Chaos

As you may have figured out from my sporadic blogging of late, I’ve been a wee bit busy. Cramming in ALL THE WORK before Christmas so that I can have a proper holiday; trying to get kids in the right place at the right time for nativities and dinners and parties and this, that and the other; car disasters (mid section of the exhaust fell off, brakes and tyres buggered); home disasters (dishwasher keeps flooding the kitchen, oven is still fucked from last Christmas, tumble dryer jams the timer… nothing like a fire risk to keep you on your toes) and all the bits in between.

I’m only blogging now because technology has chosen THIS MOMENT, where I have literally got more things to do than minutes to do it in, to have a dick fit and completely fail to work. My internet connection is sporadically dropping to the speed of dial-up and my once trusty & reliable laptop seems to have decided it’s had enough and is mysteriously ramping up RAM usage and dying on me every 4-6 hours. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m TERRIBLE at making back-ups I’d have taken a bloody hammer to it by now.

I have done very little in terms of Christmas prep, given the bare minimum of thought to my kid’s presents (basically throwing any old crap into my Amazon basket and hoping for the best) and even then not bothering to unpack it when it arrives: my hallway looks like Santa’s bloody grotto and I daren’t open any of it because if I do that I have to find somewhere to hide what’s inside. The only problem with this method of storage is that I have genuine non-Christmas deliveries somewhere (pet food amongst others) which is kinda necessary for my animals but could be in ANY of the boxes… and knowing my luck, the last one I investigate.

Oh well, it’s nearly Christmas. Ho ho ho. Now where did I put those mince pies…

London take two: part two

Those of you anxiously awaiting the news of my second ‘big’ London trip (hi mum) will be disappointed to know that there was little in the way of drunken clubbing and strip clubs this time round. Unfortunately my flu-like-bug recovery turned into a sinus infection while I was away and I ended up pottering about feeling sorry for myself and having early nights.

That said, it wasn’t all snot and early bedtimes. I did get to meet Kip at the Tefal event thingy we’d been invited to (which I posted a couple of pictures of on Instagram) — as well as Alex and a handful of other bloggers — and it was exactly as awesome as I’d expected.

Gaz and I also did the Crime Museum exhibit, a bunch of other touristy stuff, left a shit comedy gig early and by some amazing fluke won £175 dropping £5 on 16 (the day we met) on the roulette wheel at the birthday thing on Saturday. This would be more awesome if I hadn’t spent £140 on a dress earlier that day.

ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY POUNDS ON A DRESS.

And I wasn’t even drunk.

Anyway, another good trip despite lurgies. See you next year London.

London take two

I’m in London tomorrow for a blogger event thing — something to do with cooking something, I don’t know, but I get to meet Kip and he’s as grumpy about “mommy bloggers” as I am — and as it’s a year since Gaz and I “did London” the first time so I figured I’d treat him this time and booked a hotel for a dirty weekend bit of tourist-ing.

I want to see The Crime Museum Uncovered, I have a client to meet, a birthday party on Saturday, and I bet there’s *somewhere* in London I can find a big poof-y ball gown to try on for my 30 things before thirty challenge but otherwise the weekend is very much a blank canvas.

Any recommendations, London-dwellers?

In which I complete a half marathon & my guinea pig makes the news

What a weekend.

I’ve been panicking over the past few weeks about my half marathon, which I half-arsedly agreed to and failed to train for completing roughly 4 runs in the run up (the longest of which was 12km; a half marathon is over 21km!)

Anyway, by some wondrous magical miracle I managed to complete the half AND in a reasonable time. I secretly hoped that I’d somehow find a previously unknown half marathon skill and fly round in 2:30 or less, but I did not. Despite not having secret ninja running skills I still managed it in 2:37 (official time): 2:34 if you discount the 3 minutes I spent on the loo.

(Turns out half marathons make me poop, who knew?)

