A broken clock

I think I broke my mother’s heart today.

We’d gone out for a family lunch, me, my parents, brother, sister-in-law and my two nephews, B (2 ½) and R (4 months). R is normally the happiest baby in the world, perfectly satisfied in his car seat, but unfortunately at the moment we have a nasty case of teething. That plus a cold means he’s not a happy boy. As a result I spent a lot of time carrying him, having him perched on my lap and just having all round cuddles.

Oh the hardship…

I think the fact that I spent so much time with R and also drawing pictures with B gave my Mum the idea that more grandchildren were on the cards as it might indicate that at long last my biological clock might (finally) have started ticking…

Alas, my clock seems to be broken… Sorry Mum, but if I were you, I wouldn’t be counting on any more grandchildren.

broken biological clock

That might sound harsh but at 31 I’m not getting any younger and when you’re single without the slightest hint of any romantic prospects and no real desire to actually look for the so-called Mr. Right, it’s not so much being harsh as realistic. And whilst I could do it alone either via one-night stand or a sperm donor, having a baby is hard enough when there are two of you. I have nothing against single parents; I know a lot of them who do an amazing job. But being a single parent through death or separation is a totally different matter to setting out with the intention of being one.

But in addition to that I also have to consider my history with depression. I would be at high risk of both ante-natal and post-natal depression and I’m not sure I can knowingly do something that would put me at risk of feeling like that again. There is also the risk of any child of mine being more susceptible to this horrible illness than the child of someone who doesn’t have depression. Now whilst anyone can suffer from depression, but it’s more likely. I don’t judge anyone who has had depression who has then had children, I’m just saying that it’s not right for me.

Add to that there’s the small issue of I just don’t want to have them and you end up with a biological clock that just doesn’t tick. No Ally McBeal-style dancing babies for me. No ticking clocks. Just a quiet life.

And that doesn’t make me unhappy. It’s just the way it is. I think my Mum would prefer my biological clock would start ticking loudly but such is life.

Do you want or have children? Do you think that you can have a happy, fulfilled life without children?

Average Josephine x

Mending broken hearts

As I wrote yesterday, I am a big Radley fan. Their classic bags are well made and elegant and will last a lifetime. What I didn’t realise until yesterday when researching my post was they had a blog. Being the fan, and all round nosy parker, that I am I subscribed to the blog and received an update this morning.

What I didn’t realise was that Radley, in partnership with Laura Bailey, their first brand ambassador, are supporting the British Heart Foundation by releasing a limited edition version of their cross body bag with a heart tag mirror. The mirror is also available separately and profits from both items will be donated to the British Heart Foundation.

Radley BHF Across body bag

Radley's British Heart Foundation Across Body Bag £99 with £14.85 being donated to BHF

What is unusual for such a donation is that Radley have specified the actual profit they will donate from each item, being £14.85 from each bag sold and £2.85 from each mirror. In percentage terms this equates to 15% of the cost of each bag, so a significant amount, unlike the 10p or similar donated from the sale of each pack of charity Christmas cards.

The bag itself is simple enough that it would go with everything, and being cross body, it leaves your hands free to do other things, be that carry your shopping, a cup of coffee or push a pram. And the attached mirror is always useful for quick touch ups of lipstick, or just to check you haven’t got spinach stuck in your teeth.

The bag and mirror are available from www.radley.co.uk and are priced £99 and £19 respectively.

So, go on. Just think of it as guilt free shopping 😉

Average Josephine x

Forgiven and forgotten?

When Sam Baker, the editor of Red Magazine, retweeted a Huffington Post article on Friday, I could have thrown something. Considering I was holding my phone and a cup of tea, neither would have ended well.  It took me a while to be able to write a rational post about it or I would have had this up sooner.  I wasn’t upset at the retweet but the subject of the article: Rihanna and her reported decision to feature Chris Brown in a remix of her upccoming single, “Birthday Cake”, after she invited him to her birthday party and he asked all the guests to sign confidentiality waivers.

