IT IS MY BIRTHDAY.

I am thirty-six today.

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I’ll be picking up a small cake from Publix on my way home: strawberry cake with vanilla buttercream frosting and they will write “Happy Birthday Amanda” on it.

I’m not sure what I want for dinner. That’s gonna be a game time decision.

Onward to 37.

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La Maison des Rêves

A year or so ago I wrote about the fact that the husband and I were finally looking into buying a house. We discovered that new construction homes don’t have their own mailboxes. Gated communities were something we didn’t want to be a part of. We need a home that doesn’t have back neighbors and we want to be part of a community that has a fitness center and a pool at its clubhouse.

But then we started looking at the financials and the hard truth was that with a lack of a sizable down payment, our lower credit scores, our student loan debt, and our credit card debt, even if we did get approved for a mortgage it would put the actual house payment well out of our budget. Current regulations state that if you can’t put down a 20% down payment, you have to pay for private mortgage insurance, which is a set price and expensive with an FHA loan, which we didn’t qualify for because of our student loan debt, and would be expensive on a conventional loan because the amount would be based on our credit scores.

We were embarrassed and wounded and took a step back. We accepted help from the husband’s parents and paid off a huge chunk of our credit card debt and saw our credit scores zoom in a positive direction. It turns out that we could probably afford a conventional loan if we (a) paid off ALL of our credit card debt and (b) saved up a HUGE down payment to avoid the mortgage insurance. I’ve been chipping away at the remaining credit card debt since then, and at the end of March we get our bonuses based on our teacher evaluation scores from last year, so I can wipe out almost all of the rest.

By this summer both of our credit scores should be in a good place. The next step will be saving up enough of a down payment to put the kind of house that we want within our reach. This isn’t going to be a starter home for us – this is THE house that we’ll be living in for the foreseeable future. If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it once and we’re going to do it right.

This is also the time where our current lease is up and we had to decide whether we would renew or move. The husband and I talked about moving into an apartment at a lower rent amount to save money faster, but ultimately we decided to renew to stay where we are, and I was able to negotiate a lower rent than what was quoted to us. We’ll be here for the next two years.

I ran the budget and with this new lease amount and the credit card debt paid off we should be able to save up almost a 20% down payment by the end of two years. This is where family help, a realtor negotiating the price, or buyer incentives will come into play, but no matter the method, I believe that when we move out of this rental house, we will be moving into our forever home.

**KNOCKS ON EVERYTHING WOODEN AROUND ME**

As with every upward movement I look back and think “if you had told me things would finally start to feel better and more stable now I would have thought you were crazy.” So much of all this happens by accident, because of luck or timing, and then the lessons I learn from that guides how I move forward. I’m just thankful that maybe, just maybe things are falling into a stable and safe financial place.

Keep your fingers and toes crossed for no hurricanes this year and for house prices or interest rates to come down. Every little bit counts!

Have a great weekend!

Making It

Ever since I went out on my own and really struggled I would always think of the things I would own to really show that I had made it. I suppose the things I thought of only show the limits placed n my finances, but I’m sure everyone has that thing they would buy if they had enough money.

After years of research I have had a Eufy 15C robotic vacuum sitting on an Amazon wish list since last year. I watch the price go up and down and back up depending on sales, but I could never justify spending that amount of money on something that seemed so frivolous.

I’ve also always wanted to get the cats a tree to play/sleep on. They were always too expensive, plus they are so big that it would have been difficult to move when we were moving so many times. Chloe loves to be up high though, and Toby loves something to scratch on.

So when I logged into my employee portal today to check on the husband’s bonus check coming Friday and discovered that I had one coming too, we decided that it was time. So both the vacuum and the cat tree will be here soon. Thanks unexpected money!

I can’t wait to post videos of how angry this DJ Roomba will make the floofs, and how happy the tree will make the cats. I’m discovering that the more financially stable we become, the more I enjoy getting the few things that just make life a little easier, even if it means spending a little more money.

Videos and pictures to come. Two more reviews on the way next week!

C’est si bon!

Over the past couple of weeks I have found myself getting overwhelmed by good things. It’s a foreign feeling, and what tends to happen if I dwell on them is that my brain shuts down and I start to hear excited dolphin sounds.

New Job: New Outlook

I have had 4 different jobs in the last 2 years. Online, to in-classroom, to another school, and then back to the school I was at before I went to online. It’s been like riding the teacups at Disneyworld. Now that I’m back I’m in a position I’ve been looking for (teaching AP Statistics and Precalculus) and I am working to help the programs grow. I hopefully have new textbooks coming for next school year, I’m excited to see my very first AP pass rate, and in two more years I’ll be able to become an AP grader – teachers who are paid to travel and grade ALL THE THINGS for ten days in the summer.

I feel settled and happy where I am right now. The husband also teaches where I am, so that’s good too. It’s a good situation and I am hopeful that it will continue to be into the future.

Fantasy Novel: Stage Two

I AM SO EXCITED TO SIT DOWN AND REVISE!!! I’m bringing in outlining and research and expansion ideas to really bring this first book of a series (at least a trilogy) to a place where I might feel comfortable querying either at the end of this year or early next year when agents open back up after the holiday.

I know what this book is going to do. I know where I want it to go. I have a clear vision and I am itching to sit down and work with the dough. I’ll do a little over spring break, but I don’t want this to be a stop and start process, which means I have to wait to really get into it until June. BUT I DON’T CARE I AM SO EXCITED IT IS WORTH THE WAIT.