Anyway, home from the half and gently recovering I let the guinea pigs out for their regular grass-grazing session on Sunday afternoon and got on with the washing. A little bit later I went to call them in (shout “piggies” and jiggle the food bag and they come running, wheek-wheeking at the top of their tiny voices) and only one guinea pig appeared. Piggies, piggies: shouting to no avail. I went out with my torch and found poor little Spot —

spot guinea pig

— had managed to squeeze his head through the run panels which surround the animal shed (currently housing 3 recent piggie adoptions, more on them another day). I’ve been using these run panels for years and never had any issues so it was a bit of a shock to say the least! Unfortunately they’re designed for use in dog kennels etc (so ideal for keeping unwanted foxes, cats etc out) and therefore not easily pliable.

Anyway, attempts to get his head back out weren’t working and he was getting more distressed. I tried to use some sharp garden shears which were the best thing I could find and they didn’t do much (except wreck the shears no doubt) so I called the fire & rescue folks for some advice. They asked some questions and then said they’d send someone out. Turns out they meant the whole kit and caboodle, and the next thing I knew there was a fire engine outside complete with crew and a bloody big pair of boltcutters.

After a bit of wiggling and jiggling to get the bolt cutters around the metal without pinching piggie parts, the firefighters managed to cut a section free which meant we could maneouvre poor Spot out safely. He’s got a small tear on his ear which I cleaned up but was eating and drinking fine when I popped him back in his hutch safely last night. He’s back on the grass (now that I’ve fixed up and reinforced the run panels!)

It was all a bit of a drama but over and done with fairly quickly, and after a stiff drink I went to bed and thought nothing of it: until this morning when, despite telling the local paper I wasn’t interested in expanding on such a non-story, they published a bunch of assumptions firing the tempers of locals who thought that they knew enough to judge the situation both on the 61-word “story” and the accompanying tweet:

But hey, why let the actual facts of the matter come between a good rant, eh?

Spot’s none the worse for his adventure, and I can’t thank the Fire (& Rescue!) Service enough for fitting me in during what I recognise as a busy time of year.

I want to code

I’m sat at my laptop — nothing new there — with a work todo list as long as my arm because I did very little in the last week (feeling poop) and all I want to do is code.

“But Jem, you’re a web developer, work is code?!” I hear you cry.

I don’t want to code work. I want to code fun. I want sit down and knock up a throwaway site or a dodgy new layout or a half-arsed script for no reason other than to get it out there. I want to write a 3000 word tutorial on some pointless technique that only 3 people with actually need in the entire time it remains live on the web. I want to do something for me, that doesn’t involve earning money, building a portfolio, or pressure and scope and budgets.

But every time the cogs start turning, that work todo list rears its ugly head and that teeny tiny spark of passion is lost.

:S

I’m an idiot

Having moaned not so long back that I had let myself go with my workouts and had put some chub back on, I had a quick surge of inspiration which saw me back on the weights, which meant I dropped 5lbs or so and got back to my normal easy maintenance weight.

And then I stopped again. I’ve not lifted in weeks and I’m averaging 1 run per week. I’ve totally slipped on my diet, some days barely eating anything at all (thanks, hormones) and definitely not getting my 5 a day or drinking enough water. I also can’t remember the last time I slept well (probably related).

All of those would be fine and fixable, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m supposed to be doing a half marathon in two weeks, on Saturday 7th November. A half marathon with a 3 hour time limit, so I have no choice but run at least 2 thirds of it, which is a distance of about 15km, and the most I’ve run recently is just 10km (after which I felt half dead).

So… project survive-a-half is on. Training for a half marathon in two weeks is easy, right?

If I know what love is, it is because of you

If you follow me on social media at all (you all follow me on social media, right?) you’ll know that Gaz asked me to marry him last week. I was lying in bed on Sunday morning, having not long woken up, and Gaz just randomly stated “we should get married”. I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right, and he was on his phone, so thought maybe he’d said someone else was getting married. I responded, bewildered, “what? why?”

I clearly know how to respond to a marriage proposal with class and the appropriate level of excitedness.

