Wednesday, 31 December 2008

In Lieu of Resolutions: Reflections

The New Year is typically a time in which we look ahead and make resolutions that, more often than not, end up being broken within the first week of January. At least, that's been the case with me. So instead of lamenting over the things I haven't done and being disappointed next December that I still haven't done them, I thought I would take this time to reflect on the things I have done.

The following "survey" comes courtesy of another blog I read, "Making It Up" by Therese Fowler; I think she got the list from somewhere else, so it's no doubt made its rounds on the web. Feel free to take it from me, if you're so inspired, and have some fun with it yourself.

1. Started your own blog

2. Slept under the stars (Does camping in a tent count?)

3. Played in a band

4. Visited Hawaii


5. Watched a meteor shower

6. Given more than you can afford to charity

7. Been to Disneyland/world (I've been to both. I think I enjoyed it more when I went back to Disneyland when I was 22 than when I first visited when I was 5!)

8. Climbed a mountain (I climbed Diamond Head in Hawaii in the middle of July, not something I'd recommend.)

9. Held a praying mantis

10. Sang a solo

11. Bungee jumped

12. Visited Paris (Several times, for work and pleasure. I can now successfully order food in French, but I wouldn't know what to do if a waiter/waitress spoke to me in return.)

13. Watched a lightning storm at sea

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (I've learned lots of arts, but none that I have actually taught myself.)

15. Adopted a child

16. Had food poisoning (I would not recommend reheating crab rangoons!)

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

18. Grown your own vegetables (No, but my husband has.)

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France (On a quick whizz through the Louvre. We could barely see through the throngs of other tourists that surrounded it.)

20. Slept on an overnight train (Had an eventful journey from Florence to Paris, which you can read about here.)

21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitch hiked (Sort of; after missing the last bus in a small town in Norway, a friend and I hitched a ride with the bus driver – probably not something I would do now, but I was 18 and a little na├»ve.)

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill


24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb

26. Gone skinny dipping


27. Run a Marathon

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice


29. Seen a total eclipse

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset


31. Hit a home run (Once that I can remember; it was during a whiffle ball game in sixth grade!)

32. Been on a cruise (Not unless dinner cruises and sight-seeing cruises count.)

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (I spent five weeks in Norway, where my mother's family is from, in 1998. I'm hoping to get to Slovenia, where the other half of my family comes from, in a couple of years.)

35. Seen an Amish community

36. Taught yourself a new language

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (Not completely, but I'm working on it! Besides, it would be pretty sad if I needed money to be truly satisfied with my life...)

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

39. Gone rock climbing

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David (Not the original, but I have seen a replica in a piazza in Florence.)

41. Sung karaoke

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant

44. Visited Africa

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

46. Been transported in an ambulance

47. Had your portrait painted

48. Gone deep sea fishing


49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person (My one trip to Rome was for business, so I didn't see much, but I did see the outside of St. Peter's.)

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (Three times, actually. The second and third times I only made it to the second level. I don't recommend the ascent if you have acrophobia.)

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (I spent practically an entire week underwater in Jamaica during a field study in college.)

52. Kissed in the rain

53. Played in the mud


54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie

56. Visited the Great Wall of China

57. Started a business (No, but I have been self-employed.)

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia

60. Served at a soup kitchen (I volunteered at one in college once.)

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies


62. Gone whale watching

63. Gotten flowers for no reason


64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Gone sky diving (My present from my parents for my nineteenth birthday was a tandem sky dive. I don't think I would do it now, but it was an amazing rush at the time. Surprisingly, I'm afraid of heights!)

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp (Been to two, actually: Dachau in Germany and Terezin in the Czech Republic.)

67. Bounced a check (Hasn't everyone done this at some point?)

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten Caviar

72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square


74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London (Considering I live in London, it would be pretty shameful if I hadn't seen this time-honored – and overrated – tradition at least once.)

77. Broken a bone


78. Been on a speeding motorcycle

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book (Nope, but that's something else I'm working on. According to my “life plan,” I have seven more years if I want to achieve my goal of publishing a book by the time I'm 35.)

81. Visited the Vatican (I spent about ten minutes in St. Peter's Square – enough time for a quick photo – on a whistle stop tour of Rome while on a business trip.)

82. Bought a brand new car
(My 2002 Honda Civic will probably be the only new car I'll ever have had.)

83. Walked in Jerusalem

84. Had your picture in the newspaper

85. Read the entire Bible

86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
(Does fish count?)

