Come Join Me Over Here!

Hi there!

I'm glad you've come to read my blog, but unfortunately I don't live here any more!

Feel free to trawl through my archives or look up my posts on Scoliosis which will always be at home here, but when you're ready please come and join me at my new home:

See you there!

Catherine Ann x

Saturday, 26 April 2014

My Busy Little Life (Part 2)

A while ago I wrote a little update on my life, entitled "My Busy Little Life", really because I couldn't think of anything else to write about at that time. I thought it would just fill a gap, that nobody would really be interested in little ol' me, but it was pretty well received. I guess I understand that: it's nice to get a little snapshot of another person's every day life. The little, insignificant things often make for an interesting read. 

Today I'm feeling a bit under the weather and moping round the house, so I thought I'd take a little light relief in the form of a blog post... but I've go zero ideas to tie to a theme right now! 

Instead, you might like to get to know me a little better. Here are some questions I found to answer (I know, my imagination stayed in bed this morning...)

1. Would you rather be twice as smart or twice as happy?

Well, I’d pick being happy over being smart, but right now I’m already happy. So, twice as smart I guess. That would come in very handy in the next couple of months!

2. What's your worst habit?

I bite everything.  My mother is beginning to think I have a very nervous disposition, and she’s probably onto something. It’s usually the inside of my cheek, my nails or the skin around my nails, or pen lids. I have destroyed SO MANY PEN LIDS.
Disgusting, I know. I’m working on it.  

3. Are you dating?
Yes, but it’s not really something I want to talk about on my blog.

4. Do you take shampoo and conditioner bottles from hotels?
 I steal everything that isn’t nailed down from hotels. I currently own about 5 sachets of shoe polish, and have a vast collection of sugar sachets, tea bags, individual coffee servings. The shampoos, conditioners etc, I use right away.

5. What is the one thing you'll never do again?

That’s quite hard to say. I think when you’re my age, you can’t really rule stuff out! I guess I’ll try not to become a shy person again: that did me no favours.

6. Do you collect anything?
Sugar sachets, as mentioned. I’m that girl! I steal them from restaurants, cafés etc… I have some from as far away as Prague and Rome! People tend not to believe this one till they see my three boxes…

7. Worst injury you ever had?
Well, I probably wouldn’t describe my scoliosis sugery as an injury. I broke my finger once when my brother accidentally locked it in a door. That’s about it: I’m very boring so I don’t get injured a lot.

8. What is your favourite pet/ animal?
I have a cat who’s lovely but I long so much for a dog. I once knew a Border Collie named Bonnie and since then I’ve always wanted one.

9. What's your dream vacation?
 Right now, I really fancy Paris. But honestly, I love exploring cities in general.

10. Honestly, are things going the way you planned?

Nope, nope, nope, not even a little bit.

It’s mostly for the better, though. I love some people I never intended to meet, and I’ve had some amazing experiences that were never planned. Plans change all the time, and sometimes I’m disappointed, but at this moment, things are good. Very good.

11. Do you have any tattoos?
None. They’re not really my thing, to be honest, but they can be lovely on other people! I don’t think I’d get one unless I felt very strongly about something!

12. What's your secret to lure in the opposite sex?


I’m funny sometimes?

13. Any phobias?

Heights. Even watching someone stand somewhere high up on TV makes my feet and palms sweat!

14.  Do you bite your nails?
Yes! I’ve been good recently though: keeping them painted helps.

15. Do you ever count your steps when you walk? 
Not since I was little, but sometimes I keep to a rhythm, e.g. of a song or poem or something.

16. Heels or flats?
It depends. I like to wear heels when I go out (on those rare occasions!) but I don’t really like feeling tall!

17.Have you ever stolen a street sign before?
No… I know someone who used to, but he can’t be named for legal reasons.  

18. Do you always smile for pictures?
Usually, yes! Everyone looks the most beautiful when smiling. I either smile or pull a funny face, anyway. I can’t understand these pouts and “sultry” looks… they’re quite depressing to me.

19. Do you ever dance even if there's no music playing?
Yes, yes and thrice yes! There’s always music in my head, though.

