A Tale of Two Years - 2015 A Year in Review

I began writing these year-in-review posts in 2007. It's the longest running tradition on my blog and remains one of my favorite posts to write each year. It's an opportunity for me to sit down and reflect on the year that was. It's also an opportunity to go back and read about previous years and compare. Before writing this post I read all of my year-end posts and I can tell you that each year has its fair share of peaks of valleys. And yet what I found even more interesting was not those moments but the days, weeks and months following those peaks and valleys. 

2015 was a year that had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The beginning of January was all about the move. Two weeks after the start of the year we got keys for our newly purchased home and a week later we officially moved in. It was such an exciting and stressful time in our lives. I remember those first few weeks of January extremely well. It felt like every evening someone was responding to a Craigslist advertisement and purchasing some of our furniture that we either couldn't fit in the house or didn't want. We were all boxed up and ready to go days before the movers came. We spent the extra week between getting keys and moving to clean up the house and get it ready for us. Jenn spent every waking hour that she wasn't working on making the house pristine. 

Our Apartment On Moving Day

Our Apartment On Moving Day

The night we got the keys was a disaster. We brought over wine glasses that we wanted to toast with and they shattered in the car I then proceeded to try and install my Nest Thermostat which fried the electrical to our HVAC. Not the kind of start you want, but we knew with a house these sort of things happened. We moved in a week later and things started out pretty well. It was a tough transition but we were making it work. We started to assess areas of the house we wanted to work on first and make plans for the future. 

The Best Picture I Have Of Our Home

The Best Picture I Have Of Our Home

The first week of February we got incredible news, Jenn got a well deserved promotion at Taco Bell. Even more impressive when you consider she had only been there a year. It couldn't have come at a better time. I still couldn't be prouder of Jenn. A couple years ago she made a big career move and has continued to push herself in her career. I don't know anyone that works harder. In every job she has ever been in she always wants to push the envelope and do the best she can for our family. I cannot tell you how many times I sit back and watch her in complete and utter amazement. 

Looking back I now realize that we didn't get to properly celebrate her big promotion like we would have normally done. It was only a couple days later (and three weeks after we officially moved in) on the night before Valentines day that our home was broken into during the middle of the night. I've wrote a lot about this evening in a previous post. I wish I had a greater perspective on what happened or could see it in a different light. It was the single biggest event of the year for us. It reshaped not only our 2015 but the rest of our lives.

The weeks following the break-in we stayed in Riverside at my parents, in Irvine with Jenn's Dad and Joan. The biggest blessing was my Grandma letting us use her apartment for a couple weekends in San Diego. They acted like mini-getaways for Jenn and I. I would pick Jenn up at work and we would drive to San Diego. It was the only decent sleep Jenn could get in the weeks following the break-in. We had such a great time walking around the city and trying to put the incident in our rear view mirror.

In early March we put the house up for sale using Redfin, the company who helped us buy our first home. It was an incredibly hard decision. So much of 2014 was saving, planning, and purchasing our home. That when it came time to make this decision to sell it made it that much harder. Needless to say our first attempt to sell didn't go well. Our selling agent was not the same that we used to purchase the home. She was honestly terrible. We got one offer in the month and a half our home was listed. We spent most of our weekends out of the house either to avoid an open house or just to avoid being home. We even purchased a Disneyland Annual Pass that became our refuge for most of 2015. I cannot describe how incredible having a pass again has been. 

It was early April when we decided to take the house off the market. I remember talking with Jenn. The combination of lack of sleep and the stress of selling the house was becoming unbearable. After a ton of prayer and back and forth we decided to stay in the house and give it another chance. We start putting in motion some of our original plans for renovations. We hired a handyman to come over to remove two huge built-in's from our patio and second bedroom. He was fantastic and the stuff was cleared out in a day. We even bought a rather expensive ping pong table to put in our now cleared out patio area. I cannot tell you how many times I made Jenn play with me during the months we had it. If there's one thing I miss about the house it is the ping pong table. 

A couple of weeks after the decision to stay in the house we surprised my parents and celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. All my siblings came down to the house an hour before my parents were set to come over to have lunch with Jenn and I and see the house. It was quite the surprise and I will never forget the look of utter shock on both of their faces when they opened the door to our home. We had an incredible brunch at the Waterline inside the Balboa Bay Resort. 

Towards the end of April we were trying everything we could to get into a routine at the house. The first week of May brought up one of our favorite events from 2014, the Great Wine Festival at the Irvine Great Park. The day just so happened to fall on the same exact day as the biggest boxing bout in the last decade (Pacquio and Mayweather). We still had an incredible day at the wine event and then drove down to Riverside to watch the fight at my parents house. We are really hoping the wine event is a mainstay in Irvine we love it. 

We continued to work on the house every weekend. We had a ton of different contractors come out and give us quotes on things ranging from shutters to lighting to carpet. We landed on some carpet that we both fell in love with the minute we looked at it and had the entire second story of our house re-carpeted. The carpet which was up there was atrocious. It was disgusting. No matter how much we vacuumed it looked like it had been bathed in mud. The new carpet was a godsend and looked incredible. By far the best thing we did to the house in the short time we were in the house. 

