Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bringing The Year To Close.....

Tomorrow is New Year's Eve day already!  How crazy is that?!?!?!?!?!?!

This year has come and gone so fast, it scares me to think about the years ahead.  Our kids just keep growing up faster and faster, and our lives just keep getting busier and busier.  More and more things seem to be finding their way into our lives, and yet, as long as I can be a part of them with my family, then I am happy.

Christmas was different and very special for us here this year.  For the very first time since Tracie and I have lived here (21 years), my mom and dad (Grammy & Papa) came up and celebrated Christmas with us!  This was a monumental event for us both, and an even bigger deal to Evan and Sierra!  We have always either spent Christmas by going south to Portland, or spent it alone here, or have had Tracie's family come up and join us.  So, this was a pretty big deal.  And, it turned out to be a great Christmas!!!

Grammy, Papa and aunt Janice all came up on the 23rd.  We all went out for a very nice Christmas Eve dinner at Giuseppe's restaurant in Bellingham, before attending Christmas Eve service at CTK.  Our incredible little girl, Sierra, along with her big heart for God, had done an outstanding job at collecting over 750 food items to give to the CTK food bank the week before Christmas.  This touched Pastor Grant's heart in a big way, and he happened to include her story in his sermon, along with a photo of her and all of her food as she delivered it!  It was a very special moment of recognition for Sierra, and one that Grammy, Papa, Janice and uncle Brad all didn't see coming.  It made our Christmas Eve just that much more special.  :-)

Of course, on the not so much fun side of things...... with my current state of work schedules, and with every weekend being filled up, and with kids around... Tracie and I hadn't done even one bit of Christmas shopping up until Christmas Eve day!!!  And so, we were out the door at 7am, just the two of us, off to get every bot of our shopping done while the kids stayed home with Grammy, Papa and aunt Janice.  I am so very thankful that this year it was brought to my attention that I am able to cash out two of my vacation days for the next year, and that the money from doing so came on my December 10th paycheck!!!  This made our Christmas shopping experience about 200% better than I can remember it being in years past!!!  Since we do NOT have credit cards, and do NOT use credit or borrow money to pay for things any longer..... cash is our only option.  Although I will have two less days of vacation next year, it was most certainly worth it!!!  :-)

Christmas Day was most excellent!!!  To have Grammy, Papa, aunt Janice and uncle Brad all here with us...... what a fun morning we all had.  The gift opening lasted for a couple of hours.  And the gifts were all wonderful.  I do believe that all of us gave and received things that were unexpected, and that brought lots of joy and happiness to us all.  Quite seriously, though, I was just loving the fact that for the first time in 21 years, my immediate family was all gathered in our home on Christmas Day!!!  :-)

We had way too much food all day long, followed by a prime rib roast and Papa's scalloped potatoes, along with Grammy's green beans for dinner.  I do believe that the word of the day for us this Christmas was.... Glutton!!!

Another very cool thing about Christmas here this year...... it snowed!!!!!  Yes, we had a little bit of a white Christmas.  It wasn't a lot, and it didn't stay.....but it snowed, and it was pretty, and it just felt right!!!  :-)

The next day, Grandma and Grandpa Fornshell came up to visit with us, and to stay to celebrate New Years with us.  So, we had a house full of family for a day and half.  Grammy, Papa and aunt Janice left to go back home on Friday, the 28th, as I headed off to work my very last shift of the year at the BFD.

I am now done working at station 4, and am done at the BFD for 2012.  I will start my new watch on January 3rd, out of the big house, station 1, B-shift.  Already looking forward to the change, and excited to get back into the swing of fitness and health once again, after letting things go these past few months.

It has been a very difficult adjustment for me, with picking up a second (part-time) job back in October.  I took on working for Westside Pizza in Everson on my days off from the BFD, with exception of the weekends.  Pretty much, any day of the week (M-F) that I am not at the BFD, I am working at Westside Pizza now.  I have kept weekends open (unless I am at the BFD) so I can at least have some time with my family.  I work at Westside from 11am until we get through that dinner rush, which can be as early as 5:30pm, but usually winds up being 6:30-7:30pm.  And so, I wind up putting in anywhere from 21 to 32 hours per week at the second job, along with my standard 48 hours per week at the BFD.  With my new schedule, I am working between 61 and 80 hours each week now, while still trying to keep weekends free and clear as often as possible.  This has had a definite negative effect on me personally.  My physical health has declined substantially, as my ability to get my regular fitness and cycling routines in diminished greatly.  And with being so very, very tired all of the time, it has been extremely difficult to get out of bed at 3:30am to head to the gym and workout before starting my day.  I thought that I would be able to keep things going strong with workouts while at work on shift at the BFD, but the fact is that I am so tired on those days, that I try to use any down time we may have to try and rest and recover!  Because my physical health has gone by the wayside so much, my mental health and attitude certainly took a turn for the worse!  I am not happy about that, or proud to admit it.  But it is true.... I am not the same happy and healthy person that I was just a few months ago.  And, it is time to change that!!!

All of that  to say, the second job is both a blessing and a curse to me.  I am lucky to have been able to find such a job, that is so close to home, and that works around my schedule without any problem at all, in a time when so many can't seem to find work at all.  I am lucky to have found a way to bring in additional income to our current financial situation, that we have been so desperately in need of now for such a long time.  I am lucky to have been able to earn just enough money from this second job to afford me to follow Dave Ramsey's plan for financial peace, through getting rid of any and all credit cards, through building up an emergency fund that is separate from our other monies, and to be able to begin working on paying off all of our debt through the debt snowball plan.  I am cursed by having this second job in that I am missing out on a whole lot with my kids now that I used to be able to take part in.  I am missing out on being with my family at the same level that I have been accustomed to for the past eleven years.  And I am cursed by what this new work schedule has done to my fitness and health and cycling routines.