20.  Do you miss anyone right now?
Lots of people. Many of those I love live quite far away, and unfortunately there have been some losses in my family recently. It makes me appreciate the people I’ve got all the more… even if they do drive me mad.

21. What's your favourite colour?
It used to be blue, but I find myself more drawn to bright yellows now. Does this mean I’m a happier person now?

22. Do you want kids?
I can’t imagine not having kids. It’s always been something I’ve just seen as inevitable. Hopefully I’ll have more than one; ideally three boys then a girl, because that’s what my parents had and we have the loveliest family.

23. Are you patient?
It depends what I’m waiting for!

24. Can you swim?
Yep! It’s probably the form of exercise I… dislike the least! Mum forced me into swimming lessons when I was young, but I’m glad of it now!

25. Tea or coffee
Both, but I’m probably more addicted to tea. Have had to switch to decaf! I also like herbal and fruit teas sometimes.

26. What do you wear to bed?
It depends, usually a t-shirt or nightdress.

27. Ever used a gun? 
Nope! It’s probably not something I would be suited to!

28. Do you sing in the shower?
…Are there people who don’t sing in the shower?

29. Are you stubborn?
I’m usually quite polite and accommodating, but if there’s something I feel strongly about that can change!

30. Are you lazy?
I always think I am, then I look at how much I have achieved, say, in a week, and realise that I’m quite the busybody! I guess when I’m motivated, I never stop.

31. Can you change the oil in a car
I know literally nothing about cars, and I’m dreading having to learn to drive. I just sense I’ll be bad at it.

32. When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper?
I think it was probably thank you letters.

33. Would you ever strip or pose nude in a magazine?
I think we can safely say nobody wants to see that, even less than I want to do it.

34.What is your favourite food?
Oh God.

I saw this coming.

There are so many! I love most foods, we’d be here all day if I mentioned my favourites. I gave up cheese for Lent and mum got me some Wensleydale with cranberries to celebrate Easter, so that’s definitely a favourite right now.

35. Do you still watch cartoons?
Actually, no. Cartoons stopped appealing to me quite a while ago, which surprised me! Except for The Simpsons: that will always be amazing. And a few animated movies, like “The Emperor’s New Groove” which is a personal favourite!

36. What movie(s) can you watch over and over again and not get bored?
I must have seen Bridesmaids at least 20 times with my friend Wolf, and it’s still hilarious! The Muppets’ Christmas Carol is also amazing any time of year… There are lots more. I love watching films again and again, until the characters are like old friends.

37. What superpower would you have for one day?
Probably something like being invisible or mind reading: I’m sinfully nosy.

38. Whats been your favourite age so far? 
Sixteen. Fifteen was the year I came into my own, and seventeen isn’t over yet but kind of fell apart… sixteen was nigh on perfect.
I think most of my childhood was pretty awesome, though, all things considered.

39. How old are you?

40. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?
Hey, look, you’re still alive! The world didn’t end! Stop panicking, and speak up occasionally. Oh, and you can choose your friends.

41. If you knew you would die in one week, what would you do?
I have honestly no idea. I don’t think I’d do anything wild, I’d just want my loved ones around me.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand now I’m depressed.

42. What celebrity would you trade lives with?
I wouldn’t! I don’t know nearly enough about the life I’d be taking!

43. Do people ever take you seriously?
Ugh, not nearly enough ;)

44. What happened the last time you cried?
The last time I cried, it was because I felt so happy I could burst.

So that’s nice.

45. Who knows you best?
Myself. I hesitate to say anyone else! I don’t like when people act like they know me (not to sound like such a stroppy teenager). But it’s definitely my mum and my two best friends.

46.  Do you sleep with your closet doors open or closed?

I’m quite untidy, so probably open.

47. What is your song of the week?
There are so many! Two spring to mind: “What I Love About Your Love” by Jana Kramer, and “Undermine” by Hayden Panettiere. Ooh, I’ve come over all country in the last few days!

48. Last person you kissed?

My mum.

