When I left my career of 17 years, a colleague wrote me a very lovely card. In it she said she had always admired my confidence.
I was a bit taken aback because if you were to ask me, I'd have told you that I was the least confident person on the planet.
Even this move - this pack-in-the-day-job-and-give-writing-a-go move - was not borne out of any sense of confidence that I was about to become the next big thing in writing. In fact it was fair to say that the decision to leave was the least 'me-like' thing I have ever done,
I am not confident. I am not courageous. I am not brave. Like many people I have spent a very deal of my life feeling a bit like an intruder in the room - someone who is there by fluke or as the token quiet Derry girl.
I have spent my life waiting to be found out and - at the moment as I find my way in this full time writing world, I wonder if now is the time I finally will be.
I have never felt more like the quiet, ill equipped, Derry girl in the room.
And believe me, I have made that role my own in the past. I spoke to an old acquaintance recently - someone I was at journalism college with- and we got on to the topic of how quiet and shy I was back then.
Yes, forging a career breaking news stories, interviewing politicians, policy makers and celebs - and I couldn't bring myself to open my mouth to the people I was studying with.
The former class mate told me my shyness was "painful to watch' at times - and I felt like screaming that it was more painful to endure.
It wasn't that I didn't want to fit in - to have the craic, to go out on the nights out with my classmates, to be privy to all the scandal that went on - it was just that I didn't think I belonged. They - my classmates - all were confident, talented folks with the personalities to ask the right questions.
I was the girl on the bursary who did well in all the exams but failed dramatically at the living the university life bit.
I have to say, I've carried that with me for the past 20 years. The whole way through my journalism career. I have always felt embarrassed for the girl I was - who didn't even speak up when someone was making fun of her to her face.
I was awkward and clumsy and really, if I'm honest, a bit frumpy. When I wrote Rainy Days and Tuesdays and wrote about Grace, not sure who she was and a terrible journalist because she hated answering the phone - well... let's just say there was more than a little me there.
I'm not much different when it comes to writing. Why anyone thinks being an author makes you brave, or confident is beyond me. There are few and far between authors I know - from the amateurs to the bestsellers - who aren't frequently crippled with self doubt.
If they are lucky - they can hide it. We're not supposed to say we're nervous. Or scared. Or anything less than utterly confident in our books.
We are supposed to be able to stand up now and shout about our successes. Boast our sales figures. Talk confidently about our craft.
I fail on all counts. I feel if I talk sales figures - people will think me a bore. I figure if I talk about my writing people will laugh and think "who is she kidding on with that nonsense?".
But I'm trying to change - because 20 years regretting a socially painful year at journalism college is/ was a big burden to carry.
I am trying to be proud of who I am. To speak loudly about who I am and what I do. I'm trying not to say "just women's fiction really' when people ask me what I write because that's insulting to me - and more so to my readers. I'm trying to own my story - including sharing the truth of my painful year at college (which actually normally just makes me cry when I think about it) so that I can move on and become that confident person.
The acquaintance I spoke with told me I should be living my best life now.
So I suppose I should give that a try for a change - and go forward bravely knowing that even if it has hurt along the way I've not given up.
I'm still trying.
I'm still doing.
And perhaps one day soon when I walk into a crowded room with confident people I will be able to stand up bravely and make sure they know me too. The real me. Not the token quiet girl from Derry.
regular feature of my columns in the Journal was my mention of my "weight loss journey" - which in fairness on enough occasions ended up more of a weight gain journey.
I've done it all - every plan under the sun. Bootcamps, Biggest Losers, Yoga (that is SO not as easy or as relaxing as it looks). My biggest success was in 2015 - when I managed to shed a whopping big 4 stone.
Which is a lot.
But since January, when life took me on an unexpected journey, the loss has not continued. And in fact I have back peddled a little.
Now I need to re-peddle - and get focused on getting healthy again.
And it's more important than ever because I know losing weight and keeping weight off will help me manage my Fibromyalgia better. It won't cure it. But it will make me overall stronger so hopefully I don't cave under the pressure of it.
But God, I hate this bit. The starting again. I hate the wait for the scales, I hate the weight on the scales. I hate the "one last bun" temptation.
I hate that until my body gets used to not being a gorby gorb I *will* be hungry. Despite all the free foods in the world - none of them are carb filled sugary baked goods - I will be hungry.
It's not an easy process. It's not just a matter of "eating less and moving more" - because emotions and life and patterns of behaviour get in the way. Sh*t happens, as they say.
If it didn't, none of us would have weight to lose in the first place.
But oh it's so nice to start this time with such a relatively small weight loss to go to reach my target.
Then again I'm also starting knowing that I am unable to exercise to any real level. And while on meds which make me UBER hungry (Think Cookie Monster).
