Throwing the ole 1,2 for the Southern Area Hospice…

“It’s not about winning, it’s about taking part”.

What absolute bollocks.

Everyone wants to win, and if they say they don’t? They’re lying.

That said? There’s any number of things to be said for taking part.  In Krav, our mentality is that if you can breathe, you can fight.  It was one of the first lessons I learned, and one that was repeated to me on manys an occasion during training.  Most notably? When I wanted to lie in the corner for an hour, panting uncontrollably and sweating in places I didn’t realise I could sweat.  If you can breathe, you can fight.  In many ways? The outcome is often irrelevant, it’s not about the outcome of the fight, it’s about stepping up to it.  In Krav, we learn many techniques and tools to throw in our tool belts to defend ourselves, and help us stay alive.  Even if you’re matched unevenly against an attacker, you learn how to defend yourself.

Earlier this year, my first cousin put up a post on Facebook, she was looking for people to join her in a fundraiser.  She was putting together a White Collar Boxing event, in memory of her mother, my aunt, Olive – who died late last year of cancer.  It was my aunt Olive’s dying wish for her family to raise money for our local hospice, as it helped her, and many other of our family members, through the end of her tough fight against cancer – my cousin Bernadette rose to the challenge and asked people to join her.

Picture credit: Paula Ann Curran

The Southern Area Hospice, provides invaluable support and care to people living within the local area who are suffering from Cancer, MS, MND and AIDS.  Their aim is to provide the best quality of life for their patients and their patients families.  According to research, approximately 1 in 3 people in Northern Ireland will develop cancer at some time in their lives and 1 in 4 will die from it.  Within the Newry locale? There are 30 (!) new cases of cancer diagnosed each week.

Their services are provided completely free of charge and they rely heavily on donations and volunteering to provide their care.  The hospice costs/spends almost seven thousand pounds per day to function – that’s a huge, huge, sum of money to raise to keep the place ticking over and providing their specialist care to those who need it most.

Having had family members live out their last weeks and days in the hospice, I can tell you, that it’s an extremely worthy place to send your spare change.

To find out more information about Newry hospice, how to fundraise, donate, or volunteer – please hit up their website here at www.southernareahospiceservices.org.  Any one over the age of 16 can volunteer can help, if you have time to spare, hours are flexible, some training may be needed (and provided) and references are required for all volunteer roles.

Having volunteered for 6 of my 7.5 years in Houston, I can tell you that it’s a very fulfilling thing to do.  My mum volunteered for the hospice a while back, and she loved it.

When I read Bernie’s Facebook post, I was hugely curious about participating, my Krav instructor in Houston, previously encouraged me to try some ‘pure boxing’, and when I saw this on my Facebook page, I took it as a sign to join up.  I was hesitant, though, self-deprecating and unsure.  While I’d trained in Krav in Houston, nobody on this side of the Atlantic really knew about my being an official badass.  I was concerned about stepping in to *another* new gym, I was concerned about the ‘fat girl assumptions’ based on my size and the derogatory looks, maybe even some comments and I was almost put off by the fact that I’d know, pretty much everyone in the room.

However, I got over myself, and I put my name forward.  I drove from Larne to Newry three, sometimes four nights a week and I hit the fundraising.  I took the training seriously, but, not too seriously, because, at the end of the day? It was a charity fight.  The aim of the game was to raise money for a worthwhile, local charity, but it was also about standing shoulder to shoulder with my family, The Currans, in my home town – it’d been a while since I’d done that.

Living in the US has made it hard for me to feel very connected to my family over the years, missed weddings, missed funerals and family events – it’s part and parcel of being an expat.  But, this? Especially having already had some training under my belt?  This was a no-brainer.

Picture credit: Paula Ann Curran

While I was beaten on the night? (I dread to watch back the footage, I should have adjusted my game-plan quicker as soon as I was told in the ring that our rounds were going to be shortened).  I learned a lot for my next fight, and will go in to things with a better understanding and expectation next time I take up a White Collar fight – or, any kind of fight, really.

As a system of training, I’m not sure I’m completely fully qualified to give an opinion on ‘pure’ boxing.  For the most part, training sessions were everything I hate.  A five-minute group warm up run, conditioning and fitness training, with only 10-15 minutes being on the bags, or pads with trainers – the technical stuff that I love.  In Fight Back Fit (Houston), it was the opposite.  A brisk 10-15 minute warm up to get the heart rate up, followed by an intense technical training in any number of offensive and defensive techniques.  Plus, the techniques for White Collar boxing versus ‘regular’ boxing, aren’t exactly the same.

That said, I most certainly liked the gym, the trainers and the group of people who came together to raise funds for the hospice.  And, without a shadow of a doubt, there’s not a snowballs chance in hell that I’d have signed up for the white collar in Newry, had it not been for the excellent (confidence) training in Houston.  Jeanna and the team truly coached me to believe that I could achieve anything I put my mind to – including a white collar boxing fight, in a ring, in the Canal Court in Newry with THOUSANDS of spectators.

This time last year, I’d have laughed in your face if you’d suggested any such thing as doing boxing training – legitimately.  Never mind a real-life fight, or some glam-boxing pictures.  I’ve grown and changed so much in such a short period of time.  I feel like these days, I’m in a constant state of personal development.

Credit to David Barr (lmp-pictures.co.uk)

Not only did I learn a lot about myself and the sport, though, I truly fell in with a good crowd.  Going to the group training sessions was the *single* best thing to come out of the entire process for me.  Going to the 7pm class meant that I met all of the Fit Club ‘regulars’, I got to train with a small group of good people, a good coach who didn’t mind a bit of banter and I wound up aching after training.  The actual White Collar training, was 8-9pm twice a week and had anywhere from 30-50 people in the room.  It was crazy, it was chaotic, it was hard, but most of all? It was fun.  And I got to meet and hang out with some really, really amazing people – most of whom had never thrown a punch in their lives before.  Some of whom? Actually wound up becoming pretty damn good fighters, too.

I surprised myself, I expected to fall apart and be a bag of nerves.  I expected not to be able to sleep, I expected to be beaten black and blue.  My aim was to not get knocked out, not fall on my face, and not need stitches – sounds simple enough, right? LOL!  I went in having missed 3/10 weeks of training (due to illness and travelling), I drove one hundred and twenty miles round-trip for every, single, training session I attended, I wound up getting home around 11pm every night with a two year old – who truly took it like a champ.  I ate more McDonalds and crappy meals in Newry than I care to admit (and that’s not even counting my weekly standing Friar Tucks date with Liz).

I went with good intentions, and determination not to let my family name down – considering that it was to raise money for the local Hospice in memory of my Aunt Olive and her husband, my father’s brother, Harry, it was important.

I went in wanting to raise five hundred pounds for the charity.

I went in thinking I was having a moment of insanity, that there was no way I could step in to a ring and fight in front of over twelve hundred people.

I came out with over a grand, over one thousand pounds, for Newry Hospice, I came out having boxed three rounds in front of over twelve hundred people, and I’m pretty sure my uncle Harry would have approved just fine – even though the result didn’t go my way.

What now?  Now I continue my search for some self defence training that’s local to me, easily accessible to me and helps me move forward.  It’s proving difficult and my faith that I’ll find somewhere is wavering, but I’m still trying.

To anyone who has the opportunity to try something they may think is beyond them, or just a little bit insane, or ‘out there’? Do it. Take the leap – especially if it involves something as epically badass as training like this.

Bernie recently presented a cheque to the Hospice for just over 34k – that’s a HUGE achievement for the entire Fit Club gang and White Collar Boxers!

On a final, and most important note, I’d like to take a moment to add a ginormous ‘thank-you’ to every single person who sponsored me – ESPECIALLY my Krav-Crew at Fight Back Fit in Houston – they sponsored me big, and they sponsored me the SECOND I put my name down, it was HUGE encouragement and a great show of support and faith in my skills, and some days it carried me through when my self-confidence waivered.

