Goals for 2015

So ready or not we’ve come to a new year. 2014 is gone and personally I say good riddance, but that’s just me. 2015 has arrived no matter whether you’re happy to see it go or not. So with it comes my time to write down a few goals that I have for the upcoming year. As usual I’ll give an update in the middle of the year and at the end of the year to see how I’ve been doing.

I’ve enjoyed doing this the last couple of years and honestly writing them down and coming back to them over the year has really helped keep them in mind and overall with a few exceptions I’ve been able to keep my goals the last couple years. So anyhow, let’s get on to the goals I have for the upcoming year.

1. Make 1 New Local Friend – I know the last couple years I’ve been talking about how we want to get more connected to our community and to be honest it just always seemed like such a vague goal and it never really formed into much. So my goal is to make one new local friend. Like a real friend, not a we see and chat with them at church or work friend. A friend that you get together with just because you enjoy their company kind of friend. This may be a tall order for the year, but I’m really hoping this goal will come to pass.

2. Continue Paying Down Loans – The last couple of years we’ve had a target loan that we hoped to knock out by the end of the year. The loans we have left now are all too big to realistically knock them out by the end of the year, but we hope to continue our paying more than the minimum approach and reduce our debt by a decent amount.

3. Paint Anastasia’s Room and Our Room – Last year we had a goal to paint one of the rooms of our new house, which we did finally wind up accomplishing. However, this year I want to try to get Anastasia’s room painted and our bedroom painted. Kids will be older this year so I’m hoping that two rooms will be doable.

4. Improve Photography – Last year I had the very noble and very silly idea of trying to take a picture each day, this didn’t last very long before I missed a few days and never really got back into it. This year I’m going to try something a bit different. I’m going to try to do a different theme for each week over the next year. I’m hoping to post at least one of the pictures for each of the themes on my blog and maybe even more if I have a lot of inspiration for the week.

5. Read 15 Books – Last year I made a goal of reading one book a month or 12 books over the year. I wound up reading just twelve books, so I’m hoping that by upping my expectations I’ll be able to read a few more over 2015.

6. Potty Train Anastasia – This one is a hope that may not be realized, but it is a goal I would like to achieve by the end of 2015. To get Anastasia potty trained and out of diapers would be a very nice thing to accomplish. This requires cooperation from a certain little girl so it is uncertain if this will come to pass this year or not. We can always hope though.

7. Assorted Home Goals – When we bought a house last year it kind of came with a hot tub. We still haven’t worked on getting that up and running yet. So we would like to try to do that during 2015. We’re also hoping to buy Ryan a larger bed because he is unfortunately on his way to growing out of his toddler bed.

I think that’s about all the goals I’ve got in mind as of now. We’ll see if I can achieve most of these again this year. I guess we’ll have to wait until further into 2015 to see how that turns out. Do you have any goals for the new year?

Looking Back at 2014’s Goals

Last year I started setting goals for myself at the beginning of the year. I enjoyed the experience and found that having some set goals before me helped keep them on my mind especially reviewing them about halfway through the year and again at the end of the year. Since I enjoyed it last year I did it again this year. Since it’s at the end of the year let’s see how well I did at accomplishing the goals I set at the beginning of the year.

1. Getting Connected in Our Local Community – We’ve maybe had some progress on this one, but at the same time we don’t really have much of any significant relationships around here. We have met a couple more of our neighbors since, so that’s good. We’ve also been around more people with Ryan being in school, but no real relationships have developed more just recognizing people while dropping off and picking up your kids. We’ve also been sick pretty consistently since Ryan has started school so that hasn’t helped develop many relationships either.

2. Paying Off Loans – Paying off our smaller student loans was accomplished by the middle of the year, but we’ve been trying to aggressively tackle our bigger loans the rest of the year. The ones we’re facing now will be a bit longer to take out unfortunately.

3. Painting – We did wind up painting Ryan’s bedroom this year. We didn’t really know what we were doing and it took us a fair amount of time, but we did accomplish it. We at least painted one room, but unfortunately that’s all we did. I have a feeling that I know what a goal for next year will be.

4. Buying Living Room Furniture – Again this was a success by the middle of the year. We are still enjoying having some nicer furniture for our living room though. This was a pretty easy goal to accomplish though.

