BEST SELF, HEALTH, TIME FOR CHANGE

Cutting Out Alcohol

12/11/2018

 

Imagine this scene.

A woman wakes up in the morning hustles to the kitchen after nudging her kids awake and makes breakfast and lunches for the entire family.  She argues with the kids to hurry and dress, despite the fact that the morning routine hasn’t changed in years. She finally rushes the kids off to school just in time to make it as the tardy bell rings.  When she comes home she switches her focus to cleaning the kitchen, which is a disaster after the meals she just knocked out in a frenzy for her family. She then walks around her home picking up dirty clothes that were left lying around, despite her nagging reminders to her children to put them in the laundry bin.  With arms full of dirty clothes, she treks down to the laundry room to start a few loads, trying desperately to stay on top of the mess. She comes back and throws on some mindless Netflix show for ambiance in the background as she cleans up the house and knocks out the remainder of the laundry. In between loads, she proceeds to check emails and work on a few volunteer projects that need to be completed, scattering in a few dog walks in between. She completes all the laundry just in time to look down at the clock and realize that school is being let out, so she literally runs to the school to pick up the kids, albeit a few minutes late.

Rather than greeting her with hugs and kisses, the kids complain that she has forgotten a snack for them and on the walk home they bicker with each other.  They drop their bags at the front door and proceed to drop garments of clothes all over the freshly cleaned home as they start to unwind after school. She lays out snacks and reminds the kids to get their homework done and pick up their clothes.  

The kids beg for television and she continually says no, encouraging them to get their homework done.  The table is left full of dirty dishes from the snacks and she finds the kids in their room playing with toys, no homework complete.  The nagging begins.

She finally gets the kids to complete their homework and after some considerable arguing, they clean up their mess.  She gives in and allows them to watch some television.

She looks at the clock. It’s a few minutes before 5 pm.  She decides to get dinner going.

She feels frazzled, under appreciated and exhausted.

She opens a bottle of red wine and pours a glass for herself.

The smell of the wine lets her know that soon she can unwind. She feels the first sip warm her insides as she swallows.  A few more sips in and she notices herself letting go of the tension.

It is going to be alright, the day is almost over.

Can you relate?

This was my 2017.

And for me, it was not okay.  

It had become apparent that I was using wine as a crutch to help me unwind at the end of the day.  The only problem was that the end of the day, had become dinner prep, and one glass became two or three over the course of the entire evening.  Now, it was not nightly, but it was enough to add some unwanted padding to my body and to throw off my desire to get up early in the morning and be productive.

I knew that coming into the new year I had a lot of goals I wanted to achieve, but that it was unlikely I was going to be able to reach those goals unless something changed.

I had given up alcohol for a year once before a few years ago and found that my productivity went up significantly. So, I set the challenge for myself.  One year without drinking.

Three hundred and sixty five days of pure sobriety.

I am now almost complete with my year and I am so grateful that I made the decision.  2018 brought on a lot of personal challenges with loss being a common theme. I know that had I not made this personal commitment to myself that I would have drowned my sorrows in wine, but instead I was able to focus my grief in positive ways such as advocacy.

That said, I’m always intrigued by people’s reactions to my choice not to drink. I think it makes people uncomfortable. Perhaps they don’t want to look silly as they let loose and worry about judgement, but there seems to be a large desire for you to drink with them.  

I typically try to hide the fact that I am not drinking as to help other people with their discomfort around it. I’ll order a sparkling water with lime and sometimes a splash of cranberry. I don’t lie when asked what I’m drinking, but people just generally assume it’s alcohol.

Although I have plenty of friends who could also care less if I’m drinking or not, I do often have to explain my decision not to drink.

I think people fear that I will judge them. This is not the case.

My feeling is – You do you, I’ll do me, and at the end of the night, I’ll be your DD!

I’m worried about the effect of drinking on me, not on you.

And I have for far too long used it as my crutch and my reward at the end of a stressful day.

My kids and I would joke about how I liked my wine to help me slow down and relax, but I realize that I did not want my children to think this is how it is done. That they need alcohol to destress.

What I do not like about alcohol is that for me it is consuming. I rarely have only one drink, which means that hours are spent clouded by the judgement of alcohol. It may be minimally, but it is still an impairment and unfortunately alcohol is a depressant – so I can easily get into a woe is me mentality, which does me no favors.