Thank-you all <3

365 Days of Krav-life.

Picture credit: G C Montgomery

It’s been a year.

365 days.

An entire year since I stepped in to Fight Back Fit in Houston and took my very first Krav-class (which left me hobbling for three days straight!) and embarked on my journey to be an utter badass.

In the last year?

I’ve tried Krav Maga, Muay Thai, Eskrima/Kali, White Collar Boxing and, most recently, kickboxing.

I don’t even know who I am any more – and know what? That’s a good thing.

You think you know yourself.

Or, at least, are pretty sure of who you are.  What your limits are, how you’d react in certain situations and what you’re capable of.

If I learned anything in my Houston Krav time?

It’s that I had no freakin’ clue who I really am, what I was capable of, or what my limits are.

Also?  I’ve never before, in all my life, had a piece of clothing in my wardrobe that HAD to be clean at all times.  Something so important to you, so iconic in your clothing range, that you absolutely have to have it clean, dry and ready to rock at a moments notice.

Until now – my yellow belt t-shirts are THAT piece of clothing.

Post yellow belt testing!

So.  I let a couple days pass me by, then weeks, then a few more weeks (and months), in the hopes that maybe I could organise some form of rational thought, and get past the elation and overwhelming pride in myself before putting something together on paper.

I thought that perhaps, with letting a little time pass, it would all start to sink in and maybe even be a little less surreal.  However, all those months seem to have done? Was allow my black and blue body, to become even more black, and blue – which have raised a few eyebrows whilst out and about in public, and eventually fade back to normality, and cause some serious cabin-fever to set in from not fighting lately.  But what hasn’t started to fade?  What isn’t gone? And I’m honestly not sure it ever will…it my overwhelming pride in myself for what I achieved.

On Sunday 18th September, I faced what I’d consider to be one of, if not THE biggest personal challenge I’ve ever faced in all my days…  My level 1, yellow belt test, in Krav Maga. (For those of you who haven’t yet read my original post on Krav, you can find it here.) Nineteen weeks and three days after walking in to the Fight Back Fit (FBF) Krav studio, I hobbled out of there with my yellow belt (and a ‘you survived your test, here’s a kit to survive the next few days of pain’ gift, from my testing partner, Jennifer, containing things like Advil, Tiger Balm, bath salts and an ice pack!)

As I entered my last couple weeks in Houston, I give some real thought to all the things that I accomplished during my time there – and, second only to having my son, nothing fills me more with pride than having completed this achievement – in my entire life.

The most badass group of bitchez around!

I think the saying is ‘it takes a village’, right? And I don’t think I ever truly realised the depth of truth in that saying, until the moment I walked (hobbled) out of the gym with my yellow shirt on.

From my fantastic instructors, Jeanna, Mike and Dan, who not only teach well (well enough that I even learned a ton from other students in the gym), but, more importantly, listen well – to feedback, to questions and to requests for what I needed to work on in the weeks and months leading up to my test.  Fantastic instructors, who gave good, constructive feedback, never made me feel like an idiot for trying something,  whether I sank or swam, who recognised my strengths, weaknesses and limits – and challenged me beyond all of them.

To my solid training crew.  Group message nagging to get my backside to class, pushing my limits (both physical and mental) during training, and socialising (eating) when we were done kicking butt.

I’ve very recently lost a mentor, a coach, the very guy who encouraged (and even ‘gently’ shoved) me in to walking up those stairs to the Krav loft at FBF, and I almost wasn’t going to mark my anniversary at all.  Until I gave it a second thought.  I thought about what he’d want for me to do, about how much of an important milestone it is for me in my life and how he’d be pretty devastated to know that I didn’t mark it somehow.

I don’t think I’ll fully be able to put in to words just what a difference taking that first step in to the gym has made to my life as a whole.  I was terrified, shaking, even.  I’ve mentioned it any number of times around this blog, but, there’s often this ‘fat girl’ thing in the gym, those uber fit dudes and gals who make it look so easy, who can go pump iron for an hour or two, and not so much as sweat a single freakin’ bead.  Whereas me? I look at the gym from the car park, my face turns a deep shade of beetroot and I get under-boob sweat. I don’t know how to use the machines, I’m super intimidated by fit people, I utterly abhor exercise and I confess to having my own ‘fat girl’ complex, never mind the ‘fat girl’ complexes the *actual* fit people may have, when they see a plus sized chick walking in to their gym.

I was legit terrified to go in to FBF, but, it didn’t take long before I felt at ease.  Between the instructor and my fellow students, I felt oddly at home, from the first five minutes of class.  That has never happened before – I thought for a moment that my desire to be like Jason Statham had overshadowed my core-trembling-terror at being in a gym.

I was never asked ‘do you think you can do this?’  I was never told ‘Just do what you can’, and once I’d shaken off my new-person terror, I eventually lost the ‘I can’t’ mentality, and adopted a ‘someday I’ll do what they’re doing’ mentality – and yet? They never demanded that I did something, either.  They never said ‘you must do this’, I just knew that as long as I pushed and challenged myself in each class and went a little further, and a little harder, that eventually, I’d be able to do all of the things that the other, slimmer, more flexible, fitter students could do – including kicking my friend in the head (she was elated, I was horrified! LOL!)

It didn’t happen overnight, the crew at FBF quietly (ha! Not!) encouraged me to push myself, to grow, to learn, but mostly? To believe in myself.  To believe that I could do anything I wanted to, with some hard work and grit.  After a couple weeks of the beginner classes, I levelled up and joined the advanced classes too – if I was driving for an hour to get there, it made sense to just stay for the two hours instead of one.  But more than that? I started to believe I could do it.  I started to WANT to do it.  Me.  Miss ‘allergic to exercise’, WANTED to work out more.  Why? Because I loved every freakin’ second of it. 

Walking on the treadmill? Nope, not for me.

Learning how to choke someone and defend against chokes? Count me in!

My badass training was quickly in full flow. 

I learned more than I could ever tell y’all, during my time at FBF.  Not just about survival skills and self-defence, though that was a big part of it.  But I learned more about myself, conditioned my ‘fight response’, (whereas before, while I’d have said I’d have only *said* that I had a fight response, I think, looking back, it would have been a flight response instead.)  I learned that most of my limits were self-imposed, I trained with orange belts, green belts, blue belts, black belts and instructors.  I trained with women and men, tall and short, 100lb people and 250lb people.  As a 250lb girl, I never imagined that was possible.  I never thought I’d be able to lift my leg high enough to kick someone in the head.  Or to endure (and LOVE) ten hours of exercise a week! Some days I did SIX hours of self defence – IN ONE DAY!?  At first, I was a little intimidated, but I had a thirst to learn so I quickly just jumped in with both feet…and both fists.

I remember the instructors always telling me that it often takes people a while to find their inner fight, their inner warrior, that thing that makes them want to absorb everything like a sponge in class, and excel, and I almost fell over when they told me that I walked in the door with it, on my sleeve, ready to be a badass.  I didn’t feel that way, I was unsure, shaky and convinced my friend who’d sent me to krav was punking me for some cruel joke – but, from day 1 they saw something in me – something they fostered, nurtured and helped develop, and the more I look back, the more landmark moments I notice through my journey that make me beam with pride.

Post Muay Thai seminar with world renowned Mark ‘The Hyena’ Beecher

I, not only survived a three hour Muay Thai seminar with Mark ‘The Hyena’ Beecher – but I rocked it.  Ok, his long and complicating cardio inspired cool-down was beyond me, but I was SO epically proud of myself that day – mostly for not allowing the bowl of spaghetti that was threatening to make a reappearance from lunch, come back up.  But also? I’d done the morning Krav class, the women’s self-defence seminar AND the three hour Muay Thai class in ONE DAY – and loved every damn second of it.  And wanted to do it again.

My first fight class, with my training partner, and big bro G.

