One Long Year in One Short Post

animal-1106359_640It’s been a long time since I posted here. I haven’t been writing much at all, actually. See, a while back I started suffering a lot of fatigue. I was doing two Zumba classes a week and walking a bit too, but I slowly dropped more and more because I just couldn’t find the energy. In the evenings you’d often find me lying on the sofa because I was too tired to sit up. Sometimes I’d cry over how exhausted I felt. I didn’t go to the doctor. I figured they’d say I needed to lose weight and do more exercise, which really didn’t seem achievable when normal living wore me out and sugar was all that got me through the day. So I struggled on, usually doing the bare minimum to keep everything running, for around 18 months.

Strangely enough, what actually got me to the doctor was developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Actually, I initially protested that diagnosis because I couldn’t think how I could have that as it’s generally a repetitive strain injury. I had it once before, when I was using the breast pump. A hands-free pumping bra took care of that. This time I couldn’t think of anything I did enough of to cause it. However, when I read a little about it, one thing that came up was that it could be a symptom of hypothyroidism.

The thyroid is a hormone-producing gland in the neck that you don’t notice until it goes wrong. When it does, it can cause havoc. The three most common symptoms of an underactive thryoid, which is what I have, are fatigue, weight gain and depression. If not diagnosed and treated, it can do a lot more damage behind the scenes. The bad news is, it’s incurable. The good news is, it can be treated by medication. [Also, it got me an NHS medical exemption certificate, so I now get all my prescriptions free.]

I’ve been on the meds for a few months now. Things are a little better, although we’re still playing with the dose. I’m trying to be a bit more active, and hopefully I can start to rebuild my fitness.

So that’s where I am, health wise. The other significant events in the past year were that my father passed away unexpectedly, the day after my 33rd birthday, and yesterday my daughter started school. I don’t mind telling you that I’ve cried plenty over both. But life keeps on happening, whether we like it or not.

Hope you’re well.

Jennifer

This Adulting Thing

This Adulting ThingIt’s a terrible thing being a grown-up.  As Dave Lister put it, you become “reliable, sensible, dependable… and lots of other words that end in ible.”  In particular, you find yourself doing all manner of things you don’t want to do in the present in order to protect your (and your family’s) future.

Last week I had a smear test, today I’ve booked an appointment for another go at giving blood (did it three times last time around – wet myself, fainted and nearly threw up.  Not all at the same time, fortunately.) and tomorrow I’m going into hospital to have a hemorrhoid removed.  Every winter I get a flu shot, even though I hate needles.  I pay money I can ill afford into my pension and yet more for life insurance and critical illness cover.  I have a will that names a guardian for my child.  I’ve even started a pension for her, even though she’s only three.

Sometimes, adult life seems to consist entirely of ‘today, I need to’ instead of ‘today, I want to’.  I’d like to smell the roses in the garden, but first I have to load the dishwasher, put on some washing, tidy up, answer some emails, get my library books ready to return, take in the food delivery, clean the windows…  It’s been sunny all day and the only time I set foot in the garden was when I put the dolls pram out in the sunshine to try and bleach out the mold stains.  That’s not right.

Tomorrow, I’ll try and focus on the here and now a little more.  After the hemorrhoid surgery, that is.

Valentines Guest Post | Paris Baker’s Book Nook

I did a guest post over at Paris Baker’s Book Nook for Valentine’s Day. Read it here:

Jennifer Gilby Roberts Valentines Guest Post | Paris Baker's Book Nook.

Turning 30

Turning 30It seems to have become part of our culture to approach the 30th birthday with terror.  Not being overly worried about ageing, I was surprised by how much it affected me.

As it came closer, I was consumed by the idea that I was no longer a Young Person, but an Adult (horrible thought). It took several months for me to come to terms with that. And it is a big transition to go through.  Your status forms a big part of your identity and when it changes the impact is huge.

I went through a similar experience when I got married and chose to change my name.  I knew I wasn’t Jennifer Gilby anymore, but I didn’t feel like Jennifer Roberts yet.  I was in this limbo phase where I wasn’t sure who I was at all.  And it wasn’t because I’d changed in myself, but the way I defined myself had.  It’s amazing how much impact that can have.

I’m now out the other side, so I can share the good news that it gets better.  You slowly adjust to your new idea of yourself.  I now firmly believe that being in your 30s rocks.  I’ve described them before as the “sod-it years”, because if you’re raising young kids you’re too knackered to fret about anything not connected with them.  But I don’t think you need to have kids to take that attitude.