5. 12 Books for the Year – This was a success. I’ve finished exactly 12 books this year and I’m currently working on two others. Amusingly enough I was evenly split between fiction and non-fiction for the year at six books a piece. I didn’t really attempt that but found it to be a nice divide. For those who like to know what books these are I’ve read you can check them out at Goodread’s year in review. There are only one of the books for the year that I haven’t given my thoughts on here, but it will be on its way.

6. A Picture a Day – This was a failure at the midway and continued to be a failure at the end. I never really got into consistently using my camera. That’s not say that I haven’t been taking photos, just not as consistently as I had hoped at the beginning of the year. I’m thinking of retrying something regarding photography for my goals next year. Hopefully that one will go a bit better.

7. Consistent Blogging – This one wound up going really well. In the later half of the year I wound up finding a nice rhythm of three posts a week. I did have some issues maintaining it around the holidays, but that was also somewhat intentional. I even had times where I had a bit of a buffer in advance. So I consider this one a resounding success.

I guess if I’m honest there was a part of the blogging goal I did fail at. That was at the continuing my weekly review of other blog posts I found interesting. As I said midway through the year trying to keep up with other blogs to do that just burnt me out.

I also found that these posts were my most visited posts and it felt like I was gaining views simply by linking to other people’s work and not actually for my own writing. I wanted people to visit for what I wrote, not simply because I linked to another person’s blog. So I dropped this fairly quick and decided to stick with my own content even though I figured I’d take a hit in terms of visits. I did, but I think it was worth it in the end.

Those are how my goals ended up. It was a mixture of success and failure, but with more success than failure. I’d probably put it as five successes and two failures. Not bad really. I’ll work up some new goals for 2015 and see how I do on those.

 

 

What I’ve Learned from the First Year of Home Ownership

It’s in some ways hard to believe that one year ago on December 13th we closed on our house and started moving in later that day. A year removed from that date, it seems hard to think it has been a year. In many ways we have made it our home and it seems like we’ve been living here longer than just a year. In other ways, it is hard to think we’ve lived here a year already and that we’re quickly closing in on the end of another year.

Regardless, I thought I would just commemorate the anniversary with some things that we’ve learned, or at least I can say I’ve learned, over the past year when it comes to owning a house.

1. It is a Lot of Work – We have only rented before so we never really had to shovel driveways completely, mow lawns, or try to repair any major issues that came up. This is not the case when you own a house. You’re the one who has to do the work or you have to hire someone else to do it. Plus a house tends to be a lot more space than renting an apartment and thus simply requires more work to clean and maintain.

This isn’t entirely a bad thing as it also allows for more creative freedom. You can paint rooms and replace parts of the house that you dislike with whatever you want, but even this will require work. We’ve just found that it is a bit more work keeping up a house with a lawn than what we’ve had to do the previous eight years while living in an apartment.

2. We Feel More Rooted – After years of only renting, one of the things that drew us to buy a house was to intentionally be a part of the community that we’re living. Now while we haven’t made any significant connections this past year, it has even been nice being a part of the neighborhood trick or treating and putting up Christmas lights.

Hopefully as time goes by we’ll also be more connected to the people we live near, but I suppose time will tell how that goes. We have met some of our neighbors, but we’ll see if that will develop into anything more.

The down side of this is that a house is a major investment and roots you into place in not so good ways too. Paying off a mortgage, repairs, maintenance, and improvements to the house is an easy way to shed a lot of money. Not that we’re really planning to be moving anywhere else anytime soon, but it would make such a decision very difficult to pull off too fast.

3. Having More Space Takes Getting Used To – When we lived in apartments our living space tended to be very condensed. We would have our computer and our television in the same room, fairly close to each other, and it would mean that the whole family was always together, often times you could even see the kitchen from the living room too so nobody was out of sight unless they were going to the bathroom, sleeping or doing laundry.

This has not been the case of our new house. You can’t see the kitchen from the living room. The computer and television are now in separate rooms. This took everyone a lot of time to get used to. Personally I’ve enjoyed the ability to have a bit more space, but not everyone has shared that sentiment.

