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So I told my wife that I had a good day of mountain biking yesterday.  As we went to church, my wife, who had been laying off biking because of a bad knee, said that her physical therapist would allow her to bike, and she would like to go out with me next weekend.

Now, I was pretty wiped today, and my wife knew it.  However, I could tell that she was actually pretty excited about biking in the new area.  She absolutely loves the outdoors, and ever since she was a young kid, she loved running in places she’s never been.  So, she is raring to go out and see something new.

We got home from church, and I remarked that although I was pretty tired, I thought that we should go biking.  It didn’t take any real conversation, and she was ready to go.  We found her biking clothes faster than mine yesterday, and we took off on the same trip as yesterday.

Now I have to tell you that I was not feeling super strong.  There are three things that hit me immediately:

1. My seat was really sore.  After not sitting on a saddle for a long while, your posterior really needs some time to acclimate to the workload of your body weight on a tiny seat.

2. My quads were immediately feeling it.  I knew that I had ridden just yesterday.

3. Finally, while mountain bikes are more upright, there is still a lot of weight on your arms.  If you are not use to it, your upper body get tired.  And I started off tired.

Now, I bought my wife’s bike a while ago, but it is actually a solid dual suspension bike that weights something like 4 or 5 lbs more than mine.  However, my wife is a crazy aerobic human being and nothing seems to slow her down.

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The chart demonstrates this very well.  Over the course of this ride, we monitored our heart rate. In the chart above, her heart is the blue line and mine is the red line.  You can see that while we generally had the same ups and downs, and she even had a few peaks up to 140, generally she was almost 20 beats per minute slower than I was. 

What’s nice about having a wife in really good shape is that when I came home, I collapsed into a seat and drank my smoothy.  My wife was happy and cheerful and even made dinner for me while I took a hot shower.

So not only is she an aerobic animal, but she is a kind wife.  I got a great sweetie.

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Here I am with mud on my forehead, as I return to mountain biking after a 6 year break.  Back in 2010, I stopped cycling when I started golfing in earnest.  It didn’t make sense to spend a lot of money at a golf club if you were not going to use it all the time.

However, once we moved back to the Silicon Valley this summer, I gave up the golf membership.  The club I belonged to did not have a branch up here, and if you are familiar with the silicon valley culture, mountain biking is as big as golf was in SoCal. 

I probably would have run today, but the ball of my left foot has been very sore, so I thought that I could do without the pounding.  So, I made my mind to dust off my old mountain bike that I had bought in San Jose about 15 years ago.  I was a fearful of the pain, but one way or the other, I was going to go biking.

Now the biking stuff was scattered around our new house as many things simply are still in boxes, and finding clothes, shoes and helmet was not easy, and my wife spent a couple of hours digging around in the garage.  My son has used my bike for a college class, and I had to remove his pedals to put on clipless and adjust the steam and seat post. 

I had mapped out St. Joseph park as my target for the ride.  The trail starts at the Lexington Reservoir, and the Lexington Reservoir is only 3 miles from my house.

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However, taking 6 years off then biking 10 miles while losing and gaining around 1300 feet during you first trip back on the the bike is not something that I would recommend, but I had my 54 year old body do it anyways.  I actually had to walk some of the very steep uphills because I just could not make it up. 

However, the view up at the top was nice, and I felt great to be so active.  While it is always painful to get out the first time, you know that the follow-on sessions are going to be easier.

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After I got home, I just laid around for a while.  But company came over, I ate, and got revived.

I’m now thinking about how I can make this loop faster the next time.

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As I wrote in my last blog post, 2016 was a pretty tough year.  One of the things that I did not spend a lot of time on in the last blog post was the amount of flying that I was doing.  Basically, I was up in the air almost every single week.  Southwest counts up my segments, and I estimate that I made around 90 flights if not more.  Most of the flights were fairly short, from Orange County to San Jose, but this meant that I was always waking up early, staying in a hotel, and traveling.  The only fringe benefit of this is that I got A-List preferred on Southwest, which made sure that I got to the front of the line for the check-in.

However, it is already well into January, and I am on my first trip of the new year.  This time I am flying into Denver and then travelling to Longmont, Colorado, for two days. 

