2010 Retrospective

This is something new for me; I don’t usually engage in much self-introspection, but as this has been a year of changes, it seems appropriate to summarize what has happened in 2010, and maybe what the outlook will be for the future.

2010 started with a whimper, as my employer implemented a one-week furlough for all employees.  While loss of a week’s pay is never desirable, I was able to endure it without much financial hardship.  I actually appreciated the company’s effort to weather the recession without massive layoffs.  I did not mind contributing a week’s pay to prevent others from losing their job entirely.  Also, the furlough was scheduled for the first week in January, extending the Christmas holiday by a week.  It was kind of nice having a full week off; started me thinking about retirement and what I could do if I did not have to go into the office at all!

I took the opportunity to do a self-assessment during the furlough week.  This instrument was designed to help me understand where my interests lie.  No surprises, but it did clarify that I like to travel and experience different places and cultures.  I really enjoyed my month-long archeological adventure on a dig in Jordan in 2009.  Overseas travel is expensive, so I decided to look for adventures locally.

I also like technology, so I decided to combine these two interests and start this blog.  I’ve never been a journal-er — past attempts at keeping a journal have fizzled out after a few weeks.  This time, I decided to start my own WordPress blog, as opposed to using Blogger or similar platform.  I did this because I wanted to learn the internal workings of WordPress, and to have more control over format than shared hosting could provide.  Objective partially accomplished: I know about ISP, hosting, FTP, and a lot about the internals of WordPress.  But I don’t have the time to become an expert in WordPress and haven’t been able implement all the content-management features that I would like.

An extraordinary success is that it has now been a year, and the journal/blog is still alive!  By concentrating on my interests in travel, nature, and adventures, rather than a diary, I’ve been able to maintain my interest and post in a semi-regular manner.  I can combine photographs and GPS tracks to document my adventures, and that feeds my interest in technology.

As well as not having been a journal-er, I’ve also not been a writer.  Of course, a 33-year career in engineering requires that I do a lot of writing, but it has been technical writing.  I’ve written specifications, test reports, PowerPoint, briefs to management, a few conference articles — all designed to convey information accurately, precisely, and concisely, but not especially creatively.  In 2011 I am going to try to work on my writing; try to make posts not sound like technical papers!

I still have a day job, so time-consuming adventures have to be rare, but I’ve started treating every day like an adventure.  Others may not consider rebuilding the back deck to be an adventure, but it is to me, because it is not something I do every day.  I have to learn new facts and procedures, and because I am not especially talented at working with my hands, it really is an adventure where the final result is not taken for granted!

This post is getting to be too long, so let’s get on to the major events and changes that happened in 2010.

  • My oldest graduated high school in May.  She’s now completed a semester in the honors program at Andrews University.  She got all “A”‘s with one “A-”.  I brag on her every chance I get!
  • My Dad expressed an interest in seeing the “big trees”.  So with my brothers James and Tim, and my cousin Dan, we rented a Class C RV and spent a week traveling through the redwoods in northern California in July.  James and I cooked, Dan and Tim cleaned up.  When I asked my Dad at Christmas about the trip, the food was the first thing he mentioned.  Sometimes it is not the destination but the experience that makes the biggest impression!  This was a special trip for Dad and his sons; at 87 future opportunities for these kinds of experiences are limited.  I followed up by taking my Dad on a trip to Carlsbad Caverns over the Christmas holidays.
  • I planned an adventure at Chaco Canyon in September to see the Autumn Equinox.  This turned into an adventure of a different kind, as I hit a patch of wet clay on a dirt road in Navajo country, lost traction and rolled the car.  No injuries, fortunately, but the car was a total loss.
  • I refinanced the house in December.  Besides a favorable interest rate (3.125%) this starts the clock running for future changes as this is a 5-year ARM.

What is the outlook for the future?  There are some milestones coming up that work nicely into a five-year plan.  God willing, here is what I foresee:

  • December 2010.  Refinance with 5-year ARM.
  • May 2012.  Richard graduates high school and starts college that fall.  Two kids are in college, with attendant expenses.
  • May 2014.  Abigail graduates college.  Educational expenses drop by half.
  • February 2015.  20 years with my employer.  Company contribution to my pension depends on years of service, and maxes out at 20 years.
  • January 2016.  ARM resets.  Interest rate may rise 2%.  Given the rate at which the government is printing money, I expect inflation to be in full swing and my interest rate to rise the full 2%.
  • April 2016.  House goes on the market.  Hopefully it will sell before the fall.  I have until then to get all the home improvement projects completed and the house in shape to get the best price.  In 2010 three projects were completed and one started:
  • May 2016.  Richard graduates college.  Educational expenses drop to zero.
  • 2022.  Normal retirement age at 67.

Lots of options start to open up in 2016/2017.  Until then, I’ll treat every day as an adventure.

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