1st Quarter Report – 2014

Despite the fact that I’ve been all but nonexistent for the 1st quarter of 2014 in the blogosphere, I’ve been keeping close tabs on my 2014 Resolutions. Since it’s April 1st (where has the time gone?!), it’s time to let you know how well I’ve done, what’s gotten me to this point, and what’s in store for the next quarter.

  • 15 Books:
    • 1Q projection – 3.75
    • 1Q actual – 5
    • Another strong start in the book category. I went with Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult, Mortal Fear by Robin Cook, The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, and Palmetto Poison by C. Hope Clark (my momma!). I’m biased but my favorite of the group was Palmetto Poison. I thought it’s my mom’s best book of her three so far. The worst was Mortal Fear. Currently, I’m re-reading The Shining. It’s been years since I read it the first time around and Doctor Sleep, its sequel, is next in line.
  • 12 Parks:
    • 1Q projection – 3
    • 1Q actual – 5
    • Initially, I overestimated this one by wanting to get to half of the state’s 47 parks. But if my current numbers and future plans hold up, setting the bar at 12 will have underestimated what I’ll be able to accomplish. I went to Landsford Canal (again) and Chester in January, Kings Mountain and Dreher Island in February, and Jones Gap in March. Jones Gap was the favorite, by far. Harper and I took a 5 mile hike up to 100+ foot Rainbow Falls. I’ll be in Charleston next week for the Bridge Run and I’m going to try and cross Charles Town Landing and Fort Dorchester off of the list.
  • 12 Races:
    • 1Q projection – 3
    • 1Q actual – 1
    • Last year, I didn’t meet my 6-miles-a-week goal, so I thought I’d change this year’s goal to total number of races. Ironically enough, I probably have averaged close to 6 miles a week this year but haven’t hardly run any races. My company had a contest where the employees wore a pedometer for 8 weeks and tried to hit 10,000 steps a day. So I was running at least every other day to try and hit that. The 8 weeks are up now and I averaged close to 10,500 steps each day. But I’ve only run one race, the Race Against Hunger 5K in Lexington, SC back in February. I had wanted to try and find a 5K in March but there haven’t been that many close to where I live. As I mentioned one bullet point up, I’m doing the Bridge Run (my 6th in a row and 7th total) this coming weekend, so that’s a step in the right direction.
  • 10,000 Dollars:
    • 1Q projection – $2,500
    • 1Q actual – $1,744.25
    • The goal is to add $10k to my savings account this year. I’m a little behind that pace but I had expected that. The first quarter – especially this year – is always the hardest financially on my bank account. The cost of Christmas catches up to me and my truck insurance ($394), truck tag and taxes ($257), Clemson IPTAY dues ($360), Fall Out Boy tickets to two dates ($393), and an Xbox One ($475) have all been bought and paid for as of this entry. If I can make it through that gauntlet and still save over $1700, then I feel pretty good about this one. Not to mention the 2nd quarter will bring a tax refund, a raise at work, and not four $400 big ticket items to pay off hopefully.
  • 8 Months:
    • 1Q projection – 2
    • 1Q actual – 2.75-ish
    • On January 9th, I officially became a member of the cord-cutting revolution when I had my cable subscription canceled. So April 9th will be 3 full months without cable television. Honestly, the transition hasn’t been nearly as bad as I expected. I still pick up the basic network channels, so that covers my The Following, Glee, New Girl, and Agents of Shield watching. I bought episodes of Discovery’s Gold Rush on Xbox Live before that season wrapped up. And I may or may not have stumbled upon Project Free TV for the episodes of USA’s Suits currently airing. The only struggle was the Sochi Olympics since NBC is the one network channel I have a hard time picking up. Live sports drive cable subscriptions. I’m still not sure how I’m going to approach the college football season in September.
  • 2 Projects:
    • 1Q projection – 0.5?
    • 1Q actual – 0
    • The goal here is to have my picture book from my cross country trip on my book shelf and a rough draft of a memoir-ish story done. I’ve at least done some recon work on the picture book. I looked up prices and maximum pages for books by Picaboo, Shutterfly, and Mixbook. I’m familiar with and have created books from Picaboo. The other two seem to be the most popular sites online. Any readers have experience with them or a preference among the three? I’ve done nothing for the memoir aside from buy two composition notebooks (I hate writing, at least initially, on a computer). I do have three travel memoirs (Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Almost Somewhere by Suzanne Roberts, and Alone on the Ice by David Roberts) to read, so I’ll use those to get me in the mindset to make a dent into my own story.

