Friday, 17 March 2017

Five Things That Made Me Happy This Week #14

It's been a little quiet around here for a while. I received some terrible news, and I needed to take some time out, as I just didn't have the mental space for anything else. But as you've seen, I'm back now, and there have been a few awesome things that have happened over the last seven days.

Pink blossoms on  tree branches, taken from below the tree

Five Things That Made Me Happy This Week is a weekly link-up hosted by Suzy of From the Fringe, where we share the things we've been grateful for over the last five days.

Getting Creative

A few weeks back I went to the British Museum, and I saw an exhibition of British watercolour landscapes. I've also been watching The Big Painting Challenge, and I've been inspired by both. Last week I bought myself some watercolours and watercolour paper, and on Sunday I got arty. I'm working on on a painting of a rose from my garden, but I got the scale wrong, so it's more of a close up of the rose rather than the whole rose - oops! But I'm a huge fan of Georgia O'Keeffe and her close ups of flowers, so I've just decided to go with it. It's not very good, but that doesn't really matter, I'm simply enjoying being arty and creating something. It's fun!

Spring Has Sprung!

It has! There are flowers everywhere! Trees full of blossoms, daffodils and crocuses have bloomed, and it's just gorgeous! And yesterday I saw the first daisies of year, and it made me smile so much! Daisies are my favourite! It's also starting to get warmer which is always something to celebrate! I'm a pretty happy bunny!

Birthday Drinks

It was my 30th Birthday on Wednesday, and my dad took me out that night for drinks to celebrate. I had such a good night! Lots of drinking, lots of laughter, lots of talking. I do like those nights down the pub when I more or less get Dad to myself, and we can have proper chat. And we talked books! Dad is the reason I read, so it's always good to get to have a good chat with him about the books we're reading.

Being Recognised by an Actor

So, on the way home from my birthday drinks, while I was on the bus, someone said, "Joanne?" I was recognised by a guy who was in my class at school, who is an actor. It was so surreal, it being my birthday, and being very drunk, and being recognised. And then, being so drunk, embarrassing myself. I was saying to my dad, "He's an actor! He was in Casualty or Holby City or something" "Doctors." "Yeah! He was someone's son!" "Ben's" "Yeah! I watched it every day!" So embarrassing. And this actor wanted a photo with me for Facebook. It's just bizarre and strange, but kind of awesome, too.

A Trip to the Theatre

Mum and Dad got me tickets to see School of Rock for my birthday, and Mum and I went to see it yesterday. It was incredible! It was so much fun, the children were so talented, and at moments it felt like being at a concert. It was even surprisingly emotional in places, and brought tears to my eyes. Such a wonderful show! I highly recommend it!

So that's been my week! How has your week been?

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Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Musings As I Turn 30

A woman walking down a country road holding multicoloured balloons

Today is my 30th Birthday, and to be honest, I don't really know how I feel about it. On the one hand, I am not living the life I expected - wanted -  to have. I didn't want to reach 30 without being a mum. I didn't want there to be such a huge span of years between me and my child; I didn't - don't - want to be an older mum, I want to be a young mum. If I was to have a baby this year (even though that's unlikely), when my child reaches 30, I would be 60, and that just doesn't sit well with me. Not that 60 is very old, but 30 years is just a huge gap. But my goal was to have a good job and have saved a fair amount of money, be married and have a child - my biggest dream - by the time I was 25, and as that didn't happen, I'm kind of over the disappointment and sadness now. I'm not so much sad today as resigned; the last nail on the coffin of the dream of being a young mum has now been hammered in. The dream of being a mum hasn't changed, it just doesn't have a deadline.

But on the other hand, I've completed thirty years, I'm now moving into my fourth decade, and that feels like a new beginning, a fresh start, one that's bigger than the start of a new year. And, without, putting deadlines on anything, I kind of feel like the possibilities of the future are endless. I don't generally like looking back over my life, because I kind of feel like I haven't lived, that my life hasn't been all that exciting and I haven't achieved much. But that's down to comparison; comparing my life to others', or to some made up idea I have of what I should be doing - emphasis on "should". But having an exciting life isn't what's important, it's having a good life, and I've definitely had that. I have an incredible family, wonderful friends, and there are things in my life and past that I'm proud of. I've not done too badly. And I'm a hell of a lot more fortunate than a lot of people. Focusing on the good in my life and what I have is so much more important than focusing on what I lack.