There are so many things wrong with this situation that I almost don’t know where to start. This is the Chris Brown that she pressed charges against for an assault that left her battered and bruised. If anyone thinks that it wasn’t that serious then please read this police report and see whether you think it’s serious enough to warrant prosecution.

Many people have said that Brown should be forgiven for his actions and allowed to live his life as he wishes and that if Rihanna has forgiven him then why can’t the rest of the world? But it isn’t that simple, for so many reasons.

If Brown had been truly remorseful then that would be one thing although I don’t think anyone should have been having perform at a major music event (yes, Grammys, I would be referring to you) until he had fulfilled the terms of his sentence and his probation was completed in August 2014. He still has a long way to go. But when you consider that he doesn’t appear to have changed, why should he be forgiven? To be forgiven in my world, you need to have shown true remorse, to have changed the things that caused you to react that way in the first place. Brown doesn’t appear to have changed at all. When asked on “Good Morning, America” about the incident with Rihanna he commented that it wasn’t really a big deal anymore but followed it up by smashing the window of his dressing room and storming, shirtless, out of the building. When some singers and actors tweeted their distaste that Brown had been asked to perform at the Grammys, Brown retaliated by tweeting “HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That’s the ultimate FUCK OFF!“. Whilst the tweet was later deleted (I suspect his management threw a tantrum about his image or similar) it does demonstrate that this is still a highly volatile individual.

Chris Brown tweet Grammy win

Chris Brown's 'celebratory' tweet after his Grammy win

As for Rihanna, I am worried about the effect of her actions. One of the problems with domestic violence is that as well as being physically damaging, the abuser often emotionally abuses their partner to the extent that they believe that they are completely unloveable and no-one other than this person who beats them could ever love them. Rihanna, as much as she may not want to be, has become an example to women of how to deal with a man who beats them. She went straight to the police and pressed charges even though that meant this highly personal and probably highly embarassing incident being dragged into the spotlight. She did the thing that so many women cannot do: she left.

So for her to go back, to allow someone who did this to her back into her life, Rihanna is sending out the wrong message: that it is safe to let these men back into your life. For so many women, it turns out to be the last thing they do.

I understand that one incident, even one so appalling as what Chris Brown put Rihanna through cannot necessarily destroy the love between two people. I understand that she may have forgiven him and considering they work in the same industry, it must be nigh on impossible for her to avoid him. But no matter how much she may love him or want to forgive him, she owes it to herself, and every other woman in the same position, to stay away.

Could you ever forgive a man who beat you up how Chris Brown did? And do you think he deserves forgiveness?

Average Josephine x

2012- the start of the rest of my life

2012- image from techland.time.com

2012- image from techland.time.com

So here we are in 2012, the year the Olympics will come to London.  Can I just ask everyone one small question?

How the hell did that happen?

It seems like no time at all since we were celebrating the millenium (for a variety of reasons a night I will never forget) and suddenly here we are twelve years later.  A lot has happened in that time both on a global scale and on a more personal one but when people said that time goes quicker the older you get, I didn’t realise they meant quite this quickly.

So 2012, a new year and, for me, another new start.  Trust me when I say I’ve had a few of these.  But I’m determined that this one is going to be different.  Because I’m different this time round. My life is different this time round.

The biggest new start for me is moving back into my flat.  I’ve owned my flat since 2006 but have probably only lived in it for maybe two years in the intervening period.  The reason for this being that with my depression there were problems with me living on my own. Basically I couldn’t be trusted to keep functioning and doing basic things like eating and cleaning. So for the rest of the time I have been living with my parents.

The lack of cleaning thing means that in order to move back my flat needs a really good spring clean.  So that is my first job for the new year and it does equate to sort my life out! But I am looking forward to doing it as it is a step towards the independence that I haven’t had for so long and that I need in order to move on with my life.

Also, there is a good chance that either me or one of my parents may die if we keep living together much longer. There is only so long you can live with your parents and answer the “where are you going, when will you be back, what are you doing today” questions when you have had the freedom to do what you want, when you want before.