I struggle with depression and am easily led into that path, but know that I am also a person who thrives on light and positivity. The problem is that I know I need to intentionally flood myself in the light in order to combat the pervasive darkness and I can’t do that if I am drinking. It just doesn’t work for me right now. This may change as I get older and as my self care habits evolve, but for right now, I am a better person without alcohol.

I know several of my friends have been looking forward to the year ending so that we could enjoy some libations together again, but I don’t think that days going to happen just yet.  I am still working on becoming the best personal version of myself, and at this point, I just can’t do that with alcohol. And to be totally honest, I really don’t miss it. I’ve crowded it out with other good things and I just don’t have room in my life for it at the moment.

There is a lot I have learned about myself through engaging in this personal challenge, and I’d like to share Five Quick Tips and Tricks to Not Drinking I’ve learned this past year:

 

 

 

1. Make a commitment to yourself!

Whether it is one month, one year, or a lifetime, be clear with your commitment to you. This decision is for you and only you. We need to be able to follow through with the promises we make to ourselves about anything else. 

2. Be accountable

Announce to your friends, family, coworkers, etc. that you are taking on this challenge. Putting it on social media can be a good way to publicize your efforts, create accountability, and also gain support.  Using hashtags such as #notdrinking #hipsobriety #focusingonme #mocktailsonly can help you tie into a group of likeminded people who can offer you extra support.

3. Take it one day at a time!

I found that the first month was the most challenging because I still craved a glass of wine. So I focused on one day at a time and before I knew it I was 11 months into my challenge. It can be challenging thinking about a timeline in it’s entirety. If you have a greater struggle with alcohol, you may need to take it hour by hour, but I promise you – it gets easier with time.-

4. Have a game plan

Know what you are getting into and create a game plan. If you are okay going to events with alcohol, then just be wise for how you will order your own drink. There are tons of great mocktails for you to enjoy, or do as I do and grab a soda water with lime! Also, be prepared on how you will handle questions from others about your decision not to drink – especially if not drinking is atypical for you. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing all the details, you could just simply say “I’m on a cleanse”. Don’t let other people’s insecurities about you not drinking derail your efforts.

5. Ask for support

Reach out and gain support from friends, family, loved ones, or a dedicated support group such as AA if you need.  You do not have to do this alone. The more you struggle with alcohol dependence, the more support you may need. That is okay! There is a lot of strength in knowing when to ask for help.

 

Have you ever thought about or successfully completed a time period where you cut out alcohol?  I’d love to hear your story! Thanks for listening to mine!

 

GRATITUDE, LIFE CHANGES, MY TRUTH

Bye Bye Santa

12/03/2018

I always knew the day would come that the childhood myth of Santa would have to be revealed to my children, and this weekend that day arrived.  

While sitting down at the dining table our eight year old daughter posed the question “Is Santa real?”. This was an easy question to answer as we’ve been asked this before and always relied on the good old “If you believe” style answer – but that day the questions continued and the skepticism grew. She and her nine year old brother continued to ask more direct questions and would not accept the half answers we were providing. Of course, we were using full on deflection techniques as we did not want to outwardly lie to our children, so we continued our attempts to deflect, distract, and change the subject, but weren’t able to do so.  We ended the conversation without any real answers, but no one felt satisfied either.

That evening my husband and I sat down and discussed the matter.  We googled the appropriate age to tell your children about Santa and ways to go about it. We agreed that it was more important to focus on trust and honesty as a family value rather than outwardly lie in order to possibly eek out one more year of the childhood myth.

 

I will not lie. I was sad – and I’m still sad in this moment.  

The idea of Santa has brought so much joy to the holiday season, and I think I enjoy being Santa even more so than I even enjoyed his arrival during the Christmas season during my own childhood. I was really good at being Santa. I would keep notes all year long regarding wishes and thoughts about what they would like so that come Christmas morning, they had their hearts desire and not just the hot new toy that they learned about via holiday commercial on television a few weeks prior. Even when I get them spot on birthday gifts, it did not bring the same level of joy and amazement as it did when a jolly old man in a big red suit brought them the perfect Christmas toy.