After some discussion during which we established that he wasn’t just pulling my leg, that he really was asking me to marry him, etc etc, I obviously said yes. Who wouldn’t want to marry a man that is hilariously funny, super intelligent, kind, patient, calm and most importantly of all, puts up with me?

So I am engaged. And it is a truly bizarre feeling. Firstly, because this means that someone genuinely loves me enough to want to spend the rest of their life with ME. Secondly, because I have never particularly planned to get married, I have no idea what I’m doing. Thirdly, because suddenly everyone wants to be involved in my relationship which, while lovely, is also oddly intrusive and weird. For someone who is generally a chronic oversharer, my desire to not share THIS (hence not announcing it for nearly a week) feels out of character even to myself.

I guess it doesn’t help that I don’t really ‘do’ weddings, generally. There are several wedding traditions that rub me the wrong way. I’m not interested in being walked down the aisle (especially so in a church setting, because I can think of nothing more hypocritical) or wearing a giant puffy meringue dress. I don’t want to spend a fortune on flowers and favours and frills and all that pomp and ceremony. (No offence to anyone who likes that stuff, this isn’t a judgement.)

On the flip side, being married to Gaz seems 100% right. There is nobody else who gets me like he does, who makes me laugh like he does, and whom I trust so wholly and completely. And I want people to know that, and to see/understand the depth of my feelings for him. I’m just not sure how to share that without letting people in.

(“If I know what love is, it is because of you.” — Hermann Hesse)

Living with PMDD (or why I’m regularly crazy)

I’ve only mentioned once (briefly) before that my doctor thinks I have PMDD. It’s mostly because I’m in denial: I’m a “fixer” and if I have an Actual Thing (with capital letters) then I can’t just fix it. I can take things to help — e.g. the doc wants me on low dose prozac — but I’m probably stuck with it until I go through the menopause. Maybe? I have no idea.

I started experiencing feelings of extreme anger after I had Oliver. I think I may have had post natal depression, or his birth triggered some sort of hormone thing, or something… I don’t know what exactly, but that’s when it all began. (I’m so glad I blog so that I can pinpoint this stuff, you know?)

Counselling helped me to deal with some issues in my life which did seem to help placate some of ANGRY ME’s worst tantrums, so I thought my problems were all ‘mental’. I thought more counselling would fix it, but it didn’t.

I thought I could fix it by changing my diet, changing my pill, changing my exercise levels, changing how much I drink, changing how many people I see, changing my boyfriend, changing my job — changing anything and everything I could to be “normal” again. Blaming anything and everything I can because doing so prevents me from having to accept the reality.

But no matter how much I change, no matter how much I blame, it’s still there. Anxious and emotional during “ovulation” and then easily annoyed, touchy and irrational before menstruation. These happen like clockwork, despite taking the pill. It also happens irrelevant of how many packs I take; I will get angry pre-menstrually in my cycle, even when taking 2 or 3 packs back-to-back so not actually bleeding. (It also happens if I don’t take the pill, so it’s not to blame.)

Some months, I get more ‘normal’ PMS: I get a bit emo for few days, then later on a bit grumpy. Some physical symptoms, nothing major.

Some months, like through August and September, I descend into blackness. Getting out of bed is a massive chore. Dealing with life is overwhelming, frustrating, too much to cope with. I become intolerant of my children, I get paranoid that Gaz is going to leave me, I doubt the friendship of people close. I become reliant on ego-stroking, intimacy and affection just to give me the reassurance I need to get through a day, but the little bubble of love is fragile and doesn’t last: for example, despite thriving on intimacy I have (more than once) broken down during sex because of something ridiculous that I’ve suddenly felt or noticed, or assumed about Gaz’s mood.

