Tomorrow morning (yes, on a Friday. A school day) Maly will be competing in her very first cross country meet. She’ll be one of eight running on the Bowie junior varsity team in the Del Valle Invitational.
And because of COVID-19, spectators are not allowed. My first born. The one I was going to live vicariously through in the battle that is cross country and I can’t even be there to witness it.
I learned something new today that I wish I would’ve been taught two and half weeks ago.
When I was taught how to shoot a bow, I was standing 20 yards from the target. And when I brought my bow home, I put my target as close to 20 yards away as I could. I think the best I could do was around 18 yards. I’d shoot between 50 and 100 arrows every day. I was committed, but I wasn’t seeing the improvement that I was hoping for. I was getting frustrated, but I was still having fun. I thought (and still think) that’s important. If something you’re doing doesn’t provide some level of fun or an opportunity for learning or growth, then maybe it’s time to move on and find the next pursuit.
I happened upon a nugget of archery wisdom on Monday that basically said: Stand close to your target – even if it’s only 5 yards away – and shoot. Keep shooting until you’re putting every arrow exactly where you want it. And then keep shooting. Master that distance. Then move your target back a yard. Take a week, or however long it takes, and master that next distance.
And then it clicked in my head. Archery is a lot like running. You don’t start out running a marathon, or even a 5k. You start by running 1-mile. Or around the block. Or to the stop sign. Or down the driveway. Or just one single step.
Whatever the challenge is, start small. One step at a time.
Yesterday Elise and I celebrated our 19th anniversary. Most of the day it was a fairly ordinary day with school and work from home. We went to dinner at Jack Allens. Elise had the snapper salad. I had the chorizo stuffed pork tenderloin.
When we got home, Elise retreated into the laundry room to hurry up and write in my anniversary card. Unbeknownst to her, I spied her. And then realized, “Crap! I didn’t get a card for Elise.” So I ducked into the office because I knew there was a stash of random cards in the filing cabinet. Hoping I’d get lucky and find an anniversary card that was never given or an extra that didn’t make the cut in previous years, I unfortunately only had Mother’s Day, Christmas, and Grandma cards. The Christmas card made the cut. I had to cross out “Christmas” and write in “Anniversary.” The sentiment wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
That’s because Elise and I don’t need cards. We’ve made it through a lot together. I’m still baffled that 19 years of marriage and 23 years of being together have gone by so quickly.
I really like what Joanne wrote in a card that she and Steve sent us for our anniversary:
“This year in so many ways reminds us of the times during 2001 because of 9/11, so we have often thought of your wedding.”
Growing up, growing older, terrorist attacks, pandemics, raising children, figuring life out and laughing and loving our way through it.
I woke up at 5:18. I got Maly up at 6 am. Today was supposed to be the first day of cross country practice.
Despite the heavy rain the coaches said they were still going to meet. I drove her all the way to her new high school. Both of our anxieties running high. I didn’t really have the opportunity to watch her meander through the heavy rain to the track. Other parents were behind me, dropping their children off as well.
Just as I was leaving the parking lot the bottom dropped out and it started pouring rain. I drove all the way home and was planning on commiserating by going on a run myself. That’s when she texted me to tell me that practice had been canceled.
Good first day of cross country, kiddo. At least we know how the mornings are going to be for a couple months.
I’ve been moping around all day and damn near cried two times already. It’s the last day of summer. I always get blue when it’s the last day of summer or last day of Christmas break. Even when I was a child. It has carried over well into adulthood. In fact, I think it gets worse the older I get.
The oldest child starts high school tomorrow. I can’t believe how fast time has flown. It seems like only last year she was starting middle school. And those three years blew by. High school is only four years. And she’s going to have to start thinking about if she wants to go to college, and if so, where. And how she’s going to get in.
I’m not making my situation any worse.
We got the girls all set-up on the Chromebooks and we did mock Zoom meetings to make sure they’re both prepared for the new pandemic school year.
The oldest child has her first in person cross country practice on Wednesday. And she’s probably going to suck because while she runs occasionally, she’ll only go out for a mile on a good day. And she’ll often walk some of that. Not that that’s bad. It’s better than most people, but I’m fearful that she’s going to show up to that first practice and get overwhelmed and discouraged. And I don’t want her to get discouraged and quit. I like to think she’s not like that, but part of me also thinks she’s only doing cross country for me and it’s not in her heart to do it.
And as I type this, the youngest child is out getting her hair cut. She’s getting 10-inches cut off. He long, gorgeous, thick red hair. I loved her long hair.
There are a hundred other things flying around inside my head right now.
It’s all the change. It’s the constant reminder that our time is finite.
It’s honestly felt like summer has been since mid-March. Almost six months of kind of taking it easy. The pandemic and world news has been stressful, but we’ve been together as a family, constantly. It doesn’t feel like we’ve done a whole lot, but I go back and look at photos and Facebook posts and YouTube videos, and we’ve done a lot. Together. So much that we’ve done together since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic.
