Hi ho! It’s the end of the year, and time now to sit back and enjoy my summary of the highs, lows, and other thoughts about the past year. It’s certainly been a busy one. In my mind, I consider this the year I returned to being the hungry and lean person I always was. In the past few years, I got fat and complacent. This year? Smarter, faster, stronger. Read on, and I shall explain.
Life, Love, and Family
If I had to describe this year, one way would be to call it a busy one. Or chock-full. Or fun-filled adventure. And a return to basics. Yes, it’s a nuanced year. With the kids getting older, our schedules have changed. They have more extracurricular activities, we’re going out, etc, which means we are running around more often. Also, we’re going out more to visit friends, or having people over, seeing local musicals, or going to horse & farm shows. Where to begin? Let’s talk about how the family has changed dramatically this year.
Time passes. Namita and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary this year. Eight years flew by, but we try to keep the spark in it with date nights and the occasional dinner or movie out sans kids. We also work hard to coordinate all of the comings and goings in the Ipe house. It’s been busy with her responsibilities at work, and running major events at church, but we do our best. I’m also 35 years old now. Eh, I’m getting thinner, faster, and stronger each day. Who cares if I’m getting greyer and balder? She still seems to love me after all these years, so I can’t understand it or complain about it.
Josh is 6 years old now, and entered 1st grade this September, which means a full day with his teacher and classmates. I would say it’s going well, and we’re encouraging him to play with others and to enjoy school. Nowadays, every night we must ensure his homework is completed, which is an interesting feeling. Man, the kids really are growing up. Josh has also played in Spring, Summer, and Fall soccer leagues through our local police athletic league. He’s slowly improving and getting an understanding of sports. This year, he also expressed an interest in basketball, and we watched his favorite team, the Chicago Bulls, make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Btw, Derrick Rose is his favorite player. It was pretty fun to have him sitting next to me while we watched games together.
Lily has changed quite a bit this year. She turned 3 years old in March, and is in preschool. In a process that has taken much longer than expected, Lily is officially potty-trained. This means that we eventually said goodbye to diapers and wipes, which was also one of major reasons that we shopped at the wholesale club. We did say hello to constant potty trips and, for a long transition period, many accidents due to misjudging when she really had to go. Lily is mostly okay with making it to the restroom in time, but we still force her to go when we either arrive or before we leave somewhere. Otherwise, Lily is Lily: a fun little girl with an outsized personality. Many a Facebook status update is about her.
The other big family news are the new additions to the family: we adopted two kittens from our local animal hospital in June. They are two brothers from an original litter of four, and the kids named them Scamper and Toasty. I admit they have unusual names, but that’s what happens when you let two impish children name your new pets. Both kittens are rapidly growing, and when they aren’t being annoying, they’re actually quite lovable. Yes, bushy tails and all.
We had a lot of guests come over to visit this year. Maybe it was a function of feeling more comfortable with the house looking more “lived in” or simply we had more free time, but we hosted what I would consider a high number of dinner parties, including a party for the kids’ birthdays, “Friendsgiving“, dinner parties for Nums’ coworkers/friends, and when we haven’t seen old friends in a long time. We also threw two big birthday parties for Joshua’s 6th birthday and Lily’s 3rd birthday. I’m still impressed by the cakes that my wife baked and decorated for both kids.
Getting in Shape and My Return to Cycling
The other big news is that after 6 years, I finally started to attack the weight. Harking back to my past yearly goals since 2005, I have repeatedly stated that I would finally lose the weight. Well, unfortunately, if you don’t have a feasible plan, it ain’t gonna happen. To break the cycle, I re-evaluated my plan. I quit the company gym (which had only limited hours), and I joined a Gold’s Gym in my town in February. I now could work out as late as 11pm, when all my evening activities were over, and my head was clear. I flirted with a low-carb diet for a few days, but changed to a more sustainable healthier diet which balances fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and meats. I also learned to watch my caloric intake, and eat smarter foods that didn’t contain empty calories. When you are calorie-counting, it’s important to understand what you are eating. I seem to float now in the mid-170s, so I’ve technically lost 30 lbs since February. I feel a lot better, and now I can run for 40 mins on the treadmill, and do 4 miles at a good running pace. This is certainly the best running I’ve ever done.
