Maseratis and keeling over

My problem: unless I am under enormous pressure and have Satan breathing down my neck, I am the laziest and most unmotivated chick you’ll ever meet in your life. And this is just it – my life is too damn comfortable. It’s just too easy for me to bob along, have everything come easy, live the good life and just enjoy doing cool stuff with my husband and son. Don’t get me wrong – I am so happy it’s just… …STUPID. It’s really quite ridiculous. Then again, joy is my default setting, I get it from my dad I think (the guy is  unbearably cheerful) and it just seems to be my nature to look on the bright side of life. Now, that’s not a bad thing. I’m just saying.

So I wake up every morning feeling happiness and gratitude, and how could I not? I’m truly blessed. No, I haven’t bought a Maserati yet (a GranCabrio in midnight blue, per favore), nor do I own a holiday home on Waihi Beach (YET!) but that’s just a matter of time and until then I have everything I could ever possibly need or want as things stand. But what I have discovered is this: as wonderful as it is to be emotionally fulfilled and have these two (B and Monkey) along with living where we live, blessed with amazing friends and family and have the life that we do, I need something else to fire me up. Hence I have hit a point where I feel incredibly restless and a little flat. I need a focus, goals… ….what I need is PRESSURE! I want to achieve. It’s one thing to strive to be a good person (and for the large part I believe I am), to be kind and empathetic and so on, but I think we all to some extent want to do well beyond our personal qualities whether it be having expert knowledge in some field or coming home each day knowing we really made a difference somehow. Just be able to say: “I did that”!

Before I met B I spent some years as a single mother in this insanely expensive city that is Londinium, so I know what I can be and achieve when I’m under tremendous amounts of pressure and stress to make things work. I know that I am a BADASS when I have to be.

There it is! When I HAVE to be.

So, the time has come to set some goals and targets and form a plan for the near future. B and I have been together for four years and a few months (and yes, we still celebrate every month – we just celebrated 51 months – cheesy, eh) and so we are ready for the next stage. These first few years were building stones and we’re currently cruising on a comfortable plateau having last year bought a home and this year got hitched.

My goal: in two years from now make a nice little income from making jewellery (I will in three month’s time be able to call myself a silversmith, and after that a Diploma course awaits and progressing on to more precious metals and stones) and the rest of the time focus on writing. That should nicely bring me back into an existence where I once again feel productive, that I’m achieving and that I’m doing something really worthwhile. That and getting super fit! I think at 41 I’m still at a stage where I am probably able to achieve something pretty awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I like ME, but I’m curious to see if I could go a little drastic and tickle the fitness fanatic in me (if that fanatic exists – perhaps I’ll just discover that I just LIKE exercise but won’t LOVE massive amounts of it). I don’t intend to turn bodybuilder or aim for no body fat or be a size zero or anything stupid like that, but just see what I might be able to do within reasonable limits. After a summer spent celebrating, my first two runs this week felt like death. Actually, they were not as bad as I thought it’d be but death nonetheless. I know it won’t take long though and hopefully in the next couple of weeks I’ll be able to run, say, 5k without keeling over. We’ll see. It’s a start.

Our goal: we’ve set up a budget, which was pretty scary as it showed not only how much we could (and should!) save without forsaking random trips, holidays, nice clothes and several date nights every month, it also showed how we fritter money away like it’s confetti. So a bit more focus and if we just hold back a LITTLE – honestly, there are no big changes required, just a few small adjustments – we should with good margin be able to buy a decent holiday home in Sweden within five years should we choose to. I’m more keen on NZ, but no need to decide. Who knows what, when or even if – all we know is that if we just keep to this little plan, the ‘how’ isn’t going to be an issue.

For now, I will continue to appreciate a lovely Plan B job that I do enjoy and that the people I work for are lovely so there is – as I said before – no reason for me to complain, I simply don’t have anything to complain about, but I just need stuff to happen! I’m no good at this cruising phase we find ourselves in. What to be careful about also is how fired up I get starting things off – I’m so awesome at that bit! What career would allow me to do that? Be the proverbial firestarter? Anyway, it’s applying the plan, follow it and stick at it I suck at. Feeling very, very determined so time will tell… It usually does.

