It’s citizenship day!

Hip and caffeinated ☕️

I don’t think anyone loves this photo as much as I do. I thought it was cool that I had all the things hip going on at once — hip people, a guy with a hip hat, and even a coffee, all while at a hip movie theatre.

Anyway, I wanted to post something of an update today just because it’s sort of a special day. Right now, I am an American citizen. By 4PM I will be an American citizen as well as a British citizen. How exciting?

Unfortunately, though, I’m ill. Like not a normal cold, ill. Been in bed for days, can’t mentally function kind of ill. This is the price we pay to work in customer service, I suppose. All the germs travel to us, then we end up feeling guilty about being off sick and pass it on to all of our co-workers. Last time I was off, however, I had the stomach flu, so having a stuffy cold may be some sort of consolation prize. Not sure.

Aside from that, things at Pick Manor have been iffy. I had the brilliant idea of buying a house a while ago and now that we’re finally in the process, we found that it’s just a huge pain. First of all, you have to sell your property first before anyone will “take you seriously” about purchasing another. This means no matter how much your bank has approved you for in financing or how much you have saved, you can’t make any kind of move unless it’s sold. (Granted, yes, if you want to, you can have two properties and rent one out, but you end up paying a penalty for this and yay taxes!)

We came close to buying a new house near Steve’s work, but that was just too expensive. We would have poured all of that savings he worked so hard for, just to have something that wasn’t in the location we wanted and wasn’t even big enough for a washer and a dryer. (It’s not common to find these things in a British house, but if I’m going to move, I’d like the option, you know?)

So we’re sitting here waiting. Poor Steve has had a hard time of it, because this is just so bloody stressful. When the surveyors came around to check our property in lieu of the new house purchase, an electrician told us that our flat needed a whole rewire because it was dangerous. We’d not done anything to the electrics since Steve moved in here in 2008 so that was freaking frustrating. The electrician told us what a nightmare it would be and how we couldn’t even consider having it done ourselves because the electricians would turn it into a bomb site and it would be unliveable afterwards. He suggested we have the builders handle that, take the cut in the offer the builders gave us for our flat as part-exchange, and get on with it. The builders weren’t having that, so we took Daisy to doggy day-care, and toted Jake to a hotel with us for three days while an electrician did the work. Mind you, this was the third electrician we had come around to do a quote because the first two were like, “What a mess! This is awful! How could you live here with this?! Why did you purchase it?” and on and on.

With the recent Beast from the East snowageddon, I learned that it’s illegal to not clear the snow off the hood and roof of your car. It’s too dangerous. However, a flat that has dodgy electrics that could potential kill everyone in the building — that’s okay? Makes no earthly sense whatsoever.

But no matter. Here I am in England, trying to hang out with a severe cold with my cat on the coffee table, my dog in “her” room which is the computer room that Steve’s in currently working from home. I still have my lovely view from my big picture window in the living room and we still have money in the bank. All in all, it could be worse. It’s just freaking frustrating.

Nonetheless, I will become a royal subject this afternoon and celebrate at a pub in the best British fashion this evening. Cheers!

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Things that won’t happen in 2018

My new iPhone has an awesome camera!

New Year’s Resolutions. I usually do them, but this year, I’m not so sure I should bother.

Last year I put something like I was going to do well at my job, eat better, exercise more, write my books, read my books, and be a genuinely 100% perfect individual. It didn’t happen, or actually it happened in moments, so maybe I did okay in the end, but if I were to write the same tired goals down, I’d just be wasting time and kidding myself.

So here’s what’s not going to happen in 2018:

I’m not going to finish a book. I know that because as has been for the last two years, I do not have time. My job is an on-the-go kind of job so I don’t sit and ponder my next scene as much as I used to. I’m also around people all the time, so I can’t focus on anything creative. I only really feel myself and focused on creative tasks when I’m home for a few days (like Christmas and New Year’s Day). Sure, I can write a few paragraphs here and there, but it doesn’t amount to anything. I could write short stories, but I gave that up a long time ago. I could piece the stories together, sure, but that would take planning and organization which, again, takes time that I don’t have.

I won’t read more. This is from the same exact reasons as the writing, although I do have time set aside for reading, I usually spend it staring off into space on the bus, or looking at my phone. I still buy books and I still like to promote them on my blog but I only recently updated my Currently Reading list on Goodreads, and it’s sort of a lie. I’m reading It, got two from Santa. I bought a couple on the £.99 Kindle sale before Christmas too.