There are no classes on the FBF schedule that you cannot go to – except one – even if you’ve just walked in off the street for your first week of training, you can go to the beginner, the advanced, the cardio – you can do it all, except fight night.  Fight Night is Mike’s ‘baby’, it’s a night where students get together and work on fighting technique, sparring, punching, even kicking (with shin guards on, obviously!)  To go to this class, you have to be invited, and I wasn’t quite convinced that I’d receive an invite before I left Houston, I was jealous of those who got to go, and I was totally convinced that I NEEDED to do fight night – so I worked hard.  I went to watch one or two fight nights, after a couple months of training, and as I left one night, Mike called me from the top of the stairs and said, ‘if you wanna come fight next week, you can’, I thought he was just being nice cause I’d sat and watched everyone fight for an hour, ‘I don’t mind watching’, I replied, ‘it’s ok’.  He replied, ‘yeah, but you’re ready to stop watching and fight’.  And so, I did. 

Snap from the class I was pulled out of line to demonstrate good punches.

I was pulled to the front of the class one night, in front of one of the biggest groups of students I think I witnessed in my entire time training at FBF.  To demonstrate – wait for it, ‘excellent form for straight punches’.  For a moment I felt totally embarrassed, but that was quickly replaced by overwhelming pride.  I turned to Mike and said ‘I’ve been concentrating on my form lately,’ to which he replied, ‘I know, it’s why you’re showing everyone else how to punch correctly right now’.  When I started white collar boxing in Newry after I got back to Ireland, I tried to help a few people I got close to with their punching form.  In my first class, I was told by another boxer, to pay attention to myself and stop trying to help people.  I told her that if I could help someone NOT break their knuckles, I was going to do it.  Just because I’d never done white collar, just because I’m a big girl, and just because I know something that *you* don’t know, doesn’t mean I don’t have something to teach.  In FBF, the mantra was more, ‘everyone has something to learn, and everyone has something to teach’.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a black belt man, or a white belt woman, you can still train together, and you can still learn -each of you, something of benefit, from the other. 

During Testing – picture credit G C Montgomery

My most notable moment in my first year of krav-life, was the day I earned my level one/yellow belt.  It wasn’t just a couple hours of being beaten up by (and beating up) my fight partner Jenn – though, if you know Jenn, you’ll know that that is an accomplishment on its own.  I couldn’t sleep the night before, couldn’t eat the morning of, I was utterly crapping myself, terrified – as confident as I had felt in the weeks running up to the test, in the last seven days of training with Gary and Jenn, I was convinced I sucked ass at everything and was just plain going to embarrass myself and fail – hell, I even got knocked on my ass during my test (I had a feeling it was going to happen, Jenn has this thing about gusto in her choke attacks from the front with a push).  When in actual fact? Jeanna told me that I was the most technically proficient level one student she had ever seen.  Mic drop – I’m out.  I was walking on air.

Last supper with my crew the night before I flew <3

Leaving that group of people to come back to Ireland, was one of the hardest things I’ve done.  Saying goodbye to them all in the carpark after my last supper of ramen, didn’t prevent me from ugly crying at the side of the road.  I was heartbroken.

I felt like those people knew me on a level I hadn’t previously knew existed within myself, I mean, you can’t exactly sit down at a table for dinner with your regular people friends and talk about your favourite choke position, or your favourite way of kicking people.  Most people don’t see bruises as badges of honour, they see injury, weakness, pain.   Kathy developed a ‘I train with Jenn’ and ‘I train with Las’ bruise balm for us to heal the worst of our war-wounds, but bet your ass I took pictures of them and snap chatted them to EVERYONE who’d look – Jenn will even tell you that I sent her a pic of my epic ‘the boy missed the pad and kicked my boob instead’ bruise.

Leaving that group of people to come back to Ireland? I was largely convinced that I’d really never fight again, I’d never find somewhere to fit in, somewhere who makes ‘fat girls’ feel accepted for their skill and not assume they had no game, just cause of their size.  And while I haven’t found my fight tribe here just yet, I didn’t quit.

I’ve been slow getting back ‘at it’ since I came back to the UK, my friend Taylor said to me that I needed to put it to priority #1.  ‘This is where I tell you that you busted your ass to earn that belt.  The right way.  So you didn’t have to prove yourself where you were going.  And it’s not about the colour of the belt, or how many days it takes to earn it.  It’s about your abilities.  And if you don’t practice, you’re going to be set back.  I don’t want to see you wait on krav or some other kind of fighting skill – you’ve stalled far too long as it is.’

He had a habit of telling it like it was.

Since I came back, I did a couple Krav classes in my home town, I’ve done a white-collar boxing fight night for charity and I’ve just recently started a four week, women’s only kickboxing class.  It’s not much.  It’s absolutely not enough.  But my heart has lost a little of its spunk I guess.  Leaving FBF, coming home to a country distinctly lacking in Krav and having lost a coach and mentor.  My heart hurts.  I cried the entire drive to my new kickboxing class, it was bitter sweet. It’ll pass, I know it’ll pass – because time ‘heals’ all, but, moreso, because I miss it.  Because I know I can’t quit being a badass – you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. 

I’m hungry to train, I’m hungry to learn, I’m hungry to fight.  Every.  Damn.  Day.  I just need to find my jam here in Ireland.  Once I do – I’ll be unstoppable.

Watch this space.

 

A Woman, in a Man’s world.

img_0042A friend presented me with UFC Fight Night tickets as a “congrats you passed your yellow belt in Krav, here go watch live fighting for a night” gift.

I was THRILLED when my “kid” brother was able to get the night off work to come with me. I’ve taken him to WWE as a kid, but I had no interest in wrestling and didn’t know a damn thing back then, but, he enjoyed it, and I enjoyed watching him, watching something he loved.

Now we’re both older, and we’re both “in to” fighting, I was even more excited to share this experience with him. As adults, and having lived across the pond for so long, we haven’t, and don’t get much “just us” time, and this meant a lot to me.

img_0159The night was going well, and took an unexpected upturn as Rowan came back from a trip to the loo and announced that he had just walked past Amanda Cooper as he was coming back to his seat. Just casually milling around the concourse at the Odyssey, still in her kit, after having won her FIRST EVER UFC fight. He said he contemplated stopping for a picture, but there was a crowd swarmed around her, so he thought better of it.

I didn’t go to the toilet right away, and when I did, I had no expectation of seeing Amanda on the concourse, but as I was walking back to my door, I caught her in my peripheral. She was walking pretty quickly, flanked by two guys and I thought to myself, nah, I’ll leave her be.

I walked in my door, got to the top of the stairs and was one foot ready to descend, when I had a whole slew of thoughts that prompted me to quickly turn on my heel and go back out to see if, just on the off chance, I could catch up with her for a picture.

You see, my gifted tickets were for some pretty epic seats, Row B, in fact, and Amanda had walked past us (we were sat on the exit route from the octagon) after her fight, just as a bunch of lads sat down behind us.

One of them had clearly never seen a fight before in his life. He asked his friends if this was the “sport for people having a midlife crisis”, and while that comment was mildly funny to his friends, what got me and made me want to punch him (and all of his friends in their boy parts) was the fact he was a blatant objectifying, misogynistic douche bag – and they egged him on and found him hilarious.

I sat there, listening to him, my blood slowly boiling from a simmer, loudly objectify the octagon girl. Announcing any number of derogatory comments about her and how he wished he’d sat closer so he could see her, rather than the fighting – because of how “f’ing hot” she was.

And you know what? For the longest time? My entire goal in life was to BE that octagon girl. Skinny, pretty, big boobs – the epitome of everything society and the world tells you that you should BE as a woman.  Plus sized is a dirty word.  You need to BE beautiful.  Plus sized is NOT beautiful.

Even nowadays.

Sit pretty.
Look nice.

Be skinny.

Another guy behind me, boxed for Ireland. He boxed for eleven years and when I asked him if he coached or taught when he was done fighting, he replied no, he had three daughters. He was taken aback by my exclamation of “SO???” and said he’d never have LET them get in to boxing.

Girls don’t fight.
Sit pretty.
Look nice.

