Mission accomplished

When I started the year I had but one goal: to pay off all our debt in 2018. As of Friday, June 15, 2018, that goal has been met.

I haven’t written much in this space this year because I’ve been very busy working on that goal. Instead, I’ve been journaling about our debt free journey at debtsnowballer.com.

There’s a good chance I’ll return to writing more here in the coming months, but for now it’s time for a little breather before I get back on the horse. I still have more to say on the Debt Snowballer site, if you’re interested in reading more about this amazing journey we’ve been on the last 21 months.

Here’s to a great rest of the year!

In review: 2017

Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored. – Earl Nightingale

A post shared by Eric J Gruber (@ericjgruber) on In a way, I find this year’s end-of-year review difficult to write.

I know of people who did not have a good year. Many were pretty wrapped up in the 2016 presidential election, and when the outcome didn’t go the way they hoped, they were despondent. Even those I know who supported the winner spent most of the year griping about the side that lost. It was a very troubling year, to say the least.

However, that’s not how my year turned out. In fact, I dare say I had one of the best years yet since I started writing these year-end reviews six years ago. I will get into the why later in this post, but to start, here’s a look at how my goals for 2017 panned out.

As in 2016, I had four goals.

  • Pay down $10,000 in student loan debt by Dec. 31, 2017. We got close, but didn’t hit this goal. We managed to pay down a little more than $8,000 in student loan debt (our final debt). We sidetracked ourselves because I got a wild hair when the summer rolled around and convinced the wife to take the family on a road trip through Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and back through Kansas to home in Missouri. That cut into our progress. However, it was worth every penny. I hadn’t been on a “real” vacation with the family in a long time, and never with all three of my children. The trip was a highlight of the year, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
  • Create a passive/semi-passive income stream by Sept 1, 2017. I completely failed at this one. A co-worker and I began work on a technical book series, which ultimately got sidetracked by a completely insane year at our day jobs. I know, I know, had we really wanted to make it happen, we would have. But, it didn’t happen, so the onus is on us (or in this case, me).
  • Hit my goal weight by June 1,2017. In retrospect, I didn’t define this goal very well. I basically said I wanted to be “25 lbs. lighter than I am now” when I wrote that post, but that wasn’t really a firm goal. I didn’t even start making an honest effort to attempt achieving this goal until April 1. The way my body holds onto excess pounds, I should have known better. I did spend a decent amount of my summer exercising and eating very well, and results were visible. Sadly, as winter set in, I have resumed my self-defeating ways (as I tend to do this time of year).
  • Have a regular date night with Amy by February, 2017. This is the one I am most proud of. My wife, Amy, and I went out by ourselves for an honest-to-goodness date night almost every month in 2017. The only month we missed was in July when we took our vacation. A couple of months, we even went out twice because we had childcare to do so. Having a regular date night turned out to be one of the best decisions I made all year.

I failed at 75 percent of my goals, and yet I had a fantastic year. I mention this to friends often, but I highly encourage anyone who is working through adversity to read the book, “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday. That book helped shape my outlook on life when things aren’t going the way I want them to go.

The attitude espoused in the book is one of keeping your head up when the struggles are heavy. It’s that attitude that helped me see the world much differently in 2016, when many people I know felt their world was falling apart.

I will make no apologies for the wonderful year I had. I have embraced every moment of it.

But my annual post would be negligent with no set goals for the coming year. In a rare turn of events, I have but one goal for the new year.

Goal

  • Pay off our final debt by Dec. 31, 2018.

This has been a long road for us, one filled with setbacks usually of our own doing. It has been a dream of mine to be free of the last of our debt.

Debt has been a source of contention in our house for a long time. It caused problems in our marriage. It is that thing that sits in the back of my mind when we make every financial decision. People have told us we “worship money” because we want to get out of debt. Others have told us the financial steps we are taking are foolish or wrong.