4. Improving A Home is an Ongoing Endeavor – Sometimes I get caught up feeling like we should be doing more to get our home the way we would like it and get discouraged when we don’t have the time or the money to do certain things. However, something I’ve had to learn and even re-learn a bit this past year is that we don’t have to get everything the way we want it right away. We can do one thing at a time and everything doesn’t have to done right now.

Not only that, but over time things will break and need repaired or replaced and there will be no end to that. Even if we were able to fully realize all the dreams we have for our house it still wouldn’t be over. There will still be the need to work to maintain and update as time goes on. That’s just the way life goes.

So these are the things that I’ve learned over the past year. We have really enjoyed living in a house the past year and it has been nicer than renting, even though we had mostly good renting experiences. I’d also be lying though to say it hasn’t included more work and that it has been a bit difficult to do all the work we need with two young kids. Hopefully we’ll continue to enjoy our house and improve it little by little over the years.

 

 

Halfway Through 2014

It’s hard to believe that we’re at the halfway point of the year already. As I have been doing the last couple years, I like to take the halfway point to reflect on some of the goals that I’ve set for the year. I tend to post my goals at the beginning of the year and then comment on them at the middle and the end of the year to see how they’ve gone. Honestly, it’s a rather mixed bad, but let’s look at how we’ve done.

1. Get Connected In Our Local Community – This one still hasn’t gone as far as we might have liked. We’ve met some of our neighbors, but nothing too meaningful. I’m a little more involved in our church, but it’s also going through a bit of a transition at the moment so it’s a little choppy. So we’re largely without any close community at the moment. We’re really hoping that with Ryan starting preschool/pre-K in the fall we’ll get connecting with some other people our age or at least who have kids our age. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

2. Paying Off Loans – This one has been a success already. We’ve paid off the smaller student loans that we had, but now we have two large ones (one from each of us) to tackle. This endeavor will probably take a bit longer, but we’re starting to put more money towards them to pay them down quicker.

3. Painting – Yeah this hasn’t happened. We want it to, but quite frankly don’t know how the logistics will work. We’ve had to buy other things for the house (like stuff for yard work) so we haven’t put the money towards painting yet. Plus we just don’t quite know how to paint and how we’d work the logistics with two little ones. We’re still hoping to get at least one room done this year, but who knows if that will happen.

4. Buy Living Room Furniture – This was a success. We finally bought a nice couch and loveseat earlier this year. They’re quite the improvement over our old futon.

5. Reading a Book a Month – I think I’m on track for this. So far I’ve read six and have almost finished a seventh. This book I’m on now has slowed me down quite a bit, but hopefully I’ll keep up a good pace and maybe even read more than one a month.

6. A Picture a Day – This one failed pretty much right out of the gate. I did good for like a week then wound up really sick for a month. That pretty much killed any momentum I had. I thought about trying to start up doing it another month, but just never did. I have still been using my camera and getting pictures here and there, but nothing as consistent as a picture a day.

7. Consistent Blogging – I think this has been a success. I think I at least put one blog post out a week, sometimes even two. I’d like to me even more consistent than I am, but overall I think I’m doing fairly decent. I did fail on this one a bit, because I decided early this year to get rid of my Wandering of the Week because I wound up being burnt out on other blogs trying to read so many in the space of a week. I may revisit the idea later and accept being about 20-30 days behind the freshest blogs out there. We’ll see.

So that’s how I’m doing so far. Some are already successes, others are major failures, some are successful so far. I guess we’ll have to see at the end of the year how everything pans out. If you’ve set any goals for yourself this year how are you doing?

Goals for 2014

Happy New Year! This is the time of year where people look forward to the year ahead and either make resolutions and goals or reflect on why they aren’t much of a resolution/goal person. To be honest, I didn’t really use the beginning of a new year to set any tangible goals until last year. I still kind of balk at calling them resolutions. Resolutions in my mind tend to be vague and lack really any planning in an attempt to achieve the resolution. For example, I could say I want to work out more, but really what does that mean or look like? It’s a nice thought, but lacks any detail or enough specificity to get anywhere.

So I’m going to lay out some goals like I’ve done previously. Maybe give a little explanation if I think I need to. Like last year, I don’t view any of these as a drastic change in direction from the path I’m already on, but rather plotting out a bit more detailed what I would like to accomplish by the end of the year.