49. Best thing to eat for breakfast?
I make the nicest French toast. Or pancakes. Anything unhealthy really.

50. Does anyone know the password to your email?

It’s probably fairly easy to guess if you’re a friend! Don’t worry, my emails aren’t that interesting anyway.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Strength... "No"ing Lessons

It’s such a wonderful thing to have a best friend, or a couple of them. I think that girls especially like to have that one person, or a small number, they can confide in. We may be part of huge groups, have different circles that overlap, but a “best friend” seems always preferable. They’re the ones that can teach us very important lessons. I’m lucky enough to have had lots of best friends throughout my life, and thinking about saying “no” before writing this post got me thinking about a very old one.

When I was in primary school, and then middle school (weird concept where I’m from, not important), I was best friends with a tall, slim girl who had red hair ("it's strawberry blonde"), and was very confident. I could tell you lots about her, but those are the things that always stuck out. If you asked anyone to describe her, they would always say “confident”. At the ages of nine through to twelve, that’s probably quite a rare thing to be!

One thing I never seemed (still don’t seem) able to cope with was saying “no”. Someone would ask to borrow something from me, or for my help, and even if I didn’t want to I would agree. My friend, however, would always be able to say “no”. Sure, she would lend a hand or do a favour, of course, but if it came to something she really didn’t want to do, she would say no without hesitation or excuses.

I’ll let you in on a secret: people still liked her! She was still a very nice person. I couldn’t quite wrap my head round the fact that you’re able to say “no” to something without it being taken personally, without seeming mean. She once joked that she should teach me her ways, and give me “no-ing lessons.” We laughed at the time, but it probably would have been quite useful. Particularly when we enter our teenage years, we are faced with a lot of pressures and decisions. I won't go into them here, but I think that this lesson is particularly important for anyone about to embark on the roller-coaster of adolescence. I certainly wish I'd know it. 

Have you ever been invited somewhere you really didn’t want to go? You might have made an excuse—we’ve all done it—and pretended to be ill, or that your parrot had died, or that you had secret work for MI5 to carry out immediately. Or maybe, unable to think of something quick enough, you agreed and wasted a day doing something you really didn’t want to do.

If a friend—a real friend—asked you to do something, and you said simply “no, I can’t” or “no, I don;’t want to”, the chances are they would understand. And if they didn’t—if they tried to pressure you into something—then they probably wouldn’t be the best friend in the world.

How many times a week do you get manipulated into doing something you don’t want to do? Perhaps many of us don’t have time to think about that. We just automatically say “yes” because it’s easier and won’t cause an argument. Or perhaps if we did, people might think less of us.

Don’t get me wrong, of course, there are lots of things in life we might have to do that we don’t enjoy. That’s life, I’m afraid. I just spent an hour and a half studying Britain’s Post-War Economy. Not because I want to, but then again, that will benefit me in the future when I sit my exams. OK, so what if my mum asked me to help her with something? I might moan about it, but I’d probably see she was genuinely busy and I’d do it for her, because I love her and I’d want to help her out.

The lines between this and (big dramatic word coming up) manipulation are pretty blurred sometimes. Stop and think for a moment. If something makes you genuinely unhappy, then there isn’t really any reason you should be doing it. When someone tries to get you to do something, are they asking you or are they guilting you into it? Next time someone tries to get you to do something or even be a certain way, you should pause, not be rushed, and ask yourself a few questions. Is this something I really want? Does this person have my best interests at heart? Would they do the same for me? Does this make me--only me, nobody else--feel happy or unhappy? 

I think my biggest issue with saying no is that issue that we all know shouldn’t bother us but it ultimately does: what others will think.

Unfortunately, it falls to most of us at one time or another in our lives to make a choice between our own happiness and the opinions of others. Again, these things can mingle together and blur. There have been several moments in my own teenage years where I’ve found the courage to say “no”, or “that’s not OK.” 
Where I felt manipulated or mistreated, and I had to stand up for myself. It felt good and bad at the same time, I won’t pretend otherwise. I was pleased to be taking control and letting myself be happy, but I also felt sick to the stomach that people wouldn’t see my side, that they would talk behind my back and think badly of me.

You know what? Some of them did. I know that a lot of people judged me, and I don’t blame them. It did look like I was being mean, or unfair, or harsh. Gradually, though, the people who mattered began to see how I’d really been feeling. A real friend will want you to be happy, no matter what anyone else says or thinks.