I do not care what anything thinks about what we are doing. This isn’t a goal for 2018; it’s a reality that just hasn’t been fulfilled yet. We are getting out of debt next year.

To make this work, we will sacrifice. It will require understanding from friends and family. It will require acceptance, because there is no room for anything else. We are getting out of debt, and we will stop at nothing to get there in 2018.

I have even given 2018 a slogan: The Year of No.

We are going to say “no” to every paid thing we’ve enjoyed since we started this journey. There may be extra sidework to be done to achieve this goal. Are we going out to eat? No. Are we going to the movies? No. Are we doing anything to take funds away from what leads us to our goal? Big. Fat. No.

One of my favorite characters from the TV show The Walking Dead is Michonne. I see myself like her character. She walks through an apocalyptic world with a fire in her eyes, carrying nothing but a katana (samurai sword), slaying every obstacle that comes between her and freedom. This is how we will spend 2018. We will fight, and claw, and scratch, and finally be free of this weight that needs to finally die.

Because the thing is, if you want to get out of debt, you cannot do it lackadaisical. You must hate it. It must become an enemy. You must have that fire in your eyes. You must be prepared to stay “no” to the biggest enemy you have in the process: yourself.

I’m very excited for 2018. To be honest, I would love to complete this goal by our anniversary on July 26, 2018. This will be our 15th wedding anniversary, and I can think of no greater gift to give my wife than to say, “We are free. We are finally free.”

I’m not sure the math works to get us to that date, but we are sure going to try. Even if we fail to hit that date, I  promise we will be debt-free by Dec. 31, 2018.

Here’s to “The Year of No.” It’s only an obstacle, and the obstacle is the way.

One year later: moving

It was one year ago today I moved my family from Lawrence, KS to Kansas City, MO.

If I am completely honest, I spent the first six months feeling like I was living in exile. I was born in Kansas, and had lived there most of my life. I lived in Lawrence for 16 years before the move last year. It was both easy to do because of my daily commute, and incredibly difficult.

The hard part was in the beginning. I was afraid we made the wrong decision. We didn’t know anyone. The kids had no friends, and my wife was in completely new surroundings. Nothing was familiar. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Nothing much changed for me except going from a 50-minute commute down to 15 minutes. I still worked with the same people, I know my way around the city pretty well, and I blend into new environments with ease. I thrive on change and unfamiliarity, and my wanderlust had been in overdrive for awhile before we left.

Most of my family seemed a little in shock at first. Little by little, we started exploring our new surroundings. We’ve found new favorite places. We met new people. We learned how “these people” (Kansas Citians) are, culturally. We probed, we absorbed, and we adapted.

I can’t pinpoint an exact time when I realized things were going to be OK, and that there was no looking back, but I can remember some events. It was little things, really. Like when my wife said, “I got to the store without using my phone!” It was when my daughters found new friends in the neighborhood. It was pictures of my son playing in a stream during homeschool outings.

It was when I saw smiles. Smiles were a good indicator that things were going OK. Smiles put me at ease.

A friend of mine recently mentioned that he perceived I had some animosity for Lawrence and/or Kansas. I played it off a little, stating my position. I made some justifications. And then, I thought about that statement for the rest of the day.

He’s right; I have given off that vibe. I realize now my feelings since moving were a little misguided. It’s classic “Who Moved My Cheese?” and I got sucked right up in it. You see, I didn’t want to move. I love Lawrence, and it was a fantastic home. I got married there, and my three children were born there. My current career path was born there. In many ways, I truly became a man there.

I just wasn’t meant to stay there, and it’s taken me some time to reconcile that. I believe I have.

Sometimes when we’re coming back to our place after a family outing, my son (currently two years old) will begin to notice familiar surroundings. I am not sure what he sees. Is it the trees? Is it the street signs? I have no idea.

But when those items come into focus to his little eyes, and the mood hits him just right, he will perk up and exclaim, “It’s home!”

It sure is.