1. Get connected in our local community. This is a repeat from last year and maybe a bit of a merger of two goals of last year (making friends and getting involved in ministry). I don’t feel that we have been very connected with anyone, with the exception of family, since we’ve moved back to Pennsylvania. What this looks like I’m not really sure. It may be getting more involved in our church we’re a part of now. It may be connecting with other parents when we try to have Ryan enter preschool in the fall this year. It may involve getting to know our new neighbors at our new house. It may really look like all of these and more. I know this is a bit of a vague goal, but in part it’s because I don’t really know what it will look like and how to plan it out however it should be the only vague goal on the list.

2. We want to pay off our last small student loan and make some headway on our larger student loans. Last year we were able to take out two of our loans and save up enough to buy a house so I’m hoping that we’ll be able to take out our remaining small student loan and start to do some damage on our much larger loans. I doubt we’ll take one of those out before the end of the year, but it would be nice to start to pay more than our minimum on the larger ones after finishing up the small loan.

3. Paint at least one or two rooms in our house. Ideally we’d want to get a number of our rooms repainted, but realistically we’ll probably get to one maybe two. I could be wrong, but I’ll set the bar low and see how we do. If I had to choose priority I’d say either our bedroom, Ryan’s bedroom, or our living room. We’ll see how that goes.

4. Buy living room furniture. This may sound like an odd goal, but as of now we have one piece of furniture to sit on in our living room. It’s a futon sofa we bought shortly after we were married eight years ago. It started to break about six years ago, but you can still sit on it and we weren’t anyplace that we thought we would be staying long term so we put off buying any new furniture. Now that this isn’t an issue anymore maybe we can buy some furniture this year and hey if we get our living room painted too maybe it can actually look all put together or something. I could put more house goals on the list, but I’ll leave it at these two.

5. I want to try to read at least one book each month. I think I only read about seven books last year, which isn’t bad, but I’d like to read more. So I’m setting the bar at the hopefully attainable book a month. Again maybe I’ll do better than that, but right now that’s my goal.

6. I want to try to take one picture a day for the next year. This is probably my most ambitious goal of the year and the one that is most likely to fail because of it’s ambitiousness. However, I want to give it a shot to practice my photography skills. It will probably result in a lot of really boring pictures, but we’ll see. Maybe it will give me eyes to see what I normally ignore. I plan on trying to use the 365 project. My plan is to upload to their site and also do a weekly post here to just keep up how I’m doing.

7. This is the last one I can think of right now, but I want to keep consistent on blogging. At least blogging once a week and do a weekly summary of posts. This is what I’ve been doing, but I want to make sure I can at least keep that up this year too.

So these are the goals I’m going to set for this year. I’m putting up two more than I did last year, so we’ll see how that goes. Do you set goals for the new year or really anytime? If you do what are some of your goals that you’re currently pursuing?

A Look at 2013

Well it’s the end of 2013 and many people, including myself, tend to use the end of a year to reflect on what has transpired over the past year. What major life events have happened? Did I accomplish the goals I set out for myself at the beginning of the year? Was it a good year? Was it a bad year? Was it a bit of a jumbled mess?

So I want to spend some time looking over 2013. To see the major changes that happened over the year, see how I did with the goals I set last year, and present the most popular posts I had this past year.

Major Events of 2013

It many ways it seems that 2013 was a mixed bag. Every major positive thing came with some unexpected consequences or took a bit of work getting to the good stuff. It was just a mixed year, which I suppose most years are, but this one seemed pretty mixed in the bigger events not just the every day stuff.

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We started off the year with one of those big events, the birth of our daughter Anastasia. It is hard to believe looking and interacting with her now that she was born this year, but that’s the way these things work I guess. No doubt this was one of the good events of the year. Sure it’s been a bit stressful getting used to dealing with two kids this past year, but it’s also been very enjoyable getting to know our little girl and see her grow and interact with her brother.

However, this major event had some negative events that followed. Kristen had some issues about two weeks after Anastasia was born and had to have an emergency procedure done. Thankfully it was all able to be finished in one day and everything went well, but it wasn’t the best experience in the world and I wasn’t even the one directly going through it. We also had some issues with Kristen’s job temporarily firing her after taking off more time after birth than was allowed for employees who had only worked with the company under a certain amount of time. However, everything worked out in the end.