The next morning we sat down for breakfast and approached the subject. We told them that we were willing to unveil the complexity of Santa, but that they needed to make the decision whether or not they truly wanted to know how it all works because once they decided to know the secrets, they could never go back. We tried to word it in such a way that left believing for one more year on the table.

My eight year old daughter decided she wanted to stick to believing, but my nine year old son asked to be let in on the inner works of the North Pole.

We took him into the bedroom, sat him down, and dished it out.

For me, it was still important to understand the Spirit of Santa was real even though the idea of a jolly old fat man in a big red suit, with flying reindeer, elves, and a workshop in the North Pole was all a myth. Yes, parents played out the role of the gift giver, and yes, we ate the cookies left out on Christmas Eve, but I truly believe that the Spirit of Santa helps guide us to the perfect holiday gifts.  It allows parents to tune into the wishes and intentions that their child has placed out into the universe and follow through with the manifestation of their dreams. I believe in the law of attraction and I think that the Spirit of Santa is just this – kid style.

Let me explain.

We have always had a pretty strict – Santa does not do electronics – policy in our home and so the kids knew that this was not something on the table come Christmas time.  The kids also understood that Santa does not perform miracles – creating siblings, bringing dogs, or resurrecting the deceased – but rather that the gifts Santa brings would need to be created at his workshop.

As parents, we created the constructs of Santa to fit within our gift giving parameters.  At the beginning I tried to give gifts that looked hand constructed (i.e. a stone handle magnifying glass, a hand carved jewelry box, etc.) but this proved to become more challenging as the years passed, so we simply stuck to the no electronics rule with an attempt at more basic toys (i.e. dolls, toy cars, dinosaurs, etc.).

Most years, I have done well on the Santa gifts, but one year, the year we were preparing to sell our home in Florida and move to DC, I really failed.  The stores just did not seem to sell the items that the kids dreamed of. I did my best, but Christmas morning ended in some major disappointment. The following year, the kids did not seem to have any true longings for their holiday gifts, but I was terrified that I’d let them down two years in a row.  In true Santa Spirit though, the universe aligned and provided me with exactly what they had wanted the year before in perfect form. I had never seen either product before in my life – one being an American Girl style Elsa doll and the other being a Super Mario Brother’s Remote Control Car. The crazier piece is that there was only one of each (different stores, different shopping dates) and I have still not seen these toys for sale again to this day!

So while explaining that we as parents indeed are the ones who purchase, wrap, and give the gifts under the guise of Santa – I also shared with them these little stories that seem to highlight the realness of the Spirit of Santa and how the gifts manifest in the universe – something I truly believe in. This gave them something more to hold onto. I also explained that as long as they believed and put the energy out into the world, that they’d still receive their Santa gifts.

My two children reacted completely opposite. My daughter seemed relieved to know the truth and really held onto the way I explained it with belief still in her heart, while my son seemed completely deflated and could not shake his sadness even through the next morning.  He also asked about the Easter Bunny this morning (palm to forehead).

I know this is a right of passage as a parent, but there doesn’t feel like any right way to do this.  Only time will tell how Christmas plays out this year, but Santa will be delivering their special gifts regardless.  I’d be curious to hear your stories of unleashing the truth behind Santa and how it played out in your own lives. As always, thanks for reading!

 

 

ACTIVE LIVING, BEST SELF, HEALTH, NUTRITION

Whole 30 // My Journey to Food Freedom

11/27/2018

As of today, I have completed three (almost sequential) rounds of Whole30. If you aren’t familiar with the program, it is a self guided food program (or diet if you will) that focuses on eliminating negative inflammation prone foods in order for you to reset your body. During the 30 days, you are guided to focus on whole foods – this means unprocessed foods with no added sugars or preservatives. The program also has you eliminate other types of foods that are known to cause inflammation in the body or trigger hormonal reactions such as dairy, grains, legumes, and corn. Oh, and alcohol too. The basis of the program is to get you on a clean diet for 30 days allowing you to slay the “sugar dragon” and reset your hormones breaking any unhealthy psychological and physiological relationships with food therefore providing “food freedom”. After the 30 days you are able to slowly re-incorporate foods into your diet, while observing how they impact your body.