Of course, moving back to my flat means that I’m going to be spending a lot more money as I haven’t really been spending money on food or anything similar over the past couple of years.  The thing with that is that in the past I haven’t exactly been what you might call financially responsible.  Ooops? So I’m going to have to start -gulp- budgeting and getting my finances in order as at the age of 30. Alvin Hall, here I come.

My other aim for 2012 is to get comfortable with my biggest demon: the mirror. Like a lot of women I really don’t like what I see in the mirror, despite Operation Fit and Fabulous, I don’t live comfortably inside my own skin.  As a result I’m going to focus less on what my body looks like and more what it can do.  So I’m going to run.  I ran a bit at uni but an old back injury flared up and I stopped but I’ve been inspired by the fabulous Bangs and a Bun and her various incarnations of Team Bangs on the Run.

So come September I am going to run the Run to the Beat half marathon.  13.1 miles that may very well kill me but I’m going to do it. And luckily I have a partner in crime for this in the gorgeous and fabulous Mrs Samantha Hadadi, one of my best friends and a truly gorgeous woman, inside and out.

I’m also going to make a special effort with my diet, try and take my own food for lunch instead of relying on whatever I can lay my hands on when I’m at work.  This should help both the finances and the waistline as I’m sure I’m eating a lot of calories I really shouldn’t be with lunch.  I’m going to see a nutritionist to help with this as having been told I can’t eat gluten I think I need a bit more help with my diet to make sure I’m getting all the right nutrients to support my body.

The most important part of what are effectively my New Year’s resolutions is to love myself. I have a horrible habit of beating myself up for every tiny little perceived mistake and whilst it is something I have worked on in therapy, I still have a long way to go.  The good bit is that 2011 has brought me some new friends who will help me with this.

And with that I want to say goodbye to 2011 with a massive thank you to my fantastic friends, the lovely people who have supported me through some tough times. Special thank yous go to Samatha Hadadi, Cate Merrick, Jo GiffordSarah Williams,Jayne Hardy, Lea RiceAli Edgar and Andy Hagan. You guys are brilliant and I love you.

Another thank you goes to the lovely people who read my blog. I am hugely excited whenever I get a new follower or a comment so thank you and please keep reading.

What are your plans for 2012? Have you made New Year’s resolutions this year?

Average Josephine x

UPDATE: I meant to put this when discussing Run to the Beat above but if anyone wants to join me, Sam and Jo (who has commented she will be joining us!) then please let me know! I’d love to keep in touch with anyone planning to run and we can all keep each other going through the training- I’m going to need all the support I can get!!

The silent killer

Today, the footballing world was shocked and horrified to hear that Gary Speed was found dead at his home after hanging himself to death.  Police have confirmed that a 42-year-old man had been found dead and identified as Speed by his next-of-kin.

One of the reasons that everyone has been so stunned by his death is there were no indicators of a problem before his death.  He appeared on Sky Sports yesterday (I saw him and can’t quite get my head round it) and was celebrating with his friend Robbie Savage on the set of Strictly Come Dancing only a couple of weeks ago.

My heart goes out to his family, especially his wife and two sons.  Losing a family member at all is a hideous thing to go through but under these circumstances, it is inconceivable how a family can process and work their way through such a tragedy.

I have said before that I have suffered from depression and I’m not afraid or ashamed of admitting that there was a point where I came very close to carrying out the same act.  I remember carrying my cats around my flat telling them that my parents would look after them.  I remember making plans which stretched from stealing a family friend’s shotgun to overdosing to crashing my car to using it to gas myself.  The scary thing is at some of the points where I seriously entertained those plans, I was the only person who knew how ill I was.  I was at work and by and a fully functional member of society.  In reality I was suffering from very severe depression.

We have become much more accustomed to people talking of depression and the fact that up to one in every eight people is suffering from some sort of mental illness at any given time.  There is a perception that through antidepressants and a bit of therapy this illness can be cured.  And in a lot of cases a six month course od antidepressants and cognitive behavioural therapy is what is needed.  But when help is not available or a person cannot make use of it for whatever reason, the results can be catastrophic.