The eating more healthy is a tricky one because that’s a big priority for me, so tell you what, I’ll really try to accomplish this one. As much as the non-writing makes me so disconnected from myself, not taking care of myself is rotten. I can’t dress up. I can’t feel good. I haven’t been able to go to Weight Watchers in ages because inevitably something happens after work on Wednesdays and I never get there. Now we have the dog, so I can’t go straight to a meeting on my half day because I have to go home and check on her. Every other Wednesday maybe or just bite the bullet and go to the super packed evening meetings (even though there is limited parking at our gym even in the afternoon on weekdays). But, whatever, if I don’t let the work schedule drain me of all motivation to do anything other than eat Greggs for lunch, then fine, I’ll do it.

Exercise. Okay, this is maybe do-able. Again, with the dog, I’ll have to be outside more and walking with her. I get up early with her anyway, so I have time to get outside and maybe make a breakfast that isn’t instant. Also, Steve and I have decided to do the Great North Run this year because everyone else loses weight from running, so this may be the only way I’m going to get motivated to do the same. We jogged a bit in October but once the dog came around and the cold set in, we stopped and adjusted our schedules around her. As she gets older, hopefully the time needed to take a run will be available.

Live in the same flat. We put ours up on the market yesterday. Now, since England has funny rules about house purchases, you won’t be “taken seriously” by a seller of a house until you have “money in the bank” with your property already sold. Doesn’t matter if you have been guaranteed a mortgage based on your income and amount your current mortgage is. Even if you’re going to sell, you have to do it first, end up without a place to live, so we may have to live in rented accommodation for a while, until we can find a new place to live. Apparently this is their “property chain” that’s totally common and no one questions it. Also, if you make an offer on a house, you’re not legally obligated to go through with the sale. You can put in offers for all sorts of houses and decide on one. Most places we’ve looked at so far (although they tell you not to bother since no one thinks anyone actually has money to buy anything) told us that their house was sold, but two months down the line the buys pulled out of the sale. This is normal, I take it, and no doubt will be stuff we’ll have to deal with with the sale of our place. But hopefully this year, we will get it sold and move into a house in the same area. (Or America??)

Just be a foreign resident of England. I applied for my UK citizenship last October. I’ve had my fingerprints done and all the fines paid, so I’m just waiting for a letter to say I can go to a swearing in ceremony in town. Exciting!

Now, I’d say I’d expect a family to turn up and to get a certificate in Computer Science, but those are things I’d really like to have happen and I don’t know if I’m going to get there by December. Hopefully though, I can have all those little hopes and dreams reached so I can have new ones for next year. (Or at least go back to the tried and true ones for 2019).

Anyway, hope everyone has a Happy New Year and hope 2018 treats you well.

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Partying, writing, and letting my husband drive my car

Washington Old Hall, Sunderland

Once again, it’s the weekend, so it’s time to write a blog post.

Not much has happened in the last week or so, but nonetheless, I’ll mention a few things.

First of all, Steve got his Theory Test done, so he’s half way through towards getting his license. This meant that he needed extra time with my car, which was something I really thought I could ignore until he had his own car. After years of having the dreaded manual shift and almost burning the whole clutch out waiting in traffic for an hour one morning, going to work, I traded it in for a little automatic Toyota Yaris. (I love that car!) Now I can concentrate on the road and cars and roundabouts — not the stupid gear shift, hand brake, clutch control nonsense that’s absolutely painful when sitting in some horrendous traffic through Newcastle each morning.

Anyway, I called our insurance company yesterday and we have Steve as an infrequent driver on my car. So he drove me to Beamish yesterday on the windy, country roads. To be fair, he did all right, but I was convinced I was going to be run off the road because I was so close to the left-hand side of the car.

I think it’s fair to say I have an issue with the lack of control.

Work has been the same as usual. I’m still counting down the days until my holiday (5 weeks and two days). In the meantime, I have work parties that I can go to, but as all introverts have to struggle with — do I go and be social or do I stay home and wish I had a social life? My main problem is location. I work every other weekend, and I live an hour away on the bus. That means if I do go anywhere, I have to take public transport to work, get a lift to the party (or even take a bus and hang out until official party time) then get a taxi home.

