December 10, 2018

Yesterday we lounged around Shar’s mom’s house for awhile before getting out the door at 4:00. We stopped into the Grotto to get a peak at the Christmas lights without paying the $5 a head to slosh through the rain and the cold wind.

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All 5 of us piled back into Tim’s Jeep to check out Urban Fondue. Not a place setup for vegetarians and sharing, so I was sort of disappointed, but I got something I could eat, ate some cheese, bread, and a beat salad, and a little bit of dessert.

The night was going well, but the girls and their mom got into a bit of an argument at the end, so things got tense there for a minute. Shar’s sister is in town form San Diego so I don’t think it was her idea of a good use of her time.

They dropped me off at the train at Goode Hollow so I could high-tail it home. They argued more on their way back to the in laws’ house, but I guess they all smoothed it over today. Something about past relationships, too much drink in the system, etc. Something something about our baby-to-be. I don’t really care, just glad it’s all back to normal.

So I had the house to myself and honestly I fell asleep really early (for me, that’s 10:00). I slept on my back wrong at the in laws’ and I needed to just not think about the pain and not move.

Went to the gym today on lunch. Didn’t eat much, so I swung by a Lebanese place at the Orenco stop on the way home. First time there. Not too bad. Saved enough of my falafel wrap for lunch tomorrow.

On my way back to the train, I saw that a new brewery is opening up called Manama Brewing Co. I guess they’re out of Corvallis, and I’m super excited that they’ll be there even though I know nothing about them.

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We don’t have anything of the sort within easy reach of the house, at least not by transit, so this is much needed. Three stops away! Let’s hope it’s good, and that they do growler fills!

Shar’s back tonight, and I’ll have to help her unload all the stuff from the baby shower. We’ll have to organize it some other night because my back is still not tip-top.

December 8, 2018

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Really nice turnout today for the PNW baby shower. Can’t believe the outpouring of generosity from Shar’s friends and family. We will definitely be off to a good start when baby arrives in terms of necessities and comfort items between the gifts received here and in Michigan.

It was only my second baby shower, and I debated whether or not I should attend, but I’m happy I did. There was even one other guy there (thanks, James!).

There were 4 pregnant ladies, too. Out of control!

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I made some Indian food - a veggie korma that took a bit more prep than I thought it would, but it turned out well and people liked it a lot from what I heard.

Shar’s cousin Alyssa made us a cake. The women painted onesies, which was cool (especially Daddy’s Favorite Little Pint).

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After opening presents (and a few beers), I needed a nap. I stole away to the bedroom for a snooze. I needed it.

We ended the night around the fireplace with a movie. Tim got home from a golf trip down in Coos Bay and brought a pizza while we chilled out. All in all, a great day.

December 6, 2018

I did 5 miles today on my lunch hour. I can tell I’m going to hurt a bit tomorrow, but hell if it didn’t feel great! I am debating if I should get up early tomorrow and ride the opposite direction of my meeting in Portland to do my weight day. It will make for a long one, but I hate it that I’d otherwise have to miss.

Anyway, Shar and I had a bit of a discussion about my airline miles credit card. I paid for my flight (Thanksgiving week no less) with my Delta card because I had accumulated 70,000 miles. Sort of stupid since I was saving up for a trip to Europe, but with the baby coming along, I really didn’t want to spend $700 on a flight to Michigan in November. Anyway, that’s besides the point.

The reason I had 70,000 miles on my credit card is because I spent $70,000 on my credit card. That alone should give me pause. Sure, it was over the course of a year and a half, but still. I pay it off every month, but it’s one of those things where I didn’t really think too much about whether or not I had the money to spend because it wasn’t coming out of my checking account right at that moment. So, I spent more than I should have, consistently.

So I’ve switched over to using my debit card, which in and of itself is enough to curb the spending. When you see your checking account balance, the internal debate is a lot stronger as to whether or not you need a specific item. Most often, the answer is ‘no’. Anyway, I think I’m reigning it in and the spending habit is being curbed. Besides, if you just saved the annual fee you spend on those things, you’re halfway to a ticket right there.

And traveling is something we want to do. Where, no one knows. Neither of us have traveled with a baby before, so that will be freaky. But I know we both need it.

