So…things have been a bit slow here at the Live Your Wage headquarters.
That’s not to say that I’ve been lounging on the couch and binging Netflix for the past year, but I’d forgive you if that’s what you assumed.
It turns out that 2021 has been a beast of a year and my time and attention has been needed in a lot of areas I didn’t anticipate.
But that’s life, right? Well, certainly life for the last few years it feels like.
At the end of 2020 I had grand plans for Live Your Wage and what I was going to accomplish, and then, I didn’t publish a single post for the entirety of 2021.
Well…here’s what went down.
1. My Mom Passed Away
At the end of 2020 my mom was having some health issues that my sister and I didn’t think were that significant at the time.
My mom lived in Houston while my sister lives about an hour away and I’m over 3 hours away here in San Antonio.
Not being with her on a daily basis, we only got the information my mom was feeding us over phone calls and my mom wasn’t one for theatrics.
She had taken herself to the emergency room a couple of times and was trying out different medications for her stomach pain, but it wasn’t until my sister made a trip to Houston that we officially became worried.
Rather than being her spry 72-year-old self, my mom was constantly tired, struggling to get up and down the stairs, and not eating much due to the stomach pain. It was clear she had lost some weight as well.
My sister called me to discuss what she was seeing and we made a plan to get my mom to the doctor asap.
Near the end of January of 2021 the doctors found a mass on her pancreas and did a biopsy. We had to wait almost a week for the results.
It just so happened that was the same week that snow hit south Texas that week and shut everything down. My wife and I made a quick decision to go to Houston to be with my mom the day before the winter weather was supposed to hit, two days before she was scheduled to get her results.
What we didn’t expect were millions of people throughout Texas losing power for days at a time due to the ineptitude of the Texas power grid management group ERCOT.
Luckily my mom’s house only lost power for about 24 hours throughout the 5 day ordeal, and I was able to light the gas fireplace and keep a small portion of the house warm, something I don’t think my mom would have been able to accomplish had she been alone.
She was losing strength and still not eating, and due to the snowstorm and ensuing power outage, our appointment to get her biopsy results was delayed another several days as the doctors office was completely shut down.
At that point my sister had come down to Houston and I went back to San Antonio to get the kids ready to go back to in-person schooling. (They had been doing distance learning for nearly a year ever since COVID showed up in March of 2020.)
At the appointment my sister and mom found out the mass on her pancreas was cancer. My mom’s condition was so bad that they immediately admitted her to the hospital.
I quickly returned to Houston where my sister and I discussed options with the oncologist assigned to my mom.
This was not our first encounter with cancer. My mom had battled colon cancer some 20 years earlier, and my dad fought a plasma cell cancer called multiple myeloma 10 years before his passing in 2018. My sister and I had seen the ugly parts of chemo and radiation treatments first hand.
The problem now was that my mom was so weakened from the cancer and not eating enough for several months that she was too weak to engage in either of those recommended treatments.
We kept her in the hospital for 4 days as they worked to re-nourish her body and engage in some light rehab to build up her strength.
It was too late.
On day 5 my sister and I realized that our mom was never going to be strong enough to fight this cancer. Our choices were to let her die in discomfort at the hospital, or take her home on hospice.
We arranged to haver her taken to my sister’s home and start hospice care.
She only lasted 4 more days.
On March 13, 2021 my mom joined my dad in eternal peace with the Lord.
Of course this just kicked off a whole mountain of other tasks that needed attention, from the immediate, like the funeral and cemetery arrangements, to more lengthy efforts like going through her house and preparing it for sale, hiring an attorney to probate her will, contacting a half dozen state and federal agencies to inform them of her death, compiling all her tax paperwork for her tax guy, accounting for all her financial accounts and assets to be disbursed, and many more.
I won’t bore you with the details of all these events, but I will say that it’s now January 2022 and my sister and I are still working through some of these estate items.
Needless to say, my mom’s sudden passing was a significant event and certainly the most major reason I didn’t blog at all in 2021.
But it wasn’t the only reason.
Thankfully no one in our immediate family has contracted COVID.
I think we’ve done a pretty good job of adhering to health and safety guidelines like quarantining as much as possible and wearing masks and social distancing when we do need to be out and about.
The biggest change COVID has had in our lives has been having the kiddos at home full-time for distance learning.
It goes without saying, but schooling 3 kids and a toddler all day every day is exhausting!
That mostly took place in 2020, although we kept them home for the first 3 months of 2021 as well, until my mom’s passing required us to put them back into school so my wife and I could shift our focus to more pressing matters.
Even then, they were only in school for 2 months before summer break, at which point they were back home full-time again.
Due to COVID, any grand summer excursions we had planned were nixed a long time ago. (Our 3-weeks in Costa Rica in 2019 feels like forever ago!)
The core of the summer was spent traveling back and forth to Houston, sometimes with the family and sometimes solo, to go through my mom’s house and do some minor repairs in preparation for selling it.
Even so, we were still able to do a few family road trips to different state parks and outdoor adventures, while also making a few trips to see members of my wife’s family.
If the world was normal, I wouldn’t generally plan a lot of blogging during the summer months anyway, but zero blogging at all was certainly a step lower than even I anticipated.
But as the fall ramped up and the kiddos – and I – shuffled back into the school routine, there was one more thing that was keeping me from blogging.
3. My Wife’s New YouTube Channel
I haven’t mentioned it much, but my wife Valarie, an avid singer, now has a YouTube Channel and has started to pursue singing again.
We knew that when I retired that Valarie was going to want to start engaging in singing again, something she’s more or less stopped in the past decade while raising up our wonderful kiddos full-time.
While my wife has all the vocal talent in our relationship, I do bring a few skills to the table, namely the technology side of things.
As her official audio engineer, cinematographer, and video editor, getting her YouTube channel off the ground was going to require a significant portion of my time as well.
As we embarked on this endeavor, we honestly had no idea how much time such creative projects take, but we were willing to figure it out as we went.
Having launched her first video in the first week of 2021, and producing 9 more videos over the course of the year, we have a much better idea of how much effort these kinds of creative projects take.
Quite a lot!
We have both become more efficient in our processes over the past year, so we are able to move at a slightly faster pace, but it’s still not as magical as just pushing a button.
(The amount of effort and preparation my wife puts into these projects is amazing to witness!)
That said, as our 4-year-old daughter enters pre-k 4 days a week now in 2022, we believe we will be able to balance the amount of time required for both the blog and the YouTube channel, and be productive in both areas.
I suppose time will tell, but that is currently our plan for 2022.
So if you were wondering why I pretty much disappeared in 2021, now you know.
We are hoping that 2022 allows us to get back into some sort of regular rhythm, but if the last two years have taught us anything, it’s to have a plan but be flexible – a lesson that’s just as critical when it comes to money.
I hope 2021 was much kinder to all of you, and I look forward to creating more content and talking with you much more often in 2022.
Happy New Year! Let’s make the best of it.