Category Archives: Year in Review

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.

In review: 2015

You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Another year, another annual “year in review.” Oh boy, where to start? How about all the things I didn’t get accomplished?

Setbacks

  • Total health reset – Nope. I got back into the gym for three months, but that was about it.
  • More minimalism – Nope. Things seem more out of control than before I started this journey. Every bit of progress made, was met with two steps back. I’d clean out the garage, and the kids would find a way to trash it. I’d pack away bins of toys, and the kids would drag them out after they found them. I’m really at my wit’s end with the lack of progress on the minimalism front at the house.
  • Write more – This is my fourth post of the year for this site, so no.
  • Start a podcast Sigh. No.

Accomplishments

  • House projects – I worked my tail off on the house this summer. I got a great farmer’s tan as well. I painted about 75 percent of the exterior, got sod for the backyard lawn, fixed some damaged boards on the front of the house, and replaced a broken front porch post. I was really happy with what I got done on the house and look forward to wrapping it all up in the coming months (after it warms up a little).
  • Changed jobs – More on that further below.

Goals

Looking ahead at 2016 … You know what, let’s talk about goals for a minute.

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.

  • Finish my house projects – I will finish my house projects by May 1, 2016. This includes finishing painting the last 25 percent of the exterior along with some minor repairs to do, and re-painting the interior of the house. Our housing needs have changed, so we will be selling our home of almost six years no later than Aug. 1, 2016 and finding more suitable housing for our family of five. We really love our neighborhood, but the home isn’t a good fit for us now that we’re a family of five.
  • Have an awesome birthday – This year, I will turn 40. To celebrate, I would love to have a fantastic party with anyone who has ever been part of my life. Maybe go out on the town, and invite anyone who wants to come by and say hello. Since my birthday is in June, let’s say this will need to happen no later than June 11, 2016.
  • Reclaim my time – For several years now, I have volunteered my time in many different groups and activities. I have been happy to serve others, but now I need to take a break and focus on my family and my career. And so, by March 1, 2016 I will discontinue my involvement in most of my extracurricular activities and hope that someone else takes up the reins. The sad truth is, the Pareto principle states that 80 percent of results come form 20 percent of the causes. I’ve been part of the 20 percent for a long time, and it’s time for me to step down for awhile. I simply can’t sustain this anymore and I owe it to my family, and myself, to disengage for awhile.
  • Take a vacation – Aside from the time off I took after my son was born in August 2014, I haven’t taken a week off for myself since May 2014. And even then, I didn’t go anywhere with the family. We’ve been taking “staycations” for years, but I’d like to take an honest-to-goodness little trip away from the area with the family. I will accomplish this by August 1, 2016.

More about 2015

I’m going to be brutally honest as I can: this year was an absolute roller coaster.

After nine years, I left my work in government to go work for a marketing agency. On one hand, I left because an opportunity came up that was too good to pass up, and I really felt this was my time to give it a shot. But on the other hand, my former job became so unbearable that I couldn’t stay there. It started out as one of the best jobs I have ever had, and then morphed into what was easily the worst job I have ever had.

It was so difficult to leave, because the people I worked with — my boss, my co-workers – they were this great work family that I loved. But some in the organization were absolutely bent on total control, and it forced many people out. Some left by choice, some left by force. Fortunately, I was of the former. I hope you never have to sit through a meeting where everyone around you is openly talking about how the organization is going to outsource your position. It was absolutely the most stress I have ever felt in my adult life, made even worse because some of these events were when Amy was pregnant.

It took me months let go of much of the anger I felt from that time. Not that it’s all gone, but it’s mostly subsided. My new job is really fantastic. I’ve learned so much since I started in March, and I’m certainly much better at my craft. There’s a line from Star Wars: A New Hope when Obi-Wan tells Darth Vader, “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

And that is exactly what happened. I never would have though that adversity could have such a positive outcome.

