As I look back on the past year, I don’t even know how to describe it. Was it a typical year for us? A monumental year with huge milestones? Was it a good year? A tough one? It would certainly qualify as as a year of change. It was certainly eventful, and that’s no lie.
Life, Love, and Family
Where do I begin?
This year was certainly better in many aspects. As the kids have gotten older (and as we’ve maybe gotten smarter?), we’ve cut down a bit on all of the extracurricular activities. It was maybe a year or two ago when we were often running around from one place to another, handing off children to each other. It was becoming ridiculous. Josh has been focused on Cub Scouts, and Lily has been focused on dance classes. No more soccer practices and games, no swimming classes (temporarily.) In fact, we’ve been trying to free up our time on the weekends so we can spend it together. My wife takes Lily to two consecutive dance classes on Wednesday evenings after school, and Josh’s Cub Scout programs are usually a Monday or Thursday evening. I occasionally have a Pack Leaders meeting once a month on a weeknight, but nothing we can’t manage. We’ve recognized that it’s important for us to have the downtime to relax and unwind, to hang out with each other. That’s a big step for us.
My wife and I also went out on more date nights Friday evenings — a night with the NJ Symphony orchestra, evenings at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, date nights in Princeton, date nights at the Shore, or overnights in Midtown and Princeton.
To foster more play time, and to maximize the available space in the house, we converted the guestroom / office into the playroom / office. For years while living in the apartment, we wanted a house with a proper guestroom. Sadly, we’ve temporarily shelved that until we move into a larger house. We also purchased season passes to Six Flags Great Adventure, which allowed us to spend some of those free evenings/weekends running around a park without standing around on long lines for rides.
Every time I look at Joshua or Lily, I notice they look a little taller, and a little slimmer. I also notice that I can treat them less like little kids, and more like kids who have things to say, interests that need cultivating and support, and general love. Trust me, it’s a different mindset for me. Instead of saying “Do this.”, I have to be more positive to help them be comfortable in their own decisions, and getting older and smarter. I see much of my wife and her David / Phillips blood in him, and much of the Ipe / John blood in her. As they also get older, it’s hard to not get frustrated to see the bad habits that you don’t like about yourself manifest itself in your kids. Josh asked me two weeks ago if it was hard to be a parent. I told him yes, but you try your best.
Josh turned eight years old this year, and we celebrated it at the infamous Chuck E. Cheese. We’ve avoided frequenting that place, but I suppose we couldn’t avoid it forever — that’s where he wanted to go. Josh is growing up into an intelligent, sweet, sometimes too lazy for his own good, boy. He likes riddles and knock-knock jokes, loves Pokemon to death (ugh), and soft pants. He and I have been pretty involved with the Cub Scouts this year — lots of Den and Pack meetings and events I’ve been, we were involved in a lot of popcorn selling, popcorn distributing, and Josh sold enough popcorn (with some help) to be #2 in sales within our Pack and earned the right to throw a pie in my face earlier this month. I was also proud of him wanting to participate with me in a charity bike ride in May to help reduce hunger. Seriously, one proud papa here. Finally, I have to mention, that somehow, he finished reading the entire J.R. R. Tolkien Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the Silmarillion, on his own. Big books for a little guy.
Lily turned five years old this year, and we celebrated it at a place called Tiger Hall in Princeton. She has developed into more of a cartoon character. My wife keeps the running list of all the wisecracks so you’d have to ask her for some choice ones. She’s a sweet girl, and we love her very much. She “graduated” from Pre-K in June, and started kindergarten in September. So far, only two handfuls of adjustment issues, but she’s happy to go to “the big school with her older brother.
I understand why it happened, but I’m still angry / disappointed with myself for gaining a good portion of the weight I had worked so hard to lose only two years ago. It’s so hard to lose weight, and so easy to gain. For the past two years, I was so stressed out between work life and home life that I put working out and eating right on the back burner. I had hoped to catch up this year and lose 13 lbs in the first half of 2013, but that first half turned into an extremely stressful and unhappy time at work for me. Result? Gained a few more pounds. I’m working out again with renewed dedication. Sometimes disgust can be a powerful motivator.
When I think about this year, it feels like a year of rejuvenation. After so many years of running around, money being tight, and sometimes being overwhelmed of balancing career, personal, and commitments, everything started to become better:
- All sorts of family trips to experience new things and new places, after years of simply not.
- Hanging out with friends again for lunches, dinners, movies, BBQs, etc. These past few years, we’ve been too busy. In 2013, we actually had time to hang out with people.
- After waiting more than a year, we found people who would repair the Super Storm Sandy-related damage to the house, and also close up the squirrel hole.
- We’ve been cleaning out junk and reorganizing the house.
- Internal home repairs to replace worn fixtures.
- New stuff
- From my single perspective — new eyeglasses, new sunglasses, new shoes, new clothes.