Wrap-up: June 2017

The year is half over, and here’s my June 2017 wrap-up:

  • To start the month off, I shaved my beard off completely clean. Thus, I revealed to the world my baby face, and was asked by a couple of people to never do it again.
  • June 8 was my birthday. I turned 41. Honestly, just another day in my book although we took the kids to Worlds of Fun (season passes are great) and I had a funnel cake. I felt sick awardwards, but it was so worth it.
  • I “ran” over the distance of a 5k after work one Friday. My work happens to be located at a small airport, and the distance around the tarmac is a little over a 5k. It was hot, brutal, and quite the challenge. I should note my “run” is more of a jog/walk/jog/walk until I get it done. I took a nap afterwards. I was beat.
  • The girls and I went to a daddy-daughter dance at a nearby community center. I always wanted to do that when I lived in Lawrence but never did. I’m glad I finally made the time.
  • Date night with the woman was watching Wonder Woman at the theatre. It was a good night, and a great movie.
  • With some of my birthday cash, I purchased a mic stand and a pop filter for some possible podcasting and/or screencasting experiments. We’ll see how that goes.
  • Decided to go ahead and join the gym I was trialing. It’s a nice gym that suits my needs. Although, my weight loss has totally flattened. That’s expected, even if it’s difficult to keep pushing so hard when there’s no weight losses at the moment. Still, I am getting stronger and I feel very good. I have found that it’s important to keep exercise in my life or I just don’t function well in all the other aspects. Now I just need to keep it up and not falter like I typically do when I plateau.
  • Lastly, one of my kids was baptized. It’s interesting to see how children treat faith and spirituality versus adults. There’s a lot of lessons to be learned from the younger generation; maybe adults could learn to treat others with more dignity and respect even if we don’t share the same beliefs.

Author’s note: The May and June wrap-ups were written in July because life was crazy the last few months; now to get back on schedule!

Wrap up: May 2017

May was an active month. Here’s the wrap-up:

  • Transitioned my youngest from a crib to a toddler bed. It might not sound like much, but knowing that you’ll never be in this phase again as a dad is a little sad.
  • Went on a camping trip with some friends from Lawrence at Clinton Lake in Douglas County, Kansas. We had a great time; we’ll do it again in the fall.
  • Had not one, but two date nights with the wife in May. One of them was our regularly planned monthly date, but then my parents took all the kids for the weekend a week later. We hadn’t been away from the children together for three years before that night. We went to Worlds of Fun and rode a bunch of big-kid rides.
  • Started a 30-day trial at a local gym. Since I’m on a health kick (again) this year, I wanted to start throwing resistance training into the mix. It’s been a long time (more than a year), and getting back to a routine wasn’t easy by a long shot. Since starting on April 1, I am down 16 lbs. and feeling better than I have in a long time.

On to June!

Wrap-up: April 2017

OK, back in business. April was a great month.

This month, I made no announcement and spoke of no great plans. And, it worked out very well.

The wrap-up:

  • Another month, another date night. We opted to eat a clean meal at Protein House,  and then took an evening stroll in the open-area shopping mall of Zona Rosa.
  • I attended DrupalCon 2017 in Baltimore, MD. It was a great conference, and I even got to see the grave of Edgar Allan Poe. 
  • Probably the most all-consuming part of my month was that my wife and I did the Whole30 for a third time. It was particularly challenging since I traveled while doing it, but we made it. The effort was worth it: At the end of the month I was down 11.6 lbs. and lost 3.5 percent of body fat. I’m very pleased with these results.
  • Finally, I took – and failed – the Drupal 8 Developer Certification exam. On a scale of 100, I have a .5 as far as experience developing in Drupal 8, so I wasn’t surprised (or heartbroken) to bomb it. However, I’m about to move to a full-time Drupal 8 project which will give me the experience I need. Those Drupal tests aren’t something you can simply study for: experience is key for being able to pass.

So, great month! I’m already pushing forward on my activities for May, which will be documented here in due time. 

