Tuesday, 31 December 2019

A Decade in Review

Just a few hours left of 2019 and of the decade. It's time to look back and see what we've accomplished. Where should we start?

Well, like everyone, we've been through some tough times. My mom (cancer,) dad (heart failure,) and brother (cancer) died. Jay's mom (cancer) and grandmother died (after having two strokes.) Jay's mom was the tough one for us because we became her carers until she passed, which brought a whole lot of stress into our lives in the form of rude nurses.

Jay put his hand through the greenhouse and had to have stitches one winter. Another summer, I had a super fun time when I had my period for months on end, which lead to a diagnosis of Hypothyroidism (several years too late.) I was also eventually diagnosed with tinnitus, which is its own kind of super fun. Then, there's the Depression and Anxiety, which were diagnosed after a pretty bad time.

Lloyds Bank decided about then that they could "no longer manage my mental illness" and fired me, which wasn't exactly a bad thing, when I look back at it. It created some pretty tough times for us, financially, but it was a bad place for my health so good riddance!

One year, I ended up in the hospital after a night out when people spiked my drinks - which was the last time I went to the pub with "friends" (and will remain so.) And, no, I didn't get a hangover that time, either.

It's not all doom and gloom, medically. I got the go-ahead to have squint surgery (coming next year.) The mental illness thing is still ongoing. I'm waiting for a referral to see a psychologist (again, hopefully next year) so who knows what will come of that...

During a particularly bad bout of Depression/Anxiety, I shut down all my social media for a month, taking a much-needed break. I still take breaks when I need them, but none have been that long since. I've seen at least four therapists since my diagnosis with varying levels of success (and hope to never see one of them again.)

There was more therapy, in the form of physical therapy for the arthritis in my hands, which continues to get worse. Eventually, I'll have to see someone about that dodgy hip of mine, but we'll see how that goes in the next decade...

I went back to America five times over the last decade. During those trips, I buried a parent; got to be a bridesmaid twice; went to my 10 year school reunion; saw the Lions play; held a Writer's Club reunion; threw a baby shower for a friend, threw a bridal shower and a bachelorette party; rode out a micro tornado (and got to watch Jay ENJOY his first tornado warning;) and rode the Four Horseman many times.

There have been too many losses on the pet front. Several years ago, we got two geckos (Dante and Faust) who have since died. Sooty and Sweep also died, as did Sadie and Boo. Rocky and Gollum (bearded dragons) died too. Our black ragdoll went missing. Later, got two black kittens named Damon & Stefan, who went missing when they were very young.

It was hard, losing so many pets but Dylan and Blodwyn came into our lives (and became our lives) because of it. Then, there was the absolute joy of having puppies in the house. Unfortunately, we had to let four of the puppies go but got to keep Khaaaan, who is a delight. Willow's still with us too, a grand old dame at 14 and too damn cranky to consider dying.

There was a pretty scary period when Blodwyn got sick. It took over a year to nurse her back to health but, now, she's a freaking superstar. (And I hope it stays that way!)

Sadly, Charlie died (horribly) but we got Maggie to keep Eddie company. Maggie and Eddie have had 13 babies since then (they sure do make some twins) - and are still going! The last one was born this week!

Jay and I celebrated our 16 year anniversary this year. We had a couple of big birthdays, too. Jay turned 50 and I turned 30.

I went back to university and earned my BA (Hons) in English Language & Literature while working full-time. Thinking I might still go into education, I spent some time volunteering at a local school in their nursery (preschool) and got a lot of hands-on experience, even helping out on field trips. (And also learned that it's far too exhausting for me to contemplate as a career at this point.)

I got to visit places I'd never been, like Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland when Jay went to film The Weakest Link, which aired in 2011. The BBC put us up last year when we went to London to film Pointless, which aired this year. During that trip, I visited Paddington Station and posed with Paddington Bear. During one trip to America, I visited New York and New Jersey for the first time and saw the Brooklyn Bridge.