The rest of the year was filled with some pretty dark times. We went through (and in many ways still are going through) a dark personal tragedy against my family that I’ll never talk about online, and probably not even in person. It was far worse than the job debacle, but we’re getting through it.

And finally, our year with the boy  was especially difficult. Until a few months ago, he was a horrible, horrible sleeper. Amy and I were drained completely because the lack of sleep was taking a toll. Some relief came when we figured out he has eczema, and Amy’s internet research led her to Dr. Richard Aron. We have been using his protocol with our son, and it has had amazing, wonderful results. I can only hope that Dr. Aron’s methods can go mainstream; there are many in this world who suffer with eczema who could absolutely benefit from his methods. We are blessed to have found out about him, and to have physicians here in the U.S. who would work with an doctor overseas.

And now, here we are. It’s December. The boy sleeps through the night and his skin is looking great. The girls are doing great in school, and Amy and I have a pretty good relationship (with a few “aggressive negations” from time to time). I love, love, love my job, and I’m learning that I have power over my mind – not outside events. I am finding strength.

So what do I see in 2016? I see a theme of rebirth. I’m going to decouple some things from my life that need to go away, and I’m going to embrace some changes that I believe will be better for my family in the long run.

But most important, I’m not going to let another person have so much power over me that it makes me feel helpless and trapped. Eric is an Old Norse name that means “ruler.” I am free in so many beautiful ways. I will not be a slave.

Here’s to 2016!

In review: 2014

A long December and there’s reason to believe, maybe this year will be better than the last. – Counting Crows, A Long December

It is time for my annual “year in review,” where I take stock of the year and look forward at plans to come. Let’s just get into it.

Accomplishments

  • Completing a Whole30 (again) – One of my goals was to finish a second round of the Whole30. I did in January 2014, but wasn’t as pleased with my progress as I had hoped. I would later look back and realize I shouldn’t have been disappointed (more on this later in the post).
  • Build something – Another goal was to “build something,” in 2014, and I’m pleased to say I did. In March, I made a bookshelf for my daughters. I also cobbled together a wooden stable for my oldest daughter’s play horse, and made myself a little table to sit next to my recliner at the house. In the beginning of December, I launched Candy Cane Lanes, a project I have had on my mind for a few years.
  • Pursue minimalism – I got to see The Minimalists in person, and went home completely inspired. Shortly thereafter, I started writing about my (seemingly never ending) journey toward minimalism at The Chaff. I made great strides in getting rid of many of my personal possessions, but I still have such a long way to go.
  • Had a son – OK, this wasn’t really on my list of goals last year, but once we found out we were pregnant, it became a pretty big priority. Rogan Archer Gruber was born Aug. 23, 2014. I like him (but we are so totally done having kids).

Setbacks

  • Obstacle race – I really wanted to do a Warrior Dash or Tough Mudder race, but it didn’t happen. I didn’t make it a priority, so I didn’t train, and the goal was never realized.
  • The Final Debt – We didn’t make a lot of progress paying on our last debt (the student loans). After finding out we were pregnant, we stopped paying extra on debt and instead put money in savings. This was a wise decision, and one I don’t regret. We did keep ourselves from adding any new debt, especially when we cut up the last credit card in July.
  • House project – No, I didn’t get hardly anything done around the house that I wanted. I did get our garage door fixed, and took card of “necessary maintenance,” but painting and upgrades were a no go. At least I have all the paint purchased, should I have the energy to get started (babies tend to wear you out in the early months).
  • Stress, Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt – This year turned out to be a year full of change for me, with some positives with a lot of negatives. It’s been really stressful. I had to work hard to keep it together, but somehow, I did. But the stress of the year came with a price. I haven’t kept up my exercise routine that I was so diligently following. I used food for comfort instead of nourishment, and now I find myself longing to do a Whole30 to heal my body and mind (and probably go longer than 30 days). Things have sort of stabilized for now, but I need to do more to get things running optimum. Maybe I should set some goals. Speaking of which …

Goals

Looking ahead at 2015, I see it as a period for a reboot. Let’s just call it a rebuilding year.