When I first heard of the Whole30 I was very skeptical. My sister had done it several times and had positive results in regards to weight loss and overall health, but to me, the diet seemed too limiting. I am already a gluten free vegetarian and I rely on food sources such as beans and rice, tofu, and legumes to hit my daily protein needs – so how would I survive if I cut those out? I basically told myself that I would never do Whole30, which pretty much guaranteed me that at some point in my life it would be done – because as soon as I say never, the universe laughs and says “we’ll see about that”.

My mother, who has struggled with weight as far back as I can remember, tried out the program about two years ago. The amazing thing is that she started it and just never stopped. She took the knowledge of how to eat and made a lifestyle change that, in my opinion, has given her life and her relationship with food a complete makeover. She looks fantastic and has such a different level of energy and positivity. I have been so proud to watch her through this journey. Her energy is contagious and she truly glows. I have been inspired witnessing her personal transformation.

Although it may not seem like it from an outside perspective, I have battled my weight since I was in late elementary school. I became a very chubby kid and did not look like most of my peers. Since then I’ve had a relatively unhealthy relationship with food and my body. I battled Bulimia in college and early adulthood, tried to lose weight through diet pills and restrictive eating, and have tried numerous fad diets – none of which helped me achieve a body I was proud of nor did it help me gain a positive relationship with food.  In fact, it did quite the opposite, which is part of why I didn’t want to go down the Whole30 rabbit hole. I did not trust it.

That said, my mom’s success with the program intrigued me. I honestly started researching Whole30 not because I had any intention to follow through with the program, but more so that I was worried about my mom. I was concerned that she was being too restrictive. I needed to understand the reasoning and the science behind it all.  So I started reading. I borrowed several Whole30 books from the library – starting with “It Starts with Food”, which was the first book written by the developers of the program Melissa and Dallas Hartwig. I highly recommend reading the book if you are interested in the program. It gave me a better understanding of the why. A lot of the food that was being cut, was going to be introduced back later and is only being cut for the first 30 days to help give each individual a baseline or blank slate in order to figure out what foods work for them and which do not.

Another huge focus was breaking the dysfunctional relationship with food. Again, I was skeptical that this could happen. I have always had a bad relationship with food.  And I mean always. I remember being in elementary school and licking slices of pizza so that I could guarantee myself a second (or third) slice before my siblings got to it, or finding mom’s hidden stash of sweet treats and going nuts eating all I could. I even remember finding a sour punch rope candy on the ground walking home from the school bus one day and eating it – and if my memory serves me correctly, it was already open! Ugh, that memory makes my heart and stomach hurt. Those particular memories aren’t even inclusive of the later years which involve heartbreaking stories of binging and purging.  

As I read, I started wondering if it was worth giving the program a try. At the time I was a vegetarian and I knew I would have to do something about the protein aspect of the diet. I decided that instead of making concessions to the program to fit around a vegetarian lifestyle (which they do allow), that I would choose to include fish and eggs in lieu of the tofu and legumes over the 30 days. The more I read, the more I felt up to the time limited challenge of the program.

I also deeply believe that psychologically I gave myself permission to succeed since my mom has succeeded.

I have always been concerned that I would end up battling my weight my entire life, just like my mother. I had dated someone who was very into fitness that had commented that they didn’t think they could marry me because my mother was a predictor of my future body shape. When I looked in the mirror, I saw her, not me – so there was no winning the battle. I honestly feel shame and guilt for carrying this fear around and extremely vulnerable expressing it on a public forum because it involves my mother and not just myself, but it is a big piece of my journey.  As I work through my feelings, I recognize that it has affected me far deeper than I ever perceived. Seeing my mom succeed and reshape her life has, in a way, given me the permission I needed to let go of this fear. Holding onto the belief that I was destined to struggle and never achieve my goals only held me back from achieving them.

After some prep work, a major food shopping spree, and an announcement to my family, I decided to start my Whole30 journey the day the kids went back to school. I filled the house with fresh fruits and veggies and created a general food plan for the first week to get me going.

Unfortunately, two days into the program I realized that the pickles I was munching on had added sugar! I could have let this be an excuse to stop the program altogether, but instead I just reset and went back to day one. I was not giving up.

