Tag Archives: #MondayBlogs

A Pre-Christmas Coffee Catch Up With……Jake Power

coffee catch up

It was a chilly Saturday afternoon when I finally managed to catch up with Jake Power, front man with Silver Lake.  The band were in Glasgow a day early for the final show of their hugely successful Bonded Souls tour. Many of the arena shows in the UK have been sold out weeks in advance and Sunday’s show in the SSE Hydro is no exception. (I bought my ticket pre-sale over six months ago)

As we sat in a city centre coffee shop, I asked Jake how the recent run of shows had gone.

“They’ve been incredible! British audiences are so much more passionate than American crowds. And louder! You guys really know how to rock!” he enthused. “I don’t mean any disrespect to our American fan base but shows at home tend to be in smaller venues, security can be strict and things seem a little more reserved. In these 10 000 seater arenas here, we’ve seen mosh pits every night.”

Before reaching the UK, Silver Lake toured through mainland Europe so I asked how those shows had measured up.

“They were all great. Some countries are more passionate than others. Italy was insane. We played shows in Milan and Rome. Those crowds were crazy! Cologne in Germany was a good show too. We played in Amsterdam just before we came over here. That one didn’t pan out so well. There were a few glitches. The fire alarm went off and we had to evacuate the venue twenty minutes into our set. I feel we owe those fans another show. We only had time to play three or four songs after they let us back into the building.”

With three critically acclaimed albums under their belts, I asked Jake what the Scottish fans could expect for the final show of the tour.

“A full two hour set, that’s for sure,” was Jake’s immediate reply. I was rewarded with one of those “Power” smiles! “We were talking about the set at lunch earlier. Grey has it written on the back of a napkin. I think we were up to nineteen or twenty songs. If we can work them all in before the curfew then we’ll play them.”

“Jake, you’ve been on the road for the last six weeks and have already commented on stage that it’s the longest that you’ve been away from your wife. How tough has that been?”

“Very,” admitted Jake, running his hand through his long blonde hair. “Usually Lori would travel with us for part of a tour. We had planned that she’d come over and spend a week or so here and travel back home with us but, when we really thought it through, it just wasn’t going to be practical. Both of us felt it would be too much for Miss Melody and would trash her routine.”

This is a rare mention by Jake of his baby daughter and seizing the moment I asked how she was.

“She’s incredible. I can’t wait to get home to my girls. Melody’s at the stage she’s changing every day. I’ve missed so much in six weeks. Her personality is developing. If only she slept a bit better at night!”

Almost shyly, Jake showed me a photo on his phone of his wife Lori holding their baby girl. So far, they’ve shielded their daughter from the media but trust me, she’s adorable.

Now that the Bonded Souls tour cycle is winding up, I asked Jake about his and Silver Lake’s plans for the coming year.

“We’re all taking a break over the holidays then I head into the studio late January with Weigh Station. Those guys plan to have a new album out in the spring and to do a few of the summer festivals. Maybe a few side shows too. My diary has a few dates both here in Europe and in the US pencilled in from May through till August. Silver Lake are planning to hit the studio again in the fall. The schedule is filling up for next year and the year after. There’s talk of a full Weigh Station tour and a Silver Lake tour.”

“So, what’s first on your agenda when you get home, Jake?”

“Laundry! I’m running out of clean shorts,” laughed the charismatic front man, his hazel brown eyes twinkling with mischief. “No, seriously, laundry and some quality time with my li’l ladies. A quiet family Christmas.”

“At the beach?”

“No. Actually we’re heading off to the Poconos on Dec 23rd. Lori and I spent a short honeymoon there last Christmas, thanks to our manager Jethro. We stayed in an amazing log cabin near a huge frozen lake. It was so quiet. So peaceful. Both of us loved it so much we decided to go back this year. We’ll head back to New York for New Year’s then home to Rehoboth a few days later. Both of us have some business commitments in the city the first week in January. We’ll bring in the New Year with Maddy, our manager. She throws these huge New Year’s parties every year at her apartment. I’m under strict orders to be there with my guitars.”

As Jake stretched out his long denim clad legs and settled back in his seat, we ordered another coffee then I asked if he found it hard to slip back into “normal” life after a tour.

“It takes a few days to adjust,” he confessed. “On tour we are ruled by the clock constantly. Jethro and Maddy run a tight ship. We stick to the published itinerary. Doing as the boss tells us..well, most of the time.” He paused then continued. “The first day or so, Lori usually gives me a bit of space to do my own thing. Come down time. Time to go for a couple of long runs. Time to sort out my guitars after the tour. Time to do my laundry! I suspect things might be a little different this time. It’s the first time I’ve been away from my daughter for so long.  I just want to spend time with her and with Lori. Family time. That has to come first.”