I also feel, though, that turning 30 has given me an opportunity to do and experience more - whatever "more" may be. I want to learn British Sign Language. I want to start going swimming. I want to go to the theatre more. I want see more, maybe travel a bit around the UK? I want to learn more about feminism, but also be a more active feminist, and actually try to bring about change. I want to learn new things, maybe go to a couple of evening classes, and just do things simply because they bring me joy.

I want to not worry about turning 40 in ten years, or be so aware of my body clock. But this is difficult. It's hard, because 1) Becoming a mother and having my own family is massively important to me, and I really don't feel I have that long left to achieve this, and 2) Women are taught by society to fear ageing and getting older. Why is it rude to ask a woman her age? I think it's because women fear admitting their real age will lead to judgement as to whether they're past it or not. You only have to look at the movies and the roles available to older female actors as opposed to those available to older male actors to see the disparity, to see how women over a certain age are considered no longer attractive, and if you're a woman who isn't attractive, why do you even exist?

I've never really worried about ageing in regards to how my body and my face will change as I get older - partly because I look so young, even now people still think I'm a teenager (apparently I should be embracing this? But it actually winds me up. Maybe as I get older now, I'll like it more? But that will only be because looking my age isn't as acceptable to society as looking more youthful. Ugh.) - but getting older, becoming a certain age, is scary to me. Again, because I feel like I'm running out of time, but not just in the sense of becoming a mother, but in regards to my maturity. I know most people say it, but I do feel part of me stopped maturing at 16, and another part at 8, because I still love the idea of rolling down hills, I recently saw an advert for an easter egg hunt and got all excited before realising I'm too old for that kind of thing (another reason to have children, ha!), and I would love to go to Disney World. I get excited at things that a much younger girl would get excited about, while everyone else around me is talking about more important, maturer things. I'm just definitely not a grown up, and although I enjoy being excited and silly and "embracing my inner child", I also feel like I'm always trying to play catch up. But also that time is moving so fast, and how am I 30 already?!

I am going to try to stop worrying about all of this, though. Because it's down to society's expectations, and comparing myself again. I'm going to try to embrace being 30, and just enjoy being me, living my life, and exploring all it has to offer.

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Thursday, 2 March 2017

Celebrating World Book Day, Collaboratively

Happy World Book Day! Books are a huge part of my life, and I really wanted to do something to celebrate the day! So I asked a few of my favourite bloggers to share with us some of the books that have had an impact on them in some way. We talk about the books that got us into reading, one (or a couple more) of our favourite books, and a book that changed us. So read on for some book recommendations!

Suzy of From the Fringe

Suzy Marie

The BFG, The Book Thief, Gender Trouble

The Book That Got Suzy Into Reading

I can't remember the first book I ever read. In fact, I'm terrible with firsts in general because, at the time, I didn't realise that the first song I bought, or the first film I watched would be telling of the time I lived later in adult life. Anyway, I just remember that myself and words formed an inseparable bond pretty much from the get go; something which hasn't changed an inch twenty-eight years later. As a child, my home was full of magnificent books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar [by Eric Carle] and Dear Zoo [by Rod Campbell]. However, I really vividly remember being curled up on a beanbag (holla at me nineties children), holed away in my bedroom completely entranced by Roald Dahl's The BFG as a memory of early book-reading. What a gorgeous story that is! I'd love to write something as beautifully magical as that one day.

One of Suzy's Favourite Book

Later in life, I was bowled over by Markus Zusak's The Book Thief as it was completely unlike anything I'd ever read previously. Reading it in my late teenage years, hungrily lapping up the pages at my desk in my university bedroom (inevitably ignoring a deadline), I couldn't remember having felt so emotional about a book before. It's stunning; if you haven't read it then you must!

A Book That Changed Suzy

Finally, I remember reading Gender Trouble by Judith Butler in my early twenties and feeling all of a sudden like the world made sense to me. It was as though a cloud had been lifted and everything around me suddenly felt clear and obvious. For a person's words to have that much power over me was unreal and I've never lost the magnitude of that.
World Book Day is a lovely reason to celebrate the hundreds of books that have touched my soul over the years and are the reason that I choose to articulate my own stories in words today.

