Saturday, January 01, 2005


Welcome to my new blog.

My name’s Erik, and as you can see by the date, today’s the first day of 2005. I believe in the calendars of most known civilizations, this is called, “The Year Erik Turns 30.”

Where does this historic year find Erik? Well, not exactly where he expected to be when he turned 20.

I spent my 20th birthday in Itacoatiara, a little town on the Amazon River. I felt like a real world-wise, street-savvy kid, with the future at his feet and every possibility in front of him.

Now, it’s ten years later. I’m in a job I’m not crazy about, I’m living paycheck to paycheck, don’t own a home, and have about $20,000 in debt. I’m about 60 pounds overweight and at least 40 pounds away from anything I’d consider a decent weight. I have an AA degree in a field that provides zero job security, but I’m a husband and father of two who can’t afford to spend a day without health insurance. And, of course, my knees are starting to act up.

I’ve been hearing a lot of interesting phrases this year. Phrases like, “The hand fate dealt me.” Phrases like, “My lot in life.” One guy referred to the financially secure as “People who got lucky in life’s lottery.”

So I’ve decided this going to be my year to test all of that. This year, I’m going to see whether hard work, determination, and spunk—all the things your Dad used to tell you made the difference—really do make the difference. Or, if my life is solely in the hands of fate.

I’m going to get out of debt. I’m going to get fit. I’m going to work towards doing things that make me happy instead of insane.

And best of all, I’m going to share the experience with you.

On this blog, you’ll get to experience the 365-day turnaround with me. I’ll share with you what works and what doesn’t. I’ll share with you what advice I discover to be true and what isn’t. You can learn from my mistakes, and profit from what I learn.

That twenty-year-old is still inside me, somewhere behind this belly and bad eyes. He still believes that the world is at his feet, that the future is his to reach out and take. This year, he wants to prove he’s right.

Because I’d really hate to spend the rest of my life coasting by, content with what I have, only to discover that with just a little effort I could have had oh, so much more.

So buckle up, kids. This is going to be quite a year.

Friday, December 31, 2004

My Lot In Life

So what exactly is the hand that fate has dealt me, so far?

Well, after I got back from Brazil, I finished a two year degree in communications at a local junior college. From there, I moved on to film school at a major university.

It was while I was there that I met my wife—a wonderful gal, who had dropped out of school and gone to work because she had been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome by the University Medical Center. The doctors had told her she could choose school or work, and since she liked having a place to sleep at night, she had chosen work.

Her illness began to dominate our lives, highlighted mostly by a suspicion we both had that she was misdiagnosed. Her illness was obviously getting worse, and though the doctors said the CFS was progressing into Fibromyalgia, we felt she didn’t have the right signs. There were pressure points that should have been more painful, and other wrong clues.

After doing some research on my own, and at the prompting of a neurologist, I came to believe she actually had Rheumatic Fever. The complications—which included hand and facial twitching—seemed to fit the symptoms of Sydenham’s chorea, a complication of Rheumatic Fever.

I was right. Not only did she have Rheumatic Fever, but during the years it was misdiagnosed it had progressed so far that she ended up having open-heart surgery the exact same weekend we originally had planned to be married. She was 21 years old.

Naturally, getting health care was my top priority. I got a job managing a small, one-man storefront business in the San Gabriel Valley. There was no staff, no crew. Just me. Once every month and a half, a very nice lady would come out and work a day for me so I could have a Saturday off.

Even with that schedule, I managed to start working in some schooling again. I attended classes in the morning three times a week and in the evenings twice a week.

But things changed. The exact same month we found out we were pregnant, they raised our rent out of our price range. We ended up having to move to a run-down two bedroom house-behind-a-house in the next city.

My daughter was born the week of September 11th, while my wife was already in the hospital for a staff infection she’d received from some ants behind our wonderful new home. I decided to take one semester off school to help with the baby.

Except that two months later, my wife was expecting again. And two months after that, we got notice that the landlord was selling the house. We would have to go. Again.

About that time, a job opened up near my wife’s folks, who live on the other side of the country. It might take me a while to get the job, but the cost of living would be cheaper out there.

So in order to avoid being locked into a lease, we did what every kid dreads—moved back in with Mom and Dad.

I was 26 years old, with a wife, a baby, another baby on the way, and I was living with my parents.

I was even driving my parent’s car. I had wrecked mine the week I’d started back to work after my first daughter was born (I had actually wrecked the one before that the week I’d found out she was pregnant).

Aside from being humiliating, it worked out alright. Even thought the job didn’t pan out, we got a lot of debt paid down, and managed to move into our apartment one week before my second baby came into the world.

Even better, my new apartment was right around the corner from an affordable four-year school. Would I finally be able to finish college?

But then came April of 2003, when my eight-month-old was diagnosed with Melanotic Neuroectodermal Tumor of Infancy in her leg—an extremely rare tumor the doctors really didn’t know how to deal with. There’d only been six cases in the leg before—never in the lower leg— and in one of those cases, had the child died within two months of discovery. We were given the choice whether to amputate.

It wasn’t a choice we took lightly. After a lot of discussion and prayer, we opted to wait. So far, that’s been the right choice.

In the meantime, the debt’s all back, plus more. I got a car, so there are payments there. And while I have good health insurance, there are still co-pays and deductibles and fees right and left. And there’s just the whole busy business of living.

And last month, we got notice our rent was being raised again, more than 10%.

Believe me; I’m not blaming all the debt on circumstance. Dell offered me nice payment arrangements for this computer. At the time when I took them, I naively thought within a few months I could have it paying for itself.

And believe me even more, I’m not holding anybody but myself responsible for getting me out of it. This is, after all, my lot in life, no one else’s. So it’s my responsibility and opportunity to get myself from where I am right now to where I need to be, and I’m giving myself 365 days to do it.