365 project, Photography

Day 318 – Leave me… save yourself!

jan-30
Day 318 – Jan 30th

I guess when your time is done on this planet, most of us would prefer to slip away peacefully in our sleep. Not many of us would expect to wake up in the morning again… only this time, dead!

That’s pretty much how I felt this morning, it was like the worlds worst hangover, except without all the fun of drinking the night before, combined with being run over by a car which then reversed over me, all this after cruelly being kept awake continuously for seven days.

You’d think that the pretty much automatic response to this would be to pick up the phone, call into work and tell them that under no circumstances would you be leaving your bed today, and they’d be lucky to even see you the following day too.

This was not what I did. Instead I dragged myself out of bed at the last possible moment, threw some leftovers in my bag for lunch, and jumped on the motorbike.

I seem to have this inability to call in sick, there is a guilt inside of me which prevents it from happened unless I am literally dying from the plague or have limbs falling off. I’ve always been like it, even when I was younger and my mother told me to take a day off school if I wasn’t well, I always went in anyway. I couldn’t tell you why, I guess the thought of letting people down pushes me on.

I managed to get through today, I don’t think I coughed over too many people along the way, and even with my brain working at 52k modem dial-up speed I managed to navigate through rush hour on a motorbike safely to get home.

Now, that good nights sleep I was talking about…

Advertisements
365 project, Photography

Day 317 – I may close my eyes, but I’m not asleep

jan-29
Day 317 – Jan 29th

So its official, the whole house has germs now, and we’re all suffering one way or another, and consequently none of us are sleeping very well. The coughing is the most common problem amongst us, and it is making sleeping through the night quite a challenge. If we’re not waking ourselves up, one of the girls is awake! Poor Chloe has been sleeping the worst, around 11:30pm each night for the last three nights she has woken up pretty inconsolable!

It couldn’t come on a worse week either, we are expecting friends and family over on Saturday for Chloe’s 2nd birthday, and the last thing we want is a) to be ill for it, or b) be passing our germs onto anyone else! I am keeping my fingers crossed that most of this will have passed by the weekend.

It will also be the first weekend that I am going to allow myself to have a drink, after Dry January comes to an end this week. So I would really like to be feeling well enough to have a drink and actually enjoy it, I think I’ve earned it.

The worst thing about these germs is that they have got right down into my chest, making it impossible to carry on using the treadmill for a few days, and I know that if I was to try I’d regret it straight away, if I could even finish my run at all. I really want to get back into my training, and continue pushing to increase these times that I am running for.

Lets hope for a better nights sleep tonight!

365 project

Day 316 – I will survive

jan-28
Day 316 – Jan 28th

Three hours, it doesn’t sound very long does it? It really isn’t, and it seems like an especially short amount of time when that’s all the sleep you managed to get that night. With Chloe crying for no obvious reason, and becoming more unconsolable the longer I tried to comfort her, I was at a loss for what to do. The next thing we know Olivia is also up crying because she had a night mare. All this in the early hours of the morning, not too long after I’d crawled into bed myself!

Yeah sure, I’d left it a bit late to go to bed, I’d stayed up watching tv, but then it was Saturday night. I didn’t have work the next day, and while I am not drinking, I wanted to give myself at least a little treat at the weekend. I had made the fairly safe assumption that, just like every other night, the girls would sleep straight through and probably not get up too early in the morning.

That was quite the opposite of what actually happened.

It was clear that germs were quickly setting in around the house, and now it was a full-on family affair, we were all coming down with something. Consequently our original plan to wrap up and take a walk up Clent hills was soon abandoned, as for the second morning in a row, Chloe was ready for her mid afternoon nap by 11am, and making quite a fuss about it. Thank goodness we hadn’t already gone out!