As a 30-something, you’re no longer green. You’ve (hopefully) been places and done things.  You’ve got a pretty decent handle on who you are – what you’re good at and what you’re best off paying/bribing/sweet-talking someone else into doing for you.  You’ve had at least a few tough experiences and have the bedrock of confidence that comes from getting through them.  The hard times have also made you realise what’s important to you and what just isn’t worth worrying about.

Once you’re done mourning the end of being a Young Person, all this comes together into new freedoms. I find I’m more willing to stand up for myself.  There was a time when, if I was charged the wrong amount in a shop, I wouldn’t say anything.  Now I do.  I’m also less bothered by what other people think of me.  I could never have coped with bad reviews as a teenager.  Now I just accept that my work isn’t for everyone and shrug them off.  I can honestly tell you that I don’t mind if you don’t like my writing (or me, for that matter).  So long as you don’t get nasty about it, it’s fine.  And if you do… well, that’s your issue, not mine.

If you’re approaching 30, don’t panic.  Just give yourself some time to work through it and I’ll see you on the other side.

Guest Posts From the But I Said Forever Blog Tour

But I Said Forever has been on tour this week with CandleLit Author Services, leading to some fantastic reviews.  I also wrote two guest posts for the tour, partly about the book and partly about me, so here are the links (scroll down for the posts):

 

Feel Good Movies

What movies can take you from down to dancing around the room in less than two hours?

I’m a sucker for musicals.  I used to want to be a dancer.  Not ballet – I wanted to be in Fame.  I didn’t actually want to be famous, I just loved the kind of music that makes your feet twitch and sends an electric pulse down your spine.  I love the cheesiest of pop music, because it does just that.  I still remember the dance to ‘Saturday Night’ (and I’ll do it in public too).  So any film that combines pop music and dance has me sold.

movies-walking-on-sunshine-posterRight now, I’m watching Walking on Sunshine.  80s pop music, linked together by a fun-but-unrealistic plot – it’s perfect.  I can already tell you that I will watch this film a lot.  It’ll come as no surprise that another favourite is Mamma Mia.  Unlike my husband, I don’t cringe over some of the singing voices.  It’s fun, it’s joyful and it makes any time of year feel like summer.  And summer makes everything better.  Long term favourites include A Chorus Line (major dancing done to that one).

Legally_blondeBut I don’t have to have singing.  Legally Blonde is brilliant for getting motivated to take action (must dig that out), Bring It On (watch the cheer at the start if nothing else), Revenge of the Nerds (going back a bit that one). While You Were Sleeping, Father of the Bride 2 and a recent favourite is What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

I think I should start watching at least one each week, especially with the cold winter days coming in.  Anyone want to join me?

Actually, She’s a Girl

10435594_10153110137279619_915167543801902571_nA little rant today about gender stereotyping.

My going-on-three-year-old daughter frequently gets mistaken for a boy.  I’m not overly bothered by this, but every now and then it gets to me.  Because it’s all based on expectations about how girls should look.

She has short hair (not pixie, but bobbed to ear-length).  There are three reasons for that.  One, it’s very fine so if it grows long it will just look straggly.  Two, the bits at the top haven’t grown down to match the longest bits yet.  Three, I can do without howls over tangles, thank you very much.  It’s practical, not ideological.

Most of the time, I dress her in trousers.  I feel these are more suitable for play, and play is her purpose right now.  I don’t want a skirt getting in her way, or her knees getting skinned because she’s wearing tights or has bare legs.  Again, practical.

I also don’t think it’s necessary to dress her entirely in pink.  Clothes manufacturers don’t seem to agree with this.  The girls’ racks at the supermarket are a sea of pink.  Even some of the jeans have pink stitching and heart-shaped pockets, just in case you were in any doubt which sex they’re for.  I’ve always thought that jeans were a fairly unisex item.  True, those of us with definite curves need a different cut, but plenty of women now wear “boyfriend” jeans.  I would have thought small children could have something similar, given that the difference between the sexes is not marked at that age.

I suppose I could start dressing her exclusively in pink, frilly dresses so that no one is unclear that she is, in fact, a girl. But I won’t, for three reasons.  One, the amount of super-strength stain remover that we’d get through would bankrupt us.  Two, I have a fair stash of clothes in her current size and the next couple that I don’t intend to waste.  And three, if you’re the kind of person who thinks a 2-year-old girl should always look neat and pretty, I’d rather you thought my daughter was a boy.  Because then you won’t hold her back from getting on with the business of being a toddler, which is wholly incompatible with that.

Follow Jennifer Gilby Roberts’s board Motherhood on Pinterest.