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Amy of Amy Elizabeth

Amy Elizabeth

First Time at Malory Towers, The Color Purple, Full Frontal Feminism

The Book That Got Amy Into Reading

I wish I could remember! My Mum read to me a lot when I was very small (I believe Postman Pat was a favourite...) - so much so that she didn't believe that I had learnt to read; she thought I had just memorised the words! I've always been a big reader, and I think Enid Blyton was my favourite as a child - I was equally obsessed with Mallory Towers, The Magic Faraway Tree and The Famous Five. All of which I am very excited to share with my children when the time comes!

One of Amy's Favourite Book

It's hard to pin down a favourite as there are so many books I love for different reasons, but the one that always springs to mind when this question comes up is The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I read it when I was about 17, and it was so different from anything I'd encountered before, and so incredibly moving. I eventually wrote my A-Level coursework on it, and as is so often the case for me, delving into all the intricacies and themes just showed my how rich and powerful it truly is as a piece of work. I was also discovering feminism at the same time, and this book really influenced my thinking and opened me up to some important ideas that have remained close to me every since. I have a copy with my notes in from that time, and it's one of the things I would save in a fire - I just love it so much, and I discover something new every time I pick it up.

A Book That Changed Amy

Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti. I'm not sure what drove me to pick this up, as I don't think feminism was anywhere near as widely talked about 10 years ago, but reading it absolutely changed my life. I remember feeling so angry as Jessica Valenti broke down the stats on rape, domestic violence and abuse, and just absolutely bursting with the desire to go and change it. I've been a feminist ever since, and it has been integral to my life and my relationships, and to my sense of self. It is one of the first words I will use to describe myself, and I am unapologetic about it. A few years after reading this book, and many others, I went on to study Gender, Sexuality and Queer Theory for my Master's degree - and that definitely wouldn't have happened if I hadn't originally picked up Full Frontal Feminism.

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Grace of Almost Amazing Grace

Grace Latter

The Bad Beginning, How to Be a Woman, One Day

The Books That Got Grace Into Reading

The book – or rather, the series – that first got me into reading could be either Angels Unlimited by Annie Dalton... or Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. I cannot be sure which, all I know is they were both permanently positioned in pride of place during my later years at primary school. Not long after this I moved on to the excellent Saffy's Angel series by Hilary Mckay. I fell so in love with those characters, that whole quirky family and their mad antics – Saffy stowing away to Italy to find clues about her mysterious past, Caddy's endless flapping during her dramatic driving lessons, Indigo's forming of a 'pack' of close friends (most of them being his family), and Permanent Rose's general determined state...and all of them painting a gigantic mural on their kitchen wall, just because. I also started reading the His Dark Materials trilogy at school, and sadly did not finish it – but now the new Phillip Pullman project has been announced, you can bet I'll be getting straight back on that bandwagon and completing the epic journey so many of my dearest friends have been on and raved about!

Grace's Favourite Books

My favourite book changes on a regular basis, but one constant seems to be How to Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran. I think this is because it was the first of a (now very long) list of non-fics that I read and hit me right between the boobs, it was so important.

Also I discovered my new favourite YA read last year – Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield. Her style of writing is something I cannot quite pinpoint, and I mean that in the best way possible. The ending of that book made me weep/laugh/weep some more, most hysterically.

A Book That Changed Grace

The book that I think properly changed me has to be One Day [by David Nicholls], because it was one of the first books to genuinely make me feel all of everything. I re-read it recently, fearing I'd be 'over it' the second time around...and yet it spoke to me again, in a whole new way. When I first read it I'd just turned 19, just finished my first year in university, and I dreamed of a graduation as eventful as Emma and Dex's – and perhaps a fun-filled but treacherously turbulent post-grad relationship like they had. Re-reading last autumn, at 23, having graduated and moved back home and into temporary employment, searching for that thing, that experience, that life story that I craved and others seemed to find so quickly...it broke and mended my heart yet again. When I first read it I was reminded of how much I love fiction, and re-reading it made me even more determined to write something as moving someday.