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As I flew out of San Jose Airport, just a few minutes ago, I looked out of the window and over the plane wing.  If you look in the photo above, you can see there is a canal just off the plan wing that is filled with muddle water.  This is the result of an unseasonably wet winter.  California has been going through a drought, but this winter brought an extremely high level of rain.  Something that they had not seen in a decade or more.  This year, Los Gatos, where I live, had 23 inches of rain.  Last year it was 11 inches of rain.  The normal amount of rain for the entire season is is roughly 23 inches.  So although we still have February, March and April left, which normally brings some rain, we have already gotten our yearly total.  This happened in roughly 6 weeks, so it really overwhelmed the local reservoirs, and filled most of them to overflowing.

When the rain comes, you use it to fill your reserves.

I’m reading through the Bible, and I am reading the story of Jacob.  He forecasted 7 fat years.  In my own life, the last 6 years have been very fat and have allowed us to accumulate savings.  I’m a big believer in dividend stocks, and what is nice is having a portfolio that throw off money.  This really has been an extremely important contributor to my ability to support my family and our charities.

I’ve been thinking a bit about my future.  I have several drains on my finances that time out over the next 8 years.  One child is out of the house (although we are still paying phone bills, car insurance, and other small expenses), and I have three to go.  However,  this steps down in chunks. 

My next child has 3 more years of expenses.

The following child has 5 more years of expenses.

The last child has 7 more years of expenses.

So the question is “what do I really want to do with the rest of my life.”  I am in the unique position of having a portfolio of stock, and my expenses are about ready to go down over the next 7 years.  While 7 years sounds like a lot of time to a 20 year old, 7 years flies by when you are 50 years old.

I’m sure many people would say, “sell the house in the Silicon Valley and move somewhere cheap and never work again.”

As any reader of this blog understands, I am really interested in contributing as long as I possibly can.  So the first question is answered “do I want to work?” and the answer is “yes.”  So now the question is “am I capable of working?”

Now, the Silicon Valley is known for ageism, but this is for highly technical jobs.  Quite frankly, I don’t know how to argue against ageism in many ways because we absolutely do slow down as we age. 

It is truly unfortunate that we are set up so we, as a society, are afraid to call this out.  If you are writing code, I think the most brilliant work that you do is somewhere in your late 20s to early thirties.  This is because you have the combination of peak brainpower, which you can measure, and peak background.  We should be paying these young minds the absolute maximum that we can because this is when we get the most out of them.

However, once you get over this age, I believe that your output, and your contribution to the company really does decline.

What funny is that everybody recognizes this from physical work or athletic ability.  I don’t know anybody that started in shape, then kept in shape, that would be doing physical work at the same rate at when they are 20 or 30 in contrast when they are 50.  For the most part, there are no professional athletes over 40, except in golf.

However, even though you are in decline once you get past 30 or so, there are multiple things that you can do gain to be able to contribute successfully to society.  If your value is just raw technical horsepower, you probably are going to decline.  However, this is just one small part of business.

What you do get is the following:

1. You gain wisdom and the willingness to bite your tongue more.  Some of the best business people are old business people.  I’m not talking about people that do the job 9 to 5.  I’m talking about people that live the business and enjoy the business.

2. At least for me, handling people is something that you get better at all your life.  (Ignore a clear sub-segment that gets old and develop a bad attitude.)

3. There are a variety of age mitigation activities that you can do to make up for this decline in your capabilities.  These include aerobic activity, which I have been describing a lot.  I also believe that certain foods and chemicals show very strong promise for helping us age better.  Omega-3 (EPA/DHA) and blueberries are a couple of my favorite.  However, I also pop a couple of other things that may help over time.

This brings me to one of my heroes.

Warren Buffet is 86 years old, and I don’t think anybody is accusing him of being unproductive.  So let wind the clock backward on this one.  Buffet was 56 years old in 1986.  So the question is “how much has Warren Buffet expanded his wealth over the last 30 years?”

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The answer is really shocking.  Because 30 years ago was a very special time for Warren Buffet.  Back in 1986, Buffet was just becoming worth a billion dollars.  The chart above shows that in today’s dollars he status in 1986 was worth $3B, which has some controversy because the consumer price index is not quite this aggressive, it would say $1 in 1986 was worth $2.19 in 2016—so the numbers have some leeway. 