What people fail to see is that depression is an illness that kills. It is the biggest killer of young men between 25 and 34 years of age other than car accidents.  And yet we hear very little about that side of depression.  We do not hear about the depression that does not lift with medication or when therapy fails.  It is only when a tragedy occurs that we begin to wonder what drives a successful man with a family to kill himself.

So please, if you start to think about how best to take your own life, go to a doctor. There is no shame is depression; it is an illness, an error in a chemical in your brain.  It is not a sign of weakness. A long time ago my father told me that asking for help when you need it is a sign of strength rather than weakness and I beg all of you to remember that.

You will all know someone with depression.  They may never have told you but they will be there.  Support them, be there for them and maybe we can avoid some of the repeats of the tragedy that has happened today.

Average Josephine x

Remember, remember the month of Movember

Well, it’s the end of November and if you look around on the streets you can see something that wasn’t there a month ago.

Moustaches.  Everywhere you look.

And it isn’t some random new trend because come December 1st they will most likely be gone and clean-shaven faces will reign supreme once more.  No, the reason for the return to the seventies ‘tache is Movember, a campaign to raise both awareness and funds for men’s health and, in particular, prostate cancer and other male cancers.

As a woman, I count myself to be very lucky in that we are educated from quite a young age about breast cancer and the importance of checking regularly for any changes in our breasts.  Breast cancer is a very hot topic with a number of high-profile sufferers such as Kylie Minogue and whilst the other female cancers are not as well publicised, they seem to be better publicised than their male equivalents (although having never read Men’s Health or GQ or anything similar, that is purely a female perception).

So Movember is a brilliant innovation as far as I’m concerned as it brings men’s health to the fore and as the boys are wearing the evidence on their faces it’s something that no-one can forget for a month.  I have heard a couple of comments along the lines of “I banned my husband/boyfriend/partner from growing a moustache” and I am so disappointed in what I feel is a really short-sighted perspective.

As a girl I can’t take part in Movember but I am supporting a team of my favourite boys from Birmingham Royal Ballet (were you expecting them to be from anywhere else?!).  Twenty nine members of the company (including one girl oddly enough although quite how Samara is managing her moustache is a bit of a mystery) have teamed up and at my last check had raised a rather fantastic £2,479 as well as having grown some amazing ‘taches!  Check out Oliver Till, Aonghus Hoole, Kit Holder and, for sheer comedy value, the artistic director, Mr. David Bintley whose photos are hysterical (I like the Mahatma and the Clouseau ones myself).

So whether you know anyone who is taking part or not, and if not, feel free to donate the BRB team, I’m sure the boys would appreciate a last-minute boost to the amount they have raised, please go to http://uk.movember.com and donate to what is a really worthy event that has been organised in such a brilliantly fun way.

Average Josephine x

A little help from our friends…

Many of you will have read my original Phenomenal Friends post a couple of months back about the wonderful people behind Blurt.  Well something brilliant has happened for them in that Sam nominated Jayne (aka the rather wonderful BeachBumBeauty for those of you know her via Twitter or her blog)  for a TalkTalk Digital heroes award and Jayne has made it through to the final three for the South West.

As many of you will know, what Blurt is doing, providing support for people with depression, is a cause extremely close to my heart having suffered badly from the illness myself and having seen both family and friends battle their way through it.

So I am sending out a plea to all who know me and who read my blog: please, please, please go and vote for Jayne.  The money they would receive would help them to continue getting CRB checks on the mentors as well as building their activities to eventually include workshops in schools and universities and developing an anti-stigma campaign to highlight the issues people with depression face on a day to day basis.

What Jayne and the rest of the Blurt team are doing really is amazing.  They are proof that even four young people can make a big difference and I can honestly say that, as someone who has suffered from depression, to have one person who listens to you and can understand how you feel, that one person can make a massive difference.

Jayne really is a fantastic person and even though she is up against some stiff competition, I really do believe she deserves to win.  So come on lovely people, please support this wonderful woman as she fights to do what we would all love to do: make a difference.

Thank you all, I really appreciate it.