I think this time I will need more support than ever. Are you with me? Will you hide buns from me? Will you say lovely things about Watermelon? When I weep from chocolate withdrawal will you show me pictures of Michael Buble's wife to encourage me on?
I'll help you, if you help me!
*And for the record, it's Slimming World which I rely on as my current diet of choice. Other weightless programmes are available - but no others have Rocky Road Hifi Bars. So that's me sold.
I took my two kids to see the new Ghostbusters movie this week.
My brother and my niece and nephew also came along. I'll be the first to admit that my initial feelings about the movie weren't great. Why mess with a classic?
It didn't need a reboot. The original remains one of the best movies made ever. (Says me, and I'm right, so there).
But I decided to give it a go - and I'm glad I did. It was just good fun. Just a fun, funny, little bit scary, girl power-y kind of a movie and I loved it . I genuinely took a fit of the giggles at one scene and laughed out loud many times throughout. (And not the fake kind of a laugh you do when watching kids' movies with the childer and trying to let them know 'That bit there - that bit - that was funny...Look!')
My brother had first suggested bringing the kids along as Ghostbusters was one of the first movies he remembers going to see in "the pictures" (the old Strand Cinema in Derry).
It was such a magical experience as a child and he wanted to share some of that magic with his nieces and nephews.
As we stood outside waiting to go in, my brother and I became that sad pair of old relatives who begin a "in my day" conversation.
Oh yes, we told them how the old cinema had just two screens. Their eyes widened when we told them you didn't even get popcorn. You brought your own sweet, a packet of chewits or, if your parents were feeling particularly flush, you got a packet of poppets from the concession booth.
In the interval (the interval, for the love of God.... a blessed thing which allowed over excited children and pelvic floor challenged mothers the chance to go for a wee without missing a key scene of the movie) - we might have got a Rocket Ice Lolly - if we were very lucky.
To get in to the Strand in Derry you often had to queue in the street. I remember on one gut wrenching occasion queuing for half an hour only to get near the top and find out chosen movie - The Care Bears Movie - was sold out.
I was distraught.
But there was little like the lowering of the lights, the frankly naff ads for local shops and then the start of the music to signal a movie was about to start.
You knew you were seeing something out of the ordinary and God love my parents they made sure we saw all the classics - the Star Wars movies, Superman, Ghostbusters - the classics that made a childhood magical.
Today's children won't ever really understand that. They can switch their widescreen TVs on and watch a movie almost whenever they want. Kids movies are churned out at a rate of knots and believe me, from my experience they usually err on the very sucky side. (Tips for the uninitiated, avoid in particular Marmaduke or anything with a Wimpy Kid in the title).
So when you get a movie that just makes you (as in me) feel like that excited child again then it's a rare and brilliant thing.
And when my seven year old nephew turned to me and said "This movie is so good, it's giving me the shakes" - I knew exactly what he meant.
So - my recommendation is, go and see Ghostbusters. Enjoy the innocent fun it brings. Enjoy the nostalgia. If you can find a pocket of Poppets slip them in your bag and bring them too.
Those people who know me know that I harbour a not so secret love for a certain Canadian crooner - by the name of Michael Buble.
I'd always been a bit of a fan but when I saw him in Belfast in December 2014 - I became an official Bublette (yes, that is an actual thing).
Part of me, the part of me that wants to be cool and trendy and hip and young, is mildly embarrassed by my obsession. My older sister lists Eddie Vedder as one of her top crushes. My younger sister has a thing for Tom Hiddleston (although that's under review following the whole Hiddleswift carry on).
Me? I'm all about the crooner in the suits with the cheesy sense of humour. Not an ounce of cool about it. People tend to scoff, or roll their eyes when I tell them. They don't get it.
And that's okay- because if they don't get, there's more Buble for me!
At his Belfast concert - I admit I was a little fragile physically and emotionally. I had undergone major surgery (weemin stuff) less than two week's before. I was feeling delicate - and then I had a night of such silly, fun, sing a long joy that I fell for him and it was as if I was 14 and screaming for Matt Goss all over again.
I cried. I screamed. I cried some more. I elbowed old women and children out of the way* to get close enough to actually hold his hand. I let go of his hand, reluctantly but the imprint of our brief time as a couple has stayed with me forever. (My tongue is in my cheek before you start calling the police to arrange a restraining order!).
If he met me - properly - I'm sure we would be together. I'm sure he would have no problem leaving his Argentinian born, lingerie model and actress, 29 year old wife to be with me. Instead of flying between his luxury homes in Vancouver and Buenos Aires - I'm sure he would be delighted to fly between Vancouver and my mobile home 20 minutes outside of Buncrana. What international singing superstar wouldn't?
I'm sure he wouldn't mind at all leaving the lovely Luisana - and her perfectly toned figure despite having had two children - in favour of an overweight 40 year old who could never be described as a natural beauty?