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And Finally, Me

Pawn of Prophecy, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Only Ever Yours

The Book That Got Me Into Reading

I was read to as a young child, and I remember, as an older child, my dad reading to me and my brother before bed White Fang by Jack London. I remember really loving reading The Magic Finger and Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl at primary school, listening to the audio book at the same time. But other than those two books, I never really enjoyed reading in general. I'd do it because I had to, but it wasn't a hobby, and I'd always much rather be doing something else. My parents gave my brother and I the first three books in the Harry Potter series for Christmas one year, and I read them, and of course, completely adored them. But I considered it a fluke. I liked those books, but I didn't like reading itself. Until my Dad, knowing how much I enjoyed Harry Potter, convinced me to read Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings. The first in a fantasy series with magic and a struggle of good versus evil, as with Harry Potter, Dad really thought I would love it. For weeks if not months, he would try again and again to get me to read it, telling me the basic plot in an attempt to get me interested. In the end I gave in and decided to read it just to get him to stop going on. And it changed everything.

Reading Pawn of Prophecy, it was like a switch was flipped in my mind. It captured my imagination unlike anything else I'd read before. The huge cast of characters, the world building involving so many different races with different traits, the magic and the gods and the world's own legends. Oh my god, I was completely captivated by Garion's story. I raced through it, turning each page in a state of awe and wonder. I read the whole series in a matter of weeks, which was unheard of, and I was so desperate for more. The scope of the story, from Pawn of Prophecy to Enchanter's End Game, the fifth book in the Belgariad series, was incredible to me - even though I'd started Harry Potter. I went on to the second follow-on series, the Mallorean, eagerly, and when I'd finished that, I was after more recommendations from Dad. I'd raid his bookshelves for more high fantasy to sink my teeth in. I had completely fallen in love with reading, and I've never looked back since. I know some high fantasy purists have some issues with David Eddings' books, but I will always treasure them.

My Favourite Books

I have so many! The aim was to just discuss one favourite, but I'm going to touch on three authors. Have to, I'm sorry. The first is Laini Taylor, author of crossover fantasy series The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Strange the Dreamer (which isn't out until 28th March this year, but as a book blogger, I got to read a proof copy early). Taylor is a master storyteller. She has a way of weaving words together that is so completely enchanting. I have read a huge number of books since reading Pawn of Prophecy, but Taylor never fails to bring back those feelings I felt when I read Pawn of Prophecy for the first time. The awe, the wonder, the complete and unadulterated joy! Reading Taylor's books is like discovering the wonder of reading reading for the first time all over again. It's an incredible writer who can invoke such feelings while reading, and completely dazzle you with their storytelling time and again. Reading Taylor's books feels like coming home.

A Book (or Two) That Changed Me

Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill is the book that made me a feminist. This book completely opened my eyes to the patriarchal society we live in, by only exaggerating our society a small amount. In this dystopian society, female babies no longer survive in the womb, so girls are genetically engineered. And if you're genetically engineering girls, why not make them beautiful? And why not put them in a school that teaches them how to be the perfect woman, and how to please men? And then let the men choose who will be a companion (or wife), a concubine, or a chastity (a teacher at the school). It looks at society's impossible beauty ideals and the competitiveness between women encouraged by the media. It's an incredible novel, and one that made me realise we have a really big problem.

From Only Ever Yours, I went on to Girls Will Be Girls by Emer O'Toole, which I have discussed on the blog previously. This book really made me think about how I act, and if the actions I take are because that's what women are "supposed" to do, or because I want to. I actually became a whole lot more aware of what I did, said, wore and so on because of this book, and made changes accordingly. Where Only Ever Yours made me a think, Girls Will Be Girls made me take action.

So they are our the books that mean something to us - though I may have gone on a teeny, tiny bit! I can't help it, I just love these books so much! Have you read any of these? What books mean something to you? Do let us know!

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Tuesday, 28 February 2017

It's Not How You Look, It's How You Feel (Part 2)

A woman dancing in the daylight, among bushes

As I discussed in It's Not How You Look, It's How You Feel (Part 1), I'm finally back to a place where I love my body and how I look. But I ended the post saying that there's a level of body-confidence I've never reached; when it comes to my body being "on show".