How are your goals going?

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2014 Snowmageddon

After nearly six weeks of laying low, I’d like to say welcome back! I have some pictures for y’all.

Charlotte’s been hit with two winter storms this year. In January, Atlanta caught the brunt of the storm and news, with ice shutting the city down. But last week, Charlotte received an uncharacteristically heavy dose of snow that brought the city to a standstill.

Since I don’t have to worry about school closings or child care options, my first reaction is to regress back to my grade school days as a giddy kid begging for work to close. Luckily for me, most Southern cities overreacted to the February storm to prevent another worst-case scenario from the January storm. Not only did work buy pizza for lunch on Tuesday to encourage us to stay off the roads, they let us out early at 2pm once the snow began falling.

Work Snow

By Wednesday morning, the roads still seemed clear but everything else was covered in snow. Initially, there was a two hour delay at work which made little sense given the forecast was calling for the snow to pick back up around 10am. Before everyone hit the roads to come in though, the day was canceled. Right on cue, the snow began falling and the roads almost instantly turned white.

One hundred percent chance of snow.

Zero percent chance of staying inside.

With the temperatures only falling and more snow in the forecast, work was called off on Thursday by Wednesday night. Twist my arm, why don’t you?

Harper and I made several trips outside to take full advantage of the time off from work and the rare Southern snow fall. I’ve always favored the mountains and colder weather to coastal destinations, so it was fun watching Harper dive head first – literally – into the snow and play.

By Thursday afternoon though, the sun decided enough was enough after 8.4 inches of snow and came back out. It certainly made those who had been cooped up braver, as people jumped at the chance to get in the car and test the roads. That night, the slush quickly froze over again.

While we didn’t have the day off on Friday as well, they were wise enough to give the sun some time to do its job before corralling us back into our cubes at noon. It was good to be out of the house though. Snow balls may or may not have been thrown at coworkers.

In typical Southern fashion, the temperature was back up in the 50s by the weekend like nothing had ever happened. Fortunately, I live right in the sweet spot of getting the snow experience for a couple of days a year, missing a day or two of work, then moving on with life without having to deal with icy roads or the gloomy, dirty snow landscape until Spring rolls around.

Until next time, Southern snow!

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Previewing 2014

Last year, I made the change from vague, idealistic resolutions to specific, quantitative goals with the hope that I would be able to hold myself more accountable throughout the year. I kept a whiteboard next to my desk with each resolution listed, the total number needed, and the current number accomplished. And you know what?

It actually works.

The idea of a tangible goal combined with the ability to physically keep up with my progress kept me motivated throughout the year to keep making an effort. When it was December and I knew I was 5 hours short of my “Volunteer for 50 hours” resolution, I planned one weekend to go in both days to make sure I got it knocked out. If my goal had been to work out, have a more positive attitude, or any number of other typical resolutions, would I be able to know where I stood in December? I’m not so sure.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

