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.

Wrap-up: January 2017

January has turned out to be a nice productive month for me. It was so good, I’m excited to see what happens as the year progresses.

The wrap-up:

Apple activity rings

Overall, an excellent month even if most of the activity came toward the latter half of it. Now to see what can happen in February!

Kansas City

Kansas City skyline at dusk

Kansas City has some amazing views.

When I was growing up, going to Kansas City was a Big Deal™.

I was raised in a small town in southeast Kansas called Baxter Springs. With a population of around 5,000 then, it was a typical small town. I did a lot of my early exploring in the city on my bicycle. If you had a car (and a driver’s license), you would cruise the main street on the weekends. “Dragging main” entailed driving up and down and then back again until you got tired of doing it. I’m not even sure kids do that anymore.

I remember coming to Kansas City for my senior trip, where the high school seniors came up and stayed in a hotel. We went to a Royals game and did … what else, I can’t remember. I do remember a couple of my fellow classmates getting high/drunk (called Roba-dosing) by drinking a large amount of Robitussin cough syrup. Sadly, the trip did not end well for me. I had fun, but while at the Royals game people were asking this one girl to borrow some sunscreen, not realizing we were actually applying sun tan accelerator instead. I turned my Irish-blood legs beat red; for days I could only sleep on my back.

Good times.

In July of 2015, I said goodbye to Lawrence, Kansas, my home of 16 years. It seemed like the logical thing to do. I had been commuting to Kansas City since the end of 2012, and commuting 50 minutes each way was sucking the life out of my soul.

It has turned out to be an excellent decision. I love the pulse of a big city. There are ebbs and flows of activity, not unlike the rise and fall of an ocean tide. The mornings and evenings are blissfully quiet, but the daytime activity in the downtown area where I work brings great satisfaction to me. I love seeing the different types of people, the large buildings as they reflect the sun’s magnificent rays, and the culture of art and style that weaves through the city.

I am certainly a long way from my small Kansas hometown.

When we lived in Lawrence, coming to Kansas City for the day was still quite an event. I live on the Missouri side, in an area called the Northland, and I’m around 20 minutes from anything I would want to do. As I drive to work each morning, my first automotive hurdle is to crest the top of a hill. When I pass over, I can see downtown Kansas City’s skyscrapers looking like mountains in the distance. As I draw near, my eyes tend to fixate on these wonderful buildings. Kansas City has a lot of character, and I love almost everything I see (even the parts that need some love and attention).

There once was some artwork in the gallery at my work that said, “I love KC well so far.”

I think that sums it up perfectly.

Kansas City and art go well together.

A photo posted by Eric J Gruber (@ericjgruber) on

Playing

Sometimes I’m overwhelmed with the amount of artwork my kids produce. Its everywhere; its constant.

And yet, I’m jealous how they’re able to spend their time creating. Sometimes we so busy serving others — through work, adulting, or whatever — we forget to just play.

Creation over consumption.

Social media is a cancer

Almost every day I go for a walk with a co-worker or two, and the last week we were talking about the things in our life that vie for our attention.

We got on the topic of social media, and after the recent election, I decided I can’t take any more of it. I have to take a break.

There are many tools available to help curate the stream of consciousness coming from friends, strangers, and family, but none of them seem to be strong enough for me. The world is messed up; I realize this. But I don’t want to spend hours fighting the demons of information trying to get into my head. I have reached a point in my life where I am making great strides in personal development. I’m being challenged, in a really good way, in my career. I’m making an honest effort to be a better family man. I’m working on my debt. I’m working on my life.

But social media seems to take away from all of that. I have found myself guilty of phubbing (a new term I recently learned), and I feel awful. Someone will be trying to engage me in conversation, and yet I pick up my phone out of habit and start swiping away. I do it to my wife, my friends, my kids, you name it. I am disgusted with myself by this.

It’s time for a fast. I have no idea how long this will last, but I’m giving it an honest try. I went 40 days last year without facebook, but I went so far as to delete facebook, twitter, and instagram apps on my phone this time. I’ve changed my /etc/hosts file to point those domains to nowhere (in geek speak, I’ve made it so my computer doesn’t know what to do with those web addresses should I accidentally type them in the browser bar).

I already feel lighter. Even tonight, I’ve worked on a side project and written this post, which is more than I can say for many other nights.

I hope to produce more writings on the blog, more projects getting completed, and more personal projects making their way to the light of day. Meaningless consumption doesn’t stop at physical items, and frankly, I have had enough of it.