When I talk about returning to basics, and being lean and hungry, it means I want to get back to an earlier state. In 2004, I was younger, fitter, and my career was accelerating. Fast-forward to the beginning of 2011, and I was older, fatter, and unsure of why I was where I was career-wise. Bad situation folks, and you need to feel the courage to make a change.
An example of how I got back to “the old me” was my return to cycling in a major way. Last year, I did get back to riding after a long hiatus, but it wasn’t consistent. I did the MS “Coast the Coast” bike ride in 2010, but I consciously decided to tie this into my overall fitness regimen, with a key objective of dropping down to at least 190 by the end of May. I attended a free spin class at CentraState with some other members of the Team CentraState team from last year, and registered the same day for the 2011 May ride too. I started earlier on cycling, and attended a few training rides before the big charity ride. This year, I rode 85 miles for the first time with my new friend Jacqui, and I raised $1,050 with the help of family and friends. I also lost 14 lbs between Feb and May, which certainly helped on the long ride. I had hoped to ride the full century (100 miles), but my body was failing me by mile 80, and I limped to the finish line. Overall, it was a good experience. Unfortunately, my 2011 riding season was abruptly cut short just shy of 400 miles due to a season-ending accident. Ah yes, let’s segue to this year’s injuries, shall we?
Of course, having an active lifestyle opens the door to injuries if you aren’t careful. I experienced two completely unexpected ones:
- Back in February, I slipped and hyperextended my left knee while walking to catch the train in New Brunswick. That hurt for a long time, and I wore a knee brace for a while to help strengthen my knee. What was not helpful at the time was that I tried working out a week after the slip, which aggravated things. That put a delay into my workout routine.
- In September, I had the other big set of injuries. While I was cycling in Delaware and Maryland, I was inadvertently hit by a car. I twisted up my left knee (same knee again), my wrist, and somehow injured my coccyx tailbone. All in all, I consider myself extremely lucky, as it could have been much worse. At this point in time over three months, my tailbone still hurts, so I may have a few more months of recovery to go yet.
Now back to the good news. Despite not being 100%, my recovery does proceed albeit slowly. I did lose over 30 lbs this year, and I’ve stepped up my exercise routine at the gym. I’m working on building upper body strength, and I’ve recently been averaging 40 minutes and 4 miles on the treadmill, all running. Pretty good for a fellow who, years ago, used to only jog for 10 mins and called it a day.
Following all of the major home interior work done last year, the house redecorating continued this year in full force. In the living room:
- We removed the fireplace
- Shifted our furniture around to make better use of the addition space & new layout.
- We had new carpet installed in the living room
- We have also purchased new bookcases, coffee & end tables, and even a neat bench with interior storage for our DVD/Blu-ray collection, as well as a basket for the children’s movies that go in one of the bookcases.
- I purchased two rear surround speakers and hung the them up on living room back wall to create a 7.1 home theater configuration. The jury is still out on how much it changes the sound stage in the room.
- I replaced and installed a new faucet in the powder room. Annoying, but I did some actual plumbing.
- I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the new microwave. 😉
- Bought a new dining room and china cabinet.
- Replaced a failed condensate pump in the HVAC unit.
- Bought new bunk beds for the kids for Christmas, and rearranged their room.
- I don’t want to ignore the exterior work. We did a lot of gardening work this year. Creating an actual front lawn (with actual grass), new perennials, and other new flowers.
- I had hoped that we could swing a few cool domestic trips, but our inability to win the lottery put a damper on those plans. Instead, we planned out a nice weeklong vacation at the end of August at the Bethany Beach area of Delaware. We rented a condo and stayed a week into Labor Day weekend. We primarily relaxed at the beach, at the pool, chilling out in the condo, and cooking up great meals.
