So it's been a few days and I've got an update to share.
I was too lazy over the weekend to try out the Jan. 17 build, so I instead tried out the Jan. 20 build when it was released yesterday. But before I did, I made a backup of everything (Apps with TiBu, and NANDroid backup with TWRP) just in case something went haywire.
I wiped everything except my SD Cards in TWRP, and then installed the 01/20/14 build alongside the PA Mini Modular Gapps. I then accessed my bootloader and installed the boot.img 3 times to ensure that it sticks (not required to do, but more like OCD lol
). Once that was done, I powered off for a few minutes, unplugged the micro USB cable and then powered back on.
As it was running through the initial setup, I went through all the usual steps, but after I entered my Google Account info and had that verified, I decided to uncheck the Backup & Restore option, but had everything else checked.
You might be wondering, "Why'd you uncheck that option?". Essentially, I had the thought that there might have been a setting that corresponds to Google Sync Services and Gmail from earlier builds that kept messing up the default options in CM11 builds and thus making it unworkable (hence my earlier issue with Gmail not syncing and sending me notifications).
So after I ran through that and installed all my programs again (from the Play Store, not from TiBu for testing reasons), I opened up Gmail after a reboot and I noticed that the notification push was working! I also sent myself an email from my desktop and checked to see if my phone would notice it, and that worked too!
So to recap, here's what I did:
1) Backed up everything
2) Wiped everything in Recovery except for SD Cards
3) Installed Jan. 20 build and PA Mini Modular Gapps
4) Installed boot.img 3 times via fastboot, powered off
5) Unplugged USB cable, powered on
6) Went through initial setup
7) Unchecked "Backup & Restore" setting during setup
8) Installed all apps from Play Store, powered off
9) Powered on, opened Gmail
10) Noticed that Gmail was working, celebrated
I'm sure all of this could have worked in earlier builds too, but I never thought about unchecking the "Backup & Restore" setting during the initial setup until yesterday. So now all that remains as a WIP is to get MMS working, but that's the least of my worries for now :P