Jumping Head First

The older I get the faster time seems to fly by, but nothing could have prepared me for the whirlwind that has been the past 6-7 weeks.

I started 2018 with good intentions. With the gift of a year’s gym fees from Gaz for my birthday, and a vague plan to get up at 6am each morning to run a few miles, I was going to be fit and active. I’d set goals for work, my bank balance was starting to settle after some client chaos towards the end of the previous year, everything was swell.

Then, on the spur of the moment, we decided to go and view a house.

With my mortgage deal ending in March and the kids getting to the point where sharing a bedroom is impractical, a house move has been in our near future for a while. I’ve had my eye on the local property market for 18 months or so; I had my list of requirements and I was ready to house hunt. Not ready enough though, it would seem, because having decided to view a house — and realising it ticked a variety of boxes, including ones we didn’t know needed ticking — the chaos that ensued knocked me completely for six.

We jumped head first and made an offer on the New House and after a small amount of haggling, we were accepted with the New House being removed from the market on the condition that we put our house on the market and sold it within six weeks. A generous move by the seller, but still… six weeks to tidy, market and sell a house that was definitely not ready to be sold.

And so my 6am starts to go for a quick run suddenly became 6am starts to clean the house for a viewing. My gym time became “waiting around for the photographer” time. My already busy calendar quickly filled up with appointments, packing, prepping and tidying.

We finally had an offer on ours last Thursday: the eve of the 6 week deadline. We countered and received a follow up offer which we accepted on the Friday, bob on 6 weeks. Nothing like cutting it close to the bone. Now we just have to hope that the legal bits ‘n’ bobs progress smoothly and we can exchange and complete without a hiccup. I have every limb & digit crossed…

Lead photo by jens johnsson on Unsplash

7 Ways to Make Fitness Stick in 2018

1. Find a reason

A reason that isn’t just “being thin”. Not that there’s anything wrong with losing weight if you feel your health and wellbeing is negatively affected by your current weight, but a lot of people make the mistake of deciding they’ll lose some arbitary amount of weight and then find that when (if) they reach that magic number that it’s not actually all it’s cracked up to be. Being skinny isn’t a cure-all.

When I first started running and weightlifting, my reason was to be physically fit and strong when mentally I was anything but. Physical strength was my way of keeping my body alive. (Mental wellness was a surprisingly addictive side effect.) Finding a reason kept me going even on days where I struggled to get out of bed, and always gave me something to fall back on when I hit rock bottom.

Your reason doesn’t have to be quite this ‘deep’, but having that “something” will give you motivation & purpose.

2. Find a sport

A lot of people use running as the go-to sport of choice when they first start. Running is awesome – and good for you – but not everyone likes running. Forcing yourself to run even if you despise it won’t help you stick with it long term. There are literally thousands of sports and activities you can try: you don’t have to run unless you want to.


Martial arts can be a great cardio workout, and post-grading selfies are not compulsory.

With that said, I would recommend sticking out whatever you choose for at least 3-4 weeks. If you’re currently leading a sedentary lifestyle, most things are going to suck in the beginning while your body adjusts and you find your pace. Don’t write something off after a few days because you’ve got a few aches or you’re not immediately running like Mo Farah.

3. Find a buddy

Find a friend who doesn’t care when you go “gym wanker” on them.


That time my instabuddies made me go to the gym

Find someone who you can either work out with if you can, but mostly find someone who will keep you accountable. Someone who will check in on you to find out how your progress is going, and who will not tune out when you rant that you have a blister on your big toe or you’ve hit a plateau under the bar. The key is to find someone who makes you feel like you’re doing something worthwhile, so that when the initial novelty wears off and your willpower is wearing thin (because willpower alone won’t make this stick) you don’t just give up.

This doesn’t even have to be someone offline; every sport I’ve ever been involved with has a massive online community of passionate folk who will have your back when you need it. I personally track a lot of my workouts via dodgy selfies on instagram, and love the feedback I get from fellow gym-goers.

4. Find a goal

When you have your reasons for working out, for running, for dancing, for zumba, for whatever it is you decide to call “your” sport, then you can set yourself a goal.