- In November during a brief lull in the hectic Ipe schedule, we took an extended weekend family vacation in NYC. I’ve been planning on this for a while, so I’m glad we finally pulled the trigger. It was a nice time to unwind, plus introduce the kids to some of the sights.
Part of that change was also re-evaluating my career. After 11 years, do I continue in the field of internal audit, or try something else? Stay at Citi, or move onto greener pastures? In the end, after many exploratory conversations with friends, family, and former colleagues, I decided to put a stake in the ground, and stay in the internal audit profession for now. I began interviewing in the summer, and eventually found a great opportunity at Prudential Financial. It has only been a month since I joined, but it has been a very good experience, and I like my new team. Of course it was difficult to leave Citi after 6+ years. I had thought I would want a longer career there, and I miss my old colleagues and the network I had developed, but I had to think of the long-term strategy. I didn’t see the upwards career path anymore, and too many changes coming on the horizon.
- Riding 85 miles for the first time in my life.
- Getting new cycling gear, like new pedals and new (sportier) helmet.
- Seeing the scale register 174 lbs for the first time since 2004.
- Seeing grass grow in our front lawn.
- I don’t know…. probably getting hit by a car.
- My niece Abby turned 1 years old, and was baptized. In addition, Namita and I were chosen to be her godparents. Never been a godparent before, but there is always a first time.
- My uncle (my father’s oldest brother) in India died. Coupled with another relative on my mother’s side who died from cancer this year, and it has me slightly unnerved and worried for my own parents’ health.
- New gadgets this year – the Tivo Premiere to replace our Verizon-supplied STB/DVR.
- Way back in Feb 2011, I mentioned that we would be getting a new desktop PC to replace our 6-year old workhorse. Well, it didn’t happen yet (tax bill, etc) but it recently went back on the radar. It may not be here yet, but the parts are ordered, and hope to start putting it together this Saturday. I figured I’d mention it anyway. It’s so close!
- My wife and I got into Fringe in a big way, and thanks to Amazon.com, we’re all caught up on seasons 1-3. The current season hasn’t been as strong, but I hope it picks up.
- New videogames – LittleBigPlanet 2 and Batman Arkham City. I’ve enjoyed both games, but I haven’t gotten very far in LBP 2, just because of work and lack of free time. As a testament to my lack of free time, I didn’t pick up Uncharted 3 on release date [the latest installment in one of my all-time favorite series], but Nums got it for me for Christmas instead. Love that woman!
- I saw a helluva lot of movies this year– 40 to be exact.
- Best films I enjoyed: Up, Paul, No Country for Old Men, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Muppets, Captain America, The Hurt Locker, Heat. I saw many other decent films, but I won’t list them all here.
- Worst films I had to sit & watch through: Immortals, Iron Man 2, the last of the Futurama films, Green Lantern, Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, Hot Tub Time Machine, The Hurricane.
Looking Ahead to 2012
Hmm, what can I predict is in store for 2012, except the Mayan apocalypse? 😉 This is always troublesome, as I frankly don’t accomplish much of the list. Still, I’m the dreamer. Without the dreams, how do you know what to at least try for?
- I plan to exceed and shine at my new job, and maybe lead an audit or two.
- I’m hoping to get the certification that shall not be named.
- While I’m glad that lost 30 lbs, the fitness journey isn’t over yet. I still have another 15-20 lbs to go. Also, I’m still working on building upper body muscle mass.
- I expect to ride the MS Bike ride again, and probably with CentraState again. However, Gold’s Gym has its own team, and I’m curious whether Prudential has one.
- I have no idea on trips for 2012. I do know my sister Julie has expressed interest in a joint trip.
- We’re AMNH members so naturally we’ll be hitting the museum and NYC a few more times. Heck, I wouldn’t mind another extended weekend in NYC either.
- We’re in the market for a new couch and loveseat. Our current slipcovered ones from circa 2003 is looking shabby. They were once the nicest pieces, but now are the shabbiest.
- I’m looking to redecorate the guest room and the basement.
I think that was a pretty good update. I count my blessings for the life I have (with all the ups and downs), for the wonderful family I have that make me smile every day, and the great friends I have to be there when we need some company.