When I celebrated the big birthday recently my friends made sure he was there - not in person of course, but in the form of a lifesize cardboard cut out. The smile on my face says it all (I may have consumed some alcohol before the picture was taken).
So am I too old for a crush? Should I at 40 years old accept my lot and stop feeling giddy at the sight of a handsome man, with a GSOH and a lovely singing voice?
Should crushes remain the mainstay of the teenagers - a safe way for them to explore their romantic feelings for complete strangers without really risking getting hurt?
Perhaps it's not entirely appropriate for a married mother of two to have proper feelings for a celeb (Sorry Mr Allan) - but since this is just a fantasy I can also fantasize that the Buble would put his own socks in the laundry hamper, know how to clean a bathroom and not be allergic to running a hoover up the stairs every now and again.
Now - if that turns out to be true you might have to get that restraining order in place after all.
I left my daughter to school today. She's seven, just finishing her Primary Three year. "Just think," I said as she skipped beside me towards the classroom, "In two days, your Primary Three year will be all done and you will be a big P4."
Her eyes widened. She smiled at me. A smile I'm still getting used to. The tiny pearl white baby teeth being replaced with her grown up teeth, changing her appearance.
"Can you believe it, Mummy?" she said. And I'm not sure I can. My Facebook 'On This Day' reminder showed me a series of covert messages I'd posted eight years ago when I had just taken a pregnancy test and it had shown that longed for second blue line - but I'd simultaneously started to bleed.
I prayed for days for that baby to hold on - and she did. And now she's funny and beautiful and smart - and looking more and more grown up. Her hands still fit, beautifully in mine. She still likes to sit on my knee. ("Can I sit on your lap, Mummy?" she creeps and I always say yes because I know the day is coming when she won't want to.
Already we have reached a strange sort of a stand off at the classroom door each morning. She doesn't let me leave until her teacher has arrived. Then she offers me a funny kind of a one shouldered hug effort before diving into her class. No more kisses. No more giant hugs. But she always stops at her classroom door and looks at me as if for some sort of reassurance and I always tell her I love her and she skips on.
She needs me still - but the day is coming when I won't even be proffered they awkward shoulder hug.
Today after I left the wee doll to school, I had the task of taking the boy (now 12, almost as tall as me and with a man-deep voice) to school to drop him off for a two day residential trip.
I knew better. I knew there would be no hug. I knew there would be no kiss on the cheek, no awkward shoulder hug. I knew he wouldn't look back for reassurance and that he was batter on - head dipped in that teen cool manner, a bit of a swagger in his step as he headed off for his two day adventure.
As I lifted his bag out of the car for him I managed a secret quick squeeze of his arm and I had to content myself with that.
We all know our children are going to grow up. We all know that it will all seem too fast. We all know what lies ahead - but knowing it doesn't make it easier to feel.
If I could bottle the warmth of their hugs, the feeling of them on my knee, the cries of "Mummmeeeeeee" - then I would because the day will come when I will miss it.
In fact, I'm starting to think that day has already dawned.
On Monday of this week I did something I never thought I would do.
I walked away from the security of my job - from the career in journalism I had worked very hard to achieve and from the place I had worked for 17 years.
The following day, I turned 40.
If there was ever a time for a big change, I imagine turning 40 was it.
Or at least I hope so.
The thing is, I'm not an overly confident person. Making the move to go full time as a writer both thrills and terrifies me. This week, perhaps, it terrifies me more than thrills me as the reality of not having that monthly salary popping into my bank account each month hits.
But when I think of being my own boss - of spending my days writing, or blogging, or on the Twitters, or helping people tell their own stories I feel giddy.
I feel as if my life's purpose is coming to fruition. That my years as a journalist have been preparing me for this moment.
For this big leap into the unknown. For taking chances.
And I never take chances. I am the most un-chance-taking person I know. I like to live in a little predictable bubble of routine - I always have liked to live in a little predictable bubble of routine.
So what changed?
Perhaps a downturn in my health showed me how precious the good days are.
The day the opportunity arrived for me to move on my career also marked the day my granny, to whom Still You was dedicated, passed away.
I know us Irish wans love our grannies - and I was convinced it was her way of saying: "Don't hold back. You are guaranteed nothing. Do it now, for me."
So I'm doing it for her.
That's not to say leaving the Derry Journal was easy. It was hard - the place has been my home from home for 17 years. I have seen a lot of change, told a lot of stories. met a lot of people. I can never be anything less than grateful for the experiences working there gave me.
But habit and security are no reason to stay somewhere that no longer sets your soul on fire.
And thankfully (and I do know I am very lucky) we as a family were in a position to allow me to take this chance.
This is a whole new chapter - after eight books.
It will be interesting to see what comes next.
But so many people have asked me to keep 'Skirting the Issue' going - so I intend to do that. I will post a new blog post - a new opinion piece - here every Wednesday. I hope you come on this journey with me.