December 26, 2018

Another Christmas come and gone. Hard to believe.

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It’s been a sort of weird adjusting expectations with a baby on the way and not being “home” for the holidays. Christmases were always such a big deal in our house. Tree, decorations, lots of gifts. My mom still tries to buy us all a bunch of gifts and I’m pushing 40. But with the baby coming next month, budgeting takes precedence.

And to be honest, Shar and I had some disagreements over this. I am definitely less frugal than her, and I got upset. No one ever said marriage was easy, and compromise we sometimes do. I’m working on it.

I grew up living at my grandmother’s house for a number of years. It was a tiny little 3-bedroom place in Saginaw, Michigan. I had 6 aunts and uncles and a lot of them had kids as well and we’d all cram into that house and the presents would be stacked halfway to the ceiling it seemed.

My grandmother, who lived on social security only, would save up for half the year just to make sure each of her dozen or so grandkids would have something from her to open on Christmas morning. She had a budget of $25 or so for each kid. I know that was a lot of money for her, but it was important to her. I think that must have stuck with me because I still view Christmas as a really big deal, even when money is tight. Not in the sense that I think mindless consumerism is important. But just that it’s the time to splurge a little and show the people you love that you’ve been thinking of them.

Here in Oregon, it’s still a little strange adjusting to the moderate temps and general lack of snow in these parts of the world this time of year. At that same grandma’s house, she used to cover her crappy windows in clear plastic to keep the chill out of the rooms. I can still remember her standing on a chair and using a blow dryer to heat and stretch the plastic until it fit snugly. I’d often wake up as a kid and sit over a heater vent on the ground, pulling my shirt over my knees and trapping all the heat into it. But I ain’t complainin’ about the weather in the PNW.

This year, we spent Christmas Eve in La Center with Shar’s mom and step family. Big full house with lots of kids. It was fun.

After opening up gifts for our own wee little Christmas yesterday, Shar and I went up to Hagg Lake and walked a trail. Zoey stomped around in the mud a bit yesterday and we could tell she had a really good time running around and sniffing everything that she could. She snagged a few dozen burs in her Velcro fur and got mud all over. A glob of mud got on her eyelash and basically cemented it shut.

At one point, Zoey jumped a small creek to retrieve a stick (we threw over) and she had a hard time convincing herself that she could get back to us. It was kind of cute as she whined like a puppy, but we eventually got her back.

Back at the house, the dog got a bath and some scissors to the fir. I fiddled with the washing machine that has been giving us problems and Shar whipped up a real nice Christmas dinner (I’m looking forward to the leftovers for lunch today). After dinner, we all snuggled up on the couch and rented a movie before calling it a night.

Today I celebrate 2 years since I had my last cigarette. I remember smoking my last one the day after Christmas in 2016 and hopping a plane back to Portland before we went off to San Diego for New Years’ Eve. I was so tired of the control it had over me. It goes without saying, but this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. To say nothing about the health benefits, I’m saving at least $2500 per year. Can’t believe how much went up in smoke over the years, but happy to report I’m still going strong and not looking back.

December 20, 2018

This morning on the train we had to get off at Quatama Station because there was some sort of accident at Orenco. As we all shuffled out of the train and onto shuttles, I was annoyed. I’ve been riding the train for a few months now and I was going to be late for work again because of it.

As we departed by bus, I fired up Twitter for the scoop. It turns out that a train hit a pedestrian and they were avoiding Quatama while police investigated the incident.

Someone lost their life too soon today. And their loved ones are grieving the loss with some immense amount of pain that lacks any meaning. And somewhere a train operator killed someone and is likely dealing with their own pain and grief.

So even though I was 45 minutes late for work, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s not worth it to hold a negative thought. Hug your loved ones and live your life with happiness in your heart.

In some positive news, my mom finished her last round of chemo today after starting a few months ago after her double mastectomy. I know it’s been scary for her, and I’m glad she’ll be on the mend now. It was scary for us all, and we’re all thankful for her catching it early and for the good prognosis.

December 19, 2018

Me

Me

I finally got a good night’s sleep after a few days of short ones and I feel great. Sleep is so important, something our teacher in the birthing class reminded us of last night.

It was our last class, and it was full of useful information. I can’t think about what all this would be like without the knowledge others have passed down. I still feel so ill-prepared, but at this point, I guess that’s probably how a lot of soon-to-be first-time parents feel.

I’ll spare the photos I took of the transition baby shit makes over the course of the first few weeks.

Speaking of shit, today would’ve been my dad’s 60th birthday had he been alive. Hopefully, on whatever plane he’s on, he’s evolved.

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.