He asked us if we came to UFC often and a third member of their group said “well, she (referring to me) is a pro, she knows a lot about this” and I’ll never forget the pride in my brothers voice when he informed them, “she does this” (meaning fight) and the shock on their faces and in their voices when I said, “yeah, I fight”, and told them about my new found love of Krav.

The boxer also said (when the heavyweight class came up), that being hit by a 245lb dude would be like being hit by a “fucking bus”, and sniggered like 245 was so. Damn. Heavy.

And as my 245lb, fitter than I’ve ever been in my entire life, recent yellow belt/level 1 achiever in Krav Maga self, stood at the top of those stairs, ready to return to my seat, I was struck by a lightening bolt.

If the last six months of self discovery and badass training have taught me anything? It’s that I’d rather be a strong, capable badass that men at the very least fear and question my capabilities, but at most, respect.

Than be a woman who’s gawked at, drooled over and talked about like I’m a stupid, piece of meat whose whole existence is to “stand and look f*ckable, like a good girl”.

I’ll admit, the results of the recent US election are weighing on my mind of late. With the president elect being so outwardly degrading to women, and my mounting fear of contraception, abortion and other “women’s things” becoming harder and harder for women to access, rather than easier. I find myself, almost glad, that I don’t yet have a daughter, because my rage and pain for how backward and thinly veiled the worlds attitude towards women remains, isn’t easily translated into comprehensive speech right now.

But bet your bollocks to a barn dance, if I ever have a daughter? I will help her smash through that bloody glass ceiling with our boxing gloves leading the way and shouting a big F U to the men like those I successfully tried not to groin kick tonight at the arena.

img_0072So yes, I walked my butt back out on to the concourse and thankfully, Amanda hadn’t gotten too far. I walked up to her and she made a few guys who were ahead of me, wait a second, so I could take not one, but two pictures with her – my hand was shaking (so sue me, I got a little nervous walking up to her) and I hit the cancel button on snap chat instead of the save button and she graciously granted me a do-over.

In that moment I wanted to hug her, to tell her that she had inspired me, empowered me, and had given me pause to think about things for just a moment.

I wanted to tell her that she was the kind of woman I wanted my future daughters, nieces and Goddaughters to aspire to, pushing the boundaries of what society deems “acceptable” as a woman. Taking societies expectations of what a woman should be, and do and saying screw you, I want to do this instead, and doing it.

I wanted to tell her, that in that moment, she gave me the courage to do something I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise, and snapped this picture.

img_0098Which will forever remind me, that, I too, wish to, (and should) push those boundaries and challenge those expectations, vehemently, and for my kids (of either gender) to learn from example and do the same.

That girls can be both beautiful AND badass at the same time – the two aren’t mutually exclusive like we’ve all been led to believe from an early age.

And mostly? That fighting like a girl? Is a pretty epic compliment after all.

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Smells like Krav spirit…or is that sweat?

How in the world do you blog about a group of people who have quite literally changed your life?
13606656_10156979276515411_756404044872232427_nI wasn’t going to write this just yet.  I’m not 100% sure why, exactly.  I have a few reasons I guess, I wanted there to be more of a change in me, I wanted to make sure I stuck at it for an extended period of time and I wasn’t convinced that eight weeks was enough time to gauge, well, anything really.
Plus? Let’s just throw it out there now, but when it comes to talking about my amazing little Krav family? I get hit square in the feels (as long as it’s not the jaw, right?)

But, my time here in Houston is drawing to a close over the next couple months, and this new lifestyle and these new people have already had such a profound impact on my life, I thought “screw it”.  I figure that there’s really no harm in sharing this new chapter of my life on this blog.  Especially considering that the mental changes within myself, far outweigh any current visible, physical changes.  I’ve even gone so far as to have already looked up somewhere to continue my training when I go home, and Col has looked for somewhere in India.

I officially have “the bug”.
13516350_10156973497185411_7002291917759849473_nOn Thursday, May 5th, (so just over a month ago as I start to write this), I, in what felt at the time, like a moment of utter insanity, drove North of the city to try a free Krav Maga class.  I didn’t know much about the self defense system, other than it was more instinctual and less “organized”, than say, Tae Kwon Do, and really a little more akin to street fighting even.  So, off I went.
I got there a little early so I could watch the end of the previous, intermediate/advanced class, train and had I listened to the not-so-quiet voice screaming loudly in my ear to think again about what in the name of all that is holy I thought I was doing, I’d have bolted.  Part of me wanted to.  Not a small part either.  There was absolutely no way in hell I could ever do what those people were doing, right? But they’d all seen me come up the stairs, there was no escape – believe me, I considered it.
Hold up.  Let’s rewind a little, we all know that I’ve posted any number of fitness, weight loss, or healthy eating posts since I started this blog.  I’ve yoyo-ed the same 10lbs for years and my self-image hasn’t ever been stellar.
I abhor exercise.  Despise it.  I’ll leave a collection of things on the stairs that needs taken up, because I’m just too out-rightly lazy to add an extra flight of steps into my day.

And then something clicks.

It’s the same process every time, right?
I’ll get so sick of seeing my reflection in the mirror and I’ll hit something full pelt.  I’ll eat 1600 (-1800) calories a day (GP approved before any of you give me grief), drink 2 liters of water, eat 5 a day and start some form of exercise, Les Mills Body Attack or C25K have been the most notable favourites to date.  I’ll go 3-5 times a week, give my all, and after the first week or two of quick body-shock progress, eating like a hangry ankle-biting rabbit and working out more than any sane person should, in my lazy land of couch potato, I’ll hit some dumb plateau, the scales won’t move and I’ll lose my patience with it.  Or? Better yet? I’ll get my period, use it as the worlds lamest excuse to curl up in the corner and avoid the gym like the plague.  It really doesn’t take much for me to quit and go back to being unhappy with myself.
Typically.
I know myself, I know my patterns.

Or so I thought.

Anyways, back we go to Las, sat on the floor of the Krav loft, trying to look calm – when all she really wanted to do was jump in the car and drive home – stretching, because from the look of the intermediate class, it seemed like that was a smart thing to do, and praying, praying hard, that no one laughed at my mere presence there.
Then it occurred to me, the (I’m reluctant to call them educated, but on the subject matter I guess they are) person (people) who encouraged me to go to Krav in the first place? Wouldn’t have done so from an unkind place, or to make fun of me somehow.  They encouraged me to go because they thought I was capable – in spite of enjoying my couch potato lifestyle.  They thought that it was, perhaps, something I would enjoy, and maybe even go to a second class.  They believed in me, even if I didn’t believe in myself.
13510781_10156955669315411_8653724555621343230_nMy first class was pretty “low-key” (I’m also reluctant to say low-key, because I still ended up a sweaty mess and my calf hurt for three days after training).  It was all footwork, (stance is the most important thing!) and I spent most of the 60 minutes face to face with an orange belt, called Jen, who I’d seen training at the end of the previous class.  Neither she, nor Mike (the instructor), laughed at me for being there, they didn’t scoff, or ask what I thought I was doing, and, despite us giggling for the guts of an hour, Jen taught me more than I realised.
In spite of not being able to walk very well the next day (my calf protested being off the floor for an hour), I was sufficiently intrigued.  I signed up for a monthly, unlimited class membership and attended a two-hour monthly women’s self defense seminars, just two days later, that Saturday morning.
13319719_10156865174375411_9113199934113673980_nIn the eight weeks since that first night? My goal in May was 9 classes (two per week) I finished the month on 13.  I’ve attended a 3 hour Kali/Escrima (knife skills) workshop, two (soon to be three) 2-hour women’s self defense seminars and a 3 hour Muay Thai workshop with the best Muay Thai coach in the US.  I’ve not only tried an intermediate class, but I’ve done a number of back to back inter/beginner classes in the last few weeks, and I’m hungry for more.  Why? Not just because I enjoy it – sure, that’s a huge chunk, but these people I’m training with? They help me find belief in myself that I’m CAPABLE of more.
Crazy as it sounds, (and I know it’s a long shot, but we all need goals, right?) I’m training with the aim of testing for my yellow belt before we leave the US.  My goal for June was 13 classes, 3 per week and I finished on 22 Krav classes and 1 cardio combat class, I’ve not skipped a single class simply because I have ovaries (as a friend’s better half pointed out “an attacker doesn’t care if you’re sick or have your period”) and I’ve even managed to simultaneously train through a chest infection, just fine.
13307453_10156865174365411_3685887745969475778_nIt’s incredibly hard to capture, on a computer screen especially, the kind of people, or atmosphere, that Fight Back Fit has managed to harness, and I find it just a little laugh-out-loud-funny that I’m getting ‘totes emosh’ about a group of seriously bad ass fighters, however, I really am.  Last week? I trained for two hours before we went out for post-training tacos.  We typically close out the places we go to eat, mostly, I think, because the other patrons are afraid that our special kind of crazy is contagious and don’t want to be within a city block of our hysterical giggling.  Anyways, I had a not-so-minor breakdown on my way home, worked up and upset that I’m leaving this great group of people in a short matter of weeks.  It bothers me, a lot.
In class, no matter who I pair with in training, I learn something.
Everyone has something to teach.
Everyone is vested in everyone else’s training.  Everyone wants to make you a better fighter and no one cares that you’ve only been there a short number of weeks and suck at hooks, your left elbow flares when you strike, or that you punch with the wrong part of your fist – they just want you to be better.

