2021 Goals

I was kinda middling on my 2020 Goals. I did manage to keep up on the blog writing. The other writing – well, I wasn’t so successful. I got my Level 3 in Toastmasters, but then we had to quit. I don’t know when we will return to our club at this point – particularly with The Wife’s new position.

My weight? It’s been pretty bad since COVID hit. I don’t think I’ve been below 210 since March – and I’ve brushed the 230 mark. When I can’t fit into my work pants – that’s fucking bad. It isn’t helped by the fact that I’m on permanent telework.

This year is going to be dominated by The Big Move into our new house. Just the hassle of moving is going to be fun enough, but I know myself. I am a creature of habits and routines. The new house is going to require entirely new routines, and it’s going to take some time to iron them out. One of the odd things about the new place is that there isn’t a mailbox in front of the house. I need to walk about a block to get to where everyone’s mailboxes are grouped.

So, here are my 2021 goals.

  1. Weight – Get back down to goal of 200.

  2. Writing – Finish the fantasy novel

  3. Writing – Finish the third Irregulars story

  4. Blog – Keep up the four posts a week schedule

  5. Exercise – Use the eliptical at least one hour a day for at least six days of the week, and at least one hour a day while my weight is above 205.

  6. Exercise – Walk to the mailboxes after we move unless life-hazarding weather

  7. Professional Development – Improve skills with Power BI to improve my reports.

Good bye 2020

This year has been a roller-coaster for the Ward household. I won’t rehash the crazy politics or the plague. Everyone’s been dealing with that – and many people have had a much harder time than The Wife and I had. A lot of that was good planning, but there was also a lot of just luck.

For us, the roller coaster really started in March, but not for the reason that you might think. In March, we sold my Tampa house. The negotiations started back in December, but we finally closed at the beginning of March. Yay, we freed up a bunch of cash! Plus we got some cash influxes from the sale. Some of that was used to buy two new handguns (a Ruger SR1911 Commander and a Steyr L9A1). Some of that was used to buy The Wife a Cricut Maker. Some of that was used to pay down our debts. A good deal was needed when the world went insane with COVID. Both The Wife and I were thrown into full time telework. We used some of the funds to upgrade the home office, since we would both be using it. MArch was also the month we pulled the plug on our planned trip to go out west so that The Wife and I could meet each other’s family out that way.

April and May went by in the blink of an eye as The Wife and I adjusted to our new routines. My prepper instincts meant we were never in danger of being out of toilet paper or other essentials. In fact, we were able to spare some to one of our neighbors. That’s the nice thing about prepping. You can help those in need. Our Toastmasters club transitioned to Zoom.

Then came June. The Wife was talking with one of her friends, and it came up that the friend’s daughter was looking for a car. When the friend mentioned the daughter was looking for something like a Hyundai Elantra, The Wife joked that she could sell the daughter hers. Yeah, it turned out to be not so much a joke, and we ended up selling the car. There was some discussion if we could be a one-car family, but her job was talking about bringing people back in July. Which we could technically do, but there was the unknown as to what my job would do. So, we started looking for a new vehicle. Or more to the point, we started looking for a new-to-us vehicle. I convinced The Wife to forgo a brand-new vehicle and at least see what we could get in the used market. She converted when she realized that for the cost of a bare-bones new SUV, she could get a fully-loaded three-year-old SUV. She loves her “new” vehicle.

July was a month of cancellations as we were forced to cancel our birthday plans, and our anniversary plans. The Wife’s job pushed back her return to the office. There was also a shake-up at her job and at the vet office we used. In the writing world, we would say that July was a month of foreshadowing.

August started the roller coaster into a series of ups and downs in very rapid succession. It started on a high note with my brother-in-law getting married. Due to COVID, it was a small ceremony, and many of the attendants were there virtually. Also, The Wife got dragged in as the officiant because the initial officiant backed out citing plague concerns. Still, a very high note for what had already been a kind of fucked up year. Then the down. We finally got fed up with our vet practice and transferred care to a new place where one of our favorite vet techs started working. Over the next six weeks, the mother-in-law lost two cats and we lost our two oldest cats. Some of it was just that they were old cats, but there were some issues that our previous vet practice missed completely. There was a high point among all this loss. At the end of August, we welcomed my new niece (technically great niece) to the world.

Now we turn to September. The Wife and I bought a new house. Well, technically we bought a house that was being built. We’d been looking since before the Tampa house sold back in March. We found a house in Bradenton that we both liked, but we wouldn’t be able to move/purchase until spring of 2021. Plus, the house was over a hundred years old (built in 1911!), and we had some concerns. Then we went into one of the new developments springing up in our area. One of the models just spoke to us. We talked it over, and signed the contract for a new place that will complete in spring of 2021. The high point was when we maxed the options, looked at our budget, and realized we could afford it. Unfortunately, with the sudden need to stockpile cash, we made the hard decision to not renew our Toastmasters membership. That was a difficult decision.

