Thursday, January 05, 2006

year in review
My grandmother, who lived into her 90s, used to ask us to put on our hobnailed boots and kick her up the behind if she ever forgot to count her blessings. And she never failed to count all her blessings and since she always wrung every drop of pleasure from an experience her blessings, by her counting, were innumerable. A lesson there, I think.
In contrast, I realise in my few and far between moments of clarity that I rarely stop to enjoy the view when I reach a milestone, count my blessings or celebrate my achievements, even when they are hard won. Instead, I always hunger after the next milestone, the next big goal. Meanwhile, setbacks – both real and imagined – get examined and thought about a great deal. Well, for a minute or two I’m going to try to list and remember all the things TA and I achieved last year before rushing ahead with my plans, dreams, goals and spreadsheets for 2006.
We survived our third year of marriage and, I think, emerged stronger for the rocky patches. It’s not all love and respect it’s also all about the Cs, I (re)discovered: cherishing, communication, compromise and compassion, while avoiding complacency.
TA laid some really good foundations for a long and prosperous career in animation. It can be difficult to remember that progress has been made when he is back at home all day struggling to find the motivation to work on yet another self-set project, but in 2005 he networked, worked for two internationally renowned companies, increased his industry experience and improved his skill set significantly. And he made some money doing it! I’m proud of him.
We paid off a chunk of debt, in fact I think this is the first year since getting together that we have reduced our burden of debt rather than increased it (apart from the mortgage of course!). My mother says that having debts is like driving with the handbreak on. My mother is a wise woman. We are still paying for decisions we made several years ago, however, hopefully this year at least one of those decisions will pay dividends. TA and I used to know a chap who was still paying for his wedding as he’d used his credit card and loans to foot the, presumably, astronomical bill. Sadly, by the time we made friends with him he was divorced.
We bought a flat! We couldn’t have done it without a lot of help, but the fact remains we have a roof over our heads that is ours all ours (oh, all right then, ours and the bank’s). Not only that but also, thanks to the way the universe smiled on us*, we have managed to accrue a complete set of furnishings and decorate two rooms on a small budget. The living room is done and looks beautiful; the inheritance furniture will arrive this weekend. The bedroom is painted and prepped; the fitted furniture has been designed (complete with 3D model) and money has been allocated to buy timber – we should have our first wardrobe by mid-February. *It wasn’t just the inheritance, the vendor left all the furniture and white goods in the flat – we had the hassle of disposing of the unwanted dross, but we were more than recompensed by the fact that we now have a fridge, washing machine and a huge bookcase among other things all included in the purchase price.
I have a job that pays all our outgoings and allows for the very occasional extravagance. I may not love it as much as I would like to, but it’s still the best job I’ve had to date. I have a pension, finally, which the agency is contributing to; we both have dental cover; there are opportunities to travel and many other benefits.
We began game testing FateStorm and (fingers crossed) it looks like TA might just be on to a winner with this RPG system. I have no idea of the economics of self-publishing and wonder about the wisdom of choosing this route rather than approaching the big boys, however, it’s a dream of TA’s that is beginning to come true.
We have some wonderful friends and our families love and support us.
So then, how can we build on 2005 so that 2006 is even better? First off, I am going to get financially savvy this year. For the longest time TA and I have avoided planning thinking that things are so tough and bound to change dramatically the moment we are dual income again so there was no point in setting budgets (yes, I realise how idiotic that sounds). My days of putting my head in the sand are over. Snowballing has begun. Rate tarting will happen shortly. Our days of debt are numbered (it’s a large number, but it will get smaller). This January I am practising extreme budgeting and it’s pretty exhilarating! In fact right at the outset I want to make debt reduction my number-one target for the year – everything else will hopefully feed into that aim: new jobs for both of us; home cooking; seasonal eating; applying for an allotment; energy efficiency… This is going to be another foundation building year to be sure. Because – drum roll please – I’m hopeful that 2007 will bring huge, huge changes. Yes, that’s right, 2007 is the year I want to get pregnant. I’ll be 30, TA will be 34 and neither of us want to be old parents so it’s kind of then or let’s forget the idea. My ambitious game plan is to buy a two or three-bedroom flat and keep the current sett to rent. And suddenly I’m back to my old self – eyes focused on the distant horizon, trying to jump all the hurdles in one enormous leap to reach the finish line ahead of time (while risking tripping over my shoelaces).