Real, tangible goals give you something to work towards. It could be something as simple as run 5km without stopping, or as lofty as getting yourself marathon ready. Set a specific goal, and even break it down into milestones if you can, and you have something long term to aim for that not only stops you flailing about aimlessly achieving nothing, but also provides motivation and allows you to track actual measurable progress.

In addition to the benefits of actually setting the goal, meeting a goal gives you an excuse to treat yourself. For some people, meeting a goal is its own reward, but if you’re a little more materially minded you might want to consider putting your sights on something physical: new running trainers if you run a 10km, a new fitness tracker if you manage to do a half marathon, or even something completely random… whatever floats your particular boat.

5. Find inspiration

One of the ways I stay dedicated to a particular goal, particularly in months where I feel like my progress is stalling or I’m just not quite good enough (and that will happen), is to follow athletes who participate in similar sports on instagram. When I wanted to get past my 60kg squat plateau I watched videos of crossfitters and weightlifters squatting massive weights and breaking world records. I squatted 100kg this Christmas.


“Off my tits on dopamine post-100kg squat high” selfie

You don’t have to be on instagram to get inspired. Most professional and semi-professional sports persons have facebook pages, twitter profiles etc. Find someone who’s doing it like you want to and follow them for that dose of “fitspo”.

(Word of warning: don’t get sucked into the rabbit hole that is “thinspiration“. It’s dangerous.)

6. Find a routine

When the novelty of a lifestyle change is wearing thin and it’s cold and wet outside and your well of motivation has run dry, there’s only one thing that’s going to make you get out of bed and hit the tarmac or drag your butt to the gym: by making your new sport a continuous part of your routine, or more simply, by making it a habit.

There’s tons of small snippets of advice on how to build good, strong habits online so I won’t repeat it all, but for me the basics are as follows:

  • Plan ahead to when your best time of day is, and fit your sport in then. For me this is directly after the school run on a Monday and Friday, before I even touch my laptop or look at what chores need doing.
  • Make it easy to do by prepping anything you need in advance. I always lay out my workout clothes the night before, and I always wear them on the school run so that I can head straight out.
  • Don’t make poor excuses to miss out early on. If it’s a bit cold out, put a coat on. If you’ve got a bit of a sniffle, take a tissue. If you’re tired, suck it up, you might end up with a much needed boost.
  • If you have to skip a session, never skip it twice. It’s just a downward spiral from there.

There’s lots of science behind habit building and I recommend having a bit of a google to find out more.

7. Find yourself

Cheesy? Probably. However, the times in my life I have been most consistent with my exercise and most dedicated to my current goal are the times I feel the best me that I can be.

Exercise has massive positive benefits on many aspects of your wellbeing and I’m my own living proof of that. Nothing feels as good to me as physical and mental wellness and that’s a privilege I do not take for granted, so I owe it to myself to keep going.

Reflecting on a Rollercoaster Year

I can’t really think of any other way of describing 2017?

Starting the year with a massive unexpected tax bill (sound familiar?) was an uphill battle – a chain lift, dragging the rollercoaster car to the top of steep hill – following by rocketing at speed towards lows like the loss of yet more pets and the suicide of another brother, struggles with excessive drinking and my mental health issues chipping away at my sanity. Each low interspersed with heart-pounding highs: achievements in the gym and with my fitness, including reaching green belt at Taekwon-do and smashing massive squat goals (90kg and 100kg over Christmas!); accepting my bisexuality and how this affects my identity; and completing some of my best work yet both for myself and for local design agencies.

I didn’t manage to learn Dutch, or run a marathon (not that I am surprised by the latter) and I didn’t manage to blog more, but I did survive. I survived and, despite some crazy lows, not only did I survive but I kicked arse: I worked hard and I played hard.

Gaz has gifted me a year at the gym for my upcoming birthday. I’m so excited at the prospect that I can continue to build and shape myself in 2018 without having to worry about scraping change for a gym session. It should give me the chance to firm up a proper lifting plan, to work in the deadlifts and bench press both of which I typically avoid, and to make and break some crazy goals.