By "on show" I don't mean stripping down, necessarily. That's a part of it, but it's not so much about being exposed, but about being seen. I was bullied at school, and would try to remain invisible, so perhaps it's become a habit I've yet to break. But I don't like being noticed, and I especially don't like my body being noticed. I know that sounds odd considering I am happy with how I look, and for the most part, I don't really care what other people think; their negative remarks and criticisms hurt me, but I'm happy, and I know what they think doesn't matter. But that doesn't change the fact that I don't like being judged, or my body being under scrutiny. And it's something that I only fully realised recently.

Last week, Grace of Almost Amazing Grace posted Body Love: Listening and Learning. In this really awesome post, among many things, Grace talks about the #donthatetheshake body positivity videos people are posting on Instagram, where people of all shapes and sizes video themselves dancing, and Grace shares her own. I watched her video in awe, not just because she's a great dancer, but because she was brave - confident - enough to video herself dancing and share it with the world. As I watched, I thought, "I could never do that," and immediately felt a little upset. This isn't just dancing, this is dancing with a purpose, to show people you love your body, "flaws" and all, and to spread the body positivity message. It's the showing people part I have an issue with.

At every party and wedding I go to, I will be up there on the dance floor dancing my heart out - but not until I'm drunk enough not to care that people can see me. I know logically that people aren't watching me dance, they're too busy enjoying their own night. Or, even if they are, they're not doing so to judge me, but to enjoy seeing someone enjoying themselves, like I myself do occasionally. I like seeing people up on the dance floor, relaxed and letting go, and just having a whale of the time. It really makes me smile. I'm not judging anyone on their moves or their body, I'm just happy to see the people I love having fun. This is probably what other people are doing, too, if they are watching me. Even though I know all this, when I'm sober, I simply can't dance. I've tried, but I get so very self-conscious, very wooden, and so uncomfortable. I want to be anywhere but on that dance floor, and it's obvious. I do love dancing, though, so now, knowing I don't feel comfortable dancing until I'm drunk, I'll have a shot of tequila with my first drink, to get tipsy pretty quickly. But it bothers me. I don't want to have to be drunk to dance and enjoy myself. I want to be confident enough to just go for it.

And it's not even about being judged for my dancing; without intending to sound too arrogant, I think I'm an alright mover - I've got rhythm. But I know that doesn't matter. I've been at a party before, and there was a woman dancing, and it was like she was dancing to a different song to the one that was playing, as she wasn't moving at all in time with the music. But it didn't matter. She was up their going for it and having a wonderful time! And I was just so in awe of her; she wasn't a great dancer, but she didn't seem to care if she was or not, she was just happy in that moment. As I was thinking about writing both parts of this post, and thinking about that lady dancing and how happy she was, I thought, "It's not about how you look, it's about how you feel." And that thought, it stopped me in my tracks.

It's not about how you look, it's about how you feel.

Well, I feel good about my body. I really, genuinely do. There was a part of me, when watching Grace's video, that thought, "I'd love to do that. I'd love to have that confidence." And again, when I read Kathy of I am Kathy B's incredibly beautiful and moving post This Body and saw the absolutely gorgeous photos of her in her bikini, I thought, "I'd love to be able to do that!" Even though the thought of being in such a state of undress on my blog fills me with dread. (Though I can sit by a pool - in public - in a bikini? Where is the logic? Though saying that, I've not worn a bikini since putting on weight, so I might not feel so happy about doing that now.) Because it's all about celebrating your body. For Grace and Kathy, it wasn't about how they look, it was all about how they felt, how they felt about the bodies they have and how they love them.

I don't think it's enough to just love your body - though I know that alone can be pretty difficult. You've got to celebrate it, too, I think. I've got to celebrate my body, too. I want to shake off my self-consciousness and start celebrating. I want to feel confident enough to film a #donthatetheshake video and/or post photos of me in a bikini online. Of course, neither of these things are a requirement to celebrating your body. It would be enough for me to just dance - with abandon, in public, having an incredible time - without a drop of alcohol in my system. I want to get there. I want that body-confidence. And I want to celebrate getting there. So I'm going to do the work; I'm going to look at why I'm so self-conscious, and try to change it. "It's not how you look, it's how you feel," is going to become my mantra. And when I'm there, once I've reached that place where I'm able to celebrate my body without a care, maybe then you'll see a #donthatetheshake video. Or some bikini photos. Or whatever else I feel is appropriate to show you guys that I'm there, that I made it, and be seen by you guys.

