I’m not sure how I would describe this year. It wasn’t a year of turmoil, either career or family. It wasn’t a particularly stressful year, due to making ends meet or family strife. It was probably a year of steady, upward progress. Last year was one where I was mostly MIA, and Namita was the single parent managing bills, social calendar activities, and what-not. This year, Namita and I were seemingly joined at the hip. We traded off children, I began handling the finances, we paid some bills down, and things got done. It wasn’t a perfect year, but I’m not sure what make it a clear-cut “perfect” year.
Life, Love, and Family
As I mentioned before, it’s been a year of steady progress. I think back 10 years ago to 2005. We had just moved to our first home, Josh was six months old, I was travelling for work, and Namita was working part-time. We never had enough money, trying to take care of an infant with allergies was a lot of work, and we were honestly frazzled. That is probably the best way to describe it. 10 years later, we’ve been in the new house for a year, and we’re surviving to say the least. Sure, we haven’t unpacked most of the house, but it seems we didn’t need that stuff in the short term anyway. We’re still finding ways to decorate the house slowly. We’ve been having more fun (“adult”) nights out with friends who live in the neighborhood, and that’s been a blast. Okay, my battle against the bulge ain’t working out, and we haven’t figured out how to properly organize coupons, but we could have worse problems.
The best part of this year for me personally has been to be physically and mentally around for my family. I’m not being trite. I’m not bragging. I think for the past few years I’ve been busy with work. Trying to figure out work in one way or another. Last year was all about simply trying to survive work. This year my current role has been more manageable, so I’ve been able to get home at 8 PM. Sometimes 7 PM! I’ve been around to attend the occasional karate class for both Josh & Lily. For the most part, I’ve been there to help out with Josh’s Cub Scout pack meetings, den meetings, and we even went camping one weekend. Our weekends haven’t been too bad, so we’ve gotten in the family time together.
Josh and Lily have had their own activities this year, some similar, some very different:
- Karate — The kids love karate, and have been steadily advancing in rank. They’re currently Advanced Green Belts, which I think is cool. They’re also learning to spar, which is probably asking for trouble down the road.
- Cub Scouts — This is Josh’s last year as a Cub Scout. I think he’s enjoyed his time, and is actually now planning to bridge over and continue as a Boy Scout. How far will he go? No one knows, but we think it’s good for him. He gets out every other week, he’s learning new things, etc. We even went camping this year, which was a first. We also own a nice Coleman tent with two very advanced sleeping bags. 😉 I can’t believe it’s only been three years since Josh first joined Cub Scouts. In two short months, Josh bridges over to Boy Scouts.
- Girl Scouts — This was Lily’s first year as a Girl Scout. Even though she doesn’t consider herself “to be a girl”, she likes Girl Scouts. Thankfully, Namita has been the one who has been taking Lily to all of her meetings, helping to sell Girl Scout cookies, etc. Lily bridged over from being a “Daisy” to now being a “Brownie.”
- Softball — I have to admit that I had doubts about Lily playing softball this year. I love my daughter, but I’m still a little burned by the two seasons of soccer she spent mostly sitting on the sidelines eating snacks. God bless my wife, she keeps trying. She signed Lily up for softball against my misgivings, and Lily started slowly at first with her first game in April. Between April and June, Lily not only enjoyed softball, she could really hit that ball. It was a side of that girl that I’d never seen before, and I was deeply proud as a parent. She starts clinics again in a few weeks, and I’m happy for her to have found a sport that she likes.
Lastly, my parents sold their NY home, and moved one town over in April. They’ve been a great help with picking up the kids after school, and even watching the cats when we’ve been away. It’s nice to have the grandparents around to help.
I’ve been working at AIG for the past year. It’s been an interesting year, and an interesting role. Okay,not the most interesting role, but it’s provided me a year to catch my breath and figure things out. I’m slowly studying for certifications, and trying to figure out my career path. Sadly, I still haven’t obtained any new certifications to help me move on up, and it seriously irks me.
We had a big staff reduction both company-wide and department-wide, and I lost quite a number of coworkers and friends in September. The role (and management) isn’t what I expected, but that’s probably the norm at this point. It bothers me to have been in three different organizations since leaving Citigroup in late 2011. In all three organizations, I went in with a certain expectation, I’ve had new management in all three organizations after I joined. It’s inconceivable. This year, too. New senior management, and all. I’m trying to figure what will 2016 hold for me, but in the meantime, I think need to be ready for anything.
That means I need new certifications so I can compete against the best and brightest. I still wonder about getting an MBA or a graduate degree so I can be in contention for the next level in roles, but there’s no money for that in the Ipe budget. Certifications are the only things that are achievable.
Trips? Oh, I’ve had a few. Okay, this wasn’t like the first half of 2014 when I was travelling every two weeks somewhere fun and exciting. My current job role allows no travel. Heck, it doesn’t even allow WFH. The good news is that the Ipes managed some fun family trips this year, which beats out a business trip any day.
- Our January / February Trip to Orlando — We’ve never taken the kids to the theme parks in Florida. It would be too expensive. The kids were too young. We could never do it. I didn’t know if we would ever go to Disney. However, when Namita is determined, get back for your own safety. Somehow, she found a way to save money on a hotel room (we had to listen to a Hilton timeshare presentation), and she found reasonably-priced airfare. Lo and behold, we spent four run-and-gun days at both the Universal Studios and Walt Disney World parks. The weather was great, the lines were mostly non-existent, and the kids had a fun time. We even met up with some neighborhood friends on the last day in Animal Kingdom. Now we can’t wait to go back.