Towards the end of the month I started having some major mechanical issues with my car the Honda Fit. It's a car I have loathed since a month or two after I bought it. Out of all the cars I've purchased in my lifetime it is the one decision I regret the most. Toyota had announced a 0% financing for Memorial Day so I went and purchased a brand new 2015 Prius. I had been trying to hold out for the new 2016 redesigned Prius but the Honda Fit had other ideas. I sold the Honda Fit to CarMax who gave me a great price and drove off with a new Prius that I absolutely love. 

That same weekend that we bought the Prius, Jenn and I had to reevaluate our plan. Jenn was still struggling with sleep. We were basically barricading ourselves in our home each night. We had gone to some rather extreme measures to amp up the security throughout the house. And no matter what we did whether it was cosmetic or physical we both weren't feeling any better about the house. In early June we hired a realtor who had sold one of our neighbors homes and many in the neighborhood to sell our house. It was one of the toughest decisions either of us have ever made in our lives. But we sat down and talked about what we wanted out of life. And to live scared and miserable wasn't on that list. So we swallowed our pride and put the house back up for sale and this time it was going to be for good. We were going to sell the house whether it took a week or a year. 

The first open house weekend just so happened to land on the same week as E3. So unlike previous years where I would drive out to LA for the day we along with Jake went up the Sunday before E3 to stay in LA at the Omni Hotel. We had a great Sunday hanging around the city and getting our badges for all the press conferences the next day. On Monday Jake went with me to 2 of the 4 press conferences (Sony and Microsoft) and we had a great time even if it was a long day. 

If there wasn't enough going on in June of this year Jenn somehow managed to get a second promotion in six months at Taco Bell. I mentioned earlier how Jenn never ceases to amaze me and this is yet another perfect example of that. She moved from working on internal communications to implementing new internal training for the Taco Bell restaurants. A field that she had some prior experience in from previous jobs and also one that she enjoys quite a bit. Yet another example of how I absolutely married way out of my league. 

A week later we were starting to get antsy about the house. Jenn had a rough couple of nights sleeping in the house. So instead of spending a couple hundred bucks at Mastro's like we had planned to celebrate her new job, we used that money to get a hotel room at the Hotel Irvine. The idea was to have a couple of nights where Jenn could just relax and sleep.

View from the Hotel Irvine

View from the Hotel Irvine

Fortunately it was only two days after that weekend stay at the Hotel Irvine that we got news from our realtor that we had a serious cash offer on the house. We had a day worth of negotiation and the house was in escrow. We had a two-week escrow that couldn't have gone smoother and two weeks later we were out of the house. Jenn did such an incredible job handling everything and was so determined to get us out of the house that we made the escrow only ten days. 

The following weekend we had quite the time trying to figure out where to live. In retrospect the idea of having ten days to find a place to live and to move seems insane. At the time though it was like heaven. When we thought about where to live a big part of us wanted to go back to The Colony which had been home for so many years. But the other part of us wanted to venture out. We landed on a one-bedroom high rise apartment that we absolutely love. We moved in on July 3rd and haven't looked back since. The first couple of weeks were some of my favorite weeks of the year. I will never forget how quickly we transitioned into our new home and it felt like a giant weight had been lifted. We weren't in hiding any more, we weren't hunkering down and praying for sleep. We were free. We were happy again. Looking back it was one of the best decisions we have ever made. 

In early August Jenn and I both celebrated our birthdays. Jenn who spent all of 2015 spoiling me more then any year before went overboard for my birthday. She had an entire day planned from the time I woke up to the moment the day ended. She knows me to well, I do love a good plan for a day. We started with brunch, walked around Balboa, and saw Ant-Man at the Cinépolis in Laguna. It was such a perfect day and one of the best birthdays I've ever had. I was lucky enough to have Jenn's birthday off and took her to Disneyland for her birthday. It was an incredible couple of days. 

After over thirty years of working for the same company my Dad officially retired this year and we went out and surprised him for brunch in Temecula. We obviously love brunch and this was a great way to celebrate how hard he had worked for my entire family over the years. It was the least we could do for providing us all with so much growing up. 

The next day I hopped on a plane to San Fransisco for the day to a Madden review event. I tend to go to a couple of gaming events a year but this is one of the first for a game that I absolutely adore. Most of the time I get to go to events for games I either don't like or games that I'm terrible at. At least I've played enough Madden over the years to hold my own. It was a fun day and I was able to grab an early flight home to make it in time to have a great dinner with Jenn. It was a fun up and back trip that I hope I get to do more of in 2016. 

For the first six years of my career (post-college) I've been an analyst and not bad at it. At some point though I knew that I wanted to branch out and keep moving up. I was fortunate enough in early September to get the biggest promotion I've received since joining the full-time work force. I interviewed the job on a Friday and three days later I received a call offering me the position. I surprised Jenn by showing up to at her work so when she came out to leave for the day I was there to greet her. It was one of the best moments that I thankfully captured on my phone. So whenever I'm down or want something to pick me up I listen to the recording of that moment and it makes me grin from ear to ear. 