Keep your fingers crossed that I get there, please?

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Friday, 24 February 2017

Five Things That Made Me Happy This Week #13

The past seven days have really flown by, but not in a good way. But they have been a really great seven days; nice, slow, easy days. Here's what's made me happy this week.

A white birthday cake decorated in pink with a single candle, with a pink gerber next to it on the left

Five Things That Made Me Happy This Week is a weekly link-up hosted by Suzy of From the Fringe, where we share the things we've been grateful for over the last five days.

Ten Days Off

I'm currently on annual leave! For no real reason other than I wanted a break, and had holiday to use. I've still got another few days before I head back to work on Monday (hence why this week going by too quickly is a bad thing!), but it's been so great to relax and not have to do anything for several days in a row. It really has been wonderful. A few lie ins, days spent reading, movie watching... it's been glorious!

Doing a Nice Thing

My brother started a new job this week, back into the field he loves most, which he has his degree in - IT. The company he works for is based in Oxford, though in general he'll be working with a client here in London, but he has to spend his first two weeks at head office. He's been away before, but always with people - with some of our cousins and/or friends - so this was the first time he'd be away for quite a stretch on his own. He was feeling a little down about it, on top of feeling nervous about starting a new job, so I bought him a congrats/well done card to make him smile. It's a small thing, and not really something my brother would be all that bothered about, and it wasn't going to change anything, but it's the thought, you know? So on Sunday, just before he left to travel up to Oxford, I gave him his card, and it did make him smile! "What did you do this for?" He asked with a silly smile on his face, half appreciative, half amused in a "Jo is a silly sod," kind of way. But I know he did like it, and it made him a little happy, which is what I was aiming for. He left knowing his big sister was thinking of him, and that was the point.

A Trip to the Cinema

On Tuesday, Mum and I went to see Hacksaw Ridge, and oh my god, it was so good! So moving! It was a lot more gruesome than I expected, but in a good way - it's all effects, but it showed just how violent and horrific wars are. It was pretty loud, too, which was really effective, as it made out seats vibrate, so it felt like we were actually there. I spent pretty much the whole time watching the battle scenes with my face in my hands, because it was just so relentless and shocking and a waste of life. But Desmond Doss... wow, that man is incredible. How he wanted to play his part in the war, but by trying to save lives, and how he stuck by his convictions of not shooting anything at anyone. And then his mental strength to save so many lives, helped by his faith. Seriously, you need to see this movie. It's not your usual war film, which I don't tend to be a fan of, but more emotional. Desmond Doss is awe-inspiring. It's been on my mind ever since.

A Haircut

I am not one of those people who likes getting their hair cut. Or rather, I used to, until two years ago my hairdresser - my aunt - decided she wasn't going to be cutting hair anymore. My aunt hasn't been a working hairdresser since I was a child, but she would still cut her family's hair. Until two years ago, she was the only person to ever put a pair of scissors to my hair, and so having to go to someone else... I do find it scary. What if they don't understand what I want? What if they cut it wrong? I'm not brilliant at being able to describe what I'd like, but my aunt always understood. Now I worry I'm not going to get it across. But it wasn't so bad this time. "I want it cut to my shoulders with long layers, please." Not too difficult to understand, really. It's pretty clear. And my hair looks so much better! I tend to leave my hair for as long as I can without getting it cut, and so it ends up not looking so great, getting dry and damaged, but now all that has gone, my hair looks healthy and sleek again! And two hairdressers complimented me on my hair colour, which was lovely. I'm really loving my hair!