Plus, is it my age, or is hanging out in the bar for hours really, really boring? I mean, when I was in Florida, I could hang out with my friends for hours but we generally mixed it up with shopping, dining, drinking, and nightclub dancing. Then we could add some well-deserved drama when we were around other people who did strange things at said nightclub.

I know it’s a very British thing to just hanging out at a pub, but I’ve tried it but after 2 hours, I’m just bored to tears. I guess if you go to different places it’s more fun but, meh.

I did buy some cool Chelsea boots for the occasion though, just in case I want to go anywhere.

I don’t like not being thin anymore either. Being chubby and trying to look cute is just not one of my strong suits. One of the girls at work said she’d pick me up and I could get ready at her house. My first thought was, “I’ll be dressed for work. That’s as ready and as dressy as I get these days.”

But at any rate, the writing has been still a struggle, especially to stay focused and get chipping away at the actual project. I always liked pantsing my projects and letting them grow organically, as Stephen King says, but without a clear direction, I’m just writing bits of a whole and I need to know how they fit together.

Amy Pohler is right. Writing is hard.

If I were able to just write and hang out and not have the outside forces of the universe giving me reasons to stay distracted, I would have had a couple more rough drafts under my belt. I’ve even thought of just going back to one of my last projects and editing the crap out of that in order to have something productive to construct. At least then I could have an aim in mind because I know where I wanted those projects to go.

Instead, however, I’m blogging and playing The Sims 4 and hanging out at home with Steve and Jake (the cat) as I always do on Sundays. At least I have written something today, but that’s small potatoes compared to what I should be doing.

It’s a beautiful day outside and I’m indoors. Such is my life.

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House redecorating, holiday prep, driving, and losing writing

Morning stroll.

Well, it’s my day off so it’s blogging day.

Since my last post in June we’ve been doing more house remodeling than traveling. First of all, we live in a little two bedroom flat. It was built in the 80s so it’s not that old but it hasn’t been renovated for ages, so it needs a good make-over.
The first thing we did was get new blinds for the place. Steve stays home to work on Tuesdays, and with the sun blaring at us from the valley around 2PM on, it gets unbearably hot in the living room. (Insert my whining about why there is no air conditioning in the United Kingdom.) So I saw an ad in the paper that I happened to be looking at in the library one day and they had everything measured and cut within a few days of my initial call. Apparently, our flat has bigger windows than most homes, so I am pretty pleased that not only do we have an awesome view, but we have an awesome ability to look at it.
Now we have blackout blinds in each room, so I can come home from a long day of helping all the people with their IT queries, draw the blinds, grab a cider from the fridge and relax. It’s a priceless luxury, I tell you that much.
The next thing on our list is the bathroom. We’re getting the full suite redone so I actually have counter space (hooray!) instead of just dealing with a pedestal sink that can barely hold a toothbrush and a bottle of handwash. Now, the best part about our plumber coming to see us was that he immediately commented on how hot and humid our flat was. We have never had a vent working in our bathroom and there’s no window to let the steam out, so it gets really damp in our place. Of course, neither of us have been smart enough to put two and two together and figure out that what we need is a dehumidifier along with a vent for the bathroom.
Now we have the dehumidifier and the ventilation will be included in our new bathroom suite which will be installed when we get back from the Florida trip in October. (Another hooray!)
Our other revamping adventure includes a kitchen which I’m still skeptical about. We planned everything with IKEA a couple of weeks ago, and as awesome as the thing seems, it’s a big process for a little flat. I mean if we sell or rent the place out, it will increase the value, I guess. However, I will finally have a dishwasher again (I’ve been without for 6 and 1/2 years) plus a big refrigerator (ours is about 4 feet high and 2 feet wide – keeping a Thanksgiving turkey in it is non-negotiable). This will be tough to part with if we move from our little flat on the cul-de-sac with the awesome view.

Now, for the traveling bit — we’ve taken a small visit to Washington Old Hall because it is the home of George Washington’s ancestors. We’ve planned out our Florida trip and instead of taking a mini holiday to Nashville or Las Vegas while we’re in the USA, I made the executive decision for us to take a cruise over one of the weekends we didn’t have anything else planned.
I have never thought I wanted to go on a cruise but for the price and convenience, not to mention the fact that I don’t have to drive or be mindful of some itinerary for a few days, I chose a 3-day cruise to The Bahamas. If it’s too crowded or we hate it, fair enough, we don’t have to do it again. But, if my parents end up moving back to Ohio (something they’ve considered since 1989) then this may be our last chance to go on one. My friends in Florida have been on zillions and enjoy it, so I may as well give it a whirl.