I hope RSS is still a thing …

 

In review: 2016

The future rewards those who press on. I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself. I don’t have time to complain. I’m going to press on. — President Barack Obama

It’s my fifth annual year in review! I can’t believe I’ve done this for five years, but here I am. It’s been quite a year for me and my family, and I’ve been looking forward to writing this post for awhile.

In last year’s year in review, I wrote about how I suspected one of the reasons I wasn’t hitting goals was because they weren’t really well-defined:

I have learned that the reason why I don’t accomplish my goals, in part, is because they’re not really goals. A goal has a fixed moment in time you want to achieve something by, and I haven’t been doing that. These year-end reviews have mostly been good ideas instead of hard goals.

Thus, I gave myself some hard deadlines to what I wanted to accomplish. I put them in my favorite task manager, and then started the year ready to go.

I had four goals, with defined timelines for each:

  • Finish my house projects by May 1. It took a little longer than anticipated, but I considered the house projects completed on July 4. This was the last of the things I needed to get done for us to sell our house. Our house in Lawrence went under contract after six days on the market. We closed and moved to Kansas City on July 23.
  • Have an awesome birthday by June 8. Although it didn’t turn out the way I had hoped (a big soirée with a surprise party and surrounded by tons of friends), it ended up being a birthday full of reflection. Turning 40 turned out to be a pretty good thing.
  • Reclaim my time by March 1. It took moving closer to work to make this a reality, which I considered done by Aug. 10. After having commuted more than 90 minutes every day, my commute time has been shortened to about 40 minutes daily. This has had a huge impact on my mental health, and my relationship with my wife and kids.
  • Take a vacation by Aug. 1. I missed this by a couple of weeks, but for good reason. On Aug. 1 I went from being a contractor to a regular, full-time employee at the place I’ve been working since March 18, 2015. With it came some incredible benefits, and paid vacation time. I took the week of Aug. 10 off, and my family explored tons of Kansas City we’ve not seen before. It was a wonderful, relaxing vacation.

In other news …

  • Amy (the wife) and I completed Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, during which we paid off $5,037 in debt.
  • We purchased grown up life insurance. Should anything happen to either of us, each other, or our kids, will be WELL taken care of.

I consider 2016 to have been a fantastic year. It was a smashing success. But it really seems that setting a date to achieve a goal was really key to helping me get things moving in the right direction.

Goals

So here I am; goals for 2017:

  • Pay down $10,000 in student loan debt by Dec. 31, 2017. This is going to require some vigilance, and some side hustles on my part. I’m encouraged by the amount of money we paid off during Financial Peace University, but some of that came from the sale of the house (although not as much as I would have liked). But I’ve got some extra streams of income coming in aside from my regular job, so I think we can make this goal. There is, however, going to be a lot of the kids hearing “it’s not in the budget” for awhile, however.
  • Create a passive/semi-passive income stream by Sept 1, 2017. We’re pretty good at cutting out unnecessary spending, but that will only go so far in obtaining financial goals. I’ve been learning about passive income this year, and I’d like to set a goal to have some extra income coming in by this date to help us pay off our student loans and meet the above goal. Since I’m currently making zero dollars from passive income currently, literally anything extra would be considered a success. I’ll shoot for a goal of $100 per month extra, however.
  • Hit my goal weight by June 1,2017. I go through these healthy/unhealthy phases and I’m quite tired of it. I’ve leaned on the old I’m commuting long distances and that’s why I’m unhealthy for a few years, but with my commute being much shorter that’s really not a valid excuse anymore. I really haven’t felt “healthy” since July 2013 when my wife and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary. I’m not ready to give specifics on my current health situation just yet, but let’s just say that by June 1, I want to be 25 lbs. lighter than I am now.
  • Have a regular date night with Amy by February, 2017. My wife has given up a lot in exchange for a life we have chosen to pursue that matches our values. We are homeschooling our children for a variety of reasons, and since she has the teaching degree it’s putting it to good use. She takes care of the homefront, and I bring home the bacon (mmmm, bacon). But that carries its own set of burdens. In essence, she’s always at work. Working parents get to get out of the house and away from the youngins, but the spouse at home isn’t afforded as many mental breaks. So my goal is to find a sitter, and by sometime in February, have regular, monthly date nights with the Mrs.

So there you have it. What a year. I’m so blessed to be where I am today, and I hope and pray for as good of a year in 2017 as we had in 2016.

I hope the same for you.