On top of time under iron, 2018 has to be the year that I finish with enough money to sort my taxes in January 2019: to be able to pay my dues and have enough for the payments on account, which screw me over year after year. This is not only important to reduce my stress levels but because I want to move house soon: to have a bigger kitchen, for my babies to have their own space and to finally move on from certain parts of my past which are tied up in shit memories here.

Beyond that I think I need to just carry on being my awesome self. Shouldn’t be too hard, right?

Featured image photo by Priscilla Du Preez

The Best Laid Plans

Diet plans, that is. Last week, I decided to get a head start on the January fitness rush by getting a “customised” nutrition plan from a personal trainer through his website. I have done so much reading on fuelling my workouts and weight loss, weight gain, maintenance etc that it took several weeks of convincing myself to even justify the cost (not exactly breaking the bank at £35) but as with most things in life, I doubt my own ability to put my knowledge and ability into something workable. There’s also something reassuring about having the back-up of someone who does this as a living.

Nonetheless, my excitement was short-lived when I saw the plan. There’s nothing wrong with it, per se, but it’s clearly just a generic template with my macros worked out and inserted in the form of varying size portions of chicken and veg spread over SIX MEALS A DAY. I know that I need to fuel my workouts, but I also need to run a business, raise my children, take care of my ‘zoo’, fulfil my volunteer responsibilities, etc. I barely have time to sit down and eat 3 meals a day (and so generally don’t!) and so 6 meals is never going to work.


Such chicken. So wow. Much gains.

Despite my cynicism, it’s still a breakdown of what I need in terms of protein/carbs/cals etc that I’ve never had the mental energy to work out myself, and so I’m determined to see it through for at least the first 4 weeks (Christmas Day indulgences aside). I’ve “cheated” and modified the plan based on the stats provided, doubling up a couple of the meals to bring me down to 4 meals a day, which is eminently more workable. I can’t find any science to justify eating 6 meals a day, aside from the possible issue of maxing out protein absorption, but as I’m eating more protein than I normally would I can’t imagine that negatively impacting my workouts, which is my main concern anyway.

On that note, Fitness Savvy got in touch with me this month to mention some supplement giveaways they’re running to celebrate their launch; there’s more information on their Facebook page (I’ve not been compensated for mentioning this, it’s just “of interest” to much of my audience…)

With my upcoming nutrition in the bag, the next step is to figure out how to take my fitness forward. I have a couple of races booked in 2018, but as I’ve demonstrated time and time again I absolutely suck at training for them, somehow winging 10ks and half marathons by the skin of my teeth. I’ve tentatively considered getting up half an hour earlier each morning to clock a steady 5k – my logic being that although short in distance, some running is better than no running – but I’m not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination and the prospect terrifies me.

On top of that, having cracked the bodyweight squat earlier this year (and beyond) I’d like to reintroduce deadlifts to my routine in 2018 and beast a bodyweight deadlift. I stopped doing them because I was worried about my form, but I have so many resources available to me to fix this, I just need to suck it up and ask for help. I’d also like to start benching, which is something I’m terrified off.

Lofty goals.

Personal Bests and Personal Worsts

I started this week on a fantastic high. After having cracked squatting my bodyweight earlier this year (roughly 72kg give or take) I had been struggling with improving my squats further. Marred by dodgy knees, skipped gym sessions thanks to a chaotic schedule and over-indulgence on food & drink, it’s my own fault. Still, this didn’t stop me on Monday when I smashed out squats at both 80kg and 85kg with a set of 2 for each. Strong strong legs.

Not content on just PBing there, I went on to pull 50kg doing close-grip front lat pulldowns having been stuck at 45kg forEVER. To say I was buzzing after that was an understatement.

(I am currently using Myprotein Impact Whey Protein to support my workouts but I’m looking to potentially improve on this in the new year. If you supplement protein, I’d be interested to know what you take. Drop me a comment/email.)

This strength-related high was short lived as I got home to yet another round of work related emails (boo) and the ever present threat of the taxman knocking at my door.