  • Total health reset – Not long ago, I walked at least 10,000 steps a day, lifted two or three times per week, and ate mostly unprocessed, whole foods. I felt great. So, my goal for 2015 is to get back to that healthy mind/body state, without being preachy about it.
  • More minimalism – I am so happy with all I managed to jettison this year, but I have lots more to go, especially with a family of five. It’s time to get the kids on board, and really tackle the rest of our possessions, together. If Joshua Becker can do it, so can we.
  • House projects (no really) – I need to paint the inside and outside of the house. I have purchased bathroom flooring that needs installed. I also need to fix our lawn after all the wear-and-tear it took from my wife’s business, which closed in May. This may or may not preclude selling the house, but these projects need done, regardless.
  • Write more – Between this site, The Chaff, and my totally neglected development blog, Save Early and Often, I have no shortage of outlets for doing more with words. I do wonder how many blogs a minimalist can have and still be a minimalist …
  • Start a podcast – I’m going to put this in the “Maybe, we’ll see” category. I was recently a guest on the Better Know a Jackal podcast, and I really, really enjoyed it. I have the hardware, I have experience with making a few episodes of a podcast before, and I have the skills to put it all together. I think I’d like to take a stab at it, once I figure out some vague idea of what I think it might be about. But again, we’ll see. I’ve got plenty to work on already.

I guess that wraps it up.

I have this tradition where on New Year’s Eve every year I listen to the Counting Crows song, A Long December, while I wait for the ball to drop. It has been a long December, and an even longer year. Here’s to 2015; may it be one of rebuilding.

In review: 2013

“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” – C. S. Lewis

As it is the time for such a thing, I continue my annual year in review. Although I am not yet content enough to declare victory, I am satisfied enough to lay claim to progress.

And so, I ask myself the all important question: “How did I do?”

Accomplishments

  • Coding with Coda – A book about one of my favorite text editors was released in January. In retrospect, there are a few things I wish I would have done different. Perhaps I’ll get the opportunity to rectify that in a second edition sometime in the future.
  • DrupalCon Portland – My first work trip with my new co-workers was a fantastic success. I learned a ton about the software that is my bread and butter, and got to learn a lot about the wonderful community that makes up Drupal.
  • Getting healthier – In March I started on a wellness journey at nearly 250 lbs., and had some excellent progress this year. For years I was unable to get below 240 lbs. By June, I was at 229 lbs., and have kept the weight off. I still lift weights regularly and have learned to control the relationship I have with food.
  • Ten years – In July my wife, Amy, and I celebrated 10 years of marriage with an oddly bizarre but fun trip running around in Arkansas. Although I was sure we’d have nothing to talk about after a few days, it ended up being an excellent trip and a chance to get be reintroduced to the woman I live with.
  • Paid off credit cards – Although we used to be much better with finances and had zero credit cards, we fell back into the trap over the last few years. After our vacation, Amy and I decided to get back to our better ways and started paying off credit cards. I sold my motorcycle to kickstart the process and took on an extra web development job for some added cash. In early December, we killed off the largest credit card we had, paying off around $6,000 in four months. I sacrificed a lot of sleep and some workouts, but it was worth it.

Goals

If 2013 was defined by progress, then 2014 will be a continuation toward bigger goals. So where am I going?