As for work, things are going fine. I just passed my 1 year anniversary in the new role and I couldn’t be happier with the change. It’s sort of strange being slightly lower on the totem pole, but sometimes you have to take a step back to move ahead, and my happiness and fulfillment are pretty high even if I’m not getting rich anytime soon. Of course the benefits don’t hurt - we did the math the other day and it’s going to cost about $600 out-of-pocket to have the baby. Not too shabby if you ask me. Things are cruising.

The interesting and difficult thing will be doing the math early next year. I think a lot of people are going to be shocked when they do their taxes with the changes made to the tax code since Trump took office. Let’s just say I hope you increased your withholdings if you’re the type of person who likes to get money back. Your vacation may be a staycation.

And since it will be the first year Shar and I can choose to do our taxes jointly or apart, that adds another element of difficult. Mostly because both of our student loan payments are based on income. So if we file together, our income is higher, and our payments could potentially go up. We’re both on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) train and I’m about halfway done with it before the remainder is forgiven. In this situation you want to pay as little as possible. So we may file separately despite the implications for our taxes. I may post a spreadsheet here once I get it figured out just in case anyone else is in a similar boat.

At any rate, I’ve got the house to myself tonight so it’s time to go hit some strings on my guitar. Nighty night.

December 5, 2018

As I mentioned briefly in a previous post, I’ve been going to the gym every day on my lunch hour. With the exception of Thanksgiving week when I went to Michigan to visit family, I’d say I’ve been going every day for at least 7 weeks, with a week or two before that when I went 3 days a week. A couple months doesn’t sound like much—and really, it isn’t—but I feel like I’ve built a habit and now I can’t wait to go to the gym. I never thought it’d be me.

Although I haven’t seen any change at all in my weight, I’m feeling a lot different and my body feels leaner and more tone. I feel like my muscles work now, and every movement I make becomes more apparent. I can feel my core and my thighs and my arm muscles and it gives me more confidence. Sometimes even the slight pain caused by a good weight session feels good. Honestly thought, I don’t hurt a whole lot. I’m wondering if it has something to do with my vegetarian diet.

I began with 3 days of cardio and 2 days of weights, but with all of the reading I’ve been doing, it sounds like weight training might be where it’s at. Now I do weight training 3 days a week and 2 days of cardio. So if I get any excercise at all on the weekend, like with a walk or a hike, I’m getting three of each. It’s a lot more likely I’m going to get in a passive cardio day on the weekend anyway. Walking to the train everyday helps me get in some steps as well.

I started with really intense cardio sessions. Like trying to run long distances on the treadmill. But after reading a book by Rich Roll, an Ultra Man, I’ve switched to heart rate targeting for weight loss, even if that means quickly walking for an hour.

I’m taking it easy on the weights, for the most part. It’s been over a decade since I’ve done any sort of weight training and the last thing I want to do is injure myself and set myself back. But I think I’m getting to the point where I don’t feel like a total weakling and I can start lifting heavier.

As I said earlier, my body rarely hurts anymore from lifting with the exception of squats. Before this month, I don’t recall ever doing a squat in my life. I have some chicken ass legs and I’d like to change that, especially after injuring my quads in winter kickball the last 2 years straight. I figure it’s time to get these things into shape.

I’m gradually seeing my body change, but the quickest changes have been in my attitude and mental health. Honestly, I’m just a whole lot more happy. Every day I just feel happy and peaceful. I sleep better. I’m more content. It’s like all of those years as a hyper-caffeinated smoker with anxiety are washing away. Those days where I felt like a worthless punk with no motivation - I can see those attributes slipping away. And I like the way it feels.

December 3, 2018

I spent the weekend doing nothing an onlooker would find spectacular, but it was altogether exactly what I needed. It seems like the go-go-go sometimes needs a break, and that’s what we did. At least in the sense that we weren’t off to somewhere or something for a change.

I cleaned out my closet. Yep, dug down to the bottom of things. All of the stuff that doesn’t make me feel great to wear, or my belly has outgrown them. Lots of 34 size pants. A few medium shirts. We filled up a donation basket and brought it to the second hand store. It feels good to have some space cleared away, and hopefully someone else can find them useful.