Every class.

13528802_10156942683145411_1999757221268620819_nFighting and fitness aside? The folks I train with have a pretty social element to their training, they typically eat out after class a couple times a week (this has become after every time I train because I have a long drive home and am so hungry I could eat an entire cow when I’m finished), we’ll sit, laugh (there’s always lots of laughing), talk, share stories and re-fuel after a tough work out that we push each other to kick ass in.
I know you’re skeptical, I would be too had I not experienced it first-hand, there’s no way anyone could accidentally happen upon such a ready-made group of great friends, right? Wrong.  Aside from the Krav-ing, and the post-Krav eating (which, in the interest of being up front if you’re thinking of joining us, can last for hours), we have also hung out socially, I’ve been shooting with them, we’ve had lunch together on non-Krav days, and we’re working on throwing together a bucket list for my last eight weeks here in Houston and have a few fun things like karaoke and go-karting on the list for us to try our hands at.
13615046_10156987121315411_4232918578577866323_nWe even landed around to my Krav friend Kathy’s house (toddler and all!) and invaded for a bbq for the 4th, with two of my other fave Krav friends (Kate and Jen) with Kathy’s sister and her family.  If someone starts a sentence with ‘Hey, why don’t we…?’, or ‘Does anyone want to…?’ chances are at least four of us will be there.
They pick me up when I fall (literally), build me up when I’m low, push me through when I feel like I can’t do something and tell me I’m getting skinnier while punching me in the chest – what’s not to love? 😉
13606503_10156989125330411_3121260125936346466_nWanna know how hard I love these folks? Sunday night on my way to my volunteer shift at Ronald McDonald, I hit a pot hole – and I was scared to my core that I’d busted out my tyre, was going to get stranded at the hospital (I had the car seat in my car, so Col couldn’t come rescue me, had I been in trouble), but I knew that without a doubt, I could have called any of a handful of Krav people and they’d have busted their behinds to help me get myself figured out.  Thankfully, I didn’t need it, but it’s a very, very reassuring feeling to know that someone’s got your back.
While a large part of me is devastated that I didn’t meet these people seven years ago when we first moved to H-Town, a larger part of me is so damn thankful that I got to meet them at all.  That I got over myself, my inner demons, my self-hatey and crappy self esteem to take a chance, try something new, and that I get to spend my last four months in Houston, doing something I love, with people I love even more.
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From fat…to less fat.

I haven’t always been fat.

I had a few rare years of dramatic theatre time when I was svelte.  But one tends to remember being fat, more than not.  Especially when fat is the current state.

Those are the hardest times.
I can already hear my sister and my coach Taylor, screaming at their screens.  “You are NOT fat! You HAVE fat”, it’s a mindset I’d love to have, and that I’ve vowed to try and adapt, however, for now, I am fat.
I am aware of it, every single minute, or every single day.
I see it every time I look I the mirror, or catch my fat ass reflection in a window, or see my rotund shadow when it’s sunny (which is a lot in Houston).
I see it, always.
I hate it, always.
I’ve written blogs like this, at least once a year.  New beginning, new me.  It trails off.  It flops.  I quit.  And I’m normally not a quitter.  I HATE to quit.
This time it’s different, this time it’s for real.
It never is.  I stay fat.
Since Lewis was born, I’ve lost 33lbs and counting.  It hasn’t been easy, or quick (he’s nearly a year old).  Breastfeeding seems to be hindering, rather than helping and, since January 5th, I’ve been working so hard that I almost expected the weight to fall off me.  But I’ve been here before, I know the drill, sometimes you just have to put your faith in the science.  Eat less, move more and it will happen.  It WILL.
But it’s hard.
I’m trying so hard to eat cleaner, high protein, low carbs, low sugar, and as of this week, no carbs after 3pm.  I’m doing my best, for once, I’m giving it my all.  I really am.  No kidding myself this time.  It’s a struggle every time I open my mouth to eat.  At every meal.  It’s a conscious choice to self improve, to make the better choice, and to inch just a little closer to my goal.
What’s my goal? Well, I started at 268lbs, my first major goal is 180, and I’ll reevaluate the next one, when I get there.  My first interim goal, however, is to lose 30lbs by our wedding anniversary cruise in October.  I want to be 213lbs, (which is the weight I was on my wedding day), for my anniversary.  It’s an achievable goal, theoretically, and bet your ass I’m going to give it my all.
I have an inspirational chart taped to my pantry (aka the infamous pantry penis) that I color in with my Crayola markers every time I lose 1lb.  I have photos from my wedding taped to it, to constantly remind me of my goal.  Where I want to be.  Who I want to be.  So every time I go in to that cupboard for food, I have a choice to make.
What do I want more? The chocolate, or to color in the chart.
What’s my food plan? Like I said above, high protein (lean meats), low carb (100g rice/potato or a tortilla wrap), low sugar (berries rather than citrus).  Three meals (I’m not a breakfast person so this is tough) two to three snacks (nuts, Greek yoghurt, rice cracker, small Apple with peanut butter) and prayers.  ‘Cause, I love my food, I hate any sniff of feeling deprived.  I’m doing my best to feel satisfied and occasionally allowing myself a ‘treat’, cause while although I’m not a dog, it needs to be sustainable for this to work for me.  The odd pizza, or the wings, I still indulge in my diet coke and I’m trying to keep it reasonable, sustainable.  A lifetime thing.
What are my activities? I went back to Body Attack 2-3 times a week for a few weeks, put my back out, got the flu, and got really weak.  So started walking with my boys, and C25K last week, to try and ease back in to working out.  I’ve signed up for not one, but TWO 5k walks/jogs this summer, both at night (oy vey! I couldn’t handle the day time heat!!) with my girl Taylor and I hope to do them in a ‘respectable’ time, but I’ve not yet set a goal, because snails are currently faster than I am.
I’ve stuck to it for fifty days.  5-0.
That’s a record.
What’s my secret weapon? My secret weapon is three-fold.
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Firstly, my crazy sister, she has this knack of ‘bigging me up’ *right* when I need ‘bigging’, sending food suggestions, meal ideas, encouragement and most importantly, she’s always there to kick my ass when I’ve found my way to the wrong side of the tracks, or, often more importantly, to keep me from straying before it happens.  I talk to her daily, not always about food, but she’s there, like a strong silent, rock, waiting to hit me in the face if I go near a pizza 😉
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Secondly I have a great ‘coach’, she helps me set realistic goals, she helps me learn about food, she encourages me when I am feeling weak, she cheers me when I do good and she bucks me up when the scales don’t move.  She gives me exercises to do at home when I can’t get out, or one of us is sick.  She guilts me into taking Lewis for a walk when the weather is glorious and she’s stuck in an office – oh, yeah, did I not mention she has a full time job?
She is nothing short of amazing.
Her name is Taylor, I met her by accident a few years ago when I needed a door prize donation for an SSA event and she is FAB.  I send her photos of all my food, she texts at least once every single day, if I’m wavering, I’ll text her and say ‘I want to eat crap’ and she’ll have a come to Jesus meeting.  She keeps me focused, asks about the progress of my pantry penis and pushes me.  Pushes my limits.  I need it, cause some days I’d be like ‘f*ck it!’ but she reminds me of my goal, and helps me get there.
My most important secret weapon, is my eleven month old little boy – I almost wrote baby – but he’s no longer a baby.  He’s transitioning into ‘toddler mode’ and he’s doing it quickly.  He’s crawling, sure, but he’s also pulling himself up, walking with a walker, moving between objects and as of today, he’s started to stand up solo for a few seconds – this kid will rule the world.
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He will soon be running, chasing, kicking a football, playing sports – and I don’t want to be the lard-ass trudging mother who can’t keep up with her toddler (and beyond).  I don’t want to have to watch him play in the park, wondering why mama can’t chase him, or why she needs to sit down every few minutes.
I want to be healthy, for my boy.  I want to be active for my boy.  I want to be FUN, for my boy.
8lbs down, 22lbs to go by October 30th.
This time I won’t quit.  I can’t quit.  I won’t let my son follow the same path as me, I want to teach him healthy choices, healthy activities and I want him to enjoy family time, walking, cycling, swimming…I want him to have a healthy relationship with food, understand its purpose and eat the right things.  I can’t expect him to do it, if I don’t do it.
The buck stops here.
It’s on, like Donkey Kong*…
…*and if I fall down, Taylor (and a few other people) will drag my ass up off the dirt and help me dust myself off, and start again.  Cause that’s what badasses do.