As our coffees arrived, I asked Jake how his bandmates chilled out after a tour. He laughed then revealed, “They’ll kill me for saying this. Grey needs to get his hands dirty. He’s a mechanic and his yard is full of “projects”. He’ll be under the hood of one of his wreckers before the jet lag hits him.  Paul needs a day to go fishing. He also needs to get past Maddison and that can be a challenge. She’s a scary lady! I’d put money on it though that Paul has a boat trip booked for the end of next week already. Rich is the only one who takes a proper vacation every time. He heads to Florida to his sister and her family. I guess he likes to thaw out in the sun after this cold winter weather. He’ll be back in Rehoboth mid-January as we have teaching workshops booked in.”

“Workshops?”

Jake nodded. “We’re both music teachers at heart still. Every chance we get, we run a workshop or two at the high school where we both taught. As we’re home for a few weeks, Rich has worked out a four week course. Grey and Paul are involved here too this time. I think it’s two workshops per week after school and two all-day Saturday sessions. The aim is to pull a band or maybe even two bands together in time for the Valentine’s Day Ball.”

It struck me that home really is at the heart of Silver Lake. All four members live in and around the same small town, Rehoboth, Delaware, and all seem keen to give something back to their local community.

“We owe a lot to the local fans,” Jake acknowledged. “They’ve been behind us for a long time and it’s a pity we don’t get to play more shows closer to home. The closest we get to Rehoboth is either Baltimore or Philly. We talked about doing some small local shows like we used to. You know, Friday night set in a local bar. Something impromptu and low key. Hopefully we’ll make it happen in the spring next year.”

I asked Jake if he had any plans for any solo shows.

“No but never say never,” he replied with a grin. “I’ve only ever done one. That was couple of years back at the air force base in Dover. My brothers are both air force. Peter called in a favour at the last minute. The band he had booked to play had missed their flight or something and were stuck in Canada. I only had a few hours’ notice but I didn’t want to let him down. It’s the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done! I felt like I was stripped naked in front of two hundred airmen.”

Now, there’s a thought, ladies….

I pointed out that Jake had appeared half naked several times with Weigh Station, prompting a fit of laughter.

“You can blame the late Dan Crow for that,” said Jake grinning. “And before you ask, I intend to keep all my clothes on in the Hydro tomorrow night. Too damn cold here to do anything else!”

Checking the time, Jake apologised that he would need to go, explaining that he had a call to make back at his hotel. I had time to squeeze in one last quick question so, as Christmas is only a couple of weeks off, I asked what he hoped Santa Claus would bring him this year.

“Actually, I’m hoping for a new laptop,” Jake said as he reached for his leather jacket. “I dropped mine in London the other night. It fell off the table in the dressing room. Smashed the screen. Split the casing. I haven’t confessed this to my wife yet though. I only got it just before we left for this tour. Maybe I’ll be on the naughty list for that and end up getting underwear and socks on Christmas morning.”

As I watched Jake leave the coffee  shop, flashing a smile at the waitresses behind the counter, I couldn’t help but wonder if he’ll get that laptop or not….

 

 

The Silver Lake series is available via Amazon both in  Kindle and paperback formats

Amazon.com link   https://www.amazon.com/Coral-McCallum/e/B00VYU1SZ6/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Amazon.co.uk link    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Coral-McCallum/e/B00VYU1SZ6/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Book 4 in the series is planned for  2019

 

(image sourced via Google – credits to the owner)

 

 

 

 

 

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The End Is In Sight…..of my tether that is!

end-of-the-tether

It’s Monday and this isn’t a good sign….. I’ve reached the end of my tether!

Anyone who knows me will appreciate that I generally quite a patient person. Some of you might even say too patient but occasionally even I reach the end of my rope.

So where does the phrase come from and what does it really mean?

A little research ( not got the patience for extensive research this evening) revealed it’s a phrase used mainly in the USA and UK. It means to have reached the end of your patience, to be completely worn out, exasperated or exhausted.

So. What’s a tether in this context? Cue more Googling – a rope used to restrict the freedom of grazing animals by tying one end around their neck and the other to a stake in the ground.

tethered pony

 

Hmmmm…….

 

Pass me the scissors or a knife….this tether is being cut!

Normally to soothe me frayed nerves I would head out for a walk along the beach but its kind of cold and dark out there right now.

Virtual beach walk required before I settle down to continue the tale that’s shaping up to be Book Baby 4.

 http://livebeaches.com/rehoboth-beach-de/webcams/rehoboth-beach-boardwalk/

 I can almost feel the sand between my toes…..

 

(images sourced via Google – credits to the owners)

Introducing…….