Every single year I forget about HMRC’s payments on account, leaving me ill-prepared to meet their demands for large sums of cash at a time of year where things are tight as it is. My kids want Christmas presents and I’m sat watching the balance of my overdraft grow hoping my clients pull their fingers out before December 25th; this doesn’t leave me much leeway to pay the taxman money for a tax year that isn’t even over yet (don’t even get me started).

Why is balancing the ebbs and flows of freelance, and planning sufficiently ahead, such a personal weakness? It’s been over 5 years since I started working for myself and barring a break in the middle where I briefly returned to my old agency, I have had to put money away all this time. And I fail, time and time again.

2018 has to be the year where I nail this shit.

Making memories: the ‘C’ word

The ‘festive’ C word, that is. I’m not sure I can bring myself to say it yet. C… Chr… Christmas. Aargh!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-Christmas. I love this time of year. I love the darker nights, the frosty freshness of the morning air on the school run. I love seeing the people who clearly don’t have 6 cats putting up their Christmas trees up as soon as Halloween is done, and the scrooges who take to social media to lambast them for ruining the spirit (the irony of arguing over it which is far more spirit-crushing IMO apparently lost on them). I love the planning and the Christmas socials, especially the ones that end in someone getting terribly drunk and stripping off for Santa (usually me).

I love it, but I am not ready. I have bought one single present, which needs a very important “other part” which I can’t find enough detail on to purchase. I haven’t even thought about what the kids want this year, let alone what I can actually afford to buy them. My social calendar is packed with at least two events a week between now and New Year which is drastically reducing planning time, and I’m just not ready. However, despite this total lack of preparedness, this year feels different somehow…

I don’t know if it’s because it’ll be the first Christmas the kids are at home since Gaz and I got married, or because I’ve finally reached that stage of general comfort and ‘at ease’ with my life that has been lost for so long, but I decided early on that this year I was going to do a many of the things that I’ve always wanted to do as possible. When I feel like I’ve hit “peak Christmas” I want to immortalise the whole lot in pictures on canvas, to join our baby and wedding canvas prints, which eventually might become one of those trendy photo walls that you see all over pinterest. Truprint even have 8×8″ sizes available, which they reckon is great for showing off Instagram photos, which appeals to my lazy side & would fill in the big gaps on our wall:

So, I bought a real Christmas tree. It was actually a spur of the moment purchase on the way to Glasgow last weekend:

But I’ve always wanted a real Christmas tree and although this isn’t the grand 7ft beautifully decorated tree of my dreams, it will hopefully serve us well this Christmas and can then be put outside in its pot until next year. I feel like I’m being somewhat optimistic given the aforementioned six cats (and the fact that it’s already shedding needles in our probably-too-warm living room) but it’ll be fun to see what happens.

While that is settling I’ve been looking at sourcing terribly kitschy Christmas decorations that I remember from my childhood, including these beauties:

Partly just for the fun of nostalgia, and partly because I’ve invited friends around for 70s themed Christmas drinks and if I can decorate for both in one go it’ll be perfect: another lazy box ticked. I actually put some paper decorations up for Izzy’s birthday recently, which is turns out is also a big 70s thing, so I reckon if we can find some more they can even stay up too.

I want a big Christmas feast, which is unlikely to pose a problem as I always overcook anyway. My sister and her partner are coming round to help us eat through a week’s worth of food in one day, and I will (as usual) extend the offer of Christmas dinner to any locals on their own this year.

Oh, there are so many things I want to do. I want to start traditions this year; stuff that we can do every year because we want to, things that the kids will look back on in 10 years time and remember as being a part of Christmas. Things that they’ll want to do with their kids. I want to make memories, and I want the kids to feel a part of something. I want them to feel that even though our Christmas might not be 100% conventional — split between two homes, with multiple factions of family to share their time with — that it was always about love, and laughter. I want them to be able to look back at the pictures of these times and feel like it was the best days of their lives.

No pressure.