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Rockabilly and the 65

Surprisingly, I didn’t find it as hard as I thought I would to go to sleep last night, nor did I have nightmares following the encounter with Crazy Eyes in Pret yesterday morning. Feeling a lot calmer, but instead of walking all the way to Richmond town centre and hopping on a bus from there the rest of the way to work, I got on the trusty old 65 a few stops before, in Kew. Shame really, because once again it’s a beautiful, sunny morning and I was full of energy and could easily have walked all the way.

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed during walks or runs is listening to music on full blast. For whatever reason, this isn’t so much the case anymore. Don’t know if I simply need to overhaul my iTunes library and find some new influences to shake up this eclectic mix of anything from Alice in Chains to old school rockabilly and bluegrass via classical music and the occasional chart topper. Given my wide taste in music (don’t really dislike anything except improvisational jazz – eurgh!) I don’t know if that’s it though. Lately I’ve turned my attention to audio books, and I really like those especially as I don’t read anywhere near as much as I used to and this provides some much needed mental hygiene. Well, there’s sexy B in bed every evening so most of the time reading for a while is just something I do right before sleep. However, listening to an audio book is still something I’m getting used to, because when I’m walking that’s when my mind wanders and I clear my thoughts.

Or maybe this makes perfect sense in how I’ve over the past year or so have become really fed up with social media and the like, coming to crave peace and quiet. My walks now are accompanied by either a narrator or just the sights and sounds around me. That’s another problem with audio books – with sights and sounds during a walk, I find it harder to immerse myself in the imagery of the spoken word, making it more difficult to really take in the book and fully appreciate it. Someone swore by podcasts but I have yet to be hooked, perhaps I’ve just looked in the wrong places.

Ah well. In other news the writing is flowing and although I already have the backbone (and much else of the skeleton) I’ve found it really useful to flesh everything out using the Snowflake Method. For any writer, more here. I thought at first that this might be overkill as I have roughly 50% of the second draft nailed and I’m pretty clear on where I’m going with it, but it’s really helped me iron out some little kinks and things I needed to polish.

By the end of June, I’d like to have a full second draft – aiming for 100k words again and then chop into it again if I need to. Rather have too much than too little.

Status Updates and Loved-Up People

Gotta love it. Autumn is my favourite season by far – I love the dark evenings with candle light, I even love the cold and I love the build-up to Christmas. It’s been a hectic morning, with Monkey and Hendrix playing (and with me shouting at them as Monkey managed to teach her to chase his trouser leg – no wonder I struggle to keep that little pirhana in check with this going on) and B working from home before heading off to a meeting this end of town. Inbetween getting Monkey ready for school and making sure I got my early morning caffeine hit, we’ve also ordered Monkey’s birthday present. It’s birthday and Christmas rolled into one, from me, B and my Mum – otherwise I would NOT be spending £300+ on an 11-yearold. Xbox One with FIFA16 is this year’s must-have.

Monkey’s with his father this year anyway, so not like he’d face an empty Christmas stocking. B and I will be on our own (well, with Hendrix) and I think we’re just going to stay put here in London and hopefully see B’s sons Christmas Eve. Next year I hope we’ll have all three boys with us and who knows, perhaps it’ll be a wonderfully white Christmas in Sweden.

Today is also our 29-month anniversary. Yep, we’re those annoyingly loved-up people who celebrate every single month with cards and pressies. Because B reads this blog, I can’t outline what I’m doing for him, but I hope today goes quickly and he gets home not too late. Oh, and the Apprentice is on, so….. ..yay!

My Facebook account has now been deactivated and I have to say it feels good. It’s good for many reasons, but it makes people lazy and as I mentioned in a previous post, I think we’re sometimes so busy documenting what we’re up to (by posting photos of where we are or status updates outlining what we’re doing) that we fail to truly enjoy living in those moments that we share.

B’s gone to his meeting now, Hendrix is chewing her bone under the table (one paw on my foot of course, to keep tabs on me) and Monkey’s at school, so I’m going back to Alice. Have a solid 30k words and making good progress so here’s to another creative day!