October we finished the refi on our current place. The plan is to rent this place to the brother-in-law and his wife, so we wanted a lower payment and consolidate the first and second mortgages. This turned out to be of more import as the refi also smoothed over a hiccup with the approval process for the mortgage for the new house. Yeah, that was a fun phone call with us flipping through refinance mortgage documents to verify details. By the end of October, everything was seemingly smooth.

First week of November. Everyone was focused on the election. The Wife and I had something else to focus on. She was informed that her position was eliminated. The shakeup that began in July had claimed her position, and that of her entire section. No chance to go to another department in the company, just you are out on the street after twenty years of service. Make an appointment to come get your stuff from your desk. Yeah, and we had a call with the mortgage company for the new house a half-hour after that call. So, November was a month of sending out applications, resumes, going on interviews, and hoping that we wouldn’t have to walk away from the new house. The day before Thanksgiving, The Wife received an offer. It was a pay cut, but not as bad as we hoped. Plus there were some fringe benefits.

December had The Wife going back to the office. Except it was her new office. She has a commute about as long as I did before they sent us out on telework. After seven months of having her in the home office, it was odd to be the only one home all day. Plus, with her new commute, I’m having to do all the afternoon chores. All sorts of changes.

I won’t say that 2020 was the worst year for the Ward family. Too many good things happened. I will say that I’m hoping 2021 won’t be as full of changes. If the move is the only big change next year, I’ll take it.

Five Bands That Define My Taste In Music

The Brother saw this in his feeds, and thought it was an interesting idea. We did the ten albums that shaped our musical tastes, so this is a good way to kind of describe our current musical tastes.

The Brother

Insomnium – melodic death metal

Recommended Album: Shadows of the Dying Sun

Disillusion – progressive metal

Recommended Album: The Liberation

Andy James – guitar-oriented instrumental rock

Recommended Album: Arrival

Clutch – rock

Recommended Album: Earth Rocker

Amorphis – heavy metal

Recommended Album: Skyforger

Bonus Pick: Amaranthe – pop metal


Sabaton – military history themed power metal

Recommended album: The Last Stand

Amaranthe – pop metal with female lead singer, clean male singer, and growly male singer

Recommended album: Massive Addictive

Mary’s Blood – Japanese, female fronted, power metal

Recommended album: Revenant

Black Stone Cherry – modern Southern rock

Recommended album: Folklore and Superstition

Beyond the Black – female-fronted power metal

Recommended Album: Lost In Forever

Bonus Pick: Garth Brooks – Nineties country and western legend

Recommended album: The Ultimate Hits

Twenty-Two Days

At the beginning of the month, The Wife was informed that her position was being eliminated. Almost twenty years with the firm. No warning. No reason. We could understand if it was a business decision – need to cut costs or something along those lines. Nope. Our best guess is The Wife and her team were the collateral damage in a fight and/or horse-trading among the senior leadership. This was a huge blow. We just committed to buying a house. Hell, a half-hour after she was told she was losing her job, we were on the phone with the mortgage people for a scheduled call.

Twenty-two days. That’s how long The Wife went from being let go to having a new offer in hand. She spent every day like a work day. Except her work was finding a new position. She was amazing to me. I couldn’t be more proud of how she handled herself.

Happy Thanksgiving

By the time you’re reading this, I’ll be working on smoking a duck as part of our Thanksgiving.

This is going to be a screwed up Thanksgiving for all of us. Probably next year’s will be screwed up too. I’m hoping by 2022, we’ll be relatively back to normal. At least in terms of having everyone back together.

Life With Cats Part Something

One of the cats developed a bladder infection.

Vet Tech: Which cat?

The Wife: EBC

Vet Tech: Oh. Joy.

I guess he lives up to his name of Evil Black Cat. Apparently, he behaved himself better this time. According to the vet tech.

Garage Musings

The Wife, The Brother-In-Law, The BIL’s Wife, and I cleaned out the garage a couple of weekends ago. We needed to start the purge for the spring move. The cleaning resulted in a Bagster full of debris, a carload full of Goodwill donations, and a long weekend of pain. So, of course, we have to start filling the garage back up with things we need when we move. It didn’t help that the neighborhood was having it’s semi-annual community garage sale. Prime Day may also have brought some things into the house.

I shudder to think where we will put the stuff from Black Friday/holiday sales.

Thank You Reader David and Some Writing Stuff

David Blackard, who blogs over at Blue Collar Prepping, is one of my alpha readers. He recently did me a great service by finding an old draft of the fantasy novel I’ve been working on and sending it back to me. It contained a bunch of writing that Scrivener swallowed in its updating between versions.

I like Scrivener, but there have been a few occasions when it syncs between my phone, my tablet, and my computer that it loses some writing. Mostly just a little bit, but sometimes a whole lot. I keep toying with the idea of switching to Word, particularly since I now have Office 365 and can write on my devices. I have this feeling if I were a more professional, or full-time, writer, I would like all the additional features of Scrivener even more. I may do a hybrid where I do a lot of the drafting in Word, and then figure out some of the editing in Scrivener. Not sure at the moment.