Just be chill about it

Gaz asked me one Saturday a few weeks back — as I ordered a vodka cocktail — whether or not I’d given up on the ‘not drinking’ thing. A fair question, given the ‘ordering a cocktail’ thing.

Sobriety was going really, really well. I had managed to get through several months without a drink, battling some immense cravings (which peak around ovulation, bizarrely) along the way. I ‘slipped’ on a couple of social occasions but was able to get back into it with ease. And then my brother died, and not only did I smash through a few bottles of red wine in a short space of time but it brought on a crisis. What am I fucking doing? Why can’t I just be “normal” and enjoy a drink with friends without getting utterly wasted? Why can’t I have a healthy relationship with this addictive drug (ha ha ha)? Am I going to end up like my brother?

It wasn’t pretty, and the more I thought about it the worse it got, and the worse the cravings got, and the more I felt useless and like a failure… a vicious circle of self-loathing ensued which, for someone used to self-medicating their problems with a glass or 5 of wine, potentially only had one way of ending. (Because only I could be so stressed about drinking that I need a drink to de-stress which causes me to stress about my drinking… & so on.)

So, I tried to be rational. I tried to think about what my “goals” were if I wasn’t going to be 100% sober:

  • Enjoy a drink on a special occasion, e.g. birthdays, celebrations etc, without it being “weird”.
  • Be able to order one drink and no more. Or, order a soft drink around people who were drinking without feeling left out.
  • Not put on the weight that I lost by giving up.
  • Not drink for the sake of drinking.
  • Most importantly, to not get into a cycle of drinking to ease problems, which worsens my anxiety and depression symptoms caused by PMDD, which causes me to drink more.

With these goals in mind, I have been able to concoct a vague plan, and ultimately relax about it. Relaxing calms the stressy voices which immediately reduces cravings. This, combined with the pressure of knowing what I have to lose if I regress (my sanity, my relative happiness with my body), and seeing the impact of sobriety on my mental health, means I have been able to better make ‘mindful’ decisions about where and when to drink. To just ‘be chill’ about it.

So far so I’ve successfully navigated a couple of birthdays, a weekend with friends, several games nights and other social occasions:

I have chosen to drink, and to not drink, in equal measure. I have interspersed water with wine. I have picked low alcohol ciders over double vodkas. (And I’ve got pretty drunk and felt like shit the next day, which served as an excellent reminder of what not to do.)

I am feeling OK with where I’m at right now. It might not last; I might lose my shit and drink far too much, or… I might go sober again. I don’t know. But it’ll do for now.

The future of shopping: offline vs online

Last week I had a conversation with Gaz’s colleagues about my budget Monday shops, off the back of a one-off trip to Tesco for a single meal which Gaz did at a cost of over £40. Forty pounds for one meal! This is in comparison to my weekly shop, which I’m quite pleased to have recently got back down under £50 per week, averaging around £35 per week. However my smugness was short-lived, as I was challenged on the fact that some of this shop comes from online providers.

It’s true, I use Amazon’s subscribe & save to do a big chunk of my regular shopping. The ability to set frequencies, quantities etc on items that I use a predictable amount of: cat food, guinea pig food, cat litter and so on… this is invaluable both to my budgeting and planning ahead. Especially with a billion cats at home (slight exaggeration). Not only that, because Amazon’s service gives you incremental discounts on the items in your regular shop once you buy a certain quantity per time period, I currently get 15% off my pet foods, litter, and coffee… yes, we get through a lot of coffee.

This of course got me thinking about how shopping on the whole has changed over the past 10 years. One of the things I mention on my professional site is that I’m a busy mum, and use the Internet for the bulk of my shopping: it’s this frequent use in the role of “consumer” that gives me an important insight into how websites can best provide to their customers, and this makes me a better developer. If I understand the habits of people who buy, I can develop websites that make the most of those habits. Or that’s my thinking anyway.

Online shopping has radically improved over the past decade and as a result is generally my go-to for spending money, be that clothes and shoes or bigger stuff like electronic items, white goods etc. 99% of the time I research and compare a product online, and complete via a cashback or deal website to make the most of my purchase.