As far as I can remember the rest of the events of the first half of the year were mainly just getting used to having two kids. Going to grandparent’s houses and having them visit us occasionally. Just settling into some sort of routine. Really the next major event of the year was my grandmother’s stroke in September.

This one really just set a bit of a somber tone for the rest of the year. She was in the hospital/rehab for awhile and we were trying to go see her once a week. She came back home shortly after Thanksgiving, but she still has a ways to go for recovery. It’s just taken a lot of getting used to. Hopefully, she’ll continue to recover over the next year and things will get closer to normal after awhile.

New House

Finally at the end of the year we bought our first house. We’re hoping it will be our only house, at least for quite some time, but at this time we know for certain it is our first. However, this positive was a lot of hard work. It felt like quite the roller coaster ride going through the experience. We thought we had the house, then something would come up and we weren’t sure, that would get taken care of then something else would happen. However, eventually we bought our house and moved into it a week and half before Christmas. This made December even busier than normal, but we’re happy to be moved in rather than having a house and not really being able to settle in yet.

So those are the major events of 2013. Of course they weren’t the only events, but they’re the ones that impacted us the most.

Goals

At the end of last year I set some goals that I hoped to achieve by the end of this year. They were five fairly simple goals. So now that we’re at the end of the year how did we do? Well let me run through them.

My first goal was getting used to staying home with two kids. This has gone rather well. Sure it can be challenging and we get into our ruts and battle of the wills and everything. Is it weird to say that in some ways it was easier than I expected and in others more difficult than I expected at the same time? That’s really how it feels.

The second goal was to blog more regularly. I’d say that I’ve done better this year than I have previous years, but I could be better. I felt like I did okay most of the year, but then took a hit in the last few months. Overall, I’m pretty happy with being more consistent, but I still want to improve.

Thirdly, was the goal of getting rid of the loan on our second car and to pay off one of our smaller student loans. We achieved this, but didn’t really gain any ground on getting out of debt due to the achievement of buying a house that wasn’t a major planned goal from last year. However, that’s hopefully the only extra debt will be taking on anytime soon.

After that, the fourth goal was to be active in ministry. Sadly, this one never really materialized. My wife and I did help with VBS at our church and I did some scripture readings throughout the year, but I don’t really consider this goal much of a success. The combination of getting established in a new church, having two kids while trying to do that, and trying to visit my grandmother after her stroke I think caused this one to fall by the wayside.

Lastly, our fifth goal was to make some friends locally. That never really happened either. We didn’t really connect with any of our neighbors at our apartment. Even at church I can’t really say that we’ve made too many meaningful connections or friendships. Of course moving again at the end of the year also screws up consistency and everything too. Maybe we’ll get friends we can do stuff with again sometime.

So overall I’d rate myself as achieving 3/5 of the goals for last year. I’ll take it. Could have done better, but certainly could have done worse as well.

Top Posts

This last section is just going to go over some of my top posts for the past year. I’ll be completely honest, it’s not like I get that many visits here, but I’m happy for what I do get. I mean my top post (that wasn’t my home page or my about page) only had 29 views, so as I said we’re not talking massive popularity here, but it’s always interesting to find out what others looked at most in the past year. I’m not going to be including my “Wanderings of the Week” in this list. They were fairly popular posts and made up five of my ten most viewed posts. So with those caveats in mind, here are my most popular posts from 2013.

  1. Final Thoughts on The End of Our Exploring
  2. What You Wish You Never Had to See
  3. Education vs. Indoctrination
  4. Reflections on Church Membership
  5. Brand Wars
  6. When “What Ifs” Backfire
  7. The Enemy Within – Good, Evil, and the Human Condition
  8. The Great Fish Conspiracy
  9. Assassin’s Creed II, Religion, Power, and Control
  10. Some Food Photography

I’m not sure if I really see much of a pattern. Regardless those are the most popular of my 2013 posts. Maybe some of you can find patterns here, but I’m not sure I can. Not that it’s a bad thing there isn’t a pattern.

So that’s pretty much an overview of my 2013. How did your 2013 go? Did you have any major life events? Did you reach the goals you set for yourself?