Mary

Social media and the internet really have made the world a smaller place…..

 

An American Facebook friend recently commented on one of my promotional posts, drawing one of her friend’s attention to it. The common link here, other than Facebook, is music and books and on more than one level.

All three of us share a musical family “bond” – we’re all fans of Alter Bridge and part of the worldwide “AB family”

On another level, Mary and I have both written “rockstar” novels. In another twist, Mary has written her debut about a British Rockstar while my hero, Jake Power, is American. (Mary is American; I’m British)

I read the synopsis of The Guitarist on Amazon and was suitably intrigued so purchased the e-book there and then.  (I should say, the favour has been returned. Thanks, Mary)

 

I loved it! Loved Nicholas Trent too by the end (and Oliver).

 

I’ve already posted my short review on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Good Reads, happily awarding The Guitarist a well-earned  5 stars.

 

In case, you’ve missed it, here’s what I said

 

Great debut novel from Mary Ogden Fersner!

I quickly developed a soft spot for Nicholas Trent then gradually grew to love him as the story wove its magic.

There are aspects of this book that you can “hear” and others that you “feel” as you live the journey of the central characters.

One of the strengths of this debut is Mary’s descriptive style of writing where her words paint the picture before your very eyes, bringing it to life.

One minor criticism is that for my liking there are perhaps too many sub-characters and too many names to remember but, that said, it doesn’t detract from the strength and believability of the central characters.

I loved the human/normal element to this rock star….sorry. guitar player…..tale.

I’m really looking forward to discovering what the future holds for these guys.

Great read. Well done, Mary!

 

Now, us “indie authors” need to stick together here. It takes a lot of time and effort  ( slight understatement) to get a book into print and no small amount of personal courage to put it out there for the world to see. It’s also soul destroying, hard work promoting it once it’s out there.

 

In good old-fashioned “pay it forward” style, I reached out to Mary and asked if she would agree to answer a few questions to allow me to showcase her debut here.

 

So, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to Mary Ogden Fersner, the author of The Guitarist.

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Mary, how did it feel to finally see your name in print and hold your book in your hands?

 

Oh man, it’s the most incredible feeling of accomplishment I think I’ve ever felt! So exhilarating! Of course, the first time I felt it was with the novella I published prior to The Guitarist. I wanted to see how easy it would be to use CreateSpace/KDP, but I didn’t have a long work ready to invest. I had this novella which I eventually named, Cruise Encounter as near ready as anything else I had, and I experimented with that. Getting the galley was exciting, but receiving an actual box of approved books was great! It eased me into the self-publishing world and helped with invaluable lessons. (Shameless plug: Cruise Encounter is available as a paperback and ebook from Amazon.)          

 

What inspired you to write The Guitarist? Why did you choose to make your hero British?

 

To be honest, I’m a bit obsessed with Brits. I love the language, LOVE the accent, love the sense of humor. Naturally, I wanted a beautiful British man whispering sweet nothings into the ear of my ego-challenged American woman. Hahaha!! But he would have to have problems of his own to make a good story.

Hence, the inspiration. My husband experienced a pretty serious health problem in 2012 and if we weren’t going to a doctor’s office, we were home. That was the year the Tom Cruise movie, Rock of Ages came out. When one of my friends asked me if I wanted to see it with her, I didn’t realize how happy I would be just to get out of the house for a few hours. I had been in a five year writing slump at that point—and make no mistake, this is one of the cheesiest movies ever made—but when two of the characters sang the Foreigner song, “I Wanna Know What Love Is” to each other, a switch turned on in my head. I considered how hard it must be for an unattached, working musician on the road to find a lasting relationship—if he or she even wanted one at all.            

 

 

Will there be more about Nicholas and Caitlyn and Oliver (I liked Oliver) in the future?

 

I’m glad you like Oliver. Everyone seems to like Oliver. I’m seriously partial to the Bishops as a family. I think I invented them to be the warm, loving family my own was not. They weren’t as bad as Caitlin’s family, but they were not the Bishops. But to answer your question, Nicholas, Caitlin, and Oliver—especially Oliver—are in the novella, Cruise Encounter. The Guitarist was finished and “cooking” as they say, when I wrote the cruise story and I needed them. Because touring musicians often know each other, tour together, and are sometimes even friends, my characters will make appearances from one book to another even though the MAIN characters are ones the reader has yet to meet. Nicholas and Caitlin play a part in my next, as-yet-untitled, book in the Tools of Tone Series. I hope I can keep them there. Haha!

 

 

When did you first start writing? What motivates you to write?