Chunks and Foes

I am going on a Facebook break. Not that I’m a ‘heavy’ user or anything, I mostly go on to check what friends and family abroad are up to, but out of the 124 people on my friends list there are only a handful I actually have in my real life as such. And the 124 was at one point over 300 – and I do not have 300 friends. I mean, some people were barely acquaintances. So I did a chop and left on there are the people that I’d happily go and grab a beer with, or people from my home town.

With a scary deadline hanging over me, I have decided to embarge on a little Facebook hiatus. I really need to focus now and that gives me a welcome excuse to deactivate my profile for a while, so I’ve put a little status update on there so no one will think I’ve unfriended them, and tomorrow morning, it comes down. I’m actually looking forward to hiding away for a while when I churn out the second draft. Eek, I read somewhere that a bestselling author that I love re-wrote her first novel 11 times before it was right. Fk me, I feel exhausted just at the thought! Just getting going on the second draft has taken forever, as I’ve battled the mother of all writer’s blocks.

Structuring my day helps massively, as well as all the planning that goes into writing – I definitely work best that way, and what it also does is that it breaks it all down into achievable chunks and part goals. I mean, knowing I need to nothing but write-write-write between 10am and noon, and again between 1pm and 3pm, is much better than just thinking “I have to write all this stuff”. The ‘have to’ is the culprit there, and I have therefore made ‘want to’ my BFF – every time I sit down to write at my scheduled time slots (that fit around B, Monkey and Hendrix), I just feel gratitude rather than that old foe anxiety.

Planning around the writing consists of several things – a novel blueprint is probably my main tool. It outlines everything from the mood of my novel, to the central idea, to detailed character bios and even photos that capture the novel’s essence. This snazzy little tool I found via Now Novel and I’d go as far as saying now that I have it I don’t know what I’d do without it. Another tool is a board with lots of post-its that I keep moving around – normally what goes on there are ideas that pop into my head when I’m writing that I want to use for a different chapter or develop into a scene. Reminders, if you like. When I’ve written them, I draw a big tick across the note. I also have a long sheet of paper that looks something like a bunch of graphs – the main story arch, the sub archs and key events plotted out in a time line. Works for me. I like stuff like that, which in itself sometimes slows me down as I have a tendency to spend too much time planning and not get around to DOING….

Ah well. Looking forward to my Facebook break. Perhaps I won’t go back. It does wind me up in some ways. I mean, there are people who seem to spend their whole lives on there, it’s almost like people miss the actual moments they capture and display. Almost like validation. It’ll be interesting also to see if I will get contacted in the old school way – how fkn depressing if I don’t hear from anyone at all during my little break!

Now then. NaNoWriMo – another great tool to keep focused.

First Drafts and Fresh Flowers

Perhaps life will slow down a little in the next few weeks, who knows. Not that I’m complaining – I’m fully aware of how lucky I am to have the life that I do, with B and Monkey. Oh, and of course Hendrix, who, as I’m writing this, has as usual parked herself by (or on, rather) my feet along with her half chewed and soggy pig’s ear. Gross. After a weekend full of adventures, we just have a few moments before the next one. Mum’s over from Sweden from tomorrow until Sunday and I can’t wait to have her here. What it does mean is that today will be busy. Need to give the flat a good clean, get some fresh flowers, sort out Monkey’s room where Mum will be sleeping and generally make sure I can make her feel every bit as welcome as she is – massively.

I do feel a bit sorry for Monkey when we have visitors, usually B’s boys or my family, and he has to sleep on an air mattress in our bedroom. One day, maybe we’ll have something bigger. Mostly for all three boys’ sake, that would be wonderful. Then B’s boys wouldn’t have to feel they’re temporary visitors in what’s Monkey’s room, and Monkey wouldn’t be pushed out like that. Not that I think Monkey minds as he loves his stepbrothers (which is how he sees them – he absolutely adores them and you can tell he finds them super cool) and would probably sleep on the floor without complaint if it meant they were around, but still. One day. Would love to have another bedroom that could be more dedicated to B’s sons (or even two more – imagine, one each!) and maybe double up as guest room. One day.

Speaking of boys, B’s youngest turned 21 yesterday and we got to see them both on Sunday on our way home from a weekend break in the Peak District. As always, it was lovely, and as always, it was too short. Hoping we can engineer something around Christmas.