88. Had chickenpox (Yes – at 22!)

89. Saved someone’s life

90. Sat on a jury

91. Met someone famous (I met Tori Amos before a concert in 1996. I also met Steve Burton, the guy who played Jason Quartermaine on General Hospital, at a CVS in Sanford, North Carolina.)

92. Joined a book club

93. Lost a loved one


94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake

97. Been involved in a law suit

98. Owned a cell phone


99. Been stung by a bee

Saturday, 27 December 2008

'Tis the Season

It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating Christmas 2007, and here we are again at the end of another holiday season. Or are we?

Since I have assimilated into The Other Half's English family and adopted their traditions, Boxing Day has fast become my favorite holiday. While I adore Christmas, it just doesn't last long enough. We spend weeks – sometimes months – preparing for this one day, and it's over before you know it. Nowadays, people can't wait to put Christmas behind them. Growing up in North Carolina, we often saw Christmas trees out on the curb on Christmas Day night. I suppose if you put your tree up on Halloween, you're probably ready to see it go by the time Christmas rolls around.

Personally, I'd rather extend the holidays a bit. And that's where Boxing Day comes in. Whoever came up with the idea is brilliant, in my opinion. What a perfect way to wind down after Christmas, enjoy left-over Christmas dinner (including cold meats, salads, and bubble and squeak; mince pies and Christmas pudding; and Turkish Delight and Quality Street sweets, among other indulgences), drink, and be merry.

We've just returned from our own Boxing Day celebrations at my in-laws' house, and I'm as knackered as Crumpet, who is fast asleep upstairs (and who, thankfully, managed to sleep through Christmas dinner yesterday without moving a muscle, situated in her bouncy chair just inches from the clinking of glasses and the scrape of our forks against our plates and right next to a speaker from which several festive holiday tunes filtered into the room). I've had to loosen my belt a notch, and we've got it all to do over again on New Year's Day.

We hope to celebrate Christmas in the States next year, and you can bet we'll be taking Boxing Day with us. I brought Thanksgiving to the English side of the family, so I'll take Boxing Day to the American side. In case you haven't noticed, we take the twelve days of Christmas seriously in our household...

Monday, 1 December 2008

What a Difference a Year Makes (or The Blog Entries That Could Have Been)

I cannot believe Christmas is just over three weeks away and that, soon, another year will have come and gone. As I write this post on the first day of the last month of 2008, I can't help but think about what a whirlwind this year has been and all of the exciting – and challenging – things 2009 has in store for us.

Last year at this time, I had racked up an impressive (or not-so-impressive, when you think about my carbon footprint) number of frequent flyer miles. Between holidays in the U.S. and Crete and business trips to Spain, Italy, and Norway – just to name a few of the countries I found myself in – I was blazing a trail across most of Europe. I had no idea that at a year from then I would be up to my elbows in pooey nappies and burp cloths.

I have had ten weeks to adjust to being a "mummy." During that time, Crumpet and I have gotten to know each other, slowly adjusting to each other's rhythms and settling into our new roles as mother and daughter.

It hasn't all been easy. The learning curve has been pretty steep, especially in those first few weeks, but The Other Half and I have been really lucky. We seem to be past the worst of the "fussiness" and are heading into calmer seas. I've even had a few nights in the last couple of weeks when I've had ten hours of sleep, something that makes the other parents I know, including my sister, quite jealous. Of course, it's not completely restful, as I keep waking up with every little noise she makes. I don't think I'll ever have another night of uninterrupted sleep again.

The best part of my day is waking up to Crumpet's beaming face, staring at me with wide eyes from inside her Moses basket and grinning from ear to ear as if to say, "Good morning. I've been waiting for you." In just ten weeks, she has developed into this amazing little person with quite a personality.

It still amazes me that she is mine. I stare at her in awe as she sleeps, a little surprised that The Other Half and I could create something that is so perfect. Throughout my pregnancy, I often wondered what my baby would look like. When she finally arrived, it was as if I recognized her; although I couldn't possibly have known for sure what she would look like, she somehow fit the image I had subconsciously carried inside me all along. I can't imagine her looking any other way.