  • 15 Books: Even though I’m recycling this resolution, I’m upping the goal from 12 to 15. If I hit it last year without reading for roughly half a year, I ought to be able to hit it again. As a side goal, I want to make at least three of the books nonfiction.
  • 12 Parks: It was no coincidence that I asked my dad for a new sleeping bag and my mom for a South Carolina state parks pass at Christmas. There are 47 total state parks and I was originally gunning for half. But when I stopped to do the math and realized that would be a trip every other weekend, I figured I’d dial it back a bit. I may not make a camping trip out of each one but I want to try and hit at least one different park a month.
  • 12 Races: As stated last year, it can’t be a true New Years Resolution list without an exercise goal. Since I struggled with last year’s goal of 350 miles, I thought I’d change this up. I had a hard time making 6 miles a week but I didn’t have any problem doing the Cooper River Bridge Run, a trail race at the Whitewater Center, the ROC Race, and the Turkey Trot. As a side goal, I want to make at least two of these 10Ks.
  • 10,000 Dollars: My professional/adult goal for the year is to save $10,000 (excluding any contributions to 401K, IRAs, etc). Saving is always a good habit to get in to. But also, this will better prepare me for any life change that may need to be made down the road – a house, a new truck, meeting a girl, a third-life crisis. Most “experts” tend to agree on having three to six months’ expenses saved. Since I err on the side of conservative, I’ve always set a goal of trying to have a year’s salary in the bank. This gets me closer to that.
  • 8 Months: I want to get rid of cable. I pay roughly $100 a month for an Internet, cable, and phone bundle. The problem is that I don’t have a home phone (Time Warner said my bill would go up if I canceled that service… because that makes sense) and I don’t feel like I watch enough TV to justify the cost. This would give more incentive to do other things (like take my weekend trips to parks) as well as help accomplish the resolution above. But since I’m a college football junky, I’m allowing myself a possible 4 months of cable come Fall 2014.
  • 2 Projects: This is my “go big or go home” goal. After my 2010 trip across the country, the idea was to get two books out of it: a coffee-table book full of all of my pictures and a novel/memoir documenting my trip. I had started the photo book but never got far into it. All I’ve done for the written book is talk about it. By the time 2015 rolls around, I’d like to have the picture book completely finished in hand and a rough/first draft of the story.

You ready, 2014?

2014 Resolutions

My clean slate

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Recapping 2013

Another year has come and gone. Overall, I thought it was a pretty good one. But before we ring in the new year tonight, let’s take a look at how we got here.

  • Clemson beat LSU in the Chick Fil A Bowl in the waning hours of 2012
  • I made it 6 months at my job, tying the length I was at my Raleigh job
  • I took a week-long trip to San Diego, California
  • I liked San Diego (the girl, not the city)
  • Fall Out Boy came back!
  • Harper got to play in the snow
  • I started Insanity. Then bailed a month in. Like every other workout program
  • My brother and sister in law both got jobs in Columbia, SC and bought their first house
  • I visited Crowder’s Mountain State Park
  • I received a good raise
  • My mom‘s second book came out
  • Silver Linings Playbook came out on DVD
  • Xbox One was announced
  • I unliked San Diego (the girl and the city)
  • I saw Fall Out Boy (amazing) and Mariana’s Trench (more amazing) in the same week
  • I went to the Lazy 5 Ranch for a 3 year old’s birthday party like a creep. But animals!
  • I re-signed my first lease
  • I made it a year at my job
  • My boss was fired
  • I lost over a year’s worth of pictures because my computer’s hard drive died
  • I ran in the ROC Race with coworkers
  • I went to the Clemson vs. Georgia football game. It’s the best game I’ve ever been to
  • My grandmother passed away
  • Roughly 12 hours later, my brother and sister in law had FJ, my nephew
  • The Office, Burn Notice, and Breaking Bad all ended their series
  • I liked the same girl from NC as last year
  • I went to the Clemson vs. Boston College football game with my old college roommate
  • I turned 31
  • I looked into buying a townhouse
  • I changed my mind. I didn’t buy a townhouse and I unliked the same girl from NC
  • I visited Landsford Canal State Park
  • Clemson lost to South Carolina for the 5th straight year. Yuck
  • I liked a girl in SC
  • I went against the grain and attended both my work and the shelter’s Christmas parties
  • I surprised my cousin in Augusta, Georgia at her college graduation
  • I’ll ring in the new year in Charlotte again with Harper in front of some football

Let’s also check in on those 2013 resolutions!