Average Josephine x

Wallis Simpson’s mistake

Wallis Simpson has been quoted as saying that “you can never be too rich or too thin”.  I can’t comment about the former as much as I would love to be able to speak from experience but when it comes to being too thin, you can very definitely be too thin.

I understand the irony of this post coming straight after one that is about my desire to lose weight and th purpose of Operation Fit and Fabulous but I actually think that, in a way, the two go together quite well.  One of the reasons I like Operation Fit and Fabulous as a concept is because it is about the whole person rather than just the external packaging.  One of our first missions is being kind to ourselves which is something we all could do a bit more of.  How often do we all feel that we aren’t pretty enough, clever enough, thin enough, fit enough…. I could go on but I guess you see the point.

The reason I’m writing this is that I’ve seen a series of increasingly worrying photos of LeAnn Rimes, Ali Lohan and Kate Bosworth- they are worryingly thin.  LeAnn Rimes has apparently struck back at her critics stating that she feels she is healthy and people need to stop focusing on how much she eats but unfortunately if you live your life in the public eye then I’m afraid you can’t decide you want certain things left undiscussed.

LeAnn Rimes claims she is healthy. What do you think? Picture from poponthepop.com

I had hoped that after all the furore over size zero a few years ago that this idea of being thin at all costs would have blown over and people would have worked out that being ultra-skinny is neither healthy not attractive.  After all, once upon a time a bloke once informed me when I said that I wanted to lose weight (this was back in my skinny days when I probably weighed all of about 8st) that men would much rather have Kate Winslet than Kate Moss.  On top of that, a bit of body fat is not only essential for good health but once you get past the age of about 35 it’s actually much more flattering than being ultra-skinny as it plumps out those fine lines (of course this is for those of us who don’t have the plastic surgeon on speed dial for Botox and fillers).  But if you look at what the biological effects of that bit extra body fat are, you will see why it is equally as unhealthy to have a too-low body fat percentage as a too-high one.

One of the women who has famously suffered the effects of eating too little is Gwyneth Paltrow who has, despite her relatively young age, been diagnosed with osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis.  Whilst this could have a genetic component, given Paltrow’s history of radical diets such as eating a macrobiotic diet and the infamous maple syrup diet (consisting of a lot of water, maple syrup (maybe 12 tablespoons a day, not a lot), lemon juice and cayenne pepper, this is likely to be the major factor in her disease.

But why do we do this to ourselves?  I fully admit I’ve done a few silly diets in my time but I am not entirely sure why women like Paltrow and Rimes do this to themselves.  I can at least claim that with a BMI stating that I am overweight dieting is logical for me but these women are tiny.  They don’t need to diet.  In fact the only diet they need to be on is one that ensures they get enough calories to support whatever exercise they are doing.

So why do we do it?  What is the lure in being so thin?  It’s certainly not because it’s what the majority of men prefer.  If you look at FHM’s all time top 100 women (OK this was actually compiled in 2008 but the principle still stands) the top ten goes Louise Redknapp, Cameron Diaz, Kylie Minogue, Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra, Kelly Brook, Jennifer Aniston, Dannii Minogue, Britney Spears and Jordan.  These women would all be classed as slim, maybe even thin, but there is not a waif among them.  And there are several who are renowned and in fact positively notorious for their curves.

So where does this pressure to be thin come from?  And the awful, dreadful, hideous and only conclusion I can come to is that it comes from us.  It comes from other women.  How many times have we seen magazine articles saying “look how hideous so and so looks in a bikini”, that someone has put on masses of weight or someone else has lost masses of weight.  One day we’re too fat and the next we’re too thin and what it boils down to in many women’s minds (and I do include myself in there) is that we have to look perfect in order to be accepted.

The thing is, we don’t have to look perfect.  No-one does look perfect.  Speak to any one of those women I listed above and they will have some of the same hangups the rest of us do.  None of us are completely satisfied with the picture in the mirror.  But the difference is accepting the picture in the mirror.  Not everyone is born to be a size eight.  Almost no-one is born to be a size zero although there are a couple of rare examples floating around.  And in accepting what we see in the mirror we will accept the other women in our lives and not project our own insecurities on to the others around me.