We've had some great days out, including countless comic cons. We saw Wales play Argentina; went to The Doctor Who Experience; went to two Adam Ant concerts, two Gary Numan concerts, The Monkees, and Twenty One Pilots (and Periscoped many, many more,) and The Rolling Stones concerts too; enjoyed shows like Mrs. Brown Rides Again, Frankenstein, Little Shop of Horrors, Ian McKellen at 80, Hair, Vampires Rock; and saw comedians like Jim Davidson and Jasper Carrot.

Britain has been an incredible place to be over the last decade. I got to be part of the Olympics when the torch came to our city. I enjoyed two royal weddings (from my sofa,) not to mention the Queen's Golden Jubilee. There's also the Scottish referendum and the Brexit vote, which has been... interesting. Oh, and how many Prime Ministers? At least three.

Aside from volunteering at the Olympic torch ceremony for my (then) work, I also did the 5 Bridge Walk in Newport. I signed up and tried to do a sponsored walk that ended terribly when they forced me to stop because I was too slow. Won't do that again! I did, however, volunteer at the Cardiff Half Marathon one year, which was crazy (and back when I handled crowds a LOT better than I do now.) I also MLed for Wales one year (but couldn't get on with a co-ML and gave it up the next) and was a giver for World Book Night, which was just a lot of fun. (So was volunteering at Santa's Grotto.)

Jay and I finally got to start making some headway on this old house of ours. It was rewired four years ago (giving us working lights for the first time in years) and had new doors installed two years ago. The garden was revamped last year and we did up the patio a bit to enjoy lots of barbecues with friends. We even got a new stove, a new fridge, and (recently) an enormous cage for the chinchies while we were at it.

I sold my first story in 2015, which launched my career as an author. I tried freelancing for a year, but that wasn't good for my mental health. After my first publication came another 40+, with several more to come in the new year. I signed a publishing contract with a house that, sadly, ripped me off and disappeared - but have worked with some terrific publishers since. At least I did release two short story collections with my first publisher. Oh, Jay and I were published together, too, which was fun!

There were a couple of fun firsts along the way. I rode a Ferris wheel for the first time this year, for instance, and went to my first street food festival. I also played BINGO in an actual BINGO hall like an old biddy (but still have never won.) It wasn't a first, exactly, because I had been to Pride before, but I joined the parade last year, which was a new experience for me.

Speaking of firsts... I made my first public appearance as an author, which was TERRIFYING, but went well. I did my first signing, and gave my first speech. I also took up writing fanfiction and developed a bit of an obsession!

Jay had a couple of interesting firsts too. Sure, I took him to his first pumpkin patch this year but the real big first was his first time cosplaying Beast from the X-Men (who is his go-to now.) He even appeared in two magazines as Beast!

Some firsts were not-so-fun. I tried zip-lining, which ended with a THUD. Wales had an earthquake - which wasn't a first, exactly, but it was only my second earthquake (the first was in Michigan.)

There were lasts, too, of course. I lost a best friend during that time, for reasons that are still a mystery to me. It took a long time to get over that one, but I'm okay with it now. I also had to ease up on a lot of the handcrafts that I love because it's just too much for my hands to handle. I did manage to check another thing off my bucket list, though, when I folded 1,000 paper cranes.

And we can't forget all the celebrities we've lost along the way: Prince; Robin Williams; David Bowie; Paul Walker; Leonard Nimoy; Luke Perry; Carrie Fisher; Bill Paxton; Aton Yelchin; Joan Rivers; Burt Reynolds; George Michael; Chester Bennington; Corey Haim; Gene Wilder; Alan Rickman; Roger Moore; Tony Curtis and I don't know how many more. Heartbreaking.

But I don't intend to end on a sad note. During the last ten years, I read over 500 books. My favourite authors have been Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Ray Bradbury, and Laini Taylor. Laura Thalassa is probably the author who's surprised me the most recently. I won't mention my TBR list because even another decade won't be long enough to make a dent in that!

Aside from books, there are all the games I've been crazy about like Skyrim, CoD, and Plants vs Zombies. Star Wars and Marvel movies too, of course. We won't talk about TV shows because then we'd have to get into Game of Thrones and that's no way to end the decade.

It's been a hard decade but a rewarding one too and I'm looking forward to seeing what the next one brings. Bring on the Roaring Twenties! (Except the prohibition.)