Surprisingly though, swiftmoney.com have recently surveyed 1000 members of the British public to see how people like to spend and a whopping 54% of people still prefer to buy in store (taken from the infographic below). In my opinion, shopping in a store — especially for ‘big’ purchases — lacks the flexibility and bargain-hunt-ability of price comparison and specification research. Not only that but with voucher sites, newsletter subscription benefits and aforementioned cashback (which has earned be back over £700 in just a few years, money I’d have not seen again shopping in-store), and the vast amount of online retailers offering comprehensive returns policies, detailed size information, an increase in the amount of media (photographs, videos, 3D views etc) that give you a full picture of what you’re buying… I really do struggle to see where the benefits of buying offline lie.

With ease of access on the mobile these days, my personal habits (aside from regular predictable purchases) are leaning towards bigger, bolder (and more impulsive) purchases on the go. With over half of purchases made on mobile as of 2016 and Google pushing a ‘mobile-first’ index to prioritise sites with a good mobile presence as of this year, I can see this kind of purchasing is only going to grow in popularity as we head into 2018 too. In my professional opinion, if you have an online store that isn’t mobile friendly 2018 will see your online purchases shrink as market share on mobile continuously increases.

Still, for all my waxing lyrical about buying online, this wouldn’t have happened in a store:

Maybe those 54% of people have a point.


Click to see full size infographic.

Stardew Valley (Nintendo Switch): First Thoughts

When I first heard about the Nintendo NX — later announced and released as the Nintendo Switch — my curiosity was piqued. Although I don’t get time to play games as much as I used to the Zelda preview videos looking absolutely stunning, and the idea of an open-world version of this iconic game made the expense for this half-hearted hobby sound doable. For me to then find out that Stardew Valley, quite possibly my favourite PC game of all time, was getting a Switch release? Mind blown.

Despite a short month in September leaving me in my overdraft I did the sensible thing on yesterday’s release date and purchased it minutes after it became available in the eShop. A short download later and I’ve barely put the game down since: I’m not far off Summer in the first year, I’ve grown almost every Spring crop, I’ve done a bunch of Community Center tasks, explored over 20 levels in the mine and I’m on my way to wooing the lady I’d like to be my wife (Leah fans unite!)

Having spent so much time on the game already I’m pleasantly surprised at how intuitive it is on the console — particularly as I’ve tried it on the steam link previously and not enjoyed the controller experience — and how few bugs I’ve come across. There have been a few incidences of me pressing a button and it not doing anything in game, and one where I pressed the button once and hammered the crap out of everything with my pickaxe, but these are likely communication issues with the console (playing docked) rather than the game itself.

Aside from this, the only other glitch that I’ve encountered is a task set from Clint where, upon asking for Coals [sic] and indeed the task being completed with 10 coal (which spoilers! you can still fish out of a chest one by one to complete) you are thanked for ore, and the conversation is identical to the ore-themed quests on the PC. You can see an example of the wording mixup in the journal:

Nonetheless… the familiar music, the adorable graphics, the storylines and character arcs are all there and all exactly as I remember them from my last stint on the PC version. I am in love, and this was well worth waiting for.

ETA 15:43 GMT: Spotted another one…

Sex, Sexuality and Consent

When I was, ooh… 17 years old (give or take) I wrote a “dirty” poem for the man I thought I was in love with. I don’t remember the words, but I remember it was a little bit rude, a little bit “naughty”. That poem didn’t go down well. The recipient freaked the fuck out and I still don’t know why, but it immediately shut down communication about sex with the man I was supposed to be spending the rest of my life with.

That break in trust — the terrible reception to such a big part of an ‘adult relationship’ — caused a catastrophic change in my already fragile relationship with sex and my ‘sexual identity’. It’s hard enough to think about sex when you’ve had control over it forcibly removed from you at a young age (link content warning, sexual abuse) but to pluck up the courage to do ‘something’ and then be shamed and ridiculed and made to feel like a terrible human being?