November healthy lifestyle challenge!

Alright readers, my friend Liz and I have embarked upon challenging ourselves every month.  Our challenges vary, from improving the quality of our lives at home (cleaning), improving our palates (cooking) to the crap you’re supposed to do, but never seems to get done (procrastinating).

This month, I’m trying a triple-thread attempt, in the hopes that I’m not taking on too much and that trying to keep so many balls in the air, won’t result in splattered balls on a hard floor!

1. Exercising

Originally, my game plan was three hours of exercise per week and I got in to a routine doing that.  Three classes of Body Attack a week for the last few months is a pretty good achievement, and I’m proud of myself for making exercise a regular part of my life, (especially now that my heart rate monitor tells me I burn anywhere from 550 – 725 cals per class!) I’m feeling fitter, my heart rate is returning to normal faster and I’m all round, just a little more chipper and feeling mentally fitter as well.

However, I’ve decided that it’s time to push myself a little further and to increase the burn.  My new aim, is five hours of exercise per week, four hours of cardio (Body Attack, RPM, Water Aerobics) and one hour of toning/strengthening (Body Pump).

I’ve tried Body Pump twice now, and I’ve decided I like it.  It’s harder than I originally thought it’d be (there’s a few times when my arms are burning so much I think they’re going to snap off at the elbow), but I’ll get there.  I have to keep reminding myself that my first few classes of Attack, left me in a pool on the floor!

My only concern with Pump is that the place on the top of your back, where you rest the bar, is exactly on top of my disc/back injury and it gives me some discomfort.  Sally has suggested I put a folded towel along the top of my back to see if that eases the pain.

My only concern with four hours of cardio, is my calf injury.  It’s been injured since mid-July, if I strap my calf up like a mummy and do an Attack class every couple of days, it’s not so bad, I can take it.  However, if I do back to back Attack classes, then my calf screams like crazy.  For example, today I hurt due to my back to back Wednesday/Thursday Attack classes – it’s not fun.

The answer to that, then, I think, is to try for three hours of Attack per week and have one ‘swing’ class, a not-fixed class that I can do to provide some respite for my leg.  At the moment, my only option there is water Aerobics (which I used to do three times a week during my first year or more living here), but hopefully, after a trip to Academy sports for a gel bike seat cover, I’ll add some RPM to my rotation as well.

This is a big deal for me, I’ve gone from never exercising, to a regular three hours a week and increasing it by 75% again is going to be a tough challenge, but, I think I’m ready for it and I know I have my YMCA ‘trainers’ Sally, Jeni, Juli, Vicki and most recently Kirsten right behind me encouraging me every step of the way, (not to mention my cheerleading friends too!)

I’ll check back after four weeks of attempting this, hopefully I’ll hit December in a five hour a week swing and not look back! I’ve even scheduled five hours a week in my diary up until December 18th!

I have weighed in and Col will be taking measurements tonight, hopefully after a month, I’ll have at least changed shape a little!

Wish me luck!

2.  Back on ‘track’ with food

I’ve not fallen off the wagon per-say, but, I have been slacking a bit as far as tracking goes and, the last two months have seen a few too many unscheduled trips to various restaurants.

For this part of my challenge, I’m going back to menu planning (which also helps to save $ cause you only shop for the ingredients you NEED for the week) and to trying one new recipe a week – this has worked well for us in the past and has kept our meal times interesting so neither of us get bored and decide to go pick up a takeaway!

I now just need to make the time to sit down and make meal plans, I also need to take some time to pre-make dinners so they are in the freezer and ready to go.  Lately we’ve been so busy and out so much, that by the time we get home, it’s almost too late for dinner, we’re too exhausted to cook and then we just call something in, being prepared ahead of time is the key – I’ve always believed that, I just ebb and flow on that one!

Lasagne, chicken noodle bake and cottage pie

As a result, I did a bit of a cook-in the other night, so have started a freezer stockpile!

Track, track, track!

I’ve become somewhat of a slacker on this bit, I do track regularly, but sometimes I don’t get the exact foods I’m eating, I guess-timate or whatever and I want to become better at tracking every bite.  I’ve logged in to Myfitnesspal now for 35 days running and I want to continue that good foundation and log all my food, every day!

3. How clean is your house?

My third and final self-set challenge for the month of November, is to get the house in some semblance of an order.  October was my downstairs challenge, and, in my defense, the lower level of our house was lovely in October, however, after the chaos of the last few weeks, it’s kind of gone to pot (aside from my lovely back hall progress!)

The problems with this task are never ending, firstly, our spare bedroom is currently a Christmas present haven, the place is coming down with little piles of presents for people, this is going to be difficult to ‘fix’ properly until January, but things like making the spare bed up, Col putting his ‘halloween costume’ hockey kit away etc are easily fixed.

My craft room/Col’s office hasn’t been re-set-up since Heather’s baby shower, as we said we’d keep it ‘dismantled’ until Thanksgiving when we’ll need the tables again, but that means the room is out of commission, and a like a bomb’s hit it.

Therefore, we both agreed (you know it must be royally peeving Col off if he agreed to change it!) that we’d buy two more folding tables from Walmart and have a semi permanent fixture up in the craft-office.  The tables were ordered this morning.

Our bedroom, I started on the other day, it just needs a polish, dust and a tidy…and, since Col has commandeered the TV from our room for F1, I now need to figure out how to get it back!!!

Both bathrooms upstairs need a good clean and we need some furniture for downstairs to get the piles of things off the floor (where a unit ‘would’ go, if we found the time, cash and inclination to brave an Ikea trip).

I’m going to do what I can, but November is most definitely the month that the McMaster abode is getting a deep clean!!

What are your November challenges?

''Be-cause I'm soooo, Caught up!''

Tuesday October 25th, we had, what could only be described in the Madden household, as a lie-in.  Poppy let us sleep until almost 8am!  After replacing the Maddens car seat,  we packed up and headed home to change (I’d brought wrong clothes for Col) and to find our camera (which, if you can believe, I’d misplaced!!!!)