We had suggested meeting friends for our walk in the morning, thank goodness they were busy and couldn’t make it! It looked like it was going to be yet another day of not going very far, certainly both me and the wife were exhausted, and the girls clearly had no intention of doing much. I had promised them some painting this weekend, I like them getting a bit messy and creative, and so out came the art box. It was easy when it just used to be Olivia, when Chloe was far too small and not especially concerned whether she was allowed to take part or not, it usually meant minimal cleaning up… but now there is two of them, and cleaning up is a major part of the event. There is no way the paint is going to be out on the table and Chloe is NOT going to be a part of it! Its certainly far easier to clean up the 90% of paint that never ended up making it onto the paper in front of her than actually saying no!

365 project

Day 315 – It’s a PJ kinda day

jan-27
Day 315 – Jan 27th

Saturday was one of those days where we didn’t have any plans and we wanted to keep it that way. The only commitment all day was Olivia’s dance class in the morning, although I was very grateful to the wife for taking her, while I stayed at home with Chloe. Not having to hurry out of the house was a welcome relief, and meant that today was going to be the relaxing kind of day I was after.

Weekends with the kids is a great time to get out and do things, to teach the girls things, let them experience new things, get some fresh air, run around, a time to bond and spend quality time together as a family… but now and again you really just can’t be bothered. I don’t think there is any harm in taking a break once in a while.

The weather was forecast to be miserable today, and it didn’t disappoint. There was absolutely no inclination to go anywhere, and so that’s how we spend the day… indoors.

The soft flat light from a cloud covered sky, however, did light up this flower in the window beautifully, although due to the low light levels it did require the use of a mini tripod and several shots to get what I was after.

At least we had one thing to look forward to, our date night! I’d booked us a table at a lovely little local Italian restaurant and arranged a baby sitter without telling the wife, and sprung it on her during the week. Thankfully the girls went down fine and that made it easy for us to escape for a couple of hours. The food was good, as always, and as we’d sat upstairs it was so quiet that we virtually had the waitress to ourselves. She was t overly friendly, but pleasant and did a reasonably good job of looking after us. The only part of the night that let us down was when we came to pay, the bill was very reasonable, and we were pleasantly surprised, and in a break with tradition, where I pay for literally everything with a card, or more recently my phone or watch, today I had cash. I never carry cash on me, I only ever take it out when I specifically need it for something… but today I had cash in my wallet and decided to use it to pay.

Our bill came in a little folder, and I put a bunch of notes in there and sat back to wait for my change… and waited… and waited… and started to watch our waitress tidying up other tables… and waited.

It soon became evident that no change was going to be brought back to me, which made things kinda awkward. I was going to leave a tip, I always do, but the change I expected was way more than I intended to give, and for them to just assume I was going to leave the lot as a tip was just rude in my opinion. The wife was ready to leave it and walk out, but I thought it was an absolute cheek and wasn’t prepared to just let it go. The waitress could see we were hanging about and it wasn’t hard to catch her eye, so I had to ask, was my change being brought back?

The poor waitress, her eyes looked like she’d just been caught between two headlights of an approaching truck and ran straight off to get it. She apologised several times, told her not to worry and left my tip anyway.

Would anyone else had asked for their change if they weren’t going to tip that much?

365 project, Photography

Day 314 – The final weekend

jan-26
Day 314 – Jan 26th

Something to look forward to, or just habit? Friday night is one of my favourite points in the week. Get the girls to bed, find a good film to put on, pour a drink and open some snacks. As a parent, its a pretty standard weekend, you couldn’t really hope for much more… well, unless you had very understanding babysitters, plenty of free cash to burn and no desire to be up early whatsoever, regardless of what your kids were doing.

We’ve often wondered if we’d still have the energy to get all dressed up and paint the town red if we had the chance now? Personally I wouldn’t have a problem taking myself up town, although I almost certainly wouldn’t be staying up until 3am and looking for some fast food on the way home like I used to. Before now we have actually sat in a queue in the McDonalds drive through, in a black cab with the meter ticking, because getting a burger at 2:30am was suddenly THE most important thing in the world, period.