The House Bug Bit Us

Have you ever suddenly been interested in something that even a year ago you weren’t?

This is where my wife and I currently are about having a house of our own.

Ever since my wife and I have been married, we’ve lived in apartments. That will be eight years of apartment living come October. For the bulk of that time we’ve never been interested in a house. Our first year of life together was largely focused on Kristen finishing her Master’s degree and then moving to Massachusetts to get my Master’s. We knew that any ideas of permanent residency was pretty much out of the question. Buying a house knowing that arrangements will be very temporary isn’t a smart move so we were happily living in apartments while we were in graduate school.

Even after we both finished our schooling, our desire to buy a house still wasn’t there. After I graduated and we welcomed our son into our family we did move to an apartment with two bedrooms, but still apartment living was fine with us. We didn’t have any desire to buy a house and to be honest, home ownership just seemed awfully daunting to us.

After we moved to back to Pennsylvania something changed. Our contentment with apartment living vanished, from both of us, at pretty much the same time. I’m not entirely sure why that is though. I mean owning a home hasn’t become less daunting to us, I can tell you that.

There are some possible reasons though.

  1. Renting options are pretty slim where we are living now. With two kids, eventually we’re going to need a bit more room than we have now. But in the area we’re living, you can’t really find too many options to rent anything larger than what we’re currently in. So home ownership comes up on the radar as the main option if we want/need more space (read: an extra bedroom).
  2. Our apartment isn’t as nice as the last couple we’ve rented. Don’t get me wrong our apartment is still plenty nice, but it is just worn around the edges a bit more than the previous apartments that we’ve had. It’s better than the apartment we had right after we got married, but not quite as nice as the apartments we had in Massachusetts. Our kitchen is tiny, much to the dismay of my wife (and me to be honest, but she dislikes it more than I) and the appliances/plumbing of the apartment are just not the best. We’ve had toilets that leaked water (not on the floor kind of leaks, but constantly draining from the bowl), wacky stoves, sinks that don’t drain the best, and a pretty small fridge. These aspects are definitely a downgrade from what we had before (at least in those areas.) We do have much more storage space here, which is a big plus, but overall the quality took a drop.
  3. We feel like we’re home. We enjoyed living in Massachusetts, and we still miss those who we got to know there, but I’m not sure it ever entirely felt like home. This is no swipe at Massachusetts or the people we got to know there, but more due to the fact that I think for a long time we always looked at our stay as temporary. I was there for school and we had planned to move after I found a job. Since I never found a job to move to, we just stayed where we were and enjoyed it. We had even gotten to the point of thinking if this was where God called us to be, we’d be okay with it. Turns out we didn’t think He was calling us there and we’re now in PA. The adjustment though hasn’t been hard at all to feeling like this is home, at least for me, so this could be part of the reason. We feel like we’re home and want to put down more permanent roots.
  4. Houses are much more affordable here. In Massachusetts the cost of houses were very high, so if there were not good renting options we probably wouldn’t have been able to pull off a house even if we wanted to. However, in Pennsylvania, housing prices are much cheaper and you can get much more for your money. This definitely helps in the leaning towards the buying category, especially since rental options are fewer.

Honestly, I think the answer is that all of these reasons play a part in our desire to buy a house. It still scares us, it is a huge commitment, and we don’t know when we’ll actually be able to buy one, but it is something that we can’t get out of our minds. My wife and I would separately look at local home listings and when we came clean on doing that we’d look at them together. We dream and imagine what it would be like to have a bigger kitchen, maybe even a bit of yard to call our own, and just feeling like we’d be able to decorate in whatever manner we desire.

That is where we are now. We don’t want to make a hasty decision because we’ve had friends get burned by buying a house and being stuck with it after plans suddenly changed. At the same time the house bug has bit us hard, and we’re actively working on saving for a house. Last Friday we opened a savings account to put aside money expressly for a house.

We’re cautiously going forward with this and we’ll see where it leads us. Maybe we’ll have a house by the end of the year, maybe it won’t be until next year, maybe it will never happen, but we’ll just see as we go. As we go forward I’m sure this won’t be the last heard about our seeking our first house, we’ll just hope that what follows will be good.