice. Blogging often also gets you into good habits and will help you to become part of the blogging community.
3. How would your closest friends describe you?
I dread to think! I hope they would say I was passionate, caring, intelligent and funny. They might also say I was sensitive, a bit of a drama queen at times and extremely opinionated!
4. What’s the best place you’ve ever visited and why?
Meerufenfushi, aka Meeru, an island in the Maldives. It’s paradise on earth. I’m so lucky to have been able to spend a week there 11 years ago. I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic for the place lately and would love to be able to go back.
5. What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Accepting myself. I haven’t overcome this challenge yet, but I am trying. It took me a long time to accept my vocation. I always wanted to be a writer but that booming voice of society told me “you’ll never earn a living at it” and I let that voice divert me. But I was so unhappy in everything else I tried to do. Now that I’ve embraced my path I’m so much happier. I need to do that with all sorts of things in my life, accept myself for who I am and stop worrying that I’m not good enough. I need to change the voice in my head from one of constant self-criticism, to one of love and nurturing. It’s not easy to do, but I have a mantra now “Forgive yourself and move on”. I’m trying to live by that.
1. Why did you start blogging?
Hmm… I have to reach back about ten years to answer that one. I think it was to ease boredom at work! I had a tedious job in insurance (I know!) and blogging gave me an outlet for my creativity and a chance to be me. Because being sat at a desk, doing a soulless job wasn’t me. Once I got the bug, blogging became part of my life forever.
2. What is the best book you’ve ever read?
Just one?! Well for sheer re-readability and how much it moves me every time I read it, I have to say Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. The first book I ever queued up before midnight on release night to get. The first first edition I ever owned. The first time I didn’t sleep or eat until I’d devoured every word. I must have read it a dozen times by now and it makes me cry every single time. As do the last two books in the series, but I had to pick one!
3. If the next song you heard was the last, what would it be?
Everlong by the Foo Fighters. This song touches something deep in my core every time I hear it. It was released during my most formative years and carries with it potent memories of lost loved ones, dear friends, glorious memories, the first feelings of belonging. All of those memories captured and stored in a beautiful melody and rhythm that makes me soar. If I never heard another song again, I would die filled with love, happiness, sadness and loss all at once; everything human.
4. What is your favourite post that you’ve ever created?
Ooh, good one. Bear in mind I’ve had several blogs over the last decade! I’m going to say my birth story. It still gets viewed today, and is still shared in online birth communities despite being three and a half years old. Its companion posts on my birth contract and rebirthing ceremony are also frequently shared and viewed too, but this one carries most of the emotional weight. It was a joy and a challenge to write and reading it back now still moves me. My birth changed practices at the hospital I ended up at and this story, and my contract, have been used by midwives on training days. I’m honoured to be part of the process of making birth better for other women.
5. What is the one book, album and luxury item you would have if you were stranded on a desert island?
I think I would want to take something funny to read, or something massive to keep me going. Lord of the Rings, perhaps. Nothing like the daddy of all epic fantasy.
Album? Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles. I had to think about this a lot and hopped around a few before settling here. I used to spend hours and hours watching Yellow Submarine as a kid. I had it on video recorded off the tv and would watch it, rewind and watch it again, and again, and again. The songs are closely connected to my childhood and I could listen to them on repeat forever. It also happens to be a musical masterpiece, voted the number 1 album of all time by Rolling Stone.
As for the luxury item, I’d have to say a working fridge! I wanted to say chocolate, but then thought “it would melt in the heat!” So a fridge it is, to keep my coconut milk cool. Of course, I’m assuming that I have something to play the album on!
So that’s all for now. Tune in next Sunday for more.
Inspired by Vicky over at Single Mother Ahoy! I decided to list my top five favourite Ted Talks. I absolutely love Ted, the whole idea is amazing. People come together in venues all around the world to give inspirational talks on all manner of subjects. It was hard to narrow it down to just five, but here goes.
5. Hackschooling Makes Me Happy – Logan LaPlante. Learn from a teenager how unschooling works and why his home education is focused on what really matters.
4. The Art of Asking – Amanda Palmer. A wonderful and inspirational talk from one of the most successful crowdfunders ever. Palmer describes her experiences of interacting with her fans.
3. Why we should give everyone a basic income – Rutger Bergman. I’ve been an advocate of universal basic income for a few years now and whenever I get into a discussion online about it I direct people to this video. It’s a simple explanation of the idea and why it would work.
2. The Power of Introverts – Susan Cain. Our society tends to value the traits of extroverts far above those of us introverts. Cain explains why we shouldn’t try to change introverts and how we can contribute to society.
And finally, my absolute favourite Ted talk of all time…
1. Changing Education Paradigms – Sir Ken Robinson. All of Ken Robinson’s Ted talks are brilliant, but this one, with the RSA animation, is my favourite. It’s my go-to video whenever I have a wobble about my children’s education.
I hope you enjoy these talks! Let me know your favourites in the comments below. I’m always keen to broaden my horizons so would love suggestions of what to watch next!
