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.

cookies
Frosted Chocolate Chip Cookies

Interior Design with Your Posterior in Mind

MAD Magazine
The bathroom is flush with essential supplies.

As we steadily make progress in organizing and decorating our new home, I have found a few old treasures that have been packed away for years. Among them was this old turd. They say, if you haven’t used something in a number of years, you obviously don’t need it. You should just throw it away. Well, wipe that thought right out of your mind and can it! This BM (beautiful manual1) of humor should be plopped right where all can see it. So with one smooth movement I took it from the bowels of a musty box to a place of honor, from the anals of forgotten history to a shelf above the throne. I, for one, am relieved that I have done my doodie by not letting this tome go to waste.


1. Deffy, Kate, A Useless Guide to Fake Acronyms; (semicolon) 2020, Fekal Publishing, LLC

Know Your Fruits

tomato
Know Your Fruits

I spent a little time drawing with two of my boys. There is an age difference of 33 years between them. Neither of them was surprised by my antics in this drawing. The older one figured out a long time ago that I wasn’t quite normal. The little one must have heard of my reputation.

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.

Looking

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.

BOOYAH!

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!