Professional Development

After such a positive experience at the AWP Conference in Tampa last year, I booked a flight and hotel room and will be heading to Portland, Oregon at the end of March. I’ll get to see one of the largest bookstores in America (I’m looking at you Powells!) and I have already earmarked revision and querying sessions in my conference schedule on the AWP app. I’ve also looked on Google Maps around my hotel and have found several restaurants that I will be ordering food from. Plus I just like staying in hotels, and I’m excited to fly after not having flown since our trip to London back in 2015.

International Affairs

When the husband and I got married he wanted to have kids and travel the world. After a conversation about realistic goals, we decided that saving to travel the world was the most important goal. We visited London in 2015, and since then have been working hard to save up to go to Paris next. 2019 is the year! We’ll be flying to Paris at the end of the year. I found a perfect hotel in the city – close to a Metro stop and right across the street from a grocery store – and there is a great selection of flights to choose from when I have to book them at the end of March. I’m really looking forward to eating everything and seeing Versailles and the Louvre.

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Despite there being many positive things for me to hang my hat on there are still a lot of struggles that we are working through. Progress is a positive thing, though, and I wanted to spend some time celebrating that.

You have probably noticed a dearth of personal posts here as of late. Between my job, my mom, and that creepy foot fetishist I have shied away from being personal or opinionated here anymore due to its public face. I’ve been dialing back things to being mostly just reviews – book, movie, or otherwise.

If you are interested in keeping up with my life, I have been making more personal style posts behind a paywall of sorts on Patreon. Patrons as low as $1 a month can see more personal posts and starting in the next month or so will also have access to my first attempts at flash fiction and short stories. I want to earn your patronage with more than just book reviews, and this is how I plan to do that. I even have a type of serial in the works, where you would get bits of story either weekly or monthly, so we’ll see how that goes.

As always I am thankful for your readership and these posts will always be ad-free and free overall. But remember, if you read my work and you feel like contributing towards my financial well-being, you are more than welcome (but not required!) to avail yourselves of the links included below. I am working on saving for travel to both the AWP conference in San Antonio and the BookExpo in New York in 2020, as well as an updated computer to move my writing out of Google Drive and into something more sophisticated like Word. Any contributions you make will help bring me closer to those goals.

Two new reviews are coming your way next week! Have a great weekend.

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The Fog Comes on Little Cat Feet

I’ve started to feel different lately.

I’m not sure if its due to my efforts to have a cleaner, more organized home.

Or perhaps my dedication to leaving work on time and leaving work at work, including my laptop.

Maybe it’s the result of going to the gym on a regular basis.

I mean, I did power wash part of the pool deck this weekend. Maybe that’s it?

Slowly but surely this house is becoming clean, manageable, and little by little I attack the darkness and grime and clutter and my mind becomes clearer every day.

I look around and I’m actually proud of my efforts. I can say, “I did that” and know that I feel better because I did something. Maybe it’s washing the sheets or vacuuming the living room rug, or something as simple as grabbing a Lysol wipe and dusting the tops of everything until the wipe is used up.

Home is starting to feel like home and not just a place where I come to sleep and store my stuff.

My fridge is almost empty and my pantry half full, but only because I don’t have to store extra food to feel safe right now. Washing the inside of the fridge is something that is actually on my radar.

The toilets are clean.

I’m not sure what I’m trying to say with this post. Only just that over the past month or so I’ve felt like a fog is lifting. A thick, dark cloud that’s been choking me and smothering me for years is lifting. I am not sure which part of my new routines are contributing to it or if it’s just luck or age or hormones or whatever.

All I know is that I like how I’m feeling, and I want it to get even better. So I’m not going to stop. I’m gonna keep going to the gym and cleaning and organizing and writing and reading and living my life in a better way. I just hope it keeps getting better.

Fangirling

 

Today is the release date for King of Scars, the next book in the Grishaverse by goddess and queen Leigh Bardugo.

She’s one of the only authors that I will ever preorder a book from as opposed to waiting for it to arrive at the library. The hardcover should be arriving today while I am at work.

This new release, on top of the Netflix news about Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows, has made my January one of my best book months yet.

If you need me I’ll be reading King of Scars.

Read. Be brave. Stay angry.

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Happy 3rd Anniversary! (2019)

Three years ago on January 27, 2016 I registered my blog on WordPress. I was working from home, and had the time to consider a non-work activity, I believe they are called ‘hobbies.’ The more I thought about it, I kept returning to reading. Being in college studies (Bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate) for so long restricted the reading I could do for pleasure. Perhaps I could use a blog to hold me accountable for reading more, for making reading for pleasure a part of my life again.

I took a trip back to find my first post. I posted only this once in February 2016, and once in March 2016. I began to make an effort to post once a week in May 2016, and by the end of the year I was posting 1-2 times a week on a regular basis and had read enough to make my first Angel Picks: Best of List.

My first review was actually a movie review!

My first book review was for The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee.

If you’d like to see some of my first posts please visit my Goodreads page and sort my Read shelf by Year Read, or you can use the calendar on the right side of the website to click back in time. Reading some of those first reviews really showed me how far I’ve come, not only with my writing style but with my goals for this site as a whole. As we head into year 4, I want to thank all of you for reading and supporting me. You are my online family and I am so grateful. Happy Anniversary!

screenshot 2019-01-27 at 9.32.44 am

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