But, after doing this now for the past couple of months, I am getting adjusted to this new life.  And with the new year coming, I have committed to myself that I WILL find a way to make fitness, health and cycling all a priority once again.  I WILL find a way and a time to include these things back into my life, and into my busy schedule.  I know how good I feel, and how much more energy I have, and how much happier I am  when I have regular exercise and bicycling in my life!!!  I WILL persevere!!!

Good new has come to me as we prepare to start 2013.  I recently discovered that I will receive a 2% pay increase at the BFD, starting January 1st.  In addition, WA state has increased minimum wage beginning January 1, to $9.15 per hour.  So, I will be also getting an $0.11 per hour increase at Westside Pizza!!!  Every little bit helps, I suppose.  :-)

More good news...... apparently the Myans were wrong?!?!?!?!?!?!  The world didn't end on December 21st, as so many were expecting.  Hmmmm.... Those crazy, lyin' Myans!!!  :-)

On a bitter-sweet note.... December 21st would have been great grandpa's 95th birthday, if he were still with us here.  However, instead he got to celebrate his 1st birthday in heaven..... and I am so very happy for him.   :-)

As we jump into January of 2013, I can see that our calendar is already filled up with work, school, basketball for both kids, drum lessons for Evan, getting the Christmas stuff taken down and put away, getting the house cleaned and organized once again, and beginning to put everything in order to start working on our 2012 taxes..... always a joy!

I can see the writing on the wall....... it is going to be February before we even know it!!!  :-)

I certainly hope that everyone else enjoyed Christmas this year as much as we did here.  And I hope that everyone is able to enjoy and celebrate New Years tomorrow evening, safely, with family and friends!

The days are getting longer now, and although we are in the Winter season, I am looking forward to sunnier and warmer and drier days ahead.... I know they are coming eventually!  ;-)


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Break Has Arrived!!!

Today officially starts Christmas break for our kids.  NO SCHOOL!!!  No school, starting today, and all of the way into January of 2013!!!  Yes, both kids are quite happy about this.  :-)

For me, this is a reminder that Christmas is very fast approaching now.  Just one week away, with only this weekend ahead to do our Christmas shopping.  Yes, you read that correctly..... we have NOT done one bit of shopping for Christmas as of today.  WHY?  Well, because of a lack of sufficient funds up until my paycheck came on the 10th.  And then, because of a lack of time available to do any shopping since then!!!

Interestingly, it seems that when I make any sort of comment on Facebook about not being happy or excited about having to work my second job at Westside Pizza, I tend to get all sorts of negative feedback from people, letting me know how that this is how their work lives and home lives are all of the time.  :-(

My first response to this is, if that is completely true..... then I am really sorry for each and every one of them.  That breaks my hear for them.  I wouldn't wish  for any of my friends or family members to be stuck working 60-65 hours each week, with 24 hour shifts thrown in to the mix twice a week, and having to work weekends and holidays as well.  :-(

My second response to this is, I am guessing that most of the people who are making such comments don't actually realize that I am now working 60-65 hours a week, with 24 hour shifts thrown in twice a week, and still have to work weekends and holidays!!!

The fact that I may complain about having to work a second job, for minimum wage, at a pizza joint, where I am 12 years older than the owner, and old enough to be every other employee's dad (thus, don't exactly fit in perfectly)........ well, it really has nothing to do about the job itself!!!  No, it really has everything to do with how it has altered my personal and family life...... missing out on very important life events in my kids' lives, missing out on things I have been a part of for the past 11 years, missing out on my routine of fitness and health and cycling lifestyle, and simply feeling like I am now more or less just a "part time" dad.

I know that others have to work long hours, five or six days a week, etc.  But the fact is, that is NOT the career path I chose.  At an early age, I started down a career path that would afford me a wonderful work schedule, and would allow me to have plenty of time off to be with my family and lead the life I wanted to lead.  For the past 22 years, I have enjoyed the firefighter work schedule and lifestyle, because I worked very, very, very hard to earn the position of professional, career firefighter.

So please, excuse me just a bit if I come across as though I don't care about everyone elses work schedules or routines, etc.  That really isn't the case at all.  Simply, I care more about what I have recently given up, and how it is effecting me and my family.

I most certainly hope that this will be a short term pain experience, which will bring about long term gains.  I pray for that, in fact, daily.  This is not a situation I ever planned to be in, or thought I would be in.  I can only pray that sometime this next year, a light may begin to shine at the end of the tunnel, and that it will grow brighter and brighter.  I really do not want to be working at the pizza place a year from now..... in fact, I really hope to not be working there in six months from now.  But, I will do what I have to do in order to help my family out of the mess that I put us in.

OK, stepping down from my soap box now........ whew!!!

So, Christmas break is here.  The kids are out of school.  And today, it is cold and snowing, and the wind is blowing!  We no longer have any TV in our home, and I will leave for work at 10:40am, and not be home until after dinner this evening.  I have no idea what these kids are going to do with their day...... I can hear them both already, "I'm bored.  There's nothing to do"   :-)

But alas, the weekend will be here in a few days, and we will be very busy once again.  Grammy and Papa will be here on Sunday, and hopefully Tracie and I will be able to go do our Christmas shopping. I have six days off beginning on Saturday, so I will get to spend time with my family, and enjoy Christmas at home!!!

Time for more coffee......