Witnessing Kindness

While I was at the hairdressers, I saw something wonderful. The elderly lady who was getting her hair cut before me is a regular to the salon, and she stayed a little while after she was done to wait for some shops to reopen after lunch. When my hairdresser had finished conditioning my hair, she said she'd leave it in for two minutes, and during that time, three members of staff went round the back, and came out with a cake with a candle and a bunch of flowers. They came back round the front and presented them to the elderly lady, singing Happy Birthday. It was just so lovely! I couldn't see the woman from where I was seated, but I could hear that she was so happy. It was so lovely that they thought of her on her birthday, and did this nice thing for someone who was, really, just a customer. She stayed for my whole haircut, sitting by the windows with her flowers in a vase, eating some cake they cut for her, and chatting with my hairdresser and me. It was just so beautiful. This woman was already a regular, it wasn't an incentive to draw her back in, it was just kindness. Care and kindness. And it was lovely.

So that's been my week, how has yours been? I've you've written a five things post, let me know and I'll go have a gander!

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Wednesday, 22 February 2017

It's Not How You Look, It's How You Feel (Part 1)

I've been wanting to write about body image for a few of weeks, after having a bit of a break through following months of ups and downs. But I had trouble putting fingers to keys, part of me asking myself who am I to have insecurities when my naturally pretty slim frame is more "acceptable" to society than those of larger figures? To be honest, I've wanted to talk about body image for quite a while, when I had my issues and insecurities, but this is what's stopped me. But I do sometimes have insecurities, and I think most of us do, no matter what our dress size, and I think it's important to talk about that - especially if there are those who are thinking like I did, berating themselves for not being happy when others get more grief from society because of impossible beauty ideals. And after being inspired by Kathy of I am Kathy B's absolutely stunning post, This Body (seriously, go read it), here I am.

A photo of a woman's torso taken from the right, her left hand on her waist

So yes, I have been struggling. In my very first post for The Olive Fox, When It Comes to My Weight, Ignorance Is Bliss, I mention that in the six months leading up to that post, I had put on weight - which is a pretty big deal for me, as putting on weight is so difficult with a fast metabolism, and something I struggled with for a really long time. I talk about how I'd come to accept, and then eventually love my body, and with the weight that I'd put on, I was still tempted to weigh myself, but how I didn't need to. Because I was enough already, the number on the scale didn't matter.

And that wasn't a lie. The number on the scale didn't - and still doesn't - matter. And I have been happy with my body... but there have also been days when I have struggled. The thing with having your body stay pretty much the same for years is you get used to it. Even when I really wanted to put on weight, and was thinking negatively about myself, I was used to the body I had. And as I said, I got to the point where I loved my body. But then it changed. It didn't matter that I had previously wanted it to change for so long, my body no longer looked how I expected.

The change hasn't been drastic, I'm still pretty slim, but parts of my body are different. Instead of my stomach being flat, it's softer and rounder. My thighs continue to surprise me with how much more flesh they seem to have, even after all these months. I have a tiny waist, which has always been a little out of proportion with my hips, causing me no end of problems over the years when trying to buy clothes - but now more weight has been put on my hips, it's even more out of proportion. The curve from waist to hips is really quite pronounced, to the point where I've worried if I looked ill - I didn't worry if I was ill, I know I'm not, but if I looked like I was, because it seems more like my waist has got smaller than my hips have got bigger, though that isn't the case. My cellulite has become more prominent, and I've added a number of stretchmarks to my bum and thighs, ones that are still yet to fade, and at a 90 degree angle to the old ones, so my backside has a criss-cross pattern. I've looked at my body, and I've frowned. This is not the body I knew, had grown used to, had learnt, after a bloody long time, to love. This body was different, and I struggled to continue loving it.

But only on some days. On other days, I would be flooded with what can only be called joy, because look at those thighs, that bum, those hips! No-one would ever call me curvy, but I was curvier. I felt sexier, more womanly, and I would grin at my reflection with a sense of victory. I had done it! Until the feminist in me would raise her head and remind me I only think this because our patriarchal society tells us that women's bodies should be curvy; I liked my body more only because it fit the "ideal" more than it did previously. And then I would feel annoyed for feeling so excited and happy at the curvier me - as if my body was now better than it was before I put the weight on, as if it matters.