So I may not have had that much time to myself lately. I may have only been able to shave my legs about three times in the last ten weeks. I have trained myself to eat spaghetti one-handed when necessary – not an easy feat, I must say. I have learned to multi-task like never before, like brushing my teeth in the shower so the bathtub catches the milk that seems to continuously leak from me. I feel a real sense of accomplishment if I can manage to write more than three sentences in one sitting. And my mind has been cluttered with all the blog entries that could have been over the past couple of months: "Colic 101," "To Pee or Not to Pee," "I'm No 'Dummy'!: Simple (and Not-So-Simple) Ways to Pacify a Baby," "New Sofa + New Baby = Bad Idea," "How to Prepare a Thanksgiving Dinner Between Baby's Naps"....

But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, 6 October 2008

The Fruits of My Labor

Well, that last post did the trick. Two weeks ago tonight – around 2:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, to be more precise – I went into labor, and at 3:56 p.m. on Tuesday, September 23, our beautiful baby girl was born. (Thanks, by the way, to those of you who commented with your encouraging words. I think your positive vibes must have helped urge Crumpet into the world.)

And they don't call it labor for nothing. After nearly three hours of pushing with no pain relief except gas and air and a little pethidine, which quickly wore off, I had to have an epidural so they could deliver the baby via forceps. Luckily, she did not go into distress at any point; on the contrary, she was quite content in her warm little home. She was just stubborn right up until the moment she entered the world; I hope this is not a sign of things to come... I have to admit that childbirth was not the most joyous moment of my life, but the moments after certainly have been. Note to self: If I do this again, I will go straight for the epidural.

Despite his fear of hospitals, The Other Half was a great support for me and was overwhelmed when he saw his little girl for the first time – even though her head did look a bit alien-like for the first few hours! And despite some horror stories I had heard regarding giving birth in the U.K. on the NHS, I had two wonderful midwives and a team of very concerned and competent doctors who made sure everything went as smoothly as possible and were just as attentive and understanding of The Other Half as they were of me.

The two weeks that have passed since then have been a bit of a blur, but in other ways time has seemed to creep by at a snail's pace, and it is hard to remember my life before my daughter. At the end of each day, I feel like I have climbed a mountain. And then I wake up a little refreshed (no matter how little sleep I got the night before), ready to do it all over again.

I don't know how often I'll be able to post new entries over the next few weeks, but hopefully in a couple of months Crumpet will have established more of a schedule and I can actually take a little time to myself and get back to writing a little every day. At the moment, everything else has to take a backseat, which I thought would be difficult to adjust to given my Type-A personality. But, amazingly, when I look at my daughter's little pink face or she grips my finger with her tiny hand, I don't care how much washing-up needs to be done or how many e-mails I need to catch up on. As exhausting as new motherhood is, I'll never get these moments back, so I intend to enjoy every one of them.

Monday, 22 September 2008

It Runs in the Family

Stubbornness runs on both sides of our family, so it should be no surprise that my unborn child has already inherited this trait. Yes, nearly a week after the due date my G.P. gave me and four days after the date that is in my hospital records, I am still waiting to experience the most amazing moment of a mother's life. And I have to admit: I'm getting downright anxious and annoyed!

With each passing day, I sleep less, pee more, and my ankles get bigger. And I still have nothing to show for it!

The... past... week... has... literally... dragged... by. We're in a state of limbo, afraid to venture too far from home or do too much just in case our little Crumpet decides that now is the time he or she is ready to make his or her grand entrance. Every day, I wonder if this will be my child's birthday, and every night when I settle into bed after an uneventful day I say, "Well, surely tomorrow." But tomorrow works out to be much of the same.

The Other Half is just as anxious as I am, though he hides it more. Instead of vocalizing his anxieties like me, he's been channeling them into various chores and hobbies, like defrosting the freezer or getting things ready for his home-brewing experiment. (Incidentally, this has involved "emptying" several beer bottles that can be reused for his home brew, a task which has proven both practical and calming.) As for me, I went through the nesting phase already (I thought that was a sure sign that things were imminent!), and now I find that, although there are tons of things I can be doing, I don't have the energy or motivation to actually do any of them.

I realize that due dates are really estimates, at best, and that, in fact, most first-time mothers deliver a little late, but I can take little comfort in that fact right now. We have everything ready for baby, and there are lots of people here waiting to meet it, so you would think it would be ready to come out. It can't be comfortable all scrunched up inside me!