 

When I was a kid, I always made up stories in my head involving characters I’d see on TV or read about in books, but I didn’t write any fiction—actually write it—until sometime in junior high school (grades 7-9). I don’t remember exactly which grade, but I was an early teen. The story was inspired by song lyrics and I’m still inspired by song lyrics. For Nicholas Trent’s backstory, the Def Leppard song “Paper Sun” from their 1999 album Euphoria, and a song called “Loose Cannon” from The Mayfield Four’s 2001 album called Second Skin gave me the direction I needed. 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you approach the task of writing a novel? Are you a master planner or are you “winging it”?

 

Oh, I’m definitely a “pantser.” Winging it by the seat of my pants. Hahaha!! And that’s why I always have so much editing to do. I let my characters lead the way and sometimes they go off on tangents that I need to lead them out of. The original draft of The Guitarist was 149K words and I ended up cutting out over 55K out of it. I cut characters and scenes I swore I had to keep, but in the end, they didn’t really add to the story. I’ve got a great Thanksgiving Day scene at Billy Farmer’s house that just had to go. That being said, I never throw anything away. All these scenes reside in my “Deleted Scenes” file so I can modify them for another story if the chance presents itself.

 

 

Where do you prefer to write?

 

I would love to say somewhere without distraction, but that does not describe my life. My desk is a dining room table that our dining area is too small to hold, and I write in between loads of laundry, letting dogs out one at a time, because God forbid they act like a pack and go out all three together. Hahaha!! Not to mention other household chores. Ugh! But when I’m really in the zone, none of that matters. I can’t be able to hear a television or music with lyrics. I like to have instrumental rock guitar music, the white noise of a fan blowing, or both at the same time. I write initial stages of any work longhand in a spiral notebook. I used to get allergy shots and I wrote much of The Guitarist in the waiting room of my allergist’s office, earbuds in, listening to my Neal Schon station on Pandora, waiting for my thirty minutes to be over. Even then, if I was on a roll, I’d stay and finish so I wouldn’t forget. 

 

You wrote a “playlist” at the end of the book (neat idea), who are your own musical idols?

 

Pretty much everyone who was listed, the main ones being Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani, Andy Timmons, Steve Morse, Jeff Beck, Neal Schon, John Petrucci—who incidentally does a great song with G3 called Glasgow Kiss. You should look it up on YouTube. It’s a great song. Some of the vocal bands I like are first and foremost Alter Bridge. Talk about inspiring lyrics! Papa Roach, Seether, Shinedown, Sixx A.M., The Virginmarys, Foo Fighters, Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, The Mayfield Four, Theory of a Deadman, and many others. 

 

If you could meet one rock star or band and hang in a bar like Westie’s bar in the book, who would you pick and why?

 

Hahaha!! Who could I pick and not act like a goofy fangirl? I guess I’ll say Alter Bridge. I’ve met them a few times through meet and greets and such. They were on ShipRocked last year. I’m pretty good about being myself most of the time, and people I know have hung out with them. I know they are all lovely men and very fan friendly. But their music . . . it has meant the world to me. I mean, they have seriously ROCKED me, and they’ve also brought me to tears. What could I possibly say that could interest them? Hahaha!! I’m almost in tears now, thinking about it. I’m a goober, plain and simple. (sniff) Hahaha!! (It took me fifteen minutes to come up with this answer. Hahaha!!) Goober.

 

What advice would you give to other aspiring authors?

 

(Recovering myself) Just sit down and write. It’s a first draft. You don’t have to have the perfect opening line, you just need an opening line. It could be what you had for breakfast, or something interesting you saw while walking your dog, or it could be a rant about some careless driver. Write SOMETHING.

I have a writer friend who lost her husband last year. She desperately wanted to write about her grief, their life together, her life without him. But the words wouldn’t come and so she filled pages and pages with “s**t happens.” That’s all that would come out. Then one day, the words came in the form of haikus. Little tiny bits, seventeen syllables, but the words came.

So just start out with something, what you want to write will present itself out of the chaos. And then read it. This is SO important. Read it out loud. It will seem silly at first, but reading it out loud fixes so many problems in terms of editing. You HEAR when you’ve overused words, or need to change up sentence structure, or when voices begin to sound too much alike. You hear how it sounds and can see how to fix it. Also, find a writer’s group nearby. Share your work with them. Nothing helps like a fresh eye. You don’t have to change everything they may not like, but you can take the advice that makes sense to you and leave the rest. Your work will be better for someone else’s eye. I swear.

 

How much of you is in your characters?