Regardless, today his net worth is approximately $74B dollars.  So, after an age when many people think that they should be looking forward to “winding it down,” Buffet was ready to propel and grow this wealth an unbelievable amount.

One of the interesting thoughts, is even just the S&P500 returned 11x growth over the same time.  So Buffet was 7x better than than the S&P500, but actually the S&P500 is nothing to sneeze at.  The health of the S&P500 is something Buffet has pointed out numerous times.

My problem is that I will interview older people, and I can see that they have let themselves go.  You can hear that they did not learn anything new, and they aren’t doing what’s required to keep their brains up to speed.  They are tired of their life, and they really don’t like their job.

I am determined that this is not me.  I’m tracking like Buffet as much as I can.

So, I have been thinking about what I would like to do.  Since I want to keep working until they stick me in the ground (or when I truly feel that I don’t contribute to my company), I want to be able to follow the path of Warren Buffet.  I will never have his wealth, barring divine intervention.  I don’t even expect to multiply my wealth by 74x.  However, I really think that I may have at least another 30 years in front of me.

My first priority is to simply do the job that I have now.  For so many reasons it is hard to count, I feel that God has called me to this job.  Now, things can change real quick and real fast.  So I may not have this job tomorrow, but until I see it going the wrong way, I’m enjoying every moment.

However, I do think it is very helpful to be thinking in contingencies for the future.  So, I have asked myself, “What is next?  What do you want to do that you would be paid nicely for and contribute to society?”

The subject of ageism is of extreme interest to me.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I would really like to study the way to handle the economics of older people in our society.  This sounds like the perfect subject for a doctorate because young people never want to study older people.  More than this, they probably feel that it is not their place.

 

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There was a skit on Saturday Night live where they had “Black Jeopardy.”  Louis C K played a contestant who was a white professor person that taught black studies at Brigham Young University.  (A lot of twists in here.)  The message is that his role was funny because you could tell that he really didn’t understand black people because he wasn’t black.  It is similar to a young person studying the old.  You need somebody that has lived it to really understand it.

So, a Doctorate of Economics with a dissertation in some of the implication of ageism would be incredibly fruitful for not only myself, but to many others.  One of the main things I would need to do is take the GRE.  I would want to prep for this, but it would tell me how much brainpower I lost over the years from when I took the ACT.

My suspicion is that I’ll test lower than when I took the ACT for college, but I’ll test good enough.

It’s on my todo list someday, and I’ll make sure to share it with you.

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So I come into the kitchen last night and I see my wife decked out in her lab coat.  She has her rubber gloves on, and she’s cleaning up the kitchen.

“What ‘cha doing?” I ask

“Got my lab coat on, it’s pretty warm,…and I think I look cool,” she answer back.

Then she giggles like a junior high school girl after saying something that only she and her friends understand.

My wife has got a wicked sense of humor that I love.  Its not mean, just a bit goofy.  It’s one of the best things about her.  My youngest daughter, which we all agree studies way too much and has a very serious tone about her, is not a goofy person.  However, my wife will often sneak into her room to have deep talk with her, and somehow they go goofy.  I will hear them just laughing like crazy.

The other night they were laughing over “smashy racey car game,” and I have no idea what they are talking about.

As for me, it is the start of the new year, and I have really not been as productive on the weekends as I would like to be.  The nice thing is that we have all of our stuff stuck somewhere, but the bad thing is that I haven’t really gotten to pull everything out and start to organize. My goal every weekend is to stay to organize more.

This is mainly due to my desire to get back into shape.  I unfortunately have gained a number of pounds since taking the new job.  Life really is priority list, and if I have stuff stuck into corners somewhere, the first thing I’m going to emphasize is getting back into shape. If you gain too many pounds, it is very difficult to cut them out, so I don’t want to let my body go too far.

How did I get into this state? As way of background, in May of 2015, I jumped out of engineering back into business.  This was profoundly stressful.

I decided that I both wanted, and I was uniquely capable, to run the business side of our enterprise business at my previous job, and they let me do it.  During this time, I was in a more stable environment.

My housing situation was very stable, and I didn’t really have anything to do on the house. So all I had to do was go to work.  Because we were members of the local golf club, I would golf roughly 100 rounds per year.  While not aerobically challenging, you do consume quite a few calories if you walk 8 miles on the golf course and carry your clubs.  Then I would try to get in one or two 3 mile runs in the morning during the week. So, I had four days a week that I might get some good workout in, with the weekend being the bulk of this.