My dad is arriving from NC on Wednesday. When he and my mom first started planning their trip over here, he was going to come for the first two weeks with my mom (she's here for four weeks), which would have meant he would be getting ready to go back home this Thursday, as opposed to arriving on Wednesday. It's a good thing he changed his mind because he would have had no time to spend with his grandchild. As it is, he might be here for the birth after all.

I have another hospital appointment on Wednesday (that is, if I haven't gone into labor before then... here's hoping!). They'll do an internal exam then to see if that will speed things along, and if the baby is still being stubborn I'll be induced next Sunday. God willing, I won't make it till then.

Until then, I continue to wait, knowing full well that once the baby is actually here I will be wishing I had this week of "nothingness" back because never again will my life be this calm.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Harvest Season

As the fruit ripens on the apple tree in our back garden, the fruit inside of me gets ready to make its big debut.

Today is my "unofficial" due date; unofficial because my G.P. said I was due on the 16th, and my hospital records say the 18th. At the moment, I am on pins and needles until our little Crumpet finally decides to greet the world. The Other Half and I have been scrutinizing every twinge for the past few days now. My anxieties regarding childbirth, although not completely abated, have taken a definite backseat to the overwhelming feeling of just wanting to get things over and done with and enjoy the "fruits of my labor."

Our Crumpet has very kindly held off until a few important milestones passed. My mom arrived last Wednesday, I finished my last freelance job on Thursday, The Other Half finished laying the laminate floors in the bedrooms on Friday, and he and my mom put together the nursery furniture over the weekend. There's still loads to do, but luckily nothing that can't be done after he/she arrives.

So what is it waiting for?!

The Other Half says I shouldn't rush it. It's probably warm and cozy inside me and will come out when it's ready.

But patience has never been my strong point, so if it isn't here by Friday it might be time to resort to a few home "inducement" techniques that the midwife who taught our antenatal classes suggested: a hot curry, a glass of wine (to get me in the mood for what's to come next), a little time between the sheets with The Other Half, a nice warm bath, and a walk around the park in the morning if everything else hasn't coaxed the little one out.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Breathing Lessons

The Other Half and I attended my final antenatal class on Saturday, which was specifically for moms (or “mums,” I should say) and their partners. I admit that I was nervous about how he would hold up considering his phobia of hospitals and anything medically-related. He won't even watch Grey's Anatomy with me, but, then again, that might only be partly because of the medical "ick factor"; it's probably mainly because of the soap opera "ick factor." So, anyway, I thought I might have to spend the whole class reassuring him that everything would be okay. But he rose to the occasion and even managed to stay conscious when we took a tour of the delivery suite. Since then, he has been surprising me with the amount of information he took away from the class. I'll be sitting at the computer, for example, and he'll comment on how my posture is good. Or we'll be lying in bed at night and he'll remind me to practice my breathing techniques. And even though he may grumble about things like car seats and strollers, I think deep down the technical side of him is finding it kind of exciting to research the best models and check out the latest reviews.

As it is, I think I'm starting to get more nervous and anxious than The Other Half. It's finally hitting me that this baby has to come out. I know this seems like an obvious fact that I should have known from the beginning, but I don't think that it has become a reality until now. For so long, we've been talking about "the baby" in the abstract sense of the word, but pretty soon it will be a living, breathing human being that will be completely dependent on us. It's an exciting feeling, but it's also very daunting. I've spent so much time thinking about what it will be like once the baby is here that I haven't really stopped to think about how the baby is going to get here. And as much as I have gained from these antenatal classes and am grateful for the opportunity to have had access to this "free" education, I sort of feel like I've been given too much information. Maybe it would be better if I just walked into the hospital a little naive.

"Just breathe," I keep telling myself. It will all be over before I know it, and the last nine months will have been nothing but a blur. Then, for the next 18 years (or the rest of my life, really), I'll have worries that will make my fear of labor seem pretty trivial.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Writing 9 to 5

When it rains, it pours...

After two months of submitting proposals to a freelance writing and editing site in an effort to get my fledgling career off the ground, I have had two job offers in the past two days, with a third party interested in "discussing things further." For the next week and a half, I will be “under deadline” as I furiously write 400-word introductory destination guides for a travel web site. I'll be covering such exotic – and not-so exotic – locales as Athens, Berlin, Brighton, Budapest, Cambridge, Dublin, Edinburgh, Florence, Lisbon, Madrid, Manchester, Oxford, Prague, Paris, Rome, Venice, Vienna, Zurich, Bermuda, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, and Whistler. Whew! I'm exhausted after just typing all that. It's a lot harder than even I originally thought; there are only so many ways you can say “this city has lots of great restaurants.” I am accessing my inner thesaurus and exercising my brain in ways I haven't since I was in grad school.