 

Well, I have to admit there’s a lot of me in Caitlin, or at least there used to be. I grew up quite shy, with very low self-esteem. Being always overweight, I never considered myself pretty. I wasn’t “popular” in school. But I had close friends and eventually realized that my dad’s greatest gift was also mine: it was said that he never met a stranger, and once I conquered my shyness, I’m about the same way. I’ll talk to anyone. (Even though I have that problem with the Alter Bridge lads. Hahaha!!) And I have the same easy smile that he did. Those two things can override one’s looks, I’ve found.

Some people have told me they don’t much like Caitlin because she’s indecisive—she’s not a particularly strong female character. Unfortunately, I’m not a very strong female. Once one’s spirit is broken–one’s heart is broken—it’s very hard to recover. So when some little bit of flattery is received, given enough time, self-esteem can slowly rebuild. It’s a very long road from believing oneself is without worth to becoming a published author. Wow! Just incredible!! I’ve always wished to be much more Sheila Gregg (barring the criminal element, of course) than Caitlin, but it is what it is, as they say.

 

 

As a final question I asked Mary if there was anything else, any other little insight she wished to share here.

Well, you may ask, just where did this obsession with instrumental rock guitar come from, Mary O? Well, here’s the story. I’m old and I’m gonna age myself plenty right here, right now. We were surrounded by music in the house where I grew up. Music on AM radio, music on TV, my dad had his stereo and vinyl albums, my brother had his, and when I was old enough, I got a record player and began my own vinyl collection. But it was AM radio in 1968 that originally caught my ear with this song. I was a sophomore in h.s. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEzyrpfrPEI I knew the station played it in the afternoon and I would literally RUSH home from the school-bus stop so I wouldn’t miss it. Of course my musical tastes rolled with the times up until about 1987 when I first heard Joe Satriani play “Surfing with the Alien” on WIXV FM out of Savannah, GA. Man, oh man. That song changed my life. But it was THIS song that started it all.

 

 

 

Mary recently hosted a successful launch party for The Guitarist. Here’s a few photos from the event to let us see what we missed.

Mary 3mary-4-e1511164690195.jpgMary 5

 

 

 

 

Mary’s fantastic debut novel can be purchased via Amazon. Please take the time to check it (Remember, Christmas is just around the corner and books make great gifts….hint…hint)

 

Here’s the links:

 

Amazon.com

 

https://www.amazon.com/Guitarist-Hard-Rock-Fiction-Tools/dp/0972669388/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510688279&sr=1-1

 

Amazon.co.uk

 

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Guitarist-Hard-Rock-Fiction-Tools-ebook/dp/B076J9PTGW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1510688321&sr=8-1&keywords=mary+ogden+fersner

 

Mary can be found on Good Reads too!

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15906772.Mary_Ogden_Fersner?from_search=true

 

And at her website:

 

https://www.writedogsrock.com/

 

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Mary for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading her answers here as much as I did.

 

I am left pondering one thought….I wonder how Jake Power would get along with Nicholas Trent?

 

Chucks On Tour….

It’s no great secret…I love Converse. (“You don’t say! ” I hear some friends cry…lol)

In fact, there’s possibly a slight addiction going on here… I’ll confess to having more than a dozen pairs at present with more on my Christmas list but there’s one pair that hold a special place in my heart.

These ones…

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I’ve had them for over five years now. I bought them at a Converse outletstore in the States for the princely sum of $20. They’re well worn and well loved.

Anyone who’s been to a rock show with me may well recognise them.

These beauties are my “gig shoes”

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In the past five years they’ve only missed two shows that I can think of and that was due to horrendous weather (They were substituted by an alternative pair of leather Converse – honest!)

These shoes have seen many, many rock fans feet! They’ve been trampled…many times! They’ve been soaked through in rain, beer, water and other fluids that have been flung about at rock shows (I’ll leave that to your imagination but it was truly disgusting! – and yes- they’ve been cleaned since then!)

These shoes have “heard” many, many great bands including Alter Bridge, Slash ft Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, Black Stone Cherry, Shinedown, Halestorm, Iron Maiden, Ghost, Tremonti, Crobot, Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed, Volbeat, Gojira, Massive, Airbourne, Black Label Society, The  Gaslight Anthem, Brian Fallon, Blackberry Smoke, Rival Sons, Theory Of A Deadman and many more…. They were also privileged to “hear” the late Chris Cornell on his acoustic Higher Truth tour.

If these shoes could sing!

It’s been a while since they’ve ventured out from the under bed drawer where they live. Their last outing was in May when they “saw” Iron Maiden. However, the time has come to finally bring them back out into the light, dust them off and lace them up.

Alter Bridge, here we come!

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An Hour At The Beach A Day Keeps The Blues Away…

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It’s no secret to anyone who reads this blog, follows me on social media or who has read my book babies that I love the beach. I’m not fussy about it being an endless stretch of powdery sand…..although…I am partial to that, I must confess.