I distanced myself from sex at that point. I made excuses to avoid it. I celebrated headaches, and getting thrush was like winning the fucking lottery. I tolerated the parts I couldn’t refuse. I faked orgasms to get it over with quicker. I refused to try new things. I was labelled frigid, and I cried, but accepted it as truth. Over the years as memories of that encounter faded I swallowed the constant message that this lack of interest in sex was my fault. I accepted that I just wasn’t that into sex, that sex did nothing to me, and it was probably because I had been abused; because I was broken.

Some 11+ years after that incident and I found myself suddenly free. With nobody to tell me what I did and didn’t enjoy, what I could and couldn’t say, I found myself bizarrely attracted to the idea of just getting laid. Going out, having sex with a random stranger, and seeing what happened. I put it to my counsellor that having sex would, once and for all, finally answer questions that I had kept buried for so long. Was I just frigid? Did I actually enjoy sex? Could I actually even orgasm from something other than masturbation?

In hindsight, this was a terrible plan that could have gone disastrously wrong. Sex, not least sex with someone for the first time, can be crap for a huge variety of reasons. The last thing I needed was for a bad one night stand to cement in my head that I was a fucked up sexless disaster of a woman incapable of enjoying herself.

By some miracle my first sexual encounter post-ex was glorious. And not for the reasons you might expect: my vagina did not spontaneously combust because of orgasm overload (although that would have been impressive) and I didn’t explode semen from my ears (less impressive). I felt lust and desire for what might have been the first time in 28 years, but after a long day of anticipation and nervousness and a long not-date full of conversation and laughter, I was exhausted and I stopped the whole thing. I said no.

“What happened next might surprise you!”

He said OK. And we rolled over and cuddled to sleep. And it turns out that’s what normal people do. Sometimes one or both persons don’t want sex, and they say no, and things go no further. Like I said, this was glorious. It was exactly what I needed. I did not need multiple orgasms to feel better, I needed someone to respect my body. To respect my voice and to understand consent. Respecting that “no” meant trust, and it meant communication withour fear, which meant I did not feel judged or shamed or like a terrible human being. It made me feel normal.

As it turns out, there’s nothing quite like communication and feeling normal to give you the mental space needed to finally open your mind to what sex CAN be like. Given that freedom meant that I could work through both old issues from new angles to (hopefully) put them to rest, but also a muddled up jumble of thoughts about myself as an unbroken person! With needs! And desires! And fantasies and kinks and attraction to people and ‘types’ that I’d never considered before.

Growing up in what I would call a sex positive household — an openly gay mum and various relatives of all LGBT+ colours — meant that I had never given much thought to sexuality. It was just a thing that people had/did/enjoyed/whatever. No big deal. On one hand this was great for opening my mind as a kid, but on the other this fluidity and ‘normalisation’ and blurring of sexualities and different sexual preferences meant I never really considered it important to establish my own preferences in any sort of fixed medium. That, and the early and further long-term erasure of any sort of personal sexual identity, meant that I spent 30 years just assuming I was straight.

So… back to this new found ability to communicate and explore, and I get on to thinking about my sexual preferences, and I started thinking about sexuality in more detail. I figured yep, I must still be straight because I knew I wasn’t gay: I was finally enjoying sex with a man too much to be gay. But for a straight woman with lots of thoughts on what I’d do to the likes of Tom Hardy or Cillian Murphy if they found themselves in my bedroom, I sure found quite a lot of women attractive too.

Despite experiencing sex and sexuality positive parenting, I also saw biphobia from a young age. Gems such as “it’s just greedy”, and they’re “in denial about being gay” were not uncommon. I can’t say for sure that this made me discount bisexuality altogether, but it definitely meant that it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind growing up. And then one day I found those ‘Tom Hardy in my bedroom’ thoughts undeniably stirred up by an attractive woman and bosh: like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, it all clicked together. I am bisexual.

That wondrous magical consent-respecting man I mentioned above is now my husband. And despite my attraction to women (and Tom Hardy) I’m not greedy and I’m not gay: because above and beyond all others I love, want, & desire him.