I’m a total nerd, I research stuff. A lot. When I develop an interest in something I tend to go for total immersion and try and take in as much information on it as I can find. So when I started hearing about paleo eating (I won’t use the word diet, too many connotations) I devoured information on it. It all makes total sense! I’m well versed in all the dos and don’ts, foods that break the rules, foods that bend them etc. A massive part of me wants to go for it, and at times I do start down the path of cutting things out with a view to easing into it. I’m generally dairy free anyway, due to wee one’s intolerance, but I’ll dabble with cutting down on bread and sweet things, though am yet to pass the three week mark.
These times are very often paired with a surge of enthusiasm for working out. I absolutely love getting hot and sweaty, pushing my body to do more than it normally does. I don’t do vanity work outs. When I come out of the gym you can tell I’ve worked hard; messed up hair, a sheen of sweat, face the colour of rhubarb. So what? I don’t go there to impress anyone, I go to improve my body. For years I was a steadfast treadmill runner, and I still am. But two years ago I discovered intervals.
Again with the immersion, I did my research and discovered that high intensity interval training (HIIT) is far more efficient than spending long tedious hours doing the same thing. While doing steady-rate cardio does burn more calories during the workout than HIIT, the latter produces more of the hormone that triggers your metabolic rate to pick up, meaning that in the 24 hours after the workout, you burn more calories.
I only get three hours a week to exercise. That’s it. Between my kids and my writing, and a little R&R, I get just three hours a week to work on my fitness. So I can’t afford to end up in a situation where I have to run for an hour and a half, or two hours solid, three times a week in order to see the results I want. I have to make those three hours count, make them as efficient as possible.
Plus, intervals make running on a treadmill more interesting! It’s a greater challenge, to push myself really hard for 90 seconds, then bring it down for a minute, then sprint the hell out of that machine for 20 seconds. Mixing it up takes away the monotony. I never really liked running on a treadmill before, I just did it because the other machines in the gym intimidated me. But now I actually enjoy it. I still hate running outdoors, especially in cold weather. It makes my throat and lungs really sore and is just sheer misery. Exercise shouldn’t be torture! It should be challenging, but fun. Otherwise, what’s the point in doing it? Doing something that makes you miserable will only make it harder to stick at it.
The other exercise that I discovered I liked, just a year ago, was lifting with free weights. I refused to even contemplate the free weights for years. I didn’t want to set foot in the room with all the big blokes, watching me, judging me, laughing at me. I thought that women who lifted ended up looking like beefcakes, which might be fine for them, but that wasn’t a look I was going for.
My ex-husband got really into lifting, he even bought his own rack to lift in the garage, and started competing. He immersed himself in it and made some attempts to get me to give it a try. But I refused. I held out for a long time…. until I couldn’t any more! Not because of his nagging (he didn’t nag), but because I wasn’t going to the gym, and I couldn’t keep pretending that the weight wasn’t creeping on. So, having soaked up an awful lot of information from him talking at me at some length over the previous year and a half, I decided to step up to the bar.
What I really like about lifting is the measurable progress. It might not show in the number on the scales particularly quickly, or in the waistline at first, but by increasing the amount of weight you lift a little at regular intervals, you can see how much stronger you’re getting.
When I first started I struggled to even unrack the empty, 20kg bar on my shoulders, never mind squat with it. But within 5 weeks I had doubled my work weight on squats to 40kg. I saw slower but still measurable progress with my benchpress, and it gave me such a buzz to post my stats to my fitness-minded friends on social media.
It turns out that female powerlifters look like this:
When my ex moved out he took his weights with him and I allowed several months to slip by without exercise. But now I’m back at the gym and have even taken to deadlifting, which I hadn’t tried before. I walk into the weights room with my head up and crack on, ignoring the posers doing bicep curls in front of the mirror (pur-lease). It’s rare that I see another woman in there, but I don’t let that intimidate me. A few sessions with a personal trainer ensured that I was confident in using the equipment. I’m still running intervals too.
But here comes the bizarre part…. despite knowing what I want to do, despite enjoying a good workout and wanting to eat clean, despite talking the talk on social media all the time when friends ask food and fitness questions, I find it really, really hard to actually walk the walk. I bitch and moan. I complain that I have so little child-free time, I really should spend it all doing something that has a hope of one day resulting in me earning a living! I would rather write than cook, or work out. Ugh, cooking. Why did that thought have to intrude? I don’t want to cook. I hate cooking. I am actually perfectly able to convince myself that ordering a take away would be the healthy option!! Afterall, a chicken burger comes loaded with fresh salad from my favourite place to order from. If I cooked the food I have in I wouldn’t end up eating anything green!
But when I get off my backside, and go to the gym I always come away feeling good. Always. Even if I find myself with no energy and unable to stick it out for more than ten minutes, I’m always glad I turned up and tried. I haven’t got there with food yet, that’s a more tricky aspect, and probably deserves its own post. On which note, I leave you, in order to go forage for grub.
I love hearing from you, so leave a comment with your diet and fitness woes, or success stories. Did you hate cooking but found a way to conquer the kitchen? Please leave me your tips!
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