 My local stretch of beach, tiny and shingly as it is, is perfect. It’s my “go to” place to recharge my batteries.

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“Hello, my name is Coral and I’m a beach addict.” Ha ha

Recently, I escaped for an hour or so. I’d been stressing and over-thinking a few things and needed to just chill for a bit. As I sat in a quiet sheltered spot, watching the world go by, an analogy struck me.

A previous high tide had dumped a line of seaweed along the shore, all the “junk” that no longer served it. All the crap of the week gone by.

The tide was low as I walked along and the sand was all rippled by the waves. All the thought patterns laid bare for all to see.

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It was so low that rocks normally covered in water were exposed. The raw nerves perhaps that are best kept hidden from the public eye.

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Scattered along the shoreline were some small shells. Precious memories to be kept safe and treasured for another day.

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Something else that struck me as part of this analogy was that several people were running rough shod over this freshly exposed area. Just like in real life, people trample all over your memories and emotions, oblivious to how it makes you feel.

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In due course, long after I’d packed up and meandered home, the tide would come back in, it’s waves soothing the bruised and frayed beach underneath. The rocks would be covered by the river and the ripples smoothed out and washed into a fresh pattern on the next tide.

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Sometimes everyday life gets to us all. Whether its work stresses, family stresses or reminders of the past, there are times when we each feel exposed. Times when we feel that we have bared our souls to the world only to have it trampled on. But, like the low tide at the beach, these moments often don’t last long and are soothed away by a change of tide.

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Now, make yourself comfortable. I have a few questions for you…

interview

I’ve been dithering about this blog post on and off all day. I’ve started it and stopped. I’ve written an entirely different blog (I’ll save that for a rainy day). I’ve stewed this over and over and, in typical me fashion, have totally over thought it all. “No change there”, I hear some friends cry.

This morning, armed with my second mug of coffee for the day, I sat down to interview myself for this week’s blog. I’ve been really restless with my writing and not been making much progress – well not as much as I had hoped for over the past ten days-  and thought an interview might be the way to refocus my train of thought.

But what questions to ask myself? ……..

I’ve wracked my brains (didn’t take too long). I’ve Googled and then I’ve Googled some more until I had a list of questions to ask myself. 

I’ve whittled the list down to ten and I’ve not actually answered them …yet.

Here goes…..

Q1- Describe yourself in ten words.

Wife. Mother. Friend. Writer. Short. Introvert. Caring. Loyal. Habitual. Worrier.

Q2 –  What am I really scared of?

Spiders, boats and bananas – long story.

Q3- When did I last push the boundaries of my comfort zone?

Last week when I took my Baby Girl out to practice her driving. She was great but I was a nervous wreck! Really tested me.

Q4 – Does it matter what others really think of me?

No. I used to tie myself in knots trying to please people but not anymore. After a huge amount of soul searching I’m comfortable with “me” as I am. 

Q5 – Which is worse : failing or never trying?

Never trying, definitely.

Q6 – How many friends would I trust with my life?

Two and, no, I’m not naming them.

Q7 – Have I made someone smile today?

Yes, I think so. I’m also grateful to the people who have made me smile. Never under estimate the importance of that. There’s a lot of power in a wee smile.

Q8- Am I source of inspiration for my friends and family?

I honestly have no idea! Several people have said so in the past but I don’t feel inspirational. I am just “wee me”. My family may argue strongly that I’m a source of frustration rather than inspiration!

Q9 – If I could live anywhere in the world where would I live?

In a house right on the beach. I’d love to live in a beachfront house that leads down onto the sand with the ocean beyond. (Those that know me know which beach.)

Q10 – Hold old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

OK, if I exclude the fact I have two teenage children which kind of impacts the answer here, I feel about 25 inside. I don’t have any hang ups about age. I still do the things that I enjoy doing and don’t think “I’m too old for this.” Age to me is all about mental attitude and I’m not grown up enough to be as old as I am. Several years ago someone at work gave me a backhanded compliment about a necklace I was wearing. They said it was an unusual choice of necklace for someone as “mature” as me. She obviously didn’t know me well…I’m not as mature as me and long may it continue!

 

Ok folks, now it’s your turn to interview yourselves. Makes you stop to think a bit….

Surviving or Thriving.. a personal tale

mhaw17-badge-tile

As I sat at my desk in the salt mine mid-week an email with the communications to be cascaded to staff the following week dropped into my mail box. In the body of the text I spotted one topic to be highlighted and discussed- Mental Health Awareness. (This week 8-14 May is Mental Health Awareness Week)

Immediately it crossed my mind to wonder how many of my peers may overlook or pay lip service to this highly emotive topic.