Wrap-up: March 2017

March did not go well.

I didn’t take a month off of television. I didn’t really do the training for work that I wanted to do, and I did very little 5k training. In fact, I didn’t even run the 5k.

Yeah, March was a total wash. Maybe it’s because I announced by plans and intentions. There seems to be some compelling evidence announcing your plans makes you less likely to finish them. Oh my, that does sound like me.

The wrap-up:

  • Had another date night with the wife. We went to see the movie Logan at the AMC not far from where we live. We did the dine-in thing at this theater like we did at Alamo Drafthouse in February. The dine-in experience at AMC wasn’t bad, but not as good of an experience as at Alamo Drafthouse. The movie was pretty amazing. Logan is the most violent (read: comic-book like) superhero movie I’ve ever seen.
  • Got a little depressed for a couple of weeks. Weather? Work? Dealing with the feelings that some people in this world are turds? I don’t know what the deal was, but I ended up needing a break.
  • Took a vacation, which was really just me getting some honey-dos done and hanging with my family. It was good.

April will be busy, but I’m not going to say anything this time. Let’s just say I’m doing some things currently, and a wrap-up will follow at the end of the month.

Wrap-up: February 2017

Two months in, where to begin?

Sadly, I’ve been pretty consumed with my day job this month. I haven’t been as active in my extracurricular activities, but there’s still a few things to report on.

The wrap-up:

  • Had a date night with the wife. We went to see the movie Split at the Alamo Drafthouse. The whole experience was good.
  • Began training for a 5k I will participate in on April 1.
  • Attended the DevFest KC conference.
  • Broke my social media fast. As a friend of mine commented, “So, your relationship with social media is pretty complicated, isn’t it?”
  • Read the book Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.
  • Wrote three blog posts.
  • Assisted a friend, who I’ve been mentoring about web development, get her first website online.

March has a few more things lined up. I plan on taking a month away from television. I’m going to do some specialized studying on my own about something for work, and I’ll continue my 5k training. I also plan on taking a vacation week toward the end of the month, and hopefully — weather permitting — get some camping in.

Oh yeah, and I need to get my taxes done. It’s time to pay the man!

In training

Almost every day at lunch I walk with a co-worker (or two). These walks always lead to interesting conversations. Sometimes we talk about what we’re working on, and sometimes it’s about life in general. Recently the discussion has been about health and motivation.

We were discussing goals, and about how I wanted to get into better shape this year, but I don’t quite have the spark to get things going. Today my friend suggested I need something specific to work toward, like a race.

I realized he was right, and we decided on a run. On April 1, I will participate in a 5k. Training officially starts now.

My friend and I are taking two different approaches to training, which I’ll write more about later (once I solidify exactly how I’ll be training). But the main thing is this: I have a very specific end date when my training needs to be completed, and I need to get started yesterday.

I’m very excited by this. Given the name of the race, you could say I’m very eggcited. I couldn’t resist the pun.

Let the training begin!

Kids can be so rock and roll sometimes

Today I received a text from my wife that read “I need to talk to you. I don’t know how to handle something that just happened.”

“Oh dear,” I thought. “This can’t be good.”

I went to a quiet place to call and was told the news. One of my daughters (those who know my family can probably guess which one) received some Valentine’s Day candy from her grandparents, and had eaten all of her stash. Still craving chocolate, she went into the kitchen and got a handful of chocolate chips to enjoy. She was stopped by her mother, who told her that no, she couldn’t have those chips because she had eaten all her candy.

Without missing a beat, dear daughter licked her other hand and placed the chocolate chips into her saliva-coated palm, all while staring at my wife with a look of “Oh yeah, what are you going to do about it?”

She didn’t get to finish those chocolate chips, and she received some other punishment as well for her defiance. But I have to admit when I heard this story, I laughed hysterically and uncontrollably. My gut reaction? I was impressed with her audacity.

Man, that was pretty rock and roll.

Not that I encourage such types of behavior, of course.