  • 350 Miles Run:
    • 4Q projection – 350
    • 4Q actual – 230
    • I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that I definitely picked up the pace during the last quarter by hitting 81 miles. The bad news is that even if I had averaged that all year, I still would have fallen short of my 350 mile mark by 26 miles. I lost a lot of time by doing Insanity in the first quarter though.
  • 26 Paychecks Earned:
    • 4Q projection – 26
    • 4Q actual – 26
    • Hooray! I worked my first full calendar year since 2009! Thursday is my 18 month mark, so I’ve tripled my time in Raleigh. Not counting the boss, I’m also the second most tenured one in my group. So I’ve carved out a nice little niche. Come this time next year, I may be itching for a move though.
  • 12 Books Read:
    • 4Q projection – 12
    • 4Q actual – 15
    • Well, I officially read nothing this quarter. Technically, I went backwards if you want to be picky since I gave up reading Wild. Since there was such a long layoff from when I started it, I figured I’d hit the reset button. To be fair though, once I hit the mark on this one, I pretty much gave up to work on other resolutions.
  • 50 Hours Volunteered:
    • 4Q projection – 50:00
    • 4Q actual – 50:45
    • I finally crossed the 50 hour barrier on my last shift of the year. And that’s not counting the 3 hour Christmas potluck. I feel like I’ve finally settled in at the shelter. I’ve got a buddy on my Sunday shifts now. I’ve trained several other dog walkers (who have also gone on to start training… which is kind of cool). I never thought the volunteering bug would bite me growing up. Now look at me.
  • 4 Trips Planned:
    • 4Q projection – 4
    • 4Q actual – 3
    • I’m a little torn on how to rule this one. San Diego in January definitely counts. I may have stretched the rules a bit to count the Clemson vs. Georgia game since I left on Saturday and didn’t get back until early Sunday morning. I want to count Crowder’s Mountain and Landsford Canal State Park. They were only day trips but Harper and I went hiking and picture taking both times. Maybe I’ll compromise and say each one of those counts as half. My focus in 2014 is on improving this greatly.
  • 2 Posts Written:
    • 4Q projection – 104
    • 4Q actual – 71
    • I fell just a little short on this one. I struggled some weeks to come up with five bullet points on my “What I Learned” entry, so I knew early on I was going to have a hard time getting two per week posted. I’m going to try to change things up some next year to get the post count higher.
  • 80 Percent Achieved:
    • 4Q projection – 5 games
    • 4Q actual – 6 games
    • Another resolution I’m taking creative liberties with. Both The Wolf Among Us and Walking Dead: Season Two and I finished them at 100%. But it’s only one episode of each series, so I’m still missing eight total episodes. But they’re not out yet. And I will definitely finish them when they’re released because both series are excellent stories. Other than that, I’m at 13% on Bully and 33% on Grand Theft Auto. I also have two Batman games to get underway. But technically, I’ve got my six games finished!
  • 1 Date Taken:
    • 4Q projection – 1
    • 4Q actual – 2
    • I locked this one up with a trip to San Diego and a San Diego trip to Charlotte. Like my reading resolution, once this one was finished, I put my focus elsewhere. I did take an hour and a half drive for a two and a half hour Starbucks coffee hot chocolate meet up. But that’s not in date territory yet, so we’ll settle for two this year.

By my count, that’s four resolutions I overachieved, three I underachieved, and one I met exactly. I’m okay with that, as it shows both accomplishment and room for improvement. How did your 2013 go? Did you meet your goals?

I hope y’all have a safe and enjoyable New Years celebration! Thanks for following along in 2013 and I wish you have a safe, prosperous 2014!

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Christmas at the Zoo

The Sunday before Christmas, my old college girlfriend was in town with her mom, dad, and daughter to take a trip to Riverbanks Zoo. Since I hadn’t seen her or her mom in almost a decade, an invitation was extended to me as well.