We thought about getting a Christmas tree this year - a large one, but decided against the expense - we’ll look for sales after the holiday. This year we’ll use the little 3-footer Shar got from the dollar store a few years back. One of my favorite and least favorite things about Shar is how notoriously cheap she is. She may reform me yet.

We took some holiday photos with the dog. I immediately thought about those DINKs who take photos with their dog. Yeah, I guess we are those people. But so the fuck what. We love our dog. Here it is:

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Last night we relaxed on the couch and watched the movie Crazy Rich Asians. Shar wasn’t very excited about it because she’s not into RomComs, but she actually ended up liking it more than I did.

I was telling her last night how nice it has been settling into our life together. I couldn’t have been more grateful sitting there sinking into the couch with both of my girls at my sides.

December 2, 2018

For the last several years, I’ve had a bit of a heart…flutter. It’s not a painful thing and it’s completely sporadic. I thought maybe it had something to do with smoking or perhaps how much meat I was eating. Maybe it had something to do with my sleep apnea.

But I quit smoking a couple years ago. I don’t eat meat anymore. I wear my CPAP machine every night. And my heart still does this weird skip-a-beat thing maybe 10 or 12 times a day.

About a year ago, I connected online with a half uncle whom I’ve never met. Long story, but my paternal grandfather and grandmother divorced, my grandfather moved to Florida, and started another family. Well, over the course of our email conversations, I found out that both my uncle and my grandfather have had heart attacks and open heart surgery to correct a genetic heart condition. This got me a bit worried.

So for the last several months I’ve been trying to get it checked out through Kaiser Permanente. My doctor ordered an EKG, which came back normal, and then asked if I'd like to have a 24-hour holter monitor. Indeed I did.

But KP has been short staffed and evidently has no openings for appointments. It’s been months now. I emailed my doctor to ask if they could refer me out to someone not in their network, and he told me “no - this is not life threatening and it is extremely unlikely that I have a life-threatening condition.” Well, this doctor can kiss my ass. And so can KP. Here I am, before open enrollment for my insurance, and I want to switch so badly but can’t because my wife has been seeing the same medical team throughout her pregnancy and the baby is due next month.

I am just so flabbergasted that KP has been so amazing for my wife’s pregnancy, but absolutely dropped the ball through this seemingly simple - but important - thing for me. I want to get to the bottom of why my heart is doing this, and I think my family history backs up my rationale, particularly since my g-pa died in his 60s from a major heart attack. I wanted to like Kaiser, but I’ve just heard too many crazy stories to stick with them. Even if my heart is fine, I hate the not knowing, and I don’t think anyone should have to wait on something so important.

November 29, 2018

I made my last car payment this month. It’s hard to believe I’ve been making that $320 payment every month for 5 years. Hell, I can’t believe how much has changed in 5 years. But I won’t go there!

I also got the private mortgage insurance removed from my house. I bought a short sale a couple years ago with very little money down. You need to have 20% down to not have private mortgage insurance, or 80% loan-to-value (LTV). So I had the bank do a broker’s price opinion. That came back $120,000 over what I owe, which is like 63% LTV. So we’re good. My payment went down by $100/mo. Thinking back to a few years ago living in Michigan, this would never have been possible. I bought at just about the highest point out here, but got lucky with a short sale fixer-upper near the MAX blue line.

I’ve also been taking the train to work. My yearly transit pass is paid for by my employer. I parked the car in the garage and haven’t moved it for over a month. I figure I’m saving about $100/mo on gas and I have no interest in going back to car commuting anytime soon. My stress level alone has dropped tremendously not having to fight traffic. Plus, it’s only a 20-minute ride. It was sort of stupid I held onto driving for so long - blame it on my Motor City area roots.

Since I don’t have my car at work, I’m not eating out for lunch as much because anywhere I eat I need to walk to. I’m bringing leftovers most days now. I’d say, sadly, I used to eat out 3-4 times per week. Now I do about once. I figure I’m saving at least $80/mo.

However, I did join a gym and I’ve been going every day on my lunch hour. That’s $25. I have time to do this since I bring my own lunch most days.