The first week was exciting, but by week two I was already feeling challenged. We had visitors in town which meant eating out at restaurants and grabbing take out. This also meant having to forego my favorite foods in order to stay compliant with the program. I had to give myself several pep talks and force myself to just get through the moment. I realized that the desire for the foods dissipated very quickly, especially when I ate something that was Whole30 approved that I enjoyed. I just had to make sure that I was prepared and had food on hand that not only fit into the program, but that I liked and looked forward to eating.

I found that roasted veggies were my favorite by far. I would switch up the various veggies and seasonings and often throw a leaky egg on top and some fresh homemade guacamole on the side. I started to crave these meals and the other previously enticing foods did not seem as appealing. By week three I was getting bored though. I had not switched things up enough and I was ready for the program to be over. I was not seeing much change to my body and I was feeling grumpy and hungry. I was also PMSing, which caused me to crave sugar. On week three I overindulged on nuts and dried mango – which albeit Whole30 approved food, is not really Whole30 approved behavior, but it is part of the learning process. I forgave myself and moved past it, completing the program the following week.

I was proud of myself for following through with the program, but I was not in the right mindset for the slow reintegration of foods, but rather for a feast of Thai food and gluten free pizza.

I knew I had lost a bit of weight – 6 pounds that month – but I didn’t see enough of a change to feel like it was life changing and to be honest, I wanted the foods I wanted.

Funny enough though, without thinking about it I made myself a Whole30 compliant breakfast before having our Thai lunch, and then again the next day I stayed within the program’s guidelines for both breakfast and lunch before having my pizza for dinner.

By the end of my second non-compliant meal I was feeling satisfied, but ready to get back onto Whole30. The feeling actually surprised me as I had never anticipated wanting to do it ever again. Despite my desire to go for round 2, I knew my parents were coming into town and I did not want to be on the program during their visit and my all or nothing personality doesn’t really allow “cheating” on the program. I pulled out the calendar, and wouldn’t you know it – they flew into town late the evening of the 30th day! The universe was encouraging me to keep going – so I did. Round two was much easier. I also recognized that I had neglected various seasoning, such as curry, which opened up a whole world of flavors. I got a little more creative in my cooking – spiralizing squash and zucchini, using cauliflower rice, and incorporating Whole30 approved marinara sauce – while also falling into a routine of my favorite roasted vegetable plates.

I still struggled a bit around the time of my period, but never fell outside of the parameters and was able to use better self control in regards to the nuts (salty) and the dried mango (sweet) that I was craving. I also made sure to always have frozen grapes on hand so that I a handful here or there could satisfy my craving for sweet without spiking my blood sugar or breaking the caloric bank.

The end of round 2 arrived before I knew it and I never had the feeling that I was ready for it to be over. Although I thoroughly enjoyed eating out at my favorite Thai and Indian restaurants while my parents were in town, I continued to crave the structure of the program and contemplated a third round. I knew I had a friend’s wedding coming up at the end of November and there was no way I would want to be on the program at her wedding, so once again I pulled out the calendar to see what the completion date would be if I went for round 3. I couldn’t believe it – day 30 was the day before her wedding! Again the universe had aligned with my plans and encouraged me to succeed. I was all in once again for a third round.

This time, it was easy. Clean eating was now becoming a lifestyle. As long as I stayed prepared and one step ahead of the hurdles I was golden.  This meant traveling with Whole30 compliant foods and looking up menu options before arriving at restaurants so I knew and was excited about what I was going to order. The month flew by faster than I ever expected and I feel better than ever. I don’t crave sugars. I don’t feel controlled by food. And I never feel guilty for what I eat. Even if I eat larger portions than I feel like I need (like 2 full potatoes instead of one) because I’m hungry, there is no guilt. Zero. I know that I am giving my body what it needs.  

Now, I could still over do it on nuts if I allowed myself to, or dried fruit, or Lara bars, but I keep in mind that those are to be used sparingly and that the focus of the program is indeed food freedom.  So when I am craving one of the aforementioned items, I count to 5, drink some water, distract myself, and if that doesn’t work, then I just eat it, because that’s what I want and I am not about deprivation.

The program has worked tremendously for me and I am happier than ever when it comes to food.  Overall, I dropped about 10 pounds and now fit back into all my pants. I feel in control of the food I eat, but I still love and enjoy everything that I am eating – probably more so than before the program. Foods taste more alive – the fruit is sweeter and the vegetables more satisfying.