Nowadays not having to go anywhere is actually a huge bonus, for example, as much as the wife misses her nights out, she loves nothing more than not having to make excuses for not wanting to go anywhere. As a parent, waking up with a hangover is a terrible idea, kids are generally noisy and pretty unforgiving of such ailments. There is also the point that after getting through the baby phase and onto the toddler phase, where the children sleep better, there is no greater rewards at the end of the day than a full nights sleep, and even on a Friday night that can start quite early for some parents. Life isn’t quite so rock and roll any more, at least not for a little while any way. It still has its moments, but tonight isn’t one of them.

Yes, its fair to say that grabbing a beer/wine/vodka/JD to drink in front of a film has become the norm for a Friday and Saturday night, and not only that, its enjoyable too. So giving up the drink for Dry January hasn’t been easy, breaking a habit is one thing, but breaking a habit you not only enjoy but also look forward to has been quite a test. This is the final weekend, and I can honestly say that I have not missed having a drink for almost the entire week, it has only been that period around 6pm-9pm where it has really been on my mind, but once I am distracted by a good film I can quite easily forget about the fact that the cola in my hand has no Jack Daniels in it, or the can of Monster has no vodka in it. I am at a point now where I am really not missing the alcohol at all, and the month has passed by quite easily. A lot of people sneer at Dry January, and claim they don’t see the point in it, which is fair enough, if they can’t find a point then it certainly isn’t for them, this is something you can only do for yourself. Its something that requires some dedication and will power, as it is so easy to give in, which I can vouch for myself after my previous attempt a couple of years ago only saw me make it to the second weekend of January before I caved in!

I am certainly not going to gloat, or be smug about it, I am just glad I have done it for myself.

365 project

Day 313 – Its almost the (still dry) weekend

jan-25
Day 313 – Jan 25th

Thursday lands and the weekend is almost here. Its a rest day from hitting the gym and I am looking forward to not going anywhere or having to do anything when I get home from work.

The plans are fairly loose for the weekend, we don’t have a huge amount in the calendar, but this is a chance to make some preparations and decisions for the following weekend which will be Chloe’s second birthday. Second birthdays are a difficult one to plan for, you want to do something special to mark the occasion, but you are also well aware that they really don’t have any understanding of what is going on.

We have two issues to add further complications to the planning, as every winter baby will know, having outdoor garden parties is a big no-no, and without the use of the garden we can’t invite many people round as the house just isn’t big enough. The second issue is that of presents, as Chloe is a second child, and a second daughter at that, there is very little we could buy that we don’t already have, which I guess in itself creates a third problem with the lack of space to store anything, as we have filled all the gaps with toys already.

Still, I don’t doubt she’ll have a wonderful day surrounded by friends and family, and we can literally be worrying about this too much. I just don’t want it to have that “second child misses out a bit” feel about it!

365 project

Day 312 – Everyone can do it… yes, everyone!

jan-24
Day 312 – Jan 24th

I am back from the gym and have just nailed another 50 minute run on the treadmill, which works out to be about 5 miles. Today was much easier than the last time, and has given me a bit of confidence that I can continue to push this training closer to a half marathon distance.

Running isn’t for everyone, I get that, some people absolutely hate the thought, others think its dull as dishwater, while others just couldn’t find the energy. I was in a position a number of years back where my knees were preventing me from getting past 3-4 miles, the pain was unbearable. I found this extremely frustrating as I was enjoying the running right up to the point where my knees gave in, and couldn’t seem to get past this problem, no matter what I tried.

So I turned to the internet and googled the problem. There was no real definitive answer, but one point kept coming back to me. This point seemed to make sense very quickly, in that athletes and professional runners tend to run more on the ball of their feet, rather than landing on their heel (like I had been doing) with a straight leg, probably how most people tend to run. The problem with this way of running is that when the leg is straight and the knee is locked out, the only part of the body that cushions the impact of the run is the cartilage in your knee… a job it most certainly is not designed for! By running on the ball of your feet, the leg muscles suddenly take the impact of your running and the knee is nothing more than a pivot turning your leg into a spring, not dissimilar from the suspension on a car. At first, this method is torture on your calves, as these are working the hardest, but once you build them up it very quickly becomes second nature.