So…I think I’m saving about $575 per month.

If I removed collision insurance from my car and just got comprehensive, I’d probably be saving about $600/mo (that’s $7200/year).

I mean, that’s like getting a 15% raise. Isn’t that crazy? I swear, car ownership and insurance are the biggest scams.

I feel like a lot of people’s issues with money could be resolved by moving closer to a bus stop.

November 28, 2018

My grandmother’s house in Saginaw, MI before she passed away. I lived here with her for several years growing up.

My grandmother’s house in Saginaw, MI before she passed away. I lived here with her for several years growing up.

Round here, everybody's always talking about home,' said Balfour. 'Can't help think that the pleasure's in the missing.” ― Eleanor Catton, "The Luminaries"

Settling in back at home and at work after a week back in the mitten state. It’s getting stranger and stranger going back, if I’m being honest. It’s always good to see everybody and old haunts, but the longer I’m in Oregon the more Michigan’s problems become glaringly obvious. From roads that will shake your fillings out, to dying downtowns trying their damnedest to hold on, it’s rough to be there for any length of time. Hell, even the skies are a different sort of gray than Oregon’s, and that’s saying a lot. At least here the sky moves and swirls and lets the light through, its rains giving the trees life and keeping things emerald.

It was good to see my family. However, things haven’t been amazing for them. Eric lost his job at the dealership and Brad is going through a divorce. Mom had her double mastectomy a couple months ago and even though she’s handling her chemo really well, it’s still scary. She’s lost her hair, but she looks healthy, if not more tired than usual. The doctors seem very positive about her prognosis. I know they’ll all get through this. My dad is also retiring soon, so I’m excited to see how they get to enjoy that.

It was great to see my nephew Lincoln, old friends, my Gran in Detroit. I visited my other grandmother’s grave and her old house where we used to live, in Saginaw.

Back here, we’re cozied up for the holidays and sloshy weather, waiting for our baby to get here. Last night we had a birthing class, which was really eye-opening to me. Shar went last week with her mom since I wasn’t in town, but last night was my first class. The teacher is great. She was a doula for a lot of years and she’s a mother of 3, so she really knows her stuff and is giving us a lot of details on what to expect when Sharayah goes into labor. I’m feeling more confident about it already. I think Sharayah is, too. Two more months and everything will change. Something people can’t seem to stop reminding me about in their weird smugness like no one has ever gone through it but them.

As for my health, I’m just a month away from not having had a cigarette in 2 years. I haven’t vaped in about 5 months. I’m about 9 months into vegetarianism. I’ve gained probably close to 10 pounds between the quitting smoking and quitting meat. My cholesterol is way down. I changed gyms, to one close to my work, so I can walk there on my lunch break. I’ve been going every day. It’s awesome. I’ve also been taking the train to work everyday, which gets me walking even more. So hopefully in a few months this can help me shed some of the pounds. Of all the things that have changed for the better, my weight has been one of the few things getting me down. But I will get it done, I will.

Hiatus

Geez, a year goes by quickly. I started this blog out of an excitement for living more intentionally, and as a result of living more intentionally, this blog fell to the wayside. I started a new job that I love, got married, went on a honeymoon, became a vegetarian (7 months!), quit using nicotine altogether (almost 2 years cigarette-free, 3 months vape-free!), and now my wife is 22 weeks pregnant with our first child. Whew.

And yet life has not been all sunshine and butterflies. My mother was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. She’s about to start chemotherapy this week. It’s been difficult emotionally thinking about my mom as anything other than super human, but also just being far away and not able to be there for her in the ways I think I should has been difficult for me. My middle brother is also going through a divorce and navigating what that looks like with a 12-year-old daughter.

About a month ago, I deleted my social media accounts that I thought were mostly just a waste of my time. I’d succumbed to participating in meaningless online political debates and probably lost some friends as a result. I also periodically fell for the trap of comparing my life to other people’s highlight reels. So I thought it was the healthy thing to do.

So I think, instead of trying to maintain this space as some sort of self-help style blog for others, I intend to refocus my energies on shorter thoughts that are more self-centered and focused on my own journey and growth as a human. Anyone who wants to peek in or pull up a seat, by all means