Baring All

I plonked my wibbly wobbly stretch-marked belly (maybe NSFW, features underboob) on Instagram last night. It came off the back of a conversation with a gorgeous, sexy friend who mentioned that she had issues with her tummy. It’s a common one, especially for mums.

I spent a long time hung up on my stomach. I’ve had stretch marks (all over) for as long as I can remember but during pregnancy they multiplied by the dozen. I have weird bits of skin from where it was stretched to the obscene and didn’t quite recover. I have some lines that look as wide as they are long. I’d been with Gaz for close to two years before I stopped flinching every time his hand brushed past my stomach; before I stopped pushing it away, swallowing hard and holding my breath until he was out of the ‘danger zone’.

It’s so easy to look down at myself and see this ‘mess’ and then compare it to instagram models and “just bounced back” celebs and wonder where I went wrong. But comparison is the thief of joy (according to Theodore Roosevelt) and although he probably wasn’t talking about bellies, I can see his point. When we compare our untouched naked skin to the Photoshopped elite we stop seeing the things these soft, squishy, wondrous tummies have done for us. For those of us who are lucky enough to have been able to grow babies, they have protected new life, shielding it from the elements, giving it space to grow.

When I had my little self-love epiphany after my gallbladder issues, I promised myself that come what may I would not slip back into the habit of negative self-talk, of filtering out my flaws and avoiding the scars and marks that cover my skin. I told myself that I would use my platform & my confidence & my ‘fuck you’ attitude to normalise the wobbles and bulges, dips and bumps and lines. Despite this, despite finding comfort in my jiggles, I still hesitated before sharing. That familiar deep breath, hard swallow. Why is it hard? It shouldn’t be hard.

There is beauty in imperfection, in vulnerability, in accepting who we are and how we got there. If that means baring all and shouting “I LOVE MYSELF” from the rooftops so as to reiterate that and encourage other people to do the same? So be it.

Currently Loving…

With recent posts over here all a bit glum and gloomy, I thought I’d make September (or what’s left of it..!) a bit more chipper, starting with the things I’m loving right now.

String & Velvet’s Vintage Maxi Dress

I absolutely adore Zara’s Vintage Maxi Dress on String & Velvet. It’s not my size so I can’t snatch it up, but the splashes of colour are so fucking awesome; who doesn’t want to wear rainbows? String & Velvet is a new online store focusing primarily on plus size vintage.

Nintendo Switch

I had a really good month in June and after putting some money aside for bills, debt and taxes (urgh) I was able to stick enough money in my ISA for a Switch, which Tesco released stock of shortly after. I couldn’t afford any games to go with it, because that would be too lavish(!) but Gaz being the gentleman that he is bought Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and 1-2-Switch.

I have already sunk hundreds of hours into Zelda, getting basically nowhere because it turns out when you don’t play serious games for 10+ years you actually lose all skill.

Still fucking awesome though.

This AMAZING burger

The Kreme De La Kreme burger from Severn Social in Shrewsbury:

DIVINE. I am reliably informed that this is what’s known as a “Luther Burger” – a hamburger or cheeseburger with one or more glazed donuts in place of the bun. In this case, triple stacked burger, American cheese, streaky bacon, mustard and ketchup all sandwiched between a Krispy Kreme donut bun. These were supposed to be limited edition but were so popular they added them to the menu.

Severn Social recently opened up as a “dive bar”, replacing Biggies Diner. Live sports on various big TV screens, a fantastic menu with a variety of burgers, wings and hot dogs (and a token veggie option) with REALLY good prices for what you get. I’m not easily impressed when it comes to food, and the previous incarnations of restaurant in this location were all a bit pants, but I’m a big SS fan.

Double Chocolate Cookie Mocha Thingymabob

So in love with Costa’s double chocolate frostino thing it actually hurts.

However, there’s two problems with these bad boys: One, they don’t come in a super huge “in a bucket” size. Two, each barista seems to make them differently and I’ve had a couple where they’ve missed the cookie bits and a couple without the chocolate sauce on top and URGH why bother if you can’t have ALL THE GOOD BITS?! Sort it out, Costa.

Fnnnghhh I want a bloody frostino now.