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Where Are We Going? (It’s 2021.)

new year
Where Are We Going?

Helluva Year!

Where are we going? By most accounts, 2020 was a helluva year! The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted normal life. Politicians have disrupted life even more with draconian lockdowns and other not-scientifically-proven means (e.g., face masks) to control the virus by controlling people, while COVID-19 cases/deaths are the highest in those very same draconian states. Where are we going now? And by “we” I mean me and my family because that’s my number one priority.

But Doing Well

Thankfully, my family and I have done well in 2020. One of my daughters and her husband caught the virus. But they recovered with no problems. A few in my family have earned less of an income because of lockdown restrictions. But no one is completely unemployed. We all got the sacred stimulus checks from our governmental overlords. I got my second one today, actually. I figure, I pay too much in taxes as it is. So, thanks for the refund, Big Brother.

My wife and I took a big step forward in 2020 by buying a home. The financial planning and actions we had taken over the past few years paved the way for us to purchase a house during a year in which many folks experienced financial hardships. I am not calloused about that. Plus, after seeing the financial losses others have had has caused us to make additional plans to further improve our financial wellbeing.

My Personal Road Forward

First of all, my direction for for 2021 includes finding and taking the next step in my career. I have a fair sense of direction for this and I’ve begun working with a career coach again. My plans include certifications in WorkFusion Automation and ITIL, a return to regular blogging on my career website, and continuous business and technology learning (as always). All of this is priority numero uno because everything else dependents on my ability to maintain/increase my wealth.

My second priority is to make repairs and improvements to our new home. Our fireplace and chimney are scheduled to be rebuilt. Coverage for the cost of this was negotiated with the former home owner. However, since moving in, we discovered that the roof needs to be replaced. Estimates from roofers are in progress. We will have to break open a few piggy banks to cover this expense. Also, the dishwasher croaked and we hate the stove so much we want to kill it. There is painting and other repairs/maintenance to be done. The grounds need a thorough spring cleaning this year. A very large tree needs to be taken down. New flowers and shrubbery need to be planted. I’ve got my eye on English laurel to be planted between the pines along the western edge of our property.

Another priority high on the list is to address my physical condition. It’s really gone to pot. Potbelly, that is. I feel lousy. My physical activity has been reduced to almost nothing for reasons I don’t want to get into right now. So, I have a plan to increase my running and walking activities. I am registered for a tough trail race in April and another in September. I have a big hurdle of losing at lease 20 pounds and running more regularly to be in any kind of shape to survive those races.

Another priority that is needed for my mental health is to take more time to make art. I’ve been spending more time drawing and painting lately. What I really need is to spend more time organizing our garage. There’s enough room in there to dedicate an area as an art workshop. But some of the other needs around the house are higher priorities right now.

In 2021 I want to increase the number of books I read. I read only 23 in 2020. That’s on the low side for me. But to be fair to myself, I took three college classes in 2020 (Business Law, Principles of Marketing, Principles of Management) which included close to 1,000 pages of reading that I didn’t include on my list of books read. I will take another three classes in 2021. But I still want to up my personal reading game this year.

I was just reminded of another priority. It’s a priority above most other priorities and interwoven with many of them. I’m speaking of loving, teaching, and enjoying the company of a toddler. I was reminded of it just now because he is crying like a madman because he wants to bake and decorate cookies NOW. He saw kids on TV doing such. Those kids had made sugar cookies from scratch and were decorating them with sprinkles and icing and all kinds of jazz. I made a compromise: we will use a store bought chocolate chip cookie mix (too many other things to do to be making cookies from scratch) and decorate the cookies with tubes of icing. We will do so as long as he calms down while I finish this blog post and allows me to clean up my desk.

And with that I am off to start 2021.

Frosted Chocolate Chip Cookies

Bought a House

New House
Home Sweet Home

We bought a new house!

What should I tell you about it? Should I give you the plain story about how we went about buying a house? Or should I get philosophical about how I once owned a home many years ago and thought I’d never own one again due to multiple adversarial life circumstances? Let me tell you a little about both.