I guess we’ll still be together, but we’ll be back on schedules and everything will change.
I think I’m afraid of the change. I think to be okay with it, I need to change.
Yesterday during my lunch break, Elise and I drove over to the bank and wired a large sum of money to Colonial Savings to pay off our home mortgage in full!
We bought our house in 2004 and made our payments at whatever interest rate we’d gotten locked into at the time. We refinanced for another 30 years in 2012 at a 4% rate, and we’ve continued to make our payments on time, and I’d throw a little bit at the principal each month. We were considering refinancing again at ~2.5% and doing the math to see if wanted to entertain a 15-year mortgage but, for some reason, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to pull the trigger.
I’d recently had a conversation with my good friend Eric. I told him I was a bit concerned with the current positive state of the stock market, specifically technology stocks. I asked if I should pull some out before a downturn. He said, “Yes, you should. Pull out enough to fund your next venture!”
“I don’t have a ‘next venture’ right now.”
“You don’t have a sell strategy either. Figure out what your sell strategy is and what your next venture is going to be.”
So I sat on that for a while. And I went to a lake house with my family and my sister’s family for a week. I’d work downstairs during the day and we’d take the girls on the boat in the evening. And I’d think about my sell strategy and next venture.
It was on the morning of Friday, August 21st that I came up with my sell strategy. It was one of those moments when I really wished my dad was still alive so I could ask him what he thought I should do. And then I remembered what a counselor told me 11 years ago. She said, “Josh, your dad had done everything that God needed for him to do here. He’s given you everything that you need. Now God needs him.”
Confident that Dad would agree, I went with my gut and decided my sell strategy was to sell enough shares to pay off our mortgage in full and be able to cover our capital gains tax.
Over the next few days, I carefully analyzed our entire portfolio and picked the number of shares in each company that I would sell. On the morning of Tuesday, August 25th, I executed my sell strategy.
Worth noting here that I’m working with individual investments that I’ve managed in our brokerage account. Elise and I have no other debt beyond the mortgage. I feel that we make smart decisions with our money. We have retirement savings in the form of IRAs and a current 401(k) through my employer. We have a funded savings account. We have an emergency fund. I’ve always looked at our brokerage account as “play money.” I’ve maintained a philosophy that if I were to lose everything in our brokerage account, I must be okay with that. Three investment tenets that I’ve maintained are 1) invest in what you know and love 2) buy and hold and 3) reinvest dividends.
Ordinarily I would only look at my monthly statement so I could update my investment spreadsheet that shows our account value over time. It wasn’t until tech stocks, specifically Apple and Tesla started really increasing in value that I realized my play money was turning into real money. And while I must be okay with losing any of it, to wait for that to perhaps happen would be dumb.
I thought about a myriad of things we could do if I sold. We could reinvest in something more conservative, like ETFs. We thought about buying real estate. We thought about moving. I thought about land and boats and RVs.
I pitched the idea of owning our home, free and clear to Elise. I was a little nervous, only because I’d put so much thought and planning into it. There was part of me that was afraid she wouldn’t buy in. So I wrote down all my reasons why we should pay off our mortgage. What it really came down to was peace of mind. The #1 thing that stresses me out financially is our home. I worry about losing my job because I worry about how we’d pay the mortgage. Our mortgage is our largest monthly bill and our only debt.
If something were to happen to me, I worry about Elise and the girls and if they would be able to keep the house. I worry that Elise would have to sell it, uproot the family and endure the stress of having to find a new home, or move into an apartment, or burden family/friends.
I read and read and read and got all kinds of pros & cons and mixed messages about paying off your mortgage early or investing more to build wealth. I had to make it a simple decision, and again, that came down to peace of mind.
Elise agreed, and our “next venture” became being 100% debt free and owning our house. I requested a payoff statement from our mortgage lender and it was in my inbox the next day. It gave me the exact dollar amount to pay off our mortgage in full.
When you sell investments, there’s a thing called T+2. That’s how long the transaction takes to settle. T is for “transaction date” plus two (2) days. Immediately after I sold my shares, that cash was available in my brokerage account to reinvest if I wanted to. I didn’t want to reinvest. I wanted to cash out. The money became available for withdrawal first thing Thursday morning. I transferred the money to our credit union and it was there, waiting for us on Friday. I called our bank and our lender to have them help me fill out the wire transfer authorization form.
And so yesterday, Elise, Mara and I drove to the bank and shot our wire transfer request through the vacuum tube at our credit union. We were told to pull around to the front of the bank and our banker came out to have us review the document and provide final signature on the funds that would pay off our loan.
This morning I kept hitting refresh on our mortgage account, anxiously awaiting to see that $0 balance. It started to stress me out, so I decided to take a break and go for a run. When I came back, I hit refresh again to find those six beautiful words.