It got me thinking. How could I play my part in raising awareness? Part of the salt mine’s key focus for this year is on Wellbeing so this topic slots in nicely alongside that. The article suggested hosting sessions akin to coffee mornings to allow people to talk and share their stories.

I wondered. I pondered. As usual, I over thought every angle of this before reaching a decision.  I lay awake for more than an hour at 3am thrashing out in my head what I may or may not do. Could I do something to raise awareness? It was a risky strategy for me as I don’t open up easily to people about myself.  

I felt strongly though that I had to at least attempt to do something. Staying silently locked in my own security bubble felt all wrong. If I spoke out about my own personal brush with stress and anxiety then perhaps my peers would see things differently. Could I go through with it?

Last Friday, I bit the bullet and spoke to a small group of my peers at our weekly team session. I kept it short and succinct, largely to prevent me from becoming over emotional in front of them and feeling like a complete idiot.

I pitched it as a “show and tell” thing and took my three book babies as props.

The short story caught my peers unawares. I hope it opened their eyes a little. I hope in some small way it heightened their perception of what someone who on the face of things is “fine” is really going through deep inside.

And the story I told?

Well, I guess here I can hide in the anonymity of words. Those of you who are still reading this blog won’t see the tears that fill my eyes. My peers heard the abridged version. Here’s the full story or as much of it as I’m prepared to tell.

Four years ago today, I sat down in the early evening sun on my front doorstep (exactly where I am writing the first draft of this blog) and began to write a story. I’ve always loved to write. That story grew longer and longer as the words flowed before it finally became Book Baby 1 aka Stronger Within.

But what made me decide to sit down and write? Why did I do it?

Almost a year before that, changes at work pulled the rug out from under my feet in spectacular style. It damn near destroyed me. Now, I want to make one thing crystal clear here – I am not blaming my manager at the time nor my employer in any shape or form here. They have a business to run and had a business decision to make. I totally get that. No one, especially not me, could have foreseen the fallout from that.

The secondment I had been on for almost two years came to a fairly abrupt end; the team I had been a part of for eight years no longer needed me to be a part of it. Put simply, I stepped back down to my previous grade and changed role. I was moved to another team within the same building. To many folk that would have been water off a duck’s back. I wish it had with me.

Initially, the news was like a knife wound to my very soul. Leaving the team that I had worked so closely with for so long felt like someone stealing my children from me.

I got the news on a Friday afternoon that I would be moving to a new team in a few short weeks. At that time I wasn’t told which team. I was just told I couldn’t remain with the team I was in.  Devastated doesn’t begin to cover it. I cried all weekend, torturing myself by questioning what had I done so wrong.

On the Monday I drew on my remaining inner strength (there really wasn’t a lot that morning) and what was left of my pride and self-esteem, painted on my best Disney smile and went to work. This was to be a routine I repeated day in day out for months, years perhaps.

To the world about me I was coping beautifully with the changes that had happened. I was praised for the professionalism I had shown. To the new team that I joined I was initially the quiet stranger in the camp until they got to know me a little. To most people from my old team I became a stranger, at least that’s how I felt as most of them went out of their way to avoid me, unsure of what to say to me or how to react around me. (There were a few surprising exceptions and to those people I will forever by eternally grateful) I felt exiled. I felt worthless.

Life went on.

Out with work there were a few challenges over the summer and autumn months in my personal life that I’m not prepared to divulge here (sorry). In at least one of these challenges, I was seen as the strong calming presence. If only my relatives had known the emotional turmoil going on inside me.

Winter was approaching and my physical health began to suffer as well as my mental wellbeing. My stress and anxiety levels were through the roof. I’d lost my sense of self-worth, my pride was battered and bruised, my self-belief was in tatters. I felt totally useless to everyone, including myself.

I was drifting through life one miserable day after another with the Disney smile painted on for the world to see. Not even my closest family knew how I was truly feeling. I kept all the hurt, the pain, the stress and anxiety locked inside.

Eventually I dragged myself to the doctor. By now six months or more had passed. During that time I noticed more and more strands of hair on my hairbrush each morning. I could feel the difference in the thickness of my long hair as I plaited it for bed each night. I’ve never been blessed with thick hair so this hair loss was sending my emotions spiralling out of control. I felt permanently exhausted and drained. After a series of blood tests the doctor diagnosed severe anaemia, most likely triggered by stress. My iron levels were through the floor, lower even than they had been after the birth of my son and they had been dangerously low then. The doctor said that the anaemia was the cause of the hair loss. I was prescribed a lengthy course iron tablets to restore my blood to normal. But what about the rest of me?