For months now, I've bounced back between (bloody long lasting) shock and dismay, to excitement followed by guilt. I've really struggled. But something happened about three weeks ago, and everything changed. I suddenly didn't care whether my body fit an impossible ideal more or not. I wasn't bothered by the little belly, the larger thighs, the cellulite and stretchmarks, the ridiculous (gosh, even now, but really, it is ridiculous) line from waist to hips. I suddenly stopped judging my body one way or the other, stopped looking at it how others might, and just looked at it as me. And you know, I do kind of like it. It's really weird, because the feeling isn't of "Yes! I look hot!" even though that thought has crossed my mind over the past few weeks. It's more warmth I've been feeling; I've looked at my body and felt warm towards it, fondness for it. Like seeing an old friend again. I've found that love again, the love that doesn't care abut lumps and bumps, circumference or softness, curves or lines - love that just is. And I really don't know what it is that changed, I just realised that I was seeing my body differently again, had found that healthy relationship again. And I am so happy to be back there again. To be perfectly honest, I did worry if I'd ever get back to this place, but I have. And I now know I can again, if I ever have a wobble. It will return.

But the other day, I realised there's more work I have to do. Though I may be happy with my body again, there's still a level of body-confidence I've never reached: when it comes to my body being "on show". But that's a whole other discussion, which you can read about in It's Not How You Look, It's How You Feel (Part 2)

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Friday, 17 February 2017

Five Things That Made Me Happy This Week #12

Another not so great week this week. Last week was a migraine, this week is a cold. But instead of slowly progressing to feeling pretty awful over a few days, it hit me all at once on Wednesday. Thankfully I felt a lot better yesterday, so I'm hoping that means it's already on it's way out. But still, there have been some cool moments over the last seven days.

Popcorn

Five Things That Made Me Happy This Week is a weekly link-up hosted by Suzy of From the Fringe, where we share the things we've been grateful for over the last five days.

A Girlie Weekend

Last weekend, my dad had a trip aborad with work and my brother went to visit our cousin, so it was just Mum and I for a couple of days, and it was great! We had take away, stocked up on sweets and treats and spent our evenings watching movies together. I've mentioned before how close Mum and I are, like friends as well as mother and daughter, and I've loved spending this quality time with her, just the two of us. It was really lovely.

Painting My Nails

It might have started warming up a bit this week, but for the most part, it's still been cloudy and overcast. All that grey, it gets me down. I decided to insert a little bit of colour into my life, and painted my toe nails in a lovely, bright turquoise colour. I can't help but feel a little bit happier every time I see them. I'll be painting my fingernails over this weekend as I'm on annual leave now (yay!), and there's no shelving to damage my manicure!

Buying Some Flowers

Speaking of bringing some colour to my life... Suzy mentioned in one of her posts a few weeks back that she bought herself some daffodils. Inspired by her, I bought some for myself two weeks back, and this week, I bought some tulips! I've always wanted tulips, to see how they look when the buds open, but they've always seemed like a luxury flower to me, how they're so tall and elegant - the kind of flowers you buy someone else, not yourself. But then I remembered a post from Kathy of I am Kathy B, To The Woman Who Wouldn't Buy Herself Flowers, and I decided, sod it, and bought some. They're gorgeous! I love the green, the pink and the white of them. How the petals look like they've been handpainted in watercolours. How proud they seem. I'm so glad I bought them!

Reading An Awesome Book

Yeah, I know, books again. But books are a huge part of my life - I'm a book blogger and a bookseller - and they're one of my passions.

One of my favourite authors, Laini Taylor, has her new book, Strange the Dreamer, coming out in March, and I'm lucky enough to have a proof. I've started reading it, and oh my god! This lady can weave words like no-one else. She completely captures my imagination, and she runs with it. Her books are the kind that make me want to do nothing else but read. Lazlo Strange and his story have put me under thir spell, and I am always so eager and so excited to get back to it. You know that feeling when you have when you recommend a great book to a friend, and feel a little jealous that they get to experience the book for the first time, but you can't do that again? Well, Taylor's books are the kind you absolutely revel in your first reading of. Her books are like a gift. I am loving this book!

Lucozade

It may not be the healthiest drink, but whenever I have a cold, I swear by it. I take cold medication, too, but Lucozade - and the sugar in it, I guess - gives me that extra little boost that helps me get through the day. And on Wednesday, it really was needed. It was a hellish day, and though Lucozade didn't make me feel completely fine, it really did help - because I missed it once it was gone!

So that's been my week! How has your week been? Have you written a Five Things post? I'd love to read it!

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