And while we’re on the subject of sex: my libido (during both ovulation and pre-menstruation) shoots through the roof. Ho ho ho, Jem wants to get it on. Sounds like an amazing side effect. Except not so much, because I can become literally insatiable: like having an itch that that you can’t quite reach. On one occasion I spent four hours in bed masturbating to try and give me the relief I needed, only to end up more frustrated and more angry because it wasn’t working. I couldn’t satisfy the craving.

As well as the mental symptoms, I get the headaches, tender breasts and cramping (varying from minor to extreme).

I have on, more than one occasion, thought about suicide. Not from a planning to do it or a working out the fastest way point of view, purely on a logical basis: if I did X, then I would no longer feel Y. I would never use it as an answer to my problems; having lost my brother to suicide, I couldn’t put my family and specifically my children through that pain, but that is exactly how low and worthless I’ve felt… that my continuing existence is purely for the benefit of not causing others pain.

On/off crying, low self esteem, indecisiveness, feelings of little or no worth, a deep sadness despite everything being ‘good’ in my world, complete brain fog rendering me unable to concentrate or do anything constructive, uncontrollable anger manifesting in shouting or physical aggression (towards objects not people), passive aggressive behaviours and a lot of feeling useless because I know why these moods are happening and can’t just “snap out” of it. And then like a switch is flicked, I am back to ‘normal’ me for a couple of weeks before the next dip.

One of the hardest parts about accepting that I probably have PMDD, apart from all that fun stuff I’ve already mentioned, is coming to terms with the idea that my hormones are to blame. I am sure most women have had to deal with the PMS stereotype in their lives: that they’re pissed off about something because it’s “that time of the month”. To basically embody that stereotype in a very real way makes me feel vulnerable. It makes me feel like anyone can dismiss me because of “that time of the month”. I feel worthless enough when I’m down, the last thing I need is to have my intelligence, my right to have an opinion, my right to exist questioned because it’s “that time of the month”.

After a prolonged down, yesterday was an OK day. Today I’m ‘normal’ again. I might have a few days, maybe a week before the next dip: it could be a nasty one, or I might not even notice it. One thing’s for sure… it’s definitely not my hormones. I can’t have PMDD. Because that would mean I can’t fix it, and I can fix everything.

Retro gaming (aka reliving lost youth)

This month I’ve been giving thought to buying an old Nintendo console. I think it’s a combination of things tempting me in that direction: being so busy with work I need some downtime away from my laptop (before I throw it out of the window), a regression in my mood meaning I need a way of escape that doesn’t involve going out and getting drunk, and just generally being a massive Nintendo nerd.

As a kid we had virtually every console that Nintendo released, from the NES to the Wii (OK, I bought that one as an adult, but it totes counts) including the handhelds: various Gameboys, Nintendo DS etc. I definitely think this early access to console gaming shaped an interest in technology and “geek” that eventually went on to form the what matured into a career in IT. In fact, one of my first websites was a Majora’s Mask fansite. Gaming is good for kids, yo!

Anyway, so here I am a few months off hitting 30 and I can think of nothing more awesome than sitting in my pants playing Super Mario Bros 3 on the NES, Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the SNES, or Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64 til the early hours of the morning. Wiggling my thumbs to ward off cramp from hours of button mashing and control stick manipulation.

I’m sure that this old school gaming utopia I’ve painted in my head is unrealistic. I definitely remember having to blow in and wiggle the old console game cartridges a few times before the things would load, and if someone knocked the console mid-game you were probably screwed, but that’s not the end of the world right? I shall bask in imagined retro gaming glory for a wee bit longer…

Recording memories

One of the things I started doing after I left Karl was keeping random things to record my new way of life – I wanted to have something to look at as a visual reminder of how far I’ve come.

In an envelope stashed safely in my kitchen I have receipts, spent train tickets, race numbers, the baggage label from my flight to Barcelona etc. Tidbits of paper and other miscellaneous scraps which mean the world to me but probably look like rubbish to anyone else (good job nobody does any tidying at my house.)

I bought a scrapbook which arrived today: a canvas on which I can arrange and annotate. I’ve browsed scrapbooking pinterest boards to inspire me make me feel inadequate. I have glue and the kid’s craft stuff to raid for decoration and embellishment.