Unfortunately, I have quickly realized that I really underpriced my services, and I don't mean that in a conceited way. Normally, 400 words seem to type themselves, but when you're under pressure, those 400 words seem like 400 pages. But it's a Catch-22. Without experience on this particular site, no one was willing to hire me, and without someone willing to hire me, I couldn't possibly gain any experience. So I had to take that into account when charging for my first job. Still, I am getting paid something, and next time I'll have more of an idea of how long things will take and can hopefully be a bit more competitive in my pricing. Who knew the writing business involved so much... business.

Let's just hope Crumpet doesn't get any ideas about pushing up his/her deadline...

Okay, back to Word, where hopefully I'll get some inspiring ideas about Bermuda.

Friday, 15 August 2008

DIY Nation (or Nesting: Part 2)

In the almost two years since I have been living in the U.K., I have realized that this country really is obsessed with DIY. As far as I'm concerned, British home owners can pretty much be lumped into two categories. There are those who are constantly having extensions built, conservatories put in, and kitchens installed – whether the house needs it or not. It's as if the constant presence of builders and the smell of paint is some kind of status symbol. And then there are those who constantly talk about doing things but never actually seem to get anything done. I think these people must feel like if they actually finish a task they'll have nothing left to talk about. Even non-home owners can get swept up in DIY mania. I thought American TV was bad when it comes to decorating shows, but at least these shows seem contained to specific channels like HGTV or TLC. Nearly every time I turn on the "telly" here, there is some show on about property development or buying a holiday home. And they all make it look so easy. Yes, you can build an entire house from scratch in just three days! I'll confess my sin, though: some of these shows (like "A Place in the Sun") have become my guilty pleasure. Even I have been seduced by the idea of buying a run-down chateau in the south of France or a seaside villa in Croatia and "doing it up." See: I've been brainwashed! My real dream is actually much simpler than that: to one day be free from the shackles of wallpapering and painting so that I can flit between here and Europe and, instead of worrying about renovating, enjoy a nice glass of Bordeaux or a refreshing dip in the Adriatic.

In the meantime, our own decorating saga continues. Just when we think we have made real progress, we seem to uncover another layer of old lead paint that needs stripping (don't worry – I'm staying well away from the fumes) or another bit of skirting board that needs filling. What might seem like a two-step project suddenly turns into five steps. With old houses, one is never really “finished.” Thank goodness we have recently employed a reliable new cleaner: Henry.

Despite my frustrations, I can finally see a dim light at the end of the tunnel, which is good because I'm sure our Crumpet is thinking the same thing...

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Nesting

I attended my first antenatal class today at our local hospital. Surrounded by a room full of bellies, I couldn't help but feel slightly overwhelmed. In some ways, it hasn't really hit me until now that I'm going to be a mommy in such a short time. It reminded me of something Ross said in the first season of "Friends" (which is constantly being re-run over here): "I always knew I was having a baby. I just didn't know the baby was having me"... or something to that effect.

Yesterday, at my 34-week check-up, my GP very casually stated that, technically, a woman is considered full-term at 37 weeks. "Wait, that's just three weeks from now," I said. And then the panic set in. We are nowhere near ready. We (and by we, I mean The Other Half) still have painting and wallpapering and floor-laying to do, not to mention furniture assembly, laundry (that's all me, of course), and last-minute shopping. But, deep down, I realize that whether we're ready or not, this baby will make an appearance when it's ready, no sooner or later.

So, twig by twig, we are preparing a home for our little fledgling. I ordered the nursery furniture yesterday, which hopefully will arrive within the 3-week time-frame I have been promised. And this weekend I will be ordering the last of the "bits and pieces," like bedding, a breast pump, a baby bath, and some more clothes. Then next week we'll go shopping for a stroller/car seat. I've started filling in the baby book, realizing as I completed the family tree that, soon, there will be three of us. It's all so overwhelming... but so very exciting!

Friday, 1 August 2008

She Writes Hard for the Money

For as far back as I can remember, I have had a love affair with language. I love the way certain words – like undulate or verdant – feel in my mouth, the way my tongue curls around consonants and vowels. There is nothing more beautiful than the rhythm of two perfectly-paired words or the musicality of metaphor. When you think about it, the English language is a fascinating instrument.