I was in pretty good shape all things considered.

However, after nine months in the new role at my old company, our company went into some struggles, and I decided after 14 years, it was time to look for new pastures.

As the readers of the blog know, I not only jumped companies but I ended up starting off at one job, moving to a new job, and selling and buying my old house.  About seven months ago, I got the job role that I currently am doing.

As I wrote, not only the job churn, but we moved from SoCal (Coto De Caza, CA) to NorCal (Los Gatos, CA), and I had my sell house fall through twice. 

Net-net:  I’ve had a ton of stress for almost two years, I completely stopped working out with the switch of the job a year ago.

As Christmas rolled around, I was moved into the house, and I knew that for my health and mental capabilities, I needed to start working out again.

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With the move to Los Gatos, I don’t have a golf course around. In my last place, we had a world class golf course just three miles from my home. However, with the change in the geographical regions, I just can’t justify a golf membership. In SoCal, I had the perfect golf environment, and in Norcal, both budgets and geographic region really is not as conducive golf.

I had also read some material on the importance of doing aerobic activity for brain health, and although I was squeezing in some runs, I knew that I probably should be doing more. Golf is a sport that I will treasure forever, and I may return someday. However, I am in exceptionally good health for a 50 year man, and I thought that biking, running and swimming would yield better mental and physical health. (Also, I am throwing in a dab of weight lifting to fight sarcopenia.)

So, in the first 22 days of January, I’ve gotten in nine workouts.  Yesterday, I swam my longest swim in probably over a decade.  Then I lifted weights in my not very impressive fashion. Today I ran.

Now when you are 54 years old, all this activity after a long layoff is a bit of a shock to the system.  I am very fortunate that I seem to be in okay health, other than I have some pain in the ball of my left foot. However, I’m coming back from a lot of stress and many years of non-aerobic activity. So from a physical standpoint, once I do a work out, I’m wiped out.  It take mental and physical energy, and once I’m done working out, I just want to come home, get into a comfortable chair, and do stuff on my computer.

However, I am willing to be a little less productive on the weekends, if it gets me into shape and more productive for work.

The Day After Christmas

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Most of the family is in town.  Our one daughter that is in the mid-west was almost here as we skyped in while we unwrapped presents that she gave us.  This is our first Christmas in our new home, and for how much change we had during the year, it is almost starting to feel a bit like we belong here.

Because we live in Los Gatos, I have been reading about the local history.  One of the main points of the local history is the idea of cats, and this is what Los Gatos is Spanish for “The Cats.”  One of the most famous statues in Los Gatos is the cats sculpture by Robert Paine.

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I want both cats in the entry to our house, but we also have a couple of pillars inside of our house that I stated that I would like some cats.  The family didn’t tell me that they were carefully listening, and the scoured the local area, and they found a set that was perfect for the place that I called out.  I was delighted opening them and placing them in their place of honor.

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Then what is cool about this is that we have another set of pillars on the opposite of the living room where I have some bunnies looking at the cats, almost as if they are afraid that they are going to jump off the pillars and chase them.

Now, there is one other cat that my wife could not hide from me that is sitting outside of our door.

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Well over 100 pounds, my wife said that I might want to buy another so I can put them outside.  However, for right now, this cat is perfectly adorned for our Christmas season.

Happy Thanksgiving

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Welcome to Thanksgiving in the Yung See San Fong house.  We were pretty close to a grand slam this Thanksgiving with all of the kids home, but my newly wed daughter and her husband are still in De Kalb, IL.  However, we did have my 88 year old Father-In-Law at the table.

This year has been one of a wild ride.  The main thing that has happened since our last blog post has been moving into our new house.  A 100 year old house in the hills of Los Gatos that is in many ways, our dream house.  Now, it isn’t a dream house like many people would have.  No, our dream house is one of history and flavor.  This one was owned by Senator Sanborn Young and his famous author wife, Ruth Comfort Mitchell.

They were given the piece of property in October 1916, and we bought the property exactly 100 years after they got it.  The most striking thing about the property is the view from the living room.  The piece of property is perched approximately 800 feet above the Silicon Valley floor in the hills of Los Gatos, and has an awesome view of the valley.  It is not high like a plane, but like a house that is nicely placed.  Just 1.5 miles from Los Gatos High School, my wife and I were amazed that the place was on the market for two years before we bought it.