I also feel like I am a good role model for those around me, including my children. I am intentional and grateful for the food I eat. My confidence is higher and I feel no guilt or shame.

I highly recommend the program for anyone looking for food freedom, but know that if I would have quit after the first 30 days, that it would not have been as transformational for me.  Continuing on for an additional two rounds was important for the lifestyle shift to click – but I also believe giving myself the weekend off in between rounds was important. Additionally, I got lucky that the universe aligned with upcoming event dates, but the reality is that if I had wanted to use it as an excuse not to do the program I would have. I was ready for change and I embraced it – and I am so thankful that I did.

For me, it is not about the weight lost – although that is the organic coconut cream, date sweetened icing on top – it is about the true change in my relationship with food. That is the game changer. So now, the next phase of my personal transformation is incorporating the right level of fitness. I have found a program that seems to be working for me and I’m excited to see how it transpires, but more on that later! If you have any questions or comments about the Whole30, or my personal journey – feel free to comment or reach out. Want to learn more about what I eat or keep up with my journey, follow me on instagram (@thehourglassproject) for daily updates.

BEST SELF, MY TRUTH

Sigh…Here We Go Again

11/14/2018

Sometimes I wonder how many times I have to start and restart something before I either give it up or it sticks. I began this blog almost three years ago, and in that time I have announced a restart on two separate occasions, declaring that this time would be different.  This time I would do as I say and not as I’ve done and plan for posts, make the blog a priority, and write on a regular basis.  But alas, just like with my numerous work out plans or nutrition crazes, I have fallen flat of meeting my goal.  And not just fallen flat, but head first into a pile of mud, where I seem to have gotten myself stuck over the past three months.

So why is this?  Why can I not maintain a blog?

Is it because I am too busy?

Well, yes. I keep myself very busy – but I could absolutely carve out time to write if I really wanted to, right? I find time to create Pinterest boards, fill my Amazon and Wayfair carts up numerous times a week without actually checking out because I’m not really sure how I want to decorate our new home, and yes – there is even time for the occasional Netflix show. So, although time may be an excuse I use, it is certainly not the answer.

Is it because I find it challenging to be vulnerable?

Well…that’s tricky.  In the past I would have said no, but when I first started my page I did so without letting anyone really know. I was hoping to keep it out of my general circle, so thatI could be open in vulnerable.  When we moved to DC two years ago, I dusted off the blog and relaunched in a more open and raw way than ever before.  It was wonderful to have a bit of a barrier between myself and my readers – mainly the ones I would bump into day to day. I may get a few extra phone calls or texts after a particularly revealing article, but I didn’t have to have the awkward face to face with anyone wondering if they had read my latest post while waiting to pick up the kids from school.  Unfortunately, that barrier has been penetrated a bit as social media suggests friends and slowly my new DC friends and I have connected on various social media outlets, which means that when I do write – and announce a new post on social media – they may, or may not read what I’ve written.

And although I appreciate that they are taking the time to read my work and I would never not want them to read it – the level of vulnerability is higher and therefore makes me question what to write about.  Which leads into the next question.

Is it because I lack direction?

Hmmm. Yes? I think this plays a role. In addition to the aforementioned vulnerability issues, I’ve also noted in previous posts that I find it difficult to find my voice on the blog. There is a false sense of audience and I’m not sure what people want to read. On one hand I say that this is an outlet for me to write on, but there is also a piece of me that wants to write meaningful articles. And there is certainly this nagging feeling that I need to be an expert on something in order to write about it. I believe if I could create a better vision of what I want my blog to be, then I could be more successful writing in a way that is pleasing to others. When I go to my site now, I feel disappointed. I have a few articles I am really proud of, but in between those I fall short of my expectations.  However, I am not sure I can even clearly define my expectations.

I created the Hourglass Project as a way to chronicle my journey as I work to find balance in my life, but I’m not sure how to exactly translate that into articles. Do I start posting recipes of the food journey I’m on? Do I discuss the fitness activities that I’m engaged in? Do I simply rant and explore my feelings about being in my late 30’s but still being as lost as I was when I was 13? Perhaps I write about it all, because goodness knows that writing about nothing (which seems to be what I’ve been doing since August) is certainly not working, but the reality is that the articles that I love writing the most are those that are raw and vulnerable and help us connect as women – as people – as individuals. So right there, I need to find the balance.