So girls, what do you think?  Can we stop judging each other and accept ourselves for who we are? Or is this a bit much to ask?

Average Josephine x

Operation Fit and Fabulous

I first joined Twitter about a million years ago (@thecupcake_girl if you want to follow me and don’t already) back in the dim and distant past that was April 2009 but it was only earlier this year that I started using it “properly”.  I did all the normal things, following people my friends followed, randomly tweeted at a few celebrities (why not? If they make a public comment then I’m entitled to respond!) and slowly but surely, a profile was created.

Now I have a list of my main Twitter girls who include the fabulous BeachBumBeauty, the wonderful DexterousDiva and gorgeous Sarah’s Scribbles which is the first place I check when I look at Twitter to see what is going on in my little online world.  But as of a week ago there is also a hashtag which  regularly check: #operationfitandfabulous.  Operation Fit and Fabulous was born on a Sunday afternoon during a discussion on the merits of buying Christmas presents of tins of Quality Street early (decided it was possibly not the best idea!).  We all wanted to lose some weight or get more toned up and so the already fabulous BeachBumBeauty came up with Operation Fit and Fabulous.

BeachBumBeauty is well aware of the power of the team mentality.  As a member of Team Bangs on the Run 1 and 2 she has now trained for two half-marathons (she was unable to participate in the first, the Semi de Paris, due to a back injury) and if the recent Twitter posts are anything to go by, the team and support it provides has been a massive help to all the participants.  As such she suggested that we band together to form Operation Fit and Fabulous.

The focus of Operation Fit and Fabulous is not so much losing weight (although that is a primary concern of mine as I have previously written) but feeling fabulous.  I understand being fabulous as being healthy and comfortable in my own skin, something which I haven’t been in about five and a half years.

The point of this plan isn’t to make major changes because to be blunt, we’ve all been there, done that and failed.  So we’re making slow, gradual changes by way of missions that BeachBumBeauty is setting us each week.  Each one is a small manageable task which over the lifetime of Operation Fit and Fabulous should add up to a new healthier lifestyle and a happier, more confident me.

Our first missions are ones that we all hear constantly as the backbone of good health:

  1. Drink 2 Litres of water a day;
  2. Body brush every morning (OK, this one is not such a basic tenet of good health but is meant to do wonders for cellulite);
  3. Get 8 hours’ sleep a night;
  4. Exercise for an hour at least three times a week;
  5. Be kind to yourself.

Now, due to feeling revolting over the past week due to my previously blogged about issues with gluten (actually feeling revolting would have been a step up from how I’ve been feeling) I haven’t really started this week’s missions so I’m going to start today and run a week behind everyone else.  I also know which of these first week’s missions I am going to find the hardest: being kind to myself.  It’s really not my strong point and it’s something that I have been working on for a while….

So for me, week one starts today!  I’m going to boggle some brains by measuring my vital statistics over the next couple of months and alongside the standard measurements, I’m going to include an Energyometer, a rating of my energy levels from 1 to 10.  Obviously I’m kind of hoping that over the next couple of months this is going to go up!

So my starting measurements are (and please try to curb any instincts to laugh):

  • Upper arm: 12″
  • Chest: 39″
  • Waist: 32″
  • Hips: 42″
  • Thigh: 24″
  • Weight: 10st 11 lbs
  • BMI: 25.46 (overweight)
  • Energy level: Honestly, 3 would be generous most days! I spend my life wanting to sleep…

In an ideal world I’d like to be the 8st 7lb I was when I moved back to Birmingham 6 years ago and started work but in reality I’d be happy at 9st.  In fact I’ll be happy when I can look in the mirror and be happy with the person I see there…

If anyone else wants to join in with Operation Fit and Fabulous then please go to BeachBumBeauty’s Operation Fit and Fabulous page and leave a comment with your name, Twitter ID (if you have one, it’s a great way to connect with the other girls on the plan and get some support when you’re having a bad day), your goals, strengths, weaknesses, favourite type of exercise and the music you listen to when you’re exercising.

After all, what have you got to lose?

Average Josephine x