Once I had worked at running in this style I noticed I had got to 4 miles, 5 miles, 6 miles and eventually up to my first half marathon at 13.1 miles with no knee pain from stopping me.

Anyone can run if they want to, life is not a race, no-one is telling you to run flat out until your heart bursts or don’t run at all, its a personal thing, you have to be comfortable in doing it, and enjoy it enough to go back and do it a second time.

If you’re new to the idea of running, it doesn’t have to be 10 miles at an athletic sprint… just grab some shorts and a t-shirt, throw on some trainers, and put one foot in front of the other at a pace you find comfortable. If this pace is only slightly faster than walking… it doesn’t matter, its comfortable for you so keep doing it. Do NOT be put off by what others are doing and feel you have to match them, their goals are different, and so is their fitness level. If you aspire to be like them, then just remember that it took them many, many months of training and it does not happen overnight. Remember, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step!

I am by no means a fitness trainer, or an expert in running, but I am a believer that anyone can run, and I have trained several of my friends to do 5k runs, 10k runs and even a half marathon.

You can run with a goal in mind, maybe a race or a distance you want to get to, or you can run with no goal other than the intention of getting fit and enjoying it. I have a few small tips I would like to offer to those who are thinking of getting into running and intend to get a number of miles under their belt while doing so.

1. Small steps
We all have to start somewhere, and if it was easy then everyone would be doing it. I recommend to start with nothing more than a mile, if you are not used to running. You may find that you can’t even get that far, thats fine, just slow down and walk if you have to, but keep moving, don’t stop until you get there!

Next time you go out, try and get a little further before you stop, and repeat this until you can get a mile done in one go without walking. You’ll feel good about yourself and be able to see progress, this is the first step to believing you can do it.

You may want to consider going further, but your body will not be ready for it yet, so make your next run just a little further than the last one, do it a couple of times and then add a little more distance. Eventually you’ll be doing two miles and feeling pretty pleased with yourself.

Just make sure each increase in distance is a small one, then a) each run will be achievable and b) you’ll avoid injuring yourself and having to take weeks out of your running to recover. Trust me, I learnt this from experience!!

2. Vaseline
“What the hell does Vaseline have to do with running?” I hear you ask. Nothing at all while you’re doing short distances, but once you get good at running and find yourself doing 45 minutes or more of running, you may find your groin starting to burn with all the friction and sweat going on, or even the skin on the back of your arm if you are running in a vest rather than a t-shirt, and it is rubbing against the side of your chest… you won’t even feel this until you stop and suddenly it feels like your arms are on fire! Suddenly vaseline is your best friend! I apply the stuff around the groin area every time I am running over 30 minutes. Again, this is one you learn from experience.

3. Run often
If you want to get good at anything, you have to practise, and do it regularly. Running once every two or three weeks is a pointless and futile task. You will lose the fitness you have gained before your next run and each time you go out it will feel like the first time. It won’t be long before you give up. As a minimum, aim for once a week.

4. Good music
Unless you are lucky to have a bunch of friends to run with, or even just a running partner, it is often a solo event, and yes, it can get a little boring at times, especially if, like me, you have decided to do any of your training on a treadmill, as there isn’t much scenery to look at in a gym. Having your favourite tunes pumping in your ears can be a great distraction to the pounding of your feet and can often push you on when you start to feel tired or your legs start to ache a little.

5. Drink plenty
Don’t take on a gallon of water before you set out running, it will just mean that you’ll have to break your stride and pause for a toilet break halfway through, and not necessarily just the once. The body is largely water, and like an unwatered plant, without enough fluids it will just start to wilt. Your runs will seem harder, you will seem more tired before you even start and your body will just feel like the whole event is a major challenge.

I always make sure I am well hydrated the day before if I am running in the morning, or well hydrated through out the day if I am running in the evening. Don’t forget to take a drink with you, and take sips along the way. If I am running for 45 minutes or more, I will be taking a gulp of water every 10 minutes, it helps the body to keep going. Don’t forget to have a good drink afterwards too, to replace lost fluids!