And finally, my last self interrogative question…

Is it because I haven’t made it a piece of my lifestyle?

YES! This is definitely the biggest piece of the puzzle.  There are still mental objections, fears, vulnerabilities, and hurdles that I will have to tackle on a daily basis, but if I don’t sit down and write daily (write, not post)  – then I am not making it a habit in my life and therefor it is not a priority.  And if the blog is not a priority in my life, then a random Netflix movie will always win.

So right now I am staring at the white elephant in the room and challenging it to leave. I am not going to sit here and declare that I am starting anew yet again or that things are going to be different – because honestly that would be no different than every New Year’s resolution I have ever made.

No, what I am doing is creating an action plan.  YES! I am TAKING ACTION!

I am finally going to take the advice that I have given to all my friends and colleagues who have ever wanted to start a blog.  Here are the steps I am taking:

  1. I am coming up with an extensive lists of topics that I would like to write about. If you have any suggestions – please comment!  
  2. I am setting a recurrent time in my schedule to actively sit down (distraction free!) and work on the site. My current breakdown includes time for writing, editing and image gathering, posting and promotion.  
  3. I am setting up a Google Drive with a spreadsheet to help manage workflow and folders to hold various images and articles during development.
  4. I am creating an engagement calendar of when to post new articles and which topics may lend themselves best to those dates.
  5. Additionally, I am going to continue to explore my voice and try to envision what I’d like this site to be, although a work in progress is good enough for today!

If you are reading this, then I want to take a minute to say THANK YOU.  There are endless amounts of other activities that you could be engaged in rather than spending the time to read this article and I don’t take that for granted.  Thank you for continuing to read and therefor support me.  I truly appreciate it.

 

GRATITUDE, HAPPINESS, LIFE CHANGES, TIME FOR CHANGE

We’ve Moved!

08/17/2018

The last few years have brought on a lot of change.  At this point in my life three years ago I was celebrating the major milestone of both of our children entering into public education.  My son had entered Kindergarten and my daughter was in Pre-K at the same public elementary school only a mile down the road. As any dual working home knows, this is a huge financial milestone as it was the first time in our children’s lives that we weren’t paying the exorbitant day care costs for two children.  We were also settling into our home and community in new ways – investing more into the friendship with our neighbors and even making some much awaited upgrades to our home. But all this changed suddenly only a few months later when my husband found out that he was being transferred to DC.

Rather than fight it, we embraced the adventure.  We sold our house and most of the contents inside, packed up a 15 foot moving van, said goodbye to friends and family, and headed north to DC.  This was our first time since the age of 3 living outside of Florida.

Our family enjoyed the perks of DC and the change in environment, but we never saw it as a long term home for us – rather a springboard – and this was due to the fact that the cost of living was just so high.  Although we actually loved downsizing and not having a large yard to maintain, we did long for some outdoor space of our own – something we believed was simply impossible at our price point.

At the end of our first year, my husband was able to negotiate for remote work capabilities and we decided to stay in the general area.   We put a contract on a house in Chesapeake Beach, about 3 hours from DC. But when negotiations went sour he decided to leave the job, which meant releasing the contract for the house and staying put in DC – praying for the right job to come along.  

After a long summer of unemployment, my husband landed a new job with the Navy.  For the past year he has been happy with his new job, but we still questioned the viability of living long term in the District.  We began to explore the possibility of working remotely within a few hours of DC, but the more we looked the more overwhelmed we became trying to narrow down the best place to live.  We were not sure if we wanted a small home or large, beach house or farm, rural or suburban. As we began to asses our situation we came to the conclusion that we were not ready to buy outside of the DC area, but we still didn’t think it made sense to buy in the District – and we did not want to continue renting at the rate we were renting at.  We felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. We knew leaving the area meant relocating the kids to a new school and although we didn’t want to do this more times than needed, we also didn’t want to buy a home in a place we were not familiar with. So, after much debate we started seriously considering moving back to Florida temporarily to help us regenerate our savings. 

Neither one of us were interested in making Florida our permanent home though.  We have fallen in love with seasons and enjoy the driveability to the mountains or various surrounding states for a day trip. That said, it made sense financially, so in January we began to start the discussions around moving back for 1-3 years to help rebuild our next egg.  We pumped ourselves up about the decision and even told a few people that this was the current plan.