Setting the Financial Stage

First, let me set the financial stage. Four years ago, my wife and I decided to get out of debt. We followed Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps after hearing him on the radio and taking his Financial Peace University course. We paid off a significant amount of debt over 19 months. It was an amazing feeling to make the last payment and be debt free! No more car payments. No more student loan payments. No more credit card payments. We were (and still are) debt free! Over the following two years, we saved up a three-month emergency fund and enough money for a down payment on a house.


Our next step was to look for a house. Since we were very fond of Dave Ramsey and his instruction, we found Gordon Crawford through Ramsey’s Endorsed Local Providers. Gordon was wonderful! He took his time in showing us houses and pointing out important features and flaws in homes which we would not have thought to look for. Gordon was so good natured. He will be remembered in our home as the guy who first introduced our toddler to Fruit by the Foot.

Fruit by the Foot
Fruit by the Foot – Pure Amazement to a Toddler

We began looking for a home in July. We quickly realized there was steep demand for homes due to people flocking out of New York City into the suburbs. Here’s an example from a New York Times article dated August 30, 2020:

Over three days in late July, a three-bedroom house in East Orange, N.J., was listed for sale for $285,000, had 97 showings, received 24 offers and went under contract for 21 percent over that price.

Trust me, East Orange is not a town in New Jersey where people would normally rush to spend $285,000 on a house. But it’s an indication of the level of demand for houses at the same time we began our search.

We found a house we really liked on a Friday evening of torrential downpour when there was some miscommunication between the listing agent and the seller, who had no idea potential buyers would be washing up on his porch. He was kind enough to let us see part of the house. We had to wait a few days for the open house to come back and see the rest. That was a sunny day and we liked all that we saw. We made an offer quickly to get ahead of the New Yorkers.

Oh, the Drama!

Despite that sunny day, there ended up being quite a bit of drama in order to get to closing. I don’t feel like writing about the gory details. It went on for three months. At one point we walked away from the deal. Even after the deal was re-initiated, we found ourselves wishing we stayed out because of further drama. But ultimately we closed and the house was ours.

Now let me get to the philosophical part.

I owned a home at one other time long ago. I once wrote about that home. As I said there, that time of my life “feels like a tale from someone else’s life, or a portion of an old book that I vaguely remember.” That was 25 years ago. That’s almost half my life ago. Think of how much a guy experiences in half his life, all the downpours, all the waves that wash over him, and the many currents that carry him through depths and breadths in life’s ocean, until he reaches the balmy shores of his new home.


Well, isn’t that some sappy philosophical flotsam and jetsam that just washed up into your browser! The truth of the matter is that I’m now a guy that has a mortgage payment who has to fix anything that breaks around here because I ain’t got no landlord to do it for me. But the shiny side of that coin is, in addition to being free from debt, I am free from the obligation of paying another man’s mortgage to live in a house he owns while I have no real equity to my name. BOOYAH!


The Sam Snyders, 2004

Today is my Dad’s birthday. He would have been 80 years old. He died 14 years ago when he was only 66. He has pancreatic cancer in that photo above. He was about 6 months into his ordeal at that point. You can see the ordeal in his thinning frame. I was 42 and alive as all hell in that photo. I’m coming up on 56 now. That’s only 10 years away from my father’s age at death. As my face ages, I see his face in the mirror more frequently. I look for hints of year 66 and the ordeal. I try to see through that to what I might be at 80. I want to make it that far. At least that far.

My youngest child is almost 2. I want to be in a photo with him when he is 42. That would make me 96. I want to be there for that photo and countless photos with all my children between now and then.

I haven’t fully thought this out, but I think my Dad’s passing at a relatively young age is part of what motivates me to run long distances. I want to be alive. I want to run through the woods and conquer all the mountains. I want to do it so I can keep on living. I want to be healthy, strong, and unstoppable.

Do I actually live this way every day? No. More often than not, I’m a lazy gluttonous slob. I’m my own worst enemy. My spirit is willing to live to 96, but my flesh is weak. It’s weak for cakes and pies and candy and potato chips. It’s so weak it can barely carry its own 223 pounds.

I need to snap out of it and lose 30 pounds. There are miles to be run and years to be lived. I need to get with the program. 66 is only 10 years away. It might sound morbid: my father’s death drives me. I am ever trying to outrun my own death. If I keep moving fast enough, maybe the cancer won’t be able to catch up to my pancreas.

