Little White Lies

Little white lies. You know, those innocent little remarks that people use to avoid a sticky situation. “Does my ass look big in this?” “Of course not!” “I’ve lost weight, can you tell?” “I was just thinking you looked really skinny!”

Why do these lies exist? Who, at what point in history, realised that it would be easier to just agree with a loved one (because certainly, these lies tend to be told in relationships) than to suffer the wrath of admitting that a corset could be doing with being pulled a good few notches tighter? It’s something that intrigues me. I’m honest. Painfully so. It’s landed me in trouble more times than I care to remember. So when I see people engaging in these innocent lies, I can’t help but watch for the consequences. Often, it’s just that – innocent. But sometimes, people get greedy. One person feigning awe at invisible weight loss isn’t enough. It has to come from everyone. But why?

More and more these days, people find their self-worth in what others think of them. We’re all guilty of it at some point or another. Buying a dress because a friend says it looks good. Having more than a few drinks at the end of the day because someone at work thinks you’re lousy at your job, regardless of what’s actually happened.
The point of this blog post? To tell you to knock it off. Your opinion is what matters. Buy the dress because you think it looks good. Do your best regardless of what someone else thinks you should be doing. And don’t constantly seek others’ approval. Your own approval is the only one you need.

Family

What is family?

When faced with a question, I did what everyone does these days. I Googled it. Oxford Dictionary and Wikipedia had the usual definitions – any group of persons related by blood.  Urban Dictionary had, again as usual, slightly odder definitions, but still relatively accurate ones – a bunch of people who hate each other but eat dinner together, usually annoying and invasive around the holidays, a word used to force you to do things you don’t want to do.

They’re all fairly relevant, aren’t they? Anyway, the reason I’ve been thinking on this lately. An event (hereafter referred to as The Incident) happened in my family last year that has had extremely serious repercussions.  I won’t go into it, but trusts were fractured into what must be at least a billion parts.  No apologies were made, and no attempts at reconciliation happened.   I think the person at the root of the problem might have convinced themselves that they did nothing wrong. Crimes were never proven, and time moved on.  Now that we’re over a year later, the person continues as always, and on the surface, everyone else has moved on.

But they haven’t moved on, and I was reminded of this today. It’s my father’s birthday in a couple of months; my incredibly strong and wise father.  He has been through so much in the last year, not least The Incident. Discussions regarding celebrations began tentatively, and were quashed extremely quickly when some family members stated they didn’t want to come – it was too awkward given the past.

It looks like we may have become one of those families that only ever get together now for funerals. Cheery, right? So, post Incident life seems to be plodding along on the surface, but underneath, the repercussions look to be permanent.  All I want is for my family to be whole again, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

So what is a family? Is it merely the people who are related to you, regardless of their actions?  Or is it about the relationships that you make yourself – whether people are related or not – that are cultivated and grown to the point that you can’t imagine being without them?

Clichés

It all started with a man.

I’ve had this stuck in my head for a couple of weeks. I’m toying with the idea of a short story that begins with this line.  I won’t go into it; mostly because I haven’t thought it through at all yet. But I’m currently fixated on this line.  I really want to start the story with this, but isn’t it a massive cliché?  There’s nothing worse than opening a book, reading the first line, and thinking “Oh dear… Is it all going to be like this?”

I notice things like this. I know, I know – I’m obsessive over stupid little things like this. But I wondered, what do other people think? Am I obsessing over nothing, or is there a blacklist of opening lines for works of fiction?

Alone

Alone is an interesting word. Just look at it up there. You immediately think “This is going to be a sad post” or “Uh oh, what’s happened in her life?” But it shouldn’t have to imply any of these things.

I was inspired to write this blog post last night. Friday night, alone in my house (not counting feline friends), watching The Following (fantastic by the way, you should catch it if you haven’t already). I thought of my friends, out at a party, or spending time with their significant others, and thought, gosh, I bet they think it’s a bit sad that I’m home alone on a Friday night.

But the weird thing was, I was happy about it. I’ve come to realise that inside, I’ve always been a bit of a loner. At high school, I tried to be friendly with everyone, but the truth was, when too many people were around, I just wanted to disappear. It’s only very recently that I’ve realised it’s okay not to be craving the company of others all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be alone 100%  of the time, but when I am alone, I’m okay with it.

People who are classed as “loners” usually get a bad rep. Movies and books always have the cliche serial killer profile “Oh he was always a loner, we knew there was something off about him”. Well, I can assure you, I’m not a serial killer. Nor do I have any plans to become one. I’m just a regular person who enjoys spending time on my own to read, write, draw… Lots of things.

So I guess this post is for all of you fellow loners out there (oxymoron?) Have a grand old time with the company of your good self, and own your loner status.

Obsessed…

So, as I write this, I’m sitting in a bar on a Monday afternoon – pretty good, right? I’m meeting a friend for dinner, and naturally, dinner is preceded by pre-dinner drinks. It just makes sense. Now, I’m not just bragging. There is a reason I tell you this. Said friend is running a tad late. This is no problem – a half hours peace with a glass of cider is never a problem. I order, I sit, and I instinctively hit the Kindle app icon on my phone. I’m in the middle of a book (Inhuman, by Kat Falls, since you ask) and half an hour free to read seems like a good thing.