We had brunch at BJ’s (which was yummy, though, yet again, part of my food came out cold!) before picking up the car seat at Babies r us and from there, we made our way to the hospital to visit.  We said a quick hello, dropped off the car seat, Col went back home to work, and I was home for about 2pm.

We both went back to the hospital a few hours later, around 5pm, to take a family picture of the Maddens, just before they went home.  Col and I indulged yet again in a dinner out, at Pei Wei before heading home for some TV and cuddles (and Col was working!).

Wednesday I didn’t get up until 11am! I know, I have the cheek to say I was exhausted, but, I really was exhausted!! Magz needed a few bits (some of which I ordered online) and after another hellish pit-stop in Babies R Us (I’ve decided I hate that place!!!!), it was off to Magz and Sam’s house to visit and sit with Magz, while Sam went off to take the dog-a-bongs to the dog park to tire them out.

While I was on my way to Magz, I’d gotten another call, asking for help.  Another friend needed me to pick up her kids while she sat with her sick husband, just for a break.  As I was tied up with Magz, I told Col about my predicament, he very, very kindly offered to leave the office (which is something an SLB guy doesn’t do!) to pick up the kidlets from our friend and watch over them til I got back.

Not so little any more Hazel!

Zane watching Thomas!

They were great, very well behaved, they watched Thomas the Tank engine, ate dinner, played with Col and I and I even got little Hazel to sleep for a while before we took her home! It was a lovely wee visit!

I can’t remember what I did Thursday (my notes are sketchy from last week!) but I think it was mostly laundry, cooking, tidying and catching up on my blogging for Liz 😉

Friday night brought more festivities up at Casa Madden with the Van der Waals! We had a delicious Indian dinner, courtesy of the Van der Waals making a stop at the London Sizzler en route – seriously, the butter chicken in that place makes my mouth water just to think about it!

The company was great (as always), our little group of six really warms my heart.  It’s so nice to feel like we’re part of a group here, people ask us out to do things, it’s not always me planning things like it used to be at home.  We’re invited places, we go to other peoples houses and just hang out and have a good time.  It’s nice!

Friday night was another first for me! Mummy Magz volunteered me to bath little Eve – which, I have to admit, gave me momentary nerves.  I’ve never bathed a newborn before, but, times have changed from when you used to hold the baby over a small bath or sink for a wash.  The bath has a little newborn seat in it and aside from the fact that Eve both hates being naked, and being wet, it went off without a hitch! We did good!

Saturday morning was my morning of pain! I did a Les Mills double, back to back 55 minute classes, Body Attack and my 2nd ever Body Pump.  It was killer! But I loved it! I think I’d suffer, even if I had an empty bar with no weights on it…it’s hard work!

When I got home, I discovered that Col had done some heavy damage to a chair and was enjoying a few races on F1 2011.  It was, from what I understand, a comedy moment!

Crash, bang, whallop!

We stopped at Magz and Sams en route to hockey for an hour, little Eve was sleeping, so we just chilled out in front of the TV for a while.  At the Toyota Centre, it was $1 hotdog night! At first, I thought this was a great idea, cheap dinner!! However, standing there, in the concourse, watching people order trays and trays and trays of $1 hotdogs (which, by the way, were called ‘kiddies hotdogs’ but to you, me and the rest of the world, they are ‘regular’ sized hotdogs) it made me realise just how much of a BAD idea it was – talk about over indulgence! And they were feeding their kids multiple dawgs!!

It was an interesting game, in the first 20 minutes, we were down by 3 goals, we faught back to tie the game 4-4 and lost in penalties.  Tough, tough loss, but a fun night all the same!

Sunday, we woke up naturally around 10am, we headed up to Magz and Sam’s for a Dominos B1G1F pizza (accompanied by the Indian GP) which was pretty uneventful by recent GP standards (though, there was, the ever recurring Massa/Hamilton tete a tete!)

We considered heading up to the Aeros, but by the time the GP was over, it was too late, so we went home and bought the Webcast for the last two periods of the game (which turned out to be a real cracker of a game with a 5-3 win at home for the Aeros!)

Monday mornings board meeting went quickly, in fact, I think it ended early for the first time in all of my two and a half years of service!! Crazy!  After we dispersed, some of us decided to go to BJ’s for lunch (again!!) – with the new parents and little miss Eve (of course there was Aunty Las cuddles!).

Back at home, I hacked up a huge pork tenderloin and made two different kinds of pork dishes (maple pork and marsala pork), before the trick or treating started!

I love Halloween, like, LOVE! When we were growing up, we had the best parties in the whole damn street! My mother ‘wallpapered’ the walls with black bin bags that she’d sliced open and taped together, then she covered it with a delicate white spiders web and a bunch of other halloween spooks.  We always had a huge spread including toffee apples (Candy apples for you Americans!), we played games (dunking for apples, trying to bite an apple on a string with our hands behind our backs), we ate pie (one lucky person always got a £1 coin in their slice of pie), we trick or treated and we had the best of fun!

I’ve missed that, the first year in the US, we were on honeymoon in Austin over Halloween weekend, last year, we were home AND had candy, but our porch light was faulty and went out, so no one came to visit!!

This year, I was determined to hand out treats, I didn’t dress up, but I wore my ghostie T-shirt and, after I called Col boring and no fun, he dressed up as a hockey player and came to the door with me every single time the doorbell rang!

Using the mouse to change programmes on the Mac!

All of our trick or treaters loved his costume!! My favourite costume of the night was a tiny little person in a giraffe get-up.  She looked ADORABLE!

Every time we sat down, the doorbell ‘dinged’ again!

I have minimal decorations, for Thanksgiving and Christmas, my supply is getting a little bigger each year, but, for Halloween, I have pretty much nothing…

I got a flag or two for our flag pole

I have a throw and cushion (less than $5 in Walmart!!)

Sweetie bowl!

Today, the day after Halloween, I decided it was time to ‘up’ my Halloween game, just because I don’t have kids yet, doesn’t mean I have to stop being a kid at Halloween! It doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the holiday!

I decided that next year Col and I are going all out (he’s agreed!) there shall be pumpkin carving, costumes, toffee apples, apple pie, a McMaster Halloween Party (complete with decorations and dunking for apples) and I hit shops to claim some discounted decorations!

I came back with quite the haul, outdoor decorations for the garden, six different sets of lights (two net sets for the bushes outside), baking supplies (of course!), party supplies (a bunch of stuff for 50c a piece!!) and some Thanksgiving stuff for my upcoming Thanksgiving dinner (I’ve decided that the kids table is going to be Halloween themed! LOL!!)

I may go back to Walmart to pick up a set of string pumpkin or ghost lights for across my fireplace, but I’ve not yet decided on that!

I’m excited! Check back here in 364 days to see just how FAB the Casa McMaster Halloween party is and I hope y’all had a ghoulish Halloween!

My first Les Mills Sweatfest

Saturday morning (22nd) was my first ever Les Mills launch, I was totally psyched for the Sweatfest!

Two of our instructors Vicki and Juli!

I strapped my calf, chugged a protein shake met Ana Maria at 8.20am at the Clay Road YMCA.  We signed in, got our goody bags (a little towel, water, a coupon for a healthy food restaurant) and we embarked on a crazy journey!

Room ready for 50 Body Pumpers!

First up was Body Pump – it was my first attempt, one of the instructors remembered me, knew it was my first time, and helped us out a bit getting set up.

Where's Las?

It was a 55 minute class, using weights and a bar, it was hard going, harder than I thought, but also more fun than I expected too.  I stuck with the lightest weights for the whole class (and probably will for a while now) but I loved it, and will definitely be back (in spite of the fact that at one point I thought my arms were on fire!)

I’m told Pump is a great accompaniment to Attack, so let’s see how that goes!

At the end of Pump, Ana Maria had to leave as she had a birthday party to go to.  In the spot prize, draw thing, I won a prize – I picked the RPM cycling shirt, they only had a Large and it’s too small at the moment (Les Mills Large is not a regular large!) and I’ve vowed to slim in to it, it’s my new challenge – I think Pump will help cause my upper arms are way flabby!