Yet, even as I write this, all I can think about is a cake that’s sitting in our kitchen. I won’t lie. I’m going to eat some as soon as I publish this. Then I’m going to bed. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, blame it all on that cake.”

Other posts about my Dad:

F*** You… And the Chevy You Rode In On

F*** You… And the Chevy You Rode In On

I was approached by a rather awkward young fellow on Walnut Street in Philadelphia this afternoon. I saw him cross from the other side of the street. I noticed that he noticed me and then lingered at the corner.

He had a small notebook and looked about 30. I assumed he was about to harangue me with climate change propaganda or ask me to fill out a survey about my understanding of gender issues.

“Excuse me, sir,” He timidly said.

“Hey, what’s up?” I said in a friendly yet subdued tone to match his timidity.

“I’m sorry, sir. I gave the finger to that pickup truck because, well, because he made fun of me and said something ugly to me.”

I gazed intently down Walnut Street, not seeing a pickup truck but stalling to allow my brain to adjust to the reason why this man approached me, as opposed to what I assumed initially.

This fellow was noticeably bothered by what he just experienced. He needed a little support. He was like a stray puppy that just got kicked in the hind quarters. Plus, the eczema on his neck was an indication that he probably carried enough stress every day. So I did the only sensible thing.

I raised my middle finger after the pickup, as best I could with a Bruegger’s bagel in my right hand and a coffee and my left, and proclaimed, “Fuck that guy!”

The puppy stammered, “Uh. Yeah! YEAH! FUCK THAT GUY!”

“You have a good day!” I said as I left him on smiling on Walnut.

Thoughts About My Dad


Today is my father’s birthday. He would have been 77, but he passed away. It’s been almost 11 years. You can do the math on how old he was when he left.

My thoughts about my dad have covered a wide spectrum over these 11 years. At first, I didn’t feel anything. It wasn’t that I didn’t care. It wasn’t that I had no feelings for him. It was that I didn’t feel anything regarding his death for a few months. And then it hit me one day and I cried. Stoic during the days of his sickness. Stoic during his funeral. Weeping months later.

I went through a strange phase once the emotions hit me. I did a lot of drinking. By myself. At home. Alone. The strange thing about that is that I did not drink in my younger days. My father enjoyed going to bars to be with his buddies and have some beers. He used to ask me to go have a beer at one of his favorite places now and then. I turned him down. It just wasn’t my thing, and I was busy being a single dad, and a lot of other reasons/excuses. So, it was quite strange that I drank heavily after he died. I remember feeling that it was a way to connect with him then. Somehow I was able to transcend life and death and connect with my dad through a bottle of wine or two.

All that passed. (My liver rejoices.) I’ve remembered a lot about my dad over the years. I’ve come to understand him better as I get older. I now understand why he felt the way he did about certain things and acted the way he acted at times. I’ve been able to connect with him in that way.

To make these thoughts about my dad on his birthday a little fuller, I’d like to direct your attention to two articles I wrote about my dad years ago.

The first is from May of 2001, long before my dad got sick. It’s an article that wonders what life would have been like for me “If My Dad had Died when I was Young.”

The second is an article I wrote three years later in 2004 when my dad was several months into chemotherapy treatment for pancreatic cancer. Please read “It’s Not Like the Movies.”

Interestingly, I did not write an article after my dad died. Given what I said about where I was emotionally back then, it makes sense. But by the end of that year, I did write some brief thoughts addressed to my dad:

I miss you. It was all too soon. Sixty-six was all too young. I wish I would have been in the habit of telling you I loved you BEFORE you got sick. Christmas is coming. I’d like to postpone it until I can find a way to get to where you are and bring you back here with the rest of us. I wish we were closer while you were still here. I wish I wasn’t so angry at you when I was young. I wish I knew how to forgive you back then. I still regret that you were not a very open or affectionate man. Most of what I would have liked to know about our roots died with you. You were the last of the generation before mine. I wish you didn’t take all of your secrets with you. I could have used some of them. But all of that is okay. Thankfully, I did learn to forgive you even before you got sick. I’m happy about that. And I always knew that you never resented my anger. Thank you. I hope that one day we will stand face to face again. Then you can tell me EVERYTHING. Most of all, I just want to hear you call me “Sammy” again.

Happy birthday, Dad. When we stand face to face again, we are definitely going for a beer.