Everything I need is right there… so why am I scared of sticking this stuff down?

The eeeeeend!

It’s here! September 30th! The last day of Septemblog! I can now proudly say that for the first time in around 15 years of blogging I have successfully completed a blog-a-day challenge.

I completely failed my supplementary challenge to leave 5 comments / follow someone new every day, and it’s probably best you don’t look at my ‘official’ septemblog page, but if I’d made that compulsory I’d have definitely failed weeks ago.

That said, if you’re trying to increase your comments, hits or overall engagement, setting yourself the X comments on blogs per day goal is a must. It shot my hits up, which just goes to show that when bloggers say “commenting is dead”, what they actually mean is “I can’t be arsed to comment any more”.

Engagement has also gone up on my blog Facebook page, with more likes and more posts reaching a greater number of people. I’m not sure if that’s Facebook being clever with some sort of frequency == relevancy algorithm, or whether it’s just the inevitable more posts == more likely to post something someone will want to read.

I did write another blog post today, one that is less ‘meta’ and less cheaty, but I’m keeping that to myself for the time being as I’m not sure my idea will take off yet. You’ll just have to wait and see for that one. In the mean time, yay septemblog!

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge review

I tried to make a call to a website client of mine recently, and my phone — a Samsung Galaxy Core I8262 — spent what felt like half an hour thinking about what it was supposedly doing before locking up and rebooting. I am usually fairly patient with my technology but when a phone can’t do the one thing it’s actually designed for without spinning its wheels and throwing a fit, it’s time for it to go.

Strangely not put off Samsung in general, a cursory glance at their latest tech offerings had me ogling the Samsung Edge and the even newer Samsung Edge+. I ruled out the Edge+ straight away. It’s massive size would be far too big to handle in my dainty lady hands (this is bollocks: basically I couldn’t financially justify it) but the Edge had me intrigued. Boasting an octa-core 1.5GHz CPU and 3GB of LPDDR4 RAM, the phone tops a variety of benchmarks. There’s no way that was going to freeze trying to make a phone call.

I found the phone cheapest on Simply Electronics who I’ve ordered through before and had no problems, but their delivery times are always super looong so if speed is your bag you want to go elsewhere.

When I finally got my shiny new phone — and shiny it is, with its aluminium and gorilla glass casing — I couldn’t believe how light it was compared to the old Galaxy Core I8262. I weighed it up in my hands against Gaz’s iPhone 6 and in my unscientific opinion it was lighter than that too.

I was a little worried about the lack of a microSD memory slot in the Edge but checking my old phone I realised that I’d used only 8GB of the space available on the 32GB card I’d put in that, so with 64GB space on the new one I think I’ll be set for a good while yet (I’m barely using that much space on my laptop!)

As a self-confessed selfie queen I was impressed to discover that the Edge has a 16 megapixel rear camera with some kind of image stabilisation magic and a super fast f/1.9 lens. I can’t blame my dodgy selfies on a bad camera any more: if I’m looking rough, it’s all on me.

Phone hardware aside, some of my favourite features are because of the improved OS. From basic UI improvements like adding 0-9 on the standard keyboard screen to stop me from having to flick back and forth if I’m e.g. entering in a password, to more iPhone-esque sorting under Apps allowing me to sort my apps into folders (and indeed it comes with some — like “Social” — pre-sorted). Can’t help but gratefully cheer for the A-Z sorting too: that appeals to the organisation nerd in me. I think Samsungs still come massively bloated — the first thing I did when I switched on the phone was disable a bunch of bundled apps — but apparently this has improved over other modern Samsungs.

I’ve not bowled over by the fancy wraparound edge-y screen, which seems more of a fad than something particularly useful, but I’ve only been playing with the phone for a few days so I could be converted yet.

All in, it’s a lovely phone experience, but given what I’m used to I’m sure virtually anything could have been an improvement.