However, I am seriously not enjoying this book. It’s a typical dystopia – this is how the world is, oh wait, it’s not, oh wow now I hate the government. I’m not knocking this – I love these books when they’re done well. This particular book though has thrown in the inevitable love triangle which I just have no interest in whatsoever. It started with Twilight (no, Harry, Ron and Hermione were never a love triangle, I don’t care what you say) and has been present in at least 83% of young adult books since (statistics are sourced from the Barney Stinson Institute). The plain girl being fought over by two very different but both very wonderful men has been done to death. Now, if this is what you’re into, fair play to you. You’ll enjoy this book. But it’s not for me.

There’s a simple solution – stop reading every dystopian book that crosses my path. But I have issues (one at a time, please). I am obsessed with this genre. I have no idea why. And the worst part is, even if I don’t like a book, I will finish it. I need to know what happens to the characters. Even if it’s characters I dislike or the outcome is obvious, I need to know. What does this say about me? Am I easily suckered in? Has every book I’ve read in the last couple of years had astounding character development? I have no idea. Is this a rather rambly blog post? Why yes, yes it is.

I suppose it could be seen as a good thing – I’m dedicated, and I have to see something through to the end, no matter what. Or I’m just pernickety about unfinished story lines. I’ll finish this book, and I’ll probably complain about how predictable it was. A glutton for punishment, you might say.

Is anyone else like this? Is there a solution? Answers on a postcard please…

Another Year Wiser

I recently celebrated yet another anniversary of my birth.  So much has happened over the last year.  I’ve met some amazing people, and some total assholes.  I’ve moved into a beautiful new home, adopted two gorgeous little kittens, and had what can only be described as a rollercoaster of a year at work.  I think, for the first time, I actually feel older.  Did anyone else wake up on their birthdays as a kid, rushing to see if they’d grown any since the day before, or try to work out how much maturity they’d gained overnight?  That was me.  Shockingly, I never noticed a huge difference.  But this year, something is different.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I feel like an adult (who does?) but I’m definitely not a little kid anymore.  At the very least, I have a pretty good idea of what I want from life.  And I’m ready for it :-)  Bring it on.

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The boys hanging out in one of their favourite spots

Birchbox UK – December

I was over the moon to receive my first Birchbox at the end of last month.  After years of watching YouTube beauty and fashion videos, and moping that I didn’t live in the US because they “got all the cool stuff”, it took approximately half a second for a Google search to reveal that in fact, Birchbox have been operating in the UK for years.  Whoops.  I signed up in about 60 seconds flat.

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Without wanting to sound like I’m the person who gets suckered into everything with a sales pitch, this is fantastic.  It’s like getting a completely random gift without having to go to the effort of having a birthday (why yes, I am justifying this by grasping at straws, how sweet of you to notice).  It’s quoted as costing only £10 per month, which is a wee bit of a fib, considering there’s £2.95 postage too.  But I’m pretty impressed with December’s contents (plus the first month is free postage!) so I’m not complaining.

My box included sample sizes of five products, as well as a full sized nail polish (photo above).  I’ve tested most of the products so far, and it’s fair to say I’m impressed. I would never have bought a full sized version of any of these products if I had randomly seen them in a shop.  I’ve always been sceptical of non-aerosol hair sprays, but this one has great hold, and definitely doesn’t leave the sticky feeling that regular hairspray does.  Ditto on the loose powder eyeshadow – no one needs anything that’s going to cause any extra fall out or mess.  But this is cute, and a gorgeous colour (Chai, according to the bottom of the pot).  The lip stain I haven’t tested on my lips yet.  I’m always wary about new lip products, as there’s “something” out there that I’m allergic to.  A slick of Nivea lip balm as a teenager taught me this – I had a swollen lip for weeks.  Not a good look.  I’ll try it over the weekend when I won’t have to walk into work looking like I’ve gotten into a fight.  Nice colour though.

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I’m really looking forward to trying out the Velvet Manicure polish that was included too. You can’t really tell from the photo at the top, but it’s a gorgeous purple colour.  That’ll be a job for the weekend.

Oh, and I forgot to say, all of the products came in the sweetest little Birchbox bag! It’ll be good for when I’m travelling and I want to keep my makeup brushes separate from the actual products (I have pretty bad luck when it comes to lids…)

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Can’t wait till next month!

The Return

Goodness gracious.  Four posts in 12 months does not a blog make!  2014 is the year of the blog though.  Maybe even the vlog.  Who knows!

In all seriousness, 2013 was some year.  It swung from low points to high points so quickly that recapping it would give both you and I whiplash, so let’s not.

Instead, let’s look forward.  It’s going to be a good year.