  • The Whole30 – One of my most successful months was fueled by the Whole30 diet, which I will start on Jan. 1. It’s very strict, and very limited to non-inflammatory whole foods, and I just feel like doing it again (especially after the sugar-filled final days of December).
  • The Final Debt – The last debt (aside from our home) we have is our student loan debt, and it’s kind of a monster. Since we’re following the Dave Rasmey Debt Snowball plan, this is next/last on the list. Thanks to the work we did this year, we will be paying extra on our student loans for the first time since we got married. It’s going to be a long haul, but at least we’re finally making progress.
  • Obstacle Race – For some reason I want to do either a Warrior Dash or Tough Mudder race. I can’t explain it; I just want to do it. My training will begin Jan. 1 and I’ll evaluate in a couple of months if I’m ready to race in the spring. If not, then I’ll shoot for a fall event.
  • Build Something – I have a desire to build something for my girls: definitely a bookshelf, quite possibly a bunk bed, maybe both. I hate cheap crap that is often found in the stores, and for the cost of the good stuff I could make it cheaper. Mainly, I just want to make something for them, by me. They give me so much, I want to give them this in return.
  • House projects – A holdover from 2013: Painting, fixing and other little touches have been swept under the rug for awhile. I really need to rectify this in 2014. Really!
  • New projects – Technically a holdover last year, but only because I essentially shut down many areas of my life to focus on wellness. So again, I’ll say this: I have some ideas but I’ll keep those quiet for now.
  • Pursue minimalism – I’ve toyed around with paring things down. I have success here and there, but nothing I’m quite happy with. Hopefully I can make 2014 much more with much less.

Loss

  • Miscarriage – We got pregnant, then lost it early in the year. Not really much else I want to say about that.

Your turn. What goals do you have for next year?

In review: 2012

“A year from now you’ll wish you had started today.” – Karen Lamb

When Josh Davis wrote his 2011 year in review, I thought “Next year, I need to do that.” And so, with Josh’s 2012 Personal Year in Review, I’m reminded of my good intentions.

Resolutions and goals are important. You can’t progress if you don’t set goals and take actions to move toward fulfilling them. Likewise, a year-in-review is a fantastic way to measure your actions against your resolutions.

So how did I do?

Accomplishments

  • Social Media Club of Lawrence Kansas – I started off the year by joining the local chapter of the Social Media Club as Promotions Chair.
  • Startup Weekend Kansas City – In April I attended Startup Weekend at Union Station. The experience was fantastic, and got my juices flowing for a major change that happened later in the year.
  • Randall 2012 – A friend and former roommate, Grant Randall, announced his candidacy for the 1st District House of Representatives in Kansas. I started out as just “doing the website” which evolved into “Communications Manager” about midway through the campaign. Sadly, he didn’t win in November, but it was one fantastic experience.
  • Learning Rails 3 – A book I contributed three chapters to about the web development framework Ruby on Rails was released in July from O’Reilly Media.
  • Getting healthier – In October, my blood work confirmed that my low-carb/Paleo diet was working. In fact, I ended up breaking through a weight barrier I had for years, dropped clothing sizes and went up two notches on the belt.
  • Job change – After almost seven years with the City of Lawrence as its eGov Coordinator (aka, website administrator), I left in early December for a web developer position at the City of Olathe. I think I have more to write about that, but I’m not sure when it will happen. My time at the City of Lawrence was the longest job I had ever had, and leaving wasn’t easy. But after a few weeks in at the new place, I can say without a doubt that I made the right decision.

Goals

So I know where I’ve been, but what’s the new year look like for me? I have a few things in mind …

  • Coding with Coda – My little book on one of my favorite text editors will be released in the next month or so with O’Reilly Media.
  • Old projects and loose ends – I have a project or two from 2012 that needs wrapped up. I’ll be working on those intently in the first couple of months to get them done.
  • Continue my health journey – The end of 2012 was decadent. Also, the job switch screwed up my exercise routine. It’s time to get back to healthy eating, and I’m starting to get my bearing on a routine for exercise. My ultimate goal is to get to my preferred weight and …
  • Go on a trip – My wife and I will celebrate 10 years of marriage and it seems like we should take a trip or something outside the usual camping and canoeing trip.
  • House projects – Painting, fixing and other little touches have been swept under the rug for awhile. I’m going to rectify that in 2013.
  • New projects – Oh, I have some ideas but I’ll keep those quiet for now.

So how did you do? What are your plans for 2013?