- Our July 4th Road Trip to Michigan — We drove nearly 1,500 miles on the July 4th weekend to visit a few of our Michigan friends. Yes, the drive was long through Pennsylvania and Ohio, but we survived, and it was good to see our friends. Furthermore, our East Coast friends Doug and Kathy traveled separately out there as well, so it was a nice reunion of friends.
- Beach Day at Long Beach Island — Listen, I acknowledge that the wife and kids went to the beach on a weekday a few times this year, but it was without me. So, I don’t think those count, because how fun could it be without me? 😉 In August, I took a day off, and the four of us drown down to Long Beach Island to meet my sister-in-law and family during their annual vacation, and to celebrate her birthday.
- Our September Road Trip to Tennessee — This was our annual family vacation. In years past, we’ve often gone to Delaware and other beachy places. This time around, we decided to do something really different for us. Over the course of eight days, we road tripped from New Jersey, to Virginia, to Tennessee, and back. Along the way, we stopped to enjoy the sights in many towns. It was a really great time. Highly recommend it. Nashville was a lot of fun.
- My November Trip to Nashville — After many years apart, I met up with three of my closest friends for an extended weekend in Nashville. I didn’t take any photos on this trip, but we bonded a lot.
- Our November Trip to Washington DC — Four days visiting the sights in Washington DC, and hanging out with my wife’s family / friends / former coworkers who now live in the DC / Maryland / Virginia area. It was an easy trip, lots to see and do, and good food all around.
- I liked barbecuing this year. We made chicken, pork chops, burgers, hot dogs, etc, and they came out great. We didn’t entertain as much outside compared to last year, but oh well. At least the Ipes enjoyed it.
- I’m enjoying my photography hobby. I’ve been focusing on properly framing the photo, and tweaking each one before I publish them. As a result, I’ve received some nice feedback from folks, and that feels awfully nice.
- We spent nine months in discussions, research, and hunting for financing, but we purchased a solar panel system for our house. Yes, we decided to purchase instead of leasing it, as we wanted the Federal and state tax credits. We use so much electricity, it’ll be a win for us in the long term.
- I upgraded the home PC from Windows 7 to Windows 10 Home. Lovin’ it.
- Even though it seems like it’s never ending, we’re slowly improving on the house, and I like that end result. We remodeled the laundry room into a sort of mudroom / laundry room, and added new electrical outlets (kitchen and master bedroom) to the house. Three months later, I’m done with the mudroom. 😉 Never ending, I tell you.
- We bought both a new snow thrower and a new patio umbrella.
- New tools!
- I successfully mounted 3 out of 4 of my home theater surround speakers in the basement. There’s one left (the rear right speaker), but that unfortunately requires drilling into the concrete foundation, and running new speaker wiring through the drop ceiling. As soon as I get the higher priority “To Do” list items completed, I’ll tackle that one next.
- Decorating the house! Well, yes, it may sound weird to hear it from a guy, but I was fairly disappointed with ourselves when we realized it took us nine years to decorate the townhouse…. and then we sold it. I don’t want to be in the same boat again this time around, waiting 30 years to finish making this place look like a home. We hung up a whiteboard in the home office, hung up artwork, hung up movie posters. Still in progress, but it’s progress nonetheless.
- With a little help from our friends, we made our first backyard garden, and grew actual vegetables.
- I liked going out with friends to places. Whether it was someone’s backyard or dancing in a club in West New York, socializing with adults is a good thing.
Did we have a “Worst Moment”? Oh yes, if I had to list, I would say we had a few unfortunate incidents:
- Not one but two floods in our basement. The first flood in a partially empty storage room wasn’t terrible in hindsight, but when our hot water heater began pouring out 75 gallons of water… that sucked. We still don’t have the basement carpet in pre-flood shape, but it’s useable. I still remember spending the next three days vacuuming up the water, and running rented carpet blowers for almost a week.
- Not truly committing myself to sitting down and studying enough, and not achieving one single certification. I talk and talk about it, but I didn’t make the time and effort to make it happen. Other stuff worked out great this year, but I’m still disappointed.
- My ongoing battle to lose weight. It’s the American story. I was going pretty regularly to the gym in the beginning of the year, but started to decrease in frequency as the year went on. Pretty sad. I’m up to 195 as of yesterday, so that sucks. I don’t feel particularly obese, so I’m going to relax, eat cheesecake for breakfast, and accept that it’s not a night-and-day kind of transformation. I gotta do better starting Jan 1st. For realsies.
- Not finishing unpacking from last year’s move. Ugh. I know everyone seems to have the same story, but it doesn’t make me feel any better.
Color me surprise, but I only watched 18 films this year. I guess with all of the running around, I didn’t have time to sit and watch TV or go to the movies.
- Best films I watched:
- Worst films I watched:
- Pitch Perfect 2 (but the Date Night portion was great!)
- This Is the End
- Son of Batman
- Robocop (The 2014 remake, naturally. The original is still awesome)
- The Other Woman
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (Yes, I’m putting this in the Worst category, because it was so all over the place, too overstuffed, and a big let down.)
Looking Ahead to 2016
Next year? No one knows what will happen next year. I make no predictions, and I don’t even know what to say about it. In the past few years, each new job turned into something not at all expected or promised. Last year, we were happy leaving in a townhouse, and ended up in a brand new single family home. Last year, with the housing market in central Jersey being a bit depressed, I had this idea that we could hold onto the property and rent it out until 2015. I listened to my wife instead, and we sold it off at the best price we could get. Turns out, that price was $20-30 K better than we would have gotten this year, so we lucked out in some small way.
I have no idea what to say about 2016. I could get laid off. Someone may have a health issue. Who knows, but God.
In 2016, I hope my family continues to “steadily progress upwards”, that we’re all healthy and happy, and we get to travel more. I think that’s really all we can ask and hope for.