(I have a feeling someone said this before Dr. Seuss, can anyone enlighten me?)

Sometimes you have to choose your happiness, and everything else can wait a while. It might mean saying “no”, but that’s OK. The world will get over it… eventually. 

PS, if my old friend is reading this, you know who you are! Let's have a chat soon xxx

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Strength Through Writing

You may have noticed I haven’t been quite as attentive as I usually am vis-à-vis blogging of late. My posts have been sparse, for which I apologise, not only because it’s been Study Central at my house recently, but also because I haven’t felt a lot of enthusiasm for my blog. It’s been a while since I ran home and logged on to check my views, or grabbed a scrap of paper for a post I really needed to draft, ASAP.  

I have been writing some posts, but none seemed to flow very well or have a good, solid point, so I decided to leave them till I’m feeling more up to it.

My emotions have been all over the place recently. I’ve been moody and stressed and that, for me, isn’t really a good place to “blog” from. I’ve always felt that the hardest part about having a blog is that what you’re really selling is yourself. The popularity, success, and just the general contribution your blog makes is all to do with whether people like the personality you’re putting across. If they don’t, then they probably won’t want to read anything you have to say.

So if you’re writing something with the intention of it being read, and it’s coming from a negative place, you run the risk of sounding at best disjointed or confusing and at worst negative or resentful.
The night before my English mock something put me in a bad mood, and that meant my personal essay the next day was basically me complaining and trying to make a coherent passage out of a hundred different opinions.

That’s probably why I’d be afraid to write professionally—say for a magazine or newspaper—because so much of my writing depends on my mood. So if you miss me for a while in the Blogopshere, that’s how come. My life, like everyone else’s, has its many ups and downs, and my blog is always going to be an extension of that.

Rest assured, however, that I am always writing—even if you don’t see it. There are two types or writing I do: blogging and so forth for you guys to read, and also my fiction writing which is very different. Very few people have ever read my fiction, and it certainly isn’t ever written for anyone but me.

I started writing fiction when I felt lonely and upset. It was, unashamedly, a form of escapism, as reading and writing are for so many people. So while my “professional” writing might suffer from my mood fluctuations, my fiction work is essentially this big Dementor that feeds on it (Better analogy to come when I think of one). When things aren’t going my way, I love to sit down and type or scribble a story… and that’s where we come to strength.

I get so much strength from writing, because all of us writers love our characters—I think—and we are always strongest when we’re with those we love. Even if they aren’t particularly… well, real. That doesn’t always matter, and sometimes in fact, it’s better.

I love to delve into a story that’s never been finished, with characters  friends I’ve known for years, and maybe I’ll develop the plot, maybe I’ll develop them as people, maybe I’ll think about my setting. I’ll do anything but be in this world and worry about my real life, my other life.

At the moment, I am continuing work on a story I suspended about three years ago. It’s the first “book” I started on deciding I wanted to write. It’s always been the most special to me, and the one I’ve kept most private. Even the little scraps I might have mentioned or shown people have made me feel pretty uncomfortable.

It’s not the plotline or the setting. To be honest they’re not very unique or special. I know that.

It’s the characters. They’re all mine and I love each and every one of them, possibly irrationally. I write about people who are both strong but realistically weak, smart but realistically stupid at times… I have such a collection that I know, when I’m in trouble, one of them will know what to do. Which means, really, that somewhere inside me, I’ll know what to do. Does that make any sense at all?

The reason, when I gave up writing that story for a multitude of reasons years ago, that I always knew I would come back, was that I love those characters so much and I felt like their story deserved to be told, no matter how long it took and will continue to take.

Basically, I guess what I’m trying to say, in a very long-winded, roundabout way (you were warned at the beginning) is that I gather a lot of strength from writing. It’s like nothing else. It’s having a chat with an old friend who knows you inside out, it’s being completely alone and ignoring the world, it’s deep thinking, it’s thinking of nothing, it’s wandering down passages in your mind so long forgotten you surprise yourself with your own thoughts and memories…

And then, after a while, you finish writing. Take the pen off the page or press the x on the computer, and stand up. And get on with your life. And have just enough strength and fire built up inside you to last till next time. 