God, Hendrix is really going at that disgusting pig’s ear. Weird little creature – not sure if it’s separation anxiety, but she is always around me and ideally ON me, and currently there is one fat little paw on my foot and that soggy pig’s ear on my toes as she’s chewing away. She’s still doing her weird thing where she’s all calm and cuddly around me, and goes wild around B and Monkey. Every evening when B comes home she goes completely mental, whizzing around his feet and bounces around like she thought she’d lost him forever whilst he’s been at work. It’s cute and crazy, much like Hendrix overall.

The writing is moving along at a good pace, finally. Not quite hitting 8,300 words per week, but not too far off the mark so I feel positive and confident again. Because I, for the longest time, didn’t even dare look at the first draft, now that I’m forcing myself to do so, it’s encouraging to find that I can keep more of it than I thought. I’ll get there.

As usual, I’m creating to-do lists in my head for the day ahead and today’s list goes something like this:

  • Head to the pet shop (and practice walking Hendrix on a loose lead along the way – we’re getting there but she’s still wanting to chase cars) to exchange Hendrix’s Halloween outfit (yep, I’m that sort of dog owner – a black outfit with a glow-in-the-dark skeleton along the back) and get a new collar as her fat little neck is getting too, er, FAT for her puppy one.
  • Get some fresh flowers.
  • Head to H&M in Hammersmith and get a new batch of clothes for Monkey, who seems to be growing at break-neck speed.
  • Clean the flat, which will take best part of three hours – no shortcuts with Mum over…
  • Fit in solid writing time somewhere.
  • I’m sure there was something else too…. So best get going….

Little Jokes and Sobs

Life continues to be busy. This past weekend we had B’s brother and his family over – they’ve spent the last month travelling around and their last few days they were here in Chiswick. I met them of course when we went to New Zealand in February-March 2014, but now we really got to spend some quality time as opposed to briefer visits with lots of other family. B’s boys came down too, which was brilliant, and Monkey was around as well. B’s brother’s son is the same age, and to boot the two boys look scarily similar. In fact, those two look more alike than anyone in the family who are actually related, and they hit it off just as we thought they would and it was so lovely to see.

Beyond all the loveliness, there was sadness too and once I was past feeling upset for Monkey, I ended up so angry with my ex. Not even sure how to sum it up, but basically Monkey has (or HAD, as the case is now) a dog at his dad’s. They got him early this year, so the poor thing was still just a pup and one Monkey obviously loved endlessly, being his and all. Apparently the people they got him from met up with them IN A BLOODY CAR PARK (warning bells ringing, I ask??) and the little puppy petrified. They still went ahead and took him home. To be fair, had it been me, I would have wanted to save that little dog too. As Monkey’s stepmum put it, he would have met with a terrible fate had they not taken him. But who am I to place blame? All I know is that a poor animal was mistreated/abused and developed aggression as a result, through no fault of his own.

It all culminated with said pup ending up lashing out as two small children, one of whom was a two-year-old girl whose cheek and lip Monkey’s dog punctured. My ex had to file a report, then had to take him straight to the vet where Monkey’s beloved puppy was put down in accordance with the Dangerous Animals Act. My ex asked me to keep it to myself as he needed to be the one to tell Monkey the following day. 24 hours I spent fighting back the tears, knowing such a devastating blow was about to be dealt to my 11-yearold boy who loves/loved his dog so much.

The following day, B and I took Monkey to Waterloo, where the ex and Monkey’s stepmum met us to take Monkey. They both looked like death, and despite Monkey’s stepmum trying to be cheery and make little jokes, I welled up and thought I was going to go hysterical for Monkey’s sake. For that very reason though – FOR MONKEY’S SAKE – I somehow just pushed things back, swallowed the sobs that threatened to spill out of me, squeezed B’s hand hard and tried to say goodbye in as normal a way as I could muster.

Lesson one for the ex, I hope, is to acquire a pet in a responsible manner in the future – just how this little pup came to be theirs had disaster written all over it. And a punctured cheek and lip could easily have been much worse. Our own child or someone else’s.

Naturally, it broke Monkey’s little heart, and I hope he will get over it sooner rather than later. In some ways, important life lessons to be learnt, but even so I keep thinking it was all so unnecessary. Poor Monkey, and poor puppy. People who allow animals to suffer should be shot without a trial.