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Other than needing to tent it an gas it for termites, which they say is not a critical issue, the place is in remarkably good shape.  Now mind you, there is a hundred things to do on a 100 year old house, but for the most part, nothing is critically pressing.

We had a ton of boxes moving into the house, and we were really nervous about all the books that I had gotten over the years.  For we placed almost all of the books into the downstairs basement and lower room.  However, we were very nervous that we would not be able to get all our stuff in our new house considering that our old house was much larger.  Indeed, after the first day, we had so much stuff on the outside of the house, and the inside was already getting full, I was convinced that we were doomed.

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However, we were able to get a lot of it into the carport/garage.  We moved a lot of it downstairs into the old basement that is a thin passage under the house, and somehow we got a lot of the stuff into the rooms, but not so much that we felt we had in too much weight.

Last weekend we put in the piano, and got it up on a piano dolly, which allows us to move it around the house a little bit.  Considering that one end of the piano space is a inch lower than the other, we had to jack up one side of the piano.  This weekend, I hung the flat panel television on the wall, which required me find the old 2” studs in a lathe and plaster living room.  I drilled some holes just to find the studs, but the TV is now handing nicely over the piano.

We are getting close to having everything crammed into some corner, and we can basically get into almost every corner of the house.  We now need to simplify, but my wife needs to get her knee fixed first.

Regardless, we are loving our new house that the Lord gave us.  I never thought 1 year ago that we would be here.

A Moment Of Reflection

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Well, here I am sitting in the United air lounge at Seattle-Tacoma International airport.  I have been “home” for two day, but really because my wife is not here, it really was not home.  I actually don’t belong to the United premiere club, but my traveling companion, who already left, got me in.

It certainly seems like I could have been writing more, but the last 8 months have just been such a flurry of activity that I simply have not have been doing anything other than trying to just survive.  And I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night a lot.

So where to start?  I left my previous job of 14 years in February of 2016.  In retrospect, the easiest way of describing why I left is to say that I was called.  Now I called away from my last job, but I continue to be engage in my life in hard drives.

I am a hard drive journeyman.  This is all that I’ve known my entire life.  I can’t say that I immediately went to hard drives, but I have grown to love them.

My first real memory of understanding that their was something special about a hard drives was when I was 21 years of age, working at Computers and Applications, a large west coast gray market PC reseller in Bellevue, Washington.  At the time, I was in PC sales, through a path that was just a sheer miracle.  My father was buying a PC, and I was helping to negotiate the price, and the sales manager at the end of the session said, “Do you want a job?”

I remember after being there for a while, somebody had pulled out a hard drive that had died.  Because we were gray market, we couldn’t send it back, and one of the guys pulled the top cover off of it.  I remember that it was still alive enough so that the motor spun up.  The disks were so smooth that you really couldn’t tell that they were spinning.  It was a miracle.

After going back to school and taking a thousand different twists, I ended up at IBM helping to create and sell these hard drives.  I have been in every major hard drive company that was USA based, except for one major one until February of this year.  I left my previous job to go this this final company when I took my new job in February.

My last company was in  Southern California.  SoCal is a wonderful place.  Great weather.  Great outdoors.  Great golfing.  While  the people there complained about the housing cost, really it is is very reasonable compared to Northern California.  The one problem with SoCal is that it is not the home of high tech.  Now mind you, there are bits and pieces of high tech, Qualcomm is there.  Broadcom is there.  However, if you really want to be in high tech, you need to be in NorCal, and specifically you need to be in the Silicon Valley, Santa Clara, San Jose area.

The problem with the Silicon Valley is that there is limited land, and incredible wealth.  This is the home of Facebook, Google, Apple, and many other truly incredible companies.  San Francisco is overrun with web start ups, and really from San Francisco to the end of San Jose, the cost of housing is really crazy.

Let me give you an example:  My house in SoCal was built in 2001, so it is really very new.  We recently replaced and redid everything in the house, although the old stuff was really very nice, and it was only a broken pipe that causes us to do this.  We have the house on the market, and we are asking less than $300 per square foot for the house, in a beautiful neighborhood.