Storytelling

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed my last post was awfully close to heart. It’s been a while, and if one can’t vent on one’s own blog, where can one? I try not to do it too often though. I wouldn’t want to read it, so I wouldn’t inflict it on you.

A lot has happened these past months. I won’t bore you with it, but it’s safe to say I’ve grown up. But instead of trying to explain it, I’m going to talk about books instead. Because, ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been reading GROWN UP BOOKS!

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been reading the usual crap too. I had to break up some of the heavier books with some Sophie Kinsella trash, which can occasionally be worth a read; sadly not these ones. And I’ve read some fantastic Dystopian young adult books too, like Unwind and Wool (which has a dumb name in my opinion). I might write about those another time, but for now, GROWN UP BOOKS!

Disclaimer: I don’t do proper grown up books. I can’t be bothered with biographies. Dislike stories based on truth. My reasoning has always been: if a book upsets or disturbs me, I can put it down and remind myself it’s not real. Very mature response but that’s just me. So for me, this is a big deal.

I want to talk about storytelling. It’s a real art (not one I am implying I am master of in the slightest). So I read Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn). I read Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller. I read The Silver Linings Playbook, by … Matthew Quick (thank goodness for my Kindle app). And I read The Casual Vacancy, by the great JK Rowling. These are all without a doubt completely different to the Dystopian books I’ve been filling my brain with lately. And it completely and utterly bums me out to say that The Casual Vacancy was the one I enjoyed the least. Anyone who knows me knows that Mr Potter and I go way back.

But this is where the storytelling comes in. People will glance at this and assume I’m a fantasy nut, who couldn’t cope with JKR writing something without magic in it. And to be honest, I wouldn’t blame you. Read what I just wrote. But it’s simply not the case. Take The Storyteller. Anyone who knows me would have a heart attack if you told them I read a book that was mostly set in a concentration camp in World War II. Scary, real stuff that actually happened to thousands of people. But I was riveted. I loved the characters, wanted to know how it panned out for them. The Casual Vacancy didn’t have that. Every last character was as obnoxious as the next. But even this shouldn’t be reason enough to dislike a book. The two main characters in Gone Girl were complete and utter assholes, for lack of a better word. But I couldn’t put that book down. I needed to know if these idiots got the comeuppance. So why didn’t I like Vacancy? Why did I spend the whole book willing a meteor to fall out of the sky and crush the entire town of Pagford? I have this issue where I can’t leave a book unfinished, but I truly had to force myself to read this one. I had no attachment to any character. I didn’t hate them, I didn’t love them, I didn’t even merely like them. How did this woman, one of the greatest storytellers of our time, allow this to happen?

My own opinion is that there was too much shoved in there. I know it was supposed to show how the whole town was, but enough is enough. Don’t throw the girl who cuts herself in for shock value. Don’t casually bring in the awkward middle aged woman’s crush on what I can only assume was this universe’s 1Direction for the sake of a hastily written fumble. I can’t even remember any other points about the book. I guess I was rooting for Robbie and Krystal to an extent, hoping they’d escape to a better life. There was no redemption for any of the characters though, no happy ever after. I guess it just seemed pointless. Where did we go? We went on this journey with an entire town and I feel like we accomplished nothing. Silver Linings Playbook dragged on a little, but at least by the end we had the full story.

So that’s my opinion. I read a couple of great books, a couple of alright ones, and one that definitely won’t be having a reread. But the next time Queen Rowling comes out with a book, I’ll still dive right in there. Seven good books versus one mediocre one is pretty good odds. Don’t know what book is next on my list. I think there’s a few Jo Nesbo’s on my Kindle app but I’m not really feeling a murder type book at the moment. After going a little dystopia nuts lately, it’s probably a worthwhile read though. Will keep you posted!

Inspiration

Someone tried to tell me today who should inspire me. They implied that, because I didn’t agree with their thoughts, I was wrong. Bad things happen to people every day. Does that mean I have to look up to someone, just because something bad happened to them? Surely it’s about the personality? I don’t think that someone can tell you who to admire. Everyone thinks differently. It’s our uniqueness that makes us brilliant.

I am constantly inspired by different people. Everyone has hardships. But it’s not the people who bang on about it. It’s the people who accept them, deal with them, live with them. They deserve to be admired.

Take my parents. They’ve just had what can only be described as one of the worst Springs in history, thanks to illness, incompetence and the actions of one incomprehensibly selfish individual. But they’re still standing. They continue to do everything they can to care for our family. They don’t mope around or whine about what’s happened to them. They constantly inspire me. No one can tell me that’s “wrong”.

Take the people with mental health issues. The ones who struggle to get out of bed in the morning, who feel like they can’t face the cruelty of the world. But they do. They take themselves to work, they look after their kids, they get on. Those people deserve to be admired, and they’re an inspiration to people who regularly find the day difficult.

People are strong, often more so than they believe. And it’s that strength that should be respected and admired. Don’t look up to someone automatically because someone tells you to. Make your own mind up, and find your own role models in life. Don’t let anyone tell you what to think, and equally as important, don’t tell anyone else what to think. Stay strong.