If you’re inspired… good luck!

365 project

Day 311 – Lets have some fun instead.

jan-23
Day 311 – Jan 23rd

Theres no better feeling than jumping on a motorbike and riding home to see your children after a day at work. Today, however, I got home to find it empty. As I knew I would be leaving work slightly later than usual, I suggested that the wife pick Olivia up from nursery and they still weren’t back by the time I got home. Instead of getting cuddles and smiles when they finally walked through the door I got folded arms and a sulky face… Olivia was clearly hoping to beat me home and was not impressed to find me already there when she got back, she’s very competitive. You just can’t win sometimes!

It came as no surprise that a few cuddles in front of the tv fixed things pretty quickly, she’s always tired after a day at nursery and the smallest thing can bring out her emotional side.

So to change the mood and distract her from sucking her thumb and twiddling her hair in front of the tv for an hour, I decided to get out the play-doh… its not often that these two will turn down playing with this stuff! On a plus note I get to feel like a good parent for encouraging creativity and turning off the tv for a bit!

365 project

Day 310 – Time for a little reflection

jan-22

Day 310 – Jan 22nd

THE PHOTOS

So we are well into the 300s on the photo a day project. I certainly don’t feel that it has been my most inspiring year, but I have got some wonderful photos of the girls along the way, and all because I had a camera in my hand at the right moment, and I have the project itself to thank for that, having to take a photo each day meant that there was always a camera close by when I needed one.

We are now only a matter of weeks away from the end, and I have mixed feelings about how I am going to feel. A part of me loves capturing stuff daily and recording it to look back on in the future, but another part of me will be glad its over. The pressure to get a photo every single day, especially when it is the end of the day and you’re on your way to bed when you finally remember that you haven’t even picked a camera up that day… it can kinda take the fun out of it a little bit.

February will be here before we know it, and that will be the final full month on the project, so I want to make it a good one. I need some ideas for some photos, and maybe even need to head out on the motorbike looking for something inspiring. Thankfully the sun is setting later and later now, giving me a little more daylight to play with each day, which always helps. My feeling as that although I want to continue to update the blog regularly, I may take up a project 52 instead, where I am posting a photo of the week, rather than a photo each day. As a photographer it is important to keep picking up the camera regularly, and if I am focusing on one image a week it gives me a chance to make it a worthwhile shot.

RUNNING/WEIGHTLOSS

Hopefully I can also keep working on the weight loss and continue updating on here, as I think I am off to a reasonable start for the year, and hope to lose a lot more with my continued training towards this years half marathon… which I am still yet to sign up for, but am very much looking forward to all the same. So far the biggest change up to this point has been that my cravings for biscuits, chocolate, alcohol and crisps have almost disappeared. Not tucking into these snacks, or continually thinking about them has made the weight loss feel a bit easier, and the exercising more productive. I am hoping that updating it on here will push me to keep up the good work. It won’t be easy, and tonights run was testament to that, 50 minutes, the time I should have done on Saturday, felt like an eternity, and several times I thought I wasn’t going to make it. It was a challenge, but through gritted teeth and determination I made it, maybe I hadn’t had enough sleep, maybe a little dehydrated, maybe I shouldn’t have eaten so close to getting on the treadmill. Instead of pushing on to 55 minutes on the next run, I will probably do another 50 minute run before I step it up. I have 109 days to complete my training, and only really need to get it up to 90 minutes, so I am in no rush to increase the times. Once I am happily doing 90 minutes without too much effort, I can begin to work on the pace, which will in turn increase the distance I can cover. I am really hoping I can smash my previous half marathon best, which was 1hr 55min around Silverstone, and 2hr 1min around Birmingham. The pace is one that I have never really mastered doing long runs like this.