World Mental Health Day: My Contribution

As today is World Mental Health Day, I thought I’d share a link to a post I wrote a while back on depression.  It’s not an easy thing to talk about, but we all need to do our bit to end the stigma so that everyone who needs help gets it before it’s too late.

Mental Health Awareness Week: Jennifer Speaks Out | Emma Louise.

The Birthday Curse

This was written as a guest post for Lavender Likes, Loves, Finds and Dreams.

Birthday CandlesI am now in my thirties and the proper place to spend birthdays in your thirties is, of course, hiding under the duvet. Unfortunately, I have a toddler who will climb on my head and shout, ‘Wake up!’ if I try it. Otherwise, I would. Because, if I’m honest, birthdays have never gone well for me.

It started as a child. I had the misfortune to be born in November, which is second only to February in the annual hateful-weather competition. Theme park trips really lose their appeal when you’re being pelted by freezing rain. Once, whizzing round a roller coaster, I got a high-speed raindrop in the eye. If I didn’t wear contact lenses, I think I might now be half-blind. And there’s nothing quite like an arctic wind when you’ve just come off a water ride. The queues are shorter, though, I’ll give you that.

To add insult to injury, November 2nd always fell in the week after the half-term holiday. Not only did I have to go to school, but it seemed to be the favoured week for all things unpleasant. Head lice inspections, vaccinations, exams and a bus strike are just a few of the things I remember.

Sometimes, it was my fault. For my thirteenth birthday, I had holes punched in my ears. At fifteen, I got a second set, which never healed properly and got sore every time I dared to put earrings in them. When turning sweet sixteen, I jumped off a crane over the River Thames for my first bungee jump. Two notable things about this. One, the air pressure gave me an excruciating ear infection, which wrote off most of the next week. Two, shortly afterwards the bungee company was shut down for being unsafe. It’s a wonder I’m still alive.

There have been occasional successes, I admit. My husband (then my boyfriend) was determined that my 25th would be special. I felt the reduction in my car insurance premiums was enough and that fate should not be tempted. By he would not be dissuaded and planned a trip away. He took me to London, where we saw Joseph and The Sound of Music, which were wonderful. In fact, apart from having to make a hasty exit from one of the sightseeing buses in search of a toilet (I’ll leave it at that), the trip went without a hitch. I strongly suspected that I was being lulled into a false sense of security.

Now I’m a mother and my birthday dreams have been reduced to getting to go to the toilet by myself. My daughter, meanwhile, was born on January 7th, which should fall just after the Christmas holidays. It sounds very much as if the birthday curse might be hereditary. Which is a real shame, obviously. On the upside, I should save a fortune on theme park trips…

If She’s In Fashion, I Didn’t Write Her

Anti-fashionIf you’ve read my books, it will come as no surprise when I tell you that I don’t follow fashion.  I never have done.  Fashion is one of many things in popular culture that I just don’t get.

That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate beautiful clothes or recognise that a well-chosen outfit can boost your self-image.  My issue is more with being told I have to do something just to be like everyone else.  Someone plugged a book on Twitter with the line ‘Don’t be the only one not reading it this summer’ and my reaction was ‘Why not?  What’s wrong with being the only one?  Being unique is a good thing’.  Nothing will put me off something faster than this kind of “sheep” marketing.

Whether it’s nature or nuture, this attitude showed early.  Before I reached puberty I had already acquired a reputation for being weird, just because I didn’t see why we all had to like the same things.  But I recommend getting the label early in life, because people eventually alter their expectations of you and then you can do a lot more with a lot less fuss.  But getting older helps and so does becoming a mother.  I’m now firmly into the ‘sod it’ years, when you’re too tired, too busy and have been defeated too many times by your child to give a crap about what random strangers think of you.

My Wedding DressA good example is my wedding.  I had a wedding book with a to-do list, of which I ignored two-thirds.  I was not going to faff around with seating plans (seriously, why?).  We had a buffet and let people sit wherever they wanted.  Everybody still got fed.  Instead of favours, there were bowls of sweets on the tables.  There was no dress code; even I ditched my heels and tights after the photos were done and put on flip flops.  I might well have changed my dress too, but it was quite comfortable and I wanted my money’s worth – all £75 on eBay.

I expect my daughter will rail at me about this when she’s older (if I don’t manage to instil the same attitude in her – and believe me I’ll try).  But I will never understand wearing something you don’t like, don’t suit, or that’s really uncomfortable, just because it’s fashionable.  It’s your body, so put it in what you like.  If it’s not trendy, you can always tell people it’s vintage.