Pride got in my way yet again and I never mentioned ongoing stress/anxiety concerns or even increasing feelings of depression to my GP. As ever, I kept it all bottled up.

A few short months later I was back at the doctor. This time I was formally diagnosed as suffering from IBS, again episodes primarily being triggered by stress.

I was falling apart. By now more than half the total volume of my hair was gone. Fortunately, there were no obvious bald patches and for that I am eternally thankful.

Something had to change.

That something was me.

I had to take control of “me” and get myself back on track.

As is my usual want, I turned initially to books and articles online for guidance. Voraciously I read up about what vitamins and minerals I could take to try to address the hair loss fears and to prevent the recurrence of anaemia. (I loathe taking iron supplements and they really don’t mix well with IBS symptoms so I wanted to avoid these at all costs.) I spoke to the staff in my local health food store for guidance on which strengths and combinations to try. I was warned it would not be a quick fix. Soon I had a shelf full of bottles of supplements. I looked at my diet, eliminating the worst trigger foods entirely from it. Bye bye ice cream forever.

I began to take more exercise and introduced a daily walk into my lunch hours.

Looking at my sense of self-worth and self-belief was harder, much harder. I wanted to do something just for me, to do something that up until then I’d only dreamed about achieving. Eventually, after a lot of soul searching, I realised I wanted to write.  I wanted to write a book.

And here we reach 8 May 2013, the day I finally sat down to write.

By the end of 2013 I had a growing pile of A4 notebooks brimming over with the Silver Lake story. All of Stronger Within was written. Most of Impossible Depths, Book Baby 2, was also written.

There was one final crippling fear to be overcome. I am terrified of letting people read what I write. (Right now, my stomach is churning at the thought of anyone reading this and passing judgement) This stems again from long established feelings of never being good enough and fears of looking stupid and opening myself up to ridicule. These fears reach way back deep into childhood and their story is one for another day.

I gave myself a stern talking to and on 29 Dec 2013 I wrote my first ever blog post as the first step towards addressing this fear.

I set myself a personal challenge for 2014 to write one blog post per week for the entire year. I did it! In fact, I’ve added one blog post every week since Jan 2014 to this blog page. Has the fear been conquered? Not entirely.

Could my Silver Lake story become a real book? Would anyone want to read it? Those questions hung in the air.

Again, I turned to books and the internet for assistance and discovered that anyone who is prepared to put in the effort can publish a book, an ebook, via Kindle Direct Publishing.

I began to type….

And really this is where the tale kind of stops. Finally, I was doing something just for me. I’d reached a place in my head and my heart where I was more comfortable. For the first time in too many years I was also comfortable with who I was.

The Disney smile by and large was replaced by a real smile.

I felt like “me” again.

Now, here in May 2017, I finally feel secure enough to share this journey. There have been a few pitfalls along the way. Life naturally brings periods of stress and anxiety but I’ve coped with them. I’ve never gone all the way back to that dark hole that opened up mid-2012. I’ll not lie, it’s been close a couple of times.

Writing is what keeps me going. Writing keeps me sane. Writing helps me maintain my wellbeing and mental health balance. To me it’s akin to the stress relief that other folk find by going for a run or going to the gym or practising yoga or going fishing. It’s an essential part of my daily routine. It’s oxygen. It’s part of what makes me “me”.

I still take the vitamin and mineral supplements regularly. The hair has never grown back but I’ve got my head round that more or less. I get excited when I spot a new grey hair as it means another hair has grown in. Sad but true. On the whole, the IBS is under control but requires medicating regularly. I’m exercising more than I think I ever have. I’ve even been known to go for a run, a major miracle in itself. I may not be as slim as I’d like to be (who is?) but I’m comfortable in my own skin.

Work in the salt mine over the intervening years has taken many twists and turns but finally at the end of 2015, I bit the bullet and applied for a promoted post. That in itself took a lot of soul searching and inner resolve but it was worth it. I was successful and got the job.

And the biggest achievement of this five year journey? My three book babies. Who’d have ever thought it possible? My name sits proudly on the cover of not one but three books so far.

Apologies if this has been rambling. It’s been written straight from the heart. It’s been written and typed through a veil of tears if I’m being honest with you. It’s been written with pride at having made it back to being “me”.

Surviving or Thriving? That’s the anchor line to this year’s Mental Health Awareness campaign. I’ve survived and yes, right now, I’m thriving.

As we journey through this week spare a thought for that friend or relative or colleague who suddenly seems a bit “off” or a bit too happy or a bit too withdrawn. Spare an extra few minutes to catch up with them. Check if they are “surviving or thriving”. You never know, their smile may be a Disney smile masking the truth behind it.

Thanks for listening.

 

For more information on #MHAW17 see the link below :-

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week