Monday, 9 January 2012

And for our next trick...

This is my first post of 2012, and has the potential to be both ridiculously long (to compensate for total lack of updates from just after Christmas to now), or very short, because going through all of that really could just be summed up in a few short sentences. I may even do both, and elaborate on that which I feel requires further discussion - you know, go a bit crazy. It seems that a combination of lack of time, bad sleep hygiene, work, friends, and house buying have all combined to give me no energy and a consequently marked lack of commitment to and confidence in my writing abilities. So, if this post is a total load of pants, I will apologise now, but if I don't get up-to-date then I fear I might abandon the blog forever!

Despite the ridiculous (and fab) photo,
the exhibition is both sincere and fascinating.
The first big thing to have happened since I last wrote was new year. We went to a friend's house party, near to us in Charlotte, and had such a fantastic evening. It was suddenly 3AM without us having realised it - always a sign of a good night! - and we got to spend the evening with some of our beloved NC friends. I am lucky enough to be sharing in Ben's wonderful network of people here, so it feels a lot like home already, without me having to make all brand new friends (although those are also happening, and are very welcome!). I miss my friends back home like mad, and interestingly I've also found that while I miss specific people in particular, I also crave the normalcy of being surrounded by groups of people who all know each other. Evenings like this year's NYE really help with that need. The other thing that really helps is having UK friends to visit, which is another big, recent bit of news! We had my friend Martha come to stay with us, along with a mutual friend of me and Ben's, Matthew,  who is from Fort Wayne, IN, and is in fact someone that neither me, Ben, nor Martha had had the pleasure of meeting in person before now (although we are all online friends). Another wonder of the Internet! They stayed with us for just over three days last week, and we had loads of fun wandering around uptown Charlotte, visiting Discovery Place and seeing the mummies exhibition currently being held there, eating ALL THE FOOD (namely from Amélie's, Cowfish, Brixx, and some home-cooked grub), going to trivia, and generally just spending time together. Hopefully we'll see them again soon.

Ben and Matt
Martha and me

Other than that, life has been pretty much chugging on as it has been (ha! At what point did we establish a routine, exactly?!). I've been at the studio when there has been work on, and trying to keep up with photo projects in the meantime. The aforementioned visit, Christmas, and the upcoming events of January are somewhat dominating my time though, so I've not been as dedicated as I would have liked. However, we have solved the great insurance débâcle detailed in my last post, so I can now drive, even without an NC license, fully insured. I have done this at least five times now, and no one has died, so I think I'm safe. I'll take my test as and when I get my green card through, but for now, I have my wheels. This means there's a lot more potential for a wider range of photo excursions in the near future.

The final two big pieces of news are that, first, we have already received confirmation that our I-485 (application to register permanent residence) along with accompanying documents to allow me to work and travel are being processed. I have a biometrics appointment already (the 19th January) which sounds ominous, but if you read this post on my friend Anthony's blog 'An Englishman in Atlanta', you will hopefully find reassurance as I did that it's not quite the 'Minority Report' situation it might first appear to be. This means we may be mere weeks away from my being able to apply for paid jobs, and only a few months from being a real person with a green card, if all goes well! I am very, very happy about this, and I love how fast things have gone so far. The appointment is scheduled for less than a month after we sent the documentation off, so they're being pretty efficient at the USCIS right now.

Boxes + 3 flights of stairs = fun!
Coincidentally, the second big piece of news is also something that's happened within a month of setting the wheels of the process in motion, and I am still in something of a shocked state about the speed at which it's all fallen into place: the house. We've bought it. It's so wonderful! We complete THIS THURSDAY unless something goes horribly, horribly wrong, but as we've now started the banking transfers and the lawyers have taken their fees, I get the impression we are pretty safe. I mentioned back on Christmas Eve that we had had an offer accepted on what is essentially our dream house, but I didn't want to go into too much detail as we weren't going to end what is called the "due diligence" period until January 10th 2012. This is the time during which the buyer has an inspection done, and can request that the seller put things right if the survey shows up any issues that cause the buyer concern. If these concerns are not addressed, then the buyer and/or seller can agree to back out, with the loss of the inspection fee being the only cost. After this point if both parties are happy to continue, they are legally bound to do so (as far as I understand) and there are penalties for backing out if this is done past the due diligence period end date. For UK readers, it's essentially the point at which contracts are exchanged, but can be done quite a lot further in advance of completion (or "closing" in US English), as it secures the sale for both seller and buyer. Makes sense to me, and reduces the chances of being gazumped. The other factors that fill me with confidence are that a) the seller brought the due diligence period forward (i.e. wanted the sale secured earlier), and got all the repairs/upgrades we asked for done within a week of the inspection; and b) the fact that we visited the house today and the seller has already pretty much vacated! The house has been on the market for just over a year, and so I think she had somewhere in place and really wanted to leave as soon as she could. This works for us too, as happily a friend of ours wanted to move into our apartment complex, and so he is taking over our lease as of next week. Winning at serendipity, it seems!

Just a few things to pack
The other thing that has made it so easy is how amazing Ben has been throughout the whole purchase process. I am the sort of person who can get totally wound up about the tiniest of things, so a house move can inspire neurosis of apocalyptic proportions. Add to that the fact that I knew next to nothing about the housing market in NC, never mind the geography, and there was certainly the potential for one stressed out Mrs. Lloyd to emerge. Ben has managed everything, from contacting the realtors in the first place, organising house viewings, driving, creating a spreadsheet of needs and budgets, finding out what we should be looking for at an inspection, sorting out insurance, and all manner of other things, big and small. This might also be the reason that I feel so detached from it all: I've hardly had to lift a finger, and it has been bizarre, as well as really quite enjoyable! I didn't even ask for him to do it, and he didn't do it in a way that didn't involve me, simply removed the stresses I might normally experience or create and allowed me to do all the fun stuff. He really is a fantastic husband. *pats self on the back for good husband choice* Only kidding! But I am very lucky indeed. Of course, now we have a lot of packing to do (again, for me!), as well as buying all sorts of furniture that has to be stored in our lounge (not to mention lugged up three flights of stairs) as we need it with more immediacy than we first thought. Lots of fun though! Really not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Ender seems a bit confused by it all and spends a lot of time pacing the apartment, toy in mouth, contemplating boxes and whining. It will be great for him though, as he will have a big yard to patrol and a lot more space - not to mention fewer steps, which will be good for his older doggy back legs.

Important things first...
Ender copes in the same way as always

So, I will now return to boxing up books, ornaments, and clothes, and watching an unholy amount of US sitcoms while I do so, as well as preparing for a couple of big shoots at the studio this week, which I'm really looking forward to. Tomorrow we have a Pilates company's studio shoot, and then an unknown assignment early on Wednesday morning. It's hard to believe (but just magical to think about) that almost 3 months to the day since moving to the USA, we're married, we're moving, and I'm interning as a photographer's assistant. Time to pinch myself, hard!
And now, back to the studio!
Photo by Kate Cheslak

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