To get back to happier things, the writing is back on track and I’m feeling confident again, having a very productive week so far and looking forward to the rest of our lives unfolding. So much to be grateful for that I can’t even begin to count my blessings as it’d take forever.

Tests and Two Bag Gangsters

Bleurgh, what a miserable day. It’s grey and rainy outside, and I seem to have come down with something. Felt slightly off both Saturday and again yesterday, and this morning whatever-this-is seems to have properly hit me. I’d say flu, but there’s no cold to speak of beyond aching sinuses and a headache that I can only describe as ‘stinging’. Kind of behind my eyes. Apart from that I think I’ve had an on-off temperature (currently held at bay with Lemsip) and I’m aching all over. Did all the stuff I needed to do this morning, then headed to bed at lunchtime and slept for a solid couple of hours. Didn’t feel much better waking up, so God bless my beautiful B, who’s working from home today and went to collect Monkey from school for me.

Monkey starts big school next year, so it’s around this time that big decisions have to be made. He’s a very smart little cookie and his headmistress has recommended he takes a shot at the tests for getting into the fancy grammar school down Kingston way. Said and done, and tomorrow is the first batch of tests. Not sure how this sits with me, the equalitarian Swede who believes everyone should be offered the same opportunities – the whole thing reeks of elitism to me, and also I’m not sure I like the idea of so much pressure when he’s barely 11. I think we have made it very clear to him that there is no pressure (a contradiction in terms, I realise) and have made it clear to him that this isn’t a test to ascertain how clever he is but rather to work out if this school is right for him, but not sure how he’ll feel if he doesn’t pass. 3,000 boys sitting the first tests for 90 places on offer.

His headmistress told us that many parents start prepping their kids for these tests from a young age, as in every day from reception year. We’ve resolved to just have him occasionally go through a couple of exercises from the recommended books so he’ll know how these tests are structured, but not drill him or have him practice beyond. At the end of the day, I just want him (as long as Monkey himself wants to of course, and he seems very keen) to do his best and then we’ll see. I mean, what if a child were to pass because they know every possible question and answer combination possible off by heart? If Monkey passes, I want him to pass because he is capable of passing – then we’ll know he can cope with the academic level, which I’d be worrying about if he’d been drilled to shit practicing.

So early tomorrow morning we’ll set off and we’ll just see how we go. If this one’s not right, we have an excellent secondary school right around the corner, and I also believe you can only shape children’s lives so much – if he is an academic star, he’ll do as well there as he might at the fancy place. And the school trips won’t cost an arm and a leg. Oh yes, I have done my research – this grammar school has all the over-the-top stuff going on. Not sure I want to run the risk of him becoming a privileged arsehole. I realise that schools don’t necessarily produce children like that but that this sort of stuff is down to the parents and their home life, but there we are. I just don’t know how I feel about it, that’s all. But let’s see how Monkey does and how Monkey feels, and the final decision will be about that and what’s best for him.

This evening we are going to our second puppy training class with cheeky little Hendrix. I think we have this sitting thing pretty much down, but will need to have another little go before we head off. They go round the participants and I don’t want to be the one with the impossible pup. She’s growing so fast, this little lump. When we first met her, she fit into the palm of B’s hand, she was like a little fat rat. Although still very much a puppy, she’s really beefed up, a solid, square shouldered and ever so enchanting pug princess. The best thing about her is her personality. Sure, I’m no dog whisperer (or I would be better at picking up on her signals when she needs to take a dump – we had two indoor No 2 accidents yesterday), do I have no idea if she is secretly miserable, but that wiggling little pig tail and her bounciness suggest to me that she’s happy and full of beans.

It really is like having a baby, I think I underestimated how much work she’d be. Not that I’m complaining, but it’s not often I leave her to it here at home. Before you know it, even if she’s been out in the past hour, she could be circling around and sniffing, then squat…. She’s a little shit machine, that’s for sure – really, I don’t understand where it comes from unless she has a secret food and treat stash. ‘Two Bag Hendrix’ is her gangster name now, a nod to how she often takes two dumps in one outing. Big ones too.

Right. I’m writing a whole new chapter 2 this afternoon as I realised there’s stuff that needs to go in there right at the beginning, so need to get on with it.