Speaking of driving, I’ve been practicing my driving a little more now that it’s half term (school’s out!) so the roads are less hectic. I still take the bus on Tuesdays because I like using it as reading day. Long bus rides = getting reading done. So I’ve driven to the coast on the weekends, even went to a library by myself in the car. I used to absolutely love driving, now it just makes me nervous if I don’t know where I’m going.

Steve has just passed his Driving Theory Test though, so he’s well on his way to getting his license. I’m so excited for him because he’s wanted this for a very long time. Plus, it will be an immense help to have two drivers within the same household. When you want to take the bus you can, but if not, there’s always the car.

For the writing bit — I was complaining on Twitter that I had lost a bit of writing that I remembered doing not too long ago. It was part of a WIP that I’ve been playing around with for a couple of years now. It wasn’t monumental or anything, it just had the tone right for the relationship between the mother and the daughter. I use Evernote, Scrivener, OneNote, Novlr, and 750 Words to keep my writing available on the fly. I’ve had to hunt before for bits of writing, but I usually find it. This one has just vanished and I honestly don’t remember where or when I write the scene.

So absolutely frustrating.

Anyway, my life has been about work and I think Steve is fed up with hearing about me whine about it. I’m in desperate need of a vacation so next month I will be in Florida with the biggest smile on my face. (More and more hoorays!)

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York and Everyday Things

Photo

Yesterday, I surprised Steve with a trip to York so we could finally visit the Railway Museum. I was really surprised how big the place was, and we spent hours in there looking at everything. Personally, I was interested in the railway library called Search Engine (how appropriate).

Other than that, it’s been all about work. I am trying to get back into the mental headspace of writing. Really, I’m trying to convince myself that A. I have time to write each day and B. Even if I just write a little each day, it’s worth it. When I know I won’t be able to keep my mind focused on a 50,000 word 1st draft of something for 2 months (if I split the normal 1667 word count into two), I just keep thinking that it’s a failed effort.

However, I’ve been searching for inspiration and so far Gilbert’s Big Magic has helped. She has a whole section on not quitting your day job while you write because if you require your creativity to pay your bills, especially before you’ve written your Eat, Pray, Love masterpiece/best-seller. I took this to heart and thought, yeah, I can chill out about that because I need to work and I’m just going to have to fit writing and using my time wisely around the schedule that I have at the moment.

“But to yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”

This book also talks about how you’re not going to succeed if you don’t accept the tough bits. I, personally, do not like that after I’ve written, I have to rewrite, edit, find critique partners, rewrite again, find beta reader, and then maybe, hopefully, possibly snag an agent who maybe, hopefully, luckily, possibly get me a publishing deal. Yes, I hate the not-so-fun parts. I admit that wholeheartedly. I hate the idea of trying to make an author platform and pitching my ideas to potential agents. I don’t really worry about the rejection because I sort of expect it, but knowing that I’ll be rejected and knowing how tough it is. (Though you see people getting books deals for stuff that I think, “that’s not that great” or “I could have written that” is equally as tormenting.)

But it has to be done, and right now I know it won’t be done soon. I’m incredibly impatient. When I want something, I want it now. If I have to do stuff for it, fine, but I want the results to be swift and rewarding. With creating works of literature, I know that’s just not how it goes. I have to be in it for the long haul, even if I think the finished product will never truly be done. (Another thing Gilbert talks about – perfectionism will keep your creativity from flowing.)

Other than that, I’ve been watching Orange is the New Black Season 5. I’ve been reading Dumplin and The Hate U Give as I finish up Big Magic. My brother-in-law is getting married in July, so we’ll be attending the wedding in Liverpool. And since today is Father’s Day, I wished my Dad a very happy day. (And Steve too, even though we just have the cat and he pretty much runs our lives anyway.) And I’ve been playing The Sims 4: Parenthood, which is just an on-going thing that will never end for me and The Sims 4. We’ve been through too many years together to stop now.

For all of you doing JuNoWriMo, I salute you. Keep strong and write on! Find your inspiration and run with it.

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