CX30 - Check me out!

After Pump came CX30/Worx, I dunno why they changed the name, but I prefer CX30.  It wasn’t a bad half hour, but my core isn’t the strongest, so it was definitely challenging (as always).

so true!

Next up, was my personal favourite class, Body Attack! It was a 30 minute express class, but holy crap is the new release KILLER!!!

After a two hour work out (and 1100 calories burned), I felt perfectly ok about our dinner plans with the gang!

Rrrrrr!! RPM, Regency, Rocky Creek and Radio…

Monday (17th) was supposed to be the day we took my car in for a service, however, I slept until almost noon, so it, instead, became a recovery day.  Col worked from home, we ate a party food lunch and aside from choir practice and the X-Factor, I didn’t do anything.  All of the cleaning, tidying and party tear-down had taken place the day before, when the last of the guests had left (well, actually, Magz and Sam were still here, so while Magz slept and Sam played F1 with Col!)

Tuesday I was also up late, not as late as I’d been on Monday, but late all the same.  After doing my emails etc, I went to Target, where I spent two hours perusing around the store (that’s perfectly normal for me!)

Tuesday was also the night for the monthly SSA Dinner group, this month, Julie selected a nice little place in Sugar Land town square, Black Walnut Cafe.  There was only six of us, but we had fun, the food was tasty (as was the Gelato ice cream for dessert!) and the company was good too! Col got to see an old colleague of his, who he hadn’t seen since the last time he lived here in Houston.  It was fun!

After a late night catching up with the X-Factor, I was up before the crack of dawn on Wednesday morning.  A 4.20am alarm call, four hours of sleep, I bundled off to Trotter YMCA to try Sally’s new class, RPM.

The Mantra, ride it like you stole it...

I was late (again!) I’m seriously going to have to start allotting more time for my journey to Trotter! RPM was tough on my tush! Seriously, that chair hurt like hell – I quit after 25 minutes of cycling, it was fun, but I think I might need to get padded shorts, cause OWOWOWOWOW!!!!

Sally and Kristen (not the day I went!)

After RPM (and the discovery that the cafe doesn’t open early in the morning *sob*) I headed home, said a quick hi and bye to Col, had a shower and went up the road to a new hairdresser I decided to try out.

When I was in Iowa last, I tried out a beauty school student, when I wanted my hair done.  After some research, I discovered that there’s one here in Houston (A couple actually, but this one was the one I’d chosen to try first!)

Regency Beauty Institute, Houston, I was at the institute for 9am and I didn’t get home til 2pm, she took around four and a half hours to do an all over colour, hi-lights and a cut.  It was seriously cheap ($69 + tip) and I came away from the institute, very happy indeed, Angel did a fantastic job making my hair just the way I wanted it!

Straight hair!

Colours - side on!

So much so, that I’ve made a repeat appointment with her to have my hair done for our SSA Christmas party in December – AND a manicure pedicure too! Can’t wait!

Thursday, I woke up unable to move, almost literally.  My legs were heavier than lead.  RPM apparently uses muscles that I’m not really used to using in the slightest.  I can do 3-4 Body Attack classes in a week, but one 25 minute session of RPM? It knocked me on my behind!

That afternoon, it was off to Rocky Creek Dental Care, my favourite dentist practice EVER!! I’d scheduled a clean, which went fine and dandy, the only additional work I need done, is to replace the filling in my front tooth (which came out in Singapore, while flossing) and to get all four of my wisdom teeth out…which, I’m pushing back as far as I can!

For dinner, it was off to Lupe Tortillas with the Stevensons, to say one last goodbye before they went back to Singapore,  Mariano and his two kidlets joined us as Kat was off travelling the far East.  It was good to see them again, though Amee was a bit somber as she was sad to say goodbye, again, to her home here in Houston.  I did, however, get some sponsorship money out of Mariano and Colin S though 😉

Friday was the day for Magz and I to go on a merry hunt to Pearland.  I’ve undertaken the SSA Houston Chapters Christmas Ornament exchange this December and we decided to have it down in Pearland for a change.  We visited one of the places on my list, the other three we deemed as way too far off the beaten track to justify a trek for everyone.  Of course we had to taste-test, so we had some brunch (yum) and chatted to the on duty manager about our event.

We also tried to find a place ‘near’ Sienna Plantation in Missouri City to look at, though, it turned out that it was so deep in Sienna, that it also, didn’t justify us dragging everyone down there.

Mimi’s Cafe, Pearland it is!

Magz went home, I went to Starbucks for a seriously quick ‘hey there and hello’ to my friend Heather (she wanted to give me my present, that I talked about in my previous post!) she’d just been to see Angel my hairdresser (and was very pleased with the results) so we had a quick chat and cuppa!

From there, it was a mad dash to get up to KUHF radio station, pretty far North in the City.  I’d signed up to take pledges for them, for the Choir.  We send over 10 volunteers a few times a year and they were short, so I signed up!

Nothing ‘on air’, just answering phones, pledging to take peoples money – there was plenty of food (random restaurants donate food to them daily), lots of fun (it helped me to get to know some of the choir folk too!) and I was home watching X-Factor by 8.30pm! Not a bad evening’s work!

Canuck baby shower, eh?!

Thursday 6th brought with it another Body Attack class, which I enjoyed using my shiny new heart rate monitor.  I got this one, yes, it’s a bit expensive, but it came highly recommended by a fitness instructor friend of mine, I’m working out a lot these days – and I have no intention of stopping, so I figured it was a good investment.

During the class, I burned around 614 calories, in the hour following the class, doing nothing (but eating, chatting to Sally and driving home) I burned off a further 400 calories, it also tells you your average heart rate, your average heart rate, time spent in fat-burn mode etc.

I’m not normally one for gadgets, but I’m most definitely in love with this one.  It tells you things like calories burned, max heart rate, average heart rate, time spent in fat burn, time spent in exercise mode, total time exercising, it’s a great

Later that afternoon, Col, my darling husband, faced one of his darker demons and went to see Dr Jessica our dentist.  He had ‘part I’ of a deep clean done, the following day (Friday) he went back for ‘part II’ and some work done on his front tooth.  I’m very proud of him for facing his fear head on (ok, so I may have made the first appointment and told him he was going, but he volunteered to go back the following day, so it couldn’t have been all that bad!)

Friday also brought with it, the arrival of my hubby’s new toy.  No, really, it’s a toy.  It’s a steering wheel to go with his F1 2011 PS3 game – yes, I know, I almost don’t know what all those letters and numbers mean either, I’m getting old!

This is how he ended up setting it up one afternoon!

I made the fatal mistake of texting Sam and telling him it had arrived, he replied asking if I wanted him to bring Magz down to keep me company later that evening, and so he did! LOL!  We had some Panda Garden Chinese for tea and lost the boys for a few hours while they drove around Monza, giggling, cursing and crashing! LOL!

Saturday the 8th was a big day for our friend Ann who is pregnant with twins.  It was her baby shower, hosted by her good friend Stephanie.  Stephanie did a great job, the food was delicious, as were the cupcakes and the strawberry punch (I went away with the punch recipe!)

Mum to be!

Aren't these cowboy/cowgirl outfits cute?

It was lots of fun and all of our ‘besties’ were there – we all moved to Houston around the same time and are a pretty tight-knit group of friends, so it was nice to see everyone and hang out.

Group picture!

Ann’s bump is a lot more pronounced these days and both of the twins are growing big and fast, with one in the 80th percentile and the other being in the 60th, it’s looking like they’re going to term, which is great news for the babies, but poor mum’s got two babies lodged in her ribcage causing all kinds of discomfort!

After the baby shower, it was off home for a change of clothes, before we met Emily and Luke at Magz and Sams for a ”Madden’s special” BBQ.  From there, it was off to my second Wholefoods in two days, (in a freakin’ storm!) to spend my Groupon on sausages.  Yup, you read that right, Irish bangers to be precise, I may have bought a few more than a few, but who’s countin’?