- New washing machine — yeah yeah, but I do the family laundry. It’s important to me. Now if I could only convince my CFO to get us a new dryer…..
- New bike rack.
- New tools, including a new Swiss Army knife.
- New cell phone, new tablet, new hard drive, new router.
We went on a few short day and weekend trips this year to museums and the beach, or the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk, just to spice things up. We went to Virginia to see family, made day trips to Manhattan, and we even had had a short overnight trip to Midtown. We celebrated our 10 yr wedding anniversary I’m style by spending 6 days in Mexico at the end of August / early September.
Certainly a tumultuous year in my career. Tumultuous? Well, maybe not ‘tumultuous.’ How about stressful? Somewhat unrewarding? I’m still sorting out my views of what happened this year. Although I loved working for my manager, and liked working with my team mates, I believe the dept and I weren’t a good fit. It was a slight problem in 2012, but that got exacerbated after some management changes. My day-to-day focus was less technology, and more around business operational and financial processes, which didn’t interest me at all. It’s hard to properly assess those risks and control processes when you don’t understand them. And you don’t like the work. I also got annoyed with the idiosyncratic behavior and attitudes of of other people, and criticism for things that I didn’t agree with. Coupled with the lack of traction of other projects that were near and dear to my heart, and I became disenchanted.
I’ll admit that it affected me, but I still tried to make it work. It was around mid – September that I finally threw the towel into the ring. I wasn’t happy, and it wasn’t going to get any better. It wasn’t a good match, and I wasn’t happy. But what to do?
Recruiters had been calling me for a long while, but all they offered were more IT Audit jobs. I didn’t feel that was interesting anymore. It’s been basically 13 years of audit — time for something new. Through networking, a former colleague of mine contacted me, and informed me about a position in Risk Management at his company. The group and the role both sounded very interesting. Will it be different to try something new? Yes, of course. It is always different and difficult to close one door and open another, but I believe that, no matter how much information you have, sometimes you have to make that leap of faith.
- Even though the transaction occurred on Dec 26 2012, I consider having a new car one of my favorite aspects of the past year. After driving first an Altima then a Sentra, getting a Maxima with a little oomph felt right.
- I loved all the date nights that we took this year — collectively, that was fun.
- Watching my son put all of his swimming lessons to use by passing two swim tests at our local community pool, qualifying him to use the water slide, and to swim by himself at the deep end. Prior to the test, I started to couch him on it being okay if he failed, but then he succeeded. Sometimes it’s not just about you forgetting about your fears of failure. Sometimes you need to play the cheerleader and help them remember the possibilities of success.
- I was pretty happy to finally get to fly somewhere sunny and warm for our family vacation.
- After a few years of talking incessantly about getting tablet, I finally got a tablet. It wasn’t the Apple iPad that I sought for so long, but it turns out I’m pretty happy with Android.
- This is a funny one — Realizing that after working hard for almost two years, I wasn’t where I wanted to be, nor was I doing what I wanted to do. That sinking feeling that you don’t belong. It felt terrible, but yet liberating to finally come to that realization. I say liberating, because it set me free. The weight came off my shoulders. So it’s both a favorite and a worst moment.
- Speaking of weight, my disappointment over letting my bad habits take control again, and gaining a lot of the weight back.
Our cats are still pretty stupid. I mean, what can I say that I haven’t already said? Well, this year, I saw a lot of new and old films, especially some old-time classics that I should have seen years ago. Also, we started introducing the kids to our favorite classics, like GI Joe, Transformers, Little House on the Prairie, The Karate Kid, and the Back to the Future Trilogy. I also started playing more PS3 and computer games with the kids, which as been fun. I thought we had set a whole new record for films watched, but it was only 35 films.
- Best films that I enjoyed: Safety Not Guaranteed (2012), The Apartment (1960), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), Despicable Me (2010), Silver Linings Playbook (2012), Goodfellas (1990), Pacific Rim (2013) (only because of the special effects though), Skyfall (2012), 12 Angry Men (1957), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Argo (2012), Frozen (2013)
- Worst films that I chose to sit through: A Good Day to Die Hard (2013), Olympus Has Fallen (2013), Hum Tum (2004), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), Man of Steel (2013), The Five-Year Engagement (2012), Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013), 47 Ronin (2013)
Looking Ahead to 2014
With such a big year behind us, what could there possibly be waiting for us that would be even better? I’m hoping it’s an even better year, where everyone is healthy and safe, and continue this streak of good things coming to those who wait. In no particular order:
- Continued enhancements to the home, such as new closets, new carpeting upstairs, painting the rooms upstairs, and new bathroom fixtures.
- Early stages of house hunting.
- Renewed focus on our careers.
- Continuing to spend time with the immediate family, with extended family, and with friends.
- More day trips.
So yeah, color me optimistic.