It was this fascination with words that led me to writing and my desire to tell stories. Since I was a little girl, I have carried plot lines around in my head, given voice to characters who have been bursting to break the surface. With the flourish of my pen (or the click of my computer keys), I have created new worlds.

This week, I came a little closer to my dream of making a living through words. As of Monday, I am now a contributing writer to suite101.com, an online magazine featuring articles on a variety of topics from food and drink to history to travel. I'll be posting articles primarily in the travel section, with a few contributions to some of the other sections, like “Partners and Parents” and “Writing and Publishing.” I have to write ten articles every three months (although I can write as many as I like), which works out to less than one article a week, so it isn't a lot of pressure. I have complete freedom to choose what I write about, within the limits of the topics covered on the site, of course. I certainly can't expect a full-time salary from it, although I will get paid, which is pretty cool in itself, despite how paltry the sum may be at the end of the day. (At the moment, who am I to turn my nose up at even an extra $50 a month?) And it won't bring me international prestige. It will, however, help me get some publishing credits and build a good portfolio, and I'll get great practice in writing for the web, which is a totally different animal from any other kind of writing I have ever done. I wasn't trained as a journalist, and as I learn the ropes of web journalism I find myself with a new found respect for those who can write engaging, succinct copy. Let's face it: brevity is not – and never has been – one of my strongest qualities.

My long-term goal is still to one day see one of my books on the shelf at Barnes and Noble or – even better – clutched in the hands of a commuter on the Tube, but I feel a sense of motivation now (and pressure – in the positive sense) that I haven't felt in a long time. I can actually call myself a working writer, and it's true.

My first article, which went live yesterday, is on the Great British Beer Festival (you can probably guess who helped me with my research on that one). Keep an eye out for my latest postings on suite101, which I'll be listing here on my blog.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Take Me Out to the (English) Ball Game

We've been in transition mode for the past week. The Other Half has been adjusting to life “off the clock,” while, at the same time, my daily schedule (if you can call it that) has been thrown off-kilter because I'm not used to having him home during the day. I must admit that I've been spending a fair bit of my time lately with my butt firmly planted on the sofa, trying to motivate myself to write and submit some articles and doing some research on the writing life... in between a few games of Internet Spades. We'll adjust and settle into a new routine pretty soon; I think we both just need this time to relax before our little Crumpet arrives and we have to make even bigger adjustments to our lives.

So after a week of allowing ourselves the chance to do "nothing," we escaped yesterday to the neighboring county of Surrey for a family barbecue with some of The Other Half's cousins. We ate, we drank (juice for me, of course), we made merry. And we even indulged in a little all-American (oops, I mean "all-English") fun with a game of rounders in the local park.

Rounders is very similar to baseball, with a few exceptions. We were two teams of young and old, short and tall, male and female, “round” and not-so-round (insert obvious pregnancy-related pun here). Even with my increasingly-protruding belly, I still impressed with my bowling (pitching) ability. And, apparently, I even shocked one spectator with my athletic prowess (I know, I know – me, athletic prowess?) despite my “delicate” condition: “When you started running around those bases, I was having kittens,” said one of the elderly guests. Having kittens? Just another one of those unusual, uniquely “English” phrases I am getting used to.

I woke up this morning feeling a bit stretched and strained. And, I might add, quite a bit round.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Confessions of a Reluctant Blogger

I must admit that I hemmed and hawed for quite some time before committing to starting my blog. The whole notion of the blogging world was a bit foreign to me. Just the word "blog" contained such mixed connotations. All I could think of were web pages devoted to exhibitionism, self-promotion, and the notion of "celebrity," and I wasn't sure I wanted to put myself out there on the world's stage. The idea that anyone could read my thoughts (and have their own opinions on such thoughts) was a little disconcerting.

But then I started to read other blogs (travel blogs, writing blogs, parenting blogs), and I realized how broad the sprectrum is. Slowly, as I became a little addicted to certain blogs, I grew more open to the idea that “Hey, I can do that too.” As I began my “research” about getting started as a freelance writer, more often than not I came across other writers advising “would-bes” like me to start a blog. Apparently, this is a great forum for showcasing and promoting one's writing, not to mention the fact that it's great practice because maintaining a blog in itself involves writing (duh). But who's to say I had anything worthwhile to say... or that anyone would even be interested?