Monday, 7 April 2014

If at first you don't succeed...

Hi guys!

My more avid readers (do I have those?) may have noticed that the "writing competition" tab has disappeared from view.

The competition was due to close at Easter, but so far I've had no entries. I think it's a busy time for people, and I'm definitely at fault because, having been so busy with my exams, I haven't put as much work in as I probably should. For my last competition, there was a radio interview, mentions on several other websites, phonecalls, posters... but this time round I've been too busy, for which I apologise.

When I do something, I always want to put everything I've got into it and make it the best it can be for everyone. Sadly that hasn't happened and at the moment I'd rather not do this at all than do it half-heartedly.

If it happens that you have been scribbling away at something, then do let me know. Perhaps people were waiting till the closing date!

Most likely, I'll re-open another writing competition in the summer when everyone--including me--has a bit more time to think about it!


Catherine Ann x

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Strength... The Final Push

No, I haven’t just become a mum or a midwife. I’m talking about that awful idea that’s taken up the last two years of my life, along with the lives of millions of others for the past too many years.

It’s the Leaving Cert.

T minus two months as of now. And I might be having a breakdown a bit nervous about it. I’ve just confirmed my university choice, and now it’s all about getting the grades!

Most of us have actually already started our exams—those who didn’t have modern language orals last week will be doing Irish soon, or are in the middle of writing up projects and field work, or wondering if they hit all the notes in their music practical.

The real exams begin on 4th June 2014, and no matter what you say, it’s important. You might need two million points to study medical biophysical chemicology or you might have a job waiting for you… but no matter how much emphasis you place on your grades and points, let’s be honest: we’ve all worked at this for two years, and by extension six, even seventeen or eighteen years. So it would kind of suck to think we 
hadn’t done the best we could.

When it came to these exams, I’d known what I wanted to get out of them since before the Junior cert! So I pretty much started from day one. Fifth year was full of study and hard work, and yes, lots of stress. I thrive under pressure and I put myself under a lot. I was well aware that this was a marathon, not a sprint. Cramming at the end would not be an option. In second year, I’d done nothing—because there’s just something about being fourteen—so I knew not to make the same mistakes twice.

As anticipated, my hard work is paying off. I got a good set of mock results. It wasn’t all in vain.
There was also the expected smug feeling as people who’d scorned all my note-taking and extra-work-doing last year frantically sifted through textbooks in the weeks before the mocks, while I flicked through my folders of notes and diagrams in a relative—very relative—state of calm.

The problem was, when everyone else was fired up to put on that final spurt, around February time, to get in as much work between here and June… I stopped. They had all switched on and I had switched off!
I think I burnt out. I don’t regret all my hard work, but it’s quite difficult now when I get home and all I want to do is sleep. I don’t want to say I worked too hard, but my body and brain feel pretty drained at the moment.

So how can I gather my strength for this final push of revision over the next few months? I need to improve on my mock results, and it would be such a shame to see all my work go to waste.
This time last year I was getting up at 6:30 to do an hour of study before school. I loved studying in the quiet morning, before my brain got tired from school… but this year I barely get up half an hour before leaving the house!

It would appear to be the same for many of my fellow sixth years. We enter the automatic doors to school with eyes half-closed, telling each other how long it’s been since we brushed our hair or wore makeup. We huddle together in a little group in the entrance hall, trying to close our ears to everything, and having competitive conversations about who got the least sleep last night.

I suppose it’s hard to explain to your body—those tired eyes, back aching from schoolbags and lab stools, shoulders hunched from too-small desks—that there are only two months left. I think keeping that in mind, those two months followed by a lovely break, would really help.

I guess having firmed my university, picked accommodation etc, gathers some focus. But I still can’t seem to settle to the hours I was putting in before! It seems unfair somehow for my “tús maith, leath na hoibre” attitude to have gone to waste.

C’mon guys, there are only two months left! Surely we can make some sacrifices? Surely we can get up a bit earlier, study a bit longer, practise a bit more?

Just for two months? For me???

I sure hope so.