Anyways, David sending me my draft kickstarted my desire to write again. So, The Wife and I have agreed to at least one night a week devoted to our crafts. We purchased a Cricut for her back before everything went nuts, and she’s been using the hell out of it. With the holidays just around the corner, her projects list exploded. While my writing list hasn’t undergone the same expansion, it also hasn’t budged very much.


On Monday, Sept 21st, I lost my cat Bucky. Fuck cancer. Fuck kitty cancer.

Bucky came to me fourteen years ago with his brother Ghost. They were part of a litter from a feral momma cat that my friend had brought in so Momma Cat could give birth indoors. My wife at the time had moved out maybe a few months before the two tiny kitties came into the house. Even then, Bucky was clearly the dominant one.

Baby Bucky

Fast forward a bit. My friend needed a place to stay after his divorce. He brought with him three female cats and a thirty-pound dog. Bucky was my street-punk cat who brooked no shit from any of the other animals. Including the dog. Then we were joined by friend’s new girlfriend and her pug. Bucky was in charge of the animal herd – and proved it multiple times. This era was also when Bucky got his first taste of beer. That cat loved his beer.

Young Bucky

Bucky Goes to Work

Bucky was a big cat. At his largest, he was pushing fifteen pounds. Which he used to prove his point when he wanted your attention. Which he did, but only on his terms. It was I want attention. Thank you. Nip.

Then came Irma. I made the decision that instead of riding out the storm by myself in a house I wasn’t too sure about, I would evac to The Brother’s place. Bucky had not been outside the house in probably a decade. He didn’t understand why I was putting him in this tiny cage. He didn’t understand why I was throwing him into the noisy metal box. He didn’t understand why the noisy metal box was moving. My big, strong, silent cat began to let out the most horrible sounding cry of distress. I would grow used to it over the next few years as he was forced to move from The Brother’s house back to mine. Then when we moved him down to what would become his final home.

I was worried when we were moving him into a house with several cats who were already established. Yeah, I should have known better. Within moments of being sprung from isolation, Bucky established himself as alpha of our clowder.

The last few months, you could see something was wrong. The Wife mentioned he was breathing harder than normal. He developed a cyst under his eye. We took him to the vet to get it removed. She took a look at his x-rays and told us that there was some cloudiness in his lungs. There wasn’t anything we could really do, so we kept him comfortable. Then, our normally voracious eater and demander of treats, started getting very finicky. We took him in Monday. He’d lost almost a pound and a half in less than six weeks. The cloudiness had taken up almost all of his lungs. After an excruciating period, The Wife and I made our decision. We spend a good ten to fifteen minutes giving our Bucky attention. If you didn’t know he was sick, he would have seen almost normal. Purring and happy that we were there.

Miss you my friend.

The Boss

F’ing Roller Coaster Weeks

In case you’re wondering why I had no Wednesday or Thursday posts last week, there were happenings.

The week started out with the dishwasher making a wonderful screeching noise. We call the appliance guy to find out he’s out of business. We find this out when The Wife gets a voicemail greeting of “I’m not the appliance person. I will not fix your stuff. I am a high school student.” I sympathize with the kid. Growing up, our dial-up line (kids ask your parents) was the old number of a Dominos.

Then, middle of the week, we get a new niece. I still think newborns look weird. I don’t understand why everyone thinks they’re cute. Still love the little one. Need to come up with a term of endearment for her. I’m thinking “pumpkin.”

In the middle of the week, our Toastmasters club had our Humorous Speech and Table Topics contests. I competed in the Table Topics, but didn’t even place. Plus, doing a contest virtually just sucks. I will also say my competition desires are waning.

The rollercoaster continued. After a series of calls, we went up and start the ball rolling on buying a house in one of the new developments that are cropping up around here. If the expected timeline holds, we will be moving into a brand spanking new house at the end of March. Both The Wife and I have been looking at each other with expressions of “what did we just do?” This wasn’t so much a straight incline as much a rising corkscrew.

So, of course, as we hit the high, the roller coaster must send us into a dive. First was work stress. Mainly being put in the position of having my data used wrong, disputing them, and being told “but you gave us those numbers.” Then being chastised for not being on a meeting where they didn’t send the invite. I like that I’m respected enough that my name is used as qualifying value, but not when someone uses it for political games. That, unfortunately, was not the lowest point of the week.

Our oldest cat’s been having problems. He deteriorated rapidly. Friday we took him to his last vet visit. Spike was a sweet cat. He loved being in my lap. To the point of coming up behind me in our office and tugging on my shirt. Sometimes, he figured out how to just plop himself down. A few times while I was on a video conference call. The house is much quieter, and I don’t like it.

By the end of the week, The Wife and I were emotionally exhausted. Also, my predilection for poor food choices and stress eating flared. I was already floating about ten pounds over goal. Now, it’s a bit more. I need to be better, and I need a healthier way. Particularly since my range time is down to zero.

© 2021 Derek Ward

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