I must have navigated to Google's Blogger web site half a dozen times before actually registering for an account. And even when I did, I started a blog only to delete it that day. Finally, I figured I'd just be brave and “give it a go.” But I laid myself some specific ground rules, the most important being that there is a limit to how personal I will get. Although some of my entries will no doubt chronicle my life abroad, my experiences as a new mother, and anecdotes about my family, etc., I won't be revealing family secrets here (so my family members can now all breathe a sigh of relief and rest assured that your skeletons will remain under lock and key) or posting intimate photos of my loved ones. Hopefully, I can find a balance and make sure this blog is personal without being invasive.

It wasn't until after I started my blog that I came to the realization that posting a blog isn't so different from publishing a book. If (I mean when) I eventually have the good fortune of having a book grace the bookshelves of Barnes and Noble or Waterstones (or the virtual bookshelves of Amazon), I will be just as much on display. It's just that a blog is published in a different medium and, therefore, available to a wider range of people -- and instantly. Once I had come to terms with that, I started to loosen up a bit.

I'll still call myself a “reluctant” blogger, but I'm learning my way, and, in the process, I hope I have something interesting to say.

Monday, 21 July 2008

A Kick in the Pants

Well, if anything was going to kick my notions of being a freelancer into high gear, it was the news my husband (whom I shall refer to from here on out as The Other Half on account of his desire to not have an Internet presence) received today that he has been made redundant. For my fellow American readers, that means he has been laid off. And what brilliant bloody timing, huh?

If there is a silver lining to any of this it is that: a) he wasn't fired -- we can easily blame the world's downward-spiralling economy; b) he now has some time to actually finish the mountain of household projects that need to be done before Crumpet arrives; and c) his redundancy (severance) package means that he doesn't need to rush out tomorrow and get some crappy job at Tesco (yet). And, of course, he's lucky to have a wife who is an English major and can write him a snazzy CV.

Fortunately, we live in a country where healthcare is free.* I don't know what I'd do if we were in the U.S. right now and had to worry about making insurance payments. So for everyone who has asked me at some point when we're planning to move back, I think I can safely say that it won't be anytime soon. I think we'll at least wait until we've had our kids before we consider another overseas move. I wouldn't want to have to go into debt before the little darlings even took their first breaths.

So now I'll be writing more and digging deeper into my well of "potentials." Perhaps I'll even be inspired to finish the "great American novel." Either that or we'll finally have to win the lottery. Sadly, I think the former has more of a chance of actually happening.

In the meantime, anyone out there need a writer?

*Of course it's not really free. It comes out of our taxes. But in situations like this, at least we don't have to choose between eating and staying healthy.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Back in the Saddle

As cliche as the title of this post most certainly is, it is the best way to describe my current state of mind. After months of frustration, I have started writing (and submitting) again.

It's rather depressing when I stop to think about the fact that it has been almost three years since I have written a new poem. The last time I was struck by the muse was when I was working on my Master's thesis in the fall of 2005. It's not for lack of trying, but for some reason the words just haven't come as easily as they used to. Perhaps it's because my self-diagnosed OCD has gotten worse since then, and now I labor over every word, whereas I used to write with a sort of reckless abandon. Maybe that's a sign of growth as a writer, or maybe I've just been so out of practice that I need to learn to trust my instincts once again. In some ways, I miss the inexperienced writer I once was.

It's not that I haven't been writing at all. I have been working on a novel for quite some time, but that has come to a standstill. Call it writer's block, call it laziness, call it lack of inspiration... the fact is that I just can't seem to get motivated to finish the damn thing.

So, as an antidote to my frustrations, I have started writing shorter pieces -- travel essays and articles, creative nonfiction, etc. At least I feel productive now when I can actually finish something (as "finished" as any writer's work ever is); the only problem is that my ADD (again, self-diagnosed) means that I am having a hard time focusing on one piece at a time, so I've got several on the go. But I've been trying to rediscover the poet in me in all of these forms of writing, and maybe, as a result, the muse will return and I'll be able to crank out another few poems or another chapter that I can be proud of. I've also started digging out some old poems and am submitting them to various literary magazines and journals. Hopefully, some publications (or rejections, more likely) will inspire me to keep going and start writing some new pieces.

My goal is to get as much writing done as possible in the next couple of months, when I will probably be taking a bit of a hiatus in order to focus on the fruits of another type of labor (more on that to come).

Until then, stay tuned...