Once Jenn raised the bar for creating a day to remember for my birthday I knew I had to something special for our 6 year wedding anniversary. So I too planned a day to varying degrees of success. We started our anniversary celebration by going to visit the house in which they filmed one of her favorite movies, Father of the Bride. We then went to Pomona so Jenn could help me decorate my new cube for my new job. We got home and had to leave right away to go see our first play in a couple of years at the South Coast Repertory. That play got us back into the theater in such a big way that a couple months later we bought not one but two season passes for local playhouses for 2016. After the incredible performance we went to dinner at Mastro's to celebrate our love and my promotion. It was an unbelievable day. 

A week before we departed on our trip Jenn went on a last minute three-day work trip all over the United States. She flew in the companies private jet from Orange County to New Orleans and then the next day to Kansas City before coming back home. She had an incredible time and it was only two months later she boarded another plane (this one wasn't private) and went up to Silicon Valley to have a meeting with Facebook. Although exhausting she seemed to really enjoy it so I hope that trend continues into 2016. 

A couple of weeks after our anniversary we were off on our big trip of 2015, the "Royal Voyage 2015". We started our journey in Barcelona where we not only took a Side-Car tour (which was incredible) but also a Tapas tour. However when I think back to our time in Barcelona one of my favorite moments was going to dinner the first full-day in the city. We stopped at this Italian restaurant and were planning to just get drinks. We instead had a full dinner there as we waited for what turned out to be a torrential downpour of rain to subdue. It never did so the bright idea of walking to dinner turned into us running along the boardwalk to our hotel soaking wet in the fall rain.  Looking back it was like a scene from a romantic comedy. 

For the next two weeks we boarded the Explorer of the Seas for some much needed relaxation. We had two great stops on the cruise Crete, Greece and Aqaba, Jordan. Our third stop was Israel but because of the turmoil in Israel at the time they cancelled the port. The highlight was absolutely going to Jordan and taking a full-day tour to Petra. The rest of the two weeks was spent reading, eating, and relaxing. I was worried going in that we might get bored but it was the most relaxed I've ever felt in my life.

The cruise ended in Dubai where we spent the next four days enjoying the opulence that is Dubai. We had an incredible night excursion to the desert where boarded a Land Rover, ran around the sand and has an authentic dinner. It was an absolutely incredible evening and one I will never forget. The entire trip was an experience of a lifetime and it continues to stoke the fire to continue pursuing our passion of travel. I can't wait for all of the great experiences 2016 has in store for us. 

After Thanksgiving Jenn had her first foray into decorating a high rise apartment for Christmas. She knocked it out of the park this year. This is by far the best decorating Jenn has ever done. Over the years we've both become even more Christmas fanatics. Part of it is that we both want to carry Jenn's moms legacy of Christmas decorating forward but we also just love this time of the year. If you came over to our apartment in the last six weeks of the year you would have absolutely heard Christmas music blasting and the entire house decked out for the holidays. We even completed our much talked about 12-movies of Christmas where we watched twelve Christmas movies in the four weeks leading up to Christmas. 

We had an incredible holidays. We went to Jenn's works Christmas party at the House of Blues in Downtown Disney. It was a great party that had Meghan Trainor headlining the show. Jenn got us tickets to go see The Nutcracker at Segerstrom Performing Arts Center and dinner at Leatherby's. It was an amazing evening. I had never seen The Nutcracker before and can say I'm now a big fan and hope to make this an annual tradition. 

We had a wonderful Christmas day spending the morning at my parents and having Jenn's Dad and Joan over for dinner. Jenn once again spoiled me even more for Christmas getting me so much I don't even know where to begin. The highlights were some new headphones, a cook book, and a bunch of new pants for work. We had a nice last week of the year before celebrating new years by making homemade pasta and drinking red wine talking about that ups and downs of the past year before going to bed a little after 9PM. 

When I look back on 2015 I'm reminded of the opening lines of a Tale of Two Cities. 

It was the best of times it was the worst of times.
— Charles Dickens

And to me that perfectly describes 2015. Jenn and I came together in ways I didn't even know were possible. I look back and I'm just grateful. Grateful it wasn't worse. Grateful that we made the hard decisions. And beyond grateful for the second half of the year. To me 2015 wasn't defined by a big vacation, a new apartment, or the buying and selling the house. It was defined by the smaller moments. When I look back on 2015 years from now I will remember the moments where we would play a game of Head and Foot. Or where Jenn would cling on so tight for a marathon TV watching evening. Or the Saturdays where we would go to church and eat our favorite meal of the week, Chipotle. It was those moments that I will cherish and look back fondly on in 2015. 

So enough is enough. We're done reflecting on what could have been or what should have been. It's time to move forward and stop looking back. It's time for 2016 and more then any other year I'm ready for a fresh start. So goodbye 2015 it was nice knowing you and hello 2016 I've never been more excited for a new year in my life.