We are currently living in corporate housing in Cupertino, California,  the home of Apple Computer.  You can walk the neighborhoods in the area, and there are many houses from the 1960s, which are not built as nice as my home in SoCal.  These houses regularly sell for $1000 per square foot.  This means that for the same price that you can buy a so a 3,000 square foot house in my neighborhood will cost the same as a 1,000 square foot house in Cupertino. 

I was fortunate enough that my time in SoCal was tremendously rewarding for me financially.  This means that if I had retired in SoCal, I had more than a fair shot of simply using my investments to live my life with my wife.  However, I felt called by God not to do this, so I decided that I needed to continue working, and the new job was going to take me to NorCal.

However, we needed to get  through the housing crunch.  After looking at a lot of houses (with much of this being online, because everything is online), we found an extremely unique piece of property in Los Gatos, California.  Although I really hate to do it,  in many ways we got extremely emotionally attached to the property, for reasons that I’ll write about later, if we actually end up buying the  property.  I think we have a very good chance of closing on the property, but there has been so many twists in the road to getting in an offer, that I am trying to keep a completely open hand with God about this.  I have found that God doesn’t want you attached to anything on this earth.  When he finds that you are more attached to something here, rather than something in heaven, he performs an “extreme mercy” by killing the thing on earth.  Otherwise, you become obsessed with the earthly thing, which makes you no heavenly good.

Getting this house seemed simple at first because when we put our house on the market in SoCal, we immediately had an offer on it.  Once we had an offer on SoCal, we put in an offer on the NorCal house.  Then the SoCal house offer fell through, and the sleepless nights started.  I wanted the NorCal house, but I did not have the funds from my SoCal house to make it happen.  Then after a couple of weeks, we got another offer, which made all things better.  Then it also fell through, and we went into another round of sleepless nights.

However, through some hard work and help from my sister, we found an alternative way to finance the house.  However, this whole thing has been beyond stressful.  It felt as if we were going to lose  the house twice, and then we figured out a way of keeping it.  Every time that this happens, it is like Abraham putting Isaac on the alter, and you have to be willing to sacrifice what is most precious to you to keep you in the right relationship before God.

Some might say, “Why are you taking the hint and not buying the property?”  My view of this is one of spirit and brainpower.  You need to continuously be willing to sacrifice the opportunity on the alter before God.  However, the hard thing, the really hard thing, is to understand that even though God has you put something on the alter, he may ask you not to kill it.  To state it more clearly:  it means that God often calls us to having faith, and working the problem, in light of adversity.   In many ways, it would have been simpler to walk away, but the numbers told me that I should not do this.

What do I mean?

This property is unique in that it has two rental properties on it, with a complete house  where I can also put the family.  Once I rent out the  two properties, I will be able to cover approximately 45% or more of my mortgage and taxes bill every year.  Now I will pay more property tax and insurance, which takes away from the benefit of rent, but I roughly calculate that the bigger house with rentals, will end up costing me 25% less per year than a smaller house with no rentals.

So, it really makes sense from a cash flow perspective, and it is really a very reward opportunity.  Now, because this is so attractive, you think that the mortgage company would see this and make the mortgage incredibly easy to get.  The problem is that we are dealing with corporate America.  Corporate America does not thinking creative, so they are saying that without selling my house in SoCal, I really can’t buy the NorCal house, even though it is a better deal.  This where creativity and a lot of support from my sister came in.  So, we figured out a way of making this work.

With this written, the property is still so unique that the mortgage company wanted to get the assessed value of the property validated by an external assessor.  After we had this done, they asked to have an evaluation of the external assessor’s assessment!  So they are going to the house today to double check the original assessment.

So, I am  supposed to close the house 19 days from now, but I still don’t have final agreement from my mortgage company that they will give me a mortgage on the house.  Both my real estate agent and my mortgage broker believe that they will approve the mortgage, but it is still very distracting.  If you remember, earlier in this long post, I called out that I had not one, but two offers go dead on my SoCal house.  Now, to be clear, we have moved a bunch of times.  I have never had one offer go back, let along two offers.  On top of this, it has been over two weeks since the last offer, and I don’t have another offer on the SoCal house yet.  It almost feels like we are just waiting for more bad news to come in.

So, we wait with bated breath for the validation of the assessment. 

We put the house on the alter one more time, and we tell God that it is his will not ours.

And his will be done.