I also need to work out which charity I will be raising money for. Last year an old school friend of mine lost her teenage son to Leukaemia, and I wanted to complete the Birmingham half marathon to raise money for a cancer related charity, although sadly I had to miss it due to an injury preventing me from training, which I was gutted about. My initial thoughts are either the Teenage Cancer Trust or CLIC Sargent, both are very worthy causes, but sadly I can only raise money for one. Running at these kind of events is always inspiring, especially when you see so many running for so many good causes, highlighting some of the lesser known, but equally important charities.

DAYS TO HALF MARATHON: 109

365 project

Day 309 – We need to see each other more

jan-21
Day 309 – Jan 21st

Try Dry January they said… you’ll sleep better they said… apparently not every night it would seem. Now normally it is me that is ill, picking up any number of germs at work, which considering the nature of my job is especially easy. This time, however, it was the wife’s turn to not be feeling quite so well, and the most obvious result of this was a cough that could wake the dead. Well, perhaps not quite that bad, but it certainly did wake the house up once or twice during the night.

Olivia was pretty good and must have gone straight back to sleep, as we only found out about it this afternoon when she announced that the coughing had woken her. Chloe is a bit more of a delicate sleeper generally, and needed a bit more interaction to get back off to sleep.

The coughing didn’t improve much as the night went on, and winter is always a bad time as people always shut the windows and have the heating on, which dries the air out and makes everyones chest worse. The humidity level in most peoples homes during the winter must be pretty low. Thankfully we had a humidifier sat on top of the cupboard, perfect for times like this. It meant faffing around with getting it down, filling it up and plugging it in at 4am, but the end result could be a much better nights sleep for everyone, well, for what was left of it anyway.

This clearly had little impact on Olivia’s sleep, as she was in our bedroom at 7am, not to climb into bed with us and quietly watch cartoons as we rest like she normally does… oh no, not today, this time she wanted to play with toys… yes, the very activity she could have easily done in her own room without disturbing anyone. She couldn’t be convinced to just take them back to her own room as she “wanted someone to play with”, and so as I had little left to bargain with, I had to give in and offer her the iPad to play games on, just so we could snooze for another half hour or so. Its not exactly a high point in our parenting, and I am sure others have done the same. I don’t see the iPad as a bad thing, I just don’t like using it as a babysitter. I should have been up and interacting with her, but I was just so tired after a bad nights sleep. I’d even written off going to the gym, which I wanted to do to make up for the half attempt at yesterdays run! Its fair to say that it wasn’t the ideal start to the day.

The one good thing about this morning was the fact that we literally had to do nothing before midday. We had a christening to attend at 2pm that was just 5 minutes up the road, so we could get breakfast, relax, and take things slowly. The only thing we had to watch was the snow that was coming down again, this time it had started to settle on the roads and was showing little sign of slowing down. The forecast had promised that it would turn to rain around lunchtime, which it promptly did, meaning we could at least get out of the house and get the car out of our road.

It was a lovely afternoon seeing friends that we just do not see often enough, it always makes me think that we should make more of an effort to arrange things. As gatherings such as christenings etc are just too infrequent.

I was at least pleased that I had managed to get through not only Friday and Saturday night without any alcohol, but also a Sunday afternoon in the pub with friends (our venue after the church) and the wife encouraging me to “take a day off”. I held strong, and even refrained from picking at the girls crisps, as they are also on the banned list.

So far the weight loss has had a positive, if somewhat unstructured start. We are now two thirds of the way through January, and I am not actually missing alcohol, crisps or biscuits too much, and I feel that a large part of the battle has been consequently been taken away. Previously I had used myfitnesspal to help me track food and lose weight, and it had worked a treat the first time around… the main drawback to that is that it still allows you to snack, providing that you log it all down and count all the calories. The snacks are my weakness though, my achilles heel, if I can cut them out then I will be doing a lot better than before. It is simply better to not eat them than try to regulate them. Once the weight is down a bit I will slowly reintroduce them. At my last weigh-in on the scales I was just slightly above 200lbs, which is a loss of 8lb since the start of the month. Not bad for just cutting out the snacks and booze!