Like I’m ever going to pass up a trip to the zoo…

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What I Learned: December 27

  • My wrapping paper was a hit (and expensive). The funny thing was that no one wanted to tear it up, so everyone carefully unwrapped their presents. The big event of 2013? My baby nephew FJ. Wrapping Paper 2013
  • The older I get, the more Christmas loses it’s luster. Part of it is that I’m old enough to buy my own toys now. If it’s August and I want a video game or want to take a trip, I just do it and chalk it up to a mental-health living expense. The anxiousness of waiting several months is gone. Part of it is being old enough to see the “adult” side of Christmas – the chaos in the kitchen when dinner isn’t ready on time, the strict schedule that needs to keep the 3 month old baby on his feeding schedule, the worn out adults after the first wave of Christmas has passed. When you see all of the moving parts to the magic trick, it’s not quite as magic anymore. Part of it is the decisions I’ve made. I’m not married. I don’t have kids. I’m the easiest to plan around. So I tend to fall to the bottom of the Christmas priority list.
  • The whole idea for taking a week off of work was to try and take Christmas a little slower this year but it didn’t quite work that way. I was supposed to meet up with a friend Saturday but plans got shifted so I hit the road to Chapin. Sunday, I met an old college friend and her family at the zoo (pictures to come later!) then did dinner with my parents and the neighbors that night. Monday, I was on FJ-sitting duty before doing Christmas at my brother’s house with my dad and step-mom, in town from Alaska. Tuesday was Chapin Christmas with my mom, step-dad, brother, sister in law, and baby FJ. Wednesday, we hit the road for Summerville Christmas with my grandparents, aunt, and cousin, then made a quick turnaround back to Chapin that night. Thursday, spur-of-the-moment plans had me back on the road to Greenville for coffee with my missed-plans-on-Saturday friend. Busy, busy, busy!
  • It came down to the wire for my favorite present this year. I plan on using them together, so we’ll be politically correct and declare it a tie for first. My dad got me a Zissou 12 degree sleeping bag from REI and my mom got me the South Carolina State Parks pass I had asked for. So Harper and I are going to be making more weekend trips this year! An honorable mention goes to my brother and sister in law for chipping in to help me get another IPTAY point. One day, I’ll have awesome football tickets!
  • Now with Christmas 2013 in the rearview mirror, it’s time to shift gears to the new year. Being the sentimental, organized planner that I am, reflecting on opportunities missed and accomplishments completed in the previous year and laying the foundation for the next year’s gameplan is something I really enjoy. I really like the direction I’ve got things pointed for 2014.

Another day or two of relaxing here in Chapin are in the plans before heading back to Charlotte and the daily grind. The goal is to watch some football, see Anchorman 2, get some more S&T and FJ time, and maybe crank out a couple of blog posts for the upcoming week.

Hope your Christmas was great and that you have a safe and happy New Year! See y’all next year!

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What I Learned: December 20

  • I absolutely adore this story behind NORAD’s Santa Tracker. Not only do I think it’s wild that a simple typo in a 1955 Sears ad could lead to a phone call to a highly secret and classified phone line. But I think it’s pretty amazing that the officer had the wherewithal to realize what was happening and improvise. Pretty neat.
  • I feel like I’m struggling to keep up with Christmas this year! I stumbled upon my annual wrapping idea fairly late, almost missed the deadline to order the right paper, and almost didn’t get it in time. Don’t worry, you’ll get pictures. I’m still missing a present for my grandfather, brother, and step mom. One for my mom, step dad, and nephew won’t be delivered on time. And of course, we’ll be scattered everywhere with my dad and step mom in town Monday night, Christmas with my mom and step dad Tuesday, then down to Charleston for round three with my grandparents. Busy, busy, busy!
  • I’m not sure how I feel about this Apple ad. At first, I thought it was pretty clever. They’re trying to play up the idea that just because this kid is spending the holidays with his nose stuck in his phone, he isn’t ignoring his family or doing something cool for them. But regardless of the intention, isn’t he still missing out? They’re promoting that it’s okay to ignore the time spent with your family as long as you’re doing something cool with their products. Not sure I buy into that mentality.

  • I’m not a fan of Christmas parties. It always seems like it’s an excuse for everyone to show up, show off their spouse to people who probably don’t care, and get a little too drunk in hopes that they’re not the one person the office talks about the next day. But this year, our company held a glorified happy hour at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery last night. So I made the last minute decision – as in a couple of hours before it started – to go. Some probably still got a little too tipsy but I had a good time hanging out with the coworkers. My crew’s a pretty good group of people.
  • He’ll definitely go down in history as a huge nerd but I’ve always been a fan of Bill Gates. Reddit apparently has an annual Secret Santa gift exchange and one user was surprised to find out hers was the billionaire himself. He gifted something that was both unique for the Reddit user and in line with his philanthropic endeavors. Not to mention the idea of Bill Gates browsing the Reddit forums seems pretty surreal. I’m always a fan of stories like that.

I’m excited for Christmas, family, and having a week off of work to enjoy it all. So I hope you have an excellent holiday and have just as much, if not more, to look forward to.

Merry Christmas!

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