And then things changed yet again.

As I discussed in my previous post, we went through some serious loss beginning in January, but the one that changed our decision was the massacre at my high school.  I became extremely involved with the development of the Mobilizing MSD organization and the alumni support for March For Our Lives. I had connected and re-connected with so many MSD Alumni and felt enthralled and excited by the work we were doing in DC.  I was also head deep into planning the 2018 Murch Auction fundraiser event for the kids’ school. I was in my element – surrounded by friends, working feverously to make this world a better place. So, about midway through the month of March I turned to my husband one evening and asked if we could find a way to stay in DC.  He, of course, said yes.

Shortly after MFOL we started looking at our finances to figure out if we could afford to buy in the area.  My one request was that we had some sort of outside space, which in our budget looked like it limited us to a balcony.  My husband and I explored various options of larger one bedrooms with balconies or private entries and two bedrooms with one bath and a larger balcony.  The properties available at the time were minimal so we decided that if we needed to, we would simply resign a lease at our apartments and break it early if the right property became available.  But the morning of the Auction I saw a Redfin alert on my phone that two properties in the area were having open houses the following day.

The first property was a 1/1 with a balcony about 2 blocks from our current apartment at the time.  We were exploring the option of a one bedroom as a 1-3 year option with the ability to rent after a few years to help us save more money for a larger property before the kids hit middle school.  The second property was a 2/1.5 and at the high end of our budget, but it had a patio, which excited us because we did not know it even existed in our area.

We decided to go to both open houses.  

It was pretty obvious after visiting the 1/1 that it wasn’t the healthiest choice for our marriage to be cooped up in such tight quarters.  Additionally, the ninth floor balcony was very intimidating – to say the least. The second property however, seemed to check all the boxes.  It was 300 sq ft larger than our current apartment, but the layout was a split plan so it made it feel more like a home. The property had just been renovated and so the kitchen and bathrooms were modern and very functional.  It was only one block from our apartment, so it was close to the school and on the same block as the local park. AND – it had its own private use patio!

I ended up spending almost an hour and a half at open house because we got stuck in a downpour and had to wait until the rain let up to walk home.  As I was there I explored the space and imagined us in the home. I also witnessed many excited individuals tour the property as well and felt that there was a good possibility that we would not even be contenders for this space.  But we decided we had to try. So that evening, through a friends recommendation, we contacted a realtor from Compass Realty – Katrina Schymik Abjornson. We discussed our options with her and got an offer together with a personal letter to the seller.  And then we waited.

My husband and I had convinced ourselves that they would not accept our offer. We were sure that this property would go above asking price and perhaps even have a bidding war.  This was not something we were financially able to participate in as the property was already at the top of our budget.

Despite there being no surprise to the story now, when we got the call that they accepted our offer, we were truly in shock.  So much that we didn’t tell anyone besides our parents at first.  After having to walk away from our contract the previous year we progressed through this process with bated breath waiting for the other shoe to drop.

It never did.  Financing went well.  The inspection went well.  Our realtor was great and we made it to closing without any major hiccups.  

In fact, the only real trouble we faced was that my husband got really sick the week of closing and we were concerned that he wouldn’t physically be able to get to closing.  But alas, we made it – and the 2/1.5 condo with its own patio was ours. We were officially DC homeowners! Washingtonians.

That said, a sick husband meant that this girl did the majority of the moving solo.  I did have some help from his gracious Uncle who helped me move the major pieces of furniture – thank goodness – and my parents, who stayed with us the first week in our new home, helped me clean out the old apartment – which was much appreciated!  In the end, we got the job done and we are now pretty settled in our new space.

It feels nice to be planting roots and not questioning on a regular basis whether we are staying or going.  I have committed to being the HSA Co-President (our school’s version of the PTA) for the upcoming school year and look forward to our kids transitioning into the newly remodeled school this year!

We have already hosted several guests in our new space and look forward to continuing to host friends and family traveling to DC.  The patio has been such a blessing as it gives us all some private outdoor space by just opening our door. There is still some moving of furniture and adjusting of stuff that we will do as we figure out how to best utilize the space, but ultimately we are home – and it feels good.  

Here is a quick little peak at our space…Enjoy!